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February 2006
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Hit the road runnin'

Today is my day off -- I haven't had a day off in a while, so it's jam-packed with day off activities, as well as regular day activities (such as laundry) and the continuing activities toward the annual tax day thing and, because my bosses have been gone for a while, I will be going in to work to de-brief them.  That sounds pretty important, doesn't it?

The laundry is so bad, so very, very bad, that I'm actually thinking of taking it all to the laundromat where a couple of hours of washing clothes spin around while knitting, either on my sock or on Trellis, mostly uninterrupted, sounds damn good.  The tax thing is going pretty well, actually, and I hope to have that demon licked by the end of the day (or the weekend, it depends).  I'm such a procrastinator... it really would be nice to get that crap out of the way, so I'm shooting for "the day."

Y'all have a great weekend.


This is a test of the Ann Skimmer Alert System, as invented and quite successfuly employed by Nancy!

Ann read this!!!

BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!  Testing concluded.  In an actual skimmer emergency, the scrolling marquee will be followed by very important information that Ann should not miss should not be missed by ann anyone!

OMG, I love this.


I have not gone to yoga in over a month.  No doubt it would have helped at times, but it just didn't work out -- that one-hour workout actually eats up a lot more time, what with driving home in sweat-soaked clothes, peeling off said clothes to take the necessary shower.  A 5:00 class means that I'm not fit for anything else (and that includes stopping to fill my gas tank -- I've driven home after yoga with the light on more than once) until around 7:00 or so.  Bleh.  Here's a potentially good thing, though:  the studio that I frequent is opening a branch office closer to my home.  ; )

I discontinued my WW Online subscription a little while ago because, while I liked many of the features, I'm more of a people person and think I'd do better at meetings.  A week before my brother's accident, I finally went to a meeting to re-enlist.  I'm a lifetime member, having lost over 50 lbs. after Ali was born, and I'm right about at the same weight as the first time I joined up.  I do not wish to lose 50 lbs. this time, I'd really be happy with dropping 20-25 that I gained since quitting smoking, and losing the "bowl full of jelly" that has become my belly (I never, ever thought that a belly like a bowl full of jelly was a real thing!) -- I'd been comfortable and "okay" at that weight (even though it was well above my original goal weight) for many years.

I was going to go to WW last night, but then an aunt, uncle, cousin and his wife came to visit Michael and I had to see them, too.  And then we went out to dinner at a new pizza/Italian place where I began with bruschetta and finished with a share of three different pizzas -- all quite different, all quite delicious!!

It was the knitting that kept me awake during Boston Legal last night.  I think things are catching up with me a little and my weary body just fell right into bed at 10:00 (or so).  Much better this morning.  I've been at or near high alert for the better part of the month and, while I have been taking care of myself, there's an unrelenting buzz -- never mind concern over the surgeries, monitoring devices and medications, it's what this doctor says or that nurse or one of the three or four therapists, and how is the eating and pooping, walking and talking, remembering and memory -- and sharing it, in various ways, with all the people who need or want to know.  Thank goodness I could do the majority of it by email, but there are some who do not have it, or who couldn't wait for the email.

Anyway, I think my weariness was the manifestation of some measure of relief.  Yesterday, a tentative discharge date of a week from today was set for my brother!  This brings on a whole new set of stressors, but I'm doin' Scarlet O'Hara and thinking about all that tomorrow... or maybe even the next day.  Michael's therapy now includes walking stairs; he's been taking showers and brushing his teeth; he's getting stronger and able to pull himself upright to sit or stand after having the brace put on, and is able to walk greater distances.  And fishing!  Two hours of fishing is on the PT schedule this afternoon!!  It'll be Mike's first breath of fresh air in more than a month.  This will be a little stressful for my SIL, but there will be plenty of home-care therapy visits and she has worked as an OT, has cared for elderly parents, is a certified massage therapist and, most of all, she loves my brother.  It will do him so much good emotionally, just to throw a ball to his dog, eat his wife's cooking, and sleep under his own roof.  Thrilled would be putting it mildly.

It was interesting to talk to Mike last night, to hear him talk (wistfully and longingly, I probably needn't add) about getting home and reacquainting himself with his things.  He said that he knows he owns hunting and fishing equipment, a lawnmower, a boat, etc., but he really can't remember any specifics.  He said that he'd forgotten what his house was like, too, until he heard my SIL describing it to someone yesterday -- he followed along in his mind, "...up the stairs and down the hall."  It's like all the information is there, like pieces of a puzzle locked up in many locations; he needs to track them all down and fit them all together again.  Some of those pieces will be harder to find, harder to keep in position -- or maybe he'll try to force a piece to fit where it really doesn't belong.  Heh, I think he's been doing that a little -- he told me yesterday that he hates not knowing the answer to questions he's asked and he'll sometimes try to bullshit his way through.  That's my brother!

And crap.  The tax man soon cometh, and I'd better get going-eth.

Scenic interlude

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Windsor Castle and the garden in the dry moat on Saturday; Katie at Stonehenge on Friday.

Okay, so now I want an old, dried up moat -- what a cool garden!!  I remember when I was in Colonial Williamsburg at Christmas, how I admired the gardens even though they were dormant -- the design and settings were fabulous at any time of year!  Katie's a little out of focus there at Stonehenge -- she sure looks happy!  A week from Friday, she'll be in Paris for the first day of frolic on the continent; home in less than a month.  Amazing.  Wasn't I just whining yesterday about letting her go???

Dsc06774Ali bought a brand new used car and she is way beyond tickled pink.  She has been without a car since December and saving diligently; yesterday, she took ownership of a white, 1998 VW Beetle.  A little bug has been her dream car since the first time she ever saw one.  Yay, Al!

Sandy, my dear, this one's for you.  I was on my way to pour my first cup of coffee this morning when I spotted the rising sun and had to grab my camera and step out on the back porch in my robe -- it was even more red than shows up here.  I hope you're feeling better.  ; )

We're such babies, yeah, the catfish makes us cry...

(Apologies to Hootie & the Blowfish.) One of the ways the pent up emotion of a horrific tragedy, numbing uncertainty, blind hope, and joyous yet guarded relief of the past month can be released is in sharing a good cry over how good the hospital cafeteria catfish is.  My brother, my sister, my SIL and me -- passing 'round the tissues and sobbing over the catfish yesterday.  It turns out that, while I am the eldest sibling and definitely "the boss," I am not the one that our brother fears most.  The one who makes him tremble in his boots happens to be the most mild-mannered, least confrontational of us all!  Apparently, she once took him to task and pushed his back against the wall to tell him what-for and, while neither of them can recall when or where or even what it was all about, it obviously made an indelible impression (the expression on his face when he described it said everything).  She struck such fear into him that when our parting words to Michael on Saturday were that this sister would be visiting on Sunday, he had another horrible night's sleep, worrying over her visit and fearing that she'd yell at him again.  Even though he knew it was silly and irrational and that he didn't do anything to warrant being yelled at, the dreadful feeling just didn't go away. He could laugh about it with everyone yesterday, but it was truly a huge relief when she finally came and didn't yell at him that when the conversation turned to catfish and how good it was -- we all had and enjoyed it weeks ago when Mike was still in ICU, but he'd just had it the day before -- his relief at not being yelled at, combined with his renewed appreciation for the little things (like catfish) and tender, humble emotions that have been pretty much laid bare, well, we all got caught up and the tears just started to flow.

I formatted the relevant blog posts down to fewer than 70 pages and printed them out for my SIL.  I gave them to her on Saturday afternoon with an explanation of what a blog is, who bloggers are, and a heads-up about the blue blogger blanket that Michael will be receiving, and she took it home to read it that night.  She was so moved that Sammy, their black lab, became concerned.  She would like to tell you all:  "THANK YOU," with more tears in her eyes, "...just 'Thank you'."  (During the catfish incident, I turned to her and said, "You don't even bother putting makeup on in the morning anymore, do you?"  It's true.)  My brother isn't yet ready to know the details of the accident -- he said that he wants to wait until the pain is gone -- but I think it will help him, too, especially wrapped up in the blue blanket of love while he reads.  Have you seen all the gorgeous blue squares???  Christine is amazing.


I finished a Trellis sleeve over the weekend and started on the second -- I love that little two-stitch TBL magic on either side of the central motif that makes a nice mock cable!  So simple and so fun!

