Slow Going

It’s been a big week. So much to do, and so much of it a challenge.  For starters, last week I did my back-to-backs. 90km one day, and 100km the next, and I pretty much felt like a hero.  A very, very tired, sort of old hero that gets things done, really, really slowly, but a hero. The rest of the week was full of meetings – the closer we get to the Rally, the more time it takes to be Co-Chair, It’s cut into the time I would spend knitting or cycling, but frankly, I don’t think anybody looks back on their life and thinks “Wow. I really wish I’d spent less time helping out.” (If that’s true, don’t tell me now.)

So, there were meetings, and Joe and I tried to manage the family, and oh, after much planning and dreaming,  we put in a backyard pool for Elliot.

Finally found one within our budget range. We are living the dream, people. Midweek, and completely out of necessity because we were out of time,  my siblings and I put on a mad push, and emptied our mother’s house.  Ian, Erin and I were there, and my brother Jamie called, and it was as close as we could come to being together.

Erin and I stayed late, ordered pizza, had some wine, and as a parting shot, we put on the family theme song (“You can’t always get what you want”) and we made our way through the house, dancing in every room, thinking of all the times we’ve danced up a storm in that house.  At one point, Erin said to me, exactly as I was thinking it, that it felt like we were letting go of so much with that house.  “It’s all of them” she said, and I know just what she meant. It was a goodbye to Janine, to Tupp, to Mum, to Susan… with the sale of the house we felt a little untethered from the lot of them. When Erin and I left the house after midnight (with a big bag of rocks and a few odds and ends) we closed the door behind us on the way our family used to be.

This might be okay. I mean, I guess it has to be okay, because that’s the way it is whether we like it or not, but maybe now that the house is gone, we’ll stop trying to hold things the way they were. Who knows, because if there’s one thing that I’ve figured out over the last bit, it’s that I have no idea what’s going on most of the time, and that doesn’t matter, because I’m not actually in charge of much of it. (I can tell, because if I were in charge, all of the people listed above would have come quite a bit closer to the average Canadian lifespan, and there would be a lot less left to do for the Rally.)

My house still looks like a thrift shop, and I continue to have no plan at all for two china cabinets, but at least I’m relaxing into it.

I put yarn in one of them.

Things I am not doing

Today, I am not sitting in my living room in the absolutely blissful air conditioning, working on the little sweater I chose. Thanks to Sue H for reminding me in the comments that I designed one I love.  Nouveau-né!

I am not in the back bedroom, looking at the furniture I have jammed in there, and trying really hard to figure out where I’m going to put it all. (A plan that should have worked didn’t, when we realized that we can’t just get rid of Sam’s old dresser, put Joe’s in there, and then put my mother’s where Joe’s was. Turns out Sam had a dresser much smaller than either of them, and the new, larger dressers invoke classic small home problems, like doors that then won’t open all the way, or windows windows covered with great hulks of furniture.

I am not in my mother’s basement with my sister, loading the leftovers of my mother’s life into a van so we can take it to a thrift shop. (That will have to be later, though we’re really running out of time.)

I am not helping Joe bring two more cabinets, a desk and a smallish table into our home because we all agree they can’t go to the thrift shop.

I am not upstairs, standing in the stash room, wondering if I should really be reorganizing some of the stuff up there so that I could put a cabinet in. (The cabinet is really not going to hold that much yarn. This idea is not going to work. I need only full duty furniture up there.)

I am not in the garden, even though I really need to clean it up a bit so that things don’t get out of hand, and to make room for a few of the plants I want to move from my mother’s garden to mine.

(I know. It really is starting to look like we can’t let go of things, but I swear it’s necessary. I’m just taking a Hosta and some Solomon’s Seal. Maybe a Euphorbia, and a Lady’s Mantle.  That’s it. Except for the streaky grass my mum moved from her mother’s garden. That’s really it. Probably. She has a nice lily.)

I am not spinning – even though I totally am going to try to spin every day of the Tour de Fleece.

