Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Recipe for Disaster

For those of you who like to solve logic problems, which one of these items does NOT belong?

Before I make such big decisions in the morning, I need either more sleep or more coffee. Maybe both.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Does Hope Live Here?

Wednesdays are full of emotion for me. It's the day I've chosen to see the therapist to work through some of these feelings I have about my work and personal safety. I think I'm making some progress, but I still feel anxious about the circumstances that have brought me to these crossroads.

Last night, escorted by security, I went to an area of town a mere 9 miles from my home. A stone's throw, really. A 9 mile walk used to be a short training day for me when I prepared for the Breast Cancer 3 Day events. I'd have never walked in the area of town we found ourselves in last night and it surprises me how close these problems are geographically.

I was going to a facility to see a patient, but I still insisted on an escort because this nursing home is in a notoriously crime ridden area of town. To share what I see when I'm out on these visits, I snapped a picture of the building across the street from this place. What struck me about the photo was the beauty of the original structure. To be sure, one has to look past the waste and ash to see it, but it was there. A huge size, a big porch and an interior that I imagine once contained beautiful woodwork and intricate architectural details. (I promise, I didn't get any closer than the zoom lens on the Blackberry took me.)

In its heyday, Detroit was a magnificent city. Some Detroit neighborhoods like Indian Village and Boston Edison are still beautiful, but getting into these enclaves is like running a gauntlet. I was originally chased by strange men 1 block north of Boston last December. Pretty as these areas are, they aren't as safe as some would have us think. What a difference one block makes. My friend, Sister Jeanne, resides with others when she is in town in a decent Detroit neighborhood. When I leave her home, she tells me, "now when you leave, you have to make a right. Don't make a left because that way is Trouble." One block.

I've been to a lot of urban areas in the United States, Mexico and Canada, but never have I seen the decay and waste that I see on the east side of Detroit. I don't know how in the world the people who live there continue to do so, but they do. The stress of living like this is unimaginable to me and I'm thankful I'm only a visitor to that world.

Hope is the last thing I feel when I drive through Detroit. I see horrific destruction of property. To blame the inhabitants of the city for all of this property loss is unfair because they aren't entirely to blame. After the riots in 1967 and the white flight from the city, landlords were left with properties they couldn't sell. Plenty of them put a torch to their own holdings and walked away with insurance claims--leaving the rubble and ash for somebody else to manage. Certainly, in recent years, hoodlums and thugs have finished what was put into play. There is a definite demarcation of this destruction of neighborhoods. On the west side of Woodward Avenue, there are pockets of bad areas, but on the east side of the same road, it's hard to find a neighborhood that isn't scarred in some manner.

It looks like a war zone.

Finding the beauty in these abandoned homes can be difficult, but there is someone who does this quite well. Doing what I do best, following one link to another, I came upon Kevin Bauman's website, 100 Abandoned Houses. There are thousands of homes that are abandoned in the city, but he's chosen to highlight 100. His photographs are works of art, but the subject matter still saddens me.

Photo: Rudee K

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Freaky Weather

Monday, we received about 8 inches of snow throughout the day. I didn't need to go out to see a patient until nearly 11 PM. By that time, road crews had done a decent job of clearing my path, and my sleigh handled the rest of the mess with finesse. It was a strange ride, though. The sky was incredibly bright for nearly midnight, and had a reddish glow. It was as though a big city was ablaze in the distance. Since I was way out in the country where there wasn't a lot of ambient city light, I found it a bit disconcerting. I swear it looked like the remnants of a sunset and not the middle of the night.

Tonight, my husband finished clearing off the drive while I took the broom to the icicles threatening to clobber us as we descend from the porch. As soon as we finished, it began to snow again. Not a lot, but a good dusting. Enough to make my ride into the city annoying, but I wasn't driving, security was. By 11 PM, there were reports of black ice on the road. For those of you lucky enough not to encounter such a nasty little treat on the road, black ice is, well, ice. The problem is the pavement appears only to be wet and the driver realizes a split second too late, that he or she has made a monumental error in driving judgment. This usually happens right before the spin out and subsequent call for a tow truck.

I snapped the photo of the freaky looking tree in my neighbor's yard around 1 AM--right after work. Fog has set in, and this is no ordinary fog my friends. It's cold outside--well below 32 degrees (F). This is freezing fog and let me just say, I'm glad my shift is over and I'm able to watch some Olympic recaps while I work on my mitten all snug and warm indoors.

And, oh! Would you just check out the progress here? The best thing about these mittens is the yarn. I bought 2 skeins of each color and it's looking like I'll only need one of each for a finish.

As for the games today, Joannie Rochette, who lost her mother this week, was heart breaking and extraordinary on the ice. For all she's been through, I hope she medals.

In my book, she's already a winner.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Home Stretch

I'm trying to calculate the medals I'll accumulate by Sunday, and I think I'm definitely going to be getting two for the mittens, one in the Mitten Moguls category and one for the Nordic Colorwork Combined. Once these mitts are completed, I'll be performing a triple lutz, followed by a double salchow jump and finishing with a perfectly executed camel spin to get those socks done and sack another medal in the Wips-Dancing event with my picot edged socks.

There was much cursing to finish that thumb. There were too many needles, yarn ends and active yarns to manage with a more ladylike and calm demeanor.

