Tuesday May 31st 2016, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Life

The City solved that problem: tomorrow’s also our trash and recycling day. To make sure the trucks can get through, No Parking Tow Away signs got posted this morning on both sides for several blocks and barricades are stacked and ready to go on the morrow.

Monday May 30th 2016, 4:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Politics

Heaven is finding out that not only is Bernie Sanders doing a rally in Silicon Valley, he is doing so a two-minute stroll from my house.

Some may remember that my oldest used to live in Vermont. Sanders was her Senator, and before that he’d been mayor of the town, which sets at the edge of Lake Champlain.

That waterfront was coveted by developers who knew that view could command big bucks.

Sanders said no: once it’s gone it’s gone forever. He rallied the town around the idea that it had always been for everybody and it should stay that way. The hotels could be built further out. They could even have more reasons for people to want to book rooms in them: and so the waterfront was made a park with biking and hiking trails, and that is why, snow levels and all, Burlington recently got named the #1 nicest city in the country to live in. And let me tell you, it is gorgeous.

I liked Sanders’ vote against the Iraq war and his willingness to stand up for what he felt was right again and again–coupled with a willingness in The Amendment King to reach across the aisle to make small changes for the better when the big ones were out of reach. Ethics and practicality both.

I don’t agree with all his planks. And yes, he could stand to freshen up his stump speech and I wish he were younger. But I value his character and his experiences, going all the way back to his Civil Rights Movement arrest.

I paid each year’s college tuition in the late ’70’s with summer jobs; my daughter paid $60,000 tuition for a one-year grad school program. The cost of living did not go up by a hundred times in between to justify that. I don’t know that public university tuition should be free but it should definitely be a lot more like it was when the Greatest Generation was sending its kids off to college. You want people to be able to choose to get ahead, you make it so they can.

Anyway. So. Sanders is having a rally and it’s right there and how could it possibly get more convenient then that?!

Hell is finding out…

…that it’s at the same day and time that you were going to be leaving for the airport.

And remembering all those news stories of people camping out in line before dawn.

All those thousands and thousands of people trying to find a place to park will also be hoping for a two-minute walk. From my street. Whether security will be stopping cars to this far out I have no idea, I’ve never been through this before.

I’m missing getting to see the guy who likely won’t win at this point, but whose voice–and ours–still matters. There have been a lot of Presidential-contest losers whose ideas still won out over time because enough people wanted them to.

This guy champions my grandchildrens’ future and I have long wanted to see him in person to cheer him on.

Only for you, Daddy. Gladly, for you, Daddy. Happy 90th. I love you. Mwah!

Screening our calls
Sunday May 29th 2016, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I love being a grandparent in the age of Skype.

Parker, 5, had lost his first tooth and wanted to show us.

“Did it wiggle around a lot before it came out?” I asked him.

“Yes!” Said with his finger exploring the unfamiliar new hole in his lower jaw.

Hudson, 3, showed us with an impish grin that he still had all his.

Maddy, 17 months, toddled up to the camera and grinned and grinned and grinned at us. She knew exactly who we were. She even said–something, don’t ask me what the two syllables were supposed to say but she was definitely declaring something and that she was happy.

As the old Ma Bell ads used to say, it’s the next best thing to being there.

Friend of a friend
Saturday May 28th 2016, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

The question stumps me from time to time as it comes up.

How do you pick a color for someone you’ve never met and have no pictures of? I expect I will be meeting her soon, and she definitely deserves something handknit.

To the best of my knowledge, she does not know I knit.

Usually the best answer is to stare at the stash and wait for something to yell, Me! Me! Okay. I’ve done a little staring, though, and two days’ worth of hedging and wondering and not starting and it’s beginning to get to me–so for my own sake if nothing else I’m just going to go grab something nice and soft and go to it.

And take along a second or third project just in case.

She saved the day and neither of us knew it at the time
Friday May 27th 2016, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Garden,Lupus,Wildlife

1. That Black Jack fig tree planted March a year ago has a tiny fig for fall growing at almost every leaf junction and one single big spring fig left that the squirrels didn’t quite get to before I clamshelled it away from them.

I’ve never picked a fig before. I assume I wait till it’s darkened (given the variety) and softened, right? Still hard as a rock.

2. Somebody went to the AT&T baseball park in San Francisco a few days ago and put their drink down in the cupholder attached to their seat.

