Memorial Day
Monday May 31st 2021, 10:51 pm
Filed under: Family

Our daughter was asking if we had any close members of the family who’d served. My dad in WWII, of course.

Richard mentioned some in his family.

I told her there was a member of the family (I’d have to check with Mom to make sure I got the right name) who had served in WW1: as a pilot.

She did a double take. Oh. A lot of those did not do well.

He did not.

My grandmother wrote her autobiography when I was ten years old, and the story she told about an officer talking to her son in the Army–was Richard’s great uncle.

After the CZU fire
Sunday May 30th 2021, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Last time I saw him pre-pandemic he was just starting that amazing sprouting thing that boys his age do.

Today he gave a talk in church at the pulpit. (We were still on Zoom for it due to my feeling under the weather yesterday.)

I was gobsmacked: when on earth did the short kid turn into this tall young man who had to lean down to the mic? Wow.

He told us of his dad asking him and his brother to come with him on the long drive up into the mountains to Camp Lehi: there was a need of volunteer workers in the effort to restore what had been before the CZU Complex fire last summer.(Post-fire pictures in link.) Camp Lehi was a church-owned property in constant use in the summers in particular–or was.

He said he figured this was his one chance ever to be allowed to use a chainsaw so he said okay. Power tools!

He had been there with his family on ward campouts a number of times; he knew what used to be there. Trees can only grow so fast, but on the human side there was so much to do.

What he hadn’t expected, he said, was how as he put in that hard physical labor he envisioned his efforts going towards people gathering there again. Enjoying each other’s company there again, laughing together again, seeing wildlife there again.

Making memories there again.

He felt an overwhelming sense of joy that he got to be a part of helping make that happen. He had not expected that.

Scrub those off the list
Saturday May 29th 2021, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Garden,Life,Wildlife

The problem with only focusing on what you want, she groused silently at the scrub jay, is that you cut off what you could have had.

I had chased it out of my Stella tree on seeing it yanking away in there. It got its not-yet-dark red cherry. The rest of the cluster, pale and small and far too unripe to nourish anything yet, was left on the ground.

Carrion our wayward son
Friday May 28th 2021, 9:40 pm
Filed under: Life,Wildlife

Sing it with me, Have a piece when he is done…

Andy: Mom and Dad can do it. I flew before anybody. I can do this, too, I know I can.

The fledgling stands on the prey with both feet, gripping it hard, preparing to take off to eat breakfast someplace more interesting than home because it’s no fun when there’s no sibling around anymore to try to grab it from you. Grip, flap, lift: an initial try at getting it up to the light fixture. Nope. Go back, grab it again (how DO the folks manage talons and wings at the same time?) get it up there, did it, great!, okay this time lift it up to the ledge.

He did it!

Then, starting at about 7:30 in the video, yelling all the way as he drags it and its drag against the concrete turns him slowly around in the little wind tunnel he’s creating and suddenly Whoops!…

Every cat who ever licked its paw in a defiant show of, I meant to do that… Yeah.

(P.S.) If you’ve ever gotten on your own case about not getting something done, you’re in good company: this house is like our first one, which was a split-entry where the builder only finished the upstairs and left the downstairs as framing and insulation only so that first-time owners could afford a place and put in the sweat equity themselves. We did that.

Fifty years. I’m seeing the raw plumbing for maybe a bathroom, possibly a downstairs laundry room if they once intended a separate living quarters, a bedroom, closet, and family room down there at the least. It’s a nice house.

But that insulation and lumber have been waiting a long time for someone to put up with the hammering and disruption and noise. (Can we get rid of the ivy while we’re dreaming.)

New ears
Thursday May 27th 2021, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Life

I got the new hearing aids yesterday.

I opened the door today and a siren went by, closer than the road even comes as far as I could tell and I asked where was that?! Thinking it was coming right next door.

Oh, over on X road I’m sure, was the answer.

That was two streets away. No way. But then it turned a corner and faded and clearly she was right. Huh. You mean sirens can actually sound like sirens again?

Some sounds are too bright but the brain has already adjusted somewhat.

One of the sources of improvement, though by no means the main one, was better-fitting ear molds–but I warned the audiologist beforehand that a previous new set had had to be whittled down because with my connective tissue disease, being tight against it meant it bled. And if it’s not tight, you don’t hear as well. I knew the tradeoff all too well.

