365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time


Day 31/365: Top-Down Sweater and Heated Leather Seats


Top-down knitted sweater with increases for raglan sleeves.  I swear, I’ve been knitting around, and around, and around, and it still looks like it did on Wednesday.

Sean and I got into his new car to head out for breakfast.  The car is actually a 2012 Prius that he purchased from the original owner back in September.  Compared to Sean’s previous 12-year-old Nissan truck and my now-11-year-old Honda Civic with the manual transmission, manual door locks, and manual crank-that-handle-to-open-and-close windows, the Prius is a luxury car.  It’s so equipped with new-and-different-to-us features (cruise control! power doors and windows! automatic locks!) that I’ve dubbed it The Rental.

Sean turned on the power.  It was still early in the morning that the windows were covered in dew.  “I can’t see out the back because look what’s blocking it,” he said.

I twisted around, expecting to see some large object in the backseat obstructing his view.  The backseat was empty.  Nothing there, just a thin layer of morning dew covering the back pane of glass.  And then a windshield wiper popped up and started swiping the dew away.

Sean gave a big grin.  “Don’t be jealous because my car’s got a back windshield wiper.”

He put the car in reverse, and the little computer screen built into the dashboard lit up to show the back of our driveway.  “Don’t be jealous because my car has a camera so I can see if any neighborhood cats are in the way.”

I gave him a dirty look.  It was early, I was hungry, and my sense of humor was still asleep.  “Oooh, I’m Sean.  Look at me.  I have a fancy new car with fancy back windshield wipers.  I have a fancy rear-view camera…  You Prius-driving, vegetable-eating, energy-saving—“

He cut me off and his big old grin got bigger.  He leaned over to activate one more special feature, my favorite thing about the car.  “Here.  Let me turn on that heated leather seat for you.”

The guy knows just the right buttons to push.



An old married couple who’ve been together for nearly twenty-one years.




1 Comment

Day 28/365: A Good Time to Call Someone an Asshole


Top-down sweater joined in the round with continued increases for raglan sleeve shaping

My caseload is comprised of men who were convicted of criminal offenses and then sentenced to prison. Off the top of my head, here is a list of some of those crimes: first degree murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon with force to inflict great bodily injury, mayhem, rape, forced oral copulation, lewd and lascivious with child under 14, robbery, burglary, DUI, possession of a controlled substance, transportation and sales of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm by an ex-felon, pandering, evading, aiding and abetting, receiving stolen property, grand theft auto, petty theft, and terrorist threats. These are just the ones that first come to mind; I know I’m forgetting others. Oh, and a lot of these guys are either active or ex-gang members.

I think you have to have certain qualities in order to effectively interact with this particular population. I grew up in a household with four brothers and no sisters, and I tend to have a bit of the criminal mindset myself. I cuss like a sailor, and sometimes I just got no time for your bullshit.

Back in 2011, I had to complete an initial intake interview with a new arrival who was clearly having a bad day. He was rude and snarky in his responses, and even though I was trying very hard to maintain professionalism, I really wasn’t in the mood to put up with him. So I said, “You know what? Clearly this is not a good time for you. I’m going to end this interview, and you can come back another time. I’ll reschedule you.”

I watched the surprise take over his face, and then he was contrite.  He said, “I’m sorry. I’m being a jerk. No, let’s start over. It’s just been a really hard week for me. I got some bad news the other day.”

Sometimes I don’t filter the words that come out of my mouth, and this was one of those times.  I said exactly what was on my mind.  “Okay.  So you’re not usually an asshole.”


I bring up that story because that same guy had an appointment with me this afternoon.  Now, we have a really good rapport.  During our session today, he brought up the first time he came to my office and asked me if I remembered that incident.

“I’m going to tell you something, Doc,” he said. “I’ve had so much more respect for you ever since then. You called me out on my shit.”

I was glad to hear that.  Because sometimes it is a pretty risky intervention to call a convicted felon an asshole.

P.S. Don’t worry.  It was only that one time.

That I can remember.

1 Comment

Day 27/365: A Christmas Story


The beginning of a top-down sweater with increases for raglan sleeve shaping.








“Happy New Year!” I greeted Mr. Y, a patient who I hadn’t seen since around Thanksgiving.  “How was your Christmas?”

“It was fine, it was good,” he said.  He gave me an update on his recent activities and we talked for a little bit.  He was in the 12-Step Program and participated in a bible study group.  While the 12-Step Program was facilitated by one of the psychologists in our mental health program, the bible study group was coordinated among the inmates.

“We took up a collection for Christmas,” he said.

“A collection?” I asked.  “What do you mean?”

Then he explained that last month, he and the rest of the bible study group pooled their resources including their work pay (15 to 90 cents an hour, depending on their job assignment) for a total of a few hundred dollars.  Then they went to canteen and purchased canned soups, ramen noodles, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and other basic necessities.  They identified indigent inmates who didn’t have jobs or family support, and on Christmas day, the bible study group went out on the yard and started handing out packages to their selected recipients.

“Wow,” I said, impressed.  “That was very thoughtful of you guys.  What a kind and generous thing to do.”

“Guess what happened next,” Mr. Y said.

“The whole yard got wind of it, and everyone came looking for a handout,” I guessed.

“Yep.  We started getting all these guys—‘We heard there was free stuff.  Can I get some soup?’  And we talking guys with jobs and money on the books.”  Mr. Y shook his head.  “And then the police come over and tell us we gotta break it up, ‘cause we got too big a crowd.”

“That’s a shame,” I said, shaking my head too.  “But I guess that’s how it is.  You’re in a prison, so you’re gonna get those kinds of guys, looking to take advantage.”

“What’s that expression?”  Mr. Y took a moment to search his memory.  “That’s right.  ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’ ”


Day 26/365: Gauge Swatch


Even though I’m in the process of finishing this sock and in the middle of knitting a yet-to-be-photographed sweater, I got bored and decided to start a new project.  I looked at the yarn stash and picked out this pink yarn, mostly because it’s a self-striping yarn and I’m into the self-striping thing right now.  I like how you can just keep knitting and the yarn does all the work for you, so that the next thing you know, you’ve got a lovely knitted thing that’s changed colors and patterns all on its own.

A few years ago, I took a knitting class in designing your own top-down sweater.  It’s not a very complicated process.  The first thing you need to do is determine how many stitches you are knitting per inch.  I used to be a lazy knitter who guesstimated and never bothered to knit a preliminary gauge swatch, but I learned my lesson soon enough.  Nothing says “You should have knit a gauge swatch” like a too baggy sweater that you spent three months knitting and looking forward to wearing.

Anyway, so today I knit a gauge swatch, and I did it in the round so that I’d have a more accurate stitch count, since I plan to knit a pull-over top-down sweater that I’ll be designing as I go.  I don’t have any interesting or funny stories to tell for today, particularly since my broken wing sock model headed back to Ventura this morning.  But some days it’s just like that:  all I do is sit around and knit and try to relax, because I know the minute I get back to work, I’ll be wishing that I could be at home sitting and knitting, even if it is just a gauge swatch.