Monday September 26th 2022, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

We’re going to take a detour on the story here to go to the ringing of the doorbell today.

I had ordered a dress two months ago for my high school reunion, which was to be next weekend–and which got cancelled last week because not enough people had RSVP’d. Oh well.

Tracking said it had arrived in town Friday; the woman in Ukraine who’d been doing some special tailoring had gotten it out in time for that event–

–but once again, there was no mention of when it might actually be delivered, just where it was. Right in town. Going nowhere. After my mail was held over the weekend, this morning’s Informed Delivery notification said no packages today nor soon on the way. Great, I thought, here we go again.

I opened the door to find the new mailman. He asked me my name. He asked me my address, which confused me, I mean, you’re right here, right. He asked if I knew Juliaa, looking briefly at the yellow puffy package.

Yes, from Ukraine, I answered, I’m expecting a package from there, (with my vyshyvanka silently backing me up that that’s something I do.)

He asked again just to make sure. I said Juliaa… Plumarii? That was her business’s name–which was not on there. But I told him it was a dress.

And then he explained why. I didn’t see till later that the Contents box on the label said Embroidered Dress. I’d clinched it for him.

Because, again, the street address had been bungled, with the first of the three numbers gone missing but at least this time it had the other two. He was very proud of himself that he had worked out that this was mine and clearly relieved at the certainty with which he could say that now because it could be awful if it turned out he’d been wrong. There did used to be another Hyde family at the far end of this street. He wasn’t about to risk handing something international and important to the wrong person and he was new on this route and didn’t know anybody yet.

I thought, what is it with Etsy and this street addresses thing? Is it the Cyrillic alphabet/Ukrainian translation? That’s two vendors now. I thanked him profusely for having gotten it to me.

We probably both knew in that moment about the fuss I’d raised over the package that is still listed as “in transit” on its way back to Ukraine that I’d tried so hard to retrieve first. The Post Office had sent me a survey afterwards and I’d wondered what effect my responses would have on our guy, because the lowest person in the pecking order always takes the worst heat whether it’s deserved or not. So I’d tried not to yell, but, This Was Not Okay.

I need to make sure they hear that I’m so happy at what he did for me this time.

I thanked him again as he left.

It came. It had gotten through. He’d gone the extra mile.

And the dress, oh, the dress: it’s perfect. All of it is. The color, the fit, the quality of the fabric and the work. I’d requested it be of a piece with no slit at the neckline and no opening above the knees like so many of the traditional ones do. (I fall a lot and ya gotta maintain at least some dignity.) They did all that, and the embroidery is on both sides of the seam, going all the way up to the closed embroidered crewneck rather than how it is in the picture. It’s exactly how I’d wanted it to be and the whole thing is just glorious. I will love it for years to come.

The motifs, Juliaa had told me, are representative of the bounty of the harvest.

It was too big for a selfie so Richard helpfully tried, but when someone is 15″ taller and looking down, even while trying to crouch down his photos still made my head look like a swollen basketball and maybe I’ll ask a friend so you can see it. Or we can try again when his back is feeling a little better.

Speaking of which. We did have such a great time playing with the kids on that trip.

The friendly skies
Sunday September 25th 2022, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

Just walked in the door, haven’t checked my messages yet, just a quick note before we collapse.

It’s the weekend before Spencer’s fourth birthday and we flew to go celebrate with the grands there.

Taking a cowl project out of my purse to get a few stitches in, I found myself with my seven year old granddaughter asking if she could work on it. More on that later. She first asked me who it was for, and I told her, I don’t know, as I thought of the times I’d worked on it during knitting zoom meetings and a doctor’s waiting room with that same question in mind.

Still not done, and it was still that grayish blue from stash that just didn’t do it for me so it had been in no hurry. I’d started it to try to make that yarn find its rightful home at long last. Someone out there would love it if I used it.

I had, as it turned out, enough time on the plane and enough yarn on the first of my two balls (I think it was shade 3251 there) to do two last repeats and that was all it needed.

The plane did some descending. I was casting off.

The plane went lower still, though the view out the window showed no signs of city lights yet.

I used the tip of the needle to work the yarn ends in as if I were knitting stitches into existing edge ones. Finally, I left little dangly ends that needed to be trimmed off because enough already, and I called it done with less than five minutes to spare. We touched down.

