Happy New Year!
Monday December 31st 2007, 1:15 pm
Filed under: Life

I get to spare you the picture because there is none. At the time, it would have been, don’t you dare photograph this! Now, I kind of wish we had, because I assure you there will never be another chance.

For several years, I had my hair dyed professionally: I figured I knew nothing of what was inside those boxes at Target and I wasn’t going to be one of those people whose hair glowed a vivid purple halo in the sunlight–I was going to do it right. Someone had asked me if I was the mother of the bride when my oldest was 13 and I was 36. Yikes.

The stylist liked to play with my hair after she was done, just for fun. One time, it happened to be New Year’s Eve, and I mentioned we were going to a party that evening. Well, hey!

When she grabbed a can of hairspray, I wondered; earth mother is so much more my style, but whatever. I can be adventurous. She started combing my hair straight upwards, lacquering every little strand. She emptied the can, while I tried to breathe. She grabbed another, and I think she emptied that one, too.

I went from there to pick up my drycleaning to get the dress I was going to be wearing to the party. I’d been going to that drycleaner for years. The woman there stared at me as I walked in, and it took her a moment to realize that having her jaw hanging open probably wasn’t leaving the best impression. She thought to shut it. But her eyes couldn’t leave that space floating just above my head, and I felt them following me back out the door. I tried to think, don’t I look smashing?

I got home and went straight to the mirror. This was around the time when Trump was called The Donald by his first wife Ivana, and she had this huge bouffant hairdo. Which somehow was now sitting transplanted onto my head.

I declared to my husband, “Only the truly rich need to pay to look this bad.” With an eye on the time and the start of that party, I ran into the shower and scrubbed that hairspray out and turned back into plain Alison, the glass slippers kicked off and the pumpkin carriage collapsing in the compost bin. Before the clock struck midnight’s celebrations.

Inch by inch
Sunday December 30th 2007, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Knit

Row by row. Gonna make this garden grow. Gonna take the rake and hoe, sow the seed on fertile ground… Was that an Arlo Guthrie song? I heard it on a folk-rock album by I think Stan Rogers, back when CDs were a new technology and my kids were babies, and thinking at the time how it applied to every moment of being a mom to these brand-new people: I kind of made it my personal inner theme song for awhile there. Part of me wonders, if I sang it to them now, would it somehow feel familiar to them?

But it had receded ages since into the far-away background, and then I suddenly realized that’s what I was humming as I was looking at this wad of circular knitting. (A shawl. Whodathunkit.  Blue Moon Fiber Arts’ “Silkie” in Turquoise.)

Hmm. I held it stretched out, squinty-eyed. I weighed the ball and I don’t have enough to finish another half-repeat, it would have to be this long (however much that means once it’s blocked) or spend more money to make it longer. I need to rinse it still on the needles and lay it out to dry overnight to see; then I can cast it off. Or not.

It’s been sitting in my knitting bag the past couple of days. There was nowhere in the house to lay it out without someone tripping over it.shawl in a heap

We just put one kid on a plane, and his fiancee, who’d been staying with her grandparents and visiting them and us; they’ve arrived at the visit-both-sets-of-parents stage, and it’s her folks’ turn now. I can go spread my knitting out in his room. Part of me wants to say wryly, Oh joy–I’d far rather have my children around than their empty space.

Which is a good kind of problem to have, definitely.

Marshmallow toaster
Saturday December 29th 2007, 11:49 am
Filed under: Friends

Nancy’s husband made Grendl a cage, and she sent me a picture. It suddenly occurs to me as I write this, I still don’t know yet where to find the pattern. Grendl in his cage

Sue and our crew
Thursday December 27th 2007, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Life

Sue’s white amaryllisLast night, Kim, our daughter-in-law-to-be, flew into town, and today’s our son-in-law’s birthday, so we celebrated both by taking the whole crew out to dinner.

