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Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Heart Attack Christmas (long post )

Not me - but my darling BD had one. Not yesterday but last Friday night. Or Saturday morning rather, about 4 a.m. he woke me. He was in pain and it wouldn't go away. This, alas, is heart attack #2.  I didn't hesitate - but was up and dressing within seconds.

I must say - if you have to have a heart attack, 4 a.m. is probably a good time - there's no traffic on the roads so you can drive fast, there's nobody in the ER waiting room so you won't pick up germs or have to wait ... not that people having heart attacks are made to wait in ERs anyway - but it's nice to be breezed on through. We are lucky in that our local hospital has a crackerjack cardiac ER team - though this is a tiny rural hospital and they don't actually do heart surgeries. They have a helipad and there is a medical transport system too. But they got him on prep meds before he left our local hospital and his cardiologist was waiting for him at the ER in the bigger city hospital 37 minutes away.

Even more wonderful - I had forgotten that a cousin of ours is on staff in the ER at the city hospital - and she was there waiting for me when I got there - quite a bit more than 37 minutes later. I was slower not just because I didn't have a siren, flashing red lights nor the skill to drive faster than the speed limit. I also had to get a cell phone. I'm not much of a phone caller. I  am easy to find in one of two places - at home or at work. My life isn't a cliff-hanger life that needs instant access. My only child is grown. Good news can wait. Bad news will keep hammering at my door till I finally answer. And I have never liked using a telephone ... period. Even when I was a teen I didn't like to talk on the phone.

But I needed one Saterday. So before I left to follow the ambulance I went to our local Walmart. I said to the girl at the electronics department "My husband is on his way to Richmond for heart surgery - I need a phone - I don't want to spend a lot - can you help me?"

Oh boy.  Could she ever. With the most tender manner, with gentle but sincere expressions of sympathy, she took me over to the rack, picked out the $15 flip phone, suggested I get the unlimited minutes card, opened the box, set up the phone and handed me my security code and new phone number while I stood at the check out counter.  I was set to go.

I didn't get her name then but yesterday I went into the store and she was working the same counter again. When I told her that my husband was alright a smile as big as the sun spread across her face and she let out a "Yes!"  This time I asked outright what her name was. You can be sure I am sending a letter to the store manager AND to Walmart headquarters. This is outstanding service. She deserves to have her great big heart recognized.

And DID you know McDonalds has an egg WHITE mcMuffin? only 240 calories! Yeah. Me neither. I'd already scooped up a bag of apples and a cluster of (thank God) ripe bananas in Walmart. All I needed was some protein.

At the Bigger City Hospital, while the ER registration people were trying to find out where my husband was, the door flew open and out strode my cousin MSS - who works in that hospital's ER! I'd forgotten. She'd already been in to hug BD and now she was on the look-out for me. Talk about comfort. whew! It was as if ... now I knew MSS was on hand everything was going to be alright.

And in fact, everything was alright - considering it was a heart attack. The staff was tender - I know - they're trained to be - but I still appreciate it so much. And the wait was not too long. And BD was awake enough for me to hug and kiss both before he went in and as they wheeled him out of surgery. He was pretty dopey. He'd had a lot of morphine. But he knew me and was not frightened. And the hour passed with me in the waiting room trying to figure out how to use the phone. And then using it. And calling loved ones, including some other medical cousins who were ready to rally troops if anything was needed.

The wait was not too long. About an hour - and they whisked him down the hallway past the CCU waiting room so I had a chance to run out and give him hugs and kisses. Once he was settled into his room I could sit by him and touch him and just be so glad that he was alright. In fact, he was pretty alert, though he said he felt pretty high. By mid-afternoon, though it was obvious that sleep would be his best friend so I left him in the good hands of nurses and doctors. "I want a tree when I get home" was the last thing he said to me.

I hadn't eaten anything since 8:30, though, and by then adrenaline was about all that was keeping me going - and that meant I craved sugar. S U G A R. - well - and starch. So I stopped at the Kroger on the way home - the one with the sushi chef - and picked up some California rolls. But what I really wanted was gooey sugar. I wanted something rich; something that spoke Mama Loves You. I didn't want a package of 12 something-gooey-sugary mama-loves-you. I just wanted one. But neither did I want something ordinary - no Oreos for me.  I poked about the store looking for a single item - but in all the time I hung in front of the bakery counter, not a single employee offered to help me.

Now - ordinarily I would call this bad customer service but the truth is - gooeysugarmama-loves-you food was probably the WORST thing I could have put into my system right then.  The crash that would follow would be exhausting. so the Healthy Eating Fairy must have been fluttering around keeping all the bakery staff away.

