It’s perfect
Monday February 13th 2023, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Friends

The mail that had been on hold got delivered today but instead of the usual slightly-gruff-but-it’s-a-bluff hello, the mailman scurried away without a word as if in a hurry.

There were two surprise boxes.

The first one was from–wait. That’s her, right? That’s her married name. Right? North Carolina? I think that’s right. But why? What?

It was from an old friend whom I’d long wished I hadn’t lost touch with, whose married name I had no idea of or even if she was (she was), who saw some comment on a mutual old high school buddy’s Facebook post and grabbed the chance to connect and we were both so glad to find each other again.

She had made me a quilt. In the time since we’d found each other around I think Christmas.

While recovering from a broken wrist. And it is gorgeous, and cheerful, and happy-making, and I am so blown away. Wow doesn’t begin to cover it. I will treasure it the rest of my life. Thank you, Susan.

The other box. Let me see about some details and I’ll get back to you on that one.

Flew over a little bit of ocean and back
Sunday February 12th 2023, 11:51 pm
Filed under: Family

Spent the weekend with the grandkids. More later.

Spencer, four, got scooped up by his mom and buried his head in her shoulder in distress that we were leaving. He’d been having way too much fun for that.

Me, too, little guy, me, too.

Spring fever
Friday February 10th 2023, 11:50 am
Filed under: Garden

The August Pride peach, while the Baby Crawford next to it is trying to play catch up.

Sky dance
Thursday February 09th 2023, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I’ve seen Nick’s photography of the peregrine falcons for years and he is really really good at what he does.

But wow. A murmuration of starlings is fascinating enough; capturing the peregrine dive bombing the flock to create that sky ballet?

How often do we get to see anything like this?

Paid forward and forward and more to come
Wednesday February 08th 2023, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life

She so admired the dandelion gerdan I was wearing that day.

I went back to one of my artist friends in Ukraine and explained that I wanted one of her designs for a dear friend: and so it was custom made and sent on its way, taking a little less than the usual time to get here.

Marnie stopped by today and I told her I was hedging my bets–and since I’d been able to have a choice, she should, too.

What I didn’t know was that she’d come out of retirement to teach refugees at the community college to help them get certification in what they were already trained in in their former countries: there’s an intense program that puts great demand on both teachers and students and both have to be completely committed to it–but their graduation rate is 100% so far.

Some of her students are Ukrainian refugees. She was wearing a shirt one of them had designed with a sunflower on it–she’d bought six.

We are distant cousins, can you tell?

She knew they would instantly know what her gerdan was and the enormity of the support it would convey.

I’d had no idea. None. All I’d known was that it felt imperative to gift specifically Marnie with a beaded necklace from Ukraine.

She exclaimed over the tininess of the beads and the size of needle that would require and how, on both of them, the artists had had the skill to make the thing lie perfectly flat. She was familiar with beading looms and the work involved.

I reminded her of the day twenty years ago when I’d been released from the hospital with a PICC (pronounced pick) line still in, a direct path for the next IV from the outside threading through to just above my heart: just in case I ended up back in the hospital. After going through weeks of being unable to digest food and very nearly dying, if they had to do intravenous feeding again they didn’t want to have to do that surgical procedure twice. You can’t put that stuff in a regular IV.

I had been warned I was absolutely not to get it wet at risk of transmitting infection to where you’d least want to.

And I desperately wanted clean hair again.

Marnie and her daughters had not only come by but had brought a swivel chair with them to make sure I’d be comfortable, got me leaned back over the kitchen sink and washed my hair for me.

Yeah, she said today, but that was a long time ago and it really wasn’t… I mean…

I told her that when I ended up back in the hospital with the next flare six years later, they told me, Oh, we don’t do that anymore. Too many complications. Too many people ended up with infections.

Because, (as I looked her in the eye), they washed their own hair. I have been so intensely grateful all these years.

She had earned so much more than jewelry. And it is: it was hours put in for her sake by someone who doesn’t even know her but wanted to do that for her, just to claim a corner of love in the world while surrounded by war, the gift of knowing that she was making someone happy out there by what she could offer of her skills.

After Marnie left I sat down and wrote a note to Oleksandra, saying, And my friend teaches Ukrainian refugees. They will see it and they will know they are in a place that is safe.

I pray Ukraine will soon be so as well.

Thank you thank you thank you.

Masterfully done
Tuesday February 07th 2023, 10:57 pm
Filed under: Politics

A quick glance across the initial articles and even the pictures in the Washington Post after Biden’s State of the Union speech were–man, it was something. Did they watch the same thing I did? All the times he smiled: he was on top of his game, he totally knew it, the crowd knew it, and he was relishing the moment.

That State of the Union was a speech for the ages. Delivered with perfect timing, again and again. He had Kevin McCarthy of all people joining in giving him a standing ovation, not at first but as he got into it it happened again and again.

Marjory Taylor Greene, bless her heart (hah!), heckled him, following the example of Joe Wilson, who promptly got voted out after his shout of, “You lie!” at a President for telling the truth.

