Thursday November 30th 2023, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

So, the hat that I started working on while Mathias was doing that two-mile bike ride and Lillian was doing a shorter one: it was the Mecha Piedras yarn that I’d moved to the suitcase at the last minute.

It was done and in my purse on the flight home, itching to get out.

I’ve mentioned before about using the wheelchair service at airports.

We were the last flight of the day at the end of Thanksgiving weekend so of course it ran late, and though there were four wheelchair pushers lined up at landing with names on their tablets for who was to claim which–somehow there was none for me. Come on, Southwest. This particular time, I really needed it. Maybe someone had given up and gone home after a long day; I mean, I couldn’t blame them.

The gate attendant made a call. I expected, especially at that hour, that we’d be standing around a very long time if anyone came at all.

Within two minutes at most I suddenly heard a cheerful, Hi, friend!

Oh cool! It’s you!

It was the petite Asian woman who’d pushed me before. She was delighted to see me. She’s the kind of person who’s delighted to see everybody any time. She makes everybody’s day.

Who else could it possibly have been for.

We were in the new and not quite finished part of the airport where part of the walk to baggage claim includes a wall on one side and a roof but you are exposed to the great outdoors on the right, and it was quite cold. And pretty dark.

I fumbled with my purse, wondering if I’d be able to find my folding scissors just with my hands. Was–? Yes it was, and I pulled out the hat, too, turned it inside out as she pushed, and snipped the ends off as she watched from behind.

That mottled brown was exactly perfect.

I’d offered it to Sam’s old university friend but Sandra, who is a serious hiker, had chosen a different colorway and with no yarnovers after I’d said the solid one would be warmer. The Piedras was in the knit two together/yarnover repeating every other row pattern like the one I did on the flight out: fine for San Jose’s temps. So that worked out.

I made this, I told the woman. It’s cold out! as I offered it to her once she pulled up to the conveyer belt and could stop a moment. It’s wool. And then I pulled out her tip, beyond grateful for the help.

She was thrilled.

So was I. I knew, I just knew, that that hat wasn’t supposed to come home with me and the further into the flight we’d gotten the more I’d wondered how that could be so.

And then that soft washable wool ended up in the best possible place.

First things first
Wednesday November 29th 2023, 8:38 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

My audiologist sympathized when I got them but told me that no, that feature couldn’t be turned off.

The resident engineer was sure it was for calibrating the things each time.

To me, it’s an aural ping-pong ball bouncing up and down on the table till at last it rolls in a straight line.

What it is is a sixteen-note little tune that my hearing aids play starting about ten seconds after I turn them on. You cannot just instantly hear the world; you have to wait. And then you have to listen to that (stupid) little tune finally getting to that one repeating note before any outside sound will click on. The volume is pre-set to make the tune loud enough for someone like me to be able to hear it even in a noisy environment–and that’s a lot.

Which is how I got told by Lillian, who was standing looking up at me, Grammy! You have birds in your ears!

Seeing the forest and the trees
Tuesday November 28th 2023, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Family,Lupus

It was 2:15, sundown was 4:25, Seattle being at a latitude that gets an hour less of sun than we do, so with sunblock and a big hat I thought I was pretty well covered lupus-wise against the UV.

We took what I thought was a pretty long walk for the kids. They rode their training wheel bikes and I don’t know if that took more energy or less, but we definitely had fun. Explored the new neighborhood going up. Then the park. Lillian was surprised to find out that Grammy can swing on the swingset, too. And then at last we headed for home.

I was feeling it that night. Costochondritis isn’t dangerous, but it was a warning, so when Mathias wanted to do the two-mile loop around the wetlands the next day I with a quiet regret that ran deeper than I was ever going to say stayed home and started knitting another hat.

Everybody understood.

They split into two directions, with Lillian going for a shorter ride but it was still good and long enough to wear a kid out.

Then the door opened.

Lillian had found a leaf. A big leaf. A perfect, pretty, autumn leaf. To share with her Grammy. If I couldn’t take that walk in the woods then she was determined to bring that walk to me.

(The folded edge happened when I was packing it to take home. Oops. She took better care of it than I did.)

I look forward to the day when I can show it to her and tell teenage Lillian the thoughtful thing she did when she was four and how grateful I am for it.

She’ll probably already know, because it made her so happy, too.

In deep teal green
Monday November 27th 2023, 10:48 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knitting a Gift

I had yak/silk lace weight in my hands.

But it’s such easy, brainless knitting for travel and makes big enough stitches that you don’t have to worry about seeing them in bad light–so I packed three skeins of Malabrigo Mecha and the needles to match, along with that yak, with the Mecha skein in browns (Piedras) going into my purse to work on first.

