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September 2009

August 2009

Stimulating

. . . the senses.

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. . . the "cute" factor.

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. . . toe-tapping.

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. . . the taste buds.

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. . . the imagination.

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AND. . . the economy!

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Saturday my mom and I went to the Michigan Fiber Festival -- held the third weekend in August every year at the Allegan County Fairgrounds.  My mom and I each live about 30 minutes from Allegan -- in opposite directions.  So we meet up in the parking lot of a grocery store near the fairgrounds, and then drive in to the Fiber Fest together. 

And what a greeting!

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You always know you're in the right place when you see the Monolithic Chicken!

We had a great time.  And, Mom?  Those mittens you're going to make?  The ones with the cables and beads?  They're going to be awesome!


Sanctuary

I always like little unexpected surprises.  Chewy chocolate centers in hard candy.  Custard filling in a cake.  Bright paisley lining in a dark leather bag.  Polka dot pocket lining in my jeans.  So, imagine my delight in stepping off the hustle-and-bustle of Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. . . into this:

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This is the courtyard at the Fourth Presbyterian Church.  It is simply lovely.  Gardens.  A fountain.  Trickling water.  Shade.

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So pleasant and peaceful.

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Just steps away from one of the busiest streets in the country, and in the shade of the John Hancock building. . .

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it is a perfect sanctuary!

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Too bad I didn't have my knitting!


My Kind of Town!

I'm headed to Chicago today -- with Erin. We go every August for a little mother-daughter fun.  We shop. We eat.  We see the sights.  We take in a show (like, Wicked, four years in a row. . . but, alas, it's gone now).  We just . . . hang out and enjoy our time together.

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I love Chicago!  I love the buildings and the river and the bridges.  I love the wind and the lake and the Cubs.  I love the history and the architecture.  I love that it's called the "City of Big Shoulders."  I'm a native of Illinois -- born and lived my childhood in Rockford.  I have happy memories of trips to Chicago as a little girl.

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Erin loves Chicago, too.  And not just because they have an especially large J.Crew right there on Michigan Avenue.  No, she is energized by the city.  She just throws her arms open wide and embraces it!  I have a feeling that, someday, I'll be visiting Erin in Chicago. 

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A lot of things have happened in the year since Erin and I last went to Chicago together.  Last August, I was beginning to fear that there was Something Really Wrong with me, healthwise.  I was beginning to be worried, anxious, distracted.  I can really see it in the photos of myself from our time in Chicago last year.  I was having fun with Erin. . . but I was . . . somewhere else.  You know how it is when there's that little, niggling worry in the back of your mind.  Eating at you?  That was me.  Last August.

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They say that "anniversary" times can be challenging for cancer survivors.  Diagnosis dates.  Surgery dates.  Treatment dates.  Times of our lives that were especially stressful.  Reminders of a time when our lives changed forever. 

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I do remember.  It was not a pleasant time or experience.  But.  Here I am, a year later.  Healthy.  Strong.  Fierce.  And -- oh-so-stylin' with my new hair!  This year . . . I'll be the one opening my arms wide and embracing the city!  Drinking it in.  My kind of town. . .

Chicago is!

And now, a little shout-out to my niece, Jessica!  You Go Girl!  Ride like the wind and have the time of your life.  I want pictures! 


Crap. It's a Gardening Term.

My garden looks like crap.  It really does.  No photos.  I'll spare you the visual details.   I am fighting the Japanese Beetles, and, from the look of my poor roses, the beetles are winning.  Looks like Crap. One of my roses is losing all of its leaves due to a fungus I can't quite diagnose.   Looks like Crap.  The rabbits and deer are feasting . . . FEASTING . . . on a big perennial bed at the side of my house; nothing is blooming (because that's the tastiest part!); it's all stems.  Looks like Crap.  My back perennial bed is way, way too crowded this year -- it's in serious need of a restorative "thinning out."  Looks like Crap.  I have a partial mudpit/dustbowl (depending on the level of precipitation) where Tom started digging my new bed in the back --- but had to put it on hold while he travels to Mumbai.  Looks like crap.  And my lawn?  Brown patches, weeds, crabgrass, and now -- a broken lawn mower.  Looks like Crap.

I do have ONE bright spot, though.  In the early spring I had Tom, Brian, and Dominik (our foreign exchange student) dig out all the foundation plants in the front of the house.  They were terribly overgrown and really needed to go.  It looked like this back in April:

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And now --- it looks like this:

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This bed is definitely the bright spot in my gardening season this year!

