Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 2011 “Moving Forward Mary-thon”

"I've learned that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement. It's a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible."  John Hanc

Back in December 2009, while recovering from foot surgery I was contemplating my “theme” for the new year.  (I refuse to make "new year's resolutions" as they just don't work for me.)  After much deliberation and consultation with family, I decided my 2010 theme would be “Finish the Race and Finish Strong”.  In 2010 "Life's Rat Race" was the only race I anticipated running but I have always been intrigued by long distance running.  In fact, one of my life-long dreams was to run a half-marathon. For a variety of reasons, I never made the effort to transform that dream into a reality, however, the more I contemplated my 2010 theme, the more I thought that 2010 could be “my half-marathon year”!  I was at a bit of a disadvantage since I am not very athletic, I had never been on a sports team and I certainly had never run a race of any kind...ever.  With this in mind I didn't feel comfortable sharing my goal, simply because as a "card-carrying rule follower", I knew that if I told anyone – that would mean that I made a commitment and I would be obligated to follow through with it.  Thinking realistically, I just wasn’t sure I had the strength within my mind and body to do it.

But I did have a secret motivation – a yummy carrot dangling in front of my running cart.  What was it that motivated me?  What was my inspiration?  What would be the power that would carry me over the finish line?  THE FINISHER’S MEDAL.  I wanted to finish the race within the allotted time, I didn’t want to finish last, and most importantly I wanted to be awarded a finisher’s medal.  I wanted to be able to say “Yes, I finished the race, I finished strong - and here’s my medal to prove it!”  So, I made the commitment – I officially registered for the December 2010 Las Vegas Rock and Roll half-marathon and then told everyone that I planned to run it.  There was no turning back.

After enlisting my husband, two daughters and one son-in-law to join me (there’s strength in numbers) my year-long training began.  I knew I needed a plan so I went online and found a training schedule for beginners.  During each week of my training, I increased the distance of my long runs, and my confidence grew stronger with each added mile.  I had my set-backs (such as a major "trip and fall" during my 10 mile long run) – but as the date for the race got closer, I knew I was ready.  There were 28,000+ runners and although my family finished ahead of me (as well as thousands of other runners) as I crossed the finish line, I looked back to see several thousand runners were still behind me!  Woo Hoo!  I wasn’t last!  And the best part is that I got my medal and achieved a life-long dream!   I finished the race and I finished strong! The emotion that I felt as I stepped over the finish line was unlike anything I have ever felt.  It was a truly phenomenal experience.  I didn't want it to end - and I didn't want to lose what I had gained during 2010.  

So, I decided on my theme for 2011, based on a favorite quote of mine: 
“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”–Walt Disney

In addition, I tried to think of a way to keep me motivated while incorporating this theme into my life.  In order to help me to "keep moving forward", I would like to invite you to join me and participate in the “2011 Moving Forward Mary-thon”.  I know...the name's cheesy and a bit self-indulgent...but I wanted to distinguish it from a mara-thon!  :-)  A marathon is 26.2 miles long - however I’m not asking you to commit to run a marathon, or a half marathon or even a 5K (unless you want to...).  Since registration = commitment, when you officially register for the "Moving Forward Mary-thon" (i.e. send me an e-mail:, you agree to exercise at least 30 minutes a day for a minimum of 5 days a week for 26 consecutive weeks and your "Moving forward Mary-thon" must be completed in 2011.  Your exercise can be running, walking, biking, jogging, swimming, water aerobics, racquetball, spinning, weight lifting, elliptical training, or similar.  In other words, you must commit to at least 30 minutes of concentrated exercise, five days a week.  I will send you periodic messages of encouragement and you’re welcome to e-mail me when you need support.  This is the honor system – so it’s up to you to keep track of your progress honestly.   When you’ve completed 26 weeks of consecutive exercise as outlined, let me know and I will add your name to our blog 2011 Mary-thon Finishers!   In addition, I know how much the finisher's medal meant to me when I ran the half-marathon.  It doesn't seem like much, but it REALLY kept me focused and served as that carrot in front of my running cart during the more difficult times - or the times when I could feel apathy creeping in to my training!  So, I thought about what was missing from the 2011 Mary-thon challenge - and I concluded that it was a finisher's medal.  I did some research and found out that we could have a beautiful 2011 Mary-thon medal made for each person who finishes the 26 weeks as outlined!  The clincher is that we will need 100 people to finish the event (I have to order the medals in increments of 100.)   

What do you think?  Do you think we can enlist 100 people to join us?  Friends, relatives, neighbors...anyone who wants to either make some "healthy changes" in his or her life or continue with some already established "healthy habits".    

