Going to great lengths for him
Thursday January 31st 2013, 12:06 am
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,To dye for

It’s become a joke by now.

Is it done yet?

I model it for him, past my knees, towards my ankles.

He grins, tries it on, it’s shorter than fingertip-to-fingertip, and looks at me not quite laughing–but he hasn’t sung Short People at me. Yet.

This is the man who never in his life had had the luxury of a sweater with sleeves long enough to fold back the cuffs, so I’d made him one with an 86″ wingspan. Fits him perfectly.

I knit some more. The scarf is at 82″ now, surely…? But there is more of this fingering weight baby alpaca, I can keep going. It has fond memories: anyone else out there remember Russ of Robin and Russ Handweaving? He bought a truckload of this stuff back when nobody had ever heard of baby alpaca yarns. Sold it in natural colors at a buck a ball, 40 grams each, not on cones, not his usual stuff but oh so very soft. Mine started out a soft fawn.

I dyed several pounds of it ten years ago, the skeins presoaked for an attempt at color evenness and shoved in that suddenly small-looking pot as best I could. I didn’t take the time to hank and then rewind all those skeins for the dye process; I had just gotten out of the hospital a few weeks before. I lifted that pot.  It felt heroic enough. An afghan for the doctor who’d saved my life–and it had cashmere I dyed to match knitted into it, too, and my mother-in-law played a part in that, and I so wish I could find the rest of that yarn in time for this project because of that connection to her.

But. I have the baby alpaca. The leftovers seem to be the skeins that were the most felted and tangled and the least matching and oh well.

But I am knitting three strands crammed together on size 9s for softness and warmth and the shades can waver  between themselves all they want. One browner, one lighter, one redder, repeat at the 35″ mark.

My husband has never had a scarf long enough that it doesn’t look like a tall man trying to fit into normal people’s sizes. Partly too because we live where you don’t need one. This, though, is going to be long enough. I had to ice my hands several times today (the seed stitch part of that pattern is a bear to work) but I’m. Almost. There.

He’s getting the hang (up) of it
Tuesday January 29th 2013, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Family

(Parker, three months ago, with apologies for the tilt.)

I came home from the grocery store to find my husband on the phone.

“Who are you talking to?” I said softly after a moment.

“Parker!” and he asked him if he wanted to talk to me.

With speech much clearer and surer than it was even in October when we saw him–the difference between 22 months old and 25–Parker said in delight, “Hi Gramma!”

“Hi Parker! I love you!”

There was a moment’s pause, and then *click*

I looked at the phone, going, wait, did he just…?


After all, what more can anyone possibly add to that?

Three bucks a shot
Monday January 28th 2013, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life,Lupus

“In 2001, the Faustman Lab reversed type 1 diabetes in mice with end-stage disease, a project that is now in human clinical trials.” That really got my attention: there is so much research that never succeeds that far. They hope to expand their findings to other autoimmune diseases, lupus and Crohn’s specifically mentioned. Hey!

My cousin Heidi was diagnosed four years ago, out of the blue, with Type 1 diabetes, the autoimmune version of the disease, and her husband’s employer donated an Ipad Mini for her to raffle off towards raising funding for that lab. The link goes to her blog post about it. Heidi asks that people donate directly to the lab, no middleman on her part, three bucks per chance, you get the tax write-off, and then come tell her to be entered in the raffle (and to honor the legalities of it, there’s a no-money option).

And just for fun, in addition to changing the world for the better, someone gets that Mini. You can name it Cooper.

Monday January 28th 2013, 12:26 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

A cowl for the cold should be long enough that you can pull it over your head from the back and still have the bottom of it puddle around your shoulders in a warm scarf, right?

Didn’t have quite enough of the sheared-mink yarn for that–close, though, and it is done and like so many other projects, once it actually touched water and then was laid flat, the small bit of lace in it blossomed beautifully. The pattern was something untried and new…. It’s perfect. (Phew!)