So the new ones went in. She programmed them as I sat there, then had us talking for me to figure out how these were working, and did one more test where she took them out and put them back in with a wire alongside them all the way into the ear canals to test how they were actually carrying the sound.

While I was thinking, one more bit of space taken up. I can’t…

They came back out again so she could be done with the wires and I had her look at the left ear. It was already red.

So the upshot is, I do hear better with the new aids. Mostly. There is still brightness that drowns other frequencies out but that already seems to be calming down in my brain: I’ve had recruitment before and I know it goes away and it’s a sign of where the old aids were failing and not conveying sound. The brain overreacts to sounds it hasn’t heard in awhile but you just keep going till it doesn’t. Just like a new eyeglass prescription may be the correct one for your eyes but man it feels weird for the first hour and day.

She said that these molds do conform and shrink just a tiny bit with the wearing.

I’ve found I have to put them in and not touch them for anything because the slightest movement against them sets off that inflammation. Which I did today. Then I was wearing them not quite all the way in, which didn’t work. I gave up and put the old smaller-mold ones in to give my ears some time to calm down because I really want the new ones to work at their very best.

The sound is comfortable on the old ones. The fit is, too.

The difference is, now I know what I could be hearing and wasn’t with them.

I just have to work my way through that adjustment period. Carefully and bit by bit.

Americans’ lives matter
Wednesday May 26th 2021, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Life

The mass shooting at the Valley Transit Authority yard in San Jose this morning hit far too close to home. A neighbor whose kids grew up with ours we were pretty sure used to work that shift if he doesn’t still and every few hours over the course of the day I looked to see if they had released the names of the victims. I did not want to call Ingrid and make me be one more thing she had to deal with. So not my place. If he was gone, there would be a right time to come offer a hug.

Just like they walked a few blocks over to our house and offered company and love a few weeks after I got out of the hospital in ’09.

Those names were released tonight. Her husband, a fellow Ham radio volunteer with my husband, was not on that list.  Deep breath.

But eight other families and sets of neighbors and loved ones….

We have to do better. We HAVE to do better.

All the more to look forward to
Tuesday May 25th 2021, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I did not get my new hearing aids yesterday: they were supposed to have come in by then but they hadn’t.

I did not meet the termite guy today: when he wasn’t showing I finally called, explained that I was hearing impaired, and had I gotten the day right?

The woman checked: our appointment was for next Tuesday. I thanked her.

The hearing aids are now at the office and someone canceled an appointment so I’m in for tomorrow.

But I have not yet finished this cowl. So, as a potential option, I guess that one’s going to have to wait.

P.S. Today the youngest San Francisco peregrine, a female that had hatched four days after the others, soared gracefully off through that sky like she’d been doing this all her life. (Unlike the jump up/fall down/swim in the Bay/get rescued drama of her sister.)

While over at the San Jose nest, the first egg of the pair’s do-over attempt not only hatched early this morning, but by afternoon was begging to be fed. And was. Usually they consume the rest of the yolk and that tides them over till the next day, when they have a little more strength for holding their heads up with beaks open.

But this one just got right to it.

Probably less sugar than most breakfast cereals anyway
Monday May 24th 2021, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Diana started it. My cousin’s wife.

She posted a picture of thick bumpy wholesome-looking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and said, You ever have one of those days when you just want cookies for breakfast? Rolled oats makes them almost the same thing as oatmeal, right?

I told her it does–and that my daughter had made a batch of dough of exactly that that was sitting in our freezer and after looking at hers, now I was trying hard to avoid its calling to me, all the louder because I knew I could make, y’know, just three, one for each of us here. It would be almost guilt-free.

Knowing there was homemade chocolate mixed in did not help in that resistance.

A few hours later I gave Diana an update: yes I had, I’d made three cookies and then dashed off to a doctor appointment.

When I got home there was a second cookie sheet on the counter next to mine. With some clearly missing.

Chill hours
Sunday May 23rd 2021, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Garden

There was knitting, too, but the picture is somewhere off to lunch.

To answer CCR’s question, apricot seeds need several months of serious chilling in order to be able to sprout in the spring. I had them in the freezer from late summer till early winter, then the fridge while I was debating when to start them.

Pictures from May 9 and May 22 for the kernel in my second batch that sprouted long after the others, right when I was about to give up and toss it. Even then it grew slower than some of the others despite the warmer weather.

