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October 2009

London Calling

Guess where I'm going today?

Yep.  London calling!

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My bags are packed and I'm ready to go! 

This is an especially exciting trip for me.  I've always wanted to visit London, and so has my sister.   We started talking about this trip last year -- when I was in the midst of my chemo treatments.  It became a dream for both of us.  Something we could do together.  To celebrate life and living and fun and each other.  We'll be in London for a week.  Sight-seeing, shopping, eating, drinking, laughing, some theatre.  Just the two of us.  We're going to have a grand time!

I won't be blogging while I'm away, but I'm pretty sure I'll have a lot to talk about when I get back!

Turn Out the Lights. . .

. . . The party's over. . .  End of the line. . .  Dead end. . .  Move along. . .  Nothing to see here. . . The fat lady is singing. . . Finito. . .  No mas. . .  That's a wrap. . .  Stick a fork in it. . .  We'll always have Paris. . .  It was fun while it lasted. . .

I'm afraid Color Watch 2009 has come to its natural end.  Here's the view from my front porch.

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And the view from my driveway.

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And the view out the slider near my computer.

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With a few exceptions -- those trees that hang on to their leaves a little longer than the rest -- we've reached the Bleak part of the year.  Bare trees.  Lots of grey-ish, brown-ish, tan-ish colors in the landscape.  There is a certain beauty in bare tree branches, but they're just bare for so dang long!

And so, I conclude Color Watch 2009. 

Happy Halloween to all of you!


Don't eat too much candy!

So. Tell Me What You REALLY Think. . .

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”  --Henry Ford

I’ve had something swirling around in my brain for a couple of weeks now.  It’s swirling and swirling. . . and swirling.  It’s time to try to make sense of it.  Yes.  It's time for a rant.

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Generally speaking, I’m a positive, upbeat person.  I tend to believe in Henry Ford’s statement.  In fact, I’ve seen that sentiment “work” in many situations – for me, for my kids, for my friends.  Believe in yourself.  I think that goes a long way.

That said, I don’t think positive thinking can change everything.  For example, I don’t think I can positive-think my way to perfect vision, a new job, or a flatter stomach.  I can, though, greatly improve those “situations” by adopting a positive attitude.  I don’t think I’m a “failure” if I can’t think my way to perfect vision.

Have you heard anything about Barbara Ehrenreich’s newest book – Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America?  I think Barbara Ehrenreich typically writes with skeptical common sense, and I have enjoyed some of her past books.  But this one. . . not so much.  To be fair, I haven’t read the Bright-side book in its entirety.  I have, though, heard her talk about it on NPR and the Daily Show, and I’ve read an excerpted article in The Week magazine.

Hmmmmmmm.  The swirling begins. . . .

I think she brings up some interesting points about the pitfalls of positive thinking; especially when used to the exclusion of other “action” (like medical intervention, for example, or the inevitability of natural phenomena).  Ehrenreich equates “positive thinking” with “living in denial,” and warns of our national obsession with “candy-coating” negative situations.  She sheds a fresh light on positive thinking, that’s for sure! 

But.  Her thought process doesn’t really work for me.  She’s a bit too assuming when it comes to what should motivate and inspire people; too judgmental about how people respond to bad things in life.  I think she’s missing the boat entirely when it comes to positive thinking as a coping mechanism; positive thinking as a way to approach life; positive thinking as a support system.

 Much of the basis for her book comes from Ehrenreich’s own bout with breast cancer.  She is personally put off by everything from “happy” poems pasted in the dressing room of the mammography center to pink-ribbon-themed breast cancer awareness products.  Ehrenreich talks about her anger at the disease and “crude treatments” available.  She denigrates the “universally upbeat” tone of the “breast cancer culture” and suggests that “all of this positive thinking” has the effect of transforming “breast cancer into a rite of passage – not an injustice or a tragedy to rail against but a normal marker in the life cycle, like menopause or grandmotherhood.”

Excuse me, Barbara, but I don’t think so.

