Thursday, October 22, 2009

FAQ #5

"Why you?"

Nobody is sure why I had this stroke. We do know that my left carotid artery tore and a clot formed which blocked the blood flowing to my brain. In other words, this wasn't to do with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. My neurologist said from the time of the tear to the time of the stroke was probably not more than a week. I had no trauma the week before my stroke, so it seems to have been a spontaneous rupture.

Everyone laughs when I say this, but being out of commission was really a good break for me. Even now, I am forced to take everything more slowly and be satisfied (thrilled, actually) with what little I can accomplish. Additionally, I had been craving some silent time for a while now. Seriously though: I don't want to speak for them, but I know for sure that some of my nurses and therapists, and my family as well, got something out of this experience beyond what a "normal" stroke patient would give. And that's enough reason for me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

FAQ #4

For real this time . . .

"Do you have all your capabilities back?"

I can

knit like a pro
recite Shakespeare
play simple things on the violin
hop on my right foot if I flap like a chicken
"jog" in a limping way if I lift my knees high
multiply a two-digit number by a one-digit number in my head
press 60 pounds with my right leg
stand unassisted in the shower
say "stand unassisted in the shower" on my first try
use a can opener
flip pancakes
throw a tantrum
type 20 words per minute
play a bit of piano
tie my shoes
make a ponytail
teach violin
read Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss (out loud)
write approximately 10 words per minute of variable legibility
drive an automatic (haven't tried the stick)

This is not an exhaustive list, but you can see that although I don't have my former skill set, it seems to be coming back. It's a long road--longer than I realized at first. But my family is very supportive, and I've already come a long way.


When I first started knitting my brother Jerome suggested I knit myself a pair of tights. No way! I said. That would take forever!

Nine years later, I find the perfect yarn for tights and just can't resist:

I "cleverly" joined a second ball of yarn so the stripes wouldn't get narrower at my Widest Part. My Widest Part is considerably wider than the rest of me, so this was a good move. Here I've knit most of the top part of the tights. Just a couple of inches before I divide for the legs!

I am also designing a Useful Something to give as a gift. I'm just working out ideas here. Yarn is Unique Sheep cotton in Shardenim.

It's not an Exciting Implement, but I think it's beautiful.

In other knitting news, the lace stole for Gwen's dance teacher is done. Was done a long time ago. Boy, are you sorry I didn't post pictures. It's breathtaking. I just . . . forgot. Maybe she'll wear it when it cools off and she'll model for me. IF it ever cools off. . . .

I have to say, though, for once I did a good job of choosing who gets my handknits. After years of going unappreciated I determined to knit only for myself and the kids. Then this woman not only admired my knitting but told me she wears shawls all the time! Needless to say, I fell for the bait. She keeps the stole by her bed, waiting to feel chilly. Her teenage daughter sometimes fingers it longingly. Ah! It's good to be loved.

FAQ #4

"Do you have all your capabilities back?"

Oh, ha, ha, oh ha ha ha, ha ha ha, oh ha!

Friday, September 11, 2009

FAQ #3

"Did the stroke affect your mental faculties in any way?"


I still feel like me--that is, I don't feel stupider--but I'm definitely slower and less able to do math in my head and more liable to get stuck verbally. Nobody except Jeff really notices. He says I'm more on his level now . . .

I never felt significantly different. My memory was still good (Jeff got all my usernames and passwords for web billing from me early on) and I could read in several languages right away. But my head hurts when I think too hard. It's not funny, but it should be.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

FAQ #2

"Were you bewildered?"

Not really. I don't know why I wasn't.

The stroke felt more like something that was happening to me rather than something I suffered. It's really the first time I ever felt completely passive. Eventually it occurred to me to wonder how it happened, but I was never really surprised. The fact is, I experienced it and didn't have time to react to it. My friend Barbara came to watch my kids while it was descending on me and she said she was as shocked as I was. When I replied that I wasn't shocked she had to agree--according to her, I sat there smiling and waiting for the ambulance. (Eventually I guess I was only able to smile with half my face, but she didn't mention that.)

Jeff went into immediate action--you could tell he was tense, but bewilderment would have been impractical. Cole was scared and worried, sitting in a chair facing me, but Gwendolyn kept playing calmly.

People here keep referring to my "faith," but it wasn't faith that I would be able to play violin again or faith that I would survive. I knew that everything would be okay--even if I lost the use of one whole side of my body--even if I could never speak again--even if I died.

Fortunately, I'm okay.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


"Is your recovery full, or going to be full?"

