Friday, June 21, 2013

S.A.B.L.E. and Me

Being a breast cancer survivor is a strange and surreal experience at times.  Every now and then, as the length of time extends from the diagnosis to the present, you are caught off guard by stray memories of how it felt when you were dealing with the very earliest (darkest) days...One of those just happened to me.   For those visiting who are not knitters, "S.A.B.L.E" is an acronym which stands for "Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy".    For those not living with a (potentially) terminal illness, it is amusing, as most of us who knit have an embarrassingly large stash.  For those of us living with a life-threatening illness, it's not quite so funny as it was when we first heard it, back when we were healthy.

I had a flashback of the way it felt when I cast my eye over my yarn stash during those early days; there have only been a handful of times since I first picked up the needles that I have not had any desire to knit.  The first several months of treatments were one of them.  When I looked at my yarn at that time, all I could think was, "That is so much yarn, and now I will never knit it up.  It will still be here when I'm gone."  I could picture my husband and children having to look at it and dispose of it and what an emotional burden it would place on them.  I had zero interest in visiting yarn shops and purchasing more yarn or patterns.  Knitting seemed unimportant.  Why bother to buy more when I might not live more than a few months? 

I wanted to spend every moment that I had left on this earth being with my children or praying.  And I'm not talking about desperate prayers to God to spare me.  There were those, certainly.  I asked Him to give me more time to see my children grow up and become independent.  I asked Him not to take me until they didn't need me any more.  Especially the youngest, who has always loved me most ferociously.  But most of my prayer time was not anguish filled or desperate.  I loved the closeness I felt to Jesus during that time.  I wanted to spend time with Him, contemplating all the love He had shown me all my life.  I wanted to enter more deeply into what He was calling me to in this suffering.  He filled my life with such grace and joy, it was marvelous.  Adoring Him was my delight and unimaginable peace.  I felt His love in the most tangible fashion.  He told me two things constantly, "Be not afraid," and "my grace is sufficient for you."   During my battle, I knew He loved me and that made all the difference.  I knew that whatever the outcome, His choice for me was intended as a blessing beyond measure, and it would be okay.  No. Matter. What.

How many transitions cancer diagnosis brings with it.  There is so much adjusting to do, constantly.   Believe it or not, moving from active battle with the disease to living with being declared "cancer free" is an odd adjustment to make.   But I'm happy to report that I have moved into this phase fully now, if stash enhancement is an indicator:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I should Rename this Blog... "That Lady is Always Knitting Socks":

Fruit striped socks--done.  Only one little problem: I ran out of freaking yarn halfway thru the second one!  You'll notice the sock on the bottom has purple stripes of a different shade.  Well, they were for me, anyway.  I can't say I didn't know this was likely to happen.  I debated with myself on whether or not to make these ankle length instead of mid-calf.  I chose the dangerous path, knowing it was likely to bite me.  C'est la vie.  The yarn was Knit Picks Risata, if you're interested.  I think this may be my favorite Knit Picks sock yarn to knit with.  It is a cotton blend, very sturdy, and doesn't split.  Also, it comes in a lovely array of colors. 

And, no sooner were these off the needles, than I started these:

I'm calling them "Mojito Season".  I went with two different shades of Knit Picks Stroll this time.  There is more yardage in Stroll than Risata, but I still think I'll play it safe and go shorter on the leg portion.  I decided to do the heel flap differently on these.  This picture is not current.  I'm working the heel flap already and I'm not liking it.  I used my old standby, eye of Partridge instead of slip-stitch, and chose to go with the dark green alone, then using the light green for the heel turn, and resuming the striping after that.  I think it's probably going to look hideous, but knitting is about learning for me sometimes.  I'll know what not to do next time.  And these are for either me or my youngest who loves the handmade socks and won't mind that they are not aesthetically pleasing.
Of the several pairs I have made over the past few months, he has claimed all but the pink ones for himself, other than the ones I made specifically for other people.

