Saturday, March 01, 2014

(Rolling) Stones and Cycling

Well, it's been quite the journey since December.  On Christmas night (12/25 going into 12/26) I had severe pain under my right ribs.  It started by my feeling uncomfortable - mainly "bloated", thinking I had eaten too much for dinner.  By 8pm I was having trouble laying down and sitting.  By 9:30 I was attempting to find any comfortable position.  At 10:30 I was trying to make myself sick - - thinking I had food poisoning.  By midnight I was crying and begged my husband to take me to the hospital, knowing, without doubt, that something was severely wrong with me.

At the hospital they gave me morphine, which REALLY helped relieve the pain while they tried to figure out what was ailing me.  After a portable ultrasound was brought in at 2:30am, I was diagnosed with gallstones.  Yes, I had my first attack.

A few days later I went for an "official" ultrasound at a radiology office.  They confirmed "many many" stones "bouncing around" in my gallbladder.  It was entertaining (the Doctor was SO excited) and scary...since I knew very little about gallstones or why I had them.  It was especially concerning because they had performed an ultrasound on my gallbladder in April 2013 (for another reason) and it was "clean" at that point.  So, within 8 months I had developed stones...rather quickly as the doctors have told me in subsequent visitis.

After some blood work, I was referred to a surgeon.  When he reviewed my scans he said "You have two choices: wait for another attack and then have emergency surgery; or elect to have your gallbladder out as soon as you can".  There was no "if an attack would happen again"...but WHEN it would.  I elected for the surgery and was scheduled for 10 days later.

There are plenty of people who may have opted to find ways to reduce the stones.  Ordinarily, I would have tried to be one of those people.  But the doctors all told me the same thing: my weightloss in 2013 is the reason the stones developed, and they will not be going away any time soon.

So there I was, at a cross-roads.  I've never had surgery.  Delivering my daughter was the only hospital stay I've ever had.  I certainly wasn't excited to be "electing" to have my gallbladder removed, but considering the pain I might have from the next attack...well, that, to me, was incomprehensible.

On January 29th, my patient husband took me to the hospital at 2:45pm for my 3pm check-in and 4:30 surgery.  At 3:30 we saw that my surgeon left a message on our home phone, saying that he would be running late due to some emergency surgeries that had come up.  At 11pm I was wheeled into the OR, 8 hours after being hooked up to an IV and approx 27 hours after my last meal.  My head was pounding and my mood was best described as "punchy".  At least there was a Zac Efron movie on t.v. to help distract me for a little while.  Ha ha.

Since I didn't finish surgery and post-op until 1:30am, the decision was made that I would stay overnight.  This meant that I was wheeled to another part of the hospital, and I had to be wear leg "pumps" around my calves to keep the blood circulating, to prevent clotting.  I didn't sleep all night.  I went home around 10:30 the next morning - and slept and slept.

Thursday was sort of a blur and I remember feeling "just ok" on Friday when my parents came over to visit.  The drugs must have still been in my system because by the time Saturday rolled around, boy, I felt like a Mack truck had hit me and my insides were NOT happy.

The surgery was done laproscopically: one incision was made in my belly button, two small holes on my right abdomen and one 1.5" incision under my breast bone.  This last incision was the worst.  Any time I moved, I had to hold it.  Any time I sneezed or coughed, I had to hold it.  The best way to describe the pain was to compare it to doing TOO many sit-ups.  Other friends have compared it to a c-section.  All I know is that it hurt to move, roll, sit-up, stand up, etc.  I took some of the pain meds but mostly tried to suffer through the pain. 

There are plenty of other unpleasantries associated with recovery from gallbladder surgery.  This post is not about those things...since I'd rather forget them.  But if you ever find yourself in this situation, please contact me and I'll be happy to provide some insight. :o)

Little by little, over the next 10 days, I started to feel more "normal".  I went back to work on Feb 10th. 

