While I was away, I wrote long posts with few pictures. Thanks for sticking it out. We got home last night, so I thought I’d do something I rarely do: a photo essay.
It’s Yarn Love Challenge Day 2! If you missed day 1, explaining what exactly Yarn Love Challenge is, please see yesterday’s post. Today’s prompt is “close up.” Over the last few years, I’ve tried to improve my ability to take close up pictures. Close ups help us focus on details, providing a better understanding of and appreciation for finished projects. Rather than just sharing fiber arts pictures in this post, I’ve chosen close-up pictures that represent different aspects of my life. Collectively, these small details provide a better understanding of the ongoing project that is my life.
Since this is primarily a fiber blog, I am starting with the fiber pictures!
First, one of my favorite projects and pictures: a close up of the lace border on the Raindrops on Roses Shawl.
Next, one of the first close-up pictures I ever took of a fiber project. It’s a humble garter-stitch dishcloth and I hoped to take a picture that made it look like more fun than that! I tried to make it look like ocean waves and added the octopi charms both because of the ocean theme and because I love octopi so much.
This is the lace edging on the first project I ever knit from my own homespun yarn. I was (and am) so proud to be able to knit from yarn spun by my own hands!
I have been obsessed with cables ever since I knit a cabled baby blanket as my second-ever knitting project. (The baby I knit that blanket for just got married this week and is expecting his first child). When I knit the Sand Tracks scarf, I became obsessed with the combination of cables and seed stitch.
Rainbows make me happy, and this Redfish Dyeworks 20/2 Spun Silk gradient is no exception. I love this picture because it captures all the skeins in the gradient and because there’s something perfect about the way the circle draws my eye around and around and around the rainbow.
The Gotland / Teeswater fleece pictured here is one of the first fleeces I purchased (at SAFF 2016) to process by hand. This picture is of the raw fleece and I love all the different colors in the fleece. I took this picture just before I washed it. I have yet to comb or spin it.
I take a ridiculous number of pictures of our cat, Tiger. He’s so photogenic. He’s also ridiculously cuddly. Sometimes he’s so cute and happy with cuddles that I don’t want to disturb him, but I’m also bored. I almost always have my phone with me, so I whip it out and take pictures of him. Of course, I take many close ups of his face.
But I am also rather obsessed with taking pictures of his paws.
And the way his tail wraps around his body and curls up beside his hip is one of the most precious things in the world.
My husband grew up in Toms River, NJ. Toms River is right about in the middle of the New Jersey coastline, separated by the intracoastal from Seaside Heights and Seaside Park, NJ. He grew up going to the Seaside beach constantly. His grandmother and an aunt each lived a couple blocks from the beach where the boardwalk was. Superstorm Sandy destroyed much of the boardwalk. If you watched any of the coverage of that storm, you might remember a picture of a roller coaster in the ocean. That was the Seaside boardwalk where my husband grew up. After Sandy, the boardwalk was rebuilt in record time, and the businesses lining it reopened for the following summer season. That fall, one year after Sandy, an electrical short started a fire that burned six blocks of the newly-rebuilt boardwalk (this article says 3 blocks, but it was really 3 blocks in Seaside Heights plus 3 blocks in Seaside Park for a total of six blocks). Fire trucks came from all over the state to fight that fire. In the end, they were only able to put it out by bulldozing out part of the new boardwalk to create a fire break.
Three months after the fire, we were in New Jersey for Christmas, so we went down to the boardwalk to view the devastation. The picture before is a charred piece of wood, about 4 inches long, embedded in the sand near where the fire started.
My father is a birdwatcher; I’ve been birdwatching with him since I was 6 months old, in a backpack on his back. Last year, we attended the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. One of the tours we took was a bird banding tour. The guide was a licensed bird bander. We accompanied him to the location where he bands and helped him to capture three birds for banding. He applied a band to each bird, weighed them, measured their wings, beaks, and leg bones, then released them. This is a Bachman’s Sparrow, an uncommon species which is in decline due to habitat loss.
In the vendor area of the festival, was a booth operated by a bird rescue. They brought several of their education birds — birds that will never be able to released back to the wild due the extent of injury — and you could have a picture taken with the bird of your choice. I picked the Golden Eagle because I am a Ravenclaw and the Eagle is the emblem of our House. Note that I am not holding this bird. Only licensed handlers are able to do that. The eagle is sitting on the gloved hand of the handler and I am standing beside her. The picture is taken from a clever angle, making it seem that I’m closer than I actually am!
In the Yard
Several years ago, I got lenses for my iPhone camera. I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I was traveling on business and a colleague had them for her phone. I was so excited, I bought myself a set. I especially loved the macro lens.
