MacKenzie Speaks: It’s Spring!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat and knitting.
The Mother of Cats and I have been knitting like crazy on her Mixology shawl.

The Mother of Cats says that it is spring today. Spring! The birds are coming back! Yellow Boy and I really like birds. Squirrels, not so much. Birds are awesome, though. And bugs. And snakes. We really like to chase snakes!!

Cats bath.
Today the Mother of Cats did more cleaning and I got involved in the spring cleaning too; bath time for Yellow Boy.
Lights on rose bush.
I helped the Mother of Cats put some cute little lights on her baby rose bush that she bought last month. The wire with the lights is perfect for chasing! She has to put the rose on the kitchen window ledge so Yellow Boy won’t eat it. He’s that way.
Oh yeah. We knitted. I guess I should show you how far we have gotten on her Mixology Shawl. It is really getting to be a great size for a cat blanket… She can’t wait to get this done so she can wear it with her new denim hooded jacket. I can’t wait for her to finish so I can use it as a CAT BLANKET!!

I tried to get the Mother of Cats to let me outside to look for birds this afternoon, but she refused to do it. Something about snow on the ground and too much wind. What a silly Mother of Cats! Doesn’t she understand that it is now spring?

I’m just trying to take care of Yellow Boy… he hasn’t been able to hunt for bugs for sooo long.

See what a good boy I am.

Can I have some cookies now?


Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The project notes for the Mixology are here. If you don’t know this pattern, it is the Mixology Shawl from Casapinka.
  • Sunday night I drove home from a visit with my son through a thunder snow storm. If you don’t know about these things, they are pretty exciting. Lightening, thunder, and downpours of snow. So much snow. We had over 6 inches of the heavy slushy stuff before it was over. The cats were in the closet sheltering in place when I got home. Poor things.
  • The next door neighbors have a dog that has become a ferocious barker over the winter. She even ate a hole in the fence so she can keep a better eye on my yard. Poor cats. It’s going to be a difficult return to the great outdoors when the warm weather arrives.
  • The snakes are little garter snakes; mostly harmless, but surprisingly fast when a cat is hunting them.

Yellow Boy Speaks: Knitting at Winter’s End

Hi. I’m Yellow Boy.

My big brother MacKenzie has been a little under the weather this week, so I’ve been taking up the slack by being especially helpful to the Mother of Cats all week. While MacKenzie has been sleeping upstairs I’ve been helping her with all of her chores. I get lots of snacks and pets, too, since MacKenzie isn’t there to barge in…

Cat on stack of laundry...
Here I’m helping the Mother of Cats with the laundry. I flattened every single stack of clean clothes for her. So much work. Why she doesn’t completely understand that my help is essential for optimal folding?

Now that it is the end of winter I’m moving into prime shedding season. I love to sleep in the sunlight, and then as I run upstairs to check on MacKenzie the fluffs of fur just fly off everywhere. It’s almost like indoor snow! So cool! The Mother of Cats keeps brushing me, but thankfully she isn’t getting enough fur off to spoil my fun.

Shedding cat.
Look at all of this fur! Thank heavens it is finally getting warm enough for me to get rid of all of this extra fluff.

Anyway, since the weather has been warm this week we worked on finishing some little projects.

Remember these socks? I slept on her legs for two whole days while she got the other sock done. 
Finished socks
Here they are! The Mother of Cats has enough yarn left over to make me a toy mouse. It’s only fair since MacKenzie got a whole blanket earlier this winter.
Arm warmer.
The Mother of Cats also whipped up a pair of arm warmers. 

The Mother of Cats is so strange. I’m too hot and dumping off all of my long fur, but she keeps putting these things onto her arms and feet. Doesn’t she understand that winter is ending? She should come take a nap with me in the sunlight by the back door. Silly Mother of Cats!

She has also been knitting on her Mixology.

That Mixology is so long now it covers me while she is knitting, so I really don’t like it all that much. I had to go upstairs to hang out with MacKenzie since she was so annoying while working on it. Every time she turns the knitting over it flaps over my head. She kept whapping me with the needles, too. No self respecting cat would put up with all of that. I decided that MacKenzie could use some attention, anyway, so I sleep with him when she’s knitting Mixology.

