Kudos to Kooba
Friday August 17th 2018, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

Back in January, I needed a black purse for my father-in-law’s funeral. I found one at Costco that, well, I wasn’t sure it would hold up well past a year but it was certainly not expensive given that it was leather and it was big enough for traveling. Good enough. I needed one immediately. I was glad to have it.

There was some fraying on the straps ten days later.

One simply came unglued at five months.

All the more incentive to get my Charlotte Ronson knitting bag rehabbed, and I did that, but meantime out of curiosity I looked up Kooba. One of my daughters had a Kooba bag that was a very nice leather, well designed, which was part of why I’d bought the one I did. Hers was similar to this one and it was made to last a long time.

Their website said they warrantied any bag bought at a full price outlet for one year.

So I sent them a question: did Costco count as a full price outlet? (I mean, I’d paid a tenth of the list on that other and I’d expected going in that I was only going to be getting what I’d paid for.) My guess was the answer was going to be no, and reasonably so.

The person who usually dealt with such customer inquiries was out on a medical emergency. Which I found out when the vice president of the company personally stepped in after a few weeks and asked if anything had been done yet?

Actually, no it hadn’t (but then I hadn’t been expecting anything.) He explained the delay, apologized, followed up with several emails–

–and today this showed up in the mail. (Picture taken after the paper stuffing came out.)

It is the same as the one I bought–except that the leather is better.

They really didn’t have to do that. But I’m very very happy they did.



Two and new
Monday August 13th 2018, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

He was two. And he was determined to be shy.

His baby brother, newly walking, let me read him a book twice and let me vroom vroom with a hot wheels car–that he promptly wanted back. He could give it to me but then I had to give it back to him: that’s the rule.

That’s okay. I know that rule.

His big brother watched from his ride-on toy and turned away when I tried again to engage him. I might look like a grandma but I was not *his* grandma.

Tough crowd.

Singing softly, though–wait, he knew that one. “The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round.” He watched me intently. I got to the verse of “the driver on the bus says move on back…” and suddenly he found his ride-on bus moving backwards from under him.

He laughed! I totally got him. Forward again on the wheels going round and round, backwards on the move on back, again and again and again.

And with that we were finally friends.



Paul Kalanithi. And Jason.
Thursday August 09th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Life,Lupus

A book or the baby blanket project…

“When Breath Becomes Air” won. Written by Paul Kalanithi, whom I first stumbled across in a New York Times article. He trained as a neurosurgeon at Stanford alongside our friend Jason, which I knew was going to make the book feel very personal. I watched Jason’s family go through that hard long slog; when Jason’s training was finally over, he took a job in upstate New York and his wife Sheryl, who loved to garden and did what she could while living in a rental here, gifted me with several large flower pots when they left. I have raspberries in one and a squirrel-surprise fig seedling in another to remember them by.

When Kalanithi wrote of going out with his wife to a great barbecue place, I thought, I just bet you that was Armadillo Willy’s. California does not do barbecue like the South does but that’s the one place I know of that tries.

Kalanithi wrote about what it’s like to be diagnosed with stage four lung cancer at 36 when you’re so close to achieving all that you’d hoped and worked towards but then life flips the tables over and everything spills off.

I remember Jason coming into church once, which was always notable because during those residency years he so often couldn’t take the time off to. He looked down, and it could have been just the endless hours of it all–and yet.

So I asked him.

And he, knowing that I knew the inside of Stanford Hospital well, just spilled: he’d had a patient, a lovely woman, cheerful, happy, healthy all her life, (and it was clear he really admired her and loved her) and all the sudden there she was needing brain surgery and bam just like that despite all his training, despite all his years of preparation to be able to help other people in moments like this, there was suddenly no more they could do and to his great surprise she was gone. Gone. How. It had just happened and he hadn’t had time to process it yet. He wasn’t sure right then that he could process it–it just didn’t compute. Sixty years old–so young.

