Saturday, December 27, 2008

MIA and Instant Menopause

I put up a pic. That's the one of Pancake, our tiny, itty bitty sugar glider. And the reason I haven't been around in like... oh, forever is we lost her. All of a sudden one night, she was seriously and, it turns out, gravely ill. We did everything we could through the night (including a jaunt through about half the state to find an eye dropper on a Sunday night at midnight) and then finally got her to a vet in Connecticut who dealt with sugar gliders. They did the best they could, but she was simply too tiny. She should have been about four or five months old by this point and she only weighed 22 grams. To people like me who haven't a clue how to convert to metrics, take 22 paper clips and hold them in your palm. That's how tiny she was. Luckily, Shelby thought to bring Waffle along for the ride as Waffle was easily twice the size of Pancake and the vet determined that Pancake had some kind of congenital problem. If she'd been left at the breeding warehouse or, God forbid, in the wild, she wouldn't have survived long enough to be adopted. Her mom would have thrown her out of the family.

In essence, the vet assured us that we did better than good. We gave Pancake more time than she would have received anywhere else.

Didn't help, though. We still mourn her. She was definitely sweet in temperament and a charming little girl. Waffle? I still think Waffle barks for Pancake at night. Maybe by now, it's become a habit, but she was definitely confused for a few days.

Other bad news? How about a $7000 loan to fix my teeth? I did find a dentist who works with my fear of the dentist. He's doing a terrific job. And he's assured me that I'll be set, with a bit of care, for the next 20 years. And, yes, insurance is involved and that's all above and beyond the $7K that I have to pay out of pocket. But the work is in progress and Xanax is a beautiful thing... LOL!

Last bad announcement (as though this year hasn't been chock full of them as it is) is... er, remember my daughter's accident way back in April? She was cleared by the police of ANY liability in that accident since the other idiot driver tried to turn left in front of Shelby with only about 50 ft. of road between them. Anyway, a passenger from the other driver's car has a lawyer. They've sent a demand notice to my insurance company for $300,000. That just so happens to be the maximum limit of my policy coverage. I guess it would be way too much effort to actually work and get money from the person who's to blame for the accident. So they want to sue us instead.

No, I haven't told my husband about this one. I'm still waiting to hear back from a lawyer friend of mine on how to proceed. I'm just reporting the facts here. The reason I'm not telling my husband is because he landed in the hospital for three days. We won't go into that one except to say that he's got some respiratory problems that he's dealing with and he doesn't need the additional stress this knowledge would cause. We're not being sued personally... at least yet. Until then, I'm hoping we can simply make this go away somehow. I've informed my insurance company that I refuse to settle. I know this girl was seriously injured, but my daughter was not to blame for the accident, so she'll have to pay her medical bills by suing the party who was responsible.

So, to recap this year:
--My daugher was involved in a serious car accident where two kids in the other car were critically injured.
--I had a hyterectomy. Not elective surgery, but necessary nonetheless. Instant menopause. Oh boy... that's been fun.
--My poor beagle/bassett mix, Copper, died due to congestive heart failure.
--We adopted two sugar gliders, Pancake and Waffle, and then lost Pancake to some kind of congenital defect that no one could have foreseen.
--Mark spent three days in the hospital for what the doctors were sure had to be something heart related only to find out it was a pulmonary problem. We're still waiting for final determination and full treatment.
--We're being sued for the accident.

I stopped at the cemetary two weeks ago. It was time to take the winter pillow and clean up the site. Can't let my father, grandparents or great-grandparents start looking untidy or neglected. But I also had a chat with Dad while I was there. I realize that it's been a year and a half and I definitely felt his presence up until about a year ago. I also know that it had clearly been 40+ years since he'd had time with his dear Mom and his Dad. So he had this past year to catch up on news with them. I'm also sure it was a surprise for him to find his little sister, Patsy, up in heaven. So I'm sure they had some catching up to do. But I reminded him that it was time to come back and be the guardian angel for our family. We need his strength and his ever watchful eye for all those bad things that have been happening.

I apologize to the rest of America because I certainly didn't ask him to clear up the economy. I try to be civic-minded and remember my neighbors and do good work for my community, but there's no way I'm going to ask Dad to stretch his guardian wings over people he never even knew. Just us. Just his immediate family, thank you.

Besides, I'm so proud of Mom. In ten months, she's lost 50 lbs. If Dad didn't come back soon, he won't recognize her when she gets to heaven. He's got to stick close to help her achieve her goal and to keep checking in to see how she's changing in appearance.

The good recap for 2008? After all, you never get bad without good. Shelby and Dee are doing wonderfully. Shelby took Organic Chemistry, the bane of just about every science major out there, and managed to pull off a B+. Absolutely amazing! Dee is doing wonderful in her classes and she's received acceptance letters as well as scholarship offers from every single school she applied to with the exception of Quinnipiac, her top school. Not that they haven't accepted her or offered some kind of scholarship. She just hasn't heard from them yet. She checks the mail every day and our collective fingers are crossed. She wants to major in psychology and I hope she gets everything she wants. Shelby is a tough act to follow, but I've always believed in my heart that Dee, in her own way, is just as brilliant and can achieve just as many amazing things with her life. The toughest person to convince of that is her. It's almost impossible when she feels like she lives in Shelby's shadow. I've never believed she did. She's her own person and she'll make her own way. Now, for the first time, I think she's honestly believing it herself and I'm proud of her.

Second good thing is I adopted a new spinning wheel. It kind of came to me under an omen that I was supposed to purchase her. A few years back, I had a credit card to Bonton. Then Macy's bought out Bonton and I was sent a new credit card with their name. Well, to be honest, I just cut it up and forgot about it. Then, this year, I received a letter in the mail to cut up the Macy's card and was given a CitiBank card to use instead.

Well, at the time, I was already looking into getting a castle-style wheel with higher ratios and a blessed double treadle. The last yarn I plied on my little Prelude? I thought my leg was going to fall off because I simply couldn't treadle fast enough to get the job done quickly. That's when I started looking.

And, bingo!, a new credit card shows up. I'd already had a bit over $100 saved towards the purchase of a new wheel. So I sat on it. And I thought about it. I talked it over with Mom who told me to go for it. And I thought some more. Then I broke down and ordered it. I'm still saving money and anything I save goes toward that bill, but now I have a double treadle Minstrel with faster ratios and can be set up with Scotch tension.

I was torn between the Minstrel and the Sonata, which is the travelling wheel. But the Minstrel has more ratios available and I can set it for either double drive or Scotch tension. Having learned on the Prelude, I like the versatility of the Scotch tension. It operates separately from the drive band. I like that. Call me crazy, but it works.

And I've been spinning up a storm. On the little Prelude, it would take me a week to spin up 4 oz of fiber. If I spin more tomorrow, I'll have 4+ oz spun into singles and I literally began this new fiber just yesterday. Even better is the smaller flywheel allows me to ply my singles in a couple hours instead of taking the whole day.

I'm SO beyond enjoying my new Minstrel. And now that I have an "extra" wheel. (Geez.... I couldn't even imagine spinning, let alone owning two wheels. Can you believe it? LOL) I'm teaching Mom to spin. Since it's all her fault that I started with the Prelude (and if you look back, she technically owns it since she bought it for me for Christmas two year ago), I figure it's only fair that I share my love of spinning with her.

So that kind of leads me to a whole new and, hopefully, a much more fun topic...

WISHES and HOPES for 2009:
I hate calling them resolutions because they're more like ideas of things that I hope to accomplish. Things I'd like to do if life would get out of the way. Things I pray and wish I have the time to do. This past year I wanted to make my two Nordic designs and another colorway sweater besides. I didn't get them done. I wanted to work on two lace shawls as future wedding shawls for my daughters. I have yet to complete my Pi Are Squared EZ shawl.... er, oops. So, that said, I have my wishlist on KnitPicks for the first of the colorwork sweaters. All I need to do is click the "buy" and "complete order" button. Whether it's tonight or tomorrow, I'm doing to order that yarn and make my sweater. That will be the first of, hopefully, many.

When I ordered my wheel, Copper Moose had a good deal on 3 lbs of BFL in natural creamy off-white. It's beautiful fiber and will spin like butter. I'm hoping to turn that into skein after skein of gorgeous creamy 2-ply yarn. From that, I have a book on Fair Isle and Aran Designs. I want to put together my own Aran design and knit that sweater.

Oh, I did knit my Barbara Walker top-down raglan. I had enough of an autumn variegated colorway from that bin that I picked up last spring. It's not perfect, but it's really nice. And it surely came in handy during the snowstorm. Mother Winter dropped about 10-12" of snow on us last week and I slid that sweater over my head and stayed nice and warm while shoveling and snowblowing (Mark swears I broke the snowblower, but I'm kinda skeptical on that one). It was wonderful. I was toasty and warm and spent about two hours outside in driving winds and playing with the dog before I was done.

I'd like to knit some more top down sweaters. I just love the whole concept of knitting a sweater in just about one piece. Gee... can I consider it one piece if I spit-spliced all the ends? LOL! I just love her concept of why knit all these various pieces and then basically sew them together? If you want to sew it, then carve it out of material and sew all you want. If you're knitting, though, why not keep it all in one piece? After all, the beauty of knitting is the way the end fabric drapes and moves with the body. So why cut it into pieces and add seams that will inhibit the whole drape effect?

Okay, two last things and then I'll end yet another tome. The first is another plan. Mom bought me a binder. I can get those sleeves for pages and make almost a scrapbook of what I'm doing. Especially when it comes to using handspun fiber, I can take pictures of the fiber and keep a tiny piece. I can take a foot of the final yarn that I'm using. I can take a copy of the pattern and another picture of the final product and incorporate all of that into a sleeve. Date the top of the pattern with when I began the work and when I completed the project. A complete notebook/scrapbook of what I do in 2009. I like that idea.

I've kept a notebook with notes and adjustments. Listing the yarn, but not including actual pieces. And, let's face it, it's nice to know that I knit the Pembrokeshire Pathways socks in Koigu whatever # they call it, but isn't it a better reference to keep the actual ballband and a piece of yarn to go with the pictures? Yes, I think this is a great idea.

Now, I have a question. I think there are about 6 people who read my blog. I never get comments, so it's hard to tell if I even have 6. But I have a question for the ladies out there who might be able to offer solace/advice/encouragement for someone who's now charting that broad unknown territory called menopause. I'm 48. Younger than some, but not so far out of range that it's not unusual. What's unusual is that I was put under anesthetic with female parts and hormones and I woke up 3.5 hours later without either.

That was the easy part. The doctor prescribed an estrogen patch to get me over the rough times I was certainly going to face. Not the hormone cocktail, but straight estrogen that doesn't have the cancer scares of the cocktail. Well, I had the flu just after Thanksgiving and forgot to change my patch. By the time I remembered, it was 10 days later. Now, to be honest, I hadn't been feeling the best for a couple months. And I wondered if maybe my body really didn't want to go this route. So I stopped the patch about a month ago.

I can't say I get hot flashes because I don't get the red face and sweat dripping down my skull and the back of my neck. I don't wake up in a pool with night sweats. I do get periods when I'm warm, but totally manageable.

So what's the question? The one thing I do seem to get are almost anxiety attacks. I'll be going along in my day and all of a sudden my heart starts racing and I feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin. I've had allergy attacks in the past where the heart is racing, the blood pressure is up through the roof, tightness in the chest. But these are different. I'm not having trouble breathing, but my chest feels tight nonetheless. Another taut rubber band between my shoulder blades. If I don't catch it early, I'll literally pace the floor. And I feel like I either want to throw up or cry until my heart breaks out through my chest (you know the scenes from the Alien movies, right? LOL).

Luckily, to help with my anxiety with the dentist, he gave me a prescription for Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug. He prescribed 1 mg as needed, but I break them in half to "take the edge off". And, additionally lucky, I have 40 pills which means I have 80 doses. Now, I'm not about to abuse these suckers. When I feel the panic start to come, I take half a pill and I'm fine.

Is there anyone else who's had this happen? In the past month, before I started using my "dentist" pills to help offset this, the episodes were bad enough that I landed in the ER three times. (Oh, wow, while typing, I'm now having one of those short, tropical warm waves. Never enough to actually sweat, but enough to notice that a wave of warmth is washing down over me. Yeah, I know, shut up and consider yourself lucky, stupid! /g/) Anyway, the point is that I'm using the Xanax to offset those episodes when they start. As soon as I start to feel a little restless and "antsy", for lack of better words, I get my bottle and take half a pill.

So, my usual short story made long, this isn't something I've read about when I look up menopause. Am I weird? Am I the only one who's got this offshoot reaction to a total lack of hormones?

This is one time where I could use either some comments or some emails.

Now, last note, I feel bad that I can't list a whole ton of great things about why I've loved this year. So far, it's been a real pisser. But I do pray and hope that next years' recap will be the opposite. The conservative part of me says to wait and see. The ever hopeful part of me can't wait to find out.

So, for 2008, I hope we've finally reached the bottom of this damn barrel. The last couple of years haven't been easy. But I'm still here. I'm still hopeful. I still have dreams that things turn around and get easier. Financially, it's not easy, but we're lucky in that both Mark and I still have jobs. His employer downsized 20% of their workforce and Mark wasn't part of it. I feel sorry for those who found themselves without a job (Merry Friggin' Christmas, folks /sigh/) and my employer has instituted a hiring freeze until they can determine what will happen with tuitions, enrollment and the effect of the stock market on their endowments. Because of the accident, I now have a truck payment I wasn't prepared for. Insurance has increased because of the added insurance on a new car as well as Dee now being on our policy and, let's face it, accidents, regardless of fault, always increase your policies. So that's a huge chunk of change we now have that we didn't have a year ago. The payments on my dental work hurt, but you do what you've got to do. If I don't do the work, I could end up paying double because several teeth are in the processing of cracking. And, of course, the economy in general is in the tank.

But we can pay our bills. There isn't much left over and Christmas was slim. But we have our health and our family is strong. I love my husband and my girls and everyone else in my family. Our bonds are stronger than ever. I continue to knit and spin for sanity (and use Xanax very judiciously when stress overwhelms).

My hopes for next year? More sweaters. Finish my shawl and start another. Have lots to show at the Durham Fair in September. And I'm definitely going to attend the CT Sheep & Wool show in April. Golding is planning on being there and I'd love to sit at one of his wheels if one is available and I'd like to purchase one of his drop spindles. I certainly can't afford a Golding wheel, but wouldn't it be sweet to own a spindle? Just to be able to say I own a Golding. Maybe design a crazy pair of leg warmers.

I love to wear exercise pants. But I have that space between the top of my socks and the end of my stretch pants. Leg warmers fill that gap. I made a big chunky pair yesterday and my feet are toasty warm. Yup, I've missed that old 80's fashion and I'm going to do my best to reintroduce it to the younger girls at the college. Boots aren't an option on a lot of days because I kick off my shoes when I spin, so I wear clogs almost exclusively. Hence, cold feet while spinning. But today I wore leg warmers and never once did my feet get cold.

2009 is definitely a great year to reintroduce leg warmers... /wry g/

I hope your Christmas was everything you wanted it to be. Mine was wonderful. A warm house, good food and great company is always welcome. Let's hope 2009 will be equally wonderful for each and every one of us!