Okay, this is silly.
Wait–back up a bit. When I was home from college over Christmas break when I was 19 or 20, my dad surprised me by telling me he was going to take me shopping for a pair of boots for Christmas; he knew it would be my first pair ever. It was cold and snowy where I was going to school and he wanted my feet nice and warm. Besides, hey, boots!
Took me a moment to get over the shock. My dad. Wants to take a daughter. Shoe shopping. Brave man.
What I ended up with was inexpensive waterproof synthetic ones. One, because I knew the folks had three kids in college that year, and two, because trying to buy my feet anything was hopeless anyway, so once I found something, anything, that I could at all get my feet into I knew that was as good as I was going to get and the fact that these were waterproof seemed practical. Finding something that actually fit my 6.5EE and high arch was completely out of the question.
Back at school, I found my feet hurt pretty fast wearing those and I only wore them to get from my apartment to campus. And only a few times, with regret at not letting my dad push me to try harder. I should have skipped getting those altogether, which I’d known all along but I just couldn’t let him completely down.
Fast forward to when I had kids in elementary school. The PTA in our school district ran, at the time, a wardrobe exchange in order to pass clothes on to those less well off, while covering for their pride by presenting it as a way to offer warm clothes for those going to Tahoe who only needed to rent snow clothing those few days out of the year. Wash them, bring them back, done.
So anybody could rent outfits for their kids for a few bucks and anyone in the school district could buy them for about that who needed to. The funds went to cover the rented trailer they ran the operation from.
So I brought in some warm outgrowns for the cause one fine day.
Someone had donated these shearling-lined horsehair boots that look like a Westie terrier about to be told to get down off that chair. I thought they were hilarious and tried slipping one on, and then the other, and by golly I could actually get my feet in them! What a great Halloween costume! Besides, my oldest was getting to the age where it was my job to embarrass her, right?
The woman was incredulous. You LIKE those?! Nobody checks those out. They’ve just sat there forever. You want them? Take them!
Well, that wasn’t quite fair, so I went home and got those old tall rubbers and exchanged them pair-for-pair. They were happy, I was happy. The fact that I wear European 37 and these were stamped 39 40 on the bottom–US 8-9.5–three full sizes too big, no wonder I could get them on.
But those polyurethane ones from back in the day left a lasting impression: I don’t do boots. Period.
Although I sure wished I did when I was in DC January a year ago and it was five degrees out with a strong wind and we were trying to hike the C&O Canal in the cold (not for very long).
And then there was my younger daughter’s enthusiasm. “Boots! Cute Boots! You need cute boots!”
As if. Come on, they don’t exist now any more than they did then.
But we had that conversation every so often these past few years and I always wondered if that was actually so.
Recently, she needed some cheering up. And I knew how much she would love it if…it couldn’t hurt to look…
I went to a specialty shoe store that advertised wide widths. No dice. I searched Birkenstock’s online store. Their American importer? Nope.
And then I found a German Birkenstock store. They had a few pairs left of a now-discontinued style. I knew that ordering from Germany was going to cost me a whole lot in return charges if this didn’t work, I had no idea how they would handle it if I did, the cost was in no way cheap but I thought how much Michelle would love it. I thought about getting to tell my 90-year-old Dad that, hey, Dad! I did it! I finally got those boots you wanted for me all that time ago!
And so I took a deep breath and typed what I needed to type.
They came yesterday.
I put one foot in. I put the other foot in. Walked a few steps. And then just about shouted to the rooftops, THEY FIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
They’re not high boots, they’re more like high top sneakers, but wearing something above the ankle is a whole new thing here as it is. The doctor who treated my broken bones in November wanted me to be wearing something like this instead of clogs, and there you go.
I keep laughing at the name of the boot: I have a Bartlett pair.
We heard a thunk this afternoon, and opening the door, I found a box: it said New Balance. The mailman hadn’t even driven his truck away before I read the label, laughed, and started walking next door. He saw me and was startled–Did I–?
No problem, I laughed, it just helps me keep in touch with the neighbors.
Jim opened at my knock and I handed him his box. “Those aren’t my shoes, mine came yesterday,” pointing at my feet, and he laughed.
