Okay, now I can cope
Monday December 16th 2013, 12:47 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

A friend’s son is suddenly on life support after an unexpected medical emergency and will not survive, I found out today. We will never again see that sweet redheaded Down’s adult winking in pride at his mom for a job well done after he’s helped out. I wanted to shout NO! No more of this, everybody just stop dying for a little while, okay? Enough!

And that my friend Jennifer is moving away.

Sometimes it’s all a bit too much.

There was an unexpected knock at our door tonight: Jennifer herself, sharing some homemade soup that she’d frozen extras of and would not have time here to finish off, offering up food, friendship, and what I think I needed most of all, an evening’s presence. We talked, she asked after Michelle, we laughed, we all swapped stories till late, we treasured every moment. She told us of one dear to her who had been in such an accident–but he had died. We examined the impacts of grief together in a safe place.

We laughed over the antics of babies–one at church today who’d toddled over to her, descriptions of her brother’s twins at the just-walking stage. New life. To life!

And I came away feeling somehow whole again in a way that had been missing these last few days.

Missing Mary
Saturday December 14th 2013, 10:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

If you remember this post, the chance meet-up at Copenhagen Bakery in Burlingame, confirming that sense of belonging for her as an adult now–I’m so glad that happened. It needed to happen.

Today I was throwing my arms around Helen. It’s so hard, and yet, especially given the last few days (and the confirmed death of the speeder in Michelle’s accident Thursday), dying because this is 2013 and you were born in 1922 and have lived a full life as a loving, giving person…

It was a lovely service at the church celebrating a good woman who is missed keenly.

I don’t think I ever told you, and I don’t know if you remember, I told Helen afterwards. (I’d wondered why I hadn’t mentioned it before. Maybe because today was going to be the day she would most need to hear it? I can only guess. It had looked like she was going to be adopted out of state to a couple that had never even seen her before and her great-grandmother was fighting for custody, fighting the idea that she was too old to raise the child.)

You were I think four, I continued. Marnie and I went to the courthouse that day to testify for your grandmother. They wouldn’t let us in the courtroom because we weren’t family so we stayed in the waiting room praying hard. And I’ve been praying all the years since for both of you.

We wept together.

Yes, her great-grandmother had been old. But she had wanted to see her little girl grow up and belong to the survivors among her own who knew her and loved her and to get the education Mary had never been able to have, and Helen was now in college.

Mary was 91. She slipped peacefully away, knowing her Helen was well loved and supported and on her way.

And she had succeeded. Helen is the soft-spoken, kind, caring, very image of her beloved great grandmother. Everything one could hope for one’s child to grow up to be.

And we are all there for her as she continues forward.

Good friends
Saturday December 14th 2013, 1:18 am
Filed under: Family,Friends

When I told Michelle last night I was canceling today’s haircutting appointment so that we wouldn’t have that in the way of taking care of her, she told me, No, you need your haircut! You need your Gwynnie time!

And so I looked my best when friends later showed up with homemade birthday cranberry cake; it was delicious. Phyllis cut me a piece and I pretended to blow a candle out as she and Lee laughed. We talked about everything under the sun but yes the accident too and the latest Star Wars and the craziness of city councils and the good parts about volunteering and and and, and they gave us the simple, blessed gift of presence.

As did all of you who wrote or called.  (And grandbaby Skyping time!) It means a great deal to us. Thank you so much.

Trauma center
Friday December 13th 2013, 12:05 am
Filed under: Family,Life

I was halfway through making dinner when we got the message and both of us dropped everything immediately. Except that I turned to grab my knitting, while Richard, understandably, but trying to be patient, said, We have to GO.

They would not let us near the scene, so we waited at a nearby In N Out to hear more, buying burgers as long as we were at it–it was going to be a long night and though it made sense to get some food down us, it was not easy to.

We apparently followed her ambulance without knowing it. They took her to the nearest trauma center, and so we waited in the ER at Stanford to hear more. But she was alive, we knew that, and that’s all a parent could ever ask for at that point.

The cops made a point of telling her, It’s not your fault. You had nothing to do with this happening. It’s not your fault.

