The Turducken of fruit
Friday December 01st 2023, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

Andy’s Orchard sent out a note saying their holiday figs stuffed with dried peaches mixed with honey and candied orange peel and nuts were available.

I wait all year every year for those. Coming!!

The woman manning the register was the one I’d seen most often all year. About my age, quiet, and since my cane leaves me one-armed with the groceries she is always quick to help out.

She looked a little tired. She rang up my fresh-picked persimmons and Comice pears and stuffed figs, and it wasn’t till she was done and payment made that I reached into my purse again.

There was a dark dull purple and a much more vibrant purple, and I had more color choices waiting in the car if she’d rather. (Zoom hat knitting for the win!)

Her face lit up in surprise as she went for the lighter brighter one, and then so was she. It was a treat to see.

It’s wool, I told her.

That surprised her all over again: But it’s so soft! she told me. I have a wool hat (as she looked upwards as if to see it and patted her head) but it’s scratchy. Scratchy, she said again. This is soft!

I told her that it was machine washable but would fuzz out if it went through the laundry; her choice. But something not to have to worry about if it does.

She offered to carry my filled box out to the car, didn’t ask to see the other colors, loved the one she got, and I loved getting to see her so happy.

Richard and I each had one of those figs when I got home. Clearly, I need to go buy more before they close down for the winter. They are so good!

And they have more employees I’d love to say thank you to.

First things first
Wednesday November 29th 2023, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My audiologist sympathized when I got them but told me that no, that feature couldn’t be turned off.

The resident engineer was sure it was for calibrating the things each time.

To me, it’s an aural ping-pong ball bouncing up and down on the table till at last it rolls in a straight line.

What it is is a sixteen-note little tune that my hearing aids play starting about ten seconds after I turn them on. You cannot just instantly hear the world; you have to wait. And then you have to listen to that (stupid) little tune finally getting to that one repeating note before any outside sound will click on. The volume is pre-set to make the tune loud enough for someone like me to be able to hear it even in a noisy environment–and that’s a lot.

Which is how I got told by Lillian, who was standing looking up at me, Grammy! You have birds in your ears!

Seeing the forest and the trees
Tuesday November 28th 2023, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Lupus

It was 2:15, sundown was 4:25, Seattle being at a latitude that gets an hour less of sun than we do, so with sunblock and a big hat I thought I was pretty well covered lupus-wise against the UV.

We took what I thought was a pretty long walk for the kids. They rode their training wheel bikes and I don’t know if that took more energy or less, but we definitely had fun. Explored the new neighborhood going up. Then the park. Lillian was surprised to find out that Grammy can swing on the swingset, too. And then at last we headed for home.

I was feeling it that night. Costochondritis isn’t dangerous, but it was a warning, so when Mathias wanted to do the two-mile loop around the wetlands the next day I with a quiet regret that ran deeper than I was ever going to say stayed home and started knitting another hat.

Everybody understood.

They split into two directions, with Lillian going for a shorter ride but it was still good and long enough to wear a kid out.

Then the door opened.

Lillian had found a leaf. A big leaf. A perfect, pretty, autumn leaf. To share with her Grammy. If I couldn’t take that walk in the woods then she was determined to bring that walk to me.

(The folded edge happened when I was packing it to take home. Oops. She took better care of it than I did.)

I look forward to the day when I can show it to her and tell teenage Lillian the thoughtful thing she did when she was four and how grateful I am for it.

She’ll probably already know, because it made her so happy, too.

Thanks were definitely given
Monday November 27th 2023, 12:40 am
Filed under: Family

We were leaving and four year old Lillian was Not Happy. Mathias wasn’t either, till I told him it was a great reason for a hug to go with the goodbye.

When you take the last flight out after Thanksgiving, it’s going to be late. It was. More tomorrow.

Tuesday November 21st 2023, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

When my husband and I were young children, we went to the Chevy Chase Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a beautiful old brick building on the dividing line between DC and Maryland.