And in other news, Princess Puppy Pants aka Nugget is settling in quite well.

 She appears to be growing a brain as she gets older, and has learned to sit and play fetch on command.  She is starting to answer to her name and is slowly getting better with the "stay" and "come" commands.  However, she still reserves her best behavior for when treats are involved, and will sometimes ignore commands when she knows there is no food in store.  

We left her outside in the dog run on her own while we were all out of the house for an hour or two on Father's Day.  Luckily, my sister happened to come by unexpectedly while we were out.  "Why?" you ask?  Why, because our darling pup had managed to squeeze herself between the bars of the gate barring the exit to the run, and was loose.  Sis rectified the situation and all was well.  But I can't wait until Nugget is big enough to safely leave alone in her dog run.  Oh, and did I mention she's a climber?  She'll climb any barrier that offers a horizontal crossbar like she's climbing a ladder, and then it's up and over.   And she can jump over her puppy play pen in a second flat, so that no longer works to effectively confine her indoors.   As soon as she's had all her shots, we are going to the dog park and work on some agility training.  I think she may be a natural.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Remember that old saying?  Close only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades?  Or something to that effect.  It's the first thing that came into my head when I was looking for a title to go with today's posting for "Ten on Tuesday" at Carole Knits.  The reason?  Well, today's topic is:

Ten Favorite Backyard Games.  Let's get cracking, shall we?

1.  Horseshoes.  You knew that one was coming, right?

2.  Badminton.  This reminds me of my middle son, who loves to play it and has a wicked smash which he is not afraid to use with malice aforethought.

3.  Whiffle ball -- my personal favorite, as it reminds me of when our boys were small and we used to take them to the local park or our backyard and teach them to play baseball using whiffle balls.  Also, whiffle balls were a big part of the training equipment every season even through high school.  Many coaches use the whiffle ball drill to work on developing batting skills.

4.  Volleyball.  I can't play this any more due to the lymphedema thing I have going on, but I still fondly recall playing it, especially during company picnics and such.

5.  Slip-n-slide.  When we were kids, my sister and I had a ball with the kids across the street every summer on their front lawn with this device.  When we had kids of our own, the slip-n-slide became a summer time feature of our own backyard.

6.  Croquet -- when we were growing up in Hawaii, we had the perfect backyard for this game.  My family played it constantly, even though my oldest brother became so good at it that it was no longer a contest when we played him.  In fact, it got to the point where everyone hated to play it because he would call "poison" and drive our balls to Timbuktu and go on to smugly win Every. Single. Time.

7.  Bocce ball.  We bring a set and play this at Yosemite every year, as well.  Last year's tournament was particularly enjoyable.  Women against the men, and the women totally dominated.  I love it when that happens.

8.  Frisbee.  It always took me a while to get the hang of this game.  Each time I played, it was like I was playing for the first time. 

9.  If you have a pool, Marco Polo is a classic.

10.  Blind man's bluff.  The beauty of this one is that no equipment is necessary. 

I have to admit, as I get older, my enjoyment comes more from sitting in a lawn chair, sipping a cold beverage and knitting as I watch the young'uns play these games than in actually playing any of them myself, with the exception of bocce ball...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Gratitude- Good for What Ails You

I am so pleased with this week's Ten on Tuesday topic, hosted by Carole Knits.  The reason?  Well, gratitude and I have a special thing.  One of the secrets to a happy life that I have discovered over the past few years, is that cultivating a grateful heart can increase your joy and contentedness a thousand fold.  Don't feel like praying?  Try counting your blessings and just thanking the Almighty for what He does for you every single day.  Start there, and prayer often flows, and pours into your heart an abundance of joy, a feeling of closeness to Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and a serenity of spirit that makes you see your life in a whole different way, even when you are battling a terrible anguish.  This is the way that gratitude works for me, anyway.  I highly recommend it.  And so, to the topic:

10 Times You Felt Grateful Last Week.

1.  When my father received (relatively) good news about his macular degeneration and will possibly be able to halt eye injections for a while.

