Only in California
Saturday March 09th 2019, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Life

(The woman who grew up with east coast hurricanes looking out the window this afternoon in the San Francisco Bay area.)

You just can’t really quite call that rain. More like a liquidation sale at the fog factory.

With one voice
Friday March 08th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Out of all the times I’ve cleaned out my inbox, somehow that one from eleven years ago survived and popped up in my search. It was a fairly stunning moment.

I lost my contacts list when Microsoft bought out the maker of the Sidekick phones and shut them down to get rid of the competition to their new phone (which very quickly tanked.) I was never able to get it all back. I lost my email contacts again when my data was supposedly being switched over from my old Dell desktop to my new Mac.

I had it!

The phone number in it was still valid. Assuming it still went to the same person.

I called it from the landline; it went to voice mail. Well, sure, I’m (most likely) a strange number. I texted it and identified myself again, thinking that surely these days everybody’s phone texts (if the number goes to a cell.)

I got answers both ways.

And now a daughter on the other side of the country is breathing a little easier, updated on what’s up with her elderly mom who lives alone and knowing she’s got someone now who can and is willing to help her and how to reach me. The mom needed a contractor but was reluctant to let anyone in the house? Call this guy, I said: he’s good, he’s kind, he’s honest, and when he could have sold me an entire water heater he replaced a simple part and did right by us.

And I’m happy to come over there and be there with her while he works. (She really needs that done.)

She filled me in on a few details, I filled her in on some observations she needed to know, including the event two days ago that had me trying to find her.

I think the last time I talked to her, she was a newly launched adult who had come home to take care of her mom when she’d just been diagnosed with two types of cancer–at the same time that I was with systemic lupus. That makes it 29 years ago. We’re all still here pulling together.

And man, does she have the voice now that her mom did then.

Thursday March 07th 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I was just talking to Ruth and I thought I’d pass on to the rest of you, too, what a repairman recently told my daughter: if you have a self-cleaning feature on your oven, don’t ever turn it on. The motherboards are not protected well enough from all that heat and that’s the fastest way to kill your appliance.

Given that about fifteen years ago I was quoted $800 just for the motherboard for each oven of my double oven, labor on top of that, I’d say that self-cleaning is a wonderful feature that sells ovens.

And then sells more ovens.

The Eichler
Wednesday March 06th 2019, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Life

The contractor came. Chris is the guy who fixed up the mess that the original guy left behind on our remodel 25 years ago, and I wouldn’t want to hire anybody else. Having lived through rain dripping into the overhead light fixtures and coming out the light switch on the other side of the room, when the water heater was set up to leak carbon monoxide (I know, Mom and Dad. Again, right?), the gas and water lines didn’t meet code (why didn’t the inspectors catch that), when we had twelve buckets and had to get bigger ones to catch the rain from our previously working roof–and so many finishing details done wrong, when even a goof plate was too small to cover the hole cut in the wall for the switch plate–in two rooms… When they hung a light fixture such that you couldn’t open one of the doors in the pantry, and instead of replacing the new wooden plank in the ceiling when they moved it to where it was supposed to have gone all along, they just filled the damaged beam in with putty… (And there it remains.)

Chris stood in my kitchen one day back then, looking at that and the slider with the two tall windows beside it that were supposed to be to the same height but had been framed to a mismatch. He was quietly steamed but he wasn’t going to badmouth anybody.

“What’s wrong?” I prompted, giving him permission to say it.

“I get so upset with people who don’t take pride in their work.”

You want someone who’s good and who’s honest working on your house, you want Chris.

We’re all a little older now. He told me his family still has the stuffed animal I knit his kids from their Samoyed’s fur, the beloved dog that we had fun having in our fenced-in yard while he worked. He told stories back then on her barking at skunks at their house, but she never did it at mine. She was on squirrel patrol here. She is long gone, but a bit of her lives on.

He’ll get me a quote within a few days and we need a week of dry weather first for that concrete.

