Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hilarity

This post is brought to you by noisy, hot/cold, greasy rainy Toronto... Alas, ain't no work going on at the open pit house today. I could go on at some length about the fantasticness of my recent vacation in Baie St Paul (where Cirque du Soleil was hatched, weird little fact), about how the weather everything was perfection - but my Instagram feed says it all, in so many photos you could almost string them together for a time-elapsed movie. Sorry about that. More on that topic is in the works, but today's post has its own amusing spin...

When we were planning for the reno, one of the questions/concerns we had was about the sorts of things we might find while excavating our very old property - about ways in which this might add time or money to the project, given unknowns. Our shorthand referent for this was "a boulder in the garden". For example: What if they start to dig and they find, oh, I don't know, a huge rock submerged in the backyard?!?! Let's not draw any comparisons with icebergs, which certainly came to mind as we envisioned this unlikely, but terrifying, outcome.

Well, my friends, yesterday, while excavating, they found a fucking boulder in the backyard. I kid you not.

Of course, this notion seemed infinitely more devastating before we began the rebuild because, there's nothing like having to fix the rubble foundations of both of your neighbour's homes and repair a structural beam holding up your house to put a silly little boulder into perspective. Mind you, it doesn't make things any quicker or easier.

When the builders called us about this, Scott and I actually started to laugh. Sure, it might have been the post-vacay elation, or nerves, but honestly, it just seems so on point. And now that the boulder has been found - the very metaphor for our every fear - I suppose we can calm the fuck down.

Whatcha gonna do, right?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

From Pain to Equilibrium: This Really Is A Thing

A few peeps have emailed or commented to ask about how my “anti-inflammatory-esque lifestyle” is going, whether the pain is gone. I figure, at this point, I should approach the question more holistically than nutritionally because, while I understand my body differently, with more nuance in each passing month, I cannot attribute improvement to just one approach.

The thing about chronic pain (intermittent or otherwise) is that it often isn’t caused by one factor – and it’s generally resolved (or managed) by many solutions that take years to parse together. I’ve been on the anti-pain scavenger hunt for a few years now. In retrospect, I know I’ve had musculo-skeletal and nerve pain since childhood and it went entirely unheeded, because I didn’t understand what was happening and adults don’t assume that children are in regular pain. Then it went away, but would routinely recur in one form or another in my 20s and 30s– frequently in neck and head. Then I got pertussis in my early 40s and, man, that fucked me up. I’ve been dealing with the fall out ever since. Add some mid-life hormonal chaos into the mix and there’s my own personal factoral soup. (Note: It’s way more complicated than this but you get the gist.)

I spent the first 4 years of my pain-management experience focused on bio-mechanical fixes, diagnostics, body-work and supplements. The ones that have been infinitely most useful, depending on the day, include my Yoga Tune-Up balls, my acupressure mat and pillow (the bed and head of nails, as I call them), vitamin D, collagen powder, massage, acupuncture and my self-devised body-work plan (which focused initially on therapeutic yoga, traction/hanging, breath-work and fascial release).

I’ve spent the last year focused on diet, with the express aim of reducing systemic inflammation, specifically as I now know I have non-negligible osteoarthritis which is thought to be motivated by my genetics and a family history. Oh, and I’ve also given a lot of attention to neuroplastic techniques for pain reduction, which is more of a mental-shift than wholesale new activity, because all of my body-work is fundamentally neuroplastic.

Each of these things has reinforced the others while numerous other approaches seem to have had no impact, so they have been abandoned. It’s impossible to say whether – in the last year - a critical mass of techniques has finally started to yield more significant improvements than ever before, but I do believe that the dietary changes have been key. Mind you, so have all the others, as far as I’m concerned. The thing is, I may get a massage once a week but I eat multiple times a day. So I do think diet has created a kind of pathway to cohere all techniques – a metaphoric service tunnel in the house that is my body/mind.

Having said this, I still can’t quantify exactly how I am improved. I still experience pain and sometimes it is severe. I still crave sugar and that is emotionally very difficult. I’m still stressed out by all of the things in life that stress all kinds of people.

So what’s changed?

I’m glad you asked! What hasn’t changed? I’m older, I’m wiser, I’m more aware of interdependencies (of biochemical and other varieties). I now know why it is believed that I have pain (a diagnosis) – though I’m so na├»ve that I don’t realize there are many people with infinitely more gnarled skeletons than mine and they feel little or no pain. I have also come to understand how a mechanical issue (jaw malocclusion) has had rather significant impacts on my ability to sleep, breathe and pretty well do everything else one does with one’s mouth. I now have a bespoke mouth gizmo to undercut the negatives but I may need to get more extreme about the medical dental devices in the future.

