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.

Hose and a
Saturday July 09th 2022, 9:42 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life

Man it feels good to have that roof done. Our year on the waiting list is not a rare thing around here.

Now that I knew they wouldn’t all show up and get in each other’s way, it was time to make an appointment with the stump removal guy so that we can finally redo that section of fence that fell. There’s a board about four by six feet covering the spot but only by the grace of dog has he not shown up on our side but the one time in his puppyhood when his owner learned he likes to dig. I’m sure he could jump it, for that matter.

My pear tree is in that corner.

I dragged the hose over there tonight–yup, still doing that–and as usual made a point of not looking towards that board and into the neighbors’ back yard.

Their dog has learned over time that this is mine and I am here and he is there and we’re all cool with that.

Turning the spigot on, I said quietly to myself towards that brindled medium-large I-don’t-know-what-breed, wherever he was, I know you want to water this tree. But I’m going to.

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.

Dad’s buddy, part two
Wednesday July 06th 2022, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Life

I sent a card and note off to Dad’s old Army buddy Walt south of here, not knowing if he would ever get it because he’d apparently moved and knowing that he’d survived at least initially after having been hit by a car. At 95.

Turns out he did.

He sent me a hand-written card in return.

On its front was a painting at the LA County Museum of Modern Art, Diego Rivera’s Flower Day. The link is to an ArtNet article telling the history of it: it was that painting, and Rivera, that sparked New Deal public art commissions in the US. I’d had no idea.

What leaped out at me the moment I opened that card, though, was a symbolism Walt had no way to know anything about: when my dad died, my friend Afton sent me a white calla lily plant. It has bloomed almost nonstop since. It is by our front door and those flowers and that greenery remind me of my dad and my friend both every time I go in and out.

And now it will remind me of my dad’s friend. Walt. Who sent the sweetest note. “Dear Alison,” it begins, “Your dad and I were best buddies and my only regret is that we ended up living so far apart.”

And yet they kept that friendship going to the end of my dad’s life.

I feel privileged to have a little of Walt now in mine.

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.

Saturday June 25th 2022, 9:45 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Garden,Life

My friend Jennifer who got a Blenheim apricot tree as her chosen house-warming present not too many years ago invited me to come on by to help pick some of those apricots today.

There’s been this pandemic.

I would not have recognized the tree, it was so big and so loaded with fruit. Wow! I almost didn’t recognize her kids. They change so fast.

She worked the picker while I reached up to get ones that were too high for her kids so that they could have the lower ones to be proud of helping out with. The tree intermittently tossed a few good ones down to the littlest and the kids added to my basket again and again. There was love and happy Brownian motion and scampering and me dropping an apricot under the car oops and her little daughter scrambling to retrieve it for me and a good time was had by all.

I remembered what her husband had said years ago: how, when they were engaged, she’d gotten a diagnosis that could mean their time together might be very very short. It might mean that he’d never get to be a dad like he so much wanted. And yet, what he most wanted with his life was to be married to her.

They stood by each other through the worst from the first. A recovery and years and four kids later, they are living happily ever after and sharing the depth and strength of that love. Simply being there today felt like such a privilege.

I happened to be walking towards my front door from my car with that basket just as the new mailman pulled up, the second time I’ve actually gotten to see his face (the first time being yesterday while you were here, Anne.) I held it out and offered, saying my friend and I had just picked them off her tree. He took as many as his hand could hold, so clearly he was a fan, so I offered him more and shifting the first to his other hand he did, he took two more.

With just the happiest smile on his face. It surprised me but it made my day, too.

Jennifer got us off on the right start with the new guy.

The main line
Friday June 24th 2022, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

I turned on the computer this morning.

I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen the Washington Post have nothing on their home page but the headline, along with the top half of a picture to scroll down on to see in full: Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade.

I gasped.

I’d actually thought that somehow with all the public feedback and blowback, all the explaining of the real world implications, from ectopics to you name it, they would hear us. That they would see the humanity behind the outcry, if not the doctrine of stare decisis. One thing that draft leak did was to clarify for the public just exactly how that would play out in actual lives and why it mattered.

