2018: Year in Review

What a year it’s been. I’m sure I say that every year, but this one has been particularly full of ups and downs.

January: Made lots of small cross stitch samplers for friends and coworkers. Went back into therapy for a few months. Matt helped out with robotics, I did not. Made several trips to the local trampoline park with Lizzie. Started winter ballet class. Took one of our cats, Willie, to the vet to figure out what made him lose lots of weight – turns out he had liver damage which didn’t really have a treatment. (He’s less skinny now but whines all. the. time.)

February: Spent a weekend in Florida to see my parents, brother, and sister-in-law. Visited Johnathan Dickinson State Park for the first time since I was a kid. (Finally!) Learned how Instagram Stories works. Spent an entire Sunday by myself in DC.

March: Went on our annual ski trip with friends, probably the last one we’ll ever take to Davis, West Virginia. Threw a St. Patrick’s Day party with decorations Lizzie helped me make. Got a light snow.

April: Lots of letters written – over 50 in total by month’s end. (Note to self: Don’t do this again.)Ate our first dinner of the year out in the porch. Weekend in Shenandoah. Attended the Unicorn Festival.

May: Trip without Lizzie to Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Ran out of craft projects while on vacation for the first time ever. Slimmed down my yarn stash quite a bit. Got a horrible eye infection.

June: Weekend at Great Wolf Lodge with family. Lots of trips to the community pool. Saw Sound of Music sing-along. Homemade super hero cape for Lizzie. Switched up anxiety / depression medication – so, so happy I did so. Got new coffee table and side tables for the living room off Reddit, of all places. Found out my dad had a new cancer recurrence and needed to start chemo, after all.

July: Family reunion in Edisto Beach, South Carolina. 13 people in one house for 4 days – whew! Went off dairy, soy, and gluten in attempt for solution to tummy and skin issues.

August: Stopped elimination diet due to horrible abdominal pain. After several tests, found out I have Crohn’s Disease. Spent a weekend in Shenandoah with friends. Start of birthday party season for Lizzie’s friends.

September: Lizzie started Pre-K (and loves it). Spent weekend in Florida for my birthday. Old friend from LA came to visit – went to Harper’s Ferry, National Museum of African-American History and Culture, and National History Museum during his visit. Lizzie took her first ballet class at school. Off to Italy with Lizzie.

October: Italy trip! Shenandoah weekend soon after. Had first colonoscopy and learned of colonic stricture. Found out my mom has breast cancer. Made our own Halloween decorations for the living room. Lizzie dressed up as Ariel (in a store-bought costume she decided she wanted at the last minute), Matt as Prince Charming, and me as a bee. Handed out candy with neighbors on our driveway, taking advantage of unseasonably warm temperatures.

November: Saw a surgeon to talk about stricture repair options; confirm with second surgeon that surgery was only valid course of action. Spent a weekend in NYC for a friend’s 35th birthday. Several cycles of feeling fine for a few days then miserable for a few. Had family and friends to our house for Thanksgiving.

December (so far): Lizzie turned 5! Had a right colectomy and am home, recovering and trying to use it as an excuse to fully relax.

 

How was your year?

Week in Review: August 5-11, 2018

Before we get into the normal topics, I want to share a few special things that happened this week.

New Blog Name, New Site Location

After lots of thought the last few months, I decided to change the name of the blog and it’s address. The WordPress link remains the same, but the domain has moved to thatangelaleese.com. I wanted to stop pretending I’m a brand. I’m just me. I’m Angela Leese. That Angela Leese. That one who sat next to you in engineering classes or who you saw spill an entire iced coffee down her top or who gets bit by spiders anytime it’s possible. I may not be the only one with my name, but I am a pretty awesome Angela Leese.

Health Update

It’s been a horrible week, I’m not going to lie. I was basically useless most of the week when I was at home and maybe got two-thirds of my hours in at work. Everyone has had to cover for me and did so before I could even ask. Matt. Bob and AJ at work. I also got some amazing support my countless medical office staff members who squeezed me in and let me move things when needed. Answered my many stupid questions. Don’t know what I would have done without all of them.