There are people who spend less time on their careers than I’ve spent on my pain condition and I still have pain. But I’m less afraid of it than ever before because I don’t feel like it’s controlling me anymore. As we know, pain is something that happens in the brain, not in the muscles and bones and fascia and joints and nerves. Sure, all of those things express the impact, but the source of this issue is the best place to target it. I do believe that the huge shift I’ve undertaken – the essential flip in my ingestion of carbs and fat – has helped my brain tremendously but not in the ways you might expect. I don’t think my memory is any better. I’m still anxious (and BTW, I in no way begrudge my anxiety – it makes me who I am and I know it’s as protective as it is antagonistic). Anxiety is also comorbidly associated with pain – as are many of the other conditions I just naturally happen to have been born with. If ever there were a candidate for chronic pain, I am that individual. But I am mercifully introspective. My sensitivity and my intelligence (note: I’m not going to underplay this - I’m smart and I own it) have given me so many mechanisms for improvement. I feel everything, physical and otherwise. I feel all of the bad and all of the good. I feel it deeply and broadly and incisively in ways that sometimes threaten to smash me up. But my awareness will also fix me. Mark my words.

Somehow, stopping the sugar/grains/processed food, limiting the booze and legumes and amping up the fat has made me better able to understand the contingencies between my body and my mind. I feel the gear shifts in my brain that bring about the gear shifts in my body. And they are so calibrated, so nuanced, it’s bizarre. For example, eating fat has somehow allowed me to understand (convolutedly, of course) that I have to be less active than I’d like. Sure, I can do vinyasa yoga with the best of them but it’s not good for me. It looks good but it brings pain that lasts indefinitely because I by-pass all of the warning triggers that my biochemistry is sending. I’ve used body-work just as I’ve used sugar – as a numbing agent. If I don’t want to be in pain, I have to listen. I have to slow down. And that’s something I don’t do naturally. I’m not wired that way and it’s very hard for me, to vastly understate it. Fat curtails my natural impulse to act constantly. It’s soporific. For some people, that’s not helpful. For a person who is compelled by everything -it may be a saving grace.

I have one other ace in the hole. Another tactic that's vastly changed the pain situation for me, but I'm not going to discuss it on the blog. If you suffer with pain, you're a regular reader/I know you, and you'd like to reach out, feel free to email. What I will say is that, like fat, it targets the pain where it lives, and - along with the dozens of other things I do on a daily basis - it's been a game-changer.

Am I cured? No. Am I on the road? I suspect yes. I mean, if nothing else I am INFINITELY less puffy and I can wear my rings for the first time in 3 years. That's an external sign of reduced internal inflammation, which will eventually lead to reduced pain, I can infer. Moreover, when I have pain (even pain that would probably floor most people), I can generally live "normally" i.e. go to work and work hard. My family life, my non-work energy, definitely takes the hit, but no one said balance is easy.

So that's my update on this topic. I welcome any questions or comments - cuz sometimes these days, despite stats that prove I have many wonderful readers, I do feel like I'm blogging in a vacuum...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Not For The Faint of Heart

I keep waiting for a fun moment (and one which isn't overwhelmed by one sort of stress or another) to tell you about how fantastically my reno is coming along. I've decided I might as well just get on with it, cuz the fun part has yet to materialize.

If you follow me on Instagram (and you should, cuz I take lots of photos), you've seen a few pics. BTW, that's as close to my house as I've got, in real life, in months. Sure, Scott's there daily because, apparently it doesn't matter how much you spend on a reno, you end up managing the job. Seriously, and sadly, I have yet to encounter a person in construction who didn't disappoint me in some way or another. (Wait - I had an awesome plasterer who used to be in this band. I loved him and now he's retired.) The construction industry is profoundly broken in Toronto. I'm not quibbling about the quality of work, but if I told you how much we're spending - and how much we're doing - and how FREAKIN' engaged we are (and I don't mean like evil micro managers, I mean, you give us a job and we meet, nay exceed, your needs and direction), you'd be on my side.

I don't do things badly. Allow me to clarify: I do things as well as is possible within the realm of my abilities, which are not negligible. And, if I'm paying you almost twice the amount that my original fucking house cost, I expect the same of you.

Fortunately, I'm never doing anything construction-related again, after this (although Scott has some exotic pipe dream about creating a studio on the laneway). He can have that studio as soon as I forget about, and pay off, this reno. No prob. What's keeping me going is that, once this is done - and done well - I can revel eternally in the dinner party stories it's going to net. I can see myself moving from that phase of life in which I advise about the miseries of parenting into the one in which I warn everyone, dramatically, to just go buy a luxury condo.

