Posted by: christinelaennec | December 23, 2016

What Christmas Still Means to Me

Two years ago, I wrote about “What Christmas Means to Me”.  The heartbreaking news stories this year are different, but my feelings about celebrating Christmas when there is suffering are the same.  So here is that wee essay once again, in case you’re interested.

Christmas tree with a "herald angel".

Christmas tree with a “herald angel”.

Thank you all for your kind comments, and I’m glad if I gave you a laugh with my Christmas cookies!   Thank you especially to all those who have written words of comfort about this being the first Christmas after the death of my father.  I so much appreciate your thoughts.

For a few years now, I have wished I could write a post about what Christmas means to me, and each year I have felt inadequate to do so.  This year is no different, but especially given what happened in Glasgow city centre day before yesterday (an out-of-control 50-ton bin lorry killed six people and injured at least six others), I thought I would give it a go anyway.

Many people have commented on how particularly tragic it is that such a thing happened at Christmas-time, which is supposed to be a time of joy and festivity.  I can only imagine how desperately awful it will be for those families who will have unopened presents under the tree and an empty place at the table tomorrow – if they can manage to celebrate Christmas at all.  In France, innocent people out enjoying the season have been killed and injured not by a freak accident, but seemingly by those intent on harm.  It’s not long since Sydney, Australia suffered death and destruction at the hands of one individual.

Do these events negate Christmas?  What does Christmas mean, beyond presents and food and parties (at least for many of us)?

I have always loved the magic of Christmas.  As a child, I both knew that Santa wasn’t real – my parents didn’t really encourage us to believe – but I would stay up wondering if maybe I might hear the sound of hooves on the roof.  Then as now, I was a believer.  I am still quite prepared to think that fairies may live in the garden, and with Lewis Carroll, I wonder if the question we ought to ask isn’t:  “But do fairies believe in the existence of humans?”  In my very full and interesting life I have experienced amazing coincidences, inexplicable help, signs and wonders.  I love midnight on Christmas Eve, a magical moment when legend has it animals can talk.  Animals seem to me to have a far better understanding of the divine than us humans.  And I love the story of a God who created this incredible universe – what keeps the planets going in their courses, and not just falling out of the sky? – coming to earth in the form of a helpless baby.

What I celebrate at Christmas is that God is with us.  I believe in a loving God who is closer to us than our own breath, in whom we “live, and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).  I believe that God can never leave us.  God is “the Love beyond which we cannot fall,” to quote the Rev. Bob Brown at South Holburn Parish Church.  And God is with us not just on one day of the year, or when there are twinkly lights and lots of chocolate.  God was in George Square when those Christmas shoppers suddenly lost their lives.  God was right there (and angels, I believe) as events unfolded.  God was present in the many passers-by who ran towards the scene, covering bodies with coats, comforting the traumatised.  Over and over, the innate goodness that is in people is demonstrated at such times of crisis.

Why did God not stop this and other tragedies happening in the first place?  I don’t have the answer to that.  In his book Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People? Rabbi Kuschner concludes that God isn’t always able to stop accidents, illness and suffering generally.  Whatever the case may be, the Christmas story itself takes place in a world of suffering, of military rule and great injustices.  Jesus’ birth did not erase these problems.  But, if you believe that he was the Christ consciousness, God incarnate – a bit of a stretch for many, and I accept that! – then the story is one of God taking physical form amongst us, and suffering in all the ways humans do.

Until I was lucky enough to hold my own baby in my arms, I didn’t appreciate as much as I do now the idea of Love incarnate in a tiny baby.  Babies are (often!) so peaceful, and so utterly trusting.  Charles Dickens wrote, “It is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.”  Indeed there can be moments when any baby seems to be the incarnation of unconditional love.  We can learn a lot from them.  The other thing I like about the Christmas story is the completely absurd idea of God taking the form of a baby.  This reminds me that God is to be found in the most unlikely places, if we care to look.

Christmas for me is also about light conquering darkness.  A single flame can conquer the darkness in an entire room.  I believe that ultimately, good will always overcome evil.  And Christmas comes at an excellent time of year to be reminded of that.   The early Christian church very cleverly adapted existing pagan practices, and it is no accident that we celebrate Christmas just a few days after the Winter Solstice, which had been marked by fire ceremonies of various kinds.  We need to be reminded that the sun hasn’t left us forever, that although the earth seems dead and barren, the force of new life is there, even if we can’t see it yet.  We may have to wait (as Christians do through Advent) but life and light will gather force and come back into our lives.  We need to have “faith in things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1).

The most important of all Things Unseen, it seems to me, is love.  Christmas points me towards the tremendous power of love in our lives.  Years ago my Grampa, one of the best men I will ever have the privilege to know, told me, “With love, you can do anything”.  I held this to my heart during the very difficult, indeed precarious, years of raising Our Son.  At one point I began to wonder if perhaps Grampa had been wrong, if maybe there were some things in life that even love could not help.  I also began to understand that love can take many forms, and sometimes it doesn’t feel at all cosy.  The most loving thing we did for Our Son was to battle to get him into the best residential school in Scotland.  Some people considered we were monsters.  However, he was very happy there, we continued to love and battle, and in the end I am glad to say that he is doing very well.  I realise that even with prayer and love, things do not always turn out so well.  But for me, that does not mean love isn’t the greatest unseen force in the world.

Christmas reminds me also that we must actively look for the light – beginning with believing in its possibility.  Like the Wise Men, we have to follow the star and have hope, rather than sink into cynicism and give up.  One of my favourite lines in a Christmas carol is from O Little Town of Bethlehem: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight”.  We humans do have a lot of fears, and also hopes.  God is where these fears and hopes meet.  Christmas isn’t about non-stop happiness and joy, it’s about our human vulnerability, symbolised by a helpless baby and two parents who had to settle for the stable.

At Christmas time, one does often experience more cheer and goodwill than at other times of year.  I enjoy living in a society where many people around me are similarly focussed and the holiday is a shared celebration, even if each individual has a different understanding of it.  I’ll finish with another quote from Dickens: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  To me this is a reminder that on every day I should try to be a bit more generous, more forgiving, and have a bit more goodwill than I might otherwise.  Of course I fail to live up to this ideal!  But it’s good to have.

I wish you all peace, light, hope and joy at Christmas-time.

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Posted by: christinelaennec | December 20, 2016

Christmas preparations 2016

Things have been busy, but in a good way.  Let me show you in photos:

The rats helping me write my Christmas cards.

The rats helping me write my Christmas cards.

