Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And the latest news of the day is...

...I might have asthma...

Yup, so I went to the allergist for the evaluation today. It was just going over the paperwork, doctor questioning me and whatnot. Nothing too exciting.

I go in for the allergy prick and scratch test next Tues. It'll be on the arm, not the back. What sucks is that I'm not allowed to take any antihistamines until the test, and my allergies are hella bad right now. But the good news is the doctor gave me a sample of Nasonex, a nasal spray...the bad news is that he says that it generally doesn't start to work for a few (3-5) days...but I can take Sudafed (except for on the testing day), which means that I have to sign my life away to the pharmacies since those damn meth users have pulled it off the shelves...sheesh. Ah, more good news..the pulled muscle in my lower back seems to have gotten better :)

For a person who eats decently, exercises, doesn't smoke, and rarely drinks, I've got some pretty interesting health issues going on...Which leads me to wonder if one things aggravating/causing another. Like if my lifelong struggle with allergies has caused my immune system to break down to the point that I have Hashimoto's or vice versa? Hmmm...

Monday, October 30, 2006

More doctors to add to the list...

This weekend, I found a questionnaire my doctor had given me and a referral to an allergist.  I decided..damn it, I'm sick of this...so I filled it out last night.

I dropped by the allergist during my lunch break to drop it off.  I was expecting to have to wait a month..or even next year to get an appointment..you know how doctors are ;)  But I got lucky this time around.  I go in for an evaluation tomorrow morning.  It'll just be a medical history type thing.  The actual allergy testing will be a two hour appointment..hopefully they'll be able to get me in soon.

The thought of doing the testing scares the shit out of me...I'll admit it..check out these pictures from the web...

You get it...doesn't look like fun...

But anyways, I figure it's about time I do this.  Since I'm in no position to move to the coast or an island...well...I'm stuck here in the meantime.  I think I pulled my lower right back muscle today from sneezing...so yeah..allergy test it is...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Baby stuff

No no no, I'm not having one!!!  But one of my friends is having a baby in late Nov, and I have a shower to attend...so I decided to make a portable changing pad.  Turned out cute.  No pattern, just ad libbed the project.  Now from a practicality standpoint, I hope it works.  I don't know a dern thing about babies...but this thing is nice and fuzzy and soft...here are the pics...

Ideas and tools of the trade

Finished product -- a bit off center, but oh well.  Good use of scrap fabrics

I quilted the pad, and turned out to have a fun pattern on the fuzzy side!

All tied up and ready to go!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Because every girl deserves a pearl necklace ;)

I am well known for my double entendres...

Well anyways, I decided to splurge a bit today and buy myself a pearl necklace..amongst a few other things. The pearls are 10-11mm freshwater pearls, a little of a variety of colors -- white, very pale salmon, pink, purplish pink. They are gorgeous! Now I just have to string them up together. They feel really good. And well, they're the nicest pearls I have. I was going to buy a cheapie white pearl strand, but these caught my eye...so I splurged.

It didn't stop there, though. I ended up getting a silver loose freshwater pearl, a pink teardrop shaped freshwater pearl, a purple sapphire, multi-colored sapphire briolettes, color change garnets (blue/green to reddish/purple), and an assortment of facetted and cabbed bullets. Fun stuff, so addictive!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Art+Life+Kenya (con't)

Cynthia came by and picked up my quilted wallhanging. I told her the entire story, and she loved it. She was on her way to the African Students Association meeting at the University of Texas, and asked me if she could show my piece there. Of course, I said.

She asked me to send her an email with a description/story of the project -- this story will got next to the art piece in the exhibit. This is what I came up with:

Title: Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba

This quilted wallhanging was made in honour of Anastasia, a bright nine year old girl at the Providence Children's Home who wishes to one day become a veteranarian.

I was inspired for the idea of this quilt by my trip to East Africa in Dec '05 to Jan '06. The scenary stands so vividly in my mind. I wanted to portray the natural beauty that I saw in Africa as well as wanted to include relics of my own journey.

The top portion of the quilt is a kanga that I had acquired on Zanzibar Island, Tanzania. A kanga is a traditional piece of fabric folded in a variety of ways and worn by women in parts of East Africa as clothing. Kangas have a Kiswahili phrase (jina) on the bottom that reflects upon its wearer. I chose the phrase that reads, "Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba", which translates literally as "Little by little, fills the pot." I interpreted this saying as the artists, individually, are contributing something small for this cause; however, collectively, it will amount to something big -- the ability to make a difference. I believe that in life as well -- little things do add up, and collectively, we all can make a difference.

