Unseasonal winter wear and pain

IMG_6432Before I begin, some apologies are in order. #1. I apologize for the rather lengthy sabbatical (though tbh it was kinda sagreatical) and leaving so many of you without your fix of knitting, puns, and portmantoe socks. I know it must have been difficult. #2. I apologize to my friends in San Francisco who I’ve been texting as if I were in Chicago. Because I’m actually in San Francisco. And have been for the past month and a half. So let’s hang out! But let’s do it soon, because I leave in like, 3 days. And lastly #3. Sorry to the lady in the above picture (rightward gazin’) who gave me a super dirty look. I wasn’t creeping. I promise. I just had to rule-of-thirds that vertical succulent wall garden behind you.IMG_6429This is Beacon, my favorite cafe (ever. except sometimes their sandwiches give me the runs.), where I’ve been spending almost literally all day everyday brushing up on my pattern recognition skills (aka learning how to be a doctor, apparently) in preparation for the boards exam. Step 1 studying was actually kind of fun on the one hand, as cafeing is among my top 5 past-times (also gossiping and gambling), but on the other hand, nonstop eating, drinking, and breathing practice questions (also green tea and it’s its) and spending an inordinate amount of time looking at crusty rashes and men with boobs gets tiring pretty fast (except the it’s its. ate like 20.). So, as much fun as excessive cafeing and people watching was (i saw a woman drinking coffee get hired by a modeling agent ON THE SPOT), I’m glad it’s finally over.

Because ‘better late than never’, here are some of the things that I’ve been working on for the past few months. And yes, I know that it’s a bit warm to be discussing winter wear, but I’ve been quite busy lately. If you have any issues with this, please direct your complaints to preclinical medical education everywhere.IMG_6371I have tried arm warmers in the past, but I have never really given it a full-hearted effort because I am deathly afraid of thumb holes (a niche subclassification of trypophobia). They’re small, intricate, and you have to pick up the stitches just right or else you’re left with a gaping hole–in short, I’ve never been any good at them. But when I was gifted some amazing finnsheep/angora wool from local color fiber studio, I decided to give it an honest effort. So I found this cool/free arm warmer pattern (from a finn no less! coincidence? i think not.), added some of my own creative leanings, and produced a pair of passably thumbed arm tubes! Finntastic!IMG_6403I felt so good about my arm warmers that I got a bit overly ambitious and tried to make fingerless gloves/mittens. It seemed easy enough, right? Well, apparently it’s not. Apparently, it’s hard. Also, apparently, I can’t estimate the size of a woman’s hand at all, because what I made fits the palm of an adult but the fingers of a small child. If you know any such unfortunate individuals with the aforementioned proportions, let me know and I’ll send these glittens their way.

Now, as a rule, I try to keep photos of myself off my own blog. It’s partly a matter of taste, but also I don’t want to take away from the art (like this). However, one of the main things I’ve been working on lately (unrelated to knitting but equally as mind blowing) has been fixing my back, and I think it’s only right that all of you see what months of sweat and dedication have earned me.downloadI also might have thrown in a couple arm days, too. And a tan.

You may remember that I threw out my back a little over a year ago (and lived to tell the hilarious yet poignant tale), and while I portrayed my injury as ironic and light hearted initially, it has since become anything but. Because contrary to what doctors have told me, I didn’t get better. Not after 4, 6, or even 8 months of physical therapy. But I stayed optimistic. In fact, I was so optimistic that I didn’t even see the shift that happened. There came a point where I was no longer dealing with a bad back; I was dealing with chronic pain, something I would spend the next 472 days (and counting) trying to escape.

I’m embarrassed to say, I did not handle my back pain very well. It became something insidious inside of me. It consumed me, and my time and attention, taking space and joy away from the things I loved, slowly eating away any hope of its transiency. In the span of a year, I saw over 10 medical specialists and received the full gamut of treatments, everything from the medically sound to the ethically questionable (one man literally set my back on fire). I had MRIs and X-rays done, my tongue examined, my gait and posture analyzed. They all told me different things (insert overcrowded kitchen adage here) and gave me different explanations as to what the underlying problem was and all the things I was doing wrong (from which I can only surmise that it’s a miracle i’m not irreparably crippled right now), but they couldn’t get rid of my pain. Despite their credentials (everything from MD to DC to ‘in the chinese army they called me the ‘bone-mover”) and expertise, that was the one thing they could not do.

As a future health professional and Christian (#salvation), my back pain has been an unending supply of wisdom (the complexities of modern healthcare, faith in suffering, what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a creme brulee torch, etc.), all of which I had consistently ignored. I was bitter and tired of hearing from doctors that promised to fix me and, above all, I was in pain. As a result, I ended up living much of the past year through a filter of fear and avoidance, willing to give up any and everything to escape the pain. But the thing about chronic illnesses is, it’s exactly that. Chronic. It’s inescapable, which means that denial and self pity are just temporary fixes, and inevitably, I would have to face this thing that I had, figure out what about it made it so utterly devastating. I don’t claim to be an expert (especially considering that within the realm of chronic pain, my 1 year is fleeting), nor can I promise that my thoughts won’t change with time, or change with pain. All I have are the things I’ve found myself repeating in my head, when 400 something days feels a couple days too long.IMG_6444One of the hardest parts about chronic pain is the feeling of loss. That I no longer am the person that I used to be. With each day I experienced pain, I felt like I was missing out on a day that I could have been who I was before. And with each day, that person grew farther and farther away. I had demonized my pain and idealized my prior self to the point where I forgot that pain existed (and even flourished) elsewhere. I discounted the suffocating pain of an asthma attack or the noxious pain of a migraine. I selectively ignored the sinking-dread-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach pain of getting pulled over for making an illegal turn onto Market (even when i was just following the car in front of me!) and then, a few hours later, the soul crushing pain of spilling an entire Fage container (costco sized) of granola onto the carpet (bad day for daniel). For so long I believed that pain had stolen something from me, when in truth I just didn’t want to accept what it had given: a reason to think and learn, to exercise and grow strong, to struggle and share and prepare myself for what’s next, for day #473.

