Monday, November 30, 2009

Death in the family

Yesterday our nephew Nolan passed away from cancer. He was younger than me, and he had a family - a wife and a three year old son.
I have never met Nolan, so my grief comes from seeing Joseph grieve. Even though we knew about Nolan's diagnosis, his death came as a shock to us - somehow it seemed that "the end" was going to happen much later, after he has completed everything he wanted to complete in this world.
Friday Joseph is flying out to New York to see family and to say good bye to his nephew. What a sad event to finish the old year with...

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Dollar a Stitch? Or not...

It looks like my dreams are starting to come true (oh-oh, beware what you wish for :) . Often I used to say, " I wish I could find a job that would pay me for sitting in my chair and cross-stitching." Well, I went on Etsy Alchemy recently, placed some bids on the embroidery and cross stitch work that needed to be done, and.... (take a deep breath) two of my offers were accepted! I have been paid to stitch - now that's exciting, it may even signal a career turn for me... well, let's not get ahead of ourselves, says my other, less excitable half of the brain. We'll see what happens.

On the other hand, Headstart just informed me that they are cutting down on expenses and use their substitutes "only when absolutely necessary," so that just may be an opportunity to make a name for myself in stitching and embroidery. Who knows? As my cousin told me, "today you make six bucks - tomorrow it may be six hundred..." All in good time.

Speaking of bucks (these green pieces of paper that make all of our lives so interesting), they come up in my mind when I place my bids. Somebody told me that I have to calculate how much my time is worth, how long it would take me to complete a project, and set my price based on that. But, I thought, if they did not pay me anything, I would be stitching at home for free - it's what I do... The only difference is - now I do it for someone else other than myself. So, right now I am just making sure that I do not put out any extra expenses - as long as the shipping and supplies are covered, I look for "what's fair" and always try to put "price is negotiable." I mean, if I wanted a custom item made, I would not be able to pay 100+ dollars for it, even if it took an artisan two whole days to make it.

So, for now I've got my "stitching orders" and am ready to start. I hope that there will be more opportunities like that in the future...

Saturday, November 14, 2009


For the past two nights I have been watching "Californication." I have heard a lot of nasty stuff about it - "Lolita" story based out of Los Angeles, a crazed sex addict running around sleeping with everything, etc. So, when I sat down to watch the pilot, I was expecting very little - but, I was pleasantly surprised. Hank Moody - the main character - is a writer who moved from New York and is trying to "find himself," for the lack of a better term, in Los Angeles. He is dealing with personal situations, financial problems, moral dilemmas, and he looks honestly lost in the sea of all the events. Yet, when compared him to other "well - adjusted" characters in the show, he seems... less fucked up, if that's the phrase. He has not lost his sense of right and wrong; his "indulgence" in sex comes from the need to fulfill something he has lost - a sense and feeling of love, of a true connection. Once he finds that again, or, rather, once he knows what he wants, he gets away from his "sexual exploits" and reflects. That's one thing about him I like - he is capable of thinking and is searching for an intellectual connection, not just for a cheap thrill. And the Lolita character who the whole buzz was about - (oh, no, he slept with underage girl) - in the story is nothing by a thief and a sociopath. Of course, on the surface she is a "perfectly well adjusted young lady," while Hank is a crazy "sex bulldog." But, it's an insane world the characters of "Californication" live in.
I forgot to go to sleep that night, watching one episode after another. Can't wait for the new season!

Monday, November 9, 2009

More on beading and blackwork

During the past two weeks of my - self-imposed - vacation I had time to think, to learn new embroidery techniques, to improve on the old ones, and... to work on some projects. So -

First of all, Blackwork. It is totally awesome! This is the first time when the front and the back of the stitching came out exactly the same (except for a few knots on the back). The Pears project is the example of the Blackwork technique. - By the way, the pattern is taken from the Needlework Tips and Techniques site, by Carol Leather. I find her instructions very easy and helpful.

Second technique I had a chance to improve on was beading. I am getting addicted to it. Since I first tried it on the Mandala Garden project, I have been looking for opportunities to use beads again and again. So, here's a new completed project - a headband for my daughter's fairy Barbie doll. It was created from scraps of Aida cloth leftover from the Pears project and from beads leftover from the bird. My daughter said she liked it.

Hmmm... tomorrow I am going back to work. But, I still have a Sampler project in the works - hopefully, it will be completed within the next two to three weeks.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to me! And to M! And a New Beading Project

Today is my birthday. I "turned" 31, as George Carlin would say - like sour milk. My husband quickly corrects me - "More like fresh cream, " he says. That is, of course, a matter of opinion. I may be only 31, but I feel much older.

