He’s good at sharing

First things first – I posted this on instagram, but here is home – so once more with feeling,

Guess who’s going to be a big brother? We’re all terrifically excited, except for maybe Elliot who talks a good game and generally seems in favour, but definitely has no idea what’s headed his way. He’s got a little while to get it together though, baby won’t be arriving until March (the sign means March 2020, not March 20th, 2020, which is neither accurate, nor a detail she’s silly enough to reveal online. Who on earth needs the whole internet knowing if your baby is late? A watched uterus never contracts, I tell you that. The kid will be here sometime around March. Or maybe February. Or maybe April. We’ll never tell.) Elliot’s birthday is the 8th April, and it’s unlikely he’ll share it with a sibling, but he’ll definitely be almost three when the interloper arrives, and quite equipped to start sharing his family. He is very good at sharing most other things thus far, and is a gentle and loving guy, so he’s prime big brother material.

I got so excited about telling you (we’ve known for a little while, but Meg wanted to wait a while before posting) that I immediately cast on a little sweater for the new baby, thinking that I’d have it all done and ready to show you. I’d post a picture of the tiny sweater, and I’d say something charming like “Guess what” and you’d all guess right and it would be amazing. (Remember what I said about scripting? Yeah, I did it again.)

I had the perfect yarn and pattern all ready, and I supposed I could have started it before Meg said I could tell you about it, but that I think it’s really smart to hold off on investing in human sparks. Mother Nature can be a very harsh editor, so I waited, as one does, and then on Friday I decided that I was going to knit this sweater by Monday, or more technically, I was going to finish this sweater by Sunday night and then I’d have time to block it before Monday. I know that sounds very speedy, but it was a very tiny sweater. (It’s Norwegian Fir, in case you’re wondering. Absolutely charming and simple and just the thing for a brand new person. The yarn is a long loved and unnamed super soft merino that I had in the stash just waiting for its opportunity.)

That’s why you couldn’t have shocked me more when A) it started coming out much bigger than I expected and B) was taking a lot longer than planned. (A and B were clearly related.) The first time I thought “my, this seems a little bigger than I thought it would be” I did what we all do when knitting looks a bit funny. I kept going and hoped the problem would go away.

The second time that I thought “this really does look large, and why are the armholes so deep?” I did what we all do when you can no longer ignore a knitting problem, I started double checking things. I had knit a swatch, and I had even washed it, and I had let it dry before I counted stitches, and I had made it big enough that it should work, and I had used the same needles… and the same yarn… nevertheless, I went back and double checked all of that. Everything was correct, so I went back to ignoring the problem again, figuring that I must have taken all leave of my senses and forgotten the actual size of babies. I kept knitting.

A few rows later (oh fine it was when I finished the body) there was no denying that it was too big. The fabric looked good, so I knew it wasn’t a gauge problem, but it even looked to me like there were more of the leafy increases on mine then there were on the newborn sized ones in the pictures, but sometimes pictures aren’t accurate or they can be mislabeled or… I went back and checked the pattern this time. Again, everything was fine. I was knitting the smallest size, so I’d highlighted the first set of numbers in each bracket, and yay verily those were the numbers I’d gotten. It was all working, it was all perfect, it was just…. big. I started thinking about how I could alter the pattern to make another one that was smaller, but I was already feeling sort of bad that this delicious yarn wasn’t making what I thought it was. I kept knitting.

By now I was part way down a sleeve, and I was still noticing that it was too big, but you know, I’d double checked everything and it was all so… right, that I figured that even though I could see it was wrong (obviously wrong) that I must be mistaken. I thought something was going wrong, but nothing was, and so… I kept knitting. I really can’t explain what I was thinking, except that on some level I must have believed that it would be smaller after I did more knitting, that if I stayed the course, it would just work out. How could it not?

Almost at the cuff, I was feeling annoyed because even though I was still following instructions it was getting bigger, not smaller, and I casually tossed my iPad (after checking the pattern again) onto the chesterfield, and as I did that, I swiped with my thumb or finger in a funny way, and the whole pattern swiped to another version of the pattern, and my heart stopped. I looked at it, wondering why there were two versions. Hadn’t noticed that before, and I wondered if maybe one of them was in another language. Probably Norwegian. No- I flipped back and forth, they looked the same. Identical, in fact – except for one little detail.

Do you see it coming? Yup. The first pattern in the set is baby sizes, and the second pattern in the set (with the same picture, but clearly labeled) is big kid sizes. I had, at some inopportune moment right at the beginning, swiped from one to the other, and was now making an absolutely perfect size 2-3 years, instead of 0-3 months.

So- I had a date with a ball winder instead of a blocking bath, and I’ve started all over, and I’ve remembered two things about being an experienced knitter that still clearly apply. First, most mistakes come from a failure to read, and second, experienced knitters don’t make fewer mistakes. We make bigger ones faster.

Yesterday was a travel day for me, and today I’m in Maine (at the last Make Wear Love retreat) with some of my favourite knitters and colleagues- I’ll post more about it tomorrow – today, knitters and the ocean beckon, and I’ve got a sweater to re-knit.

Chaos

Years ago I heard someone say that they had to do something about their home because it was suffering from Chaos. That sounded about right to me, but it really resonated when they said it was actually CHAOS,  an acronym for Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.

That’s where my house is today. In any contest between people and things, I come down on the side of people every time, and so over the last few months the limited time and energy I’ve had has gone to supporting people – and I’ve given the house a lick and a promise so many times that you’d be an idiot to actually lick any part of it. I spent yesterday at my desk, catching up on a million things that were burning my work life to the ground, and today I’m trying to find the house, one room at a time. Part of that is the knitting that’s piled up around here in really weird little piles of hopes and dreams. Some finished, some unfinished, some knitting that needs fixing, some knitting that’s just yarn, there’s even a nest of circular needles arranged atop the piano like I’m the strangest of all possible birds.

Do you know that thing, where you’re going to go over to someone’s house  and they say  “Oh my goodness” (or something like that) “I suppose it’s ok to come, but I’m warning you, the house is trashed” and you get there, and their house looks better than your house does when you’ve just cleaned it top to bottom – you know that thing?  This is not that thing. This is actual disaster. Dust bison roaming the living room, if they could roam around the stuff I’ve placed in their way.  There is even a dresser that came from Amanda’s house to mine four weeks ago, standing with the drawers out and stacked by the chesterfield, right in the middle of the living room. (Well, it’s sort of off to the side, obstructing access to what used to be the dining room, before I started keeping yarn, mail, camping crap and laundry in it.  People, we are talking trashed. We are not talking about a failure to dust here. There is some heavy lifting here before I could get down to dust and be left with just that, so today I’m working to get it down to a level where I can consider opening the door instead of just burning the thing to the ground and moving into a tent in the park. (Note to self: move tent from dining room before burning house down.)

Still, atop all of that there float a few finished objects, mostly simple things that I’ve completed over the last few weeks when my brain was mush and my time limited. First up – I finished my Peace of Wild Things shawl.  This was my “just before the rally” knitting, a simple chart, big needles, worked a few rows here and there and still finished anyway.  (It was a fast one.)

