Spring is sprung(ing)

Small signs of spring are appearing this week. My sister said her crocuses and snowdrops bloomed, so I went out in the orchard to look for mine. There were none, but there were some suspicious small holes where I planted them. I think a mole or raccoon must have eaten the bulbs. (Do moles eat bulbs? I know raccoons do, as years ago a raccoon dug up and ate every bulb I planted one winter back in Austin.)

Look closely and you can see some tiny daffodils. I don’t think these ones are supposed to get much bigger.

However, my daffodils are coming up. I planted some tiny ones along the edge of the basement level before the slope down to the septic field, and they had already bloomed. My larger daffodils, which I planted under the orchard trees, are showing the blades of their leaves.

Soon these nice green stems will be daffodils.

Down in the valley, though, spring is blooming ahead of us. Clumps of large daffodils wave in the breeze here and there, and the cherry trees are starting to bloom in gorgeous shades of pink and white.

We had three beautiful days in a row, warm and sunny, during which my husband and I both did some outside work. I went around with our wheelbarrow and picked up sticks that had fallen during the winter, and I also took the covers off the patio furniture. My husband put together a garden shed. I hope we’ll be putting together my raised beds on our next fine day, because soon will be time to plant. We will also need to build a fence around the garden, or the deer and rabbits will get everything.

Although the weather had returned to rain and gotten colder again, I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more snow.

On Sunday, I was relaxing in the house when I heard a loud, reverberating bang that sounded like it was in the garage. I looked out in the garage but could see nothing wrong. Later, my husband came up from the basement and I asked him if he had heard it. He did not, but he was on the other side of the house, so it’s not surprising. He, too, looked in the garage and saw nothing.

Coincidentally, he had driven the car out of the garage earlier in the day when we were both working outside and not put it back, so he went out to move the car into the garage. When he hit the button to open the garage door, we heard a horrible grinding noise. It turned out that the spring to the garage door opener had snapped, and that was the noise I heard earlier. It’s a good thing he left the car out, because until the guy came to fix the door, two days later, it was impossible to open the garage door! We would have been stuck without a car to drive.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that we were forced to find another doctor. You may remember that when we first moved here last year, it took me more than a month to find a doctor who would take us, between the Medicare and the type of secondary insurance we had. We really like our doctor here, but in January, our clinic announced it was closing. Our doctor was not able to find another local practice, so he was planning to work in urgent care for up to six months while he looked. Originally, we were told that we should be able to sign on with his coworker at the Salmon Creek branch of our clinic, which is about 1/2 hour away.

However, the Salmon Creek clinic decided it would not take any of our doctor’s patients, because our doctor had too high a load of Medicare patients. His assistant told us that the Fishers Landing clinic was accepting a small number of Medicare patients, so we called them immediately and got on there. Unfortunately, Fishers Landing is about an hour away. We like our new doctor, but the plan is to switch back to our original doctor when he gets settled in a new local clinic, provided they will take our insurance. We have an alternate, sneaky plan, too. Our new doctor has office hours in both Fishers Landing and Salmon Creek, the same clinic that refused all of our doctor’s patients. Once we get established with the new guy, I’m going to find out if we can see him at Salmon Creek. I don’t see how they can turn us down when we are already his patient. That will save us a lot of driving.

Last week my neighbor and I returned to Moulton Falls on the East Fork of the Lewis River and walked about four miles. We were actually trying to find a path my neighbor thought linked the Moulton Falls park to the Lucia Falls park, but there was none. I think she just got confused by the confusing park map. We have still to walk the Lucia Falls loop, but it is very short, only a mile.

My niece told me about a trails app, which we will probably use today to decide where to go. So far, we are only doing easy trails, though, and it seems that most of them are very short. I suppose we could pick a short one and go around it more than once. The longer trails are the two we have done already. It doesn’t bother me to continue to walk the same trails—after all that is what I did in Austin, walk the same loop around Lady Bird Lake every morning for years—but my neighbor wants to branch out and eventually tackle harder trails.

This picture of pelmeni soup is from the recipe I used.

A few weeks ago, I reported that my Portland friend and I had done a tour of the Russian markets in Portland. I was fascinated by the different types of little frozen dumplings called pelmeni, but I was afraid to buy any because of the train trip and car ride home, a total of more than an hour’s time, during which I was sure they would melt. So, last week I visited our local Russian market and bought some a bag of lamb and a bag of cabbage pelmeni. I served the dumplings for one dinner, but my husband didn’t like them. However, I still had three pounds of dumplings, and I had noted references to soup, so I looked for a recipe. I ended up making a simple pelmeni soup, and it was delicious! My husband said he liked it much better than the dumplings by themselves, so I have gone farther and found recipes in my Russian cookbooks.

