A perfect Saturday afternoon

So, I don’t talk about this a lot, but it’s really hard to get out of the house. I have depression which makes it hard to get up and move and I have anxiety which means that when I do get out of the house, I can spend a lot of time feeling out of place and stupid, instead of just being in the moment where I am. Now, I’m an adult who is gainfully employed, so I do manage to get out of the house for things like my job and the essential errands I have to run to be a functional adult. But that often means that I have no energy to go out and do anything else.

One of the many reasons that meeting Ron was one of the best things that happened to me is that he makes it easier for me to go out and have fun. He will come with me to run errands, which makes it easier to do them and makes them less draining. And in more social and fun situations, he acts a buffer between me and that voice in my head that tells me I’m too weird and everyone is staring at my stupid outfit and that thing I said was really dumb and I should just go home where it’s nice and isolated. But, about six months ago, I got an amazing job opportunity in the Bay Area. Because Ron is supportive and wonderful, he encouraged me to take the job, and suddenly I am 400 miles away from my main support. (Ron and I are fine; we didn’t break up; we are doing a weird long distance thing for the moment, which admittedly sucks, but we have plans and shouldn’t be quite so long-distance in the not-too-distant future.)

I think ultimately, this has been a good thing, despite how much I miss him. It has forced me to be more independent and I have to say that my new job was right for my career. But I have been a bit of hermit these past few months. I don’t know many people up here; those I do know are busy people (as am I), and my anxiety makes it hard for me to do too much. I’ve been to a few knit nights, forced myself to go play guitar alone at a few open mics (more on that some other time), and gone to a few movies, but have done very little to explore my new neighborhood.

This Saturday the weather was beautiful and with Ron’s encouragement, I went to my city’s incredibly adorable downtown, where I took a walk and explored some of the shops. There is a great used bookstore, where I found an The Art of Fine Baking, an old baking book from the 1960’s, and The Good Housekeeping New Complete Book of Needlecraft from 1971. I love old cooking and craft books, especially ones with handdrawn illustrations, like in the picture below.


I may never make a swiss broyage (or will I?), but tell me that isn’t an absolutely charming illustration?

I then settled at a little outdoor table in a small local coffee shop with my new book (Knitlandia by Clara Parkes), some tea, and my knitting (plus a cookie, because cookies are delicious). I had a wonderful time out and about and nothing terrible happened, in spite of my anxiety assuring me that it would.

Knitlandia is all about Clara Parkes’ ravels as a knitter to places like Iceland and the people she’s met, sometimes because she was unafraid to go talk to them. It’s a wonderful read, but on further reflections I am struck by irony…I’m afraid to go a few miles on my own, let alone to Iceland, even though I paradoxically dream of seeing far flung places and meeting interesting people. And while I wish that I could change how I feel immediately and be completely unafraid to jet off somewhere alone, that’s not how anxiety works. But I think that I’m going to make more of an effort to at least explore my own backyard. Maybe inch by inch I can make it to Iceland some day.


My mother died August 1st, 2015. Just after Thanksgiving in 2014, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She tried to be very positive about her prospects, in spite of the late stage of the tumor, in spite of her other health problems that would complicate treatment, and in spite of the fact that the doctors all but told her “There is no cure.” In the phone call where she told me, she did her best to make it sound like this was a condition she could live with for quite some time. But I have a degree in biochemistry and I am not stupid, so I knew that we weren’t going to have much time left.

We got about 8 months with her after the diagnosis. She got to see my youngest sister graduate from college. She got to see her youngest niece born. She got to see my other sister get married. We got one last Christmas, one last Mother’s Day, one last birthday with her. When my heart is breaking, I try to be grateful that, but it’s hard, because I’d rather she was still here.

Grief is a funny thing. Some days I’m okay. Really. I feel like I can function and the sadness is not overwhelming. It’s just a small pack I carry…there but not weighing me down. And some days, the weight of my grief is such a weight that I don’t know how to carry it. Some days I’m so sad that a beer and pint of ice cream seem like a perfectly acceptable dinner. And the triggers aren’t always expected. I figured I would feel extra sadness as this day came up. But you don’t count on all the little reminders and digs that pop up by surprise. A pop star’s father dies of cancer and I am suddenly teary-eyed. I was visiting a friend whose four-year-old daughter is learning about life cycles. With all of the enthusiasm and guilelessness of a not-quite-still-a-toddler, she wanted to talk all about how her dad’s mom and dad were both dead. A rational conversation about how people sometimes die is a totally appropriate conversation to have with a kid–and one I have had with children before–but it was not one I was expecting to have that night. It’s easy, especially as someone who works in the sciences, to be a little impassive about death. It is, after all, a part of life. But of course your own deaths don’t feel like a fact of life. They feel like a painful and personal insult to the way things are supposed to be.