I may have mentioned last week that I hadn’t been feeling well, maybe about a weird cramp in my abdomen. It got worse, so I went and saw my primary care doctor as soon as I could get in on Monday. His thought was gallbladder issues, as I nearly punched him when we pressed where my gallbladder is. Ultrasound and blood tests came back normal. Saw a GI specialist who guessed stomach ulcers but wanted me to get the CT scan my doctor had already ordered. And, after what seemed like an eternity of intense pain, a diagnosis: Crohn’s Disease. I’m on steroids and start working on figuring out long-term treatment tomorrow.

Okay…back to our normally scheduled programming…

Life of Lizzie

Lizzie was, of course, impacted by my health issues. I was too sore for hugs or snuggles and often couldn’t help her do things. Matt also had to do work at home each evening, unfortunately about the time my pain was at its height for the day. She got ignored a lot. But, she was a trooper.

She very excitedly helped Matt make cupcakes on Thursday night. I got zero photos, but they were yellow cake with chocolate ganache covered in as many large sprinkles as she could fit on each one.

Our neighbors got a new trampoline so she had a blast jumping on it a couple evenings.

We went out to Shenandoah National Park for the weekend with some old friends. She had a blast blowing bubbles, getting her face painted, hiking, and having a dance party with one of our friends.

On the Needles

I finished the hats for Lizzie and her BFF, at least the knitting part. She insisted that they have pom poms which I need to make and attach. Hats are using the Barley Light in the child’s size, knit in a yarn I cannot recall right now. Ha!

I also started and completed a hat for her BFF’s sister. Pattern is the Sockhead Hat and yarn is Miss Babs 2-Ply Toes in a colorway I can’t remember at all. I made the adult size, despite her only being 8, per her mom’s recommendation. No FO photo, so here’s one of me with the hat 80% of the way done.

I also started, just yesterday, on a shawl in Kelborne Wollens Mojave, a lovely cotton and linen blend. I was going to make a hat with it but it’s got too much drape to it, even at a fairly tight gauge. I’ll offer the FO to the person I was going to make the hat for, with the option to decline in exchange for a hat in the same color but a different yarn. Pattern is Dotted Rays.

I made zero progress on the two shawls I started last week, as I got on this hat kick. Really should have grabbed one of those for the Shenandoah trip but it didn’t cross my mind. I’ll probably work on the purple one next, for a break from this pattern.

Adventures

Our big adventure was to Shenandoah. I’m all out of words to describe one of my favorite places on the planet.

Discoveries

    My diagnosis, obviously
    Iced slightly-sweet tea
    Cotton and linen yarn doesn’t make a good hat but is heavenly as a shawl

Oye. Ugh. Sigh.

Enough of my whining for one week.

A Better Me

Zero progress on this, as I’m just trying to get back to normal. May have lost weight, but I don’t really care. I stopped keeping away from gluten, dairy, and soy after my doctor told me forget about it. I may start it again but, again, I need to get back to normal.

On Tap

  • Treatment plan development
  • Finishing the three-color shawl and picking up the purple shawl
  • Mailing off a few things that have been sitting for weeks
  • Weekend with no plans! (I think.)

Week in Review: 22-28 July 2018

Yes, I’m back. I’ve taken an assessment of all that I have going on in my life and decided that blogging can fit in. A few things got taken off my plate to accommodate it (regular letter-writing, most notably) and I’m pretty confident I’ll be sticking with this for awhile. So, let’s get going, shall we?

Life of Lizzie

This week, she picked up a habit of saying, “Get it?” Except she’s not using the typical application of saying it after a joke that didn’t land well, but for just about any declarative statement. “I had a Popsicle today. Get it?” “I want to wear this dress today. Get it?” Once I figured out it didn’t mean she had tried to make a joke, it made everything make much more sense.

