The Useful and Beautiful Things of Life

Everyone seems to be getting into the Marie Condo spirit, going through their homes and getting rid of what doesn’t spark them joy (and isn’t, you know, things like their 2018 W2). I haven’t watched her show nor read her books, but I certainly see the appeal. Why hold onto something just because you bought it or it was given to you? Why keep something because you may possibly, someday use it. I like the way William Morris put it: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. I would extend the “you” to “you and anyone you share your space with” so you’re not tempted to, say, rid your house of the ten colanders your spouse has hanging above your sink.

I’m one of those folks who loves to clear through things and give /  toss sell what doesn’t meet the useful or beautiful criteria. Except I’m sometimes harsh in what I get rid of. I got rid of all of my quilting supplies – and I mean all, even my straight pins were given away – after a single year of not using themJust a few weeks later, I wished I’d held on to at least a bit of that to make something.

So, in 2019, I’m trying to approach both my clearing out of stuff and purchasing with more intention. For a new purchase: Do I really need this? Do I need it right now or can I wait for a sale? How much do I really want it? Am I buying this because it’s here or it’s on sale or I feel like I should want it/have it? For getting ride of things: Has it been over a year since I used this? Do I anticipate needing it in the next year? Is there a legal or sentimental reason to keep it?

All of this is a round-about way of getting to what I did today – I stopped working on a project in a given yarn because, well, it’s a pain to work with and will likely be too scratchy for wear next to the skin.  This brings us to the big question: Keep or let go?

Let’s walk through Morris’s questions, shall we? Useful? Well, yes, but only as a source of entertainment for me. I live in a house with heat and don’t spend a great deal of time outdoors where I’d be happy to have an itchy shawl because it was so cold. Beautiful? Eh, colors are nice but not particularly uncommon. Then mine: When did I buy this? Fall 2017, in London. I’ve tried to use it multiple times but it was so scratchy I always put it aside in a day or two. Do I anticipate needing it? Nope. Legal reason to keep? Nope. (Wouldn’t it be weird if there was?) Sentimental? Bought when I was with a friend at Loop of London, but I talk to her often and have other mementos of that trip.

Into the “things to put up on Buy Nothing group” pile…

 

 

WIP Wednesday: 16 January 2019

 

I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting for someone who has a full-time job again. None of it was done at work, either. Well, maybe like 5 rows total but no major contributions as I’ve been leading meetings and updating models, not waiting for things to happen or trying to figure out how to approach things.

Finished – Y-Chromosome Socks

I took these with me on our annual ski trip with college friends (and their friends from trivia and work and..). This year we were at Wisp and I had more chances to knit as Lizzie did ski school all day Friday and I chose not to play board games in the evening, but knit while chatting with folks. I’d only knit a few inches on the first sock when we arrived there and they were done well before we left. Very much my sort of way to spend a weekend, watching the snow falling in big flakes outside while knitting and chatting or reading. (Bonus point as I rarely changed out of PJs until I took a shower in the late afternoon.)

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These are for a coworker who has been out the last two days so I haven’t had a chance to make sure they fit. I’m eagerly awaiting the news as I worry that the socks I knit for men won’t fit well as their feet have more variation in widths and thicknesses than women’s feet.

I really enjoyed working with sport weight yarn as these went really fast and it’s so squishy. It’s good to know I have a solid pattern I can use again, should I choose to make more sport weight socks.

(Ravelry project is here.)

 

Finished – Lizzie’s Colorful Hat

This was another finish from this weekend though after we had arrived at home on Sunday. For being mostly improvised, this hat turned out pretty well. She loves the strands of colors on the background of other fun colors. Of course, I have yet to get her to try this on but she didn’t immediately declare she didn’t want it when it was done (unless the last five things I knit for her).

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This was only my second time using Killington from Miss Babs and I really enjoying working with it. Think I’m going to make a good-sized cowl with the remainder of the skein.

(Ravelry project is here.)

New Start – Socks for Matt

I’ve only ever knit Matt one pair of socks, done in a 50/50 wool/acrylic worsted yarn. They turned out well but were far too warm for him to wear them except when skiing on a really cold day. So, he’s rather due for another pair. He chose the yarn from the pile of sock yarn I have in my stash. “It’s nice and dark. It’ll work.” When asked about what sort of pattern, he was honest – “I’m never really going to have an opinion one way or another. Just make what you want.” Oh, Matthew.

I’m just getting started, so no pretty picture to show yet. Going to do a toe-up version of Petty Harbour by Rayna Curtis. Simple but classy looking.

