Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kalamazoo Antiques Show

It's been quite a while since I've attended an antiques show, and even longer since I exhibited at one. Although I doubt I'm going back to actually doing shows as an exhibitor, it sure was fun to wander and catch up with old friends at this show.

There was a full house of dealers, 65 total to be exact. And Promoter Linda Cross had a waiting list. Here in Michigan, the antiques business is slowly coming back from it's stagnant state of the past few years, and more and more dealers are willing to do shows.

This two day show showed a strong attendance in the first few hours, and people were buying. Small antiques is what they were interested in. They weren't spending big money, but they didn't need to - there were many antiques and collectibles available at this show for super-reasonable prices.

Like the ones below:

This is a 1940s Roseville Snowberry vase, only $50. The dealer selling it didn't even know what the pattern was.

Antique furniture doesn't show up at Michigan shows as much as it used to, mostly because it hasn't been selling. But there were a few dealers at this show who bravely brought furniture. The quarter-sawn oak sideboard above was beautifully refinished, and a steal at $495. Something comparable in contemporary furniture at the same quality level would be three times the price.

For those who love the 1950s, this five piece bold yellow dining set was a fabulous buy at only $275. Let's see - that would be less than $60 per piece. Try to find THAT at a local furniture store. It got a lot of attention, yet it was still on the floor and available when I left the show.

There were many more good buys, like the Royal Doulton set of four dinner plates in the classic Indian Tree pattern for only $10 each. And there was lots and lots of really fun costume jewelry for under $20 - perfect for gift giving. I was able to buy a few items for my Red Moon Antiques shop, and will be posting them next week. But overall, this was a great place to shop, whether you are looking for Christmas gifts or buying for resale. I had a blast, and it was good to see old friends again.

If you are shopping for something different for Christmas gifts, don't pass up your local antiques show - you'll be pleasantly surprised at what you'll find, both for yourself and for loved ones. Remember - buying an antique means you are recycling!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Prayer Shawl

A few months ago, I finally managed to get to one of my knit group's get-togethers. My attendance this past summer had been sporadic, mostly because I wasn't willing to leave Tom alone for more than a couple hours.

But he was having a good day, and he encouraged me to go. The group was having a going away party for Mary Adrian, who had just taken a great job in another state.

When I arrived, I was quite surprised when all the gals gathered around me and handed me a gift bag. Inside was a beautiful blue prayer shawl. It's tradition in this group to group-knit a prayer shawl for any member having a rough spot in their life, and the ladies each took turns lovingly knitting on my shawl and saying a prayer for me at the same time. I was overcome by their generosity and compassion. Lots and lots of tears. It meant so much.

The photo below shows the members of the group at the going-away party. Several who actually knitted on my shawl weren't able to attend that day. I am thankful for such wonderful, caring friends. That's the party girl Mary Adrian front-left, and me in my beautiful shawl on the right.

I took the shawl home and showed it to Tom. I was in tears again; the emotions that shawl released were overwhelming. He understood - and gave me a huge hug. I wrapped that shawl around both of us, and we just sat there holding on to each other for a long, long time.

These past months I wore the shawl when I was feeling down. Our journey became increasingly rough, and I would wear it even when it was way too hot to wear a shawl. It was very calming to me, mostly because I knew how much love was being shared when it was being made.

When we went to Ann Arbor in early September, I didn't take it with me. After all, we were just going for a quick consultation with a pain specialist - I had no idea that Tom would be admitted to the hospital, and that we wouldn't be returning home that day.

After two weeks in the hospital, I managed to get back home for a few hours of bill-paying, paperwork catch-up and cat checking. I saw the shawl as I was walking out the door to return to Ann Arbor, and threw it over my shoulder. I can't explain why I did that. Somehow it just seemed like it was necessary. At that moment, I had no idea that Tom wouldn't be coming home.

Two weeks later, I was holding Tom's hand when I realized that he needed my prayer shawl. I tucked him in it as he was sleeping. I knew it was going to be his last weekend on this earth, and felt much better sharing my comforting, prayer-loaded shawl with the most important person in my life. He slept, with me holding his hand, surrounded by that beautiful shawl.

That weekend, his sons came up from Florida. He slept some of the time, resting some of the time with his eyes closed, but was awake frequently. He was fully aware that they were there with him, and although he wasn't able to talk much, he was able to communicate with them with hugs and hand motions.

One of his sons brought a new photo of our youngest granddaughter, Shaylen, with her newly-discovered Mona Lisa smile. That last morning, I tucked the photo next to his hand, above the prayer shawl. Even though he was sleeping, he knew what I'd done. He squeezed my hand, showing me that he realized I was sharing with him things which are important to us - friendship, love and family.

I miss him. He's in my heart, every moment. But it's sure not the same as having him sit with me on the sofa. I'm okay with his leaving, but I wish with all my heart that he was still here. That he was able to squeeze my hand so strongly just moments before he died was a special, one-of-a-kind gift - it meant he knew where he was going, and he was saying goodbye.

I love you, Thomas.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scream Therapy??

Well, I gave it my best shot. I tried scream therapy, thinking that some extreme-loudness while in the shower would make me feel better.

The first scream was less than impressive - since I haven't done much screaming in my life, I'm just not very good at it. It was sort of squeaky, and my volume wasn't anything to be proud of. I still had lots of hot water left, so I gave it another go. Absolutely pathetic. Maybe I'm not doing it right (there's a "right" way to scream???), but I sounded like one of my cats when I accidentally step on her tail. More tries, sounding worse than better, and I suddenly thought about what Tom must be thinking: "The woman's gone completely nuts. Who screams in the shower??" Tom used to sing, badly, in the shower.

That thought brought a big smile. He couldn't carry a tune in a bucket. But it was a good memory. Maybe scream therapy isn't going to work in the traditional sense, but since it brought me a small giggle and smile, I guess it's working backwards. That seems to be my story right now - so much of my life seems backwards since Tom died - so it must be okay to scream and then end up smiling at how stupid I must sound.

I've been staying busy with "stuff." Mostly it's things I have-to-do - paperwork, phone calls, re-arranging our accounts, etc. My brother has been here for several days, and is helping me with chores around the house, plus errands that must be done. I'm still mostly operating on auto-pilot, but I'm sure looking forward to that time when I can do some want-to-do-things instead. Soon. Maybe. Right now, auto-pilot is keeping me going. That's okay.

After reading Tom's obituary, several of you wrote me asking how you can donate in Tom's memory towards his Masonic Lodge, or how you can help with funeral expenses. Thank you for your kind offers. I'll leave the "Helping Tom" PayPal donate button up for another week for those who wish to help. If you could specify which is your preference - Tom's Masonic Lodge or funeral expenses - I'd appreciate it.

