Back again
Monday September 18th 2023, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

We had a trip scheduled to go visit my mom, and then my cousin in Colorado whose husband Kevin was killed on his motorcycle announced a memorial service for him to be held the week after, near my mom and where my cousin grew up even if it’s not where she lives now. But it was a central gathering place closest to the most relatives.

So we changed our tickets and flew out Friday.

We got to see not only Mom but a whole lot of people including relatives I hadn’t seen in probably thirty years.

I said to one man there, You have got to be Kevin’s brother! He was very pleased at that, considered it a great compliment, and said yes he was. We shared a hug at the loss and he radiated so much love that I thought, You are absolutely the brother of Kevin.

And then we got up at dark o’clock this morning to catch the only direct flight home and because that particular airport is such a zoo–it once took us nearly three hours to go from returning the car to our gate. Lesson learned. Be very early.

Our Uber driver coming home asked and reiterated and really wanted to know how we were. So we asked after him and his family.

His English was very good. Turns out he was a refugee from Afghanistan. Very grateful to be here, to be alive, to be employed, and he was so wonderful to us. And grateful that we cared about his family members that were still back there.

Of course we do. We are all, every single one of us, in this life thing together.

At quarter to five
Monday September 11th 2023, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

One of my friends, a rabbi, posts every Monday the simple question: How’s your heart?

She asks it every week and it always takes me by surprise even though I know it shouldn’t and it makes me stop and think. All the things. Some so good, some not so much; it took a few minutes to sift through.

Then I answered.

“I have been watching a small desert lizard on my patio stretching his face way upwards towards the sun. The wind is blowing the leaves shading there at this time of day, and he takes note of it and from time to time scoots over to where the sun is present again. And again. And–there he goes–again, staying with the light even when it moves.”

Leaving me wanting to ask my friends, too: How are your hearts today?

Sunday September 10th 2023, 8:41 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I had someone I felt I owed a thank you to, who’d been admiring my gerdans at church.

I knew what it’s like to move here with kids while trying to afford the crazy housing costs, even if she would find it laughable if I told her what those numbers once were for us. We didn’t have a dime for extras.

So this week I went through those necklaces several times, trying to envision her reaction to color/style/length and what she had seemed to like the most.

I couldn’t find her. I stopped her teenage daughter: Is your mom here?

No, she’s not, she half-apologized.

I got her to follow me away from the crowd a bit and, reaching into my purse, told her, Your mom is so supportive. Would you be willing to pick one out for her?

I got a polite that’s nice that’s nice that’s nice–and then I pulled out the last one.

She gasped!

We had a winner!

Oh, she couldn’t wait. This was so perfect.

And here’s the thing: suddenly it was all about the daughter being in so much delighted anticipation of making her mom happy. In retrospect it was the most perfect day to have brought it to church.

And I was willing to give up that round white classic beaded Ruth Bader Ginsberg collar because a week ago, when a gerdan I’d ordered from Kherson arrived, the artist had decided to surprise me with the gift of a second necklace entirely: round, rather than long.

Quite like that RBG one. I didn’t need two, and so the one that was simply a bought thing (from Ukraine, so important just the same) went into the bag for my friend/her daughter to choose from.

My friend in Kherson could never have known what she was going to help happen when she decided to do that, surely with much happy anticipation of how delighted it would make me. And it did.

Love, multiplied.

Saturday September 09th 2023, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

Migraine, could you go without me, sure hon, feel better, and with that I was off on a quick grocery run alone.

At the 5:00 time/place that I’ve been avoiding ever since I ran into that guy.

The one who, years ago, I tried to exchange info with after he hit my car that ended with him pounding his fists on the window of my hurriedly-locked door screaming, “What are you, some kind of damn private eye?!” because I’d taken a picture of his license plate.

The one where a cop later told me the guy had done time for assault.

