Sunday February 27th 2011, 6:55 pm
Filed under: Family
A comment by a young mom at church today prompts this post.
Year: 1984, Baby #2. Scene: Toddler #1, a beautiful angel of a child up till then, had becomeÂ the instant proverbial Two Year Old (TM) now that she had competition for my attention. These screaming fists-pounding-the-floor temper tantrums? Where on earth had they come from? And of course when she cried the baby cried in sympathy and pretty quickly we were all miserable while I tried to reason with her, hug her, scold her, time her out, anything, please make something work.
I heard from one mom much later that what she had done was to get down on the floor alongside her little kid and throw a no-holds-barred tantrum act herself, fists and feet flailing, making her kid stop and look at her like, Are you crazy? Why are you making this scene? In public!
But that was years in the future.
In tired new-mother desperation one day, I called my Mom.
Mom said, Offer to pour a glass of cold water on her head.
Me: Say what?
Mom: Offer to pour cold water on her head. A little cold water does wonders on tantrums. Trust me.
Note that she didn’t say to just pour it, she said to make it the child’s decision.
So then I was just waiting for my chance, curious to try it, and hoped it would come at a time at home where I had instant access to the tap. It was. She did.
I smiled sweetly, totally knowing I could do this, and in my best loving-Mom voice asked, Sam? Would you like me to pour some cold water on your head?
Given who the clean-up crew would have been on that one, thanks, we’ll let that suggestion pass, and I quickly half-filled a cup at the sink. She screamed away and I poured out just a few drops into the top of her blonde curls–just enough to get her attention.
Instant end of tantrum while she assessed this new outcome. (Me: Wow! Magic!)
The next time she threw a major tantrum we were again, thankfully, at home, and I smiled and happily reiterated the offer.
End of screaming fit. Like flipping a switch.
After that I only had to offer I think once more ever.
She learned at the ripe old age of 27 months that she didn’t have to be controlled by rage but could stop. That she could respond instead to my being loving to her. It required I be at my best for it to work, and I wasn’t going to risk losing a foolproof method by fooling with it with a bad mood, but it let her be her best, too.
And I felt like the best Mom ever.
So, with a thousand thanks to my Mom and her wisdom, I pass the idea along.
They had given it a 50% chance of snow for yesterday or today, the last snow here having been in the mid ’70′s. My kids were disbelieving; I was hoping; my very old snow shovel that, it turned out, was not good for digging to China, was waiting with dilapidation; it didn’t happen. (Yet.) Unless you were several hours south of here at the beach.
And in that toasty weather, Clara, the celebrated City Hall peregrine falcon, laid her first red egg yesterday; every single year that first has come earlier than the previous year’s. Eggs, then white fluffballs, then baby birds with enormous feet, hanging over the 18th floor ledge waving a wing at the gawkers, and–okay, I won’t make them grow up too fast. 240 mph is going to be fast enough.
My resident Cooper’s hawk chased a dove and away.
I saw another Cooper’s standing on a light pole near downtown yesterday andÂ wondered if it’s one of our previous year’s hatchlings. All these magnificent big birds that had all but vanished when I was a kid: and they are back.
At least one of my Bewick’s wrens has her belly full and low and she seems hungrier than usual. Sweet gherkins or sour for you, m’dear?
And with my white wool of a previous Spring now blue yarn and put to needle, a few more stitches wrap happily around my life.
Unlocking the door
(With proud new-grandparent pictures and captions thrown in, of course.)
My last semester of high school way back when, I took an after-school class in downtown DC, way down there from where I lived in Maryland: it was held in a rehabbed rowhouse near the Duke Ellington Bridge.Â Down Connecticut Avenue, for those who know the city. It was a lipreading class for those with new hearing losses and that’s where the agency that ran it happened to be.
It let out at ten to four, because at four, all the one-way streets turned one-way the other way. Connecticut had a chicken lane, a fast lane down the center that changed direction then, too, bouncing up and down over hills that hid daredevil oncomings from each other in heavy traffic. Not for me thankyouverymuch. The Founding Fathers forgot to put in freeways.
It also means the one time I got out late I had no idea how on earth to find my way out of the side street maze to get home. The neighborhood looked nice enough on the surface, but I learned that day why you had to stand in front of the steel-barred doorway every time and verify that you were you before they would buzz you in.