Who voted them to be theocrats over us? What about state institution of one particular religious point of view? Wasn’t the whole point of the founding of America a trying to get away from that?

For the record, the official Mormon Church position on abortion is essentially that it’s between the woman, her doctor, and her God. That ideally it should never be done for convenience, but medical matters are simply medical matters and nobody else’s choice to make in any case.

I was as pro-life as anyone when I was young, but the older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve seen of how things play out across lives of people I know and of people I only tangentially know, the more adamant I’ve become that no one has the moral authority to decide whether a woman should take on the life-changing tasks, the risks, the bodily changes, often permanent, the discomfort, the pain, the putting her life on the line, not to mention the rest of her life, for a pregnancy–except the person going through it. And her doctor.

I badly needed a distraction. I drove to Andy’s Orchard and got my apricots and peaches and threw in some sweet cherries too in anticipation of seeing Richard’s face light up. Heading out of the parking, I spotted Andy himself walking over thataway, stopped the car, rolled down my window and yelled, Hi, Andy!

He smiled and called out, Hi! with a wave back. Made my day.

I got home in time for the plumber and his son (and offered them some, but they had both a peach and an apricot tree at home, the son said, quite happy at being offered, though.)

Turns out: they couldn’t turn the main to the house off so as to work on the valve. Turns out: that wasn’t the only thing broken, the city’s was, too. Which, if they touched and anything went wrong, they warned me, the city would charge me for it and it would be prohibitively expensive, making it sound like, And you don’t even want to know.

They offered me a choice. I could make an appointment with the city, which would likely take about a week, and they could come back then–because they had to be there when the city turned it off and when they turned it on again–or.

It was a Friday afternoon at 3:25, I figured there was no chance.

But there is a substantial amount of water in that strong drip below the toilet and it adds up fast (the bathroom was flooded when we woke up even though we had something underneath to catch it) and wasted water in this drought apparently got the city’s immediate attention.

And so we did it. With my permission, the plumbers killed a $225 hour waiting on the city guys, who graciously stayed long enough for them to do what they needed to do so the city could turn it off and then on again in one trip.

The city main valve is replaced. Our main valve is replaced. That toilet’s valve is replaced. The toilet is fixed. The other toilet that usually is fine but sometimes gushes randomly so we’ve simply been turning that valve off when it’s not in use? The one that the valve has started throb-pounding hard when you do that? Yeah, it’s got a washer loose inside and it’s going bad. So that valve’s replaced. They didn’t have the part on hand for that second toilet, so just keep turning the valve off for now and we’ll deal with it some future time.

They did it. $700 later we have reliable, nonleaking bathrooms again.

Fifteen minutes after they left, the doorbell rang, and it was my friend Anne now of Oregon. We had such a rare, grand time catching up. I’ve missed her so much since she moved away.

Anyas, peaches, getting stuff fixed, friends.

Antidote after antidote. Small on the scale of things but huge re the day.

The cherry on top? Commenting on the reef afghan I was working on, turns out the plumbers’ wife/mother is a knitter.

Well that stinks
Thursday June 23rd 2022, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Life

(Picture of Tamien, the male peregrine fledgling, after being rescued and returned to the roof at SJ city hall to try again on the flying thing yesterday.)

It was after hours. The plumber didn’t answer. The toilet broke, and when I went to turn the water off below it, it maintained a steady drip on the floor regardless of anything I could do and how long has that been going on?

Which is when we nixed the Amazon toilet part order and went for the phone.

All I could think of was an inner whine of, But tomorrow’s when I was going to go to Andy’s to buy Anya apricots and peaches!

So we’ll see. You think I could dangle ripe peaches as an incentive for the guy to come in the afternoon?

Not a day for warm accessories
Tuesday June 21st 2022, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Friends,Knit,Life

I finished clearing some old Piuma cashmere out of my stash today that was very very bright. Blocking helped lengthen it a bit as the water eased the lacework flat but that’s all there was. Fern lace. That bit of STABLE is over: I have now outlived a small portion of my stash.

