Sunday, October 4, 2015

Old and Crotchety?

I'm starting to think that I'm just plain getting old and crotchety.

I really miss Marshall Field's.  For those of you not from the Midwest, Marshall Field's was Chicago's premier department store from 1852 until being acquired in 2015 by Federated Department Stores and turned into Macy's.

Like many Chicagoan's, I was furious that Federated would get rid of Field's, and if the windows are any indication of what's inside, it's not a quality store like Field's used to be.  Carson's was the second best department store here, and I have shopped there now for years.  There is one near me that is part of a defunct mall.  Carson's is the only store left, and I have a feeling that they are still there only because they actually own the land on which the store sits.  I was in that store yesterday to buy a gift, and I was supremely disappointed.   The quality was not nearly what it once was, and there were shopping carts . . . I might as well have been at Kohl's or Target (not where I would go to buy a nice gift).

I asked for a box for the gift I purchased.  Here's how that went:

Me:  "Thanks, and I'm going to need a box for that."

Them:  "We don't have boxes." 

Me:  "You don't have boxes anywhere in the entire store?"

Them:  "No."

Granted, I haven't been shopping in a very long time because I don't need anything, but am I so woefully out of date that I didn't know that stores don't give you boxes anymore??  I mean, does everyone just use a gift bag instead of wrapping paper and ribbon?  Or do some stores still give you a box if you ask for one?

This bothers me!  Seriously!  :-S

I realize that change is hard.  And I realized that Field's has been gone for a DECADE (and I can't even tell you how much I still miss it . . . ) and that I should just sing the Frozen song and let it go.  But I miss it.  I miss Field Gear (their house line).  I miss Jones New York.  I miss quality clothing in my size.

I feel like I should be waving a cane and yelling, "You damn kids - get off my lawn!"

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Easy . . .

Someone posted a link to this article on a board I frequent on Ravelry.  It's entitled "Are You Emotionally Overweight?"  I believe that self-talk is extremely important, and not just in terms of weight loss.  It's important in all areas of our lives.  I get the occasional eyeroll when I say, "let's relanguage that, shall we?" but words can hurt.  It's up to us to police our own self-talk and shift it to the positive.  I do find myself saying things to myself that I would never - ever - say to a friend.  That's a pretty big clue that something needs to be relanguaged.  I work on it.  A lot.  The part of the article that touched me the most, however, was the part about "finding your one word."  How do you  distill all that stuff flying around in your head down to one, comforting word?  A word to speak to stop a negative barrage before it can get started.  I narrowed it down to two.  It was between "breathe," and "easy."  Breathe, as in take a breathe; and easy, as in what you say to a skittish animal to get it to calm down. 

I've chosen now.  I've decided that my one word is "easy."  It has meaning for me in many contexts . . . take it easy; easy does it; make it easy on yourself; easy peasy (lemon squeezy).  I'm hoping that I will be able to remember to use it.  That seems to be the trick for me with any sort of coping mechanism - remembering to use it, or using it in time for it to be able to work.  I don't know if I would have been able to head off Friday's PTSD episode had I started my breathing meditation sooner, but any tools I can add to my toolkit and have at my disposal can only benefit me  :-)  And just because my usual breathing meditation didn't work this time doesn't mean it won't work again.  It works pretty much all the time - just not this last time, and I think that was because I might not have started in enough time.

I am always looking for ways to make things easier for myself, because, according to a lot of people in my life, I do too much.  All the time too much.  At the moment, I have too many African violets again - 61 varieties.  I've been waiting on many of them to bloom for the first time to see if they will bloom true to their documented/registered description.  They don't always, and when they don't it makes it very easy for me to let them go to their Great Reward.  With very rare exceptions, I don't give shelf space to plants I cannot show.  I did make some hard choices this morning, however, because space on the shelves is at a premium at the moment and I had to let some things go.  In addition, The leaves I put down back in June have sprouted and now I have babies to separate and pot up.  I'll eventually have a little more space on the shelf where the domed tray used to be, but the babies will grow into full sized plants eventually . . .   You see the problem, yes?  :-D

I should be downstairs at my potting bench, potting things.  But it's Sunday and I would much rather just relax today - and I would like to get a workout in.  Those things are going to take priority, along with laundry and other chores so that I can be ready for the workweek to come.

