Rocking the Week #7

It was a really busy and productive week. I already wrote two posts about parts of it (finishing the dishtowels and the cause of bad, bad kitties), but here is the rest of the highlights of the week.

Mitts and Markers
Sorry for the quality of the picture. It’s cloudy outside but you can still get an idea of the glorious color of these mitts. While I was weaving this week I wished I had light weight mitts that hugged my wrists and stayed put above my knuckles while I was working. Here they are! My project notes on Ravelry are here if you want to make a pair too. 🙂 I also made stitch markers from some of the glass beads that I bought at the Interweave Yarn Fest a couple of weeks ago.
Cat and Mitt
I also got the first of the Snowfling Mitts finished (well, except for the top of the thumb…) this week. These mitts also are lined so there is a lot to still knit, but I am happy with what I have so far. I love that Purple Dragon colorway!! Here are the project notes.
Yarn
On Wednesday I went to knitting and discovered that the store had gotten in a big shipment of Madelinetosh. My friends helped me a little too much as I hunted for yarn for a new shawl. I’m so happy with my “Waiting for Rain” shawl that I am going to make another in the grey, and the colored yarn was too nice to leave but is still waiting for its calling. That shawl pin goes with both colors. Maybe I can make the pink shawl have lacy ruffles that will stick out under the grey one so I can wear both shawls at once. I’m drowning in possibilities here, people!!  Feel free to make suggestions for the pink ruffly shawl…
More Yarn
Then my friends convinced me that I had to make an Exploration Station with these colors…
Plastic case
and then I found this little plastic case to carry knitting essentials. It has all of these little compartments to carry stitch markers, cable needles, sewing needles, etc.
Folded Case
and it all folds up into one tidy little package. Just amazing!! Just what I need. It was hard to buy only one of these…
Grandson as an Ant
Yesterday was Earth Day, and I went to my grandson’s performance of Goin’ Buggy at his school. Isn’t he the cutest thing as a Red Ant?
Flowers and Chipotle
On the way home I stopped by the nursery and got these flowers to put out front (it was Earth Day!!) and bought a burrito bowl at Chipotle. While I was eating I noticed the picture on the bag. Say, what? Soldiers, helicopters, buckets of fish?? How unusual…
Chipotle Bag
Then I turned the bag. There is a story here for sure, I told myself. Yep. On the other side of the bag I found this story about a young child eating his last dinner before leaving a refuge camp for America. It just brought tears to my eyes. You can read the essay by Fue Xiong called Two Minutes About Sardines here.

What an end to the week. This refuge/immigrant story just meant so much to me. Over the years I have taught many refuges to this county, but during one of my last years in the classroom I taught all of the “sheltered” biology classes at my high school. “Sheltered” classes are for students who are acquiring English as a second language, and the students are all mixed together. They were from Somalia, Congo, Mali, China, Myanmar, Peru, Syria, Mexico, Viet Nam, you name it. They were all a little shell shocked, earnest, hard-working, respectful and determined to survive. They were caring and supportive. They learned English and biology from me, and I learned so much more from them. I still have some of their labs and writings. They all made me a better person and appreciative of how many things I have that would be easy to take for granted. Earth Day, indeed.

What a nice end to the week. A special morning with my grandson, a great lunch and some food for my soul at the same time.

Have a great weekend everyone!!

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Starlight, a Joker and OMG: Empathy Cards!!

Wow. It has been really, really rainy here. I had three inches of rain in the back yard bucket (my very-low tech rain gauge) before there was a downpour with hail this afternoon. Needless to say I have been making good progress on my knitting this week. Here’s what has been going on.

I got the Sidere Shawl by Hilary Smith Callis finally done and blocked. (Yep. There was another battle with the cats during blocking. This time they totally outdid themselves. One of them THREW UP on the shawl and then tried to bury the mess by raking damp shawl parts over the evidence. I love my cats. I really, really do…) I think that it turned out nice.

Info about the stitch
The shawl used a new stitch to me called Starlight Stitch (Sidere is Latin for starlight) that really made it have strips of interesting texture.
Shawl in Tree
Here is the finished shawl hanging displayed by my ever helpful ash tree. The rows of Starlight stitch open to one side of the asymmetrical shawl. Here are the project notes on Ravelry.

