Thursday, June 26, 2014

I haven't been here for ages...

It's been so long since I've been here. I've not written, and it feels like I've lost my writing mojo. So now I'm trying to get back here, to that place where writing seemed to sooth my soul. I miss writing.

My brain is all over the place.

Trying to stay busy today, trying to settle my heart, so started the morning weed whacking (Lordy, it feels good to destroy weeds), at least until I ran out of trimmer string. Who would have guessed that killing plants would be comforting? Went out for a drive in the country with Rocky, stopped at a few sales, found nothing but still it was good to get out for a backroads country ride. Ignoring the phone - don't feel like talking today. I talk all day long at work because that's what I'm supposed to do, so my days off are mine to talk-or-not-talk. Now getting ready to make freezer jam with the local strawberries I picked up yesterday.

Mostly I'm trying to not think of six years ago today. On June 26, 2008, my life changed forever. It began a year of fear and pain, a year of trying to deal with life spinning beyond my control, a year of stress through horribleness.  On June 26, I had a stroke while living and running my antiques business in Maine. Then I learned that God really doesn't give you more than you can handle (although I certainly questioned that at the time) - three months later we discovered that Tom had Stage IV esophageal cancer. I left Maine to return home to Michigan to help him through a year of treatments at the University of Michigan. Tom died in October 2009, taking a piece of my heart with him forever.

So today I am trying hard not to think about that time, yet still, I am grateful. I am grateful that I am alive after having a stroke. I am grateful that I was able to spend that last summer in Maine, doing what I love - antiques - in a place that I love. I am grateful that God sent me a very specific message to return home to take care of Tom, although at the time of my stroke, neither of us realized that the upcoming year would lead us down that cancer hell-road. I am grateful that I had one last year with Tom, and we made the best of it. I have such good memories.

I am trying hard not to think of the future we had planned and looked forward to. Life changes, and I've learned to be flexible enough to handle those changes. I don't have to like them; I only have to live with them. Time allows for healing if you want to heal, and I'm getting there. A few years ago I decided to heal. Sure glad there's no time limit...

It's an ongoing process, that healing thing. My life is nothing like it was six years ago, and I'm ok with that. It's evolving, and I trying to look forward to the next unknown, whatever it is. Change is ok.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First Annual KazooYarnies Fiber Retreat - Fabulous!

We didn't really know what to expect at our first annual KazooYarnies Fiber Retreat. After all, we'd never done anything like this before. But a dozen of us got together for a fun weekend at the Miracle Camp in Lawton, Michigan, on beautiful Bankson Lake.

Friday night started with a potluck supper, with everyone bringing something to share. It was an evening of relaxation and getting to know each other, and then we settled in to watch a presentation on Ravelry on the big screen set up by the Miracle Camp just for us. We used that screen throughout the weekend to watch movies too, and to share some other fiber info from the Internet. We had our own private meeting room for the entire weekend, just steps away from our private rooms. The staff had brought in comfy rockers for us, and we just kicked back and gabbed the night away.

Saturday brought Jill June, of Studio June Yarn - and she came ready for us, filling five 8 foot tables with her wonderfully hand-dyed yarn. This is Jill below setting up her bounty for us - it took her a full hour to get it all out. (And we did our best to put a serious dent in her inventory...)

 Jill brought knitted samples so we could see how her yarn worked up - here's Carolyn modeling one of Jill's shawls. 

Carolyn and her sister Mary (in blue) didn't waste any time finding goodies - and this was just their first go-around! 

After a quick lunch, we enjoyed an afternoon with instructor Kelly Jensen, of Your Local Yarn Shop in Battle Creek. She brought along a sample shawl showing her mosaic knitting technique, and then taught us all how to do it. Her course was specifically designed for beginning knitters (for which I will be forever thankful, since I'd never learned how to read a chart before). It was an excellent experience, and we learned that this technique can be used both for flat knitting and in the round too.

