For naturalizing at home
Tuesday October 15th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life
The surprise from Afton: a gorgeous Calla lily in memory of my father, for which I am very grateful.

I chuckled over my little sister’s demand on Dad re waiting till after her son’s wedding was over with.

It occurs to me that he’d also waited for my family.

We flew to go see him in April, sure then that it would be our last chance. Even with the oxygen generator that was always attached to him, the ten steps it took him to go from his favorite chair to the kitchen table plunged his oxygen levels down below 80%, even to 70%, and he would shudder working so hard to get air into his lungs.

I was the one close person he knew who had been through oxygen levels like that and knew what it was like–but I’d been in a hospital bed, and I’d had it set off alarms with nurses coming to the rescue. He was doing all this on his own, and upright (getting down as soon as he could), and it was just unfathomable to me how he could do it. There were a number of times I simply held him as he wheezed.

I told him he amazed me. Because he most certainly did.

He spent more time in that chair after we left, and eventually Mom started bringing his meals over there.

I didn’t put it together but I should have: Sam was expecting, Sam was very high risk, and he wanted to see her through it with his prayers added into the mix and he wanted to see pictures of her baby alive and here and well and both of them having made it through. He wanted to be part of that.

And so he quietly held on for them, too.

Dad’s obituary.



Her son
Wednesday October 09th 2019, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I had just pulled out of my driveway when I saw him at her door. It had been a long time but that had to be him.

I stopped the car and rolled down the window.

“Are you John?” I called over.

“Yes. Are you Alison?”

There was a mutual sense of relief in having a face to match the messages. And in each other’s willingness to be there for his mom.

He brought me up to date: in the hospital still but doing well now, but she can’t come home yet–her house has to become more elderly-friendly first.

The work has begun.



She lived alone
Monday October 07th 2019, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Well, that was a day.

The phone rang this morning right after I got home from dropping Richard off at work: the next door neighbor, saying the son of the neighbor on our other side had called him wanting to know if any of us had seen his 84-year-old mom this weekend. He and his sister hadn’t been able to reach her.

We had not. This wasn’t unusual; she can’t walk much anymore and is rarely outside. I’d put her recycling bin away for her.

I went off to an event that I was one of the organizers for so I had to be there–but I dithered awhile first, waiting to hear more because somehow this time something felt… I didn’t know, but like I wanted to be there for my neighbor.

There was nothing to know, though, as far as I could tell, so I finally got on my way, and for various reasons I’m glad I did; it went well.

I came back a few hours later and the wife of the man who’d called was getting out of her car and we compared notes a moment. I stepped inside my house and the phone rang: the husband wanted to let me know.

In the few hours I’d been gone, the police had come, had broken in the door, they’d found our elderly neighbor in dire straights and the paramedics had gotten her into an ambulance and away. He figured that that meant she was alive, and we were certainly glad for that.

She’s probably just as happy there wasn’t one more person watching her being wheeled away, but that’s assuming she was in a condition as to be able to notice.

I had contact info for her daughter and texted her a heads-up, figuring she surely already knew but I couldn’t risk that she didn’t. At the very least I could let her know we knew and we cared and we were all here to help.

She answered a bit later, thanking us for looking out for her mom; yes she did know, and her brother was flying out tomorrow.

I offered to go to the hospital to keep her mom company in the meantime, or after, or any time at all and she decided let’s wait till he gets there and talks to her.

She did let me know her mother was not doing well.

Hang in there, Sandy.

And for everybody else who has or is an elderly parent: make sure the neighbors and the kids and the parents all have each other’s phone numbers.

In this case it surely helped save her life.



Goodbye Alaska
Saturday September 28th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Around 7:30 a.m., Anchorage, a few miles apart. The trompe l’oeil lake at the foot of the mountains turned into this thick band overhead as you drove closer, with the thin band in echo below.

The morning before, the clouds and the peaks had looked like blades of pinking shears, zig zagging in surprisingly precise tandem but never quite touching, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can rather than just having the tops disappear up there.

How did they do that? I’d really love to know. I’d never seen clouds before in the pattern of Charlie Brown’s shirt.