If you're on the fence - here are the benefits:
1.  You will have finished 26 weeks of exercise!
2.  You will tone muscles, increase your strength and lung capacity, and possibly even lose a couple of pounds (or more).
3.  You will complete a life-changing a goal!  
4.  You will receive a BEAUTIFUL FINISHER'S MEDAL!!!!  

Of course, even if we don't get 100 people to participate, the 2011 Mary-thon is still on - for anyone who signs up!  I'll try my best to be your motivational coach - and hopefully we will all finish the challenge!  I know the power of camaraderie and friendship.  I know what it means to have support from family and friends.  I know that words of encouragement DO help and consistency can promote success.  I also know that commitment, setting goals and following through are most important and that working together can give us the needed confidence to finish.  

When I was running the half-marathon, many runners wore shirts with inspirational messages on the back.  One, in particular struck a positive cord with me:  "FINISHERS = WINNERS".  I would like to encourage you to register for the 2011 Moving Forward Mary-thon and then complete the 26 week commitment!  

If you would like to follow our "Mary-thon blog" go to:


Good Luck and Happy Blanketmaking! 


After 13.1 miles, finally crossing the finish line!  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"Handmade Gifts from the Heart"

I still use some of the same potholders that Terry and I received for wedding gifts.   We’ve been married for 32 years and yes, they’re getting a little worn.  But – they do exactly what they’re supposed to do.  They keep my hands from being burned when I take something hot out of the oven and they protect my table or counter from the heat of a hot pan or dish.  The best part is that they’re broken in.  They bend easily so that I can grip any size pan and truly are quite functional in spite of their age.  The only problem that they have is that they’re ugly; ugly colors, ugly patterns, in ugly condition due to lots of use – they’re just plain ugly.  I don’t mind their ugliness, for the most part.  If they’re “out”, they’re usually under something and not visible.  If they’re “in” - meaning back in the drawer after being used – they are rarely seen other than during the few minutes when they’re doing their job.  BUT…there’s one time of year that I just can’t use my ugly potholders - as practical and useful as they may be.   That time is during the holidays.  This is the time I bring out the holiday potholders.  Some years I purchase new potholders and other years I enjoy making them.  This year is a “handmade” potholder year and I would like to share my pattern with you.  It’s very simple, it goes together quickly and it’s adorable!  It’s kind of like making a VERY TINY blanket – and we know that we all love blanketmaking!

As for blankets...many of us cannot even count the number of blankets we have made for Project Linus.  10, 100, 500…more???  But when we’re asked for proof – something to display – something to show off – we have none.  Why?  Because we’ve given them all away to children who need them more than we do…children who need a special hug that only a blanket can provide.  Our handmade blankets are created in our hearts, put together with our hands, and when given away offer a hug of love, and physical or emotional healing to the recipient. I guess it’s in our nature to give away more than we keep…that’s what being a blanketeer is all about.   

FYI - This potholder pattern makes a nice little gift for a friend or family member.  It is also a gift created in our hearts, made with our hands and given away with love - just like our blankets.  So far I’ve made 4 holiday potholders.  As with everything else, I haven’t yet made any for me but I do plan to do so…just as soon as I finish a few more for gifts.  I think that’s because it’s just so much more fun to give our handwork away…isn’t it? 

Happy Blanketmaking!


Here’s the pattern instructions:
You will need 2 fat quarters of fabric (light and dark contrasting holiday fabrics work best) for each potholder.

3 – 9” squares of the darker fabric (Fabric A)
2 – 9” squares of the lighter fabric (Fabric B)
2 – 9” squares of batting.  (I like to use Warm and Natural batting.)  If you are using Warm and Natural Insul Bright (insulated batting) you only need to use 1 layer.

Assembly: (Click on instructions below for full size view)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Won't you be my neighbor?

I have a neighbor who has lived across the street from me for over 16 years.    His name is Bobby.   Bobby walks his dog regularly and when I see him he always greets me like a long lost relative.  He may be a block away from me, but as soon as he spots me, he waves his arms, smiles and shouts “Hi Neighbor!!!” at the top of his lungs.  I ALWAYS smile, wave and shout “Hi Bobby!” in return.   I can’t think of another neighbor who greets me like Bobby does and it truly makes my day.  I know that Bobby cares about our family and in turn, we care about him.  When we lost our grandson, Bobby watched the chain of events from his front yard.  He was so concerned about our family and wanted to help – but just wasn’t sure how.  He decided to cut out the obituary from the newspaper and give it to us.  His kindness touched our hearts in a very special way, during an especially difficult time – and his “neighborly” love for our family was very much appreciated.  Bobby has served us in very simple yet meaningful ways throughout the years, for which we will always be grateful.   Bobby has Downs Syndrome – and although he has his share of challenges as he finds his place in the world – he is a neighbor like no other.  He is someone who is such an example of genuine love and compassion and it is a privilege and a pleasure to be numbered among his friends. 