The bottom portion is a scene inspired from my trip. The Kibo peak of Mount Kilimanjaro rises high above the surrounding lands, shadowing Kenya and Tanzania. The elegant giraffes and magical elephants roam the plains of Africa amongst many other beautiful animals. I looked to my photograph collection for inspiration. I transformed the giraffe, elephants, acacia and baobab trees from photos into fabric.

On the bottom left corner on the backside is a Kiswahili phrase that says, "Mambo mazuri hayataki haraka" -- translated as "Good things should not be hastened". It is similar to the proverb, "Stop and smell the roses" -- slow down, enjoy the good things in life.

Amani (Peace),
Marisa Umsawasdi

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Diagnosis: Hashimoto's disease

I went to an Endocrinologist yesterday, after waiting a few months to get an appointment for my goiter problems.  I had my blood drawn on Friday, so that they would have the results for the Endocrinologist.  And damn did that woman stab me bad!!!

Anyways, long story short, my doc confirmed that I have the autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto's Disease.  The diagnosis came about due to what they found in one of my blood tests -- my Thyroid Peroxidase AB (TPO Ab) antibodies test came back in the out of range area.  The normal or expected range is under 35 IU/ML; however, mine came back as 107 IU/ML, which threw the red flag.

Luckily for now, my hormone levels are normal though.  Although my TPO Ab is high, it hasn't started to affect my thyroid hormone production yet.  My thyroxine (T4) levels read 1.28 NG/DL on 8/8/06 and 1.41 NG/DL on 10/7/06 (my normal range is from 0.73 to 1.95 NG/DL).  My TSH levels read 1.1 UIU/ML on 8/8/06 and 0.9 UIU/ML on 10/7/06 (my normal range is 0.3 to 5.1 UIU/ML).

What this means for me...yes, I have Hashimoto's, but it's too early to treat it.  It'll be most likely a lifetime? of blood tests and doctor's visits.  I go back to do another blood test and to see the endocrinologist in 6 months, in April.  I assume we'll do it all over again (blood test, check levels, consult) until my hormone levels change dramatically to where I'll need medication.  Nothing really bad to worry about, just a part of the inevitable 'getting older'. 

Well, it's a good thing that I don't want children because, according to the statistics, I have a 4 times greater risk than a non-Hashimoto's woman for miscarriage during the second trimester; or if carried to full term, there is a higher risk of birth defects (intellectual and developmental problems, cleft palate, brain and kidney problems in infants).  Yup, I'll gladly leave the birthing to the healthy people :p  And if the relatives bug me to have children..well, now I have a valid excuse and can play the Hashimoto's card ;)

Art+Life+Kenya project finished =)

A while back ago, I posted that I was going to contribute an art piece for Art+Life+Kenya.  Well, I've busted my butt and finally finished my piece, so I'll start from the beginning...

I originally heard about the Art+Life+Kenya project in March 06 when I picked up a "Natural Awakenings" magazine..you know, one of those free magazines that they have in front of REI.  The article was entitled, "Kenya Smiles:  'Message in a Bottle' Project Report".  It spoke of a small group of people travelling to Kenya to visit a few orphanages and Kibera, one of the largest slums in the whole of the African continent, in order to see the conditions the people and the children lived in.  They focused their efforts to research about children who had been orphaned due to AIDS. 

From that trip, the group brought back 350 "Messages in a Bottle" -- drawings from the children.  Artists contributing to the Art+Life+Kenya project would then make an art piece inspired by the Message in the Bottle.

I went to the website listed in the magazine, but there was not much too it.  I put the magazine down to be lost in a pile of more magazines and forgot about it...

Fast forward to late August/early Sept of this year.  Cynthia, a fellow jeweller and inspirational person, told Sarah and I about the project.  I knew I had heard of it.  She brought a copy of the article, and it was the same one that I had read months before.  One of the main coordinators was her friend, and Cynthia jumped to the cause, passing out messages for artists.  To enter the juried competition, you had a deadline of Oct. 1st.

