The Saturday Update: Week 5, 2021

It’s Saturday? Seriously? I seem to have spent the entire week taking naps and doing a little knitting on the side. I’m still circling the cardiology airport trying to get a slot to come in for a landing, but my rheumatologist did call them up and chatted with them this week, so I have hopes for an expedited appointment in the near future. (If you missed my previous post about this it is an issue with Covid-19 long haulers with severe heart complications competing with me for the testing that I need.) I became officially slotted on the Covid-19 vaccine waiting list this week, so hopefully that will be coming my way soon, too. Oh. I also bought some more yarn online…

The Kitten Mom is sadly lacking in impulse control when it comes to yarn…

Knitting

I have been knitting steadily all week between naps and I really am making progress, but the projects are so big it isn’t all that obvious. My Goldwing sweater is slowly growing, and my Julie’s Wrap is now into the third skein of yarn. The pictures, however, are kind of underwhelming at the moment.

See what I mean? That is hours and hours of knitting, and the results are less than stunning. Wanting some quicker gratification I started on my Tinsel Mitts and finished the first one in the middle of the week.

The fit of the glove is just perfect, and the flip top for the fingers stays in place on the back of my hand until I pull it over my fingers. Because of the ribbing on each piece, the mitt and the top, the top really snugs up and stays in place. I have extra room in the top around my fingers so I plan to pad the flip top with fluffy wool batting (from my carder) and then will knit a lining for the top to cover the batting and hold it in place. I’m still thinking out how to make it work… maybe a little duplicate stitch basting to secure the batting…

Garden

I have been giving the African violets fertilizer at the first of the month and they are still putting out new blooms! I’ve been looking at the amazing number of blooms on the wine colored plant and I ask myself… how does this plant know that it is summertime in Africa…? Of course it doesn’t; I think what is really going on is that in the summer I put the plants in the kitchen window where they get the afternoon light, but when I move them under the bright grow lights of the indoor garden for the winter they respond and bloom. They get about 10 hours of light in the indoor garden, and obviously they are liking it!

The African violets of February…

Books

I’ve been listening to an audiobook this week between naps and knitting, and I chanced across one that is fun to listen to. I am a fan of Lindsey Davis and her Marcus Didius Falco books; what’s not to like about a private investigator solving mysteries in ancient Rome? I loved the tone and setting of the books; an autocratic and scary society that is shockingly familiar (do you have a permit for that addition to your property?) and yet clearly foreign. I loved Falco’s wit and flexibility with legalities as he solved mysteries and traveled through the Roman Empire through the 20 books in the series. It was with real anticipation that I started another series of historical mysteries set in conquered Britannia under Roman occupation.

Ruso is a doctor working at the medical center of the Roman fort in what is now Chester, England. He is having some financial issues. He has just relocated to this posting from Africa and it has been a pretty bumpy landing so far. He has recently acquired a female slave who is a native and he is definitely having some buyer’s remorse and trouble managing her care and work schedule. There is also an issue with some dead prostitutes…

Hannah kept watch over me while I was listening to the audiobook this week. I think that the bookshelf is her secret spy place…

I really liked this book. It was fast paced with a snappy dialogue, but it also seems historically accurate in how the Romans of the time viewed themselves, medicine, slaves, and familial obligations. Did the Romans keep records of virtually everything and do extensive financial audits? I’m betting that they did. Ruso’s male Roman superiority is just obnoxious at times, but I’m guessing it is also accurate. In spite of that, though, Ruso is a caring professional who really is trying to do the right thing for his patients, his family, and his dependent slave. I’m so glad I found this series and am already into the second book.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your (double) mask!!

The Saturday Update: Week 4, 2021

It was a crazy, crazy busy week with lots going on. I had medical testing, an online court appearance to give testimony in a neighbor’s custody case, and a nail in one of my car’s tires. My medical status continues unchanged (blue lips, chest pain, shortness of breath), but the machinery to get to the bottom of things is now in motion. The first couple of rounds of testing have generated a referral to cardiology and hopefully that will happen this week. My neighbor won her custody case, and the car tire is now repaired. Whew! I spent the bottom half of the week relaxing with my knitting because I was completely pooped by all of that running around.

The Kitten Mom left me all alone THREE times this week!!

Knitting

I did make some good progress this week in spite of the trips out of the house.

My Geology socks are done!! I’ve decided to try to make at least one pair of socks each month, so these are January’s pair.

I also buckled down and did the blocking and finishing work on my Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) shawl by Sharon from Security (Casapinka). This is the longer shawl version of the project; there were also options to make a cowl or a scarf. Fun color for gloomy days, huh! I’m actually thinking that I may be giving this one away to someone who loves purple and bright colors and a scarf version made with scrap yarn from the stash may be in my future.

It snowed this week I so gave in to the urge and cast on one of the sweaters that I have been dying to get going on. I have wanted to make Goldwing for a long time, and bought the yarn a couple of weeks ago with my stimulus check. Here it is, finally started:

Look at the absolute quality help that I am getting from Hannah!!

