Thursday, January 12, 2017

Family Tree in Cross Stitch . . .

My older daughter was married in July, 2016.  I wanted to make her and her husband something special for Christmas. I knew she was very interested in researching her family tree, as well as her new family's genealogy.  I've written a couple of blogs about each of our experiences.  This blog will be a continuation of sorts.

I like to make unique things. When I thought about it making a family tree I got excited because I knew my daughter and son in-law would appreciate it and it could even become a family heirloom. I started looking for cross stitch patterns, but much to my dismay, most family trees begin with one person and record their maternal and paternal sides. I wanted a tree that would be a record of both sides of their families and have room for their children.  I came upon a picture online of a large tree with the silhouette of couple under it.

I thought about how I might be able to turn this into what I wanted to make. First I would need to make it larger and turn it into a graph pattern.  Thank goodness for online sites that will take any picture and turn it into a graph for cross stitch or crochet. Here's what I got:

The next thing I wanted to do is take my daughter's favorite engagement picture and try to substitute it for the couple in the picture. I edited the picture down to the couple, changed the color to black and white, changed the size to match the size of the couple in the picture and use that as my new silhouette. I outlined both my daughter and her husband so I could use two different colors, a light and dark gray, to distinguish between the two bodies. Here is the graph and the cross stitch equivalent.

With the silhouette of the couple in place, I went ahead and finished the tree and all it's branches.  It was easy enough to place the couple's names and wedding date in the center of the heart made by the branches.  It was a little more difficult trying to add the names of their parents and grandparents and not disturb the flow of the branches. Using a light and dark green floss for the names, I counted and slightly eliminated a few stitches to allow the names to fit in.  The dark green floss was used to highlight the "family" surname on both sides. Once it was done and framed I couldn't wait to give it to them for Christmas.  I can add a title to it "Our Family Tree," and children's names if they want down the road.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Pussy Cat Hat . . .

In September 2015 I went back to crocheting. I thought I'd make a couple of blankets for Christmas and call it a day. Instead I have been crocheting almost non-stop ever since.  I've used many, many pounds of yarn and made dozens of things. After not crocheting for about 25 years or so, I found that, like Stella, I got my groove back. I started thinking that while I can crochet, maybe I should plan for the future, in addition to making gifts for the present. I've made quite a few little baby things even though there are no babies in the near future. And I asked my newly married daughter if she would like me to make her anything. She kept telling me she didn't need anything right now. I was thinking maybe some heirloom quality items she could save for the future like a table runner, but her mindset is in the present.

And that brings me to her one request . . . a pussy cat hat in pink. She plans to attend a women's march in a couple of weeks and wants to wear the hat.  She is making a statement for women's rights. I am doing my part by getting the yarn and crocheting. The hat only took a couple of hours or so to make. What baby wants, baby gets.  Here I am modeling it. I hope you get a good look because I have a feeling I will remove the picture shortly . . . and I was right, not a great look on me.

P.S. My daughter liked the hat so my mission was accomplished!

And here is the crochet pattern for anyone who is interested in making one of their own: Pussy Cat Hat Pattern in Crochet

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

People Come, People Go . . .

I haven't blogged much lately. Last year I only posted seven blogs. It was a busy year and there are only so many wedding blogs one can write. Then there was the election. Politics is a touchy subject. People will read something and agree with it or not. The number of stories on a daily basis was, and still is, overwhelming. I read and heard enough about all of it not to want to write anything. And who cares about my opinion anyway? And this is a small, personal blog. I can't always blog things I would like to blog because the people I would be referencing have the link and could read it. The last thing I would want to do is offend or hurt anyone's feelings, so I censor myself. But I find that even when you don't intend to hurt or offend anyone, it still happens.

Today I have an experience I would like to write about, but I won't. Instead I will say relationships can be complicated, even when they don't seem so. I thought I understood people, especially those I know personally, but I don't. I have had people close to me who are willing to discuss issues that come up between us for the sake the relationship and others who will just cut me off without a word of warning, without any regard for the numbers of years we have known each other and all that has transpired in that time. It leaves me to wonder if they ever valued me or the relationship in the first place?