I am not on the sailboat with Joe – even though today is a gorgeous day for it.

Nope.  I am sitting on my porch. Getting ready to strap on my cycling shoes, and ride 90km. That’s my minimum today. I went to bed early last night to be ready for it, and Team Knit is all on their bikes today – the guys are doing the regular training ride, but it’s “tent and truck day” for the Bike Rally Rustlers (that’s the volunteers who tote around all the riders stuff for a whole week, loading and unloading our bins onto trucks, and driving them to the next place we camp. It’s a crazy thing they do.) Since I’m Co-Chair this year, I’m turning up for that, so it’s the lonely training road for me.

Tomorrow we’ll do it all again – another 100km, assuming we all live through today. Think strong, cool thoughts for all of us, and maybe knit a few rows on our behalves. Our hands are busy.

Almost empty

I’m writing this to you from the kitchen at my Mum’s house.  I’m here waiting for someone to pick some stuff up, the house is all but empty now, and it won’t be my mum’s house after next week.  I can’t help but think, as I sit here, writing to you, of how many times I’ve done this over the years. I finished books in this house, I’ve written countless blog posts here, doing just as I am now, except usually I sat at her kitchen table – gone now.  One of the fantastic things about working from home when the kids were small was that I was there for them, but it also meant there was often no quiet space when I had a deadline.  My office was the kitchen, and it was all full of kids.  When pressed, I would come here.  Erin too, I think, and Ian.  It’s just one of the thousand small ways that my Mum made things better for us, her influence being felt in our everyday lives.  We were so lucky to have her.

You know what else I feel lucky for? You guys.  Team Knit is edging towards our fundraising goals, and it’s all because you guys are awesome, we are so grateful.

Me                            Ken

Pato                         Cameron

Let’s spread the love around, shall we? Here’s a great place to start, Michelle, from Hagstone Publishing, is offering a copy of their great True Heart pattern, that she’ll be sending to Jennifer C. (Michelle sent a really sweet note explaining that this pattern was a labour of love between two friends, and I love that. She’s right, it’s very appropriate.)

Susan B went into her stash and found this gorgeous Abbey Yarns kit for Darlarna Snowflake twined mitts.  (What a great kit, Susan, I don’t know how you’re giving that away.)  I hope that Carrie J loves them!

Delores has the most beautiful skein to send along, 1 skein of Fleece Artist National Parks Collection in the Forillon, QC colours (grey cliffs of Mont-Saint-Alban and meadows of fireweed).  Collection was created for the 150 birthday of Canada and was a special issue yarn.  It’s going to go live with Kathleen R.  (It makes me pretty happy that the random selection was another Canadian.)

Kate has two beautiful things to re-home.  Three skeins of Malabrigo Bay Silkpaca in Archangel,  those are going to fulfill their destiny with Lies S.

and one spectacular skein of Lotus Cashmere Fingering Weight in the most lovely sunshine yellow in the world.

(If that can’t fix your life on a cold and dreary day, I don’t know what it would take.) Pomme make something special, will ya?

The lovely Jill has two very nice gifts,  she’d like to send this bag and it’s matching yarn to Nancy R.

and this beauty to Laura P.  Three cheers for Jill!

Jasmine, from the delightfully nerdy Etsy shop Tesla Knits (go look. I’ll wait.) has this gorgeous Great Wave project bag, with a companion tape measure (also nerdy) and fantastic stitch markers, to go off to (hopefully nerdy) Jamie R.

Julia, Robynn and Emily would like to donate a copy of their amazing pattern collection – Lost in the Woods, to Mary Jo M.  (I hope she loves it, I just spent 10 minutes looking at it, it’s gorgeous. Totally worth a poke through.)

Lily, who appears to have excellent taste in yarn, has two skeins of West Yorkshire Spinners 100% Wensleydale yarn that she’ll be mailing off to Rebecca S.

Look at this bit of loveliness!  Anne, talented as she is generous, has four beautiful handmade (by her!) project bags and stitchmarker sets.  I think they’re so pretty.  This beautiful one is for Marji.