I wonder if he was as excited about his as I was about mine. I mean, you just don’t want to miss out.
Yes you can
A friend of mine went up to Lacis in Berkeley for the first time. Lacis is both a shop and a museum of all things lace; it was founded by Kaethe (I was told, as best as my hearing could tell, to pronounce it Katy) Kliot. Who as a refugee from post-WWII Germany funded her ticket to America by resurrecting old doily patterns to make cotton tablecloths for American soldiers to send home.
And then she spent a lifetime finding and publishing and selling every lace book title you could possibly hope to find. When she couldn’t find fine enough knitting needles for certain types of work, she manufactured her own.
Ruth marveled that she’d missed out on discovering such a marvelous place earlier and wanted to know if any of us had ever been. This is what I told her:
Years ago I bought, from Kaethe Kliot herself after she helped me find it, a book on Shetland lace whose price was marked in British pounds so I had no idea what it was going to cost me. (It was not inexpensive, as it turned out, but I had been able to find it nowhere else.) But what it gave me was the memory of talking to Kaethe herself before she passed. One of the things I was there to look for, I told her, was a musical treble clef and base clef done in a lace pattern; was there such a thing?
She glanced upwards and searched mentally through her vast library for several long seconds, then was quite certain as she looked at me again and said, “No–but it wouldn’t be hard, here’s how you do it…” and she was quite excited to be part of an unexpected collaboration here. Excited for me, clearly knowing how much I would love the discovering in the process.
At the time, though, I was barely started at being self-taught on doing lace and there was no way. But what she did was make it so I had hope, or at least wanted that hope, that someday, maybe, I could live up to what she believed I could do.
I actually still haven’t ever knit such a thing, but now it’s only because I haven’t bothered to. By now I know I can.
But I loved her for her faith in me and I loved, too, that there was an entire warehouse of knitting books and a woman who knew every pattern in every one of them. Who wanted everybody to be able to do anything they wished they could do.
Edited to add: I just found the Lacis tribute to Kaethe, here, with pictures of her work and of her. I have visual memory damage specifically for faces and yet I recognized hers instantly. With great fondness.
Doesn’t have to be pink
A quiet day, a bit of knitting, a sick husband, here, honey, drink some juice, drinking some myself while trying not to catch his bug…
And with all that is going on in politics I happened to stumble across this: a cooling treatment that helps chemo patients keep their hair through it all, and the study was done right here at UCSF.
Well, huh. If you can’t afford the cooling scalp, maybe a plain icepack or two? You know, we could definitely design a hat with a giant pocket to hold them in place, and you always want a layer of fabric between you and the colder side of the pack anyway to keep the skin from freezing.
Those sewn-square pussy hats would be about the right shape to add to.
It’s a toss-up
I sure don’t think the hawk dropped them, and the squirrels only tear an occasional one apart when they’re thirsty enough–when they do, though, you know from a distance that they did.
I was putting the frost covers on the mango for the evening when I happened to glance across the yard: say what?! My lemons aren’t that color and they sure don’t fall over there (or at all, until they’ve been hanging on the tree until the next crop comes in and there are none of those right now.)
I went and looked. I’d been outside earlier and they hadn’t been there then. I picked up one, more over there, finally six, a few of them cracked open from the impact. They’d been tossed a good toss.
Most people plant dwarf versions in their backyards; my Meyer lemon is probably older than I am but it’s not much taller.
But someone across the corner and down a bit at the fence line had planted a now-immense citrus that goes up nearly to the top of the power pole, and right now it is loaded, and since it was planted close against the fence, at least a third if not half the crop is accessible only to the other side. Free fruit!
And on that other side is my neighbor with early dementia whom I planted my Indian Free peach for. Our fig tree will spill over into their yard, too, when it gets bigger, if they want it to.
They’ve been anticipating those peaches and I have no doubt that Adele wanted to share back. She’s always loved knocking on my door in the summer and offering us some of her tomatoes.
