On the Needles : Basics Basics Basics - Lesson One

"Why did I do this? Why am I using my coveted making time to go toward lessons and instructions and courses rather than just doing the making?!" These were the things my brain was yelling at me as I waited for my results to come back from the instructor for the TKGA "Basics Basics Basics" Course, Lesson 1.

I had told myself before that it was because I loved learning. And that's true. I do.

But another truth that this first lesson brought to my attention is that I have a massive inferiority / imposter complex. I haven't been knitting since I was 5 do surely I'm not a "real" knitter. I don't live in a particularly cold climate {the Rockies / Canada} and my home doesn't have a particularly strong knitting culture {New England / Sweden}. Surely this also means I'm not a real knitter.

Yes, I'm able to read patterns and make things that... mostly... fit. But that's just basic comprehension. That doesn't make me "real" does it?

Yes, I've had an idea and then made it happen with skeins of yarn and two needles. But that's just problem solving and working through mistakes. That doesn't make me "real" does it?


The thing that this first lesson taught me, first and foremost, is that I'm not a "fake" knitter. I'm as real {ie. individually strange} as they come- I know how to make the basic two stitches and, with some written instructions and the occasional youtube video, I can make lots of things happen. Sometimes they happen less than perfectly, but they happen, and "things happening" is the essential part of me that needs to come out. That's the stuff that makes me a maker.

I learned that I need to get over my silly complexes so that I can truly focus on the learning. And I learned I'm ready for Lesson 2.


Below are the five swatches I knit for the first lesson.
Scroll past the images to see the instructors comments and my results.

The first thing that Arenda helped me realized was that this class and it's next step {TKGA's Master Hand Knitter certification} doesn't initially help foster creativity. The first steps are about following directions and knowing how to exactly make another's pattern. This is, she says, a stepping stone to knowing best how to get your ideas onto paper and into someone else's hands.

She then went on to address specific questions I had while working through these swatches.

Tension: I had mentioned that my last purl stitch always seemed loose. She explained that this was a common issue and directed me toward these two articles {ridges + enlarged bind-off} by Suzanne Bryan {whose website I find to be a treasure trove of nerdy knitting information}.
She also mentioned that the yarn I choose had "high twist", and that this generally contributes to wonky tension but that by tension was "quite nice" in the center of the swatches. {my reasoning: more twist equals more energy which equates to yarn pushing out and wanting to do its own thing}.

Weaving in ends: This was one of the things I MOST enjoyed about the entirety of this course... though I didn't realize it in this lesson. Anything related to finishing was foreign to me. As a mostly self-taught knitter I never had a problem with knots or random unwoven ends... I just figured that was a quirk of a self-made garment. But something that came up over and over in Arenda's course was the difference in "handmade" versus "homemade".
She explained that a garment that is finished with the same acuity as the "proper" knitting makes a much more beautiful and elegant finished piece. 

I really appreciated this from an artist perspective. If an artist obsesses over an oil painting for hours only to realize that it has been painted on a refrigerator box and mounted it on toilet paper, its value is suddenly in question. Something that I learned from a wise artist is to let one's work be intentional. Proper finishing is intention and, in that, an art. One that, I confess, I still have to work on, but am light years ahead of where I was before this class.

Blocking: Again, a finishing issue that I had never made myself learn. I viewed the resource she shared approximately one thousand times. If you are new to blocking you should too: White Horse Designs "Blocking for TKGA".

Increases: As this was the main part of lesson one, she went into lots of detail about this. One of those details was about how I had done the right side of swatch 04 incorrectly. Scroll up and it's pretty easy to catch: I made an open M1 stitch instead of right leaning M1 stitch. As such she requested that I make it again and re-send it to her with my lesson two stuff. ie. I failed!! 
Well maybe not failed, but I didn't do it perfectly. Scrolling up again you can see that it is a bit wonky and would probably catch the eye of someone admiring the sweater you've spent literally days of your life toiling over. Might as well figure out how to make it correctly, right? 


