Putting our House in order
Wednesday October 16th 2013, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Politics

After sixteen days of the shutdown, as a Washington, DC-born native and political addict I happened to catch the Washington Post just as they were going live with the one-minute-limit speeches and then the vote in the House.

It took me back to my grandfather’s funeral, where his former Senate chief of staff told of another staffer telling him, You don’t know how lucky you are. You always know your guy will vote his conscience. Ours hides in the cloakroom to see which way it’s going.

And so the vote began slowly tonight, especially on the Republican side and with their Ayes two-to-one to their Nays–until they hit that magic number that meant the Democrats were going to win now, period: we would not default. We would reopen the government. The deal was done.

And so now they could play to the folks in their districts back home without being responsible for bringing the country and even the world down around their heads, and suddenly the Republican Nays doubled, then in short order doubled again.

Made for interesting political theater.

Now, whichever side one might be on politically, there is one thing that hasn’t gotten much press that I think we should all be able to agree on. Standing House Rule 22 Section 4 was described by James Madison thus: “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution.”

Thus: if the House amends a Senate bill and the Senate rejects the amendments and sends it back to the House, any member of the House can then call for a straight up-or-down vote on that bill. That was Rule 22 Section 4.

Chris Van Hollen, during the standoff, asked to be able to do exactly that and was denied. The Republican-run Rules Committee had met the day before the shutdown and had changed that centuries-old rule so that now only the Majority Leader–that would be Eric Cantor of the Tea Party–had the authority to call such a bill up for a vote.

Jason Chaffetz (the guy who wants to sell off chunks of Yosemite) tried repeatedly to refuse to allow Van Hollen to be heard.

“Democracy has been suspended,” said Van Hollen after his attempts at getting a straight answer out of the guy as to just what they had done, and he wrote a piece for The Guardian laying out the details.

There’s been a lot of press about the Hastert rule, but even Dennis Hastert says it wasn’t really a rule.

This, however, is something that everyone needs to tell their House representative to overturn: even if it serves your side now, it will be used against you later. It gives control over the entire House, and as we saw these last two weeks the entire country, to one man in one party in one half of Congress that is one third of the three branches of the government. One individual, under Citizens United, denying liberty and administering injustice to all.

And that is no way to run this great country.

Write your Congressperson. Reinstate House Rule 22 Section 4. By law.

And now, at long last, two-year-olds in teddy bear suits will get to go see Smokey the Bear at the National Zoo again.

(Edited to add: find links to your Senators’ emails here. Your House members, here.

There’s a draft in there
Tuesday October 15th 2013, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

There was a convocation at Stanford tonight, the speaker being a former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and now dean of the college of the arts at Utah State University, and Richard, his sister, her husband, my father-in-law, his sister and her husband and Michelle all went.

I didn’t risk it. Nobody needs my germs.

The speaker told of the time he ended up performing on a USO tour and how the experience had changed his life, and how he only got invited to do so because someone else who was to be on it had been drafted at the last second.

He didn’t say the drafted soldier was a dear friend. He did say that the group he thus got to be in sang for a soldier who had lost all his limbs in his service in Vietnam and the man had never spoken a word since his injuries. He did not seem to have any response to their presence.

Their last song was “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” and at that there were tears running down the man’s face and he whispered, “Thank you. Thank you.”

They’d shared their voices and he had at last found his own.

The power of presence, the power of music: the experience changed what Craig Jessop did with his life.

The friend who’d been drafted, he did not know, was sitting in that audience listening to him tell the tale–and that was Richard’s Uncle Nate.

The family all stopped by here afterwards for a brief visit and hugs, braving my germs and I finally got to see them (Richard did yesterday); it had been a long day, though, and Dad was tired, so they didn’t stay long before heading back up the mountains. We sent them off with a chocolate torte out of our freezer for their last full day in California tomorrow.

It was very kind of them. I’m so glad I got to have a little time with them at last.

And so glad that Nate got to see his old friend.

Barbara Walker’s sweaters
Monday October 14th 2013, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

My friend Gracie Larsen, the founder of the Lacy Knitters Guild and to whom at least one of the Interweave lace books is dedicated, and a member of our local knitting group, talking to me about eight years ago: “Alison! How’s your book coming along?!”

“It isn’t.”

“Well, that’s no good!” and she asked me what the holdup was. Then she handed me the names, emails, and phone numbers of some of her dear friends to get the ball rolling again for me.

