July 30, 2013


We're halfway to Montreal. Today's the day we rode into Kingston, and it's our shortest day, which is super crazy awesome because yesterday was the longest day and it was really, really long.

Two things are great about today. First, it's red dress day.

And it's the day that when we arrive, my mum and Auntie Yvonne feed us, and we get an afternoon of rest.

Me? I'll be napping in a minute.

I've been sleeping in a tent and bathing in a lake for a few days.
So far so good, though we are very, very tired and sore, and yesterday the generator broke and there was no coffee and it was a very near thing to the abyss. We rode 80 km BEFORE we had coffee, and I don't want to talk about how unbelievable that was. We rode another 50 after a cup, and it was like being reborn.

Tonight we have team dinners, and sleep in real beds at the dormitories at Queens University, and in the morning, Montreal or bust. Three more days!

Thanks for your amazing support. We check often, and it keeps us going. Well, that and coffee.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:08 PM

July 28, 2013

The Day it Starts

It's early in the morning.  About 5:30, when I started typing this.  I'm sitting at my desk drinking coffee, and in a few minutes I'll go and put on my official bike rally jersey, and my ridiculous spandex shorts, and fill them full of the cream that's supposed to prevent soreness, and I'll strap on my cycling shoes, and I'll head out the door and ride to Queen's Park. That's where the rally starts. 

I think I've done everything I'm supposed to do. I feel like I trained a lot, I feel like I know my bike better - and I think that's obvious because I'm not a walking scab like I was last year. Overall, I feel more prepared and more ready and that's why I'm surprised to feel the knot of fear at the bottom of my tummy.  I thought that knowing what it was like would make me less nervous, not more, but here you have it.

Jen and I were talking the other night about how the thing with the rally is that it's expensive. Not just expensive financially - although it really is that. The bike, the shoes, the shorts... there's a ton of stuff you have to pay for. Then there's the time. If you work for someone else, the bike rally is a week of vacation time that you're giving up, and if you're self-employed it's a week you have to save for, and that doesn't even count all those mornings that Jen and I went riding for hours before work, and it doesn't count all the weekends where one, or even both of the days went to riding.  It doesn't count the meetings, and it doesn't count the time spent fundraising, and it doesn't count the time soaking in an epsom salt bath because you're 45 and this is crazy.

Then there's how it's expensive in terms of family.  This is all time away from our families, away from our responsibilities, away from our children and spouses,  and those job and relationships don't just disappear. My Joe and Jen's Jason have stepped up to the plate in amazing ways, supporting us, covering for us and doing some of our jobs (and for the next week - all of them) so that Jen and I can do this. We've done our best to make it up to them, but... well. It's expensive. 

I'm not even ready to talk about how expensive it is physically and emotionally and spiritually, because on no level is this much riding comfortable. Let's leave it there. Last year I remember crying in my tent at night a few times, and once or twice on my bike, and when it was over last year I collapsed for two days and wasn't right for a week. 

At some point, while a woman is sitting at her desk, drinking coffee and getting ready to wrestle herself into a sports bra and spandex to ride 660km - all while pondering how expensive its been and is going to be, you have to wonder why she's doing it.

That part is easy, I think.  I'm doing it because I believe in the cause, because I believe in real, decent help for people with AIDS that's delivered with respect, and I think that PWA does that better than anyone else. I can tell you that I think that it's good for my daughters to see their mum engaged in a big thing, and putting her effort (and money) where her mouth is. I'm doing it because I've seen what can happen when we engage the most powerful community that anyone has ever seen, and that's you, and I'm so grateful, and I'm so amazed every time I see what you all can accomplish, and I'm just so unbelievably proud of our community of knitters. Every time knitters come through this way, I love how it shocks people, forces them to break down their stereotypes and think of us in another way, and really... is there anything more appropriate for a ride like this?

I can admit, too, that I do this because I am a sucker for an epic. There is something amazing, wondrous and stunning about watching a lot of people come together to make something happen, and tomorrow I'll leave Toronto with more than 400 other people, and we'll all sweat and strain our way to Montreal, and we'll be so dirty, and so tired and so proud of each other, but it will be something not many people get to accomplish, and that's worth it in a way all its own. 

I am 45 years old. I am not an athlete, I am not remarkable in very many ways that my friends, family and peers are not.  I am a writer, and a mother, and a knitter, and tomorrow, I am going to start doing something amazing, and the only reason that it counts for anything is because you guys got behind me.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Me riding my bike to Montreal does nothing to get money to PWA. Nothing. You guys are the heroes here, and I'm so impressed that I can't tell you.
Right now,  my fundraiser tally comes in as the 2nd highest of all time.  The only person who has ever beaten me, was me - last year, and today I explained to about seventy people that it's not me.  It's you.

It's not my fundraising. It's ours, and you guys are amazing. Knitters are amazing, and what we do when we pull together is something people can't ignore, and it changes the world.  Thank you for everything.  I'm going go try and earn the faith you've put in me.

A little housekeeping.

- I haven't forgotten about prizes, there are still a ton to give away, but I can't do it until I come back.  I'm sorry. I ran out of time when I tried to do 30 hours of things in only 24.  I won't forget.

- I know one of you will ask - last year my tally by the end was $60 000.  I started riding with $50 000 in the can, and you guys blew me away all week. My goal for this year was $50k, and we're there. Everything from here is gravy, although gravy for a good cause, and wouldn't it be nice to beat last years? Just saying - although I'm grateful, fulfilled and thrilled.  My goal is totally met.  None of that stops you from sending the link to your friends though, and besides, it's just so much fun to watch the bike rally leaders try to figure it all out.
Donate here.

- Yup. Yarn on my bike. Yarn on Jen's bike too.

- A few of you have asked about our route. Details are here and YES PLEASE, to coming out to cheer us on.  Be aware that we can't often stop, but the signs by the side of the road and random knitter sightings last year blew me away and one particularly difficult afternoon, was just about all that kept me on my bike. 

- I've set up my phone so that I can blog from the road, if I can. I'm on Instagram too and twitter,  if you want to follow me there.  Sometimes that's the easiest way for me to  update quickly.

- I love all of you. I mean that, and I'm not just saying it because I'm scared.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:09 AM

July 27, 2013

Test #2

This is another test of a different remote blogging system. If this has worked, you'll see me, Jen, Ken and Pato at packing day.

If you don't see it, I'll keep trying.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:14 PM


This is a test of the remote blogging system. If it has worked, you will see a cute selfie of me, Jen, Ken and Pato.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:43 PM

July 24, 2013

With a New Lightness

Monday, right after I posted, I jumped in the car and drove for Midland. It's not too far, and within a few hours I was on the ferry to Christian Island. (I have given myself two life points because for the first time ever, I backed onto the tiny ferry myself. (When I run the world there all ferries will be the kind you drive onto, and drive off of. Who makes a ferry with only one gate?) I landed, drove off - and I was there.

(Christian Island is Beausoleil First Nation land. All the signs reflect that. Noogbisan does seem like a lot to yell in an emergency though.)