The non-allowance allowance experiment continues. This last week, we owed her two week’s worth, $8, and she decided to spend it on the fish-catching came that I remember from when I was a kid. Turns out, it’s pretty hard for her so she quickly forbid Matt and I from playing and chose to play it by herself for quite awhile the day she got it. I need to encourage her to try again so she doesn’t forget about it entirely. Maybe we’ll even be allowed to play with her again.

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On Thursday night, I took her out for a special “date” so she could have extra time with me before I was gone for the weekend. (More on that later.) The original plan was to wander around the toy section at Target then go to Chick-fil-a. We did wander Target very, very slowly. After she got her game, she insisted we get 1) Cheerios – “they’re for the weekend” and 2) crazy-shaped Annie’s boxed mac and cheese. I will admit I pushed her to the mac and cheese rather than going out as I’d had Chick-fil-a for lunch and it was going to start pouring soon.

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(Yeah, that’s her feet under a toilet stall door. She does this anytime I need to do my thing, to make sure she stays close. Very literal interpretation of “I need to be able to see your feet.” I try not to think about the fact she’s got her face pressed up against the door.)

On the Needles

Most of my week was spent knitting – then pulling out and re-knitting the Campside shawl from Alicia Plummer in Berroco Ultra Wool DK in the Heather colorway. More about what happened with the first attempt in a bit. The second attempt is going really well and I’ve only got the final pattern of eyelets then the ribbed border to go. This will be given to a coworker who enjoys a muted color palette – and is opening her house to our team to watch Spaceballs next Friday.

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I’ve also made a tiny bit of progress on the Vestigial socks in Neighborhood Fiber Company Studio Sock in the Parkland colorway. I like the pattern plenty but haven’t been in much of a sock mood. These will be my on-the-go project next week so I can make some real progress towards completion. The recipient lives here so obvious doesn’t need them for quite awhile but I hate having something hanging over me like this. (I’ll post a pic next week.)

Adventures and Discoveries

Yesterday, we went to DC for the first time in months to see a special exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. Lizzie was very impatient on the walk from Archives to the museum but happily walked through the exhibit with Matt on Dutch paintings of watercraft. (I stayed in the courtyard and knit on the socks in peace.) We were all very hungry at that point, so we went to b DC, a burger place. Lizzie didn’t eat almost any of her mac and cheese, but Matt and I really enjoyed our burgers and sides (tater tots for me, truffle fries for him). She really wanted to see the butterfly exhibit at the National History Museum but the line to get in was, no kidding, two blocks long. Guess everyone else was happy to finally be out of the house, too. Amd, you know, tourists. We promised her we’d get back to see them in the fall. I, of course, was too busy sweating and avoiding people to take any photos.

 

Oye. Ugh. Sigh.

Several things didn’t go so great this week.

My trip to Cleveland for a friend’s baby shower got cancelled due to a traffic control issue and no available flights that would get me there in time. I got a refund and immediately spent the money on a new watch and sock yarn from Miss Babs. Thankfully, I found out hours before I went to the airport and the United folks were great in trying to help me fix things.

It rained almost all week. Lots and lots and lots of rain. The immediate issues of cabin fever, getting soaked, and needing to carry an umbrella everywhere were easily dealt with. Harder was the water that came into our basement and wet our carpet when the outside drain was clogged with dirt. Thankfully, our cleaning lady discovered it after a few hours so we were able to unclog the drain, get the water up with a shop vac, and finish drying it out with a fan pretty quickly.

And I pulled a very Angela move at one point and left my badge inside my work area when I went out of it to use the restroom. Thankfully, someone was coming out very soon after who went and got my badge from my desk for me. I almost never take the thing off, too.

 

A Better Me

This was week two of my combination Weight Watchers restart and gluten, dairy, and soy elimination diet. Almost no headaches, at last! No real signs of improvement, health-wise but it’s only two weeks in. Lost 3.6 pounds since last Sunday. Had some issues actually eating enough points; turns out most of my points before were eating all the cheese and bread. This whole thing resulted in a few great culinary discoveries: almond-milk lattes, spicy eggplant dip, rediscovery of yumminess of Mojo chicken on the grill, Wegmans chicken tortilla soup.

