Then I found OralB Superfloss, a dental floss that lots of knitters have been using to place beads, instead of fumbling with the crochet hook. It really made a difference. I also got the top down version of the shawl, so that I could find my groove on a small number of stitches. The charts seem clearer too, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, I'm having so much fun working on it and I highly recommend giving knitting with beads a try.
I'm reading Love and Salt: a Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters on my nook, slowly but surely. It was a gift from Muiche, who always writes the most wonderful letters to me, so it is especially meaningful to me.