A shot in the arm
Friday May 16th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Politics

A modest proposal ahead:

We as a society provide childhood vaccinations to rich and poor alike, without charge when need be for the good of everyone simply because it’s the right thing to do. Our grandparents suffered greatly but by the grace of God, our children don’t need to.

The old DPT shot is now the DTaP: diptheria, tetanus and acellular rather than whole-virus pertussis, just as effective but with no side effects, whereas the pertussis part was the biggest source of fevers and aches in the old version.

I chose to be a part of that change. My son was a newborn at Stanford when a researcher came to my bedside and told me that two million Japanese two-year-olds had been given a new DTaP vaccine with not. one. single. case. of reaction, and they hoped to be able to replace the old DPT entirely with this improved version that was so much easier on the children but that still clearly worked. It might require an extra booster later; they did not know yet. She offered me access to any information I might want about her team’s work.

But to be able to get that version in the US at any age would require finding parents willing to have their babies given this shot while it was still in study, Level III, if I remember right. It had not been given to anyone younger than those two-year-0lds. She explained the level of monitoring they would do and the care they would take to make sure my baby was okay and they would immediately discontinue it across the board if any problems surfaced whatsoever among the infants.

Of which there would be none. And so the FDA would later approve it and it would become the standard.

My oldest is allergic to the old DPT and, having reacted, cannot be fully immunized even with the new shot for all the wishing in the world.

So there was that, and, I pictured possibly millions of people spared a long night awake with a crying, unhappy baby in pain–my husband and I signed those papers. Which is why our youngest is part of why your children and my grandchildren have a safer, easier version of their shots now. There’s definitely an amount of pride in that.

Some don’t want vaccines for their kids. They haven’t seen their baby struggling for breath from pertussis or deaf from measles or paralyzed by tetanus so they don’t believe it could ever happen, and they put every immunocompromised person at risk too and don’t see it and don’t think it matters. They don’t know or they don’t want to know that the man who started the anti-vaccination fad had, by very many accounts, a huge financial stake in doing so.

I have an elegant, simple solution. A conservative solution, even.

Pass a law.  Aim it at any parent whose child does not have a valid medical reason and yet who knowingly outright refuses to immunize their child with the DTaP and MMR shots–the basic childhood shots, I’m not talking about Gardasil–any parent who cannot empathize with nor want to protect their own child from the harm these diseases could do to them, well, okay then, that’s their choice, even if I would want to argue with them that my real-world worst-case scenario, that their child dies, beats their imagined worst-case scenario, that their child becomes autistic.

But they should then be on the hook financially for the outcome of that choice. Hospitalizations, medications, therapies, hearing aids, doctors, nursing care, we can’t make them not risk their children’s suffering life-threatening or simply life-crummying illnesses but we can choose not to take the burden off those parents of the financial costs they expect to impose across the rest of us for it. Society already offered, they refused, they need to own it.

All we have to do to make this happen is to say that the insurance companies are, as of some date in the near future, not required to cover any costs incurred by a child’s illness of these specific and preventable types if this is why they were left susceptible and got sick.

The insurance companies will quite gleefully do the rest.

(Edited 5/18 to add: No, I certainly don’t think children should go without medical care. I do think we must speak out more about the costs, of every kind, of this terrible fad. See my comment below about friends of mine who dealt with a major medical debt and how it got worked out; another thought might be to, rather than withhold all coverage, impose a huge co-pay with, if needed, long payoff terms.)

Ramble on home
Thursday May 15th 2014, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Family,LYS,Wildlife

Hey, tell Parker: there’s a new kind of digger!

There were a few tomato pots where the seedlings simply vanished.

And then… I found a tomato seedling, couldn’t be anything but, planted quite nicely in an amaryllis pot  a few feet away.

Can squirrels really carry such a tender thing gently enough? Their digging ability can never be doubted, I mean, there’s a lizard species that depends on them to get past the hardpack. Look Ma, no teeth! Who knew. The thing looked quite happy there.

I scooped it out anyway and put it back where it wouldn’t compete with my bulb.

And there was a safflower sprout via my birdfeeder a dozen feet away growing in another tomato pot, the little farmer. Okay, out you go.

