31 March 2020

Finding My Heart(s)

I was pretty bummed late last week after Lizard's physical therapist was furloughed. I am so sad for her and her family, plus, I also saw how hard this hit Lizard. Others I know have lost their jobs. I wish this whole situation didn't have to happen, and I feel helpless because I feel as if there is absolutely nothing I can do to help.

I also worry the PT office might not be able to keep busy enough to stay open. I'm trying to learn everything I can while I watch Lizard go through his PT so I will know what to do to help him just in case.

I didn't feel like doing anything creative for at least a couple of days. I was just going through the motions while working from home and while trying to catch up on housework and/or necessary gardening when off the clock.

Friday night we discovered the Heart Hunters, which began as an Illinois socially distanced scavenger hunt for school children and has since evolved into a worldwide community of people doing their best to shift focus from fear and negativity to love and hope.

We'd had a bear hunt in our little community earlier in the week. Almost everyone put stuffed bears in their windows for the children to search for during their walks. My bears are too tiny to put in our window; no one would see them! So I put Lavender in my window, and it was so much fun watching the little kids trying to figure out from a distance what kind of animal she might be.

I have a couple of reams of colored paper at home that haven't been touched since about 2015. I actually cleaned out the bottom of one closet and organized another while searching for my Activity Days supplies from years ago. It felt really good to finish a bit of unplanned spring cleaning, and it was fun to find things I haven't used in five or more years that could come in pretty handy in the coming weeks. I started to feel a little better.

I cut out hearts from each of the neon colors plus the purple from the regular colors, then quickly taped them to my front door. I had a lot of scraps when I was finished, and anyone who knows me is well aware I hoard paper scraps as much as fabric scraps. I'm just not capable of throwing away things that can be used. I looked at these pieces for a few minutes, then realized I could use the hole punches I'd found while digging through supplies to make little hearts for little hands.

big heart punch

I initially, I planned to package up my punched shapes in resealable snack bags to leave in the quickly melting six inches of snow that fell Friday night and looked so beautiful on my garden on Saturday morning. The flowers coming up now can handle snow, as long as they are blanketed from a deep freeze. I don't think the temperature fell below 30, and my plants are all safe.

I thought this would be a great activity to go hand-in-hand, without touching, of course, with the scavenger hunt. But as I was punching my biggest hearts, I realized this would be perfect for my grands, whom I don't get to see until all this is over. I would be literally sending them a piece of my heart, right in time for Easter!

Unfortunately, my large heart punch died after three hearts each in three different colors times 14. I was five bags short, and I still had three more colors of scraps to use up. I decided to give three boys in one family and one boy in another family bags of punched stars - because boys aren't into hearts anyway, right??? - and one grandkid in another family a bag of whatever I could punch before yet another punch might die. I began punching smiley faces in the yellow paper because they seemed made for each other.

Before I could finish three yellow punches 19 times (57 smileys), the smiley punch started getting stuck. Lizard helped me take it apart and lube it with oil from my longarm quilter. By the time I finished all my little punches, the smiley was fully operational again, although it left tiny oil spots on the very edges of the first 20 or so smileys I punched post-grease.

It didn't take long to run out of scraps, so I was punching from whole sheets for about half of my project. I sometimes tried to make designs with the punches, thinking the kids might be able to do something fun with the strips I cut.

Some of the punches I'd never used make big messes.

I forgot to snap a photo of the finished 19 bags of punched shapes. After mailing the paper treats, I made two more little bags of colorful shapes for my little neighbors and took photos.

After delivering my neighbor's snack bags, I felt so good about trying to do something to make a difference in the world. Even if just my tiny little corner of it. Perhaps one day I will get to see the fruits of my labor.

30 March 2020

Snowflake Monday

This 30 March 2020 blog post initially was published as a No Flake Monday. Lizard had undergone total knee replacement in December of 2019 and then had to go through another related surgical procedure right after the whole world shut down for what we thought would be two weeks. I'm preserving what I published then (at the end of this addition) because what I wrote then is still important to me. I realize no one else in the world may care about some little two-paragraph blurb I wrote back when everything seemed so dark and hopeless, but my blah blah blagh has become a bit of a visual historical journal for me. It is NOT my official journal and never will be, but it is one of many places I can review what I was feeling and thinking during some of the best and worst times of the last decade and a half. Yes, it's really been that long!!! This blog started 15 years ago!!!

