Grateful
Monday November 23rd 2020, 12:01 am
Filed under: Family,Knit,Knitting a Gift,Life,Lupus

President Nelson, head of the Mormon Church, asked that we talk about what we’re grateful for, and trying to squish it all into words seems kind of overwhelming.

In no particular order: waking up every morning in this life.

The faith that requires that I be my best self towards all others in order to honor what I’ve been blessed with.

The doctors and nurses and blood donors and medical researchers and volunteer research guinea pigs all the way to the housecleaning staff at the hospital–everybody who helped save my life.

My family, in a million more ways than I could ever convey. So much love.

The fact that my three nephews who got covid survived it; a cousin’s working on it.

And this is going to sound weird, but…my lupus, and the Crohn’s that piled on nine years later. Because of all the ways that it constricted and confined my life: after reading Norman Cousin’s book, “Anatomy of an Illness,” I knew I needed a creative outlet and the smocked baby outfits I’d been embroidering were right out–my hands couldn’t hold that fine of a needle without intense pain.

I was at the library with my little kids one day and Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Knits about fell off the bookshelf into my hands. It was that two-page spread with the models in those fabulous coats in an amaryllis field in the Netherlands that got to me–you know I love amaryllises. I could never in the world make anything like those designs with dozens of colors but I checked that book out again and again till I finally gave up and bought a copy.

That was the turning point. Turns out, my hands could knit. Thank you, Kaffe.

I had basically given up knitting in college when I couldn’t afford the yarn nor the time. I made up for those missing dozen+ years, I would say.

I made his Carpet Coat (“These are large but they drape beautifully on everyone”) and when I got done my husband glommed onto it and told me, “It fits me better than you, go make yourself another one.” I did.

And then I met Kaffe Fassett. I’m pretty sure he ducked to come through the doorway, just like my husband does. Richard’s coat has 68 different yarns, I collected more skeins to make mine 86 because if he was going to nab my coat mine was going to outdo his. I went with the large split triangles pattern.

And then a teen some friends were raising in foster care loved them, asked about them–“Mohair. MO hair. What kind of animal is a MO?”–and I felt in my bones I had to make him one. A vest, so as to not worry about the fit or running out of my leftover yarn, but, a large part of me argued within that I can’t possibly knit for every single person who admires what I do! I’d never stop!

Tim’s happily married with children now and his wife still wears that vest all these years later. Fits her better now.

But that project was an inner barometer: when I felt generous it was what I wanted to work on, complicated or not, and when I was getting wrapped up in illness or just too down to cope with it I had no desire to. I began from that to learn just how much better I could make myself feel by applying happy anticipation to my stitches towards someone else’s happiness. It made the lupus less–devouring. I don’t know how else to put it.

All the things I’ve made, all the privileges of being able to share what I can do–none of that would have happened had my circumstances been what I’d planned on. I was going to get my last kid in school and then go back to work. But for so long I was just hanging onto life by my fingernails day to day with my illness.

But I could knit in happy anticipation of seeing the look on someone’s face, I could make love tangible, and I can’t tell you how many times that has helped make the difference.

I’m so very grateful for every member of my family, too, but that would be an encyclopedia rather than a blog post.



Giving thanks
Wednesday November 18th 2020, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Life

We were asked our Thanksgiving plans.

We intend to cook a huge turkey, have homemade everything from cranberry sauce to pie and more than the table can comfortably hold, have more loved ones than the table can comfortably seat, and have the time of our lives in one great big memorable celebration of all that blesses us and all those we love.

Next year. When we can also give thanks for all of us having been vaccinated.

So, yeah. The two of us and all the screen time with loved ones we can get. There is no responsible alternative. None.



Uncle Bob
Friday November 13th 2020, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Family,Politics

I am totally going to steal my cousin Jim’s FB post because I know my mom can’t see anything there and it’s about her baby brother who died four years ago; he was the Senator whose seat Mike Lee unfortunately is now in. Plus it’s a hoot.

