Saturday, November 24, 2018

We've Already Postponed Thanksgiving, Can't We Now Just Cancel It?

In preface, this is not a complaint or indictment of Thanksgiving.  The Thanksgiving holiday is a fine thing.  It's just that mine went all wrong this year.

First, we postponed our observation of Thanksgiving from the usual Thursday to the following Sunday.  This was done so we could have a little vacation in New Orleans.  It also allowed our kids to take the holiday with the in-laws and the out-laws.

On the Friday before Thanksgiving, the first day of the drive down to New Orleans, I had a bit of a scratchy throat.  By the next morning it was a full fledged chest and head cold. 

On Sunday Ron wanted to go to the WWII museum.  I wanted him to go by himself and let me stay in bed.  But he protested that we were on vacation to do things together.   Pardon me for saying this but if he actually wanted to do things together he would learn how to knit.  I got up and went to the museum.  Fortunately, they had wheel chairs available so Ron pushed me all over the place.  It's a good museum.  You need a full day at least to cover all of it.  It's not designed for little kids; I'd say it's best for a 9-10 year old and up.   I just wish I had been there on a day when I felt like being alive.

The following day we went to the Audubon Insect Museum and the Audubon Aquarium.  Both of these are designed to entertain the smaller children.  The Insect Museum has a butterfly garden where you can walk among some exotic butterflies. 

I never felt well enough to go out in the evening.  Each evening Ron went out and got some rice and beans for me.  Good thing I love rice and beans.

On the last full day in New Orleans, Ron said he was getting my cold.  We went to the riverfront and took a little cruise on the Natchez. 

We drove home on Wednesday, a 12+ hour forced march.  The next morning Ron was very ill.  He asked me where I got this Black Death of cold.  I must of got it somewhere at home or work because I had symptoms well before I got to New Orleans.  Today, Saturday, Ron is going to Prompt Care because he has a severe ear ache and is bleeding from his ear. 

Fortunately he didn't argue about calling off or further postponing Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 25, 2016


Dad once said that he would not want to live his life over because it had been too hard.  There is one part of my life that I wish I could live over:  the last six months of my mother’s life.

My Mom started to die the day Clinton won the election in 1992.  Dad was pissed off about Clinton winning and he apparently took it out on Mom. The stress resulted in her having a gall bladder attack.  The operation for the gall bladder damn near killed her.

It should have been a routine procedure.  A doctor who had done it many times before should have performed it.  Instead, she went to the family doctor.  The family doctor had just completed a training course in using a laser scope method to remove the gall bladder.  It sounded good.  Three little incisions and Mom would be out of the hospital in two days.

It appeared to work but a week after the operation Mom was in intensive care.  The family doctor accidentally nicked the bile duct during the operation.  Bile fluid leaked into Mom’s abdominal cavity.  It literally started digesting her from the inside out.   Her liver, intestine and pancreas had all suffered damage.  There was a major operation to correct the problems from the first operation.  Mom stayed in ICU for a week.

Even when she came home, she had a drain still in place, hanging out of her side.  A home-care nurse visited her to attend to the drain.  It was a year before Mom got back to normal.  But it was never really normal.  She lost something.  There were the things she did before the operation and then there was a different set of things she did a year later.     

Before the operation Mom and Dad went on bus tours with other senior citizens.  After the operation Mom had little energy for trips.  Before the operation my mother had a slightly stooped posture.  Years of bending herself over a sewing machine accounted for her stoop.  But after the operation, the stoop was a clear dowagers hump.  Raising her hands over her head was painful and finally not possible.

Mom and Dad saw a lawyer about suing the family doctor.  Mom was not cut out for her role in a lawsuit.  She did not have the spirit of the thing.  All she wanted to sue for was the cost of the second operation.  She thought that Medicare ought to be paid back for the $30,000 cost of the second operation.  She wasn’t interested in any other damages.    The lawyer firm turned her away.  She did not seek a second opinion.  It’s just as well.  Mom would have made a lousy witness.  She would have apologized for getting sick in the first place.  After all, the doctor would have never screwed up the operation if she had not been there.  Perhaps the lawyers sensed that about her character. I bet the lawyers thought she was nuts. 

