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 fiancĂ©e 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!