Thoughts on a Thursday Afternoon

So, it’s about 3:30, I’ve just finished a leisurely lunch (roast beef with onions and celery, skins-and-all mashed potatoes, and mixed veg of string beans and carrots)(num!). I’m sitting at the computer(s). I have one of the puzzles I made on Jigsaw Planet up on the left screen (photograph of a frilled jelly (Chiarella centripetalis) against a navy blue background)(!). On the right screen, I have YouTube on the Firefox browser and WordPress on the Google browser.

I have a bowl of knitting — a swirly hat. Dead simple knitting. (Evenly divide the total number of stitches into sections and make them swirl one direction or the other by putting a k2tog on one edge of the section and a yarn over at the other. The panel “swirls” toward whichever side the yarn over is on. Crown decreases with a k3tog instead of a k2tog.

If you want a tight swirl, you do the k2tog, yo thing every row. If you want a looser swirl, you alternate the k2tog, yo thing with a row of knit stitches.) (I am loosely swirling.)

I’m pleasantly full of a good lunch, sitting and knitting, and listening to Mozart piano sonatas, as you do, and that little rocking octaves in the baseline thing Wulfi does catches my attention, and it occurs to me that Mozart (and Beethoven) does that little trick a lot. And then it occurs to me that both composers were writing at that time at the end of the 18th century when the pianoforte is gradually taking over from the harpsichord (because brass instruments, but that’s another tangent). The instrument had not yet evolved into its final form and composers hadn’t had enough time yet to fully explore the instrument’s capabilities and modify their performance techniques to exploit them. And I realize that this little rocking octaves thing (the thumb on one note and the little finger on the same note but an octave lower, alternating quickly between the two notes eight or ten times by quickly rocking the hand from side to side) is a harpsichord technique (ditto the rapid repeated striking of the same bass chord or notes) that’s been carried over to the pianoforte.

The name of that game is sostenuto. String instruments (violin, viola, cello, etc.) played with a bow can sustain (hold) a note from one end of the bow to the other. A wind instrument (clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, etc.) can hold a note until the player runs out of breath. But the harpsichord is a plucked string instrument. You press a key, you get a note, and that’s it. The sound isn’t all that loud to begin with and it dies out rapidly. And that rocking octave thing, and the repeated striking of the same note/chord are workarounds to get a sustained note/chord you can set the tweedly-tweedly bits against.

But here’s the thing. It’s called a “pianoforte”because in the language of music, which is Italian BTW, piano means “quiet”and forte means “loud” — which gives you an important clue about the main difference between the pianoforte and the harpsichord. You can’t get any volume to speak of out of a harpsichord. It’s mechanics. No matter how hard you hit the keys, pling is all you get. (Most harpsichords have two separate keyboards and two separate sets of strings, and a way to “slave” one keyboard to the other to double the volume.) You put a harpsichord together with more than a dozen string and wind instrument (even using both keyboards) and the other instruments will flat drown it out.

The pianoforte, however, plays notes by having a hammer hit a string, and there is a direct correlation between how hard you press the key and how hard the hammer hits the string. This is the first time there’s been a (portable) keyboard instrument with dynamics — the ability to vary the volume of the notes played for dynamic effect. Strings have that ability. So do wind instruments. But not until the pianoforte do you have a keyboard instrument that can hold its own against an orchestra. (I’m not counting the pipe organ, because it’s not something Herr Gottbucks is going to get for the 18th century version of the family rec room so they can have the neighbors over for a fun evening of sight reading trio sonatas.)(Yes, they actually did that.)

So, Mozart and Beethoven are transitional composers, and a lot of their music for the pianoforte has holdover techniques from the harpsichord. As you progress through the sonatas chronologically, you can hear how Mozart is coming to terms with this new instrument and beginning to exploit its dynamics. Beethoven comes along somewhat later (he idolized Mozart and wanted to become his student, but somehow that didn’t happen), still using those rocking octaves and repeated notes, but using them to add an emotional undercurrent to his music.

There’s a neologism in Lewis Carroll‘s poem “Jabberwocky” (the poem features in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) that to my mind perfectly captures Beethoven: “frumious” it’s a portmanteau word that combines “fuming” and “furious.” Mozart is agile, elegant, a tad effete, and a bit of a show-off. Beethoven is one intense dude; we’re talking major league Sturm und Drang here. His music clearly has an emotional undercurrent, and the level of that emotion is turned up to 11. Mozart happens at the culmination of that orgy of cerebration that was the Enlightenment. Beethoven gets in at the ground floor of that emo-fest that is the Romantic Movement. Listen to the entire Moonlight Sonata, not just the played-to-death first movement, but the whole thing. That second movement is ne plus emo. I like Beethoven, but only in small doses.

