And day by day
Saturday October 16th 2010, 6:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit,LYS

News flash: our nephew and his wife, he being the son of Richard’s late sister, had twin baby girls yesterday, everyone healthy and well. Yay! I can just picture Cheryl giving her granddaughters one last hug before their trip down here.

The baby afghan fabric the Malabrigo Rios is turning into for our grandson, meantime, is solid, substantial and warm, exactly what I wanted. But my wrists can only do so many M1 twists at a time, so it tends to go slow.

Every now and then I stop and look at how much is actually nevertheless getting done with my one pattern repeat minimum per day and it surprises me–cool, look at that!  Getting there!

The blog has been photophobic lately but I’m hoping this old shot goes through. (It’s not a great one, but it’s better than what I’ve been able to get since.)

I brought the blanket with me Thursday to Purlescence to show it off there for the first time, and they all made my day with exclamations of Oh, that’s *pretty*!

I told Sandi, the pattern should be intuitive–but it’s not, and I pulled out a simple scarf to work on.

“Some knitting isn’t social knitting.”

True.  But oh, but that yarn and that pattern so much want to be. Just wait till they’re done.  Stitch by ongoing stitch, it’s gradually, beautifully, in spite of my impatience, all coming together.

I’m sure my daughter-in-law knows that feeling right now way more than I do.

Don’t ask, don’t sell
Friday October 15th 2010, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare

Don’t read this. This is just me getting it out of my system.

I got an update from my medical supplies provider. Seems this one supplier has listened to the feedback from their customers and engineers and Yes! They have come up with a New Improved! version.

(Delete delete delete.)

NO.  (If I even just SAY velcro and bag out loud in the same sentence it’s TMI, but, trust me, NO.)

Surprise, surprise
Thursday October 14th 2010, 11:16 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,LYS

I got in my car in my driveway and closed the door. Purlescence night.

I opened that door right back up again and grabbed my keys, spurred on by the strong feeling that no, I needed to have one with me, and unlocked the house and ran back inside. Where I grabbed a copy of my book.

At the shop, though, I left it in the car–it’s not like the thing was a novelty to anyone I expected to see.

But there I ran into someone visiting from out of town whom I’d really, really wanted to give a copy to. I had no idea she was going to be there.  What I also didn’t know, as I in great delight  signed that thing, was that it wasn’t just me imposing on her (I was afraid it would be like, See? See this cool book I did? You like it, you really like it–right? Ummm…) Actually, she had really wanted one.

And for the second time Susan surprised me with a gift of some of her yarn to go play with, and I tell you, she does gorgeous colorwork.

Some nice people. You just can never catch up to them. It was *so* good to see her!

Chi Chi Chi Le Le Le!
Wednesday October 13th 2010, 11:08 pm
Filed under: History,Life

To the BBC guy: no, it wasn’t over. Not till all 39 were out. The rescuers count too.

To all who pulled off the impossible: thank you!

To President Pinera of Chile, who went ahead and authorized the operation after being told there was only a 3% chance of success but who still did the only humanly thinkable thing and ran with it, knowing those men were alive down there, who greeted every single man with the biggest smile and hug for 24 hours straight: thank you!

To the miners, who kept the faith with each other and God to get through it all, thank you for the example and strength you showed the world. May you hold fast to that forever.

I barely managed to tear myself away to go to my lupus group, but I did.

Back home, knitting in front of the monitor, cheering on each appearance of that funky-angled rescue capsule both above and below ground and the appearance of each man finally back up at the surface, stepping out into the arms of everybody.

BBC… It ain’t over till the skinny guy sings.

And then they all did, with all the celebration one could possibly put into it. CHI CHI CHI LE LE LE!!!

Brought to you live
Tuesday October 12th 2010, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Life,My Garden

I was coming home from a meeting tonight when I saw it, the second night in a row that I have, from the same stem: a daylily. After nine pm.

A well-established daylily cluster can produce hundreds of blossoms to make up for how very short the life of each. This plant was just over a year old, planted when the street was redone and re-landscaped; it’s a young one.

