BuJo – For Real, This Time

I love making lists. Love checking things off to do list and recording what goes on in my life. The thing is…I sort of stink at actually keeping up with any of it. I write a to do list during work of things I have to do at home on a trusty sticky note. The sticky note never even leaves my purse upon getting home. Just stays there to be found days later, when I roll my eyes at myself for being such a flake.

My work life is kept very separate from my home life. I have a work notebook that stays at work and a work calendar that is meticulously maintained so I’m not the one forgetting about a 10 o’clock meeting that I’m supposed to be running (which I did in the past). Those times work or home interferes with the other (e.g. in to work late due to a dentist appointment, have to stay until 6 pm for a late meeting), I try to write down. But where? One of those stickies or in whatever notebook I have in front a me. A notebook that I’ll probably toss aside at the end of a month or when I get tired of it and convince myself it’s time to buy a new notebook. If something happens weeks from now and I don’t have the right notebook/calendar in front of me, it’s a 50/50 chance it’s getting forgotten until the week of.

I tried Getting Things Done. Easy – you make a giant list of everything to do then organize all of the paper you need to do those things. One folder per project. Done with a project or putting it off until later? Stash it away. All well and good…if your life can be tracked entirely on paper. But I’m an engineer – we do print out way too many Power Point slides but most of my life is transacted electronically. Emails. Policy notes. Excel files. Models. Diagrams. Do I make a million separate files, taking up a ton of space on precious shared drives or SharePoint sites? (Yes, we still use those.) It wasn’t working. I was too focused on how to plan out every.single.thing. that I didn’t have time to actually do anything. The to do list grew and grew and grew.

I became someone who purely reacted to things as they happened, maybe getting ready for something a few days in advance. My to do lists were only the things I absolutely had to do that day, unless they could be tracked via email or calendar invites. If something was in my inbox, it meant I had to do something in response. That trusty Outlook flag used for the most important things – well, in theory. Often my entire list of opened but not yet archived email was flagged.

I’d heard about bullet journaling for years. I’d read the summary from it’s creator on its elements. I’d pinned 100s of beautiful BuJo pages on Pinterest. I’d followed converts on social media. I even tried it but realized I was doing it as a way to try to appear impressive. Look at how beautiful I can make my list of books I read this year! They look like little books! Again, nothing was getting done at a rate any better than my miss-matched system of stickies, reminders, and repeating “pack lunch” in my head until I fell asleep.

Just before the end of the year, I bought a copy of the actual book, The Bullet Journal Method and read more about the “why” of all of it. Why you need to empty your head of to do lists. Why you need to focus on the things you can do today and keep things to do in the future on a different page. Why it doesn’t have to be pretty but does have to be legible and easy to find information. Why you should just keep going, one page after the other, because your brain works like that, anyway (and you have that index to find stuff).

I started just after Christmas which is amazing as I usually put off starting until a big milestone, like a new month. I emptied my head into a big list of things I knew I had to get done, from the immediate (do laundry) to things happening weeks away (see if Sarah can cover reserving a booth on 8 Jan). I read the book in bits and pieces when I was waiting for my computer to log in or my lunch to reheat. I took notes IN THE NOTEBOOK, though these did get relegated to a random later portion of it so they could all be together.

So far, it’s really working for me. I’m finding myself feeling less frazzled and getting more things done. I’m focusing on why things need to be done, not just assuming if they pop into my head as needing to be done that they’re both important and need to be done by me. Also, I’m not trying to make things super pretty. I’m using mostly whatever pen is nearby, often a random black pen or marker. Stickers if they’re handy.

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The Leuchtturm I’m using comes with its own Index which makes things easy.
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Things I’d like to do this year. Made a similar list last ear but only finished half the items.
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January title page which is sort of funny as January notes and things don’t start for several pages. But this  is fine, as my Index tells me where things really start. (Stickers are from my Pipsticks subscription package from December.)
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Random daily page. I’m not normally this productive.
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Yarn stash vs planned projects. These were layer added to my Queue for better tracking, but this was how I got started with the planning of it all.

 

 

Do you BuJo? Have you before? Does it/has it worked for you?

 

One Little Word 2020: LESS

Every year for four years now, I’ve signed up for the OLW class that Ali Edwards hosts on her site. I do the January prompt and maybe even the vision board. Then, it goes to the side. I see the monthly emails about a new prompt…and toss them into the trash. But! It’s a new year. A new decade (depending on who you ask). I’m hopeful about this year and that includes being hopeful I may actually do all of the prompts.