The pattern’s linked above, and the yarn was a single ball of Berrroco Ultra Wool Fine – it’s a good yarn, cheap and cheerful, only $12 a ball at WEBS (though my ball was swag from Berroco, sent to be a treat at a retreat.)  It took almost the whole ball, with maybe 20 metres left at the end, but that’s an economical knit anyway you want to slice it.

Even with the pattern, that’s a completely reasonable Christmas gift, as long as you don’t add in the time – and I don’t.  I put knitting in my entertainment budget, so if you figure that took maybe 10 hours? (Maybe a bit more, I didn’t count.) It’s …. about $2 an hour of entertainment, with the pattern.  You can’t beat that – and into the Long Range Planning box it went.

Next up – I was casting about the house for something simple, but entertaining that I could putter away at without really needing a brain or to keep good track of a pattern, and I remembered that I had the pattern and yarn for Goldstream in the stash. I was a member of the Gauge Dye Works club a few years ago (am now, too, for the record) and this fetching little number arrived in the mail, and I was enchanted from the get-go.

It’s a neat concept, the club – yarn dyed specifically to go with patterns – they work together, and I loved the idea here- you knit back and forth in garter stitch, following the rules for a half-pi shawl, but every time you get to a bit of yellow, you make a little short row leaf. That’s it.  They show up randomly.  This, my friends, hit my brain in the exact same place as a self striping yarn does.

I was enchanted entirely – and enticed to knit a little bit further each time just to get to another hit of yellow. The yarn’s Gauge Dye Works MCN (Merino, cashmere, nylon) so a little hit of soft and cozy didn’t hurt either.  I trucked this around everywhere – finally finishing up at the cottage.  (I was knitting it while Elliot played at digging – it might have gotten a little involved, but cleaned up fine.)

Another lovely thing, and off it goes to the Long Range Planning box as well.

Pattern: Goldstream, by Andrea Rangel, Yarn: Gauge Dye Works MCN, Goldstream. As an aside, if you click on that yarn link, you will see that for once, even though it has been two years since that yarn landed at my house, it is inexplicably and suddenly available anyway. (It is either a miraculous co-incidence, or the Catherine or Andrea spotted it on my instagram. Amazing, either way.)

We won’t discuss the state of my August Self-Imposed Sock Club Socks, they’re not done, but almost. Can I distract you with a question?

How, I ask you – how, is it possible that after this long photographing knits and posing them all over the yard, and local parks, trying a million ways to figure out how to stretch a shawl out entire to show it off,  how is it possible that it only just now occurred to me to use the clothes line?  I’m putting everything there from now on.

(PS. Two days in a row!)

That one got away from me

Hello all, and thanks for waiting for me. I know it’s been a long time, and thank you for the emails and comments of concern – I got hit by some sort of combination crap train. When I left for the Rally everything was on fire, and then about halfway through the Rally the Blog (the software, not you) broke, and you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to fix. In fact, it was impossible to fix from the back of a bike, so it got fixed in the few days between being home from the Rally and leaving with the family on vacation, but I was sick for a few days there, which I now think was just exhaustion, on some horrible cellular level. Then the whole family headed up to a cottage for nine days, to rest and be together on the anniversary of my Mum’s death. I spent that time doing my best to put all my relationships back together after months of neglect, and maybe I can do the same here. Pull it all back together. I tried to figure out what pictures to show you from the last while, and I’ve essentially settled on postcards – some of them I posted on Instagram, but they’re everything I’ve been up to, and I’m sorry I was gone. I feel like things are back to “normal” now, if there is such a thing.

Every year I write about the Bike Rally after it’s done, and I feel like I always start these posts the same way – by noting that every year has a theme that I figure out over the course of the thing. Sometimes I worry that these aren’t real themes – that as a writer, I’m looking for marrow that doesn’t exist and creating plot where there is only chaos and random events. I even know in my heart that I sometimes write scripts for the ways I think things will happen and the way I’d like people to behave – and then feel extra disappointed in real life when everyone fails to act upon their psychically issued instructions. I did this a while ago when I thought someone was going to show up somewhere, and they didn’t, and I texted them and they made it pretty clear that they weren’t coming, and instead of just being disappointed once, I managed to convince myself that they were trying to throw me off so that they could surprise me.

They weren’t, and my secret scripting just meant that I was disappointed twice. All of this, my propensity to look for meaning where there is none, – to attribute motives to people that they don’t have so the plot’s great – I know that it isn’t always real, but I sometimes can’t help myself, and since I’m me, I look for that theme.

In retrospect this year’s theme – real or not, asserted itself really early on – the earliest it ever has (if it does) and I could feel it, and I feel like I was trying to connect with it, but it was such an…. uncomfortable theme that I think my inner self didn’t really want to know. No matter how clear it became, I looked the other way.

Two years ago I decided to take on the two year commitment as Co-Chair, because I felt like I was in such a great place in my life. I was working hard and things were on track. Elliot had just been born and I was planning on travelling a little tiny bit less for a few months, I was writing tons, my relationships were in a great place, my inbox was even more or less under control. My 50th birthday was on the horizon, and honestly, I felt like I was as strong and polished as I was ever going to be.

What’s that expression – Man plans, and God laughs? Immediately after I felt like I had it together and had been accepted for the Co-Chair position and had all this bandwidth to spare— my Mum died and absolutely everything went sideways.

I began a period of time that has been truly the loneliest of my life. I didn’t just miss my mother, though that pain has been acute – I felt like her absence screwed up all my relationships, right down to my relationship with my work, my writing – it effected every aspect of me. I didn’t dream for months. In that first year, the Bike Rally was a lifeline. If I had known that my mother was going to die, I would have never, never taken on that job. I wouldn’t have thought I could cope with it, I wouldn’t have thought I could manage it and my grief, but in the end it was sort of perfect. I had to go to the meetings, I had to manage a team, I had a Co-Chair, Ted – and I felt like I couldn’t unfairly burden him because I was grieving, and somehow having to show up for something kept me at least a little tethered. That leadership position and my family were honestly the only things that did. (The theme had already started to sneak in around the edges.)

Then the time came for me to begin the second year of the position, and the way it works is that there’s always two Co-Chairs, an outgoing ( that would be me) and and incoming… but nobody came.  Despite having just come through a ridiculously lonely year – this surprised me. I was prepared, and I decided to make the most of it, but I was surprised. It hadn’t happened with the Rally before, and I admit that I took it kinda personally. (I was taking a lot really personally around then, so don’t read too much into that.) The workload, rather predictably – when you go from two people doing a job to one – doubled. I had a great Steering Committee, and we got through it really well, I think, but do you see the theme starting to develop?

I didn’t. I kept pushing back, and the theme kept trying to assert itself. I started finding myself alone in decision making, alone working, alone thinking – which as a natural collaborator and consensus seeker, was hard for me. I found myself alone in presenting concepts or ideas, and I found myself alone when there was disagreement. I had still totally failed to fill the hole my mother’s support, guidance and help used to occupy, and was trying to fill it with resolve and hard work. At the same time, many of my support people had their own big life stuff going on. I have always enjoyed having just a few really good friends rather than a wide array of casual ones, but there’s a risk in that. While I struggled, my chosen few were all entering new phases, completing school, being crushed by jobs, travelling – the theme, it seemed was not screwing around, now recruiting others to make sure that I got the message. I didn’t.

