Saturday, November 23, 2013

This and that

It's a chilly Saturday, but it's over 40 degrees F and sunny, so I'll soon be off on my recumbent trike for a long ride. I may even attempt triking over to Emerson Hospital in Concord for a blood test. (I have to have my blood drawn and tested every couple weeks while I'm on Coumadin. The bright spot is this will only last until January.)

All my pants are loose on me. This is good news, although I wish my appetite were a little better ... it's never a good idea to lose weight by eating too little. However, I did wake up very early this morning, hungry, so I came downstairs and had a cup of hot Ovaltine.

I've recently discovered streaming music (yeah, I'm late to the game) and have been creating playlists on Rdio. The one I listen to most is my classical music playlist ... a little Italian opera, a lot of Bach. (I'm particularly addicted to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #6, first movement--its polyphonic texture delights my ears, esp. around 1:10!) At $4.95 a month, it's a bargain and it keeps our livingroom uncluttered. I've rediscovered songs from my childhood and college years; even better, it's a great way to look up music I hear in movies and on television commercials. If you can't tell, I'm a big fan!

I saw this list called "10 Little Things..." on Habitually Chic's blog, about things you can do to make this season a little nicer for others. It really resonated with me, esp. #2 and #3. I'm infamous for offering help, then not following through. Reading the list reminded me that I'd told a friend I'd send her a link to the bicycle light she admired on my bike. Done! As for #3, this is a peeve of mine -- I bend over backwards to be nice to food service/retail folks, but certain members of my family are not. Coincidently none of these family members have ever worked in retail/food service. Perhaps I'll send them this list. :)

I'm seriously thinking of knitting a vintage pattern for my next sweater project. I love love love this vintage Sirdar pattern that Subversive Femme posted this week. It would look lovely in cream fingering wool with pearl buttons. I haven't studied the pattern at any depth, but I believe it's actually a pullover, not a cardigan. I've knit three cardigans in a row and it's time for a change.

I never thought I'd say this, but I need a better coffee mug! In a fit of housecleaning/organizing last year, I went through our kitchen and donated most all of our novelty mugs -- you know, those ugly things you pick up at trade shows or on vacation. I'm thinking of a Clan MacKenzie mug; my paternal great-great grandmother was a MacKenzie:

[caption id="attachment_2447" align="alignnone" width="460"]mackenzie_clan_mugs "I Shine Not Burn" -- perfect for a writer![/caption]

I also like this vintage-y Union Jack travel mug:


Decisions, decisions ...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Monty Python troupe to reunite on July 1 in London!

ETA: I got rid of the video that was here, sorry -- too noisy!

The five surviving members of the Monty Python comedy troupe announced today they're reuniting for a live show in London on July 1, 2014.

Anyone care to take me?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hello Ladies

hello_ladiesI was thrilled to read the first positive review of HBO's "Hello Ladies" this morning. Dade Hayes, a columnist for, writes, "Over the winding course of its flinty, eight-episode run, the show has blossomed, becoming at once antic and deeply felt, an unusual mix of sharp wit and melancholy."

At last, a critic gets it!

If you haven't seen the show, it's the brainchild of Stephen Merchant, a frequent collaborator with Ricky Gervais. (He was Gervais's sidekick in this hilarious skit with Liam Neeson I wrote about here last year.) Merchant plays the lead, a socially awkward British web developer named Stuart Pritchard whose main goal in life seems to be scoring with a supermodel in his adopted town of LA. Critics have lambasted the show, calling it "cringeworthy" because of the outrageous and uncomfortable situations the supremely self-unaware and often unlikeable Pritchard gets himself into: telling homophobic and racist jokes during a hot tub party whose guests included a gay couple and a black editor from Vanity Fair and demanding that a bouncer return a tip when Pritchard doesn't physically step into the club.

Basically Stuart Pritchard is an English Larry David, but for some reason the critics who loved "Curb Your Enthusiasm" can't stomach "Hello Ladies." I fear it's a case where the more acidic British sense of humor is a little tough for some Americans to swallow. Case in point: "The Office," which Merchant co-created with Gervais. I know Americans who adore Michael Scott on the U.S. version of the show, but they watch an episode of the original British version with Gervais playing David Brant, and they sit there with stony faces, occasionally shifting in their seats with physical discomfort. (I happen to like both versions for different reasons.)