The Scleroderma Chronicles: The Pulmonary Hypertension Edition

I few weeks ago I posted about my systemic sclerosis, Covid-19, and my decision to donate my DNA to the 23andMe Systemic Sclerosis Research Project. My DNA has safely arrived and is in the lab getting sequenced right now. I was motivated to contribute because Covid-19 is creating so many new patients with fibrosis that may benefit from this research in addition to people like myself with autoimmune disease or people with other fibrotic diseases.

Monday I had an urgent echocardiogram done and once again an eerie connection between my disease, systemic sclerosis, and Covid-19 appeared. My test was started a little late so I asked the technician if things were busy. He told me that they were very busy because there were so many Covid-19 long haulers who needed testing. After a while, thinking things over, I asked if these patients were getting heart damage. “Well, not their heart muscle, but they were developing pulmonary hypertension,” he said. Oh, oh. That is the very reason I was there getting an echocardiogram; as a systemic sclerosis patient I am high risk for pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary arterial hypertension, and I know that those are serious and life altering/ending conditions. After thinking a little longer I asked him how many Covid-19 long haulers were getting that diagnosis. “It’s in double digits,” he replied…

Double digits. At this one medical center in the heart of Denver. That means that there are potentially hundreds and hundreds of patients getting that diagnosis across my state.

I wished that I had thought to ask him how old those patients were…

The next day my rheumatologist called to let me know that I was being referred to cardiology as my echocardiogram results suggested pulmonary hypertension and that further testing was required. There is also an issue with fluid around my heart… It was what I expected, but not exactly what I was looking forward to. The only problem right now is getting me into cardiology, because, all of those Covid-19 long haulers…

It has been impressed on me that I need to double mask now each time I go out into public. I have a nice N95 level mask, but I’m also putting a medical grade mask on top of it.

Be careful, people!!

Stay safe and wear your masks!!

The Saturday Update: Week 3, 2021

What a week, what a week, what a week! We saw our new president inaugurated here in the US, I went wild and set up a plethora of new knitting projects, I had issues with my health through the week, and yesterday I spent most of the day in Urgent Care getting some testing done. Whew! Let’s just unpack the whole week, okay?

But first:

I knew there was a chance that I might be gone from Hannah for a few days if my new symptoms spiraled out of control so I installed a new Hannah cam. Alright, that was a little bit of a struggle as I hunted for screws to mount the camera (Hannah, where did you put the package of screws…) onto a shelf in the craft room. Never finding the correct screws for the mount I hunted through the garage to locate alternative screws. Got them. Then the power drill was… out of power… so I found a screwdriver. Right. There is no way these scleroderma wrists can put a screw into wood without a hole already there. Back to the garage for nails and a hammer to put a starter hole into the shelf. Hannah was a huge help through all of this, by the way. As I hammered in a nail to make my starter hole in the shelf Hannah swooped the screws off the table and onto the floor, because… it’s a cat thing. “Why is everything so hard…”, I muttered to myself as I rescued the screws and got them into the camera mount. Hannah moved up onto the shelf so she could help me work better… that little paw can work magic, right? Finally, finally I finished and checked to make sure the camera was on the network and working correctly…

The first thing I see through the camera feed…

Knitting:

I have been doing pretty good keeping my knitting WIPs under control. Then the government sent me some money and I bought yarn! Hello, just doing my part to stimulate the economy and support other people, right? I am just rolling in creative ideas for knitted projects and this week I bought and printed patterns, organized knitting kits and cast on with reckless abandon. You might say that there was a small explosion of knitting projects.

Did you get all of that? Let me tell you what’s up starting with the pictures on top, left to right. (1)I lost my mittens, so I need to make those Tinsel Mitts before it snows again. They have a flip top to cover the fingers and I’m thinking that there must be some way I can line them for more warmth. Maybe with some fleece or wool batting stuffed into the lining to keep it all extra warm around the fingers? Hmm… (2) I moved the Goldwing sweater up my queue and want to get started on it as soon as a couple of little projects move off the needles. That sweater is sooo cute and I love the yarn that I just bought for it. (3) I bought lots of bluish yarns while I was sad last spring, and now I want to stay warm without putting too much effort into it. I know that the Age of Gold shawl has lots of soothing garter stitch with a nice warm drape and good coverage so I am making it again with this blue multi yarn. (4) The group of pink and grey yarn is going to be used to make a pair of arm warmers to match my Secret Handshake cowl that I made in that MKAL last fall.

That takes care of the top row of projects. The bottom row shows the two projects, left to right, that I worked on this week along with the WIP that I carried into the week, the Geology Socks. (1)I wanted easy, calming knitting to produce snuggly warmth early in the week and went to Ravelry to look at patterns. I decided on making another Age of Gold but there was a wrap that really screamed that it wanted me to make it: Julie’s Wrap by Joji Locatelli. Darn. That wrap needed more than 3 skeins of yarn to make. Wait, wait, wait… I had 4 skeins of a dusty black cashmere/merino fingering yarn lined up for a sweater that could be directed to this wrap… bam! That yarn instantly became this wrap as I frogged the sweater and decided to knit Goldwing first. (2) The yarn on the right is to make a pair of detailed Mandalorian mitts.

