The night before I leave for graduation

My bags are packed and I’m all ready.  Tomorrow the cab will pick me up at 10:30 and take me to Logan Airport.  I’ll fly to Seattle via Newark and spend the night in Seattle tomorrow night, then take the bus to Port Townsend Friday afternoon, and arrive at the college at around 4pm.

Puzzle arrived safely at Pooch Palace today at 2.

Am I nervous?  I was very nervous right before leaving Puzzle off, but now less so.  I’ve zipped up my suitcase.  All I have to do is leave tomorrow.

I guess sometimes the time spent traveling I might reflect on things.  Like how cool it is that I’m actually graduating.

Like how cool it is that I am alive.  I want so much to live.  I don’t want to die.  I tell myself this every day and I promise myself that I will work toward recovery from this stupid ED instead of burying myself in it.

I also am amazed at the fact that my family knows nothing of it.  I saw my mother briefly last month.  I think she noticed a change in my appearance and said nothing.  She was visiting, and left quickly.  She is totally clueless.  She’s been clueless all my life.

I told both of my brothers that I was restricting, and they both told me that it was “nothing to worry about.”  Both of them said that sometimes they don’t eat much.  (Gee, I think there’s a difference…)  I haven’t mentioned it since.  I just act like everything’s fine.  I guess they wouldn’t want to hear about it even if they knew.

It is weird having something going on that my treatment team knows about, and my friends know about, and CYBERSPACE knows about, but my own flesh and blood–clueless.

When I lived with them in high school it was the same way, at least with my parents.  All my friends knew I had problems.  My teachers suspected.  I wrote about it passionately in my journal.  I was aching to get help.  But my parents always believed that high school was a very happy time for me.  They were–to repeat the word–clueless.  They were blinded by their own ideas of what a Jewish suburban family in the 1970’s should be.

I believe my brothers see me as some kind of alarmist.  They think that I fret over little things too much, and that when I got upset that I was restricting, they saw it as making too much of something that mattered little.  Well, get over it, guys.

I’m going to graduation and I’m going to have a great time.  I’m going to be an MFA soon!  Like Sunday!  Everyone says I should think of this as a whole new life for myself.  In a way, I do.  In a way, I can hardly wait.  I do have some plans.  I’m less scared than I was because my thesis is in “final” form (i.e. prepared for the binder) and all my paperwork is done.  I should think of this as one of the happiest moments of my life.

Knitting: How to make a simple hat

Here is the hat I just made for myself:

hat by itself

Here it is on me.  Please ignore me and just look at the hat!

hat on me

Here’s how I made it:

I used Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice yarn, four different colors.  I chose Vanna’s Choice because that’s what I had lying around.  It is a 100% acrylic yarn that is easy to handle.  The main color is Dusty Blue.  The stripes are done in Olive, Dusty Rose, and Dusty Purple.

I decided to make a 19-inch circumference hat, which is appropriate for a small adult or woman.  I knitted a 4-inch wide swatch and discovered that with #8 needles, this yarn knits up at 4 stitches per inch, so I needed to use 76 stitches around, in a 16-inch circular needle.

To insure that my initial casting-on stitches aren’t too tight, I cast on to a #10 needle, then knit onto my #8 circular needle.  Make sure you don’t twist the stitches when you knit the subsequent rows!  I did a K1, P1 ribbing for 3 inches.  If I were to do it again, I think I would have used a #7 needle for the ribbing, but the hat came out fine with the looser ribbing anyway, so it didn’t matter.

Then I switched to stockinette stitch.  I knitted until the hat measured around six inches or so, then I made my stripes: Olive first, then Dusty Rose, then Dusty Purple, three rows of each (1/2 inch).  Then I switched back to the main color, Dusty Blue, and knitted for a half inch more before beginning decreases.

If you are making a woman’s hat, you should knit straight for six inches before starting your decreases.  If you are making the hat with a foldover, as this one that I made had, you should knit for eight inches before starting your decreases.

Infants’ hats are 14 inches around and 4 inches high.

Childrens’ hats are 16 inches around and 5 inches high.

Teens’ hats are 18 inches around and 6 inches high.

Small adult hats are 20 inches around and 6 inches high.

Large adult hats are 22 inches around and 7 inches high.

Add two inches if you are making a foldover.

Okay, now for the decreases.  Here is what I did:  I decided to do an 8-arm spiral.  I had 76 stitches.  I had to get to a multiple of 8.  8×9=72.  So I inserted my stitch markers: 10 stitches first, then 9, then 10, then 9, and so on, all the way around.  I had 8 groups.    Then, I *K2 tog the first stitches of the first group, then K the rest of the stitches of that group, then K the second group,* all the way around.  I had decreased by four stitches and have 72 stitches on the needle.  K the next row without any decreases.

