winter fell

It has been decidedly non-wintery here lately, and trust me, we have had zero complaints about this (as you can imagine, after last winter). But I suppose that some things are inevitable in New England, and sure enough, after a week of 60-degree days, I’m looking out the window at a cold, white world.

20160206_083439

Despite the unseasonable temperatures prior to today, I’ve been working on warm, woolly things. I’m finding that the lace of my Ziggy scarf requires more concentration than I can put into it most days… and besides, it is orange, and until the Denver Broncos lose the Super Bowl, I simply cannot work on something orange, which might give them some mojo or something. (Yes, I am sports-superstitious, haha!)

So, I dug out a long-ago project. I had made this little cowl for my Aunt Nancy back in 2008, when she was going through chemo for breast cancer.

2823338896_ac113b9512_z

I was never happy with the project. My cast-on was loopy, and I never felt that the stitch pattern quite worked with the yarn. The cowl was also just really, really small. So, I frogged it, leaving me with about 95 yards or so of beautiful Artyarns Cashmere 5.

20151107_093936

What could I possibly make out of such a small amount of yarn? After scouring Ravelry for ideas, I settled on the Winterfell cowl, a garter-lace neckwarmer that would button or clasp closed. Perfect!

20160205_103526sm

Well, except… not really. It looks nice, but the cashmere yarn is SO soft, and SO drapey, that the finished knit has no body or structure. When I try to put it around my neck, the whole thing just sags unattractively. Blah.

So, sadly, this beautiful yarn has still not found its perfect pattern, and the cowl is destined for the “frog pond” yet again. I’m not even sure WHAT to do with the yarn, to be honest. Maybe the body of a slouchy hat? (I would need to use a different yarn for the ribbing, so it would stay on my head… what color to pair with it? A deep red or dark pink? Hmm.)

I’m also not sure what to cast on next. I mean, I can’t work on the Ziggy scarf until Monday, so I have to start something new. Or maybe I should just work on that second Christmas present that I still haven’t finished…

continuing adventures in dog ownership

We’ve had some supply issues in our lab, which means that most of us (myself included) can’t do our science. It’s not exactly “downtime” – I still have plenty of work to do – but it’s work I can do at my home desk, so last Tuesday, I decided to work from home.

It was about an hour after lunch that I heard a crash downstairs. I went to investigate. I found Onyx in her crate… and I saw that she had peed on the floor (sigh). I cleaned up the mess, and called her over, to let her outside.

She stood up and fell down.

She has had bad hips and a bum leg for years, so I assumed that was the problem. Nope. As she walked, I noticed that she was leaning – and falling, repeatedly – to the right. She sat still and looked at me, and her head drifted to the right, like she couldn’t hold it up. I start to freak out. My dog had a stroke. And I’m home alone, and I have no car, and I can’t pick her up – basically, one of my nightmares, actually happening.

Long story short, I pulled it together and got her to the vet, with the help of a wonderful friend who is also Onyx’s weekday walker. The on-call vet told me it was an inner ear infection, and it would eventually clear up, but in the meantime, we’d have to tend to the dog 24/7: help her walk every time she needs to move, carry her up and down stairs, hand-feed her, and so on.

You know… the 75lb dog that neither one of us can lift… and, what, we’re supposed to quit our jobs?

I looked the vet straight in the eyes, and said, firmly, “We cannot do that.”

The look on her face was such that she seemed shocked that a client actually said no, and she quickly said, “We can keep her overnight, and your usual vet can look at her in the morning.” Fine.

capture-20160202-114139

Longer story even shorter, I was more correct than the on-call vet.

Onyx had a cerebral vasospasm, a condition that more or less manifests like a stroke, but is considered “treatable.” They pumped her full of steroids, and they kept her until Saturday, by which point her eyeballs had stopped rolling around in her head and she could walk.

But do not be fooled: She is not okay. Onyx has a permanent lean to the right, and she crashes into things. She has seizures. She still has the hip dysplasia and arthritis issues that she’s had for years, in addition to being mostly deaf and blind. She is senile. They gave us a prescription for drugs that are supposed to improve her “cognitive function,” but there has been no improvement at all. And what they did NOT give us are steroids to keep this “cerebral vasospasm” in check, so what happened to her last Tuesday WILL happen again… it’s just a matter of when.

Our happy goofy dog is gone, and in her place, we have a miserable shell of an animal. She doesn’t interact with us anymore, not even to beg for table scraps. When she’s awake, all she does is pace, tickety-tickety-tick with her nails on the hardwood floors, panting and whimpering. (Sunday night, she literally did this non-stop for FIVE FUCKING HOURS, straight and without pause.) On the rare occasion that she’s both awake and sitting still, she sits next to me, looking at me with this sad, confused face, and it breaks my heart. It’s the same look Phoebe gave me in November, and Phaedra 3 years before that.