Having made the kits and decisions, I then got busy. Once again, the projects are lined up left to right in the pictures above. (1) I have finished my first Geology sock and am started on the second sock. (2) I am making good progress on the Mando mitts even though you have to use three colors at once in parts of the mitts, and I need to add more detail with duplicate stitch after I finish. I don’t think that English is this author’s first language as some of the written directions are a little shaky, but the charts are golden and I’m just using the force and charging along fearlessly as I knit these mostly ignoring the directions. (3) the dusty black garter knitting is the beginning of Julie’s Wrap coming off my needles. Right now I have over 2 feet of done with 2 more feet ahead of me before I start on the twisted rib outer trim and finally the (be still my heart…) BOBBLES! that are produced in what I think is the bind off. I love bobbles! I learned how to knit backwards just for bobble production, and if ever there was a time to utilize that singular skill it is while making bobbles on a wrap that is more than 4 feet long. By the way, now that I’m knitting that black yarn I’m glad it is becoming a wrap because it is pretty darn streaky. See, a good decision!!

Scleroderma Chronicle:

Sigh. Then there is my continuing scleroderma adventure. I’ve been experiencing some intermittent chest pain that has become more severe and frequent over the last couple of weeks. When you are chronically ill you don’t call in every new development because if you did you would wear out your doctors and you’d absolutely exhaust everybody involved in your life, but when I had a 45 minute bout of chest pain Thursday night along with blue lips and shortness of breath I knew I had to get some medical evaluation started.

The medical group that I belong to has a 24 hour online “chat with a doctor” to get advice. The advice I got was to head to urgent care to get a heart attack ruled out. Okay. I can do that…

When you show up at urgent care with shortness of breath and chest pain you get double masked and whisked into a sealed exam room where you are isolated from everyone else and the medical staff wears all the protective gear available to them. Whew, that was fun. After testing and 5 hours of waiting (and starving because I hadn’t eaten just in case…) I was told that this wasn’t a heart attack (YAY!!) but that there was an issue with fluid around my heart. It’s an autoimmune thing. I need more testing and evaluation and may need to be hospitalized to get it done, but since it was the weekend I convinced them to let me go. Actually, I think that I was lucky that I went to urgent care instead of an ER as it made it easier for me to escape. 🙂 Referrals were made, summaries were sent off to my rheumatologist, and I drove home with my chest still hurting. As soon as I got home I shot off an email to my rheumatologist and went back to bed. Bad scleroderma, bad!!

My niece sent me soup today using DoorDash!

Today I’m up and doing better but taking it really easy. Yesterday was just another chapter in my scleroderma story, but it really impressed on me that catching Covid-19 would not be a good thing at all.

Wear your masks, people!!

The Saturday Update: Week 2, 2021

Wow, already half done with the month. The weather has been pretty mild here and I took advantage of it to run errands and get more cleaning done. I turned in my DNA sample to 23andMe for their systemic sclerosis research project and spent a few hours answering their endless data collection surveys. I signed up to get the Covid-19 vaccine (yay!!) only to learn the next day that the government had lied to my state and the vaccine was NOT coming after all. UGH!!!! Hannah and I worked for a few hours on the quilt for my son; this is slow going as she seems to feel like this quilt is a new toy for her. I also really buckled down on The Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) to get that shawl done by the end of the week, and Hannah really outdid herself with feline support on that one, too.

So that was the week. In the background there was a lot of drama in the news this week which helped me get the knitting done while watching the impeachment debates and votes. Okay, we are getting close to pegging the stress dial for many folks; if this was a thriller novel it would be kind of into ridiculous territory about now. We still have an out of control pandemic, there was an attempted coup instigated by president, the president was almost immediately kicked off all media platforms and impeached, more violence is expected in the coming week so there are national guardsmen sleeping on the national capitol floors, there is no national stockpile of the vaccine, and the polar vortex is misbehaving again. AGGHHH!!! There, I don’t know about you, but I feel better. Having yarn and a kitten helps too.

Let’s just spend the rest of this post chatting about knitting, okay?

I cast off The Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) tonight. This baby is really huge, full of texture and lots of color; I almost hate to block it because it will grow even larger then…

The Secret Life is an advent shawl that was designed to be knitted one day/clue at a time starting December 1st and ending on Christmas. It was made to accommodate the advent knitting kits that many Indie Dyers put out, but since I didn’t have one of those I used 4 skeins of yarn from the stash. I like this shawl, but for the last couple of days I have been dreaming of making another one in the greys and plums of my new Christmas yarn. Hannah and I have already been digging around putting together yarn for the new shawl. I can use 4 skeins again, but I also have lots and lots of small amounts of yarn and it is tempting to put together a set of 25 colors. Lots of stash digging will be going on to make that happen…

I also got silly and bought more yarn. It’s not all weakness of character… the government sent me a stimulus check and I decided to stimulate the economy by buying yarn!! That’s why there are online yarn stores, right? I’m such a good Loopy Ewe customer they are now sending me free yarn along with what I’ve purchased. 🙂 I have long been a fan of Jennifer Steingass sweater patterns, but I have never knitted one before. This month I snapped and bought the yarn to make two more sweaters which means I now have three different Jennifer Steingass sweaters lined up. I guess that is my sweater resolution for the year.

I loved the Goldenfern pattern the minute I saw it, and I have been hunting down yarn to make a Goldwing for a couple of months. I also have the yarn wound up to make Solvi (that is the off black yarn and the pink) and I will be casting it on this week… really, really I will. I want all three of the sweaters right now which means it is going to be hard to ignore the ones waiting on the back burner as I knit. Time to knit fast!!