Other things I love about the show: the rest of the cast! Especially the character of Jessica, Stuart's pool-house renter and aspiring actress, who is just dorky enough that you can't help but root for her. (The actress Christine Woods deserves kudos here. She plays Jessica with such nuance.) If you're an "Alias" fan, Kevin Weisman's face will be familiar to you. He plays Stuart's foul-mouthed frenemy who uses his disability to charm the pants of beautiful girls, much to Stuart's annoyance. I haven't spent a lot of time in LA, but its portrayal in "Hello Ladies" feels right to me: Like some of Merchant's characters, I feel invisible there because I'm not blonde, buxom, and Botoxed. Bonus: soundtracks include Hall & Oates, Gerry Rafferty, and Al Stewart. Remember "Year of the Cat"? I hadn't heard that song in years until watching "Hello Ladies."

HBO hasn't renewed "Hello Ladies" for a second season, and I'm nervous because critics were so hard on the first two episodes. I won't give anything away, but last weekend was the first season finale and for those critics who thought Stuart Pritchard was entirely too self-obsessed, well ... there's a heart beating in that pigeon-chest of his. I hope the network that gave us TWO seasons of the dreadful "Mind of the Married Man" will give Stephen Merchant another year to develop this very funny -- and yes, oftentimes uncomfortable -- comedy. If they renew it, I'll definitely pay Verizon for the HBO upgrade.

What do you think? Have you seen the show? Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The knitting corner


Now that my back is feeling better, but not eager to strain it with heavy housework that's oh-so-sorely needed around here, I figured it was time to address the mess in "my corner."

This summer I gave up my office so my son could have a bedroom and his own bath. My husband cleaned out a corner of his office and set up a very nice sewing space for me. There wasn't enough room for my yarn or computer, so I set up my knitting/writing area in this quiet corner of our livingroom.

Normally it doesn't look this bad. I took a picture in the midst of sorting through bags of yarn and organizing it by weight, thus why it looks like a bomb has gone off. Over on the sofa arm, for example, is a little pile of sock yarn. Oh dear, I do have a thing for green socks it seems! In that white-handled wicker basket in front of the banker's bookshelf I've got all my winter knitting projects bagged and sorted:

I lamented to O that I've forgotten what I bought yarn for. Case in point: I found two skeins of St. Denis Boreale, a fingering weight yarn, in a pale blue and a dark chocolate and I know I had some project in mind for them. It took a couple minutes of digging around to remember: Endpaper Mitts by Eunny Jang! Into my Ravelry queue they went.

My knitting corner now looks much tidier (no picture because the sun is down) and I like knowing I've got a basket full of projects ready to go. I also spent an hour putting my needles back in order; circulars from China in a special box I purchased at Marshalls (I've ordered more, btw ... more TK in another post!) and my DPNs in a wooden box that used to hold tape cassettes. Remember those? On top of this, I've finished three Christmas projects, and I've only got a couple more things to knit to finish off that list.

And now I'm going to have a well-deserved up of tea. And knit.

The passing of years

Last night I was in the mood for a movie so I checked to see what was on HBO. (For some reason, Verizon gifted us with three free months of HBO so I've been taking advantage of it.) Moonstruck was one of the offerings, one of my favorite films. So many lines in that movie are ones that have been adopted by my own family: "Snap out of it!", "I'm confused," and "Bring me the big knife!" are a few.

After the movie ended, I wracked my brain trying to remember where, when and with whom I saw this movie. Was it ten years ago with my husband? No, it must have been made in the 90s, I thought, since the World Trade Center buildings figure so prominently in a few of the scenes. Then I convinced myself I'd seen it with a boyfriend in the 1990s. To verify, I checked IMDB, where I was stunned to learn this film was released in December 1987. Then I remembered: I'd seen it during my senior year in college ... over 25 years ago!

It seems like yesterday I saw Moonstruck in a theatre, and indeed there's little about the film --sans the Twin Towers-- that dates it. Yet I can't remember who was with me: the guy from my hometown in CT who I pined for my senior year? A blind date set up by my ex-boss? Perhaps I saw it with my college friends ... my mind is blank on the details, except for how much I remembered from the movie: the plot, the argumentative Italian-American family, much like my own argumentative Irish-American family; the funny, clever one-liners.