***The leading cause of right-sided heart failure is left-sided heart failure.

Yarnoplasties: A Case Report

As second year of medical school is nearly over and Step 1 is 1 step away (aha! but seriously, t-73 days someone save me), more of what we’ve been learning has been put into a clinical context, and literally half of each day is spent going through cases, the kind of cases that we’ll be expected to present ourselves next year.

So, in an attempt to more fully embody my education (and to prove that knitting is the most relevant hobby one could pick up during medical school, aside from watching house), I decided to write up a case of my own. IMG_6331

Chief Complaint: This is a left handed arm warmer in need of repair. I initially declined, but then reconsidered upon learning that its owner, Tiffany, plays Killer Bunnies (i love killer bunnies) and loves the West Wing (i bleed west wing).

History of Present Illness: The arm warmer was knit approximately 3 years ago with a worsted weight yarn, likely a wool/acrylic blend (a precise manufacturing history was not obtained due to the fact that we ended up talking about jed bartlet dreams and which killer bunnies expansion pack is best), and began to unravel some time ago to the point where it is now unwearable. Tiffany denies any neglect or improper care and maintenance of her knitted accessories, claiming the injury is a result of ordinary wear and tear. She is most definitely lying.

Past Medical History: Pilling — appears to be chronic, likely due to repeated use and cleaning. Given Tiffany’s extensive history as an all-around liar, I suspect it has been machine washed and dried several times, expediting the pilling process.

Past Surgical History: There is no evidence of past darning or repair.

Medications: Knitazoxanide, Lispinapril, Purlax, Woolfarin

Allergies: Washing at high temperatures, machine drying, cats, babies, and annoying adults that like to pull on loose strands. Also penicillin.

Social History: Spends most days on the left hand or balled up in a coat pocket. Has a moderately healthy diet and frequently exercises. Has smoke alarms in the house, does not own a firearm, and wears a seatbelt when riding. Denies alcohol, tobacco, and any illicit drug use. Has not received vaccinations because, as per the patient, “I’m a hand warmer. Also that stuff gives you autism or something.”

Family History: Wool on mother’s side came from a merino sheep named Wilson in Minnesota who was served for Christmas dinner 3 years ago. Acrylic on father’s side produced at an unknown company, but likely Red Heart Super Saver, which is unfortunate, because I despise Red Heart Super Saver.

Review of Systems: Positive for cables, intarsia color-work, and ribbing. Notable unraveling and yarn loss.

Physical Exam:

Body: blocked and well-knit, with moderate pilling. Mild jaundice noted.

Thumb gore: loss of ~2cm due to unraveling distal to the gusset.

Genitourinary: deferred.

Assessment/Plan:

This is a case of severe unravelling in a left handed arm warmer. I recommend the following intervention immediately:IMG_6339Using a tapestry needle (1 gauge) and some scrap yarn, thread the yarn through the last preserved round of stitches and tie off.IMG_6342Next, remove any old yarn above this tied off round, leaving just the strand connected to the tied off round.IMG_6349Tie a ball of new yarn onto the strand of old yarn and pick up the stitches from the tied off round onto appropriately sized needles. Knit in a round until desired length, and then bind off.IMG_6355Progress Note:

The arm warmer recovered quickly and was discharged immediately. The cliknitian who performed the yarnoplasty is open to more clients, as he needs something to do while he avoids studying, re-watches Youtube clips of Adele, and binge-watches The Blacklist on Netflix.

***Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot has 10 expansion packs, which amounts to a total of 864 cards.

Crazy cable beanies and the north pole

IMG_6261Winter in Chicago means I am in no short supply of inspiration for my next knitting endeavor (also the time of year when i have to remind myself that a really cool knit scarf is never good enough reason to stare at people on the bus), even if, so far, the climate has been unreasonably SFesque (#graciaselnino). And what I’ve seen more than anything–even more than those blankets that people wear as scarves (blarfs)–are beanies. Not just any beanies, but cable knit beanies. So, unable to find a free pattern on Ravelry that matched what I was looking for, I decided to write my own!IMG_6270I know that most of my patterns have been directed at the XX population, so I tried my best to make this one as unisex as possible. To really drive this point home, I asked a frenemy of mine to try it on.IMG_6276This is CJ, and I told him to try really really really hard to look like a hat model.IMG_6307I kinda wish he would’ve tried a little harder.IMG_6312In the spirit of Christmas and making good(ish) beanie patterns available to all, this pattern is absoknitly FREE, and you can download it here or on Ravelry. Enjoy!

As many of you might have gleaned from the recent scarcity of blog posts, second year of medical school has really taken off. There is a wealth of information to learn and/or (but preferably and) memorize, which means I’ve been spending less time knitting in my long johns over re-re-re-runs of The West Wing and more time holed up in a cafe trying to find a good portmanteau to remember which codon the sickle cell mutation is on (sixle cell). I will spare everyone the long tirade on why cafes are among the best locations in the world (right next to san francisco. and iceland. and the yarn aisle at michael’s.), but one of the biggest reasons why I love cafes so much is because they are one of the few places where it is mildly acceptable (or at the very least expected) to listen in on nearby goings-ons. Before you all start judging me, let me just say that I am not a very nosy person (except when i’m at a cafe, then i am most definitely a very nosy person). That being said, what follows are some of the more memorable things I’ve heard drinking my tea at a cafe counter (teavesdropping?).

‘Jonathan is just the worst.’

Most of what you’ll overhear at a cafe are some variety of a date (even if they don’t know it yet😉 ), but every once in awhile, you’ll stumble upon a break-up or post break-up debrief with the BFF, like last month, when the girl sitting next to me was telling her friend about how Jonathan had just broken up with her. It was all pretty run of the mill until PLOT TWIST: Jonathan was going to pay for her to go to the North Pole, and since they’d separated, she needed to find someone else to fund what I can only assume to be a woefully misguided attempt to visit Santa Claus. Why Jonathan had agreed to subsidize such an endeavor in the first place was beyond the scope of the conversation, but needless to say the relationship ended badly and tearfully, and there’s pretty much a consensus that she is an amazing beyond amazing survivor and Jonathan is the absolute worst human being ever.

