Postcards

A few weeks ago, friends of ours (we’re having them sainted later this week) offered us use of their cottage up North. We’re not idiots, so we jumped at the chance, and started organizing the family.  It took a lot of doing, but on Friday we caravaned up here in two cars, with Amanda, Sam, Meg (and her sidekick Elliot) and stuffed Penny the dog in for good measure.

We proceeded to have three glorious days with all three of our girls, and we had the best time. Swimming, sunning on the deck, canoeing, playing hours and hours of boardgames and stargazing at night.  (Sam and I saw a meteor that she called “life changing.”) They did each others hair like they were wee again, and took turns setting the table and serving.

It was nothing short of delicious and completely charming.  On Monday afternoon, Sam and Amanda had to go, but we’ve stayed on with Meg and Elliot, revelling in the luxury of being full time grandparents, and (hopefully) giving Meg a vacation of her own.

We’ve had friends to dinner, I accidentally dropped a ball of yarn in the lake (it dried, it was fine) and a huge thunderstorm missed us by an inch. We’ve eaten corn on the cob and we all saw a fox, and Amanda actually spontaneously uttered those epic Canadian words “hold my beer, and watch this.”

I couldn’t ask for anything more, except for longer days, and some extra of them before we need to go home. (Also, if Elliot wasn’t so obsessed with eating books, that would be cool too.)

PS. Happy Birthday, sweet Meggie.  We’ll do it all together when we’re home again.

Getting Lucky

I’m home again, and for the first time since I got here – it’s a day without a deluge. It’s been raining. Not just raining, but pouring – almost since I arrived back, it’s been tipping great gouts of water from the sky. Lashes of rain, flooding, spectacular curtains of water heaping down on the city, and all I’ve been able to think of is how different the Rally would have been if it were this week and not last. It really gives me the willies.

What a different sort of Rally we had this year.  Every year I feel like there’s a theme that develops over the course of the ride. It has been bravery, it has been endurance, it has been loneliness or difficulty, it has been friendship, and even love. It’s become so predictable, this idea that a theme will emerge, that I’ve started to look for it. This year, with my job on the Rally being what it was, I expected that the theme might be responsibility, or care-taking. I thought maybe it would be sacrifice – our time and work for someone else’s need, or good time – sort of like being the host of a really big week long party, metaphorically filling the bowls of chips and worrying about running out of ice.

There was some of that too. Every time I saw an ambulance I worried it was a rider, every time the weather threatened to be too hot or too cold or too wet, I worried it would be crappy for the riders and crew. I was very, very, very worried that something terrible would happen on my watch. There were meetings morning and night, and lots of extra work to be sure, but in the end, I didn’t see the theme coming, and it emerged just the same. It was luck.

I have spent so much of this last year feeling unlucky.  Unlucky that my Mum died the way she did, unlucky that Susan followed her so quickly. Unlucky about the stupid shingles and the way my hair always does that thing. Fill in the blank, and I’ve been feeling unlucky about it.

I have spent great gobs of time reflecting over the last year on the ways that I’ve been lucky too, trying not to sink under the sadness or feelings of poor fortune.  I’ve reminded myself that I have a wonderful family left, that Elliot came at exactly the right time for me to have something joyful to hold on to, that I am beyond blessed to have such good friends, and people around me who care, and that I’ve got friends who might let me sit at the edge of the self-pity pool and dabble my feet for a bit, but won’t let me jump in and swim. I know we are not supposed to talk about this sort of thing, but I have truly struggled for my happiness this last year. Genuine joy, however small, has been fleeting, and difficult to grasp – but this last week I found it again. Every time it didn’t rain. Every time someone wept from happy pride that they were accomplishing all this. Every time we met another fundraising goal, every time someone spoke about the work that PWA does and will do with the money and time we all gave them, every time we reflected on the privilege we have that gives us the time and energy to do something like this… every time we weren’t lost, or poor, or hungry, or sick, I thought “There it is. We are so lucky.”

It was there the very first day, when as we cycled across beautiful Ontario, in the bright sunshine, and I turned to my friends and said “look how lucky we are.” When that night, even though it called for thunderstorms, it just sprinkled, and then there was a rainbow – actually, scratch that. There was a double rainbow.

