Protecting others is the right thing to do
Thursday June 13th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life

(Dwarf hydrangea from a florist, a gift a few years ago from my friend Edie that has naturalized beautifully in my yard.)

One of my friends had someone hijack her FB post to take it on an anti-vaxxer rant.

Which helped me walk away from the whole thing and go finish that fifteenth long afghan row of the day.

But while I was knitting, just amazed yet again that someone would be so afraid of autism that even if vaccines caused it, which they don’t, that they would be willing to hurt or kill my child or theirs or anybody on chemo or any child too young for their shots–to try not to have to parent a kid who saw the world differently? Huh?

And then the sudden thought. I know from a friend with a severely autistic son that statistically the people most likely to have an autistic child already have one–there is a clear genetic component.

But still, the question I might ask the next such person is this: If someone came up with a vaccine to protect against developing autism, would you give it to your child?



Loud restaurant
Wednesday June 12th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

How I managed to polish off nearly my entire big piece of whipped-cream-and-berry-stuffed birthday cake afterwards. (Happy 80th, Mary!)

It was the day of the annual lupus-group lunch before we close shop for the summer. We’ve gone to the same place three years now by mutual agreement.

And…the menu was the same as those last two times, pretty much. Those six lunch entrees. Everybody loves them but man, doesn’t the chef get bored?

I have this weird low-fiber diet as an ileostomy patient and have learned at the cost of a five-day intubation that I must not eat certain foods.

So.

Yeah their hamburger is the best I’ve ever had but c’mon. So I ordered an appetizer that was safe and asked what the soup of the day was. (Soup being cooked. Cooking breaks down fiber.) Beef? Sounds good, thanks, that, too.

The waiter left and I went, Wait. Did he say… ¬†…Beet?

No, the others reassured me, He said beef.

It didn’t occur to any of us that there was a third possibility. Oops.

I have never had such a good cake with so many calories with so little guilt. Celebrated Mary next to me with gusto. We did it right.



93 tomorrow sounds downright balmy
Monday June 10th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

102, 104, 106–It all depended on which thermometer or weather report you were paying attention to. But it was hot.

And as I sat quietly knitting I thought, the Enron scandal with the corrupt contracts and the rolling blackouts–those are long over with. (Part of me thought, But don’t they still do rolling blackouts down south?) Yay for air conditioning. ¬†Lupus patients don’t do well in high heat, but then, who does, right.

I got up to nuke myself a quick late lunch and grab a glass of milk and, coming back in the room–the computer screen in that amount of time had gone black.

Nothing could bring it back up.

Something finally clued me in that even though I’d just used the microwave, wait, oh good, it’s not the computer–nothing else is on, either.

The worker next door stopped hammering and whatever and a few minutes later knocked to ask: Was my power out, too?

Oh yes. I offered him our battery drill if his was running out of juice; he laughed, thanked me, and a few minutes later called it a day and drove off.

I unplugged the bought-on-Saturday microwave since it didn’t have a surge protector and thought, well? Let’s see how many more rows I can get done on this afghan before having over two pounds of wool heaped up in my lap makes me cry uncle, and then I’ll just have to find somewhere to go. (The answer was four.)

My phone showed the blackout area: it looked like the whole town at varying levels of intensity, and the next one over, and up this way well into the hills. Wow, it’s a big one.

I went to the Target in the next city going the other way. Where they were keeping it just cooled enough. I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s and stand in the refrigerator aisle, but then I’d buy something cold and have no way to put it away.

I wasn’t the only one who got to the checkout and went, nah, there’s gotta be something else to look at. I do NOT want to go out there yet.

I finally got up the courage to say to the two moms with kids who did that too that I had that map, that I’d just refreshed the page and it’s still happening and here’s where it goes to; was it affecting them, too?

It was indeed, and they were glad to at least know.

So I had the laundry detergent and I won’t have to buy padded shipping bags for awhile but Target can only be interesting for so long. No I did not need a $16 gadget for making individual ice cream waffle bowls one by one while the grandkids wait and wish the next one were theirs.

They only had the display model anyway. Sorry, kids. But I bet all the retailers made great sales today–the ones that were able to stay open.

I checked out. I checked that page. It was what it was.

But since I didn’t want it to be, I checked it again when I pulled into my driveway. This time the lines drawn around the areas were the same but the colors of them faded out and…

…were gone.

