Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Last Harvest

It was 75 degrees and muggy outside as I drove home from work tonight. A couple of hours later The Husband and I found ourselves wearing pajamas and rain coats, standing in a cold rain, picking the last few tomatoes and peppers, and chucking all our potted plants in the garage.

I knew it was coming, but it's so hard to believe winter is really here when there are ripe tomatoes on the vine.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Brief History of Knitting

I've been knitting for about nine months now. In the time that many women actually produce a baby, I have managed to produce 3 baby items - 4 if you count each bootie separately.

The first project I completed was a pair of baby booties, which I gave to one of my friends when she was expecting her second child.

Here is an example of one of the "final draft" booties.

Here is the "first draft" bootie. It's about the right size for a thumb warmer. Not too much use to a normal, human-sized baby, but it was a good learning experience.

Next, I knitted a blanket for my nephew. Unfortunately, all the pictures came out kinda crappy, so you'll have to trust me that it's a pretty great blanket. (Cat included for scale.)

And finally, the best one so far - the sweater!

I think I ended up knitting the whole thing twice after ripping out all the mistakes and the spots that weren't quite good enough. I plan to run it through the wash before I give it to the baby, mostly to make sure it holds up and also to remove as much cat hair as possible, but I'm putting it off because I'm afraid the sweater will fall apart. Then I'll have to cry and cry, and no one wants that.

Now I am knitting a wrap with pockets as a Christmas present for my mom. The yarn is the best stuff yet. It's kind of a russet color, and it's very thick and soft. Maybe next I will actually knit something for myself with this awesome yarn. I'm surprised it's so great since it's cheap and synthetic.

Due to my aforementioned wool issues, I find my selection of quality yarn quite limited. However, after some research, I've found yarn online made of everything from cotton to pineapple plants. Some particularly cool yarns are made from bamboo and soy. There's even a book in the works all about non-wool knitting. Now I need to find a local store that carries the stuff. Yarn is one of those things that I need to feel and see up close before I'll buy it.

The husband and I did venture into a "real" yarn shop this weekend looking for the specific color of yarn my mom requested for her wrap. ("Pumpkin" Never did find any nice yarn in "pumpkin") It was very weird - like walking into someone's living room and being totally ignored. All these ladies were sitting around at tables knitting and talking. I had no idea who actually worked there. I mostly felt like I'd be interrupting them if I had any questions. As I was leaving, one person did ask if I needed any help. After I explained what I was looking for, she suggested this certain mass-market brand of yarn that I could get at Hobby Lobby or somewhere like that. I was dubious that it would be decent, but I ended up getting exactly what she recommended, and I love it! It's not "pumpkin" though. Sorry, Mom.

ETA: The yarn I ended up liking so much is Homespun in the "Ranch" color by Lion Brand.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Please, please, please make sure you have health insurance.

The bills from my adventures in pulmonary disease are starting to come in. My four-hour visit to the emergency room cost $5,800. Essentially, I had an EKG, a CT scan, some drugs, and then I was sent home. I didn't receive any treatment, and I wasn't admitted, and if I didn't have health insurance I would owe the hospital $5,800 right now.

A few years ago, I found myself uninsured after the company I was working for went bankrupt. While looking for new employment, I got a temp job at Children's Medical Center in the internal audit department, and I regularly saw hospital bills in the six figure range. I immediately started shopping for health insurance and was able to find a policy for a little more than $100 a month. It didn't cover routine doctor visits or some pre-existing conditions, but if I were badly injured or seriously ill, I knew I could cover the deductible and avoid going bankrupt myself.

Another important action to take is to know what your deductibles and out-of-pocket limits are on all your insurance policies (not just health insurance) and be sure you have a plan to cover those amounts if you need to. If you don't have any savings and you're barely making ends meet, it can be just as impossible to come up with $1,000 as a million. In fact, one of the most common reasons for middle class people to declare bankruptcy is medical bills, and most of those people had health insurance when they got sick. (See this article for example.)

At this point, this post could easily veer into a long rant into what's wrong with this whole country. But, I'm just writing this to urge you to be aware and do what you can to take care of yourselves. If you are reading this, I probably really like you and don't want anything bad to happen to you.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Vindicated? Not quite yet.

There's a little bit of good news for ol' Floyd Landis. The lab that performed the urine tests that revealed abnormally high testosterone in Landis's system has admitted to at least one "administrative error" in the handling of the samples. Specifically, there was an incorrect identification number on his backup sample.

