Hello...hello.....is this thing on.....

"We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world" -

Helen Keller

The past few months have been a whirlwind of change and I'm just slowly catching up with all that has been happening. I was just talking to a friend about how fast time flies and yet at the same time sometimes days/months/years seem like they were forever ago. It seems like last year was a lifetime ago and this year I can hardly believe its almost September. I have to catch myself and focus on the good things instead of the hard things and I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

In the past few months we've adopted two new kitties to add to our family. Our older cat has cheered up a lot now that there are kittens running around but she still takes the time to knock some sense into them and show them who's boss. Our dogs are both interested and fearful of the kittens since they tend to start running around bouncing off the furniture, your head, the dogs so that can be a little unsettling. I'm so happy to be surrounded by so many pets they are just a joy and a constant source of laughter.

There is only one horrible, terrible thing about having these two new kitties.......yarn addiction. Apparently it starts young these days because both cats are completely set on finding any and all yarn/roving/ribbon/shoe laces you name it and they are on the prowl. I watched one of the cats scale the large bookcase to get to a basket of yarn I had placed on the highest shelf. Both cats feel that my spinning wheel is the greatest bed/play area ever. While I appreciate their great appreciation of all things fiber related it makes leaving my knitting out no longer an option. One of the cats in particular has the fine taste for sock yarn and while its horrible to even think about she particularly loves Malabrigo lace yarn. She actually picked up my very first skein of Malabrigo ever in her mouth and went running behind the television. I didn't even see her do it at first but my husband said "what did she just get?" Had I known that the Malabrigo was in danger I would have raced to its rescue immediately but since I was still unaware of this cats craftiness I let my husband go after her. When he emerged holding the Malabrigo now covered in kitten drool I dare say I felt a little faint.

I've been knitting random projects here and there. I'm still slowly knitting away on Crocus Pocus. I've learned the valuable lesson of only knitting charts when MS isn't rearing its ugly head. So this project is taking me a lot longer than I anticipated but patience is a virtue right? Susan has come out with additional pattern in her Garden Varietals collection so I'm excited about tackling those once I get Crocus Pocus complete. I love her designs and her blog she is so creative and always has something profound to say. She's witty and silly and just a really cool person I love seeing her designs come together the way she incorporates beads just thrills me to no end. My dear friend Betsy is working on one of Susan's designs and it is so gorgeous.

I'm also getting back into rubber stamping/altered art. My husband has set up a very nice work table and storage area downstairs so I can craft to my hearts content without having to constantly go upstairs to get something. I have all of my stamps, inks, ribbons, glitter, etc...organized and labeled and its been really fun just playing around again. I was visiting my parents a few weeks ago and my mom took me to this store called The Stamp Addict. It was fabulous!!!!! The owner was so sweet and helpful and I was able to pick up some supplies for a few projects I've been working on. My mom isn't really into stamping but she's a big quilter and luckily there is a quilt store next to the Stamp Addict. So I could drool over the different stamps and inks and my mom could shop at the quilt store. It was a perfect combination!

Living with MS continues to be a daily struggle but I'm dealing with it the best I can. I've got to focus on looking forward instead of looking back.

Chh, chhh, chhh, changes......

Ok so I really tried to work hard and just stick to one project. I was just going to knit mystic light (and maybe some socks) but I was going to wait before starting this next project but I couldn't help it. It turns out I like the yarn for mystic light more than I like the pattern. So on the positive side I actually finished two of the clues before the next clue was released which was rather interesting for me (especially with all of the yarn showing up in the mail from the Woolen Rabbit). I think I will eventually knit Mystic Light but I'll use a different yarn. It's funny how I feel guilty sometimes when I'm stopping or starting a new project. Its not like the project is going to say "hey you have to finish me first," although I swear the Magic Carpet yarn has been trying to seduce me for weeks! As soon as the beads arrived those too were totally teaming up and well, frankly I was helpless, it just happened, the beads got on the yarn and well I casted on I even may have knitted a little, not a lot...but definitely a little.

