Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Through My Caregiver Eyes - Are you paying attention?

It sometimes amazes me how much of life goes by unnoticed.

Oh ... I am not talking about the big stuff - big stuff is generally seen and sometimes promptly dismissed or forgotten.  But big stuff hits your personal radar - usually.

No, I am talking about the small, the inconsequential, the minor details that sometimes barely touch our consciousness.  The kind of little red flags that seem to grow slowly over the years, becoming common place and accepted ... and limiting.  

Here is an worrisome example in my mom's life and mine ...

Watching mom over the last 7 years, I realized the simple act of getting out of bed was getting not so simple for her.  In the final months at my home we had to install bed bars - not to protect her from falling - but to give her a hand hold for pulling herself up with her arms to get out of bed.  Now in assisted living, she has a bed strap that she grabs to help with rising or adjusting herself in bed.

Her torso muscles - those "core" muscles we hear so much about - aren't used for the function of rising out of bed anymore.  She uses her arms to do the work.  And last week, as I was sitting beside her - she in her recliner and reclined - she tried to get up but collapsed back.  She couldn't sit up.  She wanted me to lift her forward.  I reminded her she could adjust the recliner electronically with the touch of a button to help her sit up.  And she did.

None of this is news.  For her this is "normal" now.  Accepted. It didn't happen over night, however.  At some point in the past she must have noticed more of a struggle to do the simple action of rising from bed.  Or maybe not.  Maybe she wasn't paying attention.

But here is the "bone shivering" part of the story for me.

One morning about a month ago I was laying in bed and I started to sit up.  I promptly rolled back down. The first effort was a "fail."  On my second try, I was successful.  It took a bit of an effort and I didn't seem to remember that effort in the past.  

But as I sat on the side of the bed I thought, "Not good.  Not good at all."  Visions of my mother floated through my head.

I vainly tried to explain away the episode to myself as I looked in the bathroom mirror and brushed my teeth that morning.  Years ago I was instructed by a physical therapist to always roll on my side and push my torso up with my arms when getting out of bed.  And I dutifully have done that for about 10 years to help with back pain.

But what has that small action resulted in today?  What will getting out of bed look like in 10 or 15 years?  Will there be a strap hanging off the bed post to help pull me up?

Since that morning I added some core exercises to my routine.  At first those exercises just K*I*L*L*E*D me!!  Many unrelated muscles from my neck down to my knees tried to help with those core exercises to spare my abs from working.  Those lazy suckers just didn't want to work at all!  But I am nothing if not stubborn!

Recently the exercises seem easier to do.  There is an improvement in some things that abs are supposed to help with ... functions that were slipping and I hadn't noticed yet.   And now I can get out of bed without the use of my arms (unless the back muscles are cranky.)

I am not going for a flat belly or a "rack" ...  the usual goal of most doing core exercises.  I just want to get out of bed without help when I am 85.

We all share an aging journey.  But each of us moves through these years differently.  I am aiming for a different journey than my mom.  And the only way I can do that is if I am paying attention - to her and to me.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

My first sweater

I follow a blog called Carolyn Knits.   The writer, Carolyn, is a knit designer and a friend of my cousin.  Stop by her blog for a visit.  You won't be sorry.

One of her posts looked back at older completed projects, evaluating the the pluses and minuses.  I left a comment on her blog about my first sweater.  I thought it might be a good thing to write about on my blog sometime ... and then promptly forgot about it.

Carolyn didn't forget!  And when I introduced my new yarn room, she reminded me of this topic.

So here we go with the story of my first sweater - a sweater that I would never ever give away, but can only wear in the privacy of my own home.

An indoor shot so the color is not quite right.
The sweater construction is simple.  Crew neck cardigan with drop shoulders created in pieces - meaning for this project there is a large back, a left front, a right front, and two sleeves - with an added button band.  Once all the pieces are knitted separately, they are hand sewn together.  Blocking usually is done before the sewing.  For my non-knitter readers, blocking means that the garment pieces are dampened, the items are than placed on a blocking board, spread out to fit the measurements, pinned in place and left to dry.  Blocking helps hand knitted items look more finished and assures that the sizes are correct before sewing.

