Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ever feel like God is trying to tell you something?

Like, for instance, you shouldn't have a career in science?

You know how it is--you're trying to accomplish something, nothing is working, in fact, everything seems to be working against you, and it starts to feel like God or the Universe or whatever Powers That Be are doing this to subtly or not-so-subtly tell you, hey, it's not a good idea for you to do that. That's how I feel in lab lately. Nothing seems to work properly, and tomorrow I have to present at lab meeting and I get the not-so-gratifying distinction of standing up there and saying that I have accomplished absolutely nothing in the last several months since the last lab meeting.


Why am I doing this again?

Monday, March 27, 2006

God has a sense of humor

Saturday afternoon, my SnB group went to afternoon tea at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. It was a really fun afternoon and we were lucky enough to have the vice consul for social affairs for the Chicago British Consulate join us and give us a history of British tea and tea etiquette (she's the mum of one of our members).

Prior to going to tea, I went to Target to buy a half-slip (a skirt slip) because my skirt wasn't lined and it stuck unpleasantly to my tights. Apparently, Target doesn't sell slips. There was nary a slip to be found. I ended up buying a silky nightgown to use instead (same basic concept as a full slip, really). But, I was appalled at the lack of such an important undergarment at a major department store. I privately pondered people's dedication to decency as I looked at all the women around me in the store and wondered how many of them owned slips. I called my grandmother and left a message on her machine saying I thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket. I told all my sister SnB members that it was a sign of the loose morals of today's society.

Here is a picture of us at tea:

I am the first person on the left wearing the grey skirt. You see that strip of black at the bottom of my skirt?

That is my slip.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

F is for....


This is a picture of me and my siblings from two Christmases ago. While I plan on giving each of my siblings their own entries, I thought being the eldest was an entry that could stand on its own.

I don't really remember being an only child. My brother J came along when I was 3 years old. I was 7 when E was born and 12 when M was born. Much of my childhood revolved around being the oldest child.

There are all kinds of theories about the personality types of first-born children. I do admit that I don't like to take orders. I understand that some Oldests have a bit of a grudge against their younger siblings because it was the Oldest who had to pave the way for the younger ones with Mom and Dad--break them in, so to speak. Especially during the teenage years. I never really had that, mostly because I never got to go out and do things primarily because it was my job to stay home and watch my younger siblings.

Both of my parents worked nights in factory jobs and with money being scarce and babysitting being expensive, I had a lot of the responsibility taking care of my sibs. A lot. I started being responsible for M when she was an infant (remember, I was 12 at that time). The way it would work is that my sibs would go to a baby sitter either after school or when Mom went to work (depending on whether they were old enough to be in school). Then, during her dinner break at 7:30, Mom would bring my sibs back to the house and I would watch them the rest of the night. I would change diapers, help with homework, and put them to bed.

As you might expect, this sped up my emotional maturing. I didn't really relate to kids my age very well. People always said I seemed older than I was. I always played the part of the mom in school plays. A speech pathologist once told me in junior high that I had adult speech patterns. I had a huge sense of responsibility (and still do). I didn't do a lot of the things that other kids my age did, like run around on school nights and go see movies, and spend lots of time at friend's houses. Hell, I didn't have a lot of friends. I didn't really date until high school and then not much. My responsibility of taking care of my sibs only lessened when I started waitressing shen I turned 16.

Consequently, for most of my adult-hood, I didn't want to have children. I had already raised children, thank you very much. Other girls my age thought it would wonderful to be pregnant and a mom and fantasized about the day when they would have their own children. I thought they must be smoking crack. Watching my mother go through 3 pregnancies, I knew it was no picnic. Can't sleep on your stomach, swollen ankles, going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, emotions jumping around like a ping-pong ball, no thank you. And kids? Raising kids is hard. You have to feed them, clothe them, change them, wash them, pick up after them, rock them to sleep when they're crying, clean off their wounds when they've thought it would be a really great thing to make a ramp and jump off of it with their bike (and act calm while you're doing it and somehow get them to sit still while you put the hydrogen peroxide on their open cut), and help them with their homework and force them to go to bed when they don't want to, and try not to freak out when it gets really dark and they're still not home, and somehow manage to be fair and loving and not take out your frustrations on them and not blame them for the fact that you're exhausted and can't do your own homework until 10pm.

