Have half
Tuesday December 16th 2008, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Channon’s comment sparked this one.  She and I wrote back and forth, with me going, eh, who wants to hear more about lupus, and her encouraging me to go ahead even when I said I can’t skip that part, it’s integral to the story. So here goes.

When it was first diagnosed, my kids were 2, 4, 6, and 8, and barely that.  I found myself suddenly being told I was not to go in the sun anymore.  Right. Like how am I supposed to adhere to THAT forevermore!?  Besides, I’m an outdoors type.

My arthritis was severe enough then (it isn’t now) that they tested me for Rheumatoid, and throw in this, that, and the other, and I was just plain having a hard time.  Not to mention, my mom’s cousin had died of lupus a week before her wedding date.  Cheers.

So.  Richard decided he needed to do something about all that. The lupus he couldn’t fix.  (The Crohn’s later was LE cells branching out.)  He wanted to cheer me up.  So he called a number of our friends and they all threw me a surprise half birthday party.

When they all yelled, “SURPRISE!” I was going, What?  What is this? A surprise party? But this is June!  My birthday’s in December!… Huh?  Well, oookay.  Chocolate and friends, who’s complaining.

There was a cake: half a 13×9 sheet cake, baked and artfully decorated by our friend LaRee with the words




on it going down the cake.  Which was dark chocolate.  Yum.  And a very good time was had by all, with much laughter.  My husband’s a genius.

Turns out, LaRee had had the same initial reaction to Richard’s proposal but had been perfectly willing to go along with it, and hey, let’s party!

So, months later, it was going to be LaRee’s birthday.  I found out.  My chocolate torte (recipe in the comments here) was already well on its way to what it is now and I decided to bake her one, dark chocolate ganache on a nearly-flourless cake.  But I’m no good at writing with a tube, so when I surprised her with it, I gave her a card instead, with the inscription:

“Hap Birt Ali,” she said.  Happy birthday to you, too, she re-torted.

(And you know?  Somehow we all muddled through just fine.  And life is very good.)

December Club
Monday December 15th 2008, 6:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

It seemed a really good idea at the time.

Okay, back up.  Around here, we December babies at church have a December club: anybody who’s ever gotten, say, one earring for their birthday (*note to my little sister: I am SO looking at you) with a note saying wait till Christmas for the other half of their presentbirthday balloons and laughing mirror understands why we old friends get together once a year.  Not to mention that it’s an excuse for a no-stress-all-fun party.  Anybody born in the 12th month who can get there is welcome to come, young or old.  We each unwrap a present we bought ourselves as we explain why we got that thing, sing “Happy birthday to us,” and have a potluck brunch and a grand good time.

In talking about why we got what we got, we get to open up about ourselves in ways the rest might not otherwise come to know.  Although.  Mike, if you ever get something that *isn’t* model-train-related, or Orville, that’s photography-related, we’re all going to keel over in surprise.  And if I get something that isn’t knitting-related, for that matter, the rest of them will.

So many stories out of those parties…  Conway asking a new member of the group, trying to make conversation, how many children she had.  I thought, Oh, Conway, don’t!…while her face clouded over and she stammered, “We got a…late..start…” Poor man, he had no idea.

Turns out she was about three weeks along with her miracle of a baby boy and had no idea yet. That innocent conversation had let us in to see her pain, making the shared joy later all the more intense.

And there was Virginia, the matron of the group, gone now.  She always had something funny.  A pig cookie jar with a sensor that oinked loudly when you opened and reached into it–I ran out and got one right after the party: I had young children, I could hear that thing across several rooms, hey, it made a great Mom alarm!

Somehow my children didn’t love it quite as much as I did.

One year Virginia got herself a mirror.  It wasn’t terribly big, and we were thinking, okay, a bit big for purse sized, but whatever.  She took it out of its wrappings very carefully, not letting us see the box, sliding it out against herself–that was odd.