The driver who caused it, she was told, one of the ones who flipped, had been doing in excess of a hundred miles an hour. And is the only one out of all the people in all the cars who, as far as they could tell at the scene, did not survive.

Michelle half apologized to me for not getting me a birthday present for Friday–that was an errand she had planned to run tonight. The only possible answer to that, was, You’re ALIVE! That’s the only present I could ever ask for!

She was able to laugh at herself a bit at the incongruity of the importance of chocolate and went, Yes.

Please. We don’t know yet why this driver did what they did, but we do know there is one family out there who are not taking their child home tonight like we got to do. Please enjoy the holidays in ways that leave only love and not grief in your wake. Please don’t drink and get behind a wheel. I beg you.


(Edited to add, months later: Apparently that description of the driving of the woman who died was given by the one who was later charged as being at fault. The full story as to which of them did what that resulted in their both flipping and Michelle’s being hit will come out later in court.)

See, her Japanese crane worked
Wednesday December 11th 2013, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Knit,Life

Summer ten years ago, dear friends of ours were moving to another state and I didn’t get to do nor attend any proper goodbyes because I was in the hospital.

Their daughter Brynne, in middle school at the time, folded this beautiful little orange paper crane by way of a get-well card in the midst of their own upheaval of packing and change, preparing to leave her own friends behind as well as her parents’. Letting me know I was not forgotten at a time when that made all the difference.

I was very touched. I still have it–there it is.

One of those blink moments where you go, wait, how long, wow, it has been: a letter in the mail. It was Brynne and her fiance’s wedding announcement, set within a beautiful little paper doily folded just so.

Only, this time I can do something creative in return.

For we need a little Christmas
Tuesday December 10th 2013, 11:41 pm
Filed under: Family

(Actually, they’re coming the day after.)

Spent today trying to see my house from the point of view of a crawling baby.

Y’know, if you’d just get rid of all those ziploc bags and all the heavier weight bags and bins they’re thrown into and just put that nice, soft, squishy yarn, the ultimate pull toy, in those big wide baskets and put them on the floor there where….

Harken, as the herald angels sang
Monday December 09th 2013, 11:40 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I got to talk to Don on the phone and he sounded much stronger. It was very heartening.

Tonight we went to the creche exhibit I mentioned yesterday, and found that the concert of the evening was Bill Liberatore leading the high school choir with perhaps even more enthusiasm than his usual, if possible; loving the kids, loving the music, the audience, the beautiful setting, just absolutely glowing.

And since we had four kids go through the music program at that school, we went up to say hi to him afterwards for old times’ sake, to his delight.

He mentioned that this year, his daughter was up there singing in that choir too.

I had been listening to the pieces and thinking, wait, his little girl is probably–could she be that old by now? Nahhh… Couldn’t be…

Bill, meantime, turned a bit to admire the small toddler in a former student’s arms (someone we’d known since she’d been a small child herself), and he wondered out loud how time could have passed like that.

But it had for his own, too, of course, and now I understood that extra thrill of pride I’d been seeing in his face during the performance. You could tell.  It was there in the love,  resounding and bright and clear.

Smooth as silk
Monday December 09th 2013, 12:32 am
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift,Life

I did not expect that.

Okay, that was obvious, given what happened, or I’d have been more careful: I got a few hours into a project last night in silk (allergies, recipient-wise, exactly why I buy the stuff) and on our way out the door this morning I stuffed it in a plastic bag and stuffed that in my purse.

Without zipping the ziploc. Opening went straight up.

When we got to church, I realized that I had somehow caught the length of yarn between the project and the cone outward and I’d run the purse zipper right over it. In two places.

That stopped me right there a moment while I took in the enormity of what I had just done.

I carefully tried every trick I knew to disengage them, but the silk was not tightly plied and as the threads bunched into a tangly lot on themselves that I was all too familiar with and the zipper utterly jammed I knew the thing was doomed. Or at least that part of it. The purse itself was old and not in such great shape itself and the last one had died a zippery death. Great.

It was a big group today with two wards mashed together because our building had been taken over by the annual creche exhibit, a museum for a week. Which is why the timing of the drive to church was a tad uncertain and why I’d brought the knitting.

