First rainy day

Rain has been a bit late to come this year, but today it fully made up for its tardiness. It poured and poured, and I was overjoyed we had taken the time to enjoy the lovely cooling weather the day before – because today, there was no poking one’s nose out of doors.

Being shut up at home made everyone get crafty. Shira whipped up this little red back warmer for one of our kittens.

Meanwhile, I improvised these cinnamon twists, sorted clothes, pulled coats, boots and umbrellas out of storage, and got the closet shelves ready for the season.

I know that some of my overseas friends are already shoveling snow, but my kids had been running around barefoot up until yesterday.

At some point, I will probably get tired of muddy boots, damp and the indoors, but for now I’m enjoying the change of seasons.

The little yarn shop

Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com

It was a tiny store tucked into the crook of a little side street, with no showy banner or attractive display windows. But if you knew where to go, you’d see bins upon bins of discounted yarn overflowing to the sidewalk, and ladies rummaging in them enthusiastically. On the shelves inside, you would find every yarn you could ever want, from affordable acrylic to luxury cashmere blends.

I had not been there since the coronavirus breakout and ensuing restrictions in March, and I’m not even sure the store is still there. It was not an essential business, so it wouldn’t get permission to operate during lockdowns. It was tiny, with barely any room between the display shelves and the counter, so it wouldn’t allow for social distancing. It was not big or modern enough to have financial reserves or switch to online orders.

I’ve completed many crochet projects since the start of the COVID-19 era, with yarn arriving in convenient, hazard-free packages from eBay or Ice Yarns. But I miss the little warm hub where the proprietor would always be ready to chat about anything related to knitting, crochet, and macrame; where other visitors would sometimes chime in with spontaneous opinions about whatever you were buying; where I would see displays of beautiful fiber art from local artisans.

I have most of the things I need within walking distance, and haven’t been to town in months. And I fear that next time I peek into that little side street, I will see the yarn shop locked up or replaced by another business – perhaps a place selling cheap plastic homeware or cell phones or toiletries – something that would get more of a leeway than a yarn shop to remain open.

I realize that the COVID restrictions are necessary to keep the infection levels down, but I feel that social distancing regulations are killing us as a society. They are knocking down the weak and vulnerable, the poor and the lonely. They prioritize large, soulless convenience stores over small businesses run by real people. They isolate us and deprive us of everything that is so essentially human, like hanging out with friends and spontaneous hugs. That’s a tragedy, and I don’t know how to avert it or whether we can ever turn the wheels back.

How to deal with interruptions

I love this image: this is me every day!

I’m cooking breakfast.

A kid spills a glass of milk and makes a huge mess.

I sit down to work on a writing project for a client.

A simmering pot bubbles up and spills all over the stovetop.

I’m trying to do some yard work.

A neighbor drops by and engages me in conversation over the fence, totally oblivious to the dinnertime pressure the late afternoon hour means for me.

Life is full of interruptions – especially when you live in a house with kids who cry, fight, don’t want to do their schoolwork, and constantly mess up their surroundings. You might feel like you’re about to tear your hair out in frustration when you know all you need is an hour to finish a project, but you can’t even get 15 quiet minutes.

So how do I still handle things without going crazy?

Answer: I don’t. There are days when I feel I’m about to crack under the strain, but I do find that a few things help me keep the balance.

  1. I get up early in the morning. At least, I try, as tempting as it is to get a few more minutes of shut-eye. I have found out that my best chance of getting stuff done is early, before anyone else is up. But to do that, I need to go to bed early the day before – if I push myself to be productive after only 3-4 hours of sleep, I’m groggy all day long and won’t be much good for anything.
  2. I expect interruptions. I know I won’t have long quiet stretches of time throughout the day, and set realistic goals.
  3. I break up tasks into increments. Rather than say, “OK, I have an article to write/closet to rearrange/kitchen to clean and it will take one hour,” I say, “Now I write a few paragraphs/clean a couple of shelves, and it will take 15 minutes. After that, I’ll go on if nothing’s in the way.”

Even if I’m super organized and set my priorities just right, I can never do all I’ve planned – but usually, I have something to showcase at the end of each day, which is better than nothing.

Fresh Pineapple crochet top

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I have finally woken to the reality that, as much as I love the feel of merino and alpaca yarns, I do live in a hot climate and must be practical in my crafts. Thus this summer crochet top in 100% cotton – another creation in the pineapple pattern, done with a 2 mm hook.

Materials used: Two 200gr cotton cakes from Ice Yarns – I estimate I’ve used up about 350 gr, with a bit left over from each cake. I liked the stitch definition, but this yarn does tend to split. I’d love to make another top in this gorgeous yarn.

The method I used is very similar to the one in this detailed YouTube tutorial:

A word to the wise: if you are making adjustments to the pattern, make sure the number of pineapple motifs at the neckline is even. I made an odd number and realized it too late, which resulted in asymmetrical sleeves. I don’t mind this much and was very happy with the top when I wore it last weekend, but if I had been intending to give it as a gift, I would have been self-conscious about this.

