Thursday, August 30, 2007

You know you're loved when you find things on your porch

Normally, it's tennis balls. That's how I know Georgia has been to my door when I'm not home or (horrors!) the door was closed and so I didn't see or hear here out there waiting to play or, better yet, race inside to check the Georgia bowl (which doubles as the Sidney bowl) to see if there is F U D in there, like chicken skin or chicken or steak or, well, that's pretty much it, as Georgia is a picky eater compared to Sidney who will eat anything that isn't raw garlic or lemon.

Occasionally, however, I come home to find other things at my door or festooning my front walk, like:

which is a headless cat (er, toy cat, not one of the Ragdolls or Scottish folds that Georgia lives with), and

which, in a sort of clever twist, is a bodily baby (er, toy baby, whose body presumably still resides next door along with the aforementioned cats and cat head).

For those who haven't yet met Georgia and Sidney, here they are. First Georgia, with her "Cookies now, yes? Oh, yes!" look:

And Sidney, my favorite happy picture of him:

And, for the lizard and knitting photo of the day, here's Mikey modeling this month's kitchen towels. The two on the left are Sugar & Cream and Lion Brand cottons, while the two on the right are in the last of the Cotton-Ease Popsicle Blue. I just found out that Lion doesn't make this color any more and hasn't for several years, which grieved me greatly...until I found a very similar color in their 100% cotton worsted.

And now, off for some garlicky chicken and more knitting a few more inches on the next pair of soldier socks.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Socks and Hats and Other Goodies for Soldiers

Regardless of one's opinion about the politics and events leading to our servicemen and servicewomen spending long months in Afghanistan and Iraq, these men and women (some barely more than kids) are there, putting themselves on the line every day. Regardless of one's opinion about how well or not the military has equipped and supplied our servicemembers, they're out there the deserts and mountains, freezing winters and blistering hot summers. Here in California we joke about our seasons being flood, mudslide, fire and earthquakes. For most of those in Iraq and Afghanistan, the seasons are sandy, dust, and mud. Many are away from things like showers, clean/dry clothes, and communications with their stateside families for days or weeks at time.

There are many "support our troops" organizations that have arising through the years, each addressing sometimes different, sometimes overlapping, needs. I chose to become a small part of the Socks for Soldiers, a group started by servicemom Kim Opperman in Ohio.

The primary focus of the group is to knit wonderful wool boot socks for servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since it can be very stressful working on BBS (big black socks) (though not nearly as stressful as it is for the recipients of our socks), we can take the occasional break by knitting leisure socks (colors! patterns!) and washcloths.

Some folks who make hand-made soaps are donating their soaps, which Kim wraps in the washcloths.

Some of us are making wool caps, too, black ones to be worn when in uniform under their helmets, more colorful ones that can be worn during off hours and when sleeping.

Why wool? Because wool is better than cotton and acrylic at wicking away sweat, and doesn't get soggy or stretched out like wet cotton does. Acrylic is not only not was warm as wool and lacks wool's wicking properties, acrylic and other such yarns melt into the skin, severely worsening burns and injuries when hit with fire or red-hot shrapnel.

Those who can donate goodies they pick up locally and ship to SFS--drink mix packets and other snack foods, toiletries, paperback books, music CDs, crafting materials, etc. Kim packs these all up, sending boxes of goodies--all packed with socks, many containing hats and washcloths and soaps--to companies, chaplains, and about-to-deploy national guard units.

Over 2400 pairs of socks have been sent off today - but there is a waiting list of over 1000 names of servicemembers whose names have been sent in by command personnel, families, and fellow servicemembers.

In World War I, the Red Cross had a program called Knit Your Bit, where Red Cross volunteers and others produced a prodigious number of socks, sweaters, hats and more for servicemen. If you're a knitter, please consider joining SFS, reading through the New Members material in the Files section of the email list, and start making your first pair of SFS BBS. If you've never knit a pair of socks before, that's okay - you'll find yourself in the company of other list members who are knitting their very first pair, too.