Then she held it up.

And the canned laughter began. It had a light sensor in the back so that as soon as you lifted it up it set off the ha ha ha hee hee hee ho ho hooo in an endless loop till you put its back down flat.

My dad has a wonderful sense of humor.  I knew he would love it.  There was still time before Christmas, and again, I ran out to copy Virginia.  (I got my husband one too, which is why I could photograph it; it’s got to be ten years old by now and it still works.)

I didn’t want Dad’s mirror to break en route.  So I filled a plastic grocery bag with styrofoam peanuts and put it at the center and put the bag at the center of a box I was shipping to my folks.

Mom and Dad got it and thought, oh what a cool way to package things!  You don’t get obnoxious styrofoam bits all over the place when you try to pull the presents out of the box!  Dad carefully took that bag out and set it aside to re-use to pack his brother’s presents.

Come Christmas Day, I called my folks, dying to hear their reaction to it, and they said nothing. I finally said, Dad–did you like your mirror?

What mirror?

And then, Uh oh…  Um…  Let me call you back!

He went looking and found that bag still there where he’d been packing things up, somehow it hadn’t made it into my uncle’s box after all.  No surprises by then as he unwrapped it, but hey.

They held a dinner party not long after, and Dad quietly placed that mirror on a shelf a bit to the side to see who it would catch and whether they’d warn the next guy.

And boy, did it.  Good thing his friends have a sense of humor.   Yeah, I confess. I put him up to it.  But then, he could have bagged it.


*Ed. note: She was 11 at the time; I was turning 13.  I’ve forgiven her. Honest.  But I still get to tweak her–sisters’ rights and all that.

The pages turn
Sunday December 14th 2008, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

At church.  There was the new daddy proudly holding his tiny child at this season of celebrating the birth of the Babe.  There was the daddy of the twins, surprising me by telling me his boys were already 16 months.  How did that happen so fast?

There was an unexpected announcement that Ann was in a coma in the hospital.  My first thought was, she misses her son. She misses her husband, gone several years now.  And oh, how I will miss her–we all will.

But you never know.  She and I have compared tough-old-bird stories from time to time with a laugh.   You never know.  It might not yet be her time, and hope is a strong and tangible thing at the edges of life.  I wonder if the nurses at Stanford taking care of a tiny and frail old lady know who she is; I believe she was one of the original nurses there when the place was new.

They are rebuilding most of Stanford Hospital to enlarge it and to comply with the stronger earthquake codes, although I think they are keeping the beautiful architecture that faces the patients coming in the doors.

The old gives way, and the pages turn in the Book of Life.

But they stay attached at the binding.

I never thought I’d live to see the day
Saturday December 13th 2008, 2:05 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

This is Friday as I type. Well, sort of.  By extension.  I’m too wired to sleep (although, the time stamp’s an hour ahead of me.)  Anyway, my husband suddenly said to me tonight, Tomorrow’s your birthday and we have that thing at church going on then; would you like to go to Flea Street Cafe tonight?

Asking someone who eats if they’d like to go to Flea Street for dinner is like asking someone who knits if they’d like some qiviut.

Even when I saw the side door unlocked and thought in puzzlement, when did I do that? and locked it on our way out, it didn’t dawn on me.  Richard said later that he’d unlocked various doors three times and I had locked them all. goofy balloon

He managed to walk out just behind me so he got that last one after all, and quietly texted “going!”  He also got permission from Phyllis and Nina in case he needed it to persuade me–I did want to go to Kepler’s after dinner, but I really wasn’t up to it and he easily talked me out of it.

“SURPRISE!!!” The house was full of people.flowers from Nina and Phyl

Okay, I should have seen that one coming.  And I did wonder if someone would do something Saturday night. I most certainly didn’t expect them to do it Friday night.  I now understand why my husband kept trying to tell me all the way home that I was actually already 50, by any reasonable argument, while I was telling him he was just jealous that he was an old man while I was a youthful 40-something-er.  He even had the audacity to tell me that by Chinese counting I was 51.  Nuh UH!

