Sunday, July 27, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
SUGAR, NONDAIRY CREAMER (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OIL, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SODIUM CASEINATE, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SUGAR, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, PROPYLENE GLYCOL MONOSTEARATE, SALT, SOY LECITHIN, CARRAGEENAN, ARTIFICIAL COLOR, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), WHEY MALTODEXTRIN, INSTANT COFFEE, NONFAT MILK, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF CINNAMON, GINGER, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI) NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CELLULOSE GUM, SODIUM CITRATE, SILICON DIOXIDE (FREE FLOW AGENT)
So I called to mind a certain comforting beverage I'd concocted before, which contained no unpronounceable ingredients but merely black tea, ground ginger, cloves, sugar, black pepper, water, and milk. I whipped up a batch of chai concentrate (which took literally less than five minutes), and combined it with cold milk for a beverage that was a charming blend of warm (in terms of spiciness) and refreshingly cool, a nod to the fact that it is still summer, even if my basement apartment is currently breezily autumn-ish. Eat your heart out, Starbucks. (But note: we do plan to take advantage of Free Viviannos this weekend!) And International Coffees. You can keep your pricey beverages, your dipotassium phosphates and your silicone dioxides!
I still admit a certain fondness for IC's Cafe Vienna, which has a slightly less bizarre ingredient list than the Pumpkin Spice, but that has more to do with nostalgia--the fact that some of my earliest memories are of my mother drinking it--than anything else. For taste, health, and economical reasons, I'll take homemade chai any day.
Women for Women International
The Jolie-Pitt foundation announced a $200,000 pledge to Women for Women International’s program in Iraq to sponsor 300 women, and more than 1,000 children who will benefit.
“These educational support programs for children
of conflict are the best way to help them heal.”
– Angelina Jolie
The donation will help mothers in Iraq to feed their children, pay for their school fees, and earn a sustainable income to support their families. Ms. Jolie has visited Iraq twice in the past year.
“We hope to encourage others to give to
these great organizations.”
– Brad Pitt
To learn more, please visit our website at http://www.womenforwomen.org/
It was creamy, it was garlicky, and I felt compelled to try to recreate it.
After cogitating on it for some time, it occurred to me that the sauce reminded me of nothing more than "white pesto," or pesto before you put the basil in it (when it's just oil, cheese, and nuts, with a little salt and pepper).
I didn't put nuts in this time (though afterward I wished I had!), but I combined probably 1/2 cup of olive oil, 4-5 garlic gloves, a few good twists of freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkle of salt with about 3/4 cup of parmesan cheese and whirled it all up in the Cuisinart. Then, as sort of a binder to keep the whole thing cream (plus add a little protein), I blended in probably about 1/3 of a cup of tofu.
DELICIOUS! If you're into all things overwhelmingly garlicky, that is, which we are. I also tossed the pasta and sauce with a few cut-up grape tomatoes we had on hand. Perfect summertime lunch or dinner!
If I were making it again, I'd definitely throw a few nuts (pine nuts and/or walnuts) in the sauce, just for fun, though it was perfectly good the way it was. I also think that adding some torn fresh basil leaves would have put it over the top, but I didn't have any. Chunks of fresh mozz would also be good, as would fresh corn. And I could probably have gone with even less oil and more tofu, but I wanted to err on the side of tasty since I had minimal time on my hands. But any way you slice it--quick, tasty, cheap, and delicious! Whether it's also healthy somewhat depends on the nutritional philosophy you subscribe to, but a combination of fresh, unprocessed ingredients (even if they are high-fat), which includes a variety of plant oils, whole grains, tofu, and vegetables (not to mention garlic), is A-okay with ours.
UPDATE: A few days later, we sauteed some zucchini and onions, tossed in the leftover pasta salad to heat it through, and then quickly broiled the whole thing with a little mozzarella cheese on top. It made a fast and delicious casserole!