Also, in two days it's my very good friend's birthday. I thought of what to get her. Then, I thought I would make her a present - that way, she can never forget me. Ha, ha. Also, it's small and can fit anywhere. And, it's my second attempt at beading.

Happy Holidays! Happy Birthdays! May the Blue Bird of Happiness visit your home.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Projects and New Websites

Lately I have been working so much and stressing so much that I was unable to do anything else. My stitching project lay unfinished, and even when I did make an effort to pick it up, I would find myself asleep with the needle in my hand.
Something had to be done. So, last week I decided to take a vacation. I started it on Monday, and I am not going back to work until the 9th of November.
Now, my time is split between helping my kids with homework, doing puzzles and - of course - needlework. I am trying to learn blackwork, a very intriguing way of stitching that was introduced to England, I believe, by Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII 's first wife. I quickly learned that the most difficult part of blackwork is not stitching, but counting the stitches and following the diagram. I made a mistake in my project once, and ultimately had to start over.
I also made an addition to my website: my visitors that appreciate needlework can now find a link to a very useful site - Needlework Tips and Techniques - by Carol Leather. This website contains very useful information about every aspect of stitching, as well as easy instructions and tutorials on stitching methods.
In addition, I have reopened and updated my Etsy shop - take a look at it if you wish. The link is at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Stitching and Teaching

Yesterday night I finished my Mandala Garden project. I am especially excited because it was my first needlework that included beads - gosh, I never imagined how much could go wrong with beads! First, I tried the clear thread that was "suggested" by my local craft shop - and, I tell you, it was a disaster. The thread was too thick and felt like I was stitching with the fishing string... It pulled my fabric in all directions and made the beads uneven.

After that fiasco, I decided to use regular thread with the beading needle instead. I pulled out the fish string out of my poor fabric, took a deep breath and started. It was easier than I expected this time - the beads were lying evenly, and the thread did not show, since I used gold for the gold beads and very light blue for the clear ones. The result is before your eyes. I think it's pretty good for the first try on beading...

Thank you to everyone who gave me pointers on beading techniques. Every advice was very helpful.

Several weeks ago, I went back to working full time - one teacher is on leave, and they invited me to substitute until she comes back. That is very good news, of course, - working full time, getting the training and the experience I need, and getting paid for it - what could be better? The only thing is - I do not have much time to stitch... I wonder how I could integrate my stitching into a preschool lesson... Any suggestions? Please let me know. :)

Now that the Mandala Project is finished, I am going back to my Celestial Lady, but she is really, really big... I am thinking of a sampler that I started in between - maybe I will finish it first. I will post my updates.

Until next time... Stay safe and healthy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Matriarch of the Family

For the past week, my husband has been at a job conference out of state, so for five days I was the sole ruler, the enforcer and the commander, over our four children. Before Joe left, we all sat down and had an agreement. The kids promised to try to limit their fights and outbreaks of disobedience to a minimum, and complete their homework and chores daily. In return, I promised to do my best not to make their lives more difficult than necessary. I promised to be although strict, but just and merciful.
Amazingly, I have not had to raise my voice once during the entire five days. Alex, our oldest, had to come home from school on a bus and manage himself for a couple of hours until I got home from work. He completed his homework every day, several times did the dishes, and did not argue with me once! I was ready to ask him - "Who are you and what have you done with my son?"
The girls also managed themselves fairly well - homework, schoolwork, no fights or yelling. The youngest, Vera, though, had a daily cry about missing daddy and trying to get out of going to school until he comes back. Every time I had to explain to her that, whether daddy is here or not, she still has to go to school, because I simply won't be home. I had to go to work.
Gustav, my 11-year-old, stayed consistent and true to himself. In addition to being grumpy and sullen, he also developed a cold, which made him look more miserable than usual. Well, the cold part was being taken care of by the cold medicine. So, generally he was himself - no changes.
This five -day experience has taught me some lessons. First, if you want your children to hear you and respond consciously to your questions, the TV has to be off at all times. TV turns children into zombies.
Second, giving children options is a good thing, but those options have to be clear, concise and precise. "Your choices are - either this or that. Pick and choose." No monologues about past experiences and world philosophy. It only gets them distracted. Besides, most of the time they have something to say, so I often had to explain my point. I made myself talk for no longer than five minutes at a time on these explanations.
Finally, it made me open to suggestions. Open, though, does not mean letting the children run with it and see what happens. Trial and error is not my approach, at least not at the moment. I had very limited time every day to get everything done, so I left the power to allow implementation of new things with myself.
Overall, I believe my matriarchal period was a success. Well, I suppose the next step from running the family is running the country :) But that I am planning to leave for later. For now, I have to get back to my stitching projects and actually complete some of them. My UFOs list is growing.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Update on Stitching and Life

