Sunday, April 20, 2014

Big Changes

I had my Clapotis around my neck when the manager at Michael's asked me why I wanted to teach knitting when I had so much education and work experience.

I picked up then end of the scarf and said, "Because I love this." I told him how at all those call center jobs, and even when I was a newspaper reporter, I would be sit at my desk and think about what I would knit when I got home. (Or often when I went to lunch or clocked into my break.)

Things went really fast after my last entry.  I had started pondering teaching knitting around January. When I signed up for the Craft Yarn Council Certified Instructor Program in February, they asked me if I wanted to teach at Michael's, and I checked yes. (Michael's requires the Level 1 coursework to be completed before you can teach there, but you can do your student teaching at Michael's if you're hired.) Then came an e-mail wanting to know more about my background and which stores I was willing to teach at. Then there was another e-mail telling me that I had been "paired" with two stores in South Austin. By March I was calling people back about filling out the application and coming in to "chat."

I entered most of my work history into the application, but when I went in, I took this instead of a resume:

My Knitting Resume

You are looking at the Clapotis I mentioned before, the Strangling Vine scarf, the Broken Scarf, the Entrelac Scarf, the Soy Wool Spiral hat, my Knucks and a binder full of swatches I did for the CIP.  (I interviewed for the job before I submitted my coursework, so this was before I had sent them in, or even wove in the ends.)

So yes, I did get hired at Michael's in Sunset Valley and the Michael's in Westlake.

I even had my first two demos already. I demonstrated arm knitting and talked about the classes available in May at both stores. I'm kicking myself for not taking a picture while I was at the Westlake store yesterday, but it looked a lot like this:

Arm Knitting Demo

I'm responsible for doing my own promotion to get students. I posted an ad on Craigslist and got a response in less than 24 hours.

So this changes my rule about not talking about my work in too much detail in this blog. That's been my dream since day one, that my blog and my knitting would be part of my job, instead of something I did when I was done with work. I still have the online, work at home job. (Message me if you want details.) But I'll be spending a lot of time focusing on these classes. especially in the beginning. In fact, a complete description of classes in May should be coming soon.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Dad's Surprising Spinning Wheel Hack (or is it a Kludge?)

Are you ready for a post that isn't related to politics?

I've been working at a part-time, work-at-home job for almost a year now. (If you are interested in information about the job, comment or e-mail me, and I'll tell you more. I'm continuing my tradition of not naming my employer on this blog.) Since my pain problems make it difficult to use the computer for long periods of time, I have to be judicious with the time I do spend on the computer. The same head and neck problems have been keeping me from spinning as well.

Also, I've gotten stuck in the trap of thinking that because it's been so long since I posted, I need to come up with a big comeback post. So I put off blogging even longer because I felt like I had to do something big. Then I finally decided that I just needed to blog something.

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, recently the conrod joint on Mom's spinning wheel broke. It's the flexible piece of nylon that connects the wheel's treadle with the rod that spins the wheel. (You can see it in a diagram here.) I think sometimes pieces of leather are used as well, but Mom's Ashford has a piece of nylon.

You can go out and buy replacement joints. They're only a couple of dollars. However, by the time you pay for shipping you're paying an awful lot for a little piece of nylon. The best way to do it is to wait until you have something else to buy from the shop and ship them together. Either way, you'll have to wait.

So Dad set out looking for solutions. He tried several things. His search took him to Home Depot, where he found the answer.

DSCN1437

You are looking at small piece of RG-59 Coaxial Cable. In this picture, Mom and Dad are working on screwing it into place. Dad bought 1 foot of the stuff for 27 cents, and he still has enough left over to replace several more conrod joints.

So if your conrod joint breaks, and you're having the shakes because you can't spin, go to your hardware store. Be sure to ask for RG-59 coaxial cable. There is more than one type of cable, and this is the one that proved to be the perfect size for Mom's Ashford Traditional wheel. (I would imagine that it's the same size for all the Ashfords, but you'd have to ask them to know for sure.)

They sell coaxial cable in pre-measured lengths with plugs on the ends at electronic stores. Don't waste your money on those. For this job, you need the cable that's sold by the foot. It will probably be in a spool that looks like this. Ask an employee to cut off a piece for you. Dad got an entire foot, but a conrod joint is much shorter than that. You could probably get away with half a foot, but it's not a bad idea to have some extra on hand in case you cut the first piece too short or something else goes wrong. (They may not sell lengths shorter than a foot anyway. I guess it all depends on your hardware store.)

