Almost halfway through his childhood already
Tuesday April 23rd 2019, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

It was still there. I told Parker about it and he went running to look, his little brother right behind him. The two of them are a pair.

He had been three. It was just to the left of the bathroom door. I did not mention that it was from when he could proudly go potty all by himself now: a small, perfect handprint, like a time capsule, lower than the door handle that would have been an upward reach.

(Many times I’d thought of washing it off. Never quite did.)

But back to Friday for a moment: while the rest of their family was finishing up their birthday visit with the great grandma on the other side, our son ducked out for a few minutes that evening to let us see the baby without any competition for attention from the other kids. After all, Spencer would never be not quite seven months again.

They’d fed him right beforehand. He should have been fine. But his routine, his surroundings, the faces around him, everything had been strange all day long and he was tired and he was Not Having It Any More. From the screaming baby at the door till he fell asleep in my arms about 45 minutes later.

I did manage to distract him into half smiles a few times and almost a laugh. His grandpa got some hold-the-baby time, too.

He stopped crying for a little while–and then remembered that oh right he still wasn’t home and he still wasn’t in bed, and let loose again.

We had bought a fun Halloween pacifier on impulse in Santa Cruz last fall and had forgotten to bring it to them in time for that: it was still here. Cool. So that problem, at least, we could solve, even if it took a minute or two to hunt down.

I have a childhood memory of my grandfather rocking me in a wooden rocking chair on a planked wooden floor with Eichler style floor-to-ceiling windows behind him. I was very little.

I live in an Eichler. Carpeted, hey, but the plate windows behind me and wooden rocker, that I could do.

Gradually, with some gentle nudges from me on that pacifier when it started to slip, he gave way to the sleep trying to claim him. Barely, restlessly. But he was quiet at last.

Saturday was our day, and as they came in the door there was my tall son with the baby in his arms again.

Spencer took one look at me and immediately broke into the biggest grin.

I was utterly, completely smitten. I was already, but man…

This time he had a complete giggle fest with me. It was great.

Sunday morning early, they all flew home.

Sunday afternoon with the light coming through the windows just exactly so, shining bright on that wall next to the front door, it stood out and we could see it. He’s quite the basketball player in his age group (I’ve seen him play–he’s good!) and he probably had to do a nice little leap for that one.

A time capsule of an eight-year-old star athlete, missing only the autograph.

“You can wash that one,” said my husband.

From first leaf to the future
Friday April 19th 2019, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Life

Someone in the New York Times, I think it was, was quoting from Oliver Sacks’ last and posthumously published book, and now I really need to go read it.

Sacks was talking about the restorative power of gardens. Of being in nature. That it offered powerful medicine to the brain.

He said that of his neurology patients, even those whose minds were far gone with Alzheimer’s: if you got down to the soil with them and handed them a seedling, not one, ever, had tried to plant it upside down.

They knew how these things must go, and the worst ravages of the brain could not take that away from them.

Well so just try it
Wednesday April 17th 2019, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My sister-in-law asked two days ago if we were enjoying everything.

?? Enjoying what?

Today the doorbell rang: it was the truck driver she’d been expecting to arrive here. All those pictures she’d taken last year, all that inventorying, all those ranked choices between the siblings, the conference calls–she was looking forward to all that work on our behalf paying off for us.

Boxes and boxes and boxes and I’d had no real idea.

The soft but entirely synthetic afghan, so not my thing but made the way my allergic mother-in-law had asked for. I was just at the very start of teaching myself to knit lace at the time–there was no such thing as online knitting anything other than this still-new little group called the Knitlist.

But then the Barbara Walker books came back into print.

I chose a pattern that was a mixture of feather-and-fan and cables. Because cables. They were more my thing, but I figured if I did a whole swath of lacework like that I would be forced to keep going and I would make mistakes and learn along the way how to correct them and I’d get more confident at it. I committed myself inwardly to an hour a day and pretty much held to it. My own mom said an afghan should be long enough to cover your toes and go up to your chin–and my father-in-law was 6’7″. I was a careful newbie at this yarnover thing. It took me three months.

I stretched it out and looked it over, quite pleased: I did a good job with that, and that was actually really nice yarn.

I have grandkids coming in two days and my living room was stacked high with moving boxes and I wanted them out of there. Books, quilts, old cameras. An electric can opener! Something we’ve never bothered to buy, but it would be nice and now we have one. The yellowing plastic dated it to, I dunno, around the time we got married? Things lasted then, and so have we.

Pulled this thing out and guffawed in disbelief. Burlap? Is supposed to hold water across the desert? Was this some kind of a DadH practical joke? Because he would have loved it if it had been, that would have been just his thing.

Richard was surprised at my surprise: everybody knows those work, right? Of course they hold water!


You’re the fiber artist, you tell me!

