That one got away from me

Hello all, and thanks for waiting for me. I know it’s been a long time, and thank you for the emails and comments of concern – I got hit by some sort of combination crap train. When I left for the Rally everything was on fire, and then about halfway through the Rally the Blog (the software, not you) broke, and you wouldn’t believe how hard it was to fix. In fact, it was impossible to fix from the back of a bike, so it got fixed in the few days between being home from the Rally and leaving with the family on vacation, but I was sick for a few days there, which I now think was just exhaustion, on some horrible cellular level. Then the whole family headed up to a cottage for nine days, to rest and be together on the anniversary of my Mum’s death. I spent that time doing my best to put all my relationships back together after months of neglect, and maybe I can do the same here. Pull it all back together. I tried to figure out what pictures to show you from the last while, and I’ve essentially settled on postcards – some of them I posted on Instagram, but they’re everything I’ve been up to, and I’m sorry I was gone. I feel like things are back to “normal” now, if there is such a thing.

Every year I write about the Bike Rally after it’s done, and I feel like I always start these posts the same way – by noting that every year has a theme that I figure out over the course of the thing. Sometimes I worry that these aren’t real themes – that as a writer, I’m looking for marrow that doesn’t exist and creating plot where there is only chaos and random events. I even know in my heart that I sometimes write scripts for the ways I think things will happen and the way I’d like people to behave – and then feel extra disappointed in real life when everyone fails to act upon their psychically issued instructions. I did this a while ago when I thought someone was going to show up somewhere, and they didn’t, and I texted them and they made it pretty clear that they weren’t coming, and instead of just being disappointed once, I managed to convince myself that they were trying to throw me off so that they could surprise me.

They weren’t, and my secret scripting just meant that I was disappointed twice. All of this, my propensity to look for meaning where there is none, – to attribute motives to people that they don’t have so the plot’s great – I know that it isn’t always real, but I sometimes can’t help myself, and since I’m me, I look for that theme.

In retrospect this year’s theme – real or not, asserted itself really early on – the earliest it ever has (if it does) and I could feel it, and I feel like I was trying to connect with it, but it was such an…. uncomfortable theme that I think my inner self didn’t really want to know. No matter how clear it became, I looked the other way.

Two years ago I decided to take on the two year commitment as Co-Chair, because I felt like I was in such a great place in my life. I was working hard and things were on track. Elliot had just been born and I was planning on travelling a little tiny bit less for a few months, I was writing tons, my relationships were in a great place, my inbox was even more or less under control. My 50th birthday was on the horizon, and honestly, I felt like I was as strong and polished as I was ever going to be.

What’s that expression – Man plans, and God laughs? Immediately after I felt like I had it together and had been accepted for the Co-Chair position and had all this bandwidth to spare— my Mum died and absolutely everything went sideways.

I began a period of time that has been truly the loneliest of my life. I didn’t just miss my mother, though that pain has been acute – I felt like her absence screwed up all my relationships, right down to my relationship with my work, my writing – it effected every aspect of me. I didn’t dream for months. In that first year, the Bike Rally was a lifeline. If I had known that my mother was going to die, I would have never, never taken on that job. I wouldn’t have thought I could cope with it, I wouldn’t have thought I could manage it and my grief, but in the end it was sort of perfect. I had to go to the meetings, I had to manage a team, I had a Co-Chair, Ted – and I felt like I couldn’t unfairly burden him because I was grieving, and somehow having to show up for something kept me at least a little tethered. That leadership position and my family were honestly the only things that did. (The theme had already started to sneak in around the edges.)

Then the time came for me to begin the second year of the position, and the way it works is that there’s always two Co-Chairs, an outgoing ( that would be me) and and incoming… but nobody came.  Despite having just come through a ridiculously lonely year – this surprised me. I was prepared, and I decided to make the most of it, but I was surprised. It hadn’t happened with the Rally before, and I admit that I took it kinda personally. (I was taking a lot really personally around then, so don’t read too much into that.) The workload, rather predictably – when you go from two people doing a job to one – doubled. I had a great Steering Committee, and we got through it really well, I think, but do you see the theme starting to develop?

I didn’t. I kept pushing back, and the theme kept trying to assert itself. I started finding myself alone in decision making, alone working, alone thinking – which as a natural collaborator and consensus seeker, was hard for me. I found myself alone in presenting concepts or ideas, and I found myself alone when there was disagreement. I had still totally failed to fill the hole my mother’s support, guidance and help used to occupy, and was trying to fill it with resolve and hard work. At the same time, many of my support people had their own big life stuff going on. I have always enjoyed having just a few really good friends rather than a wide array of casual ones, but there’s a risk in that. While I struggled, my chosen few were all entering new phases, completing school, being crushed by jobs, travelling – the theme, it seemed was not screwing around, now recruiting others to make sure that I got the message. I didn’t.

