Cătălina Stan

Oct 202014

Dear Reader,

I’ll start the “Stuck on Replay” idea with a song by Massive Attack, “Paradise Circus”, that you can hear below.
Have you ever been so obsessed over a song that you can’t literally get it out of your mind? In my case, “Paradise Circus” has been just the cup of tea for around 5 years, when I first listened to it on Radio Guerrilla, La Unica Radio con Cojones. So, I will be very high with my words of praise. And, I promise, it is the only time I will do so.
Do you know how hard it is to peak the right ringtone for your phone? You have a dozen songs you like, and you simply cannot decide which one you like the most. So, you end up choosing all of them and setting them separately for different people. Well, not in my case. This song has been the ringtone for my phone since the moment I heard it, and never changed once. I remember feeling so proud of my choice every time the phone rang, especially when I was in crowded places, where other people were able to hear it too. Some of them would even smile at me.
The song gave me courage to talk to a guy I liked back in college. It was a brief conversation and we didn’t speak again, but, in any case, someone really, really cool took notice of me.

It is, also, the last song that I heard before loosing my hearing, last year in December and it is the first song that I started to sound like music, when my hearing began to heal.
Ana changed her ringtone to this song, as well, to help me recognize it and understand it better. Every time her phone rings, Pufi The Yorkie gets really excited and jumps all over the place. He believes that my dad is at the end of the line, which he is in most cases.
I get excited because Hope Sandoval’s voice sounds sweeter and sweeter right from the words “It’s unfortunate…”.

Enjoy the song,


Oct 132014

Dear Reader,

This post’s title says that this is the end of the saga, but I really hope that this is not really the end. Today’s post will include things that I omitted or forgot about in the previous posts and a few personal thoughts based on my experience so far.

If you are someone who used to know me back in my teens, you will ironically ask yourselves: “What? Catalina didn’t become some badass  leader, manager, lawyer, journalist, advertising agent, or something like that?” No. I didn’t become anything like that, even if I was that nerdy in school.

The other day, my mom started reading me fairy tales. She found a book that I got in middle school as a prize for my academic achievements. On the front page my mom found a teacher’s message to me. Among the many words of praise addressed to me, the message also said that I finished my school year with full marks (in Romania, it means 10) . So, I’ll repeat this…I really was THAT nerdy. However, I did not find my place in this world, and I couldn’t settle with a boring job (even though I settled with very little in love, friends, and so on), which is probably a bad quality in my personality. I simply refused to work long and hard hours, for very little money that couldn’t even cover the minimum living expenses in Bucharest. And, to get a decent job as a student, you either have to have connections or have certain qualities and abilities, something I lacked.

My other great passion has always been writing. So, for a while, I looked for jobs that involved writing. But every time I thought I found something it was a poor, lousy, underpaid job such as a transcriber or as an article writer for different websites. You will probably wonder how is it that other people make it? I don’t know. But all my respect to them. I couldn’t.

However, I noticed a rapid growth of some websites and ideas, so I asked myself: “Why can’t I do that?” If there is something that I’ve learned over the years is that you yourself is the best business out there. No matter what idea you may have, if you know how to do it, then you will make it. As for me, I had to find the “what to do” first and began the “how to do it” learning process.

Yes, I was depressed for a long time, and I am finally not afraid to admit it publicly. However, every conscious moment I had I spent it on reading a lot of information and teaching myself things about the Internet, the affiliate market, websites, blogging, webdesign (including coding), social media, promoting an idea online, and so on. I became very interested in these and I was set on reaching an advanced level of knowledge, so, I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else but me every time I faced a techy issue. For a while, I was very much like Dee Dee, from Dexter’s Laboratory,saying what does this button do, pushing around all the wrong buttons, just to see what happens. Oh!…boy…the amount of times I got fatal errors when I misplaced a part of the code on a main website. Then I started all the testing on a test site. An advanced user would have backed up their websites, something I didn’t do for coolorful.com. But, then again, I don’t think anyone backs up their sites saying: “Hey, I should back up my site in case next month I should suffer a stroke, or something like that!”.

To make my point. I found the “what to do” in crocheting. Yes, I know, so many of you will say: “That’s so silly!” It’s like telling a fashion designer that their passion means nothing. A lot of the people that know me showed a lot of admiration towards my crocheting. But, I know that even more laughed behind my back and considered it stupid and of no use. I am not ashamed to admit that I was crazy about it and that slowly, but surely, I was making it. The ideas that I had in mind for coolorful.com gave me the chance to mix every passion and hobby I had, like writing, photography, video editing, webdesign, crocheting (and a lot of other arts and crafts). Just as I mentioned in another post, I was finally picking the pieces of myself up and I was putting my life together. And for the shy, scared, little girl that I was, it meant something.

There are a few more points that I would like to address, especially to those of you who are thinking of starting a crochet business online. You can consider them as tips if you wish to and can be applied to many other ideas besides crocheting:

1. You have a hobby and you are thinking: “How can I make a living through my passion?” First of all, your hobby becomes a job. . Many times I was scared that my passion for crocheting would turn into a burden, or a chore. It won’t. Luckily, there is so much variety in these arts that you won’t get bored with it. However, it will still be a job. And that means time, attention, dedication and affection.

2. You have to get yourself online. I already said that you yourself are the best business. As a result, you can create a brand of yourself/your name. You can also play with words and find a nickname that will express your passion as best as possible. I’ve seen some really cool names out there, like FeltedButton, Babukatorium, Crochet Geek, Made with love by Glama and so on. As much as possible, try using the same name every where you sign up.

3. Do not underestimate the power of social media. So, get yourself a You Tube account, Google +, a Facebook page, Pinterest, and the likes. One day, the right visitor with the right number of followers will pick up your art and will bring you more visitors and followers as well. Last year, one of my photo tutorials on coolorful.com was shared on Pinterest, which doubled the number of visitors on my website ever since.

4. I keep talking about a website. There are many free platforms out there like Bloggspot, WordPress, Typed. They are ok, and user friendly, but they are not as brandable as a real website. A real website means some money invested in it: a domain name, and a hosting plan will cost around 130$/year. I got mine from godaddy.com. If you choose this option, make sure you renew your domain name and hosting on time. And, please, do not forget to back up your site. This is how I lost my work last year, when I did not renew the hosting plan while I was in the hospital.

5. You’ve read the word brand a lot so far. That means you are allowed to be yourself, as creative and imaginative as you can be. The more original and unusual your idea is, the more popular it will become. Don’t copy other people’s work. It is not professional and ethical. That means you should use your own patterns, photos, and written instructions. Do not feel ashamed to place a watermark on a photo you take. There are people out there who will simply steal it and will say it is their own. When you write instructions, even for the basic stitches, make sure you use your own words, and not copy paste them from somewhere else. If someone else copy pasted from you, Google will know who wrote it first; they will penalize the copycats and not the originals. If you inspire your work from someone else, at least have the decency to give credits to that person. I won’t go into details with the copyright infringements, the law is complicated and varies from country to country.

6. Do not force your projects onto other people’s work place. That means do not spam. Don’t you hate it when you get an email promoting some miraculous enlargement pill 🙂 ? No one likes it, either. The Akismet plugin already stopped over 1,500 spam messages from showing up on this blog. Spammers are some of the people that I personally despise the most. They are people who will stop at nothing to use you and your hard work to drive away your visitors to their websites. Don’t do this! It will earn you a bad reputation. I’ve also seen a lot of people posting on popular You Tube account and Facebook pages messages like: “I do this and that…Please, visit my website.”yet another one trying to make a fast buck using you. There are many spam counter measures if you wish to protect yourself from them.

Many of the next points will be You Tube related and will express some things I noticed in viewers behavior. It took me some time to get used to how some people act, so, in the end, I got over it.

7. If you are someone who is thinking about showing and teaching other people how to do things, than you have to put yourself on You Tube. You Tube is huge and there is a great chance that you can find people with same interests. I remember reading a post on Mike Sellick’s blog: he was talking about how the wave of newcomers on You Tube was ruining business for the older You Tube crocheters. I remember feeling very disappointed reading his words and thinking how unfair of him to say something like that. You Tube is a great way for every little artist to get outside their shells, gain a little confidence, and showcase their art.

8. We live in the digital era, so, if you wish to make videos, you have to invest in a decent camera which records in high-definition. No one will watch an out of focus and blurred video tutorial. So, basic editing skills are a must.

9. Make sure your hands and the project you are presenting are visible all the time. I’ve seen tutorials where the person lowered their hands off the screen for a little while right when they were explaining important steps. People like to see what you are doing so that they can do it too.

10. Think carefully who your target viewers are. Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced artist? Who would you like to address your tutorials to? You will have to adjust your teaching methods according to your target. My target has always been beginners…meaning, for those of you who are holding a crochet hook in your hands for the very first time. As a result, most of my tutorials will have a 5 minutes introduction, where I explain a few technicalities about the stitches and then will include extensive step by step instructions with a lot of close-ups so that everyone will know exactly where to insert their hooks. This is something some of the viewers did not understand: my tutorials are made for beginners. Some people complained that I talked 3 minutes too much at the beginning of a video tutorial. One wrote me a message once saying “Less talking, more teaching.” People want to learn how to do things for free but, sadly, they think it’s a piece of cake, and, in fact, they do not have the time nor the patience to actually learn.

