As The Wheel Turns

Yesterday was full of low grey clouds that drizzled on and off all day, and it was down-right cool.  Same again today, with a predicted high of only 78 F/25.5 C.  The Wheel of the Year is finally rolling this long, hot summer into the past.  Mabon (the Autumnal Equinox, and my mom’s 94th birthday) is tomorrow.  My mom promised me steak at Outback for my birthday (four months ago) this year, but I spent that birthday in the hospital having pneumonia.  Tomorrow, dear friends are taking both of us to lunch at Outback for steaks for her birthday.  They’re buying hers and she’s buying mine.  Works for me.

Because I went to bed at 9 o’clock last night, knackered from having spent all morning at the VA  then wandering all over Wal-Mart buying groceries, etc., getting dampened, frizzled and chilled every time I went outside, and being ganged up on by the  flu shot in my left arm and the pneumonia shot in my right arm, I bobbed to the surface about 5 o’clock this morning and knew I was done sleeping for the time being.

I’m starting my third year of living in this duplex, and I’ve noticed there’s something bird-ally attractive about the part of the roof where the vent for the range hood comes out.  Even in deepest, hottest summer, if I’m puttering in the kitchen early in the morning, I’m liable to be inadvertently eavesdropping on a mourning dove having a quiet little boohoo by the vent pipe . . .

Cue the Prince reference. . .

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The Truth About Idle Hands

Don’t know if you’ve heard that old Puritan saying about idle hands.  The Puritans were talking about sin prevention*.  I’m talking about time management.  The way I see it, idle hands are a waste of time and a crashing bore.

I flat out resent the time I’m made to spend in forced idleness sitting in waiting rooms, particularly medically-related waiting rooms.  If they have a working television, it’s never on a channel that is likely to show something you’re interested in watching and you can’t change the channel.  And the kinds of magazines that end up in waiting rooms are the ones nobody wants to steal (or read).  I can’t read a book in a waiting room because I tend to zone out** and would never hear my name being called.  I categorically refuse to succumb to Borg-dom by sitting there frittering with my smart phone.  I take a plastic baggie full of knitting with me, so the time I spend waiting is not totally wasted.

So today I had my “yearly” labs and exam at the VA.  I had to show up at 8 a.m. and get fasting lab work done, which means I couldn’t have anything to eat or drink after midnight yesterday except water, or take any of my medications until after they’d drawn blood.  I’ve got two medications that have to be taken on an empty stomach 30 minutes apart, and wait another 30 minutes after I take the second one before I put anything else in my stomach; then I take the medication that can’t be taken on an empty stomach and eat something with it.  (I swear I spend an hour every morning juggling medications.)   Which is to say,  I had to bring today’s meds, a bottle of water, and something to eat with me to the lab appointment.

I got there right at 8 o’clock so I could sit for nearly 30 minutes in the lab waiting room.  My appointment to see “my health care provider” was at 10 o’clock, which meant spent an hour and 55 minutes in the primary clinic waiting room.  However, as always, I had taken a plastic baggie of knitting with me to knit on in the waiting room.  (We’re talking using half-gallon size zip seal plastic bags as small project bags.)  So, I’m in the primary care clinic waiting room sitting and knitting, and trying to ignore some movie with Kiefer Sutherland in it on the wall-mounted TV, and in walks another (female) patient with a basket that contains her cell phone, keys, and knitting.  I’m working on a toboggan, she’s working on some kind of top.  I told her about the knitting group that I go to at one of the city’s branch libraries, and her eyes lit up.  By the time I had to go in for my appointment, she, I, and two other men who were sitting near us were engaged in a very interesting conversation.

While I was there, I got this year’s flu shot in my left arm, and pneumonia vaccine in my right arm, and I think they’re ganging up on me.  I think I’m just going to call it quits for the day and go to bed.

