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Monday, December 12, 2005

BananaKnits Falkenburg Sweater

This is a gorgeous piece of work, but I can't imagine what she went through with the pattern. I'm interested in the Mermaid pattern myself, but don't know if I'll ever order one now. I'll have to ask K. about her Falkenburg.

Falkenburg sweater

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What Pattern is Your Brain?

Knitnana finds the coolest do-dads for a blog!~

Your Brain's Pattern

Your mind is a multi dimensional wonderland, with many layers.You're the type that always has multiple streams of though going.And you can keep these thoughts going at any time.You're very likely to be engaged in deep thought - and deep conversation.

Habits of Mind and Body

How is it that I can fall so easily out of the habit of writing? Imprecise. Out of the habit of blogging? I get stumped on the question of how to handle a topic uppermost in my mind. I get caught up in the idea of providing entertaining offerings. I get out of many habits, including contacting friends and frustrated by trying to communicate with some family. So I retreat to my own little world, mope a bit, then remember how much more fun it is to chatter away and gab back and forth.

I am home from a most revealing two months spent finding new ways to live with being functionally blind. This has gone exceedingly well for me. I shut my eyes, protect myself from the pain of over exposure to light, and in a relatively short time, my energy levels go up, my depression subsides, my capacity for work and my overall productivity shoot WAY up, and my confidence climbs. I can be much happier and more successful functioning as a blind person than struggling to use the sight I had despite the pain I was in.

It seems like common sense now, but honestly, a person doesn't make these choices unless she's up against a wall. No one chooses to shut their eyes unless they cannot live a good life while trying to see.

Dealing with the reactions of other people has proven to take the most energy. I've many excellent supporters, both friends and family. But explaining to people what is happening, what has happened, can be draining. For many, it's not something they can grasp -- they look to me to explain what I don't really think can be explained unless you've had to make similar choices. I can still open my eyes, see my niece and nephew and watch their faces as they discover the world. But for work -- using the software that describes everything at high speed so I can keep the monitor turned off is far preferable to the headaches and constant exhaustion I've known for more than a decade.

Hope. I have hope, and joy, and they are much easier to touch when not fogged by pain or clouded by doubt about whether there is any way to get through the mountain of each day with my eyes open. With my eyes closed -- a habit of mind and body to be acquired -- I have no trouble seeing either. They are tangible, vivid things, with my eyes closed.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Tale of Perception: How Much Yarn Does It Take to Get to Cleveland?

Ba Ba Black Sheep, Have you any wool . . .

Okay, I didn’t bring the full three bags full with me, but I did bring two duffels of various yarns for a variety of projects, from presents for my niece to sweaters I’d like to be able to wear this winter.

What am I doing in Cleveland you ask? It is a long way from Missouri. I’m attending the Cleveland Sight Center to get training on Jaws, a screen reader program, and brush up my Braille and learn other gadgets and tactics to make me faster at work. As you know from previous entries, I’ve had trouble keeping up with the workload for teaching and studying for my comprehensive exams. I’ve tried explaining to various people where I’m going, and have found that the easiest explanation is to tell them I’m going to a blind school. You can see the images of Mary Ingells and Helen Keller flashing through their brains, but they seem to get the concept much faster that way than if I tell them it’s a training center.

And why all the yarn? It’s the closest thing to a teddy bear that a thirty-nine-year-old woman can respectably appear with in public! I’ve got purple alpaca, heather grey merino wool, a celery green Jo Sharp DK wool, and a lovely silk- cotton blend with me. I have yet to toss them all on the bed and roll around for the pleasure and comfort of it, but without my menagerie to keep me company, a girls gotta do something!

I’ve been having a great time playing with the computer – I’m writing this entry to practice my editing skills with JAWS. I’ve met several new people who are fun to work with and as gadget happy as I am. One of the other girls here is interested in learning to knit, so the extra skeins of cotton I brought will be useful. I have had several evening chats as we get used to the center and pine a bit for home. I’m lucky in that I can also take comfort from the dogs here at the center -- working dogs that I ask permission to pet -- and get a little “doggie-time” and interaction each day. C. is not comfortable with animals, so she doesn’t have that comfort. I can’t imagine life without all my critters, but know that some people manage to live their whole lives without ever having a dog wash their face or a cat purr them to sleep. [snicker] Of course, I’m having an easier time remembering the dogs’ names than those of their owners, but that’s to be expected for me!

I’ve got to remember to ask the living skills instructor how she keeps track of rows as she knits, since the standard row counters are too small for me to read.

I needed a small project I could work on in the dark after acquiring a light head-ache yesterday, so you sock-knitters will be overjoyed to hear that I’ve finally broken down and started my first pair of socks. I’m using a worsted weight wool-blend and will enjoy the fuzzy-comfort of a new pair of baggy socks. No throwing tomatoes! I’ll work my way up to sock-yarns and hand-dyed foot-wear-art soon enough!

The trip here was an adventure. I’m making the dress with the seed-stitch bodice for my niece – the one from Special Knits – and got the back finished while waiting for the tow-truck to come take my mother and I back to Sharon, PA after a fender bender. No, I wasn’t driving this time, my mother was. After checking on all of the participants, her first worry was “There goes my good driver discount!” She’d never been in an accident that was her fault, and the experience shook her up a bit. Given that her nerves were stretched from waiting for me to make my way from Missouri to Indiana where I stayed at my brothers, and then from Indiana to her place, I’d say the woman handled herself very well. We finally got back to her place, had a drink and both took naps! The next evening after she got off work, we were on our way again, intrepid explorers investigating the highways to Cleveland. We both got a lot of mileage out of the fact that she was letting her blind daughter do the navigating, and we had a wild time trying to find the grocery store in Cleveland once we had my baggage unpacked in my apartment.