But in the closing chapters of this Thursday afternoon, Mozart and I are sitting quietly, knitting a hat, (working my jigsaw to give my hands a break). And seriously considering getting up and making a pot of tea. And maybe some toast.

Hear More About It:

The Day The Music Died

I was saddened to learn that David Crosby passed away Thursday. He, along with cohorts Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, as the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash, made some of my favoritest music ever on one of my favoritest albums ever. Their first two albums have been a major part of the sound track of my life for over half a century (!). They constructed their harmony like the Incas constructed stonework — they fitted it together so tightly you couldn’t get even a knife blade between the voices. In 1968, Crosby and Stills were working on what would become “You Don’t Have to Cry.” They were asked to play it for Graham Nash. He asked them to play it again. When they played it for him a third time, he chimed in with another harmony line, and magic happened. CSN’s second live gig was at Woodstock. (My other most favoritest CSN song is this one.)

(The ïyêdëshîäm of Lîdâ have asked me to say that they also mourn David Crosby’s passing, but will forever cherish the music he gave them for their dance.)

I’m not at all sure why humans make music or what it is about our brains that gives us the urge to do so, but it is the one thing that all human cultures have in common — vocal music. I have a strong belief, though, that if you took away that urge, that need, we wouldn’t be human anymore.

In the knitting news, I’ve taken the second option on my pattern for Braided Cable Hat with Rolled Brim, and instead of alternating the braided cables with a panel of stockinette, I ‘m alternating them with a twisted cable. This is “Meadow” — one of the more subdued colorways of the Red Heart Unforgettable yarn, which doesn’t compete all that much with the stitch work. I may call it David’s Hat, because context.

T’is the Season, Y’all

I got all gussied up for the party: A (velvet) plaid “lumberjack” shirt (!) over black tee and black velvet slacks (Xmas spirit. I haz it) embellished with this glass bead necklace I bought years and years ago at a “vintage” shop. (Loved everything about it but the length, so I popped it and restrung it to choker length, and had enough beads left over to make ear dangles.) (Notice the stoppers on the ear wires!) I wore my little magnetic Carillon name tag. (Yee-Ho-Ho-Ho!)

The place was packed. I sat with friends. The food was episodic, single serving, but good — little plastic cups of dip and dip-able veggies, dinner roll sandwiches (mine was ham), shrimps and a dollop of cocktail sauce, and an collection of little cakes for dessert, each on its little plastic plate. I had a small plastic cup of white wine. There were raffles for door prizes (e.g. an hour in a chauffeured limousine for 10), and we each got a stocking from the corporate sponsors with a pair of socks, a packet of tissues, various “single serving” size candies, and business cards.

The music was provided by “Cadillac Jack Band.” (Guess what kind of music they played.) I had no trouble hearing it. (I will be vibrating for days.) The party was from 4:00 to 6:00. I made it to 5:00 before I bailed.

(If I hear “Joy to the World” on pedal steel guitar one more time . . . )

Here, have a shot of the good stuff. On the house. And one for the road.

Settling In and Hunkering Down

So, my third go-round of chemo (second round of COP therapy) is behind me, but the COP cycles are every three weeks, instead of every four as the bendamustine cycles would have been. I got off easy this time. I managed to sidestep any upper or lower digestive side effects. Thing is, I don’t know how much of my wheezing and shortness of breath is due to the chemo and how much is due to the many dusty blustery days we’ve had lately and those dang Bradford pears.

I was able to stop off at the grocery store Friday after getting my liter of fluid. I got a small box of cherry tomatoes, a bag of baby carrots, a bunch of green onions, and a bowl of cantaloupe to make some dip salads; a box of spinach dip, and a box of 7-layer dip (bottom to top: refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, green onions, tomatoes, black olives, and grated cheese.) I also got a small bag of blue corn tortilla chips to eat the dips with. (Blue corn has a lower glycemic index and a higher protein content than regular yellow corn.)

Tuesday afternoon, I got on YouTube and found Mozart piano sonatas, and then Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, listened to music and worked puzzles on Jigsaw Planet. It was very meditative. While my eyes and mouse hand worked puzzles, my mind just wandered off into the music.

Thursday I did something I haven’t done in a long time. I watched TV and knitted for several hours — I was working on the baby blanket. I have a pair of over-ear Bluetooth headphones paired to my TV, and my TV sound on mute, so I don’t have to worry about disturbing anybody with my TV sound.

