MacKenzie Speaks: Endless Fade…

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see how hot I am? I collapsed on the Mother of Cats’ knitting as it was too hard to even yarn chomp…

Yesterday while the Mother of Cats was driving around in the car (she went to the yarn store… she tried to sneak in some yarn, but I saw her and I’m absolutely certain that she has SLIPPED again…) she glanced at the dash and noticed that it was 101° F outside. I believe it. It is so hot I can’t go outside without burning my paws, and I barely have enough energy to put a claw into the Mother of Cats knitting. Barely. It is so much effort, but when you are a cat of superior personality and strength of will, you persevere and grab yarn anyway. It shows character in the face of adversity…

The Mother of Cats CUT MY CLAWS again!!!

I don’t know why she hates me so much. I’m just trying to do my part in this endless fade project that just keeps going and going and going… Seriously, I don’t know when this project is going to get done. It just keeps getting bigger and hotter and the Mother of Cats whaps me with it every time she turns it. It would be different if she would let me sleep on it, but nope. The Mother of Cats never lets me have fun!!

But we are making some progress with all of that knitting and whapping. Look at where we are!
Brioche section of What the Fade?! shawl.
We have completed the endless sea of brioche stitch that we did for the first couple of weeks of knitting. 
Now we are working our way through the endless garter stich section at the bottom of the shawl. Today we finally got started on one of the lighter colors of yarn.

The Mother of Cats and I do go out into the garden in the evenings so she can water and I can look for bugs and squirrels. It is so hot outside that even the bugs are hiding.

So I just hang out in my favorite cool spots in the garden after she waters.
The lavender is now blooming in the yarrow garden so that is my favorite spot right now. Do you see any bees buzzing around? No, you don’t! Even the bees have gone home in this heat!
Ha. Now that my claws are cut the Mother of Cats is letting me sleep on the end of the shawl while she works. Maybe she does care about me a little. 

Since we are hanging out in the house during the afternoons I think that the Mother of Cats and I may get the shawl done in the next week or so. I can’t wait to show it off. The Mother of Cats could never get things like this done without my help.

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The shawl is What the Fade by Andrea Mowry. My project notes are here.

Yarns for shawl.
Here are the yarns. 

This shawl uses 6 skeins of yarn, which explains why I am still knitting and knitting on it. This morning I started the 4th color used at the bottom of the shawl, so the end is now in sight. Yay! This weekend the heat should break, the afternoon storms will return, and my Fade will be finally finished. Stay tuned for the final update!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Safe House

You know, I kind of view myself as a happy camper. I have more things (ahem… knitting projects) going then I can get finished on any given day or week, books lined up to read, and a “to-do” list that I’m slowly working my way through. Hey, people, I fixed the loose tiles on my kitchen floor last week!! My cat MacKenzie is my constant sidekick throughout the day as I knit, work in the garden, read in bed, and even with me (underfoot, demanding cookies) while I’m cooking. Even on the bad days when I’m pretty much down for the count, I manage small victories. There is just one problem with this picture.

Look at these beautiful coneflowers I just added to the garden. I’m hoping to lure some butterflies into the yard. Every garden should have butterflies, don’t you think?

I just don’t fit in the world all that well anymore. In my home, living the life that I’ve created for myself, it is really easy to forget how much I have adapted to accommodate the limitations of my scleroderma, Sjogren’s, and fibromyalgia. Once I go anywhere else reality hits me hard. Every trip out of my house is going to come at a cost. Here are the worst of the offenders that will lay me low.