And–sorry, couldn’t get the link to the photo to work, it’s inside a Yahoo group–a fledgling peregrine falcon landed and perched on the edge of that clear plastic cup, its talons huge and in each other’s way. A small red straw poked out between its big yellow toes, its big eyes taking in where it had suddenly found itself.

Well hello!

3. And most important to me. My friend Carol is a knitter whom I get to catch up with every year at Stitches and, when I’m lucky, by random chance at Purlescence during the year. She worked on the recovery post-earthquake and tsunami of the nuclear power plant in Japan (side note to my local friends: that Carol.)

Ever since I met her years ago I’ve been trying to put my finger on just who she reminds me of. And now I know.

Yesterday I was off to see my much-loved Dr. R, the doctor who saved my life in ’03, to wish him well in his imminent retirement. I left early because there was no way I was going to be late for that one.

Which means I had time.

I stepped off the elevator to a very surprised face as someone did a double take at seeing mine. A lupus event damaged my visual memory years ago: I was stuck on, Carol? Wait. That’s not Carol. So, so close, but no. I know I know…!

As the woman in great excitement started catching up with me almost instantly the question was settled. Heather! I hadn’t seen her in 24 years! She’d been a lifeguard at the therapy pool where I met Don Meyer and his wife Amalie the year my lupus was diagnosed.

“Your face is the same! It hasn’t changed!” Heather exclaimed.

Everybody who had attended that now-closed pool had to have a prescription to get in and everybody knew it: for the most part the people there were the types who looked out for each other. It was a good place.

I told her I’d run into Don a month after Amalie had passed and that because of that, he’d had some support in his last five years. (I didn’t add that his son had moved in at the end to take care of him nor about his setting up a blog with our encouragement here and all the interaction he got from that–sometimes the details are too many and need to wait for later, so I’m putting these in here and hoping Heather sees it.)

Amalie was gone. Don was gone. She took that in, sorry to hear it.

I got to see happy photos of her sweetheart and her son.

And I’m just now realizing I can’t believe I forgot to tell her that Conway? Remember my tall, large, stooped, slow-moving, cheerful friend Conway who used to chat with me every day after his exercises? They’d thought he had ALS. Turns out he’d had bone spurs growing into his neck and spine, which they operated on and he started to regain mobility before he died. From a heart attack at that pool. I was across the country at my 20th high school reunion, but I’m told the lifeguards, joined soon after by the paramedics, did CPR for 16 long minutes trying to save him. She might well have been one of them.

If you read this, Heather, his widow moved to San Diego to be near her grandkids. Then she passed. Then her granddaughter there went off to college–and met my son: and they are the parents of my three sweet little grandkids, ages 1, 3, and 5.

Small world.

I got to see Heather today.

Small world.

Who told me who her favorite doctor was, so much so that she drives in from across the Bay to be seen by her.

I asked Dr. R. whom I should go to should my Crohn’s come back; he demurred a bit and asked which others had I seen–at the hospital, the clinic, whom had I liked best?

It had been seven years since my surgeries but Heather had reminded me of that one that had done my throat endoscopy and I said her name.

He was pleased. He told me she was very good and that I would be quite happy with her.

And between my experiences and Heather’s, I knew he was right.

And I probably would not have thought of her first had I not run into my old friend, been recognized by her, and had the time to talk.

Out-farmed by squirrels
Thursday May 26th 2016, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Food,Garden,Wildlife

The tomatoes. I browsed, ordered, planted seeds in March and transplanted them when the weather warmed up and did all the things you do when you’re pretending to be a gardener. I know you’re not supposed to plant them in the same spot from year to year; I didn’t have a lot of new places to choose from but thought here and here might be okay.

Turns out those were not the best spots for morning sun when the UV is highest; I was looking at them from my height and not seedling level. Direct sun doesn’t hit them till nearly noon. Ouch. Once the June sky gets going, though, I think they’ll grow tall enough to do okay. I just don’t want it to be ironic that this is the year I finally sprang for the heavy-duty Burpee cages.

Monday I think it was I stumbled across three tomato plants the squirrels had planted together by a tree trunk. I had promised myself I wasn’t going to waste water on any junk tomatoes again but look, that’s a cherry tomato on that one! Hopefully that could only be a Sungold offspring. Hopefully.

Except that it was starting to wither for lack of water because, I mean, who knew it was behind there? These had to have spent most of their lives in the shade. Clearly there’s hope for my own.

The next day I found a fourth plant in front of the shed. This one was smaller–the gas cylinder for the grill blocked its light. I moved the thing out of its way.

