Thursday November 30th 2023, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

So, the hat that I started working on while Mathias was doing that two-mile bike ride and Lillian was doing a shorter one: it was the Mecha Piedras yarn that I’d moved to the suitcase at the last minute.

It was done and in my purse on the flight home, itching to get out.

I’ve mentioned before about using the wheelchair service at airports.

We were the last flight of the day at the end of Thanksgiving weekend so of course it ran late, and though there were four wheelchair pushers lined up at landing with names on their tablets for who was to claim which–somehow there was none for me. Come on, Southwest. This particular time, I really needed it. Maybe someone had given up and gone home after a long day; I mean, I couldn’t blame them.

The gate attendant made a call. I expected, especially at that hour, that we’d be standing around a very long time if anyone came at all.

Within two minutes at most I suddenly heard a cheerful, Hi, friend!

Oh cool! It’s you!

It was the petite Asian woman who’d pushed me before. She was delighted to see me. She’s the kind of person who’s delighted to see everybody any time. She makes everybody’s day.

Who else could it possibly have been for.

We were in the new and not quite finished part of the airport where part of the walk to baggage claim includes a wall on one side and a roof but you are exposed to the great outdoors on the right, and it was quite cold. And pretty dark.

I fumbled with my purse, wondering if I’d be able to find my folding scissors just with my hands. Was–? Yes it was, and I pulled out the hat, too, turned it inside out as she pushed, and snipped the ends off as she watched from behind.

That mottled brown was exactly perfect.

I’d offered it to Sam’s old university friend but Sandra, who is a serious hiker, had chosen a different colorway and with no yarnovers after I’d said the solid one would be warmer. The Piedras was in the knit two together/yarnover repeating every other row pattern like the one I did on the flight out: fine for San Jose’s temps. So that worked out.

I made this, I told the woman. It’s cold out! as I offered it to her once she pulled up to the conveyer belt and could stop a moment. It’s wool. And then I pulled out her tip, beyond grateful for the help.

She was thrilled.

So was I. I knew, I just knew, that that hat wasn’t supposed to come home with me and the further into the flight we’d gotten the more I’d wondered how that could be so.

And then that soft washable wool ended up in the best possible place.

First things first
Wednesday November 29th 2023, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My audiologist sympathized when I got them but told me that no, that feature couldn’t be turned off.

The resident engineer was sure it was for calibrating the things each time.

To me, it’s an aural ping-pong ball bouncing up and down on the table till at last it rolls in a straight line.

What it is is a sixteen-note little tune that my hearing aids play starting about ten seconds after I turn them on. You cannot just instantly hear the world; you have to wait. And then you have to listen to that (stupid) little tune finally getting to that one repeating note before any outside sound will click on. The volume is pre-set to make the tune loud enough for someone like me to be able to hear it even in a noisy environment–and that’s a lot.

Which is how I got told by Lillian, who was standing looking up at me, Grammy! You have birds in your ears!

Tuesday November 21st 2023, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

When my husband and I were young children, we went to the Chevy Chase Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a beautiful old brick building on the dividing line between DC and Maryland.

If you were Mormon and political in DC you went through that building at some point. I remember a whispered wave of sound washing over the staircase one time as we were going up it and later asking my mom about it; she told me it was George Romney, a Presidential candidate at the time and the father of Mitt, steps ahead of us.

My grandparents attended there when the Senate was in session, Eisenhower through Ford.

About twenty years ago we were visiting the folks, who by then were attending a newer ward closer to home but for reasons I don’t remember, for that week everybody was sent to the old Chevy Chase building and we just happened to catch the right day.

When church was over I said I just wanted to look around; I’d been twelve when we’d started attending in Potomac. The Mormon Church likes to keep congregations small enough that people have a chance to meet and make friends and feel included, so when one ward gets too big they often divide it.

Which means that when my husband and I got old enough to turn into teens who might have gotten on each other’s nerves, both our towns got spun off into new wards.