Fixing Mom's Spinning Wheel

Mom and Dad cut a piece the same length as the old conrod joint. The screws in the conrod and the treadle assembly screwed into the cable, so they didn't have to make any holes manually.


In the video above, you can see the finished repair and hear Mom and Dad talking about it. Mom was having some trouble treadling. It turned out that she had taken off the bobbin before they turned the wheel upside down for the repairs, and that was throwing the whole thing off balance. It's treadling a little better in the video below:


In case you were wondering, yes, we made the repairs on Super Bowl Sunday. (I think I'm remembering that correctly.)

Also, while we're on the subject, I should mention another solution I found on the Knittsings blog. They used vinyl boat cording from an upholstery shop.

As you can see by the title, I've been debating whether to call this a hack or a kludge. Wikipedia seems to imply they are basically the same thing. In my mind, a kludge has negative connotations. it's a fix that isn't very good, like the kind of things you find on There I Fixed It. Kludges are either temporary, desperate, stupid or any combination of those three. Conversely, hack has positive connotations. I'm using hack in the life hack sense of the word. Hacks are clever solutions you wish you would have thought of. Apparently they're not as different as I thought.

This may be a Kludge, because I'm not sure how long the coaxial cable will last. I don't know if Mom has any spinning in progress right now. Only time and lots of spinning will tell how well it works. A true conrod joint is still the ideal solution, but the coaxial cable will last until Mom orders something from somewhere that sells conrod joints.

I'm going to confess that I used hack in the title because I read this post that says headlines with the word hack (and surprise) have the tendency to go viral. I doubt a post about fixing a spinning wheel will go viral, but I thought I'd try it. I think it still sounds like my own voice. I use the word hack, at least online. The challenge with tips like these (as well as any writing related to SEO) is to use the information to your benefit without sounding like a robot. I still want to sound like me. I think I did ok.

Besides, if any of these posts have truly been about a hack, it's this one.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

They Cancelled My Plan, and I'm Thrilled!

Let me begin with the obligatory apology. I can't believe it's been more than a year since I've posted. I hope to soon return this blog to it's former glory. I also apologize that my first post in more than a year is, once again, political. At least I didn't let 2013 go by without a post.

Right now I have Laryngitis, I'm housesitting and the only people I will likely celebrate with tonight are Mom and Dad, right before I go back to housesitting. It's kind of ironic because I always assumed I'd spend this New Year's surrounded by lots of people, partying and about shouting my happiness, both figuratively and literally.

This is what I've been waiting for for more than three and a half years:

Obamacare!


You can read the long and involved history about why this makes me so happy here.

This screenshot was taken on December 21, 2013. Yes, I had difficulties with the website, although my father's multiple sources of income also made things difficult. (If you want to see if you qualify for subsidies, you have to enter household income information, including people in the household who aren't signing up for coverage.)

I was even part of the 2-5% of Americans (depending on whose counting) whose coverage was cancelled. (For that number, I suggest starting with this source: The Chart That Could Save Obamacare.) And I say good riddance to bad rubbish! Like all the cancelled plans, mine was substandard. The Texas Health Insurance Pool is a joke. Or should I say "was" a joke?

Since my COBRA ran out on March 1, 2012, the five or six expensive plans offered by the Texas Health Insurance Pool have been my only options. However, from Healthcare.gov, the Obamacare website, I was offered more than fifty. (The number may have been as high as the seventies. I don't remember the exact number, but there was a wide range of plans from bronze to platinum.)

I'm going to break it down for you. Please click the links to the glossary if you're confused. Keep in mind that I was a 33 year-old, non-smoking female until December 20, when I became a 34 year-old, non-smoking female:

Monthly Premiums :
Texas Health Insurance Pool: $486.00
Obamacare: $372.29

Annual Deductible :
Texas Health Insurance Pool: $3,000
Obamacare: $1,500

Annual Prescription Medication Deductible :
Texas Health Insurance Pool: $1,450
Obamacare: None!

Generic Drug Co-Pay :
Texas Health Insurance Pool: $10*
Obamacare: None! $0 for preferred generic drugs, $10 for the rest (see correction below)
 * Some of my generic drugs cost less than $10 out of pocket, so in those drugs don't cost the full $10.

