Good times
Saturday February 10th 2007, 11:35 am
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Yesterday evening, we shared a potluck dinner with old friends (I brought the chocolate torte, and I had a picture of its remains up, but then decided it wasn’t doing the torte justice and ditched it for this wallflower instead.) We laughed till our sides were sore. Some of them hadn’t heard the story about the skunk’s tail caressing my husband’s arm that I wrote about on my Profile page on this blog. It reached right over that campfire… Good times.

While my parents were here visiting over Christmas, my dad actually ate a tiny piece of good European chocolate we had lying around, just to taste. My father never eats chocolate! Mom generally could take it or leave it, so we simply never had it around when I was growing up. Me? Pfft. I buy cocoa by the 25 lb bags, when I can find them at baking supply stores. Now, if I could only get Valrhona cocoa at wholesale, my life would be perfect.

A story on my folks from their visit at Christmas: it was time for saying the prayer before the dinner one evening. My husband, as head of the household, deferred to my father with the word, “Boss?”

And with perfect comedic timing, my father hesitated the slightest second, then turned to his left, and asked, with the most perfect upward lilt to the voice and gentle twinkle in his eye towards his wife: “Frances?” We laughed ourselves absolutely breathless. It took a moment before the prayer got offered and dinner got started, but, hey, God was definitely there already.

The viewfinder did it
Saturday February 10th 2007, 11:23 am
Filed under: To dye for

Blogger has finally fixed whatever bug they had and I can come show you what I’ve been talking about. It was rainy and dark yesterday, and I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to get a good shot of the colors of my cashmere I’d plied and dyed, as I spread Robert’s medicine blanket out under a skylight and snapped this picture. Uh, didn’t do too bad, I’d say. But the funny thing is, the second I looked through my viewfinder, I knew. Those oranges–out. Definitely. Out. (And I think I’m going to dye those background skeins after all.)

Decisions, decisions
Thursday February 08th 2007, 1:26 pm
Filed under: Knit,Spinning,To dye for

I once snagged quite a few pounds of an undyed light brown cashmere at $15/lb from a wholesaler I knew. The catch was that it was extremely thin and single-ply and too fragile to knit up even as lace; it had to be plied on a spinning wheel. Well, guess what I have. Hey. Ply, dye, felt the hanks with some merino, perhaps, for a little extra strength–I can manage all that.

I have made three afghans with it so far. My mother knitted some into an exceedingly elegant aran sweater. And I have five pounds, half of it dyed into all these colors (we are still working on the camera thing), all waiting to be made up into the next afghan; I’m picturing a windowpane quilting pattern or some such, the undyed skeins framing the blocks of color.

But it’s been sitting in the closet, ready to go, for several years. I’ve been thinking lately that I’m going to Stitches in a couple of weeks, that the new stuff tends to push the old stash further back in the lineup, and I’d really like to see this yarn finally grow up. So. I pulled it out and looked it over.

It stopped me, just like it has every time since I dyed it. Some of the colors came out brighter than the others. Swatch swatch swatch, and yet, I don’t believe I can really know how they’ll all play together as a whole until I’ve gotten a piece done that’s way bigger than a swatch. If it were an even balance of bright and subdued, but it’s not. It’s odd; I mean, they’re all overdyed on top of this same light brown, you’d think…

So the past few days, I’ve been thinking: my hearing loss makes it so I don’t hear some things, but, I notice things that other people sometimes miss, because they’re too busy hearing the whole words while I’m focusing on the nonverbal aspects of the conversation. So. I wonder… I have a friend a few blocks away whose husband is colorblind. The walls in her family room are yellow. I wonder, if I took that stack of balls over to them, if he could tell me better than I can see how the color tones/values mesh? Since he’s missing the distraction of the reds and greens, akin to the consonants I tend to miss. I wonder if it would be clearer to me myself, if I put them in the context of the yellow walls? Or if I put it on top of her white grand piano with the white living room walls as a backdrop and looked across at them rather than down. Curious.

The nurse
Wednesday February 07th 2007, 12:32 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

My camera and my computer are not currently on speaking terms, so I’m afraid knitting pictures are temporarily on hold.

I got an email yesterday, one of those things that gets forwarded around the Internet, a poem from a “Crabby Old Man” that had been found in the man’s pocket after he’d died in a hospital in Florida, rebuking the nurses for only seeing an uncooperative patient who didn’t want to eat that food–because he still wanted to be able to make choices. Who didn’t comply over various other things, either, wanting to be seen as a human being, and warning them that they, too, would be old someday. I read it, understood why the nurses were touched and passed it around, but thought, oh, but he could have had such a different experience!

