Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Oh my heart

It's been a very difficult couple of weeks here. On May 6, we said goodbye to our cat, my first girl, Jezabel.

April 4, 2016
It's been an adjustment to living without her. She's been with me my entire adult life. We have been together for 14 years, before the husband, the house, the family.

Fall 2002 I think

We've been through 5 moves together, some more difficult than others, and I'm sad to be revising the plans for our new home to not include the nook for the litter box in the laundry room. I miss her most in the evenings. That was our time. She liked sleeping in, so I didn't always see her in the mornings during the flurry of activity involved in just getting out the door unless the water bowl needed attention. She would just sit next to it patiently and look at me until I got the message. But in the evenings, when the little ones are safely upstairs and we've settled onto the couch, she would always jump up to me for some lap time. Always me, almost every night, almost completely unbothered by whatever activity I was doing. I often commented that she must be broken, as there could be yarn draped right on her head and knitting needles nearly poking her in the eye, and she would just keep snuggling (at least this was true in the second half of her life - she wasn't super snuggly in the early days!).

I adopted her from a local humane society when she was maybe about a year old when I was the ripe old age of 19.

I was a baby myself, so naive. I wanted a little something to love, to take care of, to keep me company. I suppose I was trying to make a family, and thank goodness I was bright enough to fulfill that desire with a pet. I wasn't, and still am not, a cat person. I wanted a dog, but they weren't allowed in the condo where I was living. Cats weren't either, but I rationalized that she would be easier to hide than a dog. In the end, she would always sit behind the blinds overlooking the courtyard, so she was a rather terribly kept secret. She didn't like to be held at all, and only sort of tolerated petting, but I thought she was so pretty so I brought her home with me. (that's a really dumb reason to choose a pet, but 19) In fact she was so mean that I named her Jezabel.....because I thought that it meant devil. Apparently I wasn't real up to snuff on my history, because that is NOT what Jezabel means. It's also not even the right spelling of the word! However, she DID have a habit of laying on her back spread eagle so....the name stuck.

One of the most surprising things about her, is that while she would have no problem giving me a nip, or that crazy habit she used to have of ninja bombing your feet as you walked, she was always so good with kids. I once babysat for a little 2 year old girl, who would inadvertently whack her over the head with her little fishing pole feather toy, and J was utterly complacent through all of the abuse.

We've always taken care to emphasize "gentle touches," but you can't always intercept the sudden tug of fur or a tail. She never even hissed, and there were certainly occasions where a firm nip was well deserved!


I'm 33 now, and a completely different person. Maybe not completely, but I've definitely done a lot of growing up in that time, and she was there for it, through all the changes. I even eventually stopped torturing her with outfits for the high holidays.

 She grew up too. Hugely, at one point, when we lived with a roommate and her cat who ate like a cat. By this I mean that my roommate's cat could handle having a full bowl of food out and graze at his leisure, where J would wolf down any and all food until it was gone, hers and his combined, like my childhood dog always did. That was the biggest sign that she was sick, in the end. I did get her down to a reasonable weight again, but she always kept a big belly of loose skin from her huskier days. In the last 6 months, she didn't always clean her food bowl, and eventually we realized that there was a lot more loose skin than there used to be. I put her on the scale at home, and she had lost about 3-4 lbs, which is a lot when you start at 11 or 12.

Bloodwork was rather inconclusive, and we were left with a decision to make. Go down a diagnostic rabbit hole to pinpoint her illness? Or consider that she was 15 years old, not elderly, but a solidly adult cat, and try to make her comfortable as she finishes her life? It felt like it took no time at all, but as I looked back at her records, the whole process took about 4 months. I had finally decided to start her on B12 shots and a steroid to help with her appetite, but it was too late by then. We did get her eating again, a bit. She was a dry food cat her whole life, because I'd once read that cats were finicky and might not go back to dry food if occasionally treated with wet or canned food. She got more treats in the last 4 months than she did probably ever. We frequented the fancy local pet store and picked up anything they recommended that was high in calories and deliciousness. She had canned food, gravy meals, freeze dried treats, goat's milk, anything that I could get her to sniff at. The hardest part was monitoring how much she actually got before the dog snuck in there and inhaled it. He's no dummy - he knew she was getting the good stuff.