What began on 28 March 2024 as what I considered as preparation for a harmless April Fool's joke has now shown me how important it is to record our special moments in a manner in which they can be easily retrieved and reviewed. Our hard moments. Our trials. Our celebrations. Perhaps not all online, and definitely not always on a stage, but we need to preserve precious memories and lessons we learn so our experiences are available to us and to those we love and/or influence, whether it be our children and grandchildren, our friends, or, for me, my readers.

When I first wrote today's (April Fool's Day 2024) pattern in this once-short-little post, I changed the original title, I added some colorful text at the top to advise readers to keep scrolling past the original blog post to the pattern below, and then I composed at the bottom of the original post an entirely new blog post with rantings about AI (artificial intelligence) and links to great fiber-related April Fool pranks, illustrated with my own genuine snowflake photos and my own AI-generated "April Fool Snowflake" renderings. The blog post needed only photos of the today's snowflake, which snowflake was pinned and drying in the sunlight.

I didn't realize everything I had written would not be preserved if I didn't hit the orange "update" button on Blogger's composition page. I didn't hit that button Thursday night before April Fool's Day because the post still needed today's crocheted snowflake photos.

I thoughtlessly closed my browser and turned off my computer for the night, planning to snap photos of the crocheted flake first thing Friday morning, then insert the photos and publish. I didn't realize I was erasing everything. Early April Fool's joke on me!

I got up early Good Friday morning, unpinned my snowflake, shot a handful of photos of it, uploaded them, then got on the computer to add the crocheted snowflake photos to the blog post. But the editing field was blank. I mean, the old blog post was still there. Untouched. But the rest was gone. I was forced to completely rewrite my pattern. (In a new (Microsoft) Word document the second time around to make sure it would never be lost again!!!)

What have I learned??? At least one lesson I should have already known by heart. Always have a backup copy. Always. But also, this whole idea stemmed from my desire to pull what I thought would be a fun prank. To make everyday readers laugh. Perhaps my time could have been better spent. Some April Fool's jokes are not funny. I was horrified by some of the crochet fiber pranks I stumbled upon while writing the original blog post for today, so I didn't bother trying to look up my links again. Too many crochet creations I don't want lurking in my head.

I didn't try to duplicate anything I wrote the first time around but the pattern. I don't think anything I wrote the first time would have offended anyone; my April Fool's Day blog post may have caused a degree of concern for those who care about whether I continue blogging, but I'm hoping all my readers laughed when they reached the final image in that blog post. I hope whenever I try to be funny here, what I publish is smile-worthy.

Today's pattern was inspired by one of the first AI renderings I got when I wrote the simple prompt, "April Fool's Snowflake" in the AI generator. I was shocked this snowflake had six sides because I've known for more than a year AI cannot count. Now, after an entire series of AI renderings that, in my mind, had absolutely nothing to do with April Fool's Day, I know AI has no (intentional) sense of humor. (Some AI is just comical!) I do like a lot of the snowflake inspiration AI provides me, though. I've obtained many renderings I hope to re-create in real thread with a real hook, and by writing real (not AI-generated) patterns one day.

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: 4.75 inches from point to point
Materials: Size 10 crochet thread, size 7 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

Shenanigan Snowflake Instructions

Make magic ring.

Round 1: 18 sc in ring; sl st in starting sc. Don't pull magic circle too tight.

Round 2: Ch 4 (counts as 1 sc and [ch 3), sk next 2 sc, 1 sc in next sc] 5 times; ch 1, 1 dc in 1st ch of starting ch 4 to form 6th ch 3 sp of Round.
If you're not reading this pattern on Snowcatcher, you're not reading the designer's blog. Please go here to see the original.