It’s also the one that got moved into a pot that was half topsoil/half the newly-arrived Lobster Blend from the folks. That’s when it suddenly took off–It definitely approved of the upgrade.

And in the random surprises of nature department: remember that dying apple tree my husband cut down that grew back a different variety from the rootstock? They were mushy as all get-out, but sour till the last moment so the wildlife learns to leave them alone.

They go bad fast after picking. Second day. I figure that tree’s best characteristic is that it consistently blooms right when the Fuji does.

Two years ago I found dozens of snails hiding inside that hollowed-out area and though it was just totally gross I squished them. No poisons.

Friday I discovered the tree’s revenge on them for eating its blossoms. That Yellow Transparent is determined to live no matter what.

Okay now growgrowgrow!
Saturday May 22nd 2021, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden

My sister asked for two of the Anya apricot kernels a few months ago and I sent her some.

One never came up, one almost made it–but then faded away, and I had no more to offer; she was going to have to wait another year. The one small hope was that while I was cracking them open for everybody one went shooting away from me and had not been seen since; maybe it was somehow wedged under the dish drying rack and would finally show up? (Not as if I didn’t look repeatedly.)

I would have mailed her one of my seedlings if I’d thought it could survive days in the dark.

This afternoon my daughter opened the freezer, looked at the door, and went, Mom, why is there a kernel in your freezer?

It had not been cracked open. It was not the one that got away–oh wait. Obviously yes in its own way it did, but, huh, how on earth did that end up there. I think–I’m not sure–that there was one too many to get the little Rubbermaid tub lid to seal, back when I had them all, and it had just been put next to the rest on its own and been long forgotten.

The mail had not yet come. I shot off a note to Marian but didn’t wait to hear back because I knew what the answer would be and put it in what seemed to be a strong envelope. Inside that envelope I put a corner I’d just cut off from a padded envelope and had taped the cut edges shut around the kernel.

She got back to me quite happy about this before the mailman picked it up. I had already put three stamps on the thing to bribe the post office not to mess this up.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you get a second chance.

Suddenly wanting to inspect my skylights
Friday May 21st 2021, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Family,Garden,Wildlife

I don’t know if it’s the sheep’s-rear-stinky wool wedged in the tree keeping the squirrels out or the sounds of squawking peregrine fledglings occasionally coming from my computer, if they can even hear that from outside. But whatever, something’s working and there’s still fruit on the trees.

Speaking of squirrels, I’ll mention it here for my mom, who’s not on Facebook: my cousin Jim reports that he and his family were watching a movie tonight when they heard a thud, scampering, and lots of squeaks. Everybody went running to see what on earth?

A squirrel (it wasn’t a very big one) had fallen through the skylight, the cat had chased it, and it had leaped for the nearest hiding place–which happened to be the toilet. Somebody had the presence of mind to whip out their phone and hit record for posterity. It was trying to get out, it was now trying to retreat and hide from them but wait let’s not drown, and the poor thing looked like a Mark Rober video reject.

They got a big thing of Tupperware and corralled it and Jim felt it shivering through the plastic. He got it outside, I’m sure shutting the door behind him first so it couldn’t dash back in, and tried to let it go.

It just stayed right there and kept shivering.

His daughter’s studying to be a nurse. They got some rags and bundled the poor soaked thing up and she confessed to petting it for about ten minutes to calm it down while offering it some cat food. Which it finally nibbled at.

At last it went off to go be a squirrel again at owl o’clock. Watch that curfew, kid.

Jim reports (not needing to mention the whole pandemic thing by way of context) that it was the most exciting Friday night they’d had in some time.

Hubble telescope chocolate
Thursday May 20th 2021, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Family,Food

Last Saturday we were three hours past the 24 hour mark and things turned out such that it was simply going to be me dealing with pouring and trying to temper the batch of chocolate we’d started the day before.

Nuts to that.

I got those molds set out and then just took it straight from melanger to bars. No whipping in pre-tempered shredded cocoa butter to try to get it to set into the correct type of crystal out of the seven different ones chocolate can turn into. No thermometer, no waiting for the right viscosity, just do it and be done. We knew how good it was going to taste regardless, and personally, I liked the cacao+sugar only idea.

It was glossy and glorious that night. In the morning there were little round dots. Over the week, some of them spread into big round dots and galaxies while others stayed stars in the distance. The bars became a bit crumbly.

