Day by day
Wednesday March 16th 2011, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Lupus

Zofran, an anti-nausea med, is a wonderful thing. I just need the earth to roll over in its bed a few times to get over this. I’m at least not as sick as yesterday. My in-law who wanted a chemo cap, meantime, called to report that it had arrived safely, that it fits her just right, and that she feels very elegant in it. I could not have asked for better.

Thank you all for all the well-wishes. It helps, it helps a great deal. My apologies for not doing a good job of answering, and now pardon me, I’m going to go fall back into bed again.

Drama queen
Tuesday March 15th 2011, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

Doing my treadmill time last night, I was pleased at how energetic I felt. It had been a really good day.

Today so much not. Woke up with a sore throat and fever and the lupus went bonkers. I did a little email and put myself back to bed.

It went downhill fast from there. I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t even lift the phone from above my head in the headboard to call Richard. For hours. I finally willed myself to anyway, because it was so bad that the will to live kicked in and made me.

We just got back from Urgent Care and two IV bags of saline; my kidneys are working now, the heart is behaving, but if tomorrow is like today they want me to come back and get more.

I had Richard bring along a shawl project with me in case they admitted me at Stanford, but they didn’t. Hope springs eternal: can’t go anywhere without my knitting, even if.

Teasing my old friend back
Monday March 14th 2011, 11:28 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit

Nina, whose Ann Arbor shawl graces my book (OOP but cover-price copies available at Purlescence), called today; she needed to stop by after work a moment.

During our short conversation, she decided instead to go home, grab her knitting–yup, got her addicted too now–and so we sat and chatted for about an hour, wondering why we didn’t do this more often.

I showed her Lorraine’s qiviut scarf and the little lace scarf I’d made out of one skein of the Arctic Blend. Ten bucks for a qiviut blend. It is lovely stuff.

Nina had the same reaction to Lorraine’s handiwork that I did: she immediately put it on and declared that wow, she felt like a million bucks. It looked smashing on her, too, she was absolutely right. Just her colors. I so wish I’d thought to take her picture in it.

I showed her the matching big skein of yarn, not yet knit, as all the Warm Hats stuff and baby blanket got ahead of it in the lineup.

Well now.  I could totally knit that gorgeousness up for her, she thought out loud. (With a grin.)

I explained that, editors willing, it’s to go in the next book.

She laughed, “You can tell stories on me again. After all these years, you’ve got lots of stories to tell on me!”

Wait–was that a hint?

And then I wasn’t tired anymore either
Sunday March 13th 2011, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Friends

On his way out the door from church today, carried in his mother’s arms, was a baby not quite at the walking stage yet but with a marvelous mop of light brain (note to my big sister: yes, I meant to type brown, not sure where mine was on that one) hair and usually I can get a cute grin out of him to match. I don’t think he’s quite ready for a finger puppet yet; he might try to eat it. So I just play peekaboo and the like with him when I get a chance.

It had been a long time away from his crib and it was naptime and he had the face of a little one who’s about to start making it known loudly.

And then suddenly he saw me. His little face burst into a grin! And he stayed smiling, waving bye bye at me, all the way out.

I tell you. I could float on that one for days.

Lupus Research Institute conference
Saturday March 12th 2011, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Lupus,Politics

There was a mini-conference today set up by the Lupus Research Institute, so I set my alarm for early this morning and went.

Until Wednesday, no new treatment for lupus had been approved, not for lack of trying on the part of those in the lab, in over 50 years.  Daniel Wallace, the rock star of lupus researchers, told with frustration of how one company had recently carefully followed all the FDA’s guidelines and had spent many many millions of dollars, only to be told that the third FDA president since they’d started had now decided to shelve it for reasons that many felt were very wrong. (And I personally know a patient who went from the normal person I knew to severe brain damage symptoms akin to late-stage Alzheimer’s, to being blessedly, miraculously normal again during the trials of that drug that is now denied to her and her good, supportive husband. I have not seen her since.)

There was an outcry. And the FDA finally paid attention to the disease.

So now there is Benlysta, and great hope–and more new drugs in the pipeline, at long long last.

One of the people who testified before the FDA for Benlysta’s approval was on a panel that spoke today. Another was a patient who’d been in its trials.

What I didn’t expect, though, was to get to have several minutes of private conversation, after most the others had left, with a gentleman (and I use that word to convey my very great respect and admiration for him) whose name I missed, the head of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

He in his own remarks to the group made clear that stem cells can now be made from adult cells. No embryos need be involved.  This goes far beyond lupus; this is everybody. Californians voted for this, the State of California will get 50% royalties on all patents from this, and it is already returning $4.50 for every $1 spent on it.

The state isn’t exactly swimming in cash and the funding was to be re-voted on after ten years. That will be 2014. He wants the word out: there is great hope that we could cure many diseases and that treatment will bring down medical costs, as well as vastly improving the lives of those treated–and their families by extension.

