Happy Birthday Charlotte

I woke up very early this morning and it was almost exactly the time that Charlotte was born.  I wished her a  silent Happy Birthday, and lay there thinking about that beautiful morning.

As this day approached, I have been working hard on my heart. It is so easy to let myself slide into heartbreak and loss, and while there’s no getting around that,  I really wanted today to have some measure of joy, to focus on all that went right that day and how perfect things were for a little while, and spend time thinking of how lucky we were.

 

I remind myself that some people never get to know that kind of happiness, the kind I felt when I watched Meg give birth to Charlotte, when Alex held his daughter for the first time, when Elliot welcomed her – when she settled warm and soft into my arms, so heavy and perfect and present. I don’t think I’ll ever forget exactly how it all was.

Not everyone gets that, I remind myself. Some people will never be that happy. Even as we have dragged ourselves through this horrible pandemic grief year, I have never wished that day away – I’ve never wished it didn’t happen. It has been hard to watch my daughter suffer, but I know that for all the pain she’s endured, she’s grateful for every moment we had with Charlotte too. No matter how much it hurts now?

Goodness, what a wonderful day that was.

Happy Birthday my little Charlotte.

Seventeen

The blog is seventeen today.  If this blog was a person it would be in their room blasting obnoxious music and angrily texting all its friends about how horrible I am for not letting it go out during a pandemic and see everyone. (I can sort of relate.)

Last year, I wrote about how much things had changed – how much I’ve changed.  I re-read that this morning while I was thinking about this post, and laughed at how wild it is to look back and think that last year I believed that grief and loss had changed me a bit. I had no idea what was headed our way, none at all.

There is no doubt, my dear blog, that this year I have had trouble coming here to write to you.  I have felt as I did right after my mum died, that I don’t have very good walls up – that at any moment a dam could burst inside of me and I will just type “CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE THIS SHIT” over and over again while weeping and laughing hysterically and honestly, I can’t imagine you want to hear it. (Yes. I swore. I know, I know. I try not to here, so as not to offend any tender sensibilities but I honestly don’t know how to put a cherry on the crap sundae that has been this year of blogging without at least one. There may be another. I don’t know.)

I was so hopeful this time last year – so reconciled to the changes that had happened in my life and I even felt really good about change. I really did – and then Charlotte died, and I don’t have the words (or want to type them) about what it is like to lose a grandchild, or what it is like to watch your child suffer the loss of a child, and then to have the fear, loneliness and separation of a pandemic heaped on top of it. See what I mean? Aren’t we having fun now? I cannot imagine any of you would enjoy a(nother) post even remotely like that. Even if I leave all that out and just keep it light, well you might have noticed that the world is a little pear shaped right now, and besides all that…. I put on proper pants just twice this week – and the only person I really see in a day is Joe and Blog, I feel like the material just isn’t there. It is like we are all in suspended animation, waiting for life to start properly again, and honestly the most interesting thing that happened all week is that I realized that I didn’t order enough yarn for this baby blanket I’m knitting (the west coast branch is adding a member) and I know I’ve written that post before.

For the first time ever my blog, I don’t want to tell you how I’m feeling, not because I don’t want to share, but because I feel like either you feel as I do – that you’re lonely and your life is small (and if it isn’t could you please change that so that we all get our lives back sooner) or that my life will be sad, or simply won’t be entertaining.  I have always come here to tell you what’s going on, and my blog, this year there is just… nothing going on, except for what it’s like to try to buy pants online and I’ve given up.  I was terrible at buying pants even when you could try them on, and now it’s hopeless. I am on the brink of adopting leggings and I hate leggings. Worse than that, I feel like if I do want to ditch all of real life and tell you simply about how I feel about the Channel Island cast on (hint: we are in love) then given that the world is on fire, it will seem callous or insensitive in the face of it all.

Long story short, i know I keep promising that I’ll be better about coming here, and I mean it. The blog has been such a big part of my life for the last seventeen years, and it has always given me the most terrific comfort to write to you, and to read your comments – but this just feels unending and terrible and even when things happen that are really nice and make me happy – they make for boring blog posts because the bar is so low over here. Like yesterday? My bread really came out nicely.

See that? That’s all I’ve got for yesterday – except for the blanket thing, which like I said… it would be a more interesting blog post if I didn’t run out of yarn. That would be the shocker.

I am dreaming, blog, of what things may be like when I write to you on this day next year, when this thing is 18 and legally an adult. Will the pandemic be over? Will the border be open? Will our families be the same size and shape? I know that this has been a year of loss and fear for almost all of us, and I know that things are hard all over, and it’s because I understand this that I find it almost impossible to come here and talk about our family’s suffering – it is no more than yours, and I don’t want to make you look at it while you struggle yourself.  (Especially if you are having the trouble with pants that I am. It is a bridge too far.)

For now, know that I am here as much as I am able – that I love you all and am grateful as ever- that this space is still my online living room, and I’ve got no intention of leaving it, but I’m also having trouble inviting company over while things are so strange. I’m working on getting some better walls up.  Thank you for being there for me, even when I am not there for you.

(PS. It is tradition, though I know this year is different, to kick off my fundraising for the Bike Rally today – in years past we have amused them mightily by donating a dollar for each year of blogging, a load of donations all the same amount (or a multiple) has always weirded the staff out over there, and I like that. That said – two things are true this year – first, while I’m signed up for the Rally I don’t know if there will be one – there’s no way to know now if it will be safe or possible, and second, I know that for many of us things are tight financially – so if either of those things are a deal breaker for you, I get it. If those things are cool for you- that’s awesome. PWA has stayed open during the pandemic as an essential service – even when nothing else was open – they were still running the foodbank for clients, and as you can imagine, there’s more help needed than ever. If you’re feeling it, a $17 donation here will be as weird as ever.)