Fifteen minutes later, I had my feet in Georgian Bay. Ten minutes later than that, I was swimming past the drop-off (because I am not a chicken like my sister) and then  I set up my office,

and worked for a bit (yeah, I can see I need to clean my screen)  then we watched the sun set, and had a great sleep. It was beautiful, and that was good, because the next day...

Rain. Rain and rain and freezing cold, and wind like you wouldn't believe and that made it easy to sit down at my laptop, finish the book.  It was a little sad not to be able to go out and enjoy the lake - because I really, really love swimming in the lake, but at least the weather  made the out of doors easy to resist. I worked and worked, and then all of a sudden, it was done. The book was all finished. I had no internet, so I couldn't send it in, but I hit save, and then backed it up to a thumbdrive (in case my computer exploded) and then I put the thumbdrive in the car - and the laptop in the cottage, so that if the car exploded or the cottage burned down I would still have a copy.

Then we had dinner and played 47 hands of Rummy. That was it. I've always thought that when I finish a book, there should be something that happens. It should trigger fireworks or a 21 gun salute or something, something more than a bunch of hands of Rummy on a rainy day. (I didn't even win. My sister was KILLING IT. She won practically every hand. I don't know how she does it.)  Yesterday the weather was a bit better, but still too cold and windy to swim. I set up the tent to make sure I had all the pieces, and to make sure that the air mattress I got fits in the tent. 

(I love that in this photo my mum appears to be looking at that tent like no sane person would sleep in it.)

I told Jen I was going to posh up the inside of our tent. We're too old to suffer on crappy little mats, so our tent is going to have wall to wall air mattress. At least that was my plan.  It worked though. 

I can't believe that a big air mattress is all it takes to make Jen and I think that the whole tent experience is practically the Ritz. With my wool as my witness, we are going to be sleeping right on this thing.  Once I had that checked, I folded it all up,   drove home, emailed the book in, and staggered around like a zombie until it was time for our team fundraiser on the rally.  Meg, a very nice knitter on a layover from Vancouver to Prince Edward Island (Is that right? I might be making that up) showed up for a little bit, on her way across the country.  (Isn't that nice? Really, really nice. You can tell by looking at her that she's nice. She's a little blurry, which might be my photographic skills, or maybe the fact that she's on a layover.) 

We had a wonderful time, and at the end of the night, I looked at one of the tickets for the event, and it hit me.

86 hours and counting - although that's not right anymore, now it's about 66 hours, and there's still so much to do. The packing, the organizing - I need to find Pato a red dress (and as I said to him, I wonder how often I'll write that on a post it note) I need batteries, I need a way to charge my mobile... I need camp chairs that fold to less than 32", I need a hockey bag... still so much to do... Including prizes!  While I spin out, trying to pull together the last of it, here's gifts for you all.

Sarah, the lovely Martini Knitter, living in Switzerland, has dug deep into her stash and come up with some really lovely things she would like to share. First:

This Rowan Extra Fine Merino Dk, now it belongs to Tracie N. 
Sarah has more, in a lovely cream. (That screams baby sweater to me, but I have babies on the mind.) 

I don't know what Judith G will make, but I bet it will be nice.
Erin SC has scored a really pretty silk/wool blend.

Stephanie L got this Rowan Pure Wool DK in Blue...

and Nancy A, got it in a navy.

Julia R will be figuring out what to do with this pretty yarn:

Katie B gets a skein of Dream in Color and a pattern to go with,

and last, but certainly not least, Judith G will be warmly embracing three balls of Rowan felted tweed.  (Great yarn.)

Three cheers for Sarah, and her miraculous stash!

Last but certainly not least, a wonderful gift from Amy Hertzog. She's offering a copy of her new book Knit to Flatter

and this, from Amy:

"Knit to Flatter is about helping you get sweaters you love to wear. All hand knitting sweater patterns are basically ready-to-wear clothing instructions: So, anyone with a "quirk" or two (i.e. everyone) will probably have to make a few changes to get a sweater that suits them perfectly. I'll do a personal consultation with the recipient of this gift to identify a sweater that fits their style, and then step through all of the details (and any math) required to produce a perfectly-fitting sweater they adore."

Amy's a friend of mine, and I can tell you that consultation is worth it's weight in gold. I hope that Sara B enjoys it.

More tomorrow, for now, I'm off to find Pato a dress.

Posted by Stephanie at 8:52 AM

July 22, 2013

Almost There

 This week is epic. The book is due, I leave with the rally on Sunday, and if I think about that stuff too much, I get a tight feeling in my chest that I know is the knot of anxiety around all that, and that knot is unhelpful, and in this case, just plain wrong. I'm am kicking ass and taking names and last week when my Mum and Erin decided to go North to the cottage, I lamented that I couldn't go. There's no internet there, there's no cell phone, and I don't know if I've told you this, but writers on book deadlines are horrible, horrible people.  My whole family knows it, and my mum actually told me that I shouldn't go up there, not if I was going to be "like that."

I tried to give up, and accept that I just wasn't going to be going, and then I got an idea. What if I could finish enough of the book that I wasn't "like that"? What if I could head up there with things pretty much wrapped up, with just a little left do do, or maybe even on the final read-through?  Maybe I could go for just a day or two?  Maybe I could do some rally stuff there... air out the tent?

I decided that if I worked like a lunatic, gave up just about every free minute I had, I might be able to earn my way to the cottage. I set a word count goal, and I kept my eyes on the prize. Me, sitting on the sand of Georgian Bay, finishing the book before I went for a swim to the big rock. I've been pressing on for days, and then yesterday, a minor miracle.  I have only one essay left to work on, the rest of the book is sorted and ready for the last read, and I smashed my word count goal to smithereens.  It was spectacular. It was like fireworks and today as soon as I finish up the work I have to do, I'm heading off. I'll finish this book there, and then come home Tuesday night or Wednesday to attend our team fundraiser* and be ready to ride with Jen on Thursday and pack and get ready to go to Montreal - the long way.

I can see the finish line, and it's going to be such a relief. There's only a little internet up there - I'll try to post tomorrow with a bunch of Karmic Balancing gifts - now that we're in the home stretch there's going to have to be a bunch of them if I'm going to get them all given away.  I wanted to take a second to thank all of you for the amazing support you've shown all of us. This whole year has been such a challenge, and not always the best kind, but the rally... the rally is the best sort of challenge and I'm so proud to take part in it and even more proud that I represent all of you and your amazing generosity. People don't know what knitters are like, and it is my exquisite pleasure to be able to show them.  I point at what you've donated, watch their mouths fall open, and I watch as they wonder why their golf buddies haven't done the same.  You're amazing. Every one of you, and I'm so, so grateful. 

See you tomorrow, or Wednesday - and thanks for everything. I don't know if it's the joy I feel that the book is almost done, or the adrenaline from being so close to the Rally, or maybe it's the crazy level of sleep deprivation + caffeine that I'm rocking right now, but I am crazy in love with all of you. 

