Didn’t cut down that tree (for a good reason)
Wednesday September 17th 2014, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

…Besides, it wasn’t up against the fence like the others were.

You know what I was thinking yesterday? I was thinking I needed a good hawk sighting. It had been awhile and I just really needed one.

Well, so do something about it.  And so I filled the second feeder, which I haven’t done much lately; seed in the summer can add up. But it does bring the birds closer in towards the house.

Three finches made a wild scramble off that thing this afternoon and I looked up.

Coopernicus wasn’t trying to chase them. He was simply showing up. He settled down on the nearest tree branch where he could get a good view of that now-prey-free feeder–but also of me.

I communed, he perhaps tolerated, but he was there, watching, considering me and my presence below. I wondered if it was even the same male I had known across these years or if it was his offspring. Hard to know from the distance, but by the behavior, I would say it was him and by the size, definitely male. I radiated all the love I could in thanks, hoping it would somehow make him want to visit more often, and he stayed there looking back at me for several wonderful minutes.

If it was Coopernicus I could have swiveled my gaze to a spot where a finch was hiding in the elephant ear leaves and he would have understood and followed and gone to it if he was hungry–he’s done that before–but there was none; they’d all gotten away safely, and if he’d been hungry he would have followed them in the first place rather than coming to me.

And yet he came.

I felt like all I’d done was give him a half-reason to.

And then having done what I’d asked for, he showed great finery of tail and wing at last and was off to his own matters.

Cliff notes
Tuesday September 16th 2014, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I sent off a card to Cliff, Don’s son, several weeks ago. He took such good care of his dad; we should all be so well loved in our old age. I knew that Don had lived in a senior community and I wondered how that works when a not-yet-55-year-0ld inherits the place.

I also know that sometimes when you’re grieving a loss, often people tend to assume a few months later that life has gone back to normal and that they shouldn’t remind you of your missing loved one and reignite any pain.

As if you could forget. As if you didn’t remember every day.

And so, me, I try to send out an ‘I’m thinking of you’ later on as well.

Today it came back to me weeks after I’d sent it, stamped unforwardable.

He had snailmailed me letters in his dad’s final illness, giving me updates, letting me know. Very much appreciated.

And now, who else would remember that day my doorbell rang and Cliff was standing there with Don grinning like crazy from the passenger side of the car out front as his son held out new pans for me to make them chocolate tortes in? Surprise! After I had complained in this space that my old pans had leaked and smoked up my oven.

Or how they saved up produce clamshells to keep my fruit trees from the squirrels. It is halfway through September and I still have a few last Fuji apples ripening, safe.

Cliff, if you read this, I baked tortes tonight because I was thinking of you both–grinning, remembering that day, thinking how much fun Don would have had with Sunday’s post.

Thank you, and may all be well with you, wherever you are now.

One note and one book at a time
Monday September 15th 2014, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Today had its fair share of concerns. It’s hard when someone we love is going through a tough time.

And yet there was more than that to the day.

Hangpans, or, handpans, if you haven’t heard of them: they look like inverted abelskivver pans or conjoined-twin woks that got hit by meteors. Or something. But the music they make! The article says if you want one you have to write a letter by hand explaining why they should consider making one for you and then you must pick it up in person. In Europe. I can just see them wanting to meet their recipients in person after all their work.

The inventors refuse to mass produce because the quality could never be matched by a machine and they refuse to charge what the market would bear–they simply want those who love music to be able to afford to make music.

Knitters understand.


I went to the dentist and there on the wall was a large new-to-me photo of him and his grown son surrounded by a lot of very young faces in an environment that was definitely not typically American. So I asked.

He glowed with pride: his son’s work was to create schools in Africa. The picture was taken at an orphanage there.

The children all looked well loved and cared for, and I do not doubt that they got dental work done if they needed it, although the man was not one to pat himself on the back.

But the Ebola epidemic has kept them out since. They look forward to when they can go back, and as he told me that, there was no fear in his face.

The love simply mattered more.