I eyed that ball band on that second ball: Plymouth Solstice, baby alpaca/extra fine merino/yak, squishy and soft.

I told myself, don’t be dumb: don’t save the ball band for some possible future project and recipient when you have one right in front of you that you won’t have time to say a word to about anything. It says hand wash only as well as what it’s made of and she needs to have that information and I don’t have pen nor paper. So I did, I took the band from the one and wrapped it around the new cowl by way of introducing her to it.

We were getting our stuff from the overhead bins, just steps from the front of the plane–and she’d vanished. Even just saying, Where is she? while looking to left and then right was holding up the long line behind me.

Turns out the tall male flight attendant was blocking the view. She looked up at my question and in that moment we saw each other, and I pressed it into the hands of this older black flight attendant who’d put on a good face to the passengers the whole flight, but up at the front, had looked like she just might cry in spite of herself at any moment. She needed someone who understood her situation, whatever it was. She needed a hug.

I could do none of that in the time that I had but I needed to do what I could.

I wanted to say, Thank you for helping to make it so that we could go play with our grandchildren this weekend. I wanted to say, this is how you take care of it, tepid soapy water in a sink/as little movement to the water as possible/the lace will stretch out once it’s wet, that’s normal. I wanted to say, snip off those ends it’s okay sorry for leaving those/no scissors. I wanted to say, I am with you all the way wherever you are and whatever it is.

Instead she simply got my eyes meeting hers as she exclaimed in disbelief, having watched part of this coming to be in my hands those past 80 minutes, “For me??!”

(Anybody want that second skein, just let me know. No band, sorry/not sorry at all.)

And now I know why the kids had a last-minute change of schedule not of their making that meant that we changed our schedule to a flight an hour earlier than had been planned. Change fee $0 was a nice touch to top off how that worked out. Thank you, Southwest.

Wednesday September 21st 2022, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Life

The view out the back windows this morning.

The view out the front door in the time it took to walk those few steps to snap its picture, too.

Within five minutes it was raining in the back yard, and sunnier if anything in the front.

California skies can still, after all these years, feel so weird.

It’s going for a home run
Tuesday September 20th 2022, 8:31 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

The new post office guy on the case sent me a picture of the address it was sent to: where my street name and address should have been, in transcribing from whatever Etsy or PayPal had told her in an alphabet much less language different from her own, she’d put my phone number.

And so it was now on its way back to her.

I asked him, You had my (obviously-local) phone number right there on the package; why didn’t anybody call to ask my address? Someone took a picture so someone knew I was looking for it. Someone had it.

He wrote back that if I had phoned before it got to this point they could have intercepted it.

(Head smack) I went in in person as soon as I knew there was a problem and filed a report. How could I call to stop you from sending it to Carson and now Ukraine back when I didn’t know anything yet except that it was supposed to arrive?


The ironic thing is that it got through the postal system in Kiev in two days, which is lightning fast–four to six weeks is more the norm during this war.

Oh well. At least the artist and I both know now where it’s actually going and I asked her to let me pay for the next go-round on the postage.

Meantime, re the afghan, the trees are on their third sets of branches. I can at least make something make progress!

The case of the missing sunflowers
Monday September 19th 2022, 9:08 pm
Filed under: Life

The gerdan saga, continued: I got a note from the local postmaster with a makes-no-sense subject line that my problem had been resolved! (Their exclamation point.)

He said that the package had the right zip code but apparently a wrong street address or something. Which left me thinking, their machines can’t read European handwriting on numbers, having puzzled over a few of those myself.

He suggested I go to the USPS site since it hadn’t left the country yet.

Say what? I didn’t send it to Ukraine, Ukraine sent it to me, what? On further thought, were they threatening to return it? So you bet I went there, and re-entered the declaration of a missing package.

The system told me that Oh, it thought that was all taken care of, okay, it’ll get back on the case, here’s the new case number.

And man was I glad that I’d paid attention to that subject line.

Row by row
Thursday September 15th 2022, 10:01 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

“Your package is moving within the USPS network and is on track to be delivered to its final destination. It is currently in transit to the next facility.”

I’m going to hold them to that.

Meantime, I am well into the second tier of branches on the afghan. Three are planned, two more short ones at the top are a maybe for the momma and poppa redwoods with the little one in between staying shorter.