This was a great start to my TKGA experience: mostly "known" concepts presented to me in a super structured format, with enough "new" to make it interesting. What I didn't realize was that I would enjoy the next lessons even more.

More on those soon.

On the Needles : When Socks Transform into Hugs

In part one, I explained why the thought of sending surprise socks was nice but not terribly practical.

So this is what the sock turned in to. 

sunshine shawl for sad people hedgehog fobres

It's The Sunshine Shawl for Sad People and it's a free download on Ravelry. 

Like most projects, I stumbled and fumbled to start with but, as I got going, it was a welcome respite from... life.

easy to knit shawl

While working on this shawl I learned that a cousin of mine was seriously injured and subsequently died. Traveling to his funeral in central Texas I had a toddler with tummy issues. In between the travel, I canceled and re-made the appointment that told me I needed a root canal. 

Shock, loss, frustration, inconvenience, physical pain. All things that life throws at us. All things, that, after a time, feel like incomparable weights.

But the chance to, in part, escape from the hurt, at least for a moment {without the bummer side effects of drugs} was a safe place. It wasn't me hiding from life, but working on it {knit two, yarnover, knit until the end of this row, yarnover, knit, yarnover...} gave me a chance to, momentarily, step away from the negativity. It allowed me the distance to say, "I can do 'Right now.' Keep going."

sunshine shawl picot edge

In addition to all of that, this project was a gift of love for the mother of a child with cancer. Stitching stitching stitching, I would think about my friend L, breathe a prayer for her, send some good love juju to her child, and make the next stitch. 

Perspective is magic like that isn't it?

Tell me I have to jump all of these hurdles within a two week time span and I want to curl up into a ball and hide. Tell me of an alternative that I find even more daunting? I figure out my "right now". I uncurl and keep going. 

I might not be strong or powerful or courageous but I could be there for my family and I could take care of myself. The added benefit of taking some of that anxious and frightened energy and being able to turn a sock into a shawl, a physical thing that most closely resembles a hug, was an important reminder:

I can't do it all. 
But I can do something right now that matters.

handmade gift knitted shawl

The shawl itself is better than I imagined it might turn out. On the advice of pattern designer Sylvia McFadden, I "pin[ned] the ever-living hell" of it. While this pattern is wonderfully simple, I knit it on needles a size bigger than what it was called for. This larger size (bigger needles equals bigger loops) combined with stretching it to its extreme, made the finished fabric light and airy. This is the type of thing my friend will be able to wear to a staff meeting at her school in Southern California without anyone asking her if she's planning on catching the next flight to the frozen tundra.  


I hope she loves it.  

Regardless, I have loved the process of making it for her. Finding my "right now" has been a gift in itself. 

If you have a second {or ten} to send your own prayer and positivity to L's daughter that gift would be appreciated as well. 

On the Needles : Why Handmade Socks Make a Bad Surprise Gift

I met L during a summer she came back from Spelman. We both worked at a small department store; reshelving shoes and figuring out this week's sale signs while passing off the most annoying customers to one another. "She talked to me for two hours last week. It's your turn."  

She had a beautiful smile that would crinkle her eyes and and a slightly husky laugh that was oh so often directed at me. I was a clueless sheltered white girl in small town southern Arkansas while she was an educated black woman going to one of the most prestigious HBCUs in a city that was just blooming into the ATL that we know today.

Those laughs: they weren't mean-spirited just... knowing... in the same way that I giggle and groan at the "babies" I've had the chance to work with in the fifteen years since.

I didn't realize it at the time, but L was someone I actively mirrored my life after. I fell in love with her descriptions of the city and grew excited as she spoke about her upcoming trip to Japan to teach English. A few years later I would be on a plane to teach English in Asia and a few years after that, living in a studio apartment in a big city, but there in the shoe section, all of those things seemed impossible until she spoke them. 

hedgehog fibres sock fools gold

Twenty years on and she's a school administrator in LA who's Facebook posts make me laugh just like I did when we were in the tiny breakroom in Hope, Arkansas. 

