Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dec 1 - World AIDS Day

As I passed by the Vodacom ad in the middle of a busy intersection in Arusha, I began to realize how big the AIDS crisis actually is. The ad..."Spread the message, NOT the virus"...does not say anything specifically about HIV/AIDS, but you know that is the virus that they are talking about. However, all I noticed were the advertisements and signs, not the suffering of the people due to the pandemic. I felt like I saw Tanzania through rosy colored glasses...

World AIDS Day is a day of recognizing the HIV/AIDS pandemic and supporting the people with the virus, supporting the education efforts and further knowledge of and prevention of HIV/AIDS. Show your support, wear a red ribbon. Donate to a charity, local or international, that supports AIDS research, orphans, communities affected, etc. Instead of hitting the bars this weekend, take the money you'd normally spend and put it to a charity. Why? Because the world community affected by HIV/AIDS needs us. What is a weekend out on the town vs being 5 years old, orphaned because his parents died of AIDS, dreaming big as any kid would, but not really knowing what will happen? Even just a little bit, we can all make a difference.

A month and a half ago, I participated in an art project to raise money for an orphanage in Kenya. The orphans lost their parents to AIDS or the complications of AIDS. I was given a girl at the orphanage to sponsor for my art project -- Anastasia, a 9 year old girl who dreams of becoming a veteranarian. I looked at the messages that the kids sent. They are like any other kid out there, dreaming of what they want to do when they grow up, dreaming of adventures, and having fun. Putting a face and name to this makes it all more real.

If it still doesn't make sense or seem real, let's look at the numbers. An estimated 39.5 million people worldwide are living with HIV or AIDS. Of the worldwide population, about 63% are in sub-Sahara Africa. In Swaziland, an estimated 1 in 3 people are infected. Count the number of people around you...imagine...1 in 3. In the US, there are approximately 2.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS. The numbers are staggerring...something needs to be done...

I applaud the people who are extremely proactive with AIDS awareness, from day to day -- the advocates, the educators, the medical professionals, the researchers, the volunteers. They are all amazing people.

I'll leave this message with an entertaining AIDS awareness sign seen in a village on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro...

And as the Vodacom ad in Arusha said, remember...Spread the message, NOT the virus.

Allergy shots!

I went into my allergist today to start my series of allergy shots. It's not something I'm looking forward to, but I at least have to give it a try. Hopefully it works for me.

Since I'm allergic to practically everything except for mold, I had to have 3 different serums mixed. 3 serums = 3 injections each time. And for the first 5 months, I have to go 2x a week. That means, for the first 5 months, 120 injections!!!

First, I took a breath test. You blow in a tube as hard as you can to measure your airflow. It was about 400 all 3 times pre-injection. Then they jabbed me in my left arm. Then twice in my right. Luckily, it was not as painful as I had anticipated. I think the travel vaccines and having my blood drawn so much lately have tempered my pain tolerance! Needless to say...I think I can handle this.

The nurse then gave me a timer that was set to 30 minutes. I waited in the lobby, read a book, till the timer went off. I re-did the breathing test. The first reading was 350. I was like..crap, that's a difference! Then I did it again and it was 450. They said I was free to go, since the 450 was a good number.

I'm sticking with a Monday and Thursday injection schedule. And crossing my fingers that all these pricks add up to something positive! ;)

Fall roadtrip pics are (finally!) up!!

15 days, 13 states, 3876 miles, and 677 pictures later...

Pictures from a roadtrip that Sean and I took from Sept 9 to Sept 23, 2006 are finally up at the link below:

Fall Roadtrip Pics

We originally planned it to be a midwest roadtrip -- with the intentions of ending up in Columbus, OH halfway through the trip, to go to Sean's cousin's wedding. Sometimes, doing things on the spur of the moment and not having an actual plan is exciting. We ended up taking a detour into the east as well...far way from home!!

In order, the places we drove to and through: Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana

In summary, here are some of the highlights...

Our route map

Fearless Sean at the Pedestal Rocks - Ozarks, Arkansas

Arkansas' Grand Canyon - near Jasper, AR

Candlesmoke writing from the 1800's - Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Good ole fried fair food - Delaware Co. Fair, Ohio

New River Gorge, West Virginia - favorite place on the trip!