 

Other Things I’ve Messed Around With (but have no good photos of..)

I started a cowl with the leftover yarn from the trio of orange hats. Then pulled out my progress as I wasn’t sure if it was working.

Started swatching for a sweater for a friend but got distracted with the idea of finishing the coworker socks in time for his birthday (which was on Sunday).

WIP Wednesday: 9 January 2019

I’m made it through a whole week’s worth of work days which means much less time to knit than when I was home all day long. Matt’s also been out of town so Lizzie and I have been having more painting parties, movie nights, and snuggles than usual. All those excuses aside, I have done some knitting this week.

Progress – Lizzie’s Hat

Very little progress, but 6 or 8 rows still counts as knitting on something. This is being knit using a pattern I sort of made up using Miss Babs Killington in Perfectly Wreckless.

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Started – Danny’s Socks

One of my coworkers loves merino wool socks. They’re one of the few ways he’s willing to spoil himself. I’m making him these in a shade of gray so they’ll fit with his very neutral wardrobe. The yarn is Miss Babs Yummy 3-Ply in Oyster and I’m using the Y-Chromosome pattern. I haven’t actually ever made sport weight socks before so it feels a bit weird but is zooming right along when I pick them up.

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Started and Made Progress – Dishcloths

I took Lizzie to Walmart on Sunday so she could buy an exclusive My Little Pony miniatures set. While there, we wandered through the craft section and I couldn’t resist the siren song of the Peaches & Cream dishcloth yarn. I bought a large cone of plain white and two small balls of Blue Lagoon. So far, one of the small balls has been turned into three cloths and I just started another in white last night. I’m using some published patterns and some I made up.

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Staying Sane During Surgery Recovery

I won’t lie, surgery recovery is hard. You suddenly can’t do the things you used to be able to do, your body feels like it belongs to someone else, you have medication changes to keep track of, and you have lots of time to fill. You will find yourself feeling defeated, annoyed, lonely, and a million other things as you wait to get back to normal (or what now counts as your normal). How do you maintain sanity during this time? Here’s what I’ve learned the last few weeks.

Disclaimers: I had a right colectomy which was laparoscopic and had no complications, so many of these tips are focused  on recovery from that kind of surgery. More importantly, I’m not a medical professional (not even close), just a fellow patient. Your care team can guide you in whether something on this list is appropriate for your recovery.

Before Your Surgery

  • Ask your surgeon and/or GI doc any questions you have: Some are obvious – how long will I be in the hospital? How long until I can go back to work? What are potential complications? You probably have a pre-op appointment shortly before your surgery and this is the time to ask anything that pops into your head. They’ve probably been asked all sorts of questions before, especially if the patient hadn’t had surgery before. Be sure to ask what you do if, on the day of your surgery, you have to cancel for illness or weather.
  • Figure out when you’ll get back to work: You may able to telecommute, work part-time in the office, work fewer hours at first, or make some other special arrangement. Reach our to your boss or HR to find out your company’s policies. Because of the nature of my job, I can’t work from home so this meant I did zero work until my doctor cleared me to go back in person. I also chose not to go back until I could work full time, but that was dictated by it being the holiday season rather than corporate policy or how I was feeling.
  • Plan for who will help you at home: This isn’t just to ensure you have help taking care of yourself, but also help doing the things you normally do. Household chores. Paying bills. Taking care of children and/or pets. Figure out who will do what so you need not worry about it once you’re home. (And, for really critical things, try to find a backup.)
  • Ask for in-person visits or remote ones (audio or video): Friends and family may assume that you just want to be left alone or that you don’t want to be seen in your condition. If you do want to be visited in the hospital, say so. If you want to chat with someone on the phone, call them (or text first, if you’re me). I was lucky that Matt was able to spend one entire day with me plus some shorter visits here and there, but I also reached out to my parents and a good friend/neighbor during the times he had to be home to take care of Lizzie or work or, you know, get an actual decent night of sleep in his own bed.
  • Pack a bag with what you’ll need while there: I did this in a backpack to make it easier for Matt to transport it around until I had a room. I threw in things I needed to entertain myself, a robe, several changes of comfy and stretchy clothes, phone charger, headphones, toothpaste and toothbrush, lotion, and chap stick. I also made sure I had my insurance card and government-issued ID in an easily accessible pocket to make registration easier.
  • Follow all instructions you’re given by your doctor and/or hospital: Whatever the staff tells you to do – or not do – in the days before your surgery, do it. I had to shower using a special soap and go without makeup, lotion, and lip balm and had to only take a sub-set of my usual medication.
  • Find something to amuse yourself in the hospital that’s low-key: You’ll want something that doesn’t require a ton of thought or energy but can keep you amused. Television, audiobooks, crossword puzzles (easy ones), and coloring are great ideas. For me, this was mostly watching hours of HGTV on the hospital television. We don’t get the channel at home, so this was a treat for me. I also did a bit of knitting, though it often wore me out very quickly. I brought a journal and books with me, both of which remained in my backpack for the length of my stay.
  • Bring along a robe and your own undies: You can certainly get another robe to cover your backside and get some of those super-sexy disposable undies, but you’ll feel that much more human if you have your own. You may or may not be able to put on your own clothes during your stay, so be sure to ask before you change into yoga pants and a t-shirt. I was simple too sore to put on normal clothes and, due to the location of my incisions, it would have been very difficult to get through wound checks had I not been in a robe.