So far, we've eaten into our healthy contingency fund with gusto having discovered 3 unanticipated issues. Two are foundation-related (and we knew this would be the source of any serious trouble that might arise) and one has to do with the fact that my house was apparently being held up by toothpicks and newspaper. As you can imagine, none of these issues has been a cheap fix. When it comes to the foundation (and the load-bearing beams), one does not fuck around. I was so hoping I might, at some point in my ownership of this second child home, be able to throw all the money at the fun stuff. Ah, dreams.

In truth, were I to do all of the things I really want to do (in the price point of my choice) - without increasing my non-basement square footage by one cubic inch - I'd be on the hook for 800K. Maybe more. And that's just an insane amount of money to throw at a wood-frame row house that's 120 years old - on top of all of the other renos I've done, that is, and the original cost of the home (which was, mercifully, reasonable for its day). To clarify: My budget is NOT 800K.

I also feel the need to clarify that, despite my modern-style crassness on the money-talk front (and I'm one of those people who tells it like it is, if not in great detail on the internet), I am not a woman of unlimited means. No doubt, I have a good career and I've made some sensible investments, but I will be paying this off without a trust fund. To wit: I'm starting to reconsider that whole climbing up the executive ladder thing... I know that the likelihood is high I will see ROI and, yet, it is to be confirmed.

The other day, as my husband spoke with our neighbours about the latest way in which we would be utterly responsibly, directly improving the value of their home, he almost started to cry. Every time the phone rings, every time the rain starts - and it's fucking epic, like we've never seen before - we wonder what's coming next.

Of course, all of the other stressors of life - our work, parenting a challenging near-adult, pain (in my case), being displaced - don't really improve the situation.

I wish I could show you my new window design, with excitement - because Scott and I designed it ourselves and it's really fucking chic - but I'm too absorbed in the dirt to go there. And today I learned that we probably can't order the windows (that take months to arrive) until the framing is up (which should have been well before now) because, given the nature of the design, said windows might not fit perfectly otherwise.

We don't even have footings in the ground.

It costs 5K a month to live elsewhere, while I continue to pay all of the bills that go with my regular life and home, and every time we come across a challenge, the clock on our return is reset.

Our one non-negotiable, the deciding factor in our choice of builders, was: Get this done on time. If we need to spend more, we'll consider it. If you need answers from us, just call. We are decisive, we are responsive, we are knowledgeable and we do research. We have a fucking structural engineer and architect on speed-dial. We will not hold this up. We are motivated.

Not that anyone will admit this to us, but at this point, I'm pretty sure the duration of this project may expand by 50%. And, while I can't blame the builders for the act of God that is weather, I can blame them for losing my crew (over the 6 weeks it rained least this season) because they didn't have the wherewithal to make a decision that would have kept the train on track.

Am I being catastrophist? Oh, my friends, you do not even know the depths of my catastrophism. It's an art-form. I mean, I'm a lady with an anxiety disorder and a heart condition. I'm not in a happy place right now and I'm ok with that.

Am I being unfair to the builders? On reflection - and you know that's my thing - I believe that I am NOT being unfair. But you'll never know. No question, I do righteous indignation like no one you've ever met especially once I've decided you're an idiot. But before I'm unfair, I'm strategic. I'm not short-sighted enough to risk my relationships when things are in play. I mean, I'm a negotiator in my day job. I got this.

So the project marches on. I'm exceedingly grateful to say that, 3 days ago, when the latest crisis occurred, the firm did what we hired them to do. They kept us informed, honestly - and Scott and the architect created a path forward in two hours. (Why the builders didn't come to us with a solution is another story, but I'm not going to waste my time on that disappointment.) I'm also grateful to say that they've made some extremely impressive headway on the foundation (and they're doing good work). Maybe we've forged a new relationship. I'm willing to accept that possibility with gratitude, even if my trust and respect is eroded.

When I had a kid, and I realized that it was way more stressful that I ever could have envisioned, I knew I would never do it again. I understood that I was not suited to it, despite my love for my child (which I feel is obligatory to say, though I sense it should stand to reason).

If you were to ask me - and trust me, everyone does - do I wish I hadn't undertaken this? Do I wish I'd sold my house and moved elsewhere and left all this bullshit to someone else? I can't say my answer is yes.

I am not having fun. I am a bitch much of the time and I'm frequently freaked out. But some part of me knows I can do this. I do believe, fundamentally, that this project is going to work out - if not on the smooth trajectory of my choice. I do believe, deep in my heart, that I will make this home beautiful because I've put my stake in the game - and frankly, because I am an artist and technician at my core. Plus I've got fucking good taste. So, on with the show.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Dear Kristin

One of my fab readers, who appreciates her privacy, sent me an email yesterday on the topic of my last post. It occurs to me (and this reader told me she would be receptive to a response in post format), that the whole point of having a platform is that it gives an opportunity to pool information and provide potential advice to those of us we may not know personally, but with whom we likely share many common experiences.

