Small world
Thursday July 31st 2014, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I started a new hat but there was no need: the twins’ mom is thrilled with the two handknit hats made for her babies. Who are just the cutest.

That’s okay, I know who the new one will be for. Right on it.

There is nothing like that moment of blinking in utter disbelief at randomly running into someone you last saw at high school graduation many states away. I guess the Diablo salmon at that place really is that good (it was).

More later.

Staying flexible
Tuesday July 29th 2014, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Knitting a Gift

One bright, one dull by comparison (picture here)–should I knit another baby hat for my nephew’s girl twin? There’s just a dearth of superwash merino in baby girl colors around here. Can’t imagine why… I think I’d have to break into a set that was going to be something else.

Which project wasn’t grabbing me the way I expected it to. Those six skeins could make a lot of little things instead of one big thing. Alright then.

Amazing how deadlines clarify the view.

Still guffawing
Monday July 28th 2014, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Life

I went to the audiologist and got the wax out of my hearing aids.

Then I went to the doctor and got the wax out of my ears. Which are always responding to the expensive foreign objects in them by trying to flush them out–amazing how much better hearing aids work with clear airways.

“Any other concerns I should know about?” my good doctor asked me.

I mentioned the bit of a bug, the bit of a flare (83/55 bp, I’ve certainly done lower), being a bit tired, but, eh. No big deal. And in passing I mentioned the peaches and the listeria recall.

She said most cases are low-level illnesses that end quickly with no real concern, for the healthy, anyway. But: in rare cases there’s a lag time of about a month and then it can really go to town, including meningitis. “So,” she counseled, “tell your family to be on the lookout in case you start acting weird.”

Start? …Seriously?!

Sunday July 27th 2014, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

Our children were little together. And then Pam moved away.

She and her husband and teenage daughter, born since they’d moved away, were here visiting from out of state and we old-timers at church did not know they were coming.

So when Marguerite came into the last meeting a moment late, I quietly motioned with a thumb across my shoulder to make sure she wouldn’t miss Pam-of-all-people sitting next to me.

Look of confusion back at me: Huh?

I leaned back in my seat so she could see. I tell you, that moment of surprised joy in her face, the same one that had been on mine just a few minutes earlier–it was one of those universal moments where the love that is behind it all is suddenly brightly clear.

Pam later was explaining to her daughter that I was the one who’d made her shawl.

And then I was explaining to the daughter that this morning I had felt like I was going to see someone I was going to want to give something to that I’d knit. I’d gone through a few projects and picked out a scarf I liked and hoped whoever it was going to be, if I really was supposed to, would, too. (And I’d told myself to be open to whatever was going to happen; after all, this is precisely why I knit. For joy.)

And so at that she went from grateful but shy and unsure to letting me give her the soft Malabrigo wool scarf. But I had to say to Rich, her dad, that no, sorry, I hadn’t spun and dyed that one. It was hand-dyed, though.

Store-bought yarn. What’s the world coming to. Heh.

Rich told me he’s looking forward to this year’s Christmas card.

I’d better start remembering right now to do them this year.

Birthdaying bigtime
Sunday July 27th 2014, 12:15 am
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,Life

Too tired (almost) to type. Had a great time. Happy Birthday to Phyllis! *confetti* *noisemakers* *candles* *friends* Huzzah!

The other six in our group took a walking San Francisco chocolatiers tour and then the two of us met up with them afterwards at Borobudur, an Indonesian restaurant. Richard and I (who managed to score a parking spot directly across the street in a perfect no-sun-for-you! moment) were the only ones there who hadn’t been to Bali; for the divers in the group the flavors held many memories. For us it was just very good.

We regrouped for key lime pie chez Phyl and Lee and to watch some sea life videos.

A superb day.  (Do I mention here that that double-decker part of the freeway, the one that’s still standing, still creeps me out every time we drive over it twenty-five years and many inspections after the Loma Prieta earthquake and the collapse of the Cypress Structure? No I don’t. Okay then.)

And a good time was had by all.

Gard them well
Friday July 25th 2014, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

Thirty tomatoes, one Gardman fruit cage, zero success on the part of the animals trying to get through to them now that they’re under there and my blueberries in another one the entire season have been fine, too. The mesh has not been chewed through. They cannot scoot under the bottom edge. (It helps that the ground is flat where I have them.)

