MacKenzie Speaks: The End of Fades

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat  with knitting
I’ve been helping the Mother of Cats knit this shawl for ages…

The Mother of Cats was sucked into the “Find Your Fade” vortex weeks and weeks ago. Yellow Boy and I did everything that we could to save her, but it was hopeless. She has been neglecting us for forever while this has been going on. It has been awful! So far she has knitted up THREE of these shawls.

Cat sleeping on knitting
Do you see how stressed I am?

Finally, finally she finished up all of her silly knitting and took the shawl outside to grab some pictures yesterday.

Shaawl
Not bad for a human, right? I think that she picked some nice colors for this one.
Shawl
I know that humans can get distracted by my wonderfulness… so here’s another picture that she took (ahem) WITHOUT ME!! I don’t think that I get the respect that I deserve. Anyway, here is the shawl. I just can’t understand why she pushed me out of the picture,
Cat on shawl
…so as soon as she put it down to take some other pictures I moved right in for a little nap. Wow. This is sure nice and squishy. Don’t you think that these are nice colors with my fur? These fade shawls are really nice and big, just right for my cat bed, but they take up ALL the room on her lap while she is knitting them. Seriously, all of this Fade knitting has Yellow Boy and me a little concerned. It is time for some little projects again.

You can imagine our relief when the Mother of Cats told us that she is done knitting Fade shawls for now. Finally!! We have made it to the end of the Fades tunnel. She got out her basket of unloved and abandoned old knitting projects (she calls them WIPs; Yellow Boy thought that she was talking about a new kind of kitty treat and came running. Boy, was he disappointed!) and told us that she would be finishing some of these up before she starts a new project. Right. We’ve heard that before.

Basket
This is her basket of little projects that need finishing. She keeps it up high on top of the bookcase so I can’t sleep in it. Why does she do things like that? Doesn’t she love me?
Snow on flowers
Look at what happened overnight!

Today there is too much snow on the ground for us to go outside so we are hanging out inside again. The Mother of Cats is knitting on a pair of socks from her basket and Yellow Boy and I are playing on our new cat tree.

Cat Tree
Look at this!

About time we got a new cat scratching post!! I’ve been forced to use the knitting chair for weeks, and the Mother of Cats just gets upset every time I put a claw on it. She is so emotional. I’m glad that she finally understood that she needs to focus more on my needs.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

  • This is the third Find You Fade shawl that I’ve knit. The project notes for this one are located here on Ravelry.
  • My first Fade was done in fall colors. You can find it here.
  • The second Fade, one that would look nice with denim, was finished last month. Its Ravelry notes are here.
  • I am now finishing a pair of socks I started months ago. I am going to work through the WIP basket for sure. Really. I’m totally going to be able to ignore that shawl yarn that I kitted up this week with its pattern… I am strong!
  • Should I show off all three shawls together in a post?
  • I also did some beading this week. Wait until I show you my BKB’s bead stash!! (BKB = Best Knitting Buddy)

April Updates: Sjogren’s Syndrome and ANOTHER Fade

Hi. If you’ve been following my blog for very long you already know that I am an out-of-control knitter owned by a self-absorbed and bossy cat named MacKenzie. You have probably detected that I am a science-oriented geek, an obsessive reader, and a casual gardener who loves her roses. You may have also realized that I have some serious and chronic health problems that I am trying to keep from taking over my life. I’ve been pretty up-front about the more serious of my autoimmune duo, systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), but I hardly ever mention the lesser of the two, Sjogren’s Syndrome. After all, since the diagnosis came in, all of my doctors (I have a six-pack of docs…) tend to focus on the scleroderma, so I almost forget that I also have Sjogren’s.

Except for this: of the two autoimmune conditions, it is the Sjogren’s that has pretty much taken over my life in spite of my efforts to keep control. Since April is Sjogren’s Awareness Month, I decided that I would share with all of you some information about this disease and how it has impacted me.

But first, the Fade!! I’m cranking out another Find Your Fade shawl that I hope to get done before the end of the month. Look at these colors! Look at how great this shawl is going to be! Color me happy! My Ravelry project notes are here.

