We have specialists on staph
Thursday April 30th 2009, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life

TMI from a tired blogger:

The good part, I suppose, of looking up staphylococcus aureus (yowsers!) is that I’ve become even more obsessive about washing my hands. Rubbing my sleepy eyes after reading that article landed hard in the Thou Shalt Nots.

I went back to dermatology yesterday.   Then called the stoma nurse today: leaking bags waking me up in the middle of the night four times in one week on top of that still-there-staph aureus infection is kinda getting old.   Not to mention expensive–if I use too many in a month, I get to pay for the extras at about $30 retail a shot.

The stoma nurse pulled strings and has a different type of skin barrier being overnighted to me now as samples (bless her!) to try that hopefully won’t give way, and said the weeping skin won’t heal if the adhesive is being pulled off too often–keep it to every other day, no more.

The dermatologist says the skin needs an antibiotic gel applied twice a day in order to heal.

Uh, guys…

Just as I finished typing the above, the phone rang. It was a nurse from my husband’s employer, wanting to see how I’d been doing since February and could she help with anything?

So she is now going to confer with an infectious diseases specialist to see if she can get me any more information.  While I’m sitting here marveling at the out-of-the-blueness and the timing of her call. Wow.

imgp7545Meantime, some knitting is still actually going on over here, slowly but surely, on my new Grafton needles handmade in–I’ve come to really love the place–Vermont.

Short and sweet
Wednesday April 29th 2009, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Crohn's flare

imgp7546I spent today watching this little Picotee slowly open up.

Quite a few of my older amaryllis bulbs have been blooming with unusually short stems this year, including these two and the budding one lurking behind them.

They’re typically marketed as Christmas presents and bloom around the winter holidays on towering two- to three-foot stalks, their leaves lasting eight months or so.  Then you quit watering them, let them rest for one and a half to three months, start up again and wait for them to rebloom.  Rinse, rest, repeat.

I like to have some in full flower as far into the year as I can, so I stretch out the drying-out periods to stagger the timing; last year I had flowers all the way to the end of May.  Cool!

So. Around the middle of this past December, I did a mass watering of my several dozen older bulbs to get them started, knowing some would respond quickly, some slower.

But I was already three weeks into my Crohn’s flare, and as many know, it got bad fast after that. Carrying heavy pitchers of water around was something that got given up real fast. I worried about killing my bulbs off–one watering in the middle of five months?  But there was not a thing I could do about it.  And they just were not the first thing on anyone else’s mind during those days, as one might well imagine.

Mom eventually planted the ones Dad gave me for my birthday and took on the watering.

My older bulbs could have put all their energy into sheer survival mode, green only.  Some did. But some, with the beginnings of buds already formed inside the bulbs, were determined to bloom the moment it became possible, however  it could be done.

And those are the ones with the short stems now, giving it all they’ve got.imgp7550 A green hummingbird enjoyed them a few days ago.  And suddenly our roses are blooming en masse to celebrate spring too; I almost caught a honeybee in this picture.

Lene? The bulb you gave me a year ago started to send up its first two leaves right away, then they died off in the drought. I started watering it anyway when I could again.  It took it weeks to respond, long enough that I wasn’t sure why I was still trying, but now it’s got two unusually wide, healthy young leaves making up for lost time.

Amaryllises need four leaves producing food for the bulb for them to bloom the next year.

I can wait.

I’ve got all the time in the world now.

For a cup of coffee
Tuesday April 28th 2009, 8:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

My friend Kristine, whom some of you may remember from here after this happened and whom I first met when she lived in San Jose before she moved home to Vermont, lived and wrote this in a way that makes the world a better place. Don’t miss it.

Joel Forrester
Monday April 27th 2009, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends

imgp7540Our friends Glenn and Johnna bought a new house and invited a few friends over to see it last night. One fellow there whom I didn’t know looked at my gray hair and commented that he was right behind me. I told him, yeah, but I’ve already got the hearing aids and the cane–beat you!

