Sometimes what first seems like failure is not failure at all.  Last night I tried to make yarn from two small bobbins of spun singles, Shetland wool, and it was a disaster.  The singles were so badly spun – uneven thickness, terribly under spun – and it just fell apart in my hands before I could twist the two together.  I managed to get about 10 grams plied, and then I gave up and just unwound the rest into a ball of grey wool.

But I will never throw it or give it away.  This failure represents something valuable to me, in memory and symbol.

I spun the singles about 10 days ago (can it be that long ago already?) while staying in a little house with DB and my mom, in Chico, California. We had originally planned to arrive later, nearer Christmas, to spend it with Mandy and John.  But we got a call from John telling us that Mandy’s fight with cancer was about over and we’d better come sooner.  So we changed our flights, but she left us the next day.  We arrived in Chico in time to say good-bye to her in spirit, with family and friends and all the love we could muster for each other.

While waiting for the day of the memorial service I tried to stay busy.  And spinning is like meditation for me, so I spun this wool.  I was really struggling with it and the wheel.  Everything seemed jerky.  My hands weren’t able to smooth out the wool very well.  I thought it was bad wool.  I thought it was the fault of a new wheel that needed to be broken in.  But I continued on and finished this little bit of 20g of grey Shetland and I set it aside.

It was spun with grief and sadness.  It was spun with no chance of being useful for anything other than a meditation on that grief.  It was never going to be used for anything other than what it was – a way to focus my mind on the turning of time and the world around me and to try to stay centered in the hub of that turning.

And grey was the perfect color! I felt grey. The world felt grey and still does.  Fog and rock, rain clouds and big bad wolf fur.

Yesterday, 8 days after Mandy’s memorial service, I started spinning in color again.  Red Shetland.  Red as roses, red as big bad wolf blood.  Red as the blood in my veins as long as that blood flows.  Color will return to my world slowly, I’m sure of that, because anything else would be contrary to Mandy’s voice in my head, nagging me to “Carpe That Fucking Diem Auntie”.

For Mandy I will spin colors of vermillion, and chartreuse, periwinkle and blaze orange.  For her I will do my best to seize each day and live it like she lived her life – full of more color than most of us can imagine.

She was the color in my life, manifest in a person who shone so bright, like all the colors of light combined into one beam.

The grey wool will stay with me always.  It is grief and pain that I can hold in my hands.  I can touch it and see it and put a shape to it.  And I can slowly, so slowly, put it in its place in my heart and in my house.  And begin to find color again – Mandy colors – unexpected and true and unique and fine.


I had a very nice Saturday, day 10 after The Fall.  In the morning I made the above Flourless Chocolate and Pear Cake.  I followed the recipe exactly and it came out perfect.  You can’t really tell from the photo, but there are big chunks of pear in there.  And no flour!  I highly recommend this recipe.  The only thing I did differently was to add the chocolate fondant on top.  Had to.

After making the cake, DB and I went to Amsterdam.  I had to see how tired the trip would make me and how confident I would be to do it on my own this coming week in order to get back to work.  AND it was the grand opening of Penelope Craft‘s new location at Kerkstraat 117, Amsterdam.  There would be cupcakes! And yarn! And knitters!  I had to make the effort to go.

We went by bus, then train, then tram, then a two block walk to the shop.  I didn’t even think about taking photos at the shop, which goes to show how tired and spaced out I was.  I sat and knit with friends and pet some yarn and picked up a couple of skeins of super giant fat yarn to make demo materials for the class I’m going to be teaching there.  It was lovely to be out and with my peeps.

When we got home I kind of collapsed on the couch, fell asleep for a while and was woken up to the delicious smells of DB’s spaghetti.  We then spent the evening watching episodes of Justified, season 4.

All in all, a great day.

All the Colors of the Rainbow

That’s what my physical therapist said to me yesterday afternoon – “you have all the colors of the rainbow”.  He was talking about my backside.  Purple, blue, almost black, yellow and a kind of sickly green, covering my left butt, heading up my back and down my left leg.  I’m so tempted to post a photo here, but honestly, putting a photo of my ass on the internet is going just too far.

Exactly one week ago, Thursday morning before going out to work, I fell from the top step to the bottom landing near the front door.  Remember these lovely newly painted stairs?  Those.  The ones that look long and steep.  As Sheldon Cooper said, “Ah gravity, thou art a heartless bitch”.