Thanks for all your wonderful support. It's been a rough 18 months. After my stroke, Tom and I decided that God must have a plan. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. Little did I know that God's plan was to have me take care of Tom while he battled cancer. This past year allowed me to find courage in the face of true adversity, and to love Tom even more than I thought possible. Sometimes, when you think you are dealing with the worse possible situation, you actually find out that good things can come out of bad. It definitely happened for us.

And now, off to bed for me. There's an emergency candy bar waiting on my nightstand. Chocolate has become my new best friend.

Friday, October 09, 2009

A Good Day

We said goodbye to Tom today.

So many good friends showed up at the Masonic hall. Tom's former co-workers, our old friends from law enforcement days, my knitting friends, our antiques dealer friends, Tom's fellow massage therapists, our neighbors, and so many of his Lodge brothers all came to honor him. Even our attorney was there.

A large photo of Tom, centered in a huge wreath of woodland theme, was center stage. I'd love to show you a photo of that wreath - it was very "Tom". It was lovingly designed by one of his former windows clients, a floral shop he'd done business with for more than ten years. They knew him well and captured his woodsy character. I loved it. Masons aren't comfortable with cameras within their Lodge room, so no photo. But that really wasn't important - what was important was the beautiful celebration service the Masons presented their fellow brother. The thoughtful eulogy showed a strong emphasis on Tom's willingness to help others in need, as well as his dedication to the Masons. Through the tears, I couldn't help but smile - Tom did love to help others, and it was so comforting to me that he was recognized for that great trait.

I hold close to my heart the special appearance by a long-time friend who never attends funerals. He just doesn't do funerals. Never. I've know this about him for 30 years, and never ever did I expect to see him walk in the door. That he would honor Tom and me with his presence was like a warm blanket around my soul - it meant so much.

The spaghetti dinner made by the Masons, complete with dessert, was excellent. The portions were huge, leaving hardly any room for dessert. I wasn't very hungry, so I did it backwards - a lovely large piece of chocolate cake for an appetizer, then salad as my main course. Never got to the spaghetti - I just didn't have room. Well, that's what I told everyone. But really, my appetite just hasn't quite yet returned. It will soon. In the meantime, my scale is appreciative - I've lost eight pounds in the past three weeks. Positive things happen in strange ways.

Surrounded by all that Tom-love from our friends was overwhelmingly wonderful. Lots of good tears, and plenty of smiles and laughter too. Only 90 minutes in all, from the beginning of the service until the end of lunch, but it's helping me heal. Sure, it's going to take time to find my place in this world again. But I carry Thomas everywhere with me, and that's my balance point.

One more thing.

Tom is still helping others. His corneas have been donated to two people who desperately need that special gift. Somewhere out there, there's pieces of Tom that will be giving sight for years to come.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Thomas Duane Pulsipher 1952-2009

Thomas Duane Pulsipher
August 29, 1952 - October 6, 2009

Tom passed away softly, without pain, from esophageal cancer at U of M Hospital on Tuesday, October 6, with his wife Beth holding his hand. He was born August 29, 1952 and raised by parents Ada and Duane Pulsipher in Muskegon, Michigan. He lived a full, happy life – over the years he was a Corrections Officer for the State of Michigan, a Motor Carrier Officer for the Michigan State Police, in grounds maintenance for the Kalamazoo Country Club, and also self-employed as a fulltime partner in his wife Beth's antiques business, as well as his own businesses in commercial window washing and as a Certified Massage Therapist. He was a hard-working man who was always willing to help others. Tom loved to travel, and made friends everywhere he went. His laughter was contagious, and he enjoyed friendships with people from all walks of life. His hard-fought battle with cancer lasted 12 months, and he proudly participated in successful trial studies that will help others in their own cancer fight. Besides his wife Beth, he leaves behind his sons of whom he was so proud - Shawn (Shannon) and Shane (Janette) of Florida, grandchildren James, Skyla and Shaylen, mother Ada and sister Debbie (Bob) of Muskegon, and brother-in-law Andy Chernecki of Detroit. He was preceded in death by his father, Duane.

Cremation has taken place. Services will be Friday, October 9, at 11 am at Kalamazoo County Masonic Center, 4371 West U Avenue, Schoolcraft (1/8 mile west of US 131). Please join us in celebrating Tom's life, and for a light lunch after the service. Arrangements provided by Avink Funeral Home Cremation Society (, Schoolcraft, and the Kalamazoo Anchor Lodge #22.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Kalamazoo Anchor Lodge #22 at KCMC. He loved his Masonic brothers and all their good works; his family requests that you honor his memory by helping them help others.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Tom's Final Days

We're still at U of M hospital. It's been 24 days.

Our plans of using hospice didn't work out. He needs more physical care than I can manage, meaning that at-home hospice wouldn't work. Both of the Kalamazoo area in-patient hospices were unable to take him. We will remain at U-M until the end.

The hospital was finally able to find him a private room, which has made both of us much more comfortable. The staff even ordered him a special air bed from a local medical supply company - it's big and thick and soft, and he's enjoying it very much. They even arranged for meals to be brought for me, so much appreciated since the hospital patient food is so much better than the cafeteria.

Tom's now on his final journey, and is resting comfortably with plenty of morphine to quell his body's disagreements. He sleeps a lot now, but occasionally wakes up to find me holding his hand and talking about whatever is on my mind at the moment. He hears me talk about family, friends, our cats, knitting, the great nurses we've been blessed with, the now-changing Fall colors outside our window, the U-M hospital helicopters that we see frequently through our big picture window. Most of the time he just rests with his eyes closed, sharing an occasional smile.

Once in a while he still talks, though usually it doesn't make much sense to anyone but him. The other night he talked all night long, but most of it wasn't understandable. The morphine has clouded his words. I agreed with everything he said, just in case.

He sees people in the corner of the room, and when he tells me who, it's someone I don't know. But I'm glad he has company visiting him. He told me he saw snow on the ceiling. He told me there were "little Emilies were all over the floor - lots of them!!" Turns out he was seeing little baby Emilies, dozens of them. We don't know any Emilies, adults or babies. But it gave me a smile.

His humor is still strong. His night nurse - one of our favorites, a man who has truly connected with Tom these past weeks - came in the other night at the end of his shift:

Bill, the night nurse: "Well, Tommy, I'm about done with this shift and just wanted to know if there's anything you need before I leave?"

Tom: "Yeah . . . "

Bill (patiently waiting, since it was taking Tom a few moments to get it out): "What can I get you, buddy?"

Tom (with a huge grin): "A hooker!"

I laughed so hard I was crying. Leave it to Tom to come up with such an unexpected, hilarious answer. After a moment of re-grouping, hysterically-laughing Bill the nurse said: "Tommy, you are one in a million!"

