The babusya
Sunday October 09th 2022, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

Our entire bishopric was sick or out of town today, so leaders from the stake filled in.

The one who was to lead the service was sitting in his car beforehand going through a few notes before getting out, when he saw the woman.

She was elderly, she was stooped, she wore a headscarf and walked slowly with a cane, but on crossing the small side street and coming onto the sidewalk in front of the church, she removed her scarf, bowed her head, and clasped her hands together in prayerful reverence.

And then she saw him seeing her in her quiet moment. He was afraid he’d interrupted her reverie and felt like a bit of an intruder.

She waved to him. Hail fellow well met.

He waved back, and felt in that moment like he’d found a friend. Lovely woman, and he wanted to share that moment with the rest of us: there is so much love out there in the world to be blessed by, and for us to remember to offer.

Richard and I had seen her, too, a few minutes later as we drove up, but by then someone younger had joined her and was looking out for her so as not to fall as they headed slowly and carefully in the direction of the house two doors right nearby where our son’s old soccer coach lives.

I took the man aside afterwards. I told him that that coach has taken in several families of Ukrainian refugees and that I thought she might well have been one of them.

The speaker was someone who had helped me get the Ukrainian flag hats to the Consul General and his American friend, and I knew how much that would mean to him. And it did.

Bottled sunshine
Friday October 07th 2022, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,History,Politics

Anne gets the thanks for this one. A note from her got me looking: Ukraine is of course known for its sunflowers and as a large producer of sunflower oil.

What happens when you grow lots and lots of big bright yellow flowers?

You get lots and lots of honeybees.

I had no idea that Ukraine produces 10% of the world’s honey, although of course they do; it’s just that most of it never makes it over the ocean to here.

In the US, Congress has allowed corporations to adulterate both olive oil and honey and to sell deliberately mislabeled blends as the real thing. If you’re allergic to corn like a nephew of mine, that’s kind of a big deal on both counts. Can we please vote in people who care about people?

Which is why it’s wonderful to find a company that tracks its sources down to the individual farmers and verifies that what they’re passing on to their customers is nothing but true pure honey. (Re the olive oil: California’s law requiring Californian-grown organic extra virgin olive oil to only be that has been grandfathered in. That one you can trust.)

So. Anne found a jar of Ukrainian sunflower honey from a company that not only does that source tracing but is donating 100% of profits for it to World Food Kitchen and to Medical Teams International’s efforts on behalf of Ukrainian refugees in Moldova.

Even with the FedEx shipping, that sixpack of bottles comes to $12.50 per two-pound jar. The local stuff I’ve been buying is a dollar an ounce.

Do you have friends who need Ukrainian sunflowers in a jar for Christmas? Some of mine suddenly do. And it’s already here on our side of the ocean. While the money heads over there where it’s so badly needed.

Love, Roses
Thursday October 06th 2022, 8:08 pm
Filed under: History,Life

The weird thing is, it’s not just that the back twinges–it’s that it suddenly refuses to hold me up and I find myself on the floor. If I can hold myself up with my arms (I learned in the shower this morning) I can breathe through it and it lets go before I have to.

This gives new meaning to the word backpack. Just ordered one. It should help a lot.

In between dealing with all that, I’m a good way through reading “Dearest Ones” by Rosemary Norwalk. Highly recommended. She was a Californian who ran a Red Cross outfit at a port in England during WWII, offering coffee and doughnuts and a smile to every single soldier whose boat came in or left from where she and a few other women were stationed, be it 4 a.m. or 11 p.m. the same day.

There was a big fuss made when the millionth such soldier arrived. And again at the two millionth. Red Cross headquarters: You want HOW many more pounds of flour?? They didn’t believe it. They had to come see for themselves. And then they sent more women to help out as well as supplies.

I have a friend who was born just after his father went off to serve–who never so much as contacted his wife and son after the war was over but vanished into some other life. Rosemary described friends who hadn’t seen their spouses in four years falling in love with people they served with every day in spite of themselves.