Me, slightly bug-eyed, feeling that rough fabric: it was tightly woven, but. Uh… No. Just no.

But the thing does say it’s patented, so? If we believe hard enough? Or something.

Maybe if I tried filling it. I’m not sure which way would disappoint me? If it works? Or if it doesn’t?

It’s got to be waxed on the inside. Surely. Right, so I don’t need to make myself have to try to figure out how to dry it back out.

Where on earth do I put such a thing?


If only I could put their perfume in a photo
Tuesday April 16th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Life

I spent lots of time today winding yarn, going over patterns, debating doing this vs that. It felt great to be planning something interesting.

There are more and more and more apple blossoms. My Fuji tree is nearly 30 years old and last fall was the first time I ever hired a professional arborist and his crew to prune it (and a few others.)

Those guys knew what they were doing. Yes, we had all that rain, but still, not only is it beautifully shaped, I’ve never seen it bloom as much as it is now. Which is what I was hoping for.

P.S. And on a completely different note, as someone whose family did a camping trailer trip across the country and back in 1969 plus many other road trips, man, what we missed out on! An entomologist and his son have created an app to identify the bugs that wipe out on your windshield. Divvy it up, kids, your side vs. Susie’s and see who can win the most splats! A bug in the southeast likes the smell of exhaust pipes for laying eggs. Darwin rules.

Make sure Dad passes on the right, too. You want your fair share.


Each day a blessing
Sunday April 14th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,Life,Lupus

My niece Emily has been in the ICU: she caught the flu, got worse, started barfing and her (tween? Tell me he’s not a teenager yet?) son called my sister and said, Grammy, Mom needs you.

My sister went over and called an ambulance.

Emily’s kidneys had shut down and things were very very bad.

This afternoon she was moved out of the ICU, where she’s been the past week.

Today she ate solid food for the first time. Some.

She feels–well, she’s definitely had more fun than this.

Everything. Everything. Is looking far better than it did. We can start to breathe again.

Today Mom and Dad told us Dad’s in hospice care now. Dad’s favorite caretaker can still come and that made the decision easy.

This is another of the amaryllises from Dad last fall where the TSA thought the bulb was a bomb.

This is not how I usually photograph them and I wondered why I was doing it this way as I snapped another from the same angle rather than changing it. Why… And then I got out of the sun and put it back on the porch and that was that.

I did not see till I went to post the picture: it was taken looking straight down so that the stem that supports the blossoms is out of direct sight–but you can infer where it held the sunlight within itself by how it left only its shadow to our eyes. But it is real, it is there, it is strong against the winds outside, and there where it cannot directly be seen, it holds the glorious colorwork steady.

Saturday April 13th 2019, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

(Photo posted with permission.)

I love growing fruit trees. How many things that we spend money on remain with us, doing good, for the rest of our lives?

Jennifer and her husband bought a house early last year about a half hour away, and sorry though I was to see them leave here, I asked her if they’d like one as a housewarming present, and if so, what type.


Turns out she had been wishing very much for an apricot tree, specifically one of the old wonderful Blenheims that are hard to find in stores.

Yamagami’s had Royal Blenheims in stock.

She sent me this picture today.

I cannot begin to tell you how happy it makes me.

Tuesday April 09th 2019, 10:46 pm
Filed under: Life

Never mind, delete that, the resident computer scientist just told me how to find what I needed in spite of a certain well-known tax program’s user interface goof. Alright, then, let me finish that up.

Oh, and–if you’re in California, property taxes are due Wednesday, not the 15th. You only have to be tripped up by that once (early on) not to ever do it again.

So proud
Wednesday April 03rd 2019, 9:47 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Dad’s on a lot of oxygen–the machine’s at eight, for those who know how to count such things–but even so, his blood levels sink really low when he gets up and walks around, so while Mom, my husband, and my older siblings (who visited mostly one at a time, other than Sunday night’s pizza dinner) chatted, I found myself going and sitting in front of the TV in the other room with Dad, whose hearing makes it hard for him to follow the conversation in even a small crowd and who needs that chair where he can put his feet up high.

I’ve had my blood oxygen at 70%, setting off the alarm repeatedly in the hospital for a temporary problem. I don’t know how he does it. I am in awe of his perseverance.

The Smithsonian Channel was on a lot, nice and loud for the both of us, and as I quietly knitted I learned a lot of stuff I never knew before about the Egyptian pyramids. Which was pretty cool. Limestone increases in strength with compression but if you tap at it and cut it just exactly so, it slices pretty much straight down. Who knew?

I went through three and a half skeins in those four days.

Dad reached for my hands with a light in his eyes: he had something he wanted to tell me.

