Fenestration, Ortho-statics, and Bilirubin – Oh MY!

Remember those “famous last words” in my most recent post about this being a busy week, but hopefully much less surprising? Yeh… right! I know that this week could technically have been even more tumultuous, but if it had been, I’m not sure I’d be here writing a blog post right now.

Monday was my first day teaching the Baby Surprise Jacket at my LYS. Of course, first day of a class series always has its trials and triumphs, but I had fun. However, class did run WAY over time, and I ended up late to Guild meeting trying to grab a fast food supper on the way. Then I arrived to a very dark venue, due to Candace’s slide show. Instead of sneaking in unobserved, the program was interrupted and the lights turned on while someone located an empty chair for me. Blush…

Tuesday we drove to Cincinnati to look at some fenestration options. This would be my first new word for the week, and it has to do with the art/science of windowing a house. This is an unexpected emergency project, basically because we have one window we simply can’t close, and we are relatively sure that winter will eventually arrive here…

We are planning to replace just this window and one other that is broken at this point, and we’ve chosen to use Marvin windows. We were going to do more, but it seems that the contractor Marsh Builders recommended must not need work right now. He’s still not called to set up an appointment to measure our openings, despite my second call to the company, and it looks at this point as if it’s going to be physically impossible for him to get them installed before the end of the year deadline for the tax credit, since there is a 4 week lead time just to get the windows – without holidays. No energy credit is sort of a deal breaker on spending more right now. I guess it would have been a good thing to have known about that credit before last weekend… sigh… Now we’d just like someone to do SOMETHING for us before this rather big pane of glass hits the ground two stories down…

or we have to stow a snow shovel in the hallway upstairs. 😉

Wednesday brought my bulldozing buddy, who is helping me work through the decluttering project. It’s amazing how hard and how long we can work, and how exhausted I can be at the end of the day, and yet feel like we got through such a small percentage of the problem. I can’t be anything except unbelievably grateful for the help I’m getting though. This is so far beyond my ability to conquer alone, and it’s a marvel to have someone come alongside me and help. 🙂 There are actually moments once in a while when I think it might even be possible to get my life back. What a miracle that would be!

Then came Thursday. Not long after I woke up, I received a phone call that my father-in-law, who lives more than an hour away, had been rushed to the hospital via ambulance, condition unknown – and for that matter, hospital unknown – but symptoms sounding as if he might have had a stroke. Thankfully, I finally located him, and after three days in the hospital he was released. Instead of TIA’s or a small stroke, he was having ortho-static (next new word for the week) problems – blood pressure/dizziness related stuff, particularly evident when he changed “altitude” by sitting or standing. Much easier fix than the stroke we were fearing, but this was still definitely more stress than either hubby or I needed, especially since we ended up spending all day Friday touring senior care facilities in his area. Though he’s home for now, we are going to learn first hand what it’s like to move a parent into a retirement/care community and break up a household established some 60 years ago – long distance and before the year is over. It’s going to be a very challenging 5 weeks to 2011.

Now Friday had actually felt rather positive. We found a place we really loved for my FIL, nice enough I even thought I might be able to live there – presuming I could get two apartments so I had room for my dolls and yarn and fleece and fabric… – and when we stopped to visit at the hospital, he was looking and feeling much better. We stopped for our first meal in 10 hours, celebrating with a rare treat, a Cassano’s pizza, which was simply marvelous. As we left the restaurant and were getting into my car, hubby’s phone rang with a call from Daughter#2. This was odd, as she was supposed to be spending her birthday on a Caribbean island and had told me not to bother calling, as she wouldn’t be answering her phone. My heart was in my throat in an instant, and it stayed there for many hours to come. Instead of being in Dominica, she and her husband had just arrived at the airport in Baltimore on an emergency flight home and were making a mad dash to the hospital. The ship’s doctor had diagnosed a life-threatening condition that she felt couldn’t wait even another day. If you’ve never been in this situation, let me tell you that hearing your daughter’s liver isn’t functioning, her bilirubin (At least I knew what this strange word was!) levels are sky high, she’s 8 hours away and in terrible pain, and on top of it all, she has just lost a fantasy vacation and it’s her birthday, no less… well… it’s definitely one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life – and my reserves were already shot with my father-in-law’s situation!

