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.