Grateful
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.



Bench pressing
Sunday September 06th 2020, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

And yet another announcement of friends moving to where housing is more reasonably priced to work remotely from there.

And so there is now a quite lovely wooden bench under the elm tree for enjoying a good book from, for those who can do the sun time and as our grandkids get older. I quite like it.



Enterprising
Thursday August 06th 2020, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

They hadn’t gotten back to me and they’re usually really good about that, so about noon I finally called.

The agency receptionist asked whom I’d been referred to yesterday?

She hesitated. Did I want to just call Hartford’s claims directly? She’d be happy to connect me.

Something about it made me wonder if the problem was my insurance agent maybe battling covid and her not wanting to say.

I found myself talking to a very helpful person at Hartford, who then stayed on the line while she connected me to the repair shop when their side kept breaking up to make sure I got the information right.

The same repair shop, same tow truck.

The same guy at Enterprise picked me up, and when I asked if the same Rav4 was available, said it was if I didn’t mind waiting a bit but it was just then being washed from the previous customer; did I want to come inside?

Where there was a seat and no sun. Absolutely, thanks.

I opened my purse–and suddenly remembered I’d taken my carry-around project out for a Zoom Knittalk meeting and had forgotten to put it back in.

He totally got why I was unzipping that purse and asked me what I was knitting now.

That took me by surprise and it made my day. He was just waiting for it, watching what he could of my face as he asked, hoping it would.

I laughed at the ziplock-free state of the thing and said, Well, I guess I’ll just have to read my phone like everybody else.

Which made him laugh.

Which was a wonderful thing.

We all matter so much more to each other in these days of isolation and I find that so often now, we’re less afraid to show it.

Just like that, the car was already ready before I could even type in the password and I was on my way in that same dark blue car again.



He knows who he is
Tuesday August 04th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Lupus

Thank you all, no pain last night and a much more productive day. I couldn’t get all the bags into the two recycling bins and the trash can; some will have to wait till next week’s pickup.

But the business card for the guy who worked at the long-gone Netscape? Boy did it bring back memories. Phil Karlton, one of their original engineers and an old friend, who wore a scruffy beard, a red and black plaid lumberjack shirt and a brilliant pink tutu to the Halloween party and was so fun with our kids. His wife’s paintings. Her post-polio syndrome.

The newspaper headlines in the 90’s about the first online funeral notice. The standing-room-only service for Phil and his wife Jan, who’d been on vacation in Italy driving down a road that had no stop sign nor marking that a highway was about to cross it. The loaded gravel truck doing 60 that broadsided them.

All the people across Silicon Valley who showed up in support of their suddenly-orphaned young-adult son.

The town in Italy that put up a memorial and the stop sign the townsfolk had long wanted.

The boss who paid for the son to go see where his folks had died, providing everything so he wouldn’t have to worry about the details, the gratitude of everybody for the humanity shown him; he was the son of all of us in those moments.

The business card, these decades later, of the mutual friend of my husband and Phil. I understood why it was still here.

I remembered, I considered, I hoped the son has had a good life since all those people came together for him at that beautiful Unitarian church and silently wished him all the best.

And then I let the piece of paper go.



Just some dumb familiar old autoimmune nonsense
Monday August 03rd 2020, 9:59 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

Every now and then my lupus reminds me it’s still there and I still have to stay out of the sun. 2:17 a.m., woke up with pleuritis sharp enough that lying on my side felt like it was breaking my ribs. Same on the other side. Man, I reminisced silently into the dark, this used to be my normal life for months at a time and how did I even deal with that but it’s been years and hasn’t it been nice.

(So why is it doing it now. Yes I overdid it to exhaustion Saturday. So what. Stop it.)

Isn’t it nice that being on my back is okay? Except that there was no falling asleep that way, and any time I started to I rolled onto my side and Groundhog Day-ed the scene.

The sun came up.

The best thing about today was that it will have gotten me through to tomorrow, where I’ll get more done. And my lungs almost didn’t hurt at all.