Cost of my most effective Pain Medication: (Estimates)
Texas Health Insurance Pool: No Coverage - I paid about $130.*
Obamacare: Coverage - a $35 co-pay maximum.*
*Full price is actually $210, but Robert the Pharmacist at my CVS gave me a discount card that saved me about $80 a month. It will probably save me even more when my insurance actually covers this drug. Robert, you are awesome!

Pregnancy Coverage:
Texas Health Insurance Pool: No!*
Obamacare: Yes!*
*Now exactly why was I paying so much more than a man for a plan with no pregnancy coverage?

Routine Eye Exam Coverage:
Texas Health Insurance Pool: No!
Obamacare: Yes!

Some of the other things are harder to compare. Like most high deductible plans, my Texas Health Insurance Plan had 100% coverage after I met that large deductible, while the Obamacare plan covers 80% after I meet the smaller deductible. (Of course, we're talking In Network Coinsurance.)

Long story short. I'm excited. I used my crappy plan for the last time today, at the doctor and at the pharmacy. When they asked me if my insurance I had changed, I said no, not for one more day. If I had more of a voice, I would have had a longer, louder talk about my new Obamacare plan.

Now some of you may be thinking, "Good for you, Sally, but I can't afford $372.29 a month! That's not affordable!" Before you blow it off, consider two things:

1. Subsidies!!!
There are tax subsidies available to help you pay your premiums. They are based on income. Anytime someone quotes you a scary sounding premium, ask them if that is before or after tax subsidies. Everyone forgets to figure in subsidies, including this lady.

Dad landed a pretty sweet gig recently, so we didn't qualify for subsidies at all. My premium is pre-subsidy. And it's still lower than my last premium.

2. You have lots of other options.
The plan I bought was a Gold plan, one of the most expensive. Even the Platinum plan cost less, but it had a very small network. There were many less expensive plans I could have chosen, but because I have multiple health problems, I chose a more expensive plan with more coverage. There are Silver and Bronze plans to choose from as well. And if you are under 30 or especially low income, you may be able to get a catastrophic plan, which is still a lot better than nothing.

I started 2011 in a lot of pain. In 2013 I got a work from home job. I think 2014 will be the year I finally move out. But it wouldn't have happened without my Obamacare plan.

Please share this far and wide.  This is the stuff the media is missing.

You may hear me screaming at midnight after all.



Correction: I made an error when I first reported my generic drug co-pay. I originally thought it was $0 for all of them, but it turns out it's only $0 for preferred generic drugs, and $10 for the rest. However, I'm still saving quite a bit of money on my drugs.



Sunday, November 4, 2012

Obamacare: Why Healthcare Reform is Important to me


I know it's been a long time since I've posted, and this is quite a post to come back with. I've been focusing my writing on this open letter to the President of the United States thanking him for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare. It's been several months in the making. 

I know I'm getting into too long; didn't read territory, but I've already cut out 1,500 words, and I don't think I can paint the picture of a life lived according to health insurance without telling the whole story. Telling my story is important to me. 

I've added subheadings to this version of the letter to help guide you.

So as we approach the election, I'd like to share with you why Obamacare is important to me, why I volunteer to make calls for the campaign and why I tend to get carried away with this issue on Facebook.

Introduction

November 4, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I’m writing you today to thank you for the Affordable Care Act and share my health insurance story, in the hope that it could help you and your administration defend the law and your presidency.

This is an open letter that I plan to share. It is written as much for the entire country as it is to you.

I am not better off than I was four years ago, but not because of the economy or anything the government could have prevented. In November 2010, I pinched nerve in my cervical spine that triggered fibromyalgia and changed my life.

I had just gotten a new job, and four days into training I resigned to stay in good standing with my new employer. My plan was to return for the January training class when I was better. I was never able to return.

Now that I can’t work, Obamacare is more important to me than ever. As a person with a pre-existing condition, Obamacare has eased my concerns about getting health insurance if I am unable to work full time again. If I am able to work full time, I know I can pursue something meaningful without giving up coverage.

To truly understand why Obamacare is so important to me, you have to hear my story. It’s a long story, but it illustrates many different points. I think the sum total of my experiences paints a picture of how health insurance has affected every major decision that I have made in my adult life.

You’ve probably heard lots of stories about people with pre-existing conditions who don’t have coverage. My story is about the sacrifices and work it has taken for me to maintain coverage without gaps.