This individual mistake doesn't necessarily mean that the sample wasn't his, and it doesn't explain why the original sample tested so high for testosterone. However, it does introduce an element of doubt into the integrity of the testing process.

This post on Landis's blog tells how to access some additional documents that support his position that he didn't take any testosterone. I looked through one presentation that explains how there were also errors with the handling of the original sample, evidence of sample degradation, and inconsistency between repeated tests. A retired physician put together the presentation, but he describes himself as a "long-time Landis coach and advisor," so he may not be completely objective. However, without hearing the lab's defense, it certainly seems like reasonable doubt.

I hope it's true.

Thanks to Holly for the head's up.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


With the weather getting cooler, I was in the mood to shop for some funky thrift shop sweaters this afternoon. I've usually gone to Thrift Village over in Garland. It's a long drive from here, but the store was huge and super cheap. I say *was* because it's gone now. I drove all the way over there only to be denied.

Trying to salvage the situation, I ended up stopping by Goodwill. Goodwill mostly sucks, however. It's not as cheap ($4.99 for a sweater as opposed to $1.99), and the selection isn't as good. Maybe there's some mega-Goodwill around town that would be really great. Let me know if you know where that would be or if you have a cool thrift store where you like to shop.

I ended up getting one sweater - a green wool v-neck from Old Navy. Somehow five bucks doesn't seem like that great a deal for a used Old Navy sweater. Also, I'm not that thrilled with buying wool. PETA has permanently scarred my brain with pictures of maimed sheep being raised for wool. But, when I'm buying second-hand clothes, my conscience doesn't feel so bad for buying animal products.

Maybe I'm just justifying my selfishness here, but one of the main reasons for not buying products I disagree with is to avoid economically supporting that industry. When I buy a wool sweater or a leather jacket from Goodwill, the money goes to support Goodwill, not anyone who profits from mistreating animals. In theory, I don't have any problem with animals being killed for food or materials - only with the way that industrial practices cause animals to suffer and harm to the environment. So, you can call me a hypocrite if you must, but at least it makes sense in my own head.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Out of the Blue

I felt fine on Monday morning, so I certainly didn't expect to end the day in the ER getting CT scanned, EKGed, and shot up with morphine. Even more surprisingly, I didn't particularly enjoy the morphine.

It turns out, I have pneumonia and possibly a partially collapsed lung.

I started out just having a funny pain in my side, which is sometimes caused by my problems with my digestive system, so I didn't really think that much about it. It kept getting worse throughout the day, so much so that I decided to take my medicine for IBS at work, which I never do since it's a muscle relaxer and makes me sleepy and slow. Of course, I had changed purses that morning and didn't have the medicine with me, so I figured I just had to tough it out until I got home.

By the time I was driving home, the pain had gotten bad enough that I couldn't breathe very well. I took a couple of puffs on my emergency inhaler, but it didn't do anything, so I thought I must be right about my intestinal issues causing the problems. As soon as I got home I took my medicine and waited to feel better, but the pain just kept getting worse.

For some reason, I thought if I could just get a good night's sleep I would wake up in the morning and feel fine. However, lying on my back kept me from being able to breathe at all, and I couldn't fall asleep sitting up. I just sat there in the dark trying not to cry for a few hours before I decided to put that health insurance to good use.

The Husband and I went to the ER, which - thank goodness - was not crowded at all, so they took me straight back. I got an EKG to make sure nothing was wrong with my heart, and they took my blood. Then I got an IV with fluids, anti-inflammatories, and morphine. It took the morphine about 10 seconds to kick in, which felt like being dropped over the side of a tall building. I thought I was going to throw up. They turned the lights out so I could sleep, but I just had strange thoughts and sensations without really being able to sleep. At different points I thought I had handfuls of yarn and that I was wearing oven mitts. I realized I might not be able to drive home, so I was thinking about calling someone for a ride, but I couldn't remember my friend's name.

I was grateful when the weird side effect started to wear off after about 30 minutes, and I was left just relaxed with a lot less pain. Then they took me to get a CT scan to check my lungs. They had to inject dye into my veins, and they warned me that it would cause burning and heat throughout my body, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared.

After all the tests, they figured out I had pneumonia and fluid build-up around my left lung, which had caused the bottom part to collapse somewhat. I have antibiotics, prescription Motrin, and - best of all - Vicodin to take for the next several days.

I'm expecting to go back to work tomorrow, but I don't know how well I'll do without all the painkillers keeping me going. I think I'm a damned trooper for trying to show up at all. They'd better appreciate it.