Hannah just loves to help with winding yarn!

The only other knitting that is going on now is that I did cast on a pair of socks to work on late at night while listening to my audiobooks and they are moving right along.

This is a chunk of the leg of the sock showing off the stitches. What, you are having trouble making them out? Note to self: solid colors show off details better then heavily speckled yarns.

I love the socks and I think that when I’m wearing them and the stitches are stretched out the pattern details will show up better. If they don’t, I will have to make another pain in a solid yarn, so there! These are Geology Socks and the Uschitita yarn is called Cloud Atlas.

Oh… I almost forgot! In my family we are a bunch of Star Wars fans, and perhaps the biggest one of all is my exceptionally knitworthy niece. She just loves The Mandalorian. Like a lot. She has a Child softie that gets posed in the best of places. Like at Starbucks. Or by her car…

That yarn is to make her a pair of fingerless mitts featuring Mando and the Child from the show The Mandalorian and they will be cast on as soon as the socks are off the needles. Or maybe sooner. It is the way.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Week 1, 2021

Well, this was an exhausting and fraught week, wasn’t it. I mean, I struggled to knit the week was so bad, and then if that wasn’t enough I logged some personal drama myself. As in…

Yesterday I couldn’t walk on my excessively ill-behaved legs!! I hit bottom after a couple of days of noticing that I was having more breathing issues and sporting blue lips again. What is up with this, 2021? Did 2020 leave you some type of User’s Manual? Just drop that sh*t in the nearest trash can and behave yourself!!

In a normal year I would have called for help and gotten myself into a medical center, but in this year I stayed in bed on oxygen, drugged up, and snacked on the crackers and bai drinks that I keep upstairs. It’s got to be inflammation, I told myself, so I’ll just sleep this off. Yep. Today I’m up and managing like nothing happened. I blame the weather… I absolutely blame 2020 for lingering bad vibes… I blame too many trips in and out of the cold garage…

Look at what is happening in my indoor garden! The new monster orchid has recovered from its trip through the mail and is now looking pretty darn good.

No week or year can be absolutely bad, right?! There was also lots to be happy about. I had great packages on the way to me (squishy mail and the 23andMe DNA kit from my last post), a flourishing indoor garden, two really engaging books to read, and my goodness (!!) the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) shawl is about as cheerful as a piece of knitted work can be. I’m still thinking about my resolutions for this year (but getting my Covid-19 vaccine is at the top of the list), so I’m just going to ignore all the newsworthy events of the week and jump to what was up at home.

Knitting

I have ONLY ONE knitting project going on at the moment, but it is a doozy. Look at this explosion of color wonderfulness!

I’m now passing the halfway mark. This baby is going to be huge, but wonderful. I wear a lot of black so this will absolutely brighten things up when I wear it.

I totally lost control and ordered yarn for myself last week and I’m practically dying with the need to cast on more projects. Maybe just a little pair of socks? I know that I need to stay away from sweaters, but wouldn’t a cowl be a nice little things to have stuffed into a project bag… I have new yarns with names like “Naughty Chair” and “Troublemaker” that are insisting that I should cast them onto needles as soon as possible. Little projects like that are easier to manage when staying in bed all day with a cat sleeping on you… Do it! Do it! Do it! the yarns chant from the yarn stash…

Garden

Hannah has been spending a lot of time in the indoor garden, and I have to admit that it seems to be doing well even with her knocking plants over and using some of them as toys.

Hannah especially likes the owl in the garden that is supposed to be watching over her… yeah. I had to evacuate the owl to a safe location this afternoon. Several of the jade plants have been staked this week to help prop up the branches that Hannah has shoved over. I think that the problem is that Hannah is growing quickly and spaces that she previously moved through easily are now too small for her so… plants get knocked around, lamps knocked down, and worst of all, she misses some jumps and falls off of ledges that she used to have no problems with. Suddenly that little window sill isn’t quite big enough! Anyway, back to the garden. One of the orchids is blooming and another is putting out a stem, so the winter is cheerier than I first expected. The African violets are still putting out lots of new buds, so the craft room, where the garden is, is currently my happy place.

Books

I started two new books this week and am still reading them, but both have completely captured my attention and I’m planning on finishing at least one of them before the weekend is over.

I’ve been caught up in The Huntress and really enjoying it but yesterday in bed called for an audiobook so I started the second book, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars. Now I have a real conflict as I like the Paolini book so much I want to cast on a new knitting project and just listen to it, but the Kate Quinn book is also excellent and I am so close to finishing it I should buckle down and just finish it off… but I can’t knit as easily while reading a paper book. Life is full of these trade offs. Obviously I should finish the paper book as fast as I can so that I can cast on a pair of socks… in blue yarn… with gold sprinkles… the name of the yarn is “Cloud Atlas” which would be nice to knit while in a sea of stars, don’t you think? That’s the plan.

“Naughty Chair” and “Troublemaker”, don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten about you. I happen to have 3 little project bags and lots of needles!

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your mask!!

