Re Merry Christmas
I saw a post that you always see about this time of year about putting the Merry Christmas back in Christmas and requiring it of others (think shopkeepers), not an insipid Happy Holidays, and, it was implied, not apologizing for one’s faith but standing up for it. Political correctness was a phrase presented and condemned.
I understand and agree with the need not to apologize for what you believe in. And if someone wants to say Merry Christmas in their store, I for one enjoy it.
And yet there is a greater context in how we address one another in the public sphere than any one person’s beliefs, and I can’t imagine telling someone they had to say such a thing to sustain their business.
My mother once offered a small gift to a neighbor in December. Our two families each had four daughters in corresponding ages and we kids were always in and out of each other’s houses. (Hey Mom! What’s for dinner? Oh–can I eat at the…?)
They would occasionally invite one of us to share their evening spin-the-dreidel games. This was very much their family time at a special time of year. To be included was a great honor.
Mom knocked on the door some day around then, that gift in her hand, offering her best wishes for a happy Hanukkah–and was surprised at how surprised and grateful the neighbor mom was: Mom was honoring her in her own tradition’s ways of choosing to seek God in our lives, not trying to impose her own. Words are small things but like every act of kindness, they are huge: she exclaimed to Mom, Happy Hanukkah? Everybody always said Merry Christmas to them!
Mom, stunned, But don’t they know you’re Jewish?! (Everybody in the neighborhood knew everybody in those days.)
Yes, they do.
Well then, but why??
I guess people would just assume they would get the cultural context of, simply, I’m wishing you all the best.
And yet, to actually convey that intent well would have been so easy to do. This family had lost members two decades earlier to the Holocaust, extinguished from life for the prejudices of others against their religion.
I type this having given away many a knitted finger puppet at any random time of the year with the phrase Merry Christmas (and a book a few days ago, for that matter) as a way of saying this is a gift from me–not a temporary offer; I’m not expecting it back. Remembering Mom’s story she told me a few years ago, I’ve been trying to have the phrase that automatically pops out of my mouth now be Happy Birthday instead. Same message conveyed: love is what is really being offered. Sometimes I get it right.
It stung Mom that others had not offered what she saw as basic, simple politeness to such good people so dear to her and her very willingness to be vulnerable to their unspoken pain created a tender, vulnerable, memorable moment she never forgot.
May there be peacemaking on earth, goodwill among all men; we are all His children and all who seek to do good are all His own.
Project #5 may be a reject. Let me think about it awhile.
Project #7 I think the end is going to get frogged and redone. It reminds me just a bit too much of back when I used to sew rather than knit for a few years out of my life and I wore out a seam ripper. (Didn’t know you could do that.) I want this one just right after all that work.
Project #9 is blocking.
Project #10 is 2/3 finished.
Project #11 is being avoided at all costs and I’m thinking of skipping straight to 12. Stop me if you catch me doing that.
This old house
A whole lot of living packed into one day. You see that picture? It did not rain today.
Diana was my excuse to make split pea soup, thick in veggies and ham and warm goodness for lunch on a bitterly cold day. She came by with her square and to get the scarf, since the two squares that were to come to her place didn’t arrive in the mail till after she got home so we couldn’t put all three on together after all. It’s okay, she’s got them now and is sending the scarf right out to the next group of knitters in the morning.
We had a great time. We hadn’t seen each other in far too long. We vowed not to let that kind of time lapse happen again. She raved over the soup, over walking into the house with the smell of it cooking, over sharing a good meal with us (Richard’s on vacation.) For me it was a rare treat too because I can only eat small quantities of it at a time; it’s not a low-fiber food, and to have her enjoy it so much and to get to enjoy her so much added so much to my day.
Then she had an appointment at 2:00 and I had one to go visit Don.
Don gives his thanks for all the well wishes sent his way. He loves to tell a good story as much as the next blogger and was a little discouraged that it made him breathless for a moment to talk very long. Been there… I understand…but he did manage to tell me more about his beloved late Amalie. I hope I didn’t stay too long, but we were both very glad I’d come. And I gotta tell you, he looked a whole lot more chipper than his roommate. He’s trying to get it set up so that he can read his email where he’s staying. He’s a trooper.
