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October 2009

September 2009


It was a year ago today that I first heard a doctor utter the word "lymphoma" as related to Me.  Now, this diagnosis wasn't completely clear or complete for another month.   But, all the same, a year ago today. . . the bottom fell out of my world.

A year later, I'm celebrating.  I made it through treatment.  I am in complete remission (and -- I REMAIN there!  My PET scan on Monday was NORMAL-NORMAL-NORMAL!).  I have a deeper appreciation for nearly everything.  I have hair again.  I have an extensive collection of Big Earrings.  I am happy.  I actually like myself more now, after cancer.  

I often think back and reflect on how fortunate I was.  To have been persistent about figuring out What Was Wrong.  To have had access to doctors and testing facilities.  To have been able to just take off for the Mayo Clinic on short notice.  To have the support of my family and friends.  To have Tom be with me at every appointment and every treatment.  To have my Mom and Dad pick up the pieces at home.  To have the constant support of my sister.  To have my kids be able to live their normal lives and share them with me.  To have cards and calls from friends.  To have decent, solid health insurance.  To have a cancer treatment center within 15 minutes of home. 

There are many, many people who don't have that kind of access, or that kind of support system.  I don't know how they face a cancer diagnosis or treatment without it.

And so . .  I've decided to walk in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Light the Night event next month.  I want to raise money to help provide support to others facing lymphoma and leukemia.


My family is going to walk with me.  Together, they all got me through lymphoma.  Together, we can help others facing lymphoma.

If you'd like to join in and support me while I "light the night" . . . you can click on the link in the upper left corner of my blog.  Then send me a comment or an email and let me know.  There will be prizes!!!  (Stay tuned for more information.)

Cancer is hard.  Help me make it easier for somebody else.

End of Season Clearance

Ahhhh!  Early fall is a great time to be out in the garden!  Sure, the gardening season is winding down. . . but there are still plenty of things to enjoy in the landscape -- and plenty of things to do.  It's time to take stock. . . and figure out what needs to be dug out - and  what needs to be moved.  For next year, you know!

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This is the first shrub rose I planted in my garden.  It blooms all summer long, and it will continue to bloom right up until that first hard frost.  You can see a lot of the damage from the Japanese beetles, but we're past that particular problem at this point in the season.  This guy is obviously happy!  I'm leaving him right where he is. . .

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This is a bloom from my favorite shrub rose.  This guy has struggled all summer.  Black spot -- the dreaded rose disease -- took most of its leaves, and the Japanese beetles took the rest.  I truly thought he was a Goner. . . and that I'd need to dig him out. . . but, look!  There are a few new leaves, and several blooms.  There's still hope. . . so he stays.

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And this one?  Well, this is a Survivor!  This bloom is on a little tree rose.  My friend, Sandie, had it in her garden. . . actually in THREE separate locations in her garden. . . this year.  While she thought she was going to love it. . . she didn't.  So I brought it home to my garden.  Where it's been in TWO separate locations. . . so far.  I don't know where to put it!  I'm going to have to move it again.  So, this poor, homeless tree rose is hanging in there while I try to find a permanent home for it in the garden.

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Here's a (nearly spent) bloom on one of my ligularias.  I have one garden area that is hideously overgrown. . . I've really ignored that little corner this year.  This ligularia sent up it's lovely flowers anyway --- I think it was trying to flag me down and say, "Hey!  We're still here!  Working hard for you!  We've put up with crowding and slugs. . . and we're not going to take it anymore!  Do something!"  I definitely need to move some stuff around and thin things out.

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Talk about bedraggled!  Take a look at these hideous coneflowers out near my mailbox!  If you look closely, you can see that there is a goldfinch. . . lunching on the coneflower seedhead!  Every day, my hideous coneflowers are filled with goldfinches.  So I leave'em.  As is.  Although maybe I should move them to a less conspicuous spot in the garden. . .