2020 Word

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The Plan

The plan this year is really simple. Interleave my responses to the OLW monthly prompts between everything else I’m recording in my bullet journal (more on that in another post). No buying new supplies – other than a single roll of washi I bought yesterday – for the project. Respond to the prompts within a week or so of their being posted on the classroom site. Of course, if the prompt is to do something throughout a month, I’ll comply.

January Prompt Response

The prompt was the same as past years, so I won’t dwell on that. Here’s how I responded in my notebook.

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I am off to take advantage of my last day of Lizzie being at her grandparents’ house. Lots of nothing for two hours. Quick stop at the farmer’s market we’ve gone to for over 10 years. Brunch then shopping with a friend which seems so much more DC-gal-in-her-30s than I actually am. Really, we just like food and both need something from the mall and don’t want to go alone.

I’ll be back with more on this whole bullet journaling thing in a few days.

WIP Wednesday: Setting up for 2020

Howdy, everyone! As always, I’ve set myself a goal  to blog more in 2020. It happens to be Wednesday, so figured I’d take the easy way out and blog about the current status of my WIPs. 2019 was a year of getting back to old crafts, so you’ll note a reappearance of embroidery, cross stitch, and sewing plus a new addition, shashiko. We’ve got lots of ground to cover, so we should get started right away.

And, yes, a new photo background. Matt now has a comfy couch in his office, so I’ll be hanging out with him in there and taking advantage of the good natural light and plain backdrop.

Knitting

Portage

Early in 2019, my friend RR and I made an agreement to exchange handmade items: I’d make her a sweater and she’d make me a quilt. We both started in February and we’re both working hard to get our respective projects completed.

It’s hard to take photos of a dark purple sweater WIP, so excuse the photos. I’ve finished the body, edging, pockets (except for sewing them onto the body), and most of the first sleeve. I’m waiting on an arm measurement so I can finish the sleeve and move on to the second one.

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Knitting on the sleeve while watching Lizzie play at a playground in my hometown
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Working on the veryyyyy long edging parts. My guess is there were over 500 live stitches at this point.

My quilt? She’s got the top all done and the layers basted together, with intentions to complete the edging and quilting while she’s out of town for the holidays. She’s a meanie who won’t share WIP photos but I requested blues and something traditional, as far as pattern.

(Ravelry project page is here. Not that I’ve made a pretty major design change and added length to account for her long torso.)

 

Syncopation Socks

I started this sometime in the summer for my now-former manager. I’ll be honest that I put them aside when he left our team for another opportunity. He’s also a good friend, so I plan to pick these back up as soon as I finish the socks I’m making for Lizzie (which I’ll show in just a bit). These have extra stitches to account for a dude’s wider feet. Hopefully I have a note somewhere as to his foot size…

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Close up of the pattern (Syncopation)

(Ravelry project page is here.)

 

Hat for Matt

After going to take photos while on a business trip to Denver in early October, Matt requested a warmer hat. I dutifully started one for him right away…then got distracted with other projects. I’m not sure what pattern I’ll use, but probably one of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s genius ribbed hat patterns.

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Yarn is De Rarum Natura Cyrano (I think) in Merlot. (Note to self: Call fibre space and ask what yarn this actually is.)

No project link here as, well, it’s got nothing in it.

 

Bay’s Edge

I purchased one of the big 2-Ply Yummy gradient kits from the annual Miss Babs trunk show at my LYS. The first half was used for another shawl and I was left trying to figure out which of the MANY potential patterns to use the other half. I decided to combine it with one of Miss Bab’s lovely grays – think it’s Quicksilver but I’m not sure – and make Bay’s Edge. I put this aside to work smaller projects which were more portable, but it’ll get picked back up as my only-work-at-home project once Portage is done.

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(Ravelry project page here.)

 

Rider Cowl

I discovered a brand-new designer via a #knitstagram tagged post. This is her fourth design, the Rider cowl. The pattern is easy and just goregeous…if you don’t choose too busy of a yarn, as I did. I’m waffling back and forth as to whether I want to pull this out and remake it in a skein of pink Berroco Pure Wool DK I’ve had in stash for over a year. What do you guys think?

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There really is a lace pattern here, promise.

(Pattern page is here.)

