24 at 42

Hello!  It's Mike here & I'm back to take over Alisa's blog...for good reasons, I assure you!

I'm going to do it again.  I knew even before I finished last time that I was going to do it again & I've been looking forward to ever since.  That's right, on November 4th I'll be completing a 24-hour marathon gaming session for Extra Life and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Extra Life is a charity group that organizes gamers of all flavors to raise money for their local Children's Miracle Network hospitals.  Extra Lifers have raised over $30 million dollars since its inception in 2008 & last year alone raised over $9 million.  People raise money all throughout the year, but the major event is the 24-hour gaming marathon which is exactly what it sounds like...stay awake for 24 straight hours to play games.  It can be card games, board games, video games...whatever the participant wants to do.  I'll once again be playing video games.  Mostly because it's fun, but also because I can live stream the whole thing over on my Twitch channel so awesome people like you can hang out with me & anyone else who wanders into chat.

Children's Miracle Network hospitals provide life-saving care for kids regardless of financial situation.  Things like diabetes, cancer, newborn & fetal care are all treatments that can be done at this network of hospitals.  And this, ultimately, is why I participate in Extra Life.  No child should have their life cut short, and no parent should have to lose their child to a curable disease simply because they lacked the funds to pay for the care.

Last year was the first time I actively participated in Extra Life even though I had known about it for a few years.  It was quite an experience.  It sounds easy!  Who doesn't want to sit around and play games to help kids?  And, to be honest, it really wasn't too bad...until around hour 18.  That would have been right around 4am.  For much of the previous day I had people stopping into the Twitch chat to hang out and keep me company, but at 4am all of the smart people are sleeping & had been for quite a while.

Luckily I had prepared really well for the event.  My first instinct was to just eat pizza & drink beer all day.  Again, that sounds pretty great in theory, but would have been a disaster in practice.  Alisa was a huge help in preparing healthy meals and snacks to keep me going.  Just knowing that there were delicious turkey wraps waiting in the fridge really helped.  And, yes, I did have some coffee...probably around that 4am time I mentioned earlier.  This is what I looked like a little over 20 hours into the marathon.  In my head I thought I was doing a big exaggerated goofy smile, but apparently not?

ExtraLife 2016.jpg

So, I really hope that you will consider donating to this amazing cause.  If you aren't financially able to make a donation, I totally understand.  In either case, I'd really appreciate it if you could share my donation page on your social media sites with your friends and family.

Oh yeah!  I'm going to give away some prizes this year!  For every $15 you donate you'll get 1 entry into the prize drawing...$45 gets you 3 entries, etc.  You could win fabulous things like a dozen chocolate chip cookies baked by ME, an Extra Life phone case, Steam codes for games AND, the thing that most of you reading this will want, I'll have TWO $25 gift certificates from Firefly Fibers!!!

AND, if we hit the $1,000 goal in time before November 4th I'll dye my hair in time for the stream to match this years Extra Life shirt (Black, Blue, Pink, or Green).  If you donate any amount you'll get to vote on the color!  Make sure to include your email address when you donate so I can send you the link to the poll.

I'm really excited for November 4th!

P.S. - 42 is my age. :)

A Really Good Guy...

Life presents us with unexpected gifts and challenges. Yesterday, life challenged us in the biggest of ways as we said goodbye to our dear Logan. 

 
Horicon Marsh - July 2016

Horicon Marsh - July 2016

 

I can confidently say that Logan will remain in our hearts as the best guy ever... he was a gentle giant of epic proportion (11+ years with us and he never uttered a growl), a true lover of being a dog (hopefully super-serious Rollo learned a bit about the fun of being a dog from him), a zealous drinker at the water bowl (and carefree about actually swallowing what was in his mouth while walking away), a backyard explorer (we won't talk about what he spent a fair amount of time looking for), a fabulous hunter (watch out backyard rabbits and voles), enthusiastic squirrel chaser (of course he never got one, but he always remained optimistic), a little brother to our beloved Joey (we hope you're playing together again), a big brother to our dear Rollo (oh, how the tables turned with having a youngster in the house),  and (quite simply) he was just a really nice guy. The best guy, really.

 
Logan and Joey - June 2006

Logan and Joey - June 2006

 

We love all of our dogs and they've all come from sorted backgrounds as rescues, but Logan defeated the odds when he came home with us in 2006 at 3 years old having just recovered from tapeworms and having a tumor removed from his tail. He was left at a dog show (ironically, a Siberian Husky show) and we weren't even at the humane society to look at him. Thankfully, they asked us to and he immediately followed Joey around the yard and then made the winner of all moves, he laid down and rolled onto his back at my feet. We never had a chance and I'm so grateful he chose our family. 

 
Logan, Rollo and Papa - Winter 2017

Logan, Rollo and Papa - Winter 2017

 

I posted on Instagram during my recent trip to Colorado that our Logan wasn't doing so well and I want to say thank you for all of the comments, messages and kind words - your kindness and love helped both Mike and I through a challenging time. He celebrated his 14th birthday this last February and we know we've been so very lucky to have had him with us this long. Logan had a rough few months and the last few weeks were the most difficult for our little family, and yesterday it was time to let go.  

 
Our merry band of idiots on the way home from the Green Day show in April.

Our merry band of idiots on the way home from the Green Day show in April.