And then she announced her two year old had cancer.

She was very matter of fact, very direct, and as always, so well spoken. She asked that unless they were praying or asking for prayers her daughter's name not be spoken. Her message of, "Do not delight in my family's trial," was something so radically different and refreshing in this day of constant status updates. 

And there I was with a two year old who did not have cancer, but with whom I shared a strange sisterhood. How does one reach out and support the woman I had unknowingly shadowed, down to the birth of our children, for years? Well, I would knit her socks. 

how to unknit a sock

She had liked a picture of the golden socks I had knit for myself a few days previous. I also remembered that she had shared that gold was the color of November and it's being Childhood Cancer Awareness month. I would knit her a pair of golden socks and show her that I was listening and sending a {somewhat awkward} foot hug to her from far away in the Ozarks. 

And so I started. It was the first sock project I started post-LASEK. And the tiny needles and skinny yarn were cumbersome until I finally fell back into the rhythm. And then I re-read the pattern.  

"Knit until sole is ___ long while slightly stretched."

Wanting this to be a surprise I had messaged her sister {also a friend who I had shared another former lifetime with} and found out that she wore a "size 9.5-10 shoe and she had a wide foot". All the sudden I questioned my original calculations.

"Will it be too small?" This lead me to re-read the project description again:  "No ribbing equals less elasticity." This made even more questions pop up in my head.

"What if the leg of the sock is too constricting around her calves?

What if the lack of running causes the socks to pool around her ankles?"

These doubts led to more- She's a mom of a toddler and a teen, one of which has a major illness.

"Does she even have time to hash wash these things?"

As I was binding off that first sock I knew my gut was telling me to slow down. My heart was in the right place but these needles might not have been. 

Blog socks 3.JPG

So I proceeded to rip it all out.

Part two soon.

On the needles : none of these things are like the other OR failure at its best

The magic of knitting is that one can take the same size yarn, the same size needles and make things of all different sizes. The consternation of knitting is that one can take the same size yarn, the same size needles and make things of all different sizes.

One can easily see how this is a problem with the picture below. 

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You see, my goal was to make my husband a hat to fish in. I had been so busy with my other projects that the, "Where's my handmade knit?" question was happening all too frequently. So when I came across the Hill Country Hat in The Knitter's Book of Wool by Clara Parkes.

I went for it. It was interesting without being dainty, and having read 5/6 of her books, I officially consider myself a fan. Why not make her stuff?

IMG_9141.JPG

So I did. But I messed up.

I'm not even going to try to explain the "how" except to say that I started it the evening before Christmas Eve after 10:30.

While it was definitely a "quick knit", I obviously should have taken the time to

  • A. knit a swatch
  • B. measure my husband's head
  • C. wait until the morning... or maybe until after Christmas
  • D. all of the above.

It was actually finished before we left for my in-law's the next day... and it didn't fit my head. Let alone his. Fortunately, it's something that Sam can grow into.

IMG_9145.JPG

Having failed at a new pattern I went back to an old reliable. This pattern is The Regular Guy Beanie by Chuck Wright and it was the second pattern that I ever bought. {Back then: I was newly married. I was a new knitter. I NEEDED to knit for my man.}  And having knit this project at least three times {no exaggeration} I knew this would work.

Except it didn't.

That same Christmas Eve day, my sister-in-law pointed out that this second project didn't look big enough either. But I knew better. I was the knitter. Not her.

I knit on... But it didn't magically grow in width.

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Sure enough, it was ridiculously small. As in, too tight for the two year old's head.

{I realized, after the fact, that I must have used larger needles previously.}

On to the next.