If you were Mormon and political in DC you went through that building at some point. I remember a whispered wave of sound washing over the staircase one time as we were going up it and later asking my mom about it; she told me it was George Romney, a Presidential candidate at the time and the father of Mitt, steps ahead of us.

My grandparents attended there when the Senate was in session, Eisenhower through Ford.

About twenty years ago we were visiting the folks, who by then were attending a newer ward closer to home but for reasons I don’t remember, for that week everybody was sent to the old Chevy Chase building and we just happened to catch the right day.

When church was over I said I just wanted to look around; I’d been twelve when we’d started attending in Potomac. The Mormon Church likes to keep congregations small enough that people have a chance to meet and make friends and feel included, so when one ward gets too big they often divide it.

Which means that when my husband and I got old enough to turn into teens who might have gotten on each other’s nerves, both our towns got spun off into new wards.

Anyway, one of the fun quirks of that building–which my father-in-law and his father helped build–is that between the chapel and the overflow area that is sometimes used as a small basketball gym, there is a wall. The original pop-up add. It comes up slowly, noisily from below when you push a button. I never did find where that thing hid down there when we couldn’t see it. I always wanted to know what the building did with it. It looked so thick and it went clear up to the tall ceiling or slowly disappeared and left just a level floor there and nowhere else I knew had anything like it. I loved that: when you needed it, it was just there. And it was all ours.

So I walked into the gym now that my own kids were growing up and was looking over at that wall, trying to figure out if it was as thick as my childhood had made it and where had that control button been all this time, when I realized that someone else was across the room. After all the people packed in for the meetings, it was somehow just us two. We smiled at each other and he said something about wanting to see his childhood ward again while he was in town.

It was Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. Which is how I found out that that Senator was in fact a member of the family I knew growing up and Jessica’s big brother. I could add a story here about his dad being in a plane crash in Alaska and surviving for two weeks on a Hershey bar that he and another guy found in the snow before their rescue, and how he then adopted his brother’s kids because their parents had died in the crash. Ten kids plus eight. Yes Gordon’s dad had a big house.

In the chapel, there were–I want to say six? There were big, glorious chandeliers hanging down, and many a time when I was a kid I would watch all those tiny crystals shimmering and listen to them sing when I was bored–and what little kid having to hold still that long isn’t bored at least a little bit. “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day,” hey, I could definitely get with celebrating sparks of light from the windows on those.

Wisps of air above our heads, only just moving. But the crystals knew and they sang for joy.

With all the hearing I’ve lost since then, if I am perfectly still in a quiet room with no distractions and look up and watch a crystal chandelier, my brain fills in those sounds. I can hear them again. They’ve been gone from me for so long. There is no other source of very high pitches that my brain remembers–except those and in that context. That is the gift Chevy Chase Ward left me with for life–well, that and the little boy I’ve now been married to for 43 years.

That room is where the fire yesterday took out the roof.

That would probably have been where the firemen who were inside were; there were about a hundred on the scene, they said. I could just picture those chandeliers falling, shattering, ending, sharp shards stabbing everywhere, and it was horrifying to know someone could have been underneath that.

And yet the initial reports were, no serious injuries. No deaths.

Loss, absolutely.

And now, or at least hopefully soon…other people’s work and lifetime memories will go into our families’ building’s renewal.

But man, it’s hard to see those flames.

Circa 1962
Friday November 17th 2023, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Even my mom had never seen this picture before. The cousins are all passing it around to each other, going, Did you see this?! This is so cool!

One of them had spotted it first at MSNBC, when they were showing some previews from the LadyBird Johnson documentary. Another cousin watched the documentary and didn’t see it there and wondered if it had made it past the cutting room floor, but MSNBC had it and now we do and there you go.