So on that note, here is an interesting article about the historical competition, both philosophical and economic, between homeopathic doctors and allopathic doctors (those who practice conventional Western medicine). The blackballing and witch hunt tactics allopaths (with the AMA at the helm, as usual) used to drive homeopaths underground and out of business are, unfortunately, the same ones they used 100 years ago and are currently using again to try to suffocate midwifery (and have used against other disciplines like chiropractic). Especially chilling:
"... professional exchange, consultation and even conversation between allopaths and Homeopaths were banned. This ban on interaction between the two groups is a striking example of how a private organization, the AMA, could completely flout the public will, and take punitive action for something that was totally legal." [emphasis mine]
Remind you of anything?
The author further warns, "If you think doctors have outgrown this attitude from 1800, I will refer you to the recent article in the prestigious allopathic journal The New England Journal of Medicine. After reviewing the habits of a large cohort of patients, it was concluded that one third of Americans use some method of non-conventional medical treatment and pay more out of their own pocket to do so than the combined money spent on all primary care allopathic office visits.
As a result of this startling finding, the authors did not suggest further investigation as to why such a large number of patients prefer non-traditional treatment, nor was it suggested that these treatments must have something valuable to offer. Instead, in a move reminiscent of attitudes over 150 years old, the authors advised that doctors inquire if their patients are using some form of non-conventional therapy so that they can better bring these errant patients back to conventional treatment."
I believe the article he's referring to is this one, in which the authors of the study further try to theorize why doctors aren't aware that so many of their patients are using complementary treatments (a term I prefer to "unconventional," which seems obsolete given both their long history and the acknowledged numbers of people using them!). Are patients afraid to tell their doctors? Are doctors afraid to ask? Well, my guess would be that most patients don't feel like they have a tell-all relationship with their doctors, because even when they do try to bring up a question or a concern, the doctor is edging out the door before they've even finished their sentence. Given that the average office visit is less than 20 minutes (and I'm inclined to think more like half of that, in many cases) for the history, physical exam, review of systems, and to prescribe a treatment and answer any questions the patient may have about it, it's not surprising that this information isn't coming up. And after a wham, bam, thank you ma'am kind of experience like that with healthcare, heaven forbid patients educate themselves and seek something different--dare I say BETTER?--than expensive drugs with dangerous side effects. Because using these therapies (like massage, or chiropractic, or acupuncture, which have all been around hundreds to thousands of years longer than the likes of Merck and Eli Lilly, whom we're taught to worship exclusively as the current jealous gods of medicine) "totally unsupervised...is dangerous," according to this article.
The idea that people's free will is dangerous is already an especially frightening statement, because even more so because we all know that the AMA has come to view itself as the autocratic gatekeeper of public health and safety (haha), and that its preferred methods of slander and lies can readily give way, if needed, to tyrannical legislation. We'd better watch out.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Excruciating pain: 100% gone
Itching: reduced at least 90%
Swelling: reduced over 75% (I can get my ring on)
Redness: reduced at least 50%
And I haven't even brought in the big guns yet.
For something I was expecting to take 3-4 weeks to blister, break open, weep, and then crack, I'm cautiously optimistic.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday I slept all day and I woke up and it was about the same. Worried that it was shingles or something similarly contagious, I decided to call into work for my scheduled 8-hour night shift, and luckily the nurse I talked to agreed. When you work around newborns and the pregnant kind, you don't really want to take any chances.
Now, I realize this is the point at which most people would see a doctor. And in fact, I called my dermatologist's office to see when I could get an appointment, but nobody picked up, so I took that as a sign. The more I thought about it, though, the less it appealed to me to pay $60 or $100 for an office visit, plus prescription costs, to have somebody guess what was wrong and give me a few experimental drugs. Not to mention commuting into DC to do it. As you may or may not have noticed, I'm not that into doctors and I'm not that into drugs. My experience with doctors out here is that you see them for a few minutes, they cover their butts with a wide array of expensive prescriptions, and at the end of the day they're not really sure anyway.
I don't think it's shingles, because it doesn't look like shingles, this would be an unusual place to get it, and I don't feel systemically bad. Also, it's hard to think I've had the kind of stress lately (physical or mental) that usually brings out the dormant zoster virus. The only trick there was that people who do have shingles in a limb often complain of extreme pain in the whole limb before the outbreak, but like I said, this isn't the first time I've had that kind of arm pain and I wonder if it wasn't just a coincidence.