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I had previously finished reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's Knitting Rules In it she talks about the power of the swatch AND how one can transform a swatch into a hat. Having just worked through the TKGA's Basics, Basics, Basics {link} class I had a swatch in the same yarn. And this pattern {the Scarf Rescue Hat} was easy.

Garter stitch. Simple flat knitting. This was as brainless as this stuff comes. By this point is was past Christmas and I needed a husband hat pronto. This was the project that needed to happen.

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And sure enough this was a brainless knit.

So much so that I didn't pay too much attention some time and would miss the fact that I dropped a stitch... and I'd have to rip back to the dropped stitch, pick up that one stitch, and start over again.

Add that to the fact that garter is a notoriously slow stitch {those ridges compress together... instead of grow} and this was not the quick knit I was searching for.

But I was determined. Plus I was already past my deadline... I would surely finish this before next Christmas. Maybe.

IMG_9144.JPG

As it turns out I finished the knitting in three weeks. Definitely not as fast as the first two.

Then came the finishing. The concept of this hat is that it's basically a short scarf that one connects into tube that is then gathered up at the top.

So I learned how to connect everything with garter stitch grafting. {This took approximately 10 hours. Not really, actually closer to two. It was just ridiculously tedious.}
And then I gathered up the material... only to discover there was still a hole at the top. {Hashtag : frustration.} So I gathered more and figured out how to close it up.
And then I wove in the seven loose ends. {More tedium.}

But I liked the finished product. And it fit me with plenty of extra stretch for my husband's larger head. And I was done!!

Except... once the gift was gifted {imagine me presenting it to my husband at the end of the day, "It's done. Yay."} we both realized it wasn't going to work.

Yes, unlike the other hats so far it was wide enough, but in my exuberance {i.e. "PLEASE LET THIS BE DONE."} I had made it too tall. And my husband is not a hipster. A somewhat slouchy hat is not his thing.  And, it just wasn't cute on him.

Boo.


I've read that the reason that lots of new knitters quit is because the things they make don't fit. And after this experience I most definitely understand this frustration. 

Luckily, I've got enough positive experiences behind me to not get too wrapped up in the minor tragedy of the husband's fishing hat experience. He will most likely throw the largest hat in the boat and layer it with other hats when he goes fishing for striped bass {i.e. in the middle of winter, brrrr...}. The fish don't seem to mind his fashion, or lack thereof.

As for me, I've learned that, like any creative project, knitting often works best when it has some restraints.  In the future, I will plan ahead {no more last minute projects!}, swatch {they're fun! and quick and beautiful}, and measure {because "big" isn't always an adequate description}. 

And until I have these rules firmly established Sam will have a plethora of hats of various fit. 

LASEK {with an "E"} for knitters and : or stay-at-home moms : The Definitive Guide

Let's be clear: my definition of definitive on this matter is 100% incorrect. This is purely recollection of my personal experience. But definitive sounds fancy and makes a good title so I'm rolling with it.  

Tiny needles = tiny stitches = bad for the eyes.

Tiny needles = tiny stitches = bad for the eyes.

First off: some basics

  • I am 33 years old. Not old. Not young. Not even really middle age yet.  
  • I have no clue what my prescription was beforehand but I do know that my optometrist has told me that I've been eligible for some kind if corrective surgery since I was in high school. {imagine my glasses being insanely thick}
  • I will refer to the date of surgery as day zero and use "-" or "+" to indicate before or after surgery. 
  • I didn't write any of this down until about three weeks after surgery and intermittently since then so if it's a bit fuzzy {eyesight pun!} / incorrect please forgive me. I'm going mostly from memory.
  • I'm not a doctor. Just in case the title of this post didn't clarify that from the beginning. 