Note that Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Chris Dodd hashed out the beginnings of what would eventually become the ACA, part of why the Kochs and the Tea Party went after Bob so hard. He said at the time that Americans can’t compete on the world market as long as they know they’re one medical disaster away from losing everything.

Jim wrote:

“So this sounds like the setup for a joke, but it’s actually a true story.
In 2008, four Democratic senators were running for their party’s presidential nomination: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd. Dodd was the longest of longshots, and he was getting depressed that his campaign was going nowhere. My father wanted to make him feel better.
“Tell you what, Chris,” Dad said. “When you’re president, how about you make me Treasury Secretary?”
Dodd smiled. “You got it,” he said.
This began a trend. The next time Dad saw Joe Biden, he said, “Chris Dodd just told me that when he’s president, he’ll make me Secretary of the Treasury. Do you have a better offer?”
“Sure. I’ll make you Chairman of the Federal Reserve,” Biden said.
So Dad approached Obama and said, “So Dodd’s promised me Treasury, and Biden says he’ll make me Chairman of the Federal Reserve. What can you give me?”
“How about Secretary of Defense?” Obama said.
Armed with these three offers, Dad found himself in an elevator with Hillary Clinton, and he reviewed all three of the promises from the other candidates.
“Well, looks like I have no choice, Bob,” Hillary said. “I’m going to have to put you on the ticket.”
In the last days of his life, Dad told this story repeatedly. Whenever Hillary was mentioned in conversation, Dad would say, “I’m her running mate.”
I miss my dad. That’s all.”


Emily
Tuesday November 10th 2020, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I wrote in the spring last year about my niece who hadn’t gotten a flu shot, caught the flu, and ended up in the ICU for a very long time with sepsis, fighting for her life.

Emily was at one point the youngest-ever head of the piano teachers’ association in her state–she’s good.

After the amputations that helped save her life she had to learn how to be a piano teacher with no fingertips.

She made this video to teach other teachers what she’d learned from the experience about how to relate to her students. Who don’t know how they’ll ever be able to do what the teachers do like the teachers do, who see it from a very different viewpoint, who question themselves. How to see and meet them where they are.

With hands back to being the size of your typical five-year-old’s, as she put it, but that can’t quite land in that space back there between the black keys anymore, she tells her students it’s okay when they make mistakes because she does, too. But making music feels great.

And if you want to skip right over to 36:25 in the video, you can go see how she does.



A new world
Saturday November 07th 2020, 7:59 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life,Politics

Four years ago I was at a doctor’s for what was probably her last appointment of the day. She always took time to really listen and really ask questions, but that meant the number of minutes late piled up. I knew that. I expected that. It meant someone else was getting the care they needed and she loved that from my point of view, it also meant I got to knit: take your time.

It was going on past 5:00 on election day.

The nurse walking by was a tall African-American woman who looked absolutely stricken, putting one foot in front of the other and just trying to get through the day without bursting into tears. I learned from her face in that instant just what it must really feel like to know that Trump, whose daddy had been in the KKK, was actually close to becoming President. After Obama, no less.

So I held up my phone and assured her, It’s looking good. It’s close, but this and this and this toss-up state, it’s blue, she’s got this.

I didn’t know her at all but in that moment we were friends.

Later that evening, though, state after state blipped and flipped and turned unfathomably red after all. I felt almost as if I had betrayed her in my inability to personally keep it how it had been.

One of the great things about all those paper ballots this time is that they are counted on machines not connected to the internet. There is no wondering about hacking, the vote is what the voter said. You can run them through again. It’s all good.

I’ve been thinking of that nurse a lot these last few days.

Chris S was the first to tell me this morning that the race had been called; the Washington Post had not yet. I ran to go look, and thanks to her got to see Van Jones on CNN. Don’t miss it. That’s it, right there.

