Frances Begay
Monday March 31st 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Life

Concert Scarf, fingering weight yarn, 5mm needlesThis Concert scarf is a little greener in real life, as is the pendant. I dyed the baby alpaca I used for it, adding green to what was a very light blue, and hoped it would match many a turquoise stone for her. I only wish I had handspun that particular yarn as well, but the lack of feeling in my fingertips makes spinning that fine a yarn a completely visual and very tiring task. Factory milled is still nice, soft stuff; I made the color my own.

I have for a long time aspired to own a piece of Frances Begay’s work. She is a gifted and well-known Navajo woman who creates jewelry the old way, selecting and then polishing her stones by hand, cutting and shaping her silver using 75-year-old traditional tools of the trade that others now pass on, nothing machined, nothing pre-cut. Turquoise and sterling from her hands is a work of finely-wrought art. As the daughter of an art dealer and as a handspinner, I appreciate the extra craftsmanship she puts into each piece.

I wrote to Frances and her husband a few times before I finally went ahead and bought this, and learned a few more details about how she goes about her work, letting her know how beautiful I thought it was.

Green Valley pendant by Frances BegayEmerald Valley turquoise, greener than other pieces I owned (and then how it appears here), which I wanted. It’s large, and at 18 grams (I hesitate to say that; the sizes vary to match the stones), it’s quite hefty–my bluer turquoise pendant, for those who remember that post a good ways back, is 4 grams. Wearing Frances’s against my upper chest, it has a solid sense of presence, like the hug of a friend.

And this scarf is what I put in the mail in return, by way of thanking her, the price of the piece not reflecting at all how much I value what she made specifically for me after my order arrived. I like how the open zig zag areas of the scarf echo the shaping of the silver edging her stone, the more solid areas to the sides echoing the solid silver surrounding her circular coil. It seemed just the right pattern. Artist to artist. And now, friend to friend.

Apple Blossom amaryllis and Concert Scarf in baby alpaca

We can arrange that
Sunday March 30th 2008, 11:02 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,Life

First, a quick bit re knitting: finished last night, church scarf of the week. One strand Geisha kid mohair/silk/nylon by Blue Moon Fiber Arts, and one strand of laceweight Zephyr silk/merino in I think Ruby, stretching some leftovers by knitting them together and using a larger needle.

Now, on to the rest:

Geisha and Zephyr, blocked

Travel. See the world through the eyes of others.

I’m writing this down for the sake of the old friend from very way back that I talked to yesterday; you know who you are.

My cousin’s daughter was in India on a trip, and along the way had a host family that was naturally curious about this young foreign woman and asked her personal questions.

And then couldn’t bend their minds around the concept of being single: “You’re *twenty-six*? Don’t your parents know any nice young men?!”

She was, I’m sure, caught off guard, and tried to explain the concept of marrying for love: you know, you meet someone, you find you like them, they like you back, you find you have things in common, you come to like each other in that way… She described herself as blathering on, I’m sure feeling very awkward in the face of their stunned disbelief.

“Don’t you have friends?”

“Sure I have friends! I like lots of people! It’s just…”

They threw a feast, invited their friends, and the host introduced her to all: “I now understand why it is so hard to get married in America. This is F. In America, she likes lots of people, but nobody likes her back.”

To L. May I say in the greatest of innocence, lots of people like you back. Always did, friend.

With a bit of fog
Saturday March 29th 2008, 2:25 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,My Garden

Azaleas with rhodo-type flowersIt’s a beautiful day out there.

And inside, as amaryllis

Singing the blues. And the berry-reds.
Friday March 28th 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I walked into Purlescence last night and three of the regulars instantly stared at my head. Meg exclaimed in mock indignation, “Where’s the blue?”

I laughed a good one at that, telling her, “I thought of you when I wrote that!” Meg has beautiful blacklight-fading-to-royal blue highlights in her black hair. I’ve often told her how great I think it looks on her and have mused out loud about playing copycat or perhaps multicolor a la Lucy Neatby, but I rather like the combination of youngish face and graying hair with a good bit of length to it and don’t forget the Birkenstocks to complete the image, myself.

