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Laminaria Shawl

A lot of things have gone by the wayside this school year.

I’ve been an inconsistent blogger.

My housekeeping has gone to pot.

My knitting, though, has not ceased.

In January, I cast on for this term’s OWL…a three-month project that reads almost like a dissertation when a proposal is submitted.  We’re hard-core on Ravelry!

I love to knit lace, so the Laminaria Shawl fit the bill.

I used Malabrigo yarn I’d purchased some time before (I didn’t have to use the pink, but it was there as a backup plan in case I ran out of the purple), but it wasn’t long before I hit a snag.

Thank heavens for Ravelry.  Folks, if you want to make this shawl, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!  There are some issues with symmetry in the pattern.  The KAL (knitalong) forum for this pattern proved invaluable and helped me figure out how to adjust the stitches on the left side in the first couple of charts.

I used a lot of lifelines and about halfway through quit counting stitches.  It gets old counting out three to four hundred stitches.  Relying on my ability to hit the end of a section with the right stitch was scary, and I often tinked back to fix mistakes.

Still, I persisted.

Mom’s health crisis nearly did me in at the end.  Deadline knitting can be stressful, but it’s also a motivating factor when I knit.  That’s been a big bonus since joining the Harry Potter Knit/Crochet House Cup.

I took this project with me during both trips to visit my mom.  I knit in her hospital room by the light provided by the bathroom during the times when Mom’s headaches were so bad that she couldn’t tolerate any extra light.

I knit in the car when Super Sis drove the second trip down.

I knit when the Mr. picked me up and we traveled to Orlando for a Spring Break vacation.

I knit on the way home and then the day after that.

Blocking went much quicker than I’d originally expected, and I was able to take pictures the next day.

I do love my picture taking, although I sometimes fear that my neighbors will one day commit me to the loony bin; the sight of a camera on a tripod and me running back and forth to set the self-timer must be hysterical to behold.

A special thanks to the Mr. who did snap a few photos for me.  He grew aggravated, snapped a photo of my rear end for laughs (husbands…sheesh), but tolerated my request for help…to a point.

I wound up using nearly both skeins of yarn (935 yards), more than meeting the 800 yard requirement for this Charms OWL.

I tried to figure out a way to show off the lace work.  The purple yarn was difficult to photograph.  I hit upon an idea…using the shawl like stained glass.  My front window provided the perfect backdrop.

I’ll let you peruse the rest of my photos.  It’s a smorgasbord, that’s for sure!  If you want more details about the project, visit my project page on Ravelry!  I’m Auburnchick over there!

The Best Gift

Today is my 45th birthday.

The best gift I received, not disparaging those gifted by others, was a phone call.

A 7am phone call.

From my mom.

She had no clue what day of the week it was.  Her stay in the hospital robbed her of her ability to distinguish between actual days (Monday, Tuesday, etc.).  The same thing happens to me during summer vacation when I’m home for two months straight.

She did, however, know the date…my birthday.

She apologized for not sending a card.

This is coming from the woman who, two days prior, was beginning her thirteenth day in the hospital…after a brain aneurysm.

I told her, nearly in tears, that she was giving me the best gift possible…a phone call…from a woman whose life was spared.

We had a lovely chat; her voice sounded stronger than it had the day before.

She’s discovering what her limits are (walking around Walmart without the aid of a motorized wheelchair or walker is out of the question).

She’s experiencing new aches and pains as her body continues to heal.

Still…she’s alive.

After we hung up, I got ready for church.

At church, one of the songs we sang was Amazing Grace / My Chains are Gone.

This song always brings me to tears but especially so today.

God is so merciful.  His plans are perfect.

I do not know why He does what He does…spares some people pain and not others.

I’m not brave enough to question why.

All I know is that I continue to be grateful for ALL of His gifts…today being that of my mom’s life.

Thank you for the well-wishes on Facebook, Ravelry, and via text messages.  My heart is full of joy.