After seven trips, we were getting good at finding our way around.

I’m grateful the kids took us to feed the reindeer, to tour the Palmer research station where the project to bring the musk ox back from extinction in Alaska began with a small imported herd, to the four hour boat ride up Prince William Sound and back: whales, seals, sea lions, mountain goats, the intrepid crow harassing an eagle (always carefully from behind.) The log cabin of the Oomingmak Cooperative selling hand spun and hand knit qiviut–unexpectedly plunked between the high-rises downtown because, hey, tourists.

The ear warmer I bought my daughter there had the name of the artist and a tiny circle within a picture of that big state to show where the knitter lived: far from where we stood, with the remote village’s name given. The card offered forevermore that she would mend it should anything happen to it. I read the pride in her work in those words and wished we could sit down together someday with our yarn and needles and swap stories.

The conversation where I tried to persuade the guy at the reindeer farm that if his animals’ undercoat was soft, and he said it very much was, that he had a product on his hands that hand spinners would love to pay him for.

He did not believe me. He said he’d been told the staple length was too short to spin and he was very insistent about that. I wondered if he just couldn’t fathom that all that potential funding of his farm had been allowed to blow away in the wind–his description by word and hand motion of what happened to it every spring.

I said you blend it with merino to hold it in place and that I hereby volunteered to spin him samples when the animals blew their coats.

Which of course for all my wistfulness never happened, and yet–a few weeks ago I stumbled across an Etsy listing in Palmer, Alaska that said that as far as they knew they were the only people in the world spinning reindeer undercoat. Blended with 80% cashmere because it had to be to hold together.

I haven’t asked yet but it has to be them, it just has to be. I was about giddy when I found it. You DID it!! Let me save up a bit after this month’s trip so I can buy some but I very much need to buy some to cheer them on. You GO guy!

The intense height of those mountains. The unspeakable cold of the Bay with a late November wind blowing right through the down coats and the way the water’s edge looked like rock candy as just enough water made it in under the frozen surface in the relentless tide, pushing it up, breaking it, flashing it like diamonds in the always-late sun as more came in and more froze and we did, too.

The moose that walked right up to the hood of our car and stared in at us, like, What ARE you? It was huge.

Sarah-freaking-Palin in the grocery store. Recognizing with a start on a different day that that was her house and instantly knowing where the Time Magazine photographer had stood to take his cover photo as our car went over a bridge and wondering what it must be like that people can do that. Fame is so weird. But that picture is surely long forgotten by anybody else now.

I knew they use bright and happy house paint colors south of the border but till I traveled north I did not know that Alaskans often do, too. You grab what color you can against the endless months of white.

The laugh-out-loud delight at the airport at discovering a vending machine from–my friends Ron and Teresa of The Buffalo Wool Co! A wall of glass looking out towards the snow on those peaks to the right and to the left, an innocent query to the effect of, Did you pack enough warm things? Buffalo socks, hats, scarves, ours will really keep you warm.

I can attest that they really do.

Ron told me later at Stitches that I’d seen it just a few days after they’d set it up that week. We’d been in Anchorage at the same time. We’d almost crossed paths.

And then.

As Sam put it a few weeks ago, “Friday morning I went in for a normal day of work and by the end of the day I had a new job and a new baby.”

Copper River salmon fishing will no longer be a 25-minute trip away for them. Their tea-party governor is cutting university funding by 41%, etc, etc, so that he can lower the taxes on the oil companies, and they have two kids now who will need to go to the de-funded schools.

They’re moving.



I ran and did that
Thursday August 22nd 2019, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,LYS

It wasn’t upside down when I took the picture. Nor when I sent it. Again. It’s doing what it wants to do. I think this was Queguay colorway, Malabrigo Mecha, anyway.

See, I knit someone a hat, and looked forward to giving it to him at church.

Didn’t see him. But he’s always there! Nope.

Knit another hat. In case his son visits him again, and you couldn’t leave him out, right?

Didn’t see them.