Now we each have our own adventures to manage. Adventures you say? Certainly. I get to spend my time with more members of the blind community than I’ve ever met before, and my mother gets to baby sit two of the three “grandpuppies” from my menagerie! Watching this non-dog-mom manage an excited husky who is bouncing around with no self-control, so excited that she’s going outside that she is leaping in the air and turning in circles is quite a site. I don’t think I’ve heard quite that tone in Mom’s voice since the last time she tried to stuff my brother’s toddler-arms into a winter coat! [grin]. Just what she needs to keep her busy and confirm her in the opinion that she doesn’t even want a cat of her own!

Friday, June 17, 2005

A Tale of Perception: Mobility and the Milwalkee Mugger

Mobility and the Milwalkee Mugger

Fall of 1995, I was just coming down off of the high doses of prednisone prescribed to try to halt the growth of a “retinal anomally.” Now for those of you who’ve never had high doses of prednisone (80 mg a day) it sometimes comes with side-effects like extreme paranoia, impulse control problems, insulin / blood sugar spikes and plunges, etc. I happen to be one of those that go temporarily bonkers on the stuff. But since it is the first line of defense for addressing a reactivation of the histoplasmosis which gnaws at my vision, I take the stuff and go nuts for two weeks when mandatory.

In the rest of life, I was in the second year of my Master’s program in English Literature and had had my first paper accepted to a professional conference – not only that, but it was an international conference, not a graduate student conference or a local or regional conference. This was a huge honor, and I desperately wanted to read my paper myself. So I had it ready, printed out in a 36 point bolded font and hoped to be able to control the paranoia long enough to take part in the conference. Just in case I couldn’t handle the stress or if my eyes suddenly got worse during this unstable period, I had a friend along to help me negotiate the conference and to read the paper in my stead if necessary.

Jenn was a great woman. She was the first person to recognize the simplicity and necessity of just asking me what I could and couldn’t do or did or didn’t want to try when it came to taking part in activities like the grad student three-on-three basketball games each week. In the middle of a crowded department event, she’d been trying to get my attention for several minutes through the babble, and final said, “hey, blind girl! I’m trying to get your attention!” which had me cracking up laughing and had her catching hell from the more sensitive types in the department until they realized that between the two of us, it was a sign of comfort and acceptance. I’m short and red-headed, and had been known as “Red” or “the short redhead” throughout my time in community theater while in high school. So for me, the nick-name was a great way to defuse tension. We explained our meeting to someone once. Jenn said “I’ve never met a blind person before, is it okay if I just ask what you need or you are interested in joining us in doing something like basket ball or playing pool?” My response was: “I’ve never been blind before, so asking me is the best shot you have, and I may not know until I try. As long as that’s okay with you, we’ve got a plan.” We kept it that simple. She never assumed, and I never hesitated to let her know if I needed something. I haven’t been that comfortable with new friends since then.

Anyway. The day before I was to give my paper, we were walking back to the hotel in downtown Milwalkee Wisconsin. The conference was held at the Marquette University there, not the one in Michigan. I was walking with my big noir filter glasses – the darkest grey ones that block 98% of the spectrum – and with my handy red-and-white cane. I was carrying a satchel with my Braille ‘N Speak, my magnifiers, my wallet, and other essentials in my left hand.

Now keep in mind, I walk very briskly with the cane – in about half or two-four time for those of you who are into music. I started mobility training within three months of losing my vision, and had used my old Austrailian shepherd to go to the post office in our town of 257 people every other day during those three months. I didn’t learn the caution most people pick up, and my mobility specialist encouraged me to most briskly, with purpose, and to maintain a steady pace at all times. He said not to hesitate, but to keep moving if addressed by strangers or confronted by someone I didn’t feel comfortable with. He bade me remember that I DID have a four and half foot piece of stout, flexible aluminium in hands that could be used at need. He also pointed out that moving in at a steady pace made it much easier for others to determine how to interact with me at intersections or at narrowings in the path. The only time I’ve ever had more trouble than occasionally tripping on cracks or stuttering over uneven shadows was when hiking once. I moved to climb out of a creek-bed up onto the bank, and a tree-branch I hadn’t seen or been aware of poked me dead-center of my left glasses lense. Scared the living hell out of me . I had to sit down on a rock for fully ten minutes to recover my composure. Now when hiking, I walk with a stout staff that is taller than my head so I can sweep it back and forth at face level when necessary and poke it back and forth at my feet to locate the ground and stabilize me as I’m walking from rock to rock in a stream (although I usually just walk in the bed of the stream as it’s more stable and getting my feet wet is part of the fun!).

Back to Milwalkee. I’m moving at my usual pace, and unbeknownst to me, my friends fall behind as they pause to look in a shop window. Part way down the block, an unkempt man in dirty Carhart overalls starts walking backwards in front of me, crouching down and peering into my face as he does so. He starts making odd grimaces and faces. He doesn’t say anything. And for a few moments, neither do I. People can be idiots, and if they make fools of themselves gawking briefly, I don’t consider it worth my while to take notice of them. But this guy persisted for more than half a block. I kept moving at the same pace and swinging my cane, tap-tap-tapping, rap-rap-rapping it on the sidewalk and he had to hustle occasionally to keep from getting hit by it.

