Thursday, August 29, 2013

Introduction: Living With Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Doing What I Vowed Not to Do

I have decided to write my own personal story of living with Chronic Lyme Disease.  It is becoming an ever growing passion of mine that Chronic Lyme Disease become officially recognized in the medical community. It is one of the largest growing illnesses of our time, and its chronic form is largely denied by most doctors (ones Lyme patients refer to a non-lyme-literate doctors). I realized how much I needed to write about this when three more of my friends/acquaintances were recently diagnosed and treated for Lyme and still another  goes with no treatment after his parents found yet another tick embedded and his doctors simply want his parents to watch and report any illness that should follow.

None in my family can stay silent when we hear such news, as we personally know that Lyme is a disease that needs to be taken seriously. All of those affected by Lyme, we feel, should be fully informed regarding the status of this disease in the medical community, the different schools of thought regarding treatment and the consequences of not treating it sufficiently. Sadly, some will not want to be informed, though I respect their choice.

I feel sick inside when I hear of so many acquiring this illness, though I forget that for them it may be different.  Perhaps they will be one of the lucky ones that get adequate treatment in time so they will not experience the long term effects of this dreadful illness.  I was not so lucky.

I vowed when I started my blog, not to write about Lyme, politics or religion but I have decided to break this vow.  I am going to tell my story, including the politics surrounding this illness and the faith that keeps me going.  It will be a series of seventeen blogs for those that are interested and I will post them in between my regular home arts blogs.

My intent is not to scare anyone. I will merely tell my story of living with Chronic Lyme Disease.  I consider living with this disease to perhaps be the single most creative accomplishment in my life and perhaps telling my story of going too many years without a proper diagnosis, will prevent someone else from doing the same and avert the struggle that I have lived. Knowledge is powerful and I often wish I knew then what I know now.

I believe that it is a story of hope for whether you are dealing with this illness or another, there is much to be learned spiritually, mentally and physically from dealing with something bigger than oneself. There are many ways to live life to its fullest despite limitations, and I hope that my story will encourage others to do the same or perhaps be of support to those who find themselves in a similar struggle.  For Chronic Lyme Disease patients, this is actually not an uncommon story.

I have intentionally broken up my story into short readings. It is a telling of facts, as best I remember them. I have attempted to cut out the extra drama and complaints, though to be sure, as I struggle with this disease  I have and continue to live with plenty of both. I believe that long term treatment aimed at the cause of the disease rather than its symptoms has enabled me to greatly reduce, if not eliminate many of my symptoms and has increased my hope of arresting this disease once and for all. (to be continued....)

(The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen; figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen)

(*Caution: These blogs are not meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face medical issues as equal partners with their medical providers and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering any illness.  Living life with a chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on living their life to the fullest extent possible.)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Invitation to an Open House this Sunday, September 1st and Little House’s 2013 Fall and Holiday Schedule

This Sunday Jon Katz and Maria Wulf are having an Open House at their new Bedlam Farm 2.0, at 2502 Rt 22, Cambridge, New York 12816, from 12- 4 p.m. (Use google or map quest to locate--easy to find!). Meeting and greeting the famous animals of Jon’s books, including Red, the special herding and therapy dog, who will demonstrate his herding skills with the Bedlam Farm sheep; readings by local writers; as well as meeting Jon Katz in person who will be happy to sign his books and speak about his writings, are but some of the fun activities planned for this special event. Featured in Maria's Schoolhouse Studio Gallery will be the work of some of the Common Thread Artists as well as other local artists. Everyone is welcome! Please visit Maria’s website for more information regarding places to stay and visit if you are coming from out of town and are planning to make a holiday weekend trip.  (

Ideas of new creations come faster than my fingers can sew, and so I find myself in need to crush to be ready. This will be my modus operandi from now until the end of the year. I will be posting many new handmade items for your holiday gift-giving in my Etsy shop after this show, and before my next shows in November and December. As I had announced before, I want my readers to have a chance to purchase them before my holiday shows.
In addition to these new craft items, I hope my readers will enjoy a bit of a departure from my usual sorts of blogs. I have decided to write about my personal story, Living with Chronic Lyme Disease.  While it is about my own struggle, I know that I am not alone in this sort of life journey and hope it will perhaps be a support to you, your family, or friends who might be struggling to cope with this or other chronic health issues. Lyme has been my constant companion for over forty years. It has been my nemesis and creative challenge as I continue to find new ways to adapt and work with and around it.