The one with all its leaves curled and withered is still standing and its tiny tomato is a bit bigger every day. How I don’t know. The other two in that trio bloomed today when they didn’t even have any sign of buds when I first found them. Water is a wondrous thing. I guess I’ll know soon enough if and which plant is worth keeping.

It turns out the way to get tomatoes to grow well is to plant them last year.

Venn-y V-knit-y V-itchy
Wednesday May 25th 2016, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Garden,Knitting a Gift

Just kidding on the itchy part.

The Yellow Transparent apples are twice the size they were last week and just a few weeks away from picking time. Crunchless and definitely a cooking apple, but a prolific one. Bonus is that the critters don’t love their tang.

And here’s the finished bit of froth from yesterday, blocked with the scallops left as is. It wasn’t till it was dry that I realized I’d been seeing Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s photos of the wedding shawl she’s been making for her daughter and that that same stitch pattern had jumped onto my own needles. Knitting is contagious, clearly.

And now the next Venn diagram begins.


Tooth soon
Tuesday May 24th 2016, 10:44 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

By the time I figured out the needle size was really a bit big for the yarn (much better picture of it here) I was not where I could grab a different circular so I just kept on going.

The yarn saves it. It will definitely do.

Today I had an appointment at 2:30 but I had it in my calendar for 1:30. Going back home and coming back would have taken way too much of that hour, so, hey.

And that is how I very nearly finished this. I could have cast off and handed it over on the spot to the dental assistant who exclaimed over it and told me she’d tried to knit but had gotten discouraged at not being immediately good at it. She said this as she reached to touch the project and exclaimed over its softness and the colors in the yarn, and I thought, You really are a knitter, you just don’t know it yet.

But the other two assistants would have wanted one, too, and I’m not quite there yet. So I let it go back in my bag for a few more rows.

Head over heels and heels
Monday May 23rd 2016, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Spinning,Wildlife

I was watching baby squirrel antics for a few moments again this morning when suddenly one fell in a long, long, long twirling head-over-tail-over-head from the tall tree just across the fence. I gasped for what that must have felt like to it, the trunk bent gently away from the little one’s trajectory just just too far away no matter how hard it tried to grab for it. I waited for some sight of it dashing back up into sight and towards safety–the tree, the fence, anywhere.

And then I hoped it was instant rather than at the beak-point of a murder of crows or ravens hours later.

The average lifespan of a squirrel is one single year.

And on that cheerful note, it seemed like a good day to do some of the good intentions that had been waiting on me to finally get around to getting them done. Some coned dk-weight Christmas cashmere that had needed to be hanked up and washed: 660 grams’ worth that would be so, so wonderful, all it needed was the prep time.

Lots of prep time.

I wound eleven hundred yards into one monster hank before my arms had to stop holding up that niddy-noddy. It wasn’t all of it but it was most and definitely enough for the project in mind.

It is drying now. Overdyeing will hopefully be tomorrow. I didn’t want to lift a heavy dyepot after all that. I may well just knit the last of it straight up from the cone, silicone coating from the mill and all.

(Typing the thought out loud settles it…) Naaaah. I’ll hank and wash the rest, too. If I’m going to spend the hours knitting cashmere it’s going to feel like cashmere while I do, not dried hair mousse.

I needed to sit, and spinning is sitting.

Again to the rescue, the 20g mini-cones of cashmere/silk cobweb weight from Colourmart. (Link goes to cobweb silk, not a blend, but hey, for $8 ppd.) I had some Malabrigo Silkpaca in Solis that I loved but wished were thicker and had long thought these two should be put together. I had actually knit them doubled together once already (Hi, Freddy!) but it still made for a very thin yarn. I wanted to try something new with it.

That baby alpaca/silk running through my fingers with that little bit of cashmere/silk added in, first one bobbin’s worth, then the second bobbin, then those two melting together as I plied them–wow. I want the yarns I knit with to always feel like that. If only. I remember all over again why I bought that Silkpaca. Wow.

You fell for that?
Sunday May 22nd 2016, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

It was baby squirrel day. Two of them, new around here. Given that the black squirrel didn’t chase them off in a display of dominance (and given whom she was cavorting with earlier in the spring) she was probably their mother.