This one is for Stephanie E. (Not me, sadly, it’s so good.)

Anne E is I hope, going to really love this one.

And Susan G should enjoy this beauty.

Diane went into the stash, and when she came out, she inexplicably thought this great yarn should go to a new home.

2 skeins Audine Wools 100% Superwash Merino DK weight in Naturelle, will be going to live with Judith F.  Thanks Diane!

Finally, you guys know I love TillyFlop Designs, (If you don’t know who they are, click and meet the genius that is Julie.) Julie’s sprung for a gift again this year, and it’s a charmer.

Her Stocking Stitch wrapping paper, some of her notecards and (I love this so much) a Stocking Stitch tea towel, will all be going to live with Lisa RR, who I think we shall all agree, is a properly lucky duck.

Ok! That’s it, I’m off.  This weekend is a training deadline for us – all of Team Knit has to complete their back-to-backs before Monday, which means riding at least 90km both days. It’s cooled off a little, thank goodness, but it’s still going to be a ridiculous challenge.  (I think everyone but Ken is a little behind on training. Ken got his back-to-backs done last weekend, sweeping rides as a Team Lead.)

I’ll try and instagram so you can tell if I make it.

PS. The Cozyknitter, purveyor of fine self striping sock yarns, has, once again, a Bike Rally colourway.  A portion of the proceeds go to Team Knit, and her yarn is great.

 

 

Randomly on a Wednesday

1. Happy Canada Day! (Ok. I’m a little late. I actually wrote a post that day, but my computer crashed and I lost it, and didn’t have the time to write it again. It was an homage to the Canadian health care system, and how grateful I am for it. A few years ago I read something somewhere (probably my own comments section- or maybe Ravelry?) where someone said that they thought that I wouldn’t be such a fan if I’d had occasion to really use our system. That clearly nothing had ever happened in my family where good health care mattered – or I’d understand the flaws with the way we do it here.  At the time, I remembered thinking that this was a bold position to take, considering that the writer would know so little about how much or how little healthcare my family has used. These days, I think everyone would have to admit that between Tupper, my Mum, Susan and Joe’s Mum’s recent stroke, that we’re pretty much freakin’ experts on the system around here, and we’ve never been more grateful. Joe’s mother was in the hospital for almost two months, and the biggest expense to bear was parking. That’s all I’m going to say about it, besides that it makes me (and about 86% of the population) proud to be Canadian.

2. Happy 4th of July to my American Friends! So many amazing things about your home – Personally, I’m grateful to you for your amazing National Parks (what a thing!) and how so very many of you, while so often being very different from me, are just the best kind of people. The best thing about America remains Americans.

3. I finished that hemp sweater and I love it, but I didn’t take pictures yet. Please keep waiting.

4. It is really, really hot here. (It’s cooler than the last several days today, only a high of 31, and that’s not including the humidity either, which takes it up closer to 40. (For my American friends, that means it’s about 104F.) It’s hot enough to generate spontaneous swearing every time I step into the sunshine, and I like the heat.

5. A few snaps from my garden, taken this morning before the heat got too bad.  It’s so pretty this year I just have to share. (The lilies are particularly gorgeous, despite some complete arse stealing every bloom off two plants. Snapped it off mid stalk.  Jerk. I hope they get fleas.)

I promised myself I was going to take extra care with my garden this year, because my Mum’s not here to do it for me. It’s paying off.  (Yes. Fine. I was a 49 year old woman having her garden weeded by her mother. I was spoiled and you should be so lucky.)

6.  I did finish that darling vintage baby sweater – the pattern’s from the 1950s, and I’ve knit it so many times, it’s a well used pattern around here, and sweet as pie.

The yarn’s from my bitty stash of classic Italian baby yarn.  I’m wild about the stuff, 100% merino, soft as a little cloud, and lightly spun for the light duty it will see. This will probably fit the baby for just the first few weeks, so it can be delicate.