Although we may think that such a kind, caring and attentive neighbor is a rarity these days, actually I have found a special place in another neighborhood that I cherish:  The Project Linus neighborhood.  Last weekend, Carol and I attended a Project Linus regional conference in Kansas City MO.  This weekend we are attending the Portland OR/Vancouver WA Northwest regional conference.   Chapter Coordinators and volunteers in these regions of the country gather together for a weekend of inspiration and fellowship with those who share our love and passion for Project Linus!  Although we are far from our physical neighborhood in the Midwest, we couldn’t feel more welcome and more at home as we gather together with our Project Linus neighbors across the miles.  We have learned new blanketmaking techniques and skills, visited with volunteers and chapter coordinators, enjoyed the inspirational stores that have brought others to our “Project Linus neighborhood” while sharing our love for Project Linus.  It doesn’t matter whether or not we have met before – it feels like home.  As soon as we see the “Project Linus” t-shirt or nametag as we walk down the hall or enter a room – we know that we’re meeting a beloved  neighbor and we feel an instant connection.

We often talk about the mission of Project Linus – donating handmade blanket to seriously ill and traumatized children.  We occasionally mention the second portion of our mission which to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.  This meeting of our hearts is what creates that special neighborhood.  We not only serve the children, but we serve each other.  We teach each other, we care for each other and we love each other. 

It’s time for us to gather together again for Make a Blanket Day.  If you haven’t registered, please do so right away.  We still have openings and we ask that all of our attendees register.  See our Project Linus newsletter for details.

I hope that I can use Bobby’s neighborly example as I see my Project Linus neighbors at home and across the country.  So – to each of you, I’m waving my arms, smiling and sending you a special  “Hi Neighbor” greeting!   Have a wonderful day!

Happy Blanketmaking!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weddings and Bliss!

To be blissful means to be in seventh heaven - to be on cloud nine - to be walking on air! Weddings are often associated with bliss and rightfully so!  To witness two people in love unite as husband and wife is truly a blissful moment.  The moments prior to the bliss, however, can be a bit stressful as the final details are polished and the preparations are completed.  There are always a few glitches here and there and it always amazes me that once the ceremony begins "all is well".

There are those who, when faced with a situation that may be emotional or stressful or new, are calm, cool and collected.  You would never know that inside they may be nervous and emotional because, on the outside they are able to handle the moment with grace and ease.  I personally know of individuals who have been blessed with this gift, but unfortunately I myself am not one of those.   I tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve for the world to see.  If I’m happy – you can tell.  If I’m angry – you know that as well.  If I’m sad I cry and if I’m frightened I look and act accordingly.  When an important family event takes place (weddings, missions, births of babies, etc.) and we are “in the moment”, I usually react by simply losing all touch with reality.  I don’t know why this happens, and I don’t like it, but I have realized over the years that I must live with it.  My family knows that although I APPEAR to be in control, my mind is blank and I can’t be trusted to do much of anything.  So, they lovingly take me by the hand and escort me through the event – making sure that I don’t lose anyTHING or anyONE in the process.

Saturday was one such day.  My son Jonathan was married to the love of his life – Erin.  They are a beautiful couple and we couldn’t be happier for them.   The day before the wedding, all the members of the wedding party, family and friends used our “Disney Give a Day Get a Disney Day” free passes for a day at Disneyland.  We had so much fun and thank Disney for such a memorable and fun-filled day!  All went extremely well and I really thought that maybe I had things under control!  When we returned to the hotel, Terry realized that his contact lens case must have fallen out of his pocket on a ride and had no place to put his contacts for the night.  I suggested that he fill the two glasses in the bathroom with water and drop one lens in each glass.  He thought that was a great idea and placed the glasses on the counter – left lens in the left glass and right lens in the right glass.  The next morning I got up first and began getting ready for the wedding.  When it was time to take my Vitamins I promptly filled up the right glass with water and drank his right contact lens.  I immediately realized what I had done when I looked at the glass on the left and saw the little lens floating in the inch of water.  I then examined the glass on the right, hoping against hope that the lens was stuck to the side of the glass, but it wasn’t.  It was already in my tummy with my Multiple Vitamins.  I felt just terrible, knowing that he really would have preferred to witness Jonathan and Erin’s marriage “clearly” but now he would have to settle for a semi-sharp view of the nuptials.  Either way, it did provide some comic relief for everyone.  As Terry and I sat across from each other at the wedding, the man marrying Jonathan and Erin commented to them about their parents and our happy marriages.  As we looked at each other – Terry closed one eye so that he could see me clearly, and smiled at me.  Everyone in our family knew EXACTLY why he was winking at me – and I think this is one story that I will hear recounted for many years to come – the day Mom drank Dad’s contact lens. 

