Can’t be toothpicky about that
Wednesday June 30th 2010, 10:21 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden,Wildlife

Thank goodness for blogging, or I’d never have the sense to stop and give my hands a break.

I have a question to ask: has anyone seen any one seed sprout two sprouts before? (Don’t mind the toothpicks there; they kept collapsing anyway.)  I haven’t. I can’t see why plants can’t come up twins, I just never thought of it before.  It was a particularly large avocado pit, so I thought it had a good chance of growing–got that one right!

And finally, today, the woodpecker I’ve wanted to see close up discovered the hanging suet cake. A female Nuttall’s, I think it is: and it is gorgeous. Dressed to drill.

Love enduring
Tuesday June 29th 2010, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

There they still are.  (And yes, those are my straight needles in the unexpected reflection.) I guess it’s not too late in the season, then: the junco is still feeding his lady love the house finch, and later flew off with her as always.  I’d love to have some biologist explain it to me–even more, I’d love to see their nest and if any young were raised and which type of bird they were and who adopted whom.

And now I need wool in this colorway too
Monday June 28th 2010, 8:27 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends

There was a knock on our door again today.

Michelle looked in the bag and grinned. Her jam jars are ready to go.  We’ve got serious work ahead!

Love, and it all works out
Sunday June 27th 2010, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends

Someone new was in church today, and there was a Sunday School lesson on the Biblical story of Jonathan and David and comments made on the essence of friendship.

I told them of how one small decision to be of service, of my friend Lisa and me going together to visit a mutual friend’s child in the hospital in Oakland once a week, had grown our friendship and had led, a year later, to Lisa’s offer to watch my preschoolers while I did swim therapy for my newly-hit lupus to treat my sudden and severe arthritis, if I would watch her little boy in return.  We did that morning trade-off for three years four and then five days a week, an immense amount of her time that I could never, ever possibly have asked for. And what a difference it made in my life!

The new woman came up to introduce herself afterwards:  saying, she had heard the other side of that story.

Say what? What other side?

She told me she had just moved from Lisa’s ward and that Lisa had told the story of how she was profusely grateful for my help with her two-year-old back in the day.

I was going, wait, wait, there’s nothing I did that remotely compares to what she did!

Wow.  Huh.  It got me thinking how, with true acts of service, both do come away feeling like they were blessed the most of all.  But you know what, Lisa? You still did way more.

Meantime, thank you all for all the anniversary wishes!  Today is the actual day.  And after thirty years, I still think we have the best honeymoon story ever.

Alameda de las Pulgas
Saturday June 26th 2010, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family

“Do you think you could help me scan in one of the photos?”

“TMI, TMI,” he winced.

Heh. Yeah, you should see those geeky clothes and those old glasses on our faces.


The waitress asked if we wanted the dessert menu.

“I don’t need it.”

“He’s being good; I’m celebrating.  Yes!”

Wait–I just checked out this post and suddenly remembered–and Phyl and Lee actually did knock on our door while we were gone tonight, but not with balloons.  As far as I know.  Still, he didn’t order dessert again, hmm, must be a trend. But since I currently weigh what I did in high school, he encouraged me to and I was quite happy to make him happy with that.

Turns out I wasn’t the only June bride in there.   On one of the longest days of the year, Flea Street was crowded with happy people, and the folks behind us were celebrating their 17th.

We beat’em by a baker’s dozen.

After my sorbet, Jesse sent out chocolate truffles again, and for that, yes, Richard was quite happy to eat a little dessert after all.  After all, we have some serious celebrating to do!

The new doctor
Friday June 25th 2010, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life

So there were little rumbly post-op things that had been bugging me for awhile.  It had become time to at least ask and get them out of the way.  I asked my doctor; he said go ask the surgeon.  So I made an appointment without pushing on the date, just, whenever.