As I finished my painting in art class last week and brought it home this week, it is time to start another one. This new painting will be a landscape of the Oregon coast. I am a little trepidatious about it, as it is a complex landscape. I had been picking out simpler landscape photos to copy, but I selected this one because I had been there. My teacher picked it because she loves the Oregon coast, but she says it will be easier to paint than I think. In my art class, we draw the picture on tracing paper and then trace it onto our canvases or paper. This method makes our pictures neater, because the erasures are not on our canvas or paper. I got my picture drawn, but it turned out I had the carbon paper backward (it is quite worn, and it’s hard to tell which side is up), despite my neighbor in class and I checking to see it was right! Oops! I will start from there next week!

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Putting things away

Last week I ended up taking down the Christmas tree and putting away all of the decorations except the outside lights. They are dripping, and I am hoping to get a sunny day this weekend to take them down when they are dry. Even with a day on Monday that had little rain, they did not dry off.

After we took the Christmas tree out of the living room and swept up all the needles, we rearranged the furniture. My husband has started sitting in our Amish glider-style rocking chair instead of on the sectional, because he has difficulty getting up out of it. The only problem with that is that the glider was against the wall, and he had to move it into a walkway to see the TV. That would have been okay, but he refused to move it back again, so I was continually putting it back where it belonged. I decided to try to think of a furniture arrangement where the rocking chair would be permanently in a place where he could see things.

Our new living room arrangement. Before, both the rug and the sectional were pointing diagonally at the TV set and the rocking chair (off to the right) was against the wall by the wood stove.

I started out with one idea that didn’t work because of the size of our sectional and our living room rug. But then we settled for squaring off the sectional with the staircase instead of having it at an angle to the room. It really looks more spacious in the living room now, I think.

In art class, my glaze came out looking beautiful. I could not have predicted from the color it was last week how it would look this week, after it dried. I started out with a deep purple base, and last week painted over that with a brownish gray glaze. This week the entire background looked a warm gray, like it might on a blustery day. I spent the class painting in the branches surrounding the bird and painted the first layer of color on the bird. Next week, I think, I’ll be painting the needles on the branches.

Today, I’m blogging late because I took my husband to the dentist. The other night one of his crowns broke off, so we had to find a dentist fast. It looks like we found a good one. He has all sorts of high-tech equipment and was showing me how he was making a temporary bridge for my husband with a machine that is sort of like the opposite of a 3D printer. That is, it takes a block and carves it away electronically to the right shape for the bridge. I have already made an appointment with him for a check-up.

While my husband was at the dentist, I went and had my hair cut (I have gone from seeing a pricey stylist when I was working to just getting my hair trimmed at Great Clips) and then took my book for a crêpe and a latté at a  nice little café in town. Finally, I browsed for a while in the local used bookstore.

And that’s about it for today. I am rereading a book that I read when I was in my 20’s, and I am having quite a different reaction to it. It’s The Women’s Room by Marilyn French. At the time that I first read it, it made quite an impression on me, but now, although I think it is an important document for the times, I would not recommend it as good fiction. I’ll be discussing this on my other blog in April, for the 1977 Club.

Sight-seeing North Clark County

I know I haven’t posted to this site lately, but right after New Years I got the flu, despite having a flu shot. Also, some other tests came back rather bad, and my new doctor (yay! I finally got a doctor!) has taken me off a lot of my medication, so I’ve really had to watch my diet until he prescribes new medication. Hopefully, that will happen Friday.

A cool bridge out in the middle of nowhere
A cool bridge out in the middle of nowhere

I was down sick for more than a week, and I was just starting to feel semi-normal when my friend was due to arrive for a visit from Denver. We still had snow when he arrived, but the roads were clear. However, rain was expected the day he arrived, and all the reports from Portland sounded bad. My husband wanted to ask my friend to take a taxi or bus, but I insisted on driving to the airport, and as it turned out, the traffic and the weather were fine.

The gristmill
The gristmill

We spent the next week entertaining our guest. Our contractors had come in to shave down and rehang the doors in the guest suite, so that was more or less ready for our friend. We spent a few days in because of the weather (rain on snow, but afterwards the snow melted away) and one day because the contractors were working on the new hearth and my office, but otherwise, we bopped in to Portland a couple of times and spent a day going up to Multnomah Falls. That was a kind of hairy drive, as the old highway between Vista House and the falls was down to 1 1/2 lanes where snowbanks had been shaved off, and lots of cut trees testified to the number that came down in the storm.