Finally my irritation peaked as I realized that this uncivilized baboon was going to walk backwards into the intersection if he didn’t stop annoying me. The prednisone and the aggression that it fosters in response to the paranoia undoubtedly inflenced the way I addressed him. I did not pause. I did not hesitate. If he’d stopped moving at all, he’d have gotten wacked with the cane. I just kept heading straight for him an asked in the most demanding tone I possessed “DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM?” tap tap tap. He gaped. He gasped. He almost fell on his ass in shock. Tap tap tap. Louder and more aggressive: “DO! Rap. YOU! Tap. Have! Rap. A! PROB! LEM!?” Tap. Tap Tap.

He ran like hell.

My friends scurried up just then, asking why I was talking to that strange man. “Did you know he was eying your bag? He might have done something to you!” “It’s okay. I think he’ll pause before jumping out in front of anyone using a blind cane from now on!”

On a less dramatic note, I was able to deliver the paper myself, and it was a hit!

The only thing better than four and half feet of flexible metal would be a dog with good senses and big teeth. But have you ever seen a dog-jam in a hotel lobby? Ah well, that’s another story.

I must admit though, I was surprised when my mobility teacher in Indiana told me that a large percentage of people who loose vision as adults become homebound, at least until the vision loss progresses until they qualify for a dog. I even met a woman who said she refused to use a cane because she didn’t like people staring at her. I can understand that part, but they’re going to stare when you use a dog too.

I think many people without vision problems find the cane an ominous object, something they don’t know how to negotiate socially. They seem more comfortable with dogs since dogs are an icebreaker. I wonder if I put I.D. tags on the cane? maybe a hair bow? if people will feel better walking up and striking up a conversation with me: “oh, how cute. What’s your cane’s name? How old is he? Oh how cute! Can I pet your cane? What lovely markings! Oh your such a smart cane aren’t you? How long have you had him?”

Honestly, I would love the companionship of having a dog as a mobility partner. The isolation gets to me, and I like the idea of having a smart, savvy creature keeping an eye on me. I do remember the first time I spent much time in the company of someone using a dog. Shiela (the black lab) would eye my cane when I popped it out, and then keep an eye on me as well as on my student when we walked around campus, particularly when going up or down stairs. Josh couldn’t figure out why she kept stopping at the bottom of the stairs until I let him know she was keeping an eye on me too when I was with them and waiting for me to catch up!
Well. Gotta get back to work on some research. I’ve got some great news to share about my appointment with my new Rehab Services counselor / regional director I met for the first time yesterday. I’m still caught somewhere between sobs and giggles of relief after this meeting. Life’s going to get much better for me soon. Yipee!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Opinions Needed by Saturday!

Hello All,

I thought I'd put this up for opinions. I'm interested in doing the "Entrelac Shell" from the last Knit'N'Style and have started with this varigated yarn. I love the rich colors, but I'm not sure I like the way it is striping. I'd hoped for more pooling -- puddles of color rather than stripes which just aren't by nature my thing. But I have no experience with knitting in this style, so I'm not sure what the finished product might look like from a normal distance. No shaping in the body. Will the colors blend together a bit? Or will it still seem like stripes gone wild? Opinions? If I want to do this top, I'd probably end up picking up the rest of the yarn for it at the yarn sale on Saturday. Let me know what you think!

entrelac shell

The Morning After

What a knit-nite! At the local Barnes and Noble once again (We do need to see about rotating through houses again once people are up to it). I will brag about myself first. I have graduated from geometric shapes to fitted garments!

My first shell is done! It is the one with lace from this quarter's Last night K showed me how to do the single crochet edging around the openings. I still need to take the seemed shoulders apart. Not happy with the look or the length -- it's just a tad long. Anyway. I need to pick apart the seeming and the BO edges, unravel a few rows, and then do a three-needle BO (which, I actually already know how to do! Yeah!) to get a smoother seem.

L., having been traveling for work and the holiday was not in spirits. She seemed unsettled in mind and body and went home early. I'm hoping she gives me a call tonight to let me know how she's doing. If not, I'll pester her tomorrow.

A. makes stunning progress. She can do cables now, figured out errors in the "Knitting on the Edge" pattern she was using, and has started the wrap from this summer's "Knitters" in King Tut Egyptian cotton -- ohhh so soft.

I do wonder about the amount of time she is putting into this -- something another remarked on as well. She's pointed out herself that if she can't excel at something, she walks away. A general philosophy that can cause problems sometimes. I never realized how much I gain from being willing to enjoy what I'm doing, even if I'm not good at it yet or may not become good at it.

I'd never have been able to create Devlin's Dragon, or the picture of Scott (my brother) if I hadn't continued my drawing and decided to try painting the dragon. While my fiction writing is somewhat -- pedantic -- at times, many of my poems are good. I just don't write often anymore -- the intense emotional focus can be hard for me to shake off right now, so I stay away from it for the moment.

As I've noted in the past, I'm a generalist in many ways. No art lessons beyond public grade school. No music lessons either. Theatre proved outlets for many of these activities in the past, but since I haven't worked on a play in -- yikes! -- sixteen years, I've gone back to some of these pursuits. For what painting and drawing I do from time to time, my eyes serve -- I don't seem to need depth perception to do what I do.

I will never be brilliant at any of these things, but they do make me happy -- they enrich my life, just like the elementary ed. philosophies suggest. I can't imagine walking away from things just because I thought I might not be the best at it. Criminy, there's always someone out there who's got more talent or training. I sing, but I don't have perfect pitch. I fuddle around with my guitar, but I haven't managed to master all the chords yet. I've been fuddling off and on with it for five years. I'll get there. I have a lifetime to play with these things. They are for pleasure and for being creative and for sharing with my family -- at least for the most part.

