Time tesseracts
Sunday January 21st 2024, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Family,History

(Madeline L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time.”)

I was talking to my mom tonight and at one point she was marveling: her great grandson lives with her.

Right, right…

Looking at time in the other direction, her great grandfather was in the group of pioneers who with their covered wagons went ahead and scouted out the Salt Lake valley and reported back to those gathered in Iowa that it was a good place to move out to.

(A side discussion, yes I remember about the Missouri Compromise balancing free states and slave states, and how the Mormons were growing in number in Missouri enough to risk outvoting the slaveholders and thus overthrowing slavery throughout the country at the ballot, thus their homes were burned, they were shot at, their leader was among those killed, and the governor issued a decree that all Mormons were to be shot on sight. That law stayed on the books until the 1970s, when a drunk driver who killed a young mom tried to get off on the grounds that she was Mormon–which embarrassed the state into rescinding it.


Her great grandfather was born four years after the War of 1812. He was not only later the first mayor of Salt Lake City, he was there before Brigham Young.

And his great granddaughter, now 93, takes good care of herself and still does volunteer work. Her great grandson gives her a lift to the grocery store every week.

Run in your socks
Wednesday January 03rd 2024, 10:26 pm
Filed under: History,Life

That amazing evacuation of a plane on fire with smoke already in the cabin.

Turns out, Japan Airlines not only gives a safety lecture at the beginning of their flights, they show a video of inflated emergency chutes and how wheeled luggage and high heels can destroy them. How reaching for your luggage (and having bags fall towards people as you rush and then stop to pull up the handles) means you and those behind you might not make it that far anyway.

Although I imagine the actual flames on the other side of the windows might have concentrated the mind.

Not one person on Flight 516 grabbed their baggage. All three hundred seventy-nine people got down those steep chutes and off that plane in time with not a single serious injury.

Because they’d been informed when there wasn’t an emergency on how to think it through when there was one.

And on a different subject: things are much better and it looks like my brother might be able to go home in a day or two, now that he’s post-op. Going straight to the ER had been the thing to do and they got him in time. I am so grateful. Thank you all so much for your prayers and good thoughts sent his way. You guys rock.

Splish splash
Thursday December 28th 2023, 9:25 pm
Filed under: History,Life

New Jersey had Chris Christie’s famous, “Get. the hell. off the BEACH!” during Hurricane Sandy. (Also the famous drone photo of him enjoying lounging on said beach with the crowds all gone, drink in hand.)

Combine a King Tide (the highest of the year, according to the state) with a big storm coming at us over the water and that was basically the message officials tried to get out there today: do not come running to sightsee the effects. Especially do not bring your kids to play in the ocean. Do not come near it. The waves are going to come in twenty to as much as forty feet high and you do not want to be pulled in and you will be pulled in. Stay far away from the shore.

I guess these good folks didn’t think this was too near. 

Yeah, don’t do that.

It does look like those kids had a ball while they were rolling like one.

Yeah no, don’t do that.

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.

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

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.

Two Roads Home
Thursday November 09th 2023, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

A surprisingly few years ago for all that has happened since, my friend Nina was telling me of her efforts to help her mom close out her house to get it on the market. It had taken so. much. work.

In the far back of where some old stuff had been stored for many decades, she came across a box she had not known about.

Inside were old handwritten letters. A lot of them. But they were in Polish so there was no way to know what was in them. (Possibly others in German, too; I did not know when she was telling me about them after her trip to her childhood home that I was someday going to want to ask.)

She’d lost so much family in the Holocaust and there was so much she had wanted to know of who they had been–and how the ones who had survived had done so. She was suddenly so close yet so far.

And then one day it hit her hard: of course she knew someone who could translate those! That lady at the pool was Polish!

Tonight, flipping from page 69 suddenly to the Acknowledgements at the back of the book, the lady at the pool has a name to me.

