Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ANother TUSAL photo

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Totally Useless StitchAlong

Lots of orts, not all from this little project. Also hand appliqued many circles for a quilt, of which the next picture is less than half. The others are on the outer border, which I am not finished with yet.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

From EWG

Not in my cosmetics: The Series

By Lisa Frack

NOVEMBER 23, 2009

iStock_000006076800Small.jpgBy Leeann Brown with Travis Mitchell

If you love EWG's Skin Deep database, then this series is for you. If you've never even heard of our Skin Deep database, this series is also for you. And for pretty much anyone else on the planet who uses toothpaste, shampoo, diaper cream, lipstick, cologne, shaving cream, nail polish and basically any other "personal care product" you can think of.

We're kicking off the series with a True-False Quiz because, well, so few people know how bad it really is in the cosmetics aisles. How wildly unregulated. So if you get them all wrong, you're not alone. But you do need help. Ready?

QUESTION 1: Ingredients in personal care products are required to be proven safe for use before being sold in the US.

FALSE! "Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives." - Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Nearly 80 percent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, the industry's own public research organization, the FDA or any publicly accountable institution.

QUESTION 2. If you use a product without having a noticeable adverse reaction, it's safe.

FALSE! As you can tell from the first question, we really don't know. What is known is that common ingredients in personal care products have been linked to various concerns, such as reproductive issues, cancers and allergies. We also know that some of these ingredients can accumulate in our bodies. For example, phthalates, a group of common plasticizer, have been found in breast cancer tissue.

QUESTION 3. Avoiding a few key toxic ingredients will allow you to reduce your toxic exposure.

TRUE! While you can't shop your way around chemical exposures completely, you can avoid key cosmetic ingredient offenders, like fragrance and triclosan. You'll be doing yourself and the environment a huge favor. Hint - sign off one ingredient at a time. It's a lot more manageable, and allows you to focus your attention on one area while shopping, instead of examining every 15-letter word on the label.

QUESTION 4. Products labeled as having "natural" and "organic" ingredients are always safer than conventional ones.

FALSE! Just as ingredients aren't required to be tested for safety, there is no recognized standard for organic personal care products, either. A "natural" ingredient is not automatically safe. These ingredients can still be biologically active, and thus, have a strong effect on the human body, e.g. poison ivy.

Your best bet is to go with companies that fully disclose formulations, many of which proudly advertise certain missing toxic ingredients.

QUESTION 5. Personal care products can make their way inside your body.

TRUE! Whether a chemical is soaked in through the skin, or an aerosol spray is inhaled or suds wash down the drain and back into the drinking water supply - they can easily end up in your body. The musk xylene, which is commonly found in fragrances (and paint thinners!) has been found in human fat (link:

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists the skin as the "most common path of toxic substance exposure." No wonder, as it is the body's largest organ and has impressive absorption abilities. Medicinal dermal patches are an example of how reliable of an exposure route it really is. No need to swallow, inhale or inject - just apply to a small area and the skin will do the rest.

Stay tuned for future installments of Not in my cosmetics: The Series. Got a question you hope we include? Stop hoping and tell us - in the comments, please!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bloglines - Experiential Gifts for the Holidays

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Check these out for those who don't want to buy consumer goods for the holidays.

My Year Without Spending
Nothing new for a year? I took the plunge and joined The Compact... Let this be a record of my anxieties, contemplations, insights, missteps, and topples off the wagon during the course of 2009...

Experiential Gifts for the Holidays

By Angela

This is the first segment of a series I'll be doing this week about non-consumer holiday gift giving. Today I'll talk about "experiential" gifts, tomorrow I'll have ideas for handmade gifts, and Thursday I'll give you some frugal gift ideas that cost under $10.

"Experiential" gifts are my absolute favorite, both to give and to receive. I've been a proponent of gifts of experience since way before I started The Compact. Experiences are so much more meaningful than STUFF, and the options are endless.

I started down this path several years ago when I was trying to think of a gift for my mom for her birthday. My parents had recently moved into a smaller house and had already gotten rid of a lot of possessions and put a lot more into storage. Whenever I'd taken the train to visit my parents in San Diego from Los Angeles, I'd noticed a restaurant in San Juan Capistrano that was right along the route and looked so charming. So my gift was a card with a train ticket and a coupon for lunch inside. My mom and I met at that restaurant halfway between our homes for a delicious lunch and a glass of wine, walked around San Juan Capistrano, browsed in a high-end gift shop, and got inspired by the people painting watercolors of the mission. It was a perfect afternoon and my mom absolutely loved her gift. Since then my whole family has adopted the practice of experiential gifts.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1) Museum membership. One of my favorite gifts from my parents that my husband and I have enjoyed this year is a membership at The Norton Simon museum, which is less than a 10 minute drive from our home. There are so many advantages to a membership, but the main one is that going to the museum doesn't have to be a big "outing," you can just drop by to see a new exhibit or look at your favorite painting, or browse for an hour. I often go just to stroll through the gardens and sit and read a book. A really fun bonus is that members are invited to special events, like the acquisition of a new piece of art or a piece on loan from another museum. My husband and I love the wine and cheese receptions that accompany these events. This is a more affordable option than you might imagine: a one-year membership for myself AND my husband, which included 2 free guest passes, cost just $65.