I walked through my front door to the sound of the beautiful, beautiful air conditioner completely throwing itself into its life’s work.



The world accordion to Betty
Sunday June 09th 2019, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Betty’s been blind since birth, and when she was a kid her dad bought her an accordion because he figured that was an instrument she could play by feel and carry around with her.

As far as I know that was the one she still had when she got moved from independent living to the nursing home side of the facility several years ago–and for whatever reason, she decided to have her instrument sent off to her son down south (California speak for LA/SD.)

There is no knowing at which point it vanished in transit. But that was that.

Maybe she wasn’t so old after all, because in this new stage where she was mostly lying in bed, she missed the days of playing for the other tenants.

And so a request went out to the ward chat, a little out there but you never know: did anyone have one that was simply taking up space?

John, who heads the band John Henry’s Farm, offered her his and brought it to her. It was huge. There was barely room for her chin, and it was quite heavy. So wanted, and so close.

Someone then offered a small one. Betty, with muscle memory attuned to that which had been her own for so long, kept running out of keyboard.

At last someone who actually uses hers offered to let Betty try it out for a little while but she couldn’t afford to make a gift of it.

It was the Goldilocks. It was perfect.

And so another query went out: did anyone want to help chip in to buy Betty a new used one?

That we did.

John went back to her room there to practice with her, she in delight on her new accordion, he on his guitar and banjo: and tonight, in celebration of Betty’s 94th and a half birthday, they played a duet at church for all who wanted to come hear. A thank you to those who’d helped give Betty back her music. Anyone, just, come.

It was by far the longest I personally have seen her sitting up in a long time, and I wondered how she’d do and how she’d hold up. She did great. She loved being thanked for the music, loved being able to thank us for being able to play it, she just was energized like I have not seen since the days when she was mobile and still had her seeing-eye dog.

Man, it felt good to be alive.



Hunka hunka burning, Love! Ooh!
Saturday June 08th 2019, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

I put my favorite Mel and Kris hot cocoa mug in the microwave this morning, same as I always do, and turned my back to do something on the other side of the kitchen.

And suddenly wondered what that smell was. We’re talking maybe fifteen seconds here.

Richard came down the hall just then, going, Turn it off! Turn it off! Unplug it!

Smoke was pouring out of the microwave as we opened the door. And then the other doors, and the fan, and the skylight…

Is it just me, or does everybody have three different appliances spontaneously combust? Well not all at once, at least.

So did I knit today? I did not. I researched, I read endless reviews and reports, I went, Are you KIDDING me at Amazon’s saying they would ship that particular model in three to five months, and then I paid for the last one of these that Target had in stock so that nobody could beat me to it and drove over and picked it up so that I could have my hot cocoa in the morning without having to stand over a scorching pot again.

Do not stand between me and my morning cocoa. Three parts cocoa to one of sugar–I’m pretty hardcore.

Do you think we could start a microwave selfie fad?



It’s a race
Friday June 07th 2019, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

The men putting an addition on the house next door can see right into my family room every day.

Where I keep plugging away at the same old thing just like they’re doing; we started at about the same time.

We nod or wave hi and smile every time I go out the back door, because hey, why not.

This is ~37″ long, laying flat, and ten skeins. I’ve got seven to go.



This happened a few years ago
Thursday June 06th 2019, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Which doctor’s on call today?

Why, the nurse shot back into her phone: if it’s the wrong one are you going to go out of labor?

I hadn’t said a thing about being *in* labor, nor had I shared my misgivings about one of the OBs on that team, but a huffy question like that demanded a forthright answer: Yes.

We called the folks later to announce our new little boy, and Dad teased me that I’d missed his birthday.

I know, I know, Dad. But the other doctor was on duty yesterday and there was nothing I could do about that.

Happy Birthday to our son who had his own first baby boy on Mom’s 80th birthday. Improving on my parenthood from day one. He and Kim do a great job.



Going in for a cleaning
Monday June 03rd 2019, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

She’s my mom’s age but has had more health challenges; she gave up driving some time ago. She needed a ride to the dentist. Yay for chat lists, which let you ask everybody so nobody gets put on the spot.

I sat on the Scandinavian-style couch in the waiting room with my small, portable Rios cowl project, listening fondly to the happy chatter, then the quiet, then the familiar sound of the drill.

