Sunday, January 29, 2012


When I first started out in nursing around 30 years ago, I found it hard to imagine being able to do this kind of work after the age of 50. I thought the work would be too physically demanding and while what I do now is not as arduous as working in a hospital, I find myself fatigued all of the time. It's a different kind of tiredness that's robbing me of a good quality of life.

I'm so exhausted that it seems on many days, I feel like I'm walking through mud that's knee deep. The nature of my work is also emotionally challenging and while I find great satisfaction in my particular specialty, lately I find it hard to recharge my batteries. Instead of enjoying my time off on the weekends, I find myself counting the hours until I have to go back to work. This is not a good frame of mind.

It's not really the work responsibilities that are a problem--the straw that is breaking the camel's back is again a worry about my safety. I've had 3 incidents in a month that have shaken me up. Even though I have an escort who is fully equipped and trained to see to my safety, I still feel so vulnerable.

The first event was on an evening I was sent to a house where the next door neighbor had a never ending train of visitors coming and going the entire time I was in that patient's home. If it wasn't a drug house, I'm a monkey's uncle. The second, more frightening event happened last week when my escort and I were leaving a house. Two city police cars raced down the street and pulled up with a screech three doors down from where we were standing with our mouths hanging open. Four cops jumped out with their weapons drawn and I about shat myself thinking I was about to get caught in the crossfire between the police and the neighborhood thugs. The next day, my security escort called to tell me the police were closing in on suspects they thought responsible for a home invasion where the criminals had kicked in a door 5 doors from where I'd been, beaten the elderly occupant and stolen her car. The very next night I was sent to a home in the middle of a neighborhood of abandoned houses. One house after another was a boarded up dilapidated mess. As we were leaving the patient's home, two men were exiting the abandoned home right across the street. They startled and worried me and I couldn't wait to leave that neighborhood.

What in the hell is wrong with me that I continue to put myself at risk night after night, and is it any wonder I feel the way I do?

These incidents aren't uncommon for me and this safety issue is the source of my anxieties that keep me awake at night. It's also at the core of all my agida. I'm pretty close to thinking I've had enough and it's all over--decision wise--except the planning. You know, it only took me two years to finally hear what the therapist told me when I told her what my job and territory were like: "Quit! What are you waiting for? A tragedy?"

The hows of doing this are what I've spent my weekend discussing with my family and friends. You know, can we afford this? Will I do well without a schedule? Can I still work as a contingent employee with more say over my assignments? How will I pay for my yarn or vacations? Can I bear the thought of not nursing? It's so much a part of who and what I am that I'm not really sure, but I'm not losing any sleep over this. In fact, I've slept more peacefully these past couple of nights with the knowledge that I'm close to a decision that is likely right for me and for our family.

Maybe I could be a barista in my next life--I hear Starbuck's gives its employees a free pound of coffee every week. Or maybe I can finally take that class in bread baking at Zingerman's Bake House. Mmm. Perhaps I could finally work on that knitting certification and teach knitting. I could combine them all by opening a store that sells yarn, coffee and artisan bread. The list of things I want to do--if only I had the time--is fairly long.

I'm going to dare to dream of how to reinvent myself and that alone feels good.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Smitten with mittens? I think knot!

Thursday, as I was rifling through my yarn stash looking for just what I had in mind to knit an oceanic version of Stephanie's Desert Shadows Scarf, I came across this sparkling skein of fingering weight yarn. Oh, I probably bought it because it was different, but more importantly, because the glitter in that yarn is sterling silver and the combination of merino, silk and silver was too powerful to pass up. Don't tell anyone, but I think I'm a bit of a magpie when it comes to yarn. Since it felt a bit scratchy, I knew I didn't want to knit something that would touch my neck, but what would I make with this one hank of yarn? For two years, the yarn has been waiting for attention and it looked like its day had finally come. I immediately abandoned the hunt for the scarf yarn faster than Leo can change his mind about anything the instant he sees a squirrel.

That fast.

I sat down with my laptop and traveled to Ravelry where I looked up Kraemer's Sterling Yarn projects page and saw a pattern for fingerless mitts. Truly, I wasn't looking for yet another pattern for mitts--I was looking for what others had done with this yarn. I fell hard for the cabling on the front of the mitts and felt the Celtic flavor of the cables matched the beautiful green of the yarn. I clicked to the pattern page, willing to pay any price, and was surprised to find the pattern was free.

