Sad news

I thought this week’s post was going to be about lighthearted things like the art show, but two days ago we got some sad news. A very good friend from Austin, “the other Wayne,” died unexpectedly. He had cancer, but he died from something else altogether, his system weakened by the cancer and some recent surgery. I met him 15 years ago on a job, and he and his wife have been good friends ever since. Our hearts go out to Sue, his wife.

And in other respects, this week so far has not been so great. Yesterday, my husband Wayne had a lower GI scheduled. We made arrangements to take Luke in for doggy day care. I had made the arrangements with the owner the day before, and last time I did that, she never told her staff, so we were unexpected. So, while I left Wayne outside while Luke did his business, I went inside to make sure everything was set up. While I was talking to the owner, I looked outside, and Wayne was crawling on the ground. At first, I thought he was looking for something, and then I realized he must have fallen and was crawling toward the car to have something to help him get up. It turned out that when Luke realized I was gone, he lurched toward the building, pulling Wayne off balance, and he fell. His knuckles on his right hand were all gouged, but we had no choice but to throw some bandaids and antibiotics on his hand and go off for his medical appointment.

That went okay except they found an ulcer that they are biopsying. However, after we ate breakfast, we decided to leave Luke in the doggie daycare and take a break from him. We went home, and Wayne took a nap and I got interviewed by my great niece for a school homework project about family history. Then after Mischa went home, Wayne came out and said he wanted to go to Urgent Care.

We drove into the Vancouver Clinic Urgent Care in Battle Ground and waited in line for 15 minutes only to be told that THIS Urgent Care was only for Vancouver Clinic patients. We go to Vancouver Clinic for all our specialty doctors, but they would not take us for primary care when we moved here because we were on Medicare. The medical system out here is really weird. In Texas you go to your primary care physician, who is usually in private practice but may belong to a clinic, and then if there is an emergency, you can pretty much go to any Urgent Care as long as your insurance has a relationship with it. Here, most of the doctors are affiliated with big clinics, and it seems that the Urgent Cares are affiliated with them, too. So, we had to go pick up Luke and drive all the way to Salmon Creek in Vancouver to go to the Legacy Urgent Care, since our doctor works at a Legacy clinic. It turns out that if Wayne hadn’t considered it unnecessary that morning, he could have gone to the Vancouver Clinic Urgent Care where he had procedure, though, as they said it was a proper Urgent Care. Who knew things would be so complicated?

The good news about the Legacy Urgent Care we went to is that almost no one was there, whereas there were lots of people at the Vancouver one. Wayne got seen almost immediately, and the doctor put a few stitches in his knuckles. I thought they would need stitches as soon as I saw the gashes, but at that point, Wayne was assuring me they were fine.

So, those are our bad things this week. Our good medical news is that my middle brother, John, came through his second heart surgery just fine. He and his wife have been planning to move out here and had hoped to be here this fall until he started having Afib again. Now, he has a three-month recovery period, so they hope to be here in early December.

Here I am with my painting looking silly because I hate having my picture taken. Also, that is a very unflattering blouse!

The big thing for me and my sister this week was the art show. It was at the main branch of the Vancouver Library starting Friday night. They told us the reception was at five, but there really wasn’t one, just people there looking at the art.

My sister Sue in front of her picture at the art show. She is a better poser.

The exhibit had some really good pieces. Some that stood out for me were some very realistic horses done in colored pencil and also some delicious, dark plums with water beads on them, done in pastels. I didn’t know you could get pastels that dark. Anyway, there was lots of good art. I had to run out while Wayne was having his upper GI to pick up the paintings, and the guy said that they had a good turnout and were sure they would see us again. When we were there, only about 20 people were there, but we got there right at the beginning and then went to eat dinner nearby at a very good Thai restaurant. My sister met her son there, who passed off his grandson into her care.

Here are some of my hiking companions standing at the bottom of the rock, which is much more imposing than this photo suggests.

I did have another accomplishment, though, and that was for our hike last Wednesday. We decided to climb Beacon Rock, which is a very tall outcropping on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. I saw the rock a couple of years ago on our failed hike on the other side of the highway and thought it would be a long time before I would be able to climb it. Its elevation is over 600 feet, which isn’t that high, but it is over the course of less than a mile. The good news is I made it! I don’t think I could have done it if it wasn’t for all the switchbacks, which made the rises less steep. When we started up, it was cool and overcast, but by the time we were halfway up, it was sunny, so we got hot. The views were fabulous.