It could be some other kind of infection, bacterial or viral. It does sort of remind me of cellulitis I've seen before, but I just finished up a course of antibiotics and I don't feel systemically bad or have a fever, so I tend to doubt it's that.
It could be poison ivy, but it doesn't seem likely. This weekend we ran a few errands by car, but besides that, we just stayed in and rested up for my night shift on Sunday. I haven't even been outside, let alone near any plants, for longer than the time it takes to get from apartment to car. Plus, I've never really had an allergic reaction to poison ivy.
It could be an allergic reaction to something else. What that might be is hard for me to fathom, since I don't recall introducing any new products to that hand (especially ONLY that hand), but it's possible.
It could be dyshidrotic eczema, or dyshidrotic dermatits, or dyshidrosis, or perhaps pompholyx. (They're all different names for the same thing.) It looks like it, and it sounds like it. I wish it weren't, because the idea that it's going to last 3-4 weeks, that my skin will eventually erupt in blisters which will burst and leave "painful fissures," and that "even with treatment, recurrence is common," is not a diagnosis I wish to embrace, but alas. The kicker for me was that it's most common in people who also suffer from atopic dermatits, which of course I do. It cites for possible triggers "frequent exposure to water," and for someone who worked 40+ hours last week with an average of probably 2-5 handwashes an hour, well, that makes sense. It's also more common in hot, humid weather, and it's been in the 90s all week.
Why my left hand? I don't know, although I will say it does seem somewhat centralized around my ring finger, which makes me wonder if there wasn't dampness or soap trapped underneath my rings at some point that set off this whole problem. I do feel really fortunate that I took them off when I did (and still could), because I honestly believe that if I'd left it on one more night, they would have had to cut them off. Maybe along with my finger, I think it would have been that tight.
So my battle plan: treat the symptoms with antihistamines and steroid creams if necessary (since I have a battalion of them from back when the doctors couldn't figure out how to fix the rash under my nose), and try homeopathy to rebalance things internally. The remedy Loma Lux (available in formulations for acne, eczema, and psoriasis) gets pretty consistently good reviews all around, and a double-blind study showed good results for the psoriasis formulation. The idea that I could get rid of this rash but also gain some ground with my other various skin ailments sounds too good to pass up. I fully recognize that most conventional MD's scoff at the idea of homeopathy, but I'm also aware that there are tens of thousands of people who suffer from various ailments which have been uncured by modern medicine. It seems as though eczema falls solidly into that category. They're also known to decry herbs and chiropractic, two of the most effective interventions I've seen in my individual health. And besides: I'll try something gentle, noninvasive, and inexpensive any day before I'll subject myself to tests and drugs. Not to say I'd NEVER consider going to the doctor for this--after all, my dermatologist did clear up the rash under my nose--but that was something I'd struggled with for a year, and what finally did it was a course of prednisone, which is a pretty broad shot and not one I'd undertake lightly.
While I'm waiting for my Loma Lux, I'm taking 6C potency Sulphur (5 mini tablets, 3x a day). Together, they cost me about $30, which gives me another $50 to play with before I even approach the cost of a dermatologist visit, not to mention a pricey and possibly ineffective drug, with side effects!
According to this site:
"The person most suited to sulphur is someone who becomes tired easily yet feels it is a hard job to get to sleep. They get too hot if they lay in bed and become more and more restless the more they try to get to sleep. They sometimes can look untidy with rough hair and flaky skin and have an intelligent mind but find it hard to put ideas into practise and they can fuss over small things or details." Another site notes that the sulphur is "suited to deep thinking types with a nervous yet independent nature." Also, a "lack of energy (regained quickly at the prospect of pleasurable activity." Yup, sounds about right. Also, "midmorning hunger." Why, I've got some of that right now!
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Ultrasound "clips" to measure dilation? Come on. How much further do we have to go before we've excised caregivers' hands (and eyes, and brains) from the picture altogether? The manufacturer claims that it "enables obstetricians to make decisions based on accurate and timely information, resulting in significantly improved medical care, reduced costs, and a lower risk of malpractice." Right. Because the information you get from observing and examining a patient--or at the very least, communicating with the NURSE WHO DOES--just can't be counted on to be "timely and accurate." Not when something as important as "reduced costs" and "lower risk of malpractice" are at stake!