Grandview - New River Gorge, WV

Sandstone Falls - New River Gorge, WV

Blue Ridge Parkway, VA

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

This wedding planning is tiring!!!

So been doing a bit of wedding planning tonight, for the past 3 hours. I say it's tiring, and I'm not even doing 1/4 of the work that a bride in America would do!!! What can I say, I'm lazy when it comes to planning. I'm actually so anti-planning, so it makes this so much harder to do for me.

Things are coming into place though -- Sean wired the deposit money over and I'm getting together info packets for my guests, which I'll send out soon...hopefully sending them in the mail next week.

The guestlist will be approximately 20 people from the US, England, the Netherlands, and Thailand.

I've decided, as we're on our wedding/honeymoon trip, we should splurge while we're in Chiang Mai. I'm going to go for the "VIP Room" with satellite TV, fridge, river view, private bath, western toilet, hot water (if you have not travelled in the non-western have no idea how important 'hot water' is!!!). This room will cost all of..oh...$13 USD a night! Normally, if it were just me travelling, I would opt for the "Standard Room" with a private bath, western toilet, hot water, fan cooled -- for $8 USD a night. But we'll splurge this time :D

Hopefully this weekend, I'll have a better idea of our scheduling. We're wanting to invite our guests to do some activities with us, so I have to figure out some fun activities and whatnot.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My celebrity look alikes???

So I was bored...It seems to change with different pictures, too. What do you think?

East Austin Studio Tours

Sarah and I did the East Austin Studio Tour yesterday. Never enough time to visit every studio, but we did get to Slugfest Printmaking, Gallery Dv8, Austin Metal Authority, Lion tiger Bear Studios, David Ohlerking II/Chris Chappell, Hardcourt Studios, and Ginko Studios/Philippe Klinefelter. And my all-time favorite being Ginko Studios. After years of holding back, I finally ended up buying two of her pieces -- a plate and a bowl that are now sitting in my curio.

It's always good to see artists and their works. They're all so inspiring. Sometimes we, artisans (working under other people...), need a swift kick in the butt to show us that we can do it on our own, given the drive and determination. And E.A.S.T. always inspires me.

Here are some of the things we saw today...

Slugfest Printmaking

Gallery Dv8

Austin Metal Authority

Austin Metal Authority

Ginko Studios (work in progress)

Ginko Studios

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Forced diet

Well, I've been battling something evil inside me lately...first it was a sinus infection turned a fever, then a constant 'run' to the toilet fun. It started out as mere congestion on Monday, sinus infection Tuesday. I haven't really eaten much Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and today...Wicked fever of 101.1 Thursday, broke during the night. Starting to get over it, but still pretty out of it. Have cancelled 3 of my weekend Lost about 6 pounds in the whole event of it all...

I know, my thoughts aren't cohesive right now. All blurry inside my head. But I'm finally going to get out of the house today and check out the East Austin Studio Tours...just gotta get out...breathe the fresh air, it's nice out today...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stitch 2006

Stitch was a blast. Just a brief summary because I have a lot of sewing to there early to get the awesome goodie bags. Hung out with Jennifer and her daughter Chloe, Dixie and Clint, Lisa, and Kara. And also visited my friends who were vendors at the show -- Natalie of Ornamental Things, Sarah and Shea of Maneki, and Donna of Otter Otto.

I did a little bit of shopping, but kept it to a minimal. I actually didn't do too bad...a bar of soap from Feto Soap and a few t-shirts from SuperMaggie. Some of the booths were swarmed with people, so it was hard to look at times. But that gives me more money to spend and Blue Genie...

The fashion show was pretty neat. Interesting designs. The fact that I know how to sew puts it into perspective. I really appreciate the talent out there -- the design, tailoring, etc. It's pretty amazing what a person can do.

Wanna see Stitch pics? I've posted them on my flickr account: Stitch pictures

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Allergy test results!