I know that some of you have better winter views than me, but this was the best photo I could snap of a tree that looks like my mitts that didn't force me to grab winter attire to obtain said photo. All I had to do was prop open the back door. Close enough for me.

Part of my problem in the pairs program, is my short attention span for finishing the second item of anything. I'm not patient enough to work mittens and socks side by side on two circulars, or heaven forbid, figure out how to knit one item inside of another. Subsequently, I really suffer with an accumulation of orphaned socks and mittens. Besides the socks I want to finish for these games, I can think of 4 other socks suffering from such a fate right now. I don't know why--especially since I could use an infusion of hand knit socks in my wardrobe right now. There is one pink sock, one rust sock, one blue multicolored sock and one green sock all lacking mates. I'm hoping to get to them sooner than later.

Proof that a mate for this mitt is well on its way.

However, this is not the fate for my Deep in the Forest Mittens. I have cast on for the second mitten and plowed through the complicated cast on edge and braid. I've even done the finish work on the first mitten by weaving in ends and hemming the cuff. Next time, I'll knit the hem like I do when I make a picot edge on socks. Duh. When they're both done, I'll block them.

While these mittens may not be everyone's cup of tea, let me just say that as pretty as they look in the photographs, they're absolutely gorgeous in real life. They fit, well, like a glove. I'll definitely make these again, and I'll do them again in the Merino Mia yarn. Purchased solely for the color, I've found myself a new yarn to play with that has it all going on with shine, bounce, softness, stitch definition and ease of use. It doesn't have a single wart, which is more than I can say for a lot of other yarns in this price range.

That's enough fooling around for me. It's time to hit the color charts again.

Just as soon as I shovel.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's Growing on Me

While there are some things I like about winter, such as being able to wear wool (and lots of it), there are some things I'm tiring of this snow forecasts of 8 inches of snow on a Monday. Are you kidding me? A Monday? Blech. We've had almost no snow all winter, and now it seems we're getting way more than a dusting lately.

I finally hooked up with my best friend for lunch yesterday. We exchanged Christmas gifts, ate more food than you'd think 2 people could pack away, and enjoyed a hand crafted beer at the local Belgian restaurant. The weather was glorious with blue skies, a warm sun and the snow from the last blizzard was melting in a very gentle manner. Spring was definitely in the air. After lunch, I drove her over to the new house so she could peek in the windows and kick the tires, so to speak.

I didn't watch too much of the games yesterday, though I did wax on and on about my new found adoration of curling. The waiter overheard me and told me about a curling club located the next city over and I tried and tried to talk my friend into going with me to check it out. She just smiled at me as though she were dealing with a human who has obviously gone over the edge.

When I make these mittens again, because I will, I will do the cuff cast on edge in a bright color. These would have been stunning if I'd done it in red. I'm speaking of the rolling edge at the cuff. When I'm finished, this will be folded under along the purled row and hemmed. I think if there was a peek of red in there, they'd have been amazing--like seeing a little peek-a-boo lace in an otherwise demure outfit.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Proof of Progress

Who says curling is boring? Lots of strategy, suspense and adjectives to describe this sport make it interesting. It's slow enough that I can follow, not miss too much and more importantly, keep my place in a complicated graphed pattern. What's not to like about this event?

The mitten is making progress. In a few more rows, I'll have completed the thumb gore of the first mitten and this marks the half way point of mitten number one. Given enough peace and quiet, this is a quick knit for a fingering weight yarn. The color changes happen often enough that by the time I start a row, it seems that in a blink, I've finished it. It's highly entertaining, and I swear, there is no hamster running on a wheel in my head.

I fully recognize that I won't finish everything I wanted to do in my competitions, but it's OK to take a Did Not Finish score at the end of these events. Several of the real Olympians have already done this, so why not me? The point of the competition for each knitter is to challenge herself (or himself) and I think I'm doing that. Well, I am with the exception of my shawl. That's just annoying me so it's still in a time out. Completing the mittens and the socks will give me 3 more medals, and really, that's enough for me. After all, I don't want to be too greedy, or end up with carpal tunnel syndrome.

There is exciting news for Detroit. Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka The Yarn Harlot, is coming to town on March 13th and I've got plans to go to the Detroit Public Library main branch in the downtown area to listen to her speak about all things yarn and life in general. I can't wait. This woman is knitting's rock star and I'm thrilled the city is going to host her. Although she's been close enough to go hear her speak in the past, it's never been on a convenient date for me. This time though, it's a Saturday. I'm hoping to get there early enough to get a great seat and I'll be taking the book she wrote and I read when I was just learning to knit: Knitting Rules. It's my favorite. Even if you don't knit, it's worth the read. In fact, all of her books are worth reading. They're informative, humorous, touching and chock full of wisdom.

If you think The Harlot couldn't possibly be as popular as I think she is, just take a look at her blog and the comment section. She gets hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments a day. It's amazing. As further testament to her likability, look at her MSF/DWB donation page. This woman and her following have raised over 1 million dollars for Doctor Without Borders.

The forest emerges in the pattern as the mitten watches curling. Take no notice of the massive mess of power cords in the right hand corner of the photo. The knitter in this home is too busy to straighten up all that crap.

It was The Harlot who started the Knitting Olympics to coincide with the Winter Olympics. With the birth of Ravelry, knitting competitions on Ravelry occur with every Olympic event now, but Stephanie is still hosting the winter version on her blog.

