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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fiber Frolic

I am left to my own devices this week (he he he). Theoretically, I have 24 hours each day to play with fiber, collage sheets, findings, beads, buttons, doo dads. Well, there's the gym. And sleep. And eating. And I have to mow the lawn sometime when it's not raining or it hasn't just rained.

Anyway, here are some fun things I have been working on lately. I picked up a couple of ounces of TuckerWoods Farm roving from Mocha's Fiber Connection at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago. It is a llama, mohair, silk blend. It's wonderful to spin. The llama and mohair are long staples (length of fiber) and I can easily spin them very fine, almost as fine as thread. I have finished one bobbin and have started the second. I will then ply the yarn from the two bobbins (twisting them together the opposite way) to create a 2-ply yarn. This will make the final yarn a little thicker and it will balance it out so it doesn't twist up into your worst nightmare.

Roving from TuckerWoods Farm

One bobbin spun

I haven't decided if I will knit or weave with it. I have to see how many yards there are. You need many more yards to weave a scarf than to knit one. I'm thinking a knitted lacy scarf will be beautiful.

I also had some cashmere I picked up at the NYS Sheep and Wool Show in Rhinebeck last year. That show (insert moment of reflection here) is going to be another topic but I am already very excited about it. It is my Mothership.

Handspun cashmere

I've also begun my second set of September Lace towels. This weaving falls under Swedish weaving, patterns that originally came from Sweden and have their own set of threading and harness set up (more on that another day). I have listed two in my store on Etsy.

September Lace In Blue and White Handwoven Towel

Monday, July 27, 2009

Four Years and Counting

So, I thought this would be easier to write about. I have no problem talking about it but I don't bring up the subject up all the time.
Four years ago yesterday, July 26, at 9:10 p.m., (yeah, I remember the exact moment) I got a call from my surgeon - a call I was sweating about all day. He said that the lump he had taken from my breast was malignant.

I was 40 and had just had my first mammogram the month before. They saw calcifications on the image, took it again, said it was probably nothing, but sent me to get a sonogram. There was a lump. The surgeon could see the lump on the sonogram and we scheduled surgery to take it out. He said it was probably nothing but the surgery would confirm or deny that. I guess, because of my age and the fact that it was my first mammogram, to serve as a baseline for future exams, it probably was nothing.

I wasn't so sure. Sometimes I think you know the truth deep down inside. You can't explain how you know. Some will say you are just worried, over-anxious, which is to be expected. And you wonder, too, if you are just being a hypocondriac, for heaven's sake. But something deep inside is saying, no. And it's strangely calm, too, at that point. A least it was for me. Not content that I was right, but not screaming in panic. Yet.

After the surgery, another surgery was needed to take out the lump (a lumpectomy) and to extract some lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread there. If cancer cells move to the lymph nodes, they will move throughout the body, as fluids from the entire body pass through the nodes.

I don't know why then, but I also knew that cancer cells had spread to the lymph nodes.
And they had. I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer.

I was numb at first but really, my main thought was, "Ok, now what do we do? Let's do it."

Not that I didn't get upset. My brain would scream, "I have CANCER!" and it would shock me. I could barely say the word at first. As if saying it, acknowledging it out loud would make it too real, too devastating, as if it would rip me to shreds. One time I was laying down outside with my bunny, Sadie, looking up at the clouds. I thought, when I was little, I used to look at the clouds and I was fine. I watched the clouds last year and I thought I was fine. Now, here I am, watching the clouds again but I am not well. I have cancer.

After my lumpectomy, I had to wear a drain called a Jackson Pratt drain (wow) under my armpit. It removes blood and other fluids and needed to be emptied two or three times a day. It was very uncomfortable, as I could only sleep on my back and used a pillow to prop up my arm when I slept. Plus, when I moved my arm too fast, OW!

Anyway, my husband is a very nurturing man inside. He's also an engineer. He drained my drain for me every time, even though I said I could do it myself. And he wrote down the date and time he emptied it, plus the amount and color of said fluid. I still have the paper:

9-1 1:40 p.m. 20 cc opaque bright red
9-1 3:35 p.m. 30 cc opaque pinkish red
Even though such information was not required or even suggested by the doctor. But it is good to be detailed.

