Harsh Words, Soft Beehive Hat

Yesterday was a hard day.  I won’t call it a bad day, because in the end we accomplished what was necessary, but it was hard. 

We made some decisions yesterday, as a family, about a direction for our near future.  We set out to put those decisions into action.  In the process, I walked a long way in stifling heat, waited patiently for service, and explained the circumstances that led to us being there.  Then I tried to ask the questions that would educate us about necessary procedures and what we could expect in the future.  In return, someone half my age greeted me with disdain and told me I should be “nice”.  I contemplated that for a moment, then asked the person if they were saying I had not been “nice”.  The reply was that I wanted a special service and should “at least be grateful”.   

I am being deliberately obtuse about the particulars of this encounter, but trust me when I say that the “special service” I requested was only the lifting of a deadline, and I was asking to pay my own money for something that should be available to everyone in Tennessee.  I am afraid to be more specific in this public forum.

I was shaken by this encounter.  It was humiliating.  Degrading.  It made me go home and question myself, look in the mirror to see what about me was so offensive that I could engender a negative reaction just by being there.  I saw a short, fat, light brown-skinned woman with close-cropped hair and glasses.  In private, I cried.  I didn’t know that I am still so vulnerable to that kind of ugliness.

In my teen years, I would have hurt myself after that experience – literally beating myself up for not being “acceptable”.  In my 20s I would have made a long, loud, eloquent rejoinder and demanded to see the person in charge.  In my 30s I learned tact, and my response would have been modulated, but still extremely voluble.  Yesterday I was at a loss, because I have not dealt with such a blatant approach in a long time.  My guard was down, so I met it with puzzlement and quiet.  I returned to my home and quietly did housework. 

Last night I knit until my hands hurt.  I worked out my hurt with my needles, relishing the solid metallic clash of one against the other, making something that I love out of the hatred that I met. 

I just learned an Estonian cast-on that is very stretchy and decorative.  The video where I learned (Nancy Bush teaches the technique) is here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Frc5_9AIVy0.  It is very similar to traditional long-tail cast-on, and it didn’t take me long.  I used it as the brim for a hat.  Having extra stretch at the forehead edge is always nice.    DSC04325

This is the “wrong” side.  Still pretty.  DSC04326

The hat is a new design, my Beehive.  The yarn is Karabella Supercashmere, about 110 yards (a little less than one and one-half balls).  I cast on a purple one this morning, to repeat the pattern.  DSC04327  I plan to do a couple more in organic cotton.  I love the design, and it feels and looks soft, very flattering. 

Design and knit – my dose of healing.

Peace.

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The Count

17 and 1/2 pills.  I hadn’t counted in a while, and I was a little surprised.  It is truly distilled to a minimum: 

1.  Prednisone takes five tablets right now, a 5 mg and four 1 mg, to make up my 9 mg dosage.  I am on a very slow, gradual taper.  In two more weeks I can decrease by 1 mg.

2.  Three vitamins, B12 for my mostly meatless intake, folic acid for the two medicines that deplete it from my system, and D to replace the action of the sun that I must avoid.

3.  One nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, for my osteoarthritis.  Helps with pain, too.

4.  A low-dose diuretic for the swelling, and potassium to replace what it depletes.

5.  A beta blocker for the chronic tachycardia that I’ve had since my diagnosis.

6.  Two antidepressants, one of which helps tremendously with the lupus and fibromyalgia pain.

7.  Over-the-counter antihistamine.  I am allergic year-round, crazy when you consider I’m on prednisone daily.

8.  One pain pill, still on minimum dosage with as-needed use.

9.  Low-dose aspirin to prevent the crazy blood-clotting that I experienced a few years ago. 

Periodically I need to lay it out, pill by pill, and convince myself that every bit of this regimen is necessary.  The alternative is to start dropping off pills and wait for the consequences, something my training and experience discourages.  I understand the aversion most people have to taking so much medicine.  This is not, however, polypharmacy.  Polypharmacy refers to mindlessly throwing prescriptions at problems without considering necessity, interactions, or possible alternative therapies. 

