Disconnect

When I was thirteen, my mother’s mother, my very own Grammy, told me (while she was making lemon meringue pie) that if anything ever happened to her, I should remember to make my mum two lemon meringue pies every year on her birthday.  Reflecting back, I think one of the most charming things about this story so far was that my Grammy said this to me exactly like the risk that she was mortal was remote and unlikely.  My mum loved lemon meringue pie, and Grammy had always made her one for her birthday, and after I was born, she had always made her two.

My mother’s birthday was June the 13th, and because mine is June the 14th, in 1968 she was in labour with me. She didn’t get her pie, and so my Grammy brought it to the hospital right after I was born.  My grandmother held me, and my mum ate the entire thing.  The whole pie. Not another single person got a slice, or asked for one.  From then on, it was tradition… two pies on my mother’s birthday always… one for her, and one for everyone else.

When I was fourteen, my Grammy died very suddenly.  I look back now with so much sympathy for my mum.  I wish I’d had some way to relate to the pain she must have been in.  My Gram was only 59, and as gutted as I am to lose my own mother, she was 74. It was a tiny bit more likely to happen, and I was robbed of less.

When I was fifteen, I made my mother two lemon meringue pies, and have continued to do so every single year, with very few exceptions, for the last 34 years. I’d make my mum’s pies, she’d make my cake, and with our birthdays separated by just a day, it was almost like we had the same birthday, they were so linked to me.

Today my mother would have been 75. I didn’t call her at midnight, and she won’t call me tonight at 12:01 – both of us trying to be the first people to wish each other a happy birthday. I didn’t make two lemon meringue pies.  Nobody wore the meringue noses, and nobody will.

You know, I’ve never liked pie, and I don’t think I’ll make them again.

Happy Birthday Mum.

I miss you.

Antivenom

I know I’ve mentioned this, but this year, I’m one of the two Co-Chairs for PWA’s Friends for Life Bike Rally. It’s a two -year commitment I made last year just before my mum died, in part because I thought she would be proud of me if I did. (She was.)  Ironically, I don’t know if I would have done it if I knew at the time that my mum had just weeks to live – though in a lot of ways it’s been a good distraction from grief, and the other stuff.  Part of the reason I decided to apply for Co-Chair last year was how struck I was by a guy who asked me if AIDS was still a thing.  I was so upset by it – at the time it seemed to me that he was ignorant. How could he not know? I mean, of course HIV/AIDS is still a thing!  (A friend talked me down, told me about how it’s perceived.  He was right. Turns out the guy was more normal than ignorant. I wrote about it here.)

I still worry a lot about the things that I talk about in that post.  Homophobia, discrimination, a lack of empathy, but the other part of the reason I volunteered- the largest part for me, I think, was that I feel like we don’t talk enough about how much of a women’s issue HIV/AIDS is. People who know that this is an important cause for me often don’t know how relevant that is – more than half of the people in the world who have it are women – particularly young women.  Here in Canada (and the States is pretty similar) about a quarter of all incidences are in women.

I care a lot about everyone who this issue matters to – we all have our own reasons, and everyone we know who is  HIV+ has their own stories, but it has always been true that vulnerability increases the risk, and women are particularly vulnerable, mostly because they have less of the things that are statistically protective (money, education, power, sexual freedom, access to healthcare) and more of the things that put you at risk. (Stigma, violence, poverty.) Women are simply less able to protect themselves, and that’s scary. I’ve been going down to PWA every week or so, and the place is full of women (and their kids). About 25% of their clientele, which makes absolute sense.

There’s this one woman – I’ve heard her speak a few times about her story and how she came to be a client of PWA, and that story involves surviving genocide, rape, poverty, and the death of her husband and a great deal of her family, followed by the birth of a child who was the product of that violence, and is also HIV positive. She came to Canada as a refugee, and PWA has been her everything. She credits them with saving her life, and the life of her child. This year, she, and the mother who taught me to care about that, are the reason I’m getting on my bike, even though it will be very hard.

