Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween In New York

Dear Nori,

We did indeed have fun tonight, although Noricum didn't get to see much of the parade. (She couldn't see over the crowd.) We were far enough away that the photos mostly didn't turn out either... here's three of the best:
So, after a short while we resorted to watching random people on the street that really *should* have been in the parade too. These photos came out much better:

Oh, there were pumpkins too:

More people in costumes:

Did I mention that traffic was really snarled?
Crazy Traffic
It was!

Back to fun photos:
Trick or Treat!

I hope you find these photos a treat!


PS: Those postcards Knittah made really came in handy!


Dear Nori,

Did you hear? We have copy-swatches! Dottie will be travelling like me and Swatchy!

Hmmm... perhaps we should add some links in the sidebar to travellers like us? Do you know of any others? How are things going with Knittah's other travelling swatches?

Gotta go...

Alternate Side Parking

Alternate Side Parking

Dear Nori,

Thanks for the letter answering my questions. Wow... it sure sounds rough for Knittah. I'm glad she has those people to help her out!

I think it's probably a good idea that you hide while the cleaning ladies are there... you wouldn't want your hair to accidentally get caught in the vacuum or anything!

I haven't taken a cab ride in NY yet. Noricum and I usually travel around by subway or bus. I was just in the subway yesterday, but we didn't take a photo. Noricum says that taking photos in subway stations hasn't been allowed (she thinks) since 9/11, and she figures the same goes for photos in the actual subway train. I wouldn't want her to get in trouble... then it would be hard for me to travel around the US with her. (Although I've heard the weather in Guantanamo is nice.)

I hope you're keeping Knittah company. You can tell her she can call me too if she's lonely, or I can call her. J has an internet phone that lets us make free long-distance phone calls in the US and Canada.

It does seem ironic that DM works in the same building that she used to. Does he have the same kind of job that Knittah did, or does he just happen to be in the same building?

Thanks for writing the letter, even though it was sad. I sure hope they figure out what causes CFIDS one day, and then can fix it.

Thanks for the pictures of you around the house, they are neat. :) I'm including a photo of me from this morning as Noricum and I were dealing with the car. New York has free on-street parking, but also has something called "alternate side parking," which means you have to move the car every few days for the street cleaner. J's car is currently parked in a Tuesday/Friday spot, which means we need to move the car from 11-12:30 on Tuesdays and Fridays. The police let us sit there without giving us a ticket as long as we're in the car to move it when the street cleaner comes by. J finds the sitting annoying. Noricum, although nervous about driving in New York, doesn't mind the guilt-free knitting time. Since J had to be somewhere this morning, Noricum moved the car for him. I forgot to bring down my knitting, so Noricum let me work on her Wyvern socks, while she knit on her Durrow sweater.

Well, I need to stop writing so I can help Noricum cook some pasta (yum!), and then we're going out to see the parade on 6th Avenue. We're going to meet J for his mid-French-lesson break and watch together.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Nori on a Typical Day

Dear SwatchGrrl,

Awhile ago, you asked me what a typical day at Knittah's is like, and how it would be different if she lived alone. This is a big question, because I can already see how difficult it is to live with CFIDS and I have only been with Knittah for a month.

Knittah gets up after DM has left for work. She lets Grif (that's the dog) out and has breakfast. She calls her mom and mother-in-law. No matter how sick she is, Knittah always does these things. If she is feeling pretty good, then she spends a couple hours on the computer. I am not sure what she does; pays bills, I guess, and reads blogs. Oh, and she tries to write! Knittah told me she is writing a book, and I know she really wants to work on it every day.

Ok, so anyway, after a couple hours with her laptop, she is done for the day. She and Grif lie down in the afternoon. I haven't seen Knittah eat lunch very often. Between you and me, I think she doesn't really have the energy to fix herself something. Later in the afternoon, she tries to knit (Ha! Get it?). She doesn't watch much television; I think she is trying to break that habit. And if she is having a really good day, she will make something very simple for dinner. DM comes home, and they hang out for a little bit. Knittah is usually in bed, listening to podcasts or reading something simple or knitting, by 7:30. DM spends his night doing laundry or running errands or working on his small business. Oh, and Knittah talks on the phone. It seems like every day she talks to at least one friend, catching up on their news.

I've seen Knittah have a lot of bad days too. Bad days are really quiet here. She goes back to bed after breakfast, and only gets up to let Grif out. She sleeps a lot, maybe listens to something. She tries to check her email or watch a movie on her laptop. But that's all. I think days like that are really boring, but Knittah seems too tired to notice.