The first thing you notice is this sweater is gi-normous!  Really, I could fit two of me into it.  The second thing - that probably only regular knitters would notice if they saw the garment in person - is that the right front and the left front don't match all that well.

Without rolling up the sleeves, they fall over my hands.
So what went wrong that this sweater is so wonky.  A couple of major mistakes caused this result.  First of all I didn't check gauge.  Gauge is making sure before casting on for the project that the number of stitches per inch and row made by the knitter matched the guidelines of the pattern.  If they don't match correctly, then bigger or small needles should be used until you get the right gauge.  Without the right gauge, you have no idea what size the finished garment will be.

Typical me - at that time - decided that I was using the correct yarn and the needle size they suggested so all would be well.  I also didn't measure myself to determine which size sweater I should knit.  I didn't check the measurements offered by the sweater pattern.  I remember thinking that I like my clothes loose so the large size would be just fine.

Famous last words.

I was a new knitter, I was eager to get to the actual knitting and the preliminary stages and planning just seemed so boring and unnecessary.   So I jumped in and began knitting.

Each piece began with a ribbed hem knitted on smaller needles.  Once the rib was completed you changed to larger needles.  All was well as I completed the back.  I charged ahead to knit the right front panel.  Still everything was going gang-busters!  Onward to the left front panel.   Before you knew it the second panel was done.  Looking at the sweater you can see that the body stitches are a lot of knitting - especially when you have chosen the large size.

At that point I stopped and held the back piece up to my body.  Hmm ... seemed kind of big.  I held up one of the fronts.  Yes, it was pretty darn big.  I began to rethink that skipped step of doing a gauge swatch.  But I had poured so much time into these 3 pieces, I had no intention of stopping now.

And then I made a terrible discovery.  The left and right front panels were not the same size.  Yikes!  What the heck happened?  Then I remembered that when I knitted the rib hem of the second front panel, I didn't change up to the bigger needle to complete the piece.  The size difference was considerable ... like about 3 inches in length and 2 inches in width.  Holy Crap!  Now what.

Well, the experienced knitter in me today knows the answer - you rip out the second panel and do it again correctly.  The inexperienced knitter of 1997 would no more rip out all that knitting than cut off her arm.

Then the light dawned.  I would block the second panel bigger to match the first panel.  Just stretch it out to fit!  Yes ... problem solved.

And it did stretch out to match length and width, but it made the actual knitted fabric thinner - giving one side more drape than the other.  Sort of a floppy side.

And, of course, when I put the fully finished sweater on - it was HUGE!

I really like the buttons.  :-)
Oh well.  It was a major learning experience.  I now always do a gauge swatch - sometimes several.  If I make a major mistake, I rip it out.  If I don't like it while it is being knitted ... if the error is visible or the quality not acceptable, I won't like it any better a year from now - and the item won't get worn.

Now I will say, I do wear this sweater occassionally.  It covers anything I have on. (I could probably wear all the clothes I own layered under it.)  :-)  It is warm and ... it is my first sweater.  It reminds me that the preplanning for a project really is important - and now after so many years, I really enjoy the prep.

And when I am not feeling well, it is the perfect sweater.  It seems to envelop me in warmth and it make me feel cozy.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The shawl that almost whipped my butt

One of my goals for this month is to complete one of the three very large knitting projects that are currently outstanding.  The story of this shawl is so typical of me ... but I will share it anyway!

Picture from Ravelry
In March of 2013 I let my daughter loose inside a knitting pattern book.  She picked a shawl she liked called the Lace Leaf Shawl.  I jumped in as I usually do and said, "Sure I can make that for you."  That very day I went on line and bought the same yarn as the pattern used - a fingering weight yarn (very thin) in a lovely color called Sea Glass - a pale green but in some lights a green-blue - just like the ocean.

And, then ... I sat down and read through the pattern.

(I can hear the "oh nos, are you crazy, what were you thinking" thoughts!
Too late for cautions!  The damage was done fast and furious.)

Any knitter or crocheter will tell you I did this phase wrong, wrong wrong.  First you read, then you decide, then you order the yarn!  (see the difference?)  *sigh*

My version - border in progress - before blocking.

