Thursday, August 22, 2019

Oh Back To School...

Hello, dear friends,
I am back with exciting news: I am going back to college!
The place I work at has a program that reimburses college students for their approved educational expenses, and my co-workers have been encouraging me to continue on with my schooling, because - education always stays with you, doesn't it? Finally, I learned of the University of La Verne program - several degrees being offered right through our local Hancock College - and made a decision. I am going for my Bachelor's in Business Administration.
Now, in the past, when I posted such announcements, I would always get responses such as, "Congratulations!" and "Go for it!" and "You've got it!" This time, I say it's too early to break out the champagne, so to speak. I am taking it very slow and very seriously - one class at a time. Right now - online, as my job is my first priority. Later, depending on the situation, I may start taking evening classes.
I am also being more pragmatic, - that is (also unlike before) I am not "throwing my all" into the goal of education. I am stating this because when I talked on the phone to my academic adviser, he was very eager to suggest I sign up for everything all at once and "get it out of the way." No, I said. I work full time. I have limits to my time and strength. Education is important, but only if it is congruent with other parts of my life, helps me understand and advance, and does not interfere with my ability to make a living. He seemed a bit bummed and irritated at the end, but.. so what. I got my SEP out of him and signed up for my first class - Algebra -  a couple of weeks later.
Algebra... I have spent most of my educational life trying to avoid it. Now, it seems, there is nowhere to escape. I am tackling it, one lesson and one homework assignment at a time. Officially, the class started Monday, but our amazing teacher gave us a two week head start by posting all the materials on the website two weeks early. Tuesday, I went to the Math Center and rented a scientific calculator, and checked the Center's hours. I know I will be coming there for help regularly, so might as well get comfortable.
Speaking of getting comfortable... I learned all over again how good the coffee is at the college cafeteria, and how tasty their muffins are. Every time I get back to school, I re-discover that fact all over again. For years, educational pursuit for me has been associated with hot strong drinks and pastries.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

JCS Publications and New Projects

Good morning, my dear friends,

As you can see, I am trying to get better at posting here: this time, it has only been a month.
My new Just Cross Stitch issue came in the mail Friday - and look what I found there!

JCS August 2018.
Design by Evdokia Nikolaeva
I stitched that (the feeling never seems to get old) and loved it. The picture does not do it justice - I remember how bright and vibrant the colors looked on fabric while I was working on it; it was like looking at the stained glass window in the sun.

A close up picture
While stitching, I could not help thinking of precious stones. When I was a child, one of my favorite books was "The Malachite Box" by Pavel Bazhov - a collection of tales about the Hostess of the Mount and her secret jeweled garden, so intricately carved out of precious stones that any mortal that ever glanced at it would lose interest in anything naturally grown ever again... This bird and her pomegranates might as well have flown out of that garden, I thought while working at it with my needle.

"Peace Angel" by Lesley Teare
JCS February 2018
This gorgeous angel was stitched by me back in... December 2017 (I think?) The whole time I worked on her, I kept calling her "The Autumn Fairy" - the green wings and the flowers suggested it for me... Somehow the doves (the international symbol of peace) did not click in the idea; among all this natural beauty they looked part of the nature set - birds that just happened to be doves.

Close up Picture
Did I like the colors, the flowers, and the butterflies? Definitely. But... look at that armband! It stands out - perfectly. Five French Knots each, two different colors - and it makes everything around it stand out.

The skirt and the doves.
I enjoy looking at the flower detail around the skirt - and the doves, of course. The back stitching gave their wings such detail, I can almost see the feathers.

The waves of the skirt, the curling flower vines, the birds - all these details give the picture the sensation of movement. She is not standing still, she is walking  - or, perhaps, dancing? In all her detailed glory, she is still hard at work - on her way... somewhere.

Recently, I have had more time to stitch for myself. The result is - better late than never - a finished "Twelve Days of Christmas."

"Twelve Days of Christmas"
by Plum Street Samplers
Maybe it's the weather and the season, but when I finished it, I could not stop thinking that it is so... red. Was it, perhaps, too much red? But then I thought - this was meant to be a Christmas sampler, it's not its fault that it has taken me three years to finish it. By next Christmas, when it's framed and displayed on the wall, it will look just the right amount of red.