Including, among others: Meg Swansen.

Barbara Walker.

One of the things that had been stumping me was that I wanted to use some of Ms. Walker’s lace patterns within my shawls but I had not a clue how to reach her to ask, nor whether she was even still alive; my mother had bought her stitch treasuries around 1970, and I had no idea how old she’d been then. My father had spent ten years researching and writing a book when I was a kid that someone else later pirated a great deal of, so copyright issues have always been near and dear to my heart–I wasn’t going to just appropriate those stitches.

I had finished my shawls. They had sat there.

Meg was as gracious as anyone who’s ever interacted with her in any way would know she would be. Barbara was deeply gratified at having been asked; she told me she sees knits with patterns she knows she created pop up in various places with no credit given.

My son was living not far from Barbara at the time, as it turned out, and we swapped hurricane stories a bit. I tried not to take too much of her time but was and am very grateful for her generosity and her goodwill towards me personally and the whole of the knitting community.

My husband came home from work that day and I was still just too stunned, trying to take it all in, who I’d been talking to that morning–wow! Grace’s gesture had been the knitter’s equivalent of, here, go talk to my friend the President, here’s his private line! Like it was the most natural thing in the world. And once online or on the phone with them, they made it feel like it was indeed. (Terry Martin then at Martingale, too.) Good people.

Why I’m mentioning all this. Barbara Walker is having an auction, via Schoolhouse Press, Meg Swansen’s company, of things she has knitted. Things she photographed to go into those stitch treasuries. You just have to go have a look: if you’re a knitter, this is part of our history. Pretty cool stuff.

Oh snap
Sunday October 13th 2013, 11:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

I had to make the first move. He wasn’t going to do it.

I offered to open the hoarded coveted box of Triple Ginger Snaps from Trader Joe’s.

Now, I’m not big on store-bought cookies. But these are good. The natural-ingredient list is short and to the point: just sweet enough. Crunch to the nth degree. Just enough zing to the ginger. Small and potato-chip addictive.

But what caught me by surprise and had me grabbing the box to read it, was, after nearly a year and a half of having lived with someone who’s allergic to dairy–

“Butterrrrr,” I swooned. “Taste that butterrr.” I had really, really missed it.

Because, after all, you don’t bake the really good stuff and then have your kid come home and only be able to smell the heaven from the oven wafting around the house, mocking her. It wasn’t till her teens that she started reacting to it; she knows what she’s missing, and it’s hard enough.

But she’s got her own place now. I have butter in my freezer and I know how to use it. For the moment, though, while I figure out which recipe in my mental stash comes first (there’s no particular hurry), please pass the box.

Frog frog frog frog frog and then jumping on over
Saturday October 12th 2013, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,My Garden

Six hours. The magical number was 203, and it took me six hours of ripping and redoing to stumble my way there, but when I got there and it looked good it was such a long-waited-for moment of I DID IT!

The silk/lycra and the baby alpaca held up perfectly through all that.

Meantime, I got out of the house: a package arrived for Michelle and she invited us to bring it on over and see her new place. I was quite looking forward to it. We got to meet her roommate Michelle, who came home while we were there, and it’s clearly a happy place to be; we’re very pleased.

But it was amazing to me how exhausting it still was simply sitting in a car and then climbing the stairs over there. Eh. Day by day.

Our Michelle had some homemade cookie dough in the fridge and offered us ginger cookies if we didn’t mind waiting for them to bake, and my sweet husband’s instant reaction was, Your mom didn’t bring her knitting.

I laughed. We waited. We talked. We savored.

Then this evening: the neighbors are doing some repair work on an old part of the fence and they have part of it open at the moment. I went to water the fruit trees and found myself trying not to breathe near them but still, they were out in their back yard working, there we were, and too rarely do we get a chance to talk to those good folks. And so we did. I told them about the long wait and the apples at last.

I don’t know that Adele had ever seen my back yard before. We talked peach trees (there, and there…) I will try to get the Tropic Snow to grow towards their yard, and they might well plant one themselves; I promised it would be well pollinated. Lorings don’t need pruning? Cool!

And then I went inside for the scissors, came back out, and quietly snipped the shipping tape on a box and picked them a large, ripe, juicy Fuji. I know how good it is; we ate the other one of that pair yesterday.

Thus there are now two boxes left and then we’re done for the season.