2) Classes or lessons. If your husband has always wanted to play the guitar, give him guitar lessons. I got that idea from Non Consumer Girl, and I'm thinking it would be a good gift for my husband too. Maybe your mother always talks about taking a writing course at the community college, your parents would love to learn the tango, or your daughter in college is a budding gourmet who would enjoy a cooking class. Music lessons, horseback riding lessons, cooking classes, dance lessons, college courses, the options are endless.

3) Concert tickets. This one has been a big hit with my parents. One Father's Day I took my dad to see Dave Brubeck at a San Diego venue right on the water. It was a fabulous concert and we had a great time. My brothers and I splurged to send my parents to see Josh Groban, something they never would have figured out how to even buy tickets for on their own. My mom is a huge fan and she was swooning for days.

4) Massage, manicure, pedicure, or other spa services. This is the kind of gift that is so appreciated by someone who's lost their job or going through financial difficulty. They can't afford to treat themselves, and the stress relief and pampering will make them feel so much better.

5) Yoga classes. Again, this is the kind of thing people cut from their budget, usually just when they need it the most. This is what I'm giving my brother this year because he loves yoga but just can't afford the luxury of paying for a class.

6) Gym membership. Joining a gym is a big commitment, but if your loved one recently dropped their membership, or you know where they'd love to go if only they could afford it, this would be a great gift.

7) Animal encounters. I'm not talking about getting in a cage with sharks or wrestling an alligator, there are much safer ways for animal lovers to interact with other species. Look into what's available at zoos and animal parks in your area. My mother got into a tank in a wetsuit with a beluga whale at Sea World, and the smile on her face in the photo makes her look 20 years younger. The photo of me at the beginning of this post was taken on Christmas Day in 2001 in the Florida Keys at a marine animal park. My husband likes to tell the story of how my hand shot up with a bunch of kids when they asked who would like to come up and meet the sea lion. Then they asked each of us as we went up if we wanted a hug or a kiss, and I was the only one who chose a hug. It's one of my fondest memories and favorite photos.

8) Wine Club. I'm arguing for this as an experience, even though it's tangible, because it's an experience to receive and drink the bottles. This was one of our favorite wedding gifts from our good friends, because it was an excellent winery and the type of wine we rarely splurge for, but we'd save it for special occasions, and make the event even more memorable. Also, you can look into an organic winery. And if a full year is out of your price range, many places offer a half-year membership.

9) Charity. Kiva dot org and Global Giving are two examples of charities that let you get involved and pick the project you want to participate in. For as little as $10, you can give your loved one the gift of providing a family in Mali with a mosquito net to protect them from malaria, textbooks for schoolgirls in Afghanistan, or job training for at-risk teenagers in the United States.

10) CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery of fresh, local, organic produce. You know what a fan I am of this service we started back in May. This would be a great gift for someone who has good intentions about eating healthy, but doesn't have the time or follow through to get to the Farmer's Market. Check out Local Harvest to find a CSA in your area.

11) Theater tickets. Tickets to a performance of their favorite play or season tickets at their favorite venue are a great gift for a theater-loving couple living on a fixed income or whose funds are tight. Theaters offer great prices on season tickets when you can attend during the week or at matinees. And these days you can negotiate deals because theaters, and the arts in general, are hurting for business.

12) Brunch. Much more reasonably priced than dinner, some buffet brunches at nice hotels offer an incredible spread and a nice dose of luxury for a newly married couple or a couple with kids who need some time alone.

13) Getaway. An overnight or weekend getaway to the beach or the mountains would be a fantastic option for an overstressed couple. A wine country package, canoe trip, cross country skiing, or just sitting on the porch of your creekside cabin reading a good book- just what the doctor ordered.

14) Go-Kart or car racing track. An afternoon with their dad at one of these places would be heaven for a pre-teen boy, especially one who wants to grow up to be Dale Earnhart, Jr.

15) Other options for kids include theme parks and water parks, an afternoon of kite-flying, or a day at the beach. Or introduce your child to volunteering at an early age, by serving up plates at a food kitchen, caroling at a hospital or nursing home, or "adopting" a family who's fallen on hard times and buying gifts for each of them. Your children will learn the meaning of the holidays through their experience.

16) Certificates. Home spa treatments, car washes, babysitting, dog walking. This is a nice option when you're short on money. I recently gave my husband a home facial and he loved it. He said it was very relaxing.

