Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank you

My friends, I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for the incredible outpouring of kindness, understanding, and support my family and I have received from you these past few days. I cannot begin to tell you what a comfort it has been to hear from so many people praying for my family, wishing us healing, sending positive energy out into the universe for us to draw upon. Those of you who have lost or are in the process of losing a parent -- and how terribly sad it makes me to reflect on how many of you there are who have already walked this path or are on it with me now, or perhaps worse yet, had a parent taken from you suddenly, without warning and without the chance to say goodbye -- you have particularly touched me with your generosity of spirit. I want all of you to know I have indeed felt that hand on my back, that figurative or literal shoulder to lean on, and all those real and virtual hugs when I have needed them. I feel quite certain I would crumble without so much love around me, near and far. Please know too that my family has appreciated your good thoughts as much as I have.

I am writing this from Windsor, where I spent the morning with my family, as we had a meeting with my father's doctor, who gave him his diagnosis. Without going into detail, it was not easy, but I am glad I was there. Running into my old friend Cindy at the hospital, who gave me two great big bearhugs, really helped. Call me superstitious... I can't help but think it was more than coincidence we happened to meet right then. May there be more such moments of grace in the days and weeks (perhaps months?) to come.

I hope you will understand, my family and I wish to maintain some privacy going forward, and so although I will be in touch personally with those of you I am closest to, there will not likely be any further updates to the blog regarding my father's condition for the foreseeable future. Comments will remain open here, should you feel the urge to leave any sorts of "thinking of you" messages over time. They will be most welcome.

Confidential to my sister Julie: Thank you. You gave me a great gift today. I recognize it and cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A strange and mournful day

I heard a song on the radio the other day that I had not heard in a long time, by one of my favourite artists, Paul Simon. It's been running through my head off and on since then.

"No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away..."

Little did I know how true it would turn out to be. Strange and mournful indeed.

Although "42 Main Street, version 2.0: Keeping it Real" has been far more balanced than version 1.0 was in talking about both joy and pain, success and failure, there is one aspect of my life I have not discussed on the blog before now. My intention has never been, nor will it ever be, to use the blog for airing dirty laundry.

The observant among you may have noticed that while I mention spending time with Derek's family somewhat regularly, there is never any mention of spending time with my own. As some of you know, my family and I haven't really been on speaking terms for going on the last four years. It's a long story, but the conflict largely centers on my choice of Derek as my life partner.

My mother called me last night. My father asked her to phone me. I've heard through the grapevine that he has been sick off and on for the last year but until recently, the prognosis was cautiously optimistic, and although I sent flowers and a letter after his most recent bout, I have otherwise kept my distance. So if he is asking for me now, he knows he is very ill. His doctor has shared his full diagnosis with my mother, but has not told him yet -- my dad will probably find out today. He is hospitalized in my hometown of Windsor, Ontario. It seems he has inoperable bile duct cancer, and it appears to have spread. His liver and kidneys are failing. They don't know how long he might have left to live, but it looks "very bad." There is no treatment -- no transplants, no chemo, no radiation. All they can do is keep him comfortable.

Derek and I are driving down to Windsor today. My mother has made it categorically clear that under no circumstances are she and my sister or my father to see Derek, although she understands I need him to drive me and to be there for me afterward. I hope one day my family can set aside old conflicts and see Derek for the good man he is.

I love my father. I remember in grade nine English, we were to write an essay about our hero. I wrote about my dad.

He is 62 years old -- he'll be 63 on December 1st. So young. From the sounds of it, he may not live to meet any future grandchildren he might have.

I would ask that you spare a thought and a prayer for my father in the next while -- if you are the praying kind, pray for a healing miracle, or failing that, pray for a merciful, dignified death for my dad.

And any words of wisdom, kindness, or encouragement you might have for me would be really welcome right now. I need to know that my father is in people's thoughts and prayers, and I could use your support.

