Not sub-postal do it that way
Tuesday December 01st 2020, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

I made me a list, checked it twice. And again. And again. If the shipping all goes smoothly the Christmas shopping looks just about finished, and I know how fortunate we are that we can do that this year.

One company doesn’t gift wrap and I wasn’t going to send four grandkids a jumble of unlabeled toys to let them duke it out over early, so I’m having the order sent here so I can wrap and reroute. That works if they ship promptly. They’re not Amazon and I’ve never dealt with them before, I don’t know. It’s too late now to say I should have paid individual shipping on each rather than accepting free shipping for the lot and a little work for me.

But then, wrapped up for Christmas for the kids is just so much better. So much more, this is from us, rather than, look what we paid for.

I wonder if the post office lines will be shorter this year?

The thought hits me: like how they said the voting lines were going to be?

Bringing out the best in it
Friday November 27th 2020, 11:29 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

Now that we’re officially between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don’t think I’ve told this story here before, and it’s worth telling again if I have. With thanks to Anne for sending me a video of someone playing an intense organ piece and prompting this; my son Richard minored in organ performance.

My grandmother was a concert pianist. I inherited her musical talent but my hands did not–they’re the one dyslexic part of me, wanting to reverse notes at random until I practice and practice to the point of forcing muscle memory on them.

My son Richard is all Gram. He’s good. Hum a tune, he’ll embellish it at the piano with all ten fingers going at once and improvise it into a whole new thing, any style you want.

In college he had to go to a practice room on campus in order to play. Those are reserved for music majors at all times–in four years on that campus I found an open piano room twice. He *needs* his keyboard time in a way that I didn’t quite.

Coming home at Christmas meant the piano was right there and all his. It’s an old one of Gram’s; she bought it for their DC apartment when her husband was elected to the Senate before I was born, a very good upright, but it just wouldn’t do and she had to have her grand. She gave the upright to my folks and it got passed down to me.

One holiday season when Richard was in college, the guy I’d hired to tune it ever since we’d moved here just didn’t have time to fit me in–right around Thanksgiving he gets booked up fast because everybody wants to be ready for get-togethers.

And then, bless him, Neil decided he would squeeze me in anyway. It would be a quick tune-and-run, though, no time to catch up on life.

That was fine, and thank you!

So he came. He tuned. I thanked him, we wished each other the best and he was off.

A few days later my son flew home, finals done, the house ready for Christmas, and sat down at that piano and let’er rip in loud, exuberantly happy music all over the keyboard.

About a minute into it (and having him in on this with me) I dialed the phone and when the call was answered, said, This is Alison–and held the phone towards the piano as Richard grinned and really let’er rip. That piano had never sounded so good.

Neil, listening, said with great emotion, “I can’t tell you how much this means to me!”

The music got just a little softer (because the kid knew his mom needed the help hearing on the phone), I wished Neil and his a Merry Christmas and he me and then we let each other go back to our families, the moment never to be forgotten. I was and am so grateful for his kindness.

One big snowball
Wednesday November 25th 2020, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Life

Not sure everyone can get past the paywall, so I’m sharing his story here.

My cousin who’s a reporter in Salt Lake City pointed out her co-worker’s story: his mom had found his childhood bank over the weekend. Spongebob Squarepants no less. Did he want it? Enticement: (to get it out of her house I’m sure) there were seventy bucks in there, plus random small things that interest small boys. Childhood memories and all that.

Meantime, he had a can he threw random change into, and sure, he was curious to know how much all that would add up to.

It wasn’t money he’d needed or planned on and there were plenty of people out there who could definitely use it right now so he decided to invite his readers via Twitter to let him know if they knew or were someone in need. No need to be outed publicly, send a direct message if you’d rather.

You could have seen this coming, but he didn’t: one of the first responses was someone wanting to add $150 to his $165. And then someone else wanted to. And someone else. He kept answering with !!!!!!!!! because he felt speechless.

Over $49k in 24 hours. All these people wanting to help other people but not knowing where best to do so but figuring he, working for the newspaper, either would or he certainly could find out. All this desire to help.

