Let me get back to you on that
Friday December 08th 2017, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Mike-the-repairman came. First thing he did was he tried turning on the washing machine.

Dang if the thing didn’t turn right on. I was gobsmacked. I had tried… and I’d come back later and had tried again, and …!

He asked a few questions and since I was the one who’d been using it and the space in there was tight, Richard, who’s on vacation, went back across the house to what he was doing.

Mike got down and looked at it from underneath while he and I both held it up out of his way a bit. (I had emptied the water out earlier as best I could, cupful by cupful into about ten small-dyepot loads in case he had to pull the thing out. It was a surprisingly lot.)

The motor was not dead but it was on its way out. Do small loads, he said, don’t do them back to back like when it died, let the thing cool down. A new motor would cost a couple hundred–he was going to see if he could find us a used one.

And with that he left us with a machine working for now and refused to let us pay him anything yet.

Quite to my surprise my back went on full-on strike the next time I tried to bend over. I had a doctor’s appointment to get to. Richard offered to drive me, good man that he is, and he dropped me off and then went off to check on Betty. That had not been in today’s plans but it suddenly made sense, and that was worth a day’s muscle twinges for sure and it made it feel okay.

Meaning, as Rachel Remen writes (in one of my all-time favorite books), is the language of the soul.

And it has an alphabet all its own.



Betty
Thursday December 07th 2017, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

The repairman will be here in the morning.

Meantime, a friend who’s turning 93 this month had a small stroke this week along with some cardiac funkiness and just returned to her assisted-living facility today from the hospital. She’s been blind from birth, her hearing’s going, and although she remembers Richard–he once worked for a company that developed the software that read her her longtime computer, and for years she would call him as a friend for help about it, which he was glad to do–but she no longer remembers me. So when we found there were no parking spaces for blocks around and that the long walk in the sun was going to be a hazard to my own health, Richard hopped out to go visit her while I drove over to the chocolate shop. It seemed the best thing to do at that point; in her disorientation, I wasn’t sure my presence would be a comfort anyway.

I’m glad he got there so soon after she was discharged: he was able to find out what bothered her. The AL staff had moved her bed while she’d been away, not enough that a seeing person would be bothered but she could no longer find her computer nor her things nor was she capable of walking to go search for them. He got the staff to let the bed be moved back. A few feet–and having time to listen–made all the difference to her.

The doctor came by, and quietly told him that everything he could say that could help her reconnect to her memories would help. Betty had lived in Alaska decades ago, so, Richard told her about our Thanksgiving in Anchorage with our baby grandson and got her reliving the days.

She worried whether her seeing-eye dog, naming one of the ones she’d had over the years, had been fed well enough while she’d been away.

He’s been gone for several years.

I, meantime, got to go see Timothy and Adams, both. It had been awhile and I had missed them and it was a comfort to see them. The 65% hot chocolate? Well, yeah, I’d missed that, too, sure.

Richard texted that he hoped I’d ordered him one, too.

I grinned at my phone. 85% dark, just how you like it, coming right up.

We waved to each other as he spotted the car across the street from the nursing home again and we discussed as we drove off how we could best help her next. From his description, I wasn’t sure how many more nexts there would be, and he wasn’t sure, either.

And yet.

“Betty’s a tough old bird,” I pronounced, and he agreed strongly. He told me then that she had wondered herself if things were coming to an end now.

He’d told her, “You’re here as long as you want to be, Betty. And we’re with you.”



Got warmth?
Thursday November 30th 2017, 11:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I instantly recognized the logo and stopped in my tracks and guffawed at the sight: I tell you. Best. Product. Placement. EVER.

It was right at the edge of the walkway between the airline gates going off to the left, while, to the right, a long wall of plate glass windows let arriving passengers boggle at the immensity of the heights of the mountains that Anchorage backs up to, a world of deep, white snow and ice coolly indifferent to the needs of mere humanity.

Here, let them help you with that part.

Gloves.

Hats.

Socks.

All in a vending machine ready for you to choose your size from. (Just don’t think about those $numbers up there too long.) Whatever you packed or forgot to, you could walk out of that warm building knowing that now you could handle what you were about to face.

The little white plaque down there says, “YES. It really is made from bison fiber.”