I didn’t bring any crocheting or quilting with me on the airplane from Illinois to California.  Maybe I should have…because when I’m making a Project Linus blanket, I tend to calm down and relax.  It takes me to a different world and I like it there!  I know that many of you also seek refuge from the world as you make blankets, and the children we serve do the same as they take advantage of our creations.  Well, three of my children are now married with one to go.  I’m not sure what that day will bring, but maybe a skein of yarn and a crochet hook needs to be on my list.    

Happy Blanketmaking!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Comfort and Security vs. Worry and Panic

"We experience moments absolutely free from worry.  
These brief respites are called panic."  Cullen Hightower

For those of you who know me, you know that it is not my intention to spend my day worrying OR in a panic…but there are "a few" occasions where somehow, I just do.   I think it stems from the fact that by nature, I’m a worrier.  Now – don’t get me wrong – this isn’t all bad.  I try to look at all angles of a particular situation and then prepare myself for what may come.  For example, when there is a severe thunderstorm warning – I am NOT one to stand on my porch with a camera.  My children will testify that we spent many a storm warning in the basement closet with blankets and a radio – waiting for the “all clear” while prepared for the tornado.   I call this “controlled worry”.  When my “worrying” is under control – I am able to compartmentalize it and go about my day.  Then if the anticipated situation arises, all I have to do is retrieve my “worry plan of action” and carry it out.  Unfortunately, there are a few occasions where my worry gets a bit out of control – and I enter panic mode.  I worry about going into panic mode…simply because it takes me by surprise causing me to be totally unable to predict where it will take me and how I will react. I can go from a calm, cool existence where I am totally in control – to chaos, panic and mayhem in a matter of seconds.  In fact – you could almost say that I could be compared to a fast car or jet plane when you look at my ability to escalate my psyche from calm to full scale panic in a moment’s notice.  Yesterday was one of those unpredictable moments. 

We had been out of town for a week and our newspaper was to have been restarted on the morning of our return.  When I checked for the paper (which wasn’t delivered…) I noticed that there were some blossoms on the plants on my porch that were looking a bit shriveled and needed to be removed.  I went back inside, got my clippers and then returned to the porch.  I left the front door slightly open behind me – and the outside door was closed, but not latched.  When I finished my trimming, I picked up the dead blossoms and took them to the trash.  As I was returning to the porch I saw a cat running across the street in front of my house.  MY CAT!!!  Sadie is 2 years old and is an inside cat.  She has never been outside and wouldn’t know where she lived if she ran away and tried to find her way back.  In a single moment, I transformed from being a calm gardener to a panicky "cat mom".  My initial semi-rational thought was to go into the house to see if Sadie was in there (initializing my “worry plan of action”) – but I was already escalating into panic mode and it was too late.  My thought process was that if I went INSIDE where she probably wasn’t, I would lose sight of her OUTSIDE where I knew she WAS.   She can push a door open - and although I THOUGHT the front door was heavy enough to be secure - obviously I was wrong.  She got out.  So, I took off running after her.  I was barefooted and as I ran down the street and through the neighbor’s yards – sobbing and calling her name – I lost all touch with reality.  Each car that passed me seemed to be speeding out of control and I KNEW that little Sadie would never be quick enough to get out of their way.  Garage doors were open everywhere – and I KNEW that Sadie could be hiding ANYWHERE in the neighborhood or beyond.  She was out of my site and I just KNEW that she was gone.  I ran back home, got into the car and began canvassing the neighborhood and beyond – hoping that I would see her.  I called Terry – in my panic mode - and he immediately came home and began to look as well.  A short time later my cell phone rang and it was Terry.  He had stopped home for a second and once inside, guess who greeted him?  Sadie!   Oops -  I suppose I should have gone with my initial “worry plan of action” and looked around the house BEFORE I began my search – but, I have found that once I go into panic mode, it’s difficult to retreat.  If not for my sweet hubby, I probably would still be out there driving around looking for Sadie. 