 

 

How it started/How it’s going

Time continues to pass in the strangest way – we’re still under lockdown here, with stay-at-home orders in place, and I’m trudging along. Some days fly by and I can’t believe that I ran out of time to accomplish all that I wanted, and some days are like yesterday, where after a long, difficult and full day, I stood up and headed to the kitchen to begin dinner, and suddenly realized it was still light out. I was stunned to discover that it was just a little after noon.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that I have no idea how it is that it’s been months that I’ve been meaning to post about Pato and Keanu’s wedding blanket, but here I am. I’d feel worse about it but honestly, I’m pretty sure a lot of you don’t know what day it is, so there.

Way back at end of the summer, when case numbers were so low and Torontonians were allowed to have close contact with a few other people outside their household, Pato dropped the bomb that he and Keanu had decided to marry. Now, this wasn’t shocking at all, after Sam got married we were all pretty sure that they would be next – they’ve been together for years and years and it seemed to still be going well, and if you love someone more than ever after months of being locked down together than honestly you should marry them. What was surprising was that they’d decide to marry in just a few weeks, in the middle of a pandemic, which makes tons of sense if you are confident in your love (and the length of a pandemic) but not so much if you’ve got to knit a wedding something.

We immediately started trying to figure out ways to make it special, even though there were going to be so many restrictions – the gift was the first thing to think about, and Meg and I hatched a plan that afternoon, and ordered the yarn that minute so that we could give finishing by their wedding day a shot. (Spoiler alert we didn’t make it of course.) We decided that we- the whole family would knit Pato and Keanu a blanket.  After much discussion – what would be easy enough for people to help with, what would disguise changing gauges and what would be a good fit for their style, we settled on the Moderne Log Cabin Blanket, (that’s a Ravelry link) knit in neutral shades of Eco wool.  (The pattern isn’t written for that weight of wool but it’s squares. What could go wrong. I’d knit it before so I felt good about our chances.)

Now, the way this blanket works is that it’s a series of squares and rectangles worked off of each other. You knit a squarish bit, and then pick up stitches along the side of it and knit another, and so on and so forth. After a little consultation (and with the knowledge that it would be easier for me to match my gauge to Meg’s than the other way around) we decided that Meg would knit the first square, then give it to me. I’d pass it off to everyone in turn, knitting wildly on it in between, correcting errors and guiding anyone involved who didn’t know what they were doing. Now, I don’t know how this happened, but Meg is the only person I didn’t get a picture of while they were knitting – she beavered away at it, knitting the whole first square, and then gave it to me. This, I will tell you, wasn’t just smart, it was fitting. Our relationship with Pato began with Meg- they met as little snips of things –

and truly have proved to be one of the worlds great matches, just not a romantic one in the end. They’ve stayed the very, very best of friends, and our family didn’t break up with Pato either. From the time they became friends until this day, we’ve just lumped him into the pile of “our kids” and gotten on with it. It was so appropriate that since Meg started our relationship with him, that she should start the blanket. It was passed off to me, and time since time was short I did a crazy amount of knitting while Joe and I were camping.

The whole time we were camping though, I remember thinking “this looks a little big” and then executing the classic knitter error – which is thinking “Never mind, if I keep knitting maybe it will get smaller” which it never does. It was the only thing I’d taken with me to knit for the weekend (to force me knitting on it) and so I was reluctant to face the truth. Once home, pattern in hand I realized my error.  I ripped it out, handed it back to Meg, she re-knit the first square the proper size and we were off again. (For the sake of Meg’s reputation as a knitter, I will make it clear that the error was mine, and not hers. The only mistake she made was doing what her mother told her and that’s never really wrong.)

Back in my hot little hands, I started making the rounds with it.  Getting it to some people who care for the gentlemen was going to be easy – we had a family bubble at the time, but I had to find a way to get it to everyone else in a way that was distanced, and outside, of course.

The worlds top knitwear model put in her stitches for her brother from another mother – I wasn’t surprised she remembered how to knit – the force is strong with this one. She’s picked up the needles a few times over the years, and the knitting was easy for her.

What did surprise me was that Amanda was flawless. Of all my children she is the most knit-resistant and always has been. She knows how, of course, I mean what sort of mother allows a child to grow up without the most basic of skills, but I don’t think she’s knit anything since she was a child, so when she knocked off her rows with effortless ease, I was really kinda stunned. (This is evidence for teaching them young. It stays with them forever whether they want it to or not.)

Meg’s husband Alex needed teaching – he was a quick study though – as was Sam’s husband Mike. they both picked it up in a snap, and were absolutely chuffed with themselves that they managed it. (Without a word of a lie, they were so thrilled. Several rows from both of them!)

From there- onto the knitters. Jen swung by when she was off call and installed herself in the backyard. I plied her with wine and she knit heaps. We told Pato and Keanu stories.

Amber, longtime friend of the show – I thought I’d have to teach her, but she revealed a secret – she’s a perfectly competent knitter. (This being Canada, you’d be surprised how prevalent a secret power this is.) She ripped by the back garden,  working the stitches with so much affection for her friends.

Maddy! If you’ve been reading this blog a long time, then you might even remember when Maddy learned to knit. Meg and I taught her when she was quite little. Meg, Maddy and Pato have run as a pack since the beginning of High School, and Mads is quite a good knitter now – she doesn’t have a car and the covid-times means she couldn’t subway to me, so I went to her.  It is a pleasure to see these kids grown up and still all caring for each other.  (As an aside, Maddy had so many sleep-overs at our house over the years, that we began to call the trundle bed in the back bedroom “the Maddy bed”. We still do – enough so that even though he has no idea why – Elliot will ask if he can lie on the Maddy bed.)

Cameron knit his bit – putting a little fondness in each stitch for him and Keanu. Bike Rally connection for them – lots of thoughts of Team Knit (and the few times that Keanu joined us on the Rally – so not his jam let me tell you) but Pato and Cam love riding together and I’m pretty glad I taught Cam to knit years ago – it would have been hard to show him how from a distance.

The big challenge for Ken was that his turn came a week or two later, when it was cold. He’s was outside our bubble (by then, things had changed – everyone was) so he bundled up and got it done. (Please note he is wearing a dorky onsie both because it is freezing, and because it was Hallowe’en and he was dressed as a shark to amuse Elliot.) Pato knows how much Ken loves the cold, so feel the love, buddy.