Thought of doing something that she was not good at put terror into A.'s eyes. A difficult situation for her. Childhood training can do so much to us. Knitting is a positive thing to enjoy, and I can't really pass judgement on the amount of time A is putting into it right now -- I've been known to use it for thinking, working through stressful times, and procrastinating myself! (Just one more row and then I'll . . . ) but perhaps this is just another way of working. Her work is beautiful, and she's enjoying the hell out of it. Perhaps that's what she needs most right now.

Hmmm. Oh yes. K. And the Anna Falkenburg. My god this sweater will be gorgeous! Her colors are all brown-y heathery with some green and a bit of rust thrown in. The pictures of the geometric design did nothing for me, but seeing it flow from K's needles is another story -- so fine a stitch gauge, so beautiful a pallet. K is doing a lovely job with it. I sometimes envy her her yarn opportunities -- [sigh] okay, I covet her yarn. That's all there is to it. Often. Always. Maybe it's time to visit her stash and play with it again. I love fondling yarn, even yarn I will never own. I'm such a degenerate that way!

But the job hunt continues. And if I get the résumé's out this week that I've set as a goal, I will allow a small purchase of the four skeins I need of Fantasy Naturale cotton that I need to make the variegated entrelac shell I've started (hah! I learned to do that last night too -- or at least got it started. Such a good learning night for me!) We'll see. I want to have enough worked on the back to see if the colors will pool as I hope or if they will only stripe. if they will only stripe, I will wait until I can get some of this yarn in a solid color. I don't think Stitches has it in solids at this point. But the 20% off sale will have me looking for it bright at early Saturday morning!

We had others dropping in and out which increased the fun and is one of the advantages of holding our sessions there. And the Italian wedding cake and coffee were scrumptious. Gotta love that stuff as well.

Hrummph. Well. If I'm going to get those résumé's out, it's time to get going. More coffee. Off to the computer itself. Time to move.

Okay -- just one more row!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Knitting On

The knitting continues -- thank god. If it didn't, how could I pretend to justify my yarn purchases? Actually, I haven't bought anything since early April except a couple of skeins of the sock yarn I'm using to make the lace-trimmed shell from the latest issue of Not too shabby for a confirmed addict!

So, this shell is progressing well. I've finished the back and I'm working on the top of the front now. The majority of the body was knit in the round, so this is just a matter of finishing up the straps and then joining them. It's been a wonderfully satisfying project. I'll have to do another one in some of the Sonata I got from elann. This Sockatta has created a lovely mottled pattern that suits me far better than stripped socks! I've used the yarn doubled to get the gauge, but I'd like to try the next one I do in single strand for a lighter fabric. This will still wear well, even in muggy Missouri, but a variety of fabrics would make it more interesting. Hmmm. Perhaps the single strand would work well for the ribby-shell from chick-knits. I tried the Sonata for that, but felt the fabric became WAY too heavy. I wish I could afford to buy up a bunch of the Paton's Grace. I really prefer the finer gauge yarn. But -- not at five to six bucks a skein right now. [sigh] Ah well. I've a lifetime to knit and should have more money over the course of the next year. Until then, I've enough yarn for several cotton tops this season, and lord knows I'll have enough of a challenge getting them done in time to wear, so I'd best get a winter sweater on the needles if I want one to wear this fall! That lavender alpaca from elann is calling to me!

I've gotten a shrug pattern I like from that last issue of knitty as well. But I'm not sure what I'll make it with. I may try to make it from some of the baby cashmere from elann, but I'm not sure the yarn is thick enough - it might end up being too stringy rather than lacy if I stretch it out by using needles large enough to get the gauge and have the thing actually fit. Hmmm. Lots of pretty things to contemplate. I'm really missing my digital camera again. But I'll see if I can run by K's and get pictures of things soon.

I completely frogged the Shoalwater shawl. It was just too dense on number 9 needles. I may need to purchase 11's, but I'll try the 10's first.

I took a bit of a break today -- only worked on job ads I had. But tomorrow I'll go looking for more. Employment must happen. Maybe I'll be REALLY lucky and end up with dental coverage! I can hope.

Hmmm. Is there any way to get health insurance to cover yarn purchases? Naw. But it will be good to have a regular job again for a bit. I love teaching, but the struggle to read all those papers has been hard on my attitude as well as my eyes. So an appropriate job for my skills and eyes and less to take home at night will be welcome!

Monday, May 23, 2005

How to Stop Going Blind?

One of the ironies of my life is that Annie Sullivan was my hero, not Helen Keller.

I read the biographies of one woman, was moved, was filled with wonder at Helen's story. I even thought about going to Radcliffe -- in the way that an admiring nine-or-ten-year-old thinks of college and of being a grown-up. But my full-fledged fascination was reserved for Annie, and I combed the biographies for details of her life, her struggles, her power to make things happen.

I have been re-gifted with an amazing amount of vision for daily living that lets me maintain almost complete independence. Yet, eleven years after the fact, I am still struggling to accept the limitations of the vision I re-gained. The numbers are telling: only thirty percent of normal vision still functioning (at the low vision specialist's best estimate), a ten to fifteen minute limit on reading regular print without assistance. The majority of the medical professionals I have worked with, wonderful though they have been, have little understanding of the difference between acuity and functional vision. My retinal surgeon still marvels at my orange glasses -- worn to protect my ravaged retinas from florescent light, blue light, and glare, to enhance the vision I have and give me access to more sharp edges, to crisp pictures, to longer periods of functional vision with less strain.