That exchange made my day. And there's been other funny moments, as he meanders though his life's final path. The other day he was picking something imaginary off his blanket, then motioned that he wanted to place it in my hand. Holding my hand out, I watched him carefully place it in the center of my palm. I asked him what it was that I was holding for him, and with a look of digust (what was wrong with me - couldn't I SEE it??!!) he then loudly said "Butter knife!!!!!"

Well, heck, I didn't know he was collecting imaginary butter knives . . .

This all from a man who is completely comfortable with the concept of dying. He told me the other day that he's not afraid, and that he's looking forward to seeing loved ones who have gone before. We've talked about serious subjects, and laughed about silly ones too. We are okay.

Even when he's sleeping, he hears me. He squeezes my hand sometimes. It's comforting to me, and I appreciate his attempts to connect even though lately he's not been able to say much.

I've been staying at the hospital most of the time now, sleeping when I can in the big LazyBoy recliner the staff set up for me. Time is getting shorter for us, and I'm trying to be there with him as much as possible.

His sons Shawn and Shane have flown up from Florida for the weekend, and have been here most of the time. Sometimes he's awake enough to recognize them. He's not talking much, but I can tell he really appreciates that they are here. Me too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tom's in the Hospital, but it's okay . . .

It's been so long since I posted here. I've really missed writing. But life is giving us lots of ups and downs, and I've not been able to write.

Tom is holding his own. After suffering from intense back pain, he went in last week for a pain consult. That's where we learned that his spine cancer has moved into five vertebrae, causing him agony. Walking more than a dozen steps was impossible. We knew he had some cancer in his spine, but it's grown considerably.

During the pain consult the surgeon, realizing that Tom was in such dire need for pain relief, switched his next day's surgery schedule around, making Tom his first surgical patient of the day. U of M docs are so wonderful! He felt he could help Tom; late that same night he was reviewing Tom's MRIs, and called us around 9 pm at the hotel to confirm that Tom was scheduled the very next morning.

Unfortunately, when Tom arrived at 6 am they discovered that his breathing was so impaired that they couldn't do the surgery. Instead they tapped his lung to allow his lung to expand, and then scheduled him for the pain surgery the next day. That required that the surgeon again re-arrange his schedule, but he did and Tom received the surgery.

This special pain surgery is so really cool it's almost unbelievable. Cancer had eaten away at the interior of four of his vertebrae (the fifth showed only the very slightest signs of cancer), so what the surgeon did was inject four of them with cement. It's the same cement used for hip and knee replacements, and it fills in the void where the cancer is, thereby strengthing the vertebrae. It's not a fusion - his spine is as flexible as ever, and he bends and moves much better now, with little or no pain. But this cement also has an element of heat to it, and apparently kills off the painful nerve endings that were so debilitating. It's four days after surgery, and he can walk again.

Except for the breathing issues . . .

Tom isn't out of the hospital yet. We've been here eight days while they try to help him with his lung problems. The sac around his lung keeps filling with fluid, and he's been tapped three times to lessened his discomfort. He says it's like having a tie-down strap cranked as tightly as possible on his chest. He's been on oxygen since he was admitted. He can't walk to the bathroom without being out of breath.

Right now we're waiting for the options the thoracic surgery team can offer. They've evaluated him, late last night (U of M doctors work around the clock, apparently), and we're soon to find out the results. In the meantime, he's resting comfortably, and I'm knitting constantly . . .

Thank you for all your prayers. God does listen, and all your prayers count. May you receive back all the wonderful good wishes you have sent our way.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Good Times in Florida

After Tom's doctor suggested that he take a break from chemo again, we decided to take advantage of the time and go to Florida to see his sons and their families. It's been more than two years, and we now have three grandbabies to catch up with.

We rented a lovely house on a lake near New Port Richey, and arranged for plane tickets and a rental car. The trip down was tough on Tom, but we expected that and planned for a nice, relaxing two week trip just to allow for fatigue. By the second day, he was raring to go - and every day after that we spent with family.

Tom holding his granddaughters Skyla, age 28 months, and Shaylen, 8 months, with son Shawn and daughter-in-law Shannon and a very damp, overheated me. (Why is it that I'm the only one that doesn't look cool???)

What we didn't do was spend much time outside. Typically, Florida in July and August means the temps are brutal - every day was consistently in the 100 degree heat index range. At night, it only got down to around a very humid 80 degrees - that's really hell for Michiganders like us, who are used to summer nights in the low sixties or even the fifties. Thankfully, the house was air conditioned, and we were comfortable.

Seeing Tom's sons, our daughters-in-laws and our two granddaughters and grandson was heaven. Babies grow so quickly, and our grandkids are now nearly three, 2 1/2 and 8 months. I met two of them for the very first time. Here I am with Skyla, who had stolen her baby sister's pink hat I'd knitted.

I'd taken plenty of knitting along to Florida. Not only did I have charity socks to finish, but I brought along enough yarn to make a baby blanket and a white baby hat with ears. I'd already packed the pink hat I'd made for Shaylen, but also a purple bunny that I'd knit for Skyla.

Guess I went on knit-overload, but it surely made me feel good. During the two weeks, I finished the socks, the baby blanket and the white ears hat. Skyla loves her bunny, but Shaylen isn't quite so sure about the hat with the ears.

Here's Tom with his son Shawn and baby Shaylen.

Tom was exhausted but happy every night. The two weeks went way too fast. We just got back two days ago, and we're both slowly getting back to the routine of life. Very slowly. Two weeks from now we go back to the doctor to evaluate what the next step is. In the meantime, we're making the best of every day we have. Above all, Love prevails.

Taking a break from chemo has been good for Tom. His brain fog has lessened considerably, and he hasn't fallen in several weeks.

Thank you all for your positive thoughts, your prayers, and your support. We've had a difficult road, and you have made it so much better for us. God bless.

Monday, July 20, 2009

U of Michigan Hospital - Our Temporary Home Last Week

We had a difficult week last week, but we are adjusting.

After Tom's un-stroke on Sunday, we went for his scheduled chemo on Tuesday. After learning about his trip to the ER, his oncologist felt she wanted to know why he has had brain problems, physical weakness and walking instability, so she postponed chemo in favor of a referral to one of U-Michigan's neurologists.

She's good at getting appointments - inside of two hours, we were sitting in the neurologist's exam room. After a battery of physical tests and questions, the neurologist recommended that Tom have further testing. If we wanted to do it on an out-patient basis, it would probably take a couple of weeks to schedule.

Or . . . she offered to admit Tom immediately to the hospital, guaranteeing him all the tests he needed within the next day or so. Well, heck, we were already there, and Tom wanted to get it over with, so he was admitted and scheduled for tests.

