Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month

I’m living with undiagnosed Myasthenia Gravis. It can be very difficult to test for, as not everyone will show up on the tests currently available. Diagnosis can be quick or it can take years and very experienced neurologist. It can affect just your eye muscles, but for most it affects every voluntary muscle in the body. The most dangerous symptom is weakness of the breathing muscles.

It affects each of us in different ways. For me, one of my most noticeable symptoms is my voice. My walking and breathing are most affected, but not always noticeable because I might be sitting or resting. Not everyone with MG has their voice affected the way I do. There are many muscles used in speaking, and my voice can sound vastly different depending on the muscles affected. It can just be hoarse, or slurred like I’m drunk, unintelligible or inaudible. The vocal cords, tongue, soft palate, and lips can each be weak on their own or weak together producing a varied affect on my ability to speak.

Here is a clip of my voice right now. When I take my medication called Mestinon my voice and the rest of my body will return to near normal strength for a couple of hours, then my muscles will weaken again until I take more medication. I am blessed that Mestinon is so effective for me and does not cause side effects. However, there is a limit to how much you can take, and too much can actually cause the very same symptoms. It is not a treatment, it is just a temporary patch, sort of like taking an antihistamine for your allergies — it only temporarily alleviates symptoms and when it wears off the symptoms come back.


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Practicing Blogging

Just ignore the cereal box in the background. I’m just practicing my blogging skills with a few photos from my life the past few days. I’ve been inspecting my veggie garden and tinkering with my old sewing machine. Is there a contest out there for the most boring blog post ever? Might have a winner here….

sewing machine repair

Fixing the stitch length

For fun I’m going to try a second time to fix the frozen stitch length dial on my old sewing machine. Of course I have no idea what I’m doing, but think I have a pretty good start just knowing which end of the screwdriver to use. As long as a hammer doesn’t end up in the mix, I think it’ll turn out fine. I’ve been digging around the internet for repair advice for frozen dials on sewing machines and it seems like just a hairdryer might be the answer, but I have to get this part out to be able to heat it up. Hey, if it doesn’t work I can just use this machine when I need to sew with the stitch length set at 2. Other than the stitch length dial, this machine is still glorious. It’s very clean inside, but it’d probably be smart to get it lubricated and get a new belt at some point.

My mom bought this machine for herself around 1980 from JC Penney (I think she thought she’d take up sewing, but she never did and it sat unused). It’s all metal and solidly built. I used it a bit for a sewing class elective in Jr. High, then she gave it to me when I decided to try mending clothes and stitching pillows and such in my 20s. It’s very basic, but I’ve always enjoyed working with it.

OMG! Where did I put all the screws!

first artichoke

First artichoke

Don’t think I’ll ever become a garden blogger, because my thumb is very pale green and covered in aphids. I’m just practicing a little blogging here because all I can do this afternoon is sit at my desk and look at Pinterest, and I thought it’d be good to practice posting photos and throwing some words underneath them. One of these days I’ll get around to posting about knitting.

But right now, I wanted to introduce everyone to Baby Artichoke. Say “Hello!”, Baby. I only do a bit of small container gardening, and prefer to plant useful things like herbs and veggies. Last year I got a tiny artichoke plant at Home Depot. It was just sitting there, and I picked it up on a whim and took it home and planted it. A year and a few months later and it’s finally produced an artichoke. Watching it grow is so exciting, that I tell everyone that I’m going to eat that thing bugs and all. I just hope the bugs don’t eat it first!


Growing onions for the first time

Pinterest. We all know the story. We’ve all seen the blogs where the little mug cakes are tested and shown to be ugly little inedible pucks fused to your favorite mug. This little Pinterest experiment was one I thought I could handle. Hey, if it doesn’t work it doesn’t matter because it was garbage to begin with.

So I took two sprouted onions from the kitchen and hacked them into pieces, then rather rudely shoved them in a bit of dirt right in front of my frost damaged lemon grass. They’re not even getting much sun and they’re growing like crazy! I’ve replanted green onion stubs before, and they are incredibly easy to grow. I’m still a little dubious that I’ll get big yellow onions to harvest, but it’s been fun at least this far.