Looking at the divided shed that took on all that rain damage from the redwood’s effects he considered a moment, but no, it does, it needs a rebuild; you can’t un-rot that wood and there’s no sense in putting a new roof onto that. It’s not a big project, he comforted me.

Now I have an idea of what our driveway is going to be like. And he’ll fix that dangerous gap from where the city lowered the sidewalk but not (despite my objections) our walkway to match. I forgot to ask if we can angle things so there’s a space where I can plant my Kishu mandarin on the other side; I’ve already talked to the neighbors about that, so I know they’re good with it.

And so it begins.

Brace yourself
Tuesday March 05th 2019, 12:24 am
Filed under: Family,Life

Last night I was marveling to Richard, I have no vocabulary for this. I’ve never experienced this before. It’s so weird.

Come bedtime, though, I pictured myself writing it down and then the words came: it felt like a water ballon inside that squished up or down as I moved my knee.

It did not want any weight on it. It did not want to let me get any sleep.

Today seemed better but to be careful I still went in: not hurting terribly much when I don’t use it doesn’t mean it will not hurt later when I do–that, and more to the point, my pain levels are completely unreliable as problem detectors. Sometimes those nerves work and sometimes they don’t. Which can be nice. Mostly.

Richard came in with me at my invitation and explained to the doctor, “I’m her ears.”

I made the guy laugh, looking at the sizes of the two of us, when I illustrated that particular idiosyncrasy by describing the time he took off his undershirt, hit the overhead light, it shattered, he fell into the wooden hamper trying to avoid the breaking falling glass and I ran across it to go save him.

Like that works?

Then I sat down and howled with laughter: we are such klutzes! ┬áBecause the idea of me pulling him out..! and because I knew that within five minutes I wouldn’t be able to feel what I’d just done to my feet. And I didn’t.

The doctor reassured me that the knee wasn’t broken. “It will probably help a lot if you stabilize it”–he told me what kind of brace to go buy.

It is on. And it really does help.

“Anything else?” This guy was thorough.

The elbow.

The knitting? He glanced at it peeking out of my purse.

The earlier injury, then the weight of the granite-bottomed melanger and the batch I decided to do by myself. “That’s why I hold the bowl,” Richard admonished, but not that one time, and that one time is when I learned how much I need his help.

So the elbow has a brace too now and the reasons why it will help that I didn’t know before.

But here’s the thing: that look of being taken completely by surprise and then the sudden eagerness in the up-till-then quiet face that said I AM SO GETTING ONE OF THOSE!!! when I explained just exactly what a melanger is after the word sailed right past him the first time.

The extrovert
Sunday March 03rd 2019, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Such big eyes and not a shy bone in his body. He reached for me across the bench. His daddy let him come to me, carefully. He’s about seven months old.

He sat down. I was claimed.

Some babies instantly want daddy back, or mommy, who was the speaker and just a little farther away than he might have preferred; he craned his neck upwards to again see the face of the person whose lap didn’t quite feel like the familiar parental ones.

Still me up here, smiling back. Well alright then, I would do, and we played a little bit while everyone around us hoped to catch a moment’s shared grin with him, too. Which he gave them.

Then he crawled a few steps back towards his daddy, with both of us keeping an arm to the side of the bench when his curiosity and lack of fear of heights seemed a bad combination for a moment there.

A bottle! He snuggled into his daddy’s arms.

He looked over with one last big grin for me when it was done. We were friends now.

I need to remember to ask Kat her baby’s name.

Nailed it
Friday March 01st 2019, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

The tires are a month old. The idiot light came on. The shop told me to bring it on by. I figured all the thing needed was some air against the cold temps we’ve been having, but I brought my knitting because you just never know.

I was running out of that skein and eyeing the second awhile later while they were doing their best squeezing me into their schedule. Eh. With wool as my witness, as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee likes to say, waiting was no problem.

