Saturday, August 29, 2015

Pay Attention . . .

No Internet since Wednesday - finally back on today after two phone calls to AT&T and a service call this morning.  Wow - a LOT of my life is tied up in electronic stuff . . .

The budget update is that I have gone over budget on groceries for a number of reasons that will be explained shortly in a Field Report, below, but include circumstances and choices.

It's been a rough week - as noted a few posts ago, it's been a rough 10 months.

I found out something on Thursday that explains SO MUCH of what's been going on with me.

My asthma story is here, if you'd like to read about it.  I don't post about asthma all that often - in fact, this is only the second post here with an "asthma" tag.  That's pretty much because I learned to manage it.  I manage it really well.  I didn't always, though,  until one day about 10 years ago, after yet another asthma crisis, my asthma doctor had a Come-to-Jesus meeting with me.  It went something like this:
Him:  A, if you had a chronic condition like high blood pressure, would you take your meds to manage it?

Me:  Well of course I would!  They don't call it the Silent Killer for nothing - my mom had it.  If you have high blood pressure, you have to take your meds to get it under control.  (Seriously - that just came right out of my mouth . . . )

Him:  A, asthma is a chronic condition like high blood pressure.  It's not going to go away.  You  have to learn to manage it.

Me:  Um . . .  (wait for it . . . )

Him:  Look, I can't force you to take your meds, and I can't force you to come in here every six months.  All I can tell you, is that if you will do these things you are going to be a lot happier and you're going to feel a lot better.

It was a lightbulb moment for me.  From that point on. I have been pretty much compliant with my meds and I checked in every six months.

Except this year, I didn't.  I last saw him in August of last year, when, because I had managed my asthma so well, I got to drop down to HALF the lowest dose of my maintenance med.  I neglected to go in February.

It all comes back to these past 10 months . . .

Here's how my Thursday went.  I was absolutely exhausted and canceled my workout which had already been postponed from Tuesday when I was still down for the count with no energy at all.  Then, I spoke to one of my friends who is a retired ICU nurse because I needed to cancel on a ball game that we had had on the calendar for months - I just didn't feel well enough to go.  She pointed out to me that this was the third time in 10 months that I have been down for the count like this and that it wasn't normal. 

I was able to get in to see my asthma doctor shortly after lunch on Thursday. 

The long story short is that, apparently, my asthma has not been well controlled for quite some time.  At least seven months, quite possibly longer - and I didn't put it together because there were other circumstances surrounding the first two times this happened and the breathing issues didn't present like what I normally experienced in the past with an asthma issue.  December was a month after the accident, June was a month after the construction (and all that massive dust) was over, and this time just seemed like a bounceback from June's episode.

All of these things happened after my maintenance meds were stepped down last August and it never occurred to me that it could be asthma-related.   I'm clearly not good at seeing patterns like this in my own life - but the doc saw it immediately.

Interestingly enough, another clue that I didn't know to look out for was blood pressure.  I took my BP at the grocery store back in June and it was 145/84 - I thought it was an anomaly because my BP is usually 110/70 or less.  It was taken a few weeks ago when I visited the sleep dentist, and it was 95/65 - a little low, even for me, but I figured that was OK.  Better low than too high.

They took my BP Thursday in the doc's office and it was 145/80 so they took it again and it was 135/80.  This is very high for me and not normal - and also directly attributable to my asthma not being under control. I never knew that and frankly even if I had known it, I don't think I could have put it all together and figured this out on my own.  Even so, I feel stupid that I didn't realize what was going on back in December. If I had paid attention to my body then, I probably could have avoided a lot of heartache.  I contacted my primary care doctor the first two times - this time I went right to my asthma doctor because it was also time for my annual check in.

Now what?

Well, the good news is that I now know what's going on and have drugs to treat it and a clear and quick path to get my asthma back under control.  Unfortunately, that path requires some short-term drugs that are not ideal . . . another z-pac (third one in seven months :-S), and everyone's favorite, The Prednisone Bomb!! Yeah, no, not so much.  I call it the P-Bomb because it's 8 pills, all at once, every morning for six days.  No, I'm not kidding.  It hits your system like a frickin' bomb.  My maintenance med has been doubled, and that, plus the P-Bomb should have me going pretty well again in pretty short order.

I hate hate HATE the P-Bomb more than you can possibly know, but it works quickly, which means that I am already feeling a lot better in just three days.  I'm crabby though - that's the main side effect of prednisone for me - it alters my mood, but all friends and family have been warned to give me wide berth for a few more days.  ;-)

Here is something my doctor said:  With asthma, you can step up your meds, and you can step down your meds, but you can never step off your meds.   So, I'm stepped back up and we'll see how it goes.  I have to go back in three months - and you can bet that I will.

Like I said, this diagnosis explains SO much for me in the past months:
  • My exhaustion at National this year - I race around convention every year - this year, I just could not and I was tired all the time.
  • My wanting to continue piping throughout construction but my inability to do so.  In addition to not getting enough practice in (exhaustion), every time I thought to pick my pipes up in the past months, the thought of playing them was . . . well, I just didn't think I had enough energy.
  • One of my friends said she had noticed how out of breath I was during phone calls, but hadn't said anything.  
  • My workouts have been more and more lackluster.  I just haven't been able to do all that much.
  • I, myself, noticed being out of breath after just one flight of stairs in my home and at my work.  This just isn't normal, but since I attribute pretty much anything that could be wrong with me to the fact that I am too large, I didn't pay attention . . . 
  • Walking to work with a friend one morning and having difficulty keeping up a conversation and walking at the same time.
  • Being out of breath just in general conversation.
  • The massive coughing as part of each illness episode.  Because I thought I had just a cold, it didn't register as anything else, even when my primary care doctor said to use my rescue inhaler to help stop the coughing.  Coughing is my first symptom of anything wrong in my breathing - this was a waving red flag with a blaring horn - and I was oblivious.
I'm going to be paying attention.  And a number of my friends are also going to be speaking up going forward if they notice things I miss.  :-)

Budget Field Report:  I was over grocery budget because I spent money on prescriptions, but also because I made some poor choices and my planning slacked off near the end of the month.  All in all, however, I think I did pretty well for this first month.  And then today my electric bill came, and my monthly budget billing amount went up $15/month with no notice and no explanation.  Crud.  I'm calling them on Monday.  It's bothersome.