By Tuesday noon, he was in his hospital room, and within two hours he was off to get an EEG (I think that's what it's called - anyways, a brain scan). The next test was an MRI, which came at 5:30 am Wednesday. Tom hates MRIs. But he managed to get through it, all that pounding noise giving him a headache, and was fairly chipper by the time I showed up Wednesday morning.

By early Wednesday afternoon, they performed a spinal tap. In his room. And I was allowed to stay with him. Actually, I should describe it as spinal taps - because the first one they attempted didn't take. More neurologists and nurses were called in, plus more morphine, until they were able to make the second spinal tap work. What is supposed to be a less-than-one-hour procedure took more than 2 1/2 hours, and a whole lot of morphine and local anesthetic. Tom needed to be awake during the tap, which is difficult since this procedure is so terribly painful. He toughed it out, and when it was done, was even able to laugh a bit with his comedian-neurologist.

Afterwards, he didn't remember the pain. The brain definitely knows how to block bad situations, and he'd completely forgotten the intense pain he'd endured.

By Thursday, he was released. None of the possible problems they were searching for were found. That's the very good news. Prayer works.

However, that means we are back to Square One. No one can explain why he's stumbling and falling, nor why his brain is sometimes - but not always - so foggy he can't talk more than one word at a time, comprehend questions, add simple numbers, and why he shows Parkinson's-like symptoms. The only possible explanation they've offered is that he possibly has "chemo brain", which may or may not clear up on it's own. There apparently is no treatment for chemo brain.

Tom's oncologist has suggested that he take a few weeks off from chemo, hoping that he will strengthen physically, and that his brain will return to normal. Since last week's hospitalization, he's only been noticeably wobbly once, but hasn't fallen. His brain is still foggy off and on, and we're not seeing any major improvement yet.

We are staying strong. Time will be our friend. He's had eight grueling chemo treatments; his brain needs a vacation.

Thank you all for your prayers. God does listen.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tom, the Ambulance Guy

Lately, Tom's been struggling with brain fog. It comes and goes, sometimes severe and sometimes just minimal. Then there's times when all is working, and our life seems normal. Well, Tom-Pulsipher-normal. It doesn't seem like anything we do these days is normal compared to most other people.

Around 4 am yesterday morning, Tom returned from trip to the bathroom, but didn't quite make it to bed. He became dizzy (not an unusual occurrence), and before he had a chance to steady himself his legs buckled and he fell.

He landed on his back, and was in quite a bit of pain, so I gave him a couple of pain pills. He told me he didn't hit his head, and just his back hurt. Eventually, he was able to get up on his own power, and then into bed.

I hadn't gone to sleep yet that night - can't really explain why. Just wasn't sleepy, I guess. But an hour later, in the dark I heard noise from Tom, not really words but sounds that I couldn't interpret. Turning on the light, I found him dazed and confused. He didn't know who I was. When I asked him questions, he couldn't answer - he was unable to speak anything other than one-syllable sounds.

Fearing that he'd had a stroke, I spent a few minutes determining what the next step was. Because of my own experience stroking just a year ago, all of it came back to me. It was surreal, all those not-so-fond memories of that day rushing back, but since decisions had to be made quickly, it was something I just had to deal with.

Asking him to squeeze my hands produced only mild strength from him, not the usual strong grip he has. He didn't understand my questions asking him to smile, or tell me what today's date was. Nothing was processing in his brain, yet he kept trying to get out of bed and I was having a difficult time convincing him he needed to stay there. Try getting dressed, finding the phone, and keeping a determined man in bed when he didn't want to be - guess I should take a course in juggling.

The cell phone was closest, and I called 911. They sent both the local fire department and an ambulance. Before long, there were six burly guys standing in our bedroom, trying to help Tom. Eight people in our bedroom was a whole lot of people. But around here, when you call for help, the best people in the world come running - and I am so thankful they came.

His condition hadn't changed any - still confused, unable to speak, not responding to questions. A quick check of his blood sugar proved to be normal. He couldn't comprehend why all those strangers were in his bedroom at 5:30 in the morning, and I had the feeling that he didn't want to have anything to do with them.

Quickly it was determined that Tom needed a trip to the hospital, and that he would have to be carried downstairs in a special chair paramedics use when the regular gurney won't work. It took nearly 20 minutes for us to convince him that he needed to sit in that darned chair; he didn't want to go anywhere, and definitely didn't want to go to some unknown place with strangers. But eventually he did, and off we went.

We were all convinced that Tom had suffered a stroke. The ER doctors immediately ordered a CT scan. Tom was still not able to speak, until the nurses tried to take blood samples and hook up an IV. Suddenly, the language skills kicked in, but unfortunately, the wrong language - he told off those poor nurses in no uncertain terms with words he never uses. He was so angry I thought for a moment he might take a swing at the nurse inserting the IV, but I was able to distract him enough that he calmed down.

He definitely did not want blood drawn, and he most certainly did not want to be hooked up to an IV. It was sort of a good news/bad news kind of moment - good that he was talking again, but bad news because sudden change and drastic of demeanor can indicate bleeding in the frontal portion of the brain.

But more good news (thank you, Lord!): the CT scan showed no bleeding, and no signs of stroke.
Alas, it gave no clue as to what was going on with Tom's brain.

But as the hours ticked by - and when you are sitting in an ER exam room, they tick by very, very slowwwwly - Tom began talking again, could answer some but not all questions, and his anger disappeared. After consulting both the ER doctor and the ER chief, we mutually decided that Tom could go home. Initially, they believed that he should be admitted, but after seeing him improve, they decided there wasn't much they could do for him other than to observe him, and I'm already pretty good at doing that . . .

So today we are saying prayers for the positive results, and thanking God that it wasn't a stroke. Today, he doesn't remember anything about yesterday other than the ambulance ride. (That figures - he used be a volunteer driver for the local ambulance service.) But he's home, a bit brain-foggy today, but not bad. And he's stroke-less. Good news comes in strange ways.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Chocolatea - Knitting with Chocolate is Good, Spinning is Better

After a very successful Knit-in-Public event a couple weeks ago at the local chocolate/tea cafe "Chocolatea" (hence their name) - we had more than 40 knitters/crocheters attend, beyond my wildest dreams - we decided to do it again.

Chocolatea is a specialty shop from heaven if you happen to like tea - they have more than 140 choices. Or if you like chocolate, or coffee, or fancy desserts. It's fairly new in town, so the curiosity factor brought out many of the K-i-P knitters. There aren't a whole lot of non-yarn shop knit-in-publics during evening hours, and since evening hours tend to be slow in many cafes, it's a perfect place to plunk down and enjoy a few hours of gabby knitting.

Or, in my case, spinning.