It was shooting its one long stem stretched out far to the side and up, as if it were reaching with all its might, up towards the streetlight, which seemed to spotlight it directly. Daylily flowers typically falter and shrivel at the first hint of dusk (and this is October!), but it must have found what it needed, the streetlight must somehow have produced enough energy to light the dark away: the yellow flower was in full bloom and full color in spite of the night. It was very striking.

I got home, marveling over that, to where my husband was watching the BBC news live.  Where the third trapped miner in Chile, after 69 days underground, walked out of the rescue capsule and into the arms of his wife and the whole wide waiting world, in night lit up like the day.

Water they’ll think of next
Monday October 11th 2010, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

This is not the most reverent post. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!

When my boys were young, they–well let’s see. Dates. 1990 for the first Super Soaker? Sounds right. They kept making them bigger and squirtier from there on out, coinciding with my boys’ growing appreciation for just what a fine piece of machinery these could be. (With the occasional summer exclamation heard of You boys keep those things AWAY from my hearing aids!) The girls played with them too, but with not quite the same passion for power.

There was a birthdays-and-Christmas arms race going on for several years running. If one of the boys got one (and they did, it was at the top of their wish list), their dad had to have a bigger one.

I thought the things had all long since gone to that great recycling squirt gun in the sky, but no: when I said something last week, my husband grinned and said he’d kept his biggest baddest one all this time. Never know when you might need it. (Grandson? January?  Did you say grandson? Dude!)

Remember that book my daughter-in-law sent me that says squirrels don’t learn by fear because then they just couldn’t be squirrels?

The gray ones have, with the onset of Fall, gotten bossier and meaner to my cute little black ones I watched grow up and have been vigorously chasing them away at teethpoint from the area under the birdfeeders.

This will not do.

The first time I hefted that thing, wondering, (for the record, it weighs more than I do) I had a gray bushytail looking at me like, what is that? Is that fruit? Those bright colors says it’s fruit and it’s sweet and I want some. Just hand it over, lady, winter’s coming and I gotta stock up.

I opened the door.

It couldn’t take its eyes off–but no wait Feederfiller is coming OUT! RUN!

That water can run faster than I can. Okay, wait, I have to prime the thing, open the door, raise, aim, oh wait hang on, step further away from the feeder so I don’t get the seed damp, okay, now try!

Those gray squirrels, over the last few days, have stopped doing a flat-out run and have started doing the anti-hawk zig zag dance trying to get away from it better. They can plot the spray’s trajectory better than I can theirs. I’ve barely gotten a drop of water on any of them and only from a goodly distance.

But still.  Turns out they like being squirted about as much as cats do. And they don’t come slinking right on back, either, like they would if I’d only scared them–not if I’m anywhere in view they don’t.

The black squirrels have already caught on pretty much that I’m totally cool with them.

And now they get the place to themselves, unbossed and unbitten. The supersoaker is resting pointing at the porch. They’ve all learned.

(Psst–that thing’s obsolete by ten years. Did you see that Wikipedia link? How to powerboost your soaker? Go for it, kids!)

Taking a peak ahead
Sunday October 10th 2010, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Life

A Sunday School lesson, and the discussion started turning around the short command in the Bible to “Stand in high places.”

“What does that phrase mean to you?” the teacher asked.

I’ve been finding myself going back to that question all day since.

Having gone to college at BYU in the Rocky Mountains, and having just read Greg Mortenson’s book, I find myself drawn to the image of high peaks.

I used to get away from my classes and studying and find release by walking briskly across the bench of the mountain directly facing campus.  Often. To give you an idea: Robert Redford owned a ski resort, Sundance, on the other side of the next peak over. These were not low-lying hills.

A few times, I climbed trails way up into areas where it was probably really stupid to be at certain times of the year, and where I found out later were off limits due to potential avalanches, but as someone from Maryland to whom it was all a novelty, what did I know? I stood under a dripping outcropping and pointed my camera upwards, getting a shot of water falling above and behind me in such a way that my roommates puzzled at its trajectory and which way was supposed to be up in the picture. They couldn’t tell which end the water was coming from.

I went higher.  You can see a lot more of what’s ahead when you take the time to make the effort to do something that doesn’t come easily.

