Candid Camera
Sunday January 31st 2010, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

On a lighter note: Friday, one of my husband’s co-workers saw my husband and stopped in his tracks in the hallway, incredulous, going, WHAT are you DOING?

Another colleague was working from home that day, and going past the guy’s office, Richard had noted the camera on top of the man’s computer there.

So on impulse he’d danced into the room, holding his fingers in the requisite rabbit-ear V’s, jumping up and down dancing and singing the little-kid song, “Little Bunny Foo-Foo, I don’t want to see you…”

The guy at home saw him, though. I imagine it’ll be one of those office stories they laugh over for years.

Brian would preach forgiveness
Saturday January 30th 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

The teachers and administrators did a marvelous job of teaching about upholding freedom of speech and of the values of America while teaching the children how to cope with being hated without a cause. I read today of another poster being held up by dozens at the high school: “There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and its endurance. Love will never come to an end.”

As for the protestors, telling–a child!–whom you know nothing about except that she lives in California that you are actively wishing for her violent death–that is absolutely, unless there is serious mental illness involved, the essence of evil.

Perhaps that explains it.

At Stanford, a bagpiper played an emotional “Amazing Grace.” Forgive.

Well done.  Brian Taylor would have forgiven them.  It certainly doesn’t come easy, it requires honest prayer for their souls and my own; I’m working on it.

Speaking of Brian.  His funeral was today. His uncle spoke of their worries and grief as his schizophrenia got rapidly worse–and yet he was everybody’s favorite patient, a sweet soul, so much so that a doctor who’d tried hard to save him flew from LA to be with the family today.

Last Saturday, the uncle’s daughter had woken up from a vivid dream of Brian coming for a visit, seeing her, being absolutely radiant and telling her with joy, “I’m all better now.”

There was so much love in that dream and the experience so intense that she told her father over breakfast and they rejoiced in it, hoping and praying it meant there had been some breakthrough with the medications at last.

And then the phone rang…

They will always have the memory of that sense of joy that came first.  The God of love granted them comfort to last a lifetime in the hours between Brian’s death and when they knew.

“There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and its endurance. Love will never come to an end.”

And the kids sang, “All you need is love.”
Friday January 29th 2010, 10:18 pm
Filed under: History,Life

Amazing.  It looks to me like they accomplished what the grief counselors tried to. The God who loves has the infinite wisdom to be able to make use of the worst that is in man as well as our best.

I wasn’t going to write about them.  Silence–the act of turning one’s back on them and walking away without a word–was the most they personally deserve.

But our children deserve more.  Our children deserve to know that the adults in their lives stood up for them, and so I add my voice here to the crowd.

There is a group whose name will not sully my blog who fancy themselves Christians.  They support themselves by screaming their hate, trying to provoke people into confrontations, hoping to be able to sue to make money.

As one reporter noted, zero degrees windchill factor in January where the group lives, or California sun, well, now, hey, let’s go on vacation.

So they came here. They filed a report with the police.  They intended to protest at our high school and then over at Stanford University’s Taube Hillel House: to wave placards and yell at our children at their school that they were all going to hell for being tolerant of Jews and gays, and that the loss of their friends at the railroad tracks was very much what they rightfully deserved by the wrath of God.

The high school immediately announced school would start late today. No child had to go through that. No child had to face pain deliberately inflicted by those who sought power over them in their most vulnerable and most painful moments.  They encouraged people to have the thugs speak to the wind alone.

Sage advice, that.

And yet.

Silence can also, at its worst, convey assent.  And that absolutely could not be.

Children from other schools came, even from as far away as the other side of the Bay.  Parents came. Teachers came.  Grandparents came.  Children of our own town came.  Signs were hoisted in peaceful counter-protest, with most folks staying on the high school’s side of the street, avoiding any possible charges of physicality with the haters (remember, assault means fear of being hit, battery, actually being hit; they could claim fear simply by someone coming close.)