So yes, being an Oldest had a significant impact on my life. I certainly had a lot more responsibility placed on me than my sibs. But you know what the alternative would've been?

Being an only child.

No siblings.

No J to exchange books with, no E and his big bear hugs, no M with her visits to Chicago and growing up there would've been no J to play soccer with and play "made you blink" (really sorry about that black eye, btw, it really was an accident), and no E with his drawings and his tattered old green blanket that one day got "lost", and no making a cake for M when she was born and getting letters from her in college. No thank you. It may have been rough, but I wouldn't trade my siblings for anything in the world.

The thing I miss the most about Iowa is being with my sibs (although J actually lives in Atlanta now). In the last 6 years, I can count all the times we have all been in the same place at the same time on one hand. That's why the picture at the top is so special. The last time we were able to get a picture like that was at my wedding four years before that. It hardly seems possible that these people I spent every day with as a child I now only see occasionally. And while we're all talkers in person, we're not so good at the long distance communication thing. Perhaps we should try to improve.

One last thing. Lest any of you become concerned, enough time has passed that I actually do want to have children now, despite all of those disadvantages I listed above. I guess I just needed some time without people being dependent on me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Third time's the charm

After a couple of false starts, I finally have a sock I can live with. I think this pattern is much more complementary to the yarn. I also think it will be the right size. This is the progress I made at Monday night's SnB meeting. I worked on it a bit more last night. My only concern now is that it's going to be a damn warm sock to be wearing in May. Oh well. Maybe my sockpal lives high up in the mountains or something.

I have decided the socks will be 7 inches from cuff to bottom of the heel, and needs to be a little over 9 inches from heel to toe to fit my sockpal. This is 15 inches of sock multiplied by 2, making it 30 inches of sock to be made by the end of April (6 weeks from now) to be finised on time for Cirque du Socks which is good because I need to mail them during the first week of May for Sockapalooza. So, I need to knit 5 inches per week. This seems doable, I just have to stay focused on them (which is hard for me--I tend to jump from project to project).

In the mail on Monday, I received this:

It's a handmade book (made by Mim) that I won in the secret contest held by Norma a while back. I love it. It's beautiful and lays nicely on the table. Now, I just have to come up with something special enough to use it for.

Monday, March 20, 2006

No progress

I have no progress to show for the weekend. I did try the new pattern for my sockpal/cirque du socks socks, and I like how it looked, but I got panicky that they wouldn't fit my sockpal and I ripped back again. I based this on the fact that I had difficulty pulling them on. I forgot my sockpal has a smaller foot than me. Doh!

The weekend was really emotionally stressful. My grandmother has been having a hard time ever since she broke her ankle last fall. It really crushed her spirit and even though the ankle is fine now, she is still down. Now, her arthritis is really hurting her in her back and hips and that's limiting her mobility and everything has made her emotional problems rise to the surface. I definitely inherited my problems with anxiety and depression from her.

This weekend, we had to deal with the two most pressing issues: my aunt who believes the world centers around her, and getting my grandmother to go to church on Sunday. My aunt is a nice person for the most part, but she has her problems and stress and she tends to take them out on my grandmother, primarily by guilt-tripping her if things aren't going her way. This weekend, my aunt decided to visit for the day and this threw my grandmother into a tizzy because having too many people at her house at once is upsetting to her and my aunt was bringing her 4 year-old son and her dog. The other members of the family have nicknamed this dog the devildog. Last fall, he walked right up to my mother and peed on her leg. He is now banned from my mother's house. My biggest fear was that he was going to knock my grandmother over. Anyway, despite the fact that we had already planned that I would bring my grandmother to my mother's house that day, Grandma stayed at home so that Jean (who had thrown a little temper tantrum) could visit her and I went to Mom's so I could see my siblings.

That was Saturday. Then, Sunday morning, I had to convince my grandmother to go to Mass. Normally, this isn't a problem because she's a devout Catholic. However, she has problems with social anxiety and due to the closing of several churches in her area her church is now full to the rafters and it totally freaks her out. And she's afraid she'll trip and fall in front of everyone.

We didn't even really get into the fact that she needs to move out of her house because you can only do so much in a weekend.

All of this falls to me because, as I said, my aunt is too self-centered, my other aunt lives in Colorado, my uncle doesn't want to get involved and my mother has a hard time pushing her mother to do things she doesn't want to do. And it has long been known that my grandmother can refuse me nothing. And I don't take no for an answer anyway.