The receptionist coming off her lunch break saw me, exclaimed over my work, and came over and asked if it were Malabrigo?

Yes! I asked if she was a knitter.

Oh, I’m a BIG knitter!

Instant kinship. We had a great time. (I tried not to take too much of hers.)

When Gail got done I got her and her walker in the car and then asked her, Anywhere else you’d like to go?

She looked like she was holding her breath, hardly daring to hope. She was trying to say it without giving away the intensity of emotion I saw in her face: Why, yes!

Trader Joe’s?

Her nose wrinkled a little. She really could use a trip to Safeway.

The little one one at midtown, where you don’t have to walk a mile to find everything, or the giant one on El Camino?

She grinned. The giant one. She hoped that one of their scooter-carts would be available.

Alright then!

They had two just inside the door to choose from, one in good condition and one with the seat torn. She chose the torn, and I silently wondered if her experiences with her weight influenced that choice and I hurt a little for her for it. I remembered the days when I would be driving my kids to school and she, her kids long grown, would be out there race walking for miles every day. And yet fate refused to let her be thin.

But never mind, we had a grand time, me with a cane and a cart following her around, her, electric-wheelchairing it. It’s a huge store, trying to compete with Costco. We walked it side to side and end to end. I reached things for her so she didn’t have to get up. I put a few things in my own cart as long as I was there. She wanted the Irish butter. I helpfully found Danish, and some other European country-style made in America, but nothing that said…

She spotted it and reached that Irish Gold before I could. It was at sitting-person height.

I was happy that among all the staples and common-sense items, she chose some stuff that was simply fun food. Every pantry should have something that’s a just because you feel like it.

Back at her house, I got her walker set up, put three of her bags on it at her request and carried the fourth and she let me in to put it up on the counter.

She explained about her table. And over there, that empty box.

A friend of hers had had many many pictures from years when their kids were little together, and there were faces there whom she no longer knew or knew how to get in touch with, if they were still with us. She had gone through them all, and these were the ones with Gail’s family and the rest were a chance for Gail to identify any of those others.

The Simon and Garfunkel Bookends song…

There had been so many. Gail was almost done going through them. She showed me a single stack, about six inches high: those were hers.

All the rest–and she said it with a quiet laugh, and in that moment I felt her appreciation for a good and long life and all that had blessed her and hers along the way.

All those other pictures. There really was nothing to do but put them in the trash.

She understood my oh goodness, she felt it, too, but sometimes you do what you can. And then you move on.

And as I write this I suddenly wonder if I’ve ever taken a picture of her myself. I want to. I need to. And soon.



Blueberry almond cake
Saturday June 01st 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Food,Life,Recipes,Spinning

Writing it down so I can find it later: I experimented to see if I could adapt my favorite blueberry cake recipe from chocolateandzucchini.com to use some of the freshly- made almond paste they sell at Milk Pail, with a higher almond and lower sugar content than any I know of.

For a few more weeks, anyway, till they shut down because Steve wants to retire. I need to find out where he sources it.

Okay, here it is:

Highly-Requested Blueberry Almond cake

Mix in one bowl:

1 2/3 c. flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

In Cuisinart: the almond paste is sold in small random packages; I used .35 oz the first time and about .5 oz the second. Both worked, they were just a little different. So, pulverize it in a Cuisinart; add in 1 stick butter, sliced and at room temperature. (Note that Wayfare brand dairy-free vegan butter worked great, too. Now I have to find someone besides Steve who stocks it.)Whirr. Add 1/2 tsp almond extract and 1 tsp vanilla, whirr, 1/2 c heavy cream (sour cream, plain yogurt, or going dairy-free, Kara brand coconut cream worked, too), then add 4 eggs and 1 c. sugar and whirr some more.

Add dry ingredients in. If you have a small food processor you might want to pour the wet ingredients into a mixing bowl first and add the dry in over there; one more thing to clean but easier to scrape into the pan, your choice.

Pour half into a greased 9×13″ pan. Cover with four cups (don’t be stingy) of fresh, rinsed, patted-dry blueberries, then add the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle 1/4 c of brown sugar across the top and bake at 350 for 50 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean.

