Aisle say so
Sunday May 17th 2009, 1:34 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life

In the “everything happens for a reason” department…

I wanted to get that birdfeeder set up that I got for Mother’s Day; we needed a large screw to put into the end of the porch overhang so that I could have it right outside my window here as I sit at the computer. Richard promises not to bump his head on it. And we needed a small metal trashcan to keep the seed in outside.

Every time we made plans to go to the hardware store this past week, which is not even a mile from our house, somehow it just didn’t happen. Till last night.

It was near to closing time and the store was pretty quiet.  We were going up and down the far aisles after we found the small trashcan: chewproof metal with a small hole already in the center of the lid so the seed can air out.  Item one done.

As we looked, there was a man with his own cart looking for something or other; we did the usual not-really-paying-attention-to-each-other as we passed.

I stopped.  Richard continued forward with our cart, but I backed up. I went over to the guy, and told him, “I like your T-shirt.” That stopped him as he did the sudden surprised reaction of thinking wait, which one am I wearing?  Oh, right.  Stanford Blood Center written across the front.

I told him, “Seven people donated blood in January and saved my life.”

He looked in my eyes in wonder and gratitude, then got a faraway look and his eyes got misty.  I added, “Thank you,” and turned at the end of the aisle and away.

Birds of a feather falcon together
Saturday May 16th 2009, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

clara-peregrine-sj(Picture is from the San Jose city website.)

A few years ago, a rare peregrine falcon was spotted staking out the heights of San Jose City Hall as a potential nesting site; UC Santa Cruz biologists attached a nesting box against the wall. Since then, there’s been a falcon cam here as the birds have made happy use of the box. (Biologists rappel down to tag the babies.) The same female, Clara, has returned every year, bringing a different mate each time.  This year’s male was named Esteban Colbert for Stephen Colbert, and it was determined a few days ago that there are three females and one male baby bird in the nest this time.

I love that the fluffy youngsters look big-haired next to their parents at the moment.  60’s hairstyles making a comeback in the bird world! “And the sign said, longhaired freaky people need not apply…” Go peregrines!

Meantime, the City claims to be put out that Stephen Colbert has not lauded them for naming their falcon after him. Nor even mocking them.  Stevie, honey, they’re waiting!

Rubber baby needle bumpers
Friday May 15th 2009, 10:27 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

imgp7632The answer to last night’s dilemma was obvious, once I thought of it: rubber needle tips.  Used’em today at the doctor’s office to keep from dropping stitches mid-row when they called my name. Worked like a charm.

The knitting itself, however, not so much: I had a whole lot more done than this earlier in the day. But there is one row in my Monterey pattern that starts with a yarnover, and I decided to knit in the front and back of the first stitch instead. (Note that I could have done an M1 after the first stitch instead if I wanted to substitute.)  And I went merrily on my way.

That back-and-forthing in the one stitch created a knot-like effect in the silk, much more so than it would have in a different yarn. I didn’t like it. I kept knitting. It bugged me. I finally sat myself down and went, look: if you don’t like it now, you’re really not going to like it when you’ve added 20+ hours onto this.  It will have this one tiny spot that you’ll feel like apologizing to the recipient over when it’s going to be a perfectly gorgeous project and they’ll never notice it. Still.  What if it felt uncomfortable on their neck just in that one tiny spot.  It’s much easier to change it now.

Which is how the afternoon’s work got frogged.

Which means it will be all the better when it’s finished. (And yes, I did the M1 this time. I’ll be keeping an eye on it as the rows add up again.)

Correction to the above: I didn’t twist the bar I picked up, as I think about it, so no technically it wasn’t an M1, it was more like picking up a phantom dropped yo: just a plain pick up the bar between stitches and knit it.

Shawl we continue?
Thursday May 14th 2009, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

imgp7629“Begin: the rest is easy.”

Right. So I began a new project today, got interrupted, snagged the mostly-silk yarn getting off the couch, came back later, looked at the mess and frogged it on the spot.

I avoided it the rest of the day.  Don’wanna.  Silk is so lovely but it’s a bit of a pain to work with–you have to watch those needle tips every second so it doesn’t treat them like being on a slide at a water park.  Whoosh and away and hey, now let’s go running!

My favorite cure for not feeling like knitting is Knit Night, Thursdays at Purlescence: the colors and the wool fumes will do it every time, and, best of all, there are the good friends to be found there. Who knit.

I began.  Again.

Wednesday May 13th 2009, 11:56 am
Filed under: Friends

My doorbell just rang: my next-door neighbor, box in hand.

I instantly knew what that meant–they did it again?

Sandy told me that UPS had come in the ten minutes she wasn’t home and she returned to find this box, which she wasn’t expecting, and when she looked at the return address, then she REALLY wasn’t expecting! But then, oh. It was addressed to me. Silly UPS, they did it again. That’s the second time they’ve left something at her house that was supposed to be mine.