 

Socks for Lizzie

I just started these the other day, after Lizzie requested a new pair of socks. I had the yarn out to make adult socks – obviously forgetting about the orange ones already in my WIP pile – and she pointed out how pretty the colors were. So, Lizzie socks they’ll be. I’m just doing a simple, vanilla sock with a short row heel.

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Barely a WIP, but a WIP, indeed.

 

Ya’ll still with me? Lots to go, still, so you may want to take a break and get more caffeine. The Internet will still be here  when you get back.

 

Cross Stitch

Mandala

I think I worked on this early in the 2019, but I’m not sure. There are still two or three more colors to add before this is complete. I’m using colors Lizzie selected and knitting on 32 count Monaco, two over two.

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Pattern is from Etsy. I need to look up who designed it.

 

Pretty Little Berlin

This was really the project that got me back into cross stitch. I started it in early November and brought it with me to Florida when my dad had surgery. I loved the city of Berlin when we visited in 2016 and snatched up the pattern from Satsuma Street right after we got back. I’d guess this is 80% complete.

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Fused bead needle holder made by my neighbor. Wrinkles in fabric are made by me.

 

Nutcracker Parade

Another new designer I found in 2019 was Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. They make the cutest patterns featuring little people and animals. I purchased the Aida kit for Nutcracker parade after the SAL started. I’m putting this aside for awhile as I’m rather Christmased out at this point.

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The sugar plum fairy and Clara and her nutcracker float are done, as well as the lettering and parts of the border you see here.

 

Embroidery

Sweet Kitty Cat

I purchased this as a kit when we were in Honfleur, France in May. The instructions were all in French but the images were  detailed enough that I could follow along. When complete, this will probably be hung in Lizzie’s room.

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If you’re ever in France, look out for the sweet patterns from this designer, whose name you can squint and see on the pattern page.

Embroidered Mandala

I picked up this pattern on a random trip to Joann’s with Lizzie, probably when we were in Florida. Not quite sure. I’ve barely, barely started this, it’s so intimidating. It’s not a pattern, per say, just an outline of one that you fill in however you would like.

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Need to work up some nerve to continue.

 

Shashiko

Sampler

I was inspired by January One to try out Shashiko. I purchased a little sampler (from Minature Rhino) and have made some good progress. By design, you’re to stab the needle through as many layers of fabric  as you can. Very therapeutic for stressful days. Guess that means it’s a good thing I haven’t felt a need to pull these out lately?

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All six tiles
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I’ve narly completed the second tile

Sewing

Gift Bags

I’ve not actually done any of the sewing for these, but I have done some prep. Fabric has been torn down to rough size for a dozen, with three actually cut out and ready to sew. I’m using the Runaway Bag pattern from Ellen Mason (via Etsy).

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Another project I’ll pick back up once Christmas over exposure has worn off, as most off the fabric is Christmas.

 

That’s it. Heh. I’m going to try and focus on completing these before I start anything new. Exceptions, of course, allowed because I make my own rules.

What’s in your WIP bin?

9 Ways to Make Your Temporary Renters Love You

We’ve chosen to stay at a series of rental apartments on this trip, especially since Lizzie is with us (second room is necessary for all to sleep well) and we like the ability to cook simple meals in order to skip going out all the time. Okay, and I also like being able to keep a Coke Zero and some non-alcoholic beer cold at all times. We stayed in lovely places each time, but we learned a few things about how a given host/hostess could improve a stay. In no particular order, here’s how to make your short-term renters love their stay.

1. Don’t take too long with introducing them to the place: Your guests are probably tired from their journey, even if it was merely an hour on a train. They want to take off their shoes and have a drink. Show them the various rooms, where dishes are stored, and any quirks (e.g. The TV doesn’t respond to the remote so you’ll need to turn it on via this button. You must close the shutters if the wind picks up or you’ll regret it!) Ask if they have any pressing questions before you leave and be sure to indicate if they should text, email, or send a homing pigeon with further questions.

2. Leave a detailed list of instructions and helpful information – in both the local language and English: Include at least the procedure for checking out/leaving the apartment, any house rules – even if posted on the listing website, and a list of numbers guests would need an in emergency (fire, paramedics, local doctor, pharmacy). Other things we’ve liked are a list of local shops and restaurants our host enjoys, pamphlets for local attractions, how to decipher the laundry machine’s symbols, and a TV channel guide.

