Kishu tree for my milestone
Thursday December 13th 2018, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

My sweet husband. He’s a very kind man.

They’d been sold out the last several years whenever I looked, and Four Winds is the only grower I know of allowed to ship citrus here: we don’t have the devastating greening disease (Huonglongbing) yet in northern California, and they’ve moved their citrus growing inside with air blowing unwanted insects away at the doors to try to avoid it.

Kishu mandarins are tiny little things that are not sold commercially. You have to know someone who has a tree. The skins just fall right off, there are no seeds, and after seeing them demonstrated there is so little fiber to them that even I should be able to eat them easily. Just pop a small round packet of sweet juice into your mouth and that’s about it.

I first saw them in planters outside a restaurant a few years ago and wondered, what *is* that? How have I never heard of this? And so I went looking. There were none to be found, not from them and not from any retailer within a hundred miles when I settled for the Gold Nugget mandarin that I bought in Santa Cruz, whose birdnetted first squirrel-free fruits are turning orange now. And those will be good. Post-colectomy and all that, I’ll probably have to juice mine.

But normal tasty food eaten a normal way. Richard gets what that means to me.

I looked again a few days ago, just out of sheer curiosity. Four Winds had Kishus! And not only that, when he saw my enthusiasm my patient husband backed me up on it.

It came on my birthday today, four years to the day after the mango did.

This is how you properly celebrate flipping over the tens column. With enthusiasm over the growth and caretaking and offerings to come.

They made it memorable
Wednesday December 12th 2018, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My dad likes to say, How many meals do you eat in your life? Now: how many do you remember?

So they had this plan, with my son saying the credit for the idea goes to his wife. I had a bit of a lingering cough but they decided that that wouldn’t stop anything.

He was already at the airport when he got the word that, uh…

He got on that plane anyway. We could bring the food home if need be. We were going to celebrate my milestone birthday (early, while his sister was still in town; she’s getting on a plane herself as I type.) He was going to take the four of us out to my favorite restaurant, Flea Street Cafe, with reservations for early enough for him to arrive back home again near midnight.

Meantime, having no idea of any of this, I started off the day really stupid: it was one of the days I’m supposed to change the dressing on my ileostomy, and if I put that off by a day sometimes it fails. Not often, but once was enough. You’re not supposed to eat or drink before you do that change. I felt wretched but was just going to soldier through.

Except I couldn’t. Had I been clear-headed, the fact that my kidneys start to shut down if I don’t drink eight ounces every two waking hours would have entered my brain. Not drinking also means I hadn’t taken the med that keeps my blood pressure up. Totally forgot it. (Flashing back to the nurse who exclaimed, 80/40?! How did you walk IN here?! Same way you did, I told her.)

My husband, knowing what was up, got me to drink something around noon when it was clear how badly I needed it, encouraged me towards the shower a few hours later so I could feel more human, made sure the shower chair from when I was recovering from surgery was in there, and kept encouraging me to try being up for awhile.

No way. Overnight I had clearly added a secondary bacterial infection to the mess and bed was just a really good place to be.

Got that dressing changed. Got a smoothie down. Got halfway dressed, at his insistence that it would help.

And then the big reveal: someone was in the family room waiting to see me.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I so did not want to give anyone else my bugs. But I so didn’t want to disappoint my kids. I’m still torn on that, but we went and we had a great time and surrounded by love and laughter I was actually able to do it. I ¬†quietly apologized to Jesse, Flea St’s owner, when she stopped by our table, but she’d already exclaimed over my son’s having flown in just for this just for me and she held me gently in her eyes a moment and understood. She’s a good soul.

He had tried to rent a nice car to take us in for the occasion; the agency had been so sorry but they were all out of…could they upgrade him to a Jaguar at no charge?

It was a revelation: it was so quiet that even with my ears stuffed up I could hear him talking as he drove and I could even hear the two in the back seat, and that never happens and note that my ears are at their worst. I totally get why a hearing-impaired friend of mine bought a used one a few years ago.

He dropped us off at home afterwards and dashed up the freeway towards the airport. I tried to blog. I put down the computer, just so done for the day, went into the bathroom to get ready for bed and barfed.

To be continued
Tuesday December 11th 2018, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Family

What a surprise! What a great ending to the day!

And now I’m falling asleep trying to type so I guess I’ll just have to leave you hanging like that for tonight, sorry.

Do not open before Christmas
Friday December 07th 2018, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Lupus

My dad sent us home from our visit last month with my suitcase stuffed with six really big amaryllis bulbs. (Pro tip: the TSA machine reads those as bombs.)