I had no idea.  And they could tell, given what my kitchen looked like.  Not a clue.

A great time was had by all, and it is now Saturday, so I guess it’s true: I’ve tumbled over the hill and joined my sweetie into fiftytudinousness.  Thank you for the amaryllis bulb, Richard.  (Ed: Oh, wait, that one was from Alyson, I’ve been corrected.  Thank you, Alyson!)  Thank you for the flowers, Nina and Phyl. Thank you everybody for coming and for the cake and the veggies and the mulled cider and the chocolate and the apricot flan and the fruit pastries and the…

And you know? Richard passed on the dessert menu, but Jesse at Flea Street, after coming out to say hi to this pair of longtime customers, sent out four dark chocolate truffles anyway.  (Jesse! Those were the BEST EVER–THANK you!) …yes I ate my two, I couldn’t miss that, that’s part of why I skipped out on Kepler’s just in case, Crohn’s blahblahblah–SO worth it…

But my Richard said no to ordering dessert at Flea Street Cafe. THAT is when I should have been tipped off.  Totally.

Celebrating Amalie
Thursday December 11th 2008, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Friends

Don did look up my blog a day or two after  he got home from Trader Joe’s. He did read my entry about him and his beloved wife, who passed away November 11th.  And then he asked me if I would read the part of that entry about them at her memorial service the coming week.

I said absolutely–that he could hold it at 2 am and I’d be there in her honor and his.

And then my Crohn’s went bonkers.

When it’s like it was last Saturday, a single swallow of even water can create an effect like a bad case of stomach flu; fats make it worse. (An aside–I wouldn’t mention that here, except that I want to explain to the several kind people who offered me the cake that was chocolate in memory of Don and Amalie’s wedding cake back in the day.  I did think it was a wonderful way to celebrate her. It was hard to pass it up.)

But I was going to that celebration of life, and there was no way I was going to let a little thing like Crohn’s stop me.  I did give him a heads-up just in case, but I was going.  It eased up enough, and today, (thank you dear God!) after being extremely careful all week, I got to go hear stories on one of the good influences and good friends of my younger life.

I did have to chuckle at one woman’s asking me, before things got started, if I’d met Amalie at the Senior Center.  I didn’t tell her I was only 49, although part of me was tempted to grab onto that number and dangle it in protest, as if it weren’t 364/366ths of the way towards its expiration date.  I mean, I know the hair’s gray and that there are good plastic surgeons in California, but… Too funny.

I loved the story Don told of when he proposed: “Will you marry m”YES!!!”  He chuckled and said it was exactly like that.  To which I wanted to say, well, of course; Amalie knew a good thing.

Don, am I allowed to share the one about her not coming out at the “Here comes the bride” music being played in your friend’s living room because she was still trying to decide which wedding dress to put on?  The friend popped her head in the door, Amalie asked which one looked better, the friend pointed to the one on her (because, um…) and exclaimed, “THAT one!”

I hadn’t thought they had any children, but then, there weren’t waterproof hearing aids to wear at the pool back in the day; they had a son who is clearly as gentle a soul as his good parents.  He noticed that other people had someone to sit with whom they knew, and I did not, so he sat across a table from me and we shared a bit of the day together.  When I struggled to hear, he was entirely patient with that.

His good parents raised him well.

I dearly wish I could tell his mother that in person.

Although, in a way, I think I just did.

Gopher the long shot
Wednesday December 10th 2008, 6:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,My Garden

gopher plant roots give gophers poison ivyAfter writing a year and a half ago that we hadn’t had any gopher plants come up in years, this summer a seedling somehow popped up, so now I can show you what they look like.