‘Football is just, like, so confusing. Could you explain it to me?’

By far the most cookie cutter blind date I’ve ever eavesdropped on. I know I’m not one to criticize, seeing as I am deathly terrified of first dates in all shapes and forms (#bachelortiltherapture) and lack the courage to go on them, but as I sat there with earbuds on, bobbing my head, pretending to listen to music but actually listening to a guy spend 15 minutes explaining who Tom Brady was to the head tilting, vocal frying girl across from him, I had to suppress a very visceral eye-roll. Unfortunately, I left before the date concluded and either of them had a chance to ask about a second date, but there was talk of Laser Tag, so I’m hopeful.

‘Just as you knit these stitches together, so shall you knit together the hearts of your friends and family.’

On one of the rare occasions when I was just knitting at a cafe, minding my own business, this guy on his way out stops, walks up to me (led by the holy spirit obvi), and prophesizes over me. He left me somewhat jarred and skeptical, but seeing as how this happened over 5 years ago, before I even considered going to medical school, it turns out I’m 1 for 1 in terms of prophesies fulfilled–a success rate rivaling that of Jesus Christ himself (bonus points if i actually go into cardiothoracic surgery in 2 years). I’m not entirely sure how the residency match algorithm works, but there’s gotta be a variable in there for divine intervention, right?

TL;DR: Eavesdropping is rude (but informative), cafes are holy places, and if a guy named Jonathan ever tries to buy you a drink, he’s a complete flake and will drop you in a heartbeat.

***The word ‘eavesdrop’ refers to the place outside one’s house where water drops from the eaves of the roof–the same place where one would stand in order to hear what is being said inside the house.

Eyeballs and starbucks

jiptheowlA couple of months ago, I traveled to Japan, a country of rich culture and history and–probably the reason why most people go there–the world’s leading authority on amigurumi, the art of making cute, tiny things out of yarn (pictured above). I also ate some California rolls, which I guess were okay. Now, I have tried my hand at amigurumi before, with questionable success, and since then had resigned myself to the fact that this was just one of those things that I would never be able to do (right next to touching my toes and respecting people who chew loudly). However, being in Japan re-inspired me, and so I decided to give it one last go–one last attempt at knitting Lamigurumi.IMG_6076Okay, so I definitely won’t be making a winking owl anytime soon, but at least it’s progress. Kind of. It’s tiny, that’s for sure, and maybe cute in a weird, biological kind of way. For those of you wondering what exactly it is that I knit, here’s a closer look:IMG_6078It’s an eye! And not just any eye, but an anatomically correct(ish) right eyeball with all 6 extra-ocular muscles attached (the red and grey knit cords, which, as fate would have it, are actually called i-cords)! You know what they say, ‘you can take the knitter out of the anatomy lab…’IMG_6082If you’re asking yourself why I knit an eyeball and suspended it in an old shoebox, the answer involves a fair amount of geeking out (you could say i put the ‘eye’ in knitting) and an even greater amount of boredom. But in short, for the past month or so, I’ve been a (self-proclaimed head) TA for my medical school’s human anatomy course, and, as so clearly demonstrated by my retina-replica, understanding the eye and its associated muscles can get a bit tricky. So, I decided to be a responsible teaching assistant as well as defend my position as best knitter at Pritzker (#knitzkerchief) by knitting an interactive model eye that shows the component actions of each extra-ocular muscle.

Okay, so I originally was going to have a series of pictures here with explanations of how each muscle moved the eye based on its origin and insertion, but then I realized the only people who would actually read that would be my classmates, other medical students, and my mom. So I’ll skip all that and you can just trust me when I say that the eye works as it should, and that it was well re-see-ved by all the first year pupils (the volume of potential eye puns is kniterally addicting)

IMG_5274Over the several days it took to assemble this d-eye-orama (also iBox, yarn bomb, orb(kn)ital fossa. can’t stop won’t stop.) into an oil-stained shoebox, I had a lot of time to think about my trip to Japan, the impetus of this entire project. I got to reminiscing about the things that went well or terribly, terribly wrong, the risks that paid off and those that didn’t, and I ultimately came up with a few tips that I feel like every budding traveler could benefit from.

Learn how to say, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll keep my hands to myself.’ My brother-in-law is Japanese, and upon hearing that I was going to Japan, he sent me 4 full pages of recommendations on what I should do while there. However, in all his wisdom, he failed to mention that Japan has female-only trains during rush hour (inconspicuously painted bright pink), which is an option for females, but (as i learned the hard way) absolutely not an option for males. Needless to say, the 2 minutes from Shibuya to Harajuku station amidst a sea of dead silent, nervously staring women was one of the longest train rides I’d ever been on (and an accurate representation of my social life circa 2002-2011) and would have been easily avoided had I been equipped with the vocabulary to relay my innocuous and totally non-pervy intentions.IMG_5085Imagine this but times a million and then crammed onto a subway car.

Stay off the grass. Unless you don’t want to. IMG_5703It is no question that Japan is the place to go for beautiful gardens–most of which are associated with ornate temples and deeply entrenched in religious and historic meaning. And while many are compelled by propriety (or japanese law) to honor this beauty with respect and from a distance, I was fortunate enough to witness a group of middle aged Cantonese couples do exactly the opposite. I was especially impressed with this lady shamelessly lounging by Kyoto’s Imperial Palace gardens. Not pictured: the half dozen ‘Stay off the grass’ signs and this lady’s husband using the Nijo Castle as his personal tripod.

Find yourself a bald companion.IMG_6014That’s right, I didn’t go to Japan alone. I went with my roommate, who is, among other things, bald. This proved useful when needing to identify him in high-volume tourist areas (e.g. public transit at rush hour, temples and palaces, the garrett’s popcorn outlet) and made for an excellent series of photographs of him with the various Buddha shrines (#buddyandbuddha).