I'm sure many, if not most, people have gone through similar experiences one way or another. You can't make sense of it, you just have to deal with it. If it happens enough times, with different people, you can think about it, maybe grieve the loss and eventually move on. You can't control what the other person chooses to do or how they react. They have to do what they feel is best for them. And I get that, even though it's not what I would do. I wish them well in their lives and in all they do. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."

Depending on the depth of feelings and the involvement in each other's lives, some people can and do leave a void in your life that needs to be filled. How each one of us handles that varies. I have found that keeping busy and distracted allows for time to help the healing process. And, the way I look at it is that it gives me the opportunity and time to spend with family and others who are close to me. Life goes on.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Scholarships and the “Careful” Screening Process . . .

The happy ending

Scholarships are hard to get. You have to have excellent grades and also score well on the SAT’s and/or ACT standardized tests. In our experience those were the two main factors considered. They will say extracurricular activities play a role, the college essay is a factor, community involvement is considered. I think the things come into play when grades or test scores may not be as high as the college is looking for.  Some private high schools also give scholarships. They are based on grades and test scores to their own standardized exam.  Here is my daughter’s experience with scholarships.

When my older daughter graduated from intermediate school she applied to various high schools. She took the exam for Catholic high schools because the public schools she applied to were highly competitive. My daughter graduated intermediate school as valedictorian and needless to say her grades were nearly perfect. When she took the entrance exam for Catholic school she knew she had done well. She even completed more of it than one of her friends, who was the valedictorian at another neighborhood school. The day scholarships were announced to the Catholic school they both applied for, my daughter did not receive a call, but her friend did. We were bewildered as to how can that be? Both girls were valedictorians and my daughter was certain she had performed better on the entrance exam. Of course this was a Friday afternoon so we could not inquire about it for her. On Monday morning my husband, who is much more patient and tactful than I am, called the school and asked them why our daughter did not get a scholarship when her grades were outstanding and she felt she did very well on the exam. He just wanted to know where she fell short. He was told they would get back to him, but they do have a "very careful screening process."  In no less than thirty minutes I received a call from the school telling me my daughter had been granted a full scholarship. No explanation as to how she fell through the cracks of their careful screening process. When my daughter got home from school I let her know the “good” news. She was less than impressed and really very irritated. She felt slighted, overlooked and they had ruined her chance to enjoy her accomplishment because it had come after the fact, when other students had already made it known they had been granted scholarships. It would look like she was a “second thought” because if she truly deserved it why wasn't she selected during the screening process. Fortunately for her, her first choice of public high schools had accepted her and she was able to decline the scholarship.

Fast forward four years. Once again it was time to apply to schools. My daughter filled out quite a few applications, took a prep class to do well on the SAT’s and ACT exams, and she had a very good average from a highly regarded academic high school in New York City. Acceptance letters started pouring in. Many of them offering scholarships. Of course she was waiting until they all came in to make her decision. One school never replied. It was my alma mater, St. John’s University. She asked if I would call them and ask for her application fee back since they did not bother to even notify her if she had been accepted or not. Once again she was disgusted. I called them and explained that my daughter had applied and received no answer from them so we would like a refund of our application fee. The woman on the other end seemed perplexed. She disappeared for a few minutes. She returned to the phone and asked me if my daughter would fill out another application. I told her I was sure she would not. Then she said she would look into it and call me back.  Less than an hour later my phone rings. It’s St. John’s University offering her a full scholarship! I thanked them. I thought this was good news. My daughter came home and I told her what happened. She rolled her eyes and launched into a little rant. This was exactly what happened to her when she applied to the Catholic high school. She wanted no part of St. John’s. She had already gotten a half scholarship to Hofstra and she wanted to go there. Her father and I agreed.