At Sunday School, an hour and a half later, I found myself sitting next to two friends to one side and showed them… It didn’t really need an explanation, just one look at the thing and we all know when Christmas is, and I put it back down, grateful for a moment’s camaraderie over the thing, at least. I would have to take it home, cut it, carefully work back so many stitches, and then make an unwanted knot with dozens of tiny little silky ends sprouting out of the thing over time–it’s hardly the grippiest fiber. Hardly the end of the world, either, but utterly self-inflicted.

At the end of Sunday School I found myself picking up my purse again, thinking I could just try one more time–and that zipper sailed smoothly right out of the way, freeing the yarn completely out of its prison. Wait what?! Purse in lap, I picked up  either end of where the yarn had been caught, disbelieving, and gave it the most gentle tug just to be sure–

–and it was perfect. The tangle had stretched out and right back into perfect order like a model’s hairstyle coming out of a dressing room on the set. It could not be, and yet, and I wanted to jump up and down and yell LOOK AT THAT!!! to the whole room. But what I did do was turn to my friends, the farther of whom had no idea in the noise and distraction of the room just then, and I exclaimed to the nearer one, “Someone just said a prayer because that wasn’t going to happen!”

She burst out laughing. Busted. Yes, yes she had, she allowed, as delighted as I was for me, for the outcome, for a tiny but major-to-me-and-she-knew-it Christmas miracle. One I had been too frustrated to think to ask for myself so she’d done it for me.

And there you go. And it stayed perfect as  I later knitted it up.


Re Merry Christmas
Sunday December 08th 2013, 12:29 am
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I saw a post that you always see about this time of year about putting the Merry Christmas back in Christmas and requiring it of others (think shopkeepers), not an insipid Happy Holidays, and, it was implied, not apologizing for one’s faith but standing up for it. Political correctness was a phrase presented and condemned.

I understand and agree with the need not to apologize for what you believe in. And if someone wants to say Merry Christmas in their store, I for one enjoy it.

And yet there is a greater context in how we address one another in the public sphere than any one person’s beliefs, and I can’t imagine telling someone they had to say such a thing to sustain their business.

My mother once offered a small gift to a neighbor  in December. Our two families each had four daughters in corresponding ages and we kids were always in and out of each other’s houses. (Hey Mom! What’s for dinner? Oh–can I eat at the…?)

They would occasionally invite one of us to share their evening spin-the-dreidel games. This was very much their family time at a special time of year. To be included was a great honor.

Mom knocked on the door some day around then, that gift in her hand, offering her best wishes for a happy Hanukkah–and was surprised at how surprised and grateful the neighbor mom was: Mom was honoring her in her own tradition’s ways of choosing to seek God in our lives, not trying to impose her own. Words are small things but like every act of kindness, they are huge: she exclaimed to Mom, Happy Hanukkah? Everybody always said Merry Christmas to them!

Mom, stunned, But don’t they know you’re Jewish?! (Everybody in the neighborhood knew everybody in those days.)

Yes, they do.

Well then, but why??

I guess people would just assume they would get the cultural context of, simply, I’m wishing you all the best.

And yet, to actually convey that intent well would have been so easy to do. This family had lost members twenty years earlier to the Holocaust, extinguished from this life for the prejudices of others against their religion and people.

I type this having given away many a knitted finger puppet at any random time of the year with the phrase Merry Christmas (and a book a few days ago, for that matter) as a way of saying this is a gift from me–not a temporary offer; I’m not expecting it back. Remembering Mom’s story she told me a few years ago, I’ve been trying to have the phrase that automatically pops out of my mouth now be Happy Birthday instead. Same message conveyed: love is what is really being offered. Sometimes I get it right.

It stung Mom that others had not offered what she saw as basic, simple politeness to such good people so dear to her and her very willingness to be vulnerable to their unspoken pain created a tender, vulnerable, memorable moment she never forgot.

May there be peacemaking on earth, goodwill among all men; we are all His children and all who seek to do good are all His own.

Christmas knitting
Friday December 06th 2013, 11:37 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

Project #5 may be a reject. Let me think about it awhile.