I kept pushing back against it, trying to not be alone… I remember one day in particular, right before the Rally, I’d had a tough thing to do – some big decision or pressure, I can’t remember what, and I’d texted about eight people looking for some support in that moment, and every single one of them was busy. I sat and cried – and I know now that I was crying because I had the theme wrong. Through it all, I thought that the planet was trying to teach me to get good at something that I’m frankly terrible at, which is admitting weakness or asking for help. I’d spent the first year after my mother’s death trying to tough it out, and now I’d finally conceded that it was impossible to do by myself, and I’d reached out…and nobody reached back. I figured that I was doing it wrong, or that I was unloved, one of the two for sure, and I swung back and forth between those options, and hunkered down, determined that if I had to do this work alone, the least I could do was do it well – if sort of unhappily.

The morning the Rally began, I organized the last few of my things, printed my speaking notes for the morning, and I took out my worry list and made sure I was properly anxious, and left for the departure site. When I got there I was totally freaked out. I looked out over the 100 crew, and the 200+ cyclists, and I worried about not funding the agency. I worried about programs getting cut because I couldn’t get the fundraising done. I worried about someone getting hurt – I worried about everyone on the Steering Committee who was new to their role and hoped that we’d all prepared together enough. I worried that the sacrifices of the last two years wouldn’t be enough. I worried about what we’d do if something went wrong. (This despite the fact that I had the Preparedness Plan memorized.) I worried about what I’d say, about doing it by myself – about nobody being publicly responsible for a failure but me, and I realized in that second that not wanting to be alone was really about not wanting to be alone in the responsibility for it all, and that I was actually going to do it by myself, and I was responsible, that it was mine alone, and squared my shoulders and stepped up to the microphone, and I started.

In that moment, two things happened. First, I completely accepted that nobody was actually going to show up and rescue me, and the second was that in that moment the exact moment that I gave up and accepted the aloneness – it ended. Ken was there, and Pato, and Cameron, and Ted, and Joe, and Jen and the girls and in a horrible instant, I realized that they had actually been there all the time, and that The Point of the whole thing hadn’t been to teach me to ask for help – that’s why that hadn’t worked. The point of the thing had been for me to learn that I was alone, that I could be alone, that I could bear the load by myself.

From the moment my mum died, my overarching wish has been for her to come back. This is what I whisper to myself at the lowest moments of my grief.  “Come back, Mum please come back.” I have felt that her death, so unexpected and fast and horrible was actually the start of a cascade of loss and change. Change is not my best thing at the strongest of times, and alone isn’t my best thing either, and now here I’ve been – alone and in the middle of what feels like an earthshake of change, and I just kept plodding through wishing for my Mum, wondering how I’m supposed to do anything without her and wondering if I even can. It turns out, that I was supposed to learn (at 50, how disappointing) is that my mum wasn’t coming to help me, isn’t coming back and I could do a big thing on my own, or maybe this is all crap, and that it’s me looking for something that isn’t there again – looking for meaning and plot in an endlessly chaotic system, but frankly I like it better my way.

In the end, the Rally did what it always does. It grew a force field of love around our little travelling town. Everyone helped everyone else, there was support aplenty, we funded the agency beyond budget and my hopes, and in the two years I was Co-Chair and then Chair I led to the Rally to their two most successful years, and I wasn’t alone- except in the responsibility, which I guess was what I was there to learn, or if there’s another lesson I’d like to ignore it for a while, because that one was more than enough, thank you. Those of you who wondered if I still loved the Rally – in the days when it was crushing my life like a bug before we left – I do, I truly do.  All that was reborn in me on my bike, watching people pull together, feeling them trying to make the world a better place.

Up at the cottage, all of us together, I was struck by how surprised I still am when Elliot calls me Grammy, how it makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. Grammy was what my girls and Hank called my mum, and what I called my maternal grandmother, and I still can’t believe it’s me. Not that I’m a grandmother, I’m fine with that, but that I’m The Grammy. I come from a long line of women who are absolute powerhouses, and I worry about living up to that, about the responsibility of that, of what it is supposed to mean to be a “McPhee Woman.” I think it’s probably pretty likely that there was no theme to the Bike Rally this year – that it is absolute nonsense to think that the universe, as expansive and unfeeling as it is, worked to personally teach me a lesson. It is wholly unreasonable to believe any force had an interest in me, and were there such a force I would hope it would concern itself with things that really need fixing – like putting out an Amazon forest fire or curing cancer in a five year old, and that it is far, far more likely that I’ve dreamed all this in an attempt to give a tough situation meaning. I get that. The odds are awesome that it was just a hard job and a rough time and here I am trying to turn it all into a life lesson other than the real one, which is simply to do your damn work and try to be a good person while you’re at it.

At least that’s what my mother would say, though I’m trying to think of some of her as my own voice now.

This ended up being a lot more personal than I planned. Part of the delay in getting it to you was the process of deleting and replacing it sixteen times – I don’t worry about telling you my thoughts, by the time they make it to the keyboard I’m usually pretty comfortable with them – but I worry that without seeing my whole life, writing something like this will make me seem sad, lonely or lost, rather than someone trying to learn to deal with those feelings when they are inevitably part of a good, happy and lucky life. I’ve deliberately chosen photos this time that reflect that balance… a happy life. I am lucky, I do feel lucky – and while the last six months in particular have been more of a challenge than I can say – I’m satisfied with how that turned out. I ended up doing a job I feel really, really proud of.  PWA will be able to serve clients the same way and more for the next year, and I want to thank all of you for being part of that. We changed and saved lives together, I feel that.

