I've been imagining writing this for days. I haven't managed to come up with anything elegant, or amazing, or that does any justice at all to what has happened, so I'm not going to try. I'll leave poems and thoughts for another day, when I feel more ready.
My darling uncle, Tupper McPhee, died on Friday.
He will be desperately missed. We knew it was coming, but it doesn't do much to help. Even with the warning, we were not reconciled to the loss, and we are in no way prepared for a family that doesn't include him, although we are very, very grateful that he is past his hard time. In the end, he left he way he wanted to - assuming he had to at all. He was at home, asleep, with his darling Susan beside him, and his steadfast sister (my mum) alongside. The two of them deserve shining admiration for their care of him. They have been entirely in his service, and so strong it would break your heart to see it.
After weeks of waiting, I had decided together with my mum and family that the best thing I could do was to go to Colorado and fulfil my work obligations. Staying home didn't help anyone, and would have hurt several people, and besides, we agreed that the odds were with me. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and our Tupper died while I was on the plane, headed towards Conifer. When I learned that he had gone I made the only decision that I could, separated from my family, and unable to get home. I decided to set it aside, and make my way through those days as best I could, without addressing it, or accepting sympathies. Special thanks to everyone who knew I was walking a line and was not too nice to me. It's sympathy that can put you over the edge, and I couldn't deal with it. Today I flew home, and I hope you will all forgive me while I take a few days to grieve, attend Tupp's service, and finally be with my people. We need each other.
Stephie (me) and Tupper. 1969. (It's the only picture of him I have with me right now, and I do like it.)
Thanks for the time Tupp. For the crosswords, for the books, for the invisible cows and the dancing. I'll do the stuff we talked about. I got this. Have a good rest. I love you. FFOHTL.
This little sweater is finished now, totally finished with buttons, a bath and everything, and it is exactly as I'd hoped.
Dear you hear what I just said? That's a knitting miracle. Do you know how often in knitting something that you make is exactly as you hoped? Sure you do. It's not a lot.
Now think about what just happened here. I had no yarn. I started with 100% angora, straight off a bunny, and some gorgeous CVM, a chunk of a dirty fleece that my friend Judith tucked in my bag in February. I processed the fibres, and carded them, and spun them - a big bobbin of each. I plied them, finished the yarn, dried it and wound it into balls.
I had no pattern, so I just started monkeying around a little bit, starting at the neck and knitting down until it looked "big enough" and then dividing for arms, placing buttonholes where they made sense as I went.
I increased a little just after the armholes, because I like there to be a little extra room to go over a big cushy cloth diaper, and knit until it seemed right. Back to the sleeves, and I made those what seemed like a good length, then added about 5cm for cuffs - both because I like cuffs, and because it will give the sweater a longer lifespan. They can be unrolled when the wee thing starts to grow like a disease. I crocheted along the front edges, just to tidy things up.
When it was done I gave it a violent bath - hot water, cold water, quite a bit of scrubbing - I really roughed it up. I wanted to bring up the halo of the angora, and I wanted to be able to tell the parents (with confidence) that it would need no delicate care. When it was all dry this morning, I sewed on the wee buttons (tacking the front neck edges down, they always seem in the way on people who have no necks) and lay it out on my lap to look.*
It is a handspun, hand knit, designed on the fly sweater, and it is exactly what I thought it would be. Think about that process, and marvel at my luck. The processing could have gone wrong. It didn't. The yarn could have gone wrong, It didn't. The knitting could have gone wrong, it didn't. I could have lost the buttons, the shoulders could have been strange, the neck could be too big (I like a big neck on baby sweaters. It's easy to overshoot), the gauge could be weird, that could be the wrong number of buttonholes... but none of those things happened and this sweater is just as it was in my mind when I started. It's a miracle. An amazing miracle. It doesn't shed, not one little bit, and it is so soft that it's going to make the baby seem like sandpaper. It's freakin' perfect and you know what else it is?
I know. I can't hardly stand it either. Darn it, it's just so perfect.
All I need now is a baby.
1. I am at the place in a book where I am working all the time. I don't mind so much, because working is the only thing that gives me any sort of relief from the overwhelming sense of doom, or creates hope that this book can ever be finished.
