Friday, January 30, 2015

Unraveling and stitching together again

When speaking to friends about what led up to my headaches, I've found myself increasingly using the term "unraveling."  Back in December I felt more physically broken but now as the pain has receded and I resume normal activities, I've had time to reflect on 2014.  It was a slow process of not taking care of myself that led to this unraveling.

There's no reason to detail why or what I did or didn't do but that it happened. And then one day I started getting headaches. And they just didn't stop.  My body was saying "enough."

But here's what I have realized. Unraveling isn't such a bad thing. Because when you unravel a sweater, you still have a ball of yarn.  And that yarn can become anything.  It is full of potential. It could be another sweater, a vest, a hat and mitten set, a pair of socks, part of a warm afghan.  It could be knit tightly, loosely or just right.  A ball of yarn can be anything.

And so, that's me.  An unraveled Marisa.  Ready to be stitched back together.  I'm doing swatches. Getting my supplies.  Exploring my options.  Modifying patterns.  Writing my own directions.  I'm full of potential.

I just have to remind myself, that this is about the process, not the finished product.

And yes, my ball of yarn is pink.  Hot pink.

Be well.  Happy stitching.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stitching with Lucy

A few days ago I was stitching along when Lucy scooted up next to me and said "teach me."  I was doing a fairly complex background stitch but I slowed down to show her how the stitches slanted to the right when working left to right and then to the left when working right to left. The needle skips a couple of "holes" to create longer stitches.  "I want to do that.  I want to do what you do."

Yesterday we stopped into our local store where they were having a trunk show of some lovely designs. Lucy picked out a Valentine canvas and lots of metallic thread. To my delight it was pink but I knew better than to say anything lest she change all the colors to black!

When returned home, I retrieved a practice canvas for her to review the basics of basket weave and continental stitch.  She quickly remembered the stitches.  We then settled into the day bed in the sewing room, turned on the Ott Lite, set up a pair of little scissors and a needle threader and got to work. With a needle in my hand, I directed her hands where to go.  After a few stitches, she confidently began placing the thread on her own, in her own way.  I gently guided her, reminding myself that this wasn't about the finished product, but about the process.

And it's also about continuing the legacy.  I come from a long line of stitchers: Quilting, sewing, embroidery, beading, needlepoint.  Every stitch I take, connects me with the women who came before me.  By teaching Lucy, I am connecting her with them as well, sharing our secret language of stitching. She is communing with her past as well as creating memories for her future.  

The stitch you take is in the past, but the product you make lasts into the future.  Sharing our knowledge and skills is a gift we give to ourselves and our children.

Stitch on.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Stitch by numbers - aka, Needlepoint

I've tried needlepoint countless times (pun intended.)  As a kid, I couldn't seem to keep track of where I stopped my last stitch and ended up with a ridge on the canvas.  I tried again after I got married when my mother gave me a canvas complete with needles, yarn and fabric for the back.  It was a large pink bow.  I worked on it for a bit but got bored.  And to be honest, I didn't really like the design, sorry Mom.

I jumped into needlepoint again about 8 years ago during a round of IVF.  I'd knit my way through the infertility treatments that resulted in Lucy but I didn't find that knitting was much comfort this time around.  Plus, I had Lucy to keep track of, so counting stitches and worrying about dropped stitches was more than I could handle.  So I picked out an adorable painted canvas of a little girl's dress.  It was part of a larger collection.  I envisioned completing all of them, having them framed and hanging in Lucy's room.  I pulled out my little cheat sheet from the kit my mom gave me and got to work.                                      

But instead of relaxing, it was frustrating.  Needlepoint is worked on a grid.  Each "cross" of the warp and weft is painted with a color coordinating to suggested thread color.  My dress was full of rounded flowers and ruffled edges.    I would sit for what seemed like hours staring at one of these crosses that was half white and half yellow trying to figure out if I should stitch white for a daisy petal or yellow for the daisy's center.  Sometimes I would just give up, and go back to stitching the background, where I didn't have to make a judgement call.  I longed for the ease of knit one, purl two.  

The IVF cycle failed.  I rolled the canvas up and stuck it in the back of a cabinet along with other UFOs such as lace baby blankets, crocheted granny squares, felted wee people.  Every once in a while I would pull it out and stitch a bit only to lose interest, again rolling it up and placing it back with its other lonely friends.

A couple of years ago, all of that changed.  I saw a canvas that I just had to have.  A jolly Santa donning a colorful turban.  My heart said it was time.  Time to needlepoint.  So I bought it.  When I got home I dug out my Needlepoint book and set to work only to become quickly frustrated by my continue indecisiveness over what color to use when two colors seemed possible.