I called near the opening, wondering; were they still out there? She stepped into sight and about squealed with delight–she too has childhood memories of picking apples in the Fall in Virginia. It was a treasure to her, too, my box-misshaped offering, a memory made on the spot.

Next year, hopefully, now that I know what to do, there will be a lot more to share around.

A burgundy hand is worth, too, in the rush
Friday October 11th 2013, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Knit

Blocked now. Done, in three days, and if I hurry I can finish three projects in under two weeks.

That is, I was thinking, if I knew what that third was actually going to be. I knew what I wanted to do: grandson stuff, Paige stuff, daughter stuff, but the germs were the issue. And so I went stash diving for inspiration.

Not that, I want something brighter, not that, it just doesn’t…too blah, not that….

Oooh, look, that cherry silk/lycra goes really well with that burgundy-red laceweight baby alpaca! Who knew! And the lycra will help anchor the silk in place and keep it from slipping out and away from the other yarn. (I’ve learned the hard way: pure, slippery-spun silk doubled with something else? Don’t.)

I had no intention whatsoever of knitting anything remotely brown, none. But the yarn cat’s-cradled me and ignored my protests–this was it.

Even said a little prayer as I sat down to swatch to test for best needle size, was this really what I was supposed to do next?

Blink. Okay, then. Just make sure to tell me the right place to send it when I’m done, okay? And germ-free?

They looked out for us
Thursday October 10th 2013, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Thank you, everybody. Thought I’d  mention a little about Bruce and Paige. When our oldest was going off to college 800 miles away, we decided to drive her to school: we could see her dorm room, hopefully get to meet her roommate (I think she hadn’t arrived yet, we never did) and, hey, see our old stomping grounds at BYU. Any parent who’s been there knows how hard it is to send your first off into the world.

Not that it gets easier with the others.

Bruce and Paige found out we were nearby and invited us over, and we spent a wonderful evening catching up, swapping stories, feeling that sense of belonging beyond words.

Sam was off at some freshman thing, the only one not there.

They made a point of saying that she was to call them at any time for any reason, a ride, a hug, whatever they could do they were there for her.

I can’t begin to say how grateful we were for that. We returned home knowing she was in good hands and she, too, was relieved to know she had family backing her up should she need it. Just knowing that made the adjustment to college life easier.

(I got a call: Mom. It’s SNOWING. I have my electric blanket set to Deep Fat Fry and I am NOT coming out! She laughed soon after that yes, snow was fine now.)

We didn’t know that due to local school district date changes and autoimmune flares, she would be the only child we would get to do that with.

I talked to Bruce yesterday: soft gray, turquoise, he says. I actually have, I think in that bin… But I’m not breathing on nor touching it till I’m over my flu. I’ll just have to wait to see.

Speaking of Sam, she took the job: she really is moving to Alaska.

Which is really, really, well yes really cool.

The knitting needles, they are going to be busy.

Wednesday October 09th 2013, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life,LYS

I did redo the cast-off on yesterday’s. I blocked it. Now it is what it was meant to be: ready.

Susan at Abstract Fibers once gave me some Burnside Bridge colorway wool to play with, and I did; I liked it so much I bought some in Picasso, their baby alpaca, via Purlescence.

And that’s what I plowed halfway through today.

And in the middle of it I got the emails–I need to finish it and get it out of the way fast.

It happens to so many people. It’s so personal. My cousin Bruce’s wife Paige found the lump the mammogram reading had missed and had a double mastectomy yesterday. Three tumors, at least two lymph nodes look involved–and yet, I know someone else who came out of surgery with that kind of news where the pathology report a week later said one tumor only was malignant. And that friend is past the five-year mark now.

Eight to twelve months of treatment ahead.

And I am blinking, trying to figure out what the very softest yarn I own might be and what color it should be. And no, the above projects, nice as they are, aren’t it. Hmm.

Tuesday October 08th 2013, 10:50 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

The picture does not begin to do it justice, way too blue and too sedate–here, try theirs… (Running and Googling so I can link up.)

Well huh. I guess they don’t carry Gaia anymore. The grass colorway isn’t quite as deep but it’s the closest.

So what it is: I splurged on a single bright jewel-green 100g skein of shimmery worsted weight goodness at the Phydeaux Designs booth at Stitches West this past February: half silk, half Falkland Island wool. Which reminded me of our second apartment and our new and first baby and the Newsweek cover by the easy chair that read, The Empire strikes back.

Best-written headline of its day.

And then it bugged me that I didn’t know what to do with the yarn.