While I haven’t been as present for you (or anyone) as I’d like over the last while, you’ve been more than present for me. Every comment, donation, email of support – it’s meant more than I can say. You are, as always, a big part of what balances my life. Thanks for not letting me slip under as I worked on this big thing. I love you all.

See you tomorrow. (I mean that. I have knitting to show you.)

153 thoughts on “That one got away from me

  1. Bless you and your family and all those who you love and who love you.

    I think all of us need sometimes to just do it alone and that we need to let go. But it is in the joining that we feel and experience the love.

  2. oh, and I have been checking your blog for weeks because you were missed . . . . some for the knitting stuff . . . but mostly for the lovely stuff that is you.

  3. You are terrific- both in how you bring people together and in who you are-as a person I only know through a blog- alone and of yourself.

  4. Thank you for being so honest and raw, and modeling your vulnerability for all of us. We are so blessed to be allowed a peek into your life and mind and world. Sending big blog hugs!

  5. Welcome to the next phase of the journey of life! I think it’s normal to look for meaning in our experiences and helps us grow as human beings. Thank you for sharing with us about yours!

  6. Just like the rest of the knitting world, I have been checking your blog regularly, hoping that everything was ok in your world. The smile on your face in every one of these pictures tells me that yes, you are. Welcome back!

  7. Oh, Stephanie … you made me cry. And that’s all I can say about it, except – be well, little one. Know you are in the thoughts and prayers of so many people you will never get to meet. Thank you for sharing your life with us and thank you for knitting.

  8. Oh, thank you for this post. Thank you for being willing to share the hard stuff as well as the good. You offer such fine gifts to so many.

    (words escape me- I shall attempt an interpretive danc…aw heck- would someone please just pass the tissues?)

  9. It doesn’t matter if the theme was real or something you imagined, it was a lesson. A lesson many of us struggle with. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Almost like deciding to design a really complicated sweater out of raw wool that needs to be carefully cleaned and then spun and then plied and then knit, one teeny stitch at a time.

    People can offer opinions and advice, but at the end of the day you’re doing it alone. By the same token, when it’s complete the achievement and power and accomplishment are ALL YOURS.

  11. Well, there you are. We waited for you, just as I knew we would, and now you’re back. And this was a great post. I’m doing my own hard thing this summer and fall and into the foreseeable future and I too struggle with the responsibility (my goal is not on quite the same scale as yours but still really damn important to the people in my little town). And I too feel alone sometimes and terrified by the prospect of potential failure. (And my blog has been stuck in the doldrums for months, much longer than yours was.) I don’t think the universe is trying to teach me anything, but I do marvel that it took 60 years of living to get to the point of realizing my own strength and power. The ship I’m steering is still a long way out of port, but we’ve got navigators and engineers and sailors and people stoking engines and looking after radar and radio communications . . . Enough with the metaphor; you get the drift. I never wanted to be a captain, but now that I’m wearing that hat I’ll just do my best to be comfortable with it and try to enjoy the voyage. You are one of my major lodestones as I steam along. Thank you. And congratulations.

  12. I’m glad to see that you are back, and recovering from the trials of the last while. I’ve been checking the blog almost every day, wondering if you’re okay. Welcome back.

  13. So happy to see you back on the Blog. To everything there is a season–this just hasn’t been the blog’s season. Welcome back for now. Hope you can stay a while. 🙂

  14. Thank you for everything you do. And thank you for expressing the voyage through grief so well. My father died very unexpectedly about a year before your Mom did. It feels like the world has turned upside down since then, and my charmed life is less charmed. I’m still lucky to have what I have, but I truly look forward to reading your insights.

  15. A powerful statement to the lesson we all need to learn, though not all manage with such clarity and grace, and beautifully written. Concerned by your silence, but presumed a necessary time for reflection and self-care; all part of the healing process.
    From where I stand, the tradition of McPhee women runs strong. Your Mum, and Tupper, and your girls, and Joe, and those who benefit from your kindness and support – not to mention those of us who share your virtual living room from afar – are immensely proud and stand in awe. Well said and well done.
    Bonnie aka Knitsiam

  16. Awwww, you made me cry, again. I’m glad that lots of money came in from the rally! I’m glad the black kitten has a loving home. I’m glad you’re back! We were all sending good thoughts your way!

  17. So happy to see you back! And without knowing you even the slightest in person, I do believe you are the worthiest McPhee woman and Grammy there could ever be. 🙂

    Congratulations on an awesome bike rally! If I ever get the opportunity to move to Canada (I do dream of it), I shall have to look into participating in that, should I live somewhere close enough for it to be reasonable.

    Yeay you, hope you had an amazing and restful vacation with your family, and I can’t wait to see what you’ve been making. 😀

  18. This post was totally worth the wait! I’ve missed your posts because they often represent a lifeline in the chaotic world. I wondered and hoped everything was ok, just wanted you to know that, but knew when the time was right for you, there would be news. Thank you for giving us all so much to think about and for being you.