On the peregrine falcon front: it’s supposed to be a few more days before fledging, but one of the females turned and bumped her brother off the low ledge today when he hadn’t even made the hop-and-flight yet to the upper one to see the world in that direction for the first time. (Here’s his more antsy brother in a video from sunrise this morning.) He didn’t fly really but gently coasted, landing straight below the 18th floor nestbox. Safe!

And so Glenn Stewart, the biologist in charge, drove an hour from UC Santa Cruz, got the baby-in-the-box from wildlife services, went up on the roof and put the little guy up there where his parents would keep feeding him as he got the hang of this flying thing. Glenn wasn’t about to rappell a floor down City Hall to the box with the parents going for his head like he does during banding, the eyas just needed a little more time where humans couldn’t reach it.

Clara and Fernando didn’t even react with more than a glance to the familiar face that stayed further away this time. Oh, it’s you. Carry on.

(p.s. And on a happy for her, sad for us note, Nathania is devoting herself fulltime to her yoga business and letting the others carry on at Purlescence.  She will be much missed.)

Tender mercies
Wednesday May 14th 2014, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life,Lupus

My favorite little boys again…

After last month’s lupus meeting there was no way I was going to miss today’s. I wanted to see her, to be there for her. I came with a hat I’d knit in bright navy and royal blues done in two strands of merino and cashmere/mink, with a second hat still on the needles in purples and pinks in a machine washable merino/silk for her to choose from. (I’m dangling those descriptions out there in case she wants me to email her photos or if she’d rather have how they look be a surprise.) I hoped things had gotten easier in her life, but in the meantime, being a knitter, I did for her what I knew how to offer love and support.

Okay, granted, it was 97F today and nobody would even want to think about wearing a warm hat, but the ocean breezes and cool evenings will be back by the end of the week.

Turns out she’d injured her foot and stayed home.

The parking at that hospital is always terrible and our group meets at 12:30–a difficult time to take a long walk across the brightness for the very sun sensitive.

And yet the parking lot is where the hospital chose to throw their staff appreciation barbecue today.  I don’t think someone thought through that they have this nice inner courtyard with doors right there to the blessed air conditioning for people to escape from the record-breaking heat wave, and one can only imagine what it was like for the people manning those grills I saw smoking away.

Oh wait now I get it they didn’t want the walls of the hospital to spontaneously combust. A little distance, a little asphalt. Gotcha.

I circled through the handicapped area. As if. I circled a wider area. Finally, I lucked out as someone pulled out and I put the placard up (so they wouldn’t ticket me if the meeting went over the two-hour limit) and pulled in.

There was an electric cart with a driver watching me as I turned my car off and I mentally apologized to him for getting it before he could as I grabbed my cane and opened my door.

But no:  he was an old retiree volunteering and cruising the parking lot for people who might be stranded by that party and need a lift to the front doors. Really?! He had spotted my placard and stopped. He offered me a ride and suddenly I had a roof between me and the worst of the UV and less time outside than if I’d gotten the very best spot. Sweet.

During the usual how-you-doing part of the meeting, where we’re expected to actually answer that question, I admitted that summer UV is hard: it kicks up my brainstem inflammation and makes it hard to breathe at night. Y’know, the autonomic nervous system thing–not so autonomic. Not, I hastened to add, anything at all like a dozen years ago when it first hit where I didn’t know from night to night whether I would get to wake up in the morning. Only enough to make it a struggle to breathe deep enough to fall asleep, a far better problem to have.

And it didn’t even occur to me till writing that just now that I could have handed that finished blue hat to one of them for safekeeping, just in case. Because I simply took it utterly for granted that there was no need.

Which is so much better of a place to be in. And, but for that question, I’d almost missed seeing it.

Life is good.

Bigger each day
Tuesday May 13th 2014, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Wildlife

Got a few Mother’s Day pictures to show off.

Got to watch the Bewick’s wren babies being fed by a parent again today–and now they can fly up as well as down. Solitary most of the year, interacting as a family now and I love it.