Just to add something useful to this bland post… lemon grass is something everyone can grow even if they kill everything or have no space. The bugs hate it, the frost marrs the leaves but doesn’t kill it. Buy some for $1 and shove it in the dirt, it takes care of itself, plus it multiplies and divides faster than bunnies. You’ll always have pesticide free, super fresh lemon grass for cooking, tea, anything you want. You can see just a bit of my lemon grass behind the onions in that last pic. Every time I’m near it I pull off a leaf and crush it a little to smell the wonderful fragrance, it’s heavenly.

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Myasthenia — it rhymes with nothing

So what is this problem that gets in the way of my knitting (and everything else in life)? Myasthenia Gravis, most likely. I’ve decided to just be open and sharing about it even though it’s still a confusing confounding conundrum for me. It’s the biggest part of me and though I’ve tried to hide it, it keeps popping out. Yeah, usually at most inopportune moments.

I’ve been through hell and back with my symptoms. They come and go, they play hide and seek, then they come and slap me upside the head so hard I taste bacon. I don’t know why I said bacon, it just seems like the answer to everything. I gave up trying to find out what this monster is for an embarassingly long time after getting mightily discouraged by doctors, until it tried to stop me from breathing a few times. After much hoopla, a neurologist I saw years ago and thought was awful came to my rescue one late night in the hospital recently. I just have to say that one should always be willing to accept big life lessons — and now he’s my hero. A drug called Mestinon brings me back to life now for short bits. And when I say short, I mean two hours and maybe four if I’m well rested and lucky. I still have to go through more testing, as apparently I’m a difficult case and they want to be sure. But this pill works on me, and supposedly it doesn’t do anything for you if you don’t have Myasthenia.

The crappiest thing about it all? People saying, “You look mahvelous, dahling!” Chronic illnesses aren’t always visible. When mine shows on my face with my facial muscles drooping, I just look really pissed off. I’m not, and I’m probably actually laughing. I might just look sad. I might only be winking at you! MG is variable. Sometimes it’s my legs, sometimes my breathing, sometimes it’s nothing more than me spilling my coffee milk all over (you do know what coffee milk is, right? I started drinking it while playing poker at the age of six and haven’t been the same since). Basically, if I move muscles things stop working well, and if I rest my muscles work closer to normal.

I have three Pinterest boards on Myasthenia Gravis. One is a little informational and inspirational, the other deals with eating and nutrition issues, the last is about trying to exercise the best as we can. On one you can see some things MGers deal with, on the other you can see the pureed foods we eat when our jaws just won’t chew (or the multipot meals for when we can’t move enough to really cook). On the last you’ll see that sometimes just laying about all day can be a form of exercise (no really, sometimes even that is quite an achievement!).

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Untangling yarn

Sometimes a friend unwittingly says something in passing that starts a spark for you. It’s rather like making a mistake in your knitting and realizing you don’t have to rip it out because nobody will notice it, and if anything it will add a little character to your piece. My friend Beth (hi!) and I were chatting away about life, and of course knitting wove its way in there a little bit, and it occurred to me that I should just get going with my blog. It’s been severely interrupted by life, but I wish it to be my life, so instead of waiting for that day when my body and mind let me shape it into my vision I am just going to have at it and keep going whether I’m getting to do it the way I originally envisioned it or not.

Life never turns out the way you plan, does it. My knitting taught me that. Do the best you can, keep going, and accept that sometimes you’re just going to have to tink a row or two (or twenty) to get started again. My dirty little secret is that I’ve untangled and unknit more yarn in my knitting years than I’ve knit, quite possibly. And I enjoy it!! There is something so meditative about just feeling the yarn, and getting it back to where it’s supposed to be.

You see, right now my hands are having a hard time knitting. My brain is even struggling with it sometimes. I’ve got an undiagnosed medical condition that has gotten worse recently. It used to be more intermittent, but is now constant. Thankfully I now have a new doctor that is more determined than I am to figure this out. Early on I gave up knitting altogether — one day I got so frustrated I chucked my knitting across the room and then packed it away for years. When I rediscovered it my mind was in “oh just figure out how to do it” mode, and has been there ever since. If I can’t knit, I pet my yarn, and if that’s even too much I just stare at its softness and pretty colors and imagine how it will look when eventually transformed. It’s all knitting, whether a project arises from it or not.