  19. Oh Stephanie, I’ve been worried about you all this while, and, I guess, I was right that something had changed, was wrong. You are a strong McPhee woman. You’ve done what had to be done, and here you are again. Can’t wait to see knitting tomorrow! Big hugs from me to you.

  20. I wish I knew you in person so that we could share ameal and a hug! You are a luminous soul who enriches my life, just by sharing your heart and mind on this blog. Thank you. While life may not have be “trying” to teach you a lesson, you are wise woman for learning one anyway. You are blessed to be a blessing. <>

  21. I truly appreciate reading your thoughts so carefully and vulnerably expressed. We all need to work through the struggles of our lives with humility and gratitude of the kind that helps us be kind and give back.

  22. I’m crying too hard to type, for reasons that are too big to get into here in the comments. But I wanted to thank you for being brave enough to share this with us. Your Mum would be so proud of you, and your title of Grammy is well earned. XOXO

  23. Steph your honesty shines through. You inspire me to do better, and do more.

    Take all the time you need, be with your family and friends. Find all the themes you need to help you interpret what life spins your way.

  24. Thanks for posting all the words and thoughts and being willing to share your dark places as well as your sunny, happy pictures. I’ve also spent the past couple of years surrounded by love but exploring some of the lonely places inside myself. It’s nice to know that while we make the journey alone, we aren’t the only ones making it.

  25. You’ve never been alone, but have been dealing with a ton of responsibilities recently.

    You’ve been my role model ever since I found your blog and attended your workshops and have such a great support group (friends and family).

    I envy your relationship with your mother. Mine was never close at all (Asian mothers and daughters can be a bit distant and critical). And they passed away at the same time which was really a coincidence, so I really appreciated all of your posts and really enjoy reading about your family.

    I’m pretty much a recluse, so being alone has never felt worrying to me. Being around other humans is scary!

    So glad you’ve come through the latest challenge and can take some time to breathe again.


  26. I’m so sorry you’ve been going through this. Our minds can play such funny tricks on us and this one is the worst. You have friends, you have us, you have family, and you’ll be okay. Maybe consider giving therapy a turn now that you have more time.

  27. Steph, you catch me in the heart with this…and well, more often than not on your blog. It’s beautiful, and I’m grateful for it – even if I flinch when I open your posts because I don’t want to cry! 😉

    Lovely, truly. Thanks. <3

  28. Welcome back. We all missed you. You say at 50 you are still learning things about yourself. I am almost 70, still a work in progress.

  29. Welcome back! The Blog — and the dust bunnies — missed you! We knew you’d get through all the chaos, one way or another. Still, it was probably a good idea to spend time with family and friends in something approximating peace and quiet (after all, Elliot is a two-year-old!). Now go to your LYS and inhale deeply of the wool fumes. You’ve earned it!

  30. From what you’be been writing about for the past … 6 months or so, you needed and deserved a recharge. Being surrounded by nature and family has hopefully given your “recovery” a kick-start. (The recovery from working extra hard on the rally, not the loss.) I have been checking for a new blog post periodically but without pressure, trusting that you’d return to writing to us when you were ready. As usual, your words are beautiful.

  31. Congratulations on making it through the storm and learning both to dance in the rain, but also to have faith in the rainbow and clear skies at the end of the storm. You are both enough and loved. Those stars in the skies are really those you love cheering you on. Thank you for the gift of your insight.

  32. Glad to see you’ve returned and are OK. Always wondering about breaking something falling off your bike or other catastrophes. Sorry you are continuing with so many struggles, whether real or self-imagined. I think a lot of people tend to think the worst of themselves (it’s all my fault, people don’t like me – just like not getting a new co-chair this year). Glad you are coming out of the funk, and had some wonderful time with family. The Grammy thing is weird – we tend to not think of ourselves as the “older generation” regardless of whether our parents are still around.
    Anyway, glad to see you back and ready to show us some knitting!

  33. It’s lovely to have you back, and I’m so glad you were able to find meaning in your trials. Whether it’s really there or not is for you only to decide. I find it hard to ask for help, too, although I’m happy carrying the show on my own. I’m so sorry you felt alone, you had The Blog behind you.

    I’ve said before that you (via the your writing) have been there through some of my toughest times. I’ve taken both comfort and strength from you, and other women like you. Knowing that there are other Powerhouses out there has inspired me to pick myself up, straighten my crown and get through whatever-it-was again. Often, I took too much responsibility and I could have asked for more help. Sometimes I did and it wasn’t there. It was a tough lesson. I’m better at it now. For me it helps to know I’m enough (but it sure is easier if I have a community!). You’ll be out of Aces for a while, but you’ll build a new hand. And, for as long a choose to write it, The Blog will be behind you.

    Enjoy your peace, and your beautiful family. You’ve certainly earned some coasting. If you’ve touched my life, through your writing, across an ocean, I can only imagine what you doing for people whom you actually know, let alone family, and that kind of love gives back in spades. The generous gardener has the most flowers.

    PS I don’t know about McPhee standards, but any of of the usual measures you are most definitely a Powerhouse, no fear!

