Saturday September 30th 2023, 10:37 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Spinning

I had this old Ashford Traditional spinning wheel that I’d bought used 30 years ago.

My tall older son in his teens walked across the family room in the dark because he didn’t want to turn on the light that would shine in his sister’s room and wake her up–and tripped over the wheel, his size 13 shoe breaking the maiden (the assembly above the wheel itself) and his tumbling leaving the rest slightly off kilter.

He said he was okay. I said that’s what matters.

I had been using that wheel for Colonial Days history demos at the elementary schools’ fifth grade classrooms and it was known around campus, and so another parent, an acquaintance but trying to help, heard about it and offered to repair it. He unscrewed the maiden (that phrase took a turn later) from the body of the wheel and he took it home and it took me several years to find out that the reason he didn’t just give it back when I finally asked was that it was lost in his garage somewhere. I was later told that that was not the only mistake he was making; I can just picture his ex discovering a what-the-hell in a box somewhere and pitching it.

Meantime, I’d spent the painful $125 that it cost at the time–more than half of an entire new wheel with bobbins, second guessing myself all the way but an extra hundred bucks is a hundred bucks–and bought a new maiden.

And a dear friend’s husband offered to assemble it onto my wheel for me. She’s a knitter and spinner and he got how passionate we are about what we do; he wanted so much to help.

He didn’t know that the uprights are not supposed to move. He set it up so that you twist one to help release the flyer. It’s damaged the wood, and the flyer tends to shake until it frees itself of the drive band and projectile vomits itself across the room.

Which is why you haven’t read much about the spin part of the spin dye knit thing here in a very long time.

Nor have I mentioned any of this to anybody in a very long time.

My friends Sand and Kaye, who were the owners of the much-missed Purlescence yarn/weaving/spinning store that closed about a dozen years ago, have been selling some of their old wheels of late. They are clearing out space–but also because of a serious injury. Sand is finding new channels for her creativity because she has to.

She reached out to me a few days ago. There was this beautiful Kiwi wheel they’d painted. It’s not finished. Finishing it now would be…problematic. Would I like it? She could throw in a Super Flyer if I wanted, though she’d have to charge me for it, but the wheel itself? Free. She really wanted it to go where it would be loved.

It is General Conference weekend for our church, with Saturday and Sunday sessions, but in between those we drove on down. I got to share hugs with my old friends. Oh, man, it had been so long, and with Stitches gone now…

Kaye brought out a box and I got it in the car and thanked her and we continued the conversation and I thought that’s all Sand and I were doing as Kaye disappeared–

–but this time she came back with this.

That’s a gorgeous wheel!! I exclaimed in surprise, and I guess my deafness had tripped me up because I didn’t get it, what were they doing with a second one–I said, You already put the box in the car!

That’s the accessories.

They’d gotten to see my reaction to their painting and just how blown away I was, and man that felt good.

I reminded them a bit about my old wheel and said, I’d almost offered to give you that one to sell–but I, I, didn’t want to inflict it on you.

They laughed.

I promised to send them a picture, and they can decide. There it is. Lovingly stained years ago by–Sand.

Fishing for counter plinths
Wednesday September 27th 2023, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Life

While I finish the ribbing on the other side of the afghan…

For those who’ve read my book, the woman in the intro worked for many years at the Fish Market restaurant, which just closed because the land under it became too valuable to the landlord. That beautiful old building with all the carefully tended flowers will be replaced by high-rise housing.

There was an online auction yesterday, local pick-up only: own a piece of your memories.

So. Many. Steamer. Trays. Which makes sense. The glass partitions between sections with fish etchings in them–must bring own tools to dismantle from wall. Etc. There were somehow two and only two springform pans, and they looked like the ones I used for decades till they gave up the ghost and you can’t buy them quite like that anymore, so I made one bid. Oh well so much for that.

I had always wondered about the mounted fish on the walls. Most, turns out, were fake, but they went for pretty good money anyway.

But one. One was not fake.

Caught in 1987, the listing says.

It’s the head of a Great White Shark and presumably the buyer has to find a way to get its 3200 pounds off that wall and carry it home. Probably the only time one would be able to buy shark for $3.55 a pound.

I want to know, how is a taxidermied fish head 3200 pounds? How did they weigh it? How did they get it up there?