Warm warm warm, soft, machine washable stuff, and if I hadn’t been on my way out of Alaska I might even have been tempted (heck, confess it: I was.) I know the owners of the company from many years at Stitches West and they are good folks. I bought my son-in-law some of their socks on sale last year. I surprised them with a copy of my book and they surprised me right back with a skein of bison/silk and when I protested at the difference and that that wasn’t fair to them they laughed and enjoyed doing so all the more. I like Ron and Theresa.

But I was going home to California (where the 39F on my thermometer right now is 43 degrees warmer than where we were a few nights ago), so I left it all for the incomings. They’re the ones who need it right now anyway. Winter is only just starting.



A thank you, 45 years late
Saturday November 18th 2017, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

She found me via the high school reunion messages and friended me and sent me a message: she was looking for my book. Turns out she’s a new knitter.

I promptly responded with, It’s yours. Happy Birthday.

And then I explained a little.

We were in French 2 class in junior high, stuck with the same teacher we’d had the year before for French 1: a woman I now see as terribly depressed, but in her classroom, we kids simply kept our heads down and tried to dodge being a target and there were a lot who did not continue on.

I remember a kid in Fr. 1 who, on being called to read aloud, made what to the rest of us was an obvious mistake, y’know, the kind of thing the other kids might tease him for–but what happened is that the woman demanded that he leave right now if he was going to be like that! “If you have been in my classroom six weeks and still don’t know that in French we…!” He was not misbehaving in any way. It was our first semester in a new language–what did we know? I just remember sitting there stunned. Way to make him want to learn, lady.

So here we were across the hall the next year and she called on me to read something aloud. Now, my folks had had a French couple come stay with us for several weeks when I was two, and I think again when their daughter was two so I would have been six? (Mom, Dad, am I getting that right?) And my parents talked to each other in French when they didn’t want us kids in on the conversation, making us keen to learn.

So I had a slight head start at least on accent on the other kids, and that teacher tended to see me as being less trouble than the others.

She called on me to read something out loud.

Now, there was this phrase that I’d seen a few times before but had never known what language it was in and there it was–it was French. Okay, that made sense. Having been immersed in phonics in elementary school, I dove right into it. The v came after the r.

English phonics. Just like that other kid had instinctively done.

Horse DOOvres. With an h, no less. There is no h sound in French.

The teacher roared in indignation, betrayed. The classroom was a mixture of loud relieved laughter that it wasn’t them and as much teasing as they dared say out loud in that classroom. This was the DC area and there were kids in that school whose parents attended embassy balls and political dinners and the like and were well familiar with such edibles, but not me at thirteen.

Charm, a desk or two over, whom I saw as one of the popular girls while I was not, rescued me with the quiet words: “Hors d’ouvres.”

Me, suddenly putting it all together, the sounds, the spelling–so that’s…! Oh! Then, brightly, helpfully, I echoed her. “Hors d’ouvres.”

The teacher grumbled.

I went on in French through my senior year in spite of her.

And horse doovres has been an in-joke with my husband for decades.

I’ve owed Charm a thank you for a long, long time now.

She marveled at my good memory as we typed, and I guffawed quietly and thought oh honey if you only knew. But on that one? I had been the target. And she had saved me from it. She was nice when she didn’t have to be, even risking bringing the wrath of that teacher on her own head for my sake back when we were all bratty insecure adolescents.

I owed her.



We are family
Wednesday November 08th 2017, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

Two moments from the weekend:

At the 65th anniversary party. Was it the cane? My hearing impairment? Or her own age? She would later tell me her childhood memories of LA going black at night after Pearl Harbor–no street lights, no headlights, no house lights near windows, just a total darkness that was new and strange.

She had to ask me twice, even though I actually did hear it the first time–it’s just that it was so unexpected that I had no idea how to respond and I didn’t want to be rude by bursting out laughing.

Again: “Are you Frances’s younger sister?”

(Frances IS the younger sister.) “No, I’m her fourth child.” Alright, then! And the conversation moved cheerfully on, no harm done.

Thing the second. When we stopped by my uncle’s house, we surprised him by coming, even if for just ten minutes or so pre-airport–he didn’t know we were in town–and he surprised us with two bound copies of some essays he’d had printed. He needed a little help figuring out again just what the connection was to his late friends but he knew there was one.

