Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friends and Elevations

When Saturday morning comes and six or four or twelve of us are gathered around a table, knitting and talking, my thoughts inevitably turn to the topic of having friends. If there is anything in this world that makes my heart beat faster with gratitude, it is my relationships with family and friends. After a few years of isolating myself due to illness and an ill-chosen religious home, I am thrilled to be in contact with so many friends. Lately they seem to be coming out of the woodwork. I signed up for Facebook, and amazing people from my past - usually ones that I never suspected would hunt for me - have turned up and "friended" me. I've made friends at the chemotherapy suite who are still regularly checking in by email. People are stopping me in the grocery store, in restaurants, hugging me and vowing to get together. Younger family members have been calling and keeping in touch. My friendship cup runneth over.
I have grown close to my group of knitting friends, and I felt comfortable sharing with them today that I've been a bit manic lately - what a psychiatrist would label as "hypomanic". How can I tell? I am emotional - tears of joy flow very easily. I feel more religious fervor than usual. My everyday, normal-mood approach to religion is pretty dry and matter-of-fact. Today I was blasting gospel in my car and singing at the top of my voice, even entertaining the idea that I might detour and go to a church service instead of
to knitting group. I gave away a cashmere hat that I would have sold for $50 to an elderly lady at the chemo suite. Hmm. I might have done that last one under any circumstances. But you get my drift - when I am manic, my heart is open.
However, there is a downside. I may find that my opinion of something has changed completely from, say, last month, even though I felt very firm in my conviction before. I can be more irritable and short when things don't go well. I may confuse and frustrate my friends and family with my inconsistency or change of mood.
Does this need medication? Complex question. I took lithium at one time, when I was in my early thirties. The evening-out that it did affected some things that still seem surprising to me. Yes, my mood was more consistent, but I also had a more normal appetite and my music sight-reading improved. Those things were nice, but I had to give up lithium when I began some of the medications that were essential for treating lupus. At the time, there weren't good alternative medications. That has changed drastically with the introduction of a number of anti-seizure drugs which have been found to be quite effective for bipolar illness. At any rate, I have remained on antidepressants, which smooth out the other end of the spectrum and keep me from the most serious side effects of this disorder. I now recognize the occasional manic spike and can control my symptoms much more easily, as I have grown older.
What the heck?! I didn't designate this day as mental health blogging day. It has, however, been on my mind because of (1) my own change in mood and (2) the death of Senator Ted Kennedy, who championed the inclusion of mental illnesses in all health care coverage, something that has not yet been achieved. As much as I value my Medicare, it pays painfully little for me to stay in the care of a psychiatrist. The knowledge that I need an objective specialist managing that aspect of my health doesn't make it any easier to pay those giant-size bills.
So here we are, back at health care reform. No change in my opinions on this one. We need a public health care option. We need to provide health care for every single American. I missed the last rally because of joint issues. I will try my best to attend the next one.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Putting a Cap on the Week

Sunday morning. I'm taking stock of the past week. It was a whirlwind, helping my daughter get enrolled and find classes at the local university. We made a last-minute decision that she would stay home this semester, for a variety of reasons, but executing that was very difficult. I had the renewed experience of being "Mom" in a way that I haven't for four years. I drove to and from school while she waited for a parking sticker, I stood in line to help get some of the administrative chores done, and I helped with the search for classes that would be useful to her and have credit to transfer to her main school. It made me admire what these young people do when we drop them off at college and come back home. I hadn't seen the process up close before. As a so-called "transient" student, my daughter was not eligible for advising or financial aid, so this was a particularly difficult registration. It was gratifying to see her sail through it.

Recently, I put a new category of blog post in my long list of things to write about. I wanted to begin dissecting one of those constant parental worries - how to tell what kind of job you are doing (or have done). I suppose that this should be one of the entries - Watch Your Child Get Started in School. It was fascinating to see my daughter function this week. She was adept at maneuvering through the decision tree involved in registering at a new school. She didn't agonize over which section of which course to take - she started by getting one class locked down, then building around it to make a workable schedule. She knew that she was already late in the process and didn't worry about which instructor was better, nicer, more lenient with grades. She accepted pot luck and went to class with an optimistic attitude. She quickly made acquaintances in each class, exchanging phone numbers and email addresses so that notes could be shared in case of an absence.

Her approach to instructors in closed class sections (where enrollment had already reached quota) was especially interesting. When she confronted one professor with the hated blue form (permission to enroll in a closed class), she was told "No." Her response was to smile and ask if she could remain for that class section and speak with him afterward. After class, she made her case and was accepted into his section. Shades of Cher, in Clueless. Everything is negotiable.

The big excuses seem to be gone from her vocabulary. In one class, she began on the second day, and discovered that the teacher had made lots of assignments on the first day of class. The daughter didn't ask for extensions or release from those writing assignments. She dug in and worked until they were done, completing the last one an hour before departure for the Friday session. I read them and was impressed that her writing had matured in the past four years. Hmm, maybe the big tuition has been worth it.