Below, I've described the reader's situation - and my response. Of course, I am NOT a medical professional so any sort of medical response would be irresponsible. Moreover, I have (thankfully) limited exposure to the issue at hand. But that doesn't mean I don't have opinions! I sense your feedback would be quite welcome - in the event that any of you has encountered a similar challenge. So on with Kristin's version of an advice column...

The High-Level Scenario:
  • The reader's husband, in his late 50s, recently had a heart attack (one artery with blockages, 3 stents).
  • She describes his pre-heart attack diet as "not SAD (i.e. standard American diet) but not perfect". He's quite active, fyi.
  • He's gone on statins, though that's not his doctor's preferred approach. He is in the process of adapting to a very low-fat, vegetarian diet of the Ornish variety because the doctor's preference would be to lower blood lipid levels by diet vs medication. FYI - the Ornish approach encourages approximately 10% fat...
  • Having said this, the patient will remain on statins for a year, per medical advice, given the specifics of his experience.
  • The reader is particularly concerned that the combo of statins plus a very low fat diet might have eventual cognitive impacts. Dementia does not run in his family.
  • The reader is thoughtfully avoiding inundating her husband with many conflicting pieces of information at a time when he's adapting to a new landscape.
  • The reader is in favour of a more "Primal" diet approach (i.e. the kind of diet I have been eating since January).
  • She's concerned that genetic testing would no longer be useful because the undesired outcome (that one tests genetically to avoid) has already occurred.
Kristin's Take:

For starters, Lovely Reader, I am thrilled that your husband is recovering from his health set-back! This is excellent news and it should be celebrated at length, IMO :-) Secondly, I want to acknowledge that a serious health concern affects both partners in a long-standing relationship. On some meta level, you have had a health crisis too. Your life has been dramatically altered by this unexpected occurrence. You may feel the need to change your own lifestyle to support your husband, even if you wouldn't have otherwise, and that may have impacts you can't predict (or aren't looking forward to). You're already confronting a contradiction between your own views on diet and health and what your husband has been integrating from his health care team. I have confidence that, as this scenario becomes more knowable and "normal", this may be easier to navigate but, in the meanwhile, I think it's important to own your approach to eating while also respecting your husband's path forward. It seems you have a great partnership so that should be doable, if potentially tricky at first.

I imagine that, if I'd just had a heart attack of this magnitude, I'd be pretty fucking afraid. I mean, I'm fearful of far less frightening things! And I'd probably react reflexively at first: I would shout from the rooftops that I would never do X again (or Y). I would probably follow my doctor's advice to the T (additional research having not yet been done, cuz I wouldn't have been expecting a heart attack!) And I think that's a reasonable response when recovering from such an experience.

However, over time, I'd either come to really respect my doctor's advice, or wonder if there are better approaches for me, based on my own personal biochemistry and the many other factors that make me "me". Your husband may come to this conclusion too - or he may be on the road to long-term low-fat living. (Who knows, he may adapt to it fantastically.) That's his choice.

In this instance, I actually think that genetic testing would be really useful. Some people have high blood-lipids but do not possess the gene variant associated with late-onset dementia (APOE4). I don't know to what extent non-APOE4 carriers are susceptible to dementia when put on statins and a long-term low fat diet. There's probably some useful (and even more very sketch) info out there, so no time like the present to find out what exactly is going on with his specific genes - and the nature of the high-cholesterol he might have.

I also don't know to what extent your husband's heart attack was caused by high-cholesterol and I wouldn't in a zillion years hazard a guess. Having said this, I've heard that it's often triglycerides (as much as LDL) that predict heart attacks and there's some evidence out there to suggest that cutting down on processed foods and sugar can lower triglyceride levels precipitously in some individuals. Your husband's doctors may be able to provide all of the answers to his questions - or you may choose to do additional testing of the vaguely "alternative/integrative" variety to come to your own conclusions.

One thing I will say: when people don't eat fat, they eat sugar. And eating sugar under these circumstances may compound the heart challenge in the long run (never mind the impacts of healthy fat). I do believe that fat protects the brain and that evidence supports this. Whether the risk of dementia due to low-fat diet is higher than the likelihood of a future heart attack is a complicated question and determining the answer is likely going to take time and research.

It's possible that statins will be less-often prescribed in the next few years. Moreover, given your husband's doctor's disinclination to prescribe them, it's possible he may not stay on them for long enough to have any impact in the long-run. I wouldn't really worry about them in the short-term but I'd do all the research and consider how my own blood lipid composition relates to the studies that are out there.

