Hats off for a job well done
Thursday July 24th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Life
Finished the hats for my sister’s grandtwins and then her daughter-in-law posted pictures on Facebook of the babies wearing outfits she didn’t know would match the hats she doesn’t yet know about. Cool.
The manager called.
I was immediately impressed and could tell why he’s the one that got that job. He apologized, he took responsibility when I told him I hoped Corporate hadn’t come down hard on him when it was something he personally hadn’t done; he brushed that off with making it about me and about my being taken good care of. He was diplomatic towards the employees involved while still making it clear they were accountable for what they do on the job.
I told him they could maybe have been doing work I knew nothing about and couldn’t see.
He countered with making sure I knew his name, his assistant manager’s name, and to ask for them should there ever be a problem again. “You don’t need to stand in that line.”
I told him I’d almost plunked down on the floor at the end of it but for fear of being run over by a cart. I also said they were young and they had no life experience dealing with people who are different, and my case is pretty unique and I knew it.
They were to take care of their customers and if ever they don’t I was to come to him.
And that was clearly important to him personally. He took pride in his store running well for everybody, his customers and his employees both. I could not have asked for a better response. Oh, and re my wondering why on earth they would want hundreds of pounds of contaminated fruit brought back in there, exposing people needlessly?
“Bring the box. Just the box.”
Got it. I like it. The way it should be. Well done, sir.
(Side note: Wait. Having just written that last line–I always feel like I have to go back and explain to Californians just to make sure they know that that’s not snark, that calling someone sir is a mark of respect when you grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line like I did and he very much earned that respect. He was the perfect diplomat: very much in charge but also thoughtful of all others.)
But you look so well
Wednesday July 23rd 2014, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Food
I know how privileged my part of the world is that this is the kind of problem I have to deal with. You know how you’re supposed to keep it short and sweet? I didn’t, and maybe that’s why I got the response I did. My note to Costco:
Got the robocall (two, actually, one for each of the past two weeks’ worth of boxes, I assume): Listeria in my peaches. Dangerous for the immunocompromised, which I am; I have both systemic lupus and Crohn’s disease, two major autoimmune diseases.
One box had gone bad quickly and we’d tossed most of those peaches and bought a second box. The recycler took the first one away this morning.
So I took the newest one back to the (I named the specific) store. The fruit wasn’t ripe yet so the box was still full. Did a little bit of shopping first while it sat in my car and asked and was told that I had to have the peaches with me and I had to take them to the membership desk.
Okay, I was prepared for that.
So I put my new groceries in my car, grabbed the peaches and went back in. And that’s where it got interesting.
There were four people at the help desk. One was processing returns and that line went all the way to the front door. There was one customer, and then none, for the other three employees to process.
The employee at the door saw me trying to balance the heavy box in one hand since I have to use a cane for balance in the other hand and told me to go straight to the service side of that desk.
Where I was told I had to go back and wait in that long line.
I wasn’t trying to butt in front of everybody else, but I explained to the young woman (new employee? Didn’t recognize her) that I cannot stand still in one place for a long time: my blood pressure falls. If I’m moving around I’m okay (sitting, I’m fine, too, I’ll add here) but just standing in one place there? For the amount of time that would take? That line was not moving. I physically simply could not do it.
She was maybe too young to be able to figure out any workaround and shrugged and turned away and went back to chatting with her colleague. And that was more productive how? If two of those standing around had taken on doing returns and left the third to handle all others that might theoretically come for other problems it would have worked, both for me and for everybody else.
I stayed there a moment, silently pleading come on, guys, the fatigue in my arm getting to me, at which her colleague glanced my way and half-shrugged apologetically but did not help either.
So lots of people continued to stand in that line while three employees continued not to help them because they weren’t processing returns and the hypothetical Service questions were more important than the actual people needing them. And I took my box of peaches that could kill me if I touched them and left with them to try again later.
Except that I had come near closing time because that is when the potential UV exposure that would trigger a lupus flare would not be a problem standing at that membership desk. Coming at a less busy time of day with the bright sunlight streaming in could put me in the hospital.
I’ve been a weekly Costco shopper for years and have spoken highly of you again and again. I like that you treat your employees well.
But they need to treat the customers well too. My experience has been that you certainly do. But these guys blew it.