You have to do just the exact right sequence of maneuvers to pull it off and it’s only happened to me once since we bought our Prius thirteen years ago. I’m guessing I started it when I locked the doors while driving over there? As women often do.

The tire was repaired (there was a nail right by the sidewall, they said, and if the idiot light comes on again they’ll replace the thing after all) and it was time to send me on my way.

There seemed to be some kind of holdup.

Oh wait.

They asked me if I had the keys. Uh, no (?)

Priuses are designed so that you can’t lock the keys in the car. They knew that. I knew that. They tried again.

They got a flashlight to help look into where they might be; no sign. Did I have a spare? I checked for a door-only key; wrong door.

At last there was nothing for it but to offer to call Richard at work and then have their clerk drive me over there to get his; it was only two city miles at most away, which was nice, and it wasn’t rush hour.

For the first time since I swapped out phones a couple weeks ago I’d let the battery on the new one go dead. Well, that was a bug.

Richard, thankfully, answered a strange number at work.

We got his key.

We got the car unlocked, and only then did they find mine, dropped down the tight side of the driver’s seat. Success!

The men were young and they were very very sheepish and apologetic despite the fact that I’d said it was probably my fault for not hitting the unlock button when I got out just to be sure. Actually, I thought I had, but clearly not.

So I grinned and quoted Richard’s words as he gave me a kiss at the office’s outer door while handing me his car key: “Just don’t lose it.” Since at that point mine still were.

They guffawed in a complete release of tension, and a good day was had by all.

I just bet you they’ll hit the unlock button before getting out of the next Prius to be sure. If they don’t see the key in the console, it doesn’t mean the clerk has it.

You just can’t get ahead of them
Monday February 25th 2019, 11:44 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life,LYS

So I was talking to Ron and Theresa of the Buffalo Wool Co┬áSaturday morning at Stitches and after asking if they liked it dark and getting an emphatic YES! offered them a bite of homemade chocolate; I’d brought a bar from the second-to-last batch that had been made from some particularly good nibs from Chocolate Alchemy.

I picked up some of their buffalo/silk yarn, telling them that that in teal was my happy place: ten years ago when I was so sick, waiting for a hospital room to open up at Stanford, the good people at Purlescence had filled a large basket with cards and get-wells. There were hand knit gloves and a hat, oranges from Jasmin’s tree, all kinds of good stuff.

Including two skeins of their buffalo yarn from the owners of that shop. The most expensive yarn they sold in a color I love.

I had to get better. I couldn’t let everybody down. I had to do their generosity justice.

For two years afterwards I wondered what could possibly be a good enough use of that yarn, while feeling I was letting them down by letting it just sit there.

Till the day one of the owners had her own medical scare and her survival was no sure thing. She pulled through, just like I did, but there was no question: those two skeins turned into a shawl and came right back to her and that was absolutely what they were meant to be.

Ten years later, Purlescence is closed and I bought more from Ron and Theresa directly.

I told one of their customers who was looking at their gloves that I had rummaged through my cavernous purse in the dark in Alaska and come up with one of their gloves (these) and one fingerless glove to scrape a deep layer of ice off the windshield with. One hand was just dying, the other–amazingly fine. It could do this for as long as I needed to, no rush. And I have Raynaud’s.

I came by their booth again later, when the crowds had thinned, and told them that now that my husband has worn their socks nothing else lives up to them; I couldn’t buy me their yarn and not him more socks, so… And while I was at it I handed Ron more of that chocolate for the both of them, saying, “We don’t have the tempering perfect yet but we’re learning with each new project. It’s a little like knitting that way.”

Ron’s appreciative response, “It’s got a good snap to it.”

And then he told me to my great surprise that he used to work as a chocolatier.

No wonder I hadn’t had to explain to him what a melanger was!

I gave him the rest of that chocolate for the both of them. Stitches was almost over for me and there was no point in not sharing it with people I knew would enjoy it. (Margo Lynn’s allergic.)

