Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let the silence end...

First of all, let me apologize for my silence. I have a very good reason.

January 2011, my mother-in-love, who has lived with us since 2005, was re-diagnosed with congestive heart failure. When she first came to live with us in Arizona, she was already in the hospice program in Arizona and no one was giving her more than six months. She'd had several smaller heart attacks the previous year, the last one making it impossible for her to continue to live alone. Partially because she refused to take prescription medication and partly because she really couldn't take care of her daily needs. She was also diagnosed with dementia, but at the time, we only saw fleeting and sporadic evidence of that change.

We tried to keep her in an Assisted Living home in Lake Havasu so she could continue to attend her church and be near all her friends. But she deteriorated to the point they put her into the hospice program, so we brought her to live with us in the Phoenix area. We wanted her to be with us when she passed. We had been living with my mom, helping her but there wasn't room for another person in her small home. So we found a place to rent nearby that would be suitable for his mom so we could care for both of them. We never expected her to last through the year. If she was living with us, we would be able to get the most important medications into her somehow.

In June of 2006 my mother passed. She'd been battling Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (OCPD) and was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Mom was terrified of losing her memory, so when she suddenly collapsed due to what was later determined to be blood clots in her lungs, it was a kind of "blessing." She collapsed around 4 in the afternoon and was gone the following morning by 6am.

Meanwhile, our other mom had come off the catheter. A few months later, she no longer needed supplemental oxygen. And in November 2006 when we moved back to Oregon, she not only did not qualify for the hospice program here... she no longer qualified for a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. We started to wonder if she might not outlive us all.

The last two years, the fact her memory was deteriorating was becoming obvious on a daily basis. Then last winter she got a mild cold but her cough didn't go away. We began to notice that it sounded suspiciously like the cough she'd had with congestive heart failure, so we took her to the doctor to see if it was something we should be concerned about or not.

We have a wonderful neighbor lady next door who offered to come over once a week and help her with a shower, which had become a source of conflict for us. We knew that she'd be more cooperative with someone she didn't see every day and less likely to "play her games." We were right. Having weekly visits by someone so kind and thoughtful was a godsend for all of us. Our "neighbor angel" would bring her little treats, read a story to her, and generally share kindness and joy with her. Meanwhile, we knew she was getting a shower every week and we didn't have to fight with about it anymore.

However, over this past year, she'd gotten more and more combative, difficult, and behaviorally a challenge. It wasn't always possible to know if she was intentionally misrepresenting the truth, or telling herself something that wasn't true and therefore trying to convince us it was true, simply didn't know what was true and what wasn't... or some combination thereof. The latter seemed most likely. In some instances, it was clear she wasn't being truthful and knew it. But in others, it seemed more likely she just wasn't "in the present time," and, like my mom had done when she was "caught" not remembering something she thought she should, she'd "fill in the blanks" with something that seemed reasonable and plausible but wasn't technically "true." Regardless, it was all becoming more and more stressful on the entire family. That, combined with sometimes "going out of her way to be difficult" and uncooperative was really wearing on us all. I'm sure, mom included.

As the months went by and we got into the summer months, she started "escaping." At first, it wasn't a problem. She'd just go outside, in the front or back yard, but didn't venture beyond the boundaries of our property. It was only a problem because no one knew she wasn't inside and she wasn't always stable on her feet. She had a rolling walker, but either didn't remember to use it or chose not to use it more than half the time. In the house, it wasn't a problem either way. Outside, especially if no one knew she was outside, it posed a greater risk to her safety. But she never told anyone she was leaving... she'd just go.

We tried to tell ourselves that she just didn't remember, but we all knew, she simply didn't want to comply with our request. It wasn't on her personal agenda. She was always stubborn, strong willed, and infuriatingly narcissistic, and if she didn't want to do something, it wasn't likely to happen. Unless one could be sufficiently clever to introduce it as her idea. It was not unlike dealing with a petulant 5 year old who was determined to get what she wanted, when she wanted it, the way she wanted it, by whatever means she thought would get her what she wanted. This only got worse, on several levels, as the dementia deepened and she became less and less able to pretend things were other than they were.

By the fall, she would go "exploring." Leaving the house by the garage door, hitting the garage door opener button and leaving the property. She, fortunately, never got further than one of the neighbors on either side of us. They both knew what we were dealing with and if one of them saw her... and fortunately one of them always did... they'd call us and tell us she was "making a run for it," and intercept her until we get there to walk her back home.

