For naturalizing at home
Tuesday October 15th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Life
The surprise from Afton: a gorgeous Calla lily in memory of my father, for which I am very grateful.

I chuckled over my little sister’s demand on Dad re waiting till after her son’s wedding was over with.

It occurs to me that he’d also waited for my family.

We flew to go see him in April, sure then that it would be our last chance. Even with the oxygen generator that was always attached to him, the ten steps it took him to go from his favorite chair to the kitchen table plunged his oxygen levels down below 80%, even to 70%, and he would shudder working so hard to get air into his lungs.

I was the one close person he knew who had been through oxygen levels like that and knew what it was like–but I’d been in a hospital bed, and I’d had it set off alarms with nurses coming to the rescue. He was doing all this on his own, and upright (getting down as soon as he could), and it was just unfathomable to me how he could do it. There were a number of times I simply held him as he wheezed.

I told him he amazed me. Because he most certainly did.

He spent more time in that chair after we left, and eventually Mom started bringing his meals over there.

I didn’t put it together but I should have: Sam was expecting, Sam was very high risk, and he wanted to see her through it with his prayers added into the mix and he wanted to see pictures of her baby alive and here and well and both of them having made it through. He wanted to be part of that.

And so he quietly held on for them, too.

Dad’s obituary.



So now you see how I got this way (I flatter myself)
Sunday October 13th 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My 37-year-old daughter was in I think middle school when I bought a cotton Christmas sweater at Costco that my mom liked enough that I bought her one, too. Or maybe I just thought she would and then she did, I don’t remember: a white goose wearing a blue scarf inside a Christmas wreath with sparkly red plastic beads, cheerful and vivid to celebrate the season.

The tag said dry clean only, so I did–but those beads came back melted right into the fabric. The owner of the little shop was horrified at ruining it and said it was the manufacturer’s fault for mis-tagging it, it should never have come there, take it back for a replacement; I waved away her worries by saying, a) it was a one-time thing at Costco, I can’t replace it now, and b) it was only $15, c) she did her best and d) it’s not like I’d be wearing it every day all year anyway.

I quickly warned Mom, though.

She hand washed hers.

I hadn’t seen it in years, but then I don’t live there.

She put it on it for their Christmas card picture this past year.

The goofy tray-holding butler bear (the tray serving as its platform heels in the shot)? That’s totally on Dad.



Bubble bubble toil untroubled
Friday October 11th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life,Mango tree

Babysat the doorbell today.

The replacement Sunbubble came in the afternoon. It was in a 49-pound box and I knew I was going to need help getting it inside while it was too expensive an item to leave unattended.

FedEx Guy turned out to be the type who was glad that he got to help someone out today. Which was a relief.

Now that it’s here, my question to myself is, do I just tape together the torn greenhouse for one more winter to extend the future of the new one? (Googles: yes, contact paper does still exist. I could double-side it to have no sticky parts exposed while connecting the walls to the sides of the zipper.)

So far, you can’t buy Sunbubble covers separately.

There are no mango flowers nor fruits to protect this winter, at least not yet. So the tree doesn’t have to stay quite as warm as last year.

It did bloom about six months ago but that time the buds all died back due to mold from the moisture buildup inside that tent after that one extremely wet winter. I toweled it off from the inside every morning and left the door open when it was warm enough but that wasn’t enough (and I’m too short to open the overhead vents.)

My Alphonso has since recovered nicely, proving it is indeed the resistant variety they said it was, and it has put out a ton of new, healthy growth where all of that had been.

I figure when it’s ready, given the size it is now, we will get a ton of mangoes. We just have to be patient.

And I just have to get all of the details right. Working on that.



Her son
Wednesday October 09th 2019, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I had just pulled out of my driveway when I saw him at her door. It had been a long time but that had to be him.

I stopped the car and rolled down the window.

“Are you John?” I called over.

“Yes. Are you Alison?”

There was a mutual sense of relief in having a face to match the messages. And in each other’s willingness to be there for his mom.

He brought me up to date: in the hospital still but doing well now, but she can’t come home yet–her house has to become more elderly-friendly first.

The work has begun.



She lived alone
Monday October 07th 2019, 8:10 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Well, that was a day.

The phone rang this morning right after I got home from dropping Richard off at work: the next door neighbor, saying the son of the neighbor on our other side had called him wanting to know if any of us had seen his 84-year-old mom this weekend. He and his sister hadn’t been able to reach her.