11. Another thing that I noticed in viewers behavior: they will be put off by a 60 minutes video tutorial. If you split the video into more parts to make it easier to watch and follow, they will only watch the first part and only some of them will continue to the second, third or fourth part of your tutorial. Guys, some stitches need more time to be taught and you will need patience to learn them. However, many viewers will appreciate your efforts and will follow your instructions to learn. Do not forget that these are those who matter.
Since I’m talking about time, I would like to do a little experiment: take off some time of what you are doing right now. Look at your nails. Look down the floor. On the walls. Out the window. Get up and stretch a little. Go get a glass of water. Go to the bathroom. Splash your face with warm water. Look at yourself in the mirror. Feel the drops of water dribble. Think about something. Anything you would like. Wipe your face with a towel. Go back to what you were doing before. How long has it passed? 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes maybe? And yet, modern people do not have 5 minutes to listen to someone who is trying to teach them how to crochet. I know I’ve seen a lot of bad movies and I’ve been in bad relationships and that is wasted time for me that will never come back. I’ve been completely blind since the 6th of December 2013 and THAT is time I will NEVER get back.
You all know Teresa Richardson as The Crochet Geek on You Tube. She is a wonderful person, who takes away a lot of her time to teach us how to crochet. She has an interesting technique while making her videos, where she would edit parts of the tutorial in slow motion so that everyone can see and understand the steps better. I read some mean comments saying things like “Jeez, can you go slower than that?” If you go through a tutorial too fast people will complain that they didn’t have time to understand the stitch. They will not necessarily think to pause the video and practice what they have just seen, or skip forward the what they think is unnecessary talking to the part of the video they are interested in.
The idea is that good things can, sometimes, come in long packages. In case you make long tutorials, my recommendation is to split them in two-three-four parts. My older tutorials were split in up to eight parts because I didn’t have the equipment to edit them. I apologize for that. Many people will watch this videos from their tablets and many of them do not have fast broad band connections. This way you can help them avoid the buffering issue and they can also take a break between the parts. Who wants to learn will go to the second, third and forth part.
By the way, did you know that a moment is a medieval unit to measure time and in modern times it lasts 1,5 minutes? You can read more about it here.

12. Since you are making tutorials about different things, people will think you are a professionist or an authority in the field, even though you are probably someone just like them: a stay at home mom, or a grandmother, or a young woman like myself with a great passion for crocheting. They will assume you know the answers to everything. They will, sometimes, ask very difficult questions about stitches you might have never heard of before. Do not be afraid to admit that you do not know the answer. That makes you human.

13. And, as a human, do not be scared to be friendly and make jokes once in a while. You are an artist expressing yourself and not a robot. Have fun! I loved watching Mike Sellick’s crochet tutorials because he always made jokes and then giggled. He has a great attitude. I also loved watching Yolanda Soto Lopez’s tutorials as well, because she is very motherly and she make you feel like you are a friend (by the way, some viewers have also complained about her talking too much at the beginning of her videos).

14. Speak loud and clear and use proper words if you decide to tutor in English, or any other language. Many times I felt embarrassed over my “Dracula accent” , and always apologized if my English was bad. Very few complained about my English and a lot of them actually liked my accent. A few said that I should speak louder because they couldn’t hear, which is something I always found funny in a way. Doesn’t everyone have speakers attached to their PC? Try adjusting the volume level and if that is not enough, I will admit it is my fault. One woman even complained that I was breathing too loudly and that it was putting her off. She became very rude and told me I was huffing and puffing so much as if I didn’t want to make the tutorial. I never made a tutorial as an obligation, but because I loved making them.
Just so everyone knows, I’ll explain shortly how I made a tutorial. I set the camera on the tripod, I placed myself behind the camera, wrapped my arms around it and started recording. I looked into the camera’s screen to make sure my hands and the crochet project were visible the whole time, just like I said in a previous point. All the while, I had to make sure the image was focused, especially when I zoomed in and showed close-ups. Sometimes, when an outside factor would interfere with my recording, I had to redo the last steps. All this while standing up. An hour long tutorial would usually take around two and a half hours just for the recording alone. The editing, saving and uploading the tutorial on You Tube would take at least another 6 hours. Sometimes it was exhausting, but I still loved every second of it. My photo tutorials were even harder to make.
In case you did not know, a number of viewers complained about Claire’s Australian accent (from BobWilson123), when, in fact, she is another amazing lady teaching the world how to crochet.
What I mean is that people will complain about everything.

15. If you are a beginner, it might hurt you getting dislikes. I know it hurt me, until I got over it. I remember uploading my first yarn stash video, and someone immediately disliked the video. I had an absolutely wonderful stash and talked about 5 minutes about the yarn, and that person didn’t like it. I often wondered “Why wouldn’t someone like my yarn stash?” In time, I got more dislikes for my videos, even though the vast majority liked them. I simply realized that there are millions of people out there trying to learn how to crochet. You simply can’t make everyone happy. Don’t let the small things bring you down. As long as most of your viewers are happy with your work, you should be fine. If too many are complaining, than you are probably doing something wrong. Take their advice into consideration and learn from positive criticism. Ignore the mean and the bullies. There are always the ban and the report abuse buttons. If you still can’t get over it, you can always disable the likes/dislikes bar and turn off the comments. Keep in mind, though, that this will affect your videos in search results and remember that people simply like to interact and express their opinion. And, do you know what people say about opinions? Everyone’s got one. Take a look around on You Tube. You will find that even the videos with the cutest babies, puppies, kittens get tons of dislikes.

16. If possible, try finding someone to help you, especially when answering to your viewers. They might have extra questions and it is important to try and help them. Sometimes, if you have a lot of subscribers and visitors, answering to messages alone can become overwhelming. It used to take me up to three hours a day answering to questions and comments. Since I am unable to see, now I have my sister to do this for me. But, because I can hear, she reads me your messages and we come up with an answer together. Having someone support you in your venture would be fantastic.

Now, let’s get a little more social:

17. This is one big mistake I made and I hope some of you will learn from my experience. I’ve always been socially awkward. I never liked going to clubs, bars, parties, and didn’t like to hang around with many people. I never joined my flatmates when they played cards and drank to many shuts as punishment for losing, because it wasn’t my idea of fun. Instead, I would have loved to meet people with similar interests. Sadly, I didn’t think of joining a crochet club, or volunteering for an organization while I was in Bucharest, or even in Ireland, where I was so alone. If you find yourself in the same spot as I was, do not be afraid to search for a club or even start one if you can’t find any. I am sure it is one way to meet great people.

18. You can do this alone, or with members of the club, if you joined one. Try participating in handmade fairs, festivals, yarn sales, exhibitions, and so on. Talk to other people and shake hands with them during these events. Show them your work. Make yourself known and noticed. Create connections…connections…connections.

19. The tips I talked about so far are mostly about the online and the digital. How about going old school once in a while? This idea came to me back in college when I used to give away flyers for different companies. Many times I held a huge pile of flyers in my hands and told myself: “Why can’t I give away flyers promoting my own idea?” If you live in a big city, take a day off every now and then, or during your free time and give away flyers while having a walk around the city. Do you think that making a flyer is difficult? That you will need a specialist? Or that it will cost too much? Don’t be silly! Buy paper in bulk quantity, get yourself a printer, preferably one that prints in colors, and start designing something in Photoshop, Photoscape, or even in Paint. Create a design that will catch people’s eyes in such a way they will end up searching for you.

20. If I had the right support, I would have done the above a long time ago. When it comes to creativity, sometimes people’s minds have no barriers. I have always wanted to do a flash mob, or an improvisation involving crocheting. The waves you could make, when you take people by surprise…Create an artistic moment somewhere crowded. People will ask themselves:”What’s going on? Who are these people?” They will record the scene with their phones. They will take photos of you. They will post them online and talk about you. And what does this gain you? POPULARITY.
Don’t do this just once, do it 2, 3, 10 times, or as many time as it is necessary. Do it in all sorts of different places. Be creative, unusual and interesting enough to even make the news.I seriously dare you to express yourself somewhere outside your comfort zone.

There are many other things I could add, but I will stop here. I had to go to the hospital last week and caught a bloody pest of a cold and my brain is half numb at the moment. But I’ll let you know one more thing: Do not expect success to come over night, cause it won’t. You have to work hard to get there, to be committed and have patience.

As for me, the answer to the question “what would I like to do for the rest of my life?” is still pending. It depends on whether I’ll see or not again. But I would like to thank the 16k subscribers for making me feel not a total waste of space. Your support means the world to me and it has helped a lot, especially over the last year. But more about humanity not being dead in a future post.

Now, get your hooks on and Good Luck,


P.S. 1.: Ana will attach bellow some of the thousands of photos I took last year for my photo tutorials for coolorful.com.

P.S. 2.: What did you want to become when you were kids? I wanted to be a mom.

My Soft Spot for Crocheting and Yarn Bombing

My Soft Spot for Crocheting and Yarn Bombing

Oct 032014

Dear Reader,

This week I’ve been on listening to music spree. That is why I’ve been dragging the subject about crocheting for so long. But today, this post will be more to the point.

Last time I said I was invited to go to Ireland for the summer, in 2012. While staying there, I couldn’t find a job, because, well, I was basically just a tourist and couldn’t get all the legal documentation (address, bank account, bills, and the like). So, I had to find something else to do.  Seeing that my You Tube channel was growing a bit, I thought of doing different kinds of videos. I am gonna complain about something right now, and I hope I won’t upset anyone, because I have the highest respect for the famous You Tube crocheters (like Crochet Geek, Mike Sellick, BobWillson123). A lot of the crocheting that I know now I’ve learned from them. However, a lot of their tutorials missed a step, or an explanation, or something else that made things harder for me to understand at times. That is when the idea of making crochet tutorials came to my mind… Long and very explanatory tutorials, which would show viewers step by step, stitch by stitch instructions to help them. The kind of tutorials I wanted other people before me to have made when I first started crocheting.