Project #7 I think the end is going to get frogged and redone. It reminds me just a bit too much of back when I used to sew rather than knit for a few years out of my life and I wore out a seam ripper. (Didn’t know you could do that.)  I want this one just right after all that work.

Project #9 is blocking.

Project #10 is 2/3 finished.

Project #11 is being avoided at all costs and I’m thinking of skipping straight to 12. Stop me if you catch me doing that.

This old house
Friday December 06th 2013, 12:17 am
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life,Non-Knitting

A whole lot of living packed into one day. You see that picture? It did not rain today.

Diana was my excuse to make split pea soup, thick in veggies and ham and warm goodness for lunch on a bitterly cold day. She came by with her square and to get the scarf, since the two squares that were to come to her place didn’t arrive in the mail till after she got home so we couldn’t put all three on together after all. It’s okay, she’s got them now and is sending the scarf right out to the next group of knitters in the morning.

We had a great time. We hadn’t seen each other in far too long. We vowed not to let that kind of time lapse happen again. She raved over the soup, over walking into the house with the smell of it cooking, over sharing a good meal with us (Richard’s on vacation.) For me it was a rare treat too because I can only eat small quantities of it at a time; it’s not a low-fiber food, and to have her enjoy it so much and to get to enjoy her so much added so much to my day.

Then she had an appointment at 2:00 and I had one to go visit Don.

Don gives his thanks for all the well wishes sent his way. He loves to tell a good story as much as the next blogger and was a little discouraged that it made him breathless for a moment to talk very long. Been there… I understand…but he did manage to tell me more about his beloved late Amalie. I hope I didn’t stay too long, but we were both very glad I’d come. And I gotta tell you, he looked a whole lot more chipper than his roommate. He’s trying to get it set up so that he can read his email where he’s staying. He’s a trooper.

Coming home, cleaning up a bit, I went outside a moment to toss something in the recycling bin–and did a doubletake. Wait–when did it rain? I know water pools on the flat part of the roof, but. Richard? Did a pipe burst? (It was 29, five degrees warmer than Anchorage, Alaska and on its way down when we went to bed last night. And yet we forgot to leave the kitchen tap dripping. You always, always…)

He groaned. He got up and went out there (brrr) and looked–and came back in and said, Call a plumber. Try Joe and see if he does that kind of work, but, call a plumber.

And of course it was 5:04, ie officially after hours now but oh well. We had a full-blown waterfall at the downspout.

Joe didn’t pick up right away, the next guy was swamped, the next guy was, too–but he threw me for a millisecond by saying something about our solar re those pipes.

I was delighted, and then so was he. This was a guy who came out for a job for me maybe as long as two years ago, where his equipment wasn’t quite long enough to help me so he refused to charge me for coming out. Even though he’d given me valuable, helpful information along the way. So I knitted a hat and mailed it off to the address I found for his business. He chuckled when I exclaimed that he remembered us just from seeing our phone number show up!? Cool.

And finally we got someone we’d never hired before but who–give him a minute to call right back–yes, he could come right out. (I could just picture him explaining to his kids that it would be bonus Christmas money if they didn’t mind his being late for dinner, and people needed his help.)

Yes please.

Very nice guy, very thorough as he checked for possible second leaks in the dark and the wet and the cold with his headlamp and flashlight. He mentioned that the people who had installed the water lines (this would be the same ones as did the heating work Joe just replaced) had not done a good job of it.

Were we surprised? Still, though, we’re the ones who forgot to let the tap drip during the freeze, so, hey.

And then I went off to Purlescence. Where I got to meet Carrie of Alpenglow Yarn, owner of a small mill. I loved that her Big Fat ball bands tell you the names of the individual alpacas, and Paul Cezanne and Mozart? My dad’s influence and my mom’s. Perfect.

And. Always another and. I finally remembered to run in the ends and drop off the long-awaiting hat at the Halos of Hope box for chemo caps for those in underserved areas. The yarn had come from a swap at the shop: freely given, freely given back.

The funky design? I could just picture a newly bald someone missing the familiar feel of the bounce of her ponytail at the back of her head, so I braided the last of the yarn in the ball, braided the braids, and ran the ends in by sewing the braids together for good measure.

