Time to put on the Cat in the Hat hat
Monday October 31st 2011, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting
…With the googly eyes glued on to either side of the seam to give it that certain Frankensteinian je ne sais quoi.
Or eye. Lost one in the bottom of the box a few years ago.
You can never plan right–but you can never plan on being stingy, sometimes it’s lots and lots of kids. I decided one 150-piece Costco bag was probably enough, though.
Tonight it was just two nice dads saying thank you, looking me in the eye and wishing me a Happy Halloween and meaning it, with their three tiny princesses, one of whom needed me to turn off the loud scary green “Happy Halloweeeeeeeen” rubber hand before she dared reach into the candy bowl. One little boy. Don’t remember his costume, all I noticed was that sweet little face that had clearly been coached to take one just one.Â I thwarted all their training.
And with them was a sullen young teen who had either gotten dragged along to keep an eye on him, or maybe was determined to still get his share of the loot in defiance of how much he’d grown in the past year, a combination of the above–whatever. I’ve had four teens, I recognized his look that didn’t quite dare to dare me to challenge his right to be there.
Instead I laughed, “Sure, go ahead,” when he looked at me, and held the bowl of candy out to him too and held it and held it to make clear that he, like the little kids, was just plain welcome to all he wanted–it’s all about having a good time, and I was glad they were making memories together. (With a strong bit of Take it Take it Please Take it!) I was grateful to them for reminding me just how magical all this is for little kids: it’s more real for me when I actually get to see them getting to pretend and wave their wands and stay up late and be all dressed up and be so excited about it all. And candy too! Grownups are so nice!
Had I known they were going to be the only ones who were going to come, they wouldn’t have needed to knock on another door all night. On the other hand, I stayed on the dads’ good side. Pretty much.
(Parker and his cousin four months younger.)
My daughter Sam, as a young teenager about fifteen years ago, (come to think of it, back before I had Crohn’s too) asked me if, if I had the chance, would I choose to cure my lupus, or ask for my hearing back?
That was an easy one–she was surprised when I instantly said, My hearing back. The lupus is just background noise. The hearing loss isolates me more from other people.
It was about a year ago that I was sitting in Relief Society at church, the women’s meeting, when the teacher announced we were going to break up into small groups to discuss the topic of the moment.
Groan. The acoustics in that room are bad to begin with, and scenarios like that totally make me want to bail: all I can do, usually, is sit and watch other people having engaging, interesting conversations, getting to know each other better amidst the blare of what to me is just loud white noise.
I got put in a group with Jennifer. I didn’t know her from Adam; she had just moved here. But she has a nice, deep voice, easier for me to *hear, and she was totally understanding about the whole thing as soon as she knew. I remember saying to her, I don’t know you yet but I want to.
The grateful smile on her face made me remember what it’s like to move to a strange town and not know anybody.
I too felt instantly like I was in the presence of a friend, and, by how she handled things, she changed my longstanding attitude towards those small group scenarios–and frankly, I’d needed that. That inner poor-little-me pop-up gets old, fast.
I’ve wanted for a long time to figure out just the most right thing…
She likes purple. I couldn’t figure out what the perfect purple would be to the eyes of someone whose ancestors most assuredly didn’t (or surely didn’t mostly) come from Scandinavia and the British Isles like mine did. I guessed, but just couldn’t get past that sense of uncertainty; I wanted it to be perfect. And I wanted to actually get around to it and get it done, whatever the it might come to be, but nothing… what I could find just didn’t grab me.
Remember that mink/cashmere yarn I recently discovered? Laceweight, one strand of white, one the very softest beige, knitted together for a heathered effect: after I saw the beige, advertised as cream, I ordered the white specifically to put them together like that specifically for her–I finally had my answer. I used two balls and I used them all up down to the last couple of yards and they were perfect.
And then I waited all week long for the moment to come.
But then this morning, searching the crowd before the main meeting started, I didn’t see her. After all that work and all that happy anticipation? No Jennifer? (Earth to Alison: just because you knew and came early doesn’t mean she knew or did.)
But then, at Relief Society, there she was at the back. Yay!
After the meeting was over, I pulled her away from the crowd; I didn’t want to make anyone else feel left out or hurt in any way, ever. And I said to her: “Do you like–” (shifty eyes) –“weasels?”