No question though, my bias is against the low-fat vegetarian diet. If research and evidence were to definitively support that my own body would be better-off for eating this way, I'd likely bite the bullet. But I don't think the evidence points this way for most people and I would NEVER do it on spec. (Even the pre-"healthy fat/low sugar diet-obsessed" Kristin ate lots of fat, if much of it unhealthy.)  On the basis of my reading - and pointedly, my own experience - I believe that most bodies need healthy fat (maybe not in volumes the likes of which I eat, but probably more than 10 per cent) and they generally benefit from animal protein (a readily bioavailable source for those who may struggle with metabolic syndrome, which is implicated in heart attacks for some).

So I hear your concern about the Ornish diet over time. The thing is, though, that through considered research, that which happens organically, you can work together to determine whether your husband's specific issue would be best ameliorated by the low-fat plan currently suggested by the doctor. I mean, if she's a good doctor, she's likely going to engage with your questions and the information you bring to her. Her perspective may change over time. Follow her advice, by all means, unless you determine that there's another approach that would work better for your husband, given who he is (genetically, biochemically, emotionally, mentally etc.) He's infinitely more than the heart attack he's just experienced, and my advice would be that he should live, very exuberantly, with that in mind. xoxoxo

Readers with life-experience: Please chime in! Feel free to disagree with me (politely, preferably :-)). I'd love for our reader to gain info from those who know the score.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Gene Genie

You'd have to be really new to this space to not know that my 40s haven't been smooth sailing on the health front. Add to that my family history, namely triple-negative (non-hormonally receptive) breast cancer, and one doesn't even need my natural propensity for hypchondria to feel somewhat concerned about what may be around the corner.

But here's the thing: Everyone's health is a crap shoot. There are those that have never encountered one medical misery in their lives, who end up being felled by some mystery ailment (or a streetcar) in very short order. I know, not up-beat reading, but it's true. You live only in this moment and, on some level, that is tremendously liberating.

If there's one thing this decade has taught me it's not to count my chickens.

Just yesterday, I was sitting on the (glorious) patio of my (other) neighbourhood local, which we call "crappy place", cuz really, the food is only tolerable for the atmosphere, and I was reminded of how, last summer, my tailbone was a jumble of terrible discomfort. I couldn't sit down for months without feeling such pain - and terrified. What did it mean, I ruminated endlessly (cuz that's what I do)? It pretty well tanked my last-summer, stupidly expensive Canadian vacation. But there I was, yesterday, sitting for hours (the service is one of the things that leads us to call it crappy place), endlessly joyful that my ass was comfy on a metal chair. Half the time, life is just perspective. And the other half the time, I suggest simply waiting it out.

Where is this cheerful post going? Well, on to genetic testing, natch. What's an obsessive-compulsive ruminator to do, if not to poke at the clasp of Pandora's box. (Does that sound dirty??) Of course, this isn't my first kick at that can. I did DNAFit last year. Note: I wouldn't recommend  that platform though I learned a lot. As far as I can tell, the raw data isn't made available which makes it pretty limited information, in the long run.

What I would recommend is 23andme, now that they've got FDA-approval to release personal info on 12 genetic diseases, numerous other traits (fluffy and other), drug interactions, ancestry info and more.

For example, wanna get that pesky BRCA 1/2 gene mutation info out of the way? You can do it seriously affordably with this test. In truth, I wasn't particularly concerned about most of the diseases for which my genetic predisposition was tested. I sense that this test is best marketed, in its current iteration, for those of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage - a population with some serious and unfortunate genetic propensities, at least according to what I've read.

Of course, the kind of breast cancer I have an unknown, statistical likelihood to encounter, is not tested for at this time...

But here's the thing, I can't help but to consider that, if I'd known 20 years ago about my early-onset osteo-arthritic bones - likely turned-on in childhood - I might have been able to forestall some seriously unpleasant outcomes to date. Maybe not. Maybe I would have been young and stupid and unconcerned. But I doubt it. Knowing what I know now has, bizarrely, improved the quality of my life. It's given me a map, a way forward. And for this I am grateful. Sure, I really wish I weren't managing a potentially serious degenerative condition. But really peeps, there are worse ones out there. To understand even a potential source of my pain has made that pain, when it comes, bearable and (somehow) less frightening.

But I didn't spend 200 bucks CDN (on sale!) to learn about the BRCA gene mutation, which I don't have. Oh no, I did it to learn about a potential propensity for muscular disorders (a thing I am legit concerned about), Parkinson's (my father has a tremor-condition which is not Parkinson's but still concerning), and - you guessed it - Alzheimer's and late onset dementia.

This is the point in this post that you should click off if you don't like reading about dementia. Trigger-alert.