I kept pushing back against it, trying to not be alone… I remember one day in particular, right before the Rally, I’d had a tough thing to do – some big decision or pressure, I can’t remember what, and I’d texted about eight people looking for some support in that moment, and every single one of them was busy. I sat and cried – and I know now that I was crying because I had the theme wrong. Through it all, I thought that the planet was trying to teach me to get good at something that I’m frankly terrible at, which is admitting weakness or asking for help. I’d spent the first year after my mother’s death trying to tough it out, and now I’d finally conceded that it was impossible to do by myself, and I’d reached out…and nobody reached back. I figured that I was doing it wrong, or that I was unloved, one of the two for sure, and I swung back and forth between those options, and hunkered down, determined that if I had to do this work alone, the least I could do was do it well – if sort of unhappily.

The morning the Rally began, I organized the last few of my things, printed my speaking notes for the morning, and I took out my worry list and made sure I was properly anxious, and left for the departure site. When I got there I was totally freaked out. I looked out over the 100 crew, and the 200+ cyclists, and I worried about not funding the agency. I worried about programs getting cut because I couldn’t get the fundraising done. I worried about someone getting hurt – I worried about everyone on the Steering Committee who was new to their role and hoped that we’d all prepared together enough. I worried that the sacrifices of the last two years wouldn’t be enough. I worried about what we’d do if something went wrong. (This despite the fact that I had the Preparedness Plan memorized.) I worried about what I’d say, about doing it by myself – about nobody being publicly responsible for a failure but me, and I realized in that second that not wanting to be alone was really about not wanting to be alone in the responsibility for it all, and that I was actually going to do it by myself, and I was responsible, that it was mine alone, and squared my shoulders and stepped up to the microphone, and I started.

In that moment, two things happened. First, I completely accepted that nobody was actually going to show up and rescue me, and the second was that in that moment the exact moment that I gave up and accepted the aloneness – it ended. Ken was there, and Pato, and Cameron, and Ted, and Joe, and Jen and the girls and in a horrible instant, I realized that they had actually been there all the time, and that The Point of the whole thing hadn’t been to teach me to ask for help – that’s why that hadn’t worked. The point of the thing had been for me to learn that I was alone, that I could be alone, that I could bear the load by myself.

From the moment my mum died, my overarching wish has been for her to come back. This is what I whisper to myself at the lowest moments of my grief.  “Come back, Mum please come back.” I have felt that her death, so unexpected and fast and horrible was actually the start of a cascade of loss and change. Change is not my best thing at the strongest of times, and alone isn’t my best thing either, and now here I’ve been – alone and in the middle of what feels like an earthshake of change, and I just kept plodding through wishing for my Mum, wondering how I’m supposed to do anything without her and wondering if I even can. It turns out, that I was supposed to learn (at 50, how disappointing) is that my mum wasn’t coming to help me, isn’t coming back and I could do a big thing on my own, or maybe this is all crap, and that it’s me looking for something that isn’t there again – looking for meaning and plot in an endlessly chaotic system, but frankly I like it better my way.

In the end, the Rally did what it always does. It grew a force field of love around our little travelling town. Everyone helped everyone else, there was support aplenty, we funded the agency beyond budget and my hopes, and in the two years I was Co-Chair and then Chair I led to the Rally to their two most successful years, and I wasn’t alone- except in the responsibility, which I guess was what I was there to learn, or if there’s another lesson I’d like to ignore it for a while, because that one was more than enough, thank you. Those of you who wondered if I still loved the Rally – in the days when it was crushing my life like a bug before we left – I do, I truly do.  All that was reborn in me on my bike, watching people pull together, feeling them trying to make the world a better place.

Up at the cottage, all of us together, I was struck by how surprised I still am when Elliot calls me Grammy, how it makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. Grammy was what my girls and Hank called my mum, and what I called my maternal grandmother, and I still can’t believe it’s me. Not that I’m a grandmother, I’m fine with that, but that I’m The Grammy. I come from a long line of women who are absolute powerhouses, and I worry about living up to that, about the responsibility of that, of what it is supposed to mean to be a “McPhee Woman.” I think it’s probably pretty likely that there was no theme to the Bike Rally this year – that it is absolute nonsense to think that the universe, as expansive and unfeeling as it is, worked to personally teach me a lesson. It is wholly unreasonable to believe any force had an interest in me, and were there such a force I would hope it would concern itself with things that really need fixing – like putting out an Amazon forest fire or curing cancer in a five year old, and that it is far, far more likely that I’ve dreamed all this in an attempt to give a tough situation meaning. I get that. The odds are awesome that it was just a hard job and a rough time and here I am trying to turn it all into a life lesson other than the real one, which is simply to do your damn work and try to be a good person while you’re at it.

At least that’s what my mother would say, though I’m trying to think of some of her as my own voice now.

This ended up being a lot more personal than I planned. Part of the delay in getting it to you was the process of deleting and replacing it sixteen times – I don’t worry about telling you my thoughts, by the time they make it to the keyboard I’m usually pretty comfortable with them – but I worry that without seeing my whole life, writing something like this will make me seem sad, lonely or lost, rather than someone trying to learn to deal with those feelings when they are inevitably part of a good, happy and lucky life. I’ve deliberately chosen photos this time that reflect that balance… a happy life. I am lucky, I do feel lucky – and while the last six months in particular have been more of a challenge than I can say – I’m satisfied with how that turned out. I ended up doing a job I feel really, really proud of.  PWA will be able to serve clients the same way and more for the next year, and I want to thank all of you for being part of that. We changed and saved lives together, I feel that.

While I haven’t been as present for you (or anyone) as I’d like over the last while, you’ve been more than present for me. Every comment, donation, email of support – it’s meant more than I can say. You are, as always, a big part of what balances my life. Thanks for not letting me slip under as I worked on this big thing. I love you all.

See you tomorrow. (I mean that. I have knitting to show you.)

Hard Things

I had planned to write you a big long letter today and do so many Karmic Balancing Gifts (I still will just after) and show you lots of knitting and then today was packing day for the Rally and several things that were supposed to be fast were slow and a few things that were supposed to be easy were hard, and now it’s past bedtime and I have to get up while it’s still dark to start riding my bike to Montreal and I’m just now eating dinner and…

Let’s talk about hard things instead. I believe in doing hard things. (Betcha figured that out already.)  I think that if you are privileged enough to be able to choose to do a hard thing or not,  choosing to do it has real rewards that can change the way you see the world, the way your brain works, and the kind of happiness you (eventually) have. I think challenge is good for you. I do not think this about hard things that you do not choose.

