Visiting Teachers
Sunday September 30th 2012, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Life

There was a woman’s conference broadcast from the Salt Lake City headquarters of the Mormon Church.

Henry B. Eyring was the final (and only male) speaker. He thanked the sisters for the ways in which they go about their work–and for one particular (unnamed) sister in a different city and time zone, he said, This father thanks her.

The Church has a setup called Visiting Teaching, wherein pairs of women are assigned together to go visit several other women to make sure that everybody has someone they feel they can turn to in need–by their making the effort to get to know each other better.

The names and pairs occasionally get changed around.

Let me tell a story on myself. Back when we’d been married about a year and a bit, while living in an apartment complex full of married students and grad students, I found myself one day not long after a miscarriage at nearly four months and Richard was doing finals week for his Master’s degree classes and we had to move and clean that place well enough to get our cleaning deposit we needed back (never happened for anyone with that landlord), tired and frustrated, and at 5:00 the electricity was going to go out and be transferred to our new place a few blocks away–and it was a hot, stale day on top of that.

So I had my kitchen door open.

A middle-aged woman I had never seen before was suddenly standing in that doorway. “Are you the maid?” She proceeded to tell me all the things I had not done well in preparing her apartment for her and she wanted to move in now and why wasn’t it ready. She wasn’t angry, just firm. She was talking about a spot several doors down, turned out, but there was such a Niagara Falls of words and assumptions that I couldn’t swim past them for several minutes to get through to her, simply, that, No. I’m not!

And so she too easily became the focus of a bad day. I really really never wanted to see her again.

Guess who was in church the next Sunday? In our own ward? She’s Mormon? Guess whose Relief Society president, knowing not one word of any of that, instantly assigned me to be her Visiting Teacher? I groaned an inner, Yes, Lord. I hear you. But–really!? Do I *have* to?!

Never turn down a Visiting Teaching assignment.

And so that lonely, newly divorced woman old enough to be my mother and I became fast friends. By the grace of God I got over myself and got rescued from my own resentment while being given a dear friend I didn’t deserve. She was one of the people I missed the most when we moved to another state a year later.

Elder Eyring said his daughter a month ago was six months pregnant and home with her three-year-old while her oldest was in kindergarten class, when suddenly she found herself bleeding. And heavily. She called her husband and he told her to call 911 and get an ambulance; he would meet her at the hospital.

Before she could make that second call her doorbell rang: it was her visiting teaching partner, who had simply felt somehow that she should swing on by. No appointment that day, it just seemed the thing to do–and so she was the one who got her friend to the hospital, while being able to take care of the three-year-0ld; I imagine the paramedics wouldn’t have been able to do a thing about her past those ER doors and the mother ended up being sent straight to surgery. The dad was on his way as fast as he could. Waiting for him was his little girl in a strange place–with someone she knew.

And so, too, Elder Eyring’s daughter got to the hospital perhaps sooner than had she had to wait for that ambulance to come.

The baby was fifteen weeks early but is alive. They had to deliver her to save her mother’s life. Both of them made it.

And now the good women of that ward are taking turns helping out the family so that they can spend as much time at the hospital with their newborn as they can. That means the woman’s visiting teachers are in charge of coordinating care for the other children, meals brought in, whatever else may be needed as needed.

And you know every single person who chips in and helps will feel thisclose to that family forever after, that baby, their baby.

And Elder Eyring just wanted to say, with all that was in him, Thank you.

Raspberry nectarine
Saturday September 29th 2012, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Food,Recipes

Five large juicy-ripe, perfect nectarines, cuisinarted, a pair of pints of raspberries left whole, the juice of half a Meyer lemon from my tree, a cup and a half of sugar, boiled and stirred five or six minutes.

Michelle was in and out all day with an old high-school buddy of hers and I had this fresh fruit needing to be put to good use. It came out sweet enough and it set enough to call it jam; next time I would use half the sugar and half the cooking time to make a sauce to keep in the freezer, to be doled out carefully.