To the restaurant where Sue works. The Sue whose story leads off my “Wrapped in Comfort” book. And she was there.

Our kids were 11 and 32 months and turning five the first time we went there, with the youngest not yet on the way. Now the youngest is away for his two-year Mormon mission, the oldest two have found the loves of their lives, and we got to show off the three Sue knew then and what they have turned into over the years. And I got to thank her in person for her white amaryllis, which is still blooming three weeks later (I took this photo a few minutes ago), and tell her it has a third flower stalk coming up.

She came over, hugged me, and at one point told me a funny story about a onetime grumpy customer, and then went back over to a table she was serving–I thought about it… There was an older woman at a table near us who was looking fairly grumpy herself. She didn’t see me; there was no eye contact involved. I simply found myself saying a prayer for her, whoever she might be, as she and her family got up from their table, done. I was silently thinking, Lady, you have just had a fine meal and a dinner out with your loved ones, the day after Christmas. The peace of the season to you from my heart–God be with you. And I asked God to come.

To my delight I saw her turn back to the man I assume was her husband, her face and demeanor relaxing, and then she actually smiled! Success!

I love doing that. I love being unseen and quietly saying a prayer for someone. I love seeing them becoming more happy. It certainly doesn’t always work, but it does surprisingly often, and when it does, it is so wonderful. People don’t always have to actually see you smiling for you to offer them one of yours.

And then I turned my attention back to my own loved ones and enjoyed our fine evening together. And got one more hug from Sue before we headed out the door at the end.

World’s best Christmas present
Wednesday December 26th 2007, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Life

My in-laws’ gift to me was this brochure saying a sheep had been donated in my name to Heifer International. I am intensely grateful–I can’t possibly think of any material gift I could have enjoyed more, and Heifer International is one of the best charities out there in terms of using donated funds for the actual purposes the money is raised for.

Tracy Kidder’s book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains” about Paul Farmer, a Harvard doctor who set up a health clinic and school in Haiti, is part of why my in-laws’ choice is so meaningful to me. Farmer is the type of man who, at one point in the narrative, drives through a riot and pulls a man he watched being injured into his car to take him to his clinic for treatment, ignoring the thugs on both sides of the fight and both sides of the car. Someone is hurt. Not to help is unthinkable.

At one point in Farmer’s story, an armed soldier bursts into the compound he’d built, making threats and demanding, So what are you going to do about it?

And Farmer smiles gently and calmly answers, “Treat you and your family when you’re sick.”

That stops the soldier in his tracks. Totally disarms him. He leaves. No more soldiers come.

We can change the world by giving of who we are: Farmer is fortunate in that he can be there in a place like that in person, knowing he is making a difference.  (And he has the courage to do so, which I frankly do not.) For the rest of us, Heifer International is one of those entities that will do so for us. Thank you, Mom and DadH!

Heifer International and Paul Farmer in Haiti

There be dragons
Monday December 24th 2007, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Knit

How about naming it Grendl?

Where’s that little boy?  Is he here yet?Nancy finished this and had to show it off to another knitter before her small grandson opens his present tomorrow. What to wrap it in? Her husband had an idea, so he was spending part of today making it a cage. Of what, I’m not sure, maybe she’ll tell us in the comments.

I would pose Grendl here with the cookies Nancy baked us, but you can tell by that satisfied patting of his tummy that he already helped himself to them all. (Sorry, Santa; maybe Nancy can get him to toast some marshmallows for you.)

Nancy’s handknit dragonMerry Christmas and the peace of the season to all.

Great gifts
Sunday December 23rd 2007, 6:21 pm
Filed under: Life

Giving thanks…

Great Blue heron at the C&O CanalFor the memory of a Great Blue Heron lifting majestically into the air in slow motion, right in front of a friend of mine and I as we got out of the car at the C&O Canal; for parents who taught us a reverence for the natural world.