“I wanted someone who was intellectual and spiritual,” he said. “I picked your mother for you kids.” He wanted me to know how proud he was of her and how proud he was of us. Of me. Of each one of my kids. He wanted to tell me this and he wanted to say it now, not for the first time, but it was important to him to give voice to all his heart right now.

Mom chose the best, too, Dad. Both of you did, and we thank you for it and we are proud of who you are and grateful for who you helped us to be. We love you.

How often
Tuesday April 02nd 2019, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Life

It snowed before we landed Friday and just after snapping this photo in front of my folks’ place I gave my boots their inaugural snow print.

But this also happened on the trip: I do airports in wheelchairs because of the intensity of the visual environment and how it affects my balance. Like flicking water on burning-hot oil.

The wheelchair pusher in Salt Lake took us all the way to the car rental and then the car itself.

But while Richard was checking in on our reservation there, the guy had me off to the side slightly, such that nobody going past would connect me in that busy place with that really tall guy just over there.

Two large, tall, white men came toward us. Neither looked, shall we say, approachable. The further one didn’t notice that the nearer one stopped, and he kept going.

The nearer one looked me in the eye with something bordering on contempt. I had never seen him in my life. It made no sense to me.

But then. He looked at the tall young African-American man at the handlebars and his face went full-on seething hatred and he stared to make sure that that guy saw it. He wanted him cowering. He wanted him afraid. He wanted, had they been alone, to do him harm.

And then he swaggered on his way.

I glanced back, waiting for the bully to board the elevator behind us because I didn’t want this perfectly lovely man I’d spent these last few minutes with to be hit with any repercussions from what I was about to say. But saying it was imperative. “I’m so sorry you had to deal with that face.”

He pretended not to know what I was talking about.

“I saw that guy. I am so sorry. You shouldn’t have had that happen to you.”

At that he melted in relief that there was still kindness in the world. That he mattered. That someone, some white person who didn’t have to live through it, saw him in that horrific moment.

The little old lady on the plane
Monday April 01st 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

So much to say, but let me start tonight with the knitting. I’m too tired to stay up and edit this so it’s straight stream of consciousness but I feel like I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I don’t write this down.

I took four balls of Malabrigo with me: one Rios worsted weight, three heavier in Mecha, and picked the slightly orange red with black specks one for the trip there.

Our flight was very delayed, so much so that I cast off just before the plane took off on the runway. So that was done.

I got another hat knitted while sitting quietly with my dad.

The third one got a goodly way along the same way, but then it was time to go.

We got on our plane after sunset tonight, and the flight attendant put a notice on the seat next to us that nobody else was to sit there. What was that about?

Soon an elderly, tiny woman from I’d guess Central America was escorted to that open window seat next to me on the first row, where she didn’t have to walk far.

I had that third Mecha hat in my hands and she sat and quietly watched my hands like a hawk for a long time, but at last adjusted the small pillow she’d brought on and tried to rest.

She missed the attendant offering pretzels, then something to drink; I saved my pretzels for her and tried to get their attention when she woke up.

She went back to watching my hands. The show had changed now: I was into the decreases at the top of the hat. I finished it and turned it so she could see the seven-point star it made at the top.

“It’s beautiful!”

(I may be deaf on a plane but I sure got that one.)

It was bright royal blue–and I had knitted it sitting by my daddy. But that red!

The seatbelt sign was off and I got up and reached into my purse in the overhead and it was right there at the top waiting to be grabbed, a little to my surprise. I sat back down and showed it to her under the light to get the best view of the colors and her whole body exclaimed with the word, “Oooooooh!!!!”

And just like that it was hers.

She was stunned. “For ME?!” She reached for my hands, looking into my eyes and my smile: yes I meant it.

She could have danced. Her eyes certainly did. She reached up to feel it, and when I said it was wool she said, “Wool?” just to make sure she’d gotten it right. She motioned to it and her blouse to show how very very well they matched. She was so happy!

The flight attendant interrupted her with some water; I grabbed the last ball I’d packed, Rios in Ravelry Red, and cast on a lace cowl.

The hats had been stockinette. This was something new. She watched my hands avidly again, right up until the city lights below started getting closer.

I talked to her daughter later as we waited for our luggage, her teenage son with them. They’d been uncertain about having Grandma sitting alone away from them but that’s what there was at that point in boarding.

Turns out her mother told her afterwards that for awhile there she’d had a hard time breathing.

That would have been when she leaned against her pillow and closed her eyes and hoped hard to be okay.

And then I gave her that hat.

That little old lady being wheeled away in a chair owning her second hat now was definitely happily okay now. I don’t even know her name but we are best friends for life.

Love you, Dad
Thursday March 28th 2019, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Two years in on his pulmonary fibrosis.