I know a woman who has HIV as a result of being raped during a genocide in her country of origin.  I know another who thought she was in a monogamous relationship, and wasn’t. I know another one who has two HIV positive kids because she’s a refugee from a country where access to healthcare and medicine that can prevent mums from passing HIV onto their babies isn’t affordable, accessible or frankly, possible. I know HIV+ addicts and people with really bad luck and some who are sex workers because they ran right the hell out of choices at all. They are doing some really goddamn hard stuff, and they didn’t choose it, didn’t have the privilege to work against it, and the day that I tell them that I think the hardship they’ve endured was good for them is frankly, the day I open a (*&^%$ing moth farm.

The Bike Rally has something called “the big meeting.” We have all the participants there, and we talk to them about everything they need to know, and build the community they’ll need to get through this thing, and I had to give a speech. I talked quite a bit about how choosing to do hard things can make you happy – if they’d have been knitters I would have talked to them about that feeling as you take the pins out of a lace shawl that you really, really worked hard on, one that was a challenge. That part of you that feels the growth of a little self esteem as a result of the proof that you pulled it off – you know that one? Without using a knitting metaphor (which was really hard, let me tell you) I pointed out that the Rally can give you that feeling.  I also asked the Steering Committee to share their reasons for why they do this. They do a ton of work to make this happen over a year, and I thought people might like to know why they do it.  They gave lots of reasons. There’s 24 of them, and there were 24 reasons.  Some of them ride in remembrance of someone else, some ride because others can’t. Some ride because it’s the lace shawl thing, some ride because they love the community, some ride because they feel like they need to give a voice to someone who doesn’t have one.

At the end, I gave my reason, and I’m going to share it with you here.  Several of you have written to me very sweetly, because you are kind right down to your roots, and asked why on earth I am doing something that clearly hasn’t made me superficially happy this year (I cop to that) and that’s obviously really, really hard. I haven’t known quite what to say, but I do now.

Why do I do this? Quite frankly, it is my overwhelming belief that someone has to. Given our current political climate – given the pain and hurt of so many people around us, people who are seemingly invisible to the world around them – or visible in the worst possible way, those experiencing stigma, shame, discrimination, poverty… all the consequences of HIV/AIDS that occurs if they are unsupported practically and emotionally – when they are outside of a community – doesn’t somebody have to? Given a system where we know what we know about happiness and health, that it grows and thrives in a place where all that is minimized and choices and opportunities to do hard work and choose challenge are maximized – and given that we all have the power to change not just the world but the very lives of people who live in it…to make them happier, to make ourselves happier… doesn’t somebody have to, and doesn’t it have to be someone with the ability, luck and privilege to do it? I have a pretty beautiful life.  Shouldn’t it be me?

This has been a very hard thing.  It’s probably going to get a little harder, over the next few days… and I want you to know that as I’ve struggled, I’ve been so touched by the generosity you’ve shown me that has made every sacrifice worth it. I am grateful for you, everything you do, every donation, comment, email….  every action you take that proves that you want to live in a world that’s decent and kind and generous and a little bit more fair… I reflect on it often. You all are amazing. I am grateful when I think of you, I know PWA is grateful for you. You increase the amount of happiness in the world.

PS.  We took these pictures of us, Team Knit, a few weeks ago when we were all together and doing what we do – knitting and being friends. (Also we are fairly good at cocktails.) I haven’t had many opportunities to say it, but I want to do it here – I am so grateful to Cam, Ken and Pato for having my back this whole time.  This was harder than I thought it would be, and the real help they’ve been over the last year is more than I can say.  Cam’s been an amazing emotional support animal and a very good listener,  Ken’s always got my back when it comes to the details and covering me with the family, and Pato, he’s such a workhorse. Do you know he took my stuff to packing day for me today so that I could take the subway and get there before everyone to do my work? Thoughtful and practical.  I’m sorry for all of it guys. You’ve only got to get me through six more days and then maybe I’ll be less crazy.  I love you.

PPS.  You have already done so much to support us – we are all fantastically, wonderfully above our goals. I do have a few quiet hopes that are as yet unrealized, and if you’d like to give any of us a push in absolutely destroying those goals, I’d love it, and overachieving is what knitters do best. We remain (along with all of you) Team Knit, and we’ll catch you on the other side.

Stephanie

Ken

Cameron

Pato

Randomly on a Tuesday

1. Just now, when I went to log into the blog so that I could write to you, it denied me entry three times.  Right before I was about to flip out almost completely, I realized I was misspelling my name. That right there sums up my current state, I think.  Seventeen days until the Bike Rally’s over.

2. I finished my back-to-backs, doing the second of them by myself, which was a bit of an extra challenge.  I am a collaborative person by nature and being out there alone is a bit of a head trip. I do okay for the first few hours, then about halfway through I start wondering why I’m alone and start making up reasons. At about the 60km mark, I’ve decided all my friends are jerks – that’s why I’m alone.  At the 70km mark I’ve forgiven them, and at 80km I realize that it’s not them, it’s me.  I am a horrible terrible person who has failed to invest in any meaningful relationships in a way that wants to make people be with me. I am alone because that is what I deserve. Then, at 90 or 100km I get home, step off the bike and instantly have my self-esteem and equilibrium restored. Maybe it’s the heat.

3. The other thing about cycling alone is that the urge to take an Uber can get pretty strong.

4. I finished my July socks yesterday, with days to spare – making these ones plain was a great idea on my part, I get to finish a pair even though my knitting time’s largely being drunk up by a bike.

Yarn is Must Stash Yarn’s Polka Dot Afro Circus, and my love affair with her Must Match Skeins remains pure as the driven snow. Pattern’s my own Good Plain Sock from Knitting Rules – no modifications at all, except that I did snip out about a metre of the yarn to make the heel stripe fall where it did.

4. I also finished the tiny pom-pom cowl, though there’s no pattern to report on that one.
Yarn is one skein of The Artful Ewe Kid Silk Lace, with two tiny balls of Habu’s Mini Pom Shiro.

Like I said, I don’t really have a pattern, using instead the “cast on a bunch and knit for a while” technique.  Using a 4.5mm needle, I cast on about 140 stitches using two strands of the hair of the mo, purled a round, and then knit for a while,  varying between the yarn held double, the yarn held single and the yarn held with the fetching mini pom-poms, knitting along as pleased me entirely until the whole tube was about 35cm long.

Then I purled a round with the yarn held double, and bound off.  (How’s that for a pattern,  two sentences.)   It used up most of the mohair, and almost two little balls of the poms, and if I had more of that yarn I would still be knitting with Tiny Pom-Poms because they are a pretty spectacularly cheerful spot to park your needles.  It is impossible to be unhappy with a strand of itty bitty spheres of fuzz rolling nearby, I swear it.

5. I am on my way to in Montréal (I started this post this morning when I thought I could get it done before I left, but I ran out of time, so here it is, being posted from my hotel room where i’m about to fall over like a tree.) The Road Support crew for the Rally has scouted the first five days of maps, but I’m checking day six, since a) Montréal is far b) most of it has to be checked by bike, not car. c) I’m the one who has to lead everyone on the final approach, and I don’t want to be the jerk who hasn’t memorized it.  Today I did the first half, but at least 50km isn’t far enough to trigger low self-esteem, so it absolutely could have been worse. Tomorrow’s calling for rain – cross your needles, I dodged it today.

