The best of April 15th
Wednesday April 15th 2009, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Family

A new day, two doctor appointments, making progress.  After I posted yesterday,  LynnH reminded me, “Alison–you’re ALIVE!”   She was right, and she even got me to laugh over a glitch in the TurboTax software. (When one is trying to enter copyright royalties, do not give the author or artist a screen about rental properties as the next logical step. I’m just sayin’.) Anybody who can make me chuckle over taxes…

…Speaking of which.

Two years after we got married, we knew we had to finish ours early because life was about to get very busy.  Richard was preparing to defend his master’s thesis; that was one thing.

When they told him when he was scheduled to do it, he pleaded for an extra month, which they granted him–because Sam was supposed to show up that week. That was the other little thing.

EveSam arrived on a snowy April 15 and started teaching us what this parenthood thing was all about.  Never was there a baby so perfectly adorable.

My grandmother had been a concert pianist and had taught music at the University of Utah (before women were even allowed to vote!) Our Sam, at four months old, lay in her baby carrier at Gram’s, waving her arms and legs in perfect time to the piano being played. That’s our girl.

I learned what ipecac is when, at 13 months, she scrambled up a chair when my back was turned and snarfed the tomato plant I had in the window; Poison Control recommended I give her the stuff. I’d never heard of it.  In that case, they said, hie thee to the ER, fast.

A week later, I learned how awful it is as a parent to hear your 13-month-old screaming in a room where the parents weren’t allowed in as they x-rayed her fractured skull after she’d climbed up again.  She’d fallen backwards onto the concrete floor of our apartment as I’d raced to grab her to get her down.  No. You do not climb up on the furniture.

Yes I do, she thought, just watch me.

She was our crash course in handling this stuff.

She taught us we could be wise: she ducked her head suddenly into the tub during a bath one day and came up terrified and screaming.  Water was not her friend. That bathtub was her enemy. She fought it with everything she had–till the day,  a couple of weeks later, that her daddy put her favorite toys in the tub. And then her.

She screamed and she fought, as we expected, and then–she stopped.

There was no water in the tub.

Oh, okay. That’s cool!  And so she played with her toys while I did everything I could to make it the Most Fun Time Ever.  After that she had no fear of the tub or water again.  Done with that, moved on.

She grew up to be a kid who could handle pretty much anything.

AnyaAnd one who (ask Anya here) makes better hot chocolate, out of melted chocolate barely diluted, than even Coupa Cafe.  We got spoiled daily when we visited her and her husband last November.

About a year and a half ago, they decided they wanted a cat, and went to their local no-kill rescue center.  They fell in love with the cute black kitten; they got asked if they would take this other one also, since they were attached to each other? More on the cats here.


Sam often jokes about what her cats would do if only they had opposable thumbs; opening the can opener would just be the start.  Me, I’m thinking I’d teach my grandcats to knit. Anya, though–she’s fast and she’s smart.  Give her the taxes to do: the IRS forms would make as much sense to her as anyone.


Cut a paste
Tuesday April 14th 2009, 7:11 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Friends


When my folks were raising us six kids, there was a day when Mom hauled my brother to the emergency room–Washington, DC is not a small town–and the receptionist looked up and smiled, “Oh hello, Mrs. Jeppson. What is it this time?”

I heard that story from Mom when I called her 26 years ago wailing, “Do kids survive childhood!” after my baby, my first, 13 months old and a determined climber, had ended up in the ER two Fridays in a row.

Mom laughed and reminded me of all the things I’d done that had helped lead up to that receptionist’s question.

But I dunno. When you call the hospital (this was today) and the person who answers recognizes your voice…

Two and a half months ago, after my surgery, they told me that some ileostomy patients eventually become allergic to the standard skin protectant they were using.  Hopefully I wouldn’t be one of them.

And I thought, my stars, have you ever met my feral immune system? It is NOT housebroken!

Two and a half months.  The fungal and yeast tests came back negative, the allergy patch flaming. That stoma paste is SO busted.  There’s an expensive alternative, and my insurance is just going to have to take it.  (I know,  I know, given January, we’ll all weep for them.)

You guys out there in the industry, creating Eakins and the like, you’d better keep researching and inventing fast, because at this rate I’m just plain hosed.

I think I’ll go wrap me up in a blanket for which I am exceedingly grateful to my friends and knit. Something complicated that will require a lot of focus.