What they needed was fresh soil and big heavy pots to keep the future multiple sun-tracking stalks from knocking them over sideways. Hopefully. Which is fine, except that I just wasn’t looking forward to that trip down the freeway, much though I like supporting Yamagami’s. It’s a great nursery with a lot of pre-Silicon Valley history to it.

And part of that foot-dragging was UV-sensitive hours vs our rush hour that starts just after 2:00; December is safer lupus-wise for walking around outdoors than November.

Meantime, in the nice warm house two of them started to sprout a few days ago so I cut holes in their bags and turned them over to un-tilt their sense of direction.

Found a third one starting to sprout this morning. The middle one. It did all that in under 24 hours. Okay, that’s it, time to get going, yay for December, and Yamagami’s once again impressed me with what good people they hire.

Opening the fourth bag, I’d had no idea that bulb in the foreground had even come out of dormancy.

You can tell.


Dark red, wine, white, pink/red/white, with the bags tucked under each for now so I can remember which is which.

Thank you, Dad! Can’t wait! Now that they’re finally planted the little kid in me is like, so BLOOM now! C’mon guys, hurry up!


Quake’s Eve
Monday December 03rd 2018, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Family

I did not get a picture of Her Regalness while we were there, but picture a very longhaired, poufy fluffy black cat with big round eyes. One is who is getting up in years and can no longer run as fast from the toddler as she once could.

They have his and hers cats and Sam has had Eve since she was a kitten. After the puppy arrived, the cats had an escape hatch through one of the bedroom doors.

You know those toys that challenge a baby to match a square block to a square hole, a round one to a round one, etc? Mathias at a year old just thwacked the one with the other, as tiny people do, but by last week the simpler shapes were a piece of cake and he even got them in most of the time.

But that cat door.

It’s a sideways oval. His head is round. He can see through it if he hunches down. So that should work, right? But his shoulders, and his head was bigger than that hole anyway. We about died laughing while he was trying to follow the cats into their room: feeling the edges of the space as it bounced his forehead back, confused why it just refused to comply.

His mommy got him the feather toy and helped him make it leap around where the cats were surely watching. Sure enough, a disembodied white paw belonging to the other one suddenly darted in and out at that feather. Mathias was in heaven: it was playing with him!

Normally they keep their distance from small people. He hasn’t quite got the method down of how to stroke their fur so that it feels good to them as well as him–and that black cat is the one you’d most want to touch. She runs at the sight of him, almost not fast enough anymore that one time I saw them at it before she made it through her door while I was dashing to the rescue.

A week later, the earthquake happened.

Nobody was home.

Eve freaked.

When my son-in-law made it home before the others, he found her: she was wedged under the couch, immobilized possibly by an aftershock, but however she got there it was a very small space and it couldn’t have been fun; he rescued her.

That night she did not go through that narrow little cat door.

Instead, at the baby’s bedtime, there she was, lying down under Mathias’s crib of all places.

Nothing could fall on her there, she could see out to the hallway, and even though she was safely underneath the crib, it left so much space above her that she could never be wedged in again. Not here.

She was with her people. She was safe now.

Distraction ornaments
Sunday December 02nd 2018, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Family

The best unbreakable post-earthquake Christmas decorations on a tree to make a small toddler happy?

Silicone measuring cups and spatulas, and don’t even try to take them off. Those are what you celebrate with. That’s where they GO.

Sunday’s forecast there: snow
Saturday December 01st 2018, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Plain, simple, thick, soft, warm, machine washable hats in Mecha.

In Salt Lake three weeks ago I offered to knit one for my niece. (She wanted cream.)

Single moms and their kids could use a little love and a little warmth against all kinds of cold, and with their dad having ditched them, they all need family-centered moments and memories that bring them together when so much in their world has been torn apart.

Which means she got these first two photos today and was told that just because these are the ones I knitted so far doesn’t mean these are the ones her kids had to like–I can knit more and I can buy more yarn. It is a privilege to be able to.

The skein on the left, one of the boys asked.

Sure! I dove right in and kept going till my hands demanded I do something else for awhile.

This is at night, and sunlight will brighten things up a lot, but even though I really like this this isn’t quite what I was expecting–it’s a lot less blue–and I’m not sure it’s what he is either.

So the keyboard and I just opened up a couple of other options and we’ll see how it goes when they come. I want to make the choices theirs as much as I humanly can from an internet away with what photography skills I (don’t) have.

Anchorage earthquake
Friday November 30th 2018, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Thank you all for the many notes checking up on our family; that meant a great deal to me, all day long, as all those messages of love came in over and over. The first one in my inbox this morning was actually my heads-up that the quake had happened, and I ran across the house for my phone to go see.

Her first text had come in. Sam was able to get a single phone call out to us shortly thereafter and we did the designated-contact-in-an-emergency thing and passed the word to her siblings: she and her family were safe.