The one who showed up at that store all these years later whose face instantly contorted with rage on seeing me–but there were lots of witnesses around this time, and he was older now, and he managed to calm himself down as I got out of there as fast as I could. Did he think all these years that I’d somehow caused him that conviction? I have nothing to do with the man. Whoever he is.

I haven’t been willing to admit just how much I haven’t wanted to go back at that particular time and day ever since then. I’ve gone–but during working hours. Just because.

But there I was.

And as I was checking out, I saw, not him, but my dear friends Marguerite and Russ and they waved a cheerful hi and turned and wheeled their cart over to join my line and come say hi.

They totally rescued me. They had no way to know it. I had not known till that moment of extreme emotional contrast just how much I’d needed to be. They just happened to choose that day and that time to come to that store and the love in their faces the instant they saw me was like suddenly I could breathe again.

It occurred to me afterward that I hadn’t even thought to pray for help coping with the fear and the what-ifs because I was trying so hard to believe I didn’t feel that fear.

The choreography of G_d. It is very humbling. And the joy!

Kings Mountain
Friday September 01st 2023, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

I hadn’t seen Kris in four long years. Way too long.

I’d forgotten that I’d sworn to myself I would never, ever again go the way the map apps direct you towards the Kings Mountain Art Fair. And that was before last winter.

The tiny coastal mountain road alternates in its switchbacks to which side has the drop off with no barrier, it is not level nor smooth and it was not comforting to see spots where the asphalt had stretched and cracked on its way sloping down towards the redwood trunks below. (And above, because, redwoods.)

Sign (twice): Road Narrows.

Me: How?

Kris later told me, Oh, yeah, we did that road with the truck once and never again.

The truck? On that?!

In two places my lane was altogether gone from the past winter’s storms. Oh, I’d heard about that, I just didn’t know where it was.

It rained and the road was slippery, intermittent with fog-rolling-in time of day which was like driving through cotton candy.

Only for you, Mel and Kris, I thought again and again till I saw that blessed Skyline Drive sign at long last: a much better, straighter, wider road across the spine of the mountain and the one the Fair is on.

And then just like that it was all worth it.

For lupus and sun avoidance’s sake I had arrived just after four–it goes till five–and most of the booths had pulled rainproof tarps around and I don’t know that there was a single other customer walking around by then, so I certainly wasn’t interrupting any sales by catching up with my friends and their son for old times’ sake till I declared it was quitting time and time for them to kick me out. I brought peaches from Andy’s because I could. They loved me and I loved them and their kids are great and we even reveled in (and ducked under their tarp from) the rain.

Such good folks. And they do such gorgeous work. I bought this tall hot cocoa mug with a hummingbird poised just like the one that had once danced through the spray from my hose, facing me, so close. Such a happy memory. (Bought a few other things, too. Needed to make up for those four years.)

I continued down Skyline towards home, appreciating ever so much that it was an option and hoping my readers would forgive the whine if I try to write it down so I actually remember it next year: Go. This. Way. Both ways.

The postscript is that our daughter is flying home for the weekend and after Kings Mountain, I ran to stock the fridge in anticipation. I was wearing my large sunflower gerdan. An older woman with an accent stopped me ever so briefly, looking at it and me. She said softly, “Thank you.” Then moved on quickly so as not to accost a stranger too much but had needed so much to say something before the moment passed.

While I was instantly wanting to know her whole life story, if only I could ask. Because we would be friends. I knew it because she had already befriended me.

But she had said what she had the words for.

There was suddenly one more thing I needed to do with my day: go tell Oleksandra in Ukraine that her art had blessed that woman’s life, too, and to thank her. And so I did.

Why it’s noisy here
Friday August 25th 2023, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

Afton’s been making good use of her melanger of late and we got our Manoa bars from Hawaii and in two days we’re down nearly two of the four (my usual square a day limit went right out the window) and I’d almost forgotten just how good fresh chocolate can be and I can’t afford to munch theirs at the rate I want to and you can see where all this is heading, right?