What's spinning, you ask? It's not the bicycle kind of spinning. This kind of spinning is what you do when you want to turn fleece into yarn. Some people do it with a spinning wheel, but some like to use a drop spindle - it's much more portable.

Shannon, of SpinSanity on Etsy, had joined us at Chocolatea, and brought some of her drop spindles. After watching her for a few moments, I asked if she would show me how. She had me spinning in under five minutes!

>>> I'm sorta getting it . . . but have a long, long way to go before this stuff looks like yarn! (photo by Karen Lason) >>>

Ummmm . . . well, maybe I should describe it as "attempted" spinning. But I had fun learning, so Shannon loaned me a spindle and gave me some wool to play with. I'm still messing with it, but now I have my very own customized spindle from Shannon. Shannon makes them to order, and also has ready-to-go spindles that can be ordered from her Etsy shop. They're all finely painted, signed and dated, and she carefully hand finishes each one. She'll even toss in a bit of fiber with your order to get you started.

She loves to make special spindles, and you can see some of them on her shop blog - Or, you can describe in an email to her what you'd like, and she'll give it a whirl (okay, so pun intended . . .)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

World Wide Knit in Public Days X 2

From a knitting standpoint, it's been a busy week. About a month ago I decided to become involved with the project World Wide Knit in Public days. It sounded like a lot of fun, and since I truly enjoy organizing things, it was just the right thing for me to be involved in. Good distractions like this can keep one sane.

>>> Our official sign, which I dumbly left at The Coffee Bar today and will have to return (oh darn . . . Heilman's chocolates . . . ) to pick up. >>>

Before long, fellow knitter Mary Adrian Gunkel joined me in working on local KiPs. Soon we were able to secure many door prizes from four different yarn shops - some local, and some 30 to 60 miles away. Most yarn shop owners recognize that a serious knitter will travel a distance to find the kind of yarn she's searching for, so we were really pleased to have excellent door prizes donated from shops near and far.

>>> Outdoors on the deck at Chocolatea, a table full of door prizes >>>

Door prizes included gift certificates, yarn, books, needles and patterns, plus each of the cafe locations donated food gifts too. It was a wonderful way to introduce local knitters to several different yarn shops. Each shop had minimal investment in their donations but hopefully will have strong returns when these knitters (and their friends) visit these shops. At both KiP events, I overheard several gals comparing notes on the different yarn shops, and all shared very positive information.

The first KiP was held at Chocolatea, in Portage, Michigan last Sunday. Chocolatea - as you can probably guess from it's name - is a new cafe specializing in a variety of specialty coffees and teas, as well as first class chocolates by the piece or the pound. They have a beautiful outside deck that overlooks Portage Creek, a silent gem of a trout stream.

That morning, the local paper had published an interview with me about the two KiPs, and it resulted in a crowd showing up - more than 40 knitters and crocheters of all ages! They arrived before the KiP actually began, and were still coming in after it officially ended. Not to worry - the Chocolatea staff was very happy to have our group stay later. We packed that deck with people (yes, we had four men knitters join in) and the group overflowed into the main portion of the cafe. It was a perfect weather day, partly sunny skies and 75 degrees; fortunately several brought their own lawn chairs, and we squashed together on the deck. The owner later said that was the most people who have used her deck since she opened.

>>> Jane and her son Alex, knitting away . . . > > >

One of the WWKiP goals is to promote the fun of knitting, and the knitters attending this event helped three newbies begin their first stitches or learn a new technique. Another goal is to support local businesses, and we were able to promote both the four local yarn shops plus the two cafes.

>>> The Chocolatea deck, overlooking Portage Creek . . . > > >

We certainly made the owner of Chocolatea happy - we kept her staff very busy with orders for three hours. The owner showed her knitter-appreciation by setting dishes of free chocolates on every table. It was a very good marketing plan and we eagerly took advantage. She even showed us her interpretation of chocolate knitting - a single round ball of chocolate and two long sticks of chocolate, representing a ball of yarn with needles. (Sorry - no photo of that. The photographer ate them.)

Then on to the next KiP weekend - today was our second event, held at The Coffee Bar in Oshtemo, Michigan. Great food and good knit friends made for an excellent day. It was another good turnout - 30 people came, some returning from the previous event, and some attending for the first time. I was so pleasantly surprised to find a friend who'd seen the newspaper article and came to specifically to see me - we haven't seen each other in many years. So good to see you, Myra!!!

>>> Instructor Kay and a new knitter . . . oh crap, I'm not supposed to tell anyone she's an instructor . . . but she's really good at it. > > >

We did show-and-tell knitting at both events, and we displayed business cards from the donating LYS (Local Yarn Shops), maps to help knitters find those shops (courtesy of Mary Adrian, the mapmaker!), plus free patterns too (thank you Ideal Images, Kalamazoo).

We also placed a sign-up sheet for new knit groups for both Chocolatea and The Coffee Bar - mid-week evenings once a month. Both cafes have invited us back! Guess that means we pretty much behaved ourselves (though I remember quite a bit of raucous laughter throughout both events) . . .

>>> Karen with her door prize - a sock yarn kit from Stitching Memories . . . > > >

Thanks to all who came. I had a blast. Especially, thanks to those of you who offered positive feedback. I'm in process of firming up the once-a-month details for both Chocolatea and The Coffee Bar. If you left your email address on your door prize ticket, I'll be sending you the knit night info when it's available.

> > > and the final word: Live to Knit! Paula had this henna-ed on her arm, which will last a few more weeks. Go Paula!! > >>

Local Yarn Shops involved:

Stitching Memories, Portage
Ideal Images, Kalamazoo
Your Local Yarn Shop, Battle Creek
Threadbear Fiber Arts Studio, Lansing

If you won a door prize from these shops, please tell them how much you appreciate their generosity. A quick note would be nice, but a visit and purchase from them would be even nicer. Support these shops - they sure can make us happy, can't they???

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Change is Good

The past three weeks have gone by so quickly. We had several downs, with some ups mixed in. But we're staying strong.

The bad news: Tom's latest CT scans are showing increased tumor activity in his lungs. The good news: they are very small, and not obstructing his airways in any way.

With new tumors, that means that the trial chemo is no longer working. But there's good news there too - the trial chemo attacked the cancer in his liver, with those tumors knocked down by more than 80% over the past six treatments. Now they're just tiny little buggers, not nearly so scary as they had been. His doctor is quite pleased with this, and reminded us that the liver cancer was the most life-threatening, so she feels he's made major progress.

Since the trial chemo has done it's job, Tom's doctor has taken him off the trial and has now switched him to a different chemo therapy that specifically targets lung cancers. One of the things we've been very happy about with the U of Michigan staff is that they are quick to move in a different, positive direction when it's necessary.