Let me tell you a version of the story I just recently learned from my loving husband:

The first neurologist the hospital called to come see me, um, never showed up. By the time the second neurologist arrived and ordered blood tests, I was well into the stroke, eyes rolling around in my head, the whole bit. (I know some of you don't appreciate a good story--you have to know the ending before the middle--but I'm writing this, after all, so there's nothing to worry about. The rest of you, enjoy the suspense!) Dr. Baker said she had told the lab to hurry with the test results because if they didn't start thinning my blood soon I might never come out of that state.

At this point I feel the need to make it clear that I never saw the bright light, never looked down at my body from on high. I didn't actually die, which means God didn't bring me back, which means he didn't "bring me back for a reason." When my son was asked if he thought my recovery was a miracle, he answered that he thought the stroke was the miracle. Healing is what a body, especially a young, healthy body, just does. Not having a stroke.

They got me on blood thinners in time, I guess, because I regained consciousness the same day. Unfortunately my right side was completely paralyzed. "They" said I would never play violin again, a prediction of which I was blissfully unaware until one of the "they"s (a physician's assistant--something I just recently learned to say on my first try) casually mentioned it at the rehab center.

Soon, however, "they" began to forecast a full recovery. I went through four months of physical therapy believing that at least most of my skills would return. Dr. Baker told me I may never be able to say certain words again, but that would be the worst of it.

And then in July, when I could barely scratch out a tune on the fiddle, when my right hand grip was still 20 pounds less than that of my left hand, and in fact when my shoulder extension was still not enough to allow me to wipe my own butt with my right hand--that is when my occupational therapist announced that she had never seen a full recovery as wonderful as mine.

So it does not mean what I thought.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

since the stroke

On March 16 I had a stroke. My left carotid artery tore, a clot formed, and the rest is current events. The garden has been more or less neglected, though I did manage to harvest the corn that came up while I was in the hospital. And . . .

I'm knitting again.

The yarn is Lisa Souza's laceweight merino. Not a single knot in 2520 yards. I ended up not using the center pull because the yarn is so soft it knots and pills. I am very happy pulling from the outside of the ball! The color is so pretty everyone remarks on it.

It's much more subtle knit up.

On to my other obligations (see post from March 16).

Monday, March 16, 2009


It's beautiful.

I hate it.

New Yarn

All I want to do is wind this Lisa Souza laceweight ("Lake Superior" colorway) that came in the mail last week.

But it turns out I have other obligations . . .

Friday, March 13, 2009


I've had a few questions about how to leave comments. I'm new to this myself, but if you click on "comments" below each post a window should come up with some instructions for you. You'll have choices about whether to create an account and so on. Sometimes the settings on your browser (cookies, for instance) will make a difference to your success. There may be a button to click on for help, if it's really important to you to leave a comment here. Otherwise, just write to me. Or visit occasionally just to read. This is my letter to you, and although I'd like to think you're reading it from time to time, I don't require a response.

See you later!

new life

Spicy Mesclun Mix. Hooray! And some carrots and swiss chard around the gardens. More peeking today, and planting.

We have these great built-in planter/window boxes in front of the house, and they've been needing rejuvenating. When we moved here they had begonias in them, and after a drought or hurricane I used to take cuttings from the survivors to replace the dead plants. It's really easy. I just cut a nice piece of healthy plant, stripped it of leaves from halfway down the stem, stuck it in the dirt, watered carefully, and pinched any flower buds that threatened to distract the new plant from developing roots. I thought I would never buy a begonia again.

I haven't been able to give that much attention to the garden recently, but I didn't want to actually buy a begonia plant, so I tried a new method this year. Cut a bunch of healthy stems, put them on bare dirt, cover with mulch, and empty the dehumidifiers and Jeff's leftover coffee onto them.

It worked!

Warning: the snapdragon exoeriment was not as successful.

And the jury's still out on the sage.

I should point out that the snapdragons did not get any coffee. But I don't think that's the main problem.


I finished it. Just think--the outer border alone has over 4,000 stitches in it. Crazy. But Jeff asked for it, and I can't resist a knitting request. This is shown on our queen-sized bed. It's about 6 ft by 6 ft. It's soaking now, then I'm going to block it* and when it's dry it will cover an acoustic flaw in our living room.

*block: kneel on the floor for hours, stretching and pinning and measuring and wishing it wasn't allergy season

I estimated it would take around 4 balls of Noro Kureyon Sock color 219, so I bought 7 (just in case). After I started the center I decided it would look better starting at another color in the series, so I made the first try into a hat for Gwendolyn instead of ripping it all out. The hat is really cute, but I've been ambivalent all along about Aspidistra herself. Everyone who sees her thinks she's beautiful. Jeff has been consistently positive, and it's for him, so I knit on, but it's really hard to put that much work into something you're not sure will be wonderful. I asked myself what in the world I would do with all that extra yarn, and started fantasizing about crazy multicolored lace trim to go on a dress for G. I even mentally designed a pair of knee highs for myself. I began to like the idea of extra yarn even more than the idea of this big . . . thing.