And to end on a higher note, I finished the Canyon Cowl for my cousin's toddler.  It was a quick knit - and although the skeins were all the same dye lot, my new bionic eyes noticed a minor discrepancy between them - but not until I was taking photos of the finished object - It could just be that weaving in ends on super bulky yarn is noticeable no matter how you slice it.  In any case, it's already on its way to Oregon.  I don't have a toddler handy to check size or to model, I hope it fits her.



And finally, this completely unexpected surprise gift came in the mail today, and it really lifted my spirits.  I have lusted after these limited edition Blue Flower Chiagoo needles forever.  Every time I have seen them I have wanted them, but they seemed like something I shouldn't spend money on.

Today.  In the mail.  From my friend, C.  Hot Dog!!!


I'm all happy now  :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

And Another One's Gone . . .

I've been home for two days now, nursing what appears to be a garden variety cold.  I thought it was allergies, but I have been wiped out now since Saturday, shortly after I finished recording the 100th episode of my podcast, All About African Violets.

I would just like to say that daytime television is really really horrible.  I have been reduced to watching a tattoo show because Dave Navarro is hot.  I mean, really?!

On the happy side, I finished the #6 project of plain vanilla socks  :-)



The next two in the pipeline are the Elementary Watson Socks and Holidazed.  I decided to finish them both.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Another One Done!

I had one massive sneeze coming out of the Post Office yesterday and my head has been a running faucet ever since.  I don't think it's a cold.  I think it's allergies.  I made sure to pick up some Allegra yesterday, but I'm headed back to Walgreens as soon as the pharmacy opens this morning for some sudafed to get my head cleared out quickly and hopefully avoid a sinus infection.

After last week's flurry of activity, it's been a little more quiet around here this past week  :-)  I did just finish the Wild Goose Shawlette, a pattern written by my friend, Paula, The Prairie Piper and host of the enormously popular  podcast, The Knitting Pipeline.  I love Paula's patterns, and  I have finally figured out that I need to generally go up in yarn weight and/or needle size on them.  You would think I would have figured this out sooner - Paula is a very petite person - I look like a fricking Amazon next to her:  :-D

For the Wild Goose Shawlette, I stuck with fingering weight yarn, but I had to go up to a size SEVEN needle to get gauge, proving, once again, that I'm a sorta tight knitter  :-D  Going up to that size needle meant that I ran out of yarn.  I was about three rows short - I ended after the last eyelet row.  It didn't hurt anything.  I like the pattern very much - I love all of Paula's patterns  :-)

This first photo is of the yarn in the cake.  You can see the yarn is predominantly red.  


Here is it blocking, and it looks very different, color-wise.  I figured it was because it was wet:

And here it is, dry and blocked:


It's definitely not the same red it was in the cake.  It's still pretty, but it's definitely more of a rusty red/brown.  Still, it's nice and it's quite possible that I will keep this one rather than gifting it.  We'll see  :-)

I'm still working on the plain vanilla socks - I'm on the second heel flap.  The completion of this shawlette now puts me at 11 WIPs.  It's still a double-digit number, but it's beginning to feel a lot more manageable. 

In other news of the week, the budget is going great.  I'm doing very well so far with my grocery budget and I'm quite pleased about that!  Making a lasagna and some spinach burritos that first weekend was a very good plan.  I just ran out of them this week.  Today I plan to make a meatloaf - my mom's recipe - and I'm going to cook it in the muffin tin so I have little mini meatloaves for the freezer.  Salmon cakes are on the docket, too, so that there will be two choices in the freezer.

I could still be planning a little better - had one lunch out this past week, and a couple of snacks from the deli downstairs, but, for the most part, I'm forging a new lunch path  :-D

Sunday, August 16, 2015

An Oasis of Calm . . .

A very excellent day today.  It's hot here in Chicagoland and I decided to stay indoors. And after my whirlwind of a day yesterday, my Fitbit has registered only 1,500 steps for today.  I paid attention and listened to my body when it said I should probably take it easier today  :-)  Yay Me! The kitchen counter is still not quite done, but I watched the first two episodes of The Roosevelts, which I missed the first time around, which means that some knitting got done.  Oh - and another item is blocking now.

Hard to believe, but I have TWO finished objects!!!  Stole #2, and Cowl #4




Cowl #4 is actually straight - I think it got it on the counter a little wonky.

Since those dried overnight, I decided to go ahead and block Rock the Kasbah.  It's not perfect.  I was going to use blocking wires to make it really straight - and then I remembered how much I really don't like to use blocking wires.  Tammy gave me an idea to use thread to pull it into shape, but after all was said and done, I decided to just shape it as best I could with my hands.  Moderate wonkiness won't be visible once it's on a set of shoulders  :-) 

Geez, it's wide . . . that's a beach towel, a bath towel and two hand towels, with an additional bath towel for the point.

Although they are not completed, I am on the second of the #6 Socks.  I also got some more done on the Wild Goose Shawlette, and although I did fall asleep in the chair at one point, I only nodded off for about 20 minutes early in the day, which means I will still sleep well tonight.


So, another productive day in a completely different area.  :-)  I really can't remember the last time I was able to post finished objects here.  This feels good and I'm really happy about them.  I have one more object to block and then the blocking party will be complete.  Then it's pretty much just all knitting all the time until I have caught back up.

Dinner is in the oven, and I'm heading back out to my chair to enjoy the serenity of my uncluttered sunroom.  Cannot even tell you how excellent that is.    :-)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

7:30

I'm calling it a day.  I made substantial progress on things that yesterday seemed insurmountable.  I'm feeling pretty great about it  :-)  Here is how the sunroom looked when I started this morning - I pasted these together, to make a sort of panoramic view so it's not ideal, but I think you get the picture  :-)  I also think you're going to have to click to biggify.