Last – Joe did his share. I won’t lie- he grumbled a bit, but he knows how, and he loves Pato a lot, and so Pato and Keanu became the third and fourth people in the world that Joe has knit for. Me and my mum are numbers one and two, so it’s a pretty elite club.

Somewhere in there – when the blanket was almost done, but not quite, the big day came. Pato and Keanu were married outside, at a beautiful albeit socially distanced wedding with just a few people in attendance, and the rest of us watched on Zoom. Meg was in person-  standing up for Pato (with more than two metres between them at all times) and I was proud of both of them for learning love in all its forms so very well.

It was a beautiful wedding and I none of the things I thought might happen did – they didn’t feel alone, or like enough people weren’t there, or like people were missing.  I know that they would have liked us all to be there (I think) but in the end this is love, and it is the same as it always is. On their wedding day, the only people Pato and Keanu really needed close by were each other, and we could all see (even over zoom) that it was more than enough.

Naturally, and us being us, we couldn’t leave it there. A mission was launched to give them the closest thing to a reception possible.  Our back garden was transformed with twinkle lights and candles, tables and flowers.

We used measuring tapes to make sure that Pato and Keanu were more than safely distanced from us at a tiny “head table”  we made sure that we had no more than the provinces allowed number of people for outdoor gatherings. (At that time, things were so much more open than they are now, we were allowed ten!)

We set the table with care using our best dishes. We chose a four course menu to please them – we cut the date of their wedding into sourdough and baked it.

We baked a tiny little wedding cake for them,  and little single serving ones for everyone else.

And they got their musical surprise, the same as every other family wedding – this time, over the internet from a family friend who’s an artist Pato adores and (obviously) couldn’t come and play for them.

We did our best to have a proper party – pandemic style. Tiny and distanced (and freezing!) with no hugging and lots of kisses blown from afar. At the time we felt a little deprived, but looking back what a luxury it was to be able to be together even that way.

I have a list of things that I feel this pandemic has stolen from our family, as I’m sure you do too.  The ability to be with each other in times of need, to hold and comfort each other, to walk holding hands, or the ease with which we were able to make connections with each other, and how simple it was to invest in our relationships. Know I add this to the list now – that even though we did our best, and I think it was good enough, and I know Pato and Keanu felt our love and support that day – I will always regret that in that in the moment they were married, they could not look out at the crowd of us, as we were looking at them, and see the complete love, acceptance, pride and happiness we all felt as they committed to each other.

I think they love their blanket, and I hope that when they use it, they can remember what knitting really is. It’s more than a way to make something- it is a love container, and we have all poured what we hope for you into it.

Much love in a long and an happy marriage. Stay warm.

Stephanie, Joe, Ken, Amanda, Megan, Sam, Mike, Alex, Cameron, Maddy, Amber and Jen.

As I mean to go on

I don’t want to talk about Christmas – do you?  I mean, we did it, such as it was, but the whole thing was a little hollow for me. (If by “a little hollow” you understand that I mean it was horrible and a husk of a season, and left me miserable beyond measure.) Ontario is back in the kind of lockdown we were in the spring (and have been for a while now) with no family bubbles and no shops open and no haircuts again. (Already we are all looking scruffy.)  We did all the right things. I arranged our annual Gingerbread Party over Zoom – I baked cookies and made icing and dropped them off at the doors of all parties concerned.

   

We had Old Joe do the annual reading of Santa Mouse for all his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – again, Zoom. We opened presents with each other on *&^$Cing Zoom, and while I am normally a very resilient and optimistic person, I admit that this season just knocked the snot out of me. I’m so tired of this stupid pandemic. I was overwhelmed this holiday by thoughts of how things were “supposed to be” and that included missing my mum, Tupp, Susan and my Uncle Tom (Mum and Tupps brother) died just two weeks before Christmas, and of course – little Charlotte, who was supposed to be fat and happy, crawling around and trying to eat paper. Ironically – it’s that sense of loss that’s made us so careful.  We can’t stand the thought that another family would lose someone because we blew it – so this is it, for now – and on the upside I did learn a ton about what Christmas means to us – and surprise surprise, a lot of the things I work at every year don’t mean anything without people. I’ve always suspected this of course, I mean, I have seen The Grinch Who Stole Christmas lots of times, and it’s not like I’ve been ignoring the messages out of whoville, but this really brought it home. I bet it was like that for a lot of you too.

Long story short, I should have cancelled the thing rather than giving it a go under these circumstances, and as a result I’ve bought 4 boxes of Christmas crackers, and Amanda has an artificial tree and the minute that the restrictions allow everyone we love to be together, we are having a *&^%$ing Christmas complete with wearing the hats and putting up a tree and I don’t care if that’s August. Screw you Covid.

So, I’m moving on. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, then you know that we have lots of traditions around the New Year. Ahead of midnight on the 31st; I pay all my bills, I clean the house, I sweep one last time and throw the dust out the back door – all so that I don’t carry anything bad forward into the new year and I end as I mean to go on. I put coins out so that the light of the old year and the new year’s moon can shine on it and we’ll have enough money for the coming year. I make sure I have a first footer, a dark haired man who’s the first across my threshold after midnight, and on the first day of the New Year I do a little of everything that I’d like to carry into the rest of the year, and start a new project. I also don’t do laundry on the first, so that no-one is washed away in the year that follows.

Now, mostly, I do this because it’s fun. My mum always did it, and she wasn’t at all superstitious, but I love the way it gives our family a sense of tradition, ceremony and contributes to our family culture. It’s how we do things, and it feels good. Last year though, if you remember, Joe talked me into going away for New Years. I left the morning of the 27th and flew to Nova Scotia for my Uncle Tom and Aunt Helen’s 50th wedding anniversary party (boy am I glad I did that now) and after a few days there, went to Banff to meet Joe. I completed none of the traditions. The house was a mess, I wasn’t even there, I think Joe washed some ski socks in the sink, I didn’t sweep. (Duh, hotel room.) Now, I’m not superstitious either, but I cannot help but notice that the one year I skipped… well. I’m sure there’s no connection, but you can be assured that I have spent the last week cleaning this house within an inch of it’s life. Closets, cupboards, whole rooms cleaned and repainted, I even put down the shelf paper that I bought at the beginning of the pandemic. Every room is edited, tidied, and at its best and I am taking not one molecule of last year’s crap forward, and you can bet that tomorrow I won’t wash anything (except myself which my mum says is not only allowed but encouraged) and you can bet that I’m ending this year as I mean to go on.

