365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time

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Day 58/365: Red Hots Sock


Lion Brand Yarn Sock-Ease.  The name of this colorway is Red Hots.

Once in a while I will show up for work on a Friday morning and discover that I am the only clinician working that day on the yard, because everyone else is either off or called in sick.  Today was one of those days.  Today was also one of those days where it seemed like I kept getting phone calls and referrals to evaluate one inmate or another.  One of those inmates turned out to be in such bad shape that I knew I couldn’t release him back to the yard.  My Spidey sense told me that this guy needed to be admitted into the inpatient psychiatric hospital pronto, particularly since he’d already tried to end his life several times before and had the scars to show for it.

So it was a busy day, which made the ten hours go by quickly.  The good news is that now I’m looking at another three-day weekend, hooray!  Tomorrow I am attending an all-day free-motion quilting class for beginners.  I signed up for this class some time ago, and I’m looking forward to it.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  Stay tuned.


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Day 57/365: Welcome

Every day at 1545 hours (3:45 PM), the prison does a yard recall for standing count.  This means that all inmates must report back to their cells, i.e. (as announced on the facility-wide intercom), “Recall and lock up.”  Once they’re all inside, the master switch is thrown and every single inmate is locked in the cell for count.  The tier officers walk up and down the corridors, checking inside each cell to make sure that the occupant is inside, alive, and breathing.  It’s called standing count because the inmate has to be standing up to show that he hasn’t been maimed or murdered by another inmate.  I know that sounds morbid, but it’s true.  And it’s happened before, which is why standing count is completed regularly.

Anyway, so the yard was recalled and it was late in the afternoon and I happened to be checking my team’s triage mailbox to see if there were any inmate requests or staff referrals that needed to be handled.  My team’s mailbox was empty.  Team 2’s mailbox, on the other hand, contained several forms.  I knew that every single member on Team 2 was out on vacation for the rest of the week.  I had a choice:  I could leave those papers in their mailbox and let them deal with it on Monday when they returned, or I could triage the forms for them.  I decided to be a good colleague, because I’d want them to do the same for me.

I pulled out the inmate requests and staff referrals and started sorting through them.  They all seemed like routine appointments until I got to one that was marked Urgent.  It was a referral from a nurse at the clinic.  It seems that the night before, she had screened a new arrival and he had answered “yes” to question 19 on her intake form:  Have you had any thoughts to end your life in the past year?

This nurse wanted someone to follow-up with this new arrival within the next 24 hours, just to make sure that he wasn’t suicidal.  According to the form, she had completed and faxed it at 8 AM this morning.  And apparently, somebody put the referral in Team 2’s mailbox without paying attention to the fact that it was marked Urgent.

Anyway.  So there it was, about 4 PM, the yard was recalled, and I had a dilemma.  I could either put those forms back in Team 2’s mailbox and pretend that I never saw them, or I could do the right thing and follow through on the referral myself.  Which meant that I would not be going home at 5 PM as I’d hoped, and I was about to open up a whole can of worms (and work) for myself.

You know how you have a conversation with a good friend, where you have to make a decision between a right thing and a wrong thing, and you really know which is the right thing to do, but you’d really rather not do it?  And you’re hoping that your friend will back you up on choosing the wrong thing, but your friend (because he’s a damn good friend) won’t let you?

I went to my buddy the lieutenant, who was first in command on the yard since the captain had already gone home for the day.  And yeah, our conversation went like that.

“L.T.,” I said (which is what I call him, because he’s Lt. H___, even though he says I should call him by his first name).  “I got this urgent referral, and I have 24 hours from the time it was sent to see this guy and make sure he’s not going to kill himself.”

(That may sound blunt to you, but when you work in a prison, there is no room for dancing around with niceties.)

“What time was it sent?” Lt. H asked.

“Eight o’clock this morning,” I said.  “I was hoping to go home at 5:00.  I have until 8 AM tomorrow morning to see him.”

Lt. H gave me a look.  “Are you going to be able to sleep tonight if you go home and don’t see him today?”

“Damn it,” I said.  “I was hoping you wouldn’t say that.  But you’re right.  I have to see him today.”

“You have to wait until count is cleared,” he reminded me.  “He won’t be able to come out of the cell until then.”

“Well, can I go down the tier and just do a cellside?” I asked.  I’d done them before.  But I also knew the answer that was coming.

“We-ee-eelll… probably not.  You’re going to have to ask him some personal questions, and he’s not going to want to talk to you with all his little homies listening.”

“Damn it,” I said again.  “You’re right.  I guess I need to wait until count is cleared.”

The sergeant came into the office then.  I explained to him the situation.

“Let me see what I can do,” he said.  “I might be able to make an exception and get one of our officers to escort him from the building over to your office.  But it will have to be in restraints.”

“You mean, like in handcuffs?” I asked.  “Do you have to cuff him up, really?”

“Yes,” he said.  “If I’m going to make an exception for an inmate to be out on the yard during count time, we have to take all necessary precautions and follow the procedures.”