The day I suspected we were coming to the end, she'd been having accidents. She hadn't been eating much, and her stools did not look healthy. That's when I made the appointment for her vitamin shot. The day that appointment came, I was sick myself and had to cancel. I never got the chance to reschedule. Less than a week later, she was sitting in the kitchen with her head hanging so low it was nearly brushing the floor. She turned away from the multiple kinds of food I offered her, and a check of her box revealed that she hadn't used it in a day and a half. That's the day I knew. I held her and cried.

The following day I called the vet again, this time to make the appointment. They had an opening that afternoon. It was too fast. It was also my husband's birthday. I needed more time. My family came over after dinner for cake. It turned out kind of nicely that way. They all got a chance to say goodbye as well. Even though it certainly wasn't a popular development at the time, she did live at their house for 2 years at one point, so it was nice that almost everyone got one last pet.

I reserved the next night, the night before as strict family time, just our little bunch. I'm not sure she even touched the floor at all she was held and petted so much. I considered bringing her to sleep in our bed, but I didn't. The bedrooms have always been off limits to her as I do have allergies and didn't want her sleeping on my pillow regularly. I was afraid that she would be crushed or knocked off the bed, as we were so unused to sleeping together anymore, so I settled her on her own bed for the night.

She was still there in the morning, I doubt she moved at all. She was still there when we came home early from work to take her to the doctor. I held her and cried for a long time. I tried giving her some food and water one last time. I was gripped with guilt when she did actually eat a bit of it. I worried that we were jumping the gun, acting too soon. She stumbled on her weak, skinny legs as she walked away, which was comforting to me in that moment. I was glad she was able to have a bit of a last meal, but she showed me that she was indeed very ill, and I felt a bit more at peace about the timing of my decision.

The vet is only a block and a half away, but we drove. It was raining a little, and I couldn't bear to put her into her carrier. It was only the cardboard box that she came home in from the shelter. I never upgraded her to a true cat carrier. She didn't travel, and she loved boxes. She would often just hang out in that box, so I just kept it for the occasional trip to the vet as it was kind of a safe place for her. This time though, I held her in my arms.

They had the exam room set up for us. There was a towel laid out on the table. They showed us right in, which I appreciated. They took care of the bill for us before, so that we could just leave when we were ready. I've seen tearful families quickly leaving in the past when I've been in the waiting room. I always thought that it was considerate that they don't make you settle up right after saying goodbye to your pet. I've never been present for the end of a life before, and I don't look forward to having to do it in the future. I chose to help her move on rather than waiting for the end. She was suffering, and I didn't want to come home to her, knowing she had gone alone. I was glad that I was able to be there, difficult as it was. I was glad there were tissues in the room. I needed them. I sort of need them now. A good friend who has gone through this several times recently said that she likes to talk to her cats as they go. I liked that idea. It's comforting knowing that the last thing she heard was my voice.

We chose not to bring her ashes home. I thought about it, having a little ceremony in the back yard. It didn't feel right though. She was an indoor cat. She never spent time in the yard. We won't even have this yard in a few years, and I would hate the idea of leaving her behind that way. I was sure to take a lot of pictures of her, and might consider having some kind of keepsake made. For now, I'm choosing to move on and take the memories with me.

I was very conscious of needing to explain what was happening, so that it wouldn't be a surprise. I hope that I was careful to strike that balance of being honest without being blunt, to be accepting of any reaction, to be open to questions without being pushy. I would recommend several books to help explain loss to children. Ida, Always, I Will Always Love You, and Saying Goodbye to Lulu were excellent. There were others that we read which were definitely not excellent, but I won't list them here. The last two were about losing pets, dogs specifically. Ida was a polar bear, and that story was told from her best friend Gus's perspective. I thought it was beautifully written and illustrated. In the end I'm glad that our first experience with loss is that of a loved pet, and that it was a natural death, though helped along. That was the only thing none of these books addressed, and I wish one of them had. While it was really hard, I do believe it's kind to help end suffering when there's no chance of it getting better.