That was such an utter disconnect that she had no words to respond with.
I repeated it.
Okay, now she threw back her head, laughing: “I’ve never met any weasels.”
I explained about the bad translation describing weasel wool, and that no, I didn’t buy from those guys. I said it was sheared–I watched her face–mink: 70%, and cashmere, 30%, as I pulled the ruffly lace scarf out of my knitting bag. Her eyes got huge with disbelief.
Kim had stepped aside by us as if to talk to Jennifer next, and told her that I’d knit her a scarf too. Jennifer held that supreme softness against her face, just speechless. She put it on, then held the edge out to see the lace pattern.
That’s it. That’s all I need. Any time I might ever again need to prod myselfÂ to go spend the hours knitting to make someone else happy rather than wasting my time doing something of zero impact in this life, I will have that moment to remember to push me forward to do that which brings joy into this world. Thank you, Jennifer; you made it easier for the next time.
*Consonants are much higher pitched than vowels. By far the majority of people with hearing loss lose the highest frequencies first, then gradually lower and lower ones, and so, they can hear someone talking–the music of a speaker’s voice, is how I think of it–but they can’t figure out what they’re saying. They accuse others of mumbling, but it’s their own earsÂ that are. That last sentence would be, a uh-oo uh-eh uh uh uh uh i eh o ee ah aw. And if I can see your face and know the context of the conversation, with my hearing aids in in good lighting I can usually follow that.
I felt like I’d rejoined the human race when I got my first pair at 27.
Saturday October 29th 2011, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family
My brother-in-law was in town on business being crazy busy, and with the weekend coming we knew at some random point we’d get our time… and so this morning he called to say he was on his way.
After a visit here awhile, we all headed up to their aunt’s house in the mountains, where we were joined by their cousin and his family coming up from Santa Cruz.
We caught up, hour after hour: one had only recently moved home to the States after four years doing the ex-pat life–in a part of the world where we’re glad to have him and his family back safe now. One who had a wife and small children who had somehow, all on their own, become four and seven years old already, hard to fathom. The aunt who quilts, her nephew whose wife does.
The four year old barked and was the doggy under the table during dessert. I meowed. He grinned.Â I aarfed back. He loved it. I (after most of the others had retired to the living room and were far enough away) did my fair imitation of a horse whinny, to his exceeding delight–while Aunt Mary Lynn, startled, looked up from way over thataway, going, Who–was that you…?!
(I can just HEAR my little sister reading this and going, You didn’t. You still do that?)
We created an early mini Thanksgiving celebration, salmon, salad, and my chocolate torte sub’ing in for the turkey and cranberries and pie.
And a good time was had by all.
The walkway up to the front steps was being rebuilt, so at the end, we had to leave going a less familiar way down the steps in the semi-dark of the garage that, like the house, had been built into the hillside.
Where the stair turns, I missed one and tumbled towards Richard’s legs.
My brother-in-law allowed as how I had given him a scare. My aunt-in-law firmly declared I was to hold onto her arm from here on out. I tried to assure them it was no big deal (while inwardly exulting, Look! No breaks! Cool!)
My BIL would brush off any hints of our worrying while he was overseas. I will brush off any worrying over me. We’re fine.
Family solidarity, all around. Good stuff.
Parker’s getting ready to walk. Not quite there yet, but working on it. The next couple of pictures were of his small cousin trying to encourage him up and him going plop, but those came out blurry–moving too fast.
I’m reminded of a time I was in a store with my hands full, trying to keep my then-three-under-five entertained and obedient while trying to browse: get in get out be done.
The store actually had a small children’s alcove with toys and a TV; I don’t even remember what kind of store it was (fabric, probably? I think so.) But I do remember that alcove and my gratitude at the thoughtfulness behind it.
The cartoon that was on was almost over at the point that I finished my purchase and said, It’s time to go, kids; Sam did the typical whine of, Can’t we watch the rest of our show?
I considered that very briefly and, unable to see any reasonable reason why not, answered, Sure. And I sat down on the floor so we could all watch it together.