Dear Reader, you will probably think that I am the most arrogant crocheter, saying things like the above. But I am not, really. I never thought of myself as a teacher, and I will probably never do so. When I started making my tutorials, I was just a beginner myself, who was trying to share her love for crocheting to the world. My first tutorials were sloppy, I talked too much, I got overexcited, I did not have the skills nor the equipment to edit the videos (that is why a lot of my tutorials are split in 3-7 parts). I didn’t like how my voice sounded, and so on. But I was finally putting myself out there, and more and more people became interested in my work. A month or so after, when I reached my first 10,000 views, You Tube invited me to join their partnership program. If you don’t know what that means you can find more information here. In short, it means You Tube will place ads on your videos and you get paid every time some one clicks on the ads. This is how a lot of people around the world make a living.

I won’t talk about my staying in Ireland. It is another whole story in itself. All I can say is that the dream was over in September 2012, when I had to come back home to Romania. My lifestyle was as bad as before. I continued with the lies and the loneliness and the bad habits, but never stopped hoping that one day it was going to get better. Meanwhile, my You Tube channel reached 1,000 subscribers and its first 100,000 views. As I mentioned before, Romania was not yet included in the You Tube partnership. However, sometime in April 2013, I logged on You Tube and saw the banner that said “Monetize your video, join the You Tube Program now”. At first, I thought it was a fluke, some sort of an error, but the message wasn’t going away. So, I applied and got accepted a few hours later. I had to have an AdSense account as well to get paid and this is something I did not dare to apply for. I didn’t know ,then, that Romania got accepted into the program, during that month. In the meantime, I bought a very cool domain name (coolorful.com) and joined Facebook with a page for the website.

I was invited to go back to Ireland. It was a huge risk going back, for so many reasons. But the person I was looking at in the mirror was hideous to me and every cell in my body was craving for a change. A took a plunge, and decided to go back to Ireland and start taking over the world with my crocheting art. During my stay in my home town I didn’t make any tutorials. Many viewers wrote to me and asked me when I was going to upload new videos. Some of you, guys, wrote me some incredible messages that, honestly, made me cry at times. What a great feeling it was to know that people all over the world took your work seriously, when people around you, including your family, didn’t.

While back in Ireland, I faced the same legal issues as a year before. But I was dead set to make it through my art. I got myself a new camera, I started creating patterns and learning new ones, I started making new tutorials, I learned how to edit them, I took thousands of photos and made photo tutorials as well, and I began to put this part of my life together. I went to bed early, and woke up when the alarm rang in the morning, and never allowed myself to waste another minute in bed (my sleeping is that bad). I spent up to 12 hours a day on my crochet business. It was exhausting at times, frustrating, very meticulous and loved every second of it. Sometimes I would even forget to eat, just to have a project done. I never got bored with it. There was always something new and exciting to find and do and my imagination was stirred all the time. The expected results did not fail to show. My videos views grew higher and higher each month and more and more of you, Dear Readers and Viewers, subscribed to my channel. Attached below are a photo of how my You Tube channel looked like and one showing how it looks now.

You Tube Views and Subscribers September 2013

You Tube Views and Subscribers September 2013

You Tube Views and Subscribers October 2014

You Tube Views and Subscribers October 2014

The most surprising was the growth of my site. From an unknown site that was in June, 2013, it turned into getting a little over 100 hits a day, three months later. And all genuine, organic traffic from Google, Facebook, You Tube, Pinterest and other sources. I never bought ad placement from anywhere, but I was very interested in SEO and internet marketing (I’ll talk a little more about this a bit later). In a way, college did help me, after all. It taught me how to promote myself and my business freely. Yes, the bounce rate was a little high, and the average time spent on a page wasn’t very high, but it still was a good start for a website like mine, when the competition is so high, even in the crochet circle. I don’t know if anybody knows what a joy it was to work on coolorful.com. I even created a community on my website and many of you joined the forum and started talking about crocheting an other hobbies. Attached below is a screenshot of how my baby used to look and another one with Google Analytics statistics for my website last year. Maybe, one of the things I am most proud of is when searching for the key word crochet in Google, the engine placed me 3rd in the search results, with a post on Google + (screenshot is attached below).

Google Search for Crochet

Google Search for Crochet

Lots of my Romanian fellows suggested that I make tutorials in Romanian. I took the suggestion into account and started a You Tube channel called Arta Manuala and a website artamanuala.com (it means handmade art). They were supposed to be the Romanian versions of my English crochet site and You Tube channel. They were growing nicely as well and gaining rapid popularity.

It is important not to forget to mention that I did start to monetize my work, both on my You Tube channel and my site. However, the AdSense account was not on my name, which was another stupid mistake I made. In time I set my goals even higher. The plan was to start a yarn shop on coolorful.com and get my sister involved in a crazy and fun project to travel around Romania and meet people who make a living through art. All sorts of arts. Crocheting… Knitting… Yarn coloring… Yarn making… Painting… Sculpturing… Drawing… Traditional arts… Everything artistic that involved working with your hands… We have some amazing local artisans. I dreamed of meeting these special people, taking their interviews, making short documentaries about their work, and even have them teach us how to do different things.

Do you believe my dreams stopped there? No, no, no. I never told Ana this, but my dream was to do the same all around the world and come into contact with all sorts of customs, see how people do things in different places, see what level of creativity a person’s mind can reach…I’m using a lot of the word “see”, something I’m unable to do at the moment. I believe a lot of my frustration comes from the fact that I was very close to reach the first level of that goal and make a nice living through crocheting. If done properly, the dream was going to become real around this time. Oh…there is something else that I’m forgetting…I also wanted to write a book for crochet beginners with lots of photo tutorials and patterns. I became interested in knitting and sewing on a more advanced scale.

Coolorful.com was going to become a “place” for arts and crafts, home and garden, interior design, cooking, decorating, DIY and lots more… A place where every woman, and man with these interests, could take part in.

I lost the website in December, 2013, while in the hospital and all the written instructions, and the hundreds of hours that I put into this site are now gone. At the moment, the domain is in idle mode, just like my thousands of crochet photos, just like my crochet hooks, just like my You Tube channel was about to, and just like my life is now…idle

Collection of Free Crochet Patterns and Stitches

Collection of Free Crochet Patterns and Stitches

I am unable to make video tutorials, but I still remember a lot of the crochet stitches that I made photo tutorials for. So, when time allows, my sister and I will try and put them together. It should tickle my imagination, I hope.

There is a lot more I want to say about crocheting, but the conclusion will be put aside for another time.

Thank you,

Catalina Stan.

Sep 292014

Dear Reader,

Fall has come.  A few days ago I woke up in the morning and asked my sis (her name is Ana) to bring me a pair of socks to put on. Then, I wrapped myself as best as I could in the zigzagy  blanket that I crocheted two and a half years ago.  A warm cup of coffee would have been nice, but, since I am on a strict diet, I’m only allowed to drink natural juices and tea.  Around this time of the year, artsy craftsy  people get their hooks and needles on and start making all sorts of blankets, sweaters, shawls, cardigans, ponchoshats, and all sorts of other little bits and pieces.  This year, I am unable to join the crowd.  I know you will tell me that nothing can stop me, but there is something stopping me (last week, my sister and I tried to record on how to make and attach tassels to a shawl; I was missing so many yarn threads and loops that it became frustrating and weird, so I asked Ana to show the instructions for me – it was the first time she ever worked with a crochet hook…anyway, it is the same when I crochet simple stitches as well: I start with a chain of 20, the first row ends up with 22 single crochet stitches, the second goes to 19, the third uppers into 22 again and so on…Plus, I am unable to stop the tears from flooding down my cheeks when I am holding the bloody plastic hook in my hand.). So, today, I’ll talk a little about crocheting and how crocheting was just about to turn my life around (maybe it can still do so?). I have wanted to talk about this subject for months.

It not easy for me to talk about sad experiences from the past. So, I will start with this. A girl that I used to know and I had only met about five times in my life wrote me some months ago and told me that she read my blog and found out about my current situation. She said she remembers me as a fun, lovely girl who knew what she wanted from life. The fact that she remembered me filled me with joy, but at the same time it saddened me, because she was right. I was some one who wanted to do something meaningful. And I thought I knew exactly what to do to get there. For years I had wanted to work in advertising and make smart, creative ads. …I wanted to put my stamp on things. As a result, I worked very hard to get into the college that was supposed to bring me closer to my dream. But the real real world was not like I had imagined it to be.

Bucharest wasn’t like it was supposed to be.

College wasn’t like it was supposed to be.

Jobs weren’t like it was supposed to be.

Friends weren’t like it was supposed to be.

Love wasn’t like it was supposed to be.

Nothing was like it was supposed to be.

You, guys, will probably ironically say “Boohoo! Welcome to the real world!”