I’m still very uncomfortable with making my blog live while I’m so scattered. My plan was to make this all about sock knitting and drawing knitting, but it will have to be just socks for now since all my hands will ink these days are wiggly lines. I feel so unsure about posting very infrequently without a solid plan, but here I go!

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Great balls of fire!

Novels and mysteries written around a knitting theme–who knew? Not me! I’ve been reading voraciously the past few months because I’ve been so ill and not up to much else, and ran out of fun things to read. That’s all I’m up to, just light fun reading. I got hooked on a quilting series quite by accident (I don’t quilt and don’t know anyone who does), then realized there must be knitting series!

In each book I’ve read so far, the knitting shop burns down in the middle of the story. I’m starting to fear this is a common theme….

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Learning backwards

Being a self taught knitter, I often learn things accidentally through mistakes or sometimes through what seems to be reverse osmosis. The past few days I’ve been practicing the Twisted German Cast On. I know a few weeks ago when I started researching it I came across something called Norwegian Purl, though I didn’t pay attention to it and it promptly left my little grey cells. Still, it must’ve found a grassy knoll in my head to sit on while it watched me knit from afar — and yesterday I found my fingers doing something not entirely unlike the Norwegian Purl. Not that I knew what it was… so I played around with my yarn a bit.

Was I ever amazed at how doing something akin to Norwegian Purl was not only faster, but made made the ribbing at the top of my sock look ever so much crisper! I knew I wasn’t doing it correctly because the resulting stitch was twisted, but I loved exactly what was happening. I just have to remember to knit through the back of the stitch once my pattern changes, because the stitch is mounted backwards.

After watching some videos just now on Norwegian Purling, I can see where I went wrong. And I just came across a video by Cat Bordhi that demonstrates exactly what I’m doing. Great minds? Hah, definitely not, since mine came up with this in a very mistaken and haphazard fashion. But Cat Bordhi points out that this method tightens up the purl stitches, and I can attest to that since I found I needed to loosen up on this method a little because my loops were like little nooses. She also notes that it makes ribbing more elastic, which I’m very glad to find out since ultimate stretchiness is the quest I’m on with this particular sock. Now I’m going to have to go through the rest of her videos and see what other tricks she has up her sleeve. I know next to nothing about her, but did come across her Sweet Tomato Heel recently and it so intrigued me that I am designing this sock around it so I can try it out.

Cast on for Mamasox

Mamasox cast on

The above is my cast on for Mamasox, a work in progress. In the quest for amazing stretchability, I’ve selected the Twisted German Cast On and stumbled upon a backwards way to purl that adds to the elasticity of the ribbing. The rest of the sock is all planned out but I’m still looking at design options. These are for my mother who, after I knit socks for her, claims this is all she ever wants to wear from now on. Her only request is that all socks be stretchy and have plenty of room in the toes; color and design are all up to me. How stretchy? I cast on 100 stitches for her socks….

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Center pull cupcakes

Yarn balls, cakes, whatever, I’m calling mine cupcakes! They’re so neat and singular and so yummy looking!

For the first time I wound my own center pull cupcakes. I’m never going back! I have always just used my yarn as is, with the label still on until the last strands of yarn flop out of it and my project is finished. Sure it was always center pull, and I thought it was working well, but winding the yarn into center pull balls (oops, cupcakes!) makes a world of difference.

Yarn cupcakes

Yarn cupcakes

Center pull yarn cupcake

Yarn reclaimed from puppy and rewound

My first attempt at a center pull cupcake turned out a little stringy, but is fully functional. My second attempt, well, let’s just say I am ready to take on any robot, any time, any place!