Shawl
I’ve just started the 4th color and I can’t stop knitting because of the happy turquoise color. Must keep knitting. The 5th color will be even more wild!
Yarns for a shawl
See what I’m talking about? The color sequence for the shawl moves from right to left in the picture, and the next color will be that Hedgehog Fibres yarn. Then there will be that electric violet. Woohoo!

The weather has been nice this week so the cats have moved outside to bug hunt and I have moved into major knitting and house cleaning mode. OK, there has been more knitting. It’s important to have priorities…

Back to the Sjogren’s Syndrome. I know that you are just dying to know more about this little know and hard to spell disease. Sjogren’s isn’t as rare a disease as my bad-boy scleroderma (about 4 million Americans have it), and it isn’t usually life-threatening, but it is still serious and exceptionally life altering. Check out this symptom chart. This is one crazy-ass autoimmune disease; basically my immune system is attacking all of my moisture producing cells. That doesn’t sound all that bad, does it? As it turns out, the impact of this damage affects an awful lot of my body’s ability to function properly, and for this reason Sjogren’s is considered to be a systemic condition. Its most obvious feature is extreme dryness. Let’s take a little walk around my house as I explain this to you.

Lotions
Even I was shocked to realize how many types of lotion I have on my bedside table. There are 11 types of lotion here, and another couple of lotion bars in the drawer. I also have lubricant eye drops that I put in at least twice a day. I absolutely have to stay up on the eye drops every day or I develop cloudy vision. See, dryness. Dry skin, dry eyes. 
Bathroom
Dry mouth too. I never knew this before, but your saliva is necessary to fight bacteria in the mouth; without it things get out of control quickly.  I was producing no saliva when first diagnosed and I did have lots of dental issues. Things are better now, but I have to be very careful to keep my teeth as clean as possible, and I use the rinse nightly to help protect my teeth.
Sunglasses
The struggle to protect my eyes and skin continues every time I leave the house. I need lip balm and sunscreen before I go out, and sunglasses are a must since my eyes are really sensitive to sunlight. Because my mouth is so dry I don’t move anywhere without some type of fluid to drink. It’s such an issue for me I usually keep a case of ice tea in the car so I won’t ever run out. See the cute fingerless mitts? Sjogren’s causes Raynaud’s  (which I have) so I need to keep my hands and fingers warm at all times. If you think I’m crazy about managing fluids you should see how many pairs of fingerless mitts and gloves are riding around with me in the car with that case of ice tea…
Steamer with hot pack
Combating dryness makes sense, but there are lots of other annoying symptoms that I’m dealing with too. My joints and muscles hurt all of the time. I start every morning with chemical hot packs on my knees and leg muscles. I recharge them in this steamer each evening so that I’ll be ready to use them as soon as I wake up. This is my routine: make a morning latte, and then go back to bed with the hot packs and coffee.  Usually there is a cat added. Cats love hot packs!
Inhaler
My Sjogren’s antibodies also cause small airway disease (asthma). I notice blue lips quite often these days, and I have to monitor my blood oxygen levels and use the inhaler if my levels get too low; I’m trying hard to stay off oxygen. Darn. Just another couple of items I need to fit into my knitting bag.
Blender
and then there are my gastrointestinal issues. I developed gastroparesis this fall and now I am rocking a low fiber diet of easily digested foods. Check out my lunch. 

Now for the things that I couldn’t take picture of: fatigue, neuropathy, and concentration/memory problems. The fatigue that comes with Sjogren’s is not the usual “feeling tired” stuff. This is true crushing fatigue that makes me feel buzzy, numb and like I’m walking through concrete. The neuropathy means that I have feet/hands that are always falling asleep; more trouble walking. Then there is the memory stuff. When I’m in a flare all kind of crazy things can happen. I got lost on the freeway once; now I always use the GPS to give me driving directions. I have gone out to run an errand and then couldn’t remember where I was going. I have big problems with vocabulary recall, and I forget things like my phone number at the most embarrassing moments. I lose my ability to read because I can’t concentrate…

Good grief, I pretty much have my life arranged around my Sjogren’s needs. I thought that MacKenzie was running the show around here, but it looks like he needs to take a back seat to Sjogren’s.