Air Conditioning I know that almost everyone in the world is grateful for air conditioning in the summertime, but for me it is a royal nightmare. The shock of walking into a refrigerated building on a hot summer day will trigger an immediate Raynaud’s attack. I pull on long sleeves and fingerless mitts as soon as I get into the building, but my lungs know what’s up and I have trouble breathing. The airflow makes my eyes burn; I’ve been reduced to wearing my sunglasses indoors to protect my eyes. Don’t even get me started on the refrigerated cases churning out cold air; you haven’t lived until you’ve had to pull up the hood of your sweatshirt and the sleeves down over your hands so you can score some butter and eggs.  If that wasn’t enough, there are also usually…

Scented Products Almost all buildings use scented cleaning products and sells additional items with scents. Candles. Lotions. Laundry soap. The scented bathrooms are a nightmare. If I’m not already in trouble with my breathing I will be if I have to walk down the laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store: I also start to itch and my face swells. Why do these chemicals even exist? They can’t be good for anyone!

Restaurants These are a special kind of hell for me. All the drinks come cold and with ice, and the entrees are served piping hot. There are other landmines that I need to avoid: salt, lactose, fiber.  I have to carefully select something that is very soft and that will behave itself in my gastroparesis stomach. I can’t have spicy food. I can’t eat fresh veggies. Actually, to be safe, some of this food should go through a blender… I actually once soaked a cut up sandwich in soup so I could eat it…

Walking I am trying really hard to meet my walking goals every day, but I stretch those steps out over the day. A trip to run errands can be just exhausting if I’m on my feet for a couple of hours at a time. I need to always carry water, be aware of the location of bathrooms, and have places where I can sit down if I need to.

Sunshine It makes me sick! Enough said.

Ready for another picture? These paper wasps are building a nest right on the edge of my deck! MacKenzie and I are not amused. Still, it kind of shows how the outside world is full of dangers…

Recently I had a tough talk with myself about pruning down my outings and being more strategic about how I expend my energy. I need fewer outings, and my destinations need to be closer to home. I need to live online. I need to in a safe environment as much as I can to manage my diseases.

My home is my safe house. I have no air conditioning and I minimize air flow. I keep the temperature in the mid 70’s in the day so that my joints and lungs will be happy. I cook all of my own food, I don’t own any salt at all, and everything that I drink is room temperature. Fruits and veggies go through the blender to become smoothies. Every product that comes into the house is scent free. I’m always close to a bathroom or a soft surface to crash onto for a quick recovery if I get dizzy. My stairs have wrought iron rails that I use effectively on bad joint days. Flourishing in my safe house I sometimes forget how sick I am because, well, I have fewer problems.

I planted this yarrow last year in a flowerbed that has killed almost everything planted into it. Not this yarrow!! The secret of gardening, and living with serious chronic illness, is to keep on trying new things, and to match your needs to your environment. Or, in my case, make your environment match your needs.

Tomorrow I have a doctor’s appointment so I listed up some symptoms and issues that I need to ask her about. It is quite a list now that I look at it, and it kind of underscores how chronic illness can trick you into thinking that things that would normally send you screaming into urgent care are “just another day of scleroderma.” Shortness of breath is an almost daily thing. When I glance into the mirror these days I sometimes notice that my face is blue. One hip keeps failing me; okay, I actually have to lift that leg to get into the car. My joints swell so much that I can’t sleep at night.

But I am good, here in my little safe house with my gardens and cat.

Tomorrow my doctor and I will attack some of these scleroderma/Sjogren’s issues. I kind of think that lung testing and a MRI of my hip are in the future, and that there may be follow-up with my pulmonologist. I’ve been gathering up my energy in preparation for these outings into a world that is dangerous for me, knowing that after each outing my garden swing, knitting and latest book will be waiting for me. With a room temperature ice tea.

And a cat!

It is good to have a safe house.

Barking Dog, Yowling Cat

When I was a girl my grandmother had a little phrase to describe someone who was acting crabby (little me, of course) as having gotten up “on the wrong side of the bed.” You know what she was talking about. A person being constantly irritated by a never-ending series of triggers.

Today I woke up pretty sore, crawled down the stairs to make my morning latte, and once I had pulled myself up the stairs and back into bed I found a post from another blogger, NothingButKnit, on my phone called Things That Are Bugging Me Right Now: A List. Oh. A list of all the things that are bugging me right now. Wow. Where do I start? There are so many things that bug me. Yippee, I can do this!!