Today she took out that dreadful instrument of cat torture known as the VACUUM and chased us all over the house with it. It was just awful! Every time she turned it off to empty it I thought we were done, but no, she just reconnected everything and vacuumed another room.  MacKenzie likes to follow her around to keep his eye on what she’s doing, but I hid. Best to be safe! When she came downstairs she caught me and carried me up the stairs past the scary machine and I just couldn’t help myself: I squeaked in terror! Can you blame me? The last time she carried me somewhere it was for a bath… MacKenzie laughed at me for an hour after that.

Here I am, fully recovered. Whew! What a long day it was.

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • The socks are knit from a sock blank I bought at the Estes Park Wool Mart from Bonkers. The sock pattern is Eugene by Rachel Coopey. My project notes are here.
  • The arm warmers are the pattern that I worked out a few months ago when the cold weather started. I didn’t put in a thumb hole this time and the warmers just bunch up around my lower arms and wrists: just what I wanted this time. Here are the project notes.
  • My project notes for Mixology are here.
  • MacKenzie had a cold for a few days: sneezing, cranky, and sleeping. Can cats have allergies? He’s back up to full speed again today and once again is the dominant cat; Yellow Boy has resumed his role of the little cat brother that MacKenzie alternately babies, grooms,  and then roughs up. More yellow fur on the carpet…
  • Yellow Boy doesn’t know it, but he’s going to get a bath and clipping soon… Shedding season comes right before hair ball and matted fur season, and I hope to keep ahead of things this year.

Continue reading “Yellow Boy Speaks: Knitting at Winter’s End”

Mixology Mayhem and Two Good Books

I’ve been wanting to make a Mixology (by Casapinka) for quite a while. One night I printed out the pattern, shopped the stash, gathered up some yarn, and casted on with a sense of reckless abandon. Great yarns, great colors, and I couldn’t wait to see how it would look as I mixed them up in the shawl.

Yarns for shawl.
Look at these happy colors. Won’t these be a lot of fun in the mash-up of Mixology

Okay, I have to be honest here; I just don’t do any swatching. Ever. I’m lazy. Maybe I need instant gratification. Anyway, I like to just throw the yarn onto my needles and launch into the project. Besides, how could these colors not work out?

The knitting has a lot of colors changes at the beginning. So far, looking good! MacKenzie: cat toy!! 
As I kept knitting I began to question my choices. Gee, the pink is awfully bright and the yellow variegated yarn isn’t really pulling its weight. Where did all of that green come from and where did the blue go? What can I actually wear this thing with in my closet? I should have asked myself that sooner, but in my defense, I was seduced by the yarn…

I ripped it off the needles and recycled all of the yarn. I was pretty cheerful about it. I had just bought a few new items for my wardrobe in indigo blue and thought that I should build a Mixology that would go with them. Back into the stash I dived…

Yarn for shawl.
There. Don’t these look like they would like to play with my new denim jacket and dress?
Here it is. Mixology 2.0. I love the colors. My best friend said something about it being dark, but I had faith in the colors to come. I went out to look at the shop sample to see how the whole color sequence would work out.

The shop sample was a lot smaller than mine. Like 6 inches smaller across then my knitting. Oh, oh. I was first drawn to the shawl/scarf because of the size of this sample. If it is too big it won’t work right. I checked my needle size and the pattern again. Yep. I was using the right needle. Then I checked the gauge. Holy smokes, who ever checks the gauge on a shawl? Well, it might have been nice if I had…

My best friend Deb helped me rip it all out. She’s fearless that way, and is know for her ripping (and cutting) episodes. Hmmm… what a good opportunity to make some yarn color changes. Since I just happened to be in a yarn shop…

Yarns for shawl.
Behold: Mixology 3.0. I added a couple of Baah! La Jolla yarns that added more variation and bridged the red and blue a little better.
I went down a needle size and I’m exactly at the gauge that I want. I just love how the colors are working together. It’s a keeper!