We'd already secured the front door so she couldn't possibly go out that way. No one used that door because there was no way to secure that door from the outside when leaving that she couldn't unlock it and leave behind you. We finally had to resort to a keypad deadbolt on the door from the house to the garage... with the keypad on the inside. The garage door opener didn't make sufficient noise for us to hear that opening and unless someone was in the living room or kitchen when she decided to leave, we wouldn't know she'd gone. And she never "went for a walk" if anyone was there to stop her. A bar on the slider to the back deck prevented her from going outside that way with no one's knowledge. Her cognitive functions were sufficiently impaired that she couldn't figure out how that worked. We simply could not permit ourselves to focus on the fact we were living in a "locked down community" because there was no other way to keep her safe.

... to be continued

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Changing directions...

... a little course correction. For this blog, for my life.

When I decided on a name for this blog, my mind was working in a completely different direction. I was mostly being clever with all the little "journey" references sprinkled throughout. Who knew that the name and "theme" of this blog would coincide with my life?

For a variety of reasons, that I don't really care to go into in such a public forum, my husband and I will be making a major course correction in our lifestyle. It occurs to me, that documenting this journey in a blog makes a lot of sense. So, I'm going to be sharing the process as we make decisions and navigate this new course here, in prose and photo.

We've struggled, a lot, for a long time. We always find a way to land on our feet, eventually, and money has never been the driver of our lives. We've lived in apartments and rental property pretty much our entire married lives. Owning a home always sounded like something we "should" do, and whenever a landlord was being unreasonable about something, it even sounded like something we'd rather do. But most of the time, we've been perfectly happy renting.

We bought a house in Portland, OR in November, 2006. We were really excited. We got a GREAT deal on a nice little place, with a full basement, in a really nice neighborhood. Nothing too fancy or upscale at all. But extremely pleasant. We set about doing all the things we've always wanted to do but couldn't as renters. Painting walls, planting gardens, redecorating. Nesting.

April 2008, our daughter, son-in-love & then-just-barely-3-year-old granddaughter moved in with us. As we already had my mother-in-law living with us, that meant we had four generations under one roof. The kids have had full possession of half the basement, we share the master bath shower... two very small bathrooms for six people. There are lots of things to recommend the set up, and in lots of ways, it's been great.

However, I suppose it goes without saying that six people between the ages of 3 and 83 will have issues and stresses in such an arrangement. The Waltons we are not. Although, I've recently starting watching the Waltons reruns again... and maybe in some ways we are the Waltons! LOL! Smaller house, fewer kids, lots of the same drama and sweetness... not nearly as functional, I suspect.

But "Big Grandma," as our little bit calls her 5'2" great-paternal-grandmother, is not doing well. Healthwise, not so bad at 86, but she's been dealing with dementia for at least a decade. Until this year, it has mostly been amusing. She generally has known where she is and who we are and able to take care of her personal needs without too much assistance. She hasn't always remembered what year it is, or that "yes, mom, you have seen it snow here before... it snowed last winter," but she always knew where her room was and how to find her way back, from directly across the hall, when she was done.

Lately, this hasn't been the case. She doesn't always "play well with others," she wanders off without anyone realizing she's left, (how on earth does she do that???), she isn't able to care for herself as well anymore... still feeds herself, but there are other issues... mostly, she's just not "here" much of the time. For a variety of reasons, we realize, this just isn't working. For anyone.

On top of that, the kids are looking at some changes in their lives too. They will be moving on at the end of the year, first of next year. But even if all that weren't the case, we simply cannot continue on financially here. (Thank you Bush-Obama Administrations.) Serious changes have to be made.

Hopefully between February 2012 & July 2012 we will be living full time in... a motor home. We are researching all the practical issues involved in making this change, and preparing ourselves emotionally for all the transitions, and losses, this will generate.

Mom will be in a full time facility. We feel guilty... as much for the relief that will bring as the feeling that we are abandoning her. (We aren't, but it feels that way.) Losing daily contact with "my sunshine." I'll especially miss our "bedtime chats." That will be hardest for me, personally. Possibly not being able to hang out with my daughter like we've been able to do since they moved in. Pop in downstairs to watch Dr. Who or chat or ask a question... or answer a knitting question.

Getting rid of almost all our worldly possessions. That's a biggie. On the plus side, the kids won't have to do it when we pass. Right? We are going to secure a small storage unit... to make the transition a little more slowly. We'll keep, at least for a while, the most critical stuff we'd need if we had to move into an apartment again, but it is really more for psychological soothing, I suspect.

This entire transition, on pretty much every level, is going to be hard. But I think it is going to be a good change, really for all of us. In ways we cannot appreciate now. God has unexpected ways of blessing us. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like a blessing at first. But experience tells me, He is always "on my side," no matter what I think at the moment.

Who knew, when I chose the name "Roving StarPoints" last year that this Star would be roving from one point to another, and writing about it, a year later? What kind of Providence is in that? I HATE to move. But it is the "transfer of stuff" from one place to another and all the details and issues that usually come up without warning that makes me crazy(ier).