Finally, I have (bravely) decided to start a new project. It will be "A Year at Hawk Run Hallow" by Carriage House Samplings. How long will it take me to get it done, I am not even going to guess. One thing is for sure, though - I am going to thoroughly enjoy it!

Until next time,

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Where Have I Been?

Hello, dear friends,

Once again, it has been a long time... This time, longer than usual. I bet those of you who still check back here wonder - where is she? Where has she gone?

I have had a lot of changes in my life over the past six months. Back in November, right after my last post here, I started to feel a bit more secure, like my life finally started to stabilize, so I decided to enroll in college. Nothing big, just one class - online, so I could do it on my own schedule. Same day I enrolled, my landlady gave me notice - two months. Two months to find a new place, to pay all the deposits, to move... My sense of stability flew right out of the window, and with it so did all my academic pride. What if I fail the class? What if I get on academic probation? Who cares! I was dealing with real life - and the real problem to be solved was "how not to end up on the street by February."
Rita after her Marimba performance

Frantic online searches, phone calls, appointments to view properties... Several callbacks with "sorry, the place has been rented" and "we'll call you back if anything comes up." Two weeks in, I started to panic: what if there is nothing out there for me? What are my options? What if... - and the endless string of "what ifs" would take over my brain, spinning and swirling were the possibilities of no shelter, no place to stay, and no way out. I was there before - only a year earlier. This time, I tried my best not to think of the "what ifs", but instead make a plan - and follow it. Do a search online - check. Call the places that are renting out - check. Pick up applications - check...Step by step, bullet point by bullet point, I forced myself to focus on what needed to be done  - then, at that moment, and delay the "what ifs" torture until as late as possible in the evening - and by then, it was my hope, I would be too tired to think.
Crystal on the quilt

When I say "there was nothing out there," I mean, of course - nothing within my means. There were plenty of rentals, both apartments and houses  - for someone who could afford $1600 a month as a starting price (utilities not included). I was looking for something a bit -- less. Roommates were not an option, as I quickly learned, -- my post on about "mother with two teenage daughters looking for a roommate to co-rent a 3-bedroom house" did not get any responses. Reaching out to another mother through the online chatroom (with two smaller children), I thought we could help each other: rent a small house - maybe even a 4-bedroom, - my income plus hers... That's what I thought - until I learned that she actually did not have any income. She did not work, - she had to take care of her two toddlers, living the best she could on public assistance. My heart went out to her - I was that mother once; heck, I was still that mother (I used my EBT card at the store much more often than I did my debit card), - but I could not help her. I needed to help myself.

Two and a half weeks into the search, still with no results, I came upon a property in the center of town - for just the amount I was looking for. True, it was only a one bedroom, but it was a house. I called the property manager and left a message.. which was returned with "sorry, it was already rented. We just took it off the site." Usual assurances that they would call me should anything else come up... Right, thank you. I hope to hear from you soon. 
And then I did. Two days after the "sorry" call, the manager called me with news. It's smaller than the one I wanted, it was also only one bedroom, but it's a bit less in price and - well, it just got ready to be shown. A small, old house (a duplex, actually), built in the 50-s... would I be interested to take a look?
Now it's May, and the rose outside my front door is in bloom.

I certainly was interested. We agreed to meet at the address on my next morning off.
When I came to the address, no one was there yet, - I was early. That is the truth of the bus schedules: you are either really early - or really late. So, not to be late, I am usually about 30 minutes early everywhere I go.. I used that time to look around. The small back yard - not much greenery there, but there was a metal shed - storage.. The street was narrow (which I liked), the sun came out - and I saw the neighbors' houses.. I was in the old town - not the fancy part of it with villas and carriage houses - but the working part: small, cozy cottages, trees, gardens - and so much sunlight.. well, at least that day.
(with the neighborhood in the background).

