Saturday, October 31, 2009

Prednisone Blindside Response

I have been perplexed. The past few weeks I've noticed increased appetite and disrupted sleep. Increased appetite is an understatement. I've been ravenous. My usual lay down, close eyes, and fall asleep routine has been failing, and I awaken in the early morning, hungry and unable to return to sleep. I blamed it all on the extraordinary circumstances of my packing and moving, the excitement of house sale and new house. Tonight I it all came to a head. I was upset at my hungriness and the way it prevented sleep, and beginning to despair of having any improved health from my increased activity if all it meant was more appetite. As I bit into my low-cal, high-fiber, whole grain English muffin it hit me - my steroid dose is up. This is a sneaky steroid increase. I'm not taking a higher dose of prednisone. My oral dose remains at its baseline, not enough to cause these symptoms. However, almost three weeks ago I had a joint injection - a large dose of steroid (corticosteroid) medication was inserted directly into my left knee joint to treat an acute flare. We do this kind of treatment to put the medication directly where it is needed and to minimize the systemic affect of the meds, but a goodly portion is still absorbed into the bloodstream and disseminated to the rest of the body.

I am greatly relieved to realize the source of my symptoms. I've had such an increase in activity that I'm hoping to see better overall health. I thought it was being thwarted by my need to eat more, but now I know it is temporary. Moreover, having insomnia and being on an irregular schedule has never been good for my lupus. Keeping the wolf under control is much easier with adequate rest and a predictable meal, sleep and medication schedule. I should be close to getting over the steroid symptoms. One way I've been fighting them is to feed my appetite with huge amounts of plain steamed vegetables. My Publix had a $1 sale on microwavable vegetable packs, found in the produce section. I scooped up a pile and I indulge in them liberally. I also invested in several cases of my favorite sparkling water (yes, at $4 for 12 cans, it's an investment), and I fill up on bubbles.

A disease that has affected you for 17 years isn't going to be controlled or conquered overnight. I'm happy for every little insight that helps me manage better, even if it comes at 3 a.m.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Getting Buff

I am on the craziest exercise program. I didn't sign up, it just caught up with me. It's free, and a good thing, as I'd never pay for such torture. It goes something like this:

Hmm. Today I'm going to sort all the stuff in my daughter's old room. I know she already sorted it, but I'm sure her heart and her short attention span got in the way. Okay, here we go, up 14 stairs. Oh my God, there are forty-seven or sixty items left here. That's okay, we've nothing but time. Closing is a week away, after all. Just sit down and calmly go through them. Oops, need a couple of boxes. Get up, fetch boxes, come back. And a trash bag. Get up, fetch trash bag, come back. Lord, what is in this tote? Lead? Lift it up, empty the lead ten pounds at a time. Oh yeah, this is the rock collection from kindergarten. I think it can go now. Repeat forty-seven times. Now let's check the closet. I'm sure she emptied...oops, two prom dresses, hiking boots (complete with dried mud), a plastic drawer set with long-forgotten junior high school clothes, a bin of books from-oh yeah, that pharm tech program. Let's just haul everything out of this closet. Bend down three more times for tiny stuffed animals. They are falling out of every crack. Where is the donation box? Over there-that's okay, we'll get some jump shots in. Donate. Donate. Donate. Wonder if they care if I put clothes in with a cow-head vaporizer? Now just lift the boxes and separate donate from deliver to house. All those trash bags of donated linens can be tossed over the rail down into the living room. Heave-smack! Heave-smack! Heave-smack! Whew, the fun part.

Next, I'll finish the guest room...

I am not joking. This particular exercise regimen is building muscle where prednisone had stolen it. Some of the challenges are unexpected. One of my helpers brought his 66 year-old mother and 8 year-old son. Son is a whirlwind, and I move more just keeping up with his antics and making sure he doesn't unpack all the "interesting" stuff that I packed. If I stay one step ahead, I can keep him busy carrying things up and down stairs. The mother is a smoker and not in great health, but she takes the stairs faster than me and insists on making three trips up and down and I... will... not... be... outdone.