So, that combined with driving 5 hours Friday to get to Grandma's, 1.5 hours each way back and forth to Mom's on Sat., and then another 5 hours to get back to Chicago on Sunday (by the way, I visit more often than my aunt who lives 3 hours away, can you tell I'm not real happy with her right now?), I'm beat. I am emotionally and physically exhausted.

I know many of you can understand--you have aging parents to take care of. I just thought I would have a lot longer before I had to deal with this kind of stuff. And I would if my mom and her siblings weren't dropping the ball.

Friday, March 17, 2006

May those who love us love us.

And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

May St. Patrick guard you wherever you go,

and guide you in whatever you do--
and may his loving protection be a blessing to you always.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

When a problem comes along...

...You must rip it

Despite this looking very pretty and loving the colors, the yarn wasn't doing the stranded pattern justice (though it does look pretty good in this picture--better than in person, actually!), so this morning, I ripped back to the cuff. I'm going to do another pattern in that book (brilliantly named pattern 1). We'll see how it turns out. It could just be that this yarn makes too many color changes to work well for any Fair Isle design, in which case, I'll get another yarn. Then, I will have this poor little Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock yarn sitting there and I'll have to knit it into socks for myself. Oh darn.

As I said, I've been working on a baby sweater. I finished the bottom part of the sweater and now have to do the sleeves. The sweater is constructed such that I knit the sleeves to the yoke all in one piece (okay, that probably makes no sense. I'll take pix of the process). So, now I'm working on the sleeves. After having some issues getting the eyelets to look right, I have gotten this far:

I probably need to do another 5 rounds or so and then I will be done with this sleeve. I have already knit the cuff of the second sleeve. Originally, I was thinking I would knit them in parallel, but I think to make that really work, I should've switched between the two every vertical pattern repeat. Oh well.

The question is: what do I take with me to Iowa? Yes, I am going to visit the family this weekend. Unfortunately, I'm driving myself there so I won't be able to knit during the drive (well, I suppose I could try driving with my feet, but I've never done that before and we've had a bit of snow in this area today so now might not be the best time to try it), but I'll be staying with my grandmother and we usually just hang out and talk or watch tv, so I'll have some good knitting time. I'll probably just take everything and see what I feel like working on while I'm there.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


So, Mr. Martensi (he asked me to call him Arc) was supernice and brought back my camera no problem. I helped him download the photos off of it and burn them to a disc. You know, when you're a giant squid, it's a lot easier to take pictures of yourself--all those long tentacles. So there were pictures of him with the Beluga whales(the pregnant one seems to be craving cooked seafood and she's having a devil of a time trying to communicate that to the trainers) and in the Amazon exhibit, and he tried to get someone to take a picture of him in the shark tank, but the sharks all scattered when he got in. He had a good time and now he's on a plane back to New Zealand. He said he'd send me a postcard.

So, now I can show you some pictures!

Since yesterday was knitalong day, I'm going to show those first. I started my sockpal sock and did a few rows of the fair isle pattern. The pattern I'm doing is the green one on the cover of Sensational Knitted Socks:

I have been using the strand separator, and I love it:

Here's my progress as of yesterday morning:

(Ghiradelli really wanted his picture taken!)

I worked on them some more last night and this morning and I'm not thrilled with the way they are turning out. I love the colors but the changing colors are obscuring the pattern. It's not that it looks bad, it's just not the look I was going for. I briefly considered buying (yet more) yarn (one with fewer colors), but I've decided to switch patterns. There's another one in there that will work well for this (if you go back to the picture of the cover, it's the dark blue and yellow one), I think. Fortunately, I'm only about 1.5 inches into the fair isle bit, so it won't be too painful to rip out.

I had also mentioned that I made a hat and socks for the Afghans for Afghans newborn project:

I used the pattern from Ann Budd's Handy book of Patterns for the hat, and I made up the socks using some baby sock patterns as guides. Apparently, babies have really stubby feet (I have confirmation of this from a mother of a newborn, so I know the pattern is okay).

That's it for the day, I have to run off to see the opera!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Mother Nature is Cruel

This morning, it's 63F out. It's supposed to get down to 40F by 5pm and tonight it's supposed to snow. Don't you just love March? I get a kick out of seeing people wandering around campus wearing skirts and flip-flops, knowing they are going to be freezing their asses off in just a few hours.