But, of course, he was more than just a human homing beacon. Of all the good things that happened during the 2 weeks I spent in Japan, I was perhaps most fortunate in that my roommate also turned out to be my ideal traveling companion (also that we saw an actual freaking geisha). We both are early risers and enjoyed excessive, fitbit-busting walks. We like the same 5:1 ratio of strict itinerary planning to spontaneous impulsive decisions ($25 worth of soba. worth it.), and when I claimed that I saw a cockroach the size of my face in our bedroom, he actually went looking for it so he could kill it (#hesakeeper). And then, as if things couldn’t get any better, he turned to me one day and said the 8 most beautiful words you could ever say to an ISTJ: ‘Wanna just hang out at a cafe today?’ (also: ‘can you organize this into a google doc?’)IMG_6007Regardless of where you lie on the extroversion-introversion continuum or who you’re traveling with, I’ve learned that, given enough time, everyone is driven to seek alone time (the introversion conversion). Even my roommate, who I feel is split 50/50 between E and I, after only 4 days together, wanted nothing more than to just sit at a Starbucks (don’t judge) and journal for hours (i consider that a personal victory for introverts everywhere). So for those looking for a traveling buddy, consider going with a friend who’s an I. We introverts can sniff out a cafe at the drop of a hat and are experts at being with you while leaving you the hell alone. And if you have no I’s in your life, don’t worry. I’ve got a spare one lying around here somewhere…IMG_6080

***The floors of Nijo Castle in Kyoto are called ‘Nightingale floors’ because of the sound they make when they are stepped on–a security measure to ensure no one could sneak through unheard.

End of summer cowls and triquetrums

IMG_6029Just like with trashy thrillers and Trader Joe’s chicken taragon wraps, I have a love-hate relationship with lace weight yarn (also with hearthstone, criminal minds marathons, and this guy in my class named cj). I’m always really excited when I get it, but then I get started and realize that it will take me freaking forever to knit anything appreciable out of it. So, what was supposed to be a summer cowl is now an end-of-summer cowl. A 2-month long endeavor that I almost rage-knit on multiple occasions, and the time commitment equivalent of 6 seasons of 30 Rock (also like 3 of the underworld movies).

IMG_6031Sadly (though not surprisingly), I did not make this pattern myself. Rather, I capitalized on the creativity and generosity of others and adapted it from this free lace shawl pattern on Ravelry, repeating the main motif between rows of stockinette. So check it out if you’re looking for a good lace project!

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This is a picture of a stone bench wearing my cowl (quite fabulously in my opinion), because I was having trouble finding a human to model it for me. I know what you’re thinking: Really? A bench? Anyone can wear a scarf better than a bench!

I thought the same thing, too.

IMG_6052And then I ran into Caroline. Despite being among the top 5 best dressed (with celiac’s) in our class, she struggled a bit in front of the camera. I took a few pictures (mostly for show. my camera was off for most of it), but could tell almost immediately that it wasn’t going to work out. She lacked that natural ease that comes so effortlessly to benches. In the end, I didn’t have the heart to tell her that she was passed over for a seating fixture.

IMG_6038But to be fair, that is one good looking seating fixture.

Like I mentioned earlier, this cowl took me 2 months to complete, which is a long time given that my summer was relatively relaxed and free (i bought a human head). I would have actually finished much sooner, had I not broken my wrist.IMG_1948My right triquetrum, to be specific (for those curious and/or anatomically inclined). Thus, I was put in a short cast for 3 weeks, which put a real damper on my knitting. Not to say I didn’t try, which I did, holding the yarn between my knees (kneeting?), but ultimately I just had to accept that I’d be taking a break from knitting. I was forced into a yarn sewbattical, a knittermission, a suspinsion (okay i’ll stop).

It was shawlful (sorry last one).

So for 3 weeks, I had a lot of free time, and I ended up spending most of that time lying on my couch, shoving carrots and hummus into my face while letting Netflix count down all the way to 0 before autoplaying (#rockbottom). I was a little surprised at how bad I felt and how shamelessly I wallowed in my invalidity, so between games of Hearthstone (the one thing my cast couldn’t take away from me), I thought about why that was.

And I think it’s because I broke my wrist falling off my bike.

Anyone who knows me or has seen me attempt to ride anything with 2 wheels knows that I am a terrible biker, which is ironic, because my dad is such a phenomenal one (his email address is bikes2work not even kidding). I fall, constantly. In the short 5 months that I’ve had my bike, I’ve fallen trying to avoid potholes, street lamps, other bikers, and cars (both parked and otherwise), most often unsuccessfully so. I’ve fallen on multiple occasions all by myself, tripping over the pedals before I’ve even started biking. I’m so incredibly inept that I’ve managed to make a joke out of it, much like my devotion to The West Wing (my summer project was making a stencil of martin sheen’s face) or my limbiness (2015 pritzker limbo champion whaaaat). But in truth, I’m kind of devastated that I’m a bad biker, because I think part of me always assumed that I was going to be an amazing one. Just like my dad.

In recent years, I’ve noticed my interests gradually converge with my father’s. I’ve developed an ear for This American Life and a disproportionate joy in finding things on the street (order by level of excitement: earbuds, flashlights, doorknobs). I’ve begun small home improvement projects (my next summer project is to decorate the living room with a stencil of martin sheen’s face) and, in the rare instances I succeed in bicycling accident-free, my go-to destination is always a cafe that I can sit and read at for hours (actually it’s bang bang pie shop. and then g&i donuts. and then a cafe). People used to tell me that I’d end up like my father, and that always brought me a sense of relief and security. It might be an Asian thing, or an ISTJ thing, or something else, but whatever it is, it started slipping away as I scraped my shins, bruised my palms, and came to the injurious conclusion that not only am I an abysmal biker, but I will never be my father.

I think I’m old enough where I can actually start being things–a doctor, a writer, a father and husband–and it is terrifying. It implies an ownership of an undetermined future, learning from mistakes and decisions, but only after I’ve made them. I’m the first in my family to move out of California and the only one to pursue a career in the medical field, and I’m just starting to realize that my life will look nothing like my parents’.

It’s weird, acting outside the comfort of precedence. Liberating, I’ll admit, but also unnerving and wrought with doubt. To be honest, I don’t know how people live with such uncertainty, or thrive for that matter. I can only hope it’s kind of like riding a bike, a skill built with time and patience and maturity and, most important of all, incessant falling (because god knows i know how to do that).

