Time’s up

Today is my last day of medical leave. I’ve been off for six weeks and three days and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to get back to my job.

What a disappointing week, to say the least. I should have been back to work last Wednesday, November 9, but I asked for a couple extra days when I last saw the surgeon. I knew I’d be up late watching the election returns and I wanted to be able to sleep in. Turns out it was a smart move in more ways than one.

Being in the Pacific Time zone, I didn’t have to stay up in the wee hours to see the general direction things were going. Election Night was also a knitting group night, and since we all wanted to watch the returns I invited people to my house. We started out happily enough at about 6:30 PM. As we watched the sea of red grow on the election map on PBS we got more subdued. When the results for Pennsylvania were posted we knew it was over.

I went to bed that night with 90% certainty that HRC lost the election, but I still had some hope. The next morning all doubts were resolved.

Since then I’ve been laying low. Partly because I’m depressed and distressed by the results, and partly because I’m relishing my copious free time while it is still available.

My recuperation from surgery has been pretty smooth, but despite spending so much downtime around the house I’ve managed to injure myself. Within a single week I whacked the baby toe on my left foot hard enough that I’m sure I broke it, and then misstepped in my driveway and sprained my left ankle badly.

(My left foot and ankle have sustained more injuries than any other part of my body. I first sprained that ankle when I was 10 and have lost count of how many times I’ve done so. The last time I injured that ankle was a fibula fracture two years ago. I got a ride to the local hospital for an x-ray just to make sure I didn’t fracture it again, and was happy to find out it was just another sprain.)

Since my mobility was restricted, I’ve been rather sedentary during the past six weeks. I watched a lot of streaming media. Read a few books. Completed the knitting, blocking, and sewing up of two sweaters. Made good progress on a third sweater, and restarted knitting on a little shawl that keeps confounding me when I check the stitch count.

I’m not sure if I’m mentally ready to resume work now or not, but that doesn’t matter at this point. I think I’ll go set the alarm now so I don’t forget.

Taking care of business: a knitting post (finally!)

Ooooo! Two consecutive days of blogging!

On this fifth day of illness I think I’m turning the corner and am firmly on the mend. Sometime during the night I regained the ability to breathe through my nose, which is a very good thing. On the other hand, my voice was rough and scratchy last night and barely there this morning. I spent about 10 minutes on a conference call for work early this morning, talking for about one minute all total. Most of my comments were relayed to a colleague via IM and she obligingly was my voice. I took the rest of the day off.

I did venture out for a bit today. I had to get to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription (a maintenance med refill) and also get a few other supplies. I think the short consultation with the pharmacist was the final bit of talking I could manage today. But I did manage to pick out some decent cold medications. My body doesn’t deal with phenylephrine very well, and most cold and flu formulas have some in it. It took a bit of hunting and lots of label reading to find a couple of things that will help me with the remaining symptoms and not mess me up. Gargling with warm salt water seems to be helping my throat, too, so I’m hopeful that I can telecommute tomorrow and participate in all the conference calls.

These past few days of forced down time have really done a lot for me mentally. I finally feel like I’ve had some real time away from the craziness of every day life. Weird how it took getting really sick to make the crazy stop, but there it is. As I feel more well, I also feel refreshed and able to tackle some things that have been roadblocked in some way: like a few knitting projects that have been stuffed in a knitting bag and hidden away for months.

I first started blogging as a way to write about my hobbies of knitting and gardening, but I’ve hardly written about either of these topics in a while. That may be because for me the greatest thing knitting has brought to my life is meaningful relationships. These days, most of my friends are knitting friends. So the actual act of knitting — while still important to me — is not as important as the relationships I have with friends and others. I’m happy with that.

Nonetheless, I decided to clear up some blocked projects. Last year, I made some really bad choices for knitting projects. I did accomplish making some nice things — a couple of hats, a Moebius scarf, a light weight sweater and some socks (of course…I’ve always got a pair of socks on the needles), but I also had started a few projects that languished and I thought it was time to tidy them up. Two of these projects — both sweaters — were Annie Modesitt patterns.