To add insult to injury (literally), I ended up getting TWO trips to the hospital in an ambulance and spending the night there for observation.  The first trip was after the fall (I managed to crawl to where my mobile phone was and call for help), strapped onto a gurney as if my back was broken and I really thought my hip or back WAS broken.  Turns out nothing was broken and DB and I came home in a taxi.  The second trip was later that night after I tried to stand up and passed out several times.  DB called the night doctor, who came and found I had very low blood pressure and a bruise and swelling bigger than she’d ever seen before (and she was no spring chicken either).  The ambulance guys tried to get me to walk to the ambulance but eventually had to throw me onto the gurney like a sack of potatoes (so says DB, I was OUT) because I just couldn’t stay conscious while upright.  Sheesh.

I was better the next morning and came home and have been busy healing since.  Yesterday was my first venture outside since falling so the Fysio didn’t even get to see the swelling at its worse.  It’s getting better.  Every day I can move a little more.  The coloring is busy moving down my leg and up my back.  A friend said it reminded her of when her grandmother fell out of a moving car.  Yes, I sent her a photo of my ass.  I do have some good friends, and very close family, that have been privy to my privates.  At least the black and blue parts.

You’d think in this condition I could console myself with knitting.  Wrong.  Until Monday I couldn’t find a position comfortable enough that allowed knitting.  I was mostly laying on my right side.  The last couple of days I’ve been able to sit long enough to do something entertaining.  I finished re-knitting the neckline of a sweater that I’m designing.  I’ve started “teaching socks” for a class I’m going to be teaching.  I’ve knit a few rows of a beautiful brioche shawl.  Luckily I had already finished, and given, the baby blanket I was working on.  I’ll get photos posted here in the next day or two of that project.

For now, I’m trying to keep moving, keep taking pain pills, keep getting over this stupid accident.  Last night I woke with a start from dreaming the fall again.  I hate that.  I hope it stops soon.  Also for now I’m going up and down the stairs in bare feet – no more slippery slippers on my feet.  And this weekend we are planning to get some anti-slip stuff to put on the stairs.  More photos to come!


A Quiet Weekend Ahead

There are no photos in this blog post since they would just gross you out.

Yesterday, March 1st, a day that should be a happy turning towards Spring and new growth, was a day I spent in a dentist chair having old growth removed.  Who knew that you could have a badly infected tooth and not feel a thing?  Who knew that you could have jaw bone loss and not be any the wiser?

I went to the dentist 3 weeks ago for a routine checkup  and he found that one tooth that had an old root canal had become infected and needed to be pulled out.  He could tell this from an x-ray.  I felt nothing wrong at all.  He referred me to an “implantaloog”, Dutch for a dentist who specializes in implants.

(Digression:  I find it so amusing that the Dutch take foreign words and Dutch-ify them.  “Implantaloog” is just hilarious to me.  A Dutch friend informs me that “implant” is a perfectly good Dutch word, but I don’t believe him.  I can’t find it in a Dutch dictionary.  I do find “implantaat”, which is the Dutch translation from the English “implant”.  So, I guess “implantaloog” comes from the Dutch “implantaat”.  Sometimes English and Dutch are so close that it’s hard to know which came first, the chicken or the egg. /end Digression)

Yesterday I went to this Implantaloog, whose name happens to be Quaak (seriously), and he pulled my tooth.  I really have to give you the gory details.  Turn away now if you are squeamish.  Despite the fact that this root was badly infected and was full of puss and smelled bad, the damn tooth was really hard to get out.  He cut it into 4 pieces and tried to get them out carefully so as not to damage the bone further.  I swear he stood on my jaw with a crowbar in his hands prying these pieces out.  Eventually he managed it and only once did a piece of something land back on my tongue requiring a diving expedition to grab it before I swallowed it.

Then he cleaned it out and decided to immediately do a bone graft.  I didn’t even think to ask where this bone came from.  I’ve read online that the bone is either from the patient themselves (I didn’t donate anything), or from a cadaver, or from an animal, or artificial.  Next week when I go back to get my stitches out I will definitely ask him what it was.  Not that it matters, I’m just curious.