PS: If you felt so moved, the pages to donate to us are here:


*There's a fundraiser for the team at a pub here in Toronto on Wednesday evening. Tickets are $25, there will be food, there will be really great door prizes, and there will be entertainment, not the least of which are speakers from PWA and two of my three daughters performing a ukulele version of (amongst others) "Hey Ya" which really, really shouldn't be missed.  All proceeds go to the riders on our team taking part in organizing the thing.  If I know knitters are coming, there will be yarn door prizes too.  If you're in town, and you'd like to have a bit of fun for a great cause, email me. I'll hook you up. 

Posted by Stephanie at 11:21 AM

July 19, 2013

Oh, They're In There

Remember my to-do list? The one that required 20 rounds to be knit on Pretty Thing?

There they are. That there, my knitter friends is 42  rounds.  What's that you say? You can't see them? Well they're there. The first 20 were knit, and then I started thinking that the gauge was wrong. Well, that's not true, technically.  Technically I started thinking that the gauge was wrong on round 2, but why stop while you're thinking about it?  Not this knitter. No, no - I kept knitting. I kept knitting until I had 24 rounds, and then I ripped them all out and started again.

Things went pretty well for the first 7 rounds of the third attempt (oh, sorry - did I not mention the second attempt? The one where I beautifully executed the "not quite long enough tail cast on"?  I specialize. I'm very good.)  On round 7 of the third attempt, I established the lace.

On round 8, I realized that I had done no such thing, and instead of ripping, I tinked back, found the place where I'd slammed in an extra yarn-over, fixed it, and knit on.  I knit on, that is, until the end of row 8 (again) when I realized that the lace was correct,  however the total number of stitches was completely wrong.

Attempt number four, I made it to round 4, realized that the gauge was still crap, and ripped back again. Now I'm on the fifth attempt, and I have knit 6 rounds, and that means the math goes like this.

24 + 8 - 1 + 1 + 4 + 6 = 42

42 is way more than 20, and I don't care if most of them are invisible rounds. I'm totally leaving it crossed off on my list. Damn straight, and screw you, knitting.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:39 PM

July 18, 2013

Re: Yesterday, From the Comments

A small collection of replies, answers and thoughts, upon reading the comments.

I'm glad the first item on the list is drink coffee. That sounds like a wise plan.

Damn straight it was. I'm 11 days away from the Rally and 7 days away from submitting a manuscript. The house is littered with empty coffee cups and the other day when I was in the shop where I buy coffee (and I was buying more coffee) the cashier asked me if I was "Ok."  That item got crossed off.

"Extra water shoes"? I understand extra biking shoes, but water shoes? Does the bike rally route include stream crossings this year?
-Carrie in northern NY

You have no idea how fast I would be out of this rally if there was stream crossings. Portaging a bike is not anyway that this knitter's going to be spending her time. I need the water shoes because (and I can't believe I'm willing to be part of anything that works like this- and in my defense, I did not totally get it when I signed up) there aren't really any showers for several days while we're travelling. There's lakes though, and we swim in those to cool off and clean up enough that people can't smell the rally coming from kilometres away. (We get to stay in the dormitories at Queens University halfway through. Real beds! Warm showers!)  A few of the beaches are rocky, ergo - water shoes. Extra water-shoes because I have mine but Jen doesn't and I was going to see if I could find an extra pair in the camping box.  I didn't -still, crossed it off. 

What's a spork?
-Several People

It's a spoon/fork hybrid that you use when you're camping so you don't need to pack so many utensils. Because, you know, carrying both a spoon and a fork would be exhausting.  Turns out it's also "a colorful and foul-mouthed feature musical comedy" directed and written by J.B. Ghuman Jr.  I will be taking the former - and I did find it - in the Basement, which Joe did vacuum. Crossed off.

You finished the big 100k rides and had some ice wine to celebrate! The list shows me its down to the final wrap-up and pack (wow!!) and you've finished knitting something but it's not blocked so you can't show us but you've started something lacy with a lovely, soft cashmere/silk. How far off am I?
- Kelly H

Shockingly close, actually. Jen and I did indeed finish our back-to-backs (220km in two days) and we did celebrate, but that's vinho verde - not ice wine. Vinho Verde is a slightly carbonated young wine from Portugal. Low alcohol, light tasting and perfect for summer - and boy was it summer. Those rides were like traversing the surface of a star. Brutally hot. Yes, the list does include the final wrap-up and pack, and I didn't finish knitting something, but I did start something anyway, but that's not quite cashmere/silk.. but it's close.  Actually Kelly, you might have just been right about the rides.

But I'd really, really like to know what that gorgeous, shiny yarn on the gold needles resting on the green thingamabob is made from, and what it's being knitted into.
- Ted

Of course you would, isn't it lovely?  It's even prettier in person, if that's possible, and it should be. That's Windy Valley Muskox yarn, Royal Blend, a 50/50 blend of Qiviut/silk, and it's so delicious that it is impossible to do anything other than smile the whole time you knit with it. I had one little ball (in natural) that I've been saving.  It's been sitting on my desk for a good long time now, where I can pat it on bad days, and I've been waiting for the perfect project. It's time came the other day when I decided to make a little something to auction at our team pub fundraiser. (It's Wednesday night, btw, if you're in town and you'd like to come, drop me a line.)  I wanted to make something that even non-knitters would think was special, so this little ball is becoming a Pretty Thing.  I'm enjoying knitting it up, and it couldn't be for a better cause, but I'll miss that little ball. 

Pretty Thing's a fast pattern, only about 61 rounds (and takes less than 150m - so perfect for expensive yarns.) If I do 20 rounds per day, I'll have it done in three days. (Noted, on the list as PT twenty rounds. Done, except that I might rip it out and go down a needle size. Best not to think about it.)

"thesis - get one" cracked me right up.
- Mary Heather

Yeah. It was funnier for me after I got one, but I did, so that's struck through as well.

To sum the list up - for those of you who thought it was code:  I drank coffee and found my spork while Joe shopvac'ed the basement. I wrote the blog (sort of, upgrade notwithstanding) and edited the M essay (M for the title) and thank wool, while I did, a much needed thesis for the piece emerged. I looked for the extra water shoes for swimming, and did the final read through on an essay tentatively titled Immunity to dirt. (Hence, IM on the list, which indeed stood for immunity, and not "I'm dirt" but thanks for worrying that I was having a crisis of self esteem and felt the need to note it on a list.)

LB is my editor, and I needed to email her and find out when she needs the manuscript back after she edits it, because I wanted to make sure I put it in the calendar. (Cal.)  I had to order a pair of cycle socks - because it turns out that my shrimpy little feet don't fit into the ones I got very well. (Being a knitter has spoiled me. I expect my socks to fit, dammit.)  I did twenty rounds on the Pretty Thing (although I pulled back four - I fixed an error and didn't like how it looked)  I made an appointment with my optometrist, and I did not vacuum the living room, which perhaps we should have all expected, considering that I didn't give enough of a crap to even spell it right.   I talked to Erin about her fundraising item, and finally, I blew up the mattress to make sure it doesn't leak and Jen and I aren't left sleeping on rocks.  Today I'm putting up the tent and making sure that works too.

See? Not so crazy at all, and I crossed it all off too, except for the vacuuming, and I don't think we can expect me to care too much about that, which is good, because I don't.  Gift?  I can do that.  