Jackie Kennedy on the left, LadyBird Johnson on the right, and the woman who was head of the Congressional Wives Club, whose luncheon they were attending, in the middle: Frances Bennett. My grandmother. Properly wearing her hat and white gloves in respect towards the First Lady and the Vice President’s wife.

Jackie Kennedy, Frances Bennett, and Lady Bird Johnson

Another slice, please?
Saturday November 11th 2023, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

For when I try to remember later when it was: last night we went to listen to the local philharmonic orchestra playing and to meet our niece’s boyfriend, who plays in it. He loves his new hat. We really like him.

Tonight, we went to a potluck of about 20 people and to swap Thanksgiving stories.

Alice’s was that the part of her family assigned to bring pies one year decided that their relative’s kitchen was small and let’s just leave them in the truck till it’s time for dessert.

They were at a farm.

I almost asked if it was a pickup as I was just waiting for it: crows? The dog? But yes, as she continued it was clearly a pickup.

It was the horses, and they were having the time of their lives.

Monday November 06th 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,History

The story of Jim Mattingly’s role in Apollo 13 was in the news again with his death: the astronaut who got exposed to Rubella just before the flight, found himself grounded for it, and then from mission control helped work out a way to rescue the men who did go up after one of their oxygen tanks exploded and damaged the module.

Which got me searching: I knew it was Apollo and I knew the summer it happened because I was sixteen but that they didn’t land on the moon. No, I wanted to argue with my screen, 17 was NOT the last mission with the Apollo name on it.

Found it. The Apollo-Soyuz flight in July ’75.

My aunt had married into the family that included the man who would become head of NASA at that time.

Which is how my father, my little sister, and I, however improbably, somehow found ourselves with invitations to attend that 1975 launch in Florida. In person.

There were bleachers set up just like any bleachers anywhere. You had to get there way early. You had to agree to go absolutely no closer and no exploring (I remembering looking longingly at the shade under the trees over yonder), and we were a mile away from the actual launch pad for the sake of our safety.

The Florida heat and sun were something else and I remember the intense sunburn–and wondering whether some of it had come from the intensity in the flames at takeoff. We were surrounded by actual VIPs, but I have no memory of recognizing anyone’s faces, just that I still couldn’t believe we got to do this.

But I do remember the sound and then our necks craning up, and up, and up, and up… till at last it was gone from us.

And then the kicker: there was a toll road with two toll booths along it to get to NASA. On the way back out, all those I assume hundreds of cars (that’s a guess, it felt like thousands) were all lined up to pay those two silly sets of tolls with my dad grousing, Why don’t they just make everybody pay both at one booth and then open up the traffic and let it go? It made no sense.

But we’d been there. We got to go. We got to see it. We were there.

7 a.m.
Thursday October 26th 2023, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Hey. Hey! I bolted upright. “Richard wake up I smell burning.”

Checking out electronics all over the house–they felt cool to the touch, they were fine. Everything looked fine. Normal.

He didn’t think it was anything but the furnace waking up for the season. Maybe. I pointed out that the furnace had already been running some nights.

Sitting under one of the vents tonight, he smelled it again.

I thought our HVAC guy had moved out of the area during the pandemic, but it felt like who else could I possibly call? and went looking. He’s here now, anyway. Yay! And he’ll be by tomorrow to inspect that furnace for us.

Joe is the guy who came off our roof white as a sheet some years ago and asked, Are you guys okay?! when he found the previous furnace pumping carbon monoxide down our vents. The CO alarm helpfully went off five minutes after he took it out of commission. Lesson learned: never let your alarms be 20 years old. Replace them at five even if they look like they’re working.

We were not okay, and now we and our doctors knew why. We will forever owe him so much.

He’s on it. So much better than worrying about it. See you at noon, Joe.

Thursday October 19th 2023, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

So we were talking over dinner and he mentioned that time that his grandma had called him his freshman year of college; she was chuckling.

I’d never heard this story. I knew she lived in this very small town in the middle of nowhere and where everybody was Mormon.