One other thing? If you have it in your records that I bought two boxes of the recalled peaches from you then your requiring that I prove that I bought those peaches from you by my physically bringing them in (too late on the first box now, folks, and now I know why so many of those peaches went bad so fast), can you see how that might not go over well? Why wouldn’t you simply refund the bills of everyone who bought them?
Thank you for hearing me out. If you are who pressured the fruit packer into doing the voluntary recall and cleaning their lines, thank you for that, too. But please? Could you take a moment to refund my account fer cryin’ out loud? I did everything I could tonight to try to comply. Thank you.
I hit send on this letter. The page I got in response was this:
Error:The web templates system was unable to process your request.
(Ed. to add, So, having saved it, I simply posted that letter above.)
(Edited again to add, Their produce guy told me that only people who actually bought the recalled ones got those robocalls. I got two calls. The UPC code on the second, since I could check that one, was a match.)
Barking up the wrong tree
Michelle told us she’s been baking ganache-filled cupcakes, and I can just picture the chocolate being folded into the flour mixture. Sing it with me: While my Guittard gently wheats…
George Harrison died not in London as I would have thought but in Los Angeles thirteen years ago, and it turns out a pine tree was planted in a park there in his name.
We’ve had drought across California, we’ve had heat, and in the end the city was sorry to have to notify Harrison’s widow as they took it down that it was gone, promising to plant a new tree to replace it.
It had been done in by the beetles.
Someone among the empty-nesters and retirees at church decided we all ought to get together and throw ourselves a mid-week pot-luck lunch just because. I didn’t know it was in the works till the invite arrived in the mail.
Hey, any reason to have a good time together is fine by me–I was looking forward to it. Hazelnut torte, anyone?
And then it turned out that one person whom I don’t know well very kindly offered to host it in her gloriously gardened back yard and to cook it all, too. She not only loves to cook, she’s actually a caterer and everything she does is exquisite. No protests about sharing the burden allowed, she was doing this was for fun. And no one would get stuck with vacuuming duty afterwards.
But when I found out the change in venue it meant I had to quietly say to the person who started all this that I wouldn’t be able to make it after all. I’m an indoor cat, shut the door. She was horrified at the exclusion but I said hey, if you don’t live with it you don’t think of it and that’s perfectly okay–it’s actually a compliment, it means they think of me as simply me, not as That Lupus Patient.
Now, I have no idea if anyone else in that group found out anything of that one-on-one conversation or if my situation (which I didn’t mention to anyone else) had anything to do with it. They didn’t say. But Sunday the husband of a third woman in that group tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a beautifully wrapped small gift. As I exclaimed in wonder and looked back at him questioningly–why?!–he simply told me it was from his wife and beat a hasty retreat.
It was a set of note cards that looked like beautiful quilts, so much so that I had to touch the one on top to make sure that it wasn’t actually a tiny one that maybe she had made? (She’s a quilter.) There was no note, no explanation. I was completely blown away.
And of course I used the first one to write her a thank you note. (And had to put off mailing it a day because I had to ask Richard when he got home from work if he had their address in his phone–”The white house on the corner of X and Y” probably wouldn’t have done it for the post office.)
It’ll get there.
And I strongly feel we should have everyone sign another for our catering friend.
Tonight I set the treadmill faster and went longer than usual, thinking a thank you towards all of you who prayed or Thought Good Thoughts my way after yesterday’s post.
Yesterday I’d set it to super-slow and still stopped it at two minutes when my blood pressure kept relentlessly dropping rather than picking up along with the pace. Air was feeling like a rare thing. Not comforting. I knew the drill from my tilt table test: down NOW and feet up. Breathe deep.
To explain: a dozen years ago, my lupus was attacking my autonomic nervous system the first and worst time with that test confirming it in the hospital, an alarm sounding, people running. My blood pressure was at 63/21, heart rate 44. They stopped it and pulled my feet in the air.
Today was so very much better. And I got to be super-grateful all over again.
My friend Karen at church had her sons and their wives in town for a family reunion and the cousins were all toddlers having a great time being cute together.
