Saturday, 31 July 2010

i'm back

Still feeling the reverberations of technological disruption. It's like those little glitches in the Matrix - somehow they are way more disturbing to the mind than the actual loss of connection seems to warrant.

Quite possibly because it has come on the heels of a period of extended disruptions in other ways, but I just keep feeling like we haven't quite returned to our dynamic equilibrium. More work, colds and sickness, no sewing time, dead computers, an overhaul of the home TV and media systems...when will it feel normal again?

It's a stupid question, like it's ever normal.

The Ingenue was powering along, I reached the bottom of the body 10 days from cast on, an all time record. Then the bottom band was too tight and had to be ripped back and cast on a needle size up (looking at Ravelry forum posts this is a common issue and I suspect is both a substitute yarn issue and a tight purling issue). Then the sleeve was started, realised I misread the pattern and ripped it back too. Started the sleeve again, tried it on and looked in the mirror and realised there is awful colour pooling around the bottom of the body. The whole thing is rapidly approaching the too hard basket. It's also too big for commute knitting so I'm doing some mindless mitts to keep me going.

Although I still am not in possession of the sparkly new knitting machine, I did get a chance to test a Singer 321 out at the home of the lovely Christine. She and Amanda very kindly walked my dumb virginal ignorant machine knitting arse through the first tentative steps. Totally thrilling. Totally. I think perhaps a big part of the excitement was that using the machine focused me on the making of fabric, compared with hand knitting where the garment is my focus. I don't yet have the words to explain this, but it was a much bigger shift for me than simply making stitches faster. There will be more posts about this, possibly in excruciating detail to come.

I can also highly recommend the watching of Inception. Fabulous visually, wonderfully escapist and absorbing, mind bendingly complex and rapid fire, full of interesting concepts. A great night out.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

we interupt this program

So I can get extremely frustrated while my lap top dies.

Two and a half years old, no verifiable reason, just up and died. The data can all be retrieved, thank god, but as my neighbour said, for a high end product that's a pretty offensive lifespan.

And I love my mac dearly (I started out a mac girl, went over the the more affordable PC world for a decade or so but the return was like coming home. LOVE it.), but Apple really sticks it to you on the no competition front and repairs are so ridiculously expensive that it is cheaper to replace the lap top in total than repair a single component.

Completely shitful.

Hopefully things will get back to normal soon.

edited to add:
When I wrote this post I fast forwarded through the first bit of the story since I thought it wasn't relevant - namely that when the computer died I did a whole stack of searching on the net to see if I could find out what was wrong. After quite a bit of forum trawling I found multiple references to a known fault with the model of mac I have purchased at the time I got mine. I was elated to think the inconvenience of the repair would be nothing against the potential cost I would save. Whew. When I took it in they opened it up and told me my fault was not related to the one I'd read about so I didn't qualify for the free fix. I must say I thought this was a bit suss since I was exhibiting exactly the symptoms I had read about, but I did my best to move on (as you do when you have no choice). So this afternoon, a couple of hours after I paid the deposit on my new replacement machine they tell me that after a second look they have discovered why yes, it is the known fault, and they have ordered the parts and will repair it and have cancelled the new machine and I can pick it up later this week. So I am very very relieved, but also, like, wow, how could they have got the initial diagnosis wrong and how close did I come to spending $2,500 for no good reason at all?

But wait! There's more!
Now it seems the hard drive doesn't work, and even though it was perfectly fine before this little implosion, no one thinks it's related (well none of the people I spoke to over 3 hours and a half a dozen phone calls to various members of the apple mafia anyway), so there goes more bucks. Marvelous!

Friday, 23 July 2010


I've been meaning to do this post for some time. I start it then stop because I don't much like talking about my health and despite people's very best intentions, I don't like getting comments about it. I know, it's just one of my many weirdnesses.

But my blog is my record, so post it I will.

I also know that sometimes suggestions about health problems can feel really insulting and if you've been grappling with something for a while someone else's bright idea may be inappropriate to your situation/already tried and failed/false hope/philosophically repugnant/impractical/unaffordable...there's a lot of ways you can go wrong posting AND commenting.

When people are unwell they are often sensitised in all kinds of ways, and if they have been sick for a while, they may react to stuff in ways that seem wildly out of whack. A sympathetic or chipper comment can send them over the edge because really they were so hanging over that edge already.