Fourteen Days Ago…

Fourteen days ago, our world was turned upside down when my mom suffered from a brain aneurysm.

She was one of the fortunate 5% to make it to the hospital in time to have surgery.

During the next thirteen days, she fought hard.

She had a few decent days, but most of her time in the Neuro ICU was spent in pain.

She had a second surgery on Tuesday.  Doctors inserted a shunt that runs from her brain to her stomach so that the blood that is left on her brain will have a place to go.  The shunt was also placed to help regulate pressure in her brain.

Super Sis and I made two road trips together to stay with Mom.

Nurses allowed both of us to sleep, overnight, in Mom’s room, despite the rule that only one person stay.

Super Sis and I slept, snuggled together, in a reclining chair…two nights in a row during our second visit.

It was like olden times when we were little…except this time, the worry over Mom overshadowed everything.  Fatigue led to giggles as we took selfies before settling in for sleep…

The two mornings we woke up in Mom’s room the second go-round, we looked out and saw fog covering the hospital grounds.  It matched the uncertainty of what each day would bring…

A good day included light chatter and decent eating, with Mom putting a dent in her meals…something we’d rarely seen her do growing up (she has always eaten like a bird…fearful of weight gain)…

Mom quickly tired of scrambled eggs and was delighted the morning she had pancakes on her tray.  We didn’t have to try very hard to coax her to eat…

Mom sometimes asked for ice cream, which we gladly bought from the hospital’s food court…remembering to add the sprinkles, per Mom’s request…

A good day involved Facebook time so Mom could catch up with friends…

While Mom played, I was able to visit with Chicky’s best friend from elementary school (her mom and I were close friends as well).  “D” is a nurse at the hospital.  I had not seen her in over ten years.  What a lovely time we had catching up, sharing laughs, and taking selfies…

D gave me permission to post. :)

During our second visit to Mom, we ordered from Doorstep Delivery, and we were touched when the delivery guy explained that when the restaurant saw that the delivery was going to a hospital, workers threw in extra food…along with words of encouragement…

Mom had some very bad days after Super Sis and I left from our two-day stay.

The Mr. had picked me up so we could take a planned vacation to Universal Studios, with Mom’s blessing and admonition to have fun.

Regular updates were exchanged among the three of us…Mom’s husband, Super Sis, and myself.

It was an emotional few days.  One of Mom’s brain ultrasounds showed changes that weren’t good.  Doctors were closely monitoring for vasospasms…those dreaded spasms that can lead to strokes.

Mom’s pain grew quite severe as headaches assailed her.  The pressure from her brain was too high at times, which made the decision to surgically place a shunt easier to make.

Within a day after the surgery, Mom was feeling a lot better.

I visited on my way home from my trip, gifting her a couple of souvenirs I’d purchased.

A hat that I bought at my hotel…

To help while Mom’s hair is growing back

A Harry Potter holly wand, known for its healing properties…

Although our visit was short, it was apparent that Mom was doing a lot better, and I returned home with my heart lifted.

Super Sis visited Mom the next day, and we began hearing whisperings of Mom’s release.

To our surprise, that indeed happened on Day 13.

I’d called Mom, hoping to catch her between breakfast and her regular nap.  She proudly announced that she was preparing to go home!!!  She said that she wouldn’t be allowed to drive for six months.  I told her she’d be like Driving Miss Daisy with her husband as the chauffeur.  :)

She was also excited because there would be no more scrambled eggs.  I had to laugh at that.  I’ll bet she never eats them again!!

My previous post was titled “Grateful,” and grateful is what I continue to be.

I am also awed by the power of prayer.

Immediately after Mom’s aneurysm, Super Sis and I put out requests for prayer.

We updated Facebook frequently, and I never failed to hear back from friends and family, assuring me of their faithfulness to lift Mom and us up in prayer.

Words of encouragement were given, and Super Sis and I were often moved to tears just reading them.

