28 November 2014
27 November 2014
25 November 2014
Ten years ago this month, I gave a neurosurgeon permission to cut into my back. He removed a crippling bone chip from my sciatic nerve and rendered me able to walk again.
I spent the next seven years doing everything I could to encourage nerve regeneration and regrowth. They say that's how long it takes nerve damage to heal, if it's going to heal. No promises.
The emergency surgery also allowed demoralizing arthritis to gain a weed-worthy foothold.
I can't truly blame the surgery for this hardship. Arthritis runs heavily in my family. I probably would have succumbed to the stiffness and pain of everyday life eventually, with or without the surgery.
I have spent the last ten years trying to "stay active," even when it hurts, because my doctor told me that's the best he can offer. Sitting still magnifies the stiffness. Dormancy encourages and stimulates atrophy.
I've tried to do something special, something challenging, each anniversary of my surgery, just to prove to my physical body who is in charge. Mind over muscle. I will not be held back.
This year, I celebrated with a bicycle climb up Deer Creek Canyon. It may not seem noteworthy or even much of a challenge. I've done it probably 30 times, although with decreasing frequency the last couple of years.
Nearly two years ago, my back became an issue again when mischievous teens broke a fence post and unwittingly challenged me to a bicycle-hurdling demonstration. A broken wrist, a dinged camera, hamburger knees and elbows, and a mystery back injury not entirely discovered or diagnosed for ten whole months forced me to start all over again on my training and healthy lifestyle. (That second link reveals one of the best tragedy overcome poems I've ever composed, in my opinion.) Thankfully, my bike was fine.
I wasn't able to scale Deer Creek Canyon again until early this last summer. Forest fires that first summer and the next prevented me from repeating the fete often enough to maintain ability.
Back in September, I reached the top again for the second time since May of 2012. It was a long, grueling climb, and I felt like a collapsed shack near the top by the time I reached the top. Then, thanks to my continual habit of over-committing myself and my inability to say, "No," I didn't get another opportunity until the tin or aluminum anniversary of surgery. And even then, hours and daylight were limited. There would not be enough daylight to tackle the entire climb, so I had to modify my goal.
I decided within the first four miles I would try to beat the best miles-per-hour average I had ever attained on the Deer Creek ride, which includes up AND down. I think my snail's pace going uphill on any trail, road or bike path has been steadily improving since before the bicycle accident, albeit very, very slowly. So just going a little faster up the canyon wouldn't be enough for me. I wanted something I could really call a feather in my cap.
I decided to pedal hard as far as I could and then to keep trying to get back up to intensity as much as I could for the remainder of the ride. I don't think I had ever pushed hard for 27 whole miles on any ride anytime anywhere. If I could bring up my total average by a mile or so, that would be an accomplishment. That would be the peacock's feathers.
As I pedaled, I wondered if I should start celebrating my renewed outlook on life in October of 2012 instead of the back surgery, since the discs damaged in the bicycle wreck have more impact on me now than the bone chip. As I reached the top of the day's climb, about the halfway point because that's all daylight would allow me on this particular day, one of my most cherished motivational songs began to play on my iPod once again, at just the perfect time.
I knew the moment had arrived
For killing the past and coming back to life"
-- Coming Back to Life, Pink Floyd
I don't need to dwell on that bicycle accident anymore. It was awful. It changed my life. It zapped my will. It brought on one of the most devastating bouts of depression I've faced since the deaths of my little brother and my little sister.
By gosh, that day is gone. I'm not letting those silly kids and that stupid fence post have any more of my life. Yes, I have an injury that isn't going to go away and will eventually get worse. But by golly, I'm not giving up. I'm going to enjoy what I have left of life, and I'm not memorializing that fateful day anymore.
I pedaled down the mountain fast. I typically am very conservative when descending. But for this day, weather was perfect, road conditions were good (no gravel, not much traffic), I was feeling strong, and I wanted to prove I could go a little faster and still be cautious and observant.
When I got back to the (mostly) flats, I faced a devilish headwind, and I wasn't about to let it slow me down, either. Although sometimes I couldn't pedal faster than 5 or 7 mph, I kept giving it my all. I tried to pedal as hard as I could.
At the end of the ride, I quickly reached inside my rear jersey pocket to punch in the end of my ride and see if I'd reached my goal of one mile per hour faster than ever before.
If any earthquakes were detected that day, that was me. That was me dancing for joy. That's the way I intend to live the rest of my life.
24 November 2014
The name of this snowflake says it all.
You may do whatever you'd like with snowflakes you make from this pattern, but you may not sell or republish the pattern. Thanks, and enjoy!
Finished Size: 5.5 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 8 crochet hook, empty pizza box, wax paper or plastic wrap, cellophane tape, water soluble school glue or desired stiffener, water, glitter, small container for glue/water mixture, paintbrush, stick pins that won't be used later for sewing, clear thread or fishing line
Elsa's Braids Snowflake Instructions
Make magic ring.
