Itching to Stitch

House of ReamyI’ve loved the needle arts since I was a little girl when my grandmother first taught me some basic embroidery stitches. Since then I’ve completed dozens of cross stitch and needlepoint projects—most of them from kits or books. My largest and most ambitious project to date is a cross stitch rug that is approximately 3’ x 5’. The rug, which depicts a Celtic lion and lamb, is designed by Alice Starmore and is featured in her book, Celtic Needlepoint (Trafalgar Square Publishing, 1994). That rug hangs on a tapestry rod above the TV in our living room presently, and it’s one of my most treasured pieces of personal art.

Last year when my husband and I got married, I decided I wanted to stitch a personalized tapestry to commemorate our marriage. After weeks of toying with design ideas, I ultimately settled on the design pictured here. I purchased the pattern for the center monogram from New York Needleworks, and then I added our name, marriage date and a border using PCStitch. It’s my first semi-custom design, and I’m dying to finally begin stitching.

It took quite a long time to gather the materials necessary to complete this project. It’s been many years since I completed my needlepoint rug, so I was blissfully unaware that the original manufacturer of Paternayan wool (my favorite needlework yarn) had gone out of business not long after I purchased the wool to complete the rug project. As luck would have it, however, a new manufacturer, Saco River Dyehouse, recently began reproducing this gorgeous wool. I managed to locate a wonderful local retail supplier for the new Paternayan wool. The timing of my itch to stitch a new needlepoint project and the renewed production of my favorite wool is truly remarkable. I was amused to discover that nearly all of the wool in stock at my local supplier was from dye lot 001.

Needlepoint is sort of a bastard art in the United States. It’s far more popular in Europe, so it’s not always easy to locate materials here in the US. If you or anyone you know is looking for a reliable source for stitching supplies, I highly recommend A Stitching Shop. Ask for Christine and tell her I sent you. She caters to several stitching disciplines, she carries a fantastic range of products, and her customer service is truly exceptional.

Life is short. Do something you love, no matter how long and hard you must search for the perfect materials. The challenge of locating the materials to stitch this very personal piece makes this tapestry even more special for me and my husband. Now that I finally have all the materials I need and I’ve nearly finished graphing the canvas, I can hardly wait to start stitching.

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Healthy, Happy, and Wise

Photo by Matt Reamy

Photo by Matt Reamy

My father-in-law turned sixty last Sunday, and the entire family gathered in Denver over the weekend to celebrate the birth of the dearly loved patriarch of our family. It’s the first time my husband and his three siblings have been together in several years, so I finally got to meet many of my new family members in person for the first time. I also had an opportunity to get to know those I have met before a bit better, and I came away from our weekend celebration with a renewed appreciation for this remarkable family into which I’ve married.

My husband’s parents have been married for nearly forty years. Next weekend we’ll be celebrating the 60th wedding anniversary of his grandparents. My husband has two younger brothers and a sister, each of whom are happily married to spouses who compliment them well. Having just celebrated our first anniversary last month, Matt and I are the newlyweds of the bunch. So I took this opportunity to simply observe the Reamy family dynamics.

I’m not sure if the model for a healthy and happy marriage began with Matt’s parents or his grandparents, but as I come from a more typical American family of the highly dysfunctional variety, it was sort of startling for me to see so many happily married couples in the same room. Both my parents-in-law and grandparents-in-law are clearly in love and fully committed to their marriages. Both couples act very much as single units, as do my husband and I. Not surprisingly, the same can be said for my siblings-in-law.

Since we know that children learn by observing and emulating their parents’ behavior, I think it’s reasonable to say that children who come from loving two-parent households are more likely to form strong, healthy bonds with their future partners. This certainly appears to be true of the Reamy clan. None of our marriages are perfect, I’m sure, but all of them are visibly happier and healthier than most marriages I’ve observed.

We kicked off the weekend celebration Friday night with mediocre Mexican food and a seemingly endless supply of tokens for arcade games at Casa Bonita. The first thing I noticed about our family is that everyone mingled freely together, but none of us strayed far from our spouses. My 10-year-old step-daughter and her 8-year-old cousin, whom she hadn’t seen in years, were immediately joined at the hip in that unique bond of friendship that seems to form only between cousins. Although my two nephews (ages six and almost three) were a little shy at first, they gradually warmed up to everyone—even those of us they’d never met before. Somehow, the titles of ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle’ put kids at ease. It’s almost as if kids are hard-wired to accept anyone who falls within the realm of family, which makes me wonder if there’s some sort of genetic tendency to form familial bonds that extend beyond our immediate families.

After dinner we sent the four little ones off to the hotel for a slumber party with Grandpa and Grammy, and my husband and I invited his three siblings and their spouses to our apartment for a nightcap. It was such a pleasure to see my husband interact with his brothers and sister, and I couldn’t help but appreciate how well everyone got along. The next day, we all gathered in a cozy heated caboose at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, which is where my husband took these gorgeous photos. You can see more of his photos from our family weekend here, here and here.

My birth family is nothing like my in-laws. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may recall that my sister recently accused me of hating her and her two daughters before cutting off all contact with me. There are certain members of my family who refuse to be in the same room with one another, and both the maternal and paternal sides of my family are riddled with alcoholics and substance abusers. Not surprisingly, I suppose, my family tends to lean heavily to the left politically while my husband’s family leans overwhelmingly right. Also not surprisingly, almost no one in my family maintains an active spiritual life while my husband’s family is largely committed to their faith.

I’m not suggesting that either religion or politics can make or break a family, but it is sort of fascinating for me to compare and contrast these dynamics in the petri dish that is my own life. No single member of my husband’s family is more or less flawed than any member of my own family. Both families are very similar socioeconomically, but that’s where their common ground ends. My husband’s family genuinely enjoys spending time together. They like each other. They respect each other. These are qualities I always wanted in a family, so I’ve tended to look for them through the years.

