Friday, March 6, 2015

Toxins, Progress, and Healing

Mom spent Monday through Thursday in the hospital due to the pneumonia. She was beginning to go stir-crazy, so the timing was a relief. We thank all of the wonderful people who kept her in their prayers. She's still not running at her 100%; the doctor demanded she keep it slow for another week. Unfortunately, mum is not one for slow. She's a creative multi-tasker with a racing mind like my own. The huge difference between she and I is that she actually does most of the things that go through her head. She gets things done.

I also want to thank all of those who are keeping our entire family in their prayers for other ordeals. I honestly believe that stress and anxiety are what put mom in the hospital. The non-stop stress from certain sources had simply ground down her immune system to the point that she had nothing left to fight the infections. 

When she came home this afternoon, she and I both agreed that some significant changes needed to be made in our lives. Each of us (me, her, and everyone in general) have unique stressors and toxins in our lives. We all deal with them differently. Sometimes "coping skills" are useful. But sometimes "coping" simply delays the inevitable, which is the need to remove the actual toxin from your life. It is not always easy to identify the correct toxins either. Sometimes its not clear how to get rid of it. For a long time, I've been a proponent of the slash and burn technique, but it turns out that that isn't always the wisest move. I've lost friends that way. I'm not great at cultivating friendships. (I like to blame this on my aversion to talking on the phone, social anxiety, and panic attacks, which are all true and valid reasons. But I could do more to hold onto friends. Frankly, fear is much to blame. And, perhaps, my growing perfectionism of being a full-time troglodyte as a serious vocation.)

Well, that's enough on toxic influences. Just take care of yourself and try to identify and keep yourself safe from potential major damage from toxic sources in your own life. The stress can land you in the hospital, or worse. 

In other news, I've been knitting. I finished the Low-Tide Cardigan from Tin Can Knits for my niece. Speaking of Tin Can Knits, they are celebrating their 5 year anniversary with a BOGO sale on their digital pattern books! I picked up two today myself. The sale is only on digital products and ends this Sunday, March 8th. I love their patterns.

The next finished object is my Exit 0 shawl by Laura Aylor, which was part of a KAL with members of my knitting guild. Unfortunately, I didn't get to knit much with the others due to illness or bad weather. 

I've begun the back panel of Stephen West's Caldwell vest in Bergere du Nord Inspiration (natural colors, 100% wool). 

I'm making the medium size and plan for it to be a warm layering piece for myself. The original has a reverse stockinette back with contrasting stripes, but I'm modifying the pattern to have a simple stockinette solid back. The front has a wonderful chunky cable and roomy pockets, but I plan on skipping the pockets, at least at first. I decide I want them, I'll add them with an afterthought technique. I'm already almost done with the back. I can't wait to begin the front! I haven't worked on an all-over cable project in ages.

I also received a box from KnitPicks yesterday! It contained the yarn for Dad's sweater (15 skeins of Wool of the Andes in Bramble Heather) and 2 skeins of chunky, superwash merino for a custom dye request. I'm going to try to capture a pink camo palette. If I succeed (of course I will, right?), then it will be dubbed "Cosmo Camo" and just may become my first repeatable colorway.  

I'm still reading Middlemarch and probably will be for a good while. I'm enjoying dipping into it and reading several chapters at a time. In the meantime, I'm also reading other books. I have a stack from the library, plus a queue checked out on my Kindle (North Carolina's library systems offer a great electronic book and audio book collection). I happened upon a creepy treasure that reminded me of the Scary Stories series of books by Alvin Schwartz, which are fantastically illustrated by Stephen Gammell, which I had loved when I was in public school. The first book I was able to check out for the Kindle was the second in this new series, but I've now got the first one. It was another series by a joint story teller - illustrator duo: Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley and David Roberts. I read Tales of Terror from the Black Ship first and absolutely loved it. I'm now reading the first, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror. They are aimed at younger readers and I went through them pretty quickly. David Roberts' art is reminiscent of Edward Gorey's sketches and perfectly off-kilter to capture the stories' moods.