She had been on the seventh floor of her downtown building. She made it out okay to go get the baby from daycare. That red SUV in all the news pictures with the road collapsed all around it except for its one tiny island of safety? That’s about a mile from where she had to go to to get him.

Her husband made it home first, finding the damage minimal and cleaning up the broken glass and dishes so they wouldn’t have to come home to that. They, meantime, were in a designated shelter, and after hours, finally they were able to make it home, too.

They are closer to the epicenter than downtown was.

Sam posted pictures of Mathias on FB holding a broom and dustpan, “helping” with the cleanup (now that there was no broken glass for him to get hurt on.)

We were on some of those very roads last weekend, and of course they live there, and for the moment they’re hunkering down and staying put and out of the way of those officially trying to do all that needs to be done in the aftermath of such a big quake.

There was some talk of maybe upgrading it later to a 7.2, but a 7 is plenty.

I remember trying to sleep on what felt like a waterbed with the endless aftershocks when we had our Loma Prieta. Theirs are stronger.

Our loved ones are well. Our terrified grandcat that wedged herself under the couch in her panic has been rescued. She later decided underneath Mathias’s crib was the safe place to be; normally she considers him the little tail-grabber who must be avoided, but she was staying close.

Others’ families are well, too, and we are grateful beyond words.

And thank you, again, to all of you who were reaching out to ask. In the intensity of the day those kindnesses were a great comfort.

Creaming it
Wednesday November 28th 2018, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Family

Another of my favorite pictures from the trip: my son-in-law treating his wife to a break and their son to some ice cream at Coldstone.

This is just before the table got exuberantly enhanced.

It looks like deep snow out the window, which one might expect because hey, Alaska, but that is where the parking-lot snow got pushed to. While we were there there was only an ice-coated inch or so, with a threat of rain; it’s been unseasonably warm.

So we got our own frozen stuff. And brought some home to Mommy.


Celebrate everything!
Tuesday November 27th 2018, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The people on the bus go up and down… Up! (Bongo drum bongo drum and then play at taking the plastic lid on and off the heavy melamine bowl. “Off!”)

The first time we visited Alaska we toured a farm with reindeer that happily ate out of our hands and with Santa’s sleigh off to the side–it was surprising how small and low down it was, but then reindeer aren’t very big, either. That’s where we learned the difference between reindeer and caribou: reindeer have been specifically bred for the last hundred fifty years or so towards domestication, whereas caribou are wild.

At the musk ox farm in Palmer, they pointed to the reindeer to say they’ve been working on domesticating their own animals for fifty years now and figure they have a hundred to go.

After we got home from that trip I was delighted to discover one last little piece of reindeer crunchies (it looked like hamster food) in my sweater pocket.

So. At the gas station with the perfect name on Saturday there was this moment of hey, I know where that’s from…! We could just make out the tops of quite a few animal heads moving around in that trailer.

Who knew Santa’s sleigh travels by flatbed¬†before the big day?



Nineteen months
Monday November 26th 2018, 9:02 am
Filed under: Family,Life

At the kids’ house in Anchorage, if you look up at the wall near the ceiling in the living room (where it’s way out of dog or baby reach) you say “Alexa” with a command and music starts playing. The wheels on the bus go round, and round, and round, after round… I had a verse he didn’t know, though: the wipers on the bus go swish swish swish, complete with big arm motions, not little ones. This was totally Mathias’s kind of thing, and when Alexa finished he would look at me expectantly, waiting for it with a big grin.

If only he could command that thing, too. “Lessa? Lessa?” doesn’t quite pull it off.

Turns out that standing in his bedroom looking up at the light switch and commanding “OFF!” loudly does not make the light go on or off, either. Not for lack of trying on his part. Somehow that wall just wasn’t compliant.

“Off” to him meant change which way it is, so I practiced saying and demonstrating “on” and “off” with him. A new word to apply to it! He liked that, but persisted for now with his version. But hey, what baby doesn’t love playing with light switches, and here was Grammy aiding and abetting. Good times.

He’s at the two-syllable-sentence stage that I so love.

Except for in his mommy’s reading of one Sandra Boynton book. I was not expecting “armadillo” out of him. I guess it counted as two two-syllables?

We had such a good time!

Well lived
Monday November 19th 2018, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

LeeAnne Dalton linked to this poem and called it a favorite, and now it’s one of mine, too. Especially right now.

My Uncle Wally, twice widowed himself, fell hard for a widow who, when the family met Marie, thoroughly understood why and welcomed her as their own.

There was her house, there was his house, and they decided to sell them both, marry, and buy a new one together where all the memories would be the ones they made, just theirs.

Hers found a buyer.

His sat on the market. And sat.