***Penny-farthing bicycles are named so because the two tires resemble British coins (a penny and a farthing), with a larger wheel leading a much smaller one.

Bun hats and birthdays

I’ve never been much for trends, which isn’t to say I don’t follow them. Because I do, religiously (kale and quinoa. all day errday). It’s just that I’ve always been really bad at them, more often than not miscalculating what the next ‘big thing’ would be (welcome to my knitting blog). Well, no longer. I’ve decided to get ahead of the curve and become a trendsetter. And as everyone knows, the defining characteristic of a trendsetter (other than ombre and succulents) is thinking outside the box.

Or in my case, thinking outside the… bun.

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Manbuns are on the rise (here as well as in china), quickly becoming the next hottest updo for men (updude). But while everyone is eager to hop on the bundwagon, I’m already looking ahead to the next trend the manbun will trigger. After 50% of our population begins sporting buns (a reasonable estimate), what accessories will they have for their buns? How will they keep them perfectly coiffed throughout the day? What will protect their buns from rain or snow or rogue scissors?IMG_5031I present to you: the bun hat! Essentially, a cod piece for hipsters. Because why would you want a hat that covers all your hair when you could have one that only covers the last 6 inches?IMG_5001It’s like a bonnet and a yarmulke had a love child who was infinitely trendier than both of its parents.

Wearing the first ever bun hat is my be-manbunned friend, Sam. Now, I know I have mentioned before how my class is made up of a diverse set of people, some with fascinating backgrounds prior to starting medical school (the armed forces, deloitte, minnesota, etc.), but Sam is truly unique. I mean, who would expect a male model to just quit his job and become a doctor?

IMG_4702If you thought you recognized Sam, it may be because you saw his work in the October issue of Outside magazine back in 2013. Impressive, right? Sam was gracious enough to lend his modeling expertise to the photoshoot we had, and he even gave me some pointers as the photographer (‘use the rule of thirds’).IMG_5028Convinced that the bun hat is going to be the next big thing? Perfect! Download the free pattern here! Your friends and their naked manbuns will thank you.IMG_5023Now, as my 947 (a number i check daily) Facebook friends are aware of, I recently turned 25, and it’s been a pretty confusing time. I go back and forth between loving my fortified status as an adult (last week i played craps and it was the literally the best feeling i’ve ever felt in my entire life) and panicking over my newly developed quarter-life crisis. And while I was never the kind of person to make New Year’s resolutions or 10-year plans, I started to think about the kinds of things I wanted to accomplish with the rest of my 20’s and what skills I wanted to refine.

Writing. I decided it was writing and that I want to be a writer. And I know I already write here, but I mean like real writing (personally, any forum that contains ‘fart’ and ‘yoga’ in the same parenthetical has definite room for improvement). So for the past week, I’ve been putting aside time each day to write. About anything. It was rough at first, with a lot of typing and backspacing and long stretches of time when I was just staring at a blank page. But then I imagined that I just received a voicemail from Ira Glass saying, ‘Daniel, I heard about you from my niece who loves to knit. First of all, love the blog. Hilarious. Can’t get enough of it. Also, I need a piece by next week. I asked David Sedaris, but he said I should ask you. Can you write me something?’

And this is what I wrote:


I don’t like birthdays, but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t mind the unrelenting reminder of time passed, the steady crawl towards death and the loss of memories and all material things. Nor am I alone, without friends to flood my Facebook wall with congratulatory notifications. I have no devastating character flaw that surfaces each year to remind me that, while my age and body may change, I remain the same selfish, hypocritical self that I’ve always been. I also did not kill a hooker on my last birthday in a drunken rage and haphazardly dispose of the body, the guilt of which drains the very life from me and torments me as I wait for the cops to knock down my front door.

I don’t like birthdays because I’m me, and people are people.

Birthdays are complicated, which might explain why, while my friends’ celebrations included everything from sushi making to rock climbing, I was content with having the same birthday party 6 years in a row. From the ages of 8 to 13, every July 10th, me and a close set of friends and family would meet at Presidio Bowl to enjoy a couple hours of bowling fun. Bowling. Life’s most inoffensive activity. Bowling followed by ice cream cake (life’s most indecisive dessert). By the time I started middle school, it became a sort of mindless tradition in my family, like spring-cleaning or piano lessons. My parents would call the bowling alley, I would invite my friends, and then we would all go bowling and eat ice cream cake afterwards. It was simple and expected, which, as it so happened, was the birthday present I wanted most of all.

I was an anxious kid growing up. I thought. A lot. I scrutinized everything, discerning subtext and implications, playing and replaying old conversations in my head. Was it weird when I said that? What did she mean by that? To me, every opportunity to speak was an opportunity to say so much more, and I wanted—needed—to figure out exactly what everyone was saying, including myself. As you can imagine, this led to more than a few social phobias as well as an unhealthy need for predictability. But fortunately, like most other kids I knew, I grew up. I figured out how not to read too much into things and to trust that people said what they meant and meant what they said. And years later, I was able look back at that unseasoned, immature teenaged me as just an embarrassing memory, a version of myself that, thankfully, I was no longer.

But then I turned 25.

For fear of losing the few friends I have, I first must say that I had a very happy 25th birthday (almost as good as my 4th bowling and ice cream cake party). I was surrounded by laughter and good conversation, and it was over far too soon. But in the events leading up to it, my birthday had cracks, moments where misalignments of social expectations—what, if anything, one should bring to a potluck, how obligatory attendance is, etc.—had been exposed. And this time, there wasn’t a sense of routine, an overriding ritualism, to cover them up. In other words, this wasn’t my 7th bowling and ice cream cake birthday party. By the end of the night, I found myself not so much frustrated as overwhelmingly unsure, and I began to think. A lot. Was I the host or recipient of this celebration? Were these people with me friends throwing a party or guests intent on enjoying it? What do I do now?

When I was in the 7th grade, I came to the conclusion that we were all just square pegs and round holes. That everyone’s actions could never truly capture their intentions. Something was inevitably lost at the synapse, from mind to mouth, no matter how hard we tried. Human communication, according to my young, adolescent mind, was messy and inherently flawed, prone to misinterpretations, social gaffes, and, ultimately, hurt feelings, so we should all just wait around for telepathy to become a thing.