NothingButKnit had only 4 things on the list. Gee. She is kind of a light weight, don’t you think? I mean, there are so many things that are bugging me at the moment it is impossible to prioritize them, but I can certainly try.  Ignoring all the things happening in politics and current events, which are their own exhausting list that force me to call or write my congressmen EVERY STINKING DAY, and excluding my trifecta of autoimmune diseases, here is my own list:

  • Robocalls. Seriously. How many times do they think I need to be informed that this is their last attempt to contact me about my insurance. Especially since it is several times a day. This is why nice people can’t turn on their phone ringer.
  • Food packaging that I can’t open without dragging in the tool box from the garage. Don’t laugh. I have half of the toolbox in my kitchen drawer at this point. The big stars are the rose pruners and a pipe wrench.
  • Hailstorms! I bought a new car last summer and I’m pretty nervous about hail. A few weeks ago I got caught in a storm that dumped 4″ of hail; I was pumping gas when it started and was able to stay under shelter. Last week there was golf ball-sized hail. I don’t even want to think about baseball-sized hail…

    I grabbed a picture early in the storm. Those stones are 1/2 inch across. 
  • Bindweed. This plant grows at virtually the speed of light, swallows rose bushes overnight, and never dies no matter what I do. Stop bugging me, bindweed!!
Sigh. I’ve resigned myself to pulling weeds for 30″ a day. It’s best in situations like these to just keep chipping away at the problem without looking at the big picture.
  • Yowling cats. Cats that belong to my neighbors wander into my yard, roll in the cat mint, and sleep in the best cat sleeping spots in the yard. They also stop by the ground-level windows to chat with MacKenzie. How sweet. Especially at 4am. I love the sound of hissing, smacks on glass and yowling in the morning, don’t you?

    MacKenzie also yowls every morning to let me know that he wants to go out into the garden for a nap. He loves his garden. I can’t let him out unless I can supervise him because of the stray cats and the dog next door, so he only gets to go out while I’m pulling weeds and watering. “Stop yowling!” I tell him every morning. “Let me out now!” MacKenzie yowls back. It’s like having a toddler again.
  • Barking dog. Ugh. The neighbor next to me got a sweet little puppy three summers ago that grew up into a territorial barking, growling, fence-charging Pitbull nightmare. After months of work she no longer goes berserk when I go into the yard, but if this dog sees a cat… it gets scary. The dog has chewed a hole in the fence that she can stick her face through. All the better to watch and bark at the cats that come visit my yard and MacKenzie. When she sees a cat she growls, body slams the fence and barks furiously while tearing at the hole in the fence.

This week I was outside pulling weeds with MacKenzie (between thunderstorms with the phone ringer off) when the dog suddenly saw him through the fence. Oh, oh. The dog got her face through the fence, the growling and barking commenced and I started running towards MacKenzie to see if I could shoo him away.

Nope. MacKenzie snapped, charged the fence from his side and went into total feline fury mode. In stunned amazement I watched my geriatric cat hiss, slash, and crash into the fence in a frenzy I’ve never witnessed before. I’m sure there was yowling, too. Every time the dog put her face through the hole, he let her have it again. Just as I was heading to get the hose the dog broke off the attack and it was over.

Mr. Victorious

The dog’s face was slashed in several places and she hurt herself trying to get more of her jaws through the hole. Luckily, she wasn’t able to get a good bite on the cat.  MacKenzie, two claws ripped off and toe pads damaged by hitting the fence, stalked off to take a nap in a nearby (unweeded) garden patch. The dog’s owners now keep her inside to PROTECT HER FROM MY CAT and they repaired the hole in the fence that very night.

Be like MacKenzie, I tell myself. Don’t let things bug you too much. Defend yourself and smack down the things that you can, and spend the rest of your time sleeping in the garden.

