Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

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  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

Mourning Google Reader

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sewing blog

When Google Reader went away a couple of years ago I pretty much stopped reading blogs.  I tried BlogLovin but I found that I never went to the website.  I just found out about their app this week, though, and it’s amazing!  They’ve also really spruced up the website in the last few years and it’s spot on in making recommendations to me for new blogs.  Anyway, if you are like me and still at an RSS feeder loss post Google Reader, no need.  It’s actually a lot better than Google Reader ever was!

And since a blog post with no pictures is boring, here is proof that self control doesn’t last forever.  I finally gave into Cotton and Steel.  (I’m actually impressed I held out this long, but I need more quilting fabric like a hole in my head.)  Little note: the photo was clearly staged.  I was nervous having the rotary cutter so close to these piles.  Like I’ll ever actually cut into this precious fabric!



Susanne - Holy Heaven, thank you!! I stopped reading blogs too, after the death of Google Reader. Who has time to type all of those words into the search bar?

Becky - I too panicked when google buried Reader for seemingly no reason at all. But then I found Digg Reader, which is simple, free, and fun. That’s how I get all my blogs now. If you miss being able to quickly scroll through a hundred new craft blog posts, you should try it!

Everything you heard about working the night shift at a hospital is true (a love story)

I have been working as a CNA at our local hospital’s birth center for the last five months.  It is my dream job while I finish nursing school and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to get it.   Every night as I drive to work I tell myself “try not to mess this up, dumbie” and most of the time I just want a manager to walk by and say “I don’t think hiring you was the biggest mistake ever.  I don’t actually cry myself to sleep at night thinking about it. ”

But sometimes it is 3am and I think “oh God it is so hard not to screw this up.  and also to keep my eyes open. I am definitely not going to make it to the morning.  I am probably going to just die right here in this chair.  if only I could get up right now and make it to my locker I’m pretty sure there are jelly beans in there.  the jelly beans might save me.”  And then a nurse will walk by and make that “oh my God it is 3am and I think I might die–WHY ARE WE NOT ASLEEP RIGHT NOW?!” face and you  realize you are not alone in the universe and you will probably actually make it to 7:30am after all, or at least if you don’t you will die among friends who understand your pain.

When I took this job I did a lot of poking around google trying to find out what to expect while working as a CNA on nights, and if it was actually doable, and if I really needed childcare or if maybe Blues Clues would suffice…and I didn’t find much.  So here is everything I know about working nights, with the caveats that I am definitely not an expert and everyone’s experiences are different.

night shift tips

Exactly how much night are we talking about?

The funny thing about the job postings is that they assume you know things like what the night shift is, and whether or not you’re looking at 12 hour shifts or 8 hour shifts.  At my hospital it is 7pm-7:30am with a 30 minute lunch that you sometimes don’t really take because some days you go a whole hour without doing anything truly productive.  (That’s one of the many parts of this job that the Air Force prepared me well for–some of the time you are dramatically overpaid, some of the time you are dramatically underpaid…it all evens out in the wash.)  I work part time, which means two 12 hour days a week and I am benefits eligible (huzzah! since it is cheaper for me to be on my own plan than on Nic’s).  Full time is three 12 hour days.  At my hospitals CNAs aren’t required to sign up for call, but I have a feeling that will be my least favorite part of being an RN (judging by the faces of the RNs when they show up to work after being called in).

Give in to the awful.

For the first three weeks at my job I oriented on the day shift.  People were fairly confused about why I would want to go to the night shift and if I was really going to be capable of surviving such a made-for-sparkly-vampires schedule.  This made me a little nervous.  A lot of people asked if I’d ever worked nights before, and I had–in the Air Force I worked swing shift for a year (2pm-midnight) and whenever we had exercises I always ended up being on the actual night-to-morning shift.  My only fear was due that those experiences were (a) a decade ago when I was spritely and (b) before I had children.

My favorite quote came from a coworker on the night shift when she met me while I was on day shift orientation.  “I mean, it’s awful,” she said.  “But eventually you just give in to the awful and then it’s not so bad.”  Genius.  She’s a genius.

The majority of us night shift CNAs are students and moms that don’t really sleep…um…ever.  So for us, working the night shift is a lot like having a newborn.  It’s awful, but eventually you just give into the sleep deprivation and know that it’s not forever and that eventually your tiny little career baby will let you sleep again.