After Mom died Dad often spoke about how many things he didn’t know about her.  “I never even knew who she voted for.”  Huh?  Who cares whom she voted for?  What has that got to do with knowing her?

It makes sense now.  In 1992, the day after Clinton won, Dad probably wanted to know whom she voted for.  Perhaps he imagined that she voted for Clinton.  He gave himself permission to treat her like dirt.  Dad was not a beater; he was a verbal abuser.  I expect he said some awful things to her.
The stress had stirred up the gall bladder attack.  It was 9 more years before she died.

I never had a good talk with Mom.  She did not invite conversation.  She was about work.  There was always sewing, quilting and mending; but only if all the sweeping, scrubbing and vacuuming was done.  Her home was humble, orderly and clean.  I must have been a frightful disappointment to her.
I never learned how to sew very well; I was never orderly and I approach clean as a relative thing.  She must have wondered whom she pissed off to end up with a daughter like me.

And so we continued for 47 years conversing in only the most functional manner.  If I had been interested in quilting and sewing we might have been close.  I did like to knit but unfortunately I am a process knitter.  I only care about the mathematics of knitting.  I don’t care if I end up with something useful.  This did not make sense to Mom.  Every time she saw me ripping out something I had just knitted, she would look sort of sad and perplexed.

Before Mom’s gall bladder operation, she could work me into the ground.
When she came to visit me, we never sat down to have a conversation.
The minute she got in the door, she started looking for something to clean.
At my house you didn’t have to look hard to find something that needs cleaning and straightening.  And so Mom would attack it.  She always had a place for me in her vision of what needed to be done.  She never ordered me to participate in her projects at my house, but how could I sit while she slaved?.  She wore me out.  The moment she left, I headed straight to bed.  My husband said we should have her visit more often; he liked the results.  My kids undid her good works in a few hours.  After the operation she still tried to work, but there were many things she could not do.  She could fold laundry almost to the end.

The summer before she died Mom and Dad had  problems with their central air conditioner.  The central air system was not well engineered.  The part that broke was up in the attic crawl space.
To fix it required going into the crawl space that was over 120ยบ F.  No workman wanted any part of it.  The air conditioning still cooled the bedrooms, but the kitchen and living room were too warm to stay in for long.  Mom had been very frail for the last year.  She had a couple ‘episodes’ of fainting.
The air conditioner problem confined her to the bedroom.  Dad put up a card table in the bedroom for Mom to eat at.  Dad put a portable commode next to the bed.  Mom was marooned.  Her back was in pain much of the time.

Dad started talking about putting Mom in a nursing home.  He didn’t know how to deal with her when she had an episode.  Her condition scared him.  I didn’t understand why he wanted to put her in a home.  What I didn’t realize until later was that Mom was putting on a good show when I was there.  Dad had to deal with a truth I never saw.

In late August Mom went into the nursing home.  I still believed that the air conditioner problem had just stressed her out.  She would get some rest and be home soon.  After she had been there for a few weeks, I remember visiting her on a Saturday morning.  When I walked in the room she said, “I can’t walk anymore”

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t control my legs anymore.  They won’t go were I put them.  They want to cross over each other.”

I had trouble taking it all in.


My mother never exposed her emotions.  I never saw my mother cry.  Now, even her subdued presentation showed how dismal she felt.  Then Dad came in the room.  He told me how Mom’s legs had collapsed from under her a few days earlier when he was helping her to walk to the bathroom.
It had taken several attendants to get her off the bathroom floor.

She would never walk again.