Anyway, one of the fun quirks of that building–which my father-in-law and his father helped build–is that between the chapel and the overflow area that is sometimes used as a small basketball gym, there is a wall. The original pop-up add. It comes up slowly, noisily from below when you push a button. I never did find where that thing hid down there when we couldn’t see it. I always wanted to know what the building did with it. It looked so thick and it went clear up to the tall ceiling or slowly disappeared and left just a level floor there and nowhere else I knew had anything like it. I loved that: when you needed it, it was just there. And it was all ours.

So I walked into the gym now that my own kids were growing up and was looking over at that wall, trying to figure out if it was as thick as my childhood had made it and where had that control button been all this time, when I realized that someone else was across the room. After all the people packed in for the meetings, it was somehow just us two. We smiled at each other and he said something about wanting to see his childhood ward again while he was in town.

It was Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. Which is how I found out that that Senator was in fact a member of the family I knew growing up and Jessica’s big brother. I could add a story here about his dad being in a plane crash in Alaska and surviving for two weeks on a Hershey bar that he and another guy found in the snow before their rescue, and how he then adopted his brother’s kids because their parents had died in the crash. Ten kids plus eight. Yes Gordon’s dad had a big house.

In the chapel, there were–I want to say six? There were big, glorious chandeliers hanging down, and many a time when I was a kid I would watch all those tiny crystals shimmering and listen to them sing when I was bored–and what little kid having to hold still that long isn’t bored at least a little bit. “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day,” hey, I could definitely get with celebrating sparks of light from the windows on those.

Wisps of air above our heads, only just moving. But the crystals knew and they sang for joy.

With all the hearing I’ve lost since then, if I am perfectly still in a quiet room with no distractions and look up and watch a crystal chandelier, my brain fills in those sounds. I can hear them again. They’ve been gone from me for so long. There is no other source of very high pitches that my brain remembers–except those and in that context. That is the gift Chevy Chase Ward left me with for life–well, that and the little boy I’ve now been married to for 43 years.

That room is where the fire yesterday took out the roof.

That would probably have been where the firemen who were inside were; there were about a hundred on the scene, they said. I could just picture those chandeliers falling, shattering, ending, sharp shards stabbing everywhere, and it was horrifying to know someone could have been underneath that.

And yet the initial reports were, no serious injuries. No deaths.

Loss, absolutely.

And now, or at least hopefully soon…other people’s work and lifetime memories will go into our families’ building’s renewal.

But man, it’s hard to see those flames.

Ready for them
Saturday November 18th 2023, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Life

So, during the pandemic, I bought some glasses online.

They fit okay, they looked good and I liked them, but they got the prescription wrong and argued that it was my fault for typing it wrong to them when I knew I hadn’t; they told me I was too late for a do-over.

I went back to wearing my old ones.

Got a new prescription. Still liked the looks of that one pair, and now that that company would let you take a picture of the printout, I thought, okay then, they can’t botch that.

I was wrong. I wasn’t sure, though, because it was when my Fuchs corneal disease was flaring.

The new pair came with no packaging materials, banged up. They fell off my face any time I looked down. Despite the company’s advertising, once you add up the details I hadn’t saved a dime anyway; the only thing they had going for them was that I liked round silver rimless of a certain size and I just hadn’t found those anywhere else.

That year was finally up, I finally got a new new prescription, and this time I went into Costco. Did they have rimless? Silver? They did not. Gold. With rims. Eh. But they had someone who carefully fit them to my eyes and my face.

Which means I finally have glasses that are comfortable, that fit, and after those super flimsy ones, are actually sturdy enough to wear around grandkids. (Typed with the memory of being thwacked in the face by a toddler about ten years ago hours before a wedding, going to a local mall in that town where an eyeglass place rescued me because there had been no way I could wear those, and then getting the long skirt for the reception caught in the escalator on my way out and jamming it and trapping me till my mom and I tore the skirt as we pulled hard together to get me out of there. Oh well, the ruffle hem just got a little more so. Besides, weddings are supposed to be memorable. Mom, bless her, hand stitched it together as best as could be done.

Glasses and me: we have a history. But I digress.

The new Costco pair came in.

For the first time in two years–almost three? (Picture me jumping up and down like a little kid in excitement) I can see like I’m supposed to! Even at night! At *night!* I can read street signs from much farther away! It wasn’t my Fuchs disease getting worse, it was just the stupid cheapster glasses!