How did that wall hold up all these years, especially during the Loma Prieta quake!

Can you imagine sitting under that thing at 5:04 pm for dinner that October 17th?

The idea is just jaw-dropping.


Let it bug you
Thursday September 21st 2023, 4:52 pm
Filed under: Life

I was on my way to the post office, driving down the quiet road alongside the bayland marsh, the freeway a cement-and-chain-link fence away reinforcing why this nice little straightaway closer to nature is the way to go.

When suddenly there was a long narrow orange and black beetle crawling and flying around in the car. The types around here come out in September but I’d never seen one quite like that.

I had found myself out of shipping tape so the box was open and the last thing I wanted to do was to mail that bug to Massachusetts and have it fly out in my daughter’s face when she opened the thing. I tried cranking a window–knowing that only blows things back into the car–and, giving up, turned into a small pull-out spot for birdwatchers and hikers along the Bay. I opened the car doors and tried my best to find the thing and get it out of there. It, on the other hand, either flew out the bottom of the door when I wasn’t looking or it went into hiding to who knows where.

Just then a white car went flying past on the road right behind me. I am serious when I say he was probably doing about a hundred–he was there and gone in a fast blink. No cop car followed in pursuit; he was just doing it because he could.

I was suddenly acutely aware of what that bug had just done for me, all the more so for my cousin’s death by a reckless driver last month.

The winter coat left behind got sent on its way, I turned out of the post office, and got back on that road.

And darn if a buzz of orange legs and thorax didn’t suddenly come straight at my chest while I warded it off with one hand, the other on the wheel and eyes firmly on the road. Okay, so it didn’t hitchhike to Boston. Good. Glad to know it. Now go away.

I think it went down the far edge of the dashboard.

Remind me not to park under the tree till the weather gets colder.

While a small part of me answers, Maybe.

Y not
Tuesday September 19th 2023, 9:32 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

Rent a Tesla, they said. Same price as a subcompact.

So we tried out what turned out to be the Tesla Y for the weekend and getting in, thought, Niiiice.

We said to the guy at Budget, How do you charge this thing?

Him, and I quote: “How the bleep would *I* know?” (Hey! Someone who uses my favorite swear word!)

Okay then. The paperwork requires we fill it with gas before returning. Uh, guys…

I do have to stop here and mention the doors. They look so cool but on the outside, you have to put a lot of oomph into pushing in one side of the half-a-pair-of-tongs to pull open the other end with the other hand and it really wants to snap right back on you. Hard. I was honestly afraid we were going to break my 92-year-old mother’s hand with it and I tried to get to it every time before she did. Defiance of aging is not a good design feature.

We found a public charging station–it was across town–and tried to charge it before the funeral. We took Mom home after the funeral for a rest and went and tried again. We spent three bleeping hours on a Saturday out of the two full days we were in town to see people trying to get that car to charge. We couldn’t.

Oh and did I mention that it was 92F, the car was black, and the AC turned off while we were trying because the car was too low?

What I didn’t know is that people pull in to charge, walk out to shop at the strip mall while it does, and get back whenever they get back while meantime other people have pulled up and are standing in line to get the next slot for their about fifteen minutes of time with it. Three of the charging stations were out of order, including the one we had tried in the morning that was labeled as such by the afternoon. Thanks guys.

The second time, we waited for a slot and got one we knew had just worked for the guy pulling out. We spent a long long time again. Trying everything. Trying to reach anyone. Even the teen in the next car tried to help.

Turns out the car belonged to Budget and Tesla was not going to let someone whose name was not Budget fill the d*** thing. It actually said Charging at one point–and then the station turned itself off. Didn’t matter that we wanted to pay for it, we were interlopers.

So then we had to watch where we drove very carefully.

We did not drive way down the freeway to his sister’s for a visit. We couldn’t.

We got it back to the airport okay on Monday, low (it had been at 75% when we’d gotten it, 80% is as full as you’re supposed to do, why I don’t know) and tried to give them a heads-up on what their new inventory was like for their customers. Their car kept us from doing some of what we had paid for this trip to get to do. I missed a cousin get-together after the funeral. (Oh let’s just go fill the car while we wait for a text back with the address.) We ordered delivery rather than dare even going out to the grocery store.