6. Also I am knitting in this hotel room.

Still working on the Peace of Wild Things Shawl. Yarn is still Berroco Ultra Wool fine. Still digging the combo.

7. Karmic balancing gifts? You betcha. Team Knit is still trying to make it to our fundraising goals. I want to thank you all for getting us as close as we are – it’s your gifts that make all this work worth it.  How hard I’m working, your donations – that’s what’s going to determine how many people PWA is able to serve next year, and I can’t thank you enough.  It absolutely makes up for how wet I got today. If you’d like to throw a little something our way, Team Knit is:

Me

Ken

Cameron

Pato

Kat writes to us with a beautiful gift, The Scrubland Collection, and she’ll be sending the set of patterns along  to three lucky knitters… Margo G,  Jackie U. and Bethany P.

All three tops feature simple, bottom-up construction, knit in two pieces and seamed, so that the projects are portable until it’s time for finishing. (I am very fond of the Thistle one, and appreciate that there’s a pretty great range of sizes.)

Nancy, sweetie that she is, went into her stash and found four gifts that are ready for karmic rehoming.  First, 2 skeins of a 50-50 wool-mohair, Hebridean/Mohair in deep purple heather (I know it doesn’t look too purple here, but Nancy wouldn’t lie) and Nancy will be sending that to Stephanie W.

Next, 1 hank of 50-50 Tencel-Wool, 2 oz, fiber to spin, a pretty colour called Taos, from Chasing Rainbows Dyeworks.  Nancy says the purple thing is happening here too, we’ll have to trust Jackie D to tell us how much purple there is when she gets it.

Finally, two beautiful six-pack gradients of fingering/sock weight mini-skeins, 75% Superwash Merino / 25% Nylon (552 yards and 120g per pack) from River’s Edge Fiber Arts.  One six-pack is in a colour-way called “Old Fashioned Roses”, and the other is unnamed, but Nancy has named it “Mountain Sunset”.  Margo G and Jen G will have to work out who gets which one!

Duffy – aka the Duchess of Dyepots has two beautiful skeins to give away, Laird Fingering in the color Jabberwocky (though she’s willing to wiggle on the colourway if Kay L really wants her to.)

Suzanne has two beautiful skeins of Louet wet spun flax that she’ll be sending along to Terry M.  (I love this yarn.  Suzanne must be a good person to let it go, and Terry must be awesome for the universe to assign it to her.)

OzKnitter has a nice gift – a free sock pattern for ten knitters! Good luck choosing to Chani S, Kathleen C, Carol S, Barbara W, Mary S, Curran M, Eileen M, Karrie S, Rosie G, and Robin T.

I am rather feeling the Queues one.

Finally, Rhonda (who lives in one of my favourite places in the world) has a skein of Tosh Lace (in the rather fabulous colour geranium) that she’s sending along to Cheryl B.

Thanks for your help all! Wish me luck with tomorrow’s riding/driving. I am going the heck to sleep.

Back to Back

I was up early this morning – I hadn’t really planned on blogging today, but I’m trying to be more connected and less siloed in this work, so when anxiety got me up a bit earlier than I planned, I came to you. I’ve been waking up really early the last little bit.  I wake up and then lie there, and start to turn a thousand problems and ideas over in my head and then realize I can’t get back to sleep, and then figure I’m wasting time two ways, by not sleeping and not working, and figure that if I can’t do one I should do the other.  (I also spend time wondering if  being sure that people are having fun without me, and giving myself stern talkings to about bitterness, choices I have made, and the inappropriateness of developing feelings of the former in relation to the latter and working on being a better person. This morning looking at instagram I was briefly bitter that I wasn’t on the vacation of a person I’ve never even met. That’s stress trying to screw my scene again. I’m not having it, and besides yachts don’t look that fun anyway.)

So, here I am, and I’m sitting on my front steps with my knitting and my coffee and my cycling shoes, looking at my garden, feeling happy that it doesn’t seem to be as scorching as yesterday and getting ready to start my back to backs.

(This is just a quick scarf/cowl thing – I had a knitting emergency on my way to the cottage when I realized I was going to finish my cowl and didn’t have something else to knit, so I grabbed a needle and a ball of yarn that didn’t need winding and when I got there, I let Megan pick the pattern.  She chose the Peace of Wild Things shawl, and the yarn is Berroco’s Ultra Wool Fine, in Denim. One ball does it.This is a super fast knit – even with my current knitting-time drought it’s coming together.)

Now, until I became the Chair of the Rally, there wasn’t a ton about it that gave me the willies anymore. There are parts of it that I don’t enjoy – like the hills or the heat (or the rain or the spiders) but after a few years of doing the thing there were two things I know about the stuff that’s not fun. First, I can do it, because I’ve done it before, and second, because I’ve done it before I know exactly how much it’s going to suck.  I take a lot of deep breaths. Now, since I became the Chair, there’s a lot that gives me the willies. As a rider, rain sucks. As the Chair, the thought leaves me going over the disaster preparedness plan a 46th time. As I rider, I don’t like lugging my bins around – as the chair, I’m aware that the Rustlers team of volunteers move bins 7600 times (that’s the actual number) during the rally and I worry that someone will forget to latch the back of a truck. As a rider, I worried about getting lost. As the Chair, I worry there will be a mistake on a map and we’ll lose 250 riders. You see what I mean.

From this point of view, my training has seemed like the least of my problems, and I haven’t been out there as much as I could have been, and now today I start my back-to-backs.  Back-to-backs are two rides longer than 90km that you need to complete on two consecutive days – back-to-back.  The general feeling is that if you can do that, you can do the Rally, and every year I get a real case of the willies leading up to getting it done. I hate it. I hate that you don’t know if you can do it until you do – I hate that one of the rides is always ridiculously difficult (that’s today) and this year,  I hate that I wasn’t able to start my back-to-backs yesterday with a group of riders because I was at a training session for the crew.  (Don’t get that part wrong, I begrudge the crew nothing, I just wish I could clone myself sometimes.)  It means that tomorrow I have to do my second long ride without the support of a big team.

Today I’ve got Ken, and we’ll ride (get this) 114km (that’s 71 miles, for my American friends) and if I survive, tomorrow I’ll ride 90, hopefully with Cameron. (Team Knit all has different pressures, schedules and neurosis. We’re each handling our back-to-backs differently. Except Pato, who is young, confident, and not worried at all. I cannot wait for him to turn 30 so I can say HOW ARE YOUR KNEES NOW PATO.)

My map is printed (though Ken has GPS I do not trust it) and I froze water in my bottles last night because it’s a million degrees still, I’ve pumped my tires, I put on sunscreen, I have my phone charged and money for lunch.  I’m ready I think, and I’m looking forward to the feeling I’ll have tomorrow when it’s done and I’ve proved I’m physically ready.

Day one of the Back-to-Backs… bring it.