The first jar of jam went to her friend.

Who went along with Richard and Michelle to Costco to buy us more nectarines and raspberries for the next batch. I want to do more of that combination!

Casting call
Friday September 28th 2012, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Knit,Wildlife

I counted fourteen mourning doves under the birdfeeder this evening, a huge number; usually there’s just a few. I wondered if I wasn’t the only one noticing.

Richard was home when together we looked up to see the hawk do a loop clear around the awning pole–and then he looped again!

Silly bird. Don’t you know that if you cast on with an e-wrap the length between loops gets longer and longer as you knit across the first row?

Nina time
Friday September 28th 2012, 12:12 am
Filed under: Friends

Went with Nina to my other knit night for the first time all year. It was wonderful to see old friends. Rush hour traffic at that distance is such that I just don’t go if I can’t do the carpool lanes–and it doesn’t help that it’s the same night as Purlescence.

But wow, on a totally side note, you should see the Handmaiden yarns at Green Planet.

When the shop was closed and we were heading home, Nina and I weren’t done catching up. She’s an old friend of the whole family, so she and Richard and Michelle and I ended up chatting till midnight.

Been too long.

Redwood lookout
Wednesday September 26th 2012, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Three days ago, the male scrub jay was raiding suet constantly, flying to his mate, and feeding her often and conspicuously, owning the porch to the yard to that part of the trees. All others must fear the stabby beaks–even the squirrels.

It has been clear that the Cooper’s hawk too of late has been making clear announcements of his territory, as raptors do around equinox and solstice; I haven’t seen him much, and his mate not at all anymore, but the sudden long disappearances of all other birds have been frequent the last week or so.

It was startling to have no jays yesterday morning. None. No sign. I could offer up any kind of food and it wasn’t taken, or at least not by them. I could actually have juncos and towhees come, unthreatened.

There was a sudden jet-scrambling flurry of finches–Coopernicus had been spotted, even if I couldn’t see him.

And then I watched something I’ve never seen before. He did a glide across the yard, as always, and then suddenly pulled straight upright in front of a tree thick with leaves: wings flared like a butterfly and standing vertical in the air, he feinted right, then left, then right again, trying to flush prey out.

While I wondered, how did he DO that?

Then he settled on a bare upper branch a moment and eyed the porch. And me just inside of it. Eh. No time for this, I need lunch, and he glided in a blink towards the redwood and was gone.

About two hours later a jay came back. A second hung far back but there it was, and when they left, they were fleeing to several backyards away rather than watching me for when they could make their move.

I knew the hawk had gotten a taste for jay. I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath for them.

Tuesday September 25th 2012, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Non-Knitting

I told DebbieR I couldn’t remember the name of the type of wordplay that this belonged to, only that my mom had given me such a round of applause over it when I was a teenager that I actually remember what I came up with: I dropped the toothpaste, she said Crestfallenly.

Debbie sent me this link with examples like, That’s the last time I’ll stick my arm in a lion’s mouth, the lion tamer said off-handedly.

Okay, let me give it a try.

We need to call security! he said guardedly.

What are you doing, Captain–do you think you can just barge in like that? Wow (turning to the others) canoe believe it? (Turning back) Shape up and ship out!

I like the way you cut and colored your hair! she said in clipped tones.

I don’t like what you did to that window, he said in great fenestration.

Lemme decide where to plant that peach tree, she plotted.

It’s fruitless to try to make sense out of a toddler; they mango their words.

I think the stove is leaking! he gasped.

That’s not the fridge I want, she told the salesman coldly.

With this Hunger Games thing going on and the demand and prices going up, too many people are paying too much tax on Paul Ryan’s arrows, he said pointedly. I think you got the shaft.

I wouldn’t ever want to own an animal with a cloven foot, he vetoed.

Her enthusiasm for hazelnuts is well nutted.