I am adjusting to saying that I have a dog now. Not a cat and a dog. Just a dog. He drives me crazy, but he's a good boy. He is also, and always has been, a snuggler.

Back in 2009 or so, just getting to know each other

He is definitely my husband's buddy, like J was mine. He still favors D, but he's been scootching a little closer to me. I think he knows I need it.

I'll miss you sweet girl.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

And now, to teach!

(I've had this post on my mind for a week. I usually look back at the last post I wrote just to refresh my memory and to try not to repeat myself. Somehow it's amusing to me that my last entry was all about restless energy, and now I'm here to say that I've DONE something with it! Several somethings actually, but I'll get into that later.)

First, a brief history. I was scrolling through Instagram last week, and I saw a post from the new local yarn store (LYS, for the knitters) where the owner mentioned that she also teaches at some local colleges. I made a comment, as I'm making an effort to comment TO people and not just as part of the one sided conversation in my mind, something like wow, you keep busy! Then I thought it myself....maybe she IS busy! Maybe she needs help at the shop! Wouldn't that be fun, to sit around and knit and pet the yarn and help people with their projects? So, completely on a whim, I sent her a message to that effect. And then, to my surprise, she responded saying that she was thinking of bringing shop help on in the future, but in the meantime was looking for someone to teach a Knitting 101 class, and would I be interested in that? My heart sort of leaped, and I knew that I was interested, so I leaped too! (Just as a note, while I didn't necessarily know the owner, Kate, very well, I'd been into the shop a few times and we have at least one mutual contact. I love this knitting community!)

So now that it is officially up there on the website, I'd like to announce that I'm teaching the Wednesday, April 13 session of Knitting 101 from 6-8pm at Wild Haven Fiber Co in Milwaukee, WI! (There are also some weekend classes offered - I just happen to be teaching the weeknight session.)

(Photos above are credited to http://www.wildhavenfibercompany.com)

Details about the class:
This class is a 2 hour session, and is limited to 5 people in order to provide plenty of one on one instruction. I will be reviewing a few basic cast on's, how to knit and purl, a few basic cast off's, definitions of basic terms you'll come across like garter stitch and stockinette, as well as a review of yarn weights and common materials that beginning knitters should be familiar with.

To demonstrate these skills and give students a chance to practice AND get a functional object, we will be working on a cowl like this:

It is knit in the round on size 8 needles in worsted weight, and could easily work for an adult or child depending on how long the student chooses to knit it.

The cost of the class is $40, and includes needles and yarn in your choice of color.
If you are interested, give Kate a call at 414-744-0009 or stop into the shop!

(There's nothing scheduled at the moment, but there is also a 2 session knitting 102 class offered at the shop which builds on these introductory skills, resulting in a cute basic beanie style hat!)

I'm so excited to teach this class! If it all goes well, I may end up teaching this class monthly, and potentially developing new ones. Beyond that, I'm really excited to get involved with this new shop. I'm lucky in that there are a couple of pretty good yarn shops within 20 or 30 minutes drive from me, but this one is both SUPER close to me as well as exactly the aesthetic I love in a shop.

It's located in a very cute part of the city, and just has such a fresh and welcoming vibe. It's small, but the yarn selection is really great in my opinion. There's a really good balance between the fancy, luxury yarns as well as more standard, workhorse wools for mittens and socks. It probably helps that Kate's color palette and design sense are right in line with mine - a lot of natural or rich colors, simple shapes, interesting textures, beautiful but useful objects. I'm so looking forward to making Wild Haven my knit night home now that she has opened her shop up for open knitting a few times a week, and to work with her on who knows what in the future! I'm also so grateful to her for giving me a chance to stretch my skills at just the right moment when I was looking for a new opportunity! Thanks Kate!

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I am just closing out a hellishly busy travel period for work, and I am feeling restless.