I also may have started another sock. Just one little quick and easy sock. I couldn't help it when I went upstairs to look for something else the koigu just jumped onto some needles and well the pattern pretty much knits itself...Honestly look at that koigu, how could any knitter resist it. The truth is I was going to start on this but I couldn't locate my size 0 needles, they are still being evasive so I needed something to knit while waiting to find the size 0 needles.
So there are lots of changes going on. Projects put on hold and projects started. I strung the beads for Magic Carpet (MC) yesterday and started about 10 rows of it and I was in heaven (ok so maybe I knitted a little more than previously mentioned). I also started a pair of socks with someyummy yarn so in case the MS flares up I'll have a back of easy project. So far so good.

So aside from changes in my knitting progress I've also been planning for some changes in my life. I'm constantly having to adjust or adapt to depending on my health and we (my husband and I) have recognized that where we are currently living is not exactly conducive to my mobility issues. When we bought our house I loved that it was two stories tall with high ceilings but now that I've got MS those stairs feel like a death trap and I've already fallen down them enough to know that they are just not working for me. So we are planning on moving back down to San Diego to be closer to our family and better hospitals. So in the meantime current house has turned into a construction zone. Painters, gardeners, more painting. It's been a little unsettling for me so as always I've turned to knitting to help get me through it.

I historically have not done well in adapting to change, I don't like change and normally change doesn't like me but I've learned (naturally the hard way) that not all change is bad. We need to change and as much as I hate to admit it I have learned quite a lot from periods of intense change. I'm aware each day to be thankful for everything, for my friends and family, for my pets, for my life experiences so far. I have to be thankful and enjoy each second of each day because I never know how I'm going to feel or if I'm going to be mobile or not.

The sad thing is that I would much rather give up my physical ability than to have to come to terms with the neurological dysfunction that occurs in my brain from time to time. I know that it sounds horrible to say that but for so long so much of how I saw myself was associated with my brain and my academic achievements. So it all comes back to definitions again. How do I define myself and how will I continue to change that definition. I have MS, I am not MS. I've graduated college, I've attend grad school and I hope that the time will come when I am able to complete my thesis and obtain my master's. The funny thing is a few years ago I would have considered not finishing my thesis a total failure. I would have balked at the idea of taking time off of from school and I would have pushed to just keep going. It's one of the unexpected bonuses of having fibromyalgia and MS, they band together and force you to listen to your body and slow down.

During my recent stint in the hospital I watched a lot of movies, mostly Disney and Pixar because I frankly love cartoons I can't help it they just make me smile. There is one movie Meet the Robinsons that has this phrase "keep moving forward." In the film the family views failure of an invention (or failure in general) as a positive thing. The film stresses the importance of learning from your mistakes and Keep Moving Forward.....

The definition of "me" prior to MS would view "keep moving forward" as keep moving as fast as you can as quick as you can forward, forward, forward, forward, did I mention forward and quickly? Its amazing what a little MS can do for a girl, you know?

I'm realizing that it's important to keep moving forward but its ok to stop and snuggle the yarn every once in a while. Its ok to change your mind halfway through a project and rip it out. Its ok to try harder projects that intimidate you because you aren't sure if your brain is going to be cooperating that day. Projects that in the past you would have felt no unease fear may take me a little longer now but it still only comes down to one stitch at a time. One stitch forward, maybe a few stitches ripped back and I'm realizing that it isn't so much as important to me for every single thing in my life to be wrangled and controlled. As much as I have spent the majority of my life being a total type A over achieving control freak I'm realizing that my body (with its very challenges) in its own way is being its on over achiever just not in the way that I would have chosen.

New paint on the inside and the outside of my current house makes me change perspective a little. Some of the cracks and bruises have been patched and painted but its still home. The colors may have changed but the integrity of the home stays in tact. While one project has been set aside another one is providing challenge and joy. Moving will be a process but the end result will be so worth it because we'll be surrounded by our family. Family is important and when the chips are down I know that I've got a great family that loves and supports us.