So last Friday, being at Fillory for the informal knitting group and always feeling like I should buy a skein to pay for my afternoon’s entertainment, I hunched down at the display of Mecha yarn and said a little prayer, a bit of a joke to G_d: See, when I picked out the color he didn’t want to disappoint me so he didn’t come, right? But if I pick out what he wants then he’ll be there, right? So which one should it be?

This skein leaped into my hand. I worked on the afghan while the staff wound it up for me.

Sunday’s coming. It needed to be finished.

I even got the ends run in, just to make sure I don’t get tripped up at the last minute by procrastinating that part.

To be continued.



Oh honey
Tuesday August 20th 2019, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

An old Purlescence friend Facebooked yesterday about some honey she was considering at a farmer’s market, and that when she’d learned the source and sampled it she’d bought two. She described it as smokey, caramel-y, with a depth of flavor like nothing else.

I would have gone right past that display without a glance–actually I did at first–at Andy’s Orchard this afternoon but then that well-known picture of the vendors caught my eye and then the jars, familiar only because of Lynette’s post. Hey. Those!

The Honey Ladies’ name has long been passed around on the neighborhood sites as where to go when you have a bee swarm where you really don’t want it. They’ll happily come and put those honeybees to use in a better spot.

She’s the one who saw the guy first and yelled, Hey! You can’t bring that in here!

Which drew the attention of apparently the police thankfully nearby, and of the Gilroy shooter himself: she and her husband were his first targets.

The lady at Andy’s told me that they’d thought they were going to have to amputate her leg but right now it looks like they can save it after all. The woman’s husband took more bullets–but they both lived, their son was unharmed, and they are coming along bit by bit.

So Andy’s is one of the places now selling their honey. Of course it is. That’s what our Andy does. I bought three.

By far the best is the one Lynette raved over.

Checking me out, the lady said, her eyes on me, questioning how I felt about this, You know, a lot of people are afraid of that.

I told her it came highly recommended so I had to try it.

Now that I have, I wish I’d bought more, and I have an extra excuse to go back sooner rather than later before they’re all sold out.

Poison oak blossom honey. From rescued bees.

Who knew, right? Of all things. Even poison oak can leave in its wake something highly good and desirable.

(I’m thinking of my mom’s fierce poison ivy allergy and wanting to say, It’s okay, Mom, it’s okay, I’m fine…)

P.S. I gave Richard some and he called himself agnostic on the issue, that honey simply tastes like honey to him, so then I had him sample their blueberry. He was surprised: Oh! That IS different!



As I would want someone to do for my own mom
Sunday August 18th 2019, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We were at a potluck supper with friends this evening and rather than hanging out for a long time at the end, my husband felt it was time to go. He waited patiently as I wrapped up a conversation. It was definitely early.

I might quietly have conveyed that I’d like to stay a bit longer but somehow I found myself feeling like yes, it’s time (while wondering at myself for that.) And so we thanked the hosts and headed out.

Which means we pulled into our driveway just as our elderly neighbor next door was in hers, needing help. I called out a cheerful hi–and found myself going over to her.

She was frustrated. She was at times fighting tears. I gave her a hug, while quietly wondering how long it had been since she’d had one.

Richard had headed inside so I texted him, Come. He came.

Her car window was stuck down. He got it up.

There was a tool she needed to fix a problem inside the house and he had that tool and went to go get it. He’s a geek–he’s got all kinds of little things like that. When he gave it to her, we both knew she might forget it and we might never see it again–and that that was fine. The message that it conveyed backed up our words that she could call us anytime and know that we were glad to help.

We also found out that her daughter across the country whom I’d been quietly messaging a few times to try to keep her updated about her mom as best I could has cancer.

Just like the mom had had–at the same time I was diagnosed with lupus. Twenty-nine years ago, and we were both still standing right there. That left room for a great deal of hope.

We told her we’d left that dinner early and that now we knew why.

Suddenly she needed a second hug and she got it.



Climb every mountain
Friday August 16th 2019, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,LYS

Went to Fillory to hang out and knit among friends for awhile and it suddenly hit me that wait–this thing is actually somehow almost done!