Then, Eureka!  The local needlepoint store had a trunk show of the most adorable Lilly-inspired canvases.  I bought one that came with a stitch guide.  Obsession set it.  It was completed in a matter of weeks.  Another one was purchased.  Then another.  I was on a roll.  

I quickly realized that this was an expensive hobby so I ordered every book ever written on the topic of finishing needlepoint and taught myself how to block my canvases, finish them and make my own cording.

That old hesitation of which color to use was gone.  The words of a friend came back to me: "Needlepoint is easy.  It's like paint by numbers but with thread."  And she's right.  I love it because I can pick it up and out it down without worrying about losing my place.  It can be rolled up and tucked into a purse.  It can be pulled out in a carpool line, at a swim meet, on the train, a bus, during Sunday afternoon football-watching.  

And now, it's not related to anything sad or bad.  It's just fun.  And when I'm finished, I have the pleasure of knowing I made something from start to finish all by myself.  

It might just be time to pull that little dress out of the cabinet.  I'm certain I can figure out when to stitch white and when to stitch yellow.  That IVF cycle didn't result in a baby but there's no reason it can't result in an adorable little needlepointed baby dress to hang in my room.

Happy Stitching!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

2015 - the year to write

People don't write anymore.  They don't write thank you notes.  They don't write emails.  They don't write birthday cards.

But what's weird, is that they do write short little comments on twitter.  tags on instragram.  tons and tons and tons of texts.  They write comments on websites.  They write comments on friends' facebook pages.

They also don't call.  Or return calls.  Or leave messages or listen to messages.

Truthfully, in all of this, I'm referring to myself. Though I am working on the thank-you note thing.

In 2013 I took a journaling class and loved it.  I journaled daily.  I explored all sorts of stuff.  But then I felt like I had no time to do it.  But I used to.  Where had the time gone?  I'm not working longer hours.  Lucy actually has a longer school day.  I hardly cook.  My attention to housekeeping is minimal.

So what was I doing that took up all of this time?

I was reading comments on FB.  Writing comments on FB.  Visiting buzzfeed.  taking a quiz or maybe two (three.)  Reading the NYTimes, reading the most emailed articles on the NYTimes.  Reading the top comments of the most emailed articles on the NYTimes.

Each action was maybe a minute or two.  But these minutes added up and probably totalled 30-45 minutes - the amount of time I felt I didn't have to write.

now what?

Do I just unplug, write just for the heck of it? I think maybe yes, at least for a bit.

You see, 2014 was a really crappy year for many reasons.  Nothing that I'm going to detail here.  For the most part, everything has worked out and is going to be ok but in the midst of it all my body kind of rebelled against me.

My stomach was a mess for a bit.

My knee started hurting.

And then, at the end of October, I had my first visual migraine aura, a few days later, another one followed by another followed by a headache that never went away.  And then on my birthday a headache that scared me, my husband and Lucy.  Since then, I've seen doctors, massages therapists, an acupuncturist, my pharmacist knows me by my first name and my head has been run through a scanner.

The one thing I kept thinking is, if I could just write, if I could find the time to write, then maybe this would be better.  If I could get the stress out of my shoulders, through my arms, my hands, my fingertips and on to a page, then maybe it would be better.

But the headaches changed my sense of time.  It made things speed up and go slow.  Life was either blurry or ultra-clear.  The meds cause me to lose words sometimes or that could be due to being in my 40's.  And sometimes I'm tired, which could also be due to the fact that I'm human.

I used to think that exercise was the magic bullet to wellness and I still think it's pretty important and food is too.  But now I'm beginning to realize that we need to give ourselves time.  Maybe just some extra time and space to be - ok, well that's a post for another day....

Back to this.  So, my headaches are getting better.  Or rather, my head, neck and shoulders are getting better.  I'm starting to think I can be a human most of the time.  But I need to take these moments to figure out what it is that I want to do.  I can't just sit around and look at Buzzfeed all day.  Just not fulfilling, interesting yes, fulfilling, no.

I'm making a plan.

Write.  Every day.  Here.  Could be complete nonsense.  Could be about my love of the color pink.  Or my hatred of the word "moist."  Or perhaps my favorite book ("The Summer Book" by Tova Jansson if you must know.)  Or my intense love of all things Portland, OR.

The writing won't be awesome.  Not something to publish.  No longer do I long for HuffPo to pick up one of my posts for their site.  I'm not going to be a famous craft blogger.  Or mommy blogger. Probably never going to publish a book.  Or get that PhD.  I'm just going to do my thing. And focus on healing my head.

That's it for now.  I've got some needlepointing to do.  Another pink ornament of course.  It's less that 12 months to go until Christmas and there's lots of stitching and enjoying to be done.