Cover me, I’m going in
Monday April 20th 2015, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Mango tree,Wildlife

Still throwing the frost cover over the mango tree at night to keep in the gentle heat from the Christmas lights. I always set several rocks around the bottom edge to help hold it in place.

But several times of late I’ve gone to take the cover off first thing in the morning…and all the smaller rocks are no longer there. Just the bigger heavier ones. We get very little wind around here and particularly not in that spot.

I think something’s gotten acclimated to the lack of nighttime dark in that area, especially given the sweetness of all those enticing blossom clusters. I can just picture a long possum nose pushing under there to check things out or a raccoon casting the first stone.

I put more rocks down tonight. In pairs, too.

Quick glimpses
Sunday April 19th 2015, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Skype. Three grandchildren four and under.

Daddy, holding the baby, hands the iPad to the two-as-of-this-month as they walk down the hall together so that Hudson can show us something.

Remember Etch-a-Sketches? How you shook them up and down really hard to erase the picture?

He was so proud of being trusted with that thing and he really carried it off: the ceiling, his face, the floor (and I couldn’t tell what-all else) at race track speed as he pumped his arms up and down, while on our side of the screens we were absolutely helpless with laughter.

Still giggling.

Clamshell day
Saturday April 18th 2015, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

February. I planted the Indian Free two months ago. That was then. (This first picture is when it was just starting to sprout.)

This is now. I wasn’t going to let it fruit this first year but after shedding the others it was determined to grow that one peach, already bigger than the ones on the Babcock (which had started flowering a week earlier and will be ripe two months earlier), so I let it be.

Note to the squirrels: don’t even think about it.

Friday April 17th 2015, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Twenty-eight years. It took twenty-eight unfathomably long years.

Debbie married someone who grew up here, and I grew up with her and her brothers. She stayed in Maryland while my husband and I moved to her husband’s hometown when we were at the baby-and-toddlers stage of parenthood.

So from time to time I would be back visiting my folks (before they moved away in retirement) and from time to time she would be visiting her in-laws.

But every single time she came to town, I would be out of town. Or sick, memorably, pneumonia one time and I forget what the other times. And every single time I was back home, she was out of town. Again and again and again.

As her in-laws’ health slowly failed in old age, their kids would come to visit, and one time I looked at this guy in church who was the spitting image of Curt and went, You’re…and he, knowing my parents’ daughter was in his growing-up ward, went, You’re…? Yes. And so I shared with him what I’d written when her brother my age had died and he passed it gratefully along to Debbie and all her family.

His eighty-nine-year-old father passed away last week. With all of his children in town and one of them by his side in the middle of the night comforting him as he slipped away at home. We should all be so lucky.

The funeral was today, and the children were admiring, sober, funny, thoughtful, with a tear or three. Debbie’s husband recounted several of them going on a bike ride with their Dad setting the pace; he finally had had to say, Dad, we need a break a moment, would you mind slowing down a bit?

And then he asked, And guess how old Dad was then? Seventy-seven. He rode 250 miles a week. If the mountain went straight up he rode straight up, none of this zigzagging slowly because it’s too hard. Here to San Francisco and back, all the time.

The children addressed their mother directly with great love as she sat quietly in her wheelchair watching the proceedings. Her hair was perfect and her dress was beautiful. One child after another thanked each of their parents’ caregivers by name. It is hard to be a long-distance child in such circumstances and those good people had loved their folks and had made it possible for them to stay in their home as they’d tended to them.

Their mother’s Alzheimer’s had taken any semblance of recognition away from her long ago and yet they addressed her as if she were wholly here, knowing that someday she would be able to look back on her life and hear and know every word. This was for her. This was for them all. This was for all of us.

At the end, as people filed outside, I found myself gradually making my way towards that wheelchair, carefully, not wanting to get in the family’s way.

Debbie was tending to her mother-in-law. I waited.

She saw me and as my face lit up, waiting, waiting, she looked like doIknowOH IT’S YOU!!!! We threw our arms around each other, then held each other at arm’s length, taking each other in.

And in that moment I knew that over all those years and all those frustrating, missed opportunities, it wasn’t just me, she had wanted to connect like that, too. And finally, finally, there we were.