An older woman took all that in and pulled me aside when it was over and told me that she had never thought of reacting that way back when her grown kids were little, and she regretted it so much that she hadn’t given them a moment to have their own time like that, to show them that they mattered, too. She was proud of me.
When you are a mother of small children out in public, unexpected words of praise make all the difference, every time, and the moment is never forgotten.
As soon as it was clear to him that we were headed to the door, my son Richard, Parker’s daddy, happily took off like a shot to get there first: it’s always fun to beat slow old Mommy.
Another older woman stopped him mid-dash and scolded him soundly: “Little boy, you don’t run like that in my store! WALK!”
I looked at her, astonished–this is the woman who put out the toys and entertainment?
All I could do was tell the truth. “He doesn’t know how to walk. He only runs.”
The gift that that second woman gave me was the story of her words to tell to young moms now, who worry when they see me unsteady on a cane when their little ones are being perfectly normal little people. And occasionally, I have been known to sit down on the floor and hand them my lightweight sassafras-wood cane for them to run explore with. Shepherd’s crook. Little Bo Peep.
Ya gotta start’em on the sheep thing early.
The Washington Post has a squirrel columnist. It’s like finding another knitter in an unexpected place. And so now I know that the teenage squirrels are, at this time of year, out to find their own territories and challenge the old guard and that that’s why I’ve had so many new and smaller ones around lately. And these don’t like suet cake, thankyouverymuch. (Oh good!)
A few days ago I saw a big fat old gray one chase a young slender black one away and across the yard, up a tree six feet or so, and then the black one jumped to a nearby trunk and came down…
But the gray one, who’d raced notably slower than the other, was stopping to catch his breath.
The black one stopped and turned around and watched him. Meantime, another small black one took advantage of the whole scene by sneaking around both of them and going for the patio.
The next day: a smallish black one was nibbling peacefully away at what the birds toss down, minding its own business; had another started nibbling, he’d have shared, the young ones often do.
The big gray approached slowly, cautiously from behind, easing over to the side to stay out of the line of view, watching carefully, gets closer, closer, and then LEAPS onto the black one from behind to bite him! They instantly turned into a rolling, struggling, circular hamster ball with tail fluff coming from behind, totally out for blood, neither willing to give up. The gray’s got the weight but the black’s got the agility and speed.
Yin yang motif. How they roll in a circle like that just amazes me. But hey guys, I don’t want to see anyone hurt.
I opened the door and called out to them to stop, but I could have been a chickadee for all they cared. I threw a shoe halfway to them, careful not to have any chance of hitting them but trying to break it up. They could not have cared less, I was harmless and they knew it and the attacker and attacked weren’t and they knew it. It went on for what felt like a very long time.
The black one managed to grab the gray’s head face to face and grip it between his paws long enough to confirm for me where the tattered ears on the bigger ones come from.
They leaped in a blur up to a tall but empty flower pot, rolled in, continued with me trying to figure out by which tail tip showed when who was winning, and finally both leaped to the lip at once, apart. The gray stared away. The black one looked straight at me.
Having established himself, I think that’s the one that tried to take me on via the skylight later. I’ve wondered what my gray hair looks like to them.
They breathed hard a few moments, then reenacted the previous chase scene, except this time the young black squirrel was doing the chasing–and neither of them was moving very fast but rather clearly gingerly, and the gray was going to the right across the yard and away from the trees that offer a view of the patio. Vanquished. Away with the bully.
The gray came back today. Nothing around but the birds and me watching from inside, but it was clear he was scared. He approached slowly. Warily. He started to reach a paw to the patio–and pulled back, fast! Tried again. It took four times for him to work up the bravado to come onto the concrete and dare stand under that birdfeeder again.
Be careful whom you pick on.
(The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America includes, for good reason,Â “…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”)
I mink to say…
It is blocking.
That sheared mink/cashmere yarn? I need to thank Kate in St. Louis: when she did a Traveling Woman shawlette in 12 hours, I assume the pattern name in reference to what Stephanie’s been doing, I thought–I can do that!
I figured, you get more done when you have a deadline and I really hoped to get two major projects done this week. Three, if you listen to the crazy.
So, yes, I did knit my shawlette in about 12 hours, most of them over two days–but not necessarily a day followed by the one that came right after it, andÂ I still need to cast on project#2.