F is for...

Family Tree.  I'd like to introduce my great great grandmothers on my paternal grandpa's side, Eva (left) and Amelia (right).  Eva (1860-1896) was born in Wisconsin to German parents; Amelia (1864-1958) was also born in Wisconsin, but to Swiss parents.

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Alison gasped yesterday when I took Eva's picture down from the cabinet door on the computer desk where it's been affixed for years -- I put it right back when I was finished!  I hoped and hoped, but never expected that a picture of Eva would be found -- she died at age 36, in childbirth I believe; her son, my great grandfather, was only 10.  I was elated when this charcoal rendered portrait turned up in a relative's basement.

Dsc06768I had several pictures of Amelia in her later years -- she lived to be 93 and died only three months before I was born (her birthday was in November, same as mine).  In her old age, she had snow white hair and one of my aunts told me that she always had a very regal manner.  A cousin unearthed the studio "hiking" portrait (a tintype), as well as the wedding photo.  I also uncovered court records having to do with my GG Grandfather William's will and something about a trust and I can only surmise that he was a bit of a control freak -- it's been a while since I looked at all that.  Amelia lived for 27 years after William died and, according to all sources, bounced between whichever daughter's house had room.  They all lived in the same city and four of the five married four brothers from another family.  My grandma talked about Amelia coming over to help her with canning, housework, and the babies.

Dsc06761I haven't done any family history research in the last few years to speak of.  In fact, I only just installed my six-year-old version of Family Tree Maker software on this "new" computer yesterday.  I'm behind.  There's a shot of my computer screen with my entire ancestor tree.  I find it extremely enjoyable and very rewarding -- I get to be part detective and sleuth, part historian, part librarian and archivist, all things that greatly appeal to me -- but very time-consuming.  I am not too keen on interviewing the relatives in my research, I'm much more comfortable at courthouses and libraries and traipsing through cemeteries (William's family has a small, private cemetery on a corner of the old farm about an hour's drive from my home -- there are still some unsolved mysteries there).  No doubt I'll get into it again -- I kind of go in streaks because it takes so much focus and concentration, I get burned out or hit a brick wall and need to take a break to recharge or maybe find new inspiration.  These ladies are pretty inspiring to me.


Dsc06758Look what was in my mailbox yesterday!  This is from my health insurance company.  They had sent me a questionnaire a few weeks ago, wondering if I was still quit, how many setbacks I had (zero!), whether and how I used their services.  I never expected that I'd get a Certificate of Achievement -- and a gift!

Dsc06760Take a closer look (click for big, as always) -- it's no gold watch, but have you ever seen a more adorable keychain calculator?  What is it about miniatures -- miniature anything -- that appeals so much?  I doubt that I'll put it on my keychain, but it will fit perfectly into my knitting tool/gadget box.

* * * * *

Michael was with it even more last night.  He passed swallow test #2 with flying colors, so the trach has been removed and he is on a diet of soft foods, which apparently includes chicken breast (lunch), meatloaf and green beans (dinner), along with the usual suspects (applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes).  His diet is supplemented with tube feedings yet, 'til there is no question about his tolerance for solid food and to make sure he's getting the nourishment he needs.  He's lost at least 20 pounds these last few weeks.

There was a full day of therapies yesterday, with a slightly reduced schedule today.  He was able to recall and tell us about activities during the day and who visited or called.  He's also becoming more and more frustrated with his situation -- he referred to the hospital as a prison yesterday, and is very uncomfortable in the brace/collar -- and what a pain in the ass to get in and out of that full brace.  One of the worst parts and a huge frustration is that he can't look down.  When dinner was brought in last night, Mom asked him if it smelled good and he said that it sure did, but he wished he could see it.  He also complained of a stiff neck.  Poor little brother.  I'm afraid the biggest challenge in the next few weeks is going to be keeping his spirits up.  Any and all suggestions for making this phase more tolerable are most welcome.  ; )

No secrets

Perusing the pages of my brand new, spring/summer VK the other day, I found myself wondering, on several pages, if I wasn't looking at a Vict*ria's S*cret catalog instead.  Disappointed would be putting it mildly, but maybe it's just me -- I'm not old, but I am getting older.  ; )  There's exactly one design in the entire issue that stays on my mind and it might even surprise you -- Di Gilpin's deconstructed tank (#17) (preview here, it's the middle one under "Natural Selection").  Maybe -- with mods.  (I would definitely wear it as a vest.)

I worked a little on the sock yesterday, a little on the Trellis sleeve -- that one will be for Mack, if you haven't already guessed.  I've been cabling without a needle quite frequently in the past few months -- for me, it just depends on the gauge, the yarn, the pattern.  This wool-cotton is a little slippery, but I've been able to do it sans needle for the most part.  Oh, what a wonderful, soft fabric it makes!

* * * * *

Holy shit,* what a difference a day makes.  Yesterday, I was pretty much walking on air as concerns my brother's progress, today I'm inching close to Cloud 9.  I picked up Mom on the way last night and as we walked down the hall toward Michael's room, he emerged with his entourage, heading out for a walk.  There was an aide holding on at each side, a nurse, and his wife close behind with the wheelchair, just in case.  What a spectacle he was, standing 6' 4" in thigh-high, white Tet stockings (which he found quite amusing), blue shorts, T-shirt and body brace with built-in cervical collar!  Mom and I waved excitedly and he waved back.  We gave him hugs and he decided to have a seat, then politely introduced us to the aides and even told them that his mother used to be a nurse -- impressive.  But wait, there's more...  He passed the swallow test, the trach has been down-sized, and the Foley is gone!  He was completely, mechanically untethered for the first time in over three weeks!  He remains under close watch, though, with 24-hour, one-on-one supervision.

He was even more chatty than the day before -- there was gibberish, confusion, disorientation, but he's also got a lot on the ball.  He tried to explain why he had them take down the clock in his room -- something to do with the day/date/calendar -- I think it's just too much information to process right now.  He needs to get how the calendar works, then remember how the clock relates.

Mike asked my SIL about the accident yesterday.  He said that everyone tells him he's there because of a bad accident, but he wanted to know more about what happened and, especially, whether he caused it.  He's been told since Day One, whenever the accident was mentioned, that it wasn't his fault and he didn't do anything wrong.  She told him about what he was doing, where he was going, how the semi hit him, and that he didn't do a single thing wrong -- it was very emotional, and at some point he asked her to stop, that it was all his brain could handle right now.  I'm sure that someday he will see photos from the scene and I can't imagine how those will affect him because, truly, he should not have survived.  I can write that now, but I still can't say it out loud. 

I've spent some time copying and pasting all of my posts and comments since February 28th into a document, and will probably integrate the daily update emails that I've been writing and sending to family members.  I'll have to do minimal editing, and lots of formatting, but I think it might be useful and maybe comforting to him to have it written down -- and to feel the love!  Wow -- it's over 90 pages in raw form!  Even I am amazed at how much has transpired and I've been conscious for all of it!

*Unmoderated enough for you, Lynne?  ; )  She made an observation in yesterday's comments about my "moderated language" and wondered if it was because my mum read the blog.  (Has it really changed that much?)  As far as I know, Mom does not; Dad might; two sisters might, and maybe one or two of their friends (they tell me that it's overwhelming the first few times); possibly a cousin.  Katie definitely does.  Hello?  Hello?

Life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

*Auntie Meme Mame!

1.  A blog which you think people have not discovered.

Just a few, new to me and maybe to you, by no means a complete list:  if we shadows, Oiyi's Crafts (bonus: one of the cutest pup pics I've ever come across), Po Mo Golightly -- my list is always changing!

2.  A blog whose author lives close to you physically.  Just get as close as you can, it's all relative.

Amy Lu!  I was lucky enough to meet her last April at the Midwest Masters Seminar (no, I haven't signed up for this year's and yes, I'll probably be kicking myself next month), and I played "Where in WI is Amy Lu?" last September -- that was a really fun day, by the way.  ; )

3.  An unusual or weird animal picture.

Surely there's something at Ann's... Pug on a Rug?  It's not a weird or unusual picture, but the title makes me giggle.

4.  An entry that made you laugh and got strange looks from family or co-workers.

JenLa Jenifleur's Stash Wars -- That was a challenging morning at work!  I laughed 'til I cried -- in a very business-like way, of course.  So funny.