Today's gift is a rally special one. Rowan is a handweaver, and she makes some beautiful scarves.  Like this one -

and this one

and this one.

See how amazing she is?  Her very generous gift is not one of these scarves, it's a custom scarf.  One very lucky person will be choosing the colours and talking to Rowan about what they would like, and then Rowan is going to weave it, just for them.  That person is Angelia R, and I hope she's as thrilled as I would be.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:14 PM

July 17, 2013

I have never been more right

Have I ever mentioned how I feel about upgrades? SURE I HAVE. I know I have. I know that I have explained many, many times about how I think that upgrade is a confusing name for something that always makes things worse before it makes it better, if it ever does. I am experienced in the ways of upgrades. I understand how they work, and as a result of that experience and my more than adequate intelligence, I avoid them as much as possible. Sure, this means I'm running some antiquated stuff around here, but it works dammit, and I don't see any reason to change.  Ken, on the other hand, my best friend and the tech guy who keeps this blog running, he has other concerns, and so eventually he'll just upgrade something. Just do it, and by the time it's over it's over and I just handle whatever happens and that's what happened last night. Ken upgraded the blog (now it's probably only five years behind) and then I went and wrote a really great post for you, and it was so good.  I loved it - you would have too, if when I went to put the pictures in, the whole thing hadn't frozen, crashed, eaten the entry and generally laughed itself silly.

It took a few minutes and a phone call to Ken, but it turns out that after he does whatever thingie he did, there was a whatchamacallit that I'm supposed to do, and I know that, because he told me last time, but I forgot because I'm a knitter, not a computer geek, dammit.  It's done now, and I fixed it and now I can post pictures but I don't have time to re-write the entry - so you know what? Here's the pictures.

I give up.  The upgrade beat me, and now you'll have to entertain yourselves. You tell me what those pictures say to you. 

Knitter out.

(PS, the one part that I am going to do over is this: Today's prize.  Three skeins of FiberShed yarn, a gorgeous worsted weight 100% alpaca, courtesy of Therese and Charlie over at Salt City Fiber Works.

They'd like it to go live with a knitter, and the random number generator picked Susan O. Thanks to everyone!)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:25 PM

July 12, 2013

All's quiet on the Western

All's quiet on the Western front. I'm writing this to you from the back garden of my house where there is blissful silence.  It's actually so quiet next-door at the renovation site, that for about 2.6 seconds I considered texting my neighbours (who have - very intelligently, fled the country for the worst of this) and telling them that if their contractor is billing them for today, he'd be a liar, but then some other part of me asked why I don't ever want to be happy and keep ruining on opportunities for joy, and so I got a cold drink, put my feet up in the sunshine and let it go.

A big part of the book gets put to bed today, and soon the days left to work on it will be in the single digits. It's such a crazy time. I sort of think that writers don't belong in public at the best of times - but writers on deadline? We're horrible, awful human beings who only care about one thing. If I had a dollar for every time in the last few weeks that I've told someone that I can't do something because I am writing a book, I would be able to have a renovation like the one next door. If you gave me another dollar for every time I said it resentfully while implying that my book is the most important thing that could possibly be happening in the world, then I'd get a renovation like the one next door, and I'd be getting a contractor who showed up on a Friday. 

It's almost done, and I can't wait, and I'm so happy that the rally's almost done for this year too. I don't know what's making the training so much harder to face this year (yes I do, I just didn't want to mention the book again) but it's been a challenge that I'm anxious to finish. Tomorrow and Sunday Jen and I will do our back-to-backs.  It's two days in a row that you ride a century, and it's a training landmark that I live in fear of  - which makes no damn sense, because the rally itself is six centuries. Jen and I had originally decided that when the time cam for the back-to-backs, we would make it nice, because we are smart.  We would ride a hundred kilometres away, then stay at a B&B for the night. One with a hot tub, and a swimming pool and we would go for a beautiful dinner and have this fabulous sleep and then ride the other hundred home the next day.

Unfortunately, that's not what we're going to do, because it turns out that we are completely delusional lunatics with families and full time jobs and people who depend on us and one of us is still nursing a bit and the other one is writing a book and a few days ago we came to our senses and pulled ourselves the hell together. Now we're getting up early tomorrow morning, bolting 100k as quickly as we can, and getting home in time to finish work and make dinner and the next day we'll repeat it. Done. Whammo.  After that, the training tapers off, because we're so close to leaving. From here on, it's about just maintaining our fitness and "seat worthiness" (which is a nice way of saying that your bum doesn't complain too much about hours in the saddle) and that means that crap like last Sunday never needs to happen again. (I'm still not over last Sunday. It rained so hard on us and we were so wet that every time I sat on my bike seat, it squeezed all the water out of the padding in my bike shorts and sent a flood down my legs and into my shoes. By the time I got home my feet were these little white prunes. It was pitiful. I really hope it doesn't rain on the Rally.)

Until something gives around here, knitting and I are continuing our clandestine, sneaky relationship. Being with my knitting right now feels like having an affair - we meet quietly, when no-one is looking, and I take my satisfaction quickly and slink off, all while hoping that my editor doesn't find out that we were together.  (Actually, I think the editor is onto us.)  I can't wait for us to be together.

Soon my pretty. Soon.

A few gifts? You bet. How about this lovely thing?

It's a handmade tree of life pendant from Wren, who's really very talented, and I hope that  Eileen G thinks it's as lovely as I do. 

Everybody know Jaala, from Knitcircus? She's doing these sock yarn gradience  things,  two matching balls of sock yarn that change colour over the course of the ball? I think they're great.

and Jaala has chosen two sets, one each to Angela W, and Natasha G.

Enjoy your weekend everyone. I'll be on my bike.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:20 PM

July 11, 2013

Just smash it some more

My very nice next door neighbours are renovating.  A great big renovation that started this week and will continue for four months and involves them essentially lopping the back of their house off, and digging out this big hole and .. have I mentioned that we share a semi-detached? As we speak there is a guy, or maybe it's fifteen, I can't tell, smashing on the wall of what is their kitchen, and my kitchen/office. 

It's making me want to eat rocks. The noise, the shaking the drilling, and I'm trying to be big about it because heaven knows that they set this up in the nicest way possible. They really did.  Our neighbours let us know it was happening, showed us the plans, introduced us to the crew, made sure I had the architects phone number, and other than the fact that this renovation is going to make our house look like some sort of old hovel stuck to their beautiful home (It's going to be like their house has a wart)  we are really, really delighted with the considerate way they're handling this. We'd ask the same thing of them if we were renovating, and I'd hope we would be as sweet about it. I'm so happy for them, or at least I'm trying to be, because right now I keep wishing it would rain a little just so that they would have to shut off the saw.   

My dishes are rattling in the cupboards, the cat's right on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and this morning when Joe said it wasn't anywhere near as bad as he thought it was going to be, I almost asked him to hold my coffee while I called a divorce attorney. Joe doesn't work from home. He listens to it for an hour in the morning and then heads off to the studio, leaving me to wonder if the demolition would go faster if I went over tonight with a sledgehammer and relieved a little stress.