What I didn’t know, is, he was Glenn’s friend from New York City who happened to study composition under Thelonius Monk. Joel Forrester, whose tune is the theme song for NPR’s Fresh Air, sat down at Glenn’s piano and launched into a performance on the spot for everybody.  Absolutely incredible.

Now, it was Sunday, and my family and I live by very old-fashioned ideas about not working and trying to live in such a way that we don’t make other people work on Sunday if we can possibly help it.  (Or for others, to honor whatever day they choose to celebrate their own Sabbath if we can.)  Which is why I told Joel I wanted to go to Amazon when it wasn’t Sunday anymore and buy all his CDs.

imgp7544He promptly handed me three along with his card, adding his autograph when I asked, and told me he lived by the honor system and to send him a check whenever the day felt right to me.

He will find that it was postmarked today.  And I happily have new music to jazz up my knitting time.

Sunday April 26th 2009, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Family

imgp7522(I’m throwing in some pictures that would have been in Friday’s post if I’d been home near my own computer. Our son Richard graduated with a minor in organ performance, and the chance to play on the Mormon Tabernacle Organ was his favorite professor’s graduation gift to his star pupil.)Mormon Tabernacle Organ

My husband’s boss let him take the time off to fly with me for the kids’ big day. This was a real gift, considering all the time Richard missed while I was ill–with, again, his boss’s insistence that he not feel guilty about spending every day at my bedside in the hospital. He did work from there on his laptop, at least.

Anyway, after the Convocation Thursday (the perp walk was by college the next day), there was a family trying to capture the day taking turns holding the camera, one person out of the photo each time. There was the younger kid, about 14, playing the standard role at that age of obnoxious  teasing little brother, and the parents and the older brother were trying hard to laugh it off and be patient and understanding in the crowds and in the emotional intensity of the day. (And when I say crowds, I counted about 100 empty seats in a building that seats 22,700. We weren’t going anywhere fast.)

Noticing them, I asked if they’d like me to take a picture and let them all be in it together. Oh! Yes! Thank you!

And then, being me, I stumbled as I tried to get them into the camera frame, and said, Here. You better let him do this, he’s steadier. Richard!  And Richard stepped over to snap it for them.

They all gave this posed-smile look and I thought, hey, we can do better than that: so I stood on my tippy-tippy-toes to give my 6’8″ husband bunny ears behind his back while he aimed the camera, grabbing the role of  the little brother for them. But do you know how hard it is to give bunny ears behind a tall guy wearing a fedora on his head?

It worked. They cracked up.  Best family shot ever, I’d say.

Friday April 24th 2009, 4:26 pm
Filed under: Family

Off in a few minutes to hear my son Richard play the Mormon Tabernacle Organ in Salt Lake City, with his wife and in-laws with us.

Celebrating the graduates
Thursday April 23rd 2009, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Family

Lots of snow up in the tops of the mountains, the perfect weather here far down below, with blossoms on the trees that in our own climate were gone over a month ago and all of it celebrating with us–what a perfect day.

Took the kids and my folks out to dinner tonight to the kids’ favorite restaurant, an Indian one where they all love the food and where Michelle can easily enjoy a meal out without wondering about the ingredients; the staff knows her and they know her dairy allergy.

She told me they had gone out of their way quite a few times for her, that they had offered to make her items not on the menu and had been willing to give her points on how to cook like they do, sharing enthusiasms over this method here and that spice there.  They had been careful in taking good care of her–creating a new twist on the phrase that whom you serve, you love.

The fact that the manager afterwards made a point of telling me she would be missed was quite something to me. He totally made my day.

Packing yarn
Wednesday April 22nd 2009, 12:56 pm
Filed under: Family

Well. I had a blog post all planned yesterday: I often tell people in colder climates that I miss snow, to please throw a snowball for sheer glee for me if they would. Granted, it’s easy to miss the stuff when you don’t have to shovel it, I know–I was having to toss shovelfulls higher than the top of the garage just before we moved away from Merrimack.

