Friday, January 29, 2010

An Update and Some Felted Flowers

Things have been busy around here... I have an appointment with a doctor in a couple of weeks to start the process of getting to know them and developing a new network of specialists. When I was first diagnosed with IIH I had a team of caregivers including my optometrist who first noticed something wasn't right, my primary care physician, a neurologist, and a neuro-opthamologist. Doesn't that sound exciting? In all honesty, it was the best care I have received so far. Once my insurance changed I was assigned to a doctor and neurologist who told me that "it was all in my head" and that I was simply making all of this up to get attention. The neurologist even scheduled my therapeutic Lumbar Puncture (aka spinal tap) just to make me stop telling him something was wrong. It was such a horrible experience of care that I have avoided doctors for the last three or four years and successfully managed to convince myself that I wasn't feeling any of the symptoms again. Thank you to everyone who expressed support for me on this journey of learning to be compassionate with myself through all of this. I do suspect that I will be keeping you somewhat abreast of what happens as there is little out there about living with this condition. If it can help someone else who is living with this then I will do what I can. Perhaps it will even keep me honest with myself about taking care of it.

I have also been crocheting flowers like crazy. The flowers turned out quite lovely, and I even managed to remember to take a before picture of the last two before I felted them! Below is a picture of two white roses - one large and one bud, that I took prior to felting along with two similar felted flowers.
Below is the collection of flowers I delivered to At Home With Laurie Ann, a local design store that I made this particular batch for. We had lots of fun dreaming up places to put felted flower pins, and I did in fact put one on a felted hat that I had made a while ago. It looks really cute! To the center left you can see the large white rose from the above picture while the white bud is next to the turquoise flower to the right, both after the felting process.
I hope to have some more pictures up soon of the projects I completed as Christmas presents this year. I know it is a bit late to be showing of Christmas projects, but I used my dad's camera to take the pictures and then forgot that they were there until recently!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wishcasting Wednesday - Awakening

Today, over at Jamie Ridler Studios, Jamie asks us

What do you wish to awaken?

I wish to awaken compassion for myself in dealing with my chronic conditions. I don't like to admit that I have these health challenges, so even sharing about them is difficult. (Those little voices in the back of my head are yelling about how I'm talking about this to get attention and pity, both of which I avoid like the plague, so I don't see why talking about this is seeking them. Of course, if someone else were to talk about their mental and physical health struggles, I would be encouraging them all the way. See why I need to be more compassionate with myself?)

I live with severe clinical depression, some Seasonal Affective Disorder, and a more unusual condition called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH). This last condition means that, for a general description, my body produces too much Cerebro Spinal Fluid which squishes everything in my skull but most especially the optic nerve. It isn't deadly, which is how one of it's old names - Benign Intracranial Hypertension - came about, but the optic nerve is affected which could lead to blindness if not taken care of. Another old name for it is Pseudo Tumor Cerebri (fake brain tumor) since the symptoms often mimic a brain tumor but without the growth. On a more practical level it means that I am lucky in that I live with (generally mild and tolerable) light sensitivity and a general low-grade (to me) headache that sometimes spikes into oh-god-just-let-my-head-explode-and-get-it-over-with. Ironic that to help the SAD I need sunlight, isn't it? The other bright spot (I say this quite tongue in cheek) is that the headaches produced by IIH cannot be relieved with pain relievers, especially over the counter ones. Doesn't touch that kind of nerve pain. So you suck it up and live with it.

Unfortunately, since I do live with these conditions, I find that I can be quite hard on myself. "Other people live with far worse, what are you moping about for?" is a favorite. "You're just using that as an excuse to not do (fill in the blank)" is another. This one usually comes out of hiding when I'm having a bad headache day because one of the no-nos is doing anything that could raise the pressure in the skull any higher, which includes sneezing, coughing, crying, blowing your nose, lifting anything over 5 pounds, or generally anything requiring the use of your core muscles. And caffeine. That's a killer.