7th grade was a long time ago, of course, but there are times when I rediscover that same paralyzing uncertainty and feel like I haven’t changed at all, like I’m that same scared little kid again, hiding behind 6 identical birthdays just to avoid the slightest chance of rejection. But I have changed. And while it may be true that communication is innately flawed, I have realized that it is not irredeemable. It is a fixable machine. We try, we fail, and we learn. We make friends and hurt them and spend forever making it right again. We are at once fragile and indestructible, masters of apologies and products of forgiveness. And perhaps it is this very trial-and-error nature of human relationships that makes them so unique and invaluable, and things like a happy 25th birthday nothing short of a miracle.


***Craps comes from the French word, ‘crapaud,’ meaning ‘toad,’ which refers to how players used to crouch when playing on the floor or sidewalk.

 

Toe-up socks and Arnold Palmer

Quick life update: it’s summer where I am. And so before it gets too unbearably hot to even think about knitting, I decided to sneak in one last cozy wool project: toe-up socks!

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If you’re rolling your eyes thinking, ‘great, ANOTHER pair of socks,’ you’re wrong! These are toe-up socks (not to be confused with to’ up socks, of which i have several due to how vigorously i pull the heel of my socks when they slip), meaning that they were knit from toe to cuff rather than the other way around. The main advantage to this method is you avoid the dreaded gusset hole that results from picking up stitches from the heel (*knitters collectively shudder*). And as someone who abores holes and was bhored of the typical sock pattern, I thought I’d give it a try.

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IMG_4705Turns out, toe-up socks are amazing! Not only is the cast-on ingenious and completely invisible (i used judy’s magic cast-on and can attest to its supernatural properties), but I ran into absolutely 0 holes when I turned the heel! For those of you looking to try some toe-up socks yourself, I found this pattern to be helpful, though nota bene I adapted it for a larger shoe size and took out the cables.

IMG_4938Here’s the recipient of my first ever toe-up socks: Eli, my friend with simultaneously the largest feet and smallest mouth of any man I’ve ever met (seriously, i could’ve made like, 50 booties with the amount of yarn i used on him).

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IMG_4928And in return, Eli made me a bowl. That’s right, MADE me a bowl, like out of clay and a wheel and a kiln (i believe in that order). The last time I tried my hand at pottery was in 6th grade, when I planned to make a really nice jug for the dinner table and instead ended up with a 4 inch tall bright green tube-y thing (more of a thimble, actually), and then it broke into several pieces, which my sisters perpetually gifted to me for my birthdays thereafter.

IMG_4947Definitely better than a 4 inch thimble.

IMG_4791As most of you know, last weekend was July 4th (more commonly known as 6 days before july 10th). But more pertinent to me, last weekend was also a gloriously free 3-day weekend. And I love gloriously free 3-day weekends. If you’ve ever talked to me about the art of cafeing, you know how I relish huge swaths of unscheduled time. It’s like Tetris, and I take all my favorite activities–crosswords, biking, knitting, Hearthstone (jedbartlet#1497 add me)–and arrange them into a neat little grid.

So you can imagine how unexpected it was when I found myself driving through Bemidji at 4am Friday morning, because in a brief lapse of character, on an adventurous whim, I decided to spend Independence Day with my friend’s family, on their farm, in northern Minnesota (by far my tamest moment of spontaneity ever. next to that time i bought 9 pounds of wheat germ on amazon.).

IMG_4779I’d be lying if I said I went the entire 15 hour drive without any reluctance (or a rendition of my critically acclaimed poor unfortunate souls). Being with a ton of strangers who love each other more than they love me isn’t exactly my ideal social scenario, and while I always wanted to visit the romanticized rural life I had imagined in my head, I’m a city boy at heart, and I knew I’d be so much more comfortable walking through a used bookstore somewhere down the street from some mom-and-pop coffeeshop. I even packed my cafeing materials (crosswords, book, a small knitting project, and iphone charger for extended hearthstone pwnage) in case the opportunity arose, a spare moment away from awkward introductions and debilitating conversational pauses.

IMG_4796So, the weekend came and went, and as a retrospective optimist, I’m happy to say that things didn’t go all that bad. As luck would have it, sheer curiosity of the novel environment superseded any potential social anxiety. I was so fascinated with grain bins and augers (hands off the pto) and the fact that people have beer and pie for breakfast (my body demands granola) that there was little time to worry about anything else. And on July 4th, when the onslaught of white, conservative strangers arrived, things went off without a hitch (save one questionably racist conversation, but i’ll let that slide). We sat around and ate (i met a man named dellbert), enjoyed a hay ride and a bouncy castle, played cornhole (dominated) and cribbage (also dominated), and before I knew it, the day was over. People left, and, surprisingly, I was sad to see them go.

IMG_4776As a San Francisco native and Chicago resident, I innately thrive in a city. I’m used to crossing crowded streets with my headphones on and walking from shop to shop with just a backpack and phone for directions. And though it was my first time stepping foot in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, there was something familiar about this past weekend. I spent it sitting on the porch talking to people, and then sitting on the porch not talking to people. I learned to ride a tractor (dominated), and then when I was done with that, I burned tics for a while and played with a dog. And then after that, I sat some more, drinking Arnold Palmers and listening to Dellbert talk about social security. There was an abundance of slow, low-stress (and often high-caloric) activities to do, and an even greater abundance of time to do them. All I had to do was Tetris them together.

I was in Minnesota for a measly 72 hours, in which time I did no actual farm work (except the tic burning, which i consider a husbandry must). But from the little I’ve experienced and seen, I’ve concluded that my affinity for the state–or at least the reason why Independence Day 2015: Roseau Edition was such a whopping success–stems from the fact that Minnesota is, in a way, a cafe. A great, big, Republican, cafe. Or maybe cafes are just hip, Wifi enabled microcosms of Minnesota. Either way, did I gain 10 pounds in rhubarb pie? Probably. Will seeing another Dairy Queen make me sick? Definitely. Am I glad I went? You betcha.