2020, don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out.

The felt is a funny colour too

It is in keeping with the rather craptastic nature of 2020 that I begin the month of December by blowing a deadline.  In the past this month has been the scene of some of my most glorious triumphs – grand knitting plans pulled together at the last minute, supernatural amounts of work coming together, spreadsheets and lists galore culminating in glorious family gatherings and joyful holiday parties.

Instead, defeat. I blame the lockdown. (Today is day nine.) You would think that a lockdown would give you nothing to do but knit and organize, but that’s not my experience of it. Instead, whole mornings are lost to *figuring out how to get red embroidery floss through a website and curbside pickup only to pick-up said pickup and realize that it’s completely the wrong red, heading home dejectedly while realizing that you forgot green thread anyway so you might as well light this floss on fire and make another order, all while wondering how you got yourself in a situation where red floss is an “essential trip.” (Repeat from * when the green thread is wrong and doesn’t match the buttons you had to compromise on as well.) Everything takes that little bit longer, everything is just a little more complicated, and no matter how hard you try, everything is a little bit off.

Still, it’s an advent calendar year over here, another little one in our family has come of age – I imagine you all figured that from the wee things settling around me in drifts, and I did have it completely in my head that it would be finished and in the mail by the 27th November and arriving in time for… well. For today. Instead, it still sits in bits on my dining room table and I think that if I really, really try, I might be able to finish it today, and figure out how to get it in the mail tomorrow, and then the rest of the Covid-Christmas knitting can begin in earnest. I did get smart and order most of the yarn I needed a few months/weeks ago, so hopefully nothing is too much of a disaster there. (I can’t believe I said that.)

Today – I’m going to – well, first I’m finishing this blog post, then I’m finishing something for The Patreon (if you’re a patron, a new video headed your way today I think – can’t believe I said that either) and then – oh crap it’s Tuesday so I have to have a weekly meal plan and a grocery list together and text the neighbours to see if they need anything and it’s still snowing so I’ll have to shovel before I take the recycling out and … then.

Then I’m going to finish the last ornament, cut the felt backing, cut the tree shape, appliqué it to the backing, cut and sand the dowels, cut the pockets, embroider and sew the buttons on, sew ribbon onto all the ornaments… and then… how does one get a mailing tube in a lockdown? Maybe there’s one at the Post Office? Maybe that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Are you trying to finish something today? Tell me you’re past your deadline too. It will make me feel better.

Small

It’s day one of “lockdown” here in Toronto.  Not quite as scary as the first time – I feel like we all know how to to it now. We’re not scrambling around trying to figure out how you’re supposed to get things or what you have to wipe down or trying to figure out masks. The shops are all set up for curbside pickup and delivery, we’ve got our PPE sorted, and other than widening our bubble to include our immediate family (and then shrinking it again a few months later, as instructed) Joe and I have pretty much kept ourselves in lockdown the whole time anyway.  Joe’s still grocery shopping for his parents and others as needed, and we’ve kept it to once a week since mid March, so we’re all sorted there. It’s not so hard to only leave the house once a week for shopping if you’ve been practicing for so long. I haven’t been in a grocery store in eight months, and our list of close contacts for a week can be counted on one hand, and that’s if you put the both of us together.  (And you’ll have fingers left over.)  This lockdown, being asked to make our world a little smaller, it isn’t really that different from what we were already able to do.

I’ve been knitting lots of tiny things of late, wee mice and minuscule hats (the experienced among you will guess why, of course) and mittens for Elliot and…

I’ve been finding it rather satisfying, and it’s only just occurred to me today why that might be.  There’s a certain resonance isn’t there? My world has been so very small for almost a year that knitting small things just seems like a good fit.

As we start this new phase, one that we’re being told is at least 28 days, I’m trying not to panic. Part of me is so sad. What about the gingerbread party? What about Solstice… What about Christmas? Then I remember that we couldn’t have our usual Thanksgiving either, and somehow we all survived that. I’m trying not too look to far ahead right now. A few days at the most, and worrying just about small things.

I’m going to try and be here a bit more right now (at least in the next few days) but I am being gentle with myself, and keeping expectations low. It is the covid-times. Who knows what’s going to happen next. Except that I am probably going to knit this.

That goes double for you

For months now I’ve been telling anyone who complains that they’re off their game that these are exceptional times, and you’re allowed to roll with it however you need to. I reassure them that trying to weather personal storms while in the midst of global loss and fear in frightening times is challenging, and that if it means you’re not as productive or tidy or cheerful or laissez faire as usual, that’s cool. It’s a time to be gentle with yourself I say. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others.

I go away then, having said just that, and do (for the most part) the opposite.  Instead of reassuring myself that I’m actually doing pretty well, what with this being the most craptastic half year of my life, I have been making little lists of the ways that I am screwing it up. You were going to blog every day during the pandemic, I tell myself. You were going to spin when it rains. What happened to brushing up on your Spanish, and weren’t you going to run a 5k? Be in the best shape of your life? Write two books? Bake bread for all your friends, and while we’re at it, isn’t the house supposed to be cleaner than ever now that you’re in it all the time? (This one is epic. Turns out that being constantly in your house and using it for every aspect of your life trashes the joint. Who knew?)

I go to bed thinking essentially that tomorrow is going to be the day that I “get it all together” which is an awesome set-up for the next day, because it’s a goal that’s lofty but vague and therefore largely impossible to follow through on, and then I can disappoint myself properly that day too. I’ve essentially been setting a self-esteem trap every day and it turns out I’m great at it.