Coming home, cleaning up a bit, I went outside a moment to toss something in the recycling bin–and did a doubletake. Wait–when did it rain? I know water pools on the flat part of the roof, but. Richard? Did a pipe burst? (It was 29, five degrees warmer than Anchorage, Alaska and on its way down when we went to bed last night. And yet we forgot to leave the kitchen tap dripping. You always, always…)
He groaned. He got up and went out there (brrr) and looked–and came back in and said, Call a plumber. Try Joe and see if he does that kind of work, but, call a plumber.
And of course it was 5:04, ie officially after hours now but oh well. We had a full-blown waterfall at the downspout.
Joe didn’t pick up right away, the next guy was swamped, the next guy was, too–but he threw me for a millisecond by saying something about our solar re those pipes.
I was delighted, and then so was he. This was a guy who came out for a job for me maybe as long as two years ago, where his equipment wasn’t quite long enough to help me so he refused to charge me for coming out. Even though he’d given me valuable, helpful information along the way. So I knitted a hat and mailed it off to the address I found for his business. He chuckled when I exclaimed that he remembered us just from seeing our phone number show up!? Cool.
And finally we got someone we’d never hired before but who–give him a minute to call right back–yes, he could come right out. (I could just picture him explaining to his kids that it would be bonus Christmas money if they didn’t mind his being late for dinner, and people needed his help.)
Very nice guy, very thorough as he checked for possible second leaks in the dark and the wet and the cold with his headlamp and flashlight. He mentioned that the people who had installed the water lines (this would be the same ones as did the heating work Joe just replaced) had not done a good job of it.
Were we surprised? Still, though, we’re the ones who forgot to let the tap drip during the freeze, so, hey.
And then I went off to Purlescence. Where I got to meet Carrie of Alpenglow Yarn, owner of a small mill. I loved that her Big Fat ball bands tell you the names of the individual alpacas, and Paul Cezanne and Mozart? My dad’s influence and my mom’s. Perfect.
And. Always another and. I finally remembered to run in the ends and drop off the long-awaiting hat at the Halos of Hope box for chemo caps for those in underserved areas. The yarn had come from a swap at the shop: freely given, freely given back.
The funky design? I could just picture a newly bald someone missing the familiar feel of the bounce of her ponytail at the back of her head, so I braided the last of the yarn in the ball, braided the braids, and ran the ends in by sewing the braids together for good measure.
Cezanne and Mozart will help me knit another soft warm hat.
I think, hopefully, tomorrow will be a day for simply putting my feet up, sitting still, eating a bit of leftover soup, catching my breath, needing no contractors however nice people they may be…and knitting. Got that big deadline coming up, y’know? *collapse*
Noticed at the right time of day at the right time of year for the sun to be angled like that, caught at just the moment: our own personal flying saucer. Beam me up!
Meantime, the next scarf photo went out amongst us at three squares long today.
I spent a wonderful time this afternoon in San Mateo with Beth, a semi-local knitter I hadn’t met before. We started at Nine Rubies and went on to coffee and hot chocolate at Starbucks, talking like old friends catching up.
Her square makes my unruly one behave–Afton’s is on the other side and mine is surrounded now, it had no choice but to settle down. What amazes me is that three people apart from each other can each make a small piece of knitting come out exactly the same size as the others’. Heck, I can’t even make my own knitting do that, but we did.
Tomorrow I see Diana and we’ll get her square sewn on and hopefully Sharon’s and Sally’s will have arrived at her place by then and go on, too. Diana and I have wanted to get together for some time now, and now we will. I can’t wait.
And I will go see Don. He said not to come today but do come Thursday. I will be there and be squared.
Eight projects done, four (minimum) to go, two birthdays before Christmas and we’re not talking about mine.
Yes that did say seven done when I first typed it.
Back to work.
A bunch of squares
It’s not my fault. Afton started it.
An online longtime mutual knitting friend of ours has been fighting all kinds of things, starting with cancer, and so Afton thought up the idea that we could knit her a scarf: she was knitting the first square and mailing it to me, I could send it on to the next person, and suddenly we had seventeen people signed up from all over the country and I think beyond. And then I think a few more chimed in. Cheering on commenced.
Having been the recipient of so much such knitting when I was the one in the hospital five years ago, it is deeply gratifying to see the responses–and to get to be a part of it.
Afghans take a lot of time to come together and we wanted as immediate a gratification as we could pull off and something that wouldn’t seem overwhelming against anybody’s holiday knitting queue.