I’d bought the smallest cage because, hey, price, wishing I could afford the unzip-and-walk-in size that you could put over a small fruit tree if you don’t mind maxing out at 77” high.  But at $139.95, no way.

Tonight–and this may change by morning if the things suddenly become popular again, Amazon likes to play ping pong with prices, but tonight, that biggest one was suddenly $49.95. One peach tree and one extra dwarf cherry, I checked with Richard and then ordered two.

It was auto-checked at $72 shipping. Or, free! Uh, let’s click free, thanks.

I know there’s another brand of these on the market where the mesh is so fine that honeybees can’t get through (I presume so that mice can’t) and the wind catching them like a sail is a problem. I watched a bee hover in and out of my tomatoes today and away, free as a breeze.

So in case anyone else wants one I thought I’d mention.

Hats off for a job well done
Thursday July 24th 2014, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Life

Finished the hats for my sister’s grandtwins and then her daughter-in-law posted pictures on Facebook of the babies wearing outfits she didn’t know would match the hats she doesn’t yet know about. Cool.


The manager called.

I was immediately impressed and could tell why he’s the one that got that job. He apologized, he took responsibility when I told him I hoped Corporate hadn’t come down hard on him when it was something he personally hadn’t done; he brushed that off with making it about me and about my being taken good care of. He was diplomatic towards the employees involved while still making it clear they were accountable for what they do on the job.

I told him they could maybe have been doing work I knew nothing about and couldn’t see.

He countered with making sure I knew his name, his assistant manager’s name, and to ask for them should there ever be a problem again. “You don’t need to stand in that line.”

I told him I’d almost plunked down on the floor at the end of it but for fear of being run over by a cart. I also said they were young and they had no life experience dealing with people who are different, and my case is pretty unique and I knew it.

They were to take care of their customers and if ever they don’t I was to come to him.

And that was clearly important to him personally. He took pride in his store running well for everybody, his customers and his employees both. I could not have asked for a better response. Oh, and re my wondering why on earth they would want hundreds of pounds of contaminated fruit brought back in there, exposing people needlessly?

“Bring the box. Just the box.”

Got it. I like it. The way it should be. Well done, sir.



(Side note: Wait. Having just written that last line–I always feel like I have to go back and explain to Californians just to make sure they know that that’s not snark, that calling someone sir is a mark of respect when you grew up south of the Mason-Dixon line like I did and he very much earned that respect. He was the perfect diplomat: very much in charge but also thoughtful of all others.)

But you look so well
Wednesday July 23rd 2014, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Food,Lupus

I know how privileged my part of the world is that this is the kind of problem I have to deal with.  You know how you’re supposed to keep it short and sweet? I didn’t, and maybe that’s why I got the response I did. My note to Costco:

Got the robocall (two, actually, one for each of the past two weeks’ worth of boxes, I assume): Listeria in my peaches. Dangerous for the immunocompromised, which I am; I have both systemic lupus and Crohn’s disease, two major autoimmune diseases.

One box had gone bad quickly and we’d tossed most of those peaches and bought a second box. The recycler took the first one away this morning.

So I took the newest one back to the (I named the specific) store. The fruit wasn’t ripe yet so the box was still full. Did a little bit of shopping first while it sat in my car and asked and was told that I had to have the peaches with me and I had to take them to the membership desk.

Okay, I was prepared for that.

So I put my new groceries in my car, grabbed the peaches and went back in. And that’s where it got interesting.

There were four people at the help desk. One was processing returns and that line went all the way to the front door. There was one customer, and then none, for the other three employees to process.

The employee at the door saw me trying to balance the heavy box in one hand since I have to use a cane for balance in the other hand and told me to go straight to the service side of that desk.

Where I was told I had to go back and wait in that long line.

I wasn’t trying to butt in front of everybody else, but I explained to the young woman (new employee? Didn’t recognize her) that I cannot stand still in one place for a long time: my blood pressure falls. If I’m moving around I’m okay (sitting, I’m fine, too, I’ll add here) but just standing in one place there? For the amount of time that would take? That line was not moving. I physically simply could not do it.

She was maybe too young to be able to figure out any workaround and shrugged and turned away and went back to chatting with her colleague. And that was more productive how? If two of those standing around had taken on doing returns and left the third to handle all others that might theoretically come for other problems it would have worked, both for me and for everybody else.