5.  An idea you wish you'd thought of.

Bagged salad.  Or Post-its.

6.  Something you'd like to knit.

That darn Rogue, some blasted Latvian Mittens

Dsc03552_17.  A picture of something you consider beautiful.

Katie has shared only a fraction of the pictures she's taken in the U.K. -- and a quick tour of the continent (France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria and Germany) is still ahead -- and I am so looking forward to seeing them all.  I am preparing to be verklempt.  This is a favorite among favorites so far:  Tintern Abbey in Wales.

8.  A blog whose author you would like to someday meet in person.

Celia, Margene, Stephanie -- and 792 others.  ; )

9.  A blog of someone you have already met in person.

So lucky to have met so many already.

* * * * * *

Dsc06756When I arrived at the hospital last night, my brother Michael was in a wheelchair, all his stuff was on a cart or in someone's hand, my SIL and uncle were there, various nurses and aides... they were movin' on up -- to a de-luxe apartment in the sky!  Heh, pretty darn close -- a 6th floor room with a westerly view (and a private bath) of the river, the teensy city skyline, sunsets, and lots of activity!  He was being moved out of Neuro and into Rehab!  Yahoo!!!

The #1 really huge thing that I noticed new yesterday was that he was asking questions and initiating conversation (okay, maybe that's TWO!) -- "Hey Vick, whatcha doin' here?"  He is wondering about the brace and collar (and when some of that can come off), and how things work.  He is still mighty confused and befuddled -- he answered "June" when asked which month it is, and he didn't know the name of the hospital, even though he's been asked and told these things 10,000 times.  But get this...  My SIL had explained to him that he'd be moving to Rehab and that they'd be working with him in different ways, asking him questions to get him thinking more, and he smiled and said, "Yeah, like what day it is?"  HILARIOUS!!  He's asked that question 50,000 times a day!  He may not remember what frickin' day it is, but he remembers being asked and that's HUGE (at least to my reasoning)!

Dsc06757Having finished the gusset and made progress on the foot of the sock yesterday, I celebrated Michael's progress by casting on Trellis last night.  This is a sleeve, one repeat -- LOVE the School Products wool-cotton yarn from NYC that I mentioned a few days ago.  I am so happy, I might even cast on something else tonight.  ; )

Thank you all, again and again and again and again, for your amazing support, words of wisdom and kindness and encouragement these past few weeks.  I've really sucked at writing back, and I'm sorry about that.  Please know that every single word has been a huge help.

Sock in sunlight

Dsc06755Here it is!  Three weeks of work on my sock and I'm finally doing gusset decreases.  I'm winging it, using a rib pattern I've admired at a friend's.  Sort of.  For the technical portion of the program (heels, gussets, toes), I'm using the The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns by Ann Budd for guidance.

I have several balls of self-patterning or self-striping sock yarn, plus a little more variegated and even some in solid colors, and I'm looking forward to working them all... someday... but now that I'm seeing all the STR Clubbers getting their first packages, I wish I'd joined and that I was getting STR in the mail, too.  I don't know why I didn't.  I completely and totally understand Cara's obsession with that yarn -- I am in awe of the beauty and richness of nearly every colorway.

Mark your calendar:  International Pajama Day on Sunday, March 26th.  Definitely looking forward to that.  Hey, that's only four days away!!!

AuntimemeWatch this space:  The JenLa Wild Goose Chase, a.k.a. Auntie Meme, coming soon!  I can't wait to do this and I'm anxious to read others'.

That's all the knitting -- kinda lame, I know.  Click for more stuff.

Continue reading "Sock in sunlight" »

There will be days

Dsc04138_1I can't seem to think of or write anything today without it quickly becoming very reflective and maybe even a little morose -- at the very least, there's a definite melancholy spin.  (Chin up.)  There's nothing definitively wrong, really, outside of The Big WRONG, and maybe that's just it -- even though my brother doesn't know when his birthday is or what year it is right now, there are so many variables and outside factors that you can't really make a judgment.  No one can make a determination or a prediction or anything.  (Chin up.)  This is all normal for recovery from traumatic brain injury, from being pumped full of morphine and a variety of sedatives for the better part of three weeks -- and this could go on for weeks and months and *gulp* a year or two.  It's that time and patience thing again, and positive thinking and hope and prayers and optimism (chin up stuff) and, well, it's been three weeks already!  (Patience, patience, patience!!!)  There are many, many things for which to be thankful, I know, and it's for those things and not for those things that I cried all the way to work today.  (Chin up.)

I read Laurie's Fractured Fairy Tale over the weekend and the comment she made to the person who caused her husband's injury keeps going through my head on a loop:  " have altered my husband's life and my life for the foreseeable future, and you have made it into a nightmare."  Altered lives and nightmares.  No kidding.  In the blink of an eye and forever.  (Chin up.)

I can't believe it's been three weeks.  He was sprung from ICU last night.  That's worthy of a Woo and a Hoo, huh?  Yeah!

It'll be fine.  It was a pretty great weekend, really.  And it's always good when Katie posts sheepie pics for me/us.  And I finally turned the heel of that stupid sock I've been working on.  (I'm using that as a term of endearment; it's not really stupid.)

Is it just me in my mood today -- the mother of three fabulous sweaters fast approaching and/or on the cusp of adulthood -- or did anyone else laugh through tears while reading Stephanie's post today?

Sorority & Celebration(s)

Dsc06745My sister made this pin for me to commemorate the one-year quit -- she's got a year in (plus a day), too.  Iota Delta Sigma -- I Don't Smoke.  That was something that our brother-in-law said to us and it stuck with us both -- that was the mindset.  'I can't go out for a cigarette because I don't smoke.'  There were days when that's all that ran through our minds, "I don't smoke.  I don't smoke.  I don't smoke."  Like writing it on the blackboard 500 times.

Can't believe it's been a year.  I am still trying to decide what I'd like to do for myself to celebrate -- I am juggling the idea of a make-over type thing or more of a spa-type thing (hot stone massage, a facial, reflexology).  It's the kind of thing that I can easily talk myself out of -- that even though I've saved over $1000 by not smoking this past year, I won't want to spend the money.  I should, though...

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The Olympic Quilter, having taken up the challenge, brought her finished block over the weekend!  Isn't it gorgeous?  I awarded her a gold medal, of course.  I hope I live long enough to see it as an actual, finished quilt.  ; )

March is a busy month -- and this one has been like no other.  Today, the first day of spring, is my 2nd blogiversary.  Incredible.  What a lot of fun -- more than I ever imagined.  The people I've met and challenges undertaken -- both personally and as concerns knitting -- kind of blow my mind.  Thanks for reading and commenting and offering support and advice and just being there.  It all kind of blows my mind sometimes.  In a good way, a very good way.  ; )

Overheard in ICU today

Michael:  I want to get these fucking tubes outta me.

Vicki:  You've got to leave the fucking tubes in.

Mom:  I don't like it when you two use the F-word.

This was after he'd already removed the Foley catheter once (ow) and had to have it replaced, was caught with a leg over the siderail of the bed, trying to "escape", and told his best friend to go get the car.  "Let's you and me go for a ride, Paulie."

I think the wild ride portion of this recovery program is underway.

Stand down

We're still on alert, mind you, but it's lights out on the emergency knit-signal and the stress-o-meter took a nose-dive this evening.  Thanks to all you super-heroes for the prompt response!!  What a day...

The surgery, originally scheduled for 7:30 a.m., finally began at around 5:00 and was finished at a little after 8:00.  (Holy scalpel, knit-girl!)  Thankfully, there was warning about a delay last night, but we had no idea it would be so, so, so, so long a delay.

We saw Michael only briefly afterwards, awake but very, very sleepy -- and doing just fine.  He did good.  We all wished him a happy birthday and got a big smile, too.  There's a plate holding things together (from T1 to C6) and there was no new, previously unknown damage found in that area.  Whew.  The broken vertabra in other regions will be left to heal on their own (he'll need to wear that brace for a while) and will have to be monitored -- he's got a lot of life ahead and there's no way to know what to expect in the long-term.  In the short-term, I fully expect to see him sitting up, alert and out of ICU very, very soon!  Woohoo!!!!