But wait, was this the same pattern? It couldn't be... this pattern was for gloves. Knotty Gloves. Uh-oh.

Being somewhat intimidated by all that fiddly, really small diameter knitting, I've avoided glove patterns. I think the knitter of the fingerless version may have felt like me and when she got to the end of the hand, she bound off. Not me. I decided I'd stick my toes in the water, so to speak, and it would be gloves or bust. All ten digits would be warm or I would go back upstairs and look for the scarf yarn. It helped that when I cast on for this adventure, the outside temperature was in the single digits. Freezing cold weather with a subzero wind chill factor is a powerful motivator!

That only looks insane to knit! There may be five needles there, but only three of those are in play. The other two are holding stitches waiting to be knit.

I cast on late Thursday night and got too busy working to knit. All day Friday, I knit the cuff and the hand and by Saturday, I was ready for the fingers on the first glove. I spent the day--off and on-- knitting all of them. I don't think it took 30 minutes to knit each finger. By last night, the right glove was done and I cast on for the left. Yes, the water was just fine and I'm glad I took the plunge.

The pattern is really well written, though I think there are some parts a novice may not understand right away or without more in depth direction. I found the best thing was to simply follow the instructions and not over-think the pattern making it more difficult than it is. This--so far--is a quick knit and another notch in my knitting belt of things I've conquered with sticks and string.

Next up? Stephanie's scarf...just as soon as I finish the left glove.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Better late

Bella's Mittens in Rowan's Cocoon in the color, Shale.

Half way through the month, and I finally have the first finished object of 2012. For something that takes only a few hours to knit, besides sloth, there is really no excuse for how long it took to knit these. Even the repair took only five minutes when I put my crochet hook to the problem. It was so cold this weekend that I think these would have come in handy if I hadn't been so slow.

Oh well, it'll get cold again soon enough (tomorrow night) and this time I'm ready.

Yes... that's garlic in the photo. Everyone else uses an apple so the composition sort of looks like this. I prefer to be better armed with garlic when it comes to vampires.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Divine mysteries

For about a month now, I've been on a collision course with caregiver compassion fatigue. I don't make things up--there is such a thing. It's the usual post holiday rush in my line of work that wears down my soul. I get annoyed with minor calls and my colleague's own frazzled demeanor. I swear, she asks for a lot of help from me, and I never say no, but when I ask for help in return, it seems no is all I hear. Truly, I feel like one more thing out of the ordinary, or one more person who tells me no, and I am going to snap. This scenario won't be pretty. It didn't help that my long weekends off over the holidays were spent nursing myself back to health. I was sick as I could be, and still I worked, cooked and delivered a holiday as well as I could manage. It wasn't the best, but it wasn't the worst, either.

Feeling better after New Year's day, I returned to work to find the the post holiday rush to sign onto hospice in full swing. Nearly everyone waits--while suffering--to sign onto our service because they all, understandably, want one more Christmas. As a consequence of waiting, pain and other symptoms worsen and suffering seems to take superhuman nursing skills to repair. I can't blame them for waiting, but one would think the powers that be would plan on this annual occurrence and be better prepared with staffing. Not so, my friends. We all do that much more work because sooner or later, a calm will descend upon us and work will get back to normal. Like every year, this rush will end, but that doesn't help me much as I drown in the trenches. I feel my job is making me stressed out and sick.

About two days ago, I developed heartburn so intense, for a minute or two, I considered it might be a heart attack in the making. It went away with pepcid only to return the next day with a vengeance. Am I getting an ulcer? Might be. I can tell you one thing, I dread the march of my day toward 4PM. I'm overwhelmed, but we all are. Today as I ate dinner, because I did get time for that today, I realized I didn't have time for dinner last night. I worked 9 hours straight without a break. Maybe my heartburn is a sign I'm neglecting myself.

Tonight, still feeling the burn, I popped another pepcid and went to my start of shift assignment, searching hard for my compassion before I got there. I prayed to God that He would fill me up just one more time to get me through the night. Throughout my two and a half hour visit, I felt sort of numb and not my usual self, but I got through it without showing my feelings. I wasn't home ten minutes when the phone rang with a plea for help for someone who has had a change in condition. The family didn't want to talk through it, but wanted a visit. Now. Resigned to my fate for the night, I put one foot in front of the other.