I went to the Allergist today and did my allergy test. My nurse, B.J. Johnson (yes, that's her real name, I'm not kidding!!!), had me prop my feet, up, put a pillow on my lap, and lay both arms out, palms facing upwards. She marked A, B, C, D, E, F on sections of my arm, from my elbow to my wrist. The testing things were made up of groups of bristles, in columns and rows -- each 'dot' (really a circle of bristles, I think) tested for one allergen -- but each applicator tested for multiple allergens. Using a rolling motion on my arm, she pressed each of the applicator into the sections of my arm. It felt like someone was poking me with needles -- not like an injection, but just enough to break the skin. Each left a circle of allergen serum so that my arms looked as if I had taken an eye dropper and placed drops of liquid on my arm at intervals.

I had to sit there, arms up, holding onto Advair diskus spongey things (one of those toys doctors get from drug companies). BJ said that if I needed to itch, just squeeze the spongey things. I had to sit there for 15 minutes like that, resisting the urge to itch, watching many of the small circles turn into growing masses on my arms. I turned my attention to The Price is Right, which was on the TV in the testing room, then looked down at the reactions on my arms, and back again. Some of the growing masses swallowed the neighboring mass to form one huge itchy blob. This was pure torture...

BJ marked my results, measuring each welt on my arm with a specialized micrometer. Then she spread cortizone cream thickly all over the tested area. I took a break, walked to the bathroom with this thick, white cream all over my arms, wanting to itch so bad. I wondered if people in the lobby thought I was some freak. Oh wait, maybe they're here to do the same thing...

I went back to the testing room. The next set of allergy tests would be the intradermal test. This one involves the back of your arm where the nurse injects the serum with a needle to create a bubble under your skin. They wait 15 minutes to see the reaction. They do this test if there is something that didn't show up on the first (percutaneous/skin) test. Luckily, she only had to retest me for cat dander and ragweed..well...because so much showed up on the first test. My cat dander and ragweed tests ended up growing to meet each other, forming a huge oblong welt.

Out of 48 pricks and 2 intradermal tests, 18 came out to have an allergic reacion. To no surprise, here are the things that I'm allergic to (*** means that I'm very allergic to it):

- American Elm***
- Mountain Cedar***
- Virginia Live Oak***
- Arizona Ash
- Pecan
- Sycamore***
- Mulberry
- Mesquite***
- Ragweed***
- Russian Thistle
- Bermuda Grass***
- Perrenial Rye Grass
- Johnson Grass***
- Bahia Grass***
- Pteronyssinus*** (dust mite)
- Farinae*** (dust mite)
- Cat***
- Dog

And it was not a pretty picture. My arms looked pretty freakish in nature, like I had been attacked by a vicious swarm of mosquitos. Here's after the testing (they looked much worse in person and before the cortizone cream was applied!)

left arm (Weeds, molds, Animals/mites/cockroach/others)

left arm (Weeds, molds, Animals/mites/cockroach/others)

right arm (trees and grasses)

right arm (trees and grasses)

After the allergy testing, the nurse tested me for asthma. She had me take a huge breath, blow into a machine as hard and as long as I could, basically until I was ready to pass out. I did that three times, and gasped for air after each blow. Luckily, she found that I do not have asthma on a regular basis. I do have allergy triggered bronchial asthma and exercise induced asthma, though. Nothing severe, just shortness of breath and wheezing sometimes.

BJ moved me to an exam room, where the doctor saw me shortly. We talked about the next steps, and he gave me samples of antihistamines, allergy eye drops, nose sprays, and an asthma inhaler.

Depending on how my insurance covers allergy shots, I may get them. I'd need 3 serums made up for me. But the cost of 4 vials of 3 serums (12 vials total) is $1560. This would only last me anywhere from 3-5 months initially. Seeing that allergy shots is a long term treatment (ie. 3-5 years, depending on the severity, which for me, would probably be the latter or longer), well...I'm guessing maybe at tops, about $6000 a year for allergy shots...that's the cost. So over 5 years time, let's say $30000. It would really be less than that, since over time, you take less shots, but regardless, it's an assload of money we're talking about. I'm going to have Sean talk to his HR department to see what they'll cover, and what we'll have to pay. If it's anything in the thousands per year, forget it, I can't afford it. I mean, hell, I'm not even paying that much for my wedding! So we'll see what they say...

And for fun...I got a pollen chart for the Austin area. I thought, gee, what a fun activity it would be to color in what I was allergic too...and that doesn't even count dust mites and animal dander!