Monday, August 25, 2008

Help Give Our Soldiers a Better Holiday

When peri-menopause moved into it's final stages last November and I started going nuts...unable to concentrate, experiencing major writer's block, sleeplessness and was losing interest in life, which was causing bouts of depression, my wise 20-something daughter told me " NEED a hobby to keep you sane." Computers had been my life and I hadn't had much time for a hobby. But now I was feeling really stupid and was lucky that I was even able to operate my email software! She was right, I needed something less brain-draining to occupy my time so I felt more useful than sitting there staring at the idiot box.

I broke out crochet needles and finally taught myself to crochet. It was something I'd always wanted to learn to do, but never had the time. Now this type of automatic work was just what I needed. Understand, I'm not saying crocheting is brainless, because some people have incredible skills to concentrate and create amazing items. Not me...but I could whip out a scarf or afghan, so everyone was sure to be warm and cozy for the winter as I worked away on one after another. But soon this started to get boring and anything more intricate was beyond my current change of life brain power. It was time to move to the sewing machine.

I taught myself to make quilts. Greg got one with planes on it, the kids got some, even my brother's dog got one and then I moved on to quilted tote bags, which Stacy received to carry her dance costumes.

But my crowning achievement to date was a quilt I made for mom, which I call Legacy. I used Microsoft Word and my color laserjet, along with freezer paper to assemble photos on fabric of all mom's children, grand children and great grand children and sewed them onto a beautiful quilt that mom just loves. It also helps her remember the names of each person because she talks to everyone shown on the quilt each morning when she makes her bed. Since her stroke, she has memory loss (aphasia) and often forgets people. This helps her remember who everyone is in her family and how they are all related to each other.

Note! If you'd like to learn more about using your computer to help you apply photos to your sewing projects, see this article I wrote for Computor Companion: Add Photos to Sewing Projects with Microsoft Word

Quilts for the family were fun and helped me feel productive while my brain was on vacation. But then I learned about Soldiers' Angels sewing team and their venture to give a blanket to all US service members who are deployed for the holidays this year. Greg and I are members of the Patriot Guard Riders...bikers who honor soldiers at their funerals, deployment ceremonies and welcome home events. Through the Patriot Guard, I joined Soldier Angels on Steel Wings and eventually discovered the sewing team for Soldiers' Angels.

Soldiers' Angels are hoping to give all deployed soldiers a holiday basket from home, which will include a home-made Blanket of Belief, letting all our service men and woman know that we support them. They estimate that they will need about 180,000 blankets! So we sure can use your help!

To date, I've managed to make eight blankets and shipped them off to the holding location. I'm hoping to create at least 25 by the deadline of November 1, 2008. Yes...I have my work cut out for me. But, thankfully, I've come up with a pretty and simple process to create nice looking blankets that I can make fast. And with practice, I can now whip one out in about 2 to 2.5 hours. Great for those sleepless nights! Rather than tossing in bed fighting hot flashes and sweats and trying to get some sleep, I can crank out a blanket for the soldiers.

There are lots of ways you can help and you actually don't need to know how to sew to add to the pile of blankets being collected to send to our soldiers this holiday. You can purchase a kit that allows you to draw and create a blanket...great for kids to do! There's also a crocheting team if you are good at crocheting blankets. I have one of those in red, white and blue going, but I'm much faster at sewing.

To see all my Soldier Angel blankets and get more details about this project, you can check out my pictures here:

Or just head over to the Soldiers' Angels web site where you can get all the details. You'll find it here:

Go right to the Blankets of Belief project page, here:

We need a lot more blankets! Please help! Sew a blanket, crochet a blanket, purchase a blanket kit to design with your kids, or make a donation to help with the ultimate shipping charges to get all these blankets to those who will be away from home during the holidays!

I remember reading what someone wrote about one wounded soldier who received a Soldiers' Angel blanket. She said when he returned home the first thing he did was show his family his purple heart...the next thing he did was show them his Soldiers' Angel blanket! And if that isn't enough inspiration...check out this BEAUTIFUL cartoon from dedicated to Soldiers' Angels and their blanket campaign!

"A Soldiers' Angel, keeping him warm."


Friday, August 22, 2008

Throw Dian from a Plane

Yes, TechTrax has been out of commission for several months now. True, it may appear that the last issue was published in June, 2007. Yes, that is the last issue date, but that one was actually published in December. Learning to be mom's primary caretaker after her stroke and heart attack was taking a toll on my time...and on me! I was lacking the ability to keep up with TechTrax as much as I should have been doing.

But by December, I thought I was finally getting things under control regarding mom, as well as dealing with my feelings about my brother...who is battling for his life from multiple cancers and a blood disease. But just as I was feeling ready to return to the world...menopause slapped me upside the head! JOY! Now we joke about this stuff all the time, right. But let me tell you...I quickly discovered that it can be no laughing matter for some women. And it appeared that I was one of those lucky ones who are blown away by this nonsense. Crazed hormones can really be frightening! And talk about your mood swings. I felt like I was manic/depressive from all the insane days I was having, not to mention the fun hot flashes and night sweats that wouldn't give me an ounce of sleep most nights.

Caretakers know, and I'd recently been learning, that you seriously have to take care of yourself if you want to have the physical and mental strength to care for someone else who is experiencing major health problems and needs your continuous attention. But it was one thing learning to handle it when I was myself, it was a whole different story when psycho hormones were taking over my body on a regular basis. If your body is so fatigued that you can hardly get out of can you deal with life's demands?

I've always been a strong person, so the realization that I was being beaten down and had little control over my abilities...thanks to Mother Nature's attempt at humor...left me even more depressed. It was one thing to have annoying hot flashes, another thing when the ability to concentrate or even think straight is a struggle.

I tried everything I could get my hands on from soy to yoga, exercise to menopause pills. Some made me feel better...some made me feel like a useless zombie. Slowly, recently, I was starting to feel a bit more alive. But I knew, for the most part, I was still just going through the motions and my motivation hadn't returned. I'd lost my passion for life. I was just doing the few things that needed to be done and didn't care about much else since I felt so useless...unable to concentrate, write, think or care. Egads...I even hardly cared about computers anymore!

It was time for drastic measures! I needed something powerful that would kick-start me back into who I was.

So I jumped out of a plane!

Don't believe me? I have pictures to prove it:

I'd never done anything so exhilarating...or crazy! When I got my butt off the ground after sliding into a landing...I felt so alive again! Talk about motivation. And for the first time in months, I was not only smiling...I was giggling my butt off!

Granted, I still have my moments and wish I was able to go skydive again whenever I was feeling a bit low. But I do have a video and lots of great memories for now...reminding me that I CAN do anything I put my mind to!

I'm currently working on an issue of TechTrax that should be ready in a few days. It may not be one of my most impressive issues, but I have to start somewhere. Then I'll immediately work on another one so I can catch up with lost issues.

And yes, Greg had great fun telling his boss that he needed the day off so he could throw me from a plane!