Speaking of which. I walked out of Trader Joe’s the other day and was accosted by a woman about ten years older than me, quite well dressed, well coiffed, calling after me from behind with a combination of disbelief and a tone of being not sure whether she should be outraged, “Hey! Lady! Your socks don’t match!”

deliberately mismatched socks in cotton“Yes!” I answered her. “They came this way. Aren’t these cool?” (I am SO my modern art-dealer father’s daughter.)

That stumped her a second, and then she looked like she wanted in on this new fad too. “Where’d you get them?”

“At a knitter’s convention in Baltimore.” One of the Stitches vendors (I think this was the one) was selling them.

That was one oddball thing past the point the woman could deal with, and she waved me away in disgust, exclaiming “Pffffft!” at me. Heh. My head might not be Neatby’d, but my feet like the idea.

Oh. Before I sign off. RobinH asked about the knitting. I put down the Camelspin project to do a church scarf. (Monica, it went back to Sweden with your friend, if it’s not the right color red for his wife, rat on them for me, would you? It’s a bit towards the rust side, the baby alpaca was probably originally light brown on the hoof. Thanks.) And I did a Concert scarf pattern for someone who doesn’t know it’s coming, so, shhh, pictures later, and…

I didn’t decide the edging on the Camelspin. So there it has sat for a week. I finally admitted to myself why it wasn’t done, and when Sandi and Kay asked me how I was last night, I told them I was a bad girl.

They looked at me like, right. You. Uh huh. Explain.

I grinned, and told them that I was knitting it up with the idea of the (still-not-entirely-sure-I’ll-do-this) next (knitting) book, but I kept feeling like the right person for it was about to show up and I was too cheap to spring for two skeins of that expensive yarn twice for the book–so I’d dyed up that merino/silk that afternoon to try to match it to try to head off whoever that was going to turn out to be.

Sandi guffawed, exclaiming, “I’ve done that!”

“You HAVE?!”

Camelspin in berry and my merino/silk, trying to match itOh good, I’m in the best of company. As for the berry Camelspin, it’ll go where it’s supposed to go. Having faced up to it by my friends having asked just the right question I needed to be asked when I needed to be asked it, if I’m meant to get more Camelspin, it’ll happen.

That merino/silk, on the other hand, while it’s lovely and soft, just isn’t quite the same. The recipient will get the one she’s supposed to.

Note to self
Thursday March 27th 2008, 11:33 am
Filed under: To dye for

Do NOT scratch your head or push your hair out of the way with dye on your hands. You are too young to be a blue-haired old lady.

Fifteen more minutes on the dyepot (and after picking up the blue, I chose the red anyway.)

The old lady at the doctor’s
Wednesday March 26th 2008, 10:59 am
Filed under: Life

flowering pear tree starting to leaf outBeen awhile since the fingerpuppets from Peru made an appearance on the blog. I replenished the supply in my purse on impulse yesterday, just before I headed on over.

I’d called first. Could I borrow 30 seconds of his time, and when would I most not be getting in the way? We set a time. I came early. I wanted it to be at his convenience.

I’d dropped off that scarf for Dr. V a few weeks ago, but, as I explained to him yesterday, after blogging about Jim’s family driving six hours round trip to thank the medic/ski patrolman in person, I felt I ought to drive the six miles across town to thank him in person. When he’d spoken to our lupus group, he’d given me infinitely valuable information I’d needed to know, and it had made a difference. My eye doctor’s nurse had told me to put drops in my dry eyes, but I’d shrugged it off; mild discomfort didn’t bother me. Part of ordinary life. Nobody had ever drawn the connecting line for me between that and how my cornea had simply torn one day two months ago. Oh! Dr. V did. Drops it is. I owed him, bigtime.