Having been a medical transcriptionist for 27 years, I was always very protective of my hearing as it was my livelihood, and still am. Even now I don’t like to turn the volume up on the things I listen to. Headphones and earbuds allow me to listen to things at a very low volume because they cut out any ambient noise. One reason people turn the sound up is to hear dialogue more clearly (The higher speech frequencies don’t carry as well as lower frequencies.) Headphones/earbuds allow you to hear dialogue better at lower volumes because they cut out any ambient noise. (The other reason is that loud sounds give people an adrenalin rush — Which is why “surround sound” is such a big deal and why “blockbuster” movies that cater to the younger bunch always have either lots of explosions and crash noises or lots of “startle scares.” Every time I pull up next to a “thumper” — a car (usually driven by a teenage or young adult man) with a high watt sound system with huge bass speakers thumping away so loudly you can hear it two lanes over with your windows rolled up, I think, “Adrenalin junkie.”)

Anyway, I watched Magellan TV, a biography of Beethoven and a biography of Chopin. Then I flipped over to YouTube and had jellyfish and arpeggious piano for a while. The video of the moon jellyfish floating around full screen on a 55-inch flat screen is amazing. I could have a real Captain Nemo fantasy going with that video, looking out of the round window in the side of the Nautilus.

I have my little nook set up over in the corner, with my floor lamp and my little reader’s table with my bowl of knitting accouterments. I have one of those boxes shaped like a fancy leatherbound book for all my remotes — TV, VCRs, and sound bar. (We’re supposed to get a new internet service provider and the TV will have a cable box with one more remote. . . ) It saves me rummaging for them inside a drawer or having to keep up with them strewn about over this table or that.

The boxes came in a set of two and I use the smaller one on my chest of drawers for watches and jewelry and such.

The baby dress is the Rio Dress, a paid for pattern from Ravelry, which I’m doing in 6 month size, which puts it right around Christmas, hence the color — Malabrigo Sock’s Tiziano Red from stash. Something for the Christmas card photo of baby’s first Christmas. The hat is “Dear Liza” pattern, free on Ravelry in Paton Grace’s mercerized cotton yarn in lavender also from stash. It is supposed to be cast on “loosely” because the brim folds under and you pick up stitches on the cast on edge to be knit together with the stitches on the other end to make it double thickness, but I wasn’t going to futz with picking up stitches on a cast on edge when I could do a provisional cast on and have the stitches live, which is what the blue yarn is about. The holey bit about halfway up is a row of *k2tog, yo* which forms the “fold line” where the brim folds double, and it gives you a nice little picot edge. Texas babies need hats, too, — not warm ones, but cool ones that keep the sun off. This one is in mercerized cotton which means washer and dryer safe. The dress will have to be washed in cold on delicate setting (or else hand washed) and dried flat, but something that small shouldn’t take that long to dry.

I’ve started the dark rose pink yarn on the round baby blanket. Ideally, I’d put a knitted on edging on it because it’s stockinette and it needs some kind of edging to keep it from curling. I’ve found an edging pattern that is knitted over 9 stitches with a 4-row repeat that’ll work. The pattern as it stands is a “sew on” edging. I just have to play with it to make it knitted on — i.e., decide how I will knit two stitches together (k2tog? ssk?) at the ends of RS rows (one stitch from the blanket and one from the edging) and a slip stitch for the slipping of that two knitted together stitch at the beginning of WS rows. And end the blanket with a row count that is evenly divisible by 4. No biggie. It’s a 9-bladed pinwheel so, e.g., if each of the blades of the pinwheel contained 40 stitches, that’d be 360 stitches (9 x 40), which would be 90 repeats (360/4) of the edging pattern. Which means there is some binge knitting in my imminent future.

Wouldn’t Ya Know . . .

Last night it was blustery all night. I know that for a fact. The Decadron (steroids) I got with my chemotherapy had me bouncing off the walls all night long and I didn’t even bother to go to bed. To finish off this dose of COP, I had to take 5 prednisone (steroids) tablets this morning. With food.

I got a notice yesterday that they will start charging a delivery charge as of 1 April if they bring your food up to your apartment, so I’ve started going down to get it and bringing it back up to eat. (This morning at 7:30 a.m., I hunted down two eggs over easy with hash browns and sausage and brought them back to my burrow for the “with food” so I could take the prednisone.)

When I’m eating under any kind of time constraint I have a tendency to bolt my food down, and always seem to swallow a lot of air in the process. (My stomach be like, “Girl, I am NOT your lungs. I don’t do air. Now I got to sort all that air you swallowed out from all that food you dump-trucked down on me and get it out of my way, and until I do, you get to figure out a lady like-way to burp it all back up. Dang, girl! Slow down!”) When I eat my meals in the apartment, I can graze at will and not worry about how long I’m taking and whether I’m holding up progress for the people who want to clean up after me and get the table set up for the next person, and worry about getting done by 1:00 o’clock when the dining room closes, etc., etc. Besides, I need to stay as active as I can to maintain muscle tone and promote circulation, and not get so debilitated like I did last time and wind up in the hospital again. So I’ll be going down to get my food as much as possible.