I piled myself and all of my gear into the car and drove 35 miles, stopping along the way to deliver supplies to yet another client who couldn't wait until morning for something they could indeed wait until morning to receive. One annoyance piled atop another. When I got to my primary destination, I was angry because I couldn't find the apartment building. The weather was bad and unable to see well, I drove off the road and onto grass thinking I was in a parking lot. If I hadn't been in my SUV, I'd have been stuck. I finally found the building tucked in an out of the way spot and walked about 500 yards from the only available parking space--in the sleet (carrying supplies)--and as I did, I stewed. The acid in my stomach burned, but couldn't match the heat of my temper. I felt I was losing it, and friends, this just isn't me. I am usually the calm in a hospice stormy sea.

I'd reached the point of no return and prayed again for help in letting all of it go before I reached that door, but it didn't improve my outlook. There was no immediate calm or answer to my prayer. Disappointed and in despair, I entered this apartment where I found my patient surrounded by a dozen gospel singers belting out my favorite gospel song, How Great Thou Art.

Great? Yes, indeed.

Tonight as I write this--with the dog and my laptop vying for space on my lap--I'm pondering the message I received. I cannot shake the vision I encountered tonight, nor the voices of that beautiful angelic choir rocking the house. I've never seen nor heard the likes of this in my three years of hospice nursing, and while the twelve men and women were there to sing for her, my patient, I think they were also meant to be there for me and my heart is filled with love. Once again, there are no accidents in my line of work. I was sent to that patient by a power greater than me.

I am humbled, thankful and ready for another day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who needs magic? Apparently, me.

All over but the thumb knitting? I think not.

I don't know when I cast on my own pair of Bella's Mittens...sometime last week, or the week before. It's all a blur as I've battled fatigue from sinusitis--a leftover from my cold last month--and a work week that was off the hook. Over the weekend, I was determined I'd at least finish the left mitt or die trying.

I kept the mitten out and nearby at all times. At one point I tucked it in a project bag and when I pulled it out, I grabbed the free double pointed needle to start knitting and noticed that I'd inadvertently pulled out the wrong needle and liberated a full 1/3 of the stitches. No worries. I calmly grabbed a smaller double point and picked them all up in no time at all, but it's something that wouldn't happen if I'd been knitting the magic loop method, or even with two circulars. Still, I like working with double points. I think it makes me look like a knitter possessing mad skillz. Never mind that the whole thing is smoke and mirrors. While 4 or 5 needles are there in one project, circular knitting--like all hand knitting--still only occurs on 2 needles at a time. It only looks crazy and complicated.

Once I finished the gusset and had the thumb stitches on waste yarn, I began to have hope the project would fly...and it did. I tried the left mitten on for size and became annoyed with myself at the laddering in my mitten right before the cable. This occurs when knitting from one double point needle to the next and the knitter fails to tighten the first stitch or two of the new needle. It doesn't happen with magic loop like this...oh, I guess it could, but there is only opportunity for laddering in two spots, instead of three or four with double points. As the mittens are for me, I ignored this laddering, much to my detriment as you'll see in the photo, but could not ignore the fact that I'd forgotten to cable 10 rows back.

I ripped out the knitting to the spot where I'd forgotten this essential part of the pattern, picked up all of those stitches and knit them back up with an effort to be mindful of laddering from that point on. With the exception of the thumb, I finished the left mitt last night and feeling smug, I cast on mitten two. With double points.

This morning, I tried the completed mitten on again and with bright daylight shining behind me, noticed it wasn't laddering at was two live on the public side (a knit) and one of the private side (a purl).

Ladder in disguise


Somewhere along the way with all of that ripping, I'd missed this and instead of picking up what was clearly a decrease, I set free two stitches that wasted no time in traveling down the length of the mitt all the while disguising themselves as ladders.

Doh! Again, I don't think any of this would have happened with magic loop. I can knit magic loop--I do it all of the time for circular swatches, but I prefer double points for some insane reason. I think it's time to re-examine my preferences, especially when cold fronts are approaching and the need for something warm to wear is urgent.

Pre-op photo

I now have pins holding onto the loose stitches so they don't unravel further as I consider the surgical options for the left mitten. There will be no ripping. I think I'll weave them up to the waste yarn and sew them in with the ends of yarn I'll use to knit the thumb. Sounds like a plan.