But man do they taste good.

There was a fundraiser at my daughter’s office to raise money for Parkinson’s research, and in the Before days she had colleagues who quite looked forward to her bringing in homemade cookies and the like once a week.

So she made bake-your-own oatmeal chocolate cookie kits in quart mason jars and entered them in the raffle, specifying homemade chocolate in them, no less.

She chopped up about a pound of that batch, knowing that once it melted within the cookies the crystalline structure would both reset and not matter one bit, while trying not to use too much. I encouraged her to use however much she needed.

Then I asked her to make us some of those cookies; after all, we have more cacao nibs and if the termite guy next Tuesday says they have to tent the house, all food will have to be out of it. It is a lot easier to share chocolate cookies than nibs.

Thus the plan is to start another batch in the melanger tomorrow so that we can again have a Saturday to have to deal with the pouring and tempering (we’ll see) and the cleanup.

That stuff is SO good. It’s worth the decibel level.

And the thought suddenly hits as I type that that, yeah, do it now while I have the old hearing aids. Come Monday that machine is going to be sounding a whole lot louder to one of us.

p.s. At about 4:29 in this video the first female falcon fledgling in San Francisco, named Rachel after Rachel Carson of Silent Spring fame, tried to do what her brothers had done and fly. It, um, didn’t go so well. Whoops! (She safely landed in another bay of the building 27 floors below where she’d jumped off from, so, no worries.)

Squirrelocity part two
Wednesday May 19th 2021, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Life

With thanks to Anne for the heads-up, Mark Rober, former NASA engineer and the guy made famous by putting out boxes for porch pirates that sprayed them with stink bombs and glitter while shooting videos of them from inside the box, has posted another Rube Goldbergian squirrel course in his yard. Enjoy.

Tuesday May 18th 2021, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Wildlife

Re the flare: today was the good day I was wishing for during the last several, and thank you, everybody.

Meantime, San Francisco got its first peregrine fledge today (his closeup is here), and then the second.

Having lived all his life till that point in a protected, shaded, thirty-third floor spot, Cade, named after the late founder of the Peregrine Fund, found himself on the skyscraper across the street with the wind trying to blow the last of his baby fluff off and–turning his head: Wait, what’s that? He bounded down the granite after it.

He was chasing his shadow, just like every little kid ever born. It was adorable.

Well, that wasn’t working, and he turned back to his corner perch to figure out when it would be safe to open those wings wide again, because, bird, it’s windy out here.

Don’t let the phase faze
Monday May 17th 2021, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Family,Life,Lupus

Last night changing out of my long sleeves into my pj’s I noticed the veins in my hands and arms were very swollen, deep blue, and you could see them going from my hands wrapping around my arms on up to near the elbows. Puffy. I checked around. It seemed to be mostly there.

“That’s inflamed,” said Richard, with both of us aware that my lupus did this all over early on in the disease and the doctor guessed afterwards that I’d had cerebral vasculitis. That’s where my face blindness and short term memory damage originated from. I was 31.

Urgent Care was closed by then and he asked whether we should go to the ER. Insurance punishes you heavily if you go straight there ($13k bill last time), even when the doctor tells you to. We knew we would spend a very long night awake and go home near dawn beyond exhausted, which would greatly exacerbate the whole autoimmune flare thing, and chances are they would probably just dismiss it anyway; at an hour when all we wanted to do was fall into bed it seemed like the best way to treat it was to get a decent night’s sleep.

I was antsy and didn’t sleep well at all. But it was gone in the morning. Breathe.

My GI doctor said I could see her next Monday or come in and see someone else if I needed to on those Crohn’s symptoms; again, my call.

Today was not perfect but it was improved on that one, too, and I was able to eat normal meals, so for the moment Monday it is. But I will change that in a heartbeat if I need to.

So today there were more birds in the yard than I’ve seen in awhile. House finches in breeding season: you never saw such a brilliant red. A western tanager flew up close to  the house, the jasmine’s white buds promise their exquisite scent on the way, the pomegranate sent out more bright red buds, and we shared a few blueberries straight off the bush after dinner. The newest apricot seedling began a new set of leaves and after its faltering start seems to really be taking off.

It felt a good day to drink every bit of that in.

I’m going to go top the day off with a few rows of a bright blue soft wool hat and then call it a night.