One of the things that has been hardest for me, and somehow different during this project, is that I've literally been without rest. I've been a pretty good sleeper for most of my life. I typically fall asleep easily, and was definitely the stereotypical teenager who would sleep away most of the day if left to my own devices. On occasions where I have trouble falling asleep, I feel like I have no coping skills! Lately I have no trouble falling asleep....the first time. It's the 2 or 3 am wakeup that just kills me. I don't have to be awake that long, but it seems that it's JUST long enough to start my brain turning and I can't turn it off long enough to fall back asleep for another few blissful hours! I just start thinking about my to do list for the upcoming day or week, or start rehashing the work of the previous day and things left undone or did I remember to add that one thing to the plan and did I create a security issue by doing that other thing and I know I can add a wall back there and that will solve the security issue but then is that a dead end corridor? I hope I can remember to measure that in the morning and OH MY GOD GO BACK TO SLEEP ALREADY!!

I actually feel a little anxiety typing that out. And I did remember to measure that and we are golden.

So...I've been finding it a little hard to relax. Why is this project different than all the others I've worked on? I can't put my finger on exactly one thing or the other. I suspect it's an accumulation of a lot of factors...responsibility for a lot of program space, confusion over exact division of some responsibilities, growing pains in learning how to delegate work, stress and sadness about leaving home so often, length and frequency of trips, lack of consistent deep sleep and just the pace of the meetings and travel weeks. I'm definitely not one to glorify busy-ness, but I certainly have been busy lately. I'm left without either the time or the energy to recharge and reflect, and it's manifesting in this feeling of restlessness.

I'm just flying through each task and I don't feel like I have the luxury of time to stand back and get out of the weeds long enough to breathe and take in all the parts and pieces as a whole. I've finished knitting and sewing projects, but they've been thrown into immediate use with no more than a quick log of start and completion dates in ravelry. I've drawn floor plans and always find things I want to change just about as soon as the ink is dry. I think to myself how relaxing spinning some fiber could be but I need to change out the bobbin and that feels like a lot of work. That leaves me thinking that it would sure be nice to upgrade to a modern wheel. I have the money, but it feels like a wasted investment as I can't seem to find the time to spin at all. Maybe I should use that money to upgrade my wardrobe, as I constantly want to purge just about everything I own. Then I feel like I don't want to make "fast fashion" purchases, and maybe I should try to make more of my own clothes. Like wouldn't it be fantastic to have a greater selection of cute skirts with pockets? But then again, time, and the lack of it. I'm still mulling the idea of podcasting, but I worry that I would just be more noise in a sea of other podcasters, and then what's the point? I know this wall of text isn't that interesting for anyone else, but I'm hopeful it will be cathartic for me and I can stop turning it all over and over in my mind in the wee hours of the morning. If not, maybe I'll just start getting up and writing all this nonsense down here!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Knitting FO Review

Peeking back at my last knit summary entry, I did indeed frog that Rocky Coast Cardigan. I think it's going to grow up to become a Sprig pullover by Alana Dakos. I've never knit a pullover for myself, so I think it will be an interesting addition to my wardrobe. I cast it on December 9, and took a break knitting it so that I could whip out a 900 yard laceweight shawl in just over 2 weeks (more on that later), but am now back to it. It's worked top down, so I'm past the armholes now and am about halfway through the waist decreases. I should really stop to try it on to see if I like the fit, but I don't. Usually I have some hooded sweatshirt or something on now that it's so freezing cold - winter finally arrived after a pretty balmy start - and I'm just too cold and lazy to take off that layer and go see how this is looking. Plus, I tell myself that due to the asymmetrical neckline which will later have a leaf motif picked up and knitted up, the fit will be bizarre anyway. Funny, that it feels less lazy to knit an entire sweater and be surprised whether or not it fits than to just get up and check before putting in all that effort. Perception, I suppose.

Also, I'm apparently knitting my cat directly into this sweater. She wouldn't move, so I just put the neck opening around her and kept going.

(Update, I did get nervous enough to try the sweater on myself, and not just the cat. I think it fits just right!)