There are many occasions where we simply need someone or something to comfort us.  We need a hug to take us from our worries to a place of peace and solitude and to keep us from going into “full panic mode”.  Project Linus offers this type of comfort and security to seriously ill and traumatized children through the gift of a new, handmade blanket.  With each blanket that is given to a child in crisis – the hug of comfort not only touches the child – but also reaches out to the family as well.  One blanket serves as a gesture of love that can work miracles. 

When it was time for my 20 minute “power nap” in the afternoon, I was grateful for my quilt.  I wrapped up in it and it brought me comfort AND security.  I’m also pleased to report that Sadie joined me as well.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tapping into a Fountain of Youth!

“There IS a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” --Sophia Loren

My granddaughter Lucy turned 3 ½ years old. She was SO EXCITED to learn that “and a half” had been added to her 3 years and she always remembers to tack on the “and a half” to her age whenever she’s asked.  April 15th is MY half birthday, but for some reason I never think to add the “and a half” to my age when asked how old I am. In fact, when I’m asked my age, I need to make a quick calculation.  By subtracting my birth year from the current year, the difference between the two is my age.  I feel that this is a long, arduous and unnecessary process, so I try not to make my age a major life concern . At this moment, I don’t know how old I am in years and I don’t really care how many years have passed since the day I was born. I do know that I am over 50 because my family had a wonderful birthday party for me on my 50th birthday a few years ago.   Now don't get me wrong - I LOVE my birthday month and I look forward to celebrating for the entire month each and every year.  I just don't mark the year with a number.

I have a very good reason not to keep track of my biological age. Between the ages of birth and 21, there are many milestones ahead of us and we look forward to each one.  Starting school, our first date, getting a driver’s license and eventually being legally recognized as an “adult” are exciting events that just don’t come quickly enough.  When we turn any age “and a half”, we are six months closer to reaching those milestones so we keep close track.   Once I turned 21 my age just didn't seem as important to me as it once did.  It was almost as if counting my years evolved into a way of keeping track of the wear and tear on my bones, muscles, organs, feet, joints, teeth, eyes, etc. I find that I just don’t like anticipating the predicted “age” when my body parts begin to show signs of wearing out - so I adapted an anti-aging policy called "Ignorance is Bliss". 

Instead, I now prefer to keep track of my theoretical age. Some days I feel young, and other days I feel old. I have more young days than old days, so I believe that is a good sign. I feel old when I strain my back picking up an item just out of my reach, when I try to play the Wii with my grandchildren and always end up in last place, and when I can’t see the picture I just took on my digital camera without putting on my glasses. On such occasions, when my theoretical age begins to climb, I have found very effective ways to rejuvenate myself.  Engaging in an early morning run either outside or on the treadmill,  a romantic date with my husband, watching The Andy Griffith Show on TV, lunch with my friends, going to a quilt show, gathering with family, listening to an "Easy Listening" music station and quilting in any shape or form all direct my theoretical age toward “younger". I like that feeling.

Another way to lower my “theoretical age” is to associate with Project Linus volunteers. Their excitement, their attitudes, their diligence, their stamina, their dedication, their perseverance and their friendship makes me realize that biological age can be quite deceiving. Once you’ve attended a Project Linus event or associated with blanketeers, you will realize that the number of years we have spent on earth is immaterial. As we join together as friends to serve others, while doing something we love we have actually tapped into the fountain of youth. It's true - Project Linus is actually the “fountain of youth” in disguise!

Now, don't be selfish.  There's plenty of youth coming from the fountain for everyone.  Just pass it along!  :-)
Happy Blanketmaking!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With no strings attached!

I had a crazy dream last night. I dreamed that I was pregnant and about ready to deliver my TWENTY-THIRD child. In my dream, I was in the hospital discussing my large family and impending labor with the nurses. I was relating to them the fact that this delivery was a bit bitter-sweet for me because we had decided that this would be our last child. I’m not sure what prompted the dream but I do know that when I woke up, I was so grateful that I have 4 wonderful children, almost 7 absolutely adorable grandchildren and, thank heavens, I am NOT pregnant.