That’s the pills, folks, just the pills.  Still on weekly injections of methotrexate, and the rituximab infusions every four to six months.  Also on diet with very few animal products, as much exercise as I can tolerate (including our new Wii), and positive thinking. 

This inventory will have to do.  I have to go deal with a stinky, disobedient dog.

Peace.

Hiding Bodies

I started a post and stored it away after the first paragraph.  That’s unusual for me.  There are some topics that cannot be approached here.  Recently I had a discussion with a friend who encouraged me to write fiction.  I had mentioned my reluctance to write about one area of my life, and she reminded me that, with disclaimers, all of your people can appear in your writing.  It is hard for me to consider that, because my life has been an open book, but not hiding things or lying about them is not the same as putting them in print.  It doesn’t matter if it was me or a fictional Sally Ann.  If I witnessed a murder, and write about it, the guilty guy is gonna come looking for me. 

Okay, that was a little dramatic.  I’ve never witnessed a murder.  I’ve never even come across a dead body in the woods.  All through my teens and early twenties, bolstered by the piles of mysteries I read, I was sure I’d stumble across a corpse.  I felt that it was in my future, and I tried to steel myself for it.  If I hiked, I peered beneath the brush for the exposed purple toes or mangled face that I had imagined.  I looked in the corners of elevators and under trains for bodies, too.  I couldn’t understand how Agatha Christie’s characters could experience multiple murders in a small hamlet in England, or the psychiatrists in Jonathan Kellerman and Stephen White’s books could have repeated encounters with terrible crimes-way more than their fair share!-and I had no bodies to trip over. 

You can see this fascination in my choice of television.  Mysteries far outweigh all my other viewing hours, including Criminal Minds, NCIS, CSI in all its cities, Monk, Psyche, Law and Order, Bones, the Mentalist, and those wonderful reruns of Matlock and Murder She Wrote.  And yes, I still read mysteries, just more gory and complicated.  Think Patricia Cornwell’s medical examiner series, and Pearl’s The Dante Club.

In the past two weeks I’ve completed, packaged, and mailed three custom orders.  I have one more pending, to be knit while I continue my baby blanket series.  I’ve started a small idea notebook, as I want to keep future knits in mind, including the yarns that I foresee for specific projects.  One of my baby blankets that is in progress is a crochet blanket in Queensland Soft Wave, a sweet DK cotton that gets softer as you work with it.  This particular one is blue and cream stripes, moving quickly on a size F hook.  It began on a whim, fueled by a need to rest my shoulders and hands from knitting movements.  It’s going to be lovely. 

I took knitting to the movies tonight, but was spellbound by Julie and Julia, which moved quickly and kept me laughing, with no need for distraction.  You’ve probably already read a review.  The acting was splendid, reason enough for going.  The story (all true) was also good, and I empathized with the women longing for an endeavour that was useful and fulfilling.  I reached that point after retiring from medicine, and was extremely fortunate to reach for the craft that now keeps me busy and happy. 

Now I am tired.  This day is finished.

Peace.

Luck and Simple Progress

I am due for another round of rituximab next week and then two weeks later.  I must cancel.  I am not sick.  I mean, there is no indication that a flare is coming soon.  I am cheering very quietly, trying not to disrupt the natural flow of good luck here.  Speaking of luck, it may be affecting my real estate situation, too.  I’m all set to occupy my next home, and the not-yet-sold house has been getting more attention lately.  I am whispering when I say that someone liked it enough to take a bunch of photos this week.  Don’t want to put any pressure on that luck thing, but an offer would be great…

I am light-years beyond the state of mind that says we can bargain for luck.  I can be as good as gold and not be lucky.  I appreciate it when I see it, but I know I don’t deserve it and that it could trickle away at any time, without explanation.  In spite of this, my recent days have been filled with fortuitous occurrences.  For example, despite a delay in making our trip to Athens, my daughter and I moved her things without difficulty and were back just in time to catch a visit from my Minneapolis sister.  Tied to that was my recent good health, which allowed me to be at IHOP before 8:30 a.m. today, to enjoy pancakes and see her off. 