It rained a little in the night I think, but the tents weren’t even wet in the morning.  One of the days – who knows which one, they’re all a blur – we arrived in camp, Cameron showed me the weather forecast – and it was dire.  Rain, rain, rain – with little respite all night, and even more dumping on us the next day as we rode.  At the time I told him that I was opting out of believing it, that maybe it wouldn’t rain, and he cocked an eyebrow, continued putting a tarp over his stuff, and shook his head a little at my delusion. I knew it was crazy, but I’d long taken things I couldn’t control off my worry list, and the weather was right up there. Ten minutes later it sprinkled again, not even enough to bug anybody, and then cleared right up beautifully.

 

There were no ambulances. Nobody got badly hurt. We met a fundraising goal and didn’t raise it, feeling bad about moving the goalposts, and then were staggered when we surpassed it, and then surpassed what we’d secretly hoped for, and then surpassed that again. The fancy message from the Prime Minister we didn’t think would arrive in time did.  I felt great on my bike, strong and fast. The generator broke one night, but it was fixed really quickly. People got along- they made friends, I didn’t have to work so hard that I didn’t have time for some fun, and on the last night in spider camp, there was only two spiders on my tent and that is a freakin’ miracle.  It was warm, but just a little overcast so that nobody got too hot, and three days there was a wind at our backs, speeding us along. I have never been more grateful. Almost everything worked, even the things that I didn’t think were going to.  One night, as we slept, the worst part of one of the bike paths we had to ride was freshly paved – we didn’t even have to deal with the construction crew.

I am not going to pretend that there weren’t challenges. The whole thing is a challenge, that’s the point. I’m not going to say I didn’t cry on my bike a few times (the hills, holy wing of moth) or that there wasn’t a morning when we all ate ibuprofen like they were tictacs. I won’t tell you it wasn’t hard, or that there weren’t things that went wrong – and I’m also not going to fail to mention that a lot of what seemed like “good luck” was the result of a lot of people who worked really, really hard in the year leading up to the Rally to make it a great place for good luck to land – but overall, the fates smiled. (I still slept for about three days straight when it was over – and I’m not the only one. Ken was still sitting gingerly at dinner last night.) I am not going to tell you that this fixes everything- that joy and unfettered happiness are back in my life without restraint, but oh, it felt so good to have a success – to see everyone succeed, to see them so moved by it all.

When we arrived in Montreal, I stood up in front of all the riders and I told them the truth. In your life, if you are very lucky, you will get one hundred summers, and I cannot believe that they chose to spend one of them on this. I am so proud of them, of the riders, of the crew, of the committees who worked so hard. I am so proud of every single one of you too – Team Knit collectively raised $105,326.49 this year, and the Rally itself a record $1.73 million.  I have said it a thousand times, riding my bike to Montreal does nothing without you.  It wouldn’t make a single bit of difference without the donations and momentum you all put behind us.  The ride is just a metaphor – a symbol of our commitment, and without your actual commitment, we’re just some really sweaty people on bikes. You, my petals, are the thing that made it matter, and I am so lucky to have you.

When I asked for your help, you said yes, and helped as best you could, and now,  each one of those yeses, is going to turn into something amazing over the next year. They’re going to turn into times when someone enduring real bad luck walks into PWA and asks for help, and whoever is sitting at the front desk can say Yes, this is your lucky day.

Thank you.

(I’m going to knit something now.)

It’s Probably in a Bin

It is very early in the morning, and I’m sitting here, drinking coffee, watching the day start – with the sun coming up, and Team Knit stirring as we get up and get going in four separate spots all over the city.  Funny to think that after this, we’ll travel together every day for a week.

(Yes. I am drinking coffee in the bath to save time. It’s efficient.)

I’m nervous.  I know I say that every year, and I know that people shrug it off – you’ve done it before, they say. You’ll be OK, they say.  The truth is that it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve done it, it just isn’t easy to ride your bike 660km.  (For my American Friends, that’s 410miles.) This year I compounded the difficulty by not training much.  There were so many times when I could do a job that would benefit the whole Rally, or just me (the training) and I opted for the former. I’ve spoken with lots of the former Co-Chairs, and they all say the same thing. They years that they embraced leadership were the years that they trained the least.  There just isn’t time, and opting for the Rally in general has absolutely seemed more responsible, right up until this minute when I’m thinking about putting my untrained arse on a bike and riding out of here.