Nina connected with cousins all over the world and one is a journalist in Britain and those letters became the backbone of his new book, and if you’ve heard of “Two Roads Home: Hitler, Stalin, and the miraculous survival of my family” by Daniel Finkelstein that made the front page of the Washington Post, well, my one little hanger-on claim to fame is that the first lace shawl in my book in 2007 was designed and named for the author’s cousin who found those long-lost letters.

So if you are reading this you are three steps removed from Mr. Finkelstein yourself.

Their grandfather pleaded the Jews’ cause in a meeting with Goring himself, while he still thought that might make any difference. Wow.

Virginia don’t make me wait
Tuesday November 07th 2023, 11:24 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Politics

I wanted to see the moment that number hit 21, sealing the Virginia Senate for the Democrats. My yarn was red, my hopes were blue.

I glanced down at the next stitch, quickly back up, and in that amount of time there it was.

Their Senate and House both have a one-vote margin on the Democrat side as I turn in for the night and I have 6.5″ of a new cowl to show for it.

Monday November 06th 2023, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Family,History

The story of Jim Mattingly’s role in Apollo 13 was in the news again with his death: the astronaut who got exposed to Rubella just before the flight, found himself grounded for it, and then from mission control helped work out a way to rescue the men who did go up after one of their oxygen tanks exploded and damaged the module.

Which got me searching: I knew it was Apollo and I knew the summer it happened because I was sixteen but that they didn’t land on the moon. No, I wanted to argue with my screen, 17 was NOT the last mission with the Apollo name on it.

Found it. The Apollo-Soyuz flight in July ’75.

My aunt had married into the family that included the man who would become head of NASA at that time.

Which is how my father, my little sister, and I, however improbably, somehow found ourselves with invitations to attend that 1975 launch in Florida. In person.

There were bleachers set up just like any bleachers anywhere. You had to get there way early. You had to agree to go absolutely no closer and no exploring (I remembering looking longingly at the shade under the trees over yonder), and we were a mile away from the actual launch pad for the sake of our safety.

The Florida heat and sun were something else and I remember the intense sunburn–and wondering whether some of it had come from the intensity in the flames at takeoff. We were surrounded by actual VIPs, but I have no memory of recognizing anyone’s faces, just that I still couldn’t believe we got to do this.

But I do remember the sound and then our necks craning up, and up, and up, and up… till at last it was gone from us.

And then the kicker: there was a toll road with two toll booths along it to get to NASA. On the way back out, all those I assume hundreds of cars (that’s a guess, it felt like thousands) were all lined up to pay those two silly sets of tolls with my dad grousing, Why don’t they just make everybody pay both at one booth and then open up the traffic and let it go? It made no sense.

But we’d been there. We got to go. We got to see it. We were there.

Well, somebody!
Saturday November 04th 2023, 9:38 pm
Filed under: History,Knit

The Washington Post, owned these days by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, announced its new CEO and Publisher today: a guy who worked for Rupert Murdoch the last ten years.


Well, meantime. I needed a carry-around project and looking at the vastness of the yardage in that stash of mine, just had no idea. So I found myself saying a prayer: please direct my needles to where you want me to take them.

Next thing you know I two small but thick balls of Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk in my hand that were a mystery to me: maybe a Webs sale? (Yarn.com for a URL was pure early-internet-adopter genius.) Stitches 2018?

The first one got me to 6″, blocking will increase that, and two balls will be just right. I should be able to finish this Sunday.

Okay, so that answered the what, now we just need the who.

A cliffhanger of a day
Tuesday October 17th 2023, 10:05 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

President Biden is en route to Israel as I type.

I can only pray that his statement of unwavering support after the Hamas attacks and his compassion for the innocents, so rightly spoken, will continue to resonate there as he makes a plea for other innocents: the children. Learn from America’s failures after 9/11–for the love, literally, of all things holy, don’t repeat them.

Also: Gym Jordan, accused by the Jan. 6th committee of helping mastermind the attack on the Capitol, lost his first try at getting elected Speaker of the House. I can only pray that that gives courage they didn’t have today to those Representatives who are still looking for a way not to vote for a man who actively worked to overthrow our democracy.