Here is how it looks now:


Here is a before/after view from the opposite direction:


And here is a before/after of the living room:


And from the dining room:


Still things left to do in the living room, but it's way bertter than it was, and it's not freaking me out any longer.

That's it!  Time for me to work on my podcast and then see about some knitting time  :-)

4 o'clock

Let's see . . .

I went to CVS to use the cash station aka the ATM.

I went to the lamp store to drop off the broken lamp for repair.

I went to the Second Chance Shop and dropped off one bag of stuff

I went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and dropped off the wet bar sink and fixtures, and the shower head that didn't work in my shower.

Then I went to Culvers and spent some of my grocery money on lunch and a carmel cashew sundae.  Yum!

I came home and watched the winners being announced at the Worlds.

I drove over to my cousin's and dropped off the old telly and crappy house phones, and on the way back, I stopped at Walgreens and bought TP because it was on sale there for less than at the Jewel - yes, I read the ads this week.  :-)

The stole, #2; and the cowl, #4, are blocking on the guestroom floor.

I had to brighten that up quite a bit and it still came out kinda dark.  Sorry.

Here are some close ups so you can see the yarns  The cowl is the Upstairs Downstairs Cowl - the shortest one, in Madtosh sportweight in the Lichen colorway, and the stole is HPKY - it's an amalgam of about three or four yarns together.  It's more turquoise than it shows in the photo, but it's wet at the moment and I think that makes it look darker and more brown than it is..



The sock, #7, went to its great reward the the left over yarn is in the leftover bin.

The sunroom is almost done and I can see bits and pieces of the kitchen counter.

Oh - and I glued the foot back on one of my largest baskets, and I hung up this way cool picture collage that my mother put together years ago.  It looks funny in this photo - but it looks great on the wall.  I found this in the in basement in January during the great construction cleanup  :-)


Here is a closer look.  Top, L-R, my grandmother when she was a girl.  My grandparents, my grandparents again -  I think this was their wedding photo.  Bottom, L-R, I believe this is my grent grandfather (my grandmother's father), next is my uncle when he was little - I'm guessing he was about two here, so this was most likely taken in Belfast (these were all taken in Belfast), the last one is my grandmother again.  I'm really happy to have this on the wall where I will see it every day when I come home.


Whew!  Time for some water and a break!  It's about to storm -the lightning just started, and here comes the thunder. 

Not sure I'll check in again tonight - I'll see how it goes.  I'm thinking a movie and some popcorn sound really, really good  :-D

It's been a productive day - probably the most productive day I have had in months.  Feels really, really good  :-)

Noon

Last load of clothes is in the dryer.

I've re-hung the hall mirror, and finished in the guest room.

The ORKIN guy has been here.

I also got more done in the sunroom, and took a sitting break to watch and listen to the World Pipe Band Championships, streaming live on BBC.  They show the Grade 1 bands - the best in the world  :-)  That was pretty awesome.  I saw someone I know on camera, and I am reminded that I miss my pipes . . .

While doing that, I went through half the stack of crap from the kitchen - mainly magazines.  I pulled what recipes sounded interesting and have a nice little stack for the recycling bin  :-)

Here's a look at the guest room.  It wasn't all that bad in the grand scheme of things, but I'm much happier with it now  :-)


I loaded one of the broken lamps into the car along with the most recent bag for the Second Chance Shop.  It's weird to be going there with only one bag  :-D

I'll check in again later . . .

8 a.m.

First - please let me reassure you all that I'm not about to jump off a cliff.  I mean, I live in Illinois.  You know, the state where you can sit on your front porch and watch your dog run away.  For 20 miles.  It's flat here, people  :-D  Many thanks for the comments of concern and at least one panicked phone call  :-)

Here's the thing - we get to have our feelings.  From time to time I happen to blab mine into cyberspace.  Yesterday's post morphed as I was writing it and I realized a big piece of what's been going on with me as the words were running out of my fingers.  Yes, I was very sad at the moment I was writing.  Yes, the clutter is mind numbing for me.  Yes, my office is likely to stay a designated crap zone for awhile longer. But we get to have our feelings - because if we don't feel them, we cannot move through them.

Listening to Jevetta Steele's plaintive wail from one of my favorite movies seems to always help me somehow - if you didn't click on that yesterday, why don't you go ahead and listen to it now . . .

Once we can acknowledge and actually feel our feelings - not run from them or stuff them down - once we can feel them, we can move through them and sing the Frozen song.  ;-)  I feel better today than I have for a very long time.   I slept well last night and woke with a spike of energy that feels pretty much like old times for me.

Already this morning:  two large things in the car for the Habitat ReStore.  The old telly and speakers in the car to take to my cousin's house for him to donate to the special electronics place that he takes all this stuff to.  The basement is vacuumed.  The third load of laundry is about to go in.  All the dead flies (gross - where the hell do they come from?!  ICK!) are vacuumed up from the windowsills.  I wrote my Morning Pages and I watched the last part of the live stream on BBC of the Grade 1 MSR from the Worlds (World Champion Pipe Band Competition).   And I sat down to write this around 8 a.m.  I have already accomplished a LOT here.

Oh, and I found the hammer in the basement - and the bulldog hangers -It's quite possible that I'm on a roll.  I'll check back in . . .

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Emotional Toll of Clutter . . .

I ran across this 2013 article, by Jessie Sholl, online the other day:  "The Emotional Toll of Clutter."

Yes, yes, and yes again . . .   The words "tired" and "overwhelmed" leaped off the screen at me.  I don't have collections of things - well, I don't any longer - and I have already done yeoman's work earlier this year on the books and the basement.  And yet there is still so much to do and I just can't seem to get my act together to do it  . . .

The article is well worth the read.  She's divided it into sections, and each one resonates with me on some level.

