September 2013 Archives

Achieving the Correct Tension

<general warning... there is no knitting (well, there is a knitting reference) and there are no pictures... this is just me talking about me... proceed at your own risk/interest level>

It's funny to me how sometimes knitting terms overlap with a non-knitting concept in my life.  

In the spring, I went to give blood, only to find that my blood pressure was much higher than it should have been.  Shortly after, I had my very own diagnosis of primary hypertension.  The arrival of my very own chronic condition was not really a surprise to me.  It runs in the family.  I had gestational hypertension when I was pregnant with Z, which is generally considered to be a harbinger of hypertension to come.  I even told people that it was probably just a matter of time.

My rational self understood it, my emotional self did not.  My doctor told me not to worry, it was manageable.  The funny thing is, it wasn't the chronic condition in and of itself that bothered me.  It was the prescriptions he was writing for me and the realization that I was in my mid-40's and starting on a lifetime medication regimen, and multiple meds.

I do not like taking medications.  Particularly not ones that might never go away.  I spent the first couple of months grudgingly taking my meds and just generally being in denial.  

A child, however, is the most amazing thing.  I can look at this small person that I have made and see myself and my spouse and a whole collection of amazing things that she helps me remember seeing when I was small and everything was magical.  My child is 6 and she has so many wonderful things ahead of her.  And I want to see that story unfold and develop as long as I can.

That probably sounds melodramatic. I don't mean it to, at least not in the sense that I think that I'm going to keel over dead from hypertension.  What I mean is that seeing her reminds me that I need to do what I can to be as healthy as I can, no matter how much I don't like some of the mechanisms that keep me healthy.  It also means that instead of grousing about my medications, I needed to look what I could do to limit the need for them.

And for that, I had a very good example:  my dad.  Dad has dealt with the same condition for most of his adult life.  Two of the things that helped him were regular cardiovascular exercise and maintaining a good weight.  The better he did at these two things, the less medication he took. 

So I started to think that maybe if it worked for him, it would work for me.  

Cardio exercise is easier said than done when one of your meds is a beta blocker.  These things are like rate limiters on your heart.  But I decided to get off my elliptical and away from my heart rate monitor and just head outside and go running.  I've tried to do this before, and always fell off the wagon.  But this time, I armed myself (or rather my iPhone) with the Zombies, Run! 5K App, gave myself permission to have more than my fair share of nice workout wear (I actually have a fun workout wear subscription!) and by the time I had my next appointment with my doc, I was running 3-4 times a week, felt a lot better and felt like I had one of the pieces that would help me manage my condition with lifestyle instead of drugs.

My doc agreed and we dumped the beta blocker.

Life got hugely better after that.  The day after I stopped taking the beta blocker, I was like someone had lifted a brick off my chest while I was running and I posted my first 5 mile run of the year.  About a week later, I did a 6 mile jog around Central Park when John and I visited NYC. I hit my first 100 miles and treated myself the new pair of running shoes (it is always about the shoes!) that I promised myself when I reached that milestone. And I was watching my weight tick down gradually.  More than that, I just felt happier (I've since learned that beta blockers can have neurological effects). And a better attitude makes a lot of things better.

With the summer coming to an end, I've logged a little over 200 miles, including one 10K run that I am particularly proud of.   My jeans are a size smaller.  My diet is better (an mostly gluten free), and last week I experienced something that surprised the heck out of me:  I didn't get my regular run in and not only was I bummed about it, I was cranky about it.  I mean seriously cranky, folks!  I was actually in a bad mood about not exercising.  Apparently I have gone from a resolution to a habit.

It appears to me that, just like in knitting, sometimes my personal parameters aren't at the specified gauge.  And then I have to change needles -- or tactics -- to get there.  To, as knitters across the Atlantic would say, get the right tension.  Right now, that tension is still a little tight with the yarn I've got to work with. A little hypertense, as it were.  But I'm hoping as I keep trying new needles, I'm eventually going to get there.  Just like preparing to knit a perfect sweater, I have to work a little bit to achieve the correct personal tension.  And once I get there, I know I'm going to make something beautiful.  Just this time, that project is me.  

Busy Hands, New Socks

My current job finds me planted in front of my speaker phone or my computer for teleconferences and webinars.  I am easily distracted by my email, my iPad and other things, and to help me pay attention better when I am not sharing the experience with a real person, I have taken to keeping a project in my office that takes little brain activity so I can keep my hands busy and focus on what I am listening to.  This strategy does turn out to work well for me, as long as the project is not complicated.  Somehow keeping my hands out of trouble allows my brain to pay attention better to what I'm listening to.

Here's the first project I've finished:

Nothing magical -- just a pair of socks in some hard-wearing Regia (Ringel 5072) that I have always loved and have had buried in my sock yarn archive since the dawn of my sock knitting adventures..  This is my very standard toe up pattern with a short row heel and K2P2 ribbing.  The only difference between this and my standard socks is that I knit until the ball ran out, so these socks are longer (mid calf) and I had to shape the sock and ribbing to expand towards the top for my calf.   You can't tell easily from the photo, but these socks are actually identical -- or at least as identical as you can get with this yarn.  

The next project is a pair of fingerless mitts in BMFA Silkie since I am always freezing cold in my office.

Knitting Challenge

It's always fun to have your kid tell you she wants you to knit her something.  Sometimes, however, it's challenging when your kid is trying to channel early Madonna and has the color preferences of a 6 year old girl.  

I decided that I could make her a scarf.  Scarves can be colorful, scarves do not take that long and, generally, scarves can last more than one year, which is a plus in a kid who seems to need an updated wardrobe about every 15 minutes because she is suddenly taller.

So I took Ms. Z to the yarn store and told her she could pick something out for a scarf.  Initially, it started out that she could pick one color.  By the end of the trip, it became two colors because she couldn't decide between her favorites.  And because I am a sucker for a 6 year old with her own design ideas.

I'm beginning to understand why the Project Runway designers always struggle when they have to design for a client.

So, here is her yarn selection:

You might be thinking Oh, that is just a camera problem.  That yarn cannot possibly be that neon pink.  

Unfortunately, you would be wrong.  That yarn is absolutely that neon pink.  And she wants it paired with that very vibrant purple.  On the plus side, this is fabulous and beautiful superwash merino.  Like butter.

I actually like both of these colors,   That pink paired with some more subtle grey is a knockout.  And I do like a vibrant purple,  Together?  I remain unsure.

Ms. Z, however, knows that she wants both of them, and knows that she wants a scarf knit horizontally with zig zags.  It was this fact that she had such a clear design in her mind that convinced me to buy the yarn.  I want to support and encourage her to play with color and have an artistic vision.  

I am thinking of using Stephen West's Creekbed as a starting point as it gets at the general idea, but have not really figured out how to do the striping.  Fibonacci perhaps?  I have this notion of starting with narrow going to wider with one color while starting wider and going to narrower using the other.    Might have to map it out to get a better idea...


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