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This success gives me the inspiration to "make it work" elsewhere in the garden!  I'm making progress in my design plans for my new back bed (the current mudpit. . .).  I've completed my scale drawing:

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at 3/8 scale:

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And now I'm busy developing my "plant palette" (the plants I'll actually use in that area).  I just have to wait for Tom to finish his meetings on the other side of the world. . . so he can come home and finish his digging.

I'm off to fight the Japanese Beetles!

Crap.

Note:  I don't use any pesticides in my garden, so I fight the Japanese Beetles by knocking them into a jar of soapy water.  I do this in the early morning or later in the evening -- when they're in mating-induced orgy-frenzies and tend to be slower.  During the heat of the day, they just fly off -- to attack other rosebushes!


Lollygaggers!

Tom and I watched Bull Durham the other night. . . for about the 100th time.  Bull Durham is one of our favorite movies.  It's fun, it's entertaining, it's easy to watch, and it shares a philosophy that, for some reason, seems to match up with our own.

Quotes from Bull Durham are firmly established as part of our Family Lexicon!  Our kids knew -- and understood -- Bull Durham quotes and philosophy long before we ever let them watch the movie!

When Brian is upset with his slapshot, we tell him, "don't think, just throw" --- and he knows we're just reminding him not to over-analyze.

When Erin is stressing about what to wear, and shows me a couple of options, she knows just what I'm saying if I tell her, "that's a bit excessive for the Carolina league."  She may not listen, of course, but she knows what I'm thinking.

When Tom is frustrated about something at work, he can explain it with a simple, "after 12 years in the minors, I don't try out!"  I know just what he means.

When Brian wants honor certain pre-game hockey locker room rituals (that involve old t-shirts, Zippo lighters, and hockey tape, for example), he can just look at me and say, "never f--- with a winning streak" --- and I understand it's just something he needs to do!

If the kids are trying something new, and maybe a little bit . . .odd, we may encourage them with a simple "rose goes in the front, big guy" comment.  They know what we mean.

If Erin is getting a little snarky or judgmental about someone, I might just remind her that "honey, we all deserve to wear white!"  (We do. . .)

There have been many times that we have a lot going on in our family. . . and Tom and I just look at each other and say, "we're dealing with a lot of shit."   It always makes us laugh.

Yeah, Bull Durham just works for us somehow.

"Hit 'em where they ain't, boys!"


I Got Them NaKniSweMoDo Blues. . .

This post needs a soundtrack. . . so click in, and let the music play while you read this post!

You see, I got them NaKniSweMoDo Blues!

What is NaKniSweMoDo, you ask?  Well, it stands for National-Knit-a-Sweater-a-Month-Dodecahedron.  It's a group of knitters on Ravelry, all committed to knitting sweaters during 2009.  Twelve of them, to be exact - one each month.  Adult sized.  I signed up last December.  Why?  Well, I knit eleven sweaters in 2008 -- without counting.  I really like knitting sweaters.  I planned to knit several of them in 2009, anyway.  And. . . I liked the challenge.

So far, so good.  It's August, and I have completed nine sweaters.

NaKniSweMoDo at 9

I have no doubt that I'll be able to finish the remaining three in the four-and-a-half months I have left in 2009.  That's not why I have the blues. . .

I have the blues because NaKniSweMoDo has messed with my mind!!!!  I have become obsessed with sweaters!  It has to stop. . .

When I first began NaKniSweMoDo, I identified 12 sweaters I had long been wanting to knit, and lined them up neatly - in order - in my Ravelry queue.  I had it all planned out -- I put the sweaters in order; I accounted for season; I chose my yarn.  It would take me 12 months, but I would crank out all the sweaters I'd been wanting to knit.  In an orderly and systematic fashion.  It was perfect!  And it started that way. 

But then, all hell broke loose!

I started seeing sweaters I wanted to knit everywhere.  I "favorited" and "add to queued" with wild abandon!  My original 12 went by the wayside.  I tried to re-order my queue, but I couldn't -- it had gotten too big; too out of control!  In short, I became a NaKniSweMoDo MESS. I knew I was in trouble when I stopped adding sweaters to my queue. . . but started adding anything NOT-a-sweater to my queue.  Now my queue is jammed with sweaters upon sweaters. . . AND shawls, hats, mittens, scarves, afghans!  