One of the often-wonderful things about a teaching hospital is this: someone came in first who introduced himself as Dr. X, but the title was a rather new pair of shoes still being broken in.  He was very earnest. He began to take a history. (Didn’t matter if they had all my history already, this was a skill I imagine doctors spend their whole lives getting better at: how to ask a patient for details, how to observe them in their responses, what the questions should be.)

This guy was bright and he was good and I said to my daughter afterwards, I can see why he got into Stanford.  I told him that since making the appointment two weeks earlier, the symptoms had eased; we chuckled together at that. It’s so often so true.  I told him that you doctors cure things simply by being there for us and ready, and there you go!

He was someone I knew I could say that to.  I say he was good, because I knew from the moment he walked in that it didn’t matter who I was, he wanted the very best outcome for me and he would do everything in his power to make it so.

And he was perfectly comfortable telling me when he didn’t know something (yet, I would add) when I asked him a stoma question.  I thought, that ready humility will serve you and your future patients well.

He was thorough; for instance, he wanted to know how my hearing loss came to be.

I told him about the baby aspirin incident. I felt, by his interested *Huh*!, that I was bringing his textbook learning to life. And again, when I told him about the LE cells in my biopsies eleven years ago at the Crohn’s onset.

He asked me how long I’d had lupus.

I took a deep breath.  So many stories behind a simple question.  And told him simply this:  I’d had symptoms since I was 13; I was diagnosed at 31. In between, there were a lot of “are you sure?” and it must be all in my head reactions, so, “I learned to shut up fast.”

He bowed his head a little and shook it, grieving, and said quietly, “Bad medicine.”

“They didn’t know,” I comforted him. And it’s true; it was much easier to diagnose when it all hit pretty much at once, rather than in bits and pieces scattered across the years.

The surgeon, whom I quite like, came in later, and it was interesting to me that the dynamic changed when I was in that gown now and the surgeon was standing as he talked to me.  Which is how it had to be, no quibbles there.  I didn’t want to waste his time.  I figured that what he wanted to know, besides any questions he asked me directly–since I have seen him at his own question-asking best and know he’s good at it too–he’d just gotten from the other guy.  I was keen not to make him late for his next patient sitting in the waiting room without even my pink-shawl knitting project for entertainment now (one elderly fellow had been quite taken with it), keen to deal with the most specific issues at hand and get them out of the way.

But I wondered afterwards whether I’d done that part as well as I might have or not. I don’t know. Could I have asked more questions? Oh, sure, always.  But he did a good job of taking the time to examine and observe and set my mind at ease.

So what I do know is, I came out of there very reassured that no, the Crohn’s is not back, and I have nothing to worry about.

And that one young new doctor was keen to learn from what I, too, had to offer him in my small part of his Stanford experience.

Well done, sirs.

And everything is fine
Thursday June 24th 2010, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

The robo-call reminder said, I thought, 12:30 and to be there a half hour early to check in with my insurance card, yadda yadda. I hit 4 for repeat this message. Heard it the same.

So I showed up at Stanford accordingly.  Got a confused receptionist, who finally found my name an hour down the list; she waved me away, clearly bothered for my sake that I’d wasted my time, and told me to come back later for my 1:30 appointment.

I stepped aside and did a quick loop around to the other side of the small waiting area, which put me in the hallway for maybe a dozen steps–that was away, right?  Sat down back in there with my shawl project, knitted till exactly 1:00, stood back up, smiled brightly at her and pronounced, “I’m here now.”

She cracked up.

I got an unexpected hour of knitting with absolutely no other demands possible on me. And this was a problem? But what was cool was, she totally got that after she saw what I was doing.

Wednesday June 23rd 2010, 9:56 pm
Filed under: To dye for

Yesterday afternoon was one of those times when I was glad I had a knitting project that didn’t require a huge amount of attention–not those rows, anyway–as I sat on hold on the phone for forever. (Yes, it helped me get that shawl finished.)

One of my fellow falcon observers asked me, Oh, did you have to wait on AT&T too?

No, the IRS. Trying to get a refund straightened out.