It’s not very easy to adjust to the way things work in the real world, especially if everything was such a big disappointment to you. Sadly, I was one of those cases of smart kids who lost themselves when set loose on their own. I still remember my advertising lecturer say:” You will never work in advertising if you don’t have connections!”  “Thanks, man”. That meant that 90% of the students wouldn’t be able to find jobs in the field.  You, guys, will say again: “Surprise, surprise!”  Well, it was a great shock to me, especially when that was my long life dream.  But how college was the first kick in the butt that life gave me is a whole other story, and I will gladly talk about it some other time (by the way, I would like to listen to your schooling days, your changes, dream jobs and careers).

In the beginning of my second year in college, after a few failing attempts at finding a decent job, I started being interested in handmade work. I first started with jewellery making (it was something a lot of girls were doing at that time), jewellery made out of Fimo that is, and, then, I tried knitting (I even got myself a sewing machine!). It wasn’t my first encounter with knitting needles. My mom and grandma were avid knitters and crocheters when they were young. I remember being fascinated by the wonders that came out of my mother’s hands when I was little. I, also, remember knitting a bra for myself when I was in high school. I even wore it one time while roller skating. A lot of people were looking at me strangely, probably because I was half naked – belly up, and I was in Braila, Romania (where people simply don’t do this kind of stuff), and not in California .

Beginner Knitted Scarf

Beginner Knitted Scarf

Beginner Knitted Purse

Beginner Knitted Purse using variegated bulky yarn

Beginner Knitted Vest

Beginner Knitted Vest

My knitting skills were sloppy and messy. I was nearly embarrassed with the results. My work was so bad that it took a guy (former flatmate) to teach me a few new knitting techniques to make the projects more interesting. Around the same time, my love and obsession for yarn developed as well.  Every time I had some spare money, I would visit the yarn shop (the name of the shop was The Crochet Hook, and was located in the historic center of Bucharest). I loved to look through the skeins of yarn, and , most of the time, I would choose those with the most striking colors.  There is a story I would like to share about buying yarn….The first time I decided to buy yarn, I googled for shops first. I found one located somewhere near Titan Park, in Bucharest. When I went there, I didn’t bring my glasses with me, so, I wasn’t able to see the texture of the yarn and the price very well.  I kindly asked the shop-assistant to let me get closer to the shelves to take a better look, but she wouldn’t let me. I told her that I had forgotten my glasses at home, and she asked me in a very condescending manner: “Why didn’t you bring them?” So, I looked from a distance and chose two skeins of yarn that looked interesting, a orange one and a black one, both with shades of white in between. When I touched them, I didn’t particularly like the feel of them, but the woman at the counter was so awful, that I just wanted to get out of there ASAP. I bought the two skeins and a pair of knitting needles, paid a lot of money for them and left the shop. I never came back there, not even once. I think she thought of me as some kind of teen who wanted to mess around (I look very young for my age). Her loss. I am a very good yarn customer. I wanted to point out that my first yarn shopping was a disappointment. I suppose I thought I was going to, lose myself among the shelves of yarn, to feel the texture of the yarn on my fingers, to read the information on the labels, and maybe weirdly, smell the yarn. The two lovely women at The Crochet Hook shop allowed me to do all of these things, so, I became I faithful customer. Skein, after skein, my stash of yarn was growing slowly and in a year’s time, I had a huge box (maybe I’m exaggerating  a little bit) full of skeins. Every time I bought a new skein of yarn, I would take all of it out of the box, put them together side by side on the bed, or on the floor, and, boy…!, how proud and filled with joy I felt while looking at the colors. It is such a small thing and it probably means nothing to so many people. But for me it really was happiness. Seeing as the path I chose wasn’t leading nowhere I wanted to, these new things, little things, like yarn stashing, coloring, knitting and crocheting brought lots of smiles on my face and somehow filled my half empty heart.

Back to the knitting part…There isn’t any. So, I said to myself: “Maybe I should try crocheting.” (One cute story about me starting crocheting:…One day. while I was visiting my grandmother, I told her that I wanted to learn how to crochet. She gave me her old crochet hook, a thin, rusty hook made out of metal, with a pretty twirled end that she had used for years. Unfortunately, the hook was so rusted, that I couldn’t use it. But I kept it and still have it and, if I am ever blessed with children, I’ll pass this hook on.). It wasn’t the first time I was holding a crochet hook either, but it was the first time I was taking the art of crocheting seriously. My level of crocheting was that of a beginner’s but it wasn’t as awful as my knitting was. In fact, I was doing a pretty good job. However, for nearly two years I didn’t dare do anything else except for the single crochet stitch and the double crochet stitch. Everyday, I would crochet something, and the next day I would undo it until my stitches began to look tight, clear and even. Attached bellow is a photo of me during my third year of college learning to crochet (I hope Ana gets the photo right, I remember it perfectly, even if I can’t see right now).

First Crochet Lessons and Crochet Stitches

First Crochet Lessons and Crochet Stitches

I dreamed of crocheting mountains of shawls, and selling them at the seaside during high season and joining fairs, and earning my living doing the thing I liked most. “Jesus, Catalina! Wake up“, shouted the reality at me then. I was still a beginner and my work wasn’t good enough for the kind of dreams I had in mind. The real world came in between once again. Because of some sad and unfortunate circumstances, I had to live Bucharest and come back to Braila, and go back to a job that I hated , which emptied my other half of the heart. But bills needed to be paid, food needed to bought, and life needed to go on. However, I was still hoping for another way of life. You see, my struggle for a free way of living has always made me a restless soul. When asked “What do you want to do for the rest of your life?”, I never knew exactly what to answer (I thought I knew that I wanted to become an advertising agent, but I didn’t have the skills). And I still don’t know for sure.  Finding something that would make me proud of myself has been the biggest quest in my life. This is something very important to me, doing something that I take pride in, and not just for the sake of getting a salary at the end of the month.

In any case, while wasting my life, my crochet hobby was not completely forgotten.

* * *

Today is the second day we are writing about crocheting and we are probably going to write tomorrow as well. I am due for a walk with my mom, Ana and Pufi, The Yorkie, later this evening. They are making me. I am horrified to go outside the house. But my brain and lungs are begging for a breath of fresh air. I want to make a fun photo of me (showing my love for yarn), but that can only happen tomorrow – will be added in a future post. This morning, Ana gave me a cup of warm milk with cocoa instead of coffee. I really appreciated it. She is very caring and always tries to find something healthy instead of the junk I would like to eat at times. Actually, I haven’t eaten anything junky for nearly a year. But every now and then, my family treats me to a slice of pizza and a bit of sugary stuff. But my eating habits are not important at the moment (however, please, due understand that my family is taking great care of me). So, let’s go back to the crocheting thing.

* * *

My crochet hooks were put aside for awhile.

One day, three years ago, I showed my sloppy made purses to a few people that I had just met. They were very impressed with my work and ask ed me why I wasn’t doing it anymore. One of them suggested me to apply for a You Tube partnership and showcase my art on the internet. Unfortunately, at that time, my country, Romania, wasn’t included in the You Tube partnership program. But the idea of earning my living through crocheting was deeply seeded into my mind. Just like I said before, the job I was doing made me very unhappy. So, I was looking for something to fill my free time and to take my mind away from the daily troubles. That’s when I decided to give crocheting another shot. I was already subscribed to Teresa Richardson You Tube channel (Crochet Geek). Looking through her tutorials, I became interested in the more advanced tutorials. So, I gave them a go. The first stitch that I learned was the Afghan Tunisian Stitch (Entrelac). I made a small example of the stitch for practice purposes and absolutely loved the looks of it.
On a Sunday morning, after a night shift, I went to a local yarn shop to buy some skeins and start my first real crochet project. The shop attendant was incredibly nice and polite and gave me lots of tips. However, I was still a beginner and I only bought nine skeins of yarn for a blanket (this is an issue for every beginner…buying enough yarn to complete your project). When I got home, I took the yarn out and looked at the pretty shades of brown that I bought. I felt very excited and very guilty at the same time. Guilty…because I spent quite a sum of money, which I didn’t particularly have at that moment…buying yarn is a guilty pleasure we crocheters have to deal. But I soon stopped thinking about the guilt and started crocheting my first blanket. And it was coming off the hook so beautifully and tightly, that I didn’t even care that I wasn’t going to finish it (because the shop didn’t have those shades of brown anymore, and I couldn’t find them anywhere else). All I ended up with was a small baby blanket, which I undid a year or so after; there is a photo attached below showing my first Afghan blanket.

Baby Sized Afghan Tunisian Entrelac Blanket

Baby Sized Afghan Tunisian Entrelac Blanket using three different colors

* * *

(My aunt came to visit us in the afternoon, that is why, my sister and I weren’t able to continue with the story. However, we did go out for a walk, and it wasn’t as horrible as I had imagined. It was a bit cold, though, and very loud on the main street and I kept telling myself: “Breathe in, breathe out, Catalina!”, because it felt like I had simply forgotten how to breathe. Now it’s a bit too late to share my thoughts about crocheting. But I still hope we will finish tomorrow. We will probably end up writing a dozen of pages, so I apologize if it is too extensive and, at times, off topic. But please remind yourselves that I’m still blind and partly deaf and this is a great way for me to practice my English skills, my writing, my imagination and my memory. Oh!, and even my patience and my listening. It’s like an online diary.)

* * *

It’s the 3rd day (I keep saying in my mind that it is the first day, probably because I listened to the song “First Day”, by Timo Maas and Brian Molko; I remembered the guy in the video, whom I really liked, and I had a nice dream about him 🙂 ). Anyway, today we will talk about more pragmatic things and less philosophy, less jiberish talking. The point I was trying to make is that I started to commit myself to more complex crochet stitches and projects. And once committed, I began learning incredibly fast.