Not that ours will ever taste quite like that volcanic-soil Hawaiian grown. My stars theirs are good. I wasn’t familiar with the one they’re selling for Maui relief but it turned out to be my favorite so far.

I’ll just have to make do with (pulling a bag out of the pantry.)

Cocoa butter is a remarkably stable fat, so no worries on the vintage.

And so a little bit of Wild snuck into today, too. It is cranking away over there. Picture taken right after the sugar-adding stage.

Roasting notes: 350F ten min with a stir at the halfway, didn’t seem enough, turned it down to 325 for another three and the nose says that really made a difference. This one’s going to have great flavor. (I was going to link to Dandelion‘s Wild Bolivian but they seem to be sold out at the moment.)

Now, a question: Chocolate Alchemy sells whole cacao beans or nibs but the default setting is the beans and I accidentally ended up with some. I could spend the time shelling each little one, but I just haven’t. Part of me thinks school kids would love experimenting with them, but you know they’d toss them because they’re not sweet.

What would you do?



This yarn is wild
Thursday August 24th 2023, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Friends,LYS

And so the answer is I did both. I ordered the yarn that I knew would be exactly the right color at the right weight that I was going to have to wait for, and I drove to South San Francisco to see what Kathryn had. But mostly because I wanted to know how their trip had gone and whether they were moving.

They didn’t quite have the blue I wanted there, so, no jump-starting. They did however have a single skein of my favorite hat yarn in Jupiter with no pink overtones, exactly what I’d looked for the previous time. This one was perfect.

She was at an appointment so it was her husband that I got to talk to. Yes, they’d been considering that place and that move but it turned out that in person the lot was wetlands, so, no on that one. Yes, they are planning on moving to that area in retirement–but now, not at the moment. So my favorite yarn store continues on.

Then the mail came. With the probably once in a lifetime fox yarn. (Oh well, there *was* a sale.) They sent it pre-wound; I imagine that shipping the extra size and weight of the cone from Ukraine made it cost effective to add that labor to the sale. I do not mind one little bit.

The verdict: it is nice yarn, it is soft, it’s fairly easily breakable but not more fragile than you’d expect at that micron count–and if you breathe deep into it there’s this, this, this… I would never have been able to place the scent of it. It’s faint but it’s there. I like it.

I would describe it as equivalent to a nice cashmere.

It came in 13 days, and from Ukraine in the middle of the war that’s lightning fast.

If I knit it and wore it in the yard would it keep the raccoons and skunks away from my fruit trees?

(Edit: not skunks, they don’t climb, possums sure do, though.)


Eleven weeks till Halloween
Sunday August 13th 2023, 9:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

Sore throat yesterday morning, stayed home, missed a potluck last night, missed seeing friends at church: a throwback to the During times, made easier by Zoom church and the Zoom knitting group that offered actual human interaction, with a big thanks to all who participated there.

Got two hats started out of it: one that needed visual attention and one for the knit meeting that freed my eyes as friends encouraged my hands–egged them on, rather. A fish hat (child size in link) complete with bright stripes and tails and fin and (adult size) fish lips on your forehead?

Trying to remember who it was (probably Elizabeth Zimmerman?) who famously said, People will put anything on their heads.

Yes please!

Oh so that was why
Friday August 11th 2023, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I was going to go back there with him but when they called his name somehow I just didn’t. We had already discussed it and found neither of us particularly cared if I did or didn’t and I was in the middle of a row of a merino-silk that likes to drop and run like crazy. Eh. Have fun.

He came back from triage moments later and said, The nurse glared at me.

I finished row after row more, there were quite a few people in Urgent Care this afternoon, the wait was long, and then with my hands needing a break I finally opened the book I’d grabbed as backup when he had suddenly decided he needed to go in.

Whoever it was that recommended “The Fabric of Civilization: how textiles made the world,” by Virginia Postrel, thank you thank you thank you. Archaeology to history to genetics and written compellingly interestingly. I am learning so much.