I did get a bit of knitting done this weekend. I finished the second sock for Afghani babies--it's part of a set: hat plus socks. I started a hat for the Dulaan project, and am about a third of the way done with that. I was going to start another baby hat, but then I remembered that one of my Lenten promises was to make two Dulaan hats and Lent ends before the baby hats are due, so I better get crackin' on the Dulaan stuff. And, I very nearly finished a sleeve for the baby cardigan I am making. Nevermind that the baby I was originally making it for will be too big to wear it by the time I have finished it. I'm sure somebody else I know will have a baby one of these days. And I started my sockapaloooza socks, but I'm going to talk about that tomorrow since Tuesday is knitalong day.

Where are the pictures, you ask? Well, see, I met a giant man-eating squid while waiting for the bus this morning and I lent him my camera. Apparently he was a tourist on his way to the aquarium and had forgotten his camera at home. I know it sounds incredible, I mean, he was a perfect stranger and I lent him my camera, but he seemed trustworthy and he let me keep his passport to guarantee he'll bring it back and anyway, he shouldn't be too hard to find if he doesn't. I mean, how many giant squid are running around Chicago, right? So, anyway, he's bringing it back tonight and I should be able to upload some pictures tomorrow.

Right. And as long as we're at it, I have some property in Florida I'd like to sell you.....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Want an Orange?

Apparently, one should never grocery shop online while sick. Instead of getting 5 navel oranges, I got 5 bags of navel oranges. Hubby was a little baffled, but thought maybe I just wanted a lot of vitamin C since I wasn't feeling well. Oh Lordy, what am I going to do with 5 bags of oranges? Is there any way to knit with them?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Puking and Winning and a LYS visit--all in one day!

I'm not exactly sure what got into my system this morning (no comments about morning sickness--I know it's not that!), but it all went down the toilet. Literally. Yuck. And now I'm not nauseous anymore, but my stomach still doesn't feel all that great--it feels like I've been doing sit-ups. And we were supposed to go to a Luau (sp???) this evening and I was really looking forward to getting some yummy tropical drinks, but I don't think that's going to happen. Especially since I basically haven't eaten all day (well, I did eat, but, well, you know...). One sip of a daquari and I'll be on the floor. Oh well.

However, I am pleased as punch (a very tropical one, while we're at it) to have won Norma's secret contest! Hooray! I feel as though I should put up a little genetics explanation here, but I don't want to scare people off.

And, I did manage to get out to my LYS today (see how my priorities are? too sick for a party but not for a LYS!). As I have said, I've been participating in sockapalooza (well, I signed up for it--so far not much participation). I picked a pattern from Sensational Knitted Socks and I had my yarn and I ordered a yarn guide since I was doing Fair Isle (which arrived yesterday, btw), and I was ready to go. And then, it dawned on me: if I was knitting Fair Isle, I was basically knitting double-layered socks, so I would need more yarn than usual. Doh! So today, I went to the LYS I bought the yarn at, hoping I could get yarn of the same dye-lot, or exchange it and buy two of the same dye lot (unfortunately, the Lorna's Laces yarn was all wound up, so I wouldn't be able to exchange that--I figured I'd have to buy two more skeins). I guess God wanted to make up for the whole hurling incident this morning because both of my yarns had more skeins in the same dye lot! Even the Lorna's Laces! Hooray! So, here I am, at home, with all of my materials--I should get to working on those socks!

So, between the LYS magic and coming home to find out I won a secret contest, I'm feeling pretty good (as long as I don't look at food).

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Can't we all just get along?

I am the de facto leader of a Stitch 'n Bitch group (de facto because I started it and nobody else wants to organize). Because of this, I am in contact with SnB leaders from many groups.

As many of you know (all three of you reading this), a company known as Sew Fast Sew Easy has trademarked the name Stitch & Bitch Cafe. They actually did this some time ago, but lately it's become a national issue because they hassled yahoo to send cease and desist orders to all yahoo groups that had Stitch 'n Bitch in their names or group descriptions. Which yahoo did and those of us who owned the offending yahoo groups did as we were told. This was at least a month ago. However, groups are getting harassed yet again. This time, the problem was that the phrase Stitch 'n Bitch was present in their archived messages (which should not have been surprising since these groups had, until recently, been calling themselves Stitch 'n Bitch). Fortunately, I haven't received such a notice, but I am now keeping a back-up copy of our member list should our group just disappear one day. However, I sympathize with my sister groups and cannot blame them for their acrimonious comments. And believe me when I say some of these people are hopping mad!

