All in their family
Tuesday November 16th 2010, 12:29 am
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends

As I ice my hands…

If you remember this story. (Seriously–don’t miss it.)

The one thing to add to it is that Gigi herself had started that first shawl, test knitting for me early on in the process of Wrapped in Comfort, and I should have given her credit for it publicly in that post. She’d returned it to me with the yoke finished and enough of the body done to prove the pattern was written correctly, but, feeling she was just never going to get it done, she let it go. Wistfully.  So of course I finished it and gave it to her; she’d thoroughly earned it, by her friendship as well as her work–and it was such an easy way to make her so happy!  Then I finished the second one for the publisher.

It came in handy in the end, too, definitely.

Now, I’ve known Gigi’s son-in-law since he was dating her daughter Jasmin. He’s a peach; that expression on his face when he opened that door that night said it all (but I already knew that).

And so when Gigi commented that she was “Off to show my love and affection to the son-in-law by heckling him,” after reading my post on teasing, I found myself breaking into random giggles all day today–I know how much those two love each other!

I got a note from her this evening: “I think I almost killed him tonight, he was laughing so hard.”

Dying laughing is what it’s all about in the first place. Together, and happily so.

(Meantime, the knitter mumbles, 445 stitches per row on the laceweight, got 12 rows done today. Halfway finished.)

And of course he’s right
Sunday November 14th 2010, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Family

I happened to mention to my husband the other day that while I was down in San Diego last weekend, our son was teasing his mother-in-law.

Now, by that I took for granted that he knew I meant a good-natured teasing, and he did; any other type is simply not in any of us.

And my husband’s response? He took it as a sign of closeness between them, answering me simply, “You don’t tease people you’re afraid of or that you’re not comfortable around.”

I’d never thought of it quite in those words, but yes, exactly!

p.s. With thanks to the crochet-y Suburban Correspondent for the heads-up, go here if you want to see a car that is Smart-ly at-tire-d.

Saturday November 13th 2010, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,To dye for


Boy, that was quick. The folks at Cottage Craft had me wait a bit while they dyed more, not having enough in the same lot, and then threw in an extra 20g as a thank you for my patience. I was surprised and very very delighted. I’d bought enough for one of my shawls (a few more skeins than shown) and now I have a little extra breathing room just in case.

Is it as soft as the stuff Rachel spun up for me? No, but hers was 100% qiviut from the raw fiber, painstakingly dehaired by hand. This is half merino.  Still. This is well carded, well spun, a fragile, fine fiber made as sturdy as one could ask it to be, and I wish I could reach out a skein to everybody through the screen and go oooh, feel this!

I do still have to go finish that baby alpaca project first, and it’s in laceweight so it’ll take me a good week or so.

Meantime, my friend Krys did a grocery run for us tonight.  We are quite grateful; Richard seems to be coming down with my germs.

p.s. and Karen? If you think you recognize that background, you do: that’s the dogwood quilt you helped tie for me around the time of our high school graduation.  Dogwood trees are rare out here but prized because, though the trees grow slowly, their blossoms last a very long time. The pink ones are, as they have always been, my favorite.

Friday November 12th 2010, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life,Wildlife

A few more thoughts on the cochlear implant.  I’ve lived through brain arguments. Once was when the brain was telling me up was in two different directions at once: the right one, noted visually and muscularly, and the other ever and forever to the left, falling. It KNEW, just KNEW… No you don’t know! Stop it!

After my car got smashed into ten years ago, I had to learn how to walk despite that inner screaming match. I still fall down when there’s too much or too unfamiliar visual stimulus throwing me off unless I can counter it with enough tactile feedback. Hence the cane. Sticks not groans will brake my bones.

And there was a short while there where I had to wear an old hearing aid and a new one with differing sound responses. It was hard not to feel irritable, sitting in church trying to listen to the speakers and music while finding my consciousness being jerked between one side incoming vs the other, unmatched and unmeshed.

So I have some background experience keeping me from rushing into the implant on one side thing. And yet… Writing yesterday’s post showed me I really have been needing to simply go ask more questions and stop hanging back from finding out more. And I need to try to find out during this open enrollment period whether it would be covered.  Some do some don’t.

I also realized, as I answered comments yesterday, that I will always be able to plug the hearing-aid side via wires I already own into an Ipod (note that I don’t quite own an Ipod yet, but that can be fixed) and listen to my music that way. It won’t be communal listening; my children will exclaim, No no that’s *quite* all right, Mom, do NOT worry about that!