I don’t know what it is about her patterns, but it seems every one I try is doomed. The very first sweater I ever completed was her Pinup Queen pullover (Ravelry link) from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘N Bitch book. I struggled through that pattern and eventually completed it, but it was too large for me. I didn’t understand the concept of ease and thought it was best to err on the large size. I was wrong, and learned a lesson I’ll never forget. I ended up giving it to my niece who has broader shoulders and she seemed to appreciate it. (I’ve never seen her wear it, and I told her once that I’d be happy to take it back so I could reuse the yarn, but nothing ever came from that hint; the yarn was Rowan Summer Tweed and was not cheap, so I was quite serious.)

The two projects that I frogged last night and today were Annie Modesitt patterns gone awry. One was the Twisted Float Cocoon Shrug. I wasn’t very far along on it, and I thought the yarns would be better used for another purpose. Frogging took a while because the yarns were twisted around each other, but now everything is neat and tidy. The other pattern was Charade (Ravelry link) from her Romantic Hand Knits book. I couldn’t bring myself to purchase the original yarn in the pattern since it was so expensive. The yarn I substituted (Katia Jet) may have been less expensive, but it was resulting in a product that would be much too heavy. So…to the frog pond it went!

I now have another clean knitting bag and have freed up some needles and cables. While I may not have completed a project, I think that’s good progress for today. Now, on to some actual knitting! I have only about an inch left on the collar of a Featherweight cardigan (Ravelry link) and a pair of plain socks on the needles. It’s nice to be working on things that are achievable. 🙂

Of want and plenty

I nearly resorted to buying eggs this week. The poor hens have been so discombobulated by the raccoon visit that they still are not back to a regular laying cycle. After the “misfires” in the days immediately following, I was finding nothing in the nestbox most days. A week has passed and I’ve gotten only 2 eggs: one today and one on Wednesday.

I had planned to bake some chocolate zucchini bread this week, but I’ve held off because I don’t want to use up every egg in the house. And if I need to buy eggs, I’d rather use the store bought ones for baking than fresh eating. So I just keep holding off on baking or eating eggs. I suppose I’ll give in sooner or later. Or maybe the hens will be back on schedule soon. Is that too much to ask?

This week I’ve worked at home a lot because I caught a cold and didn’t want to pass it on to my colleagues at the office. I’m so thoughtful, aren’t I? Working at home also means I can slip in little naps and lie-downs, too, which is helpful when one is feeling icky.

Being cooped up in the house this much hasn’t exactly been a hardship, but I realized today that my solitary time at home is much more precious when its balanced by time out in the world. And today I went out into the world in a big way by going to Stitches Midwest.

The main attraction was really to see my friends. Adrienne was spending the weekend at the convention hotel because she’s taking a class. Rachael, her mom, Jamie, and Krista were heading up just for the day to shop at the Market. I could have caught a ride with them, but I needed to run some errands in the area.

So this morning I popped a Mucinex D and hit the road. I didn’t go to Stitches last year so it was the first time I’ve experienced it at the Schaumburg convention center. Very nice. And while a person may not be able to take the el out to Schaumburg directly, there’s a free trolley service that stops at the Convention Center and connects up to the PACE terminal, making it possible to get there and back on public transit.

I had a budget in mind and Adrienne promised to help me stick with it. Walking around the Stitches Market its possible to lose control pretty easily. There are many, many books to browse and amazing yarns of all colors, weights, and fiber compositions abound. We walked around fondling and exclaiming over them all. And we totally lost our heads.

As much as Adrienne said she’d help me stay on track, she couldn’t restrain herself this year. After being in the Market area for 6 hours and filling up her large Loopy Ewe shopping bag plus acquiring another to shopping bag full of yarn to boot, she barely pulled herself away from a skein of cashmere as we exited the Market floor.

And me, how did I fare? Well…yeah, I blew my budget. I’ll own up to it like a big girl. It’s too dark to take photos but I’ll make note of the purchases now while they’re still fresh: a kit to knit Cia in Island Moss (green) KidLin ; a huge hank of un-branded sock-weight superwash (enough to knit a pair of socks for one of the Esalen workshop leaders, as promised!); a pattern for a cardigan; a pattern for a wrap; a set of 3 funky ceramic buttons for a sweater I just finished; a pewter shawl stick; and a silk Lantern Moon bag.