You may be asking yourselves: How did she handle not being able to ride her bike for all that time?!?! 

Well, that was a hard pill to swallow when I first met with the surgeon and he said "you won't be able to do any physical activity for 2 wks".  TWO WEEKS - was he insane?!?  I tell you, once I was back home after surgery, I couldn't even look at my bike for the first week.  It seemed like a foreign torture device.  At about day 9 I tried to sit on the bike.  It was a struggle.  I was "cleared" to ride on day 14 post-op.

On day 17 I made the leap back into cycling by participating on a charity spinning ride at Marty's Reliable in Hackettstown.  It was a belated Valentine's date for the hubby and me.  I spoke to the instructor ahead of time, explaining why I might not be riding as "hard" as the others.  We agreed that I would "take it easy".  About 20 minutes in, I was NOT taking it easy.  I was standing up in the saddle more than I had ever done before. Ken and Marty were next to me - surprised at my determination and hoping that I knew my limit of ability after not riding for so long.  It was a great ride and rejuvinated my desire and passion for the sport!

Since then I've been back on my trainer about 3 - 4 times a week - averaging more than 50 miles per week (this week I've done 66 so far!).  I've worked on riding in harder gears and doing some interval speed sprints.  Ken and I were even able to get OUTSIDE and ride a week ago - having a gorgeous 50 degree day, despite all the snow on the ground.

The NJ Gran Fondo is all but six months away.  Six short months with some long days of training. I think of all the hills, all the miles, all the mental hurdles to overcome.  I am filled with anxiety and excitement. 

Here's to the next chapter...minus an organ...but empowered by the knowledge that I am strong and can do this thing!

Happy riding to all!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Cyclist's Journey - The Beginning

I know that this blog is intended to document the knitting side of my life but, as you can see, the posts have been very few and far between the past few years.  I guess I prefer the liberties that Twitter and Instagram have fits into my lifestyle much easier.

For those who know or follow me outside of this blog and Ravelry, you know the journey I've taken this year.  My personal accomplishment was my weight loss.  The primary factor - exercise in the form of walking, running and cycling.  Let me tell you the story.

For years, my husband and son would go out bike riding on trails in the spring/summer.  I would stay at home with CC.  Then CC was able to go with them, on a tandem attachment to hubby's bike, and I would be left at home.  Honestly, I never minded.  I was able to relax, knit and catch up on my DVR'd shows (Nashville, Dallas, Grey's, etc).

But as CC got older, they were able to ride longer...and would often be gone for hours at a time.  I had no idea where they went.  I didn't know what trails they were on...or even what town they were in!  I started to miss them.

In late April of this year, my whole life changed.

We were in Sports Authority, kicking around looking at stuff, when I casually said "I might like a bike like that some day".  Hubby took this as "We're buying her a bike, immediately!".  If you know my husband, you understand that there is no grace period with him - if you say "we need a new car", he would be online looking at cars in the next breathe.  This happens often, so I have to be careful about what I suggest we might need/want around the house.

So there I was, looking at some hybrid-looking bike, trying out their seats/heights/pedals. Looking at the price tag was a whole other story.  I didn't want to spend a lot.  Who knew how much riding I would do.  Maybe I would ride once and tuck it away in the shed, never to be seen again.  For me, this was a big decision.  I recalled uncomfortable rides, aching lady areas, soreness everywhere. My head said "don't spend any money you might regret".

We left Sports Authority and went to Target, continuing our errands for the day.  Naturally, bicycles were on my mind and as we passed by their selection a nice white Schwinn caught my eye.  It was less expensive.  It was pretty.  We bought it.  I was still apprehensive, but feeling better about the situation, especially if it meant spending more time with my family.

