This morning I got up early – so early it was still dark, and I made coffee, and while it was brewing, I put on my biking stuff – including the incredibly flattering and esteem boosting spandex. Then I came downstairs again, and sat in the dawning light, eating peanut butter toast and waiting for the text from Jen that would tell me she was at the trailhead. When she got there, I went outside, got on my bike, and as I pushed off down the street to meet her, I marvelled that I was doing it.  I’m training for the Bike Rally again, and I have a secret to tell you.

verychipper 2015-05-13

(Jen and I are seen here at the beginning of our ride this morning. 50km before work. What you can’t see is how cold we are. We were attempting supernatural chipperness as an antidote. It helps.)

At the end of the Rally last year, I was going to take a year off. Last year was… hard. I don’t know any other way to describe it. The rain, the overwhelming training schedule, my knees – they were really hurting. I think I have a grip on the problem now, but last year? The ends of the rides were all punctuated with ice packs. Also, the issue of the (*&%$%##ing squirrel EATING MY SEAT right before the rally, and having to ride the whole thing on a new one? I’d rather not discuss the impact on my nether-regions, and instead tell you that that year was… hard.  I had a very, very low night about mid-way through the rally, when I cried (by myself, like a grownup) and wondered why the hell I do this to myself, and thought that maybe I would have a break this year. That feeling was still there when we pulled into Montreal. It was amazing to have done it, I was so proud of everything, but I was done. Just… for a while. I imagined all the ways that I could still support this cause without involving my free time, summer vacation, weekends and crotch.  I hadn’t figured out how to tell anyone. Joe knew though, and he said everyone would understand. I thought he was right too.

Then, something happened. PWA (the Toronto People with Aids Foundation) was forced to cut some staff and services. The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA, and we’d failed to sustain them, and the people who use them. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. In fact, the ridership raised more money per rider last year than ever before – there there were fewer riders though, compared to years past, and even though the fundraising efforts were heroic, it wasn’t enough.  This moved me more than I can tell you. This tangible evidence that the Rally is so fundamental, so immediate to the ability of PWA to help people… it just struck me that the choices that I made mattered, and they mattered that day, and something snapped.

I did three important things that day.  I decided to ride again. I decided to accept the position I was offered on the Steering Committee. (Without a word of a lie, I was going to turn it down.) And… I decided to do everything in my power to change the outcome for this year, to try as hard as I could to raise as much as I could.  So, I didn’t quit. I had sort of a bad feeling in my tummy, but I didn’t quit.

Those decisions have had, shall we say… “impact”.  I have the added responsibilities of Steering Committee. I help make decisions that shape the Rally, and make things possible. I go to a lot of meetings. I send a lot of emails, and once again, my summer is going to evaporate into a blur of training rides and Rally stuff, and I’ll probably be away when my new niece of nephew comes – and while I have some feelings about that,  I don’t regret my choice. I feel like it’s important, and I am so, so very lucky to have this time to give. (My arse disagrees, but we are in negotiations.)

rainagain 2015-05-13 (1)

(Jen and I are seen here this morning, having lost a little of that chipperness as the rain started, and we became both wet and cold.)

So, to make a long story even longer. This summer I will ride my bike more than 600 kilometres from Toronto to Montreal, in The Friends for Life Bike Rally.  This year, we have a little family team, as always.  Ken, long-time rider, blog starter, and the person who roped me into this in the first place. Pato, the most decent 23 year old man alive (he will very much appreciate me saying “man” instead of “boy”)  and Jen – mum, student, employee, wonderful riding partner,  and all four of us… knitters. (Well, in the interest of honesty I feel compelled to tell you that Pato *can* knit, but he doesn’t often. He’s 23. With maturity, will come reason.)  My daughters aren’t joining us this year, because they have work/school schedules that simply cannot allow for the 12 weekend/1 week off work commitments that are the Rally.  (It’s not small potatoes. It eats your vacation.) Look for their influence in other places. They’re still in it.

thatdamnhill 2015-05-13

(Jen and I are seen here being handed our arses by a monster hill we couldn’t get up. If you live in Toronto, know that it was Pottery Road. It’s the beginning of training – we couldn’t make it all the way up. We’ll see how we do in a few weeks. It was brutal.)

Once again, I’m asking for your help. Our commitment means nothing without you.  (I am stopping just short of calling you the wind beneath our wings, thank goodness, although that was a near thing. I deleted it.)  Once again, I’m going to try and raise a ton of money, and I have a private and deeply personal crazy-pants goal. To this end, I’m going to do some things the same way, and some things differently. What stays the same? Karmic Balancing gifts. Once a week (or so) between now and the rally, I’ll chose from amongst the people who’ve helped and redirect a knitterly (or spinnerly) gift from someone else who wants to help.*  What’s different? Who sends their name along.