On a different note: our grandnephew Benjamin arrived last night at 33 weeks 1 day. He is in the NICU to give his lungs some time to play catch up. He is beautiful, we are thrilled, and all those crowds today across the country and even other countries calling out windows in cities banging pans dancing in the streets honking horns singing making music waving celebrating welcoming joining dancing some more–welcome to our world, little one. That was for your future. The terrible man who hated your beautiful brown skin has lost his power. I think you’ll like it here now. You couldn’t wait to see it for yourself.



All wound up
Wednesday November 04th 2020, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Knit

So on a completely different note.

This is a hand wound ball of yarn–done kind of artsy, like I like to do it.

For my non-knitting friends, yarn is sometimes sold in ready-to-use skeins but often in hanks: picture winding it around and around the back of a chair a hundred times or two, putting a few ties on to keep the strands from tangling or falling apart, and then you twist that big loop you’ve made up and tuck one end in at the other so that it looks like a twisted cruller in a doughnut shop. You don’t want to knit straight from that.

So why sell it that way? It shows off the yarn better and pretty yarn sells. It can be hung on display. It keeps your product from unwinding all over the shop via careless customers or their fascinated little kids.

Many a yarn shop has a ball winder on hand if you have time to wait for that to be done for you and if they’re not waiting on too many other people just then; Imagiknit lets you use theirs to wind it up yourself. A lot of shops will offer to let you come back later after they’ve had time to get to it. (Cottage Yarns is wonderful that way but they’re too far out for me to make the trip twice for the same purchase, hence either I wait, or, it’s the pretty hand-wound balls for me.) You put the hank on a swift–like the outer edge of an open umbrella–and crank away at the winder, jack-in-the-box style, till the yarn end goes floating off into the air at the last.

Once it’s wound, it can’t be returned, which is incentive for them to hand it off all ready to knit up from like that. Plus it’s nice of them to do, because it does take their time and attention.

Ball winders don’t make nice round balls, though: as the strand zig zags up and down while the stretched-out hank is being twirled, it comes out flat across the top and bottom and so is referred to as a yarn cake. Because everybody likes cake and some marketing genius made the visual connection in the shapes thereof. You’ll often see that last little bit simply given a quick wrap around the cake like this one was. (That one strand across the top makes it look rounded across there, but it’s not.)

And then there’s this.

We need the pandemic to be over, because I need to go to my local shop and share…

Whoever thought of this has to have been a knitter… (Scroll down their link just a bit.)

…That’s a yarn skein cake pan.

And yes, it’s angled to curl under at the bottom like that, you don’t have to piece two together.

I bought the last full size one on Amazon, at least at the moment, but they still have mini cakes. In answer to one review, they do say to chill for a bit before unmolding to help whatever you make keep its shape. Edit: of course it’s back in stock.

The only question is, do I have Richard make me wait till Christmas or my birthday for it. He says it’s up to me.

Maybe he can squirrel away some panna cotta size ones while I try this one out.



We’ll name it Jack L. Hyde
Sunday November 01st 2020, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Family

The work-zoom pumpkin carving thing they all did for fun?

There was actually a contest to it with a $50 prize.

Which he didn’t mention to me until they told him that, over his objections because he thought someone else’s design was a lot harder, he’d won.

Way to be cool to your grandkids, for sure!



Zoom zoom zoom
Thursday October 29th 2020, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Life

1. I thiiiink I started this when Maddy was a baby. She’s turning six in December. No pattern, just winging it. And I thiiiiink that I picked it up again when Lilly was on the way (or maybe that’s when I started it), finally a girl again after four grandsons. Whatever. I stumbled across it with the back done and the front only needing the top part and thought, that has lots of stretch–sure, it could still fit a fourteen month old, no problem.

And so last night I finished the knitting and did the sewing-up, which is my least favorite thing in all of knitting but I did it because this was my one chance ever to inflict it on a granddaughter.

And only then did I remember why it had been ditched. I thiiink. Tell me if I’m wrong.

I asked Michelle if her sister liked that color or was it too pinkish for her?

Uh…??