After she accepted Hofstra’s offer to attend she gets a phone call from them. I listen in on the other line. The admission’s officer introduces himself and tells her that Hofstra would like to offer her a full scholarship instead of a half scholarship and that they would be sending her a new letter confirming this offer shortly. He just wanted to let her know it was coming. My daughter thank him. She got off the phone to tell me (not knowing I had listened in). More than a few days had passed and no letter arrived. My daughter started to believe that maybe she didn’t hear him correctly. Of course I knew she had because I heard it too. I told her to call and check on the letter. They confirmed it was coming and that she had been offered a full scholarship. The letter did arrive. She picked the right school and went there for four years graduating Summa Cum Laude, with highest honors, double majoring in Television/Communications and English. 

Moral of the story: If you think you deserve a scholarship and don’t get one, call and find out why.  You may have just fallen through the cracks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Pep Talk . . .

There are times in life when we could use a pep talk. Here's one.

Often, in life, we get in a rut. We do the same things every day, week in and week out. We are almost robotic. It's so easy to just roll with the flow. Changing things requires some effort, maybe a lot of effort. Life can be tiring, it can wear us out. But, while we are stuck in our routines and are waiting for something to happen, we are losing precious time. Time to make memories, time to try new things, time to take chances and look for opportunities to make our hopes and dreams a reality.

When a new year begins, when there is the birth of a new baby or wedding in the family, when we graduate college, when we get that first promotion at work, we can see all the infinite possibilities ahead of us. We believe we can do anything we put our minds to. We are motivated to reach our goals. We may take steps towards those goals and gain momentum. But life is unpredictable. We may hit a little bump in the road that derails us for a time and makes us feel like giving up. Sometimes we are disappointed and frustrated and lose the desire to stay on track. Sometimes a devastating loss can send us into a depression that is hard to get past. It's those times when we have to pick ourselves up and use our internal dialogue to help ourselves remember what we want and what we need to do. Every day that we are "stuck" is one less day we are living life and moving towards our goals. 

I know in everyone's life there are highs and lows. It's easy to be positive and energetic when you feel everything is going your way. But when things don't always go they way you want or expect them to, that's when the hard work begins. The only person you have control over is you. You have one life to live. You shouldn't waste one minute of it. Don't let anything stop you from living your dreams. Break through the depression, the frustration, the disappointment and push yourself to move on. It will get easier with each passing day as you move further way from the bad experiences and start creating new good experiences. 

And if, along the way, you see others going through their own struggles in life, throw them a kind word, a helping hand, a hug or a prayer to help them get past the bumps in their lives.  Helping others is a great way to heal ourselves and push through our own pain. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

How To Plan A Wedding . . .

Beautiful Gifts made by Grandmother of the Groom

The big day finally comes!  Your child announces she is engaged. After opening some champagne, going out to dinner and celebrating . . . it’s time to plan a wedding. I’ve learned a few things over this past year and maybe I can actually blog it and save some you a few headaches.

The very first thing the couple has to do is pick a date.  That date is important because it tells you how much time you have to get everything done. My daughter picked a date that was less than 12 months away, but assured me she would be organized and take care of everything. She even bought a “planner” to keep track of it all. Tip: Don’t believe your child when she says she will take care of everything, it ain’t happening.

I told the newly engaged couple that my husband and I would pay for the wedding and they should do whatever makes them happy.  They didn’t waste too much time picking a venue. My daughter liked the second one they saw, The Bay Ridge Manor in Brooklyn, and was satisfied she was getting a five star venue at a reasonable cost.  My husband and I accompanied them when it was time to place the deposit. First major accomplishment!

My daughter and her fiancĂ© spoke with the photographer recommended by the venue. They like him, he has great reviews, they book him and we (the parents) provide the deposit.  The photographer, who has been to dozens of weddings, recommends the company that provides the DJ and Master of Ceremonies. The couple checks them out and likes what they see and hear. We write a check for the deposit. We are getting very good at writing checks.