The downward slide goes likes this:

The discovery of what I had done to myself.
  • First off as I read I noticed this was an Advanced Level knitting pattern.  Hmmm ... I am skilled, and experienced but advanced??  No, not advanced. But not to panic.  Everyone does their first advanced pattern at some point.  Right. This could be my time.
  • The lace pattern was all in lace charts.  Cra-a-p!! I hate knitting charts.  But if I had to write the text version of the charts, I would ... Yes, it would be huge headache but I could work around it.
  • Holy Cow!  This pattern uses 0 sized knitting needles.  In knitting 0 means next to nothing width.  They are the thickness of toothpicks - and some toothpicks are thicker.  They must be joking.  No body does a full size shawl on 0 needles.  I don't even own 0 sized needles.  Off to the internet again to buy what I needed.  I also bought size 1 and 2 so if I could size up the pattern I would.    
I decided to add some crystal beads to the border and the points.
The camera doesn't catch the sparkle.

Further investigation
 or looking for a way to reduce my panic!
  • Out to Ravelry - a world wide knitting web site - I went to see who else had done this pattern.  When first I checked - NOBODY had done this pattern except the designer.  (No one in all the world.)  Yikes!  Several weeks later one other person posted her finished project!  One!!!  THANK GOD.  Someone else to discuss this with.
  • I sent her a email message.  She responded.  She describes herself as an advanced knitter, who is experienced and comfortable with knitting charts.  She had problems.  She made changes so that she could avoid ripping the yarn out and giving up.
  • "gulp"
Another shot of the pre-blocked work.

The Journey (without swear words)!

So by the time I got this less than encouraging news I had already cast on the project and was knitting away with gusto.  I had decided that I had evolved into an Advanced Knitter without realizing it.  I was feeling pretty full of myself!  Things went pretty smoothly for about  ... 5 or 6 rows maybe.  (For the non-knitter - 5 or 6 rows is barely discernible in a project done on 0 needles.  Then I found a mistake.  I tried to fix it.  Couldn't. I ripped it out.  I started again.  My Advanced Knitter Crown tilted on my head.

Slowly the shawl progressed with the same pattern of moves: find a mistake, failed the fix, ripped back, knitted forward.  Mistake, fail, rip, knit.  Mistake, fail, rip, knit.  (I think you've got it now.)

Any reasonable person would have stopped, and used the yarn for something else.  Not me.  I have never been accused of being reasonable!  Mistake, fail, rip, knit.  I did that so many times I must have made this shawl in total stitches knitted about 3 times.

The whole project was 3 steps forward, 2 steps back. Over and over and over again.

Finally, through shear determination and hard-headedness, I got down to the bottom of the body of the shawl.  Now to knit the border - a beautiful lacy border with ... wait for it ... THE MOST INCREDIBLY HARD LACE DIRECTIONS IN ALL THE WORLD.   

I paused!  

I paused for like 3 months.  

And I gave up, picked another edging to add to the edge of the shawl and moved on.  I guess there is a reasonable part of my personality after all.

Now the shawl border does have 500+ live stitches across the bottom, and they all have to be picked up one at a time by a row of the lace border - which means about 1000 rows are needed to complete the border - but no matter.  They are short rows and it is progressing.

And just for the record.  You can insert swear words any where in this section post you like.  In fact, you could insert swear words for every other word and it wouldn't be too many!!!

But I spared you that.

Lessons Learned!


I do this all the time. Jump in and discover the troublesome issues as I get into it.  I have been knitting since 1997 and it is just what I do (with lots of swearing of course.)

But when it is done, it should be just lovely.  And my daughter will look great in it.

And I will have won this battle with this pattern.  My butt is not whipped.

Blocking will pull out the lace pattern and show off the design better.

And when it is fully finished and blocked, I will have my daughter model it and pictures will be taken.

That should happen the beginning of March because I am going to finish this sucker THIS MONTH!!

Signing off,
Retired Knitter
Intermediate Level
No Advanced Knitter Crown in sight ... and proud of it!!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Rooms with new names

I spent a lot of time thinking about selling our townhouse and moving to another smaller less expensive space.  Now that the old "homestead" houses just two old people, 2200 square feet of finished floor space seems way too big - especially when I am cleaning it.  After all, what do we need with 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms - plus a family room.