However, “Life is Life”, as they say. I broke up with the boyfriend I had at the moment (after a five year relationship, which shouldn’t have lasted that long) and started living by myself. These are bits of my life that I am very unhappy with, but I’ll try to tell them in short phrases.

Moving on my own wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had.

For a reason or another (out of stupidity, or craziness, maybe), I pushed my family away.

I lied. A lot. And more importantly, I lied to my family.

I hid myself from my family. I made them believe I was some one else, and that I had a great life and a great job.

I didn’t have any friends. And those I thought were friends and knew a little about my suffering, didn’t do anything to help me, even when I asked them to.

A few of the things that were tearing me apart:  I had massive sleeping problems, I had money issues (they were never enough), eating problems…I felt like everything was an issue. As a result, I felt very lonely, sad, and depressed. I did not tell this to my family because I thought they would not believe me, or that they wouldn’t take them seriously.

I cried a lot. I ate junk food a lot because of it, and always at odd hours. I was so frustrated with my life, that I began to smash glasses on the floor. I was moving furniture at 4 o’clock in the morning. I became a couch potato, watching hundreds of hours of TV shows.

I rarely went out. And when I did, it was only to get myself some more bad food.

You can pretty much guess the state I was in.

Facing these kind of things, some people start drinking, some turn to drugs, most turn to religion, I turned to crocheting. Maybe, some of you have experienced how this type of activity can turn into an obsession. At times, it did feel as if it was an obsession. But most of the time, it simply made me happy. And little by little, my hands began to work wonders. Day and night, I spent hours crocheting blanket after blanket, shawl after shawl, purse after purse, and granny square after granny square. Then I joined You Tube using my real name and started showcasing my crocheting art through videos. They brought me a few views in a short time and I was getting nice compliments from nice people. So, it turned into something really fun for me to do.

Beginner Crocheted Blankets

Beginner Crocheted Blankets using different techniques

In the mean time I met an Irish person and invited me for the summer, in 2012. And that is where my love/hate relationship with crocheting really started.

N.B.: This post was written last week and it turned out to be so long, that my sister and I decided to split it in parts. The next part of the story will come out during the next few days.

Until next time,


Sep 082014

Dear Readers,

Yet again, it has been quite a while since my last post. …Unbelievable how time passes… .114 days until the end of the year… . Yes, I am counting the end of my days. It is the first time in my life that I wish for the time to pass as quickly as possible. I even ask my sister to “wake me up when September ends”. She said she would if she were able to. I even asked her to induce me into a coma, and she is such a kindhearted person, that she googled about the problem and explained to me just how risky something like that would be. I wish my thoughts were a little happier. But it isn’t as bad as I make it sound.

If you haven’t seen my latest you tube videos, than you probably don’t know that I have been able to hear and to understand sounds a lot better. Let me try to explain this in more details. For a while now, I have been able to hear noises like normal people do. The problem is that I don’t understand all the noises that I am hearing. So, when someone is talking to me, I can hear their voice but I don’t understand all the words.  This is even more noticeable when people talk to each other and carry a normal level of conversation. To me, it simply sounds like Chinese (and I don’t mean this in a derogatory way).

However, I have noticed that my hearing and ability to understand sound are getting better every month. At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t even hear and understand my own name, even though my family, especially my mom, were talking quite loudly (I bet the neighbours were wondering what was going on).  The only way I could communicate with my family and other people was if they wrote the letters of the words on my forehead. It was incredibly sad and frustrating and we all thought that this was going to happen for the rest of my life (according to the doctors I was deaf).  As time passed  by, though, I began to understand a few sounds (my mom and sister would repeatedly say the alphabet to me  and other simple words). It’s been four months since anyone wrote on my forehead. If I didn’t understand a word, they would repeat it until I was able to. Now, I am even able to catch some phrases from the conversation of people around me and, thus, I manage to understand the general idea. When other relatives or friends come to visit, they all make the same mistake. They think that I can’t hear, so, they speak louder. But I hear them  fine, I just don’t understand them when they talk like they would with normal people. They only need to have the patience  to speak more slowly and more clearly, that is all.

Last week, my sister gave me some music to listen to.  She was going through my playlist on you tube with my favorite songs and she got to “Rammstein – Sonne”; she asked me whether  I was up to listening to it. I wasn’t sure, in the beginning, but then I thought to myself  that I don’t have anything to lose. And ,boy… it sounded loud and very clear. If you know the song, then you know that it is not an easy song to the ear. I honestly thought that  I would never  be able to listen to this song ever again. I asked her to play “Seeed – Beautiful” . It sounded so familiar that made my eyes watery. Only now do I realise what a joy it is to listen to music.

A few days ago, my sister went to the market and she left me her mobile phone. And while she was out, my father phoned and I answered. We were able to carry a conversation for almost 10 minutes without me asking every minute “What?”. …Another thing I thought I was never going to do: talking on the phone…not that I was a huge fan of talking on the phone. Some people bring their phone with them when they go to the bathroom, or when they have breakfast, lunch or dinner. Or, if you leave your phone for just five minutes  to do, I don’t know, something interesting, and when you come back you see that you have 14 missed calls.  I never liked these things much, so I had some disagreements with my father,  who is a little phoneaholic…just a little, over the years.  In any case, it was very satisfying to talk to my dad on the phone.

Fall is Coming

Pepsi, female Guineea Pig

Fall is Coming

Cric, male Guineea Pig

I was even able to hear Pepsi’s squeak, my female Guineea Pig, …she probably wanted some carrots or something…she sounded like a car alarm, at first, but, as I heard her more and more, I began to recognise her. Cric, my male Guineea Pig, is very old. He was two when I adopted him and now he is six. My sister told me that he could pass away anytime, and this saddens me a lot. I sort of abandoned them when I went to Ireland, last year. My sister often tells me that he spends his days mostly laying down and that I should remember as the fat, squeaky fella that crept into my heart the moment I saw him.

Every Sunday, my mother has been reading me stories about teenage dramas. This helped a lot, so, I wanted to experiment further. I asked my sister to read me “The Catcher in the Rye”, by J.D. Salinger…and I am so glad I did. It’s one of my favorite books. I read it four times myself over the years and it is still making me laugh so hard that I feel like my cheeks are falling apart. I can clearly hear the monotonous tone of my sister’s voice when she is reading to me. She shows no emotions. It sounds funny, and I, sometimes, make fun of her, but I know she does it so that I can understand.

I am thinking about writing a story…more like I’ll be dictating and my sister will be typing. That is way I am having them read to me. I want to get some inspiration. I used to write when I was in high school. I already have a general idea of what the story will be and some of the characters are taking shape, but we are still researching. All  day long, I bug her to read to me about psychology, about literature, plot techniques.  I won’t name the subjects I’m interested in because you would think that I’ve gone insane again.

Also, I am thinking of rebranding my you tube channel, but me and my sister are still in the thinking phase. I have a few more ideas and plans that were seeded  in my brain and I will gladly talk about them in the future because I am going to need your help.

Jeez…I just wanted to say some random stuff, but my sister made me talk about my condition again.  I just wanted to prove to myself that I can think on the spot and create something that has meaning. I used to love writing so much! I wanted to see if my brain still capable  of that.  Because, Dear Readers, if I told you the ways my brain is literally torturing me, you would probably think that I’ve gone crazy. I’m barely making it through the day. But this is a story for another day.

I asked my sister to add three pictures that I took during autumn, 2009, at Mogosoaia Castle , Romania. …I am very proud of them…

I am not much of a fan of summer, or winter, for that matter. Instead, I like to sit on a bench, in the park, and drink something warm and  look at the people passing by. But the thing I like most is to take off my shoes and walk on the wet grass.

I hope you find some inspiration in the colours.

Take care,




Jun 252014

Dear Readers,

Welcome back for the last part of my story. If you were unable to read the previous parts here are the links: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

My last post ended with me being on an ambulance heading back to my hometown. Unfortunately for me I wasn’t sent to my home, like I had hoped, but, instead I was taken to the hospital to continue the treatment and to run more tests. It was a huge disappointment being back in the hospital, but then I thought that it would be easier because I would have the support of all of my family. Sadly, it didn’t become easier at all, I felt only disgust. I could not believe the difference between the person I was two months before the accident and the person I had become in the hospital.

That day, 10th of December, I was taken for another MRI scan; it only lasted about 10 minutes, the shortest one of all of them. My mother told me that she heard one of the nurses say:”E varza!” , which means that my brain was pretty much fucked up (excuse my language). I was back in the care of the neurologist that attended to my case in the beginning of my hospitalization.

All I remember about that day were the noises… there was so much noise, I could hear loud voices, doors closing. It is unbelievable how much noise can be in a state hospital. You see in the movies that if you so much as whisper someone will come and reprimand you. Our state hospital are not like in the movies. I thought that when you are in the hospital you are supposed to get better. It didn’t feel that way to me. I couldn’t believe how inconsiderate some people were. Although smoking is strictly forbidden in the hospital some people just couldn’t wait and absolutely had to smoke. They did that mostly in the bathrooms, but the room I was in was near the bathrooms so I could smell the smoke.