I stayed there a moment, silently pleading come on, guys, the fatigue in my arm getting to me, at which her colleague glanced my way and half-shrugged apologetically but did not help either.

So lots of people continued to stand in that line while three employees continued not to help them because they weren’t processing returns and the hypothetical Service questions were more important than the actual people needing them. And I took my box of peaches that could kill me if I touched them and left with them to try again later.

Except that I had come near closing time because that is when the potential UV exposure that would trigger a lupus flare would not be a problem standing at that membership desk. Coming at a less busy time of day with the bright sunlight streaming in could put me in the hospital.

I’ve been a weekly Costco shopper for years and have spoken highly of you again and again. I like that you treat your employees well.

But they need to treat the customers well too. My experience has been that you certainly do. But these guys blew it.

One other thing? If you have it in your records that I bought two boxes of the recalled peaches from you then your requiring that I prove that I bought those peaches from you by my physically bringing them in (too late on the first box now, folks, and now I know why so many of those peaches went bad so fast), can you see how that might not go over well? Why wouldn’t you simply refund the bills of everyone who bought them?

Thank you for hearing me out. If you are who pressured the fruit packer into doing the voluntary recall and cleaning their lines, thank you for that, too. But please? Could you take a moment to refund my account fer cryin’ out loud? I did everything I could tonight to try to comply. Thank you.


I hit send on this letter. The page I got in response was this:

The following error occurred:

Error:The web templates system was unable to process your request.
(Ed. to add, So, having saved it, I simply posted that letter above.)
(Edited again to add, Their produce guy told me that only people who actually bought the recalled ones got those robocalls. I got two calls. The UPC code on the second, since I could check that one, was a match.)

Barking up the wrong tree
Tuesday July 22nd 2014, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life,Music

Michelle told us she’s been baking ganache-filled cupcakes, and I can just picture the chocolate being folded into the flour mixture. Sing it with me: While my Guittard gently wheats…

George Harrison died not in London as I would have thought but in Los Angeles thirteen years ago, and it turns out a pine tree was planted in a park there in his name.

We’ve had drought across California, we’ve had heat, and in the end the city was sorry to have to notify Harrison’s widow as they took it down that it was gone, promising to plant a new tree to replace it.

It had been done in by the beetles.

Well noted
Monday July 21st 2014, 11:19 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Someone among the empty-nesters and retirees at church decided we all ought to get together and throw ourselves a mid-week pot-luck lunch just because. I didn’t know it was in the works till the invite arrived in the mail.

Hey, any reason to have a good time together is fine by me–I was looking forward to it. Hazelnut torte, anyone?

And then it turned out that one person whom I don’t know well very kindly offered to host it in her gloriously gardened back yard and to cook it all, too. She not only loves to cook, she’s actually a caterer and everything she does is exquisite. No protests about sharing the burden allowed, she was doing this was for fun. And no one would get stuck with vacuuming duty afterwards.

But when I found out the change in venue it meant I had to quietly say to the person who started all this that I wouldn’t be able to make it after all. I’m an indoor cat, shut the door. She was horrified at the exclusion but I said hey, if you don’t live with it you don’t think of it and that’s perfectly okay–it’s actually a compliment, it means they think of me as simply me, not as That Lupus Patient.

Now, I have no idea if anyone else in that group found out anything of that one-on-one conversation or if my situation (which I didn’t mention to anyone else) had anything to do with it. They didn’t say. But Sunday the husband of a third woman in that group tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a beautifully wrapped small gift. As I exclaimed in wonder and looked back at him questioningly–why?!–he simply told me it was from his wife and beat a hasty retreat.

It was a set of note cards that looked like beautiful quilts, so much so that I had to touch the one on top to make sure that it wasn’t actually a tiny one that maybe she had made?  (She’s a quilter.) There was no note, no explanation. I was completely blown away.

And of course I used the first one to write her a thank you note. (And had to put off mailing it a day because I had to ask Richard when he got home from work if he had their address in his phone–“The white house on the corner of X and Y” probably wouldn’t have done it for the post office.)

It’ll get there.

And I strongly feel we should have everyone sign another for our catering friend.

Monday July 21st 2014, 12:10 am
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Tonight I set the treadmill faster and went longer than usual, thinking a thank you towards all of you who prayed or Thought Good Thoughts my way after yesterday’s post.

