wheezy rider and the Deep Breath quilt pattern

better world, design, experiences, family

I’ve got a really fun quilt pattern for you at the end of this post but first a little background:

Last summer I wrote about my lifelong struggles with asthma and a number of loved ones who suffer from or who have died from respiratory illnesses. On a good day, I can ride 100 miles on my bike. On a bad day, I can’t finish a sentence without gasping for breath. I’m not alone. According to the CDC, in the US one child in ten has asthma. We adults with asthma number 16.4 million. In Chicago for the past 104 years, our advocate for clean air, smoke-free environments and lung health has been the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC). Bill and I started fundraising for RHAMC after his mom died of COPD in 1999. His dad also died young of tobacco-related illness.

RHAMC is a particularly important voice in Chicago, which has the highest incidence of asthma in the US. In Chicago one in four African-American and Puerto Rican children has asthma. The asthma hospitalization rate is double the national average. My doctor did her residency in a children’s hospital here and treated kids who spend 20 days of every month in the hospital because their asthma is so severe. The children attend school inside the hospital because their illness is so debilitating. Most of these children are from low-income families and they have few voices to advocate for them and lobby for cleaner air that will improve their health. Asthma doesn’t get a lot of funding compared with say, breast cancer or heart disease yet it is the number one reason that children miss school.  That’s why RHAMC’s work is near and dear, not just to my heart, but to my lungs!

In 2000, Bill and I began doing CowaLUNGa, a 190-mile fundraising bike ride organized by RHAMC from Illinois to Wisconsin. There’s a tag on the bag of my bike that reads “Wheezy Rider” because I always think that I’m riding for all who can’t. This year, for the first time, our 9-year old daughter will be joining us on the ride. She asked to start training last September and has worked up to riding three 50-60 mile rides in the past six weeks on the back of our tandem with Bill. We plan to ride two of the three days for a total of over 130 miles. The ride is August 7-9.

Each year we also make and donate a quilt for the Cowalunga raffle. This year I’d like to see if we can use this quilt pattern to raise a few dollars for cleaner air, smoking cessation programs for those who need them and research and advocacy for those of us that struggle to be able to take a deep breath.

So here’s how it works: I developed this pattern that I’m offering as a download with the hope that you’ll make a small donation to RHAMC. You can give $3 or $5 or whatever works for you. Every single dollar is appreciated. I can see from my blog stats that thousands of people have downloaded our free patterns in the past. If we could get each of those people to donate a buck or two to RHAMC, that would be a huge amount of money.

To donate click here, which will take you to my secure CowaLUNGa fundraising page. The fundraising link will remain active through October 2010. Make a donation and then return and download the pdf of the “Deep Breath” quilt. The pattern is fast and fun to whip up and can be made from scraps in a day.

Last year I blogged about tying names onto my bike rack of people whose lives were affected by lung disease. I plan to do the same this year. Many of you shared touching stories of you or your loved ones who are fellow asthmatics, lung cancer or COPD sufferers or smokers struggling to quit. “I’d love for my dad to go on your ride with you,” wrote one reader as she sent me his name. I thought about those stories as I climbed those steep Wisconsin hills. You inspired me and I’d love to do it again. So even if you can’t make a donation, please share your story and send me the name of anyone you’d like me to take on our ride. I’ll post pictures after the ride.


Weeks aka Wheezy Rider

lest we forget

better world, experiences, family, just a thought, knitting, quilting

Greetings from Normandy, France where it’s D-Day.

Our family is here visiting Bill’s sister and her family. When Bill asked what I wanted to see in Normandy, I immediately responded, “The Beaches.” As the grand-daughter and step-grand-daughter of two admirals in the Navy who fought against Japan in WWII, I wanted to see where those thousands of brave soldiers landed and how they made history.

In the preceding weeks I showed our young daughter pictures, maps and diagrams of why WWII started and what the Normandy invasion was all about. We went to the First Division Museum in Cantigny, Illinois and I told her, “We’ll have lots of fun in France, but I want you to take 10 minutes out of your happy life and think about what those soldiers did in the name of freedom.”

We knew that we’d be going to the cemetery as well so we bought small American flags for each member of the two families. When we got there I offered one to everyone in the group suggesting that if they wanted they could find a tombstone against which they could put their flags. I gave no directives, just a suggestion that we think about who we would want to honor with our flags.We commented as we walked at the diversity of the names on those tombstones.

I chose the unknown soldier above. Another chose a nurse, while others chose soldiers with names that matched theirs or ones that had no particular significance but just felt right.

In the guest book I wrote, “With admiration and gratitude.” Others wrote simply, “Humbling.” It seems like so long ago and yet when you’re here, it’s hallowed ground. It was a glorious day without a cloud in the sky. We stood in the bunkers and thought about all of the bravery, leadership and vision that it took to turn the tides of that sad war.

So here’s my plan: I’m starting to knit a superwash wool neck gaitor for a soldier fighting in Afghanistan which I will finish by the end of the summer to get it there in time for winter. I’m also going to make a quilt for Quilts of Valor. I hope you too will do something to honor those who serve our country.

On this auspicious day I’ll be thinking about the inspiring words I read on the entry to the Omaha Beach Memorial:

‘You can manufacture weapons and you can purchase ammunition but you can’t buy valor and you can’t pull heroes off an assembly line.” – Sgt. John B. Ellery of the US 1st Infantry Division

last call for 2009

better world, design, general crafts, knitting

Starting this blog was one of my favorite parts of 2009. I’ve so enjoyed reading your comments and finding out what’s of interest to you. I have a lot of tutorials and free patterns on deck for 2010 and would love to hear about which topics you’d like me to write about.

For all you bloggers out there, for Christmas my husband Bill thoughtfully used Blurb to compile my first year of posts on craft nectar and have it printed into the printed book shown above. It’s kind of fun to see a year’s worth of posts all in one place.

I bid a very fond farewell and give thanks to Warm Woolies, which ceased operations last week. Warm Woolies delivered hand-knitted wool clothing to orphanages around the world and I was delighted to have knit for the children they served. I’m saddened not to be able to get more orphaned children the warm clothing they need but understand that the logistics of distributing clothing around the world is complex indeed. My next sweater will go to a child in Afghanistan and will be distributed through Afghans for Afghans, another wonderful organization that distributes clothing to needy families. I’ll also be making some wool neck gaiters for US ground troops serving in Afghanistan that will be distributed by theshipsproject.com. Small acts with great love is how we change the world right?

Several of you have requested a tutorial of our one-step machine binding method featured in the Modern Quilt Workshop and that is on deck for 2010. One reader requested that I post the list of ways to troubleshoot tension problems on a long-arm quilting machine. I’ve found a link to a list that is similar to the one we had.

At the end of each year I always try to set aside a little time for daydreaming about the upcoming year. It’s not so much resolutions as planning for me. I dream about things I want to accomplish professionally and things I want to work on to be a better person but I also think about what I can do to keep myself inspired. In the coming weeks you’ll see posts about how I organize my lifestyle and my time so I can be as creative in my work as possible. I invite you to share your ideas for how to be creative and productive when all of the details of life sometimes distract you from what you really want to be doing. My favorite book on this subject is called The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and if you’re looking for a book to give you ideas on how to be more creative in 2010, look no further.

I’m ready for a new start. A new decade. New adventures. Come on 2010! I can’t wait!