"The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. -- Charles Dubois"

Knit, knit, tink, tink, tink...

So once Adara was finished it was time for the mystic light KAL. Somehow, miraculously I have managed to finish each clue prior to the next clue being released. I'm determined to finish this project for purely selfish reasons. The sooner I finish the clue the sooner I can start on the Magic Carpet Ride pattern. I finished clue 2 a day early and when I went to start Magic Carpet and I couldn't find my darn beading needle.

So I searched.......

and I searched.....

and I searched......

Then I gave up searching and vowed to work on my mystery shawl (MS3) which I stopped mid-way through that KAL. The problem is I could find the second skein of yarn, I could find the charts and the pattern but I couldn't find MS3 on the needles anywhere.

So I searched.....

and I searched.....

and I searched........

I found MS3 (still on the needles) but then I couldn't find the beads. I was going to start searching again but I realized I was searching more than I was knitting and I had a perfectly good sock to work on.

So I went downstairs and picked up my sock and managed to make it all the way down to the heel flap. I was glad that I had "accomplished" something since all of my searching didn't turn up what I needed.

I wake up the next morning and go into my craft room determined to find what I was missing and there they are.....the beading needle........and the mystery shawl beads.....right on top of my in plain view. I laughed so hard. It is so fitting that some times you search so hard for something that was right in front of you in the beginning.

So I guess the moral of the story is....if you practiced knitting project monogamy you wouldn't have to worry about lost beading needles or missing mystery shawl beads...hehehehe

Oh and to make matters better this project and this project showed up in the mail......The yarn as always is to die for!!! Oh and the dynamic duo Kim and Susan did it again with this. I'm so excited and inspired.

In the midst of all of this searching and knitting I've begun to learn a lot about myself as a knitter. Before I would just "muscle through" some patterns just to finish them. Now I'm appreciated each pattern I select. I like knowing a little bit about the designer. I like to know a little bit about the person behind the yarn. All of those tidbits of information make each project that much more enjoyable. I've even been known to (tink) back some of my knitting instead of my normal just K2tog and keep on moving. Sometimes tinking can be as fun as knitting (note that is said "sometimes") For the times when its not fun there are always cupcakes. Cupcakes make just about anything better.

I'm learning understand a lot more about fixing mistakes than I gave myself credit for. I love knitting lace even though it once (mystery shawl project) got me such in a tizzy that I stopped. I've vowed to stop stopping so I am eager to finish the mystery shawl (of course after I finish the newly arrived projects) I wouldn't want to offend the new yarn.

Once again I am learning so much about myself all while cherishing every knit or tink of these projects.

You can't have the rainbow without having the rain.....

I had to keep reminding myself these past couple of weeks that "you can't have rainbows without having the rain." I've finally finished my Rainbow shawl and I love it!!! It serves as a visual reminder so that when times get tough, or my body decides to mutiny against me I can wrap myself in color and know that everything will be all right.

I learned a lot during this knitting project. I'm normally more concerned with getting something done or starting something else. I can get pretty distracted and certainly my MS flare-up doesn't help with staying on task. Not to mention while I was knitting the Adara rainbow shawl project this came out so I promptly got the pattern and then went to my LYS with my Christmas gift certificate in hand to get the yarn. Then in the midst of my future knitting planning this came out. All I can say is WOW!!!! I purchased the kit from Kim (who is so very talented and quite nice) and when the yarn arrived I almost cartwheeled through my house (my current lack of intense mobility hindered the ability to cartwheel physically, but mentally I was cartwheeling around the block!). The yarn is so beautiful and both projects are amazing. Needless to say I'm quite obsessed with both the shawl and the scarf especially since there are lots and lots of beads incorporated into the pattern!!! I love beads almost as much as I love yarn so both of these projects have me in a knitting frenzy.