I have always felt that it is very important that each child and grandchild receives a quilt made by me, sometime in his or her life. As each grandchild has arrived, I have tried to have a quilt finished before his or her first birthday. With grandbaby #7 (a boy) due in a few weeks, I have been searching for fabric that will be just perfect for his “construction/trucks” quilt. Twins Luke and Logan received twin “happy snake quilts” – made from the same pattern, but different background colors. Lucy received a fun and “girly” animal quilt, Tyler’s was an “I Spy” quilt and Gracie received a “Ducks in the Pond” quilt. As I look back, it seems like the pattern and construction of each quilt got a little more involved with each subsequent grandchild. When the time came to make Katie’s quilt, it started as a “Bee in the yard” quilt, and ended up being an appliqued “Bee-attitude” quilt – full of grandmotherly advise. Each appliquéd bee and flower had its own message embroidered in the squares - “Be honest, be grateful, be respectful, be clean, be joyful, be still, be forgiving, be involved, be kind, be positive, be loving, be smart, be humble, be prayerful, be patient, be yourself, and be true.”

Quilting affords us many opportunities to touch the lives of others. We choose a pattern and then make it our own. We choose fabrics that suit our personality, or the personality of the recipient. We choose colors that distinguish our handiwork as something for an adult – or a child; a man – or a woman. We can take hours (or even days or weeks) to select fabrics that will appropriately convey the theme of our quilt. When we cut our fabrics into pieces and then stitch them back together again, we try to make sure that the finished quilt has points that match, borders that are not wavy and backing that has no tucks. After we carefully attach the binding, we sign our name inconspicuously in the corner and admire our handiwork. Then, we look at it one last time, hug it goodbye, and lovingly give it away to the intended recipient - with no strings attached.

As blanketeers, you also lovingly give away your masterpieces with “no strings attached” - but it’s usually to someone you’ve never met – and probably will never meet. What a selfless gift of love! We thank you and we applaud you as do the children and their families who are the grateful recipients of your kindness and generosity.
If you happen to visit the Decatur Quilt Show at the Civic Center on Friday or Saturday (March 26th or 27th) – please look for Katie’s “Bee-attitude” quilt hanging with the other children’s quilts. As soon as the show is over, the quilt will be given to Katie and hung on her wall – a gift of love from her Nonna – with no strings attached!

Happy Blanketmaking!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nothing has changed!

Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. ~Irene Pete

One beautiful day in 1979 I was out running errands with my baby Cari, in Guadalajara Mexico. I put my purse on the roof of the car, strapped Cari in the infant seat (we didn’t have car seats then) and hopped into the driver’s seat. I drove a few feet, heard a thump and realized that my purse just flew off the roof of the car. I immediately stopped the car, jumped out and searched the area but my purse was gone. In my panic, I ran to the road workers nearby and asked them if anyone saw my purse, but surprisingly – no one saw anything. I vowed that I would ALWAYS keep better track of my purse…

In the early 1980’s we were driving from our home in Michigan to visit family in Illinois. When we arrived in Rockford I reached for my purse as we got out of the car. No purse. Trying to retrace our steps, the only stop we made was at a McDonalds restaurant in Battle Creek Michigan. I have no idea how Terry remembered the exit number, but we were able to track down the McDonalds phone number through “Information” (we didn’t have internet then) and sure enough, they had my purse. We picked it up on our way back home a few days later - contents intact. WHEW!

On another occasion, while I was shopping in Springfield, I heard my name announced over the mall loud speaker. Guess what? Someone had found my purse hanging on a hook in the dressing room of a store where I had been shopping. Oops! I retrieved it with everything accounted for – thank heavens! Each time I recoverd my lost purse, I vowed I would ALWAYS double check to make sure I had my purse with me. I really tried to keep that vow – however it has been much more difficult than I ever anticipated and I have found that I still have trouble keeping track of my purse. I have left it in various restaurants, gas stations, churches, homes of friends and family and restrooms across the country. It has been suggested to me that I not carry a purse – but that is totally out of the question. What would I do without my camera, cell phone, my checkbook, my hand sanitizer, my brush, my pen, pencil and Sharpie marker? How can I live without my keys, my credit cards, my dollars and my change? What if I (or someone else) need some Tylenol or Dramamine or Immodium, Zantac or Tums? You never know when I’ll need a Band-Aid, Lip Stick, a breath mint, glasses, dental floss, a tape measure or all the punch & discount cards that I have from various shops that I frequent!

Actually I’ve been pretty good about keeping track of my purse lately… well - except for an incident in October - you may remember my blog entry when Cheryl, Jane and I were at the Bloomington airport. I discovered at check-in that I left my purse at home and Terry came to my rescue by making a mad dash to the airport so that I wouldn’t miss my flight…

Well - last Tuesday – it happened again! While driving to Chicago with Cheryl to purchase fabric for Make a Blanket Day – Cheryl’s cell phone rang. It was Terry letting her know that my purse was hanging in a BP Gas Station bathroom stall in Odell Illinois. The kind and honest worker who discovered my purse found my phone number on my checks and called my home. She gave me a pretty good reprimand when we returned (we were almost an hour away when we got the call) and I assured her that I had been beating myself up the entire way back to Odell. Cheryl has since vowed that she will always be on “purse watch” when she travels with me and she said she would also enlist the help of other family and friends!