But oh my goodness, if you can’t knit qiviut quite every day, this yarn will definitely do. You know how wools feel softer the moment they touch water, when you go to block them? This seemed to disappear altogether–just totally melted into my hands. Love love love it. And I cannot WAIT to see the look on…! My only problem is, I can’t put that look on every single person’s face. I so wish I could.
One stitch at a time. One person at a time. Deadlines, though: deadlines totally make the progress.
(And to the squirrel on my roof suddenly eye to eye when I looked up yesterday from the bathroom sink, a nut in its mouth, considering me and then abruptly deciding I was challenging him and leaping at my head, which only got him the invisible forcefield of the skylight and a bellyflop–keep that up and I will come after you with my hair brush. I will spin and knit you a little carry bag for those acorns, and you will say it’s shear luck we met.)
Got a specialist I don’t see too often.
Got a note that he wanted to see me, okay, so, I went in. Got the standard questions. How’s the lupus. BP steady? Weight?
“Well, actually, the weight’s been down a little. My Crohn’s did a flare up last month…”Â (Cool diseases! Shiny! New! Colect them all!)
He sat down at the computer and pulled up a graph showing my weight across who knows how long, and looking at one point about midway, he said, “Well actually, your weight’s up a bit from two years ago.”
I looked at him, trying to see if he was serious. He was. Stunned, thinking, Don’t…you…rememmm…. I burst out laughing because, my stars, there was no other possible response to that. “Yes, 104 pounds on steroids!” As in, at least ten of those pounds were water weight on that obscene IV dose. As in…!
But I said no more than that.
To his credit, he laughed at himself along with me.
Dr. Seuss socks
This one’s for Susan Schutz: Parker in his Dr. Seuss-green socks, handknit by Susan, whom I owe a big thank you to. She loves to knit socks. I love that other people love to knit socks.
Meantime, I read this. I want one. I want one at church, I want one at Stanford Memorial Church where we attend the occasional convocation on campus, I want one at Menlo College where we attend the occasional concert, I want one at the theater, I’d install one… I simply want one everywhere I go. I read that article and wondered how it could be that I had never known much about nor appreciated such loops before.
(Quick: John! Do my hearing aids have telecoils? I don’t think they do… Can we do them as an add-on?)
And that’s right after I come up with the six thousand bucks to get the hearing-aid necklace that a Stanford professor individually makes to order, with a half dozen or so microphones in it and background sounds screened out by the body. I met him when he spoke to a local group, I’ve seen it demonstrated, I’ve been gobsmacked by what could be.Â I. Want.
But eh, it’s fine, I do okay with what I’ve got and I’m really glad I’ve got aids with really great sound quality. Just knowing these other possibilities are out there makes me a very happy hearing-impaired musician.
Thought about all this, cranked up the stereo today and knitted most of the small shawl I started last night for a friend. A sheared-mink/cashmere blend, and looking forward to her surprise, it was hard to put it down and call it a night.
With a cute Parker picture thrown in for fun.
Four hours of knitting today and my daughter’s phlebotomist‘s cashmere is done. I can’t wait for her to get it! It was a doodle as I went along, which means it got ripped back a few times, but worth every stitch and re-stitch–I am very pleased with it.
Which means that, switching to larger needles and different yarn to go easy on my hands, knowing just who I wanted the next one to be for, I cast on another one right away: so, let’s see, how would this pattern come out if I tried it this way…
Meantime, the female Cooper’s hawk put in an appearance. She watched me watching her for quite some time, gorgeous, and I was glad I hadn’t missed the moment–but then clearly she decided, enough of that; she did a strong hop to a higher branch where she would be out of my line of sight.
It’s a smart bird that can tell I can’t see her when she can still see part of me, but those Cooper’s are amazing. I will never forget the time her mate was walking around the patio, looking for the finch he knew he’d heard hit the window but not finding it.
He looked at me, he looked at where I was pointing at the backside of a box blocking his view, he turned and hopped towards me and around the box, and there you go, dinner is served! ‘Kthanksbye!
But I thwarted his more antsy mate today, getting down on the floor so I could see further up with the awning less in the way now.