Yesterday, this mitt was really just a cuff of a thing.

Today, it's clearly something special. I love mitts with a knitted in thumb gore (that's the spot that's growing between the beaded markers.) The gore provides the shaping for the meaty part of the thumb. Very feminine.

Even though I'm not participating on her site (because I really overextended myself on the Ravelry site), in the spirit of both events, I offer a few photos that she'd probably snap and publish if she were sitting here knitting and competing.

Now, let the games continue. As I write this, the US women curling team is giving Russia a bit of a smackdown.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

From the Heart

Tuesday night, I made a late night visit to a patient. It was midnight by the time I got home, and while the visit didn't last more than an hour, it took me an hour and a half to chart what I'd done. During my shift, the server for work was doing an upgrade. Remote users like me had to log in after the upgrade and make a few wireless transfers to install said upgrades. That took an hour. I couldn't wait to do it on the next day because my son had a doctor's appointment at 8 AM sharp and the treatments I'd done for my late night visit had to be charted for the next shift. I finished the upgrade and didn't get to clock out until 1:30 AM. I didn't fall asleep until sometime after 2. Ugh.

I got up at 6:30 in the morning to meet my son across town at the doctor's office. It was a meeting with a new Electrophysiology Cardiologist. A specialist in electrical conduction issues in the heart. Once again, we're traveling down this path to find a way to correct the aberrant tissue that makes his heart race--even at rest. The biggest problem here is that this little piece of tissue is within the heart's AV node--an electrical relay station that controls signals between the top chambers of the heart and the lower ones. Of course it has to be complicated. Would my family do things any other way?

The EP doc was late for our appointment. One hour late, to be exact. I forgave him because I liked him, and I liked him because he was honest. He can't do the procedure my son needs because he doesn't have the right equipment. My son needs cryoablation. He's failed radio frequency ablation. Once again, we've been referred to the University of Michigan to pursue a fix, but the fix is not without significant risk. With a lot of luck and not a little skill, he could be cured, but if too much tissue is destroyed during the repair, my son, whose symptoms are well controlled with one dose of a beta blocker per day, will end up with a pacemaker for life. He's only 21.

The conundrum here is that it's my son's dream to find employment with a government agency doing security and counter-terrorism analysis. Most agencies have a list of exclusionary medications and conditions. Both his medication and his cardiac diagnosis are on that list.

Dream busters.

The doctor was empathetic to my son's problem. He explained as best as he could that having a pacemaker would ultimately put an end to my son's dream job, too. He encouraged him to think about other careers before he explored a permanent, non-revokable cure to his problem.

Last night, exhausted and worried, I talked to my son about the referral. He wants to go to the U and explore the cure. Me? I'd prefer he stayed on the beta blocker for the rest of his life, but it's not my heart and it's not my life. It's his. These are his dreams that he has doggedly pursued for the past 4 years. He's stayed out of trouble because he hasn't wanted something stupid, like a minor in possession citation, to ruin his chances of a dream job. He's never missed a day at school. He's won a coveted government internship for the summer that many don't get because their background checks don't pan out. It would be a shame for a bum heart condition to ruin his opportunities.

I apologized to him last night. He wanted to know why. I said, "well I birthed you, and your problem is most likely genetic in origin." He told me, "don't be sorry--it's not your fault and as genetic problems go, it's not as bad as it could be. I learned that lesson from Rachel."

I think his heart is fine just the way it is.

A note about the photos...this was the cast on process for the Deep in the Forest Mittens. After an initial run with my handspun yarn, I ripped it out and cast on with the commercial yarn. My handspun was too bulky for this delicate pattern and would have yielded hand covers more suitable as oven mitts. I trusted the braided border video that though the yarn would tangle as the dark and light yarns helicoptered over each other to make the braid, they would untangle on the following round. They did. I'm going to trust that my son will make an educated decision about untangling his own mess in respect to his heart and find what's best for him.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My First Medal!

This medal is from the head of the International Ravelympic Committee, Adonis Dionysius Bobicus Maximus.

How fun is this?

That Bob is so darn cute. Thank you, Bobicus Maximus

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Out of Order!

I know I did something that wasn't on my schedule, but I needed to cross at least one finish line today. I chose the project with the phattest yarn and the biggest needles.

Here we have my version of the Robin's Egg Blue Hat. It's not very blue, is it? No indeed. It's handspun. Mountain Colors Targhee Top. You're not allowed to ask the colorway, because I wouldn't have a clue. Usually, I label the skein when I'm done spinning, but I must have forget to do this one. It's very possible that this color is Northern Lights. That makes it perfect.

Details: I cast on this morning and used a size 8 needle to do the seed stitch band. I finished the band waiting to see the head shrinker. While knitting, I hoped she didn't shrink my head too much, because I didn't want to have to auction off another hat. It's still cold here and believe it or not, this is the first hat I've knit for myself this year. When I finished the band, I switched to US size 10 double points and from that point, it was about another hour of knitting until done. I love it. It fits perfectly, and I've finally finished at least one of my projects.

The shawl is still in time out.

I hope I don't lose points for the hat hair.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Passing the Hours

One of the biggest complaints I have about watching Olympic coverage on television is that it's hard to watch what I want. For instance, last night's coverage jumped from moguls to luge to skating and then back to moguls. It was all over the place. Out of frustration, I turned the channel to catch up on something else.