Secondly, here is an article describing the difference between LASIK {with an "I"} and LASEK {with an "e"}. By linking to them I am not recommending anything they are selling. It's just the first article that popped up when I googled it and makes sense: 

LASIK vs LASEK comparison chart

The moral of the story : LASIK has a two hour recovery period with a slightly greater chance of dry eyes in the future. LASEK has a month plus recovery period but has less potentially negative side effects including dry eyes and less chance of the "eye flap" being knocked out in some serious head concussion event {which is why it's preferred by military and police... and apparently stay at home moms}.

I received the second kind of surgery. All the recommendations I hadwere from people who had received the first. Keep that in mind as you read my account below.  

And now a basic basic timeline of my procedure, LASEK, so far.

  • day -40 : I go in for original consultation. They tell me I have fat corneas which is apparently a good thing. 
    • They tell me they I won't be able to wear glasses for the two weeks prior to surgery.
      • I have to order a brand new pair of glasses after remembering that one year old baby Samuel destroyed by previous ones. 
    • They also give me a whole list of prescriptions to be filled {"ASAP"} as well as super cool {ie. nerdy} sunglasses and eye shield, For sleeping... so I don't try to gouge out my own eyes while asleep post-surgery.
  •  Day -30 : I get crazy headaches when transitioning from contacts to glasses so I make the switch a week early to get that business out of the way while I'm on my normal schedule instead of traveling cross country like I'm scheduled to do. 
  • Day -23 : Fly across the country. See the same ocean and forest that Lewis and Clark saw from the same vantage point. Cried a bit at the beauty. This should have been a clue that I'm extremely visual.
  • Day -17 : Return from vacation. Have everyone who knows I'm having surgery asks if I'm excited for the next two weeks. I generally shrug. 
  • Day -14: Tests at both the surgeons and my ophthalmologist. Another cornea test {still fat} and a tear production test {in which they stick a string in my eye to see how much I cry} among others.
    • Finally go get the prescription medicine. Apparently the pharmacist is really interested in how my surgery goes because he is thinking about having it himself. {I will obviously be giving him this post via rx-mail.}
  • Day -01 : I hardly sleep. Super anxious.  
  • Day of surgery :  They have me arrive me surgery at 1:00. I'm sitting knitting a sock for an hour while paperwork happens. Then they have a nurse come talk to me and my "responsible adult" (my mom who is staying for the weekend) about the medications I will need for the next few hours and to confirm the eye appointment first thing the following day.
    • The nurse then tells me to take two Valium.
      I question her because earlier in the year I was able to sleep through getting a crown with a single Valium, but decide to roll with it because no one wants to be antsy while someone is shooting lasers in one's eyes.
    • Chat with the surgeon about 15 minutes later.
      He confirms everything we're doing and let's me know that his neurosurgeon son has had the same procedure and he's back to working on people's brains today, so basically I have nothing to fear. Or maybe that's the medicine kicking in.
    • I walk back to the super cold "surgery room" where all the nurses look like what I had expected them to look like when I was delivering my son {scrubs and hair nets and masks and the whole shebang}. They give me a final test and then ask me to look at the tv. "Just to compare the before and after."
    • They help me to a chair {yes, the medicine was definitely taking effect} and work on each eye individually. All I remember is someone holding my eyes open, seeing flashing red dots of light and, close to the end, the surgeon saying in a stern tone of voice, "Keep your eyes open wide." This moment will forever make me wonder if I screwed up my own vision by falling victim to the Valium.
    • As they were almost finished the nurse sees that one of the "bandage contacts" {like a regular contact but no prescription: it's job is to hold everything tight} is about to come out so they scoop it out and replace it with another.
      I had been warned that tricky bandage contacts were a somewhat common occurrence so I was relieved that mine went ahead and misbehaved while I was still in the presence of medical professionals. 
    • Afterward they suggest a heavy meal to help the pain medicine along, so Mom drives me through my favorite fast food place on the way home and I'm eating french fries in bed 20 minutes after my surgery. {Did I mention I live exactly 2 blocks from my surgeon's office?}
    • The next morning I wake up to read and laugh at the three nonsensical texts that happened after the pain medicine kicked in and before I drifted off to sleep with my eye shield securely fashioned.
  • Day +01 : I'm fine. I was up not in pain and can see-ish.
    • I say "ish" because, as I can thoroughly understand now, it is so very hard to describe vision in verbal terms. If one can't see exactly what they were able to see before then they describe their vision as "bad" don't they? But what does that mean? Is it blurry? Is it doubled? is it clear? How close can you see? How far? Are your eyes dry?
    • These are all the questions that I am eventually asked at 8am that morning. I am told that my vision is really good for the day after and that I'm healing nicely. I've given an appointment for three days afterward and am shuttled back the two blocks by my mom and a toddler who is ever so sweet by wanting to "help mommy feel better", by laying on the bed with me. 
  • Day +04 : It's around this point that things take a turn for the worse. And by worse I mean... I've not had any pain so I don't have to wean myself off pain medicine or deal with pain. However, higher consciousness does alert me to the fact that I can't miraculously see. 
    • It's around this time that I distinctly hear my sister-in-law's voice in my head, "I woke up and I could see across the room." I can't see across the room. Did something happen?
  • At the surgeon's appointment that afternoon two things happen that, sort of, assure me:
