Monday, March 31, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Weary Realizations

You may not be a Picasso or Mozart but you don’t have to be. Just create to create. Create to remind yourself you’re still alive. Make stuff to inspire others to make something too. Create to learn a bit more about yourself. --Frederick Terral
I've had a couple of tired days. The reality of giving someone one of your kidneys is that you are left with one less organ that did stuff for you. And the reality of recovering from donating a kidney is that you have days when you feel almost normal, and days when you don't. Luckily, the normal days far outnumber the not-so-normal days, but whatever day it is, you have to walk through it.

This weariness is different from any "tired" I've felt before. It comes on suddenly, and is so heavy that I can't do anything but sleep, and then get up, and then sleep some more. I can only imagine what it must be like to have chronic fatigue. For someone who is used to being active, it can be frustrating.

I found myself wanting to feel sorry for myself, but really, nobody wants to be around a grumpy so-and-so. I have been finding tremendous comfort and joy in my projects. I am grateful for the ability to create, because being able to bring beauty into the world is a wonderful thing. It reminds me that I am alive, and that, even though things aren't exactly "normal" right now, there's a lot I can do. And so, when I've been too tired to get up and make something, I sit down and make something. And when I can't do that, I look online for new ideas. And when I can't do that, I read pattern books and magazines for inspiration. And when I can't do that, I sketch cables, lace patterns, sweater shapes. And, even when that is hard, I lie down and fall asleep, dreaming of my projects...

Below is the result of these musings: a collection of materials I am going to use to make some embroidered fingerless mitts. I'm not sure exactly what they'll look like, just that I know they will be beautiful.

Today, I am inspired by all of the colours and textures that surround me that I normally take for granted. Being forced to stop and look has been a good thing for me. I hope I never take them for granted again.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


During my history of yarncraft, I have prided myself on being able to finish stuff within a reasonable amount of time. Project started, then project finished. I don't like loose ends. I lie awake at night trying to work out fit issues, colour combinations, yardage calculations. "I bet I could make that," I say. And I want to do it now. Today, not tomorrow, not next month.

Darn it all, life throws a lot of obstacles in the way. Work, family, and, for the first time, surgery, have classified my most recent project as "epic." December to March. That's a long time for me. And it bugged me.

What didn't help was that I had absolutely no idea what the heck I was doing. I started with a barely legible chart from a Russian site and ended up with pieces that looked like this:

And I fought with my yarn the whole way through. The yarn itself was a dream: two shawl skeins I bought from my friend's Etsy shop, Dragonfly Dyewerx. But my ballwinder and swift were not cooperating while I was winding it, and so I ended up with these stupid long loops in the middle of my yarn cakes. They weren't quite "yarn barfs," where the yarn just pops out from the inside in a tangled mess. I'd call this "yarn spittle."

But, in the end, I did my normal thing: winging it. A lot of "Oh whatever, let's try this thing and see what happens." And winged it... or wunged it, as I like to say. Wunged seems like the proper past tense of winging it...

I added a left shoulder, because the toga look doesn't quite do it for me. And then I made sleeves. The stitch pattern kind of swirled around like a barber's pole up my arm, so I'm hoping it doesn't look too awkward. Oddly, one sleeve seems longer than the other, but I think that might be because I made one before I had surgery and one afterwards. Heh, talk about different tensions...

One of the balls had more black in it, so I used one for the left side and one for the right. And, since it's basically made of a bunch of triangles, I ended up with an asymmetrical hem, which is cool, but a real pain in the butt to photograph, since I needed to fiddle with a camisole that would both show the stitch pattern and look decent under the angled hem at the same time.

To make sure it was wide enough, I added side panels. This one looks like it's pulling at the bust, but I think that's just because of my awkward pose.

In the end, I was quite pleased. It was a satisfying experiment, which taught me that I can make a crochet top out of fingering weight yarn that I can actually wear. And, despite all the ripped out stitches, reworking piece after piece over and over again, it worked.

I'm off to figure out something for dinner. I've wunged more than one dinner in my time. It's not a bad way to live, after all.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Once in a Minute, Twice in a Moment

I appear in the Dome of Rome,
once in a minute, twice in a moment,
but never in a second. -- Unknown
That quote above is a riddle my dad told me as a kid. See if you can figure it out. I'll give you a hint: it doesn't have anything to do with time.


Time. I've got it. Time to heal, time to rest, and time to... well, do stuff. And yet... and yet...

I can't seem to get anything finished.

Perhaps it's because I've broken my normal monogamous-project rule. Having two going on at once feels like being pulled in two directions: wool project on one side, cotton project on the other. Plants vs. sheep. Epic.