One more story about that trip to Urgent Care last summer: the IV that a young nurse put in was done painfully (okay, so they never exactly feel wonderful.) I had two IVs running at a time for eight days, with many a blown vein, before I got a central line installed while I was at Stanford in ’03, and feel I know a bit on the subject now. But hey; this nurse had tried her best. I wanted to introduce her to Rachel Remen, because Dr. Remen writes of the time she, while in training, was basically handed needles and told to go draw blood out of a hospital ward full of patients. She had no idea what she was doing, and she knew she had no idea what she was doing. Finally, a large gruff patient on the ward who totally intimidated her exclaimed, “Don’t they teach these kids anything!?” And he took her around, patient to patient, showing her how to draw blood out of any kind of vein, easy or hard, with such finesse that she says that she as a professor has now taught thousands what he taught her that day–and that there have been times where that skill has saved a life.

Her story has a powerful surprise ending that I won’t spoil; go read her “My Grandfather’s Blessings” and “Kitchen Table Wisdom” books, they’re powerful reading.

So. There I was, with that IV in Urgent Care, and a couple of hours later another nurse goes to check it. He’s big, he’s gruff, and he shoots a glance towards the other medical personnel across the ward, grumbling, “Don’t they teach these kids anything? Look at that IV!” Grr… and he goes to fix it as best he can, annoyed at it, annoyed at himself for grumbling out loud, annoyed at everything, it seemed to me.

And I looked up at him, and thought, You have never seen me before in your life. You are unhappy because you don’t want me to be suffering any more than I have to. You are acting gruff because I, a stranger, matter to you, and you don’t want me to be in any pain I don’t have to be in.

I managed to voice a quiet “Thank you” that surprised him, and he looked at me, then. And saw me looking into his eyes hoping that he would see how much I meant that thank you. How much I hoped that he, too, would be in less pain.

He saw. A look of wonder passed his face. He instantly softened, and he let the gruffness go. He saw. I wonder now how he is, and I hope he sees all the time now.

Hearing aids
Tuesday February 06th 2007, 12:06 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I started to answer Anonymous’s question in the comments, and it got so long I think I’ll just move it here. I do not remember who made my first pair of hearing aids: I got them just before my third child was born. I’d had two such soft-spoken little babies before, and then, my stars, that third one was LOUD! They do take awhile to get used to. Um, the aids, I mean.

My second pair was the latest and greatest at the time, 19 years ago, with adaptive compression to try to squeeze things down into my hearing range. Which meant that the higher the notes went in the music, the flatter they went, and everything was offkey, my brain fighting with the aids. I absolutely hated it. And there was nothing better out there to be had. I have perfect pitch, and was trained as a musician before my deafness advanced. You can imagine… I simply quit listening to music for years. Years. For such a wasted long time, till one day something simply snapped: I remember the moment vividly. I was playing Taxi Mom, sitting at the red light at Charleston and Alma with a carful of kids, and suddenly punched the radio on, to whatever station it might be set to, I had no idea, I’d never listened to it, I didn’t care. I needed music! Off key, on key, who cares, just deal with it, I’m a musician and I can’t live without music!

I think that happened because a dear friend had recently surprised me with the gift of some tapes of his compositions. How could I not put them in and enjoy them. I didn’t have them in the car, but I was in the car, and suddenly it all just came together–it was quite a dramatic moment for me. Rock on!!!

Later, Sonic Innovations, a new company, was developing their first hearing aids, and, having a friend on their Board of Directors (this being Silicon Valley), and knowing through him what they were working on, I kept bugging him to bug them to get them out on the market. I wanted some! They sampled from I think thirteen bands of sound whereas my old ones did from three. Rather against my audiologist’s advice, I had him order me a pair immediately after they became available, even though they were only making moderate-loss ones at the time. The sound was so crystal clear, so perfectly pitched, that they actually sounded louder than my old ones, even though they were actually 13 dB less.

But I really did need more oomph, even so, and when, after another four or five years, they came out with a severe-loss version, I got a pair. At 8000 Hz, my hearing loss is 110 and 120 dB. And they, for the first time, gave me hearing at that 8000 Hz. It was absolutely mindblowing. I could walk outside and hear all these birds I couldn’t see–where on earth were they? Man, you guys live in a noisy world! …I remember being woken up by the birds in the woods immediately behind the house, growing up… I was totally in love.