What prompted all that is that I checked the weather forecast a few days ago: snow showers coming in Provo.  SNOW? *NOW*?

imgp7506So I was wondering how on earth I was going to… I mean, my shoes are of the open-heel Birkenstock clog type good for Californian weather, definitely.  Can you just picture it? With each step, the snow would go flip, flip up the backs of my legs. I’d be throwing my own little snowballs. At me.

I checked again last night, though, and the forecast had changed. If it does anything, now, they say, it’ll  rain.  Well. That’s better, but it killed my anticipated blog post.  Heh. And then Phyll and Lee showed up to surprise Richard for his late-birthday and I quit worrying about it.

Five years ago, our Sam graduated from college and I bought plane tickets to go: nontransferrable, nonrefundable, yadda yadda. Two days before the flight, I started to have a Crohn’s flare. Oy vey. I hoped it would let up. It did not.

So I called Southwest Airlines and explained my situation.  They were wonderful and let me transfer my ticket into Richard’s name in spite of the restrictions, and he went instead of me on that trip.

We have two kids graduating this weekend.  My colon is gone, so it can’t even think of throwing any Crohn’s at me; it’s my turn. Tie a snip of thick bright yarn on my suitcase to help mark it as mine at baggage claim–I get to go.

And if it does snow, I will scoop some up and throw my own real snowball, and it’ll be gleeful. After these last few months?  Oh you betcha.

(Ed. to add: happy Earth Day to all.)

Phyll and Lee
Tuesday April 21st 2009, 11:50 pm
Filed under: Friends

Friends dropped by. Raspberry brownies (yum!) that they brought for Richard’s birthday (a day late, but they came out of the oven at 11 pm last night) were happily consumed, the conversation was a treat as well, and that’s about as far as I could get for a blog post for tonight.  It was wonderful.

Afghan and again
Monday April 20th 2009, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

imgp7502So much to say. I can’t do justice to any of it.

I want to say how my friend Lisa, 20 years ago, decided she and I should go visit John at Children’s, that we did once a week while he was in there and how we got to have the joy of watching him coming back.  How the day Highway 880 was on almost total shut-down from an accident, the one day John’s mother Nanci couldn’t get through–Lisa had previously been a cop in Hayward and knew all the back roads.  She and I got our visit in, not knowing his mom was still stuck back there on the freeway.  It helped her later to find out he hadn’t been left alone after all.

Our time and sense of purpose together during that is what deepened our friendship to where, when I was diagnosed with lupus a year later, she was willing to volunteer to take my preschoolers every morning so I could go do swim therapy. She asked if I would then watch hers while she worked out.  Tara’s Redwood Burl shawl story in my book?  We’re talking about that Lisa.imgp7500

imgp7484I want to say how stunned I was to sign today for a package from Canada and find another afghan!!! and then, not only that, it was not one but TWO afghans made from squares people had started knitting in January via a Ravelry group to try to wish me back to good health.  Thank you, everybody, and especially Anne for putting all of those together.  (And for chocolate!)  All the well wishes, and arriving on the day I saw my surgeon, whom I adore, for a follow-up… Wow. What can I say? Wow.  How could anyone be anything but well after that?imgp7490

And it was kind of funny, because for a moment there when I gave my surgeon her black cashmere shawl as I’d waited so long to be able to do, it was almost as if she might protest something silly like I am not worthy!

And now here I sit feeling myself precisely in her shoes. Wow. What I haven’t said on the blog, is, I had that allergic reaction but also a staph infection on top of it and we’re still fighting it.  The afghans are a great comfort–this little bit of illness now is nothing.  I WILL get over this.

I’ve only begun to look at that Ravelry site. I want to savor it, I want to take it in, I want to soak up each post.  But for just this moment I can’t give it what it so much deserves, because I’ve got so much to do because I need to bake a cake and go to the grocery store and and and…

I want to say happy birthday to my Richard!  Maybe that’s why there were two afghans  in there?  Wow.  (You see? I can’t possibly do justice to all these subjects at once.)

imgp7503And especially because.  (Wishing her amaryllises from afar.) Kay of Mason-Dixon Knitting just lost her husband after a brief illness, someone far too young to go.  (But. But. NO. *I* got better, so everybody else should too!)  I am so sorry for her loss and her children’s.