I was waiting for the package to arrive so I could make my piece match Afton’s, but the mail didn’t get delivered when it was promised her it would and I had the weekend to wish not to add to the delay. So I simply sat down and made mine and waited. The headlights on the postal truck finally showed just before six this evening.
My first thought, opening up the envelope was, well, you can tell which one of us lives in a warm climate: mine is merino and silk in a yarn that was a surprise gift from another member of the same group so it seemed perfect when I picked it out, but I have to admit I’d simply forgotten about actually cold weather; a little thinner, a little lace, a little Californian. Hers is good and solid and warm. And soft.
It’ll be fascinating to see how the whole thing looks in the end. Everybody please take a picture as it goes out your door to show once this is all done and in the recipient’s hands.
I have one cowl that I actually knitted for me, and as I put it on this morning I remembered her.
I had knitted it nice and dense and warm and soft to wear against the unaccustomed cold of snow and high elevations as we buried my mother-in-law in the Rocky Mountains ten months ago, a heathered dark charcoal for the occasion.
When I go off to church wearing one of my handknits, I like to prepare myself to be willing to give away whatever it might be in the service of anyone who might be in need of it, right then, on the spot. You never know. Sometimes you get a chance to come back later with something knit just for that person you found or found something new about; sometimes you only get the one chance, and when the reason to give is that strong, I have never regretted it. It’s always been the right thing to do. I’m a knitter, I can make more, but I can’t make more moments. They come singly.
Wait–I like that last word with it. It fits both ways.
So it was with a little bit of hesitation that I reached for that cowl this morning. Nobody who would be there would remember my mother-in-law by it, but the reach of my knowledge is so failingly human. I put it in the hands of the Father.
But it was okay to just go ahead and wear it. And so I did, all through church and back home again.
And I thought of my mother-in-law again as I safely tucked it back away after we walked in the door.
Love one another
Sunday December 01st 2013, 12:05 am
Filed under: Friends
(The photo: I went outside to check on things for the first time all week and lo and behold, there was a tomato (!) growing, and when I looked at the photo, no, actually, if you click on the picture you can see there are two. Now? Kinda slow on the bloom-where-you-are-planted thing, since that triples the year’s crop from that thing, but hey, delightful to find them.)
Today was Small Business Day with an AmEx promotion going on and somehow it felt like Cottage Yarns was where I needed to go, dear to my heart as Purlescence is.
It doesn’t hurt that Kathryn stocks a whole lot of Malabrigo and I now knew what I could do with a single skein of the lovely superfine Finito. But whatever. It was just compelling to go.
The rest of that story would be hers to tell, but I’m glad I was there and I hope I did a good enough job of being a friend in the moment.
And I came home grateful for the good health of my parents. Love your dear ones. And Don, you take good care of yourself, y’hear?
Saturday November 30th 2013, 12:21 am
Filed under: Food
My friend Phyllis and I went off to the Harvest Festival arts and crafts fair today, as close to Black Friday-ing as I ever care to get. We got to see Mel and Kris! Our potter friends!
I figured I could justify buying a few food items (and a Mel-and-Kris mug. Hey.)
Yesterday, the turkey was carved in Aunt Mary Lynn’s kitchen and the bones went straight into the fridge, to be sent home with us. No way was I staying up till 2 am to cook them down, so, I did it when I got home from the fair.
I tried a little in a spoonful this evening, curious.
Then a fair bit more in a quarter cup.
And a few more times, and had to stop and put both in the fridge so there’d be some for anybody else.
For the record: fresh turkey broth mixed with grenadine syrup from the owners of the pomegranite trees? Watch out, cranberries, this totally beats you. skylakeranch.com and the shipping is free this weekend only. The syrup does not have and does not need added sugar. Wow. Recommended. Go have fun.
(Edited to add: the label on mine says pomegranite juice, water, lemon juice. The description online says pomegranite juice, water, sugar, lemon juice. Curious. If it’s an issue for you, ask them.)
Up near the top of the fog
Just before we left I saw a big swoop of striped tail and I scooted down on the floor so I could see high up into the olive tree. I get to see him! On Thanksgiving! thought I. How cool is that! I made sure to blink big blinks so I wouldn’t look like I was challenging him nor a predator, y’know, basic social graces from a raptor’s point of view.
The hawk was totally cool with that. Coopernicus relaxed, preened, wagged his tail a bit as he settled in comfortably, raised a foot to rest a moment, and basically said hello. Blessings of the day to you.