There were subtle things going on during those early weeks in the nursing home; things I did not grasp or understand until much later.  I missed a great and important opportunity.  In the next few months Mom lost the ability to communicate.  First she couldn’t make sentences; then she couldn’t make words.  But that day when she told me she could not walk, I missed the opportunity to talk to her.  There she was finally unable to work.  For the next month she was still able to talk.   But I wasn’t there for her.  I came on weekends only.  I didn’t stay long enough.

I failed her.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater

Last Christmas the office where my husband works had an ugly Christmas sweater contest.   My husband was not part of that contest.  He expressed interest in doing it next year.  So I told him I would make an ugly Christmas sweater.  Let's face it, any excuse to buy more yarn is a good excuse to buy more yarn. 

I'm using the Sweater Wheel to generate a pattern - set-in sleeve, pullover.  I'm starting on the front of the sweater.  Not sure what I'll do on the back.  Do Christmas sweaters have to be decorated on both sides?  Is there an International Ugly Christmas Sweater Society that has promulgated the rules and regulations for ugly Christmas sweaters?  If not, can I start one?   Where do all the ugly Christmas sweaters come from?  Is there a prison in China where all the inmates are slaves to the production of ugly Christmas sweaters?   Who designs these hideous creations?   Is the compulsive designing of ugly Christmas sweaters a condition  that has its own DSM-IV-TR Code for Psychiatric Illness?  I may need to know that before I complete this project.  Are there dark forces now poised to unleash a legion of ugly Halloween sweaters?   --  I've already seen a few.

But I digress [whenever possible].

I'm going for a Christmas tree theme.  After starting off with a couple inches of ribbing, I made 8 blocks of different colors in two different sizes alternating.  These are going to be the presents under the tree.  Before it is over they will be dressed up with ribbons.  The tree is developing from a stack of trapezoids that are smaller as I go up the tree.  The lower edge of the trapezoid is adorned with the Three Flowers pattern to emulate strings of lights.  There is plenty of space left on each trapezoid to tack on ornaments that I plan to make later from my novelty yarn remnants stash.

This is a picture of what I've done so far:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lace Patterns That Don't Seem To Work Out Right

I had an email yesterday from someone who thought that the Coral stitch pattern had an error on Rows 2 and 6.  Specifically the writer indicated the following:


I think the problem is a matter of knowing how to read lace patterns. 

In lace patterns there are often ‘shared’ elements that have to split when the edge of the fabric is reached. Row 2 of Coral ends with a k2 INSTEAD of a k3. In row 2 of the chart you see three knit stitches in the center framed by an ssk on one side and a k2-tog on the other side – the center stitch of those three knit stitches is ‘shared’ between pattern repeats. At the edge of the fabric these three stitches --must be ‘split’ to maintain the symmetry of the fabric. That is done by adding the +1 stitch and then splitting it into a k2 on either edge of the fabric.  

Similarly, on Row 6 the sl 1-k2-tog-psso has to be split at the outer edge of the fabric. Again the +1 stitch allows the sl 1-k2-tog-psso to be split into a k2-tog at the beginning of the row and an ssk INSTEAD of the sl 1-k2-tog-psso in the last repeat.

The shared elements are more easy to identify when a pattern is charted. When knitting from a written lace pattern, you may often have to just accept the instructions that tell you how to force the ending at the fabric edge on the last repeat. Whenever I see a double decrease converted to a single decrease at the end of a lace pattern, I know the instructions are just telling me to work ‘half’ of the double decrease to keep the fabric even.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fishing and Knitting

I just returned home from Stitches Midwest in Schaumburg, Illinois. Very good show; the biggest and best I've been to and I've been attending for at least 6 years.

When I was packing last week, my husband asked me if I was taking half the house.
"I'm only taking my knitting hardware."
 Later it occurred to me how a woman might explain her collection of knitting gear to her husband: It's like fishing tackle.