It’ll all work out.

Meantime. The feeders were deserted today. I didn’t see the hawks, although one had clearly taken prey from one of them before I got up. No sign of the neighbors’ cats. I knew the wildlife is aware of far more going on than I, but it was pretty quiet out there.

So I scattered a few nut pieces outside in the afternoon, bringing me Instant Black Squirrel at last. Just one.

I’ve noticed that if a squirrel pronounces all-ee all-ee in-come free, it’s safe, the birds follow immediately. And so it was. Instant flock.

I’ve wondered about that. Is it because squirrels have a sense of smell for an extra layer of warning, which birds, flying through the clear air, don’t really need and don’t have? Do the birds watch the squirrels for tail flicks? Clearly they do.  Michelle Millar in her “The Birds and Beasts Were There” is convinced that the birds who never returned to her after the great Coyote Fire in Santa Barbara had simply died in the night, asleep and unable to see or smell the oncoming disaster.

Don’t know. I do know, when I’m willing to share a few stale nuts with a squirrel, my birds come back to me.

Meantime, (I know, I’m meandering like bird hops here) I’m picking up steam and back to knitting again. I celebrated with baby alpaca, wanting to wrap this project up before my qiviut arrives.  Knitterly FYI: I bought a skein of their arctic blend, which I’m told will be back in stock in six weeks or so, and it passed my test: yes, it is totally de-haired and very soft, as anything with qiviut in it should be, and so I ordered the 50/50 to try that out too. If you hear a delighted squeal of YES! at the doorstep, that will be me with the box.

And I will crank the music up high and knit.

Stock up now?
Thursday November 11th 2010, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Life

I’ve been reading Oliver Sacks’ book “Musicophilia” today. Sacks writes of various patients he’s known and of the neurological reasons for why they experience what they do. I got hooked on his writing years ago with “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.”

One of his patients in the new book (wait–going and checking–he just put out a newer book last month, reviewed here) is a woman in her 70’s who, after losing enough of her hearing that if she couldn’t see your face she couldn’t hear you, she finally went ahead and had a cochlear implant.

And it was as the audiologist told me: her hearing for speech became normal and she was thrilled. He noticed that she was free now to look around the room as he spoke and she followed everything.  Her voice modulation was normal too because now she could tell when she was speaking too loud.

But it was also as I have feared and why I haven’t pursued the idea yet: she had totally lost all sense of music in her environment except for what was already in her brain from memory. There was certainly plenty of that at her age, and he speaks at length of how music is stored and handled within oneself and even of how Beethoven was probably better able to concentrate to compose after his deafness was complete.

Looking at Wikipedia, there are 16,000 hair cells in a healthy inner ear, and an implant substitutes (permanently and irreversibly) for all of them with 24 electrodes. Ouch.

But what if one ear is the old way with an aid, with all its limitations, and one the new? Can you have it both ways?  I guess one of these days I’m just going to have to find out.

Look kerchew now
Thursday November 11th 2010, 12:19 am
Filed under: Family,Life,Wildlife

Hmmm. *checking* Nope. Still sick. Still being boring. But catching up on some of the reading I’ve wanted to do. For the record? “The Birds and the Beasts Were There” is laugh-out-loud funny at times but I was looking up a lot of bird photos and descriptions to know for sure what she was talking about.

My parents would be pleased with that, and rightly so.

Hello, dolly
Tuesday November 09th 2010, 3:12 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

There were a couple of obviously sick people on my flights on Saturday and now I’m doing the cold/mild fever thing myself and taking it easy.

This morning, I got an email from my childhood friend Karen (Water Turtles shawl Karen, yes) that, though she didn’t know it and didn’t know I needed it, challenged me to be positive with her simple question, had I seen any good birds lately?

I glanced out the window wistfully, thinking,  not since the juvenile Cooper’s swooping hunt in front of me that I will forever associate with Smokey. That was really cool.

Just a few moments ago as I write this, a sense of motion caught my peripheral vision, though, and I turned: there was an adult Cooper’s with its striking blueish and white striped head, regal, huge, that had just landed on the dolly that is outside on the covered porch from where it got left out after hauling something or other back and forth to the car.  It was still there because someone (ahem) had mused to herself that it was out of the rain and you know, it might make a possible moment’s perch sometime.