I made two major splurge purchases. At the Elegant Ewe‘s booth I spotted a rare find: a few copies of A Stitch in Time. I first heard about this book on the Cast-on podcast and was greatly intrigued. A book full of vintage patterns updated to work with modern yarns and in modern sizes, it sounded amazing. And it is. I wasn’t going to order it from the UK sight unseen, but browsing through the store copy today I decided it was well worth the hefty price of nearly $50.

There are 56 patterns in the book and while I certainly wouldn’t want to knit all of them there are more than enough to make my hands itch to get started on one. I showed the book to Adrienne, who barely glanced at it before reaching into her wallet for the cash and sending me back to the booth to get a copy for her while she completed another purchase.

My final splurge purchase was a sweater kit to knit Imogen. I’ve had this pattern on my wish list for years (no exaggeration) and Adirondack Yarns sold it bundled with Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester Aran. I got a lovely, mottled, pewter gray kettle-dye. I suppose I could have purchased the pattern separately (I see they have it on Patternfish now), but this is a pattern that must be knit in a yarn with subtle color variations, and the Fleece Artist yarn fit the bill beautifully.

I nearly bought the Lady of the Lake kit, too, but I restrained myself. I do have *some* control. But now I’m quite certain that I will cancel the bi-weekly cleaning service so I can get back on budget again. Because budgeting is all about prioritizing, right? And I’ll pick yarn over a clean house any day. Is that bad?

Making adjustments

I’m still working like a fiend. So much so that I have not been able to get out and really enjoy my garden as I have in years past. I’m hoping I can catch up in June when I’ll finally be able to come up for air.

I did get my washing machine last Saturday. A fancy, schmancy energy efficient thing that’s whisper quiet as it goes about its work and promises to operate for about $11 a year. I’m not sure how I would measure that without a kilowatt meter and some sort of water heater meter hooked up to it, but it looks pretty impressive in print.

After a crazy work week, today was a whirlwhind of a day. First, I cycled off to the Lorna’s Laces Sale and Tour, an annual Windy City Knitting Guild event. I met up with Jamie and Chris there at around 8 AM, then went to wait at Beans n’ Bagels on Montrose until the actual event opening. [It was there we saw Rahm Emmanuel getting a couple cups of coffee and then leaving the store to get into a black SUV where it appeard his wife was awaiting him. We all waved at him as he left and he gave us a thumbs up back. He’s much smaller in person: both shorter and smaller in general than he looks on TV. And I didn’t hear him swear once. ;-)]

At the Lorna’s Laces sale, we all bought a smallish quantity of yarn (compared to what has happened in years past for some of us) and then proceeded on to Lillstreet Art Center for a special event. Chris was in her element, as she is an avid student of the wheel there, and she was excited to show Jamie and I her most recent pottery handiwork.

I was torn between checking out the excellent art of my friend, and the event: an urban farming celebration of chickens. One of my fellow urban chicken keepers – who is also an artist at Lillstreet — had arranged for this event that included a special menu at the resident cafe, a full display by Martha Boyd of Angelic Organics Learning Center, and a showing of the Mad City Chickens documentary.

It was an incredibly fun day, but I was ready to cycle home at about 2 PM when all was over. I rode against the wind all the way home, and so was exhausted and ready for a wee nap. I lay down with the newest Mary Russell book (thankfully acquired quite easily through the Chicago Public Library and thereby sparing me a few bucks in my budget), and was just getting into it when the dogs started getting rather riled and my mobile phone rang.

I picked up the phone — a call from Rachael — and looked out the back door to see that it was the arrival of my nephew and a friend on their bikes that was exciting the dogs so much. I put off Rachael for a bit, and visited with my nephew instead. The dogs were quite excited by the stimulus of these teen boys, and from there the real trouble started.

The boys were preparing to leave and were standing in the driveway with their bikes when the fight erupted. It seems that competing for attention became much too serious and the dogs began to fight. In earnest. Now, there have been a few skirmishes here and there since the big household upset of divorce and loss of a human presenance (Mark). But this was pretty serious.