So, yes, tooth out, hole cleaned, bone substrate inserted, stitched up closed, a wad of gauze placed on it and hold it tight til the bleeding stops.  Then to get home I took a tram, the metro, the train and finally a bus.  Yesterday afternoon I felt exhausted and beat up.

Luckily I have nothing planned for this weekend.  It’s cold and grey outside, which perfectly matches how I feel.  DB is taking care of shopping and cleaning and I only have to sit around healing and, yes you guessed it, knitting.  My jaw is throbbing but this doesn’t keep me from using my hands and my mind.

I’m going to work on a design proposal for Vogue Knitting.  All I can say is that it involves some lovely shetland yarns, 3-ply.  Maybe in another 9 months I’ll have something to show for it!

Back to the Gym

Today I went back to the gym after quite a long time away.  I signed up for a free week trial but I’m sure I will sign up for a year contract after that.  I’ve joined Health Center Spaarneboog in Haarlem.  I was a member of this gym 4 years ago but quit when I hurt my knee and was out of commission for many months.

So, why have I decided to do this?  Mainly because I really like running but I keep getting injured.  I pull things and strain things and don’t recover quickly.  I’m currently seeing a physical therapist for a pulled and irritated hip tendon.  I also suffer from repetitive strain injury in my shoulder from working on a computer and knitting.  I figure that strengthening my body overall will help with all of the above.  And I also struggle to keep my weight under control – the gym must be good for that, right?

Today I got set up with a weight and aerobic routine that I can do in an hour.  Saturday I’ll go back for a fitness test and another hour workout.  We’ll see how this goes.

I walked into this place today with a little bit of trepidation.  The last time we were members we got fed up with the dirty locker room and annoying ear blastingly loud music.  The employees only seemed interested in themselves or other good looking 20-somethings and weren’t much interested in their other customers.

This time it seemed to be under new management.  The locker room has been renovated with new lockers and benches.  The music was much lower key and not nearly so loud.  The guy who helped me could not have been more friendly or helpful.  I left feeling like the one week trial will lead to a yearly contract.  I felt good and happy.  Maybe because of the financial crisis they decided they’d better pay attention to where their money comes from – US!

I’ll try not to bore you with my workout stories.  There’s not much that’s more boring than hearing about other people’s training.  I’ll only report if something really unusual happens – like me losing weight or something like that.



This is the aftermath of my first run in about two months.  Yes, it’s muddy out there.  I managed a measly 4km before a very sore hip muscle decided to flare up.  If it holds me back from running regularly I’ll have to go to the physical therapist again.  AGAIN.

Speaking of therapists, and medical expenses, I’m changing insurance companies on January 1.  I am still on my previous employer’s policy and now I’m joining DB’s employer’s policy.  It’s actually going to save me 30 euros a month!  Never mind that it’s going to cost him about 30 euros more per month.  Win some, lose some.  Or as our big friend Cruyff says, “elk nadeel heb z’n voordeel”.

Grey and Blue

This is a photo with some blue in the sky.  It was taken only minutes after this other photo….

…. where the sky and the water were nothing but grey.  Our days have been very grey lately.  But, this being the Netherlands, people still get out in the grey and get on with their lives, like those sailing in the above photo.  DB went out running this morning in the rain.  He couldn’t be bothered to wait until the rain stopped.  We knew it would stop because we are keen users of

I waited until the rain stopped, around 11:45, then I headed out to the nearby polder for a little run.  My intention was to run.  It turned into a walk.  I thought that the big muscle in my left butt cheek had healed (from being pulled back in June) but yesterday in yoga class I got a big cramp in that muscle and now it’s really painful again.  Sheesh.  It feels like my body is conspiring against me and running.  And I was doing so well earlier this year!

Anyway, it was nice to be outside and get some fresh air.  I timed it just right and missed the rain completely.

When I got home I took a photo of the last of the roses for this year.  My poor roses really struggle to bloom and not die from mould.  Maybe I don’t pay enough attention to them.  Maybe I need to put more chemicals on them to keep the mould at bay.  I’ll try to be a better gardener next year.  Until then, bye bye roses and flowers and leaves on the trees.  Winter is coming!

Panic Over (for now)

So, a little while ago I had a little panic, mid-life crisis, whatever you want to call it.  It’s not completely over, but at least I’ve made some changes that have made me feel better.

