Monday, December 29, 2008

Joy and Woe

There is always confusion and disruption when there is a death in the family. I am working on a palliative ward and nursing our patients and their families to their last moments. Intellectually I recognize that the behaviors around a deathare all normal in their own way. But it's hard in your own family.
In Sociology (Symbolic Interacionism) we learn that our identity is made up of roles we identify with, many of them in social context. I am a mother and a daughter and a wife and a granddaughter. If I lose my Grandma, am I still a granddaughter? Who am I now. How do I keep myself together? The volleys of deep feelings, unexamined, have been flying over my head while I worked. Doing long shifts and nights is a bit like travelling. You're really not a part of anything till re-entry.
I am sad that we are hurting. But I hope everyone just recognizes that this is supposed to be difficult. Give others some slack. Give yourself some slack. We need the fabric that is our family to not be stretched so tightly.
I had another loss. One of my aunties who welcomed my sisters and I into her house for whole summers at a time. But time has widened the gap between us and for that I am sorry.
What a blessing to be surrounded by the most adorable babies of the cousins. Babies that laugh and cuddle and are not shy eventhough we only see them a few times a year.
Maybe I should go back to working in Pediatrics. Maybe I should be wary. Since my kids were born I found it so much more difficult.
The snow is melting in the warm rain. Time is unaffected by our debaucles.

William Blake
Auguries of Innocence
(as misquoted on CBC by PK Rangachari)

Joy and woe are woven fine
A clothing for the soul divine
And under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine

And it is right this should be so
For man was made for joy and woe
And when this thing we rightly know
Safely through the world we go.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Making

Emily made a gingerbread house while I worked days on Christmas Eve. I went to my Mom's after my shift to join the family. The roads were dreadfully covered in snow. I watched it come down all day while I worked. It obliterated my car. I was glad to be home and not going back for Christmas day.
We had a quiet morning with french toast a la Scotty. Mom and Paw came over with the biggest presents. This is what was inside for me:

A dress form of my own. I think I shall call her Evangeline. I was sort of named after my Mom's childhood friend, Vangie Taylor. Here she is wearing the sweater off my back, February Lady. Obviously I have to do some dialing up. This is very exciting. I may even do some sewing now.

Carly is feeling better. She doesn't like her Christmas collar. Her tummy is better, so D clipped her nails. She has black nails and it takes a vet. Unfortunately, one was clipped too short and it bled a little. We put her out in the snow. When she came back in, she picked at it and it bled all over the white carpet while I slept. D put on a bandage and she did a heroic job of trying to limp and look pathetic. Now we call her "the bloody dog" with an accent (London, Bombay? Not too good).

We went up Promontory Hill (I know, redundant) to the inlaws for Christmas feast. Snow everywhere. The valley is about 8 miles wide and 30 miles long. A cradle for my upbringing and my life.
This morning Paw called and my Grandma passed away last night. She was 95 and in no discomfort. Death came quietly and peacefully to her side. I'm sad that I don't have my Grandma, but I am not sad for her.
It's going to be a little hard tonight to go to work on a floor where we expect at least one or two deaths. Most of them have had a terrible battle with medical and surgical treatments and need to escape. My Grandma, Annie, just slipped out quietly as she had lived her life.
Bless her soul.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Hope

In these dark and very cold days, when we are reporting the first wind chill factor I can ever remember here, the bulb yields a flower.This is going to be a real stunner. I don't need the lights and tinsel so much. We have a hydro electrical warning because so many Christmas lights are being compounded with turning the heat up. I like my flower. I alos have some really beautiful fake ones to encourage the real amaryllis to shine her best.
I worked another set of shifts. My instructor asked me if I had been to the lab. I said, "Not this decade, not this century. Did they move it?" I met a few nurses that I worked with in the early 90's. It's fun freaking people out.
The nurses decorated the nursing station and patient lounge with a hodge podge of lights and ribbons. It really looks pretty. But it makes me sad because we have several dying patients, and we lost 3 last week. Now I look in the obits of our Chilliwack Progress and see not only seniors from my church and parents of friends, but people I have cared for. That's the real measure of nursing. There is the one giving the care and the one being cared for. I really like what I'm doing. I'm not getting a lot of emergency work because our patients are doing pretty well. I'm learning good assessment skills and trying toget my organizational skills up to scratch in a heavy workload. But someone will lose a mother, wife, dear friend today or tomorrow. I hope that they can draw on each other, too.
I always buy a flowering plant for someone who has just had a close death.