And there will be food on tables and warmth in homes for it.

Let me Monopolize your time for a moment here
Monday November 23rd 2020, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Life

So Monopoly was actually invented by a woman in the late 1800s who was trying to teach Americans why having a very rich 1% owning and running everything was a bad idea.

There were lots of knock-offs, including the classic version we’re all familiar with that a man invented a story for and sold to Parker Bros.

Lizzie Magie got them to pay her $500 for the patent on her “Landlord’s Game” the same year. He got very rich and famous. She did not, but at least she got something.

In case you’re looking for ideas this time of year, you can buy a National Parks version from the National Park Service to help them fund their operations, sorely needed these past four years.

Although I would guess that things are probably starting to look up for them right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bouncy bounce
Thursday November 19th 2020, 11:35 pm
Filed under: Life

Someone was passing around a video of a stoat kit playing on a trampoline yesterday. Cute baby animals and all that.

And I woke up this morning with the thought of, that’s it! That’s the description I’ve been looking for for so long!

It was twenty years ago this month when someone grossly speeding and oblivious destroyed his car, mine, did significant damage to the car in front of me, and wrecked my sense of balance. Visual and muscle feedback is all I have to go on. Old news, long since adjusted to. But it has its weird moments and I’ve wanted a quick way to try to convey how it is and why when needed.

We have an old guy at church (the dad of one of my college classmates, actually) who likes to greet his friends by coming up behind them and clapping them on the back with one hand and then shaking theirs with his other as they turn in response. He’s sent me flying several times because, not seeing him, I didn’t anticipate the movement to brace against it and where up is got rearranged for a heartbeat. It was…a bit noticed. This is not how you’re supposed to do crowd surfing. It did happen twice. Bless him, he’s learned. (Sudden thought: we’ll see if he still remembers when we get to meet in person again.)

So. The now-obvious description: it’s like being on a trampoline! The surface you’re walking on all looks the same and flat but something moves and you find yourself tilting this way or that or staggering. You could be in the center where it’s the bounciest or at the edge near the springs and that affects how much where others move affects how much you move but even so anything can happen.

A good bounce from behind when you thought no one was there and whoa!

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

We were asked our Thanksgiving plans.

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

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

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

Cherries for Andy’s
Sunday November 15th 2020, 11:42 pm
Filed under: Knit,Life

I wanted to go to Andy’s Orchard to pick up a few things, like their dried slab Blenheim apricots: “slab” because they were so perfectly ripe when picked that they could not be sliced in pretty halves like the others, they kinda went smush. Those are the ones you want. So good.

And their holiday season dried figs stuffed with a walnut inside peaches pureed with honey and topped with almond bits: worth the trip right there, and they affirmed that yes they had them in stock now.

And so Friday, I went.

There were the last fresh-picked plums of the year and one last two-pound box of random-variety ripe figs; how, after two freezing nights this past week I don’t know but they were wonderful and we finished them off today.

But before I took off for Morgan Hill, I went looking and found the deep red superwash wool hat I’d made. In the Cerise colorway, French for Cherry, and what could be more appropriate for someone at a stone-fruits farm? It had been so long since I’d been able to just gift someone with some knitting in person. Their season was almost ended and who knew if the clerk who’s run the shop for Andy these past many months will be back next year.

She was wearing a sweater that went really well with that hat.

It hit me afterwards that I hoped she didn’t worry about touching it and being exposed to covid–I’d have offered to open the bag and shake it out for her without touching it myself if I’d been thinking. I knitted it about a month ago, so it’s done its quarantine time.

I guess I’m still, after all this time, figuring out this pandemic thing.

Playing Back,Jack
Wednesday November 11th 2020, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Life

Reno. It was a small town when my dad’s folks moved there when he was a teen.

Wonder if their paths ever crossed. They’d be having a great laugh up there over this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ask Alice
Monday November 09th 2020, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Life

(Yes, that was a Grace Slick reference. My friend and yarn dyer Lisa Souza used to sing lead in a band that opened for Jefferson Starship.)