The mantlepiece.

The mantlepiece.

Angels

Angels

The Christmas tree!

The Christmas tree!

Each ornament has loving associations.

Each ornament has loving associations.

I made this salt-dough paw-print ornament 20 years ago when my beloved many-toed cat Tinker was dying.

I made this salt-dough paw-print ornament 20 years ago when my beloved many-toed cat Tinker was dying.  He had 7 toes on each front paw, but the two small ones were too small to make a dent in the dough.  I remember the feeling of holding his paws to this day!

The Dafter helps me show you an amazing hedge in Hyndland, Glasgow.

The Dafter helps me show you an amazing hedge in Hyndland, Glasgow.

Palm trees in Hyndland.

Palm trees in Hyndland.

The three of us did a bit of Christmas shopping in Hyndland. The Dafter was able to walk a few blocks, and shop with her Dad for me, but then ran out of steam. But it's the first time we've managed that family tradition since December 2010!

The three of us did a bit of Christmas shopping in Glasgow’s West End. The Dafter was able to walk a few blocks, and shop with her Dad for my present, but then ran out of steam. But it’s the first time we’ve managed that family tradition since December 2010!

The entire pillar box was full of Christmas cards!

The entire pillar box was full to the top with Christmas cards!

Tilly's tumours have come back, but she has been happy - and decided to pose for her photo one morning.

Tilly’s tumours have come back, but she has been happy – and decided to pose for her photo one morning.

Helping with my baking. (Don't worry I didn't let her lick the spoon.)

Helping with my baking. (Don’t worry, I didn’t let her lick the spoon.)

I treated myself to this Christmas cactus from the local florist.

I treated myself to this Christmas cactus from the local florist.

Made some pomanders!

Made some pomanders!

And I made a new Christmas cookie, Citrus Cardamom Pinwheels. I found the recipe on the Old Farmer's Almanac website. Not a quick project, but really yummy!

And I made a new Christmas cookie: Cranberry, Cardamom and Citrus Pinwheels. I found the recipe on the Old Farmer’s Almanac website here. Not a quick project, but really yummy!

The Christmas Rose.

The Christmas Rose.

The Dafter has finished her semester now, and was able to take her assessments.  As you see, she was able to do a spot of Christmas shopping In Real Life with us.  I’ll give you an update on her in the New Year.

I have a lot of singing coming up this week!  Michael will soon be on a well-deserved break, so I will be able to do some caroling in hospitals and the care home.  On Sunday one of the choirs I sang in performed in a Nine Lessons and Carols service.  Among other things, we sang Philip Stopford’s A Christmas Blessing.  I think it’s a beautiful piece.  You can have a listen here.  (Not to us singing it, though – I wish we were this good!)  We also sang a new carol, Can It Be True? by Jacqueline Burley.  You might hear it on Radio 3 over the holidays.  It’s set to the words of a poem by Susan Hill.  I think you can download it here, if you’re interested.  Michael was able to come to our performance, and he said he really liked the piece, because it made him feel the wonder of Christmas was fresh and new.

I wish the same for all of you!

Posted by: christinelaennec | December 4, 2016

The Oregon Cardigan and Other Steeks I Have Known

After eleven months of work (alongside a number of smaller projects), my Oregon cardigan is finished!  I am well pleased with it.

The Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.

The Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.  Photo taken by the Dafter at Aberfoyle Forestry Commission.

If you are interested in steeking and construction techniques, read on.  If not, I quite understand and I hope to be back soon with more tales of family life and of course Christmas preparations!

In my last post, I showed you the start of the process of trimming and tacking the steeks down on the wrong side of the garment.  Here is the Oregon cardigan, wrong side out, with steeks tacked down:

Steeks all finished wrong side

Steeks all finished (wrong side)

The most challenging aspect of this particular project has turned out (as I had somewhat suspected) to be the buttonbands.

Buttonband finished.

Buttonband finished.

Below I will show you how I have finished other buttonbands with a knitted facing.  But I wasn’t confident of making a facing for a curving Vneck.  So I am attempting to do as suggested in the pattern, and simply bind off.  As you can see, and despite my repeated efforts to bind off with a good tension, the buttonbands curl:

Buttons on

With buttons on, and a clear snap for good measure.

However, I think I have a solution.  A few years ago, I made Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Fair Isle Yoke Cardigan.  (You can see my Ravelry photos and notes here.)  It was pretty snug when I finished it, and the buttonband gapped horribly.  So I basted the buttonband together, and wore it for a few months as a pullover instead of a cardigan.  It was very interesting how much the cardigan relaxed in that time, and when I undid the basting, the cardigan wasn’t particularly snug, and the buttonbands lay very nicely.  As they still do to this day, six years later.

So I am going to see if a few months of behaviour-modification-via-basting works on the Oregon cardigan.  I carefully basted the buttonbands closed, with a contrasting piece of wool:

Buttonband basted together.

Buttonband basted together.

Basting closer up

Basting closer up.  The buttons are some old buttons that I have had for a long time.

Because it’s vital that I not clip the wrong strand of yarn when it comes to undoing this basting, I have left unmistakeable ends on the wrong side:

On the inside, long tails that will be helpful when the time comes to undo the basting.

On the inside, long tails that will be helpful when the time comes to undo the basting.

So what you are actually looking at is a sewn-together cardigan.  A bit like sewing babies into their Liberty bodices for the winter!  But I can easily take this off:

Worn as a pullover - finished for now!

Worn as a pullover – finished for now!

If the buttonbands revert to curling, or if the curling edges above the basted overlap get worse, I will add a facing.  It might be easier to do so once the cardigan has relaxed a bit.  More about facings in a moment.

Because so many of you have expressed an interest in the technique of steeking, I thought I would show you some of my other cardigans that were constructed with steeks.  Here we have the Rona cardigan by Alice Starmore, which I made back in 2001.  As you can see, I completely forgot to cross stitch down one of the sleeve steeks!

I think it was precisely because of a curling cast-off on the buttonband that I decided to knit a matching facing.  I did this by making a purl row as a fold line, and reduplicating the pattern to match.  This requires making matching buttonholes, and sewing the two layers together where the buttonholes are, but it provides a nice, sturdy buttonband.

Rona Cardigan by Alice Starmore, made in 2001. Showing steeks, including the one that I forgot to tack down!

Rona Cardigan by Alice Starmore, made in 2001. Showing steeks, including the one that I forgot to tack down!