Instructor Kelly Jensen, showing us her just finished shawl with a Mosaic border.
This is an example of Mosaic Knitting, done in two directions.
Kelly's sample shawl showing a mosaic border.

Then we were off to zipline! A few brave souls gave it a try, and others came to give moral support. We had a blast, once we got past that first step...

It was a long walk up those stairs, and then three flights up to the top of the tower.
Here's Janet getting hooked up...
and here's Janet flying!!
This is me zipping and smiling - and screaming all the way down!
Gloria did it twice - this was her second trip, where she was free-styling in lay-out position!     

Saturday evening we relaxed with our Silent Auction. Nearly everything started at $1, and several of them sold for $5 or less - lucky bidders ended up with some wonderful bargains. These were all items donated by KazooYarnies this past year.
Swift -  $6

Big Book of Kids' Knits - $3

10 balls of Ceres yarn for $17
Hip Knits - $4

two skeins of Paton's Mohair plus the cute basket - just $1 !!

Kids' Knitted Sweaters - another $1 bargain!

10 skeins of SoySilk - just $10

4 skeins Nashua wool-alpaca mix - $9 

Sunday was sunny with a cool wind, and we went on the hunt with Janet "WeedWalkWoman" Clawson, who showed us a wide variety of edible wild foods - young poke berry shoots, wild strawberries, mint, and lots more. Foraging is fun!

Gloria showing Val something wild and yummy....
Such a pretty place, the Miracle Camp. Here we were finding wild goodies just a few steps away from the martin house, right between the Lodge and Bankson Lake.
Yup, we were sniffiing Autum Olive bushes - they smell so sweet in the Spring. But the real treat is in the fall, as their berries are delicious!   >>>

Janet fearlessly eating something...

I don't remember what we found at the base of this tree, but it was edible. Everyone had borrowed a book from Janet's vast collection on foraging and edibles, and we were having such fun finding things we never knew existed!

Janet showing me another edible - maybe mint??

We had our own private dining room, with direct access to the lake. Chef Matt came in to check on us regularly - his food was wonderful! We had a full salad bar at lunch and dinner (even yogurt was available), plus for breakfast we had french toast, sausage and bacon, oatmeal, donuts, fresh fruit and more. Just some of the offerings at lunch and dinner - grilled cheese sandwiches, lasagna, veggies, many desserts, plus all the juice, milk, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate you wanted. Nobody went hungry!

The best part of our retreat was that no one had to participate in anything if they didn't want to. Some went for a walk outside, some went for some quiet knitting or tv watching in the lobby, some took an afternoon nap. It was a successful weekend - everyone did what they wanted to, and we all had fun.

On Sunday after the retreat, I took a leisurely drive through the country on the way home, and found these beautiful wild trillium - what a great way to end the weekend. 

And now - already making plans for next year's retreat!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Yellow Kid - One Tough Cat

It all started innocently enough. My yellow and white tabby, Yellow Kid, had been battling a stubborn infection in his paw for months. We'd get it cleaned up, and it would return, time after time. Finally, our new vet cleaned it out completely, and all was well.

Or so I thought. His paw was looking pink and healthy, with just the smallest scab. He was walking normally,, no longer limping. Everything was going well. And then - of course, on a Saturday when vets generally aren't available - he started walking stiffly. The cat with the voracious appetite wasn't eating, although he was sniffing his food as if interested. He'd then just walk away - something I'd never seen him do before. Yellow Kid just never passes up food.

The stiff walking became more pronounced that evening, and by Sunday morning he was walking with his back arched, just a step at a time, looking seriously ill. I was sure he had some kind of blood infection from the paw problem. But soon Yellow Kid was becoming sicker by the minute, and I knew that waiting until Monday morning was a bad idea.

So off we went to the Veterinary Emergency Hospital. That's the only choice one has around here on weekends. By the time we got there, Yellow Kid was unable to walk, which was a major change from 30 minutes prior. His body was stiff, and he wasn't able to move. He couldn't sit, stand, walk or do anything other than lay flat on his side.  He couldn't move his head. His tail was stretched out ramrod straight, his legs were extended and not bending at all, and his ears stood erect without moving. That's when I learned from the ER vet that Yellow Kid had tetanus.