But once we determined that moving from a fully paid for home to somewhere else would be more expensive, I stopped focusing on the goal of moving and started thinking about what the heck I would do with the space. It didn't take long to come up with a plan.

The Guest Bedroom
I have always wanted a guest room.  Our "guest room" has always been our pull out couch in the living room and a queen size blow up mattress.  Both are less than perfect for sleeping and very unacceptable for company.  But that was what I had.

I still have that but now I also have this:

Although it isn't evident in the picture, the room needs painting, but it is OK for now.
The maple desk was my desk when I lived at home

I am particularly fond of these lighted flowers.  My daughter-in-law had a set
that I just loved and I had to have my own.
They make a wonderful muted night light.

And what room would be complete without a bull dog.  At least this one
doesn't have to be walked.  :-)

This guest bedroom is located right next to a full bathroom in the lowest level of our townhouse.  This room has changed names so many times it makes my head spin.
  • my son's bedroom, 
  • my daughter's bedroom when she moved back home one time (paint choice was hers)
  • my son's bedroom again when he moved back home one time,
  • my mother-in-law's bedroom (briefly) while she was in hospice in our home
  • the downstairs den - with a treadmill and yarn stuff
  • ... and then finally my son and daughter-in-law's room for about 10 months.  
It now sleeps three guests in actual beds.

Yeah!  Finally!!

The Den
This small bedroom room has really never changed names unless you consider that is was more of a "junk" room over the years.  Most recently it was also my mother's den for 5 years, and then briefly a shared space for my husband and I - my yarn and his computer.  My husband now has a simple uncluttered space for things that are important to him.  Uncluttered is the operative word since open space and free passage are important to anyone with his decreasing vision.

The Yarn Room
This bedroom has a short but varied history as well.
  • Daughter's bedroom
  • A nothing room for many years - I don't even recall what we did with the space.
  • Mother's bedroom
  • Temporary guest room but still filled with mom's stuff
After 2+ years in Assisted Living, I have finally reclaimed the space that was mom's.  This was a hard hard thing to do.  I knew she was unable to return, but for some reason I couldn't change the space - it was hers and would be so until she died.  At least that is what my mind was stuck on.

Now I realize that it isn't a good use of space.  Her bed has been moved into the guest room.  Her things have all been boxed up and moved into storage in the basement.  The room still has her furniture in it, but now it is filled with my yarn and hobbies.  And it is perfect for this use as it is the brightest room in my house.

This room deserves a small tour.

You see I have a whole lot of fiber just waiting to be spun.

I have a teddy that wears my very first knitted sweater - the sweater I made
during my learn to knit class in 1997.

And the wedding flowers I made for my son and daughter-in-law's wedding ...
they had nowhere to live either.

And Max, the now newly installed Yarn Cat who lives in my yarn room - he
also was homeless (well, not really.  He lives part time in my bedroom.  But the
story flows better if he seemed homeless.)

And the bed I bought for the yarn room and the "homeless" cat.

And the yarn that fills BOTH SIDES AND TOP TO BOTTOM in this closet.  It
was screaming for a permanent home!! In its last room it was spilling out of the closet
and onto the floor.  Now if I can only show restraint and stop buying yarn ...
(a wish that I have already broken with a purchase this month and a second purchase this month is on my radar.)
The only thing that might work to "cure" me would be some kind of an "intervention."
But I will go down fighting with my pointy sticks if I have to!!!
You have been warned!!!

So now all these wonderful items now live in my yarn room.
I love my yarn room.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this crafty cluttered space that is just mine.

Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Let's Talk Healthy Me

January 2014

The Baseline Stats
220,482 steps
90.56 miles (not a long distance when you consider this includes 2:00 am trips to pee!  :-)
7112 average daily steps
5 exercise sessions

To help me stay focused on this basic goal I'll check in at the beginning of the month just to see what is up (and hopefully "up" will be the right word!)  LOL


I have a Fitbit Flex pedometer from last Mother's Day thanks to my lovely daughter.  I wear it religiously - even when I have been a total slug.  I know that sometimes people are disinclined to use a pedometer when they are not actively walking.  I believe it is important to have a baseline, to know the actual realities of your activity even if those realities are dismal.