But I want to post because sometimes something makes it in through the fog and gives you a different path to follow in relation to something you're finding it hard to live with. When Amy was so chronically sick as a baby I really wish I had found another path to follow. Hindsight is a wonderful thing I know, but it never really occurred to me that there might have been other things to try, or other ways of enduring the sickness until she grew out of it.

Maybe by telling you about my story it might help someone who has been enduring something to think about it differently, try something new, feel less unable to cope. Because of my own personal feelings about this I'm not turning on comments for this post. You can email me with any questions, but I'm just telling a story with this one, not starting a discussion (you can find my email address by clicking on view my complete profile over there in the sidebar).

If you read this blog regularly you may know I suffer from Asthma. This is a condition I gained as an adult, though I probably had exercise induced asthma as a kid that was never diagnosed - I self selected out of exercise instead. Asthma started appearing gradually for me, at the tail end of colds, generally in the spring. I'd take drugs and I would get better. It took a few years to notice the pattern and even more years to get a really definitive diagnosis - like so many health related problems, things are usually more complex than they may at first seem.

But despite careful monitoring and treatment with a range of drugs - bronchial dilators (such as ventolin puffers), preventative inhaled steroids and oral systemic steroids when things were really acute - things got worse over time. I had a fairly constant sense of being short of breath and a mortal fear of getting any kind of cold or illness. I was also very wary of poor air quality, chemical smells or any other potential irritant.

Not surprisingly all this was also accompanied by a lot of fear, anxiety and depression. I felt exhausted a lot and like an invalid, but without any external sign of suffering. I felt very isolated and caught between asking for sympathy and help I didn't want, but needed anyway. The future just seemed like a downhill slope leading to gradual and complete suffocation. I felt hopeless, and at times quite suicidal.

When we moved to Queensland last year I had great hopes of finding relief. The time we had spent in Thailand in 2005 had been completely asthma free, and I had remained asthma free for 2 years after we returned. I expected the warm humidity of Queensland to do the same. But when we arrived I was devastated to find things just got much worse. I was taking huge amounts of drugs, consulting my doctor by email and phone and spending at least a day in bed a week. I was miserable and desperate.

Out of the far reaches of my memory I dredged up this thing called Buteyko breathing. It had come up a few times in the past, but I confess to feeling that as someone who had done lots of yogic breathing it couldn't have much to teach me. Plus the courses were expensive and the free introductory class before you sign up structure seemed really fadish. I really felt my situation was too serious for something so, well, basic.

But as I say, I felt desperate. I couldn't find a course being run near me so I bought a book instead. There are loads of books out there on the topic and I have no idea whether the one I bought was any better or worse than others, but it was Asthma Free Naturally by Patrick McKeown.

I won't attempt to paraphrase the book because this stuff is complicated and I am not an expert and if you want to understand it you really should learn more but I was immediately drawn in by the basic premise. Buteyko was a Russian respiritologist who observed that increased respiration accompanied many health problems, not just asthma. People who have allergies, asthma, sleep disorders and all manner of nose, throat and lung problems get stuck in a cycle of over breathing to cope with stresses on their systems. This creates a whole range of other problems that reinforce the cycle. In a nutshell that seemed like me.

Now improving your breathing doesn't take away your basic problem (you still have asthma), but it does stop the downward spiral that the asthma triggers. In essence it stabilises things at the first point, it reduces attacks and their severity and the use of drugs, particularly the bronchial dilators. These effects have been well documented in several substantial, scientifically based trials in several countries, including Australia and the UK.

So I started to try the breathing exercises, using the book as a guide. While I got the basic idea, I found doing the exercise hard, they just didn't gel with my head and I wasn't seeing much improvement. I managed to find a Buteyko practitioner I could see for a private consultation while I was transiting Brisbane to try and get the technique really right. The money no longer seemed important (I think it was $80 or $100) because I felt pretty sure this was going to have an impact.

And after a few weeks of practice the difference was definitely noticeable. Making the time and space to practice was a challenge and pretty quickly I noticed that the better I felt the less practice I did, and the more my symptoms bothered me. The feedback loop between my efforts and the effect got shorter and clearer, and I got better at doing the exercises. Soon I gave up the notepad, then the stopwatch, then the quiet upright chair. Noticing and correcting my breathing became an instinctive activity I did throughout the day.