Lock down
Sunday September 14th 2014, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

This has nothing to do with the story, but, the pews in the building where the stake conference meetings are held always hit my back just exactly wrong. There was another meeting there this morning and this time I remembered to grab a small pillow off the couch and stuff it in my large purse.

And as I was getting dressed this morning, what I’d planned to wear simply felt wrong: it felt too fragile, too easily damaged. This made no sense whatsoever. Wear something indestructible. Why? I argued with myself, I wasn’t going camping, I was going to church. Wear the boring black polyester skirt, came the insistence yet again: can’t hurt that one. What a weird thought, I thought, but, I did.

So. The story. Somewhere in my brain, all morning church meetings start at nine and when you have some percentage of 1800 people in that stake converging on one building, however large, parking is going to be intense. If I didn’t want a long autoimmune-risking walk in the sun we were going to have to get there early, so we headed out the door at about 8:15.

Only… There was a smattering of people, maybe a dozen if even that, but certainly not the number usually gathered by the half hour before the start. Huh.

(In a small voice, oh. right. duh.)

And so we had an hour and a half to wait in. My good-natured husband said, Well, he thought that had been a little early but he wanted to get good seats and parking for me, so, *shrug*. No biggy.

I got to talk to an old friend for awhile.

My glasses were bugging me. I’d been going to clean them before leaving but had forgotten but I certainly had plenty of time to spare now, so, off I went to take care of that.

One of the things about having an ileostomy is that one has to use the facilities quite often. I was there, so, whatever.

The door refused to unlock to let me back out of the stall.

Wait. I tried again. This is not rocket science.  You just unturn it.

Not that way either. It was jammed hard. Richard later said, well, you could always have called me and I’d have sent someone in, to which I reminded him I’d left my purse with him.

There was simply nobody around. Give it an hour and there would be a steady stream of people but not right now. I gave it my best as good as my hands could do but the thing just would not budge. Likely nobody would hear me. I could stay there.

Or not.

The floor, thankfully, was clean as far as I could tell. In the utter epitome of grace I got down on my hands and knees and scrambled low underneath the door, got out, reached back under, grabbed my cane, and washed up.

Then I went looking for help. I found Randy. Randy knew everyone and he had keys to everything.

Because so very few people were there yet, we were in no one’s way as I minded the bathroom doors while he went in there and tried to fix that lock. Having gotten tools from a supply closet, he got the thing open–but he could not keep it from re-jamming and the next person was going to have the same problem. Not cool. Not when there are I think four women’s stalls in the entire building and there were about to be that many people present. He thought a moment, walked across the building while I stood guard, came back, and handed me a piece of paper and scotch tape. He handed me a thick pen.

“Door lock jams. Do not lock this door.” (I needed to be able to write it in Spanish, Samoan, Tongan, Vietnamese, and Chinese, too, but at least it was clearly going to be a warning, and most of those members did speak enough English.)

“Looks good,” he affirmed, it being what we could do for now, and waited a moment as I went around the corner past the rest-and-chair area to put it where it needed to go.

It happened when no one was around to be embarrassed. And I’m old enough not to bother to be embarrassed, it just simply was.

It didn’t happen to, say, an 85-year-old with mobility issues as the building emptied out leaving nobody to know. It didn’t happen to a small child who would then simply leave the door locked for everybody and long lines after her.

It was a small thing, and leaving the door unlocked would be a pain–but it surely also inspired multiple moments of, hey, could you hold this closed for me and then I’ll hold it for you? Acts of kindness imposed by randomness, in all locklihood.

I got home glad I’d worn that sturdy skirt, put the small pillow back on the couch on top of the old afghan I’d taken it off of…

…And only then did I finally notice that the thing seemed a tad lumpy. Huh? I pulled it back.

There, underneath, was the long-missing baby blanket I’d started for my granddaughter on the way. The white one I’d begun for her christening day. Right there at my knitting perch. The Rios yarn I ordered yesterday in replacement? That was pink and much thicker, so as to be an everyday blankie like her brothers’.

It’s all good. It’s all very good.

The new San Jose Mission president
Saturday September 13th 2014, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

1977. I don’t think we’ve crossed paths since then.

He did not recognize me.