"Other People's Stuff."  Most of the other people's stuff is gone thanks to the construction earlier this year.  I never knew why it bothered me so much to have all that stuff in my basement.  It wasn't hurting anything - but I really needed it to be out of my space.  It never occurred to me that it came with its own energy that wasn't mine and that it was taking up energy space that I needed for myself.  Very interesting, that.  And I've gotten rid of pretty much all of my mom's things now, but it took me a decade to do it. (I still find that so hard to believe that she's been gone for 11 years.) There are, however, still a few boxes of her things downstairs that I need to go through - like the funeral box.  I tried with that one about six years ago and found I wasn't ready.  Maybe I'm ready now.

"Out of the Past."  I think I've done pretty well with this section.  I loved the story about the cashmere sweater from an ex.   I continue to use and enjoy the potting bench my ex built for me, but it was a relief last August to pass on my former automobile to one of my cousins - it still had memories and energy attached to it from a very long time ago . . .

"Unused Goods"  Yeah - the most recent pantry purge, and all the trips to the Second Chance Shop earlier this year with things that were never even used.  I am much more aware now of what I have and what I don't need to be spending money on, but OMG, just like in the article I can't even tell you how many cookie cutters I have that I have not used in more than 20 years because I keep thinking, "I'm going to make cookies!"  Yeah, no, not so much.  In my head somehow they were part of having a well-stocked, useful kitchen.  I might have already divested those - I'll check tonight.

Which brings us to "Incomplete Projects," where I fall over almost immediately.

There are still pictures stacked up in the living room that the painter took off the walls in error back in April.  There is still a small amount of junk sitting in the living room from construction, as well as a bag for the Second Chance Shop that I have been filling since construction ended back in May.  I can never seem to keep the kitchen counter clear and the stack of "I'll look at that this weekend" just gets larger and larger.  I haven't managed to make up the guest room since Linda the Chicken Lady was here in early July.  I'm out of shape and too large, and I have 16 knitting projects in various stages of "not quite done."

My home is cluttered.  My body is cluttered.  My mind is cluttered.  My creativity is cluttered.  I sleepwalk through my days and collapse in the chair in the sunroom when I get home because I am tired and overwhelmed.

So much energy tied up in things that are not finished, not cleaned, not dusted, not sorted, not put away.  I have spent so much time divesting in an attempt to avoid all this, and I still find myself in this place.  It is uncomfortable to be confronted at every turn with the evidence of my inability to follow through and finish something.  Anything.

This is not normal for me.  This bad habit of letting things go unfinished thinking I'll finish them tomorrow, and letting crap pile up in places other than my office (which is a designated crap location).  Maybe it's this house - I have gone through it multiple times in the past decade, divesting wave after wave of my mother's things, year after year.  Could it be that maybe I've finally - just this year - gotten to my own crop of clutter?  Did I not give myself enough healing and recuperation time after the accident last November?  I mean I only took one day (not the brightest decision I've ever made).  Did trying to heal and work at the same time allow things to snowball because I was too occupied with healing and working to keep up immediately with things in the house?

And now I'm wondering if I can get some sort of disposition by the end of the calendar year on all 16 of those projects I've been huffing and puffing about for the past couple of days.  A lofty goal - but even if I don't finish them all, I will have finished some, and some is better than none.  I feel like bit by bit, with each project completed, each picture rehung, each item dropped into the Second Chance Shop bag I might be able to reclaim my spirit.

Because that's the emotional toll of clutter for me.  I am lost. The flame of my spirit is dangerously, sputteringly low. There is no light on the path. That happy, fun-loving, hilarious, amazing, musical, creative, smart, compassionate, brave, and spirited woman that I am and that I love - she's MIA.  But she is calling me and singing to me and pleading with me to come home.



Thursday, August 13, 2015

Decisions, Decisions . . .

The massive list of WIPs prompted me to resurrect Project Zero in the YOSS Group on Ravelry.  I know that's going to help me get these things either finished or frogged.  And another friend mentioned that she remembers exactly why she stopped on all of her WIPs.  I pretty much do, too so I think it's of value to explore that here  . . .