17) A home-cooked meal. It's so simple you might not even think of it, but for someone who's socially isolated, new in town, or has recently divorced or lost their spouse, this gift of food and friendship would be extremely appreciated.

Additionally, spending time with family members doing holiday-related activities like decorating cookies, trimming the tree, or attending a holiday-themed concert or play can be your gift to each other.

I'm sure you can think of more ideas that will be just perfect for the people in your life. When you give this kind of gift, you're giving memories. And you know what they say: memories last forever. Which is not the case with most of the stuff many people will be buying at the mall. The bonus with these gifts is that avoiding the mall this time of year will save you immeasurable amounts of stress and give you more time for whatever rituals you enjoy, whether it's baking, listening to music, or just spending time with family and friends.

I hope you got some ideas here. Please tell us about your favorite experiential gifts in the Comments section.

Everything You Know About Going Green Is Wrong

Everything You Know About Going Green Is Wrong

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

From the NY Times

A new type of visitor came to the National Mall this year, flitting past monuments and museums in favor of trees, flowers and plants. But this wasn’t just some horticultural tour; no, this was work. Each day they were abuzz, gathering and pollinating before returning home to modest quarters with tremendous security near Lafayette Park.

Meet the White House honeybee.

Numbering more than 65,000 at one point, the bees produced a bumper crop of honey this year, the first time honey has ever been made on White House grounds. The hive, located on the South Lawn, is a key part of First LadyMichelle Obama’s organic kitchen garden project.

The Sweet Smell of Honey

75 ThumbnailBasswood and cherry trees helped create a unique taste for White House honey.

The total haul was 134 pounds of honey, or roughly 11 gallons. Charlie Brandts, the White House beekeeper, couldn’t be more pleased. “I figured they would make 30 or so pounds of honey,” he said. “They surprised me.”

That access to the National Mall is one reason. “It’s just an abundance of blooms,” Mr. Brandts said, noting the local flowers, plants and trees were ripe with bee-attracting nectar. “The Ellipse and monument grounds are just a great source of clover. It’s like having a huge pasture.”

A White House carpenter for the past 25 years, Mr. Brandts started beekeeping in the backyard of his Maryland home three years ago.

The natural honey his hives produced drew the attention of White House chefs, who introduced him to Sam Kass, the Chicago chef who followed the Obamas from their hometown to the White House. Mr. Kass wondered whether beehives could be part of the White House garden.

Mr. Brandts secured the hive with straps one afternoon this summer. Doug Mills/The New York TimesMr. Brandts secured the hive with straps one afternoon this summer.

“I said ‘I think it would be very doable,’ ” Mr. Brandt said, recalling the conversation. “It was that simple. It just gets complicated after that.”

For one, the beehive sits in the flight path of Marine One, President Obama’s helicopter. “We don’t worry about just the lid blowing off, we worry about the hive blowing over,” Mr. Brandts said.

Mr. Brandts lent the White House bee swarms from his own backyard, setting up the new hive in late March. The bees –which travel as far as three miles from the hive– started bringing in nectar in April.

“These bees on the South Grounds are such sweet bees,” Mr. Brandts said. “I don’t know if it’s because they are down there by themselves or they are just the best bees.”

In June, Mr. Brandts collected 42 pounds of honey in the first extraction. (Since he uses a handheld smoker to placate the bees, he alerts the Secret Service beforehand.) At first, the bees produced a mild, delicately flavored honey lightly tan in color. The Mall’s cherry trees, which bloomed in early April, provided some nectar for that first batch. Clover, black locust and basswood could also be detected. As the summer progressed, the honey’s color darkened, with the fifth and final extraction revealing honey almost chestnut in color.

“We really only got two pounds of that, it’s a rarity,” Mr. Brandts said, noting that one flower on the grounds could have had an influence. “The whole fountain had red salvia planted around it, and it was always covered with bees. I suspect it was from that.”

To extract the honey, Mr. Brandts first had to carve off the beeswax cover.Doug Mills/The New York TimesTo extract the honey, Mr. Brandts first had to carve off the beeswax cover.

Now that the weather has cooled, the bees’ production has slowed, and Mr. Brandts hopes to keep them alive, however, sleepily, through the winter.

As for the abundance of honey, the White House has kept some for both the residence and for official events. During a Halloween party hosted by the White House on Saturday night, trick-or-treaters received a honey-sweetened shortbread cookie. And at Latin American concert last month, the menu included desserts made with honey.

In addition, spouses of world leaders received special jars of the honey as one of the gifts from Mrs. Obama at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh earlier this fall. Miriam’s Kitchen, a local food bank which serves meals to the homeless, has received honey along with produce from the garden.