At first Tom was quite disappointed to be taken off the trial chemo study. But when he learned that the next rounds of chemo will specifically work on his lung cancers (the other cancers appear stable right now), he realized that he was getting excellent care and that it's definitely in his best interests to move forward with the next set of drugs. We're keeping our fingers crossed, since this pairing of chemo drugs has worked well for others.

He had his first treatment today, and will repeat it in two weeks. It went well - so far - and we'll wait to see if he has any side effects from these different drugs.

He'd taken a five week break from chemo to let his body become stronger, which initially was a good plan. The idea was to give his body a break from all that toxic treatment, and allow him to gain some weight.

Unfortunately, he had a severe drug reaction to two prescription drugs he'd been taking for chemo side effects. These caused him to have zombie-like symptoms to the point where his brain just wasn't working at all - his conversation was non-existent (I should have video'd this, since anyone who knows Tom knows he can't be quiet for more than 30 seconds). He was showing Parkinson-like tremors, and he was having a difficult time mentally processing even basic information. His doctor took him off the offending drugs, but that caused him three straight days of severe nausea. Oops - a side effect of the side-effect drugs! Finally, it's been resolved by finding a new drug to replace the two he can't take, and he's been feeling a bit better these past few days.

He's also been sleeping a lot, which is always worrisome to me just because he can't eat when he's sleeping, and one of my major goals is to stuff him full of good food. Or even not-good food. I actually smile when I now see him eating a Whopper. He's actually eating meat! And if eating meat means it's a Whopper, I don't care. It meets our criteria - high calories and protein - and it makes him gain weight. The more weight he can recoup, the stronger he'll be in his fight against cancer.

But right now he needs rest more than anything else, so it's time for me to let up on the feeding frenzy. That made him quite happy - no more stuffing-of-Tom for a few days. Today's weigh-in at the doctor's office was a nice surprise - even though he couldn't eat for five days last week, he only lost a half-pound of weight, much better than we expected. So Tom gets a temporary food-reprieve, at least until I find a new recipe that I want him to guinea-pig for me . . .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yarn De-Stash at Stitching Memories - What Fun!!

When one of our LYS (local yarn shops) offered to host a de-stash sale for anyone who wanted to join in, I knew I had to give it a try. Actually, I had ulterior motives - to buy some different-than-I-already-have yarn inexpensively plus the opportunity to get rid of my extra, unwanted yarn - so this was a great excuse. One woman's yarn trash is another's treasure, right?

Stitching Memories, in Portage, Michigan, is owned by Mary Stillman. She's had a couple previous stash sales in her shop's parking lot. The first one went well, but the second was cancelled due to weather. This time around the weather again was lousy, but we yarnies are a tough bunch, and 30 mph winds plus cold rain didn't slow us down at all. We came ready to deal.

There were 15 tables of de-stashers, and even though the weather scared off buyers, we all sold. Not all were knitters - the Button Lady was there, and there were cross stitchers too. But most of us came for yarn, and there was plenty there - hundreds of skeins of every color and style imaginable.

My own personal game plan was to only buy in the dollar amount of what I actually sold. Great game plan, but it didn't quite happen that way. (What? You're surprised??) Temptations overwhelmed me and I succumbed to the Yarn God, who directed me to several tables of unavoidable wool.

I sorta behaved - I bought wool for a couple of felting projects I've been wanting to try, plus the fun knitting book "One Skein Wonders". I also picked grab bags of novelty yarns to try out - one of the $5 bags has enough yarn to make dozens of baby hats, booties and probably a couple of adult scarves.

Even though the big crowds didn't show, those who came were serious, and many walked out with large bags full of yarn. There were some fantastic bargains - I saw a friend buy four skeins of a buttery yellow mohair for $1 each, and Lopi wool quickly disappeared. There were $1 grab bags that only lasted a few minutes. The Button Lady next to me was selling her colorful handmade polymer clay buttons for just $1 each, any size (okay, so I bought a few, really, just a few . . .).

One of the really lovely things that shop owner Mary Stillman did was to make arrangements for donations from sellers' sales to these three charities: the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, the YWCA Domestic Assault Crisis Program or Portage Community Outreach Center. You could designate the percentage amount of your sales to go to any or all of these charities. I chose the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission. The best part is that anyone who donated a portion of their sales received a 20% off coupon to be used in Mary's store.

The local knitting guild sent more than 400 skeins to be sold, and 100% of the proceeds were designated to be split equally among the three charities. At the end of the day they were wheelin' and dealin'. Those ladies didn't want any of that yarn coming back to them, and they offered some super deals. By the end of the day, more than $800 went to charity, courtesy of the de-stashers!

Another nice thing that Mary Stillman did was to make this sale free for sellers. If you needed a table, they were available for only $5. It was an easy sale to participate in - her shop handled all the money and individual sellers didn't have to bother with a cash box or making change. Instead, each buyer was provided with a tab sheet, with purchases filled in by individual sellers. When the buyer was ready to leave, they went to a central check out and paid for all purchases at once.

Before the four hour sale was done, we were all wind-whipped and soaked to the skin, yet I heard no complaints. Sellers made sales under umbrellas, yarn got wet, and great yarn deals were snapped up. As a friend of mine said, "I really needed that sale." She was quite serious. And I felt the same way.

Friday, May 22, 2009

So How's Tom???

So many of you have been asking about Tom, and so far, the news is good.

He's begun eating meat again! A change in his meds by a sharp doctor has made all the difference, and he's able to eat small quantities of meat without much trouble.

He had his sixth round of chemo last week, so this week is hell for him. He calls it "feeling icky", which doesn't really describe much yet clearly gets the point across on how utterly lousy he feels. Extra rest helps, and for the first 10 or so days after chemo he sleeps a lot. Yet every day he tries to accomplish something - folding laundry, or vacuuming, or making a few phone calls. It might take him an entire day to do a chore, but he's very determined. He's never been one to sit around.

Yesterday he was feeling pretty good in the morning, and decided to mow the lawn. It's been two weeks since it's last cutting, and our lawn grows far too well - the cats were disappearing in the tall grass. Here's Tom on his mower, happily zipping through our "pasture", and making our lawn once again looking like someone actually lives here.

After mowing, he made it until lunch, then headed for bed. But a few hours later he was up and talking about his next project - building my veggie stand. That will have to wait for another day, maybe even this weekend. As each day passes, he feels just a tiny bit better, but we let his body decide how much it can handle.

His oncologist has suggested that he take a break from chemo for a couple months. The triple-chemo treatments he's getting have weakened him, yet they are also responsible for making his tumors smaller.

Tom's definitely all for a break. While he's off chemo, they will still run tests to determine what's happening. But a summer with no chemo is wonderful, and we're hoping he'll regain some strength and some weight to continue his battle.