However, I didn’t make facings for the neckband or indeed the cuffs.  A friend asked me once, “How can such a thick sweater ever wear out?”  Well, this is how:

Cuff worn very thin after 15 years, and much mending.

Cuff worn very thin after 15 years, and much mending.

I still wear this jacket – often over another, lighter, cardigan – and I will be very, very sad when the day finally comes that I have to retire it.  I think it will become a cushion…

After I’d made Rona, the next stranded jacket I made was the Rambling Rose cardigan, also by Alice Starmore.

Rambling Rose by Alice Starmore. I made this in about 2008.

Rambling Rose jacket by Alice Starmore. I made this in about 2008.

This time, I decided to face the neckband, buttonbands, and cuffs.  I did so using one of the background colours of wool, rather than reduplicated colourwork:

Rambling Rose jacket by Alice Starmore. Steeked and facings added to neckband and buttonband.

Rambling Rose jacket, made with facings added to neckband and buttonband.  With a double-layer buttonband, I find it best to use buttons with a shank, although you could make a shank with thread as well.

cuffs lined

Cuffs with added facing.

I wore this jacket to church today, and it is still going strong.  It gives me great pleasure.

Back to the topic of steeks, here is the steek of the Elizabeth Zimmermann Fair Isle cardigan (the one where I basted the buttonband shut until it settled down).  It isn’t the best feature of the cardigan!  Perhaps my next step as a knitter will be to use ribbon instead of cross stitch to fasten the steeks down?  I would be a bit worried in case the ribbon shrank.  If anyone has used ribbon facings, I would be interested to hear how it worked for you.

Elizabeth Zimmermann fairisle cardigan.

Elizabeth Zimmermann fairisle cardigan.

Regular readers may remember that I made a steeked jacket last year that was faced with fabric, a first for me.  You can see the New Leaf cardigan on Ravelry here.

So you can see that steeking is a technique that I find very useful and worth the trouble.  I love being able to do colourwork on the right side only, and on a large scale.  The only part of making the colourwork cardigans that I don’t enjoy so much is when I finally have to switch to double-pointed needles towards the ends of the sleeves.  Maybe it’s because I don’t do a lot of dpn knitting, but I find it far more difficult to keep the stranded knitting even.  I go over those sections after I’ve finished, on the right side, tugging and sometimes using a darning needle to straighten out the knitting.  I know from experience that it will settle into itself.  I don’t generally block my colourwork, unless I really think it needs it.

What is next for my “complicated knitting” project, you ask?  Another cardigan.  This time a kit that is partly a Christmas present from Michael.  It has arrived from Sweden!  Can you guess?

Kit to make "Yellow ..." cardigan from A....

Kit to make the Yellow Lace Collar cardigan from AngoraGarnet

The pattern doesn’t contain a photo of the finished garment, so I must direct you here so you can see.  I have long been interested in Bohus knits, and it’s exciting that this company has been authorized to continue the Bohus design tradition.  I also like their animal welfare policy.  This should keep me busy for a while!  Perhaps I will finish it by the summertime… hmm…  oh well, fortunately I live in a part of the world where I need to wear a sweater of some type nearly every day, so it doesn’t really matter when I finish it.

In the meantime I am enjoying breaking in the Oregon cardigan.  I’ll let you know what happens when I undo the basting in a few months’ time!

Take care, and all the best for the coming week.

Posted by: christinelaennec | November 23, 2016

Giving thanks (and finishing steeks)

It has been an eventful month, and that’s just in our little world, nevermind on the larger world “stage” (the term almost ceases to be metaphorical).  Just after my last post, Michael had a bad cycling accident.  He was coming home from work in the evening, after several days of working long hours, and in the dark he didn’t see a metal roadsign that for some reason was on the path.  We spent the night at A&E but very luckily nothing was broken.  He always wears a helmet, and that was split by the impact.  As we were finally leaving A&E at 5 am, he said to the nurse, “I just want to get into a hot bath.”  To which she replied (imagine a Glaswegian accent) “Ach no, you dinna want to dae that – you don’t want to have to call the Fire Brigade to get you out!”

Over the next few days, the Dafter helped her Dad get used to using crutches, and showed him how to use a chair to get in and out of the bath.  He has had a little peek into her world of effort and pain just to do simple things.  And of course not only did I lose my auxiliary for a couple of weeks, but I had two people to take care of.  However, we are so grateful that it wasn’t worse.  He’s now able to walk without crutches, although he does still look a bit like a gunslinger who’s just been in a shootout.

Here is a little visual pun he left for me while I was out doing grocery shopping:

A little joke left for me by Michael.

A little joke left for me by Michael.  Not enough eggs?  Use a potato.

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving Day in America, but we had our Thanksgiving last Saturday.  I was worried I wouldn’t find a source of pumpkin puree for the first year since coming here in 1992, but I managed at last. Here is (was) my pumpkin pie:

Pumpkin pie was achieved!

Pumpkin pie was achieved!

Michael was recovered enough to make our meal, and Our Son came from Edinburgh to celebrate with us:

Thanksgiving 2016: the Dafter, Michael, Our Son.

Thanksgiving 2016: the Dafter, Michael, Our Son.

The Dafter and Our Son taught themselves how to play Chinese Checkers.  We told them how when we were graduate students, with only a radio and no tv or internet, we used to play games a lot.

Chinese Checkers after the meal.

Chinese Checkers after the meal.

They learned very quickly, and ended up having a three-way game with Michael (two star points per player).  It was a good family time.

Thanks for your concern for Tilly.  She has fully recovered from her two operations, and has been very affectionate and funny.  She meows at us in ways she never used to, and has been quite playful.  She and the rats have become a bit more used to each other.  One afternoon I had the rats in their sling (which I patched up after they half-devoured it) and Tilly just came and curled up on my lap.  It was a very peaceful half-hour:

Tilly, and the rats in their mended sling. All contented, and me reading!

Tilly, and the rats in their mended sling. All contented, and me reading!

Thanks also for your good wishes to the Dafter.  She has continued to find college a struggle, and also the shortening days, and the number of colds and bugs about.  But on she goes!

The weather has been cold and frosty, with some beautiful sunny winter days.  Today the frost on the grass never melted:

Still frosty in the afternoon. 23 November 2016, Glasgow.

Still frosty in the afternoon. 23 November 2016, Glasgow.

We’re now a month from the solstice, and the sun is low in the sky.  The sun rises about 8:15 and sets about 4.