I looked at the return address and went wow, and then, hey, Sandy, you want to stay here while I open this? Heh.

No, no, she grinned, starting to scurry away from it.

We got into a conversation, though, about how her kids are doing; always good to hear.  And about how she was doing.  I love how the UPS guy promotes neighborliness–I’ll have to tell him thank you some time.

I brought the box inside and told Michelle what had just happened. I held it out for her to read the return address, her eyes got big, she grinned and she grabbed it and held it away from me, going, “Mine!”

imgp76181Hey you.  Gimme that.

Then she offered to help with the packaging tape on the inner container. Okay, back up a moment here: I was at Trader Joe’s yesterday and asked the folks there, Where’s the Scharffenberger? I came to stock up on Scharffenberger and I don’t see any!

Oh, we discontinued that about three weeks ago.

But, but–then where do I get my Scharffenberger fix?! I thought, Trader Joe’s, how could you?  Don’t you know, I was standing there in this store when you got your very first shipment ever, watching your employee open that box, getting the very first bars off the top you ever sold?  That’s my chocolate!

And guess what shows up on my doorstep. Wrapped in reusable icepacks and a styrofoam cooler, with instructions as to where to recycle the styrofoam once it gets just too old to keep using.

Scharffenberger. 48 5g squares, one non-guilty-size bite at a time.  Extra dark, bittersweet, and semisweet.  Could there BE a more perfect form of chocolate?  The note inside was signed, “Chocolate is as important as humor.  –Don”

Wow. I’m speechless (you know one doesn’t talk with one’s mouth full.)  This is beyond cool. Thank you, Don!!

All shook up
Tuesday May 12th 2009, 2:51 pm
Filed under: Life

Re the mammogram last week: I told the technician I had one request.

What’s that?

That we don’t have an earthquake while I’m in this thing.

She chuckled, telling me she wasn’t in charge of that one–and then she told me she’d been down south of here when their Big One hit.  A little later, she actually was doing a mammogram on someone when an aftershock hit. She instantly released the woman from the machine, and her patient stood there a few minutes, just shaking.

Then, the technician told me, she put her shirt back on, walked emphatically out that door and never came back!

We laughed as we allowed as how we probably wouldn’t much want to either.

My results came back:  normal. Worth the risk of the earthquake–go get yours done too if you’re due.

A quiet note
Monday May 11th 2009, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I debated quite awhile yesterday whether to tell that story; E. is wonderful, but I knew it was a hard one to read.  Far harder to have lived the beginning of it, as she can well tell you, and the pain can never end; it’s just that love eventually refuses to be drowned out in the cacophony.

Her daughters have now given her adorable baby grandsons.  A.’s name continues on, and a toddler’s smile and small arms reaching upwards to be picked up by a thrilled new grandmother…  Thank goodness for the little ones.

Happy Mother’s Day
Sunday May 10th 2009, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

First, happy Mother’s Day to my Mom, a superbly kind woman who deserves the very best every day and always.

Next, a story…

When my oldest went off for her freshman year of college nine years ago, one of her classmates went off to a campus in California.

From where, two days later, his parents got the call no parent should ever have to endure. A frat. A hazing.  Alcohol.  And their son was gone, just like that.

There was a huge outpouring of the community here at his memorial service, filling the local Children’s Theater where A. had performed, growing up.

There was nothing I could do in the face of a loss I could not begin to comprehend, this child who had survived leukemia as a toddler when so few did, this young man who’d volunteered with childhood cancer patients at the Ronald McDonald House to give hope to their parents as a survivor, this child who was supposed to LIVE!

Doing nothing was simply not fathomable.

So a lace stole came to be, in dark navy, soft kid mohair the color of midnight when the stars are faint–yet there. Black seemed too much; I wanted to hold out the promise of a lightening to come, someday and terribly far off but no less real, while acknowledging first the depth of the darkness. I wanted to give his mother a hug to wrap around herself when it was just too hard to take. Which was every single day.  And I knew it.

And then I prayed to know when to take it to the boy’s mother, E., whom I knew but not well.  I didn’t feel an answer to my questioning; the thing sat there for several months. It bugged me.

Then came the day when, as I had done many a time before, I said that prayer asking again, feeling like I was nagging God or something, when the answer came as a sudden emphatic feeling of NOW!

Oh! It was Mother’s Day and we were just about to sit down to lunch–could it wait till later?

But the feeling of Now! was so emphatic that I dropped everything on the spot, apologizing to my family for ditching them this day of all days, and ran with it halfway across town.