Koala-tree console deportment
Monday April 13th 2009, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

imgp74521Reader Susan to the rescue: she sent a knitted koala for the neighbors whose baby got locked in the car. Big enough to be safe for a little one, soft, cute, easy to hold and cuddly.  What Susan probably didn’t know is, remember my tiger? (He’s in this post too.)  My sister got a koala at the same time, so, koalas bring back happy childhood memories for me; I wish she could have seen the smile on my face as I opened the box up. (Wow, that came fast!)

And now Jack will have a little bit of America to take home to Ireland that is small enough to easily go in a suitcase or be tucked down the side of his carseat onboard. Cool. Thank you, Susan!

Happy Easter!
Sunday April 12th 2009, 2:03 pm
Filed under: Friends,My Garden

imgp7447That red amaryllis yesterday? That photo was taken right before I cut it. The young mom and her family across the street are about to move home to Ireland, and it seemed to me that a large, bright flower to help cheer them while they pack and get ready and that won’t take up any suitcase space seemed just the thing.

Meantime, these will offer a wave hi at them from our side of the street.

Happy Easter!

(Ed. to add, in the proper tradition of the season, we can’t forget the Peeps, with apologies for the ad at the beginning. #30, of the Metro subway in DC, is my personal favorite.)

Stanford scarves
Saturday April 11th 2009, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Knitting a Gift

imgp7440Amanda, I totally guessed it: the nurse I expected picked out the scarf from the yarn you gifted me with in Vermont. The colors were just right.

I had an appointment at Stanford’s outpatient ostomy unit yesterday, and you know what I showed up with in my knitting bag, hoping again to get to see some more of my old nurses.  And I did.

The whole time I was knitting Amanda’s Huarache yarn I kept thinking how good it would look on A.  And now it does.  Cool.

Two other nurses chose their favorites, and the bright green still waits for P; they told me she’ll be in next week.

But what most delighted them was simply getting to see me walking in there and looking well.  It was fun watching the doubletakes, followed by the hugs in intense delight.  Seeing me well validates what their work is all about.  Seeing me coming back to show them I am well now validates who they personally are and how they go about their day as they do what they do.  They care. It shows.  In return, their patients really do care about them too.

So I’ve been picturing them wearing their scarves the rest of their shifts yesterday. Maybe someone asked them where those suddenly came from in the middle of the day. Maybe another patient decided that they might come back later to say thank you too, seeing how happy it was making their nurse.

Maybe. I don’t know. But, knitting as love made just a little more visible: I can hope.

Part two
Friday April 10th 2009, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Friends

To tell the rest of the story:

I think, re the car rental company, it was just one clueless twit who happened to be the one that answered the phone there.  Can you just see the newspaper headline telling what he’d done?  Can you imagine corporate headquarter’s reaction?

My first draft of yesterday’s post was indignant for a different reason, though: the tow truck driver had decided to come after all, had roared up fast behind the parked firetruck, and the guy had leaped out and run to the other side of the car with his own tool while the firemen were working at opening the passenger-side door, standing closer to the mom.  The tow guy beat the fireman by less than a minute.

I noticed the fireman kept going at it till he too succeeded–he’d started the job for that woman and he was going to finish it.

The tow driver came over and whispered a hint at the fireman after both sides were open–the driver’s side works better and faster. Okay.

And then the tow guy waited till the firemen and I had left, which to me later meant so the young mom wouldn’t have the emotional support of the rest of us telling him he was out of line, because I saw him then approaching her door with a clipboard: his bill for her to sign.

When he had previously told a distraught mom he couldn’t help her, and when she was so obviously already being helped when he’d raced in.

So yes, the firemen opened the door without breaking the window.  And they were wonderful to the mom and the baby.

The tow guy seemed embarrassed by her show of emotions, weeping as she at last reached for her crying son and held him close. Or maybe he was embarrassed at himself.

I was pretty indignant. But my husband came home just as I was typing up the original post and calmed me down by trying to present it from the tow truck driver’s point of view: he might have been tied up. And then he got this call. The mom was upset. A baby was locked in a car.  That’s something he could do something about.  He finished what he had going on as fast as he could and came running to help, sorry he’d said he wouldn’t, and the firemen weren’t succeeding so he stepped in and helped.

And if I were really kind (and a little more naive than I am), I’d believe that it was indeed all selflessness on his part rather than hoping not to be thwarted in grabbing a quick buck.  Yeah, I wish… But I was grateful to Richard for reminding me not to judge and to look for the good in others. I thought that was my job!

Yeah right.  Dang. The guy’s actions still annoy me. Maybe they shouldn’t. Eh.

But I was right when I sat down and wrote about how wonderful the firemen  and firewoman were to the mom and her baby boy–that’s the real story. That’s the part that matters.  They helped not only with the mechanics of the door lock, but to comfort two people who so much needed what they had to offer.