She winced and decided that maybe the other sounded not quite so bad.  But “it’s all good,” I reassured her, problem solved now–with thanks to an extremely helpful and knowledgeable IRS agent, wherever she was. She answered all my if I/did you/can you questions well.

The other thing I did yesterday was I got a package in the mail from Colourmart: they’d had a brief sale, and I’d ordered a cone of the 70/30 cashmere/silk,  990 yards/150g, the top one there.  Nice!  A little more salmony-orange than I was expecting, but I could always find someone who’d love it and it was pretty enough to be knittable to my  eyes.

So.  I hanked and scoured it to get out the mill oils: they gray the yarn and feel like dried hair mousse. Routine step when dealing with cones. If I’m going to knit cashmere, by golly it’s going to feel like cashmere for me too, not just the recipient later, even if it takes a little extra time and effort to wash it beforehand; after all, that missing last manufacturing step is why cones are usually a lot cheaper.  And no skein ends to connect as you knit!

When that gray was out, though–my stars.  Dumbstruck. I’d never seen a change quite so dramatic.  Note that the color here is actually slightly subdued by being wet.

Who on earth ordered this screaming chunk of fluorescent traffic cone?

Um. Yeah. So now I knew why it was $20 inc shipping from England. (All their US prices include shipping–something to know on that site.)

Now, part of what had been going on in the back of my mind all along with that order was, hey, a cashmere shawl for twenty bucks. If I don’t like the color, I’ll break out the dye pot. Matter of fact, it’s been nearly two years (!) since I hefted that biggest pot, this’ll be a kick to get back to it–I love playing with watercolors, and I physically can now, so, hey, this’ll get me jumpstarted.

Done it many times. Gotten a good yarn cheap because of the color, changed the color.  But–wow. We were definitely going for that dyepot.

Only, the yarn was not.

Now, I have read that there are only so many dye-receptor molecules to be had and that a yarn that is fully saturated simply won’t take up any more.  So here I was, firing up the stove, pouring in the dye–eyeballing it, thinking about it and pouring in a lot more–I wanted a nice deep red here.  I knew just how to get there.

When the time was up the yarn had absorbed some and had let loose some of the orange (oh good)–but most of the dye simply poured right on out of there.  I hate doing that. I try to have something on hand to absorb the excess if possible when needed, but I just didn’t want to be taking up that orange. I am so not an orange person.

Then when I went to rinse the skein, it crocked: the technical term for, it bled dye. Profusely.  Repeatedly.  Redredredglugluglug, without ceasing, no matter how many times I rinsed it.  Dozens.

I knew I could never be happy with knitting something that might ruin the wearer’s other clothes  should they happen to get rained on, or walk through a lawn and have the sprinklers suddenly fire up, or have their kid go wild with a supersoaker, or… Hearing aid wearers watch for water, but normal people don’t.

I looked at that skein in today’s morning light and thought, maybe…  So I fired up the pot again, threw in vinegar, just a little more dye, if only… and put that yarn back in there. Vinegar does nothing without heat, so, heat. There you go.

At least it crocked a lot less this time.  Again, I rinsed it over and over and over. It still does a little, though, and if anyone has any suggestions at this point I’d definitely love to hear them.

The end result is, now it’s what I thought I was ordering in the first place. (It’s not quite so pink in real life, but this is close. If you enlarge their picture and this one and put them side by side, you’ll see.)  And with all that heat and agitation, it has shrunk up a bit and the eight tiny plies have melted and felted very nicely into each other while retaining the shine of the silk.

I quite like it.  But I’m still going to have to wash it some more. (I blowdried it for the moment. No mildewing my cashmere!)

So that thing about the certainty over dyeing and taxes?

It’s all a crock.

Peace shawl
Tuesday June 22nd 2010, 11:32 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Knit

(Or should I call it the new nest.)  I have to admit it: I was disappointed this morning. No towhee this time. Fancy that.

On the other hand…

This, on size 4.5 needles and finer yarn than the original in the book,

finished becoming this.