Based on my preliminary research, this will be different. Once the initial purging of superfluous "stuff" is done and the remaining essentials and treasures are safely ensconced on board The Motor Home or tucked securely into the storage unit, "moving" won't be the same thing as it has been in the past. Rolling your home and goods down the road to a new location is not quite the same as moving all your stuff from one stationary place to another stationary place.

There is a lot more to all of this, and in the days, weeks, months, ahead, I'll make the case for our decision and share the process with you as we make this transition. It'll be hard. But it'll be exciting, and I expect, rewarding in lots of ways too. Maybe others will not have considered this as a viable option for their lives, as I did not, but discover... "gee, maybe this might work for me too."

Join us as we find...

Joy in the Journey,

P.S.: There will be a new category or two in the Book~Shop as we find resources related to our lifestyle change... books & goods that will make life easier as we make these changes.

P.P.S.: I am re-knitting my UDP, to check for errors, etc. and expect to be finished in the next day or so. Then, it will be on to test knitters, tech edit... and finally, submission. I finished the first one and used it for Sock Summit. It performed precisely as designed & I can not wait to share it with the world!

Friday, July 15, 2011

UDP = Unidentified Design Project

... so. I've been working on several design projects since spring of 2010. None of them are completed. But I'm finally closing in on the finish line for one of them! (Another is close to completion.)

I won't divulge what the project is yet, other than to say, I'm excited about finally completing it... so I can use it! This first design is the brain-child of my frustration, which is just as valid a "mother of invention" as necessity... frustration's very close sibling.

Designing is a challenging, frustrating, rewarding, unpredictable, repetitive, exciting, time-consuming endeavor. There is an inordinate amount of frogging, tinking, and re-knitting. (At least the way I do it, which is likely more OCD than necessary.) Patience is not only a virtue if you want to design something from scratch, it is essential to maintain your sanity! The ability to recognize when you're almost at the limit of that patience is essential to protect the design in process! If you push past that limit you risk a fit of irrational rage that may well result in the dismantling of the entire thing in a screaming fit.

Designing is an exercise in creative problem-solving. "I want to do this, but I've got to have an even number of stitches to do that. I've got an uneven number and those stitches are not divisible by the number of repeats I need. How am I going to add those stitches I need... or remove the excess stitches I have... where am I going to make that change, what kind of increases or decreases will look best, and how will those choices impact the balance of the design?" Each of those decisions has a direct impact on a following element of the design unless they are the last decisions in the piece.

"Form follows function" may not be universally true in architecture but it sure has a strong influence on knitting & crochet design in my experience! The inverse is also true: if you alter the function, you'll most likely have to alter the form. I've found this particularly true in the very small project the design of which is taking "forever" to complete. Every element of this project has an impact on every other element, esthetic as well as intended function. It is really more an "engineered" project than a "designed" project! Don't let the small size fool you.

The "form" of the design, each aspect of the form, has a specific "function," either independently or as it relates to and impacts every other "form" in the design.

All that to bait you with this... the finished design is an object intended to make knitting and crochet on the go, or in a stationary position, less frustrating and more "compact."

... stay tuned for details. :-)

Joy in the Journey,


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Checking in...

... sorry I've been so absent... it's been a hard "Spring." Not that we've had much "spring" around these parts this year. Hardly any iris has bloomed yet. We've usually had vases of iris before Mother's Day. However, the daffodils have already come and gone and we are still enjoying some tulips yet. The roses are just beginning to develop a bud or two.

I'll be sharing in the near future about my first-ever pair of socks I knitted all by my very own self. I taught myself two-color Brioche stitch... not an easy task for an ADHD rattled brain with a cold. It's a fun stitch but learning single-color Brioche would have been a lot easier to master. It isn't hard, but it is a little out of the ordinary and requires above-average-attention abilities until you get the hang of it.

I also decided to crochet my own basket liners for some garden baskets for which finding coco-liners was proving too much trouble to continue searching. The pretty white cotton is already turning algae green in the shade of my garden arbor, but I do believe they'll work quite well. I've posted a "recipe" to make your own, by knit or crochet, if you'd like. You can learn more about it @ (free acct required to access)

In the meantime, happy Spring to you all! I hope you are growing something awesome and crafting something fun!

Joy in the Journey,

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book Review: Color Knitting

"The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques"
by Margaret Radcliffe

Available in hardcover-only U.S.; paperback UK-only.  Edit: author has informed me the paperback version is UK-available only; in US only available in hardcover.

The first 23 pages alone are worth the cost of this book! Even those who already have a good working knowledge of color theory will find some great ideas unique to working with yarn and fiber.

Do you tend to pick up a skein of yarn from sale bins or order an unseen ball of yarn online... just to figure out if you might like it or to see the color in person? What are you gonna do with it now? Consider how this information might influence your work if you spin or dye yarn yourself!