I don't know how I've missed the HBO series, Band of Brothers (a story about Easy Company of the US Army's 101st Airborne division and their battles in Europe), but I have. I can tell you quite honestly, that what I know about WWII and the European battles, I learned here and there and mostly from movies like Patton and Saving Private Ryan. I've not done a lot of reading about that part of history. I've read several books about the Pacific battles in WWII and plenty of books about the American Civil War, but none about Europe. Shameful, I know.

In March, HBO will air the Spielberg/Hanks series called, The Pacific, and I thought it was time to catch up on their first series. I've been hooked all weekend. So far, while I've been knitting, I've watched 6 out of 11 episodes, each about an hour long. I'll have to wait for episodes 8-11 as they're not on demand yet, unless I can find them on Hulu or at the local Blockbuster store.

If you haven't seen this series, it's really worth the rental. If you have HBO digital service, episodes 1-7 are on demand with the last four set to air over the next 4 weeks.

On the knitting front, well it seems I've pulled a muscle in my right shoulder--the one that carries my work briefcase. I've had several treatments on it, but it's still sore. That hasn't stopped me from knitting, it's just slowed me down a smidge. Today, I'll set aside the shawl which is giving me fits, and cast on for the mittens. I'm pretty excited about those mittens and I'll be using the handspun yarn you voted for. If you're interested in learning a clever technique to enhance the border of mittens, or a hat, here's a video about doing a braided border.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Inadvertant Celebrations

The discussion of what to do about dinner Saturday night was borne of hunger.

We were both starving, and with the exception of shredded wheat and Ramen noodles, there wasn't much to eat in the house. The discussion always begins with the following dialogue:

Me: What are you hungry for?

Him: That.

Me: Well, besides that.

Him: Hmm, well, besides that, I'm game for anything.

Me: Roma Cafe?

Him: The Wings are in town. You know it'll be packed.

Me: Wolfgang Pucks? I know it's expensive, but we haven't been out in ages.

Him: Whatever you want. Let's go.

We knew that VD is a big restaurant no-no, but felt that since it was the thirteenth and not the fourteenth, we'd be safe in getting served a meal somewhere. We drove past the Roma, the oldest Italian restaurant in Detroit. Even though the Wings game was already well into the first period, the parking lot was packed and the restaurant was full of couples celebrating Valentine's Day a full day early. We never even got out of the car and decided we'd head to the casino instead, where we could try for 3 separate restaurants. We ended up at Wolfgang's Detroit restaurant.

Finding ourselves without reservations, we had to stand on line for a long time to get a seat and even after waiting, we were seated in the bar, and not the restaurant. After they seated us, they stopped seating walk ins, so we felt sort of lucky. I tried to ignore bar decor which has antlers that decorate the ceiling.

Dinner was sublime. That's the only adjective that will cover the experience.

The beet and fresh mozzarella salad was delicate and sweet with a sassy tang from the aged balsamic vinegar that decorated the edges of the platter. The Maryland crab cake appetizer was superb with just enough heat to awaken the palate. He had the lamb chops that reflected in price, an hour of pay on both our parts. The couple of bites that I had were clearly worth the hard work. I had the pork chop and while I don't ordinarily care for smoked foods, this was beyond delicious. Some bites tasted like fresh pork, and some bites tasted like ham. Beneath the chop was the best creamed spinach I've ever tasted. We topped all this decadence off with the Bananas Foster and house made vanilla bean ice cream.


We hadn't planned on celebrating this day. We never do. It's not that we aren't romantic--we just think it's a lousy day to hit a restaurant. They're usually too busy with service that's shabby and frazzled. This time though? It was perfect.

Maybe it's better not to plan such things.

Here's hoping your Valentine's Day celebration is as tasty and unexpected as ours turned out to be.

No knitting was hurt in the celebration of this holiday...

No Use Crying

Like crying over spilt milk, there's no use crying over dropped stitches and other knitting errors. Unless of course, the knitting error is the knitter's oversight. Then it's considered appropriate to sit in the corner and weep. Just don't spill those tears into the wool or you may make felt, and then you'd really have something to cry about.

Last night, feeling rather proud of myself that I'd wrapped up my paperwork by 7PM sharp and despite the call-ins for both the afternoon and midnight shift nursing staff, it looked like I was going to make it to the cast on Ravelympic party going on at my friend's house. I didn't have time to whip up a dish to bring, so I stopped and bought the hostess a box of chocolates. I got to her house around 8:30 and we had 30 minutes to wait until we could turn on the television and pick up our knitting and knit during opening ceremonies for the Olympics.

I decided to start right in on my Wips-Dancing entry of the shawl. The shawl I've ignored since November. I counted my stitches and jumped right into an easy purl row, and then the pager went off and reality closed in. There was no getting out of doing a hospice death visit. While making call backs, I snarfed down as much food as I thought I could--while simultaneously trying to demonstrate that although starving, I still had some manners. I packed up my knitting and left.

Around 1 AM, I finished my paperwork, popped the top of the last bottle of Sam Adams Winter Lager (maybe my first mistake), picked up the knitting and settled in to watch a rerun of the opening ceremonies. I finished that purl row, flipped my work and started the complicated lace row. At the end of that row, close to 400 stitches, I realized that for some reason, I had 4 extra stitches. Uh-oh. Not good. I counted. Recounted and did that yet again. Still, I had 4 extra stitches and the dawning that I'd made a mistake of monumental proportions.