Happily, at this writing, my daughter is in much better condition than she was two days ago. She’s discovered the grand world of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. In layman’s terms, she had a camera for lunch on Saturday. 😉 Under anesthesia, a camera was fed down her throat and eventually to a place where her liver and pancreas could be examined. During the procedure, they were able to locate and remove a large gallstone that had lodged in an important duct in her liver. The pain is gone, but she has a killer sore throat – probably a good swap, in all honesty. She’s still not eaten since Wednesday, and sometime Monday she’ll be bidding adieu to the hooligan gall bladder that started all the trouble in the first place. One of the things I learned this week is that gall bladder problems aren’t just a pain; they can be a life-threatening problem.

Suffice it to say, after all this I’m trying very hard not to try to imagine what lies in wait for me this coming week. However, God has seen us through an impossible week. My Sunday has been a blessed oasis – the first thing anywhere near a “normal” day I’ve had in nearly a month. In a few hours, it all begins again, but today I’ve felt peace, hope, and much enveloping love and prayer from a myriad of online friends and acquaintances, and for this moment, that’s been enough.

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Survivor

I’ve quit wondering what’s going to happen next around here. I got home a week ago from my 5th big trip this year, and I can’t believe I’ve not blogged a word about it! It’s been a brutal week, and this coming week doesn’t look like it’s going to be any easier, though hopefully it will carry less shock value. I’m to the point I’m half expecting to find out I’ve been an unknowing victim of some peculiar TV reality show – perhaps a twisted version of Survivor blended with Candid Camera, where instead of eating truly gruesome foods, unknowing participants are subjected to a continued onslaught of very stressful events, which blind-side them with their unexpectedness.

That said, this post isn’t about my recent trip or my head-shaker of a week – past or coming. Instead, I thought I’d spread a little bit of my weekend sunshine around. As tough as it was for me to change gears when I discovered on Tuesday that I’d totally forgotten registering for a full weekend workshop our knitting guild sponsored this weekend, I’m really glad I didn’t cancel out on it. We had Candace Eisner-Strick come in for 12 hours of classes, and despite the fact that I was battling a migraine, I managed to learn some really great new knitting tricks. Can’t wait to incorporate them in some real knitting!

Saturday was a bit frustrating for me. Our class was on Bavarian Traveling Twisted Stitches – or some permutation of those words. For me, the concept was very simple to grasp, and an hour long class would have been more than sufficient on the topic, but there are a lot of different combinations of learning style and experience in a group that large, and Candace wanted to take the time to ensure every student succeeded, so the class was a six-hour venture that left me very glad I’d brought along my Baby Surprise Jacket to knit. I nearly finished the BSJ, and I also made the sampler just below. I’m glad I attended, even if I did feel like it was moving too slowly most of the time. Whereas I’d have had no problem doing this alone, having the day away from the house with this being my primary goal made it actually happen. Considering I’ve had two of the best pattern books for Austrian knitting on my library shelf for at least a couple years, I think I needed the kick in the pants to actually do it!

I know – doesn’t really look like much, does it? It’s just one repeat of each of 11 different stitch patterns set one after the other, so they aren’t very distinct for the most part. Today I started working to separate each pattern with a basted contrast strand, and for this post, I put a straight line between each of the designs. We worked the patterns in the round with three identical patterns, so in all, each was worked 3 times. I really wish it was a technique that lent itself to back and forth knitting, so I could see what three repeats looked like worked in succession instead of side by side, but I’ll have to wait until I produce a real project, I suppose.

Candace does her twisted stitch knitting in a non-traditional way, twisting the stitches differently for left travelers than right travelers. I want to play with some samples done in the traditional fashion as well, with all the stitches twisted the same way, as apparently the Austrian queen of this technique wasn’t particularly keen on this alternative look. Me being me, I’m going to have to play with it both ways. 😉 I suspect I’ll be happy with both, and I will choose when I wish to use each style. I wouldn’t dare use the modern take on it to knit a sweater for an antique German doll, after all!