First of all, here is my update on the stitching progress... I have been working (somewhat) tirelessly on completing it, and it seems like it's coming along well. Hope you enjoy it.
Second, I am seriously considering disconnecting my phone line. I realized lately that the only people calling my number are the bill collectors. Well, besides my employer. Paying for the phone line just to receive annoying calls about debts sounds ridiculous... But, my employer does have to get a hold of me. That's the only consideration still keeping me from disconnecting that stupid phone line.

I have to say, though - next time any of my "friends" tries to proclaim his/her "true caring feelings" or share his/her problems, I will walk away. I don't think I will even say anything. I will just keep walking.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thoughts on the Mind Process of a Herd

Recently, I have heard that the Vatican blessed the latest Harry Potter movie for its potrayal of Good and Evil. The Pope, in his own way, recommended the movie to the world.
What happened afterwards is somewhat difficult to accept, because it shows how narrow-minded most people actually are. Just several months ago I spoke to some acquaintances, who were convinced that Harry Potter stories - books and movies equally - were "the work of the devil." They did not allow any such material in their homes, and their children were strictly forbidden access to any Harry Potter stories. Now, after the "blessing," the same such people are the ones that - in a hurry - buy the books and get the movies - and make Harry Potter mandatory. The same woman that just several months ago was telling me disdainfully that she does not follow witchcraft and devil-worshipping (two different ideas, but OK) and therefore does not wish to be exposed to such ideas (not the intention of the book at all, in my opinion) - now was seen by me talking to someone on the cell, ordering "every book of Harry Potter available" and also checking how she could get the movies.
Whatever happened to this woman's strong disdain for the whole subject? More importantly, where does her true opinion lie? Where are her brains? Do they function? In the land that claims to be so full of freedoms, she is unable to use her brains to take advantage of the most basic one - the freedom of choice. Why? Because, apparently, she lost her ability to make choices. She needs someone to tell her what's right and wrong, what to accept and what to refuse, just like a small child would. Scary... Now add to that several thousand (million? ) people that are like her - and we just entered the Area of Nightmares. My nightmares, anyway.
Personally, I have always appreciated Harry Potter books - from the moment I decided to read one. I think that the movies do not give full justice to the books, but, given time constraints, they are done fairly well. Some very important moments, though, were omitted. But, I never needed anyone to tell me these were good books or good movies - I read them and watched them and made my own informed decision. Whatever happened to the basic right of using one' s brain?
Anyway, I'd better go and do something else before I get extremely bitter.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mandala Cross-stitch

Well, I am happy to say that I am dedicating as much time as possible to my cross-stitch. I found the free designs on Chatelaine web sites (thank you, Kathy) and decided to give one of them a try - a Mandala Rose Garden. I already had some of the needed threads in my box, but I have never dealt with sewing on beads - what thread to use? What needles?

As of now, I have decided to concentrate on the cross-stitch part of the project. That will give me time to do reasearch on the needed beads and materials. The design is definitely very particular, but it is also very interesting to stitch.

On the down side, I have been completely neglecting my pen and notebook - I have not written a line for weeks... Maybe I need a new pen. The one I have just does not inspire me.

Look at the picture of my work in progress and judge for yourself... Well, don't judge too harshly.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Trip to Santa Barbara and the "French Festival"