My mother was not perfect. She wasn’t a perfect person. She certainly wasn’t a perfect mother. Growing up, there were times I hated her. (She would actually appreciate me saying so, since she hated the very human tendency that we all have to paint the dead as saints. “Every kid that dies is suddenly a straight A student,” was her common complaint about how the media reported deaths. “A dead asshole is still an asshole” I remember her saying another time. She didn’t mince words.) But she was my mother and no matter how hard it might have been to have her as a mother (as I’m sure that at times it was very hard on her to have me as a daughter), she gave me so very much. She taught me that my intelligence counted so much more than my appearance. She taught me to read before I can even remember. She was driven and smart and fierce and funny and fearless–all the things I want to be more of. I miss her just as much as I did six months ago.

I’m back. I’ve been not writing, because I’ve been in such a funk.

There are times in my life when I exist in a very bleak place. I get very hard on myself. I struggle. And I become convinced that I have nothing of value to give anyone. I make myself get up and go to work, convinced that I will be fired at any minute because I can’t possibly have anything of value to give as an employee. I find myself wanting to skip social engagements because I’m convinced no one wants me there anyway.

And I don’t write, because I’m certain that I have nothing of value to say to anyone. On top of that, getting up to do the bare minimum (that is, work and the minimum of grownup stuff necessary to keep oneself fed, clothed, and moderately clean) is so very much energy that at the end of the day, I don’t have any left to say anything. Even if anyone wanted to hear it, which (in that mood at any rate), I’m convinced that no one does.

I’m grateful every day for the supportive partner I have, who helps me get by in these hard times.

It hasn’t all been lounging around being sad. I have knit. I performed in two concerts. I took an acting class. I started a podcast. I just only did a lot of that stuff at the time because I had committed to other people to do it. I had committed to the singing gigs. I had committed to the class with Ron. I have a podcast partner I didn’t want to let down.

And none of that is a bad thing, because I ultimately want to do these things. It’s just that knowing that someone else is counting on me is what helps me find the energy to keep going. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that there are people in my life who help me remember what I want and hang in there until I feel like I can do things again.

To be honest, I’m not sure if I’m there yet. I’ve been working on so much and I have so much I want to share with you all. I’ll do my best.

I had a post all written about how I ran the Seal Beach 5k on Saturday and how it was my first one and I had so much fun and I did better than expected because I really pushed myself.

But in light of the Boston Marathon, I just can’t post something about how much fun I had at my race. It hurts my heart that someone had such a desire to cause harm to people. It hurts my heart every single time it happens.

So all I will say today is that my heart goes out to anyone who was harmed today, or who had a loved one harmed. And that I hope that healing comes quickly to all of our hearts.

My coworker died two weeks ago. He had been fighting cancer for two years and finally just couldn’t do it any longer.

Danny was a wonderful person. He was kind, infinitely patient, and had such a passion for the work that we do. I was always struck by how much he knew and how much he loved talking about the science behind what we do. Even when he was out on medical leave, he was always asking about the lab. He was never dismissive when he spoke to me. Even when he was angry about something, he was careful in his words and his actions.

Looking at the pictures at his memorial, it was clear to me that he had lived such a wonderful and full life. While I’m sure he had difficulties and troubles and sadnesses (as we all do), he seemed like a genuinely happy person. We hear cliches about how short life is, how lucky we are to have the people we love, how we have to find the joy in the small things in life. But for me, it actually is a fight to remember these things and to be happy with my life, which is really pretty good. It is a day-to-day battle to not let the really hard things overwhelm me.

Danny, I’m going to miss you so much, not least of all, because you always embodied the joy that I struggle every day to find. I will always remember you and how you were such an example to me, both personally and professionally. I only wish that I had gotten more time to know you.

Ron in the hat I knit for him

Ron in the hat I knit for him (and isn’t he cute?)

Ron and I finally got around to celebrating our anniversary the weekend before last, and I knit a simple hat for his gift, but it’s something that’s filled with a lot of meaning for me. Long story short, I was at Stitches West during our anniversary. Ron is so awesome and so completely understands my obsession that he was totally cool with me missing our anniversary, even though I felt a little bad about it. So, with scheduling and other stuff, we couldn’t find the time until just this past weekend.

Honestly, I think we needed to go out and celebrate, because it’s been a rough couple of weeks for us. Ron got in a really bad car accident about two weeks ago. Don’t worry, he’s fine, but we are so very, very lucky. But it’s those kinds of things that make you really consider how much the people in your life mean. And Ron means a lot to me. I trust him implicitly. He is a constant source of love and support for me. He makes me laugh. He makes me feel better when I’m sad and hurting. I’m a lucky girl to have him in my life.