C’mon, people, do the right thing. Make your time in power something your descendants are proud of. This granddaughter of a Republican Senator who voted for the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act can tell you, it’s just not that hard to do something you will feel great about for the rest of your life. They will, too.

Saturday’s lizard
Sunday October 15th 2023, 7:59 pm
Filed under: History,Wildlife

Movement caught the corner of my eye yesterday as of a bird landing but then it was moving very unbirdlike and I turned to see.

What had apparently dropped out of the sky was a lizard. Dunno if it was my usual one, but definitely that size and type.

Was it okay?! I went to the window and had another moment of me looking at it while it looked at me. It seemed perfectly fine; after awhile it scooted to the edge of a leaf’s shadow but not quite under it, ready to dart into a gap below the patio if need be. No bird came after it. It sunned itself.

No blood and no injury, as far as I could tell, just a good, whoa.

While I silently sent out an ‘if only’ towards the hearts all the people facing war in this world of ours.

The roiling stones of Death Valley
Thursday August 31st 2023, 8:40 pm
Filed under: History,Life

This is so cool. And the fact that it’s a four hour drive over a terrible road inside a national park that’s not close to population centers means they’ve mostly been left alone.

Rocks move across the dried landscape there. Boulders. Nobody’s ever seen them do it, though people have certainly tried for forever, and yet they do it and they engrave their everlasting path across the desert and it was clearly a natural phenomenon.

Just how do stones play Scottish curling games of their own?

Someone finally figured it out.

Georgia’s on my mind
Monday August 14th 2023, 9:41 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

It’s been a long wait. Go Fani Willis!! It was a thrill to watch her giving her press conference, reminding a questioner that this is about following the law, not politics, the same as all her other thousands of cases.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia had been under a lot of pressure to fire her, and at one point he actually said he was going to–he just never said when, and it just somehow never happened, while she simply continued doing her job.

I’m sure he knew the Watergate phrase “Saturday night massacre” as well as anybody, when public servant after public servant resigned rather than fire that era’s Special Prosecutor. The guy who said sure, he would? Robert Bork, whom Reagan later failed at nominating to the Supreme Court. But I digress.

Had Kemp done so, the next Fulton County Attorney General could well have added his name to the list of co-conspirators, and why would he agree to be one more fall guy abused by the former president? He was on to him.

So. Nineteen co-conspirators. RICO charges. T*** instantly erupting in rage at a Black woman daring to hold him accountable, while trying to profit off that rage.

As one meme queries, Why is a billionaire asking you to give him your money?

A hundred sixty-one criminal acts.

Justice for election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, who fled their homes at peril of their lives for telling the truth and refusing to cave.

By people who couldn’t bear that people who were Black had integrity when they themselves did not.

Go get’em, Fani. And thank you.

Sweet solace
Saturday August 12th 2023, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Food,History

Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco is where we learned about Manoa Chocolate in Hawaii: they were cheering on their friends at the new start-up and highly recommending what they were creating and the cacao farms they were helping get established there.

Manoa was in my inbox this afternoon. Like Dandelion, they email quite sparingly so it is notable when they do.

I’ve never tried their mango chocolate bar–but I’m going to now, because they are donating 100% of its proceeds to Maui relief. 

I ordered a few other bars to help with their shipping costs, particularly given that it’s August–I know how careful they are with that process. I’ll also just mention that, as someone who likes dark chocolate, their chocolate hazelnut spread is better than anybody else’s anywhere–we have done side-by-side, spoon-by-spoon taste tests to verify that, with calories and much mother/daughter glee and laughter–and it is always asked for for Christmas now.

I don’t know if it’s the volcanic soil or what, and granted, I normally only order the plain bars without additions so that’s the context to take this from, but man, their chocolate. It is the best.

(I wonder if the mango powder came from Haydens. Our Pearl Harbor survivor friend Jean is from Hawaii and misses her perfect Hayden mangoes, which grew there. I’ll have to ask.)