I sent her husband a note telling him how loved it had made me feel that she’d made sure we could enjoy some of those oranges, too, if that was her–but I also mentioned still being in recovery from a serious head injury; maybe she could roll them gently over the top of the fence next time? (Hey, I could walk over there and visit with her and give him a reprieve for a moment, too.)
Just let me offer a gentle mutiny on the bounty, I thought. In the current delivery method, it’s the thought that klonks.
I think I need to go back to wearing that helmet in the back yard again, just to be sure.
Knitting diplomacy fail
I think maybe that was a mistake.
Yesterday we had our lupus support group meeting, and rather than have someone present info on some medical topic of the day it was requested that we come prepared to talk about our hobbies, our creative outlets, what we do that we enjoy.
I had no idea MR quilts, but wow does she ever. She brought some small ones to show us and I wished out loud that my mother, who also quilts, could have been there to see them.
The conversation continued around the room till me, the last in line. I said that if I took this out of its ziploc it was probably never going back in, and seeing the badly bulging bag coming out of my tote on that rainy day there was a chuckle around the room.
And so they dutifully admired the afghan project.
And then the leader of the group asked me the same question she’d asked the quilter: “How long did it take you to do that?”
“Well, usually an afghan takes me about an hour an inch but this one is taking two.”
Her eyes kind of bugged. “TWO HOURS an INCH?!” I could see any possible hope of interesting her in learning to knit instantly vanishing. Hard.
I knew that explaining untangling the balls of yarn and dropping and picking up every fourth stitch every sixth row down four rows certainly wasn’t going to help the cause, talking about five or six hour (or more) cowl or hat projects wouldn’t rescue it–I had already lost them all.
But hey, nice afghan.
(And now you have some context for yesterday’s tongue-in-cheek post.)
Two years ago, there was this space, tucked between the fence and the end of the house, where I really didn’t think there would be enough sun for a fruit tree. But visually for us and in terms of not shading the other trees it would be a good spot.
We hadn’t planned on buying one for back there anyway but, hey, there it was. (I had, though, wished for one enough to ask my friend Ruth, who grows multiple types, what the best tasting is for our microclimate.) We were at the nursery way over in Santa Cruz an hour away because they were the only ones that had my English Morello sour cherry, which was going in at the opposite end of the yard, we got a Gold Nugget mandarin orange to go in near it because hey, we were there, bags of soil, yes, and then Richard heroically said to me, Is there anything else you want before we go?
It was the tail end of bare root season and everything was half off.
Seriously? Could I…?
And then his answer, as I marveled over the $10 price tag, of, Yeah, I like figs!
And so I gave my impromptu new Black Jack tree an edge: I propped it up two feet sunwards by way of planting it in a giant Costco planter. That way if all else failed I could move it. I told myself the roots would be contained to help keep the tree small, but the variety I’d bought was a small one anyway.
Fifty figs its second year says it definitely gets enough sun back there. And it can reach upwards all on its own now.
Man, it felt good to see that (ugly–I confess it now) brown plastic finally kicked out of the picture and that trunk surrounded by good, rich dirt. It had earned the right to be permanently planted. No, I didn’t dare risk something that awkward, heavy, and with all the potential to smack my head on–I got some help and then stayed out of their way.
More and more and more and then more
Matched Saturday’s record: four repeats. Put on enough Joni Mitchell albums and I can plow through anything.
But I found myself daydreaming of a baby blanket done like an *Amish quilt: plain. Flat. Stockinette. The color wheel rendered in rectangles peacefully pieced together afterward. No untangling balls of yarn every time you turn it over to start a new row, no worsted-weight pulled up in circles against the size 5s (they really are. And all that time I was wondering why those 6s were coming up so tight on both yarn and hands–it’s because they’re not.)
Given how heavy and wide this blanket is and that I had more yarn and could continue, the question settled itself: this one’s for the parents.
Which meant adding 22 more repeats. The tall ones have to be able to cover their feet and pull it up to their chins. A good rule of thumb for afghans is to knit it to match their height.
And yes, Holly, I know I talked about wearing clothing to match the project to make it easier to get to it, and I do that a lot, but after a week of dutiful greens and blues my inner purple screamed to be allowed to come out to play.