2. Because I am at the place in a book where I am working all the time, a few hundred tiny things (everything that is not a book or has to do with a dying family member) are a tiny little bit behind. Laundry service has been suspended, and so the outfits we're wearing are starting to be sort of abnormal in a way that we can't pass off as eccentric. They are the wrong season, ill fitting, mismatched - the occasional stain... it makes me feel pressured to take care of it, but the truth is that everyone else who lives here knows how to work the washing machine, and if they were tired of wearing the strange old underpants from the bottom of the drawer they will wash something.
3. It doesn't bother me that I look funny. I'm the sort of woman who wears clothes, not outfits, so I'm really not falling off any sort of a pedestal. I did wash the towels this morning because that seemed like a bridge too far, even for me.
4. There is a funny smell in the fridge. I only have time to smell it, not fix it, and apparently nobody else can smell it at all. I have a really acute sense of smell, so sometimes I do notice bad things before other people can, but this time I think Sam and Joe are lying because they don't want to clean out the fridge.
5. Disconcertingly, I think there is an excellent chance that the smell is the result of more than one thing.
6. The end of a book is always like this.
7. I totally finished the little angora handspun sweater. If by finished you understand that I mean the knitting part, not the finishing part - which I guess means it's not really finished but for the love of all things woolly, I beg you to let me have this small victory.
It looks like it's different kinds of fuzzy, but it won't - or, at least there's no reason for it to stay that way. Right now the body is fuzzier than the arms because it's been handled more. After a bath, all should be equal. Tomorrow I will sew the buttons on.
8. I am looking forward to the buttons more than I can say.
9. Is that pathetic? I really hope that's not pathetic.
10. On Friday I go to Colorado - and I have to have something to knit. I want something simple (because if there is one more hard thing in my life right now, I am going to start chewing on trees to take the edge off) and I am torn between figuring out something new and making a pair of nice, sturdy, stabilizing socks. Plain ones.
Thank you all for the amazing, supportive and kind comments on the last post. It's such a hard time here in so many ways, and I admit that there are days where it gets the best of me. Somewhere in losing someone, finishing a book, taking care of my family and training for the rally, I have to work hard to keep my perspective. I'm being as kind as I can to myself (and others) while acknowledging that there is a metric tonne of work to accomplish around here if I'm going to keep things from getting (more) crazy. This too shall pass, I tell myself, and I'm right. It's probably going to get replaced with something else that's crazy, but this is a really special time that's unlikely to be repeated. (If this is not true, don't tell me.) I'm optimistic today, and I'm all over owning this Monday.
First up, the state of the knitting. Knitting proceeds slowly around here, what with the number of things that I'm having to do that don't allow for it. Riding my bike? Nope. Driving? Apparently illegal. Typing? Oh, how I wish. Still, progress is progress, and even limping along as I am the wee jacket is almost finished - just a sleeve and a smidge of the body to go. (It is very hard to take pictures of this. The fuzziness makes all the shots look blurry.)
It's so little that I'd like to state with confidence that it will be finished tomorrow, but I learned my lesson yesterday when I said that, then sat down to ice my knees (really, really rough training ride yesterday) picked up my knitting and then promptly fell asleep after two stitches. When I haven't been working on the jacket, a pair of plainish socks has been coming of the needles.
It's my first go-round with Valley Yarns Huntington. (Pattern is my own, right out of Knitting Rules .) I bought it the last time I was at Webs, because I'm always on the lookout for good, plain, manly sock yarn. (This one is the fetchingly named "grey.") Gorgeous hand-paints are easy to find, but it can be a lot harder to get yarn that Joe likes. The price is definitely right on this, and it's knitting up just fine thank you. I'll be ordering more. (The stripes are leftovers from these socks, and are inserted because a) Joe has ginormous feet and I was making the grey go a little farther, and b) Holy cow are those socks boring without them. My sanity needed me to throw it a bone.)
I swear the knitting will get more interesting in the next few days - I know a plain sweater and plain socks really has to be boring the snot out of you, but I bought some great yarn I want to talk about and knit, and really, there's only so long I can put knitting on the back burner before I end up in prison. Later this week I'm planning on being in Colorado, and that's a long flight.
