Meeting
Monday June 18th 2018, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

We solved people’s problems (we hope, we wish) and got a lot done and stayed late and tomorrow you hopefully get a better blog post than this.



Highway 80
Saturday June 16th 2018, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

When I was a kid, the freeway between Washington, DC and Baltimore was two lanes each way built out of, if you can believe it, concrete. Set in blocks with the gaps between giving the material room to contract and expand with the temperatures. You did not want to drive it fast: it was a loud bambambambambambambambambam jackhammering all the way. But there really wasn’t all that much traffic on it, at least.

Eventually they tore all that out and put in a real road, which now has heavy development pretty much all the way and the cars to match.

I was remembering those childhood trips to the Maryland state piano competitions at Peabody in Baltimore as we drove from here to Milpitas to Sacramento today. On a weekend, that should be a two hour drive, ideally.

The road is old and not very wide with a whole lot of traffic and they are improving it and widening it in some spots. Construction. Accidents. Cars cars cars.

Three and a half hours there, two coming home.

And yet. We were carpooling with friends and it was time well spent and I’m very glad we went.

Knitting in hand, I finally ventured to ask… The driver guffawed in disbelief at the question: “YES! I LOVE cashmere!” She told me wistfully she owned one single cashmere sweater.

I did not tell her I hadn’t made her a cashmere cowl because her husband had told me she was allergic to it. I had wondered ever since if he’d heard me right, if he’d thought I was only talking about wool because I knew he was having a hard time hearing every word. But he seemed sure enough of himself that I hadn’t pushed the idea.

She loves peach.

I have a finished one in peach.

Well then.



Natural threads
Wednesday June 13th 2018, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

My gray hair is a whistle deterrent.

He was too old to do much whistling anyway.

But as I stepped into an alley to stay in the shade on my way to the annual lupus group summer get-together, the scruffy old guy by the motorcycle called out to me, “Nice outfit!” with a smile on his face that, to my surprise, conveyed a love to and for the whole wide world.

“Thank you!” It wasn’t so much the words, it was the clear generosity in his intent that had me responding in kind. He just totally made my day.

He had no way to know my earlier inner monologue of, That shirt looks frumpy. You can do better.

Well I AM frumpy.

Don’t give me that. You don’t have to look frumpy. You’ll enjoy yourself more if you look better there. You just have to get off your duff and iron something nicer.

And so, ten minutes before it was time to go, I finally turned that iron on and got the job done in a bit of a rush.

He totally made it worth it.

My iron just got its old summer job back.



280 grams and 140 grams
Saturday June 09th 2018, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

A friend was throwing a Relief Society (women’s organization) potluck brunch get-together. She has a beautiful big back yard with picnic benches for a crowd, perfect for a summer day.

Her small house did not have enough space inside for her guest list. I said the June sun was the issue and I was sorry I was going to be missing it.

She talked me into coming anyway, parking close and sitting at her table just on the other side of the window from everybody.

She excused herself from the group and came and kept me company for awhile; one-0n-one is so much easier for me to hear anyway. Cool. So did several other people by turns, and it was much appreciated. I’d brought my knitting and it filled in any gaps. Meantime, her kids, teens to 21, passed by going from here to there in the house.

Plus one young woman I didn’t know. Who saw the work in my hands and on the second time by decided to stop and ask about it.

Turns out she was their niece, visiting before her move overseas Monday for her graduate studies at Oxford.

Turns out she’s a knitter.

Turns out she’d never heard of Colourmart, but now she’s hoping to visit them in person and is quite excited about it.

I told her I’d knit in high school but had had to give it up in college: I simply had had no funds for yarn (she nodded in boy-ain’t-that-the-truth agreement), and it took ten years for me to get back to it. I regret those ten years and would love to make it easier for someone else to keep going; what were her favorite colors?

Was I serious?!

That’s what yarn is for, yes.

And that is how, a year after I bought it, that huge 420-gram cone of dk cashmere I’d hanked and scoured finally got wound up and ready to go. It took…awhile this afternoon. (That big ball nearly qualifies for planethood. The bowl it’s in is platter size.) I’m not giving her all of it and I’m not sure it would fit in her suitcase if I did, so, some for my cowls project, some for her. Whichever one fits in her luggage. I want her to have something that sustains her wanting to knit.