***The state motto of Minnesota is ‘L’Étoile du Nord,’ which is French for ‘The Star of the North,’ and its state bird is the common loon.

Brioche beanies and Palmieri

So last week, my sister and brother-in-law came to visit me. But more importantly, some good light came into my apartment, and then this happened:
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I know. I thought I was a better photographer, too. I did my best to channel my instaproficient friends, keeping in mind converging lines and the rule of thirds (and subtle indications of a sophisticated literary palette). But, as it turns out, I’m pretty crappy at stylizing. Or I need cooler sunglasses. 
IMG_4523It’s probably the sunglasses.

But anyway! A few years ago, you may remember me toying with the particularly elusive brioche stitch and ultimately making a brioche infinity scarf and writing about it (that post was temporarily redacted while i applied to medical school due to some disparaging remarks about etsy users and also because i ended the post with ‘suck it’). Well, ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to adapt the brioche stitch to be knit in the round so I could make brioche hats or sweaters. All to no avail, sadly.

Until last month! When I found this post on craftsy with instructions on how to knit brioche in the round. That, in conjunction with purlbee’s instructions on how to brioche decrease (i’m in a bit of a creativity dry spell right now…), gave me just what I needed to knit up my very first brioche beanie! Here’s my friend, Shirlene (a brand spankin’ new american #goamerica), attempting to look as fabulous as the beanie on her head.

IMG_4615IMG_4619Well, she tried.

IMG_4643One of the reasons why Shirlene is so visibly happy (other than becoming the best kind of citizen ever and having someone shake a tree to shower you with flower petals) is because she is both model and owner of this grey brioche beanie. As the fifth installation of my ingenious art swap idea (knitschange? knit for tat? quid pro knit?), I agreed to make Shirlene a hat in exchange for a work of her own.

As it turns out, Shirlene happens to be a pretty fantastic artist, so I asked her to draw me the single (i wish) most undeniably perfect female companion: Jessica Chastain.JC2softlightBtw I’m not usually the type to obsess over people; Other than Ed Sheeran (sheerio4life) and that Indian guy in high school who stole my crossword puzzles, I tend to keep a healthy separation from people not actually a part of my life.

Except for Jessica Chastain.

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So as I mentioned earlier, my sister and BIL (brother-in-law get with it) came to visit last week, and they were actually the tail end of a string of family visitors coming to see me. It was great having them all here–introducing them to my diverse friends (in a recent family contest of ‘who has the most white friends’, i won hands down) and showing them around Hyde Park–but it was also kind of weird (and not just because i gave them all the same shower towel to use). Because for the first time, I was able to see myself as who I am in light of who I was, noticing all the things I’ve changed or kept the same since moving away and finally realizing that I actually really live in Chicago now. For like, my life.

And then they all left and I returned to my routine of Microbiology and reading Jessica Chastain’s bio on Wikipedia, but I started seeing the ways I had really made this place my home. I can bike now (debatable), and I know where to get groceries and what an alderman is. I’ve even learned how to play cornhole (as it turns out, i am a cornhole prodigy).

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But then there are times when it’s like I just got here and everyone can see the San Francisco on me (hecka awkward). Like when I ate kale and granola with a dozen Chicago firemen (thankfully they were too busy watching ultimate catch to judge me). Or when everyone’s upset when the Blackhawks lose to the Ducks because of how good Palmieri is (i had to google every single proper nouns in that sentence). Or when someone uses the word ‘salad’ incorrectly and my heart gets sad.

I have been in Chicago for almost twelve months now, where it has been A Most Violent Year, but also a most eventful one, what with the start of medical school (and The Debt that comes with it…) and leaving my family (including Mama, et al.) back at home. But with The Help of my new community here, I’ve learned to Take Shelter in the fact that I have less changed than matured, adapting to circumstances and learning from mistakes ranging from minuscule to Interstellar (reading while walking is NOT something you can do here). Because I figure I’m not different, but more than who I was before, growing steadily on The Tree of Life, adding to myself with each decision.

Zero Dark Thirty.

***Jessica Chastain was born in Sacramento, California, and is currently is in a relationship with Count Gian Luca Passi di Preposulo, though prospects look bleak.

Scottie socks and Sensodyne

IMG_4345Yay socks. Yay scottie dogs. Yay scottie dog socks. For those of you thinking, ‘that’s it?!’ 1) rude and 2) I actually made two pairs. Well, technically, I made this pair once, unraveled it, and then knit it again. At two separate times while making these socks, I noticed how egregiously large and disproportionate they were and hoped that the combined power of prayer and blocking (mostly prayer) would be enough to fix my mistakes. Alas, the knitting gods did not look favorably upon me (likely due to my idolatrous relationship with the neighboring granola gods, who have showered me with an abundance of wheat germ), and the socks ended up all sorts of wrong. So, I tried again, this time with a little more thought and preparation before starting (along with an animal sacrifice), and out popped a perfect (well, almost) pair of two-toned scottie socks!

IMG_4365If you’re wondering what misshapen canine I based my pattern off of, let me direct you to the below x-ray:scottiedogscottiedogscottiedogyeeeThat’s right! This is my very first medically inspired knit! The scottie dog (which is legit enough to have its own wiki page) is identified on radiological images, and a break in its neck is indicative of a pars interarticularis fracture. BAM. medical knowledge. 8 months of medical school finally paid off.

Anyway, my initial plan was to have scottie dogs running all over the socks, but I hugely overestimated my fair-isle proficiency, so I knocked it down to one each and added a nice and easy contrast color toe.

IMG_4406Here is my friend, Soo, chilling on the couch and totally rockin’ the scottie socks with a three-quarters smile. Props to her and her shameless feet for bearing through the long and awkward photoshoot and pretending to believe me when I said I didn’t have a foot fetish.

So, I kind of wish I had finished these socks a bit sooner, because then I would’ve been able to write about some of the things that happened this past month, many of which were masculiknable. For example, I could’ve written about my trip to South Dakota (scottie socks and john-lancaster) and our stop in Mitchell (population: corn), or my new bike (scottie socks and annie c.) and the fortuitous way in which I stumbled upon her (and the many un-fortuitous ways i stumbled off of her). Or, I could’ve written about my latest J. Crew Factory purchase, which, we can all agree, deserves a post all by itself. Unfortunately, all of these have come and passed (except j. crew factory, that’s more of a lifestyle choice), and the only eventful happenings recently have been my PT appointment and receding gums.