Thanks to everyone for caring - it means a lot. We truly appreciate all the love and kindness you've sent our way, and we're sending it back doubled to you!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Meet Mr and Mrs Scarfy Honeybear!

Several years ago, a new customer walked into my antiques shop. She owned a business a couple doors down, and was looking for antique furniture to incorporate into her business setting.

Over time, we got to know each other, and eventually, I found that she is a KnitNut. I say that lovingly, as anyone who is a KnitNut has my full and complete adoration.

Charlotte has become my knitting inspiration. When she was caring for her mother, she knit her way through countless doctor's appointments and medical treatments. She knit so much, she had lots of wonderful scarves and shawls - and I sold them in my shop, because they were so beautiful. Tom bought me one in bold blue colors that she embellished with a special cat button, because she knows how attached I am to our cats.

This past year, Charlotte and her husband have been going through similar medical circumstances as Tom and I. Her Tom (yep, we're both Tom-women) has struggled through very difficult times, and they both managed to keep smiles and laughter going while sharing their story on her husband Tom's blog.

Her Tom is a hobbyist beekeeper, which accounts for many funny stories. (If you think beekeeping is boring, you need to read this blog - are you going to be surprised!) Recently, Charlotte mentioned that she had knit individual tiny scarves for all the honeybear bottles they'd produced from last year's hives. I couldn't help myself - a mini Charolotte scarf on a honeybear bottle??? I just HAD to have one! She kindly tolerated my begging email, and sent me TWO honeybears - Mr. Scarfy with his black and gray shimmery scarf, complete with honeybee decoration, and Mrs. Scarfy, in her green and white scarf with pretty Spring-pink flower.

Thank you, Charlotte - I think they're GREAT!

Charlotte's been very busy knitting tiny scarves, as you can see in the photo of Charlotte and her Tom. Every one of those honeybears is from their own hives, and they personally bottled each one. Charlotte knit every tiny scarf in that photo!me-tom-choir

She's had a lot of time to knit, in doctor's waiting rooms and during the various hospital procedures her Tom has endured over the past year. I know that feeling far too well, since I knit baby hats, baby booties, scarves and baby sweaters under very similar circumstances. Knitting is calming and often mind-clearing; it helps get you through some of the darkest times. And after more than 30 years of non-knitting (Mom taught me when I was a teenager, but I wasn't really very interested back then), when the going got rough for me six months ago, I suddenly remembered Charlotte and her knitting.

It was if she'd sent me this silent light beam of hope. Knitting was something to not only occupy my time but to be involved in while waiting, and then waiting some more. Best of all, knitting made me feel like I was actually accomplishing something good.

Of course, Charlotte has no idea that she's had this effect on me. (Well, at least until she reads this . . .) Or that because of her, I've begun an entirely new journey as a knit-fanatic. It's all Charlotte's fault, and I am so thankful for her quiet, positive influence.

Every time I walk into my kitchen and see Mr and Mrs Honeybear, I think of Charlotte and Tom - and I smile. Plastic bears full of honey can make me smile really big.

So - here they are: introducing Mr and Mrs Scarfy Honeybear, honeys extraordinaire.

The label on the front says "BEE LOVED Honey from Tom's Bees". On the bottom is a special message: "Tom's happy bees are surrounded by flowers, love and a deep appreciation for their magic. Their message? Bee Caring."

I can do that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A New Stove for Beth, and a Tom Update

That's Tom behind my old Kenmore stove. My 60 year old Kenmore stove. Yup, it was made in the 1950s, and came with the house. It's worked well until recently, when it finally just gave up and went to Stove Heaven. I loved that stove, with it's double ovens - I could cook and bake forever on that grand old dame.

But it was not to be. The ovens were suddenly misbehaving, and one of the burners refused to light. It could be fixed, but the cost of repair was much more than expected.

The timing was perfect - our tax refund arrived the same week. Funny how they were just about equal, our tax check and the price of a new stove. When one door closes, another opens . . .

So here's poor Tom, wrench in hand, disconnecting the old gal the morning of new stove delivery. And - because our old Kenmore had lasted so long - we decided to buy another Sears Kenmore, even though we're not planning on cooking for ourselves sixty years from now.

As for Tom, he's doing well. Thank you all for asking. We were really excited to learn that the last CT scan a few weeks ago showed that some of his tumors had regressed 70 per cent or more, while others showed a slightly smaller shrinkage. His oncologist was quite pleased, even surprised, but very encouraging.

An unexpected complication was that Tom came down with a severe case of shingles five weeks ago. His oncologist quickly prescribed medications to help him get past the worst of it, but unfortunately those meds caused him side effects of mental confusion and disorientation, so he had to discontinue them.

Shingles pain varies from patient to patient. I had them last year, and had minor pain and itching. Tom's shingles were much worse, and his regular dosage of morphine didn't touch the pain he was experiencing. He was given a different pain medication, but that caused extreme dizziness, so he couldn't take that either. In the end, he's pretty much just toughed it out. He still has occasional itch and pain, but for the most part it's subsided to an almost-ignorable level.

The past few days he's been feeling better, and has been putzing around the house doing little wifey-requested chores, mowing the lawn, a bit of painting, and has been out and about on errands. He paces himself, and often squeezes in a mid-afternoon nap.

More good news - at the last weigh-in, he'd gained seven pounds! This is the first time in a year that he's gained weight. We're thrilled that all his hard work trying to eat all the right things has finally paid off. "All the right things" includes daily Haagen Daz ice cream, and only Haagen Daz, because it has such high calories - 270 calories per half cup serving, more than any other ice cream I've been able to find. Of course, that means that I have to ignore this ice cream every darned day, since it wouldn't take me long to put on the 30 pounds I've lost since my stroke.

When my friends Robert and Lori tell me to Stay Strong, they have no idea how important that good advice is to me . . . especially when the Haagen Daz is calling my name!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Finally - My 50mm Has Arrived

Been taking some time off from blogging, as we finalized taxes - my favorite thing to do, besides cleaning the kitty litter boxes. But now that they are done, I can do more fun things - like play with my new lens and knit more stuff.

After waiting for nearly three weeks, Norman Camera finally had a shipment of Canon lenses arrive, and Tom picked up my replacement 50 mm. Haven't had much of a chance to play with it yet, but will be trying it out soon and will post some pictures here. The photo at the right is with the nifty-fifty, but the darn baby booties kept falling over every time I tried to shoot them (after all, they're meant to be filled with baby toes), so I had to move fast to catch them before they flopped over. Definitely not my best shot, but I've been promising friends I'd show off my latest skills - if that's what you can call knitting booties - so here 'tis. They've been donated to charity, as will the next couple of pairs, as I play with the pattern and try some different ideas.