Next up: a warm soft scarf for my  husband, who, after 26 years of not needing one, does not seem to actually own one.  Or rather–there was one from scratchy cheap dimestore acrylic I made him nearly 30 years ago when we lived in New Hampshire, in a rather gaudy stage-prop green (you could see it clear to the last row) because it was the best that store could do. It was in no way warm, and ugly as all get-out (the stockinette with poofs of purl rows curled in a lovely seasick poodle effect) and the very memory of the thing makes me cringe: it made me not want to be a knitter.

There are good acrylics out there now, but not then and not this. (Dear, tell me we don’t still have that thing around!?)

Time to make it up to the man worth far more than his weight in qiviut.

Same as it ever was
Sunday January 27th 2013, 12:05 am
Filed under: Life

(With a nod to RobinFre of Yorktown on that title; scroll down to see her square.)

Thursday, I went with my friend Nina to the Campbell knitting group I rarely get to, I think only once all last year; faces lit up as we came in, the last to arrive. Carol ran in the back and grabbed two more chairs for us and set them up where there was a bit of space to squeeze us in.

Next to someone who, awhile into things, started sniffling and coughing.

Already exposed. There was no escape.

I so cannot catch that right now.

And… I was wiped today. A rare nap helped, and then I finally got myself out the door in the late afternoon to the place Michelle had thought my best and closest bet in my shoes search, a Nordstrom Rack.

I went down the 6.5 aisles. It was laughable, as I expected. I decided to try the 7s, and there in the sea of towering heels and bright sparkly straps was a sensible pair of Clark’s in wide–not quite too dowdy, not quite too casual. And black. The heel was about 2″, twice what I want, but I could actually get my foot into them, unlike anything else I’d seen. And they were comfortable!

A few hours later, there was this odd feeling like my feet seemed a little big in them–well yes but–so I pulled one off, wondering–turns out I had bought 7.5s that had been misplaced. A full size too long.

Which is what I had always had to buy in the days before I started wearing Birkenstocks. The shoe universe had kicked me back to my teens and twenties.

And I can wear my thick black wool socks in them in the snow and they are not open-backed clogs like my others. They will do.

At that store, going towards the checkout, my other problem was suddenly solved. I hadn’t thought I was going to be able to do anything about it at all, but there they were: wide-brimmed black hats, in a very soft wool (you sure this isn’t cashmere, I wondered, checking), half price, to make being outside when I have to be graveside just a little bit safer.

There were two. I liked the one with the sassy suede tassel dangling off the side but that nagging inner voice seemed to insist in spite of me that the other made more sense.

There was a petite Asian woman trying on hats in front of the same mirror, and we kept carefully stepping out of each other’s way, deciding, going back to the earlier one, being careful not to hog reflection time.

“I like that one on you,” she said, pointing at the other.

Standing there in my old Birkenstock sandals, I explained that that tassel appealed to the hippy in me.  But I did have to admit I was going to a funeral.

Ah. “That one’s more formal,” she affirmed.

I thanked her and put the betassled back and bought the formal one, marveling that she’d opened up and spoken to me and had said what I’d needed to hear. She was right.

And then I hightailed it to Purlescence for their last 15 minutes and got to see DebbieR after her class was over and to meet her husband before they made their long drive home. It was wonderful to see them! Till we meet again at Stitches. I’ll probably be wearing Birkenstocks, with, of course, handknit socks. Ya gotta keep that hippy thing going, y’know?

Their gift was the greater
Friday January 25th 2013, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Got to the post office: boots returned, striped hat mailed to old friend. Check.

Drove north. Silk scarf delivered to Piano Guy for his wife.

“I didn’t think they *made* this anymore,” he wondered out loud. “It really is…?”

“Silk,” I nodded, Yes. (It’s all Colourmart‘s fault.)

When I knit a hat for him awhile ago, he gave me a handshake in thanks, but in his excitement today at looking forward to the look to come in his wife’s face and in a color I knew she would love, I got a gentle hug this time on my way out.

I drove to the pharmacy. BD brand alcohol wipes in stock? (Needed when changing the dressing every three days.) Some of the other brands have perfumes, so, that one.