The vet had never seen a cat with tetanus. Neither had the other ER vet working the clinic that day. Turns out that cats have a natural immunity to tetanus, so a cat with tetanus is a true rarity. It also turns out that there is no blood test for tetanus in cats; the only way it can be diagnosed is visually. Unfortunately, Yellow Kid had all the signs - stiff ears and tail, locked jaw (which sadly explained why he had sniffed his food and walked away), body stretched out and unable to move. If you picked him up, his muscles were so taut that he was literally as stiff as a board.

It was heart-wrenching to see him that way. In fact, so painful for me that I couldn't take any photos of him. I didn't know how much longer he'd be on this earth, and I didn't want a photo of him like that as my last memory. My camera stayed in the car.

Talking with the ER vet, she said that although he was in rough shape and not far from death, that she believed that with treatment he had a chance of making it. So they immediately pumped him full of IV antibiotics and muscle relaxants, and fed him intravenously since he hadn't eaten in at least two days.

What I didn't know when I brought him in was that transporting him in my noisy, bumpy big diesel van wasn't a good idea - an animal with tetanus reacts to sound and movement in a negative way, stiffening up with each noise and bump. That explained why Yellow Kid had been able to walk just prior to our trip to the vet, but not after we arrived. Though not intentionally, I'd inadvertently bounced him in my noisy city-bus-of-a-van for the 20 minute ride to the emergency vet, which worsened his condition considerably.

After discussing the options with the ER vet, we decided that they'd treat him until the next morning, when I'd transfer him to our regular vet for continued treatment. So Monday morning I moved my board-stiff-cat - now in my quieter, smaller Kia van - and we headed to Denney Veterinary, where they babied him while he slowly recuperated.

His convalescence was slow in coming. They set him up in a big laundry basket in the middle of their work area so they could check on him frequently. Everyone fell in love with Yellow Kid. Even in his sad state, he'd purr when they talked with him, said a kind word to him, petted him, or encouraged him. They had never seen a cat with tetanus either, although they had experience with tetanus in dogs and horses. They were cautiously optimistic that Yellow Kid would pull through, and they worked hard to make it happen.

After several days of antibiotics, he slowly showed improvement. At first, he could just lift his head from his stiffened position, still laying on his side. He was hungry, and they discovered that he could eat wet cat food on his own, although he slopped it down his face and all over his blanket. Then he was able to move his shoulders, and then he was off IV completely. He could eat and drink on his own, although he was still stiff and laying on his side. They were able to feed him his antibiotics in pill-form. He'd started to move his front legs a bit, and they'd been seeing more and more improvement, so after ten days it was time for him to go home.

That night at home, after giving him the physical therapy suggested by his vet, I carefully placed him in the bathtub. He was still stiff and laying on his side, but he was safely "caged", unable to climb out of the bathtub. I fed him - he was back to voracious eating again - and left the door open to the bathroom so the other cats could visit.

Early the next morning I checked on him, only to find no Yellow Kid in the bathtub. Or in the bathroom. Or anywhere. He'd disappeared, and after several minutes of worrisome searching, I found him leaning against the stairs in a half-sitting position. He stood up to greet me, then toppled over. Somehow, he'd managed to crawl out of a extra tall porcelain bathtub and drag himself on his side to one of his favorite hiding spots 20 feet from the bathroom. He still had almost no balance, but was now able to half-sit up and lean against something, very tentatively. Progress!

So much for physical therapy - there wasn't any point in doing it when Yellow Kid was creating his own PT program. From then on, we just went outside, where he could crawl around in the grass and do his own thing for a half hour. Crawling turned to cockeyed sitting, then attempting to standing (and toppling over many, many times), then finally standing and taking a wobbly step. He was so determined, this big three year old cat who had endured so much. The improvements were amazing - for a cat that was stiff as a board just days prior, he was moving a different part of his body nearly every day.

