Author Archives: Barbara Anderson

About Barbara Anderson

At age 48, I changed my lifestyle (food, exercise, rest, spirituality, balance) after a heart diagnosis. I write about living well and doing good, no matter what life brings.

Knitted shawl with cable and garter stitches

Knit. Rip. Walk. Ice. Repeat.

While I was laid-up last winter with a broken foot, I decided I’d learn to knit.  I streamed knitting classes online and practiced stitches for weeks.  When I got bored with knitting, I’d change to woodworking and sewing videos, then go back to knitting.  After more attempts than I can count, I finally made a hat good enough to wear in public—as long as no one looks too closely. 

Onward!  When I could drive again, I took a short class at a local yarn shop https://www.allwoundupyarnshop.com/ to make a shawl.  In this class, everyone makes the same shawl pattern with the instructor teaching the new stitches, helping us fix mistakes, and encouraging us when we want to give up.  It seemed a good way to take the next step. https://newwayopening.com/2017/11/08/whack-a-mole/

The shawl we were making has two sections. The first is cable stitches—a new skill–and the second is simple knitting.  Surely, I could do this.  People all over the world knit, so how hard can it be? 

That’s like saying people all over the world keep going in tough times.  Or, people all over the world have setbacks but keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Or, people all over the world fall but keep getting up and trying again.  How hard can it be if so many people do it?

Having tried both knitting, and getting up after setback in life, I can tell you:  both are harder than they look.  Really hard.  Frustrating.    The biggest difference between them is that one is a non-essential skill for most of us, and the other is life.

I’m still deciding if learning to knit as a way to push through a major setback was a good idea or not.  The shawl isn’t finished, nor is the comeback.  On each, I go backward so often that I wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Here’s what I mean: I began the shawl at home before the class, but I couldn’t get past the first few inches. I kept ripping it out and starting over.  Even with the instructor’s help, I must have started over at least 1400 times.  Just last night, I ripped out a dozen rows again.  Note to self:  Don’t try to knit in the dim light while watching a movie.

Likewise, the last few years have had what seems like at least 1400 life setbacks, as well. https://newwayopening.com/2018/03/05/my-heart-failure-returned/ I keep pushing through, putting one foot in front of the other, but it sure feels like my knitting experiment:  slow.  I started physical therapy for my foot and ankle and have made good progress. But if I stood too long or didn’t elevate my foot enough, or bent it too much or walked too far, I had to elevate and ice my foot and ankle again for hours. 

For months, I walked and iced, knitted and ripped, walked and iced.

My knitting teacher fixed my mistakes a few times and said, “You can do it.  It’s hard, but you’ll get it.” My doctor said my foot was healing well.  “Keep up the good work. You can do it.” 

Then, I took a class on how to fix mistakes without ripping out endless rows of knitting.  I felt so empowered and hopeful that I almost cried. I straightened my spine and kept knitting. 

On a warm March day, I raked winter debris off my flower gardens.  Granted, I had to elevate and ice my foot for an entire day afterward, but I’d worked in my garden without permanent damage.  Last week, I was finally able to walk around my block.  I’ve gone back to my fitness class.  Sweet.

My shawl is now two-thirds finished.  People who’ve seen it seem genuinely impressed, as I am.  Cool.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Last week, I hiked a short distance on a fire road in the mountains of Eastern Washington and walked on rocks beside a stream.  I couldn’t have done that a month ago. The smell of cedars in mountain air mingled with the sound of birds singing and our dogs splashing in the creek.  If there’s a heaven, I think I was there.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Knitting well isn’t easy, as people all over the world know.  Nor is it easy to keep getting up when life knocks us down.  Yesterday, I chose yarn for my next project and signed up to volunteer in a food bank. Knit and rip.  Walk and ice.  I dare to hope. 

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Cabin Fever

Fresh snow fills my patio chairs from seat to arm rest.  My dogwood blooms fluffy white blossoms of snow.  Winter storms and elected officials shut down Western Washington.  In Greater Seattle, 3.5 million people have cabin fever.  We have nearly two feet of snow in our front yard with another six inches due tonight.  Cabin fever won’t be breaking any time soon.

Unlike my neighbors, I’ve had cabin fever for most of the past year.  Last February, I got a super-duper fancy pacemaker to address the return of severe heart failure and began a long recovery process.  No driving, no lifting, and only supervised exercise for months. Big time cabin fever.

By the end of July, I’d begun blowing out the cobwebs and opening the windows.  I gardened.  Volunteered.  Started to meet people.  I wasn’t free of the cabin, but I began to dream again.

0803180913a_resizedOn August 1, we welcomed a new granddaughter, Cora, into the world and celebrated that her delivery was smooth.  That same afternoon, my cardiologist gave me great news.  I dared to hope.