Round 3: Ch 7 (counts as 1 dc and [ch 5), in next ch 3 sp work (1 dc, ch 3, 1 dc)] 5 times; ch 5, 1 dc in next ch 3 sp, ch 1, 1 dc in 2nd ch of starting ch 7 to form 6th ch 3 sp of Round.

Round 4: [Ch 2, 2 tr over post of dc directly below (or in same ch 3 sp in repeats), ch 3, 1 dc* in 3rd ch from hook, ch 3, 1 sc in 3rd ch from hook, ch 2, sl st in same ch as dc*, ch 6, sl st in 2nd ch from hook and in each of next 2 ch, [ch 4, sl st in 2nd ch from hook and in each of next 2 ch] 2 times, ch 1, working back down spoke skip next ch, sl st in next ch, sl st in same ch as dc*, ch 5, 1 scin 3rd ch from hook, 1 dc in same ch as dc*, ch 2, sl st in same ch, 1 trtr in same ch 3 sp as previous tr, ch 2, sl st in same ch 3 sp, in next ch 5 sp work (1 sc, 1 hdc, 3 dc, 1 hdc, 1 sc), sl st in next ch 3 sp] 6 times; bind off. Weave in ends.

Finish: I've been stiffening my flakes with undiluted, full-strength water soluble school glue for quite a while now, and I've been squishing the glue onto and throughout each flake with my fingers (yucky mess!!!) instead of gingerly painting the flakes with glue. Yes, it's a mess. But it's faster. And stiffer.

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 snowflake twirl freely whenever you walk by! Snowflake also may be taped to window or tied to doorknob or cabinet handle.

And here's the post I originally published back in 2020...

Lizard and I took another emotional/mental hit late last week, and I have not even a fraction of an ounce of creativity brewing inside me as I try to write today's (30 March 2020) post. I hope you are staying safe and healthy, and I hope you are doing everything you need to do to maintain faith, a good attitude and hope.

Never give up. We will make it through this.

26 March 2020

In Stitches

When I first began working from home, I thought I'd be able to finish all kinds of projects because I have 3.5 to 4 extra hours a day not spent commuting.

However, that commute time typically was spent crocheting, while aboard a commuter train, if I could get a seat, and if I wasn't stressing about other things. I seem to be nurturing (or sometimes fighting) a lot of stress this last couple of years or so, not just the last couple of weeks or months. I think I need to get back to crochet because it is relaxing for me, and I need to set aside some of that newly free time to be free time. Big grin.

Since last summer, I've wanted to add more motifs to my Harvest Flower project. After I dyed eight hanks of crochet thread with avocado peels/pits last year, I decided I need to make a motif project from my newest threads, too. I've been working on a new design (which I really like, by the way), but the project still isn't very big yet. And now it's almost warm enough to begin solar dyeing more crochet thread with avocado pits/skins. I've had a jar of skins going in my living room window all winter long.

I also noticed my bedroom quilt rack is down to three quilts, and only one was made by me. I gave away two finished quilts last year to women in my little community who lost their husbands. I gave away two more earlier this year to my newest nieces. I think it's time to finish up another WIP or two. Not only is the end of the quarter coming, but this quilt rack is looking too bare.

And of course, there's that green batiks leftovers pieced dress project that now has stolen three weeks of home time. I'd really love to finish it, even though I'm not sure I'll have a place to wear it when this whole virus thing blows over, assuming it does. I finished piecing the front of the skirt, and I've got five more rows of machine embroidery along the seams before I can finish up the sleeve bands. The bodice should go super fast.

I thought the dress would come first when I began working from home. But a call went out in my neighborhood for masks for nurses who live near me. I happily donated my time and some freshly washed pillowcases I've had in my linen closet for several years. Pillowcases and T-shirts are supposed to be the next best thing, stopping about 50 percent of germs, if you have no interfacing to put between layers of cotton. I have no interfacing. So I did the best I could with what I had on hand, being as we are officially on Shelter in Place.

