Thursday, November 30, 2017

An Ornament a Year

When my husband, Shawn, and I were married and celebrating our first Christmas together, I got the idea to cross stitch an ornament commemorating that special day, the beginning of our lives together. Since then, I have stitched an ornament each year representing something special or significant that happened in our lives that year. I can hardly believe I've stitched 22 more ornaments since that first one. I'm afraid this is going to be a rather long post.

I love the two little birds decorating the tree. When we celebrated our first Christmas together, we were living in a tiny four-room house called the "honeymoon cottage" because so many newlyweds had lived there. In the rural Idaho area where we lived, there was hardly any housing available for rent, and we had to take what we could find. The house was built before the owners had indoor plumbing, so the bathroom was actually a hallway that had been converted into a bathroom. The poor little old house was overrun by mice, drafty in winter, and just plain shabby, but rent was cheap and we were happy. Our first tree was so beautiful, and we made the house into our home.

In 1996 we traveled to Ireland. Our real honeymoon wasn't much of a honeymoon at all (long story short, we took a wrong turn and ended up stuck on a dirt road on a mountainside in the wilderness with an overheated engine). So, as soon as we were able, we fulfilled our dream of visiting the Emerald Isle for 10 days.

In 1997, we bought our first brand-new car, a cute red Honda Civic coupe. My husband is still driving that car to work, and it has more than 300,000 miles on it! Original engine, too. Just goes to show, if you take care of your Honda, it will take care of you.

1998 was a happy year. No big, life-altering events. I thought this Santa with the heart was the perfect design for that year.

We bought our first house in 1999. Shawn's parents owned a 1,000-acre cattle ranch and he was working for them, so we bought an acre from them and moved a manufactured home onto the property. It was a beautiful house. Roomy, with vaulted ceilings, a jetted tub in a huge master bathroom, and plenty of room to grow. We would entertain 20 to 25 people for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and we had enough room for everyone to be comfortable.

In 2000, we bought another car, a used green Honda CR-V from a guy in Woodstock, Connecticut! I was looking online for this exact car, and I came across an ad from a guy who wanted to trade his CR-V for a red Honda Civic. It was such a coincidence that we each had exactly what the other person wanted. I was so excited that I ran clear out to the hay field to find Shawn on a tractor to tell him the good news.

We ultimately decided to keep our Honda Civic and buy his CR-V rather than trading. We hired an auto transport company to haul it clear across the country, and when it arrived, it was so clean, so well maintained. The seller, Sean, had saved every receipt from every oil change and repair.

If you look in the corners of the stitched border, you will see two little gold beads on opposite corners. One is for us in Idaho and the other is for Sean in Connecticut.

2001 brought the horrible events of 9/11. I was getting ready for work and had the Today Show on in the background when I heard the first plane had hit the World Trade Center. I stood with my mouth gaping open when I saw the second plane hit the towers. When I got to work, I called my friend Larry, who worked in New York City at the time, to make sure he was OK. He was several blocks away from ground zero when it happened, but he was still rattled.

That same year, Shawn became a partner in the ranch.

Our son, Thomas, was born in 2002. Talk about a life-altering event! It was so cold and icy the day he was born that my mother-in-law had to drive 35 miles per hour (on roads normally traveled at 60 mph) just to avoid sliding off the road. The hospital was, on a good day, a 45-minute drive away, so you can imagine my agony as I had contractions in the car, wondering if we were ever going to get there.

He came C-section because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck a couple of times. The doctor was so nervous. I remember that operating room being bone-chilling cold (this was a rural hospital, and they weren't expecting to use the OR that day so they hadn't bothered to turn up the heat). My doctor was actually sweating in that ice-cold room. Luckily, the night my son was born was the same night the hospital had its holiday party, so I had three doctors and umpteen nurses in the delivery room. We were in very good hands.

2003 was another happy year. I love this design - perfect for our new little family.

In 2004, we moved to Boise when my husband accepted a teaching job. I love this heart-shaped apple - perfect for a teacher.

We bought a house in Boise in 2005. That same year, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I think this original design had hearts in all four corners, but I changed two of them to pink ribbons. It was a tough year with surgery, radiation and chemo, in addition to starting a new job and working through treatment. And then we decided to buy a house on top of it all! I had just finished my last round of the tough chemo when we moved, and Shawn's co-workers showed up in droves to pack us up and get us into our new house. I will never forget their kindness.

Our little guy started to question the reality of Santa Claus about this time. So, in 2006 I stitched Dragon Dreams' "Never too big to believe" ornament. Shawn and I still believe in Santa. We believe in the spirit of giving and the magic that can transform even an ordinary Tuesday into something wonderful at Christmastime.