Love your dear ones.  Life is so terribly short sometimes.

And thank you all for loving me so dearly and so knitterly and so well.  I am utterly gobsmacked. Again.

So much to say…

And look at him now
Sunday April 19th 2009, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

In church today, the women’s group was having a discussion about the value of service.

One friend, probably prompted by a wedding invitation that had just arrived in the mail, brought up the memory of John T’s accident.  Of all the things people had done to rally around his family.  Of how much of a difference it had made to everybody to be actively involved in praying and in reaching out to try to make the burden easier on the parents, who were driving to Children’s Hospital in Oakland, 70 minutes each way across the worst of Bay Area traffic,  every day for three months.  (This is before they added Lucile Packard Children’s onto Stanford.)  Of how close everybody felt to everybody.

I looked around and realized how few of the people in the room had lived here long enough to carry memories of that terrible time.  John had been 12, crossing a busy street near his home one afternoon on the green (his brother was with him) and they had been hit by an older woman who was too drunk to know she’d hit them, much less that her light had been red.

His brother had a broken leg, but John…  Somehow, he was still alive, at least, but there was no medical expectation that he would ever be anything more than that again.

But he was one of the lucky few who beat the odds. He woke up from his coma after six weeks, not remembering even his family. He had to relearn everything.

They said he wouldn’t walk, they said he wouldn’t talk, but he did.  Twenty years later, he still has a slight limp and it frustrates him that he’s a little slow at times, but he’s a good, kind soul, the kind who, when you meet, you instantly know you are in the presence of a friend.

There was intense joy when he was able to go off to college, and now those invitations showing up are happily announcing his coming wedding.

The woman teaching today’s lesson, someone younger who hadn’t been here back in the day, thought she was going to change the subject now. But I raised my hand and told a part of the story the others didn’t know:

About ten or twelve years afterwards, I was stopped in the dark on that same road within a block of where John had been hit.  It was a drunk driver checkpoint, and cops were checking out each car one by one.  There was quite a backup.

I thought about it. It took me a few days. But the feeling would not let go of me, and I finally sat down and wrote a letter and put it in the mailbox to the police department in town, telling them thank you for that checkpoint and telling them  it was so important to me that they do that. I knew they got a lot of flack for those, and I wanted to be a voice of support.

And then I said why.  I ended it by saying John had beaten the odds and was in college now.

I got a letter back. It was from the then-chief of police. He told me this:

I am the cop who had to go knock on that child’s door and tell his parents what had happened to him.

And I never knew how it all came out.

Thank you.

Saturday April 18th 2009, 7:00 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Knitting a Gift

There was a photo in the paper yesterday of tree pieces being cut up and removed from the roadway after a heavy windstorm the other day.  My outside amaryllises, however, being used to a bit of breeze out there, somehow did just fine.  It did help that they had an awning overhead and two outside walls of the house for shelter, but still.  Not such a fragile plant after all, if you give it a little experience with the elements of life.  These, even though they had buds starting to open that would easily catch like a sail the wider they got, gave way in the wind just enough to still stay upright and no more.  I know–I was watching them nervously and debating bringing them in.  But they seemed okay.

And then there was a green hummingbird at my tall one today! I was afraid to move, then finally reached for my camera, at which point it of course skittered away.


So I tried to get a picture to at least show you the flower it had gone to.  At first, standing on my tiptoes with my arms held high over my head, I got this, which gave me a pretty good hummingbird’s-eye view as it zeroed in.

And then, looking up from ground level, this:


Well, okay, but I really wanted a good shot of that flower, so I tried standing imgp7475on a chair.

We’re getting there.

Oh, and: my surgeon’s shawl is blocked, yarn ends run in and trimmed, and ready to go. The cashmere seems so fragile to me! I keep telling myself that all knitted up into a fabric like it is now is much different from testing a strand held taut to break it; the finished shawl has a greater strength and resilience than how the yarn alone immediately seems.

