Monday, January 6, 2014

Caps for cancer patients: Making 2014 Resolutions

Yes, it’s that time again. Time to make New Year’s Resolutions for 2014. What can I can do in this new year that I didn’t do in 2013? Or maybe I started a project last year and an extra push will get me over the finish line. Then there are habits I started in 2013 that I’ll stick with from now on.

Who knows, 2014 could be even better than 2013 was. There’s always room for improvement, right?


Consider the potential resolutions most people consider:

Quit smoking? Did that in 1969. Haven’t been tempted in decades. Check.

Give up drinking? Haven’t had a sip of alcohol since the ‘80s. Anyway, I like being able to keep a clear head. Check.

Lose weight? Each time I stop eating another food I’ve become allergic to, I drop a few more pounds. If I lose any more, I’ll just fade away. Check and Double Check.


But those are the ‘Thou shalt nots.’ They’re the ones everybody thinks about but seldom actually do--or don’t do.

What about the ‘Thou shalts’? Better to make this a positive experience and really improve my life. How about:

Organize my office? I’ve been working on that miracle since early 2013. Continue with same in 2014. Check.

Finish writing my latest novel? That’s the one I’ve written parts of off and on since I-can’t-even-remember-when. I did get much more serious about it in 2013 but kept getting distracted. Still, it’s beginning to take shape, and now it’s easier to jump back into any time I can. Keep up the good work, girl. Check.


Use my needlework skills to help people in need?

Now here’s the positive resolution I really enjoy keeping.

Eons ago, when I was much, much younger, I’d knit and crochet sweaters, shawls, gloves, and more. I still have several beautiful sweaters I wore when we lived in colder climes, but they’re impractical in southern Arizona, so they’re safely stored away in our cedar chest. I’ll donate them one day, but I still like to admire all that beautiful handiwork. Later, okay?

Crocheting a cap in a single
color gives me a chance to
experiment with new stitches

In the 1980s, I got serious about writing. But with arthritis in my hands, it was hard to do both typing and needlework, which included needlepoint and rug hooking. When I graduated to a computer, the old-fashioned QWERTY keyboard still made my hands ache, but I couldn’t stop writing. So I put the needlework away for good. Or so I thought.

In 1989, I finally conquered my hand cramps with the Dvorak keyboard. I also started holding pens and pencils between my index and middle fingers instead of the traditional index finger-and-thumb grip we learned in school. With these two factors, I now write with computer or by hand without hurting my hands. (I promise to reprint my article in a few days explaining why the Dvorak keyboard and improved writing method helped me overcome carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis without medical intervention.)

But even with hand pain limited to bad weather, I barely thought about doing needlework until 2010 when I read about knitting or crocheting tiny caps for third world infants. It took me a couple of weeks to find my old needles and hooks, then I grabbed a bi t of the yarn from the tons I’d saved from the old days to knit one cap and crochet another. When I reached the campaign deadline, I put two tiny caps in a box and sent them to the Caps for Good Campaign run by Save the Children. I did ask them to contact me if they ran the campaign again. But with no word since, I had to let the needlework go again for the time being.

Still, I was hooked. (You’ll excuse the expression.) I wanted to make things, not for myself, but to share the fruits of my skills with people who need them. In the following months I scoured the internet and made phone calls all the way into Phoenix, but even the referrals I followed up on turned out to be outdated or my emails went unanswered. I finally went back to writing, but I couldn’t forget the dream.

Then in 2013, Jim and I were at the Jo-ann’s store waiting to have my fabric measured and cut. I commented that the clever fabric design the lady in front of us chose was more appropriate for Halloween than spring, and she said she was going to make blouses for friends. When I said the design reminded me of one of our favorite TV shows, "Bones," she said she likes to sew and do needlework while watching TV. That’s when I mentioned doing needlework for charity, and she said she makes caps for cancer patients. Well, I pounced!

We exchanged names and phone numbers, and I was soon making my first knit cap. In December, seven of my caps went to women who want something pretty to cover their temporarily bald heads, and I’ve resolved to make at least twelve knit or crochet caps in 2014. Now I alternate my writing with needlework, depending on how I feel. Occasional weather systems still make my hands and other body parts ache, but neither the writing nor the needlework hurt anymore. In fact, I feel much better when I’m doing things that make a difference in someone else’s life. Maybe that’s because I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing with my time and energy.

With lots of yarn in various
shades of brown, I mix them
together and add interesting features


This experience has strengthened my belief that if I ask God--or the universe, if you prefer--for something, sooner or later, I’ll get an answer. Even if it’s not exactly what I asked for, chances are it’ll satisfy my need.

If you have a skill, you can probably find a way to use it to help someone else, especially if you do it to help a person in need. I promise that taking the opportunity to be useful to others will make your life better too.

The World I Imagine: A creative manual for ending poverty and building peace and my historical mystery novel, Lion’s Pride, are available through your local bookstore. They are featured at, Barnes & Noble, and most online bookstores around the world. Both are available for Kindle readers.

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