What did I wind my yarn on? Not my fingers or the standard TP roll, no. Next to my chair I have an Icy Hot roll on (I keep it handy there, it helps to relieve a dodgy old neck injury). The plastic bottle is just the right diameter, long enough, and so slick my finished yarn cupcake slid off with ease. I’ve thought about getting a yarn winder, but I love examining every millimeter of my yarn. I find the slow process very satisfying and am assured I’ll not run across any iffy bits of yarn while knitting my socks. If I ever get a winder it will just be for the speed.

I shan’t tell how I exactingly split the colorway into two identical balls. I will say that I know exactly how many color repeats are in there, and there are one and a half repeats left over and tied in a little bundle at the bottom of my project bag. I’ve never knit identical socks before, and may never again, but it was a fun challenge to try and start each sock with the same length of color.

I’m going to change that to Center Pull Death Stars. Cupcakes are for Wookiees!

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My own reminders

Since my blog has only just begun, has no readers, and is currently blocked from search engines, I’m going to leave myself a few thoughts and reminders. I’m just itching to get things moving here, but a couple months ago I had emergency surgery with a complicated recovery and just haven’t been up to working on anything.

The one thing I know about myself is I cannot keep this soley about knitting, and creating separate blogs for everything else I’m interested in yammering about would be a logistical nightmare. Can I combine knitting with a little food? I think so; knitters have to eat, right?

For instance; last night I made guo tie (potstickers) for the very first time. My fingers are dancing, wanting to post the recipe and some hints and tips to success. Making my own wrappers made them more delicious than I could’ve imagined. Library books, blogs, and youtube videos were my teachers. I have a great love for cooking, and have been driven by many factors since I was a child to teach myself. My very first memory of cooking is when I was around 5 years old and our next door neighbor, Mrs. Ng, taught me how to make wontons. I couldn’t help but remember her while I was making guo tie.

Back to knitting; I’ve been working on a potholder pattern. It seems like an easy way to get my toes wet in pattern writing and if I could sell just one I would squeal with delight. Before I got sick, I had taught myself much about double knitting and now feel reasonably proficient at it. My first potholder was intended as a gift, but after using it (I was only testing it, I swear!) I found I just could not part with it — it’s become my favorite potholder because it’s so flexible. A double thick cotton potholder never lets the heat through, yet gets a lovely comfy warmth to it that makes it impossible not to snuggle it for a moment before hanging it back up. My project this week as I’m feeling better is to finish writing the pattern and create a PDF file.

My mom’s mother in law had crocheted potholders for her back in the late 60’s, and they were my mother’s favorites. I remember an orange and white one with burn marks all over it dancing around the kitchen and hiding in various drawers through the years until it went to that big potholder cloud in the sky. A potholder seems so insignificant and utilitarian, but that last potholder of my grandmother’s is etched into my memory with such fondness and that ragged little thing will always live on in the corner of my mind.

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Cast On

Knitting blogs are fountains of information, great sources for obscure knitting links, a fun uninterrupted and welcomed look over someone else’s shoulder as they knit. I can’t stop reading them, can you?

Once in a while I’ve felt the urge to create a knitting blog, but never could think of any reasons that would carry me past five posts. There hasn’t ever been anything specific about my knitting, I just do it for my own enjoyment and relaxation. There is something intangible about touching the needles, the yarn, seeing the colors, fabric forming from little twitching movements of your fingers; a whole array of sensory experiences that is difficult to put into words. Even one stitch can be art for me, create a feeling, a reminder of where I was or what was happening when I made it.

But random and sporadic knitting sprinkled with personal memories does not a blog make! One day I was pondering a few projects and sketching out ideas when it hit me. My two favorite things: knit and tink. When combined, a third is born; ink. Knittinkknit is a bit of a keyboard full, so knitinknit won out. Do you now see my fourth interest borne from that? That fourth one makes me chuckle, and I hope you enjoy a little jocoseness in that also.

Now I have a foundation on which something can evolve. There are only a few loops cast on the needles of my blog so far, and on all of my sketches the ink is not yet dry, yet I have faith something will grow if I just keep clicking my needles together. I have a desire to do some instructional videos and share things I’ve learned, would love to write up some patterns I’ve been playing with, and hope that at least I can provide some instruction and a little entertainment for a small handful of people pass by here on their meandering journey through knitting blogs.

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