  1. Rock the Kasbah - finished in March during construction.  No blocking possible at that time.
  2. HPKY Stole - finished in March during construction - No blocking possible at that time.  Kinda hoping to get this blocked this weekend.
  3. Hume - finished sometime during construction - No blocking possible at that time.
  4. Upstairs Downstairs Cowl - finished sometime during construction - No blocking possible at that time.  I have a plan to get this one blocked this weekend.
  5. Wild Goose Shawlette - current project - in progress now and about 50% completed - and man, if I wasn't on this kick I would probably let it go because I do NOT like the yarn I'm working with.  It's an older skein of a yarn from an indie dyer who no longer is in operations.  The yarn has a very tight twist, so - theoretically - I should enjoy knitting with it.  I don't.  It's like knitting with cotton.  :-S  Another knitter mentioned to me back in the day that the yarn had no "sproing" to it, and I figured that you would have to choose a pattern where you could build that in - you know, like 2x2 ribbed socks.  The colorway is beautiful, but I remember where and when I got it and the vendor was extremely rude to me - I'm wondering if that colored my opinion.  In any case, I'm soldiering on and will finish this one, block it, and then make a decision on if I want to keep it for myself or not.
  6. A plain vanilla sock in  Fiesta Baby Boom - For a number of reasons this is the first project I decided to tackle.  It's a plain vanilla sock - that makes it ideal for train knitting.  I don't want to have to be futzing around with a pattern and a row counter on the train.  The first sock was halfway through the heel flap.  It's now on to the foot :-) and I plan to have these done by the end of the weekend.  I quit this one because although I love Fiesta Baby Boom (another yarn with a very tight twist), the Mochaccino colorway just wasn't doing it for me.  I will finish these - and they will be gifted.  
  7. One plain vanilla sock in JWrayco Sunflowers on the Beach - I made the cuff and heel in my favorite colorway of theirs - that I shrank - the yarn wasn't superwash.  I learned my lesson and Knitterary got to have the pretty socks - she has weeny feet  :-D  I had a bit left and apparently decided to make cuffs and heels out of it with the yellow yarn.  But I looked last night and it was nowhere to be found.  This particular yellow colorway was not one of my favorites, so I think that probably had something to do with my letting these languish.  I think the odd sock will be tossed and the remaining half skein will go into my leftovers pile..
  8. The Big Easy Gansey - I got sidetracked with something - this one may go with me on vacation - there's really not that much left of it.  Not sure why I let this go as I was very keen to get the pattern and get started.
  9. Fine Sand - cast on in June  2015.  I was crazy for this pattern and I wanted to use the Blue Heron Yarn, and then I got sidetracked by my own pattern month in the YOSS group and this got set aside.
  10. Quick Sand - cast on in July 2015 - desperately wanted to use this for my July YOSS project - so I quickly cast on with a yarn that no one but me likes just to get it going in the month of July.  And then I set it down.
  11. Fly Away Home - cast on and finished the first sock in two weeks, July 2014 - first YOSS sock of the reboot, and then I must have gotten distracted and never cast on the second sock.  These are looking to be vacation knitting to finish them up.
  12. Dear Mam - Mystery KAL - just cast on in July 2015.  Extremely intricate - I really have to pay attention and I had to restart the cuff four times before I got it right and I still missed one YO.  It's a design feature now  ;-)  I haven't really stopped this one - it's resting while I finish the Wild Goose Shawlette.  I plan to pick this up again very soon.
  13. Rhiannon - This is a heartbreaker.  I'm really torn about finishing this one.  I think I must - I wanted to use these for kilt hose, but I gained so much weight again that my kilt does not currently fit me, and I couldn't finish them in time for competition last year, so they have been resting in a project bag ever since.  These are in the Finish or Frog category for me at the moment.
  14. Hello Sweetie Cowl - Cast on in July - Again, very recent and I don't feel like I've let it go too long - I just need to finish the duplicate stitch - I opted for that instead of fair isle.  If I can't finish this before vacation, it's a possibility to come with me.
  15. Elementary Watson -  I was on the fence here - Frog or Finish?  But I've decided to finish these.  They are definitely vacation knitting.
  16. Holidazed - Again, I got sidetracked somehow and these fell by the wayside.  I love the yarn and the pattern - these may come on vacation as auxiliary backup knitting  :-D

Well, let's see, I mentioned at least five of these to go on vacation with me.  That's more than is optimal, but this is a retreat-style of vacation where I'm not going to be racing around a lot.  I should have plenty of knitting and reading and napping time.  Can't even tell you how much I am looking forward to it.

I went through all the loose/single skeins of yarn last night (well, most of them  :-) ) - there was no real change in any of the sweater quantities so I left those as they were.  The good news is that it appears that I'm actually under 100 miles of yarn!!  Woo Hoo!!  OK - I'm at 99 miles of yarn.  Well, 99 and change.  OK:  99.3, but I'm under 100 and that feels pretty damn good to me.  I do, however, have a leftovers box that has all sort of bits and bobs and partials left over from other projects.  I didn't count that yardage.  I'm going to see about grouping them together somehow and seeing if I can make something out of the leftovers.  PrairiePiper's Magic Cake Ruffle Shawl is coming to mind.  She has great instructions on her website about how she did this, and the pattern uses a technique called a Magic Knot that I am quite leery about, but I'm going to look into it, because if it really works and stays together, then I think this could become the perfect project to use up all the leftover bits of sock yarn that I seem to have.

I also did not count the skeins purchased for that Canyon Cowl, since I'm going to knit it and send it off on its merry way shortly

In budgeting news of the day.  I made the decision to to drop my 401(k) contribution down by a very small percentage. After much discussion and calculation, I've decided it's going to be better for me to have more than a $2 surplus each month.  It does not affect my employer match in any way, and the amount is so small that the loss of it won't make much of a difference in the future, but it will make a massive difference for me now, i.e., it means that I can add a line item in the budget for medical expenses.  Yeah - it was that close to the bone.  I'm at peace with this decision.  If I was younger, it would not be a good strategy, but I'm looking at retirement of some form in the relatively near future - a drop in my contribution at this point is not nearly as critical as it would have been if I was still in my 30s or 40s.  And so September will be another month of adjusting and seeing how things go with the new budget.  I forgot my lunch yesterday and could not face the tuna in my drawer so spent some grocery money at the deli downstairs.  I have my lunch today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Lot of Yarn . . .

We are in the Dog Days of Summer here in the Midwest - heading toward the fall, which is my favorite time of year.  Labor Day always feels like the New Year to me and so I'm thinking about finishing things up and tidying things up and just generally getting ready for the "new year."

Two comments in the past couple of days have me thinking about my yarn and fiber stashes in particular.  On Monday, my friend, Knitterary, reminded me of our handshake deal at a Stitches Midwest in 2011, I think - might have been 2010, though.  We agreed that we weren't going to buy any more yarn, that we had enough.  There were certain dispensations, of course - for me, the standard dispensation was vacation yarn (I was traveling a lot at the time). That little handshake in the lobby of the Renaissance Hotel was the start of my quest to get a handle on my stash.

I am one of the three Friendly Moderators of a group on Ravelry called Year of Stash Socks.  We put it together as a way for us to create a sort of self-imposed sock club and had no idea that it would become quite a popular group.  We've branched out over the years and we even took a break for six months, thinking we were done, but we rebooted the group in July 2014 and have been tootling along since then, knitting all sorts of stuff.  A lot of yarn - sock and otherwise - has been knitted up in that group since 2011.

Following on from Knitterary's and my handshake, the other Friendly Mods and I came up with an idea we called Slash and Smash Your Stash.  It was a year-long challenge to reduce our respective yarn stashes.  It was quite productive for me, particularly so since I had discovered that my stash was substantially larger than either of the other Friendly Mods.  We started with a 58-member team and ended with 27 members who stayed the whole course.  I started 2012 with 369,665.1 yards of yarn, which translated to 210.0 miles.  I ended the year with 247,620 yards, or 140.7 miles.  I tried again in 2014 with my "Year with my Yarn" personal challenge.   I didn't calculate yardage, but at that time I had sweater quantities of yarn enough for 20 sweaters . . .  I didn't get very far with it and I still have quite a bit of yarn, even with the destash I have going on currently.