I had a wonderful oncologist at Hartford Hospital, Patricia DeFusco. My first appointment with her was extremely informative. Of course, she had gone over my records. Then we discussed options. She took a bunch of blank paper, went over each line of my pathology reports, and wrote down, as she explained, each test, each result, what these results were compared to other results in this type of breast cancer, my treatment options and survival rate and non-treatment, if I so chose - wrote everything down, answered my questions and wrote those down, too. This doctor is incredible.

Because whether you want it or not, you become more knowledgeable about your disease than you ever wanted to, in the briefest amount of time.

Here are a couple of fact that threw cold water on my face (in my words).

I will never be 0% free of never having cancer again. I've already had cancer and I am a woman with breasts. This doesn't mean that I will get it again. But the percentages of survival rates for no treatment vs. chemo vs. chemo/radiation, etc. decrease the more treatment you get. But it is never 0% again. Probably never was, obviously, for me.

But I felt fine. I have cancer and I feel fine. You're telling me that this chemo will make my hair fall out, make me sick, give me mouth sores, etc., etc. It was like learning all over again that I had cancer.

But I got over those and just wanted to start treatment already.

I had four months of chemo followed by 12 weeks of radiation. I cried because my hair would fall out from the chemo. But I decided that I didn't want to deal with clumps of hair falling out, so I shaved it off. As soon as hair started falling off my body (yeah, all hair, except my eyebrows and eyelashes - that would come later with another chemo drug), I made a lunch date with two girlfriends. One helped me shave off my hair and then we met the other for lunch. Oddly, I felt better after the hair was gone.

Here I am, bald. I could have made a wig out of my cat, Winnie's, fur.
The plusses of being bald include less time getting ready in the morning. Really, it was just a matter of choosing which hat to wear that day. Also, since all the hair on my body was gone, shaving was unnecesary. Yeah, I know. I would never chose to be bald, but if that's the way it's got to be then you have to find something good about it.
That was ok. After two months of chemo I was changed to another drug, which is standard protocol for my cancer. This one did make my eyelashes and eyebrows fall out. There was a brief moment in time when my eyebrows were perfectly groomed, just as neat and thin as I wanted them. That didn't last. I really hated that look. I think I looked strong without hair. I had cancer and I was tough. But no eyelashes and eyebrows PLUS no hair? I looked like an alien.

Of course, it grows back. My last chemo treatment was in January. This picture was taken that following April.

I would see people out in stores, total strangers, who would recognize that I had cancer and come up to me and say, My sister went through it and she's fine now, keep it up. Or, one woman who looked at me and said, I know what you're going through. I had it, too you will get through.

People at work would say they told their church group and they were praying for me. That still makes me cry. That total strangers would pray for my health is so incredibly touching, generous, and kind.

Thank you.

I hope this didn't upset anyone. It's not meant to scare but to inform. I just want women to get checked. Check themselves. Ask questions. Don't take vague or non-answers for answers. Take a friend, a sister, your husband with you if you need further tests, just to have someone there for support and because it's better to have an extra set of ears to listen to the answers. Take notes. Have questions written down when you go.

Don't be afraid. It was unusual that I was diagnosed at age 40, but not so rare. You can ask me questions if you like or visit these websites (and there are many more):

Susan G. Komen For the Cure

American Cancer Society

Network of Strength (formerly Y-Me)

These sites have information as well as message boards with which to meet others and ask all kinds of questions.

I really have been weaving lately and spinning! I will have more pictures up on that very soon!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

How I Spent My Weekend . . .

I feel like I’m back on track again. I’ve been doing quite a bit of weaving and jewelry making these past few days, with a little exploration and lawn-mowing thrown into the mix.

Saturday was my husband, Matt’s birthday so we all went down to Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington for a tasting. It’s also where we were married last September. It was a beautiful day as we sampled wines then went over to Mystic to shop and have dinner.

The back wall at the edge of Jonathan Edwards Winery.

Ryan, Christina, Matt, and Sean at Jonathan Edwards

Christina, me, Matt and Sean at Jonathan Edwards.

On Sunday Matt and I took one of Matt’s assistants, in from China for some work (also his first trip to the US), to Old Sturbridge Village for the day. Lots of fun. I love history and learning about daily life in the past.

The church.

They later took these two oxen out and plowed a field.

A beautiful rooster

This chicken made a shallow hole to roll in the dirt, dusting off bugs and such.

The potter, one of the many crafts and tradesmen demonstrating at the village.