If you can't knit, or don't have time to knit for SFS, please consider making a donation of money to help pay for shipping everything (SFS pays the going postal rate for shipping all its packages to military bases), and you know how expensive it has gotten to ship parcels) and buy the snack and other comfort items. If you have a large stock of snack or comfort items, SFS is a 501(c)3 nonprofit - just contact Kim (sockforsoldier-owner [at] to find out where to send donations or to find out what's on the Wish List.

Here's a photo of the things I recently finished that will be sent off this week.

I am going to include a little card of support with each item, ones I got from my friend Martha, who is a talented paper and stamp artist:

As for the obligatory Lizard photo, here's the boy, wanting to know why I'm taking photos of stuff instead of spraying him with water and picking off some more shed from his head:

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Friday, August 10, 2007

It's Bleeding, er, Breeding Time....

...and the iguana is cranky beyond belief (my apologies to George Gershwin for rudely altering his Summertime lyrics).

Yes, folks, Mike has passed through that difficult puberty threshold into full blown hormonal adolescence. Plus, he's shedding. Iguana keepers know that that's when they'd most like to send their iguanas to a deserted island somewhere.

In my case, I'd like to send Mike and Treppie, my big desert tortoise, because it's thanks to Treppie that Mike was able to do what he did. (Well, that and the fact I'm fighting a relapse,
and the big iguanids are great observers of their humans, and will have a go at them when they detect an opening.)

Mike's been giving me lots of open mouth threats lately, not related to colors or patterns, but possibly because my erratic cycle (please, God, send menopause NOW) has switched on to "permanent PMS" for the last couple of weeks (yes, I have been very carefully watching my diet to lower my blood sugar, but c'mon, at times like these, Trader Joe's Pound Plus Bittersweet Chocolate isn't candy, it's medicine!). Sometimes the open-mouthing is combined with lunging, so I've been very careful around him.

Today, after spending a few minutes sending Mikey into Nirvana by picking some of the shedding skin off of his face, I knelt down to reposition a small glass-and-metal table under Mikey's table, because Treppie is once again completely and totally certain that if he just tries hard enough, he will indeed prove that glass and metal are in fact permeable substances through which he can pass his 8 pounds, 13" CL x 8" CW self.

It was while I was down there that Mike launched himself at me and, thankfully (hey, let's be practical) latched onto my left ear. Unfortunately, I had just pulled the sides of my hair back into a clip, so he made more contact with flesh than he would have a short time before. So, there I sat, er, crouched, clamping his head between my hands in case he decided to shake or do some alligator rolls while still firmly attached to my ear.

I looked around the iguana/chelonian room to see if there was by chance any alcohol around, but there was not. (Note to self: dig out the "snake bite" bottle I used to carry with me when I did educational programs. [For those who do not know, the quickest and safest way to detach a locked-in snake from one's skin is to pour a little alcohol {preferably the drinking, not the isopropyl, kind} into their mouth, taking care not to flood it or let it flow down their trachea.] [No, I'm not nuts, just a former snake keeper who still has a fondness in her heart for Serpentes.]*

Not much anything else of use, either.
So, there I crouched, the brat's head in my hands, waiting for him to get bored (or, hey! get a clue!) and let go. He repositioned his mouth twice, clamping down harder, before finally releasing me (and freeing a mouthful of hair, which I can ill afford to lose, thank you very much).

Fortunately, my external ear is intact. Mostly. I mean, both my ears need re-piercing anyway, but this isn't exactly what I had in mind...

Le Front:

Le Back:

The photos were taken a couple of hours after the bite. In the immediate aftermath, after washing it off, I clamped some tissues around the ear to stop the bleeding. While clamping with one hand, I dug through my CERT go bag and the crate of supplies under it only to realize that, oh, yeah, I don't keep much in the way first aid stuff in there.

Mind you, the realization hits after I'm digging through them with one hand while trying to keep from bleeding on the floor or, heaven forbid, any yarn!

So, still clamping, out to my car I go, and schlep in my actual FAK (a small duffle bag that, unlike my CERT bag, does not have a hard hat and assorted other tools in it, but does, for some reason, have both my CPR masks... Ah, well, better to learn that now than when it's really important...).