My family was taking turns to keep watch over me: my father was with me in the morning, then my sister would keep me company in the afternoon, and late in the afternoon my aunt would join her; my mother stayed with me during the night, but sometimes she would change shifts with my sister. I was happy to be able to talk to other members of my family and to be able to hear their voices. I could still hear with my left ear for a bit. But even this little bit would soon be gone. My ability to understand noise was fading away, but, even then, I didn’t realize that my brain was at fault, and I blamed everything on the noise I was hearing in the hospital. There were no ear check-ups, which left me very confused; I was losing my ability to hear and I felt that they weren’t doing enough. Of course, I didn’t know that it was a neurological problem, that my ears were absolutely fine, and that it was the auditory nerve that was malfunctioning. I don’t know how, but through some miracle, I was able to hear and understand my own voice. This helped me a lot, it kept me from going insane.

The situation didn’t seem to change for the better. In fact, I felt as if I was slowly becoming a vegetable. I was pinned to the bed 24 hours a day. The IV with the heparin treatment was in my left arm, and my right arm was used for taking blood samples and other IV’s. I was so weak I could barely stand. However, whenever I wasn’t on an IV I tried to motivate myself a little. So I tried to do some exercise. I could only walk for two meters (about 7ft) to the nearest window, and I would breath in some fresh air. That was “my daily walk”… I wasn’t able to do anything more. I am very embarrassed to say, but I couldn’t even pee normally anymore. I was 26 years old and I had to pee in a special potty. I felt so disgusted with everything, especially with myself.

Bruises Left by IVs and Needles catalinastan.com

Bruises Left by IVs and Needles

A very important issue which I should not forget to mention: even at that point in time my family, especially my mother, believed that I had a tooth infection. Why did they still believe that? Because nobody tried to explain anything to them. My mother insisted that I were given antibiotics and they did, eventually, which made my family even more suspicious. I was under the right treatment for my condition, I was given antibiotics, I was given standard IVs with vitamins, but I wasn’t showing any improvement…my blood was still tick, and it would still clot in the needle. The neurologist and the hematologist suggested that I might have trombophilia, a rare blood disease with an abnormal blood coagulation rate. The doctors told my family that it is a very expensive test and no matter what the result would be the treatment was the same.

The last three days in the hospital were the worst. I had lost my hearing completely, so I couldn’t communicate with people anymore. I think I reached a catatonic state. or at least, it felt that way. I didn’t feel in control of my body, my mind was adrift in the darkness. I could not believe the degradation I was in. The blood tests kept on going and once every 6 hours, somebody would suddenly sting a needle in my arm and would try to take some blood, but couldn’t, and then tried some more; my arms were full of bruises, there was simply no place left to sting the needle. The doctor feared that my brain would shut my kidneys too, so they put a special device inside, a probe. It was so painful and so humiliating. What’s worse, I had been constipated for a week and my tummy was swelling; even though it was risky, the doctor approved doing an enema. That was the last straw. I begged my parents to take me home because I couldn’t take it anymore.

On the morning of the 18th of December, 2013, a nurse came and took out all of my IVs. I was confused, what happened? My sister was trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t understand. After a while, I felt something pressing on my forehead: it was a man’s hand. I recognized my father’s fingers. It took me a while, but the fingers were trying to convey me something. My father was writing on my forehead that I WAS GOING HOME. I felt like it was taking forever. My sister dressed me up, but the probe was not removed. We had to wait for an ambulance to take me home. Everything felt unreal, I thought that my father was lying to me:”Why was the probe not removed?’ Why do I have to go in an ambulance again? They are sending me back to a hospital in Bucharest! I don’t want that! I want home!” These were the thoughts that were running through my head at that moment. I was going to believe that I was really home if our little Yorkie (Pufi is his name) would jump in my arms and lick me.

Victory Sign catalinastan.com

Happy to Be Going Home

Finally, the ambulance arrived, after a short while the ambulance stopped, father and the paramedic helped me get off of the ambulance. My father took me in his arms, and I felt him climbing some stairs and then he entered in the elevator…it was only one floor and, then, it starting feeling familiar. I was put on the bed and a furry like creature jumped onto my lap and started licking my hands. When I put my hand on that little thing and started petting him I knew I was finally home. Shortly after, my mother and aunt hugged me and kissed me and I started crying.

My family saved my life when they took me out of the hospital and the day I set foot in the apartment was the day I began to heal.

As I said before, most of the time I was unaware of what was happening, so here are some things my family told me much, much later, when I was feeling better. They told me I had a stroke only until the late of February, when I began to communicate with people again. I thought that the doctors released me from the hospital, but, in fact, my parents signed some papers and took me home against the doctors advice. My mother and sister went to see a dentist and showed him the scan. He assured them that there was no infection, so this was ruled out as a possible cause of my condition.

Right after I left the hospital, I asked my mother if I was in serious danger. At fist, she told me that she didn’t know, but later on she admitted that my life was at risk, because they couldn’t find the cause of my hypercoagulation and the treatment wasn’t working.

My mother told me , well she wrote on my forehead (that is how my family communicated with me…by writing letters on my forehead). She told me a story about a girl, who also came back from Ireland, she also lost her sight and the doctors also insisted that she had an infection. She was scared and begged her parents to take her home, but they were too afraid so , in the end, the girl died in the hospital. She, too, was only 26 years old. Hearing this story and finding out about my stroke, I connected the dots and I realized that my parents brought me home so I wouldn’t have to die on a hospital bed. It broke my heart knowing that I came so close to dying and I wasn’t even aware of it. Honestly, I never believed that I would die. Once I began to understand people better I asked my mother again to tell me he whole story without hiding anything. I could hear a shaky voice telling me that the doctor told them that I was going to die. My mother refused to believe her:”There is no way my baby girl is going to die!”, she shouted. So, they took me home hoping that I could at least have a peaceful death. They let it all in God’s will.

I do understand that the doctors tried to do everything in they power to help me, but they were simply overwhelmed by my case. They didn’t listen to my story at all. If I were 50yr and had the same symptoms, they would most certainly have believed that I had a stroke. But I was 26 and came back from a foreign country. They did tests even for HIV (I know it’s standard procedure, but it made me feel very dirty, like I had done something wrong). They even suspected I might be pregnant because I had a glass of water and found it very sweet and I immediately started to throw up.

I know I am at fault because I should have asked for help sooner. But I can’t believe that none of the doctors that treated me were unable to help me. Right now, I am very distrustful of doctors and resentful, as well.
When I left the hospital for good I threw up. At home, my mother tried to feed me some rice, but I threw up again. However, that was the last time and even to this day, I haven’t thrown up once.

My treatment consisted of an anticoagulant (Sintrom), one pill a day at lunch, and vitamins. That was all. This simple treatment slowly put me back on my feet. But I will talk more about the healing process in another post.
This is the story of how I had a stroke at 26.

There are still probably a lot of other details I forgot about or I don’t know about.

I decided to tell you my story because I want it to be an example for all of you. It is unbelievably easy to lose something precious, and so incredibly hard to get them back. I hope that my story will help you reevaluate your priorities and realize that it is very important to take care of your health and to enjoy every second of your life.

Be well!

Jun 162014

Dear Reader,

The 3rd part of the story of how I became unable to see and hear is finally here. Here are the 1st and 2nd parts of the story, in case you missed the previous posts, so you can have a better understanding of what happened.

It is becoming harder and harder to talk about this events and it is breaking my heart into more thousands of pieces just by thinking of them. But I started it, so I have to finish it.

In my previous post I said that I was yet again moved to another hospital: The National Institute of Cerebral Vascular Diseases. For the love of God, I didn’t understand why I had to be moved again! I thought that the treatment was going well and I finally started feeling a little safer and comfortable. While there, I remember saying:”But I can see myself in the mirror!”. I was faintly able to recognize myself in the mirror, I could see my mother’s blurred face. Right now, I would give anything to have even a quarter of what I could see back then. But my brain doesn’t want to give even 1% back. It is unbelievable and incredibly painful to lose so much in such a short time.

I believe this last transfer to another hospital was crucial in my losing my sight and ability to hear. I simply got fed up with everything and all I wanted was to go home. Every last shade of hope that I had disappeared and it was replaced with terror and disgust. The first thing they did when I arrived was to undergo an Angiography. I still have no idea what they did to me exactly, but all I remember from that medical procedure was that it felt awful. I was throwing up the whole time and I was so scared because nobody told me what they were doing to me. Everything happened so fast. On my right side the doctors were cutting something in my upper right thigh and pushing something through that cut. On my left side, a nurse was trying to calm me, she was doing her best to be nice but I didn’t care. I thought I was in surgery. I don’t remember anything else about this part. My mother said that after that I also had a CT scan and a short MRI taken to see if there were any brain tumors or if the “water in the brain” that the ophthalmologists previously discovered was higher than normal. They discovered nothing of the sort. Instead, they said that five of my dural venous sinuses on the right side of my brain were filled with blood clots.

I was immediately put in intensive care, under strict observation and heparin treatment. The doctors were very alarmed because my left arm and leg were reacting abnormally again, like in epileptic patients. But I didn’t know that. I didn’t get to talk much with my parents that day. It was the first time that I was alone since becoming hospitalized. That night, on December the 5th, I lost my eyesight completely and my hearing was severely impaired. I was able to hear a little bit with my left ear, but only if people talked near my ear.

Even though I was in intensive care and, supposedly, it should be quiet. That wasn’t the case there. I was with other three patients and it was so unbelievably LOUD. All I could hear were people’s voices, the noise made by plastic bags,and many other noises. You are probably wondering how I was able to hear. In that situation, that would have been a blessing. Unfortunately, I lost the ability to understand and recognize sound. Being neurologically deaf means that all the noise that is perceived by the external ear can no longer be recognized by the brain and turned into sounds that have a meaning. They just simply remain noise. (I can’t stop crying, as I remember this painful experience).