I’m particularly glad that Michael is making a good recovery, because we have a special party to go to!  Here I am trying on my party dress – very relieved that it still fits!  I bought it in a vintage shop many years ago.  And I finished a capelet that I made from Louisa Harding’s Nikita pattern.  The colours don’t quite match, but I think they all go well enough together:

Yes, Cinderella, you shall go to the ball! Trying on my party clothes.

Yes, Cinderella, you shall go to the ball! Trying on my party clothes.  Capelet details here on Ravelry.

I have, slowly, been finishing my Oregon cardigan by Alice Starmore.  Here, for those of you who are interested in the steeking technique, are photos of how I have been finishing them.  I don’t claim by any means that this is the most elegant way of doing it – you can cover the steeks with ribbon and no doubt achieve a much neater cross-stitch than I can.  But it works for me, and I want to show you that steeking is completely do-able.

Because the task of finishing steeks isn’t one that I do all that often, I start with the armhole seam as it is the least likely to be visible.  The first step is to trim the steek stitches down to two.  I do this with sharp scissors, and of course being careful only to cut the steek stitches and not anything else.  I also try to do this by natural light, but that isn’t always possible in Scotland in November!

Trimming the steek to two rows.

Trimming the steek to two rows.

I trim a few inches, and then begin tacking them down.  The pattern tells you which colour to use, or you can choose what you feels blends in the best.  I tack down the steek both to the backs of stitches, and sometimes to the yarn “floats” of the back side.  I feel with my hand underneath that the needle never goes fully through to the front.  Because the steeks lie flat anyhow, you’re really just securing them rather than having to force them into some new direction.  It is slow work and I rarely finish a great deal in one go.  But that is okay because the steeks just wait patiently for me to continue another time.

Tacking the steek stitches down with cross stitch.

Tacking the steek stitches down with cross stitch.

The finished tacked-down steek:

Steek stitches all tacked down on one armhole seam.

Steek stitches all tacked down on one armhole seam.

The right side:

How it looks on the right side. Amazingly, there's no ridge.

How it looks on the right side. Amazingly, there’s no ridge.

Once I’ve done the armhole seams, I then begin the steeks inside the buttonbands, which are more likely to be visible when I have the cardigan unbuttoned.

Tacking down the buttonband steek. I trim a few inches, cross-stitch, trim a bit more, and so forth.

Tacking down the buttonband steek. I trim a few inches, cross-stitch, trim a bit more, and so forth.

I hope to show you the completely finished sweater in my next post!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate it.  And a happy end-of-November, and soon the start of Advent, to others!  I hope it’s a time of year for coming together with family and friends, and being aware of the things we can be thankful for.

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | November 2, 2016

All Souls’ Day: Reflections

Hello everyone!  Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post.  Here is another wee update, and some reflections on All Souls’ Day.  In the Christian tradition (marked especially by the Catholic church), November 1st is All Saints’ Day, and November 2nd is All Souls’ Day.  On All Saints’ Day, we are invited to reflect on saints of the past and what their lives can teach us; on All Souls’ Day, we are invited to think of all those who have gone on before us, particularly family members.  Two years ago yesterday, my father died, and so I have two reasons to be thinking of him just now, although I think of him often anyway.  He and I didn’t have an easy relationship but there was always an understanding and an affinity there.  We thought alike in many ways.  As a grandfather, he really came into his own, and in the last few years of his life he became very loving and affectionate to me, which was a great blessing.

He and the Dafter had a special closeness.  Perhaps she inherited her artistic ability from him.  He was extremely skilled at drawing and also at sculpture, both wood carving and bronze casting.  When I left to go to Portland after he died, I asked the Dafter if there was anything in particular she wanted me to bring back for her as a memento.  “Some of his drawings,” she said. But he had destroyed almost everything.  However, he left one sculpture just for me.  I think he had very little faith in his own ability.  I found the book that he published used to prop up a wonky table!

View of Glasgow from the airplane coming in to land at sunset. Painting by the Dafter.

View of Glasgow from the airplane coming in to land at sunset. Painting by the Dafter.

I’m glad his granddaughter has had the chance to develop her art and be encouraged to do so.

Last week we were able to go to an event that we’ve long wanted to attend:  the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry.  It was quite a long drive for us, but well worth it.  The fact that it was wheelchair accessible made it possible.  You follow a circuit around the forest and experience various sound-and-light installations.  We spent two hours going round.  Here are some more “reflections”:

"Shimmer" - the Enchanted Forest 2016, Faskally Woods, near Pitlochry, Scotland

“Shimmer” – the Enchanted Forest 2016, Faskally Woods, near Pitlochry, Scotland.  In the centre, light is being projected on a fountain (coloured swirl above the water).

Michael pushing the Dafter - The Enchanted Forest was surprisingly wheelchair accessible.

Michael pushing the Dafter – The Enchanted Forest was surprisingly wheelchair accessible.

We loved this installation, a little bit from the main path:

Strands of lights that people could walk through.

Strands of lights that people could walk through.  The lights changed colour constantly, and made different patterns.

It is also a blessing that the Dafter isn't wheelchair-bound, because she could come into the strands of hanging lights with other people. Such fun!

It is also a blessing that the Dafter isn’t wheelchair-bound, because she could come into the strands of hanging lights with other people. Such fun!

The Dafter thoroughly enjoyed Halloween.  She was able to go out to celebrate, and met some new friends!

Halloween 2016!

Halloween 2016!

A few weeks ago, I signed up to an online mandala-making course by Heather Plett.  Because of the Dafter’s college schedule, I’m not able to attend mid-week service at my church.  This service has so often given me perspective and courage in between Sundays, and I was wondering how I would manage without it.  The mandala course is 30 days of prompts, but I have followed the suggestion to do a mandala a week, and I now have a mandala date with myself – an hour each week set aside to follow the prompt and see what happens.  The results have been surprising to me.  I thought I would share the Prayer mandala that I made.

I began by thinking, “I should pray in a more organised way, I should do a better job of keeping track of people needing prayer, I should be quieter, I should be more specific,” etc. etc.  I drew my idea of Father-Mother God arching over, with a heart in the middle representing me.  I added angels (in my very limited drawing ability – didn’t inherit that from my Dad!).  I wanted to express the idea of security and safety.  Then, thinking about how prayer works for me in my own life – rather than my list of “shoulds” – I began writing down words, from the centre out, that are like the kinds of prayers I say as I go about my day.  These can be anything from “thank you for my life” to “help!”  I realised that at the same time, I often receive guidance / intuition.  I wrote the kinds of things I might “hear” or “know” as coming from the outside of the circle, from God.  These could be anything from “all will be well” to “just let her settle” or “why don’t you email so-and-so?”.