We now have 222 hats’ worth of knitters who have picked up their yarn to say no to the anger driving too much of our public discourse down the chicken lane. To urge yes to civility and respect to those in the public sphere.Â Hear us.
I called ahead first today to tell them who I was, what I was doing, and why I was coming. And was that okay?
The guy sounded surprised, and then charmed.
Then I drove to the office of my House Representative, Anna Eshoo, to offer up my letter about Warm Hats Not Hot Heads along with the red royal baby alpaca hat I’d made her.
I recognized his voice as he answered the door and unlocked it from the inside and let me in.Â But oh, it so brought back those memories–and in such a different time and place.Â It tugged fiercely at me that they would need to do that. But they do.
He invited me further in and I could see someone else at work as I stood there, unsealed manila envelope in hand. Both of them had the biggest smiles on already.
Then I showed the two men the pink and periwinkle hats tucked away in my purse as backups and wondered out loud what colors Ms. Eshoo likes, what colors they might have seen her wearing so that I could give her whichever one she would like best. I’d made the red one for her, but it was more important that she be happy with it.
Ask guys about colors and what do they do? They run for the woman in the office.
Who stepped from around the corner and she was beaming too. She looked at the red and went, Oh, that’s beautiful! And so soft… And pronounced that if that was the one that I’d made specifically for Ms. Eshoo then of course that was the one she should have, and she pronounced it perfect. We talked a little about the hats for Congress idea and they thought it was really cool that knitters would do that.
I tell you. I went home just floating at how happy those three people I’d never laid eyes on before were in their anticipation of seeing their boss made happy. That feeling could carry me forward for a long time.
Just imagine taking that experience and multiplying it by 221 more congresspeople and their staffs. Let’s get the rest of them too! Go knitters go!
Stitch by stitch that there be no more rows in Congress
Ellen was on TV! They wanted to do an interview about Warm Hats Not Hot Heads! We are at 213, with 99 available for the Senate and hoping that that publicity gives us a good jump forward.
I could have topped it out at an even hundred, but the intarsia on oneÂ came out a tad snug and I’m going to redo it. While the queue marches on: chemo caps for family members, purple for Abby, baby stuff, the qiviut, Stitches stash… You know how it goes. One project at a time, but all projects get done when you work on them.
Our favorite new one took 8 1/4 months.
Which Congressman will get to match my grandson?
I got another hat done today, in the same colorway as Parker’s blue one here. We’re now at 208.Â I like that he and a member of Congress will match each other; may it charm them as much as it does me.Â This whole WHNHH project is for our children’s future as well as trying to set the tone for today.
While Parker wonders dubiously but respectfully whether Grampa remembers how to pull off this carseat idea.
And Parker, too!
Two hundred. A cool two hundred hats so far for Warm Hats Not Hot Heads. It looks like, from what I understand from Ellen, that eight more hats, especially men’s hats, would get us to having the US Senate covered at 100%.
One hundred percent!
I’ve knitted several other hats of late, too, but they were a tad small to run to Congress…
Yesterday morning, dark o’clock:
Me: “So am I going on this trip by myself or are you coming with me?” (Sometimes my husband is difficult to wake up in the mornings. Sometimes, I am.)
Him: (leaping out of bed, suddenly awake at last.)
So we hit the road later than planned. Got to security, had the boarding passes, went to pull out my wallet and ID.
Me, wondering: so is he going to go on this trip by himself, or am I coming with him?
He spared me the sun exposure to run back to the car himself to see if it had fallen out of my purse there. That, and, I don’t run too fast and there truly was no time to spare. I plunked down, just out of the way of the people coming up the stairs there at San Jose’s new terminal as I searched again for the wallet I already knew wasn’t in there because I’d already taken nearly everything out of my purse and my knitting bag.
A clearly pregnant young woman was very sympathetic when I, feeling rather in the way, half-apologized: I was supposed to be going to see my first grandchild for the first time but…
Did she pray for me? I don’t know. I do know that my husband is not the go-to guy when you want a missing thing found.
He found it! (I wish I could somehow tell her to thank her for her kindness, whoever she was.)
