Back in April, I went crazy knitting little things using the patterns in Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi by Anna Hrachovec. I made so many things that I didn’t post them all at the time. Here are more of the adorable patterns from the book.

I’m most attracted to the animals in the book. I know I shared them before, but here are more chickens, which I really enjoy making. Their shape appeals to me.

chickens

Chickens! Need I say more?

I also made a lion which proved hard to photograph. Here’s my best shot:

It's a lion. Honest.

It’s a lion. Honest.

See? Lion.

See? Lion.

The book has patterns of other things, including food, people, and inanimate objects. I usually avoid food, since I have so many issues with food sensitivities, but I couldn’t resist the baked potato.

A baked potato with eyes. (no pun intended)

A baked potato with eyes. (no pun intended)

I also made two of the inanimates for a friend. One is a plane (she is an aerospace engineer) and the other, a tiny tropical island (she loves to travel).

airplane_web

Airplane (with eyes!)

A desert island, complete with palm tree and water (but no eyes -- sorry, Anna!)

A desert island, complete with palm tree and water (but no eyes — sorry, Anna!)

All the patterns in Hrachovec’s book have eyes stitched on them because “the only thing cuter than a mini knitted forest is a mini knitted forest with twenty-eight little eyes looking back at you”. Most of the time, the eyes do make the inanimate stuff even cuter, but I left them off the island. I felt like they made it harder to tell what you were looking at.

What are your favorite little knitting and crochet projects?

Last week, I spent three hours in the emergency room. My husband was in a bicycle accident. An aggressive Canada goose flew up into his face, catching him by surprise and causing him to fall. He landed on the grass and had the wind knocked out of him. He didn’t think he’d broken anything and rode his bike home, but by the time he reached our house, he was in serious pain. How serious? It took maybe fifteen minutes to talk him into going to the hospital.

Kurt in the ER (after he learned he didn't puncture a lung but before we realized he'd cracked some ribs).

Kurt in the ER (after he learned he didn’t puncture a lung but before we realized he’d cracked some ribs).

Once we were in the ER, I felt much better. I knew something serious could be wrong with Kurt, but I also knew we were in the right place to deal with it. Looking back, I realize how much the caring hospital staff had to do with making me feel so confident.

Our nurse and doctor listened to us carefully. They believed us when we told them a goose had knocked Kurt off his bike, even though they had never had a case like his before. They gave Kurt the amount of pain killer he wanted and no more. They paid attention to the note on his chart about his father’s allergy to opiates, were conservative in administering morphine, and vigilant in watching for any sign of trouble as it took effect. They even laughed at our bad jokes.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so well-cared for, and to have it be in such a scary situation, where Kurt’s possible injuries included a punctured lung, broken ribs, and crushed organs, made it all the more valuable to me. The hospital staff was wonderful, from the doctor who explained our options and helped us make decisions about Kurt’s care to the volunteer who came by to see if I needed a drink or snack. I trusted everyone we met and felt held up by their knowledge and their desire to help us.

The staff built a connection with us through their compassionate approach to our situation. They were respectful, understanding, and patient. When Kurt’s x-ray showed his lung was fine, the doctor said we could go home. But Kurt was terribly dizzy the first time he stood up, and the nurse put him back on monitors and kept us for another 20 minutes, giving him time to recover and to make sure that the morphine, which was the likely culprit, wasn’t causing him more serious issues.

I want to give the hospital staff all the credit for how things went, but there is more to it than their eagerness to help. I also had to be willing to be helped. Fear for Kurt made it easier for me to trust strangers and accept their help. I dropped my usual barriers and found myself feeling part of the human race, connected to those around me, even those that were strangers.

The connection was so deep that I nearly went into the unit next to ours. We could easily hear the older couple talking through the curtain walls. The husband had fallen and broken a hip. He needed surgery and was in the process of being admitted to the hospital. The wife was confused and unwilling to leave her husband, although she would eventually have to go home. Compassion welled up in me as I listened. Before I knew that Kurt wouldn’t need surgery, I was faced with the same painful thought — that I might have to go home alone.

I didn’t go into the other room. There was no need. The staff was on hand to help those two through their challenges and they were much better equipped to do so than I was. But my heart longed to do it. Having received so much comfort, I wanted to share it. Maybe that is the greatest thing about compassion. If we can just be open to it and receive it, we will be eager to give it in return.

When have you been grateful to accept the help of others?