I worked my way home, stopping at each place I needed to stop - canceling the standing rib roast Christmas dinner order, letting library staff know what was going on. Once home it was phone calls all around, mostly  to give loved ones the Good News that he had literally flown through surgery and then to let them know that LD and brand spanking new daughter-in-law, PD had scrubbed their honeymoon plans and were on the highway north. Of course - I had not had time to get the house ready for company and I scrubbed and dusted and vacuumed till 10 pm - hooray for adrenalin - and was asleep by 10:01. The Darlings were here by nightfall and surrounded me with love the whole week long.

The next day we all piled into the car, along with some rope and the small tree saw and took the back-roads route to the city, past a spot I'd been scoping out for Christmas Trees. We picked a good one, noted a place where we could pull off the road and committed it to memory ... because it was raining and we knew we'd not get home before dark. The visit with BD was a delight - he was so vigorous and looking so good. He was still in CCU but only because there were no empty beds in the regular part of the hospital. In fact, I think he only spent about 4 hours in a regular room the whole time he was in the hospital. We stayed long enough to catch up with cousin M and the whole troupe of us took him for a walk up and down the halls. It was a real entourage with nurse, mobile monitor, patient and family.

CCU visiting hours are limited so we left around lunchtime, visited my mother who was alert and delighted to meet PD and had some lunch. After a second visit with the patient we left the city, Christmas Tree bound. We always take spruce pines - essentially trash trees that sprout while the real crop trees are still young. They die out deeper into a forest but along the road they often grow pretty tall. We also always at least try to ask the land owner first, and, in fact, this year BD and I had already checked with the owner of a particularly good spruce pine collection that was, unfortunately, too far off the road to search when we were short of time and it was dark. and raining. It was also chilly and a little windy and even though we knew were to pull the car off the road - in the dark it was a little hard to find the tree. Once we located the tree it was short work to snip it off at the base but as we were walking back to the car I told LD that if I saw headlights coming I was hitting the ground.

We got home with our tree and though I was so sure I didn't have the energy to put it up, much less decorate it - all that happened. Many hands, I suppose and continued adrenalin flow buoyed us up. But it's a good thing we did get it up because the next morning, on Monday, BD said he was being discharged that day! By then I was beginning to crash - and would have taken a nap except we had so many phone calls coming in I never could fall asleep. If I hadn't been so tired I would have argued that no way would a man who'd just had a stent put in be released 48 hours later but ... it was so. When we got to the hospital I spoke with his cardiologist who said "I looked at his heart - he really should be sicker than this - but every test says he's ready to go home. It's a mystery."

And so.

And so our holiday plans shifted a good bit - but in the long run - they were improved. If this heart attack was on its way (and it was) I'm glad it happened the way it did - with lots of fast care ready to step up and fix things. And nothing important was lost, except a visit from Frances ... which will happen at the end of January. Most importantly - we have our brand new Daughter in Law, who fits into the family like a rose fits into a stem. We had presents under the tree. We had beloved cousin plus a New Friend over for Christmas dinner - which was the first one in years where we didn't all have to sprawl on the floor with dog heads pillowed on our distended stomachs. We had walks in the crisp blue air. We had carols on the CD player. We had a day of board games. We had visits from more family. We had it all. Everything you want for a Christmas bubbled in TheCastle.

The Haile family has been truly blessed - even the poor patient - because we dodged this particular bullet and I think we'll better armed against any others lurking up ahead. Life is good - especially when it is your loved one's and it's spared.

Hug your loved ones close today. Put aside petty issues. Settle the big ones. Know that - beyond anything else in your life - loved ones are the most precious gift of all. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Gold Brocade Slacks

On the long journey to a healthy weight, during one of the more successful periods when the scale was going down instead of up, I went shopping at a boutique.  I love to stop in little boutique-ey stores and poke among the pretties but I never buy clothes in them. I never even look at their clothing. Small little shops that have one off clothing never have big sizes - and big in those shops means a 12. The humiliation of flipping through a rack of size zeros and ones is a powerful teacher and I soon learned to stop looking.

Still and all, that early summer day there was, on the rack of winter sale items, a pair of gold brocade slacks - slim cut in the hip and marked a size 12. Also, they were marked down from some triple digit price to something like $24. The fabric was rich looking, tightly woven in a textured arabesque, not shiny or vulgar, definitely a luxury cloth. The pants were lined, too and they were narrow at the point where one's leg joins one's torso and the top had a curved bias piece tapering into the waist with no waistband at all.