I'm that girl who reads everything about cholesterol, the APOE gene and statins. Note: Do your fucking research peeps, before you ever go on a statin drug. Cuz it's possible that your high cholesterol levels, if you have the variant of the APOE gene most associated with Alzheimers (that would be the APOE4), may act as a protective factor. Peeps with the APOE4 variant may have super-high blood lipid levels, as a protective mechanism, because those peeps don't metabolize cholesterol (gold, by the body's standard) particularly well in the brain. Look, I'm no scientist or doctor, but anyone on a statin should be seriously clear about the potential impacts - particularly as new research seems to be showing that they don't do much to prevent death.

At any rate, I'm fascinated by dementia and the genes that predict it, as many of us are. My grandmother, now 96, was sharp as a tack until she went on statins a couple of years ago. Now she's a shell. Sure, it's possible one's going to hit the wall at some point - and mid-90s seems to be as good a time as any - but it was strange how that happened (and how anecdotally causal it seems).

Y'all may know that I am rather attached to my ability to problem-solve and my general cognitive well-being. Who isn't? Really, I was secretly hoping to find I had 2 copies of the APOE2 variant, the one that's so protective that they inject mice with it to cure them of induced-dementia. Note: This double variant may come with its own issue of the cardiac variety. Genes, peeps, they're so fussy.

To break it down, and I won't get too sciency cuz I can't be bothered to go back into the program to re-read all of the stats and I'm not a scientist, as we've established, about 1 per cent of peeps get 2 copies of APOE2 and they have a lifelong likelihood of 0.6 per cent of getting Alzheimers. Woohoo for them! Most of us fall into the APOE3 category (@60%) and this is the default, having 2 copies of that variant. Those with 2 copies are not considered to be at genetic risk for Alzheimers. Then there's some subset of the population (2% of Euro ancestry? can't remember) that has 2 copies of the APOE4. Effectively you can have the following allele options: 2-2, 2-3, 3-3, 3-4, 2-4, 4-4. No question, it's not optimal to have any 4s. But if you're going to have any 4s, it's better to have only one. I'm not going to sugar-coat this, if you have one variant of the 4, your likelihood of getting Alzheimer's is 22-35% by age 85. If you have 2, that stat goes up to 50-68%.

Let's detour for a minute. Let's talk about how, it really doesn't matter what your gene profile says (on some level) because your lifestyle, your epigenetics, are going to have a lot to say about what ends up happening to you as you age. This is why I get up every morning with manufactured confidence that my bones are going to work with me, and not against me, for the next 50-odd years.

Moreover, most people who currently have Alzheimers don't have the 4 allele! Remember, most of the population doesn't carry it. Lifestyle really is key, it would appear, or only those carrying the 3-4 or 4-4 combo would be managing this terrible illness.

Let's also consider - on the topic of dementia specifically - that there has never been so much funding poured into any illness because it's becoming so fucking epidemic that there's no ignoring it. Sure, I suspect that diet is a massive contributing factor - yet another reason why determining one's genetic propensity is useful, because then you can knowingly alter how you eat (if theoretically knowing that the Standard American Diet is going to kill you isn't enough). My point: It's never been a better time to be predisposed to getting dementia, even as there's never a good time. They're going to have some cures within the next 5 years, I predict.

So how did I fare? I'm very grateful to be in the largest cohort for those of Euro ancestry: APOE(3-3). Let's face it, this is your likelihood too, regardless of your heritage. Only 1 per cent of peeps are practically immune and only 2 per cent of peeps are seriously, genetically predisposed. @20% of people, across heritages, have that 3-4 variant, which isn't optimal but isn't as concerning as the 4-4.

You may not want to know. I wondered if I would. I took the test considering that I might never read the results. That lasted all of 5 minutes because, in my domain, knowledge is power. Something's going to kill us all and, IMO, our responsibility as people is to live as well as we can until we can't any longer. Avoiding the facts doesn't change them.

What would I have done had I discovered I was in that potentially unfortunate 2 - 20 per cent? Um, I would have researched the SHIT out it. Frankly, I've been doing that for a couple of years, so I'm pretty sure I would have done what I've more or less done already - got rid of most sugar, grains, bad fats, junk food, cut down on booze a lot and upped the fat content I eat dramatically. I'd prob have gone even more "healthy fat" keto than I've already gone - and I'm pretty far gone (in case you see the glossy quality of everything I eat). Strange how this seems to be the answer to improving numerous conditions, conditions that were nowhere near as prevalent before Big Sugar addicted so many (and made the idea of fat so fear-causing). Yes, I realize I sound like a conspiracy theorist.