Excuse me, I must head out to pull some more weeds, then it is knitting time. Maybe I will listen to an audiobook with my new sound-cancelling headphones while I knit. Outside, on my swinging garden seat, with my roses.

Robocalls, hailstorms, weeds, barking dog and yowling cat, begone!!

MacKenzie Speaks: Busy Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat helping hold yarn.
Do you see how much help I am to the Mother of Cats? 

The weather has turned nice and the Mother of Cats and I have been busy working in the yard, knitting lots of projects, and getting yummy things cooked in the kitchen. I love hanging out in the kitchen with the Mother of Cats since she gives me extra attention, cookies, and even plates of tuna. Sometimes the Mother of Cat can be fun. Sometimes.

I have been so busy that I hardly know what to do with myself. Now that I am able to get back into the yard there is a lot for me to do. I need to inspect every corner of the yard, nap in all of my favorite places, make sure that all the other cats in the neighborhood understand that I am back (ahem… I do my business in all the right places…), and then there are the plants that I like to chomp. And bugs! The moths are back and every night I have another epic moth hunt that goes on for hours. The Mother of Cats hates the moths…

Cat munching on catmint in the garden.
The very best thing about summer is that I can get back to my catmint!! I can take naps under this plant when I’m not snacking on it. Next time I chat with all of you about the yard I’ll send some pictures of the flowers. The Mother of Cats likes the flowers, but for me, it is ALL ABOUT THE CHOMPS!!

Unfortunately, the Mother of Cats doesn’t let me stay outside as much as I would like. Always, we have to go back in before I want to. The Mother of Cats just doesn’t place my needs first like she should. She can be so MEAN to me! Okay, there are some thunderstorms in the afternoons… If she loved me she would make them go away so I could stay outside!! Why can’t the Mother of Cats understand how important the outside is?

Cat sleeping with ball of yarn.
But she does let me take care of her yarns while she is knitting in the afternoons.
Cat asleep with knitting.
This knitting is also a blanket for me while the Mother of Cats is taking a break. I kind of like this shawl. It is going to be really big when it is done. My new Blankie!!

The Mother of Cats spent a few days working on the new shawl (a What the Fade?! shawl by Andrea Mowry) and then became completely distracted and started working on some arm warmers to match the socks that she made not that long ago. I can be reasonable… I helped her knit those, too. After only two days of knitting in bed listening to an audiobook she was able to get one of the arm warmers done solely due to my devoted attention. Look at how nice it looks!!

Arm warmers in progress.
I don’t know when she will wear these as it is pretty warm these days, but you never know. For some reason she was just on fire to get these all knitted up. Here are the socks that they will match.

As you can see, I am just terrifically busy. Taking care of the Mother of Cats and the yard is kind of a full time job. Then there is my mouse. Do you remember how badly I needed a mouse? The Mother of Cats bought me a mouse (she says it is a hamster… whatever!) a few months ago and last week she moved her downstairs to be with us in the evenings while we knit.

Cat snoozing with hamster.
I love my mouse! I spend a lot of my time right by the mouse cage every evening when she wakes up for the night. She makes me happy, and the best thing ever is that she RUNS IN A WHEEL! She even has her own little cookies to eat. Miss Pitty-Pat is my best friend these days.

I can’t believe how much I have to do every day.