I sent an email about this to every friend I could think of on my contact list yesterday, and I posted a note on Facebook too. I have already been flooded with the kindest messages in response. I have read and cherished every one. Thank you so much -- I can feel the warmth and strength surrounding me, and feel better prepared to face this hard day. We are taking the laptop with us, and the hotel provides internet access. I'll respond personally as time permits, but right now I just want you all to know how much I appreciate your support and your good thoughts for my father. It means the world to me.

Friday, October 24, 2008

OK, so I haven't entirely sworn off gift knitting...

I have a lot of baby sweaters in my Ravelry queue because I find the cuteness just too darn hard to resist. (And as I have mentioned before, I have been surrounded by something of a baby boom in the last while.) I made Fawn Pea's Organic Guernsey for my friend Pauline at work, who's going on mat leave next week. This was a charming pattern, and to my great delight, it was entirely seamless, so it was a quick knit, finished in just a few sittings. Ravelry details are here. I made a couple of modifications to the pattern, as you can see, the principal one being the use of discontinued, machine-washable Patons "Blue Denim Look," a DK instead of an Aran weight yarn, purposely resulting in a newborn-size sweater using the 18-month stitch counts. I am very pleased with this little fella, despite a couple of small imperfections, and Pauline was very happy with it too. She has promised to send me a picture of her little boy, Raleigh, wearing it after he is born (due date is Christmas Eve). I will surely post the picture when I receive it. Anyway, although this was technically a gift, it was so much fun to make, that the knitting itself was something of a gift to myself!

The selfish knitting does continue apace, however, despite the above distraction. I am about a quarter done a red Yarn Harlot One-Row Scarf in Fleece Artist Cashlana, and am also swatching for a turquoise vest in Cascade 220 Quatro sent to me by Trillian42 last year, both for me. I am very excited about the vest, as knitted vests seem to be very trendy right now. Among other treasures, I bought a beautiful turquoise pendant on a silver choker last weekend, during an artists' studio tour in the Dundas area with my friend Tanya. It was a beautiful day to be out for an autumn-colours drive, sunny and not too cold. I can just picture the pendant, a crisp white shirt, and this turquoise vest... I can hardly wait!

In other news: I am really struggling with my job right now. I handle consumer complaints in the financial industry and the market meltdown is, understandably, making for some clients who are even unhappier than usual. (Although I have to say, if I had money sitting around at the moment, I'd be buying some great-value investments while they're cheap!) I keep fantasizing about going back to less challenging (if also less lucrative) jobs I've had in the past. Honestly, I'd be ready for a radical change if I had the slightest idea what I want to be when I grow up. Any advice on staying focused, positive, and satisfied at work during difficult times?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A belated tale of two scarves -- one :( and one :)

Back in August, I cast on a Sunday Market Shawl for my friend Margaret's birthday. She is allergic to most animal fibres, so I used a delightfully slinky, shiny synthetic yarn called Lang Opal in a lovely shade of her favourite colour, yellow. (A colour which, much as I may like it, I simply cannot wear myself.) Let's call it "champagne." Anyway, I knit a rather long, wide stockinette rectangle. I was very excited when I got to the end and went to drop the stitches that would make the characteristic ladders through the scarf. And then, to my horror, I found all that really happened was that my stockinette rectangle just got really, really, REALLY big, and really, really loose. It was not what I had pictured at all. It was irredeemably ugly. I snapped a couple of low-light pictures to post a record of this dismal failure on Ravelry, and immediately frogged it in disgust. It was only on going back to the pattern's Ravelry page that I noticed this rather important caveat I had somehow missed when I cast on: "Also, avoid substituting very smooth yarns for the Iroha as ladder definition may be lost." Yeah, no kidding: here is how I had hoped it would look. Here is what I actually ended up with. That'll teach me not to swatch. (I figured I didn't need to -- it's a scarf! Who cares if it's a bit too big or a bit too small?! The swatching gods smote me down, obviously.) Ugh. When I think of all the hours I spent... Honestly, I think Margaret's frogged Sunday Market Shawl has been my most abysmally wasted, horrid piece of knitting in the five years since I started. Sorry Margaret. I do have some new pattern ideas queued for this yarn -- pattern ideas that will work with the yarn instead of against it -- but I seriously doubt I will start over until sometime next year. Maybe for your 40th birthday. We'll see.