Baby on board
Thursday April 09th 2009, 6:30 pm
Filed under: Friends

I was on the phone on hold. On holdonholdonholdonholdyourcallisnotreallyimportanttousorwewouldanswerit borrrrrrringgggggg…

I have got to come up with a way to hold a phone close enough to my ears so I can hear on it while being able to knit. I already always have it on speakerphone as I hold it up.  There’s got to be a way.

I glanced out my window; the young mom across the street was standing looking in the window of her new car. That was a bit odd.

And still was a few minutes later.  (Still on hold.)

And still was a few minutes later. (Still on hold.)

I hung up on the voicelessmail and went over there to see if I could help. I’d guessed right; her baby was locked in there. Her own car, you couldn’t do that, but this was a rental and you could.

She’d called the rental company.  They told her it would be at least an hour and were not the least bit moved by a crying small baby locked in a car.  Could a friend go and pick up a spare key from them? No.  She called a tow truck; he said he couldn’t get to her anytime soon either.  Bag that. She called 911, and the firemen and a firewoman were wonderful and came straightaway.  They had the equipment to hopefully unlock the door, but said they would break a window if need be. The mom said fine. They agreed with her that her baby was all that mattered; he was pretty distraught in there.

I was impressed at how gentle they were with the mom.  The older of the men told her he’d done that too once back in the day with his own baby.  The firewoman smiled at the baby and told the mom how cute he was.  They not only helped her with her car, they helped her feel supported in a situation that was very hard on her.

Good folks.  I was impressed.

And the knitter in me is wondering what to make her small son to help her feel better…

On pins when needless
Wednesday April 08th 2009, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

While I look for that one last piece of paper so I can mail the forms off…

A note from someone sparked this memory. That and the fact that one of our kids was born April 15 and I am hunting for that stray piece of paper.

My husband and I had a small infant, our first, when we were invited to a wedding reception.  His friend getting married had grown up near Richard’s grandmother, who lived in a tiny town up in the mountains above Salt Lake City.  You remember the buffalo and the fence story? When I suddenly learned how fast and how high I could jump?  Yes, that friend.  Zane.  So.

We asked Grandma if she’d be willing to take her great-grandchild for an hour or two for us; as a very new mom, it was hard to be away from my baby for any longer than that.  We’d be close by if there were a problem. She said sure.

Velcro was still a pretty new thing back then. There was a woman in the town we were living in who these days would be on Etsy, who sewed up her creations for the local baby-goods store: cotton diapers shaped to fit a baby and that closed up with velcro.

I made a point of having those diapers on Sam so that it would be easy on Grandma. No fine-fingered maneuvers for elderly hands to have to worry about, just press together and go, although, I was hoping we’d be gone a short enough time that changing the baby wouldn’t be an issue anyway. I made a point of showing Grandma the velcro and explaining it to her, just to make sure she was familiar with it. She nodded, yes, yes, got it, okay.

Or maybe not so okay.  We had a grand time at the wedding, picked up our baby for the drive home, and thanked Grandma profusely.

She seemed less than pleased.  I asked if the baby had behaved well for her?  Yes…

It wasn’t till some time later that I found out that she was not happy with us at all. How could we have left her with a baby to take care of–and no diaper pins! She’d had to search and SEARCH and search till she’d found the diaper pins she’d used on HER babies.

I found there were these huge pins going right through the thick velcro. It must have taken her quite a bit of effort to push them through it.

And as I look for that silly (why is this one necessary!) paper to keep the IRS happy, I picture my late grandmother-in-law looking and looking for those pins…

CSNY yarn
Tuesday April 07th 2009, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Knit

imgp7429Thank you everybody for all the kind words and support re my aunt’s passing.  It has been much appreciated.

Today: a doctor’s appointment.  The Casbah scarf was done.  So many projects needing doing all at once, all of them important to me, so many people to knit for, how to choose…  One particular someone in mind, it was a mystery to me what color she’d like best–but she’s a knitter, so I looked up her favorite colors on her Ravelry profile. (I know. That’s cheating. Heh.)

I dithered some more anyway and balled up hanks so they’d be ready to cast on with whenever the mood might strike. This one. That one. Love merino/silk by Blue Moon: would the Silkie stand up to the constant laundering a new mother would do? Would it survive being a baby’s favorite blanket?  Depends on how dedicated the mother is to a handknit–I didn’t know.  But I do know what kids can do. Maybe a shawl for the mom out of it… Maybe.   I flipped the rolled ball back in the bag.

imgp7417The clock kept ticking and I just grabbed whatever felt right right then and went.