While munching a couple of dried slab Blenheim apricots from Andy’s and considering how they should be even sweeter this year because we haven’t had fires clouding out the sunlight. No smoke particles.

An hour later someone posted this article.

That’s my route home from Cottage Yarns. Man. Glad I didn’t go today. Mandatory evacuations is not when you want to get in anybody’s way. But that shaded area on the map… I fired off a note to a friend whose daughter and family had finally managed to buy an old house and had done some of the remodeling themselves to really make it nice for their two little ones to grow up in.

They’re okay. Yay for firefighters who are willing to work at a fire when it’s 102F out. We cannot pay them enough.

Near a substation, looks like? Waiting for PG&E to be found at fault in 1, 2, 3…

And Bob’s yer uncle
Monday June 20th 2022, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Family,Life

A clerk at Trader Joe’s I hadn’t seen before. Mid-60’s, I’d guess, older than most of the ones there. Old enough to have seen a bit of life, and his “So how’s your day been” sounded more sincere than I would have expected as he held my eyes a moment. He struck me as a genuinely nice guy.

I kind of brushed it off at first and asked about his, but the wall crumbled quickly. I found myself saying I’d been at my uncle’s funeral today. (By Zoom, because we’d been exposed to covid so I wasn’t going to pass any chance of that to the flying public nor my mom.) He looked wistful. I quickly added, He was 101. He died in his daughter’s arms as she told him she loved him.

He smiled warmly. “It doesn’t get better than that.”

“At home,” I added, nodding. I told him that my uncle had been doing a research project and had finally said, Well. Someone else is going to have to get that Nobel.

At that, the clerk loved this man he’d never met and we parted warmly.

(For the record, Robert Fletcher believed that Einstein was wrong, that the speed of light was variable, and he pursued his theory and published on the subject.)

So here’s a story from the funeral:

My aunt and uncle had eight kids. Someone decided to make them hand felted placemats and apparently they warned that the colors would run if you washed them, so everybody was afraid to use them. They were beautiful, they’d clearly been a lot of work, and especially with kids they were sure they’d be ruined the first time.

So they saved them for Christmas and brought them out for the big day, with warnings to all the children on down to the youngest not to spill ANYthing on those.

Aunt Rosemary went out to the kitchen to bring in the dessert.

One of the kids–I noted they didn’t say who–whispered that they’d spilled on their placemat!

Uncle Bob’s reaction: Quick! Switch it with your mother’s!

Aunt Rosemary came back to the table demanding to know what was so funny, because they were all just totally losing it. And then she was laughing just as hard as the rest of them.

Another story:

Again dinnertime, and Aunt Rosemary found that someone had left the tap running in the kitchen and said in exasperated snark, You’re going to empty the ocean if you keep that up!

Hey! Science! Her physicist husband immediately tasked the kids with finding out: how much water comes out in X minutes?

What is the average depth of the oceans of the world? (I can just picture the Encyclopedia Britannicas being pulled off the shelf.) Etc. Okay, then, how many gallons of water would there be in all the oceans of the world?

They had to concede in the end that it could only be a rough rough estimate but they proudly presented their mother with their conclusion: to drain the oceans through that tap? It would take a  L  O  N  G    T  I  M  E.

All the chocolate you can eat
Sunday June 19th 2022, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life

The missionaries checked in to ask if it was still okay that they were coming for dinner tonight.

I’d totally forgotten I’d signed up a month ago.

We do that, though, we feed these kids along with everybody else and in gratitude towards those who helped feed my own boys when they were out there.

As I remember the woman who asked me my son’s favorite cookie recipe, baked a batch of those cranberry bars, and then since he was no longer in her area she and her husband got in their private plane and flew it to him still warm from the oven!

I can never match that story, but at least I can put on a dinner. I had cream, and chocolate tortes went in the oven just as fast as I could get them in there.