  34. Thank you so much for sharing this post, and I’m so glad that you’re doing okay and that the Bike Rally was such an amazing success. They are so lucky you took that responsibility on.

    We love you back!

  35. Thinking that the big uncaring universe is teaching us a personal lesson has been part of the hubris of being human for millennia. If you found a lesson that you needed at this time, then the theme/lesson is real, and your interpretation of it is all that really matters.

    I have a friend who, for her first tattoo at age 50, got “You can do the thing” on her inner arm. I’m not sure I’d get a tattoo, but the lifelong process of growing up inevitably involves discovering that we can be the adults in the room and carry the load our elders have carried before us. I mean, is there really another choice? We CAN do the thing, whatever it may be. Congrats on doing a big thing that needed to be done – and extra points that it benefits so many others.

  36. We said we’d be here when you were ready, and here you are. {hug}

    What you wrote helped me personally with something. Thanks for that.

  37. I checked your blog everyday; never wrote a comment. As time passed, I too became anxious. You have become so much a part of our lives that a moment without you is uncomfortable. Thank you for all your thoughts about your mom. Your mom is our mom and that really means a lot.

  38. Whew!!! So, so glad you are back. I may not depend on you for the Bike Rally, but I sure do for your wonderful knitting inspiration and encouragement. You are really loved. What are each of us here to do: to learn to love, serve others and be the best example possible. You do all of that.
    Soooooo happy you’re back. Lots of love..

  39. “It is wholly unreasonable to believe any force had an interest in me, and were there such a force I would hope it would concern itself with things that really need fixing – like putting out an Amazon forest fire or curing cancer in a five year old”.

    And yet, look what the flow-on effects are. One person learning that “I can do it, alone if need be,” and doing it, can make the world of difference to others down the track. And who knows? Perhaps one of them will go on to find the cure for that five year old’s cancer.

    I believe in a God who takes an interest in everyone – a deep and passionate interest; a God who sees the incredibly complex web of interrelation between humans, past, present and future, and who knows just how change in one person will affect a myriad of others – billions of changes, small and great, rippling out across space and time.

    I know others may disagree, but I think you’re wise to discern themes in your experiences, and learn from them. Even if the world were random and meaningless, it would still be wise to learn from experience.

  40. Welcome back, Stephanie! You’ve had your hands more than full and ‘the blog’ understood. Can’t wait to see the knitting tomorrow!

  41. I don’t comment often.
    But I am 32, a spinner/knitter, a writer, a mother to two boys, a vegetarian, and a hot mess (with curly-ish hair that never does what I want it to), and your writing never fails to make me feel that a) I’m not alone in my hot mess-ness, and (often) that b) it’s okay to be a hot mess!! It’s just a sign that I prioritize words and wool and family and tasty food over a spotless living room.
    This is just to say that I am always sending you love and support and gratitude, as well as an annual rally donation, and I often tell my husband you’re one of the closest things I have to a role model. So thank you, to the moon and back, for your honest words and for sharing your life with us.

  42. Thank you for sharing! I’ve been reading for ten years (mostly not commenting) and I want to thank you for sharing your life, and for coming back to share even when it’s hard. It means a lot to my corner of the world to have you in it. Congrats on a successful rally, and a lovely nine days at the cabin! Sending hugs and love, and I’m looking forward to the knitting tomorrow!

  43. Welcome back.
    We, The Blog, are always here for you.

    And thank you, because I think what you had to say here was exactly what I needed to hear – for different reasons and circumstances, but definitely needed.

  44. Sometimes there is no more powerful an experience than to go though the hard things and come out the other side having survived and accomplished something in the process.

    Glad you are back, and it’s wonderful to see you with your people and smiling.

  45. Hugs to you. I turned 50 this year and I feel like I am just starting to learn the important lessons.
    I think the theme is real. Life is big and powerful and it’s messages are real and personal. Welcome back xx

  46. Checked your blog almost every day and was really worrying, then thought to check out your Instagram and saw you were posting pictures. Whew. It was a relief to see you were functioning “somewhere”. Glad to hear you are settling in to the new, updated “normal”, whatever that turns out to be.

  47. Thank you for making me feel like I’m a part of something that is helping. I have been pretty down since hearing about the Amazon. So glad that everything turned out well for the Rally. You made it through, too!

  48. I’m not crying, it’s just really dusty. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned, I feel it’s something that all of us can learn.

    We love you Steph!

  49. Oh yay! Seeing you back here made me so happy tonight. There are so many things you’ve said and done this past year that have helped me with various challenges I’ve faced. Thank you for so generously sharing your experiences! (And your knitting… I’m looking forward to tomorrow!)

  50. So glad to have you back. I have to confess I was a little worried after the past couple of years. I so enjoyed your thoughts; they moved me. We are at our very best as humans when we look for meaning in our struggles and suffering. I was also very happy to see you enjoying a well earned rest with your family!

  51. Oh, Stephanie. I love you so much. So very, very much.

    So understand that I am saying this from a bottomless well of love in my heart for you, it is HILARIOUS that you don’t see that you are a POWERHOUSE. Woman! You are like, the picture in the dictionary under POWERHOUSE. Jesus please us. 😀

    I’m so glad the Blog helped, because I’m sure that’s what all of us who are the Blog wanted most–was to help you, in any way we could.