So much for watching the offspring. I listed a half-dozen new products in my stores yesterday, and one has already sold. It was the second sale of the weekend, very gratifying. I have more to list, as well as pushing ahead with my plans for fall products. The beehive hats (photo above) are coming along, I now have three to photograph and list - two cashmere, one organic cotton. I think the fibers are exactly right. The hand-dyed cotton blanket lacks only 20 rows. I'm ready to start another custom order. Everything is moving along.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Welcome to EssieWB on Blogger

What a new day! This is me, writing in my blog and giving it a new address so that GoogleAds can fill the margins with little money-making notes. Had to do it, folks. The times, they are a-changin', and not for the better or the worse but for the poorer. (No, poorer and worse are not synonyms.)
I tried my damndest to bring the contents of the old blog, at, to this new site in its entirety, but neither of the sites has decided to bend their tools to that kind of cooperation. So...I've put notices on both sites and I'll start here by noting the old stats, and then we'll begin new.
I began to write this blog in December 2007, at a time when my then 15 years of systemic lupus was weighing me down with physical limitations and diminishing hope. As an optimistic person, I was grabbing all my resources to stay afloat, including resurrecting my lifelong love of writing to help educate others about this life and give me a way to express my feelings about my journey.
350 posts later, after 30,303 visits from readers (mostly a half-dozen great friends), I am still writing. I don't want to stop. Correction: I cannot stop. Writing becomes me. Writing soothes me. Writing is part of my healing. When I am not writing here, I am composing in my head, reminding myself to bring particular thoughts and experiences to this forum and open them up for perusal and comment.
A lot has changed since December 2007, and you can find it all by reading the first 350 posts of this blog. Okay, okay, just kidding. A brief summary: My health is much improved, due to the initiation of a new medication that is just beginning to be used for lupus. Barack Obama ran for president (and WON), bringing me back to politics and citizenship in a way that I never dreamed. My Etsy store, at, has grown to two stores, the newer one holding my children's creations at My daughter turned 21. I cut my hair and grew it out and cut it again. My posts have followed all of these happenings, in no particular order. Thank goodness they are searchable, so that the free knitting patterns and medical information isn't lost in musings about hair length and parenting.

The past week has been excruciatingly busy. I've tended to details about our new house, my daughter's semester at the local university, my health, my dog's health...and today I am tired. Matter of fact, I'm so tired that I just didn't get going this morning in time to make my rheumatology appointment. I'll call them after while and let them know I'm not dead.

One of the "funner" occurrences of the week was a visit to my sister's house for lunch. It was a spur-of-the-moment plan, me texting her at 7 a.m. to see if she wanted to get together. We went to the new house to meet with the builder about last-minute details (shelves for my yarn, darling!), then she cooked. I took my Alli like a good girl, then enjoyed wings and potato salad and strawberries. I fixed her stereo on the way out.

Oh my gosh, don't think I've even mentioned Alli. A few weeks ago I concluded that my eating away from home is a real deviation from what it should be, and I slowly began to take Alli with those much-more-fatty meals. It is speeding my weight loss a bit, a nice thing to see with my creeping metabolism. Alli makes a good deterent for me to eat too much high-fat food, because I'm not interested in having any side effects. (Read the label.)

As much as I'm enjoying chatting you up, I've got blueberry muffins to bake, bills to pay, one more college phone call to make, and a dog that needs a therapeutic bath.


Harsh Words, Soft Beehive Hat

Yesterday was a hard day. I won't call it a bad day, because in the end we accomplished what was necessary, but it was hard.
We made some decisions yesterday, as a family, about a direction for our near future. We set out to put those decisions into action. In the process, I walked a long way in stifling heat, waited patiently for service, and explained the circumstances that led to us being there. Then I tried to ask the questions that would educate us about necessary procedures and what we could expect in the future. In return, someone half my age greeted me with disdain and told me I should be "nice". I contemplated that for a moment, then asked the person if they were saying I had not been "nice". The reply was that I wanted a special service and should "at least be grateful".
I am being deliberately obtuse about the particulars of this encounter, but trust me when I say that the "special service" I requested was only the lifting of a deadline, and I was asking to pay my own money for something that should be available to everyone in Tennessee. I am afraid to be more specific in this public forum.

I was shaken by this encounter. It was humiliating. Degrading. It made me go home and question myself, look in the mirror to see what about me was so offensive that I could engender a negative reaction just by being there. I saw a short, fat, light brown-skinned woman with close-cropped hair and glasses. In private, I cried. I didn't know that I am still so vulnerable to that kind of ugliness.

In my teen years, I would have hurt myself after that experience - literally beating myself up for not being "acceptable". In my 20s I would have made a long, loud, eloquent rejoinder and demanded to see the person in charge. In my 30s I learned tact, and my response would have been modulated, but still extremely voluble. Yesterday I was at a loss, because I have not dealt with such a blatant approach in a long time. My guard was down, so I met it with puzzlement and quiet. I returned to my home and quietly did housework.
Last night I knit until my hands hurt. I worked out my hurt with my needles, relishing the solid metallic clash of one against the other, making something that I love out of the hatred that I met.
I just learned an Estonian cast-on that is very stretchy and decorative. The video where I learned (Nancy Bush teaches the technique) is here: It is very similar to traditional long-tail cast-on, and it didn't take me long. I used it as the brim for a hat. Having extra stretch at the forehead edge is always nice. The bottom photo shows the new edge. The bottom of the cap can turn up as a cuff. The second photo shows the "wrong" side. Still pretty.

The hat is a new design, my Beehive. The yarn is Karabella Supercashmere, about 110 yards (a little less than one and one-half balls). I cast on a purple one this morning, to repeat the pattern. I plan to do a couple more in organic cotton. I love the design, and it feels and looks soft, very flattering.
Design and knit - my dose of healing.