So, there's still some time left this St. Paddy's Day for a toast -- to my brother on a most memorable birthday!  I raise my glass...

May God grant you many years to live,
for sure he must be knowing,
the earth has angels all too few
and heaven is overflowing...

All of my sisters (and Mack!) will be here over the weekend...  I think I'm going to go collapse now.

P.S.  Did anyone notice, in the earlier post, that the "Kiss Me, I'm Irish," happy birthday, green socks bit landed RIGHT next to the photo album picture of St. Brigid?  She, too, is a saint of Ireland!  I took it as a very good sign.  ; )

Lighting up the sky with the knit-love


Do you think the knit-mobile could be a Roadster?  And it could shoot yarn and needles out the back into which the villain in pursuit would become entangled, kind of like an oil slick, but with yarn -- just the cheap stuff, you know...

The Commissioner (of course, it's Wendy!) has kindly provided a knit-signal beacon with which to call the posse.  Mine's a mostly virtual knit posse without which, truthfully, I mostly likely would have gone mad these past few weeks... or gone mad sooner... or madder later...  It has been a very welcome diversion and distraction to read blogs and it's been good for me to concentrate and focus on writing my blog.  I'm sometimes worn out and unable to put two thoughts together (as in responding to all the lovely comments, for instance).

I declare, here and now, that I will not be held accountable for anything I may or may not have done, in both real and virtual worlds, these past three weeks, and might well extend the declaration to cover the next week or so because the stress has been at times nearly unbearable and made for some terrifying moments.  The dial on the stress-o-meter isn't just going to go from red to green overnight.  I've found that I can laugh at something that's funny and cry over something heartbreakingly sad and freeze in terror at an unthinkable thought and go numb with would-have/could-have/should-haves and ifs -- all at the very same time.  It makes for a mess and I might even have exhibited inappropriate behavior at times (yes, dears, mild-mannered, even-tempered, mid-western moi) -- usually brief, then the emotions sort themselves out and I return to doing my best to keep it all together, to be strong.

Anyway, calling on the posse today, sending out an S.O.S.  You know what to do!  Kiss someone Irish and give 'em an extra peck with a thought for my bro, hm?  I hope with all my heart that after surgery today, the very worst will be behind him.

* * * * * *

Kiss1s Happy Birthday, Michael.

I'm wearing my lucky green socks for you today!

XO, see you soon.

Second verse, same as the first!

The highlight of yesterday is that it was much like the day before.  Whew!  Hugs, kisses, smiles; sometimes sleepy smiles.  I didn't spend too much time, don't want to over-do -- he needs lots of love, but he needs to rest and get better.  That's the hope for today, too.  We already know that Friday will be much different.  Surgery is scheduled for first thing and, yes, it is Michael's birthday and St. Patrick's Day.  I'm already thinking of leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, slightly more than 16 candles, four-leaf clovers, Aran sweaters, redheads, freckles, green, green, green, and luck o' the mostly honorary Irish (though there is just a splash of real, by-now-very-watered-down Irish in our veins).  Kiss someone Irish tomorrow and give 'em an extra peck with a thought for my bro, hm?

Dsc06726Dsc06723I'm still knitting blue and there's plenty more in the bag.  I keep thinking of what I might take up with next, but that's Shirley Shrugs, resting quietly in full view of me and the closest stash atop the entertainment center.  That's Mom's going to demand that it get some attention.

Dsc06731Dsc06727Making the loudest stash noise at the moment and making valiant effort at catching my eye (other than at least five -- no six -- varieties of sock yarn that's really getting quite obnoxious), is this nice, green, wool-cotton that I purchased last June at School Products in NYC with a sweater for Mack in mind.  It's even already found a pattern with which to associate -- Knitty's Trellis.  Running a close second and third are Bamboo and the Juniper baby alpaca, both sent by my BP from last fall, Jessica; she sent me some Hemp yarn, too, but I can't hear it from the hamper.

Really, really good news -- for real

Baby2Smiles.  Kisses.  Even though he's back on sedatives and morphine and shouldn't really even have his eyes open, my brother was alert as can be under the circumstances last evening.  My SIL was so relieved, so happy, just elated to hug me and tell me that she'd locked eyes with my brother and he gave her a big smile, that she took his hand and brought it to her lips for a kiss and he pulled her hand back to his lips to return the favor.  ; )

After meeting very, very briefly with the neurosurgeon (happy birthday! surgery on Friday morning) before he was called away on an emergency*, I went in to see Michael with my SIL, my mom and my uncle.  His eyes were wide open and bright.  He saw my SIL and puckered his lips, and did the same when he learned that Mom was there, and again with me -- it was not an easy task to give him a kiss, but we did the best we could.  He tugged at my uncle's baseball cap to see what it said.  He tried to mouth words -- some we could decipher, some we could not.  "I love you" was easy!  He is not in pain; we asked.  He was inquisitive about the monitors.  My uncle told him a little bit about why he was there -- an auto accident, he didn't do anything wrong, it wasn't his fault.  I told him about how much his best friend has had to endure in our company, the things he's heard and the topics of discussion amongst a predominantly female crowd, and what a trooper he is; I got that "Geez Vick" look.  I can hear him say it in my head; I guess I get that reaction from him a lot.

He's back!  I had to tell him about the card I made -- he seemed familiar with it and I wonder if someone has shown him the things that have been stuck to the small bulletin board in his room -- and reminded him, in my big sister, "I can be the boss of you" way, that he has to behave and listen to the nurses and do what they tell him so he can get better and get outta there!

There's a makeshift stabilization thing on his head to keep him from damaging his spinal cord -- the C7 has deteriorated that badly.  I'm trying to focus on the now and the future rather than getting worked up over some other things.  Okay, like... I can't believe he'd have been cleared for much of anything with a broken neck and many more crushed, broken, fractured, cracked vertebra in his back, all the while wearing a body/cervical brace.  Why was he taken off all pain meds and sedation and writhing around in his bed all weekend?  Why was he sitting up, strapped into a chair on Saturday when he wasn't even close to being awake?  Was he getting rushed out of ICU for some reason?  Who, I wonder, would be the driving force behind such a thing?  I can't even write the scary words that accompany some of the next thoughts.  Don't think like that; focus, Vicki, focus.

*Two weeks ago yesterday, my brother's car was rear-ended by a semi-truck while waiting to make a left-hand turn, pushed into the path of a pick-up; two were injured (one critical), no fatalities.  One week ago yesterday, two men working on a highway crew were killed in an accident involving a car changing lanes and reaction of the semi-truck that was cut off.  Yesterday, several people were injured, some critically and transported by air to various hospitals (including the hospital where I was, this being the emergency that our neurosurgeon had to attend to), when a school bus was rear-ended by a semi-truck while waiting to make a left-hand turn.  This is the last three Tuesdays just in my teeny, tiny part of the Big Woods and it's kinda scary.

Man oh man, two weeks already.  Many more to come, lots of twisty, winding roads, but he's back!

Oh, it's the twisty road!

Feb6c_1I guess the winding road looks more like this... but maybe blue.  Lordy.  You just knew -- I should have known -- that the breathless, distracted, forgetful, tear-filled, happy, beside-myself news of yesterday would be tempered by something.  The joyful feeling was a nice relief -- I'm calling it a practice run.  I don't think I really need much more practice, though.

By the time I reached the hospital yesterday, I only got to see Michael for a few minutes as he was being prepped for another CAT scan and keeping him calm was the rule.  Short story:  all his recent movement does not bode well for the neck injury, aggressive regimen of antibiotics for infection, surgery soon, he'll remain in ICU.

As Leslie* reminded me yesterday, "Take a sad song and make it better..."  ; )  So, on the up-side, I do believe he was more with it yesterday; I think he heard me, saw me, looked at me, recognized me, responded to me -- and I believe he did the day before when I spoke sharply, too, but to a lesser degree.

*Go visit Leslie.  She's brand spankin' new and I love her already -- start at the very beginning.  Also, if you're a Blogger blogger, she's got questions.

The long and winding...

9:45 a.m. -- See update below.

Dsc06719At this point, I have two blue merino squares knit and on the blocking board, plus another ready for blocking and one in progress.  I think I'm just going to keep on knitting and blocking blue squares for Christine's brother Jef and my brother Mike until time's up.  Each one has a cable design because, hmm, well, did you know that I like cables?  I realized, too, (sometimes it takes me a while) that the twisting, turning knitting of a cable also represents the long and winding road on which our brothers now travel.  It seems right.

