Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Energy Crisis and Modern Medicine

I've been enjoying Sharon Astyk's discussions on the potential effects of the global energy crisis on modern medicine and health care. She has recently published two excerpts from her new book, Depletion and Abundance, on her blog.

Public Health and Welfare Part I
Public Health And Welfare Part II

What are your thoughts?
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Monday, May 26, 2008

FFS Giveaways!

We received an offer on our house over the weekend--which means we have less than a week to pack and move. Oh the insanity...

I am clearing out stuff and have a few free-for-shipping giveaways:

Giveaway #1
For you scholars out there, I have amassed a massive amount of primary and secondary research about the Mormon handcart treks. The stack of photocopies is about 4" tall. This was for a paper I wrote as a graduate student about "Health and Illness on the Mormon Handcart Treks." I really don't want to recycle all of that hard work, but neither do I want to keep carting it around. So if anyone is a history buff, I'll send you my months of research! Shipping: $10 Priority Mail

Giveaway #2:
Standard Process women's fertility supplements. This includes:
  • 5 boxes (90 capsules each) For-Til B12 (#4435) plus one opened but unused box
  • 1 200 ml bottle Black Cohosh 1:2 (opened but unused)
  • 4 boxes (90 tablets each) Ovex (#6600) plus one opened but unused box
The "best used by" date was last July, but I imagine they're still okay to use. Shipping: $10 Priority Mail

If you'd like one of these, let me know in the comments section. I'll pick the lucky winners tomorrow night.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

Pleated Ring Sling Tutorial

I make and sell sling rings. If you know how to sew, you can easily make a ring sling yourself. Here is how I make mine. Feel free to use the instructions for your own personal use, but be considerate and don't use my design--which I have developed over the past few years--if you want to make slings to sell.

  • slightly over 2 yards of woven, non-stretchy fabric (2 yards 4" for most people, 2 1/3 yards if you're big-chested). I prefer linen-cotton blends. You will see the back side on the "tail" of the sling, so choose something that looks good on both front and back. Embroidered fabrics work very well.
  • 2 aluminum sling rings. I use the largest size (3") for medium to heavy weight fabrics. For very thin, lightweight fabrics, I recommend the medium size (2.5").
  • thread
  • masking tape
  • disappearing fabric marker or dressmaker’s chalk

1. If desired, wash and dry fabric before sewing sling.

2. Cut a length of fabric 26-30” wide. Square off the ends.

3. Hem the two long ends and one short end. (I turn 1/4” and press, turn 3/8” and press, then stitch.)

4. Lay the fabric out right side up, with the raw edge on the right side. Make two parallel sets of marks—one at the raw edge, the other 9” from the raw edge--starting from the bottom hemmed edge. The first mark starts at 2”, and the rest are every 3” after that. (So 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20...)
5. Fold and press along each parallel line (pressing the wrong sides together).
6. Make the pleats: fold the first pressed edge down until it lines up with the edge of the fabric. Press.
7. Fold the next pressed edge down until it lines up with the underside of the pleat (you can feel it by running your fingers over the fabric). Press.
8. Continue until all of the pleats are pressed into place. The last pleat may need a bit of adjusting to make it line up just right with the finished edge. You can see me doing this in the photo.
9. Temporarily anchor the pleats with masking tape. Put one length about 5/8” from the raw edge, and another length of tape 8” from the raw edge. Flip over and tape on the back side.
10. Zig-zag stitch the raw edge. Trim if necessary.
11. Mark a line 4” from the raw edge with a disappearing fabric marker.
12. Using masking tape, fold the pleats close together so they overlap only ¼”. Tape on the front.
13. Flip over and tape the back of the pleats, arranging the pleats to make them look nice (if you're a perfectionist like me; you won't ever see them).
14. Stitch two parallel lines, 1/8” apart, to hold the pleats in place. This holds the pleats neatly in place when the sling is washed.
15. Remove the center masking tape. Put the two sling rings onto the pleated edge. Fold over and line up with the masking tape. (Be sure to that the "wrong" sides are folded together, not the "right" sides!) Stitch two parallel lines through all layers, 1/2” apart.
16. Add a third line of decorative stitching between the first two lines. Here are some photos of the stitching from various slings I've made.
Remove all masking tape and enjoy!
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Rowan Pelling writes about her HBAC

I saw this on another blog (sorry, can't remember which one) and wanted to share: journalist and writer Rowan Pelling wrote a short article in the Daily Mail about her home birth with an independent midwife.