If I sound angry and upset, it’s because I am. As far as I’m concerned, our veterinarian is irresponsible and unethical. We have made it abundantly and repeatedly clear that we cannot care for a dog this disabled in a way that will ensure her safety, and they have made it equally clear that their practice is concerned ONLY with (a) making pets live as long as possible, and (b) milking their owners’ wallets. They don’t give a shit about the actual health and wellbeing of the animals they treat, or they would have done the merciful thing last week.

So, for now, we are two unhappy people, taking care of an equally unhappy dog. (Thankfully, my husband had the opportunity to communicate this by telephone to the asshole from the vet’s office who had the audacity to call us and ask how Onyx is doing.) Before too long, we will contact a different vet, get a second opinion, and hopefully be able to do the right thing. And as soon as I know that Onyx will never have to go back to that place, I am going to skewer them on every social media & search outlet I can think of, starting with Yelp and Google. I might not be able to actually destroy their practice, as much as I’d like to, but I will hopefully save a few people from this kind of nightmare.

life’s too short

I didn’t want to get into it in my previous post on the topic, but David Bowie’s passing made me unspeakably sad for reasons that had nothing to do with the death of an icon. He had children, who now have lost their father to a brutal disease, like I lost mine. (Naturally, this also got me thinking about all the things I’ve done and accomplished since 2006, things Dad never got to see. I know he’d be proud of me, but it’s not the same as having him here to see it.) He also had a wife, who just buried her husband. Not to be morbid, but Michael is 14 years my senior, and the odds of me being in her shoes someday are pretty high. It’s not something I want to think about, but a week ago, there it was, shoved into the forefront of my brain.

“Life is too short” is an oft-repeated thought lately.

There’s only so much we can do, right? We can’t drop everything and do the things we want to do, with the people we want to do them with, unless we get lucky and win Powerball (and we all know the mathematical odds of that). All we can do is be more aware, and make the best possible use of the time and resources we have. Instead of dicking around with a cellphone, be in the moment. Talk during dinner, and in the car. Write letters, send cards, do things, leave memories. Treat yourself. Use the good china, wear the nice clothes… and fergodsake, knit with the good yarn.

(Hey, it’s a knitting blog. Of course that’s the direction I’m going in.)

As soon as the news broke, I knew that my next project was going to be Bowie-inspired. I have this crazy 100% mink yarn that is “Ziggy Stardust orange,” and I am working it into a small scarf in a zigzag pattern – a bright and flambuoyant tribute to an artist who first showed me that it’s okay to be bright and flambuoyant.

8330880191_3edd111b8e_b-vert

i am calling it “ziggy played guitar” – of course.

Yesterday, as I started to knit with this ridiculously luxurious yarn, I mused about my stash and recent projects. I have some seriously gorgeous, amazing yarn – cashmere, angora, silk, mink, mohair, one-of-a-kind handspun – but most of what I worked with in the past year (and then some) has been cheap wool from Knit Picks and cotton on clearance. I suffer from this terrible delusion that if the yarn is special, it has to be saved for the perfect project. And if that project hasn’t jumped out at me, the yarn languishes in a plastic tub in my office… for years.

Seriously, what the hell with that?

IMG_7396-tile

not even all of them. some of these have been in my stash for 7-8 years.

It turns out that I actually do have a knitting/crafting goal for this year. I got off to a great start, with the decision to immediately knit the cashmere cowl kit that my brother got me for Christmas. My mink Ziggy scarf is the perfect follow-up. So, going forward, 2016 is going to be the year that I make things out of the good yarn, and stop automatically reaching for the cheap shit that makes my neck itch.

Because…

20151017_124908-sm

and that is the truth.

achievement: unlocked

I was so busy being sick, and so melancholy over the death of a rockstar, that I neglected to mention that it was officially official, in the school’s records as of Monday.

20160111_083426

I can finally breathe easy about that one, at least!

I have a minor grump about one thing, though: Why are only undergraduate degrees conferred with honors? My GPA is such that I would have been Summa Cum Laude, if such a thing were… a thing… but I guess it isn’t. Lame! I suppose I won’t keep working so hard for those 4.0 semesters, if they don’t even matter.

on the death of my first crush

I am not one to give much of a crap about celebrity deaths, honestly, because they’re not my people. But David Bowie‘s passing on January 10, just 2 days after his birthday and the release of his new album, is the exception. I am heartbroken. It hits close to home, after all. The scenario is one I can relate to; my beloved aunt died just a few days after her birthday. The culprit is also a familiar one, as cancer took both her, and my father, entirely too soon.