Note for the curious: We know now that Kurt definitely cracked some ribs, but otherwise he is fine.

Today, members of 1000 Voices of Compassion are blogging about connecting. To see a list of other posts on connecting and compassion, click here.

There’s a video floating around on the Internet that you’ve probably seen already. There are two doors into a public building, one labeled Average and the other Beautiful. It’s an ad for Dove soap, which isn’t obvious except that even the “average” looking women in this ad are pretty attractive. My reactions to this experiment were emotional and complex. I know it’s an ad and their goal is to manipulate my emotions, but they got me thinking about the way different women reacted to the signs, and what those reactions say about our ideas about beauty and ourselves.

Women by themselves would stare at the signs and have a little internal debate before choosing. It made me cry to see lovely women streaming through the Average door, and yet I know that’s where I’d go. Even if I felt beautiful at that moment (something that rarely happens), I wouldn’t want to seem boastful. If no one was watching, I might try the beautiful door just to see how it felt. The presence of witnesses must affect the choice made, because it isn’t just about how we see ourselves, but how we think others will perceive us.

My favorite moments were when a group of women encouraged one another. Three friends veer from Average to Beautiful. A daughter heading for Average gets pulled over to Beautiful by her mother. After a moment of consideration, another woman pushes her friend’s wheelchair through Beautiful. When the women in the group know each other, there is no question which door to choose. We all deserve such friends and family members in our lives, people who make us turn and own our beauties, whatever they are.

The average rose IS beautiful.

The thing that bothered me the most was the woman who stopped, stared up at the two signs, then walked away without entering the building at all. I didn’t know if avoiding the doors was a sign of amazing self-worth (“no labels for me!”) or a sign of deep brokenness (“too ugly to enter”). Her decision not to choose was painful to witness. Either she is challenging me to not let others put me in a box, or she is showing me her wounds and daring me to disagree with her.

Either way, the lesson is clear. Words have power. When we use them to label ourselves or others, even in jest, they stick. Our fears of what others might think get tangled around what we think and feel ourselves until we no longer know who we are. We fall victim to the belief that though we are unique, varied, marvelous individuals, the best we can claim is average.

What about you? Average? Beautiful? Or much, much more?

A few years ago, I made myself buy a bigger purse. For years I resisted carrying a purse at all, and then when I did start, I kept them as small as possible. Keys, wallet, and sunglasses were all that fit, because that was about all I needed. Eventually, I wanted to carry a notebook for scribbling in during otherwise wasted time. I didn’t want to carry two bags, so I bought a lovely hand-woven Peruvian purse from ClothRoads as a birthday gift to myself. A friend who had one assured me that the material wears “like iron” and looking at the bag today, I have to agree. I’ve used it for two years and it looks new.

My big purse, hand-woven in Peru.

My big purse, hand-woven in Peru.

I’ve gotten used to carrying a bigger bag, and I think that caused my next problem — not being able to find anything. A big bag means plenty of room for extras, and I’m in the habit of carrying all sorts of stuff I didn’t use to bother with. In the last month, I’ve had multiple moments of frustration where I nearly dumped my purse out in order to find what I was looking for. I started thinking it was time to buy a new purse, but because this one is still in such good condition, that seemed like an unnecessary and wasteful solution.

Fortunately, I thought of Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. I checked the section of the book where she tackles different sorts of things that need organizing, and sure enough, there was a chapter for briefcases and purses. A quick skim of it told me what my problem was: items did not have a home. There’s a small zipper pocket inside that I put my cell phone in, but otherwise the purse is a single large compartment. There was no way to sort or organize my belongings inside the bag.

Since I didn’t want to go shopping for a new bag, I decided to make smaller bags to collect like things. The rule I made for myself was that after reaching into my purse, I should only have to open one thing to get at what I wanted. This meant that my prescription sunglasses, which travel in a hardshell case, could just go in the bag as-is. But most everything else could be inside a second bag.

Following Morgenstern’s advice, I sorted the things I carry in my purse into like items. I wound up with three piles: money-related (wallet, discount membership cards, checkbook, pen), personal care (chapstick, eyedrops, gum, etc.), and planning (calendar, pen, shopping lists).

The contents of my purse. (No wonder I couldn't find anything!)

The contents of my purse. (No wonder I couldn’t find anything!)

Next, I needed bags. Since I used to make the little purses I carried, I was willing to make the bags that would go into my purse. My favorite purse pattern is the Runaround Bag by Lazy Girl Designs. Although it includes a zipper, the construction of the bag is designed to make inserting it a breeze. So I used the trick from the pattern to put zippers in my much simpler bags for my purse.

