Wednesday, October 21, 2009

On being grateful for the birthday rainbow!

As many of you know – October is my birthday month and on October 15th I celebrated the 13th anniversary of my 40th birthday. I always talk to my parents at 2:25pm – and thank them for welcoming me into the world during this most beautiful season of the year. I love when everyone calls, e-mails and sends me cards. I love to go out to lunch or to dinner in my own honor. I believe that the colors of autumn make it easy for everyone to remember my special day. When they see the leaves on the trees beginning to change – they know it’s Mary’s birthday month – and the fun begins! I look at the changing leaves as my own personal birthday rainbow, giving me a fresh start to each new year.

This year was a little different for me because the International Quilt Festival in Houston was held 2 weeks earlier than usual and the dates included my birthday. Project Linus was invited to host a booth during The Festival and Carol, Jane, Cheryl and I planned to be in Houston from October 12th – 18th. I have only celebrated one birthday (my 27th) without Terry since I turned 19 so I was a little sad that we would be apart. BUT – since I DO celebrate the entire month – we decided that our celebration would simply be postponed.

This year my “birthday week” was a little stressful, to say the least. Here is a brief (well, actually a detailed) rundown of the happenings. Our flight to Houston was scheduled to leave at 12:27pm from Bloomington on Monday. It was difficult to sleep on Sunday night because I was so excited about the week ahead. The Houston Quilt Festival is not only a huge and elaborate display of the most beautiful quilts that I have ever seen but it is also graced by aisles and aisles of vendors. There are so many patterns, books, tools and ideas available for sale that it’s difficult to choose where to go first and what to purchase. I could just feel my credit card jumping out of my wallet as I packed my suitcases, brief case and backpack. When we arrived at the airport, Cheryl graciously let me off at the door with the luggage while she parked the car. As I placed our suitcases near a row of chairs, I noticed that my backpack felt rather light. My purse is very small but I knew it wasn’t THAT small. When I unzipped the backpack, to my horror I discovered that my purse was not there. Panic swept over my entire body and I immediately proceeded to unbuckle and unzip each piece of luggage as I frantically searched for my purse. I then realized that while printing our boarding passes from my home computer that morning, I had taken my purse out of my backpack to make a credit card payment for the luggage we would be checking. When I zipped my backpack closed, I never put my purse back inside. As I was standing in the airport I realized that I had no ID, no credit cards, no money, no cell phone and it was 1 hour before our flight was to depart. I felt like my head was going to explode. Cheryl was still parking the car so I ran up to an innocent bystander and blurted out a request to please use her cell phone to call my husband. It was obvious to her that I was in major distress and she quickly handed me her phone. I prayed that Terry would answer the phone since the call was coming from a number he didn’t recognize – and he did. Without hesitation he said he was in the car and on his way to Bloomington (one hour away) with my purse. Cheryl and Jane soon joined me and although they were so kind and so patient – I just knew that in their minds they were probably making a mental note to NEVER travel with me again. To our good fortune, the Departure screen indicated that our flight would be 1 hour late. Phew! Terry, my husband and hero, made it in time and handed me my purse. I couldn’t have been more grateful and more relieved.

We arrived in Houston safely, had a nice dinner and went to bed. Since Carol is still on IV antibiotics for the bone infection in her shoulder, she and Kirk drove to Houston and met us on Tuesday. Kirk tirelessly unloaded the trailer which included our 200 pound Linus and all of our booth supplies for the week. After making sure all was well, he flew home a few hours later. We worked all afternoon setting up most of our booth and then decided to go to dinner. We found a wonderful Greek restaurant near our hotel in a beautiful area of Houston. Since the restaurant was across a busy thoroughfare, we decided to drive our rental car over and park in their well-lit parking garage which was patrolled by a security guard. Our dinner was scrumptious and it was so much fun dining with my good friends for a pre-birthday dinner celebration. That celebration ended on a sour note when we returned to our car to discover that the passenger window had been smashed, the car ransacked and my GPS, Carol's GPS and Carol’s purse had been stolen. We immediately called the police and Jane went back into the restaurant to notify the manager. Workers were sent out to help clean-up the glassy mess but we cautioned them not to get near the car until the police had a chance to check out the crime scene. As they were sweeping, they told us that this “happens all the time” and when questioned, the security guard said he “didn’t hear or see anything”. What an interesting observation, since he was standing in the same place he was when we arrived at the garage, in plain sight of our car.

The officer who arrived at the scene asked us all the usual questions as he wrote out his report. When we asked him if he wanted to “check out the crime scene” he casually said “No – these are professionals.” Professional what? Professional thugs? Did they attend “thugery school”? Were they awarded a diploma which graduated them from being a petty thief to a professional thief? Did this certificate of achievement give them the privilege of no longer being pursued by the authorities when they commit a crime? Good grief!