Now that I’ve gotten off that tangent, what I was leading up to was the stupid snow squall we had today. (Yes, snow squalls are a thing.) I had to be at the cancer center (JACC) at 11:00 a.m. I knew it was going to be cold because what all that blustering was about last night was a cold front coming through. At 10:30 when I looked at the weather app on my phone to see how much coat, hat and scarf I was going to need, it was 23 F/-5 C, and the app said there was a 90% chance of snow (?!?!) starting at 11:00. I donned outerwear accordingly and headed out.

At JACC, the nurse gave me a handout sheet with all the scoobies about the injection I got today. It’s Udenyca. (which is pegfilgrastim, just like the Neulasta I had in 2018, but it’s new and improved with extra added “-cbqv” (whatever that is), to make it neater, keener, cooler, and less expensive (!) than Neulasta — there’s a refreshing change!)

When I went in the building at 10:50 we were having what I call “sky dandruff” — widely scattered, tiny white bits — not even big enough to qualify as sneet (snow that froze into tiny pellets of sleet on the way down). When I came out at 11:40, this is what I saw:

The driver’s side of my car was facing into the wind and enough of that fluffy, wet snow got plastered on my car that I had to get my scraper out and scrape off my windshield, back window and both driver’s side windows. Because I’m short, I also got snow all over the front of my jacket and on both sleeves up to the elbow. (Stop snickering, you northerners!) (The latitude of my town falls just south of Beirut, Lebanon, and just north north of Baghdad, Iraq. Oddly enough, it doesn’t snow all that much here in the Tx flatlands, which is one of the things I like about living here.) It had quit snowing by the time I got home. The coldest day in weeks, with the first precipitation in over a month, and wouldn’t ya know. Perfectly timed to occur just when I had to get out in it. Grumble . . . grumble . . . grumble. Here directly, I’m going to get into my snuggly bed and sleep til I get hungry or until 11 p.m. (medications), whichever comes first.

On a side note, this is the noisiest refrigerator I think I’ve ever had. Sounds like a cement mixer truck, except when it makes a sound like a sarcastic sheep. And then at random intervals, the Jenga Tower falls over. But to be fair, this is the first time I’ve ever had any kind of a fridge in my “office,” never mind a full-size one — and only about 15 feet away from my desk at that. Ah, well. That’s why God gave us hours of Mozart, Bach and Chopin on keyboards for free on YouTube. And Tuba Skinny. And Bossa Nova jazz. By the sea. Oh, and cordless, Bluetooth earbuds . . . Ooop. There goes the Jenga tower again . . .

A Little Spontenaiety, and 4, and . . . .

On a whim, and a very small one at that, shortly after I posted yesterday’s post, I packed up and went to the Market Street on Indiana and 50th, on a Saturday, and there was a Goodwill Truck in the parking lot! So, yay! I offloaded donations, Goodwill made out like a bandit, and I was a happy camper. I was limited to three grocery bags, because that’s all I can carry free-hand, and my car trunk and back seat were so loaded down with Goodwill donations, there was no place to put my little fold-up wagon to take anything more than that back up to the apt.

I was proud of myself. Little bag of baby carrots, bag of cored apple sections, two bunches of green onions, container of cantaloupe chunks, and a small bottle of the best Ranch dressing ever, Litehouse Homestyle Ranch which is thick enough to either dip or dress. Got some mixed nuts, two big bottles of peach juice, some broiled chicken wings, fried okra, some lunch meat, couple loafs of their great specialty bread. And for “tea,” I had half the fried okra, a dinner plate with a small handful of carrots, five little green onions, a handful of apple sections, a couple of chunks of cantalope, and a little sauce dish of Ranch to dip. A DIY salad. Yum! (The green onions were peppery and good!)

Maybe later today I’ll load up the drawer bin units in my wagon and take them down to my car and try for another run on Monday because my spontaneous Saturday grocery run was listless and I forgot a few things as a result. Crystal Light for one thing. I’m getting to the middle of this cycle where I’m starting to bounce back from the chemo and get some energy back.

Once I get the empty bin drawer units out of the way, that will only leave the two boxes. It will open the place up more and leave me with one last push to get everything unpacked. In the meantime, I might tackle the tchotchke shelves, which only need sorting and arranging artfully to display the collection of Chinese cloisonne mom and I have accumulated over the years, as well as some treasured pieces of blue and white, my teacup collection and what have you.