It was facing me. Holding still.  Given its size, I’m guessing it was a female.  (They’re bigger than the males.) I admired the hawk’s long, wide-striped tail; in the moment I thought that, it casually stretched it wide for me in seeming yawning response, slightly gap-toothed to the left where a feather was growing back in. (Yeah, my hair’s been like that too after last year’s everything…)

It regarded me, turning its head to the side a bit for a closer look. It lifted one foot a little off the cold metal but not high enough to show it was relaxing the way birds do, and then having said hello to cheer me up, took off for the warmth and stealth of the tree branches.  Besides, how are you going to catch that squirrel when it’s cowering between the legs of those chairs in the way.

The squirrel reappeared under the feeder almost immediately after the hawk left.

Careful, little guy. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner here.

A little lace music
Sunday November 07th 2010, 10:00 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

I’ve been hesitating for the last several hours to write this because it’s not about me and I don’t want to make it sound like it is.

This morning as I was deciding what to wear to church today, the thought came, wear a scarf. Not a shawl today.

And a few minutes later I found myself thinking, I need to knit me a pink scarf, while  envisioning some baby alpaca in my stash I might use for it. It would go with so many things.

Wait–say what? But I *have* a pink scarf. In that shade.  I kind of shook my head at the silliness of the thought.  I had knit it, not only out of baby alpaca, but out of a splurge of royal baby alpaca, Blue Sky Alpacas’ brand, the finest micron-count grade one can buy as far as I know and that my hands have ever felt. I’d knitted it up for my next book project and it was safely tucked away in wait.

But on impulse I pulled it out anyway. Wait–I never ran the second end in? (I always do the first going all the way across as I purl the first row; then it is not only done, there is matching spare yarn in the thing itself should the project ever need mending later.)

Well then. And I ran that remaining end through the cast-off row and put the scarf on. The shade of pink didn’t actually quite match what I had on but I persuaded myself that it was okay and wondered…? as we headed out the door to church. Curious. I promised myself to stay open to whatever might arise.

It was Fast Sunday (details here.)

And one of the people who got up was a man we’d never seen before. He said he and his wife were there on their way to LA. He talked about finding out he was quite possibly going blind, and as a graphic artist, this was a really really hard place to find himself in. (I thought, and for your wife. Very much so.) But after much prayer and working through all the emotions that come with such a situation, he had come to a place (and I imagine from my own experiences he was probably constantly having to work to stay in that place) where he could say, Thy will be done.

He knew God loved him and that was all that mattered.  Between them all, the details would work out somehow some way.

And as he spoke, I remembered a story from a book I had read long ago, written by a woman who raised angora rabbits for the handspinning and knitting communities, the title long forgotten to memory. (ed. to add: I *think* it was “Angora” by Erica Lynne.) She told of a young man who had come to her, hoping that she would make him a soft angora scarf for his grandmother: she was mostly deaf now and mostly blind and very old, but, he told her, and I will never forget the words, “She can still feel.”

Moved, the woman spun and knitted and made him that scarf, taking his love, adding her own, and making it tangible for a lovely old lady she had never met.

I sought out the man after the meeting was over. I told him about my grandmother being a concert pianist and having taught music at the University of Utah 90 years ago, and how she’d picked out my piano teacher–but that I had started going noticeably deaf by my teens.

“Aspirin,” I added. “I was allergic to aspirin.  It took them 17 years to figure it out.” (Actually, thinking later, more than that, I was 31 when a very astute ENT put all the clues together.)

“Aspirin!” he exclaimed.

I told him how much I appreciated his willingness to learn to trust that God knew what He was doing.

And then (trying not to blather) I tried to describe, in as few words as possible, what royal baby alpaca was. The softest of the softest of my favorite fiber to knit.

And then I got to see the love and warmth for her that came across his face as I told him it was for his wife.

That said it all. The impulse was true.


p.s. A note to that couple: if the color’s not quite what you want, let me know and I will gladly overdye it for you.

San Diego
Saturday November 06th 2010, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Knit,LYS

This was a test. This was only a test of the emergent-see-baby! Momcasting system. If this had been a true emergent-see-baby!… Hopefully, the little one will wait another two months before making an appearance.

I was off to San Diego this morning for a baby shower for my daughter-in-law, and home again tonight, and I can hardly believe it’s still the same day without a tessaract or two thrown in there.

There was a fellow knitter there who had knitted a couple of hats for the baby and wanted to know how I did the top of mine without the stitches getting too tight to work? Since mine had no seam.  So I tried to give her a good visualization of how to use two circular needles, curving away from each other and intersecting at the center, and how you are always working from one tip of needle A to the other tip of needle A, then switch to needle B at the intersection. I think she got it.