I'm curious how, exactly, introducing a new (expensive) piece of equipment is going to reduce costs. I can't think of a single way. My guess is that the only change this would introduce into practice would be to raise the C-section rate, much like the standardization of continuous electronic fetal monitoring. And that is certainly not going to "improve medical care" or "reduce costs." In terms of malpractice, it's just another tool which will end up essentially demanding intervention instead of determining the actual need for it. This is especially interesting, in the section "for Mothers-to-be," regarding manual (hand) cervical checks: "The information available to the caregiver is inaccurate due to the objective nature of the measurement and intermittent. In the event of non-progressive labor, the diagnosis may be delayed, thereby preventing the mother from obtaining the best medical care."
First of all: I think they mean "due to the SUBJECTIVE nature of the measurement," not OBJECTIVE nature. An OBJECTIVE measurement is purportedly what they're trying to obtain with this machine. And we're going to use a vaginal probe manufactured by these people?!
Second: even correcting for the above error, stating that information is unequivocally inaccurate merely because it is subjective is a complete blind leap off the cliff of logic. It would be acceptable to say that it may be inaccurate (due to its SUBJECTIVE nature), or is more likely to be inaccurate, but to say point-blank that subjective information is inaccurate is...well...inaccurate, as well as just. plain. stupid.
Third: "In the event of non-progressive labor"--did they make that diagnosis up themselves? A new diagnosis to go with the new technology? Because other diagnoses, such as failure to progress, are already adequately assessed and defined with the current means--"the diagnosis may be delayed, thereby preventing the mother from obtaining the best medical care." Meaning...what? There's a chance that labor will stall and we'll miss it for awhile and she might end up delivering vaginally? I'm assuming that by "the best medical care," they're referring to an instantaneous C-section as soon as the probe reflects that "progress" has hit a pause?
If we recognize that multiple vaginal exams are a problem, how about we just plan to keep them to a minimum? A very wise older doctor who used to practice at Iowa always said "Curiousity is not a good enough reason to check a cervix." In other words, if it's not guiding your practice and the answer won't have an impact on what you do, just don't do it. It's invasive, it's uncomfortable, and it's unnecessary. (Many midwives and nurses hold that a good caregiver can determine a woman's dilation without ever touching her. The physical and emotional "signposts" that accompany the various stages of labor are, when not interfered with, pretty unmistakable. Of course, that all goes out the window when all of your patients have an epidural.)
And if there's anything MORE invasive than having a doctor or nurse's hands in your vagina, it's having them attach a machine (a quick and comfortable process, I'm sure!) that will stay there throughout all of labor!
Minimally disrupt comfort, my ass.
The thing that really bothers me about all of this is that it's just another opportunity to obliterate the actual SKILLS required to be a doctor or a nurse. We've already given up skills like palpation and fundal measurement and Leopold's maneuvers to ultrasound, and most of the nurses I work with have a single skill in their labor-support pain relief arsenal: get them an epidural. Now, assessing dilation and effacement and station--one of the more fine-tuned of the physical assessment skills in labor--could go by the wayside as well.
Finally, the part that especially creeps me out on the product's site is where it says "Your partner will be able to be an active participant in the labor process as he/she follows the progress of the partogram on the screen next to your bed." As opposed to what he could do (counterpressure, massage, walking with you, warm compresses, ice packs, getting you the birth ball, supporting you in a squat, helping you into a tub or shower, providing verbal encouragement, assisting you to a change in scenery, slow dancing with you, getting you a snack or a drink) if you weren't stuck in bed, strapped to a monitor.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
My impression of the movie was that it had beautiful cinematography and, rather than serve as a documentary-style recitation of facts about the Tudor dynasty (which already abound), it instead bit off a respectable summary and turned it into a sumptuous visual and emotional experience. The colors, the clothes, the castles, and the countryside are all the kind of eye candy I was looking for, but I was particularly impressed when it came to the acting. Not expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of feeling infused by Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson into their respective roles. Gestures, glances, and other nonverbal expressions were scattered throughout the movie with thrilling abandon. While I originally wondered, like many people, if the roles hadn't been miscast, I found myself believing the voluptuous Scarlett's Mary--at least at first--that all she wanted in life was a quiet place in the country. There were many moments, like when Natalie Portman throws off her headcover and sobbingly submits to the executioner's blade, where you believe that they believe that they really are who they're pretending to be. And that's a satisfying experience.