Briefly in a Lake

I am trudging along here – still looking forward (rather desperately) to the day (28 days) from now when the Bike Rally is finished and things shift around here.  I am not even sure what I will do that day, though I’ve reached a phase of hopefulness where I start piling knitting projects up around the house so I can look at them as I walk by. I can only imagine that August 17th is a day that the Wild Knitting Rumpus will begin, assuming I am conscious.  Between now and then I’m trying to get all this done without completely compromising my sanity, family or what’s left of my relationships. (I have given up on the house, but have adopted AlisonH’s tip for floor cleaning from the comments on the last post, so things are better there.)  Last week some friends invited us up to their cottage, and my love for the Canadian wilds being what it is, I managed to find a way to get myself up there on short notice for three glorious days.  (Joe,  Megan and Elliot managed to stay up there longer, but I jumped on the train bright and early on Thursday for a series of Bike Rally Meetings that couldn’t be missed. You can only imagine the bitterness I felt leaving that kid behind in one of my favourite places.)

We spent the few days I was able to be there swimming,  trying to convince Elliot to  go in the lake (he was fine by the end, but resistance was initially high) and l tried to write to you, but I had to use nap time for Rally Business, and usually if he’s awake and we’re together, Elliot says “Gammy?” every 12 seconds, and I am helpless not to answer him.  I wanted to write and say that despite the state of my life (and improved status of the kitchen floor) I did finish my June Socks, and I had a good enough time knitting them that I’d happily start the pair over.

Pattern is Paragon Socks, Yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Cardamom.

They look fussier than they are to knit, which is something I like a lot in a pair of socks, and the pattern itself was memorizable – though not until the last repeat of the second sock, in my case, but if your head isn’t full of Bike Rally you might have more room for storing that.)

I’d tell you I loved the yarn too- but that should be obvious by now, since I think it’s turned up on the blog about three times in the last year or so.  Great stuff.

I’ve got the next pair of socks on the needles, but they’re just plain self-striping, because I see how things are this month and wanted to make it a little easier on myself.  (I can see now that this would have been a good month to investigate the perplexing world of hand knit ankle socks, but it’s too late now.) I finished the mini-pom-pom neck thing too, so I’ll get some pictures of that, and look! While I was walking around another pair of socks fell off the needles.

Yarn is Cozy Knitter’s “Celebrate the Night” (I think. I’ve misplaced the ball band again, which isn’t surprising since I can’t even remember when I started these, never mind anything else about them.)

Absolutely no pattern whatsoever, I just banged them out. Top down,  round and round, 2.25mm needles, 68 stitches, German short row heels over half the stitches, and my standard toe. (My standard toe probably isn’t yours because I’m opposed to the pointiness, we can talk about it another time.)

Into the long range planning box for them- it’s actually not looking too shabby in there, I remember the last time I did the Self-imposed-sock-of-the-month-club it was an easy Christmas, I was so far ahead. It’s a lovely thing to think about, since I’m so far behind on everything else right now.

Speaking of behind -let’s get some Karmic Balancing gifts done, because you all are amazing.  Team Knit is still inching towards their goals, and it’s you all we have to thank for it.  I  hope we’re going to make it. If you’re wondering what’s going on here read this:  and Team Knit this year is Me, Ken, Cameron and Pato. Please help us spread the word.

First, a wonderful gift from Tanja Luescher, she’s a designer who’s always one of the first in my inbox with an offer to help. We’ve never met, but I think she’s pretty great.)

Tanja is offering 10 ebooks (20 really, but we’ll do another 10 anther time) Kathryn, Sonja, Rita, Karen, Janis, Sarah, Susanna, Cara, Jessica, and Kelly can all choose between Stories of Inspiration, Selfstriping, Hubby needs Socks, The Cat Collection OR you these lucky knitters can create their own ebook of any 7 patterns.  Thanks all. (And I am going to buy the socks one. I think I found the perfect pair.)

Michele wrote and said that she has three gorgeous gifts that need new homes – thanks Michele!
Violets by Mary Scott Huff – the entire kit. (Michele loves this a lot, but is a realist about it’s future with her. I hope that Barbara M loves it and has time.
1 skein (1000 yards) of Tanis Fiber Arts pink label lace weight – variegated graphite is the colourway. Michele found out she’s not a fan of laceweight – so off it goes to Tamara G.
2 skeins (420 yards each) of Tanis Fiber Arts red label cashmere/silk twist – mauve blossoms. (Michele didn’t say why these need rehoming, so I assume it’s straight-up crazy generosity.)  Good news Sarah H, these are winging your way!

Mary E Rose is another designer, and Mary’s written to say that she’d like to give away a free pattern to TEN knitters.  I spent some time with her portfolio, and Smocked Leaves and The White Queen’s Shawl are two I’m putting in my queue.

Good luck choosing to  Lesley E, Brooke S, Wendy N, Dari T, Amanda G, Christine E, Nancy S, Kathy F, Sam M, and Cathy W. There’s a lot of amazing patterns there.

Christina has these three beautiful skeins of Titus (in Coal) to give away.  (What a neat yarn, 50% Wensleydale, 20% BFL, and 30% alpaca – most of that from the UK.)

Those three beauties will be making their way to Lisa H. Lisa and Christina, thank you!

Terry’s got two skeins of Knitpicks Hawthorne Fingering in Burnside that she’d rather inexplicably like to give up. (Must be just that she’s nice.)

That’s more than 600m of amazing that will be making it’s way to Julie A.

But wait there’s more! Brooke’s got two skeins of Three Irish Girls Yarn ‘Adore’ sock yarn, in the ‘Everlasting Gobstopper’ colourway, making it’s way from her house to Josephine P’s. I hope it makes her happy.

Still on the sock yarn train, Linda H has two ever so pretty ones – Sweet Skein o-Mine, in the colourway St. Andrew’s Summer – headed to Cathy A. Thanks both!

That’s it for today, a whole whack of gifts done, and I’ve emailed the 27 lucky winners, and the generosity in my inbox overfloweth.  There’s much more to come.  For now, I’m off to look over about 7 spreadsheets that contain more details about a small moving city of cyclists than anyone could ever hope to memorize, and hope to drill enough parts of it into my head to get this thing off the ground. Oh. I also have to figure out the cutlery.  Who knew?

Pause

Have you ever had way too much coffee on a day when you are very tired, and gotten that funny feeling? It’s like the start of panic – not fear, or dread or worry, but the smallest little seed of a feeling that’s trying to make you run and paradoxically trying to keep you from taking a deep breath at the same time?  It’s an insistent little thing that whispers “I think you should get ready to freak out because we are about to be in trouble here.” If it’s a coffee induced feeling,  I just chalk it up to having enough caffeine in my system that I can feel my hair growing, and resolve to be a better person who sleeps more and drinks less coffee.  Lately, I have that feeling a lot of the time – despite (mostly) actually managing to be a better person who is sleeping lots and drinking less coffee.

I know it’s not coffee this time. It’s an actual sense of impending doom brought about by the fact that doom is sort of impending all the time right now. I know I’ve confessed to you that I might have overshot a little with my commitments this year – so far I’ve found the way through this period is to just put my head down and work, and look forward to the day (it is actually only 46 days) that I pass this mantle on, but overall, I’ve started to realize that the sense of doom is being generated by evidence of my own inadequacy.