I had a fleeting memory of some unique issues with this pattern, did a search of my own blog and found the post that was nagging my brain. I had marked off the two border stitches on either end of the shawl to remind me to knit those stitches on the purl side, but in the pattern, the border stitches are included in the rows and not marked off separately on the pattern. I'd griped about that last year, and I forgot all about it. Nothing against the designer here, it's all my own fault for reading something into the pattern that was never there to begin with. In short, operator error.

So I started to tink and then thought, I'm tired. I'll go to bed and sleep on the problem. At circle this morning, I tinked some more and then out of frustration, ripped back to the lifeline. It's hell tinking lace. As of this writing, I've knit back only 6 rows of the 20 I ripped out and I'm way behind.

So far today, I've knit several thousand stitches, watched the ski jumpers and have settled in to watch the speed skaters. Those boys have some amazing assets.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Spin Out

No, I didn't have an accident on our snow covered roads. I was perplexed last night when the city sent the snow plows out at 1 in the morning. Now that doesn't bother me because I'm just getting off work at that time, but I'm sure it annoyed all of my neighbors who work the day shift. And, um, duh...the street has cars parked everywhere up and down the street at night. There's not a sole parked out there during the day because they're all at work. As a result, the no parking side of the street got plowed (nice), but the parking allowed side is still deep with snow.

Wednesday was a slowwwwww work day for me. And I do mean slow, so I did quite a bit of spinning last night while I waited for the hospice hot line to ring. It never did. Well really, I wasn't technically spinning, I was plying. Although there are only a few votes for the yarn selection for the mitts, it looks like the hand spun is winning the vote. I thought that photo I showed you would have let you know it wasn't quite done (you know...still on the bobbins). It still needed to be plied and the chocolate yarn needed a bath. To be exact, it took six baths to come clean. There's a chance that I'll fall a wee bit short on the brown yarn, but there's more fiber where that came from and will only take a few hours to spin up.

Maybe the phones will be just as they were last night. Now that would be a miracle.

If you haven't voted on the yarn I'll use for my mitts, have at it. The poll is in the top left corner.

I'm now ready for whatever you choose.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Live From One of the TeamMich Virtual Olympic Villages

Decisions, decisions. Hand spun or commercial? You decide.

Although it comes as no surprise to some of you that I've lost most of my mind (since that depressing topic is about all I've written about lately), I should probably let you know I've gone ahead and lost what little was left. What the was a short jump off the cliff.

This post is here to remind you that there are people out here who consider knitting a sport.

Crazy people. I'm one of them.

Wips-Dancing Socks 3/4 of the way done.

On Friday, I'm diving head first into a type of submersive therapy that will require all of my attention, talent, fortitude, time and skill.

Another Wips-Dancing entry--Pretty as a Peacock by Some Knitting Required.

I'm talking about the Ravelympics, of course. A seventeen day knit-fest, complete with a kick off event with other crazy knitters on Friday (pray my pager is quiet) and a long, long run of events where I will challenge the knitter within. I will knit while I watch every possible moment of the snow challenged Olympics in Vancouver.

I've tagged the events on my Ravelry project page and plan to compete in Mitten Moguls (I was really torn about entering the Nordic Colorwork Combined event instead since it is Fair Isle--but since most of those Raveletes will be juggling a bunch of colors, and I'm only juggling two, I thought better of that). Then there is the Wips-Dancing event where I'll compete twice and polish off a languishing pair of socks of my own design (they belong to a certain blogger when I'm done) and the long neglected Pretty as a Peacock Shawl. For the days I'm bored (heh), I'm also competing in the Hat Halfpipe event where I'll be using handspun yarn to knit the Robin's Egg Hat. I made one for Sara last month in Manos, and it's adorable. It about killed me to give it to her. For my last event, I'm competing in the Lace Luge with Romi's Brandywine Shawl. I'll be using the Chinatown Apple Smooshy by Dream in Color.

Hey, if you're going to dream, why not dream big?

I think that about covers the events I'll be competing in. My patterns are printed, I have needles, yarn, stitch markers, plenty of coffee beans and lots of hope.

I still can't make a decision about those mittens. What would you use? Do you want to see them knit all in hand spun? Or should I go ahead and suffer knitting them in Prism's Merino Mia? Won't you help me decide? Go vote in the left hand corner of my blog. I'll use whatever you tell me to use. Hurry...there's only 2 days left to figure that out!


"When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears."
Anthony Robbins

Several years ago, in the middle of the summer, I took care of the most miserable patient in the world. He was a physical and emotional mess. All day long, I was poking him for all kinds of labs. There were multiple sets of blood cultures and one or two bleeding times. Of course, nothing could be drawn all at the same time to ease his discomfort. Every time this patient saw me coming into his room, he'd bitch and grumble. Who could blame him? I never brought him anything nice.

When I went in to draw his last set of labs, this great big hulk of a man looked at me with such despair on his face. I stopped what I was doing, held his hand and gave him a hug. I told him that as awful as this day was, it was just one day out of many and his life would get better. He told me he thought he was going to die. We spent quite a bit of time talking about nothing...and everything. When he'd said what he had to, he dug deep and let me draw his blood.