Saw a junco yesterday flapping madly as it descended onto the box but it didn’t know about this tuck your wings in thing and found itself lifted right back up in the air again and oh oops how do you stop these things? Bouncy bouncy bounce.

It’s the landing that’s the part they have to learn. Playing in the light and the air comes naturally.


In the quiet of the evening
Monday May 12th 2014, 11:03 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Yesterday being Mother’s Day, I did what I always do, with only the item in hand being the thing that changes: I clipped an amaryllis stalk that had opened that very morning, right on cue, put it in a vase and headed over to Edie’s house.

I rang the doorbell, waited, knocked, no answer, and thought my timing was off this year and she must be at dinner with her kids.

Turns out her kids and grandkids were there, actually, and in the “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” department, nobody heard me. I put the vase there on the step, knowing it would be expected and found and of course it was.

Which is why I got asked if I could come back over tonight. Before I headed out, I watered the tomatoes and saw that in today’s high heat we had half a dozen or so blueberries ripe now that weren’t before; I reached through the netting and they fell into my hands. Definitely ready. Wished there were more, but there will be in time to come as the yearling plants grow.

I put my small sun-warm offering into as small a jar as I could find.

They were cute and she loved them. Blueberries and apricots are her two most favorite fruits, she told me as she offered me roses and a couple-sized box of chocolate-dipped strawberries (all of which Richard and I ate within a half hour of my getting home–they were good.)

We pulled up chairs and caught up on each other’s lives. Praised good surgeons that cared and had saved our lives, hers, last year and recently. We rejoiced in each other’s presence.

And she said, And we have come together and become such good friends all because of Adrian.

Ohhhh, Edie… My heart broke. Again. And it was true. Her teenage son. Fourteen years ago.

She comforted me, then. She told me he is the first thing she thinks of when she wakes up every morning and the last thing she thinks of when she goes to sleep. The pain never goes away. You never get over losing a child. And yet, you find out how to cope, and life does go on, she said.

I having nearly lost a child this past December to that accident, and when people ask me how many children I have part of me still wants to say five: three girls and two boys–a miscarriage is nothing, nothing at all like what you’ve gone through, I told her. And yet–that other daughter is part of me. I struggled to say, losing her is part of what shaped me.

But Edie understood, better than I could ever ask for. There was no judgmentalism, there was no comparing in this, it simply was and we took it in together and we are enough in the face of these things. These are our lives.

And we have children that are growing and thriving and grandchildren to bounce on our knees and sing to and we know how lucky we are.

I exclaimed over the yellow roses and we came away blessed and loved and the world a better place.

(And now I want to plant an apricot tree.)

Knit together to the end of the day, repeat
Sunday May 11th 2014, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Just wishing every day could be like today.

Hudson has this Skype thing all figured out. He doesn’t try to climb through the screen to us anymore but rather took it as his cue to make funny noises up close with Grandma and giggle. Then he brought his favorite toys over to make sure we got a good view, and if the thing makes lots of power-tool-type sounds, all the better.

Silly Grandma, Parker’s pajamas you can’t see behind his knees are Thomas the Tank Engine, not Superman. We cheered on Thomas the Tank Engine.

Got to talk to everybody and a very happy Mother’s Day was enjoyed by all.

And typing this near 11:30 at night it just hit me that wait, my hubby forgot to give me the new chocolate torte pans that I *cough cough* don’t know about, for when I need to do a production run and the ones on hand weren’t enough (plus dishwasherable nonstick with a silicone seal, pretty cool, I simply wanted to try them.) We both just utterly forgot the just-stuff stuff.

There was also going to be some silk/lycra from Colourmart but it hasn’t come yet.

(break)  (return) I just ran and told him we forgot the material gifts of the day. There was a moment of say what? on his face, then the dawning and a guffaw. Yes. Yes we did.

Saturday May 10th 2014, 10:23 pm
Filed under: "Wrapped in Comfort",Friends,Knit,Life

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

An old friend. A message today out of the blue with a request for a copy of my book  for a friend of hers. A new address–wait. Katie! You’ve moved back to the area?!

Turns out an old friend of hers who lives across the country had inherited a house here and Katie is house-sitting for her while managing the fixing up of the place.