At one point at the end I saw a woman I didn’t know minding two little ones that I instantly pegged as Karen’s, clearly; the younger one in her lap wasn’t having a meltdown but he was definitely edging towards it: traveling, strange places, strange people, three hours of church, waiting for Daddy to stop talking to his old friends over there. Enough for one day! He threw his paper airplane down with all the energy he could crash-land it with.
The mom looked ready for a good dinner, too; I think it was more for her sake that I pulled out a finger puppet and asked her if he might like to have it.
It changed everything. Suddenly she had a friend to talk to. Someone who thought her kids were adorable. Seeing her. With no expectations nor requirements on her.
It was like the balloon had been increasingly under pressure and suddenly it popped and she could breathe. Her delight at that little bit of handknitting and the appreciation in her face made my day and we chatted like old friends catching up while her little boy explored that puppet with her.
And if she’d put her feet up on that couch right there in that hallway I would have cheered her on.
A beautiful summer day
Tag-teaming with the lupus today. I was expecting a friend over and I wanted to spruce up a bit.
Wait, wait, not so fast there.
Can I do this. Yes. Alright, then, dishes after breakfast, done.
Can I scrub that. Not without collapsing. Okay, then, that will have to stay imperfect–how do two adults with no little kids around anymore get a floor in need of being swept again two days after the last time? But mopping, not happening. How about this? Okay, then, laundry, mostly done. I rested and I made progress and at one point I put my feet up and cast on the next Colinette hat.
But rather than feeling growly or worried that things were flaring a little more than I’d like, I found myself mentally giving a brief nod at all the things that weren’t going wrong medically that had before and simply rejoicing at the great gift that it is to be alive. To be able to love. To have been raised by parents who love me, to have been able to turn around and give that to my children in turn, and best of all, to see the payoff in how very well my grandchildren are being parented, with much thanks to Kim’s parents and grandparents too.
Got to see some new pictures today of 15-month-old Hudson helping his cousin out by eating most of Hayes’s birthday cupcake for him. You want all that? Nah, it’s a little much, here, have some. Thanks! Um, wait, that was a lot.
Hayes. A year already! What an intense joy after all those prayers to see him growing and interacting and perfectly fine.
The friend’s day changed such that there was just no way she could make the long drive here and back up clear across San Francisco and beyond after all the traveling she’s been doing. She was so sorry.
I know fatigue. I would have loved to have seen her while she’s back in California, but I totally understood how it was, no problem. I’m just glad we got that close.
And as I knit I anticipated happy faces to come. It’s all good.
Embroidery and olivewood
Kaye at the shop put a bunch of hand-dyed Colinette yarns on the front table, marked way down.
Superwash merino? $2.25?! Seriously?
“I wanted to see what people would do with it.” It had been sitting in the back unnoticed for awhile but now everybody was going through it and stacks of skeins were going home.
Thus this hat, and as I finished up the simple pattern my brain had time to think of other hands around the world, busily creating…
All these years that I’ve bought those sweet little fingerpuppets knit in Peru by women able to put food on their tables for my purchases. All the small children and their tired parents here who have received one of those puppets, meltdowns diverted.
I was chatting with one of Sahar‘s American friends last night and asked her if she knew Truman Madsen, the late BYU professor who used to run tour groups in Israel in the summers. Turns out she had been in Israel just after he retired.
He was my mom’s cousin, I told her, and my folks went on the last tour he gave. He took Mom into a shop owned by Palestinian women selling their handicrafts (what town was that, Mom?) and Mom picked out a hand-embroidered apron (purple stitches, if I remember right) and then one for each of her daughters. I treasure mine.
Truman’s reaction was to exclaim that her mother had bought the same thing in the same shop!
I know there are talented women in the West Bank and Gaza and I wonder how much of a difference we could make by buying from them, whether we could help make their lives easier–I would certainly think so. (Typing that and going looking…) I found this and oh look! This!
It says their embroidery work is a connection to their mothers and their grandmothers.
As it is, now, to my own.
Five dollars for a small olivewood bowl made in Bethlehem from locally sourced wood, ten for a carved candlestick, beautiful. One to fourteen of those bowls is $30 shipping, the fifteenth kicks it up to $40.
I am suddenly wondering who around here would go in on an order with me.
And I wonder what it must be like to get a package to the postal service there. Any arriving order would surely have its own story to tell.