Of course, the film also serves as a sad commentary on the status of women and marriage in Tudor England. I think this stands out more starkly than in the book because there is less development of character and relationships woven throughout the movie--less to distract you from the fact that these women are pawns, no more. It's always sobering to realize the intensity of suffering that can follow so many people just as a result of who or where they're born. In that sense the whole movie was very sad, which was another thing that surprised me: I had expected at least a few moments of levity, but on the whole, the film was rather dark from beginning to end.
Some have accused that the relationship between the sisters falls flat. I initially thought that myself, but thinking back to the book, I think it was much the same way--rather than getting the feeling of a warm and fuzzy relationship between the sisters, the audience spends much of the time feeling confused. Do they love each other, hate each other? Probably the point we're supposed to get is that Anne and Mary spend much of their time asking themselves those same questions. It isn't a simple relationship, for sure.
I also thought that the supplementary features on the DVD were helpful and interesting, especially those in which both the author and the director commented on the relationship between the book and the film. The director speaks to the fact that adapting a book of 600+pages to a film of reasonable length is so difficult that his mission instead was to lift the spirit of the book into the movie more than actually make the book into a movie. Gregory admits that choosing which she prefers, the book or the movie, "is like saying, which do you love better, your child or someone else's?" but she also notes that after seeing the lavish decor of the film sets, "I understood: that this is what cinema can do." She adds simply, "I felt like I was there." And so did I.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Our genius moment of the day came when we'd preheated the waffle iron, opened it up to pour on the first one, and realized that somehow we'd managed to put the waffle iron away with a shriveled, petrified waffle still inside it. Hmmm. Don't ask me how that happened...
The rest of the day: via bike, we need to drop off our previous CVS haul at the homeless shelter, pick up our coupons from the library, and shop for the week at Trader Joe's.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Here's kind of a mediocre article from the Chicago Tribune about the debate over homebirth. At least people are talking; before The Business of Being Born, you definitely weren't seeing these little media blips on a regular basis. ABC does a slightly more in-depth job of profiling physicians who disagree with the recent actions by ACOG and the AMA. However, Jennifer Block (the author of Pushed) does the best job of providing a point/counterpoint-style rebuttal by comparing Britain's attitude toward midwives with ACOG's in an editorial she wrote recently for the LA Times. As always, her writing is clear, engaging, and straight to the point. Since she's never given birth herself, I'm ever thankful for whatever lucky star allowed her to decide to shoulder the cause for normal birth, because I don't think ACOG could buy themselves an equally intelligent and articulate spokesperson.
MANA, the Midwives' Alliance of North America (of which Ina May Gaskin was a founding member), has issued a response not only to Resolution 205 On Home Deliveries, but also a response to the AMA's apology this week for past practices it acknowledges were blatantly racist, including prohibiting black doctors from joining and refusing to take sides during the Civil Rights debates of the 1960's. As MANA points out, it would be nice to think that the AMA is turning over a new leaf of openmindness and genuine concern for human beings, but unfortunately I think it's more likely a PR stunt. Excuse my cynicism.
Lastly, in lighter newws, Laila Ali, Mohammed Ali's daughter, is planning a natural homebirth with a midwife. Add her to the roster of celebrity homebirthers, including Cindy Crawford, Meryl Streep, Demi Moore, Lisa Bonet, Pamela Anderson, Kelly Preston, Julianne Moore, Ani DiFranco, and of course, Ricki Lake. Love it!
Friday, July 11, 2008
I'm going to completely stay away from the first part of his statement, which speaks for himself. and unfortunately influences 90% of how I spend my time at work. I'll leave that aside for now. No, the part that I find really chilling is the statement "I am going to make sure that nothing happens to you or the baby."