“I can’t keep them in stock,” Pharmacy Guy apologized.

Okay, no problem, meantime… I reached into my purse and pulled out a washable wool hat (thank you DebbieR! I just didn’t have a yarn that felt right, but she did.) “Is this set of colors okay?”

“Okay for what?” confused.

“For you, handknit by me,” and as he grabbed it, exclaiming in delight, I reminded him of that day and thanked him for looking out for us. He pulled it down to his eyebrows and created a Cheshire Cat moment: that big, big grin was all there seemed to be. He about danced.

I drove home remembering my occasional grouse over the slipperiness of silk and the few rows I had had to tink back carefully and redo because the stitches had jumped off the needle when I’d put it down, or the length of my queue or any other silly thing that ever got in my way even for a moment and remembered, this is what it’s all about. This is why I do this. To put more love into the world, to give back for all the people who’ve looked out for me, who prayed/hoped me back to good health and before and after. I owe those guys for how much more knitting will happen for more people because they knew it and they treasured it when they saw it and felt it.

(p.s. and a note to the knitters–today’s scarf was pure silk, but those on the site with a bit of lycra to them? In my very limited experience via one swatch, they seem to be able to grip another yarn in a way plain silk does not, so if you wanted to blend colors and increase weights by knitting two strands of whatever other yarn together with it, the thinner 95/5 silk/lycras are the way to go. And all of them, being cones from the mill, need to be scoured in hot water when you’re done knitting to get the mill oils out: softens the yarn and removes the dulling, graying effect of the stuff. And then look what you have! Glorious!)

Within earshot
Friday January 25th 2013, 12:18 am
Filed under: Life

The boots don’t fit. Ah well.

I stumbled across this article. For the first time, researchers were able to regenerate some of the hair cells in the inner ears of mice. Actual mammals. I want to jump up and down yelling at the top of my lungs, Do you know what this means?!!

(The link seems not to be working. Hmm. Well, the url was this: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-sensory-hair-cells-regenerated-mammal.html    Okay, that works.)

Historically there has been a huge gap between basic research and having it be applicable to actual patient care, and a lot of breakthroughs that could possibly have done much haven’t gotten the attention nor the funding to bridge that gap; if there’s not a clear path towards making a lot of money, companies won’t spend the millions it takes to jump through the FDA’s hoops–especially because historically the hoops could get yanked out from under them if/when a new head comes in. Politics happens.

As happened with a once-promising lupus drug that a company had believed in to the tune of, if I remember correctly, $21 million worth of development. Vanished. Would the med have worked? We don’t know.

President Obama made a point awhile ago of noting the problem and saying we need to move forward past those gaps–there was much cheering at places like the National Institutes of Health in my hometown.

Given the number of aging people with aging hearing, I’m thinking this one could be one of the most profitable drugs ever.

C’mon guys, I’m waaaitingggg…! Hurry up!

In the Jan. 10 issue of Neuron, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-sensory-hair-cells-regenerated-mammal.html#jCp

In the Jan. 10 issue of Neuron, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-sensory-hair-cells-regenerated-mammal.html#jCp

In the Jan. 10 issue of Neuron, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-sensory-hair-cells-regenerated-mammal.html#jCp

In the Jan. 10 issue of Neuron, Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School researchers demonstrate for the first time that hair cells can be regenerated in an adult mammalian ear by using a drug to stimulate resident cells to become new hair cells, resulting in partial recovery of hearing in mouse ears damaged by noise trauma.

Read more at: http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-01-sensory-hair-cells-regenerated-mammal.html#jCp

Narcissusarily so
Thursday January 24th 2013, 12:13 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Non-Knitting

The doorbell rang: a friend of Michelle’s I didn’t recognize and whose name I tried really really hard to get her to say loud enough for me to hear, since I was the only one home just then, offering up a blooming pot of narcissus in condolences. It was very sweet of her. Darned if I know who she was.