Looking at this love of a human being himself, my reaction surprised him. I was in my early fifties, so an endpoint that seemed so close to him in his thirties was a lot closer to me. But still, I was going, Sixty. She made it to sixty in good health. How would it be! I marveled rather than ached, and told him, That’s really cool, I’m so happy for her. I’m sorry she’s gone but I’m glad she had such a good life!

I was picturing all the things one could do if, say, one could be a normal person who could be out in the sun. No lupus. No Crohn’s. You could travel. You could go to the beach and not just right at sundown. You could play with your grandkids on the grass at noon, you could celebrate in any way and at any time you wanted and the fact that she was such a good person while living that life… And then blink and it’s over and you don’t even have to do much of the suffering part in between.

To have that reaction out of someone so close to his patient’s age–that was exactly what Jason had needed. The gratitude. And towards him, too, for having been there for her when she’d so needed him. It turned it around for him completely. He had done his best and he had been there for her and what he could do and be had been enough.

I think both of us will never forget that moment.

Today, at long last, I read his friend Paul’s posthumously published, beautiful, heartbreaking book, a love letter to the daughter he would never get to see grow up, and wished Jason and Sheryl were still here to talk about it with. About their friend.

But life changes and people move on.

This I know: we will see each other again.



Pound plus per
Wednesday August 08th 2018, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Andy’s was open for business, said a sidewalk sign put right there just for that, but the flag man said no as the two-story truck and the smaller soccer-cleated truck behind it chugged and beeped. (The grandsons would have known their names.)

Now I understood why Catherine had raved over the kindness of the woman who’d offered to meet her with her peaches two weeks ago: that woman hadn’t just been willing to walk out to the road carrying everything but down to the next block across the length of the orchard.

Go back out to the main road and then right on Peach, the flag man told me, nodding yes over the noise when I repeated it back to him to be sure.

Can I get in that way?

Yes you can.

Peet, actually, it turned out. Coffee not fruit.

There was another orchard turning into housing. Beautifully landscaped like the others around there but it still broke my heart.

Down near the end, Peet too had a Road Closed sign across my lane. I considered briefly, thought, well he told me to and there’s nobody there to tell me not to so I can. I’m going.

The road curved towards Andy’s.

I waited for the men driving those trucks in front of his orchard to at least notice me so they wouldn’t back up over my car, then scooted down his driveway.

Where his guy retrieved a case of Angeluses from the back for me and raised an eyebrow at my request for a second. (I know they try to make sure they have some for every customer who makes the trek out there so that nobody comes away disappointed.)

I explained that I was buying for two; I’d been commissioned by a friend who was a regular, too. (Ever since I’d told her about the place, and now she’s joined the Rare Fruit Growers Association that Andy is so much a part of and talked to him herself. I didn’t say all that.)

Alright, then. And he let me have another for her.

I was just about to hit publish right there when my doorbell rang. At 9:30 at night? I flipped the outside lights on.

Andy! (Or rather, Other Andy.) Catherine’s husband, and not only did he pay for the peaches I’d dropped off (you should have seen the look in their teenage son’s eyes at the sight of them this afternoon) but he was bringing us some honey from his hives in thanks for making that trip after they’d run out.

He let me send him home with two more of the biggest peaches I had in thanks. But only two.

Some friends just never let you keep up. And that is a wonderful thing.

 



This one, yes, that one, pass
Tuesday August 07th 2018, 10:47 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I finished Red Notice and I wanted to start right back at page one again. Read it, if you get a chance. Make the chance. This one’s important.

John McCain of all people made me cry, in a good way. He’d been there. He knew. He did something about it.

“What are you going to read next?” I was asked this evening.

And so a shorter book that had been on my to-do list is also finished.

Well, huh.

For the author’s sake I am not going to name it here. Let’s just say it definitely suffered by the comparison and some books make me glad I like to knit.



His skilled hands
Friday August 03rd 2018, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Life

The cobbler did a gorgeous job restoring my knitting-embossed bag. Thank you, Robert.

The torn lucite pocket is gone, the new one not only in a leather soft enough to live up to the rest of the bag but big and useful and (despite my unskilled photography) a good match to the color of the bag.