(Pictured, an unfinished cowl. Yarn is one strand of The Artful Ewe Kid Silk Lace, with one strand of Habu’s Mini Pom Shiro. I cast on a bunch and am going round and round, sometimes knitting with both, sometimes just the lace, and sometimes with the lace doubled.  If I ever finish it will be charming.)

Please note, this is not a low self-esteem moment.  I do not need to be reassured that I’m great and I get a lot done, it’s simply noticing that there is an insufficient quantity of me to meet my goals. I’m behind on work emails, the house is trashed, I have been trying to finish a simple cowl for two weeks, I didn’t finish my June socks, I’m fishing my summer clothes out of bins and my winter ones are piled in the hall because I haven’t had time to swap them out. I haven’t been writing the way I’m supposed to (or need to, to be less crazy all the time.)  I haven’t planted all the annuals I bought even though now it’s July, I have no idea what the hell is making the kitchen floor so sticky, though I feel like all I do is mop it.  I haven’t been on my bike as much as I should be, the fundraising for Team Knit is behind, I haven’t done any of the Karmic Balancing gifts, I really need a haircut and I think that the flowers in the hanging baskets need watering.

This general state of inadequacy is, as you can imagine, uncomfortable. Now, I generally believe that I’m pretty good at being uncomfortable, and I think that’s a pretty effective way to be a human most of the time, and when this started happening I just got uncomfortable and stayed there – coping with the load by sort of hopscotching around it all, doing a little bit of everything, trying to multitask the snot out of it all and not really getting a sense of accomplishment from any of it. The floor was cleaner but not clean, I’d answer the most important emails, but not all of them, I’d write one crappy paragraph but not an essay, I’d worry about the blog all day but not do it, and gradually this feeling of inadequacy has given way to something that early this week I figured out is actually stress.

(Pictured, June’s unfinished socks. Pattern is Paragon Socks, Yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Cardamom.  It’s my favourite solid sock yarn right now. There’s some hope I’ll finish these today or tomorrow. Maybe.) 

That moment, I think – may be be what saves me.  The minute I realized it was stress, I remembered a quote my mum loved to say to me when I was younger and losing my scene. It’s from a writing teacher I like a lot, Natalie Goldberg. She said “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency.” The minute I remembered that, I realized that I had to start handling this whole thing differently.  I stopped trying to hysterically do it all every day, and instead began to ask myself questions.

Does this need doing? (Is it truly important? What will happen if it is not done today?)

Does this need to be done by me? (Can I delegate this, or ask for help?)

If the answer to those questions was actually yes, that it was important and had to be done by me, then I just settled down, let go of everything else, and did it. I also wrote “time is a commodity I choose how to spend” on a post-it note and put it over my desk. (This probably won’t help as much as the other things, but at least it reminds me that I don’t “lose time” doing things.  I can only “spend time” and I decide on what.)  This approach has meant that a lot of things have shifted over the last week.  First of all, my Bike Rally inbox is just about empty, which is awesome- because that thing was breathing down the back of my neck with fetid hot breath. It also means that yesterday we took Elliot out on the boat, because I realized that missing that would mean I’d be bitter and nasty about missing so many nice things – it means that after I spend this time with you today, I’m off to a Canada Day outing to celebrate the great good fortune I have to live in this country,  and it means that Saturday I rode my bike 100km. I’m still fishing summer clothes out of the bin because there are no police about that, and it also means that the kitchen floor is still sticky, because you know what? That’s actually not important, and it can be done by someone else and… screw it. (I did water the plants.)

So this morning I got up and looked at the list, and tried to figure out how I should spend my time voila, I am here. Happy Canada Day all – I can’t think of anything more important than thanking you all for your help with this. The fundraising really is important, and I can’t do it without your help.  Let’s go.

(By the way, if you’ve only  just arrived and are wondering what we’re doing here, read this. If you’re wanting to sponsor part of Team Knit, or help us spread the word, our links are here: MeKen,   CameronPato. We’d love any help you can give, and every little bit counts. We’re all still inching towards our goals.) 

First, an absolutely gorgeous bag from Lisa at Red Staggerwing, which looks just about perfect for trucking around knitting.  I’m sure that  Melissa B is going to love it.

Next up, Rebecca,  a longtime friend of the show has 5 skeins from String Theory Colorworks that she is (somehow) going to part with.  (Inexplicably her email says she has more self-striping yarn than she needs, which doesn’t sound right, but I’m grateful anyway.) She’ll be sending them off to new homes with Carla K, Kristen G, Susan B, Michelle C and Marsha W. I’m going to let them fight out who gets what colour with Rebecca.

Susanne Visch, a designer and generous soul, has offered (again this year) three knitters the pattern of their choice, though I don’t know how they’ll possibly choose.
The shawl choices alone could take you forever to look at, and that task will fall to Marolee S, Amy N, and Susan G.

Judy (who seems quite lovely) wrote and said that this beautiful Masham from Indigodragonfly has been begging for a new home, and karma has decided that it should go off to Kim G.  (Who I bet is lovely too.)

Tess Young took a peek around and found that she has the perfect kit to send along – her beautiful Anglebury Cowl Pattern along with a 100g skein of John Arbon Viola Yarn, for which it was designed – in a colourway called “unpredictable.” (Colour designed by Canadian hand-dyer, Emily Foden.)  I hope Sarah P finds it delightfully unpredictable that it’s coming to live with her.

Whew! I’ve emailed everyone who received a gift so if you’re wondering if you’re the knitter mentioned, check your inbox.  I know that’s only 11 gifts given away, and there’s plenty more in the hopper, but if you’ll excuse me, I’m taking a sanity break from the computer. I’ve been at it all day, and my nephews, a lovely summer evening, a celebration of the wonderful country I live in, and a little bit of knitting await me, and suddenly,  that all seems very important.

I had to carry it in a ziplock

Did I ever tell you, that in the wild mess that followed my mothers death, my phone was run over by an Uber?  Perhaps not, that time was really a scene – but in any case, I was on my way to Megan’s house for a family dinner, and as I stepped from the car, laden with dinner, knitting and containers, my phone slipped from my pocket and fell on the ground, awkwardly between the car and the door.

I gathered my things, and then realized I couldn’t reach my phone without closing the car door, and so did that. Naturally, closing the door was the a signal to the driver that I was done, and he rolled forward toward the rest of his life, and over my phone.

I don’t want to get into too many details about what followed so let’s just say that there is no phone that stands up properly to the weight of a Toyota Camry, but the important thing is that when I took it to the Apple store the next day, the dude assigned to solve my  problems said he had only ever seen one phone more destroyed than my phone, and that was dropped down an elevator shaft. He gave me a new one, and the whole thing would have been a non-event, except I am a jerk who cannot learn to sync my phone to my laptop, and so it turns out that it had been a little bit since that had happened.

As the car rolled over my phone, it wiped out the last four months of photos, and with it, the last three months of my mother’s life in pictures. I didn’t have a ton of pictures of her to lose because she was really ridiculously averse to having her picture taken* but I did lose the last birthday we had together.