Yesterday we went to Santa Barbara - the Museum of Natural History has their "Butterflies Alive" exhibit. It is a small garden, and the different species of butterflies are released in it, hundreds of them. To make sure they do not fly away, the garden is surrounded by a net. We were told to be careful and not touch them, but they, apparently, can sit on us if they choose.
Vera kept trying to persuade the butterflies to sit on her, sticking out her fingers and putting them in front of the flowers. Rita, on the contrary, kept ducking every time a butterfly flew past her. She said she did not want them to land on her head.
After the exhibit, we decided to go to the French Festival - the poster said it was something good and educational. Well, it turned out to be noisy, hot, and expensive. It was filled with vendor trucks from all over, and it had "Authentic French BBQ" Are you kidding me? French do not have "authentic" Barbeque, I don't think the word is even in their vocabulary! And their "French Ice Cream" was nothing but your regular vendor 7-11 ice cream, only the price was $4 a pop. "Authentic French Bakery" had French Bread, the kind they sell at Vons, and crepes like at IHOP. Ridiculous. Even the bounce house was $3-5 for 5 minutes. And the books on the stands were used, but sold at the price of new....
In short, it was one big attempt of the local vendors and artists to sell their stuff with the French theme as a cover up. The only thing that was mildly amusing was the group of girls -six or seven of them - dressed up as French dancers. They were posing, and Joe took their picture.
So, after this hot disappointment we went to the Aquarium - right on the pier, it's an extension of SB Natural History Museum. There the kids had some fun: they looked at the snails, the hermit crabs, starfish, and they were even allowed to touch them. We saw the baby sharks in one of the tanks. Now that was fun.
I learned that some species of sharks start hunting before they are even born. When the eggs get hatched inside the mother's body, there is no placenta attached to the baby, so it has to eat the unhatched eggs and smaller siblings inside the mother to survive until it is born and out of her woom. So, the survivors of these species are born ready to hunt and have death of their siblings on their conscience, so to speak...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stitching Time, Summer Time

Well, it looks like I am going to have my first actual day off tomorrow. I do need it: for the past two days, I've been falling asleep practically right after coming back from work. Which meant - I have been neglecting my cross-stitch project. I am sooo close to finishing it... It's a Celestial Lady with the Zodiac Signs all around her. I am going to try and take a picture.
With the summer vacation, my children have acquired the ability to attract mud and dirt at a distance; it seems that no matter how often they shower, they still manage to stay dirty. Oh well, maybe that's what summer is for. For children, anyway. I don't remember - I have not been a child for a long time. For me, summer is the time when I work just as much as during the rest of the year, but also try to accomodate for some "educational" and fun trips for the whole family. As a result, your schedule becomes twice as busy as usual, and, well, that means - the Celestial Lady lays unfinished.
I am going to try and finish her by the end of summer.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

School and Home Life

Once again, it has been a while. Where do I start? First of all, I have a new job. I am a preschool teacher. Yeah! Finally! I get to use my knowledge and do what I was going to school for. I work for the Head Start program, and my official title is "Associate (substitute) teacher." The "substitute" part means "temporary," as one of the teachers let me know, but I do not feel like a temp. I feel needed and important. I feel recognized for what I do. I like the children I work with. Of course, there are stressful and unpleasant moments -just like anywhere - but generally, I feel so good that sometimes I wonder if it's true. Part of me is waiting for that other shoe to drop. I hope it never does.

The main difference between being a teacher and any other job out there is that every day there is something new, something to teach, something to learn. Every day I learn something new; every day, at least one child learns something new. It is never the same, or boring, or mundane. Also, at the end of the day, observing a child color a picture is more rewarding than recognizing that you have registered a $40,000 deposit for the company. It's not even your company, or your $40,000.

At home it's time for Summer Vacation - once again. No more school, no more homework. Sleepovers and sleeping in for my kids, less stress and more rest after work - for me. It's a win-win!

Of course, there are issues and problems, and there are doubts and worries... But, like the heroine from 'Gone with the Wind" said, " I will not think about it now. I'll think about it tomorrow!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Hello, everyone who cares,
For a while, I did not want to write anything, because there was nothing good to write - or, at least, nothing good enough to bother opening the web page. Our computer is very slow, and it takes nearly ten minutes just to open the Internet Explorer, so by the time I log in to the site, my motivation to write anything is often gone.
Today I have a piece of news good enough for posting: Community Action Commission hired me for a position of a substitute teacher! Plain English - I will be a pre-school teacher at Head Start in Santa Maria area, substituting for teachers that are sick or on vacation. Apparently, Santa Maria has around 18 locations (I was surprised), so the work will be coming soon. Also, the Head Start will be working with my schedule, and I get to choose which assignments to take and what schedule to work.
Although the potential to make money and work my own hours is exciting, the main reason I feel good is because I finally get to do something I have had training for, something professionally sound. The flexible schedule and the potential to advance are nice perks, but it will give me a chance to determine whether I am made for this work before I commit to a full-time shedule.
In addition, I submitted my poems and short story to "Harvest" - Allan Hancock literary journal. We'll see what happens...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Unemployment (part 2)

Here I am; it has been alsmost a week since I got fired. A good friend of mine told me that I have the right to be upset, but I have only one week to complain about it. After one week I have to fully focus on finding another job, and that means - stop bitching. Easier said than done, of course...
I did find out the exact reason they fired me for. It was a single mistake, and I did not make it alone (at least that's my opinion), but I was the one that had to "pay" for it and got fired. The driver gave me the wrong information, and I automatically repeated it to someone else, without verifying. Then, someone else called the customer - without verifying. As a result, the wrong customer got contacted and accused of something, and, of course, that looks bad. Well, out of the line of three people I was the one that took a hit. That's all. But, surprisingly, now that I know exactly what happened, I feel better. No more second-guessing and wondering. "You made a mistake" is definitely more informative than "you do not fit our company."
Well, I am back on the market, looking for the office/AR job; let me know if you find something, please... Back to school and job hunting.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Another Poem

In this unreal world only my dreams are real.
They speak of living truth that's sacred to my heart
And keep me sane through this insane ordeal -
My life - a mediocre play in which I'm forced to play my part.