I thought about that man tonight as I drove all over God's white acre in a blizzard. Who in their right mind drives in such a mess, unless of course they have no choice? The last time I saw this patient, he'd come up to the hospital to bring me a card to thank me for getting him through that long summer day and to show me that I was right. His life did get better. He made that trip in a snowstorm that throughout the day, had dumped about 10 inches of snow on the ground.

Sometimes, thoughts and memories that come upon us by surprise have purpose. I know that this one did. It made me feel better about what I do, and why I choose to do it.

It's the first time in a couple of weeks, that I've felt really good about being a nurse.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Toolbox

When we moved here last year, we left behind the lifetime of tools we had accumulated. There isn't enough space to store them all here and with the exception of some duct tape, a wrench, one or two screwdrivers and a hammer, the toolbox junk drawer is primarily empty. A lot of my kitchen tools are still packed away, too. Although the kitchen is large enough, the appliances aren't trustworthy. After one or two forays into baking, I gave up trying. That oven is a real disappointment that I plan to remedy in about a month. The toolbox will be retrieved from Rachel's house, too, and we'll finally be reunited with those things we couldn't live in a home without. In the meantime, we're essentially living here tool-less.

Lately, as my saga with acute anxiety continues, I've been noticing another type of toolbox that's missing something: my bag of tricks I use for putting up with life's curveballs is fairly empty. I keep reaching inside to find a hidden coping mechanism I was sure I had safely tucked away and come up empty handed. I did get some rest this weekend, and even slept through my spinning circle on Saturday. Who says we can't find salvation (or a long, sedated sleep) with a little xanax chemistry?

Hoping to find an end to my current predicament, I had my first appointment with a therapist today and the toolbox is just as empty as when I first got there. I thought for certain that at least my bullshit barometer was working, but it would appear that's broken, too. After about an hour of talking, the therapist told me his schedule is full to overflowing and he would have to refer me to someone else. What? What was the point of this appointment? Sheesh. That's two meetings I've had that had the same sort of outcome in one week. To top it all off, his office was in a not so great area of town, down a flight of steps and into a deserted basement space where the door to enter his office suite was locked. Damn. Not exactly the best spot to send me in my paranoid state of mind, was it?

The entire appointment was an hour of completely useless mental gymnastics.

But I'm not giving up. Tomorrow, I'll call the number this guy gave me and I'll pursue a decent therapist. The xanax is handy, but 1/4 of the prescribed dose knocks me out for 8 hours straight, so I can't use it during the times I feel the most anxiety, like (hello?), when I'm awake. Apparently, when it comes to benzos, I'm a cheap date. Instead, I've been using my other drug.

Yarn, to be exact.

I'm knitting as fast as I can. My goal is to make it a full day without feeling my heart race once. It's getting better.

In the photo: 25% of a poncho I'm knitting for the three of us, including me, myself and I. The pattern, Erika, from Rowan Classic Winter Solstice, is knit in Rowan Alpaca Cotton. The pattern is fast, and the fiber is soft and warm. Who cares that the yarn is so dark it's hard to see the cables? I know I don't.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rethinking My Ravelympics Lineup

It's not like I don't have a half dozen projects needing completion already, or indeed, it's not as though I haven't thought up my Ravelympics stragedy already, but I've been led astray.


For a cause.

For a really good cause.

I had planned on my only new project for the next three weeks as being the Deep in the Forest mittens. And I was planning on entering my Pretty as a Peacock shawl in the Wipdancing event. But now, I may just focus on Romi's Brandywine Shawl. I bought the pattern this morning and I have enough fingering weight yarn laying around the house to cast on for this shawl without making a trip to the yarn store. Romi is charging $6.50 for her pattern and donating $5 of that to Doctors Without Borders. That's almost 80% of her profit going to benefit an excellent organization that is surely stretched to its limits these days. As of her blog post this morning, she has sold this pattern 137 times (make that 138) and has already cut a check to DWB for $500.

If you aren't on Ravelry (I can't imagine why you aren't if you knit, spin, crochet or weave), you can link and purchase the pattern here.

Thanks, Romi. You're patterns and your generosity are amazing.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who Dat?

I'll be the first to admit that the only reason I watch the Superbowl is for the advertising. With the exception of Doritos and Audi, ads were kind of lame this year. I loved the Green Police ad and I don't think Doritos had a single bad ad. They were all funny.

I never root for any team, but this year, I cheered on the Saints. Not because they're from New Orleans, and Lord knows, that town can always use some good news.

Nope. I cheered them on because of this canine fan.

He's adorable.

Did you have a favorite ad?

Friday, February 5, 2010

That Interview

I had the interview yesterday and was told a determination would be made next week. I got the rejection this morning. At the end of the interview yesterday, the department manager told me that she doesn't like to hire field workers into office jobs because we're miserable when we get there. For God's sake, she should have told me that on the phone when we scheduled and I wouldn't have wasted the time, gas, dry cleaning bill and the angst.

Yes, my angst was wasted on that stupid interview. We all know that angst is a terrible thing to waste.

It's OK.

I'll figure it out.

In the meantime, I've been to see the doctor (can you believe that through all this, my blood pressure is still only 110/70?) and on Monday, I'm going to have my head examined. My brother, a therapist, made me promise to find someone smarter than me. I'm glad to know he thinks so highly of me, but I kind of feel that shouldn't be too hard these days. I can't be all that bright to keep putting up with bullshit.