I can think of so many “lucky” things that I’m aware of an undercurrent of anxiety today.  When I start seeing lucky occurrences, it is my nature to accept and enjoy them, but to leave a small piece of consciousness focused on waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I start trying to work out things in my head, things that aren’t yet at the working out stage.  I ponder the nature of my luck and try to predict the duration of it.   I poke it and prod it and wonder where it came from, and if I can send it away.  I blow it up to mythic proportions, embuing things with luck even when they aren’t particularly lucky, by calling myself lucky to have avoided the opposite.  For instance, I might say to myself that I’m lucky to not have a boyfriend, because it means that at least I don’t have a bad boyfriend.

Okay, now I’ve spooked myself.  I can’t stay on the topic of luck any longer without losing sleep over whether I’ve  interrupted this good spell by talking about it.  Instead, a summary of recent projects.  The Chattanooga Market seems to be full of folks who want items of clothing for babies and children.  Since that has been the greatest interest, I’ve knitted and crocheted a pile of  small hats, most of them cotton.  I’m still working on cotton baby blankets, too.  I’ve been reveling in the use of Blue Sky Alpaca Dyed Organic Cotton.  It is ridiculously soft and cuddly, the stuff to wrap your little ones in.  Dayna’s chicken is finished, and it’s a lovely overstuffed creature.  She wanted it to be very full and round, rather than the slimmer silhouettes shown on the pattern, so it is well-filled.  The body is purple, crown and wattles are lime green, and beak and tail feathers are neon pink.  I had big fun making it.  I finished it in Athens and it hasn’t been unpacked, so I have no photos yet. 

I am actually contemplating staying home when my daughter returns to school.  She has recruited a couple of boys and her dad to help move her things into the new apartment.  I am not needed for hauling (thank God!).  I may go along later to help unpack things, if it looks like she will be busy with recruitment for her sorority.  We are doing this separation thing nicely, thank you very much.  It makes me feel like a better mom, backing off until I am summoned. 

A confession:  Tonight, after I prepared the house for a late showing, I put on my turtle necklace.  A friend gave it to me yesterday, a beautiful pendant with a dragonfly on the turtle shell, made by a Lakota woman.  I have come to appreciate the slow, steady progress of the turtle, and the density and strength of its simple shell.  Having a chronic illness like lupus requires a long view and a steady pace.  Nothing happens quickly, but I look back and see my tremendous improvement from last year. 

Peace.

Diamonds, Health and Houses

The word is out.  The Congressional Budget Office has scored the complete health care reform bill and it definitely looks affordable, hundreds of billions less than previous estimates.  Ezra Klein has summarized the results for WashingtonPost.com (Ezra Klein – Primary Documents: The Congressional Budget Office’s Score of the HELP Bill).  Definitely worth reading his brief post.  Here’s a bit more info on Alternet today:  The Results Are In: A Public Health Plan Saves Big Money | Health and Wellness | AlterNet.  The Congressional Budget Office is nonpartisan, has no political agenda.  Their role was to look at the provisions of the bill and tell members of Congress what it would cost and what they could expect as a result of passing it. 

Yesterday we shopped for houses.  I fell in love with a small house on a hill in a new subdivision.  It eclipsed everything I’ve seen before now.  I want to pack my bags, put my yarn in the car, and move across town.  The only hold-up is the home I’m living in, the perfectly lovely suburban house that I cannot keep and have not sold.  I climbed the stairs to the upper level four times last week.  My back and legs have been sending me nasty messages ever since.  Of course, cleaning out the garage may have also contributed.  I am trying to make it look less of a disaster zone.  One carload to Samaritan Center, one carload to the recycle center…the repeated litany of our debulking. 