I can do things now that I wouldn't attempt six months ago. It is hard training this way, but the results are evident. When this little adventure ends (you know, after I unpack the pod and get all the yarn on shelves and hang all my art) I'll be ready to head to the rec center and lift some weights.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Counting Down to Closing

One week 'til closing, and the sale of my house is all consuming. I held my breath for inspection and came away with a short list of repairs and investigations to be performed in this brief final period. I had to miss knitting group to meet a handyman-a definite indication of the urgency of these activities.

The chaos of moving holds some treachery for me. After a few near-misses, I tripped over a box and fell, doing a slow, continually sliding, grabbing, descent against the side of my recliner, and ending with a number of bumps and bruises and what feels like a broken toe. This morning I am feeling the full effect, limping and learning which limb to favor for which activity. Adults are not made for falling. We think too much on the way down, rather than letting the natural instincts take over. Moreover, I was grabbing at a recliner that was slowly changing position as I went down. My chances would have been better with the floor.

Ah well, if this is the worst result of my real estate adventures, I think I've come off well. I finished the night reading aloud to my daughter from a favorite Agatha Christie. She had a migraine and was bored to tears with lying still in the dark. Why Didn't They Ask Evans always has her imagining herself to be Frankie, the sassy, adventurous daughter of an earl. My daughter's expressions and gestures had me laughing, contributing to my hoarseness from reading 11 chapters.

I'm in hand towel heaven with my current custom project. I've become very comfortable with Cotlin,'s cotton 50%/linen 50% DK blend. It softens very readily with handling, and knits quite nicely for me on size 5 needles. I've been knitting hand towels that are holiday designs. Christmas is ready for blocking, and I'll cast on Valentine's Day shortly and figure out how many hearts to throw across it.

I took on an experimental crochet project last weekend without the desired result. Dayna hoped for an interestingly patterned scarf from Spud & Chloe's Aztec Scarf pattern. She wanted a soft, flowing, indoor version, and we attempted it with Cotlin, but it didn't fill in the pattern enough. I may try again with another yarn, but she's already on to the next project. She had admired the bands of V-stitch on my crocheted baby blankets, and now that is the basis for a long crocheted scarf. V-stitch goes quickly and loooks lacy and beautiful. An easy teach is found here: I showed my "client" both the half-double and double V-stitch, and she preferred double, so my work is more open than the example photo shown at the link.

I've relisted all my hats and scarves, as the season is here. No sales at the store yet, and I've not been able to free up time and energy for the market. Maybe next week. I've no doubt that the heavy work of moving will make me much more fit for market days. Swinging those metal grids in and out of the car, setting up tables, hauling bags of product-none of those seems difficult now that I've dismantled and sorted the old house.

I finished all my cardiac testing last week. A summer of cooking less (no food odors in the house you're showing, please) and eating out more left me with an elevated cholesterol and LDL. I'm on medication now, but hopefully regaining my better habits will render that unnecessary. None of the other test results have been discussed yet.

Okay, first neighbor complaint. The folks directly behind me have a boat. Hubby insists on weatherizing it himself. He treated us to a good spell of deafening noise yesterday and I went out and hollered over the fence to see if anyone was dying. We had a congenial meeting and he explained his mission, and that he will save $200 by doing it himself. Hah! It is 8:45 a.m. and he has just started again, revving his boat motor and drowning out my thoughts. Hmmph. That ends my blogging for today.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Nostalgicus Interruptus

It's Sunday evening and I'm suffering from acute nostalgicus interruptus. My undergrad alma mater, Vanderbilt, had homecoming this weekend and I was all signed up to attend. I was especially excited that there would be events for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Vanderbilt Black Alumni. There were many friends that I have thought about recently that I hoped to see. Alas, it was a typical lupus week. Chest tightness and palpitations led me to my doc and to an appointment with a heart specialist. Both thought my symptoms warranted a work-up (battery of tests to determine if a problem exists). I spent 24 hours wearing a heart monitor and I'm scheduled for a fancy nuclear medicine stress test in two days. Between the symptoms and tests and my already pressing need to sort out the old house, I had to stay home. Pooey.

Ironically, I seem to have already given myself the stress test. For the past three days I've worked hard at sorting, packing, and delivering stuff. I've hauled huge bags of trash, carried boxes filled with old office records, helped move a dresser from my daughter's room to the garage, spent hours feeding paper into the shredder... I didn't plan it this way, I just felt energetic and recovered from my recent Rituxan therapy, and so I worked when and how I felt like it. Needless to say, I've not had a single twinge in my chest. Not one. The cute little bottle of tiny nitroglycerin tabs that the cardiologist prescribed remains sealed.