Yesterday, in the few hours between sleep and return to nights, I swatched some Marks & Katten aran that I can't even remember when I bought. This is for nephew #5. The best pattern for this sweater, from my wish list, is the Age of Aquarius by Kathy Zimmerman and Lisa Carnahan in my beloved Knitter's Stash, edited by the amazing Barbara Albright. As much as I look forward to new books, I have so many patterns waiting for me to explore. As I am returning to my old skills of nursing, I am working with patterns and wool that may have been waiting from that same era. The dark wool is not a problem in the harsh light of the charting station. And the funny stories make me feel closer to the other nurses.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Natural Decorations

Before I started this set of shifts, I wrapped all the gifts. All the gifts. I like to use brown paper because it makes me sad after Christmas when the big pile of coloured paper has to be thrown out. Plus I'm a ribbon fanatic. If I look carefully, I can find it on crazy sale all through the year. Then I can cover the gifts with abandon. It's a typical frugal extravagance.

The snow has come. All the trees are decorated with white. Plus it's great snowman snow.
I had to drive to the hospital in the snow and guess at the number of my parking spot. She snowed and blowed all day. We have computers on the unit now and the nurses were checking Environment Canada and the local highway cams. Some of the nurses live in Abbotsford, about 20 minutes west through the most treacherous Sumas Prairie flats. The highway is often closed in snow. The trip beyond that is usually not too bad.
At noon I had done my basic care and charting on 2 (of my very own) patients when we got a call for a transfer to St. Paul's hospital in Vancouver. Normally that would be a 60 to 90 minute drive, 100km (70 miles) on the #1 Trans Canada Highway. But with the snow and treacherous conditions and blizzard warning, it was no small deal. The patient needed the care of this special cardiac unit. My preceptor nurse was chosen to go because she is highly qualified. So I was going to go with her. Why? I didn't think it would be such a good learning experience. The ambulance was to come in between 20 minutes and 3 hours. What if the ambulance wasn't coming back? What if we got stuck in the city? Get a hotel room? What if we got stuck on the highway? Not so good. What if our patient coded on the way. We would be OK if we could just get there.
At 4 o'clock, she said I was off the hook. The highway was closed anyway. At 5 o'clock they arrive in a hurry and she was whisked away. I had to leave the hospital because she is the only one who can buddy me. I still don't know if she made it back. I'll find out tonight when we go for a night shift. I was disappointed that we didn't get to go at noon and then back before too late. I have done quite a few low risk transfers. Plus I started in the Reserve Forces Medical Corps when I was right out of highschool.

In the mean time, I have missed appointments and deadlines as I try to merge reality with fulltime work/study.
The last aran afghan square is prepared. I will try to make extra notes on my Ravelry site, but really it's just tweleve 12 inch squares of different cable. This one is inspired by Lucy Neatby's Cables after Whiskey and adapted from knitty's Chaos little boy sweater. I love exploring the random. It's pretty challenging for me. This square is just plain silly, but it's one of Scott's favourites. He's always creating games with dice and little cards, so he really got it. I have taken statistics, but I am so not prepared to go into the probabilities of this game.