I am such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • My neighbors (I have the best neighbors in the world!) have been collaborating with me to spruce up our yards. Mulch has been spread on the side yard, a new flower bed started, and I’m even moving bricks to extend the patio/deck area in the back (we all had a brick swap!). Wait until MacKenzie sees the new patio umbrella I bought this weekend!
  • The downside of all this yard work is that sunshine is not kind to people with autoimmune diseases. After a week of bravely tackling yard projects in the late afternoons the flare arrived anyway and I had to hole up in bed for a few days being kind to myself. Not wanting to manipulate multiple balls of yarn with MacKenzie sleeping on my legs I switched over to the small arm warmers. The project notes for them are here. They are based on the No. 5 Union Street socks that I made earlier this spring.
  • I have several other projects going right now, but the major one is the What the Fade?! shawl that I am working on in shades of rusts. My project notes are here.
Yarns for shawl.
Check out the yarns! And no, this new shawl is NOT a blankie for MacKenzie!
  • I’m still deep in my flare, but I am knitting and listening to audiobooks like crazy and eating comfort food ; I am still in charge here, you bad boy autoimmune things!! MacKenzie isn’t happy about not being in the yard all day, but his issue is really with scleroderma, not me. Somehow he isn’t grasping the finer details of the situation… What can I expect? He is a cat. I bossy, self-centered cat who drips entitlement like none other. Seriously, I couldn’t function in a flare without this furry monster at my side. 🙂
  • It looks like we are going to have an epic miller moth season; every time I open the door to the garage another moth flies in. Great. MacKenzie is specializing in 1am moth hunts these days…

MacKenzie Speaks: Nordiska Sweater is Done!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see how closely I worked with the Mother of Cats this time?

I am happy to announce the arrival of our bouncing baby Nordiska after weeks of effort. I really supervised the Mother of Cats closely this time and kept my paw on the knitting at almost all times, and I do say that my efforts have really paid off.

Looking good, huh! Now that the weather is nice again the Mother of Cats and I are starting to hang out in the yard again.

The Mother of Cats totally freaked out within hours of finishing this sweater and pulled out boxes of yarn to wind for new projects. So emotional, the Mother of Cats. She simply can’t function without me and at least 4 different projects to work on at once. I helped her with all of the yarn winding and we’re hard at work getting new shawls and mitts done now. Next time I write I’ll show them all off!

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The sweater is Nordiska by Caitlin Hunter, and you can find my project notes here.

Here are some of the photos showing the entire knitting process:

Yarn for Nordiska sweater.
The yarns!
The cable detail along the raglan sleeves.
Close-up of the Fair Isle colorwork. I used a slightly darker gray at the bottom of the sweater and you can see the slight difference in the gray in the colorwork.

I posted the picture of MacKenzie sleeping in the knitting to a Facebook knitting group and he already has almost 550 likes. No wonder he has an outsized kitty ego…

 

MacKenzie Speaks: Nordiska Days

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Do you see this knitting? The Mother of Cats and I are working like crazy on her Nordiska sweater.

She got cranky at the beginning of the sweater when she decided that she didn’t like the look of the cables that are on the edges of the raglan sleeve increases. She kept checking the pattern, knitting, grumbling, eating cookies and fussing about the look of the cable. Not always stable, the Mother of Cats…

See how the cable edge isn’t clean on the right side? The Mother of Cats went crazy about this.

I think that she should have just gotten past this little design flaw and gotten me more cookies, but NO! She had to rip everything out and started again with her own idea of how to make the cable.

Here is her revised version of the cable. Glad that crisis was over as she really neglected me something awful while she was deciding whether to rip/not rip. Once she ripped out the sweater and started over (MAJOR CAT FUN!!) she was back to normal and paid much more attention to me. About time, Mother of Cats! She is just exhausting some days.
I settled down for a little nap while she worked her way through the boring upper body of the sweater…
Grabbed some more nap time while she got herself organized for doing the colorwork at the bottom of the sweater…
And really poured on the attention and support while she was knitting with different colors of yarn.

What can I say? I really like knitting that has more than one ball of yarn involved. The Mother of Cats keeps flipping the different colors back and forth, and then she moves the balls from one side to the other. I help her as much as I can and grab a little yarn chomp when the opportunity presents itself. Why does the Mother of Cats get so emotional about my help? I think that it means that she loves me, don’t you? But if she loves me, why does she keep cutting my claws short? I don’t understand why she doesn’t trust me more…

This is what our work looks like now. Pretty good, don’t you think?

