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:





(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.) 

36 thoughts on “Antivenom

  1. Steph, so glad that you know and honor what is right for you. I know that at times in my life, it’s right to keep on keepin’ on. And others, it’s right to sit down and just be.

    I’m with you on the hard year. My mom died 16 months ago. Then it was helping my father move (15 months ago). And then cancer. Mine. That was 11 months ago.

    Wishing you deep breaths. And peace. And a bottom well-adjusted to the bike seat. Rock on Team Knit.

  2. Thanks for getting in there and gutting it out!
    I grew up in Papua New Guinea, which has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the Pacific region. And thanks largely to corruption and mismanagement, they’re about to run out of antiretroviral drugs (along with every other kind) – and unlike First World countries, there’s no Plan B if you get a resistant variety develop.
    Awareness is so important. It’s still a thing!

  3. I usually donate to the other people besides you because they don’t have as much of a total, but this year I’m donating to you because of your year. (I will probably donate to someone else on your team later.) Your post of today made it clear what a good cause it is. Thank you for making a difference in the world.

  4. I will join you in splitting my donation between Steph and the guys. They have smaller goals, but all the money goes to the same place. Steph has name recognition, whereas the guys do not that I am aware of.

  5. This idea of doing the hard things when things are hard reminds me of the post you wrote about knitting complicated patterns when your life was hectic and complicated. At those times, the easy stuff just doesn’t cut it. I think this is a very courageous outlook, and I will try to remember it for the future. Thank you for your work on the Bike Rally, and hoping all goes splendidly.

  6. As a professional dancer, I have lost many friends to this disease. You are doing an incredible job raising money. I just donated yesterday to Broadway Bares/Equity Fights AIDS. Good for you for riding. I ride my bike with my dog every morning. It’s a great release, and good for the heart.

  7. Ride, ride, ride! We are all rooting for you and the whole team. I’ll go hunt through stash for some nice karmic balancing gifts.

  8. I am so glad to hear that you’re riding again this year. That you can do it in spite of all the challenges is such an inspiration and a testament to your commitment to this wonderful organization. I’ll be making a donation and finding something to donate as a gift. Thank you.

  9. Thank you! As a social worker and proud (fierce) feminist in her early 60’s, I have forever spoken about how disempowered women are and how poverty is what cuts through it all. It is the venom and, try as we might, the antivenom is still widely unavailable. Whether it leads to HIV/AIDS, addiction, violence, incarceration, food insecurity, and/or substandard housing, poverty creates conditions of risk that spirals out of control. HIV and AIDS is, sadly, one stark result.
    Yes, showing up matters. So does speaking out. Always and whenever. This is what I know. This is how I have earned my living – helping and counseling and marching many many women as they struggle to reclaim their own voice.
    Thank you Steph for helping us understand that HIV / AIDS is not about sex or gender or sexual preference.
    Ride on! And I will help.
    For this, my Canadian friend, is what I hope that democracy will, one day, look like.
    (And what irony that I had to click on the Man!)

  10. Ride on, Steph, ride on. And thank you for making it so easy for us to support you and be a part of it, it’s good for the soul.

  11. I am an introvert. The fact that you go out there and do all that you do is amazing, in so many ways. You have so much heart, and of course I will donate again this year. *In other news, last year I received a karmic gift of a baby sweater kit. This year, there is a baby to knit for! My first grandchild is on the way! (I am sworn to secrecy and cannot tell anyone yet.)

  12. Steph, you are a Good person. The world is so blessed to have you in it (and would be even if only for your frantic pre-Christmas posts).

    Congrats for continuing with the hard things. I’m sure you have experienced the moments when you literally need to stop and just get through this one moment…and then the next… You are a role model for all.

  13. Hey Stephanie,
    would you like to donate a signed book to the fundraiser for Sistering 24hr women’s shelter/drop in please?
    It used to be called the TTC Knitalong but now it is the Great Toronto Yarn Hop.

  14. I love biking, and it’s my sanity when I remember to put my butt on the bike. It usually takes only about ten minutes for the endorphins to kick in and a big smile to come on my face while I’m pedaling.
    So I agree with you: get on that bike if that’s what your heart tells you. You’re gonna kick butt!

  15. I totally plan on donating, but I want to do it when you are powering through some crazy training ride, so the ding will help you through it. Are you riding on Sunday?

  16. Hi Steph – I just sent my donation in support of your ride. Because I live in the U. S. – I also sent a donation to the AIDS Walk Colorado which takes place in August. Thanks for all you do!

  17. I’m proud of you Stephanie. Things have been extremely hard for you this past year. I’m happy you’ve decided to ride again! I love to follow the progress of training and the ride itself. And I’m always very grateful for an easy way to help. Thank you for being you! 🙂 By the way, happy birthday to you and I this week. Sharing your birthday also makes me feel like a better knitter than I am! LOL

    • Above the photo in this post are the names of four bike riders (Steph and three of her friends, knitters all); clicking on the names will take you to their page to donate to PWA.

  18. I have been reading this blog for so long, and have so loved being part of the bike ride and it’s goals. Thank you Stephanie, for making the work of volunteering so visable to us, for helping all of us see the effort and love that goes into making a caring world. You go girl!!

  19. Will check my stash for Karmic balancing gifts. I’m in my 70s and fairly new to knitting, so have a reasonably small stash.
    Otherwisewill send cash.

  20. As a fellow introvert, your bravery amazes, exhorts, and yes, terrifies me. Like everyone, I’m so proud of you.

    I confess, I did cringe when I read ‘likely the most difficult of my life’. There’s so much more you could lose. Karma should be your best friend at this point, but really, why tempt it?

    Blessings from the heartland.

  21. There is something satisfying to giving to one of your teammates and seeing them near their goal by a full percentage point. No matter what it’s you that motivate us and remind us of what we value and give us the opportunity to do good. Thank you.

    I lost a close friend to AIDS in the early years of the epidemic. Another acquaintance of mine contracted the disease, lost his sight and expected to die. But due to advancements, he is still living over 20 years later and giving back. We can make a difference.

  22. Steph, I donated, but will not send you an email. Why? Because I am so deeply shamed by the behavior of the man who came and insulted your Prime Minister and all Canadians last week. I hope that you and your fellow citizens know that he does not represent all Americans, and that we value our neighbors to the north, and have prized the close friendship our countries have had through the years. (I do not want to turn this into a political thing, this is just one person’s opinion – mine – so if you are an American and disagree with me that is your choice.)

    Keep up the good fight, Stephanie! You show all of us the way through your thoughtful writing, your strong spirit, and your love for your family, your country and your knitting community. You are a role model for so many of us, and we love you for it.

  23. Thank you Steph, for that bit of inspiration. I love your country. And I love Trudeau. (please don’t pay attention to that orange man behind the curtain. He doesn’t represent most of America…)

  24. How I love that you say “I know you’ll do your best…and wouldn’t lie.”
    It’s simpler that way, but the trust in those words is so kind, thanks.

  25. Wow, what an inspiring message. You have a wonderful way of turning lemons into lemonade and lemon cookies with your drive to make the world a better place. Thank you for your persistence, your love, your talent with words and wool.

  26. Oh, man, I’ve had a tough year, too, lost a beloved grandfather to age and a younger brother to suicide, decided to stay home because my kids needed me (a startling difficult decision then, and still now).

    I love the way you wrote about this. I agree, it’s so much better to fight hard to be the sort of person you want to be, especially when everything gets murky.

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