No one told me in advance that moving the CCD-TV tray fast enough to let me read at my "normal" (un-hampered) pace would make me sea-sick, resulting in more headaches. The low vision specialist diagnosed the problem after several years of struggle and pain. But the general attitude of the professionals was -- okay, you can see now, you can even drive, what's the problem? Why would you need any adaptations? Headaches? Low stamina? Maybe they'll go away. You can drive!

And with that attitude in place, just as my brain spent months -- nay -- years struggling and screeching for more information to fill in the gaps before settling into the task of learning to interpret what it was getting, so I have struggled and continued to try to do the immense amount of reading my profession calls for without accepting the fact that my eyes just won't do it.

I can do almost anything I wish with the vision I re-gained, but not this. Not my chief source of pleasure and intellectual activity. Before this vision loss, I would consume three to four books a week for pleasure or work. Now I cannot get through one without a struggle, and once again my brain is screeching for more information -- faster information.

Other means of getting the information to my brain exist. But there have been problems, even with the magnifiers. Having been a voracious reader, I had learned to take in whole lines at a time, sometimes two or three when working, to skim and move back for important points, to scan whole pages, and move on. A strong magnifier or even an audio book does not allow for this. You must read word by word. Whole lines are rarely visible, or if they are , you have given up magnification to get the whole line, and so reduce the benefit of the magnification.

But there are other ways and means. A full screen-reader on the computer and other audio programs which can be set at high speeds will allow activities that parallel the type of skimming I have been used to.

I'll be shifting more and more to audio over the next few months, and my use of audio whenever possible in the last ten years has allowed me to reach the state where I can not only follow a story-line, but can work critically in audio. But human beings are such visual creatures. The instinct, the desperate instinct to gather information primarily with our eyes is stunning. It shoves aside reason, past experience and the memory of skull-cracking headaches to urge me to pick up a book and read without magnifiers, without even my reading glasses. I can do everything else -- surely with one more attempt, I could do this.

I wonder how much of the habit of this struggle comes from the soul-racking effort to stave off blindness that marks almost any initiation into this world of re-gifted sight. My story is one of sight literally re-gained through experimental surgery. But even those who have experienced a steady loss over time or a sudden irreversible loss of partial sight enter this state of the re-gifted. For once you have lost sight, you are aware of what you have to an amazing degree and fight to use it to best effect. Only those whose loss occurred so far back in childhood as to seem the natural state of the world are exempted from the constant fear of more loss, the heightened awareness and hyper-protectiveness of vision maintained, preserved, salvaged, saved, horded, cherished, mourned.

Nothing in the medical world prepares you for acceptance. No one encourages acceptance -- only struggle. Eleven years ago I horrified the residents and the surgeon involved in restoring my sight by requesting a weekend to decide if I would have the surgery. I was an excellent candidate. The odds of at least preserving what vision I had were overwhelming, and the chances of restoring at least partial center-vision were strong. But I wanted to think it over. I had lost the center vision in both eyes over the course of three years. I was tired -- exhausted -- prostrated from the fight to stop, to hold, to maintain, that had resulted in losses at every turn. Nothing had worked as they said it might. Having gone blind twice, I had to question the wisdom of setting myself up for another loss. I had to ask if it was time to stop fighting the particular battle and get on with life as a blind person.

I sat on the steps of my parents' house in the country. Early October in Indiana. Indian summer. The trees were still green and the wind was strong enough to move them rhythmically. No sharp edges. No distinct images. Just peripheral awareness, and light and color. Donut vision. But still vision of a sort. I remember the greens and browns of the trees, the grey-brown of the wooden porch steps, and the blue of my father's shirt as he came to sit on the step to the left of me.

He did not say a word. He just sat while I looked and thought and gave voice to the exhaustion. The quality of the man's silence was rich and deep, filled with the knowledge of doubt.

He gave no hint of his wishes, though I found out later that my mother was bouncing off the walls of the kitchen trying to contain her instinct to DRAG me into the operating room and hand the doctor the knife. Her recognition of the need to let me make this choice and the strength it took to stay in the kitchen and not push are among her finest moments of parenting, though the picture that comes to mind of her pacing, smoking, shifting old mail on the counter, picking up pens and putting them in a cup, picking up the lighter and putting it down. Moving the cigarette pack, opening cabinets, and looking in the freezer, only to move back to the counter, to the lighter, to the ashtray -- I have to grin. She must have been about to explode!

How my father sat beside me in quiet compassion without urging one course or the other, I'll never know. But he sat. He murmured a few things. But for the most part, he just kept me company while I made my choice.

I chose the surgery. I chose the struggle. I re-gained my vision. I walk with a blind cane and drive a car. I can see tree leaves, and a spider's web, the moon, and even some of the stars at night. But I cannot read without help. And I cannot use my eyes to read the quantity of print my life as a teacher and my life as a student require.

I gave up counted cross-stitch and took up my knitting needles instead. Though I still love the color and texture of cross-stitch, and envy the friends who can work with the pallet of flosses and fine linen, my aversion to the confusion of the printed charts is visceral -- nausea and a mental flinching even knowing I will not be required to read the pattern. I don't like the fact that I can't do it now. But I've learned to accept it.

After eleven years, perhaps it's time to stop struggling for that in other ways. As I asked once before -- am I allowed to stop fighting? My father had no answer for me.

When people ask about "being blind," I've often said that going blind is much worse than being blind, and leave them to figure it out.