I am going to be keeping a close eye on that credit card bill.

I have often thought one should always rent a car, if possible, before ever buying it.

Which I am now definitely never going to do. If nothing else, I’m not risking my knitter’s hands on those doors.

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

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

So we changed our tickets and flew out Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yay for the good clerk
Thursday September 14th 2023, 9:52 pm
Filed under: Life

CVS last night. They recently changed their hours. I was standing in line when a woman came in and the clerk told her she was too late to be served that day.

It’s 5:54, I said, holding out my phone, and you close at 6:00.

She smirked and said the system shuts down at 6:00 and too late. They were only going to ring up two more people.

It’s 5:56. You have time to take care of her. Take care of her.

And then she stood there doing–nothing, as the other clerk was going as fast as she could. Nothing. Just standing there watching more people coming in trying to get there in time, joining the line. Sucks to be them.

The woman was horrified, then pleading, and finally her face crumpled into unwanted tears. She had called everybody and only this store had it and she had to have it tonight.

The clerk looked very pleased with herself as she reiterated, “The system closes down.” There was an undertone of sheer hostility.

I was with the other clerk, saying, Let’s do this fast! She was right there with me.

I should have thought to simply let the woman in more need than me immediately take my spot at the counter, but I didn’t know that I would have time to go back today before seeing my mom and I didn’t think through it fast enough and I very much am not proud of that, but the lovely clerk I was with ran through her screens as fast as she could. I’ve only seen her there in the last month, and she was as horrified as I was at what was going on.

I wanted X?

No, the new Y that was just sent in this afternoon.

Looks like we haven’t filled it yet. Do you want me to–

Thanksnopointwastingthetime. I turned to the next person with Okay your turn!, expecting to see the woman in tears–but no. It was the woman who’d been behind me before all this started, and she stepped forward fast in the same hopes of helping the next person not get shut down on. The one I’d stood up for was standing next to me at the other register. I hoped fiercely that I was right to be relieved, that she really had gotten taken care of after all.

I went back in this morning and thankfully found myself being waited on by the lovely woman. Whose name, I recently told her, matches my grandmother, my mom, my cousin, and my great-niece.

It’s not a terribly common name and she was quite pleased at how much my family likes it.

And it wasn’t till I was writing this just now that I realized that the difficult woman’s name tag is never in view.

So. My med.

They didn’t have it in stock. I thought, that’s okay, I woke up with my eye feeling better all on my own today, but at least it gave me a chance to ask the burning question: had that woman gotten her med last night? The one who needed it so much?

Family Name Clerk did a quick glance to the side to where the other woman was over among the stocking shelves and said softly, “Yes she did.” Nodding her head slightly in that direction, the new employee said of the woman who may well have been her boss, “I made her.”

Good for you!!! I was so grateful.

As I drove home, I wondered of the other clerk: who treated you like that in your life that you treat your customers the way you do? You left where you grew up–your speech conveys that. Why do you not know that you’re safe here, that it doesn’t have to be that way, that you don’t have to be that way?

And then suddenly the thought, is she? What is her life like here, who is she with, and the burning question, are you a safe person for her? Do you create an environment where she can change for the better?

I wrestled with that awhile.

The honest answer is, she frustrates the bejeebers out of me at that pharmacy but I have tried for some time now, and as a deliberate choice for her sake, to always be doing my best at peacemaking. To be patient.

But that’s over her treatment of me.

You don’t power trip over creating suffering in someone else that you could do something about while refusing to ring them up in order to run out the clock on them. And I’m very sorry to say, that is what I saw, and in keeping with previous experiences.

I will call her out on her behavior next time, too, and she knows that now.

Good things come
Thursday September 14th 2023, 7:09 am
Filed under: Crohn's flare,Life,Lupus

The Faustman Lab affiliated with Harvard has a paper out (I’ve seen reference to a 2023 update) on why the vaccine for tuberculosis is proving to be valuable for reversing type 1 diabetes–the type that is autoimmune-based, which is why they’re now expanding their work to other autoimmune diseases.

The then-experimental drug that saved my life twenty years ago dramatically enough that one medical resident changed his specialty so he could be part of that again (Hi Dr. Shih!) was a TNF-type drug. This is far better than my old mouse-celled one that they had to stop after it caused (thankfully temporary) congestive heart failure.