He had been the mission secretary to our daughter-in-law’s great-grandfather. This guy, in the man’s youth. And then he was in the Army with Conway, the man’s son.

There were memories in those pages and he’d wanted his late friend Conway’s kids to have a copy and there we were. Probably the best Christmas present we could possibly pass along to them–not that we’ll wait that long. Uncle Wally is 94 and he’ll want to hear back.

Just let me finish fighting off this bug. It’s down to simple cold status today.



Frost coverings
Thursday November 02nd 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Mango tree

I’m picturing Maddy two weeks ago, rocking in toddler exuberance next to me: “Read it AGIN! AGIN!”

He’s about 13. He cat-sits, including for a friend’s elderly cat that needed its meds while its owner had to go out of town and who was very grateful to him for the help. Just a really great kid. And so it finally occurred to me that I could ask if he would mango-tree-sit, too, keeping it covered by night and uncovered by day.

So I sent an email to his mom.

And I got this note back from him:

——

Hello,

This is (editorial note: let’s change it to Jacob). I’d love to take care of your tree. I could stop by with my mom tomorrow between 4 and 5 so you can show me what to do. Will that work? You can pay me $5 for both days.
If it has any favorite books to be read at night, let me know.
Thanks
——–
(I of course promptly upped his pay quite a bit, remember when I was a teenage babysitter and hated it when people asked me how much I charged and how I always asked for too little. I wanted him to be glad he took this on for me.)
Meantime, I guffawed at that note and then read it out loud for my wondering sweetie, who guffawed in turn and promptly found and ordered this: a children’s book about a tree in the forest decorated with things for the wildlife to share. The perfect story.
Maybe it’ll even come in time. Go Jacob!


Priority: mail
Wednesday November 01st 2017, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I had her address. I didn’t have his. I dithered.

I finally simply asked him for it. Said I wanted to send them thank-you notes for all the work he and she had put into making the high school reunion happen for everybody who could go, and for sharing all those pictures afterwards for those of us who couldn’t. His response was vintage Paul, sweet and kind and thoughtful as he ever was.

So two Priority Mail envelopes were handed to a mail clerk yesterday. I love that they have no idea what’s really coming. I had planned on sending them sooner–but it required my asking that question first.

I finally did.

I drove away from that post office just floating: MAN, that felt good! SO good. (So why don’t I do more of that? C’mon, Alison, knit more, you know you want to!)



It was in disguise
Tuesday October 31st 2017, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

We had the usual pumpkin by the door, but it seemed like… It just needed a friend. Or something a little more, anyway.

Several years back, someone posted an offer on the local freecycle page for persimmons. He had lots. I said something about, if you still have some after you’re done with everyone else who asked, I’d love to pick a few up from you; he said, Hey, I’ll drop them by your place on my way by.

Delivery too? Wow, hey, sure!

So. The bell rang, I opened the door–and we both stood there speechless, staring. And then laughing.

Had you asked me his name I’d have been lost, but I definitely knew that face. He recognized me as his folks’ friend from their church.

So every year since, he has offered to bring me some by, and every year I am very happy to be the recipient. I love persimmons. His are the hachiya type, which I prefer and which you don’t want to eat until they’re completely ripe and the tannins are gone: they take on a jelly texture in a puddle of goodness. Peel the skin away and scrape into a bowl with a spoon.

Eric sent me a link to a lot of good recipes last year, but when he asked about it this time, I confessed that I just eat them. (Or freeze towards persimmon-less times of the year and then just eat them.) The fruit is dessert enough.

Those tannins though are why the critters leave them alone until they’re falling off in big rotting splats of orange sugar on the ground, and so, if you have a hachiya persimmon tree, it will become a big, heavy-laden tree, some of it quite high up there, and you will get a whole lot of fruit.

Of which my husband is not a fan. Nor do we have the room, even though they are quite pretty trees. Nor do we want the flock of crows that come feasting on the splats. And so there is not one here.

My saying I could keep one small by growing it in a tub got me a don’t-you-think-you-have-enough-fruit-trees look.

Eric brought me a big bagful a few days ago.

I was looking at that pumpkin out there. All alone. No fake spiderwebs, not even wool roving pulled and shredded to make a natural version thereof.