There will be many times over the course of the next week when everyone on Team Knit steps up to a Leadership role, and each of us has our own reasons for doing so.  I won’t speak to the rest of Team Knit, but I can tell you that the things my mother taught me have been figuring largely in my reasons for riding my bike this year. My mum believed, wholeheartedly, that the world was  a different place for women than it is for men.  When I was a younger woman I thought that she was a tad extreme in these beliefs, but the older I get, the more that I see that it’s true. I feel now the way my mum did, that there is absolutely no reason to be bitter about this, but she was rather firm that you couldn’t just… ignore it.

So, when my mum died, I thought about giving up the Co-Chair gig. (Don’t tell that to Ted – the other half of Co-Chair equation) I thought that it wasn’t going to be my best self, and that someone else would be better at it, and I thought a lot about quitting, and then something started to happen.  I started going down to PWA. I started doing the work. I started looking around and listening and realizing that there was something going on, and that thing was that when I went to PWA? The place is full of women and children.

 HIV/AIDS is now regarded mostly as a chronic disease that largely has to do with gay men, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  While it’s true that we’ve got treatment now for a great many people who have HIV/AIDS, the regime is expensive, difficult to comply with, and hard to access for many people who are living complicated lives – the primary risk factors for HIV/AIDS are now poverty and lack of power.  (Here’s a great example, in Saskatchewan (that’s a province in the middle-ish of Canada) 79% of the new cases of HIV are in indigenous people.)
We see this in the shifting client base at PWA. These days almost 30% of PWA’s clients are women and their children.
The truth is that if one of the main risk factors for HIV/AIDS is poverty and a lack of power, than it is only going to continue to disproportionately affect poor and dis-empowered women since we haven’t solved that whole equality problem yet. I could (and have) go on forever about this topic, about how robust the solution to this problem needs to be – how diverse we have to think, and when I think that? I hear my mum. I hear her problem solving, her ideas, her knowledge that communities fix things, and investing in communities is always helpful, and her belief that if you have some money or power (or both) you have a responsibility to get firmly on the side of people who do not. My Mum wouldn’t have wanted me to quit being Co-Chair because she got sick and died.
So, this morning will be the first time that my Mum hasn’t been with me for departure. Last night was the first time she didn’t call to see if I was ready, or text this morning to ask (for the 387time what time departure is. (Geez Mum it’s 9am the same every year.)  I’m going to go invest in this community, and I’m going to trust that investment to carry me.  I’m going to put my love and care in Team Knit, in Ken, and Cameron and Pato, and believe that they’re going to do the same thing, that we’ll get through it together, if we stick together. I love those guys, and they love me.
Team Knit wants to thank you too for all of this.  Each of us is at our (public) goal, though each of us has hopes and dreams and a private goal we haven’t disclosed, and we’re still hoping to reach.  We have you to thank for it. We put our energy, time and money towards this problem, ad you did too – and we can’t thank you enough.
You are the only reason Team Knit makes a difference, and we’re so, so grateful.
We love you. Thank you.
If you find an extra fiver hanging around this week, or you decide that something in your life can be rearranged a little bit to redistribute some power and luck in the world, Team Knit remains:
Me                         Ken
Cameron                Pato
(PS. Kim at Indigodragonfly summed all of this up so well, when her fundraising colourways for the Bike Rally this year were to honour her mother, and mine.  Kim knows a ton about redistributing luck and power. She’s awesome.)
(PPS. I don’t think I can blog over the next week, but follow me on instagram and I’ll try to show you everything. I’m @yarnharlot.)

Almost the End/Beginning

I’ve lost all perspective on the world.  The world is the Rally.  The Rally is the world, or something like that.  This week, hours and hours and hours went to keeping the Rally on the rails, and trying to make it be all it can be. I hope I’ve done okay – it’s all just anxiety right now.  Today’s the last day before we leave. We all went to packing day, and… wait, have I told you how this works?  The riders are supported on this odyssey by the crew. Food crew, Wellness crew, Road Support and (most important for this story) The Rustlers.