The one thing is that having started it however long ago, there is no matching that dye lot. (I even ordered a skein, it came, I laughed ruefully.) I might have enough left to pick up/cast off around the neck edge to smooth it a bit but maybe not, so I probably won’t bother to try unless you all go for the peer pressure remedy. Or I could add a contrasting edge everywhere.

But if nothing else, it’s easy to throw it in the dyepot with some blue if need be now that it’s finally actually done. I’ll ask.

2. Michelle headed back to her sister’s today, having finished the things she had to do down here, and the house is suddenly very very quiet again. It might take a little getting used to. We sent her off with fresh chocolate.

3. Then Richard did this. It was a work thing: share your pumpkin with the group! In preparation he’d bought a plug-in Flaming Lamp, ie, no candles to worry about, shown here on the jack o’lantern’s top. He set up his phone to show his masterpiece and there was at least one co-worker’s excited little kid in the background of the call bouncing up and down about it and theirs.

Coming in the room, I couldn’t get over how he’d just made the best one I’d ever seen him do. He told me there was this kit where you basically plaster a stencil over the thing, secure it with plastic wrap around the pumpkin, and carve what you see.

Oh.

Still!

4. Mathias, age three, whose aunt has a long long drive and has not yet arrived, yelling at the videoconference display while his mommy was working earlier today: “No! It’s my turn to talk!”

Soon, little guy, soon. Your favorite distraction is on the way.

(Ed. to add a later conversation: Wait–did you cut off the bottom not the top?

Him: Yes, the booklet says the pumpkins last longer that way.

Me: That actually makes sense, but who would have thought of it. )

 



About 103,000 stitches later
Saturday October 24th 2020, 7:40 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit

An appraising look: “That is an accident waiting to happen.”

So I handed her the camera and let her stand on the chair and lean over the thing to try to get an angle where the rectangle comes out a rectangle. I think she did a great job.

That light band across the bottom is where I started in on it again in April after two years on timeout. I didn’t realize that one ball was the wrong dyelot till at least a week’s worth of work later, and left it as maybe the octopus had just swept across there, or maybe it’s recovering from bottom trawling. Having spent so long trying to make myself get back to this, I knew that if I ripped out everything right then that I’d finally succeeded at getting myself to do that that would have been the end of it all.

In normal light it’s a much more subdued effect.

Anyway. I quite like it. (IDIDITIDIDITITSFINALLYFINISHED!)



House goofs
Friday October 23rd 2020, 8:22 pm
Filed under: Family

Daughter: “Have you blogged yet?”

Me, ‘fessing up: “No, I totally got sucked into mcmansionhell.com and I’ve wasted hours.”

Daughter, with a grin because she loves that site that I only just found out about: “You could tell the blog that.”

Me, thinking, well, but on the plus side, do you know how many calories I’ve burned? Deep belly laughs over and over and over are good for body and soul, and who couldn’t use the distraction right now.

I’m also remembering the contractor who was supposed to push one bedroom out to the end of the eaves who built the outer wall and found he’d mismeasured and it was going to be an inch beyond the overhang with that gap between it and the roof. Oops! Do over time!

He had a light hanging from the ceiling that you couldn’t open the new pantry doors without breaking the glass. Oops! Do over time!

He… There is such a thing as a goof plate, turns out, for when they cut the hole in the plaster too big for the electrical outlet plate. If you ever see a weirdly too-big ugly cover, that’s why.



Mascara fish
Wednesday October 21st 2020, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Family,Knit,Politics

Cuttlefish quickly take on the colors of whatever is below them.

So just for fun I made a point of wearing colors that matched the yarns I wanted to play with while knitting mine.

They have prominent W-shaped eyelid-looking things that tend to have a lighter layer above, so after nine attempts at graphing out how to do that I finally got one I was happy with. But I did not swatch it. Maybe I should have.

I guffawed when I stopped to take a good look after the last eye stitches were actually done.

And then I had to explain to my millennial daughter what I meant by Tammy Faye Bakker’s eyelashes. My husband chimed in with, “She made Dolly Parton look not made up.”