The creek by mill
The creek by mill

One of our most fun times, despite rain all day, was the day we decided to take the North Clark County scenic drive. We did not have the map, but just started following the signs from Battle Ground. We stopped at several falls and saw lots of beautiful scenery before losing the trail in La Centre.

One of the nicest sights was an old grist mill and covered bridge, right next to each other. We drove down a hill and around a corner, and there they were.

P.S. I forgot to mention, when I originally posted this, that one day when my friend and I were driving away from the house, we saw a bald eagle! It was sitting on a branch right next to the road, about 12 feet up. I turned around and went back to look at it, but it flew away.

Adventures with the health care system

Far be it from me to have anything negative to say about Obamacare. I believe that it is a great thing that everyone in the country now has access to medical care, at least theoretically. But it has had some impacts to us we didn’t expect. I’ll be getting to that in a bit.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we have already had some adventures with the medical system. My husband got bit by one of our cats when he was trying to capture it in Austin, and he visited an emergency room in Fort Stockton on the way out and ended up in the hospital for three days when we got here because of infection from the bite. It turns out that cat bites are somewhat toxic.

But another problem was his Medicare. He has been retired for almost 11 years, and during that time, I insured him through my work. He had to apply for Medicare Part A, but our insurance did not require him to apply for Part B, so he didn’t. But my insurance that I get as part of my retirement requires both of us to be on Part B. I applied for social security online and Medicare Parts A and B at the same time, and my cards came through in a miraculous three weeks. But Wayne had to apply on paper, because he had to get a form completed by my workplace showing that he had been insured by them up until now and his insurance was ending. There was a delay getting this paper signed, because I had to have submitted my resignation and my resignation had to have been accepted by my management before they would complete it, and there was some fiddling with dates for a while because of various factors at work.

Before he left Austin, though, my husband dropped off his Part B application at the social security office. Then to be sure they got it, he also mailed it to Baltimore (or wherever). His mistake was in not getting the form he dropped off date stamped, because apparently both went astray.

I may have mentioned that about a month after we arrived, I found out that my husband had practically shut down from an inability to deal with some outstanding issues. One was that he was late filing for our extended income tax (which he gets an extension for every year for some reason I do not understand, maybe just because he’s a procrastinator), and the other was the Medicare issue. So, that day, we went to the social security office in Vancouver. We spent two hours there, one waiting and one getting things done. I have to say that the guy who helped us was nice, apologetic, and effective, because by the next day, Wayne’s Medicare was showing up with our insurance agents.

Because, of course, our insurance turned him down for not having the Medicare. He had talked to them once and they had given him until January 1 to get it straightened out, but we did not know that we should have also discussed this with our retirement agency, because they cancelled his insurance.

So, knowing it would be useless to expect my husband to take care of this, I spent another two hours on the phone with my retirement agency and our insurance. Everyone was responsive and helpful except, I regret to say, the woman at the retirement agency, who was the only person to get chippy with me. She basically said there was nothing to be done until January. So, I got chippy with her, telling her she was behaving as if this was our fault, that this wasn’t our fault, it was the Federal government’s. And what do you know? There was something to be done. By the time I got off the phone, my husband had insurance.

But the fun part hadn’t started yet. It was time to find a medical provider. Here’s where Obamacare comes in. It turns out that this area has been flooded by people wanting to find doctors who had for years been using the emergency room for their medical care. In addition, very few places took our insurance. I spent a whole afternoon calling clinics to find someone who would take our insurance, Medicare, and new patients. The best I could do was to get an appointment to get an appointment at a place with a two-month waiting list. They took our information and said someone would call me in 7 to 10 days to let me know when we might be able to get in. (I was not sure if I would actually get an appointment then or not.)

I still hadn’t heard from them yesterday, and it seemed that 7-10 days had passed, although I stupidly didn’t write down the date that I signed up with them. I called them yesterday, and it turns out that my first call to them was two weeks ago, so they were overdue. But the person I talked to this time was far less helpful than the first person and just told me she would tell “her” that I called but didn’t know when she would get back to me. I will wait a couple of days and try again, because once we really get into the holidays, things could be delayed by several weeks. So, we may not have a doctor until, say, February.

It also turns out that the number was listed as being in Battle Ground (the nearest town) but that office had closed, so we were going to have to go to Vancouver, and not close by in Vancouver, either. And, our insurance is changing again in January. This clinic will take our new insurance, but I wonder if it would be worthwhile to go back and call clinics again to see if they take the other insurance.

Ah, the fun just gets to be more and more. Tomorrow, I will have to call my doctor in Austin to get my prescriptions extended until we have a new doctor.

On the weather front, more snow all weekend, although it is melted today. Unfortunately, at least at this time, it doesn’t look like we’ll have a white Christmas.