I knitted and waited for the (new) nurse to call my name–and got a few extra stitches in before I realized that “Hiddee” (she’s lucky I heard that) meant “Hyde.” Oh.  Right.  Hiddee/Us.

It was amazing to me how, once it was apart from the rest of the stash, the yarn in my hands there, which I’d debated and debated over,  once I was actually working with it, it was like, well yes: what else could I possibly have chosen?  Clearly.  This is it!

Sing it with me: love the yarn you’re with.

My aunt
Monday April 06th 2009, 6:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

imgp7271My Aunt Rosemary passed away this afternoon after a long fight with cancer.  My mother flew home last week and went to her older sister’s house right away and had a good visit with her, telling us afterwards that she was surprised at how energetic Rosemary was.

And I thought, yes.  Been there.  When you are very ill and then someone shows up who loves you, it is a very strengthening thing, both physically and emotionally.

Two days later, Rosemary had a stroke and was unable to speak, so we’re very glad Mom got that time with her when she did and the chance to create the memories she now shares of that day with two of Rosemary’s daughters.

The world will be a quieter place without Rosemary’s storytelling. She will be missed.

Okay, that’s better!
Sunday April 05th 2009, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Knit

(Background to the left: Robert’s medicine blanket.  Here’s a shot that does a little more justice to the colors of my afghan.)

As for the black shawl.  I weighed my yarn carefully after my pattern repeats, wanting to make sure I didn’t launch into more than I could finish. It was so close; if I continue in pattern to do one more repeat, with the yarn at hand I should be able to get through about a third of the cast-off row.  Um.  Timgp74031hat doesn’t work. I could add a different edging with fewer rows.  But it would break up the visual effect.  Jasmin offered to help me out, dye lot match and all, but I’ve been thinking the shawl is probably (hopefully) long enough now anyway.  But I wasn’t sure.

So while I was dithering, hey, what’s the best way to think a problem out?  Every knitter reading this is laughing that I should even ask.  Right.  So.

While I was at Stanford earlier this week, the charge nurse chose the dark teal Casbah scarf. I had enough left on the skein to make a second, and it leaped onto my needles this afternoon in a simple pattern–the one from the body of the Michelle pattern in my book, with an extra stitch knit plain each side, cast on 27–simple patterns making it easier to let the mind wander and figure out other problems. Like how to finish off the black shawl.

It’s so good to be back into knitting. And I mean really knitting. Finally!

Getting going again!
Saturday April 04th 2009, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

It was time to get a knit on!

(I wondered if I could get a good picture of the colors and the deep black in the same photo. The answer is not yet.)

I knitted scarves for all those nurses, and meantime, the larger project I’d started had been put aside.  Black laceweight in a fairly fragile cashmere (fragile as compared to, say, the tensile strength of baby alpaca, the fiber I knit with the most often) is a bit of a challenge to work with. If you remember thisimgp73942 you’ll know I am perfectly capable of dropping stitches in dark colors and not seeing till I go to block the thing.  This project would be far harder to repair and take far more hours if I had to frog and redo.  So the knitting on the black shawl for my surgeon was going very carefully. Very slowly. And for about a week there, not at all.

But with my new get-well afghan in my lap, how could I not be inspired?  Given how very thrilled I am at being on the receiving end of it, my desire to create that same thrill at being thought about and cared about like that has given me the push I needed to really get going.  I’ve done a huge amount of work on this shawl the past two days.

from LynnHMeantime, the block in one corner has LynnH‘s handdyed yarn with a tiny heart and a sock appliqued on the square, and inside the sock, a note-in-a-bottle effect in ocean-colored yarn.

Haven’t figured out how to do that in the shawl. I guess I’ll just have to leave it plain.

The afghan their love made
Thursday April 02nd 2009, 6:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life,LYS

A few weeks ago, a customer at Purlescence asked me how I liked the afghan.


Apparently, uh, oops.

imgp7378And then a few people on KnitTalk started mentioning it: Elizabeth had been gathering knitted squares from folks who wanted to wish me well and a speedy recovery, starting back in January when things were so very bad.  Elizabeth told me last week the result was now finally on its way.

I promised not to peek at her blog.

(Did you peek?)  That was really hard! (I didn’t, though.)

Today, the mailman went past. No box. Just like yesterday.  Just like the day before.  The UPS guy let me be disappointed just long enough, and then, tadaaah!imgp7386


And just, wow.