None of the above means that I've had a bad weekend. I'm sitting on my bed, feet up, listening to Patti LaBelle's powerful voice. This evening I combed through YouTube to hear a variety of selections from Al Green, the Isley Brothers, and Patti. It was still nostalgia time, whether I made it to Nashville or not. I was focused on the music that I was hearing when I was in college. It featured strong voices, defined rhythms, and words that made sense. Lots of it talked about love and peace and the "good stuff" in the world. I was first married after my sophomore year at Vanderbilt, a whole 19 years old. My husband was in his mid-20s and had already mastered the art of using music for seduction, but our listening choices also extended to revolutionary soul (Gil Scott Heron, Stevie Wonder), jazz (Pharoah Saunders, Jazz Crusaders) and more instrumental rock (Santana).

Hmm, that could be a formula for a good Sunday evening. Stop all work, put your feet up, and focus on music that you love. I learned about formulas from my daughter. When she was four she came home from school and said, "This is how you make friends at my school. You stand by somebody in line and you hold their hand." The formulas were simple and straight-forward in those days, but she has continued to enlighten me on occasion, summing up her way of doing something and presenting it like a gift.

The association of men in my [past] life with music is a strong one. I wonder sometimes why many of the women I've been close to have not had strong musical preferences and affiliations. In the string of important men (members of that group shift from time to time) there is a very particular classical music fan and accomplished violinist, a rock enthusiast (but no "California rock" thank you), a jazz artist who played with a high school band as a kindergartener, a talented dancer who stayed current on the latest rap and contemporary music, and one man with a lovely voice and multiple instruments who used it all on sacred music. What a range. And of course, that's not the whole of the group.

Patti LaBelle is in my face singing "Love Never Dies", a tribute to one of her sisters who succumbed to cancer at an early age. This moment if feels like a commentary on the ability to focus on the positives in my past. Patti LaBelle is always in your face when she sings. Whether you love her or hate her, you cannot ignore her when she is singing. One of my favorite New Year's celebrations was Luther Vandross and Patti in concert at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.

Hearing live music is still one of my favorite outings, and it has been far too scarce in recent years. I was every bit of grateful this week when I was able to attend a concert at a local church. The music was modern classical, a pianist, a classical guitarist and a violinist. Fab. Makes it worth taking your meds and getting out of your house. Once I had a list of performers that I wanted to hear. I envisioned traveling to catch their concerts, using my vacations and taking my daughter. Several years ago, Dayna and I saw Jill Scott at Ryman Auditorium with her informing me that she was the youngest attendee. I could have repeated that scenario a million times, following all my favorites, but I was too ill for that kind of plan. I see myself now at the point where I can make my list.

Good lord, am I still writing? Music loosens my fingers and lubricates that connection between my thoughts and my hands. I'll have to continue in my head.


Monday, October 12, 2009

South Carolina Makes Me Read

A friend in South Carolina - hmm, possibly my only friend in that state - sent me this link: about a woman who vowed on Oct. 8, 2008 to read a book a day and discuss it in a blog:

I won't do this often, but today you are privy to my top-secret email. This was my response to S. Carolina:

Hey in South Carolina! This is the perfect way to pique my shame. I have not been reading. It's been weeks since I closed my last book, and I would say that I have no time but there really is no such thing. I could open a book and keep it bedside to peruse instead of bedtime tv and midday Scrabble breaks. I could put a rack in the new bathroom and furnish liturature for the prolonged visits. I could even pop a borrowed cd into my cd player in the car and hear a story or two. I miss it and I have no excuse. I admire what this woman has done. I've ready about 20-30 of the books (so many titles from the past tickle my memory but do not give me a clear picture). I've read maybe 30% of the same authors, or more. She hit some of my favorites: Martha Grimes, my two favorite Japanese authors (they might as well be named Yamaguchi and Itchiguchi for the trouble I have recalling their names), my science fiction loves - Orson Scott Card and Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler (I'd read all of theirs including the ones she read), Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, Toni Morrison, Tana French. Overall, her list could be used for one of good varied reading, especially fiction. ...and E. Danticat! what a pearl she is. I'm still being reminded of things I've read and should read, favorite authors that I've abandoned in favor of - primarily - knitting and crochet.