Perhaps it is time I stop going blind.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Too many items on the needles. Too many papers to grade. Too many items to read, review, or write for my degree. Too many WIP's in every part of life!

I shift from being excited by all I am doing to being overwhelmed by all that I've started.
I'm working on the little moss-stitch dress from "Special Knits" for my niece. I've got my Shoalwater Shawl partially done, but can't figure out how to include the yarn with bits of color that I wanted to carry along intermittently. I can't get it to look right.
I've pulled out a top that I'd very much like to finish (started last fall) but I need the time to pick out my errors in the neckline and work my way back into the pattern. I've started a lovely ribbed shell (from Chick-knits) and need to get back to that, but want to finish the dress first. [sigh]. I am, perhaps, a little impatient at the moment. Just nameless gnawing anxiety. But this seems to be one of those periods in the pattern of life that has me running so fast I'm in serious danger of forgetting to enjoy what I'm doing!

So I've scheduled time for myself -- both structured and unstructured. I've also started to limit my "multi-tasking" -- sometimes it's NOT better to work on two things at once. Allowing myself to concentrate on ONE task at a time, for fun or work, brings some of the joy back to it and removes some of the needless "frantic flavoring" that I've been tasting in all tasks of late.
A friend from KR wrote me recently about her vision of heaven as a beautiful puzzle, in which she had to be herself and maintain her proper shape to fit her section of the puzzle, but there were people on the other side, completely different from herself, whose edges would not fit with hers, but who were just as essential to the puzzle, and to the beauty of the picture as she; they too were required to keep their shapes to fit in their portion of the picture. And though we could not see it, all is necessary for the whole.

It's a lovely picture. And I've been contemplating it as I knit, wondering if life at large, and my life specifically can be represented that way. I think so, if the puzzle is extended through time. I am not who I was, though who I was, was necessary to my life at the time. My shapes and soul have changed, my mind, my responses, my ideas of myself and others. I'm learning not to try to force myself to accept those whose edges don't match mine, but at times I feel like a child's learning puzzle, with the edges curled and worn, rounded and peeling with learning and struggle. With all my WIP's, I feel fragmented and distressed by it. But sorting is necessary. I've never liked working on puzzles much, but I do it by assembling chunks as I find the bits that match. Eventually I can recognize how the sections go together. But I still have a child's unholy glee at crumbling the picture into pieces again; and as a child I preferred to re-make it as I wished once I've seen what the designer did. This makes for awkward bits and odd combinations, to be sure. But it was fun!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Stitch Markers

While I was finishing up Ene's Scarf/shawl, an interesting exchange took place on KR about trying to use stitch markers for this project. Unfortunately, for the bulk of the lace of the body, stitch markers didn't work because the double decrease kept shifting its place in the pattern repetition.

Finished Ene's Scarf

This makes for the lovely "organic" mesh rather than clearly defined columns or chunks of pattern. I really enjoyed working on this section of this scarf. But others talked about continuing to use the stitch markers and just shifting them back and forth, while a couple of other people used the stitch markers for seven to ten rows and then "knit without the net" and took them off.

At the same time this was going on, other interactions in my life have had me wishing life came with stitch markers! Well, it does -- some at least. Family. Obligations. Loan payments . But if life came with stitch markers, which ones would they be and how would you use them?

Stitch markers come in so many different designs. I tend to collect the solid ring markers -- the plastic ones in different colors, the bulky white ones, the small black rubber ones. But there are other stitch markers out there as well. Split markers that can be taken on and off with no hassle. Coil-less safety pins that stay put with the safety of a ring, but can still be taken off and shifted. And of course, the dangly beaded ones that I covet for no useful reason other than that they make me smile.

My next question parallels the discussion on KR. When should stitch markers be removable and when not? How to select different markers for different pattern breaks? Can you change half-way through an item? What if you forget what the marker means? When are "social" stitch markers a luxury and when must they be kept firmly in place? And when markers travel down the knitting, when do you shift them up? Every row? Whenever you need to see them? More often to help you keep your place with less effort?

Do some people need/like stitch markers more than others? In knitting and in life? How to negotiate the conflicts between the fact that in life, most of my stitch markers are split and easily shifted, but others seem to want THEIR stitch markers to be solid rings in the pattern. It’s a sticky issue.

In knitting it's much easier. I choose and use to suit myself. I'm currently knitting a ribbed camisole in the round and not using any markers at all. I'll need to put some in when I get to the neckline and the arm-holes. But not before. It never occurred to me to try to use stitch markers with Ene's scarf, but with the stole I'm designing using several patterns from Barbara Walker's Second Treasury, you can bet those solid little rings will be right there telling me which panel I'm working on at any given moment. I'll probably even color-code.

There's no set answer. But there are days when I wish life DID come in a knitting kit complete with needles, yarn, and color-coded markers all picked out. Some days I just don't want to have to choose or to deal with the frogging that comes with not picking the right way to go! Hmmm. Do you think I could find one on-line? Nothing like fair-isle of course but . . . . ah well, back to the top.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Revising Perspectives

It's amazing to recognize the change in perspective that comes with release from a 36-hour migraine. All life's pursuits, work or play, become easy rather than a drain, fulfilling rather than a way to maintain time and sanity.

I've been finishing up the Ene's scarf for mom while listening to my comps reading this morning. It's not quite done, but I've almost finished the last repetition of chart 3 and will then just have the upper edging to finish with chart 4. The repetitions within the lines have gotten to be so few that I'm startled by how fast I'm done with a row.