His baby brother, whose start-up company had done very well, finally told them, Listen, *I’ll* buy your house–enough of this, go get married, you crazy kids! (The oldest brother being 80 at the time.)

This wasn’t my idea, it was hers but it’s a great one that I want to pass on: I recently texted my cousin a short note that I was about to call for her dad, and then rang her phone. Alerted by that text, she let it go to voicemail so that she could then play the recording for him when she visited and let Wally know that he is thought of, remembered in our day-to-day lives wherever we are, and loved.

Now he really needs that. Marie, artist, composer, and the love of his old age these sixteen or seventeen years or so, quietly slipped away yesterday. She came to “the gate opening like a secret” and I wonder how long now till his hand reaches out towards hers.

Cat calling
Sunday November 18th 2018, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family

I do love FaceTime.

Mathias went toddling after the cat, who to be on the safe side escaped down the hall towards the bedrooms. Next thing you know, the parental iPad had caught up with him and there he was with his face up against the one with the cat door at the bottom.

He could see through it so why couldn’t he fit through it? Was this another one of those square/circle puzzles? It just wasn’t working for him.

He was offered the feathered cat toy and he got the concept, only, he wanted to play with the feather himself and kept pushing the string part through to entice the cat. His daddy sat down on the floor, put him in his lap, and reversed things: here, you push the feather through the square hole and hold onto the string like this.

Mathias cheerfully went along with this new method.

Me: Looks like you’re fishing for cats.

Her, holding the iPad: Pretty much!

Cat: white paw darts in and out of view at the feather and finally it sticks its head in its doorway to see where it had gone. Oh. It’s you. Never mind, and disappears again.

Being particlecular
Friday November 16th 2018, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

We hit AQI 202, officially Very Unhealthy and purple on the map tonight.

It was about the time of that last big fire down south that he ordered it on a whim: he’s an engineer, he likes to measure things, to quantify. Turn the unknown into a known.

With the Camp Fire burning away, yesterday he remembered he had this thing. He almost apologized to me as he said it had cost about $45; it was a bit more than his usual little toy.

Hey. I’m a yarn enthusiast. Enjoy!

And so he took it to work today.

The construction people working on the building had been leaving the doors propped open: he showed the effects. This AQI reading here, this one here, this one here.


Word got around, and people were asking him to read the particulate levels in their offices, too.

One colleague’s office was well above 100 and his boss was not happy.

The HVAC guy said yeah the filters are loading up and we’re having to order new ones.

The cafeteria! The official AQI scale is 0-500 and the machine stops at 500. 500. Could be anything above that. Now they know.

Yonder guy with the meter happened to be emailing the specifics as he went.

I’m wondering what percentage of those co-workers ordered their own meters on the spot.

The AQI is supposed to be worse tomorrow
Thursday November 15th 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knitting a Gift,Life,LYS

Malabrigo Mecha is my favorite for making a quick, warm, densely knit, beautiful hat out of, and my two brothers and the two local daughters of one of those brothers each ended up with one last weekend.

Which (thinking of the relatives we got to see while we were at the reunion) was just the start. But I was out of that yarn again other than a bag of ten dedicated to becoming an afghan.

There is only one local store that sells it and hey, twist my arm, so I headed out today towards Cottage Yarns.

North or south, whichever way you looked getting onto the freeway the instinct for self-preservation did not want to go there: if there’s that much smoke there could be a fire just beyond, and since the wind can pick up embers and toss them twenty miles down the road (but we’re two hundred from Paradise) maybe I should have checked the latest report first?

Stop it, I told the stupid little fear. Just go. You know it’s okay.

All the cars looked like a variant of spring fever: coated in fire pollen.

The air quality index in South San Francisco was even worse than ours at 211; we were at 179. I was told later that San Jose was nine times worse than Beijing today.

The door to the shop was open only just enough to let people know they could come in.

I talked to Kathryn a moment, being in no hurry to go back out into that, and she told me they’d had a sale last weekend and she’d figured it would be a bust because who would want to come out into the smoke.

What had happened instead is that people had shown up, lots of people: since officially nobody’s supposed to be outside they were buying yarn to have something new and happy to do inside and to create something good in the face of the firestorm, so much so that it turned out to be her best sale event ever. People came together before spending their time separated, and it was clear it meant a lot to her.

I headed home the longer way, through the hills rather than the heavier traffic of the valley floor.

There’s that stretched-out bridge with the reservoir below and the Flintstone House off to the left. The vivid orange beamed like a lighthouse against the smokey storm but to the right, you could not tell that there was water below. At 1:45 pm. It was that bad.

One of my nieces had requested an undyed white hat. If I get it done fast enough it’ll still be that color when she gets it. I think I’ll stay home tomorrow and knit.