Well all right then. She stayed put while keeping note of a family of crows flying in single file two backyards away; one crow is no match for a big hawk, but. I noted that they stayed just outside, as far as I can tell, her defended territory.
Then finally she saw what she wanted, and clearly, it was on the roof: she swooped silently down so as not to tip off the prey, then, tilting around in a tight circle that reminded this new grandma of a little kid playing airplane, swooped back up again and shot across the roof and out of sight.
Till next time!
Next thing you know he’ll be asking for handknit kneepads
Saturday October 22nd 2011, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Family
After an antsy-busy week, I finally felt today like I could do some serious knitting time, relaxing and watching in delight as something new has been coming to be. You can visualize but you can’t know till it actually becomes real, and I have to tell you, yarns-in-waiting are nice but real is wonderful.
Someone, meantime, is looking just like the cheerful imp his daddy was. Is he offering his sock for that camera lens? Teasing? We don’t know anybody like that…!Â
(Actually, handknit kneepads at this stage sounds like a good idea, come to think of it.)
Friday October 21st 2011, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Friends
An old Chrysler minivan pulled up at the service bay today after the driver looked around for a regular parking spot that didn’t involve a lot of extra steps in the sun.
Parking error 404: Not Found. Go to Service.
So I stopped in front of George’s door, y’know, over where you’re supposed to wait for someone to come ask what you need done with your Toyota. Um. Make it quick, I figured.
The warmth radiating from his face when he saw me coming into his little office again, before he had any idea why I was there (getting out of–you know–a…Chrysler…!) The surprise when I handed him a printout from my blog post about him and told him I hoped his boss would see it. The oh my! extra delight when I said, “It’s not as good as the old country’s, but,” and pulled out the baklava and a stack of paper napkins in case he wanted to share.
I don’t think I was in there more than 30 seconds before I dashed back to my car and out of their way and away.
Some half minutes can make up for a whole awful lot in life.Â I have to say, I was given a lot more in those moments than I at all gave; thank you, George!
Lifting teddy bears is hard work
Thursday October 20th 2011, 11:34 pm
Filed under: Family
Note to San Francisco Airport: having cellphone signals work in your cellphone lot is a good idea. Thanks.
I got his “Landed” message while in that lot but he didn’t get my response in time to tell me he and his co-worker had checked their bags after all and that I should stay there.
Three times round the airport, cut off once and forced to go through the paid parking–the sympathetic attendant let me off–it is intense night driving, and with the construction they’ve had, it’s never entirely familiar.
But my Richard is home from his trip. I’d sprout wings and fly to the moon for that.
Parker would love to see that. If he could just stay awake long enough…
Ready and waiting
Wednesday October 19th 2011, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Life
I called first; George, the woman said, will be back in on Friday.
Ah, okay, then, thanks, I wanted to come back in and tell him thank you for how nice he was to me yesterday.
The receptionist’s surprise and delight sounded like a kid who wanted to know what was in that Christmas box: what was that all about? But she didn’t ask and I didn’t say.Â And now at least one person who works there knows there’s a customer who was happy enough to be making the effort to say so. Always a good thing.
Come Saturday, meantime, I think we’re due to work on a little habitat destruction together: that morning scene of water intermittently spraying vigorously from the same spot on the roof has happened again two more days, and the rain is days gone. Fallen leaves or something must be providing grubs for something up there, or maybe they’re finding a birdbath effect; clearly there must be standing water. Not a good idea. It’s a mostly-flat roof, aÂ California fad of the 1950’s.
The first time, there was a towhee perched on the edge of the shed just below there, getting sprayed; it looked back over its shoulder, got doused again, and flew away from it.
Today it was a black squirrel, probably watching to see if there was anything worth raiding. Hey! It snorted and jerked away as it got it full in the face. HEY! And it took a big leap up onto that roof to show just who was boss here.Â Cut that out!
End of waterfall.
I’d have loved to have seen the end of that. Although, don’t tell the squirrels that from the occasional audible mad dashes that have ended suddenly midpoint, it seems the hawks have learned that white roofs are great for picking off black squirrels. We have a lot fewer of the big oldtimers than we used to.
And for the first time, a few days ago I saw a hawk disappear into the upper branches of the big redwood whose limbs reach over our house. Right above that spot.