In 2007, we were doing some work in the front yard when this adorable little girl wearing a pink tutu came walking along with her cat on a leash. She and Thomas became instant friends. The same year, some people moved into the house next door, and they had a little girl Thomas's age. She and Thomas also enjoyed playing together. 2007 was a great year for new friendships!

In 2008, Thomas started kindergarten!

2009 was another happy year. I honestly got pretty far behind on my ornaments around this time, so when I was trying to remember what happened that year, I drew a total blank. Do you ever look back and realize you've forgotten a whole year?! How is that possible?

2010 was a very hard year. Right before Thanksgiving, and right as they were preparing to sell their calves for the year on the ranch back home, Shawn's dad died. It was very unexpected. But life must go on, and the whole family rallied to help Shawn's mom get her calves sold and celebrate Thanksgiving. I was simply amazed at the generosity of neighbors and friends who brought entire meals to feed the droves of family at the ranch.

This ornament was my first time using overdyed threads, and stitching over one. I did not care for the over-one stitching - and this was before I needed reading glasses! But the threads were so beautiful.

2011 was a big snow year in Boise.

2012 was a special year. I had been begging Shawn for years to take a vacation... a REAL vacation. You see, for a boy born to a ranching family, vacation time off work and school just means that you get to do more work on the ranch. Up until 2012, the only real vacation we had taken was our trip to Ireland in 1996! I said, "We need to go somewhere that's not for work, and that's not to visit family. I want to go to the Oregon Coast!" So, this year, he finally gave in.

When Shawn first saw the ocean, he was in AWE. But when he stood on the beach, pants legs rolled up, and that ocean water hit his feet, it was like something magical came over him and he was hooked. We have gone back every year since.

This ornament is the Yaquina Bay lighthouse (pronouned Yuck-WIN-uh). It's within walking distance of our favorite beachfront hotel.

Since the vacation bug bit Shawn in 2012, we continued our "real" vacations in 2013. We took a cruise to Alaska with Shawn's mom and Thomas. Thomas, who was 10 at the time, didn't really get into the experience, but Shawn's mom loved it. It was good to see her getting out and having a good time after losing Shawn's dad a couple of years before.

After we returned home from our cruise, I went to the doctor because I was having a lot of pain in my hips and knees. I thought it was osteoarthritis, since that runs in my family, but I found out that my breast cancer had returned and had spread to my bones. When breast cancer spreads beyond the breast, it is called metastatic breast cancer. There is no cure, but immunotherapy looks very promising.

In 2014, we returned to Ireland and added Scotland to the mix. We had wanted to go back ever since our first trip in 1996, but we thought we would go when Thomas turned 16 and could go into the pubs. When I received my metastatic diagnosis, my doctor told us we should probably plan that trip sooner. Since we were in no way ready for that expense, my mom told us she was taking us. It was an incredible 15-day trip. If you ever get the chance to visit, consider booking through CIE Tours International. The tour company is actually owned by Ireland, and they will take you to the out-of-the-way places you might not see otherwise.

The Celtic cross ornament is a freebie from Teresa Wentzler that can be found here.

In 2015, we took some fun camping trips in the Boise National Forest with some very good friends, and we spent some time at their family cabin as well.

I had a really hard time finding a camping-themed design for an ornament, so I bought this Mill Hill beaded kit called "Cabin Fever." It's HUGE for a Christmas ornament. It was not designed to be an ornament, but rather a framed piece, but I couldn't imagine only stitching one part of the design. I couldn't stitch it over one to make it smaller because of the beads incorporated into the design, so I just said, "Oh, well," and decided that it would be OK big. I attached the perforated paper to felt with some button-shaped brads.

We just thought 2011 was a big snow year. 2016 brought record snowfall for much of Idaho, and it got so bad in Boise that the snowplows only plowed the main roads. Our poor little residential streets went ignored for weeks, and Shawn and I missed some work because our cars got stuck on the street right outside our driveway. Our snow shovel cracked and broke, and every store in town was sold out of shovels and snow melt. They say 2017 is going to be another bad snow year... I hope they're wrong.

This design is "Snow is Coming Down" by the Trilogy, stitched over one on a 25-count mystery lugana.

And...drumroll...2017! If you've made it all the way to the end of this post, wow! Thanks for reading! Future posts will not be so long, but I have been wanting to share this special ornament collection and the stories behind them for a long, long time.

The ranch back home was in the path of totality for the 2017 solar eclipse, so that's where we watched it. We had more than two minutes of darkness, and it was SO cool. Magical, really. I wasn't expecting the temperature to drop as much as it did, though, so if I could do it over again, I would bring blankets to cuddle in. We were in the mountains, and they had this beautiful pink haze behind them as the stars appeared in the sky at midday. I will never forget that experience.

Thanks for visiting!