Right before we left for the airport the next day, though, something went, no, not that one, and I switched it for a Teal Feather.

I started the first hat in the airport, and given that it was the busiest travel day of the year we got there two hours early. I did the ribbing… And then decided to put a little more effort into this one. Seventy stitches: knit eight, knit two together, yarnover, repeat, then a plain row, then repeat those to make slanted and dotted lines chasing each other all the way up.

Once we got onboard there was a woman at the empty-nest stage next to me and we got to talking–always a little difficult with me especially in such a loud environment, but she was patient and we made it work.

She kept studying my hands carefully. She told me her grandmother had crocheted. She’d never learned either craft. It was clear she wished she had, and she asked me questions about knitting two stitches at once like that and the loop around, and did I go into it like this?

No, like this; otherwise it would twist the strand and close up the hole the yarnover makes and you can do that but that’s not what I want. (With a hat, since I was taking away stretchability with the doubled stitch I wanted to hold onto the stretch the yarnover gives it.)

She lived in San Diego and was flying to visit her son in Tacoma. (For those not familiar with California geography, San Diego sits on the border with Mexico. Tacoma, WA is in commuting distance of Seattle.)

I instantly thought of my friends Mel and Kris‘s description of a guy who called 911 in Oregon after getting stalled out in a snowstorm as he was driving through; they had way too many people to get to, but he explained he lived in San Diego and didn’t *own* any long pants, and he was shivering in his car in shorts. They made a beeline and rescued him.

A warm wool hat. She was so going to need that in Tacoma. It was going to hit the upper 20s. The Teal Feather went beautifully with her jacket and the brown would not have at all and I found myself silently marveling.

I mentioned to her–and my memory was totally wrong, so I’m typing this in hopes that somehow she sees my abashed correction–that how far your thumb and forefinger can stretch equals the length of your foot. It doesn’t. What my friends who love to knit socks (I am not one) actually told me was that across the top of your arch to your big toe equals that measurement of your hand. It’s a way of getting the length of someone’s foot without telling them what you’re up to with those needles of yours.

But back to the scene.

I got to the decreasing at the top at long last and ditched the yarnovers while keeping the knit two togethers at the same place and the every other row thing. My usual is to continue till I have five stitches left in each repeat and then no further plain rows–but we were pretty far along in that flight. At seven or eight left I went straight to decreasing every row from there, knowing that missing those last plain rows would make a flatter, somewhat gathered top and in effect shorten the hat by drawing it in more tightly. That was fine. Worst case would be that the ribbing couldn’t be folded up much at the bottom.

The silent please please let me finish this runrunrunrunrunrunrun became a soft, I did it I did it! under my breath. I worked in the ends as best I could with the knitting needles. I’ve done better. It would do, though, it would definitely do.

I turned to her with, Happy birthday! as I put the hat in her hands, telling her she was going to have to snip the ends off herself.

Her eyes got huge. Then she squeezed them shut tight. I could just feel her grandmother nodding with a smile of joy–yes. Yes. And so knit worthy. You taught her well, Grandmother.

I’m Alison, I told her, what’s your name?

She probably said Lisa but for the life of me I heard Larisa, which is my sister-in-law’s name and a well-loved one.

She told me that her son had planned on taking her shopping after she got there because she needed a warm hat.

I thought about it (I think we were coming in for the landing at this point) and reached back into my ziplock and pulled out the very small ball of remaining yarn I had just put in there, looked at it–you know, just a little bit more warmth, right? –and found myself declaring with a nope out loud, I’m not going to make a pompom.

She exclaimed in delight, *I* can make pompoms! and took the ball of yarn and left us both laughing.

Whoever she is, I think we both felt like we came away with a best friend for life. I hope she had a fabulous Thanksgiving with her son.

Thanks were definitely given
Monday November 27th 2023, 12:40 am
Filed under: Family

We were leaving and four year old Lillian was Not Happy. Mathias wasn’t either, till I told him it was a great reason for a hug to go with the goodbye.

When you take the last flight out after Thanksgiving, it’s going to be late. It was. More tomorrow.

Tuesday November 21st 2023, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

When my husband and I were young children, we went to the Chevy Chase Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a beautiful old brick building on the dividing line between DC and Maryland.

If you were Mormon and political in DC you went through that building at some point. I remember a whispered wave of sound washing over the staircase one time as we were going up it and later asking my mom about it; she told me it was George Romney, a Presidential candidate at the time and the father of Mitt, steps ahead of us.

My grandparents attended there when the Senate was in session, Eisenhower through Ford.

About twenty years ago we were visiting the folks, who by then were attending a newer ward closer to home but for reasons I don’t remember, for that week everybody was sent to the old Chevy Chase building and we just happened to catch the right day.