I’m approaching the half-way mark on the shawl now and the colors are working out great. I’m going to get a lot of use out of this, and I learned a lot while going through the process. As you can guess, it has taken several weeks to work my way through the different iterations of the Mixology, and there were some big breaks where I just lost myself into a book for an evening and let the knitting sit in a corner to think about what it had done for awhile.

Meet the knitting break books.

I read a lot, and I’m doing a reading challenge at Goodreads. With a sense of optimism I committed to reading 50 books this year. Book after book, week after week, I have been chomping my way through mysteries, science fiction and popular novels. I rate all of the books at Goodreads, and they almost always get 3 or 4 stars (out of a possible 5). I usually like all of the books that I read, and they certainly keep me entertained, but I long for a book that is well written, with characters of real depth, and a sense of magic. I don’t want to know where the book is going before I get there. I want to feel impacted by the book. I want 5 stars!

Well, during the various Mixology melt-downs and knitting breaks I found two treasures lurking in my Nook and on the bookshelf. Two remarkable books that deal with death and loss, family dysfunction, grief, crisis, and the eventual coming into their own of the young people who make their way through the emotional storms in each book. Seriously, I’ve been up half the night with each of these. I had no idea that they would deal with similar  subjects, but somehow I launched into them back to back, and will treasure each book for quite some time. Here they are: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  I highly recommend both of these books.

You know, I did all of that knitting with yarns from the stash (until I got to the last version of Mixology), and both of those books have been with me for months. I need to toss the house to look for other treasures. I wonder what is in the fridge, although things abandoned there are usually dangerous. Still, I’m feeling really hopeful as I write this. I’m going to poke around in the kitchen as soon as I finish this. Chocolate. I bet there is chocolate down there.

Cat peaking from under blanket.
Yellow Boy: and maybe you could find us some cat cookies while you’re own there!!

Have a good rest of the week everyone.

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Rare Disease Day 2018

It seems like I just wrote a “rare disease day” post just yesterday, but it has been a whole year already. Actually, I think that I was really lazy last year and just re-posted the previous year’s blog post. Anyway, tomorrow (February 28th) is World Rare Disease Day. This year the motto is “Show Your Rare”, which is a little scary as it sounds vaguely like how I might order my steak, but I’m game. I’m rare, and here is my story.

First things first. Let’s talk about rare diseases. Here in the United States, a rare disease (also known as an orphan disease) is one that affects fewer than 200,000 people in the US. The bad news is that there are a lot of rare diseases; over 6,000 different diseases that impact about 25 million people just here in the US. Many of these are genetic in nature, and they tend to be chronic (more about that later).

I joined the rare disease club the day that my systemic sclerosis (a form of scleroderma) was diagnosed. With only about 100,000 cases in the US, we are definitely rare. Here’s the scoop on my disease: it is progressive, disabling, chronic, and possibly fatal. It shares some characteristics with cancer cells. It is also mostly invisible to other people, and people have no frame of reference to understand an illness that they have never heard of before, so they tend to be dismissive.

Scleroderma hand
One of the most obvious features of my condition is my thick skin. My legs and lower arms are literally hard, and here on my hand you can see that the skin folds kind of strangely. My skin is thick with scar tissue that has built up in response to inflammation set off by my immune system’s attack on normally healthy tissue.
You can really see it on this finger. My finger looks pale since the scaring is so bad it cuts off circulation when I hold it out straight. There is a silver lining to this: I will never have “old lady” hands.

My hands look strange, but I am doing really well all things considered. I have good circulation and flexibility which my doctors think is due to knitting. “Knit as much as you can!” was the recommendation. See, every setback in life has a silver lining.

What can’t be seen is my astonishing fatigue, muscle/joint pain, and brain fog. So much brain fog. I’m also accumulating organ damage as the months pass by. Digestive system damage, kidney damage, lung damage, and blood vessel damage that is slowly increasing the pressure in my heart.

Scleroderma face
All that redness on my face is due to blood vessel damage, and you can see the thick skin around my eye. Collagen build-up has given me chipmunk cheeks. Special. Thank heavens for red-cancelling make-up.