I sat on a boulder, dangling my feet.  (Not a high one.  There are limits to this courage thing as far as heights and I are concerned.)  I remember being surprised that long, narrow Utah Lake looked so blue and so close from up there.  Distances shrank.  The mountains that rose from the far side of the lake, across the valley, you could actually see them, and then peak after peak fading from blue to light gray and off into the distance. All these things that, back down on the valley floor, I knew would disappear from view into the curve of the earth or the buildings of the campus and town.

So far away. So clear as day.

I tell you. God rocks.

The blue bird of happiness
Saturday October 09th 2010, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

And while I’m talking about education…

The story stuck with me and I went searching to finally share it here. The description of the new school building is here. It will provide the bridge between medical-school book-learning and actually putting that knowledge to practice on patients without freaking out in an emergency when one realizes that an actual life is depending on what you do now.

The San Jose Merc recently told the story of the man who built the place. He’d been deprived of an education growing up in China and had sorely missed it; his son was accepted  into Stanford, and the father walked around the place with his incoming freshman 28 years ago, awed by it all.

But the real reason Li Ka Shing built that new medical school building halfway across the world from his home?

On that trip with his son, he saw a beautiful blue bird. I’m guessing it was a scrub jay, by its location and the fact that it stood its ground so long, but whatever, he stopped with his camera to take its picture.

He was trying to get just the best shot; he was totally in the moment, seeing something novel and beautiful and wanting to bring it home with him on film as part of his trip where his son was going to be able to attain what he himself had never had a chance to.

And then finally he looked up and saw not one, not several, but dozens of students on their bikes, presumably on their way to their classes, whom he was blocking.  (I can guess where on campus that bottleneck might have been.)  They had noticed what he was doing and were reverencing his experience: they had stopped, waiting, fingers to lips in silence to others approaching that he might be able to get a good shot and that they might not scare the bird away from him.

Love silently expressed for a stranger’s love of nature.  A generous impulse, repeated over and over on the part of a whole nameless crowd who, like his son, had come to this place to learn.  It left a lifetime impression. He wanted to give back.

And so those who dedicate their lives to making others well will now have the biggest medical simulation facility in the world to learn in before they go work with live patients. They will have a better education, others will be taught from what they will learn, and we are all the better off for it. Having been a patient at Stanford Hospital when the alarm was sounding for me, having dealt that day with a novice doctor, that means a tremendous amount to me.

I hope they have photos of blue birds all over inside the place.

Rolling the stones
Friday October 08th 2010, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Politics

Don loaned me his copy of Stones Into Schools, by Greg Mortenson, one of the most important books I’ve read in my life. Mortenson writes well and lives well: the man loves deeply.  And by that love’s work he is changing the world.

I’ve been savoring it slowly, a chapter or two a night–and then today couldn’t stand the wait and simply read through it all. I didn’t want to put any of those living characters down.  I wanted to support their cause of hiring the local population to build and staff good schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and requiring that girls make up half the student population, both by my attention and financially.

I immediately ordered a copy of Three Cups of Tea.

I cannot begin to say how important it is that this man, and those who work with him, are alive in this world and that they are doing what they are doing (and how glad I am that our soldiers are being told to read Three Cups).  We are the ones being educated, too, by Mortenson’s showing who these people are and what their lives are like.  They respond to being cared about, just like we all do.

I did not know that the custom was, before one goes to war, the elders properly sit down with the opposing elders to discuss whether they can afford the costs: the winning side is to take on the solemn obligation to support the widows and children left behind.

My thanks to all who supported Mortenson’s cause by their donations long before I opened the book and let myself see beyond just the titles of two bestsellers.  There are students at 145 new built-t0-code schools and counting who will always know who, along with the dedicated labor of their families and neighbors, made it so they could learn to read and see the world through what others too may write.

Hat and mouse
Thursday October 07th 2010, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Knit

It’s amazing how much good a little wool on one’s head can do.

A year and a half ago a big and much appreciated get-well basket was left on our doorstep, full of scrumptious yarns and handknits like the cashmere fingerless gloves from Jasmin–who, when Purlescence was having a sale on that cashmere awhile earlier, had let me have the black that she’d already picked out for herself when I oohed and aahed over it. Just because she’s nice like that.