Knittah and DM have a lot of help. They get their groceries delivered, and a group of ladies clean the house (I usually hide when they're here). Knittah's mom drives her to doctor appointments. But if Knittah didn't have DM? It's hard to imagine how hard life would be. Of course DM does lots of practical things like laundry, taking care of Grif, odd jobs around the house, errands, and all kinds of stuff. He drives Knittah to physical therapy. I don't know how she would get there otherwise; maybe spend money on cabs? (Have you taken a cab ride in NY yet?) But really, he keeps her company and gives her emotional support. There have been a couple nights since I've been here that he got home late, and Knittah gets lonely. She calls a friend or something, but I think it's not the same.

I've been watching Knittah, and she changes when 6 pm rolls around. She never lets DM come home to find her asleep or lying down. She gets to hear about his day, and talk about what news she heard from people. I think she especially likes his stories of people he saw in the city. He is working in the same office building that she used to work in. I think that's really weird, don't you?

If Knittah were by herself . . . well, I don't know what she would do. Maybe she couldn't live alone at all. I don't know how people with CFIDS as bad as Knittah's could cope with all that time alone. Especially because Knittah can't do much. It's not like she can go for a walk around the block or write for eight hours or cook soup from scratch or something. It makes me really sad, thinking about how lonely those people must be.

Sorry to write such a depressing letter to you, SwatchGrrl. It's hard to watch someone you care about go through something hard, you know?

Love, Nori
P.S. Here are some pictures of me around the house. I hope you like them!

noriturtle noriplate

noricookie noripumpkin

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What Is This About?

If you are new to Travels with Swatchy™, welcome! We are glad you are here. But you are probably asking yourself, what is this swatch and why is it travelling? Here is the story of how our blog came to be:

Knittah is disabled and homebound as a result of CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome). You may have heard of the illness under the name Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephamyelitis (ME). Whatever you choose to call it, CFIDS is a serious and debilitating illness that affects more than one million people in the United States alone. Travel is extraordinarily difficult for Knittah due to the severity of her illness. She wrote and recorded an essay for the podcast Cast On about how knitting helps her cope with disability, and how her knitted gifts must travel out into the world with friends and family because she cannot. Noricum lives halfway across the continent from Knittah, but she heard the essay and reached out. She offered to carry a knitted swatch on her own travels, and provide Knittah with pictures. From this simple idea, Swatchy™ was born.

IMG_0749 Noricum takes Swatchy to wool shows, yarn shops, and other places. Much like other knitbloggers photograph their knitting as they travel, Noricum takes pictures of Swatchy as they visit different places and people. Other knitters have posed with Swatchy as well, and the photographs are posted on this blog. Knittah participates in all these excursions vicariously through Swatchy, and through posting her own thoughts about these places.

But the Swatchy project is about more than entertainment. The object is not to see how many places Swatchy (and his brothers and sisters) can go. Instead, this small knitted doll is a vehicle for raising awareness of CFIDS. Knittah and Noricum hope that visitors to this blog will learn more about CFIDS through the real-life example of how devastating the illness has been to one person’s health. Ultimately, Travels with Swatchy™ is about hope: the hope that one day, Knittah will be able to follow Swatchy in person and not just on the web.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Nori's Day Out, Part Two

After staying in bed all afternoon and gulping a quick dinner, Nori and I headed out to my Tuesday night physical therapy appointment.
I am only able to go to PT once a week, and it has to be in the evening so my husband can drive me. I have a super-fantastic physical therapist, Stephanie. Nori likes her too.
She really understands CFIDS and is careful about pushing me too hard. My physical therapy is not the kind of program that most of you are familiar with. People with CFIDS have to be very careful about overdoing physical activity because we do not recover and bounce back the same way healthy people do. This phenomenon (for lack of a better word) has been documented in research. Stephanie has put together a program that focuses on improving my mobility and stength, but very gently and slowly.

While we were working, Nori was checking out the place. He thought this foot model was pretty cool:
And then he goofed around with the weights:
When Stephanie was done with me, she went to work on Nori. She gave him some manual physical therapy, where she moves the patient in particular ways. That's what we've been doing together.

After all that work, Nori was tired and ready to go home. We had a long day, but a fun one. Time for some serious rest!

Nori's Day Out, Part One

Yesterday, a good friend of mine took me to a LYS that I hadn't visited before. Yarnings is a lovely shop. They had lots of Louisa Harding, Rowan, Noro and many yarn lines I was not familiar with. The shop has a very comfortable sitting area for knitting, and a fantastic display of sheep on the mantel. Nori fit right in there:

I explained the whole Travels with Swatchy™ thing to the staff, and Anne was kind enough to pose with Nori:

Don't they look great together? After we got home, I was in serious need of a nap. Nori came with me to physical therapy, but I will have to post on that later. I need to get some more sleep.

Letter To Nori

Dear Nori,

I'm sorry I haven't written you much lately, but I figured Knittah would be more interested in the knitting stuff. Actually, I don't know... do you knit or crochet? If you don't, perhaps Knittah can teach you if you're interested.