Cat
MacKenzie: Not happening. I am the man!!

Which brings me to the good things for which I am grateful. Most people with scleroderma/Sjogren’s struggle with anxiety and/or depression. I do not. I think that I am so very lucky in my wonderful, supportive friends and my son. I am lucky to have good neighbors, health insurance, and a pension that meets all my needs. I am lucky to have cats that pile on and purr through all the sad times. I am lucky to have the immensely meditative and calming art of knitting to carry me through each and every flare of my disease.

Knit on, my friends. Knit on.

…and another baby Fade enters the world.

It has been just crazy for the last two weeks. We have had really warm weather, blizzard warnings, a broken water heater, more medical testing, and another trip to the hospital. March has been a bad, bad boy. Tomorrow March will be going out like a lion as there is a rather major snow storm on the way that promises to gift us with either 2 inches or a whole foot of snow. As usual for this time of year, we won’t really know for sure until the snow stops falling. One thing is for sure, the roses are going to come out of this looking a little worse for the wear…

I have been dealing with all the stress and commotion in my usual manner; lots of knitting.  My latest “Find Your Fade” shawl has been growing at an impressive rate.

Cat helping knit shawl
The shawl became so large while I was working on it that I just spread it over my legs to make a nice bed for MacKenzie (ever helpful as always) to lie on while I knitted.
Shawl
By yesterday morning I was into the last section of the shawl. Look at those colors!!
Finished Shawl
Tonight I got it done while watching the evening news. The light is a little dim as I took the shot indoors, but you can still get a good idea of how the colors play together.
Shawl
Here is the other side of the shawl. I love, love, love this. My project notes can be found here.

Tomorrow I will be (surprise) casting on the start of a third Fade shawl just in time for the snow storm. This is addictive. I just need to see how the colors will go together.

MacKenzie, how do you feel about purple, magenta and turquoise yarn?

Immigrant Story

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s kind of a fun day here where I live. People wear green, there are parades, bodies of water (and beer) get dyed green, and there is some serious partying that can occur.

I’m Swedish-American, so I don’t really get wrapped up in the whole wearing of the green thing. In fact, when I was in grade school kids would pinch me black and blue on St. Paddy’s Day because I wasn’t wearing green; the teacher would give me a little green shamrock to pin on my dress so I would be safe. People acted like this was normal, but it made me a little cranky, to be honest. Why was it OK for me to be pinched because I wasn’t like the other kids? Why did I have to pretend to be Irish when I wasn’t even a little bit?

I knew I was Swedish. We had stinky lutfisk at Christmas and really great cookies. I didn’t foist lutfisk on anyone else (if you’ve ever been exposed to this stuff, you will understand that only the worst of the worst should be bullied with lutfisk…), or even share my cookies, so why should I have to wear green? I was Lutheran and the Irish kids were Catholic. The Jewish kids had candles, dreidels and chocolates instead of Christmas. It was all good in my eyes; everyone was an immigrant as far as I was concerned.

Years later I gave my grandmother a blank journal and asked her to record our family’s story. Wow. As it tuns out, it is a pretty good one, so I want to share it with you.

Anderson Family Portrait
The Anderson Family in America. From left to right: my grandmother Irene, her father John Alfred, her sister Alphild, and her mother Selma. My grandmother Irene was the first person in her family to be born in America.

My great-grandmother’s story is one that is not all that unusual; she came to the USA as a young women, worked in service, met a young man at her church, married, raised a family, and had a good life. My great-grandfather’s story is the one that I want to share.

John Alfred Anderson (known as Little Al) was brought to the USA by his parents when he was 4 years old. I’m not completely sure of the date, but it would have been 1862 or 1863. His mother died soon after they arrived, and his father returned to Sweden leaving the children behind. Little Al was left with an older, married sister and his brother was adopted by another family. When he was 11 years old his sister could no longer support him and he became a child on the streets of Chicago. He was on his own during the Great Chicago Fire and lost his most precious possession, his bag of marbles, when he buried it for safekeeping on an island in the Chicago river. To make things worse, Little Al was a Swedish child, and there was prejudice against Swedish immigrants; chances are he did not speak English.  The odds were not in his favor.