It’s getting there.

If it’s a race, at this pace I sure hope that gerdan wins it.

You snooze you lose
Wednesday September 14th 2022, 9:05 pm
Filed under: Life

The sender of the less-consequential package sent me a new tracking number in response to my heads-up. Richard thinks that means they never actually mailed the original, or they’re simply resending it. So my friend who loves getting fun colorful wool socks for her Aug. 2 birthday will finally have happy feet.

I went to USPS’s site to try again on my gerdan. I got this:

“Thanks, Alison. You will receive a confirmation email.

As outlined in the Terms & Conditions, the postal carrier has the final discretion to leave your package at this address.”

Wait–what? Okay, I can see why there might be circumstances they need to say that for, but given our mailman’s history of keeping the neighbors in touch with each other, that was funny. (I did NOT want Paul down the street’s property tax bill along with my own, thanks.)

Okay, try again. I signed up for all updates on its tracking number. It has now left southern California. In transit. Who knows, I might even get it this week!

Meantime, it turns out flu shots are hard to come by here at the moment and appointments are required but I found one CVS and only one locally that got us a slot for tonight, while all the others said not for at least a week. So if I sleep through tomorrow that’s why.

I put off getting that shot (or finding out that I couldn’t yet, as it turned out) because I didn’t want to miss the mailman ringing the doorbell for a signature for my package from Ukraine when he was originally expected to come.

Gone sightseeing
Tuesday September 13th 2022, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Life

They got that package moving alright.

It’s now 370 miles south of here.

Oleksandra noticed that before I did and instantly sent me a heads-up, telling me she’d wondered if she’d written my name or address down wrong or something and had checked but no, she’d gotten it right.

I found that the business card I’d been given had the official email as well as the phone number of that postal supervisor, so the documented trail of messages (no response so far) has begun.

Bead it
Monday September 12th 2022, 9:27 pm
Filed under: Life

Her fourth sale on Etsy. She told me it would take a few weeks to get made, and I, picturing one woman holding down everything while a frickin’ war is going on around her, told her I was in no hurry: in whatever time worked for her was good for me.

She was very pleased when that went out and after a long wait in Kiev, noted when it continued on.

The package (we won’t blame the gerdan inside) landed in San Francisco, got taken to my town, decided it liked the bar code scene better up in The City and hijacked a mail truck to get back to drinking in the view at its favorite hangout, got caught, and got brought back down here.

Where it sat in timeout.

And sat.

And sat.

While this good woman who’d spent so much time creating sunflowers of her own design out of Czech beads sent me an agonized note: she’d been following the tracking and had begun to believe it might never come. (She didn’t say, we got it past the war here, what on earth is up with the American postal service?)

She may have been afraid that I would make her make another one at no pay to make good on the order, but I’ve been following that tracking just as much as she has and I know she did that work and this is not her fault.

I assured her that if it didn’t come today I was going to drive to that post office with the tracking number in hand.

Usually the mail comes after dinner. Today it came in the afternoon. It was not there–but for once I knew what the status was for the day before the place closed. I kept my promise and drove over.

I told the kind and concerned clerk my story: this vendor in Ukraine had created this for me and was distraught that it might be lost. Could you help me help her feel a whole lot better about this one thing that she’d put heart and soul into?

I actually had another package of no particular importance that had been sitting there for a month, per the tracking, and could they find that, too.

She spent a long time in back while I read the latest Ukraine war updates on my phone, silently cheering their successes. I thought about Oleksandra, whose brother is in the army and for whom I had mobilized in my own little way because at least it was something I could do.

She finally came back. The tracking number for the other package didn’t exist, she told me. (I notified that vendor that they were going to have to go after them.) This one–pointing at the number with UA for Ukraine in it–was delivered this morning.

I assure you it was not, I told her. The mail came but it was not in it. (And if someone ever tells you I ever get mail in the morning other than during Christmas rush they are outright lying to you, I decided not to say out loud. We are at the end of their route.)

She gave me the supervisor’s business card so I would have that phone number and assured me they were being notified.

The hope is that it is still on the truck and that it will come tomorrow.

But either way, I have Oleksandra‘s back and that’s what matters.