We had not. This wasn’t unusual; she can’t walk much anymore and is rarely outside. I’d put her recycling bin away for her.

I went off to an event that I was one of the organizers for so I had to be there–but I dithered awhile first, waiting to hear more because somehow this time something felt… I didn’t know, but like I wanted to be there for my neighbor.

There was nothing to know, though, as far as I could tell, so I finally got on my way, and for various reasons I’m glad I did; it went well.

I came back a few hours later and the wife of the man who’d called was getting out of her car and we compared notes a moment. I stepped inside my house and the phone rang: the husband wanted to let me know.

In the few hours I’d been gone, the police had come, had broken in the door, they’d found our elderly neighbor in dire straights and the paramedics had gotten her into an ambulance and away. He figured that that meant she was alive, and we were certainly glad for that.

She’s probably just as happy there wasn’t one more person watching her being wheeled away, but that’s assuming she was in a condition as to be able to notice.

I had contact info for her daughter and texted her a heads-up, figuring she surely already knew but I couldn’t risk that she didn’t. At the very least I could let her know we knew and we cared and we were all here to help.

She answered a bit later, thanking us for looking out for her mom; yes she did know, and her brother was flying out tomorrow.

I offered to go to the hospital to keep her mom company in the meantime, or after, or any time at all and she decided let’s wait till he gets there and talks to her.

She did let me know her mother was not doing well.

Hang in there, Sandy.

And for everybody else who has or is an elderly parent: make sure the neighbors and the kids and the parents all have each other’s phone numbers.

In this case it surely helped save her life.



Florida native
Friday October 04th 2019, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knitting a Gift,Life

And…38F again at 7:30 am.

After posting about the cold mornings last night, I finally got up the gumption to go email a friend who’s gone missing. This is someone we’ve had over while finishing up a batch of chocolate level of friend. I told him he had said I didn’t even remember what anymore but that it had left me thinking, This guy needs a hat.

So I’d gone through my small stash of Malabrigo Mecha and knitted him a simple beanie.

Didn’t see him at church the next Sunday, so I thought, good, because sometimes his friend comes too and I wouldn’t want to leave him out. If both come, they both get one, if not, then he gets to choose. Not that anyone’s really going to get excited about thick wool in the heat of the summer.

No sign of either.

I had a good laugh at myself as I went down to Fillory that Friday for my informal knitting group, and this time I went through the skeins, razzing myself that he didn’t come because he was avoiding having to tell me he didn’t like them. This time I was going to get the color right!

Mottled browns, this time in a pattern with more pizzazz.

No sign of him.

And then we went off to Alaska for the new baby and we sure didn’t see him there, either.

I wrote that quick post about our unseasonably cold mornings and then it nagged at me: so, at long last, I sat down and sent him a note. Tossed the idea of any kind of surprise and simply told him the story of the three hats.

I had no idea.

He wrote back that he’d spent the summer out of the country and that he’d just come back Saturday–with a knock-out case of the flu, while home was cold cold cold compared to where he’d been and he was freezing.

I read that and thought, and none of your friends knew to come help.

He ended it with his gratitude that God knew he needed that divine ‘hey you, I know you’re there’ just then.

On a side note but on second thought it was clear it was not, Richard happened to mention this evening the same thing I’d been thinking: we’re overdue to make another batch of chocolate.

I know who could use a bar of the good stuff.

—————-

(Edited to add: After he got home from his ham radio meeting we did indeed get that batch started tonight. For my records, it’s Madagascar 2018 Organic Trinatario-Sambriano Valley from Chocolate Alchemy. The kitchen smells divine.)



Honey, honey, baby
Wednesday October 02nd 2019, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life
Lily on our last day in Anchorage

It was some peach baby alpaca spun loosely to keep it as soft as possible, with a bit of bamboo thrown in to keep it together. I saw it at Cottage Yarns in South San Francisco in August and my instant thought was, the Honeyladies owner recovering from being shot at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: she’s a redhead. Surely that would be a great color on her.

So I went home and sat right down and knit it into a cowl and didn’t take a picture yet and then forgot all about it in the drop-everything-and-run-to-Alaska-tomorrow thing after Lily arrived early.

I came home to a spoonful left at the bottom of the first bottle of Poison Oak Blossom.