Leaf and tendril from the grape vines. We’ve since pulled them out because they were growing up against the house, destroying the paint and the window screens. Plus the neighborhood birds ate all the baby grapes while they were still green so we never got any ourselves.
A cherry tomato, still on the vine.
Lichen on the trunk of a crepe myrtle.
A crab spider on its web.
When last I wrote, Tiger was about to start radiation therapy. I expected the weeks of radiation to be difficult for all involved, and for things to get easier after. While the radiation was challenging, Tiger came through with flying colors and I thought the hard part was behind us. I was wrong.
Tiger caught a cold. Then our other cat, Puck, started having health issues. Within a week, I thought we would lose both cats. Over the last month, I’ve spent many nights sleeping on the couch so I could provide medicine and food at all hours of the night, without disturbing Chris’s sleep. Tiger recovered and is doing fabulously. Puck passed over the rainbow bridge sometime last night. I will write a more detailed post about all of this, along with a slideshow tribute to Puck, in a couple weeks.
Driving and More Driving
Months before the cats got sick, I had planned an epic trip. I embarked on that trip this past Tuesday. The first leg of the trip was a 14.5 hour drive from Orlando to Greencastle, Indiana to visit my friend Stacy and attend The Fiber Event. My plan was to leave at 6:00 am, so that I could drive through Atlanta in the middle of the day when traffic is more likely to be light, and to drive as long as I remained alert. I expected to stop and stay in a hotel at some point.
I did leave my house at 6:05 am and arrived in Atlanta around 1 pm. I had no traffic slow downs in Atlanta — the first time I’ve had that happen when driving through the area. By 2:30 pm, I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and starting to feel too sleepy to drive. It seemed too early to stop for the day, so I pulled into a McDonalds parking lot and took a nap for 1/2 hour. I felt much refreshed, so I got back on the road.
I arrived in Nashville around 5:00 pm. I expected to be caught in rush hour traffic, but only slowed to a crawl once, when the road I was on split into two major roads. Once I was past the split, we were back up to the speed limit. At this point, I called Stacy to find out when she usually goes to bed. I started thinking I might drive all the way through.
I did end up driving all the way through, arriving at Stacy’s house at 10:15 pm. I had ideal driving conditions — a little rain in Georgia, but it wasn’t a deluge; the weather was beautiful for the rest of the trip; no slow downs in the construction zones, no accidents; no rush hour traffic. I couldn’t have asked for more!
Stacy and I have been doing some weaving on our rigid heddle looms. Tomorrow and Saturday, we will be at The Fiber Event. Monday, I’m driving to Kansas City, Missouri. I’ll be site seeing and visiting family for a couple days, then attending PLYAway, the first spinning conference put on by PLY Magazine. After PLYAway, I’m driving to Memphis to visit a friend, then driving home to Orlando. I plan to visit The Yarn Barn of Kansas, two Laura Ingalls Wilder sites (The Little House on the Prairie and the home Laura and Almanzo lived in for most of their lives), Graceland, and who knows what else.
I’ll be blogging as often as possible during the trip! I only brought my iPad with me, and I’ve discovered that the WordPress installation does some funky things when I’m using Safari on the iPad. As a result, the formatting of my posts might look a little different than usual. Hopefully, it isn’t too distracting!
One of my favorite things about fiber work is how you can always find something to work on that fits your current circumstances. Have lots of time and mental space? You can learn a new craft or take on a complicated project like colorwork or complex lace. Just need something mindless? You can crank out some stockinette or granny stitch or plain weave scarves. On the go? You can bring along a small project that can easily be put down if needed, like socks or dishcloths.
My current purse project is crochet dishcloths. I like how easy it is to put crochet down. You don’t have to worry about dropping stitches, so you don’t need to carefully secure anything. If I’m on the monorail from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom, waiting for food at a restaurant, waiting in a doctor’s office, I can work a few stitches and when we arrive at our destination, the food comes to the table, or the doctor enters the room, I can toss the project back into my pocket or purse with no fuss.
Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time in the waiting room of veterinarians’ offices. It all started back in December 2014, when my sister, in Florida for Christmas, first noticed that Tiger’s lip was red and slightly swollen on one side. I brought him to the vet in January 2015. They didn’t think it was anything terrible. “Change him from a plastic bowl to aluminum,” they said. “Sometimes cats react to plastic.”
We changed the bowls. The swelling seemed worse. In July, we brought him for his regular semi-annual appointment and pointed it out to the vet again. “He’s probably allergic to something,” they said. We went through a course of steroids, one pill a day. It didn’t seem to help. We tried two pills a day and he got very aggressive, so I stopped the pills and brought him to the vet. We tried every other day. No change.
So we did allergy testing. It turned out he’s allergic to corn, an ingredient in almost all cat foods. We found food that doesn’t contain corn and switched to that. The swelling was still there.