  1. I meet another woman, a mom with two kids under five, who had the same surgery the same day as myself. The receptionist had mixed us up at the front desk so, using the confusion as an icebreaker, asked her how she was. "I can't really see," was the answer that made me feel less alone... even if we both had to figure out how to entertain toddlers while blurry.
  2.  The doctor said everything was progressing well. He took out the bandage contact, transcribed notes to send to my regular optomologist, and told me to have a good day. I have an infinite amount of trust in doctors. If this gentleman said everything was going to be fine, it will be okay.
  • Days +05- 10 : Still super blurry. Still not driving. Trying my best to not cook {sharp knives!}. Still depending on my babysitter to get Sam to and from school. 
  • Day +11 : Appointment with my regular eye dr.
    I asked ryan to come home early and watch Sam. I drove myself to the appointment though I probably shouldn't. When the dr asks how things are going, I answer a not very upbeat sounding, "I honestly don't know." "I tried to warn you that you would say that to me at this appointment," he replies and begins to explain the healing process. 
    • He asks me to imagine how a rose blooms from the outside in. This surgery requires the eyes to do the same. The healing starts at the outside and gradually moves toward the inside of the eye. That first week I could see relatively well compared to the second week because the healing was closer to all my focusing mechanisms. This gives me hope. I am a "why" person. Explain it to me in a way that I understand and I freak out less. 
  • Day +12 - 13 : The days before Thanksgiving. I am basically excused from the majority of Thanksgiving cooking duties because of my lack of eyesight. Except rolling out the pie dough. My brilliant chef of a husband can't be expected to be amazing at everything.
  • Day + 14 Thanksgiving : Packing. Traveling the hour to the in-laws. Traveling another four hours to my parents' house. Dealing with a toddler who is high on Dorito dust and Nana kisses. All while blind-ish. 
    Yeah. Okay. No problem.
  • Day +16 : I wake up the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I can see!
    I proclaim it to be a Thanksgiving Day miracle {"The turkey does exist!"} and all is well. For approximately 30 minutes. Things go blurry again and I have officially hit the "fluctuating" stage. 
    • The tech had told me lots about this stage. "Your vision will change throughout the day depending on how tired you and your eyes are." But I expected it to be smaller changes. Like the ones that happen when the eye dr says, "option one or option two," the slight difference makers as he is refining one's prescription. The fluctuations I dealt with were massive. At 6:01 I could read the time on the kitchen oven clock from Sam's favorite chair. At 6:33, nothing but a green blur.
    • It's sometime around here that I decide that knitting cables stocked is a bad idea (the sock that I had been working on pre surgery has been finished the week post surgery and I had been working on the second) so I forego knitting as well. 
  • Days 17-22+ : I make a concerted effort to rest my eyes. I hire a babysitter to take Sam to his activities and school. I lay in bed with an ice pack and listen to lots of audiobook Harry Potter. I stay away from screens as much as physically possible given that's how I communicate all day.
    • I'm lonely. I'm bored. I'm trying not to be a "bad mom" who "allows" her child to watch tv all day but that's the extent of my desire. Mostly, I'm scared that I've screwed up the first two weeks of my healing by not truly resting in those initial weeks. 
  • Day +30 : I've not been as good at rest this past week as I was the last. I'm learning that resting takes both work, patience, and a bit of extra money. From hiring a babysitter  to chomping at the theoretical bit to finally start the correspondence course I had bought, to deceiding how cold is too cold to take a stroller ride when not able to drive: all these things were things I wouldn't have had to even worry about with had I not had the surgery.  I'm less mad about it now. A bit more resigned.
    • My near vision continues to be good. Though I'm trying to stay away, screens and reading and knitting really are the hardest thing to be taken away from. Especially since I can actaully see well enough to do these things but knowing that doing them causes the stress that is perhaps the cause of...
    • Continued bad distance vision.  And it's more of a "seeing double thing". It's less about not being able to see and more about a thing and the ghost of a thing happening close enough together for me to know it is a single thing but far enough apart for my to not be able to see it clearly. The squint test occasionally works but the truth is I'd rather stay crow's feet free and it still doesn't improve my depth perception, which is the reason that though I may be "legal" to drive{ in Arkansas you only have to be able to see 20/40}. I chose not too if I can help it. When I do it's on less busy roads at lees busy times, and always before dark. I prefer to not even think about driving in the dark. 
      • I do see improvement. Though it's so small and incremental that I actaully have a hard time realizing it, let alone verballing it.
  • day + 60 : I'm still not 20/20 but I am living normally. I think it's a combination of both improved vision {yay!} and getting used to my less than perfect vision {boo}. I still squint when I pass someone at the grocery store and I'm unsure if I know them or not. But I can see most things when I glance at the television screen. I can make out signs on the road before I almost pass them. I'm cooking and {sometimes} answering emails. I'm making house design decisions and making out regular trips to the library and staying up too late knitting or reading. And I'm actually re-reading and editing this post which was {and probably still is} rife with typos and misspellings from the first few weeks. 
    • All of this is encouraging. But I still can't see crisply. And subsequent visits to the eye doctor have assured me I'm healing normally. I'm no longer mentally/ emotionally depressed about it. But this is not what I was expecting. 