In the meantime, I’ve been listening to a traditional jazz band called Tuba Skinny (just go to YouTube and search for “Tuba Skinny”) It has a lineup of clarinet, cornet, trombone, a singer who plays the bass drum she sits on, two acoustic guitars or guitar and banjo, percussion of washboard and cymbals, and a for-real Sousaphone style tuba. They play early jazz from the Roaring Twenties, the jazz that gave the Jazz Age it’s name. It was the heyday of F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby), Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway in Paris. What was left of the Lost Generation, the generation that had survived WWI, kicked up their heels and partied hearty for a whole decade. This is the musical setting for the Bertie Wooster and Jeeves stories of P. G. Wodehouse that have been so exquisitely portrayed by the young Hugh Laurie as Bertie and Stephen Fry as the inimitable Jeeves in the BBC dramatizations. The print stories are now in the public domain and can be acquired for free from Project Gutenberg, or from your preferred purveyor of digital content for free or really cheap. The 1920’s were the dawn of the modern era. Our modern world has its roots there.

If you haven’t figured out by now I have pretty catholic (2) tastes in music — in fact, I’ve rarely met a musical genre I haven’t liked — yep. My first exposure to this music was in my childhood and TV’s — which happened to coincide. This would have been in the mid 1950’s. One of our two local TV stations broadcast old movie cartoons from the early 1930s through the early 1950s. They were cheap, readily available and were “socially acceptable” content for that awkward part of the afternoon between the kids getting home from school and dad getting home from work, that 3:30-5:30 pm time slot when mom needed the kids out of her hair while she was cooking supper and getting it on the table by 6 pm. The assumption was that kids and cartoons were a “natural.” What nobody seemed to have realized at the time was that these cartoons were aimed at adults, the demographic that bought movie tickets and took their girls and wives out to the movies in the evening for a short, a news real, a cartoon and a feature film. They had a level of sophistication and assumed a common cultural context that gave them meat and depth, wit and sparkle. And the ones from the early thirties (the Harmon-Ising “Merrie Melodies“) frequently were themed around popular tunes of the day, and they were in this “Trad Jazz” style. This was the golden age of the animated cartoon — Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and the later Merrie Melodies, vintage Fleischer Popeye the Sailor, Woody Woodpecker and Tom and Jerry. As an uncritical child, I took them in at face value, and as I rewatched them over the years, I would grow into them, bringing my increasing knowledge of historical context, life in general, and experience to bear, and “get” more and more of the gags that had gone over my head as a child.

Anyway, grooving to Tuba Skinny makes me smile, and I need all the smiles I can get. Feel free to get you some, too.

So, Anyway . . . .

Woke up this morning dabbling in this thought puddle: So women already have to play the men’s game because it’s the only game in town, and they have to use the men’s rules and the men’s cards, and the men change the rules halfway through the game at random and then they insist on all these elaborate arcane handicaps, and then change what you have to do to win three fourths of the way through the game and we still win, and men immediately launch into this big rant about how we take unfair advantage and how ruthless we are and how unfeminine that is, and going on and on about it, and we’re having to stand around listening to it while we’re doing the teenage eyeroll thing and thinking, “Oh, grow TF up already. . . ” So I’ll just park that here like a piece of chewing gum. Strange morning.

My BFF called last night from Outer Houston and we talked for four and a half hours (!). I mean, sit the phone down and gab while we’re making and eating dinner and cleaning up after and talking about books and music and fashion and where our heads are at right now and our respective creative processes and where each of us is going with our respective version of it. (She’s very eye/visually oriented, has a fine arts degree, paints, draws, was a scientific illustrator for the Carnagie Museum in Pittsburg for a zillion years, and I’m very verbal/ear oriented, have a degree in English (Rhetoric), etc.) (In a parallel universe, we might have done graphic novels; I the story and script, she all the drawing.) We both love music but we use different types of it and in different ways and want different things from it — another interesting conversation thread from last night. That transmogrified into an exploration of our respective creative processes in and of itself, and how it involves different circuits in her brain than it does in mine (never mind that I’m on the spectrum and wired differently anyway).

We’ve both become devotees of the Boomer Goth fashion look, it seems. (She bought some black pretend leather slacks and black ankle boots with tire tread soles. She has the height to pull it off.) (You have no idea how funny the whole concept of “Boomer Goth” is; we laughed uproariously about it all evening.) We both have that slightly off-kilter world view, only tilted at different angles (but that’s OK) and the same offbeat sense of humor. We’ve been friends since age 14 and we have that whole private language that only comes from long acquaintance and little shorthand referents that nobody else can get because it’s one of those you had to have been there. . . .