    You are such an amazing, inspiring, wonderful woman. I am so proud to know you, in this small way. I am so proud to be part of the Blog, and part of a community that tries, as you said, to make the world a better place.

    It gives me hope, which I often desperately need.

    So much love and hugs to you! And your friends and family! And the Rally, which is a wondrous thing that makes me wish I lived there so I could volunteer with the Road Crew (this is just a realistic reflection of my skills).

    Oh, Stephanie. You so funny! We love you!

  52. Here’s to standing on your own two feet when you need to, even if you don’t want to. Glad to have you back, and that you took the time you needed.

  53. While I have always hated the adage… “all growth comes through pain”… it is completely true. When we stretch, and worry, and plow onward, when we would most like to lie abed with tea (or wine) and warm blankets and let someone else do the coping, is when we grow.

    Congratulate yourself for standing tall, taking the blows, making the decisions. and going it alone with a small army at your back.

    You always had this; you just didn’t realize it. Make your mum proud.

  54. There’s a lot to unpack there, isn’t there? And it’s stirring up a lot for me frankly. Roles shift, and sometimes it’s a lot. But, whether the universe intends to give us lessons or it’s our own way of creating order from disorder, I do believe the lessons help.

    Also, I wouldn’t worry about hurt feelings here. The Blog, it is clear, gets it.

  55. I’m glad you’ve made it out the other side, Steph. I hope you get a wee chance to bask and enjoy life a bit as you re-enter. Much love to you, always.

  56. So many of us are dealing with the same – love and loss, and trying to do the right thing while not feeling able to do it alone – and falling down and getting up, and knitting away the stress, etc. etc.

    What a great blog entry. It touched me so much when you said how you whisper for your mom to “please come back”. It reminded me that I am blessed with a beautiful daughter who needs me so much, and I have to pull it together for her, because she needs me. It reminded me how lucky I am.

    Welcome back. Now let’s see some knitting! 🙂

  57. Your posts touch me deeply. I agree that we seek meaning and make it for ourselves, even creating for ourselves the lessons we most, if painfully, need to learn. Thank you for sharing honestly and wholly.
    Words from your last post have stayed with me:
    “I have a pretty beautiful life. If not me, who?”
    (I used quotation marks, but I may be remembering the exact wording incorrectly.)
    These words are true for me too, and they’ve helped me step up. You’ve made me a better person, and I’m sure I’m not the only one inspired by your example.
    With love and admiration,

  58. Stephanie, I think the theme is staring you right in the face: YOU are a powerhouse. You have done so much for so many people, both people who know you and people who don’t, through your work with the Rally and within your family. You are an inspiration to me and, I hazard to say, everyone who reads the blog. Thank you for sharing your pain and your triumphs with us all these years.

  59. I lost my Mom very unexpectedly a few weeks ago, shortly after I found out that I was being laid off at the end of the summer after 19 years. I miss my mother more than I can say, and I miss my normal life. I will be starting my own business and there are expenses and risks and its really scary, and I’m doing it without the support and advice from my mother. I have a wonderful support system, a great husband, family and friends, but ultimately it falls on me. Your post hit home on so many levels. While our circumstances are different, I thank you Steph for understanding and voicing how I feel.

  60. Thank you Steph for writing this beautiful post. I lost my mom a few months before yours, and though our relationship was different than yours, much of what you wrote rings true with me. It is so very easy to isolate ourselves to try to protect ourselves from the pain. But oh so much better is the realization that those who love us, and who have been watching over and supporting us while we struggle, truly care for us and are part of the healing process. We can cope and manage on our own, and even grow through that process. But that re-connection with people, oh so precious. Enjoy your time re-establishing with your people!
    Sending hugs! And many thanks for being the inspiration that you are!

  61. Hey, it’s good to have you back. I took some coursework a couple of decades ago around the idea that a) there’s what happened (or what was said or done) and then b) there’s what we make it mean. As humans we are meaning-making-machines, so of course we get to choose the lesson, and you certainly do choose some powerful ones. No doubt about it, you are a McPhee Woman and worthy of the name.

  62. The theme of my classroom this year is “We can do hard things!” You certainly did. Gold star for you! My big question: will you need to add a third year to your two-year term to ensure continuity of leadership? I hope someone who has co-chaired the rally in the past can gently take the reins from your hands and let you take a breather!

  63. “do your damn work and try to be a good person while you’re at it”

    I wish more people followed this idea!
    Glad our comments and donations cheered you up in tough moments.
    You did it! You are amazing.

    What’s next?

  64. I’m sure you’ve figured this out by now, but:

    Always remember you are
    Braver than you believe,
    Stronger than you seem,
    Smarter than you think, and
    Loved more than you know.

    Courtesy of Winnie the Pooh. ❤️

  65. When inheriting the title of grandmother – with whatever name you take – can seem like a burden, trying to fill the shoes of those who came before you. And yet I thought of it as an honor. I was carrying on a family tradition and honoring those women in my family who came before me and held that title I now hold a Nana! Looking at it this way is inspiring., something earning for surviving to this point in life. Hugs for al your worries and troubles these past 2 years, it has not been easy. And you know ‘the blog’ is always here to love and support you whenever needed.