A baby tree finds its way home
Tuesday June 23rd 2020, 10:18 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

In between the insurance company calling, the adjuster calling, Enterprise calling, Enterprise picking me up, Enterprise filling out the paperwork and sending me on my way in a minivan, and the company the insurance picked to fix the Prius calling about the tow truck they’ll send to get my car…

Ruth and Lise were going to Yamagami’s Nursery. Where one must wait in line in the sun to go in: only so many people are allowed in under continued lockdown procedures at this Essential Business, you must wait till someone comes out, etc etc. Which is why I have not been able to go. After buying a bag of potting soil somewhere else years ago that turned out to be, somehow, plain sand with just the smallest bit of dirt mixed in, I am quite loyal to the place where I know I get the best of everything and it is what it says.

Did I want anything?

I made sure they knew I am by no means on their way. Did they still want to?

Absolutely!

Ohmygoodnessyes! Thank you! I had vegetable plants so root bound they were starting to look sick. I’d ordered fifteen and twenty gallon fabric pots so that I could plant them where they’d have lots of root space without having snails disappear them overnight, all I’d needed all this time was some good soil. For two months. And I wanted to help keep my favorite place in business.

My friends–I met Ruth via knitting at Purlescence years ago–are fruit tree enthusiasts and the reason for my Black Jack fig: they’d told me that in our climate that was the best-tasting of their three.

I showed them around the back yard. They exclaimed in recognition as I named variety after variety, most fondly, the fig. We geeked out together over the thought of picked-first-thing-in-the-morning sweetness.

And I sent them home by way of thanks with one of my two Anya apricot seedlings. They were thrilled at the offer. I was thrilled; it absolutely felt meant to be. I had always known I would give one away and had been trying to figure out who it might best be, when suddenly as we were planning all this there was no doubt.

You cannot, as far as I’ve been able to find, buy that variety tree at retail. You can only plant a kernel and hope it’s true to its parent, and here I’d given them a year’s head start on the process.

They were very very pleased.

And now my own Anya is happily planted in the oversized pot that had been waiting for it. It should last it for several years. I was surprised at how big its root structure already was.

(The watermelon and squash plants were so grown into their clay pots that I finally had to shatter them carefully against the concrete to free their grip.)



Lockdown day 68: opening doors
Saturday May 23rd 2020, 8:33 pm
Filed under: Friends,Lupus

So there I was in the early evening when the sun and UV levels were low enough, watering the fruit trees, setting the timer, moving the hose again, going in and out.

The slider has a broken roller and sometimes it’s iffy but it was totally behaving itself, and I was silently remarking to myself how nice that was.

Until suddenly it jammed and that was it for the night. Aargh.

Beep beep beep. Three minutes and 27 gallons per tree, time to move it to the next. So I went out the front and around the house to the next peach and thought, eh, a little extra exercise, right?

And then I considered a moment: was it shorter to go back around again or through the gate to the front door on the other side? Maybe that. Why not. So I opened the gate–

–and who was parked in front now but the hopefully new neighbor-to-be. We waved hi enthusiastically at each other. She said something out the window, so I went around to our door, grabbed a face mask, and dashed back out to get to know her and meet her daughter and answer questions about the neighborhood.

The mom opened up: “I’m looking for a community.”

I told her about the annual block party with the street closed off and the rented bouncy house to keep the little kids amused and contained while the adults pull out the grills and barbecue.

And about how the neighborhood had rallied together when a developer wanted to put 42 houses on the I think it was .6 acre lot in the next block and the neighborhood had rallied around and had demanded the land go back to the school district. Enrollments were back up these days and once land is gone it’s gone, and that used to be the playing field for the elementary there (which has since reopened)–and in the end, the school district listened to us and they did!

I had to excuse myself after several minutes for fear of drowning my tree, ran, moved the hose, and came back out. This time the daughter was standing by their gate and wanted to know why it wouldn’t latch. She asked about the plants and the trees and I told her the story of the stabby juniper that the old neighbor and I just couldn’t get to stay cleared out–till the young man across the street hooked up the stump to the back of his jacked-up truck and revved it right out of there by the roots. VRROOOM!

They still have a contingency on the house. It’s still not a done deal. But they really want it. And I really want them to get it.

I would never have known they were there if that silly door hadn’t jammed. Thank heavens for irritating favors.



Lockdown day 45: purple irises
Thursday April 30th 2020, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Friends,Garden,Life,Lupus

 

 They were in this area, but this is not how they were. He must have quietly dug them up and replanted them. I thought he’d just cleared off the dead cover plants.

