Sunday, January 31, 2010

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag

The year 2008 was definitely Year of the Pillow. I went crazy making pillows for all our freshly painted rooms: the 3-season porch, our bedroom and Wilson's room. Last year, 2009, I'll call The Year of Soap with a small dash of ottoman slip-covering towards the end, culminating with the now infamous sew-through-my-right-index-finger incident. They say you have to get right back on the horse after you're thrown, so I did make 2 more after the disastrous first one, thankfully without any bodily harm.

Twenty-ten is starting off as another year of soap, a couple quilts and my latest favorite project: bags. Now that the trend to BYO shopping bags to stores is catching on, you really can't have too many bags. It's a great way to recycle old shirts, sheets and jeans. I have to confess I did purchase some heavy canvas for the one pictured but I am using up some of my fabric stockpile for the linings. A little recycling is better than none, right?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

(drama) Queen for a Day

I tend to be pretty understated when it comes right down to it, particularly when it comes to my health and what's going on in my life. I don't dare say I've never exaggerated, but when asked how I'm feeling I'll say "good" unless I'm on my deathbed and "things are fine" unless my life is in complete chaos. It's partly my way of coping with things (denial) and partly my dislike for drama.

After being re-invited to Twitter yesterday I signed in for the first time since last August. In order for Twitter to be interesting it seems that one needs to have several active friends in order to encourage checking in and activity of one's own. Partly due to my age, lack of interest and lack of active friends I haven't used it very much since I registered about a year ago. Fast forward to yesterday: I signed in and was shocked to see that 2 of the 5 close friends I originally signed up with have died in the past 5 months. Not a very good record: 2 out of 5 people!

Ok, my circumstance is somewhat unique, both those friends had CF. In fact, a fairly large percentage of my friends have CF - thereby exposing me to morbidity and mortality that most people in their mid-40s wouldn't ordinarily be around. Sure, many people know one or two friends who have had some type of cancer, diabetes, or another disease, but it IS uncommon for someone to have so many chronically ill and dead friends at a relatively young age. I'm not whining but just commenting on an aspect of my life that is unusual- in an understated way, of course!

Next- a little rant. If you're anti-universal health care you might want to stop reading at this point or risk elevating your blood pressure. There is little in life that I get passionate about, but I do have a few issues that will cause me to step up on the proverbial soapbox. Health care is one of them. I know that the health care bill in the senate is a huge disaster, filled with pork projects and too many pages for any one person to read. In some ways I can't blame people for being against it - nobody truly knows (even the senators!) what is actually in this bill. From my understanding of it, the only benefit for the people would be that insurance companies can no longer deny you for preexisting conditions. A step in the right direction, but way too little, way too late.

I honestly can't understand how people could believe that a for-profit health care is good for us. The insurance companies are in it to make money for their shareholders, and in order to do that they use a business model- take in more money than they spend, bottom line. "Customers" - aka patients- are given only what the insurance companies want to give, and their profits increase if expensive medical procedures and drugs are not covered. Preexisting condition? You may have to wait a year in order to receive benefits. In the long run this doesn't save insurance companies all that much, but it does deter patients from using that insurance carrier or plan. No longer their problem! Let another company deal with it. But what happens if nobody wants to deal with it? Tough luck.

Plans can be cancelled on a whim. Sure, not one individual's plan, because that's discrimination, but what's to stop a company from seeing which groups are the biggest drain on resources and canceling an entire group policy? Nothing. Believe me, it's happened. Drug benefits change from year to year. Medications that are deemed too expensive are dropped from policies and cheaper, possibly less effective alternatives are mandated. It's not what is best for the patient, but what is best for the company paying for the medication. Insurance companies have a huge lobby in Washington and they are not interested in seeing a government sponsored health plan which would compete with them, forcing them to lower costs. Not so good for profits, is it?

The general population is afraid of a government sponsored health care system. Why? I'm honestly not sure other than what I've heard people say: "I don't want the government dictating my health care", " I don't want to give the government any more of my money", " I don't want to pay higher taxes", "rationed care", "death panels", and "capitalism is why our health care system is the best in the world".

Just one second, here. How is giving insurance companies any different than paying into a government health care plan? Don't your insurance premiums go up every year? I know mine do. I currently pay over $850/month for my health insurance, which is 2/3 of my disability income. Wouldn't you rather have the money go to a plan that will cover every legal American citizen? In my mind the higher taxes and not wanting to give money to the government argument is an invalid one, in that I doubt anyone of my income level would end up paying such a large portion of their (and their spouse's) income to a national health care system, which would not be concerned with profit, but ensuring that everyone had the health care they needed.

Rationed care? Aren't insurance companies guilty of rationed care? Of course they are: they decide which tests, procedures and drugs to cover by how much they want to pay out. If that isn't the definition of rationed care, I don't know what is. How can a company that is for profit be unbiased in deciding who and what to cover? It's a complete conflict of interest.

Would a national health care system decrease the quality of our health care? The jury is out on that one for me. Contrary to popular belief, America does not have the longest average lifespan in the world. It's true. Granted, there are many contributing factors, such as lifestyle, diet and genetics, but I don't think anyone would argue that the availability and quality of health care directly affects lifespan. I'm convinced that if everyone had access to quality, affordable care and didn't have to depend upon emergency rooms for acute care in place of preventative care (which WE pay for in our insurance premiums) the average lifespan would improve. Prevention and education are key to avoiding more serious (and expensive) problems.