Every rider gets two rubbermaid bins – not super big ones. You put everything in them that you’ll need for the week – your clothes, tent, chair, spare inner tubes, purse, yarn… and they move it from city to city.  Every morning we load our two bins up and take them to the trucks, and the rustlers drive them to the next city, and decant all the bins onto the campground. We pick up our bins, go set up our tents, do whatever, and then in the morning we pack it all back into the bins, trot (drag, limp) the bins back over to the trucks – repeat. The thing is that we can’t do this the morning of departure.  It’s way too complicated to check everyone in, assign them bins… we’d have to get there before dawn. (Remember, there’s 300 cyclists.) So the day before departure is packing day. You show up, check in, get your jerseys for the day or the week, depending on how long you’re riding, and you get bins and put all your stuff in, and put it on a truck and then…

Then the Rustlers have your stuff, and you don’t. I find it really stressful.  I can’t give them my knitting because then I can’t knit, but I can’t keep my knitting unless I can carry it on my bike the next day, because I won’t have access to those bins until I arrive in Port Hope tomorrow night. (Apparently that I am Co-Chair means very little in terms of bin access. The Rustlers are fierce. Some of them are even knitters and I still couldn’t budge anyone, though I didn’t try that hard. They’ve got a system.) Essentially, you can only keep the things that you can fit in your jersey pockets. (I kept more knitting than I should have. I’m stressed. Yarn makes me feel better. I’ll figure it out tomorrow.)

I came home and finished a pair of socks –

Pattern forthcoming, when I have time to do it… yarn is Ridley Sock Yarn from Sea Turtle Fiber Arts (I think the colourway was called “Imagine”) I said it when I started knitting with this yarn, and I’ll say it again, I love this sock yarn.  Durable, soft, super cozy.  I’m a fan.  I started a new pair of socks this week too – these ones to accompany me on my trip, since I knew the other ones would be finished soon. (No point in knitting taking up room if it won’t last the trip.)

This one is Electron Sock (80% merino/ 20% nylon) from Elemental Fiberworks in “Ring Nebula” (I think it looks rainbowish.)  I also freaked out and put an extra skein in my packing, because I got nervous that I’d (like always) suddenly churn out much more knitting than usual, and be underyarned in a campground somewhere.  The truth is that it’s not really likely, considering that it’s hours and hours a day on my bike (and I feel like if I instagrammed a yarn emergency one of you would help me) but you can’t be too careful.

I’m off to bed soon, because how much sleep you need to do this can’t be understated, but I thought I’d do as many Karmic Balancing gifts as I could before running out of time.  I won’t get through them all, some will have to wait until we’re back, but here goes!

Caitlin wrote the sweetest note about finally being in a position to give, and give she did, three lovely offerings from her stash and hands. Handspun SweetGeorgia Yarns BFL/silk (January 2014 club colorway ‘Night Owl’). Semi-woolen spun, 4 oz/about 200 yards, that will be going to live with Jess D.

Three skeins of Imperial Yarn Erin, one each of the Natural, Pearl Grey, and Quail colorways, Caitlin will send that to Heather B.

And last, but certainly not least two skeins of handspun natural fiber; lighter grey is Jacob, and darker is Corriedale. 4 oz/about 200 yards each for Diana Z, who is not a spinner, and I’m glad, because this one of the only ways she’ll get to enjoy how lovely it is to knit with handspun.

Robin Hunter, charmer that she is, has donated a free pattern for TEN knitters.

I have no idea how on earth they are going to choose from the lovelies in her shop, but good luck to Margaret G, Sarah M, Marcie R, Camb F, Miriam F, Beth D. Harriet B, Cheryl R, Kate D, Angela D and Beth D.

Gina has three beautiful things to share, and writes about her luck, and how she’d like to pass the love on. Isager Strik Spinni (Wool 1): 2 skeins, lace weight, 100% wool, colorway Gray 2S that she’ll be sending to Sarah J.