I’m a little different in my schedule than most people because I request to never ever work back to back.  Because this is what happened the one time I worked back-to-back shifts:

On the second night I went into the break room to eat my dinner.  I was eating my dinner like a normal human being….and then I wasn’t anymore.  I proceeded to pass out like a floppy dead person while sitting in the chair.  Slumped over, limbs everywhere…totally OUT.  I came to with a start as the break room door opened and one of the nurses walked in.  I jumped up, mortified and completely confused as to things like my own name.  It was awful.  And therefore I learned that while I can work night shift without daycare, I cannot work back-to-back night shifts without daycare.

Here’s a little peek at my schedule of awful on the days that I work:

7:30am – wake up and start the day  like a normal day. do normal day stuff, though all the while feeling sorry for myself that I will have to be awake all night.

7pm – start work. do work stuff.

7:30am – get off work and go home.  This begins what I call my ‘recovery day’

8:30am – oldest child is safely on the bus.  my five year old now tucks me into the sofa and sits on top of me playing with toys, watching television, and waking me up every 10-15 minutes with kisses and murmurs of how adorable I am.  This is what I call ‘sleeping.’

11am – The worst thing in the world happens. (The struggle is real, people.)  I have to get up.   I have to get ready, I have to get Ellie ready, we have to have lunch and we have to get her to preschool.  Every time I think that we probably just aren’t going to be able to undertake such a feat.  But then I remember that I pay $260 for her to go to preschool and I do it.  It’s impossible.  Like when you have a newborn and you have to get to an 8am pediatrician appointment.  But we do it.  Twice a week.

1pm – I’m back from preschool and it’s time to be a real person.  I go for a run and then come back and shower and do schoolwork.  The run feels impossible too, but I’ve found it really helps keep my daytime/nighttime confusion down.  Being out in the daylight for 30 minutes and working out means I’ll go to bed without trouble.

Somewhere after 6pm but before 9pm – Sleep.  Blissful sleep.

Avoid the jetlag.

Working nights is a little bit like having permanent jetlag.  To minimize the symptoms I:

  • Run outdoors on my recovery day
  • Wear a watch and look at it OFTEN, reminding myself of the actual time and not the emotional time (which, incidentally, is always oh-awful-thirty, so the emotional time doesn’t matter that much, anyway.)
  • Get to bed before 9:30.  If I’m up past 10, I’ve noticed that I get a second wind and have a really hard time going to sleep.  As long as I go to sleep when I’m still in exhausted mode I’ll sleep until the morning.

Come for the differential, stay for the people.

I feel like the night shift slogan should be: “come for the differential, stay for the people.”  It is true that if I fold little tiny baby shirts in a closet at 3am I get paid 33% more than if I was to fold those same shirts at 3pm.  This is awesome.  But I absolutely love the people I work with and that makes folding tshirts at 3am something I’d do for half the price.  Except don’t tell Centura that.  Tell them I’m the best darn shirt folder EVER and deserve twice my pay.

You are probably going to get a little bit fat.  It’s okay; I’ll still love you.

I’ve neglected my body a little bit in the last several months and it’s starting to push back.  It is really hard to make good food choices in hour 20 of consciousness.  I’m trying to turn this around.  Hopefully I’ll have some good advice in another 5 months for how to lose the weight you gain in the first 5 months!

Alli - You are doing a great job! Your schedule sounds so hard, but you are doing a great job! 🙂

Valerie - Traci – I just got on your website to check up on photos of the kids (still adorable) and I got sucked into your blogs about nursing school. This post totally spoke to my heart. I am in such awe of all of the mommies who work night shift with me. I couldn’t imagine not being able to come home and pass out for 7 hours before my next shift. So kudos to you! I’m so proud you’re reaching your goals that we talked about so many years ago 🙂 The quote about coming for the differential and staying for the people could not be more true. I always thought I would take a day position once one opened up and I had the seniority but now it’s close to that time and there’s no way I can imagine leaving my night shifters. We are a special breed of people. Running outside is a great idea, I just wish liked running! I miss you and the kiddos and I will definitely be checking back in to read your words of wisdom 🙂