Mandala on the topic of prayer. October 2016.

Mandala on the topic of prayer. October 2016.

What I like about the mandala-making, besides the fact that it’s a discipline that allows me to spend an hour thinking about deeper things once a week, is that there is no right and wrong.  It’s just whatever the unconscious presents.  You could do the same prompt over and over, and no doubt each time it would be different.  And, as should be obvious from the above, anyone can make one!

My finishing of the Oregon cardigan has gone along rather slowly.  The light is now fading and it’s work best done in good light.  It’s taken me quite a while to sew in the loose ends inside the sleeves, but the end result is very pleasing:

Finishing Alice Starmore's the Oregon Cardigan: sewing the ends into the underarm seam of the sleeves. In the foreground, Before, and further away, After.

Finishing Alice Starmore’s the Oregon Cardigan: sewing the ends into the underarm seam of the sleeves. In the foreground, Before, and further away, After.

Right sides: in the foreground, sleeve needing finishing; further away, the sleeve with ends sewn in has a noticeable underarm seam row.

Right sides: in the foreground, sleeve needing finishing; further away, the sleeve with ends sewn in has a noticeable underarm seam row.

I have been doing a lot of nurse-maiding both of the Dafter and of Tilly.  In between outings and celebrations this month, the Dafter has had two nasty colds, and one horrible cyst on her leg requiring antibiotics.  She has had to miss college today, but is drinking lots of water and taking extra Vitamin C (as well as probiotics) and my fingers are very tightly crossed that her body will be able to recover without more drugs.

Tilly has healed very well from her second operation and is now pretty much back to normal.  She had her last check day before yesterday.  The surgeon said, “We’ve managed to remove all the cancer that isn’t at the microscopic level.  She should have a couple of good months left.”  I cried in the car, with Tilly wanting to comfort me from inside her carrier, sweet thing.  But it’s okay to cry.  I do really hope she beats that prediction.  I’ve always felt that cats teach us how to appreciate each moment and to get the maximum happiness possible out of everything.  I had another reminder of the importance of appreciating what we have when I got the news that a friend’s husband died unexpectedly at the weekend.  She lost her first husband very young, and I am so very sorry for her.

The clocks went back last weekend here.  I got out for a walk at 5 this afternoon, and there was still just enough light to show you how beautiful the trees are.

Autumn colour at 5 pm, 2 November 2016, Glasgow

Autumn colour at 5 pm, 2 November 2016, Glasgow

Apparently this has been the driest October for many years in this part of the world.  My garden received less than an inch of rain in the month, which is very unusual. The colours have been really stunning in Glasgow, and it’s all lasted so long as well.  I’m sure the trees were nearly bare at this time last year.  At the moment we are walking through golden carpets of leaves.

Life isn’t always easy, that’s for sure, but I think it’s a great privilege to have a life on this earth.  I won’t say I don’t get angry at God (some of my prayers go like this:  “Really God? REALLY?!”).  But I think God can take it, and I think God wants me to be honest.  Mostly, I feel loved and heard by the universe.  Albert Einstein said that one of the most important decisions we make is whether to see the universe as hostile or loving.  I choose the latter, as much as I can.

Happy November!

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | October 17, 2016

October Break

A most unusual thing has happened:  I have been home by myself for a couple of days!  It’s the first time in 20 years that I’ve been home on my own without at least one child to look after, although I do have the rats and Tilly to care for.  Michael has taken the Dafter off for the weekend, and they have been having a great time!  It’s the sort of thing that I would find really stressful and wouldn’t manage, physically, because it takes a lot of strength to push the wheelchair, nevermind with a suitcase as well.  So I am very happy for them, and I’ve enjoyed my time here.  I have done quite a lot of cleaning – things best done while the others are away, such as the fridge and the Dafter’s curtains.  But I also went visiting (I was able to use the car on Sunday, so drove to a friend’s house in the countryside for lunch – another first, as usually if I have time off, Michael has to have the car to help the Dafter).  One thing I haven’t done is attempt to patch the rat sling:

The rats love their sling but this is what happens if you leave it too close to their cage...

The rats love their sling but this is what happens if you leave it too close to their cage…

I was very glad we had planned for me to be here, because Tilly has needed a lot of reassurance and help:

A cuddle with Tilly (interrupted by a photographer).

A cuddle with Tilly (interrupted by a photographer).

We managed to give her all 10 days’ worth of antibiotic tablets (despite the vets hospital not thinking that was possible given her fiery temperment).  She was very cooperative about having her wound cleaned twice a day.  But to my surprise it was difficult for her to adjust to having her cone collar off.  She would get very upset and start running around anxiously, washing and twitching.  Then she would calm down when the collar was back on.  So I did it in stages, over several days.

Beginning to relax a bit in the sun.

Beginning to relax a bit in the sun.

I took the collar off when she was relaxed.  What I realised was that she would then begin washing herself, and would become upset when she was able to reach her shaved tummy, her shaved elbow and her shaved ruff.  I think she just became horrified at what had happened to her body!  Over time she got used to it, and is now without the collar at all.  She will go for the second and final operation in a few days, to get all the cancer out that they have identified.  I have pondered the wisdom of taking this step, but in the past few days she has been playful and frisky again, and I feel that she will manage one more operation okay, with plenty of love and care afterwards.  I feel pretty certain that it’s her best chance of living to see this time next year.  And I don’t think we are doing this primarily so that we will have the pleasure of her company, but because she does want to live and enjoy life as long as she can.

In other news, I am very relieved to tell you that my mother is continuing to do well.  She recently was able to have one of her two planned cataract operations, which was very successful, so she is thrilled to be able to see a little bit again.  The other more fundamental problems are being well-monitored and she is enjoying life just now.

I’ve been working on my Oregon cardigan.  For those who are interested, here’s what I’ve done since my last post.  I knitted the ribbed buttonband, and began casting off as per the instructions.  But I didn’t like the look of the cast-off:

First attempt at casting off buttonband - I didn't like how the gold showed through, so I took this out, knit one row of the dark blue, and then cast off over that.

Oregon cardigan designed by Alice Starmore.  First attempt at casting off buttonband – I didn’t like how the gold showed through.

So I took that out, knit a row of dark blue, and then cast off in dark blue.  For similar projects, I have preferred to do a double buttonband, with a row of purl as a foldline.  But for a V-neck, I don’t feel certain of what would happen to two layers at the point where the V angles off.  So I’m hoping I will be happy with this.