On our side, placards read “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” “God loves everybody, even hatemongers.” And one sign later at Stanford asked, simply, “Got Love?”

Listen to one of the thugs’ ugly response:

“You’ll be in front of the train next! God laughs at your calamity!”

No, He doesn’t.  And you, ma’am, don’t know what any one of those children at that school believes–but if you notice, they were preaching and exemplifying the best Christian values to you.  Love. Tolerance. Understanding.  Again, “God loves everybody, even hatemongers.”

Who were facing them across the street.

Our students: “After all we’ve been through, it’s wrong for them to be here.”

“It really helped pull us together. There’s a real solidarity at our school.”

Our children saw human faces that were evil. That took satisfaction in their suffering and hoped there would be more.

Thank you dear God, I think our train tracks just got a lot safer.


Talk about kar-ma
Thursday January 28th 2010, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

For the first time in a long time, I got to the South Bay Knitters group tonight; we did the usual talking about our knitting and showing off and chatting…

…Sometimes, when you need a chance to laugh, one that comes with a serious oh-my-goodness wince will do.

Somehow the subject got onto stolen cars.  To my surprise, several people there had tales to tell.

And then one woman told her son’s story and totally took the prize.

Now, anybody who lived in this area during the Loma Prieta quake in ’89 remembers where they were, and the news stories and places have their own instantly-recognized buzzwords in the local culture.

Her son had gone with a few friends to watch the World Series–the one my dad was watching on TV, when all the sudden the camera did this weird shaky-shake as the announcer exclaimed, “Hey!  I think we’re having an earth!–” and the screen went blank.

Her son and friends were there at Candlestick Park, looking around to see if that was just the crowd somehow being that raucous in the stands? But no.  The place was ordered evacuated; there was no way to know how damaged the stadium might be, and no way no how were the teams going to continue playing baseball that night.

So they went to go pile in the Jeep and go home.

Only, it wasn’t there.

They called the cops and apologized, going, “I know, right now of all times, you have more important things you’re worrying about, but…”

Her kid got a call back some weeks later.  They’d found the car!

“But I don’t think you want it back.”

An intrigued, puzzled, “Where did you find it?”

“On the Cypress Structure.”

Thank you, Colette
Wednesday January 27th 2010, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

In the kitchen, I without thinking sang a snatch of a catchy little tune that my kids had learned in church when they were little that starts with “I love you, and you love me…”

And all the sudden my grown kids behind me were doing the little fishy-wiggle thing with their hands, being goofy, chiming in, “We go together like the fish in the sea,” and then putting their arms up to make a big smiley sun around their heads, doing the whole little-kid song-and-dance to it.

Which had been choreographed and taught them by Brian’s grandma.

And then we wiped a tear here and there, glad for how the silly song had made us laugh. “And that’s the way that it’s supposed to be!”

One by one
Tuesday January 26th 2010, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Friends

Marguerite put an arm around me tonight and reminded me that mourning doesn’t all come at once–and that therefore the knitting doesn’t all have to be finished at once, either.

Don’t ask me why, (the Brian we remember is in that link) but somehow I’d forgotten that.

One stitch, together with one stitch, then one more at a time, time after time, to hold them in love till the end of time.

And a little exercise helped too
Monday January 25th 2010, 11:52 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

I needed to immerse myself in work.  The house is cleaner now and guests were fed tonight, with Michelle and John preparing as much as I did. It did us all good.

I had two unfinished lace scarves, and considering the pair for several moments, I picked up the one that didn’t require much out of me; just a little more of my time. The one I’d thought I was going to finish Saturday night after Nina‘s birthday party, before we heard the news.

A little water and wire, now, to bring out the best in it so it can be ready to go forward wherever it may need to go.  Created with love, to be sent forward for peace.

Learning to breathe
Sunday January 24th 2010, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life

When I was diagnosed with lupus, my immediate reaction was, “What’s that?”