So the very last thing I needed to do was start yet another a new project. Before the virus hit the US, I stuck the bottom of a skirt from Dharma in an empty pretzel jar of fiber-reactive dye in our garage. It froze every single night, and sometimes it thawed during the day. I spent my lunch hour one work-at-home day wringing out the project and hanging it to dry in our backyard. Lizard LOVES this project. Every time he catches a glimpse of the skirt out the window in the breeze, he tells me he can't wait to see me wearing it.

Which got me thinking. What would I wear with it? I still have three undyed long-sleeved shirts from two or three years ago, so I stuck one in the same pretzel jar of dye I used used for the skirt, hoping it would be a lighter but matching shade.

Another dressy outfit I'm not sure I'll have a place to wear when and if things get back to normal. But it is pretty. I cannot wait to see how I look in my new Deep Space ensemble! I might even have to stick a hank of thread or yarn in that dye pot so I can make another accessory to match!!!

Linking up with Alycia Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict.

24 March 2020

A Walk in the Park...inson's

Friends, loved ones and readers have been asking for updates for quite a while on Lizard's Parkinson's and knee replacement and how these things affect me. Now, everyone also is asking if working from home makes things any better or easier. Initially I'd planned to do a Parkinson's update today, but I guess it would be timely now to talk about the whole picture.

Overall, I am very thankful to be working from home most of the time; I still periodically have to go in (as long as the building remains open) for critical duties, but I am home most of the time now, and I love being able to take care of Lizard. I've known since his diagnosis 19 months ago the day will come when being Lizard's caretaker will be my only full-time job. I've been okay with that from the beginning. It wasn't how we planned our future, but I will do whatever it takes to make him comfortable and keep him safe.

There were days during the last four months when I feared I might have to retire early. As in, NOW. I am nott sure I am financially prepared for that yet. The trauma of major surgery to someone with an aggressive, fast-moving strain of Parkinson's is overwhelming. Lizard's December total knee replacement ultimately has resulted in him walking better than he was walking prior to surgery, and for that, I am most grateful. Staying active is a key to slowing the progression of the disease, and without being able to walk, he would not be able to slow the progress. Period. Yet there have been many days when both of us have wondered if we did the right thing in proceeding with the surgery.

There have been some terribly frightening days. But there also have been joyful days, such as the first time he was able to do a full rotation on a stationary recumbent bike.

This particular recumbent bicycle has shorter cranks, or the arms connecting the pedals to the bicycle. That means less knee bend required. Lizard had been having great difficulty not only staying motivated, but also in trying to do just half-pedals for what seemed like forever. Turned out he had a build-up of scar tissue, and he had to undergo what they call a "manipulation" to break it up in February. He tried so hard and worked non-stop for so long, yet made no real progress in being able to bend his knee adequately to turn bicycle pedals until after the manipulation.

He'd already taken a few steps backward in Parkinson's following the surgery, so putting him under again for the manipulation was terrifying. I didn't want to lose more of him than I've already lost. But if we didn't increase his ability to move and decrease the level of pain, the Parkinson's would continue to get worse at a faster rate.

Seven days after the manipulation, he spun on that recumbent stationary bike. I could have jumped over the moon!

One week later, he was able to get a full stroke on a full-sized stationary bicycle, even though he would grimace and complain about using "too much body English." At least he could recognize he needed to continue to work in order to be able to balance on a bicycle! I had been so worried that part was gone forever!

Two weeks ago he took a tiny little spin - literally - around the driveway on his mountain bike. Our stay-home mom neighbor noticed him trying to stay balanced via an upstairs bedroom in her house, and she promptly let me know because I was at work, and he was home alone. "I can't believe our neighbor ratted me out!" he exclaimed when I called and asked him to please wait until I got home so I could watch.

That weekend, he tried riding in the street right in front of our house while I watched. He did two circles, then he did a larger circle, then he went two houses down, all the way back and two houses in the opposite direction before returning to our driveway, thoroughly exhausted but more motivated than he had been in months because he no longer had to fret about never getting back on his bike again. He could do it!

It's still going to take a long time. We are working on balance, but he's doing well, finally making progress, and fully embracing hope.