The construction of this scarf made the initial stages maddening for me -- cast on all stitches for the two sides of the triangle and reduce the number of stitches as you work your way up, filling in the middle of the "cone" as you make your way up to the center-back. It was so hard to see any real progress for the first 30 rows or so that I was often discouraged -- especially since the frogging that is a natural part of my learning process when working on a pattern involved so MANY stitches and so much un-knitting and knitting as I tried to get the sequences right. Frustrating is too mild a word. Maddening is better. Anyway, I love the look and drape of the shawl, so I'll undoubtedly make more with this basic structure -- I'm already lusting after the flower basket shawls I've seen on others' blogs!

Lace Lust. I think it'd make a great book title!
Maybe someday.

Well, I've joined my first knit-a-long (KAL). The button for it is up, and it is, naturally, for lace shawls. This will get me moving on my own mohair shoalwater shawl -- I'd like to get some wear out of it before July and August make it impractical!

I'm job hunting again. Scheduling with Dillards could not be worked out. I think I'm going to ask to speak with someone at B&N about the jobs they have available, to determine "if my applications are appropriate" -- yep, a way to point out that I am actually capable of doing the necessary work. My only real concern about working there is that I might come to hate the place -- and then what would we do for the knit-nights that aren't at someone's house? Hmm. I'll stop by the second hand book store to see if they need a clerk too.

This is only my second job-hunt with blind-cane in hand, so I'm still somewhat nervous and uncertain about what I should do. I need a second job by late April -- so I'm debating about going in for a position someplace like Wal-Mart without the cane. The stress/worry about tripping will drive me nuts at first, but I frequently don't use the cane in familiar places anyway -- at least those I know have flat floors! Example: I use it to get too my classrooms to teach, but I don't use it while teaching. I just make sure the floor is clear before I start so I can walk around at will.

I get a little lightheaded at first, since I don't have depth perception and can't see where my feet are going to land (visual field blockages). But once I'm used to the space, I do okay -- usually. Hell. I don't need more stress eating up energy I can't afford to waste. Hell and blast! What a quandary.

Recognizing my need for the cane has also been a major part of accepting who I am -- resolving my images of myself with and without visual problems. It also keeps me from breaking my ankles and reduces my anxiety levels. It's funny how much it can mean to me to be certain of where the floor is! On many levels, I just don't think applying and trying to work without the cane are practical -- I've chosen to be very straight forward about the vision impairment and what requires modification or can't be done. After my experiences with the durable medical equipment company when I lost the vision in the second eye, I'm not interested in wasting my time working with people who have a problem with my visual losses. It's jut not worth my energy when we're talking about jobs I have no interest in turning into a career.

But to be totally honest, I need the money, damn it. I want to do work I'm capable of doing and get paid for it so I can continue to work on this degree and move onto my "real" career eventually.

Well, clerking is a good way to go for me, but I'll have to convince people that I can handle the stocking tasks involved. Reception work would also be good. I've a great phone voice (all that theatre training had to pay off sometime) and plenty of experience being patient with people. Hmmm. We'll see. We'll see. Resumes and rest today. More knitting and reading and writing and grading. Job hunting and office hours tomorrow. Sounds like a plan. Wouldn't it be great to get a job that would allow me to knit too? Okay, I know. Asking too much here!
I wish I could take the knitting to job interviews -- maybe it would be a good prop for demonstrating my ability to do detail work despite the visual losses? Nope. It would just be a security blanket, and look unprofessional too. Harrummmph.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Sit and Knit at My House!

Sit and Knit Night

Wednesday we had Sit and Knit at my house – yeah! This means that I actually cleaned and straightened and polished wood, etc. Now that the event is over, the empty coffee and end tables are making me nervous. Perhaps I should randomly stack books on them to increase my comfort level? Seriously, I was pleased with the gleaming wood, candles, and comfy atmosphere. I enjoy entertaining and need to do more when I can!

Well, the highlight of the night had to be when A. realized that she'd knit 83 inches of ribbon belt for her daughter who wears a size 4 business suit! A. was laughing so hard she had tears running down her face -- an she knew that this wasn't going to fit into a plastic egg for Easter unless L’eggs started making them again!

My three teapots all got a workout, so we had plenty of choices for refreshment, and I used different cups and saucers for each person, so some of the china got a workout as well! K. Really liked the Adagio white tea she had going in the small pot, and L. Enjoyed Hartley and son's Cinnamon Sunset. A. had some of each, and I alternated from Blackberry Sage to green over the course of the night.

I've gotten the blue Ene's shawl back up past the last point I frogged it; L.'s sweater from White Lies is REALLY coming along. That colony blue yarns she has from elann -- the alpaca-tensile blend -- is gorgeous!

K. stopped work on her chocolate wool lace -- a circular feather and fan from "A Gathering of Lace” to assess the gauge and decided to start over on a larger needle.

I've been working on teaching and on my readings this week, so I haven't gotten as much done as I'd like, but today should help! I've got errands to run before going to lunch with another friend -- and one is to pick a replacement for my Natura size 2 bamboo circ's. I fell asleep knitting and rolled over on them and broke them!!!!! Felt like a real dork. I've lost so many needles to Kala's munching, and now I break one I'm in the middle of using!!!!!

I really enjoyed having people over. We'll be at B&N next week. I hope A. joins us again. This was her first night with us, and lord she was funny!

Well, gotta get on with the day. Sunshine and opportunities for chattering with friends call me from the computer and out into the world!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Knitting Life

I've been thinking about this phrase -- "What feeds your knitting life." And I wonder if it's not what feeds my knitting so much as that knitting helps feed my life in general.