Next, these cheerfully declare each year that December is for green and yellow in California.  They’re just starting to bloom, and they open up in the light each morning and then pull the blankets over their eyes at night. They totally charm me.  And if there should be a freeze, the plants look for awhile like all is lost–and then they grow right back up and bloom all over again, declaring the season theirs and not to be wasted.

My kind of plant.December blooms

I was on my way to the post office today and pulled over to snap what picture I could get, curious that one pond in the marshlands here was full of birds (enbiggen to see them) and the other had none in sight.  For whatever it’s worth, the one big fire we had in town last summer was at the city compost heap, that long low mound in the upper right.

I have a fondness for gophers, and I love how this last picture resembles the fur on one.   On the other side of the street and down a bit from where I pulled over to snap the baylands, there was a gopher mound.  One that made me laugh, albeit a tad ruefully, for its sheer ambitiousness: there was a paved bike path.  Then a grassy strip, then the two-lane access road I was on, then a busy freeway with eight lanes’ worth of pavement, and the mound was between the access road and that freeway.

egrets in the distanceI wondered how many times, tunneling under the path and then the two lanes, the gopher had tried to come up for air or to see if it could finish its tunnel yet and had hit hard pavement with its paws or head.  Nope, that doesn’t work. Keep going.  It had finally made it all the way to where there was soft dirt on top and green growing things and new flavors of roots to chew on.

Good thing it could go back to where it had come from.

I got a message out of the blue yesterday from a friend I hadn’t heard from since high school graduation.  Turns out she’d been looking for how to contact a classmate I’m in touch with who’s been quite ill and who I’m sure was thrilled at being offered pictures of them in first grade together.  Then today, another long-lost classmate sent me a hello too.  I tell you, in great delight: you CAN go back where you came from!

Homemade lemonade
Monday December 08th 2008, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

lemonading in December

I didn’t get this person today at the lab.  Someone else won.

One friend suggested hot tea for all that ails a person.  I don’t drink tea, but I could take that idea and run with it–I zapped and boiled a cup of water with a tablespoon of sugar.  Squeezed a lemon from the backyard tree.  Poured the syrup (calling it that is a bit of a stretch) into the lemon juice.  Voila: I didn’t cook the vitamin C out of the lemons, the sugar didn’t all sink to the bottom but was completely mixed throughout, and it was nice and warm and good on a chilly day. Tart, definitely tart.

My daughter in Vermont missed being able to go pick lemons out of the backyard any time as she pleased, so somehow she found her own Meyer lemon tree at a nursery.  She keeps it as an indoor plant most of the year.  And it produces.  In Vermont!  Cool.

suddenly craving cinnamon rolls

Meantime, the knitting gets a move on and one of the lab workers came over to see what I was making this time. The patient next to me asked, “Is it a gift?”  Yes.  And it put a smile on her face for whoever it might be for.  I wished on the spot I had one ready for her, too.

Export license
Sunday December 07th 2008, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

my tam from Afton

It’s kind of dangerous to post pictures of things friends have made for me because I can’t possibly fit everything in here–but it is all appreciated.

From my friend RobinM, quoted with permission:Kate and Deb\'s socks

“This morning I heard an interview with singer Tom Jones.  Members of the radio audience had submitted questions.  A woman said she had been to lots of Tom Jones concerts; no matter what mood someone was in when she went to the concert, she emerged with a smile.   What made him smile?

The yarn Laura dyed; Julia shawl patternHe said that he had been bedridden for a couple of years with TB.  He used to look out his window to see kids playing by a lamppost.  He told himself if he could ever get to that lamppost, he wouldn’t complain about a thing.  He’s never forgotten it.  What makes him smile is to sing and see the smiles on the faces of the audience.”

I loved this article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/04/AR2008120403537.html It states that someone had studied the effects of being happy on others: a shared guffaw, a smile, a thoughtful act.  I’d have been curious to follow them around to see exactly what their methodology was, to see for myself whether the presence of the researcher had contributed to the positive expectations: whether people felt they had to show the stranger that the kindnesses of their friends was important.  Curious.  But either way, they found that the ripple-on-the-pond effect goes out to three degrees of separation to people who didn’t even know nor see the originators, and that it can extend up to a year.