Twice a year we in the Mormon Church have a local conference meeting on a Saturday evening and tonight was it.

One of the speakers was new to the area and when I saw the program as we came in I knew exactly who that was before I even laid eyes on him.

He gave a wonderful talk of love and faith and inclusiveness and how life had shown him how small acts of loving God right now by serving others in His name, those small moments had multiplied on themselves across his lifetime to bless others in ways and to three generations now that he could never really have understood when he was younger.  Listening to him, one could only go wow, this is a good man.

Just like his dad.

I went up afterwards to reintroduce myself to him, and while someone else was talking to him told his wife that Glen and my brother had waited for their mission calls together back in the day.

And then I was next. I said to him, “You were on your mission and I was at BYU when the call went out that all of Potomac Ward was asked to fast and pray for your dad. We did–and then the doctors could no longer find the liver cancer they thought he had.”

“Kidney cancer,” he corrected for me–I’d had it wrong all these years, but the wonderment in his face as he shook my hand, silently pleading a help me out here, then, “What is your name?”

“I’m Morgan’s little sister. I’m Alison.”

And with that Glen knew at last who I was and we rejoiced in each other’s long-lost presence as his wife thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Here, already in this new place, was someone from home. Or rather, his, anyway.

He asked after my parents, since he and they had both moved away; “Are they still alive?”

“Yes, they’re doing great! And your dad? Is he still with us?”

“Yes!” And not only here, but doing well, he added.

The flash of understanding between us in that moment…

And then someone else in the crowd needed his attention and with regret he turned to answer them and I took my leave. We’ll have more chances to catch up.

Lisa Lhasa
Friday September 12th 2014, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I worked on the baby sweater and would have finished it, wanted to finish it, but my hands needed a break from knitting tight and small. One more day (again), I guess.

The baby blankie, which had maybe a foot done, is still not found. Ah well, there will always be a baby who’ll need that UFO come the day. And I still had questions about cashmere, especially after googling for Rios in the colors I was interested in and getting nowhere.

It finally dawned on me: if I had questions about machine washing cashmere, of course I knew whom to ask and where to find the best. Lisa Souza! Shot off a note just now, admiring the color in that upper right corner there. Nobody else I’d rather have dye it for me, for that matter; she and I go back twenty-odd years, to when I first met her spinning in her redwood-ring faerie eyrie at Kings Mountain Art Fair.

Yes it would be very expensive.

You only get born once.

Waiting to hear back. Not setting my heart on it. Yet.


Editing to add the next day: Lisa says that her friend Holly makes lap blankets of that 8-ply Lhasa cashmere for the elderly, very lovely. It could certainly be done–but the scruffication that would come with the use and laundering a baby would require of it is something that just would be a reality.

I hemmed, hawed, and at last went with (I found some!) the superwash Rios that I’m much more familiar with. Three blanket-years in, it’s fulled without being too fuzzy, no pills, so soft, and  the blankie is still the same size.

Have you ever?
Thursday September 11th 2014, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

My good sense says knit merino in superwash only for a new mom to have to deal with. We’re talking blankets here, not outfits. (I’m listening to at least some of those instincts.)

I…was actually knitting a superwash baby blanket. I have spent the last three days looking for it. And my good packable sunproof straw hat, for that matter, that I was wearing Saturday. Both have vanished.

I’ve gone from frustration to a certain sense of freedom: I could simply start over. I could choose anything. (Did you look in–yes I did. And? Yes. And? Twice.)

If you’ve ever knit with something like Malabrigo Finito you’ll understand why my fingers want to wrap that baby in the very softest ever–or maybe cashmere from Colourmart, as long as I’m dreaming, since they’re about the same. There are those who will tell you cashmere never shrinks, and then there’s me saying that when my kids were small I bought a cashmere sweater labeled size 42 for fifty cents at a yard sale because it fit my six-year-old; someone out there had had a really, really bad day doing laundry. (We, though, totally won.)

Would you do it? Would you knit it on really-too-big needles so that when it shrinks like crazy it wouldn’t be too far off from what you intended in the first place?