If you're predisposed to dementia, it's possible that your brain doesn't metabolize cholesterol optimally. Cholesterol is not evil. It's your mind's fuel and it makes you healthy - cognitively and otherwise. I'm not going to devolve into the small category of people who really need to worry about it; the majority thrive on good fat. Anyone with a mood disorder or epilepsy can corroborate this. I'm also not going to get preachy. Do you research. Make your own choices. Be happy having made them.

So that's today's tale. But I wanna know: Have you done this test (or similar medical genetic testing)? What's your predisposition and how do you feel about it? For those who haven't tested, are you worried? Blase? What do you wish you could be tested for (presuming it's not available currently)? Please, let's talk!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Restash and Planned Projects

You know you've gone crazy when it takes almost 2 hours to wind yarn skeins. Admittedly, I encountered challenges (ain't it always the way??). But still, 9 balls of yarn - @2400 yards of fingering weight - takes a while. Especially if you hit tangles. And that doesn't even include the 10 skeins/ 1700 yards of Berroco Quechua, a new sport-weight yarn made of yak, merino and alpaca:

Berroco Quechua in Raven colourway - I appear to be the only person in the world who's bought this so far. Apparently this yarn just came out...
I intend to make a sweater out of this, probably starting in August. These are the latest options:

A-symmetrie by Cecilia Flori - this one is a bit shapeless but I do love the neckline.

Finlaggan by Kate Davies

Blackberry Cabled Cardigan by Alexandra Charlotte Dafoe
I'm  leaning toward Finlaggan. I guess I'm having a cable moment. I do have a slight concern that the Quechua may be a bit drapey for a classic cable cardi, but I'll verify that when swatching. The stitch definition and ply of this yarn are really lovely. It has a luxe feel that belies its price and I'm pleased to be a guinea pig.

I also bought this sock yarn, which I justified (it being an impulsive buy) by promising the remainder to my friend Jeanette, who bought it and is making a pair of socks with it right now:

Turtlepurl Yarns Striped Turtle Toes in The Artist
The remainders of her and my socks will be enough for a third pair. Note: For me (and I use @72g or 250ish yards of yarn on a pair of socks), buying 2 batches of Turtlepurl yarn (4 mini skeins designed to make 2 pairs of socks) actually yields 2 pairs. It's still pricey for socks. I got this batch on sale for $31 after tax but 62 bucks for 3 pairs of socks (or 2, if you knit differently than me), ain't cheap. The colour scheme is strangely riveting given that I don't love orange, baby blue or purple and I generally hate them together. Go figure.

Per yesterday's post, I've come up with a good plan (I think) and I'm amazed that all of the yarn I purchased is what I hoped it would be (in terms of colour, hand, quality and usefulness). I'm happy with my riff on Sonja's Starting Point. I'm going to use a deep yellow and a very green, saturated teal to round out Sonja's colour choices (a variegated, speckled cream, a grey and a cream). Effectively, I'll have swapped the navy blue and orange red she used in her version for the green and yellow:


This isn't where I saw myself going but I like it a lot. The breakdown is:

Quince and Co Finch in Peacock
Koigu KPM in 2405 grey
Shibui Staccato in Brass
Shibui Staccato in Ivory
Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Modern Fair Isle

I flat out copied the variegated Tosh from Sonja - and I liked her light and accent colours (cream and grey, which coordinates with the variegated yarn). The 2 "colours" are seriously saturated, very appealing. I do love knitting with yellow, though I rarely get the chance (because I never seem to buy it?!).

This is not the cheapest shawl I've ever decided to knit. Even with one yarn already purchased (the Quince, which is pretty inexpensive), and every other yarn 20 per cent off, this will have cost me $150 after tax. Sure, I'll likely have remainders to feed into other patterns, but I can't realistically quantify the cost of items made with yarn remnants. I purchase the yarn to make a particular item, and that item bears the cost.

For $300 all in, I have enough yarn to make a) a pair of socks (and a second if I merge my yarn with a friend's), a large shawl and a sweater. I didn't pay too much attention to price this time, because I had access to a good sale, I knew what I wanted to make and I've been knitting long enough to know that skimping on yarn is not the way to go (unless you have no choice). These yarns all feel gorgeous - not that they are all luxury-branded. That Shibui silk/merino blend is pricey. Madeline Tosh provides good yardage for the price, but it's still not budget.

Best of all, I have a bunch of new projects to spice up my stash knitting (always happening in some format or another). It's important to have choice, to keep it interesting.

So that's my re-stash. Thoughts??

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Starting Point

When I noted this knit along (KAL) last month, I was highly motivated which is strange. See, I don't like surprises, which is why I rarely even consider KALs - until they're over, that is, and I can see what the finished object looks like. It's not that I don't like adventure - but I'd hate to spend my time making something I may not like the look of in the end.