My birthday-eve, Wednesday, was basically uneventful and I was sure that since it was my birthday week, we would not have any more distractions that would take away from the celebratory spirit of the week. I was wrong. On my actual birthday, Thursday, I received a call from the mission nurse in California who told me that Alex was scheduled for surgery at 10:30am that morning. She said he had been ill and they were going to do an appendectomy. He was in a small area with an even smaller hospital and when I asked her if she knew that he had Long QT and a defibrillator she seemed surprised. Needless to say, her reaction caused me to panic and I called Terry to relay the message. He spoke with the physician and found out that they really weren't sure if he indeed did have an inflamed appendix. After several tests and a CAT scan, they decided that they would wait to see if Alex got better rather than do surgery without a definitive diagnosis. Fortunately, he did steadily improve. What a relief! (On a positive note – Alex was able to wish me a Happy Birthday!)

The rest of the week went swimmingly! We met many wonderful people from near and far and were able to spread the Project Linus word to young and old. Although some just came to take a piece or two (or 5) of candy from our candy bowl, most were very interested in our organization and how they could get involved. In spite of the difficult start to the week the finish was perfect and we were so grateful to be given the opportunity to share our message of comfort through service to so many people.

We all know that life is never perfect, but we do manage to get through our trials one way or another. When you look outside and see the beautiful fall rainbow of colors, I hope that it will remind you that no matter what trials face us throughout the year, the good times will follow and we are never alone.

Happy Blanketmaking,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Holding on to the things we love!

I’m fascinated by the Food Network Show – "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". If you haven’t seen it – Guy Fieri travels around the country visiting local restaurants and sampling their specialties. Now, I’m not talking about the 5 Star restaurants that we read about in Gourmet Magazine or the fashionable eating establishments across the United States frequented by celebrities. I’m talking about the Mom and Pop restaurants – those “greasy spoons” that are locally known for their mouthwatering entrees and side dishes. They are a place where, I believe, the phrase “comfort food” was coined. Guy observes as the cook (usually the owner) whips up his or her famous house specialty for him to sample. After he oohs and aahs over the delectable creation that has been prepared, he meanders through the restaurant interviewing “the regulars” as they sing the praises of the restaurant and its owner(s). The restaurant may be small, simply decorated and old-fashioned or outdated in d├ęcor yet the patrons seem to relish the fact that they always feel welcome and that they look forward to ordering their favorites from a menu that never changes.

I’m not sure why I love this show. Maybe it’s because it takes me back to some special eating establishments from my childhood. The “B&K Restaurant” on 7th Street was a favorite restaurant of our family. I always ordered the Meatloaf Dinner – and it was DELICIOUS. While we were waiting for the waitress to bring our meal, my dad would let us put a quarter in the tableside jukebox and we could pick three songs. I’m not sure if the B&K would qualify as a diner or a dive – but either way we loved it and when I think about it, it always brings back fond memories.

As for drive-ins, we loved to frequent the “Dog ‘N Suds”. On a hot summer evening my parents would load us up in the station wagon and head to the drive-in on West State Street. My mom, dad and three brothers ordered a root beer and I ordered an orange drink (I didn’t like root beer). We just loved the way the carhop delivered our order right to our car and hooked the heavy tray to the car window. Amazingly, it NEVER fell off and the window stayed intact! Somehow the sweltering heat of an August night just didn’t seem as stifling when we were sitting in the car at the Dog ‘n Suds drinking a root beer or an orange drink!

OR – maybe it could be that “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” takes me back to a place where I could basically eat anything I wanted – and I never worried about the calories or the cholesterol or the fat content or the sodium content or the carbohydrates or the sugar content. If I liked it – I ate it. If I wanted more – I ate more. (That philosophy eventually did catch up with me in a negative way as the years passed…but I’ll postpone that for another blog entry.)

Even more, however, I think the show rekindles memories of such simple yet special times in my life. When I watch Guy visit the “Big Star Diner” and eat their “Big Star Meatloaf” or hear the patrons of Ruth’s Diner sing praises about “Grandma Claire’s Macaroni and Cheese” it just makes me happy (and hungry). It’s always fun to go back in time and reminisce. The ability to recall helps us realize that things that didn’t really seem to matter at the time, do indeed matter. I think this quote from a favorite TV show says it all: “Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” (…from the television show The Wonder Years)

As for our involvement with Project Linus, when we make a blanket for a child we offer that child a good memory to physically "hold on to" in spite of the negative circumstances which surround him or her at the time. We know that Illness or trauma in the life of a child can be devastating, but the hug of a blanket can somehow buffer the agony. Eventually, the hug of that blanket can actually rekindle a positive remembrance which somehow softens the details of a nightmarish experience. Thank you for your help in making these good memories!

Well, I'm ready for dinner...meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans sure sound good! But I think I'll go with the broiled cod - that sounds good too!

Happy Blanketmaking!