One fell off the awning. One fell mid-climb halfway up the fence. Twice. One (both are gray, I couldn’t tell them apart) learned the hard way that no you can’t climb a metal downspout but I was impressed at how high it threw itself on it first. One made it halfway up the side of the house before tumbling back down. One knocked over a flower pot and I thought, rather than having him do it again I would try to lessen the temptation to jump at the bird feeder from it by putting it down at the base of the awning pole rather than back up on the table; I put the broom back that leans against the other side of the pole to keep them from climbing at the bird feeder that way.

Which is how I ended up with a very small squirrel landing in that flower pot. We had a sudden explosion of rodent fur and tail and feet (oh THERE they are!) as it tried to figure out how to get out of there.

I don’t know if their nails haven’t fully grown out enough or what, but these two just don’t quite have that whole squirrelocity thing down pat quite yet.

Yarn barf plant
Saturday May 21st 2016, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Knit,Life

The philodendron (The Man Eating Plant as it’s always been fondly referred to around here) will from time to time produce a tiny leafy bit that encloses an actual new leaf and then that green outer covering dies away. The plant grows a little faster than geologic time, but not by much, so I’m sure we get a new leaf in the summer but I’m not sure we get much more than that in a year.

The latest new leafing out seemed…different this time. I noticed that just enough to remember today and go oh, that’s why!

Because that abnormally swollen not-actually-a-leaf-cover finally opened up.

We’ve lived here for 29 years and we have never seen the thing bloom before.

Hiding in there was this weird blob that instantly reminded me of Margaret’s wool.

Years ago, this elderly friend at church gave me some wool yarn she’d had since the ’60’s or so, when natural scratchy wool with the lanolin mixed in was the fad. Over all those years, the lanolin had splotched and dyed it randomly yellow and I knew from my handspinning classes that there was no washing that out. It just was.

I didn’t love the stuff but I was determined to try to at least do something with it, for her sake. And so I stuffed the whole two pounds’ worth in my dyepot to make the coloring a little more deliberately random. The bad part is, I did it without tying enough ties around the hanks because I didn’t want to bother and I told myself it wouldn’t matter even though I knew I knew better.

It. Felted.

I mean, it felted! Like crazy. Random parts of random balls, all in one big hopeless tangle. I threw the whole mess in a closet and didn’t want to deal with it and was grateful Margaret never asked.

My folks came to visit awhile after and Mom discovered that wad. She insisted on pulling it gently apart and untangling it. I tried to say it wasn’t worth her time, but she wanted to do this for me and so she did.

It took her two days.

Only a mother… A mother who knits, that part helps, too, but still, only a mother loves us enough to take on such a task.

So yeah. Looking at that blossom? I had to look it up to find out I should be calling it a spadix. But to me there’s really only one description for that thing. Yarn barf.

Till tomorrow
Friday May 20th 2016, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Life

Good friends, good times, good night.

Got’em coming and going
Thursday May 19th 2016, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

The good thing about those long travel times? The blue, flying out. The pink, flying home.

(Yarn descriptions in the mouse-overs.)

The other ones
Wednesday May 18th 2016, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

We ate the first three Stella cherries today, even though they’ll be even better in a week. A raccoon had pulled the bottom of
the birdnetting open and we wanted to be absolutely sure we at least got some. I fixed the netting.

Monday: the airline sent out a message saying that due to TSA issues they were currently recommending getting to the airports two hours early.

And then flights were delayed all over the place, my first by an hour when I only had a 43 minute layover–I was sure I’d missed my connection, but no, I got to the gate two minutes before boarding.

This was still flight #whatever going to SFO?



Landed, got my baggage, made it outside six hours after I’d left for the first airport (a direct flight is 70 minutes) and called Richard to say I was ready.

He said he was coming but then he didn’t come and he didn’t come. But it was okay, that seemed to be going on with everybody: the crowd by the curb was not thinning. We were all in this together, whatever was going on.

A couple with two young girls of about four or five and six or seven joined me on the long polished wood bench outside the Southwest arrival doors. Like me, they waited.

The younger one started playing a video game on a parent’s phone. It was dark and probably past her bedtime.

I caught the mom’s eye, pulled out–you guessed it, two Peruvian handknit finger puppets–and asked her if it was okay if I offered them to their daughters. She hesitated just an instant and then broke into a smile and said yes, so I gave two to the littlest, who was closest to me, and she handed one right over to her big sister.

She didn’t examine them first to see which was cutest to her eyes for keeping herself, she just instantly passed one along and then started looking to see what she had. I was impressed.

The older girl looked at her white rabbit in pink overalls munching a carrot and exclaimed happily, “It’s a bunny!”

“Happy birthday!” I told them both.