I knit on the sock when I'm at the hospital and I'm not even half-way through the heel flap yet.  I get distracted...  Some of my SIL's hometown girlfriends visited yesterday -- oh, they're fun girls!  They usually take turns getting together at each other's houses a couple of times a year for merriment.  We told stories yesterday and laughed.  When they learned that Michael grew up as the only boy in a house filled to the brim with girls, they were not surprised.  They said that he just sits right down with them and fits right in; they liked him as soon as they met him.  It was nice.

The feeding tube and "art line" were removed yesterday.  He still has pneumonia, there are still plenty of tubes, and he was getting extra oxygen through that trach, but there's less and less stuff.  His eyes were open yesterday and it seemed like he may have been able to focus momentarily, he may have responded at times to the sound of people's voices.  He's moving much more; I think he's becoming more aware of the pain and discomfort.  He has these special mitts on to keep him from pulling things he shouldn't be pulling, but he keeps working them off.  When I went in to say good night, he had wriggled out of a mitt and was moving for the trach and the cervical collar (it's chafing badly under his chin) -- deliberate movements? involuntary? reactionary? -- I spoke rather loudly, as a big sister can, and told him to stop and what had happened and why he was there; he turned his head in my direction, looked into my eyes for a second.  It's really hard to guess the level of his awareness, whether he turned in my direction because I spoke or just because.  There are improvements, though we're always left wanting more.  Unless there's a reason not to, he'll be moved, "stepped down," to the neurological unit today.  ; )

Michael has always liked everything about The Beatles.  As a six-year-old, he sang Hey Jude to Mom over his walkie-talkie set. There's a picture of him as a teenager, standing in front of our house, proudly displaying a new Wings album and his body language says everything -- he's so excited, he's practically standing on tip-toes!

My dad just called me at work and Michael is WAKING UP!  My uncle, the flight nurse, was checking in this morning and Mike had gone for a CAT Scan to make sure everything was okay before moving him to the floor.  Michael was very, very agitated, so my uncle went over and talked to him and asked him, "Michael, do you know who I am?"  Michael nodded, unmistakably, "Yes."  Prior to his 19 years as a flight nurse, my uncle worked in the neurological unit; he knows how this works.  I can't wait to go visit...  Mom's checking on that...

; )


Michael was sitting up in a chair for a while today.  He is completely off the ventilator -- in fact, the ventilator has left the room.  (Every time I visit, there's less and less equipment.)  He is getting extra oxygen and there's saline to keep things lubricated.  He coughed and it was loose and, while it probably hurt like hell, it was good.  His hands are no longer restrained, though he is wearing special mitts so he doesn't pull out a tube or something (he's got more ports than my computer).  He's not really awake and it's hard to say when he will be; his eyes barely open.  He moves, but not when you ask him to; doesn't respond to any commands.  There's a very bad bruise on his back and left shoulder -- the fractured scapula.  Thank goodness his shoulder took that impact rather than his spine.  I saw more pictures of the car today.  My knees go weak and I am overcome with emotion -- still -- when I think about and realize how incredibly fortunate he is, we are.  I can't think of a word that comes close to describing it.  He gets tears in his eyes.  I get tears in mine.  I hope and pray.

When the zoom comes in handy

Okay, so my daughter takes breathtaking photographs in England, Wales, Ireland... at home... pretty much wherever she is with her camera.  She left a comment on my last post about the pastoral view with sheepies from the lodge and totally burst my bubble:

You'd THINK they were sheepies! But we did some super camera zoom research and realized they were some sort of feathered llama/dinosaur/giant swan things. Turns out they're just swans, but they're not as distant as they seem. ;)

*sigh*  They're just swans.  Swans are nice and all, but they're not sheepies.

* * * * *

Mom visited with Michael for a little while this morning and called me afterwards to tell me that he was resting so peacefully and quietly, just sleeping the whole time; she massaged lotion into his hands and feet -- they're so dry.  I missed my SIL and her sister today, but their notes said the same thing.  I know that just that small thing was a relief to all of them.  He was more restless this afternoon and evening.

I'm learning that you need to ask the right questions; information is not always usually volunteered.  He has pneumonia and pseudomonas, which are getting neither worse nor better, though the respiratory therapist said that there's been more activity this afternoon.  He is breathing mostly on his own, but is not quite ready to quit the ventilator and still needs that extra bit or he'd have a collapsed lung.  At this point, the ventilator is the only thing keeping him in ICU.  The continuous morphine drip will be stopped tonight in an effort to get him to wake up more (and they'll continue to give it to him as needed, of course).  He opened his eyes just ever so slightly tonight (just slits, really) and we've seen tears at the corners of his eyes the past few days, and grimaces that sometimes accompany the squirms.  That's hard.  There's going to be such pain -- the ribs, vertebra, now a shoulder blade, too.  Does he see us?  Can he focus?  Can he hear us and understand us and remember when we tell him what's happened?  I have to believe, even if we all still seem far away and fuzzy, that he does feel the love -- lots 'n lots of love -- all of our love -- and that's got to help.

I'm excited about this:  It was suggested that it's not too far-fetched to think that he could be celebrating his 44th birthday, St. Patrick's Day and my 1-year quit anniversary next weekend on the floor.  There won't be any green beer or corned beef and cabbage for him, but oh that would be like a pot of gold -- a little beginner baby pot, because we are going to be needing many, many more along the way -- more rainbows, more pots of gold.

Thank you, again, all, for your continued good thoughts and prayers and well wishes.  They mean so much.  You just don't know...  I just wanted (needed) to give an update, especially since it's hopeful.

* * * * *

The other really good news today is that my youngest, having not had school today, cleaned the entire kitchen -- including the floor -- without even being asked, without even a suggestion.  You can knock me over with that swan feather now...

The view

Dsc03858In light of all the front door views and back yard views around the blogs over the past few weeks (which I've both participated in and enjoyed immensely), I laughed when I saw that Katie had posted, surely through some kind of osmosis, a picture with the caption, "The view from our lodge, Ireland."  Not difficult to see why she'd even think to take a picture -- it's so peaceful!  Do you see the specks on the grass across the water?  It's surely more sheepies!

Dsc03927This one makes me smile, too.  "Aran Islands in the distance through the snow from the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland."  I'm not sure whether I'm seeing islands or what, but I love it.  ; )  She called last night with a question about yarn -- she is on the hunt for something special and memorable for both of us!

I've finished the pink stealth knitting and have started another blue blanket square for Christine's "Comforting Jef" project (which may, with any luck, also extend to "Comforting Mike"!).  There's a good week and a few days of knitting left before I'll have to get these in the mail so she has them by the deadline on the 24th.  I knit a whole square listening to podcasts the other day, but I was so tired last night I had to hit the hay early.  I'm using some navy blue Debbie Bliss Merino Aran that I actually used to knit a sweater once, but it was too small so I frogged the entire thing.  It's great yarn.  Each square has a simple cable design because, well, I like that cable action!

Still prayin'.   ; )

Kicking up my heel

I'm (stealth) knitting something pink and also working something blue, but neither is for a baby and I don't have pics.  Bleh, I'm a little wrung out these days.  I worked on the something blue last night while listening to a couple of About Time podcasts -- the first one, "Christmas Presents," and the fourth/special edition, "Knitting Olympics."  Yeah, I've got some catching up to do.  I'm still feeling the flush of Olympic victory, though, so I'm not tired of hearing about it even though it's over; and Stephanie is just a kick.

I used a 20-dollar bill while knitting at the hospital yesterday to determine that the leg of my sock was 6" and it was an okay time to start the heel.  Woo.  My SIL was knitting, too; concentration (or lack there of) allows just a plain ol' garter stitch dishcloth, but that's great.  Turns out she knits continental and learned in high school home ec.

So we're talking about knitting and where we learned and my mother asked me where I learned to knit.