Yesterday I’d set it to super-slow and still stopped it at two minutes when my blood pressure kept relentlessly dropping rather than picking up along with the pace. Air was feeling like a rare thing. Not comforting. I knew the drill from my tilt table test: down NOW and feet up. Breathe deep.

To explain: a dozen years ago, my lupus was attacking my autonomic nervous system the first and worst time with that test confirming it in the hospital, an alarm sounding, people running. My blood pressure was at 63/21, heart rate 44. They stopped it and pulled my feet in the air.

Today was so very much better. And I got to be super-grateful all over again.


My friend Karen at church had her sons and their wives in town for a family reunion and the cousins were all toddlers having a great time being cute together.

At one point at the end I saw a woman I didn’t know minding two little ones that I instantly pegged as Karen’s, clearly; the younger one in her lap wasn’t having a meltdown but he was definitely edging towards it: traveling, strange places, strange people, three hours of church, waiting for Daddy to stop talking to his old friends over there. Enough for one day! He threw his paper airplane down with all the energy he could crash-land it with.

The mom looked ready for a good dinner, too; I think it was more for her sake that I pulled out a finger puppet and asked her if he might like to have it.

It changed everything. Suddenly she had a friend to talk to. Someone who thought her kids were adorable. Seeing her. With no expectations nor requirements on her.

It was like the balloon had been increasingly under pressure and suddenly it popped and she could breathe. Her delight at that little bit of handknitting and the appreciation in her face made my day and we chatted like old friends catching up while her little boy explored that puppet with her.

And if she’d put her feet up on that couch right there in that hallway I would have cheered her on.

A beautiful summer day
Sunday July 20th 2014, 12:00 am
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

Tag-teaming with the lupus today. I was expecting a friend over and I wanted to spruce up a bit.

Wait, wait, not so fast there.

Can I do this. Yes. Alright, then, dishes after breakfast, done.

Can I scrub that. Not without collapsing. Okay, then, that will have to stay imperfect–how do two adults with no little kids around anymore get a floor in need of being swept again two days after the last time? But mopping, not happening. How about this? Okay, then, laundry, mostly done.  I rested and I made progress and at one point I put my feet up and cast on the next Colinette hat.

But rather than feeling growly or worried that things were flaring a little more than I’d like, I found myself mentally giving a brief nod at all the things that weren’t going wrong medically that had before and simply rejoicing at the great gift that it is to be alive. To be able to love. To have been raised by parents who love me, to have been able to turn around and give that to my children in turn, and best of all, to see the payoff in how very well my grandchildren are being parented, with much thanks to Kim’s parents and grandparents too.

Got to see some new pictures today of 15-month-old Hudson helping his cousin out by eating most of Hayes’s birthday cupcake for him. You want all that? Nah, it’s a little much, here, have some. Thanks! Um, wait, that was a lot.

Hayes. A year already! What an intense joy after all those prayers to see him growing and interacting and perfectly fine.

The friend’s day changed such that there was just no way she could make the long drive here and back up clear across San Francisco and beyond after all the traveling she’s been doing. She was so sorry.

I know fatigue. I would have loved to have seen her while she’s back in California, but I totally understood how it was, no problem. I’m just glad we got that close.

And as I knit I anticipated happy faces to come. It’s all good.

Embroidery and olivewood
Friday July 18th 2014, 11:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life,Politics

Kaye at the shop put a bunch of hand-dyed Colinette yarns on the front table, marked way down.

Superwash merino? $2.25?! Seriously?

“I wanted to see what people would do with it.” It had been sitting in the back unnoticed for awhile but now everybody was going through it and stacks of skeins were going home.

Thus this hat, and as I finished up the simple pattern my brain had time to think of other hands around the world, busily creating…

All these years that I’ve bought those sweet little fingerpuppets knit in Peru by women able to put food on their tables for my purchases. All the small children and their tired parents here who have received one of those puppets, meltdowns diverted.

What if…

I was chatting with one of Sahar‘s American friends last night and asked her if she knew Truman Madsen, the late BYU professor who used to run tour groups in Israel in the summers. Turns out she had been in Israel just after he retired.

He was my mom’s cousin, I told her, and my folks went on the last tour he gave. He took Mom into a shop owned by Palestinian women selling their handicrafts (what town was that, Mom?) and Mom picked out a hand-embroidered apron (purple stitches, if I remember right) and then one for each of her daughters. I treasure mine.

Truman’s reaction was to exclaim that her mother had bought the same thing in the same shop!