First they had to build the buildings; they did. Then they had to hire the researchers. They have been. Talent has come in from all over the world to pursue their dream jobs of doing real and lasting good for one’s fellow man.

Sixteen million people in California with chronic diseases, he said. And all those others who will get a disease that could become treatable. We can do this.

The cap’s in the mail
Friday March 11th 2011, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,LYS

Random curious photo: our local mini-tsunami got its picture taken here, the water playing jump rope across the San Francisco Bay.

You asked for Parker pictures; here’s another from our visit to San Diego. Parker’s already beginning to look older than that.

Meantime, Nathania made my day last night when she looked at the cotton chemo cap I’d made and exclaimed over the depth of the cable: “Cotton usually goes flat!”

Well, I used really small needles to get that effect, but I could only do a few rows of that a day in that yarn so it went really slowly.

She looked at me, knowing cotton knitting, going, Yeahhh. But meantime, I am so glad at how it came out and it was with such a sense of joy that I sent it out and on its way to tell the recipient I love her and hope all the best for her. It was exactly the right project for her. I’m so glad I made it. I so hope it eases at least that part of what she’s going through.

Specs: cast on 16, another riff on the Knitty Coronet pattern, only with a different cable and no fold to the brim, just straight up from there. The two four-stitch cables were crossed every other right side row so that I could adjust the length easily, keeping it in the pattern while matching how long I needed it to be to fit her. (Which is 2″ more than it would be for me; I’m glad they measured.) I did a three-needle bindoff on the right side of the brim part so the seam wouldn’t chafe, and at the top, I crocheted the end to a few inches long and left it for decoration without running it inside, French beret style, again for the sake of comfortableness.

(And yes, that is a Vincent Van Gogh in the shower curtain behind me. I am, after all, an art dealer’s daughter. Art museums are a great way Toulouse-Lautrec of time.)

Sue Nelson of XRX
Thursday March 10th 2011, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Life

Sue Nelson of XRX has been accepted into an experimental treatment, Stage 1 trials (the kind you don’t ever want to have to be in but are ecstatic to get into when all else has failed–which is where she is) for her Stage 4 ovarian cancer. She will have to fly in for treatment repeatedly, her insurance may deny all, and her expenses will be huge. XRX is raffling off not the book but their actual Great American Afghan to try to help her meet what this is going to take for her. Sue helped piece that afghan.

Benjamin Levisay’s post about it is here.  Tickets are $10 a shot. I’m joining the many trying to help and to get the word out.


Edited to add: the USGS is showing three (now seven) strong earthquakes in the last hour in Japan, including an unfathomable 8.9 (now reappraised as a 9) and a tsunami that followed, with more warned of. Forty-one quakes in two days and that number changing fast. My prayers go to everybody there, too. My stars.

He can handle it
Wednesday March 09th 2011, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Knit

Okay, so, 45 minutes later, I come up with the perfect comeback.

I zipped over to Safeway tonight to replenish the milk supply for my morning hot cocoa; in, out, home, was the plan.

There was a guy with some gray in his hair and a basket on his arm who approached the checkout line, hesitated, stepped away to look over at something else just a moment and started to step back just as I was right there now and in his way.

Hey. I was pushing a cart, he was holding his groceries with a two-pieced metal handle pulling heavily against his arm. In my fatigue-centric world, he wins; I offered him to go ahead of me. I was in no hurry.

There was the polite, You go ahead. No, you go ahead.

Alright then, so I did.

And turned and complimented him on his sweater to be nice back.

“It’s Irish,” he told me proudly. (I wasn’t surprised. It was also machine-knit, but I wasn’t going to tell him that.)

“I made one for my husband like that, only, there are no patterns as big as he is so I had to design my own since he’s 6’8″.”

Oh my. That opened the door. The Voice of Authority proceeded to tell me that sure I could, just go to a store where they sell yarn, they have all the patterns.

“Yes, but not that big.” I smiled sweetly, letting him in on the laugh. (Right?)

He insisted there are no new patterns in knitting, just rehashes of what’s already been out there. Those Irish, now, each town had their own. He tried to convince me that they might have been originators but nobody else could be, not now, it’s all Been Done.

I told him I design some of the patterns in those stores (thinking of my book)… (Again with the smile.)

He seemed offended. No no no little girl, is how he came across as he made clear his stance that such hubris on my part was not to be tolerated.

I didn’t argue with him, just let him go on, my eye contact level fading away.  My transaction soon give me a graceful way out–slide your card here–then I turned, smiled, and bid him a good evening.

Home. Put the milk away.  Sat down in the family room. I double-checked the cabled pattern lineup I was starting for the cap of the hat whose braided brim I’d made during my lupus group meeting today, a hat that will be identical to no other on earth when I get done–

–and looked across the room at my piano.