There’s an artist with us in the marathon and I think he just broke his foot! the runner painted.

Ganache me what the chocolate is for, said the Greatest Cakes contestant; we’re going to get creamed!

Anyone else?

Gold medals
Monday September 24th 2012, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Life,Non-Knitting

Bill Gold was the columnist for the Washington Post when I was a kid who taught me to love reading the newspaper–he was wise, he was funny, he was generous, he was and showed so much that was good about the area I grew up in.

And I remember his word contests: take any word, add one letter, and give it a definition.

My friend Ruth was marveling a few minutes ago as we chatted that, unlike herself, our friend Holly can knit lace, socks, intricate patterns, and chat at the same time without losing track of the pattern or dropping a stitch–only, the way Ruth put it was, she could do it simpultaneously.

And Ruth goes for the Gold!

It’s late as I type and I’ll come up with more tomorrow, but here’s a start.

Yarn’t. Not going to knit that one.

Musht. Gotta finish that oatmeal.

Spilk. What I did with my hot cocoa on my blouse on Sunday. (Right at the bottom, and I quickly rinsed it off, no problem.)

Prolitics. The likelihood that your candidate will win in November.

Windoww. Why I have scars on my arm from when I was eight.

Hamperr. The one with the happy cat in it.

Birrdfeeder. The one they would go to to cool off on a hot day.

And with that I’m off to bed. Anyone?

Edited to add in the morning, squirrtel. What my supersoaker is.

Break the ice
Sunday September 23rd 2012, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

It’s hard to be a teenager and have your dad decide to take a new job and uproot the family and did you ask to move away from all your friends? Did you?

Not that any of them said any such thing to me, just, I’ve been a teenager and I’ve had friends move in/move out even if my own folks were kind enough to stay put for 47 years in the house built for them when I was three. One of the quirks of growing up in the Maryland suburbs was having friends afraid their dad–it was always the dad, back then–might lose the election and then they would have to leave. Back in those days, Congressmen moved their families to DC–and if their political fortunes didn’t hold, then, often, back out.

So. A new family recently moved into the area and showed up at church, the kids ranging from teenage boys to a babe in arms.

The mom is always smiling. Always cheerful. I like her already.

We got sent a picture–and I want to show it, but I don’t know how to access it from this computer–of my son and his little Parker, toddler totally copying daddy, very cute. Richard printed it out at work on Friday and I folded one of the copies and put it in my purse.

So there was the mom today by the door when the meetings were over, waiting for her husband to find her, holding the baby, her two teenage boys standing in front of her. They really don’t know me from Adam yet, so I explained I had one grandson: and then I pulled out that picture.

The mom went, oooh, so cute. The teens leaned in for a closer look and had the same reaction. They had a baby brother. They totally got this babies-are-adorable thing.

And then they looked up from the picture and into my eyes, still smiling.

I think they made friends on the spot with me as much as I did with them.

Of a Saturday
Saturday September 22nd 2012, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Life

Random thought of the day: smoked salmon on a crisp cracker, it occurred to me as I nibbled, is fish bacon.

I have figured out how I want the next project to look–I’ve just never done it before. Wish me luck, and silk is froggable should I need to start over.

And with thanks to Lene for the heads up:

Someone who tried something she’d never done before, on a grand scale. Sonia Soberats lost both her children to cancer in a short time while losing her sight to glaucoma. As Norman Cousins once wrote in great wisdom, the only way to cope with a major, life-upending illness is to do something creative.

She went completely blind–and then she took up photography. Amazing work. She dances with the light that she and only she can only picture.

Friday September 21st 2012, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Lupus,My Garden

Their online photo did it for me. And so on my way home from Los Gatos Birdwatcher today, I stopped by Yamagami’s: there was a high greenhouse roof covering most of the place and so it seemed I could risk it. I noted that you have to walk through their building to get to the rest, straight from the car right at the front door. Promising.