Californian snowdrifts–flowering pear petalsHe came out, we spoke just a moment; yes, I was the one that had dropped off the Carlsbad scarf. He smiled warmly, and said his daughter loved it. I chose not to ask him her age: I could picture a fourteen-year-old showing off to her friends a cool handdyed scarf knit by the actual designer, and I could picture a four-year-old playing dress-up. Either one would be happy with it. Either one would make me happy, being the mom of four myself, but I knew he wouldn’t know that and that he might feel put on the spot if she were indeed at the dress-up stage, so I simply said, “Cool!” And meant it. She liked it! Hey Mikey!

handknit fingerpuppets from PeruI opened my purse before taking my leave and gave him a small handful of those fingerpuppets. You’ve heard my spiel here before about the womens’ cooperative in Peru, the knitters putting food on their tables by making these, how I carry them around for crying babies met along the way and how easy it is to make them and their parents and everybody in a waiting room happy–everybody wins.

I told him, these were for cheering up small crying patients. He was charmed.

I didn’t take his time to tell him my own crying-baby-at-the-doctor story:

I was a young mom. My older son was pitching an all-out inconsolable, screaming, kicking fit, as only a two-year-old can do. He’d climbed onto the bottom shelf of a large coffee table at the doctor’s, a nice spot where he couldn’t damage anyone or anything, and went at it. I tried my best to comfort him, but he would have none of it, and I finally thought, well, he’s loud, but he’s not hurting anything.

An old woman watched, horrified, got up, came over to me, and declared, in a hissy fit to match my son’s, “That is the worst-behaved child I have ever seen in my life!” and left.

I sat there open-mouthed, speechless. But I got a rare chance that day: as we were leaving the clinic, she was sitting waiting for a prescription, and we were going to have to go past her anyway to reach the front door. I had by then had quite a bit of time to calm down myself, and I was sad for her at the fear I saw in her face as I walked up to her, my small children in tow.

I explained that my son (he was very tall for his age even then, and people were forever thinking he was older than he was) was two, and that I had been taking him back to the surgeon who had taken him away from his mommy and hurt him. And he knew it.

That was all. I turned away. I figured she just needed to know the context, and to see that I wasn’t mad, or she would stew all day, and why be burdened with that? I’ve got to admit, though, it felt good to tell her off, however nicely.

Going out the door seconds later, a middle-aged man I had never seen before nor noticed upstairs brushed past me, getting my attention, and he turned back to me and said, “I saw the whole thing. You were justified.” My eyes went wide–I had no idea!…Who?!… Someone out there who’d been a parent, who saw, who understood, and who took the time to make me feel better.

And in his honor and memory, whoever he is out there, I carry those fingerpuppets around for crying children. And remembering that surgeon, I gave some to Dr. V.

My original supplier has disappeared, but there are plenty to be found via Google or Ebay middlemen, still very inexpensive.

And everybody wins. Heck, I’ve given a few by now to little old ladies in waiting rooms.

Just for fun…
Tuesday March 25th 2008, 10:51 am
Filed under: Life

I laughed out loud at the beginning of this video in recognition, thinking, were all dorm rules the same everywhere? I was warned in advance by my older siblings that the only cooking-type appliance that was going to be allowed in my college dorm was going to be a popcorn popper. The hot air poppers were yet to start appearing on the market in ’77; we’re talking the old-fashioned kind. Getting a popcorn popper was a rite of passage into college life. Plug it in and warm up some emergency-rations Campbell’s soup (remember when Campbell’s was pretty much all there was?) on a snowy night when the cafeteria was closed.

So I got me one. There was actually a small closet on the floor of the dorm where we were required to keep them, near the elevator door, I suppose to help the firemen get quickly to whatever idiocy some kid was likely to commit. I don’t remember anything else being stored there except vacuum cleaners. Build a room for popcorn poppers. What a concept to take to an architect.

I read a BBC article by a British journalist commenting on the amusing insanity that is the presidential election season in the US: like the campaign workers in one town in Iowa getting campaign funds to buy up all the snow shovels in town, so the other side wouldn’t have access to them, and volunteers using them to shovel out anybody whom they thought was going to vote for their candidate that night, bad weather not being allowed to get in the way. Of their side.

But one thing the guy wrote made me go google, and yup, it’s on video. What he did with his popcorn popper in college. I can’t imagine ADMITTING to it, much less *doing* it. Here, go see for yourself.

(Edited to go directly to the YouTube page.)

The ski patrolman
Monday March 24th 2008, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I talked to Nicholas’s mom at church. She filled me in on the rest of the story.