I had not realized how bad it had been until it got better. Which makes it all the so-much-better-now.

Don’t let it bug you
Thursday November 16th 2023, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life

So there’s a subtropical virus┬ánative to where the temperatures tend to keep it in check that was discovered in an invasive cutworm in Japan where the cooler temps allowed that virus to thrive. The New York Times article lays out how all this was discovered, starting with sheer chance.

And what that virus does is make it so that the next generation of bugs is only or nearly only females–and it is inherited. Thirteen generations were only able to produce three males out of all those eggs.

I thought, well, that’s one way to kill off an invasive species!

The resident male was not quite so sanguine on the existence of such a virus. Oh. Right. Yow.

This post needs a title but I’m flat out
Wednesday November 15th 2023, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Life

Yawn. The day ran a few spoons short.

But it rained: glorious, life-offering rain, and watching it come down felt like being a tourist in some exotic new landscape.

Trick or Treat
Sunday November 05th 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

Somehow a third cowl is now done. (And wet because I forgot to snap the photo first.)

Last Sunday there was a potluck lunch after church; I took some pumpkin almond flour muffins in an old Tupperware pie-taker. I’ve found it to be exactly the right size for putting three rings of cupcakes in.

My friend Gail, who is old enough to be my mother, saw me carrying the now-empty container afterwards and her eyes lit up: that was perfect! Could she borrow it for Tuesday night?


I had all week to muse on that; in all her years only now had she found the best thing to hold out to trick-or-treaters? But I could see it, though: big but fairly flat so that all the candy showed rather than being in a pile, so that kids could see what they were choosing. Wide enough to put space between a small shy child who has to reach in for their goodie and a grownup they don’t know well.

It took someone well aged to help me see the potentials in that piece of plastic through the eyes of a little child. I will always think of Gail now when I use it, and next Halloween (insert a Please? sent upwards) I will offer it to her before she even asks.

She wheeled her walker up to me today, chuckling, and held it out for my reclaiming. I laughed too and we thanked each other.

7 a.m.
Thursday October 26th 2023, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Hey. Hey! I bolted upright. “Richard wake up I smell burning.”

Checking out electronics all over the house–they felt cool to the touch, they were fine. Everything looked fine. Normal.

He didn’t think it was anything but the furnace waking up for the season. Maybe. I pointed out that the furnace had already been running some nights.

Sitting under one of the vents tonight, he smelled it again.

I thought our HVAC guy had moved out of the area during the pandemic, but it felt like who else could I possibly call? and went looking. He’s here now, anyway. Yay! And he’ll be by tomorrow to inspect that furnace for us.

Joe is the guy who came off our roof white as a sheet some years ago and asked, Are you guys okay?! when he found the previous furnace pumping carbon monoxide down our vents. The CO alarm helpfully went off five minutes after he took it out of commission. Lesson learned: never let your alarms be 20 years old. Replace them at five even if they look like they’re working.

We were not okay, and now we and our doctors knew why. We will forever owe him so much.

He’s on it. So much better than worrying about it. See you at noon, Joe.

The Maine idea
Wednesday October 25th 2023, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

One of my hopes this year had been to fly home to Maryland to see old friends, and I was telling one of them tonight that I was sorry it hadn’t happened yet.

Turns out Karen just bought two acres near her daughter, has the house plans all drawn up, and is planning on moving. Not now, but in about two years. She’s done her homework: utilities available to the site, confirmed, etc, etc. She was thinking out loud to me, should she add this feature, and maybe that…

…And I, knowing that she could and that it is way easier to get all the construction stuff done before you move in than to add it after, urged her to do it. Do it all. Make where you want to be what you want it to be.

She’s even already priced elevators for her coming old age to keep it accessible and found the price quite reasonable in the overall context of building a house.

Yes of course. I reminded her that our old classmate who’s been fighting Parkinson’s since his late 30’s added one to his.

And I’m left now going, wow. Wow. I so wasn’t expecting this. It’ll be beautiful up there. And cold. She’ll love it. She’ll have space with all that land to garden to her heart’s delight but still have neighbors close by, along with her daughter and son-in-law. They are all the family she has left.