I joined the local support group to try to gain perspective from those who had already lived with this and who had experience dealing with it.  One of the things I heard there was story after story of the crazy things various members had done while whacked out on high-dose steroids: one woman described how she cringed at the thought of going back to her doctor’s office where she had shown up at an early hour in her bathrobe and slippers, pounding on the man’s door, screaming, completely paranoid and out of it.

Her doctor had shown up to work, come onto this scene, and told her worriedly, I think we need to decrease your dose. (Uh, yeah.)

And then she had had to live with that etched into the minds of all the onlookers who did not know that she was not, of herself, in any way like that and with her own vivid memory that she had, nevertheless, on those drugs, done that.

And so I utterly refused to take steroids.

Ten years later, I now had Crohn’s too.  I told my new gastroenterologist that I had always said I would never take prednisone unless it were a matter of life or death.  (I didn’t say out loud the feeling, and maybe even then… What if I did something totally crazy from the med and then died of the disease anyway? What memories would I leave my family then?)

But he knew.  Dr. R. held me steadily in his eyes and told me gently, “I think it’s time to give it a try.” And added, “I think you’ll be okay.”

In the moment he said that I felt that he was right. He was.

And that is how after all that anxiety and all that time, I at long last came to learn that my mental health stayed stable on those drugs.

But also that, as it turned out, I was the one-in-a-million autoimmune patient for whom they utterly did not work.

I know what the depth of pain is in being handed an incurable medical diagnosis that takes away every plan you ever had for your life.  (Give me sunlight! Give me the great outdoors!) But I was an adult, with enough experience to know I could adjust to the new situation and cope, and with four small children dependent on me to help keep me going.

And my brain was intact.

For me it was a choice and it was also pure good luck.

The homecoming prince. The good-looking guy. The nice kid. The big brother everybody looked up to and wanted to be around, who liked to laugh and who was so good with little kids.  Suddenly trying not only to cope with a major new diagnosis and with finding out that his entire future as he’d pictured it no longer existed, but now having no functioning mind with which to learn and adjust. He was out of it. He simply did not and physically could not comprehend.

At church today, people were searching for ways to rally around the family. I, for whom writing is like breathing, offered this: write down memories of our Brian.  The Eagle Scout. The ready helper.  That beautiful smile.  Remember out loud for his family the best of who he was and what he did. There would be so many stories; give them to his parents, his grandparents, his little brothers and sisters, his aunts and uncles and his cousins.

Tell the good.

Because that is who he truly was.

Saturday January 23rd 2010, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Friends

I’ve known him since he was a preschooler. He was a good kid.  He was a kind person.  I got to see his delight, in one memorable incident a year and a half ago, at his succeeding in totally making my day.

My two younger children heard the sirens last night.  It is so hard.

God understands.

(Ed. to add: Please do not say anything in the comments that might add to his mother’s pain. She is my friend.)

Canoe believe how much it’s raining?
Friday January 22nd 2010, 8:48 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Amaryllis,Life

The first amaryllis to rebloom despite last year’s definite and atypical lack of plant care, and a very bright spot in our weather.

I’d been needing to go to the post office all week, but the incessant storms were making it a nice time to sit down with a good knitting project in hand and my feet up–never mind the hearing aids, where getting wet or not is the $6400 question.

But the skies finally held their breath for a moment, Friday presented the gift of an arbitrary deadline, and at about 4:25, I finally kicked myself out the door.

Driving there, I was surprised at how high the water was in the Baylands.  It would be so easy right now to repeat the February day when my oldest was 16 and, as a certified Red Cross volunteer, had helped run the emergency shelter with my husband: a friend of mine was in there, having gone to bed the night before on one side of the room and having woken up to find her waterbed on the other side now, it having become, yay verily, a water bed.  Hovering near the ceiling.

I’d called my friend Lisa to let her know that folks had been evacuated from her old apartment building by boat.