It clearly would have been easy to get distracted but I just kept on knitting my rainbow shawl one stitch at a time. I kept telling myself that as soon as I finished this shawl I could start on one of Susan's projects. She is such an amazing designer and the projects she has "in the works" just blow my mind. I love the fact that not only are her patterns gorgeous but she is also super nice and very active in the forums on Ravelry. It is so nice to like the patterns and the person!

So in the midst of this Rainbow shawl I definitely hit a rough patch of stormy weather and I think it is a small miracle that I didn't abandon the rainbow shawl when I came home from the hospital. The vibrant colors of this shawl really called to me and I was itching to get back to it while I was sick. Even though my knitting was a bit slower it still only needed one stitch at a time. So slowly but surely I continued the project. I'm also thankful that my physical and occupational therapists both thought knitting was a good idea and I've already had my knitting speed back up to its normal pace.

I just had to keep reminding myself that you can't have the rainbow without the rain so even though I hit a rough patch the sky has begun to clear I can enjoy the rainbow in front of me. Now the only dilemma is which project to start next!!

Creativity Edition - Carnival of MS Bloggers

I recently blogged about definitions and how the definitions of myself change almost constantly. Through these changes I am always aware of the opportunity for growth, even if I experience some growing pains. We'll I'm proud to announce that this weeks edition of the Carnival of MS Bloggers is focused on Creativity. I'm proud to be a contributor to this weeks issue and I enjoyed learning about other people with MS and how creativity helps them. So check it out, learn about other crafts, learn a little bit about MS. Either way you are guaranteed to learn something! So check it out, discover some new blogs, make some new friends, either way you won't be disappointed.

"I'm a leaf on the wind....watch how I soar - Wash (Firefly)"

It amazes me how fast things can change. The past few weeks have taught me some valuable lessons about life, knitting, and....... well....... life with knitting. I returned home this Saturday after a 5 day stint in the hospital and a 4 day excursion at a acute physical therapy rehab facility. Nine days, 216 hours, 12960 minutes, the longest of my life. You see when MS teams up with fibromyalgia some interesting things can happen.
I experienced an "exacerbation" and boy did it knock me off my feet. I'm slowly working on my stamina and I'm getting better a little each day but it was a humbling experience. I'm using a walker now which drives me crazy but I'm thankful for the ability to walk again. I'm thankful for being able to feel my legs even if they are numb sometimes. I'm overjoyed that my left hand has gotten back with the program even though the right one is still on an extended vacation but sends postcards ever so often.
I learned knitting can help through just about anything, even if it only involves garter stitch on size 50 jumbo needles. I learned that even if you think that the jumbo garter stitch troll scarf you are knitting doesn't exactly showcase you capabilities non-knitters will be impressed by your ability to turn yarn into something pretty. On one of the days at the rehab center one of the discharge nurses stopped by for me to sign some paperwork, she was very soft spoken until she saw the knitting on the couch next to me and then she exclaimed "OOOOOOO KNITTING!!!" If I hadn't already been laying down I think I would have been knocked over as she circled the bed to see the yarn.
I learned that my friends and family are pretty awesome and for the most part are a lot better in a crisis than I am. I learned that while my cognitive ability may wax and wane depending on the MS I have a random knack for remembering quotes from the show Firefly and subsequent movie Serenity. One of my favorite quotes is "I aim to misbehave" and that is exactly how I felt during the last few days of physical therapy. I've never felt quite like a caged animal until I was at the rehab center. I think its because I was feeling better and was more aware of my surroundings and all I wanted to do was to go home.
One of the wonky things about MS is cognitive dysfunction and for me that normally involves confusion and disorientation. I won't necessarily understand where I'm at or how I got there sometimes it can be quite frightening and other times its just a tad annoying. During the initial stay at the fabulous UCSD medical center (they were AMAZING!) I was confused a lot of the time which was a combination of the pain I was under and the MS playing with my two remaining brain cells. Luckily through it all I've managed to maintain my sense of sarcasm, I like to think of it as a major coping mechanism.
I am so overjoyed to be home, to walk, to use my hands, to be with my pets, to knit on something other than garter stitch (Adara's making slow progress but progress none the less). It so cheesy but there really is no place like home.
One of the most important lessons I've learned and continue to learn is energy conservation. Things may take me a bit longer than they used to but it doesn't mean I have to stop doing what I want to do. I just have to do it different and that's OK.