How ARE you?!!

I was sure I had seen familiar backs of the heads at the front of the chapel and so I had. The crowd parted enough right on cue then for me to see: her parents had come from Maryland, too, and she turned to them. Her mother had the same moment of wait, do I–OH!!! (Hugs!) And in excitement she turned to her husband to share the joy.

He wasn’t quite getting it. To be fair, I might well have been a teenager the last time he’d seen me. He wasn’t quite hearing the name in the noise or putting it together or knowing that face but I gave him a quick hug anyway and I knew they would fill him in later. I can just hear it: Wait, that was Lawrence and Frances’s daughter?!

His wife asked after me, after my parents; yes, they’re in good health, yes, Mom still walks a few miles every day, they’re doing great!

Someone from home. For the three of them and for me. Love, stretching all the way back to my birth and Debbie’s (and my father-in-law grew up with her dad!) and all our parents as newlyweds and young parents. All those memories suddenly come together in one chapel far away in California.

I miss Curt and I am sorry for his family’s loss. I do know that after all the hospice care, it’s a relief, too; they know their dad, grampa, and great-grampa is free to look down on them now with all earthly sorrows fallen away.

But what a deep sense of joy. So much love. It was always there. Loss let it be seen.

My fellow gardener
Thursday April 16th 2015, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Wildlife

So I lamented that the hawk hadn’t come up to the picnic table to say hi up close since we’d cut down and replaced the trees on the side.

Well, why hadn’t I said I’d been missing him? And so suddenly there he was. Perched on the back of the chair, all but waving a talon hi on the other side of the window as we took in each other’s presence on this fine warm (91 degree) day. He fluffed out his feathers.

I loved how he was framed by five, soon to be six blooming amaryllises; he started craning his head around and–if I’d only had my camera!–looked straight up into a deep red one bowed down just above his face.

When he was ready to go, he turned and lightened the load as birds often do before lifting off.

And the Red Lion will bloom a little brighter next year for it.

Got that out of the way
Wednesday April 15th 2015, 10:13 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Lupus

Me: The scan was fine so I can cancel that appointment, right? (I feel fine. I don’t want to be a patient. I’ve been a patient a lot. Now it’s my turn to just plain be an ordinary person while I can for as long as I can and I’m pretending I never have to do the patient thing again and just let me enjoy my break while I have it, willya.)

The nurse: Um, no, you better go.

The specialist: The scan was not quite so perfectly fine.

And that is how I ended up having a procedure done today that was an inpatient one done under anesthesia back in my mom’s day. I did not know this doctor, but he struck me as being terribly weary of inflicting pain on the innocent. But the thing is what it is. I had no idea what other burdens he might be bearing; my heart went out to him. I wanted badly to comfort him, to tell him it’s his job to do his best to keep us healthy and it’s our job to be grateful for his efforts and skills and caring. It wouldn’t bother him if he didn’t care, it’s a sign he’s a good person. As for my end of things, it would be just one day–or the start of knowing what to cope with, and knowledge itself is power over illness, along with all the love in the world.

I at last got him to laugh when I told him I was going to call my daughter and tell her what I did to celebrate her birthday. He did seem better after that.

And the verdict is (roll the drums, blast the trumpets): no bladder cancer. The Remicade and Humira side-effects haven’t gotten to me yet. And I say (waving my magic wand, making it so) they never will. So there.

And the knitter in me wonders if I should knit him a hat. A warm and soft one.

Totally geeking out
Tuesday April 14th 2015, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Knit

Sometimes a knitting pattern just stops you right there in your tracks. How someone thought of this, how someone pulled this off! Here, I’ll stop blathering, just go, go look at the ultimate piece of double knitting ever. And if you know of one that incredible please speak up.

I am in awe.

Luke: (say it in that Darth Vader voice) I am your knitter. And after all that work and all that expertise they are giving the pattern away. Frankly, they earned every dime they’re not asking for.

Watching the watchers
Monday April 13th 2015, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

The hawk had clearly just had a meal because he hadn’t quite finished cleaning his feathers yet. He fluffed them out a bit, content.