Perhaps what is exacerbating the problem is that I am constantly distracted by all the stuff that I've been "saving for later." Like this blog, for example. I sat up until midnight last night fiddling with the colours and changing the font on the header. I went to bed feeling pretty sure I didn't like it, and I lay in bed plotting how I was going to take a bunch of new photos for the header image, trying to figure out angles, lighting, even what I was going to wear.

When I awoke this morning, I looked at the blog and decided it was ok. I think I like it... for now... I mean, I've got time, after all.

In the meantime, I'm slogging away at the cover project of my Japanese Crochet Book. It's been a good way for me to learn how to do padded motifs. Motifs are the fancy little pieces that make up crochet projects. Padded motifs have extra thread at the core to make them thicker and more robust. I finished the motifs for this project earlier this week.

After joining the motifs together, I decided to block them a bit. My tension is a little screwy, since I've never done this kind of crochet before, some of the edges were curling with all the extra nervous energy in each stitch. My hook, it is powerful...

And yeah, I bet you can totally see where I mixed up the placement of two of those flowers. Double-lobed flower were single lobed flower should be, as obvious as neon legwarmers on an elephant... to me, anyway. I shan't dwell on it. Those babies are joined, and, extra time or not, I'm not redoing them!

So, I'm now working on the main body of the scarf. The picot stitch of this scarf is actually what made me want to buy the book: such a nice stitch. It's interesting to see it in a thicker yarn, even if it seems like it's taking FOREVER:

But maybe it's taking FOREVER because, as I said earlier, I am easily distracted these days. I stopped this afternoon to make a couple of cakes, because... well, why not? I've got time.

And yes, we sampled them, as evidenced by the uneven edges. The cake on the left is a Lemon Poppy Seed Cake from AllRecipes, and the one on the right is Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake, which is a perfect name for a cake if I ever saw one:

So, tonight, I'll be working on my evening project: an experiment with some of my hand dyed sock yarn. This is supposed to be a top. I'm really not sure I've got the stitch count right. It could be too big, too wide, too short. It might have long sleeves. I might make it with a loose fit. I'm not sure how it'll go, but we'll see. If you've got time, you can come back and see how it turns out...

I'll check my calendar and see if I can meet you then. I'll get back to you, ok? Oh, and if you figured out the riddle, let me know!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Inspiration Mondays: Chance Meeting

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. -- John Watson
I've never been afraid of talking to strangers, probably to my parents' chagrin. I'm sure that classifies me as some kind of trendy personality type, but whatever: I like people. I travel a lot, but the most exciting part for me is the opportunity to meet the people who live there, and, if I'm lucky, get to find out something genuine about them.

Ten days after my kidney donation surgery, the hubby and I flew back to our home in Vancouver Island. I was a little nervous about it, and therefore a bit tense, and therefore a bit sore and achey as I boarded the first of three flights. It was a full plane, and we had to sit in different rows, but I wasn't really that bothered: I just wanted to sit down.

As I approached my row, I saw a man in the window seat. He was a big, husky man, with a face that might have been gentle, but it betrayed a tiny bit of nervousness. He asked me if I was going to be sitting next to him, and I nodded. "Would you mind if I just put my jacket up in the storage bin before you do?" he said. I told him that was fine, and once we deposited our things, we sat down and buckled ourselves in.

We watched the rest of the passengers get seated, then waited to take off. I glanced over at him a few times. I was in the mood for small talk, and I wondered if he would chat. Eventually, I said, "Are you going away or are you going home?"

"Oh," he said. "I'm going on a trip to Vancouver. My brother is there. What about you?"

"I'm going home after visiting my family," I said.

"Oh right," he said. Then, he paused. "I'm going to a treatment centre. For alcoholism."

I think he just needed to say it aloud. And I think he was half-expecting shock and horror.

"That's so great," I said. "Good for you. That's not an easy thing to do, but it's going to be fine."

And he looked at me, paused, and said, "Thank you," with a grateful smile.

We chatted a bit more about his work, and about my surgery, and then, just before we took off, I said, "You know, I used to weigh over 300 pounds. And while I was losing the weight, I had to learn to get over the guilt. Yes, I did it to myself, but I had to stop beating myself up about it. It was only then I could move forward. I'm sure you will, too." I wanted to tell him because I wanted him to know change was possible... to encourage him over his fears.

The plane lurched forward, and we took off, and we were soon at cruising altitude. He fell asleep shortly after that, and didn't even wake up as the flight attendants served us drinks. I bought a bar of chocolate, both to soothe my rolling stomach and to offer him a piece if he woke up. He stayed asleep for most of the flight.

As we began our descent, he awoke. He said, "Wow, I didn't think I'd slept for so long. I guess I was pretty tired. I didn't sleep too well last night."