Other topics flying through my brain this morning . . .
  • I think I've just gotten hooked into the Benedict Cumberbatch/BBC version of Sherlock Holmes.  No clue what season  I'm on on PBS, but I think I'm going to have to get the first season(s) from Netflix and watch them all.  It's really well done.
  • Almost no knitting got done on vacation.  Seriously.  But I'm nearly halfway down the calf on the second sock of the Elementary Watson Socks - they are #15 on the WIPs list.  I did not carry the pattern down the foot on these. (Seems like Sherlock and his sidekick are everywhere these days, doesn't it?  ;-D)
  • I'm breathing really well now that my asthma meds are at a better level for me. (Yay!)
  • I went back to Weight Watchers last week.
It's Autumn.  Ed Sheeran rocks.  :-)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Trigger . . .

I have PTSD.  I don't talk about it much, and I have done really well working through it. It's a relatively recent thing for me.  I'm not a war veteran, I was in a bad car accident last fall.  All the airbags deployed.  I must have instinctively turned my head away from the accident at the point of impact.  I'm left-handed, so it's natural that I would have turned my head to the left - unfortunately, because I did this, when the side curtain airbag deployed, it deployed across my right ear and the right side of my face, pinning my head to the driver's side window rather than mitigating the impact.  I was trapped in the car and when I came to/opened my eyes after the impact, I could not move and I could not see.  And there was smoke.  I thought my car might have been on fire - and I couldn't get out.  For someone who was already mildly claustrophobic, this was not a good thing.  I somehow managed to calm myself down enough to figure out a way to get my seatbelt off and open the car door, and the smoke was from the radiator.  The car was NOT on fire.  Unfortunately, since the accident I have had episodes of PTSD.

I've worked through the episodes I initially had that would occur while I was driving or when I was at intersections similar to the one where the accident occurred.  Now, it's very rare that I have one in the car.  I'm certainly a more cautious driver, though, and I don't think I'm the best passenger any longer because it's sometimes way more frightening when I am not in control of the vehicle.

I buy seats for plays, concerts and events defensively now - I go for aisle or box seats where I won't be crowded and pushed and shoved, and I have to make sure I know where the exits are so I can get out.

For the most part, I do really well.  I know that the accident was not my fault.  I worked with my former therapist to develop some coping strategies that really help when I'm driving, and I know that now, it's mostly very crowded situations that trigger for me - situations where I feel trapped or where I feel like I can't get out.  I left a number of holiday parties last December because there were just too many people and I was afraid that if something were to happen (you know, like a fire . . . ) that I wouldn't be able to get out.

I take the train to work every day, and I have never had any PTSD episodes on it.  I try to always get a window seat and I know where all the exits are.  I even sit in car that's more toward the end of the train because in the cars up front, people stand and block the exits long before their stop is called.  I've never had an issue.  Until today.

I made a brief post on FB about my experience today, and three of my friends clicked "like."  I couldn't understand why they would say they liked that I had a PTSD episode on the train - and then I figtured that I must not have been clear in my post so I deleted it.  But my heart rate is still up and I've been off the train for more than an hour, so I decided it might help to write a bit about it.

The train I take is an electric train and there was a problem in the main station that left tracks 4, 5, and 6 with no power.  I got on a train that never left and we were all instructed to get off the train and wait for the train to come on track 3 - it would not run express but would make all stops.  When something like this happens there are hundreds of people stuck trying to get home.  You can't get your regular train, which means that there are a LOT of people all wanting to take the first available train.

I got on the first available train not thinking anything of it.  I got a seat and they announced that there were two more empty trains coming right behind that one that people could take.  In hindsight, I should have gotten off the train and waited, but I was reading and it didn't occur to me at all that the situation might not be best for me.  It was standing room only.  People got off at every stop, but as we got closer and closer to my stop, I realized that there were still a LOT of people standing in the aisle and blocking the exit.  I started doing the breathing meditation that often helps me in the car:  Breathe in Peace, Breath out Fear. It wasn't helping very much.

I stood up just after the stop before my stop to try to get to the vestibule.  I moved past people who were not getting off at my stop, but I couldn't get out to the vestibule.  If I could have gotten out there, I think I might have been OK.  But I couldn't.  I held it together and I was able to get off the train without pushing anyone out of my way.  My heart was pounding and I just kept moving down the platform to the stairs, through the tunnel, and then practically running out to the sidewalk past the post office where I had to stop and attempt to get my fight-or-flight under control.  I walked home with my heart pounding.

I guess this is a very good reminder to me that (1) I need to pay attention to my surroundings; and (2) the holidays are coming and on the day before a holiday when people often get out early, the trains are going to be really full - I should probably plan to take a later train or stand in the vestibule all the way home.  And now the adrenaline has worn off and I'm exhausted.  Going to figure out something for a late dinner and lie down on the sofa for a little while.

My exciting Friday night . . .

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.    :-)