When I was much younger and still single, I think I was often more curious about the friends and families of my boyfriends than about the guys themselves. I still have a few close friends that I met through men I’ve dated over the years. By the time I met my husband, though, I was far more concerned with finding a compatible mate than a functional extended family. Luckily, I found both.

I’ve always related more to conservatives than liberals politically, which I suppose is part of the reason I find it difficult to relate to most members of my own family. In terms of religion, however, I spent the vast majority of my life distancing myself from Christianity. I was raised Catholic, but what I was taught in Catechism as a child always felt inherently wrong to me. It completely defied what I knew instinctively about God, and (growing up under the tyranny of an abusive alcoholic) I learned from a very early age to rely on my instincts and to mistrust authority.

Having experienced a great deal of hypocrisy by the time I left the nest, I stubbornly held the belief that all Christians are hypocrites. As an adult, I worked for two different privately held companies that were owned and operated by Christian couples who further cemented that belief. I not-so-fondly named one of those two couples the Twin Vortices of Evil: Hypocrisy and Greed. Ironically, I met my husband while we were both employed by that couple. Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered that the guy I was falling in love with is a PK (preacher’s kid).

Photo by Matt Reamy

Photo by Matt Reamy

In the year and a half that I’ve known my husband’s family, my stubborn hold on the stereotype that all Christians are hypocrites has steadily eroded. I’ve found nothing but sincerity, honesty and authenticity in my new family. These are people who walk their talk. They’re not stepping all over everyone around them all week long and then praying for forgiveness on Sunday. They don’t wear their religion like some sort of crown jewel that mystically elevates them to a level of moral superiority. They’re just good, down to earth people with a Christian world view that pushes them to continually strive to become better people. And I love them for that because, although I don’t subscribe to a particular religion, I share their commitment to growth. I’ve also realized this past year that, despite my skepticism about religion, I share their Christian world view as well.

I’ve found my people.

Life is short. Take a closer look at those you tend to view with skepticism. You may be surprised to discover how much you have in common with them. You may even find your way home.

Postcarrus Depression

We hear about postpartum depression all the time. The baby blues. I’ve known women who have suffered from this affliction, and it’s awful. All the more so because society insists that women should be rejoicing in the birth of their child; not wallowing in depression. As if it’s a choice.

As I’ve been purging old paperwork from my past, I’ve had an opportunity to revisit the highlights of my career. I’ve unearthed old recognition awards, letters of appreciation, and even a couple of articles I co-authored that were published in technical journals. If you were ever an avid reader of Disaster Recovery Journal or Site Magazine, you might have read one of my articles about the potential hazards of operating and maintaining lead acid battery banks in telecom environments. Pretty riveting stuff!

I’ve reviewed old tax returns—the ones where my income was steadily climbing—only to be reminded of how successful I was and how much promise I had professionally. And as I reviewed my more recent tax returns, of course I was reminded of how far I’ve fallen.

I’ve looked for an appropriate label for my current state of depression, but I couldn’t find one. So I made up my own:

postcarrus depression (noun)
1.    a period of sadness or emotional withdrawal following the abrupt end or loss of a career or livelihood.

When I got married last year, it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work fulltime. The plan was for me to take a few months off so I could finish my degree and get acquainted with a new city. I enjoyed those first few months of staying home because I knew they were only temporary, and I was absolutely confident in my ability to find work as soon as I was ready to jump back in the workforce. And then my stepdaughter came to live with us, and everything changed.

My husband recently accepted a new job that has tremendous potential for his own career. He had to accept this new opportunity, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he has been essentially hamstrung in his current position by upper management’s unwillingness to face reality. That’s a frustrating place to be—I’ve been there several times myself—so I couldn’t very well tell my husband that he should stick with his current job. The truth is that his current employer is heading straight for an iceberg, and the captain of the ship is stubbornly determined to stay the course.

The project will inevitably fail without a dramatic course correction, and my husband would likely be out of a job when that happens anyway. So his best option was to start looking for a new job. Another opportunity came along synchronistically almost the moment he fully committed to a new job search. It was one of those things that just fell into his lap, apparently from out of nowhere, so he took it. He’s the right guy for the job for certain. Whether or not the organization is the right one for him remains to be seen, but I’m proud of him. He’s going to learn a lot in his new role, and he’ll make some important network connections that will help him reach his ultimate goal of working overseas. It’s a huge step in the right direction for him. For us, really, but where does it leave me?

Essentially, it leaves me even more beholden to my stepdaughter’s needs than ever. My husband is going to have a brutal commute when he starts his new gig, so there’s virtually no chance that he’ll be able to either drop off or pick up the kiddo at school. She was a latchkey kid while living with her mom, and she spent most of her time in a dark and dreary daycare facility where she, as the oldest kid of the bunch, was expected to entertain the little ones. She rarely complained about that situation, but we could see the toll it took in the way she would retreat to her room for hours when she got to our house. Much like her father and I, she’s an introvert, so she needs solitude in order to recharge. She enjoys socializing with other kids, but too much noise and chaos wears her out.

Knowing this about my stepdaughter, I can’t very well force her go back to being a latchkey kid—not now while she’s still living under our roof anyway. So I’m stuck. I can’t very well put aside her needs so I can pursue my own selfish interests. The right answer to the question is obviously that her needs are a higher priority than my own. Friends and family not so subtly remind me of this fact whenever the subject comes up. I’ve heard all the clichés about how I’m making a positive difference in the life of a child; I’m giving my stepdaughter greater opportunities; children at the most important work; yadda, yadda, yadda…

Intellectually, I get it. Emotionally, I’m not there yet.