Sunday there were technically two separate 3-hour workshops, though the edges sort of blended together in the end. The first of these two, titled “Traditions!” was unquestionably my favorite of all, and the best reason for me to have invested a weekend in these workshops. Candace led us through 5 traditional techniques, 3 of which were entirely new to me, and one of which was presented with a tidbit of info that I needed to have known long before now.

First we did the Channel Island cast-on. It’s just a dab more fussy than most other cast-ons I’ve used, but not that much slower once I learned how to hold my tongue just right. We used it both as a base for ribbing and as a provisional cast-on later in the day, and although I’m not totally smitten with the provisional use, it looks so gorgeous with ribbing that I’m definitely sold there, and I wonder if I’ll be able to use anything else when I’m ribbing in the future. It’s definitely worth the effort in this application!

The Fair Isle Corrugated Ribbing was… well… a wee bit of a trial for me, as I didn’t see what was happening until I was done with it. One thing we learned later on during the Norwegian Lice segment is that when you are knitting with two colors, the strand that is running in the lower position on the back is the one that will have the larger, dominant stitches on the front. (This totally explains a minor disaster I had earlier this year…) You don’t have to be an expert to see that I must have swapped the positions of my two colors on each row I knit on my corrugated ribbing. In my defense, this ribbing was never meant to be knit flat, but because of time constraints, we were doing precisely that. Knit in the round, there wouldn’t be a nasty backside row teasing me into swapping colors to the opposite hand in order to avoid purling continental…

It’s a toss up as to whether I love the Channel Island with ribbing or the Latvian Braid more.  Both are pure knitting magic! We were to make one braid, but I decided to double mine, reversing the direction of the second one. I’m definitely going to have to find a good place to use this wonderful little trick in the future!

I skipped the the fourth tradition – knitting a swatch of Old Shale. Having just finished an entire shawl in that pattern, I figured my time was better spent working on the BSJ… 😉 The last item on the agenda was the Norwegian Lice. Of course, the bit about the lower yarn color being dominant was the big surprise in this part of the lesson. I hadn’t expected to learn anything doing such a simple pattern, and must confess to an internal eye roll when I saw it on the list. 😉 Live and learn! Candace also took a moment to show me that there really IS a quick and easy way to lock a long float into the back of of colorwork when it’s the right hand yarn that needs anchored – yet another tidbit that was nearly worth the price of the entire workshop for me. 🙂

Sunday’s second segment was focused on two of the primary uncommon techniques in Candace’s newest book, Strick-ly Socks. She’s worked out an unusual way to knit the toe (and the heel the same way), which allow them to be started flat. It’s pretty slick, once you get the basics worked out, and I bought her book, figuring I need to try a whole pair out, if nothing else, just for the experience. I’m always game to try something new. 🙂 If you like to knit toe up socks, but you aren’t comfortable with any of the normal starts, don’t give up until you give this one a try, as it’s a totally different way to go.

You probably can’t tell a thing from this photo (Try clicking to make it full sized?), but we also used a totally new to me method of binding off, too. It works, and it looks pretty good, but the jury is still out as to whether I will embrace it in the long run or stick with my comfortable Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off that has been serving me so well. Jeny’s is definitely faster, and I don’t have to worry about whether I’ve cut a long enough piece of yarn, but Candace’s does work, is rather tidy, and is also very stretchy. It’s definitely worth trying out if  you are the curious sort of knitter. 🙂

So, although I felt like Saturday dragged terribly and I had to drive into the city two consecutive days, I do feel that over all, my weekend was very well spent, and I’d definitely recommend Candace’s workshops – especially Traditions! since it was my very favorite. Each had much to offer if you have interests in the areas covered, and I know that I have come out of my class time a better knitter than I was. 🙂