When I posted that Mom was being discharged from the hospital, many people joined in the celebration.

I don’t question the “why’s” of this situation.  I’m not usually one to do so.

I choose, instead, to look at the good that comes from experiences like this.

Mom and I were reconciled.

Chicky and I grew even closer, if that’s possible.

I gained even more respect for Mom’s husband, who has been a stalwart through this terrifying ordeal.

I saw, firsthand, how the medical community works…pouring their hearts into the care of those who are ailing.

I don’t think I ever realized just how beloved my mom is to those around her.  Reading the well-wishes of her friends made me see her in a different light.  Our separation over the last two years had left me focusing on the negative stuff from our relationship.  Reading about her kindness to others in her life made me see her through a different set of eyes.

Thank you for those of you who prayed during this time…who are continuing to pray (the healing will continue for a long time).

Fourteen days may not seem like a long time to some people; however, when you’ve been given a second chance to spend time with a loved one, every second counts.

Grateful

Aneurysm
Vapospasm
Cerebral Angioplasty

These words were added to my vocabulary this past weekend after my mom suffered from a brain aneurysm late Saturday afternoon.

We don’t know what caused it.  All we know is that Mom came in from working outside, became very ill, and had a seizure.  Her husband was home, fortunately, and called 911.  Mom wound up being helicoptered to Shands, one of Florida’s best hospitals.  It was a 20-minute ride, which she still has no memory of.

A CT scan determined that she had suffered from a brain aneurysm, and she was scheduled for surgery Sunday morning.

The doctor was able to do a less invasive procedure…the cerebral angioplasty.  The doctor went into her veins through her groin, followed the dye up to her brain, and inserted five coils to block the rupture.

She was sent to ICU with a drain protruding from her brain.

Crazy, eh?

Scary too.

I got up early Sunday morning and picked up Super Sis on the way (she lives a couple of hours away from me).  We weren’t sure how long we were going to stay but packed an overnight bag.  Shands is about four hours from my home, so I didn’t think I could do a day trip.

The sunrise when I left was gorgeous, and as I listened to my Christian radio station, I praised God for His glory, displayed in nature.

When we arrived at the hospital, Mom was in the neuro ICU.

I’ve gotta tell you that my heart broke when I saw her.  Her head had been shaved, and she looked very frail.  She’s 4’10 and weighs about 85 pounds.

She’s tiny.

She had been strapped down across her torso and hips.  Her arms were tied down to the bed, and her legs were velcroed together.  In other words, she wasn’t supposed to move.  For two hours.

She was awake and not happy.  She kept trying to get out of bed and made her wishes known.  She also kept telling us she needed to use the restroom, despite being catheterized.  She couldn’t fathom the idea of “letting go,” saying that she’d been taught better.

She still had her sense of humor.

Oh folks.  You know that I have been estranged from my mom for over two years.

Seeing her like this made our past issues disappear.

My heart was broken for her.

She didn’t understand why she was there…had no clue she’d been flown in (“I missed out on the fun,” she said.).

She couldn’t believe she’d had brain surgery.

She’d soon learn her head had been shaved.

Ahem.

Super Sis and I stayed at Shands Sunday and Monday.  Props to the staff.  Mom’s nurses have been amazing!  They patiently explained the procedure she’d undergone, spelled out the medical terms for the risks she’s still in danger of, and drew pictures to help us visualize concepts.

The night nurse quietly did the hourly neuro checks minimizing the disturbances to our sleep.

Super Sis and I had crawled onto a reclining chair and snuggled together to keep warm.  It was a blast from the past.

Each patient room has a window with a nurse’s desk in front.  Patients are watched constantly.  What a relief!  It’s as if guardian angels are on duty 24/7.  Neurological problems are nothing to shake a stick at!