So, in a nutshell, I believe that having universal health care coverage would benefit all Americans. Those of us who are insured and pay high premiums for said insurance would at least have the money we fork over go to ensuring everyone is covered. We'd no longer have to worry that our insurance may drop us, no longer cover one of our drugs, or deny a particular procedure or test. Imagine living in a country where you didn't have to worry about losing your job- and therefore your insurance. The first things I hear people say when they worry about layoffs or changing jobs are "what will I do for insurance?" or "how can I afford COBRA on unemployment?" What if that wasn't a concern? Somehow, every other industrialized country in the world manages to do this, yet we are unable. What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Last Two

Yesterday afternoon I made the last 2 batches of soap for this summer, which will allow them plenty of time to cure. The gift certificate my brother gave me for Christmas allowed me the freedom to order scents I might not have otherwise, and I went outside my comfort zone: spearmint-eucalyptus, pineapple-cilantro, sage-lemongrass and vervain olive blossom, for example. The above are pineapple-cilantro and spearmint-eucalyptus.

I also ordered some pigments and oxides, which are purified mineral colorants, as opposed to the herbal ones I was using in the past. They give a more vibrant and defined color for swirling and are a nice complement to the natural herbal colors. The spearmint soap is a green oxide with a darker green swirl throughout, which won't be visible until the soap is cut. I'm anxious to see how it looks but need to wait until it is firm enough. Patience is a virtue... The pineapple is a pale herbal yellow, with a green swirl throughout and darker yellow and green swirls on top. I was hoping they'd look a bit more like pineapples, but I'm afraid they don't bear much resemblance to the fruit.

I decided to make small batches of several different types for this spring and summer, rather than loads of just a few as I did last year. I'm happy with the fragrances I experimented with and will definitely continue to experiment a bit more with each batch. Practice really is the best teacher.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One Resolution

Each year around this time many of us resolve to make ourselves perfect. We're going to lose that 10lbs, eat better, go to the gym, have more patience, be on time, grow our own food, blah, blah, blah. To date, I've only made 2 successful resolutions, the first being to take 20 minutes each day doing something I want to do. Not something I need to do or that has to get done, but something just for me.

The other one, which I made years ago, was to take better care of myself, though at the time I made this resolution I didn't understand that it wasn't a "good" goal. Somehow I stumbled through and was able to keep it, by breaking it down into some smaller goals.

This isn't to say that I'm perfect- far from it. But, I can say that for most of the time I'm able to keep up with these two. While I was in the hospital I learned the key to my success from one of my physical therapists, who told me that in order for a goal to be a a success it has to be SMART.

S- Specific
R- Realistic
T- Timely

So obvious! Yet when setting goals in the past, I've never considered this acronym.

In examining the two I have been able to stick with, it's easy to see why these are the resolutions that have worked for me. The first is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. The second: "I'm going to take better care of myself" is a tough one because it's not well defined. By simplifying the statement to "I will exercise at least 4 times a week for at least 30 minutes/session; I will do my twice daily treatments at least 6 days a week; I will eat at least 3 meals/day; I will get at least 7 hours of sleep/night" it becomes measurable, specific and realistic.

So thanks to my PT, Katie, I now am able to make a realistic resolution for 2010. In the past, I've resolved to start meditating. Sure, a nice idea, but an intimidating one. How long to sit? How to find the time? It was easy to skip it, thinking "I just don't have 30 minutes to spend sitting. I'll do it tomorrow". Therefore, the one resolution I am making this year is that I will meditate for at least 5 minutes/day, immediately following my exercise. Is it SMART? Yep. I've been doing it for 9 days so far and can say I actually look forward to it. Five minutes is next to nothing; I can do that!

Hopefully, next year at this time, I'll be able to say I have 3 successful resolutions under my belt.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Constant

As I was doing the post-Christmas cleaning of my bureau, I found an envelope of old cards in my sweater drawer. I'd come across them from time to time when looking for one one of the seldom-worn tops that gets buried at the bottom, only to shuffle the folder around without opening it or reading them. This time I thought I'd look through them, expecting to find a couple written in Wilson's grade-school handwriting and a few from Joe.

There were a few from my grandmothers, signed "with oh so much love" and "love and kisses" which brought tears to my eyes. Sure enough, there were several from Wilson, some even pre-preschool, filled out by Joe. And then there was a stack from Joe, which dated back to our pre-marriage days. If these cards had been cars they would be classified as antiques!

Reading through them brought back so many of the memories that lie buried in the recesses of my mind. Yes, we have a long history together- twenty-some-odd years. There were a few cards from when we first started dating, containing simple words but sincere and sweet sentiments. Somehow, 20 years later they have even more meaning to me than they did at the time- and they did mean a lot back then! They weren't merely nice words written in a romantic moment- when Joe says something, he truly means it and that is a constant I've always been able to count on.

We were so young! Twenty-three and twenty-five years old when we got together. We jumped into marriage with both feet, not hesitating even for a moment. Family started, we were working 7 days a week between the 2 of us, not able to spend much time together. We bought a house, fixed it up, raised Wilson, worked and managed to have lots of good times and a few bad sprinkled in here and there. Ingredients tossed into a pot that make up the stew that is life - a rich and tasty stew that I savor every single day.

Looking back, I feel so lucky to have picked him for my mate. What the hell did I know at 23? Throughout all our lives we evolve, change and grow. I am blessed that we have been able to learn and grow from each other and that somehow, we have stayed in sync. Through thick and think, good times and bad, sickness and health he sticks with me. I am truly the luckiest woman in the world to have found the perfect person for me to go through life with. I guess that is truly what the definition of a soulmate is.