Twisted Fiber Art Opulent Striping: 2 skeins, DK weight, 50/50 silk/merino, colorway Mirage (caked up, no longer in skein) for Kathleen W.

Twisted Fiber Art Catnip Evolution: 1 skein, Aran weight, 50/50 silk/merino, colorway Boreal that’s going to live with Andrea L.
Finally, and there’s so much more, but I have got to go to bed… Signature Needle Arts got in on the game again this year – and they’ve got not one, but two gift certificates for $50, one each for Lenny B, and Sarah S.  Lucky Ducks.  (I mean that, I do love a Signature Needle.  Like driving a Ferrari.)
Good night petals, and I’ll try to touch in in the morning before I ride out of here, and try to catch up with my bins.

Only the lonely

Note: I started writing this on Sunday and things went completely sideways after that.  For the record, this Co-Chair job is only picking up speed over the last week to departure, and the workload, while manageable, is constant. I’m so looking forward to riding my bike 100km a day AS A BREAK, and how crazy is that? It took until today to finish and post. Bear with me, my lovelies. Things are pretty wild over here. (PS Joe is not back yet.)


Joe’s away this weekend, attending a music festival out west – and it has left me happily and completely alone. Not to say that I don’t miss him (I do) and not to say that I’m not lonely (I am) but it’s left me able to focus almost completely on catching up on a million things.  I have a long to-do list, but wing of moth and tie of skein, I am actually getting it done.  I am mere hours away from being caught up on the housework – so close in fact that if someone were to ring my doorbell right now I’d almost consider opening it.  (Almost. I have to resolve the risk that they’d get stuck down to the kitchen floor first.)  The Bike Rally Co-Chair inbox is a single screen’s worth of panic, rather than pages and pages. I haven’t even opened my personal inbox, but tomorrow’s another day.

Yesterday I got up early, scraped a layer off the kitchen, poured a coffee, and sat down at my desk and worked on the Bike Rally stuff for five hours. After that amount of time I still had buckets to do and was feeling sort of defeated, looking wistfully out the window at a world where it seemed that everyone except for me was having a good time, and right on cue, I got a text.  It was Cameron, suggesting an afternoon at the beach with a few friends, and in a wave of maturity I can only describe as heroic, I declined the invitation. He pressed a little, and to be truthful, that was all the resistance I had in me. I folded faster than a laundry and an hour after that I was on a water taxi, headed across the harbour to the island. The weather wasn’t that great – the water was choppy and the sky grey, and a few times I thought about how stupid it was that I’d chosen to ditch work for a not-great reward.  I was wrong. By the time I’d walked to the beach on the other side, things were much better. Warm, and sunny (from time to time) and the water was glorious and the wind out on the lake had brought up big waves to play in (not ocean big, but still fun) and we played frisbee for a while (I retain my perfect record of never catching a single throw) and I knit.

It. Was. Perfect.  I was home before dark, finishing my sock on the streetcar, and got home in time to put the news on the radio and do about 87 more tasks before making myself toast for dinner and falling into bed.  At the time, I felt like I was shirking my responsibilities, but today there’s (another) Bike Rally function, and that rest yesterday did me so much good that I’m really looking forward to going to it. The idea of tomorrow’s meeting no longer makes me want to hide in a darkened room and knit garter stitch, and the level of hysteria I feel when I realize we leave in a week is almost manageable.

Seven Five more days, and while Team Knit haven’t yet met our (public) fundraising goals (we all have private ones as well) we’re still hoping to get there. I’ve got a while before I leave the house (again, even though it is now Tuesday) so let’s see how many Karmic Balancing Gifts I can get through.  If you’re just catching up with what’s up, you can read the post about how this works here, and because somebody always asks, here’s our fundraising links. Team Knit is:

Me                                    Ken

Pato                                 Cameron

(For the record, and in case I haven’t mentioned it, almost all of Team Knit is fulfilling Leadership Roles this year.  I’m Co-Chair, Ken is a Team Lead, Cameron is Co-Lead of Rider Team Leads, and Pato – he’s resting from being Recruitment Co-Lead last year. We’re really trying to make a difference, and we’re putting our time and energy where our mouths are.)

Onward!