A.’s father was outside and told me E. was taking a nap, but he would give the wrapped present to her.   …Meaning that E. wasn’t put on the spot having to appear grateful while trying not to burst into tears; she was able to absorb my note and my gift in private, and somehow, later, that seemed to me to be just as well. I hadn’t done it to stand there to be thanked.  I would say now that the timing worked out perfectly, even though it didn’t seem so at first glance.

Later in the year, Rachel Remen gave a booksigning and I bought a copy of her “My Grandfather’s Blessings” for E.  I explained to Dr. Remen briefly who it was for–there’s a story in there of a mom who’d gone through a similar loss, and I wanted my friend to know there was someone else out there who had gone through this and could understand, far better than I, for all my good intentions.  I told Dr. Remen, “And now I have to pray to know…” and she, looking in my eyes and I in hers, said “when!” in unison.

Again I prayed. Again the answer came to me, at last, on Mother’s Day.  And so I took it over, inscribed to comfort her from the author herself.

After that, I got a clue.  I knew when to go.  I showed up every Mother’s Day on E.’s doorstep. An amaryllis in bloom, the impossibly late last daffodil from my garden, a certain new book of which I was so proud, always something.

My younger daughter mentioned about my illness and hospitalization and her worries on Facebook this past winter, and E.’s daughter read it and told her mom. Which is how E. showed up in my hospital room, bringing me flowers, a visit, and a great deal of comfort that I never would have expected.  She is dear to me.  It meant much.

But she said something that distressed me: she told me I didn’t have to bring her anything on Mother’s Day anymore. But! But!  Although, at the time, it didn’t entirely look like I’d be seeing any more Mother’s Days anyway.

I was on the phone with my son today when my doorbell rang.

imgp7608It was E. standing there. Bringing ME flowers. And not only flowers, but a blooming plant to put in my yard to remember and think of her and enjoy. She had no idea whatsoever that I’d been wanting a hydrangea anyway in a somewhat bare spot in the yard there–it just happened to be what she felt I might like when she saw it. And I do. Oh, I do!

The light in the colors just bursts through.

Roses are rosy-red, knitting is too
Saturday May 09th 2009, 6:52 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

imgp7604imgp7584I think I see now why my rose-colored yarn had already gradually migrated over to my knitting perch and thus was near the front door when I had no shawl project and had to grab something, anything, on my way to taking Richard to the ER on Monday. I didn’t even see it till today, but then suddenly it was so obvious. The climbing roses along our front walkway.  The color. The pattern I decided on after we got there. Taking the safety of home with me and putting it forward into the unknown.

Friday May 08th 2009, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

It’s a surprise. I don’t know a thing about it. I’ll distract you with an amaryllis photo (Lene, that’s yours in the white container, far left).  imgp7553The thing is all wrapped up in bird-themed wrapping paper over there, right next to the 25 lb bag of birdseed. I wonder what it could be.

Michelle was wondering out loud yesterday what the family should get me for Mother’s Day.  My friend Robin then sent me a link to one of her favorite stores when I mentioned to her that a birdfeeder would be really cool. Our next-door neighbors have one, with the result that I’ve seen a red-tailed hawk right outside our window here, and there was the never-to-be-forgotten moment when I pulled into my driveway, got out of my car, and there, perched at the edge of the neighbor’s roof at the closest point of it to where I was, quite close, stood a golden eagle. It looked at me. I looked at it. It looked at me.  Hmm. A little big for prey.  Came in a crunchy container, and it might get back in and you know how hard it is to undo that overpackaging with one’s talons.

So I wanted something that would help pull the outdoors up closer to my window, a little friendly competition with the feeder next door.

Robin’s link was to the local Wild Bird Center.  Michelle and I hopped in the car today and headed down to Los Gatos.  We were helped by an enthusiastic ornithologist who wanted to know what kinds of birds we wanted to attract?

“Pretty ones.”

She laughed.  Ooookay…  Obviously a fussy customer here.

I asked about the feeder I’d seen online that flips the squirrels off. No, literally. She told me the price of those (yowsers!) and that they have a $30 part that has to be replaced about once a year, and added, the squirrels learn quick to avoid them so then where’s the entertainment?  She doesn’t sell them.

Ah. Well, it was just a curiosity.  Besides, then I’d have to keep the feeder close to the ground and I’d be watching the little beasties anxiously like a mom whose 16-year-old just took off on their first solo trip behind the wheel.

She sold Michelle one that closes up the restaurant at the weight of a squirrel and is perfect for songbirds.

And I don’t know a thing about it till Sunday.  (Michelle wanted me to come with her to make sure the one she got would be one I’d be pleased with.)

I’m all a-twitter.  Heh.

St. Michael Trio
Thursday May 07th 2009, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Friends

My friend Russ, Marguerite‘s husband, played tonight, and I missed Knit Night, but oh goodness, you should hear the St. Michael Trio play!  Three men who trained for musical professions, but one went on into medicine, one into software, and one is a CEO.