It’s taller than wide already. It’s certainly stretchy, but in its relaxed state it’s about 41″ wide, whereas I usually consider 45″ square to be the minimum for a receiving blanket.

I didn’t know when I started it small that I would be able to find more of not only that discontinued yarn but that dye lot–and I had no idea those little 50 gram balls would go as far as they have. But then, this is a much smaller blanket than the monster 1700g Rios one was. It’s for the baby to drag around behind her once she’s walking and to take everywhere she goes, and you don’t want big nor bulky for that.

It is 70/30 baby alpaca/mulberry silk. Super soft, not super practical, and yet it leaped onto my needles that first day and demanded to be for that granddaughter.

One friend held it today and swooned at the softness and totally made it feel like I’d gotten it just right–she had no way to know how much she was helping.

I debated out loud about adding an edging; the consensus was, it’s fine as is, especially for a drag-around lovie.

I’m still torn. Maybe add just at the sides rather than all the way around? Because small as it already is, it’s going to go through the hand wash cycle in their laundry.

Where the baby alpaca will want to shrink the fabric. Whereas the soft single-ply spinning means the 30% mulberry silk will make the yarn want to stretch out, most likely lengthwise. Plus there’s the lace parts, which will flatten out wider and who knows how that’ll come out.

The middle part is knitted mostly solid to give a sense of the immense height of the snowy Alaskan mountains above–but also for there to be no yarnover holes right where it’s most wrapped around that baby in that climate.

Really the only answer is to give it a quick rinse and blocking when the main part is done and see what size it is then and call it from there.

But I’m finally at the point where that is something I get to worry about now and it actually surprised me.

Somehow I am only at the start of the tenth ball and there were twenty-one. If disaster strikes and she needs a new lovie like the old lovie (good luck with that–this was seat-of-the-pants designing all the way) I’ll be able to make one. If I don’t add that edging.

Remind me if that does happen, that on that chart I (mostly) used for the moose, I added a stitch’s width to its muzzle because it looked too deer-like.

I’m pretty happy with this.



Survivor
Thursday August 15th 2019, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

This. Is the bike of a lucky man. Friend of my husband’s.

Who somehow had the skill and sheer great fortune that when a car pulled directly in his path on the freeway and then braked, at a time when the motorcycle was doing 80, the rider managed to lay it down well enough so as to be able to walk away. The steel toes in his boots were worn completely off. He’s limping but apparently, nothing broken.

That gorgeous shade of red and black is parked for good where they towed it, because I don’t think it’s going anywhere again.

The crazy-artist side of me wants to ask, if you made that a colorway, if you tried to put a name to both the experience and those colors and encompassed it in stitches to try to make sense of it all–not that wool would stand up where steel did not–what would you call it?



I finally asked
Sunday August 11th 2019, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Item 1. They replaced the carpeting at church last week. People were complaining about the smell. It was intense. (I did a mental grin upwards at the late Ski, who’d ordered the previous one ~25 years ago, thinking, at last they’d corrected his color choice. He was so proud of that mismatching green. Shhh.)

I spent much of the time holding very still with not one oxygen molecule to spare. Yow.

This week I was hoping the place would be aired out far better by now–but the answer was, um, some.

I got the doors propped open with a flower pot on one side and a chair on the other before the meeting, but during it found myself having to put my head between my knees. Hey I did better than this last week, what’s up with this. I made a break for it and went for that chair. Yes it was near noon on a summer day and in the sun, but you worry about paying for it re the lupus tomorrow after you make it through today–can’t get to the one without the other.

Jenni saw me and immediately followed me out and stayed by me and asked if I was okay. I searched through my purse I should have used last week but before that hadn’t had to use in years, even if I’ve periodically replaced it at expiration.

I found my inhaler. It helped. Not as much as I wanted, but it helped.

Item 2. I had to go back in to the one of the less aired-out parts to retrieve the Trader Joe’s chocolate goodies from the mother’s nursing lounge at the end.

A young mom was in there: Oh, are you the one that brings those? Thank you so much!

Me: Yes, it is the most fun job–and I take requests.