Julie has a lovely 280-yard hank of worsted weight yarn from Spittin’ Creek Farm (www.spittincreek.com) in Xenia, Ohio. It’s an alpaca/merino/tussah silk blend, and the color is Bright Jade. Julie’s generous enough that she’s sending this along to live with Megan M.

Next up, a gorgeous handpainted double sock blank (462 yards, 100g, fingering weight, merino/nylon) from Anne, at the Twisted Fleece. The colourway is “Sittin’ on the Dock” and it’s part of her Summer Love series.

It’s so very pretty, like sunshine sparkles on water, and it will be winging it’s way to Robyn R.  Anne’s not done though!

That’s 1 skein of speckle dyed 70%baby alpaca, 30%silk, 875 yards (about 807 m), 190 grams. This is a fine laceweight.  Colorway: “Celebration” in honor of Team Knit and all those riding in and supporting the PWA Bike Rally. The Twisted Fleece (that’s Anne) will be sending that along to Stirling.

Amy is parting with this lovely book – Victorian Lace Today.  (I own this book, and I absolutely love it.)

She’s somehow going to imagine a life without it, and send it to Olivia P.

Here’s a big one – a tremendously generous gift from Tanja Luescher

She’s giving away not five, not ten, but TWENTY EBOOKS.  Recipeints can choose between Stories of Inspiration,

Selfstriping!

Hubby Needs Socks,

The Cat Collection,

or they can make their own e-book of any 7 of her patterns – excluding Daddy’s Prayer Shawl. (Tanja is ridiculously kind, and that one is dedicated to another cause.) The lucky knitters are: Elizabeth H, Jen G, Debra L, Lisa B, Erica TC, Lucy N, Dianne G, Lori B, Danielle D, Karen F, Sue, Sara D, Lynda K, Ruth Ann H, Annette A, Bridget K, Barb, Linda W, Chelsy J, Elizabeth L, and Brenda C. (Whew.)

Anik has 2 skeins of Cherry Hill Yarn Supersock Select (right from her cozy little stash)

It’s 840 yds (768.1 m) of fingering yarn in Riverbank, and it will be soon on it’s way to MIchelle R.  Thank you Anik!

Kate is somehow (I cannot imagine how she’s doing it) has FOUR gifts to give away.

1. Yarn Chef 75/25 BFL/silk, 4 oz- She’ll send that along to Kate F.

2. Becoming Art BFL in Dread Pirate Roberts, 4 oz for Raven J.

3. Mudpunch Slash Self-Striping Sock in Ten Percenter, a spectacular gift for Rachel M.
4. Stitch Together Stitch Skinny in Melted Peeps to knock the (future) socks off of Meagan.
Next up, and as a writer, I love this one – Elizabeth Hall (who is an actual, honest to gosh writer – and a knitter) has donated a copy of her book The Music of the Deep. I have provided you there with a link to buy it, because it sounds terrific.  Beth says “It is set on a fictional island in Washington, and includes a group of spinners and knitters who welcome Alexandra Turner, after she leaves her abusive husband. It also includes the stories of the Southern Resident Killer Whales (orcas) in this area.” Good, right?  I do love me a novel with some knitting content. Elizabeth will be signing that for Linda L.
Jessie McKitrick is a designer, and she’s donating a copy of her Chesterfield Slippers pattern (a Chesterfield is a couch, here in Canada) and she’s throwing in a skein of Lagoon DK (in the colour of the recipients choice.) That recipient is Annie S, and she’ll be picking not just the colour, but an extra pattern from Jessie’s shop as well. Thanks to both of you!
That is, my little butterflies, more than thirty gifts, and a lot of emails.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be back tomorrow, I’ve got “a day off.” which we use here to mean that I don’t have to go to a meeting, just sit at my desk and try desperately to catch up. I think I can do it.
I’ll try to post. I’ll drink extra coffee. Thanks for everything.

 

 

Slow Going

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

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

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

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

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

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

I put yarn in one of them.

Things I am not doing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost empty

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

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

Me                            Ken

Pato                         Cameron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Susan G should enjoy this beauty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Randomly on a Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. My arse is still sore from Monday.

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

11. Karmic Balancing Gifts tomorrow.

Let me get you a chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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