She was not going to become serious about anyone till after the war was over and she could see them in their normal lives, not this temporary circumstance that by its nature tended to make people feel close as the Nazis changed from bombs you could hear incoming to ones you could not. Not her, no sir, just here to do her job and serve.

She wrote many a letter home, signed, Love, Roses, and asked her folks to save them all–while writing in her journal the extra details she didn’t want to tell them yet.

And those became this book and a glimpse into the world of her youth.

Don’t tell me if she ended up marrying Bob, clearly she did but I’m not there yet. (There are at least three Bobs so that’s not a spoiler. Mostly.)

Tuesday October 04th 2022, 9:05 pm
Filed under: History

Sometimes when you order something internationally on Etsy they don’t show more than the country the item is coming from until it’s got a tracking number attached to it.

And sometimes, under the circumstances, shipping doesn’t happen immediately.

There’s a vendor in Ukraine who’s been selling embroidered clothes, but also a few printed t-shirts and totes with the colors of the Ukrainian flag, of their national trident symbol, and of celebrating the sinking of the Moskva warship.

I ordered an embroidered toddler dress from them. Pretty flowers for Lillian.

Turns out that vendor was in occupied territory. It isn’t, as of the past few days, but it was then. I was gobsmacked.

The courage of the Ukrainians in standing up for their rights and their freedom of speech! We should all treasure what we’re blessed to have like they fight to keep it.

And yet who knows, it might
Monday October 03rd 2022, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

This is a little bit out on a limb–and yet.

I’ve mentioned how I was instantly smitten with a beaded sunflower necklace designed by Oleksandra in Ukraine. I waited several weeks before ordering it to see if its effect on me would wear off; the lower sunflower in particular is really big and I don’t naturally tend towards the ostentatious.

And yet. Those flower halves lifted as wings to the sky, the inner petals below curled as if caught up in the velocity above: it spoke to strength, resilience, survival. It reminded my eyes of peregrine flight, if you remember my volunteer remote-cam work towards their recovery. Yes, I could wear that. Thinking of strangers’ eyes lighting up on seeing me wearing a vyshyvanka: I would. For them.

It somehow felt a compelling part of the historical moment that I wanted to bear witness to. My father would have loved the art of it as well and I missed him, and that was somehow wrapped up in it, too. My little sister and I were with him on the plaza in Santa Fe when he fell in love with a shadowbox turquoise necklace and spent a long time talking to the artist about how her creation had come to be and about her work; he’d bought it for Mom, just like his dad had once picked out a large turquoise and a setting type and had watched another Navajo artist create a ring to surprise Dad’s mother.

That ring was big. It was almost ostentatious. And I treasure it. I’m the granddaughter who got to inherit it.

And so, wondering which granddaughter’s this would someday be, I bought that gerdan in July, back when there was only one, and I’ve written here of the long international back-and-forth wanderings that thing has been taken along on ever since.

My longtime mailman rang the doorbell Friday and I said quite gladly, You’re back!

He enjoyed that.

He’d been away when the post office had been unable to figure out where to send that gerdan. I knew he wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

Meantime, Oleksandra had been avidly following that tracking every day, even though for me it hasn’t changed since September 17.  She sent me a note a couple of days ago to let me know what the American postal service hadn’t been able to say: it had arrived back in Kiev! She was going to go retrieve it, repackage, and re-send it. She had made another two of those necklaces anyway even though I had told her that if it never showed up to please consider it a donation and not to worry about it.

But she was determined, and luck turned her way, and so, one way or another, there are strung-glass sunflowers coming my way shortly. Maybe it will spend the usual month or two waiting in Kiev to leave the country again; maybe it won’t.

And here’s where part of me can’t say/part of me can’t not say it so I’m just going to put it out there:

I was woken up very early this morning, October 3, by a dream that stayed vivid and still is, which is not a usual thing for me: that, however long it might take this time, I was once again at my front door opening it to our longtime guy and he was handing me a package. It was, it was my long-hoped-for necklace from Oleksandra, my personal connection to a family with a loved one defending their country there.

And as he handed me that package from Ukraine it totally capped off the day for both of us as we found out that we had both heard the news:

The war had ended that day.

Ukraine had won.