 Then the bells of the local church started ringing - and I was sold. I knew this was a place for me. So, when the agent showed up to open up the house for me and I saw that it was small, it did not discourage me. I liked the kitchen sink, the walk-in closet, and most of all - the light. It was streaming through all the windows. It occurred to me then that I would probably not need to turn on the lamps until the sun was down. Add the central location - five minutes away from the bus station and the library, ten minutes away from college - and I said yes. The paperwork was filled out. The deposit was agreed on.. For the next few days, I had to wait, until I got the news: yes, the owners agreed. The manager also added: "We want to work with you because you have good credit." Instead of saying "really?" I chose to simply say "Thank you." And made a mental note to check my credit when I had the chance.
The field outside my window. 

And so we are here - since February. The sun is bright (unless it's cloudy or raining), the church bells ring down the street - although, I still have not figured out what they are ringing about; they ring randomly from one to thirty two bells, approximately every half hour. What time is it? I cannot tell, not by the bells. But - the sound is beautiful, and that is what counts.

P.S. If you have read my current rambling all the way to the end - thank you! Next time, I will be talking about more changes - and cross stitch pieces I have finished (or have been trying to) over the past months. If you are not bored - please stop by again... and leave a comment.
Thank you.

Until next time, 

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Bit of Stitching, Reading, and Thinking (Continued).

Hello again, dear friends,

To continue the topic of stitching that had to be interrupted last time in favor of work...

This past year I stitched a few snowmen - to the point of dreaming of them.

"Snowmen Stocking" - Dimensions kit

Perhaps, I started dreaming about these particular snowmen because they wanted to be finished so badly. I have been trying to finish them for about a year... It was about time.

"Snowmen Banner" by Stoney Creek
These three gentlemen, with their bright colors and a sharp Welcome banner, were a joy to work on - plus, I learned and mastered the Turkey Stitch on them. It's what makes the ruffs of their scarves...

Turkey Stitch - can you see it?
Here's another one...

"Happy Holly Craze" by Stoney Creek

After the snowmen galore - here's something a bit different...

"Greatest Gifts" by Stoney Creek

Finally - two small, but powerful bookmarks...

"Paris" by Stoney Creek

Yes, they do!
Speaking of books - I have been reading a lot. Endlessly, I would say. With access to the audio collection from the public library, I have been able to combine two of my favorite pass times - reading and stitching.
I started with Robert Galbraith's trilogy about PI Strike. Then, I read (re-read?) "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," narrated by Stephen Fry. Then, with Halloween approaching - and "It" in the theaters - I "re-discovered" Stephen King for myself. In the past month, I have read (listened to):
"Finders Keepers"
"The Revival"
"Shawshank Redemption"
"Bag of Bones"
"Quitters, Inc." - and other short stories...

Once again, duties call, and I have to go.  To be continued.

Until next time,

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Bit of Stitching, Reading, and Thinking

Good morning, dear friends,

Once again, it has been a while. What can I say? Life gallops on, with work, projects, books, commitments there isn't much time to sit and write it all down. Day by day, my life seems pretty regular and scheduled, same-old same-old, but when compiled, suddenly I see that a lot has happened.

Let me start with the highlights...

"Pumpkin" by Olesya Novoshilova

My stitching has been published! I received my copy of Just Cross Stitch - and look, there it is, the design I stitched. It is small, but so colorful and detailed. I really enjoyed working on it; the process felt very natural, almost like painting, thanks to the way the designer blended the colors.

Here it is, close up. I was in such a hurry to send it back on time that I forgot to remove the waste knot (easily fixed, thankfully)... Can you spot it on the picture?

There are a few more designs that have been published - mostly online and in pamphlet publications, and it was a thrill to see my work on the leaflets in the stores. There is a special feeling about seeing something you worked on in print, the picture of my stitching showing how it's supposed to look. Knowing - for sure - that I am good at something I love to do.

Here is the new project from Nancy at Victorian Motto Sampler Shoppe that I had the pleasure of working on.
"Flower Seeds" by Nancy Turner

When I think of Nancy's designs, the word "earthy" comes to mind. Stitching her designs always gives me the feeling of slipping into a time loop and visiting the past. The touch and smell of fabric, the softness of the thread, the subtle yet vibrant colors - all adds to the richness of it. Whenever I get to pick up one of her designs, I know it's going to be a beautiful experience.