The bird feeder had been empty for a few hours and I’d been waiting for the sun to be less intense before going out to refill it–and so there was no potential prey in sight but to look at him that’s not what he was wanting just then anyway.

It was clearly the male of the Cooper’s pair and as in so many years in the past, it was nesting season and he had stopped by for a visit: claiming that fence was a territorial display, definitely, but he was people watching, too–he’s always liked to do that this time of year.

With the olive and buckthorn trees gone missing he hasn’t been coming close to the window to gaze in at us like he used to, though.  (Grow new trees grow!)

I’ll take whatever I can get. I got to commune a few minutes with this magnificent wild thing, taking care to blink slowly from time to time so he would know he was the dominant one and that it was safe to be here.

Love love love having my hawk stop by.

A raven caught me suddenly noticing him too a backyard away and up in a tree. No bullying and stealing from Coopernicus this time, buddy–git!

Immediately it took off to dense bushes to the left where I couldn’t see it.

The hawk went where it wanted when it wanted and in no particular hurry after that.

Plant more trees
Sunday April 12th 2015, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

She used to come to my knitting group, but then her daughter was born and priorities on one’s time shift. It’s been a few years but we’ve reconnected online and she recently offered to do a very kind favor for someone I love just because I do and because she’s that kind of person.

And so. I offered up a thank you prayer for her sake.

And felt strongly, Pray for Meg.

The next night, during the meditation that is my treadmill time, I felt it again as I walked: Pray for Meg.

This became a thing, and so for oh easily a month at this point I have asked daily for a blessing on Meg and her loved ones, not knowing what it should be about other than my offering up my thanks–which isn’t hard, because I am grateful and she’s a good person. But it was kind of a curious staccato mark. It commanded attention somehow: that it not be a quick glancing nod in her direction but with thought and effort put into it. Oh okay I can do that and I did (and kind of wondered what that was all about, but hey, I’ve had enough people pray for me that I certainly owe the favor.)

She started off her Facebook post a few days ago by announcing that, first, everyone was okay.

And then she described a kid with a license of about a year now being hit, crossing five lanes of freeway at high speed and striking her car and spinning it around and then both cars went over the embankment. Hers, she’s convinced, would have rolled (and looking at the picture with the car sideways to the steepness, most definitely!) but for the trees and bushes growing there that had caught it, the top of a palm visible to the side from the ground below. The kid, though, went straight down, through a fence, and on into an industrial area.

And to her and her husband’s amazement he came running right back up that hill to see if they were okay. The empty car seat scared him; the couple quickly assured him their daughter wasn’t with them just then, it was okay. Meantime, people who’d seen it happen had come running, too, whether they pulled off the freeway or were from the business below or both I don’t know but there were people ready to do whatever needed to be done to save whoever had just gone down over that embankment. The poor kid was so shaken; she gave him a hug and did her best to comfort him and wrote, We were all just fragile people who’d just gone through a scary experience.

And all three of them were able to walk away from it. The tow truck driver and the cop marveled, she said, that their car had been stopped where and how it had. It had all been such a near, near, thing.

Did God need my prayers for Him to go rescue those good people? Of course not. I wonder; the prayers certainly didn’t hurt, and at the same time maybe (speaking selfishly) I was going to need that comfort too for their sakes, given how close to home this hits with my daughter having gone through a similar accident and still being in recovery. I do believe God reaches out to us in such quiet ways to teach us to look out for one another, to care about each other, to help us to matter to each other all the more than we might think to do on our distracted own. I am ever so fervently grateful for them at their best-case outcome, and for all the people who put themselves on the scene to offer any help they could.

They have sore muscles to heal and paperwork and insurance hassles to get through.

Her words have been of joy in the greatness of the reprieve. To life!

Slip sliding away
Saturday April 11th 2015, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Non-Knitting

A knock at the door. The old dishwasher was wheeled away with our dolly while the other worker stood there with the new one up on his shoulder (!!!) waiting to get by to bring it inside for us. That was at 2 pm and then we spent the next seven hours on the installation.