My Story

My story actually begins five years before I was born in 1974. That year my mother graduated from college and my parents got married. After she graduated, Mom worked for the Graduate School of Library Sciences at the University of Texas while Dad finished up his teacher certification and tutored. It was also the year my Dad began to suffer from what turned out to be a kidney stone.

Around Christmas of that year, my Dad’s pain became unbearable. My parents went to the hospital, where they were shocked by the large upfront payment they had to make.

They didn’t have health insurance.

My father’s job didn’t offer health insurance. My mother started her job in August, and the enrollment period for insurance was in September. The deadline came up so quickly that she missed it, a mistake she blames on her youth. At the time, they didn’t think it would be such a big deal. She planned to enroll the next time around.

My Dad’s kidney stone wiped out all the money my mother had saved from her part-time jobs in her senior year of college.

After this incident, my parents never went without health insurance again, and over time my mother became the family health insurance expert. Mom told me this story over and over again to illustrate the importance of maintaining health insurance, something that would prove to be a challenge for me.

When I started college, I still had problems with moderate asthma that started as a teenager. I was also taking an antidepressant that was making a world of difference.

I was already well aware that I had a pre-existing condition, and that maintaining health insurance coverage would be extra important for me.

In 1998 I started going to college out of state at the University of Oklahoma, away from my home in Austin, Texas for the first time. In October 2000, I dropped out due to the first of several major depressive episodes. The mild antidepressant wasn’t cutting it anymore. My grades had plummeted. I missed class because my sleep was erratic. I was constantly worried.

Back then I could stay on their parents’ insurance as long as I was a student. Now that I was not a student, how much longer could I stay on my parent’s insurance? I was only 20.

The months that followed are a blur of anger, sadness and calls to the insurance company about extensions and grace periods. If I didn’t go back to school soon enough, I would be kicked off my parents insurance, and I needed a plan.

At one point I considered putting off college, getting a job and moving out on my own. I got a part time job at a clothing store, and I looked into a full time position that would have provided health insurance. However, I would have been stuck with lifetime limits on mental health visits that were more stringent for people with “severe mental illness.”

Eventually, I went back to school before I got kicked off of my parents’ insurance. I majored in print journalism at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and I spent my entire last semester applying for reporting jobs all over the country. I wanted to move away from home and have more adventures, and I was determined not to move back home after graduation in May 2003.

I don’t know what would have happened if I had not been able to move. Would I have found newspaper work that offered insurance? Would I have had to put off my career to get insurance? Would I have been able to get any job that offered insurance?

I took a job at a newspaper in a Florida retirement community. My health insurance kicked in after just 60 days, which was better than some employers, but it was still a challenge. We weren’t sure if I’d be kicked off of my parents’ insurance right away, so we decided to act like I didn’t have insurance. Then we hoped that nothing would go wrong in that 60-day period. If something did happen, maybe I’d still have coverage.

I didn’t fill any prescriptions during those 60 days. Fortunately, my doctors back home understood my situation. I had appointments with all of them before I left home, and they sent me home with paper bags filled with samples.

Luckily, those first 60 days went smoothly. I didn’t have to file any claims.

I stayed at that job until February 2005. I left because of a complicated combination of local politics and office politics. The paper I was at was not practicing good journalism.

However, I wanted to leave the paper on December 20, 2004. It was my 25th birthday, and it was the day my editor decided that she couldn’t take it anymore. She tendered her resignation.

We’d both been planning to leave. I admired my editor and I wanted to be loyal to her. I consider her to be a friend. I had written my letter of resignation a long time ago. I’d been applying for reporting jobs all over the country for a couple of months by then. Just like my last semester of college, I was ready to move anywhere in the country.

For a while, I convinced myself that I could get coverage without a job lined up. If my editor could live without insurance, so could I.

I called my mother to tell her I was about to quit. My income was mentioned, but our conversation revolved around health insurance. Mom succeeded in talking me out of quitting that day.

After I accepted a job at a different paper a few hours away I finally submitted my resignation. My former editor drove the moving truck.

At first I was excited about my new job. I thought I was moving up in the world. But I grew to hate working at that paper. It wasn’t until years later that I admitted to myself that I was bullied, and I wasn’t the only one.

I felt trapped because of my insurance. I didn’t take my complaints to human resources or report the bullying and discrimination my coworkers endured because I couldn’t afford not to have health insurance. Aside from the usual worries about coverage gaps, I worried about being accused of “gross misconduct” if I were fired in such a volatile work environment. “Gross misconduct” would have made me ineligible for COBRA altogether.