Cezanne and Mozart will help me knit another soft warm hat.

I think, hopefully, tomorrow will be a day for simply putting my feet up, sitting still, eating a bit of leftover soup, catching my breath, needing no contractors however nice people they may be…and knitting. Got that big deadline coming up, y’know? *collapse*

Scarf progress
Thursday December 05th 2013, 12:09 am
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

Noticed at the right time of day at the right time of year for the sun to be angled like that, caught at just the moment: our own personal flying saucer.  Beam me up!

Meantime, the next scarf photo went out amongst us at three squares long today.

I spent a wonderful time this afternoon in San Mateo with Beth, a semi-local knitter I hadn’t met before. We started at Nine Rubies and went on to coffee and hot chocolate at Starbucks, talking like old friends catching up.

Her square makes my unruly one behave–Afton’s is on the other side and mine is surrounded now, it had no choice but to settle down. What amazes me is that three people apart from each other can each make a small piece of knitting come out exactly the same size as the others’. Heck, I can’t even make my own knitting do that, but we did.

Tomorrow I see Diana and we’ll get her square sewn on and hopefully Sharon’s and Sally’s will have arrived at her place by then and go on, too. Diana and I have wanted to get together for some time now, and now we will. I can’t wait.

And I will go see Don. He said not to come today but do come Thursday. I will be there and be squared.

No pressure
Tuesday December 03rd 2013, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

Eight projects done, four (minimum) to go, two birthdays before Christmas and we’re not talking about mine.

Yes that did say seven done when I first typed it.

Back to work.

A bunch of squares
Monday December 02nd 2013, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life

It’s not my fault. Afton started it.

An online longtime mutual knitting friend of ours has been fighting all kinds of things, starting with cancer, and so Afton thought up the idea that we could knit her a scarf: she was knitting the first square and mailing it to me, I could send it on to the next person, and suddenly we had seventeen people signed up from all over the country and I think beyond. And then I think a few more chimed in. Cheering on commenced.

Having been the recipient of so much such knitting when I was the one in the hospital five years ago, it is deeply gratifying to see the responses–and to get to be a part of it.

Afghans take a lot of time to come together and we wanted as immediate a gratification as we could pull off and something that wouldn’t seem overwhelming against anybody’s holiday knitting queue.

I was waiting for the package to arrive so I could make my piece match Afton’s, but the mail didn’t get delivered when it was promised her it would and I had the weekend to wish not to add to the delay. So I simply sat down and made mine and waited.  The headlights on the postal truck finally showed just before six this evening.

My first thought, opening up the envelope was, well, you can tell which one of us lives in a warm climate: mine is merino and silk in a yarn that was a surprise gift from another member of the same group so it seemed perfect when I picked it out, but I have to admit I’d simply forgotten about actually cold weather; a little thinner, a little lace, a little Californian. Hers is good and solid and warm. And soft.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the whole thing looks in the end. Everybody please take a picture as it goes out your door to show once this is all done and in the recipient’s hands.

Monday December 02nd 2013, 12:30 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

I have one cowl that I actually knitted for me, and as I put it on this morning I remembered her.

I had knitted it nice and dense and warm and soft to wear against the unaccustomed cold of snow and high elevations as we buried my mother-in-law in the Rocky Mountains ten months ago, a heathered dark charcoal for the occasion.

When I go off to church wearing one of my handknits, I like to prepare myself to be willing to give away whatever it might be in the service of anyone who might be in need of it, right then, on the spot.  You never know. Sometimes you get a chance to come back later with something knit just for that person you found or found something new about; sometimes you only get the one chance, and when the reason to give is that strong, I have never regretted it. It’s always been the right thing to do. I’m a knitter, I can make more, but I can’t make more moments. They come singly.

Wait–I like that last word with it. It fits both ways.

So it was with a little bit of hesitation that I reached for that cowl this morning. Nobody who would be there would remember my mother-in-law by it, but the reach of my knowledge is so failingly human. I put it in the hands of the Father.

But it was okay to just go ahead and wear it. And so I did, all through church and back home again.

And I thought of my mother-in-law again as I safely tucked it back away after we walked in the door.