That’s right. PT. physical therapy. For my back, which, after 3 months, is still sore and stiff. And then there’s my lower right premolar, which is now hypersensitive and requires me to use Sensodyne toothpaste and enamel-restoring mouthwash twice daily. Knitting (and crosswords and West Wing and fiber consumption) aside, I’m starting to feel old (for you crotchety 25+ folks, know that i am exaggerating. kind of) and, in a sense, cheated.

I think somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that good health was one of the ‘perks’ of being a doctor, that I somehow deserved (medical gods willing, of course) a body that ran like clockwork. Some part of me thought (thinks, to be completely honest) that with all the time spent learning what constituted a healthy body, knowing it and being it couldn’t be too far apart. But, as my erector spinae muscles remind me each morning, that is not the case. And I was so, very childish to think that it would be.

Maybe the real perk of being a doctor, rather than the fountain of youth (that’s not too much to ask for, is it?), is more like an understanding, a language that we use to shed light on the things that ail and scare us. Now, I admit that there is so much that medicine can do and restore (i most certainly wouldn’t be in medical school otherwise). But for someone like me, with a bad back, a strong propensity for falling off unstable things (e.g. human totem poles, bikes, etc.), and diabetes/glaucoma/heart disease (pick 2) in my not so distant future, knowledge has become a fast friend and an appropriate medicine for the things that afflict me most: time and pure, dumb luck.

Sad to say, I am getting older. Fortunately, this seems to be not an uncommon phenomenon. So, while I could obsess over the Adonis that I once was (high school mile time: 8:25), I think I’d rather lean back (with proper lumbar support, of course), put up my feet, and enjoy the ride.IMG_4398***Chicago’s nearest J. Crew Factory is in Rosemont, IL, 23 miles away and a 36 minute drive without traffic.

Triangle scarves and Knitzker

IMG_4266First off, let’s just take a moment to fully appreciate how amazing these colors are.

aaaghagh gorgeous. so much

okay, I’m done.

Anyway, I am happy to report that spring has sprang (though i am told it will unspring and respring on and off until mid to late april) and I am currently enjoying my first 40º+ day in who knows how long. Though I am well aware that this is a good 25º colder than how I lived the first 23 years of my life, it basically feels like home. For example, today, I left the apartment in under a minute, since I didn’t have to worry about which jacket, scarf, hat, ear warmers, and gloves to wear (i will say this winter has done wonders for my accessory game). Also, I no longer get blood when I blow my nose, so that’s good. I will admit, though, I was getting used to the frigid cold and will almost miss it, stomping through the snow in my boots and having a good excuse to lounge around my room in just my long johns (i totally get yoga pants now).

But oh well, winter is over(ish), which means it’s time to put away that chunky alpaca wool and bust out some spring knits!

IMG_4268Full disclosure: I’ve never made a triangle scarf before, mostly because I didn’t see the point in them. They seemed to have an inferior shape to the traditional scarf and were always made of too light weight yarn. Well, as luck would have it, due to an eBay bidding binge, I found myself stuck with 500 yards (approximately the length of 19 tennis courts) of extra fine merino and 2 unwatched seasons of The Fall. So, I tried my hand at some triangle scarves and, needless to say, I’m now hooked.

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IMG_4308This is Brooke, powerpoint slide master and Harvey ball enthusiast. She’s also a professional triangle scarf wearer, clearly.

IMG_4324But wait, there’s more! Mostly on a whim but partly because I found that Notability has a graph paper function, I decided to write up an alphabet pattern so I wouldn’t have to knit letters ad hoc anymore. I thought I was being very clever when I did this, but then I googled ‘knit alphabet’ and it appears everyone and their mother have made alphabet patterns, which was quite discouraging. So take your pick from the interweb, but if you like what you see, download my alphabet pattern here for free!

IMG_4314Some of you may have deduced that, with all of this knitting I’m doing, there’s absolutely no way I’m not knitting in class. Well, a) I promise I’m still listening and b) this has caused some of my classmates to suggest that I start a knitting club for our medical school. I was hesitant (and awkwardly avoidant) at first, but then I came up with ‘Knitzker’, which basically forced my hand (some puns are bigger than us all). So I said I’d do it.

A few weeks later, I found myself sitting before the ~25 members of Dean’s Council (how intimidating is THAT name, right?!)–the dean of the medical school among them, surprisingly–explaining why knitting was so important and why we needed Knitzker. THE dean was there! My freakin’ dean (she sat right next to me. i almost reached out and touched her but then i didn’t #selfcontrol)! Obviously, I was anxious beyond belief with stress pains up the wazoo, and I blacked out for most of it, but from what I can remember of my stitch pitch, I found the whole thing very ironic.

Believe it or not, prior to medical school, I told myself that I’d never start/lead a knitting club (#nomoselfcontrol), because I never wanted to be ‘that guy’. ‘That guy’ who knits. I didn’t want to have assumptions made about my other interests (or the source of my clothing) based on my knack for knitting, and I didn’t want to be reduced to a single thing, especially not something so incredibly innocuous (i’d much rather be known for my crossword puzzle prowess). But while I was sitting there, trying to sell Knitzker, just a mere 2 feet from The Dean Herself, I thought about how crazy it all was–the fact that I was petitioning to (essentially) the president of my world for money and institutional recognition, just so I could teach people how to knit. It was both epic and laughable, but something that had to be done. Maybe not by anyone. Maybe just by ‘that guy’.

There are few things in my life that I’ve done longer than knit (been in school, had asthma, hated cauliflower), so maybe it’s a little bit right for me to be wearing a scarlet K, and that’s just something I have to accept. But so far it hasn’t been all that bad, really. Just ask ‘these guys’.

IMG_0523***Gatorade was developed in 1965 by researchers at the University of Florida and is named after the university’s mascot, The Gators.

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