A play that's full of actors: fickle friends,
With their forceful hugs, their insincere praise.
The whole script is based on "means and ends":
They stick around - while the "friendship" pays.

I do not know you. Leave me alone. Forget me.
For, conscious that I live, I'm not afraid to die
In hoping that death could be the portal
To greater Truth - after the lies of life

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Employment/Unemployment thoughts

It has been a while since I could write anything here, mainly because I was so busy working... Well, now work is no longer a problem... that is, yesterday I was fired. What was that phrase they used? Aha: "You are being released." It sounded funny, like they were relieving me from some burden that I no longer had to carry, while in reality they added a new problem and a burden to my life: now I am unemployed...
The whole thing happened so quickly that I was shocked. After the first three words hit - "You are being released" - everything else took a while to process. I remember trying to ask questions - why? what happened? have I done something wrong? I remember the office manager saying "you are not a good fit for this company" - what am I, a dress? - and "unsatisfactory performance on the job." Wait a minute, hold on... I have been with this company, doing this job, for the past eight months. I went from a temporary position to a permanent, and got a raise. Did it really take them that long to figure out that I was not good on my job? Why did they... keep me that long? Why did they not fire me during my probation period? WHO GAVE THEM THE RIGHT TO TREAT ME LIKE A PIECE OF PROPERTY, SOMETHING TO BE USED AND THROWN AWAY, BECAUSE IT'S "NOT A GOOD FIT"?
I tried to bring up a few points in my defense, but it was obvious that my right to speak was purely symbolic. The decision was already made, and nothing could possibly change it... I felt tears on my face, and I remember being annoyed with it - why did I have to cry in front of them? I could not stop, that's all. I was thinking about having to go out there and to tell my children that I did not have a job any more... And there was that... creature standing in front of me, and right when I drop the pen and turn around to pick it up, she says, "I wish you the best." WHAT?? I wanted to say " save it" or "fuck you," but I caught myself - at least I think I did. Instead, I said something like, "Right," I think. I think my eyes spoke louder and clearer than my voice, because she quickly walked out of the office...

The owner of the company was a bit nicer. She did not seem to know why exactly I was being released - I honestly think it was the manager's decision... Perhaps, the owner was there just to sign the papers and to go over the "legalities..." Well, maybe to be nice. And she was. She said she would give me a letter of recommendation. She said with my skills I could find another job, and that my skills were valuable, just not for this particular job... She said some other things that were meant to be nice and comforting, I suppose, but I do not remember them all... I was thinking about going out to my children and telling them about what happened. I was thinking that this nice old lady could not possibly comprehend my situation. There was nothing more to discuss, really, just the old go-around: "not a good match," does not fit..." When I walked out of there, not feeling my legs, she said - and it sounded sincere,"Good luck to you." I said "thanks" and kept walking, afraid to start bowling right in front of her...

It took me about twenty four hours to start thinking somewhat clearly.... Bottom line, on Monday I am going back to the Agency, and I hope they can find another job for me... I have to go on. I have responsibilities, and those responsibilities need to stay warm, fed, and with roof over their heads and clothes to wear... I just hope that the person who made that decision - who really wanted me gone (and I do not think that the reason they gave me was the real one) - I hope that she gets what she deserves... What goes around, comes around, you know... I wonder how she is going to feel when one day someone wishes her the best - right after sticking the proverbial knife in her back and twisting it in the wound... Will she be able to hold the tears?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Officially a writer

I received my first rejection letter, which means, as my husband Joe said, that I am officially a writer. The letter came via e-mail from The Writer's Eye, and, as rejection letters go, I suppose it was fairly gentle. It merely informed me that "unfortunately, we have decided not to publish" my short story and expressed hope that I would submit to them in the future.
That's pretty much the whole deal. But, of course, I did not write the story because I wanted someone's approval; approval is welcome, but the main reason for it was because I could not hold it any more... It was necessary for me.