“That’s okay,” I said.  I’ve had guys brought into my office in handcuffs before, and it’s kind of a disconcerting sight when you’re trying to conduct a clinical interview.  “I can wait until count is cleared.  Thanks, though.  I’ll be in my office.”

I went back to my office and started typing up the paperwork.  About ten minutes later, an announcement was made over the facility-wide intercom:  “Code One, PAD alarm in Building 3, A.S.U. annex.  Code One, PAD alarm.”

Then there were the sounds of jingling keys and thundering feet of the responding officers running out of our building to join the other officers at Building 3, the Administrative Segregation Unit, otherwise known as the Hole, otherwise known as the jail inside the prison.  A PAD alarm usually meant that there was some sort of disturbance, possibly an unruly inmate or inmates who needed to be calmed down.  They were all locked in, so at least it couldn’t be a riot.

Shit, I thought.  There goes at least another half hour until count is cleared.

Forty-five minutes later, order was restored and count was cleared.  The new arrival inmate was allowed to leave his building and walk over to my office without restraints.  I explained to him why he was there.  “I just want to make sure that you’re okay, and you’re not having any thoughts to harm yourself.”

“Oh, I’m fine,” he said.  “I’m not going to hurt myself.  I thought I made that clear to that lady.  Matter of fact, I’m happy to be here.  I been down for thirty-five years.  I been at Level 4s* and I been trying to get my points down so I can come here**.”

“Well, I’m glad to hear that,” I said.  “Welcome.”


*Level 4:  maximum security prison.  Where you’ll find extremely disturbing violence, hardcore gang politics, and death row.

** We are a Level 3 medium security prison.


Day 56/365: New Sock


I started a new sock, mainly for two reasons.  First, my eyes needed to take a break from yarn in the blue/purple/green end of the color spectrum.  I wanted to work with some bright shades in my favorite colors:  pink and orange.  This yarn fit that requirement nicely.

The second reason I started a new sock is that I am making this sock for a dear old college roommate.  This dear old college roommate is supposed to send me an outline of her foot so that I can get an idea of how long or short these socks should be.  So, dear old college roommate, I know you’re reading this.  Send me that piece of paper, lady.

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Day 55/365: You Make Your Own Map


My first day back at work after five days off wasn’t so bad.  The first patient for my morning line arrived half an hour early.  He was there for a routine check-up, and when he sat down in my office, he announced that he was up for transfer and would likely be gone within the next two weeks.  We chatted a bit about his health issues, and then he told me about his best friend Mr. W, who’d been in the hospital for several months now.  I knew Mr. W, because he’d been on my caseload before being admitted into the hospital after a mild stroke and subsequent medical problems.

“He’s got pins all down the side of his neck, and he can’t move,” Mr. B reported.  “I been writing to his family.  I got his daughter to come see him.”

“You did?” I said.  “How’d you manage that?”  I was aware that Mr. W had been writing letters to his daughter for a long time, but she’d maintained her distance.  She was upset with him for being in and out of prison and for not being there during her childhood and teen years.

“I wrote and I told her, You don’t want to leave things this way.  You don’t want to have any regrets.  Life is too short.  And she came out, and she visited with him.”

“Wow,” I said.  “I bet Mr. W really appreciated that.”

Mr. B shrugged it off, like he hadn’t done anything particularly special.  He changed the subject and told me about his legal case.  He’d submitted an appeal to the court, and it looked like he might have a chance at a reduction in his sentence.  Currently, he was a third-strike lifer, serving 25 years to life for an attempted burglary.  He started this term in 1998 and had maintained a disciplinary-free program in prison so far.

He said, “If they look at my record, they’ll see I got no violence, no assaults or weapons.  I been staying out the way, staying out of trouble.  They gonna want to know if I’m fit to go back to society.”

“You’ve certainly been doing a lot of good with your time.”  I thought of the letter he wrote to Mr. W’s daughter.

“It’s like I been saying all along,” Mr. B said.  “You make your own map, from beginning to end.”


Day 54/365: Monday Night Blues

Back in the Dark Ages when I used to be a middle school teacher, Sunday nights were the worst for me, especially if I’d had a really nice weekend.  I’d dread going back to work the next day, and I always slept poorly.  I called it having the Sunday night blues.

Now, with my current job at the prison, I always have Monday off, so I never get the Sunday night blues anymore.  Tonight, however, I think I am suffering a mild case of Monday night gloom.  I go back to work tomorrow after having been off these last five days.  With a little luck, the yard will be on lockdown and there won’t be any unexpected crises popping up to interrupt my catching-up with email and paperwork.

In the meantime, I started a new sock.  I purchased the yarn for half off at one of my favorite local independent yarn and fabric shops in Ventura.  The brand name of the yarn is Regia, and the label tells me that it is “made in Italy for Coats GmbH Germany,” which sort of puzzles me and raises all kinds of questions, but in the end, I think it would be best for all involved if I just keep knitting and not think about things too hard.


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Day 53/365: Beach Striped Socks (4th Completed Pair for 2015)


A view of the Ventura Pier. That water is cold.