They called him to the exam room and again I found myself staying where I was, while wondering why.

There was a young woman who was doing the same thing waiting for her friend; my guess is they were college roommates.

She worked up the courage and finally complimented me on my necklace. It was a sunflower gerdan from (are you surprised) Ukraine.

She was very happy at finding out where she could order one from and it was clear it was going to be very meaningful to her to do so. I adored her on the spot.

We chatted. She described herself as a writer. I told her I was one, too. Her: Cool! She started telling me about the fantasy fiction she likes to write.

She’d been watching me knit lace, and I told her I wrote a lace shawls book–but with a story to each. What inspired it, who it was for, with the point being to bless others with what we can do.

The most important one, I told her, was the story of right after 9/11: Joan Baez and her niece came to city hall for a multi-faith gathering; her niece sang. Speeches were made.

And at the end, they asked everybody to take the hands of those around them for a moment of silence. And then as they so felt moved, to speak into that silence.

A few words here and there as strangers held hands with their fellow man. Finally, one man said decisively, May America always be like this.

Amen, the crowd murmured, and with that we let each other go.

I told her, I made a circular shawl in remembrance: it looked like a paper cut-out of people holding hands.

And I told her she would make it with her writing. Her books would be published.

Because I knew in that moment that if a stranger who had actually been published believed in her, she could believe in her, and if she could believe in her she could do it.

Richard reappeared a few minutes later, and as we got in the car to leave I asked him at last, Why did the triage nurse glare at you?

Oh. She told me I should have come in much sooner. If the antibiotics don’t heal that wound right up to get right back in there.

Will do.

And then I told him about the up and coming writer. I wished I’d gotten her name so I could buy the first copy.

Hymn and hers
Sunday August 06th 2023, 8:58 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

How soon it fades.

We were literally about one minute from walking out the door for church when my email pinged. I took a glance; what if someone needed a ride, right?

It was a, we know you’re all probably already on your way but please call those on your list and do not come! An accident just happened, the street is closed down, we have to leave room open for the first responders without all those cars arriving in the wrong block at the wrong moment and for the utility people too because the power pole got taken out and it’s not safe to hold church in the dark.

(Can you just picture the toddlers shrieking and giggling and scrambling away under someone else’s pew. It could be the greatest game ever of Catch Me If You Can.)

Well someone out there was having a truly bad day. They did find a way, though, to get a whole lot of people to pray for them without even being asked. I can only hope they turn out okay.

Another message, later in the morning: Power’s still out but the other ward (we share the building) has invited us to come meet on the lawn with them at noon. Mostly shade.

I’ve seen that shade. The sun, it moves right at you that time of day. No mic, no Zoom for captions, crowded.

He went, but for me there was no point and no doubt certain harm in the idea. Lupus, it doesn’t negotiate.

Just home.

Nobody around.

Nobody to catch up on the week with, no babies to get giggling, no shared community to start off the coming week with, just isolation. So I baked some pumpkin muffins. If I’d had sourdough starter at the ready (there’s some in the freezer somewhere) I probably would have made a batch of that, too; it’s been awhile since I’d even thought of it and I miss it.

It was like this every single day and every single week for all that time before the vaccines started to arrive? And we got through that? It surprised me that it surprised me that much.

Sometimes one remembers just how blessedly wonderful normal life is.

I can only pray that someone out there (I picture their car as a black Mustang, no good reason, I just do) gets to go back to theirs, too.

And that was who
Friday August 04th 2023, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knit,Life

The email from Cottage Yarns said that starting next week the shop will be closed for two weeks for their vacation.

I had been meaning for over a month to get up there to replenish my Mecha supply for Zoom hat knitting.

There was this persistent thought…and I wondered, Is this just me? Or should I? So I did what I do and said a prayer: if You want me to do this, then please make it so obvious that I will never question whether I got it right or not. Help it be unmistakeable. Either way, please bless my friends, separate from any of that–they’re such good people.