Several of you have suggested (and you are kind and lovely people) that I not ride this year, because it might be too hard. That there have been enough hard things this year (although the shingles is just about all better, thanks for worrying) and that maybe I could sit this one out and support The Rally as part of the Leadership, and as a fundraiser, and you’re right. It has been a difficult year, to say the very least. Likely the most difficult of my life. I’ve struggled for my happiness a lot, had to work at finding the joyful things, and the important things and find a way to think about what is here instead of what is not.  I have had to embrace (or at least stop raging against) change. It’s been really hard – but here’s something I know.

Like can cure like, and doing hard things, meeting challenges, doing more than you think you can, it is like anti-venom to a snakebite. Every time I’ve shied away from that over the last year, it has made things worse.  Going anyway, showing up for the hurt, giving it my all… trying my best, and remaining open to the good surprises that can find me when I do, has been a life raft.  Now is not the time for coddling – nor fear. It is time to make the most of the world I’ve got, and stand up for people who don’t have the things I’ve had to fall back on when disaster struck.  Home, family, safety, food, money, help. Doing the best I’ve can with what I’ve got, with the people I love, has made all the difference. and I see no reason to quit now.

So, we’re on our bikes. We’ll ride from Toronto to Montreal again about 650 kilometres, (that’s about 400 miles, for my American friends) and Team Knit this year is:

Me

Ken

Pato

Cameron

(Jen’s completing her last year of Midwifery, and can’t go. She’s helping other ways.)

Our decision to ride our bikes to Montreal helps nobody, and makes no difference, not without you – as a matter of fact, you’re the important part.  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, as Team Knit and like last year, I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do things the same way as last year, because knitters, you were amazing.  We’re going to do Karmic Balancing gifts again. 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 small gifts make a big difference.)

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are, like they always do?  Ken, Pato, Cameron, and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. We keep telling you that they’re awesome.”

*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!

(PS. If you donated last year and I didn’t give away your gift because of my mum, please accept my apology, and resend your info if you’re still into the scene. You’re great.) 

Far Above

This post comes to you from high above the middle of Canada – sort of. I’m way too cheap to pay for the inflight wifi unless something really important is going on so I wrote this at 10000m above the earth and 818km an hour, somewhere over what must be Saskatchewan, but I’m posting it in the lounge in Vancouver, waiting for my flight to Seattle.

I don’t usually work on flights, or write on flights, unless I really want to. I’ve got a rule that when I’m this far off the earth I can’t possibly have a responsibility to it, and so I knit, and watch movies and this time is all my own. I fly a lot, and having this rule has made me feel a lot better about the hours I log on planes. I almost look forward to it now.

Today though, I’m blogging, and working on Bike Rally stuff and answering email and organizing and trying to land a little more caught up than I have been. It’s probably mostly hopeless, but I would really enjoy the feeling that I tried. (I have a sock in progress on my lap as consolation.) Lately I’ve been particularly delusional about what I can accomplish in a day- like, the other day? I decided I would deal with all my email, and then immediately left for a training ride I was committed to. I have no idea how I thought that I was going to answer all my mail while I was on my bike (or answer all my mail even if I was off my bike) but I knew I was going on that training ride, and I still made my completely unachievable goal to answer email. Why on earth I didn’t make the task for the day something like “ride 80km” as I strapped on my cycling shoes, will remain a mystery forever, or maybe the only way you can continue to disappoint yourself once you’re almost fifty and used to all your regular failings.

I did get a few little things done – the World’s Top Knitwear Model™ and I were together, and she agreed to model my finished Russell Street. (I think she was feeling the competition from Elliot, who of course, is only not the World’s Top Knitwear Model™ because he’s not cute on purpose.)