I know that all the fiercely wanting it to be so does not make it so. I know a dream does not require reality to bend to it. And yet the wild irrational hope holds on hard and it utterly refuses to let go, and all I can do is pray hard in grief and love and longing.

All I can say is, we shall see.

And that I wish that there could be overnight delivery on that thing.

New Swedish word: Solros
Friday September 16th 2022, 8:49 pm
Filed under: History

Meaning, sunflower.

This small handwoven woolen tapestry is my first ever purchase coming from the Kingdom of Sweden. I wondered if I was related to whoever made this. It was being sold as a fundraiser for a Ukrainian relief fund and the price was roughly postage times two.

I wanted to study how they used the various background shades of purple and blue and brightness/shadedness to enhance the colors within the flowers and highlight some areas; I wanted to study it to learn more of how to create the effects they did.

It was made in the 1970s. I think it could use a gentle hand washing for sheer age, is all, but I’m a little hesitant.

Anyone familiar with classic Swedish tapestry weaving? (It is definitely thicker than the French ones I grew up with.) Judging by the fringe, I’m guessing jute for the warp.

What would you do?

Summer breeze
Sunday July 31st 2022, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

It was a good old-fashioned Bay Area summer day today–meaning, when the breeze blew it was actually a bit chilly. It’s how it used to be most of the time when we moved here thirty-five years ago.

The doors at church were open for the fresh air after a rash of covid cases last month.

I’d brought a Coolibar sun jacket to wear walking to and from the car; it doesn’t wrinkle and it easily stuffs down into a purse  and I really do need protection from even that much UV.

I’d almost brought a wool cardigan instead, though, and sitting there with that breeze coming right in at us I was wishing I had. Coolibar to the rescue near the beginning of the service.

When we broke for Sunday School, Suzie came up and told me she’d been wondering if I was wearing one of my Ukrainian shirts today. She hadn’t been able to tell from behind with that jacket on.

I was.

She was relieved: People forget, she told me, like it’s not still going on. She was really glad I wore those.

I was surprised and quite gratified. I’d bought them to make a difference to artists under siege trying to still make a living in the middle of the war. I’d had no idea it made one to her, too, but it did, it meant a lot, and her conveying that meant a lot to me in turn.

And I thought, we’re at the empty nester stage where I can afford to splurge on such things; she’s in the throes of the kids in college and soon to be in college stage. I remember how it was.

I would pronounce one a hand-me-down and share it if we were at all the same size.

Served cold
Thursday July 21st 2022, 9:58 pm
Filed under: History

Wow that Jan 6 Commission hearing tonight!

There was that little aside with the Capitol Police grousing that Josh Hawley’s infamous fist pump revving up the huge angry crowd about to break in was made possible by his being behind the line where those cops were protecting him.

The commission then played the security camera video from a few hours later of Hawley, and at a time when members of Congress were streams of humanity fleeing together for the safe room and looking out for one another, he was alone but for the cops watching him go, running down the hallway from the mob he’d helped incite. While again those cops were where they were to protect the likes of him.

They had it on repeat in slow motion the second time so that you could see just how high his feet rose as he was beating it out of there.

Yeah, I think he’s a one-termer now.

A mind of its own
Tuesday July 12th 2022, 9:30 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Life

So I sent off that note. She sent me a sweet note back.

I decided to add a detail I hadn’t mentioned: that the consul’s American counterpart had taken my picture. That my hair was not having a good day at all but I still felt like I looked good because of how good her blouse looked on me.

She told me she’d laughed, and thanked me.

Which means I just spent the whole day (even through the Jan 6 committee hearing) quite delighted that I’d made someone in Ukraine have a good chuckle at the world.

Meantime, I was working on this. 

Reaping what she’d sewn
Monday July 11th 2022, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

The obvious thought occurred to me today, and I sat down and wrote a note to the lovely woman who’d made and mailed this vyshyvanka in the middle of the war.

I cannot begin to imagine how that was for her, but I am grateful she did that for me.

I told her I’d worn it to the General Consul’s talk last night to quietly convey my support for Ukraine. To show good thoughts but also individual actions towards their country’s well-being.