The following weekend, another family we know asked us to join them for a trail ride out near Long Valley, NJ.  We got the bikes on the cars and hit the road.  Figuring it was a quick ride to wherever we were going (I was the only newbie), I left my beloved knitting at home.  Well...that was a mistake.  So I grumbled: "I didn't know we would be in the car this long", "I could have brought my knitting", "how much longer until we get there?", and "where are you taking me? Is this kidnapping?". Yes, I sounded just like a kid being tortured by a "long" car ride.  I had no perception of if we were "almost there yet". I was at the mercy of the driver and I was getting frustrated.  We weren't even riding our bikes yet!  What a waste of time this was becoming.  I should have just stayed home.

Eventually (which seemed like forever), we arrived at a place called "Columbia Trail" (part of the Rails to Trails program).  Our friends wore special biking shorts - while I had on regular ones.  Our friends' kids' had biking gloves. I had bare hands. I thought "All this gear for a little trail ride?".

I remember being in the back of the group for most of the ride.  Our friends daughter (age 10) finally asked "How come you've never gone riding with us before, Mrs C?" and I said, politely, "Why do you think?"  She took her time and thought about it "You've never had a bike before?" and I smiled at her.  We then asked her brother, who had been up ahead, why he thought I had never been riding.  He said "you don't like bikes?".  We laughed.  He finally figured it out too.  They've had bikes for as long as they could remember, so for an adult to be "bike-less" at my age, well, that was just a crazy concept.

We rode 7 miles that day and it was fun.  I didn't feel sore. My lady parts weren't screaming at me.  I thought "Hmm, maybe this will become a regular thing for us, as a family".

As the summer approached, I started alternating bike rides with walking and running when I got home from work.  We started incorporating trail rides into our weekend.  Hubby and I started losing weight...and a lot of it.

By the beginning of August, I had shed 20 lbs. I was feeling great, and my clothes were feeling  loose.  I was also getting "the itch" to ride on the road.  Hubby had no desire for the same (well, not yet at least).

We were out on a local highway one Saturday, about to pass a "local bike shop" so I jokingly said "let's go into Marty's".  You know that I didn't have to say it twice...we were in that parking lot faster than you can say Shimano (it's a cycling brand).

History: My husband bought his mountain bike at Marty's Reliable (Morristown) in 2000. Marty Epstein, the owner himself, sold him the bike.  He's raved about Marty's for years.  While I would always pass the store thinking it was a place for bike snobs...people who would laugh at me for not knowing the lingo, not knowing the proper terms, because I owned a bike I bought at Target.  I could not have been more wrong.

Back at the Randolph location of Marty's, I entered the store with skepticism.  There were a lot of bikes, and parts, and gear!  It was overwhelming.  We asked a sales guy for assistance and started with the women's bikes.  I had so many questions.  Then we discovered that all of the women's bikes were too small for me (I am 5'11" after all).  I had to look at men's bikes.  Meh, no offense taken.  We found a nice Trek Madone that fit and road nice around the parking lot and down the side road.  But, geez, do you know how much decent road bikes sell for?! Yikes!  It was a GIANT step up from my Schwinn, to say the least.  And I was not ready for it, not ready at all.

I tried to compare cycling to knitting, something I know a lot about.  I would best describe it as going from Lion Brand yarn and Boye needles (from Michaels) to MadelineTosh and Addi Turbos at your local yarn shop.  There's a place in my knitting for both, but I prefer the later.  The same holds true with cycling.

We thanked the sales guy for his information and assistance and put the bike on hold, to consider overnight.  Hubby and I discussed the pros and cons of the cost.  His best response: If you're going to ride, you should be comfortable and have a bike that you LIKE to ride, not something I'm settling for.  He has said the same about knitting needles and yarn.  He apparently applies this theory to lots of things in life.

Feeling discouraged by the numbers, we took a drive over to the Morristown store the next day. I'm going to totally geek out right now - but it was the best day ever!  We met Mark B and he showed me the Trek Domane 4.5.  She is the most beautiful bike in the world.  I rode her around the parking lot.  And then I rode her around some more.  It was the weekend after the Warrior Dash and I was wearing my red shirt from that, and a tennis skirt.  It was a beautiful day.  I didn't even look at the price tag because I knew I would change my mind.  But how can you put a price tag on love??  Hubby and Mark worked together so that we wound up purchasing the Domane AND one of her aluminum cousin's, so Hubby and I could ride together.