I still have asthma, and right now in the middle of yet another cold I am all too aware of it. I hate it. But it's now been almost a year since I used a bronchial dilator, I never even carry one with me. I haven't had any oral steroids and my inhaler steroid use has halved since I started buteyko. I have long stretches of time where I have no symptoms at all for the first time in years. I don't feel scared all the time, it's now just something I have to manage. And I guess it's this last thing that to me is so priceless. I understand what's going on and what I can do about it.

So I don't want to be pusher or peddler of cures and magic tonics but I wonder how different my life might have been if I had learned buteyko when I was a kid. Not even as a 'cure', but just as a better way to breathe, to think about and understand breath. And now that I'm tuned into it I see people everywhere using their mouths instead of their noses, breathing too fast and shallow and I wish they knew too.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

today is brought to you by the colour green

Off to teach a class wearing new skirt I finished last night.
It is made from a remnant of linen from Armani (posh eh?) and it's shorter at the front than back and has little box pleats on each side and I am liking it much.

Can I say, I am getting a big kick out of finding that most days most if not all my clothes are handmade and I no longer have a single outfit I can pull together that doesn't feature handmade, not a one. LOVING IT.

PS A fabulous friend seems to have found me a knitting machine at the op shop. I can't believe my luck and her generosity! I am unreasonably excited about this since I know nothing about knitting machines at all. It's a singer from 1974 (a 321 if you really want to know). Anyone want to tell me stuff about it? Anything at all??

Friday, 16 July 2010

the week that was

Well hello, that week went by fast. All this working business makes the days fly.

Mostly I was doing this. Bless extra work commutes.

Loving the Ingenue, loving the posmerino aran weight, loving the dye job.

Last weekend I also did this.

A quick pair of work pants from a super light weight suiting wool with a touch of elastine. Not the most earth shattering of jobs - the fit just isn't quite there, but I suspect it is really that the fabric is a bit light for my trouser preferences.

I also started, but sadly haven't finished an interesting skirt from a remnant of green Armani linen. I have every intention of getting it finished this afternoon after work. Really I do.

Friday, 9 July 2010

over and over

back at work + D spending time at home + school holidays = confused brain

The shades of grey dyed yarn looked horrible knitted up in the swatch. I always underestimate how light a light shade looks and how much it dominates. So it took another dip in black and I'm much happier now. And I am up to row 5 of Ingenue! Yay! I am however, not on gauge and needing to do maths, poo, plus realised the pattern yardage is for a shortish jumper with 3/4 sleeves, and I have no aspirations for hello, I now need extra yarn, poo poo poo. And a matching dye job, which should be monumentally challenging. I've written to all the aussies who have posmerino in their stash on Ravelry to see if they want to give some up, otherwise it's shipping from the US!

I've spent pretty much all my non knitting creative time in the last week working on this top. It really messed with my head. I didn't use a pattern and I had quite a few ideas, but they weren't really resolved and a few critical details were still blank. Combined with a few stupid mistakes, some bad luck type problems, a certain impatience to have it finished once all the problems surfaced and there was a lot of remake. I'm not 100% happy with the end result, nor how long it took!. I had a big puffy kind of collar in mind but I just couldn't get it to work.

What I do like is the pleat detail on the hems - I just can't seem to get enough of pleats and pintucks!

It is actually fully two tops, joined at the sleeve seam, and I love the over long tight sleeves that bunch up around my wrist and the pleated shorter sleeves over the top. I love that it is red red red and that as 2 layers of fine merino it is warm without being bulky, not to mention machine washable.

And that's pretty much it. Mostly I'm trying to get my head around starting my extra day a week at work next week. That would be the same week Amy goes back to school and I have two days of teaching back to back. So that should be easy, right?