Bryan’s guitarbuildingFor the gift of having had parents who raised their children with a love of music, and the piano, flute, violin and guitar lessons by which we learned both how to produce our own music and the discipline from living through that long process.

For the light of the Love in the world.that all may see in their dark times

For the wonder that arrives with each new baby, God’s reminder to love wholeheartedly.Miriam D’s gift from her Israel trip

For family gathered around in celebration of what our own babies have grown into. (Awright you guys, who cut into the next row instead of taking the one on the end?)Michelle’s cinnamon rolls

Shopping frenzy
Friday December 21st 2007, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Life

This is for every harried parent of a small child, trying to survive the last-minute shopping thing:

I had four kids in just under six years, and I well remember what it was like when I had to drag them all out to some mundane thing such as grocery shopping or trying to keep them on their best behavior in, say, an interminable DMV line before online anything existed. Christmas shopping! I remember how quick other adults were to scowl at them and me. How much it meant to me when someone smiled: often, it would be a middle-aged woman, remembering the days. An actual compliment from a stranger could carry me for weeks.

That 40-something (I still get to say that) woman is me now. There are perks to this motherhood thing. I was in a big box retailer one time a few years ago, and coming out of checkout, there was a bench for customers and a young dad sitting on it.

He was holding his little girl with long black curls, who was maybe 16 months old? Old enough to walk, too young to really talk but old enough to understand enough to surprise her parents from time to time. Mine did.

She was at that stage of exhaustion where some kids get to, of flailing in a no-holds-barred screaming tantrum, arching her back hard to try to throw herself on the ground, knowing her daddy wouldn’t let her fall anyway and heedless of any consequences. She wanted her mommy and she wanted to go home and she wanted dinner and she wanted bed and she wanted it NOW.

Somehow, as I approached them, I managed to make eye contact with her. Focusing on her, totally ignoring her father. I think that part was crucial to what happened next–she noticed. Still, this was unusual: just like adults, when little ones are upset, they don’t want to look you in the eye. But something caught hers and she saw me as I slowed down, thinking, what an adorable child! I stopped just far enough away not to be too close, and affirmed happily to her, as if I’d just run into an old friend, “Yeah. I’ve had days like that.”

She stopped immediately. She looked at me, suddenly silent, eyes wide. I was smiling back. She eased down in slow motion into her daddy’s lap, put her thumb slowly up to her mouth, and looked up quite shyly at me but with a little smile now too. She was SO cute. My own smile got bigger.

And then it was her daddy’s turn; just before I left I gave him a quick glance, a smile and a nod. He was looking up at me, too, by then, with this, “Oh thank you. THANK you!” in his face. His daughter watched me leave the store, waving bye-bye just before I stepped outside out of their sight.

The whole scene took so few seconds out of my busy day to let happen. But I will never forget those two. They brought out the best in me, and I am grateful.

Knit like a pirate
Friday December 21st 2007, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Knit

and another of ChloeThe suitcase that put on someone else’s tag like a pair of sunglasses and went on vacation to LA to audition for the movies made it home with the audience giving it a standing ovation (ie, the kid got up out of bed at 7 am to answer the deliveryman.) The other kid changed his ticket and will be coming in tonight. Go Jetblue!

Last night I went to the last hour of knit night at Purlescence: my Sea Shanty poster from Chris Baldwin at http://littledee.net/ was just too perfectly Chloe, I had to go. I was one of the lucky people who ordered one the first day; they sold out pretty instantly. Pirates and knitting: what more could you ask for? (I forgot to take my camera, so I’m making do with two older pictures of her with her Kathy shawl.)Chloe in her Kathy shawl

Thursday December 20th 2007, 10:01 am
Filed under: Life

Let’s see how fast I can type before I give the computer over for the day to the kid with the take-home final.

I was going to take a photo for the blog of the suitcases lined up, and perhaps another as more get added in as my children arrive. Um, one problem with that idea: the suitcase didn’t come off the plane last night. Oops.