I was hoping to shoot Tom this evening in the waning hours of sunlight, but he was a bit too tired to model for me. He's been doing well - considering he's been fighting a bad case of the shingles - and has only needed an afternoon nap each day. The weather is supposed to be beautiful tomorrow, so we're hoping to get outside and enjoy the weather, with models Tom and Streak, his nextest-best friend (I rate first, thankfully . . . )

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My New Nifty-Fifty is Broken-Before-Using

See Tom. See Tom snarling. He can be pretty good at snarling.

For many months last year, Tom tightened down his budget so he could save up for a 50 mm F1.4 Canon lens as a Christmas present for me. This was all long before we knew we'd be dealing with his cancer.

So along came Christmas - getting my beautiful new lens was so exciting, but it stayed safe in it's box until this past week when we finally brought it out to play. It's a fabulous lens, a real workhorse that shoots sharp - when it's working!! Unlucky me - this lens happens to be a lemon, and only operates properly when it feels like it. If lenses have brains, this one says "I don't feel like it" much more often than "Ready to shoot!"

It's only occasionally focusing, and then - especially when out of focus - won't shoot at all. The shutter won't even release. So after an hour of messing around with different settings and only getting it to shoot right less than 5 times, we took it back to the camera shop. This was the only shot of my favorite model that was in focus, and a shot of Tom snarling about my new lens isn't exactly what I had in mind. (But hate to waste it - it might just have to be Snarling Man, a stock photo shot!)

I'm jinxed. The salesman at the shop couldn't get it to misbehave. He tried all sorts of settings, and the darned lens worked every friggin' time. We finally gave up, left the store and continued with our plan of an afternoon of shooting.

Like I said - I'm jinxed. The lens again wouldn't focus, and we went back again to the store. This time it malfunctioned for the salesman, who pronounced that the lens motor was "hanging up." I'd shot this lens less than 50 times, all that same afternoon - and most of the shots were out of focus, or worse, the dumb shutter wouldn't release. The shot of me at right was taken by the salesman, during the second go-around, as he was trying to duplicate my lens problem. Can you say "Beth is politely very unhappy?"

First, we were told that it was questionable that we could exchange the lens, as the store had a 30 day exchange policy and it had been purchased nearly 4 months ago. The salesman suggested that we might have to have it repaired. Oops. Being somewhat pre-occupied with other matters, we'd never given any thought to a brand new Canon lens not functioning. You wouldn't have wanted to see a photo of me upon learning that my new screwed-up lens might not be exchangeable. According to Tom, my facial expression was no longer polite. Not surprisingly, the salesman didn't take that picture.

Finally, the salesman said he'd talk to his manager and the Canon rep, to see if an exchange could be made. Tom thinks it was my silent-but-deadly facial expression that convinced him to find an alternative to the repair suggestion.

The next day, we learned that we could exchange the lens for another, but that the shop currently didn't have any in stock and that a new one would arrive Friday. That was two days ago, and still no lens. The manager has promised to call when it shows up. Whenever that is. But at least now I don't have to make polite-but-stern dialog with the Canon rep, which was my next step.

Hoping my lens comes in sometime soooooon . . . .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

TDP - Tom's Dinner

This was one of nearly 100 corned beef and cabbage (and red potatoes and carrots) dinners that were served at the dinner the Masons gave for Tom. The Brothers cooked and cooked their hearts out, filling pressure cookers and huge pots good Irish food.

We were surprised and happy to see the gals from our Reiki group show up - how good to see them, since we haven't been able to participate in the Reiki group and hadn't seen them in months. And several of the guys from from the Country Club showed up - that's Glen, one of Tom's co-workers, in Tom's bowler hat.

Tom's Mason brothers worked hard in the kitchen, and several of the wives showed up with many different homemade desserts. (Me too - I brought a Black Forest German Chocolate cake, all gooey and messy and deliciously sinful - it was my excuse for making something I shouldn't be eating but could justify under "special circumstances." LOL).

Chef Mike Chamberlin was cooking in the red apron, also handing out dinners. He did a fabulous job with the traditional menu, and then preparing and cooking this feast. Even when the pressure cooker exploded on him a couple hours before the first arrivals, he took it in stride - and spent more than an hour cleaning up just about every surface from floor to ceiling within 10 feet of the stove. Amazing how much territory an exploding pressure cooker can mess up!

We had a great time - many of our friends, neighbors, and Tom's co-workers and clients showed up. He talked and talked and talked with them until he was hoarse. He made it through the entire dinner - no small feat since he was only six days past his last chemo - but once he was home, his pillow was definitely calling. He made a land speed record of car-to-bed in under 2 minutes!

Gigantic Thank You's go to:
  • Harding's Market of Schoolcraft, for donating the cabbage and potatoes
  • Town and Country Grocery of Kalamazoo, for offering the corned beef at cost
  • Ed's Breads, of Portage, for selling the rolls at cost
  • Meijer's, for donating $40 worth of butter
Attending the dinner took the wind out of his sails for a few days, but he's feeling better now. Thank you Brothers of Anchor Lodge #22 - you not only gave us a superb dinner, but you brought us together with so many of our friends, some we haven't seen in a long, long time. With grateful hearts, we salute you!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Althea Crome - The Miniature Knitter

I am in awe - to see this style of knitting is such a treat! But to then realize how phenomenally miniscule these miniature knitted garments really are is to recognize a true knitting master at work.

The miniature garments hand-knitted for the movie Coraline, a 3D animation film made by some of the most talented animators and puppeteers in the business, were made over a three year period by Althea Crome. A specialist in miniature knitting, she made many amazingly tiny clothes for the film. The makers of the movie Coraline actually Googled to find miniature knitters, and came across Althea's miniature knitting site Bugknits.

For Coraline, she knitted sweaters (14 identical ones!), gloves, stockings and other garments, all to 1/12 scale. Some of her miniature clothes are knit at 50 stitches to the inch.

Now museums and several private collectors own her pieces, including the single largest collection of her work in the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville, KY. The complexity of her miniature clothing is outstanding, and the finest of details make them works of art. Each can be appreciated as a stand-alone work, and each of her miniatures is original, based on time-honored traditional formats and styles.

Be sure to visit her site - not only can you see more examples of her fantastic work, but you can also buy the exact patterns and the tiny needles needed to make these pretties. She even offers free miniature patterns for booties and a hat!

Do look up her Santa sweater entitled Christmas Cardigan 2008. It is a work of art beyond belief.

She's now knitting in an unbelievable micro-scale of 1/144 inch using .009 wire, which equates to approximately 80 stitches per inch!

Althea participates in several shows, including the Chicago International - claimed to be the World's number 1 miniatures show. It's being held on the weekend of April 4 and 5, 2009. She's also teaching a class at the Maine Maritime Academy in the beautiful coastal town of Castine, Maine, from June 6 - 12, 2009.