Today I'm peevish and melancholy. I think how fast those twenty-five years have slipped by me. Yet, when my eyes tear up, I think of how much has changed. In 1987, I was unsure of myself or what I wanted to do with my life, even though I harbored the hope of becoming a writer of some sort. I remember all the years I spent working in advertising, then marketing, feeling like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. I remember turning 30, when suddenly I wanted to settle down yet everything around me was in flux. I met my husband when I was 32, we married, we had a baby in 2001. Now that baby is 12, a funny, articulate sixth grader who spends at least 30 minutes every morning getting his hair just right before he gets on the school bus. I've beaten cancer, said goodbye to my last two living grandparents, and traveled all around the world, visiting countries I'd dreamed about as a child. My corporate days are long behind me, and after countless magazine articles, four non-fiction books, and two novels (published under pseudonyms), I can unashamedly call myself A Writer. And now that I've reached that goal, I find myself casting about for my next act: a nurse? An MSW? I just want to feel useful, to feel like I'm making a difference in someone's life: I've closed the book on chasing money and fame.

Looking back at those 25 years has reminded me how much really has happened, yet how much slid by unnoticed. And rather than continue to feel melancholy about it, I'm determined now to capture more of it so that the next 25 years --which I'm sure will fly by even faster than the last quarter century -- can be more accurately measured for its riches.

It means I will post here more frequently about the seemingly mundane, but special things I want to remember. Of course I will continue to talk about all things Anglo that catch my fancy, but you'll have to forgive me if I veer off the path, which may happen more frequently than before.

Onward to 2038!



Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy birthday to me!

My new trike!

A birthday gift from my boys!

After this last stint with my back, I figured my days on a regular upright bike were numbered. My husband thought so, too, so he went to work figuring out a solution. And here it is -- a recumbent trike!

I wasn't sold on the idea at first, but one test ride converted me. That night, the bike was delivered to our driveway, and within an hour I was sailing down the trail. It's not as fast as my upright, but I don't bike for the speed thrill. Even better, by the time I got home, my legs were like jelly. I have a feeling by the spring I'll have a nice set of pins to show off. ;-)

Not a bad way to begin my last year in my 40s.

It's quiet here today. O is in upstate New Hampshire on a school trip through tomorrow afternoon. His teacher called me this morning to tell me O was really missing home. I was touched that she called me to tell me, and I was glad she was urging him to wait to call home until tonight. O was stressed out by my being in the hospital, and I'm sure he's thinking it's my birthday today and missing me. I certainly miss him. I told DH last night the house is utterly empty feeling without him, and now I understand why empty nesters have such a hard time of it. It's tough letting your little ones fly the coop!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Checking in for November

I didn't mean to go so long without posting, but disaster struck a few weeks ago. In early October I noticed my lower back was aching, so I did what I always do when I have these aches: I took Advil, I was careful with my movements, and I used my trusty hot water bottle to soothe. The pain, however, got worse. On October 17, my son asked if I would bike with him for ice cream and I begrudgingly agreed. By the time we got downtown, I couldn't lift my leg to get it over my bike frame without screaming out in pain. I don't know how I made it home, but I did and I swallowed a handful of Advil, nursed my back with the hot water bottle and prayed things would get better. My in-laws were flying up from Texas the next day so we could celebrate my husband's landmark birthday out in western Massachusetts.

You know where this is going ... I woke up on Friday morning and I could. Not. Move. Moving my leg caused the most god-awful pain in my lower back I actually screamed. It was so bad, I asked my husband (who luckily stayed home from work that day) if he could help me up to the bathroom. When we couldn't make any progress -- I simply could not move without yelling -- it was obvious I needed help.

Fifteen minutes later we had four paramedics in our bedroom. They had to pull me to the edge of the bed and slide me onto a chair, to which they then tied me. The pain was so horrible, all I remember was that I was screaming out with every jostle and tears were pouring out of my eyes uncontrollably. Relief came when they somehow got me onto a stretcher so I could lie on my side. The paramedic who stayed in the back of the ambulance with me was so kind, as was everyone who took care of me in the ER. I was admitted to the hospital for the weekend until the pain could be managed enough so that I could at least perform basic movements without howling like a banshee.