In the Hospital

  • If you need something, don’t be afraid to ask for it: Weather you’re in pain, need help going to the bathroom, or need another glass of ice water, don’t be afraid to ask for it from the staff. They’re there to help you and you’re not being a bother. Mind you, don’t abuse this ability by asking for something every hour as you’re not the only patient, but the staff would much rather you ask then try to do something yourself that could lead to a fall or similar.
  • Take those walks: For abdominal surgery, the protocol at my hospital was to get up and walk around (with assistance) as soon as possible post-surgery. This meant stumbling along with a walker and trailing nurse in the PACU then walking with a supportive IV pole and tech…and, eventually, walking by myself for loops around the unit. It will be difficult, but it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel after you do it. Again, ask for help if you need it. I needed help every time I got up from my med – though I did my best to spend most of the day in a chair  – and needed help walking the first few times. I stuck to walking around my unit but you may be able to walk to another part of the hospital.
  • Remember the names of your care team members: Many hospitals ask you to complete a survey or have some sort of an employee recognition program. If you have a particularly great (or poor) experience with a member of your team, make sure you note their name down somewhere to make completing those easier. I was lucky to have a great team which included a nurse who stayed with me for a full hour after I had a panic attack, a tech who sang showtunes to distract me from a 3 am blood draw, and a pair of residents who were extremely understanding of my, er, lack of pleasant demeaner during 5 am rounds.

After You’re Home

  • Keep up with medication schedules and other instructions: If there’s something you were told to do in your discharge instructions, do it. I know, sounds obvious but I feel the need to say it directly. If you have to do multiple things throughout the day, you may want to draft up a little schedule for yourself. I had one pain killer every 6 hours, one every 8, and my normal meds to worry about. A written schedule and alarms on my phone were the only reason I could keep track of it all.
  • Don’t do anything on your no-no list: Don’t take a bath or lift heavy objects or whatever your discharge instructions tell you not to do. It will be hard, as you’ll have to ask for more help than you’re probably used to having. Your hospital will have ensured you have that help at home before they let you go, so take advantage of it. Call or text or holler across the house if you need someone to do something for you.
  • Don’t worry that you’re not getting things done: I am not someone who is good at being non-productive so I had to learn that recovery from surgery is getting something done. The dishes and laundry and paying bills are not your responsibility but whoever is there (or can come over) to help you. Throw away your to do list, if you have to. Focus on relaxing and recovering.
  • Continue to keep yourself amused: I started by watching TV almost all day and doing a bit of journaling from my couch. After a few days, I felt well enough to sit at the dinning room table and browse the internet for a good portion of the day.
  • Reach out to friends: Just like when you were in the hospital, you’ll probably have to reach out to folks to get together or chat on the phone. I’ll be honest, I got sick of only being around and talking to family  after awhile. I made a lunch date with a friend, went and hung out at my local yarn store, and chatted online with a friend I hadn’t talked to in years.
  • Slowly get back to normal: As you feel better, don’t rush to get back into your normal routine. Add back in chores one at a time, starting with things like putting away clean silver wear or getting the mail. Yes, that’s the level of energy I had when I first got home. I didn’t empty the dishwasher until a full week after I was home, it took too much energy (and bending over wasn’t much fun, either). If you start to do something and it’s too much, STOP.

Anyone else have any tips for surviving surgery recovery with you sanity intact? Share them in the comments.

 

 

WIP Wednesday: 2 January 2019

Happy New Year, everyone! Yesterday marked the end of my post-surgery time off work, so don’t be surprised by how little knitting I can done in the weeks that follow.