“All of this positive thinking” has NOT made breast cancer – or any other type of cancer, or heart disease, or spinal cord injury, or Parkinson’s disease, or rheumatoid arthritis, or head injuries, or any number of debilitating, life-altering conditions – a “rite of passage.”  Sure, there may be folks who believe so strongly in the power of positive thinking that they deny medical intervention, but I don’t think that’s the great majority of us.  Most of us, instead, practice positive thinking as a way of coping with our situations; of squeezing what we can out of the rest of our lives; as a way of supporting each other in the really dark and frightening spaces of our lives.

I must admit that sometimes I roll my eyes at yet another pink-packaged product supporting breast cancer research and awareness.  But.  I’m really glad that breast cancer is getting this attention.  If we put enough dollars into research, maybe we CAN find a cure.  If we continue to build awareness, maybe we CAN get more women to have mammograms each year.  And, by golly, if you have been personally touched by breast cancer, and you feel powerless and want do Do Something About It, maybe it helps you to be able to spend your money on pink-ribbon Northern toilet paper.  I don’t think that’s denial.  I don’t think that’s “rite of passage.”  I think that’s empowerment.

My son plays hockey with a boy whose mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer last year.  After an agonizing year of treatment, she is now doing quite well.  Her son has pink skate laces in his hockey skates, and wraps his hockey stick with bright pink tape.  Ehrenreich would argue that the vendors supplying the laces and tape are “exploiting the sick” and “infantilizing” breast cancer victims (she doesn’t like the word “survivor” – too positive).  That’s possible.  I really don’t know the motivations of the vendors.  However, I do know that every time this hockey player takes the ice, he is sending a message to his mom  - and to everyone else in that hockey arena -- that he loves her, he supports her, and his life has been changed forever because of her struggle with breast cancer.  Denial?  No.  Support?  In a big way.

Ehrenreich, herself, was very angry about her breast cancer and treatment experience.  She found the “cheerfulness of breast cancer culture” to be more than an “absence of anger” to “what looks, all too often, like a positive embrace of the disease.”  She cites survivors who talk of how changed they are as a result of their illness; how they are “more sensitive and thoughtful” following their treatment.  Positive embrace of the disease?  Hmmmmmm.  I think not. 

Being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or life-altering condition forces you out on The Edge pretty quickly.  Anger.  Frustration.  Fear.  Isolation.  It’s all right there.  Cancer sucks.  Parkinson’s sucks.  Paralysis sucks.  Loss of mental acuity sucks.  Heart conditions suck.  Life changes.  Suddenly.  There isn’t really any way to candy-coat this stuff.  We can all sit there, alone and angry.  We can be afraid.  Or. . . we can support each other.  We can move beyond all the crappy stuff and step away from The Edge.  We can figure out how we want to live the rest of our lives. . . and embrace it.

Sorry, Barbara, but I DO see things differently now that I’ve been to The Edge.  I’m not denying.  I’m living.  Surviving, actually.  I am more “sensitive and thoughtful.”  I have a much greater clarity – about what I do, who I spend my time with, what’s important to me.  I tend to reach out more – and sooner – to people than I used to.  I smile more.  I encourage more.  Like I’ve said many times, the colors just seem brighter now.  Am I candy-coating?  I don’t think so.  Am I denying?  Nope.  Will I feel like a failure if I die?  Well, no.  I am going to die at some point.  We all are. . .  But in the meantime, I want to live a positive life.  I want to laugh and have some fun.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life . . . angry or frightened!  Do I feel like my cancer experience was “a gift”?  Well, certainly not one I asked for. . .

Here’s what Barbara has to say. . . “I at least, was saved from this additional burden by my persistent anger.  But I can report that breast cancer did not make me stronger or more spiritual.  What it gave me, if you want to call this a “gift,” was a very personal, agonizing encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before – one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate.”

Wow, Barbara.  I think that’s crap.

Okay.  Now I feel better.  Thanks for that.



I Could Just Scream. . .

Ever have one of Those Weeks?  You know, the ones where you just want to . . .

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I'm scrambling this week -- to take care of a lot of little things (and some big things) before leaving on a vacation.  I'll get it all done. . . or I won't. . . and everything will be just fine.  But sometimes, you just want to . . . scream!