*p.s. And then I found this. And it describes it as possibly the most time-consuming. Well then. We have a match.
Only took me 30 years to find this out about her
A friend stopped by and chatted for awhile, and as we talked, she was facing the bird feeder.
“You’ve got a nuthatch!”
“On the feeder?”
I turned around to see, and sure enough, there it was. The thing was almost empty so the finches had given up squabbling over the seed and all but one had gone somewhere else and with their aggressiveness out of the picture, the nuthatch had flown in. The one house finch seemed to question its presence a second but the nuthatch shrugged it off. Hanging upside down, it reached in and fetched itself a safflower seed and flew off in success.
Karen picked up my Sibley’s and went straight to the page–Nope, not a Pygmy, that’s a… Turns out Karen’s not only an avid birder and has a feeder, too, she’s led birdwalking tours. Knock me over with a pillow’s worth of feathers. She regaled me with squirrel stories, like the mutual friend who once asked Al Jensen what to do about the squirrels in his fruit trees. Not knowing that it was illegal to relocate them, the guy then proceeded to trap one–one squirrel, ever, that was it–and drove over to the entrance to the Stanford Dish to let it go, thinking it could have a whole oak tree all to itself on that undeveloped hillside. (Never mind the mountain lions occasionally spotted below.)
He opened the cage and that squirrel made a mad dash away from the oak, straight down the hill, across the busy road, and scrambled at long last into a comfortable suburban backyard like where he’d come from. Okay, that didn’t work.
Walking out the door a few minutes later, I wished out loud that she’d gotten to see the Cooper’s hawk to get the full experience around here. Dang if right on cue, looking at the big pine across the street, guess what flew upwards and then started kiting right there above the neighbor’s house? We laughed at the utter randomness of the timing. Well, there you go! Wow!
Wishing for it to come on over for a close up was a little much. It tipped its wings at an angle and disappeared into the wind.
He was a stranger and we took him in
The second meeting of Stake Conference was this morning.
One of the last speakers was a man who was born in Korea. His father came from very difficult circumstances and, trying to make a better life for his own family, took a job in Tehran for several years to be able to send money home, having to leave his wife to raise their new baby and toddler alone but at least he could provide for them.
At last she was able to bring the children to go see their dad.
Right as, it being the mid-’70s, Iranian assets were frozen. The family could not get to their savings, they could not get home, they had no job to go to if they even could, and from what I understand they could not so much as go buy food–they were completely stranded.
A Mormon family in Utah took them in and their teenager gave up a bedroom so they could have a place to sleep. The man telling the story was four and a half at the time. He went on to say that he and his sister got a good education, everybody was safe, everybody’s circumstances are comfortable now (and he lamented that his own children had no way to understand just how good they truly have it) and they owed it all to the great generosity of those individuals who took them in and to this wonderful country which had let them come; he was so grateful. It was clear he had spent his life seeking to live up to the chances that had been offered him and to give back.
I was a stranger and ye took me in… He was overcome a moment.
After he sat down, the Stake President stood to give a few final remarks. He stated, first, “That was not political.” The crowd chuckled a little, and he explained: they had planned this meeting six months prior. And yet here we are.
Patrick Kearon’s talk last April to the church and the world at large summed up his experiences with, This moment does not define the refugees. But our response will define us.
…This post typed as a longtime friend’s husband, naturalized as a US citizen most of his lifetime ago on a dual citizenship, is stranded in Iran not knowing when or even if he can come back to his own home to see his US-born children and grandchildren again.
We are better than this.
One single skein. And then another.
On my way out the door to Al’s memorial service I stopped a moment, looked at the finished cowls in ziplocs, and one leaped out at me and into my purse as if the others didn’t even exist: that one. It had been sitting there waiting to be discovered ever since I’d made it. I even ran the yarn ends in recently in anticipation but had put it back away–it wasn’t its time at the time but now maybe it was.
Talking to one of his grandchildren afterwards whom I’d met when she was a little girl, she was wearing a blouse…and the blues were a match. Well there you go. From me and her grampa, with love, since she used to see me sitting knitting waiting for my girls to come out from their music lessons with him.