Meantime, the ballots are good (I added a note to yesterday’s post to make it easy for me to find in four years should I need to remember re the signature question–the answer I got may be specific to my county, though), the ballots are in, and I can’t tell you how good it feels that we have done our part to make our beloved country a better and more hopeful place.



Watch those vote-by-mail envelopes
Tuesday October 20th 2020, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knit,Politics

Everybody in California gets mailed their ballots now as of this election. In our county, I think it’s our second time. 

My plan was to finish and show off the cuttlefish as well as the small blue jelly (which in this bad-lighting picture looks vaguely Star Wars-ish. Or like an enlarged dust mite.) I’m close, too, but then after dinner the daughter and husband pulled out the sample ballots, the phones, a laptop, and started going over the choices. With me running to the desktop in the other room from time to time.

For two hours. And this is with us having already individually read the state Voter’s Guide and various articles over time.

And then with a flourish, to make it official: the actual ballots.

No not that pen, I said, it smudges and we can’t.

Got it all done, signed the envelopes…

…And realized I’d given it my standard signature of name middle initial name.

The envelope said name name name.

Can I sign it both ways?

That got me a groan of, No! (Meaning, do NOT risk it!)

As Richard put it, you get to make someone’s day difficult tomorrow trying to talk to you on the phone while you find out if that’s how you’ve signed their book in the past. Left unspoken was, Or whether you have to wait till November 3 to hand it in in person covid or no covid so the envelope won’t matter. I said I could take it to the county office and ask for a new envelope and then hand it in right there–to be reminded that probably nobody would be there. Covid. Oh right.

So much for dropping them all off together at the official ballot box tonight. But they are filled out and they are ready and we are so ready.

——————–

Update Wednesday:

They looked it up for me. Name initial name is what’s on file for both of us, and they have both our signatures from way back when we registered to vote here in 1986 and our signatures from the most recent election, giving them both a range and any progression with age over time, and whether it was a full middle name or just the initial wouldn’t matter anyway, she said; what matters is that it looks like the same hand signed that new ballot.

We’re good.



Clicking her ruby slippers: there’s no place like home, so, show up, already
Sunday October 18th 2020, 7:56 pm
Filed under: Family

 A few more pictures while the babyhood lasts. Those are her big brother’s shoes, which is why she’s having so much fun walking around in them.

I love the funny faces they make when they’re trying to figure out how to say our words.

We FaceTimed with them yesterday, and Lillian abruptly decided she was going to settle this once and for all: she was done with that screen, she was coming to US. Now! Which made our day, and of course she was easily jollied out of her disappointment at our not picking her up from ~1000 miles away.

Meantime, there are a cuttlefish and a blue jelly on the needles with hopes that they’ll be done in a couple of days.



Fourteen months next week
Saturday October 17th 2020, 5:35 pm
Filed under: Family

An antidote and comfort for all that ails in a way that nothing else quite could. You know that old line, “Sleeping like a baby”? For utter contentment it should be, “Smiling like a baby.”

With thanks to the resident hero for restoring the photo function on the blog.

 



Cousin Jesse
Friday October 16th 2020, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Life,Politics

The knitting entirely eluded me so far today. It just… I mean…

My mother-in-law grew up on a dairy farm in the mountains beyond Salt Lake City; her dad, who was also the high school principal, retired by changing it to a cattle ranch.

My husband’s folks drove cross country several summers of his growing up for the kids to help out on the farm and have some of the experiences and chores their mother thought an essential part of their growing up–and she wanted them to know their Utah cousins well.

I got to know them a little, too, the first few years we were married, though in the last few decades it’s all been at weddings or funerals.

One of them married and raised a son with Tim Birt.

I found myself nodding my head at the descriptions of what a nice person their son was; he sounds just like his mom.

Richard showed me the message she’d sent to his phone this morning.

A “well regulated militia” is not crazy people in the middle of the night waving guns at strangers who want to help.

The Zoom funeral is Saturday.