Walking through the building, then the towering greenhouse, I did actually have to step outside a few steps to see the Loring and Indian Free (Thomas Jefferson grew those) peach trees on display–there, side by side, exactly what I’d hoped to find.

Only, the price tags were over three times what I’d expected and  I was quietly agog. Not only that, the Loring looked definitely unwell.


Got home and went straight to the computer and looked it up–oh of course, it’s the special-order bareroot trees that are the price I saw on their order form, not the ones they’d tended in pots in a high-rent part of the state. Still. You needed that sale to get the ones in stock under $100 each if you had to have them right this very minute.

But here was a nursery I could feel good about ordering through because I could actually go there to pick them up. Carefully. For someone with such extreme sun sensitivity as I have with my lupus, I cannot begin to tell you how exhilarating and how freeing that felt.

Ava and Donna
Thursday September 20th 2012, 11:02 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,LYS

I was knitting away at Purlescence tonight, chatting with friends, and about a half hour into it Ava was standing behind me and got my attention.


She lives in Colorado. I’d totally forgotten she was going to be teaching a class here tomorrow; she’s shop-owner Sandi’s former mother-in-law and still Mom and friend forever. And she was to be teaching the class with–I mentioned as she and I talked that I would *so* love to meet–

–She’s in the back, Ava told me.

I exclaimed loudly, jumping: DONNA DRUCHUNAS was my TECH EDITOR for my BOOK!!! as I leaped to my feet to go back there along with one very happy Ava.

They’d been neighbors and knitting friends together where they live. (Donna just moved away last month, though.)

Donna greeted me with the hug I had so much for so long wanted to give her. We had long promised someday we would meet. We worked so much together via email on Wrapped; I told Ava, as we all chuckled, that at one point on the write-up of the how-to-knit-lace section at the front of the book, she’d emailed, puzzled, Do you really *do* that?

Me: Wait. Do you really do it that way?

Yes, we did. And her way and mine both work just fine. We had quite a laugh over that, six years ago and then tonight, all three of us.

Donna did a ton of work on that section. Those visuals? Hers. The charts that I cannot write nor work from due to a brain injury? She wrote them. There was a listserv for designers pre-Ravelry and she went on that list and proclaimed to the world of professionals in the knitting industry that she had never before tech-edited a book with zero errors in the instructions. Mine was the first. And then she told everybody they had to have that book.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I owe her. And I finally got to meet her. I am in awe of her, and I finally got to tell her thank you in person!

And to see Ava Coleman again, after her health struggles and mine since the last time we saw each other in person. She’s a generous, gentle woman I aspire to be more like.

Wow. What an incredible day. And it’s my mother-in-law’s birthday: celebrations all around!

Wednesday September 19th 2012, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Went with a friend to see a friend this evening to say hi.

To a new widow.

To an old friend. Twenty-five years ago, we were newly moved in and were struggling with the changes that had come with a California mortgage (I don’t even want to think what that would be like now). Where did we have any room to cut back?

We had three kids under five. She and her husband had raised their kids here with one still in school. She showed up completely unexpected one day, knocking on my door from halfway across town to share some fruit from her tree, a few veggies from her garden. She’d been thinking of me; would I like these? She was almost apologetic for the intrusion.

She had no idea that far beyond the fruit itself, the gesture, the thoughtfulness, the love for someone she didn’t even know well yet at the moment I felt so overwhelmed but had told nobody–I’ll remember it forever with great gratitude. It would all be okay now–the fear in the way and the tension it had caused was gone.

It’s been about a year since he passed; long enough that I’d been wondering if maybe she was feeling like everybody else had gone back to normal, everybody but her. When Catherine emailed and said, let’s go stop by, I was honored that she thought to take me too and glad of the excuse. Why did I need an excuse? Just go!

And so we did.

When our friend welcomed us in, I admired an old photo of her husband by the front door and marveled that their son (in his Facebook photos from across the country) looks now so much like his dad did back then. He was so young then. So was she.