Huh?  My mother doesn't remember teaching me how to knit.  ; (  She doesn't really remember learning how to knit herself, though, either.  (I remember the circumstances better than she does!)  Her mother knit, but didn't want to teach any of her kids because she was left-handed and didn't want to "pass it on" or whatever.  Turns out my mom is left-handed, anyway, but the nuns made her learn to write right-handed and so, really, she's ambidextrous, but favors each hand for different tasks; she eats and bowls as a leftie, knits (she's a thrower) and writes as a rightie.  Anyway, it was a neighbor lady in Highland Park, Illinois, who taught my mom to knit (and that's when Mom taught me) in return for my mother teaching her how to sew.  Mom later took a knitting class, in the late '70s/early '80s, and that's what she remembered... until yesterday when I set the record straight!

So, anyway, I'm kicking up my heel about a couple of things.  First, please go give a warm blogland welcome to "Mary in Boston" -- she is Cardigirl!  Woo!  Woo!  Woo!  Mary has read and commented on my blog for a while now, and I was most happy to have met her at Rhinebeck last October.  She's the first person to ever recognize me from the blog.  ; )  I have had occasion to hear from some other new bloggers recently and hope to introduce you to some of them soon.  I'm always changing up the old Bloglines list, so check it out anytime.

I'm also kicking up my heels because we were able to see my brother's face yesterday.  He was still way, way out of it, but what a difference it makes.  His uber-swollen lip, which was even beginning to split, has gone down considerably with the binding tape removed.  They performed a tracheostomy yesterday, allowing the apparatus to be removed from his mouth and he is now breathing on his own to a degree, with assistance from the ventilator.  They also inserted a feeding tube directly into his stomach.  They'll begin using that tube today and then, folks, we're hoping for a poop.  Yeah... When's the last time I prayed for a poop?  (Did I ever??)

When I was 16, one of my sisters and I spent a summer living with our dad in northern Wisconsin.  I decided to stay and finish school there -- I was a senior and, dammit, I was ready for change, ready to live my life.  Being 16, I didn't think and/or care a whit about the rest of my family or my friends -- at that time, at that age, it was all about ME.  I don't think that I would change it, even if I could, because of the experiences I had, friends I made, lessons learned, but I am sorry about some things and that I was such a teen-aged ass.

One day, in the middle of the year, the phone rang.  I answered it and it was a guy:  "Is Vicki there?"  It was a very, very low voice and I didn't recognize it

"Who is this?"

Very, very low voice:  "It's Mike."

(Mike... Mike... Mike...  It's not my brother, he's only 13!  Mike...Mike... there's a Mike in my class (pant-pant-pant)... Could it be that Mike?... Would he call me?... Is there a dance?... Why would he call me???)

"Mike who?"

Very, very low voice:  "It's Mike... your brother!"

I do not remember a thing about why he was calling, but I sure do remember the call.

E is for...

Embroidery; particularly cross-stitch, particularly some sort of sampler, particularly having to do with family.

Dsc06712 Dsc06710


"Mothers Tree," a design by Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum for Lavender & Lace, is right up many of my alleys!  It's the genealogical record of the direct family line from the oft-neglected maternal side.  It includes the year of birth and full name (maiden name and married name) of the eldest, known, direct, female ancestor, followed by the words "mother of."  On the next line is the same info for her daughter, then her daughter, and on and on.  This one is for me and I want to include all three of my daughters, so it has me, mother of Katie and Ali and Maddy.  I haven't done a bit of family history research in the last few years (or perhaps I'd know Mary's surname -- rumored to also be Bauer, but not fact), nor have I stitched on this project.  I was stymied by my grandmother's name for a while -- everywhere I looked there was a different variation of her first name, along with vague attempts at explanation in the form of stories about "too many Marys."  In the end, my family historian persona duly recorded all the variations (and even took a favorite) while deciding that for the sampler, the variation that Grandma used herself was appropriate (even if it isn't my favorite).

Dsc06713_1 Dsc06714

While the Mothers Tree is folded up and hidden away in my workbasket, brought to mind on rare occasion, "The Dorcas Haynes Christmas Sampler," a reproduction sampler taught by Darlene O'Steen at a "Christmas In Williamsburg Seminar," sponsored by Just CrossStitch Magazine in December 1992, taunts me every single day.  I'm taunting myself, of course, in that "stickin' it to The Man/but you are The Man" way; I could stuff it in a drawer or basket, too.  It is a very large band sampler and this is all I've accomplished in nearly 14 years.  If you've done any kind of needlework, you're no stranger to the idea that "the back should be as neat as the front" (that concept is synonymous in my mind with the grandmother of the troublesome name, above); well, this sampler is actually reversible.  You can see that in the stitching of the alphabet letters -- they are full "crosses" on the back, too.  Darlene's parting words were along the line of "just do it"; she encouraged us to stitch it however we wished, even in plain, non-reversible cross-stitch, because it was too pretty a sampler to NOT be stitched.  That's what I did on the band below that first alphabet.

I had a blast on that trip to Williamsburg -- the first big trip away, all by myself, since I'd become a mother.  At the time, Maddy was 20 months old and still nursing a couple of times a day and I joke that I took this trip to wean her or I might still be nursing!  We were both ready, really; I certainly was.  Williamsburg was absolutely gorgeous -- even the dead gardens were gorgeous -- and everything was decorated for Christmas, and there were fireworks.  Really, any guilt I feel when I see that major, unfinished embroidery project on display is completely overshadowed by the good, warm feelings that still come to mind about that trip.

Trash talk

Dsc03921One of many breathtaking pictures that Katie took from (or of) the Cliffs of Moher last weekend.  She had a great time in Ireland with four mates and a rented car; they stayed in an adorable little lodge and traipsed around the countryside.

Dsc03917Oh, okay, here's one more (as always, click for big).  Y'all know what I'm thinking when I see ones like these, don't you?  "Oh, Sandy would LOVE this!"

Dsc03972Katie knows what her mum likes, too -- and what she likes to share with her friends!  She calls this one, "Sheepies in Blarney, Ireland."  I love that; my girl calls them "sheepies."

Dsc03988And you know what else they have in Blarney?  Mwah!

* * * * *

I'm relieved that my SIL's sister has arrived and will be here all week.  It's a good week for her to be here.  My brother will have a tracheotomy tomorrow, so that he need not be intibated anymore and also allowing them to reduce the sedation medication.  They're hoping to do surgery tomorrow to fix the C7.  It's still all about patience and prayers.

One of Mom's favorites was when "John and Joe" would play Garbage Man.  They'd even take time off from their hard work and go fishing.  Annie would sit on the basement steps with a "fishing pole," the line dangling over the side -- Michael would, too, if he was able to talk one of us girls into helping out.  We would tie a stuffed animal to the end of the line and give it a good tug, or if we couldn't be talked into it, Mike would do it just for Ann.  "Wow!  You got a big one, Joe!!"


Won't you be my neighbor?  Did you traipse around in peoples' back yards yesterday on Becky's Back Yard Field Trip?  What a fine virtual neighborhood we make, populated by some very fine and extraordinary people!  There are some late entries, so check the list again.  It was a blast and a nice way to spend a Sunday morning.  It looks like Becky will continue with a monthly-on-a-Sunday-morning themed picture post; I couldn't be happier about that.

Dsc06705We had a little snow since y'all were over visiting yesterday.  It started in the late afternoon and it was still snowing this morning -- and it's still snowing now!  I love the "blue period" that often occurs at this time of year, both in the morning and in the evening, when everything outside is blue -- it never lasts long, but it seems magical somehow. Dsc06704There are of the "lower yard" and were taken this morning from the end of the back porch.  Tomorrow it's supposed to be sunny and then it's going to warm up and be rainy -- this is all going to turn ugly pretty soon.

When Mom and I arrived at the hospital yesterday, we rounded the corner to the ICU waiting area and immediate spotted my SIL with knitting needles and yarn every-which-way.  She had just finished ripping, having cast on 27 of the required 30 stitches for her dishcloth and coming up short on the tail end.  She's not sure she can concentrate enough for a 6-stitch, 6-row repeat -- pshaw, we said, garter stitch makes a nice cloth, too.  She seemed happy enough to put it away and talk for a while instead.  I'm so thankful that her sister is arriving later today.  I can be the boss of my brother, but I'm not comfortable being the boss of her -- and I think she needs to be bossed, even for just a day.

My own knitting?  Slow, slow progress on that Trekking sock...