I am writing this because it's the thing I wish I would have read before I had surgery. I was told that LASEK {with an "e"} was "new and improved" and "better in the long-run" and went with it.  

Were the claims of "new and improved" incorrect?

Probably not.

Did the techs and the surgeons and the ophthalmologists try to fully explain this to me before hand?

Mostly-ish.

But I still wish I had known all this detail before. As someone who goes crazy without something to do combined with being alone with a toddler all day with no ability to do anything but take {sometimes questionable} stroller rides for two plus weeks, I wish I would have said, "Let's not do new and improved. Let's do old and reliable and quick. I love my kid but we have to go to gym class/ library/ the grocery store or both of us will go crazy."

Having had LASEK here are some things I wish I had done differently: 

  • Known what to expect. Obviously I was putting too much weight on the experience of friends and loved ones and too lazy / busy to do my own research. If you are reading this post you have officially done better than me.  
  • Knowing what to expect I would have had only one eye done at a time so that I could (with the help of glasses) have continued to drive. 
  • At the very least I would have arranged babysitting / play dates / travel arrangements for Sam and I. In my extra Pinterest - wannabe time {Ie. Nonexistent but whatever} I would have probably prepped some at home activities for us to do while "stuck" at home.  
  • Given myself a legitimate if unofficial eye test I could do at home. Something that simple would have been a more definitive test of how good or bad my eyesight was on a particular day. While it may not have helped me physically I think it would have helped the depression that settled over me after the first week. 