2.  When my two oldest boys checked in with me while they were out to let me know that they were okay and would be home shortly.  It's hard to transition from babyhood to early adulthood.  Hard for me, that is.  I know it is right to give them more freedom, but I worry when they are away from home late at night.

3.  When my youngest son committed to attending his high school basketball summer workouts so that we could stop trying to dodge his coach, who has been hounding him to return.

4.  When I attended the first Mass celebrated by our newly ordained associate pastor and heard the conviction in his voice when he spoke of adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  So grateful for faithful priests.

5.  When I heard that two more abortion clinics had been shut down in our nation.

6.  Every time I picked up the knitting needles.  So grateful for a hobby that has brought me so much contentment.

7.  When the puppy settled into her crate at night with no barking or whining.

8.  When the extremely high temps in these parts started to come down.  While I prefer the heat to the cold, I draw the line at mid-nineties.

9.  Every morning, when I woke up in my comfortable home, surrounded by those I love most in this world, knowing we have another day on this earth together to spend in love.

10.  Every day, all day, when I went about my daily chores, knowing that despite that dire diagnosis in 2010, I am alive and well and loved by God, who claims me for His own.  I am not afraid.  His grace is sufficient for me. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Hot, Hot, Hot!!!

Well, the three wee strawberries have been eaten.  They were fantastic.  There are now several more beginning to flower.  I consider this a fine crop, not having any previous experience with growing strawberries, a situation I will remedy next season, God willing.   The new crop looks like this at the moment:

We are expecting a scorcher today, temps in the high eighties and low nineties.  With that in mind, we are giving our puppy some outside time this morning, before it heats up.  She is settling in fairly well:

We are still learning her personality, but here's what I've noticed so far:

1.  Her favorite chew toys are the ones with ropes and something hard to chew on, like a hoof, combined in one.  That way, she can carry it by the rope and shake it around a bunch, then drag it to her place of rest and quietly chew.

2.  She loves it outside and will fake having to go pee just so she can get us to take her outside.  Clever girl.

3.  She now settles into her crate at night with no whining or barking, and will stay there quietly until we take her out in the morning.   She will often check it during the day to see if the "treat fairy" has been there.   We only use it for sleeping at night or for short periods when we can't supervise her, and if we use it during the day, we make sure she has something delightful to chew on to keep her happy and appropriately busy.

4. We're working on the separation anxiety by placing her in a large puppy playpen just outside the living-room door for one-hour periods throughout the day, while we go about our business.  She whines or barks for a short time once she realizes we are leaving her there alone, but quiets fairly quickly.  We always leave plenty of water and make sure she has some interactive toys to play with.
We always make sure she is calm and quiet before we take her out.  If she barks or jumps on the bars, she gets ignored. 

5.  If she suspects there is a delicious treat involved, she will be the most angelic, well-behaved, perfectly sitting puppy EVER.  However, when there is no treat involved, she is clueless.  My solution?  I have treats stashed everywhere and in all the pockets of my clothing, so that I can catch her doing something good and reward her immediately in the way she prizes above all else.  Often, I reinforce this with the clicker, but she is not exclusively clicker trained. 

My new clematis is finally flowering:

To my delight, it is exactly the color of the one I planted years ago, but is 7-petaled instead of 4, and is smaller.  I think it will make a lovely compliment to the large 4-petaled version next to it.  My only challenge is actually getting it into the ground.  I simply have not had the time or the weather has been too hot to plant it in its (hopefully) permanent home.  Maybe I'll have the chance to plant it this Sunday, after Mass.

I may not be on-line this weekend, as the youngest has a basketball tournament in a neighboring city, which will monopolize our time.