I've never been good at this kind of thing.  I don't like upset, I don't like loud noises, and I knew straight up that this was exactly the kind of thing that was going to turn me into the kind of person who screams things over the fence, so today, just as soon as I finish writing to you, I'm going to go to the pub with my laptop because I'm sure it's quieter, and even if it's not, at least there's beer.  Although I'm going to write and edit (today I'm writing an essay about my dentist) I'm taking my sock, because I'd forgotten how much progress I can make on a project just doing a little bit here and there.  Every time I have stop typing and think, I'm doing a round to take the edge off, and it's adding up pretty fast. 

Orange and red added since yesterday, and soon I'll start the heel, and I know I've told you before, but I'm going to say it again, I love self patterning yarn.  I love the way you can mark your progress, I like that with a little bit of care and neurotic behaviour you can make them match perfectly, and I will go to my grave insisting that it is faster to knit than a plain multicoloured yarn that doesn't make a pattern. Ever notice? It's like it flies off the needles - although this time I'm using another scale, because of the way the book is ruining my knitting time dedication I have to my work. 

The sock isn't the only thing that's limping along... the Nadira shawl is coming along beautifully. 

You can't tell by looking there, but it's quite a bit larger than last time you saw it, and I know it just looks like a green blob. Use your imagination.  Slow and steady wins the race, and even though I can only manage a row or four in the evening before I'm asleep holding my knitting,  it's still forward movement.  I'm all the way to chart four, and five is looming on the horizon. Very exciting, if in somewhat slow motion.

You know what else is exciting? Today's presents. 
Diane over at The Knotted Bag has a beautiful gift.

According to our good friend Mr. Random Number Generator, it is destined to be with Mary S.  I hope she likes it.

Remember Aubrey at Goodies Unlimited? She's a kind of nice that just doesn't quit, because she's back this week offering four more knitters $25 gift certificates, complete with free shipping. 

Amy N,  Jennifer C, Emma B and Rita S, enjoy! (If you need a hint about what to get, ask me.  I have favourites.) 

All right. I'm off to the pub. I'm pretty sure the guys next door just ran a herd of cattle through a wall to knock it down - at least that's what it sounded like from here, and me and the sock are going to go get a little peace, quiet and beer while we put another chunk of the book to bed.  What are you going to do?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:59 PM

July 10, 2013

Random Wednesday

1. With my wool as my witness I meant to keep the good times rolling this week and totally nail another five days of blogging but I'm so close to the end of the book that I keep falling down that particular hole, and not really being able to climb out.  It could be a lot worse - I've experienced manuscript endings where it's almost impossible to climb into the hole and stay there even if I stood at the brink and threw myself in wholesale, so I'll take this.  Head down, working hard, it feels like I'm making a strong finish to a book I like a whole lot.

2. Knitting is happening here, although slowly, slowly. I'm knitting just enough to be sane, and I've been advised a few times in the last few days that I might want to up the dose.

(Yes. I totally screwed with the foot length so that both the heel and toe would be purple. Yes, I totally think that's normal. No. I don't know who they will fit anymore.)

I can't tell you how happy I would be to oblige.  I've started a list on my desk of all the things I'm going to knit in a few weeks when the book and rally are over. It's going to be a yarn party of epic proportions. It's going to be the kind of knitting party where if it wasn't a knitting party, someone would call the cops for a noise complaint. The kind of party where you find strangers asleep in your garden the next day. The kind of party where you have to keep telling your slightly berserk neighbour to keep putting his shirt back on and that you're not into bongs. The kind of party where the next day, when you return all the empties, you can buy groceries with all the money. That sort of a knitting party my friends, and I can't wait.

3. I have ice on my knees.  I'll tell you about the ride on Sunday tomorrow when my knees hurt less and my attitude is better. It rained. 

4. It rained on Monday too, and thanks so much for the emails and tweets of concern.  Yeah, it was wild.  Completely wild.  Around suppertime, the whole sky went black - like nighttime, and then the rain started, and Joe and I kept standing there looking at it saying over and over "I've never seen anything like it."  It turns out we were right, there had never been anything like it.  Never before.  In just about an hour, Toronto got 129mm of rain (that's about 5 inches, for my American friends.)  There's a great video here on the CBC if you want to see what happened.  Our street got off pretty lucky, I had a wet basement, but not a flooded one, and we've had issues with the phone and power, and we're still in the rolling blackout zone for today, because the power grid is too damaged to make enough right now.  One of the hydro stations was under about 7 metres (20 feet) of water.  Like most Torontonians (or at least the ones with a soul - don't get me started on the young, fit, healthy guy down the street - his A/C is blasting and he's not even home) we're conserving as much power as we can to try and make it all go around.  My sister's restaurant flooded, but just the downstairs, she's got ongoing power issues though, and my mum had water cascade in her side door and down to the basement, but not too much. Stoplights are still out, the subway is not quite all the way running again, some roads are still closed and it will be a while before Jen and I ride the Humber Trail again, on account of I'm not sure it's still there (the rail is the side of the bike trail in that shot) but overall, we were lucky. 

5. I've thought about going to the trail to look, but as long as the water is high and there's rain in the forecast, I'm not going anywhere near the place. Those flash floods scared the crap out of me.

6. It is this time of year again. We are inundated. Anybody have a really, really easy solution? They're Montmorency cherries, (those are sour ones) and the neighbours are stealing them, but not fast enough. 

7. Want some presents?  Sure you do.  Today's gifts are courtesy of Liz, who went into her stash to see how she could spread a little joy and good karma, and show you all how much she loves you, and look what she found!

Four skeins of Alp Natural Feza (10% Linen, 10% Silk, 40% Cotton, 40% Viscose 100g/230 yards)  They're going to live with Teresa L.

Two skeins of Araucania Ruca Multi (100% Sugar Cane 100g/263 yards each) that Liz will wing to Shelly W.

Anne M will get a nice package. Artyarns Handpaint Stripes 100% Merino,
Elsebeth Lavold - Designer's Choice Angora. Very pretty.

Cascade Eco Duo, Alpaca/merino - enough for Kristine R to make something really nice. (That looks like two different colours, but it's not.)

Cascade Yarns Pima Silk, and I think that Brooke B will be able to make a summer top.

Sally M will be enjoying Liz's gift of Lana Grossa Coccinella.

Someone who forgot to give me their name, but who's email starts with "harvest" is getting six balls of  Louisa Harding Jasmine  (Cotton/bamboo/silk)

Svetlana S, will be enjoying three skeins of  Madelinetosh Tosh DK. (I love this yarn to pieces.)

- and the last, but certainly not the least to enjoy Liz's generosity will be Jami C, who will make something that I will wish I had, from  Plymouth Yarns Mushishi.

I've emailed everyone who's name came up. Thanks so much to Liz for the Karmic Balancing gifts, and to everyone who has donated, is donating, or even wishes they could donate, but can't.  You've given me, Jen, Ken and Pato two amazing things. The ability to help other people, and the chance for us to experience something that never gets old.  When other people on the rally ask us how we're raising so much money, and how it's even possible, we get to look them in the eye and say "Knitters, man.  You don't know what they're like."

The look on their faces is worth falling off my bike for.