Bonjour, Monique!

I'd like to introduce you to a new "face" . . .

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Meet. . . Monique!  (She has that certain French charm, je ne sais pas?)   Although I have a styrofoam wig stand (I actually used it for my wig last year), I've always wanted a more cool and stylish one.  One that won't fall over when it's modeling a knit hat.  One that has a little personality and style.  A blue one, even!  I have long coveted kmkat's clear glass wig stand (still do, actually -- it is Very Cool) -- and she helped me find one of my own on eBay.

Monique is the kind of woman who likes to wear hats.  Lots of hats.  They reflect her rather "spunky" personality and charm.  For example, she likes to garden, but doesn't want to sunburn her nose. . .

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Yet, there are times she prefers to sport a jaunty, menswear look. . .

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and she totally rocks the 'boarder look, although she doesn't like to get cold. . .

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Monique is not afraid to make bold, fashion statements. . .about "youth" and "deconstruction" and "fashion-forward". . .

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and she even plays hockey!  (But with a full cage. . . gotta protect that glass jaw, eh?)

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When it comes right down to it, though, Monique knows that her Life Work is really . . . Modeling Hand Knits.  In fact, there is nothing she likes more than a woolly beret!

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This is a quick, fun knit!  It's Bonne Marie Burns' Mondo Cable Cap.  (Here's my Ravelry link.)  I love this cap!  And . . . so does Monique!

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She's a heck of a gal!  Welcome to the neighborhood, Monique!

A Peaceful, Easy, LUCKY Feeling

Soundtrack time!  Click in to hear (and see) some vintage Eagles while you read. . .

Usually, when I see a sweater that is l-o-n-g . . . I love it!  There's something about that l-o-n-g line that just appeals to me from a design standpoint.  I usually shudder at the thought of knitting a long sweater, though.  ALL those stitches.  ALL that yarn.  It would take

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But then I saw Thea Colman's (Baby Cocktails) new Long & Lucky design - so cool!  And she was looking for a test knitter.  And I was looking for a sweater to knit.  And it used my favorite yarn - Berroco Alpaca.  And I already had enough yarn in my stash.  And, well, things worked out.

I must admit that I nearly had a little breakdown when I got the pattern, and saw that the entire body of the sweater is knit with a staggered 1x1 rib.  I really don't like 1x1 rib.  But.  I took a deep breath and just took the plunge.

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And, an amazing thing happened.  From the time I wound the yarn to the time I sewed the button on at the end, this project was peaceful.  It was easy.  It was . . . LUCKY!  The pattern -- with all that 1x1 rib -- was incredibly rhythmic.  Mindful.  Peaceful.  I never -- Not Once -- had to rip back or un-knit my stitches.  The project just. . . rolled.  And, before I knew it, I was finished!

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I know I'll wear this sweater often.  It works dressed up. . . or with jeans.  It's a nice layer of alpaca-warmth; soft and Not Itchy.  You can find the technical details on my Ravelry page, and you can find the pattern on Thea's blog or on Ravelry

And, if you're counting, this is #11 on my NaKniSweMoDo Hit Parade!

Now.  Just for fun, check out this later version of Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles.  Years of "polish" and some hair stylists make for a very different look for old Glenn and Don! 

Watching the Colors Peak. . . and a Peek at Something Else

The colors in my neighborhood are pretty much at their peak right now.  The trees are just popping with color -- but the leaves are starting to pile up in lawns and on sidewalks and in the streets, so I know it won't last much longer.  Here's the view from my front porch. . .

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When the sun shines, those trees light up in a bright, golden kind of way. The sun hasn't been shining much lately, though. 

Here's the view from my driveway. . .

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And the view out my back slider. . .

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Yep.  This view is definitely past its peak.  By next week, it'll be bare branches!

And here's the peek at something else. . .

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A finished sweater!  You can check it out on Ravelry here. . . and I'll be back on Monday to tell you more about it!

A Tale of Two Red Scarves

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . ."

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Here are two red scarves.  I'm pretty sure Mr. Dickens, himself, would've been happy to wear either one.