If I don't see you all, have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Darn That Sweater

So, I had big plans to get some real work done on mom's sweater so I could show something on this blog besides another pair of socks.   Down I sat, hot beverage at my side, to settle in and watch some Maigret and make progress.  Well, that lasted all of about 4 rows when two things occurred, more or less simultaneously: I noticed an area where I had tried a new technique for weaving in ends as you go that looked, well, no other way to put it --sucky; of course, I got all anal about it and ended up making it look even worse, so ripping back to that row was now in order.  The second thing was that I consulted my notes and realized that I had designed the sweater to be a modified drop shoulder, not a raglan.  Long story short, mom's sweater went from looking like this:

To looking like this:

And, for an added bonus, I didn't get to start on my shrug.  I'm going a different direction with the sweater this time and actually writing down the instructions as I go so that I won't forget what I was thinking.  I'm also knitting it in pieces to be seamed, (I know, I know, "Danger, Will Robinson", but apparently that's how I roll these days) I'm starting with the back, leaving selvedge stitches on each end to facilitate the seaming.  As if...The real reason I've decided to go the seamed route, truth be told, is that I don't trust myself to knit in one piece at the moment, because I'm afraid I will have a lapse in concentration and screw it up.  There will be a lot of neckline shaping, armhole shaping, and knitted in button band that will be happening on the front, and I'm afraid I'll have a problem keeping track of it all while designing on the fly. If I was following a set pattern, it wouldn't be a problem.  Too much information, right?  One last confession, then I will move on, I swear: I am having more trouble than you would believe with following the K1xP2 ribbing.  What the heck is going on around here? 
To soothe myself, I continued on the fruit-striped socks, which now look like this:
I'm starting that shrug today, I swear...


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Roll On, Big River, Roll On

 1. Have you learned more from success or failure? Explain.

I've learned different things both from success and failure, can't say more one than the other.  What I've learned from failure is that if I really want to achieve something, I will stick to it and think creatively until I've found the solution that works for me.  I don't give up.  Perseverance becomes my middle name.  What I've learned from success is that it feels really, really, good and if it follows a challenge or obstacle that is preventing me from attaining what I really want to achieve, it is oh so sweet and should be cherished.
 2.  What did you call your grandparents when you were growing up? If you have children, what do they call your parents? If you have grandchildren, what do they call you?

When I was growing up, my grandmother on my father's side had already passed, but my grandfather was still alive and we called him "Gramps".  My dad called him "Pop".  Although we only got to see him a few times during our childhood (he lived in Florida with his second wife, who we simply called "Anne".  She was a lovely woman.), he was still a big part of our life and we loved to hear dad tell us stories about him.  He was quite the character.  Ran away from home (a very harsh upbringing, probably involving some physical abuse, we suspect, but Gramps didn't talk about it) at the ripe old age of 14 and joined the Navy with a falsified birth certificate, because otherwise they would have said he was too young.  He had an intense sense of humor, very subtle, and the kindest heart, apart from my own father's, that I've every known.  

On my mother's side, my grandfather had died when my oldest brother was little more than a baby.  My mother has carried a sadness about her father's passing with her all her life.  He was not a demonstrative man.  She only remembers him kissing her twice in her whole life, once when he thought she was asleep, and the other when he said good-bye to her for what she would find out later would be the last time.  She had just married my father, a navy man, and was going away for the first time.  She remembers he kissed her, very unusual, that, and cried, even more unusual.  She didn't understand it at the time, but thought it was because he knew that they wouldn't see much of each other because of the nomad existence of a military life. Very soon after, he succumbed to lung cancer which no one knew he had, and she understood.  She always regretted not knowing how sick he was and that this would be their last parting so that she could have said "Goodbye" properly.  My grandmother remarried later in life.  We called her "Grandma" and her husband "Andrew".  Andrew was a very good man, as well, and waited on her hand and foot when her health failed her.

My own children call my parents "Grandpa" and "Nana".  My husband's mother is deceased, and he is estranged from his father, who they call "Grandpa Tony" if they refer to him at all.

 3.  You're invited to a luau.  In keeping with that theme, what dish will you bring to share?

I have a wonderful recipe for Kalua pork that can be made in the oven, so I'd probably bring that. Very easy to make and dee-licious.