This was a comment in the New York Times that I’m lifting shamelessly because you just wouldn’t want to miss it. And I quote from one Harmon Smith, whoever they may be:

“Attending a business conference in Florida, our group decided to meet for lunch at a restaurant approximately one mile from the event. As the group departed for the restaurant I told them to go ahead and I’d catch up. Fifteen minutes later I departed, walking to the restaurant located one mile away. After a few wrong turns I ended up on a path with a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart full of belongings. I asked the woman for directions to the restaurant. She said, “Don’t go there the foods terrible, here’s where you want to eat” and began digging through her shopping cart for something. After a minute, she produced a crumpled menu, handed it to me and gave directions to a shipyard fish shack located on a nearby canal. The ambiance and food were awesome. I told the bartender about my encounter with the woman and how I found the place. He replied, “That’s Alice, we give her dinner every day and she sends us customers”.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The fruit of the tree
Friday November 06th 2020, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Ours is a sweeter variety than some.

It was facing the house so I could see the line across its deep pink fruit from inside, the sign that it was just starting to split: that this one was ripe. At last.

Would you like a pomegranate? I emailed my elderly neighbors who are both fighting cancer while doing all they can to dodge this virus; I haven’t seen her at all in awhile. I said, I’ll put on gloves and mask to pick one. I won’t touch it or breathe on it.

She answered. It seems a lot of bother…but they would love. And could I take the vase she would put out on her front step? Someone had brought her flowers. She knew I liked to give flowers from my garden and she knew she would not be using it again.

I’d love to, I answered, my heart stopping a little at that last line.

Latex gloves, mask, pruning shears because the tree requires it.

The vase was already there as I stepped through our gate and over to next door. It was beautiful. I left the fruit at the bottom of their doorstep so they wouldn’t have to bend down quite so far as the single step below.

And came home grateful that my toddler-aged tree had given us such a gift.

Happy Halloween
Saturday October 31st 2020, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life

I figured there would certainly be no trick or treaters this year of all years.

Till the new next door neighbors set up quite the Halloween display. It’s marvelous. Maybe some little kids would get to enjoy Richard’s pumpkin after all? Since we’re right next to such awesomeness. I had to go out to pick up prescriptions anyway, so I finally bought some Halloween candy.

I decided to sweep away the cobwebs along the front walkway: you’re only supposed to have fake ones up to celebrate with. Might as well do that part over there on the other side of the gate, too, even if no one will see it but me.

There were sounds of happy kids in their back yard as I worked and it took me straight back to when our kids were the little ones and the empty-nester in that house had been the one enjoying hearing them all those years ago. The Halloween where they didn’t show because the three who were old enough to had stomach flu, we found out she’d been waiting waiting waiting for them to come by. But they hadn’t. The next day she knocked on our door with the See’s Candies treats-filled paper haunted houses she’d bought just for our kids, one for each, and she was hoping they were okay? Sandy rocks.

Good people live in that house.

The last section of fence between us fell down months ago in the taking out of the silk oak that had been lifting it up; it was repaired, it went splat again, it just needs an entire do-over. We’ve talked about jointly replacing it, but for now there’s six feet at the corner left simply open. My house and yard angle away from it such that you can’t actually see much from there anyway unless you come through from their side.

I always wondered when curiosity would get the better of the nine year old and tonight it appears I got my answer: when someone else’s kid wants to.

I looked up to see turquoise shorts starting to come my way through the wispy drooping leaves of my Chinese elm and exclaimed cheerfully in surprise, Well hello!

They had clearly not known I was there. Two sets of legs scrambled back out of there so fast. I figured if I went to the gap and said, No it’s okay c’mon over you want a tour of my garden? that it would only have gotten them in trouble with their parents and I didn’t want to stomp on their rare and fun get-together, so, hey.

I set the bowl of candy outside next to the pumpkin with the light on.

There seem to have been no takers. There are peanut butter cups but the squirrels are asleep.

It’s getting late enough that I’d better bring it in before the skunks say thank you don’t mind if I do. Or get in a fight with the raccoons trying to beat them to it.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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