Ukrainians are going through the worst and yet I find they’re just the nicest.

The second speaker put up a slide that stated that war intensifies and quickens deeper human connections.

That instantly rang true.

I figured I was typing away in the middle of the night the seller’s time and that she would get to wake up in the morning to that, and the thought of her happy surprise she had coming just made my day. She had so earned it.

Well okay
Sunday July 10th 2022, 9:58 pm
Filed under: History,Life

The General Consul of Ukraine in San Francisco was speaking at the Mormon church the next town over at 7 pm tonight, followed by a woman who had done humanitarian work there. For ten years, if I heard right.

He came in at the beginning with an older gentleman who sat down at the opposite end of the second row from me as the Consul went up on the stand.

He came back down and sat by his friend during the woman’s presentation as she talked about ways to help Ukraine and mentioned how important supporting their businesses is to the war effort as well as their daily lives.

I quietly hoped my dark blue vyshyvanka from Sumy was helping her point. It’s one of the prettiest things I’ve ever bought.

At about 8:00 pm, the two men conferred quietly with each other and the Consul left for another engagement.

There were snacks and time to visit afterwards–there’s an old joke about needing six Mormons to change a lightbulb because there have to be five to serve refreshments–and I took a friend aside and said, I have a mild case of face blindness. Do you see him? Is he still here?

I was sure of the answer, I just didn’t want it to be the answer, but no, the Consul wasn’t there.

I started to head out but by the entryway were two chairs and in one of them was a friend I hadn’t seen in ages.

After the initial exclamations of delight, I told her my disappointment.

She knows about my deafness, and she said, But the guy he was with works with him. He could take care of it for you, and he’s right there, she said, pointing him out.

So I turned back that way and waited for the man to be done with whom he was speaking with, and then explained: When the war started, my reaction was to find as close to the colors of the Ukrainian flag as I could find and knit a hat and then as soon as it was done I immediately made another one. I did not know who they were for, just that I felt compelled to make them. Could you get one to him?

He was surprised and very happy.

And, I added, could I give you the other one? Or the two of you can decide together who it’s for, I leave it in your hands.

His eyes were shining now. Yes. Thank you!

Wait, he said–you can’t just walk off. You have to tell me your name. You have to let us know where to thank you!

But he just had… That’s all I needed, since clearly there was no question he would get the one to where it most needed to go and both were going to be appreciated. Already were.

I looked, though, and finally told him, I had a book published 15 years ago and used to always have a card in my purse but, um, I don’t anymore. (An aside as I type this: well now there are! Fixed that! Still had a few left.)

He was not to be deterred. He handed me a pen with a smile. I had nothing to write on.

Wait, I did, I had the very crumpled instructions for the Flame Chevron baby afghan project in my purse. I didn’t need those directions, they were kind of a just-in-case mental crutch, but I did suddenly need that paper and there you go.

I wanted to protest, But I didn’t do it to be thanked!

The thought that it might be an unkindness not to let them is how he got what he’d found himself suddenly hoping for after all.

no words
Thursday July 07th 2022, 9:51 pm
Filed under: History,Life

One of my relatives was once at a dinner that included Shinzo Abe, an old friend of the hosts.

The shock feels personal.

It should. We are all in this life together.

The tantrum
Thursday June 30th 2022, 9:37 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Curious. So, reading this, the Trumps’ effort at adding their chosen White House china to the history books failed even though there’s a group that that’s what they do, they assist The First Spouse in designing, ordering, and stocking a set for each new incoming administration.

Because what they wanted cost too much (I remember when Laura Bush was criticized for spending nearly half a mil) and was taking too long for the couple to bother with anymore.

The Obamas’ set? With its Pacific rim? (How did the reporter miss that pun just begging to leap onto the page after they said the blue was for the waters of Hawaii?) Or any slightest suggestion of blue states? No way.

But Hilary Clinton’s included “ornate, shiny gold plates” and it even matched a certain someone’s favorite commode. Well there you go.

