Planning ahead
Sunday October 19th 2014, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

A gentle touch on my shoulder from behind to get my attention as she came in the room. I turned and gasped, “Francie?!”

Francie! Twenty years and we still recognized each other. Okay, the context of being at church helps, but still! Our children had been little together, mine about five years ahead of hers and Ken’s. Ken had grown up here, they had lived here with their first baby, then second, and then had moved to where she grew up.

New Zealand is a little bit far for a quick drop in and visit.

Turns out they had since moved back to the States, just not this one.  But for whatever reason, they were here just for today and were hoping to see old friends and we were very happy to oblige.

Turns out also that a woman he’d grown up with was in town just this weekend too to celebrate her mom’s 84th birthday–and there she was. Good times.

I said to Francie, Do you remember Conway and Elaine? (I knew Ken would.)


I told her briefly how our son met and married their granddaughter.

NO! she grinned. How cool!

Yes! It’s very cool. I get to see how much my grandsons resemble Conway and I just love it.

I told her how my grandmother wrote her autobiography in 1970, the year I turned twelve, and about the colonel she said she and Grampa had recently met who showed up in Korea and said, “Soldier, I don’t know what your name is but it ought to be…”

“Why yes, sir, that’s exactly what it is, sir.” (My uncle, named after his dad, thinking, Who is this guy?!)

And that colonel was the great-uncle of the man I would later marry.

Give us another few generations and maybe we’ll marry off one of ours to one of Ken’s and Francie’s. If we’re lucky. (Writing it down now like my grandmother did so the two families can all laugh over it come the day, right?) You just never know.

Saturday October 18th 2014, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,LYS

(The tops of the socks totally match under there and where the picture looks purple it’s actually closer to cobalt. Which is perfect–it matches my new silk blouse, I told her.)

Debbie was coming all the way from Fairfield for a quilt show and sent me a message: Purlescence was having an eighth birthday party tonight and that would be afterwards, so could we meet up there?

And so we did, and we found ourselves a quiet corner a bit apart from the crowd and talked for over two hours, swapping stories, catching up, belonging in the best way that friends do, a too-rare moment together. I adore her to pieces.

She reminded me of something I had utterly forgotten: she had asked me awhile back what color socks I wished I had.

Oh blue, definitely blue, any blue, wait wait wait you don’t have to…! (She wanted to.) Well then no time pressure ever and if it ever happens I would love it and if it doesn’t don’t ever feel guilty.

She had me try the first one on and it fit as if I’d been next to her through every stitch. We both cheered! She finished the very last bit of the second one right there on the spot (I loved it, that would so have been me, too) and ran the ends in, then made me take the first back off my feet–it’ll be stinky, I warned her with a grin, you sure, it’s been on that foot now, y’know–and she ran the end in on that one, too. And I sat there with the prettiest socks on in the whole entire yarn store, prouder than anything and just amazed and happy and grateful and wow. Thank you Debbie! There’s a lace pattern curving around it and I’ll try to show it off better later.

I have very happy feet.

At the purlocity of light
Friday October 17th 2014, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I got asked about a month ago if I would teach a how-to-knit class at church tonight. Sure!

Come the time to go, I was tired, I was grouchy, mostly over worrying about someone I know who had a brain tumor taken out today (wistfully cheering on Karen’s brother Paul from too many thousands of miles away), and I wasn’t at all sure I was even up to going.

But I went. Boy am I glad I did.

Sue to one side, me to the other, five newbies willing to give it a go and we were off.

I had just said something about different knitting styles but they all make the same thing when Sue happened to walk out of the room and so the woman she’d been sitting next to brought her work over to me: let’s see, is this the right way to hold the yarn?

I laughed. “Sue taught you so I can’t help there at all.”  Then, “Wait, wait, come back here” as we all cracked up.

One person who came in later took immediately to this casting-on stuff, just got it. A natural. But then when I said okay, now here’s how you knit the first row she was astonished: “You mean I wasn’t knitting?!”

“Yes you were knitting, that’s the first part of it.”

She gave it a try but gave it up. I was like, blink. What? But you’re intuitively good at this, I saw! Maybe later, says she…

Meantime, another who had struggled stitch after stitch after stitch trying to remember which way the yarn goes which way the tip goes no not that way oh right–persevered. Kept at it for an hour till she was sure she had it and was making good progress.