I’ve been wondering how to come back here every day when I’ve failed yet again, and it stalls me right out. I’ll have to apologize (again) I tell myself.  I’ll just tell the blog I’m sorry and I’ll do better from here on, and THIS WILL BE THE DAY I GET IT TOGETHER.

Well, it turns out it’s probably not. This is a time of great transition, and I want to be clear that I’m not miserable over here – I’m not lying at the bottom of a pit of despair ignoring a ladder right next to me. There’s good things and great things and bad things and for the most part I feel okay about how this family is doing.  I feel good about inventing a new job and getting us out of trouble, and I feel good about being as available to Elliot as I have been – If the kid can only have a few people in his life, they should be dedicated. I feel terrific about the time we’ve been able to spend together as a family this summer. I feel bad about how sad we are some days, and I feel sad too when I think of how many families feel the way that we do right now, with so much loss all around us. I don’t know how things are where you live, but here we are still under restrictions, mostly increasing ones right now,  and our world is tiny, and having the world shrink to this family and this house sometimes makes it hard to see outside of it.  (I realized the other day that I have lost my wallet. I mean, I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but it’s been seven months since I was in a store so its location has sort of slipped by me.) It is a strange and terrible time, and there are days when I just can’t be cheerful about it, and then days when I am with my family and I think that we’re in great shape, for the shape we’re in.

I miss my friends (especially my American ones) and travelling and knitting classes and conferences and Port Ludlow, and I dread the coming winter when our ability to see people out-of-doors and distanced will go away, and I feel bad for Joe that there’s not likely to be skiing this year, and I am worried about his parents who’s world has been very, very small for so long now.  I really wish we had a fireplace, or that those backyard firepit thingies were legal here. I have anxiety about the holidays, worried about what size and shape they will be and what we will do, and I asked on instagram the other day what people were looking forward to this winter (since I was short of inspiration myself) and there were great answers. Candles and soup, twinkle lights in every room, walks in the snow, movie nights, warm jammies, knitting mittens, the knowledge that I don’t have to put on real clothes for another few months….there is a list of good things. A big list.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, except that you are the blog. I am okay over here, I think. I worry sometimes that something is broken in us after all this, that we will never be the same, and I think that’s true. I think too many hard things happened to us too fast, and after this we will be different, and I think that’s okay. Different doesn’t mean bad, just changed, and maybe if I concede that I’ll stop waiting to feel the way I used to and just try to get used to…. whatever is normal for right now? I’m trying to figure out what normal grief looks like if we’re enduring a pandemic and damned if I know, but I wanted to tell you that I’m trying officially, starting now- to let myself off the hook for all of the messiness I experience while I figure it out. (Both literally, and figuratively.)

Of course, it’s possible that knitting an enormous grey blanket isn’t helping – never mind a grey blanket I screwed up.  It’s been a while since I made a spectacularly enormous knitting error, but here you go, this one’s a classic.  Years ago, I knit the MDK Moderne Log Cabin Blanket. It went fine. I loved how it turned out. Sure, that neutral garter stitch does sort of go on a bit (if you understand that “by go on a bit” I mean that you’ll weep near the end and beg for it to be over) but the result is so, so lovely.  So, I decided to make it again. (I gave away the last one.) I ordered the same yarn, I opened up the book, and I started. Joe and I were going away for three days, and it was the perfect time to get a big chunk of it done, and I did. I started as we began our long drive, with a very good feeling.

Now, here’s the thing. It seemed kinda big from the get go. Much larger than the last time, but I just thought to myself  that I didn’t recall correctly, and I kept going. Our getaway was a little yurt deep in the woods (the girls gave it to me for a birthday present. Neat, right?) No running water (except the river) no electricity, no civilization of any kind, and I thought that this would be perfect timing to really bash out a chunk of this blanket, and it was.

The setting was idylic, and I had hours knitting by the woodstove by candlelight listening to audiobooks, and grand fun knitting by the fire. It was super cold while we were there too (almost zero at night) and that by itself was pretty inspiring in the blanket department.

I can’t explain it,  but I did notice it was too big, but I kept thinking that it was going to work out. (Insane knitter theory #4: If I keep going, maybe this will stop looking too big. Essentially the idea that making something bigger will make it smaller. I can’t explain us sometimes.)  after three days, Joe and I came out of the woods, and as we drove back to the city, yay verily as the cityscape appeared on the horizon, I came to my senses. It was like being slapped in the face with reason and logic.  I opened the book to look at the instructions again and holy cats I am an idiot.

There are two blankets on that page of the book. An adult size, and a baby size. Now, obviously I wanted the adult size so that’s what I was knitting, but the original is knit out of DK weight yarn and I am using a bulky. The minute I looked at it I realized what I’d done last time, and what I should have done this time.  Knit the baby size out of bulky to get an adult size. I’d only completed three sections of the thing and it was already halfway to the size I was aiming for.

I came home and ripped it all out, and now I’m taking a second run at it – it’s coming out fine this time, thank you very much.

Though it’s rather possible I’m going to blow a deadline on account of the gaff.

I think I’ll forgive myself for that too.

I did tidy a closet

There is a lot I don’t understand about this pandemic, but what is wrong with how time passes right now is clear up at the top of my list. I have no idea how so much time can be whipping by me when the days seem so long, or how I can be at home so much and still not get anything done.  Admittedly, I’ve been working very hard on the Patreon and on a few other work things – and that takes up loads of time. I’m determined to make the Patreon a ridiculously good value, and so far I think I’m succeeding. It’s still a little harder than it should be, meaning that because I’m learning everything takes ten times longer than I hope it will once I’m a pro. (This week, due to an error that was incredibly instructive, I managed to lose an entire video during editing and had to start over. It takes real time and commitment to make that kind of high quality error.) It’s a lot of time at my desk, but I’m so grateful to be able to keep the wolves from the door that I’m cool with it, and I’m sure I’ll get better.

I’ve been a very busy grandmother – Elliot is here a lot, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what a busy three year old does to your available time.  When he is we spend our time doing very important things like visiting our ducks (they do not know that they are our ducks)

and wandering through the “deep deep woods” or digging holes at the beach – and this marks the second week that Elliot has been confident enough to leap from the back of the anchored boat to swim in Lake Ontario. It’s already starting to cool off here and I know things will really change when the winter comes, so who am I to deny him (or me) any of the moments of summer? It’s such a brief time that I am trying to cheerfully abandon anything at all if anyone wants to go outside.