Those pancakes you had the other day looked scrumptious! Noricum doesn't cook me pancakes... in fact, she's the bowl of cold cereal type. However, J did prepare us lovely breakfasts this weekend! We had smoked salmon, capers, and diced red onion on crackers. We had crackers instead of bagels because bagels should be eaten fresh, and the really close bakery that we know about doesn't bake bagels. They *do*, however, make really yummy chocolate croissants! If you're ever nearby, I highly recommend them. They're a tiny little place on 10th Street, just west of Avenue B.

Speaking of yummy food, did you know there's a soup kitchen across the street from J's apartment? Here's the people lining up today:
Soup Kitchen Line
Seeing this makes me thankful for the good food and lifestyle I have. I also started wondering. Both Knittah and Noricum's friend who has CFIDS are married... can you imagine what it must be like for people with CFIDS who don't have close family to help them? I wonder how they manage? I actually haven't spent all that much time with Knittah yet... perhaps you could describe a typical day there, and what sort of things might be different if she were alone?

Oh... did you hear that Swatchy is finally on his way here? Goody! I'm *so* looking forward to meeting him! I wonder... does this mean I'll be coming back to live with you and Knittah, until I have another knitter to travel with? It will be nice to meet you in person. :) I'll have to ask Knittah what her plans are. Not, of course, that I don't like living here with J and Noricum... I'm getting used to Noricum's bizarre quirks, and we're actually getting along splendidly.

Well, I should stop rambling and let Noricum use the computer... she needs to work on her dissertation.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Knit New York

Dear Knittah,

Tonight Noricum and I went to Knit New York, a lovely yarn store and cafe. I *love* how they have their yummy yarns displayed! I didn't feel like knitting, so I wandered around admiring the yarns while Noricum knit with various people.

Knit New York Yarn

They have lots of great yarns there... Noro, Koigu, Kidsilk Haze and more... even some scrumptious yarns I had never seen before!

The staff are very friendly, but a bit camera shy. I managed to talk two of them into getting their photo taken:
Knit New York Staff
They seemed to think our project was a neat idea. Noricum gave them one of our postcards.


Knittah is Floored

I am floored/weak in the knees/faint/overcome with the vapors/verklempt.

I don't think I can adequately describe how exciting and fabulous it is to see all these pictures of SwatchGrrl and sheep and fiber and knit bloggers. Seeing and reading all of Noricum's Rhinebeck posts makes me so happy! It is not the same as being at the festival, but it is pretty darn close!

Fairs and festivals (craft fairs, quilt shows, etc) have always been one of my favorite things to do. I remember going to my first arts and crafts fair when I was growing up in Buffalo, NY. I don't remember the name of it (Mom? Help me out?), but I remember the euphoria I felt at seeing booth after booth of lovely (and not-so-lovely) handmade things. I always feel so inspired after a show, and I just want to go home and make stuff!

In my mind, Rhinebeck is the holy grail of yarn shows. Well, so is Maryland Sheep and Wool. But anyway, just the prospect of barn after barn of yarn and fiber and sheep and knitters . . . happy sigh. I always assumed that going to such a show was out of reach for me now because of CFIDS. Travel and crowds and trying to navigate a wheelchair on bumpy ground? This is a recipe for a severe symptom flare, guaranteed to keep me in bed for a week or more.

Thanks to Noricum, Rhinebeck is no longer a pipe dream. I truly feel like part of me made it to Rhinebeck. SwatchGrrl, my wool-and-acrylic alterego, made an excellent stand-in. I was there not just in spirit, but in fiber. All of the folks who posed with SwatchGrrl (and I will be visiting each of your blogs): thank you for being so friendly! I feel like we met, in a way.

One of the many curses of the severity of my CFIDS is isolation. I only leave my house once or twice a week. I rarely meet new people. I talk to the same friends on the phone, see someone in my family every few weeks, and rely on my husband to be my social representative at functions I cannot attend (my cousin's high school graduation, for example). If not for the internet, I would be connected to the world only through television. Yuck. Knitting websites, blogs and podcasts have been my virtual stitching group. I've relied upon them to learn new techniques, find great yarn, and skim the surface of the knitting community.

All that has changed. Swatchy and SwatchGrrl (and the Swatchys to come) take my place in the world. I did go to Rhinebeck. I did pet sheep and fondle fiber and meet cool people and drool over everything knitting-related. Noricum, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for proposing this whole thing in the first place, for carrying SwatchGrrl and taking such wonderful pictures. We have never met in person, but your service and kindness to me makes you one of my very dear friends.