“It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference,” said Steve Badt, kitchen operations director at Miriam’s Kitchen, where they have made fruit smoothies finished with a drizzle of White House honey. “Each blenderful gets a tablespoon or so. It’s a nice little touch, just like tea.”

bottling the white house honeyDoug Mills/The New York TimesBottling, the final step of honeymaking

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Who’s on Board?

Who’s on Board?
See this about avoiding the use of plastic. I have been trying to do this for a while, but its time to get serious!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From EWG

Something is amiss with our children

By Lisa Frack

OCTOBER 22, 2009

Written by Alice Shabecoff, co-author with her husband Philip of Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on our Children

As we watched each of our five grandchildren and their friends enter this world and begin their life's journey, it became more and more clear that something is amiss with this generation. How are your children and your friends' children doing?

Most likely, one in three of the children you know in this generation suffers from a chronic illness. Perhaps it's cancer, or birth defects, perhaps asthma, or a problem that affects the child's mind and behavior, such as Downs Syndrome, learning disorders, ADHD or autism. Though one in three may sound exaggerated, unbelievable, the figures are there amidst various government files.

This generation is different.
Childhood cancer, once a medical rarity, has grown 67 percent since 1950. Asthma has increased 140 percent in the last twenty years and autism rates without a doubt have increased at least 200 percent. Miscarriages and premature births are also on the rise, while the ratio of male babies dwindles and teenage girls face endometriosis.

The generations born from 1970 on are the first to be raised in a truly toxified world. Even before conception and on into adulthood, the assault is everywhere: heavy metals and carcinogenic particles in air pollution; industrial solvents, household detergents, prozac and radioactive wastes in drinking water; pesticides in flea collars; artificial growth hormones in beef, arsenic in chicken; synthetic hormones in bottles, teething rings and medical devices; formaldehyde in cribs and nail polish, and even rocket fuel in lettuce. Pacifiers are now manufactured with nanoparticles from silver, to be sold as 'antibacterial.'

What's wrong with rinsing a pacifier in soapy water?

Despite naysayers (who pays them to say nay?--that's a whole story in itself), it's clear there is both an association and a causative connection between the vast explosion of poisons in our everyday lives and our childrens' "issues."

Over 80,000 industrial chemicals (tested only by the manufacturer) are in commerce in this country, produced or imported at 15 trillion pounds a year. Pesticide use has leaped from the troubling 400 million pounds Rachel Carson wrote about in the 1960s to the mind-boggling 4.4 billion pounds in use today. Nuclear power plants, aging and under-maintained, increasingly leak wastes, often without notifying their community.

What could be more elemental than our desire to protect our children? Children and fetuses, because of their undeveloped defense systems, are ten to sixty-five times more susceptible to specific toxics than adults. These toxics diminish the capacities of our children...the future of our families, our communities, our nation.

Illness does not necessarily show up in childhood. Environmental exposures, from conception to early life, can set a person´s cellular code for life and can cause disease at any time, through old age. This accounts for the rise in Parkinson´s and Alzheimer´s diseases, prostate and breast cancer.

A message of hope and optimism
Yet this is not the dispiriting 'Bad News' it might seem. It is, actually, a message of hope and optimism. We are fearful only when we are ignorant and powerless. Now that we know what is happening, we can determine not to let it happen further.

These poisons are manmade; manufacturers can take them out of our children´s lives and make profits from safe products. 'Green chemistry' can replace toxic molecules with harmless ones. We can connect global climate change actions to environmental health strategies. If we replace coal-fired power, in the process we reduce not only carbon but also emissions of the tons of lead, mercury, hydrochloric acid, chromium, arsenic, sulfur and nitrogen oxides that cause autism, Alzheimer's and other public health menaces.

In a riff on Pogo, let's say, "We have met the heroes and it is us." We cannot bury our heads and hope it will all go away. We cannot leave the job to someone else. Some may feel the problem is so massive, it's best to pretend it doesn't exist. But it isn't more massive than we allow it to be. It's totally within our reach.

We can make each other smarter and stronger. It is in our power to learn about what harms our children and to share our knowledge. It is in our power as a community of citizens and parents to demand action against the current harmful policies and practices and against the indiscriminate use of processes and practices that destroy and degrade all life on our planet.