Still, there is no explanation for why I haven’t found my way here more often, though I think of you every day, and then… well. Something happens to my day, though I can’t quite say what it is.  (Secretly, I blame Joe. There is something about a big guy in his underpants hanging out in the house this much that just cramps the hell out of my style, as much as I love him.) I am perpetually staring at the clock in disbelief (it just happened again now. Four? It’s almost four? I swear it was 10am when I went for a ride, and then all I did was make lunch for me and Joe and… four?)

I’ll write again soon (I mean that) but today my laptop is going in for repair. (Finally getting the keyboard fixed, hallelujah – we found someone who can do it without us having to go into a shop, so it’s perfect, except for the part where I have to part with it for a few days.) Meanwhile, I’m just here to show you some socks.  I meant it when I said that the lack of travel has really screwed up my sock production… but a concerted effort on my part has meant that three pairs (actually five but I am waiting to show you two others) have come off the needles in the last bit. First, I finished the Regia Pairfect Rainbow pair –

Off they go into the (currently sparsely populated) long-range-planning-box. (Pattern is the plain vanilla top down sock that I taught on the Patreon.) It is worth noting that I did a spiral toe on these, but they spiral in opposite directions, because I can’t imagine anyone could easily walk straight if their toes were unbalanced.

Another pair- I put these in the long range planning box too, but who am I kidding. They are for me.

Yarn is Ancient Arts “Lichen in my Crevices” I am so fetched with this colourway and yarn combo that I have three more skeins of this one in my stash, all purchased separately. Helpless to resist that one, it turns out.  That same pattern that lives in my head again – with an eye of partridge heel this time.

Finally, a pair for Cameron. That one is (again, my basic pattern) and the yarn’s Must Stash in Vespa.

I am glad that Cam is a knitter so he knows exactly how much work his big feet are and can extrapolate exactly how much I love him.

I know that non-knitters sometimes think it’s funny that I like knitting for other knitters so much. They often think that knitters won’t appreciate them as much because they could just make a pair of socks themselves, but it’s never how it goes.  I give a non-knitter socks and (unless they’ve been to school on the topic) they usually say something like “oh wow, thanks so much, these are beautiful hand knit socks”.  This is adequate, of course, and the best they can do- considering that for all intents and purposes they’re pretty sure they’re holding beautiful hand knit socks.

A knitter though? When I give them a pair of beautiful hand knit socks? They usually say something like “these are beautiful” but then they look at you in a way that says what they’re really thinking, which is “thank you for thinking that I am worth this much of your time it makes me feel loved” which is really what we’re trying to say with knitting, isn’t it?

Back soon – you know. When the laptop is fixed and I’ve seen to the ducks. I have a mini-rally to tell you about.

Make your own fun

When I was a kid my mum used to do this thing called Find Your Own Food Fridays. From the time that we were old enough to scrounge leftovers or make a peanut butter sandwich, on Fridays – we were completely on our own.  This was coupled with other parenting gems like pointing out that there were four of us and only one of her, and so it was our job to know where she was, not the other way around. When I became a mum that one started to make a lot of sense, and I also I kept Find Your Own Food Fridays, but one upped my mum by inventing Make Your Own Fun Mondays, in which I didn’t come up with any activities or plans for the girls, and they had to come up with their own fun that didn’t require parental support of any kind.  You want a drive? Sorry kiddo, it’s Monday. Want me to make playdough? I’m happy to direct you to the recipe.  Find your dollie? Set up a fort? Read my lips. MONDAY. My mum loved it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that over the last few weeks, as the time when we would normally be leaving for the Bike Rally loomed, and Team Knit prepared to have a proper pout about it.  One that was rather serious in nature, because we’re not just bummed that we don’t get to have a Rally, we’re really rather more upset that The Rally (not really being a Rally this year) hasn’t been able to fund the agency the way that they usually do – which makes total sense but is still upsetting. It’s been very difficult to get a sense of momentum for an event that can’t happen, and it’s sad  that things can’t happen and…. Stupid virus. Here we are trying to deal with the fallout of the last great pandemic (that would be HIV/AIDS) and the current pandemic is preventing that.

More than that – as someone who’s been on the inside for the last several years, I know how this is working.  The Bike Rally (thanks to awesome people like you) has been very successful the last few years, and that means that there is cash around, and that’s enabled PWA to do some amazing things during this crisis – like that they’re the only ASO (Aids Service Organization) who’s been able to stay open to provide food hampers and financial supports to clients (many of whom are women, mothers, and newcomers to Canada.) To be clear, that money is going to run out – the crisis is not over, and the Rally isn’t raising as much this year as last. Increasingly PWA is going to be asked to do more with less, and that’s hard to see coming.

Team Knit has been trying to figure out how to fix it – or what we can do, or how it is even remotely possible to make some lemonade here, but absolutely everything has proved impossible, and Ken put it best a few weeks ago after a meeting when he said “I feel like all we do is talk about what we can’t do.” That stuck with us. What could we do? What if we flipped it, and asked not what’s restricted or impossible or hopeless…but what’s possible?

We asked ourselves what was possible- what challenges we had and what we could do about them, and what could we do to drive donations and give PWA the biggest rescue we could. We can’t go to Montreal, there aren’t really places to stay on the way and without the rustlers we can’t really move our stuff, and even if we could figure that out the camping was a problem, and without food crew we can’t feed ourselves – and restaurants are still out. (Some are open, but Team Knit is sadly not in a bubble together – so we must remain 2m from each other at all times and that means we can’t sit at a restaurant table together – if we were going to, which we are not.)  There still aren’t any bathrooms open to the public really, and as the only member of Team Knit who can’t pee standing up (or at least really shouldn’t) that’s a strain too. Also, Covid-19 ate Pato’s vacation days so he can only go away for a weekend, and me and Ken and Cam have work too and… well, we got creative. We problem solved. We put on our cheerfulpants and asked ourselves what we could do, and now … we have a plan.