If you'd like to be included in the draws for the Karmic Balancing gifts, it's easy. Just make a donation of any amount (we know everybody does the best they can) to anyone on our little team of knitters.


PS. I think I'm going to try and give away a gift or two every day now, instead of big clumps, it's a little easier for me to keep track of.

PPS. Our actual team leads this year are Andy and Brandon, and even though  they're not (yet)  knitters, they're really nice guys who have made an amazing commitment to the rally and its cause, and neither of them have made their fundraising goals yet - not for lack of trying. I'm going to give them a little shout out here and tell you they could use a little knitter love too. If you donate to them today, shoot me an email and let me know (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and I'll include you for the presents.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:25 PM

July 5, 2013

Making Friday a Little Better

Here's to Friday! Frankly, it's never been my favourite day of the week, but I hear that a lot of people are fans.  Me? I like Thursday.  You know the weekend is coming, and you've broken the back of the thing, but you still have time in your week to believe you're going to get it all together. Thursday is a hopeful day - and less pressure than a full-blown Friday.  Anybody want some presents?  Behold. This weeks round of Karmic Balancing Gifts, from business and knitters who want to spread a little love around.  (If you're one of the 16 knitters who's name I drew this morning, then there will be an email from me in your inbox.)

First up, Janelle went into her stash and looked for great presents that could be re-homed in the name of Karma.  She came up with so much that if I were keeping a list called "People I would rob if I wanted yarn" list, I would put her at the top. (But I am not making a list like that. You shouldn't either. It's wrong.)

She found this great summer yarn, 10 balls of Amerino, it should make a great top for somebody that Beverly W knows. 

Janelle also found Five balls (that's an amazing 1499m - that's more than a sweaters worth ) of Ironstone Warehouse Flake Cotton,  and I hope Linda G loves it.

It doesn't stop there, this is 3 skeins of Merino Frappe that would make the most beautiful hat and scarf - but Ginni G can make whatever she likes.

More? Oh yeah, Janelle's got more.  How about Twelve skeins of Andean Silk?

That's a lot of mileage, so I hope that Erin G has some ideas.

Janelle's not done yet! How about seven balls of Palette, in Mineral Heather,  Huckleberry Heather, Clematis Heather and Iris Heather, winging thier way to Brianna B.

Here's something amazing.  Beth (here's a link to her Etsy shop Dancing Dog Studio. Go look, she's super talented. I'll wait.) has made a beautiful medicine bag.  She used peyote stitch - which means she put on one bead at a time. 

Medicine bags are very special.  I hope that Carrie N uses and treasures it.

Elizabeth from A Good Day For a Cupcake has a present. 

She makes these great sheep needles (among other things) and this pair of 4.5mm needles are for Cheryl B.

Ania went into her stash and came up with some beautiful romney/mohair roving

and a charming spindle to go with it.

(Those blue flowers are called Love-in-a-mist. They grow in my garden, I love them.)
Ania will be very kindly sending these gifts to Jennifer C.

Ana of Art By Ana, had an absolute fit of generosity, and landed three presents for you guys in my inbox.   First, one of her beautiful SE Party Cakes is headed for Sherry M.

I am crazy about those party cakes.  Next she's giving away two skeins of her gorgeous laceweight.  50/50 Tussah Silk/Merino - 1000 metres.  Mya M (that's how you do it!)  will be making something amazing. 

Then Ana went into her other Etsy Shop, Art-by-Ana HandMade, and came up with a beautiful project bag and a matching notions bag. 

She will be popping that in the mail to Mary A.  Lucky knitters all.

Andrea also contracted a bag case of Nice-Knitter, and she's come up with ten skeins of Cascade Lana D'Oro Tweed that need a new home.

They'll be making their way to Jill F.

Finally, last but never least, the always generous Aubrey at Goodies Unlimited (I love everything there.) has four virtual gift certificates for her shop, complete with free shipping worldwide. 

Helen G, Mary M, Casey P and Mary Ellen O will each be enjoying some wonderful things. 

That's it for this week! More next week, and I think I might have to start giving things away faster, if I'm going to make them fit at all.  There's so much generosity in the world that it makes my heart go all aflutter to think of it.  As always, if you've donated to someone on our team, by sending a karmic balancing gift or by sending in some hard earned money - thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.  (If you're looking to donate, there's links on the previous post, just click on our names where they're underlined near the bottom.)   A special thanks to everyone who expressed their sympathy about Tupper by donating to the Rally.  Very kind of you, and he would have liked that. 

Posted by Stephanie at 1:18 PM

July 4, 2013

Why, What are you wearing?

I am sitting at my desk wearing spandex.  I woke up about three minutes before my 5:30am alarm because I got a text.  Only Jen texts me at 5:30 in the morning, and only on riding days.  This is best for everyone because saying I am not a morning person is and understatement as significant as "Sometimes teenagers aren't thinking ahead." The only reason I'm riding at that ungodly hour is because Jen and I  both have jobs, and while I have the option of moving my ride to another time of day, Jen likes to be home for bedtime,  and we're on the buddy system, so... mornings it is. Every time I realize what it is that I'm doing, that it's me - someone who is not even a little bit sporty (except for knitting - I totally do that like it's a sport) and doesn't like to get sweaty, and is so uncoordinated that she can't count the number of times that a ball has hit her in the face (and one terrible time, a Frisbee) that I am going outside to ride a really long distance,  clipped into a road bike, several times a week -  wearing spandex in my mid forties, I can hardly recognise myself.  When I add in that the whole thing has required me to get up at 5:30am? It's like I don't even know who this woman is. It is only because coffee and I have a special and deep relationship that it's possible at all. So, all that is to say that I know the text is probably from Jen, and so I reached out and grabbed my phone.  All it said was "Too rainy, Sister.  I'm ejecting."

A wave of relief passed over me. I loathe riding in the rain, but I've also made a really serious commitment to training, so Jen pulling the rip cord on the ride before I have to is really satisfying.  I can pretend to myself that it was her.  My alarm went off displaying the message "Go ride your bike!" and I shut it off with a satisfied smirk, and padded to the bathroom. On my way back I could see out the window of the stash room, and  on an impulse, I went over and drew the curtain aside to look out.  It was not raining. It was not raining at all, and the road wasn't even wet. I cursed, and took a deep breath.  I've sworn that I'm not going to avoid riding, that even if I am tired and sore I am going to do these training rides, and it's a promise I made myself. Five days a week I will ride at least 40 kilometres, unless it rains, and it wasn't raining, and so I went into the bedroom and put on my spandex, sports bra and jersey. (See the way I made it sound like I just put on a sports bra like it was easy and like I didn't have to make an effort to remain calm during the part where you think you're trapped with your arms stuck uselessly to your head and torso and you're going to have to have someone cut you out of it. Don't be fooled.)

I came downstairs, made coffee, and ate a bagel standing over the sink - looking  outside.  I was at it for about five minutes before I realized that I was actively hoping it would start to rain.  It didn't.  I decided I would go ride after my coffee - if it wasn't raining. I drank my coffee and had a little knit, and then I decided that I would go ride after two coffees. You know, if it hadn't started to rain.  Right when I was about to run out of coffee (and excuses) the rain started.  I just about wept, I was so happy disappointed.