Even he didn’t see any way to get those two top screws into that box that’s supposed to go against the wall under the sink, not with the disposal in the way. He was suddenly glad he’d bought a tube of caulking during the run to the hardware store for the right screws and a level (after an hour of both of us looking for his level)–he would just basically glue it to the wall. We had the two lower screws in, the most important ones, so, hey, that would do it. As he caulked while wedged in at an impossible angle he casually mentioned that I was now going to have to hold it in place there for ten minutes while it set.

Blink. Dude. I can barely even reach, much less…

But wait, I think, there’s more than one way–and so I turned around, laid my back on the floor, and put one foot up against that thing. There you go. Easy peasie. Staring at the skylight straight above, watching the seagull kiting on the breeze.

Except that before I could congratulate myself my posterior was already starting to slide across the kitchen and I had to tell him to grab that box quick. I readjusted. I ended up spending the ten minutes holding tight to the cabinet door, still far easier than the alternative.

Does this thing come out? (The third rack at the very top for putting silverware and spatulas and the like into. There’s a silverware tray at the bottom like every other brand, but this was to give you more flexibility with big stuff.) Surely it comes further forward than this?

Huh. Let me go check.

I googled Bosch 500 series dishwasher. Turns out we’d bought a new model. Their own site doesn’t even show that third rack open on that one, but I found a photo somewhere else with it pulled all the way like one would expect. Nothing in the manual. Meantime, he simply called customer service–and they didn’t know either at that hour on a weekend. In the end we simply loaded the front third of that third rack because that was all we could reach of it.

(Turning it on at long, long last) What’s this 2:30 thing? Our model doesn’t count down to when the load is finished.

No, it doesn’t.

Actually, turned out, yes it does.

And so we have it going with the ultimate test one could throw at a new dishwasher: can it clean a pan that an angel food cake was baked in that was not presoaked and scrubbed before throwing it in there? No dishwasher I’ve ever had has been able to do that. Time (current reading: 14 minutes left) will tell.

And it’s a beautiful, beautiful dishwasher. So far so good.

Oh and? Even the floor looked scorched where the heating element of the Maytag had been. We so lucked out. So close.

(Okay, now I’m just stalling, waiting for that Bosch to hurry up and finish.)

And… (It’s past our bedtime but we both want to know.)

The angel food cake pan is absolutely spotless.

Part one, one, part two, the other
Saturday April 11th 2015, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Life,Lupus

Old dishwasher: out.

That took a lot longer than expected but we promised each other we would be all sweetness and light while working on this. He didn’t fit into some of the tight spaces and forgot that I might call a plier a screwdriver at the hour it had gotten to and at one point I stopped myself and went, Wait: I am being growly. And I stopped being growly

It is done.

Oh, wait, I know what I was going to say–I got a happy email from my doctor, saying: Scan read. Looks good.


Weeding out the bad stuff
Thursday April 09th 2015, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Lupus

I think, actually, there was one in the room the whole time but at 4 am one does not remember details.

And so I stumbled across the house to where I knew my rescue inhaler was, next to the weather station that said it was 38 outside. Brrr. The mango monitor? Forty-nine. Good. I finally fell back asleep about when it was time to wake up. Richard was trying to let me get some rest.

Late, I had to eat and drink in a very few minutes, when I am not someone who likes breakfast early, because they required a four-hour fast before the CT scan and X-rays. Remember that drink 8 oz every two hours or my kidneys fail thing? You simply get through what you have to get through, but I knew I would be in no shape to drive.

Richard dropped me off, the techs there were wonderful, and Michelle picked me up when it was over. I knew worrying before I get any results back is a complete waste of emotional space but it’s easy to do–I didn’t even pull out my knitting, I read a Time mazine to keep my brain busy, and then there was my sweet daughter asking if I’d like to go check out that Penzey’s spice store?

She knew I’d never been but that I’d been wanting to. When there wasn’t a parking space close enough, she dropped me right at the door so I wouldn’t have to do a minute’s time in the sun before she hurried in herself.

My spices were generally old as dirt and about as useful as. Michelle thoroughly enjoyed my delight. Four different types of cinnamon. Indian spices. Vanillas. Mixes of their own making. The cream of tartar I was out of that I needed to make a certain someone’s angel food birthday cake coming up.