With 72 stitches on the needle, I was easily able to do the 8-arm spiral.  K2 tog at each marker for the next row.  You will have 64 stitches.  K the next row without decreasing.  At the next row, K2 tog at each marker, resulting in 56 stitches.  K the next row without decreasing.  At the next row, K2 together at each marker, resulting in 48 stitches, K without decreasing in the next row.  Continue in this manner until you have 40, 32, 24, and finally 16 stitches on the needles (by now you have switched to DPN’s).  K2 tog all the way around.  With a yarn needle, weave the yarn through the all the loops on your needles twice and bind off on the wrong side of the hat.

You’ll want to neaten up the loose yarns on the inside of the hat resulting from switching colors.  I usually knot them carefully and weave them into the fabric and cut them, again, carefully.  Try to make the bottom of the hat look seamless by tucking in the end neatly.

So far, I have not chosen to make a pompom for this hat, but I may change my mind.  There are many good pompom makers out there.  If I were to make one, I think I’d mix all four colors together in the ball.  Well, I don’t know.  We’ll see.
Happy knitting!

Writer, come back!

I wrote today.

I found a publisher looking for short prose-poem and flash pieces and I decided to send my piece, “Jungle.”  Because writers are allowed to send multiple submissions, I decided to try something new.  I decided to work up a piece using excerpts from my chapter, “Walking the Line.”  This involved a fair amount of work.  I pulled together the piece and worked at it for a number of hours until I was halfway satisfied.

Then, I quit.

Then, I quit, and the eating disorder took over.  Counting, calculating,  planning, scheming, weighing.  The “writer me” didn’t have a fighting chance.  But at least she was there!

I am sick of the numbers and the math.  I hate my calculator and my scale.  I hate that Tic-Tac candies have 1.9 calories a piece and I end up counting them in my daily total.

I am sick of feeling the numbers on the scale slip downward, down between my fingers like sand.  Down down down.  When will there be no more sand left in my hand?

Writer, come back!

A Dream: Elaborate Graduation Ceremony

I had a dream that I was involved in an elaborate graduation ceremony.  It was my Goddard graduation all right, but certainly very different from the graduation I’ll be participating in a week from today!  For one thing, it took place in a church, in a community room of this church, not a building at Fort Worden, where Goddard is situated (the Goddard campus I attend is located in Port Townsend, Washington — see

The ceremony was run by Mrs. Butler, who was the head of the nursing school I attended in 1984! It so happens that I was kicked out of this nursing school when Mrs. Butler found out that I had a history of mental illness.  Of course, this was before the Americans with Disabilities Act.  It is now illegal to discriminate against people with mental or physical disabilities.  But this is beside the point.  Mrs. Butler was presiding.

Everyone was dressed formally.  At Goddard, we can wear whatever we want to graduation.  But at this ceremony in my dream, the women, or girls, really, were wearing wedding gowns, with elaborate headdresses (mine kept falling off), and the boys wore tuxedos.  We promenaded around the room, the boys and girls in parallel lines, floating, really, to formal music, possibly the Pomp and Circumstance march played on the organ, but it sounded quieter than that, so I’m not certain.

Each of us came to the pulpit/podium to receive our diplomas.  We were given the diplomas with whispers, almost as if we were being given communion.  When it came my turn to receive mine, I stepped toward the pulpit/podium, and then——I woke up!

Dependence Day

Poor Puzzle.  It is not an evening for dogs.  With every bang, boom, and rumble, she whimpers, shakes, and cries.  She is hiding under my desk as I type this.  I thought this year would be different, but no, the 4th of July is Doggy Dependence Day.

It is at times like these that I truly know the value of my role in Puzzle’s life, that I am her guardian, her companion, her protector, as she is to me.  I don’t know what I would do without this little dog.  When I start to doubt the existence of God–and yes, lately I’ve been having such doubts–all I have to do is to look into Puzzle’s little face, and all such questions are erased.

The worst thing about having an eating disorder

Today I went to see my therapist and one of the first things I mentioned was the inconvenience of being too thin.  Clothes don’t fit.  Shoes don’t fit.  The screw holding my knee together sticks out.  The whole reason I broke my leg in the first place, in 1999, was because I was too thin and developed osteoporosis from amenorrhea.  The worst inconvenience is that I’m cold, always cold.  I run my space heater for up to an hour every morning.  I shiver at night.  I wear a jacket indoors.  And it’s summer.  But this is not the worst thing.

There are the physical aspects of thinness and restricting my eating that worry me. I have no stamina.  My heart beats hard sometimes.  I am weak and get dizzy easily.  I cannot run, and must walk slowly.  I get lightheaded after climbing stairs.  I am sometimes afraid that I will faint.  But this is not the worst of it.