Join the Movement.....

One stitch at a time is how I'm approaching my knitting these days. As long as I just keep focusing on that one little stitch at a time then things are pretty manageable. It allows me to focus on the moment and the process of knitting without getting overly worried about what is coming next in the pattern or how many rows I have left to complete on my current project. By refocusing my attention on my knitting I'm learning how to knit in a different way and I'm enjoying it a lot more.

My thought process towards knitting is just one of the things I've had to adjust to. It's odd how there are some things that can be adjusted to easily but others just seem to a herculean task. I realized this week that the only thing stopping me from making necessary adjustments is me. When I first got diagnosed I thought, "we'll I'll just keep knitting and I'll figure things out." The problem is I stopped knitting. I stopped crafting. I stopped creating. I just kind of stopped.

It was easier to stop than to face some of the realities I was confronted with. It's one thing to drop a stitch of your knitting because you just weren't paying attention, it's a lot harsher to drop a stitch because your arms are shaking because of a neurological dysfunction. If you don't knit, then you aren't as acutely aware of your shaking arms. If you quit spinning yarn on your spinning wheel you maybe aren't reminded that you aren't quite as coordinated as you once were, and maybe you don't have the same control over your feet as you used to.

I've been struggling a lot with "definitions" how I define myself and how I am defined by others. It seems like I'm constantly at a crossroads of who I am and just when I think I figure it out I realize that I'm far from figuring out. Who I thought I was and who I thought I would be certainly never involved the letters "m" and "s". It seems like one day I was on a trajectory going in one direction and then the next day and a few doctor's appointments later I'm something completely different. Most days I don't even focus on the fact that I've got MS, I'm learning to deal with the treatments, the side effects, and the odd reactions I get from folks when I'm using my cane or walking a bit wobbly; but I don't think about the MS. Yes I know denial is not just a river in Egypt. I realized this week that as much as I thought I was dealing with all of the changes MS has brought I realized that I wasn't as ok with it as I previously thought.

Earlier in the week I received a comment from a blogger asking to join in the Carnival of MS Bloggers. To be honest my first reaction was "huh? I'm not an MS blogger, I'm a craft blogger." I called a friend kind of distressed by this label of being an "MS blogger." My ever so wise friend made the brilliant assertion that I don't have to join in. I hung up relieved. She validated me, I didn't have to join in, I didn't have to be an "MS blogger." Yet as the days went on I kept dwelling on it, not quite sure why I was so uneased by it. No one was twisting my arm, no one was saying you must do this, and yet I couldn't quite shake the feeling of not being honest with myself.

Then I realized it I am a lot of things: wife, friend, knitter, spinner, bobbin lacer, sewer, quilter, poet, crafter, wood turner, pet lover, oh and I have fibromyalgia and MS. I'm also left-handed, hate onions (unless they are fried) oh and I detest mustard (unless its honey mustard.) I realized that if I had been asked to join a wood turning group or any other craft non-health related group I would have been thrilled. Then it all kind of clicked in my head. When I started this blog I knew it would be a mis-mash of "life and crafts smashed together," and that's what I want my blog to be about. Along the way as I worked on my ever changing lists of projects life kind of happened and now MS is part of my life. I am an MS blogger, and a craft blogger, and a variety of ever-changing things.

This week I faced the inevitable truth that MS is a part of who I am but it does not define who I am, no one thing that I do or that I'm interested in defines who I am and most importantly I realized the freedom of letting go can be an uplifting experience. The fact of the matter is one of my mechanisms for dealing with MS is crafts of all sorts and as I learned this week from the fabulous folks in the MS knitter's group on Ravelry, I'm not the only one crafting with this illness.