Finished – Anastasia Socks

This was my last WIP that I started before my surgery and I decided to put everything else aside and finish the second sock before the New Year. Pretty arbitrary, as the recipient didn’t even know they were being made and, really, what’s so unique about the new year. I started working on the second sock on Friday and I sent them off on Monday to their new home, with my friend’s sister. (Ravelry project is here.)

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Frogged – Cradle Me

I’m not quite sure what I was thinking. There was no way that I was going to ever finish a blanket without a specific recipient in mind. Frogged this over the weekend and started a new project with the yarn.

Started – Boneyard Shawl

I like to always have a shawl on my needles and this pattern is nice and straight-forward. I’m using the yarn I had intended to use for the Cradle Me. Not very much progress, so far, but it’ll slowly get larger. I haven’t worked on it since I cast on the other day but will pick it up again once I’m done with the hat I’m currently working on. (Ravelry project is here.)

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Started and Finished – Duo of Waffle Hats

After making the Knots Coming Untied hat, I decided to use up the rest of that yarn to make a hat that would actually fit Matt plus one for me and one for Lizzie. Except superwash yarn grows when you block it and let it air dry…so the Knots hat is now mine. This brought me down to two matching hats to be made. I did Lizzie’s first then got Matt’s done just before going to bed on New Year’s Eve. Except, of course, Lizzie doesn’t like the color of her hat…so now what was her hat will get sent across the street to the kid who was going to get the Knots hat. Oye. (Ravelry project is here.)

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Started – Lizzie’s Rainbow Hat

Lizzie explained that she sort of liked the pattern of the waffle hats but wanted one in pink, instead. I brought down the pink yarn I had – the same Berroco Vintage DK – but also grabbed some Miss Babs Killington in Perfectly Wreckless. She chose the Miss Babs (“It has ALL of my favorite colors in it!”). After some thought, she decided she didn’t want the same pattern and I eventually decided on a slip-stitch one. Simple but looks cool. It’s got a bit of pooling but she says she likes it. Wanna bet she never wears the finished product? (Ravelry project is here.)

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One Little Word 2019: Present

I’m participating in Ali Edwards’s online course for One Little Word again this year. If you’re not familiar with the concept, I won’t try to paraphrase Ali but point you over to her page about OLW. My words in previous years were WORTHY (2013), ENJOY (2015), and CONNECT (2016). I’ve never been great about completing the course or, if I’m honest, even keeping my word at the front of my mind all year.

My word this year: PRESENT

Materials for the Year

Most folks who participate do so as a scrapbooking exercise, using Ali’s recommended materials, both digital (included in the class) and physical (not included in the class). I tried the scrapbook approach before but it just didn’t work out well for me. I worried too much about it being pretty enough. I’m using a Leuchttrum 1917 dot grid notebook and am going to try to keep things very straight-forward and simple. Couple pens or markers. Some washi. Maybe a sticker or two.

January Exercise

This January, like in previous years, Ali encouraged participants to respond to a series of short prompts/journaling exercises. I’ve included copies of my responses, below. You can see how minimal I’m trying to go with this, a plain Sharpie pen and some fun washi to mark the edge of the page that starts the month.

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I’ll share more about my OLW journey next month with how January went and my responses to the February exercise. If you’re also in the class, look for me in the Facebook group and say hello.

What I Read in 2018

The other day, my local library system posted a list of its most popular books for 2018 and it got me thinking. How much reading (or listening) did I even do this year? I found myself doing more podcast and music listening on my commute and fell out of the habit of reading before bed. I was doing lots of consumption of books in the early part of the year but that fizzled out in the summer.

Total: 12 non-fiction books, 7 fiction (4 of which were re-reads)

Non-Fiction

  • Theft by Finding (David Sedaris)
  • Hamilton (Lin Manuel-Miranda)
  • Bellevue (David Oshinsky)
  • Flat Broke With Two Goats (Jennifer McGaha)
  • The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell (W. Kamau Bell)
  • The Four Tendencies (Gretchen Rubin)
  • Yes, My Accent is Real (Kunal Nayyar)
  • Surely, You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman (Richard Feynman)
  • Better Than Before (Gretchen Rubin)
  • Happier at Home (Gretchen Rubin)
  • Educated (Tara Westover)
  • Calypso (David Sedaris)

Fiction

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (JK Rowling)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)
  • Lost Stars (Claudia Gray)
  • A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy (Alexandra Bracken)
  • Burn for Me (Ilona Andrews)

What books did you read this year? Did you discover any books I should check out? What are your reading/listening goals for 2019?