Yesterday, I had a hectic day, taking two buses to get to the doctor’s (I got weighed again) and two buses home, and two cabs as well.  I had to do a fair amount of walking, too, about three-quarters of a mile each way, and that proved to be too much.  It felt as though it was too much of a strain on my heart to be running around like that.  I was scared that exerting myself was maybe not such a good idea.  Finally, about a quarter-mile from home, I stopped at a convenience store, and had an energy bar.  I could walk no further without it.  I had to shorten Puzzle’s walk last night.  I felt as though I’d cheated her.  But this is not the worst of it.

The worst of it is the loss of brain space to this ED.  I feel like my whole life has been hijacked, taken away from me.  I haven’t been writing.  I haven’t been going to the library.  I can barely focus on housework.  And now I have graduation ahead of me.  All I can do is hope that the event will springboard me back into these activities again.

I spend hours thinking about my eating and what I’m going to do about it.  I spend hours planning how I’m going to lose weight.  The rituals of daily weighing, counting, and calculating take time and energy away from things that used to give me pleasure.

Every day seems the same.  And maybe it’s the sameness that I need right now.  When I was writing, every day was the same, too.  Then suddenly, I was working on my thesis full blast.  Did it get too exciting, too risky?  Why did I retreat into this ED cave?  Will I ever come out of it?

Something is bound to change after graduation, hopefully for the better.  I can only hope that the “healthy me” will take over, and abandon these thoughts, ideas, and rituals once things settle down.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed, and Puzzle has her paws crossed, too.

If you think you might have an eating disorder…

If you think you might have an eating disorder, but aren’t sure, go to this website and take this questionnaire.

I just did.   I printed out the results.  I’m not sure if I want to show the results to my therapist, though.  It came out looking pretty scary to me.

I met with my therapist today instead of Friday, because she’s taking Friday off.  I admitted a lot of stuff to her that I’m not sure I should have told her.   It is the ED part of me that says I should lie to her and hide my concerns and fears.  She tells me I’m playing with fire.  She told me today that she would not hospitalize me, that if it came to that she would leave it up to Dr. P (my psychiatrist) and Dr. K (my primary care physician), which is a load off my mind.  So I feel a bit more relaxed about going to see my therapist, and telling her stuff, knowing that she won’t lock me up for what I say.

I do sometimes read to my therapist little things that I write.  She does not read my blog.  This is an agreement we have.  But I read her an entry on occasion, a glimpse.

I did not lose weight over the past week.  I don’t know how I should feel about it.  If I allow myself to feel frustrated, it feels like the most natural feeling I could have, yet I feel guilty and selfish to have this feeling.  If I allow myself to feel relieved that I have maintained my weight, the ED me gets rather pissed off.

Goodnight.  It’s past my bedtime.

Dog Sweater Tips

I am not an expert.  But this is what I’ve learned from experience with dog sweaters:

First of all, not all dogs need sweaters.  The average healthy adult dog does not need a sweater.  Adult dogs can use their own body heat to stay warm, unlike humans, who require clothing.

However, if you see your dog shivering in the cold, or if your dog indicates he or she is uncomfortable, you may want to consider a sweater.  Puzzle shivers in the cold, and the way she tells me she is uncomfortable is by refusing to walk!  On several occasions we were about 50 feet from home, and she stopped walking!  I had to pick her up and carry her.  Next time, I was wiser, and put a sweater on her.

You will want to get a sweater that fits your dog.  This is very important.  An ill-fitting sweater will be uncomfortable for your dog, and therefore useless and a waste of money.  Measure your dog and shop wisely.  Puzzle’s chest is 16 inches.  She is size M.  If your dog is low to the ground, exceptionally heavy, or very thin, you will have to custom-make your sweater.   But that is the fun part!

Always supervise your dog while he or she is wearing a sweater, especially if it is the first time wearing one.  Why?  Your dog may decide to rip it off.  So you don’t think this would be the worst thing?  Think again: You don’t want your dog ingesting the yarn.  This could be very serious.  (If your dog eats yarn, or has yarn coming out of his or her anus, call a vet immediately!  Don’t try to remove it yourself!)  So be very careful when your dog wears his or her sweater for the first time especially.  Do not leave your dog crated with a sweater on.  In fact, I would suggest taking the sweater off when you come inside from your walk.

I would recommend wool.  Why?  It is water-repellent, so it will keep your dog dry in the wettest wintry conditions.  Also, wool will break down in the digestive system if tiny fibers are ingested (again, call your vet immediately if your dog eats yarn!).  I use a wool sweater for Puzzle in the rain.  Puzzle is a Schnoodle.  Her fur is not water-repellent like a Labrador Retriever’s coat is, nor is it double-coated like the Sheltie’s.  If she gets wet, the water will soak through to her skin and tangle her little Schnoodle fur.  She also has very thin fur.  You can actually see her skin under her coat.  I find a wool sweater keeps Puzzle dry; only the sweater gets wet.  I take the sweater off immediately when we get inside.  An alternative is a doggie raincoat, but I have never seen one that seemed suitable for Puzzle.