She was put on clonazepam (Klonopin is the brand name) for like 20 years for chronic anxiety and is finally off it now. Her brain is coming out of the drug haze, and she is astonished at how many of the symptoms she attributed to “old age” and nerve damage from hazardous chemicals she was exposed to at her museum job were actually side effects of the clonazepam and are now dramatically improving now that she’s not taking it any more (not to mention all the foods she stopped eating because she thought she’d developed a food allergy to them, but that were actually clonazepam side effects affecting her digestive system.) (Stevie Nicks has gone on record as saying if she were to ever meet the person who initially prescribed clonazepam to her, she would want to murder them because of what the drug did to her brain for eight years.) After over 20 years, my BFF is finally reconnecting with her art — drawing and painting, and rediscovering what she thought she’d lost forever. It’s like she’s having her own personal private Renaissance.

We talked about books and she wants to start reading (and rereading) again, which is problematic at the moment because of her cataracts, but her first surgery will be in March. But once she gets past that, she’ll be able to get back into it. And all of this is happening to her as I’m about to start dealing with chemo brain. Again.

We had a front blow through last night. It blustered and blew all night. I’ve transferred my yarn stash but it hasn’t made it under the bed yet. Sufficient unto the day . . . I’m probably going grocery shopping tomorrow morning, but I may blow it off until Monday so I can check to see if the Market Street at Indiana and 50th has a Goodwill Donation truck in their parking lot. I need to offload my car so I can load it up with those drawer bins.

I love my little kitchen. The peninsula could have barstool seating on this side of it, but I have my metal filing cabinet (with bowls of knitting on) and the printer end of my computer desk pushed up under it. Anyway, I eat at my computer desk most of the time anyway. I have ample cabinet storage (although I’d rather have more drawers than shelves). Still, I have a place for everything and the “above” cabinets (above the refrigerator, microwave and sink) are all empty because I have more room than things to put in it.

Here’s my little pet Italian Stone Pine and the orchid I inherited from mom. I need to repot both of them. I have the stuff to do it. My windows face northwest, and there are deciduous trees in front of them, so currently I have a lot of bright indirect light. (The Stone Pine can take full sun and would do well if planted outside.) I’d like some more plants, but I’m undecided/picky about which ones. I’ll have to wait until the trees leaf out to see what the spring/summer light level is like and let that be my guide. I’m thinking a shallow, pretty bowl with succulents in wouldn’t go amiss. . . .

Hello, Goodbye

I got rather philosophical earlier thinking about life in general, hellos and goodbyes, and how when you come into the world as a child and things are new and different, and there is so much to discover. Your life is filled with “hellos”. You’re encountering all the people in your world, your family, friends, the people at school. You do say some “Goodbyes” but it is “Hello” that predominates in your life. Then as you age there is that indefinable point where you began to say more “Goodbyes” than you do “Hellos.” You begin to outlive friends and family, and possessions fall away, until you say that last, final “goodbye” to this world.

Of course, part of what prompted this philosophical musing is the demographics of the place I’m currently living in. (I lost my next door neighbor last week.) But part of it was learning that one of mom’s long-time friends suffered a fall while visiting relatives over Christmas. She hit her head, and never regained consciousness. It happened so quickly — a split second is all it takes. I learned today they’ve put her on hospice. It’s only a matter of time.

I’ve always had a tendency to live in the moment, and it’s things like this that only reinforce my belief. It makes me want to spend as much time as I can deriving every morsel of enjoyment from life that I can. It’s also made me think about that nebulous thing called “Quality of Life” that people talk about. My needs are all being met; my wants are few.

I’ll be moving within a month (I hope), and I’ll also very likely be starting chemotherapy again in February. I hope to goodness this round of chemo is easier than the last one. Last time, I had a heart attack pretty much the first crack out of the box and was hospitalized four times for side effects of chemotherapy including a bout of pneumonia. I’d just as soon not go through all that again. I have a cancer of the immune system — lymphoma is tumors of the lymph glands — and it could convert to leukemia — cancer of the white blood cells — at any time. The middle of a pandemic is no time to be fooling with your immune system, and the specter of COVID will be looking over my shoulder the whole time. Still, I did it before; I can do it again. Bald is beautiful.

At least mom is in a place where she is safe and well looked after, where she has medical supervision and I won’t have to worry about her. That is one comfort going into this. I still have no word on when I can move. I just hope it’s before February. I’d like to be in and settled before I start chemo again.

I have bluetooth earbuds for this computer, and one of life’s current pleasures is to be able to listen to music on YouTube, even when I’m not sitting at the computer. Think I’ll find some Chopin or Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier and sit and knit for a bit.

Getting On The Stick

It has been brought to my attention that I have not blogged in a while and that I had better get on the stick. Ç’est la.

Part of the reason for the radio silence has been my mom. She’s got a major hitch in her “get-along.” She already has pronounced age-related kyphosis, which indicates some collapse of the vertebral arch, and now she seems to have developed some leftward scoliosis in her lower back just above her hip — or at least, that’s what I get from what the PA at her doctor’s office was saying. I haven’t seen the x-ray. She also has some arthritis of the left hip, which is not surprising in a 96-year-old woman who has been active until about two weeks ago when all this hit.