Believe it or not, it all worked out. He became active in a Lutheran Church and was supported by that community. He somehow came to the notice of Julius Rosenwald, the great Jewish philanthropist, who “helped him acquire his engineer’s license and then hired him to provide the steam-power for the sewing machines in one of Mr. Rosenwald’s garment factories”, as my grandmother related. My grandmother remembered getting a new coat twice a year from Mr. Rosenwald; he would have her mother come to the factory to pick out the fabric and he would personally select the lining and buttons. Later in life Little Al became a citizen, started his own business, the girls grew up, they both married, and they all lived good American lives.  There were amazing adventures later on in the family, but those are other posts.

When I said that I was Swedish-American, that was the literal truth. I’m half Swedish (on my mother’s side), and on my father’s side my ancestors have been here in America for over 300 years. They settled in the original colonies along the Atlantic coast, fought the American Revolution, and lived during the time when our constitution was written and the USA was born.  They eventually left the coast, crossed the mountains, and settled in a western wilderness known as Tennessee; their story is truly an American one. But each branch of my father’s family all started as immigrants, every single one of them.

Today immigrants are under attack here in America, and there have been numerous bomb threats and instances of disrespect directed towards members of the Jewish community. People are confronted for speaking a foreign (non-English) language or for dressing in clothing that reflects a different culture or religion, and they are told that they should go back to “their country”.

We are a nation of immigrants. My mother’s family here in America was saved by the kindly intervention of others and by a man of a different heritage and religion who reached out to help him. Just as it was not OK for me to be bullied as a child for not being Irish, or for others to insist that I needed to pretend I was Irish, it is not OK to marginalize or discriminate against others who are different from us or who are just now arriving on our shores.

My father’s family fought so that this would be true.

This is our story.

This is America.

 

 

 

MacKenzie Speaks: Still Fading After All These Weeks…

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

The Mother of Cats is still going off and leaving us for a few days at a time, and when she comes home again she spends her days lying around with a heating pad on her knees knitting away on another huge shawl.

Cat and Knitting
Do I look happy here? No, I do not!!!

See what I’m talking about? I can barely squish myself onto her lap with all of that yarn in the way. I mean, I ABSOLUTELY need to be on the heating pad, and I also expect to knead my paws on the balls of yarn, and you know that knitting without chomping hardly counts at all. Right? You’d think that if I purred loud enough the Mother of Cats would understand and she’d make allowances to ensure I had enough room, but she just keeps whapping me with the shawl. On my head!! Sure, she always says that she is sorry, but really, don’t you think that she should concentrate on my needs and put the knitting well off to the side? Is that too much to ask?

Shawl
You have to admit that the shawl is growing pretty quickly. This is the way that it looked this morning. By this evening she had started on the 5th color. Yellow Boy and I were playing outside so we missed a lot of the knitting with that gold color. I really like that yarn, too, as silk and alpaca are kind of my chomping favorites. Have you ever tried yak? That is pretty yummy too…

While we were outside taking pictures we checked out the garden.

Cat and garden ornament
The garden squirrel come through the winter in good shape, but the flowers are still all dead looking.

I think that the Mother of Cats kind of misses the flowers because she planted some outside in the big planters this week. She says that these flowers can survive a snow storm. Snow? NO!! Cats do not like snow!

Flowers
Aren’t these flowers nice? They aren’t the kind that we like to eat, but at least she is trying. We really want the catmint to start growing…

I think that these are her favorite colors because she put together the yarns for ANOTHER one of those Fade shawls and it looks a lot like the flowers!