Forgive me - this might be considered a gross photo, but when you realize that this was an impossibility just a few days earlier, you'll understand how astounded I was to see him grooming!

His appetite has definitely returned, right down to his daily 'salad', which is part of the Yellow Kid ritual.


And rolling around in the grass on a sunny day feels sooooo good!

All amazing moves from a cat that used to look like a piece of firewood...

It's nearly three weeks since he came home, and he's 95% back to normal. I've noticed his stance is a bit bow-legged, but it doesn't seem to cause him any problems. He's now doing normal cat things - running up stairs when he hears the vacuum, jumping up on furniture, antagonizing his fellow kitties. But he's slowed down a bit, and also has become much more a loverboy, spending quite a bit of time rubbing up against my leg, asking for a head or back rub. It's as if he realizes he wouldn't be here except for the superb medical care and love he got from his vets.

A gigantic Thank You to veterinarians Dr. Denney and Dr. Heikes for their loving care of Yellow Kid. Though he's probably gone through half his lives with this episode, Yellow Kid is still one tough cat!

Thursday, October 07, 2010


Love this - it was a good kick in the backside this morning when I needed it. Thanks, Andrea Martin Cummings, for sharing this!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


It's been one year today since Tom left. It seems like one day.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about those last hours in the hospital with him. I knew the inevitable was coming, and that I would have to be strong because he needed me to be strong. I also knew that he was aware of everything going on around him, even though often it looked like he was sleeping.

I held his hand throughout that last night, couldn't sleep, knowing the hours were slipping away. The nurses kept checking on us, aware that Tom was leaving soon. Actually, they were checking on me - they'd become my temporary family, and they were there for me if I needed anything.

Tom's respirations were slowing, and he was peaceful. I'd talk with him, and he'd move his hand to let me know he'd heard me. Just before dawn, he confounded both his nurses and me with an unusual response. His respirations began picking up, getting stronger - not exactly what dying people do. At the time, it was confusing and disheartening. I wanted Tom move forward, to let go and to find himself in that wonderful place we call heaven. For reasons only Tom would think of, he wasn't quite ready yet.

Dawn came and went, and his breathing had strengthened for no apparent reason. Typical Tom - he was doing it his way.

My brother Andy showed up unexpectedly, walking into Tom's room in mid-morning. He said "Hi Tom!" and settled into a chair to visit. Andy lives more than an hour away, so I was surprised to see him as he hadn't mentioned he was coming. He told me that he hadn't been able to sleep (he works the afternoon shift) and so he decided to come see us.

Andy hadn't been there two minutes, and suddenly I realized that Tom was squeezing my hand really hard. He knew Andy was there. And he knew he could finally go home. I asked Andy to give us a few minutes alone, because I realized that Tom was saying goodbye.

Seconds after Andy left the room, Tom died. It took a few moments to sink in - but I suddenly realized why Tom hadn't died during the night, and why his respirations had increased so unexpectedly.

You see, Tom always had a sixth sense. During our 21 years together, he'd often tell me about his "thoughts". They weren't dreams. They were just "a feeling" he'd have about someone, usually someone he personally knew, about something that was to come but hadn't happened yet. Most of the time, his "thoughts" turned into reality, as if he was able to accurately predict the future. I just called it his sixth sense.

Somehow, Tom knew that Andy was coming to the hospital. And in true Tom-ism, he didn't want me to be alone when he died, so in the middle of the night he decided to wait around until Andy showed up. It's was Tom's final act of love for me, making sure that I had someone who loved me to be there when he chose to move on. That final long and hard squeeze of my hand told me everything - that he knew I was in good hands, that he loved me very much, and that I would be okay.