*Let's just tiptoe quietly around that little minefield and say that the Puritans and I view that whole "sin" thing from diametrical mindsets.  I don't believe in the concept of "the Devil" as a supernatural entity or personification of evil who entices and subverts people into being greedy, cruel, hateful, malicious, etc. (and especially one who is a metaphysical scapegoat for our bad behavior).    Frankly, we don't need outside help to be thoroughly execrable.  We can manage it quite well on our own, thank you.  

** For me, opening a book is like putting on the best virtual reality rig ever.

Ooops! and Ughs! and Ows

No, I didn’t fall or anything.  I was trying to disconnect and move my Kingpad tablet from the bed table to my reader table that’s in my “knitting nook” I was trying to move it on the stand, realized the stand was under the component keyboard, and while I was sorting that out, the tablet flipped over out of the stand, bounced off my night stand and ended up on the floor.  The screen was shattered.  Kaput.  Unsalvageable.  It was only a little el cheapo off brand tablet (I think it was like $80 bucks including case and tax) that I got because it (a) had twice the screen size of my 5th generation Kindle Fire, (b) had an android OS so I could download the Kindle app to it, and clencher: (c) was WAY cheaper than the Kindle Fire that had the same screen size as the dead tablet.

The reason I bought the Kingpad tablet at all is because I read so fast.  The Kindle Fire’s 7 x 5 inch screen doesn’t display enough text (less than half an actual page at a character size large enough to see easily) to keep up with me and I end up poking the screen to turn the page, like, every 20-30 seconds, which would be fine if I only read an ebook every once in a while, as I did back when I had more space and less money and ebook was the cheapest or the only available format I could get of a book.  I could buy two to three used “dead tree” (paper) books for the price of one ebook so I went with what gave me the most bang for my bucks.  But now space is way tighter than money and I’m tending more toward ebooks, only buying a real book if I know it’s going to be a “keeper” (Foreigner series (or anything else) by C. J. Cherryh, Sebastian St. Cyr books by C. S. Harris, Liaden books by Lee and Miller, Elizabeth Bear, Neil Gaiman, Patricia McKillip, Sharron Shinn, etc.)

We’re talking serious reader here.* I’m on my 80th book of 2017 right now (a reread of the penultimate October Daye book by Seanan McGuire, to refresh my memory for reading the latest book in that series, which I will probably start reading immediately after).   When you read a book at a sitting, or read for a day or two straight, all that poking gets to be a PITA**.  The tablet was 11 x 7 inches, and I could get almost a whole page on the screen at one time.   As much as I love the Kindle Fire, the 7 inch screen is just too small.  I don’t need all the bells, lights and whistles, or a gazillion GB of this and that.  An el cheapo tablet is all I need, since all I use it for is reading, listening to music (as I read) and watching the occasional YouTube videos.  For any other computer functions I need, (like blog reading or writing, creative writing, or other things that entail mousing and keyboarding, like working jigsaws) I use my desktop.

Anyway, I bought one. (and a protection plan!) My mom is going to gripe at me for spending money on something I don’t “need.” But she also doesn’t like me (wasting money) buying actual books (even though I can get multiple used paperbacks for the cost of a single ebook, which is from $10 to $30 depending on the book.) because I don’t “need” them either.  I have no space for them and end up keeping the one or two I want to reread, mailing the rest of the decent ones to my 1st cousin removed x3, which my mom also looks askance at (my 1st cousin removed x3 is a also a reader, like me, and we have similar tastes in reading matter.  I remember how hungry I was for interesting books when I was her age (13), and I’m doing some paying forward here, so I do it anyway), and donating everything else to Friends of the Library.  But when you’re on a fixed income and can read 100-140 books a year and have no space to keep them, something has to give.  Oh, and the city library in this ultraconservative, Bible-belted,  two-horse town doesn’t have the kinds of books I enjoy reading.  I know.  I’ve looked.