I got more and more depressed. The more depressed I got, the more my worked suffered. The more my work suffered, the more I was bullied. The more I was bullied, the more depressed I got.

Eventually, something snapped and I experienced the worst bout of anxiety and depression I’ve ever experienced.

One day I left work early and checked into the hospital. I took several weeks off after that. My Mom flew in several times to care for me. Finally, after an unsuccessful attempt to return to work, I was terminated under the Family Medical Leave Act in August 2006. After being absent 12 weeks, the company was no longer obligated to hold my job. This wasn’t “gross misconduct,” and that was all I cared about. I moved back to Austin.

In January 2007 I got a job (with insurance) as a telemarketer focusing on lead generation.

I didn’t have any major incidents until a Sunday night in December 2008. My parents took me to the emergency room because I thought I had food poisoning. It turned out I had pancreatitis. We still don’t know what caused it. I was discharged three days later, and I recovered without any complications.

A few weeks later I got the main hospital bill. The couple of thousand dollars I had to pay out of pocket was enough of a burden, but if I had not had insurance, the hospital stay would have cost well over $20,000.  That number doesn’t include subsequent bills for things like the emergency room, lab tests, ultrasounds and doctor visits.

In 2009, my old problems came back, including the scary anxiety. I took several weeks off work.

I went into the hospital at the beginning of my time off. A couple of days in, my doctor came in and told me that my insurance wanted to send me home even though she thought I needed to stay in a safe place to make faster medication changes. The hospital could monitor me physically and mentally as I made the transition. The insurance company said I wasn’t a danger to myself or others, so I didn’t need to be in the hospital. My doctor was unable to convince my insurance company that I needed to be in the hospital, and I left early.

About a week later, I had to be hospitalized all over again.

After my second hospitalization I participated in a very helpful Intensive Outpatient Program. At one point my therapist talked about starting her own practice. Things were going well, but as her COBRA ran out, she realized she that no independent insurance company would take her. The reason?  She had taken an antidepressant in the past.

She ended up taking time away from her private practice to work part-time at the hospital, where I was participating in group therapy with her. Her story broke my heart and made me worry about my own future.

I realized that unless I married the right person with the right job, I’d only be able to work at jobs that offered insurance until I was eligible for Medicare. Any of the other career moves I had dreamed about, like starting a small business, freelance writing, using my knitting experience to sell yarn, publishing a book or going to graduate school would have to happen around a full time job, no matter how successful I was. Up until then, I hadn’t realized absolutely no insurance company would give me an individual policy.

After a while, I stopped dreaming altogether. Insurance blocked me at every turn.

Then, on February 12, 2010 I was laid off from my job at the call center.

At that point I wasn’t too worried. This was my chance to move on to something bigger better. I knew I had at least 18 months of COBRA, and I was sure I’d have a new job by then.

And thanks to your policies, COBRA subsidies saved me quite a bit of money.

In November 2010, I got the job I mentioned earlier that only lasted four painful days.  I would have been eligible for a great insurance policy had I been able to return.

I should have healed in a couple of weeks, but as time passed my recovery stalled. Physical therapy helped some. I’m definitely stronger than I was in 2011. For now, the pain and the fatigue prevent me from working. I’m waiting for the results of my disability hearing.

The Texas Health Insurance Pool: My Only Option Until 2014 

In March of 2012, I exhausted my COBRA, including a six-month extension. After much back and forth and contradictory information, I discovered that I was wrong before. I was eligible for one health plan even if I didn’t have a job.

The Texas Health Insurance Pool is a high-risk pool only for Texas residents with health problems. When I started my premium was $517 a month.

On top of sky-high premiums, my most effective pain medicine was not covered by the new insurance. It’s about $140 for 40 days of pills. I save money by getting a higher dosage and cutting the pills into quarters. The price is a burden, but until 2014 I don’t have the option of shopping for a plan that covers this medication.

However, I got good news about my premium recently. It was lowered to $486 a month. It was lowered because my premium is based on twice the average premium that major insurers around the state are charging for individual plans. This is a sign that premiums aren’t skyrocketing the way my Republicans friends have said.

There are still problems with the plan that won’t be rectified until 2014. Currently, a man in my same age group, on the same insurance plan, living in the same area of the state, who also does not use tobacco, pays $365 a month. Yet my insurance doesn’t cover maternity care. I had to reread the paperwork several times before I believed it. What am I paying extra for if I don’t have maternity coverage?