Footnotes:

  • “Naughty Chair” and “Troublemaker” are produced by Hue Loco.
  • “Cloud Atlas” is produced by Uschitita Fiber Art.
  • I was officially accepted into the Systemic Sclerosis Study being conducted by 23andMe this week and they have mailed the DNA collection kit to me.
  • I have stockpiled the yarn to make three new sweaters!! They should make it harder to buy yarn online, don’t you think?

The Scleroderma Chronicles: Coming Full Circle

Systemic Sclerosis is a rare, chronic, progressive, and incurable autoimmune disease that is included in the family of rheumatic conditions. It is characterized by blood vessel damage and the scarring and thickening of skin due to excessive collagen production (fibrosis). The internal organs can also be damaged by inflammation and scarring: the digestive tract, heart, kidneys, and lungs.

There are two main types of systemic sclerosis: diffuse and limited.

I was diagnosed with limited systemic sclerosis 6 years ago.

Hannah: Do you like my circle?

The Circle Starts: In high school I developed a mystery illness that involved intense itching, lots of rashes, sensitivity to sunlight, and swollen digits. I was a mess. It went on for a few years and then the worse of the symptoms faded away.

First Quarter Circle: In my mid twenties I was a researcher working on a scleroderma project for the Division of Rheumatology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado. The principal investigator that I worked for was interested in isolating the targets of the autoantibodies that scleroderma patients made; if we found the actual proteins that the antibodies characteristic of this autoimmune rheumatic disease were targeting we would be closer to understanding what they did, and eventually closer to understand the disease process of scleroderma. Let me be clear here: my boss, Dr. Angeline Douvas, was the brains of this little research outfit and I did most of the bench work.

One morning Angie had the hot idea that we should see what happened if we did an anti-nuclear antibody (ANA) test on the polytene chromosomes of the fruit fly Drosophila, a common lab experimental animal. We knew that the antibodies produced by the scleroderma patients were sticking to the chromosomes in the nucleus of cells… what would it look like if we checked this test on the chromosomes of fruit flies which were enormous structures that were easy to look at under the microscope?

After staining we could see that on the entire chromosome a few distinct bands were stained: only a few genes were targeted by the antibodies of the scleroderma patients. What was the function of the genes, and what were those proteins, the clear targets of the antibodies made by these scleroderma patients, doing? Something important that was linked to this disease that we call systemic sclerosis (scleroderma). How was all of that tied to the damaging fibrosis going on in these patients?

Here’s the other interesting conundrum that we kicked around: what changed in these genes/proteins that made them trigger the immune system to make antibodies? There are lots of things that can change genes and the proteins that they make. Things like radiation, chemicals, environmental triggers, viruses…

Hannah: Viruses?! The Kitten Mom and I spend all our time at home hiding from viruses!!!

Second Quarter Circle: Now in my 60s, and diagnosed as a scleroderma patient myself, I began writing letters to my congressman asking him to support the National Commission on Scleroderma and Fibrotic Diseases Act, a bill which would coordinate and organize resources to study the process that is involved in the formation of scar tissue in scleroderma and other diseases/conditions. Two summers ago I met with a representative of my congressman, Jason Crow, with other scleroderma patients to make our case. Scleroderma is special, I argued, because our antibodies are a tool that can be used to unpack the process of fibrosis. Representative Crow did support the bill.

Hannah: Now, are you ready for some really crazy stuff? Hang onto your catnip mice, this gets a little wild!!

Third Quarter Circle: It is 2020 and Covid-19 has arrived. Early on we learned that this is a serious virus that causes an extreme immune system response in some individuals that is life threatening. There is severe lung involvement, blood clots, scarred lungs, injured hearts, failing kidneys… this is no joke if you are already dealing with all of this, so I and other scleroderma patients are avoiding it like the plague and retreating to our online support groups even more than usual. We share observations and experiences in these forums, and it wasn’t very long before we started to notice that these severe Covid-19 cases seemed to be awfully similar to severe systemic sclerosis. We laughed about “Covid Toes” since dealing with blue fingers and toes is a daily struggle for us. Then the news reports about Covid-19 long-haulers started to emerge, and we all started to say to each other… wow… fatigue, brain fog, muscle/joint pains, lung and heart problems… sounds a lot like what we deal with… Then some people started to arrive in our support groups who were newly diagnosed scleroderma patients who were also Covid-19 long haulers. Now every week new people, shocked and frightened by their life-altering diagnosis of systemic sclerosis, are showing up in our forums. “Gee, there are a lot of new patients arriving,” someone wrote last week…

Unbelievable, right? I decided to hunt around online and quickly found that there were a number of reports about Covid-19 and systemic sclerosis. I discovered to my shock that people with severe Covid-19 disease do share a lot of documented clinical features with severely ill diffuse systemic sclerosis patients, and there is a connection between Covid-19 and rheumatic autoimmune diseases. When there was an article in the New York Times reporting that some Covid patients were developing autoimmune disease it caught my eye, so a little more work online found this nicely written overview by the Global Autoimmune Institute that listed specific research reports and the autoantibodies being discovered in Covid-19 patients and Covid-19 long-haulers. There in the reports are listed the same, exact autoantibodies that are the specific hallmarks of my two autoimmune diseases, systemic sclerosis and Sjogren’s Disease. 2020, shame on you. This is really, really bad, even for you.