The rejection? Turns out it doesn't feel so bad. In fact, it pissed me off and that's an emotion I've missed these past couple of weeks.

To make myself feel better, I went out and bought more yarn. Prism. Scrumptious.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Forest, Trees and Blindness

Today is the day for the big interview and I'm a little worried. I'm not concerned about not getting the position. Indeed, I'm a little fearful that I will. Since last week, I've been praying for clarity, and yesterday, I got it in the form of a phone call from a colleague I confided in the day before.

Since I'm living with this overwhelming fear in my gut, my feelings are never far from the surface. On Tuesday, we met at a patient start of care and I confided in her that I was thinking of leaving the clinical end of our business and my reasons for thinking this way. We discussed all of the incidents that have occurred to me at night and the solitary nature of my position. You see, the day shift staff all have one another and weekly team meetings. They have routine opportunities to debrief and discuss events as they occur. They also have more opportunities to team up for visits. I ordinarily work alone. I have an evening shift counterpart, but she lacks empathy. Completely. I know, it seems odd that a nurse would have no ability to place herself in another's shoes, but that's her in a nutshell. In addition, she's got much safer territory to cover than me, so maybe she just doesn't get it.

On Wednesday morning, my coworker from Tuesday called me back to discuss both the patient we'd seen and our more private discussion. What she had to say kind of threw me for a loop, and now I have the clarity I prayed for. My colleague believes I'm experiencing a threat induced post traumatic stress disorder stemming from my near assault in Detroit in December. She told me what she thought and is encouraging me to get some help for this. She also told me that if I fail to get help and I don't work through this, that no matter what job I do, these feelings of despair, anxiety and their physical manifestations will follow me around and even if I chose to work outside of nursing, something will happen to trigger this problem. Essentially, the damage is done and now I must work to do the repair.

I think she's right. As soon as the words left her mouth, my understanding was instant. Living it, I couldn't see what she plainly could, but there you have it. I'm not sleeping well. I can't fall asleep for hours and I can't stay asleep once I'm there. I'm having nightmares, although I can't recall their details when awake. I have intermittent pains in my chest and the feeling that a sharp edged rock is residing deep in my gut. I'm irritable (see above--not sleeping), angry and when it's time to clock into work for the day, I'm nauseated. I don't leave the house unless it's Saturday morning and time to spin, or I have to because it's time to work. I've turned into a little recluse and I've been using the weather as an excuse. I haven't even seen my best friend since before Christmas and that's not normal, nor is it me. That episode last Monday? I mean talk about a hyper-vigilant state of mind...I was in that frame of mind even before the yelling started. My physical response was to run and I don't think reason ever stood a chance. To top it all off, I recognize that I've really personalized that home care nurse's death and this can't be good for my psyche.

Lately, I'm just tearful. I love what I do and the thought of working at a desk job with no patient interaction is counter to who and what I am. I'm a nurturer and a caregiver. I've been one since I was a wee little girl. Nursing came naturally to me and this potential job change just doesn't feel right. I am uniquely qualified to perform the tasks I currently do.

Still...I'm going to the interview. I'm also going to see the doctor.

In the meantime, I'm going to have a good cry over the way I feel and try to let some of these damaging thoughts and feelings go.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

High Five

I've been tagged by Catherine to select 5 highlights of 2009. I don't ordinarily do memes. I don't know why. I get started and then led astray, but I told Catherine I'd give this one a shot. If you haven't been by Catherine's site, you should go visit. It's where I go when I want to see what's going on in Ireland and in Catherine's very interesting life.

Last year was monumental in terms of change, so this shouldn't be too difficult. Not all change is good though and sometimes, it's hard to select high points when upon reflection, all I can see at the surface are the lows. In that case, it's an excellent idea to scratch below the surface.

1. How could the number one high point in last year be anything but the success we achieved in turning our own home into an assisted living arrangement for our daughter and 3 other young women? We've had a few bumps along the way, but all in all, it's been wonderful for everyone including Rachel, us, the women who moved in with Rachel and their families. It was nothing short of a life changing event for all involved. This was the most important thing we've ever done to assure that our youngest child would have a secure and home-like living arrangement for the rest of her life. For months before and after, I had a hard time sleeping and my anxiety levels were always bubbling at the surface, but somehow, we've made it through this transitional period and everyone involved seems very content. If I ever question myself, I've only to make a nursing home visit to a patient to see what happens to impaired children of parents who failed to plan. There are plenty of mentally impaired young adults residing in places like that. I did the right thing even though that never seems to be the easy path.

2. If it weren't for number one, I'd never have learned to spin yarn. Learning this survival art has been a goal for many years, and frankly, I wouldn't have had the freedom, nor the time before we made those changes last year. I've made wonderful new friends by joining a spinning circle that I seldom miss. I live for Saturday mornings now and the community I've found with like minded women. Being able to make my own yarn has turned out to be nice, but the circle I belong to is the best thing about Saturday mornings.

3. Maybe, just maybe, I had one stellar personal achievement last year, and that was winning the blue ribbon for my Michigan State Fair entry of The Cap Shawl. Yep. That was incredibly satisfying. It was bitter sweet, for last year's fair turned out to be the fair's last year. With the economy in Michigan crumbling, there is no way to keep an event like this afloat. If things turn around economically, perhaps the fair will return. One can hope.