Read EWG's review of the book and learn more about the Shabecoffs and Poisoned Profits here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Still sick

The occ health doctor listened to my lungs and refused to let me go back to work.  He was actually very rude about it; said my lungs were full of junk and to go see my doctor.  Since it was nearly 5 PM on a Friday, I asked if he could write me a prescription himself, but he said no, to go to Urgent Care if I couldn't go to my own doctor.  One of those people who has never heard of anyone NOT having health insurance to pay the bills with, I guess.
In retrospective, I realize that he was just tired, overworked, and afraid of catching something from me, probably, but he is the first person I have encountered working for my new employer that has been anything but nice.
I was lucky.  I did drive straight to my doctor's office and he agreed to see me right then.  I was the very last person in the door.  My own doctor also said my lungs are terrible, but he gave me a week's supply of a very pricey antibiotic and a script for a cheap steroid to get me started healing.  So at least I didn't have to go another 2 or 3 days before getting on the road to health again.
My boss did say on the phone that another one of us has been out for 3 weeks already.  I hope to be back at work by the middle of next week.

read this

Blog for Rural America

Spaghetti Feeds Emphasize Broken System


When Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at the Community Food Security Coalition conference in Des Moines on Tuesday, one of the things he spoke about was the sense of community one gets from living in a small town. An example he used was the phenomenon of holding a fundraiser such as a spaghetti feed for someone who gets sick and has high medical bills to pay.

It's true, in some communities this is a regular occurrrence. In the year I've lived in Lyons, I can think of several such events both here and in neighboring communities. One was for a newborn with a large numberof birth defects, another was for a man with cancer. 

While it is a good example of how people come together in a crisis, it is the blaring evidence of how broken our rural health care system is. If we had affordable, accessible, and equitable health care in rural areas, no one would have to ask their community to hold a fundraiser so they could pay for medical treatments. 

Unfortunately, this might become an even more common occurrence - there is evidence to suggest thatmortality is more common rural America compared to urban areas. According to the Economic Research Service, the rate of death has been decreasing for both urban and rural residents, but around 1989 the rate for rural areas decreased less than urban areas, and the trend has continued since then. 

The most startling thing is that no one can put a finger on exactly why:

Nobody has determined why the difference in mortality rates is widening. "A possible explanation for the emergence of the nonmetropolitan mortality penalty is based on the observation that access to health care is the most pervasive health disparity in the nonmetropolitan United States," Cosby wrote in 2008. "If healthcare is becoming significantly more effective in prolonging life, then limited access to healthcare is becoming profoundly harmful to the nonmetropolitan US population, hence, the nonmetropolitan mortality penalty."

 What is the health care access like in your community? If something minor were to happen to you or your family, how far would you have to travel? What about something major?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

6 Disgusting Facts About Hamburgers (and 10 Other Frequently Contaminated Foods)

6 Disgusting Facts About Hamburgers (and 10 Other Frequently Contaminated Foods)

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Bloglines - Hey! MSN Money Picked Up My Article!

Bloglines user has sent this item to you, with the following personal message:

Dub, think of the concept. Only have what you can keep in the house you already have.

Miss Moneybags
Facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, one woman decides her bank account needs a bailout. The Solution: Save $100,000 by the end of the year.
The Problem: That's more than her yearly salary.

Hey! MSN Money Picked Up My Article!

By Miss Moneybags

Self-storage is not a savvy solution

After $48,000 in rent, she's finally selling her stuff.

Posted by Karen Datko on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 9:32 AM

This post comes from Max Wong at partner blog Wise Bread.

Recently I did an intervention on Sarah, one of my dearest friends. It wasn't the first time. Over the last few years I have unsuccessfully attempted to get her to seek help for a problem that has cost her conservatively $48,000 and put financial and emotional stress on her family.

Recently, after more than five years of trying to manage her problem, she finally hit rock bottom. She once again had to borrow money from her family -- this time to pay for her daughter's health care. Sarah had $800 of the $900 doctor bill in the bank, but she'd already earmarked that money for the horrible monkey on her back. Sarah has a substance abuse problem -- but not with drugs. Sarah has a problem with self-storage.

Sarah used to have financial stability. But five years ago she made a major life change when she decided, at age 40, to adopt a child and become a single parent. Sarah sold her beautiful 3,000-square-foot home so she could afford to quit her high-powered job and be a stay-at-home mom until her daughter could start preschool. She moved into a 1,200-square-foot apartment in a good school district.

This was all part of a good, long-term plan.

Unfortunately, she then made what became possibly the worst financial

of her entire life: She put the 1,800 square feet worth of possessions that didn't fit into the apartment into self-storage.

Similar to a technique drug dealers use to reel in future customers, the storage company offered Sarah, a first-time user, free product to ensure her loyalty. Convinced that she would be able to sell, donate or otherwise dispose of her extra stuff during the "first 30 days free rent" period that her storage company offers to all new customers, Sarah moved her designer guest-room furniture, her Christmas decorations, her art collection, etc., into four of the cheapest storage units available.

"I'm just going to use this as a staging area to get organized," she told me at that point in time. "That way, I'll have four weeks to figure stuff out and won't have to make any financial decisions about what to get rid of under duress."

She never moved out.

Although she has plenty of very valuable things in storage, as we surveyed the contents of one of Sarah's units earlier this week she finally did the math. Even if she pulled everything out of the unit and set it on fire in the parking lot, it would still be a better financial decision than keeping it in storage for another month. Five years x $200 a month per unit x four units = $48,000.