Still, I absolutely loved this pattern in all its simplicity, and I was determined to make it work. As mentioned in my last post, I bought the most gorgeous yarn a month ago at the K-W Knitters' Fair, handspun by Linda Janssen of The Roving Spinners: a blend of superwash merino, silk noil, thread and firestar, in the very fittingly named colourway "Leopard Frog." One skein was randomly interspersed with small glass beads in a several shades of green, and one was plain. I knew the Sunday Market Shawl pattern would showcase the subtle variegations in the yarn beautifully, take advantage of its slightly coarse, "sticky" texture (I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice), and make the most of the yardage. I excitedly cast on as soon as I got home from the Fair -- a rainy day perfect for curling up with some knitting -- alternating the beaded and unbeaded skeins every two rows, making subtle stripes. I completed it a week later during a weekend we spent with our friends Neil and Tanya, at the cottage we borrowed from Derek's aunt and uncle. (I'll get around to posting a few pics of that weekend on Flickr eventually.) And voilĂ : as you can see in the picture above, success! I have to admit that even with this comparatively rougher yarn, I did lose some of the ladder stitch definition at one end of the scarf... but I am still utterly delighted with it. It is appropriately scarf-sized rather than being a gargantuan monstrosity, the little beads make me giddily happy (ooh, SHINY!), and the just plain loose stockinette end is still charming even if it's not quite what I had intended. I've been meaning to blog this for a while now, but it's been a busy month and I was hoping to take some better pictures first. Bah, whatever, the blog needs updating: these will have to do. This is totally my favourite scarf now.

Random updates:

Reading -- The Moor's Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie. This is my first experience of Rushdie. WOW, is he a great writer! Breathtaking.

Listening to -- iTunes Party Shuffle. Have I ever blogged about my undying devotion to the random electronic jukebox that picks out obscure jewels from our combined music collection? I heart Party Shuffle. LoveLoveLove.

Eating -- Of course this past Canadian Thanksgiving weekend was devoted to roast poultry (although it was very yummy chicken, not turkey, in both cases, cooked by Derek and Tim for me and Margaret on Saturday, and by his mum for the big family shindig on Sunday). But the best thing I've eaten in the past while was salmon fillets, topped with a thick smearing of pesto then baked. DIVINE. If you are a fish eater, trust me on this, you *must* try it.

Watching -- The West Wing. Bought the entire series box set on sale from Amazon.ca recently. It's even better than I remembered, and oddly prescient given that the first season began nine years ago. (It has aged surprisingly well.) I don't think I'll ever be able to go back to cable or satellite TV. Watching DVDs and downloads or streaming video, on my schedule, without commercials, is way, WAY too enjoyable and convenient.

Thinking about -- How lucky I am to be able to vote in the Canadian election tonight. Just over ninety years ago, I couldn't have done so, simply because I am a woman. When Derek's grandmother Dorothy was born -- ONE lifetime, 90 years ago -- women couldn't vote yet in this country. I may not be thrilled with the political parties and candidates I get to choose from, or with the unfairness of the first-past-the-post system that allows a party to govern with much less than 50% +1 of the votes cast -- but I am still profoundly privileged to live in a democracy, and you can be damned sure I will be availing myself of that privilege, hard-earned by my forebears, when I hit the polling booth tonight. Canadian soldiers have gone overseas, fought, and died, to defend or win others' right to vote, and continue to do so today. The least I can do to show my gratitude is to be the kind of citizen who doesn't take my right to vote for granted. It only takes a few minutes out of my day every couple years to go cast my ballot. I'm sure Dorothy will have voted. It's a free country -- you're welcome to abstain from voting if that's what you want to do -- but I can't say as I will understand or respect that choice...