3. Clearly post WiFi connection information: Including it in an instruction booklet, posting on the wall in an obvious location, or leaving a tent card are all great ways to do this. (3.b. would be to offer WiFi, even if slow or a limited number of hours it’s on. Few are looking to do work but will probably want to save their International data plan for directions rather than Facebook before bed.)

4. Provide ability to do laundry: This doesn’t mean you have to have a washing machine in the room or even have your guest pay you to do a load, but make sure guests know how they can get their laundry done. Maybe a woman in your village does laundry part time or there’s a laundromat nearby? If no dryer – and, yes, we understand why having a dryer is very rare in Europe – have a clothesline or drying rack guests can use and plenty of clothespins.

5. Fill soap dispensers with hand soap: Not providing toothpaste and shampoo is normal, but guests won’t have to worry about where their body wash is in the suitcase the first time they want to wash their hands after the restroom.

6. Have a guestbook: Places with one will seem more like you’re having guests at your home, not just taking advantage of an extra room you have merely for the purposes of making extra income. Both you and your guests will be able to see where others have traveled from and maybe find out a good attraction or coffee place nearby. One place also had a map with pins to mark their hometowns.

7. Extra blankets and pillows: Some people (like Matt and I) are horrible at sharing blankets, so each place that had an extra one for our house was great. Extra pillows are great for folks who may have back problems.

8. Coffee buys you friends: Only applies if the apartment has a kitchen, obviously. Provide coffee and a way to make it. Instant is fine; Nespresso is heavenly. Tea should be included, too, if you’re expecting guests from tea-prefering countries.

9. Include bonues for families with children: Have a few toys or kid’s movies. Point out the children’s televesion channel, if there is one. Have a nightlight in the “kid’s room.” Have a step-stool for help reaching the bathroom sink or seeing out a picture window. Stock juice and milk in the fridge and individual packages of crackers or fruit. List in the information packet where a playground or public park with a grassy area is located. Have a good area for diaper changes which can be as simple as a waist-height horizontal surface free of trinkets and an extra towel.

La Vie Est Bonne

Picture a poster featuring a cat learning back onto a stone wall, using it as a chaise lounge. It’s got a glass of red wine held aloft and a kooky smile on it’s face. The words at the top: Le vie est bonne a Sarlat. (Life is good in Sarlat.) I must agree.

We’re a little over a week into our family vacation in France and currently relaxing in our rental apartment just outside of centre ville. The village is comprised of yellow, stone houses with dark slate roofs. It’s full of tourists yet still feels like a place people live, not just travel to in order to make money off the tourists. It’s not our first time here, though it’s been nearly 9 years since our last visit, made shortly after I graduated from college. Mind you, I don’t remember much of our last visit. Something about a giant market hall and a walkway slanting up towards a statue of a boy. And lots of duck and walnuts and their related products for sale.

The last week has been rather go-go-go. Matt’s the one who plans our trips and he decided to comprise the first part as a series of two night stays in places we’d not traveled to before: Honfleur and Bayeux in Normandy, Dinan in Brittany, and Amboise in the Loire Valley. It was really an experiment to see if we wanted to visit a given place for longer on a future trip, combined with seeing if Lizzie liked moving around that often. The last half of our trip is two longer stays, both in places we’ve visited – here in Salat and later in Paris. The verdict: Lizzie rather stay in one place for longer and two nights and we’re rather tired of Normandy apple juice and gallette. The chateaux, well, they will probably blur together if we visited more, though I think Matt would have liked some time to do a  formal Loire wine tasting.

Now that we have more than two nights in a place – and in a place with no hard and fast to do list of things to visit or see – we can relax. Cook a meal or two more complicated than eggs. Sleep in. Sit for an afternoon in a park or on the couch, doing not much of anything. The sort of thing you normally do on a long weekend, but without all those pesky chores hanging over your head.

Ahhh, life is good.

(If you want to see photos of our adventures so far, head over to my Instagram for photos and a little review of each day. I may re-post that here but not until we’re back. Trying to avoid the computer as much as I can.)

The Useful and Beautiful Things of Life

Everyone seems to be getting into the Marie Condo spirit, going through their homes and getting rid of what doesn’t spark them joy (and isn’t, you know, things like their 2018 W2). I haven’t watched her show nor read her books, but I certainly see the appeal. Why hold onto something just because you bought it or it was given to you? Why keep something because you may possibly, someday use it. I like the way William Morris put it: Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. I would extend the “you” to “you and anyone you share your space with” so you’re not tempted to, say, rid your house of the ten colanders your spouse has hanging above your sink.