That black cashmere became my first surgeon’s shawl.

She kept the light aqua blue for herself, and then gave that to me too, in that basket, all knitted up. I was blown away.

But there was one thing in there that came with no name, no tag, no way of knowing who it was from for me to say thank you.

Stephanie was blogging today about it being cold and her daughter putting on a hat and Stephanie’s sudden need to start knitting one.

It’s cold here too this evening. I was reading that and thought, that’s what I need! A hat! And I reached over for that gray and purple one and felt warmed all over again by the thoughtfulness of someone out there. Thank you…

It has been a very useful hat. Last winter, did I steal all the blankets at night? No, I reached over my head into the headboard and fumbled that thing on in my half-sleep.

Although, you can tell I’m married to a computer nerd. He has been working on a long stubborn software problem, working on the laptop right up till bedtime the last few evenings.

Tuesday morning I was startled abruptly awake at a cold something and looked over–my snoozing husband was running his wireless mouse on my arm in his sleep, I guess because to his subconscious I can solve all his problems because I love him.

If you give a mouse a cookie

The mouse (which, to be fair, he didn’t know was there) has been banished. Even though, theoretically, I could put Jasmin’s long gloves on to ward off its chill.

Uh no. Let’s keep it at hat.

(Hubs wants it mentioned that I still steal the blankets.)

It’s a cold, tool world.


Ed. to add: okay, just picture it–he’s solved the problem, the patent attorneys have gotten involved, and now they’ve billed a better mouse traipse.

The Coast is clear
Wednesday October 06th 2010, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Life

A quiet day.

A brisk mile’s worth walked.

A little baby-blanket knitting.

A lot of looking forward to the next great escape!

Part two
Tuesday October 05th 2010, 11:07 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Family,Friends,Life,LYS

Here’s where I’ve been: about eight years ago, during the worst of the brainstem lupus stuff, I set myself a goal to walk all the way around my block once. Without shortness of breath, without chest pains, without weakness. That was my goal for the year. And the next.  I did not make it.

And for awhile there, it was also to feel well enough again to be able to drive a car without worrying about my blood pressure getting too low. I did not make it. I chose, and will always choose, to err on the side of caution on that one, this driver‘s choices being a good reason why.

Now, back when my kids were little, I used to racewalk four to five miles every morning before my husband left for work–my much-needed time to myself in the great outdoors, time to work out, time to just be out and SEE to recharge the batteries before starting in on the day with three children four and under.

Then the fourth child arrived, the lupus hit, the no-sun issue surfaced, and all together it added up to years of wishing keenly for all sorts of things.

And one of those was to just get in the car and go see the ocean again. Not our close-by Bay but the actual ocean. It wasn’t like it was very far. (Oh yeah, sun, right.)

My younger brother Bryan was here about eight or ten years ago and we did exactly that: we got in the car, him at the wheel, and the two of us drove down to Monterey, reveling in the rare time together.

Pebble Beach. The 17-Mile Drive. Got out from time to time (took the risk, how often do I get to with him) and looked at the seascapes below. The funky Monterey cypresses, the redwoods on Highway 17, the weirdness of the sign claiming copyright on all images anyone ever might make of that one lone tree on that outcropping as belonging to… You can’t copyright a picture you didn’t take! Silly people! Hanging out. Having a day to just go be siblings again.

I so wanted to go back there. I so wanted to cruise down Highway 1 and just be free of all health-related cares and just go. I tried to ignore how confining lupus can feel.

The B’s did not know that when they booked a cottage where they did for their vacation. It was simply a good spot for the things they wanted to do.

Bryan and I had driven right down that road. You go past the sign to 17-Mile Drive and there you are.

The best part of my trip yesterday, by far, was getting to see and spend time with the B’s. With serious chronic illness for two of us and a 3000 mile distance, this is a rare and wonderful thing. I think we two were both surprised at how well the other was looking. Acknowledging, yes, but acknowledging too how things are holding together in spite of all that as we created new memories to rejoice over with the old.