The security guy saw him coming back and waved us to the front and got us immediately through his part. Thank you San Jose Airport security.
Remember how I say I don’t read knitting charts well with my head injury, that the x’sÂ just bounce around? Yeah, and so I headed us to the gate one shy of the one we were supposed to go to. Richard, stressed, read the leaving time there and the relative lack of people and pronounced, “It’s 8:40. We’ve missed our flight.”
I stared at him disbelieving and in my fatigue could only exclaim, in the protest of a small child, “Is not!”
Is not indeed. Next gate. We got there after the boarding line had formed but just before the fliers filed on. Too close, way too close. We are not morning people and it showed.
And from there on out it was all wonderful. I finished Kim’s soft Malabrigo hat in the air and she later pronounced the colorway perfect.Â Our son picked us up in his in-laws’ car: his wife had needed a break from the snow and cold and some time to decompress at home, showing off the baby to her friends and family, and so they were blessing the baby in her parents’ ward.
To say we fell utterly in love at first sight, even more than we ever did before via pictures and Skype, would be a vast understatement that anyone who’s ever seen their own child or grandchild for the first time would understand instantly. Parker is perfect. And when he looked in our eyes, his new ones a little wobbly from each other, our hearts were claimed forever and we knew each other as if he had already been in our family always.
Soft words and gentle rocking when he was screaming tired, and he settled down in my arms and drifted, quieting, to sleep. Bliss.
His other grandmother fed us and the other relatives who came and the brunch was beautiful, delicious, and carefully done within the realm of my ability–I can see why our daughter-in-law is such a nice person–and then we were off to church for the baby blessing. Kim waited till Parker was about to be taken up to the stand before wrapping him up in that lace christening blanket I’d brought with me, just to make sure it was pristine in the moment it came for.
Babies being only human.
In some ways.
Kim and her whole family were very generous in letting us have cuddle time, and I remember as a new mom how hard it was not to snatch my baby back to hold mine to myself. She got to see how tenderly her father-in-law cradled and snuggled him, and I loved her observing and learning more about where her own husband had gotten his tender touch from.
After the blessing, with the rest of the service continuing on, my Richard held Parker for awhile and then offered me a turn. Kim’s mother’s close friend, sitting on the other side of me, clearly so ached to hold him too that I knew that as the visiting grandmother the highest gift I could offer her was some of my limited time with him–and that she knew it too, though the only words spoken were a, “Would you like to hold him?” and an “Oh of course!” whispered back with such intense wishing and gratitude.
And then I got to see how much this dear woman loved my grandson, very much as if he were her own.
What more could I ask for him to have in his life? My son married into a good family with good friends and we are fortunate to be gathered into their circle. Kim is just the best.
Her mom fed us dinner, too, we visited, we rocked Parker some more, and then we were back to the airport and on our way. I started a new hat…
I took no pictures. Our son has a better camera than mine and he took many and I am happy to wait to see them. But we will both carry forever the pictures in our minds of that beautiful, beautiful baby boy, surrounded on all sides, as were we, by love.
We walked back again down that long terminal. Exit: stage left. Back to our car in the night, and my door had been caught all day on something in Richard’s haste to get back to me. I wondered if the battery was dead or if the Prius was sufficiently protected from losing power that way. Were we going on this last leg of the trip with our car, or not?
It carried us on our way just fine.
Monday February 21st 2011, 1:04 am
Filed under: Life
Long long long long wonderful wonderful marvelous wonderful day more later.
Meantime. One other Stitches moment yesterday: my water bottle being finished off, I pulled out a juice box–and found to my dismay it had no straw.
Who sells a single serving container without a straw? I don’t remember ever seeing one on it at the store, either, come to think of it. Huh. Well, I could pour it into the bottle, no problem, if I only had a sharp pointy oh wait…stick…
My Hero, part two
Thing the first:
Last night just around bedtime. Me: I smell something funny.
Him: I don’t smell anything.
Me: Something smells funny; I think it’s more here (standing under the air register in the hall while the heat is blowing.) Do you think the furnace is okay? (Given that we’ve had three die in 24 years here, this is easily worried over.)
Him: (getting out of bed to check) I’m sure it’s fine.