 Both fishing hardware and knitting hardware are accumulated over a long time. Additions to both are made for special "catches." Every different type or location of fishing requires the acquisition of different tackle. That cane pole you started out with will not catch sea bass.

Likewise, different styles of knitting and different garments require different tools. Six-inch double point needles work well for socks but you probably need something more robust for a shawl.

Sometimes a fishing lure is purchased just because it looks kind of cool. There is a lot of eye candy in the hard-bait lure aisle at Bass Pro Shops. Or maybe you just like to collect new tools of the trade.

How many knitting tools have I purchased, not for an immediate need or a current plan, but just because of the "pretty bobble" factor. I have lots of stitch markers that are just fascinating to look at but, in any practical sense, I'm not likely to use them. They are my "bling-things." I sometimes buy needles just because they are different from any I already have. It's the collecting bug.

When you plan a fishing trip to some other state or region, there is a tendency to want to take too much tackle with you because you just never know what kind of fishing opportunity or location you may find. What will the fish be biting on this morning?

When I leave the house to drive several hours to Stitches Midwest I have an urge to take every last needle and knitting widget I've ever owned because I'm never 100% sure what I will need. In other words: Back up the truck!

The analogy between fishing and knitting could go on, like both take lots of patience. You get the idea.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to Get a Picture of a Knitting Swatch

I am camera illiterate and not likely to improve soon.  My husband is very good with a camera.  Unfortunately every time he sees me with a camera he assumes I want his help.  If I let him help, he starts barking advice at me and peppering me rapid-fire with a lot of terminology that does little to alleviate my confusion.  I need a better teacher.   

So -- how to get pictures of knitting swatches for my web site without making myself a target for my husband's hectoring?  Enter my cheap little HP printer scanner and a few items from the craft shop.  I use a 1.5" thick slab of Styrofoam and a thin sheet of black craft foam as a foundation for pinning out my swatches.  The Styrofoam came wrapped in a thin, clear shrink wrap of plastic.  I have never removed that plastic so that I never have little bits of Styrofoam rubbing off the slab.  I anchored the craft foam to the Styrofoam with four, t-top, blocking pins.  I used a straight-edge to score barely visible, 1" grid lines on the craft foam.  That grid helps when pinning a swatch out on the block.  I use the same blocking pins when mounting swatches on the block.  I have been using this method the six or seven years and I have only replace the Styrofoam slab once.

Once the swatch is mounted, I put the block, swatch side down on my scanner.  I run through the dialog boxes in the HP user interface.  I do a little manipulation of the scanned image in the HP environment.  Then I save it to a relatively high resolution .JPEG file.   This initial file still shows all my blocking pins.

Next I open the file in a photo editor.  My photo editor is Corel PaintShop Pro X4, however, there are many other photo editors applications that will allow for trimming and resizing an image. 

The first action I take is to correct the alignment of the image.  Although the grid lines on the craft foam help, I usually need to rotate the image a few degrees to the right or left. 

The second action I take is to crop out the best part of the image.  I copy this part out to a new .JPEG file.  This will be the view of the swatch that I put on the web site. 

The third step is to resize the image for the web.  I try to resize the image so that its size is less than 45 kilobytes (Kb).  It is important to keep the size of images on the web small.  Even 45 Kb is a bit risky.   But if there are not a lot of images on a page 45 Kb is probably within reason.  I save this reduced size image into my pictures directory.

Then for my last step I create an even more reduced size copy of the file.  This much reduced image is the thumbnail.  If you are familiar with my web site, I use a lot of these small images.  The thumbnail should be as small as is possible without making the little image a complete blur -- 4Kb is a good target for the thumbnail size, but you may have play with this to get a balance between size and visibility.  This small image make it reasonable to have many images on a page without making the page very slow to load.  I save this small image into my thumbs directory.

There are swatches that do not lend themselves to the scanner treatment.  Bobbles and over sized swatches don't go well on the scanner.  For those I put myself back on the mercies of my husband and his camera.