First, I played with fiber, which always improves my mood.  And I’m planning to play with some more through the end of the summer.  I have more yarn dyeing planned so stay tuned for photos of that.

Second, I went to the beach.  I always feel better after going to the beach or walking in the dunes.  Maybe it’s the sound of the waves or birds, or the smell of the air as it flows over the water, or through the trees.  Whatever it is, it works.

Third, I started going to yoga.  I really believe yoga will save me, in many ways.  It forces my body to stretch and become strong.  Who would have thought sitting still would be such hard work?  I like that I just have to show up and someone tells me what to do.  I struggle with self discipline when it comes to things that are physically hard to do.

Fourth, I ended my employment at my new job at the end of the probation period.  It was never going to make me happy.  The job wasn’t what they sold to me in the interview.  They were happy to call it a mutual ending of the contract and were super nice about it.  I think it was clear to everyone that it wasn’t a good fit.  I told the HR woman that I think they need to figure out what they really want before hiring someone again.  I won’t go into any more details.  All the people there were lovely, friendly, welcoming.  It just wasn’t right for me.  Now I’m back to looking for a teaching job.  I think I panicked when I took this job.  I panicked about being unemployed and I didn’t stick to my guns when it came to what I really wanted.  I’m not going to settle again.

Fifth, and finally, I’ve decided to write a book.  I don’t want to spill the beans yet, except to say that it will be about knitting.  It will be a very specific topic in knitting.  I’ve got a detailed outline done and I’m working on filling it out.  I hope to finish it in a year.  At least that’s what I’m thinking now.  I have never written a book before so I don’t know if that’s a reasonable estimate or not, but it’s what I’m going with for now.

And that’s my story.  That’s how I got from feeling down and disoriented, to feeling like I have some kind of direction and feel good about it.  Life is fluid.  I need to just go with it.  And not panic.

Scaredy Cat

Yesterday I thought that this might be the last photo of Bas.  This was taken Monday morning.

Monday evening Bas seemed kind of restless.  Tuesday morning he was really out of his rhythm and was pacing around with a vacant look in his eyes.  He wouldn’t eat.  Mid-morning he threw up undigested food, and a stick.  A STICK.  Stupid cat.

DB took him to the vet Tuesday afternoon.  The vet said he was just tired from his upset stomach but otherwise he looked ok.  He ate NOTHING all day Tuesday.  Didn’t drink any water.  No pooping.  No peeing.  He laid in his chair and slept.  All day.  We tried to entice him with real chicken.  He normally goes crazy for chicken.  He wouldn’t touch it!  Needless to say, we were very very worried.  Bas is old (18+).  He’s already not very well.

This morning at 5:00 DB got out of bed and went downstairs to see if Bas was still alive or what.  That’s was very nice of him.  He said he didn’t want me to worry about being the first person to go downstairs and find bad news.

But there’s no bad news to tell.  Bas is still with us.  He’s moving slowly, but at least he’s eating and peeing and a little bit of pooping.  He can’t jump very well.  He’s very weak.  But he’s still with us.

It’s touch and go with an old cat!  It’s funny – I was just reading a similar story on Erika’s blog.  Caring for an old pet is very much like caring for an old person.  They can’t talk with words, but they talk with their movements and attitude and routines.  If anything changes from what they do every single day, you know something is wrong.  No different from people really.

8km Only

We went to the dunes for the Sunday run this morning.  It was warm and the sky was hazy.  I hadn’t felt very good all last week so this was my first run in a week.  I decided to go for 8km instead of the 10 I had planned for today.  Ah well.  That’s enough, right?  Next week is the Lion’s Heuvelloop in Bloemendaal 10k and I’m sure I will be ok for that.

We headed out into the dunes and at about the 3km point the wild horses were gathered right next to the path.  I stopped and took their picture with my new phone.  Not bad for a camera phone!  Can you tell which way the wind was blowing?

I felt pretty good during this run.  Until about km 7.  Then my left knee really started hurting.  It hasn’t ever hurt this much before.  It started to hurt like my right knee hurt before the operation.  Damn.  When we got home I iced it and then after dinner I iced it again.  We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.

The strange warm April weather continues through the week.  It will feel like summer.  I hope we can make it out to the beach after work one night this week.  Dinner at a beach restaurant and watch the sun go down.  If I were a romantic I would think it was. 😉