And now it’s finally available to me to actually work with, too.



Breathe
Monday June 04th 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

K. made me feel like I was instantly family yesterday, with such a profound sense of love that I was in awe of her.

Tonight I found out she’s on chemo.

(Say what?!)

Again. Apparently inoperable.

(But. But. But we’re just getting started!)

I think we need to get to those lace knitting sessions pronto.

Suddenly her keeping to herself like she did–I totally get it now. That profound offering of love: I get that, too.



That soft gray cashmere
Sunday June 03rd 2018, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

I finally learned how to pronounce her name today.

She’s a knitter? I…I… How could I not have known this! She’s so shy and so quiet, but offering her that cowl changed everything in an instant. She crochets, too, but she’d never knitted anything like this. She was blown away.

What kind of… She looked for the right words to ask.

I got it and grabbed my purse. I pulled out a circular needle.

Yes! That! She marveled over knitting needles that were all in one piece like that. Where do you get that?

It was a 4mm/US6 and apparently a fair bit smaller than she was used to. I told her where the nearest yarn store was, or maybe Michael’s, or online?

She did not know how to do it like this, though. Could I teach her?

Be still my heart. Oh honey yes. And there’s a book out there that has lace instructions (lace. That was the word she’d been looking for. English is not her first language) both in words and pictures. I couldn’t resist adding, And I wrote it.

(With credit thoroughly owed to Donna Druchunas for those diagrams and the charting.)

I told her I was giving her a copy next week (or next time, I explained, depending on when my aunt’s memorial service gets scheduled for. Aunt Bonnie cannot leave us without her children knowing just how much their sweet mother meant to my family and me.)

If only I’d done this good woman’s cowl a long time ago. But at least I did it now. We have us some catching up to do. This is so cool.



You dim sum you lose some you win some
Monday May 28th 2018, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Lupus

We decided to go out to lunch. She picked out the (allergy-friendly) place. I hadn’t had dim sum in years–I was looking forward to this.

The food was very good, the place fairly formal and even in a long skirt I felt a tad underdressed. Quite a few of the patrons were on the older side, but not all.

There was a dad who picked up his adorable little girl of about 18 months a time or two and walked the aisle with her to keep her from becoming too restless.

There was another family in a corner in the other direction with a daughter of about nine and a boy of about two and I confess to wincing inwardly as he waved his chopstick with enthusiasm. His was blue. When he wanted to jump and down on his seat waving that baton his parents watched him carefully and finally put a stop to it.

Dim sum is not a fast meal, which was fine with us; we wanted time to catch up on things.

Back to the first family: the third time it was the mom that got up with her. By that point I had a bright-striped red/green/blue/white parrot at the ready. It had the most perfect face. (Chosen over the ones shown here.)

It was hard to tell which one of them was more delighted but it was clearly a great success.

It was a goodly while later and the other family’s dishes were still coming out but that little boy was quite done eating. I asked the maitre d’ as he was going by: was it okay to ask him to give these to those two kids over there?

The green and yellow lizard and the banana-eating monkey swooped and giggled in his hands, imagination going full tilt, his parents playing with him, his big sister putting down her phone game to watch him with a grin and their meal transformed. They turned towards our table and we said, Happy Birthday!

And then went back to our conversation so as to try not to intrude overly.

But here’s the thing. The staff were in the middle of lunch rush in a busy downtown location running full tilt on a holiday and were clearly stressed. But now there were smiles all around where there hadn’t been before. At all.

The first family headed out, the little one back in her daddy’s arms. They paused just before our table and she waved bye-bye and thank you so enthusiastically with her whole arm waving side to side as far as she could go that it wiggled her all over, the parrot held out at the ends of her fingertips to show us her new toy, the parents grateful for older couples who remember how cute toddlers are.

Been there!

We were done and headed out.

Almost at the door, seeing the sun outside, I realized I’d left my new hat behind and was suddenly acutely aware of the time I’d done that and in just a few steps away from a restaurant it had been grabbed and vanished and was never seen again–just as today’s maitre d’ came rushing towards us with this one to try to catch us in time, glad to be able to give back.