Before I go and attack my wordcount for the day, and before I go and touch base with everyone who needs me, and before I get back on my bike (Hill training today. Why aren't I thinner?) I wanted to recognize all of you for your generous donations. Thanks so very much guys. You're giving meaning to the ride for me, and it really does reassure me in the darker moments. You're all awesome. (Even the people who aren't able to donate. I love you for considering it.) A few presents maybe?
I'm going to do an abbreviated round today, and a few more later in the week. There are so many things to give away it makes my head reel. As always, to get in on the action, all you need to do is make a donation to anyone on our team:
The amount doesn't matter. Even tiny donations add up as fast as individual stitches, and we're grateful for all of them.
First up, your friend and mine, the Amazing Cat Bordhi is back with MORE giveaways of her digital books. Both Joyce R and Mary Kay C. will be lucky recipient of just about her entire collection of digital ebooks. That's a copy each of Socks Soar on Two Circular needles, Cat's Sweet Tomato Heel Socks, A Treasury of Magical Knitting, and A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting.
Judith Brodnicki, designer and longtime friend of the show, went into her stash and came up with some amazing things. This gorgeous skein of Schaefer Marjaana (merino/silk) 530 yards - is going to the welcoming home of Vicki K.
Judith also found this:
20 hanks (!!) of Noro Hana Silk (100% silk) More than enough for something gorgeous, and Elizabeth M will decide what that is.
This is from Judith's stash too (I am starting to want to see her stash):
10 Hanks of Nashua Creative Focus Bulky (75% wool, 25% alpaca) and I wonder what Belinda K will make with it.
Amber K has temporary custody of this beautiful top- hand dyed by Heather at Mad Colour fiber Arts.
It's merino, silk, nylon and aluminum for sparkle, and I hope that Lisa B. loves it.
Finally, Linda went into the stash to find things that other knitters would love to have, and she hit it out of the park too. (Also, may I draw attention to Linda's amazing carpet? Both white and clean. Boggles the mind.) Linda has a skein of Wollmeise Twin in Pesto
Anne F. is the lucky knitter for that.
Linda will be sending these two pretty skeins of STR Silkie in Turquoise to Marissa H.
and last (but certainly not least) Linda has decided to part with a dear ball, her beloved ArtbyAna Party Cake.
You will like knowing that Linda ordered another to replace this one as soon as she decided it was leaving. Some yarns she just can't be without, but her original is going to Ellen T.
There! That's the Monday haul. I've sent everyone who got lucky an email. Thanks for playing, see you tomorrow, I hope your Monday is amazing.
I have known for some time that I am not superwoman. I knew this of course. There's no way you can think you are superwoman while your bathroom looks like mine does, and superwoman never eats crackers for a whole day because she screwed up the grocery store thing, but it doesn't somehow stop me from trying to be. (There's a whole other blog post in there about the unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves and how we feel when we don't perform the miracles we're hoping for, but well. I'm living that now, and can't quite bring myself to write about it.)
A few weeks ago I alluded to someone I know coming to the end of their life. It's a family member, it's someone dear to us, and things have taken a turn. I'd say "a turn for the worse" but it's only worse for those of us who will be left behind. For this beloved, it's maybe a turn for the better, as a swift passing is what we all wish for in the end. I know this is vague, and I'm sorry. I really am, but I'm just not ready to put words to this, or name the person, or even slightly ready to take it out in public. You'll know when it happens, but it's too intimate and bare now.
The thing is, that when I started finding a way through this, I decided to be amazing. I thought I was the woman who could manage all of this. Training for the rally, finishing a book (oh yes- there's that happening too) and cook dinner and go to meetings and knit little angora sweaters and take out the garbage and keep being what everyone needs me to be, setting aside grief and being strong for others. It is important, I tell myself, to be effective and calm and to not count my own needs, at least not right now. Now I need to think of others, and not myself, and to spend my time doing what needs to be done, and to keep saying things like "it is what it is" and "when the time comes I will know what to do" and I have spent a great deal of time respecting the boundaries that others have set up, and being painstakingly, excruciatingly careful not to encroach on them in any way. This, I have told myself a thousand times, is not about me. This is, I assure you, who I want to be. Someone entirely in the service of others.