I told her, I’d better get a move on on my plans before she gets a move on out.

I’m finding this odd exuberant mixture of being so happy for her, of loss as one more connection to home peels away for me, and like she’s going away to college all over again. While I’m not this time.

Trying to sort it all out, I thought, y’know? It sounds like there’s going to be another New England house that’s going to need to be knit. Good thing I got in some practice at it. Don’t you think?

In a year or two….

A connecting ribbon
Tuesday October 24th 2023, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

Just sayin’, if a man were developing a pattern for an infinity scarf would his fellow knitters cheer him on with, Write’em, cowlboy!

So. I sat down in the waiting room for a bone density scan, pulled out my knitting–and two sets of eyes across the room were immediately on my hands. I smiled, did the first few stitches, and then the woman about my age whom I took to be the daughter got up and came over to ask questions about my knitting. Did it take very long to do that? What was it going to be? It was so pretty!

(She had no idea how much I’d needed to hear that. It’s nice stuff but ribbon yarn still isn’t my favorite to work with.)

Then her mom got up slowly and carefully, as the very elderly do, and with her walker made it the half dozen or so steps to come join us. The daughter explained to her that it was silk.

I knew she wanted to touch it so I held the project out towards the mom so she could feel the fabric that was coming to be. She was delighted and I felt like I had just made her day, which totally made my day.

“So soft!” said the daughter.

There was no language nor cultural barrier. Just a coming together.

Then they called my name, and mother and daughter headed out smiling and on their way.

Thursday October 19th 2023, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

So we were talking over dinner and he mentioned that time that his grandma had called him his freshman year of college; she was chuckling.

I’d never heard this story. I knew she lived in this very small town in the middle of nowhere and where everybody was Mormon.

Seems the restaurant–

Me: that town had a restaurant? Post office, general store, and a movie theater, I remember. (And lots and lots of cows.) How many restaurants did it have?

He thought about it and held up one finger–then a second, but wiggled it in hesitation, his face scrunching up; he wasn’t sure, but, definitely one, anyway.


That restaurant had some pretty plants growing near the windows and on the tables for decoration, as one does.

It wasn’t till one of the young men in that town came home after two years from a mission for the alcohol-, tobacco-. and coffee- and tea-abstaining Mormon Church that there was anybody who recognized what those plants were.

And honey, they weren’t growing it for the hemp.

On the safe side
Wednesday October 18th 2023, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Life

Earthquakes roll up and down and side to side, with the P waves and S waves going at different speeds: so the farther away you are from the epicenter, the weaker the shaking but also the longer it goes on.

And we know from the big Loma Prieta in ’89 that those waves can bounce back and forth off the hills to east and west of the Bay and amplify themselves back up.

Thus it is imperative to get the alarm out immediately when one goes off: it gives people time to move to safety and away from where things might fall on them.

But it also means you’d better get it right, and the reverse-911 system for quake alerts is new, as are some of the sensors.

So there was a drill planned for tomorrow for testing that system, and an announcement went out to our cellphones about it this morning so that come the time, people would know it was only a drill.

However. An actual quake went off at about the same time, and both alerts went out more or less together, to much confusion. This was not helped by the fact that a sensor was off.

So around 9:00 a.m. our phones buzzed loudly that a 5.7 had just gone off in Sacramento. That’s a pretty big quake! And that–wait, are they saying this is just a drill or wait that’s tomorrow–what!?

The next problem is, within seconds, they determined that one sensor was quite off. The other sensors downgraded it to a 4.1 very quickly, but the word was already out because seconds matter.

Even at 90 miles away, for a 5.7 we got a blast of noise and told to duck and cover.

Uh, what quake?

So they are still getting the bugs out of this new system. But now everybody knows there’s a system. And not to freak out at the drill tomorrow.

Unless the earth decides to have a sense of humor again because hey we could all use a good laugh right now, right?

10:19 a.m. here we come.

Authority figure
Sunday October 08th 2023, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Scene: a Saturday at church about twenty-five years ago. Our son was playing basketball; the teams were a way of getting kids from different wards to meet each other.