To justify the cost, I picked up extra knitting and tech editing jobs and started (GASP!) selling off some of my extensive yarn stash.  My kids thought I was ill.  Mom...selling her yarn...had she gone mad?!  Mom, who hadn't ridden a bike before April, now owned the most expensive bike in the house?? And not just one bike, but TWO!!  Mom, who always stayed home, was now out cycling more than anyone in the neighborhood?  The times, they were changing.

Fast forward to today.

I'm happy to report a total loss of 34 lbs! And I think Hubby is around 25 and holding steady.  60 lbs between us - how awesome is that?!?!

I've ridden Columbia trail from Long Valley, past Califon and to "the big bridge".

I know a seat is called a saddle, and the handle bar connector is called a stem.

I've ridden 550 miles and spent about 44 hours in the saddle.  I've fallen more than I'd like to count while learning how to get in/out of my clips.  Bloody shins and bruises have marked my body for several months.  I am a cyclist - hear me roar!

My longest ride was 28 miles doing Escape New York in early September (from Columbia University in NYC, across the George Washington Bridge and up into Bergen County, NJ).  It was amazing.

We've done other 20+ miles rides together, but usually go out for a cool dozen or so :o)

We have cyclist friends.  We read Bicycling magazine.  We geek out over new toys and tech gear and the like.  We have a trainer to use when it's cold outside.  We've spent a lot of money.

And...(proudly) we are regulars at Marty's.  We know most of the guys' names in the store and service department.  There isn't one guy who wouldn't stop what he's doing to explain, answer, assist.  They are cycling rock stars.  I've even met Marty a couple times...and probably gushed a little more than I should have.  We've done two rides with him in the group.  Unfortunately, on the most recent ride, my chain fell off as we were riding up a hill.  I took a hard fall (the right side of my body hates me) and Marty came up and helped me get everything back where it should be.  My pride was also bruised, but I always get up and get riding again.  This is how you learn.

Now that you've heard the background, I'll tell you what the future holds.

A group of us (I think there are currently 5, but could be as many as 7) from the neighborhood have signed up to participate in NJ's Gran Fondo on September 7, 2014.  There are 4 stages you can select: 18, 43, 63 or 107 miles.  The majority of us have chosen the full distance (ONE HUNDRED AND SEVEN MILES), but I think one of the other women and I may only ride 63 miles.  I'll train as much as I can and make the decision as the ride nears.  It was quite daunting to click a button for 107 miles. I actually felt a little queasy.  But I'm in it.  I'm nervous/excited!

Now that you've read all about my new obsession, I'm planning on blogging about my Quest for the Fondo over the next 9 months.  It's going to be a rollercoaster of highs and lows.  Won't you come along for the ride? :o)

See you on the road...or knitting.

All my best!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Knitty Surprise!!

I'm so excited to be writing these words:


My new sweater pattern, Jirachi, has been published in the Spring/Summer 2013 Issue of

Please check it out, and "Fave" it on Ravelry!

Thanks for everyone's support and encouragement!!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mrs G's Blanket and Hurricane Sandy

Dear C & W

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Karen, a lifelong resident of New Jersey. I "met" C's sister, A, through work. When Hurricane Sandy hit NJ last year, my parents lost the first floor of their Long Beach Island home. Like you, they lost a lot. Due to health reasons, I was unable to visit LBI to help my parents empty our lifelong memories out onto the curb. My husband, son and in-laws were able to go down, and the photos of devastation they brought home were beyond anything I could have imagined. Fortunately, their 1950s bungalow was not their primary residence.

When our lives started to get back to "normal" I was able to talk to A and she told me about your home and the total upheaval of your lives.