And that total doesn't even account for the money spent on gasoline to get her to and from her storage or all the late fees she's paid on other bills because she chose to pay her storage bill on time so her stuff wouldn't be seized for nonpayment. The phone company can turn off your service, but the storage company can auction off your dream diary, fake IDs, and herpes medication to the highest bidder.

Although Sarah's situation may be the worst that I know of personally, she's hardly alone. According to the Self Storage Association, 50% of storage unit renters are storing what won't fit into their homes. One out of every 11 Americans rents storage.

Watching Sarah's horrible journey has made me realize that although self-storage (like easy credit) can be beneficial to a percentage of the population, it's a pact with Satan for many folks who don't have an iron fist over their finances or excellent time-management skills. Quite simply, it's bad on several fronts.

Self-storage is a bad investment. I called four different storage companies with units in my area of Los Angeles. The cheapest price for the smallest storage space, a 5-by-5-foot unit, in my neighborhood is $67 per month. The first month costs just a mere $1, but that's not counting the one-time-only $22 "administration fee" that they'll also tack on to the first 30 days.

Although all those numbers sound doable financially, if I rented this space, I'd be out a whopping $760 in the first 12 months, all to rent a space that's the size of my laundry room. In other words, stuff that isn't functional enough to put in my house and use every day would become more and more expensive with each passing year.

(On a side note, I had to hang up on three out of the four storage sales reps because I was getting such a hard sell. They continued to demand my personal information even after I'd told them that their rental prices were beyond my budget.)

Self-storage can lead to overconsumption. Self-storage is like diet food. It fools the mind by fooling the eye. If your clutter isn't visible in your house, do you really have a spending problem?

The first self-storage facilities were built in Texas in the late 1960s. It took 25 years to build the first 1 billion square feet of storage. But it took just eight years (1998-2005) to add the second billion. According to theNational Association of Home

, the average 1960s home was 1,200 square feet. In 2004 the average home had ballooned to almost twice that size to 2,330 square feet.

Bigger houses are harder to fill up, which may explain why Americans buy twice the number of consumer goods than the citizens of any other First World nation. (OK, so we're a geographically huge country, but if we've got such big homes, why do we need an additional billion square feet of storage space?) The environmental cost of creating, transporting and finally housing 2 billion square feet of unused possessions is mindboggling.

Self-storage can waste time as well as money. Self-storage companies count on the basic physics of human laziness, that is: Objects at rest remain at rest ... in storage. After all, who wants to spend their precious free time digging through boxes looking for stuff? Sarah, in her efforts to deal with her storage problems, has spent hundreds of hours "organizing" her stuff in storage, attempting to repack it more efficiently so she can scale down to smaller, cheaper units.

Self-storage is urban blight. In all fairness, one of the storage companies in my area is housed in the hollowed-out facade of an Art Deco office building, so that's quite pretty. But for the most part, self-storage facilities are architectural monsters. In addition to being ugly as sin, they bring in few jobs or sales tax benefits to the community, compared with other structures of similarly huge proportions.

Self-storage can keep you from living in the moment. There are certain groups of people -- like those who live on sail boats or the newly moved -- who can follow their dreams because they can temporarily stash their possessions in storage. Storage gives them the wiggle room to experience life without being connected to personal belongings. For more than half the storage renters, however, this is simply not the case.

Once a month, one of the storage companies in my neighborhood holds an "estate sale" where the owner of the company sells off the contents of units that were seized for nonpayment of rent. What odd, desperate or lazy story is behind this lapse of judgment? Why the renters failed to move their possessions out of storage before the rent was due is always a mystery. What tales of woe are behind the abandoned photograph albums, bronzed baby shoe ashtrays or the hand-embroidered vintage napkins? Why weren't these items, so obviously full of sentimental value, kept in the home where they could be used and admired?

A clearer narrative about why items were acquired is visible from a lot of the sale merchandise, however. You can almost hear the nagging spouses behind the half dozen exercise bikes and ThighMasters for sale each month or the siren call of Martha Stewart behind the hundreds of half-finished craft items.

Whether they are nostalgic artifacts from the past or wishful self-help tools for the future, none of these objects relate to the present-day lives of their former owners, which is probably why they were put in storage to begin with. These monthly sales are sad museums, a collection of failed ventures and unfulfilled dreams of what could be.

As with every successful product, self-storage provides a powerful storyline for the consumer to buy into: that preserving memories of the past or the potential of the future through material goods is valuable. For the past five years, Sarah has denied the chaos that keeping so much stuff in storage brings to her daily life. Her dream of returning to her former standard of

in the future has cost her the very security she wants for her daughter and their quality of life today. That $48,000 could have gone toward her daughter's college fund. It could have paid for a lifetime of vacations. It could have been a down payment on a house.