Since I am in the process of finding a new doctor (I've put it off for over a year after a really bad experience) because my conditions are progressing, all of my excuses and hardness on myself are coming out. So yes, I wish to awaken compassion for myself. I can make all kinds of excuses for someone else, make them go take extra good care of themselves if they are not feeling quite right, even do the taking care of them for them if they need it. But the minute it looks like I need that same compassion for myself I discover that I have all kinds of resistance to it. I need to be gentler on myself.

What are you wishing for today?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Return of the Sun

It seems almost anticlimactic to be posting this morning with the sun streaming in the windows and not a cloud in the sky (at least that I can see from where I am sitting with my computer). Especially after all of that drama last week! More is predicted, but I will wait and see instead of getting all excited for it and being disappointed when the currents shift it's path.

Instead, I am currently focused rather intently on finishing up an order of felted flowers. It has been great fun to crochet up dozens of flower patters and then felting them. The transformation they undergo is pretty fun. Perhaps as I am working on them today I will be able to remember to take pictures of before and after! (No promises, as I am notoriously bad at remembering to take pictures until it is too late, but I will do my best to remember). With today's sunshine it makes me feel as if Spring is just around the corner. Then I remind myself that really, here, we don't have Spring. We have Rainy Season and Dry Season. On bad years we add in Fire Season. So with all of this rain, I am already having my Spring and Winter all rolled into one!

There are a great many projects rolling around in this little brain of mine... a pillow for one of my rocking chairs embellished with a doily crocheted in large fuzzy yarn; a garland for my mantel of crocheted stars and flower motifs; several baby blanket ideas; some crocheted lace chargers for my table, probably in a chunky wool and felted but maybe just in worsted weight instead of thread; and a felted plant pot cover for my windowsill garden. I'll just have to get really busy if I'm going to get all of this done along with any of my other, more pedestrian responsibilities!

Speaking of which, it is time to return to those duties: today is housekeeping day and the laundry is ready to go into the dryer so I must be off. Have a lovely day!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wild Weather and Good Tea

Wild nights are my glory. - Mrs. Whatsit, A Wrinkle in Time

Wild days, too. Here I was, quietly minding my own business and watching the clouds drifting through out of the corner of my eye when the world went dark, small hail began falling from nowhere, and a brilliant flash illuminated the little ice pellets bouncing like miniature toy balls on the ground followed a moment later by a roll of thunder that seemed to be a wheel traveling into eternity, shaking the earth around it before fading away. Even as the storm cell recedes and the birds come out of their hiding places, the thunder rumbles on though ever-decreasing in volume.

Yesterday our county recorded the lowest ever barometer reading since they started recording in 1881: 29.15 inches of mercury. This record low pressure front that has moved through is trailing plenty of unstable weather which makes for interesting weather watching. I didn't realize that I was so fascinated by the weather, but I suppose it helps to have interesting weather to watch! Most of the time there isn't much to see here.

The Cottage is situated in a valley that nestles up against a mountain in Southern California, where the weather patterns are generally quite stable. It does mean, however, that I am having to learn that the inland valley microclimate is a whole different microclimate than the coastal microclimate in which I was born and raised. The range of plants available to someone seeking to create a water-wise garden is quite wide, though the number of typical garden vegetable plants is far more limited! I am having fun researching the native plants that I could choose for my small space, and even more fun learning about the various medicinal and ceremonial uses for them. I haven't made any decisions yet, but with share when plans come into the works.