All of a sudden it is really important to understand fibrotic diseases and how to reverse the damage caused by Covid-19.

Hannah: The Kitten Mom feels like she needs to do something about this!!

The Circle Closes: The genome sequencing service 23andMe has launched a genetic research study of systemic sclerosis patients. They are screening and accepting 1000 diagnosed patients who will donate their DNA for research into systemic sclerosis. I’m pretty sure that this effort to collect more information about the genes of systemic sclerosis patients is in part driven by the urgent need to deal with an emerging flood of new patients with fibrotic organ damage due to Covid-19 infections. Tonight I completed my application to submit my DNA to the study and to participate in all their additional data collection about my disease. Remember those few, distinct genes lit up on the fly chromosome? “Go get ’em, boys!” I muttered to myself as I clicked the submit button.

Today there were 225,558 new cases of Covid-19 in the US and 3,499 new deaths.

How many of the Covid-19 survivors will eventually be dealing with a chronic, progressive, and incurable autoimmune disease?

Wear your masks, people!!

Wednesday Afternoon Update: I’ve been accepted into the research program and they have already shipped my DNA collection kit to me. Hannah is so excited!!

Footnote: Did Angie and I find a protein using the scleroderma patients antibodies? Yep. We did.

Packages on the Doorstep

Here we are, safely arrived in 2021. I spent part of the day sandwiching the new art quilt top that I finished for my son’s very late Christmas present with the batting and the backing so that I can start doing the quilting tomorrow. Hannah was a huge help as I ironed and laid out the cloth on the floor with the batting and the top on it and secured everything with lots of safety pins. The backing for the quilt is just perfect, and I was able to get it with the help of a cousin who works in a quilt store in Durango, Colorado. I texted her a picture of the fabrics for the borders of the quilt, and she texted back fabric photos of possible candidates. I picked one, and she mailed it to me a couple of days later.

The fabric to the left is the backing that my cousin found for me and the purple to the right is the outer border of the quilt. They go together perfectly!!

I was so happy to get the package with the fabric when it arrived: it was perfect and the thread the exact right color. A big problem had been solved through a pandemic-induced life hack. As I worked with this fabric today I remembered all the uplifting boxes that have arrived on my doorstep recently that have really impacted my mood as I struggle along like so many other people isolating at home alone.

My niece in California sent me a box of lemons from her tree!! Really, who expects lemons when you open an unexpected box? I rose to the challenge and made lemon bars. Each trip to the fridge to sneak another bar out to snack on fills me with a little burst of happiness! Next I’m thinking that I might be able to manage a lemon pound cake. Can I freeze lemon juice?

Do you remember my fabulous monster orchid that I was so happy with last year at this time? That’s it to the left. Over the summer it died… seriously, it is silly to be upset over a lost orchid, but I was. Right before Christmas a enormous box arrived on my doorstep with a two foot orchid carefully stuffed into it… another monster orchid!! Check out the blooms in the picture to the right – that’s my new big boy orchid. My DIL scored me the best Christmas present ever!!

Out of nowhere a strange package appeared a few weeks ago… maybe it was early December? Completely mystified, I brought it in and opened it with Hannah to discover…

A knitting friend had bought yarn for me when she visited a yarn store in Florida months ago before the pandemic changed our world.

My friend is now waiting out the pandemic in another state and who knows when we will see each other again, but we communicate back and forth with email and sending me yarn was a world class act of generosity and completely made my day.

Finally, there was the Christmas gift that arrived without warning from my sister. A little something to keep its eye on Hannah, who has been known to get into mischief on a pretty regular basis these days.

An owl! It is hanging out these days with the orchids where it can, indeed, keep an eye on Hannah!

There they are, the collection of serendipitous boxes of joy that landed on my doorstep over the last few weeks that have been so impactful in helping me carry on as bad news keeps crashing in through my walls from the world outside. They remind me that even though I am still isolating and waiting for my turn to get a vaccine I am not alone at all. Through the mail, little things keep coming that mean so much.

I know that we all have high hopes for 2021, but I think that we are in for a long haul. Take joy in the little things that come your way, and when you can, send packets of caring and happiness to others.

This year I will be focusing on charity knitting.

2020: So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye… and don’t let the door hit you on the way out!!

This is it: it is now late in the evening, I have a huge pot of soup cooking on the stove waiting for me to sample it, and there are fireworks (already) going off outside in my neighborhood. 2020 is finally drawing to a close. This has been a pretty difficult year, to say the least, for me and almost everyone that I know. You all know the highlights: pandemic, civil unrest, economic uncertainty, political craziness, and looming threats on the horizon. For me it was also a year of struggle with systemic sclerosis and the loss of a beloved pet. Unbelievably, I had resolved to make weekly posts to my blog to chronicle this year that can only be considered historic at this point. I still have to read all of the year’s posts again to select highlights, but to be frank once I start to list them all it’s going to be a little overwhelming. Let’s just ignore all the icky things that have gone on in 2020 and focus on closing down the year.

Faced with just a few days left in the 2020 I decided to polish off a couple of unfinished projects and books. I pulled out the knitting project bags and discovered a pair of unfinished fingertipless gloves… totally doable, I told myself.