Yarns for a shawl
Somehow she thinks that she will wear this shawl in the summer. It will look a little like her garden. It would be better if it looked like mice, garter snakes and cat cookies. Just saying…

The Mother of Cats has clearly lost her mind. Doesn’t she understand that all things should be done in moderation? (That doesn’t apply, of course, to cat cookies…) When is she going to make my cat hoodie? How about some socks? I never have any trouble sitting in her lap when she is knitting socks. She has these UFOs sitting around the house, but she is just ignoring them too. Maybe she could just read books for awhile with the heating pad on her knees so I could just hang out with her for a couple hours at a time. The heating pad works better when I’m purring on top of it…

I’m such a good boy!

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

I continue to spend a couple of days a week with my sons helping out, who are dealing with ongoing health issues. It’s hard on the kitties, but such is life.

The shawl pattern is “Find Your Fade” by Andrea Mowrey. My project notes for the second shawl in the series are here. Each of the shawls lets me explore a different way to approach the colors and how I let them fade across the shawl. I’m having fun and busting my stash at the same time. Sorry MacKenzie!

March and April are the snowiest months of the year here in Colorado.  Just because it is nice and warm today doesn’t mean it won’t snow next week… Sad news for cats.

MacKenzie Speaks: Fade, Fade, Fade!!

Hi. I’m MacKenzie.

Cat

The Mother of Cats has been knitting for DAYS AND DAYS on her new shawl. The same shawl. It is boring and endless, and since it is so large it has been really hard for me to get on her lap to yarn chomp help her. She’s been ignoring me and Yellow Boy, to be blunt.

It is with great relief that I can report that she finished the darn thing today and took it outside to take pictures of it.

Cat with Shawl
What do you think of these colors? I think that reds and grays look better with my fur, but the purple is OK I guess…

She acted really, really silly with this shawl. I mean, she completely ignored me as she wrapped herself in the shawl, ran around the yard and draped it on the fence and the tree trying to get nice pictures. Did I mention that the shawl is extremely large? (How do you like my word choice there? I’m a very smart cat!) She kept flipping parts of it around and when I swatted at tried to touch it she just persisted in jerking it away from me. I was trying to help her and she actually CHASED me off. I wasn’t even allowed to go into the front yard to take those pictures with her. I tried to pull on one corner of the shawl to help arrange it on the fence, and she completely over-reacted. If she hadn’t tried to pull back on the shawl it wouldn’t have gotten stuck on my claws. Hey, it was all her fault! I’m a good boy!

Shawl on Fence
Here’s the finished shawl hung on the back fence so you can see all the colors.
Shawl in Tree
and here it is hung in the tree out front so you can see the lace sections. Can you see me crying to be let out the front door? No, you can’t. She didn’t even include me in this photo.

Whew. Thank heavens she is finally done with this shawl. She should now start knitting things that I like. Maybe a catnip mouse? My little hoodie? Something small that will not interfere with lap sitting (yarn chomping) time?

Yarns for shawl
This is the yarn for another of the shawls. She started knitting with the dark gray yarn yesterday.

No!! She cast on another one of these giant shawls with lots and lots of colors. NOOOO!!!! Why doesn’t she pay more attention to my needs? Doesn’t she know that I am a unique cat with high maintenance needs? I need lots of petting, toys, catnip and play time.

I’m such a good boy.

Can I have some cookies now?

>^..^<

Notes from the Mother of Cats:

The shawl is a Find Your Fade by Andrea Mowrey. You can find the project notes here. I was struggling to make the colors “fade” across the shawl, so I used two skeins of the same September 2015 colorway (from the Dream in Color Club) to make connected “fades” on each side of the shawl. When I wear the shawl all the colors will come together (I hope). I am really, really happy with the final product; also want to point out that I got the purple yarn in and it looks great!! MacKenzie doesn’t know this, but I also have started a collection of yarns for a third fade shawl to follow the one that I started last night. So many yarns and colors, so many ideas on how to combine them. What a great stash buster this is, too.

Sorry, MacKenzie.

Rare Disease Day

Today was Rare Disease Day. Rather than write a new post I decided to repost this one from last year. Please read on if you would like to know more about this day created to raise awareness about rare diseases and what it is like to live with them.

2/28/16: I woke up with notes in my email box reminding me that this was the big day. Oh, yeah. I guess I should say something about it on the blog, but what? I mean, I do have a…

Source: Rare Disease Day