But that first miserable pair of in-the-ears aids from 22 years ago fed back all the time, and when we moved to California I asked my new audiologist, John Miles, (who was quoted in Newsweek recently, go, John!) if that could damage my hearing. He kind of went, huh, nobody’s ever asked me that before. He dropped everything and took my audiograms, new and old, over to Stanford University and asked around. They said, yes, there hasn’t been a lot of research in the past, but we’re doing some now, and yes, hearing aid feedback can cause further loss, and yes, your patient is a classic case. Fifteen more dB gone from that at this and this frequency.


So. I got the adaptive compression ones I used for so long. Fast forward to my new louder Sonic Innovations aids, which did not have the feedback suppression they should have; I’m assuming that was due to patent/licensing issues with older companies. I finally had to, with great regret, hand them back to my audiologist, because they were feeding back, they weren’t worth the risk, and my husband was beginning to tell me I was getting deafer again. I replaced them with a pair from Oticon. The Oticons are safer for me. They have lots of bells and whistles. I can actually, for the first time in my hearing-aided life, use things with earphones; they can plug into them. (Wow, movies on airplanes are suddenly an option!) They’re very nice. But they are not quite entirely musically perfect, and oh, do I miss my Sonic Innovations: and if they ever do come out with much better feedback suppression, the very first thing I would do with my very first royalty check from Martingale would be to blow the bucks on a new pair.

John Miles once mentioned to me that severe-loss hearing aids are only a very tiny, tiny part of the market. My pair of Oticons cost $5400. On the other hand, that price tag is what it costs to feel like a participating member of the human race when I’m around other people, and to say they were worth every penny doesn’t begin to describe it. I’m grateful to have them.

Now, when you all see me at Stitches, it’s really really noisy there; make sure I can see your face when you talk to me…

The Ten-O’Clock News, with a special report
Monday February 05th 2007, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

This just in (announcer slightly breathless.) Houston, we have a dial tone, repeat, we have a dial tone. Richard the wonder man.

For whom Ma Bell tolled
Monday February 05th 2007, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I have an AT&T Princess phone, nearly as old as my marriage–1980–that has served me well for a long time. We gave it a handset that Ma Bell sold for the hearing impaired at the time. It wasn’t perfect–it amplified all the frequencies, when I just wanted the high ones, which is where my hearing loss is and where the consonants of speech predominate, but that’s the way it is. Amplify the vowels too, oh well, beats deafness. (And if you know anybody who complains that people mumble these days, people don’t, it’s that they’re missing the higher-pitched consonants while hearing the rest of the words as loud as ever. Take that sentence, strike out all the consonants, and see how intelligible it looks. Mumble.)

Later, we found that phone didn’t buzz if the computer was on the way the newer cordless ones do. Point for it. It drew enough amps from the phone system that several friends mentioned to me, when I left messages on their answering machines, that they couldn’t make out what I’d been saying. Apparently too much of the juice went to amping up their machine to me, at the expense of my voice to them: making them the ones being, for that moment, the hearing-impaired one. I thought it was rather funny, actually, but used the other phones to leave messages after that.

It tried to die once before, and Richard spent $20 on electronic parts to revive it again. I’m not sure that’ll work this time. It’s the phone I keep–or kept, anyway–just above my head in the headboard at night, so that if the phone rings when my hearing aids are out I have some chance of responding. Richard once slept through dynamite going off outside his dorm room. I wake up for anything, if I hear it.

As a matter of fact. I inadvertently became part of the local Red Cross’s training manual for Disaster Services operators. He’s on their DS team, and they called in the very dead of the night one night: some house fire, or some such thing. People in need. He’s the modern-day equivalent of the Boston Minute Man.

At the time, we had been getting a slew of New York City brokers making cold calls and not having a clue where we were or what time zone we were in, and often calling right when they got to work at 8 or 9 am. We are in California. This did not prove to be a fabulous selling point on their part. So when the phone rang at dark o’clock this one time, I picked up that Princess handset and simply dropped it back down on the phone. Somewhat gently. I was so proud of myself. I hadn’t slammed it down after giving them a piece of my very opinionated mind on what they had just done to my good night’s sleep, and no, I did not want to invest in Kansas oilwells!

I stewed for about 20 seconds before it hit me that, um, wait, that could have been the Red Cross instead. Oh. My. I hoped they would call back, but the dispatcher at the other end was sitting there holding out the phone staring at it going, Great. NOW what do I do?