Seems the restaurant–

Me: that town had a restaurant? Post office, general store, and a movie theater, I remember. (And lots and lots of cows.) How many restaurants did it have?

He thought about it and held up one finger–then a second, but wiggled it in hesitation, his face scrunching up; he wasn’t sure, but, definitely one, anyway.


That restaurant had some pretty plants growing near the windows and on the tables for decoration, as one does.

It wasn’t till one of the young men in that town came home after two years from a mission for the alcohol-, tobacco-. and coffee- and tea-abstaining Mormon Church that there was anybody who recognized what those plants were.

And honey, they weren’t growing it for the hemp.

Friday October 13th 2023, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Lupus

Spoon Theory is the most brilliant description I’ve ever come across of what it’s like to live with chronic illness.

That said, it’s not an analogy I’ve needed to use in awhile. I still have lupus, but the fatigue is not what it was and the pain is mostly gone from me.

It was possibly wildfire smoke that caused my shortness of breath and got me in the cardiologist’s office July 18; this afternoon I finally had the stress EKG test for it. Covid has created many many new cardiology patients, the office is swamped, and I just didn’t seem to be an emergency. But he did want to follow up on that.

I made pumpkin almond muffins in the morning. Comfort food. Healthy. Ready.

The rare drycleaning order had to be picked up after 4:00. My daughter needed a package mailed to her. The post office was in the direction of the dry cleaner, oh, and I had to go to the grocery store afterwards because you can’t have the food sitting in the car.

Heart ultrasound, race uphill with your wires as fast as you can as long as you can hold out and then more ultrasound, while remembering the doctor’s surprise last time–he didn’t think I could do it anywhere near that long but I did so I was determined to do it again. I came a half minute short. I can live with that.

Got through rush hour, got to the post office, hoped the ultrasound gel I could feel (oops) didn’t show through my shirt, fought more traffic, got to the dry cleaner, dashed into the Safeway, got some groceries including some throw it in the oven and call it done for dinner, made it home.

Man. Spoons? More like that silverware drawer got ripped right off its rollers and out of the cabinet, flipped, and dumped on the floor with a crash.

Go eat a pumpkin muffin, Richard said, looking at my face as I walked in the door.

Dinner and time and rest and now I’m only having to remember how utterly wiped I felt: while so grateful that it’s not like that all day every day these days, not even any day, usually.

It was, once.

Wednesday October 11th 2023, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Speckles, he said, a little surprised. You don’t normally like speckles.

I looked at him funny, and answered, Since when?

It was just a thing he thought I didn’t like.

Now, for a little context, there was a beaded gerdan by a Ukrainian artist I adore where she made the water lapping the shore below the lighthouse and seagull become the hair of the Lady of the Sea, sunflowers alongside. Gorgeous (and very expensive, as an original work of art should be. Look at the detail on that beadweaving!) I couldn’t quite place what it was but something about it didn’t quite…

…Till I mentioned about it to him. To which he said, You never wear a face.

He was right. I had never quite put my finger on that feeling but he totally had and it was one of those moments where he knew me better than I did. He was right. He was right. It kind of blew me away.

Clearly he expected to nail this one as successfully but I was like, Nope nope nope nope nope.

And ever since that conversation at dinner my brain’s been going, I mean, you’ll never see me wearing calico, and canvasing the inner opinion I’d say Jackson Pollock neither for that matter, but a hat? Honey. As the late great Elizabeth Zimmerman said (and it is proven especially true the last day of this month every year), People will put anything on their heads.

I can handle speckles. Granted, I do plan to fob it off on the first victim to willingly cross its path.

Actually, I still adore that gerdan. If I were ever to change my feelings on the face thing, at least as a one-timer, that would be why. My art dealer dad would totally have understood.

I’m going to add a note here that I’m following the war in Israel carefully, in addition now to the one in Ukraine, and praying hard.