Trying to avoid more fattening desserts, I’m again dipping a fresh fork in there several times a day. Skip the baklava and go straight to the heart of the thing. It’s less sweet than many types and darkly caramel and thick and lovely, but I’d only bought so many bottles at Andy’s Orchard.

The second one was going down fast. This called for reinforcements.

So after making sure I had the right place, today I went to the Honeyladies’ part-time store and bought a half gallon of the stuff because there is no honey like that honey.

I didn’t quite ask it right and the person who let me in didn’t quite understand why I would be asking so she didn’t get what I was asking and so maybe that was my answer. To, essentially: you guys rescue bees and property owners who suddenly find themselves with an uninvited swarm. Is the Poison Oak Blossom a one-time run and done with the bees now removed from there, or are there honeybees currently employed amongst such?

She answered in terms of seasonality.

That implies repetition from year to year, which is great! But I’ll ask more clearly later to be sure.

I waited till the woman had run my card through before saying I had a get-well card for Wendy.

In yarn. I pulled out the ziplock that had that cowl, said what I’d knitted it out of and wished them all my best.

I’d been a stranger and there’d been just a touch of wariness up till that moment, fully understood because a very different stranger had done them so much ongoing harm and pain.

But in that moment I saw it fall away from her as she looked forward to giving and making someone she cared about happy, just like I’d just gotten to do.

We are all in this life thing together.



Bear and more bears
Monday September 30th 2019, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Here’s the obligatory Anchorage Airport bear picture taken on our way out. Sweet little Walmart greeter, isn’t it?

Coastal brown bears are 25% bigger than the inland grizzlies who don’t have access to salmon.

Here’s the National Park Service’s take on the bears.

And here’s the Brooks Falls bear cam if you want to watch them fishing.



Goodbye Alaska
Saturday September 28th 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Around 7:30 a.m., Anchorage, a few miles apart. The trompe l’oeil lake at the foot of the mountains turned into this thick band overhead as you drove closer, with the thin band in echo below.

The morning before, the clouds and the peaks had looked like blades of pinking shears, zig zagging in surprisingly precise tandem but never quite touching, playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can rather than just having the tops disappear up there.

How did they do that? I’d really love to know. I’d never seen clouds before in the pattern of Charlie Brown’s shirt.

After seven trips, we were getting good at finding our way around.

I’m grateful the kids took us to feed the reindeer, to tour the Palmer research station where the project to bring the musk ox back from extinction in Alaska began with a small imported herd, to the four hour boat ride up Prince William Sound and back: whales, seals, sea lions, mountain goats, the intrepid crow harassing an eagle (always carefully from behind.) The log cabin of the Oomingmak Cooperative selling hand spun and hand knit qiviut–unexpectedly plunked between the high-rises downtown because, hey, tourists.

The ear warmer I bought my daughter there had the name of the artist and a tiny circle within a picture of that big state to show where the knitter lived: far from where we stood, with the remote village’s name given. The card offered forevermore that she would mend it should anything happen to it. I read the pride in her work in those words and wished we could sit down together someday with our yarn and needles and swap stories.

The conversation where I tried to persuade the guy at the reindeer farm that if his animals’ undercoat was soft, and he said it very much was, that he had a product on his hands that hand spinners would love to pay him for.

He did not believe me. He said he’d been told the staple length was too short to spin and he was very insistent about that. I wondered if he just couldn’t fathom that all that potential funding of his farm had been allowed to blow away in the wind–his description by word and hand motion of what happened to it every spring.

I said you blend it with merino to hold it in place and that I hereby volunteered to spin him samples when the animals blew their coats.

Which of course for all my wistfulness never happened, and yet–a few weeks ago I stumbled across an Etsy listing in Palmer, Alaska that said that as far as they knew they were the only people in the world spinning reindeer undercoat. Blended with 80% cashmere because it had to be to hold together.

I haven’t asked yet but it has to be them, it just has to be. I was about giddy when I found it. You DID it!! Let me save up a bit after this month’s trip so I can buy some but I very much need to buy some to cheer them on. You GO guy!

The intense height of those mountains. The unspeakable cold of the Bay with a late November wind blowing right through the down coats and the way the water’s edge looked like rock candy as just enough water made it in under the frozen surface in the relentless tide, pushing it up, breaking it, flashing it like diamonds in the always-late sun as more came in and more froze and we did, too.

The moose that walked right up to the hood of our car and stared in at us, like, What ARE you? It was huge.