We tried another course of steroids, thinking that perhaps the problem was one of his other allergies (a variety of environmental things like molds and pollen). No change. By now it was December 2015. It had been a year of trying things. “Is there anything else we can do?” I asked. The vet recommended a biopsy, which would tell us what was causing his allergic reaction. So in January, a few days after getting back from Stacy’s wedding in Indiana, we brought him to our vet for the biopsy.
A week later, the results came in: Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor. Cancer. The vet was surprised; he’s practiced for many years and never seen this type of tumor present in this fashion. We’re lucky it is a low grade tumor and hasn’t grown much over the last year. Our regular vet referred us to the oncology department at the regional specialty vet, which fortunately is not far from our home.
We met with the oncologist. We weren’t sure if surgery would be an option, given the location of the tumor right on the front of his face, but one of the surgeons thought that the tumor was small enough that we did have a surgical option.
The oncologist and the surgeon both told us that after the surgery, Tiger would probably have to have radiation therapy. Radiation therapy would kill any microscopic cancer cells remaining after the surgery. When they do surgery, they take healthy tissue around the tumor, because the surgeon can’t see microscopic cancer cells. The theory is that taking tissues that appear to be healthy will make sure all the cancer is gone. The surgeon likes to get a least 1 cm of healthy tissue around the tumor. However, because of the location of this particular tumor, taking that much healthy tissue would mean Tiger would be disfigured. His gum would be exposed, which could cause it to dry out and that would be a problem. It was unlikely that the surgeon would be able to get a sufficient margin, and she might not be able to get all of the tumor.
A week after surgery, the pathology report came back. The surgeon got a minimum 5 mm margin, much better than she expected. With that much margin, waiting to see what would happen — if the tumor would grow back — was an option. So was radiation therapy. “If I’d gotten 3 more mm, I would tell you that Tiger does not need radiation therapy,” the surgeon said. “As it is, waiting is an option and so is radiation. None of us has a crystal ball; we don’t know what will happen. The cancer could be gone forever. It could come back in a month. Or in 5 years. It’s up to you what you want to do.”
We met with the oncologist again, so we could learn about the course of treatment. It’s 18-20 treatments, every weekday for 4 weeks. He must be under anesthesia for each treatment, but it’s a twilight level, not all the way under. He’ll lose the hair in the area of the radiation, but not over his whole body. His face will be shaved in the area of the treatment, even before the hair falls out. When the hair grows back in, it will grow back white. We’ll have to be careful every time he has his teeth cleaned for the rest of his life. He might lose his appetite, and might have to have appetite stimulants or even a feeding tube. He’ll probably require pain meds. He will develop the equivalent of a very bad sunburn in the area of the treatment.
We went home and agonized for several hours. It’s hard to imagine putting the cat through the treatment. But it’s also hard to swallow doing less than everything we could for him. You see, we love all of our cats and would do the best for them that we possibly could. But there’s no question that Tiger is our favorite. This is a cat just oozing in personality:
He’s the cuddliest cat I’ve ever met. If you aren’t paying attention to him, he’ll be sure to let you know when he needs some love.
He’s such a photogenic cat. Partially because he’s so pretty:
But also because he is so patient. This is why he often models my finished objects!
But most importantly, Tiger and Chris are bosom buddies. Tiger picked Chris as his person. Every day, when Chris comes home from work, Tiger runs to the door to greet him. Tiger follows Chris everywhere, even when Chris is pacing while talking on the phone. Chris might complain when the cat wants to cuddle all the time and is constantly underfoot, but there’s no doubt that he loves the cat. They are inseparable.
We decided to go ahead with Radiation Therapy. Tiger is 13 now, and in excellent health other than this tumor. If the tumor did come back at some point in the future, he might not be so healthy and able to endure surgery and radiation. And so this morning I found myself back in the veterinarian’s waiting room, dropping off Tiger for his first treatment.
I pulled out my current dishcloth and crocheted a few rows, finding solace in the familiar rhythm.
P.S. Just as I finished typing this post, the vet’s office called. He did very well with his first treatment and he’ll be ready to come home in about an hour!
Over the Martin Luther King, Junior weekend, five friends and I stayed in a condo right on the beach in Ponce Inlet, Florida. Another friend joined us just for the day on Saturday. It was glorious. We knit, we crocheted, we spun, we wove, we blocked, we discussed dyeing, we watched Marvel movies, we talked, we laughed. It was everything a knitting retreat with friends should be. Rather than give a long-winded description of this perfection, I offer you pictures. With captions, of course.
We had a fantastic time, and none of us were quite ready to leave. But our lives called, so Monday we all packed up and headed home. But we’ve decided that this will be an annual event. MLK weekend = local fiber retreat every year!!