Round 1: Ch 2 (counts as 1 dc), 1 dc in ring, * ch 5, sl st in 5th ch from hook, 2 dc in ring; repeat from * around 4 times; 1 hdc in 2nd ch of starting ch 2 to form 6th ch sp of Round, ch 2, 1 dc in top of hdc to form 6th ch 4 loop of Round. Pull magic circle tight.
Round 2: 2 sc over post of dc directly below, * ch 30, sl st in 28th ch from hook, [ch 28, sl st in 28th ch from hook] 2 times, ch 3, 3 sc in next ch 4 sp; repeat from * around 5 times, omitting last 2 sc of final repeat; sl st in starting sc.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.
Braid each of the 3/ch groups, using a safety pin or other stitch holder to temporarily secure until you crochet into the end of each braid to permanently secure them on the next Round.
NOTE: This is an excellent step with which "Frozen"-enchanted daughters, granddaughters, nieces or neighbor girls may help. Let a young girl braid "Elsa's white hair!"
Round 3: Ch 9 (counts as 1 trtr and ch 3), 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (dc picot made), * ch 6, 1 sc in 6th ch from hook, ch 6, sl st in sc, ch 5, sl st in sc (tri-picot made), ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook (dc picot made), 1 sc in top of first ch loop in next braid, [ch 3, 1 sc in next ch loop of same braid] 2 times, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, ch 6, 1 sc in 6th ch from hook, ch 6, sl st in sc, ch 5, sl st in sc, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook, 1 trtr in middle sc of next 3/sc group, ch 3, 1 dc in 3rd ch from hook; repeat from * around 5 times, omitting last trtr and last dc picot of final repeat; sl st in 6th ch of starting ch 9; bind off. Weave in ends.
Finish: Tape wax paper or plastic wrap to top of empty pizza box. Pin snowflake to box on top of wax paper or plastic wrap.
If using glue, mix a few drops of water with a teaspoon of glue in small washable container. Paint snowflake with glue mixture or desired stiffener. Sprinkle lightly with glitter. Wash paintbrush and container thoroughly. Allow snowflake to dry at least 24 hours. Remove pins. Gently peel snowflake from wax paper or plastic wrap. Attach 10-inch clear thread to one spoke, weaving in end. Wrap fishing line around tree branch (or tape to ceiling or any overhead surface) and watch the snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.
21 November 2014
20 November 2014
I woke up on Day of the Dead (a miracle in and of itself, eh?) to one of the most incredible November sunrises. Sun angle here in my neck of the plains-meet-foothills provides the most colorful sunrises and sunsets in November and April.
I jumped to grab the Big Gun, my Nikon D300, armed with big zoom, to capture the stunning light coming through the snowflake prism on my window.
But the Big Gun had other plans. It was celebrating Day of the Dead.
Come on, Little Guy, you can do better than that!
That's more like it!
So the unpredictable little Nikon, my P510, had to suffice. This gave the point-and-shoot the enormous burden of taking my mind off my tears long enough to capture that darned sunrise before it was over.
The little Nikon has trouble with macros and with vivid color, such as this gorgeous sunriset. It can't always focus close, and the manual focus is very difficult to use. Bright colors often are washed out. Using the little camera for these types of shots can be very frustrating or educational. Or both.
I will get to continue to experiment and learn with the little camera because the big one has to go back to the shop. Again. Six to eight more weeks. At least. If I'm lucky.
I'd already had the camera repaired following our return from the Tour de Lavender in August. I thought all was good in the world when I got the camera back, good as new, eight weeks later.
I noticed the battery life was growing shorter each time I used the camera. But I tried to pretend nothing was wrong. Because, you know, if you ignore the problem, it doesn't exist. Right?
Worst came to worst. The camera wouldn't power up at all on November 1, less than a month after I got it back from Nikon. Through five batteries. The Lizard checked each and every battery. All tested just fine.
It's the camera. Again.
I'm heartsick, but I guess I'm just numb enough from the last close call to weather this storm. The possibility exists the Big Gun cannot be fixed. I'm without it again for another two months, another painful waiting game, during another significant photographic season for me.
The gorgeous autumn color I had to shoot with the smaller Nikon this year taught me to be creative all over again, taught me to try outlandish things to force the little Nikon shots to turn out the way I could see them in real life. Or in my head.
Forcing Macro in Uneven Light
Forcing Macro in Good Light
Forcing Macro in Low Light
Now I'll get the opportunity to do that same substitute college course all over again in winter. I have to learn to manipulate the little Nikon so winter snows do not overpower the powerful light sensor on the smaller camera.
Lifelong learning is a good thing, right? Continually expanding your skills and exploring new territory helps prevent Alzheimer's, right?
May this be the sunrise to a new camera life. Not the sunset on an old, trusted friend. May this season of long winter's nap be the healing ground for the rebirth of and in spring.