Gentle knitters, Team Knit leaves in the morning for a mighty and triumphant MINI RALLY.

Today we called it “packing day” and I drove around and collected everyone’s stuff, and drove it out to our overnight location. That’s Sam’s house – she lives about 80km away.  While I share a bubble with Sam and her husband Mike (and Mike’s awesome mum Marilyn) the rest of Team Knit does not – so while Sam and Mike have graciously agreed to let Team Knit use the bathroom there – we’ve got tents to put up in their backyard.  (Four – one each.) I solved the lunch problem creatively, you’ll see how tomorrow – I don’t want to spoil it for the rest of Team Knit, and we’ll be able to BBQ once we’re there, and we’ll ride home the next day.

It’s imperfect. Like everything during this lockdown and pandemic, it isn’t what we want. (For starters, even though it’s only 80km (50 miles) away – it is uphill the whole way.) It’s not the Rally, it’s not easy, and there have been moments during the planning that we’ve wondered how much fun it’s going to be, but that’s never been the point anyway.  What’s been the point is all of us pulling together for one goal, for celebrating friendship and taking care of people, and trying to be the change we want to see in the world, and putting our time and efforts where our mouths are.

So, we’re leaving.  I’ll try to post to instagram as we go along over the next two days, and show you what we managed to make work. We’re all turning on the “dings” on our phones, and considering the temperatures tomorrow (scorching) and the distance (far) and the grade (uphill the whole way, into the goddamn wind) and the fact that there haven’t been any training rides this year and we’ve all been on our own… we’d love it if you used it. I will let you know, but anticipate needing a serious boost at around 11am.)

There will only be four of us, instead of a few hundred, and we have to stay 2 metres away from each other the whole time – but we’ll be together. Sort of. Mostly. Making a big push for PWA, and trying to inspire you to inspire us so we can help them, and trying to make our own fun – or fundraiser, as the case may be. It’s not perfect, and it’s not the Rally, but it’s the best we can do. It’s what we can have.

Team Knit remains:

Me

Ken

Cameron

Pato

We love you. (And we all packed our knitting.)

(PS I have been knitting a lot of socks I will show you soon.)

Dear Charlotte

It is tradition in our family for me to knit a blanket for every baby born into it. I’ve made a bunch of them now – starting with blankets for my own daughters, and then Hank. I’ve showered them on nieces and nephews, and a grand-niece and a grandson, and every one I have knit has been an epic. A blanket made just for them, never to be repeated again – with motifs and meaning that is unique to that one person on earth, as special as they are. I knit them for months as the awaited babe bakes away, and every stitch I knit in them is another little wish. Be happy, be healthy, be your own self. Be brave, be funny, be fierce, be all you, be mine.

When I give the blanket to them, there’s always a glorious photoshoot of the recipient nestled in all that love, and… I write them a letter. A missive explaining why I knit them what I did, what the motifs in their blankets mean, and what I hope for them, what I hope the future holds for them, and I tell them how very, very welcome and loved they are, and how happy we all are that they’re here. You’ll find some of those letters here on the blog. Dear Elliot, Dear Maeve, Dear Frankie, Dear Luis…

I love this tradition. In a family that values handmade things as part of our culture, the blankets feel like treasures to me, and they’ve always been treated that way by the parents of the babes, and by the children themselves, when they get big enough. They all call them “my blanket” and I have never doubted that they are the closest thing I can knit to an amulet of protection – my love between them and the world. Wrap yourself up in that, kiddo. You’ll always have me.

Of course, I knit Charlotte a blanket, and it was blocked and folded and waiting for her when she arrived, and there aren’t words to tell you how much I looked forward to wrapping her in it – the lace around her little face, her fingers curled like little blossoms against the wool and silk. We took Elliot’s blanket pictures when he was a week old and Meg and I had agreed that’s when we would take Charlotte’s. Those first few days are just too hard to scramble fancy photoshoots in matching clothes into the mix. We’d wait, we said. The blanket stayed folded, there was no need to rush.

Yesterday, Charlotte would have been four months old. Meg has been asking for almost all those months for Charlotte’s blanket to be photographed and for me to write about it, the way I did for Elliot, and I have been stalling, or maybe it’s unfair to say stalling and it’s really been more like… trying, because of all the items left behind in the wake of that babe’s life, it is the blanket that hurts me the most.

Meg and I speak often of the inner conflict we feel around remembrances of Charlotte. I know it is different for everyone -but for me and Meg, some things have begun to bring us comfort. The pictures and videos of her, or remembering the delicious anticipation of her birth, recalling the joy I felt holding her in my arms, these are things about my little granddaughter I don’t want to forget, and while it makes me sad to see or think of those things, they are balanced with a sweetness and happiness that makes it worth the agony. Other things have remained intolerable. My Ravelry queue, still full of everything I was going to make her is still exquisitely painful to me and I haven’t been able to open it – not after I opened it once without thinking and was confronted with it all. Similarly the tiny clothes I made for her that she never wore are unbearable. It’s funny, but I don’t feel that way about the wee things that we did dress her in. They don’t make me as sad at all, but the unused ones just break my heart.

For me, that is the difference. Remembrances of Charlotte don’t make me sad, but the things we didn’t use are gigantic reminders of the colossal rip off that is infant loss. So it is for Megan I think – we’re on mostly the same page with all of her pictures and belongings, with one difference. Charlotte’s blanket. Meg feels connected to it, often holding it and finding comfort in something that was so fiercely and individually Charlotte’s – a symbol of how desperately loved and wanted she was. Me? I’m the jerk who can’t quite look at it long enough to write the post my daughter wants.