Quote: “Induction of TNF through BCG vaccination or through selective agonism of TNF receptor 2 (TNFR2) has 2 desired cellular immune effects: (1) selective death of autoreactive T cells and (2) expansion of beneficial regulatory T cells”

It sounds like it’s inducing the body to produce its own TNF in a way that does the most good, avoids the damage mine caused, and is certainly well tolerated.

The thought suddenly hits: what if I could travel and play normal tourist and go out in the sun and just do, y’know, normal people type things in the daytime again? Rather than risk setting off multiple organ inflammation via the UV exposure starting the moment I step outside?

That vaccine is out there right now.

It could actually happen in my lifetime and certainly my kids’.

For sanity’s sake these past thirty years I’ve avoided spending time or thought on the what-ifs, but I gotta admit I’m sneaking some peeks their way right now.

Oh, and, meantime, the daughter of our elderly neighbor is in town, we had a good chat, and I mentioned the outdoor light that seems brighter than the LED streetlight and turns our bedroom into daytime all night long; could she maybe change that lightbulb?

She was both horrified and gratified that that was something she could so easily do that could do so much good. She’s on it.

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

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

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

Then I answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, she’s not, she half-apologized.

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

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

She gasped!

We had a winner!

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

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

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

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

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

Love, multiplied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there I was.

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

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

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

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

Friday September 08th 2023, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Life

The tennis racket bug zapper: it works better on small insects but it was all I had. By what on earth opening had that hornet even gotten in here? It was huge!

And then it was against the window with that bug zapper pinning it down but it wanted to just keep right on going, so I did, too, arm stretched, finger on the button, not daring to let up to check on the thing.

Finally, after a good minute or so, I decided my best bet was to open the slider with my other hand and try to sweep it out of here.

But it wouldn’t go.

I smacked the zapper gently on something outside. It clung. I thwapped hard. It clung. Finally I dared look a little closer, and it had indeed given up the ghost once it had been zapped long enough. Thwap! I got it to fall out and made a mental offering to the birds out there, but it is clear they prefer their meals sushi style. It’s a raw deal.

Okay, so all that happened, and shortly thereafter I went to go water my trees.

Every time I touched the handle on that slider I got a little shock. What?

The first time, I thought, well that was odd, but by the sixth time (I go out and move the hose from tree to tree and set a timer for three minutes, come inside, repeat for each) it was clearly a thing. Huh.

We had that door repaired a few years ago and I’d never noticed that the inside handle is metal while the outside one is plastic.

I started opening the door from inside by pushing along the window, then coming back in using the handle because that side was fine.

I took a basic college course in electricity and none of this makes any sense to me, so I asked the resident geek and it made no sense to him either. Shocking, I know.

So it’s been a few hours now, I typed all this, and had to go see if it would still do that if I touched it. It did not. Well yay.

But still: why? I mean, if you could store electricity in glass who would need batteries? The zapper never touched that handle. So strange.

A crocheter out there somewhere
Thursday September 07th 2023, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Life

And just like that, back to normal. Now! With extra flu shot protection! Operators are standing by, order yours now!

And so back to the afghan, too.

Meantime, I posted something on Freecycle.org and on a whim scrolled through the posts. There was


Yarn and crochet materials of any size.”

You know I have to do a little stash digging first, but you know I have to answer that one. I gave up knitting in college because I couldn’t afford it and it took me nine years to get back to it–I know what it’s like. I will ask questions first, of course, and then we’ll see from there.

But I did finish the barn this morning
Tuesday September 05th 2023, 9:56 pm
Filed under: Knitting a Gift,Life

To match the actual barn, I debated on a purl line between the big doors and the loft window and didn’t but probably would in a do-over, but never mind.

The deadline just became Christmas again, so I have plenty of time to work more of that cloud into the skyscape.

I might be taking it easy tomorrow, or it might have no effect on me: I got a flu shot today. Just before spending time in radiology–where so far the results sound good. No ovarian masses.

Yay. I can relax.

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

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

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

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

Sign (twice): Road Narrows.

Me: How?

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

The truck? On that?!

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

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

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

And then just like that it was all worth it.

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

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

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

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

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

But she had said what she had the words for.

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

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.