There's a problem though. Increasingly I find a little voice gathering strength in my belly. The voice says tiny things. It is shy, and it doesn't know how to say what it wants. The voice is saying to me that it is sort of unhappy. The voice has noticed that other people manage to be respectful, and kind, and somehow not have that mean that they practically lie down in the driveway screaming "RUN OVER ME, I LIKE IT IF THAT'S WHAT YOU NEED." The voice has noticed that other people are okay with saying that they have needs occasionally, and the voice, just as an aside, has noticed that some of these people are doing a lot less laundry. The voice wondered, late last night, if I am not about to make mistakes I will regret my entire life because I am worried about being the nicest person ever. Don't get me wrong, the voice wants to be nice, it's just thinking about all those other nice people who don't wait to be asked, and those other nice people who don't say "It's okay. Whatever you want. I'll wait." The voice is torn. The voice lacks experience. The voice possibly has been a mother too long.
This is, of course, way too intimate. This has nothing to do with knitting and I'm sorry. I know a lot of you only come here for the knitting, and I promise I am knitting (you can tell, because I am not in prison.) I'm just struggling with the line between what my family needs, what I desperately want to give them and some amazing tiny, sneaking feeling that there might be a better way to be me. I don't mind telling you that so far, 2013 has been a hot stinking pile of slag. Good things have happened, of course, but on a personal and familial level, Joe and I have gone to bed many nights thus far, holding on to each other a little, and whispered things like "we are being tested". "Be awesome" we remind each other. Be so high on the high road that your nose bleeds. Reach for compassion, especially for those who can't seem to. They need it the most. We have been (with great difficulty) very, very noble.
The thing is that as the pressure mounts, the voice has suggested that we (or maybe just me, since Joe, as usual, has more moments of clarity) are making a mistake. "Compassion?" The voice is confused about granting compassion, or rather, the voice isn't confused about compassion at all, it just wants to know why (and this question was shocking to me ) It just wants to know why we aren't putting ourselves on the list of people we are supposed to extend it to.
Tomorrow I turn 45. My mother turned 70 today, or she would have if she hadn't decided to cancel her birthday in the face of our family crisis. (It's not all bad, she points out - she gets to be in her 60's a little longer.) I'm going to cancel mine too, more or less. I just can't find it in me to celebrate another year of life when someone I know is getting robbed. I am hoping that when I wake up in the morning, a year older, and technically, well into middle age, that I will know what to say to the voice.
I'm hoping I'll be able to reconcile a love of self with a love of others, that I'll know the difference between what I want and is wanted of me, and I hope that suddenly, miraculously, fantastically, as I arise on the day of my birthday, I will know something profound, amazing and wonderful that will guide me through the maze and darkness of the days to come.
Wool help me, I hope tomorrow I wake up fully adult, and that when I do, I know what to say to the voice.
(PS. I did say I was mostly cancelling my birthday. If however, you cannot help yourself, I would like nothing more than the gift of helping others. I am going to do a hard thing to help other people doing a hard thing and to help me, I hope you do a good thing. It makes hard things easier. If you are unable to drop a a bottle of wine by my house, a donation to the rally would be the next best thing. I'm going to go for a training ride in the morning, try and watch the sun come over the lake, and hear the voice of my 45 year old self. I hope she knows what she's doing. She's in deep water.)
I'm writing this to you from a hotel room, and in almost exactly ten minutes I am going to get in the car and drive the remaining six hours home. Squam is fabulous, but cell and internet coverage are spotty, and so last night I talked with everyone at home, caught up, and realized that I am going to be hip deep in it when I get there. I know it's all doable, I'm just going to have to keep things really planned, organized, calm and beautiful to keep everyone (mostly me) moving though it all without losing it. The drive here, I let go of Squam, worked through everything I'd learned and who I'd seen and what I thought, and last night I caught up with home, and today I'm going to use this time on the road to make a really great plan for how I'm going to accomplish everything that I am over the next two weeks, and still be a smiling gracious mother who doesn't scream "are you freakin' kidding me" while smashing her forehead repeatedly off of the left side of her steering wheel.