Monday kicks off MS awareness week. Today I recieved an e-mail from the National MS Society that asked the question "what will you do to move us closer to a world free of ms?" The only answer for me was to stop "stopping" and start "moving." Moving in a forward direction of acceptance and if necessary adjusting. So I'm proudly joining the Carnival of MS Bloggers, I'm proud to be an MS blogger AND a craft blogger. I'm also thankful for the life lessons I learned this week and I look forward to blogging about my various craft projects and life with MS.

When life throws you lemons stab them with your knitting needles!!

Adara Rainbow Shawl

So I've been knitting more lately, and well when I say more I mean a lot more. Somewhere along the past few months of researching ms, taking medications, switching insurance plans, and losing a pet I lost the desire for crafting. Sure I'd pick up something here or there and think oh this is the project that will get me crafting again. Sooner than later I would lose interest and spend my time trying to figure out what was missing. Crafts were missing, consistent crafting was definitely missing.

One of the sad and sometimes funny aspects of multiple sclerosis is my forgetfulness at times. There are days when this is scary and there are days when it makes me laugh. For instance, I love Ravelry and yet if I'm not consistently on it searching new projects I totally forget about its existence. I know how could anyone addicted to Ravelry forget about it (that's the not so fun part of ms). Then when a good friend of mine mentions something she saw on Ravelry I get all excited and the light bulb goes off in my head remembering how much I love searching around that site. It makes me laugh because its like rediscovering something you love all over again.

I love knitting, I love it. I love reading about it, I love doing it, I love yarn, needles, stitch markers, row counters, charts, darning needles, blogs, Ravelry, patterns...etc....I forgot how much I loved it and how much I need it in my life. Thanks to Ravelry I can track projects that I'm working on and set goals for myself of new projects I would like to try. So that's the plan for now. I've currently got a few projects that I'm working on and a few projects that I've got the yarn picked out for. My ultimate goal is this! I know its a little scary but there are a lot of things in life that are a little scary, or a lot scary and I have to constantly remind myself when the self doubt creeps in that all knitting is just made up of two stitches and I only have to work on one stitch at a time.

Live with Intention

Cleo, aka Cleocatra, aka Big Chubba
A friend of mine gave me a beautiful bracelet for Christmas and on it was inscribed the phrase "Live with Intention." It really touched my heart and has been an excellent motto these past few months as I've encountered setbacks with my ms treatment and more recently the loss of our beloved cat Cleo.
It just seemed fitting that my first blog in a long time should be about living with intention and about Cleo because she lived life to the fullest. She was an expert fly catcher, tangler of yarn, sun beam snoozing, fur ball of love. My husband I rescued Cleo and her sister Hattie from an animal shelter and having her in our lives was a true blessing. As much as we will miss her I know that with time it will be easier to remember the good times with more joy than sorrow.
Nothing about Cleo was ordinary and she knew it. While her sister has always been calmer and quieter it was Cleo who would be tormenting the puppies or causing havoc in my yarn room. It was Cleo that would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to scratch on the furniture or unravel a recently completed row of knitting. Even her meow was more of a battle cry warning to Hattie that she was feeling playful so Hattie better watch out. She so desperately wanted to talk, especially in the middle of the night when we would be trying to sleep. While Hattie would jump lightly onto the bed Cleo with her claws sticking out would preform kitty acupuncture on a weekly basis. I swear that cat never learned how to retract her claws. She was a nut case but she was our little nut case and we are devastated by her passing.
The house seems much quieter now without her meowing to announce her intentions of stinking up the bathroom or jumping on Hattie while she sleeps. I miss seeing her on the top of the stairs, belly exposed to the world being warmed by the sun. Sometimes I used to think Cleo would have been better off as a dog since she would dramatically lay down and expose her tummy for a good rubbing. As soon as she would see you walking in her direction she would move from her side to her back exposing her furry little gut. Cleo never was ladylike but that is why we loved her.
Cleo always lived with intention, although sometimes her intent could be a little questionable. Cleo may not have been a very graceful kitty but what she lacked in grace she made up in charm.