I had a really, really good time. My daughter describes Kim’s mom as one of the most gracious women she’s ever met, and I absolutely agree.  We are very fortunate to have all of them in our family circle.

My son picked me up at the airport and took me back again later, so I got a little one-on-one time with him–and he had to show me where he and Kim had bought me my Christmas yarn, so I actually even got in some local yarn store time: Needleworks, with a very gracious owner.

And a fabulous time was had by all. (I did it! And even though some of the set-up was outside, they quietly held it all inside with the sliding doors closed so it was completely safe for me re the lupus. Noticed and much appreciated.)

Finally finished the finishing
Friday November 05th 2010, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

Do not forget my camera card do not forget my camera card do not forget my… As it sits in my computer for this post.

Peachy-pink Shepherd’s Choice, a skein I bought pre-Rios to try out; the folks at Purlescence told me it was their softest wool worsted.  Our niece and nephew are about to move to Boston from southern California, and I wanted to keep their newborn twin girls warm.

The grandson baby blanket is done. The sweater is done. The first hat is done. The unassembled bootie in the photo is now done. All the ends on everything are run in at long long last, the items are all wrapped, the cards are written and signed.

There. The camera card is in the camera is in the carry-on. And tomorrow I get to go deliver everything in person.

And darned if I can decide which knitting project in the queue to start on the flight. I know–it’s nice to have that level of problem.

Hawkeye and Fierce
Thursday November 04th 2010, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

My first pair of baby booties ever is done. They may fit the kid when he’s about two, the ends aren’t run in nor the buttons decided on, but there’s this tremendous sense of breaking past my inner barriers on knitting footwear: I did it! (If you need inspiration, look here at all these other Saartje’s. Talk about cute!)

Something caught my eye and I looked up.

Ah.  Playing field hawk-y today.  That’s why the yard’s been so empty. I thought of Smokey; nice touch, boss! It’s beautiful!

One small finch, maybe hungry enough to finally risk it for a late lunch, flitted alone onto the stained glass birdfeeder tucked far under the awning  into the porch where it’s a ten-foot-wide alcove, surrounded tightly by floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides. I was standing just inside, looking out.

That hawk watched it.

And I watched the hawk. I had never seen it go from perch to pursuit.

It spent about five minutes sizing me up, whether I would move, whether I was a threat; I was inside, yes, but visually between it and its prey.

I held still.

I kept waiting.

I finally cautiously reached for the camera. It was okay with that. I took the first shot. Okay. I opened the sliding door and hit the zoom button. Okay.

I closed the door quietly and waited.

The little house finch was on the far side from it, dipping deep into its sunflowers and could not see the hawk. The Cooper’s waited to see if it had been tipped off. No.

And then all at once, it spread its wings wide and I got to watch it do its own zooming in, a tight horseshoe manuever in that alcove, clearly aware of the walls of glass while focused on its prey. The finch, startled as this massive bird suddenly careened at it around the feeder, made a break for it and dashed for the treetops, the hawk gaining on it by sheer size of wingbeat as they were lost to view.

The birdfeeder swung wildly in their wake.

Coopers average a 31″ wingspan and their tails are long.  Watching that hawk do that maneuver in that small space at that speed right in front of me at eye level as I stood there a few feet away was something to remember forever. Wow.

How we got here
Wednesday November 03rd 2010, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

So many memories. He changed our lives. He changed our children’s lives, and for the better for all of us.

Our oldest was going to be in kindergarten in the fall, and the school system there was terrible at the time. The snow was–well, when your husband is traveling a lot on business, what do you do with your babies? Leave them inside unattended? Take them outside where the only place to go in subfreezing temperatures was wherever you’d shoveled so far? If you’re lifting each laden shovelful of snow and having to toss it higher than the top of the garage, only to see it half the time slide right back down into the driveway because you hadn’t thrown it hard enough–and you had the whole depth and width and length of the driveway to do, and then you had to have the energy still to take care of your three little ones, alone, and one was often ill and often cried all night, and there would be no groceries if that driveway didn’t get done. And done again. And again. And again. And you had already learned the hard way that if you drove over just a few inches’ worth, just once, you were going to have impenetrable lines of ice maybe till spring that would spin your tires and flip your feet out from under you when you went back out later to try to scrape it out.