Sometimes "dismal" is the only thing that gets me off the couch.

Fitbit has an outstanding support web site.  It is free and since the Fitbit pedometer automatically syncs to the web site when you are near your computer or phone or iPad, there is no extra effort to log your progress.  No extra effort translates to me as no excuses!  They also have a food tracking segment and it automatically adjusts your allowed calorie intake based on your activity level without losing sight of your weight loss goals - which is an awesome feature!  My focus is activity.  Weight loss is nice but when that is my focus I fail.  But that is just me.

No lie.  Walking last month was a struggle.

First of all it was darn cold - like around 0 to 10 degrees many days.  With the added wind and icy conditions, it was dangerous.  Then I managed to injure a muscle in my groin and leg area.  I lifted a 37 lb French Bull Dog (one of my dear grand dogs) twice in one day, carrying him across overly salty stretches of public streets and up my salty steps to save his little feet (what else would a good grandmother do.)  Little did I know that it was too much for one of my muscles.  That darn 2 week old injury still haunts me, but I am pushing through it gently.

Cold weather conditions aside, for some reason, my body wasn't bouncing positively into walking like it has always done in the past.  My legs felt heavy, I was winded, energy levels were low.  When I did go for a walk it wasn't the positive energizing experience I always had in the past.  Am I just too out of shape?  Has my age made "bouncing into exercise" less do-able?  Is January just a hibernation month?  I decided that whatever the reason, my body would eventually catch up with the demands of my brain.  I did slow the walk down in deference to my injury.  I focused on just taking the steps and movement.

Even with all those limitations, I was totally surprised to find my daily average for January to be as good as 7,000+ steps a day.  Wow, I would have guessed around 5,000.  I guess I had some very good days among the lousy ones.

I can certainly do better on my strength training and stretching routine as well.  Five times in one month is pretty poor.  But the routine has shown that I haven't yet lost any gains in my stretching extensions.

So that is my Healthy Me update for January.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Frosty February

So here we are all in February.  Another wintery - and probably snowy - month.

Goals are the focus for me this month.

I am going to announce them here - so I have some way of checking back and comparing my results at the end of the month.

Here we go:
  • Finish one of my jumbo knitting projects. I have three on the needles, but right now it looks like the finish-it project will be my daughter's shawl.  (a hard one) 
  • Beat my January step average in February. (an easy one)
  • Complete my exercise routine 4 times a week average. (should be do-able)
  • Clean out my bedroom and upstairs hall closets. (Only God knows what is in them.)
  • Blog at least one more time before the end of the month. (should be easy but ... famous last words)
That should do it for goals.  

February is a pretty significant month for two other reasons.  

The Winter Olympics start on February 8.  Yeah!!  I am a huge fan of the Olympics - especially the Winter Olympics.  And I am really excited about the venue - Russia.   I'll be spending a lot of knitting time watching the athletes of the world compete.  I hope the US does well, but really, it is all about excellence - human excellence - and I am totally human, so I am ready to cheer them all.   Just hoping we can have a safe event.

This month mom turns 88 years old on February 6.  It always stuns me when I think over the last 10 years.  I started worrying about how she was doing when she was 78.  She took 2 years to make any decisions about living arrangements.  At 80 she moved in with me.  When she was 2 months shy of 86 she moved into Assisted Living.  Now at 88 years old we have been on this rocky journey together for 10 years.  Ten whole years.  That is a big chunk of both our lives.  Mom has changed greatly during these years and surprisingly so have I.  Neither one of us has changed for the best I fear.  But I celebrate her upcoming birthday.  I wish it was a more active and healthy time for her, but long life is still a gift - no matter how it looks.

That is my February.

We are in the grips of Winter.  Even though I love love love winter, I am beginning to appreciate the values of spring a little better!  :-)  (Wow, I never thought I would say those words!)

So what does your February look like?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

January fleeting

My gosh!  January is over.  I wrote this post 2 days ago hoping to get pictures attached.  Then January just slipped way - all because I waited for pictures.