  66. Missed you. Glad you made it out the other side, and with so much strength and grace (believe me, it comes through in the writing 🙂 Wishing you lots more quiet knitting, coffee, and family moments in the months ahead!

  67. Good job, Steph!

    And yes, it is scary when you realize that YOU are now the one that you always looked to for support to the generations that followed.

    You know what else, they were winging it to…and they came out on the other side.

  68. I hope this comes across as nerdy rather than flip, but the first thing I thought of (no wait, the second, after wishing that my relationship with my mom were such that I will hurt as much as you do when she is gone) was Harry Potter after (SPOILER ALERT!) Dumbledore died. I was shocked (clearly I’m poor at seeing foreshadowing) and cried and scared with Harry at the end of The Half-Blood Prince (I identify pretty closely with fictional characters… no surprise there). And when I read this post it was a flash to The Deathly Hallows… he had people around him, but he still had to do it by himself, and held to what Dumbledore had told him even though he wasn’t there to help him anymore, and he did it. Fortunately the Bike Rally and everything else were much more positive activities than finding Horcruxes and defeating Voldemort, but I feel the anxiety and fears coming through just as strongly. And you came through, you know now that you can do it, and that your mum’s voice is part of you and always will be going forward. I wish the Doctor were real to have helped you out with his TARDIS (well, I wish he were real for a lot of other reasons too), but since he isn’t… being in the same company with Harry Potter is pretty darn good. Thanks for sharing all this… I wonder if you know how much you help the Blog in our own lives.

  69. I hope you are able to remember this at all times: you are a brave, strong and gifted woman. The world is a better place because you are here…even when you don’t feel like it or want to accept it.

    I have no doubt when I say, your mom would be so very, very proud of you. You most assuredly live up to the title of a grand McPhee Woman.

  70. I love that you share some of the hard things as well as the wonderful ones with the Blog.
    So much of this post resonated with me. I lost my Mom just a few weeks prior to you losing yours. While my Mom’s passing was expected, it nonetheless left an empty void in my heart. Two years out it’s getting better. The void will never be gone, the edges are just a bit weather-worn now and not as sharp.
    Sometimes it takes a while for the theme or message in our lives to become apparent. I am still trying to figure out mine in this season of my life, and it is reassuring to read that I’m not the only one in this position.
    Sending you an internet hug.

  71. Those moments when we trun around and realise that friends and family are there, in reality and in spirit….. those moments make the world a better place. Thank you for all you do and share.

  72. Thank you for your eloquent writing. It is always such a pleasure to read your missives!
    I have always known that when it comes to most things I am on my own, and like you, I have a hard time asking for or accepting help.
    Having been diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and, in very short order a recurrence and terminal diagnosis, I have learned to lean on my friends and family in ways I never thought I could. I do know that I walk this sometimes deep dark valley alone. No one can help with that or change it, there is no magic. It’s just me.
    What has been a true blessing is knowing that my friends and family line the sides of this valley and cheer for me everyday, that they do everything in their power to let me know that I am loved and supported.
    That is their gift to me. I could not be more grateful.
    Bless your friends and family for being your cheering section.
    Thank you for sharing the hard bits as well as the fun ones.

  73. Well, you wrote what I was going to write: “We changed and saved lives together.” If that doesn’t sum up your co-chairing/chairing the rally, nothing will.

    When you aren’t writing, the blog is still here and will be. We are not always a patient bunch, but we are loyal. Just like your family and friends.

  74. Well said, all of it. But be assured, the Universe absolutely does concern itself with each one of us, with everything because we are part of it and come from it and return to it. There absolutely is cosmic reason, and meaning, and adjustment, and balance. Our whole lives are spent learning, gaining wisdom, gaining insight, helping others. That is the meaning of life. Bright blessings, dearest Stephanie.

  75. “” I come from a long line of women who are absolute powerhouses, and I worry about living up to that, about the responsibility of that, of what it is supposed to mean to be a “McPhee Woman.” ”


    Thank-you for being you!! And, so glad that you’re back, sharing your life and karma with us.


  76. Your articulate honesty and willingness to share your hard times with the Blog, as well as your good times, is very touching to me. Going through a rough patch right now, your words and the many uplifting words of the commenters has really helped me find my humility and compassion towards myself. It helps so much to remember that none of us is alone, that we all have trying times, and there is always a way through them. We humans are vulnerable creatures and things happen. You have a beautiful way of expressing feelings we all have at some time or another and I truly appreciate what you write. I have complete confidence that you will be ok and find your way. Thank you so very much for sharing parts of your life with others. Just that makes a difference in the world, let alone everything else you do.

  77. The Blog loves you…while we wondered and worried, we knew you’d come back. Thank you for your authenticity and rawness…it reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles.

  78. I can’t speak for anyone but me and I love you. I’ve met you a few times, and while we are merely acquaintances who pass each other every few years, when I say I love you, I mean in exactly the way you expressed yourself in this post. I love you because you have doubts, are not always fearless, and yet still get done what needs to be done to help the world be a better place. You inspire me to be a better human.