Colorwork warmup: bismark hat pattern

I’m going to be embarking on a massing colorwork project soon, so I figured a little warm-up was needed.  I chose the Bismark pattern and some Road to China Light yarn from The Fiber Company from my stash that my parents had bought me last year and was off!  I was undecided about the pompom because the top of the hat came together in a lovely way, but in the end went for the pompom.  Why not?  Additional project details on my ravelry page.

bismark plaid knit hat

I haven’t blocked this yet, but I did notice that I need to work on when I wrap my carried yarn into the working yarn on sections where it won’t be used–you can see a pucker in the middle of almost every solid block of color from where I twisted the two yarns around each other.  I’m okay with it on this hat but I know I’ll want the sweater this is a warm-up for to be perfect!

plaid knit hat

A peek at the lovely top both before and after the pompom.

bismark hat


Hello! If you made it here from the old blog, please leave me a comment!  Still a lot of construction going on here, and already missing the old banner and bio pics with baby Will and Ellie:


However, I’m excited about writing a lot more over here and I hope you’ll stick around!

Dr Seuss in work

Sharing a peek at my morning’s endeavors: starting an improvisationally pieced baby quilt for my soon-to-be-nieces.

When this line came out four or five years ago I bought a fat quarter pack and some yardage because my sister-in-law is a huge Dr Seuss fan.  It never occurred to me that the line would have so much staying power and that various spin-offs of it would be around when they were ready to have kids!  (Although I am partial to several of these original prints that I don’t see around anymore.)  🙂

dr seuss fabric baby quilt

And a peek at how I work with these improve quilts.  I have a specific backing I’m working with so I laid out the cut picture panels and then just start piecing.  One of the things you have to keep in mind is where you will place your final seams to join it all together.  I hate Y seams so I avoid them.  I usually also try to avoid having the main seams of the quilt run along the halfway mark.  I’ve added little lines so you can see what I’m working toward right now.  That panel with the quote is being very troublesome–it keeps wanting to sit right in the middle of that seam.  That one is going to be trouble!

dr seuss fabric baby quilt

TEAS Test Thoughts

The last ‘to do’ list item for my nursing school application was the TEAS Test.  At my school your score is not a factor as long as you ‘pass’ the test with a score above the national average (which hovers around 65%).  Given that a score of 67% and 97% would have the same impact on my application, I figured my time was not best spent studying any more than absolutely necessary.  And so I began studying for the test the evening prior to taking it.  I used this TEAS book (which I recommend buying used and then selling on amazon used so it will cost you about $10-15  when all is said and done).

As I began reading it I had one very big thought: “oh darn–I should have taken this in the fall–I used to know this stuff.”  I would highly recommend taking it right after taking your chemistry/biology pre-reqs.  The science content will then be freshly in your mind.

I let the online comments psych me out a little bit, but I took the test with my three hours of prep and came out with a score of 94% in the 99th percentile.  Ironically my lowest score was in the English section (this is ironic because I have an English degree).  Stupid writing classes teaching you to break all the style “rules.”  (note that prior sentence is not an actual sentence.)

So, moral of the story: the TEAS test is actually kind of easy, especially if you have good multiple choice test techniques.  Luckily for me, this is the kind of thing they teach you if you attend high school in England.  That and how to drink your weight in alcohol and then pour a cup of tea without spilling.  Here is my fool proof method for not sucking at multiple choice question tests:

a)  Read the question and then imagine the answer.

b) Look through the answers and see if your answer is among them.

c)  It is? Awesome!  Make a little – next to it.

d)  You are not done yet.

e)  Read all of the answers one by one.  If they are completely impossible make an x next to them.  If they are kinda maybe possible under some interpretation of the question put a – next to it.

f)  If you have one – and three xs circle the answer with the -.  (But you’re not done yet.  See step h.)

g) If you have several – answers, read through the question again and the answers again and pick the best one.  You’re still not done though.

h) Finish the test.  Now go back and reread all of the questions and answers and see if you still agree with your original answer.

i) If you are using a scantron, NOW is the time you fill it out.  And then you go back through your scantron and look at them all again and make sure you didn’t make a mistake and fill in the wrong bubble.

Yes, this method will mean you are usually one of the last people to leave the test.  But I’ve never run out of time on a test using this method.  AND then you get to be all smug about how you did everything possible within your being to do the best you could at that test.  So feel free to go all British afterward, keep a stiff upper lip, and wear nude pumps like Princess Kate.