(I was wearing a cowl in a similar shade playing backup plan just in case but when she exclaimed over hers and how good it looked with what she had on, I couldn’t improve on that.)
Tonight we went off to a semi-annual Saturday evening church meeting, and the local Mormon mission president and his wife were among the speakers. Now, my brother and he were great friends growing up together and her grandmother was my sister’s favorite teacher at church and I’ve wanted to knit for her for several years now before they finish their assignment and go home. Which is coming up. I just never know when they’re going to show up because they float between a lot of different wards.
I was still wearing that other blue.
So I asked her afterwards if she liked the color. Why, yes she did. Could I, then…? She was quite surprised and quite delighted, and started to say something to the effect that but then you won’t have–and I laughed. “I’m always knitting.” Matter of fact, right there in my purse was yet another cowl. And it was, fancy that, a near shade of blue to hers. So there you go.
It felt good. It felt really really good. That’s why I make random cowls, because they like to run out and go play just like that.
Just because she could
Friday January 27th 2017, 10:34 pm
Filed under: Friends
If she were selling them I would link for her but as far as I know she doesn’t. Her son does construction and remodeling work, and someone had a chandelier they didn’t want anymore.
Those pieces of crystal were too pretty to simply–throw away? I mean, how does one do that? And so in her hands they became jewelry and she was sharing them with her co-workers.
Kind of a golden Golden Gate Bridge look to the sparkling inside.
So I guess this is a pendant pendant?
Al would have loved this
(Photo added in the morning after a little more work.)
Where a gravel pathway was laid down, oh, 50 years ago or so, the rocks run deep.
And then there was that tree trunk. When we cut down a bunch of scraggly trees and started relandscaping a few years ago I had the tree service leave this one tall stump at over six feet–I wanted the Ladder-Backed woodpeckers to be able to have old dead wood to find bugs in.
I never saw a woodpecker touch it but the squirrels sure liked their express lane offramp from the fence. Various birds liked to play king of the mountain on it to scope out the view of their feeder.
About a month ago I kind of toggled the thing a little, thinking it should be well rotted by now and better to take it down than to have it fall.
It held solid.
I’ve wanted a pomegranate tree ever since our friend Jean shared from her two-year-old one last year. She had planted it at 88 and gotten to share the fruit. I had never before tasted one picked when it was so ripe that the thing had started to burst open; I know it partly depends on variety (she didn’t remember what hers was) but I’d had no idea they could be like this. If we were going to start our own, this is bare-root season.
Yesterday I worked down through all that gravel–it went to nearly a foot–and started turning over bare soil below at last.
And asked Richard when he got home what he thought about that placement.
Well, if I liked it. He personally would have preferred it further back…
Your house too. It needs to make you happy, too. I reminded him that I’ve wished I’d planted the Tropic Snow peach a few feet further right and it was too late now and I didn’t want to make that mistake again. I wanted to do it right this time.
Today I went off to Yamagami’s. The Parfianka is a taste-test favorite and has seeds that are both quite small and quite soft–meaning, okay for me post-op, and it helped that one of their staff had previously told me it was his favorite.
When they saw me with my walker, one of them dropped what she was doing and took me right to where that particular variety pomegranate was, and then, seeing that it would be hard for me to do, she not only pointed out good specimens but reached to the back and pulled several out from there as well as the front and put them down on the ground in a row for me to choose from where I could see them all individually. She helped me get a really nice one, and had I been on my own I wouldn’t have been able to risk reaching for it for fear of losing my balance into the lot of them. I was and am grateful.
That stump was in the way of digging where Richard wanted this to go–and you can’t risk having it fall on the new tree, either. I thought, after all the rain we’ve been having, maybe it made a difference? And again I tried giving it a tug.
It came away, not in a fast collapse but rather slow and measured and easy to aim. Well THAT worked!
With that out of the way I started pulling away rocks again. And it was fascinating: just a few feet away, yesterday’s had been jagged. Most of these were smoothed, rounded, far easier to deal with. Still, it was a lot of work and enough for one day. And I’m glad now I did two holes because both will have good soil for the tree to grow into.
Pleased at the depth and width, I declared it done and went off to get Richard.