It was during this period that I knew I wanted TO DO something to help besides donate to the Red Cross. Since I have allergies to molds, etc, I couldn't volunteer down in the effected areas.

Then an idea struck me! I'm a knitter! And I know lots of people who knit! Why not make something for the folks I know directly and indirectly, right?

So I posted on twitter and on Ravelry (a website for knitters) and invited my friends to help me create 12" x 12" squares that I have been piecing into blankets (so far we've donated one, and will probably receive enough for two more!).

In addition to those squares, I received an email from one of my dearest friends, a designer, K. K's mom, Mrs G, had started an 8" x 8" mitered blanket in approximately 2006 or 2007 as a gift to her husband Dr G.

Unfortunately, Dr G passed away before she could finish, and the squares were packed away in her home for several years. To say that Dr and Mrs loved each other would be an understatement. They spent over 40 years together and raised a wonderful trio of daughters, all who are creative and nature-loving.

Mrs G grew up in Rhode Island and would often talk about "the great hurricane" from her childhood whenever storm season would hit the eastern seaboard. She then lived in New Jersey for 30+ years and often donated her time to charities and people in need.

In mid-October 2012, Mrs G fell ill and wound up in the hospital. She passed away two weeks after Hurricane Sandy, on the day my husband, son and in-laws were on LBI with my parents. It was one of the saddest days for me.

In the weeks that followed, K and her sister's began to go through Mrs G's possessions and found the mitered squares she had knit 5 years before. K, knowing of my blankets, spoke to her sisters and they unanimously agreed that I should take them and finish the blanket to donate.

I personally knit the last few squares, seamed them all together, added a border and carefully reinforced any weak yarn/stitches I could find...But most of the extra love and TLC knit into this special blanket were provided by Mrs G herself.

It is with great pride and honor that I present this blanket to you both. The residents of Oceanport are fortunate to have two such extraordinary residents during this difficult time. I hope this blanket can help (literally) wrap you in some comfort and help you begin to feel a new sense of "home".

All our best, from my home, K's family, and knitters everywhere!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Arts and Crafts

Ramona/CC recently went to a friends birthday party, held at the family's home, and the kids all did arts and crafts (butterfly and fairy themed), which I thought was a fantastic, and cost efficient way to celebrate. When discussing plans for her upcoming birthday, I suggested a holiday craft-themed party and she thought it was a great idea! Unfortunately, she couldn't invite the cast of hundreds she had for her party last year (gymnastics) but she confidently narrowed the guest list down to 7 friends...some old, some new...and we sent the invitations out!

Before proceeding with the party plans, I should mention that the invites did not get mailed without a hitch. I wrote out the Smurf invitations in pink marker, as instructed, and looked up the friends addresses the Monday before Thanksgiving. I purposely did NOT let CC seal them because I wanted to remind myself to put the return address labels and stamps on before mailing them the following morning. On Tuesday I woke a little early, grabbed the return labels and sealed them before I left the house. Once I got out of the subway I started toward my office before remembering to mail the envelopes. I pulled the stack from my bag, brought the mailbox handle down, placed them inside and released the bar only to, at the last second, realize I had not put the stamps on! [INSERT slow-motion, low-bellied sounding, "noooooooooo!" here] What could I do? It was out of my hands...literally. I emailed the mom's of the guests later that morning and they all got a kick out of my story. A few days later most of them wrote to say that the post office had delivered the invitations...without marking them "postage due". No wonder the USPS is low on funds! Anywhoodles...

The process of finding easy holiday craft ideas for a party of 8 six-year-olds. And here's some what we've come up with (these are other people's images...I'll be sure to post mine once the party is over):

Reindeer Head (I traced and cut out CC's hands - super cute and fun!)

Snowman ornaments (using sticky foam circles!)