I’m one of those folks who loves to clear through things and give /  toss sell what doesn’t meet the useful or beautiful criteria. Except I’m sometimes harsh in what I get rid of. I got rid of all of my quilting supplies – and I mean all, even my straight pins were given away – after a single year of not using themJust a few weeks later, I wished I’d held on to at least a bit of that to make something.

So, in 2019, I’m trying to approach both my clearing out of stuff and purchasing with more intention. For a new purchase: Do I really need this? Do I need it right now or can I wait for a sale? How much do I really want it? Am I buying this because it’s here or it’s on sale or I feel like I should want it/have it? For getting ride of things: Has it been over a year since I used this? Do I anticipate needing it in the next year? Is there a legal or sentimental reason to keep it?

All of this is a round-about way of getting to what I did today – I stopped working on a project in a given yarn because, well, it’s a pain to work with and will likely be too scratchy for wear next to the skin.  This brings us to the big question: Keep or let go?

Let’s walk through Morris’s questions, shall we? Useful? Well, yes, but only as a source of entertainment for me. I live in a house with heat and don’t spend a great deal of time outdoors where I’d be happy to have an itchy shawl because it was so cold. Beautiful? Eh, colors are nice but not particularly uncommon. Then mine: When did I buy this? Fall 2017, in London. I’ve tried to use it multiple times but it was so scratchy I always put it aside in a day or two. Do I anticipate needing it? Nope. Legal reason to keep? Nope. (Wouldn’t it be weird if there was?) Sentimental? Bought when I was with a friend at Loop of London, but I talk to her often and have other mementos of that trip.

Into the “things to put up on Buy Nothing group” pile…

 

 

WIP Wednesday: 16 January 2019

 

I’ve been doing quite a bit of knitting for someone who has a full-time job again. None of it was done at work, either. Well, maybe like 5 rows total but no major contributions as I’ve been leading meetings and updating models, not waiting for things to happen or trying to figure out how to approach things.

Finished – Y-Chromosome Socks

I took these with me on our annual ski trip with college friends (and their friends from trivia and work and..). This year we were at Wisp and I had more chances to knit as Lizzie did ski school all day Friday and I chose not to play board games in the evening, but knit while chatting with folks. I’d only knit a few inches on the first sock when we arrived there and they were done well before we left. Very much my sort of way to spend a weekend, watching the snow falling in big flakes outside while knitting and chatting or reading. (Bonus point as I rarely changed out of PJs until I took a shower in the late afternoon.)

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These are for a coworker who has been out the last two days so I haven’t had a chance to make sure they fit. I’m eagerly awaiting the news as I worry that the socks I knit for men won’t fit well as their feet have more variation in widths and thicknesses than women’s feet.

I really enjoyed working with sport weight yarn as these went really fast and it’s so squishy. It’s good to know I have a solid pattern I can use again, should I choose to make more sport weight socks.

(Ravelry project is here.)

 

Finished – Lizzie’s Colorful Hat

This was another finish from this weekend though after we had arrived at home on Sunday. For being mostly improvised, this hat turned out pretty well. She loves the strands of colors on the background of other fun colors. Of course, I have yet to get her to try this on but she didn’t immediately declare she didn’t want it when it was done (unless the last five things I knit for her).

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This was only my second time using Killington from Miss Babs and I really enjoying working with it. Think I’m going to make a good-sized cowl with the remainder of the skein.

(Ravelry project is here.)

New Start – Socks for Matt

I’ve only ever knit Matt one pair of socks, done in a 50/50 wool/acrylic worsted yarn. They turned out well but were far too warm for him to wear them except when skiing on a really cold day. So, he’s rather due for another pair. He chose the yarn from the pile of sock yarn I have in my stash. “It’s nice and dark. It’ll work.” When asked about what sort of pattern, he was honest – “I’m never really going to have an opinion one way or another. Just make what you want.” Oh, Matthew.

I’m just getting started, so no pretty picture to show yet. Going to do a toe-up version of Petty Harbour by Rayna Curtis. Simple but classy looking.

 

Other Things I’ve Messed Around With (but have no good photos of..)