I remember the last time I had to be in real weather in winter, I felt very Californian because the only shoes I owned that had a closed heel were sneakers. (Other than the Wookie horsehair shearling-inside mukluks someone once gave me, but never mind.) So there I was in Birkenstock clogs, flipping snow at the backs of my quickly-freezing-wet legs as I walked.

Wookies are great for Halloween night as I hand out candy, funerals, not so much.

Young professional daughter to the rescue, Chan to the rescue by having given me a heads-up about a site to check out, and though they weren’t perfect, a new pair of size 6.5 EE-width leather boots in a price I could fathom right now was actually found. (A good time of year to be looking, too.)  Not flats, which I need, but at an inch and a quarter, close; we’ll see in express-shipping time if they fit, and if they don’t I will actually have to be dragged out shoe shopping, trying to find that one physical store among the millions of people in the Bay Area that has what I want in a size I can wear. Just a plain, classic, comfortable, no-frills pair of black leather boots. Hopefully they’re already coming.

That backup pair in that picture is motivation if nothing else. Family photographs will be taken. Um.

Wednesday January 23rd 2013, 12:14 am
Filed under: Knit

It was okay to dither over what to make next because I had a project in my hands. Dithering was what I could do to give my hands a break from time to time–go through that bag, no, what about this, how does this yarn look in sunlight vs artificial and is it the effect I want.

I put the first row of a hat over my head and on down to see if it could be the start of a cowl. It could. But it won’t be.

Finished the one project. Blocked it. Ran out of excuses.

I reminded myself that sometimes you just have to plow through the unknown re pattern vs style vs yarn vs color and just go find out what it’s going to turn into. Maybe not even what it wants to be when it grows up, but what it’s going to be anyway. And hey, if it turns out as a (euphemism alert) learning experience, you go make the next version.

I grabbed the sheared-mink strands that had been yelling the loudest and got started, and gradually as the rows grew I relearned something I already knew: if you use multiple strands of this stuff with tiny needles and knit it tightly with lots of double decreases, it decreases the perception of softness in those spots–it’s not bad at all but it doesn’t quite quite live up to the fiber. Try to stick with knit-two-togethers and slip-slip-knits.

Not that anyone would ever be going to complain when they touch this.

Meantime, I wanted really warm and really warm it will be.

Monday January 21st 2013, 11:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Sorry for the sideways.) Richard did a doubletake when he got home as he went to put his stuff down–where did those come from?

My friend Kathy came by, I told him, and she’d read the post about the spilt pea soup. Says you can put hot soup in these, the lids lock down on the top, you can transport it safely–she has–and they wash in the dishwasher, and she’d wanted to help keep our car clean the next time.

Very cool. Thank you, Kathy! I had no idea these even existed. Got room to make a triple batch with these guys.

Meantime, I particularly like this picture from the Inauguration. A husband, a wife, a mother-in-law.

(Ed. to add after reading Don’s question: it’s a package of three, each holding more than a gallon.)

It’ll curl your hair
Sunday January 20th 2013, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

I am told that my father-in-law, who has ever been quick with a witticism, was at the funeral home Friday when he asked the person in feigned seriousness, “Do you offer senior discounts?”

Wait for it…

Dad laughs, letting them know it’s okay to, too.

So with his good example setting the standard, I’m seriously debating making myself a warm hat for when I see him, maybe out of undyed baby alpaca or merino (and maybe not quite so bulky) so that it doesn’t quite compute till you get closer up. Go see what you think.

Saturday January 19th 2013, 2:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Awhile ago, maybe two months or so, Mary, who I know has knitted some beautiful things in her day, asked me something about a book. I didn’t quite hear which she was talking about but I was glad to help. Ah, she wanted me to have one–oh, thank you for thinking of me!

And then I didn’t hear from her and forgot all about it.

Yesterday morning Michelle showed up at work and blubbered the news and her boss sent her straight home to be with Richard and me. He was Skyping with his siblings; plans were being made, dates and places decided, and after all the phone calls and messages, it seemed so very quiet around here.