Time to shop for the gown in early December. We find one that’s perfect. I leave the deposit. One snafu comes up, they are all booked for alterations until after her wedding and we are on our own to find a seamstress.  When the gown arrives, about four months later, guess who has to find the seamstress . . . if you said me, you would be correct. I found a great experienced seamstress in my neighborhood and booked our first appointment.

The holidays put a little cramp in the planning. In fact, they really slow down the momentum and we have to pick things up again. We go shopping for the Mother of the Bride gown before we are hit with a major snow storm. My daughter also looks at the “Save the Date” cards online and orders some. I end up writing out all the envelopes for her because she never listened to me in grade school when I told her that her handwriting was atrocious.

Who is going to officiate at the wedding? All this planning and expense will be for nothing if we do not have an officiant. My daughter finds a priest online who is highly recommended.  He comes from New Jersey. Excuse me if this makes me a bit nervous. 

In the meantime I keep asking about the limousines. My daughter isn’t interested in limousines, she says the 10 of us can take Uber cabs to the photo site in July, in hot and humid weather, through the congested streets of Brooklyn, in her gown with the very long train. No problem, the photographer says we can.  So ultimately, I had to find the limo company myself, visit with the owner and of course pay for the service.  Here’s a tip. Listen to your gut, find a five start company. Companies with five stars will do their best, they do not want their ratings affected by a bad review as they generate a lot of their business without any real publicity.  

Who is going to do our hair and make up? My daughter has no clue and apparently this was not one of the things she was going to take care of either. One day I was at my salon talking about my dilemma when the hair stylist said she would come to the hotel that morning and do our hair and bring her make up person too. I asked her if she was serious because I had only been going there less than 6 months. She said she was. That was a huge load off my mind. 

Oh, we need some flowers too. My daughter knows nothing about flowers. All she knows is she wants a baby’s breath bouquet. She asks me to visit the florist with her and of course I happily comply. We meet with the florist, also recommended by the venue, and have a discussion. He is very helpful. The venue does provide very small centerpieces for the tables in their package, but we upgrade them to a nice size. I order two large floral arrangements for the wedding ceremony, along with corsages and boutonnieres. The florist suggests a runner and some bows for the seats. When we are done with the package, I pay for it and we leave.

There are so many more details to take care of including: engagement pictures, invitations, the bridal shower, the bachelor party, the cake topper, pictures of grandparents for a frame in memory of them, the card box, the favors for both the shower and wedding, new shoes, jewelry, new suits for the father and groom, new handbags, booking the hotel for two nights, hair pieces, hair and make up trials etc etc.  Every time you think you are done, think again.

My daughter asked me if I wanted to walk her down the aisle with her father. Of course I said yes and I was happy she asked me. She also wanted to know if I wanted to make a speech. I thought about it. As usual I like having the “last word.” After loving her and raising her for 29 years I felt I had something to say and so I said I would make a speech . . . and a memory.

Finally, here’s what you need to know. Even before your daughter gets engaged you should be online gathering vendors with five star reviews so you have a good starting point. It pays to do your homework. Visit the and other wedding sites for vendors who already have reviews. Do not believe your daughter when she says she will take care of everything. Even if she buys a huge planner and waves it around. She is going to get tired and overwhelmed, especially if she has a full time job and only has the weekends to work on it. Do not remind her you told her a year is not enough time to plan a wedding. You have to keep her calm, make sure she knows you have her back. If the Master of Ceremonies gets fired a week before the wedding, and they want to replace him, and she is a nervous wreck, tell her it’s no problem. Sometimes things work out for the best. The main thing is that she gets married and gets out of town!  If six people drop off the guest list as soon as she gets back from making the final payment at the venue and she is upset, tell her not to worry about it. What’s done is done. Whether they come or not it’s not a big deal at this point, there are worse things. Don’t forget she still has to do last minute laundry and packing for the honeymoon. She is out buying special gifts she wants to give to those who did a lot to make her day special. She is probably doing a lot more than you are aware of. Remind her to get her rest and eat well. You not only want her day to go perfectly, you want her to be able to enjoy it and the honeymoon. 