Little House has grown out of my needs to continue to live a full and creative life, despite my physical limitations.  I hope my story will inspire others. Disability is really about discovering yet other abilities and moving forward, albeit while occasionally taking a step or two back. I look forward to hearing from my readers regarding this series.  Please know that my usual home arts-sorts of blogs will continue and be interspersed between this new seventeen-part series. I don't think I will ever run out of home arts-related items to write about as those who sew and create know, it is this life-long passion that keeps us happy and ever so busy!

Little House's Fall and Holiday Craft Show Schedule: (See you there!)
(limited this year to make more time to create and post wares on line)

Nov 16 -- Vermont Farmer’s Market Fall Holiday Fair       9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
                 Holiday Inn, Rt 7 South, Rutland, Vermont

Nov 29-30 –Vermont Farmer’s Market Christmas Fair     10 a.m.- 4 p.m.
                    Poultney High School, Poultney, Vermont

Dec 14- Vermont Farmer’s Market Christmas Holiday Fair   9 a.m.- 4 p.m.
               Holiday Inn, Rt 7 South, Rutland, Vermont

Thursday, August 22, 2013

More on Crazy Quilts

Crazy quilts are among my most favorite sorts of quilts. They can be done quite spontaneously with little planning and provide the quilter a chance to display her love of stitching. I did my first crazy quilt when I was in college. Instead of using fancy materials, I simply collected discarded or donated fabric scraps from all my sewing friends, clothing tags and pieces of my favorite worn out, dated or outgrown clothes. Even a bit of my Blue Bird vest from my childhood was added to this quilt.

I simply stitched them in an overlapping and crazy fashion to a bed sheet using a whip stitch, turning  the exposed edges under as I went  and then added plenty of embroidery stitching along the seams with different weights and colors of embroidery threads!  It was fun and easy and made a great long term and inexpensive project for a young sewer, needing to practice hand and embroidery stitching.

I am still working at tying a black cotton backing to it using all a variety of colored pearl cotton threads and have tried to match these ties to the front fabrics, so as to not distract from patchwork and fancy stitching. I do  have a hard time finishing quilts as I love to start new ones! Some people have their quilts professionally quilted or tied by others as they too prefer to design and do the patchwork, than the quilting or the tying.

I did learn the hard way that crazy quilting is often done in smaller quilts and throws as when you add a backing to cover the backside of your patchwork and stitching, your quilt can become quite heavy. I was initially going to use a heavier and richer fabric for the back but then my quilt would have been too heavy to use.

My quilt was done very spontaneously with only some attempt at balancing colors and working to be sure to add a variety of materials, colors, shapes and sizes in the pieces added. Some crazy quilts are more carefully planned with subject themes executed in the embroidered details as featured in the blog, A Crazy Quilt with a New Twist, or with more conformity in the sorts of fabrics used. Whatever you prefer, anything works! Crazy quilts are fun to do as there is no mundane repetitiveness as found in other sorts of quilts where all blocks are similar or even the same. It is also a chance for us fabricaholics to enjoy the vast array of fabrics, new and old alike.

Stitched into my quilt were many memories of my life in the 60’s and 70’s. You will even note the dated "hippie LOVE" fabric. These are the details that make a crazy quilt personal to the quilter sewing them. I often took it with me and stitched on it while I sat with my family and friends to visit, or watch TV.  Quilts are treasures of memories both in the fabrics shared and used and the people surrounding us as we stitch!