One of the most important talks I have ever heard in my life. I didn’t quite know what to expect going in but came away going, wow. I want to live up to what I just felt in that room.
I’m not sure I can do it justice, but let me try.
She was born in Jerusalem but is not allowed to live there now. She is Palestinian. She is Arab. She is Christian–and she is a Mormon. I had badly wanted to hear what she had to say, whatever it might be; how often do we get to hear firsthand the in-person experiences from that part of the world?
It was not a political talk, it was a human talk. She described a little of what it’s like to live where she does–and what it’s like to try to simply go to church. Church was too important to her not to go: church was where she held onto the Spirit of God, to help her follow the promptings of that Love beyond all human understanding. Her circumstances made it so very clear how badly that was needed in the world. “Both sides think the other is” she shook her head, “horrible. But we are *all* children of God.”
She’s the Primary president there, ie the one running the program for the little ones on up to age twelve.
There are four small congregations in Israel, and if you are Palestinian, she said there are people who live 15 minutes from one but they have to travel for two and a half, three hours to go to a much farther one, because to go to the one nearby requires going through a checkpoint and if you don’t have the paperwork that would allow it you simply can’t get there. And you might not be let through anyway. And that checkpoint would take two to three hours, always, as it is.
She told us this: “Picture someone most dear to you. Your spouse, your parent, your child. Someone you love more than anything.”
She let us consider that for a moment. And then she asked us to think of someone who had done something terrible to us, just egregious, someone we found hard to forgive. Then she asked us to picture those two people side by side and asked us, “Can you love them both equally?”
As that sank in, “God does.” And she put up a slide asking, Have you been
Seen someone killed in front of you.
Been shot at.
Had a relative tortured.
She told us, gesturing at those words, “I have.”
She told us what it’s like to be a Palestinian at a checkpoint subject to the whim of whoever was on duty at the time. She showed a picture of men lined up, heads down, hands against the wall, with an Israeli soldier armed and dangerous standing over them. They had simply been trying to go to work.
She was at that checkpoint to try to go to church. And it hit her that she could not live her religion and be angry at those soldiers; they were children of God just as much as everybody else on this planet. Love the sinners, all of them, we are all sinners, and she said it was not easy and it most certainly wasn’t instantaneous. It took a lot of prayer, constant prayer, over a long time, sometimes fasting to gain the strength she so much wanted to have.
And then the day simply, quietly, unexpectedly came. She had to go through that resented checkpoint as at so many other times. And yet. That day, she saw an Israeli soldier and found herself completely, utterly loving him as a son of our Heavenly Father, capable of such great goodness, the scene at hand utterly apart from what he truly meant to God. She saw the best in him and felt a love from God for his sake that transformed her.
And that is how she always wants to feel. It is so hard but it is so necessary not to lose sight of that.
She described the prayer of a four-year-old in that Primary: not asking for food, though Sahar knew their family did not have enough to eat, but for Him to watch over her mother.
We make peace one person and one interaction at a time. And that is no small thing.
Dry me a river
Malabrigo Rios* blankie before the blocking: it looks like the side view of the grater we used to get lemon zest for our clafoutis. Latest batch: fresh blueberry.
(Pro tip: if you use the springform pan out of sheer habit like I did, and you, um, don’t get the bottom snapped on quite right, a quick cookie sheet under there before putting it in the oven and then you’ll have a giant popover! And clafouti too! All of it good and you get to enjoy it sooner, too.
And…the blankie after the blocking. I love how it looks like fireflies coming out to play.
(*Rios means rivers in Spanish.)
Six weeks and I’m ready to be done and go dive into something far smaller and faster.
But first. I need to add a few rows of ribbing–and then this blankie is *done*.
I had ten 100g skeins of Malabrigo Rios (close to the Bobby Blue here in real life) and I could have made it tall enough for my 6’9″ son to curl over his feet and up to his chin as a good afghan should do–and Hudson’s going to be tall–but when I asked him if he wanted it adult size or baby he said baby.
Baby blankets always need to be at least 45″ square in my experience. I’m somewhere around there-ish, preblocking.
So what I decided to shoot for was this, since it wouldn’t be too big: my birthday knitted right into the thing. A little genealogy mystery for the future.