 

Dearest Logan, we love you and miss you so very much. Thank you for being part of our family. Now, go drool all over Joey, chase those squirrels, and be sure to run to your heart's content (with plenty of unintentional somersaults). xoxo

How I Learned...

As I look back at my recent (and terribly infrequent) posts, I’m a wee bit embarrassed. But, life around here has been, you know… life. With the arrival of spring, I’ve been making changes to lighten my responsibilities so I can have more time for myself, my family, and to also spend more time with you on Instagram, Facebook, and here on the blog. It’s slow progress, but I can feel the load lessening each day and it’s an awesome feeling. After all, I'm here with you today.

Last month I tried very hard to complete the daily April @yarnlovechallenge on Instagram. I started out strong and I was having so much fun, but later in the month, posting started slipping away a day at a time and then all of a sudden (you know, out of nowhere) May showed up. How does that happen?

So, clearly I’m not cut out for a daily challenge, but May brings a new challenge and this time there are weekly prompts - I can post once a week (which I should totally be able to do) or as much as I want during the dates for that prompt. You can join the fun, too!

 
 

As I was thinking about posting the quick answer on IG, I thought this week’s prompt #HowILearned would also be a great blog post and I hope you enjoy my extended answer below!


I learned to knit in 2001 and I had no idea how two sticks and some string would change my entire life… I was working through some pretty big “life stuff” and needed something to ground me, and I decided that “thing” was knitting. I went to my local JoAnn Fabrics and purchased the Boye I Taught Myself Knitting Kit (I think the lady with the pretty hair and big smile sold me), some size 11 circular needles (plastic with an unyeilding cord), and ONE skein of Lion Brand Chenille (because, clearly this was all I needed to knit a skirt). It's okay if you're laughing, because how could you not be? It's really funny and I'm giggling now. Thankfully, it was only a short wait for Debbie Stoller’s Stitch ‘N Bitch Handbook (a book I still recommend for beginning knitters) and she guided me to the light with her great writing style and good tool & yarn recommendations!

I did discover the local yarn shop, but I was quite intimidated in the beginning because 1) I was self-taught, 2) the knitters in the shops seem very tight-knit (pun intended), and 3) I felt like a total newbie because the yarn and everything else was overwhelming. It was A LOT to take in and felt like I was back in high school and the knitters were the cool-kids and I again didn’t fit in. However, what I know now is that 1) many of us are self-taught and that’s awesome (you don’t have to take formal classes to be a "real" knitter), 2) knitters *are* tight-knit, but most are super friendly and LOVE to talk about knitting (I dare you to try and stop us from talking to anyone that seems like they *might* listen), and 3) I had actually developed some mad knitting skills though my self-studying (I am a researcher at heart and probably spent just as much time knitting as internetting about the knitting).

The fear of the yarn shop is one that I hear about frequently at Firefly Fibers and to that I say... get into your yarn shop, ask questions, and support your LYS so they'll be around for years to come! We are here to help and want to do what we can for you to have fun knitting. And, if you have the opportunity, visit more than one shop – most shops are run by one or two people and their personality is part of the shop and you may feel more comfortable at, or like the selection better, at a certain shop. Take a deep breath, walk through the door and get to know them!

I’d been knitting for a couple years when a co-worker told me about the Madison Knitter’s GuildWHAT?! There were actually enough knitters in the area to make a “club”?! Apparently, yes (and several times over). My friend invited me to my first meeting and my knitting universe broke wide open – there were SO many lovely knitters at the meeting and I discovered a whole new world that was full of people who loved sticks and string as much as I did. Until then, knitting was mostly a solitary activity for me and I was so happy to finally find that there was (a lot) more of my brand of freak out there and it's only grown more since then.

Here's where I date myself.... when I learned to knit 16 years ago: the internet was a baby and had very limited knitting resources, yarn was nothing like what we have now (we were coming out of a decade - or two - with A LOT of acrylic and little to no indie dyers) and Ravelry didn’t exist. This last one may be hard to believe, but it’s true. There was a time before Ravelry.

I signed up for Ravelry when there was a wait list, so I entered my email and then I waited to be granted access… I remember the day I got my email notification and signed up immediately – January 14th, 2008 and I am Raveller #64,320.  How do I know my Ravelry number and do you want to know yours? Here’s a fun little trick (you’ll have to do this on a computer):

Hold the Ctrl key and (using the arrow keys) Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.

After doing this, your Ravelry number should appear below your “Raveler Since” date, just like this…

Pretty cool, right? If you give this a try, feel free to leave a note below with your Ravelry number. It's fun to see where everyone falls - especially since as of February of 2014 (over 3 years ago) there were 4 MILLION ravellers!

Speaking of Ravelry… many congratulations to these amazing folks on their 10-year anniversary this month! Knitting and crocheting have grown beyond what I could have hoped for, or imagined, because of Ravelry. They’ve connected knitters and crocheters all across the world with each other and created the most incredible database of patterns and yarn. Knitting and crochet has been transformed because of them.

If someone would have told me in 2001 that future-me would own a yarn shop, design patterns, teach others to knit, and knit the beautiful things I do now, I would have told them they were bonkers! After all these years, I am so very thankful for making that fateful decision to pick up that silly kit with the super-happy smiling lady on the front of the booklet, those terrible plastic circular needles, and that awful chenille (it was purple, just in case you were wondering), because it was the stepping stone to where I am today.

CHEERS!