I made this for Richard on Monday and it was so good that he and Michelle asked me to make it again, dairy free so she could have some, and the Wayfare dairy-free whipped butter (butter beans are an ingredient. Who knew) with the coconut cream worked both in texture and flavor. I also happened to overdo on the almond extract a little that time and it obliterated any mention of coconut flavor.

Blueberries, almond paste, Wayfare, Kara coconut cream, sour cream, butter, and the particularly good versions of almond and Bourbon vanilla extracts: I have no idea what I’m going to do when that place shuts down. They are small but they have all the best stuff.

A funny story on the side: twenty-five years ago there was one single herd of Wensleydale sheep left in the world. Handspinners pitched in to try to help save the breed; I’m not the only one who bought ten pounds of their wool, and I’ll have a hand spun coat just as soon as I finally finish that button band in time for the SpinOff Magazine Rare Breeds Contest. Of 1999. Well anyway. So, I was at the doctor’s waiting room working on it once and someone with a British accent came over to sit next to me and ask me about my knitting.

The yarn was a new thing to her, and so I told her it was Wensleydale I’d spun.

Wensleydale! She smacked her lips loudly. That’s good eating!

I was so not expecting that reaction. I was speechless. I knew they ate a lot of mutton over there… I had no way to respond to that.

It wasn’t till years later that I found out what she’d been talking about and had a good laugh at myself and wondered what she’d thought I’d been thinking.

All of which I was reminded of last night as I made toasted cheese sandwiches with Wensleydale with cranberries. From Milk Pail.

Thank you for all these ingredients all these years, Steve!



Ella
Sunday May 26th 2019, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Finished the fourth 100g ball of yarn on the afghan last night, put it down, picked up the dusty purple cashmere cowl project I’d gotten from near-zero to half during Friday’s driving and thought, I’d really like that finished for tomorrow if it is in any way possible. 120 stitches a row…

And at 11:00, hands and time demanding an end, I finished the castoff and broke the yarn. Done. It was a good length after all. Gave it a quick rinse and spinning out and set it to dry overnight, wondering who it was for.

The person I thought would pick it went straight to the Rios Anniversario cowl instead.

I was walking out the door, church over, wondering how I’d just walked through all those people and not felt that spark of hey you.

Glanced to the right and walking out the door with me was Ella.

I knitted for her once before: she was four.

I had gone to her widowed great-grandpa’s funeral. She adored him. He was part of her everyday life. He’d driven himself to a game at Stanford to cheer on his team, gotten in his car to come home, had felt the heart attack coming on and had had just enough time and presence of mind to steer away from the car in front of him on that fast busy street and plow into the unoccupied parked ones along the side instead. And he was gone.

Ella held up remarkably quietly through the proceedings for someone who was so small.

Until the moment they started wheeling his casket towards and then out the chapel’s funeral door (so named because it opens extra wide precisely for that reason) at the front of the room.

She leaped onto the bench, reaching with her arms and her whole soul towards what she suddenly seemed to have realized was gone from her forever in this life, crying: NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had this thick, cushy Robin and Russ yarn in my stash…

I overdyed it to her favorite color. It wasn’t as perfectly soft a wool as I would have liked; those were harder to find back then and outside my budget in that particular slice of time–but it was okay, and I knitted her an afghan. Her late great grandma had given me some wool yarn just before she’d passed; this was softer. Ella had had a knitter in her family and I could be her hands for her.

Ella has just finished her first year of college.

I tugged upwards at the dusty purple in my purse, and asked her, suddenly quite sure of the answer, Do you like this color?

I LOVE this color!

It was time she finally got something as soft as she deserved. I didn’t say that. I didn’t want in any way to put down the earlier gift. But man it felt good.

(I just posted this, got up to walk away from the computer, when it finally hit me: the afghan was purple, too. Just little-kid brighter, is all.)



Story coming
Friday May 24th 2019, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Life

This was a day when computer time just wasn’t happening. I’ll tell you about our day trip tomorrow. We had fun. Night night.



She was a shoe-in
Tuesday May 21st 2019, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

In the Mormon church, they try to keep congregations small enough that they stay personal. If they get too unwieldy they get split.

Trying to remember if I mentioned this… The ward we were sharing a building with no longer fit in the chapel while ours had lots of renters, and with Silicon Valley landlords raising rents through the roof a lot of people have been moving out. We shrank.