Up until she hit rock bottom, I think Sarah actually believed that she would one day find her way back into a big house in the hills, even though she's a self-employed single parent facing a global financial downturn. As I photographed her possessions to list on Craigslist, she fretted about selling her formal dining room set, because she wanted to pass it on to her daughter as a family heirloom. That her daughter, who is in kindergarten, might not like the style of the set as an adult and would have no emotional connection to an object that she'd only ever seen in storage, never crossed her mind.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New job, out sick

I started my new job in the ER on the 28th, and it was like coming home. It took me a while to gain some proficiency on the computer software, but the patient interviewing skills were still there, and the whole ER atmosphere is the same. I always loved it and I love it still. The job is much more varied in some ways than it was in the old West Valley ER, and less so in other ways. After all there, are 7 different zones in this ER, each mostly with its own registrar at any particular time, and you mostly just do what is wanted in that zone. In some you only do bedside registration, in a couple the nurses bring the patient to you to register before they are discharged. There is even one zone called Quick Reg that I haven't worked yet where you only put in demographics and what the reason is for coming to the ER, and not allowed to ask anything else. Other zones then follow up on the info you got AFTER the patient is seen by a doctor.
After 2 full weeks, I was finally beginning to feel like I was actually contributing instead of just lowering other peoples' productivity, and then boom, Sunday morning I woke up so sick I could barely raise my head. Cough, fever, congested lungs, etc. I had worked a 12 hours shift on Saturday with what I thought was a steadily worsening cold, but this is much worse than a cold. Chances are pretty good that I am now recovering from the swine flu, since I got a seasonal flu shot the second day after I started. I wasn't scheduled to work Sunday, but I WAS supposed to work Mon, Tues, and today, and I have had to call in sick every day. You can't go back until your temp has been normal for 24 hours or 7 days have passed since your first symptoms, whichever comes later. I am not scheduled to work tomorrow either, but will have to go to Occ Health at work before I can go back to the ER on Friday at 4 PM.
It has been a truly miserable 4 days so far, but I really am on the mend. I even climbed the hill and watched DH feed the chickens tonight, after not leaving the house since Saturday. I bet I have slept 3/4 of the entire hours since I first got sick.
DH is becoming a little sick, but his immune system is much better than mine, and he should be fine. I expected to get sick about 2 weeks into the ER; everybody does, but I didn't expect it to be this bad. Oh well, I'm alive.
Look at the good side; now I don't have to worry about lining up to get one of the precious vaccinations when they finally become available.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Breakfast with my friend

Yesterday morning I met my friend at JB's and we had breakfast together. We started talking as as soon as we met, and were still talking when we left well over an hour later. The poor waitress had to come back twice before we ever looked at our menus, and all I remember about my food is that it was good. It was great seeing my firend, and doubly good because she filled me in on a lot of corporate culture details about my new place of work that would have taken me weeks or months to find out for myself. I hope to see her a lot more, although it will be mostly just in passing, as she works full-time at night, and I will be mostly working evenings, after the first 2 weeks of training.

My last two days at PetSmart are Saturday and Sunday, only a few hours each day, so it won't hurt to go straight into a solid week of work at my new job.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Getting even more excited

I sure do wish it was tomorrow that I start my new job instead of a week from tomorrow. PetSmart only has me scheduled for 15 hours the whole week, so lots of time to be nervous and not nearly enough money to do anything with. Of course this happens when the car insurance AND the property taxes come due. We will fine of course; DH saves ahead for everything. I am lucky to have him. If it was just me, I'd be a bag lady. Money just slips through my fingers and is GONE when I need it.

Friday, September 18, 2009 Article from

 AJ thought you would enjoy this article: Retail Clinics Provide Low-Cost, Quality Care - AARP Bulletin Today.  This is what they said about it: This sounds like the way to go once I have lost my health insurance. 

Laptop died

OK, I am back on the net, thank goodness. My laptop died Wednesday and all I was able to keep was a CSV file of my address book on a stick. At least I have that. I haven't been able to backup or update anything that required a CD drive for months, so everything is a shambles. It will take a while to catch up, if ever.
I bought my first ever desktop computer, having only had laptops in the past. It has twice as much memory for half the cost of a comparable laptop, so this time it was a no-brainer. If I haven't been taking my laptop to school with me this semester, and I haven't, I don't need a laptop.
So I am setting everything up today. Gee, I wish I had kept a paper file somewhere of all my passwords, but I didn't. Grrrrrr!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bright sunshiny day