Sitting on top inside was a large ball of silk yarn from, a lavendar pillow, and, wrapped in gray silk, a stack of cards and notes offering hopes for my return to good health and expressing a great deal of love, over and over, as I opened the envelopes.

imgp7389There are ninety squares in this afghan.  Some knitters wrote; some let their stitches state plainly and clearly what they were feeling.   Some squares came with stories, some of them were the stories.

All the yarns are soft.  They match up beautifully together, and if you’ve ever tried to knit squares of different yarns to the same size, even just one knitter working alone, you know how hard it is to get the sizes to match. And yet, in Elizabeth’s hands and everybody else’s, these all came together just so.

imgp7388Elizabeth’s mother did a square that I’m sorry to say the post office has yet to find.  The afghan came up one short. Elizabeth’s husband knitted his first item to make the last square. I don’t need to tell her this, but he’s a keeper.

This last photo is a shout-out to Robinfre, who’s been signing her emails with these words for all the years I’ve known her: she gave me my best laugh of the day!

And now I’m off to Purlescense for Knit Night–and where 37 of the 90 squares were knitted and contributed when I wasn’t looking.

(p.s. Ed. to add: Jasmin and Gigi with their Knitmore Girls podcast got the word out for the squares being collected at Purlescence.  Thank you!)


A piano, a violin, and nurses at Stanford
Wednesday April 01st 2009, 5:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Russ was one of two musicians playing in the Bing Concert Series at Stanford Hospital this afternoon.  A good excuse to go back to visit. I got there a little early.

Stanford atrium(I brought my camera but forgot to use it; this is an old picture.)  Before Russ arrived, a doctor I knew came down those long stairs with some others; I called out his name and he did a doubletake. In great excitement he dropped everything and sat down next to me and asked how things were going and exclaimed over how good I look now. He couldn’t get over it.

He’d been my hospitalist six years ago when he was very new in the job, and again in January and February.  He’d seen me very, very ill, twice. He’d never seen me well.  It totally made his day.

Then a few minutes later, after Dr. D left, again, two doctors were walking by, coming from the other direction this time and towards the stairs, and I recognized one of them.  My face lit up and I did a small wave hi as he glanced towards me.

And then I laughed to my friend Mary sitting there as he glanced back away, “He doesn’t recognize me when I’m healthy!” At that, hearing my voice, Dr. C suddenly got it. He, too, stopped, left the other doctor, came over, and wanted to know how I was doing and wanted to exclaim over how well I looked.  “You had that surgery, didn’t you?”  Well, yes.  He was one of the ones who’d listened to me saying I wanted to give the Humira time to work, that I was so sure it would.  Well, hey.  It didn’t. And look at me now.

Waiting for Russ, the violinist came over to me and said, “You look familiar.” It took me a moment, so it wasn’t till after the concert was over that I got a chance to say to him, simply, “Marguerite’s celebration of life.”

“THAT’S it!”

And all of ours too that day, I thought. All of ours too.

Then it was time to go try to visit my nurses.  They either weren’t on duty today, or I just didn’t find them.  At one nurse’s station, the woman there looked me up one side and then deliberately down the other and pronounced that no, she could not tell me what day P might be on duty for me to come back to say hi.

Well, that was interesting.  I could just imagine P’s reaction to that.

Then, since I’d been a patient in three different departments, I tried the next one.  I had much better luck there; while I was asking, the charge nurse, who’d never had direct care of me while I was in, nevertheless recognized me, came up behind me and said, “I know you!” And to the woman at the nurse’s station, “This lady wrote a book!  She knits all these lovely things!” (I was wearing a Constance shawl, tied in front.)

Which is how she got first choice of ten lace scarves, only, not the bright green, it was promised to P. She took the Casbah dark teal in great delight; “For ME?!”  You betcha.  I wasn’t going to tell her that the lady downstairs kind of sealed it for her: you’re glad I’m here, I’m glad I have something that it turns out I’d knit just for you.  Thank you for making my day and remembering me.  Good for you.

She told me where to find C, the one nurse I already knitted for while I was still in the hospital. C was with a patient; I waited at the station awhile, then went over and stood outside the patient’s room, telling myself I didn’t want to get in the way while getting more in the way.

C glanced out the door. She saw me.  She did a doubletake as I smiled a yes, you! at her.  Her eyes got big and she came out and we threw our arms around each other.

I almost said, Wait. You’re supposed to be about a foot taller. I was always looking way up at you!  We were both laughing for sheer joy.

She said it was so wonderful when patients come back to say hi.  I imagine so: it validates everything she, as a nurse, goes through day by day.  It would remind someone working in the blood, sweat, and tears of a hospital why they do what they do.

To make people well again. To help them become whole.

It was good to be back.