Then, yesterday a chance comment about Slash and Smash Your Stash made by my friend, Tammy, The Proverbial Knitter, got me thinking about my stash again . . .  I did a quick calculation and I provisionally have less than I did at the end of 2012, which feels good to me.  I believe I currently have approximately 176,000 yards or 100 miles of yarn.  That's down 70,400 yards or 40 miles of yarn since the end of 2012.  I say provisionally, because I'm not sure everything is cataloged in Ravelry at the moment, and please feel free to check my math because I'm not known for my mathematical prowess  ;-)

And so, I'm going to spend part of my upcoming weekend taking a thorough inventory of my yarn again and making sure everything is photographed and in Ravelry.  Once that's done, I'll be able to figure out what I actually have.  I may even be able to add a little more to my current destash. :-)

Something else has been on my mind of late, too - over the past few years I have fallen into a very bad habit of starting things and not finishing them.  This is not just limited to knitting projects - I cannot tell you the number of books I've started and not finished and am going to have to start again because it's been so long since I got sidetracked that I have no idea what the books were about. :-D  I laugh, but that's not really funny at all.  It's bothersome.



As you can see, I have, of late, made some good progress on the "to read" shelves, so far reading books that have been sitting there waiting for my attention for a very long time - some of them even have Borders labels on them . . . Borders ceased operations in mid-2011 . . . yeah . . . Some of these haven't been cracked, and some were started.  And geez, I bought Breath of Snow and Ashes at the Borders on State Street on the day it came out . . . in 2005 and it's still sitting here. I guess that means that I'm four books behind in the Outlander series.  Oh well.

I have 14 16 WIPs (a WIP is a Work In Progress).  Three of these are sweaters, and four others are projects that were completed earlier this year but couldn't be blocked because construction was ongoing at that time.  I don't consider a project completed until it's blocked (unless it's socks - I don't block socks). That 14 number changed - off of the top of my head it was 14.  When I actually counted, well . . .

You're going to prolly want to click to biggify that.  I did number them all . . .
  1. Rock the Kasbah - just needs to be blocked.
  2. HPKY Stole - just needs to be blocked
  3. Hume - just needs to be blocked
  4. Upstairs Downstairs Cowl - just needs to be blocked
  5. Wild Goose Shawlette - current project - in progress, about 50% completed
  6. A plain vanilla sock in  Fiesta Baby Boom - part of the first sock - probably been on the needles for at least four years because I got this yarn probably 7 years ago from The Loopy Ewe and I have no idea where the second skein of yarn is.
  7. One plain vanilla sock in JWrayco Sunflowers on the Beach - I made the cuff and heel in my favorite colorway of theirs that I shrank.  I have no idea where the last of it is, which leads me to believe that this is probably going to get either frogged, or tossed if I can't find that multi to use on the second sock.  At least three years old.
  8. The Big Easy Gansey - started in October 2014 after getting the pattern at Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago.
  9. Fine Sand - cast on in June  2015
  10. Quick Sand - cast on in July 2015 - this is the same pattern as Fine Sand, just in a heavier weight yarn.
  11. Fly Away Home - cast on and finished the first sock in two weeks, July 2014 - first YOSS sock of the reboot, and then I must have gotten distracted and never cast on the second sock.
  12. Dear Mam - Mystery KAL - just cast on in July 2015.  Extremely intricate - I really have to pay attention and I had to restart the cuff four times before I got it right and I still missed one YO.  It's a design feature now  ;-)
  13. Rhiannon - cast on in 2013 when I was still preparing for piping competition in 2014.  It's still sitting here and I'm not piping at the moment.
  14. Hello Sweetie Cowl - Cast on in July - I just need to finish the duplicate stitch design and then block it.
  15. Elementary Watson - Cast on in October 2014.  May frog these - very disappointing knit.  The pattern is wonderful, but I think I picked the wrong yarn.  It just doesn't show up.  These would be much better in something like STR.  The Miss Babs Windsor Sock yarn seems fuzzy somehow.  I'm on the fence here - Frog or Finish?  Not sure.
  16. Holidazed - cast on in December 2014.  My YOSS socks for December.
I also have a WIP-to-be, because I just got yarn to my my cousin's little girl a Canyon Cowl.  It's very bulky yarn and I think it will be a very quick knit.  I couldn't really say no on this one - she bought the pattern and it is cute - plus it's knit rather than the crochet stuff I usually get asked to "knit." ;-)  I haven't actually started it, though, so I didn't include it.  It's my hope that it will done and dusted in an afternoon.

No matter how you slice it, clearly I have my work cut out for me.  This is crazy.  You would think I'd have learned my lesson with stuff like this after my St. Brigid sweater - that KAL started with my knitting group in February 2009 . . . I had to frog and restart with the smaller size, and then I got sidetracked . . . the next time I mentioned it here on the blog was in December 2012.  It still wasn't done.  I picked it back up in January 2013 with the intent to knit solely on it until it was done - which I did - and it was done on March 26, 2013.  Oh, and I have some fiber that's only partially spun, so there are WIPs there, too - but for now, I'm just going to concentrate on the knitting.

Apparently I have not learned my lesson.  16 WIPs is not only ridiculous, it's disturbing.  It's time to either finish stuff or frog it.  Too much energy is tied up in these projects.  Energy I need for other things. . . .

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Field Report . . .

The first of the reduced bills came in today - it was for Netflix.  It actually hit last week on my credit card.  I decided to move that payment over to my debit card, which comes directly out of my checking account.  I think there are a couple more payments still on the credit card, and I will see about moving them over to my checking account as they come in.  The credit card does give me a little float time, so I may leave some of them there - it could be a good strategy if I monitor it closely.  We'll see.  In any case, the new Netflix bill is not very much, so I decided to go ahead and move that one over.