Feel like…letting my freak flag fly…
Friday May 25th 2018, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Lupus

There’s this big and I mean big-brimmed black wool hat that I bought when I knew I was going to be spending some time outside at noon at high altitude, lupus or no lupus. One does not miss the graveside ceremony at one’s mother-in-law’s; it was good that as a piece of clothing for such an event it seemed the proper thing, never mind the lupus.

Richard was feeling a bit cabin feverish and wanted to run a quick errand this afternoon: which meant me driving. That was going to be it, but then we both thought out loud more or less in unison that Costco today would be a whole lot better than Costco on a holiday weekend. (I did not say, but the sun at this hour…)

Somehow that big hat was the one that was in the car (there’s always one), okay then, nice and big and protective, and the only parking space we found was way across the lot. Good thing it’s such a cool day, right? Well we’ll just be a tad formal then. I put it on and then threw it in the cart after we got inside.

After the wind had thrown it off me a time or two as we walked in. That brim sure made for quite the sail. It made me appreciate how still the air had been, how reverent, when we were saying goodbye to his mom.

There was one woman in the store who looked enough like a neighbor I hadn’t seen in awhile that I noticed her–but she showed no flicker of recognition, just stress and hurry, so, no, and we went quietly about our separate business.

One of the first things I did was buy a new SPF-rated sun hat, right there on display right as you walk in the door. That one would stay on, and it looks a heck of a lot more like summer.

Why I didn’t put that one on to head back to the car I couldn’t have told you; it would have made a lot more sense, but no, even while telling myself this made no sense I decided I didn’t want the tag flapping at me before I could get it off–so I put the black one on again. Bigger brim equals more sun protection, right?

That silly hat flew off several more times again in the brisk Bay-side wind and after avoiding being hit by a car retrieving it I kind of clamped it down on my head to try to go load up mine. I could at least still see looking downward.

Turns out that woman had parked next to us. Turns out we got done at about the same time.

Richard cannot bend much right now and I told him not to worry about the groceries.

Airborne!

I caught the woman’s attention. Excuse me? Do you mind if I reach under–my hat just blew under your car…

It what?! She did a double take, then laughed and told me not to worry about it, she’d get it for me, but by the time she looked it was out the other side and heading for the belly of the next car over, more paper airplane than wool. She got to it in time and gave it back to me, much amused. And quite delighted to be able to be of help.

She’d looked so stressed. She looked so happy now. Hat’s off to her for stepping up.

I threw it straight in the back seat. Even if it was a nuisance and needed to be retired, that hat carried memories. It was not allowed to escape.

The new one is ready for duty.



Lava pie
Thursday May 24th 2018, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

The surgeon said to him afterwards, x-ray in hand, Did you know you broke your back? Apparently some time ago. Compression fracture.

Him: I what??

Me: So are you still 6’8″?

Him: As far as I can tell. (I took that as, doorways are still too low.)

To my astonishment he had me drive him in to work today.

I wanted him to have something to come home to to really cheer him on, then: thus this offering towards the mythical Pele of Hawaii. Photos of the first fissure opening up and after all heat broke loose. (Note that that top crust ended up really thin after I dropped half of it on the floor, which was clean but not that clean so I massaged what remained into whatever it could manage.)

Multi-berry pie, and it seems to have helped a little.



Stanford Ambulatory
Wednesday May 23rd 2018, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

With yet more hours on my hands, I wondered if that enormous lighting display in the ceiling was a deliberately artistic echo of the ones in the operating room. Surely that must have been the thought.

Someone in scrubs was walking by facing the people beyond me, followed closely by the woman who’d checked my husband in at the far end of the hallway from here at the much-regretted hour of 6:50 a.m.

Who scolded me sharply: “He’s talking to you!”

Blink. (A silent, What? Hello?) I did not so much as see the side of his mouth move and he was in no way looking at me. Nor was he anybody I’d seen earlier. He was paying no attention whatever to me as far as I knew.

At that, the young surgeon rather awkwardly turned, maybe only just then realizing that I was the one who was the wife of his patient, and sat down to let me know (after I asked him several times to speak up–the waiting area was one great big noisy room) that things had gone well.

He had a rash of warts across his forehead that made him look like he was sweating profusely as he leaned forward.

I would be called back there in twenty minutes.

I picked up my phone forty-five minutes later, looked at the time, and shrugged. These things never go quickly.