As I was finishing up the shawl I realized that it was now May. Time for another sock!! (As one of my New Year’s resolutions this year I have been knitting a new sock each month using a pattern from one of my many, many sock books and some yarn from the stash. So far I have been good and only used yarn from the stash. Notice I haven’t mentioned whether the stash is growing or getting smaller at this point…) Monday I dug through the sock yarn and here is what I settled on for the May 2015 sock:

This sock is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey from hr book CoopKnits Socks. The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock in the colorway Grenadine.
This sock is Milfoil by Rachel Coopey from her book CoopKnits Socks. The yarn is Madelinetosh Sock Yarn in the colorway Grenadine. Since the sock is divided into two distinct halves with different patterns I decided to knit it using two small cable needles instead of  my usual (and beloved) square double pointed needles.

Now that the Sidere Shawl is done I jumped right into knitting the first Joker and the Thief shawl by Melanie Berg. Woohoo!! This one is a keeper for sure, and is lots of fun to knit. Here’s where I am on it right now. The shawl and the sock are knitting up fast, which is a good thing as I have an awful lot of knitting going on.

Joker and the Thief Shawl
The navy yarn is the “Thief”, and the color gradient yarn is the “Joker”. This shawl is fun, fun, fun to knit. The sections of garter stitch are separated by stripes of criss-cross stitches. It is going to be really nice and squishy to wear. Here are the notes on Ravelry if you want the yarn details…

This week has been one of reflection for me as I knitted along in the gloomy rainy days. Tuesday was the anniversary of my mom’s death from ovarian cancer. What a difficult time that was for all of us in the family. Now I am exactly as old as my mom was at that time, and I also am struggling with a serious condition. I’m noticing again some of the things that we dealt with during my mom’s illness: friends and family saying hurtful things, distancing themselves, and trying to make the illness seem trivial. If anything is said at all, it is so superficial or cliche that it reveals a total disengagement. What is up with that? It’s almost as if they are lacking in… empathy.

OMG!! Guess what hit the market this week? Empathy cards! The exact cards that call to the heart of every person struggling with a serious illness, and the life preserver for every person who just doesn’t quite know what to do or say. I can relate to these cards totally! These cards are created by Emily McDowell to fill that huge gap that too many of us are aware of where people of good heart and intentions struggle to acknowledge unhappy truths (some of us will never be old…) as they try to express their concern and support. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Empathy Card
I would love it if someone gave me this card. I would love it even more if that person really would punch someone for me! 

See what I’m talking about? One visitor told my mother that her terminal illness was a “remarkable opportunity” as it gave her the chance to plan the end of her life. I never allowed that person to come visit her again. People who say everything happens for a reason are smugly assuming that somehow your illness was something that you deserved (and they didn’t), or that it will somehow make you a better person. That is just wrong, folks.

Lemon Card
This happened to me! Not nice! 

I bet you want some of these cards too. Here’s Emily McDowell’s blog about these cards and her store where you can buy your own. Emily is a cancer survivor and definitely understands the problem and the need for these simple vehicles to scaffold caring and meaningful communication of support for others dealing with a hard time. I know that people do care. We all need help sometimes to know how to show others how we feel.

So what other empathy cards should there be? I personally am tired of people telling me that they are glad that I’m so much better. (Say what??! I look better right now because I’m between naps and between crisis…) or that they will pray for me (Thanks! I appreciate that! What I really need, however, is someone who is willing to do some grocery shopping for me or even take me to my next major medical testing appointment of the gastroenterology torture chamber variety…) What about the times when people tell you that at least you don’t have __________ (some other disease that sounds worse to them), or ask if you have your will made? There has to be a great card using these comments!

Lots to think about while knitting on a rainy day.

 

 

Life is Uncertain, Knit Fast!!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. A time to be thankful for the good things in life. I have always thankful for good health in the past. This year, for the first time, that wasn’t true.

There can be no doubt about it. Things hadn’t been quite right for a long time. My joints hurt. I had a rash on my face. I sometimes had trouble swallowing, and acid reflux was occurring on a regular basis. My hands were swollen and I had trouble moving my fingers. Fatigue was my constant companion. If my hands got cold my fingers turned white or purple, a condition called Reynaud’s. Sometimes it hurt to breathe. I kept thinking that if things got worse I would go to the doctor, but I never became so sick that I could justifying taking off work. As many people with chronic conditions do, I just made adjustments and kept going.

Then, without any warning, my digestive system rebelled in a big way over the course of one weekend in early May. Colitis? You have got to be kidding me! Feeling pretty uncomfortable I kept close to home and worked on landscaping projects outside, read books, and worried. After two weeks I contacted my doctor.

Tests were ordered. Everything was negative: there was no obvious infection. Relieved, I decided to just give things a little more time. There was one test result that did nag at me, however. My renal function was a little low.