I slept forever last night, to bed early and up a little late - for me anyway, and that was a good step one. There's something about Squam that leaves me feeling like I got hit by a truck. I don't know if it's how busy it is, or how much energy it is, or if it's the five years that I took off my life with the decision to swim in Squam Lake yesterday morning, but I was so tired that I couldn't even see straight. (The swimming in the lake thing? I swim in Squam Lake every year. Our little cabin of Canadians always does, and this year, since I ended up representing solely, I was determined. As a general rule, I don't mind swimming in cold water. I sort of feel like the only time that I might object to the temperature is if I had fallen through the ice. I was wrong. I don't know what made me think that it would be a good idea to swim in the lake after such a late spring, but I think I just about gave myself a heart attack. It wasn't the kind of cold where you get in and you can't believe it but after a minute or two you get used to the idea. This was so cold that after about two minutes in there I couldn't feel my thighs. I talked Amanda (she was my room-mate this year) into going in with me, and she was such a good sport, but after a few minutes - trying to be really cheerful and pretend everything was okay, she sort of said "This really kinda hurts, doesn't it?" and I called the game. We got out, and we'll see if she ever forgives me.)
I had a wonderful Squam, but I'm getting on the road, and turning my car and head for home. I'll have it all figured when I get there. Here's a few last looks at Squam.
Amanda on the dock. Note the sweater. Why did we go in?
Knitting teachers, spotted resting in the wild. (Franklin and John) Careful not to startle them.
A little spot I claimed for writing in our cabin.
Amanda and I enjoyed a really cozy evening in our cabin, happily knitting our own handspun bu the fire while enjoying a really decent bottle of wine. We both took versions of this picture and then realized that this is exactly how rumours get started.
(As an aside, it turns out that if you put two bloggers together at the same event, and they mostly go places together, at the end of the day they will have pretty much the same roll of pictures.)
Anne and Erica. And yarn. Which I got.
Happy knitters that I was happy to see.
Let's not even try to explain Stephen West.
It was great. I can't wait to go back.
PS. A big shout-out to Casey and Jess for finding Amanda and I when we were lost in the woods. All those trees look the same.
There's some top notch yarnbombing going on here at Squam. It's the best kind - welcome, invited and put up with a commitment to remove it all when the yarn people go - which is lovely, because this is not our place and I'd hate for us to be thought of as people doing some sort of unwelcome yarn graffiti that pissed anyone off.
I'm glad there's respect for property in this, but on some level, I just can't believe that all of this will be taken down...
because if I owned this joint...
I'd want it all forever.
Everywhere you look, another wee bit of knitter art peeks out at you.
Things you don't think are yarn at first.
I love it.
You know what else I love? These stitch markers.
Amy in Michigan sent them to me, to be Karmic Balancing gifts. I've paired them with lovely yarn from my stash, and I have them with me at Squam. To save shipping, here's how I'm going to give them away. I'll be at the Art Fair tomorrow night (it's open to the public) and the first five people who find me and tell me they're a bike rally donor - they get a present. Code phrase "the knitter casts off at midnight."
(I'm just kidding about the code phrase. Sort of.)
I'm in a hotel. Yesterday, while I managed a few deadlines, a few kids, a few jobs and a few errands, Joe caught on to my plan. My plan was, even though I'm driving to Squam by myself this year, with nobody to share the driving, I was still going to leave at 6am this morning and power through the ten hour drive, all by my lonesome. I'd made this decision to be thrifty and to have more time at home before I left. I'd also made this decision despite being really super averse to long drives alone. I think it's because there's no knitting. I listen to audiobooks to pass the time, but it's just not the same, and after a few hours I'm bored to the point of exhaustion. I get out, walk around, and drink so much coffee that by the end of the day I can totally feel my hair growing, but I still find it a lot of work to stay alert. If I'm in the car with anyone else, I can drive forever, but if it's just me, then it's about five hours before I'm loudly singing songs with the windows thrown open. (These are not any particular songs. I make up the lyrics. They usually go something like "Oh, why am I still in this ca-ar, and how long until it is ov-er! This is too far to dri-ive, and I hope I can stay a-live" Admit it. You wish you were a wordsmith like me.)
Anyway, he was somewhere in the house, upstairs while I was down, and when I told him I was going to drive the whole way today, he shouted down that he didn't think I should do that because of the Priory Mash.
"The what?" I shouted. "I should worry about the Priory what?"
"NO" he called. "The Friary Clash!" This was all starting to sound odd, but although Joe is not religious now, he was raised Catholic, and educated by Jesuits, so sometimes he says stuff about Monks and Nuns that I don't quite follow, but I still couldn't see why any Prioress or Friar would give any sort of a crap about when and how I drive to New Hampshire. Maybe it was a Holy Day of Obligation or something to do with a Saint.