I looked out the wrap-around windows at all the new construction. I saw that the place I’d done my brain rehab after my car was sandwiched in ’00 was, to my surprise, still standing, even though it’s only two stories high. Stanford likes to go big these days, but there it was, and prettied up, too.

I got halfway through another cashmere cowl and I have no idea who it’s for and really would rather have been making progress on the afghan for the little brother who’s been promising that Maddy will not have to be the baby of the family forever but was comforted at knowing that, whoever this bright little bit of soft scarfiness turns out to be for, I’ll be glad I did it.

I alternated between reading and knitting to keep my hands comfortable. I got sixty-five pages into a book on bird intelligence that I’d been quite looking forward to but that desperately, desperately needed a decent editor. Or at least for the writer to have sat down and read her own work cover to cover at the finish to find out for herself just how much she’d beaten the same, basic, boring, repeating points to death, page after page after page.

It matched the day.

At last an older man wearing a Stanford-red suit coat came from behind the desk to escort me and one other person to our spouses, chatting amiably along the way, quite making up for his co-worker. (He’d seen her.)

Coming into post-op, the first thing I saw was the hospital’s attempt at the usual requirement that the patient put on their non-skid no-falls socks. What you can’t quite see here is they’d even cut them in their efforts to make them somehow get over his big feet.

I decided not to joke about sock episiotomies. Yet.

It felt downright strange to be the one waiting for the valet to bring the car around so I could pick up the patient.

All went well, he is fine, and we are home.

 



Who? Beads me
Monday May 21st 2018, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

Well, that was a surprise.

I got a lovely note today and had no idea who this person was; I had to scroll down through the email chain, trying to figure it out.

Two years ago a friend had given me a big bag of craft supplies she wasn’t interested in anymore, nor was I, but I told her I could post it on Freecycle.org so that she could know it would go to someone who would be glad to have it. There were quite a few beads in there and someone could have the fun she’d hoped for when she’d bought it.

And so I did that.

I’d long since forgotten all about it.

The note was from the woman who had gotten that bag. She was no longer a medical student here but now in residency at the same school where my brother-in-law did his. Cool. But I remember the descriptions of what it was like to be in training as a young physician and the severe lack of personal time it entailed and I’m not surprised it took that long for her to really search that bag.

But yes, she had held onto those craft supplies while moving halfway across the country to her new place.

And only then did she discover that, by her description it sounds like I gifted her with a cowl along with a note that meant a great deal to her, whatever I said. She is studying the specialty of one of my favorite doctors, and if I didn’t then I did today, telling her what a difference he’d made to me and wishing her well in her life. She was very touched (and here I was, reiterating that message, I’m sure.)

I don’t remember doing that. But I know I would be doing exactly the same thing all over again if given the chance–with a plain-vanilla-wearable-by-anyone cowl at the ready, or any one that just felt right. Because one of my doctors–and because of Rachel Remen’s stories on the subject–taught me what a difference it can make to a physician to know that there really are patients out there who appreciate what you go through as you aspire to do right by humanity, the whole reason you went through all that you went through to get to the point where you could offer of yourself and your life like that.

That they’re not forgotten when the medical crisis is past.

I wonder if maybe, just maybe, two years ago wasn’t when she needed to hear that message: maybe today was. I have watched life dance to the choreography of G_d enough times…

Knitting is love made tangible. Even if I wasn’t ever her patient, I know well the life of a patient. And I know it’s not always easy to be a doctor.

I’d better get to it on the next cowl to have it ready to send out into the world.



Saved by the deadline from the deadline
Monday May 14th 2018, 9:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I guess I made it look easy? I hadn’t knitted all of them in one week.

Remember when I offered the three elderly widows who were sitting together their choice of cowls a few weeks ago? They were all very appreciative.

So appreciative, one of them came back to me yesterday and made a point of telling me how much she loves hers. How she’d worn it day and night for two weeks, how her son had told her to cover her neck and head if she were cold and this did such a fine job keeping her warm and she’d never had a way to keep just her neck warm like that before. And it was SO soft!

Why, thank you!

What came next took me so by surprise that she had to say it twice, not because I didn’t hear it but because I just… (Surely that’s not what she’d said.) It was.