I pictured her needing to attend to customers with questions, and thought in no way do I want to do anything that would distract her from what she needs to do to earn a living (I know the rent there is crazy) and sometimes it gets pretty busy, especially right before a long break like that. I put it in G_d’s hands to handle the details and I would try to take my cues from that.

I got ready and headed on up there, hoping.

There was no other customer in there the whole time:

I walked in that door and Kathryn’s face lit up, delighted to see me, and then she immediately exclaimed over my gerdan. What was that? I told her how to spell it: like garden, only with the e and the a switched. Her husband wanted to know, How was it made?

Glass beads woven on a small loom. Made for me by a woman in Ukraine, where these are traditional.

They follow the news on Ukraine closely, they told me, and we talked about today’s developments. The listing warship that was towed away by the Russians after Ukraine’s successful drone.

Kathryn is far from the gushing type, but wow, that necklace: the flowers that looked so realistic, the wheat at the top, the sunflower at the bottom. So pretty. She just couldn’t get over it.

I showed her the picture of my sister’s afghan so far, and turns out they’d been watching the Little League games. They might even have seen Parker, and even the possibility delighted us all.

I waited till she’d rung up my yarn.

“I planned this,” I told her, pulling out the little box that the gerdan had come in inside the shipping box. I quickly took it off my neck and held it out to her along with its box. While she stood there speechless, I took out an identical box from the same artist, took out the big sunflower gerdan and put that one on me.

I have several, I told her, and every time I’m out and about it makes someone’s day to see me wearing one. Ukrainians know what it is and they feel the support it conveys. You see more people than I do. You can do more than I can alone. This was meant for you.

I told her that I had felt strongly to give one to a friend, a retired NASA rocket scientist I kid you not, and ordered this one made–but she had picked a different one. Which is fine. What I didn’t know was that she was teaching classes to help Ukrainian refugees assimilate and they took one look at her walking into class after that wearing a gerdan and they knew exactly what it was and what it meant and how much their teacher loved them, visibly loved them.

And yet I still I had this other one. I have always really liked it–but I had wondered who it was meant to be for, because it had always felt like it was waiting, somehow. And today I finally knew.

I knew it was just her colors.

What I didn’t know is that all her childhood she had declared that she was going to be a florist when she grew up. “And look at me,” she laughed, holding her arms up, taking in the sweep of the room, embracing it all: “I’m a yarn store owner!”

Wearing flowers so beautifully created? To support Ukraine and her people?

It meant the world to her to be able to. She had never known such a thing existed.

I told her I had promised Oleksandra that I would wear her sunflower gerdan in celebration the day Ukraine wins the war.

“I will wear mine, too,” Kathryn promised. She laughed again, adding that she would on her vacation, too! And a whole lot of other days! She loved it so much.

They’re going to visit the area where she grew up, near my oldest, and near one of their children.

I came away from that conversation thinking, and I bet you’re going to find the perfect place, buy it, be done with your unpleasant LYS landlord and move away and my favorite yarn store will be gone forever. I selfishly hope not.

But wherever they go, love will be there because that is who they are and what they do.

I got to it later
Monday July 31st 2023, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit

A friend dropped by and we spent a goodly amount of time catching up. It was great. She loved the afghan. Loved how much it matched the real-life version I was trying to picture with it.

At one point, she exclaimed, You should be knitting!

I laughed. I’m on an easier section right now, yes, but that means only six areas of color, five of them in balls and one that has to be pulled through, and to work on that and flip all the strands over from row to row while talking would be like trying to solve Rubik’s cubes while juggling them.

Fruit full
Sunday July 30th 2023, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends

It was her birthday. The whole recent eye and heart scare thing, which is not quite over yet. There was a potluck dinner at her house.

And so the first of the frozen tart cherries got turned into a pie, and if the freezer dies and wrecks everything tomorrow, that bag of cherries and all that work from all those pounds from my tree did what they were most meant to be for, tonight.