We got to listen. We shared old stories together, some that were new to Catherine. We made our friendships all brand new all over again.

What had I been waiting for?! But maybe it was just the right time after all.

There will be more.

Tuesday September 18th 2012, 10:40 pm
Filed under: My Garden

My sister Marian was telling me about a fruit tree of hers that too often gets hit with a cold snap after it blooms, wrecking that year’s crop. For people with that problem, you want a tree that requires a lot of chill hours so the tree won’t break dormancy too early. There’s a list of varieties and descriptions here (not just of peaches).

For the locals: Yamagami is having a sale the 20th to the 30th on fruit trees, not just the ones in stock but the special-order ones, too, 40% off, with another 10% off with a coupon for their newsletter subscribers. Itlooks like my Loring peach is going to cost all of $20 and a bit of work and hope. I’m debating adding an Arctic Supreme to extend the peach-picking season–and frankly because the taste testers rated it so high, too. Might have to keep one of the two in a pot because of where the sun is best vs where the foundation of the house is, but hey. Totally doable.

Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?

Happy New Year
Monday September 17th 2012, 5:48 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden,Politics

Heard elsewhere:

Sarah Palin called Senator Joe Lieberman’s office.

“I’m sorry, he’s not here, it’s Rosh Hoshanah.”

“Hey, Rosh, could you take a message for me?”


Edited hours later to add the real post. You know how some days are all about winding yarn while your brain sifts through what project and idea to pursue next? Only, I’ve been doing that with fruit trees, winding my way through websites, learning everything I can while trying to decide what makes the most sense for our small lot. Avocado trees are poisonous to birds? Forget that. Wait–we get 880 chill hours? We do? (The number of hours of cold a tree needs in the winter in order to produce a good crop come spring.) That’s a lot more than I thought and gives me a lot more options.

Note that if you plant close to a light-colored house it will reflect warmth onto the tree and up the hours needed.

Wait–Lorings? 750 hours–Yamagami nursery in Cupertino has Lorings?! (Down the right side there.) Lorings are the peach trees of my childhood!

There was a commercial orchard just barely into West Virginia that grew them.

The farm hands would come through and pick everything ripe or that might ripen, leaving only the tiniest and greenest that could never sell like that. The trees would then put their all into those very few, and over a few weeks they would become huge–a pound, a pound and a half, drip-through-your-fingers juicy and with a flavor like no other. But getting to them was so much work that to the farmer it wasn’t worth hiring help again for.

Mom and Dad would call, and when the peaches were ready for gleaning we would go. It was a long haul from the DC suburbs but also one of the adventures of our childhoods.  Putting ladders here and here and here with Mom and Dad, we six kids got to climb up in the trees after those scattered few, so perfect peaches left behind, while getting an incredibly good per-pound price for our prizes; for the farmer, it was found money.

And also found friends. He loved that we so much loved what he did–and that we got to see his peaches not the way they ship best but fully how they’re supposed to be.

Meeting new neighbors down the street once with some of those incredible peaches the day we’d picked them answered their wondering as to whether anyone would notice or care that they’d moved in. Wow, *where* did you get these?!

It took us, what, Marian, an hour and a half? Hour three quarters each way to get there? But it was always worth it.

I can grow Lorings here in California! Who knew!

Peaceful Sunday
Sunday September 16th 2012, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Life

I’ve been staring at the screen, trying to figure out a good post, going and doing my treadmill time, coming back, nope, that didn’t do it. I just keep coming back to the mental image of the plum tree my kids gave me a few years ago–a stick with promise, something a little kid would be delighted to go play swords with–and what a beautiful, perfectly shaped leafy specimen it’s already grown into. (Wait–it’s four years old already? Next thing you know it’ll be heading off to college!)

It’s the simple things. I feel so blessed by so much and by so many.

(Edited Monday to add the photo.)