They also matched, perfectly, the Christmas fantasy image in my head of me in a pair of gorgeous tan/gold slacks and a big cream colored pullover sweater ... lounging on a big couch in an elegant living room, with a fire, candlelight, wine, some quiet music and oh - hmmm - George Clooney looking at me with gleaming admiration .

So - so.

So I actually stepped into that foreign spot - a boutique dressing room - and tried them on. Well. Hmm. I couldn't zip them up. I could pull them on, though and I could still see that they were cut to work with my type of body - zero behind, bony hip join, fluffy upper hip, pouchy tummy, not enough inches between hip bone and rib cage.  And though I don't believe in buying clothes that don't fit, not only because I have limited closet space, but also because it's a kind of rejection of self to spend clothing $ on some other body, I plunked down that $24 - because I also knew that I wasn't going to see these fantasy fulfilling slacks again and I was bound and determined to turn that fantasy into a reality. (well, maybe not the George Clooney part ... but you never know)

So I bought them.  I actually forget what year it was. They lived in the attic over the summer but came down in cool weather.  I know I couldn't zip them that first Christmas, but I remember the day I announced at the WW meeting that I could at finally zip them up. Maybe I wouldn't wear them out anywhere, but they zipped at last - and that was spring of 2012. Last winter I wore them several times - because they're so perfect that I can dress them up or down - wear them to work or on a date. I even found the big cream colored pullover sweater to wear with them last Christmas (and finding that was a hilarious tale of shopping with BD)

Last night we went to a Christmas Concert in town and I pulled out my Gold Brocade Slacks for the first time and put them on. They felt delicious with their slick lining hugging my thighs while the gold brocade hung freely in a straight line. The zipper made that exciting ziiiiiiip sound as it closed without a struggle. They feel so good and they don't bag at the seat or bulge out at the upper thigh. They make me feel like a Christmas ornament. They are that perfect garment that makes you feel utterly right - and then - lets you forget, completely, about how you look, so you can concentrate on the important things - things like
the beautiful music in glory to God. The delight in being with friends in a hushed and spiritual setting. The camaraderie afterwards when we gather to chat and wish each other good tidings. But they are also a reminder of how you want to still be wearing these wonderful Gold Brocade Slacks on Christmas day - so you can step away from the treat laden tables and pass on the white fruit fudge, the real ginger snaps and the pecan divinity.

Yep. There's nothing like a pair of Gold Brocade Slacks to help you stay on track during the holidays. I hope you all have your own version of them hanging in your closet - or better yet - laid out on the bed to put on tonight.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Our Romanian Christmas

In TheCastle, the rule is - the tree goes up the weekend before Christmas and the gifts go under the tree on Christmas eve - and no sooner. We have a big live tree that sucks up every inch of floor space in a room with a wood stove - a tree that needs to be watered daily. We have dogs who meddle with NewStuff on the Floor. I don't want to see freshly wrapped gifts either soaked with water or torn apart by pointy white teeth. In TheCastle, though, there is someone who wants to fondle and guess and anticipate - someone who is always asking when we can put presents under the tree. Mama Grinch tends to stand firm on this. You see,  I was never one to try to shake or peek into gift boxes. I don't want to guess what's inside. I like the anticipation of waiting for The Day to open my Christmas gifts. Who would ruin Christmas day by trying to know ahead of time what was in those delicious boxes?  So when BD asked me yesterday if I wanted to start a new Romanian Tradition (in honor of our new Romanian Darling, P) I was sort of non-plussed.

With sparkling eyes full of happy glee he begged "Don't you want to open a present early?"

Since we have only been married 39 years, I realize he hasn't had time to get to  know my likes and dislikes so I explained that  - no - I like to save all presents till Christmas day.

"That's not the right answer." he informed me.

I made a face.

He begged again - "Don't you want a Romanian Christmas? St. Nicholas' Day?"

I squirmed. No. I didn't. 

"Don't you trust your husband?"

"I like our established Christmas traiditions."

"Trust your husband."

"Well - if it's not a dryer, which I would be delighted to see today - I'd rather wait."

"Well, it's not a dryer but it's like one."

"Do I need this to make Christmas happen?"

"It will make Christmas better."

I couldn't imagine what would make our Christmas better. I really did NOT want to anticipate Christmas day by opening things early. I almost felt hurt that he'd tamper with our wonderful and already established traditions.

"Trust your husband" he told me.and I relented and said "Okay"

 "Oh. and where is the wrapping paper?"