Also, you must have proof of continuous coverage, or the insurance won’t cover any pre-existing conditions for the first year. People with coverage gaps are paying a lot of money for insurance that won’t cover treatment that they need the most.

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan is a much better deal. I don’t qualify for it because I do not have a six-month gap in coverage.  I understand that this plan is an emergency measure to cover more people until before 2014. I’m glad you created this program so more people could be covered while we wait for the law to go into full effect.

The Moral of The Story 

I know my story is long and complicated, but I tell it to make multiple points.

First, only the richest of the rich can afford to pay for their health care needs out of pocket. Everyone hits the wall at some point. My primary care doctor charges a patient without insurance about $100 for an office visit. A lot of people can’t afford this. In 1974, a kidney stone was enough to wipe out the savings of a young newly wed couple. My hospitalization for pancreatitis, including all the charges from different departments, would have cost me close to a year’s income if I had not had insurance. A coma or serious brain injury requiring months or years of inpatient care could bankrupt a family with a six-digit income.

Thank you for tackling this issue and making real reforms. Thank you for removing lifetime maximums on insurance coverage.

My story shows how complex insurance is. It takes a lot of work to even understand what it takes to be covered. I wish more people understood that the Affordable Care Act is long and complex because the health insurance industry has made its policies and rules complex. To fix all the issues I’ve faced, not to mention problems like rescission that I’ve never dealt with, it takes a long bill.

Thank you for seeing the hoops people have to jump through to maintain coverage, and thank you for not brushing it off as a matter of personal responsibility when so many people miss those hoops.

My story shows how young people were forced off their parents’ insurance during one of the most transitory times in their lives. I’m lucky my parents’ insurance included a grace period, but I would have been in trouble if I had not been well enough to return to school on time.

At one of the Organizing for America phone banks I attended, I spoke with a woman who worked at Texas State University. Part of her job is talking to students after their grades had dropped. She said some of the students said their grades had suddenly plummeted because they were forced off their parents’ insurance and couldn’t afford their antidepressants anymore.

Thank you for helping young people maintain their coverage while their lives are in flux by allowing them to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. My 23 year-old sister just got married in August. This provision allowed them to marry without worrying about insurance or sacrificing their fledgling careers.

My story demonstrates the power insurance companies have over our healthcare choices, like my shortened hospital stay in 2009. Decisions about what is covered, what is medically necessary, what is experimental and when to rescind a policy are made by people who get big bonuses based on how much care they deny. I wish more people would realize that they need to be worried about the decisions private insurance companies make as much, if not more, than government oversight.

Sarah Palin did a great disservice to the nation when she perpetuated the myth of government death panels. She imagined horrible scenarios of disabled children and seniors being denied care that have no basis in reality. Now the concept of death panels won’t die, and so many people have an unreasonable fear of the government making health decisions for them.

I know Obamacare doesn’t give the government the power to make healthcare decisions for individuals, but I would trust the government to make that decision before I’d trust someone motivated by profit and bonuses.

Thank you for making it harder for insurance companies to deny coverage.

Most of all, my story shows the sacrifices it has taken for someone with a pre-existing condition to maintain coverage before Obamacare. In my case, I had to carefully time a break from college, stick with employers who were unethical, keep quiet about workplace bullying, pay sky-high premiums for COBRA and high risk pool insurance and ignore opportunities and dreams.

I thank you most of all from freeing me from the prison that was created by my pre-existing condition. I don’t know what the future holds now that I have fibromyalgia, but I’m optimistic. In 2014, if everything goes as planned, I’ll get to shop around for a good insurance plan through insurance exchanges. I won’t have an excuse not to dream. Obamacare is my hope and change. Obamacare helps me move forward.

I wish more people would take the time to understand Obamacare, and I wish less people would fall for the ridiculous rumors and lies.

I wish more people understood that Obamacare will not lead to the fall of capitalism in America. Healthcare is a basic human need. We can’t let the boogeyman of socialism scare us into stopping reform.

Before Obamacare health insurance companies were increasing their profits by creating cheaper, inferior products. They stayed in lockstep with their policies so their customers would have no other choice. Rather than catering to their customer base, insurance companies refused to sell their product to the people who needed it most.

We also forget that Obamacare was a true compromise. Both sides sacrificed. Thank you for truly reaching across the aisle to make it happen.