I told them that the last time I’d taught a class like this at church, one woman two weeks later came back to me to say she’d made a baby blanket and two hats already.

They looked at me wide-eyed. No no I wasn’t saying they had to do that–but rather, you can get good fast if you keep at it.

Someone else had picked up yarn and needles so I wouldn’t have to run that errand. Which was very kind of her–but after our little group had been working their scratchy-acrylic Red Heart for awhile (really? They still make it like that? I had no idea. I didn’t say that though), I had them fondle my Malabrigo. OOOOooooooohhhhh.

I explained, This is what keeps knitters knitting.

They totally got that.

Wanting to be sure they really did have it and not to lose any progress, three of them proposed on the spot to start a knit night–on, thankfully, Tuesdays, meaning I can go too. The plan is scarves for foster children.

I had a blast. And this is only going to get more fun. I’m so glad I didn’t just throw in the towel and leave it all for Sue to teach alone.

Tarzan cafe
Thursday October 16th 2014, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Going to Wikipedia I discover that another name for our Chinese elm is Lacebark elm. Who knew. How perfect for a knitter’s home. I’d have taken a photo of the trunk earlier if I’d known–but I can definitely say that that name fits.

But what started all this was an odd enough sight that I stopped and simply watched for awhile: five squirrels and surely more where I couldn’t see, all hanging upside down with the ends of their tails just barely wrapped around the branch above them, hanging onto the very flimsiest of limbs. In tandem. Three of them in this shot. The one in the foreground pulled his head up when I pulled the camera out.

They were reaching for the very ends of the twigs and bending them back towards them, working rapidly through the small flowers.

But they didn’t seem to be eating the flowers, rather, pushing their noses side to side through them: they were searching for the bugs that seemed to be hiding in them. Every now and then one would pull itself triumphantly upright hand over careful hand, one paw, a second, a third, a fourth, rock-climbing the air back to a steadier spot. Wait oh whoops! Almost! as a fragile twig broke off and fell below while the thing scrambled wildly.

But a big black beetle. Now, that was worth sitting up in a good spot where you could enjoy it with two paws free to hold it as you bite off the best parts first.

I’ve seen those bugs. The past few Octobers, they’ve come down through the heating vents (they seem to only fall, not fly) trying to find a good place to overwinter. They have no business being inside my house. (To everyone back East dealing with their cousins the invasive stink bugs that also like to come in in the Fall, I know I really have nothing to complain about, but I still don’t like them.)

This year, though, the furnace and the damaged, gaping ductwork across the roof have been replaced. (Thank you Joe Lerma!) The trees have been cut back from over the house. If a bug gets shaken loose it will fall to the ground outside where it belongs.

The squirrels are getting all the bugs. They’re not in my house anymore and it is Fall again and they’re not coming back in.

I cannot tell you how wonderful that is.

Making good use of the cabin fever
Wednesday October 15th 2014, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Gradually building my strength back post-flu, including in my hands. I’ve had to stop knitting to ice my hands about every hour’s worth and have been reluctant to push it.

And yet somehow I’m still about 3500 stitches further into the baby blanket than I was this morning, with more than that yesterday, going from two and a half motifs to nearly six in that time with about fifteen to go.

(And here is where I wave a picture at the blog, except that I’m still trying to keep at least some of it a surprise.)

Tuesday October 14th 2014, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

I had to go outside today and look up: yeah, we did cut that thing way back but I guess the raccoon could still have fallen out of that tree onto the house but he really would have had to work at it. Was he dodging a large owl?

Or more likely feasting on the big black beetles that settle in on the undersides of the leaves this time of year and just stepped a little too far out on a thin limb and scrambled for the roof rather than the ground. I’ve seen the squirrels the last few days stroking the leaves and then grabbing and munching the bugs before they can escape, so I know they’re there.

But whatever, there was a tremendous crash right overhead 11:30 last night followed by a wild clumpy skittering.

Woke up to raccoon prints on the skylight–well that settles it. Rocky Raccoon meets She Came In (not!) Through The Bathroom Window.

Y’know, this is probably the same raccoon that pulled my tableful of heavy clay tomato pots down on its head, that ate, not just chewed but ate an apple-sized chunk out of a plastic clamshell and then the Fuji apple inside. And never, ever touched another one again.

I think this one’s not too bright.