The irony about this whole thing is that the majority of my latest Color and Happy podcast season focused on creative women and major illness. I respected their stories for the strength that they showed.  But having a very minor and temporary {and elective! chosen!} experience of disability myself I am even more in awe of their mental and emotional resilience. This experience taught me that, in my case, the physical is secondary to the depression and anxiety and angst that comes from dependence on others and inability to do "normal" life. 

This, like most things, been a learning experience. And if this helps you learn without the pain of going through two months of questionable eyesight I hope that helps you.

Onward and upward friends. 

Inspiration : Oregon Wine Country

As I mentioned one my last post, this wasn't my first time to Oregon Wine Country. During our previous trip we had taken a tour through Backroads Wine Tours.

The word "tour" seems a bit.... fancy in this instance. From memeory {and please remember this was three plus years and a pregnancy/ birth and lots of missed sleep between now and then} it was nothing more than a guy driving us and another one maybe two other couples around in his dusty old minivan where we hit four... maybe five... wineries in one day and he dropped us back off neatly at our hotel in Portland. 

There are several advantages to this route: 

  • one always has a designated driver {this in itself is good enough reason}
  • you have a person who knows the history of the area and the wineries and the stories of the wine growers and why the wineries on the top of the hill are worth more than those at the bottom of the hill and how the pterodactyl poop in the Jurassic period affected the taste of the 2014 Pinot noir.  {okay. That last one is a bit of an exaggeration.} the point is: going with someone who knows the area means you can walk in blind without researching much of anything and learn a lot about wine in general and this area specifically. 

The downsides are the exact benefits of going at alone. When you're not in a tour you can:

  • decide your own route. Have a favorite winery? Saw something interesting in the Bon Appetit you were reading in the airport on your way over? Want to visit the cute couple at the red barn who also raise sheep as well as make wine that your neighbors told you about after their last trip?   Driving one's self is the best way to make this happen. 
  • Relationships. As with most of the world, wineries are always better once you have a conversation with the person who knows it inside and out. Where our visits with the tour guy lasted 45 minutes max per winery we were able to spend an hour plus per winery this trip because we weren't on anyone's schedule but our own. This gave us time to rally chat with the winemakers and sommeliers and get really interesting stories about different years of their own production or how the area vintners come together to figure out problems.  These relationships also were the key to the next benefit.
  • my husband, bless his heart, came prepared. He had a map and he had everything circled that he wanted to visit along with notes of wines we'd had from there. And then we met a wine maker over on the coast that suggested a winery and, like that, his list went out the window. We went to one winery and asked who they recommended we go to next. Our "go with the  wind/ the next recommendation" theory didn't allow for us to hit very many places but we get like we got amazing experiences at each one.  

Let's also talk about how to do this safely:

  • Shared flights:
    Generally there are three or four half glass per wine flight. If you ask to share one person is drinking half of that.
  • Spit buckets:
    For the wines you're not feeling and spending that time getting to know the folks at the winery and you'll be good. 
  • Another pro: picnic!!
    We picked up cheese, sausage, cheese, fancy mustard and patte and had the absolute best lunch on the side of the road. We still joke that we were eating the world's largest most fancy Slim Jim. But goodness, I remember that as one of the best meals on the trip and we ate REALLY well in Oregon. 

Below is another pared down phone dump of the McMinnville Downtown area {so cute!} and then a sneak peek of the winemaking process at White Rose Winery. Ya'll they were pressing wine BY HAND. It was amazing and beautiful and they were working so hard because it was harvest season which means there's a lot happening. And we basically got an unscheduled unanticipated insider's view.

Le sigh. So awesome. 

Check below the images for links and recommendations.