I would guess that it actually goes far longer than that, although I’m sure it depends on how you define it.  After all, just think of someone who went out of their way to do something uncommonly nice for you, and doesn’t it lift your spirits years and years after the fact? That teacher who believed in you.  The friend who gave up her time to listen when you needed it.  The stranger who smiled hi in passing on the day you most needed it.  That provides motivation, years after the fact, to go and do the same for someone else.Jasmin\'s socks

We knitters have an edge in all that.  What we make and give is a tangible reminder of how we feel about someone, a way to bless them over and over and over, bringing a smile to their face as they put the shawl to their back or socks to their feet, feeling warmed and thought about.

That’s powerful.

And hey, Jasmin, with the Crohn’s and lupus flares going on, I put on that second pair from the right today. I didn’t get to take you up on your hot cocoa offer yesterday, so I carried you around with me all day here instead.

Thank you all of you and to every person who comes to read my blog.  Much appreciated.

Eye dunno about that
Saturday December 06th 2008, 2:19 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort"

I was in the middle of working onWanda\'s Flowers shawl a post, and I’ll get back to it, and I’m throwing a gratuitous photo into this one of a Wanda’s Flowers shawl from “Wrapped in Comfort” because ’tis the season and it’s a really great book and I need people to buy lots of copies and you’ll love the stories and the shawls in it if you do, etc etc…

But I just had to laugh: the editor of Wired magazine spoke to a Silicon Valley group yesterday and talked about some of the latest and greatest high-tech stuff, and one item thrown out there had no context given to it–just the idea of it was apparently expected to excite the audience into thinking, oooh, cool!

And I just have to ask: who thought of this. Who would buy this.  WHY?  An electric mascara applicator.

To paint eyelashes on your VW Bug to make it cuter, or what?

Oh, that didn’t work
Friday December 05th 2008, 6:16 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

It took a minute to pull it together when I stumbled across where I’d put it down.  A flyer for my book, a plastic sleeve for it…

…Crum. Okay, so I must have gotten distracted while looking for a mailing envelope (which would be kept near the laundry, and there’s always laundry needing doing, and…)  Someone wanted that.  I was going to mail it to them. I have absolutely no memory of who or where they were. If that was you, I apologize!

I did find the cotton/cashmere and redid that one spot. My friend Nancy dropped by, looked at it, and she thought the sweater was okay, but I think it’s definitely a work-in-the-garden sweater now.  Or good for a walk in San Francisco along the wharf while the seagulls hope for a handout.

Gotta watch those flyers.

To the rescue
Thursday December 04th 2008, 3:06 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Jim\'s sweater Suffering from writer’s blog, and then I was surprised when the doorbell rang just now, rescuing me: Jim,  (written about here, here, here, here, here and here–he’s Nicholas’s dad) holding a sweater out sheepishly.  This was clearly one of his favorites, not to mention it’s pine-green-wearing time of year anyway; it’s the second year he’s brought it to me.  I assured him quickly before he even asked that I’d love to mend it for him and that it would only take me five minutes or so.

But notice I didn’t invite him in for those five minutes, and I’m pretty sure he was on his way to work at the university anyway.

What I didn’t want him to see was, yes, I can do a pretty good job of mending a small hole in his sweater–but often after several passes at it.  Take matching yarn and dissect one ply from the rest to have a thin enough strand.  Thread needle with it (is there any question that I’d have yarn?) and weave up and down, recreating the missing stitch while connecting it to the still-existing ones. Pat self on the back for doing a good job, check it from the right side to be sure, grumble, carefully undo work so as not to make the hole bigger in the process, rethread needle, try again.  Have the single ply shred due to lack of twist from having been freed from its mates–undo, try again.  And so on.Had a few too many

That’s the part I would just as soon skip having an audience for.  So.