In the WIP section I have "Stocking Critters"  kit from Dimensions.

On top of the Penguin (if you can see him) there will be a bird with a colorful package. A totem pole of sorts (I keep thinking while stitching it). It was a whole lot of white for a while, but now, with more colors around it, it is starting to take shape.

With all the stitching done (and still to be done), I have been listening to stacks (is that word appropriate here?) of audiobooks. From Robert Galbraith's Cormoran Strike trilogy, to Agatha Christie's stories, to Edgar Allan Poe. After watching "It" at the movies, I thought of re-reading Stephen King - and got hooked. Book after book, story after story. I just finished listening to "Bag of Bones," read by Stephen King himself....

But, it is getting late. I will have to write about my thoughts on the read books in my next post. Good night, my friends.

Until next time,

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A "Stitch'n'Bitch" Post...

Hello, dear friends,

As always, it has been quite a while since I posted here. That between my daily job, my home business (a.k.a "a second job"), the girls (who are not so child-like any more), and all the "in-between" stuff, the blog seems to fall through the cracks. Sometimes, I sit down to write, but with so many ideas going through my mind - which one do I focus on? Where do I start? Quite often, just thinking about the process makes me realize it's not worth the trouble, and I choose instead to concentrate on stitching.
Stitching, unlike "bitching", yields concrete results, and I see what I have accomplished after each session. Here is something I have been working on the past couple of weeks...
12 Days of Christmas SAL
by Plum Street Samplers

My goose is cooked... My swans are swimming (along with some ugly ducklings)... In fact, the maids are starting to materialize by now - they just need their milking buckets.  It has only got me about two years to get here... I am sure it will be finished soon (she said, rolling her eyes)...

I am stitching this project with the home-dyed threads from Nancy Turner's collection, and it is a real pleasure to work with them... Such soft threads - and rich colors...

The Goose...
The Swans...

There are other projects I am working on as well, but - alas - I cannot post pictures of them yet... 

Now that the stitching update is complete - on to the "bitching" part. I hope to get this out as precisely and quickly as possible, especially because for me, this particular subject - social isolation - is a recurring topic. 

This time, my rant was inspired by the online article in New York Post about some study on single life. "Being single will kill you faster than obesity," it declared bluntly. So, wait, I thought... are they saying that choosing to stay single is, in fact, unhealthy?

First, I took it as yet another thing "they" say we, as individuals, "have been doing wrong", along with eating meat, brushing teeth, washing our face, and raising kids. I take the "expert" suggestions with a grain of salt and a healthy dose of irony, reminding myself that, as long as y methods work for me and my family, the experts can really put their advice where the sun don't shine. 

Then, I thought how ironic it was that, in a society that in all its general behavior promotes social isolation, this piece suggests that getting into a relationship - any relationship, as long as you are not "single" - is deemed healthier for me than staying by myself. In the world where on a daily basis people are isolated from each other - by their cars, cell phones, head phones, laptops - and in fact often view a simple conversation as a challenge - here is a piece that encourages each one of us to make a serious choice and "trust" them that it's "healthy" for us - just because they say so. Forget our individual needs, cultural differences, nuances of upbringing - in a word, anything that makes us unique - and follow the herd, do what we are told to, because "they" know better. Sounds awfully familiar - like something from a history lesson.

I do realize that, in essence, the article was just trying to convey a simple and true message - that 
loneliness and isolation is not good for anyone, and definitely not for long periods of time. But, it seems they are going about it the wrong way. Come to think of it, all the technology that isolates us from each other on a daily basis was created with a purpose to bring us closer together. Cars were made to help us travel faster, internet and cellphones - to communicate more effectively. But, somehow, as a society, we misused them. On Facebook, I get endless requests to like, share, re-post, and copy to "prove" that I care about suicide prevention, curing cancer, and other numerous causes. As if pressing a few buttons is actually going to help cure illness or prevent someone from committing suicide....