The first red scarf. . .

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is my contribution to the Red Scarf Project.  By this time, most knitters are familiar with this annual project, sponsored by the Orphan Foundation of America and made famous by Norma.  You can read more about the project here, and you can find scarf submission information here (the deadline for sending in your red scarf is December 15).  If you don't want to knit a red(dish) scarf this year, you can make a cash donation to support the project.  Norma is running a donation drive with cool prizes!

I knit this scarf using the basic Jared Flood Noro Striped Scarf pattern. . . only I didn't use Noro.  I used two different colors (2 skeins each) of Nashua Handknits Wooly Stripes.  The yarn is soft. . . and I really like the color changes.  You can find the details on Ravelry. . . here.

The second red scarf. . .

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is soft and light and warm, and will look perfect under my coat.  Yes, it is for me.  I couldn't resist its many charms.  And . . . well, it looks good with my hair.  No Ravelry link here, though.  Because I found this one at. . .

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Sometimes you just have to give in!

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Or, like Mr. Dickens says. . . "that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Or something like that!


Fall Break

I just returned from a quick visit to Ohio -- to visit Erin during her short fall break. 

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Erin is a junior at Denison University, which is located in Granville, Ohio -- a charming Midwestern town about 25 miles northeast of Columbus.  It's a 5 hour drive from home -- just long enough that Erin doesn't come home for a visit unless it's a long break.

Denison is located on a hill, overlooking the little town.  The views are really stunning -- especially in the fall.  This photo was taken on the way down the hill from the main campus, looking down the hill on the music building -- where Erin spends a lot of her time.  (She is an English major, with a vocal performance minor; she also sings in the Chamber Choir.  She stays in very good shape, walking up and down that hill every day!)

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Here's a view from campus, looking down at the little town below.

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I love the Denison campus!  It's just a pleasant place to be.

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This is Erin, on the steps of the Denison library.  This is such a fitting photo -- because she practically lives at the library -- not just to study . . . she also works there!  When we were looking at colleges with Erin, the library was always the "deal breaker."  If she didn't like the library. . . it was a no-go!

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The colors on campus were stunning!  Fall was in full-swing. . .

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Down the hill . . .

Granville is an absolutely chaming town!  I love the main street -- with lots of little shops and restaurants.  (Amy Butler - the fabric designer - has her studio in Granville!)

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There's something else that's really special about Granville. . .

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A great yarn store!  (I guess you could say this was my "deal-breaker" when looking for colleges with Erin!)  I've spent many a happy hour in The Needling Yarn!  Sadly, not on this trip, though.  Their hours did not line up at all with my visit (they are closed on Sundays and Mondays), so I didn't get a chance to go inside this trip!

Erin and I both had a wonderful fall break.  She's back to her studies -- and I'm back to my everyday life -- but we're both feeling refreshed!

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Light the Night

Last night was the Kalamazoo Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I want to thank so many of you for supporting me in this event.  I so appreciated your words of encouragement and support, and your donations, too.  My family and I raised almost $2,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society -- and that's really exciting!


I had my camera with me last night, but suffered a bit from "camnesia."  Here you can see my Mom, Dad, and Tom trying to figure out where to tie their balloons in preparation for the walk.  We walk with lighted balloons (which is very cool when it gets dark) -- white balloons for survivors, red balloons for supporters, and gold balloons for in-memory-of.

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This is me with my friend, Ted.  Ted and I (along with our friend, Joel, who wasn't in town this weekend) were diagnosed with cancer last fall (yeah, all three of us!), and went through treatment at the same time.  (Ted and I both had lymphoma; Joel had multiple myeloma).  We knew each other before diagnosis, and we know each other a lot better now, after treatment.  Ted, Joel, and I -- along with our spouses -- have been a great support for each other.  They're my "cancer posse."

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Here we are -- taking off with our balloons through the streets of downtown Kalamazoo!

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Last year, I was diagnosed with lymphoma right about the time of the Light the Night Walk.  I remember thinking that . . . I'd like to walk in the next one.  And I did.  That feels really good!

And now. . . I'm off for a few days to visit Erin for her fall break!