I walk away down the turn in the hall for a moment and suddenly hear behind me, Open the front door!
Me: What? (wondering, why on earth…)
Him: Open the front door, quick!
I run and do so and there he is right behind me, this thing in his hands, running to put it outside on the stone-and-concrete entryway and out in the rain.
Remember that battery pack that didn’t work? He’d tried again to see if he could recharge it after all. I’ve never seen a battery (and we are talking a big battery) bulging all over like a can with a severe case of botulism, ready to blow.
He hadn’t smelled a thing–but he was willing to get up and go check it out.
Thing the second:
As he got in the car tonight after disassembling the scooter in the rain and putting it in the trunk, he remarked, pleased, that I looked far more energetic than last night.
I thought, I didn’t have to spend the day anticipating going back across a very busy street and bouncing across the lightrail tracks in the dark and the rain, being low down and out of sight and trying not to be hit by cars while going to my own far across the parking lot, being so cold and soaked–you get a lot wetter sitting than standing–that I could barely feel my fingers, and the basket bouncing right off the wheelchair on an unseen pothole that splashed me and scared me that I might short the thing out while the countdown on the light cycle was getting ever closer, and how do I get to my basket! … And thank you to whoever it was that grabbed it and helped me out, and then I had to try not to be hit by cars in the lot backing out that couldn’t see me at all…
I’d scootered across that lot once after circling in the car for a half hour trying to avoid it, and I knew I had to go back out there. I waited to leave till there would be a crowd going at closing time so at least I wouldn’t be alone.
When I got home and described what it had been like, he went, Nuts to that, he was goingÂ to take me and pick me up right at the door. And he did, and I knew I had no worries. He is *My Hero* (trademarked) and with good reason. I know how lucky I am.
I forgot yesterday to mention another new-to-me vendor that I found absolutely delightful and wanted to praise out loud: Ellen’s Wooly Wonders, with patterns for felted dinosaurs, motorcycles, butterflies, turtles, airplanes, crabs, etc, a new grandmother’s delight and a little kid’s too.Â Dreams of orange dragons, in whatever color, came home with me.
My thanks to all the people who stopped me to say hello and for a hug the last two days while I had my head down trying not to cream anybody’s toes but missing the faces above me. Thank you for all the hugs, all the kind words, all the great times hanging out around fellow knitters and crocheters. Stitches West is one of the high points of my year because you all make it so. I hope I returned enough in kind. Lisa Souza, the folks at Abstract Fibers, Melinda and Tess at Tess Designer Yarns–more on that later–Sheila at Ernst Glass, Blue Moon, Malabrigo, Warren of the much-missed Marin Fiber Arts… So many people and I love every one of you. I tell you. This knitting thing: it’s a great life.
And Warm Hats Not Hot Heads is up to 171 tonight. Woohoo!
I don’t use it very often, which isn’t good for the batteries.
Richard had them recharging last night.
I can’t do Stitches West on my feet. I’ve tried. The old head injury effects go into overload in the massive visual presence of the place and my balance disappears even worse and there’s just no way around the fact that Disneyland for knitters equals chairtime for me. That’s okay; there have been many many people looking wistfully at my ride by the end of the day every year.
Richard set it up and went out the door for work; I tried it out.
Dead dead dead. Ain’t goin’ nowhere. Darn.
Jasmin‘s brother Sam, who pushed me last year, was in LA.
My daughter Sam, who pushed me the year before, was across the country.
Well, I *could* try to walk it. (Yeah, let’s see if we can induce a seizure finally after eleven years?)
I did not call him. I did not text. I didn’t say boo. What could he do? I simply didn’t get myself out the door. I was about to, I kept telling myself, looking at the clock, noting that I’d paid for a two-day ticket, while arguing back at myself, okay, so then, when? How? Use the manual as a walker so you’ve got both hands holding on, at least?
Suddenly there was the front door opening again, and *My Hero* (trademarked) walks in: he wanted to make sure I didn’t get stuck and had it worked no okay he’d wondered if it might not have right he’ll go get that other battery pack and try that one oh yes he’d had it charging too.
You’re home? You did? We do? You can?
He was in a rush to get to work (some days I really really love that short commute) as he unscrewed the battery pack and replaced it. Here try that love you bye gotta run.