I am posting without pictures!

I haven't been idle.  Here is a fast update.

My new guest room and yarn room and husband den!
With the departure of my son and daughter-in-law in October, once again I was left with a town house that is too large for our personal needs.  And then I got to thinking.

"Self ... you aren't moving somewhere else because living here is cheaper than anywhere else."

"Self ... you always wanted a guest room where the beds were ever-ready for guests.  Why not do that now?"

"Self ... you are outgrowing your current yarn / craft space (because you can't seem to stop buying collecting yarn and fiber tools.  But you didn't hear me say that out loud.)  Maybe it is time to fix that."

"Self ... your husband needs to have his own space - his own den - because his wife is becoming less of a sharer as she get older."  (someday insert a grumpy picture here of an aging grumpy woman - maybe even my picture. LOL)

"Self ... you have the space now to spread out and get what you want.  What are you waiting for?"

"Self ... you aren't getting any younger and before you know it these stupid stairs will become a barrier for you and you will be forced to move.  Stop wasting time."

"SO Self ... stop talking and get busy."

And that is exactly what I did.  Here are the pictures to prove it.

(Ha!  My space saver for pictures!!  No pics!  Use your imagination here.)

Thanks to my son, daughter and daughter-in-law for helping to move all the big pieces of furniture around and make this move possible.  Now I can stop talking to myself!


Ocean City
And then there was the trip to the ocean that seems to be a regular event with the cousins - it is where we sit in the condo, look at the ocean, knit, weave, spin, laugh, eat, drink wine, and generally enjoy a weekend free of life's responsibilities all while never getting out of our pajamas.  I didn't take pictures this time, but pictures from the last visit would look exactly like this visit.  So here is the link to that post.


Staying active, walking and exercises, are going slowly.  A leg injury and outside temps near 0 have slowed me up considerably.  I am still wearing my FitBit pedometer and I will calculate my January step average this weekend.  My February goal will be to beat my January average.  Sadly the February goal won't be too hard to achieve because I suspect my January average will be embarrassing low.  But it isn't about today or tomorrow or next week.  It is about the long view.  The long view includes spring and I am getting fit for spring.  :-)  At least that is what I tell myself.  My back and knee exercise routine is created and sometimes done.  But again, not as regularly as I need to.  I have posted a calendar in my yarn room where I can easily see just how inactive I am.  The statistics should be posted in the local newspaper and tattooed on my forehead for maximum embarrassment, but I will settle on this simple calendar.  I will say that my arthritis in my knee is much improved.


I am back to knitting every single day.  I had fallen into a slump.  Not a good place to be when you have a room full of beautiful yarns.  But I had hit a skill-level barrier with one project and the stall trickled into all my knitting.   Until I figured out how to work around the problem, I had lost my knitting mojo.  Back on track now.  I have three jumbo sized projects on the needles and I need to keep moving.  Pictures??  Ha!  Not today.  Whip out the imagination one more time.


Lap Top
I got a new Mac Lap Top computer this month.  After 5+ years of excellent service and several falls, my old Apple started doing wonky things.  That darn thing continued to work, however.  In fact I thought I was heading for a new computer in November of 2012 when it fell from my kitchen counter onto my hard tile floor, and here we are in January 2014. It still hasn't totally failed but it was time.   I will never never never own anything but a Mac!  It is a work horse and it is worth every single penny of addition money it costs to own one.


She has had mostly decent days.  Winter is hard on the elderly.  Yesterday, however, was a bad day.  Her ability to provide self care is slipping noticeably on some days.  When I arrived she was sitting in her wheel chair, her hearing aide batteries were dead so she wasn't responding.  When I reached her I noticed that a bathroom accident was evident all over her and she didn't seem to be aware.  It had not yet  been discovered by the staff so she was in a sad state - unable to help herself and has long since lost the ability to consistently ask for help when she needs it.  It was a very hard morning.  When I left things were back to normal.  But I left with a heavy heart.


So that has been my January.  Although I haven't blogged a lot, I've been busy and I have been visiting with many of you.  You keep me inspired to put my fingers to the keyboard here.

I have some plans for February - but that is for another post!

And maybe even a picture or two!!