Pattern: Russell Street

Yarn: Autumn Rainbow Kit from Cannon Hand dyes

A nice cozy, generously sized shawl/scarf/wrap thing, finished thankfully just as summer arrived properly and Sam had to wear it in the blazing heat.


(Gratuitous grandson picture, unrelated in every way, but it should make up for the disappointment of this next bit.)

Last week I also turned my attention to that pretty little Jacob fleece. I still don’t know what I want to make – but I now that I want to make the most of the fact that they’re a spotted sheep, and see what interesting thing I can do. I started sorting the fleece… making piles of totally white, totally brown, and then a pile of locks that were mostly white with a little brown, or mostly brown with a little white.

Next I had this big plan that I was going to hand card it all. You know how people are sometimes on about “slow food” or all that stuff about being intentional? I was going to super-intentionally sit down with hand cards and a spinning cloth on my lap, and card out the little bits of VM* and make perfect and beautiful little rolags and line them up in a basket.

Then I saw my drum carder, and I thought about how much I actually want to be spinning and knitting with this, and boom. That wee machine was clamped to the table and I was throwing fleece into it.

 

It still took several hours over a few days – but I ended up with the most charming little row of batts you’ve ever seen. Four white, and then two each of three shades of grey/brown, and two dark batts of brown. (I snipped the little sunburned/bleached tips off of the dark locks, so that they would be even darker.)

They look delicious to me. I imagined bringing them with me to Port Ludlow, sitting in the sunshine and spinning, getting that all spun up so that I could start knitting it right away. I went into the kitchen and got out my travel wheel (what? Where do you keep yours?) and then couldn’t quite find it in myself to slog it all the way here when spinning time at the retreat is likely a total fantasy. Then I imagined I could ask Judith or Debbi to bring me a wheel because they’re driving, but then I thought that maybe that was a lot to ask when the spinning time is the previous mentioned fantasy. It also seemed kinda dumb to give up suitcase room to something you’re probably not going to use (and yes I already reminded myself that fibre can squash down pretty small in a suitcase) but in the end wheels are big and pragmatism won and the orderly rows of batts stayed home, on the dining room table (what? Where do you keep yours?) and I packed off without them, knowing they’ll be a really nice birthday present to myself when I get home next week.

Now I’m on this plane, an unknit sock on my lap, no time to knit it, and one word just occurred to me.

Spindle. *****

*VM is “vegetable matter”. It’s straw and seeds and crap the sheep got into. (It’s also occasionally actual crap, depending on how nicely the fleece was skirted.**)

**Skirting is when you lay out a fleece, usually right after shearing, and take off all the yucky bits around the edges. Short fibres, dirty or matted fibres, actual crap etc.***
*** This fleece was beautifully skirted and also washed so mostly it just has a little straw and grass. A fleece from Judith would never have actual crap after she dealt with it.****

****Maybe before.

*****Because you know, it’s not stupid to bring things you won’t use if they are small.

Uncle

I am never going to finish that sweater – I see that now. I brought it with me on the Bike Rally Road trip, the thing where we’re in the car for 3 days and stop every 45 minutes, trying to figure out every single logistical detail,  and while we were driving I thought “Oh yes, sweater, you’re a done deal.”   Then I realized that I’d left the ball of yarn  I needed to finish on the chesterfield, and knit socks instead.  Sometimes you have to give up, and I did. On the upside, those socks are almost done.

In the meantime, I’ve turned my attention to the fleece that’s been on my desk for a few weeks.  It’s a tiny little Jacob fleece, a weakness of mine (see previous obsessive phase with this sort of wee thing) and I somehow wheedled it out of Judith MacKenzie at a retreat, and through some sort of magic, somehow convinced her to wash it too. ( I swear I did not even mention that part, though should the stars ever align in a way that a spinning ninja like Judith might wash your fleece for you, I suggest you sit quietly in awe. It’s perfect.)  Tonight I’m going to start messing with it a bit, and break out the hand cards.

I love me a sheepie adventure. What should I make?