I'm in the second week of my new budget and I still have grocery money in the envelope - I confess I treated myself to a snack purchase this morning at the deli downstairs, but I have brought my lunch every day so far, and I still have plenty of food in the freezer from my cooking/freezing early in the month.  There is still plenty of food in the cupboards and I am learning to read all the grocery ads and am keeping track of what certain things that I like to use usually cost, so I will know when they are truly on sale.

While a few weeks do not a trend make, I do feel that because I did some advance planning in July, I am already settling in to a pretty good rhythm.  There may be other surprises in store, but for today I'm feeling like I have made great strides in practicing to live on a fixed income.  So, Yay Me!

I had an interesting conversation with my cousins last night about pre-retirement planning.  We are all of an age where this is now in our thoughts more often than ever before. As we have looked at various family members who are gone now, we think some of them waited too long to actually retire.  It's certainly a balancing act  - I mean, the whole point is to have enough to retire, but not outlive what you have.  And you can never really know how that's going to shake out.  I mean, you do your best, you plan as well as you can, and if you're smart, you practice like I'm practicing before you are faced with unequivocal change.  Yes, I did just say that I'm smart.  ;-)  Certainly I would like to work at least a few more years until my car is paid for, and most likely a bit longer than that, but I would certainly like to retire while I can still enjoy it  :-)

Oh - A decision has been made to pay my car insurance (which is due by the end of the month) from my emergency money.  No one is bleeding, no bones are broken, and death is not imminent; however, driving an auto without insurance is against the law pretty much everywhere.  Not only is it against the law, it's stupid and could entail financial ruin, not to mention jail - any one of which could lead to bleeding, broken bones and/or death.  Alrighty then.  I'll be paying that this week and saving up to pay it again in March of next year.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It's Working . . .

Stitches Midwest is the largest yarn market in the Midwest.  It happens every August.  I have gone many times, and I usually come home with a huge amount of yarn, patterns, and accoutrement.

This year, Stitches fell about a week after the new budget started.  I was going with friends, one of whom could not come, but there were three of us and we hung together most of the day and had a wonderful time  :-)

I had some slush fund money with me, and there were a couple of places I really wanted to check out.

One was an indie dyer who had not been to this market before.  I totally get that not every skein is the same when you're an indie dyer.  But I think that what you show on your racks should match what you show on your website.  The stuff looked NOTHING like what I had seen on the website.  The good news about that, however, is that it saved me a bundle!  ;-)

Another place I wanted to check out was KnitCircus - they make striped gradients.  I don't even know how you do that.  But the pink and green one that they had as a display was the only one I liked enough to break into the slush fund for - and they had just sold the last skeins. I was saved!  Again!!

There was one artist there - and I say artist in the truest sense of the word:  Jodie McDougall Studios.  OMG.  I so badly wanted at least one of her koi buttons, but the new budget just wasn't forgiving enough for that this year.  I'm going to be saving up for next year, though - I sure hope she comes back again. She explained her process to us and it was absolutely amazing.  These buttons are works of art.  I'm not kidding.

I was looking for bulky yarn and only one vendor had any, Verdant Gryphon.  It was gorgeous, but the yardage was small - I would have had to have gotten two skeins for the hat I was shopping for, so that knocked that out. No one else had bulky.  I found lots of chunky, but no other bulky.  I was sorely tempted by Neighborhood Fiber Co., and Shalimar Yarns, but they only had chunky, and I was $5 short, which meant that I would have to break out an emergency $20, whereupon my friend, Dana, said, "Do you think that yarn constitutes an emergency?"  And you know, no one was bleeding, no bones were broken and death was not imminent, and so, once again, I was saved!

It became a joke by about mid-day - every single skein of yarn that I picked up was some variation or shade of the teal shirt I was wearing.  Seriously.  Every single one. :-D

I entered the yarn naming contest from Windy Valley Muskox for their new colorway - which was the color of my shirt and because my eyes often reflect whatever I'm wearing, it was also the same color as my eyes.  I'm crossing my fingers that I win.  My entry was "Annie's Eyes."  :-D

I entered all the coupon entry contests, but I didn't win any of them, nor any door prizes.

I sure had fun shopping, though.

I picked up the two Mystery Bags of yarn that I pre-ordered from The Buffalo Wool Company, but I ordered those in July and they were paid for in July so they didn't come out of the new budget. Therefore, I'm feeling like they don't really count as a purchase.  I just picked them up on Saturday - and guess what?  I got two the same!!!!  There was a 1 in 10 chance of getting the same, and I did.  Same yarn, same colorway.  That means that I actually have enough (400 yards) of their Buffalo Skies DK in the Fireweed colorway to actually make something.  I'm all happy about that.


And I gotta say - it looks like my bathroom is the new best place to take yarn photos - that's the truest color I think I've ever gotten on any yarn photo  :-D

Are you getting the picture yet?  I didn't buy anything.

Nothing.

I went to Stitches and I didn't buy anything.

This is major.

I mean it.

Clearly, the new budget is working  :-)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

I am One with the Wind and Sky . . .

For those of you who might be on Ravelry, I'm doing a little destashing.  Now seems like a good time to continue letting go of stuff.  I spent a lot of time earlier this year doing just that - and there is still stuff I can let go of, so I'm looking at pretty much everything with a critical eye.  This time I will likely work on selling stuff rather than donating it all out of hand.

There are two books out now about decluttering that are all the rage.  They came up here on the blog earlier this year as I was struggling with what to let go, and my friend Paula, of The Knitting Pipeline, talked about them earlier this year on Episode 194 of her podcast (which is great, BTW).

I have them both on my Kindle app (so as not to bring more books into the house :-D).  The first one is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing, by Marie Kondo.  I love this review of the book by Emily M. Keeler.

The other book is The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide - how to declutter, organize, and simplify your life, by Francine Jay.