Towhee dayrise
Monday June 21st 2010, 7:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

My husband had an early-morning meeting today and headed out–but forgot something and had to come right back in to get it, all the way into the bedroom, rattling around a moment.

I figured, well, I’m awake now, and after he left I went into the family room for just a moment before heading towards my morning shower.

A sudden surprised but very soft-spoken exclamation of Well hello there!

There was a little towhee, bigger than a house finch, smaller than a dove, with its droopy wings showing that it was relaxed, and it was hopping tentatively across the carpet immediately at the foot of where my knitting perch is.

This is where you build your nests with all that string, right?

We stood there a moment and considered each other in wonderment.

Why, it’s Feederfiller! I know you!

I immediately realized I was not going for a photo.  (Camera–stage right). I was not going to take my eyes off my new friend nor throw aside the awe of the moment.

Right. So.  The slider was close by, but I didn’t want to risk having one bird fly in while trying to herd the other out and the sunflower tower was a busy spot just then. Besides, stepping between the bird and where I wanted it to head towards was a no-go.

The towhee settled the matter by hopping/skipping/jumping ever so lightly, no concerns, towards the living room, as if it were eagerly inspecting the possibilities with its realtor in tow.

Heed me.

I opened the front door about halfway. I followed my new houseguest.

It never panicked, it never scrambled, it just carefully stayed the proper distance between us.

But no, honey, I don’t want you behind the organ bench, now.

Oh, okay. It fluttered up into the skylight as I stepped away.

I was concerned: I didn’t want it to get hurt hitting its wings there. I sent up a silent prayer to its Father and mine–and immediately the little thing came down just a bit and out of there, straightened up, flew, turned in front of the kitchen and went straight on out into the waiting bright sunlight through the doorway. I stood there agape for I think half a minute, trying to take in what I had just seen.

Hours later: “Did you leave the doorway open when you came back in?” Because I had found no bird poop–no sign whatsoever of the little thing being stressed, but also meaning it hadn’t been there long, either.

“I don’t know–I might–I don’t know.”

And then I told him why I wanted to know.  I didn’t even have to tell him it had been a surprisingly beautiful experience. He totally got it.

“Oh cool!”

I love that man.

And we are minding that front door a little more carefully now.

Happy Father’s Day!
Sunday June 20th 2010, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Family

I’ve tried all day to think up the right words, and it comes simply to this:

I totally lucked out. I’ve got a great Dad. (And Mom, too!)

I totally lucked out. My kids have a great Dad.  And I a great husband.

If the whole world had that, think how much more peace there would be on earth.

We know your wildly ways
Saturday June 19th 2010, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Stitch by stitch, row by row.

The tail on that young one at the beginning of the week (the other pictures were taken day by day afterwards, but I think the last one’s a parent) caught my attention: it was a fledgling’s version of a sunfish, as if Nature had forgotten to finish the job.

And yet, it works; the thing flew.

Even better, it came back.

And there was this, and I write it with a sense yet again of gratitude to the many on staff at Stanford Hospital and my clinic last year: when I got up yesterday morning, there was a small female finch on the other side of the glass, holding very still in a manner that immediately concerned me. A friend who is a birder has assured me that if you give it a half hour or so to recuperate, one that has struck the window will often be able to pull itself together and fly away.

But I wasn’t sure she was still with us. I got down to get a closer look. We were perhaps two feet from each other, with only the glass that she had just learned about in between.

She slowly blinked. I was so relieved. You know, my pride was wanting to argue with fate and say, hey, I didn’t wash the windows so the birds wouldn’t see their reflections so much and and and–yeah.

The best thing to do, since she was alive, seemed to be to give her some space, then. After what seemed a very long time of looking in each other’s eyes, I slowly, slowly, trying not to be threatening, backed away and moved up and over to the day’s work, about ten feet further away.

I glanced over about five minutes later. She had not only perked up, she had hopped up to the outside of the sliding glass door and was perched there, watching me intently.

I was utterly charmed.