I've also been doing a lot of cooking. There's been visitors and inspirations and new books for my birthday to inspire me. I have to say though I think some of the best efforts in the last week have come from the man's fair hand - the New York style meatloaf from Delicious June 2005 was absolutely everything you could ever want in a meatloaf and the Osso Buco from Food Safari was so fantastically packed full of flavour I can't begin to tell you. D says he didn't follow the recipe exactly, but whatever. I'm not really an osso buco fan generally and I licked my plate clean. Then had some more and licked the plate again. We had left overs on pasta the following night and it was great again. I cooked Smitten Kitchen's buttermilk raspberry cake, and the sticky lemon pudding from the same edition of Delicious as the meatloaf to use some of our excessive lime harvest.

Now you'll have to excuse me while I try and squeeze in a bit of extra sewing before the week is out. I think this impending work schedule has given me a bit of outfit anxiety...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

It's all in the rhythm

The man is back in the house!

This trip was quite a long one, one day short of 2 weeks, and while I was really feeling the lack of sleep, in most ways I think I handled this one better than most. Yes the kids and I were all sick, I did take one of the weeks off work, it was half in school hols, both sets of lovely neighbors had us over to dinner, as did my mum and I did get organised before D left on the food front, but still. Even Amy said I wasn't as bad this time as I usually am when daddy's away. Ahem.

I am always sad to see D go, as are the kids. It's not just about sharing the work (though I'd be lying if I said doing it all on my own was a burden I assume happily), it's about losing a part of the family. We wonder where he is and what he's doing, we want to tell him our news, show him our stuff, give him a cuddle. The kids ask when he'll be home and when I'm making them do something they wish I wasn't they wish out loud that he was home right now to save them from me. We miss him and I feel keenly what he's missing in our lives.

The thing about solo parenting is that while it is incredibly exhausting (there really is no solution to the lack of sleep I can find) and at times sad, you can find yourself getting into a rhythm. The kids and I developed our own routines, including tania's ten minute tidy, we ate well, the house was pretty orderly and I moved my sewing machine and computer into the open plan kitchen/living room and managed to integrate creative work into the day pretty seamlessly. I step up because I have to and I do my best to fill D's shoes as well as my own and however compromised it is, it becomes normal.

And then D comes home. There's a whole lot of excitement and news to swap and cuddles to be had. Everyone is super happy, especially me who gets to sleep with earplugs again.

But you know, there's another part of this picture too. One that's a little harder to acknowledge with out misconstruing the situation. You see, another adult changes everything. It reintroduces negotiation into the minutia and with it frustration and compromise. Someone else's dirty undies on the floor, someone else's likes, dislikes, preferences and idiosyncrasies. Another person asking questions all the time in a way that is not really so enormously different from the kids - where is something, how do I do something, can't I have something, can't we do something. In some ways it seems like there is another person to whom I surrender half the authority and decision making role, but who comes with more work, more responsibility.

Now I said this was only part of the picture and I don't want to misconstrue, it's not that I don't want D back, but I always forget in the midst of all the excitement that his return is a transition, not a release. The hard bits always take me by surprise. I expect the work load to halve but it feels like for each burden I offload, there's a new one to take it's place. Where before I was chastising myself for every harsh word or slack arse meal option, now there's someone else asking me to pack up my shit off then kitchen bench or needing to approve the dinner options, someone who doesn't want to hang out at the market or who walks out to the car and gets in my driver's seat. [As Wil said suddenly when we were coming home from shopping and I was driving - mummy driving? not daddy? what daddy for? and as D said himself in response, yes, now that mummy can drive no one needs daddy for anything!]

I think part of the rub is because I am by nature a team player on these things. I would much prefer it that he didn't travel, that I didn't have to take on all the jobs myself, that negotiating was the base play. I'd rather he was here and sharing it. This process of adapting to life without him is about me adapting to things I have no choice over. And I could certainly bitch and moan about that until the cows come home. But since it isn't something I can change I do my best to adapt, and part of that adaption is stepping up and managing on my own, and trying as best I can to do it with a smile on my face. And somehow when he comes back it feels like both a demotion to a subordinate role and a loss of independence. Like I had something shoved at me and then snatched back just when I was getting used to it.

My creative life is relegated back to the cold work room and no sooner have I gone there than someone is asking where I am. Friday night football is back on and Glee is gone, there's no hosting crafty lady dinner parties or sewing days on the horizon and now there's the impossible task of trying to keep the kids quiet in the mornings because daddy's sleeping and trying not to get woken up when daddy comes to bed late at night. There's the uncertainty of someone else's totally changeable plans where one minute I have a day to myself today and the next minute I don't, where the calendar is a blank slate but can't be booked or indeed may already be booked but not communicated.