The Philospher's Wool Windows sweater has been resurected. I even had to rip it out and restart the little bit of sleeve I had finished. I think perhaps it was the hunt that was so exciting about this one. I'll feel closer to it as the colours start to speak. I'm using 2 circulars and having no trouble now. I was raised on dpns and fell in love with the magic loop. This is not travel knitting because of all the different balls of colours that need to be brought. I'll do it with TV viewing. We just finished watching the first season of Arrested Development. What a hoot. Also, this year, D is joining us as we watch all our Christmas videos. I love The Snowman!
Tonight I will bring the silk shawl. I may even finish it in these next two night shifts. It is an incidental knit for me and so has little insistence. Still, it would be nice to have and wear.
I have 2 sweaters for myself in the stash and 2 nephew sweaters which are now not due until next November and December. Did I even try to have #5's done this November? Probably not. If I can do another 3 or four this year, I'll be happy.

Emily is knitting for her friends. I know.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Fine Things

D likes his hat. And none too soon. Artic outflow. We went from about plus 7 degrees Celsius, to minus 10 overnight. It's colder with a windchill. Here's a converter. ( it's 14 degrees Farenheit). Brrrr.
ETA We had one inch of snow. Not one inch deep, but one inch wide fringe on the edge of the road.
Thanks to Lara at math4knitters (see side bar under My Blog List) for the recipe. I felt I had chosen the right yarn and needles because I liked the fabric. The pattern adapted for me. He says it is so fine, he can wear his bovine ultrasound goggles with it. Was that what I was going for?

Also, a rat that probably lives under our deck has decidedly chosen a frozen squash that was left just next to our patio door. He didn't even flinch when the flash went off. Normally I'd be a bit creeped out, but it's so cold his germs are probably blunted and he's all fluffy like a big mousie. What is our dog doing to not discourage him (them)?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Count Your Blessings

We have had an exciting musical weekend. The first concert of the Chilliwack Metropolitan Youth Orchestra. I went to both matinee and evening concerts and got choked up a bit with the beautiful strings and my daughter's lovely french horn sounds. Christmas music!

After church we practiced with another musical family for next week's pageant. All of a sudden they are leading the charge, setting up practices and transcribing music for my two trumpets. I'm lucky to play flute- just right out of the hymnal. It's fun, but still a lot of energy after doing children's time and Sunday School.
When we got home with the stash of pennies, I was overwhelmed. Luckily D is a coin freak and helped sort and roll 110 rools. We have twice that to go. I bought simple plastic rollers and have set them downstairs for us all to do during a video tonight. The pennies go to Better Beginnings, a perinatal program for those in need. From children to children.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sprinkles of Ideas

Quick knit for a baby already born. Most moms are just as happy with sweaters as with my epic blankets, so I'm listening. This is the one with the terrible purling back tension. I have been so very tense with the beginning of my nursing practicum. So I tried to distract the eye with some embroidery. This was a good pattern except for the huge mistake of not having enough cast on stitches (77 instead of 67). That's a pretty big mistake. If you google "baby raglan sweater free pattern", you can come up with some better patterns. I may do this again in the round and learn steeks. Perhaps that's why I have hidden my colour pattern sweater- fear of steeks. Like all other knitting techniques, they're probably easy once you figure it out. But the energy to figure it out is not always available.

Gobs of snow. This is what I woke up to on Friday morning. I got off my second night shift at 0700h and was asleep by 0800. Amazingly, I didn't get jet lag. Maybe this is something I can really do. The work on the unit is physically demanding- a lot of total care and nursing interventions, but the team is really together and the culture seems to focus on the patient. This is what I really need. I don't mind the odd cranky nurse (there are lots) but the patients are not the problem making our work hard. They are the purpose.

Amaryllis update. This sucker really wants to grow. We have a second bud at the base. It was leaning all the way over the pot, but straightened overnight when I turned it.

I was able to do a bit of knitting on night shift. First night I brought the silk shawl. On the second night I brought some of my new alpaca. It's sock yarn and I knit it two strands together for a hat for D. Thanks to Lara at for the hat recipe. I finished it lastnight when I was with my book club. I gave it to him this morning and he was tickled.
We went out for pasta dinner (the restaurant of Michael Buble's auntie) and then back to Jean's for decaf, knitting and some Vicar of Dibley. We exchanged presents. I think they liked the lavender eye pillows. I received a lovely brown shawl and matching bookmark and some very promising homemade antipasto.