I was cheering him on when I suddenly realized that I was, yes I was, I was actually seeing it: a teenage girl over there was watching the boys going up and down the court. She had a small gun in her hands pointed at the opposing team as they moved. Including my son.

She was big, I was not, and my immediate instinct was to note the tall older dad with the deep voice who was in the building and I quietly got up, ran once I was out of her sight, and explained what was going on.

I didn’t know him well but I knew enough to expect him to be unflappable but firm, and he was. Given that I’d just ratted her out I stayed well out of her sight so he came and found me to tell me how it had gone.

You cannot bring a gun in the church. It needs to leave.

It’s not a church! It’s a gym!

This is a private church and guns are not allowed. It needs to leave.

She huffed and puffed angrily as denied teens do and then left.

I have been grateful for his courage and help ever since.

When we were flying home from the funeral three weeks ago, who should be at the window seat of our row but him! Truly it was a delight.

Except, after 36 years of our being familiar faces, he clearly had no idea who we were.

I named his daughter, to his slow-motion recognition and then delight and we had a little bit of a conversation at last, but he seemed uncertain of himself and it seemed kinder to offer his family my regards and require no more of this good man in his (it surprised me) old age.

It had made him happy that a stranger spoke well of his daughter, and that is enough.

Wild fling! You make everything! Groovy!
Saturday October 07th 2023, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

I started this at my daughter’s in April; it’s the one where Mathias looked over from his Legos at the first few inches and pronounced, That’s pretty, Grammy.

I worked on it a lot while waiting for some of the yarn to come for Carolyn’s afghan, knowing which one would take priority the moment it did–especially given the fact that slippery silk/merino laceweight is not my favorite to work with, though I love how it turns out.

I got back to it yesterday, and again some today. It’s ~65″ long.

I have more yarn. Part of me thinks, it’s past my fingertips and that’s long enough, call it my Aftober project now, done, and part of me thinks, why not use up the yarn, and part of me thinks maybe I settled the argument when I went sprawling on the pebbled walkway at 5:00 and a gallon of milk went flying left and another gallon flew right right out of my hands. (Somehow they didn’t burst. Go Trader Joe’s.)

Richard in his astonishment watching helplessly could only come up with an amazed, Did you cut the corner?! (There are azaleas in the way, you can’t.)

No, I took my eyes off my feet because I was looking at you and hit the wood edging at the corner and went sprawling.

Oh. Don’t do that.

The Etsy vendor in Washington State who’d just made the corduroy skirt I was wearing for the first time assured me she does have more of that fabric.

It does go nicely with that scarf.

Which is backing away slowly….

(Edited to add in the morning: I don’t know if the milk jugs took the initial impact? But my hands and wrists are fine. Yay!)

Little-Thursday, big-Friday
Tuesday October 03rd 2023, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

Me, yesterday, looking at the state’s update of where the new covid booster was currently available: Man. This is like when the original shot came out, where you have to get out of the blue areas to find any and the pharmacy chains haven’t improved their user interface one iota. Anyway, (it was almost not a question) you want to go up to Santa Rosa?

He gave me The Look. We were both remembering that day trip to get him his first shot in Antioch two years ago and that’s what that would be like all over again. How about we not.

I looked again today because I also learned last time that persistence pays off.

A small mom and pop pharmacy in Newark had just gotten some in. Openings today. Across the Bay and before rush hour gets too bad.

About an hour later we were hopping in the car for our appointments.

They had four chairs set up for giving the shots and the obligatory 15 minute observation afterwards–that was all the space they had. Clearly we weren’t the only ones who had found them and those chairs were filled, one right after another.

Afterward, given that the effects were likely to wipe me out the next day, when we got home I quickly threw together the long-anticipated package with the afghan to the post office a little before closing.

An aside here to Margo Lynn: Yes, that too. Caught the clerk ringing it up as New Jersey and got him to correct that real quick.

I drove away from there wanting to shout, I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT!!!

It’s not enough to make the thing–you have to get it to its owner. They are on their ways now towards a sorting facility.

I think I’ll turn in a bit early…