I was hospitalized for five days in this hospital and the whole time I felt like I was in a nightmare. I was fortunate because they let my mother stay with me all the time, though she would have to step out of the room whenever a new patient was brought in. My mother stayed with me day and night, sometimes my father would take her place so she could get some sleep. I still don’t understand how she was able to withstand all that, not having a proper sleep for such a long time, feeling stressed and scared. But, I guess, a mother’s love is infinite. She can bear anything as long as it is for the sake of her child.

Intensive Care catalinastan.com

Intensive Care

As usual, they took blood samples every six hours, to monitor the thickness of the blood and to discover the cause. The doctors were stunned because they had never seen anything like what was happening to me before. Although I was given heparin, which is the strongest blood thinner, it didn’t seem to work for me very well. While heparin was being pumped through my vein in my left arm, the nurses were trying to take blood samples from my right arm, but the blood would clot in a matter of seconds.

On the 6th of December my sister came to visit. She didn’t come with us from the beginning because it was inconvenient. I was really happy, I was just thinking that it would be a nice St Noel surprise. She wasn’t allowed to stay very long, but I was able to talk to her a little. She told me about our little Yorkie, my two Guinea Pigs, and all sorts of other trivia, which was a nice change of pace. I felt so incredibly happy to have another loved one next to me! In that moment I felt that I wanted to go back home. And I asked my parents to go back home. I had to wait for another three days because, firstly, it was the weekend, and patients aren’t released from the hospital during this time; and secondly, we had to wait for an available ambulance to take me to the hospital in my home town.

This is what I remember, but my parents told me much, much later that things were more complicated. The first day I was checked in and the doctors discovered all those clots they told my father that my life was in danger and that if the treatment were going to work, in 48 hours I would be safe. The doctors weren’t very optimistic about my chances. That night there were at least 10 doctors present studying my case. They explained to my father how blood clots filled some of the dural venous sinuses and , as a result, blood and oxygen stopped flowing through the smaller veins which led to an ischemic stroke: neurons started dying. They came up with different opinions about the probable cause: most of them said that the birth control pills determined the coagulation disorder, some believed that I might have some protein deficiency, others thought that I might have a rare blood disease. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to arrive to a definite conclusion. My father was shocked, his heart was starting acting up again (he has heart problems), and that is why he called for my sister to come visit me. He thought it might be the last time that I would get to hear her; and it was also for his own emotional support.

The first critical night went by smoothly, with no significant incidents. The second day went by the same way,and then the third, fourth and the fifth day. I had beaten the odds, and I survived.Everything was within acceptable values, except for the blood: it didn’t get ticker, but it didn’t become thinner either. The doctors were at a loss: they couldn’t perform surgery because the vessels were to small and the treatment was working too slowly. They told my parents that there was nothing else they could do. The treatment I was under was standard procedure for this kind of situation and was available in all hospitals. My parents had also reached the limits of their strength and budget, and asked that I be discharged.

On the 10th of December I left Bucharest and went to the hospital in my home town.I remember that the drive back home in the ambulance was very bumpy, and stressful.

I was going to make this the last part, but there was so much to say. Out of all my hospitalizations, this was by far the most terrifying. So, I ask you to bear with me until the end.

Jun 122014

Dear Reader,

Thank you for coming back to read my story. If you are new here you should refer to part 1. Let’s continue with the story.

Last time I said that I had to see a specialist in infectious diseases. We were referred to The Hospital Of Infectiuos and Tropical Diseases “Victor Babes”, and a neurosurgeon at the Bagdasar-Arseni Emergency Hospital in the capital, Bucharest. Me and my parents arrived there on the 27th of November. Firstly, we went to see the neurosurgeon. He looked through my files and asked for the MRI scans. However, we didn’t have any because weren’t given anything of the sort when I was discharged. There was only the review made by the radiologist. He immediately lost interest in my case and his attitude expressed that I was wasting his time and that he was in a hurry as he was scheduled for a surgery. He basically kicked us out of the door.

Next, we went to he hospital of infectiuos and tropical diseases. This is when the order of events sort of breaks for me, everything becomes blurry. All I remember from that time were the fear, the pain, the confusion. I had to undergo all sorts of tests, every 6 hours they would come and take blood samples, I was pinned to the bed with IVs on both arms. I was gradually losing my eyesight and everything felt one hundred times more terrible. The people that I shared the room with didn’t make my life any easier. In the first days I stayed with two women with meningitis and all day long all they did was to talk about food while I was throwing my guts out. Two days later they brought in a baby with meningitis who cried day and night. I wasn’t bothered by the baby crying, I was more upset at the fact that why would the hospital mix children with adults?

So far, everything that I have told you was from my perspective. Here is what my parents told me that happened:
-1. the sudden coagulation disorder has finally become the primary concern – the blood tests showed no signs of infection. They suspected that the birth control pills were the main cause. (I took birth control pills mostly for medical purposes – for uterine fibroid – four months at the beginning of 2013, and four months the year before), so I wasn’t on birth control pills when the incident happened.
-2. an university professor specializing in neurology showed some interest in my case, and after learning about my symptoms he believed that the cause might be a tooth infection. (I was having some problems with one of my molars, but the pain was inconsistent, so I didn’t pay much attention). And then he asked his students to do experiments on me.
-3. later that day I was taken to the dentist, I had a dental scan taken. The scan showed that there were two molars that needed to be pulled out, there was no sign of infection, but he didn’t completely ruled it out either. That is way, for a long time we believed that these were the main cause for my coagulation disorder.
-4. the doctor that took care of me believed that I was never infected with anything, and that everything was happening because something wrong was going on with my brain. He insisted that I take another MRI. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the weekend when I checked in the hospital, and, unless you are in mortal danger, there is little chance to find available personnel to do MRI-s.
-5. on the 2nd of December I took an MRI in a different hospital. They discovered blood clots in one of my dural venous sinuses, on the right side of the brain. My father kept in touch with the neurologist that treated me and told her about the blood clots. That is when she looked at my first MRI and, indeed, she noticed the blood clots as well. She neglected to check the radiologist’s review and just went along with his opinion. Unbelievable, right?

Pinned to the Bed catalinastan.com

Hospital in Bucharest

Finally, after two weeks of tests and examinations they found out what had happened to me. I had a cerebral venous thrombosis caused by hypercoagulation (the blood thickened at an alarming speed) and caused a minor ischemic stroke. They checked me in that hospital and was put under immediate treatment with heparin through IV. Sadly, by then I was 90% blind, partially death (my right ear was affected) and a hemiparesis on the right side of my face. I began to have trouble understanding people, they had to talk to me near my ear. My left arm was also moving uncontrollably up and down and when I was touching my face with that arm I felt as though that wasn’t my arm but somebody else’s. I had some problems with my left leg too. But I was never aware of all of these because I was on the bed all day and all night.

The doctors started investigating the cause of my excessive coagulation. Some doctors believed that the birth control pills were the cause, some that it was something else. None of the doctors agreed that an emotional break down could have caused this hypercoagulation. They suspected that I could have been drugged with some harmful substances. But none of the tests showed anything out of the ordinary, so it remains a mystery even to this day.

The treatment seemed to work because I was experiencing some improvements. I regained some control over my left arm, I was able to get out of bed on my own and I was even able to see some things. I remember seeing my orange tank top, my trousers, the pink robe of my doctor and the fact that she wore black makeup, the window in front of me with its’ blue curtain and my mother’s loving face, she looked so worried.

The otolaryngologist did some tests to my ears and she discovered some problems she couldn’t explain. She believed it might be an infection, so I was given antibiotics in addition to my initial treatment.I am very confused about the 5th of December. My parents told me that I was sent for further investigations regarding my eyes. Here is when all the craziness begins. The doctors discovered that the cerebrospinal fluid (“water on the brain”) was was very high and was pressuring the vessels. They feared that the blood vessels will break leading to hemorrhage. I was sent immediately to The National Institute of Cerebrovascular Diseases. The last thing I remember seeing was the back of the ambulance and a sign saying: “Attention…something.

This concludes the second part of my ordeal. On the 5th of December I became completely blind, I was 70% death and extremely scared. That is the day my whole world became darkness.

Jun 112014

Dear Readers,

It has been quite a while since my last post (100 days to be exact).I apologize for that, but I think I was waiting for something good to happen to report back to you. Many times I said I wasn’t ready to talk about what had happened to me, but I think it’s about time I shared my story to the world. My family has continuously searched for cases similar to mine. But they couldn’t find anything, because what has happened to me is something very rare and there isn’t much data.

I never explained what exactly happened to me. That is because, even I didn’t know much of what was going on with me. My family tried to spare me from bad news. This post will be a bit long (it will have several parts) and a little bit technical, so please bare with me.

Basically, I had a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis which turned into an ischemic stroke. A cerebral venous sinus thrombosis is the presence of blood clots in the dural venous sinuses. As a result, part of the brain stopped receiving oxygen which led to brain death.

You are probably wondering what was the cause of this dreadful experience?