This is not Super Mario Brothers video game, it is real life. It requires real action. Care about a friend? Call them, text, message - and make time to see them, and talk, and listen. It will take longer than pressing a button, but in the end it will do a world of good. Feeling lonely? Get yourself out of the car and take a walk. You'd be surprised how many interesting people I've met ever since I had to rely on my own two feet and public transportation for getting around. Make real connections with real people - and you will learn more about others and about yourself, and in the process, hopefully, chip away at that problem of loneliness and isolation in our society.

If you don't have time for real communication and connection, and do not wish to make time, then... don't. But also, don't spread general prefabricated statements of "caring." Stop overloading the internet with junk. And in the long run, prepare to deal with the consequences.

Until next time,

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Trip to the Movies and Other Pleasures

Hello, dear friends,
Today is my day off, and, since my girls are on vacation, it also happens to be the first day in a long time that we can spend together... So, we decided to go to the movies - to see "Wonder Woman." (Well, I decided, and they agreed to come, but that is a small detail...)
What a treat that movie was - with the inspiring story, great cast, and even - visual effects. I am not usually one to fall for technologically enhanced explosions, but 3-D views of the Sacred Island that the "Wonder Woman" Diana is from made me feel like was walking right alongside her. I was afraid that the story was going to focus on the romantic relationship (Amazon princess + American "pauper"), but, again, I was pleasantly surprised, for the "love line, " while present, did not overshadow the message of the story, and a healthy dose of humor prevented it from becoming soppy. Well, the message of the story was about love, but the view of it was definitely more realistic than I am used to seeing in the movies: a mother's love for her daughter is often mingled with fear; the love of Diana and Steve is not so much a "hot and passionate affair," but a connection of two people who are both on a mission, are very different from each other, and try to learn about each other as much as possible in a very short time, while also working on their - not quite common - goals. Diana, a woman from a different world, constantly challenges the notions of "our" society about women, leadership, and power. Finally, in her search for the villain, she discovers that evil does not necessarily look it, or, at least, not at all the way she expected. At some point, it even looked like the "hero" and the "villain" could reach an agreement, for all they had was a difference of opinion, really... (I said afterwards that, being a "sucker" for intelligent argument, I would have probably given in... to which my daughter responded, "Mom, it is a good thing for humankind that you are not a Wonder Woman.") Indeed, it is.

In other news... I treated myself to a gift recently. After a little over a year of hard work, my family is with me again; my daughters and I are reunited. During the time apart, I have learned to enjoy the simple things in life and get along without so-called "necessities," such as a car, a computer, or a DVD player. After things started getting to the point that we, as a family, agreed on as "normal," I gave myself a reward... I thought of it as a combination birthday, Christmas, and Mother's Day present....

A Simpson's House Lego set.

The "Open" view of the model - with all the details inside.

It took me about five days to put it together (not counting the breaks in between - for work, stitching, housework and life), and when the time came to connect the garage to the house (yes, it connects, so that the house can "close" and look like a regular two-story box with a garage attachment), something went wrong - and... the walls collapsed on both the garage and the house side. I cried "Nooo!" and left it to sit alone for a few days, commenting that the house turned out to be "not prepared for the earthquake". Then, after calming down sufficiently, on my following day off I sat down and devoted the morning to rebuilding the disaster. It worked - as it should have. But, to save myself the aggravation, I decided to leave the garage detached - and the model open... It is more fun to look at the details anyway rather than stare at the closed "house" box...

Inside the garage. Loved the miniature tools and broom.
The cabinet door opens.
Lisa and Maggie...

Lisa's room has a vanity and a camera...

On the wall, there are pictures of Grandpa and Maggie..
Bart's room has personality, with the poster and the comic book.

Finally, a few little details...

Ned Flanders doing the BBQ.. 

A mailbox - complete with the letter!
I loved putting it together, along with Lisa's camera, the BBQ pit, and the kitchen cabinets...

How did it end up at Homer's???
Marge with the vacuum cleaner... 
I know that to some people it may seem like I am being childish. So many things to take care of, so many serious problems, issues, worries - and here I am, playing with the... dollhouse. To these people, I would say - I have been taking care of things all my adult life, and at times I feel that I need a break. This is simply a self-care kit of sorts. I loved working on it... and that is all that matters.

Until next time,