Matt and Zheda walking on stilts. It's one of the games available on the path to play with. You won't see me on the stilts because I was wearing a full, flouncy skirt and I didn't feel like getting all tangled up and breaking a leg. Yeah, I'm sure some daring girls tried it back in 1830 . . .
Matt and Zheda playing the Les Graces or the Flying Circle game. Hold two sticks and throw (and catch) a wooden circle to each other. I did do this and caught a few myself!
Ok, very cool - they were dying yarn, from sheep in the village, right there with materials such as madder, osage, cochineal, and black walnut.

And spinning and weaving demonstrations.

Here are two skeins I bought from the store there, made and dyed with osage and cochineal dyes on site.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Busy, Birthdays, and . . . Beer?

Well, no beer yet. Of course there are festivities on the horizon:

Today is my step-son's birthday! We'll be having a little dinner and cake here and then he will be off continuing his birthday celebrations, I am sure. He's a great, I want to say kid, but he's not! Anyway, he could probably set up a great, stylin' party for you, if you wanted. Happy Birthday, Sean!
And then my husband's birthday is on Saturday. One of his favorite birthday celebrations would be to go on his boat, but it looks like it will rain that day. Plan B has been requested and I am awaiting some suggestions from him.
The boat I like to call Locked and Loaded but it has no name. I took this picture last weekend when we were at Mystic.

On the business front, I had a great day at the Farmers Market last Sunday! Thank you to all who stopped by. I got a couple of custom requests and lots more ideas. Plus, a beautiful, warm, sunny day helps, too!

I put this in Swift Waters last week and it sold already!

And I dropped this off a couple of days ago.

AHHH! Must get to work! I love it!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Etsy :: Your place to buy and sell all things handmade

I cannot believe it. I never thought this would happen. I made the Front Page on Etsy!

Etsy :: Your place to buy and sell all things handmade

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Coventry Farmers Market!

I'll be at the Coventry Farmers Market tomorrow. Looks like it will be a nice day.

I have a special for all Friends of the Market: tax on anything you buy from my booth tomorrow will be paid by me!

Stop by, get some fresh fruits and vegetables, sample some delicious blueberry treats and see what your local artisans have to offer.

Drop by and say hello!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Christmas in July at Etsy!

I am running a Christmas in July sale, July 8 - July 22, with free shipping on select items in my store, Coffee Break Designs!

No, I don't want to skip summer and all the other wonderful holidays between now and Christmas. It's just a little sale to say thank you to my customers, old and new, big and small, and beautiful, all!


Not me! I've put a bunch of things in my shop this past week. I just got a request for some placemats from my sister-in-law and I'm working at Swift Waters tomorrow and I'm working on another crocheted flower necklace to take over there.

July Handwoven Towels in Stars and Dots

Handwoven Remnants Note cards in Yellow and Magenta

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fun in the Quiet Corner

Putnam, CT. It's one of our day trip places, along with Litchfield and Kent, CT in the northwest part of the state. The very northeastern part of Connecticut is also called "The Quiet Corner". I think it may be a nice way of saying there's nothing up there. But it really is nice with big farms, lots of camping, small villages, antiques stores and The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, Paul Newman's camp for children with cancer and other serious illnesses.

Matt and I spent the day in the antique shops, mostly for laughs. Of course, the first place I stopped by was the local yarn store, Woolworks Ltd.

The man sitting ouside was taking a nap, I think. I'll bet his wife was in there shopping.

And now for the goodies:

Thank you, sir, may I have another!

Oops! I mean, can I have another ice cream! And please use the paper cone covers!

From the 40's. I think this was just the way things were with postcards.

Um, ok.

I saw LOTS of these lovely, jeweled fruits. Gotta say, the old waxed fruit is looking pretty good.

Note to sellers. It's good to have lots of stuff but please don't use those flourescent orange price stickers.

I love this but it was $185.

This is disturbing on many levels.

Lots of fiber!

Um. Ok. A box of rice . . .

. . . from the 40's. That's $10.

One way to raise money to pay for all your new Cap & Trade taxes!

And finally we ended our trip at the local coffee shop (really local, not Starbucks, although I do love Starbucks!). This place was so cool! Lots of comfy couches and chairs, little corners to read, tables to play board games with your friends. Sorry. The name eludes me, but you can't miss it in town.

Here is the always photogenic Matt.

And the two of us!