I waded into the fight, picked Hannah up by her hind-quarters, and pulled her away from Sadie. True terrier that she is, Sadie launched herself at Hannah and the fighting resumed. Next, I grabbed Sadie by the hindquarters and then picked her up entirely. Hannah moved away, and I was able to get a close look at the damage Sadie had suffered.

It was disturbing: she had saliva all over her head and neck, and was starting to bleed from several wounds around her left eye. This was serious. After seeing my nephew and his friends safely away and putting Hannah in the house, I put Sadie in the car and headed off to the emergency vet.

Cubs traffic made it impossible to reach the one here in the city, but I was able to get to the one in Skokie within the hour. Luckily, Sadie’s eye is fine, but it was a close call. She has lacerations and bite wounds all around her eye and on the eyelid itself, so she will require oral antibiotics and an antibiotic salve in her eye for several days.

And per the vet’s instructions, I now have to send the dogs back to “boot camp.” The changes in the household have led to Hannah trying to move up in the pack hierarchy, to the detriment to Sadie. So instead, Hannah is leashed most of the time and I hold her back to be second to Sadie — the older, but smaller dog. Hannah must eat after Sadie, must go outside after Sadie, must only be allowed to get attention from me after Sadie.

I don’t mind, but it is a bit more work, for sure. It’s not easy being the alpha in a pack. But I do what I must. Oh, and that precious household budget is also quite reduced by a trip to the emergency vet. Again, I do what I must.

A missed connection

Sometimes I spend too much time trolling around Craigslist. It’s almost like a nervous tic or something and is one way I sort of fill in time on conference calls that are not catching my attention.

I like to look at the different categories to see what sort of stuff is available (farm+garden and free are favorites since they feature so many things I envision uses for in the garden/yard), and just to see what the “market” is like for used items. After all, I have a few odds and ends around that I just may want to sell or barter some day soon.

One of my favorite sections to scroll through just for the hell of it is “missed connections.” The Chicago Reader has had this feature for years, too, but I don’t necessarily get a print copy of the Reader every week and I feel the need to look at the Reader stuff the old-fashioned way (in other words: not online). This is obviously not the case with Craigslist which is only available online.

These “missed connections” are often very sweet and touching. Here’s one I spotted today:

You were knitting and we made eye contact and smiled at one another as I got off the redline at loyola at around 8:50 this morning. I thought you were cute.

Awwww!

I like it because it is charming and not pushy, but also because it shows that knitters can too get noticed as objects of attraction and not “grannies.” Yep, amongst us knitters there are many that are “cute.” Here’s hoping this “missed connection” works out.

Rebel and revolt!

That’s what I’ve felt like doing a good part of the day. Why do I spend so much of my energy on work? I feel like I should be able to spend more of my time enjoying my life.

I started my day with a 5 AM call with my team in India and just ended it a few minutes ago when I sent my last email for the night. I’m supposed to be taking the day off tomorrow, but I’ll have to be checking email starting bright and early just to make sure that things are getting done.

I suppose I shouldn’t whine since I make good money and I *do* have a job, which can be considered a special thing these days.

I’ve thought of a hundred things to write about today, but then I lost them as I had to concentrate on other things. All I can remember is this: I’d like to run away this summer and go to Sock Summit.

Why not?

Today the sun was shining

So, I could take some photos of my newest sweater!

My February Lady sweater

My February Lady sweater

I had no professional stylist here to help me out, and I had to use the tripod and take the photos on my own. I think this is my favorite of the several photos that I took today.

This sweater was started just before Thanksgiving and finished on New Year’s Eve at Adrienne’s house. I didn’t block the thing, but I don’t think it really needs blocking. The yarn is Glory Days from Briar Rose Fibers and it is fabulous.

The pattern is a departure from the usual garments I knit for myself. I typically go for more fitted garments that accentuate my curvy figure. But, I really liked the pattern and I had just the right yarn on hand.

I’m moving on to a new shawl now and have made good progress since I took a sick day this week. Just your garden variety head cold that has settled in for a visit, but the sinus headache was a killer on Tuesday. I go into the office tomorrow, and that will be my first day do so since before Christmas. I won’t wear the sweater this time, but I’m thinking some day next week (likely on Tuesday so I can show it off at Stitch n’ Bitch) it will make an appearance.