Filled with excitement at all the good news in my life, I threw open the door and jumped into life with both feet.  I tripled my volunteer hours in that first week of joy, resumed gardening, did some cooking…..and forget to rest.  How did that work?  Poorly.

I was so distracted by joy and exhausted within a few days, that I forgot to watch my footing.  I fell off a step at home.  I broke my foot so badly I couldn’t set it on the ground.  More surgery.  The surgeon said I absolutely could not put a moment’s weight on that foot for five months if I wanted to regain a normal gait.  So much for hopes, dream, and happy dances.

From August – October, I lay on my bed or sofa with my foot on pillows.  No walking or driving. (It was my right foot.)  No gardening or traveling.  I moved around on a knee scooter and used crutches on stairs.  Every Monday morning, my husband (who deserves sainthood) dropped me off at a Senior Center where I’m a volunteer receptionist.  A friend picked me up at noon, took me to run errands, and brought me home. Otherwise, I stayed home.  I had cabin fever no matter what the weather was like.

I read until I was tired of reading.  I streamed videos until I was tired of TV.  I got bored and went nutty.  After a few weeks, I got over enough of my embarrassment at having another broken foot that I was almost ready to call friends and fess up.

Seahawks castThat is, until I fell off my knee scooter in the dining room and broke my ankle.  I couldn’t even stay safe on a knee scooter going to the kitchen for a coffee refill.  At least the broken ankle was on the same side as the broken foot.  The ankle lengthened and complicated my recovery.  I was so upset, depressed, and embarrassed that I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened.  I buried all thoughts of calling friends for company and pushed through the solitude.

I learned a lot in those months.  I took on-line classes on sewing and knitting. I drafted doll clothes patterns as gifts for my granddaughters.  I read histories of Seattle and Washington State.

I learned that riding my scooter too fast over sidewalk cracks results in a face plant.  I learned that turning a corner too sharply one-handed can cause a broken ankle, even with my foot and lower leg encased in a walking boot. I learned that I need to be even more careful and attentive than I thought I did.

I re-learned that I hate to reach out for companionship and help when I feel I have nothing to bring to the table.  I’m afraid I’ll sound depressing or be suffocated with sympathy.

People tell me I inspire them with my hopeful, positive attitude and perseverance but I don’t feel inspiring.  I just try to keep doing what I know how to do: to not give up, to get up again, push forward, look for beauty and goodness, and hope that one day I can hope and dream again.  On the other hand, people who live with this attitude, inspire me to do the same.

These days, I can walk, drive and climb stairs again.  I volunteer, do a fitness class and physical therapy each week.  I’m meeting people and maybe beginning to find a place for myself here.  That pesky thing called hope was raising its head again.

Then it snowed and the city shut down.  And it snowed some more.  Yes, it is stunningly beautiful.  Yes, my dogs love to play in it.  I’ve taken them for walks and watched them Dogwood in snow (2)wrestle in snowdrifts.

In Seattle, even a little snow closes down the city.  Last week, we couldn’t get off our street for two days.  Nearly every day brings more snow, with another six inches predicted for tonight on top of the almost two feet already on the ground.  The city is in shutdown for at least two more days.  Cabin fever is rampant.

It’s ironic that the snow makes me feel better about my own cabin fever.  I’m no longer the odd one out.  All around me, 3.5 million people in Greater Seattle.  We’re in it together.

With so much in common, I’m finally willing to share my own experience of year-long cabin fever.  I dream of groaning and laughing together when we’re finally free.  I hope there’s another happy dance just around the corner.

Until then, I’ll stay cozy by the fire, snuggle with my new puppy, eat my husband’s wonderful cooking, knit a shawl and give thanks for the beauty outside my window.

Silence Is Consent

That’s what my high school trigonometry teacher said.  He’d ask if we wanted a test on Friday, for example.  We’d stay silent, thinking we had no voice in the decision.  He’d look around the classroom, then say, “Silence is consent.  Test on Friday.”

I don’t consciously remember anything else I learned that year, but I still hear his voice:  “Silence is consent.”

And so it is.

If we keep silent, we consent to language that inflames anti-Semites, including one who massacred eleven jews at worship in Pittsburgh last week.

If we keep silent, we consent to language that inflames racists, including one who executed African Americans at a Kroger supermarket in Kentucky last week.

If we keep silent, we consent to the lies about Democrats and opponents of  Donald Trump that inflamed a man who mailed pipe bombs in an attempt to assassinate a former President and Vice-President, members of Congress, former federal officials and prominent citizens.

Silence is consent.

I don’t remember my teacher’s name.  I never imagined I’d be quoting him through-out my life.  But here he is.  Only years later do I realize what he probably hoped his students would hear and take to heart:

Silence is consent.