This is called, okay, talk some sense into me: back away from the pretty. Put it back. Don’t do it.

But maybe?

Rabbits and Caterpillar
Wednesday September 10th 2014, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A few years ago, my oldest gave me a set of Peter Rabbit notecards for Christmas. Parker was a baby, and she was remembering all those times I had read our much-loved Beatrix Potter set with her and her siblings.

Some time after our son’s family went home two weekends ago, Michelle found a digger truck behind her couch. I think it was smaller than this one at Amazon but it was very similar.  It was easier for me to get to the post office than her, so I brought it home and I found just the box for it.

It needed a card and I went looking. Amaryllis? There’s about to be enough pink around his house around the time of his birthday, no, birds? Nah, that’s my thing, I needed something that spoke to a little boy.

And you know what I found next. I had a few left.

Flipping through, I found *the* card. Picking apples? How perfect is that?

Dear Parker, I wrote, and explained that the digger had had a nice visit but it wanted to come home now. The mailman was letting it have a ride home. I told him I loved him, signed it, put it in the envelope and the envelope in the box and taped it up and mailed it off and drove away in happy anticipation of the look on his face. I tell you. It felt like Christmas.

And Sam had gotten it so amazingly right.

Edited to add, I said to my husband, Wasn’t that just perfect? He grinned and said, Perfect would be a digger pulling a submarine with a picture of Parker being the captain waving the (he added more to his verbal picture…) But yes. It was perfect.

Knit faster
Tuesday September 09th 2014, 9:25 pm
Filed under: Family

And poof, just like that, woke up this morning and felt the burden of worry gone. Even if I don’t like that chimney exclusion.

By then, though, I’d figured out exactly what our new earthquake insurance costs the equivalent of: seven round-trip airfare tickets for two to San Diego every year, including airport snacks, give or take a Christmastime increase. Which certainly isn’t going to stop us from going to go meet the new baby due then.

I finally figured out that that was why the soft yarn I’d picked out for her was in a cheerful red. Well of course. And there will be bright sparkly lights in celebration everywhere come the day.

It’s a 12.01
Monday September 08th 2014, 10:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

The slant of the lowering sun, just in that moment of the day, makes the shadow look so much bigger than the real thing.

And yet sometimes you just need to grab whatever pushes you to get the thing done and we wanted it done. We’d had it years before, till college tuitions and the like got in the way. Now was the time. Chris-the-agent and I exchanged emails and details Friday till well after five till I told him, hey, go have a weekend.

There was a 4.2 (oh wait, they’ve downgraded it to 4) forty miles from our kids Sunday night. The earth was antsy and so were we. Several little ones on the Hayward fault–that’s the East Bay-side faultline that all their hospitals are built within yards of and I think their water mains, too. Tell the people of the 1950′s: science. It keeps you from doing stupid things. You don’t just bulldoze the cracks and call it the cheap land.

One of our outside five gallon water storage containers got chewed through by a critter; drought, I guess, I need to recycle that one. The ironic thing is, the Napa quake seems to have upended underground water into the creeks there that so need it.

I went through the pages of forms again, writing in details like the diagonal bracing we found in the framework of the house when we remodeled years ago–cool, that was better than current code and this is a sixty-year-old house–and we both signed the papers.

Then I called ahead and drove over.

Chris was one of the first people I met in California 27 years ago but he wasn’t in today. But they all work together and the receptionist motioned me to Sandy’s office; I remembered her well.

Except that’s not the name she said.

Me, hesitating a moment: Does Sandy still work here?

She, with a look of oh, you don’t know, then…  “Sandy died. She had cancer and passed in November.”

But…but…! I just stopped there a moment, stunned. I told her I was so sorry. I told her it was taking me a moment to process, and she nodded, understanding, and added a few details so I would know.

I hadn’t known. I hadn’t done anything. And she’s… Well crum. I mean, what else can you say. Crum. I’m sorry.

Finally, into Sandy’s office, where the new-to-me guy’s young children’s pictures were on the shelf and we got down to business. Tell me, what is this about not covering masonry. That means my chimney, right? Not just stonework? (Which I don’t have.) Chimneys are what break most, aren’t they?