4. Besides Jesus, what one person's life story do you think everyone should know about?

Speaking from an American perspective, I'd have to say Abraham Lincoln.  Politicians are such rat finks these days, they should become familiar with his story to see what an honorable man in office looks like.
 5. "Don't sweat the small stuff." Agree or Disagree? Why?

To a point, as with most things.  I'm a firm believer in moderation.  I agree that you shouldn't make yourself (or everyone else) miserable about silly little things that don't matter in the grand scheme.  I know people who have such control issues that they suck the life out of everyone around them obsessing about everything being "just so".  On the other hand, it can be just as bad to let everything slide just because it's "no big deal."   That way leads to laziness, and apathy.  I think you have to ask yourself whether, although insignificant, a small thing can be something that makes a great deal of difference to somebody else.  Sometimes paying attention to something small can lead to something big.  
 6.  June is National Rivers Month. When were you last on a river? What's the prettiest river you've ever seen? What's a river you'd like to see?

The last time I was on a river was the Merced in Yosemite Valley.  We go camping there every year.  Last year, the water level was very low, but the year before that it was spectacular.  The prettiest river I've ever seen was probably the Loire in France.  A river I'd like to see?  The Mississippi.
 7.  Speaking of rivers-paddling, fishing, swimming, or bird watching safely from the shore? Which activity would you choose? Yes-you have to choose.
Bird watching from the shore, sitting in a beach chair, with my feet in the water.  Or more accurately, watching the children playing along and in the river, instead of watching birds.  I love to watch kids playing, especially when there is water involved.  Such pure and carefree joy.

 8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Having hobbies is wonderful and all, but it sure can clutter up a house...

Monday, June 3, 2013

Fruit Striped...Socks?

Well, this here knitting blog sure has featured a lot of socks this year, hasn't it?  I promise I'll show some other knitting soon, but in the meantime, here we have the debut of the finished (finally) plain vanilla socks:
The new puppy totally put these guys on hold.  But as soon as I cast off, I started on these:

I've dubbed them fruit striped because they are two color striped and sort of remind me of that gum I used to chew (and swallow, sometimes, tee-hee), back in the day.  I'm going to try and force myself to work on mom's sweater, and I'm starting a cotton shrug for moi, which I will try to be good about only working on when I've put some real time into mom's sweater.  I think I'll follow a pattern for this one rather than work one up myself, though.  I'm designing mom's sweater on the fly, and that is enough of a mental work out for the moment.  I need some mindless knitting, and following a pattern should fit the bill.
We named the puppy "Nugget", which wasn't one of the names on the short list and doesn't make my mom or sis-in-law happy, because it isn't feminine enough for them, but the boys insisted.  The connection, of course, is that she is part Golden Retriever, so she's our little gold nugget.  Aw...
Brought her in for her next round of shots today and she was a royal pain.  She loves everybody, of course, and she won't stop jumping up and trying to kiss the staff at the vet, who totally indulge her and spoil her rotten.  It is an exhausting 30 minutes, let me tell you.  Trying to keep a squirming, wiggly little puppy in your arms for that length of time is hard.  I don't want to put her down yet until she has had all her shots, especially after the scare she gave us last week when we thought she might have parvovirus.  She doesn't, but it was so hard to see the youngest son sobbing over his beloved puppy.    Don't want to go through that again. 
She's acclimating to her crate well at night, and we left her in it for about an hour while we had dinner out yesterday, and she did well, but we have a ways to go on the separation anxiety front.  She wants to be around us all the time and if even one of us leaves the room, she barks and whines something fierce.  We can't even think about leaving her outside on her own for an hour while we're gone yet.  That and biting are the two main things we need to work on.  She's getting better, but she still bites when she gets excited about play.  She's great about potty, though, and that is huge.  And you should see how angelic she is when we have a training session involving freeze dried liver.  That's when she breaks out her perfect puppy act.

Okay, well, off  to drop off a check for the summer swim team for youngest son...