Before my younger daughter left for the airport yesterday, I described the captain I’d had and said, “If you get a chance, tell my pilot your mom said thank you,” and I described him. And thought afterwards, he will always be “my pilot” to me, whoever and wherever he is.

She got to the airport late, barely made the plane, the cockpit door was shut, and, as is more the norm these days, it stayed shut at the end. Ah, well; so. What was that about, Mom?

She had just flown on Jetblue. Flight 291. And tonight, so will my older son after he finishes his finals at BYU. So she was late and her suitcase didn’t get loaded on? It’ll probably come with his flight, since they only have one a day; I might get a crack at that photo after all.

But we got to come home last night from the airport with our child, and I have a heightened sense of appreciation for that small, everyday fact.

P.S. Update: Kristine had her baby! http://lilacknitting.blogspot.com/ to welcome Miss Lucy into the world–she’s beautiful!

And how about a little knitting content, while we’re at it
Wednesday December 19th 2007, 10:44 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

So. Handmaiden’s new Camelspin yarn, wherein my fingers thought they’d died and gone to heaven–till I went back to Purlescence and discovered Handmaiden’s cashmere yarn. There are many grades of cashmere out there in the world, some of them apologetically asking for quotation marks around the word, but this is right up there with Lisa Souza’s handspun. Wow.

Silk yarns have a tendency to collapse and go limp and long as you wear the thing; this is 70 silk/30 baby camel, and I wasn’t quite sure how it would behave. It’s the perfect kind of yarn for one of my circular shawls, which hang in such a way that they stay on the body effortlessly and the stitch patterns stay open and beautiful. But even if I’d been willing to spring for two skeins, there was only the one in the shop. I didn’t know, then, if this would pull into a hopelessly long scarf, or, if I stopped it now, it would be hopelessly too short to be worn as a shawl stretched open across the back. Width or length. Which is it gonna be.

Only one way to get a good idea: do what I’ve told countless newbie laceknitters on the knitting lists to do. Rinse it gently in tepid water and lay it out on an old white something or other overnight, still on the needles. Not a true blocking, but it does show how the pattern comes out.

And then take a bad picture of it that doesn’t show the colors well so that Camelspin in Vintage colorwaythe intended recipient won’t really quite see it before Christmas.

Stitch pattern: the instructions to the main body of the Michelle pattern in my book, plus one plain stitch each side. Fairly quick, very easy, 45 stitches, fingering weight, size 5.5 mm needles. Merry Christmas!

Making it official
Tuesday December 18th 2007, 4:28 pm
Filed under: Life

Eve the Grandcat
There’s a cliche that knitting blogs need a cat for a prop, and to help out, our daughter flew in last night with photos of our grandcats. Here’s Eve above, and Anya checking out the hot cocoa to make sure it’s warm enough to balance out the snow they had going on outside.Anya the Grandcat

Home soot home
Sunday December 16th 2007, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Life

The phone rang about a half hour ago, and my husband took off.

When my folks announced they were selling the house in Maryland they’d lived in for 45 years or so and moving to downtown Salt Lake City, my first reaction was, huh? But seeing their beautiful new home this past week, I could see how perfect a move it has been for them. And this is the view out their new windows (click on it for best effect). Very nice.Salt Lake City, Capitol Building

It surprised me that, although it snowed a bit I think every day we were there, it didn’t feel that much colder than here in California. I’m used to it being a bit chilly and wearing two layers of wool around the house, but then, we have big picture windows too, and cold winter fog rolling over our own mountains nearby.

Which means there is a family standing outside, shivering as the firemen have been doing their best.

Red Cross dispatcher, hoping one of the volunteers was available to respond, asking for Richard. House fire. Would he go?

From the warmth of our home, how could he not?