They charged me a fair bit less than I was expecting. I tried to argue that I wanted to pay a craftsman fairly for his work (and I know how expensive it is to live here!) but he and his wife just laughed and waved me away.

Charlotte Ronson, whoever you are out there, you designed a gorgeous bag, the most me, the best I have ever owned.

And now with Robert’s help it is perfect.



Snail mail
Thursday August 02nd 2018, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

(Two new repeats on the baby blanket, three hours+ work.)

I’ve mentioned this story before: when our oldest arrived at her then-new job in Anchorage a few years back, she got introduced to her co-workers, who did the usual where-are-you-from chit-chat.

Karol: Oh! Where in California… Wait. Where on…  !!!

They’d grown up two doors apart. She’d just left for college when we’d moved in.

We were very fond of her parents over the years; we nicknamed their enormous orange Persian, who loved to hang out with our kids, Blob, and the name stuck, to Mrs. F’s amusement (and at the vet’s when she couldn’t remember his real name, a bit of chagrin. She laughed when she told me they’d asked and she’d hesitated but then in a can-you-believe-it tone with a laughing wince, had blurted, Blob…)

When Blob was old and ill, we combed his fur, I spun it and made a pin out of it with seed pearls on toothpicks for knitting needles for the little knitted rectangle to hang down from; Karol’s mom loved it and kept it on her fridge as long as they lived here.

We adored them.

They sold their house about four years ago to be near their grandkids. (Eastward rather than northward.)

But thanks to the smallness of the world, that Alaska connection is how we got word.

The mailman arrived at my driveway about the same time I did today coming home from errands, and–okay, I’m invoking Thumper’s Admonition here. We’ll just say I wanted him to have a reason to bother with taking good care of that two-stamp envelope he was picking up.

That’s going to the couple who used to live two doors down, I told him, motioning to the house his truck was parked in front of. They’re in assisted living now and he’s in hospice care.

The guy’s English is good but he seemed unclear, so I clarified: He’s dying. That card is to thank them for being such good neighbors to my kids while they were growing up.

Oh! I think I remember them! They were old, right?

I was pretty sure he’d just started on this route when they were moving away, so I was glad he knew who this was for.

He looked at the address, wanting to know where they were now. Ohio?

That card is on its way.

 

Postscript:

And the thought occurs to me, having written this: maybe that moment helped that mailman find a sense of purpose to his job today. That card meant something to him.

The choreography of his timing and mine that made all that happen was a small thing that wasn’t.



Overheard at her birthday party
Monday July 30th 2018, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

It’s late, I’m tired to the point of silliness, this is what happened, so here goes.

Phyllis was telling about a trip to Australia, where the guide on the tour bus had told the group, Now, we don’t have a bathroom on this bus. We don’t have a water closet. We don’t have a rest room. We don’t have a double-v-c. We don’t have a dressing room, and don’t get dressed in it! He went on to use various other words for it.

But we DO have… pointing at the back of the bus. I didn’t quite catch what she said his word for it was, but hey, whatever works.

This prompted her friend who grew up in Russia to tell us what her mother-in-law had called such places. Only, it wasn’t just her MIL’s Russian accent (not to mention her own) even though that’s pretty much how they would pronounce it anyway, it really was what the MIL thought she was supposed to be saying here in the US: the buttroom.



Katie S
Sunday July 29th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

Huh. I guess I never did take a picture of it–sorry. There was this really pretty cowl I’d been taking to church but that had just kept coming home with me. It just hadn’t found its person yet.

Today I was walking in and–Katie!!!

She and her family were back for a visit. I’d had no idea they were coming. I looked at her oldest, a little shocked at the change (they haven’t been gone that long. Have they?) and rather than the old-person boring line of, you’re getting so tall, told her, I’m shrinking!

She laughed. She doesn’t tower over me like her mom yet but she’s real close.

And I knew. Katie got swept up in friend after old friend who wanted to exclaim over her and the kids were finding their old friends, too, and it was other people’s turn.