Tilly came right over to help me photograph the jacket once all the knitting was done:

All knitting done, and ready to finish.

All knitting done, and ready to finish.  (Is this not a kitty mat? Tilly wonders.)

The sun came out, and I thought I would show you how I discovered a dropped stitch on the back:

Safety pin holding a stitch I dropped sometime last March or so!

Safety pin holding a stitch I dropped sometime last March or so!

I will darn that in from the back.  Here is the buttonband (without buttons yet):

Buttonband in the sun. I am hoping the edge will be persuaded not to curl.

Buttonband in the sun. I am hoping the edge will be persuaded not to curl.

The next step will be to trim and stitch down the steeks, which are now lying nicely folded back on the wrong side:

Turning the buttonband back, you see the steek stitches. Notice they are just sitting there very obediently and not unravelling wildly.

Turning the buttonband back, you see the steek stitches. Notice they are just sitting there very obediently and not unravelling wildly.

Another photo (the sun had disappeared behind a cloud), with a piece of paper stuck behind the steek stitches, so you can see them a bit more clearly.

Another photo (the sun had disappeared behind a cloud), with a piece of paper stuck behind the steek stitches, so you can see them a bit more clearly.

Some people sew ribbon over the steek stitches, which looks beautiful.  But I can’t find any ribbon that seems right.  I will just do as I have done in the past, and stitch them loosely down.  I’ll take photos of the process to show any of you who are curious about steeking.

The Dafter and her father are due back in a few hours.  This coming week is the October Break.  I know she will need some days to recuperate – I hope she won’t have too steep a price to pay.  But, although with ME/CFS pacing is essential, we have also discovered that sometimes overdoing it a bit in order to have a joyful time is just as critical to good health.

I wish you all a great October and a good week!

Posted by: christinelaennec | October 5, 2016

Tilly Returns, plus The Oregon Cardigan: The Final Cut

Thank you, everyone, for your very kind comments and thoughts.   It’s a double-feature post today.  (Remember double-features?  Memories of my Dad taking me to “the flicks” at the Sellwood Theater!)  Firstly, Tilly is now home after 48 hours in the veterinary hospital, being treated for a badly infected wound from the surgery she’d had two weeks previously to remove a lump.

Tilly is so glad to be back home...

Tilly is so glad to be back home…

While at the hospital, she had tests done a few weeks earlier than planned.  This showed that the cancer hasn’t discernably spread beyond the lymph node.  Also while at the hospital, she fought every single procedure they did with her, even proving greatly resistant to sedation.  “She’s a real hothead!” one of the vets told me over the phone.  The plan now is that she will have one more operation, to take out the cancerous lymph node and other mammary tissue.  But she will not have any chemotherapy after that.  She gets too stressed and uncooperative to tolerate many more medical interventions.

Tilly happy in front of the fire. 5 October 2016.

Tilly happy in front of the fire. 5 October 2016.

I think the oncology vet thought that he would have to convince me about not doing chemotherapy.  He said, “Because of her nature, and the risk to our staff…”  But I completely agreed with him.  It isn’t about prolonging her life by as many days or weeks as possible.  (Median survival time once all known cancerous areas are removed, and with no chemotherapy, is 414 days for cat breast cancer.  The average with chemo goes up to more than 1,000 days.)  It’s about her being as settled and happy as we can make her.  I think she can manage one more operation, and a few more checks, but not a lot more than that.  He was doubtful that we would manage to clean the wound twice a day, or give her the antibiotic tablets – but she has so far been very good and cooperative with me and Michael.  So perhaps just being at home will be the most life-extending thing for her.

Kaffir lilies by the summerhouse. 5 October 2016.

Kaffir lilies by the summerhouse. 5 October 2016.

"A Shropshire Lad" in bloom for the third time this season. Headed skyward! Glasgow, 5 October 2016.

“A Shropshire Lad” in bloom for the third time this season. Headed skyward! Glasgow, 5 October 2016.

It would be so nice to think that she could enjoy the end of summer this time next year.  She has only been out in the garden once since September 18th, and it will be at least three weeks until she can get out again.

[Intermission:  in other news, my mother is home and doing a lot better with a new regime; and the Dafter had a good day today at college.]

The second part of this double-feature post is about the Oregon cardigan, which I realise is a rather specialist interest.  If this is as far as you read, thank you, and I hope to post again soon!

Today I did the last steek cutting that it will require, namely the rest of the front steek.  You might recall that in July, I sliced the V-neck part of the front steek so that I could try it on (photo here).  It has had no special handling since then, I can assure you.

Body and two sleeves done.  Now the buttonbands remain, plus last finishing.  In order to do the buttonbands, I need to slice the front steek below the V-neck

Body and two sleeves done. Now the buttonbands remain to be knitted, before last finishing. In order to do the buttonbands, I need to slice the front steek below the V-neck

Just to be quite certain I only cut through one layer (the front of the cardigan), I put a book between front and back.  Photos from Life Magazine, if you're wondering.

Just to be quite certain I only cut through one layer (the front of the cardigan), I put a book between front and back. Photos from Life Magazine, if you’re wondering.

Starting to cut up the middle of the steek.  Note nothing frightening is happening!

Starting to cut up the middle of the steek. Note nothing frightening is happening!

Continuing to cut the steek.

Continuing to cut the steek.

The front steek is now completely cut open, from the bottom of the ribbing up to the grafted shoulder seam.  Because the centre steek is where each row begins when knitting the body, all the loose ends are here.  You can see a few that I will need to darn in, but almost all of them begin right at the centre of the steek.  These can just be trimmed off.  Not having to sew them all in is one of the advantages of using steeking in colourwork.  (I will still have to darn in the ends going up the underarm of the sleeve.)

The front steek is now completely cut open, from the bottom of the ribbing up to the grafted shoulder seam. Because the centre steek is where each row begins when knitting the body, all the loose ends are here. You can see a few that I will need to darn in, but almost all of them begin right at the centre of the steek. These can just be trimmed off. Not having to sew them all in is one of the advantages of using steeking in colourwork. (I will still have to darn in the ends going up the inside of the sleeves.)

Loose ends trimmed.

Loose ends trimmed.