Monday, October 23, 2006

From Rhinebeck

Swatchgrrl and a Purse

Dear Knittah,

Why, oh why, didn't you give me an allowance? I really wanted to buy this lovely purse, but I didn't have the money. I tried to get Noricum to buy it for me, but she said it was too expensive. Expensive? Sheesh! This purse is a *value* at $475... look at all that felting, quilting, and beadwork! It looks just like a miniature reef! If you want expensive, I'd recommend taking a look at that $32 spindle Noricum bought herself.

Oh well, at least I had a lovely day, and got to meet lots of nice bloggers. They braided my hair, and complemented me on my lovely heart. I really like knit bloggers, they're so nice. (Well, except when they won't buy me new purses!)


PS: Noricum says to tell you that blogger seems to be working now, and she's finished posting her Rhinebeck report. I bet she left out the purse, didn't she? She also said to tell you she'll be posting more at her own blog, if you're interested.

Fiber... and Bloggers!

Here's Swatchgrrl enjoying one of the fiber booths:
Swatchgrrl at a Fiber Booth

However, this time in the barn, we discovered bloggers!

Margene and Cara:
Swatchgrrl, Margene, and Cara

Anne (I didn't ask about the spelling, sorry), Sandy and Cara:
Swatchgrrl, purlingswine(?), Sandy and Cara

Swatchgrrl and Vicky

Mel and Norma:
Swatchgrrl, Cabezalana and Norma

Swatchgrrl and Jenny

Swatchgrrl, Nishanna, Me, and a Sheep in a Tux

Ah, what a lovely day! I wish you were able to come.
Swatchgrrl and Leaves

(One of the bloggers Ann braided Swatchgrrl's hair, but now I can't remember who.)

Sheep and Goats and More, Oh My!

Swatchgrrl got along famously with the ruminants. Here's a selection of photos (I'll put a few more on my personal blog too):
Swatchgrrl and Goats
Swatchgrrl and Goats
Swatchgrrl and Goat
Swatchgrrl and Sheep
Swatchgrrl and Sheep
Swatchgrrl and Goat
Swatchgrrl and Sheep

The bunnies seemed less interested:
Swatchgrrl and Rabbits

Next post: Back in the fiber barns!


Whoa... did anyone get the name of that festival that hit me? Before I start blogging, I want to say in my defence that I was under the influence of fiber... I'd like to apologize in advance for any bad/missing photos, forgotten names, and so forth.

First I met Ina (Jersey Knitter) and another blogger, but my head wasn't screwed on right... I didn't get a photo of either with Swatchgrrl, and I forgot the name of the second! Sheesh. Plus I forgot that Ina made the amazing candle tree out of incredibly fine yarn. I was kicking myself several hours later when my brain woke up a bit.

I think we came in a back entrance or something, because the first barn I ended up in was apparently out of the way. I met Amy of Knitty.com, but she was alone, so I couldn't mark my square. (Again, no photo!) There was another blogger who's name and photo I didn't get at the time, but luckily I bumped into him again later.

J kept wandering off to see other things, then coming back to check on me. After a couple of hours, when I had made my way through about three quarters of the barn, he said "you know, there's more barns of yarn like this one." "More?" "Lots more. Let me give you a tour."

He took me briefly into the building labelled "crafts", and explained that it was mostly food, plus some people spinning. "Is that fudge I smell? Do you want fudge?" We left that building with $5 of chocolate fudge. Mmmmm!

"First of all," he said, "if you need to use the ladies room, follow the yellow lines on the pavement." Although I later proved spectacularly bad at following the yellow lines ("Where are you going? The washrooms are this way... follow the line!"), I did get to use the washroom. Both then, and several times later.

"Now I'll show you the marsupials," he said. Marsupials? Aren't those kangaroos, and other things with pouches? Doesn't he realize sheep aren't marsupials? Sure enough, there were marsupials:
Swatchgrrl and a Kangaroo
There were some non-marsupials there too:
Swatchgrrl and Goats
But by now I was able to tell this wasn't all the animals... especially since they were such an odd collection.

Then we headed off to the next wool barn. We passed a man making brooms (neat!) on the way:
Swatchgrrl and a Man Making Brooms
This next barn was two levels, and J had to pull me away. "Yarn!" I said. "There are more," he said. "More"? "Yes, more. Many more."

At this point we ran into Togbean:
Swatchgrrl and Togbean
She's fun! And friendly! And all together and collected, and stuff. She even had stickers to mark herself on other blogger's bingo cards! Some of it wore off onto me, and I managed to get my first photo of Swatchgrrl with a blogger. :)

After this, J frog-stepped me past something like *three* *ROWS* of fiber barns! *whimper!* At the far end I introduced Swatchgrrl to a friendly llama:
Swatchgrrl and a Llama
And then we hurried over to barn 39 to meet Stitchy:
Swatchgrrl and Stitchy

Okay... to prevent this post from becoming too monsterous, I'm going to break it up into several.