On a side note: going such a distance, and down a highway that occasionally turns into a country lane, a kick back and relax in the scenery type of road with slow produce trucks hauling artichokes from the coast and ambling at their own pace, one never knows what to expect. So I’d left early with the idea of Monarch Knitting as my time buffer: I’d wanted to meet LYSO Joan there anyway, very much so, for over three years now.

There was a big knitting retreat going on back then at Asilomar (wait–not SOAR, it was June–trying to remember its name) and my friend Nina was attending. She asked for, and got from me before she left, my author’s proof pages that I’d had spiral bound.

The first day of the retreat happened to be the day that Wrapped in Comfort was released, and the conference also happened to have a show-and-tell scheduled then.

Nina, bless her, held up that book, wearing the shawl in that book (she had wanted to own the very one, not a copy, even if it meant waiting for months to get it back from the publisher, so I did that for her), pointed to the page, and she announced, “I am Nina. This is the shawl in this book. You want this book. Go buy this book!”

And thus she led a posse of 50 knitters over to Monarch, where, she and Joan both told me later, Joan was just opening a box shipped from Martingale that had six copies in it.

And everybody wanted them.

Joan took a deep breath, made a decision, and pleaded with them: please, if I do this, promise me you’ll come back tomorrow?

They did. So she did: she called Martingale, on a Friday afternoon close to quitting time, and asked them to Federal Express Weekend Overnight her those 50 copies. And they did it! They got them out in time! The next day, they all sold except the copy Joan wanted to keep for herself.

She told me the shipping fees had eaten any profit from the sales but oh what a good time they’d all had!

I thanked her for giving me a book story to brag on for life. And I do.

So, yesterday I was making good time, on my way, passing several bicyclists who were off the road talking to each other, when suddenly a cop passed me, lights and sirens. A few minutes later, another. Oookay. There was a long curve there near Moss Landing, too far away to see why traffic had by then come to a stop.

And there we sat.

It was one of those times I was glad I was in a Prius: I turned off the fan to save electricity and thereby gas. We sat. Pretty scenery… But I really hoped things would get going; I did want to stop by Monarch.

After a half hour it all started to clear up again. No tow trucks, no fire engines, no sign of anything having been out of the ordinary. Curious.

To either side of the power towers at the Landing, there were swamps and birds that I wished I could see closer up.

I did get to go to Monarch. I walked in and the first person I saw, having cheated and looked at her website, I asked in delight, “Are you Joan?”

“I am!”

“I’m Alison Hyde.”

She knew exactly who I was! Totally, totally made my little ego’s day.

I looked around with the occasional exclaiming of delight as one room unfolded to another and ooh look there’s another back here! I bought a little baby alpaca. “Souvenir yarn.” I explained about the time buffer, thanking her for her offer to wind it but gotta run.

I had no idea when I got back in that car I was going to be retracing some of my brother’s steps from there. Hey! I recognize that restaurant!

And that’s where we all had lunch together.

The B’s happened to mention having gone birding at Elkhorn Slough over by Moss Landing a bit earlier, where a large group of bicyclists had gathered and traffic had backed up for two miles behind them.

Oh my goodness! You were there! *I* was there, at the far end of that! Too funny.  I asked Scott, Did you get to see your Bewick’s wren? Knowing he’d so wanted to and never had. I have one that hops across my view every day, moving like a cartoon figure the way it bounces almost faster than the eye can keep up with.

“I did!”

Cool! I told the three of them that I was now into birds and it was all their fault. They grinned.

Joan over at Monarch had offered to take the hanks and ball the two up for me and let me pick them up on my way back later, and that was really nice of her.  But…

I thought as I came back through Pacific Grove just after her quitting time, I was right. Don’t wait up. I was having too good a time just being friends in person again to get wound up.

And I did it. I know now I can do it. I knew, but I hadn’t tested, hadn’t pushed myself, and now I have. Along with their friendship, the B’s gave me back the most incredible, the most exquisite sense of freedom reclaimed.

Down Highway 1
Monday October 04th 2010, 11:39 pm
Filed under: Friends

I did it!