The hawk flew in yesterday to within ten feet from my face in a mad pursuit, and then, having lost its prey somewhere in the elephant ears, it landed right there, looking for that wayward breakfast wherediditgo. He glanced over his shoulder at me, we looked each other in the eye and I apologized, nope, I don’t have it, sorry for disturbing you. (I’d half-stood to see over the window ledge. That probably wasn’t too bright. He took off.)

Today he swooped into the olive tree, gave the yard a thorough looking-over and then dove straight down below the roofline and straight at me–and then pulled hard straight up again to surprise whatever was there. Probably a dove on the ham radio antenna.

I later saw two ravens passing overhead in a hurry and heard not crow nor raven but, from the other side of the house (thank you Oticon hearing aids and Kim and my son for the bird-sounds book!) the distinct call of a Cooper’s hawk on full territorial alert: And STAY out!

While I quietly got almost two more repeats done on the blanket. My grandsons arrived early. I expect their sister will too. Making good time.

I would make her a bird afghan if I didn’t know how much fun a baby would have pulling the intarsia apart. Maybe a dress next with a single wren motif on it.

And don’t forget the triple-ginger snaps
Monday October 13th 2014, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life,Lupus

My doctor told me to get my flu shot as soon as I, in her words, wasn’t very sick.

And so Richard was going to leave work early and get me to the clinic before their flu-shot nurse called it a day at 5:00. I just wasn’t up to running lots of errands on my own yet.

The lights were not with us. We got there 5:02, no dice. Oh well.

It was a moment of truth: I just really, really didn’t want to have to worry about going through the last two weeks all over again if I could do anything about it–I wanted that shot done with. (He’d already gotten his.) And so we drove across town to Costco.

Pro tip: that was the fewest people I have seen in that store in ages, 5:25 must be the right time to go.

Not to mention the fewest infectious agents around us and for me to be around them.

There were questions to check off: are you currently sick? I simply left that one blank and they did not call me on it. Do you have any immune disease such as AIDS or cancer? Uh, yes no no–so, yes.

They made me wait 15 minutes while they shuffled paperwork. I had not brought my knitting, deliberately: my hands needed a break after major baby blanket time, but I’d forgotten my book, too. It is a sign of how quickly I’d run out of steam that I forgot that I could simply read the news on my phone.

I sat on their bench that faced a towering display of Men’s L/XL incontinence help (charming), noting the heavy towers of pallets to right and left, the emergency exit door thataway, and plotting my duck-and-cover should the quake strike. I’ve been under swinging chandeliers before, but at least they were anchored to the ceiling. Get away from those aisles. (The bored mind in earthquake country.)

And then they called me into a back room and the deed was done. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it is that that is so. I have my flu shot. The world is a slightly safer place.

The flying purple, people, in air
Sunday October 12th 2014, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Little boys are wonderful. This just totally cracks me up.

A note was sent to the ward chat list this afternoon in hopes of reaching the right cellphone before everybody was gone from the church.  A five-year-old was very sad about having lost his new purple clip-on tie.

And then about five minutes later, Tie found!

Eight feet high in a tree.

I sent off a, Is it okay that I laughed? Do you need to borrow a ladder?

It’s okay and it’s all good, she wrote back, John jumped up and grabbed it.

Their little boy was still saying he had no idea how it got up there.

Sky drama
Saturday October 11th 2014, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

With thanks to Lisa Souza for that title. Love that colorway.

Got up early this morning and maybe I surprised them.

There was a swoop and a flash of large tail and so I sat down to watch a moment. A finch had hit the window in a panic and was cowering in the elephant ears.

Another swoop back the other way. And then suddenly a third and out of here–followed by a wheeling around from out of nowhere (how did a big black thing like that hide?!) somewhere in the neighbor’s tall trees and then a second, likewise wingtip to wingtip ground to air and turning on a dime: two ravens, trying to steal from the Cooper’s hawk, who’d gotten a good head start on them.

They knew he’d had a successful hunt, even if I didn’t.

Coopernicus had staked out the birdfeeder and they had staked out him. Through those trees and away for all they were worth.

Amazing Grace
Friday October 10th 2014, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

After several false starts and a whole lot of stitches the hat is begun.

Okay, that’s my obligatory bit for the day. What you really want to read, if you haven’t yet, is Stephanie’s post.