He refused to ring up the socks and stuffed them in my basket.

!!!… I protested, partly at myself, because I should have known better to wait till after…!

He basically said just try to stop me.


Goodbye with love to my Uncle Wally, who passed away quietly with his local children by his side Saturday at 95.

Welcome to this beautiful brand-new world with love to Annabeth Joan, born to my niece Maddy and her husband Devin this morning.

Happy Birthday!
Saturday February 23rd 2019, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I have a mild case of face blindness and I only see them a few seconds a year. And kids change so much.

At Friday’s Stitches, there was some random mom and her young son, five, maybe even six years old, who was clearly trying to be on his best behavior but also was clearly bored with this whole yarn-everything-everywhere-ness.

So I did what I do and coming up from behind, caught her attention and offered her a finger puppet for her kiddo to help make wool his happy place, too, for a distraction. He was still young enough for these.

Caught off guard, she turned around to me and laughed in sudden delight and proclaimed, “He’s got a collection from you!”

My box is starting to get a bit low. I’ll need to order more soon.

Scooting right along
Tuesday February 19th 2019, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

I got the chair down to Bischoff’s Medical and they got right to it. I was good to go for Stitches and the guy was as happy about that as I was. Good folks. I recommended to my friend Pamela that she rent a scooter from them so as not to miss out–she broke both bones in her lower leg a few days ago and one of her first reactions was, But Stitches!

Meantime, I learned something new about the melanger: even though you don’t want to run it more than a minute without something in it, always do turn it on right before you start pouring the cocoa nibs in, not the other way around: otherwise the bits mound up, caught beneath the arms and jam the thing. And that is a motor I want working for many years to come. I sent a note to Afton so that that wouldn’t happen to her too with her new machine and turns out it already had. Both of us had to stop, pour the loose stuff out and hack away at those mounds to free the thing–but when we did it worked peachy fine.

It has a lid but it’s off while you’re pouring the nibs in, so you do it slowly because, um, popcorn effects are entertaining. (Which is why I tried putting them in first this time and turning it on. Bad idea.) She reported that her kitten went after a flying bit of chocolate but after tasting it gave her this look of, What have you *done* to me!

(Second sign posted for my retired high school English-teaching mom. A rare spotting of double letter inversions in the wild.)


Love play work
Sunday February 17th 2019, 12:32 am
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift,Life

Finished the hat during the drive to Salinas for a family get-together.

We went home by way of Mutari for hot chocolate in Santa Cruz, making it back just in time for our niece, who had carpooled with us, to make it to her next thing. (Which meant taking 17 home. In the rainy season between storms of the day. I know one friend who will read that and cringe at the thought, but the redwood that fell across the highway had been cut up and pushed out of the way by then.)

Then daughter and husband fixed the plumbing under the bathroom sink and I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that working again.

Then out to get ice cream to celebrate.

Lots and lots of family this morning, some I hadn’t seen in half a dozen years, and it felt like so much life was all packed into one short day.

Yesterday, today, tomorrows
Thursday February 14th 2019, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Surely there’s got to be some protocol or rule about a trash truck not blocking a fire truck and an ambulance on a call.

But the dang thing came anyway yesterday morning and had all kinds of fun getting back out of their way, and after all that didn’t pick anything up.

Clearly they came back later, though. So why didn’t they just choose to do the other street earlier in the first place?

The storm let up to a misty drizzle at the right time while I hoped, aching to know that my neighbor was still alive, glad that at least the stretcher didn’t have to come outside during the downpours we’ve been having.

After they left I emailed the spouse, having no idea what access to that message they might have at the hospital: I said that I assumed they’d gone together in the ambulance and that I was ready and waiting to be their ride home at any time, any hour and making sure they had my phone number with them (as best I could, not knowing if they would see my saying so.)

The paramedics had foreseen that problem–this wasn’t their first case–and so at their urging the one had followed the other with the car, separated for that brief time when surely what they most wanted was each other right there.