This year I want it to be all about the Karma. We’re trying to change lives here, make things better for some people, and there’s so much more to that than money, so, here’s the thing. If you donate to anyone on our little team





Then please send me an email letting me know you’ve done so. Make the subject line “I helped” and send it to stephanieATyarnharlotDOTca. (Note the .ca it’s a Canada thing.) Include your name, address, and whether or not you spin.  (For the love of all things woolly, please use the subject line. It makes your email go to a specific folder and you have no idea what a difference that makes to my sanity.) You don’t need to say what you gave, or include proof. I know you’ll do your best, whatever that is, and I know you wouldn’t lie.  What’s new? Not everyone has money to help with – so we’re taking all kinds of help.  If you can figure out some other way to do that, please send in your email. Maybe you can tell a friend. Maybe you can post about it to social media. Maybe you can contribute a gift. There’s lots and lots of ways to help, and if you can figure out a way? Send that email, letting me know you did.

Knitters, lets go big. Let’s fill up the world with amazing, and when everyone at PWA asks who these people are? Ken, Pato, Jen and I will smile and say what we always do. “They’re knitters. You have no idea what they’re made of.”

*If you want to contribute a gift, I’m trying to make it easier for myself this year. It’s a ton of work, and I don’t mind doing it, but I have a better shot at getting it all done if you do this: Take a picture of your gift. Email me with the subject line “Karmic Balancing” with the details, picture and a link, if you want me to use one. When one of the helpers is chosen for a gift, I’ll email you the address, and you can ship it right to them. (It’s not a bad idea to let me know if you have shipping restrictions. I’ll keep track.) Thank you!

103 thoughts on “Again

  1. Steph, I am so glad that you are doing the Rally again this year. I haven’t contributed in the past, but I intend to do so this year because I know it will make a difference. Stay strong out there on the training rides!

  2. I’ll just be sitting over here in the corner calculating how much it’s worth to me to NOT have to ride a million and a half miles on my bike, in the rain….and the dark, and get back to you shortly. It’s going to take a while. I feel like if I’m going to be brutally honest that number might be kind of high.

  3. Kudos to you for making such a huge decision to carry on, especially starting on a very chilly morning like today. Pottery Rd – totally get the need to walk it. Egads, even walking it with a bike would be brutal. Will look for Karma Balancing gifts and donate to the rally for sure. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many, and putting so much effort into the rally.

    • P.S. Let’s see if we can double Steph’s goal this year. If we start now, and do it a bit here and another bit there, it could happen!

  4. The suggestion for those donating gifts to mail them to the recipient is a BRILLIANT IDEA, and is a lot less work for you. I’m low on funds this year, but I can certainly stash-dive for some karmic balance.

  5. I think that everything you do is amazing, but especially this. You’ve inspired me twofold this year, one to donate to your team and two to start training for a marathon of my own. Thank you so much for making decisions like I always try to, by keeping what is right in mind.

  6. Thank you Steph, for doing what many of us can’t – either because of time, physicality, inability to ride a bike (my internal gyroscope is broken, I fall off bikes), and myriads of other reasons.

    Thank you, for being a lovely person.

    Ride well, ride hard, ride safely, and ride with love, Steph!

  7. I felt so sorry for you out in the cold & wet & trying to ride up that hill that I had to make a donation right now, today. Hope your poor butt survives the season with the SAME seat this year – I can’t believe a squirrel would do such a thing but I guess a rodent is a rodent even when it comes with a glorious fluffy tail. You can DO this Steph, you can.

  8. I’ve only started following you in the past year, so I’m unfamiliar with the bike rally and also with the organization that you’re working so hard to support. Do you have an old post you could direct me to that may help fill in some more of the background details for me? Congratulations on all the work and training you’ve done so far, and best of luck in your training and fundraising as the Rally approaches!

    • “On July 27, 2014, more than 400 people will embark on a six-day, 600 km journey from Toronto to Montreal. Riders of all ages and levels of experience and crew supporting a variety of activities along the route unite in their passion to support people living with HIV/AIDS. The Friends For Life Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser of the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation.”

  9. Well, damn. once again you move me to do things that are probably a really bad plan for my long range finances (I’m in grad school. I don’t do money.) but really worthwhile. Please continue to be awesome.

    • Karmic Balancing see? It’s not bad for your long range finances, only the short range ones. Long range your karma will be awesome.It might take a year or ten but karma will happen.