If you already did you know that her sister-in-law lives in Madagascar and that once a year she flies home to Canada and buys all the yarn for the next year. (I. Cannot. Imagine. A woollessly-enforced cyclically-stashfree life? All planning no sudden hey-I-could? Yow.) Likewise, once a year she gets to give out all those things she has knit in happy anticipation of sharing her love in ways that will stay when she has to leave, waiting, waiting to be able to give  out that wealth of knitted happiness.  A sweater’s sleeves that were made for toddler Lou with memory of his arms around her neck in a hug, as Stephanie writes. The new baby in the family who needed warmth against the Canadian cold…

And that was the suitcase that went missing July 31st.

After her trying every possible method of extracting it from the airline and then giving the okay to her sister-in-law, Stephanie finally put the word out to the knitter world at large last week.

I know I’m not the only one who said prayers. I also believe in a God who answers anonymously through the actual doings of people to encourage them to look out for each other, and sometimes there’s simply someone out there who needs to know enough to act on a hunch or enough to know to do some looking. They just have to get the word.

Whatever, however.

That suitcase came home to Canada today.

A year’s worth of near-daily work. Safely home.

Y E S !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Purple, part one
Thursday October 09th 2014, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

I did it.

I deliberately put on my purple skirt this morning. Now, this purple skirt and I have a problem. It shades slightly towards the brown side, unlike the supposedly identical broken-zipper one it was replacing that I’d loved, while the top I’d ordered to match it does not.

They clashed. I overdyed the top and I love how it came out but it still doesn’t match the skirt and my eye is not happy with them together.

So yeah, I wear plain white with the skirt that arrived not quite the right color. The price of hating going shopping.

And the reason I mention this is the scarf. The long, soft, endless, boring, pretty, repetitive, densely knit, heavy, I’m going out of my mind scarf that I’ve been desperate to get off my hands and off my needles so I can dive into the baby stuff before my granddaughter arrives, because I know if I abandon it again it will stay abandoned and my cousin’s move from warm California to chilly England was postponed so she doesn’t have to have it this month after all and that makes it way too easy to say oh no hurry then, whenever.

It is purple. And it is a prettier purple than either of the two in my outfit and yes I did put on that skirt and that top. Deliberately. By putting on that combination I only love separately I knew I was making it so my eyes would want all day to reach for the shade that peacemakes between them. The scarf is actually also two different shades playing together–only they really do, the Malabrigo Arroyo in Borrajas and the heathered mink laceweight, calm and steady and setting off the best in each other.

You would think those yarns would work up quickly. You would think wrong. In all these weeks I’ve knitted and knitted and I’ve blackholed it the whole time.

Till at last calling towards the other room tonight: “Did you hear that snap?”

“What snap?”

“The snap when the yarn breaks.”

“It’s bad when the yarn breaks!”

“Not when it means you just finished your project.”

And that, that, is how you get a two month long stinking endless dragging scarf project off those needles. Make it be the place where your eyes get to rest. (And turn on the stereo for some music relief and laugh out loud when you discover how much fun the little grandsons had moving all those pretty tiny buttons around on the stereo equalizer.)

Pardon me while I measure the thing for gauge-swatching and cast on the matching hat, quick, before the day is done. I’ll wear that skirt again if I have to but next time the top is going to be white.

(Pottery by my friends Mel and Kris and sons at

Wednesday October 08th 2014, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I was typing away, the afternoon nearly gone, Richard off to the office for a meeting and just me at home in the quiet house.

Motion with a hint of size caught at my peripheral vision. Oh I hope! Knowing to move slowly, I reached for my glasses, put them on, and turned carefully sideways.

The low light didn’t do his coloration justice but it was enough.

The vertical beam between windows half hid him, as raptors prefer. It was the Cooper’s hawk, now perched on the handle of the dolly that’s been left just on the other side of the window from the couch specifically for him.

He–and by those long lean lines and smaller size he was most definitely male–watched me and allowed me and stayed. We took each other in. I had needed it and he had come and he allowed me to love him all the more for it for at least a full minute.

And then in easy leisure he spread his great striped wings and with no particular speed–and believe me Coopernicus can speed–he flew away in curving sweeps that let me follow his going all the longer.

(There are photos of him on it from earlier this year here.)

Tomato escape
Tuesday October 07th 2014, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Garden,Life

Last night was the first night I slept since this started, just a few coughing spells. Today was the first day I was able to eat without having to use anti-nausea meds to make it possible. That’s real progress.