And thank you for reading my letter, Mr. President.

Sincerely,
Sally Villarreal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

FOs: Craft Show Scarf Quartet

My shoulder and back have been bothering me more than usual recently, and it's interfering with my knitting and my blogging. I started an awesome cowl, but something about the way I have to hold my arms makes it hard for me to work on it for any extended length of time.

To make up for this, I've knit several simple scarves in the last couple of weeks. I've been using yarns that I've run into while dealing with the moths in my stash.

One of these days there will be another craft show, and I'm putting these in my inventory so I will be prepared. That is why I'm calling these the Craft Show Scarf Quartet.

1. Drop Stitch Scarf

FO: Drop Stitch Scarf

Ribbon yarn is ideal for drop stitch scarves. I didn't use a pattern, but there are lots of designs that utilize the same concept. On the drop stitch row, you wrap the yarn around the needle several times (I think I did it four times) and then drop all the wraps on the next row.

I think drop stitch scarves need fringe. I made a point of cutting the fringe ahead of time. I also put a little Fray Check on the ends to keep them from unraveling.

FO: Drop Stitch Scarf

I used US Size 9 needles and one skein of a discontinued Online yarn called Linie 118 Vision that I got in a swap.

2. Light and Lofty Garter Stitch Scarf

FO: Light and Lofty Garter Stitch Scarf

This one is a pretty straight forward garter stitch scarf with fringe. I actually worked on this a couple of times while I was lying in bed trying to sleep.

I used about one and two-thirds skeins of Red Heart Light and Lofty in "Cape Cod Multi." I think it came from a yarn swap somewhere along the way. I also used US Size 13 needles.

3. Drop Stitch Chenille Scarf

FO: Drop Stitch Chenille Scarf

For this scarf, I used a different type of drop stitch than I did on the first scarf. I knit the whole thing lengthwise, then dropped every third stitch so it created a ladder all the way down.

Drop Stitch Chenille Scarf

I had some issues after dropping the stitches. The bind off (the top row in this picture) made one edge of the scarf nice and neat. However, every third stitch of the cast on row came undone, which made the other edge loose and messy. And for some reason the second rung of each ladder was looser than the first. So I crocheted along the cast on edge to neaten it up.

It's hard to explain what what I did on the cast on edge, but I'm going to try.

First, I slip stitched over the two intact stitches, leaving one loop on the hook when I was done.

Then I took the hook and twisted the first rung of the ladder around it to created another loop, so there was two on the hook.

After that I pulled the second rung of the ladder through the loop I made (the first one on the hook), leaving two loops on the hook.

At this point I think I pulled the yarn through both loops on the hook. (I might have pulled the first loop on the hook through the second, but I doubt it.)

Then I'd start over from the slip stitches.

If anyone really wants to to try to recreate what I did, e-mail me or comment, and I'll see if I can explain it better. This is one of those things that most people don't care about, but I want documented for myself.*

I have mixed feelings about the end result. If I do something like this again, I need to plan ahead more. And I need a yarn that's thinner and easier to deal with.

I used one skein of Lion Brand Chenille Thick and Quick in Royal Blue and US Size 11 needles. Once again, I used Fray Check on the fringe. Then I twisted the ends to keep the yarn from coming undone.

4. Color Waves Scarf

FO: Color Waves Scarf

Finally, I made one more garter stitch scarf. This was made with one skein of Lion Brand Color Waves that was leftover from this ancient project, and US Size 8 needles. Like the Drop Stitch Chenille Scarf, I used a little Fray Check on the fringe and twisted the ends to keep the yarn from coming apart.

* - You could say that about my entire blog, but that would be mean.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

FO: Diagonal Magic Ball Scarf

Magic Ball

Last week while I was sorting my yarn for freezing and microwaving, I stumbled upon the Bluebonnet Magic Ball that I got a yarn swap way back in 2008. Since the Epic Adult Surprise Jacket has been in the finishing phase, I've been craving a quick and easy knit. So I decided it was time to use the Magic Ball.

FO: Diagonal Magic Ball Scarf

The label on the magic ball came with two patterns. The first one was for a "Basic Garter Stitch Scarf." I chose the second pattern, which was for a "Diagonal Garter Stitch Scarf." I considered just making a lengthwise scarf. But that would have required calculating the gauge to make sure it wasn't too short, and I just wanted to start knitting.

The pattern says to cast on 13 stitches, but I decided to only cast on 12 stitches because I wanted the scarf to be nice and long.