So now the training manual says, if you call in the middle of the night to one of the volunteers and get hung up on, count to ten, then dial again. Let the person wake up enough to answer. They don’t name me by name. But everybody knows. I will never totally live it down, but that’s fine, everybody needs a conversation piece for the annual Christmas party, right?

Too funny.

Dropping a cordless phone back down just doesn’t have the same effect. Where on earth am I going to replace this old thing? I’ve never yet found another phone I could hear as well on.

You know…
Sunday February 04th 2007, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

A stray follow-up thought on Friday’s post: if I hadn’t dropped that chair earlier, that technician wouldn’t have been able to make quite so much of a difference later when I so much needed him to, when I had pneumonia. And Sam wouldn’t have had me thanking him and calling him my hero–which he very much was–and don’t we all need to be needed. I still promise not to drop it again, though, promise.

Someone who knows me wasn’t quite sure my blog was mine when she found it, because I had never set up my profile. Now I’ve got one. Go enjoy a marshmallow, but watch out for helpers… (My husband’s face pleaded silently, Please don’t laugh. PLEASE don’t laugh!!! I managed not to. But it was very, very hard.)

Saturday Surprise
Saturday February 03rd 2007, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Knit,Knitting a Gift

My mail just came. There was a package. The return address was from a city my sister lived in–oh, nearly twenty years or so ago. I looked at the name, and thought, both, Hi, Niki! and, huh?

And inside was this gorgeous pair of Koigu handpainted-yarn socks. Made as if she’d measured them to my feet as she’d knitted along. Wow. If I could make everybody’s feet feel like mine feel like right now with these on, nobody would ever again ask why anybody would bother to handknit socks. Wow.

Thank you, Niki!!!

Joan and June 11th
Saturday February 03rd 2007, 11:33 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

Joan Schrouder is often referred to on the Knitlist, I think rather to her embarrassment, as Saint Joan, because of how she answers technical knitting questions and calls for help with a great willingness to puzzle out problems for other people. Joan also happens to be a nurse. She gave me permission to post this email exchange we had this week:

Joan! Joan! I just found my book on! Not on plain old Amazon, but .ca. No picture, and they hyphenated my name, but hey, they had to do SOMEthing to keep me from hyperventilating!

To which she answered:

Quick! Print this out. Take paper, fold into a tube, pinch one end shut and *breathe slowly and evenly into open end. Repeat from * until circumoral buzzing ceases and vision clears.

Seriously, congratulations! So how soon until it’s actually out on the stands?


Too funny. The answer I told her was July. Today I heard from my editor, working from home so she didn’t have my contract in hand, saying that sometimes the timing changes; she wanted to make sure I knew the release date was now set for June 11.


p.s. I just checked, and they’ve got “Wrapped in Comfort” on now, no hyphen, although they’ve still got it as Alison Jeppson-Hyde on Either way, it’s me. Wouldn’t want anybody to get confused, you know, looking at that hyphen, and think oh, then, well, that must be someone else…

People placed along the way
Friday February 02nd 2007, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Knit

Stitches West, the Disneyland of knitters, is coming up in a few weeks. This morning I was remembering the Stitches of two years ago, when I arrived at the Santa Clara Convention Center and was unloading my motorized wheelchair from my minivan. I don’t use it often, but for long days out and about, it’s essential. Unfortunately, the sticker on my ramp had been placed on the wrong side, and I set it up according to that rather than by simply seeing how the ramp was supposed to be, the way my hubby always did. So the hinge was upside down.

Which means I had 250 lbs collapse on my foot.

I had waited a year for Stitches and I was going to Stitches!!!

And then the supposedly newly-charged-up battery was about gone. Great. Now that I REALLY needed that chair. I had just enough juice to get it back up into my car with the help of a random passerby to whom I will always be grateful.

The end result is that the teenage son of a friend pushed me around for several hours in a manual belonging to the center–one very decent kid there, go, Sam–and then I drove home carefully with my left foot, got met at the door by my husband, and got hauled off to the Urgent Care Clinic for X-rays.

It was a fairly quiet day at the UCC, or else maybe the technician just made it seem so for me; he took all the time in the world to get that foot just so as comfortably as possible. He asked how I had done this, and was intrigued at the knitting I had with me and the idea of Stitches: all that creativity gathering together! He told me a little about his wife and four stepchildren, and his face just glowed as he described them. He was as gentle a soul as you could ask for at a time like that. It helped.

My sweet husband, as soon as we were done there, hauled off to the store where that chair could be repaired before their closing time so that I could go back to Stitches the next day and go see my friends.