I have not actually read either of them yet, I've only read about them, but this is an area in which I have great interest.  I don't think I'm a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm very much about making my life more manageable.  For me, this translates to having less stuff..  I think that when you have too much stuff, you waste massive amounts of energy on it - worrying about it, insuring it, cleaning it, dusting it, trying to keep it organized, wondering if you should let it go, should you sell it, should you give it away, does a family member want it.  It's mind boggling and it's overwhelming and I have spent far too much energy this year in exactly these ways.

From what I've heard and read already about the KonMarie method, I have sort of instinctually done some of the major prep work in terms of identifying what should probably go.  Yay me!  I'm going to read both of these books - they are downloading from the cloud - and I'll return to this topic when I have.  If you've read them I'd love to hear your thoughts.

In the meantime, there's a destash going on and I pretty much never get tired of this song - it's fully empowering  :-)


Monday, August 3, 2015

Crisis Averted. Pretty Much . . .

The car insurance crisis is pretty much averted.  After feeling all-out stupid for forgetting about my car insurance altogether, I tinkered with the budget again this morning, and now have a workable solution. Not ideal, but workable.  I have a Christmas Club at my credit union which I use for presents and charitable donations at the end of the year.  I didn't think I could do this, but it turns out that I can - I dropped the monthly amount that I save in the CC down by 30-odd dollars.

With the $50 give/take surplus that I had last Friday until I got home and got the mail, and the change in my CC I am now coming in with $2/month to spare.  Yay!  That's cutting it really close, but I'm not in the red and I'm praying that I haven't forgotten any other important expense(s).  It's going to be an interesting balancing act for the next few months, that's for sure, but I'm up to the task.  I'm also considering reducing the percentage that goes into my 401(k) to give myself a little more breathing room on a monthly basis.

This sounds like a very stupid idea until you learn that, where I work, they only match a very small amount and it doesn't go up the more I contribute.  As long as I meet the contribution percentage they specify, I get the small amount they match.  I'm well over that specified percentage.  I don't really want to do this, but it's something I am considering.  Thankfully, I don't have to make that decision immediately - and, hopefully, not at all.

I do, however, have to pay the current car insurance bill in the next couple of weeks, and I don't think it truly qualifies as a bonafide emergency - I mean, no one is bleeding, no bones are broken, and death of any sort is not involved, but it may be that I have to touch the emergency fund for this. I mean, you cannot drive without insurance - that's lunacy (as well as being illegal), but I've got an idea or two up my sleeve and I'm going to try a few other things before touching the emergency fund.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Tithing . . .

My friend, Michelle, asked me to remember an Old Testament Bible verse, Malachi 3:10, which is the verse that talks about tithing - the practice of giving 10% of one's harvest/income to the church.

Tithing of money isn't something that I have ever done, and it's not something I could do now without a radical change in everything about my life. I'm not saying this is right or wrong - it just is what it is.  It was hard to reduce my pledge - contrary to my last post, where I joked about the initial reductions not being all that painful thus far, it was very hard for me to reduce the money I give to the church each month.  It was embarrassing and I felt/feel a great deal of shame about it (let me clear that I was not shamed by our minister nor by the financial secretary (the people I had to inform about the change) this was my own shame that I wasn't able to fulfill my pledge). 

I could cut every "luxury" and still not even be close to the amount needed to tithe.  Without selling my home, my car, my pipes, and anything else of value that I have, I could not hope to consistently tithe, and even if I did do those things, I probably couldn't tithe then either, and I would be left with nothing and no transportation, and then no one would get anything. 

In the Presbyterian Church we call it Stewardship, and it's about time, talents, and treasure.  It's not just about treasure (money), there is more to it. A pledge is a faith commitment, not a promissory note, and I had faith that I would be able to give the amount I pledged.  But I can't any longer.  I believe that the monetary amount I am able to give each month is supplemented by the time I give or have given to speak to the PW Group when they invite me, to share in fellowship with my friends there, to lend my prayers and support where I can, to attend choir rehearsals and to sing in the choir on Sundays, and to play my pipes on Reformation Sunday (although probably not this year . . . ). In the past I've led Church Lady Knitting (for many years) and been a member of the Communications Committee.  I'm an ordained deacon.  Granted, I don't do all of these things all the time - but Stewardship is about more than just money - my time and my musical talent are a big part of my 10%.

This is a good conversation - and it's different for everyone.   Thanks for bringing it up, Michelle  :-)  If you go to church, do you tithe?  If you are forced by circumstances to make changes, where do you cut when there is nowhere left to cut in order to make ends meet?  Do you saddle yourself with debt that multiplies by earning interest when you can't pay it to pay a faith commitment that is no longer possible for you?  Good conversation and hard questions.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The First Cut is the Deepest . . .

It's the first day of my new budget!!  Yay!!  The adventure begins!!

For the last few days I've been feeling all smug and pleased with myself that I had gotten a handle on this budgeting adventure so quickly.  You know - it was a snap, really - a bit of mindfulness and a few reductions, but nothing I couldn't handle.  A little belt tightening, and hopefully ass shrinking since I'm not going to be eating out at all for some time.  Looking forward to that, really, since I'm way too large at the moment.

I arrived home yesterday and put the trash barrels back in the garage - I could see my Netflix in the front door along with the mail that I picked up as I opened the door.  Hmmmm, a pretty thick envelope - what's this?  A prospectus?  A bank statement?  As I walked into the kitchen, I turned it over.  Not a prospectus.  Not a bank statement.

It was my car insurance bill.

My car insurance bill.

MY FRICKING CAR INSURANCE BILL.

Jesus H. Christ
I mean CRAP.

How could I have forgotten that one in all my calculations?  I guess because it only happens twice a year, but I have to come up with the money to pay it before September 1st, and I need to build another $83 a month in to the budget for it going forward so I will have enough to pay it again in March when it will be due again.  I'm going to have to rework the budget on Monday and it looks like I'm going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul this month.  Geez.  Right out of the gate . . . oh well.



p.s.  All these years I somehow missed that Yusuf Islam, formerly know as Cat Stevens, wrote this song.