They were here when we bought the house, and over time they crowded themselves badly and then did a mass die-off in the drought–and have been steadily, slowly working their way back ever since.  They ended up kind of split down the middle into two bunches of randomness.

I thought it was so weird when we moved to California that everybody had a hired gardener. Doesn’t anybody work in their own yard around here?

Then I got lupus with extreme sun sensitivity, my husband threw his back out, and we ended up asking the neighbor’s how much he charged. (Fred’s cardiologist had made him retire.) It’s been good to have the help, and Elio’s a great guy.

I paid him extra last winter for something I didn’t feel was in his usual job description. He disagreed and tried to stop me. Dude: Take. The. Money. You spent the time, you did the work, you earned it.

Which is probably why the purple irises are now arranged in a perfect circle of green leaves and purple blossoms, with enough distancing to be social and healthy for a goodly while to come, placed just so between the apples and the fig tree. They are in their fullest glory and they have never looked better than they do right now.

Elio quietly offered up a gift in the barren winter dirt and waited for the day when I’d get to notice.



Lockdown day 15: work from home edition
Monday March 30th 2020, 10:52 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,Lupus,Wildlife

This actually happened last week but I had to decide to tell it on myself.

The suet cake holder is hanging from the underside of the middle of the porch awning; no squirrel has so much as attempted to reach it, ever (if you don’t count the one that bounced a little going across up there, peered over the edge and gave up.)

There is a tall metal toolbox directly below it which no rodent can climb. A mover put it there last year after his dad’s estate settled and trying to wrestle it into a better place is something we would have to hire someone younger to do, so there it has stayed; it was that or the living room at the time and no thank you but at least it wouldn’t get rained on there.

So this is how it has been for six months now, with me feeding only the birds and nothing else so much as sniffing in its direction. Still, I tended to buy the chili-oil-infused cakes just to be on the safe side. I draped a thick but old 3×6 wool rug over it that is no longer quite nice enough to be at our doorway, giving the birds a better surface to hop around on and nibble fallout from while protecting the box. Every now and then I shake it out over whatever in the yard maybe needs some fertilizer. What else you guano do, right?

When the initial quarantine order came down I only had a few cakes left and the bird center was shut down–I was stuck with ordering from Amazon, but at least I was going to buy the same brand, not some knock-off that had who knew what. (Later, the bird center would be deemed Essential Functions and allowed to deliver to your car in front of the shop. Which I have yet to do.)

The ones mixed with peanuts seemed like a good thing for nesting time of year and to attract more types of birds, right? So I ordered a case of those.

I put the first one out there: one big fragrant four and a half inch square of come-and-get-it. Somehow my husband made himself a peanut butter sandwich shortly after.

I heard something and looked over to see a huge gray squirrel that had made the massive leap successfully and was gauging how to get from there up the rest of the way to that suet. I hadn’t so much as seen one cross my yard in awhile and I was just astonished to see one right there!

I burst through that sliding door after it got caught and noisily didn’t want to open as immediately as I wanted it to, while I yelled, YAAAH!!!! GITOUTATHERE!!!

It took a flying leap and away. I set up something I hoped would be a barrier along the far edges and came back in, not wanting to spend too much time in the sunlight–lupus and all that.

To the sound of my husband in the middle of a work conference call right then, and having just apologized and explained to his co-workers, the familiar voice of one of them, chuckling. At both me and my husband’s embarrassment and totally understanding. A couple of others were chiming in, laughing.

Oh… Hi, Gary…

The next time I put a suet cake in I broke it and put the two halves side-by-side in the holder so that from the phone lines through the trees over yonder it doesn’t look like there’s much left in there worth bothering with, much less falling over backwards with a cinnamon broom landing on your head like the second time it had tried. Into the stored frost covers. It was cushioned.

No more squirrels.



Must be going around
Wednesday November 13th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

I emailed the leader of the lupus group and said I wasn’t really sick but I was fighting the edge of a cold so I wasn’t going to be there this afternoon.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one. About an hour later she replied-all that she’d never done this before, but she was canceling the meeting, and hopefully next month we’d all be better.

All the more afghan knitting time for now.



Dr Who?
Monday August 19th 2019, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

The phone rang seconds before I’d have been out the door to Andy’s Orchard and blew up my plans for celebrating having gotten the mammogram over with this morning.

A strange male voice barked, “Your appointment with Dr. H next week is cancelled!” He sounded almost–I dunno, accusatory?