"No," I said. "I suppose not."

The plane landed, and we walked off into the airport. At the gate, I turned to him, patted him heartily on the shoulder and said, "If I don't see you again, you'll be great. Everything will be fine."

"Thank you. Thank you," he said. He smiled, then walked off briskly. I never saw him again.

Today, I am inspired by people who are taking big, scary steps into the unknown, whether it is to improve themselves, or if change is being thrust upon them. Courage means facing the scary things, even when everything else inside of you is screaming to run the other way. It can be done.

Here's to you, Mr. Stranger. Everything will be ok.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Back On The Couch

- Napoleon Bonaparte

I've been home since last Sunday. The surgeries went well: the surgeon removed my left kidney and transplanted it into my mother on March 6th. Since then, we've both been recovering and slowly adapting to having one healthy kidney each. Two weeks on, I feel comfortable, and my energy is returning.

I must say: I am fed up with people saying, "I hear it's harder for the donor." I guess it depends on what your definition of "hard" is. I am not able to do all the activity I used to do... not yet. But I will. I didn't need any narcotics, not because I toughed it out, but I was lucky enough not to require them. I took Extra Strength Tylenol regularly for about a week, and now I don't need any. I nap a lot. But I can go out for walks with Rascal and the hubby at my normal pace, and even uphill. And I have great faith that, with time and rest, I'll be back to my old self soon. Sleep is an amazing thing.

My mother goes to the hospital every other day to have blood drawn, dressings changed, blood pressure checked, blood sugar measured, and is taking a boatload of medications. We are lucky enough that the program at the hospital includes such close monitoring, and also includes regular education for her to manage her medication. Her new kidney is doing a great job of flushing out the water and toxins that have been building up inside of her for the past few years. She told me she is losing about 1.5 pounds of water a day. A day! It is still a difficult job to keep her body chemistry at normal levels, but she is able to walk further and further each day. I'm hopeful that, with the ability to exercise, her body chemistry will achieve some kind of homeostasis.

Anyway, I'm home for the time being. Sitting still is hard for me, but I keep myself occupied. Earlier this week, I made homemade marshmallows for the first time. I used this recipe from The Clever Carrot, that uses evaporated milk instead of eggs or corn syrup. The bowl below is only a small sample of what I made. It was an exciting, miraculous process, watching the sugar turn into a fluffy pile of marshmallow. If it weren't for my stitches, I would have been jumping up and down in the kitchen:

The next day, I made these Welsh Cakes from Eating For England, a blog that my friend, Lisa, shared with me. Welsh Cakes are like extremely rich scones... and they are swear-out-loud good. I made mine a bit too thick, and they burned a bit on the outside, but holy lardcakes, they are amazing. And yes, if you decide to make these, use the lard. This is not the time for substitutions:

We got a bunch of strawberries yesterday, which will likely become some kind of experiment in the kitchen. I washed and hulled them and couldn't resist taking a photo. That little pink thingy is a strawberry huller I got as a gift. I'm not one for a lot of kitchen gadgets, but that one is a winner:

But the yarn, it has been calling me. With all this extra time on my hands, I managed to finish the crochet top I was modifying from this Russian crochet site, but I didn't feel like modelling it today. Once my distended belly recedes, I'll do a proper photo shoot with it, but here's a preview:

I've been prodded by one of my Google+ friends to get on some crochet projects for National Crochet Month. Rascal also kind of gave me a nudge when I found him lying on one of my crochet books:

So, my daytime yarn project has been the scarf that's on the front cover of that book. It's a book of Irish Crochet projects written in Japanese. Yes, it's in Japanese. No, I don't read Japanese, but it's mostly charted, and with a bit of studying, I've been working through the motifs with relative ease. I'm using a DK weight cotton yarn from Sidar called Flirt, which is thicker than what the project calls for, but so far, it's been turning out to be quite pretty. With all the ends still sticking out, each motif looks a bit like its own pondwater creature under a microscope:

And I haven't forgotten about knitting. My evening project is a knitting experiment with my own hand dyed sock yarn, which I'd love to share with you, but Rascal is busy with it at the moment:

So, in all, it's been kind of a busy few weeks, kidney and marshmallows and cakes and crochet and knitting and all. And before you say it: yes, this is what resting looks like for me. If there's one thing I've taken to heart, it's the advice that, if it takes a few more weeks to get back to "normal," then I'll take it. I'm excited to see what I am capable of doing once I've fully recovered, but it's been nice to step back a bit from my normal busy routine, a real blessing, in fact. And it's been nice to return to my blog: kind of like coming home.

Nothing like life back on The Couch: