Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die, Stick a Needle in my Eye...

Mom's Birthday Cake

Earlier tonight (or technically yesterday), we celebrated Mom's birthday. I made the cake once again. I think I should have left off a design element or two, but it's more fun than your average birthday cake. Still, it's no Monster Cake. It's a lemon cake and lemon frosting, so I added lemons, things that are yellow and things that complement yellow. The lemon slices got kind of soggy over time. Next time I'll skip the fruit.

Mom's birthday is actually Apr. 21, but we moved it tonight. Partly because Dad works late on Thursdays, and partly because tomorrow I get a needle in my eye.

OK, so the needle isn't actually going *in* my eye. It's going right above my eye, into my Supraorbital Nerve. I don't know any rhymes about Supraorbital Nerves, so I've been making this joke for at least a week now.

I'm convinced this has to be it. I can't believe I've had this headache for more than a year now. This solution makes a lot of sense.  This has to be the solution.

I'm still having upper back, neck and shoulder pain, but I've had some fairly mild pain days recently. Mild enough that I cut back a little more on one of my painkillers. If the headache is solved, I'm hoping I'll have enough momentum to push through and get my life back on track.

The Crafty Cripple is probably in the hospital for her surgery right now. Unlike her, I don't have a bunch of projects planned for recovery. I'll be home in the early afternoon, back to "normal" by Friday and I haven't been able to get to the storage unit for the yarn I need to continue my project. Hopefully we'll both be fixed soon.

Now it's time for my last snack before I have to fast.

Friday, April 15, 2011

FO: A Flower for Katie's Hair

A Flower for Katie's Hair

You may remember that I added a Little Flower with Leaves to my Tree Sweater. Katie saw it, and said "I want one."

"For what?"

"I don't know. To wear in my ponytail?"

Flower Hair Band

So I planned on making her a flower and sewing it to hair band for her birthday. Of course, I waited until the very last minute, and she showed up before I could finish crocheting. I only needed about ten more minutes to finish on time, but the cake took longer than I expected. I finished it up a few days later, but it took while to have a "photo shoot." I only wanted a picture with it in her hair, but she kept asking me to wait until she washed her hair.*

Flower Hair Band

I used very small amounts of Lily Sugar'n Cream in Hot Blue, Hot Green and Hot Orange and a US Size H/5.00 mm hook. I thought the cotton yarn looked better than acrylic for something she would wear. More handmade than homemade. I sewed it to a hair band, which looks homemade from the back.

We're debating whether this flower is upside down in the first picture. I say the leaves should be on the bottom. Katie says it doesn't matter. Most of the other flowers have the leaves closer to the middle, but the petals would have covered them up if I had placed them there.

This didn't take very long, but next time I'll start earlier.

 * - I'll be nice and point out that she does wash her hair more often. I just kept seeing her on the days she hadn't washed it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Trees are Naked! (and a Baby Surprise Jacket update)

Me working on the seam

All good things much come to an end, and on Friday, March 25, A Knitted Wonderland* ended. That evening Mom and I took down our tree sweater and Dad came to help us carry everything and take pictures.

We're almost done

We had just gotten started when my friend Stephanie saw us while she was walking through the plaza. She works downtown and walks past the Blanton Museum almost everyday. She walks a lot. Recently she walked a marathon. I don't know where she gets the energy.

Me and Stephanie working on the last part of the seam

Anyway, Stephanie stopped to talk, help us take the seam out and take a picture or two. I had started at the bottom of the seam, Mom started at the top and Stephanie jumped in in the middle. It went pretty quickly.

Dad's picture of an Albino Squirrel

While we were working, we saw one of UT's famous Albino Squirrels. Several people, including Dad, took pictures of it. In fact, Dad took more pictures of the squirrel than he did of the Capitol.

The seam is undone

We were one of the last groups to take our tree sweater down. We had a couple of people stop to ask questions and take pictures of our tree. I know at least one group came specifically to see our trees, but they didn't know that that we would already be taking down the tree sweaters. I saw one guy stop and take a picture of Flat Stanley with our tree, which was awesome. I wish I asked him to send me a copy of the picture.

Giving away the tree sweater

I had a hard time deciding what to do with our sweater. The group in charge collected sweaters from anyone who didn't want to keep them. Half were going back to Magda Sayeg to be unraveled and used for future projects and half were going Emancipet to be unraveled and used to knit dog sweaters. I had considered holding on to ours and using it for a wall hanging. Katie had expressed some interest in keeping it, and she wasn't there to weigh in. It would have been an easy decision if they weren't going to be unraveled.

Finally, with some gentle nudging from Mom and Stephanie, I put it in the Emancipet box. They use old towels and blankets for the animals to snuggle with. I hope if they have too much yarn they'll keep mine intact and give it to a pet. Or maybe I'll see a dog around town wearing my former tree sweater. Maybe they'll keep the flower intact and use it to embellish the sweater.

At any rate, that's one less piece of clutter in my life, and Katie didn't mind that we donated it. And there will always be lots of other chances to make wall hangings. Wall hangings that fit my wall better and don't curl.

All my pictures from "A Knitted Wonderland" are here.

Baby Surprise Jacket Update

My Baby Surprise Jacket grew pretty quickly. Since the last update, I knit the center stitches only for rows 80-99. In rows 100 and 101, I picked up the rest of the stitches, including stitches along the gap you can see in the picture above. The problem with picking up stitches along the gap is that a ridge is created. Because you pick up one side on an odd row and one side on an even row, the ridge is on the outside on one side and the inside on the other side. (Say that last sentence 10 times fast.)

I cast off on row 114. I'm not sure exactly when I did the button holes and how I spaced them out. I lost track of that somewhere along the way.

This is the finished knitting piece before the shoulder seams. I asked Dad to try to fold it in to a sweater to see if he could figure out how. (Elizabeth Zimmerman actually suggests this in her book.)  He did pretty well. He got half the sweater right, but couldn't quite get the other sleeve to do the same thing.

Baby Surprise Jacket Shoulder Seam
 It took me a while to figure out the best way to do the shoulder seams. I used this tutorial on Pamudom's blog. I think the Yarn Harlot uses the same technique, but I had trouble with her tutorial because it has pictures only. I guess I'm a verbal learner. The one ridge (two rows) to one stitch ratio worked well.

Button Placement
A couple of nights ago I worked on placing the buttons by placing bobby pins where the buttons would be. This gave me a chance to make adjustments. I plan to finish sewing on the buttons tonight.

All my Baby Surprise Jacket pictures are here.

* - Mom, Katie and I volunteered to knit a tree sweater for "A Knitted Wonderland." If you're tuning in late and want to find out more about it, I recommend reading all my tree sweater blog entries.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bring the Pain

I haven't blogged much about the pain I'm experiencing since New Year's Day. Since it's affecting pretty much every aspect of my life, I think it's time for an update.

After my night in the ER, I followed up with the pain clinic I've been going to since September or October. My neurologist referred me to a pain doctor there for my constant headache, because he had exhausted all his options.

The pain doctors have not been very helpful from an emotional standpoint. Every time I asked about my prognosis or how long it would take for me to heal, they'd just shake their heads and say "I don't know." Part of me was mentally preparing for a life of chronic pain and disability, but I didn't think it was time to give up on finding a solution.

A few days into the new year, I saw an orthopedist specializing in the spine. He gave me me some very good news. My overall prognosis was good. I was just taking a long time to heal. And there was no reason to believe that I had cervical arthritis, as a nurse practitioner at the pain clinic had suggested. He prescribed physical therapy. This was good to hear after about six weeks of people shrugging their shoulders. I cried because I was relieved.

I've actually enjoyed physical therapy. I like my physical therapist. I like doing something proactive. I like having lots of time to ask questions. And for a while I was making steady progress.

The doctor in the ER told me he thought the headache would clear up as the back pain healed. That hasn't happened. A few weeks after I started physical therapy I followed up with the orthopedist. He said to continue with physical therapy, but he didn't know what else to do about the headache. He said I needed to see a neurologist. Like the one who said there was nothing else he could do. I cried because I had no hope.

My physical therapist has done some work on the headache. He calls it "joint mobilization,"* but I call it "pressing on things that hurt." We were doing this a week or two after my depressing visit to the orthopedist, when I pointed to an especially tender spot in my left eyebrow. My physical therapist said there was a nerve there. I said I knew about that nerve. It was my occipital nerve, the one they'd already done nerve blocks on. Right?

No. He said it was my Supraorbital Nerve. It's associated with Swimmer's Headache. This makes sense on so many levels. Especially since I stopped wearing glasses because they hurt my face.

I was really excited about this discovery. After talking to my neurologist, who talked to my pain doctor, I scheduled a nerve block on my Supraorbital Nerve on April 21.

Of course, now that I'm hopeful about the headache, I feel like the progress I've made with my back, neck and shoulder has plateaued in the last few weeks. I think I may have pushed myself too much with some of the physical therapy exercises, because my right shoulder was getting tighter.

On Friday, I tried to remedy this by having Trigger Point Injections on my right shoulder, shoulder blade and latisimus dorsi. I also had a spot on the left side of my neck that I pulled when I turned my head the day before. (You read that right. All I did was turn my head.)

In the past, these injections have been a miracle, although a temporary one. Right now I'm trying to decide how well they've worked. I'm still sore from the injections themselves. The spot that hurt on the left side of my neck is much better. My shoulder did loosen up for a while, and it's still pretty good.

And that's pretty much where I am. I do the best I can to push myself to do things even if they hurt a little without re-injuring myself or making the pain worse. My entire life is in a traffic jam behind my pain. I'm trying to figure out when I can go back to work. Working at a computer for any real length of time exacerbates the pain. I can't imagine using a regular desktop. Right now I'm sitting on my bed with my back against the wall while I use a laptop on some stacked up pillows. I doubt I'd be able to sit like this at a real job.

Also, I'm on a lot of pain medications. Most of the day, I'm pretty foggy. The sad thing is, despite all the medication, I'm still in a significant amount of pain. Mornings are especially hard, even after adjusting my sleeping position.

I'm also using this:


This is a TENS Unit. I got it a couple of months ago. It hasn't been a miracle cure, but it's helped me cope with the pain without additional medication. It has improved my quality of life, and I would call that a big success.

And my insurance doesn't cover it. Ever. Under any circumstances. My insurance company doesn't have a code for it, therefore it doesn't exist. My two month trial period is over now. Mom and I are debating whether we're going to send it back or spend $400 to buy it at full price.

I also have a prescription for Flector Patches. They are less effective than the TENS Unit. But insurance covers them at $2 a patch. ($60 for a box of 30.)

As I wait for April 21, I've been enjoying reading The Crafty Cripple. I surfed in while looking for Baby Surprise Jacket information, and I noticed that she mentioned using a TENS Unit in one of her entries. She has been dealing with pain longer than I have, and she uses knitting and other crafts as a way to cope. It's given me some hope and reminded me not to spend too much time thinking about my pain.

She has surgery scheduled for April 20 that will hopefully help with her issues. That's the day before my nerve block. I'll be thinking of her.

* - There aren't any joints in my forehead, but the cranial sutures count.