So.  I've declared a temporary moratorium on NaKniSweMoDo.  It's my own little NaKniSweMoDoVaCa (National-Knit-a-Sweater-a-Month-Vacation).  A hiatus, so to speak.  I'm currently knitting a NOT-a-sweater.  I'm going to take some time to clear out my queue.  I'm going to -- calmly and rationally -- choose my remaining three sweaters for 2009.  And I'm not going to look at any other sweaters for the time being.

That's my plan.  And I'm sticking with it!


It's Only Hair. . .

Yesterday marked six months from my last chemo treatment.  I'm feeling good. I'm healthy, happy, hopeful, AND . . . I have almost 2 inches of hair!

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Yeah, we dug out a ruler and measured!

Before I had cancer, I took my hair way too seriously.  I spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting it to look. . . just so!  It was colored, highlighted, and styled with a standing appointment every 4 weeks.  I used expensive shampoos and styling products to give it just the look I wanted.  I liked my hair.  I really liked my hair.  I never wore hats -- even if I was freezing -- because I didn't want to mess it up.  My hair was . . . ME.  It was part of how I looked, and how I "presented myself" to the world.

So you can imagine, probably, how upset I was to learn that. . . it was all going to fall out after I started chemo.

And -- fall out it did!  I dealt with it.  I bought in.  (And - who knew? - I found out that I have a great head shape!)  During the bald-months, I usually wore some pretty fabulous looking pre-tied scarves.  I also had a wig (nicknamed "Wiggy") that my hair stylist helped me pick out and style.  It looked amazingly like my old hair, but it was really uncomfortable.  I also discovered the joy of knit hats!  (It was winter, after all.)  I started wearing BIG earrings.  I tried to keep a good attitude about it.  I tried to think about all the money I was saving by not having to mess with my hair (more money to buy. . . yarn or plants, for example).  But, when it came right down to it, I hated not having hair.

I think that what I really hated, though, was that not having hair is such an obvious symbol of . . . not being well.   Yes, I had cancer.  Yes, I was in treatment.  But I still wanted other people to see me as a normal person.  I wanted them to treat me normally.  I wanted them to laugh with me and talk about inane life events.  I wanted to enjoy running errands or grocery shopping or eating out or watching a hockey game without people feeling pity for me.  In a scarf, people saw me as a person-with-cancer. . . and they treated me that way.  When I wore "Wiggy", it was completely different.  People either couldn't tell or "forgot" that I had cancer.  They treated me normally.  At home, I wore scarves.  In public, I wore "Wiggy."

After treatment is over, your hair doesn't just. . . come back.  It's a slow process of re-growth.  At first, I noticed a very, very light covering of very white "fuzz" on my head.  I used to get really close to the mirror and turn my head this way and that. . . because you could only see the fuzz with backlighting.  But I was thrilled -- because it was a start!  After a couple of months, I had enough hair to look "chic" and "edgy."  I was so eager to get rid of the scarves and "Wiggy" that I sported my New'Do in public when it was still very, very short.

Here I am in Chicago during early May.  Under "The Bean" (the Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park), Tom was able to get a front-and-back photo at the same time!

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It felt so, so good to be out in the open air -- with no hat or scarf or wig -- and to feel the breeze on my head!  Ahhhhhhh!  And, when people actually complemented my "hair cut" . . . and didn't look at my with pity or recognition. . . it was so nice!  Normal, even!

So, here I am, six months out from chemo. 

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My new hair is grey/white.  It is curly.  It is short.  It is EASY.  I actually really like it!  And my attitude about my hair?  It's completely changed.  Although I will probably get it cut and styled, I am going to keep my natural color.  I will probably keep it quite short.  I'm not going to obsess about my hair.  And I will definitely wear hats when it's cold.

After all. . .

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it's only hair!


Garden Buddies

Okay, I'll admit it.  I have a soft spot in my heart for little garden gnomes.

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I'm not crazy about gnomes, mind you.  I just like small, well-placed (almost hidden) garden gnomes.

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Perhaps it's my Swedish heritage showing!  My great-grandmother used to tell me stories of the tomte, and little replica tomte always hung in a special spot on our Christmas tree.

Whatever the reason, I find the little guys quite charming.  And they'll always have a spot in among my flowers.

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When Jenny was a puppy, she loved my garden gnomes!  She just couldn't get enough of them, actually, and would drag them off in the yard.  She usually ate the tip of the hat before I could manage a rescue!

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I still place these little broken gnomes in my garden.  This poor little guy used to have a hoe.  Jenny ate that, too!

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I even knit a tomte last winter!

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But he doesn't get to live in the garden!