When church was over I said I just wanted to look around; I’d been twelve when we’d started attending in Potomac. The Mormon Church likes to keep congregations small enough that people have a chance to meet and make friends and feel included, so when one ward gets too big they often divide it.

Which means that when my husband and I got old enough to turn into teens who might have gotten on each other’s nerves, both our towns got spun off into new wards.

Anyway, one of the fun quirks of that building–which my father-in-law and his father helped build–is that between the chapel and the overflow area that is sometimes used as a small basketball gym, there is a wall. The original pop-up add. It comes up slowly, noisily from below when you push a button. I never did find where that thing hid down there when we couldn’t see it. I always wanted to know what the building did with it. It looked so thick and it went clear up to the tall ceiling or slowly disappeared and left just a level floor there and nowhere else I knew had anything like it. I loved that: when you needed it, it was just there. And it was all ours.

So I walked into the gym now that my own kids were growing up and was looking over at that wall, trying to figure out if it was as thick as my childhood had made it and where had that control button been all this time, when I realized that someone else was across the room. After all the people packed in for the meetings, it was somehow just us two. We smiled at each other and he said something about wanting to see his childhood ward again while he was in town.

It was Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon. Which is how I found out that that Senator was in fact a member of the family I knew growing up and Jessica’s big brother. I could add a story here about his dad being in a plane crash in Alaska and surviving for two weeks on a Hershey bar that he and another guy found in the snow before their rescue, and how he then adopted his brother’s kids because their parents had died in the crash. Ten kids plus eight. Yes Gordon’s dad had a big house.

In the chapel, there were–I want to say six? There were big, glorious chandeliers hanging down, and many a time when I was a kid I would watch all those tiny crystals shimmering and listen to them sing when I was bored–and what little kid having to hold still that long isn’t bored at least a little bit. “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day,” hey, I could definitely get with celebrating sparks of light from the windows on those.

Wisps of air above our heads, only just moving. But the crystals knew and they sang for joy.

With all the hearing I’ve lost since then, if I am perfectly still in a quiet room with no distractions and look up and watch a crystal chandelier, my brain fills in those sounds. I can hear them again. They’ve been gone from me for so long. There is no other source of very high pitches that my brain remembers–except those and in that context. That is the gift Chevy Chase Ward left me with for life–well, that and the little boy I’ve now been married to for 43 years.

That room is where the fire yesterday took out the roof.

That would probably have been where the firemen who were inside were; there were about a hundred on the scene, they said. I could just picture those chandeliers falling, shattering, ending, sharp shards stabbing everywhere, and it was horrifying to know someone could have been underneath that.

And yet the initial reports were, no serious injuries. No deaths.

Loss, absolutely.

And now, or at least hopefully soon…other people’s work and lifetime memories will go into our families’ building’s renewal.

But man, it’s hard to see those flames.

As one does
Monday November 20th 2023, 11:24 pm
Filed under: Food

All the baking, all the tidying up, the laundry, (the blocking the new cowl, too), the dishes, more baking, more dishes… And we’re not even being the hosts! But how can you not bake Thanksgiving week.

Now excuse me, I need to go put some second-batch pumpkin muffins in the freezer for future breakfasts because that’s enough food already for now.

She got me
Sunday November 19th 2023, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

A friend wished out loud for one of my chocolate tortes for Thanksgiving week and offered to pay for one.

I waved that away with I’m going to make you one because I want to. Because for that friend, always.

Her husband showed up at our door this afternoon to pick it up and he held out a box in return; I protested, You didn’t have to do that! He grinned and headed for his car–it was like a mutual doorbell ditch.

Inside were her homemade jams, with flavors like gold plum/cardamom/blackberry/lemon/honey (she really should open a business. Her stuff is exquisite.) Fig sauce. Tomato sauce. All from their garden, and honeys labeled by the season from his hives, seven jars in all. I kept unwrapping more and more in there.

It took much much much more work to make all those than any chocolate torte of mine ever did. Wow.

And I thought I was done writing this post but it wasn’t till I took this picture just now that I saw that there was a card tied to the box under those ribbons. It took some doing to pick them open to get at it.

Inside, she’d written a thank you note. With a $20 bill, too, the little stinker. I laughed. They totally win this round.

Ready for them
Saturday November 18th 2023, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Life

So, during the pandemic, I bought some glasses online.

They fit okay, they looked good and I liked them, but they got the prescription wrong and argued that it was my fault for typing it wrong to them when I knew I hadn’t; they told me I was too late for a do-over.

I went back to wearing my old ones.

Got a new prescription. Still liked the looks of that one pair, and now that that company would let you take a picture of the printout, I thought, okay then, they can’t botch that.

I was wrong. I wasn’t sure, though, because it was when my Fuchs corneal disease was flaring.