Mom’s second day (Monday) was interesting.  Her catheter was removed, and she was a happy lady.  Her nurses got her out of bed to eat breakfast, and she played a bit of Candy Crush on my iPad, bemoaning the fact that I was only on level 1.

Unfortunately, Mom tried to take advantage of her freedom and kept trying to get out of her chair or, later, out of bed on her own.  Her short-term memory is pretty bad right now, a side effect from her aneurysm, so she can’t remember that she has to call for assistance.  She’s also fiercely independent and hates relying on people to get her to the bathroom.

She also happens to be connected to five or six tubes as well as a couple of blood pressure monitoring devices.  Her risk for a secondary stroke is high right now because of something called vapospasms, which happen when the brain tries to deal with the blood that’s on it…blood that is not supposed to be there (the reason for her drain tube).

Mom has to stay in the hospital at least two weeks.  She’s probably going to go stir crazy before that time!

People keep asking me how I’m feeling.

One overriding word comes to mind…

Grateful.

Mom’s post-surgery nurse…the first one I met…gave Super Sis and me some startling statistics.

Only 5% of people who suffer from a brain aneurysm make it to the hospital alive.  The rest die.

Of the 5% who make it to the hospital, 1/3 will still pass away either during surgery or during the post-surgery phase.  Another third go home after spending time rehabilitating.  The final third go home without any extra rehabilitation.

My mom is already a miracle, simply because she survived that first phase.

Each day puts her closer to the 66.6% of ultimate survivors.

Grateful is a word I’m using a lot these days.

I’m grateful for a small group that began praying as soon as I sent everyone a text.  They message me several times a day to check in.

I’m grateful for thoughtful friends who gave me these cards to help with travel expenses…

I’m grateful for compassionate, empathetic students who nearly cried as I explained why I had been out on Monday and why I might be out later in the week.  A few went home and told their parents or looked up more information about brain aneurysms.

I am especially grateful that God spared Mom’s life so we could reconnect.  Many tears were shared on Sunday and Monday.  We’ve both made mistakes.  We’re starting over.

Super Sis and I are driving down tomorrow to spend Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday with her.

My Spring Break started a couple of days earlier than originally planned when I left school today…

I am packed and ready to travel…ready to help my mom as she continues her journey toward restored health and, fingers crossed, a life of retirement and relaxation.

When Last I Posted…

When last I posted, I was bragging on the Mr.’s many virtues…how he’d gone above and beyond the call of married duty by helping me straighten my hair after I’d burned my thumb.

That was Valentine’s Day when the post made it to my blog.

Lots of stuff has transpired since the beginning of that weekend.

Not big stuff…just the everyday stuff that happens in a person’s life.

The Mr. and I spent a lovely Valentine’s weekend in a beach town an hour away from home.

He happily obliged my one request…to go yarn shopping at the only yarn shop near me…

No, that wasn’t the Mr. posing, but by the time I’d purchased the yarn in the photo below, he could have resembled the guy above.  heehee

We ate a wonderful lunch afterward at a pizza place.  Wine is good…especially at lunch…on a Saturday…when the weather is gorgeous and you’re with your honey…

Then, it was time to go shopping.

Normally, I do not enjoy shopping.

That weekend was different.  We started out at the Under Armour outlet store.

Oh.

My.

Gosh.

I’ve been walking with a friend after school two or three days a week, so the Mr. got me a few outfits.

Next, we visited the Michael Kors store.

Oh heavens.  This company knows how to make shopping fun!  The store was brightly lit, and every single one of the associates was young, well-dressed, and upbeat.  Every time I walked out of my dressing room with an outfit on, someone had something positive to say.  The comments were sincere, the smiles big.

I purchased a number of items and then headed back to the dressing room after the Mr. spied a dress that an associate was wearing.  We found it on the clearance rack, and I had to try it on…

It came home with me too.