Grocery shopping with five kids in a six-year range was an odyssey for our mother.  I remember that we'd get half-way through the store and the cart would be full, so one of us older girls would be sent to get another.  She bought at least four gallons of milk each time, and I recall the total for two heaping-full carts of groceries being around $60.00.  When he was little, my brother was very well acquainted with the managers of all of our favorite grocery stores because, inevitably, Mom would have to take him back to apologize and return and/or pay for the candy bar he'd stolen.  It's a wonder she didn't start to strip-search him before we even left.  He had the stickiest fingers ever!

Field Trip!

There's a path behind my house that is often used by kids from a nearby elementary school when they are on their way to a nearby nature center or the creek for a field trip.  I am always delighted to hear their chatter and giggles and watch them (they usually don't notice me) as they make their way.

Today, it's a field trip, at the suggestion of Becky (go see hers!), to my back yard from the comfort of your own computer desk!

Dsc06699 Dsc06700

On the left is the view with my back to the back door -- and it's actually on the east side of the house.  Yes, we're livin' on the edge!  On the very bottom left you see a corner of the house -- there's a window on that wall into the living room.  Down two steps to the path which leads to the garage that DH and I built a few years ago and there's the "deck" we built even fewer years ago -- I'm going to a pergola over that thing this summer if it kills me!  See the plates along the edge of the deck?  You also see the roof of a playhouse that DH built for the girls when they were little -- it used to sit where the corner of the garage is now (when we had a yard and no garage) before it was displaced.  Beyond that is "over the river and through the woods" to the great beyond.  My location is one of the very best things about where I live and in the summer, when there are leaves on those trees, you can hardly see any of that -- it is very private.

To the right, you see down my back porch.  It used to be a big, L-shaped enclosed porch, but we did some remodeling and reclaimed some of it for use in the house (kitchen table) and opened up the rest.  I stripped at least 10 coats of paint off of each of those pillars with a putty knife and heat gun; they were reclaimed from a house that was being demolished.  I had a really good right pec that summer!  The birdfeeder used to be at the far corner of the deck, but it was also displaced.  You also see the top of a set of handrails for the stairway that leads to my literal back yard, a.k.a. "the lower yard."  There's a perennial garden down there.

Dsc06701Here's a view from the end of the porch back toward the playhouse/deck/garage.  We have done a lot of work on that yard in the 19 years we've lived here -- including a rebuild of that retaining wall practically from scratch.  There used to be an iron railing affixed to a concrete cap at the top of that wall -- I can barely remember it -- and the first spring we were here, DH, acting like a 12-year-old (it happens), went out and started pulling/pushing on it in a "I wonder what would happen..." kind of way.  Well, guess what happened?  The railing broke apart and the whole thing went tumbling down the ravine!  He could do nothing but watch those big rocks tumble and roll at the bottom of the hill.  He had to bring every single one of them back up again, too.

* * * * * *

I saw Michael only briefly yesterday, but he was off the ventilator at the time and the nurse was "jazzed" at how well he was doing.  I don't know how long he was off, but they're working up to an hour on, an hour off at this point -- and they'd like him to be resting comfortably during that hour off.  That's a goal.  He's not really there yet.  I think they'd also like to do surgery to fix that C7 as soon as they can, too.  I made him a card, using that picture of us that I posted the other day, and read it to him before tacking it up on the small bulletin board in his room; it said, "I can be the boss of you!  Get better -- fast!"  He tries to open his eyes and his wife said that they maintained eye contact for a short while yesterday -- he's so drugged up, though, it's really hard to know whether things register.  I hope so.  I think he has a sense of all the people who get "jazzed" about him.

There is an enclosed mall in our area, one of the first enclosed malls in the country -- it recently closed and will likely be razed, likely replaced by condos or something.  When we first moved to the area, that mall was thriving.  There were restaurants, specialty shops, clothing stores, a grocery store at one end (Kroger's!), a drug store, barber and beauty shops, and our dentist (ick).  Mom always had Mike's hair cut in an "English school boy" style and, with red hair and freckles on that round face, he was adorable.  When he was about 8, Mom decided that he was old enough to go to the barber by himself while she did some other shopping, assuming the barber would take his cue from Michael's current style.  What she didn't count on was Michael ordering up something completely different!  She didn't even recognize him with his new "buzz" when they passed each other in the mall.

Take note

Remember The View last month?  Well, tomorrow it's a Field Trip -- I absolutely LOVE this idea.  I think it was just last week (or maybe the week before) that I was email-dreaming with Carole, imagining a bus full of knit-bloggers on tour, touring each other's homes (show me the yarn -- and the antiques -- and then let's have cake and cookies), stopping at LYSs and fiber shops along the way, spotting farms with sheep, knitting...  Anyway, I'll be participating in "The Knit-bloggers' Back Yard Field Trip," and I hope you will, too.  (Y'all know who has one of the best "back yards" around, don't you?  And the best pictures of it, too!)

Jefbutton_2I'd also like to point you in the direction of Christine -- here, here (adorable picture alert!), and here, and finally, here.  She is collecting blue knitted squares to make into a blanket for her brother, Jef; in fact, the project is called "Comforting Jef" (see the snazzy button?).  In that last entry, she wrote that she hoped to have too many squares -- enough to perhaps make a second blanket for my brother; that would be "Comforting Mike."  She didn't tell me about that, though she has been leaving me comments, so I ran across it in my regular blog reading and... Wow, Christine, I am verklempt.  Just when I think I'm verklempt enough, I get verklempter.  Christine and I are fairly new to each other's blogs, I think it's likely a happy (and hopefully lasting) side effect of the Knitting Olympics.  Thank you, Christine, for such a sweet thought.  I'll definitely be knitting blue for your brother.  Comfort.

I'm really torn about the blogging, blogging about my brother, specifically.  His recovery could be very, very, v.e.r.y. long -- he could be in ICU for a long time, with no real change.  Or he could wake up tomorrow.  His wonderful p.m. nurse of the last few days gave us a bit of a reality check yesterday, and I'm glad.  The bottom line is, there is no "timeline," everything is dependent on something else; there is a process to recovering from major head trauma and he has to work his way through it; he hasn't responded to commands the past few days, but it's hard to draw any conclusions about anything right now -- No One Knows.  It is very scary.  And maybe I should just not be blogging about him.  I don't want to be the Bummer Blog, I want you all to come and visit me over here (because, really, I am all about the comments and the visiting), I don't want you all to not know what to say or to feel uncomfortable, I don't want to make you sad, but I know, too, that a lot of you are enjoying my little stories.  Maybe I should put that part in "extended entry" or something, or not do it everyday.  I don't know.

When Michael was on the cusp of adolescense, our then single-mother struggled with how to talk to him about the facts of life.*  Right about then, she came home with the book, "Where Did I Come From?" and sat us all down to read it to us.  I was 16 at the time (yeah), so Mike was 12.  When she got to the part about men having er*ctions, he innocently and enthusiastically blurted out, "Hey, that happens to me!!"  Naturally, we all responded with fits of giggles.  The poor, poor kid... it's a wonder he turned out at all.

*We were really a family of innocents.  Just a few years earlier, the older sister and brother of a friend of mine actually had me believing that every night before bed their mother told them one fact of life, as if there was some master checklist somewhere.

I think I like it

Dsc06697 This is the Trekking sock I'm working on -- color 128, mostly brown, black, and white, but with that little stripe of very pale orange/salmon.  I got a little further than this last night, but still only one bright stripe!

Dsc06680Maddy has a birthday party to go to this weekend.  She said that the girl pictured on the invite is not the birthday girl, but looks just like her.  She found a doll, some scraps of this and that, and transformed it into a damn good likeness, if I may say, complete with presentation box.  I'm completely blown away by the cleverness and creativity of my girls sometimes -- all three!  It's one thing to have a bright idea, another to try and do it, but it's a whole different stratosphere to actually pull it off, and they do!  Wow.

Vicki_mikeI was only about 3-1/2 when my brother was born and there's a set of twin girls in between.  Fortunately, for my mother, he was a very good, very happy baby -- he's got a huge smile on nearly every picture, lighting it up.  I think we were living in St. Louis at the time of this photo -- love the fireplace!  I think I may have doted on him, too, because there seem to be a fair number of pictures of the two of us.