In the first cease and desist order, we all pretty much knew what it was about and went through and removed the phrase Stitch 'n Bitch from every thinkable location on our sites. However, in this second wave of c and d orders, people had no idea what the problem was. As far as they knew, they had removed everything in violation of the trademark. These people called yahoo who told them to call SFSE. SFSE refused to answer their calls. Some people were hung up on. Finally, after many, many calls and emails, people started getting responses with specific details about what was wrong. For many, that was messages in the archives. For some, it was their listing in the yahoo directory because yahoo hadn't gotten around to updating their group description.

Hence, "Can't we just all get along?"

Doesn't SFSE have anything better to do? Is there now someone there who job it is to monitor yahoo 24/7 to make sure no nefarious group of knitters is using their trademarked phrase? (And we won't even discuss how their trademark is for Stitch _and_ Bitch while we are saying Stitch 'n Bitch.) The party line from SFSE has been that they have a right to protect what is theirs and we would do the same. And I could see their point--if any of us was actually making any money off the name. However (leaving aside the Debbie Stoller books), we are all non-profit groups of stitchers who merely use the name because it is cute and because it's been around since the Depression, if not before. It's beyond me how using the name for our groups is hurting them enough to put this much time and energy into stopping us--if it is indeed hurting them at all.

What is hurting them, though, is the fact that there are now thousands of knitters out there, who previously had no feelings of ill will toward SFSE, who now want to find the owner of SFSE and burn her at the stake. In other words, it'll be a cold day in hell before any of us ever buys a single item from them.

I realize that there are other, more important, more depressing things going on around the world (war, ethnic cleansing, people dying of starvation), but somehow this saddens me more than other current events. What's happening on a global scale is too far removed for me to cry over. But this is in my own neighborhood--it affects my very own support group, one that has been so good to me. And what is so wrong with the world today, and the people in it, if a group of (mostly) women can't get together, talk and knit and help and praise and comfort, while calling themselves anything they want? What have people become if they are so worried about what is "theirs" that they are willing to harrass people thousands of miles away, people they have never met, people who are not even trying to sell something and therefore are not competitors? It reminds me of a small child, holding tight to her doll, shouting, "Mine!" while mother says, "No, you have to share." Nobody is saying the other child is going to take the doll home, nobody is saying the first child will be out of a doll at the end of the day (unless it's the mother who takes the doll to punish the child for not sharing!). I mean, is it really reasonable to expect peace in the middle east among people who have larger grievances if we who are living comfortably in the States are being harrangued for the names of our local knitting circles?

I don't know. I don't have the answers. And part of me says I should just completely change the name of the group just to get out of the line of fire. But that feels like giving in to bullying, and I am firmly opposed to that.

And so, tonight, I will get together with a group of friends at a gathering devoted to making holiday gifts entitled Holiday/Gift SnB and try to forget there are such petty people in the world.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

E is for....

Eric (shown with his girlfriend Alicia)

Hah! Bet you thought it'd be Elisabeth, didn't you!

Eric is the younger of my two brothers. He was born May 8, 1981, which makes him almost exactly 7 years younger than me. According to my mother, I was quite worried that "the baby" would come on my birthday and she wouldn't be around for my birthday. Instead, when he was 2 years old, he tried to stand on a ball, fell, and broke his leg the day before my birthday which meant my birthday was celebrated 11 days after the fact. Delayed response, I guess.

Eric is the only one of my three siblings I have no memory of visiting in the hospital when he was born and therefore, I don't think I did (if I can remember seeing Jason at the hospital and I was only 3 years old, I think I'd remember Eric).

I have things in common with all of my siblings. With Eric in particular, I felt a certain kinship growing up because we were both much more emotional than Jason. And we weren't athletic at all, and Jason was. My sister didn't come along until Eric was 5 and I was 12, so that made Eric the youngest for quite some time, so I guess it's not surprising that we would be more highly strung than Jason who was a middle child.

All of my family has some creative interests, but this was much more pronounced in Eric. He is so right-brained he practically failed algebra (a left-brained subject), but aced geometry (a right-brained subject). Academics were never really his strong point, which was probably hard for him since Jason and I did so well and Eric had many of the same teachers we had. But, he was really brilliant at drawing, and pottery, and painting, and any kind of artistic endeavor. Personally, I can't draw worth sh*t, and I've never tried pottery, and I'm pretty sure I'd be miserable at painting.

