Friday, August 10, 2007

A brief look back...

It's an adjustment to be writing again. I journaled daily for years and when I went back to read what I had written, I had often written different words than I remembered about the subject.

My most recent writing until now was a unit newsletter in my previous job as a Community Service Officer (CSO). I've been thinking about that time after going to a talk on personal safety at work given by a crime prevention coordinator I knew when I was on the police department - talking with her took me back to my eleven years there.

There were 19 of us in the CSO unit. We were uniformed, drove marked vehicles, and were dispatched by police communications to handle non-enforcement calls made to 911. We described our body of work as similar to the mortar between bricks - officers handled enforcement calls and we handled what was outside their scope of duties. Our work varied daily, ranging from welfare checks of ill or elderly citizens and landlord-tenant disputes to taking juvenile runaways and missing person reports. We met people who were at critically low points in their lives and worked to give them the tools to help themselves; we were very often able to resolve situations without police officers to assist us.

The newsletter I wrote was a monthly review of the kinds of calls individual CSO's had handled and the outcomes. I took great pleasure watching everyone read about themselves and each other - we didn't know then that we were an endangered group, about to become extinct due to the decision by the new police chief and mayor.

The chief announced that our work was not essential to Seattle and blithely cut our unit during the 2002 budget crunch. A group of unpaid volunteers called VSTs (Victim Support Team? I don't remember now) was ostensibly in place to work with domestic violence victims, but we watched them offer to do more than their defined scope of work. After we lost our jobs, VST's have continued, but we still hear from officers how much they miss CSO's and would like us back. A 30 year unit with hundreds of years of memories and experience was lost when we were eliminated. This photo is not our uniform, it's a t-shirt that we had made to wear under our uniforms.

Losing a job we thought was important was a crushing blow for all of us, and most of us carry that experience still. My life perspective was altered forever in that I expected to work as a CSO until I retired from that position. Now, I take nothing for granted, and am thankful to be employed. I was very fortunate to find a wonderful new career with the City after being unemployed briefly. I enjoy being once again surrounded in my work by quality people who are inspiring to work with and have added yet another dimension to my life.

In addition to finding new friends to add to the friendships from my CSO days, my creative side has reawakened. While with the police department, my work used all my creativity. In my last 18 months as a CSO, I finally pursued my love of photography, taking community college classes to learn darkroom developing and printing. My creative juices began flowing in my personal life again, and they continue to strengthen. My photography has taken a back seat while I regain other skills, but like knitting, I'm sure to go back to it before long.

Ah, my knitting! In February, I cast on the socks from my earlier post, and at the same time, I cast on a baby sweater for my friend Claudia's one year old daughter, Hannah. It's a sweater I've knitted several times, and since it is a simplified Aran design, I thought it would be a good way to bring back my skills without overwhelming myself with an adult sized sweater.

I chose Tiny Tots acrylic yarn for the washability and look; in retrospect, it takes away from the cables and moss stitches because it is so textured. Still, it was worthwhile, and I added Hannah's signature colors and delivered it to Claudia in time for Hannah's first birthday in April.

Next, I cast on a second sweater from the same pattern. This one for my niece's (Rachel's), baby boy Connor, to be born in May. I used Jean nee from Plymouth Yarn - beautiful machine washable cotton with a wonderful hand. I completed it the morning of her baby shower, sewing in the ends after blocking the night before. Rachel asked me if I would sew a "Handmade by ..." tag in it too.

The final sweater this year from that pattern was again from Tiny Tots yarn provided by a friend who wanted a 6 month size, and didn't want it to have sleeves. More good practice for me, this time in altering a pattern. Again, the yarn texture doesn't do the pattern justice, but she was very pleased with the little vest. Next time I face the return to adult sizes!