This is all that's left. I'm going to darn some store-bought socks with them and I still might have enough left over for the lace trim on that dress.

Monday, March 9, 2009

daffodils and cabbage

When I first came to Baton Rouge I read that you can grow bulb flowers here, but you need to dig them up and store them in your freezer every winter. No, thank you.

The woman at the Farmer's Market told me that the only thing is, if you leave them in the ground, they may bloom in January. This won't hurt them at all, but apparently it's enough of a disadvantage to make all the Louisiana gardening manuals discourage it. No daffodils in January. Might cheer people up.

Sometimes I think daffodils have an unpleasant smell. These are very very sweet. Mmmm.

Amy asked for some of my cabbage ideas. A little background first. Cabbage is a problem vegetable for us because I like it. If I didn't like it I would be better able to disguise its alleged foul qualities. Take turnips.
I have never learned to love them and I tried several ways of serving them (sacrificing some perfectly good apples and potatoes, I might add) before they became Cole's favorite vegetable.I think partly he likes the shock value, but he does eat a good number of them.

Cabbage also grows easily here. It's cheap, and the market has the pointy gourmet kind (don't tell them, but I think it tastes pretty much the same as the round kind--and I think the round ones are cuter). Plus, it's infinitely easier to prepare than collards, even if it does involve using the Knife.
(That's our cat, Blackie, shown for scale.)

One dish we eat that features cabbage is a pasta topping made from cooking cabbage and onions in a pan with a little oil for, well, a day or so. With some strong cheese (we like feta, but roquefort is also tasty) it becomes more of a pasta dish and less cabbagey. When serving cabbage, I am careful not to call it cabbage. It becomes "tasty sauce,' "clever wrapper," "shredded filling," or, that wonderful term, "garden vegetable."

My family will eat almost anything in an egg roll. They're best fried, but you can brush them with oil and bake them instead. And there's kofta. With the right sauce, no questions are asked. One good thing about kofta is that it can use cabbage and sweet potatoes, which are plentiful* at the same time here.

*plentiful: arrive at the Farmer's Market after 10 a.m. and that's all you'll see

Cabbage plays well with others, and I like to include it in stir fry, soup, and a wonderful King Arthur recipe called Monster Pie. For my fussy eaters, however, I need to be careful with not only the amount but the shape of the pieces, which varies for each recipe. Too much or the wrong shape renders the whole dish inedible. Big enough to pick out. Small enough not to notice. Not too mushy . . . or crunchy . . . or . . . white . . .

Soup is not a big hit in this family anyway. I like eating it but not making it. Everyone else likes the idea of it but not the actual live bowl of it. Therefore I make it less than I used to. But cabbage in soup (especially in a tomatoey base, with blobs of oil floating on top) is delicious.

I do, however, agree that the daffodils smell better.

Saturday, March 7, 2009





Come in, sit down. First you'll smell what's bubbling on the stove, perhaps you'll ask about it. Eventually you'll see and maybe even stay to have a bowl. There are plenty of spoons.

In the meantime, I will run into trouble. I always do. Now you're here to sit, quietly or not, while I solve problems and change course. The result always has some charm. Like this pig cake. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


The garden is coming back, slowly, after having been subjected to violent neglect. It's been harder not having a garden than taking care of it. The variety of vegetables available each season is so much better when we choose what's being planted. The Red Stick Market is open year round, but some months (most notably the scorched summer ones) are very slim, and sometimes I have a hard time getting my family to eat what's available. I can be pretty creative with cabbage. And summer squash. Even eggplant. But after a while they start to notice.

Of course, it's not all about the vegetables.

Planted this season: broccoli, red lettuce, spicy mesclun mix, "kuroda long" and "st. valery" carrots, "sakata's sweet" melons, "country gentleman" corn, lima beans, marigolds, pansies, wave petunias, thyme, and daffodils.


The first three people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

1-I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
2-What I create will be just for you.
3-It'll be done this year.
4-You have no clue what it's going to be.
5-I reserve the right to do something extremely strange.

The catch is that you must repost this on your blog and offer the same to the first 3 people who do the same on your blog. The first 3 people to do so and leave a comment telling me they did win a FAB-U-LOUS homemade gift by me! Oh, and be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it! Who's in?

[Idea courtesy of Laura's Ramblings]


Roux ("roo"): flour cooked in butter to break down the starch granules

. . . from here you can go on to anything!