They do. Which is why almost nobody covers them in quake insurance anymore.

(Oh lovely.) What if it shatters my solar panels as it falls apart? (Said while suddenly glad they were at a distance from each other.)

“That’s a gray area.”

(Color me concerned.)

And yet. An aunt whose house was a half mile from the epicenter of the Loma Prieta got the full value on her $350k earthquake policy, and she needed it all. A tiny 2.9 strong enough to wake me up because it was so close? Three in a few days in that spot. What would a 6 there be like? Or a 7? I don’t want to know.

The policy didn’t quite take instant affect at signing; the guy gave me the minute of the hour of the day. Three more hours now. Wait, now that I’ve been typing this long, make that two. Less than.

I am remembering when I flew to Maryland a few months after our 7.1 and, getting off the plane, I felt like I could suddenly breathe and it surprised me. I had not realized how much I had been aware of the earth not moving, how I’d watched for light poles swinging on overpasses–and there were a lot of drivers that even then simply wouldn’t stop for a light underneath a bridge, even if it meant someone else could zip around and ahead of them. And no one ever did. Silent amity and unanimity.

But in Maryland it was just plain ordinary oblivious life again, and eventually in California it was, too.


But if you ask someone where they were in the Loma Prieta everyone who was here has a story.

I think that I’m going to feel that sense of exhaling again after the stroke of midnight plus one.

It hasn’t been just me; it’s been him, too, and to me the fact that my unflappable husband sensed the need, to him the fact that I sensed the need, between us that made it a done deal.

Our budget just changed a lot with that first payment, but someday it will look like a bargain indeed. Right now I keep reminding myself that, compared to what could be, the premiums? They’re nothing earthshattering.

The gift given
Sunday September 07th 2014, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Life

And at the other end of life…

Sitting in church, the meeting about to start: a quiet, “Would you like to hold her?” knowing of course I absolutely would.

Always wear soft clothes. You never know when you’ll get to cuddle an infant.

A slight, steady rocking, a tiny hand on my arm. I turned her to be facing towards her mommy, and instead of fussing at the space separating them, she relaxed into my arms.

After several minutes of mutual bliss she melted entirely and was asleep.

Five minutes before the end of the meeting, of her own timing, she suddenly blinked and stirred. She’s not quite old enough to sit up on her own yet but she managed to turn and look up into my face and hair, puzzling it out: you are not my mommy.

Her mommy smiled at her.

And that was enough. Sweet Janey stayed quietly happy where she was until it was time to go.

A tree had grown through it
Saturday September 06th 2014, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

There is a gap (still) in the six foot tall fence where the neighbors have been rebuilding it after taking out the last of the damaged old part there after our tree guys got done.

The framework is in place, a few beams have gone in, but the husband wanted to do the job himself, not hire some young’un, and he’s taking his sweet time.

They were married in 1956, she told me tonight.

Her longterm memory is still sharp for the most part.

I was watering my plants and saw them at the gap and stepped over their way. Very soon it was her and me chatting away, just the two of us, swapping stories as I moved the hose from time to time and marveling at how trees, like kids, grow up and blossom and bring forth after all this time. Well, some of them; I had her step over to my side to continue the conversation as I watered the pear tree over thataway–that one was still just a baby.

I showed her where it had been pruned to when we’d bought it in February vs where it is now–it’s more than doubled its height already. And when her husband had found out that their bush was shading it part of the day, he got that bush cut back to the fencetop just because. When I thanked him tonight he shrugged off all credit with a grin and a disclaimer of, “The gardener did that.”

(Yes, the gardener had trimmed a little last week, I’d thanked them for the extra sunlight, and he’d clearly sent the guy back to do more.)

This time she was able to process my stories as well as tell her own, and the thing not forgotten yet, she could ask a question or two of me at the end. That’s not always been quite so true of late but tonight it was and we were laughing and swapping and telling the punch line to the next tale and laughing some more and if any other neighbors were outside hearing us they were wishing they were having as good a time as we were.