Seventy-five inches. Seventeen days.

So many things about ice and snow I learned during our four years in New Hampshire. New Englanders and Canadians are tough stuff. I am in awe.

Meantime, Smokey, the boss of the group in California that Richard’s was collaborating with, told him, Any time you want to change jobs, you have one with me. Absolutely.

But there’s no income tax and no sales tax in New Hampshire, we’d have to take a de facto 17% pay cut to move to your insane Bay Area housing market.

The boss at home, meantime, told Richard he wanted to send him across the country on a one-year assignment. By himself. No family.  No need for the expenses for the company nor the distractions for him.

It is safe to say we do not remember that idea fondly.

Smokey’s faith in Richard’s skills was our lifeline to a different life altogether. He fought the bureaucracy back East, he pulled the strings, he pointed out the obvious on the cost of living differences, he made it happen.

And his offer letter promised, in writing, “No home delivery of snow.”

Twenty-three years ago, almost twenty-four now, we moved 3333 miles to get a good boss, and Smokey proved to indeed be the best you could possibly ask for. The company didn’t last longterm; the many friendships that flourished under the long-haired man playing the 12-string guitar kept in his office for when things got too uptight, did.

Smokey himself sent out the heads-up recently to let us know. So it was not a surprise.  Still.

To quote his love’s note today:

 If you thought you heard bagpipges yesterday, stopped to admire a
late-blooming rose, or succumbed to an adolescent urge to do something
positively outrageous, you can blame it on Smokey. He would approve…

And if it snows anytime in this coming winter, we know who the practical joker up there throwing the confetti at us in celebration will be.

I got my little “I voted” sticker
Tuesday November 02nd 2010, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Friends,Politics,Recipes

And now I’m glued (again) to watching the results come in.

We went over to Johnna and Glenn’s for an election party, Jon Stewart style: everyone kind and courteous and just plain enjoying hanging out with friends, regardless of any party affiliation. Pass the snacks.  Glenn supplied fine chocolate, I brought almond raspberry sponge cake.  (Mom: that would be your hot milk sponge cake recipe from Betty Crocker circa 1952, made with almond extract, 4 tbl butter instead of 2, and with two boxes of raspberries rinsed, very carefully patted dry, and arranged across to sink down to the bottom evenly.  Crunchy organic/Demerara type sugar sprinkled on top of the cake.)

And a good time was had by all.

(Ed. to add, and one political party=one baby hat, knittingwise.)

From Silicon Valley
Monday November 01st 2010, 10:19 pm
Filed under: Politics

My hometown paper posted pictures of signs at the Stewart/Colbert rally. My favorite so far, having grown up in DC during the Vietnam War, was number 42, with the picture of a pepperoni pie: Give pizza chants.

Amen, brother.

And pizzan quiet at last when the phone stops ringing every five minutes come Wednesday.

Meg. We’ve heard all about your maid, endlessly; it’s not so much the is she legal/is she not, it’s, once you knew, how did you respond? Were you kind to the person who loved your children and you, too, enough to stay there for half of their growing-up years by then?

Or did you respond with vindictiveness?

Then how will you treat the rest of us whom you don’t personally know when you are in power over us?

It was not the taxpayers’ pockets that settled the suit when you lost your temper at Ebay and threw a dissenting underling towards the wall; I don’t want to be on the hook for your behavior when you find yourself thwarted in politics over and over and endlessly over again.  But see, there’s something you would already have learned a little of had you ever voted before deciding to run:

You don’t always get your way in politics. It’s worth trying, and then you just have to go and be gracious with the results.

And Carly? I remember friends who worked for HP singing in great glee, Ding dong the witch is dead! It was the unofficial company theme song across the headlines and in person–I bear personal witness–when you got fired by the board. You had no use for the egalitarian culture of a good company, one where by common consent when there was a downturn, everybody across the board from the top on down would take temporary salary cuts in order that there be no layoffs until the next business upswing. The focus was on taking care of each other for the good of the company that was creating new ideas and new products for the good of society.  It was a very idealistic place to work.

You killed all that. You bought yourself the corporate jet that Hewlett and Packard would totally never have done. (Bill Hewlett swam at my therapy pool. He was a sweet old guy.) You bought into the whole overprivileged CEO thing, spending millions and millions on yourself while firing competent workers and shipping their jobs away–HP nearly died of you. The HP Way, you thought, was archaic and quaint.

John McCain fired you too.

And tomorrow is my chance.