It’s similar to an episode she had in 2016, with the same symptoms, but at that time, a methylprednisolone dosepack sorted it out and relieved her pain. This time, her pain was so severe, I took her to one of these emergency care places where they did the (AP and lateral) x-rays of her lower back and said she had the scoliosis, and that was what was causing her pain. They gave her acetaminophen/codeine (Tylenol No. 3) and a steroid shot, neither of which fazed her pain. She went back to her doc, who sent her for hip x-rays, and gave her hydrocodone, which helps with the pain, but which sends her to LaLa land. She also had another methylprednisolone dosepack over the weekend, but this time to no avail. She’s been using the walker I used after my knee surgery that I got a folding tray for, which she likes, but it’s not suitable for use outside the house because it’s only got wheels on the front. I’ve ordered her one with four wheels and a seat that has a bag underneath it where she can put her purse. It folds up so it will fit in the back seat of the car. It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow. Her doctor is also referring her to an orthopedist who specializes in backs and hips. I think her pain is either from from osteoarthritis of her hip, or she’s having sciatica, or a combination of both.

Needless to say, this is a very concerning turn of events. The longer Mom can stay up and active, the better off she is. Nothing wears you down like chronic pain and the depression it brings with it. We have been so lucky that her health has been good and that she has been able to be active as long as she has been. Unfortunately, the prolonged COVID quarantine cut her activity level way down and has not done her any good. I suspect that this prolonged period of inactivity (sitting in a chair that is basically one giant pillow) is a significant contributing factor. Although she did get outside and walk up and down the block (weather permitting) and/or walked about in the house, she was unable to attend any of the social functions that are such a large and very important part of her life, and the social isolation has also been a significant contributing factor. (She’s such a social butterfly!) Bless her heart — she outlived all the friends she’s had for years and years, made a new, younger set of friends, and now has already started outliving them, too!

To change topics sans segue, in July of 2018, my hair (what there was left of it after chemotherapy) was about 2 inches long all over my head.

My BFF (who now lives NW of Houston) wanted to know what my hair looks like now, almost three years later, which is why I took this. There’s still some blonde left but I’m afraid that over the years, I’ve become Hiyo, Sliver, away! I’ve still got a good little bit of natural curl, but my hair is so fine that the weight of it is enough to pull most of the curl out.

This being fan season (although it’s 80 F/26.6 C in the hall by the thermostat, it’s 82 F/27.7 C according to the thermometer on the wall by my desk), the fan I have blowing on my computer desk tends to pick out the new “replacement” hairs up around my face that haven’t grown long enough to be caught by my barrette and blow-tickles them against my forehead in a very irritating way. This provoked a dive into stash which produced some Paton Grace (1.75 oz/50 g, 3:Light) mercerized cotton yarn. I modified the 9-bladed pinwheel shawl pattern to make a top-down beanie on US 3 (3.25 mm) needles.

I’ll write the hat pattern up and put it in my knitting patterns blog. I’m about half an inch from starting the hatband. The nine “blades” are formed with a yarn over at the edge which increases the diameter by 9 stitches every other row. Once the blade gets to 16 stitches wide, I “froze” the increases by adding a knit-two-together (k2tog) after the yarn over. That gives a diameter of 24 inches which the 1 x 1 rib cinches in nicely. (I have a 22-inch head.)

I dived deeper into stash and found some odd balls of Classic Elite Yarns “Gigi” (85% cotton, 10% silk, 5% stretch polyester, 142 yds/50 g) which I’m using the same pattern, but on US1 (2.25 mm) needles. I’ve got three balls in three different colors: A lavender purple, a medium grey and a silver/white which I’ve started it with.

Since it’s a top-down beanie, you have to start it on double pointed needles (DPNs), but once it gets to where it’s nearly too big for the DPNs, you can switch it over to 16-inch circulars. In other knitting news,

Progress on the “Waves on a Wine Dark Sea” shawl — the inside curve edge and the outside edge.

I’m liking how the “stripes” are turning out — sorry the picture is so dark.

Because I am of the female ilk, I’m allowed to change my mind without notice. About a week and a half ago, I decided the Huyri shawl (at left), while interesting, was not sparking joy so I frogged that sucker and wrote another triangular shawl pattern that had a bit more pizazz to it.

The new shawl pattern, while keeping the garter stitch “wings” and open-work edging of the Huyri shawl, has a lattice lace insert down the middle which sparks much joy.