She showed me the sweater her friend had once made her and was pleased I wanted to show it off to you all: she knew I would understand why that friend needed to have my book in thanks.

Katie’s husband died some time ago and I planned to quietly tear up her widow’s mite of a check, but darn it, she insisted on paying me and she insisted on handing me cash and she allowed me to give her no discounts.  I tried.

The quick visit turned into several hours as she offered us homemade ginger molasses cookies and her little dog decided we were harmless and took a nap in front of the hearth. It was so good to see her.

And we got to see that magnificent old house. Eighty years ago, it was a spacious barn for drying a farmer’s apricots in: an open loft towered in view above most of the lower level, hemmed in at the edge only by sheets of added-on lucite maybe 18″ high. Not a place for a child and certainly not up to code. Yet. Add a barrier to falling there and at the stairs and call it good. Maybe divide that massive first-floor wall of a window across at waist level like we had to do years ago, but the contractor will let her know. We talked about how to do what needed doing without disrupting its sense of history.

The hanging lights were ornately crafted, from a very different era. Ironwork?

There were ancient willow trees out the windows, streams of small leaves dancing gracefully in the breeze. The furnishings, including a grand piano, spoke to Katie’s descriptions of the now-gone owners’ love of a good party dressed in one’s finery. In a valley full of the tear-down and the so-modern and the crowded, this was space and slow pace, a glorious home.

And it brought our Katie back near us for now.

Good kind of busy
Friday May 09th 2014, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

Dropped Richard off at work took something to Michelle’s forgot something went home took a brief nap to catch my breath got up went back to Michelle’s went to the post office mailed off a copy of Wrapped in Comfort: Knitted Lace Shawls for someone who donated to Stephanie’s bike marathon went to Costco bought fruit went home hulled and de-stemmed fruit made coconut chocolate ganache and then caramel sauce to dunk giant strawberries grapes blackberries in. Arranged artfully (more or less). Answered a bit of mail in between.

Then I picked up Richard, threw some dinner at us (more or less) and got back in the car with the fruit and the sauces.

And sat down in the chapel with him and took a deep breath and let the music, finally, begin.

Our friend Jim the organist grew up with Sue (Keith of yesterday’s video’s mom) and today was Sue’s birthday, so he rounded up half a dozen mutual friends who were musicians too and threw her a concert in celebration, at church, of course, where there just happened to be this pipe organ and grand piano near each other. So handy.

Katie came with her flute, and Katie hasn’t lived in this state since our kids were in high school together. She and Russ played some of Mary’s compositions. (Note that there are scores there. Note that they are freely available to the public for non-commercial use) and Mary herself came with her husband and got to hear her work performed.

The first Sunday we were here 27 years ago they announced in church that (insert name I did not know) was in a coma and would everyone please pray for her recovery.

I figured it was some old person, having no idea it was the wife of an old college classmate of mine, all of us then in our twenties. She had had a pregnancy turn molar with preeclampsia and had stroked.

Katie had been a gifted flute player and when she came back to us she no longer knew how to play. She has long since fully regained that ability and is fine. She knew me when all seemed lost when I was later in the hospital, too, and I too came back. So did Russ’s wife (I will be grateful forever that Karen and Amy told me I had to buy that cashmere.) We are survivors.

Sue’s husband was recording the concert and I might be able to link to it later; I hope so. Anyway, afterward, Katie asked after me and I explained the new hearing aids. She immediately thought of who could most be helped with that information and got very excited, saying, we have to tell Hank about those! His aren’t very good and he needs better ones. When I warned her on the price she said, But being able to hear the best you possibly can, it’s worth it!


It’s all worth it. Every experience we go through to get us to where we need to become and that teaches us to take nothing for granted, it’s worth every step of the way.

There was so much love tonight.

Happy Birthday, Sue!

Star works
Thursday May 08th 2014, 7:33 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Friends,Knit,Life

Bought a house as young parents, watched our kids grow up and our friends’ kids grow up. One family moved away eleven years ago but their boys stayed best friends with Keith of just-over-thataway; we visited them a few years ago in their not so new anymore place up in the Rocky Mountains–the one where we saw the herd of elk doing the fishy dance as we came back down from there.