I grabbed a Sharpie. I drew a happy face. I wrote Boo! And I put that little pumpkin-colored fruit in the windowsill outside next to the doorknob where it would be eye level to the little kids. (Prior to its epic photo session here.)

Richard walked through the door tonight, commented, and then went–Wait. THAT wasn’t a pumpkin!



A forever gift
Sunday October 29th 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I asked after Alex (pseudonym). She’s a great favorite of mine, and I knew her foster family had hoped to have her permanently. Such a cheerful, nice kid.

The answer was, the extended family has stepped forward and are going to adopt her instead. My friend told me it was very good news for Alex, that she was going to be in very good hands, while yes, she was going to miss her badly and love her forever.

She didn’t see behind her that Alex was walking up just then. So now Alex absolutely knows her now-mom believes in her next-mom and puts her trust in her to do her best by her, as will they all. And that is a good thing for a kid who has gone through chaos to be able to pack and take with her across the years to come. She is loved and wanted, unconditionally, there and here both.

We will miss her fiercely.

Alex gave me a BIG hug and got as big a one back. She hoped to be able to come visit, she told me.

I so wish–but for me it is enough to know I can trust her to keep on being the kind of person she is. She will bring much good into this world that so needs her.

There is a little tag inside that hat, “created with pride by…” and her foster sister’s has one, too. One more little connection between them, along with the memory of them sharing crayons to show the colors they wanted while designing them for me, a connection between us, and I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am that I got off my duff and knit those when it most mattered.



The more things change, the more we stay the same
Wednesday October 25th 2017, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

That sweet sound of breaking yarn, the second day in a row: alright. They’re done. (Just run in those ends…)

I used to knit during lunchtime (and sometimes in the classroom) in high school. A lot. You’d never have guessed, right? I’m just a lot better at it now than I was then.

The year 40 was coming up and no one had noticed out loud. So Patty said something and Paul chimed in, but somehow it still kept being an SEP: a Somebody Else’s Problem.

They decided they were the somebodies, then, because you just can’t let a number like that go on by–this had to happen. No DJ, no big bash, no overkill, just a simple meet-and-greet and dinner together at a locally famous restaurant with room for a crowd on the lovely grounds in Old Potomac not far from our school.

I would dearly love to go but the invitation came just when I was recovering from the latest head injury. I just didn’t dare risk traveling alone, and my sweetie, bless him, had no particular desire to spend a whole lot of money and time off work during a project-release deadline to go to someone else’s high school reunion where he didn’t know a soul. All it would take is me tripping, falling, and losing some of my speech again in a busy airport, or or or.

So yeah. Not going.

One of our classmates, whose father was a diplomat when we were all growing up near DC, raised his own family back home. In Venezuela.

Patty posted a picture today that showed that he had had the same thought I had had: that even if he couldn’t go, he could send his heart to us all, and that Patty and Paul definitely needed to be thanked. And so his goddaughter showed up today on her doorstep with a beautiful orchid, and Paul got a check covering the cost of the restaurant meal so that someone else could go, whoever that might be.

Me, well, y’know, I do what I do.

The leftover white cashmere/silk is from Mathias’s blanket and the dark Teal Feather hat in Malabrigo Mecha (a little greener than this shows) worked up thick and soft and warm.

I know Patty’s address and I can work the rest out from here. Tomorrow they go out.



Throwing cold water on it
Wednesday October 18th 2017, 9:14 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I do really like this.

But…. I don’t know if T’s grandma has been allowed back in yet to see if her house is still there…

When I picked up this skein at Cottage Yarns, Kathryn commented that it looked like one dyelot from one side and another on the other; I said that’s why I wanted to know what it would look like. (That and I liked the colors).

I was expecting the bright and the dark to intersperse going across the rows, and for the most part they did. And yet somehow there became this stark division between the narrower darker top of the cowl at the beginning and there below the midpoint.

It’s drying right now and maybe that dampens the effect for the photo, but: it’s too easy to look at this and see bright fiery flames shooting up into the sky with the darkened ash and smoke rising up from them. Yow.

Um, maybe someone else should get this one and I should start over.