A little rantlet begins here:  Almost without exception, the scifi and fantasy books I read growing up had cis white male protagonists (mostly because they were mostly written by cis white males for what was assumed to be a reader audience of cis white males.)  (Even the cleverly disguised Andre Norton had to write those kind of books).  There was never a protagonist that was like me in any of the books I read, one that I could directly relate to.  Very rarely was there ever even a female character with agency, never mind a female protagonist, with or without agency. If there were any females characters at all, they were there to scream, be rescued, and patted on the hand by the strong manly white male hero. Slowly but surely, this has changed for the better.  But it has been only in the last ten or so years that books with strong female characters with agency, and books with characters who are not only non-white but non-straight have become easy to find.  Of course, there are some authors, C.J. Cherryh and the late Ann McCaffrey, to name two, that were ahead of the curve.  Reading the Morgaine trilogy in the 1970’s was for me the most incredible (and refreshingly novel) experience.  And then reading her Cyteen books.  Yowza! (No wonder Cyteen won the Hugo!)  And Ann McCaffrey’s Pern books (which are, alas, written by an author all too indoctrinated with 1950’s sexism from the perspective of a modern reader, be warned).  A female protagonist and dragons — what an unbeatable combination! Whenever I run across one of these books with a strong female protagonist with agency, and it’s a good read suitable for a 13-year-old, I put it aside for my 1st cousin removed x3.  I want her to be able to read the books that didn’t exist when I was her age, books that have protagonists she can easily relate to — women who are smart as well as intelligent, who can solve their own problems, and rescue themselves when needed.  There are a lot of attitudes in our society that need changing if we are to move forward into Human adulthood (we’re still hopelessly mired in the terrible tweens!).  I’m just doing what I can to see that one more strong, levelheaded, secure in herself, clear-eyed female will be able to join the ranks when the baton is past into her hand.  Here endeth the rantlet.

And with no segue whatever, my doctor’s visit with the orthopod yesterday went pretty much as anticipated.  The VA neglected to forward my MRI or even the doctor’s report on it.  He took his own x-rays.  Seeing my two knees side by side on the x-ray was rather disheartening.  The right knee looks perfectly normal with a normal layer of cartilage.  The left knee shows no cartilage to speak of.  Just the big leg bone grinding into the two little leg bones with no padding whatever, which is why the medial meniscus has little tears in it, because there’s also no cartilage to keep the ends of the bones steady and they’re skidding a little as they grind, chewing on the meniscus as they move.  Arthroscopic surgery is pretty pointless as it cannot address the problem of no cartilage left.  That means it’s knee replacement time, but I have to call it, as in telling the doctor that my quality of life has become intolerable, do it already.  He gave me a steroid injection in the knee (it’s been over 14 hours since with no change in pain level) and has prescribed physical therapy.  I hope the steroid lasts until Friday when I have to drive clear over to the other side of town,  hike two miles from the parking lot to the University Medical Center  building and another mile to where they do mammographies (thankfully, they don’t do mammography in Amarillo, or it would take all day and four hours on the highway to get one instead of most of a morning).  While I’m in the Radiology Department I’ll get a copy of my MRI on CD and hand-carry the stupid thing to my doctor, and bring him a copy of the report, too.

But, here’s the thing.  They have now finally managed to hire an orthopedic surgeon for the VA hospital in Amarillo.  My special dispensation to see a local doctor went through the week before they hired him or her.  If I can get this doc I’m going to now to agree to replacing my knee while I’m on clopidogrel, but before my time limit on this authorization runs out, then I think it can be done here.  If I have to wait until next March, when I can get off the clopidogrel,  or if the VA gets all bureauocratic on me, I’ll have to have it done in Amarillo and face the same damn bureaurocratic stone-walling and transportation problem I have now, or else eat what Medicare doesn’t pay.  BLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

In the knitting news, I did finally write that bottom-up triangular shawl pattern. I’m not exactly content with it, but I like it well enough not to frog the lot and go back to the drawing board. The sticky bit is that shawl point. It has a knit-as-you-go edging, and that bit of edging at the pointed bit needs to be piece-of-pie shaped in order to lay right. I haven’t yet worked out to my satisfaction how to get the decrease-to-point proportions right. But, hey, that’s what I love about knitting. You never stop learning. Every new thing you make is a learning experience, and each time you make something, you add some new skill or design element to your knitting repertoire that recombines and morphs into new things, and your whole knitting thing just evolves. It’s like, “Oh, I see how that works now. The next time I do this, I’m going to change this bit, or do it differently here. . . .”