A few minutes later he was on his way and then so were we, to where towering redwood trunks surround all.
The little up and down and up again dip in the road where the Loma Prieta quake broke it all those years ago. Incoming, it seems like we always reminisce a moment about back then before we continue beyond.
Aunt and uncle, our niece and nephew, us, four grown cousins who grew up in that house with three spouses now and five little kids–seven when the last showed up after spending dinner with their other set of grandparents: helping, laughing, stirring, cooking, laughing, wiping, scrubbing, laughing, serving, eating, laughing, washing, playing, the little fireball of a toddler in pigtails happily demanding “Chase me!” and her ten-days-older much more reserved cousin who looked at me with big eyes when I said his name: how did *I* know what it was? They were both a month younger than our Parker, and I hugged the bright red stuffed toy we knew well and then gave it back to the chasee, not quite three, who was delighted that her beloved Elmo got attention too.
The eight-year-old, big sister to the reserved little boy, was herself a fairly quiet one, but she smiled and looked in my eyes and quietly took in the measure of me and found me good when she found there was a chocolate cake made in her name and safely within the range of her allergies: the shared blessing of perfectly normal treats. Her aunt made dairy- and egg-free rolls, too, and the blessing of not being singled out, just, pass the rolls please? Would you like some homemade nutella on that? (Nobody did, I don’t think–not spread on anything, just simple spoonfuls sampled serenely, that they definitely did.)
And a good time was had by all.
We know how lucky we are.
And we are very grateful.
Wednesday November 27th 2013, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Family
We do the chocolate.
Homemade nutella recipe here, the best one I’ve found so far: http://www.browneyedbaker.com/2013/02/21/homemade-nutella-recipe/print/
Chocolate torte recipe, my own, as always, here: http://spindyeknit.com/2010/03/may-the-fourth-be-with-you/
Cranberry sauce recipe: one cup sugar one cup water one 12 oz cranberries (or a whole pound if your bag is that size–hey, who’s counting), bring all to a boil and then simmer for a minute. The more skins that pop, the smoother the sauce it’ll make. Thickens as it cools.
Annnd… I checked with Aunt Mary Lynn while the tortes were in the oven, just to, y’know, verify she wanted one this year like every year.
She has an eight-year-old granddaughter coming who’s allergic to dairy and eggs. Did I have a no-eggs version?
Can she eat coconut? I asked; I can look, and I could make a ganache with coconut cream for hers.
Yes! That sounds wonderful!
And so, chocolate Depression Cake, and I remember the name and history from my 1952 Betty Crocker cookbook, created when butter and eggs were hard to come by when my parents were kids. Vinegar and soda to make it rise. Recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe-Tools/Print/Recipe.aspx?recipeID=18061&origin=detail&servings=8&metric=false I skipped the chocolate chips for fear of milk contamination but I’ll make up for it with that glorious topping.
The tortes are cool, the cake close to it, the nutella’s in the fridge and the cranberry sauce on the stove just got turned off. Ganache batches next.
I think I’ll sit down a moment.
But I can just picture a little girl, old enough to really enjoy chocolate and to have already been excluded from participating in a whole lot of food-related events, with a glorious chocolate cake made just for her and just as good as anybody else’s. I’m really looking forward to that.
Wishing everybody a very happy Thanksgiving.
They’ll start at the same point
Wednesday November 27th 2013, 12:19 am
Filed under: Friends
Got a few left still…
I got a note from an old friend Saturday. Her twins wanted to learn how to knit. They had an adopted-grandma of a favorite neighbor who had offered to teach them, but my friend’s husband had recently been laid off and they were not spending an extra dime just now (I could relate); might I have any unloved, unwanted yarn? Or even needles?
I just might. Actually, not a whole lot of worsted weight, but some, definitely, and I went looking for it. While remembering the two big boxes I had sent off to a girls’ camp a few summers ago where quite a few young women learned how to knit, loving the wool and the mohair they got to play with. (One way to happily clear out that ’80′s not-kid mohair. They couldn’t believe I sent the real stuff. Everybody won.)
I used to knit only with straight needles.
There was the time I accidentally dropped one of those on a plane as it was ascending: it immediately rolled far, far behind my seat, somehow dodging feet and floor luggage and was never seen again. Oops.