Today – it’s been four months since Charlotte’s perfect day. The day in between the day she was born and the day she died – the day that we all just snuggled in and looked at her and passed her arm to arm and smelled her head and showed Elliot how he could tell that she loved him already, because she was holding his finger in her wee fist, and we let the feeling of tremendous luck and gratitude wash over us. Charlotte was safely arrived, healthy and beautiful, and carrying my mum’s name. It felt like a healing of a kind – one out, one in, the family seeking level like water. Meg and I whispered over her tiny body, marvelling at how she was a girl. It feels a little sexist, doesn’t it? To say we were happy she was a girl? Our family is an undeniable matriarchy – I think it started when my grandfather ceded all familial power by heading off to war, and my Grammy took charge and it’s been down to the women since. There is something special about being a woman in our family – to paraphrase Gloria Steinem, most of us became the men we wanted to marry, and we have a long history of wonderful mothers and powerhouse aunties and sisters and some (okay several) men who have opted out of doing anything amazing with their roles, and it’s left the whole family valuing women more than is strictly reasonable. I love Elliot more than I can possibly tell you and I don’t think having a girl is better than having a boy, but I had only daughters myself, and there was something about Meg having a daughter that lit us both up with a connection. Charlotte would be…. like us. A mother maybe, an auntie, a sister.

This is what I was thinking about while I knit her blanket. That she would join a long line of incredible women that Meg and I would tell her about as she grew. She would have me and Erin of course, but… we are the matriarchs now- it would be only stories that she’d hear about my remarkable Mum and spectacular Grammy that would inspire her. I resolved to start telling that story with her blanket – the story of the women she came from.

The centre of Charlotte’s blanket has little trees of life (I know, obvious – sorry. I get a little romantic about babies) and a border of diamonds because they have four sides – and Charlotte was the person who took Meg, Alex and Elliot from a trio- to a quartet. Meg and Alex will forever now have two children. The four little nupps in the centre of each diamond are for each of them.

Around that centre is ring lace. This is the only element that has appeared on most blankets that I knit – it’s a signature move, and is meant to symbolize the family that surrounds the child, whole and intact, as protectors and help.

Outside that, my favourite. It’s an old victorian lace pattern that’s roses on a trellis – it’s a theme of four again, but this time, it’s for my mum. Anyone who knew her couldn’t help but associate her with her garden, and her love of roses. Roses are like my mum too – and I imagined explaining to Charlotte that my mum was like a rosebush. Not like a rose, you understand, but like the bush. Beautiful soft blooms – and strong canes and thorns. Bonnie (the elder) was soft hearted, but it came with a wicked fierceness that I wished for my Charlotte Bonnie (the younger). There are four roses on each trellis, the same number of children my mum had. Me, James, Ian and Erin.

Beyond that – it’s my own Grammy. Kay McPhee, mercy she was a wild woman and she died when I was a teenager and I still sometimes think about her fingers in my hair as a I go to sleep. She was larger than life, and more beautiful than I can say, and if anyone ever tells me I am anything like her I feel so proud. She was like a willow. Strong, but flexible. Remind me to tell you all about the time she had me fake an illness so she didn’t have to go to a business dinner with my Grampa. Genius. (We got caught.) This panel of Lilly of the Valley is her favourite flower, and it grew all the way along the side of her house, and when I was a little girl she used to encourage me to lie on my tummy in the grass and stick my nose right in it. I recommend the practice. Lily of the Valley also appears on Elliot’s blanket – so a little nod to sibling solidarity there.

The border is the only bit left to tell my Meg about, and it’s the only thing that’s exactly the same as Elliot’s blanket – well, that’s not true. I used the same yarn too so that they’re in the same family – just like Elliot and Charlotte. It is Print ‘o the wave, and meant to signify the same thing it did for her brother. The water we all love to be in and near, the water she was born from, and into, and the wave of love that carried her here to us. It is the part that is Megan – the strong woman that Charlotte came from. There is much that I could say here about the strength I see in my daughter right now. I always knew it was there – but she’s shown more grace though the last four months than I could ever have hoped for. I am grateful that Charlotte had such a good, strong mum. I grieve that she didn’t get more.

I have not found a way to write to Charlotte. Maybe that is for her mother to do, or maybe I am just too much of a realist to write to someone that I know will never read it, and besides, I wrestle with some demons yet. When I wrote to Elliot, I wrote about how content I was as a grandmother- how the fear and terrible worry of being a mum gives way to experience, and that in that there is so much joy. I worried about what might happen to my girls, I wrote- but after they grew up, largely without incident, I thought there was nothing to fear, I could enjoy my grandchildren with a joyful unafraid love that leapt like little fish in the sunshine and made my heart feel like it was made of sparkles. How many times did I reassure Meg, how many times have I told her not to worry, not to be afraid? I was so wrong.

I think it is natural when someone dies, when there is a tragedy like this, that you search for the meaning, purpose and value of it. I think that too because Charlotte was so little, and because forty-eight hours is a pretty short lifespan, that the urge to look for the gift or transformation that her life offered is powerful, and there is an attempt to give weight and motive to a life that couldn’t generate it with time, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out what that is.
I do not believe that Charlotte was here so briefly for a reason. I don’t think (and cannot tolerate) any idea that Megan and Alex have had to suffer like this as part of a grand design. They are good parents and made no mistakes and so I can only think it was an accident of nature that took her – like a terrible flood or a disaster that no-one could see coming, and no-one could stop, and I don’t feel like we are supposed to figure it out, but I can see that it’s going to change all of us.

Megan wrote the other day that she feels that this has taken her innocence, and this – this is Charlotte’s legacy, in a very good way. I have spent my entire adult life trying to learn how to be brave, and in particular how to raise brave daughters – and I do not think that was a waste of time at all, but this whole thing, not getting a chance to write Charlotte a letter, to wrap her in her blanket, it has reminded me that maybe when it comes to love, it is perhaps a good thing to be a little bit afraid.

I know now that anyone I love, any person, any moment can be struck by lightning, and since Charlotte came and went, I have tried to love the people I do a little more fiercely. I say I love you more often. I try to bite my tongue a little harder, to pay more compliments, to show more patience, to say yes a little more often, and I see Megan do the same. Can someone who lived only forty-eight hours change this many people? I think, as I look at my tiny granddaughters big blanket amongst the bleeding hearts, that oh, my Dear Charlotte, maybe so.

I’m so glad you were here. I miss you.