One finished mitt was in the bag with the start of the second mitt, but since I had been making the pattern up as I went along it was a little bit of a challenge to find my way. Eventually, by counting rows and hunting for some notes that I put into a journal I managed to finish up the second mitt on Tuesday. Pretty snazzy, huh?! I’ve been wearing the mitts in bed while reading in the evenings and they are just the perfect things to keep my hands warm while sipping herbal tea and flipping pages. My Ravelry project notes are here.

I also took the last few days of the year to finish up a couple of books that I started months ago.

You know, I couldn’t have chosen better books to end of the year if I had tried. This is a year where many of us have had to reevaluate our choices and priorities. I don’t know about you, but I have thrown away so much stuff that I didn’t need any more, made changes to my home that made it more comfortable and user friendly, and returned to cooking from scratch like I used to decades ago. I am making do with the things that I already have, and am developing new coping strategies. It’s been a stretch at times, and some of the changes that I had to make this year took some time, but I got there.

Now, imagine that the world as you knew it fell out from under you and you are forced to run for your life with your 8 year old son in a matter of moments. Your family is gone, your resources are few, and you don’t really know how to do it, but you need to flee to a foreign nation to seek refuge: your picture is being broadcast through social media and there is a bounty on your life. You are now caught up in a migration north with other desperate refugees stalked by ruthless predators and constant threats, but also helped by kind people who reach out to you and your son on the journey. At the end, in order to reach safety, you place yourself and your son in the hands of a coyote to take you across the border with a small group of other travelers; not everyone will survive the journey, but if you do you have a chance for a simple life of decency and safety. That pretty much is the plot of American Dirt. All of a sudden, the horribleness of 2020 didn’t seem all that bad when faced with a situation such as this. This book was very well written and I am so glad that I read it now.

The Glass Hotel is another book that had languished on my Kindle for months, but now that I’ve read it I feel like it is a treasure. It is kind of a quirky book, with a cast of characters who are interconnected in ways that aren’t obvious at first, with a plot that bounces back and forth in time as the events and connections are woven to create the fabric of the story. It is a book about a Ponzi scheme, ghosts, an isolated hotel in the Pacific northwest, choices, opportunities, consequences, and what is important in life. This is a book that I’m going to be thinking about for a long time, and one that I’m so glad I read this week at the end of a very, very crazy year.

So that is that. There’s only an hour left in the year, and the soup is smelling really good. I have one, and only one knitting WIP to carry forward into the new year, and it is a really cheerful one. Behold, the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz) by Sharon from Security (Casapinka).

These are the wildest colors that I have every knitted together, but this is a knitting adventure and a really fun way to end the year. Hannah has been hanging out with me all evening as I’ve been listening to The Glass Hotel and knitting away and we’re making a lot of progress. I have to laugh to myself about the yarns I selected: Dream in Color, Teenybutton Studio, Chasing Rabbits, and Hedgehog Fibres. Yep. I definitely did dream in color when I put this combo together, and what is up with the fox, rabbits, and hedgehog? This is the Secret Life of Cats (and dogz), but somehow all of those other animals snuck in too. It is hard to not be cheerful facing the new year when working with all of this fun! My Ravelry notes are here.

The African violet has doubled in size over the last year.

Let me close out the year with this picture of my favorite African violet from the indoor garden. Look at this little guy, covered with new blooms and promise for a great new year.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your mask!!

The Saturday Update: Weeks 51 & 52

Can you believe it, this most horrible of years is almost behind us. Whew! I am planning to do an overview of the whole terrible year next week, but right now let’s talk about the Christmas crafting.

Hannah: did you all have fun? I got new toys, tore open presents that weren’t mine and played with all of the papers after presents were opened. It was great!!

I have been crafting along for weeks and not talking about any of it because… presents!! Now that everything has been safely sent off and received here is the whole present overview.

Knitting

I knitted some super warm socks for my sister, made a little mouse for a cousin (with a sweater for him to wear on cold nights raiding the pantry), and a couple of Christmas gnomes for another cousin. The socks are Snowshoe (Emily Foden) socks, the Little Mouse in a Sweater is another Claire Garland design, and the gnomes are Here We Gnome Again by Sarah Schira.

Quilting

I have been working in the evenings on an art quilt that is a present for one of my sons. This son likes to fly fish, so the quilt is a good fit for him. I started the quilt in the spring, but put it away for a few months because of Hannah action that was going on while I was working on the quilt. Now that she is a little older I’m having more success working in the sewing room, but it is still a little stressful.

Hannah: I’m quality help!!

Hannah is still involved in every thing that I’m doing. She bounces around the room climbing in the garden shelves, pulling scraps of fabric out of the trash, stealing the pin cushion, tunneling under loose fabric left out, and closely watching every move of the sewing machine. In situations like these safety protocols are everything: I turn off the sewing machine every time I get up from it and place the steam iron behind a closed door while I’m not using it. Okay, I unplug the iron too. Hannah is really clever at getting into things… Thankfully she understands that she can’t get up on the ironing board now. She also will settle down and nap in artfully placed open boxes with tissue paper in them.