In a day or two the transition will be over and I will be back in the habit of organising things the way D is used to. I won't notice a whole lot of the things I am now and when I get home from work tomorrow night and it's dark and cold and late and there's a dinner ready I will be very glad indeed (or if there isn't I will feel fully justified in having a raging tanty). At some point I will fall into a new rhythm and I will adapt, I always do. But I wonder if over time as I get better at adapting to those periods when I am alone, if the transition back to being part of a team gets harder too. Like there's a certain amount of sadness and difficulty and if it isn't in the goodbyes and coping alone, then it's in the return and the working out how to be together again.

Perhaps next time I should plan to take off the very second he arrives home - do you think I could trick that readjustment phase by running away when it hits? Would a few days away on my own somewhere else give me the sense of release I so crave after I feel like I have been on the front lines? Sometimes I think it's thanks I want, for D to return home and to simply marvel that I kept us all alive and sane, to applaud my willingness and capacity to pick up when he leaves off, but perhaps what I want is really truly a break. After 24/7 duty maybe I want R&R with no responsibility whatsoever - so the transition to family life feels more like a middle road I am comfortable to travel down. Hmm, some food for thought there.

A quick community service announcement for those of you with the yarnie leanings - if you can possibly help out putting together knit and crochet blanket squares, there a bunch of people who would be very very grateful (and I would think you were seriously ace, if that's anything).

And a quick plug for this lady, who has been running art classes this school hols. Amy has been to a couple and she had a ball and produced some great work.

I am hoping she offers them next hols and I hope those of you on the Northern side of town will give them a look in - because she's ace and also because then we can have coffee in the cafe together while our kids are having fun!

And the really useful swap is all done and dusted. A big thanks to those who took part, and I hope they all enjoy their goodies (I am enjoying mine!).

As an organiser I like this swap format, despite the effort involved in receiving, sorting and sending out parcels I like that the postage costs are reduced and swap signer uppers who don't fulfil their commitments don't get stuff for free (though seriously, those people shit me because you know, we all have problems and issues and demands on our time, like, hey, organising the swap and chasing all you who can't be fagged, and sending me an email to say I'm out takes no effort at all and not even answering my hey what's going on emails really really shits me). What I don't like is seeing just how many people can't adhere to a deadline. A third! In the end I held the swap up by nearly a week and still one parcel didn't arrive. I know I am a little anal about deadlines, and am more likely to be early than late, but between the leaving it to the last minuters and those who actually believe the post offices most optimistic delivery timeframes as a certainty, I'm overwhelmed. Next swap I'm going to take a different kind of tack about lateness...

And today's photos are a slice of what's been going on round here on the making front this last week and a bit. (1)Amy's tiny tea leaves cardi finished and loved (details over on ravelry if you're keen), (2)my new wrist bag for carrying the ball of yarn when I am knitting on the move (to prevent bag tangles and add style - Lotta Jansdotta I love your fabrics!), (3)mandarins off our tree are getting eaten in large quantities and with great delight, (4)I finally refashioned the circles skirt by reshaping the yoke, reducing the side span and slightly shortening it and added a new vest to the wrap vest repertoire this time in a remnant of wool and cashmere suiting in a great shade of red (and sporting my fab brooch my darling sister gave me for my birthday - LOVE!), (5)new book!, (6) and (7)gingerbread with our new cutters care of the Flemington market, (8)hats by Amy thanks to this great tutorial (this lady's blog is so full of good ideas and things to learn!), (9)new hand dyed posmerino, this time in an aran or 10ply weight, ready for Ingenue. I used a graduated dip dye in black and I'm crossing my fingers it knits up nice or it all goes back in the dye bath and comes out plain black, (10)new aeroplane jeans for Wil - black denim outside, gorgeous car fabric inside and trimmed in red top stitching and plane motif ribbon. I had to pump out some lined jeans as the little man seems to be really suffering from the cold, but is very reluctant to rug up - hates all jumpers, multiple layers etc. I had to pull every embellishment trick in the book to get him into these and the other new pair of (11)blue denim lined jeans with car pocket details. A good making week it's been!