Speaking of that lace shawl. I've wanted some kind of wrap that I can wear to dressy events for some time. For those things where a cardigan just doesn't feel appropriate, I've taken to carrying an old black scarf that passes as a wrap. My knitted shawl just didn't feel dressy enough. I guess the weight, either sport or DK, just seemed too casual to wrap over a formal dress. So I got it in my head that a simple, light, lace wrap would be just perfect for the wedding I was standing up in. On New Year's Eve. I decided this officially on December 16. The woman at the yarn store sort of laughed at me when I mentioned my intention. I stubbornly thought, whatever, I can totally do this, work full(ish) time AND get ready for Christmas. Sure I can. I went home that day, found a pattern on Ravelry that suited what I was going for, and recklessly cast on. I did the math, and figured that if I knit 3.5" per day, I could do it. And I did. I knit during all available free time - in the car, in the "wellness" room, at a bar, in the movies, getting a pedicure. I blocked that baby at 1:30 am the morning of the wedding, and wore it for about an hour. I knew that would be the case, that I wouldn't be wearing it all night, and this whole effort was probably silly. It was still good though. While this won't be something I wear on the daily, it's nice to know I have it now, for the next event.

I also knit a 2 color triangular shawl. I think I like it, but I'm not sure. I bought the unlabeled yarn from a sale bin at stitches in 2013, and intended for it to go together in a shawl, but didn't actively notice that it's not the softest thing. It's not bad, but this was before I had a malabrigo shawl, which is positively delightful, so maybe it's not a fair comparison. I started knitting the dream stripes shawl, which has you work both colors in 2 row stripes. This means that both colors are carried up the same side, which, in my work, made one side much, much tighter than the other and the whole thing was really wonky. So I ripped it out. I started again, with one color being carried up each side, and the whole endeavor was much more successful. I would knit across with one color and purl back, then I would slide all the stitches on my circular needle back to the other end and purl across with the second color. From there I would turn the work and knit with the second color, and perform the stitch slide back to the beginning and knit with the first color and so on and so forth. I knit up until I had about 1/4 of the gray ball left, as I intended to do the lace edging in that color. I found the lace chart was either not correct, or my knitting was not correct, because I kept having an incorrect number of stitches when I would come to the last repeat. I decided that I was too sick of this project to figure out the problem, and that no one would ever notice anyway, especially since the first and last repeat are different than those in the center, and I just fudged it. In the end, it looks pretty nice and is a good addition to my collection of 3 shawls (the others are the Quaker Ridge by Susan B Anderson and the aforementioned laceweight wrap), though the edging could use a little more steam to control the curling.

I jumped on board the Wee Envelope by Ysolda Teague bandwagon, and tore through it in less than a week. I made the 6-12 mo size, but wish I'd gone up a size as it seems pretty narrow. I think I added a little length on the body, but I can't remember. I got the pretty pink yarn at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool this summer, and it was lovely to knit with. Like everyone, I did mess up the envelope neckline and had to knit the part where it attaches on each side twice, but it really is very clever when you figure it out. I did make the buttonholes, but never did end up adding the buttons. It stays closed nicely without them, and they are just one more thing to fiddle with.

I finished 2 more pairs of socks for myself, bringing my #operationsockdrawer total to 6. I've been loving it, and wearing a pair almost every day. I'm disappointed when I don't have any clean ones! One pair was plain vanilla in a self striping Opal, and the other was a sport weight in a solid color opal, knit in the Adjoin pattern from Sock Architecture.

As seen in that photo, I've also been working on my sock yarn blanket. I'm up to a 6x6 square now, and I like how it looks. Other than all the ends I have yet to weave in. That will be my next step before I move on to a new row, now that it's a nice clean square.

As for socks, now that I've been wearing them frequently, I think I'm knitting them a bit too large. I went down to 56 stitches on size 2 needles for my sport weight pair, and that's fitting pretty well. I also made them a bit shorter in the foot than was my instinct, and I'm liking that as well. My other socks mostly fit well right off the needles, but are a touch loose after a day of wear. I think I'll go down to 60 stitches from 64 on size 1 for my next fingering weight pair and see how that goes. I have a pair of kids tube socks on my size 1's right now, in specially requested "sparkly yarn." I'm just past where the heel would be if I was knitting one, so I'm going to start doing the 3x1 rib all the way around now instead of just on the top of the foot. I did a round toe on these and quite like it, though I wonder if it comes to too narrow of a point. I opted for round so that it wouldn't matter if it was put on slightly crooked, so that benefit may be worth it. I'd like to finish in another week or so. I feel so slow when I hear some podcasters say they've knit FORTY pair of socks in 2015. And this isn't an exclusive sock knitter, and she does have a full time job. I know she doesn't have kids, but still. That's a huge amount.