It also sounds like there won't be a completed pair of mittens ready in time for the cold front.

C'est la vie.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Prior proper planning prevents psychosis...

Right after New Year's Day, I put away most of the holiday decor, cleared off the book shelf and started filling it up with my armament to get through this political year. This is the year I'm going to ignore the political machine and read instead of watching talking heads. I think it's a good plan. I started a Shelfari account, but ran out of energy trying to add all of my books. Perhaps I'll do it a little bit at a time. It's not that it's hard, but it is a little time consuming.

My e-readers are full of books waiting to be read, and a hard copy of The Hobbit is on my shelf waiting to be re-read for about the tenth time. Hey! Peter Jackson's version of the story is being released on the big screen in December and I want the tale--which I do have memorized-- to be fresh in my mind. I think I'll savor it again in November. Another vintage book I plan on reading again is Charlotte's Web. I found a copy prior to the estate sale and rather selfishly rescued it from the .25 cent pile. The edges had been chewed by Stinkerbell, but the book is still readable and worthy of owning.

The bottom of the book shelf is filling up with knitting books and patterns I also plan to use as weaponry instead of watching or listening to political rhetoric. Also present is the Planet Earth DVD set that I'll watch while knitting. I hope Sigourney's voice doesn't lull me to sleep while I knit. Then there are television shows I never used to be into but now I am. The Good Wife is an example. I missed the first two seasons so I can rent those over the summer when the verbal barrage should be approaching the boiling point and try to catch up before season 4 begins.

I think I have the beginnings of a good plan and have kicked off the year reading, Midwife for Souls, which was recommended to me by a cloistered nun when I attended a death at her convent. She told me she was very moved by this book and thought I would be, too. Up until recently, it wasn't available on Kindle, but now it is, so I bought it this morning.

As an aside, the holiday baking is truly complete now. Last night, Sara started baking the one cookie that lets us know Christmas was here: Cherry Winks. As like last year, these got baked well after the holiday, and just like then, I think we're enjoying them even more when we have them late.

Leo the Unhelpful Baker

As usual when baking, Leo helped. This is him pouting because he got kicked out of the kitchen when he wouldn't stop licking the flour that had fallen on the floor and on his head. It wasn't a problem that he was in the was just that by licking the spill, he wasn't cleaning, he was making paste.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Gift horse

I am not going to ponder the meaning of the lack of snow in these parts, but I have to say, it's rather enjoyable. Last night, while winding up an insane work work (the full moon IS approaching), I noticed my son had tan lines from golfing. In Michigan. In early January. He also had a little sunburn on his face.


It was nearly 60 degrees here yesterday and that is so very rare, it deserves a comment. I'm sure it's inviting a natural disaster of the doozie sort to even mention this, but not once have we had to take the shovel out of the garage and only twice have I felt such bone chilling cold that I despaired winter would never leave. Oh, I know it's early days but feel Mother Nature deserves a thanks for being kind so far this winter.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Have you ever been carried away on a wave of memory triggered by an aroma? Yesterday I received a late Christmas gift from Sara. As we opened it together, she remarked, "that's it! I do remember!" She was right...that was it! A smell that took her back to about the age of 10, transported me back even further to a time I was a young single mother sharing a home with my daughter, my best friend and her daughter. Together we did the impossible to make ends meet and raise happy, healthy girls.

I did not waste a lot of money in those days, because frankly, there was no money to waste. I was dirt poor, living paycheck to paycheck. Earning little more than what is now about minimum wage and raising my daughter almost completely on my own financially--even then, $25 a week in child support was a paltry sum-- I did have a particular indulgence in a product seemingly exotic and expensive at the time: Vita Bath Plus Shower Gelee. Every few months, I would buy an enormous bottle of this shower gel and every single day, we would all use it when we took our showers. We all smelled so good and so did the bathroom, towels and everything else the gel came in contact with.

I don't recall where I used to buy it 28 years ago, but in later days Fannie bought me a big bottle at Penneys as a gift, and then, sadly, the Plus Gelee went away. You could still get Vita Bath in other scents, but it seemed they'd stopped making the Plus in the purple bottle. Over the years, I got used to stocking up on the inferior, but much easier to find shower gels from places like The Body Shop, Aveda and Bath and Body works.