I think, though I may be wrong, that Marguerite’s Celebration of Life is how they got started playing together. When I wrote that post, I was referring briefly to my Crohn’s hospitalization of ’03; I had no idea, of course, what was coming.  Just to clarify.

And now they’re Artists in Residence at Menlo College and deservedly so.

They autographed my CD for me.   It’s official: I’m a groupie.

Tara’s shawl
Wednesday May 06th 2009, 6:41 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit,My Garden

imgp7577One of these days I’ll learn that the picture looks better if I take my hand out of my pocket or over the shawl and then in the pocket, but vanity aside, here’s the finished baby alpaca shawl I was working on. It’s the Tara’s Redwood Burl pattern, though more in the color (it’s greener than this in real life) of a tiny redwood sapling’s baby needles.roses are red

Burls are like pearls to an oyster: something interesting and beautiful created by the living thing’s reaction to an irritant.  I’ve been fascinated by redwood trunk patterns ever since we moved to California, and that pattern was my second attempt at trying to capture the essence of some of them.

Just some background on how that redwood-colored shawl in “Wrapped” got its name.

Oh, and that’s the baby plum tree my kids gave me for Mother’s Day last year, growing like a weed.

(Ed. to add for those who asked: the doctor at the ER said the bloodwork was clean, which I interpret to mean that as for This Little Piggy, Richard Had None.  He’s feeling a fair bit better today; thank you for looking out for us, everybody.)

Richard at the ER
Tuesday May 05th 2009, 10:35 am
Filed under: Family

imgp7582(Note on the book: I’m a backwards author. When people ask me in person to sign their copy, I ask them if they’d be willing to sign mine too.)

Yesterday I had a mammogram done, came home, grabbed Michelle and went to the insurance broker’s to sign her up for health insurance, came home and dropped her off, went back to the clinic to the infectious diseases specialist, came home, grabbed a bite and typed that draft–

–and then Richard said, “Let’s go.” It turned out he hadn’t kept anything down since the afternoon before.

Dude. You’re supposed to say more than “I don’t feel well” in answer to your wife’s questions before that point.  I *can* cancel appointments, you know.

I had a half-finished scarf in my purse, which certainly wouldn’t hold me, and I’d finished my shawl project. I had about twenty seconds to decide on yarn and pattern, no time to print out nor look for a hardcopy of a new one, so I grabbed some Kidsilk Haze and Shelridge Farm laceweight, a pair and then, thinking about it, a second size of needles, just in case (good thing!) and my book.  I didn’t think in the rush to grab the Jerome Groopman book I wanted to finish.  And off we went.

Urgent Care sent him to the ER at Stanford, where they wanted to know if he had (I kid you not) swine flu. Richard happened to mention that one of his co-workers was in the hospital and had spent a week in the ICU, of what, he didn’t know yet.  Lovely.

I got to row 35 on my Wanda’s Flowers shawl before my hands made me stop.

We had assured the ER doctor that we had Zofran anti-nausea meds at home from my Crohn’s flare, no need to go looking for an open pharmacy at that hour. We got home, I added that bit to the draft, Richard de-wonked the computer so it would actually post while I looked for the Zofran… And it had fallen into a drawer.  Took us both looking till 2:20 before we could fall into bed.

You’ll forgive my not posting a more complete story of the evening last night?

Her smile was infectious
Tuesday May 05th 2009, 1:49 am
Filed under: Life,My Garden

This is the post I hit send on after Richard said, “Let’s go.”  My computer froze and it didn’t post.  We just got back (love that timestamp) from taking him to the ER. He’ll be okay.


The infectious diseases specialist was wonderful! The first thing she did coming in was to exclaim over my knitting in my hands and my shawl and to sigh that it’s a lost art.

Okay, hon, you just made friends right there.  I was charmed.

When I told her I had come because I needed another opinion and some reassurance because I’d gotten such conflicting information, when I said the stoma nurses had said not to change the bag more often than every two days, she immediately said, “That’s right.”

It was exactly the appointment I’d needed, and she wants me back a week or two after the antibiotics are finished.

Let’s just hope she doesn’t google, find this, and realize I’m already looking at my stash and scheming.

Crib notes
Sunday May 03rd 2009, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,My Garden

imgp7568The moving van came Thursday.  I went across the street to say goodbye to our neighbors moving home to Ireland.

It turned out they were staying till Saturday, with a mattress to be left on the floor for them to sleep on.

What about Jack? I asked.  I offered to go look for our old porta-crib that had gone through four kids and was none too new looking, especially after being tucked away for 20 years, but hey.  Michelle and I gave it a good dusting-off and took it over. We couldn’t make them stay, but we could make their leaving easier on them.imgp7560

They returned it Saturday on their way out in better condition than when they’d gotten it. They are such nice folks. They will be missed.