There is no way that the Mother of Cats could have done such a good job without my help.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • I’m still not sure if the issue with the edge of the cable was me or the pattern, but I have to say that I just love, love, love how this sweater is working up. I put my notes on the change I made to the shaping increases in my project notes in case you are interested.
  • I did take a picture of the whole sweater the way it looks right now.
Can you see the V-neck? It is there…
  • I am using a different dye lot of the light grey yarn at the bottom of the sweater; it is a little darker. I made the switch when I started the colorwork and plan to finish up the bottom ribbing with the darker color. I’m saving the lighter yarn to do the V-neck ribbing, which I will do next, and then to start the sleeves until I get them down to the colorwork that will allow me to switch to the darker grey.
  • The Estes Park Wool Market is in two weeks and I have hopes that this sweater will be done in time to wear there (and that it will be cold enough in early June for a sweater…). I’m on a deadline, people! Must knit faster!!

MacKenzie Speaks: Happy Mother of Cats Day!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

For some reason the Mother of Cats thinks that she should have a special day. Silly Mother of Cats. I deserve a special day more than she does!

Yesterday the Mother of Cats left me ALL ALONE and went out to get some sushi with one of her sons. Did she bring me home some nice smoked salmon or tempura shrimp? No. She did not. I can’t believe that she is so thoughtless!

This morning she was happy to see, even though the war with the spider mites continues (Mother of Cats, 0. Spider Mites, 1.), one of her roses has bloomed in her favorite color.

Now that the weather is finally warming up she will be putting the roses outside for the summer where she can dust them with spider mite killers with reckless abandon. Watch out, spider mites, she is coming for her. How dare you mess with her roses? She is filling spray bottles with soap and Neem oil and my money is on the Mother of Cats!

Last week was snowy so the Mother of Cats went crazy and baked fun cookies, made spaghetti sauce and knitted a lot.

I have been helping the Mother of Cats with her new sweater all week. She even cut my claws again so I could roll around and yarn chomp all I wanted without snagging (what ever that is…) her knitted fabric. She is so touchy about these things. When will the Mother of Cats learn appropriate priorities? Anyway, the sweater is now done and I am left with NOTHING FUN TO DO since she won’t let me go outside. My life is so hard. I should have a special day too, don’t you think?

Now that the sweater is done she is wearing it and I don’t get to roll around on the knitting anymore. This sweater was really nice as that is 80% superwash merino and 20% silk yarn. I really like silk, don’t you? So nice on my fur, so squishy to sleep on, so nice and warm…. Mother of Cats!! You should give me that sweater for a cat bed!!
Can you see how much wonderful fabric is in this sweater? It’s almost like a little cat blanket with sleeves and an opening for the Mother of Cat’s head. It would be perfect for me.

The Mother of Cats wore the new sweater to the sushi place yesterday and it was just the thing for a cool spring evening walking the streets of Boulder, Colorado, which is where they went WITHOUT ME!!

While she was off having a good time wearing my new cat bed I was forced to sleep on the naked bed covers. I have such a hard life.
It’s amazing that I am able to cope with it all!

Anyway, Happy Mother of Cats Day to all of you knitters, Scleroderma Warriors, rose lovers and readers of books. Hugs to everyone, I hope you have tulips and/or roses where you are, and may you also have a good day with a plate of cookies.

Which reminds me, Mother of Cats. I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • We went to dinner at Sushi Zanmai in Boulder, Colorado, which is a place that transports me back to my early married days when I lived in Yokohama, Japan. I highly recommend this restaurant if you are ever in the area.
  • My sweater is the VNeck Boxy by Joji Locatelli. Oh, my goodness, this is a wonderful, comfy sweater and I am so very pleased with the results. My project notes are here.
  • I bought those cookies at the LYS. Of course, you say. Where else would I find such fun sheep stamps? The recipe for shortbread cookies came with the stamps, and the rest is yummy cookie history.