I’m going to go see my dad tomorrow, so it may be quiet here for a few days.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with one edit: clearly, it’s 92 that is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Milk Pail
Saturday March 23rd 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Milk Pail is closing. Forty-five years an institution in the community, a place where CEO types can find (or ask for) some exotic cheese no one’s ever heard of, where the family just scraping by can go to find produce for far less than anywhere else; I once noticed I’d been charged fifteen cents for my single zucchini. I did a double take once when I realized that the guy who’d just helped me reach something I’d dropped was the co-founder of Smugmug; he was the brother of my late and much-missed friend RobinM, but I’d recognized him a moment too late.

Steve was able to buy the land under the business all those years ago, and with the distortions from Proposition 13 across the decades, that meant his costs have been very low and he could pass that on. Which he didn’t have to do, but he did.

But his brother-in-law who’d helped manage it died, it’s hard to find retail workers at our local cost of living–although there is one who is, literally, a rock star who loves his day job. Steve’s daughter interrupted her college to help manage the place after her uncle’s death but in the end keeping tabs on a business that was open seven days a week for forty-five years, while the big developer was raising high-rises all around him and cutting off his customers’ parking, wanting his land too, it became just too much. They were tired.

Nobody sells vanilla extract like their vanilla extract and nobody sells it at that good a price. Michelle and I were going there anyway, so while we were at it we asked what a case of those bottles would cost.

Steve’s daughter laughed and said, Well actually we fill those from the gallon jars we buy.

So that would be…? It lasts, right?

She laughed again, envisioning All. That. Baking. It was four gallons to a case and she didn’t know how much they would charge, she would have to find out.

We gave her a phone number and she’ll get back to us. They’ll be open for several more months. But the land is sold and the deal is done. The city okayed an eight-story office building going in there.

As we headed out, there was Steve himself and he and I threw our arms around each other, remembering those hearings at city hall together. He’d been so gratified at the outpouring of community support, yet again–and the number of people who’d told him they were just glad he hadn’t died of overwork in his store. Yeah him too.

It was time.

There were so many people trying to get into his small parking lot that traffic was backed up into the next block as we left. Nobody sells the stuff Steve sells. Nobody. You want newly-picked Violette de Bordeaux figs? In their season he has them. Locavore heaven. The place is a treasure.

Michelle and I each came home with an 8 oz bottle of that double-strength vanilla, just because.

The long-awaited day
Sunday March 17th 2019, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Mango tree

I had pushed leaves aside to see how yellow it was and it had fallen into my hand a little early, as that variety apparently does, but it was ripe now. I found a good box for it. I put small-bubble bubble wrap inside, then a paper towel, then nestled the homegrown Alphonso mango there, nicely cushioned for the short trip.

Eli’s mom and big sister were outside as I pulled in, along with their neighbor, who seemed to be helping with the daughter’s bicycle.

I told them what I’d brought.

“It IS?!” His mom and the neighbor both sniffed its fragrance and the neighbor did a little swoon. I explained to her that Eli had helped keep my tree alive while I was traveling when it was small and I’d promised him the second mango ever and this was it.

His big sister pedaled her bike in great excitement around my car and towards the front door to go tell him.

Friday March 15th 2019, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

So here’s what happened: I walked out of the room to get ready for bed two nights ago, expecting him to follow in a moment or two; instead, he called out for me to come back about five minutes later, and as I turned from the hallway into the family room it hit me, too. The sharp smell of burning plastic. It happened that fast.

We unplugged everything around and including the computers, since it seemed to come from that part of the room, and stayed up way late sniffing and looking and touching and trying to track down the source, with fans blowing to clear it out. Which two things kind of defeated each other but. We would step out of the room or outside to refresh our noses and try again. I wished out loud for a trained dog, and we kind of laughed over what our lovable but not overly bright St. Bernard/Mastiff granddog would do. I wondered if we were supposed to call the fire department–but there was no fire for them to come to, yet, anyway, and nothing had a power source anymore.

Last night we plugged in the surge protector and the computers again and gave them a try. Seemed okay. We did not leave them on for the night but at least I got my blog post done in that short time.

With slightly more confidence in those, my computer came back on in the morning, and the idea was that we would plug one new thing at a time back in to try to figure out what was going bad.

I think we’ve found it. The smell was faint but the heat from the thing was not. I’ll feel better when we’ve tested everything but I think that ACDC adaptor was it. If anyone has any words of wisdom on the subject please fill me in.

That whole thing was just really, really close. The smoke alarms (Wikipedia link) did not go off. What if he’d left the room when I did.

Check your smoke detectors
Thursday March 14th 2019, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Life

Monday night the door of the big freezer bounced open. We found it in time.

Tuesday night the door of the fridge bounced and we did not find it in time–not till morning.

Wednesday night…

It was a nearer thing than we would have liked. We’re okay. The house is okay.

Suddenly spoiled food didn’t seem like all that much at all.