Honestly, Ron is so very, very knitworthy that I’m a little ashamed that this anniversary hat is only the second knitted item I’ve ever made him. I’ve knit him a hat before, but it was a double knit hat in heavy worsted yarn, so it was a little too warm to be truly useful. We live in Southern California, so it’s not terribly cold out most of the time. He deserves so much more knitted stuff, because he is so awesome and supportive and kind and generous. He’s exactly the kind of person who deserves my handknits.

So I searched around Ravelry for a pattern. I’ve found that when knitting for men, it’s best to keep the patterning simple, so I chose this pattern: The Man Hat. It’s a simple garter rib hat and I finished it pretty easily.

I did have to do some messing with the gauge. The pattern called for a bulky weight yarn, and the yarn I wanted to use (Skacel Divine) was more of a light worsted or a dk yarn. Plus, it was really drapey, so I ended up going down to size 4 needles and casting on a bunch more stitches than called for in the pattern and doing extra decreases at the crown. Simple patterns like this are pretty easy to modify. If you’re new to changing gauges and doing math as a knitter, I recommend starting with a pattern like this, where the math isn’t too difficult and the patterning and shaping is easy.

Bay Arcade Neon Sign in Balboa

This is the sign of the arcade where we spent the afternoon

And yes, our anniversary was wonderful. We went down to the Balboa Fun Zone and rode the Ferris Wheel and played games in silly run down arcades. We bought Pixie Sticks and plastic dinosaurs with our ticket winnings from Skee Ball, because we are awesome. Then we ate seafood at The Cannery, which is a restaurant I just love. And Ron helped me take some pictures of some of the really cool old signs in the neighborhood. He’s a much better photographer than I am, and he’s really patient with me when he teaches me.

I feel so glad to be able create for people I love, even if it’s just knitting a simple hat for them. It’s my way of saying “I love you. I think you are worth my time and my effort. I’m glad you’re in my life.” Sometimes saying those words feels inadequate or difficult. For me, knitting is sometimes the best way I can express it.

Saturday was a busy day for me. I went to my guild meeting in the morning, and then some of the women from my Wednesday night knitting group and I went to lunch at Versailles, which has excellent Cuban food. Then, since we were in the area, we made a quick trip over to Twist: Yarns of Intrigue.

Twist is probably my favorite yarn store, but it’s a bit far to be my local yarn store. Cathy, the owner, is really sweet and personable. She has a great selection of yarns that I love, including lots of lace and fingering weights, which are my favorite kinds of yarn to work with. (I prefer finer gauge projects). She also dyes her own yarns, which are just beautiful.

But I am in stash down mode as of the beginning of the year, so I contented myself with walking around, fondling the yarn, inhaling the yarn fumes, and flipping through some very tempting books. I was strong, I was stalwart, and I actually managed to leave the shop without purchasing anything.

I called Ron after I left to let him know that I was on my way home and also to tell him how virtuous I was for not buying anything from my favorite shop. I was especially proud because I had fallen in love with one yarn in particular. It was one of Cathy’s hand-dyed yarns–an alpaca/merino laceweight blend with a tiny bit of stellina, which gave it a little bit of sparkle. It was in a lovely purple.

As I was waxing poetic about this yarn, which was really starting to feel like perfect yarn, Ron started asking me stuff like, “So you really love this yarn?” He started telling me that it was admirable that I wanted to knit down my stash, but he still wanted me to have the things I love. I shouldn’t deny myself something that I really, really love. I said that if I was still thinking about the yarn after a few days, I would maybe go back and get it.

He was quiet for a minute. “But this yarn store is kind of far away.”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“So when would you have time? What if it’s gone by the time you get back?”

“Are you telling me to go back and get this yarn?”

“Kind of.”

I laughed and told him that he was a worse enabler than anyone in my knitting group. But I did turn around and get the yarn. 1000 yards of subtle purple sparkly alpaca/merino laceweight yarn. It’s so beautiful, I took it out of the bag and petted it on the way home.

Twist Frost Yarn

This is the perfect yarn

I feel very lucky. A lot of people who don’t knit don’t understand a knitter’s love of yarn. They don’t understand how sometimes a yarn just leaps out at you and makes your heart sing because it’s the perfect color and it feels so perfect and it’s just the perfect yarn. A lot of the knitters I know have partners or spouses who roll their eyes when they talk about yarn and treat their yarn love like it’s a little silly. It’s not that their partners are jerks, they just aren’t knitters.

Ron isn’t a knitter, but he understands and respects my yarn love. He doesn’t think it’s silly for me to go on and on about pretty yarn and he can tell in my voice if I’m talking about a yarn that falls in the category of perfect, as opposed to a yarn I just like.

I knew there was a reason I loved that man.

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