Seven and a half octaves. They’re all there. All those keys were invented years ago. You couldn’t possibly design anything new with them, it’s this key and on up through that one, one right after another, it’s all already been done.

(Ed. to add: I felt sorry for the guy for so needing to dominate that he wrecked a perfectly pleasant conversation. So as I drove home in the dark, I said a prayer for him: easy to do, since I don’t ever have to see him again, and the effort certainly couldn’t hurt him and did help me. Who knows. Maybe the Universe will teach him a little kindness from the encounter. I can hope.)

Happy Birthday, Kim!
Tuesday March 08th 2011, 5:20 pm
Filed under: Family

And today is our daughter-in-law’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Kim, and our eternal thanks for how very much you have blessed us all.

Happy Birthday, John!
Monday March 07th 2011, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Family

My youngest missed the chance his due date gave him to only have to be reminded it’s his birthday at every fourth year.  His missed his chance to have the only date that’s a command. (I’ll give you to the count of four to figure that one out.)

And today we celebrated over the phone. A chocolate torte, safely cut into small, individually-wrapped pieces before freezing, is being gradually consumed in his honor over as many days as it takes. Happy Birthday, John!

A nut case
Monday March 07th 2011, 12:19 am
Filed under: Amaryllis,Wildlife

We have a shed built by a former owner ages ago with a roof over it covered in many decades’ worth of redwood debris and bright green soft moss, spilling over the edges, quite pretty. The birds and squirrels love it.

Motion caught my eye and I turned just in time to see the Cooper’s hawk swooping up across the edge and over that roof–and the black squirrel sitting up there, startled, saw it just in time too and leaped for the leaves of the twisted old olive tree with zero to spare. Made it!

Just as I was blinking from that little bit of drama, a second Cooper’s swooped right there right at the same spot right in the same way, wings and tail stretched wide to second the motion. That is the first time I’ve ever seen two. It must be spring. Wow.

Still trying to figure out what yesterday’s visitor was. It looked (checking my Sibley guide) somewhat like a Wandering Tattler: a barred black-and-white chest, a heathered brown back, long precise bill coming to a straight point and large size, stabbing delectables in the grass. (Our back yarn isn’t the Bay and those would be shorebirds, but if they Wander…) Except that it had a black bib and, later when it flew, a white spot at the center of the end of the tail as seen from below. Any birders know?

It looked up at me, midstride midmeal, as if to question.

No, thanks, that’s okay, you eat it, go ahead, I’m fine.

And since yesterday, a pleasant smell of toasting nuts has wafted through the house whenever the heater has come on. This beats the heck out of our newly-built first house in New Hampshire in the 80’s: hear the fan. Smell the skunk. Here comes the heat. For a year. Our builder was late finishing, and I’d finally told him firmly that I was going to celebrate Thanksgiving in my house–or his.

I do not think he would have been altogether displeased that the skunk hit the fan. (Or whatever took the brunt of the spray.)

Well now. I knew throwing that thoroughly stale brazil nut to that little fluffytail yesterday was a mistake. I didn’t expect him to play gourmet chef with it. That nut smells quite a bit better now than it did when I gave it to him.

Everybody’s a foodie in northern California. (Maybe Virginia too.)

(p.s. With Bev’s suggestion, I looked more closely at the woodpecker section. Gilded Flicker. Cool! That was it!)

Anna Eshoo is wonderful!
Saturday March 05th 2011, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

I got just the best thank you note today in the mail. Opened the envelope, a big grin on my face, and read a signed-by-hand note:

Dear Ms. Hyde,

Thank you so much for the very lovely hat knitted by you. Your “Warm Hats, Not Hot Heads” campaign is an extraordinarily creative way to encourage civility in Congress, and I’m so pleased that you and your friends have undertaken it. I will continue to do my best to promote courteous and constructive dialogue in Congress, and I thank you again for your warm and wonderful gift.

Most gratefully,

Anna Eshoo

Member of Congress


I tell you.  She completely made my day.

Ellen has some good ideas here on continuing the campaign, and again, the spreadsheet is here on who’s covered so far/who isn’t in Congress yet as far as we know.

But don’t let that limit you. Anyone else whom you’d like to take the message to by sending them a handknit hat and a note, the more we do, the greater the impact.

I confess to having made one a week ago that I thought was going to go to Congress, but it refused my efforts to pick out a name. It just wouldn’t go. Then a conversation with another knitter led to my sending it to her to give to someone in her statehouse–the person it clearly had been meant for all along, there was no question.

Sometimes it pays to just go with the flow when a thing demands to be knit: it will tell you when it’s ready and you will know.

Computer cap-a-city
Saturday March 05th 2011, 12:35 am
Filed under: Family

We paid our kids’ uncovered medical expenses in December. No big deal there, nothing to see, move along, move along.