So – referring back to the quote at the beginning of the blog – although my purses are different, my circumstances are different and the places I go are different – the basic scenario never changes. I still lose track of my purse on occasion. I still panic when I realize that my purse is gone, I waste a lot of time either looking for it or going back for it, I profusely apologize to everyone who is with me for the inconvenience, I express extreme gratitude to the person who returns it to me, and I vow never to do it again…until the next time happens. In addition, I am very grateful that I don’t have to travel with someone like me because I’m afraid I wouldn’t be as gracious as my friends and family have been…each time it happens.

On Saturday, February 20th we celebrated our National Make a Blanket Day. Although the place was different (we moved our event from the Hickory Point Mall to Decatur Memorial Hospital), the set-up was different (due to the fact that our numbers increased substantially to 175 attendees) and the food was different (now catered by the hospital), nothing had actually changed. The Golden K’s, the LDS Missionaries and our spouses, families and friends helped with set-up and take-down and carried attendees’ supplies. We had door prizes, added charms to our bracelets, played games, had special drawing prizes including handmade big boards donated by Bill Busbey and a sewing machine, donated by Stewarts. And all the while, our attendees made blankets…lots of blankets…1553 blankets…for seriously ill and traumatized children in our local chapter area and in Haiti. We visited with friends while we worked side by side, serving those children who needed our help.

Thank you to each of you for your support. It is because of you that our work is able to continue. Even though things may be different on occasion – nothing has really changed! National Make a Blanket Day 2010 was a wonderful and productive day! We still love to do what we do and we try to do our best to offer comfort to any child who needs a hug!

Happy Blanketmaking!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finding Peace...

Several years ago I sat in a lawn chair along a rock wall reading a book. I was in Haiti. I remember being captivated by the glistening gulf waters and beautiful sandy beach as I enjoyed the peace offered by this heavenly haven. As I watched my kids swimming, snorkeling and lying on the beach, I couldn’t help but think this was the most beautiful place I had ever visited. It was truly one of those hidden earthly treasures and I was so grateful that I was there at that moment.

A 180 degree “about face” took place in Haiti on January 12th, 2010. Life for its citizens either ended or was forever altered on that fateful day. From the news reports, I could see that the peace I once felt on the Haitian beach was nowhere to be found. When the earth began to quake and buildings began to tumble I can only imagine what went through the minds of those standing in the midst of it all. As the walls of their homes, schools, hospitals, shops and workplaces collapsed around them did they even have time to come up with a plan to find a way out? Where do you go when everything inside and outside is shaking and breaking and falling around you and on you? As a “grown-up” I know that I still feel panic when the unexpected happens. But the earthquake in Haiti was more than “the unexpected”. It was a disaster which ran its course in a very short time yet created devastation beyond belief and no one appeared to be spared from its impact. Not even us. Although we personally didn’t feel the initial shaking, nor were we eye-witnesses to the destruction, weeks later, we still feel the aftershocks. We’re shocked by the increasing number of reported deaths, the homelessness, the crime and the rubble. We’re shocked that right in the midst of it all are children - children of all ages who are now alone and suffering - without shelter, food, clean water or medicine - without anything to call their own.

This is where Project Linus comes in. Project Linus gives blankets as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children. What could be more traumatic than to have your entire sense of normalcy completely stripped away from you in less than a moment. No food, no clean water, no toys, no bed, no roof, no bed covers, and in many, many cases – no family. It’s more than our adult hearts and minds can fathom.

I have always known that Project Linus has been guided to do what is needed, when it needs to be done. We listen and then follow. When the Disney Give a Day Get a Day program was in its initial stages, Carol (our National President) and I discussed the fact that we could potentially receive thousands and thousands of blankets just here in Central IL not to mention those donated to our nearly 400 chapters across the country. We both agreed that we were being prepared for an occasion where we would need a very large number of blankets, very quickly. Of course, that was exactly what happened. Within days of the beginning of the Disney promotion, the earthquake hit Haiti and we immediately knew where many of these blankets would go. Very soon after, we were able to identify and assist reputable organizations who have a continuing presence in Haiti. They have welcomed our Project Linus blankets and we are doing our best to fill the blanket needs they have requested.