They left California about the time I was in the hospital the first time and their youngest daughter took the time out of packing to make me a paper crane. I have it right over there.

The mom can make costumes like I can knit–and she thinks it’s simple and easy to do, too, to which I guffaw, and then think oh. right. in the direction of people who think that what I do is hard. So. One notable Halloween party when our kids were young, she and her family showed up with all of them done up as  Star Wars characters: the oldest girl had the dark hair and braids to totally pull off the Princess Leia look, the dad was Obi-Wan Kanobe, etc, and everybody else just kind of stopped right there and gaped when they saw them–WOW! So much detail, so much work (so much not a chance that you could talk her into letting you pay her to make anything like that for you or your family, too–requests that will sound familiar to knitters everywhere.)

And now three of their kids are in a video, and their sons’ best friend Keith–oh, wait, didn’t I ever blog about Keith? About going to church in Ft Worth when we were visiting my in-laws, and when the meeting ended we stood up at one end of the chapel and Keith stood up at the other end of the chapel and he and I both stood there frozen in disbelief, jaws hanging quite open: what are YOU doing here!

Small world!

So now he lives near where they do, and Keith has the Obi-Wan role. Etc. This video went past my Facebook feed again and again yesterday and I finally clicked today after my daughter said something.

Ohmygosh. It IS them! The maker of my crane is the female star. Her sister does a cameo. Their mom’s costumes rise again.

One of the great things about getting older is watching the world shrink before your very eyes.

Give peace a chance
Wednesday May 07th 2014, 11:16 pm
Filed under: Politics,Wildlife

Interviewer: so what is your take on global warming?

Guest: Well, in the San Francisco area, the fog is traditionally supposed to come in on *little* cat feet, but…


A mountain lion was spotted trotting through the park yesterday and down a congested street in a highly populated area.

Details are a little squirrelly, but note that it came within a few blocks of where President Obama will be speaking Friday. Peace officers were watching it like a hawk but deemed its actions not a capital crime. Was it flushed out by Secret Service members trolling for cougars during advance staging? Some may find it hard to stomach that the animal may be in Limbaugh at the moment (there’s certainly no lion under oaf) but plans seem to be to release it in the Santa Cruz mountains, because, hey, that’s where commie pinkos Neil Young and Joan Baez both live, right? (Unseen from off camera: Now, now, let’s make a Concerted effort to Bridge over our differences. Yes? Gracias a la vida!)

Announcer, continuing: Cat’ll Rove pounced on the story. Next on Coyote News, where the only legitimate predator is our species, not theirs. Top of the food-fighting yank-your-chain and bringing you the latest.

All that lion knows is it’s going to wake up in some other cat’s territory and there will be a whelp of a lot of explaining to do.

(But seriously, to our relatives in Los Gatos, which means, yes, The Cats, and everybody else up there–keep an eye out and stay safe, y’all.)

Fibonacci sequence
Tuesday May 06th 2014, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Knit,My Garden

Or close to it, as the stitch count added and added.

I had a moment of truth this evening: I was going to have to rip it all out yet again, I said out loud. (Why I haven’t been blogging about knitting the last little bit–you’d have had to cover your ears and hide the yarns.There were moments where planting innocent baby tomatoes and squishing water into resisting dirt saved us all.)

He knew that was his cue but he totally caught me off guard:  “But didn’t you use Frog Free yarn? You gotta use Frog Free yarn, y’know!”

I laughed, and it helped as I frogged a day’s worth of work for the third time. In silk (which I had held onto tight so it wouldn’t all go flying off the needles.) On size US 4s (3.5 mm.) All that carpal tunneling for the feels-overrated-right-now Learning Experience of it.

It was just that one missing stitch in the sequence, but it was at the beginning of the sequence and it changed everything and I refused to fudge it. You will see this pattern later, but not before it’s proven itself perfect over and over. Um, that means I have to be, too, and, um. (I’ve already knitted this shawl before. It’s already gorgeous and the pattern just needs confirming. Come ON, Alison!)