Sarah-freaking-Palin in the grocery store. Recognizing with a start on a different day that that was her house and instantly knowing where the Time Magazine photographer had stood to take his cover photo as our car went over a bridge and wondering what it must be like that people can do that. Fame is so weird. But that picture is surely long forgotten by anybody else now.

I knew they use bright and happy house paint colors south of the border but till I traveled north I did not know that Alaskans often do, too. You grab what color you can against the endless months of white.

The laugh-out-loud delight at the airport at discovering a vending machine from–my friends Ron and Teresa of The Buffalo Wool Co! A wall of glass looking out towards the snow on those peaks to the right and to the left, an innocent query to the effect of, Did you pack enough warm things? Buffalo socks, hats, scarves, ours will really keep you warm.

I can attest that they really do.

Ron told me later at Stitches that I’d seen it just a few days after they’d set it up that week. We’d been in Anchorage at the same time. We’d almost crossed paths.

And then.

As Sam put it a few weeks ago, “Friday morning I went in for a normal day of work and by the end of the day I had a new job and a new baby.”

Copper River salmon fishing will no longer be a 25-minute trip away for them. Their tea-party governor is cutting university funding by 41%, etc, etc, so that he can lower the taxes on the oil companies, and they have two kids now who will need to go to the de-funded schools.

They’re moving.



Boxed in
Thursday September 26th 2019, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

Neighborhood Fiber Co’s Studio Worsted in I’m sure the Georgetown colorway, knitted for Mathias two years ago, wrapping Lily now and somehow he didn’t mind.

I remember the pattern as being both simple and annoyingly requiring constant attention, but you almost can’t tell what it is now after all the trips through the washer and dryer. But for an Alaskan baby it’s perfect: fulled and dense and warm and pretty soft. I was pleased with how the depth of color and the blanket have held up, so I thought I’d give a shout out to Karida Collins and her work.

Meantime, yesterday I went to get the mail. I put the heavy giant-burrito-shaped box (Huh. I wonder what that is) on top of the big one full of bottles of soap that I got lazy and simply ordered because hey, Prime, and then while balancing those reached for the envelopes in the box at about the same time I turned to go back up the walkway.

Burrito Box started to roll off.

It wasn’t mine and I could only assume it was highly breakable. You don’t want those resistors coming off that motherboard, or something. I jerked the lower box upwards to save it.

And instantly thought, No you didn’t.

No. I was being firm about this.

You did NOT just break your rib getting the mail. (Idiot.) Who DOES this??

I ignored it–till I admitted to Richard what I’d done, and later that every deep breath on the treadmill hurt.

We should go in?

Nahhh…

Woke up this morning, rolled over, and felt some kind of snap. OH. Okay then.

And that is how I got to spend time with my new doctor today. She pushed and considered and ordered x-rays, and the verdict is that I managed to skewer the edge of that thing right into where the joint in the rib is–but I did not break it.

So no sharp ends poking around in there?

Nope. Bruised the cartilage, and it’s going to hurt for a few days.

Yay! Fire up the treadmill, I need me some walking time!

And (note to self after finding that the first of those bottles of soap had the lid almost entirely unscrewed, with the predictable mess) next time just go out and buy the stupid soap at Target, lady, willya?



Baby pictures
Monday September 23rd 2019, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Life
That newborn stretch that you never quite see again after they get just the littlest bit older.
Several days after we got there.
At four weeks.

Five and a half pounds and they nearly readmitted her, to eight pounds one ounce 17 days later and thoroughly healthy.

She’s perfect.



That and “C is for Cookie”
Sunday September 22nd 2019, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

No is, at two, his favorite declaration. It’s like the color black: it conveys and claims power unto oneself.

No picking up the toddler for six weeks.

Hey, we could help with that part.



Packrabbit
Tuesday September 03rd 2019, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Life

It’s weird to get ready for one season when I haven’t let go of the old one yet. Turtleneck, anyone?



He’s taking this well
Monday September 02nd 2019, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

When you have a new baby sister you love and you get to go with your best friend and you get to run outside and you get to find blueberries and pull them off of bushes and you get to eat them and your fingers turn purple this is how it feels.



Miss Lily
Friday August 30th 2019, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

She beat the odds again.

It’s time to go meet the dog and cats and make her big brother wonder why she isn’t being returned to that hospital where she belonged.