*109 books read in 2014, 151 books read in 2015, 125 books read in 2016.
**PITA – A pain similar to that of hemorrhoids.

Piece of Cake

My surgery went very well Wednesday.  Unfortunately a case two ahead of mine went over an hour long, which delayed the case before mine, which delayed mine.  I was supposed to have gone in at 1 p.m. but didn’t go until after 2 p.m., which made it almost 7 p.m. before I got home.  Such is life.   However, my case went according to plan, and it’s all over and done with.   He did use mesh, and I was glad about that.   I slept a lot Wednesday night and Thursday,  knitted, read, and have been generally taking it easy.  I don’t have stitches.  He used superglue.  No.  Seriously.  They seal skin incisions with superglue now instead of stitches.   I don’t even have all that much bruising, which speaks to how careful my surgeon was about controlling bleeding.   And I haven’t had all that much pain either.  He gave me a prescription for tramadol which I didn’t fill (I already had some for my knee), but I haven’t taken it or anything else for pain because I haven’t really needed it.

Thanks to all who sent me wishes for a speedy recovery.  They were all much appreciated — Looks like they worked!

So, guess what?  Friday, TriWest, which is the VA’s agency that arranges local medical care, called and told me I have an appointment with an orthopedist at 1:30 on Monday!  I’ve not gotten a letter or anything from them to that effect (like them giving me that all important billing account number I’m supposed to give the doctor’s office to bill to) or telling me other important stuff like where the heck the guy’s office is . . .   When they discharged me Wednesday after surgery, all they told me is that I’m not supposed to lift anything above 5 lbs for a couple days, and over 10 pounds for a couple of weeks.  They didn’t say anything about not driving, so I’ll drive myself.    Getting that knee seen to and reducing my discomfort when bearing weight on it will improve my quality of life so much.  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Over, Under, Sideways, Down

Musical quote!  Yes, the title comes from the title of a song by the Yardbirds, that legendary group that launched three of Rock’s most legendary guitarists, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton.

Pretty perfect title for what my life has been like these past three weeks.  My mom finally got fed up with the VA jacking me around about my abdominal hernia surgery (their final word was if you want us to pay for it, you get it done in our hospital that’s 125 miles away in another city, and, since your 93 year old mom doesn’t drive on the highway, you have to ride there and back three hours each way on our rattle trap bus with no shocks to and from the local clinic where your mom can drop you off and pick you up).  She told me to call our friend who works for a local cancer center and get a recommendation for a surgeon, whom I saw 29 August.  I saw my cardiologist for surgical clearance last Thursday.   I’m scheduled for hernia surgery the 12th (Wednesday), my mom’s going to pay for whatever Medicare doesn’t pay for the surgeon, and whatever Medicare doesn’t pay for everything else comes out of my grocery budget for the next 15 years or so. . . Thank you for your service.

As for my knee, I FINALLY got the MRI results and I have a torn medial meniscus, a Baker’s cyst and bone spurs.  Wonder why my knee hurts?  I’m having better luck with that.  My local treatment requisition went through BEFORE they hired a new orthopod at the VA hospital, so I get to have the consult with a local orthopod. Hopefully, that will mean that he/she will do the surgery that I obviously need, and that it will be done here also.   The irony of it is that I could have driven back from that surgery, since it’s my left knee and my car has an automatic transmission . . . . Not so after abdominal surgery. . .