So after quite a bit of work at finding the best solution, a chunk of the other ward got moved into ours, and we’re talking eighty people. On my self-appointed project of knitting something for every woman, I had after three years finally gotten to where I only had to knit a cowl when someone new moved in. Now… Well it’s going to take me awhile. Again.

Someone came up with an idea of how to give each of the women new and old a chance to tell a little about herself: she threw a potluck dessert party at her house and told everybody to bring a shoe and a story about it to introduce ourselves by.

Which turned out to be a really cool way to let the shy and the extrovert both feel at home, so I’m mentioning it here in case anyone else ever needs an icebreaker idea.

One mom of two small boys tried to let the turn go past her, and almost got away with it but we went back to her.

She confessed she had forgotten to bring a shoe. But distracted and forgetting, she shrugged, that was the life she’s living right now with small children.

The room was full of moms and people who love other people’s kids–the laughter was warm and understanding, and she sat down clearly feeling warmly welcomed.

Which was the point.



The moving fingers, having writ…
Sunday May 12th 2019, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Jean was at church! After a month in the hospital. She was surrounded by family, some local, some that had flown in to help her celebrate Mother’s Day.

I showed her my phone and grinned, “This is your fault!” It was the picture of the pomegranate flower on this part of the tree, and (scrolling) the baby pomegranate. I reminded her of the time she’d shared hers and how revelatorily good they were and told her that’s how I came to plant my own.

As I spoke, her son-in-law sitting between us was typing my words into his laptop in a huge font to make sure she got every word. Her daughter-in-law leaned forward, loving this, looking to see Jean’s reaction.

Jean looked tired but happy. “You’ve got a green thumb.”

I am so grateful I got that chance to show her she’d made a difference. Again.



The Cereza on top
Monday May 06th 2019, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

So there was this burgundy-red soft Malabrigo Mecha hat, the carry-around project I’d cast on to have at the eye doctor’s last week so I could do simple knit stitches around and around by feel while my eyes were dilated.

Someone I know through Facebook posted a cri de couer last night while having a particularly hard time of it.

I immediately offered to finish knitting that hat expressly for her. I told her I wanted her to have a warm hug from me, that she mattered and was loved. I took a picture of it in its barely-begun glory, and then a second photo where I put it with three others (yay for all the recent hat-knitting time spent on airplanes) for comparison and asked her to pick her favorite.

Or to name any color and it would be hers.

She said it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for her. I wanted to weep and throw my arms around her from across the country.

There is no shame in depression–the truth is that it took great courage and strength to voice it so as not to be defeated by it.

I told her that years ago… That the gift that such an experience leaves us with is that it feels imperative to tell the next person that they are not alone. That they matter. That they are loved. I cannot say those words enough, I can only put them into wool.

I finished that hat this morning and went back to the computer at noon at last to sign in, having asked for her snail mail address. Wondering if she would allow me to have it. Holding my breath a little for her.

There it was.

She liked the hat in the upper left the best.

An hour later, she had its tracking number. Happy anticipation, I hoped: a gift in itself. Even if numbed right now, the memory won’t be.

And the burgundy-red hat waits its turn for its own recipient, ready.



Now that they’re over the jet lag
Sunday May 05th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Some friends put on a presentation tonight about what it was like to be Americans living in St. Petersburg (and I don’t mean Florida) for nearly two years.

They were there as an older Mormon missionary couple: but by the laws of the land, they were not allowed to act as such except inside the walls of the church. They could not do nor could they say anything to identify themselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints anywhere else unless someone asked them first.

Which crystalized it to simply quietly living one’s faith by doing good to others. Because that’s what it all comes down to anyway: trying to put more of God’s love into the world.

Which is how they ended up as volunteers helping out at the Hermitage Museum. Volunteering was definitely something they were allowed to do. They learned all they could about the place, for visitors’ sakes as well as their own and tonight, ours.

Sue said that one of the cultural disconnects she discovered was the very concept: historically, there were the royalty and there were the peasants and if you wanted something done it got done by the ones who had no real choice in the matter.

The idea that retired people, in particular, volunteer all over America in order to contribute to the good of society at large–really? They do? Sue said that even though that was a new idea to most, they really liked it.

I came away feeling like I need to get off my duff and go do more for others. A lot more.