Hours later I did get a return email: a fall. 24 hours observation. Expected home Thursday. Terrible, wonderful news. They are not young.

Their car was gone again today but by late afternoon was back, and neither of them would have left the other alone in that hospital during visiting hours. And so I can only assume that there was recovery enough for the hoped-for discharge.

I’ve already said I would run any errand so they don’t have to. Especially in all that rain.

They know we know, and they know we care. And for now that is enough.

The place was really busy
Tuesday February 12th 2019, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

The sky was dark and low but the rain was holding off till evening. The shoppers were not.

I told the young clerk Pegi’s line about this being a French Toast run before the storm: milk eggs bread. He and the bagger cracked up, with the clerk especially looking like I had just totally made his day.

Clearly someone has parents who taught him how to make it. I remember thinking in college that everybody did: you just whip the eggs with a little milk, dip in the bread, pre-toasted or as is, a pat of butter in the skillet and one side and then the other and there you go. Easiest dish ever. (A side effect of our having lived in New Hampshire is that only real maple syrup will do for us. It’s the rule.)

And I remember the friend who watched my every movement like a hawk, trying to memorize proportions, which don’t matter much, not wanting to admit at the beginning that at 21 she’d never learned how to do this. How many eggs?

Her dad had died young and her mother was someone who bought blue cheese dressing but threw it away a day or two later because it had gone moldy. All those little blue bits in it.

And as long as I’m on that subject, my sister-in-law had a college roommate who was trying hard to learn from her how to cook. When my sister-in-law asked her to wash the lettuce she, having no idea, compliantly did: she squirted dish soap on it.

When the rivers fly
Monday February 11th 2019, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Life

That atmospheric river that helped them decide they need to start categorizing the strength of them? You can see the edge right there along the city’s southern boundary line as it was moving in over us this afternoon. There’s a break in the coastal mountains just north of us that lets fog and rain come through, and then we share. It was bright blue skies with small puffy clouds a block from where I snapped this at 3:50 pm, whereas you go up the overpass and look the other way and it was dark dark dark and so low overhead that it looked like you could stand on top of your car and reach into it. There will be flash floods Wednesday.

It is 33F at not yet 10:00 pm as I type and the rain is supposed to start tomorrow night–and 51 will be the low. Cold enough to snow, then warm up, then rain. That’s how it’s done.

Because we have earthquakes and we (very rarely here) have floods but we simply do not have snow days on our calendars. Except that we did last week on that one commute route.

I do need to go buy milk, don’t I (looking in the fridge.) Such a cliche.

The talk
Sunday February 10th 2019, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life

It printed out to six pages? Well that was way too long anyway.

I tossed my notes halfway through and riffed on what the high school senior had said before me in her talk about hope. I looked across at the young man who grew up in foster care and is now a certified nursing assistant, a huge accomplishment given how his life got started, and without singling him out I wanted to let him know I knew how important his job was no matter where he might be on the totem pole at work. I found myself talking about Noel.

Noel Cortez was a CNA at Stanford assigned to the room I was in when I was near death from my first big bout of Crohn’s. He had lost a niece, a small child, to cancer and kept her picture with his badge to remind him, he told me, of why he does what he does. The care she’d gotten had inspired him to get the training for that job, and when I met him he was applying to nursing schools as the next step.

Noel was both a deeply loving human being reaching out to others in their own pain and one of the funniest people you could ever hope to meet, and since I was probably his sickest patient he spent every spare moment he could with Richard and me, keeping both of us laughing at a time we thought we never could again.

Laughing while the body was trying to ebb away somehow offered strength that I didn’t know was still in there somewhere.

I talked, too, about the doctor who had needed me to live, and who cared just as much and whom I couldn’t let down so I did.

I said, Their kindnesses offered hope when I most needed it. Hope offers life. We can never know just how much it means to someone else when we reach out to them but it is never, ever a small thing when we do.

And with that my time was up and I sat down.