This is the new shawl pattern I’m calling “Latticia” because of the lattice lace panel in the center. It’s a bit more complicated and consequently more interesting. The increases are knit front and back stitches (kfb) just at the edge of the garter stitch “wings.” I was watching a video of a lady blocking a shawl with a lace edging on it and instead of pinning out the edges of the shawl with humpty gazillion T-pins, she had these metal rods which she looped through the edge of the lace. Yep. Got some. They’ll come in handy for this shawl — which requires more attention than I’d realized.

Forgot I was doing garter stitch and purled part of a row on one “wing”and didn’t catch it until about 8 rows later! — Oops! But I only frogged the stitches I messed up back to where I messed them up, got a DPN and reworked them. All fixed!

I also tried one of these little gizmos. They have a spindle on a little turn-table affair which spins on ball bearings and is supposed to allow your cake to unwind smoothly, but the yarn kept slipping up off the side of the cake and hanging up around the spindle, and I kept having to lean over and give the spindle a turn to “un-hang” it. I found it happened too frequently and it became too annoying, so I sent it back.

I’ve tried center-pulling from cakes, but ran into the same problem as I have with those tools-of-the-devil pull skeins — skein implosion resulting in yarn barf. I’ve decided putting a cake in a bowl and pulling from outside-in is as good as it gets with cakes, and that has become the preferred method. The bowl allows the cake to spin if it needs to and keeps it from rolling away.

I got a bigger bowl just to see if bigger is better. It is for the bigger cakes. Let’s face it. I like my pretty bowls, and I have enough variety of sizes that I have something for every project.

I’ve been listening to Soma FM’s “Illinois Street Lounge” channel while I blog. They just played “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, as sung by Mel Tormé which has given me a cramp in my frontal lobe, and I’m just about cha-cha-cha‘d (and blogged) out. A judicious application of Venice Classical Radio ought to do the trick. So, as the Liadens say, until soon!

Having a Ball

Now that I have my knitting mojo back, I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen behind in my reading (my average so far this year is 42 books for the year to date). If I could learn to read while I knit — or would it be knit while I read? — but I haven’t mastered that particular trick yet. I’m a pretty single-minded reader. My eyes attach to the first word at beginning of the page and pretty much suck in the text like a vacuum pump, release at the end of the page, and reattach to the first word at the top of the next page without me having to think about it. If it’s a really good book, I can start the first page, suddenly run out of story, look up and discover that it’s hours later.

I’ve been a good citizen and stimulated the economy on the three occasions that the government has encouraged me to do so. (I have been blessedly fortunate to be in a situation where COVID had no effect on my income.) Several of my purchases have been what is known in the parlance as “snob yarn” — i.e., any yarn not purchased at a large retail chain (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Joanne’s, etc.), that is either not acrylic or not “washcloth cotton,” and is typically produced by small, independent, typically female-owned small

businesses or cooperatives that typically knowtheir wool producers by name because they’ve raised them from lambs. I’m including Malabrigo, Berroco, and Schachenmeyr in this category because even though they are large companies, their yarns are all made from natural fibers, and they don’t sell any other retail merchandise besides yarn and the accoutrements you need to make things out of it.

Late in 2019, I was finally able to allocate funds to acquire a swift and a ball winder because I had earlier acquired the Malabrigo 100% Merino sock yarn that would become the Sweet Irene shawl. I had five hanks of it. Hanks are harder to wind into balls than those pull skeins (which are tools of the Devil!) that most acrylic yarn comes in. That’s where a “ball” winder comes in.

These don’t wind yarn into balls, incidentally; they wind yarn into what are called “cakes.” (see left.) I’ve been caking my yarn purchases here lately. I was able to score some Berroco “Modern Cotton” yarn in both worsted and DK weight on sale through Yarnspirations. I scored some Ragg-Time yarn from The Green Mountain Spinnery, which is what my Infinity wrap is being knitted from. And I’ve picked up a couple of skeins here , here, and there on sale. All of this yarn is in hanks.

While I have been merrily winding yarn, I have been considering. I had decided that instead of Kitchnering my infinity wrap together into one big circle that I would have to wrestle myself into, I would close it with buttons. Wooden buttons. But — how many buttons? and which color buttons? I’m thinking three dark ones, because five looks too busy. I started the infinity wrap with a provisional cast on, thinking I would Kitchner it, but I could just as easily pick up those stitches and do a button band.

So now I have all this beautiful new yarn, and I can’t stand it. I’ve dropped everything to work on a pattern for a wide-winged triangular shawl with a knitted on edging that can be crossed over the chest and tied behind, and there’s this Mohonk yarn in the colorway “wet bluestone” that’s been begging me to become this thing. . .

I have also been listening a lot to Venice Classic Radio, an internet radio station based in Venice, Italy (oddly enough), which I can listen to through Winamp on my PC, an internet radio app on my Fire tablet, and an internet radio app on my iPhone. If you like European classical music from the 18th and 19th century, this is the radio station for you.