Today was overcast with sporadic rain, the kind of Sunday where you just stay inside and do things like read and knit and stay warm and dry.  At about 4:30 in the afternoon, Sean and I picked ourselves up off the couch and went down for a walk along the Promenade.


Meanwhile, Sean’s feet are nice and toasty in this 65-degree weather.

We didn’t have any real adventures, except on our way back home down a side street, when a little brown Chihuahua came running out of nowhere, yapping and barking and making a beeline for my ankles.  I thought it was going to sink its little teeth into me.  (As you’ve already probably figured out from this blog and my lifestyle, I don’t keep pets or children.  I can barely keep a plant alive.)  Luckily, the owner appeared and called for the dog to come back before any real damage could be done– to me or to the dog, depending on your perspective.


Interesting rock formation near the pier.


View from another angle. All I need now is a panoramic lens. And maybe a more expensive, professional camera.

I saved this photo for last.  If you click on it and look closely at the larger image, there’s a rainbow in the center of the photo, right above the pier.  It also occurred to me how much the colors of the socks work nicely with the overcast-day-at-the-beach thing going on here.  That’s some nice synchronicity.  Unlike me and the Chihuahua.


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Day 52/365: Luckily, Sean Has Big Feet


Almost done with the second sock!

Yesterday I realized that I’d left my sock knitting instructions back at the Morro Bay house, and I was pretty bummed out about that.  Then, last night I remembered:  Those same instructions were typed on a Word document that I’d saved on my laptop.  Hooray!  (It doesn’t take much to make me happy, apparently.)  So I was able to knit the gusset, turn the heel, and start the ribbing for the cuff on the second sock this morning.

When I’m in Morro Bay, I just take photos for the blog by staging my work-in-progress on the back deck or front porch, usually.  Since I’m at the Ventura homestead this weekend, I had to get creative with my photo shoot locations.  I took the above photo by placing the socks on a low hedge outside.  I also tried photographing the in-progress sock on the sidewalk.  I like the way this one came out, so I have to share it:


See? Pretty, right?

I originally started knitting this pair for my older brother, who may or may not be reading this right now.  As I was knitting the second sock this morning, I had a feeling that this pair might be a little too big for my big bro.  So I asked Sean to try it on.  My brother wears a size 9 men’s shoe.  Sean wears a size 11.  He pulled the sock onto his foot, and it fit him perfectly:


This photo tells you a lot about us. Skateboard. Dolls. Books. And I’ll admit that mess on the floor is all me. I’m too busy being creative to bother with cleaning.

So it looks like Sean just got himself another pair of socks.  Tomorrow I’m making him be a sock model again. (Remember the first time?)  I’m thinking the Ventura Promenade will make a nice backdrop.  Stay tuned.




Day 51/365: 3rd Training Seminar


If you’ve been following this blog since last month, you’ll know that I already had to sit through two all-day trainings and one full day of jury duty.  Today was my third all-day seminar in the span of less than two months.

I got to the conference room forty-five minutes early so I could get a seat in the back near the restrooms and exit doors.  I was fortunate enough to snag the best remaining seat for that purpose, and then this guy came along and sat in front of me:


I am barely five foot three inches tall, and that is exactly my view of the screen.  It was a bummer.  I had to move my chair several inches over to the left and into the aisle just to get a better view.

I thought I would learn some new things today, but it was pretty much a refresher course on personality disorders and empirically validated treatments.  Luckily, I brought my knitting, and that helped pass the time… until an hour and a half into the presentation when I’d completed two-thirds of the foot and realized:  Shit, I couldn’t start the gusset because I left the instructions at home.  In Morro Bay.  And I was in Ventura.  Two and a half hours away, about a hundred and fifty miles apart.

You can imagine my dismay.


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Day 50/365: Fifty?!


Getting started on that second sock!

Wow.  Today makes my 50th post in a row.  That’s a nice little milestone for me.

In other news, I didn’t go to work today.  I cashed in 10 hours of paid leave so that I could drive down to Ventura, because I’m attending an all-day seminar tomorrow at the Pierpont Inn.  The name of the seminar is Reasoning with Unreasonable People:  Focus on Disorders of Emotional Regulation.  With subject matter like that, how could I pass up the opportunity to attend?

(On a side note, I do have to say:  That’s another thing I like about working in a prison.  If an inmate is being completely uncooperative and unreasonable, I don’t have to put up with it.  I can terminate the interview and send him on his way, or once in a while, I can use creative intervention.)

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Day 49/365: A Quarter of A Century Already?


Part of my job as a correctional staff psychologist is conducting intake interviews with new inmates who have transferred to our facility from another prison.  Today I completed an intake with a 24-year-old new arrival who just started his term last year.  He had been sentenced to 19 years in the state pen.  As I was going through his files and my paperwork, I looked at his birthday and saw that he was born in 1990, and it occurred to me: Holy shit. This year marks 25 years since I graduated from high school.  And:  This kid will still have five years of prison time left when I retire.