At that their faces just lit up. The dad said to me, gesturing towards the older one and looking very proud and very happy, “It really is her birthday!”

“It is?! How cool! Happy Birthday! Oh that’s just SO cool!” (I was so very very glad I hadn’t run out of puppets.)

San Francisco Airport had moved their park-n-call to somewhere even further away (it was already a get-on-the-freeway maneuver) and more difficult to get in and out of, my husband apologized as he drove up at long last.

Ah, so that’s why….

As we pulled away, to my surprise a certain young family was happily and enthusiastically waving us goodbye, parents and children both, and in that moment the fatigue of the day suddenly utterly vanished.

Tuesday May 17th 2016, 11:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Since when were there no direct flights? What happened to them? I had to take Salt Lake to Phoenix to home.

I’m very glad now I did.

As I sat in the first airport yesterday a man walked briskly up and asked if I minded if he sat next to me. There was a small gap between the two seats and of course, no problem, and his friend appeared a moment later and sat down on the other side of him. He too appeared to be the outgoing type.

Which is probably how the woman who sat down a few minutes later next to that guy suddenly burst into tears and sobbed out her story, all pretense of control in public dissolving away.

After a few minutes I leaned over to the man nearer to me and told him, “I’m hearing impaired. I can’t hear what she’s saying and I don’t want her to feel isolated.”

He said he couldn’t hear it all either but that there had been an accident in Moab and one of her loved ones was involved. “Bad one,” he added quietly, “I heard about it. One person died.”

We looked at each other, so sorry.

He decided I could be trusted with his story and that it was the place to tell it: his infant son had seemed to be fine…till suddenly at six months old he was in the hospital needing heart surgery. They had had all these wires and things attached to him and the sight of it was just so hard.

His baby boy reached his arms to his daddy, his whole body pleading fervently, Hold me Daddy. I need you.

And he wasn’t allowed to.

They wheeled his son away.

He had had to go down to the hospital’s garage to deal with the car (move it, feed the meter, I wasn’t sure, but the incongruity of the importance of it to those who manage such things was just blowing him away in those moments) and as he stepped into that garage it just washed over him that this was life. It was out of his control. All he could do was live it and do the best he knew how and it was enough.

“It’s in the hands of God,” I answered.

He held me in his eyes, affirming.

“My son’s fine now; you’d never know it. He likes to play basketball.” He laughed a little, the joy at the possibility measured against the memory’s pain.

I told him, “Two years ago, we got the call no parent wants,” and I described a little about my daughter’s being hit on the freeway. Physical therapy is a necessary and ongoing thing, still–but worth it.

“Two years?”

“Two years.”

He took that in.

I started digging around in my purse that at times like these just seems too big. Hmm. Maybe I did give it. But no, it was bugging me, so I looked again–and I found it. It had to be that one. For whatever reason out there it really had to.

I grabbed my cane and walked over to the woman who’d been crying. In my hand was a small very vivid pink knitted octopus with a tiny black hat (I have to wear a hat in the sun, lupus and all that) and that pink was very much the color of the shirt she was wearing. “This is silly, but,” I said in a quiet voice that affirmed that no it was not as I opened my hand and offered it to her.

She reached for my arms and I into hers and we held each other.

This which I have goes with that which you have. I see you.

As I sat back down in my own seat the young man to the other side of me, who up till then had seemed engrossed in his phone, touched my shoulder ever so gently. I turned to see him and he told me, Thank you.

Last call for flight # (whatever) to City (whatever).

We were at gate 14. The two men who’d started the conversations suddenly realized that this whole time they’d been in the wrong place and grabbed their bags and dashed across the aisle to gate 15 in time. Close!

You know they were where they were supposed to be when they were needed right where they were with us.

The airline pre boarded me and I sat on the second row where I wouldn’t slow too many people down.

The woman who’d gone through so much this past weekend went past a few minutes later, saw me, and made sure I saw her telling me, Thank you.

I wanted to thank her. She’d let me.

The young man who’d touched my shoulder, he came down the aisle a little after. I was ready for him. A small alligator, and bless him, his face lit up in gratitude that he would have the perfect memento of all of us strangers wanting to come together for her in those moments as he accepted his small finger puppet.

I had to enlist the help of the young woman sitting in the middle seat to get it to him and explained, “He was very kind.”

“Do you give those to everybody?” she asked, amused, having no idea as far as I know of the context of all that.

I considered a half second. “Pretty much!” and found her one.

She loved it.