Two weeks later, lying on the couch with aching legs and abdominal discomfort, it finally hit me. I have a rash on my face. My knees hurt. I have Reynaud’s disease. I have a low renal function test result. When tested in the past I had a positive ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) test. This sounded like one of those cases presented at the weekly seminars when I worked in a rheumatology research lab…

Alarms went off in my head. Lupus! I called the doctor’s office and scheduled an appointment for an exam to be evaluated for lupus.

Lab Tests
Good grief! This is how much blood was drawn to do my rheumatology testing!

“How is it possible that you haven’t already been diagnosed?” my doctor asked me.  How indeed? Oh yeah. That adjusting and just keep going thing. She ordered a huge battery of tests for a comprehensive rheumatology screening, and told me no more gluten in case it was celiac disease. I was horrified. Celiac disease! I wasn’t prepared for that! “Celiac disease would be good,” she said. “We can treat that.” Believe it or not, at that moment celiac disease seemed like the end of the world. I left her office in a sad condition and counted the number of tests ordered while heading down the stairs to the lab. Twenty-two lab tests. Yikes!

Over the next week the test results slowly trickled into the patient portal where I could see them.  Everything was coming back negative. Because of the rheumatology research lab job, I had some idea about which antibody test results were linked to lupus. The big lupus markers were all coming back negative. I began to convince myself that I was a big over-reacting baby. Then suddenly a note came from my doctor telling me that she was sending me to rheumatology for a consultation and three tests I hadn’t seen before appeared in my inbox on the patient portal. Positive results for auto-antibodies associated with scleroderma and Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Pills in case
Look at the great pill case that my sister sent me to help me keep track of all these meds!

At the end of August, 2014 I was diagnosed with both of these disorders and my new rheumatologist started me on medications meant to slow down the progress of the disease and to treat the symptoms that I already have. Eight prescriptions and three over the counter medications!! I have the type of scleroderma that is referred to as limited systemic sclerosis (CREST). This is not good news.  I already have significant skin tightening on my neck, face and hands, and my digestive system has been impacted, but my heart and lungs are doing OK. In a strange way,  however, I feel lucky. Very, very lucky and thankful.  This Thanksgiving I continue to be thankful for what I have. I have been diagnosed, I’m on medication, I am retired and have time to knit…

This is just part of the yarn stash...
This is just part of the yarn stash…

Well, isn’t that a bitch! Here I am in possession of a world-class yarn stash, and I have a rare medical condition that may leave me unable to knit. The skin is getting especially tight across my right hand…

Luckily I am a master of adaptation. That whole adjust and keep going thing has prepared me for an event just like this.

Time to knit fast. Knit very fast! Just cast on and don’t look back.

Enjoy your gluten. 🙂

Winter is Coming: Knit Mitts!

It started for me one blustery winter day about 5 years ago. I made a quick trip in the car without wearing gloves and arrived at my destination with one finger dead white and numb. How bizarre, I thought. I went into the building, rubbed my finger until the circulation returned, and idly thought that I should mention it to my doctor the next time I saw her. I knew that it was Reynaud’s disease.

Over the years the Reynaud’s progressed to all of the fingers of my hands, and last year my toes joined the party. Instead of white my fingers now turn purple within seconds when exposed to cold.  Pain is involved. As it turned out, Reynaud’s was the harbinger of things to come; three months ago I was diagnosed with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis), but that is another story. Today’s story is one of blue fingers, cold weather, and the world’s cutest mitt pattern.

Scarf
I made this scarf using Dream in Color Smooshy with Cashmere. I had about three quarters of a skein left over. What better excure do I need for mitt knitting?

I made myself a sweet little scarf out of a cashmere blend sock yarn last winter. I had some yarn left over so I made a pair of lace mitts from it using the Sweet Pea Mitts pattern (by Lisa Swanson) in the book Lace One-Skein Wonders (edited by Judith Durant).

Lace Mitts
Mitts to match my scarf. Take that cold weather!

Yep, just as cute as the scarf. Since hand circulation is a problem for me I started the thumb lower on the mitt (starting at my wrist) so it wouldn’t pull across my hand. This mitt is nice because the I-cord bind-off keeps the stitches at the top of the mitt firmly in place across my knuckles. Because they are light in weight I can wear them indoors while reading, knitting, and working in the house. Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have some more of these…?

Mitts
Look at what I’ve been making from leftover sock yarn, 🙂

It was stunningly cold this November in Colorado. I went crazy with the mitt knitting. I now have three more pairs to match other shawls and tops in my wardrobe, and I am even sleeping in them. I wore them inside my mittens while shoveling snow, and they protect me from the cold steering wheel in the car.  I can even wear them on top of light gloves. Take that Reynaud’s!!

Oh yeah. Maybe some Christmas presents were also produced.