Puts a new angle on the former guy’s smashing the porcelain against the wall, doesn’t it? He was trying to dish it to Hilary’s place at the table.

I think if she’d had any idea who would be coming later she’d have picked something with blue, too.

It’s not hard to think he must have wanted solid gold or at least gold-plated plates, and that if he’d gotten them, they’d be at Mar-a-Lago now even though they would have been White House property.

But he couldn’t have it, and he was no longer going to be invited to dinner, so he broke hers.

Well. He did say he was going to beat china.


(Props to an unknown person on FB for that last sentence.)

A soldier for democracy
Tuesday June 28th 2022, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,History

The Jan. 6 Committee’s emergency hearing ended. The phone rang.

It was Anne: “Wow.”

Yes, and I Wowed back. That was absolutely the word for it.

All those men who said all those things because, though she never put it this way, a 25-year-old beautiful woman is invisible in the room against their power–until she speaks truth to that power.


Trump yanking the tablecloth and dumping everything, more than once? Yelling and shattering porcelain against the far wall when Barr thwarted him? His hands on the throat of his Secret Service driver? His unmet demand at the Ellipse that the magnetometers be taken down so that people not allowed into the rally because they’d have to give up their illegal-in-DC guns could come in and swell his crowd size? They were hanging around the edges, some up in trees with a good line of sight, flagrant in their numbers, awaiting the word.

Trump wanted to lead them to the Capitol (by car of course, he wasn’t going to walk) and the Secret Service wasn’t having it.

Those are visceral images that even the most far-right voter would recoil from after today’s revelations.

Every late member of my father’s generation who went to war to defend the free world has got to be up there cheering, You GO, girl!

Needles and threads, too
Monday June 27th 2022, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Family,Food,Friends,History,Life,Politics

I got a message.

San Diego Jennifer, whom we adore from when she was in law school at Stanford, said she was flying into town for a wedding but there was a problem with her bridesmaid dress and did I have or did I know who had a sewing machine she could use for a few minutes and could we hopefully possibly get to see each other?

It’s been about ten years. I miss her. YES!

When she said what time she’d be getting off the plane I mentioned that it was our anniversary and what time our dinner was set for. She said she could come tomorrow.

Oh what the heck, she came today and when she ran out of time she borrowed the sewing machine, but not till we’d had a great time catching up for far too short a time. Her friend who’d picked her up from the airport got invited in too because of course.

I offered them peaches from Andy’s.

I got to see the complete surprise on Jennifer’s face as her eyes flew open and then closed in ecstasy at that first bite. Her friend’s reaction to her own was simply, Wow. When I offered a second peach, the friend hadn’t been going to ask by any means but she was sure glad to take me up on it.

I sent them off with another two for the road. Those peaches are at their very most perfect today and they should be enjoyed just like that.

Our dinner arrived minutes later. I’d ordered it delivered so that there wouldn’t be any last minute tension or scramble, it would just come, and turns out Richard’s meeting, the real wild card in all this, had gone over. So it was just as well we weren’t wrecking a restaurant’s reservation schedule.

So: 42: Life, the Universe, and he’s my Everything.

Richard’s family had served all the raspberries anybody could eat at our wedding breakfast. His grandfather had a quarter acre berry patch in Northwest Washington, DC in what’s now the Obamas’ neighborhood, where in the 1930s he’d bought the plot next door as well as the one he built his house on and forever after refused to sell it because that was his garden and his raspberry patch. He was born a farm boy and wanted to work some land. (Even if he was the lawyer who wrote the laws governing the new Federal Radio Commission, which became the FCC with him as chairman at one point and–I need to ask my sister-in-law to be absolutely sure, but our memory is that he was the author of the Fairness Doctrine.)

Yesterday’s recipe? We ate it for breakfast. It had to be raspberries. Go Grampa H.

And I get a second visit with Jennifer when she brings the sewing machine back. We’ve made an appointment to go out to lunch.


Before I forget, for those who missed the announcement. The January 6 committee said today that they had new information and were holding an emergency hearing at 1:00 Eastern Tuesday, with some of them flying back to DC for it after having gone home for the Congressional recess.

It should be interesting.