Wild fling! You make everything! Groovy!
Saturday October 07th 2023, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

I started this at my daughter’s in April; it’s the one where Mathias looked over from his Legos at the first few inches and pronounced, That’s pretty, Grammy.

I worked on it a lot while waiting for some of the yarn to come for Carolyn’s afghan, knowing which one would take priority the moment it did–especially given the fact that slippery silk/merino laceweight is not my favorite to work with, though I love how it turns out.

I got back to it yesterday, and again some today. It’s ~65″ long.

I have more yarn. Part of me thinks, it’s past my fingertips and that’s long enough, call it my Aftober project now, done, and part of me thinks, why not use up the yarn, and part of me thinks maybe I settled the argument when I went sprawling on the pebbled walkway at 5:00 and a gallon of milk went flying left and another gallon flew right right out of my hands. (Somehow they didn’t burst. Go Trader Joe’s.)

Richard in his astonishment watching helplessly could only come up with an amazed, Did you cut the corner?! (There are azaleas in the way, you can’t.)

No, I took my eyes off my feet because I was looking at you and hit the wood edging at the corner and went sprawling.

Oh. Don’t do that.

The Etsy vendor in Washington State who’d just made the corduroy skirt I was wearing for the first time assured me she does have more of that fabric.

It does go nicely with that scarf.

Which is backing away slowly….

(Edited to add in the morning: I don’t know if the milk jugs took the initial impact? But my hands and wrists are fine. Yay!)

Just spritz a little water on those wrinkles
Friday October 06th 2023, 3:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift

Two texts:

Your mail is here.


She wasn’t home and was utterly baffled as to why I would be saying that. (She reassured me afterwards that the box was pretty safe where it had been left.)

First, as she opened the box, a pack of three with a post-it note attached: Toenail guards. Please use. (Yeah, they said Last One when I bought a set for me previous to that. They say men’s, but they’re not too big on my feet after running through the hand wash cycle on the machine so I knew they’d be okay, maybe even for both of them. They are very soft, thick, warm, comfy socks.)

Then a Lands End zipped medium tote bag, and inside that, a ziplocked…

And below all that, several sheets of paper from different stages of plotting how I was going to knit this with a post-it note on each describing the journey. Including one sketch I liked but didn’t use after discussing how to get the the angle of the side of the house within the stitch count I had: “Don’t try for perspective, Mom, do it head-on.” And so I had.

Carolyn was absolutely blown away. She told me she had never been so surprised in her life.

And later that of course I could use her picture.

It is finally, finally in its natural habitat, where it looks the best it ever has. It has at long last come home.

A reverse-Jericho
Thursday October 05th 2023, 9:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Politics

Scene: New Hampshire. We were at a party at a friend’s house. Our first child was old enough to walk but not old enough yet to talk.

Music greeted the guests on entering, and soon Larry was taking a bunch of us to the living room to show off his very nice new stereo system while talking about how powerful it was. He was very happy with it.

Then it was on to some other topic and we all moved into the next room for a moment.

Which is when Sam decided she wasn’t done exploring what she’d just seen and toddled straight towards the enticing knobs and buttons the moment our eyes were off her. They were right at her height.

It felt like a physical wall of sound. Everybody else was just standing there gobsmacked at the sudden volume and what had just happened and not wanting to get any closer, so it wasn’t hard to be the first one to get to it to try to turn it down.

Finding the volume button when you’re in a bit of a panic takes longer and it was impossible to shout over that to ask.

The universal shoulder slump of relief at my success!

Gotta hand it to you, Larry, you’re right, we’ve never heard a sound system like that.

(Conversation just now: Did Larry have one of the very first CD players? Or did they come out the next year? Him: I don’t remember. But it would have been if they were, because, Larry. Me, Googling: First sold in the US in early 1983. Yeah, it probably was.)

That all was brought back to mind by the best political line of the day: “If you turn your base up too high you’ll blow out your Speaker.”

Actually, the good ones hold up to just about anything.