Having said this, Sonja's instagram on the Starting Point was so compelling, that I had to buy the pattern at the very least. Look at the gorgeous colours she chose:


And when I saw how things were coming together, I started to salivate. Honestly, it's rare that I am so compelled by someone else's palette - especially as I don't love red. But look at how it turned out:


Insanely fantastic, right? (Sonja - in case you're reading this, I want your shawl!!)

But as the likelihood is that I'm not going to get that shawl in the mail, I may as well make up one of my own!  And given that it's Canada Day (Happy 150 peeps!), Ewe Knit is having 20 per cent off everything. What better time to replenish the stash??

FYI, Starting Point is a shawl that calls for @400 yards of 5 colourways - and what's suggested is 1 light, 1 dark, 2 moderate / accents and 1 variegated.

I went searching for the yarns that Sonja used to make her version but they were not universally available - and I was on a sale-finding mission. I also realized that I have a stash yarn that I may be able use in lieu of the orange/red (accent colour?) or the dark blue (dark colour?) - admittedly two of the shades that make S's shawl so fantastic and unique. To use one of my stash colours would a) eat up stash yarn b) save me a bit of money and c) work better for me, potentially, as I really don't ever knit with red (or wear it, for that matter). Note: Until I engage with the pattern in detail, I won't be able to confirm which yarns S used as her dark vs her accent. I assume the blue was dark and the red and grey were accents, but I can't confirm right now.

My proposed stash choice:

This Quince and Co Finch in Peacock is too green for my liking but I've got to use it up and it is nicely saturated. If I'm going to give this FO away, might as well use it now (as it's not a colour that I'm particularly into).
Have I mentioned that every shawl I've made lately has thrilled me and I can't bear to give any one of them away but I don't have a lot of space to keep adding to the shawl collection? I realize that these are the problems to have...

In the end, I did copy one of S's yarn choices (the Madeline Tosh Light in Modern Fair Isle):

This is the 2-ply version of the yarn, fyi. I chose it cuz the photo was pretty. I wish I could have found this in the 2-ply format...


It's a long-shot colourway for me, and a testimony to my love of it in the context of S's version, because I don't like knitting with single-ply yarns - even Madeline Tosh. I hope the grey flecks will complement my other choices...

Having figured out the variegated colour and, theoretically, one accent or dark colour (from the stash), I needed to find 3 others - a light colour, a dark colour and another accent colour. I straight up copied 2 of these from S, if using different brands and shades - a grey (accent) and a cream (light):

Koigu KPM in 2405 - I have a bit remaining in my stash to bolster the 2 skeins I bought today. This yarn is no good for socks but it's squishy fantastic for shawls. It's not this dark in real life - at least it hasn't been when I've used it in the past.
Shibui Staccato in Ivory. This is silk and wool with fantastic drape. I made this cardi from it previously in another colourway
Where I went off road once again is with my final colour, a light, but bold, choice, to act as either my second accent colour or, in an irony, the "dark" colour*:

Shibui Staccato in Brass
*Note: I'm still not sure if I will choose to use the yellow in lieu of the red in S's shawl or in lieu of the dark blue. So it may end up being the dark or the accent colour (and the jewel green option from my stash will form the other, presuming they play nicely together).

Now, here's the thing. When one is crazy enough to spend hundreds of dollars on yarn, online, one doesn't know, until one puts the actual colours next to each other, whether they will work. So, when I go to pick up these yarns in store tomorrow - if I feel that I've got a terrible mish-mash going on, I may have to branch out. I should be able to return / exchange the options I bought online today for others that may be more suitable. I only hope there's still some choice available.

My grey may not work with the variegated, for example - and the jewel green/teal option from the stash is either going to work with the yellow and grey or look horrid. I may end up buying a red/orange and a navy in the end...

But these aren't the only yarns I bought today, oh no! Having eaten through much of my stash, except in remnant amounts with which I'm making smaller projects like colour-blocked socks, hats and scarves, I have allowed myself to purchase an additional yardage for a new sweater (again wild card yarn I've never even touched before - so here's hoping I like the way it looks and feels!) and some crazy sock yarn which is impulsive and will leave a remnant amount that's hard to repurpose (TurtlePurl in The Artist). My friend Jeanette is also making socks in this colourway, which is how I learned of my love for bright purple and yellow (on occasion!) so I may gift her the remainder of my yarn so she can make a second pair.

More on these yarns and new projects coming up!

Today's questions: Have you ever seen someone else's work and been compelled to recreate it? Do you love the Starting Point shawl and have you bought the pattern - or did you actually participate in the KAL? Do you think my colours are crazy or do you think they'll work? Let's talk!