Especially from a person who believes that birth is inherently dangerous to mother and baby, how can he make a promise like that? That NOTHING will happen to mother and baby? Who placed life and death and health all within his omnipotent control?
Even--maybe especially?--midwives and doulas and granola nurses, who believe that birth is a normal and natural and beautiful process, know that life itself is inherently unpredictable, and that tragic things happen. And they do, to people crossing the street or mowing the lawn and also to midwives and their clients. But you know what? Midwives are sued much less often than physicians, perhaps because they don't tend to make ridiculous promises like that in the first place. (One of the first things I learned as a nurse was to NEVER, under any circumstances, tell a patient that they or everything "will be okay." Because you just don't know that. Instead, I'll tell people that they're in good hands, or that we'll take good care of them. Because I have never had a patient, geriatric or obstetric tell me, "I'm afraid I'm going to die," who hasn't up and done just that. Often unpredictably. And I'm not going to be the ass who told them to stop being silly because NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO THEM.) In general, they empower them with factual information and then they trust them to make their own decisions. They don't try to bamboozle them with scare tactics.
Because babies and mothers have occasionally died in childbirth for centuries, and it's always been terribly sad, but it's only since birth moved into the hospitals, at the doctors' behest that they were unquestionably safe there--that nothing would happen to them or their baby--that it's become a total shock, one that leaves families looking around for someone to blame--and sue.
One of the midwives in the story comments on the fact that she cares for "a lot of religious ladies because they don't deify doctors as much as the rest of us might--they feel like they can trust a different kind of power to see that their birth goes well."
Amen to that.
And what does this long-anticipated occasion find us doing? Chilling out on the couch; Matt reading, me blogging.
We also watched a couple of episodes of The Cosby Show and made a great pizza--with Vidalia onions, cherry tomatoes, and indulging our lesser-known carnivorous sides by adding sausage from a local farm. Yum. Washed it down with a glass of wine. Tomorrow night, we're making the rest of the sausage into meatballs for spaghetti.
I sent off my Frontier application today, which was a relief. This morning Matt and I got up at 5:30 to run, and then just as I was about to go out the door at 6:20, I realized I had a voicemail--despite never having heard my phone ring. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate T-Mobile? Because I really, really do.) It was work, telling me they didn't need me. Thinking that we could really used the money, I called them back, but they assured me that they were so slow there was just no way they could justify letting me come in. Oh, well. I'd just accustomed myself to the idea of a slim month, and perked up at the idea of all I could get done today, when they called back about 9 to let me know that they were drowning and needed me right away. How quickly things change! While we were running I'd remarked to Matt that it sort of looked like rain, and I bet that work would be busy today. Ha! So I hurried to get my application postmarked so at least I could cross that important item off my list, if nothing else. Work was busy, so it went fast.
This weekend, we're planning to make up another batch of limeade concentrate (and so, apparently, is the rest of the world, judging from the many and multinational hits we're constantly getting from people Googling the recipe) and head to the pool with a friend of ours. I haven't baked for awhile and so I'm thinking about doing some of that--maybe banana bread and a batch of cookies? It's also been awhile since we've had zucchini bread--like, last summer (can it be made with less than a CUP of oil per loaf?!)--so we're going to scout out the farmer's market for some zukes.
Spaghetti and meatballs are on the menu tomorrow, and stir-fry on Sunday. If I didn't mention it already, my campaign to get the library to save me their coupons was successful (hooray), so Sunday we'll bike over to get those, do our grocery shopping, and also drop off at the homeless shelter the fruits of a very profitable CVS haul. Here's what we got there:
Old Spice Body Wash x 4 at $3.99 apiece
Olay Body Ribbons Body Wash at $4.99 apiece
(both part of an Olay promotion--buy $20, get $10 ECB)
Dawn Direct Dish Foam at $2 for $2
CVS Pantiliners x 2 for $1.99 apiece (free after ECB)
used $1/2 Old Spice Body Wash coupon
$1/1 Olay Body Wash coupon
$1/1 Dawn coupon
Used $4/20 coupon for updating my email address with CVS.com
(all of these were from the library!)