Tuesday October 18th 2011, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Life
Went to a meet-and-greet for the author Douglas Thayer today.Â Found I’d somehow missed out on a really great professor back when I was studying in the English department at BYU years ago.
Meantime, the idiot light on the Prius had come on, and since I had time to deal with it, hey. So I was the one who drove over close to their quitting time, expecting to drop the car off and walk home with as little sun time as I could manage.
The assistant manager, George, said no, no, we can check that out and get you on your way I’m sure, no problem.
Great! Except there were benches to sit on–outside. Only. Um. I did a tour of the showroom and met a salesman who separated himself from the pack and would be very happy to help me ditch my old minivan (later, later, still got a kid in college after these eleven years). Actually, he seemed nice enough: I was glad to see that the obnoxious one that had made me walk right out of his sales pitch when we were buying the Prius didn’t seem to be there anymore.
I escaped: I went back to George and explained about not being able to be out in the sun.
I didn’t even have to tell him about not really wanting to fend off salesmen nor offending them by sitting on the floor watching them talk; without a word, he totally got it. He went looking, found me a barstool-type chair, and gladly brought it back to his tiny cubbyhole of an office. It had a door to outside, access to a narrow hallway behind him, and room for basically him and a customer or two standing. Tiny.
I sat.Â We were close to eye level (hey, I’m used to being short). It was a quiet time of day. We chatted a bit; and then, more and more, we really talked.
He told me about his daughter in college. His youngest son’s chronic condition. I was sympathetic, and he decided I was someone he could open up to.
I explained, when he asked, what lupus was–and then I got to watch in his face exactly what had been in my own 21 years ago when I was told what I had and could never in my life from that point on ever get away from.
He was crushed; but then he picked himself up and said, “So you adjust. You find new patterns.”
Yes! And I told him, “I’m a nature lover. And so I bring nature to me.” I told him about the birdfeeders. About the California Thrasher the other day, the vanishingly-rare-here Zone-tailed hawk, things I would never have seen nor known.
I told him about how I felt my children had grown up to be people who see when someone is in need and they step forward to help, that they are kinder and more compassionate for what they too have had to go through with all this.
My car was done.
Yes, and no charge.
He was very pleased.
Trying to pull out of the dealership, there was simply no turning left against the lanes of rush-hour traffic; I gave up, pulled right, went into a neighborhood, came back around and back to a long light.
Where, looking up, I saw a large bird and a small bird. Waiiit… That soaring wing pattern, that’s a raptor… As they flew gradually closer, the small bird was no small bird, it was a crow, and the one leisurely coming up behind that it was getting away from–
–I’ll be darned. It was. It was the juvenile Zone-tailed hawk. IT’S STILL AROUND HERE!!! I got to SEE it again!!! I got home, flipped through my Sibley, but no–there was nothing else that matched it. That was it. Wow. WOW.
George had mentioned at one point his mother back home in Greece.
I needed a quick grocery run this evening, and I decided to go to Trader Joe’s.
Where they had A, B, C on my list… And what I had really come for: a package of baklava for a certain automotive assistant manager to offer a piece of to his customers tomorrow for as long as the sweets last. They may not in any way equal the Old Country’s, but he clearly loves his new one, not for its perfections but, like all of life spread before him, simply as it comes.
At the beginning of the beginning
Winding a racetrack-shaped hank by hand is its own pastime: you create a perfectly lovely round ball, all curves and come-to-me’s, rather than the matter-of-fact flat cake from a mechanical ballwinder setup.
And it gives the mind the freedom to meander the possibilities as you wrap the tethered strand steadily around and around itself; there’s something about working with a good yarn while not being held to anything yet.Â Two ounces of cashmere, 400 yards, and ideas on what on earth to do with it went from totally zero to the proverbial sixty, centered by a desire to honor the recipient as well as knitterly possible.
But there is no more where that came from. I’m debating going with something else with more yardage, much though I want this to be in cashmere, just because I so do not like having to worry about whether I can finish what I started the way I want it to come out from my hands.
Let me do some swatching and measuring and checking–but in the meantime, (assessing the inner image I have now of what this project will be, something that had eluded me all day till I finally sat down and got all wound up about it),Â it’s done me a great deal of good already.
To be continued.