Nicholas got the rod taken out of his leg in January, got a follow-up later, and got the okay to go–okay, picture me starting to look wide-eyed at her, thinking, you didn’t! You are FAR braver souls than I!–skiing again.

I am *so* not a skiier. Never mind. On with the story. Jim emailed me so that I could have it in his words.

“I had contacted BT, the ski patrol/medic who had helped Nicholas at the scene of the accident. He was working that day, and we met him at the lift after we got our ski equipment. Now, I don’t imagine too many people come back and look up ski patrolmen. And yes, he was just doing his job, but we choose to believe that it was not entirely coincidental that he was very close by when Nicholas fell and was at his side almost immediately. He skied with us for about an hour, and it was fun getting to know him. He’s not your average ski bum: he has just been accepted to Stanford Medical School (among others)!

We went to tower #10 and took some pictures of where Nicholas had fallen. We have always said that it was a 30′ drop, but it’s actually a little higher than that, maybe 35′? Yikes! We loved riding the high-speed chairlift. BT showed us a few runs we hadn’t tried before, and then had to take off for work at a Reno hospital. We hope he ends up at Stanford.”

Boy, I do too. If ever/the next time that/ I’m a patient at Stanford, I’m hoping he’ll be one of the students that stops by so I can thank him too.

Imagine seeing that eight-year-old child falling off that ski lift. Imagine tending to him, knowing his parents are stuck on that lift and there’s nothing they can do but give their child up into your hands for the moment. Imagine seeing them flying down the slopes as soon as they can, with the boy’s little brother. Imagine radioing for an airlift helicopter, seeing Nicholas lying there, badly hurt but conscious and able to answer you.

Imagine, a year later, those parents bringing their son, alive, whole, with no brain damage, back, a three hour drive each way, to show you the outcome of the care you gave that day.

Imagine having that to look back on, later in your life, should burnout ever threaten your outlook on your giving care to others.

Easter morn
Sunday March 23rd 2008, 11:20 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Life

apple blossom amaryllisI looked at Nicholas, who was running around like any normal kid last Sunday, and thought in gratitude to a year ago when he’d fallen 30 feet off the ski lift just to the side of where the picture in that link was taken by his dad. Look at that shot of light there. That’s how it felt, seeing the grin on his face. You would never know now what he’d gone through, what his family had gone through.

I never did get to find out who this knitter was to thank him or her, though I did hear from a member of a knitting guild in Reno who was asking around, but whoever you are out there, thank you for giving a huge amount of comfort to everybody here; you made a tremendous difference when it was urgently needed, to Nicholas wrapped up in his afghan every day and to every person who saw him with it. And you will likely never know.

Time to get ready for church.  Happy Easter!

Sent them packing
Saturday March 22nd 2008, 10:46 am
Filed under: Friends

Dancing Queen and Lene’s second stalkAndy’s package came slowly back to me. Standing in line at the post office yesterday, the next clerk up was the one who’d helped me send his off the first time.

“You paid Express on this one! They didn’t forward it?!” She was indignant. She wanted to know, was it the American postal service or the English? The English. Oh well, at least there’s that. Her pride was mollified.

I’d emailed, gotten an answer yesterday and an updated address–oops–and I was trying again. But it was going first class this time, I’d already shot my wad. Andy, it’s coming.

I walked past Steve on my way out, thinking, actually, how glad I was that Andy’s package had given me an excuse to come back and tell Steve–he caught my eye, wanting to know.  Yes. I smiled and told him, “She got it! Aup and coming amaryllis crop day and a half! *Thank* you!”

He gave me a thumbs up and a big grin. He was SO glad.  It totally made his day.

We’re all in this life thing together.

Stitches East revisited
Friday March 21st 2008, 12:00 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit,Life

Fleece Artist merino fingering weight(Picture taken with my camera phone while that was all I had that was working. Pattern is the smaller version Water Turtles, knitted on size 6mm.)