And then hand splints at night, the usual
Saturday September 10th 2022, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Life

After a bright but dark-ish blue noon cloud cover that looked like it might even rain, the wind blew the local headlines this way and it was definitely a fire sky now. We’re far from the flames, but people we care about aren’t.

After dinner, I went out to take a look, and instead of being one solid mass like earlier, there was a definite formation within, scattering out a bit in spots into the distance–

–let me step back a bit to see–

yeah, that way, but when you have to replicate a sense of balance by where the ground is and feels, taking a few steps backwards while looking upwards and touching anything unexpected means your brain suddenly doesn’t know where the ground is at all nor which way that idea of up ran off to.

Which I suddenly wasn’t.

I knew my personal five minute rule, but I also knew sprains hurt more the next day and I ought to take care of that, so I iced my wrists awhile.

Which was boring.

So I sat down and figured out the branches stage of the afghan that had been impatiently waiting for me to get on with it, and got on with it. Sheer orneriness isn’t the motivation I would have been looking for to kick the knitting back into gear but hey, whatever works.

Friday September 09th 2022, 9:35 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Thirty-eight years later, I think I finally got my answer.

My dad was an art dealer and spent his career trying to help talented French artists find an international audience. I grew up with paintings on the walls and tapestries that took a month per square yard to create. Our living room’s cathedral ceiling and wall of windows looking out on the woods made for the perfect lighting in beautiful scenery.

When my husband and I bought our first house, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something was missing, like it wasn’t quite a real home yet–despite the fact that we had picked out the model and the lot and watched it being built in a then-boom town in New Hampshire and every thing in it was something we had chosen.

Our second child was born seven months later.

My folks drove up from Maryland to help out for a week.

And then.

Dad opened the big trunk of their car and started pulling out paintings, thoroughly enjoying how surprised and thrilled I was. THAT’S what it had been missing! Art on the walls! Now it could finally feel like home!

One of those paintings had always been a little bit of a mystery to me and now it was mine. Oh, that’s Deer Island, Maine, I was told, like that should settle it.

Okay–but why? I’ve long wondered. Why did someone travel way out there to paint that out in the middle of absolutely nowhere?

The Washington Post just published one of their reporters’ traveling to meet the people and place of the favorite haunt of his favorite author a little more personally.

Now, when I was maybe ten I got a thick heavy book for Christmas full of horse stories. My kind of thing at the time. The further you got into it, though, the darker a turn the stories took. John Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony” is not something I’d give a ten year old, but it was in there.

And then in high school I read “The Pearl.”

That was it. I was done with Steinbeck.

So I was surprised to read that not only was he a favorite writer of this Post reporter, but that rereading him inspired the guy to pack a bag and go learn for himself what the people and place were like where his hero began his “Travels With Charlie” from.

Deer Island, Maine.

The painter was a Steinbeck fan. Clearly.

And I feel like a decades-long mystery has been solved, and not only that, I actually am looking forward to reading that Steinbeck book. Who knew.

Someones’ grandkids
Thursday September 08th 2022, 8:11 pm
Filed under: Life

At 8:15 a.m. we were next on the list for the omicron shots.

At 8:20 a.m. we were doing the required sit-and-observe aftermath.

A dad came in holding a baby almost old enough to walk. The baby wasn’t too sure about being in this strange place at a strange hour with strange people around.

Man, it felt good to be able to offer a handknit Peruvian finger puppet just like the before times and delight the guy. The baby was pretty cool with it, too.

Then a couple with two girls of about two and four came in, and those parents approved of the unexpected distraction, too. Their little ones instantly went to town having a grand game of make believe with each other.

A few minutes in, two suddenly very shy little girls found themselves encouraged to walk ever so hesitantly to where I was sitting. They were not the least bit sure of this. Maybe I might make them give them back? What would I do? I had said Happy Birthday, but the older one knew it was not a birthday and the uncertainty was grabbing at her ankles like a monster under the bed.

“Thank you,” she said in a suddenly very small voice, both of them studying my eyes intensely, wanting to know what would happen next.

I gave them my best, biggest, grandmotherliest smile behind my required face mask (they had them on, too) and told her and her sister, “You’re very welcome!”

They RAN back to their mom and dad, joyfully this time. Yay!!

And with that our time was up and we waved goodbye, easily as grateful to them as they were to us.