We finished up PT at the distant surgical center in February. Initially, we both thought Lizard might be done with PT. As I helped him fill out the exit interview, we both realized he still had quite a way to go. He couldn't get in and out of the tub alone; he still had (and has) great difficulty getting in and out of bed; he still isn't able to do the things he loves most; and he can't hop on two feet or one. Not that he needs to, but, it means he would benefit from additional therapy.

Ever since December, I wanted Lizard to be able to go to the physical therapist who worked with me three years ago. It makes sense that Lizard's orthopedic surgeon wanted us to work with someone who works with and communicates well with the surgeon. I am extremely happy we are able to go to someone closer and less expensive now.

The physical therapist I worked with quit the week before Lizard was to start at the closer business because she had a baby. Her replacement began the day before Lizard's first appointment there. She was assigned to Lizard.

On appointment day, we learned this new physical therapist has advanced training in Parkinson's. She's going to help Lizard with his knee, but she's also working with him on balance and coordination. I didn't even know you could ask for PT for Parkinson's until this happened, but the timing has shown me once again, in big, loud letters, God loves both of us, and He's got the big picture. He gave us exactly what we needed right when we needed it.

Now that I'm home with Lizard at least six days a week, I'm minimizing exposure for him, I get to have lunch with him, I get to monitor his progress on his at-home stretches and exercises, and he can't take off on his bike without me knowing about it. Ha ha! He doesn't, but I'm sure there are many times he would like to, if he could.

I see his daily struggles. But I can also try to build his confidence.

If I was raising teenagers (which I actually did at one time), I would be trying to train them to do everyday things such as turning off lights and water when they are done with them, putting away milk after getting a drink, and sorting silverware, dishes and laundry. But Lizard is not a teenager. These things will get worse with time. Once in a while, he will notice he left the milk out or forgot to close the garage door or forgot to take his pill when he turned off the alarm on his phone telling him it was time to take a pill. He feels like (and announces) he is "a lemon." I continually tell him he is a peach... he came from Peach Country on the West Slope of Colorado.

When I see he has forgotten something or hasn't done something up to expectation, I can zip along behind him and correct whatever is not right. I get to build his confidence instead of strip him down, and I can be there for him when he needs help.

For a long time, he refused any degree of assistance because he doesn't want to be "helpless." As his finger dexterity has diminished, he has reluctantly conceded there are some things he just can't do. But I can keep trying to encourage him to do things he can do and practice things that might help him build strength, concentration and/or coordination.

Everyone wants to make sure I'm taking care of me, too.

We weren't getting to go up in the mountains or take exotic bike rides before social distancing and Shelter in Place. I miss those times. I won't lie. I wish we could be spontaneous and take a weekend trip to The Wave or Yellowstone, or even just go cross-country skiing on the Grand Mesa and get the Valentine's Day treatment at the little hotel in Parachute. Being in the car is more than Lizard can tolerate, so we may be stuck at home for more than just the current simulated lockdown.

Working full time and being a full-time caregiver can deplete energy resources pretty darned quick. I confess there have been nights when I've cried myself to sleep, as well as nights when I can't sleep at all. But as I've said before, I have the power to turn my grief into gratitude.

Last month, I realized if Lizard's diagnosis had been ALS instead of Parkinson's, we would be at the end, and my time with him would be about over. He would not be able to spend loving moments with me when all his current medications have kicked in. He would be far more disoriented. Most likely, at 19 months, he would no longer be with me.

As long as I can keep that in mind, it makes it so much easier for me to keep going.

It is so hard to watch the person I love the most slowly slip away. So I must instead focus on the moments when his humor takes charge. The instants when he realizes my back is sore and I could use a massage. The times when he sneaks up behind me and tries to bear hug me. The 3.5-mile out-and-back he was able to wobbly ride last weekend on his mountain bike.

We can make the best of every single day we have. And now, I get to spend more of each day with him. I have 3.5 to 4 hours more each day when I don't have to commute, and I can use those hours to pamper him.

That brings back the sparkle to his eye, and the sparkle in his eye still to this day electrifies me. Always has. Always will.

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