Jetblue take two
Saturday December 15th 2007, 3:04 pm
Filed under: Life

Going back a few days again. Thursday night, Mom and Dad dropped us off in front of the skycap at the airport and wished me happy birthday again (it was my 49th) and hugged us goodbye. The guy was weighing someone’s oversized skis, but he told us he couldn’t take our bags, we had to check those in inside. I guess because ours were the standard sizes? I didn’t hear why. Okay, whatever. He let me sit inside his little heated booth while we waited for a wheelchair for me: airports and I aren’t on walking terms. It was snowingly cold out there, and I was grateful for his kindness.

Then as we were gathering our things up and putting our shoes back on at security, my cousin Amy, whom I had not seen for seven years, happened to step into view right there right then, on her way to being picked up by her daughter. AMY! Hugs and thrills at seeing each other. Out of all the places in the whole airport, and perfect timing, too… Hey, Lisa Souza, I gave her the Pacific scarf I made whose picture you put on your lisaknit.com website–it was perfect for her.

And then, as we waited at our gate, the plane we were to get on in a moment landed, its passengers disembarked, and two friends of ours, Christina and Kathryn, stepped off it together. Quite the surprise and delight all around. It is so mindblowing and so wonderful when you run into someone you know while travelling: out of all the physical space in the whole planet they could be occupying, and there they and you somehow are. And to have it happen twice in a half hour!

Now, when you fly Jetblue, you pick your seats when you book the flight, and when I did, all the seats close to the front were taken, as were most of the rest. We were assigned to be over the wing. But you can change your booking to an open spot online anytime up to check-in, and I guess someone did, or else they cancelled their tickets, because when we checked in those bags inside as the skycap told us we had to, the clerk looked at Richard’s 6’8″ height and my wheelchair and asked if we would like to be moved up to row 3 where there was more legroom and it would be easier for me. Well *yeah*!

And so it was that we were not over the wing after all. And so it was that I was seated where I could see out. And so it was that I was seated on the side where I would see that second jet–and did. And so it was that the writer on that flight, at least the one I know about, wrote about what that pilot did, and, today, printed it out and mailed it to Jetblue customer service to honor a good man’s heroic actions, hoping they would pass it on to him. And acknowledged to him on the scene what he so much needed to have be said that night.

I don’t know who cancelled their 3 E and F seats, but whoever you are, my thanks to you, too.

Sometimes all you can do is stand back and be wowed by the careful choreography of a quiet God doing good in the background.

Friday December 14th 2007, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Knit

John reading the Christmas story in LukeWednesday we checked our son John into the Mormon Church’s Mission Training Center in Provo, Utah, the point of our trip. In three weeks, he will be off from there to the Jackson, Mississippi mission, including parts of Louisiana–ya’ll take good care of him for me if you see him riding by on his bike for me, willya; thanks. He’s such a good kid, and his mother is going to miss him fiercely.

Then later that afternoon we went to Heindselman’s, a Provo store that has spinning, weaving, and knitting and crocheting supplies. I was delighted to see Alpaca With A Twist’s baby alpaca roving, my favorite.

Heindselman’s in Provo, Utah

Heindselman’s, it turns out, is the oldest continuously-operating yarn store in the United States; it began in 1904Ted at Heindselman’s, with Elizabeth. The current owner (this is Ted, with Elizabeth in the background) created a biomedical invention that I’ll let him talk about, if he’d like to, that did very well, and then, since he could now go do anything he wanted, he chose to take on the old family business.

We got to meet Father Christmas http://deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,695235971,00.html when he happened to come into the store.

There were dolls just to the left of Ted in the picture that he explained are Heindselmans: it is not only the family name, but also the word for the characters in the old fairy tale about the poor shoemaker who could not possibly finish the fine shoes in time that had been ordered to be done by Christmas. They are the little elves that came out at night and worked on them for him, unbeknownst to him.

You know, I can’t think of a more apropos concept for those of the yarny persuasions this time of year. There’s a certain knitter in Toronto with a Schedule who could really use some of those dolls right now, but I didn’t think to ask if any of them were for sale. Sorry, Stephanie!