The sweater looked in good shape otherwise, and I was surprised when I looked at the inside to find I’d mended not one but five holes the last time he’d brought it by.  I finished mending today’s and held the thing up.  Right side out again, you really couldn’t tell; I was pretty pleased with myself.

And then I saw it.  Oh, *that’s* going to leave a mark!  About half a dozen stitches and rows’ worth of a mothbite, probably a carpet beetle’s at that size.  I tried. I really tried.  Hey, Jim, did you know that you can throw an old sweater in the washer and dryer several times and then cut it up into really useful hotpads? In green, to match your Christmas decorations!

chest pains

No, I’m not ready to tell him that yet.  Writing this gave me my required five minutes of throwing up my hands at it, and now I’m ready to dive back in. Undo, ditch the baby alpaca–it has too bright a sheen to it for the wool for that big a space, it calls too much attention to itself–go find the cashmere/cotton that I used last time that’s a closer color match, and go try again. I can make this work.

A year forward
Wednesday December 03rd 2008, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Marguerite‘s mother spoke in church recently, detailing what her daughter had gone through, thanking God and every member of the congregation for their help, their love, and their prayers. For all the encouragement and hope that always seemed to come in at the moments it was most needed.  It was her daughter’s birthday, and her mother wanted to celebrate her good health out loud with us.

As she spoke, Marguerite was everybody’s daughter. She was already everybody’s friend.

Tuesday December 02nd 2008, 8:17 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

Tiny Tyrant’s comment made me guffaw and cry uncle: okay, I’ll post!

I got there a half hour early in case I might get any argument as to whether I actually had an appointment, given their system’s mess-up, and with the traffic, who knew how long it would take me anyway; rush hour here starts at 3:00 and I was scheduled for 3:25.  (That muffled sound you just heard was everybody in Vermont patting themselves on the back that they don’t live here, with their thick mittens on their hands and their lined overcoats drawn tightly around.)

It was quite crowded.  I plunked down on the floor while in the first line–I don’t do standing for long stretches very well, and it seemed at first as if this was going to be a very long one.  But it got going in good time.  As soon as I got out of that line, a man offered me his chair, which was very sweet of him, but he didn’t see that there was an empty one behind him.  I did.  So I would say we both won: we both got to experience his kindness, he got thanked for it, and we each got a chair.

It did feel very slow.  This is more due to the fact that I was obsessively clutching my F 143 number tightly in my hand so as not to have to start over and not get bumped to the non-appointment line–and that made it impossible to knit.  I had my ticket to speed.  But in all honesty, I was out ten minutes after my appointed time.  They simply wanted a new picture is all; the clerk knew no particular reason why.

Deportment of Motor Vehicles
Monday December 01st 2008, 2:47 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I’m casting on a smaller project to have a more portable one to throw in my purse while hoping that doesn’t mean I’ll run out of knitting to play with.  You never know.

Trade in an old decade or two and you get to report into the DMV in person.  They want to know: has anything on my license changed since they issued the original in ’87?

Well, the hair isn’t brown anymore.  And the height–I could stand an extra inch there, don’t you think?  How about that birthdate.  The ’50’s are so…so ’50’s.  I don’t even remember them anyway.  Bag it.

They now let you make appointments beforehand, supposedly so you don’t have to stand in long lines.  The automated phone system, though, wanted me to go to the Redwood City office–which happens to be closed.  It’s being remodeled.  I think I’ll try again.

On hold… I think whoever programmed their system to play an eight-second song while you wait was very, very optimistic.

Bag that. Try online.  Okay, got it, hit the confirm button–

–and get random computer squigglings.

Good old DMV.  Still its same old self.  After all these years, isn’t it good to see: it hasn’t changed a bit.

(Edited to add: the one back home in Maryland was pretty good, actually.)