Biden stopped right there and shot back, I didn’t say bill I said proposal. You know that was the proposal from the Republicans, to sunset Medicare and Social Security. Alright (he grins.) Are you saying you’re FOR Social Security and Medicare? (He sweeps his arm around the room, inviting the camera to follow.) Everybody who’s for keeping Social Security and Medicare permanently, stand!

And nearly the whole room stood as one, clapping wildly, with the camera lingering on the crowd. The usual MAGAts were giving the stink eye like Cancun Cruz, but honey don’t you pay him no never mind.

Biden introduced the parents of Tyre Nichols and grieved with them.

Then he talked about the people in law enforcement with integrity, and that’s most of them, he said, with honor, who protect the public and whose families just want them to be able to come home to them at the end of the day.

He paused.

And so does everybody else. We need to reform policing to better serve all of us.

McCarthy stood up for that one.

Again and again he called out members of Congress from both sides and thanked them for bills passed and described the good that has happened because they did. He thanked them for their bipartisanship and invited them to do more.

He said, We’re the only country in the world founded on an IDEA.

Democracy is what keeps us together! Democracy is not a partisan issue, it’s an AMERICAN issue.

And then to the best of my memory it was, G_d bless the United States of America, thank you, and G_d bless all of us. Good night!

Have a little spring
Monday February 06th 2023, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Garden,Wildlife

The first peach flowers of spring, determined to defy the past week’s night freezes.

Meantime, I had been wondering about our holly bush.

Till I saw something I’d never seen in all these years–but then there used to be a huge toyon bush next door just covered in winter in orange berries that were clearly their favorite. But it’s gone now.

It was the robins. With all the upper berries gone and no good place to settle and perch from down below, three of them were diving at the holly bush (carefully!) to get at the last. (So that’s where they all went!)

I looked it up to make sure I wasn’t poisoning them the way heavenly bamboo/nandina’s berries do, but nope, holly’s part of their natural, native diet. Cool. They just prefer the toyons–or perhaps being in a wintertime flock the size it could support.

They had to settle for my holly now. All the more robin sightings for me.

With love from Chateaux du chapeau
Sunday February 05th 2023, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift

I couldn’t just sneak a new one for it because it had been worn too much for me to get away with that.

At eleven, he was bicycling over to my house during Christmas break to cover and uncover the baby mango tree night and morning while we were out of town. He protested that I was paying him too much (I wasn’t) and got one of the first mangoes ever to come off that tree.

Two years ago? I think? I knit him a hat, to his great delight, in the oft-repeated Malabrigo Mecha in Teal Feather, as soft a wool as you could ask for and washable.

Two weeks ago at church his mother asked me if I could repair it.

I’m guessing he didn’t want me to think he didn’t take good care of it. But it’s okay. Things happen.

Last week I showed them a bag I’d found of all the little balls of leftover Mecha in that color: I had saved them for future hat stripes but really just in case of an emergency like this. I asked them to help me find the best match because my cataracts mess with my perception of blues.

They decided the mom could do this and took the bag home, while I was left thinking, but I wasn’t trying to put that on you!

This morning the young man himself came over, pointed to the darkest mini ball in the center of the bag, and said decisively, We think that one.

The hat was back in the bag.

I was delighted–I’d really wanted to do that for them and had been a little sorry at the misunderstanding. I knew it would be a much easier task for me than her.

Got home from church, and thought, Do not get distracted. You know they’re waiting. You know he had to wait this extra week during a cold snap to get his clearly loved hat back–do it now.

So I sat down with it.

Oh. This wasn’t just the cast-on end working loose, now that I looked closely, that yarn was torn. (Their cat maybe?) This was going to be more than I thought. Okay, that and that are the torn ends and there, in between, it no longer has its cast-on-row stitch. Hmm.

The dad is the grandson of Ukrainian refugees. I told them later, The irony is that what I did is called the Russian join: I took the new yarn (leaving a dangly end) and ran it through the interior of the broken yarn to catch it and hold it in place.

(I didn’t bother them with the detail that the full term is the Russian spit-splice–they didn’t need that visual in his clothing.)

I reworked a few more stitches on the wrong side to try to really tack down those random fibers, and then I ran the two ends up the edges of the purls in the ribbing. I could do it pulled tight so that it looked good–tried it, went nope–or looser so it felt good. Definitely looser. As you can see, but won’t when he wears it with the brim down.

The kicker is that where the yarn had broken was in one of the lightest spots because the dye hadn’t fully penetrated the yarn. But I think, yes I do think, it came out quite okay.

I emailed the parents to ask when I should bring the hat by and my doorbell rang so fast before I even got around to looking up their phone numbers. Mom, dad, son: they all wanted to be there to see it come back to life.

I said to Eli as they leaving, Thank you: that hat is clearly well loved and worn and I never know if people actually use them. You made me so happy. Thank you!