It's not that I don't like the riding. I think I might, but it's so hard to tell.  I've been waiting for it to get easy, and I think it's not going to, and I think that's okay too - I mean, being fit and healthy isn't easy and does take a commitment, and raising money for a cause and trying to be worthy of that isn't supposed to be easy either.  It's not like I would really expect anybody to sponsor me if I wasn't willing to do something extraordinary to do deserve it.  I just don't know how much longer I can deserve it at 5:30 in the morning or five days a week.  This weekend there are two training rides, and they are both over 100 kilometres and you know what? I can take it. I really can. It is physically easier than what the people I'm raising money for have to go through, and I can take the heat. Hell, I probably need the heat. The heat is good for me. It's more that I'm trying to finish this book and did I mention that with travel and stretching and lunch and signing in and all that, a 100 kilometre ride takes about eight hours out of a Saturday and a Sunday?  These weekday ones only take 2.5 hours, but still, all this riding adds up to a lot of time, and I'm getting a little tired.  I remember this from last year. I'm just at that point where training has stopped being about 12 hours a week and now takes about 22 hours a week, and when you've already got a family and a full time job, that's a big deal. This part only lasts a little longer.  I know that.  The rally departs Toronto on the 28th of July - and you're really supposed to scale back the riding the week before, so this intensity is only for a little bit longer and I can do it, and I will do it, and I am happy to do it because I know it is worth it. For me, for Jen, and for PWA.

I'm just really glad it was raining this morning, that's all. 

I'm sitting here in my spandex, because if it's not raining when I'm done work then I'm going to keep my promise to myself and go out there and get it done, and nothing says commitment like padded shorts and a sports bra (and I am not trying to get that thing on and off anymore times than I have to. I feel the risk.) Two people today have already asked me why I'm dressed like this, and explaining it strengthens my resolve.  I am going for a training ride.

As long as it doesn't rain. 

Karmic Balancing gifts tomorrow everybody. If you've already donated, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and please check your email for a thank you note explaining what to do to qualify, and if you can't find it, just send me an email (StephanieATyarnharlotDOTca) and I'll add you. No worries. If you'd like to qualify, then donate to any one of the people I love riding this ride, for any amount at all - even a dollar, and watch for the note. We will all make sure to send it to you before tomorrow morning.  We are:


(PS:  I want to give a special shout out to Ken here. He's a super fast and competent rider, and he's chosen to slow down and support either Jen or me when we can't be each other's buddy.  It means the training rides take him a lot longer than they have to,  but Jen and I haven't had to face doing a really long weekend ride alone, and I'm really grateful.)

(PPS. It just started to rain again.)

(PPPS. Happy 4th of July to my American friends. I hope it's lovely.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:14 PM

July 3, 2013

I know how to use it

Let's talk about knitting, shall we?  When I was going to Colorado  - Oh, man, wait.  I have to go backwards for a minute, because now that the fog has (mostly) cleared and we can talk about all of this, we have to catch up.  It was a great trip. Great knitters in the classes, great LYS (the Knit Knook, you should go if you're close by. They seem like they're really a tight, supportive group, and you gotta love a yarn shop with a coffee bar) and  neatest of all, Sally took me and a very nice knitter named Marisa to her Alpaca place - Rivendale Farms. I took about a million pictures. I won't bore you with all of them, but I think you'd want to see a few. Wouldn't you?  Thing the first: Alpacas are ridiculously cute.

Thing the second: They are curious.

(That's the lovely Sally) Curious enough that it's hard to take a picture of them without getting a bunch like this.

Thing the third: I think maybe they're sort of racist biased.

The only ones who followed me around the whole time were the ones who matched my hair colour.  I'd just be standing there, minding my own business, and I'd feel their hot breath on my neck.  Anyway,  we had a pretty good time, considering that I knew pretty much straightaway that I was in a great place, but the wrong place.  I'd taken some knitting with me, but I had been in such a crazy state of mind right before I left that all I could think of to do was grab some plain yarn, and just plow through.  I went to the stash and scored this DeKay Duet yarn. It's cool stuff, one handpaint with a co-ordinating solid yarn for heel and toe, and I thought that it was just about the perfect thing.  No brains required. I grabbed it, wound it and split.

That knitting, it turns out, was totally perfect.  I plowed along on it, not thinking, not worrying, and by the time I landed, I had a decent chunk of a sock - and some really bad news.  I sat there, trying to knit after finding out that Tupp had died, and as I knit the plain and lovely stitches, I realized that I was in a bad spot. What I needed to do was fall apart. To grieve and cry and be with my family... but I'd just landed in Colorado, and I had to stay and make the most of it.  I would, be, I decided (rather bravely, I thought) deciding to keep calm and carry on.  I would be home soon enough, and I would do what I needed to do then, but until then, I was going to put that whole thing out of my mind.  I would work hard, stay distracted from it,  and not leave myself any room to be upset. I've always used knitting to help moderate upset or stress, and this was going to be no different. I was going to put my head down and get it done, and as I made that decision,  I looked at that plain good knitting, and I realized that it was not going to cut it.  It was too plain. It was too easy - if I was going to use knitting to keep me from being the sort of person who sobbed through an weekend, then it was going to have to be a higher dose.  The next day at the Knit Knook I bought four skeins of Isager Alpaca Merino 2 in Chartreuse,  had Sally choose me a lace pattern and hunkered down. 

Meet Nadira.  It was much better.  A thousand times better.  Plain knitting is good, but if you're going to ask  knitting to keep you from being really crazy in public, really far from home at a really bad time?  You're going to need some charts to occupy the part of your brain that keeps considering booking a private plane with a stolen credit card.  (There were no flights home, and the private plane thing seemed reasonable, expense excepted.)  Every time I thought I might come of the rails, when I was alone, mostly, I just put all my attention there, and it kept me from losing it.  I can tell that I'm feeling better, because for the last day or two it's been all about the rainbow socks (Regia Nation - Colourway 5399, sadly discontinued - a gift years ago when it was already discontinued) and while they are entertaining, they are simple, and that's enough again.

What happened to the duet socks? Good question. They're here somewhere.

(I actually think I lost them but I don't want to talk about it.)

Posted by Stephanie at 3:35 PM

July 2, 2013

My Really Good Solution

Things here have been stressful lately.  (I hear you. You're all like "YA THINK?!") Despite the way that I occasionally create stress in my life by accident by trying to get a lot done, it turns out that I really only enjoy stress when I'm in charge of how much there is and when it lets up.  This kind? I'm as good at this as I am at bench pressing pianos, and so I have decided to Sort. It. Out. There's a book deadline bearing down on me (almost done I am almost done) I'm still training for the bike rally (holy cow that is only a few weeks away I should be out riding) and the house is trashed (I say trashed but I mean that I am about to be on a reality show).  All these things wear on me pretty much equally. (That's a lie. the book is killing me and I am really scared about the rally. The trashed house worries me less. You know what happens if your house is trashed for a while? Nothing, except for you feel sort of bad about it and you can't have people over.)
The thing is, I'm pretty smart.  I know what to do when things get ugly.  Jen calls it "going nuclear" and she doesn't mean like the bomb, she means like a family.  Drilling down to just the basics - because when it feels like things are crazy, the first thing to go is the ability to identify priorities.  What's that great quote from Natalie Goldberg? "Stress is an ignorant state. It believes everything is an emergency."