Now, it helps that for me the number of months and the number of days are only off by one number: so you have this many full repeats of diamonds and this-many-minus-one full repeats of diamonds framed by a half repeat at each end, since the diamonds alternate by half motifs. Go look at the pattern framing this blog to see what I mean–it’s that one, with yarnovers instead of the more-solid make-ones.
I like how lots of little diamonds together add up to bigger diamonds, individual within and yet solid and big all at once. Like families.
I know, it’s not very diamondy looking yet. Just wait till it hits the water tomorrow.
August, pried. (Milk jug offers perspective on size.) Animal-repellent cinnamon branch against the trunk, knocked way over thataway.
On the other hand, I really did want to plant a Loring peach but I just couldn’t justify having two trees producing the same kind of fruit in the same month.
It got so close. We now have two almost-ripe peaches inside on the counter next to Sunday’s tomato knockoffs. After taking out some smaller branches, the raccoon simply lopped off the top more-than-half of the entire tree by its weight, thus putting the August Pride back to about what it was when I planted it with about a third of the leaves it started the spring with.
That was a heck of a pruning job, Rocky.
Should have tracked down and bought some of those bird-netting tree-trunk-protection things I’ve seen a few times.
(p.s. But at least he left my tomatoes alone last night.)
This is the before picture from a few days ago. (There were a lot more tomatoes behind those leaves.)
I had the plants in pots on top of a small table. I taped many strips of mylar bird-be-gone tape to hang from the top of it and it seemed a really good idea; the squirrels raided the neighbors’ but left mine alone.
All it was missing last night, though, was the tablecloth to yank on. One good leap and the table tilted hard into the parched ground on the far side and every single pot came crashing down.
Presumably on the critter’s head.
With the actual tomatoes all apparently accounted for this morning as far as I could tell, clearly it didn’t get much for all that. Whether the plants will survive the abrupt depotting and smashing, one can only hope. They are definitely hanging loose.
Richard helped me separate and pick up so I could get back out of the sun faster–and he encouraged me, when I gouged myself on some rusty metal with dirt all over my hand, to go look up when my last tetanus shot was.
Scanning down the screen for the magic word… 2004. Oh. On the phone, the clinic told me not to risk a delay, so I went in after church (with mental apologies to them for my coming in on a Sunday. Everybody deserves a day off.)
The nurse was about to give me the shot when her computer beeped at her. She did a doubletake.
The tdap booster on my chart that I’d skimmed right past? 2010. That t was for tetanus. (Oh of course.) Dodged it this time.
We have a hummingbird-friendly people-unfriendly cactus-level-sharp-spined flowering don’t-know-what-it’s-called in our yard.
This evening I clipped a whole lot of those flowers, which are several feet long and spent and well past hummingbird prime, and poked the stems in towards the center of the table to do porcupine duty over my coveted heirlooms. Any raccoon jumping up now is going to get a snoutful.
I wonder how many broken pots we’ll have in the morning.
Had a must-take-it-easy day so I did. A random mention: my friend RobinM said something about cherry clafouti and I didn’t remember quite what that was and went on a hunt for a recipe and can now attest that this one is really good. (Um, and I changed it to half cream. Because someone had to use it up. And I used a lot less lemon zest because it was after the mega-dyeing thing and I was tired.)
But meantime, we loaned our Aquarium guest passes to our friends Phyl and Lee and they came back tonight with almond croissants from that Parker Lusseau bakery we’d tried to go to down there but that had been closed for the Fourth of July. So we finally got to try their famous pastries–they were worth the wait.
They got the last three almond ones so they added a plain, knowing I’d hoped for a bunch of extras for the freezer.
But the best part was having them over and listening to them talking about and showing photos not only of the Aquarium and Tahoe before that (Oh, we always see a bear *shrug* Wait, you *what?* Oh we always seem to camp next to someone who doesn’t follow the rules even with the thousand-dollar fine) but also of the hyperbaric chamber that as divers they had also wanted to go see, given that there was a tour today. Also in Monterey.
It’s for divers with the bends and for those with carbon monoxide poisoning–so you bet we were interested in what that thing looked like. I would have been airlifted to the one at Johns Hopkins years ago but for the fact that the chamber would have killed the baby I was pregnant with.