When I opened Sara's gift yesterday, I was perturbed with myself that I'd nagged my husband into re-caulking the shower that morning. Now it was all my fault that I'd have to wait until morning to bathe myself in memories, but maybe it was worth the wait. After all, I'd waited years to have this precious product in my hands...what was one more day?

Today the smells took me back as I thought about our girls and our time together in that condo. The persistent refusal of my friend's daughter to eat anything more than an apple for dinner (she could be stubborn), or the nights my friend and I took up residence on opposing sofas and read Danielle Steel romance novels until the wee hours. I thought about our collective grief when many years later, my friend's daughter was tragically killed just crossing a street. Memories, like feelings, often come unbidden, but I think despite our challenges of the day, we had some really beautiful times being poor single moms and made some wonderful rocking chair memories.

As I showered today, I thought about my tiny little house by the shore of the Saint Clair River where foghorns from freighters would awaken me, or the nearby train whistle would lull me to sleep. It was then that I'd first started buying this shower gel. I thought about my special young man who would periodically spend the night because the drive home was simply too far and the memories seemed distant, but at the same time like this time was only yesterday:

Each morning, the couple was awakened by her clock radio at the obscene time of 4:45 AM so the young nurse could make it to work--40 miles away--on time. Resistant to getting up, she'd press the snooze button on the radio until the station played Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine's song at 5AM and only then would she drag herself to her shower and use the special gel to awaken her spirit for the day. He would bitch and express disbelief that any soul would torture themselves with a snooze alarm, but now after 27 years together and nearly 25 years of marriage, both fondly recall the song.

Mmmm. The memories smell so good. I could swear that miracle gel makes me feel thirty years younger!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I was really blessed this holiday and got a couple of the best toys for Christmas. One I used for the first time last night to make a giant steaming pot of split pea soup. I have to wonder, cost aside, what has kept me from buying myself an enameled cast iron Dutch oven? Ordinarily, one wouldn't think a pan would make a great gift, but in my case, it does. Even though I have my own earnings, I would never spend that kind of money on myself, or something only I would use, and I think my family knows this about me. I will say, the only drawback to this gift is its very hefty weight. Holy smokes, it's heavy, but what an absolute joy it was to cook with.

The other toy I received is an iPad2. I already have a MacBook Pro and an iPhone, so I didn't think I had much need for such a device. Besides, there was no way I'd pay such a great price to duplicate some things I already own (see first paragraph). Having played with it for a bit better than a week now, I think I've rethought my position. Not only does it make Angry Birds easier to play, as a knitter, it's made me wonder how have I lived without this. I think it's already as indispensable as my phone and my laptop. While I'd still rather use my laptop to surf the web, the small size of the iPad makes it so much more portable than my MacBook and therefore the perfect knitting aid.

Today I bought the app, Goodreader, and with no experience at all, went straight to Ravelry and downloaded two PDF pattern files from my library. I made a copy of the Bella's Mittens pattern and fooled around with marking it up with my own notes. OK, so that will take a bit more experience, but I think from a pattern perspective, this app is going to pay for itself--a modest $4.99--over and over again, including a savings of paper, printer ink and sanity (it sucks to lose an annotated pattern). Got an iPad my knitting friends? Don't miss this app.

I scored on the book front, too. My daughter, who apparently listens throughout the year, gave me three books I had mentioned I wanted: The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Weekend Hats. I've used two of the books so far and used Cook's to make the pea soup. I don't think the pan can take all the credit for the outcome. That was a seriously delicious pot of soup that I usually cook for hours in a crock pot, however, I give the recipe most of the credit.

I also finished a hat last night, though to be honest, it took more than a weekend. While I don't remember when I cast on, it took closer to a week to finish the Topiary Beanie from that book. It was an ideal way to use up a little of my Madelinetosh DK stash. It's 16 degrees out there today with a windchill in the single digits, so I'm looking forward to wearing that hat to work tonight. I only wish I could finish Bella's Mittens by 4PM, too, but seeing as I haven't cast on yet, that's not likely. I do plan to learn to make sticky notes and highlights on Goodreader by then!

So to my family...I know I can be difficult to buy a gift for. Despite the lack of ideas and clues about what I think I might want as a gift, you all outdid yourselves. I thank you for your thoughtfulness and very generous gifts. I see hand knits in all of your futures!

Sunday, January 1, 2012