I blogged awhile ago about the bright red cashmere yarn that Karen and her daughter Amy told me I had to buy when we were together at Stitches East last October in Baltimore. About my reluctance to buy something so expensive so very much not my color vs my internal struggle in thinking how perfect it would be for my friend Marguerite (but it wasn’t her turn!) and finally just going along with the peer pressure and buying it…not knowing that Marguerite had been diagnosed with breast cancer three days before and had told not a soul other than her husband.

Sometimes you find out fairly quickly like that. Sometimes it takes awhile longer.

The second day we were there, I saw some Fleece Artist merino fingering weight yarn that was just lovely, and had a hard time choosing between two colorways; I was only going to spring for one shawl’s worth. What I wouldn’t do now to have bought that bright blue and green in cashmere, too, though I don’t remember seeing any in stock there. So, sitting there debating and debating, I finally asked Karen, with the booth owner’s permission, to take one skein of each colorway and walk about 20 feet away from me. Karen walked towards a solid black curtained-off area, which made the perfect backdrop. As soon as she did, it was instantly clear: *that* one. Emphatically. Sometimes you need a little Claude Monet effect and to look at it from a distance.

Later, another friend saw a nearly identical merino yarn in another booth and nearly dove headfirst into it, much to my amusement. She totally loved it, exclaimed over it, fondled it–and then reluctantly put it back, saying something about budgets, it being the end of a day at the overload that is Stitches.

Heh. Guess what I had. I recently finished knitting it up, thinking how perfect it was going to be for her. I’d seen her reaction to it.

And then every time I went to the post office, intending to run multiple errands, I kept forgetting to take it with me. Dumb. I mean, really dumb. What was wrong with me on this one?

Wednesday afternoon at 4 pm I got an anguished email. Masses. I reminded her of Marguerite’s five masses, and how only one had turned out to actually be cancerous and that despite all that they had expected, it had not spread. I think everything’s going to turn out okay for her, too. If I have any say in the matter! Knitting as cancer cure! (Hey, it’s not biopsied yet. Might not even be what they think.)

This time, when I went to the post office, there was no question and no forgetting. And maybe I see why I did before. The timing now was right, the comfort it could provide was perhaps more intense by sending it now.

Steve, one of the clerks, waved hi and then looked at my face and asked, “Having a hard day today?” That surprised me; I didn’t think it was showing. I took a deep breath, knowing that he would want to know (I’ve lived in this town awhile, I prayed for him during his recent surgery) and explained to him what was in the package and why, and pleaded, “Please get it to her quickly for me.”

Priority mail, cross country, and this morning, a day and a half later, I got her email that it had come.

Go Steve go. Thank you.

Made me cry.

I think she did too.

Day by day
Thursday March 20th 2008, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knit

When a flower says “ooh!”With the old Godspell song playing in my head, thus the post title. Here are two amaryllises, taken last night.

And today.Dancing Queen  and Red Lion amaryllises

My project, meantime, completely stalled out for the day and I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want to work on it; finally, it hit me that, I was nearly done, I knew who I wanted to knit for next after I finished it, and I had not a clue what to make that person. I was avoiding not knowing what to do. So I went off on an errand this afternoon, I think not for the errand’s sake, really, but rather, to get away from the house and the problem for a moment, and by the time I got home, I pretty much knew. I went through my stash, and one ball after another, one color, one texture, then another, confirmed that yes, that one. No, not that: almost, almost, but go back to the first, yes, that feels right.

Camelspin in Berry colorwayNow I know. It feels like such a relief. Back to work!

Scotch tape saves the day
Wednesday March 19th 2008, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis

Dancing Queen takes a bowThe hubby looked at the camera again tonight. “Where’s the door?”

I ran back into the other room and retrieved it. He held it in place against the camera, pushed the power button, and poof there you go. “See, I told you you had to tape the door on. I bet there’s an electronic sensor” etc etc.

Huh. Whodathunkit. Well, him, obviously. “Isn’t it nice to be right?”

Red Lion amaryllis with cabin fever

“I’m used to it,” he shot back with a grin.

Not that way!
Wednesday March 19th 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Family

Yeah, I double checked the batteries. Nope, not them.