It made his day and he walked down my walkway after his parents with the biggest smile on his face.

That, I tell you, is a young college-bound man who is knit-worthy. His parents raised him well.

Hey, guys, don’t act so chipper about it
Saturday February 04th 2023, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Life

After a break of several weeks to let the previous storms sink into the groundwater to protect the roots of everything, the rain is back. They said we’d get less than a half inch across three days; we had more than that yesterday, more than that again today, and tomorrow’s looking pretty good, too.

There was a gorgeous towering old oak of probably several hundred years at the church’s stake center before those nine atmospheric rivers earlier.

I can only hope the wood was put to good use, at least, when it came down.

In plane sight
Friday February 03rd 2023, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Got a Hey look at this offer! from Southwest Airline. Which reminded me.

At the niece’s second wedding reception, my husband the computer scientist was talking to his cousin the pilot.

Who had been stuck in the Christmas meltdown. But who had managed to get through such that he flew the plane that got Richard’s sister (and himself) to the actual wedding, and he was pretty happy about that: he got a planeload of people to where they were fairly desperate at that point to go.

He said, The thing people don’t get is that Southwest allows its crews to live wherever they want. They have a great deal of autonomy because in each city they’re assigned out of, there’s central management to report to who take requests and adjust personal schedules and smooth things and make people happy. There are unwritten rules that everybody understands and abides by, and you have this authority centralized to where you live and by people you get to know like a big happy family.

And that’s usually good, he said–but when it was bad it totally melted down, and we on the inside could see this coming and tried to warn them.

Hubby the software guy said, But if you do it that way then you can’t update because you can’t write software that manages operations better without having the rules being written down. Which means adhered to. Which means giving up power: everything across the system would become centralized to the system.

Computers have no human empathy component. Things would have to be Done A Certain Way to make the automated system work–which means a lot of those managers would become completely unnecessary and lose their jobs. And the crews and the pilots would lose a whole lot of autonomy (not to mention their friends they’ve worked with forever.) You just go where/when you’re assigned.

I thought, There’s got to be some degree of middle ground.

So it’ll be interesting to see what the FAA does as it plays grown-up to the various sides here.

National Ukulele Day
Thursday February 02nd 2023, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Someone far away from her was flipping idly through TV channels. And happened to catch that the local news was, in honor of National Ukulele Day, re-airing a video from ten years ago–and she immediately grabbed her phone to tell her old friend.

I told the story a few years ago of a friend I hadn’t seen since high school who posted on FB that she was at SFO and her luggage had gone missing and what was she going to do for the presentation she had to give the next day?

And that is how Katherine found out I lived halfway between where that was going to be and the airport. I offered her my closet. Take anything. Don’t worry about getting it back to me. She thanked me, did a fast trip to Macy’s instead–but allotted two unexpected hours out of her travel plans to spend catching up with me in person. We had such a good time. We had made such good choices of friends when we were teenagers forty years earlier.

She had finally found the love of her life while living in Maine. Frank was a one man show: a lawyer in a small town, the public defender, the reporter for the one-man newspaper: all community service all the time.

When he wasn’t being a roadie for the university’s ukulele band. I wish I could have met him.

Then the pancreatic cancer. The local station covering that group’s coming to play for him while he was in hospice. Her gratitude. All caught on a video she thought she’d never see again.

She lives in Virginia now to be close to her elderly mom.

And then this old friend in Maine went, wait–that’s–!!!

My widowed friend called the station, and they were as thrilled to hear from her as she was to hear their response: they sent her a copy so that she could see it, too. So that she could have it.

From when Frank was still alive to hear his love coming back to him in the faces and music of his friends as his wife held his hand and, briefly, lifted his arm to carry the beat like he would have done had he still been able.

Their story starts at 2:12.

Also, pie
Wednesday February 01st 2023, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Food,Knit

(Sunflower rolling pin here. I much prefer their big size.)

There was some blue cashmere that has been in my stash with the start of some forgotten thing for several years now and today somehow finally felt was its day: I went to see what there was of it.

Not much. The cast on, enough stitches to connect the ends–and a merciless tangle of yarn and dropped stitches.

Nuts to that. I started over.

By the end of the new cast on I knew why the thing had never gotten anywhere: the raspy needle and that grabby yarn were the worst enemies. I didn’t want to knit even the first row till I’d found a different pair.

I found a very slick circular. Size 6.


That was the one I’d finally finished yesterday’s project on, where the needle was too slippery for the very slippery yarn and so it had taken me forever to make myself get it done.

All I’d needed to do the whole time was swap the two out.

Switch, swatch, I was making a botch


(Note to self: next time you fill ten pounds of flour into the container, don’t drop it. And if you do drop it, don’t aim it upwards at your cashmere sweater. And if you do, just hope the neighbors’ security camera didn’t record the pouffy cloud you shook off outside the front door. Also if anyone knows the best way to carefully clean the rest of the flour out without making glue please reassure me that I do, in fact, know how to hand wash sweaters.)