  79. It’s great to have you back! Thank you for this thoughtful post and congratulations on everything you done over the last weeks, years and months. We’re all lucky to have you.

  80. This is such a huge post, and it just about brought me to tears. I’ve been a reader and a fan for a while, and I’ve never commented before, but I want to tell you that I’m very proud to be part of your fan base and woolly community. You are an inspiration, thank you for sharing your struggle and your work in addition to your successes and joys.

  81. Awesome post. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey with us. You are able to express things in a way that is so meaningful and universal. All the best to you! Hugs.

  82. Thanks. For the honesty, the fodder that helps me find themes in my own efforts, the questions that I’m asking, too, and make me feel less alone.

  83. That level of raw openness is amazing. You are incredibly inspiring while also pulling off appearing as “just a normal person”. Thank you for saying what you did.

  84. With you sharing so much of yourself in one of the most moving blog posts I’ve ever read, I feel a comment is in place. I have no doubt that you are one of the amazing McPhee women – especially since you both overcome great tasks and manage to share your doubts, fears and vulnerabily at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing!

  85. Thank you so much for your honesty. I love that you are looking for depth and meaning. Also that you are so keen to grow and learn. Wonderful qualities, Steph. Thanks for trusting us with your important stuff…you’re a blessing.

  86. Stephanie – I don’t usually comment on blogs but I will on this one. My father died nearly three years ago. Unlike you, I have never had even a twinge of grief. I felt only relief to be released from a mean, hard relationship in which nothing I ever did was good enough. He treated us all like second class citizens and the damage he did has lasted a lifetime. It took me two years and the help of some good friends to let go of the constant wish that he would come back and be the dad I wanted him to be. When I read things like this tribute to your mom (because that is woven in there), I am perhaps strangely jealous of your grief, for you have many happy memories to sustain you going forward, Blessings.

  87. Stephanie –

    Congratulations on pulling this all off, as we knew you would. I mean it. I am concerned, however, that you find an ‘incoming’ for the next year. Not that you won’t work on the rally, but myself having been in volunteer positions, I know that finding the next generation of volunteers can be challenging.

    I know you were devastated by your mom’s passing, and I know you’re remarked on how fast it was, but there is actually something worse. When my mom passed away, it was following a heart attack and a stroke, and there was no one there to say good-bye to at the end. My sister and I later agreed mom was supposed to die at the point of the heart attack, and while medical intervention is almost always a good thing, in her case she was essentially absent after that. My sister and I agreed she would not have wanted at all to be who she was after that. After the heart attack she didn’t remember the aide who had been with her 24/7 for a week, as soon as the aide left. We wondered if she knew who we actually were. After the stroke she was combative and aphasic and didn’t seem to know if anyone was there, let alone who we were. From the heart attack to her passing was about 4 months, and none of that was good.

    So celebrate your memory of your mum, and celebrate the successful Rally, but make sure you get next year’s leadership on board, and enjoy your family and friends.

  88. Oh gosh. You’ve put into words my own experience missing my grandma desperately, after we lost her three years ago. I miss her every single day and in some ways it has never gotten easier. Like you, it took me a while to let go and realize that even though she is gone, one of my strongest supports, I’m still not alone. We can still stand up and keep going and do hard things – which honestly is almost as devastating to realize, in a way. Thank you for articulating this, and sharing it with us.

  89. Would that you could see yourself through our eyes…. you are every bit a McPhee woman as those that came before you. And the one that looks after all the little things, that should be more concerned with the big. He is and he uses little you and me to make a difference. Cheers to you !!

  90. You are the kindest, most deserving woman I “know.” I wish you and your family nothing but the best that life has to offer.

    Now stop making me cry at my cubicle desk! 🙂

  91. Thank you, as always, for your thoughts – for revealing your vulnerability and needs (which we all have), and showing us the meaning behind it all. You have done some BIG THINGS these past couple of years. You are better equipped for the next big things down the line. Welcome back.

  92. I don’t know what to say, but I feel like there is something to be said. I’m not a frequent poster, but I’ve been reading since Hank was oh-so-much smaller. Sending my love across the universe.

  93. If we weren’t searching for and finding meaning in the experiences we go through, what on earth would be the point? I like your theme. It’s a hard one, but it’s a good lesson.

  94. you always ring true! Thanks for being willing to share the good the bad and the worst with all of us. it keeps me on track. hugs, latifa

  95. I think there definitely was a lesson: I mean, what’s the point of going through tough times if there’s nothing to learn from them??? But I’m inclined to articulate your lesson in a different way, by saying that perhaps the lesson was “you are enough.”

    I’m elated — and not surprised in the least — to hear that the Rally exceeded its goals. Love attracts love, and a group that loving and dedicated couldn’t have had any other result. Congratulations! I’m so glad you had time to unwind and reconnect with your loved ones — perfect timing!

  96. Much love! I did a similar thing when my Mom died. I buried myself with work and tried not to notice how sad I was. You did an amazing thing for so many people. Big hug for you!

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