What I didn't say to my friend was that I am going to the book shelf immediately. I will place a book on my night table, and it will be read. The last books I read were a young adult series about an alternate world with vampires and demon hunters: City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass. I finished them several weeks ago after my daughter recommended them, and I was impressed that they were much more intelligently conceived and written than the Twilight series. The plots were complex, the characters believable, and the sci-fi grounding held up nicely.

Of course, when I say I'm not reading that does not count knitting, crochet, and general crafting literature. Those books and periodicals are ever present, part of learning more about my trade and producing the goodies that I work on daily. That declaration also doesn't take into account the reading I do on the Internet daily. I might spend an hour going from blog to news to opinion site any time I open my laptop. This "machine" is tantalizingly full of information and entertainment, and if I allowed myself I could read all day right here. Not allowed, however. I'm going to the book shelf.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Singing the House Sold Song

I am singing a song. It goes something like this:

I sold my house.

I sold my house.

Dee dee dee dee you heard me baby

I sold my house.

Oh yes, I sold it,

I sold the house.

Dee dee dee dee I know they'll love it

I sold the house.

I promise you I was not waiting for an acceptable offer to post here. I've just been totally, daily, happily involved in moving. The movers made their official trip from old house to new exactly two weeks ago. My daughter and I made an immediate scramble, putting away enough items to get the boxes and bags out of walkways and keep us functioning with daily necessities. Since then, I have struggled to continue cleaning out the old house. If you remember, new house is less than half the size of old house, so we couldn't have the movers pick up all the old contents and dump them over here. Instead I am sorting, selling, donating, discarding at warp speed, managing the leftovers and spillovers and other overages.

During that process I decided to hire painters and make the entire inside of the old house an indisputably neutral color, something that would make the most white-bread buyer comfortable. I chose something that would erase that black/Hispanic zest for color that injects such life into our dwellings-vanilla brandy, the paint company calls it. The smooth, creamy cafe au lait color is nice, but the only way I could live with it would be to plaster the walls with my colorful art collection.

Speaking of art, I have not hung one painting in the new place. It also has contractor walls - a creamy beige with a hint of green undertones. Lovely and calm, and desperately in need of my art. Unfortunately, there are things that take priority, like getting curtains hung so that I am not parading in front of my neighbors in ugly pajamas. It will feel like a party when I finally select the spot for each piece and start hammering nails and slinging those frames up where they can be seen.

You might think that I've been too busy to knit, but something has to happen when I hit the wall and can't pack or unpack boxes any more. Most days I spend a few hours on moving, an hour or two on administration (schedule appointments, pay bills, change utilities, maintain my store) and several hours on knitting and crochet. I've finished two baby blankets for a special order. The red and gray stripe (sorry for the washed out colors in the photo) is for Ohio State U for a baby boy who isn't at all brainwashed, and the pink is a crochet piece for a baby girl, equally brain-washed but in a different mode altogether. The other pieces are for the store: First a blue and cream crochet cotton baby blanket, then a striped hat in Noro Silk Garden. Finally, a multicolored, hand-dyed cashmere/wool scarf and mitts, crocheted in a ring pattern. There are more items that haven't been photographed yet, including a pale pink cashmere bumblebee hat that I must get my model to show off. Nothing else would do it justice.

I have a whole set of hand towels to make for a special order. They are six holidays (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and 4th of July) and one college emblem. I'm having a ball duplicate knitting symbols on them - you should see my turkey! Don't worry, photos coming. I'm making most of these in's Cotlin - a 50/50 mix of linen and cotton that is lovely to knit with. It comes in lots of colors and handles well, and I really like how my towels look. I haven't learned how to put my photos where I want them on Blogger, so scoot back up to the top and look at the unblocked Halloween towel. If you must ask which it is, we need to have a serious talk.
I think it might be evident that I'm enjoying myself. Just in case you can't tell, let me say it. I am enjoying myself. It's a good space here, sharing digs with my daughter, working on the new house, reveling in the down-size project (hmm, maybe becoming a little self-righteous about it). It's one of those times when my life seems to fit just right with no awkward bulges.