The task at hand (identifying recipient agencies and directing the shipping of blankets to those who will deliver them to the children) has created a stressful time in my life, to say the least. The sheer volume of inquiries that needed to be answered continued to climb. In addition, trying to orchestrate the blanket collection and distribution in an orderly and effective fashion was very overwhelming – albeit in a good way. Then, I hit a road block. The need for 10,000 blankets had been met in less than 20 hours after the request was posted. When this was announced, many of our volunteers were sad and upset that they did not have a chance to help. The e-mails continue to pour in and I didn’t know what to do. I decided to leave my computer and cell phone behind and seek the feeling of peace that I found on that Haitian beach several years ago. As I drove the back roads to a favorite quilt shop – Peace and Applique, I prayed for more opportunities to become available to send blankets to these children. When I arrived at the quilt shop, I spoke with Lois, the shop owner, about our situation and she listened with an open heart. Our short visit brought me comfort and yes – it brought me peace. I was away from e-mail for about 2 hours and when I returned, there was a request for 10,000 (or more) blankets from another organization.

As of this minute, 31,325 new, handmade blankets are going to the children of Haiti. How will these blankets help? I hope that these handmade gifts from Project Linus blanketeers will let the children know that they are loved and prayed for. I hope they will realize that this blanket is a gift just for them and that it's theirs to keep. I hope that when they wrap these blankets around their shoulders they will feel a hug of comfort from the blanketeers who made them. When they cover themselves with their blanket, I hope it will block out the devastation that surrounds them - even if it's just for a moment. When it’s time to rest I hope their blanket will give them a soft cushion and separate them from the ground that has become their bed. When they dream, I hope that their dreams are sweet and that the soft touch of a Project Linus blanket will give them peace in their beautiful and soon to be rebuilt Haiti.

Thank you to all for your help. May you find peace as well.

Happy Blanketmaking,

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finish the Race and Finish Strong!

“If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance, or just to finish the race - it's up to you.” Dave Scott

It’s the new year and time for me to select a new “theme” for 2010. I have always loved January 1st for a variety of reasons. I look at it as a time to start over – to refresh myself – to try something new and to give me something on which to focus for the year. I have eliminated the words “New Year’s Resolution” from my vocabulary simply because they only last a couple of weeks - when the year is “new”. When the year begins to age, I find that my resolutions disappear right along with the “newness” of the year. Instead, I focus on a theme for the year.

For example in 2008 my theme was “Because Nice Matters”. I TRIED to be as nice as I possibly could throughout 2008. There were occasions when my frustration with regard to a particular situation overtook my ability to be totally nice – so in those cases, I tried to be NICE-ER than I would have been in the same situation during previous years. In 2009 my theme was “The Cup is Half Full” and I TRIED my best to look on the bright side of things, rather than always expecting the worst. That was tough at times. For some reason when faced with a crisis, my thoughts tend to immediately jump to a negative conclusion. But since I did have a “theme” for the year that encouraged a “half full attitude”, I think I’ve made progress.

I have been pondering all the possible “themes” for 2010. Based on my busy schedule as well as my seemingly involuntary habit of getting myself involved in many, many, many different projects which tend to require much time and effort and always have a deadline that’s written in stone, Jonathan’s fiancée Erin suggested the theme “Finish the Race” to which I added “and Finish Strong”. I love it! It’s so me! I love to make lists, to categorize, to set goals, to plan and to check things off when completed. Even more importantly, I love to do it quickly and efficiently and I love to have a “strong finish” in the end. In other words, I’m intrigued and motivated by the whole “race concept”.

My first race of 2010 began on January 1st. I did sign up for it, but had no idea what to expect. You may have heard of the “Disney Give a Day, Get a Day” volunteer opportunity. ( Project Linus is one of the official non-profit organizations that is partnering with Disney. A variety of service opportunities are posted on their website and if you register and complete one, they will give you a free day at either Disney World or Disneyland. I posted three opportunities for our chapter and was excited to think that we would be getting some blankets and new volunteers as a result. Beginning at 9:00am on New Year’s Day, the calls and e-mails started coming in. For the past 4 days, I have been on the computer answering e-mails non-stop. So far, I have had hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and almost 400 people who have committed to making blankets. I almost dropped out of the race yesterday, when I thought that I would no longer walk again after discovering that my bones seemed to have fused themselves into a “sitting at the computer position”.

But – after a warm bath, and a good night’s sleep, and the calming words of a wonderful husband, I decided simply to forge on. I do plan to not only finish this race but to also finish strong! More importantly, the children who will benefit from these beautiful hugs of comfort will win right along with me!

I wonder what my next race will be? I’ll keep you posted!

Happy Blanketmaking!