Here's to high hopes for my best camera ever. Don't rest too long, Big Gun. Power up and power through, D3-Double 0. I know you can do it!
My first six months of owning a Nikon D300
18 November 2014
Sometimes I don't respond to a comment for a day or two because I don't have reliable internet access. Sometimes I don't respond to a comment for a day or two because I need to chill.
It's nearly winter (even though in my neck of the plains-meet-foothills we keep reverting back to Indian summer -- and that's NOT a complaint), so perhaps it was high time I join my hardy outdoor flowers for a nearly freezing night or two and put myself on ice.
Or attempt to address my emotions with what I hope is a gut-busting response...
I've been blogging now for five years, four months and one week. I've been publishing free snowflake patterns since September 2009. In all that time, I've had six anonymous comments that brought me to tears and made me want to quit blogging altogether.
And now, because I've turned off anonymous commenting (due to spam, not because of rude, mean people), I have a new flame to add to the fire of warmth this cheerful, giving time of year.
I recently experienced an email exchange with a not-so-happy reader, and nothing I wrote could calm the volcanic eruption of criticism. On the bright side, at least this person wasn't anonymous.
As I attempted to keep my cool and be professional and understanding, a list I wrote back in 2011 to humor myself after one of the snarky anonymous comments came to mind.
Why is it jerks know just when you are at your lowest? Why is is some people think kicking a downed man (or in this case, a grieving snowflake designer) is so pleasurable? Five of the six unfavorable comments came while I was least prepared, able and willing to deal with snottiness. One landed on my blog while we were attending the unexpected funeral for my brother-in-law. The next came while one of my closest friends was dying of ovarian cancer. When my sister-in-law had to be isolated during her radiation treatments when she was battling cancer, I should have expected the meanest comment of all. But I didn't. I should have anticipated another zinger the day I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disorder due to trauma to the disc. But I didn't.
So, when that sixth mean comment arrived and I wasn't writhing in emotional pain and struggling to escape a vacuum-tight atmosphere of hopelessness and discouragement, man, did the humor muscle kick in full bore! I composed a list of potential but unpublishable responses, which in turn enabled me to compose and publish a kind, gracious response.
While trying to chill out during my most recent round of Cafe Mean Expresso, the list came to mind again. Remembering specifically Star Wars-influenced Number Five got me through the roughest part of the exchange, and I was able to blow off my hurt feelings and frustration without returning insults in kind.
Here is my face-saving list from when the anonymean sixth comment seeped through the spam cracks.
1. Is there an easy way to put non-handknit, dirty, smelly, used, worn, acrylic socks in the mouths of rude people? Or tie their fingers together so they can't type?
2. Dear Anonymous: Because my sole purpose in life is to please you and because what you want is all that matters in the world, I will now go harass a grasshopper or two. Thanks for making my day! (I'd been berated that week because I'd tongue-in-cheek blogged about stomping on the swarm of grasshoppers devouring my garden.)
3. Um, read the sidebar, which gives step-by-step instructions, plus how to change your computer settings back when you're done, complete with a link for how to easily print without having to change your computer settings. Or be unselfish for a minute and donate to a worthy cause (the fight against multiple sclerosis) and get a whole pdf booklet of snowflake patterns you can easily print on white paper. That's in the sidebar, too.
4. Don't just look at the pretty pictures. Take a minute and read why the pretty pictures are there. You might learn something. Or maybe your brain will explode and you'll be able to leave me alone.
5. These are not the snowflakes you are looking for. Move along.
6. Can you see me rolling my eyes and sticking my tongue out at you?
7. Do a search for free snowflake patterns on easy-to-print blogs. I'm sure you'll come up with something.
8. This ain't amazon.com, Lady.
9. Ante up for my annual secure server fee, monthly internet fees, phone bill (because I am dial-up powered), electric bill, my aging and ailing computer, my software, my sleepless nights, my crochet hooks, my thread and the reading glasses I just had to buy so I can keep going, and I'll consider redesigning my blog to please someone who doesn't give a hoot about anything published here but just the friggin' patterns. For about 10 minutes. If I'm in the mood. That doesn't mean I'll actually change anything, but I do promise to briefly think about it.
10. I'm too busy climbing mountains and riding my bike to respond right now, but take a number, and I'll get right back to you.
11. I'm not getting paid for any of this.
12. Using this pattern without fully intellectually digesting the heavily researched mountain history that inspired this pattern is punishable to the fullest extent of the law.
13. I'm going to write a mountain history next week, and you have to design your own snowflake to go with it.
14. Why don't you invest all the money you've saved by using free patterns to enroll in a beginning computer class?
I felt so much better after I composed this list, I wondered if I should save it and publish it on my blog one day. Laughter is the best medicine. Now if only we could find a way to make it cure cancer and multiple sclerosis...
Immediately after looking up this list and rewriting an introduction, a friend sent me the video below. THANK YOU!!! I had to go to an internet cafe to view it on my phone, but man, is it ever right on target!