"Everyone perceives color a bit differently, and our responses to certain colors or groups of colors are a matter of personal preference as well as psychology & perception." This is probably no more true than when we are talking about what we wear & how we choose to artistically use yarn in knit (and crochet) projects. A refreshing bit of news for those with "color phobia" is the author's statement that there are "no right or wrong combinations, there are just color groupings, or colorways, that have different effects," and then she proceeds to demonstrates this reality in specific and creative ways. You can take vast amounts of the information in this book to modify and "dress up" patterns you've already got, or apply this information to "from scratch" designs you are cooking up!

She begins by describing the relevant aspects of color that are most useful to understand as fiber artists. Beginning with basic color theory, accompanied with particularly helpful full color graphics, she helps us to understand that especially in fiber, "context" is everything. A color with a specific appearance by itself can and will appear quite different depending on what colors are next to it and in what quantity. A little bit of a color you despise by itself can be successfully combined with other colors in such a way as to make it the star of the project... if you understand how colors affect one another.

That hank of neon green or hot pink lace weight yarn that you bought online and now have no idea what on earth you'd ever do with it can be stranded with other lace weight yarns, with specific color impact that will tone it down to a "temperature" that you can love. Or double-stranded with worsted weight yarn or triple-stranded with a single sport weight yarn to create a completely different fabric than the original yarns alone would produce.

And, you don't have to swatch and swatch and swatch to determine which colors in which variations or sequences will give you the results you are looking for. But when you are ready to swatch a little, what kinds of things do you need to know? If you are using more than one strand of different yarns &/or different thicknesses, how do you know what size needle to use? What about one color bleeding into another color?

All of this is covered in just the first 23 pages of the book! See what I mean?

From there, you are taken on a journey of different ways to knit colors together to achieve different results. You are not only given ideas about how to combine colors, but you are also taught actual knitting techniques involved in getting the best results combining different colors and different yarns together.

Stripes are perhaps the easiest way to combine different colors. Flat knitting and in-the-round techniques are addressed. How to carry yarn along, how to add in new yarn colors, what to do with yarn ends, what are the best way to work stripes in stockinette or garter stitch, how to make diagonal stripes, how do you make ribbed stripes look "clean," how do you make stripes reversible for a scarf? Ever make stripes in circular knitting? You know that "jog" where you start a new round in a different color that makes you nuts? There are a couple of ways to disguise and modify that uneven change! And you can add texture to your circular stripes too. What about combining pattern stitches to spice up your stripes? All of this is covered in pictures and tutorial explanations every step of the way, culminating in variations of a scarf pattern.

Incorporating color into pattern stitches can turn a "blah" project into a masterpiece. Color swatches, complete with written stitch patterns, charts, and a series of variations on this same stitch pattern are included for over twenty stitch patterns, interspersed with knitting techniques to improve your successful execution.

Love multicolor yarn... not so pleased with pooling and other issues when you start knitting with it? This book will help you apply knitting and stitch techniques to get a result you'll love depending on the specific kind of multicolor yarn you are using.

From there, you are taken on a tour of stranded knitting techniques for that Scandinavian look. How to manage multiple strands of color, how to prevent holes when changing colors, dealing with tangles and unevenness and shaping... all the basic, and not-so-basic, things you'll appreciate. Do you know what a "steek" is and how to do them... or why you'd ever want to know? You will when you've finished this chapter.

Intarsia or "picture knitting" is covered as thoroughly as every other topic, with color photos and helpful tutorials all along the way.

Now most people would think that would pretty well cover all one might possibly want to know about knitting in color, wouldn't you? Would you believe there is MORE? Helix, shadow, mosaic, twined, double knitting, and modular knitting... including entrelac... all covered as well!

But wait! There's more! Finishing techniques including decorative bind offs and embellishments carries you to the final chapter. How do you modify existing patterns to incorporate these techniques or design a project from scratch using this information? What might you need to consider regarding the kind of fabric that will be best for your project and which technique to apply to get that best fabric? Answers are here.

Last but far from least, the book closes with an Appendix that covers basic knitting skills, garment sizing guidelines, abbreviations and symbols, a bibliography, and an outstanding index to locate specific information later. There are a few patterns in this book, but if you are looking for color-work designs and patterns book, you'll probably be happier with a book that has a different focus.

After you've learned the basics of combining color in yarn and see all the different ways you can knit a multicolor project, you'll not hesitate to pick up one or two balls of yarn at the fiber show or from the sale bin at the local yarn shop (LYS) or order that spectacularly priced clearance yarn online. Because you'll know you can mix and match and finesse that fiber goodness into a finished project that will make that "lonely only" into a work of art! This book holds the potential to save you a lot of money, spark your creative juices, and expand your skill set. Really... how can you lose?