Jean gave me light reading for night shifts. What a treat. The intersection of our reading and knitting.
Today is Emily's first Orchestra concert. There is a matinee and an evening. I decided to go to both and bask in the Christmas music. Trying to make up for being absent or sleeping most of the week. Sitting I can do. I'm taking a reluctant Scotty this afternoon and my mom and dad are coming this evening. D is on call and his parents don't support Emily nearly enough. I doubt they'll show. Another reason for me to go. The people are great and the Chilliwack Metropolitan Orchestra is playing with the youth to support them. This is a great new endeavour.
I've cast on the last square for the aran afghan. David Reidy talks about patience, and this is how I cultivate it. I had a great morning catching up on podcasts and knitting. Hope you can, too.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Long Shifts

Amaryllis update. I am turning it a quarter turn every day. The other plants aren't doing so well.
Fetching are finished. I don't like to use flash, but this is the true colour. A raspberry pink. Serendipitously, my flute teacher picked this colour out of my silk shawl as her favourite. I had already bought the merino/cashmere.

This is the form picture. I loved knitting these again. I loved playing with the magic loop. I can't wait to cast on a pair of socks. Well, I have to wait to buy a stupidly long needle in a crazily small size.
I successfully finished two 12-hour day shifts. Our unit is medicine and palliative. The patients have multiple illnesses in all body systems. But the level of assessment and care is very safe. There is time to include the family, do personal care and assessments and just listen to the patient.I have been welcomed by the headnurse ( an old friend whom I pushed into going into nursing), the nursing educator (very generous with her time though she is juggling many duties) and the nurses on our shift. Now when a nurse asks my preceptor if she can borrow her muscles, she means me.
My nurse preceptor is very sensitive to the bedside environment and has a silence I will never achieve. Days are crazy with patients being admitted and moved from front to back. We have only had one death (while I was in my first report). But if you have a terminal or end-stage illness, and can't manage at home or in our new hospice beds, you'll see me. I started in oncology and I'm OK with this. I'm already fond of one of my families that I didn't appreciate on first impression. I like that there's time for teaching.
Tonight is my first night (in 13 years!) I slept 9 hours last night and hope to lie down from 1-2 pm. It's already coming noon. Better finish the laundry and do my errands. Maybe knitting tonight! I'll bring my silk shawl- easy, pleasant and pretty.

Sunday, December 07, 2008


The squirrels are too fast for my big black dog, but they are cheeky. This one thinks he's hiding.

This is embarassing. On the left is my usual wooden dpn in the round knitting. For the raglan top down baby sweater, I used the metal straight knitting needles that were close to hand. I spent much of the knitting perched on the edge of a bench at orchestra practice. Are there any other excuses I can use? I am so disappointed in the amaturish, inconsistent stitches. But babies don't wait for ripping out. No frogging for little frogs. I will have to swallow the reality. I did manage to embroider a little bird on the fronts to distract the eye. Is this my next challenge? I have avoided knitting on straight needles, maybe that's the answer.
On the other hand, I am loving the magic loop. Everyone else has already played with it and made a decision. I think it is the best kind of game. This is my second set of Fetching from knitty. It knits up so quickly. The Linie 150 deluxe is 80%merino and 20% cashmir. It is very soft and a good price. As well, it's available in my own LYS. These are for my flute teacher. Bonus Christmas knitting that will also be done in time.
Hope your own schedules are acting reasonable.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Season Beginnings

The Canada Geese love to line up in this hayfield. We also have lots of Trumpeter Swans now. I don't remember any growing up.
I love snow berries. We used to have them along the roadsides when I rode my horse in winter.

Friday night was the big Dickens Dinner fundraiser for our Chilliwack Academy of Music. That's my daughter playing trumpet in an excellent trio while we gathered. The meal was great. We were serenaded by young singers and violin players. Then one of our students who is now studying voice at UBC knocked us out. The finale was our dear friend, music co-ordiantor and voice teacher, Lisa. She sang great Christmas music and... had invited me to accompany her on flute. I was terrified in front of 160 of the top music instructors and experts of our area. But I was complimented on my tone which is my big focus right now. It could have been really bad, but I practiced really hard. Thank-you Lisa for the opportunity.