Closer to home
Tuesday October 17th 2017, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

There was an emergency of some sort and the doctor was an hour late. When she finally popped her head in the door, apologizing, I held up my needles and went, Hey, no problem–if the person after me is antsy, go see him first, I can wait.

She came in chuckling and told me that actually, he was held over in the eye department and wasn’t even here yet.

Alright then.

Afterwards, I drove home through much thicker smoke than this morning–again, it was stinging the eyes and again, you could see the breezes move the air. I checked the local news.

Sausalito in the North Bay.

Dublin in the East Bay.

Bear Creek in the South Bay, about ten miles from Richard’s aunt’s house in the mountains, but at least we’re not having the 50 mph gusts that sent embers 15 miles out like in Sonoma.

Our hard-working crews were right on them, and with a shift in the winds the air right around here was tolerable again by sunset.

But I keep re-checking the news on the bigger fire in Bear Creek.

I had been blogging about a month when I posted this (scroll down halfway.) Robert’s Medicine Blanket is very much treasured and used here, and that mat, too.

Robert’s home was near the fire area last I heard from him. I’m sure he’s fine, but I’ll sure be glad when the fires are over.



Oops not that one
Sunday October 15th 2017, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

That Arroyo project?

We had to be at church about fifteen minutes early, so after doing the one small thing that needed doing we settled into our seats and I pulled out my knitting. I personally wouldn’t do it during the meetings themselves, but hey.

I loved how the pointillist colorwork was coming out in the fabric.

A dad and teenage daughter sat down behind us a few minutes later, and right after that, I stopped at the start of a row and looked a little harder at the thing. And yeah I had–I’d been missing two stitches right from the beginning and had been going merrily past that point ten times or so without noticing.

I tried. There was no fixing that and making it look good. It took me a moment to get all hundred stitches off that circular needle but then (with a quick glance at the clock–yes, I definitely had time to do this) I had that thing back to (slightly kinked) plain old yarn in no time.

And then I turned to the good friends behind us and said, That’s one of the things I like about knitting. If you make a mistake that is totally unfixable and unredeemable, you can rip it all the way back and it’s totally gone. And you can start over.

They cracked up. Bonus sermon, right?

And I bet, if you ask that kid ten years from now what she remembers about my knitting, it’ll be the day I let’er rip.



A breather
Saturday October 14th 2017, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knitting a Gift,Life

A few days ago, the Mercury News ran a photo taken from the Mormon Temple up in the hills in Oakland, looking towards the San Francisco cityscape across the Bay. There was only the barest shadow of any of that visible in the smoke, and the nearby zoo said they could only see to the far end of their property.

Today, despite the fact that Santa Rosa had to expand its mandatory evacuation area and those fires are not yet out, we happened to stand about where that photo had been taken from. The Bay Bridge and the water were in the distance, the skyscrapers beyond, almost as they’re supposed to be. The water was a subdued blue. I’ll take it.

We returned home surprised/not surprised at how crowded the freeways were for a Saturday afternoon–southbound, anyway.

I wound yarn.

I knitted yarn.  Malabrigo’s celebratory Anniversario colorway in Arroyo, just a one-skein cowl to feel like I’m getting something done, and as my hands worked the softness I found myself looking forward to finding out who this one was for. So, so pretty. One cannot help but be cheered by it.

And typing that out, the strikingly obvious came to me: Duh. I have to knit for G’s daughter, who grew up with my kids. This cowl or another one and maybe I should wait to give it to her till she finds out if she still has a house, or, if not, maybe all the more quickly, but… Yeah. Her. Alright then, I’m on a mission here.

And finally I felt like I had found my footing again.



Blessed are the night owls
Friday October 13th 2017, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So, the annual women’s dinner at the church tonight: nobody knew, when we scheduled it, that it was going to be a week when we could all particularly use each other’s good company and the time to just talk mid-week and decompress a bit together.

Someone at my table asked another, How’s your daughter? Was she okay…? (And I thought, ohmygosh, I forgot she lives up there!)

And the response was, Her cousin called her in the night and insisted she had to evacuate. Now.

Why? (Looking out the window.) There’s nothing anywhere near us. Everything’s fine here.

Get out! You have to get out!

He was adamant, so they got ready to go–and opened the door to go to their car and the fire was right there.

They made it out. They don’t yet know if they have anything to come home to but they made it out.