I know now that It doesn’t matter that much. At the time I was goddamn gutted, and had the hardest time with it, but it turns out that I loved her and she loved me and four months isn’t really that much in the context of a lifetime, but it means that the last picture I have of us sharing a birthday is this one from the year before.

And here it is from the other side.  My brother Ian’s birthday is the 11th. Jen’s is the 12th, Mum’s is today – the 13th, and mine is tomorrow – June the 14th. Gemini babies, and we always had a cake with a lot of candles, and I don’t hardly remember the birthday song without so many names in it.

It is hard to describe what it is like to have her birthday the day before mine, and I’m not going to try. It’s just…hard.  We have always been birthday buddies, and now we’re not and…

Listen, let’s skip the rest.  I’ve heard from so many of you who are grieving, who’ve lost someone, who are forging your own path forward, and I’m going to tell you this on the off chance that it helps even one of you – this year is easier than the last. It doesn’t hurt less, not even a little bit. The pain of her death remains a sharp thing in my life, but I am… getting used to it. The pain knocks me down less, I see it coming more, and it is a predicable hurt that I’m learning how to navigate. Do I miss her less? Oh no. Not a little bit.  I dream of her voice, her hands, her laugh, and I long daily for her strength, insight and guidance. I wish for two more minutes with her, to walk on a beach with her again, and I would be embarrassed to admit what I would trade to have a cup of tea with her, but the reality that it will never happen is starting to feel more like the way the world works than a raging loss. I miss her, but oh, almost everyone loses their mum. It’s the way things are.

So, another birthday of hers, on the eve of another birthday of mine, and I am here to tell you that I miss  her, but that it is probably going to be okay, and that you should go back up your phone right now, in case things get strange with an Uber.

*To my darling girls, take my picture. I’m sorry I said no before now. Take it.  As much and as often as you want. Selfie? I’m up for it. A picture where I look fat? DO IT.  An odd angle where my eyes look strange? KEEP IT. That thing my hair does that looks like the Queen Mum that I try to fix and make worse?  SNAP IT. Anything you want my sweeties. I know now that I’ll never care, and you’ll care a lot. Have at it, and I won’t say a word, thanks to your Gram.

When I get my life back

Warning: I have tried to make this shorter. It didn’t work.  Hi. It’s me.

Over the last two years, I’ve made a commitment to PWA and the Bike Rally, that amongst other things, has meant that I was the Co-Chair last year, and (in a stunning turn of events) made me the sole Chair this year.  There’s been a lot of fallout from that – not the least of which is that my house has never been more trashed, my blog never more neglected, my friends and family have never needed to be more steadfast in their support as I’ve needed more handholding (both literal and figurative) as I’ve tried so hard to move forward through this challenge. It’s been difficult for everyone – especially Joe, as he’s needed to work extra hard to make up for the shortfall in my income as I’ve essentially taken a leave of absence to direct my energy towards the Rally and its success, and dude has done more dishes than he really bargained for. (Thanks buddy. You’re the best.)

I couldn’t have predicted that it would be like this. I knew a lot about what challenges lay ahead when I decided to take it on, but I didn’t know that destiny had a few curve balls to throw my way – who could have guessed, for example, that my Mum, my biggest help, supporter and longtime lightpost would be forced out of existence just a few days after I took it on, and that I’d navigate this whole thing while trying to manage my grief, the grief of my family, that it would be compounded by the loss of Susan shortly after, or the reconfiguration of everything that followed.  It has been complicated.

I will no longer be the Chair of the Bike Rally in 80 days. Increasingly, I find myself doubling down, working even harder, saying to myself that if you’re going to make a commitment, a sacrifice, that it should be absolutely worth it,  and that if this hard thing was worth doing, it is worth doing well, and so every day I send emails and wrangle a hardworking Steering Committee and navigate the Board and volunteers and worry about training rides for everyone else and worry about my own 50 year old body making it through training and I am consumed with concern about whether or not  everyone is safe and worry that this effort- investing in the sustaining fundraiser for PWA will fail to sustain them if I don’t get and keep my s**t together… and Blog, I feel like I can say this to you because we are so close… it has been scary and hard and I hope I am the right person to be in charge because so many people are counting on me for their very lives and worse….

I have started a countdown. Any minute of any day you can ask me how long it is until the Bike Rally safely arrives in Montreal, and I can tell you how many days, hours and minutes it is until that happens, and WORSE I have begun thinking of that moment, the minute that the responsibility for this transfers to some other brave soul, as the moment that I get my life back.

Today I had an epiphany (which is a word that sounds like Stephanie and I have always liked it for that.)

This is my life.

I am not waiting to get it back. This is my one wild and precious trip around the earth, and I know that when my Mum died, nobody could have been more surprised than she was. I know for a fact that she thought she had more time. That she was going to clean out her junk drawer, get the basement sorted, make a more time for more people, do even better in contributing to charities, and that when she left me, she was not done. Not by a long shot- and I realized that I don’t want to keep thinking about the days that I spend on this as a weird period I’m going through that will result in my real-life coming back. This is real life.

This is a world where every day you have just that day to make a difference, and here’s what I’ve learned about the Bike Rally, and the people who take part in it – They have all decided to give a voice to those that can’t be heard loudly enough.  Increasingly, as we get a grip on HIV/AIDS, it is those that are privileged that reap the greatest benefits. Those with access to healthcare, money, homes and support are living longer and better lives. On the other side, people who don’t have those things (women, children, immigrants, indigenous people, refugees, those struggling with mental illness and addiction) fall farther under the wheel, and need our defence.  (I will quietly state that much of the current political climate does little to help these people and families and leave it there.)

So- here I am, late (because the state of my inbox means that I am late to everything right now) asking for your help. Once again, Team Knit will ride for the Rally, and for people who need us, and we’re going to ask you to do what you can. This year Team Knit is:

Me

Ken

Cameron

Pato

Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and like last year, I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end,  we’re going to do Karmic Balancing gifts again, because I think I can answer that many emails. (I hope I am not wrong.) As often as I can between now and the Rally, I’ll choose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*

It’s going to be all about the Karma – just like we try to make it every year. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little family team then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie. (If you’ve already given this year, obviously you should send an email.)

Now, we know not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, that counts.  Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can forward the email to people in your family who will give…  There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did. No money needed. (Of course, money is always good too, and even the smallest gifts make a big difference.)

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier -I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions –  I’ll keep track.) I’ll try to get through them all, though it can be overwhelming. Thank you!

Finally, I know that many of you will lovingly speak of self-care to me right now. Know that I hear you, and that I’m doing it, while knowing that self-care isn’t anything without community care, and that we all have a responsibility to create the world we want. This last weekend I didn’t just ride my bike 80km, answer a million emails and try to be a good mother and grandmother, I also gratefully watched while Joe made dinner, told Ken all about everything hard and lay helplessly on Cameron’s couch after a marathon meeting while he plied me with wine and told me what a great job I’m doing, and we worked on his knitting, and mine, and I thought about how this is my one trip. I can’t wait for when I get my life back. This is my life.

I’d love your help.