Her family was going to have a big happy reunion this summer (I knew one of her kids had adopted a whole lot of kids) and could I make twenty-nine matching cowls by then? She would pay me.

Clearly she wanted each one of them to have all the love that she’d felt in the one that I’d made her. One of her daughters so loves the one I surprised her with while she was visiting her mom last year; her son has a scarf I knit him years ago for wearing to Canada, if he still has it, and I know my friend and her late husband raised their kids to appreciate handmade things. They could all have a visual symbol of being a family that loves each other no matter where or what circumstances the individual grandkids had come in from. I got where my friend was coming from.

But.

Twenty. Nine.

MATCHING. No variety in the knitting.

Cowls. This summer. The summer that starts in five weeks?

It was suddenly a very good thing that I have a whole lot of experience with knitting requests by people who have no idea, because in that moment I needed every bit of that been-there-done-that-blase’-ness  to keep me from laughing out loud or gasping in astonishment or cringing and just all-around embarrassing her. Having her repeat the request helped put a bit of distance between the urgency of the ask while lessening the urgency of the no.

Well, says I, I’ve been wanting to make one for every woman in the ward. I started just over a year ago. I’ve done fifty so far.

Oh, says she, disappointed as it starts to sink in. She had so hoped. A year? Fifty? How long does it take to make them?

Seven to twelve hours, on average. And I need to get an afghan done and soon, and that’s a month. (Side note to myself: if I really work at it.)

She did the math on the time left and figured that that looked like that wasn’t going to work, then, was it. But she would pay me if I did, she hastened to reassure me.

I didn’t tell her my starting price for such a project in that time and that spot in my queue would start at, oh, let’s say a million. Plus materials.



Happy Mother’s Day!
Saturday May 12th 2018, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The doorbell rang and a middle-aged man I had never laid eyes on in my life was holding out this beautiful bouquet. I almost asked, Do I know you? just to make him laugh. Almost.

He asked me to sign for them and my suppressed laughter finally surfaced: I looked down at the flowers now in my arms and said in great innocence that my hands were full.

I put them down, signed his form, and thanked this man who was clearly enjoying his job today and looking forward to the next and the next and the next.

Happy Mother’s Day to all who are or who have mothers, and may the day be a good one for you. (And thank you, kids!)



For old times’ sake
Friday May 11th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

She was born in 1926 and today we gave her a great send-off. Eighty great-grandkids. Wow. Her family filled most of the big center section of the church.

The littler ones were having to sit quietly for a long time as the funeral went on. Fortunately I had just restocked my purse.

One young man of about twelve helped pass along some handknit finger puppets (some still had a tiny Peru sticker on them, I’d just gotten them) to his small cousins, pleased at how those quieted them down and that he’d gotten to help out.

Agnes, an old friend who’d driven into town for this was sitting next to me and nudged me, motioning that he wanted one, too. I’d almost missed it. He was one of the great-grandkids who’s local so I know him.

I raised my eyebrows silently with a smile, glad they weren’t all gone yet: You want one?

A small hopeful nod.

I reached across the church aisle and gave him what its knitter probably thought of as a reindeer, but having seen that moose in Alaska, I’m (silently, at the time) calling it a moose. The antlers totally made it.

He examined every stitch and everything about it as the talks went on with intense enough curiosity that I thought, grab that kid some needles and merino, friends, I think he’s ready to learn how to knit.

p.s. Mom, Dad, and Carolyn: Debbie MH and her husband Ron’s cousin Lisa T.C. from back home asked after you. Debbie’s folks are doing well.



Raspberry cupcakes
Monday May 07th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

I was short about a teaspoon’s worth of butter and added about that much extra sour cream in tradeoff and they didn’t rise as high as last week’s. Which is fine.

This time, I made homemade lemon curd via my Meyer tree rather than opening a jar of the stuff from Trader Joe’s.

And again, I took four of the finished cupcakes, with a raspberry on top just like in the pictures, over to our friends Phyl and Lee after they affirmed that yes, they would love to taste-test this version, too.

Lee’s brother fell and died of a head injury last month and that was the last thing anyone expected. Coming for dinner that night, yes. But…

I cannot bring him back. But by golly I can make really good raspberry cupcakes to let them know we’re thinking about them, thanks to my daughter Sam’s heads-up on that recipe.

We do what we can.