The bags I made to organize my purse.

The bags I made to organize my purse.

I chose the fabric to suggest the contents, hoping it will help me remember my new system. Money is green (of course), personal care has geishas primping on it, and the butterflies on the planning bag are symbolic of time passing.

I’ve used the new bags for only a few days, but already, life is much, much better. Every time I’ve had to go into my purse, I’ve found what I was looking for without effort, and I no longer have to apologize to the cashier for having to wait while I dig for my wallet. It’s taken the frustration out of carrying my big purse, and I can love it again.

Do you prefer big or small bags? How do you keep things you carry around with you organized?

Thanks to my many physiological quirks, I’ve had to build my own health plan. I’ve learned that things that are healthy for others, like a vegetarian diet, are not healthy for me. Over the years, with the help of professionals and friends, I’ve discovered that I have a thyroid problem, various food sensitivities, and some special dietary needs. Just this week, I got another piece to the puzzle, and I am examining it carefully, wondering what changes addressing this new issue might bring.

A few of the vitamins I need to take.

A few of the vitamins I need to take.

My struggle with severe bouts of fatigue, which have been diagnosed as depression in the past, has gone on for almost ten years now. Many of the changes I’ve made, from cutting out sugar and gluten to returning to eating meat, have helped me feel better and have more energy. But the rollercoaster continues. My test results from my annual physical put me in the normal range most of the time, so according to my doctor, I’m perfectly healthy. But I haven’t felt perfectly healthy for ages.

Fortunately, I am blessed with friends who are walking this same road of self-discovery. One of them listened to me talking about my low energy and occasional anxiety and suggested I get a genetic test for MTHFR (which stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase and is not an abbreviation for a nasty swear word).

MTHFR is both a gene and the enzyme it produces. The enzyme is part of the methylation cycle that occurs in every cell in our body and is responsible for cell repair, detoxification, neurotransmitter production, and a healthy immune system. One mutation can reduce enzyme efficiency to 60% of a normal person’s. Two mutations can result in 10 – 20% efficiency.

When I went to see my nutritionist about my latest energy issues, she suggested some testing of various vitamins and minerals. Part of the panel she wanted to run included an MTHFR test, so I signed up to get it done. (It’s just a blood test, and you don’t even have to fast for it.)

The results came back and I definitely have problems. I have a B-2 deficiency, along with low B vitamin results across the board. I’m also low on vitamin C, zinc, copper, magnesium, and a few other things. But the most important result? I tested positive for the gene mutation.

There are two MTHFR gene locations: C677T which is associated with cardiovascular issues, and A1298C which affects mood and behavior more. I was negative for C677T but heterozygous for A1289C (i.e., I have one mutated copy and one regular copy).

The solution is apparently really simple. I need to take methyl-B12 (methylcobalamine) and methyl-folate to make sure my body can absorb these nutrients. Without them, I am more likely to have deficiencies in my B vitamins (just as my test results showed). I’m also taking a B-vitamin complex and some other minerals to help address all my borderline results.

Because I suffered a B-12 deficiency in the 90s, I’ve been taking B-12 ever since. But I didn’t know that there was more than one kind out there so I never paid attention to what I was buying. My latest bottle at least was the cyano-form. I should be angry about how many B-12 pills I’ve taken in the last 20 years and how little I was probably benefiting from them, but mostly I’m just grateful to know what I now know about this.

I’ve started my new supplements and for the first few days, I felt just fine. Not over the moon wonderful, but energetic enough to have a productive and full day of the kind I imagine most adults have. The last two days I’ve been feeling tired again. The nutritionist told me to schedule my check-up with her in six weeks, so I know it will be a while before we can really tell how well I’m responding to the supplements.

In the meantime, I have plenty to think about. When I read the list of major health issues linked to the MTHFR mutation, I wondered how many of my issues are caused by this single mutated gene. How big of a factor is this in my depressive episodes? How much has it enhanced my nervous nature? Is this why sugar gives me so much trouble? Is this the root cause of the fatigue issues I’ve been struggling with for all theses years? Or will there be little to no noticeable improvement in my energy levels despite knowing about this mutation?

I have a new piece to add to my puzzle, but it will be a while before I can tell just how big this piece is.

Do you struggle just to be a healthy “normal” person? What challenges have you faced? What have you learned?

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