It’s like a scene from the movie, The Terminator. You know… if you substitute this line about the Terminator from the movie with the word scleroderma it would be… [Scleroderma] can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear! And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!

Mortality rates are down for my form of the disease due to new drug interventions. The other good news is that it is moving really slowly in my case. I think that I have had this disease for decades, and only now, in my 60s, is it catching up with me. I’m on the best drugs available, I love my doctors, and they have slowed the disease progression down tremendously over the last couple of years.

But I’m still dealing with a serious chronic illness, as are many other people with rare diseases. For me, when trying to explain my illness to others, it is the concept of “chronic” that causes the most trouble. People tell me to get more sunshine, more exercise, better food, use essential oils, whatever, so that I can get better. That’s the way it is for many health conditions, but not for a chronic illness.

There is no better, I tell them. Only this. Nope. They will insist that I can get better if I just try, and take it as defeatism when I calmly explain that some of this damage can’t be reversed. It is possible to get better without getting well, they will say. You look so great! It’s like it’s a personal affront that I can’t just be cured. If they haven’t seen me for a few months they will express surprise that “this is still going on”.

It is the concept of “chronic” that is the problem. To accept that you are sick is not weakness or “giving up”. It is coming to terms with the nature of your enemy.

So here is my Rare Disease Day request for anyone who has managed to read all of this. Accept chronic. Ask the person you are talking to about how they are doing. Ask what their doctors are telling them. Accept that they are in a situation that they can’t escape from. Don’t shy away from the fight if you care about that person.

If you know the movie “The Terminator“, you know that the heroine of the tale, Sarah Connor, was a hell of a fighter. She never, ever gave up, and in the end she got the best of the monster trying to do her in.

I’m channeling Sarah Connor.

Ravellenics Update: Sweater Skeleton Finish Line

It has been cold, cold, cold all week. As in, after a week of cold silliness we finally managed to get above freezing today after snow overnight. This worked pretty well for me, however, as I was deep in the depths of sweater knitting. Thursday I finished the knitting, wet blocked the sweater and left it incased in a towel sandwich blocking on the floor safe from cat interference. Friday I finished seaming the pockets and here it is!

it is done! This is Cushman by Isabell Kraemer. My Ravelry project notes are here.

The sweater is more blue than this photo shows, but hey… it was gloomy and snowing outside. The sweater was still too damp to wear, so I won’t be able to show it off to friends for a couple of more days, but last night I posted it on the Sweater Skeleton Finish Line on Ravelry. Ta-da! It is over, and I’m so glad that I did it.

Knitting with a cat.
MacKenzie was my constant companion on the final knitting drive to finish the sleeves.

As I was knitting down the last sleeve Wednesday night I was watching the ladies figure skating at the Olympics. It dawned on me how very international an activity this was. Check this out:

I was watching an Italian skater perform to music with French lyrics at an international competition in South Korea.

The beautiful sweater I was knitting was being made with yarn from Uruguay (Malabrigo Rios) using a pattern written by a German designer (Isabell Kraemer) and knitting needles made in China (Chiaogoo). The stitch markers were ones that I made from hand blown beads made by an artist here in Colorado and Japanese seed beads.

I’m half Swedish, and my cat is an Ocicat, a breed developed from Siamese and Abyssinian cats.

Truly, truly, knitting is an international undertaking. Happy Ravellenics everyone, enjoy the weekend and the final days of the Olympics.

MacKenzie: Whatever. Can I have some cookies now?

MacKenzie Speaks: Sweater Skeleton Update

Hi. I’m MacKenzie,

The Mother of Cats has been working really hard on her sweater for the Ravellenics competition. I’ve been helping her all week. She is upset about all the cat hair in the sweater: totally ungrateful!!

It has been almost a whole week of knitting on the sweater. She is mostly cheerful, but there have been a few incidents where she got snappy about me chomping yarn and chasing the needles. It is so hard to support her when she gets like this, but Yellow Boy and I continue to contribute as much as we can. Really, we don’t need all of our fur; happy to share.