Magic Flute

I had a perfectly lovely day! It didn’t start out that way at all. And for that matter, it also involved a long drive through falling snow at night, so it had a lot going against it. However, the positives condensed into about 5 hours this afternoon rather overwhelmingly outweighed the negatives, providing me with a day I’ll remember for years to come. 🙂

  1. A man waved me ahead of him at the bank when I was running rather late.
  2. I started my second series of lace knitting classes at my LYS (an hour away) teaching students’ choice of Concerto or Symphony to 10 lovely ladies – good company, knitting, teaching, and income all rolled into one!
  3. I got a Subway meatball marinara flatbread for supper – and they had plain Sunchips!
  4. I got my first spontaneous compliment on a handknit shawl from a total stranger – and a potential 11th student at the same time!
  5. When my Goals support buddy (aka dear friend Joy) came up with the brilliant idea of tracking our goals in a pocket planner, I immediately added one to my shopping list to pick up after class. Shortly after walking into my LYS, though, Arlene asked if any of us could use one of the pocket planners she’d been given – and one of them was green, no less!!!
  6. Sharing some support/info/chatter re: CSM’s after class with one of my students who knows FAR more about sock machines than I do, I suddenly found myself totally shocked when she be handed a pair she’d produced, saying I could give them a test run – WOW! (This made me the “victim” of THREE RAK’s in one afternoon!)
  7. And… I got a magic flute!

Okay… It’s not really magic – not the way most people would define that word, at least. For me, though, it’s total magic! You see, I’ve wanted a flute ever since I was 10 years old. I absolutely adored playing the flutophone back in fourth grade. It had been a required class for us, and for me it was a head over heels in love experience. I still l have my (totally unchewed) flutophone, and I’m not above getting it out to play four decades after my last class. I wanted to join the school band and play the flute in the absolutely worst way, come fifth grade, but my parents refused to let me, citing the very non-marchable piano in the living room, which, my mother claimed, would provide me with far more useful skills in the long run. From this side of history, I’m not sure that the skills of learning a very solitary instrument was as advantageous to me as being part of the social structure provided by the school band would have been, and although I still enjoy playing the piano, it’s never been a heart and soul sort of thing for me. I don’t regret my (very limited) piano playing skills, but to this day, I truly feel they should have allowed me a second instrument, especially since the spark of my passion never really waned.

A few years ago, it suddenly dawned on me (duh!), that there wasn’t a reason in the world I couldn’t still learn to play the flute. I’d bought 4 different recorders, a tin whistle, and a Native American flute in the meanwhile, but had somehow relegated my flute to the fantasy file. Then one day I had the opportunity to handle an antique ebony and ivory flute, and  my heart fluttered, fanning the embers of my dream into a full fledged bonfire. After checking the prices, though, I decided I’d best relegate it to my Christmas list.

For three years, it was totally ignored by my entire family. Then, after a third disappointment a week ago, I had another one of those lightbulb moments. Craig’s List + Christmas money! Within minutes, I found one I could afford listed in Dayton, which was convenient, since I was going to be teaching up there again starting this week. A quick phone call to set things up left me sitting and staring dumbly at the calendar, wondering how I was going to bear the 4 day wait until Monday!

Happily, I survived the wait, and between my afternoon and evening classes, I braved the snow and went to complete my very first Craig’s List transaction. Believe me, it was difficult to focus on my students for the second class with my brand new flute laying on the table beside me!

On the other hand, can you believe that Arlene’s husband was in the store helping with inventory, and it turns out he used to play the flute?! After class, he gave me a few pointers to get me started, and with a bit of experimentation tonight after I got home, I managed to play Mary Had a Little Lamb without too many extra squeaks and whistles.

And then I did what any new mother would do. I took pix! I love how the light made it look golden. 🙂

The picture directly above shows why my little finger is now totally exhausted. There sure is a lot for it to do on these three keys!

This is truly my magic flute. It’s made a dream of more than 40 years come true! How much more magical could it be? 😀

As for that New Year’s goal about making music for at least as few minutes each week? Week one – accomplished and logged in my new pocket planner. I had a wonderful day!

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