I am up to the neckline and armhole ribbing on my father’s vest.  Can’t wait to show it.  I’m pleased with how it’s come along, and he will be happy, I think.  I have listed several new items in my stores-two pairs of fingerless mitts in the adult store (http://turtlefat.com) and several infant and child hats in the children’s store (http://turtletots.etsy.com). I decided to empty all the super-warm winter items from the adult store, streamlining the inventory to things that are seasonally appropriate.  I think it makes it much more shoppable. 

A last note for the day.  Rob Thomas performed at a Today Show concert today.  He sang Her Diamonds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQgaGS4BL6I&feature=related), and it was explained that the title refers to his wife’s tears.  She has an autoimmune disease.  In the song, she says that she cannot take it any more, and she cries.  He feels unable to help her, but stays by and cries with her.  A mate that understands having the disease – out of my realm of experience.  I will download the album and imagine having that relationship.

Peace.

Riverbend and Early Rising

It is the end of Riverbend Festival week in Chattanooga.  The festival lasts 10 days, and attracts tens of thousands to its varied musical performances.  Even in years when I choose to avoid the heat and crowds, I can feel the excitement in the air.  Traffic patterns change, new faces appear in familiar places, television coverage and personal reports abound.  

My daughter made her first appearance at the festival at age three, dancing in the street with the community at the Bessie Smith Strut.  She still attends regularly, and I eagerly await her reports.  Last night we stayed up until 3 a.m. talking about the events of the week, the excitement still present.  She showed me her loot from the last night:  a necklace with a real scorpion embedded in glass, a six-pack of Coke Zero, jeans purchased in her pre-concert shopping.  Her descriptions of the Little Richard concert, with his unexpected presentation of his young nieces and nephew-tiny children standing on his piano to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider-kept me spellbound.  Attendance by proxy, as dictated by the current state of my lupus. 

In spite of the late late bedtime, I rose early to appreciate the glorious, bright day.  I have always been an early riser, eagerly waiting for morning to come, happy for summer when it is marked by bright light streaming into my bedroom.  As a child, I felt that I was missing something if I lay in bed late.  It was intolerable to hear activity in the rest of the house and not be a part of it.  Now, when the agenda of the day is dictated by me, I still feel the urge to jump into the day early.  I come by this honestly.  My father always rose early, his farm upbringing and Army career reinforcing the habit.  As an infant and small child, I woke to be with him and start the day. 

My son appeared unexpectedly at the front door yesterday.  He rang the bell and I interrupted a phone conversation to answer it.  My shrieks of pleasure greeting Julian probably frightened my friend on the phone.  A nice long spell of catch-up conversation ensued.  Meanwhile, a knitting friend showed up for an extended visit.  We began the evening with conversation, ended with pizza and a viewing of The Secret Life of Bees

So much to awake to, so many reasons to get out of bed.  That’s a good life.

Peace.

Pick Up the Phone

Just when I thought my biggest worry today would be the aches and pains from yesterday’s cleaning, there’s more news from the Senate’s health care struggles. 

A majority of Americans support having a public plan available for folks who cannot get health care insurance through their employers and who cannot afford to buy it on the private market.  There’s a movement in the Senate to delay this, giving private insurance companies more time and options to deal with the problem, and only allowing a public plan at some fututre time if they should fail.  The private insurers have already shown us that profit is their whole motive.  They have done everything they can to deny insurance to people and to not pay for what their insured customers need.  Why should they have another chance at our expense? 

What can we do?  We can get on the phone and call our senators’ offices, telling them that we don’t want to delay a public plan, that we need it now.  It takes 5 minutes to pick up the phone and relay that message.  You can read about it here:  http://www.healthcareforamericanow.org/.  I’ve already called Senator Alexander and Senator Corker to register my request.  If we don’t have health care for everyone in 2011, I don’t want to be kicking myself for lack of action.   

Now I’ve gotta get back to cleaning.  Someone else is scheduled to see my house.  Sell, 7514 Tranquility, sell! 

Peace.