He’s home now
Friday April 17th 2009, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Friends

Jack came home from Children’s Hospital today. I know because his mother rang my doorbell just before it got dark tonight to come tell me thank you for the koala, the flowers, and for being the friend and neighbor she’d needed.

I reminded her that Susan had made the  koala, and she knew; she said her husband had brought it to the hospital to cheer their son up with last night after I gave it to him.

I made the offer to bring friends from church to help with the packing.  It turns out their moving company, for insurance reasons, requires that they do all of that, but she appreciated the offer.

Her taking the time to think of me and come over, baby in arms, meant the world to me.  His smile did too, most definitely, especially after what he’d just gone through.  I just wish they weren’t moving away!

Susan couldn’t have known
Friday April 17th 2009, 12:03 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

Susan’s koala bear that I mentioned the other day came through the mail uncommonly fast .  But I was starting to fight a cold and hesitated to touch it or take it across the street quite yet, and gave it a few days–that, and, their cars just seemed not to be around.

The mom’s wasn’t when I took the amaryllis flower over there, either, come to think of it.

Yesterday I looked at their empty driveway and thought, did they already move back to Ireland? But it was supposed to be the end of the month!  So when the dad’s car showed up, I decided I’d better get that bear to him while I knew I could. My sniffles were better, thank goodness.

He loved it. I told him it was from a thrilled new grandma whose love was spilling over and she wanted to share it with them.  The young dad, so far from home, was touched and grateful and thought it was so cute.

And then he opened up at last and told me his son was in the hospital with kidney problems and vomiting and had had a 105 degree fever.

Oh goodness. I told him my Sam had once had a 105.2 and it was terrifying; I so hoped his son would heal quickly.  And then I went home and prayed for little Jack. I’ve been thinking since then that I need to offer to help feed the dog and to offer to gather up volunteers from church to help  do their packing for them if they need it.  Anything to support them at such a painful time.

Wow.  The timing.  Susan, your knitted koala was not only a cute toy, it became the means by which that family had neighbors present for them to care about them and their son in a moment they needed it badly.

There are no small acts of kindness. Sometimes life shows you just how powerful a little gesture really is. THANK you, Susan!!

Tire painting
Thursday April 16th 2009, 4:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

imgp7454To answer Birdy–here’s my been there done that:

My kids once got into not the food coloring but the fabric paint.  Whichever child it was never got caught. But nothing I could do could clean the green (Lorelei would be so proud) fingerpainted smears off the front of the white bathroom cabinet.

I threw all the tubes out after that–I didn’t ever use the stuff anyway and it clearly wasn’t worth the hazard to my house.  Replacing that cabinet when we remodeled was simply the only way we found to clean up that mess that worked.

So. One of Sam’s first-grade friends was moving away and gave her a box of stuff including, you guessed it, a tube of fabric paint.  In bright red.   I said no, and tossed it straight in the trash.

The trashmen somehow dropped it out of there while going about their job. I found this out when I pulled into my driveway later that day, and–picture this.  With my deafness. Inside my car. With the motor still on.  And the windows up. I HEARD that four ounce tube explode when the tire hit it!

Bright red, and splattered in tiny droplets all across the front of the house; Jackson Pollack would be so proud.

I was wearing a brand new outfit I very much liked. Oh well. I ran into the house at top speed for a wet towel, knowing I didn’t have time to change, and then scrubbed as fast as I could, hoping hard not to have to have my entire house repainted.

My outfit was toast.  Paint from the towel had swiped onto it, Cat-in-the-Hat style, but that was small potatoes to the could-have-beens.  One last drop was left on the house, dried hard before I could get to it, but it was tiny. There were a few red spots on the otherwise-berryless male holly bush.

I got off easy that time.

(Suddenly thinking, as the daughter of a modern art dealer, gee, I could set off a whole artistic trend with this post, couldn’t I?)