And the piece de resistance...SNOW GLOBES! I'm still working on getting the jars prepared, but I have all the "ingredients" ready to go - these are going to be so cool! [Side note: In wanting to cover all my bases, I did another internet search for these yesterday and it looks like stupid Taylor Swift was featured in People magazine because she's making these for all her friends/family this season. Let it be known - I had the idea first - she stole it from me because it's so awesome.]

My evening agenda for this week:

Monday - go to Michaels and pick up remainder of supplies

Tuesday - begin prep of cut-outs (I did 117 in all!!) and put together goody bags w/ CC's help

Wednesday - go to grocery store and find perfect jars for snowglobes; bring them home, clean off labels and scuff inside of lids; cut more snowman circles

Thursday - glue ornaments to inside of jar lids (and hope they stick!)

Friday - bake a million and a half cupcakes (half chocolate, half vanilla, by request)

Saturday - clean house, ice cupcakes, install plastic sheeting all over dining room in preparation of sparkles/paint/glue + 6 yr olds!!, order pizza, greet kids, throw best party, say goodbye to kids, say hello to grandparents, get MC off to hockey for game, get grandparents in vehicles to travel to said game, see game, get home, collapse!

Maybe I'll get back to some knitting next week :o)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

ISO: The World's Best Yellow

For years, I've been obsessed with finding the perfect "yellow" yarn.

I came very close with The March Hare yarn I purchased at Rhinebeck back in 2009 (or 08?). I used it to make Kirsten Kapur's Snow Drops and Snap Peas shawl...which I love (and all of my friends want to steal).

Then I purchased some Shibui Knits sock yarn in much brighter! I made Socktoberfest socks in 2010 and I want to live in them on all the cold days!

I've used...
Jamieson's Shetland in Goldenrod
Berroco's Comfort in Buttercup
Berroco's Pure Pima in Jojoba
Berroco's Vintage in Sunny
Knit Picks Gloss in Dandelion
Malabrigo's Worsted in Cadmium
and even purchased...
St Denis' Nordique in Honey Glaze

But I have a BIG project I need to work on and REALLY want a nice worsted weight in the PERFECT yellow. I thought of trying Cascade 220 (they have a great selection of shades) but I'm afraid the final feel of the sweater needs a little alpaca in it. So then I considered Berroco's Ultra Alpaca, but no one seems to sell the Masa color online. I guess I can start calling around to yarn shops but man, the effort!

Does anyone have any ideas, suggestions, recommendations?

You know I'm a nerd for the yellows...please help!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

How to count sweaters? (yes, it's a question)

As the end of 2011 fast approaches, my Ravelry project page reminds me that I did not, in fact, knit 20, or 22, or as many sweaters as my friends joked I might. I will have knit, approximately, 15 1/2

But wait...because maybe I've knit a few more...I'll let you judge how to count sweaters!

Sweaters for 2011 (mostly for me, unless otherwise noted, all Adult sized):
  1. Aidez
  2. Abi
  3. Tashmoo (for MIL)
  4. Washington Square
  5. As yet unpublished sweater
  6. Little Blue Sweater
  7. Beatnik
  8. Erin Cardigan (for Erin; CCK Design)
  9. Gavotte
  10. Beagle (for Ken)
  11. As yet unpublished sweater
  12. Owl sweater (CCK Design)
  13. Ramona DRESS (CCK Design; counting this as 1.5 sweaters)
  14. George Street
  15. Nebula
Subtotal: 15.5

Sweaters for CC (kid sized):
  1. Ana
  2. Ramona Jr (short sleeves)
  3. Ramona Jr (long sleeves)
  4. Dagmar
  5. Striped Princess Raglan (lengthened body and sleeves; count as .5)
Subtotal: 4.5


So you see my dilemma. How to count sweaters? If I push myself to knit a 20th...would it REALLY count as a 20th?

And don't even get me started on shawls...Kirsten Kapur has converted me into a shawl junkie! Ha ha

Happy Knitting Y'all!