The good things in life

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This has been a busy summer, but thankfully, not too busy to appreciate the good things in life. Above: a little moth we were lucky enough to be able to watch transform from a chrysalis before releasing it.

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Our mango tree surprised us with pretty big fruit this year. The previous winter had been rainy, so I guess it needed more water.

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Two pullets of this spring’s hatch. All in all, we have 5 young pullets and 8 cockerels (the latter will not be remaining with us – one roo is quite enough!)

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Quail eggs – as pretty as they are delicious.

Hope everyone is having a good August! I love the sunshine, but could do with less heat.

My transition to a work-from-home mom

If You Dream of Being a Work-at-Home Mom, Here's Everything You ...

I had my first baby over 11 years ago (crazy to think of! Time flies!) and ever since, my life has revolved in a large measure around my children.

Until my fourth child was born, I was mostly “just” a stay-at-home mom. Don’t get me wrong – it’s more than a full-time job! Oh, I did get some bits and pieces from my books and articles, but overall, I was more focused on saving money than making it.

My mindset shifted with a prolonged period of financial distress, during which I realized how vulnerable I really was. I knew I needed to have a source of income, but I also knew I wanted to be with my children. Thus I resolved to work from home. But how to achieve this, when I already felt like every spare moment was taken?

Well, I certainly made some lifestyle changes that enabled me to fit part-time work into my mom schedule. Here’s how.

1. I became a lot more careful with my time. Not that I was ever that frivolous, but I did watch the occasional movie with the kids during the day, and I could spontaneously set aside a couple of hours for a whimsical project like picking acorns for crafts.

Now I’m extremely jealous of every spare minute during the day. I am either with my children or working, and any extras (like outings) are strictly pre-planned. I don’t remember when I last watched a movie and I rarely answer the phone, opting to return calls at my convenience instead.

Does this sound too restrictive? It might be, but this schedule has enabled me to generate an income from home while also going on with writing and publishing my books. I think it’s a worthy tradeoff.

2. I sought the niche that works for me. I tried translation, transcription, and a couple of other things, and eventually got into freelance editing and, more recently, writing. If there’s one advice I’d give anyone, it’s this: don’t force yourself to do something you don’t like, even if it pays well. You’ll get burned out very quickly and won’t last.

3. I diversify and work towards creating a scalable income. I don’t concentrate all my work on one platform, but do some on several for a constant cash flow. I also work directly with authors, helping them edit their books.

Finally, even though it’s not easy, I set aside some time for my own books. In the past couple of years, I have been rewarded with a steady trickle of income from this venue, and I hope it will keep growing (book 5 in my Frozen World sci-fi saga coming soon!).

4. I don’t take low-paying gigs anymore. When you just start out, you may have to accept some less-than-lucrative jobs to get some experience under your belt, but take it from me, you don’t want this to last too long. Keep looking about you and angling up to raise your pay rate.

I currently work about 2-3 hours a day, splitting this time between early in the morning before my kids wake up, and a spell of quiet time I usually get around mid-day. I used to work after the kids have gone to bed, but realized I’m not really productive at that time of the day and it’s better to relax and spend some time getting the house in order before I go to sleep so I’ll have a good start the next day.

I don’t make full-time income yet, but that is my goal. Eventually, I want to be able to provide for my family single-handedly, if needed – like in case my husband loses his job again. It gives tremendous peace of mind knowing you have feasible, flexible options to do that – especially during a full-blown worldwide crisis.

Is stability still possible?

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These days, my heart is just breaking. It’s breaking for all the people who have been separated from their families as the skies closed. For all the people who lost their businesses. For the older folks who were active and hardy and kept in good shape, mentally and physically, by going to exercise classes, swimming, and traveling, and are now stuck in their homes, deteriorating by the day and unbearably alone if they have no nuclear family living with them.

It’s heartbreaking that children will have to start school next year burdened with restrictions that are far too heavy for their age, and other children who will be left out without adequate resources for at-home learning.

It seems we are saying a reluctant goodbye to job security, financial security, pension security, any-kind-of-security as stocks are plummeting and pension funds losing value as we speak. I am heartbroken for all the people who lived wisely and made all the right choices, and still find themselves financially (among other ways) vulnerable today.

This was also the core of my latest Mother Earth News post.

“What does this mean? I won’t say anything radical like “money is worthless now” or “ditch the money economy.” I’m a firm believer in personal finances, putting money aside, and planning for the future. 

But I also believe that the coronavirus crisis has shown us that stability, security, and wellbeing depend on much more than money. “

Now is the time to ask ourselves: how self-reliant are we? How prepared are we for another event of extended lockdown and empty store shelves? Do we have barterable skills we can use in lieu of money if the latter loses some of its value? Do we belong to a supportive community of people who can be counted on to help each other out when the you-know-what hits the fan and starts flying in all directions?

Read the rest here.