I know there are talented women in the West Bank and Gaza and I wonder how much of a difference we could make by buying from them, whether we could help make their lives easier–I would certainly think so. (Typing that and going looking…) I found this and oh look! This!

It says their embroidery work is a connection to their mothers and their grandmothers.

As it is, now, to my own.

Five dollars for a small olivewood bowl made in Bethlehem from locally sourced wood, ten for a carved candlestick, beautiful. One to fourteen of those bowls is $30 shipping, the fifteenth kicks it up to $40.

I am suddenly wondering who around here would go in on an order with me.

And I wonder what it must be like to get a package to the postal service there. Any arriving order would surely have its own story to tell.

Thursday July 17th 2014, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Politics

One of the most important talks I have ever heard in my life. I didn’t quite know what to expect going in but came away going, wow. I want to live up to what I just felt in that room.

I’m not sure I can do it justice, but let me try.

She was born in Jerusalem but is not allowed to live there now. She is Palestinian.  She is Arab. She is Christian–and she is a Mormon. I had badly wanted to hear what she had to say, whatever it might be; how often do we get to hear firsthand the in-person experiences from that part of the world?

It was not a political talk, it was a human talk. She described a little of what it’s like to live where she does–and what it’s like to try to simply go to church. Church was too important to her not to go: church was where she held onto the Spirit of God, to help her follow the promptings of that Love beyond all human understanding. Her circumstances made it so very clear how badly that was needed in the world. “Both sides think the other is” she shook her head, “horrible. But we are *all* children of God.”

She’s the Primary president there, ie the one running the program for the little ones on up to age twelve.

There are four small congregations in Israel, and if you are Palestinian, she said there are people who live 15 minutes from one but they have to travel for two and a half, three hours to go to a much farther one, because to go to the one nearby requires going through a checkpoint and if you don’t have the paperwork that would allow it you simply can’t get there. And you might not be let through anyway. And that checkpoint would take two to three hours, always, as it is.

She told us this: “Picture someone most dear to you. Your spouse, your parent, your child. Someone you love more than anything.”

She let us consider that for a moment. And then she asked us to think of someone who had done something terrible to us, just egregious, someone we found hard to forgive. Then she asked us to picture those two people side by side and asked us, “Can you love them both equally?”

As that sank in, “God does.” And she put up a slide asking, Have you been

Sexually abused.

Seen someone killed in front of you.

Been shot at.

Had a relative tortured.

She told us, gesturing at those words, “I have.”

She told us what it’s like to be a Palestinian at a checkpoint subject to the whim of whoever was on duty at the time. She showed a picture of men lined up, heads down, hands against the wall, with an Israeli soldier armed and dangerous standing over them. They had simply been trying to go to work.

She was at that checkpoint to try to go to church. And it hit her that she could not live her religion and be angry at those soldiers; they were children of God just as much as everybody else on this planet. Love the sinners, all of them, we are all sinners, and she said it was not easy and it most certainly wasn’t instantaneous. It took a lot of prayer, constant prayer, over a long time, sometimes fasting to gain the strength she so much wanted to have.

And then the day simply, quietly, unexpectedly came. She had to go through that resented checkpoint as at so many other times. And yet. That day, she saw an Israeli soldier and found herself completely, utterly loving him as a son of our Heavenly Father, capable of such great goodness, the scene at hand utterly apart from what he truly meant to God. She saw the best in him and felt a love from God for his sake that transformed her.

And that is how she always wants to feel. It is so hard but it is so necessary not to lose sight of that.

She described the prayer of a four-year-old in that Primary: not asking for food, though Sahar knew their family did not have enough to eat, but for Him to watch over her mother.

We make peace one person and one interaction at a time. And that is no small thing.

Dry me a river
Wednesday July 16th 2014, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Food,Knitting a Gift

Malabrigo Rios* blankie before the blocking: it looks like the side view of the grater we used to get lemon zest for our clafoutis. Latest batch: fresh blueberry.

(Pro tip: if you use the springform pan out of sheer habit like I did, and you, um, don’t get the bottom snapped on quite right, a quick cookie sheet under there before putting it in the oven and then you’ll have a giant popover! And clafouti too! All of it good and you get to enjoy it sooner, too.

And…the blankie after the blocking. I love how it looks like fireflies coming out to play.


(*Rios means rivers in Spanish.)