“Oh okay” (me, wondering, Are you for real?)

“Do you want to come in at 1:00!”

Me, ever so mildly: “It’s 1:08.”

He backpedaled hard. “How fast can you get here.”

And suddenly I’m on for 2:00, with mixed emotions. Fun. Save me the last Kit Donnell peaches, Andy? If there still are any? I gave the last of mine to that potluck yesterday, where they were raved over.

When I showed up, there was a young man at the desk who, when I told him my name, got this terribly sheepish look and then relaxed and laughed a little because I did so he’s okay, really, it’s alright.

And so I went in for my annual no-current-cardiac-problems checkup.

The doctor, who is my age, explained the cancellation in the sparsest of words and strongest emotions: his mom… He had to go see her…

I told him, My dad, too–we answer every call now.

I described my reaction to that new carpeting at church: how it felt much more like when my blood pressure was tanking hard years ago, before he got that under control. But maybe it was just asthma?

Sounded more like the latter to him. But (and I’m writing it here so that I can find it later) he added after a moment’s thought: probably there wasn’t, but if there was any amyl nitrate in that installation it could mimic the chemically similar nitroglycerin.

Holy cow. I’d been given that one single time in the hospital and my reaction to it had triggered the alarms and sent people running to my room–yeah that was a fun day.

Or maybe I just needed to use the inhaler last Sunday. I did.

Did it work?

Who knows, yes?, but I was out of there.

But you know what? It just felt like a relief to know that whatever it is, he knows about it. It’s not all on me anymore.

And he knows I know about his mom now and that my heart goes with him and his family on their long flight home.



I finally asked
Sunday August 11th 2019, 11:01 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Item 1. They replaced the carpeting at church last week. People were complaining about the smell. It was intense. (I did a mental grin upwards at the late Ski, who’d ordered the previous one ~25 years ago, thinking, at last they’d corrected his color choice. He was so proud of that mismatching green. Shhh.)

I spent much of the time holding very still with not one oxygen molecule to spare. Yow.

This week I was hoping the place would be aired out far better by now–but the answer was, um, some.

I got the doors propped open with a flower pot on one side and a chair on the other before the meeting, but during it found myself having to put my head between my knees. Hey I did better than this last week, what’s up with this. I made a break for it and went for that chair. Yes it was near noon on a summer day and in the sun, but you worry about paying for it re the lupus tomorrow after you make it through today–can’t get to the one without the other.

Jenni saw me and immediately followed me out and stayed by me and asked if I was okay. I searched through my purse I should have used last week but before that hadn’t had to use in years, even if I’ve periodically replaced it at expiration.

I found my inhaler. It helped. Not as much as I wanted, but it helped.

Item 2. I had to go back in to the one of the less aired-out parts to retrieve the Trader Joe’s chocolate goodies from the mother’s nursing lounge at the end.

A young mom was in there: Oh, are you the one that brings those? Thank you so much!

Me: Yes, it is the most fun job–and I take requests.

Her: You always bring my favorites!

I left with a big grin on my face.

Item 3. The upshot: the realization that there was no excuse not to ask. I needed to send out a message to both wards that use that building to make sure there are no serious peanut allergies in either one before I bring TJ’s chocolate peanut butter cups in there. Whether I ever know about it or not, I do not want to leave some poor kid fighting to breathe.

I’ve only brought them a few times but I never should have without making sure first. Checking with the leaders like I did was not enough.

So now I’ve asked.



And thanks for all the cheese
Saturday June 29th 2019, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

Steve, owner of The Milk Pail, was offering raclette and other goodies and throwing a small impromptu party today at his much-loved shop, which closes forever tomorrow. There was the big bash with a band already, but he just wasn’t done saying goodbye to all the faces and stories he’d known for so many years, this place he’d put his life into.

Which meant these were hours when I knew he was going to be there.

I put on the sunblock and headed out. His wife and his daughters, too: they were all there.

And I only had the one. All this time I’ve been baby blanket knitting, ~90 hours’ worth of work so far, and I wanted to have four made. But I’m a do-one-project-till-it’s-done knitter, aside from the purse-friendly carry-arounds. Which this was, so at least my good intentions got that far: one would do when one was what I had.