Phyl’s eyes got big when I mentioned that that’s when we found out there was no ambulance service back then in the town we lived in in New Hampshire, just a volunteer with a Suburu and hope. Gotta keep those taxes down. At the hospital, they tested our blood levels and then turned to Richard and exclaimed, You DROVE here?!
(Carbon monoxide alarms are a good idea, folks. And the law in California now.)
I said that chamber looked like a tube-shaped ambulance interior: a bed to each side, ready to go. They described how the thing actually works. They could put up to four in there.
Let’s not. Dive safely, guys.
Phyllis really liked the deep-sea Outer Banks exhibit and I wondered how often she’d seen a view quite like that from the inside.
And a good time was had by all.
At the okay, coral
Friday July 11th 2014, 11:11 pm
Filed under: To dye for
So I had this silk dress. Classic style. Got it online at a huge sale several years ago for all of I think ten bucks and hoped it wouldn’t be quite how it turned out that yes, it was. I almost liked the color enough. (The first photo totally nails it on my monitor.) It would have looked great on me when the chemo drug for Crohn’s was messing with my skin tone, but I’ve been off that med five years now.
And I just didn’t quite.
And now today, at last, I do.
I got my biggest dye pot out this afternoon and had the Jacquard simmering and stirring away a few minutes before I added the dress, no lumps of vermillion allowed.
And then I did something I would never do with, say, a merino sweater: I went at it with two for-dyeing-only wooden spoons close to nonstop the entire half hour it was on the stove, pushing, pulling, dunking, swirling, poking, stirring, making sure neither dress nor dye stood still at all. I tried lifting it out a few times to let any lines resettle (forget it, I’m not tall enough) and then swished around hard some more.
It came out with no streaks, no spots, no unevenness (that’s a camera artifact along the right)–it all took completely evenly. I am amazed at how thoroughly I lucked out. It’s not as pink as this photo says and the silk most definitely needs a good steam ironing to live up to itself again–but that’s all it needs.
Now, I know full well there are going to be some looking at the before and afters and thinking man, she sure got those backwards. But light orange with a hint of taupe vs a calm coral, for me it just totally validated that purchase at long last.
I’d always known I could change it if I didn’t love it. I just had to want to enough. Enough to risk making mistakes.
And even then, Jacquard is a reversible dye–you can boil most of it back out if it’s bad enough to want to.
Totally perfect. And even the not-silk stitching still looks good on it.
Thursday July 10th 2014, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Life
People here used to call northern California mellow. With a bit of a sense of superiority: we’re not crowded, we’re not Hollywood-shallow, we’re not into road rage. We don’t say the 101 or the 5 or the anything, the freeways are simply 101, 280, 580, etc, not titles nor entitled but simply an uncomplicated way to get from point a to point b.
A generation later the traffic is pretty intense in the Bay Area too and I haven’t heard anyone call this part of the state mellow in a long time.
I can’t begrudge other people moving here–after all, we did.
It was 7:30 and I was on my way to Purlescence. Past the one-time failed mall being taken apart, hundreds of trees down, the place raw and open, the rebuilding part not yet begun. Twenty-seven years of having that at the foot of the neighborhood and I’d never actually seen the sides of the place before but you sure can now.
I hit lots of green lights and things moved mostly steadily, rare at rush hour, to be rarer soon.
The moon was huge and full. Gentle light, unlike the painful intensity of the sun behind us, it was bright and white against the turquoise of the late sunlit summer sky, dancing a duet with the road, bouncing off the top of that pine, then that long tall redwood, always ahead and always on our side of the expressway. Those singing cartoons from my childhood with the bouncing ball jumping across the top of each word as it was sung so you could follow along (and maybe learn to read to the music)? Like that. And so big it took up a lot of the view.
I came to the major intersection where two different large roads feed in from the sides and type A drivers are always trying to elbow ahead, always, always pushing to get past all these countless others in the way of them and their dinner and wheredidallthesepeoplecomefrom.
They’d had to drive down ramps that had them facing into that moon, too.
This time there was a nod and an aye for an aye, tooth for a tooth, smooth unhampered zippering all the way, not a single slamming of the brakes just a steady flowing together in the moon’s river.
I could only wonder if anyone else noticed that it had made their cars behave so well.
Sometimes all we really need is a silent moment in the presence of Nature.