Pelling mentions the trauma of her first birth--an emergency cesarean due to Pitocin-induced fetal distress--the difficulty bonding, and the recurrent panic attacks and nightmares of dead babies. Fortunately, women's experiences of trauma at birth are receiving more attention. One resource is Sheila Kitzinger's recent book Birth Crisis, which examines women who are dealing with PTSD after childbirth.

Edited to add:
I just saw on Lisa Barrett's blog that Pelling first wrote about her decision to have a home birth in the Telegraph. This article focuses much more on her decision-making process.
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One of the lovely things about visiting my parents was that I had lots of time to just sit and read, while Zari played with her grandparents and cousins. My mom is a voracious reader, so I went downstairs to the bookshelves and browsed through the new titles. My first read was Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety, which I disagreed with in many respects. However, I found some of her observations very fascinating, including the lack of social support for mothering (and parenting in general) in our country.

I also read Boys Adrift which, among other things, reinforced my longstanding opposition to allowing video games in our house. The author is an MD/PhD who studies gender and child development. He identified five factors that explain why we have an epidemic of underachieving and unmotivated young men in our culture: changes in educational approaches that push math and reading too early; video games; over-diagnosis and over-medicalization of ADHD; a lack of strong, positive role models for boys in our culture; and endocrine disruptions caused by certain chemicals.

Now that I'm back home and trying to get focused on my dissertation again, I started reading Bearing Meaning: The Language of Birth. It's heavy on feminist and sociological theory, but definitely worth the effort. I am almost 100 pages into the book so far. She includes her first-hand experiences giving birth and mothering, which I find quite delightful.

After that heavy academic prose, I am yearning for something a bit lighter. My first purchase would be If These Boobs Could Talk: A Little Humor to Pump Up the Breastfeeding Mom. It's a scream, and I've only seen a few pages of it so far.

Another book on my must-read list is Louise Erdrich's The Blue Jay's Dance: A Birth Year. Here's an excerpt to tease and delight (and hopefully entice you to buy this book, which starts for one penny on Amazon):

I'm an instinctive mother, not a book-read one, and my feeling is that a baby must be weaned slowly from its other body--mine. So I keep her close, sleep with her curled tight, tie her onto me with padded contraptions. My days here have become sensuous, suffused with the particular, which is not to say that they aren't difficult, or that I get much done. With each birth I have been thrown into a joy of the physical emotions, a religious and fixated delight that seizes me so thoroughly the life of the imagination sometimes seems a spare place. The grounded pleasures--nursing, touching the exquisite fontanel of our baby, a yellow-pink fragrance of sun-heated cotton & tepid cream, gazing eternally into her mystery eyes--are only tempered by sleep deprivation.
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

What to do about VBAC bans

Birthfriend reposted a list of 11 suggestions of how to protest a VBAC denial, originally published in Midwifery Today. It's a good starting place for what to do if your local hospital tells you you "have" to have a repeat cesarean because of a prior surgical birth, rather than leaving the choice up to you.

I have a few other suggestions:
  • Opt out entirely! Give birth at home with a midwife, give birth at home unassisted, or give birth in a freestanding birth center. Of course this does nothing to change the situation for women who don't feel comfortable abandoning a hospital environment, but you'll probably have a fantastic birth.
  • Fight the Man (a highly courageous but also highly risky undertaking): Flat out refuse a repeat cesarean and inform everyone of your intent to give birth vaginally no matter what the hospital's policy is. Call in the media crews, call in your lawyer, make a big stink. Very dramatic. Somewhat likely to induce stress and coercion. Slight risk that your hospital will seek a court-ordered cesarean.
Any others--serious or tongue-in-cheek?
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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

(Another) new house!