They reintibated with a larger tube yesterday -- the swelling has gone down, plus they didn't know the extent of cervical damage and wanted to use a smaller tube at first.  They also removed the dressing from his head and why, oh, why didn't they just shave off all of his hair?  It looks ridiculous.  I suppose it serves as something of a distraction from that awful, horseshoe-shaped incision and everything else going on up there.  Oy.  He's also got the fattest lip I've ever seen -- I guess it was mostly covered by bandages before.  One of his bandmates calls him "Lips" sometimes, because my brother does have rather full lips, but now there's new meaning.  ; )  This friend went with my SIL yesterday to see the car and take pictures; they said that there isn't room for a person in there.  I can only surmise that Michael didn't see it coming, didn't have time to brace himself for impact or get tense; he must have been so relaxed that his body just went with it.  Oy oy oy.

The brace arrived yesterday and, after some fine tuning, it was fitted last night.  In another odd turn, the man who made the brace was a classmate of Michael's; Mom had put up a 20-year-old photo of Mike's band and the guy recognized them.  When I spoke with the nurse this morning, she said that he's intermittently restless; that it's darn hot under that brace, so no wonder he's uncomfortable; they're backing off on the sedation; raising his head up more; he opens his eyes.  Another CT scan is on the schedule for today.  I will be going up later.

Our parents woke us up and brought us all downstairs in our pajamas to watch the moon landing on the TV in our family room.  Those were the days when television sets were brought from the AV Room to the classroom and we dropped everything and gathered 'round to watch rockets take off -- live; Walter Cronkite reporting and all that stuff.  Gives me goosebumps -- it was so exciting!  Mike used to play "John and Joe" with Annie, our little sister; John and Joe were many, many things, and most memorable among them was Astronaut.  I'll try to describe some of the most precious Super 8 footage my dad ever took:

John and Joe, astronauts, had their air packs on their backs (rectangular sofa pillows in big brown plaid) and their helmets on (large, shallow, plastic bowls with the bottoms cut out for their faces to shine through).  They're strapped into the cockpit of their rocket (a green leather recliner) and Michael pulls back the throttle (a small, black comb) -- you can't actually hear him, and yet you can... he's making the sounds of a rocket on take-off, and nudging Annie so she does her part, her feet twitching wildly, her curly pigtails bobbing -- she's ready to explode herself!  Michael hadn't finished speech therapy yet, so he still curled his tongue all up funny inside his mouth, and you can almost feel the spray of take-off, too.  After a few minutes, they landed, emerging from the rocket to slowly and carefully explore the surface of "the moon."


Shirley Shrugs for Mom is getting too big to be portable knitting and requires more concentration than I can muster for knitting at the moment, at least while I'm at the hospital, so I started a pair of socks.  I know I was going to use some of JessaLu's beautiful, spring-colored yarn for the next pair, but I decided instead to use a ball of the self-patterning Trekking XXL that my sister gave me for Christmas.  She's been asking me about it (she gave me two different balls) and I knew that I'd be seeing her.  I am using a simple ribbing pattern, but wonder if I shouldn't just be knitting a plain ol' stockinette stitch sock with that yarn.  I'll keep going for a bit yet to see how it looks, but I'm prepared to rip it.

Mom has given up on the baby blanket she started for Mack, and my sister is finishing it for him herself.  Instead, Mom's working on what started out as a dishcloth, but is growing into a scarf.  It's a simple six-stitch, six-row repeat that is both engaging and mindless and hey, whatever.

Mom and I both did a little knitting yesterday, and my SIL looked on with interest.  She and my brother have been working on a big latch hook project, but it's too big to lug around.  She said that she hasn't knit in ages, but maybe she should take it up again now -- she wasn't sure she'd remember how to cast on.  We were all over that!  I stopped at the LYS on the way home and bought some nice Brittany Birch needles for her.  I typed up the pattern (with clip art!) on an index card and printed it out last night.  Mom had an extra ball of cotton and I threw in one that I had, too, and made a nice little package for my SIL that Mom will deliver this morning -- and she'll show her how to cast on.

I didn't get the "pooh-pooh" I might have when I uttered the words "dishcloth cotton" on the premises, but I would like to suggest that while an LYS may not wish to carry "dishcloth cotton" as regular inventory, it wouldn't hurt to have a few balls behind the counter.  No doubt my needs could have easily and inexpensively been filled at a Big Box, I was in no humor for that kind of nonsense nor for schlepping all over creation.  Truthfully, when I think "yarn," no matter what kind, it's an LYS that comes to mind first, not Big Box.

I spoke with a CCU nurse early this morning and she said that there has been no change in Michael's condition -- and that's okay.  They've kept him heavily sedated.  She said that hopefully the brace will come today.  We're thinking that their anticipation for the arrival of the brace means that they want to wake him up and get him up for a while... for various reasons and scenarious that occur to even my non-medical mind.  Oh, this slow, step-by-step, waiting stuff is HARD!

Thank you for your continued prayers and thoughts and well wishes.  It really does help.

Michael had a lot of fun with Super Glue as a kid.  What's a young boy to do with a full bottle of glue and nothing that needs fixing?  A.) Glue the eyes of his little sister's dolls closed.  B.) Glue various light switches throughout the house into the "off" position.

I don't personally remember the breakfast exposure incident that I wrote about yesterday.  My sister told the story at the prompting of my SIL, and it was hilarious -- we were all laughing with some gusto in the hospital cafeteria.  In a phone conversation with another sister last night, I mentioned our lunch and the story and that I didn't really remember it, but did she?  I didn't even finish the question and she started to laugh and that, yes, she did remember.  She said she's always felt badly about it; that we were really quite dramatic and overreacted (by quite a lot -- we were probably doing it up good for the benefit of our youngest) and she always thought that we should have helped Michael eat all that cereal.  ; ) Not that he didn't get away with other stuff over the years... or that people didn't take the rap for him at times...  I'm sure we're all even-steven.  ; )

Soggy cereal

I saw my brother today, but he didn't see me.  He's very heavily sedated -- you could say "mild induced coma."  The doctors can wake him easily, if they want; he does respond to some commands.  They are not monitoring the pressure on his brain anymore, though, and while I didn't ask about that specifically, I'm taking it as a very good sign.  He is still on the respirator; he can breathe on his own, but he has three or four fractured ribs on each side and it just frickin' hurts.  He has fractured vertebra in all three areas (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) -- one, two or three in each, some worse than others, some just hairline cracks (as far as they can tell right now) -- C7 is the one most likely to require surgery.  But that's still down the road a bit.  Baby steps.  One thing at a time.  Improving.  He was measured for a full body brace today, which he'll need only wear when upright, and he could be in the hospital for a very long time yet.  He'll be 44 on St. Patrick's Day and it sure would be nice if he was out, but I think we can party in the hospital if we have to.  ; )

Speaking of St. Patrick's Day, I still have a daughter in the U.K.  I was able to inform Katie yesterday about Michael's accident and it's weird, but okay.  She is leaving tomorrow night for a weekend trip to Ireland!  They're flying into Shannon and out of Dublin.  I think I'm going to transfer some money to her account so she can buy me some yarn, if anything speaks to her.  She might possibly go to Scotland yet, too (just over a month and a half before she comes home!), and I'd also like some from there.

A young lady come to the CCU waiting room this afternoon and spoke with the volunteer on duty.  The girl had a small vase of flowers and a card in her hand, and also a newspaper.  I noticed her as she took a seat while the volunteer went off into another area.  A few minutes later, the volunteer returned and asked us whose family we were.  We told her, of course, and we were exactly who the young lady, Mary, was looking for.  Mary doesn't know my brother or my sister-in-law or any of us, but she'd read about Michael's accident in the newspaper (the one she had in her hand) and said that she and her grandmother had been praying for him by name and she just felt moved to come...  Oh, yeah, I know!  We talked for a bit and hugged and thanked her for her thoughtfulness, and then the volunteer got out a fresh box of tissues...

There was laughter along with the tears at lunch this afternoon with my sister-in-law, my mother, and one of my sisters.  When my brother is the subject, there can be a laugh a minute.

Once, when Michael (the only boy among five kids) was probably 4 or 5 years old, he exposed his p*nis during breakfast with his sisters, totally freaking us all out and sending us, screaming, from the table.  When Dad found out why four bowls of cereal were left untouched, he made Michael sit down and eat every soggy morsel as punishment.