4. In September, I went to Virginia with my brothers. Over that long weekend, we drove to the place of my grandmother's birth and had a lot of fun poking around in our family history. I have to say, that was pretty enjoyable. While there, I took my first (ever) knitting class with Jane Slicer Smith. Awesome.

5. In a when one door closes, another opens kind of way, I've made a new friend in my neighbor's cat, Mr. Mocha Latte. While it's not this Siamese cat's real name, it's what I call him. He greeted me the first day we moved in by peering into my front door and waiting patiently for me to invite him in. He's visited often ever since our first meeting, and oddly, it's always at a time when I seem to be intensely missing my dog, Duke. This cat is no accident in my life and while sure, I admit I feed him treats here and there, what he seems to like best is to nap in my bed. He came by just a couple of days ago. It was bitterly cold outside when I got up early and after 5 minutes of being up, I decided to go back to bed to get warm. As I was passing the front door, the cat was there meowing to come inside. He was freezing, too. We both went to bed and slept a few more hours with him nestled in the crook of my knee. I'm going to miss that cat when we move.

There you have it. My life, lemons and lemonade.

Since this is a meme and the number five is involved, I am going to tag five people to play along. Sometimes, we humans tend to linger on the negative, I think it can be a challenge to think about good things that have happened. This was an excellent exercise for me in singling out the good and reflecting on things that, while maybe not so great on the surface, really did have positive outcomes. Thus, I throw down the High Five gauntlet to the following bloggers:

  1. Rose at Sand in My Yarn (This is a new home for Rose which proves that the lemon/lemonade thing works. She ditched her old site and made a new one that has the best name even though these days, it's not sand, but snow in her yarn).
  2. Brenda at Days of My Life
  3. Lisa at A Really Simple Life
  4. Gail at At the Farm
  5. Betty at Life is Good
Thanks Catherine. I really enjoyed playing along.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Duplicate Day

Whenever I find my husband particularly annoying for a long stretch, I like to mutter and mumble that I'm suffering from a duplicate day. In fact, I like to drop that line in a rather conversational way. "Oh what's the matter? Are we going to have a duplicate day?" While speaking, I make sure the sarcasm is thick. I know for a fact that this chaps his behind, and so I usually keep it up for awhile. It's my way of telling him that his snarkiness is getting on my last nerve. I do consider annoying him right back to be my civic and marital duty.

With my brain pretty well cooked from laying awake and making wedding plans all night, I'm going to give you a duplicate day. No snark though...just a rerun from last year's Groundhog Day, which when you think of it, is fairly fitting. While we've not had any snow to speak of and almost none worth shoveling, it's been bitterly cold. I'm sick to death of layering wool and long for some nice balmy days.

So gather up those stinkin', hairy, lying, long nailed, rodent-like prognosticators and start writing out your grocery list. It's dinner time.

Bon Appetit!

Searching for something good to do with groundhogs, I found this recipe on a Michigan outdoor website -they apparently got it from Herb. My commentary is in red to represent what I'll be seeing if that groundhog delivers the wrong result, because frankly, I don't think I can bear another 6 weeks of winter.

Waco Groundhog in Sour Cream

Recipe By: "Indian Cookin", compiled by Herb Walker, 1977

1 Groundhog, skinned & cleaned
(who can I pay to do this deed?)
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
2 quarts water
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup bacon fat
(apparently the fat in the groundhog is not enough)
3 small wild onions
(currently buried under a foot of snow--well that was last year, not this year)
1/2 cup water
1 cup sour cream

Skin and clean the groundhog ( this may be my first problem). Wash and dry and put in an earthen crock (why do I have to dry it when it's going into liquid?). Cover with water and a half cup of vinegar and 1 T. of salt. Let stand in a cool place overnight (don't worry, nothing bad could come of this, right?).

In the morning, remove from brine, wash and pat dry with a damp cloth (again with patting dry then immersing in water). In a large soup kettle combine 2 qt. of water and 2 T. of soda. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer meat for 15 minutes, removing the scum (mmmm, scum) as it rises to the surface. Drain and rinse the groundhog meat and cut into serving pieces.

Combine the flour, salt and allspice and dredge the pieces of meat in the mixture. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Melt the bacon fat in a heavy iron frying pan until smoking (nice combo of smoking hot and bacon fat- I'll keep a lid nearby in case I start a kitchen fire). Brown meat on all sides. Transfer the browned meat into a greased 4 qt. casserole. Arrange sliced onions on top, add water, cover and bake in a preheated oven for 2 hours or until the meat is tender (must be tough if I have to brine, boil, fry, and then braise).

Transfer the meat to a heated platter to keep warm. Put the casserole on top of the stove over medium heat and spoon in the sour cream stirring constantly (this is needed either because the groundhog and bacon don't add enough fat, or the flavor is dreadful and I must mask it-I'm just not sure). Do not let the sauce come to a boil. Put the meat back into the casserole and simmer for about 15 minutes. Delicious served with creamed dandelion leaves (now where will I find dandelions on February 2nd in Michigan?).

On second thought, maybe I should make reservations for dinner. After looking at this guy's freaky little fingers, I've come to the conclusion that this recipe has too much fat...