So, the house that we thought we'd be moving into turned into a major disaster which we were very happy to walk away from. The home inspection revealed a multitude of issues that we didn't know about before (and some we did). Major structural issues, settling so bad the floors felt like a fun house, termite damage and dry rot on some of the joists and beams of the main floor, carpet that was used as a litterbox for the previous owner's cat, major problems with the electrical system (as in, half the house didn't work, and there were lots of random wires coming out of the walls), windows were painted shut with so many layers of paint that they would be almost impossible to open even with a lot of work, layers and layers of wallpaper covered by layers of paint on EVERY wall and ceiling surface in the entire house, warped and rotted deck boards...oh, and there's lots more. It really scared us--and that's saying a lot. If you know us, you know that we have done just about anything to houses. We happily got out of the purchase agreement and started looking for another house.

The same day we walked away from the Disastrous House, we found the Perfect House. It was on the exact street we wanted, even on the exact part of the street we wanted. It was a meticulously maintained Italianate style home built in 1893. The price made our jaws drop--it was so low. I can't even begin to explain how perfect it was in just about every way. So I won't even try. It was a FSBO, so we made an offer that day with no contingencies: no inspection, cash sale. Our offer was higher than the other one the owner had received, and we left thinking she'd take it. We also emphasized that we'd meet and exceed any other offers she might receive.

She called us back two days later, sounding apologetic, and said that she just couldn't accept our offer. From what I gather, the other people had assumed that they were buying her house (even though they hadn't signed anything) and there was quite a bit of tension. We upped our offer again. And once more, the next day, to a few thousand above her asking price. She still would not accept it.

After finding the Perfect House, and then losing it, we were very depressed. All of April, actually, has been a bad month for us. Our dog died, our car broke down, I paid almost $1,000 to have it fixed, then it died again 3 days later with the exact same symptoms. And the first two houses we tried to buy didn't work out. So we went on more house-hunting trips. Our realtor was probably tearing her hair out because we just couldn't find anything that was right for us.

We kept coming back to an old brick home a few houses down from the Perfect House. It has been totally renovated, has a double lot with a wrought iron fence, and a 3-car garage, which we have absolutely no need for, so it's almost a liability, but oh well... With our touches (landscaping, adding a half bath on the main floor and making the kitchen into a total yuppie paradise) the house will be amazing.

We put in an offer yesterday, and after much negotiating, we finally settled on $130k, down from the asking price of $145k. No inspection, no contingencies, cash sale. The house has been on the market for a full year, which I think helped us negotiate a lower price. And we're closing next week!

Some info on the house:
  • Built in 1883
  • 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths
  • 2 large living rooms, so plenty of room for the grand piano that we're taking care of until my older sister has enough space for it.
  • Very high ceilings: at least 10 feet
  • There's an attic playroom off the upstairs bedroom that has a little window. It's just big enough to stand up in in the very center.
  • 1,877 square feet, plus a large unfinished basement with 9 foot ceilings.
  • Plumbing, electrical, furnace, water heater, and A/C are all completely new.
  • New roof & all new windows (we are sad about the new windows, since we prefer having the originals...but it's too late for that now)
  • Has all of the original trim, wood work, doors, and wood floors.
  • Wood floors were all refinished recently.
  • Lots of room (and sun) in the yard for gardens
  • Perfect location: 2 blocks from campus, 4 blocks from downtown, 1 block from a neighborhood grocery store, a few blocks from a Mexican food store.
So while it isn't the Perfect House, it will be a Very Good House for us. Since there's very little work to do on it, we can actually live in the house and enjoy it, rather than spend all of our time renovating and repairing. Yay! The only thing we'll do right away is paint the rooms the colors we want. After my dissertation is done, I'll turn my energy to planning a beautiful kitchen and gardens.

Okay, here are some pictures:

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We've enjoyed a fantastic week at my parents' house. We came up for my youngest sister's wedding, and now we're recuperating from all of the preparation and festivities.