I started a cowl with the leftover yarn from the trio of orange hats. Then pulled out my progress as I wasn’t sure if it was working.

Started swatching for a sweater for a friend but got distracted with the idea of finishing the coworker socks in time for his birthday (which was on Sunday).

WIP Wednesday: 9 January 2019

I’m made it through a whole week’s worth of work days which means much less time to knit than when I was home all day long. Matt’s also been out of town so Lizzie and I have been having more painting parties, movie nights, and snuggles than usual. All those excuses aside, I have done some knitting this week.

Progress – Lizzie’s Hat

Very little progress, but 6 or 8 rows still counts as knitting on something. This is being knit using a pattern I sort of made up using Miss Babs Killington in Perfectly Wreckless.

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Started – Danny’s Socks

One of my coworkers loves merino wool socks. They’re one of the few ways he’s willing to spoil himself. I’m making him these in a shade of gray so they’ll fit with his very neutral wardrobe. The yarn is Miss Babs Yummy 3-Ply in Oyster and I’m using the Y-Chromosome pattern. I haven’t actually ever made sport weight socks before so it feels a bit weird but is zooming right along when I pick them up.

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Started and Made Progress – Dishcloths

I took Lizzie to Walmart on Sunday so she could buy an exclusive My Little Pony miniatures set. While there, we wandered through the craft section and I couldn’t resist the siren song of the Peaches & Cream dishcloth yarn. I bought a large cone of plain white and two small balls of Blue Lagoon. So far, one of the small balls has been turned into three cloths and I just started another in white last night. I’m using some published patterns and some I made up.

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Staying Sane During Surgery Recovery

I won’t lie, surgery recovery is hard. You suddenly can’t do the things you used to be able to do, your body feels like it belongs to someone else, you have medication changes to keep track of, and you have lots of time to fill. You will find yourself feeling defeated, annoyed, lonely, and a million other things as you wait to get back to normal (or what now counts as your normal). How do you maintain sanity during this time? Here’s what I’ve learned the last few weeks.

Disclaimers: I had a right colectomy which was laparoscopic and had no complications, so many of these tips are focused  on recovery from that kind of surgery. More importantly, I’m not a medical professional (not even close), just a fellow patient. Your care team can guide you in whether something on this list is appropriate for your recovery.

Before Your Surgery

  • Ask your surgeon and/or GI doc any questions you have: Some are obvious – how long will I be in the hospital? How long until I can go back to work? What are potential complications? You probably have a pre-op appointment shortly before your surgery and this is the time to ask anything that pops into your head. They’ve probably been asked all sorts of questions before, especially if the patient hadn’t had surgery before. Be sure to ask what you do if, on the day of your surgery, you have to cancel for illness or weather.
  • Figure out when you’ll get back to work: You may able to telecommute, work part-time in the office, work fewer hours at first, or make some other special arrangement. Reach our to your boss or HR to find out your company’s policies. Because of the nature of my job, I can’t work from home so this meant I did zero work until my doctor cleared me to go back in person. I also chose not to go back until I could work full time, but that was dictated by it being the holiday season rather than corporate policy or how I was feeling.
  • Plan for who will help you at home: This isn’t just to ensure you have help taking care of yourself, but also help doing the things you normally do. Household chores. Paying bills. Taking care of children and/or pets. Figure out who will do what so you need not worry about it once you’re home. (And, for really critical things, try to find a backup.)
  • Ask for in-person visits or remote ones (audio or video): Friends and family may assume that you just want to be left alone or that you don’t want to be seen in your condition. If you do want to be visited in the hospital, say so. If you want to chat with someone on the phone, call them (or text first, if you’re me). I was lucky that Matt was able to spend one entire day with me plus some shorter visits here and there, but I also reached out to my parents and a good friend/neighbor during the times he had to be home to take care of Lizzie or work or, you know, get an actual decent night of sleep in his own bed.
  • Pack a bag with what you’ll need while there: I did this in a backpack to make it easier for Matt to transport it around until I had a room. I threw in things I needed to entertain myself, a robe, several changes of comfy and stretchy clothes, phone charger, headphones, toothpaste and toothbrush, lotion, and chap stick. I also made sure I had my insurance card and government-issued ID in an easily accessible pocket to make registration easier.
  • Follow all instructions you’re given by your doctor and/or hospital: Whatever the staff tells you to do – or not do – in the days before your surgery, do it. I had to shower using a special soap and go without makeup, lotion, and lip balm and had to only take a sub-set of my usual medication.
  • Find something to amuse yourself in the hospital that’s low-key: You’ll want something that doesn’t require a ton of thought or energy but can keep you amused. Television, audiobooks, crossword puzzles (easy ones), and coloring are great ideas. For me, this was mostly watching hours of HGTV on the hospital television. We don’t get the channel at home, so this was a treat for me. I also did a bit of knitting, though it often wore me out very quickly. I brought a journal and books with me, both of which remained in my backpack for the length of my stay.
  • Bring along a robe and your own undies: You can certainly get another robe to cover your backside and get some of those super-sexy disposable undies, but you’ll feel that much more human if you have your own. You may or may not be able to put on your own clothes during your stay, so be sure to ask before you change into yoga pants and a t-shirt. I was simple too sore to put on normal clothes and, due to the location of my incisions, it would have been very difficult to get through wound checks had I not been in a robe.