I have this old ceramic spaghetti canister, a Costco freebie from about 15 years ago, its lid broken* and so repurposed as a container for old mostly-aluminum straights that have long gone unused–except for that big aqua one. It’s good for slicing open the wrapping on the suet birdfood from a distance without touching the eyeball-burner chili oil waiting to pounce from within.
Circular needles are good for putting the weight of the work in your lap as you progress rather than having to hold up everything with your arm and hand muscles. Straights are good for learning on.
And so I found three pairs of 5 to 5.5mm (US 8 and 9) in the canister.
And all of them insisted on coming out. And all refused to go back in.
Well huh. Well, maybe one of the twins will like the plastic ones better than the feel of the aluminums.
It wasn’t till I went to deliver two big ziploc bags of yarn, mostly worsted wool, all natural fibers, that I saw the reaction of not just the twins but their older sister. The younger girls are turning eight very soon and the older is in her early teens, the age where you can’t show enthusiasm, especially if it’s something your mom or baby sisters are interested in.
But I knew in that moment, looking at those older eyes fixed on those goodies, that clearly what we had here were three wanna-be knitters in front of me. Even if one of them hadn’t thought she would be.
And there were three pairs of needles. I had not even thought of her in terms of the knitting lessons. Well there you go.
I’ll let them work it out from here.
*When it sailed through the air and then shattered into lots of little pieces, was it being the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
The knit before Christmas
I’ll blog when I get to the end of this row…
No, this one…
Well, maybe this one…
Whizzed right on by that one, too…
When you’re knitting in the round, marked or no, there’s never really quite an end to the row.
(And: The Batkid story from the Penguin’s point of view. Wholly secret-good-guy, Batman!)
I gained a greater appreciation for the phrase “it dawned on me,” after I woke up with the light this morning with the clarity of the thought.
That there is even more to the story of the bank teller.
In September I had together in front of me three checks as I filled out the deposit slip to take to that credit union. Two small, one big, this amount, this amount, and this amount, all nicely tallied and ready to just hand over, done. I delivered these in person.
I didn’t notice for days that my deposit receipt had not included just over a thousand dollars in the expected total–and in disbelief, I went looking everywhere, checking various places and accounts, and found that somehow I had dropped that one big check on the desk and it had been left home; there it was. All innocent-like. I was mystified as to how that could have happened and just kicked myself for not noticing that the one at the bottom of the pile had been left behind.
But I was coming down with the flu by that point and a second trip over there wasn’t happening. I could tell you stories on our mail service, but that alone tells you all you need to hear about that.
Family came from out of town, airline tickets already paid for, staying at our aunt’s because I was still sick. (And surely the added carbon monoxide from turning up the heat while I was didn’t help–this was before the space heaters. I’m so glad the in-laws didn’t stay here, now that we know.)
During those weeks, at some point the thing got moved to a safe place so I could get to it when I got better and of course it became instantly lost.
It plainly needed to be here–the big check, specifically–till that new teller got that job so that I would have sufficient incentive to drive over there again for just the one and so would go have that conversation. And perhaps so that she herself would by that point have the information she needed on her friend to do what she needed to do with what she learned from me.
It was never all about the money. But there was no way to know that till later. And with my visual memory damage that I know that I have and know that I have to work around, I almost missed seeing the hugeness of the blessing and how it came to be, in my ordinary frustration with my own shortcomings.
There she is!
Saturday November 23rd 2013, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Friends
It was the Saturday before Thanksgiving at Costco, oh joy; we didn’t head out till late afternoon (and got what seemed to be the last gallon of orange juice.)
Wheeling the cart together halfway across the parking lot, lucky to have gotten that close in, I noted a car way ahead waiting for a spot and another, a few car lengths behind us, slowly inching forward, hoping the people loading up just past us were going to get done quickly. Getting late, still crowded.
I did a doubletake and called out the driver’s name. She startled and then exclaimed in delight from the other side of her window. Our kids had gone to school together back in the day.
I’d tried to connect with her this past May and found she was in the hospital, having major surgery not far from what mine had been like. I didn’t want to take her my germs and didn’t get to visit her and I’ve quite regretted that it was so; she, after all, had visited me when I was going through that, to my great surprise.
And here she was, in person, right here, braving that Costco parking lot, living the wonderfully ordinary again. SO good to see her!
In a red van. Like Don’s. Hey, Don, your turn next.