And darnit, I began with the right number of stitches the first time, on Saturday, if only I’d seen it.

Meantime, I got more tomato seedlings planted.

I started over. I counted right. I got the sequence right. I got it past failure mode, and we are back in business here. Man, does it feel good.

Sweet sixteen
Monday May 05th 2014, 11:04 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,Lupus,My Garden

No stem cells were harmed (nor found) in the making of this picture.

Meantime, Janice  (Rav link) posted on FB that she had started her tomatoes a tad late,  but hey–and now she had way more seedlings than she could use. It seemed a shame to dump all that potential into the compost heap, did anyone want them?

A day later, nobody had taken her up on it so I said sure.

She dropped them by on Saturday, whereupon I learned a new use for the produce clamshells that are too shallow for my fruit trees–what a great idea!

Saturday and Sunday evenings were busy for us but tonight I finally had some no-UV time at home.

Last year I started my own tomatoes from seed, too, and dutifully thinned them down to one per pot but totally picked the wrong individuals: the sorriest one never got above 10″ high no matter how I tried to coax the darn thing. Big Boy my foot.

And that is why I bought Costco tomato plants a month ago and got them in the ground with bird netting rather than planning on hauling pots inside away from the squirrels once they set fruit. You need the outside heat for sweetness anyway. I wanted real homegrown tomatoes at last!

Tonight with easily 50 seedlings wanting to grow up, as the sun rapidly faded while I was trying to decide mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the biggest plant of all, I hedged my bets and put two per pot in some of the pots. We’ll see how that goes as they grow and show themselves and I get more ruthless, but still: I filled sixteen pots. With two more seedlings plunked in the ground behind the Costco ones that have already set fruit (good luck, guys) because, well, the more the merrier.

Let me grow these up just a bit and then, or now if you want, if you’re local and you’d like an heirloom tomato plant let me know. Seems I have a few extra.

You can just taste it
Sunday May 04th 2014, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,My Garden

Two blueberries a day. It’s early in the season and the plants are only a year old. On this one variety they definitely turn color fast once they’re ready to go and suddenly they completely stand out from behind the bird netting, begging, pick me, pick me: two perfect, big, blue, berries, as if the canes know to pair them off like that for us, and so for the third or fourth time now, Richard smiled tonight as I proudly handed him his portion from the garden. With a fair amount of bemusement on his part as he held the tiny thing between his much-larger-than-mine finger and thumb.

There was never such a perfect little snack.

He would agree on that description.

Saturday May 03rd 2014, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

And we had banding day in San Jose Friday at the peregrine falcon nest: two males, two females and happy fledging to all three weeks from now. San Francisco has three eyases, a bit younger than ours, to be banded this coming week.

John’s video, including footage from biologist Glenn Stewart’s helmet cam. At the three minute mark you get an eyas looking straight at you for their closeup.

Eric’s photos and videos taken from the top of the city garage fourteen stories below looking up and watching that long careful descent from the roof to reach the nest (yow), the parents zooming at the intruder. Remember that peregrines have been clocked diving at 241 mph–and they were not happy.

Link to the live cam feed is here.

While over at our house, I set out crumbles of a suet-peanut-insect mix yesterday, saw a tiny Bewick’s wren swoop in to grab some, and then watched as it flew to the top of the shed and fed a newly-fledged baby. Came back for more and then quickly back to a second chick, which had been quietly waiting its turn.

The peregrine came back from near extinction. Outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, my favorite little wren has yet to make that turnaround.

Doing my small part.

Friday May 02nd 2014, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Life

It has been twenty years since we added on this room and I don’t remember ever seeing anything quite like this before. It was so brilliantly lit. I guess it had to be at just the right time of day at the right time of year. I ran for my camera but it had already faded greatly in the seconds it took me to get back and snap it. Still.

It was late in the almost-summer afternoon. The sun’s path crosses generally forward from the skylight, which is shaded by both a tree and in its manufacturing, and there is a half wall between it and this wall.

And yet somehow.

The rest of the time this is simply one plain eggshell-white expanse within a short windowless corridor. But the light refused to be contained and it came through to whatever space it could reach and when the time was right, waiting quietly to be seen.