In the Hospital

  • If you need something, don’t be afraid to ask for it: Weather you’re in pain, need help going to the bathroom, or need another glass of ice water, don’t be afraid to ask for it from the staff. They’re there to help you and you’re not being a bother. Mind you, don’t abuse this ability by asking for something every hour as you’re not the only patient, but the staff would much rather you ask then try to do something yourself that could lead to a fall or similar.
  • Take those walks: For abdominal surgery, the protocol at my hospital was to get up and walk around (with assistance) as soon as possible post-surgery. This meant stumbling along with a walker and trailing nurse in the PACU then walking with a supportive IV pole and tech…and, eventually, walking by myself for loops around the unit. It will be difficult, but it’s amazing how much better you’ll feel after you do it. Again, ask for help if you need it. I needed help every time I got up from my med – though I did my best to spend most of the day in a chair  – and needed help walking the first few times. I stuck to walking around my unit but you may be able to walk to another part of the hospital.
  • Remember the names of your care team members: Many hospitals ask you to complete a survey or have some sort of an employee recognition program. If you have a particularly great (or poor) experience with a member of your team, make sure you note their name down somewhere to make completing those easier. I was lucky to have a great team which included a nurse who stayed with me for a full hour after I had a panic attack, a tech who sang showtunes to distract me from a 3 am blood draw, and a pair of residents who were extremely understanding of my, er, lack of pleasant demeaner during 5 am rounds.

After You’re Home

  • Keep up with medication schedules and other instructions: If there’s something you were told to do in your discharge instructions, do it. I know, sounds obvious but I feel the need to say it directly. If you have to do multiple things throughout the day, you may want to draft up a little schedule for yourself. I had one pain killer every 6 hours, one every 8, and my normal meds to worry about. A written schedule and alarms on my phone were the only reason I could keep track of it all.
  • Don’t do anything on your no-no list: Don’t take a bath or lift heavy objects or whatever your discharge instructions tell you not to do. It will be hard, as you’ll have to ask for more help than you’re probably used to having. Your hospital will have ensured you have that help at home before they let you go, so take advantage of it. Call or text or holler across the house if you need someone to do something for you.
  • Don’t worry that you’re not getting things done: I am not someone who is good at being non-productive so I had to learn that recovery from surgery is getting something done. The dishes and laundry and paying bills are not your responsibility but whoever is there (or can come over) to help you. Throw away your to do list, if you have to. Focus on relaxing and recovering.
  • Continue to keep yourself amused: I started by watching TV almost all day and doing a bit of journaling from my couch. After a few days, I felt well enough to sit at the dinning room table and browse the internet for a good portion of the day.
  • Reach out to friends: Just like when you were in the hospital, you’ll probably have to reach out to folks to get together or chat on the phone. I’ll be honest, I got sick of only being around and talking to family  after awhile. I made a lunch date with a friend, went and hung out at my local yarn store, and chatted online with a friend I hadn’t talked to in years.
  • Slowly get back to normal: As you feel better, don’t rush to get back into your normal routine. Add back in chores one at a time, starting with things like putting away clean silver wear or getting the mail. Yes, that’s the level of energy I had when I first got home. I didn’t empty the dishwasher until a full week after I was home, it took too much energy (and bending over wasn’t much fun, either). If you start to do something and it’s too much, STOP.

Anyone else have any tips for surviving surgery recovery with you sanity intact? Share them in the comments.