Today I made a mess. A controlled mess. There are more sugar cookies to decorate, but Emily can do that. Now my baking is in good enough shape for me to go to work.

I made a bouquet for the table and my new birdies. I am enjoying the early Christmas feeling. It is helping to calm the anxiety about my first shift in 13 years. The head nurse called today to encourage me. We are old friends and she is giving me the feeling she really wants me on her team. I can use all the encouragement I can get.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

On Track

No really. The November square of the aran afghan was finished before I turned the calendar over. Unfortunately, the December light leaves something to be desired. I didn't even remember that I had taken the picture until I read another blog apologizing for the gloomy light. I had fun knitting the DNA square from the free scarf pattern by June Oshiro. The side bands are from the Cabled Raglan Pullover in Knitting in America. I thought they looked a bit like chromosomes. I still have lots of left over aran wool and only one block to go.
My friend Diana (Chilliwack Hobbies and Toys) asked for the patterns. I have kept a notebook (I have learned that good idea from your blogs), but it's really a mish mash. I'll show it to her anyway.
Conquered the dozens of buttertarts. Whew! My minimum mummy mischief includes the shortbread and buttertarts before I head off to the hospital adventures. All the gifts are bought. All the cards addressed or sent. I'm even "elfing" for my dad.
I don't like to let ugly shoppers and cascading deadlines interfere with my Christmas pleasure. I like to have more time to practice music. And my friends can stop by after their harrowing shopping experiences to find me knitting and serving goodies.
I've asked Scott to set up the (artificial) tree this weekend. It will seriously interfere with his XBOX schedule, but the rest of us are practicing and performing.
Then Emily will decorate in her own fashion. I have learned to just let her at it.
I put little wreathes on the lights and bring out the serving dishes.
In another mini fit of organinzation I labelled all my computer cords. That may be enough satisfaction to overcome any set backs today.

Monday, December 01, 2008

What's Next?

The Craft crawl was lots of fun. Jean and I and our moms started with lunch at our favourite and soon to be closed BC Connections cafe. Our first stop included the Maple Farms Alpacas. She is moving. We snapped up what we could at 40% off and went back for more the next day.
The rose and blue are sock weight.
At first I chose the cinnamon brown because there were only 3 skeins in the world. But I switched with Jean because I needed more to make me a (bigger sweater). I hope to make "Lift and Separate" from Big Girl Knits.

The weather is turning. This lurking cloud is almost fog across the Sumas Prairie. We watched it as we drove home from visiting my Grandma in Abbotsford. She looked small and frail, but well and as sweet as ever. The seven sons and two daughters and assorted in-laws are not known for behaving well (blame Grandpa) so I have kept my head low. I did not send the blanket because of "restrictions". I may give it to the Better Beginnings Baby program of our Community Services. Maybe in her name.

Amaryllis update. She is definitely alive. I'm trying extra hard to water the new menagerie. It's exhausting. I'd rather bake. So another 16 pans of shortbread were finished this morning.

Finished yesterday: black Arctic Diamond Shawl. It did relax in gentle blocking. I am satisfied that it is the right gift for this piano teacher who has given so much to both my kids. Scott will be done lessons and Grade 10 Toronto Conservatory of Music in January and doesn't have plans to continue. He has worked hard and is known for his sensitive playing. I wonder what's next?

I am really enjoying knitting the Manos del Uraguay silkblend Woodland Shawl in the wildflower colourway. This is colour and the texture and rhythm that I have been missing.It's like dancing two stiches step away, and two stitches step together. Yummy.
I have officially finished my (one) Christmas knit. Should I make those quick fetching mitts? Oh, and I bought even more alpaca to knit D a replacement hat (in Lara neel's new pattern on Math4knitters) to replace the debaucle I knit for him last year.
Where should I begin?