Patons outback mohair -- yummy -- I want a shawl first and then a sweater.

Sustenance. Comfort. Creation. Pattern. Success. Release. Tactile, emotional, rational. And capable of being reworked with little penalty and no shame.

Here is the Misty garden Scarf I did as a lark -- saw it; knit it; loved it. A total impulse!

Cowl neck sweater with bell sleeves from IK. This is an acrylic, because I hadn't found the Paton's mohair and wanted a non-scratchy sweater. I'm just ready to start the decrasing rounds.

Others have mentioned anxiety and stress and "feeding" their knitting life. While knitting does help me take care of these emotions, the emotions don't actually add to the quality of my knitting enjoyment. They can provide energy -- but it is just that - an exchange of energy from negative to positive. But I don't see these exchanges as 'feeding' my knitting. For me it is the difference between continuation and growth. Negative emotions may provide energy for continuation. But growth finds its power elsewhere.

The number of color variations surprised me!

What contributes to the growth of my knitting life? Chat, pictures, textures, tactile sensations (I LOVE playing with yarn!) smells, photos in magazines, fun, fancy, group energy and anticipation. My own determination to get the pattern to work out properly.

Misty Garden -- more a misty lake in these colors -- but I love the results.

All these things push me toward new techniques, new fibers, ideas and imaginings that make my fingers twitch for the feel of yarn and grope for needles to begin the process of forming fabrics.

On the other side of this equation, rest the contributions knitting has made to my life. It often "feeds" my life with the joy and power of creating, the pleasure of getting attention and compliments for what I've made or am making, the feeling of doing something special.

I find it far too easy to identify my "failures" in life. Choices that have lead to bad patches, procrastination that frustrates everyone involved, (even me!), periods of depression which not only eat up chunks or years of my life, but then require additional time, resources, energy and anxiety to remedy. It is easy to feel a failure.

But in the midst of one session of "climbing back out of the pit" someone pointed out to me that as long as I'm not dead, I can't have failed -- I'm not done yet. This thought did a good job of getting my attention rationally at the time. But I don't know that I felt it emotionally until just recently.

I just frogged a complicated piece of lace I'm making for my mother. This is the fourth frogging, and in-between there have been many many sessions of unknitting multiple rows to sort out a problem.

Just before frogging. The shading is a little bright, but I love the pattern definition.

Oddly enough (for me) I do not feel I am failing at this. With each re-start, I become more confident in the sections I've worked before and get farther into the pattern.

I'd gotten this far without realizing I was 14 stitches off in placing the center.

I've had to alternate skeins as the alpaca becomes to soft/fuzzy to make the crisp forms needed for the outer edging, but the frogged yard will work well for the less articulated center section of the shawl. It is not at all ruined, only moved to another position in the whole.

Better idea of the mist blue-grey of the alpaca.

As long as I do not give up, I cannot fail. And the garment becomes richer with each attempt -- more full of emotion and that earnest little-girl need to get the present for Mommy just right. If I wake to find glue or construction paper in my hair, I won't be surprised.

Perhaps this is the image of myself -- for meditation or for simple reflection -- that will be the most productive for me. I am knitting life -- sometimes I can choose my materials; sometimes I must knit with what is at had. I can re-work, re-form, frog, and re-start, put in safety lines, count and recount, alternate needle sizes, and continue to play with pattern, form, and the fascinating play of color, texture, design, and accident. Knitting life is a verb/object combination for me, rather than the adjective-noun combo that the KR topic presumed. I feel I have so many fragments to knit up, ends to weave in. But there are techniques for this; it is a known and expected element of knitting, rather than an indication of poor choices or workmanship. Yes. Knitting life is what I want to do. I've done plenty of frogging. Now I must get back to casting on and picking up stitches!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Morning Re-boot

Morning. Coffee. Dogs. A computer keyboard and time to enjoy all of them. Gonna be a good day.

This blog suffered quite an interruption. I got a THIRD dog. She ate my digital camera. I spent some time battling lung infections and asthma, survived my first Christmas in retail (my second job) broke my toe stepping on a dog toy, and had a computer hard drive crash. Hmmm. Yep. That sums up the things that have kept me from blogging.

Kala, 18-mo.-old. Husky.

I didn't realize until I found my camera in bits how much I think the pictures are an integral part of this record. Still very attached to to the visual -- perhaps more so since I'm relying on vision restored.

I've been wearing the Ostrich Plumes shawl and getting many compliments -- I love having actually made something that turned out as pretty as I wanted it to be! However, I've decided that the narrower stole-width is not working for me, so I've been creating a longggggg roll of Buttercup lace edging to attach. Not much left to go. I know I'll put it on three sides, but I haven't decided about the collar -- maybe reversed so it lays on my shoulders? We'll see.

Finished Ostrich Plumes shawl

Other knitting news? I finished the castle scarf for my nephew -- and accidentally felted it. So now it's a magic castle scarf -- he can still see the castle if he holds it up to the light.

I've started on mom's scarf from Scarf Style for the -- hmmm -- third? Fourth? Time. Add several sessions of "unknitting" in there. But I think I have it this time. It's the most complicated lace I've done so far, and I've had to learn to spot mistakes early -- more than a row or two later and it's almost impossible to find and correct at this point in my learning. I knit and unknit so much I've had to start with a fresh skein, but this seems to be going well this time! Past the worst transition in the pattern and going strong.

Hmm. That's about all I've got for a "catching up" entry. But KR has an interesting thread going on "What feeds your knitting life." I may be running my answer to that through here soon.