Picking up stitches for the button band, beginning at the bottom of the right front.  I did not do a very consistent job with my edge stitch (the row of stitches that runs between the steek stitches and the pattern). I don't know how I managed to have it meander so much, and also - something I became aware of and changed when I reached the Vneck rows - I managed to do the edge stitch in the motif colour rather than background colour.  Hence two rows of yellow shades next to the pattern.  However!  Knitting being as forgiving as it is, I was able to meander slightly so that I had two knit rows to the left of the edge stitch on the ribbing, and then I picked up the edge stitch I wanted all the way up.  The safety pins are where, when I knit the stitches, I have to pick up another stitch to have the right number.

Picking up stitches for the button band, beginning at the bottom of the right front. I did not do a very consistent job with my edge stitch (the row of stitches that runs between the steek stitches and the pattern). I don’t know how I managed to have it meander so much, and also – something I became aware of and changed when I reached the Vneck rows – I managed to do the edge stitch in the motif colour rather than background colour. Hence two rows of yellow shades next to the pattern. However! Knitting being as forgiving as it is, I was able to meander also when picking up for the button band, so that I had two knit rows to the left of the edge stitch on the ribbing, and then I picked up the edge stitch I wanted all the way up. The safety pins are where, when I come to knit the stitches, I have to pick up another stitch to have the right number.

This is what works for me:  instead of picking up and immediately knitting, I pick up and count until I have all the stitches on a long circular needle.  Then I begin knitting at the right-hand side of the circular needle.  It may stretch the picked-up stitches, but in my case the damage is far greater if I try to pick up and knit each stitch on the first pass. I end up taking it all out so many times that the end result is pretty mangled.

This is what works for me: instead of picking up and immediately knitting, I pick up and count until I have all the stitches on a long circular needle. Then I begin knitting at the right-hand side of the circular needle. It may stretch the picked-up stitches, but in my case the damage is far greater if I try to pick up and knit each stitch on the first pass. I end up taking it all out so many times that the end result is pretty mangled.

That’s as far as I got today.  Once I have knitted the buttonbands, I’ll show you the final finishing.  For now, some helps:

Things I find helpful when knitting stranded colourwork:  I make myself a wee chart of the various yarn colours, so I can check if I'm not sure; I keep little shade labels for each ball that I have wound (they generally stay tucked in); and I work with photocopies that I annotate mercilessly.  You can see where I've planned decreases.

Things I find helpful when knitting stranded colourwork: I make myself a wee chart of the various yarn colours, so I can check if I’m not sure; I keep little shade labels for each ball that I have wound (they generally stay tucked in); and I work with photocopies that I annotate mercilessly. You can see where I’ve planned decreases.

So that is my news for now.  I am hoping that life will settle down a bit more soon.  And I am still looking forwards to sharing our Harris trip in August with you.  Thanks again for your kindness and moral support.  I hope you are having a good week!

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | October 3, 2016

October already

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments and encouragement on my last post.  We all appreciated it.  Things have continued to be challenging, although the Dafter is settling better in college, once she got through a tummy bug that felled her for a week.  I am extremely grateful that she is still battling on.

Tilly has been pretty unwell – more on that in a moment – but I recently had another amazing singing experience.  I travelled to York to join one of the choirs I sing in, along with many other choirs from the North of England, to sing in Evensong in York Minster.

Looking up into the tower of York Minster.

Looking up into the tower of York Minster.

As you can imagine, it was an amazing experience.  I had never sung with 400 other people before, nevermind in the soaring acoustics of a cathedral!  The music was beautiful, and has been running through my head ever since.

Faces and a sheep:  carvings in the Chapter House of York Minster.

Faces and a sheep: carvings in the Chapter House of York Minster.

My visit to York was punctuated by phone calls to and from the vet (although not during the actual service, I hasten to add) but I made the most of it and was delighted by both the grandiose scale of this amazing medieval cathedral, and by the small details.

I was so excited to have this opportunity – Michael had insisted I go, and took time off work to look after the Dafter – and I was also relieved to be home again.  Tilly was very poorly, and we took her to the emergency vets.  She was dehydrated and running a fever, and she is still there.  I have been waiting for a phone call all morning.

The veterinary hospital in Glasgow has an excellent reputation.  We were impressed both by the care Tilly received when we arrived, and by the modern building with its brilliantly designed waiting room.  There are four S-shaped benches, each with two semi-enclosed areas for an animal to wait, without having to see all the other animals.  It being Sunday afternoon, we were the only ones there:

Waiting room of the Small Animal Hospital in Glasgow.

Waiting room of the Small Animal Hospital in Glasgow.

So I hope to have some slightly better news about Tilly for you.  I am regularly counting my many blessings, and I thank you again for your lovely comments.

 

Posted by: christinelaennec | September 19, 2016

It’s been a time…

I don’t know if I have ever gone so long without posting!  First of all, thank you all so very much for sharing our joy about the Dafter’s achievements.  Many of you have faithfully followed our journey with ME/CFS for the past five years, and your solidarity has meant more to our family than I can express.

I’ve been trying to think of what title to give this post – “It’s been a challenging time”? “Waving not drowning”? “We’ve had a time of it”?  But I think it’s just been a time…

Time in fact has been at an absolute premium in the past five weeks.  I have hardly had a moment to myself, and when I have had an hour here or there I have mostly just slept.  I still haven’t sorted our photos from Harris but I look forwards to doing that and sharing them with you.  I have some time to blog this evening because I am shut up in the bedroom with poor Tilly, who had an operation today.  Instead of a big plastic collar to keep her from pulling her stitches out, she has this fetching post-surgical suit:

Tilly in her post-surgical recovery suit. 19 September 2016.

Camo-cat:  Tilly in her post-surgical recovery suit. 19 September 2016.

(We were joking about how the Dafter should have a “recovery suit”.)  Until we found a lump on her breast last Thursday, Tilly had been enjoying some lovely Indian Summer weather:

Tilly basking in the sun, mid-September 2016.

Tilly basking in the sun, mid-September 2016.

The lump is now removed and along with a lymph gland biopsy is away to the lab.  Results are expected in 7 to 10 days.  This evening she has been very brave, and has been putting her tail straight up when petted.  She’s also purred a bit, which is unusual for her, so I think she is really relieved to be home again.

Cosmos in the garden, September 2016.

Cosmos in the garden, September 2016.

The garden has been pretty neglected this past month.  The Dafter started her college course four weeks ago and it has been a tough old time for her – physically, emotionally and in terms of her concentration.  She has battled on, and I by her side.  She goes to class for two hours, three days a week, and has found that utterly exhausting.  Unfortunately the three days are in a row, with no rest day in between, so she has been spending days in bed afterwards trying to recuperate, and rather dreading going back.  She has been able to keep up with the work, however, which is excellent.  She will try to extend the time she spends in class little by little, if she can manage that.  I pray she will be able to continue.