But the point wasn’t the meal. It’s that somehow that act of sitting down together in one’s home to break bread allows a coming-together and a tell-me-your-story that went round the table and welcomed in the love. Man, it felt good.

It had been three long years since we’d had dinner guests. Maybe it wasn’t the wisest idea quite yet? But maybe it was just exactly what kids who missed their families on Father’s Day needed the most, and it was a privilege to get to fill in the best we could.

We sent them home with half a torte and raspberry muffins.

That took dedication
Sunday June 12th 2022, 9:48 pm
Filed under: Life

The summer I was ten, we drove around the country, coast to coast, Mexico for an afternoon and Canada for, inadvertently, two weeks while we waited for a part to be shipped in to repair our family’s camping trailer while we were stuck at Moose Mountain Provincial Park.

We played volleyball over the little camping-friendly net we’d packed until someone mis-bopped the ball into the campfire. It did a slow zzzzzzzleflop.

There was a radio station that was holding a contest and first place prize was a week’s vacation in Regina, Saskatchewan. Second place prize? Was two weeks’ vacation in Regina.

Not quite sure how Regina felt about that.

But anyway.

At some point in–I want to guess Colorado?–we stopped by a cousin of my dad’s.

She was older. She lived in a stone house. It was perfect. I had never seen anything like it and I completely fell in love and promised myself that someday I, too, would live in a stone house. I’d still like to, to the point of having priced out adding such a facade to the front of ours and noping out.

My cousin Heidi sent this link. And yay verily it is indeed a stone house. And then some. I mean, I mean, just…wow.

In hot water now
Saturday June 11th 2022, 9:02 pm
Filed under: Life

Having to call on a Saturday you know is never going to be good. I asked Richard if we should just wait till Monday, because it wasn’t actually cold yet, but he insisted on getting it done because I like me a comfy warm shower. I love that man.

I went looking. The contractor whom we’d spent $2000 on a weekend hot water heater replacement call, a company that only did water heaters but also the ones who were available when no plumbers we knew were, had emailed me the receipt. Hunting at the speed of Gmail is definitely the way to go–there it was. March last year. Date, amount, phone number, name of the company, everything. Yes it’s past a year, but one can hope.

It turns out the warranty was for six years on parts, which no plumber has ever offered us before, and given how we’ve gone through water heaters, that extra amount paid for itself today.

It turns out the reason the shower was barely lukewarm the last two days was not that the thing was failing–it already had. It was that it’s been so hot the last two days that that’s how our water got warmed enough to still be tolerable in the morning. Barely, but it was. The water heater is in kind of its own little cubby and the only access to it is from outside; protected, temp wise, but not much. So, yeah, the guy said the gas had been cut off altogether and that it was an expensive part. But it was covered.

$179 worth of labor later, not only is it fixed, he said this was a new model that turned out to be having lots of problems with that part so not only did he replace it, he replaced it with an older type that was more reliable.

I think that was the cheapest fix-it call we’ve ever had.

He emailed me the receipt.

Wednesday June 08th 2022, 9:21 pm
Filed under: Life

I did a quick grocery run and walking into Trader Joe’s, some random tall guy with a square face and fading blond hair just ahead of me took one look and his face instantly lit up into the biggest smile.

I…like most women, don’t go around encouraging strange men to maybe follow me around, so I gave a polite nod back and went about my business. That’s just how it is, and that was fine.

Our paths crossed again coming out and he hesitated just a moment with that radiant smile again, like he’d found a friend and it made him so happy and he wanted somehow to share that, and this time I slowed down to give him a good smile back (with my eyes and inside the mask) to let him know I was definitely acknowledging him and appreciating the greeting and the moment.

Because it had finally hit me: what he’d seen. It wasn’t me.

It was the vyshyvanka. The Ukrainian embroidered blouse with the traditional little tassel tied at the front and more embroidery down the sleeves. He knew what that was and he knew it conveyed solidarity, whatever my own background might be.

I wonder how many people back home he told about it.