I never got a message in a bottle.  Instead, at last minute, I got a child to sponsor.  My project was now dedicated for Anastasia, the older of two sisters, who inspired the entire Providence Children's Home and Community Center.  The Home is a home for children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic.  Anastasia's story is extremely sad.  Her parents, upon finding out that they had AIDS, decided to take their own lives, leaving Anastasia and her sister to live with their uncaring relatives (I believe abusive).  Needless to say, Anastasia and the other children in the orphanage have been given a second chance -- a home, an education, and a place to dream.

Anastasia - 9 yrs old

I spoke to Annie, one of the coordinators of the Art+Life+Kenya project.  She went down there and spoke with Anastasia quite a bit.  Annie told me that Anastasia wishes to be a veteranarian one day.  She is very bright, full of questions, and speaks English very well.

Going on that information, I just made something that came from my heart.  I was inspired by my trip to Tanzania in Dec 05/Jan 06.  I remembered looking at the landscapes, scenary, flora, fauna, as we passed by in the minibus going from Nairobi to Arusha.  It was all still fresh in my mind.  I knew what I wanted to make...

I had spent most of my money in Tanzania buying kangas, a traditional fabric worn by women in East Africa, folded in different ways to create outfits.  They usually have a bold print or motif in the center, then a patterned border, and a Kiswahili saying that reflects upon its wearer.

I decided to make a quilted wallhanging.  The top portion would be the kanga, the bottom portion would be a scene -- Kilimanjaro in the distance, the plains in the front with a giraffe, elephants, baobab and acacia trees, so common in that region.  I selected a kanga that was mostly natural colored -- tannish-orange, black, and white.  I bought this kanga from the Darajani Market, a bustling local market in Zanzibar Island.  I pieced together the bottom portion out of scrap fabrics and fabrics that I had inherited.

Laying out the materials -- kanga, the start of the bottom with the general shape of Kilimanjaro, photos from my trip

The larger shapes of the bottom portion were easy to figure out.  However, how was I going to make a giraffe and elephants?  I decided to print a large image from my picture collection, trace the image and cut it out in fabric, using interfacing to back the fabric.

Photoed giraffe translated to fabric giraffe, spots painted on with fabric paint

It took quite a while to piece the bottom section, but it turned out better than I had expected.  I started out with the larger background shapes -- Kilimanjaro and the plains (horizon).  I added felt clouds, shrubs, an acacia tree and baobab tree, then placed the giraffe and elephants on the piece.

Sewing the glaciers of Kilimanjaro

Pinning the plains to the bottom section

Sewing the giraffe in place

Once I put the bottom section together, I sewed the kanga to the bottom section.  Then, I placed borders to the sides and top and bottom of the larger piece.  I had to use my floor to lay out the backing fabric, batting, and quilt top, since it was quite large...and with 3 dogs roaming around wanting to lay on the quilt, it proved to be a task.  I safety pinned all layers together in strategic places to get me started.  I quilted from the bottom up, because I wanted to make sure that the bottom section was nicely done.

Quilting in progress

The quilting itself took countless hours to get the details.  Next, I made bias tape out of the same courdoroy material that I had used for part of the plains scenary.  I also make curtain rod loops out of the same material.  I sewed the bias tape and curtain rod loops to the edge of the front side, then flipped it around to the back and hand stitched the back of the bias tape to the quilt.  I reinforced the curtain rod loops with extra stitching.  And at that point, I knew that I was almost done...

The original kanga has a Kiswahili saying on it that doesn't fit what I want to say with this project.  I made my own Kiswahili saying to put on the kanga -- "Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba" -- "Little by little, fills the pot".  I thought this saying was appropriate for this project.  My interpretation of the saying is that the artists contributing to this project as individuals - one project at a time - will add up so that collectively, we will all make a difference.  I printed out the text in bold font, placed it under my fabric so that I could trace it, then traced it on off white colored muslin with a fabric marker.

Making the Kiswahili phrase

I used my serger to finish the edges of the muslin fabric, then sewed the saying over the original one.  And viola!  I was finished!!!

Project completed

Bottom details

I called Cynthia this morning, and she's going to swing by my work tomorrow to pick it up.  I missed the juried contest deadline, but there was no way I could have finished it in that short amount of time considering the level of detail I put into this project.  I am proud of this piece -- it's the largest quilt I have ever done (I'm not much of a quilter), it challenged me, and it made my creativity flow.  I hope it brings in a good bit of money for the orphanage.  :)

Art auction at the Austin Childrens Museum -- Oct 21, 2006 -- 7pm to 11pm.