This is a special baby, so the sweater got a little extra touch, four tiny buttons from my Mum’s button bin. I’m the only sewer/knitter in the family, so I have both her’s and my grandmother’s, I’ve kept them separate, for reasons I’m not sure of, but it feels important. I haven’t mixed them with each other’s and certainly not in with mine. I like knowing who’s are who’s.

6b. What baby? Savannah‘s baby! My niece and her charming husband Kosti are expecting a baby, and since they were swinging through town, her mum Kelly (still here helping my Mother-in-law, thank goodness for her) threw her a baby shower.  I warned Sav when I gave the the sweater, that she should consider this a warning shot across the bow. This baby is due in the fall, and it’s been a while since I had a winter baby to dress. It’s more than exciting. (I am restraining myself only because Kelly will be the Grammy, and she’s a fine knitter, as is Savannah herself, and her sister Kamilah isn’t bad either. With this many invested knitters on deck, we’ll have to be careful that the kid doesn’t wind up with so many woolies that she or he only has time to wear them once.)

7. Yes. Kelly and I should be consulting in order to avoid duplication.

8. I rode my bike pretty far this last weekend with Ken and did hill repeats (with Pato, poor guy) a few days before that. It still isn’t enough training, and I am freaking out. All the way out. I’m having a hard time finding room, between work and family and being Co-Chair. I’ve asked around and lots of other people who were Co-Chair before me said it was hard for them too – it’s like all your Rally time is already spoken for. I’m going to try and ride three days in a row this weekend. I really hope what doesn’t kill me makes me a lot stronger. Quickly.

9. My arse is still sore from Monday.

10. I have another baby thing to knit (different baby.) I want it to be special, and lovely and I haven’t chosen the yarn yet so it could be any pattern… What are your favourites? (PS. The blog innards will block your comment if you put more than a link or two. It doesn’t understand knitter behaviour very well at all.)

11. Karmic Balancing Gifts tomorrow.

Let me get you a chair

I know exactly when I lost control of this house, and I am sure that it was an item of my mother’s that put it over the top.  Things have always been sort of touch and go with this place – it’s a tiny house, only about 1100 square feet, and when the girls were living here things had to be carefully reined in all the time. Five people in a three bedroom, one bathroom house? I had to care how many shirts people had, and an extra box of cereal in the kitchen could be the thing that threw everything off, beginning a cascade of chaos that would rip through the house trashing the place as it went. It was in these tender years that I learned to get a grip on the stash, and I assure you, it is tidy, pruned and restrained as we speak.  (Please note that I did not use words like “small” or “modest” nor did I claim it doesn’t take up much room. The stash is a beast. It takes up the space allotted to it though, and nothing more. Mostly.)

This system has relaxed since the girls left.  No longer have I been fixated on the amount of stuff we have. I kinda figured that if it was just Joe and I, we wouldn’t have to worry so much.  Right? Oh, so, so wrong.  Joe is nothing if not thing of nature, and nature abhors a vacuum.  With every item that left with a child, another moved in to take it’s place, along with the idea that there should be room to have it here.  Files for the business? Sure. We should be able to keep those here. Three kids left.  Thing is, they left some of their stuff – Sam in particular maintains a fully functioning bedroom and a turtle here.  (Franklin the red eared slider. We’re not sure how we ended up with him, but he and Joe are close.) Still, Joe and I had this place mostly in hand, and then my mother died.   (I know – I know, another blog post where I mention the dead mother – I’m sorry.  I swear it’s just a part of this story, not me weeping on again.)

Mum had a lot of stuff. She’d done a ton of culling over the last few years, and we’re super grateful for that. Still, she had a large home, and lots of beautiful things, and we’ve been reluctant to let things we associate with her go elsewhere – problem is that my siblings have tiny homes too, and like mine,  are already fully furnished.  Unfortunately, my sister and I have not let that stop us, and yesterday I moved an unholy amount of stuff into my home from my mothers, and the place hasn’t reacted like a tardis at all.  We have no idea where to go from here, but I can tell you that from where I sit this exact moment, it looks like we live in a furniture store. An untidy furniture store.  A furniture store run by a cranky lady who doesn’t want anyone to touch her stuff, and doesn’t really have any plans to sell anything, she’s just calling it a furniture store so that people get off her back about the three dressers, nine lamps, eight throw pillows and the fantastic number of chairs.