"Not Priory - Friary?" I shouted. Joe shouted something very much not to do with a Holy Day, and yelled something about how he didn't want me to have something to do with a flash. I thought it was rude of him to bring that up menopause right then, and said so.
"Listen to me" he yelled. "You shouldn't drive the whole way tomorrow because I am worried you will have a DIARY TRASH!"
I went upstairs. I stood in the door of our bedroom and said "Why can't I go tomorrow? Is it something about a Monk? A rave? Did you read my journal? What are you talking about, and what does this have to do with the change?
Joe looked at me, and then repeated slowly "I do not think you should drive the whole way tomorrow, because I am worried that you will have a FIERY CRASH."
I split it into two drives. Dude has a point. He is sort of fixated on Monks though.
So much got done around here on the weekend, which is brilliant, really, since I leave for Squam this week and if I didn't get a grip on this place, I was going to end up living in a world of woeful regret. Amongst the packing and the organizing and cleaning, it struck me that if I really hustled, I could finish the angora yarn in time for it to be my project at Squam. I got up early on Sunday and worked on it, while the house was quiet, and everything was peaceful.
It didn't stay peaceful though, when I ran out of angora and proceeded to have a complete nervous breakdown, followed by a fabulous game of "I know it is here somewhere" coupled with a little "what sort of person steals angora" as I scoured the entire house looking for another bag of fibre I felt sure was here somewhere. (It was. It was even more or less where it was supposed to be. I may not have been searching efficiently.) I'm not sure if I have enough yarn for the sweater, but I've decided to chance it. If I run out I'll just... well, truthfully, I don't know what I'll do, but I'm sure it will occur to me then.
I also finished all the pieces of Afterlight, and blocked them. If all goes well, today I'll have time to sew them up (HA) and this evening I'll do the neckband (DOUBLE HA) and be done in time to take it with me. These are bold delusions, but they are all I have.
In the meantime - more Karmic Balancing gifts! A thousand thanks to the generous knitters writing me and offering lovely things. I see your emails, you're in the queue, I'm getting there - hold tight.
The first gifts are courtesy of Susan, who's sending three gorgeous skeins of Baruffa Cashwool out into the world.
One each will go to April Z, LisaDP and Loretta J. Those skeins are huge.. enough for a shawl!
Next up, Mary Jo has an amazing gift. She's not a designer and doesn't have a company, but she makes ridiculously cute knitted toys for a Childrens Hospital, and has taken the time to write up the patterns, and put together little kits as gifts.
Not only that, but the yarns are all dyed naturally with plants from her garden. Three people will receive one kit- either a fox, an owl, or a monkey.
My personal favourite is the fox, but Laurel W, Nicole T and Sarah S will work out with Mary Jo which of these darling kits will be theirs.
Next up, yarn that I love (and I mean that, it pushes all of my buttons) from Catherine at Blueberry Pie Studio.
One skein each of this really cool self striping sock yarn, called "My Box of Crayons" will be going to each of Melissa H-B and Cindy C.
Good news for Jessica P, Lolly M and Bettina, all three of them will be getting the entire Really Clear pattern collection (including patterns for 2013 that are not yet published, you'll receive them as they are released)
Cythia will be in touch to find out if you would like them as paper, or digital copies. Thanks Cynthia!
More? Sure! Dani at KSC Designs is donating a needle roll. (Love her stuff.)
Not just any roll, oh no. Lynne W will be choosing what kind of needle it will hold, and what fabric it will be, lucky duck.
One more? Why not.
That there is a beautiful skein of hand dyed sock yarn, and Kevin (who's the lovely dyer) is going to mail it to Arianne G.
Ok, I lied. Three more. Maureen has, bless her generous little heart, offered any or all of her patterns to three knitters.
Her patterns are, by the way, totally fabulous (those are the Swirl Socks. Personal favourite) as I'm sure that Heidi S, Jessica F and Sheeri C will discover.
There you go! Thanks to everyone for donating, and if you're looking for a way to get a piece of this action, all you need to do is donate (any amount, I know we all do our best) to any rider on our team.
You'll get an email from us about how to enter. (Although it can take a few days.) If you've donated but not got instructions, just email me. I'll fix it. There are still weeks and many gifts to go.