Finally, late Christmas Eve, Hannah and I got the quilt top finished. Oh, you can’t see the quilt’s features with Miss Hannah all over it? It’s hard to make out because it is upside down? Let me show off some of the details…

There is a fisherman casting his lure out over the water with the fish leaping up on the next panel to bite it. There are little bear cubs and a moose walking through aspen trees. Altogether the quilt is a four block wall hanging that I hope will look nice in my son’s new home. I still need to get this quilt top assembled with the batting and the backing, and then there needs to be lots and lots of quilting as I outline each of the little pieces of fabric. I told my son that the quilt is coming, and it (Hannah willing) should be done in another couple of months. This quilt is a Pine Needles (McKenna Ryan) design and its name is Calling Me Home.

Sliptravaganza

I’ve been working on Slipstravaganza for so long I have kind of stopped talking about it as it slipped into the background. In the wee hours of Christmas morning I finally finished casting off the shawl and took a fast snapshot of it in the dim light of my bedroom. Look at all that texture and detail!! Today I blocked it (with Hannah’s help) and as soon as it dries it is going to become my main winter wrap! This is a huge shawl, very showy, but also extremely comfy to wear because of the shape. Did I mention that the white main color yarn is a cashmere blend? This is just perfect for snuggling on cold winter days.

This shawl is made of yarns that I have loved and hoarded for years. Really, I have held onto a couple of these skeins for a decade because the exact right project never came around… when I love a yarn it has to go to a project worthy of it, right?! The pink yarn was bought several years ago on a trip to the Estes Park Wool Market in Estes Park, Colorado. Every time I look at it I smile thinking about the sheep and alpaca I saw that day, not to mention lamb barbeque, cinnamon pecans, and a fabulous day in the mountains! The gold yarn is a silk/yak/merino blend that I bought at a pop-up shop set up in a Boulder, Colorado yarn store that is now closed. I learned to spin and weave in that shop (Shuttles, Spindles & Skeins) and this special yarn is forever linked to that store. Also, I just love the glow of this gold yarn!! The purple I bought in a shop in Arvada, Colorado while visiting yarn stores along the front range of the Rockies as I participated in Yarn Along the Rockies, an annual shop hop in my area of the state of Colorado. How much fun a shop hop is… you pile into cars with your friends, throw caution to the winds as you use Google Maps to navigate through shadowed mountain roads and strange towns to discover a new gem of a yarn store. Inevitably you end up at a great lunch location to swap stories and shopping scores with your friends before heading out again on the hop. Good times!! Needing a yarn to pull these three together I bought two skeins online at Hue Loco (Loveland, Colorado) earlier this year. This shawl is something of a celebration of my well fed and nourished yarn stash as it also showcases the Colorado fiber artists whose work it incorporates. How ironic, at the end of this year that I have spent isolating alone with my pandemic kitten, I have completed this knitted piece of wearable art made from the yarns of my state, acquired as I traveled around it in happier days before I was diagnosed with my autoimmune diseases and Covid-19 appeared in our world. Soft and warm, heavy with happy memories, I am armored against the world outside.

Have a great week, everyone!!

Please stay safe.

Read a little, knit a little, and garden like your heart can’t live without it.

And wear your mask!!

Hannah’s World: I’m a busy girl!

Hi. I’m Hannah.

I’m 9 months old now and I’m just full of energy and have lots of things to do ! I just finished going through the trash can in the bathroom and pulled several shirts off their hangers in the closet so I thought that I would take a little break to tell you about my day.

The Kitten Mom is busy knitting away on stuff that she is going to send off to other people for Christmas and hasn’t been playing with me as much as she usually does. I’ve been left to entertain myself for days on end!!! Today she actually left me alone in the house while she went to the store. She was gone forever… I counted!!

Look at what I’ve been up to:

I have to check all of the waste baskets every single day for toys; you wouldn’t believe the stuff that gets put in there! There is this little camera on the bookshelf in the bedroom that keeps making noises… what is up with that? I make sure it isn’t up to something nefarious when it starts making noises at me. So maybe I do nudge it a little on the shelf to see if I can make it move some more… or fall down… If Kitten Mom doesn’t keep her knitting bag zipped you know there are some fun toys for me in there! Last week we put together this little machine that makes fogs of water for me to play with: it tickles my paw when I play with it. Oh, yeah. I did get into some trouble for pulling out MacKnitzie’s whiskers…. But the biggest trouble of the whole week happened when…

This was not my fault!! There were birds and squirrels out there and I was just trying to get up a little higher for a better view. Kitten mom should move these (dying) plants out of the way and put in another cat tree for me!!

Well, it is kind of late now and since I’ve just completed running endless laps around the house for half an hour I’m now thinking of joining Kitten Mom for a nice overnight snooze so that we can get up and play again in the morning. I get my favorite smelly fishy food for breakfast in the morning and maybe I will get some cookies too! There are sure to be squirrels back in the front tree for me to watch. Why can’t they come into the house to play with me? Sometimes there are birds by the windows too…

This computer is sort of getting in my way…

Laters.

It’s time for me to get my beauty rest now.

I’m a growing girl you know!

>^..^<

A Note from Kitten Mom:

Yep. I have installed Hannah cams to help me keep track of the very active kitten when I’m not home. I also glued MacKnitzie’s whiskers into place so Hannah can’t pull then out any more… at least that’s the plan.