      • *fingers crossed*. But thanks for the reminder: I’ve had a lot of good things come my way in life despite current challenges and that pay it forward sense has to go somewhere. Go forth, o YarnHarlot and other bicycling people, and do mighty battle with the world.

  10. Every now and then I ponder why raising money by Doing a Thing works. We give to PWA because they are worth it…but so is the effort that you do. I suppose in a way, your efforts are a more tangible way to understand the needs supported by PWA.

    Here’s to you and Jen and Ken and Pato. I’ll be making wind-y motions in your direction.

  11. I am in awe of your fortitude, your commitment, your generosity and your willingness to take on this challenge once again when your emotions (and your nether regions) have probably just barely recovered from last year’s event. I’ll be cheering you on and helping you to meet your goal. Wishing you perfect weather and strong tail winds 🙂

  12. I want to remind you (in case your took leave of your senses) that walking your bike up Pottery Road is a very sensible thing to do. Only because you’re in physical training of course, because walking a bike up there normally isn’t a good idea. But riding a bike up Pottery Road, at the beginning of training, is a very good way to render yourself unable to train. It’s only marginally more sane than riding a bike down Pottery Road. You didn’t “get your arses handed to you”, you made a sensible call about what is and isn’t physically possible.

    Also, your spam filter is making it almost impossible for me to post this comment. It wants me to select the music note. There is no music note, and I’m not sure that I want to reward it for calling a treble clef a music note by doing what it says. (I’ll refresh it to avoid the dilemma).

  13. I’m sorry I’m going to ask a very stupid question but I’m new to this blog, English and a crocheter but what is PWA? When I google it, it comes up with the pure wrestling association which I’m sure some people feel quite passionately about but doesn’t seem to be worth the pain you’re putting yourself through.

  14. Looking at the photos, I can’t help thinking you’d be warmer if you were wearing a woolly sweater. Just sayin’

  15. Bravo for you! I remember how hard last year was and I’m sure you didn’t tell us the half of it. I’ll go stash diving for a gift or two. And, later, I’ll pledge $ too. I’m along the St. Lawrence River on the southern US side, obviously. I always watch for when you and the team will be coming by and I wave across the river toward you (as if you could see). But I like to think it helps, a little.

  16. I can’t seem to find what the initials PWA stand for. I know you did this last year, and I even donated to your cause. But, for the life of me, I cannot seem to find my answer. I think I knew last year. lol Getting old sucks…big time. 🙂 If I had half a brain, I’d be dangerous.

  17. As someone who is disabled, I am always in awe that you commit yourself to The Bike Rally every year and that you see it through, no matter the physical and emotional stress it brings you. It inspires me every year. Although my disability is not related to HIV/AIDS, it still brings me hope that people like you are out there that care so much about complete strangers who are in unfortunate situations.

    Thank you.

  18. This year I’m doing the rally, inspired in part by your posts from last year. (I took the subway home from Training Ride #1 with you.) The fundraising was the most intimidating part at first, but I’m now doing ok on that and starting to get worried about the ride itself. (Back pain kept me away from training last weekend, and I’m trying to figure out what will be viable this weekend, since two weeks away from training also seems like too long!)

  19. I’ll donate my yarn and fabric stash money for next month. It’s funded with the money non-knitters use on hair, fashion and make up…in other words, I’m a terrible hoarder. I’ll pretend it is a detox but I doubt it will have any lasting effect. At least my house (and possibly my husband) may take a deep breath with releaf.

  20. I am SO in. I will support The Team once again, and be a part of something big. You Go Girl – You Go Team!! Let’s blow everyone away at the power of knitters, and how every little bit will help. We CAN, and we WILL make a difference.

  21. Go Stephanie!

    Squirrel proofing your bike seat: when you’re not using it, cover it with something smeared with chili oil. Chili flakes and they’ll stay away from that, too, but the birds will come pecking.

    • O.O But put very thick plastic between the chili paste/oil and the seat you’ll be sitting on, because chili-anything plus intimate membranes = a very, VERY unhappy ride!!

      No, I don’t really want to tell you how I know this. Just trust me.

  22. Best of luck this year! Hoping the karma extends to the weather. Will stash dive and find some woolly goodness to contribute to the cause, as well as a financial contribution. This is a very good thing you do!

  23. Karmic Balancing Gifts there will be, plus whatever funds I can raise locally (St. Caths ON). So incredibly glad it’s you and not me, hon, if we’re being honest here (and I do try)!

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  25. That’s the thing about big bike challenges. You always say you’ll never do it again, but there’s something about big distances that totally rope you in. I’ll be watching with interest. I never do more than 1 century a summer so you are way ahead of me.