Then I used $15 in ECB and earned $13 back. I only spent $0.06 out of pocket! Incidentally, the cashier used up my ECB before my coupons, so I actually ended up getting two of the coupons back (when it would have been far preferable to get the ECB back--apparently I should dole them out one at a time, in the order to be used), but I'm not going to complain about getting roughly $27 of stuff more or less for free. We'll probably keep the dish soap, but donate the rest. Since that $0.06 didn't make a very big dent in our charity budget for the month, we're also giving to the This American Life podcast, which we enjoy listening to weekly and which apparently costs hundreds of thousands of dollars in broadband, though it's a free program. And, an influential band director of Matt's passed away this past week and specified that any donations should be made to two organizations that had meaning for him. So we'll be giving to each of those in his honor.
I'm going to let Matt tell you later about the unbelievably delicious twice-baked potatoes he made with tofu sour cream/mayonnaise. They were honestly the most creamy, tangy, delicious twice-baked potatoes I've ever had, and I couldn't believe they were only seasoned with salt and pepper. Yum!
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
First up: my Frontier application. Much more sane and manageable than most (or does it only seem that way because I've gotten so accustomed to doing them?), it's ready to send off once Matt comes home and checks off the final proofreading of my resume and admissions essays. I've scheduled my phone interview and have a call in to my clinical site of choice. My schedule is cleared for the September orientation period, should I be accepted. All systems go!
On my days off, I typically also try to keep close tabs on our budget. Since January of this year I've been tracking every penny (okay, every dollar--I do round) of what comes in or goes out of our possession, and it's been both enlightening and encouraging. I set up our budgets from the 10th of one month to the 9th of the last, because Matt always gets paid on the 10th and I get paid on alternating Fridays. I keep track of our income and expenditures, our progress on paying down loans, what's in our savings account, and any potential upcoming expenses. One that's approaching is health insurance for me. Since I'm hourly at work (which gives me much greater flexibility as well as an additional $10 an hour), I don't get benefits; until August 21st, I'm covered under the policy I bought through law school last year. Adding me to Matt's policy would cost approximately $300 a month, an amount that's hard to swallow when I don't think I've ever generated $3,600 a year in medical bills. I was planning to buy coverage through Shenandoah, but, well. I think that would require my actually going through with attending school there. Frontier doesn't seem to offer it. So I was happy to find this site, which seems to indicate that for about $80 a month, I can purchase a plan with around a $3,000 deductible, decent coverage for a well-woman exam, and good benefits should something catastrophic happen to me. I'm more than happy to self-insure (ie place in a savings account) for a $3,000 deductible, since I would have spent more than that out of pocket in premiums otherwise. The companies to choose among include Anthem, Humana, and United HealthCare. Anthem has the highest ratings and I think that's who Matt has. Humana interests me because they seem to have a large philanthropic arm, though they're rated A- to Anthem's straight A. United HealthCare is who I have now, and I can't say I've been terribly impressed--though I haven't been terribly unimpressed either, and it could just be the bare-minimum student coverage I have. On principal, I know that UHC refuses to cover homebirth, while Humana makes the distinction between covering medically indicated C-sections while refusing to cover elective ones, showing that they've given some thought to the issues close to my heart. If all other things are equal, I like to vote with my dollars where I can. So we'll see.
Otherwise, we went grocery shopping the other night. Here's what our trip looked like:
This was a pretty representative list of what it takes to feed us for a week, because we'd cleaned the cupboards pretty much down to bare, except staples, before we went out of town. It even includes cat litter, which we buy every other week. You can figure another $10-15 for items like milk and eggs and produce from the farmer's market, and that puts us at about $50 a week, which I feel is pretty reasonable. Otherwise, we were pleased to note that it's a pretty darn healthy selection of items; we pared most of the crap out of our diets awhile back. We've also cut way down on cheese, which had the effect of greatly reducing the bills; you'll notice that the most expensive item on the list after the asparagus is a bag of mozzarella. (The items labeled "Grocery 1" were apples, bananas, and a just-over-a-pound bunch of asparagus, respectively.) The menu for the week is as follows:
Stir-fry (broccoli, carrots, onions, and tofu) with rice
Spinach and tomato pizza
Whole-wheat spaghetti (we have sauce in the freezer)
Black bean and corn tamales with salsa and tofu sour cream
Whole-wheat penne pasta with oven-roasted asparagus, onions, and grape tomatoes
Baked potatoes with tofu sour cream, and steamed veggies on the side
The tofu sour cream has taken up a pretty sturdy residence on our menu because it's easier to keep tofu on hand for long periods of time than real sour cream is. It also has a little more protein and fiber in it. As I've mentioned before, it's not any kind of a stunner by itself, but it lends plenty of tang and creaminess to dishes like tamales and baked potatoes, and that's really all we're looking for.