Eric isn't shy about giving hugs. And when he gives hugs, they are enormous, rib-crunching bear hugs. They are real hugs, not the kind acqaintances give each other. He is so loving and understanding, I think more so than the rest of us (siblings, that is). Which is sort of funny because he was the one who was most angry when my parents got divorced and really took that anger out on the rest of us. But, then he got counseling--people would call it anger-management these days--and ever since then, I think he has been more well-adjusted than most people I know. Perhaps the world would have fewer problems if all of us had anger-management counseling at an early age.

Eric shares my love of fantasy science fiction (as does Jason) which is great because we can exchange books. His ideal job would be the owner of a used bookstore. As it is, he currently works at a gas station, sometimes at the counter and sometimes making pizzas for delivery, which is perfect for him because he can read while on the job (gas stations in small towns in Iowa are not particularly busy). He has taken college classes, but he's fulfilled his general requirements and he's not sure what he wants to major in, so he thinks it'd be a waste of money to take more classes just to be taking them--a much more practical approach than me or Jason who both went to college right away, majored in a subject we found interesting and didn't think about what we would do with that information until after we graduated.

Eric lives in Iowa, not terribly far from my mother, and I don't see him all that often. Particularly since I stay at my grandmother's which is much further away and he has a busy work schedule. And neither one of us is particularly good at keeping in touch with people. But when we do see each other, it's like no time has passed at all and that's really great.

In due time (when we get around to J and M) you'll get to meet my other siblings. It seems kind of odd to be talking about Eric before Jason since we automatically describe each other or list each other in chronological order! But, I suppose it's kind of like at school when they start calling people off from the end of the alphabet instead of the beginning--Eric gets to be first for a change!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Just call me Albus

I love these little quizzes. Apparently, I am:

Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
Harry Potter Personality Quiz by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

D is for.....


Honestly, this was the first word I thought of when trying to figure out what to write about D. I wasn’t sure if I was going to use it because there is still a lot of stigma associated with mental illness--despite the best efforts of advocacy associations--and I’m not really sure how I feel about having the information just out there on the net in front of God and everyone. Which is ultimately why I chose to write about depression. If people who have the disease are afraid to talk about it, that feeds the stigma.

I have suffered from depression since I was a child and didn’t have a name for it. I was totally against both talk therapy and medication until circumstances became so bad, it was either therapy and meds or a straight-jacket and a padded cell. After a long and painful, but illuminating journey, using a combination of therapy, drugs, exercise, nutrition, self education (through books), and knitting as therapy I am in remission. But, still taking my meds. Depression is a progressive disease. The time between episodes shortens while the episodes themselves lengthen and become more severe. Depression can also be fatal. A horrifyingly large number of depressives kill themselves. In cases where a patient has had several episodes of severe depression, medication becomes a preventative tool. There are people who might disagree with this strategy, but to them I say, would you normally tell someone with a progressive, potentially fatal, disease to stop taking their meds?

For me, depression was a fog that covered everything I did, everyone I interacted with, everything I saw. And it became more and more oppressive until something had to be done. Fortunately, the something I chose was to get counseling and start taking meds. Too often, that something is suicide. Because I was highly functional (or at least I appeared highly functional) when I was depressed, most people never knew. And now that I’m in remission, people doubt I was ever truly ill. To those people I say, try going up to a breast cancer survivor and telling her you don’t believe she had cancer because she’s still alive.

Unfortunately, there are too many people out there who do not truly understand what it means to have a mental illness. They think it means that the person who is suffering is lazy, making it up, being melodramatic, or seeking attention. Or, perhaps they don’t believe that mental illness is all that serious. However, it seems to me that, as bodily organs go, the brain is a pretty important one and if it’s malfunctioning, that’s a serious problem and one that requires treatment.

However, as bloggers tend to be a kind, sympathetic lot, I'm really preaching to the choir here. And I'm not posting to get sympathy. I am posting to share the D word that is most significant to my life and to stand up and say, I have a mental illness, and I am not ashamed!

I just want to leave you with one last thought. It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of the first books I read on depression which actually quoted it from another source.