After the meeting she had a moment to herself where the conversation was drifting to her husband and someone else and I happened to be walking up.

You guys moved away before I started doing this, right? (I explained about the cowls for all.)

And so out came a sandwich-sized ziplock with the thing folded and squished inside. Light ecru, merino/vicuna 98/2, so soft. I told her I’d brought it and taken it home three weeks running: it had been for her all along. I’d just needed to wait to find that out.

The stitches were a little finer than some, the pattern a little more involved; she had no basis for comparison but I silently did. I’d done right by that yarn.

She opened it and her eyes got huge and she gasped. “I LOVE this!”

And that, thank you Katie, is why I’m suddenly not bored with knitting cowls anymore. She couldn’t have known I’d needed that.

Just let me get this little baby blanket project out of the way….



(And then I explained what qiviut was)
Tuesday July 24th 2018, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

How to make people laugh in church:

We were studying from the Book of Psams in Sunday School, and after a goodly discussion, the teacher handed out paper and pens and asked us what we would write for our own personal psalm. After giving us a few minutes, she asked if anybody wanted to share theirs?

She got one taker. Here goes.

“The Lord is my knitter.

I shall not unravel.

He increases my stitches in cashmere and qiviut and broadens my hem

His purls shall sustain me forever.”

(Because, you know, the front is the flat stockinette side and the purls mean He’s got your back.)



The quiet one in the back who is always helping
Sunday July 22nd 2018, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

(The ends are run in now.)

Collecting and delivering packaged healthy snacks for the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford: that’s her. She used to manage the volunteers who brought soup to their kitchens but when the place got expanded new health rules applied that didn’t let us do that anymore. Dumping split pea soup out of the crockpot onto the passenger side when avoiding bad drivers, that’s all over. (So was the soup.)

So she found out how we could still help the families who stay there while their kids are in the hospital and convey the support of the community in their times of stress and worry. Individually wrapped portions? For people facing huge medical bills, some of them away from their jobs while trying to will their child to live, that at least is something we could do for them.

I reached into my bag and gave her her choice of three ziplocs of knitting, not telling her that I’d made this orange one specifically with her in mind. I also told her she didn’t have to choose any of those if she’d rather I made her something else.

She said this was definitely her favorite and exclaimed how many things of hers it would go with before she even knew that it was cashmere/silk or what it felt like. I’d taken it to church last week but she was away so I’d brought it home: even if she were to choose a different one I had to give her first crack at it.

She confessed she didn’t know what a cowl was. So I took it out and put it on me for a moment and did a little ta daah! It was generously sized and wider as it went down.

“Oh! It’s like a scarf!” She was completely blown away, and it was clear to me that not everybody had caught on that I’d been ever so gradually doing this for everybody.

She was concerned about the cost to me of such a yarn and I described Colourmart’s mill-ends and a sale on top of that and not to worry. For my part, I confessed that the gauge had come out looser than I’d expected, having knit it pre-scouring, expecting it to shrink up and it hadn’t. That concerned her not in the least: it was beautiful.

Hers was way overdue. She’d earned every stitch of it long since. Just ask the families at the Ronald McDonald House.



Hold on tight
Friday July 20th 2018, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

I had been thinking about what the shoe repair guy had said and found myself agreeing that just making that bag pretty was the way to start; maybe that would prove to be enough for me.

He had been thinking about what I had said and what that beautiful piece deserved to become again and more and he was all ready to work out the design with me and get going on the challenge, and seemed a little disappointed when I agreed with what he’d said yesterday. Clean and dye to start.

Holding it in his hands now, he admired the quality of the leather, feeling it as a knitter would a good yarn and then looking up into my eyes, appreciating what this was. This one was worth the effort.

Later, long dreaded but for the first time ever, I managed to lock myself out of my house because the keys had slipped out of the smaller older purse I’d switched my stuff to; I was taking my knitting out because that cone halfway out the top meant it just did not fit in there. At all.