Last summer, at the time the first round of my manuscript and my projects were due into the publishers, I caught pneumonia. I collapsed on the floor at the FedEx place with a raging fever, (my son drove, not me) but by golly, I got that thing off. I had misplaced a ball band or two on a project, but oh well. I did it. I did it!

A few days later, my hubby hauled me off to Urgent Care again. My fever was 103.2, and I couldn’t keep fluids down. They stuck an IV in me, sure that a little hydration would bring that fever right around. It shot upwards instead. I was sick enough to be feeling, please, someone, remind me why I wanted to live? Please? And I meant it.

It was a long wait lying in the clinic’s bed for the doctor on a very busy day; someone in the waiting room with a broken bone suddenly dropped with a heart attack, and–yeah. (He turned out okay, apparently. Right place to be.) Finally, they ordered me over to X-ray.

Imagine gray hair skewed all over the place as if I’d stuck it in the blender, a dishevelled hospital gown, a mask covering a lot of my face, and a very different appearance from that day with the foot. I was groaning, They want me to walk!?

But then I saw my old technician in the hallway. I exclaimed, “You’re the one that X-rayed my foot when I dropped my wheelchair on it!”

He smiled back, “Did you have a face then?”

Oh. Oops. I whipped the mask down to my neck a moment, and we both laughed a bit in recognition.

The power of laughter is intense. The power of a good person placed at just the right place at the right time is immeasurable. I do not remember that man’s name; I remember that he loved his family.

Enough to include me in his warmth. And that made all the difference. Again.

I promise to put the ramp right-side up this time.

Cinnamon bombs
Thursday February 01st 2007, 8:39 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Making a multi-berry crisp, hey, where’s the cinnamon.

Oh, that’s right…

And as I walked towards the bedroom closet, I suddenly remembered the question I got lobbed at me yesterday that I’d forgotten to answer: surely I’d never had to deal with moths? I never seem to mention them?

One of my children for Valentine’s one year gave me a heart-shaped ornament made from a baked paste of cinnamon and water; I wonder how many Costco bottles it took for the six middle-schoolers (they’re in their third year of college now) to make those for their moms (I wasn’t in on it, the gift was a nifty surprise.) Something to make their kitchens smell nice. And maybe to induce them to make multi-berry crisps by sheer Pavlovianism.

I eventually tucked mine away in a drawer, along with a neglected angora sweater.

No bug has ever touched anything in that drawer, even though angora is moths’ very, very favorite food. Oh! Come to find out cinnamon is one of those things, like lavendar and cedar oil, that repels buggies; one of these days I’ll have to figure out just how to make more of those ornaments. Meantime, I’m taking the lazy way out and leaving a Costco jar of cinnamon with the half-lid left open in the back of my closet. Carefully. Right there next to the cedar chest, with everything woolen in heavy-duty ziploc bags, sometimes bags within bags, cedar, cinnamon, and lavendar notwithstanding. To back that up, I’ve got the tennis-racket mothzappers pictured way back in the beginning days of this blog–$2 at the hardware store, snap’em up if you find one.

My vacuum broke once and I borrowed one for a day from a friend who had wool-to-wool carpeting. Where I parked it, out came… So now my friend knows, after exclaiming to me, THAT’S what carpet beetles look like?

Like innocent little lady bugs that forgot to put on their red dresses for the party?


Nope! Oh no, I’ve never had a problem with moths… (Listen, y’all, I had one get in through the screen in the bathroom, that couldn’t find its way around the plasticized curtain, so it chewed a perfect round hole through it. Round=carpet beetles, random chomps=moths.)

Thursday February 01st 2007, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Knit

Are you sure? I asked Nancy. They’re so different.

Yes they go together! she answered. She pointed out that I was the one who had picked up the two balls and put them side-by-side in the first place, and told me I’d been right.

One ball Colinette handpainted kid mohair, oh I forget the name of the yarn. But that’s what it is. With one strand of Jaggerspun Zephyr silk/wool of semi-endless yardage in I believe the Emerald shade. Lost the ball band a project ago.

I started this a week ago, when I needed a brainless project; somehow those two balls just grabbed me. I got it halfway done, and then after all that initial enthusiasm it just sat there for three days, defying me. I didn’t know who it was for, so it got stuck. Till I offered to knit a scarf for someone, asked her what her favorite colors were, and she reeled off a list straight off that UFO on my needles, along with a mention that she loved handpaint yarns. Huh. Whodathunkit. You never saw a project finish up so fast, after that…

Now off to try to catch the mailman with it before he’s gone by for the day.