In the knitting news . . . .  My knitting motto is, if you don’t feel it, frog it.  I wasn’t feeling this shawl, my modified cable edged shawl pattern, so I frogged it.  The whole thing.   I tried starting the Hulda Scarflet with that yarn, intending to let it grow into a shawl, but I wasn’t feeling that either.  I think I’m going to be making a new pattern for a point-up triangular shawl with a knit as you go edging, but not til after Wednesday.  Too much to do between now and then, like washing a load of clothes and a load of bed linens so I’ll have a nice clean bed when I come home from surgery.  Monday, I’ve got to go check in for surgery, get my blood work done, find out where “there” is and when I need to be there Wednesday, etc.

In the meantime, I think I’ll use the writing of that new pattern as a carrot to dangle in front of myself to get me to finish hats and their matching cowls that I need to finish — 5 hats, 4 cowls, in fact, — that I need to get a move on because, as I’ve already noted, winter cometh, ya’ll.

Stay tuned.  Life is about to get interesting again.  I’ve been eating iron-rich foods here lately, because my cardiologist won’t let me stop taking clopidogrel for the surgery (because of my stents).  However, the surgeon did agree that he would still do the surgery even if I couldn’t stop the clopidogrel (it only ups the surgical risk by 2%).  He’ll just have to be extra meticulous with his hemostasis . . . .

That’s all I’ve got for now.  I’ll leave you with my earworm for the past month or so . . .

Now Is The Time For All Good Knitters To Be Thinking of Winter

Winter cometh, y’all.  A fact of life.  This post is for all you knitty folks who live up in the colder climes, what we here in the flatlands call “up narth.”   I have mentioned before that my town is at the same latitude as Casablanca, Morocco.  Yes, it does get cold here, but not all that cold compared to the feet of snow and minus teens of, say, Montana or Vermont, or Minnesota.  Still, we do get knitted hat weather here, particularly because our cold almost always comes liberally laced with wind chill*.  Even though you don’t lose all that much heat through your head (7-10% is what they say now), you still have structures like ears that are more susceptible to cold than other, larger body parts.  Sitting as they do on the tallest part of the body, they are also susceptible to wind chill.

I put my little knitty mind to the problem and came up with a toboggan that I think fills the bill.   the bottom of the hat has a hem that puts a double thickness of knitting over the ears, the inner layer of which is ribbed, for even more insulation.   Yes, you can turn up a cuff in the bottom of a stocking cap or watch hat and have the same effect, but all you have to do with this hat is just put it on.  The cuff is permanently turned for you.

This toboggan uses a provisional cast-on, which scares most knitters until they actually do it and see how simple it can be. (You can find all kinds of complicated, fancy-schmancy, with crochet hooks, provisional cast ons, but I like the one I’ve linked to because it’s super easy.)

Why do you need a provisional cast on?  It allows you to “turn a hem” in the bottom of the cap.  That can also be kind of tricky.  I pick up the stitches of the provisional cast on about 20 stitches at a time with a double pointed needle (DPN), pull out the scrap yarn that I’ve used for the provisional cast on,  and knit them together (k2tog) with my working stitches, a stitch at a time to form the hem.

I take a provisional stitch purlwise off the DPN, transfer it to my circular needle, then knit it and the working stitch behind it together.   It’s a simple, straightforward process, so long as you don’t load too many provisional stitches on the DPN.

Of the two stitches you knit together, the provisional stitch must always be the stitch on the right with the working stitch on the left, so that when you knit the two stitches together, the working stitch ends up on top with the provisional stitch behind it.  That way, you get a seamless join.

You can find the complete pattern and demonstration pictures here on my knitting website, “Knits From the Owl Underground.”

If you’re a serious knitter, you can turn one of these toboggans out in an afternoon, or a long evening.  Apart from the “turning of the hem” bit and the decreases at the top of the hat, the rest is TV knitting** at its finest.   These make great gifts not just for the skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers in your life, but for those who have to work outside in the winter weather.

 

*whence the expression, "Ain't but one fence between us and Canada, and it's down." **Knitting that is so simple you can do it while watching TV and still not mess it up.