And so, in memory of all that he’s given the community–Milk Pail has been an institution for 45 years–and of the good fight we fought together at City Hall, and most of all for the gift of his friendship and great example of how to be a truly decent human being, I gave him a handknit hat.

They loved it, all of them, because his happiness was theirs and I loved them for it.

Who now is going to put up a big sign in their grocery store saying this is their personal cost of a 25 pound bag of oats and if you put it on your bill, they will then deliver it to the local soup kitchen? Who is going to throw community cheese parties and melt that raclette right out of its rind onto your waiting bread? Where else can you order Thai Curry Cheddar (or even find out that it’s a thing?)

I could not let him retire without a bit of my knitting, I just couldn’t.



Loud restaurant
Wednesday June 12th 2019, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Food,Friends,Life,Lupus

How I managed to polish off nearly my entire big piece of whipped-cream-and-berry-stuffed birthday cake afterwards. (Happy 80th, Mary!)

It was the day of the annual lupus-group lunch before we close shop for the summer. We’ve gone to the same place three years now by mutual agreement.

And…the menu was the same as those last two times, pretty much. Those six lunch entrees. Everybody loves them but man, doesn’t the chef get bored?

I have this weird low-fiber diet as an ileostomy patient and have learned at the cost of a five-day intubation that I must not eat certain foods.

So.

Yeah their hamburger is the best I’ve ever had but c’mon. So I ordered an appetizer that was safe and asked what the soup of the day was. (Soup being cooked. Cooking breaks down fiber.) Beef? Sounds good, thanks, that, too.

The waiter left and I went, Wait. Did he say…  …Beet?

No, the others reassured me, He said beef.

It didn’t occur to any of us that there was a third possibility. Oops.

I have never had such a good cake with so many calories with so little guilt. Celebrated Mary next to me with gusto. We did it right.



93 tomorrow sounds downright balmy
Monday June 10th 2019, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Life,Lupus

102, 104, 106–It all depended on which thermometer or weather report you were paying attention to. But it was hot.

And as I sat quietly knitting I thought, the Enron scandal with the corrupt contracts and the rolling blackouts–those are long over with. (Part of me thought, But don’t they still do rolling blackouts down south?) Yay for air conditioning.  Lupus patients don’t do well in high heat, but then, who does, right.

I got up to nuke myself a quick late lunch and grab a glass of milk and, coming back in the room–the computer screen in that amount of time had gone black.

Nothing could bring it back up.

Something finally clued me in that even though I’d just used the microwave, wait, oh good, it’s not the computer–nothing else is on, either.

The worker next door stopped hammering and whatever and a few minutes later knocked to ask: Was my power out, too?

Oh yes. I offered him our battery drill if his was running out of juice; he laughed, thanked me, and a few minutes later called it a day and drove off.

I unplugged the bought-on-Saturday microwave since it didn’t have a surge protector and thought, well? Let’s see how many more rows I can get done on this afghan before having over two pounds of wool heaped up in my lap makes me cry uncle, and then I’ll just have to find somewhere to go. (The answer was four.)

My phone showed the blackout area: it looked like the whole town at varying levels of intensity, and the next one over, and up this way well into the hills. Wow, it’s a big one.

I went to the Target in the next city going the other way. Where they were keeping it just cooled enough. I wanted to go to Trader Joe’s and stand in the refrigerator aisle, but then I’d buy something cold and have no way to put it away.

I wasn’t the only one who got to the checkout and went, nah, there’s gotta be something else to look at. I do NOT want to go out there yet.

I finally got up the courage to say to the two moms with kids who did that too that I had that map, that I’d just refreshed the page and it’s still happening and here’s where it goes to; was it affecting them, too?

It was indeed, and they were glad to at least know.

So I had the laundry detergent and I won’t have to buy padded shipping bags for awhile but Target can only be interesting for so long. No I did not need a $16 gadget for making individual ice cream waffle bowls one by one while the grandkids wait and wish the next one were theirs.

They only had the display model anyway. Sorry, kids. But I bet all the retailers made great sales today–the ones that were able to stay open.

I checked out. I checked that page. It was what it was.

But since I didn’t want it to be, I checked it again when I pulled into my driveway. This time the lines drawn around the areas were the same but the colors of them faded out and…

…were gone.

I walked through my front door to the sound of the beautiful, beautiful air conditioner completely throwing itself into its life’s work.