After wading through the CPR and N95 masks, I pull out the bag of gauze pads, happy to see that they are Kendall-Futuro's Curity brand, not Johnson & Johnson's, since I am mightily displeased with them at present. (Yes, really, these are thoughts that go through my head while bleeding and pulling out needed supplies.)

Now that I think about it, it's been ~12 years since I've been bitten by an iguana. Well, by anything with more than two legs. But, I digress.

My worst iguana bites were all from highly tamed and socialized iguanas. Two of the three were by breeding season males (my dear long departed Freddy, and now Mike). The other bite was from my boy Wally, who closed his mouth expecting me to have moved my finger away from it before his jaws made contact. Since I was looking in the opposite direction, and jerked instead of keeping still, the flexor on the palm side of my right index finger was severed, which keeps me from bending it at all at the first knuckle, and limits the bend of the second.

Other than having to remember to not clamp the phone to that ear or sleep on my left side for a while (and, oh, yeah, keep an eye out for infection), I got off easily (and so, presumably, did Mike - I'll have to check his basking area for seminal plugs or those lovely 'melted mozzarella cheese' deposits).

Ah, well, at least for a few hours I got to forget how miserable my allergies have been today...

* Several years ago, I wrote an Open Letter to Emergency Responders about detaching snakes without killing them.


Monday, August 13:
It is three days after the bite. Saturday, Mike bobbed at me and did some lateral compressions, first thing in the morning. I'd given him the 'silent' treatment ever since the bite - no Mommy voice, no talking to him at all, though I did growl at him (I speak Dog, too, as well as a bit of Cat) whenever I saw him. Since I normally talk to him throughout the day and evening, my not talking to him, and only growling at him, was a clear change in my behavior. I began talking to him civily (not in the usual cooing Mommy voice) late Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, we interacted normally. No head bobs or lateral compressions. He had his bath, ate as usual, and generally spent a quiet day. Martha, a friend of mine who takes care of him when I am out of town, came over for a bit. She said she'd never seen him so blue and brown (happy with the attention, overlaid by breeding colors, which for him are a rusty brown).

Today was much like yesterday. No bobs, no presenting, with him staying in his room other than coming down to eat and making a circuit around my bathroom while I ran the bath in his bathroom. As usual, he got himself out of his tub when he was done, and went back to his room to bask.

As for me, no sign of infection, and the lacerations and punctures are healing nicely. I look forward to being able to sleep on my left side again, and to the end of breeding season!

Wednesday, August 15:
There is no sign of infection on the ear itself - by contorting myself and using a hand mirror, I've been able to do a visual as well as doing touch checks daily. Today, the lymph gland right under the ear, where the external ear flap is attached at the bottom of the opening, grew swollen and painful to the touch.

Thursday, August 16:
The swollen lymph gland is down considerably, and only hurts when I press hard on it. Mike, heading towards the den from the foyer, first walks, then lopes towards me as I am half-way across the room heading towards the hall. Fortunately, I was carrying a load of his towels to put them in the washer, so I placed them between me and his oncoming head, holding him down to keep him from getting to me. He grabbed onto the green towel, whereupon I picked him up and carried him to his room. After I put him down on his table, he dropped the towel and turned around and glared at me, as if to say he's getting ready for Round 3.

Our daily routine for the past year or so is letting him go into the bathroom when he is ready for his bath. That is either early-ish in the morning (~7:30), or late in the morning. This morning, I got him up at 7 AM and put him in the bath. He was distinctly not happy about that. Could that have compounded the hormone situation and resulted in his coming after me? Possible…

Update Friday, August 17: I didn't bother taking a photo of the front - aside from a pale yellow tint that matches the fading bruise on the back of the ear, and a small line of scabbing along a ridge, the front is virtually healed. The back is well on it's way, as well.

Final Update August 24: Everything is more or less back to normal (depending on how "normal" you consider life with a large lizard to be). No more challenges, no more lungeing,no more open mouth threats. For now. My ear is well on its way to being fully healed. There is one tiny area of scab and discoloration under my finger, and some residual redness where the teeth chomped through the skin. I've been sleeping on my left side and holding the phone to my left ear again, meaning the pain and tenderness are virtually gone.

Unintended Self-Portrait of the Artiste

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