The phone rang in the afternoon. Somehow on that day of all days, Mary had felt moved to remember that she had had this book she had wanted me to have, and she asked if she might come over. We don’t live particularly close, especially for a woman of her age, and on any other day I might have had the presence of mind to have offered to come pick it up instead to save her the trip.

I was surprised at how stooped she looked as I opened my door, much more so than I remembered. “I’ll never get through all these now,” she chuckled, waving it away.

Turns out it was a first-edition 1970 Barbara Walker, her Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Wow. I was delighted, but in case someone else might need it told her I did have the complete set of the more recent reprints–as a matter of fact, the day before, I had mailed my mom’s old set to my daughter and her roommate to have fun with. (My mom had let me have them when she’d downsized.)

She hesitated a moment. I thought, And you came all this way, and my bad hearing, and…

I told her about my friend Gracie Larsen, who knew Barbara Walker and quite a few other big names in knitting, who had pushed me to get my own book out there and who had given me Ms. Walker’s phone number and Meg Swansen’s (her publisher’s) email and had told me to get to it. I’d needed permission to use some of Ms. Walker’s lace patterns within my shawls, and she graciously gave it to me but asked for attribution. Which I gave to the fullest extent of my editors’ cooperation–but it meant that Richard had come home from work that day and I was still fairly speechless at just who I’d talked to that day–wow!

Mary was flipping through her Walker book, and I loved out loud that unlike mine, hers had color.

She grinned, decision made, holding it out. Yours. She knew I would find someone who would appreciate it and love it as she had, starting right now with me for the moment.

I grabbed a waiting copy of “Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls” and asked her if she would like? Oh, yes! I flipped through, going, and that one is Julia J–, and that one is Nina P–, names she knew and whom I’d designed those shawls for.


She left and I prayed her a safe journey home, marveling that on that day of sorrow, she had brought generosity, love, light, and thinking of something I might like in order to make me happy and to further my skills and had gone so far out of her way to make sure it happened. Because it had felt like the right day to come.

Never really ready
Friday January 18th 2013, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

When the call comes in at that hour, you know.

I quietly turned off the alarm on my side while Richard talked to his brother-in-law. He confirmed to me the news from what would have been his mother’s point of view as she’d struggled through it all rather than ours in our sense of loss, telling me, not, She’s gone, but rather, It’s over. I wondered at how he’d somehow said what felt like the right words for her sake. He then in turn called each of our children, with tears.

Tuesday, after Lynn’s loss, when Richard got home I had told him CALL. YOUR. FOLKS. He felt it too. He is so glad he did.

Wednesday, I was flipping through the CD changer and stopped at an old Carole King album I hadn’t listened to in a goodly while. I don’t know if it even got to this song before I turned the stereo off and walked out the door, but her “Only Love Is Real,” followed by the line, “everything else is illusion” sang in my head all evening yesterday as I went off to Purlescence, all night, and first thing this morning when that phone rang with the news.

I’ve been trying to send a card every week with nature scenes, mostly birds, for some time now as my small part in supporting everybody there from our physical distance. I missed the mailman yesterday, ruefully, and got one ready a few minutes too late and put a Forever stamp…on… and looked at that envelope and that stamp and felt in my bones, she’ll never see this one.

But they had given them encouraging news two days ago that the time was not so imminent, I protested to myself, not wanting it to be true. Her youngest had flown in that afternoon and I wanted my sister-in-law to at long last have more time than that with her mother. Sister-in-law had been recovering from cancer treatments herself and was finally able to make it there.

Goodbye, Mom Hyde. We love you.

Richard added that the brother-in-law who’d called us had already told Dad he had a place to live with them. No need to uproot again. Never to have to be alone. At the timing of his choice.

Knits of prey
Thursday January 17th 2013, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

Hawk yoga. Every pose you could think of, including one I hadn’t seen before: wings raised in sharp inverted Vs with a tight lean forward as if ready for takeoff, then relaxing again on the fence, a foot slowly rising up and disappearing into the poofy feathers against the chill of the day. This is the life, he sang into the wind.