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I am SO not a daylily person. . .  I have a few in my garden, but they are not my favorite flower.  They're hard to resist, though, at this point in the season.  Any plant that can send out blooms in the midst of dead and dying foliage must be appreciated.  Every year I decide to dig them up.  But they work hard. . . and I'm a sucker in the fall.  Blooms?  I tend to leave them be!

As you can see, I try to clear things out, but I usually end up just moving them around, or leaving them in place.  And then. . . I actually add to the madness by taking advantage of the other kind of end-of-season clearance.  You know --- the ones at every nursery or gardening center you see? 

Perennials -- half off! 

The Thing About Scans . . . and the Power of Yarn

I had never had any kind of "scan" before the whole cancer thing.  I'd never had a CT scan or an MRI.  I'd never even heard of a PET scan.  But, last year, when something was Very Wrong with me, I became all too familiar with scans.

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When I start a new knitting project, I don't haul out a swift and a ball-winder.  I never have my yarn purchases wound at the yarn store for me either.  No.  I wind the yarn into balls by hand.  I like doing it that way.

By the time I was diagnosed with lymphoma, I had a CT scan and two MRIs under my belt.  When it was time to "stage" my cancer, they brought out the Big One --- the PET scan.  It's not so bad to have a scan, really.  You just lay there.  What's hard is waiting for the results. . . and being petrified of what the results might tell you.

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My dining room chairs work really well at holding hanks of yarn for winding.  The little spindles on the back of the chairs are the ideal height to hold most any hank, and I can use two chairs to spread the yarn out to the perfect tension.

Scans don't end at "staging," though.  I had another PET scan midway through my chemotherapy regimen so my doctors could see how the treatment was working; and I had another after my treatment was complete.  These scans were very comforting for me -- because there was clear evidence that the cancer was gone.  In fact, at first, right after treatment, I wanted to have a scan every week just so I could feel confident that I was Still Well.  It doesn't work that way, though.

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And then, I just start winding.  Around the chair, around the chair, around the chair. . . around my hand, around my hand, around my hand.

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And the ball starts to grow!  I really like this winding.  It's the first step for most of my projects; it's the beginning of my "relationship" with the yarn --- I discover it's color subtleties, it's texture; I get used to the feel of it in my hands, and the smell of it.  It's while I'm winding that the yarn - and the project - start singing to me.  But more than that, the winding is meditative, almost prayerful.  Winding has a powerful, relaxing juju for me.

But routine scans remain part of your life forever as a cancer survivor.  Depending on the type of cancer you had, the stage at diagnosis, and how well your treatment worked, survivors will have a varying number of follow-up scans during remission.  For me, I'll have routine follow-up scans at six months, and then at 18 months after treatment. 

Today is Scan Day (six months) for me.  I'm glad to have the scan.  Once again, I'll know where I stand.  The scan is routine.  I have lots of energy and I feel great; no weird bumps and lumps; no unexplained symptoms.  But still. . . the whole thing is unnerving. 

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I just keep winding.  And turning.  And winding.  And turning.  And winding.  And before you know it, there's all the yarn.  Ready for my next project.

The thing about scans is. . . they take you right to The Edge.  But the power of yarn keeps you from going over.

Pictures and Words

Tucked away in the east corner of Western Michigan University's campus. . . about 3 miles from my house. . . is a hidden treasure.

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This is East Hall, the original building housing Western Michigan University.  It was built in 1904. . .

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and overlooks the city of Kalamazoo.

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There is some controversy around the historic building -- mainly around what to do with it; how to preserve it; and how to pay for that preservation.  Most people think it's a treasure that's worth saving.  I do. Right now, parts of the building house university archives and historical documents.  It used to also house faculty artist studios. . . but they've been moved out.

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As an amateur photographer. . . who happens to love architecture. . . I find plenty of subject matter at East Hall!

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I just wanted to share this beautiful, old building with you!  Eventually, I plan to load more photos into an East Hall photo album here on the blog.  Check back if you're interested!