Both patterns call for US Size 13 needles. Because my gauge is so loose, I used US Size 9 needles.

FO: Diagonal Magic Ball Scarf

In knitting and crochet, the term "magic ball" can mean two different things. It can be a ball of yarn that is wound with little gifts and toys in it. These are usually given away in swaps. There's a Flickr pool with pictures of Magic Balls here.

Then there are magic balls like the Bluebonnet Magic Ball I used for this scarf. They are made by tying together lengths of different yarns into one ball. Be Sweet sells its own Magic Ball. Jimmy Bean's Wool has a tutorial showing how to make your own magic ball. There are other magic ball tutorials here and here.

Since I received this yarn in a swap, I don't know much about its origins. I know it came from Bluebonnet Yarn Shoppe, which closed more than a year ago, but I don't remember them actually being sold at Bluebonnet.

According to her blog, Amy made her own magic ball scarf back in 2006. She won the yarn from Bluebonnet. However, her scarf looks much different than mine. The stripes are longer, the yarns in the ball are very different and the whole thing is bigger. Her scarf is the only evidence I've seen that another Bluebonnet Magic Ball ever existed.

Aaron models the Diagonal Magic Ball Scarf

Aaron was nice enough to model the scarf for me. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it. I don't think the color scheme suits me. I may donate it or give it as a gift.

The gauge stayed somewhat steady between the different yarns. The overall width of the scarf varies somewhat. One yarn in particular doesn't want to line up with the other stripes. It's almost like the diagonal line is at a different angle than the rest, and it makes it hard to get the scarf to lie flat.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with this quick knit. It makes me want to make my own Magic Ball. And it makes me miss Bluebonnet Yarn Shoppe.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It Doesn't Even Look Like a Fish

Microwaving  Yarn

This past week I finally quit procrastinating and started dealing with my moth problem. That means there's been a lot of a yarn everywhere. It's on the living room floor in organized piles, double bagged and stuffed in the freezer, and, of course, in the microwave. It's nice to have it out of storage, but I think Mom and Dad are getting tired of it, but I think they understand.

While inspecting the yarn, I saw at least one ball with frays like I found before. I see specks on some of the yarn, but given the state of my apartment at one point, it's very likely that they're just pieces of lint.

I've come up with my own method for dealing with the infestation based on the information I found online. I've been focusing on animal based fibers, since they attract moths.

I choose yarns to freeze based on how much I care about them (all my handspun is being frozen), how expensive they are and how likely they are to have pests.

With the freezing, I'm going with three days in, three days out and three days back in. Everything I've read said it's waste of time to freeze if you only do it once. The second freeze gets the larvae.

The rest of the protein-based fibers are microwaved for 10 to 30 seconds. I'm taking out staples, and I'm being careful not to out in the acrylic blends for too long.

I'm cleaning the tubs themselves with vinegar and water. Then I'm making sure everything is in plastic bags before it goes back in the tub, along with some cedar chips.

Cobwebs

I found what I assume are cobwebs on the outside of one of the tubs. I don't know if this helps identify the problem, but I thought I'd share.

Evidence

I'm not sure what this is. I've been taking the tubs outside to clean them with the water hose. This was still stuck to the inside of one of the tubs after the first rinse. I saw something like it stuck to the outside of the wrapper of my Magic Ball from the late Bluebonnet Yarn Shoppe.

It could be a piece of a moth, but I think it might be a baby silverfish. Mainly because I saw a grown-up silverfish crawling around the same tub while I was sorting through it. I didn't have my camera on hand, but it looked like this. I'm very confident of my identification.

Everything I've read says it's unlikely that silverfish would eat yarn. However, I've seen silverfish in other boxes that had been in storage at the same storage place.* But now that I've actually seen them in the yarn, I'm considering the possibility that they are causing the problem. The good news is that what kills and repels moths also kills and repels silverfish.

The problem is that silverfish tend to be attracted to cotton and linen. Like the cotton and linen I didn't bother to microwave. Crap.

However, moths are still a possibility. All the frays I found were in wool yarn,and the owner of the storage place advised us to put moth balls in the storage unit. I can thank Dad for actually taking the initiative to do this. Perhaps we waited too long to change them out.

I still refuse to put moth balls inside the tubs with my yarn.

Microwaving Yarn

Who wants some piping hot yarn?

* - We've moved units a couple of time depending on how much space we need.