There was a pretty jar with a lift top at each display so that you can inhale, imagine the dishes to be made of it and then on to the next. Tandoori, Sate, Northwoods Fire seasonings, Parisienne Fines Herbes, really good Chinese Five Spice, a seafood soup base with clams, crab, shrimp, and lobster as the first ingredients, those all went into the basket. The pizza seasoning or the version specifically designed to doctor frozen ones?

Michelle reminisced longingly over the pizzas on homemade bread I used to make (before her dairy allergy set in), rolled up and sliced cinnamon roll style to try to contain the kids’ messes–and so we agreed it had to be the real-thing bottle.

I finally sneezed after I got back in the car. Once.

And then she whisked me away to Timothy Adams for hot chocolate just because. Adams was there, cheerful as always and glad to see us. Totally unfazed by my slumping down over there–I’d needed that.

They all totally rescued my day. I didn’t make it to knit night–I was just too tired to even think of it–but I made it through what I needed to and had a good time after, topped off by Skype time with the grandsons.

I did, however, manage to spot and pull this nasty little specimen out by the roots after dinner. (For scale, the lid of that big bin is half again the size of our trash can’s.) This one weed, at least, is gone from us and it can never come back. It was deeply, deeply gratifying.

Three–and two!
Wednesday April 08th 2015, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family

Red Lion in the back, Picotee in the front, and I’m trying to remember the name of the variety on the right. A happy trio.

Happy Birthday, Hudson!

After a hard rain last night
Tuesday April 07th 2015, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

The squirrels helped plant these. Pictures taken in the morning; I stopped working last night when it got too dark to continue.

Some of the spreading ground cover-y-looking plants were still nearly flush with the dirt but they didn’t fool me anymore: I now knew their seeds are velcro spiked with a sharp blade each (see picture) and the taproot runs amazingly deep even at that stage.

Carefully find your way under the entire circle of leaves to as close to the base as you can–it grows runners and from one plant to the next, the leaves can be like felted wool together and hard to separate. But you can’t leave any leaves out–you have to be under all of them.

And then pull as hard as you can. A spade might not get it all.

That taproot will be anything from a few inches long to well over a foot but sometimes you can unroll a whole mass of interlocking plants that put too much into the spreading and not enough into the rooting and take a whole group roots and all.

I thought, I bet a raccoon would kill for these: a feast with all the work done, as I looked at a particularly thick 15″er. Potato tartare. No way could I leave this stuff out for even one night, and I packed those weeds down hard, several paper grocery bags’ worth. Out onto the curb.

My back is sore, but the thought that kept me going was picturing Madison crawling across what used to be grass before our drought began.

Cherry apple crisp
Monday April 06th 2015, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Knitting a Gift,Life,Wildlife

We left yesterday morning for the trip southward and got back well into dark.

This evening, after two days of not being out in the yard, there were not just flowers with bulges at the bases but actual cherries, lots of cherries and there will be more as more petals fall away. I am utterly smitten: homegrown cherries on our own tree for the very first time ever, with some branches just starting in on the whole process. The third year’s clearly the charm.

The old Yellow Transparent apple was gray and wintery-bare Saturday with one single hint of life that is now a fully open flower at the end of a gnarly branch. So much more now. We will have cooking apples in June.

Inside, I finished a soft MadTosh merino hat but missed my chance to hand it off to the person who will give it to its recipient. There will be more days. He doesn’t know it’s coming and the anticipation of the surprise feels so sweet.

Trying to figure out how to get produce clamshells over all those cherries–or not–I think I definitely need to find some unsweetened Koolaid packets. Dilute them in water with no sugar, and an orchard back home near Camp David when I was a kid sprayed it on their cherries to make the birds reject the taste and leave them alone. I can only hope the squirrels and raccoons (who can tear through bird netting if they’re determined enough) feel the same way.

(Edited to add, I just found a review on Amazon by someone who spreads unsweetened Koolaid in his lawn to keep the Canada geese out. He said it MUST be Grape. Alright then. Grape it is!)