I have often thought my camera, for all its funky fanciness, had a suspiciously flimsy-looking hinge in the bit of plastic covering the camera card. It was only a matter of time. Yup. I handed it to the hubby, going, a thousandth of a cent’s worth of plastic, but… The card’s staying in just fine anyway, I can just ignore it pretty much, right?

My sweetie with the electrical engineering/computer science background who can fix anything looked it over for me and handed it back a few hours later.

And now that camera’s fainted dead away like roadkill opossum. Dad, you still got that broom?

Tuesday March 18th 2008, 1:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Standing in the aisle at Costco last night, I called her name. She didn’t hear me. I yelled it–my voice can run faster than I can. She looked up with a start, saw me, ran over, and we threw our arms around each other for old times’ sake.

I’ve never had to meet C professionally. Thank goodness for that; she’s an ICU nurse. But we both have big families and our kids went to school together from kindergarten on up. In a state where the school buses pretty much disappeared with Proposition 13 in the ’70’s, most of the parents who are able to, meet their elementary-school kids at 3:00 and take them home. And those parents become good friends as they wait together for the bell to ring, year after year.

I remember running into Albert one day, which was a little unusual, and asking him where his wife CH was; she was home with pneumonia. I offered to bring over a dinner and make life a little easier for them for the day. Yes of course I think you can cook perfectly well, Albert, but wouldn’t it be nice to have one less thing to have to worry about just now?

He couldn’t get over it, as he happily accepted the offer; he kept asking why would I bother over them like that?

I blamed it on my church, and told him, If you were in my Mormon ward, that’s what I’d be doing, so, hey, what’s the difference? It’s what Mormons know how to do, culturally, to the point that we make a joke of it amongst ourselves sometimes. Bring dinner. How many to change a lightbulb? One to change it, three to bring refreshments.

I went all out on that one, bringing homemade bread and a chocolate cake to make their kids happy. Life is for celebrating, along with the chicken soup for his sick wife. Part of that was a nod to some folks at church who’d taken turns and had brought my family dinner three nights in a row, back when I had had a bad bout of pneumonia myself a few years earlier, each one bringing a gloriously-frosted cake; one of my kids a few weeks later had asked me if I could please get sick again–not really sick!–just enough that someone would bring them a cake like one of those again. Sprinkles on chocolate. Yum.

So I made chocolate cake for CH and Albert’s kids. Dessert comforts kids. Pay it forward.

That closeness in the elementary school days led to a sense of loss as our kids got older; we let go not only of our kids being little, but of our getting to see much of each other in the day-to-day as time went on. At the high school graduation of my youngest and C’s second-youngest, there were of course a bunch of us old Fairmeadow Elementary parents all in one place, and C pronounced, “We need a reunion party!”

And then she threw one. It was great fun. One of the old Fairmeadow teachers came, too. So C threw another party the next year, but Richard and I were on a plane that didn’t arrive home from Baltimore quite early enough that night last October and we missed it.

There at Costco, without a backyard full of guests for her to have to attend to, we had some free moments to talk, C, Richard, and me, and she stood back, took me in a moment, and allowed as how good I looked now and how so many of us–including me–never thought I’d live to see the day. But here I am, still.

Richard said something about how my book was doing well. I’ve got plans for the next two. I told her happily, “I’m not going anywhere!”

She mentioned that that scarf I’d knitted for her and given her at that party a year and a half ago, when she’d put it with a favorite dress of hers, it went so well that it looked like it had been dyed to match. She just loved it.

And you know? That’s it. It’s the tiny little miracles like that, day to day, that come when you try to make use of whatever you’re good at to make others’ lives a bit brighter, that help sustain the life and the love in us. I think every time I’ve seen someone’s face light up like that couple’s faces did on Sunday, it adds a year to my life.

C, it turned out, knows Ann’s parents well, and was blown away by the randomness of their granddaughter having met and now being about to marry our son. Small world. You knew, coming away from that conversation, that she was going to go tell them what a good kid their granddaughter was marrying.

Come to think of it, she might very likely have been one of the nurses attending to Conway, Ann’s father-in-law, after his heart attack. I don’t know that she would specifically remember him now, but he was in her unit, and he would have been in kind and good hands with her taking care of him.

It IS a small world.

Life is SO good.