The new pair came with no packaging materials, banged up. They fell off my face any time I looked down. Despite the company’s advertising, once you add up the details I hadn’t saved a dime anyway; the only thing they had going for them was that I liked round silver rimless of a certain size and I just hadn’t found those anywhere else.

That year was finally up, I finally got a new new prescription, and this time I went into Costco. Did they have rimless? Silver? They did not. Gold. With rims. Eh. But they had someone who carefully fit them to my eyes and my face.

Which means I finally have glasses that are comfortable, that fit, and after those super flimsy ones, are actually sturdy enough to wear around grandkids. (Typed with the memory of being thwacked in the face by a toddler about ten years ago hours before a wedding, going to a local mall in that town where an eyeglass place rescued me because there had been no way I could wear those, and then getting the long skirt for the reception caught in the escalator on my way out and jamming it and trapping me till my mom and I tore the skirt as we pulled hard together to get me out of there. Oh well, the ruffle hem just got a little more so. Besides, weddings are supposed to be memorable. Mom, bless her, hand stitched it together as best as could be done.

Glasses and me: we have a history. But I digress.

The new Costco pair came in.

For the first time in two years–almost three? (Picture me jumping up and down like a little kid in excitement) I can see like I’m supposed to! Even at night! At *night!* I can read street signs from much farther away! It wasn’t my Fuchs disease getting worse, it was just the stupid cheapster glasses!

I had not realized how bad it had been until it got better. Which makes it all the so-much-better-now.

Circa 1962
Friday November 17th 2023, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Even my mom had never seen this picture before. The cousins are all passing it around to each other, going, Did you see this?! This is so cool!

One of them had spotted it first at MSNBC, when they were showing some previews from the LadyBird Johnson documentary. Another cousin watched the documentary and didn’t see it there and wondered if it had made it past the cutting room floor, but MSNBC had it and now we do and there you go.

Jackie Kennedy on the left, LadyBird Johnson on the right, and the woman who was head of the Congressional Wives Club, whose luncheon they were attending, in the middle: Frances Bennett. My grandmother. Properly wearing her hat and white gloves in respect towards the First Lady and the Vice President’s wife.

Jackie Kennedy, Frances Bennett, and Lady Bird Johnson

Don’t let it bug you
Thursday November 16th 2023, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life

So there’s a subtropical virus native to where the temperatures tend to keep it in check that was discovered in an invasive cutworm in Japan where the cooler temps allowed that virus to thrive. The New York Times article lays out how all this was discovered, starting with sheer chance.

And what that virus does is make it so that the next generation of bugs is only or nearly only females–and it is inherited. Thirteen generations were only able to produce three males out of all those eggs.

I thought, well, that’s one way to kill off an invasive species!

The resident male was not quite so sanguine on the existence of such a virus. Oh. Right. Yow.

This post needs a title but I’m flat out
Wednesday November 15th 2023, 10:06 pm
Filed under: Life

Yawn. The day ran a few spoons short.

But it rained: glorious, life-offering rain, and watching it come down felt like being a tourist in some exotic new landscape.

Ten-stitch diamonds
Tuesday November 14th 2023, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift

I was doing some stash diving this afternoon and pulled open the drawer that had all the tubular-knit silks in it like the white I’d knitted into a cowl two weeks ago: there were blue, turquoise, light bluish turquoise, coral, and burgundy (two). Just picture all of those dancing against the background of that kilogram of the white in an afghan!

Or I could make six people happy with those colors and who knows how many more with the white. Some of which I could dye. I wouldn’t even have to make any colorwork decisions, just grab one and go.

The blue yelled, Me! ME! the loudest. Same pattern as last week’s cowl because I’m lazy like that. An extra repeat this time (nine now) and a size up on the needles to make up for the shrinkage to come.

Into their arms
Monday November 13th 2023, 11:23 pm
Filed under: History

I finished reading Two Roads Home this evening.

That moment when the three now-motherless young sisters who had just been released from a concentration camp laid eyes on their father for the first time in–was it four years?–with none of them knowing they were going to yet: the immigration authorities had wanted to verify by their reactions that they were the nuclear family they said they were.

Just the reading of it will stay with me for a long, long time.

Sounds oakay by me
Sunday November 12th 2023, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Garden

This is really cool: Virginia has been having its citizens collect acorns and other seeds from a list of wanted tree species. You bring the seeds, (unfortunately they seem to be done for this year), they’ll get them started growing and then distribute the trees to replant formerly forested areas.

Here’s another one, for the DMV (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) Potomac River area.

Found one for Sacramento, CA, and state-wide, here. Note that Re-Oaks specifies only acorns collected from within California, and that’s probably true of most states.

I wonder how many others have organizations like this?