My bag was quite full…

After visiting the BCBG store (not nearly as upbeat or bright and airy, by the way), I had my arms full of new goodies…

Later, after a brief rest, we headed to dinner…

Our plans to eat at P.F. Changs were nearly derailed when we discovered that one should make reservations if one wants to eat at a decent hour on Valentine’s Day.

We kind of snuck our way to a table on the patio and avoided a two-hour wait.

Ahem.

The food was absolutely divine…

All-in-all, it was a wonderful evening.

The next morning, we slept in a bit then headed out for a bit more shopping.  The traffic was horrid.

You can see how lovely the weather was though.  Winter teased us a bit.

I was so glad that I had that Monday off.  I needed the extra day to put away all of my goodies and recover from a delightful weekend with the hubby.

Reason #5,729 Why I Love Him

The Mr. truly is a patient man.

We’ve been married over 25 years, and he hasn’t divorced me yet.  That’s saying a lot.

He drives me crazy, that’s for sure…especially when he gets in a grumpy funk…but honestly, there are more reasons why I love him.

He grocery shops and runs out if he thinks I’m not eating enough for dinner.  He takes me out for dinner so I don’t have to cook, and he takes out the garbage and puts away dishes.  He even vacuums and washes his own clothes.

Yeah, I know I’m blessed.

A few weeks ago, he did something that earned him reason #5,729 why I love him.

It all started on a Monday (here we go again with a bad Monday story).

I was doing what I typically do and straightening my hair after washing it the evening before.

About halfway through, I went to lift my arm over my head to straighten another piece of hair when I felt the flat iron jerk from my hand.

I’d stepped on the long cord, unknowingly, so when I raised it, there wasn’t enough slack in it to accommodate the space I needed between the floor and my head.

Instead of dropping it immediately, there was a delay, and my thumb rested on the hot iron for a second or two before pain registered, and the iron fell to the floor.

Oh.

My.

Gosh.

I’d done this before, but not this badly.

My thumb began swelling immediately, and the burning sensation stretched from the inside of my thumb around my knuckle joint down to where the thumb joins with the rest of my hand.

The skin on the inner part of my thumb was burned.

I began crying immediately and holding my hand.

The Mr. doesn’t have to be at work until later in the morning, so he gets to sleep in.

In other words, I’m the only person awake at o’dark 30.

I quickly ran to his room, though, and began sobbing, telling him my sordid tale.  I needed to know what to do because my brain was not fully functional.

He suggested aloe, which we didn’t have.  He suggested Neosporin, which we didn’t have.

For someone who has raised children, I found myself woefully unprepared for an emergency such as this.

Then, I did what any working woman does and begged him to help me fix my hair.

Mind you, half of my hair was in a clip…the straightened part hanging below the curly half.

The Mr.’s eyes weren’t working, and he told me to just go like I was.

Um…nooooooooooooo.

I wailed, “I can’t go like this.  Half is already done.”

He told me it would be fine.

Yeah, the man, despite twenty-five years of marriage, can utter stupid things sometimes.

Let’s blame the sleepiness.

Ahem.

I told him I’d call my friend, Megan, who lives in the neighborhood across the street from ours.

He poo-pooed this idea and glumly got up and trod heavily to the bathroom.

The man had no clue what to do.

The only thing I could do was provide verbal assistance.

My thumb was throbbing.

I couldn’t even grasp the clip to remove sections from it.  I couldn’t squeeze my hand together at all.

The Mr. never fixed Chicky’s hair when she was growing up.  Lesson to all you dads out there…do your daughters’ hair sometimes just in case you are called upon to fix your wives’ hair.

Just sayin’.

Anyhoo, I had to explain E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G…including how to divide hair into sections, comb them out, and run the straightener through them.

I sobbed the entire time but was cognizant enough to hold the mirror with my left hand to check that things were being done correctly.

I even asked him to redo parts that he’d skimmed over.

I am an overachiever, lest you have forgotten.

Ahem.

Did I mention that I was crying?

Thank heavens I’d already fixed my makeup, but some of it was looking poorly by the time we finished.