The thing is, everything isn't.  The book really is. The Bike rally really is. The trashed house well, it's approaching an emergency, but I still feel like there's some wiggle room there. (You can't smell it, so that has to mean we have some time.) I sat down a few days ago and thought about what was making me crazy, what was actually functionally important, and what absolutely was not - and then I tried to make things as good and sensible and orderly as possible.  I mean, yeah, there's stuff I have to do, but what would be wrong with doing it all as nicely as possible? 

In the end I came up with this plan: I will get up early each morning, and put on my riding things and leave. I'll do my 2 hour training ride straight off each day so that no matter what else happens, I know I can't end up screwed for the rally, panting helplessly like the middle-aged crap scene I'm so afraid of being while trying to catch up with a peloton of gazelle-like young men on carbon fibre bikes who have so much less body hair than me that it's actually unnerving. 

(That's the Humber river, if you're the sort that cares.)

So far, so good. I rode for two hours on Sunday and Monday, and met up with Jen this morning to ride for 50km.  (That's two and a half hours, if you're wondering. We are dedicated, but not fast.) If I can keep this up for the next few weeks - along with longer rides (100km) on the weekends, I should be okay.  Not a gazelle, but okay.  I'm okay with being okay. I just don't want it to kill me.

The book? That solution was actually easy.  The art of writing is really more the art of showing up and sitting at your desk until it's done, and other than how hard it is on the heart to sit there for hours and hours, It's pretty doable.  Still, if you're trying to lower your stress?

Check it out.  I've got an office set up in the backyard, for several hours a day - or at least as long as the sun is shining.  I've got my laptop, the shade of a big tree, some knitting nearby, so I can knit while I'm thinking, and yeah -that's a beer, and yeah, I'm going to drink it in the afternoon, and you know what else? It's going to be awesome. 

The knitting- there's two kinds there, to make sure all my knitting needs are met, and we can talk more about that tomorrow. The trashed house? Yeah, that's still a problem, but let me tell you this.  You can't see it from the backyard.

Posted by Stephanie at 3:00 PM

July 1, 2013

Canada Day

It is traditional for me to say a little something about the great country I live in on its birthday, and there's no reason for this year to be an exception.  (There are previous years, if you want to click on them: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.)

This year is a quiet Canada Day for us, and so I would like to say just two things.  First, because yesterday (well, all week really, but I only celebrated yesterday) was Pride,  I want to say that I am profoundly and immensely proud and grateful that I live in a diverse Country, where all people are intended to be equal under the law and within our society, and that we move ever closer to that goal. 

(Behold - the annual Canadian sock and beer picture.)

Second, I would also like to say, publicly, and without reservation that I am grateful and proud of our health care system.  I once read a thread somewhere where some people (some people who were not Canadian) were discussing my position on this, and said, essentially (and without reservation) that if I liked our system, it has to be that I am either a) stupid, or b) someone who has not needed that system, and that I would be singing a very different song, had anything every really gone wrong - health wise.   At the time I almost choked on my coffee, but I didn't say anything, because anybody who would say that a non-citizen who's never used our system would emphatically know more about it than someone actively using that system?  Maybe a) doesn't apply, because I couldn't see any point in getting into that argument.

The other thing I didn't say at that time was anything in response to the idea that if anyone in our family had ever really been sick, or needed the system, we would see its flaws.  At the time within our family, we'd had our share of the regular stuff... births, accidents, appendectomies - that sort of thing, and the system had always served us. (I especially appreciated that here in Ontario I was able to choose a home or hospital birth,  and Obstetrician, Family Doctor or Midwife, as I wished.) It was amazing (and still is) to me, that I can have all of these services without worrying about the cost - but in a lot of ways, those readers were right. It's easier for a system to deliver heath care to people who are essentially well.  The proof is in the catastrophic illnesses, or emergencies - and what I didn't share at that time is that our family has had its fair share of that.

Like all families, bad things happen to us, although I don't always discuss them with you because... well, not only is it a pretty big violation of privacy, it's also a serious downer.  I can tell you though, that we've had serious accidents, with a family member flown to another city because better emergency care was available there, we had someone else have a pulmonary embolism after surgery, someone else we know required years of mental health treatment to get well.  Heck, when Sam was three years old, she had a umbilical hernia that ended up trapping a loop of her intestines. Within minutes, she was referred to the best hospital (The Hospital for Sick Children) and treated by a doctor that was a specialist in the surgery she needed.  For that matter, I had very serious surgeries several years ago, and came very close to departing this earth, and experienced first hand what our health care is like. 
None of this cost a dime - and that was essential, because mostly, we're a family of artists (no health care insurance and back when that happened, we were actually quite well below the poverty line.

This Canada Day, I want to say that I'm proud and grateful for the way that our health care has served Tupper over the last year.  He required extensive, specialized and very expensive care, and I am grateful that not once during that time was there ever a conversation about money, a concern about who would pay for what, or a risk that something might not be covered. Every decision about his care was a decision between Tupper and his doctors, without needing approval or permission from any third party.  Now that he is gone, there is no financial burden to resolve, and I'm grateful for that. 

No system is perfect.  I know that, and I won't ever say that ours is - there's plenty of room for improvement. For starters, ours is a triage system.  The sickest people go first, without regard for anything else. I don't have a problem with it, but it means that if a wealthy CEO and a homeless guy show up at the hospital, with a broken arm and a heart attack, the CEO is going to find himself waiting for his turn. (This has pissed off the occasional CEO, and they end up using money to go first somewhere else - like the US, although it's less than 1% of Canadians who ever seek care elsewhere - over their entire lives.)   We do have long wait times for things that can wait (and they're not as long as you think- comparable or less than most other countries.) I can also say that we have a long way to go in figuring out how to get rural places the same sort of health care available in cities - but that's complex.  You can't put a level 3 nursery in every tiny or far flung town - and people who live way the heck out there often have to travel to get care.  Also, we could really use more doctors in general - but I hear our neighbours to the south could use a bunch too.   This system works well enough though, that we have long life expectancies, low infant mortality and morbidity, that the valid complaints are few and far between,  and that 85.7% of us like our system, and feel proud.

The system works well enough that I choose the doctors I see, that I see an unlimited number of them, that I totally got to talk to someone in sports medicine (even though I'm not exactly an athlete) about my sore cyclist knees, and that the people in my family have been as well cared for as anyone I've ever heard of, and that their illnesses don't cause debt. I go to sleep at night knowing that the sickest people are going first, regardless of their social standing, or ability to pay, and that does my heart good, even if it is occasionally difficult to wait my turn.

I'm proud, and I am grateful.  Thanks Canada,  for what you've done for our family.

Let's hear it Canadians -what are you grateful for this Canada Day?

Posted by Stephanie at 3:25 PM