The Dafter is doing my job!

The Dafter is doing my job!

I had a birthday, and the Dafter and her father organised a lovely day for me.  Look – the Dafter is bringing the birthday cake in!  Michael took the day off work; he has been working absolutely flat out and will be doing so for the foreseeable future, so that was really good.  The Dafter managed college that day, so he and I were able to go for a walk and have lunch together.  Such a treat!

My birthday, September 2016.

My birthday, September 2016.

And I was really spoiled rotten with presents and cards, too.  To top it all off, at choir rehearsal that evening, they surprised me with a serenade.  I’ve never had 30 people sing Happy Birthday to me before!

My midge-induced trigeminal neuralgia (which I wrote about here) has almost completely cleared up now, very thankfully.  I just have to be careful how I touch my left ear.  People are saying that the midges this summer have been the worst in living memory.

Here is an interesting new word:

A new word for 2016.

A new word for 2016.

The joke is based on the nickname for Glasgwegians – “Weegees”.  Do I feel like a “Refuweegee”? I’m not a refugee, thankfully, but I do feel embraced by the people of Glasgow.  I have always felt very welcome in Scotland, since coming here in 1992.  This has been a consolation to me, as in the past few weeks I also discovered the new tax laws for American ex-pats, and the limitations on us in terms of some banking here now.  I’m not going to discuss it further here, but particularly if you know any American citizens living abroad (and this includes any children of theirs, born anywhere in the world), you might be interested in this video.  I am not endorsing this organisation at all, but the video from a Dutch news programme is informative, though it does not cover other aspects of the new laws such as reporting savings.

Another thing that has weighed heavily on me is that my mother has been very unwell.  She is now home from hospital, and it looks very likely that her health problems can be stabilised for some time to come.  Whereas the Dafter was doing much better when my father died, and I was able to be away for 10 days, it’s clear that I cannot make that journey just now.  My family here would pay far too high a price.  My mother has told me that she doesn’t expect me to come, and for that I am very grateful.

For some reason many of my favourite knitted sweaters have worn out recently:

Must keep knitting!

Must keep knitting!

But that is okay, because it means I need to knit more!  I have knit quite a bit over the summer, and will show you that when I get a chance.

I did sew something – a sling to carry the rats about in.  I designed it myself and it works very well:

Rat cosy, September 2016.

The Dafter with her rats, September 2016.

The rats are still shy, but they now come out and ride around our shoulders for a few hours a day.  They love snuggling into a hood, but this has the disadvantage that you can’t really interact with them.  With the sling, you can enjoy their company, and pet them as you go about, which they love.  They are very sweet:

Happy rats being carried in their cosy.

Happy rats being carried in their cosy.

Tilly sees them up on our shoulders, but she doesn’t seem to feel jealous of them.

She is now curled up, trying to sleep a bit.  Tomorrow will be a better day!  And alongside these various worries and problems, I am very conscious that the most important thing in life is relationships.  We are so blessed with our happy family, and it’s the strength we give each other that gets us through challenging times.

I hope this finds you all doing very well, and enjoying the shift to autumn.

Posted by: christinelaennec | August 16, 2016

Great news!

I am absolutely delighted to tell all you lovely readers who have followed the Dafter’s journey over the past five years that…

Caspian in the Dafter's hood.  August 2016.

Caspian in the Dafter’s hood. August 2016.

… she passed both her Highers and even got an A in Higher Art!

Lilies in the back garden.  Glasgow, mid-August 2016.

Lilies in the back garden. Glasgow, mid-August 2016.

Our happiness has been very deep, let me tell you.  People say, “You must be so proud.”  Yes I am – but even if she had not passed the courses, I would have been just as proud because I know that she gave her all, every step of the way.  It’s a relief, though, that her hard work has been recognised.  And to think she had never been well enough to sit a full exam until May!  I am deeply grateful to her school for giving her such excellent support.

Tilly monitors the end of the garden.  August, 2016.

Tilly monitors the end of the garden. August, 2016.  Sometimes there are strange cats beyond the back fence….

We’ve had a cool and quite wet summer with temperatures mostly in the 50s and 60s F / single digits C.  But the garden seems very happy, and there are bees and also a few butterflies.

Three bees on the sedum.  August, 2016.

Three bees on the sedum. August, 2016.

Today we’ve had a warm summer’s day, in the 70s F / 20s C.  That is very nice.  Of course, the schools have all just gone back!  The Dafter was saying how every year the P1s, who are just starting school at age 4 or 5, seem even wee-er than the year before.  (Is wee-er a word, or did we just make that up? A question for my Scottish readers.)

We managed to have another holiday on the Isle of Harris, which I will share with you once I get my many photos sorted.  We had old friends staying with us at the cottage, and it was great to catch up.  There was lots of happy laughter from the girls’ room!  We had mostly pretty good weather, and the Dafter was able to walk a bit each day, which was excellent because she has struggled over the summer.

Back from the islands:  sweet peas waiting to be picked, shells from Harris, a new mug with the Gaelic tree alphabet.  August 2016.

Back from the islands: sweet peas waiting to be picked, shells from Harris, a new mug with the Gaelic tree alphabet. August 2016.

The only thing that has been less than wonderful for me is that on my marvellous outing to Arran I was in fact very badly bitten by midges on my scalp and neck where they got caught in my hair and munched themselves to death.  I didn’t realise I’d been bitten at all for three full days!  The midges on Arran must have special Slow Release venom.  Over the past few weeks I have suffered severe pain (neuralgia of the trigeminal nerve), and also numbness.  I wasn’t the best company on holiday insofar as several times a day, as the painkillers wore off, I could hardly move my head and practically had tears streaming down my face.  However, it is finally clearing up, to my intense relief.

This coming year the Dafter is going to be doing Higher Gaelic.  I hope that she will manage it – we’ll have to see.  She’s looking forwards to getting back to Gaelic, which she did in primary school.

The nights are beginning to draw in, meaning that some nights we need to put the lights on as early as 9 pm.  I always find that it’s in mid-August that the turn of the year begins to pick up momentum.  It’s a time of transition in many ways.  I’m looking forwards to helping the Dafter with her new course and routine, to choirs all resuming, and of course to more knitting!  I have lots to show you on that front.

I hope this all finds you well, and thank you so very much for your incredible encouragement and support over the past five years of the Dafter’s ME/CFS.  Onwards!

 

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