Sitting here typing,  I can see sixteen chairs, seventeen if we count Elliot’s high chair.  I have no idea what my plan is, but it involves owning a lot less over the next little bit.  Some hard decisions will need to be made about our things, I’m still not ready to let go of much of Mum’s – also, her stuff is mostly better than mine.  (I think. Maybe I just think that because she’s my mum.) Today, it’s just overwhelming to have a dresser in the living room, a writing desk in the kitchen and my Great Aunt Naomi’s tray table in the entry. (Maybe the landing at the top of the stairs?) This place needs change. Big change.  The sort of change that is uncomfortable and awkward and asks deep questions like what’s really important to us as a family, what are our priorities… and how many tablecloths you never use do you need to keep in a cupboard forever, and does anyone really use napkin rings?

It’s all a long way around saying that this place is a mess, I have no idea what my next steps are, I am super overwhelmed, and I made my back garden an office today.

Seemed reasonable, there’s only a little extra furniture out there. (Mum had a patio.) That little bit of knitting is something I think is going to be a baby sweater by Saturday, although really, can a woman with seventeen chairs in her living room prioritize a baby sweater?

Don’t answer that.  Of course I can, and I have.

Karma, we’re spreading it around

I’m sitting here knitting and listening to it rain. Well, technically I’m writing this blog post and listening to it rain, but I was knitting up until a minute ago. I’m desperately hoping it will stop, today’s the Pride Parade here in Toronto, and Team Knit will be donning our jerseys and grabbing our bikes, and heading downtown to march/ride. This year is the Bike Rally’s 20th anniversary, and we’ve got a rider for each year, and a float that the fantastic volunteers made (I’ll show it to you later it is very cool) and we’ve got other Rally People to dance, and…. it’s raining.  Pretty hard, actually – which is so totally demoralizing. I really feel good about the work that I do for PWA, but there are moments when I really do wonder why so much of it has to be in the rain.  (I just right this minute sent a text asking one of the people putting the float together and asked them what our glitter status is. I have visions of every bit of it washing off the thing. They’re under tarps, it turns out, so for now, Trevor reports “minimal glitter loss”.)  The forecast calls for things to improve a bit later – but if you’re sitting in sunshine right now, try to send a little of it Team Knit’s way.  We’re going to be very soggy on our bikes if this keeps up. If that inspires you to donate to us, that would be a pretty good pick-me-up. Team Knit remains: MeKenPato and Cameron.

In the meantime, I’m going to try and make a little sunshine this way – Karmic Balancing Gifts! We’ll see how many I can get up here before I have to get on my bike and ride to the Parade.  Maybe the rain will stop while I work on it.

First up, an amazing gift from Kate, 8 balls of Valley Yarns: Amherst, in Cayenne.  (I love this stuff, and that colour, actually.) Kate will be mailing that to Lizz, and I hope it makes her day.

Kristen, at Rosetwist LLC has two beautiful gifts from her shop, a pair of sterling silver earrings for a knitter – that knitter would be  Samantha.

and a charming pair of sterling silver earrings for a spinner (especially charming because she made them from charms) that Kristen will mail to Pelly.

Mary from Kino Knits has a great gift – I love the idea behind this pattern collection.  The Tolstoy Collection is a group of three patterns, a one colour, a two colour, and a three colour… all designed for yardage flexibility.  (That’s a neat trick.)

She’ll be sending out FIVE digital copies of that – to Jeannie, Wendy, Lara, Maida and Betsie.  I hope they love them.

Ursula, all the way in Vienna, has a beautiful present she’ll be sending to Bettina.

It’s 300g of a merino/yak/silk blend, and so lovely.

That’s it for today – though there’s much, much more to come.  It looks a little brighter outside too, so maybe Karma’s working.  Have a great Sunday everyone, and Happy Pride!