I've also begun Something Red by Douglas Nicholas and I'm loving it so far. This is for adult readers and labeled as a delicious mix of historical, fantasy, horror, and adventure fiction.  I'm not too far into it, but already I'm enjoying the author's writing and becoming invested in the story. It is also part of a series, which is wonderful if I end up liking it. The next installment will be out by the end of March. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ramble On

Ramble On - Led Zeppelin - YouTube from Robert Tischner on Vimeo.

And so I shall ramble, mentally if not physically…

First, current events. It is one thing to be snowed in. It is another to be bullied by high winds and wind chills creeping below zero. And, quite another to be sick on top of it all. How can you enjoy the enforced hibernation? You can’t. Reading and knitting become wearisome. And when that happens, the world seems bleak indeed. Mum has been sick for two weeks and was finally diagnosed with pneumonia on top of her flu. I’ve only been seriously beginning to suffer with sinus congestion in the last two days. Mum has survived on graham crackers and Nutella for the past week, and things looked pretty scary when we were seeing the bottom of the jar, but family came to the rescue. (I highly recommend the pairing. Far better than peanut butter and crackers. The cocoa in the Nutella lets you think you really getting away with something naughty. If I remember correctly, Nutella has less fat and less sodium than most peanut butter. Peanut butter has it beat on protein and less carbs, so I still say a PB and honey sandwich as a post-workout recovery snack can’t be beat.)

Insomnia hit me last night, probably because I made the mistake of taking a dose of liquid NyQuil Cold & Flu. I totally forgot that it contains 10% alcohol. I haven’t had any alcohol in the past two years and four months. I took advantage of being awake in the quiet house (I’ve begun to call it the “sick house”) to work on my To Be Read (TBR) list. I use Goodreads to track my reading and to search for new books, but I do not own a smart phone (I lovingly refer to mine as a “dumb phone”). This complicates matters when browsing in bookstores or the library. My TBR on Goodreads is 430 titles long, and that’s after I made some edits and doesn’t include the possibility of reading more than the first in any of the series that are included. I remember some of the books, but not authors. I created a little black notebook with tabs to allow me to roughly alphabetize the TBR for ease of use. I then searched online library catalogs for local library systems and placed color-coded dots by the titles: blue for those in my county’s system, red for those in a neighboring county’s collection. Yes. That’s how I roll. Once a librarian, always a librarian. (I really love my new notebook!)

If you are a reader who also loves creating book lists, I highly recommend BookRiot. Sign up for their email newsletter, like them on Facebook, and get lots of great reviews, podcasts, videos, and access to related discussions. Another great resource I’ve found for geekdom, from comic books to novels, gaming to new technology, movie reviews to sophisticated social criticism, is The Mary Sue. Its subtitle is “The Nexus of Pop Culture and the Uncharted Universe,” but it also has a distinct slant towards digging into racial and sexual / gender issues. The discussions on the site are lively, witty, and pretty troll-free, which is very refreshing.

I’m currently reading George Eliot’s Middlemarch and I’m about half way through Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I just finished Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd. That was such a good book for writing nonfiction that I plan on purchasing my own paper copy. I read an electronic copy through the library.

My reading goal this year is not to out-read last year’s quantity, but to read more slowly and thoughtfully. I plan on rereading some books, taking notes on them, in them, maybe even begin a reading journal. I’m definitely in the mood to read more nonfiction. Part of this approach is for the purpose of analyzing how nonfiction writers have structured their works, how they’ve researched topics, how they went about making facts readable and interesting to a lay audience. I hope to begin writing essays and feature pieces to publish here. Some of my favorite bloggers do this: Kate Davies, who has a background in academia but now is a knitwear designer and studies textile history; Felicity Ford, an artist and author who thinks well beyond the box; and Annie Cholewa, a writer, knitter, dyer, and photographer. These women creators use their blogs as a platform for sharing essays and “features” on specific things or individuals that interest and inspire them.

Basically, I intend to add substantial content and writing to my blog. I would love to interview and feature Julie Wilson of Jehovah Raah Farm. Wilson is the dear soul who taught mum and I to spin our first yarn from Shetland wool grown on her own farm. There is also a place nearby called Echoview Farm and Fiber Mill that I’d love to explore.

I’m not finished with my thoughts, but if I don’t publish this now, it will languish on my desktop and gather cyber dust. Then it will be outdated and I’ll delete it in frustration. So now I hit publish!