In the meantime, I will share with you a favorite tea blend I make with a lovely and fragrant native herb (and which has been a staple in my pot with all of this crazy and cool weather!):

For 1 cup of tea combine 1 tsp or 1 teabag of good, plain black tea with 1/2 tsp of dried or 1 tsp of fresh white sage leaves, broken up into small pieces. Steep for 4 minutes in just-boiling water and remove the tea and sage. The sage is quite strong, so I will sometimes soften it with just a hint of local wildflower honey or agave syrup though stevia or sugar will work also. If you prefer green tea this will work, but it would be preferable to use garden or common sage to allow the flavors to work better together! Sage is quite a warming herb and enjoys being mixed with other herbs like rosemary and thyme to help clear up congestion and breathing difficulties when suffering from a cold.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eyes on the Sky

I've been thinking about posting all day. Really. But I found it much more fascinating to sit by the window, yarn and hook in hand, watching the weather happen. Today was supposed to be the biggest storm of the three hitting us this week. That meant all kinds of stuff: high winds (waking up to the wind sounding like a freight train can get your day off to a wild start), possible thunderstorms (haven't seen any yet, but I keep hoping), possible hail (and one report suggested some new-to-me form of precipitation - graupel - which I had to research), and possibly the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in this county. Of course I was glued to the greatest show happening today!

Weather aside, things have been quiet at the cottage. A lot of icky inner work as I prepare to dig deeper into my creative little brain and figure out how to put together all of the pieces that have been put together to make me me actually fit and can be shared with the world. I have been given definite passions and gifts and I want to take them out of the box I have stuffed them into and actually put them to the use for which they were intended. Except that I do not yet know what that use is. Small glitch in the plan, there. But I have been given the gift of faith and have learned tools to use in discernment so I plan on starting there. Searching for the key to the box where I have shoved all of my gifts and passions is not easy work. It is messy and downright gross at times. Not to mention painful. But in the end it is satisfying work because I know that I am right where God wants me. Stay tuned, it could be as interesting as the ever-shifting weather today!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wishcasting Wednesday - Family

Jamie over at Jamie Ridler Studios asks us for Wishcasting Wednesday:

What do you wish for your family?

I wish for security. Less worries that take over our lives. More solid footing as we travel forward on our journies. For myself it looks like healing and direction. For my husband and I that looks like job security and financial stability. For my stepdaughter I am not entirely sure what it looks like, but from where I stand it looks like self-assurance. For others in my extended family that looks like healing or long-term financial stability or any number of things that would bring them a bit of peace knowing that they are in a place of safety.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bronte Weather

I'm feeling a bit Bronte-ish today. With the wind howling up the valley at intervals, making eerie wuthering noises around the house and driving the cat crazy and the low grey skies I can easily imagine myself on the windswept moor surrounding Haworth listening to the stories of my siblings and seeing my own stories to tell in the flame of a candle. I've put a pot of tea on and am deciding which of my items on my to-do list should come next. It seems a bit prosaic to be worrying about laundry and kitchens when the weather is calling for a hot cuppa and a blanket on the couch with a suitably absorbing book - Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre are favorites for this weather, but the lesser known Bronte books work well, too. Or, for a bit of dark humor Elizabeth Gaskell's Cold Comfort Farm. Just as long as it is a rather familiar book - I don't want to be caught up in a brand new world if the power goes out!

I do enjoy this weather - stormy and so atmospheric for storytelling - but it can get me down sometimes. This week I am prepared. I have a delicious smelling candle burning (a bonus is that if the power goes out this evening I will be prepared and have a light already lit as I fumble around looking for where I stashed the lighter!), a series of sweet crochet projects already on the hook, and a recently finished lap blanket to cuddle up under. Now all that is left is finishing up the less exciting housework so that I can curl up near my favorite window and watch the weather.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wishcasting Wednesday - Shine

Today, Jamie, of Jamie Ridler Studio asks us

How do you wish to shine?

I wish to shine with the radiance of embracing myself and all that it means. To shine with the unity of wholeness that I was born with. To glow with the knowledge of myself and my happiness that is not affected by fears of "what will they say?" or "can they handle me?". I wish to shine with the glitter of fears overcome and obstacles surmounted; of being fully supported by the universe in the life of a fiber artist and writer and mystic. I wish to be a glowing beacon to others seeking to find hope and faith in themselves and a lantern on the path for those coming through the darkness behind me that I have already experienced. I wish to shine like a star with the joy of health restored and the hope of chronic illness in remission without drugs or painful surgery.