It’s more than that, though. A couple days ago, I saw the perfect quote on Twitter: Thinking about how we mourn artists we’ve never met. We don’t cry because we knew them, we cry because they helped us know ourselves.

I don’t remember exactly when – or how (no internet, after all) – I first saw a photo of David as Ziggy Stardust. Suffice to say that I was a kid, and my young mind was thoroughly and immediately blown.

tumblr_n1u1brLndS1qlcugro1_1280

Growing up in rural New York, in the shadow of an oppressive, ultra-conservative cult religion, there were no orange-haired, flamboyantly-garbed, genderless, beautiful creatures like this. He was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I was pulled to him like a magnet, my idol and my first crush. His existence changed everything in my tiny, narrow world.

I was so young that these crazy crushy feelings made no sense to me. I couldn’t understand if I wanted to be him, or be with him. Looking back, it was both.

the whores

his influence on my style, over the years, is probably undeniable.

Perfectly imperfect, he changed my ideas of beauty – not just for myself, for women, but for men, too. “Women” in my world were long-haired and feminine, and men were substantial, bearded, “manly men” – why? Who made these rules, anyway? David was my introduction to androgeny, and it would forever shape who I found attractive.

david-bowie-ziggy-stardust-era-2

he could kill ’em by smiling

As I got older, I’d revisit that so many times: the skinny spikey-haired skater boys in high school, the boyish redhaired girl in my college Women in Lit class, and so on. My childhood crush on David, simultaneously all man and more feminine than I would ever be, first showed me that gender and attraction are much more fluid and flexible than I’d been raised to believe.

But even more than that, David as Ziggy challenged everything I was being taught, and suddenly I wasn’t so cool with this “normal” that I was being raised to be part of. It made me an asshole of a kid, and an even worse teenager… but it also made me an adult who wasn’t afraid to be me, no matter how much that definition of “me” changed, from day to week to year.

And there was the music, of course. The unapologetically pop Bowie of the ’80s was the ever-present soundtrack of my childhood. By middle school – my crush totally revived with Labyrinth – I’d rediscovered early Bowie. Some of his music, honestly, I couldn’t appreciate until more than a decade after it came out, like Low. But isn’t that part of what made him so compelling? He wasn’t afraid to push the envelope, to be ahead of his time. I am currently in love with Scary Monsters, an album that he put out in 1980 – it still sounds fresh.

capture-20160116-074049

I only got to see him once: July 28, 2002, as part of Moby’s Area2 music festival. It was a pretty fantastic setlist, for a short chunk at a festival, and he sounded fantastic, too. He closed with “Ziggy Stardust,” and I cried happy tears. (I also remember being struck by the fact that he was wearing a full suit, on a 90+ degree, humid day in metro D.C., and never broke a sweat. Alien! The man who fell to earth, I tell you!) I always hoped I’d see him again, a legitimate concert this time. It was not to be. Two years later, he collapsed after a show, canceled the rest of the tour, and never toured again.

Scan0001

he’s not even on the ticket. goddamn you, ticketbastard.

As for my crush, David Bowie was always. As the Thin White Duke, as Jareth the Goblin King, as anything he wanted to be, at any age. At 69, he was still otherworldly and alien, with that beautiful smile, even as none of us knew that a very human condition was about to take him down.

12400560_10207551260251179_7473035677680471137_n

But it was Ziggy. Always Ziggy. You say “David Bowie,” and I picture…

bowie1

do you even realize that everything he’s wearing is fairisle? everything! seriously, blow it up. look at the pic full-size. everything is knitted! i WILL knit those armwarmers someday!

Anyway, I mourn, as much as one can mourn someone they’ve never met. The world has lost an artist in the truest sense. I’ve lost someone who was a part of my life, an influence on who I’d become, for as long as I can remember. It’s a strange kind of hole he’s left in my heart, and it’s only a small comfort to know that I’m not alone.

Other Bowie musings, tributes, and music (I will probably add to this as I find them):

Editing to add: the man wasn’t just a creative genius – he’s an inspiration. I just listened to the new album, Blackstar, and it is awesome, start to finish. When you then put it in context – the man was dying of liver cancer, and he must have felt dreadful – but he was driven by the need to create, to lay out this music in his head, to leave a parting gift for his adoring fans, whatever. Whatever angle of that you take, it’s amazing. He was productive, creative, doing what he loved, literally to the very end.

May we all live that fully. May we all find that love that moves us until our final breaths.