Finally, I think the only other thing I made is a little pair of thumbless mittens for a certain baby who doesn't like her hands covered! I held some leftover Knitpicks self striping sock yarn doubled and it worked out really well. We've only used them a couple of times, but I was definitely glad that I had them those few times. They only took 2 days, and it was time well spent in my opinion!

Just for fun, my finished knitting (and crochet) round up for 2015 is as follows:
6 hats
2 pairs of gloves/mittens
3 shawls
1 blanket
3 pairs of socks
3 sweaters
1 cowl

As a rough estimate, since I wasn't great about entering exact yardage for each project, this means that I went through 7,380 yards of yarn last year! That's just over 4 miles. Whoa!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Oh the ambivalence. It's hard to describe how I'm feeling lately. I've definitely been in a weird mood. I suppose it's just been a really busy half year, and I haven't had the time or desire for introspection. I'm happier than I've been in a long time, which is why this mood feels so strange. It's also not that I'm not making things, because I've been making a TON! I've just had no desire to document - often I just cast off or snip the last threads and put said item immediately into rotation or give it away as a gift. There have been very few photos snapped, either on the phone or on the dusty big camera, and obviously none blogged. No particular reason other than I'm eager to move onto the next thing!

This blog. I suppose part of the reason I haven't been writing here is because I'm unsure of its purpose. While I don't think many people read, it feels weird to change gears without acknowledging the change, even if it's only a record for myself. I created this blog to keep track of things I've made, and I'd still like it to be that. I created it as a journal of sorts, and I think I'd like it to be more of that. I created it to bring attention to things I was selling on Etsy, and I don't think I want to do that anymore. I didn't sell any finished goods last year, and I've been feeling good about that. I just find that I'm in a season of life to let some things go and to move on to others, and the hobby business is one of those things. It was nice to have a little extra money, but I was getting bored making the same thing over and over, and keeping or giving so little of it to people I know. I tried a little of the linking up and self promotion to try to grow recognition or readership, but I felt weird doing it and I'm not going to anymore. It would be nice to be one of those people who makes money from their blogs, but I'm never going to be comfortable with that level of self promotion and sell your soul, so why exactly do I care about "linky parties?" (just the term, ugh)

I don't know. I just want to be me. I really don't care right now if anyone is reading, if anyone ever reads. I'm turning off all the post pushes to various social media. If people happen to find this post other ways, that's totally cool, but I'm writing this for me. I'm not linking for affiliate pennies, that wasn't really working for me. I'm going to link where I want to follow my train of thought, and that's it. A big part of me thinks I should abandon the whole thing in favor of a paper journal, or go straight up private because then I could add more photos to my stories....but I hesitate. I've been listening to and watching a ton of podcasts lately, and it feels very voyeuristic in some ways. I often feel like I "know" the people I'm listening to, and want to interact, but then feel weird that they don't know me at all. Never say never, but I don't want to be a podcaster. But I'm a bit envious of the relationship I see playing out between my digital friends, and it's like I'm not invited to the party because it's a one sided relationship. It's a very strange tension, now that I think of it. So anyway, I figure by keeping my making and some of my random trains of thought public (though not promoted), I can join in that conversation if I want to.

As for the title of this post, RENEW is my word of 2016. I don't do a lot of resolutions, but I've heard of the one little word or theme of the year thing for a couple of years from a couple of places. I think renew could serve me rather well. I've been keeping pace with a lot of things, and I'm at a place now where I am ready to step back, prioritize, and renew my focus on the things that are most important to me....and just let the rest go. So here's to that, happy 2016.