The Mr. dropped the straightener a time or two.  He was completely freaked out by the heat…especially given what he’d seen me do.

Still, he finished and returned to the bathroom a few minutes later with the strict admonition NOT to go behind him and try to fix anything.  I couldn’t even if I’d wanted because I couldn’t grip the straightener.

I went to work looking like this…

I had no bandages…no aloe…no Neosporin.

It was not a great start to the day or the week.

Fortunately, or not depending on your perspective, a fellow teacher called me as I was backing out of my driveway.  He needed assistance with his car, which had refused to start after he’d stopped for breakfast at a local eatery.

Across the street from the eatery was a CVS and a Walgreens.  The CVS opened ten minutes early for me after I explained my sad tale to an employee, and I went to school with the supplies I needed.

My friend, Lydia, wrapped my thumb so I wouldn’t be afraid of doing something worse to it…

The Mr. texted me later in the day to check in on me.  He knew I was in a lot of pain but also knew how determined I was not to let it curtail my teaching time with my students.

Later that evening, I decided to take a bath instead of a shower.  I was so afraid of wetting my finger and, thus burning it more.

The Mr. helped me put a glove on, taped around the edges.

I then asked him to put my hair in a ponytail so I wouldn’t get it wet in the tub.

Oh word.  What a comical event to behold!  I wish he’d let me record him.

Have you ever watched someone who has never put in a ponytail try to manipulate the holder and hair?

He took the holder and wrapped it around the hand that held the hair instead of pulling the hair through the holder.

His first attempt resulted in the hair coming out right away.

The second attempt, while passable, was too low on my head.

I had also asked him to not pull the hair all the way through on the final loop.

Um, yeah.  That instruction went over like a lead balloon.

Still, he gave it another shot, and voila!  Success!

Rooster did a quick cleaning of the tub, and I was able to enjoy a bit of downtime de-stressing from the trauma of the day.

The Mr. continued to spoil me for the next few days.

He is such a blessing to me.

We’ve certainly had our problems over the years, but I am grateful that our stubbornness to keep things going has paid off.

He’s constantly adding new reasons for me to love and appreciate him.  I strongly suspect that we are up to 5,978 by now.

<3

Forever Awkward

I am awkward.

There’s no denying that.

I don’t know if it’s a lack of confidence or the desire to be proper most of the time, but I often find myself self-conscious.

Even routine activities manage to ensnare me in moments that I’d often like to get out of.

Take the other day.

I’ve recently begun walking, for exercise, again.

I’ve been walking with a friend, but on Sunday, she wasn’t available, so I set out on my own.  I queued up the cardio playlist I’d created last summer.  I didn’t, however, take my ear buds, so I played the music through the speaker on my phone, which I held as I walked.

I had a longer route planned…3.25 miles, I later discovered thanks to the MapMyWalk app I have.

Looks a little like Cupid, eh?

So, there I was, be-bopping along when the song Fergalicious came on…

Ok…so the lyrics aren’t exactly that great, and I don’t usually listen to her music.  It’s vastly different from the Christian tunes I usually play.

Ahem.

This song, though, has a good beat…perfect for walking fast.

I was making good time when I spied, down the street a bit, a younger guy about half my age.  He was doing something in his driveway and didn’t look like he was going inside before I was going to pass by.

Being the self-conscious one that I am, I was a bit mortified.

I didn’t want to be heard rocking out to “Fergalicious definition make them boys go loco.”

Ahem.

I did what any good 44-soon-to-be-45 year old should do…

I slyly turned the volume down.

ALL.  THE WAY.

Until I’d passed him and knew he was completely out of earshot.

Whereupon I turned up the sound again and resumed my Fergalicious walk.

Ahem.

The lesson in this?

Take my ear buds so I can rock out to Neil Diamond if I want.

Because his music is totally known for cutting split times.

<insert sarcastic face here>

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