And then Sunday I did. My cowl is done–although, I’m thinking I need to undo that cast-off, it seems a little tight. (I didn’t break the last of the ball off yet.) Blocking would say yay or nay on whether it needs that, but I like the fabric as is so much that I didn’t block it tonight and just might not. (Or maybe that’s all inner code for, I’m done with it for the night don’t bug me.)

Let me see what the morning says.

For good conduct
Monday October 07th 2013, 10:51 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics

Being sick is boring, so I’m going to mention other stuff.

Congress is trying to sell off parts of Yosemite for logging and mineral rights, along with a fair number of other public lands. Firefighting the Rim fire, that was expensive, you know. You can’t go in there, because they’re not funding the parks, but if the bill passes, the corporations can (and you never will again where they will be).

The studies and facts for anyone worried about whether or not to vaccinate their kid or how to answer someone who won’t.

Okay, and for something far more fun, this article says a Carnegie Hall orchestra was plunked on a random street corner in New York City with a sign: “Conduct us.” The first person to step up on the conductor’s podium (with encouragement from her mommy) was a little girl who had to have stood way high on her tippy tippy toes to reach the music stand, where she opened her coloring book to just the right page and started waving that baton for her daddy and his friends to start the music.

No line was formed, there were no rules anywhere, and yet everybody noticed who had been waiting longer than themselves and waited their turn, strangers looking out for strangers and laughing together while appreciating the magic of the moment. Move the baton slow or fast, point at this player or that and the musicians watched and honored their efforts and played along for the sheer joy of it.

Can we send them all to the halls of Congress?

Clearly Washington needs more musicians. They would bring out the best in the people who need it the most.

Air apparent
Sunday October 06th 2013, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Thank you, everybody. Today let me up for air a bit; still sick but no chest pains. Much less nausea. I was actually able to get up in the morning rather than doing half hour intervals upright at 11 and 2 and then crumbling like the last four days.  And: I knitted! I wanted to all week but holding my arms up and me up long enough to even think about it was just out of the question. But today I got to! Wanting something that would pay off quickly, I grabbed the closest yarn that didn’t need to be wound and got about 2/3 of the way through a cowl. I actually got something done.

Richard’s stronger too. Thank you all for the good wishes and prayers sent our way: much appreciated. It helped.

And yesterday evening we got sent a video of Hudson in a baby jumper, laughing and giggling and bouncing and responding to encouragement and just being an overwhelmingly cute little bundle of six-month-old happiness.

How could one not feel better after that?

It is what it is
Saturday October 05th 2013, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The lupus and Crohn’s duo have been trying to get in on this, since immune=autoimmune too, and I again spent most of the day trying to get fluids down and staying down, knowing that if I barfed once I wouldn’t stop and we would be straight out the door to Urgent Care for IV fluids. But things held, and by late afternoon I was able to get a little food in there too.

Richard still hasn’t shaken his cold/flu/comes with a fever, whichever you want to call it/ entirely either, although his started a week earlier.

His aunt and Dad called: they were down in the valley, could they be here in a half hour?

Oh honey you so don’t want this bug. We so want to see you, but.

It felt terrible not to get to say sure, come!, but you do what you have to to take care of your loved ones.

Friday (it is, right?)
Friday October 04th 2013, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Life

Michelle brought over chicken soup. And I got some solid food down for the first time all day.

Oh, and. The knitted house. A play fort for knitters and their little ones, don’tcha think?

Better than this morning
Thursday October 03rd 2013, 8:57 pm
Filed under: Life

An apple tree, courtesy of LynnM: two hundred fifty types grafted onto one tree.

A knitted botanical garden.

And after eating some soup, looking at the pretty pictures, and wishing I had the oomph to be knitting, I think I’ll go back to sleep.

Crossing our fingers
Wednesday October 02nd 2013, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Didn’t get the flu shot. I was dragging yesterday and thought, well, a good night’s sleep will take care of that and then I’ll feel up to driving.

Not so much. Woke up with the bug Richard’s had the past week: sore throat, bit of a fever, cold-ish.

The phone rang a few minutes ago. Richard’s widowed dad is coming to stay at his sister’s/the aunt’s up in the nearby Santa Cruz mountains for a goodly visit with the northern California contingent of the family. We knew there was a plan in the works; tomorrow?

It will be so good to see him. I just want badly for Dad to stay healthy, is all.

Let’s get that good night’s sleep.