Breakfasts at our place, which is not so well-represented on that list, are anything from oatmeal to smoothies to, recently, Kashi Heart-to-Heart because we got it for $0.50 a box using coupons. (Word is that it's on sale at Wal-Mart for $2 a box, meaning that we could get it free after the printable $2/off coupon, but unfortunately our nearest Wal-Mart is 8-10 miles away. That somewhat eats into the savings. Which is a bummer, because I do love that cereal. Lunches are pretty much always leftovers from dinner, along with a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts. Possibly not the most exciting way of eating, but we're pretty happy with it.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
However, we also had many happy moments in Iowa: family dinner with my parents and siblings, breakfast at our favorite breakfast joint with friends and former co-workers, and then riding up to Wisconsin with my brother, my sister, and my sister-in-law to attend Matt's parents' Fourth of July party together. In terms of the party, I think I can safely say that a good time was had by all!
We also got our anniversary cake from Craig's Cakes while we were back in Wisconsin.
Banana split! Oh, YUM.
We also enjoyed time with Matt's sisters and their significant others, and went out on the boat with his parents. Throughout the entire trip was a pervasive theme, for both of us, of: we need to get back here. Soon. Whether it was the devastation of Cedar Rapids or getting up early to take a run through the unbelievably gorgeous smell of fresh-cut hay that's all over Wisconsin right now, we both feel a mounting sense of impatience to get back to the places--though above all, the people--that matter most to us. We are hugely aware that very few couples are as blessed as we are to have joined together two families so full of incredible and kind people, and we've come to the conclusion that living far away from that is not something we want to do much longer.
And so it is that I bring you to the next unexpected bend in the road of our lives: I'm planning to apply to the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, a fully-distance program, and hopefully we'll move back to the midwest to do clinicals (and to stay) within the space of a year or so. There's even an incredibly birth center I've found, which does homebirth as well, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can do my clinicals there.
What about Shenandoah? It's a good program, but careful blog readers will recall that I was always a little ambivalent about it. It never quite settled in for me. Frontier is also less expensive, and quite a bit more flexible; it also has the added benefit of having been around for a long, long time. It's well-known in the midwest, which is where I plan to practice. While we've loved our time here and plan to maximize it, and there is plenty we'll miss about Reston--
above all else, we're ready to come home.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
One year ago today, on the one-month anniversary of our wedding in Mexico, is when I started the blog. In honor of it, I've put up a few pictures; feel free also to browse the archives and marvel at what's been. As this posts, we're (Lord willing) on a plane on our way back to the Midwest. As I wrote that first post, I was considering that we were about to leave it. And now, we're fairly sure that a permanent move back there is in the cards. Soon. Who could have seen that coming?
We thought we were moving out here to live in Washington, D.C., where Matt would become an elementary school band director and I would learn to become a lawyer. Instead, we're living in Reston, where Matt is an accreditor and I'm about to become a midwife. We thought there was a chance we could be "city people" for the rest of our lives. Instead, our current lifestyle and everything in it are very different from what we anticipated. But I think that I speak for both of us when I say that we couldn't be happier.
And, just as I wrote at this time last year: It will certainly be interesting to see how the next year unfolds...
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
They tell us it's just cricket season in Virginia. I've never minded bugs much, but these are a little freaky. Good thing we're going out of town for a few days! Speaking of which: WE'RE GOING OUT OF TOWN FOR A FEW DAYS! And we're very excited about it.