I did not hear them fall onto the carpet. I usually obsessively check that I have them before stepping out the door but I’d made Richard wait while I got the Instant Pot loaded for dinner and I was distracted and in a hurry and realized too late.

This locked me out of both the house and the car and stranded me in the sunshine. Thankfully at six pm, when the UV was nearly–but not all–gone, or I would have been so brazen as to knock on the neighbors’ doors and begged for help. Sunshine can kill, and that is so weird, but they know me and they understand.

Instead I sat on the bench under the lacewood elm’s deep shade and read the Time magazine I’d grabbed to make up for the lack of knitting. At least I had my cellphone so I could clue him in. He found a ride home.

A zippered pocket where no keys can fall out, rather than only having that broken plastic half-sleeve that holds nothing and a magnet-snap top that things can fall out of….

You see where this is going, right?



It’s purse-onal
Thursday July 19th 2018, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Life

When my mom worked in the English department of my high school, there was an assignment of vocabulary words that the kids were to put into sentences.

Which is how on one kid’s paper a damsel in distress cried down from the tower to the knight in shining armor, Frugal me! Frugal me!

(Frugal, the dictionary said: to save. The kid hadn’t read past that.)

Um..

So. This has seen newer days.

But the cheap black leather purse I had bought at Costco for my father-in-law’s funeral (because this one just would not do), the one whose strap edges frayed badly at ten days (the price sank to $20 after reviews piled up), had one strap rip out altogether a few weeks ago.

I went back to my favorite. The one embossed with those knitted cables on that soft, substantial leather. The most awesome big purse a knitter could ever hope for. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been missing it, shabby though it had begun to look.

My longtime dry cleaner was landlorded out last month (a developer had made the owner a better offer) and I needed to find me a new one.

I deliberately chose the one next door to the shoe repair place halfway across town.

But did not go in.

Today was when the dry cleaning was to be picked up and I told myself, okay, now or never. You need to know. (I think the bigger hurdle was that I was going to have to do without it for however long.) I went in that other door.

I’m a knitter, I told the guy, putting my purse on his counter so he could see that side, and I love my old purse. I even wrote a knitting book. I’ve been using this for three years. It’s me. Can you rescue it?

He saw those cables and thought it was a really cool piece of leatherwork.

And see here? The only inner pocket it has is this plastic one and it’s broken. If I wanted to have you make it a new lining with a zippered pocket on one side and open pockets on the other, could you do that?

Now, I know this guy has a bit of a reputation for being gruff but in that moment he was anything but. Yes, he said with great pride, wanting to do this for me, he could. He would clean it and touch up the dye, too; that would be $45 and then we could talk about the other.

I think he wanted to see my reaction to that number. I was already figuring a complete reconstruction of the interior and fixing of the exterior was probably going to run me about what I’d paid for the bag in the first place, but there is no replacing it. As Richard said to me later, He’s got to charge $100 an hour in this town just to break even.

I didn’t have anything to put all my stuff in, I told him, but I would be back. And I meant it.

Sometimes you just gotta do right by an old friend.

And if you ever hear of a good leather purse with knitting designs embossed in it, please tell me. I know this one will someday go the way of all the earth after all I can do.



Take your time
Tuesday July 17th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I had nothing ready. No portable project. My doctor appointment was in 40 minutes, c’mon, just pick something! I grabbed my one-and- only-ever cone of now-sold-out lavender Piuma and needles–no stash hoarding for you! Use it!

I got there early, signed in and cast on.

They apologized that the doctor was running 45 minutes late; I motioned towards my yarn and said, You’ve got twenty hours before I get antsy. For that matter, if someone’s appointment is after mine but they’re in a hurry they’re welcome to go ahead of me.

The guy laughed and clearly his day was suddenly a whole lot better.



It was just warming up to us
Monday July 16th 2018, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Life

I glugged two gallons of milk down the sink and threw out the fresh wild salmon. (With apologies to the fish that died for that non-meal.)

Note to self: check the fridge before bed every night to make sure that silly door didn’t bounce open again.