  26. You’re an inspiration! I haven’t contributed in the past, but I will this year, and put together a karmic balancing gift or two as well.

  27. This year, I was able to semi-retire due to a small inheritance from my Mum…..Karma means I should pay it forward and I can’t think of a better cause than AIDS support and your willingness to do this ride again (instead of me!)…I’ll also stash dive and see if I can contribute some karmic balancing yarn; I can also contribute a baby sweater/hat set in either girl or boy colors if you think something like that would be useful.

  28. Hi Stephanie, something’s been niggling at me. Were you and a friend, in full biking gear, at an event at the Vancouver Writer’s Fest Oct 2014? I told my sister it was you who just came in but she pooh-poohed me. Maybe she was right!

  29. Good for you.

    Don’t know what saddle you’re using these days but just in cases the furry tailed rats decide to sabotage you again, let me point you at Terry saddles, designed by a bike riding female engineer with cut outs and padding to protect your ummm … lady parts. I’ve ridden both the Liberator and currently have a Butterfly and they have made an enormous difference, (at least after I got my sitz bones toughened up.) Yeah they look a little funny, but they work. Once upon a time I thought doing centuries every other weekend was a fun way to spend the summer, so those saddles got a thorough testing.

  30. Having stretched myself physically for charitable causes I can relate – I did make a donation – no karma balancing needed. I’ll be rooting for you.

  31. I haven’t donated before – though followed you – but with you riding this year after that horrendous ride last year – what could I do but plunk down a few dollars! Would also like to donate some Thai silk as a karmic balancing yarn if that would be okay.

  32. This is pretty amazing. I read what happened last year in the other post as well. I know how draining it can be and I hope that in the end you feel it was definitely worth it. Be safe.

  33. i e-mailed you to ask for a mailing address for an international money order. i don’t have a credit card and debit cards should never go online. it just isn’t safe. my computer has already been hacked. i’m just trying to cover all bases as i don’t know which you might be more likely to see.

  34. You may be on the road when Luis’ sibling arrives but HOW INCREDIBLY AWESOME that they can say in response to “what happened on the day you were born?” that their Tia Steph WAS FIGHTING TO HELP ERADICATE AIDS. And then let’s all hope they have to LOOK UP AIDS….BECAUSE IT WON’T EXIST IN THEIR FUTURE. Really. This so beats out a hand knit layette.
    You are beyond amazing. And you knit. So overcome.

  35. You go girl! You’re an inspiration to us all to get out there and make a difference in the world. I’m off to make my donation to your team.

  36. You are going a great thing and I will definitely support you! I have always given to various charities but this winter I had to deal with my own serious health issue and found that I was using the services that I had supported in the past. Being a user of the services gives you a whole different perspective and I am SO thankful that they were there and it really makes me want to give back!

  37. Perfect timing! I have just gone through my stash and pulled out items for “karmic balancing.” I knew this blog post would be coming soon, whether you were riding this year or not. So I have everything put aside. I’ll take pictures this weekend and send them off to you.

  38. Biofreeze works great for pain management (i got some free samples from my chiropractor) and i can donate to the US Karma balancing gifts.

  39. Steph, your karma will go through the roof! You’ll certainly come back as a delicious cashmere and not a squeaky acrylic.

  40. The Spiderflex bike seat doesn’t even Have the parts that hurt! It’s like sitting on a comfy little stool. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean. Had mine since 2007, and would Never go back to the usual kind!

  41. Instead of stash-raiding for Karmic Balancing, I’m going to shop for something nice at our new LYS tomorrow, supporting 2 endeavours with one card-swipe! 8^D

  42. I have limited funds, but will donate what I can, when I can. I know this is a very important thing to support and it saddens me that they have had to cut staff and services. I do not know anyone with Aids, but know enough to know to help out. I also do a walk for Alzheimer’s research on a team at my job and know how hard it can be to raise funds. I will do what I can.

  43. Thinking about this some more. If I hit my fundraising goal on my own page by June 15, I’ll donate one of my hand-bound hardcover knitter’s notebooks. Maybe two.

    (Steph – if this is too much promoting my own fundraising page, just let me know. Happy to take the link away. Hoping it’s ok since it all goes to PwA in the end.)

    • No way! It’s awesome. Don’t worry about it for a minute. Knitters have to stick together.