We brought her peaches from Andy’s farm to top it off.

All in it together
Tuesday July 18th 2023, 8:28 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

He’s a fellow gardening and fruit tree enthusiast, so I wore my beaded cherry tree necklace to the doctor’s today. Besides, it’s pretty and I’m a relentless showoff for other people’s art.

He liked it, and I told him a woman in Ukraine had made it for me. In Kherson.

He took a deep breath at that one. Then a quiet, “Wow.”

She had sent me pictures of her apartment, I added, nodding, and had declared, We will repel the invaders. We will rebuild.

We quickly got on with what was supposed to be the point of the appointment, tests, lupus, meds, etc.

But as it was time to leave, he suddenly stopped and turned back to me. He’d clearly been thinking about it because he said, “Please give her all my best.”

He paused a moment, then added with maybe more emotion than he’d intended, “Please tell her we’re all with her.” He wanted so much to convey that. I promised him I would.

And I remembered the time he had had to cancel an appointment with me to fly to his elderly widowed mom in Hong Kong when she had been ill. He had never outright said it but I knew that that was while the mainland authorities were violently putting down large pro-democracy protests. But his mom needed him. He came. Her whole country…

Please tell her we’re all with her.

That I did, and why it was especially meaningful to me to hear it coming from him.

Playing telephone
Thursday July 13th 2023, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

It was a bit of a cri de coeur: I had tried leaving individual messages, gotten no response, and finally wrote to the whole ward.

I have a tart cherry tree, I said, and I’ve been getting up early in the mornings to pick from it hoping to beat the risks of the low UV exposure at that hour and it’s flaring me and I absolutely have to stop. But it’s a crime to let those cherries go unpicked, and the last of them are ripe now.

Save me from me, I wrote. Email me first so we don’t get forty people with a handful apiece, but please, come get yourself some pie cherries from my tree. It’ll be hands-and-knees work, though, because the ones left are mostly down close to the ground.

The only answer I got last night was from a friend insisting she was going to pick them today–for me.

We agreed to wait to see if anyone else answered first. People were being too polite, not wanting to shove to the front of the line, I figured (I mean, how could anyone not be passionate about pie cherries, even if that first person wasn’t.)

I got two messages this morning: one from a friend who admitted she’d long wished she had a tree like mine and that sour cherry was her favorite pie, too, and she would dearly love to have them. Could she come by after her dental appointment?

That would be great!

The other came in a few minutes after the first, from N’s daughter, saying, That’s my mom’s absolute favorite, I’d love to come pick them for her.

Several hours after I’d heard from her mom, I told the daughter that I’d completely forgotten till that moment, but, I had wire racks from old ovens around the base of the tree after seeing a ground squirrel next to it: they won’t come up where they can’t dig down, and I didn’t want it chewing on the bark and roots. Those might be rough on her mom’s knees.

That was it, she was coming with her kids. She called her mom and then told me they were on their way over.

Meantime, I was on the phone with the doctor’s office and they said I needed to be seen but I needed to have a covid test first, and not just a home test.

The daughter took pictures of her kids holding up their treasureboxes of bright fruit with the cherry tree as background and it just made my day.

They held some out: did I want any?

(Always, of course, but I had so much in my freezer.) I opened the door a crack, trying not to breathe in their direction: No, I’ve got plenty, thanks, though!

They left, I sent out a note to the ward saying the cherries were picked and thank you everybody, and I headed off to the clinic.

The grandmother read that and dashed over, hoping she hadn’t lost her chance to at least get some. Turns out she had missed that phone call.

Richard had been in a meeting and I hadn’t interrupted, so he didn’t know that the daughter had come by; he just met the grandmother at the door (trying to keep his distance because of the covid exposure), and a moment later found her crushed, saying, It’s stripped. They’re all gone.

(While the daughter had been going, Mom, answer your phone…)

And everybody’s having a good laugh over the whole thing now.

Oh, and the covid test? It was negative.