There was also our friend Brad who’d wondered if the water might be coming up in the street and decided he’d better go open his front door to check–only to see his koi from his back yard right there, swimming past his feet.  So long, and thanks for all the fish.

It raiiiiiiiiiined as I drove.

I got in the post office with my hood over my head, got my four packages safely on their way, I got back to the car and on down the road.  There was traffic, a light, the freeway nearby that everybody seemed to be heading to or from–

–and then there was me.  On a quiet, narrow road.  Going past the side of the San Francisco Bay marshes, the sky thunderously dark in puffy soft clouds that made it hard to take the threat seriously, and right in front of them, suddenly, the sun! Bright, vividly shining as only the rain behind it in the late day can make it, with a strong rainbow arching across the water to land somewhere over…there, where, as I approached, a white egret, standing in the enlarged lake, had its head tucked down.

Hoping perhaps for an incoming koi for dessert.

Michelle shawl
Thursday January 21st 2010, 10:52 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

Gotta throw in a little knitting content every now and then. Here’s the Michelle shawl pattern in throw-over-the-shoulder mode, just rinsed and dried so far; it will hold those endpoints crisply once I give it a real blocking.  I did it in 800 g of sock yarn from  Creatively Dyed Yarns.  Started it last Thursday, finished it Tuesday.

Meantime, Knitpicks has “Wrapped in Comfort” on sale along with all their books; Amazon has upped the price; and Martingale, the publisher, is officially sold out.

So who’s afraid of a little filibuster?
Wednesday January 20th 2010, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Politics

My own grandmother, ratting someone out! Not that I want to give anyone ideas.

Note that Strom Thurmond is famous both for his record filibuster stalling the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and for how very wrong he was on that issue–he made it appear *more* wrong by what he did, by how he frustrated his country as well as his fellow senators, and he never got completely away from the image he gave himself by doing so.

Okay, now, a word on Massachusetts:  they elected a charismatic, good-looking guy who knows how to throw a zinger given a chance. Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts once famously said “All politics is local.” I would add, “and of the moment.”

So here we have that lost 60th vote–but it’s a Republican and he’s from Massachusetts, representing a whole lot of Democrats. He knows he has to keep them happy if he wants to keep that plum job.  He knows he has to work with the other party.  In today’s severely divided Congress, this is a good thing. He also happens to have been for the plan in Massachusetts that the one in Congress is trying to improve upon. (It ain’t perfect, but we gotta start somewhere.)

Back when I was in college, I was at my grandparents’ home and somehow a cousin asked Gram a question re their political life back in the day; usually, those got directed at Grampa. But he wasn’t in the room just then.

My very proper grandmother, whom I’d never heard speak an ill word towards nor about anybody in any way ever before that moment, looked suddenly like she’d kept this one to herself for far too many years. It was just too much. The truth had to be told.

The subject was that record filibuster.  Passing that Act was the right thing to do, but Thurmond was having none of it. As long as he stayed on that floor, reading the Washington DC phone book, or, famously, his grandmother’s biscuit recipe, then the floor was all his.

As long as he didn’t step away from it.

And what would limit that?

“Strom Thurmond had a catheter under his pants!” exclaimed Gram.

Twas a dark and stormy sight
Tuesday January 19th 2010, 6:20 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

We’ve got a ways to go before we hit forty days and forty nights, but the animals are starting to gather two by two. So here to distract while we await the flood of reports on the Massachusetts election results are:

1. Knitting needles a squirrel could approve of. Here, you, too, can go knit your own futon with those yarns you don’t know why on earth you ever bought.

2. The Ig Nobel Prizes:  recognition from the scientific community for experiments that should not be repeated.  Creating diamonds from Tequila? Wait.  Are Mormons allowed to wear those?

Bust a gut
Monday January 18th 2010, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Politics

(Typing fast, I’ve only got two minutes…)

Wha-a-a-t! That’s not supposed to…! I just put that in there!