If you want to make a dog sweater yourself, great!  A handmade sweater is the best kind because it will be custom fit for your dog.  Google “dog sweater patterns” and you’ll come up with some, or click on “dog sweaters” in my tags (over in the right-hand column of this page) and you’ll come up with some of my photos of Puzzle’s sweaters and patterns.   I usually don’t use a pattern.  I make it up as I go along.

Happy knitting!  And to your dog: Happy Wardrobe!

Knitting: Toilet Roll Hats

I took a break from writing and decided to knit for a day, and instead of a dog sweater, I knitted a hat for a toilet paper roll!

I’ve got this wonderful book that I would highly recommend: Toilet Roll Covers by Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer.  You can order it from  Order it when knitpicks is having a sale on books and you’ll get a good price.  In the book are these amazing patterns for covers you can put on toilet paper rolls that are decorative and amusing, and will keep your bathroom from looking drab.  Your guests will be amazed!

A toilet roll cover is actually a hat in miniature; it is 15 inches around, and 4-3/8 inches high.  The book has many elaborate and creative patterns, including animal patterns, and even an Aran pattern.  I invented my own, very simple patterns.  Here’s the one I did yesterday:

Toilet hat 1

See the ribbing on the bottom?  After I knitted the hat, I found that it was too short.  I crocheted a strip of faux ribbing and sewed it onto the bottom of the hat.

Here are the other hats I’ve done:

Other 3 toilet hats

The hat on top, as well as the one I did yesterday, were done with Lion Brand yarn, the stuff called Vanna’s Choice.  Although it is labeled worsted weight, I find that it is a bit heavy, but I do prefer heavy yarns.  It knits up nicely a 4 st/inch.  I used a size 8 circular needle, 60 stitches around=15 inches.  I found that any more stitches per inch was too dense for my taste.  The gray and white hat is done with Red Heart yarn.  I had fun with the cable stitching, though it certainly was time consuming!  The furry hat was done with “fun fur.”  I believe that this is also a Red Heart yarn.  I find it a difficult yarn to handle, though some people think otherwise.  The tops of the hats can be done as a flat piece, or as a circle progressing inward,  or progressing outward from the center.  The sides of the hat can be done on straight needles as well, going around the roll, for 15 inches, instead of up, and fastening the ends together.

The neat thing about these mini-hats is that they can be done in a day.   You will find a use for those leftover scraps of yarn from those dog sweaters you’ve made; in fact, one of those hats I made matches one of Puzzle’s sweaters!  I find that a short project like this is a real boost to my self-esteem.  I feel a sense of accomplishment right away.   These hats make great gifts, and are a good project for a beginner knitter.

My last–and hopefully VERY last–hospitalization

My last hospitalization ended March 20, 2006.  I plan to stay out of the hospital for good.

When I left the hospital, the doctors and social workers told me that I would not make it.  They told me that I needed to be in a mental health day program.  They told me that I should join a knitting club for “structure.”  They told me that I would probably end up back in the hospital right away if I did not heed their instructions.

I paid no attention to them.  I have succeeded in staying out of the hospital, contrary to their expectations.

Now, my therapist tells me that if my weight continues to drop, I am facing  the possibility of another hospitalization.

I have no intentions of ever ending up in one of those places again.  Nor do I plan to attend another day treatment program–ever.

If I were to be hospitalized, I would truly feel embarrassed.  It would be as if my degree were erased.

But no one will take my degree away from me–not those people at the hospital, not my therapist or psychiatrist, not my primary care physician, nobody!

I picture those doctors and social workers, one social worker in particular, D., shaking her head, her hands on her hips, her brow furrowed, cackling at me, “Told you so.”

I picture myself calling my mother on the phone from the hospital, her condescending voice, “Aw, so graduating was too much for you, eh?”

I imagine my own voice, inside my head, upon seeing a can of Ensure, served to me at the hospital because I have refused yet another meal, saying, “Calories! Calories!”

I imagine all this, and then I see myself less than a month from now, on an airplane, knitting Puzzle’s sweater, full of anticipation.  I see myself on the bus the next day, excited to be entering the beautiful town of Port Townsend, Washington.  That afternoon and evening, I’ll be seeing all my classmates again, and the faculty, catching up on how everyone’s semester went, exchanging hugs, and excitement, and tears.   And then the reading and graduation.  What a joyous occasion.  No one can take that away from me.  No one.