And that is how I got to go zipping around Stitches West and have the time of my life among my fellow knitters and friends that I only get to see once a year.Â And to meet some new ones. (Michelle, did you see? I was wearing your socks you made me while I was in the hospital.)
I came home to the news that we had gone past 30% of Congress today. GO KNITTERS! Then I read Jocelyn’s post and followed the link in it. Folks, we need gentility, top down, and we need civility in Congress now. If you haven’t yet, will you join Ellen and me and 162 hats’ worth of other knitters in spending a few hours to help get the word out? How often do our few stitches get a chance to create changes for the good for millions of people? Good wool, good work, good plan.
Stitches still has plenty of good yarn left for it. I promise.
Thursday February 17th 2011, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Wildlife
Cold and rain and a good day to stay in today and quietly knit and answer emails, grateful for the warmth.
A small black squirrel was on my porch, a little shaggy looking against the winter, working at the gleanings from the birdfeeder hanging near the edge of the awning above; its dark fur was a little damp, the seeds more so. It flicked its tail at a few drips that made direct hits.
Something must have caught my eye though I certainly didn’t see it come in. I almost never do. It is a recurring source of wonder to me that that could be so.
She stood on the perch of a metal dolly out there, protected from the rain, the early afternoon sun showing off her gorgeous brown feathers in front, the dark top of her head hooding her, contrasting with the lower half. The gray/black stripes in her tail. She flicked it ever so slightly side-to-side, settling in.
She watched me. She watched the squirrel.
I had inadvertently chased her away from her hunt Tuesday by going outside to fill the feeder at one of those moments when it seemed like I had the whole back yard to myself. She’d been on the neighbor’s roof waiting, and I made her go hungry for the moment. We all need to eat.
And we certainly don’t lack for squirrels here.
I gauged their sizes; there would be no contest when they danced beak to cheek.
She threw her head all the way back, beak wide open, and looked for all the world like she was gargling. I would tell you what it sounded like, too, if it did, if I knew.
The squirrel stopped eating and looked at me. There seemed a little more sunflower on the patio than at times, so surely I must be ready to leap up and take the bounty away from it because, you know, you don’t just give up scrumptiousness to something that’s smaller than you.
The Cooper’s hawk watched the squirrel. She watched me.
I tried to move just slightly to get a better look only when she was turned away, and a split second later it was almost as if she were going, nuh uh uh, I saw that.
Okay, I’ll hold still then.
The squirrel, meantime, looked out towards the yard to make sure no hawk was around. Where was everybody else?
The hawk looked at it. The hawk looked at me.
And the squirrel checked every direction except the one where its predator was. Somehow, it never once looked that way the whole time. It looked to where bigger squirrels would surely come from to chase it away from its treasure.
She again arched her head back and–laughed, perhaps. Was she calling her mate? Finally, she spread those huge wings wide and glided down close and right straight over that little black squirrel, her feet kept to herself, then across the yard and away. Darwin marked the territory for later.
And the little black squirrel never once knew what didn’t hit him.
Veety vitey veggie, might!
Thursday February 17th 2011, 12:28 am
Filed under: Family
(Dad, sitting with the afghan made by my South Bay Knitters group for me.)
Thank you, everybody; so far the news has been I think as good as it could be. Abby’s dad says their family has been buoyed up by all the prayers and good thoughts coming from all sides.
And another thank you, too, to all the knitters who’ve bumped us up to 140 hats. Go knitters go!
And one another thing: the rep asked me to say thank you to my mom.
Who looked last week at how terribly constricted my diet had become after all the blockages and insisted I needed to buy a Vita Mix machine. She raved about the things she did with hers and how fast and how well you could make soup and smoothies and on and on and how much better of a job it did and how perfect it would be for someone with a damaged GI tract…
…It all sounded good till I asked her how much they cost.
Okay, that’s the end of that thought. Right there. NO.Â Sorry. Ain’t happening.
We put the folks on the plane Saturday and this evening Richard and I were making a quick Costco run.
Guess what they just happened to have? Just temporarily? (No pressure.)Â “Costco Road Show.” We stopped to at least find out about the things; we owed that, at least, to my mom.