Context:  Blue Cross helpfully said there were no deductibles on ileostomy supplies this year. Given our $10k deductible and a no-insurance catalog price of $995/month, that was a huge relief. They don’t tell you the fine points during the November enrollment period, nor do they answer the questions they don’t want you to know to ask.

So I was going, oh good.  And then they said that oh by the way that one month supply that just shipped, same monthly amount as ever, was, as of this year, to hold me for the quarter.  Wait, *what*!  Are you out of your MINDS?!

And today, how stunningly bad an idea that was was staring hard at me.

It’s okay. My doctor’s office is on it. (But why should they have to be?)

Michelle was sitting in a cozy spot on this cold, rainy day.  First time I ever saw a bluejay shaking itself off like a dog, or a very soaked squirrel, but I don’t think either would have cared for an offer of a hairdryer. Brrr.

Wrapped up in a blanket, hot mug of cocoa on the arm of the chair, laptop propped up on the other one, safe from all ills.  It cheered me up just to look at her.

I plunked down at her feet. “Can I growl?”

She looked at me. “Okay, you got one minute of whine.”

“Stupid bag burst.”

“Oh,” wincing.  She thought about it a moment.  Then she threw her arms out from under her blanket in a magnanimous, wide-open gesture, and granted me, “For that, you may have TWO minutes of whine!”

We both burst out laughing, and that was the end of that.  Hey, Michelle–you’re a good one.  Thank you.

(Massachusetts voters:  60.  It’s all in your hands tomorrow.)

His dream continues on
Sunday January 17th 2010, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

My parents grew up out West, courted at Wellesley and Boston University after WWII, and lived in Palo Alto, CA, the first year they were married.  So they simply had no personal experience to go on and weren’t expecting…

They were newly arrived in Washington, DC and some friends invited them to join them at the beach.  Now, the Atlantic Ocean is a goodly drive away from there, not someplace you just happen to drop by on a whim.

They got lost.

Mom tells the story that they pulled into where they thought they were supposed to be; they were wondering at first why every single person there was darker than they, when the next thing that happened was all those faces turning towards them: an unspoken, We’re not allowed on YOUR beach.  Do you think you’re welcome, then, on ours?

And that was their first experience with good old Southern segregation: wishing they could explain, No, no, we’re with you!

Her father’s proudest vote, looking back later on his Senate career and having crossed party lines to do so, was for the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1965.

Mom had a car full of young children and was driving in Glen Echo, Maryland the day after the King assassination, when a large protest suddenly became a riot, there was a rock incoming, and her windshield cracked.  I remember my parents in the evenings with the TV news on, being distraught, not at the windshield so much but at the loss of that good man.

Joan Baez was speaking locally today about her memories of marching with Martin Luther King, Jr.

I wanted to go.  Glenn and Johnna offered a ride with them, one less car circling for a spot, and what I wouldn’t have given to be able to hear Ms. Baez’s stories firsthand.  That was a part of my story, too, a part of every one of ours.  King belongs to all of us, and she knew him.

Truth be told, although it would never happen in the crush of the crowd, her celebrity, and everything else going on, one very small, far-too-self-important corner of me felt it would be so cool to be able to thank her in person for having granted me permission to mention her name, her singing, and her heartfelt hopes that she’d expressed at City Hall Plaza just after 9/11, the story that had launched my entire book project: I knew I had to get that message out into the world.  I couldn’t let that moment die away unwritten. It was what propelled the whole rest of that project into being.  I owe her much, on top of what we all so much owe King.

Even though my thanks could certainly only have been spoken today by my anonymous face being present in the crowd.  I mean, c’mon, get real.

Some days, however, you know that if you push a damaged body past its point on a bad day, you will pay far too steep a price.  I’m avoiding surgeons this year if I can help it.  I did not go.

Hey, I wonder if YouTube…! (A quick Google result…)

(Edited to add a link to these pictures of Joan to clarify any confusion, and I hadn’t realized the Merc had changed the photo in their article to that of a local judge.)