Her: You always bring my favorites!

I left with a big grin on my face.

Item 3. The upshot: the realization that there was no excuse not to ask. I needed to send out a message to both wards that use that building to make sure there are no serious peanut allergies in either one before I bring TJ’s chocolate peanut butter cups in there. Whether I ever know about it or not, I do not want to leave some poor kid fighting to breathe.

I’ve only brought them a few times but I never should have without making sure first. Checking with the leaders like I did was not enough.

So now I’ve asked.



And it’s the week the Kit Donnells are in. Woot!
Saturday August 10th 2019, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Knit

Hey, Mom, wanna go to Andy’s Orchard with my friend and me?

YES!

I sat in the back as they caught up in the front seat (her dear friend just moved here a week ago) and just about finished the back of the baby sweater a mile from home.

Kit Donnells are some of the best peaches out there–and one of Andy’s creations.

On a total non sequitur, I was mentioning to Holly a few minutes ago about a message Richard got in the early days of DARPAnet, the precursor to the internet.

So I had to go find it: the fractured fairy tale Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. Enjoy.



Well actually yes it was
Sunday July 21st 2019, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Friends

The doorbell rang. I saw the back of the head through the window as I approached, told my husband it wasn’t anybody we knew, and opened the door to–Holly!! HI!

Turns out she’d been in my town for something else and thought she’d drop by and oh by the way she’d embroidered these hand towels for me just for fun.

She used the facilities before she left and only afterwards did it smack me upside the head that I had just the perfect new towels to hang in there–if only I’d pushed her out of the way and run down the hallway ahead of her with them.



Totally buffaloed
Saturday July 20th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

Buffalo Wool Co is moving to a new mill and dyer and cleaning out old stock. They held a mystery offer: for $20 you would get…yarn. What color or blend or how big a skein would be random and unrefundable, but given the warmth and rarity (not to mention natural machine-washability) of bison fiber that $20 was going to be well spent no matter what you got.

My husband has some of their socks and admitted that he didn’t want to wear any other kind anymore, only theirs, preferably their bison/silk ones.

I splurged and he has six new pair of the bison/silks, despite my knowing that “Mom got me socks for Father’s Day” was a line that could live in infamy–except that he really did want them. And he really did appreciate them.

So here I am, I’m seeing that mystery yarn thing, I passed on the chance so that other people could have what few skeins those might be at this point because hey, I have more than my share of good things.

And then, closer to moving time, my friends Ron and Theresa from Stitches and whom I adore ran that offer again.

This time my greed got the better of me before the day was over.

The package came.

It seemed…dense.

You guys!!!!!

It’s the bison silk. Nearly two thirds of a pound in laceweight.

I feel like I just won the yarn lottery.



Graph-feat-y
Thursday July 18th 2019, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Sherry found on Etsy what I didn’t on Ravelry, and thank you, Sherry!

It’s not lace but it’s definitely a moose. Done from the vantage point of looking not quite straight on, and I want a side view, so, another three stitches’ worth separating the front legs from the back stretching that belly out, and likewise on another stitch’s worth lengthening the muzzle.

So far, that’s what I’m going with but I’m not up to there yet.

It is amazing how much faster it is to knit a 182 stitch per row afghan than a 279-stitch one.



Got that one right
Sunday July 14th 2019, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I’d been thinking…but I hadn’t quite convinced myself that that was the right choice for her and she wasn’t there anyway, so, never mind.

Church was over and the navy cowl was still in my purse as people were standing around chatting, the crowd gradually fading.

I still don’t know a lot of the new people but at least their faces and personalities have started to become familiar.

Then I saw the woman I’d given the most recent cowl to and she was talking to one of her friends from back before the ward boundary changes; I walked up to them saying, I was looking for someone wearing blue!

The first one laughed, the second had no idea, the first started to tell her what she was about to be in for (man, she caught on to me fast!), and then there was the “are you allergic to wool?” out of me.

Handknit wool and silk. In a perfect match to her outfit.

She went home thrilled.

I need to start the next one, because that was just way too much fun to miss out on next week.