Half an hour. I considered walking a few steps over and back to pick up the hat project as I watched the hawk show, live!, but nah, why disturb him.

I suddenly wondered if, had I done so, what a small ball of yarn in blues/greens/purples would look like to him, with its long tail constantly jerking around my hands.  Caught me a live one!

After he left, anyway.

Frogged my shoe, too
Thursday January 17th 2013, 12:45 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

“Oh, something smells good!” as he climbed in the car.

For a long time, I’ve had good reasons not to sign up.

But the clipboard came around again at church after I’d gotten several days of political-group emails talking about a national volunteer day.  I’ve never been one to run with a crowd so I picked my own day but it just felt like time to step up.

It was for the Ronald McDonald House families by Stanford Hospital. I talked to the coordinator about how to pull this off. Walking with a large full heavy pot of sloshing soup with a cane in one hand and lousy balance while trying not to spend any time in the sun while needing to drop the soup off in not the late but the early part of the afternoon–it was going to be interesting.  She was delighted to have a new volunteer and assured me there was a handicapped spot right by the door; just check in at the desk and surely they’d be glad to help carry.

And so this morning I chopped two heads of celery, some big red and yellow peppers, a couple of onions, a good handful of seedless red grapes cut in half–don’t miss those–a whole lot of chicken broth, I cut up a no-nitrates ham steak, added two pounds of split peas, rinsed first. Simmer. Stir!

My dutch oven was very full. I got up and stirred it every couple of minutes for two and a half hours, partly to make sure it never got up to a big boil–there was just no room. I was supposed to bring enough for 16 people, but given how much there was I  only felt a little guilty for scooping a bit out for Richard and Michelle.

Good thing.

Split pea soup is a favorite around here but it was also on the list of foods I got told to my great regret not to eat anymore post-op. I do, actually, but only a few spoonfuls, watered down with lots of fluids.

I am so glad I saved their part out.

The little boy had just gotten out of the elementary school up the street and was clearly enjoying the speed of his bike. He was alone. He was careening through the pedestrian island where the main road crosses his and it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to stop in time–I slammed hard on the brakes. The guy behind me slammed his.

Nobody hit the kid. Or anyone else, either.

But what was–I glanced down when I felt safely well past him, and there was what turned out to be half of that pot of soup splashed across the floor.

It wasn’t till I got to the Ronald McDonald house that I was able to fully assess the damage: the carpet was just the start. Part of the dash, the center console, my right shoe, the little lever thingy to pull the seat forward and back, behind there–and yet somehow there was still more soup in that pot.

I went to the check-in desk and got a very helpful woman who brought a cart and towels: no need to carry that pot in, and there, put the towels on the bottom tray when you’re done. She hovered, wanting to help, but the passenger side floor of a Prius is a one-woman operation.

I gave it up for the sun exposure of it, not explaining more than, I’ll finish this at home, thank you so much for the towels and the help! The moral support especially is what I really meant.

We walked through what turned out to be a beautiful building, very well designed as a healing place for families of sick children. Into the kitchen. There was a row of crockpots waiting, and I wished for a smaller one but was surprised at how much of my offering still, after all that, went into that big thing. Loaves and fishes!

Back at the car, I smiled wryly. It ain’t easy being green.

I posted something brief on Facebook, and a local friend (thank you Suzi!) mentioned that the car-washing place over thataway will do a carpet shampoo and shopvac in a small area after a spill. Good.  The little boy is okay, that’s what matters most; I can only pray that the little ones of the families staying where I took the soup to will be, too.

I picked Richard up from work and his comment as he got in the car made it instantly clear that this was a dinner he was going to thoroughly enjoy. And somehow that, too, made it all worthwhile.

And even after I dropped half the rest of it on my other foot Michelle got some after she got off work late. Ooh, Mom! Split pea soup!

(With a p.s. for Phyllis: your plates of cookies I delivered sat demurely on the seat the whole time and showed that green stuff down there How It’s Done. They were fine.)