I had looked after her the best I knew how, as ineffectual as I had felt doing so. Even offering her food would have scared her into flying before she was ready; all I had been able to offer her was that she was not alone.

And now she was looking at me.  She was okay now.  Waiting for me to see, then making eye contact.

Powerful, that.

The yarn knows the way
Friday June 18th 2010, 9:38 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

I had plans for what I was going to knit next. Specific plans. Designed, written, ready to test knit.

Yeah well.

My kids gave me some yarn for Mother’s Day that all the sudden leaped out at me yesterday like a four-year-old who just heard the words “ice cream.” It was Colourmart yarn, the 12/58 35/35/30 cashmere/silk/merino/790 yards in limestone, and I had at least already hanked and scoured it.  (Trust me: it is worth doing that extra work before knitting it. In oiled coned form, it is just not impressive to the hands nor the eyes, but the washed, sparkly-shiny-suddenly-soft yarn with the graying-effect oils gone, ohmygoodness yes.)

But it wasn’t even wound into a ball yet, and here it was jumping up and down at me like that. I was too tired to deal with it.  In self defense I pulled out a ball of something else, something else with cashmere in it, even–but no. THIS one.

Ooookaaaaaay. I dealt with it.

And this pattern. Nothing else would do but the Peace shawl from my book. (There’s a picture of it here.)  NOW!

But I was working on…!

Okay, so here I am:  I’m working on this thing, it’s practically knitting itself, I have not a clue why it’s so important right now to be knitting this yarn in this pattern right at this time–

–all I know is, it is, and it has been making me terribly happy that I listened to it.

You know, we’ve had enough of these episodes for me to be all, okay, cool, so, what happens next?

As I type that, it hits me and I go and look: a combination of the lacy-looking flowers and the dove and that shadow that came out of my camera Tuesday–yes, of course I have to knit it.  Yes.

The rest will happen in whatever good time it should: as long as I’m prepared for it.

I’m on it.

A little take out?
Thursday June 17th 2010, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I came home from knitting group tonight and glanced at the cam shot:  Kekoa, as is usual these days, is tucked into the window sill, and Maya immediately next to and slightly below him is standing at the edge of the louver. He’s snoozing, but his sister, apparently, not nearly as much.

Maybe she’s keeping an eye out in case her parents do some hunting (thanks, Eric!) in the dark.

Hey! Mom! Are you in the kitchen?  Can I have a midflight snack?

Trash talking (don’t let it get your goat)
Wednesday June 16th 2010, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

I’d be curious to know how it got the thing. A raccoon possibly, maybe a possum: one day last week, I looked out the window to see an empty peanut butter jar out by the olive tree.  (Okay, olive you try thinking of those two flavors together for a moment.)

We recycle such jars, but it had to have still smelled of peanuts.  So okay, that one actually makes sense. The stolen jar, I mean.

Now, earlier in the spring I had a milk jug outside for watering my amaryllises, and I watched some ambitious squirrel rolling and pushing it across the yard to do just what with it, I have no idea. It was quite the sight.  It seemed he was trying to impress his lady love with it. Look! A portable lightweight nest! (He’d chewed a large hole in the side.)  Or, or, an exercise ball! Or…! Isn’t this just the coolest thing! It seemed he wanted to carry it up the tree.

And he had fun fun fun till the owner took the milk jug away.

Now, that peanut butter makes more sense.

But explain this one to me. I can quite promise you it wasn’t there yesterday.  (Although, come to think of it, today was the recycling pick up–there was a breeze–okay, never mind.)

I saw a black squirrel insanely curious a few hours ago, reeeeeeeeeeaching with its nose and then, oh so tentatively, with a paw too towards the new thing, its tail stretched hard straight back ready to whip its whole body around to dash screaming for the hills:

Does it taste good?! Will it BITE!?  It flinched away, then turned back again, unable to resist, reaching to bat at the new animal-smelling thing to see if it would run or jump or fly.

And when I went outside, going, okay, what have you guys stolen from the can now, I reached over to pick it up–

–and it was a ball band from my yarn.