I wish to shine with the light that I have kept hidden for too long.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Starting Fresh

In an effort to start the New Year on the right foot, my husband and I went through our pantry and freezers this weekend. Not only did we throw away the things that appeared to be mummified science projects from the back of the freezer, we sorted and organized everything so that everything is now grouped by similarities. The frozen veggies are now all together in the same freezer, as is the frozen stock. The same for the pantry. It feels good to have a grasp on what we do and don't have when it comes down to planning meals. My husband, ever the computer geek, set us up with a spreadsheet where we can track our usage and where things might be stored. I anticipate that, as much as it sounds like extra work, it will be truly helpful as we go along.

With the beautiful weather that we have been having here at the cottage, I must say that this weekend's clear-out has done much to soothe the Spring Cleaning urge that has come upon me. This urge feels like a true purge, not just a deep cleansing. Getting rid of the clutter and being ruthless about it. There is so much waiting in my mind to be created, but it needs space and freedom in order to come about. So, slowly but surely, I am making space.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Year and a (few) days!

Goodness! It has been a year since I started writing here at the cottage! (Actually, a little over, since my welcome posts was on the 4th of January). It seems almost surreal to think that this little blog has been around that long, and through so many changes in my life. I'm so glad it has allowed me to meet so many new and fascinating people, and I hope that there will be many more new friends made through these community connections.

On a different note, since we here at the cottage are in an area that has implemented water rationing and it gets mighty hot and dry in the summers, we have decided to turn our garden over to native plants. Of course, there will be several natives that are plenty useful - White Sage, Yarrow, and Artemisia come to mind - so I won't be without my herbs. After two years of trying to find out what vegetables and fruits we could grow here and finding that everything was burned to a crisp by the end of July we have finally made the decision to not fight with the environment around us. We will still be growing tomatoes, but instead of forcing them to face the full heat of the sun, we will plant them in a large pot on the porch, where there is some shade and it is just a little bit cooler. Other herbs will come inside on a convenient windowsill, and the ones that can handle it will stay outside in hanging pots along our porch overhang.

I feel better knowing that we are moving closer to what this patch of ground might have once been, and also that we will be providing natural food and habitat to those lovely birds that I so enjoy seeing in our yard (and who seem to enjoy taunting the cat).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Welcome 2010

I let go of 2009 quietly. I didn't want any big fanfare, no loud parties, no countdowns. My husband, step-daughter and I spent the evening quietly at home; a fire in the fireplace, homemade clam chowder on the stove, and a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table in all of it's difficult glory. We didn't make the effort to stay up. I didn't want 2009 to think that I wished it to linger any longer than necessary, so we drifted off to bed when we felt sleepy. I didn't even wake up at midnight with the neighborhood noisemakers. I simply woke to the sun at our window the next morning and a bright new future waiting for me.

I chose a word of the year for 2010. Bloom. Because I feel like a plant that has been carefully transplanted from a place where I was barely surviving (what a shock, though!) and then fed and watered with all kinds of good stuff that seems nasty and icky at first (manure, anyone?). With all of this glorious care, what plant wouldn't recover with lush and healthy growth and a plethora of staggeringly beautiful blossoms? So with the darkness and ickness of 2009 behind me and the door closed, I am blooming in 2010.

On December 30, I received news that allowed me a huge amount of closure for a very painful time in 2009. The door has been closed and I have barred and locked it from my side, to make sure that it stays there until I call on it. But with the closing of that door a whole new door that was opened just a crack at first has blown wide open with all of the glorious possibilities and dreams waiting for me to follow them. So these first days and weeks of a new year, a new decade, are filled with searching for tools to help me in my search for what dreams are truly me and what dreams are simply dreams. Who am I and what gifts was I given at birth in order to fulfill my created purpose? Why was the last path I was on so traumatically ripped away from me... what was it keeping me from doing?