And I wound up the next ball of purple yarn for my project. I almost did it last night but thought, do you want to blow all your energy standing winding for twenty minutes and then be worse tomorrow because you’re already that tired, or do you want to wait till it’s easier so it gets done *and* you still feel well? I waited and today it was no problem. Wow what a difference.

Getting tomatoes out of those boxy cages is a real pain–and the guy who comes twice a month to do some of the outside yardwork that I can’t saw me coughing just before I headed back to bed to read awhile, not talking to him because I didn’t want to share the germs. Richard was working from home: another sign I was sick. The guy saw that things hadn’t been weeded for at least a week and there were now tomato branches growing through and blooming well outside the bird netting.

He got that one ripe heirloom tomato out of there for me and put it where we couldn’t miss seeing it the next time we looked out the window. Nobody had asked him to. He just did it. I got up soon after he and his partner working next door left, too late to say thank you or even to be sure which one of them had done it.

Looking forward to tomorrow. I like this getting-better stuff.

I don’t know, Alaska
Monday October 06th 2014, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

When my daughter moved to Alaska I wished I knew more about the place and my brother-in-law suggested I read James Michener’s “Alaska.”

Being sick is a good time to catch up on reading and I am finally plowing through it, even if it’s as endless as the coastline of that state. I like that at the front he has a list of, this is historical, this is fiction.

But man oh man he drives me crazy. Describing the Great Hunt that nearly exterminated the species, I want  to tell him, river otters wouldn’t have seven foot long pelts, dude, are you crazy? They’re cute little things. It would be quite a stretch for sea otters for that matter. If you didn’t ever go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, couldn’t you at least have cracked open an old-school encyclopedia? Then, oh oops, mid-chapter he switches the description of what they’re hunting to sea otter without mentioning it and river otters are never heard from again.

Wikipedia on Sea otters: here. 

And river otters: here.

History is his thing, and he does give a lot of it.

But Michener’s character development too has had me going Nah AH a few times and actually laughing out loud this evening. C’mon, how is this supposed to be believable? Sorry, but if a woman (an Aleut) was sold into slavery and then repeatedly (he describes it most delicately) gang-raped and beaten and later one of the thugs wants to marry her to keep him from being shipped to certain never-to-return well north of the Artic Circle, having her faint in ecstacy at the preaching of the Russian Orthodox priest, making it so she willingly saves her primary tormentor’s soul (after having gotten away from him for a good long time) by marrying him and entering a life of saved Christian bliss while with that conversion severing from her life the shaman who had been her life support through all her trials because he was of the wrong religion now–James, James, honey, it just ain’t happenin’ for me.

Haven’t gotten to the end of the chapter yet but she did turn her back on her people and did marry the evil man she’d so hated. I’m hoping for a better ending on that particular subplot.

But what Michener did do was make me want to go sort out more details on what actually did happen then between the Russians and the Aleuts and all the other countries that in the 1700s were trying to move in on the lucrative otter pelt trade while claiming territory.  Yes, the Russians did enslave and kill many of the Aleuts. Not just the animals.

Not only did they nearly exterminate a keystone species in the marine ecosphere, the author says that 70% of the otters the white man shot simply vanished down into the ocean before they could get to it, destroyed and gone.

Now that I believe.

We’re still working on recovering that species. We’ve got a ways to go. A bad die-off a few years ago made headlines when they said toxoplasmosis from house cats finding its way down to the coastline was the culprit, and they were working on it.

Well, that’s one for the history books.

Sunday October 05th 2014, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Knit

I snoozed through most of the first session. I tried.

I was feeling much better during the afternoon one and knitted through most of it–except for a few minutes there when the phone rang, checking first, and then the doorbell did. Glenn!

He was here for a business conference. He moved to New York City a few years ago and he wanted to stop by and say hi while he could. I waved through the window while Richard went outside to chat and to meet Glenn’s girlfriend; there was no way I was going to expose them to my germs. Sometimes it’s just not the day.

But at the end we did open the door between us, and standing well away from each other exchanged at least some actual greetings before they left.

And I…have run out of purple Malabrigo that’s wound up. I need to get up the oomph to wind the next ball tomorrow; today there was just no way.

Tomorrow I need to make the call to my GI doctor like the ER doctor had wanted me to do. This morning was worse, not better, and she made it clear that, even if I didn’t want to hear it, she thought the Crohn’s symptoms were actually caused by, y’know, my having Crohn’s. Flu does that.

Or maybe it will all clear up together. I’m hoping.