The Vita Mix rep said that when he left, come Sunday, the boxes (motioning behind him) would leave too, as he put fruit and veggie combinations in his machine that should never have gone together–I thought–until he poured out samples.
For a woman who can’t tolerate fiber, for whom a dozen cooked peas nearly sent me back to the surgeon, this was incredible. Just being able to look at your everyday fresh fruits and veggies and know I could eat them again was worth it all right there, and for Richard, wanting to take good care of me, even more so. Could I get that same effect out of my blender? No, nor would I spend twenty minutes standing over the old thing every meal to make sure it didn’t walk off the counter while it tried to, fruitlessly. (Ask me how I know.)
So yeah, we bought the thing, and I’m relieved to find that we actually did get a price break to take some of the sting out of it.
I’ll still have to be very careful about fiber content even broken down even so, but still, Mom (shown holding her late mother’s crocheted wool afghan) was right.Â So, on behalf of the rep: Thank you, Mom!
Knit more warmth
Tuesday February 15th 2011, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Family
The first thing.Â Benjamin Levisay and Molly Vagle of XRX came into Purlescence this afternoon; good conversation was shared with a little chocolate torte on the side and a good time was had by all. (Thank you Laura for sitting next to me, laughing off my deafness when I needed that and repeating a few misses for me.)
The second thing. National Public Radio in Massachusetts did a segment today on knitting.
India called in. India and Ellen have been the main reasons the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads campaign actually got off the ground, and it was good to hear her voice as she did a great job of saying what it’s all about and why and encouraging others to join us.
As I type, we’re at 130 hats. That’s a whole lot of people who put down whatever project they were working on to go knit towards a cause that they too felt was important. I think one more and we’ll be at 25% of Congress.Â Go knitters go!
The third thing (and why I’m glad I’ve already finished my representatives’ hats). My cousin Jim’s 14-year-old daughter Abby fell while skiing yesterday. Hit a tree. I’ve never heard the highly-unwelcome term “burst fracture” before, but it was two of her vertebrae. (To Amy: T12Â L1.) The doctors were, to quote her father, very pessimistic last night.
This morning she felt tingling in her toes and said she needed to go.
And I, both powerless and…not quite entirely, while marveling at the almost too good to hope for that that is so far, knowing that so many others have wished for such moments and never had them and knowing there’s a long way to go, wonder what her favorite colors are. (Just got the answer: purple!)
That, and continuing prayer, I can do.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Kind of a reverse gift of the magi moment:
I offered Richard some chocolate torte. After all, it’s Valentine’s Day (besides, he had just given me red roses).
He passed, not because he didn’t want some but to save me the effort of making a second batch, to make sure I had enough to bring to Purlescence tomorrow.Â Maybe there will be leftovers? There are definitely leftover ingredients to work with.
XRX meets Purlescence. 12:30 Tuesday. There will be chocolate. (And, looking in the cabinets, a desperate last-minute run here for paper plates and forks.)
Meantime, Warm Heads Not Hot Heads hat count for Congress: 119. Go knitters go!
Tis the gift to be simple
Sunday February 13th 2011, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Friends
The first speaker at church today said many things, but one that stuck with me is that her father had told her, if your heart and your head are ever not in agreement, pay attention. Sit down and figure it out till they are.Â We are to follow the Spirit that leads to all that is good in our interactions with God, ourselves, and each other.
The second speaker talked about his little sister Katie.
Katie was born with hydrocephalus. I grew up with a kid my age around the corner with that, so I was particularly interested to hear him tell about his sister, whose case was clearly far worse than my friend’s; Katie wasn’t just a little slow, she had definite mental retardation.
Her brain shunt got infected and she passed away recently.
People her family didn’t know not only paid their respects but showed up in their lives to tell their stories. Things the family had never known. Lives she had touched.
And one of those was a girl who, twenty years earlier in kindergarten with her, had been, she realized later, bullying another child in the class.
Katie’s reaction was to step in, hug the victim of the moment, and tell her, Stop! She’s my friend!
To Katie, everyone was her friend.
The woman told the grieving family that it had made a permanent impression on her: from that moment on, she wanted to be more like Katie.
A kid who was different.
A kid who set the example for everyone else around her to live up to.
A kid whose heart and head were forever in the same place.