True to the way my family works, we did practically everything ourselves. My sister designed and sewed her own wedding outfit (except for the jacket), as well as the bridesmaid's skirts, which were made from saris she ordered from India. My mom planned and cooked a huge informal family dinner the night before the wedding, a formal lunch the day of the wedding, and the reception food. My older sister made the wedding cake, including the sugar gum paste flowers that took an insane number of hours. My other younger sister did the flower arrangements. We also decorated the historic house we rented for the wedding lunch and reception. My BIL took the pictures. A true do-it-yourself wedding!

My little brother was not able to attend, since he is serving a two-year mission in Russia. Right now he's on Sakhalin Island, off the east coast of Russia. Basically he's about as far away as possible from where we are on the globe. Recent adventures include being mugged by a drunk Russian man.

Luncheon Menu
Greek Salad with feta cheese, olives, red onions, and bell peppers
Tomato and Basil Soup
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Coconut Lime Thai Soup
Curried Chicken Salad
Asparagus spears in Hollandaise Sauce
Fruit kebabs
Tropical Lime Torte with Mango Compote
Raspberry Lemonade

Gorgonzola Tarts
Stuffed Mushrooms
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Hummus with Pita Chips
Fresh Pineapple, Cantaloupe, Strawberries & Watermelon
Cheese platter: Brie, Gouda, & Boursin
Chocolate Velvet Cake
Chocolate Turtle Cheesecake
Citrus Cheesecake
Vanilla Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce
Sparkling Fruit Punch

Now some pictures!

First, Zari and I in our sari skirts.
My little sister has a very vibrant personality, and these pictures reflect that quite well.
The dress she designed, and sewed, herself. The skirt is made of white silk dupioni and lined with blue silk. She had a brief moment of misgiving because she didn't have a Cinderella dress. But then she said to herself, "I'm not 19 years old. I don't need to look like a princess."
The cake.
The groom and his four brothers. He also has one sister.
My sister and her husband love to joke about their rings--whose was cheaper, in particular. Hers is a cushion cut yellow tourmaline. His is made of tungsten. He especially likes that his ring is scratch proof and virtually indestructible.
In front of the St. Paul Temple, where they were married.
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Saturday, May 10, 2008

My next project

We've been busy visiting my parents and going to my youngest sister's wedding, but I found a new project that I must do once we move: a tumbling composter. I found this link for one DIY tumbling composter, then found another variation that I like better from The Urban Homesteaders. It spins vertically, rather than on its side, for better mixing and aeration.

You can get plastic 55-gallon barrels for free from car wash places, then spray paint them black with special paint designed for plastics. Even if you buy all the other materials new, it wouldn't cost very much at all. I have visions of a line of these spinning composters along the edge of our (future) garden...

I admit that I have never before composted, because it seemed too intimidating, with all of the talk of mixing and aeration and proper carbon balance. But I've decided to stop making excuses.
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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Straight out of a horror movie"??

Judit's post about two births in the headlines illustrates the value of a little knowledge and preparation when it comes to giving birth, no matter where you are planning to have the baby. It also shows how perception and expectation can color an experience entirely differently. Thanks Judit!
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Twins and Triplets!

A montage of vaginally born twins and triplets, some at home and some in hospitals.
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Thursday, May 01, 2008

18 months

Somewhere between yesterday and today Zari turned 18 months. I remember how old that seemed when she was a newborn. I remember thinking that she would be so different when she reached 18 months. But somehow the newborn Zari now seems different and strange, and this running, talking creature is the normal Zari that I am used to.

Here are some pictures from the past month:

Feeding the goats at the organic farm along our bike path. In the first picture she's saying "aa aa aa," trying to make a goat sound.
Eating and signing. Now, as soon as I get the camcorder out, she signs "bird" because we often watch videos on it of her playing with birds.
Going potty, eating breakfast, and watching "Signing Time"--our morning routine.
Sweeping up the breakfast she dumped all over the floor
This picture is a bit blurry, but it captures well what she looks like in my mind:
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