Cat and knitting.
The sweater is now so big that is covers me while I’m sitting in her lap.
Cat and knitting.
See what I’m talking about?

Last night towards the end of the ice skating event she spread out the sweater to admire her work and started making sad noises. Really sad noises. Yellow Boy came running to see what was wrong and if she was giving away food.

What has happened here?

She took the sweater off the needles and did a lot of ripping. RIPPING! WOOHOO!!! I just love ripping! Lots of yarn flying. The ball got away from her and I chased it across the floor. The issue seemed to be about the pockets being on the BACK of the sweater instead of the front, but I have to tell you it was major cat party time. Yay! We cats even chased each other around the house afterwards and Yellow Boy’s fur was just flying everywhere!

Picking up stitches with cat supervision.
Once the party was over I helped her pick up her stitches again. Ugh. BORING… I closely supervised so she wouldn’t make any more mistakes.

Finally she got all the stitches back into order, moved her markers and got ready to start knitting again. This time the pockets will be on the front of the sweater where they belong.

But instead of doing that she packed it all up, got an ice cream bar and went to bed. Seriously? Hello… I think we should get back to work here!

Nope. She stayed in bed. The sweater is still packed up but she plans to get back to work tonight when the Olympics start. Downhill racing. Ice Skating. Skeleton. We will knit then.

Right now I need some cookies!!

I’m such a good boy.


Note from the Mother of Cats: The sweater is Cushman by Isabell Kraemer. My Ravelry notes are here.

Ravellenics Update: Sweater Skeleton Start

I have to be honest here, I was afraid to commit to the Ravellenics. Knitting under a deadline is stressful. Making a sweater can be stressful. Joining a team is stressful. I mean, why should I put myself into the position of committing to something when my overarching goal in life is to maintain a stress-free bubble for myself within the chaos of life. I just emerged from the mother of all flares; best to stay low key.

Look at this great Malabrigo Rios. It has been making a ruckus since before Christmas demanding that I make it into a sweater. With pockets. Who am I to argue with a great yarn?

Well, some of you guys really encouraged me to give it a go. Huge shout out to muddlingthroughlifesite and nothingbutknit2 who convinced me to go poke around to see what was going on with Ravellenics. Oh, my goodness. This looks both overwhelming and horribly exciting at the same time. So much information. So many groups and events. SO MUCH FUN!!! There is an event called Sweater Skeleton. Head first! Yay!! You know that I needed to jump into this action. I just needed to find a group and a team.

Hello Chronic Bitches group. You were just what I needed. Who knew there was a group on Ravelry for people with chronic medical conditions to share and support each other? I am now a Chronic Bitch knitting as a member of their team. I have to be honest here… Village Hopelessly Overcommitted was a pretty good fit, too. A support group for people who just keep on buying new needles and casting on while hunting for sources of chocolate to munch on. See… a great fit for me. Still, since I was so worried about staying flare free for the whole 15 days of Ravellenics, I went with Chronic Bitches.

I got my yarn wound and all kitted up so I could cast on and begin knitting as soon as the event opened, which was at the start of the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Oops. That’s 4am my time. Okay, knitting started a little later than that on Friday. This sweater is Cushman by Isabell Kraemer.

I binge watched the Olympics and knitted all weekend. Yesterday I reached the point where the sleeves are put onto holders and I am now racing down the body of the sweater.

Sweater in progress.
The colorway of this yarn is “Cirrus Grey”, and the knitted fabric does look a little like a rain cloud. I’m really loving the look of this.

So, I am just rocking along at this point. My gauge is spot on, and I haven’t run into any issues with the yarn or the pattern. It was cold and snowy all weekend, so staying in to knit was perfect. My disease is behaving itself and even the cats are cooperating.

Yesterday I took a little break to go shop the stash to put together the yarn for a couple of new projects. “What the Fade” shawls, to be exact. Crazy. I’m dreaming of new shawls while knitting along on this sweater under a deadline. I yearn to cast on some cute socks. My arms want Valentine’s Day arm warmers.

I may be a Chronic Bitch, but I so belong in Village Hopelessly Overcommitted!!

I’m off to find some chocolate…