Crazy quilting can be used in smaller projects. Years ago I did crazy quilted Christmas stockings that are now part of our yearly Christmas tradition. The laced trimmed ones are for the ladies and the wide cuffed ones for the men.

I have also used crazy quilt technique in designing my pincushions, and tea cozies!  For sewers that love to do embroidery work, it is a good way to use your left over material scraps and threads! You will note that I have used fancy materials as well as cottons or wools for these projects. Don’t be afraid to create your own crazy quilted pillows, bags, throws and quilts from whatever fabric you have on hand. Get loose and enjoy the process as you stitch away!

(The tea cozie and wool dressmaker/hat pincushion in this blog are for sale and may be found in my ETSY shop. Any crazy quilted smaller items may be special ordered by contacting me. They do take time to create and cost a bit more as their beauty and value is in the hand-detailed embroidery work.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened Today

I am back to swimming after a spell of not tolerating it.  I quickly put on my suit and my clothes over it, and threw my underwear and socks into my swim bag, which is now always loaded with my swim towel, all washed and dried and ready to go, and bustled out the door.  My warm-up these days is going back to bed and napping before my swim and so I was rushing to get out the door.  My bag felt heavy to me, but then exercise can feel like a burden sometimes, I thought.

I got to the pool, slipped off my sandals and fleece socks (yes, it is a strange combination), and then my pants and shirt and stuffed them in the locker along with my purse and hat and then my underwear and clean socks on top of it all and went to dig the lock out of my bag to lock the locker and there in the bottom of my bag, I noted a hammer and began to laugh...What a strange thing to find in my swim bag!!

I had left my bag in the side pantry/laundry/mud room and had simply folded my towel and threw if on top of my bag, not looking to see what was in it first! So how did the hammer get into my bag?  Our back room seems to be the collect-all for things that come and go in and out of the house and the hammer must have been on its way to my husband's work bench in the garage, or perhaps it was coming into the house for a small job somewhere?

I have a great imagination and often I am in the women's locker room by myself.  One night at the pool the female lifeguard and myself had a male visitor that simply hung around, fully dressed, not swimming and visiting with the lifeguard.  I assumed that he was a friend of the lifeguard, and only later learned that she didn't know him either.

We were both aware that the campus was having safety issues: apparently a couple of women accosted in dark areas of the campus by the same guy, and we later devised a plan to alert the other if something was not right.  We were too often the only people left in the building on some nights.  She had called campus security that night after being "creeped out" by the strange visitor.

I had long laughed and joked that any rapist would likely "get me under the lights and then let me go" but later thought more seriously about my safety. I am not so comfortable having the locker room all to myself....perhaps a hammer is just what is needed in my swim bag after all? After watching the Trayvon Martin trials, it isn't such a simple issue...using a hammer to bludgeon someone, might be misinterpreted as being a premeditated assault if used in self-defense?  But then I noticed that stamped on the handle was Companion, and so perhaps I could simply testify to having a companion with me?!  Later in the day, I found myself singing the old folk song, If I had a hammer....I'd hammer...and then giggled again!!

The Winner of The Common Thread Give-Away

The winner of The Common Thread Give-Away is Jane Mintz. Congratulations to Jane!

If you didn't win this month don't despair! Come back next month. Maria Wulf will be offering a sample of her work!!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August’s Common Thread Give-Away: #2 Ode to Jon

This month’s Common Thread’s featured artist is Jon Katz.  He will be giving away a free sample of his work. In order to qualify simply go to his wife, Maria Wulf’s website, Full Moon Fiber Art and leave a comment anytime Monday, August 12th through Wednesday, August 14th. The winner will be drawn and announced on Thursday, August 15th.