It’s brought out the best in her.

Half a dozen times, as she always does, never remembering that she’d already said the very same words, she told me, “You know. This is so lovely. You know what we could do? We should put a gate between our yards so we could just step across and visit anytime,” motioning with her hands from existing pole to imaginary one the width it would have to be. It wouldn’t have to be big; we could squeeze through sideways–and she laughed at that mental image every time. “Our own little Narnia door,” I said. (She drew a blank and then forgot it before she could ask, that time.)

At last she said, “Have you eaten?”

It was nearly eight and I had an hour before. She had not yet, she said, and it was getting dark and a bit chilly; time for her to go in. Said with cheerful reluctance.

I stepped back to my side of the fence. We swapped one last story each. I reiterated that she was always welcome to walk around the block via the street come the day to just knock on my door anytime.

And then she went back inside to her patient husband, whose sociable and endearing wife had been entertained for awhile while he had gotten a break.

There is no rush to finish off that fence, the last part to be repaired between our yards, none at all–not on my side, and I don’t think on theirs.

Friday September 05th 2014, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Spent a good part of the day going over insurance policies and talking to our agent.

Wait, really?! On our old one, there’s a clause for nuclear energy liability in the… No no, I have solar, not a nuclear plant, thanks, an energy surge here is a day where the fog’s burned off, not the whole city. (Really?! How on earth did that get in there? Who thinks of these things?)

But apparently the guy who was recently in the news after seeing a minivan whose driver had passed out, so he pulled his SUV up alongside and slightly ahead and gradually stopped the runaway before it could crash into a whole bunch of people at the light ahead–he’d be covered under this one policy, even though he deliberately let damage happen to his car. In the pursuit of protecting life and limb of others? This company would repair it for him.

I like that.

So, (reading on through the fine print) if the guy who broke into my house had sued me for the confrontation he had with the cops, apparently only because I had done no business with him would my old policy defend me and cover the costs of the suit. Gotcha. (Weird…)

And then I put it all down for awhile and we went out the door and met up with our niece for ice cream at Smitten. Only the best.  The backstory is hers alone to tell, but, sometimes a simple cone of ice cream together is just the thing.

And then back to the deductible-speak.

Be prepared
Thursday September 04th 2014, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Life

Another small Ladera quake. I was snatched awake at 3:24 am by a quick sharp jolt. That made two exactly seven hours apart. Some part of me kept waiting for the next and I never really did fall back asleep.

Fascinating how the did-you-feel-it reports have the effects skipping over part of the Peninsula and shaking hard again in pockets further up north. So did any skeins fall out of the bins at Cottage Yarns? (Probably not;  2.9 is pretty small.)

One of the first things I did after sunup was to push a chair over, stand a bit tippytoeish, and move that bubbles bottle out of that upper window. Turns out there wasn’t much left in it anyway, but hey, now I don’t have to worry about it.

We had power. We had water. I was too tired to do much but I did spend the day laundering All The Things. No Shirt Left Behind. You never know.

Let’s get cracking. (Not!)
Wednesday September 03rd 2014, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Him, in the kitchen: “Did you feel that? Earthquake!”

Me, in the other room: “No,” (thinking at the same time oh wait, so that was what that…) “but I heard it.” A small sharp cracking sound.

We both went straight to the USGS site, where it took a moment to show up. Yup, 8:24, right when he said it. Ladera. 2.9. Right around Kings Mountain Art Fair territory.

We like our earthquakes small and entertaining like that.

The kicker is that I was talking to an agent this afternoon about getting earthquake insurance again.

Edited to add: the art fair ended Monday, and there were quakes there Tuesday and Wednesday. All the booths that didn’t fall down, all the people who didn’t panic, all the squeezed-in parallel-parked cars that weren’t bumped into each other, all the artists who didn’t lose their stock and who got through the fair making a living without their customers tearing out of there…

If we had to have one there, you just couldn’t have asked for better timing. And not only that, people have a whole year now to get over the panic they didn’t go through.

(Ed. to add again: got woken up by the one at 3:24 this morning. Fun times.)