It all started at the beginning of November, 2013. Someone I cared for deeply hurt me in a way that was very shocking to me. He betrayed my trust in such a way that really destroyed me psychologically. I was living in Ireland, at that moment. In a mere second I found myself completely and utterly lonely in a faraway country, far, far away from my family. So, I cried and cried, the kind of cry that makes you fall apart. I wanted to come back home that very day, but unfortunately, I didn’t have that much money. You know what it’s like at the beginning of the month…you are always short on money. The next day I started feeling nauseous and began to throw up. Four days later, I started seeing double and a grey spot appeared in my right eye. No matter how much I tried, I wasn’t able to regain the focus in my right eye and the spot didn’t disappear. For the next couple of days I continued to vomit twice a day, and it was getting worse. I could barely eat anything, because the minute I did I would immediately throw up; also, I slept very little, about 3-4 hours per day. But the worst were the headaches. They weren’t normal headaches. It felt like when you stay upside down and all the blood rushes to your brain and then you suddenly stand up, but the blood doesn’t flow back, it just stays there, pressing the brain. I was so scared, but I felt reluctant to ask for my family’s help, because they were also tight on money and I didn’t want to burden them.

You are probably wondering why I didn’t go to a hospital right away. Money. Unfortunately, in Ireland you have to pay for health insurance. I thought I didn’t need it, because I thought I was young…what could possibly happen to me? I was going to pay for one when I would increase my income. I heard that people without health insurance would have to pay around 1000 Euro per day. There was no way I had that kind of money. I didn’t have much contact with the locals,except for the person I was having a relationship with. He didn’t give me the support I needed, neither emotionally, nor financially. He was in between jobs. I asked him if he could borrow some money from the people he knew, so that I could come home and see a doctor, but the help came to late.
I thought that it would go away,never for a moment did I suspect that there was something wrong with my brain… Ignorance… But it was becoming clearer and clearer that it wasn’t going away. So, a week later I finally asked my family for help and they bought a ticket for the 16th of November.

On the 18th of November we went to the doctor of general medicine. He was very concerned about the spot in my right eye, so he advised us to visit an ophthalmologist and a neurologist as soon as possible. The next day, according to the appointment, I went to the ophthalmologist. The doctor was even more worried so she urged me to go to the hospital, in my home town Braila, for more tests. However, the doctor didn’t give me much information as to what was happening to me. She didn’t explain anything, and in ten minutes I was out of the door. So, later that day we went to the hospital at the emergency unit. The internist that I was assigned to laughed when I told him the symptoms I was experiencing. The ophthalmologist on duty that day checked my eyes, and she thought I might have an infection.

So, I had to take several tests to discover if I had an infection. They all thought that, because I came from a foreign country, I must have caught an exotic virus. At that moment, the movements of my right eye weren’t in sync with the movements of my left eye. And they still thought it was an infection.

Braila Emergency Hospital catalinastan.com

Braila Hospital

The next day, I had to give another set of blood samples. Although I had taken blood samples the previous day, and there was nothing out of the ordinary with the blood flow, the next day, when they took my blood they couldn’t. My blood was so thick that it instantly clotted inside the needle. The hole process made me feel nauseous again, I almost fainted and then I started throwing up a green liquid. They immediately put me on IV.Even after describing them all the symptoms, they still didn’t take into account that I might have something similar to a stroke. I had a CT but they found nothing .I was in the ophthalmology department for 4 days but they couldn’t discover what was happening to me.

I was moved to the neurological section. The blood tests continued, including lumbar puncture and an MRI. The MRI didn’t show anything suspicious. Now that I look back, I think it must have been a very small clot for them to miss it, because the blood clot that blinded my right eye was most definitely there from the beginning. The neurologist worked together with two ophthalmologists. Both of them still claimed that it was an infection. But the results from the blood samples didn’t show any signs of infections in the blood, and everything else was within normal range. I have to mention that I wasn’t feverish at all at any time. The questions on everyone’s mind were: What was causing my blood to thicken so quickly? and Why was there a swelling on my right eye, because that is what they discovered inside my right eye? This swelling is called papilledema.

The neurologist had a different opinion: she thought that I had Pseudotumor Cerebri. This means that the pressure inside your skull is very high. And my intracranial pressure was extremely high and I was at risk of losing sight my left eye as well. But, the ophthalmologists continued to claim that it was an infection caused by an exotic virus and I needed to see a specialist in exotic viruses, in the capital . The neurologist advised us to seek the help of a neurosurgeon.

Throughout my hospitalization I was given some basic IVs, but none included treatment for my thick blood, which continued to thicken. They were so set on the exotic virus being the most probable cause that they completely disregarded everything else. When I was discharged from the hospital I was in the same condition as I had checked in, it didn’t worsen, but it didn’t improve either. I still had double vision, terrible headaches, nausea, and I still threw up from time to time.

This is the beginning of how I became unable to see and hear. If you have knowledge of similar experiences, please don’t hesitate to comment. I would really like to know how others cope with strokes.

Feb 212014

Dear Reader,

Last time I wrote to you I said I had set my mind to do the extraordinary with the few abilities I have left. But, also, I asked for a little time to heal. Well, I think I am going to need even more time.

It’s been 113 days since life kicked me in the butt and I’ve been laying smashed into the ground ever since. There is very little strength left in my arms to pick myself up from the ground. This is not like a headache where you take a pill and the pain goes away. It is not like a tooth ache and going to the dentist and having your cavity treated or your tooth extracted. It is not even like having a surgery where your problem is fixed and wait for your wounds to heal in time. I look to my left. Black. I look to my right. Black. I look up, down. I turn myself around and look. All I see is BLACK. It does not matter how much I rub my eyes. It does not matter how many gallons of tears wash up my cheeks. This is not going away. It’s like a pest and if it ever goes away, it will only do so when there won’t be any hope, power and will left and all that will be left of me will be a hollow of the person I was. In all honesty, if I were in a group and we were chased in the forest by Jason, I would be the first to fall down and I would be “chainsawed”.

I was told not to believe in “what ifs” . I was told not to look into the past because it will make me more sad. I was told not to look forward to the future, as it would make me feel even sadder. I was told that I should live in the present and enjoy every bit of it, however mundane it may feel. But when you have so much free time on your hands, all you can do is think over and over and over and over…and over again over the things that led to who you are.

If only I had woken up half an hour earlier or later on the 1st of November… If only I had walked in another room than the other…If only I had turned on the TV and watched something… If people really deserved their trust…If only I had been apologized to… If only I hadn’t been curious about silly things…If only I hadn’t cried my whole heart out for hours… So many ifs… And if only one of them were different, none of this would have happened. And now I would have been drinking a cup of tea and thinking about my next crochet tutorial. It’s sad. Instead all I can do is punish myself and be disappointed with the choices that I’ve made. How could I ever believe that it will go away, when I was throwing up twice a day and I wasn’t able to see well through my right eye? How could I have put my life in other people’s hands who didn’t deserve my trust? How could I ask for help from other people other than my family? How could I have waited for ten days to tell my parents about the gravity of the situation and ask for their help ? A lot of ifs and hows. I remember when I left Ireland, I thought I would go to the hospital and that I would be fine in two weeks time. When I lost my sight completely, I remember that I thought that it would come back by the 1st of February. But none of that happened.

My bio energy doctor told my mother that she wasn’t even allowed to sigh, that we should think positive. But, you can’t be positive all the time. He also said that if God didn’t want me to heal, than God wouldn’t have sent me to him. He, also, has been expecting me to see for weeks now. None of that has happened yet, although I can’t ignore the little improvements that have been happening to me lately. My family tells me that you break things easily , but it takes time and a lot of hard work and patience to mend them. There is still a little bit of hope and patience left in me. How do I know I haven’t lost all hope yet? It is because I think that in six months my brain would have had enough time to heal. There are 129 days until the 1st of July. Little over six months since I started home treatment. So, what are four months left in comparison with the rest of my life? If my sight will ever be restored, that is? Have you noticed that I haven’t said a word about my hearing? It is because all I want right now more than anything else is to be able to see. I came to the conclusion that I could be happy just seeing.

I was talking about “what ifs” earlier. If the blood clots that affected my eyesight and hearing happened anywhere else in my body, it could have been much worse. If the worst happened, I know my mother would have never worn anything else but black. My father would have gone white and would have never smiled again. And my sister…well, I don’t think she would have trusted anyone or anything ever again. They are the only reason I wish for the worst to not have happened. At the same time, how badly I wish that my mobility had been affected instead of my sight. I would replace my hands and legs with my eyes and ears any day. At least, that is how I feel right now. Even so, I would still be able to climb a mountain and enjoy the view. Even though I am not able to understand what I hear, my mind is as sharp as a butcher’s knife which makes things even worse as I am fully aware there is a whole life happening out there that I am not taking part and I am missing it.

All I am left to do is spill my frustration and pour my heart out on the internet and I hope that, at least, a few of you will learn from my experience. If you suffer from depression, tell some, ask for the help from the people you trust most and treat it. If a person or another makes you cry on a daily basis, they don’t deserve your trust and affection. If your instincts tell you that there is something fishy going on around you, than there probably is. You don’t need to over think things and be paranoid, but don’t give away too much, too soon, either. In collage, my philosophy teacher told us once:

“In life you only meet a few persons, the rest is population.”

In the mean time, I’ll go back to my black prison counting the few hours left until I go to sleep. It is the only time in a day I don’t care that I am blind. Also, there will be 129 days until the 1st of July.

I will tell you more about the little improvements in my condition in my next post.

Stay well,


Friday The 113th I Want My Own Prison Break

P.S.: I want my own Michael Scofield to help me escape from my prison.