Wednesday September 07th 2022, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

(Woke up to a second power failure but it cleared up quickly.)

The CDC had a list by zip code of providers of the new covid vaccine. (Lots of helpful links there.) I started trying yesterday, but the one local entity’s site refused to load, and when I asked Richard about going to Santa Rosa for another provider his reaction was that with our having driven three hours to Antioch in traffic and two hours back for his first covid shot, going even further was not enthralling.

Today, still not able to get through online, I called the local one even though their site said not to.

They said yeah they were scheduling but it was going to be weeks, possibly months before they had any more openings–they were booked.

I realized afterward, well, they are the closest off-campus pharmacy to Stanford Hospital.

Which is also I’m sure why the CDC got it to them first around here.

There had to be…

Today the CDC added CVS: one store in one location and they had openings for one single day, so I grabbed them. But I was still hoping for something sooner.

I checked our clinic’s site and got nowhere, so I called them, too. Oh! They do! But they said you could only schedule the covid shots by phone–just like last year’s first shot in the first weeks.

Turns out you had to wait while someone asked you all your ID information and all the health questions and dutifully entered them in while everybody else waited on hold, with him playing a human buffer in the scheduling that would keep all but the most determined self-screened out for now while the supplies are scarce. The on-hold robot voice kept urging me to hang up and schedule most appointments online, which I knew would just shove me to the back of the line on the phone again and nevertheless I persisted and knit and knit and knit, glad for hold music loud enough for even me to be able to put the phone down.

I got in!

You want them–this week?? Uhhh, let me see…

(I’d figured it didn’t hurt to ask.)

CVS is now canceled, he let me jump through the hoops for the both of us, and we are getting our Omicron boosters in the morning. And our flu shots.

(Edit in the morning: CVS was going to do both shots, but the clinic was only doing the Covid. One down, one to go.)

Tuesday September 06th 2022, 7:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I had a mouthful of toothpaste last night when everything suddenly went very dark.


So did that mean that when the Flex Alert said to wait till after 9:00 pm to do your laundry everybody started theirs at the same time? Along with turning on the dishwasher for the night? (Guilty.)

Earthquake readiness says we’re supposed to have flashlights by our sides of the bed. He found his. Mine was AWOL. Of all the things not to be prepared about after all the warnings re the power and the heat, I was apologizing to him that I… Oh there it is. I gave him his back.

He called to report the outage and it turned out no one else in our neighborhood had. What? They were saying 12,000 out, not quite reaching to our street (but it did.) Was everybody else in bed at 10:30? Seems like it.

We read to each other, like we do every night, and doing it by flashlight was kind of fun, like when you read under the covers as a kid and tried not to get caught not going to sleep.

Then we tried to turn off the lights in the dark.

But you know those dimming/brightening switches with the flat rectangular panel rather than a small black piece sticking out? How do you turn one of those off when the power’s out? I asked him. So it doesn’t flip all the lights back on in our faces in the middle of the night?

He confessed he did not know, which sounded to me like, Face it, honey, we’re hosed.

And yet. Turns out the bedroom lights were the ones that didn’t. It was the ones in the closet and the hallway, the ones with the flip-it switches that I’d missed because I hadn’t known which ones to turn off, and, well, we know who the light sleeper is who took care of that.

Let’s not do that again. Which is why breakfast and dinner were both baked at 7:30 this morning, side by side, 25 minutes and off fast, just in time for the dentist to call and ask me, Could you come in a few hours early this morning?

I am writing this several hours earlier than my usual. I’m trying to beat the next outage. And probably so was the dentist.

Oh, and one other thing to add: Happy Birthday to my late Grandmother J and Happy 100th Anniversary to my Grandparents B.

Actually, it’s Apple, but never mind
Sunday September 04th 2022, 9:04 pm
Filed under: Life

If you ever wanted a brain exercise for word retrieval, and the official New York Times Wordle only lets you play once a day–which it does–fear not. The colors are brighter on HelloWordl anyway, and you can play it as many times as you want. Even use it to warm up the brain before going on to the official  version where your wins are recorded and tabulated. No pressure.

I have never been addicted to computer games but this one actually has a bit of self-justification to it: when you’ve got a TBI, anything that helps.

But what I want to know is, wait. How much is this doggy in the Window?