 

On Tap

  • Kid’s birthday party at the community pool
  • DC Pen Show,
  • Likely shawl FO and Vestigial socks FO

 

Have a great week!

Weekend Coffee Share

In an attempt to find something to write about today, I’m turning to another idea from a fellow blogger, this time from Part Time Monster. It’s called Weekend Coffee Share. You write what you’d say to a friend if you were having coffee on a weekend afternoon; what’s going on in your life and/or what’s on your mind.

If we were having coffee right now…I would tell you that I’m happy that Lizzie is asleep. It’s been a hard day, dealing with her. She chose me as her favorite parent for the day so barely left my side from when I got up to when Matt her to sleep. She sat on me on the couch or snuggled right next to me until she needed to get ready. She insisted that I sit on her little stool right next to the tub while she bathed. I had to sneak awake to get dressed in another room – perfectly timed with her dad coming down stairs to ensure her distraction. She didn’t nap at all, constantly making noise until I gave up and let her out of bed. (Yeah, she still won’t get out of bed on her own, despite being in a Big Girl Bed.) She followed me around as I framed and hung new photos and re-arranged old ones. Then she did lots more sitting on me on the couch while Matt made dinner – dinner that wound up taking longer than he expected and she didn’t eat any of.

But, again, she’s asleep now and I’m happy to be able to do my own thing. No one on top of me or at my heels or talking all the time or demanding to watch Hibe (The Hive) or Maya Bee (Maya the Bee). I can just be. Or, crazy thought, go to the bathroom alone!

If you have kids that are older, you’d tell me that this phase ends, that she’ll choose Matt as the favorite parent or she’ll get too big to want to be held. And that I’ll miss her come Monday when I’m at work, alone behind my desk. Right now, though, it’s really nice.


If we kept talking, we’d probably talk about the election. If we have different political leanings, you’d mention it with something non-confrontation like “I can’t believe he won.” If we have the same political leanings, it’s probably be a comment a bit something more like “I can’t believe he won. What do we do now?” You’d seem either afraid or empowered to do something in response. Unless you’re my high school friend LL, you’d talk about donating to a charity that supports women, minorities, etc; if you are LL, you’d talk of participating in the Million Women March.

I’d laugh awkwardly, either way. It’s not something I want to discuss, with anyone, really. Not anymore. I’m no longer angry. Or in disbelief. Just sort of numb. Not yet to the point where I feel like I’m going to do much of anything but trust that things won’t be as bad as we all think they’ll be. But that I should, that I feel guilty.

I may point out that I can’t get a single line out of my head: Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. That the line is to the tune from a song we sang in church choir when I was in middle school. We sang that song after serving in a homeless shelter in the middle of our annual tour, where we sang in other churches in our denomination. How I still remember how magical that day seemed. Like maybe we were doing something that mattered.


But you’re having coffee with me, I’d not want to linger on the topic for long. I’d make some joking sort of comment about how the election results weren’t all bad, that it’s meant I’ve had lots of energy to focus on knitting. That I finished the first sleeve on my sweater…and tried it on to find out that it makes my arms itch like crazy. I posted this on Facebook and a former coworker has already claimed it, though she’s much taller and thinner so it may be too big yet too short. The sweater is up on my desk in my office, in timeout.

Instead, I’m working on a hat for some coworker, using a pattern a friend designed (the friend happens to be Olga Buraya-Kefelian, the pattern Roku). It’s a sort of mustard but not yellow and going slowly with all of the ribbing but the 16″ needle I got this morning is making me a bit faster than the 24″ one I had on hand when I started. I want to make a whole box of hats, bring them into work, and let the guys I work with choose which one they’d want. Guys are always hard to knit for, all they want is boring hats. That’s why I’m starting with the yellow one.


What would you talk about with a friend, over coffee, this weekend?