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting nervous

As the time to do paperwork and get shots, etc. for my new job approaches, I am getting more and more nervous.  Dh asks what I have to be nervous about, since I already got hired, but he just doesn't understand.  To a worrier like me, the very lack of having something to worry about is worth worrying about.  Either you the reader get it, or you don't.  Obviously he doesn't.
At the same time, I just can't wait to get back to doing a real job for real reasons, not just urging people to buy more and more of whatever they need and even whatever they don't need.  I mean, there is no way I'm going to try and talk an ER patient into getting 2 casts on his legs, when he only broke one of them and only needs 1 cast.  That is a labored analogy, but you get it.
I wish I could start tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Walgreens vs. Target

I just switched pharmacies, since I have been to the doctor and obtained new scripts for my medications. I also had to switch migraine meds, since the Maxalt I have been taking for years is sooo bloody expensive, and isn't even covered under my insurance (which I only have for 2 more weeks anyway).  The Maxalt doesn't have a generic yet, and it has been costing over $275 for 9 pills.  NINE PILLS!!! 
And I have had nothing but trouble with Walgreens since I lost my good insurance in April.  They delay and delay filling my scripts, even when I call and email and tell them to fill them right now.  Then 3 days later, they call again to make sure I really want the refill because they haven't bothered to fill it yet.
No more.
I went to the Target near my PetSmart and gave them my new scripts.  The tramadol I have been paying $43.99 for at Walgreens cost me $8, and Target apologized because it isn't covered under the $4 discount program.  The trazodone IS on the $4 program, and my new migraine meds, generic Imitrex, was $35.40.  Target said they ran it through a different discount card in order to give it to me at a reasonable price.  I was so shocked and happy.  I asked if I had to buy into the discount program or something, and they said oh no, and I will continue to get these meds at these prices.
They have definitely made a Target Pharmacy customer out of me.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I got the job!!!!

I was on my way to the doctor a couple of hours ago, just for my B-12 and to get new prescriptions, when my cell phone rang. I pulled over so I could write stuff down, because it was BANNER ESTRELLA HR!!!!!!! She offered me the pool ED registration position and said most of my shifts would be evenings. This is fine; anything to get hired. And my starting pay is almost exactly twice what I am making at PetSmart.
I start September 28, a Monday, but have to go to the hospital next Tuesday morning for the pee test, TB test, Hepatitis B titer, occupations health questionairre, etc. I can do that.
I went straight to PetSmart on my way home to give my notice. Both Don and David were there, so I am sure it will not be forgotten when it comes to schedule time. I am so happy I could burst. I always LOVED the ER, and I know I will like it even better now that there are others to spread the work around, and you don't have to sit there in front of all the people waiting to be seen without being able to do anything about it.
Gotta go. I have to do some other things.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Job interview

I had an interview for an ER registration pool position at my chosen hospital yesterday, and I feel very good about the interview.  I was there for 1.5 hours and was given a tour of the ER toward the end of the interview.  I really liked the manager who interviewed me, and there was also a supervisor who sat in on the interview but didn't say much.  At one point I asked the supervisor if she had any questions for me, but she said no she was just a listener.  We turned out to have many mutual acquaintances among my former co-workers who now work at this hospital.  A couple of them in PFS and others in nursing, with one of my previous managers running the OB department.  So there are plenty of references if this interviewer wants to check up on my work ethic.  I am not worried about that part of my presentation at all. She even told me about the pay scale and the on-call pay and how the assignment of shifts for pool people works, and showed me people wearing the new uniform.  I was savvy enough, thanks to my instructor at school NOT to ask about any of that, so the information was volunteered.  She told me about the changes that have happened since I last worked in the ER.
I have to wait a week for her decision and fully expect to have a lot of trouble sleeping until then.  I know I barely slept at all last night.  Luckily I have the day off from PetSmart today.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nastiness and resentment at home

Its always hard to believe when my DH acts in a nasty unreasonable way about something. Even after nearly 30 years of marriage, I persist in thinking he's at heart a nicer person than he actually is, I guess. I'm the eternal optimist; he is the pessimist.
Anyway, I took the day off today; gave my 8.5 hours shift to another cashier who really needs the hours, a single mother whose laid off ex isn't sending child support anymore. It is my ONLY day off this week, as I went to school both of my originally scheduled days off.
Now why does my DH react to this with such meanness and resentment? Since he hasn't worked in nearly 2 years, did he forget that a person needs a day to regroup once in a while? Or does he just not care about that, because he thinks going to school IS avoiding work? Is he worried about money? HE could get a job, duh?
OK, I think that is probably it. He would never admit it, but I bet he is afraid that I will not earn enough to carry on and he will have to get some kind of part-time work himself. That would really cut into his time with his girlfriend, which he actually says is a job, but never seems to produce any income.
It has obviously not occurred to him that I am really incapable of working as a cashier ON MY FEET for more than 8 hours a day, physically I mean. Being so totally friendly and wonderful for that long is hard enough but to maintain it while your whole body is screaming in pain gets harder and harder as the hours slowly pass. Perhaps I should share that fact with him, but I doubt if it will make any difference in his attitude.