On a day where more news came following after this day’s, though, I needed some comic relief.

I saw the mail truck and opened a bill that had arrived.

“We are anxious to assist you with arrangements towards the prompt payment of this outstanding obligation, however your immediate cooperation is required.” Etc etc. Balance due of $0.00 must be remitted to them immediately or they will refer it to a collection agency. I am to please send my $0.00 by check or credit card right now. Or else.

Oh, I’m sure the agency would love a piece of that.

Okay, that’s not as good as when the utility tried to charge us $16k+ for that month’s electricity, which is solar anyway, but it’ll do.

The Congressional hats are up to 251. But for the moment I am knitting a chemo cap.

Venn diagram of life
Thursday March 03rd 2011, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

While we were in San Diego:

“Your ring!”

What about my ring?

“Your ring!” she couldn’t get over it.  Then, finally, “Conway had that ring!”

I explained that during one of the times I’d been very ill my more standard wedding ring didn’t fit anymore and I’d started wearing this one, since my husband didn’t mind: four turquoise stones, one for each of our children. (I didn’t add, and the fact that it needs to be polished and paid attention to to keep its shine I find to be a good reminder.)

Conway had had that exact same ring, and clearly he wore it enough that she remembered it.

Wow. I had no idea.

And then my daughter-in-law’s aunt went on to tell me a story to match my own: her father, as a young dad, had been a reporter in the next county and happened to come and take a picture near the university here of an adorable little boy and his daddy; it got published in the paper.

A couple decades later, he found himself telling her, Wait, that name rings a bell…

She married that little boy. And that daddy was Conway.

Plait, glass
Wednesday March 02nd 2011, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Knit,Politics,Warm Hats Not Hot Heads

Merino wool takes up dye more quickly than silk does, making it easy, in the case of my Filatura di Crosa “Wave” yarn, to have a heathered effect come out of the dyebath: two fibers that have been through the mill and share differences and similarities from the experience.

Soft but closely knit and strong and warm. It seemed perfect for her. A braid of a cable around the brim, the stitches picked up and then more braids working their way up: Fisherman’s Wharf and sailors’ ropes, even the yarn itself named to match the power of the ocean reaching halfway around her district. I liked it.

It was Jackie Speier’s hat, and I didn’t get it finished in time to mail with the Senators’ yesterday but I did do those last few rows today. I emailed her office a heads-up as to who I was and what I was up to, said I was going to put it in the mail, and then looked around her site for where to send it.

Hey. I thought it surely would have been San Francisco. It was closer in–a trek, and getting towards 3:00 rush hour soon, but certainly doable.

I called.

I got this male voice stopping me as I tried to introduce myself, going, Wait. Run that by me again? What?

Gradually, I got to hear his voice sounding happier and happier as he heard me explain the Warm Hats Not Hot Heads concept and why it was important to me that Jackie Speier get one of those hats.

He seemed a little more hesitant though when I chirped brightly, Great! Then if you don’t mind I’ll hop in my car in a few minutes and bring it over.

Thick clouds at home became a cloudburst the further north I drove. A slightly soggy-looking (red-tailed?) hawk perched on a signpole over the freeway made me laugh in surprise: always a touch of raptor, isn’t there, waiting to be seen for the noticing. Speaking of which, Clara‘s third new peregrine egg made its appearance on camera today.

Traffic was not too bad yet. The rain caught its breath a moment as I parked the car; a friendly touch, that.

I was screened downstairs and signed in.  I went up. I explained to the buzzer at the door, as before, who/what/why. A woman’s voice seemed to hesitate at first; I imagined her asking and the guy there going, oh yes, her, okay, so she did come, it’s okay.

But that’s just my guess. It’s kind of hard to lipread a doorbell for missing details.

I entered and immediately knew who it was that had been on the phone: the man on his feet now whose smile was all one could ever hope for. The glass between the staff and the waiting room was surely protective, but the woman near him quickly opened the door to the waiting area and came to me, smiling as well.

I’m not quite in Ms. Speier’s district, I quickly acknowledged to her, pulling the hat out, but I feel she represents me. She’s not one who needs the message of one of these hats like some of her colleagues do; rather, it’s that I personally needed to knit her one to thank her so much for what she does and who she is.

She asked if I were following the pipeline hearings. Ohmygoodness yes. Thank you Jackie Speier! Our very lives in this neighborhood may well depend on her firmness in holding PG&E’s feet to the fire they created.

I got to see, in my few minutes there, how much those two staff members clearly love their boss.

Which says to me all over again what a fine leader she is.

The hats. We’re at 245. Not a big jump from yesterday, but still, steady upwards progress.  Thank you, hat knitters! May every one of you come away feeling as blessed by your recipients’ responses as I did with mine today.