It's a beautiful day today, an Indian Summer kind of day, warm, blue skies and trees turning colors. It would have been just the kind of day we'd jump in the car and ride back country roads for hours, roaming around with no particular place to go, enjoying the day. So that's what I'm going to do today. I'm going to roam around, enjoy a good afternoon, and then go visit Tom. He's at this lake, one of several places I've left his ashes. It's a wonderful, quiet place, a favorite lake where he fished for perch and trout.

Thank you, all my family and friends, for calling today, writing me emails, and letting me know you are thinking of me. Although it's a tough day, I'm ok. There's tears, but the good memories are out-weighing them.

Thank you all for your love - it's meant everything to me. May you be as blessed as I was for 21 years. He was a wonderful husband and a great friend. I was lucky enough to have the best.

Miss you, Thomas. xoxox

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Good Day at Fiber Fest


This year, I went to the Michigan Fiber Festival on Friday. Last year, although I enjoyed being there on a Saturday, I found myself feeling far too crowded. Because of the huge number of people at the show, you couldn't walk two steps in a straight line, and the opportunity to talk with vendors was non-existent. So this year I went on Friday, a fairly quiet day and a good chance to really see Fiber Fest.

One of the first things I noticed is that vendors were selling. Consistently, I saw customers buying, buying, buying.
Sales were brisk at the Fiber Fest products booth.

Not just at the festival booth - though they were doing very well - but everywhere I noticed that people were buying. In this economy, that was a welcome sight. I saw a lot of vendor's bags being carried, but I also saw spinning wheels and weaving frames going home with new owners.

Friday works well as a family day. There were plenty of women with their children, and because there wasn't an overwhelming crowd, it was actually fun for kids.
These little girls were sitting on Mom's feet, playing the "I Want To Stay Here" game. It was actually pretty funny to watch .Mom was having fun teasing them, and everyone was having a good laugh. They were right in front of this booth:

Once Mom had pointed these bags out to the girls, they immediately jumped up to see them. There were a whole lot of questions, and I was laughing as I left when I heard Mom explaining why there was poo in brown paper bags. (But $5 a bag???!!)

Vendors were able to relax in-between customers. They were spinning and rug hooking, which attracted even more customers curious about their crafts.

People watching at the show was fabulous. I saw this woman in her completely knitted outfit and couldn't help but take a photo. She was knitted from head to toe, and even her bag was knitted in complimentary colors. Turns out she wears knitwear to the Fiber Fest each year, and vendors actually recognize her for her knit clothing.

Some of vendors were a bit different than what one might expect at a fiber show. I loved this watercolor artist's paintings - they were absolutely gorgeous. But the vendor that really caught my eye was the felting artist - at first glance, I thought it was a painting. Her felted scenes were astoundingly accurate; she certainly was an imaginative artist, and has taken felting to a new artistic level.

These watercolors really added to the show.

Yep - both these pictures were felted. (Sorry for the glass glare on the shepherd - there was a white pole right in front of this picture.) The photo on the left sold immediately, but the adorable kittens and puppies picture was still available.

Then there were the classes. Classes were everywhere, scattered in buildings throughout the show. I took a few shots of friends taking classes - thanks for allowing me to shoot you! :)

On the left, Karel was concentrating on her Knitting Tips class, while on the right, Terri was sitting outside in the shade, finishing her basket class.

And then there were the animals. Many of them hadn't arrived yet, and some were just being unloaded.

The photos pretty much speak for themselves. All of these guys loved attention, and although a bit shy, most of them allowed a pet or two.

The little guy at right was one of my favorites - I think he was a Pygora (cross between a Pygmy and an Angora goat). He spent much of his time literally sticking his nose into my camera lens or happily chewing on the hem of my blouse. He was a lot of fun, especially when I could get him far enough away from the lens that I could actually get a shot.

Overall, it was a great day. Very relaxing, with good food from the Allegan Band Booster concession (quite reasonable too - a Brat was only $2.50, and along with a fresh hand-cut fruit cup and large iced tea, the who bill was around $6 or so). I walked the show three times, didn't feel crowded even though there were a lot of people there, and had lots of fun wandering with my friend Gloria.

It was a good day.