  44. My brother-in-law and his partner both succumbed to AIDS in the early 90’s and I miss them to this day. Now, there are drugs that help people live longer, healthier; but it’s still AIDS and it still decimates lives. I’m wholeheartedly behind you in your work to raise funds for PWA, a worthy cause if ever there was one. However, I am broke, casse, flatter than…..well, you get the picture. But, Hon, I’m a Knitter, which means I can do anything. I just auctioned a shawlette to raise money to help a neighbour build a new barn for his sheep after a freak fire took out the old one (it was SHEEP – c’mon!) so if I can do that for him, I can do it for The Rally. Let me give my peeps a few weeks to get over this last one, and then I’m going to auction something else I made. Whatever I raise this time, I will send to you or someone on your team. I will let you know when it’s done. We all know you can do this, because you are made of awesome.

  45. I sit here with wet feet on a rainy day, eating Nutella on animal crackers, and feeling sad about the minor and momentary tragedies of yet-another-average-Thursday. And then I read about the rally, and I feel better. There is such goodness in the world.

    With chocolate as hazelnuts as my witness, you are way-above-average and a good, kind person. And you are also a bit nutty, which is a good thing as far as me and Nutella are concerned. Squirrels consider yourselves WARNED. 😀

  46. You (your writing, blog and books,as I have yet to have the pleasure of meeting you in person–and giving you beer and chocolate) have long been an inspiration and a comfort. Also, I knit socks because of you 😉

    For all that, because it’s an outstanding cause, and because if this world is to be all it can be then more of us need to stand up and act–I will be donating to the team and stash diving. Life just gave me a big piece of happiness pie–a great job–and I want to pass it along.

    And to anyone struggling, anyone of having a year that is way beyond difficult–hold on, keep knitting, and know the wheel turns.

    Cheers to you Steph, and Team Knit!

  47. The beauty of what you do to make the world a better place breaks my heart, in the best way possible. As in years prior I too shall help, in one way or another. Ride on, ride strong, Steph.

  48. I realized I had a little extra money in one of my funds, so I made a small donation. I know every little bit helps. Hope I can give more later.

  49. I appreciate you, and we knitters who will contribute on your behalf, and all who take it upon themselves to actively empathize with those who suffer misfortune.

    That said, for God’s sake, if there’s another stormy night, please take the bus this year if it’s offered. We all think it would be OK. Really. We won’t ask for a penny back.

    I very much hope that this year is easier.

  50. Steph,
    I went back and read your posts from previous posts about the squirrls. Yes! It is true. They are to be defeated. I laughed so hard as I watched your wool from 2007 dry and the look on that little beast’s face as he realized he was defeated.
    I did have to wonder though…we humans are at the top of the food chain. How is it that we lose so often to these…these…things that are somewhere near the bottom?
    One ate my tomato plant two weeks ago and I was so distraught that my son got out his BB gun and threatened them as they screamed at him from the trees. One of them..a young one (short skinny tail) just looked at my as I yelled at him to get out of my garden. He was munching my lettuce….
    I have that BB gun at my disposal. Furry socks anyone?

  51. Stephanie, if we can find the ID number for the PWA organization some of us can have our companies contribute a matching contribution. I am going to look for that information as I had the confirmation sent to my work email address. I would like to double the contribution if at all possible. Ruby Cruse

    • Stephanie, the information I needed was on the receipt that was emailed and I have already forwarded it to the HR department – hopefully they are still doing matching contributions.

  52. I’ve loved following the rally sagas each of the last couple summers. And as soon as this popped up, I had flashbacks to all the time I spent searching the internets for a similar ride in my part of the world. I’m a sucker for a physical challenge and everything about this event speaks to me. But then I actually read your post, and I realized that the physical part is the easy part, at least for me. Caring as much as you do, and harnessing the collective caring of all the knitters, that’s the truly heroic part. That’s the part that makes my skin crawl when I think about if I could do it, which I’m pretty sure means that I need to. Thank you for inspiring me to figure out how I can rally good people to do more good in the world.

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  55. I’d love to help but finances are tight as in living on my own for the first time tight. I cannot donate money but I can donate a gift, if it’s wanted. I have yarn and shawls that need a home and I would be willing to donate them if they are wanted. Let me know:

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  57. I so wish that I could come to assist.Sadly, my health no longer permits such activities. As a former military nurse and degenerative bone and muscle patient, I can offer some solid advice. Ice on sore joints is ok, but for sore muscles you need heat, preferably moist! Best wishes

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  60. What an amazing story! So fantastic that you have kept on going!!

    I design knitting patterns and I am willing to donate patterns if you would like to use them in a fundraiser at all. Please feel free to contact me on Ravelry (my username is whirlsie) or via email at leeanaATwhirlsieDOTcom

    Good luck with all of your efforts!!

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