I didn’t see any of the monarch butterflies that make Pacific Grove famous, although there were three deer ignoring me when I parked in front of them near Asilomar.  And several old trees that were tall trunks only now with woodpeckers installing new windows in them, remodeling the places.

So much to say.

I drove down there to see dear friends on their last day of vacation before they flew home to Maryland.  They brought the regards of a mutual high school teacher; they’d seen him the day before.

There was only one way for me to get to see them, so I swapped my gas hog for the husband’s Prius for the day and went.

And I would tell you more about how wonderful it was, but anyone who’s seen people they hold dear after a long time away already knows all about that sort of thing.

I got in that Prius to drive home, wishing I somehow didn’t have to yet, and turned on (I thought) the lights. Spraying the windshield instead.  As always on that car, always.

And laughed.

One other thought: at the end, they surprised me by offering to drive me home while following in theirs to make sure I got home safely. Folks, we are talking very nearly two hours each way and then they’d have to go back to that hotel room.  I didn’t take them up on the offer, but the caring, the generosity, the thoughtfulness behind it, and my deep gratitude at knowing such good people and having them in my life, I tell you, it carried me all the way home.  Energized! Just by making that offer… they did exactly that.

All I can say is, thank you. Safe travels to you too tomorrow.

At the speed of right
Sunday October 03rd 2010, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I’ll try to get a picture when it’s dry and in the daylight.  This is just so gorgeous!

I had some Kid Seta that I kept trying to use but that kept telling me no. I even started the first few rows of a shawl–but the no just got louder and I put it away for the right time.

Today, I broke off those few rows and tossed that little bit. (Frogging mohair…)

At Purlescence Thursday night, Sandi, Nathania, and Kaye had just opened a shipment from Manos del Uruguay and were tagging the new skeins.

I was so not going to buy any yarn…

Just one skein.  It took me awhile to decide which colorway of their baby alpaca/silk/cashmere “Lace” yarn (imaginative name, that). No two were exactly alike, which helped reduce temptation.

And then, seeing what I’d picked out, Sandi happened to think out loud that it would go really well with that Kid Seta over there.

Which I just so happened to already have some of.

I walked over and got one to put it with the Manos to see.

Sandi swooned. I swooned. Oh, perfect!  Splashes of silky light and, softened by the solid Seta fuzz, the Manos colors nestled down in and made themselves completely at home.

If you ever knit two laceweights together, I’ve learned, they both have to be fairly grabby yarns so one strand doesn’t snag and pull way out while the other one doesn’t–it makes for a beast of a repair job if one is slippery.

These were perfect.

And now  I’ve finished.

I will have to find out who the project is for: all I know yet is the keen sense of anticipation and delight that barely let me put those needles down the last two days.  Come tomorrow morning, it’s ready when life is!

Monty Python cue
Saturday October 02nd 2010, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Life

Do I tell this one?

I was in Costco today. Nope, not a fingerpuppet story. I saw someone familiar and it took me a moment to place her–it had been awhile–but then I told her,  “Oh–HI! You’re from the Red Cross!”

She was clueless. I identified myself as the wife of…, one of their longtime volunteers.

She was speechless. She looked at me, stepping back ever so slightly to check me out top to bottom, foot to head. (While I mentally raced to think when the last time we’d seen each other had been–ah yes that would explain it.)

“You look WELL!”

I was standing up. That’s the first thing that had thrown her.  I wasn’t in a wheelchair. I wasn’t dead yet. Well yes, given how I was that last time, I see where you’re coming from but honey, the times, they are a-changin’. I mean that. Don’t make me go back there, I’m done with all that.

“You look, !!!, WONDERFUL!”

“Why, thank you!” (And since you are yea verily a little old lady I will refrain from saying the same thing back at you in quite the same way. Volunteering clearly is good for all that ages.)

It was good to see her; I waved hi over at her husband patiently waiting for her to finish up.  I told her our son and his wife were expecting our first grandchild, and she was thrilled for us. I know she can’t wait to congratulate Richard at the next Red Cross event.  Really really congratulate him.

I guess if I had to make people hold their breath for so long I have to put up with the outcome of being well now, huh? I think I can handle it.