The wedding was perfect. My daughter and son in-law are in Hawaii right now. I hope they are making memories to last a lifetime and that they live happily ever after.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Take the "Best" Out of Best Western

The closest hotel to the venue where my daughter's wedding was held was the "Gregory" Best Western Hotel. It was just a few blocks away. Due to the convenience and proximity, my daughter reserved a suite of rooms for us and out of town guests. When we saw it last year it was being "renovated." I use the term loosely because after our stay there I can only imagine what it looked like before remodeling. The pictures online are deceiving.  Over the years we have stayed at many different hotels and I have to say this was by far the worst. I would rather pitch a tent on an New York City street than to ever book a room at this hotel (and anyone who knows me knows that I hate camping).

Here's the story.  When my daughter sent out her "Save the Dates" about four moths ago, I called and booked two rooms immediately for her and for us, making sure they were in close proximity since my two daughters and I needed to have out hair and makeup done first thing in the morning.  No problem they said. The week of the wedding I called to reconfirm the rooms and make sure they noted we wanted our rooms together. No problem, it was noted.  They told us they had valet parking available for a nominal fee. That was great because it's a very congested area.

On July 8th we arrive after 3 PM check in time and our rooms are not ready. They are scrambling around trying to figure out how to get us the two rooms we requested that were next to one another. Already I am pissed off. I need to unload all our clothes for the weekend and organize everything before we went to the "Welcome Dinner" that the parents of the groom graciously hosted for out of town guests. We finally get our rooms, but there is a nice big sign on the front desk saying their parking lot is full, sorry for the inconvenience. Seriously? So my husband brings the car to a municipal lot while we try to figure out what to do. Long story short, he ended up taking it out and finding a spot on the street.

We go up to our rooms and I should have taken pictures because I could have spared you 1,000 words.  I have never been to a hotel room that does not have bedspreads on the beds. No bedspreads and really no blankets either for that matter. Instead that had two thick "sheets" and a piece of material about 2 feet wide and 6 feet long laying across the bottom of the bed. What the hell that is good for I don't know. One of the beds was about 12 inches away from he closet, blocking me from putting all our garment bags in there. The bathroom had little space to maneuver around or to place your toiletries. The dresser was dusty. There were three lousy pillows on each bed instead of four. The pillows left a lot to be desired, just like everything else.  So now we are off to a great start.

The next morning we are busy getting ready for the wedding as best we can. We had no choice but to make due. The maid caught us going back and forth out of the room around 10 AM and she wanted to  clean the room. I told her it can't be now because the bride is getting ready.  By 1 PM we all leave to take the limousine to the photoshoot destination. On our way out my husband spots the maid and tells her the room will be free now if she wants to clean it.  I couldn't understand every word she said, but it was clear to all of us that she didn't want to or intend to clean our room. She was very annoyed. (Can you believe it?  I still can't, but this blog is going to their corporate headquarters as soon as I post it.) So, I politely tell her it's fine, she doesn't have to clean the room, but would she please leave us three clean towels. She calmed down and agreed to do that. And she did.

Sunday morning we prepare to check out and believe me I could not wait to get out of there. My brother in law left the wedding early so we left a couple of favors for him at the desk with his name and room number on them. He was out sight-seeing that morning and told us he was staying an extra night. When my husband hands over the favors the desk person tells him his brother checked out. My husband told them no, he was out this morning but was coming back for another night. Then he called my brother in law to tell him he should call and straighten this out. My brother in law came back to find he had been checked out. You can imagine he was disgusted so he told them he was leaving and made sure they weren't going to charge him for two nights. They said no. Well guess what? They charged him for two nights and, when he called, they told him it would take 24 hours to get the extra charge removed.  Nice.

I am going to make sure everyone I know hears about my experience. I would never stay at this hotel again or any other Best Western for that matter. I do not have one good thing to say about it except it was close to my daughter's venue.

P.S. If you think I'm exaggerating here are some other reviews and by the way one star is being generous.