For those of you that haven’t visited Jon’s website, Bedlam Farm Journal,  it is a delightful experience not to be missed.  In fact, I start most of my mornings reading it.  Jon is a New York Times best-selling author and his photography is becoming as renown. Instead of waking to the all-too-common horrible news of the day, I start my day with Jon’s blog and come away with a positive affirmation of love for country life and a sweet story to go with it.

One of Jon’s dogs, Red, has become a therapy dog.  I think that Jon is becoming a sort of therapy man himself.  His blog is balm to my soul, and his writings stimulate my thoughts, often leaving me with a smile as well as an urge to write a retort.  For those who want to “talk back” and interact with Jon and his followers, he has an interactive group on facebook that I understand is quite lively.

I find Jon refreshing and forever young at heart.  His life, and love for his dear Maria, dogs, donkeys, sheep and chickens, along with the beautiful upstate New York country-side surrounding their charming vintage farm house are captured in his writings and photographs.

His pictures of Maria and Red in action are inspiring as they do their farm chores, showing both totally focused and enjoying their work! Jon’s blog has become a little exercise for my heart and brain, opening them to the goodness of the world and setting a tone for making the most of each day, helping me see the blessings that surround me.

This is my second Ode to Jon and I’m sure there will be more to come.  To know Jon and his writings is to love him!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Crazy Quilt with a New Twist

Crazy quilts are among my favorite quilts and this year at Vermont Quilt Festival, I was particularly taken with this "Flowered Crazy Quilt" by Diane Ewald.

Usually crazy quilts are done with fancy sorts of materials like silks, satins, and velvets with fancy embroidery stitches to accent them. This one was done with a new twist: plain sorts of fabrics making the fancy stitching and embroidery “pop” all the more. The results were striking.

Its theme was beautifully hand-embroidered flowers using ribbon as well as embroidery thread and tastefully embellished with beads. Diane Ewald's hand-work is exceptional!

Her patchwork, rather uniform, though the blocks are turned many different ways, makes me think that the piecework was likely done with a special program on a fancy machine. I have a Husqvarna program that does this sort of  patchwork. Crazy quilting, however, does not necessitate having a fancy machine, or for that matter any machine as it is the richly done hand-work that makes crazy quilts so beautiful!!

In contrast, this crazy quilt displayed at the 2008 Vermont Quilt Festival demonstrates the typical sorts of rich fabrics traditionally used in crazy quilts. Here Sheila Groman's  uses applique and embroidery in her crazy quilt, entitled "Harmony" to convey her values of love, life, hope, joy, health, family, books, art, and friendship.

A religious themed crazy quilt displayed at the Maple leaf Quilter's Show at St. Joseph's College in West Rutland, 2009 again demonstrates the more traditional sort of crazy quilt done with fancy sorts of materials. Creative punch needle embroidery, fabric photo'd prayer cards, counted-thread cross stitch, and buttons as well as rich detail work done with rosary or seed beads and crosses found at a flea market embellishes this beautiful quilt making it a unique work of art.

Crazy quilts never cease to amaze and intrigue me.  They are fun to make and each becomes a personal expression of the quilter's personality and hand sewing talents.  There seems to be no limit to the endless possibilities for embellishment and design.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

And More Favorites....

I want to continue posting pictures of the quilt show.  Last year I thought that I would off and on throughout the year and I forgot.  That is not going to happen this year and to be sure it doesn’t, I will continue with what I have started.  I will pick still more quilts to share with my readers.

Some of the quilts have ribbons on them.  I am sure they are significant to their creators, but not to me.  Any quilt worthy of display is achievement enough for me.  As I said in my last blog, simply finishing a quilt is a victory in itself!  And so bravo to these quilters!  I hope they know the pleasure that their quilts have brought to me and others!

Again, if you are thinking of traveling to Vermont, you might want to

consider the dates of next year’s Vermont Quilt Festival and put this on your itinerary.  It is a marvelous experience, never to be forgotten!!