This poem is posted on one of the doors to East Hall. . .

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Leave it to Dr. Seuss to remind us that history is more than pictures and words.  We need to touch and see the buildings, too. . .

Thanks, Guys!

I have a big project going on in my backyard!  If you've been reading along for awhile, you might remember that I'm chronicling the process of designing a new garden bed at the back border of my yard.  Way back in July, I put this sketch together. . .

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I want to create a privacy screen along my back fence with plantings -- and a little resting spot to sit and take in the rest of the garden.  If you look closely at my sketch, you can see that there is a "structure" there -- for a backyard swing.  It didn't exist before. . .

but. . . thanks to these guys . . .

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it does now!  Yep, the Men in My Life have produced the Pergola of My Dreams!

Tom. . . is great at digging!

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He prepared the soil, worked in the compost, and dug six post holes (4-feet deep!) for the structure.  He also swings a mean hammer. . . and, of course, puts up with my schemes.

Brian. . . is really handy! 

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He has an engineering mind (as Tom says -- Brian has "The Knack"), loves projects, and is fearless when it comes to power tools.  He's also big, strong, and young --- which translates to Having Energy to Burn.

And my Dad?  Well. . . my Dad is the Mastermind!

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My Dad is happiest when he is covered in sawdust!  He designed the structure for me (based on my vague description and a few pictures in books).  He worked out "the numbers" and came up with the materials list.  He acted as General Contractor.  And in his gentle, knowing way -- he passed on a whole lot of knowledge and technique!

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The guys had a lot of fun with this project -- and they're really proud of how it turned out.  They like to work together, and my Dad is a great teacher. 

But I like to think that they put up this pergola because. . . they love me!

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Guys!  It's PERFECT!

Senior Moment

It's not like I didn't see this coming.  The signs have been all around me all summer. The college visits.  The endless stream of brochures arriving in the mail. . .

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The photo shoot. . .

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The preparation. . .

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But, still, it seems to sneak up on you. . . when your youngest is suddenly . . . a senior!  Why, it seems like I just took him to Kindergarten. . .

Brian first day of K

And, now, here he is. . . beginning his senior year in high school!

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A senior moment?  I think we'll have lots of those in the coming months. . .

Kickin' Back . . . Up North

We have a little cottage. . . Up North, as we say here in Michigan. 

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We used to spend most every weekend in the summers up there, but now that our kids are older, we don't get up there as much as we used to.  (I need to amend that.  I don't get up there as much. . . Tom does.  He takes frequent fishing weekends.  They're good for his soul!)

Anyway, the cottage is in the woods. . .

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and on a quiet, little lake. . .

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The lake is the perfect size for kayaks, canoes, and slow-moving pontoon boats. . . but it is much too small for motor boats, water skiing, and jet skis.  It's quiet.  There are loons, herons, eagles, and kingfishers.  Lots of fireflies in the summer.  The fishing is good;  the pace is slow.  It's restful on our lake.

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Our cottage is small and comfortable - filled with cast-off furniture and appliances, and kitschy fishing-themed knick-knacks.  No cable.  No phone.  No internet connection.  It's a perfect place to unwind, kick back, and just . . . be.

I like to start my mornings on the back deck, watching the sun move over the lake.

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I always have some knitting. . .

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That's finished sleeve #1 for my Tempest (Ravelry link).  I had planned to finish both sleeves Up North, and I would have . . . but I ran into a little snag. 

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See that little ball of yarn right there?  That's all I had left for the second sleeve.  It is Not Enough.  Snag.  I did get a good start on the second sleeve, though.  As it turns out, I only need about 10 - 15 more yards to finish the second sleeve.  Unfortunately, I'm going to have to buy a whole new skein to get it!  (I've always wondered about the true yardage requirements for a Tempest.  Now I know.  You need MORE - but not much more - than 440 yards for each of the stripes!)