"If there were a physical disease that manifested itself in some particularly ugly way, such as pustulating sores, or a sloughing off of the flesh accompanied by pain of an intense and chronic nature, readily visible to everyone, and if that disease affected fifteen million people in our country, and further, if there were virtually no help or succor for most of these persons, and they were forced to walk among us in their obvious agony, we would rise up as one social body in sympathy and anger. We would give of our resources, both human and economic, and we would plead and demand that this suffering be eased. There isn’t such a physical disease, but there is such a disease of the mind, and about fifteen million people around us are suffering from it. But we have not risen in anger and sympathy, although they are walking among us and crying in their pain and anquish." (The Far Side of Despair, Russell Hampton, 1975, quoted in Understanding Depression, Klein and Wender, 1993)

I would be remiss if I did not have a list of resources for you.

Some of my favorite books:

Understanding Depression, Klein and Wender, 1993. An excellent, short book describing depression as a biological disease. It’s not so keen on talk therapy, but I think that is a product of its time (recent studies have shown that talk therapy in combination with medication is the most effective treatment).

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Burns, 1980, 1999. Another good book that explains depression, but also describes both talk therapy (particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy) and medication. It has a wonderful section on medications, listing the characteristics and side effects of each, and every few years, that section is updated and a new edition is printed.

A Mood Apart, Whybrow, 1997. A slightly more intellectual look at mood disorders (including manic depression), but still very accessible to lay people. The author is a psychiatrist and usses clinical cases to illustrate points which makes it something of a memoir as well.

The Noonday Demon
, Solomon, 2001. This book has it all. It describes itself as “An Atlas of Depression,” and rightly so. This book has the same biological and psychological descriptions of depression that the previous books do, but it also deals with the author’s personal experience (and therefore is part memoir) and addresses socio-economical issues (gender, sexual orientation, class), has a special section on suicide and even talks about mental illness and politics. A truly comprehensive work.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mardis Gras/Ash Wednesday

Happy (?) Ash Wednesday everyone. Today is the first day of the Church season of Lent, the (roughly) 40 days before Easter (roughly because it Sundays don’t count in the 40 day calculation). It is a time of fasting and abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving.

The day before Ash Wednesday is called Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Traditionally, you party and stuff yourself silly because the next day you are supposed to start fasting. Well, since I don’t fast (I start to shake and get faint—-it’s really not good), I had to come up with an alternative. I am fasting from yarn. No yarn-buying during Lent. Consequently, my Fat Tuesday celebrations consisted of making my last yarn purchase before Easter. What did I buy? Washable wool for Dulaan hats, and the yarn separator from Herschner’s (I had to buy the yarn because it seemed silly to pay shipping for just a $3.00 item).

My Lenten plan consists of the following:

Fasting: No yarn buying
Abstinence: No knitting for myself, no cookies, candy, or ice cream
Almsgiving: Finish the blanket for stillborns project I was working on, two hats for the Dulaan project, and half of my slush money for the month of March goes to charity
Prayer: Say a rosary every Friday, go to daily Mass once a week.

Oh, and the traditional no meat on Fridays.

Between the charity projects I just mentioned and the gifts I already have on the needles, I should have plenty to knit during Lent. I have been working on a sweater for the baby of a friend, and I bought yarn on Sat. for socks for Roommie (he’s so good about coming with me to yarn stores and giving a ueful opinion about the yarn and the projects I’m working on [unlike a certain other man in my life. ahem] I figured he deserved a pari of handknit socks). And since he was with me, he got to pick out the yarn. I have measured his feet and cast on for the first sock, so I am good to go. This will be my “seminar sock” project for Lent (I have to work on something during seminars, or I will go to sleep, or just not pay attention because I get too antsy). I was working on a pair of socks for myself. Last night (as part of my Mardis Gras of Fiber), I worked on the sock until I had the heel finished on the first sock. Now, it will sit in the knitting bag with my shawl until April. And, of course, I have my sock pal socks which I will start as soon as my yarn separator gets here.

Speaking of which, yesterday in comments, Imbrium said she was determined to master two-fisted knitting. I think, ultimately, that's my goal as well. But, I'm not going to do it until I get much better at English knitting. I think that's why my floats got so tight on my last project--my tension was all off in one hand. So, what I should do is switch to English knitting for awhile, but I don't think I'm in the mood for re-learning how to knit. Although I guess I could add that to my Lenten goals. "So, what did you give up for Lent?" "Cookies, ice cream, candy, and knitting continental." I can just see the look on the priest's face now!