Tomorrow the prime planting soil from Yamagami’s goes in. Tomorrow I plant my new fruit tree in Al’s memory. I can’t wait to tell Jean.
Tuesday January 24th 2017, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Friends
Sunday, when I told Eric’s story about his marathon, I typed that little thought at the end.
Then I started to delete it. I didn’t want to take away from what he’d said and I was afraid it might.
But if… And I didn’t.
Then again… But I left it.
I second-guessed myself all the way up to bedtime and wondered who I’d written it for.
Well, me, as it turned out: because even though the hailstorm was over by the time I got to the audiologist’s, it was raining off and on (on, just then) and I did not want to bother with struggling to get the walker out of the back of our small car–it’s not that it’s heavy, it’s that it barely squeezes in and out of the trunk without some wrangling to get the angles right coming and going and I didn’t want to bother in this weather.
So I just grabbed the cane in the back seat and made do.
It being my first time there since the latest head injury, John-the-audiologist had never seen me that wobbly, and I didn’t have the walker to steady my balance by. I told him about it and that I’d come a long way since and that I was fine sitting down.
Which he could tell, because by then I’d been sitting in his office just peachy-fine for awhile. But it was when I stood up to go that he got worried, more so when I admitted I’d taken a tumble into a nice cushioning (except where I’d pruned it) bush that afternoon. He wanted to offer me an arm not just to the door but clear to my car.
Just as the skies threw a new bucket of cold water on that idea.
I started to brush him off with, You don’t have to do that!
Wait, I told myself–what did you just write just last night? Were you listening to yourself? You know you should have gotten that walker. And I realized that all that internal fussing over that blog post had helped me remember how I needed to see this. Let him be his best self, willya?
John had no raincoat on, not even a sweater, but good man that he is, he made sure I was in okay before he dashed back towards his nice warm dry (which he was not now) office. I was glad that at least I’d gotten a decent spot close in for his sake.
More consonants just like that
Monday January 23rd 2017, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends
Drove through a cloudburst that was quite the hailstorm, than an underpass on the freeway where the day’s rains had collected to too deep for comfort. Traffic actually slowed down to a responsible slow crawl through the whole thing.
My audiologist likes to check the hearing aids every six months to make sure everything’s in good working order.
My question to him, was, Given what these cost and that the three-year warranty just expired, is there an extended warranty I can buy?
His answer surprised me, so I’m putting it out here in hopes that someone who needs the information finds it. He told me, Yes, the company sells one, but the costs are very high–you’re much better off contacting your homeowners insurance and asking for a rider specifically on the aids.
That would never have occurred to me, and given that I for one am not in a hurry to pay a third of a Prius towards my ears again anytime soon, I thought I would put that out there.
Then he handed me a bluetooth pendant, clicked a few clicks on his computer, and presto! One more dB in the uppermost frequencies of speech per my request, done!
Sunday January 22nd 2017, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Friends
That new guy who looks like my sister’s identical twins spoke in church today.
When he was a student, he’d decided to do a semester abroad at the BYU Jerusalem Center. It turned out a local marathon was going to coincide with his semester there so he decided to train for it and make that part of his experience, too.
Well, come the day of, he maybe wasn’t quite as prepared as he thought he was, he said, and he thought that by starting off fast and staying fast he could get through the race in less time.
Mile after mile… He passed people stopping at way stations to eat a bite and was glad he didn’t need to do that–it would wreck his time.
Till at last he found himself collapsing on the side there, unable to take one more step, really not feeling great, thinking his friends would finish and come back and pick him up. He was surprised at how wiped he was and he felt like he’d failed.
And so there he was; he said it felt like a very long time but was probably only five minutes or so, when a stranger came to him to see if he was okay. He clearly didn’t look okay to him. The man talked to him, but he was a Palestinian and our college student didn’t speak Arabic and shrugged, Sorry!
He watched the man then cross the street to a vendor and come back with a sandwich.
You need this. Eat this. The moment transcended the language barrier.
Eric finished his talk by reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, with feeling.
And I considered the thought that sometimes we don’t even know we need to be helped. Until we allow someone to do so.