(One funny story. My husband and son were in the room with me when one of the nurses was helping me stand up after I'd managed to get myself upright. The pain was so bad, I yelled out "Son of a bitch!" only the "bitch" part got yelled. Everyone was laughing, even the nurse. She told me not to worry, she'd been called worse. ;-) )

My hospital stay was mostly good, except for one very awful, terrible, incompetent doctor, who was, unfortunately, the doctor I had to deal with most. Everyone with half a brain cell could see I was suffering from some kind of disk injury, but she kept cheerfully telling us it was "a back sprain" from "standing on a ladder." Where the &^%$ she got this, I don't know. She was going to discharge me without any recommendation for followup care with a physical therapist, but thank God the therapist on duty refused to sign my discharge papers until the doctor changed her orders for a home PT evaluation.

My PT is a saint. She was annoyed when she saw what the doctor had said about my condition; she could tell by looking at me I probably had a herniated disk. Luckily our family doctor agreed, so I was approved for 2 to 3 weeks of in-home physical therapy.

Then, the next medical adventure. My back was starting to feel a lot better, thanks to the drugs and some of the exercises I was doing, when I noticed my feet were swelling. The swelling seemed to diminish by the end of the night, but when I woke up Friday morning, both legs were swollen. My saintly PT took one look, felt my calf ("Ouch!" I yelled) and she knew we had a problem. My husband left work, drove me up to my doctor, who performed an exam, then they had me go directly to the hospital for an ultrasound. It was the end of the day, and the ultrasound technician told me, "Well, you're the only person who has been in here today who turned out to have deep vein thrombosis." Three of the major veins in my calf were completely blocked; if the clots let loose, they could lodge in my lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which is another word for "Quick Death." Yay for me! So it was off to ER all over again.

I didn't have to stay the night, but now I have to inject blood thinners into my stomach for the next few days until the Coumadin (blood thinner via pill) kicks in. I'll be on blood thinners for the next six months. SIX MONTHS! It also means no biking. If I fell and injured myself, it could be disastrous, given that my blood won't clot. (I've already got some horrible-looking bruises on my legs from bumping into things; great, a visual map of my klutziness!) I have a visiting nurse drawing blood every couple days to make sure I'm not over- or under-medicated, and I can't eat leafy greens like I normally do because the vitamin K in greens interferes with the Coumadin.

Yesterday it all kind of hit me and I kept going through these crying jags. I know, I know, things could be worse ... a LOT worse. But I'm normally a healthy, active woman and now? Now I feel like an invalid, trapped in my home. The thought of not biking for six months is making me insane. As my brother pointed out, though, at least this happened in October and not April. Then I beat myself up for feeling bad because I know things could be a lot worse, that there are people who are facing far worse medical trials than I am. I decided this a.m. that if I need to feel bad or cry, it's okay, but that things will get better and I have a lot to be grateful for. My back injury is getting better each day, I'm having no trouble weaning myself from the God-awful amounts of painkillers prescribed to me, and I'm determined never to have a repeat of this "adventure." I told my friend Linda this afternoon that I'm going to do whatever it takes to keep myself away from a hospital for the rest of my life. I don't smoke, don't drink, or live a risky lifestyle, so at least that's under control. I do, however, need to take off a few pounds and work on building muscle as I approach my 50s, so this winter I'm going to work on eliminating sugar (my bugaboo) from my diet and start walking a significant amount of distance each day. We have acres of trails around us, and if it snows, I've got snowshoes, an even better workout!

So while October kicked my butt and November isn't my favorite month, despite it being my birthday month, I'm optimistic that this whole experience will become a turning point for a better future. :)

As for knitting? I've been working on a few projects, but keeping on top of my medical issues has left little time for knitting -- that and I'm beat by 8 or 9 p.m. I'm working on a cardigan sweater, knit from wool I purchased at Drumlin Farm several years ago -- I have one and a half sleeves to go, plus a button band. I've knit a couple small Christmas presents, including my first toy (a hedgehog, very cute! But I mucked up the eyes) and am about to cast on for a new pair of socks. As soon as things settle down, I'll post some pictures.

It's good to be back. :)