He was off and back in a twinkling, with one of his boots in which he'd put a slender package. Upon opening it there were 5 pieces of copper wire from the enormous wheel of it we have out behind the tool shed. He picked it up somewhere back when we were still living in the Yurt. Over the years it's been used to hang pictures, tie up garden stakes, form wreath bases and in a hundred other helpful ways. There was a twisted piece with a loop and a hook - then a small piece with a loop and a bend - and 3 more longer pieces, each with a loop and a bend. 

It was a weird looking gift and he almost chortled with glee as he looked at my puzzled face.  Then he took me into the kitchen and asked "What's the worst thing about this kitchen?"

"It's the mess of the pot lids."

"Right first time!" he laughed and then showed me how to use the wire bits to form this wonderful, ingenious pot lid rack! And yes - I would rather have this than a dryer. We can get that any time - we're just too lazy to go down to Lowes and order it. But this? This is perfect. It's so wonderful to get those dang lids out of the way but without having to use some bulky holder for them or to step across the kitchen to some cabinet or drawer. They hang here like magic - you can hardly see what holds them up.

So - next time I will trust ThePrinceConsort and say yes the first time!

And for those of you who wonder how the Oatmeal Aran sweater is coming along - here's a progress photo. I really need to finish up the Christmas knitting today so I can settle back with this yummy temptation.

Stay indoors today - the wet freezy stuff is already falling here at Champlain. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Knitting Mojo

It has been a long time since I have been inspired by knitting - or artistic creativity at all. I had an epiphany in the fall of 2012 and realized I owned Too Much Crap - most especially clothes - but also knitting supplies (yes you can have too much yarn) and art supplies. But it was the clothing that caused the revulsion - when I brought the winter clothes out of the attic and realized I owned 10 cream colored turtlenecks. Ugh. And sweaters? Oh la! There will never be enough cold days in Virginia to wear all the sweaters I'd made. I needed a break - a break from all things crafty - especially fiberishly crafty.

And so I shut the door on the spare bedroom/storage room/junk room upstairs and except for Christmas socks - which I know will go out the door almost as soon as they are off the needles - I haven't knit in over a year.

But that did not mean I was never going to knit again. I just needed a break. My yarns and needles and books and that little corner of my right artsy brain and my left mathematical brain knew this. They weren't worried. Especially that box of oatmeal tweed yarn by Cleckheaton. The yarn intended for an Aran Sweater. The one I swatched in October 2012.

And so.

And so - the urge began, as a soft prickling at my temples (where all my urges seem to begin). The frontal lobe just frowned and said "Forget it. Too complicated" and the little urge began to tickle the back of my head where it could get at the lizard brain. Everybody knows that the poor bossy frontal lobe is no match for the lizard brain stem.

Not that the frontal lobe didn't put up some good arguments.

"I can't remember how to do the set-in sleeves"

"I don't think I can figure out a top down version with a crew neck and central panel"

"I really don't want to do the sleeve math"

But that little urge just sat at the back of my brain and whispered "Oaaaatmeal tweeeeeed" "Aaaaaaaran Cables" When the first chilly days of autumn hit I was practically salivating with desire for an oatmeal tweed aran sweater. After a particularly stubborn sounding "NO" from the front of the brain the urge said "It doesn't have to be hard. It can be easy. Use the design you worked out for your favorite hat - easy math. Knit from the bottom up and worry about the sleeves when you get to them"

That toppled all resistance. I really love this combination of cables, seed stitch and garter striped panels of plain stockinette. I actually knit this hat twice I liked it so much. It's an easy cluster of repeats. It feels rich and delicious and it's almost - but not quite - mindless knitting. It has just enough variety in the knitting action to keep it interesting.

So, once I got the Christmas socks far enough along to know I'll finish them in time - I pulled out the the yarn and needles and began knitting.

Of course - I didn't knit a gauge swatch. I didn't want to knit that. I wanted to knit an Aran sweater. So of course - you can guess what happened:

The seed stitch panel is supposed to be the center focal point and it's too  narrow. Also, the flanking cables disappear on the outer edges. They are also crossed too soon - making them bunchy and also bringing the tricky round around too frequently. Here they are crossing every 6 rows.

I redid the knitting math

And then did the only thing I could do - Ouch!

See?  Much better. I'm doing the crosses and the garter stripe every 8 rounds. The cables are flanked on both sides with a PKbP divider. I also combined the two outer garter stripe rounds into a single one and made the seed stitch panel 2 stitches wider. I love this all over textured pattern. When I imagine putting on a scrunchy cozy Aran sweater some chilly winter day I see this fabric in my mind's eye. Yep. I've got this one.


So. It looks like I've got my Knitting Mojo again and it looks like there will be some knitting blog posts in December.