I also brought up my ill-fated red scarf (Ravelry link) for the OFA project.  It has already met its demise once!  (Let's just say. . . knitting in the dark while watching tv doesn't always work out when you're doing 1x1 ribbing with 2-row stripes. . .).

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The scarf remained ill-fated, though.  See that needle? As in singular?  I only packed one. . .

So, while my knitting was limited by lack of yarn and needle, I had plenty of reading and listening to do!

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I will recommend the little novel Casting Off to my knitting pals.  It is a quick "beach read" -- entertaining, entirely predictable, happy ending and all.  But, it is set in the Aran Islands, features a cast of knitters and spinners, and includes little tidbits of the history of gansey sweaters.  

The signs of fall approaching were everywhere this weekend -- leaves turning, acorns falling, temperatures dipping to 40 degrees in the morning.  It was so nice to spend this "last weekend" of summer outdoors -- in the sunshine!  

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And in front of the campfire in the evening!  With a glass of wine, of course. . .

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So, after a restful weekend Up North, I'm ready to switch gears here at home.  Nothing like a little kickin' back. . . to prepare yourself for moving forward!

20 Minutes to Do Some Good

Yesterday, word of the Iraqi Bundles of Love project spread like wildfire through the knitblogs.  This project really tugged at my heartstrings!  It's a clever, quick, and easy way to share with my international sisters-in-the-needle-arts! 

I jumped right in!  (Which you really must do, because there is a deadline on this project, and it is Very Soon!)

First, you need to go to the Iraqi Bundles of Love project website.  Read about the project, and leave a comment that you want the address.  You'll get an email back with detailed instructions and helpful hints within a few hours.

Then, dig through your stash(es) to find items for your bundle.  I gathered fabric -- very large scraps of significant yardage and a few multi-yard pieces, buttons, and some ribbon. . .

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. . . and, of course, yarn!

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Then, I grabbed a US Postal Service Flat-Rate box. . .

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and, following the Iraqi Bundles of Love instructions for how-to-build-a-bundle, I crammed everything in the box. . .

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and tied my bundle up tight!

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From start to finish, this took me just 20 minutes!  Why don't you put together a bundle yourself?  But you need to hurry!  This is a time-limited project, and the packages must be in the mail by September 8.

Now, I'm off to the post office!

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PS - I'm heading up to our cottage for the long weekend.  Enjoy this "last" week of summer!

Tit for Tat

I could give this blog post any number of titles.  Quid Pro Quo. . . CoDependents. . .The Golden Rule . . .What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander. . .   What it's really about, though, is Why My Knitting Stash is Not a Problem.  At all.

You see, I knit.  I have a lot of yarn.  I keep it squirreled away in a closet. . . and in some Sterilite bins. . . and in some wicker baskets. . . and in a few drawers.  I really do love having a stash of yarn.  I have no desire to formally "inventory" my yarn in any way, although the "Stash" feature on Ravelry calls out to me from time to time.  My stash is not a source of embarrassment for me, nor does it cause family arguments, nor do I feel the need to justify my hobby and related "collections" to other family members.

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You see, Tom is a fly fisherman.  And a fly-tier.  This may be the #1 hobby combination of all time when it comes to amassing equipment, gadgets, and . . . well, a stash!  Tom has a lot of fly-tying materials.  He keeps them squirreled away in a filing cabinet. . . and in some recycled coffee cans. . . and in some old cigar boxes. . . and in a few drawers.  He really loves having a stash of materials.  He does not formally "inventory" his stash in any way, either, and I don't believe there is a Ravelry-like tool for fisherfolk (yet).  His stash is not a source of embarrassment for him, nor does it cause family arguments, nor does he feel the need to justify his hobby and related "collections" to other family members.

It's actually a nice arrangement.

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We each have our stash-building hobbies.  We understand the need for stash.  We appreciate the technical fine-points of each other's craft.  We both make useful stuff.

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Tit for tat!