Lizzie, Lizzie, Lizzie Lou

I’ll fully admit that I came up with what to write about purely by going through all of the photos I had on my phone.

We’ll start with pictures from yesterday.

A few months ago, we asked Lizzie what she wanted to be for Halloween. Much to our surprise, she not only remembered the holiday (maybe from them talking about it at school?) but also knew exactly what she wanted to be: a bumble bee. One Pinterest tutorial, three craft store trips, and lots of sewing later, her costume was done.

Her grandparents – my parents – were up from Florida this last weekend and brought back with them her Paw Patrol shades. She then proceeded to ham it up when we were going somewhere in the car.

She still really loves books.

And we loved that a restaurant we stopped at on the way back from our Indiana trip had a whole bookshelf of them for her to look at while we waited for our food.

Speaking of Indiana, we were there the weekend before last for a family wedding. She loved hanging out and playing with her second cousins.

It was in the 60s. I have no idea what they were thinking with playing eskimos, as cousin E put it.

That same weekend, we spent a night at a friend’s. She had a blast hanging with their dog, Rufus.

She enjoys Chick-fil-a or, as we call it, The Place with the Cows.

She hangs out with Matt wherever he’s cooking, even outside on the grill.

And, last by not least, she’s been having lots of fun going to birthday parties for her classmates.

 

Time Spent Away

I’ve thought about blogging every now and then the last few weeks, but never manged to myself to actually blog. Well, I started a week or so ago on a post then got distracted by something (Squirms woke up from a nap?) and never got back to it. Things are busy and we’ve been sick and I’ve been writing so many letters I have no words left afterward. But, still, no one ever said a blog post has to be long or super thought-out. Just some words posted that are true and maybe a bit funny. A photo or two if it makes sense. One of those benefits of not doing it professionally – I can suck at it and do it rarely. I may lose all of you by taking these long breaks but, eh, whatever. This is for me, not you all.

In no particular order, the top 5 things that have occupied me these last few weeks:

1. Knitting – Made two shawls/scarves and one baby sweater. I have a few photos of each so maybe FO posts will come later, after I get them to their recipients. I also started on a lace, fingering-weight sweater for myself but it just doesn’t hold my interest. Knitting, in general, is sort of out for me.

2. Work – Things are starting to shape up there. I feel like I finally found my place on the team and have the resources to accomplish what needs to be done. And the move of my physical workplace has moved to late April so I’ll get to keep my short commute for awhile longer.

3. Letter writing – I wrote 40 letters plus four replies in January. So far in February, I’ve written 15 plus three replies. So you can see why I feel like I have no words left.

4. Being sick – I first started feeling unwell right after Matt got home from a business trip to Seattle on January 16th. I was almost back to normal when I caught the flu from Squirms. She was sick for a week two different times (one stomach thing then the flu) and Matt hasn’t felt great for a week or so. Four and a half sick days for me in the last two weeks. I’m far better than I was but my ear is still full of fluid and I had to skip karate today for the third time because I don’t have enough energy.

5. Watching TV – Even more than usual, as I’ve been sick. Started watching The Good Wife when Matt was in Seattle and have made it all the way to season 4. Yeah, it’s pathetic.

As I start to feel better, I may be back to writing here more regularly. We’ll see. For now, I’m going back to the couch to enjoy the rest of our weekend without Squirms (she’s at her grandparents’ house).

Rest of December

I’d had all of these plans to blog later in the month but my flurry of Christmas-related posts basically zapped all of my energy. Plus the whole thinking about and reading about my memoir. (Haven’t exactly done any writing for that yet, other than a first draft of an introduction.)

But, the month and year are now gone and lots happened so, yeah, a blog post is in order.

First, there was Christmas here in Virginia.

Christmas was about as calm as you can hope for with a one year old. She slept in a bit so I got some more sleep than usual (Matt was up and wide awake at seven, as he can no longer sleep in.)