Fifty

Here I am, out the other side – I’m fifty now.

My birthday came and went on the 14th, and I had mixed feelings about it.  I think some of my friends and family interpreted my reluctance to have a birthday as a reluctance to turn fifty… wondering if I minded the age, didn’t like getting older… something like that. It wasn’t that at all – I don’t mind  a bit. So far, my experience is that being thirty was better than being twenty, that being forty was better than being thirty, and I expect that fifty is going to be pretty good too. (Exception noted for some of my body parts, which I rather suspect enjoyed the earlier phases more. I’m talking to you, left knee. Get it together.)

When Tupper died five years ago – five years ago yesterday, to be precise, Mum didn’t want to celebrate her birthday anymore. It was like she didn’t have enough happy in her for celebrations, and she said that if he couldn’t have any more birthdays, she didn’t want one either.  At the time, her choice upset me. It upset all of us, I think. It was plain to me that something had changed in my Mum with Tupp’s death. I worried that she was never, ever going to be as happy as she had been before- that his death had been too hard, too traumatic, too shocking and too sad.  To be entirely frank, I worried she was a tiny bit broken, just in the happiness department.  Not wanting to celebrate birthdays was a symptom of that, and it made me sad too. Mum didn’t survive her brother by long enough for me to know if that was really true.  She remained my funny Mum, my essentially happy Mum, with a little bruised piece that hadn’t had time to heal, if it was going to.

When Mum died, after Tupper, and before Susan, I thought about my birthday and I got it. All of a sudden I got the whole thing. If they couldn’t come to my party I didn’t want a party. If I couldn’t blow out candles with Mum I didn’t want candles. After Mum, it was totally and completely clear to me why she wanted to cancel birthdays after Tupp and I decided to do the same, and felt such a clear understanding of my mother in that moment.

As time went on, and we got closer and closer to My Birthday (close enough that I started thinking of it with capital letters) I started thinking about it more, and I remembered how I felt as her child, seeing my Mum so sad. I remembered worrying about her and wishing she would let us celebrate her.  “But you’re still here… ” I would think, every time she said that Tupper was not, and that parties were cancelled for the indefinite future.  I especially thought about it every time that one of my daughters mentioned a party to me, and I remembered in the hospital, shortly before Susan’s death, her having a bit of a cry, and telling me that she was so sorry that the person who cared most about me turning 50 was gone.  She talked about my mum’s plan for that day, how much my mother would regret not being there… she said she was sorry that she couldn’t make up for Mum, but that she thought she wasn’t going to make it either.  She was right about that, of course, but she was wrong about people not caring. My girls, I realized, as I thought about it, were feeling as I had. I suddenly saw it in their gentleness with me, their new tenderness, their careful questions and sweet little attentions.

I was scaring them. They thought I might be broken too. The pain I had felt watching my mother grieve I now saw in them, and I resolved immediately to show them to that my ability to be happy wasn’t gone… or at least not permanently.  That I had a chance to reassure them here – and as hard as it was, I said yes, to it all.

Family dinner on my birthday? Yes. Big party on the weekend? Yes.

I cried often and mostly alone (I try to be polite) over those few days. At times, I missed my mother in a way that was physically painful – but I took deep breaths. I bought a new dress. (I shopped for it with my girls via text/photo group, and that was really fun.)  I put on a pair of my Mum’s shoes (god she had great shoes) and I went to the parties and I smiled at my girls and I am so pleased to report that they were right, and for the first time in history possibly, taking my Mum’s advice would have been wrong, because man, as painful as it was, there were moments of sweetness and happiness that I’d have been so foolish to miss. The girls were so good, and they worked so hard, and I was so impressed with them, and I think my girls see that I’m not broken, just different, and that’s okay, and that maybe I can put some faith in that too.

I’m fifty.

Cheers.

(PS. I’ll do the first big round of Karmic Balancing gifts this weekend, see previous post, and thanks for everything, you’re awesome.)

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.