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We took advantage of the fact this is probably the last Christmas we won’t have a kid running around, demanding to open presents right away so we waited for Matt to prep part of breakfast (sausage gravy and biscuits) before we did them. I got Matt a Nintendo 3DS so he has something else to do when I drag him shopping or Squirms doesn’t need tons of attention plus some clothes and candy and a new chef’s knife (a cheap one that Cook’s Illustrated rated very highly from Victorinox). Between Squrims and Matt I got a wine fridge, Jungle Book on Blueray, and some candy. We got squirms a toy box as her big gift then some clothes and books.

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(I took this photo just yesterday but it’s a good shot of her with her toy box. She LOVES trying to climb into it to get her toys out.)

We basically relaxed – okay, I relaxed, Squirms was a busy baby, and Matt worked to prep dinner – most of the day until his parents arrived in the afternoon. Matt basically made Thanksgiving dinner for Christmas dinner which was great to me as I love turkey and the traditional sides. He also made lots of Christmas cookies and his mom brought down more so we had plenty for dessert. Then we took advantage of the grandparents to get everything packed for the trip without having to worry about Squirms either getting in the way or waking up from us, erm, loudly discussing what we did and did not need to bring with us. We got his mom a bunch of books and some earrings and his father a subscription to Netflix (with the implied gift of assistance to get them all set up – I’ve already got a queue started for both of them but have yet to get their TV which may not actually be wifi enabled to stream). They got us a date night with babysitting (my mother in law’s idea) and a set of flannel sheets (my father in law’s idea). And Squirms got her first puzzle, a book, and a few other toys.

Second Christmas was the day after Christmas, when we headed to Florida to see my parents. We went out to a really nice late lunch / early dinner in Celebration (yeah, the very fake Disney-created suburb) and exchanged gifts on the street by where our car was parked. My parents got Matt some clothes, me a bag I’d wanted, Squirms some toys (which they’d brought down with them when they came for her birthday and had us wrap up for her), and we all got two days stay at a hotel in St Augustine. My brother got her some cute socks and slippers and a Minnie Mouse toy. His future mother in law got her a little beanie baby moose. My parents got from us a Dust Buster (for my mom, by her specific request) and a new gas grill (for my dad, joint give from us and my brother). We got my brother a Home Depot gift card and one from Ulta for his fiancee.

Then we were in my hometown for a few days where we did some shopping, some walking around town, and lots of football and TV watching (including a horrible show about cruises with a narrator who not only pronounces words incorrectly but also states totally obvious things like “but we must return to the ship as the captain is preparing to move to the next port”). Squirms went to the park for the first time and wasn’t a big fan of the swings or the slide but really enjoying the bouncy whale.

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Then it was off to St Augustine for two nights before we headed back. I’ve always loved St Augustine, though it’s very Disney-fied touristy. But there’s history and a great historic area with shopping and restaurants. My brother even drove over for a day to have some more time with us. Squirms had lots of fun getting pushed around in her stroller but, if her behavior out to eat there was any indication, our days of taking her to dinner out with us may be at an end (we’re chancing it tonight, we’ll see how it goes).

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Squirms screamed most of the flight down – it was nap time and she really, really hates being held for naps at this point – and was pretty happy on the way back up, as long as she was getting fed. She got dragged all over on the trip but was happy most of the time, though she was struggling with teething something fierce the first few days. She now has my parents fully wrapped around her fingers.

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We ended the year exhausted from our trip back home (and my father in law somehow going to departures then leaving the airport entirely before finally getting us). We ate far too much junk food that Matt’s mom had prepared and probably drank a bit too much wine so were in bed before 11. I woke up from the fireworks from somewhere nearby (Fairfax City?) but quickly went to bed. Staying up until Midnight is for people without children.

So, that was the rest of our December. And now it’s a new year but I’m not feeling the new year spirit yet, just that it’s still my holiday break (okay, I extended it a day as no one was going to be in, anyway). Maybe it’ll hit me that it’s now 2015 on Monday, when I return to the usual routine.