The next day, I went with Sue and Mason, her grandson, to the Ridgefield Multicultural Festival, because Mischa was in a taekwondo exhibition there. I have been to Ridgefield Farmer’s Market before, and there wasn’t much there. However, the Multicultural Festival was nice. There were half a dozen booths with food (I went to get a tamale but ended up with some delicious ribs and a mango lhasi), about a half dozen booths with jewelry and other artifacts, and a stage. We missed most of the acts but saw a Ghanaian drumming act and the taekwondo exhibit.

Here is the demo team after they gave their exhibition. My great niece is the red haired girl in the middle front. Master Oh is in black.

That Saturday was pretty much our last summery day. For the next three days, it rained heavily most of the time until yesterday afternoon, when it was sunny but cool. Apparently, Monday night a tornado was in the area of northern Vancouver, which is unusual. Today feels like fall. Since we have had to remove all of our rugs, including our doormats from the house because Luke chews them up, I see it’s going to be a long winter. I just mopped the floors on Sunday because they got so bad so quickly, and now I need to mop them again.

I sighted an animal in the pond last week, but I couldn’t tell if it was the beaver or the otter, as I could just barely see its head. One clue, though, is that it was just swimming across the pond, not playing. Maybe our beaver ran the otter off.

A terrible horrible no good very bad weekend

Our weekend started when we heard a thump early Saturday morning. I said to Wayne, “It sounds like Hillary fell off the table.” She had been sporadically eating all week. Late last week she voraciously ate the leftovers of some baked fish we had for dinner, so we poached several fillets for her, but like everything else, after a while she stopped eating it. Most lately, she had been eating a little bit of lunch meat several times a day. We had her off the table earlier in the week, but she got herself right back onto it, probably because she preferred the table to being bugged by Luke (although sometimes Luke was licking her, which she seemed to like).

Hillary helping me make the bed during happier times. R.I.P. little kitty.

Wayne got up to see what was going on because I couldn’t. Luke has finally figured out that he can jump off the bed, so if we want him to stay on it, I have to stay in bed, or I have to be obviously getting ready to get in it. Otherwise, he just jumps right off after we put him up there, and we didn’t want him running up to Hillary if she was on the floor. Wayne came back and reported that she had indeed fallen off and wasn’t doing well. He took Luke outside, and I got up to see her. She was lying half on a cushion on the floor. I put her completely on the cushion and was able to feed her a little bit of chicken. But shortly after she ate, it became obvious she was dying. It took her a couple of hours, during which we put her in a dog crate up on the table so that I could put my hand in and touch her while I talked to her but Luke couldn’t bother her. Also, if she did happen to start wandering around, she couldn’t fall off again. Finally, I was talking to her, and she turned her ears toward me and then gave a little jerk and she was gone. My poor little kitty. She had a rough last month or so.

But that wasn’t all. Saturday afternoon, I was outside with Luke and just happened to go inside for a moment to get Luke’s outside water bowl when I heard Wayne yell, “Kay, I am having a heart attack!” I went into the bedroom just in time to see him slide from the bed onto the floor. I called 911 immediately and they told me they were sending an ambulance and to make him as comfortable as possible. He said he had terrible pain in his abdomen. He was extremely pale when he is usually florid, and he was clammy.

We went to the ER, where we figured out that he had put too much pressure on a nerve when he was going to the bathroom, because he was badly constipated. This pressure made him briefly pass out. I had observed that sometimes he grunted away in the bathroom and warned him that this could happen, because it happened to a roommate when I was in graduate school, but he never paid attention to me. I didn’t think he had lost consciousness, because he talked to me most of the time and answered all of the questions for the dispatcher, but he did have a blurry voice, and later at the ER he said that he couldn’t remember how he got on the floor.

We spent a record three hours only at the ER, during which our family really stepped up. My niece’s husband, Ares, came over with the kids so that Luke wouldn’t have to stay in his crate, and then my brother Mark and his wife, Nancy, came over and walked him. Ares had to take the kids home at bedtime, but when we arrived home, my sister, Sue, was with Luke. The diagnosis for Wayne was that he is seriously constipated.

But that’s not all for our weekend entertainment. On Sunday morning, we buried Hillary in the pasture. Then Wayne was talking about going to urgent care, because now he was passing blood and had a tarry stool, and it said in our papers from the hospital to call the doctor if that happened. I suggested that we call our doctor’s office first, because there might be a doctor on call. I actually got as far as calling and being put on hold by the answering service, when Wayne told me to hang up. We decided to go to the store and buy prune juice, more vegetables, and more fruit so that I could make lots of fruit salad. When we got in the car, however, it turned out that he thought we were going to urgent care. I again suggested that we call the doctor’s office, but he said no, and we went to the grocery store and bought those things, as well as something from the drug department (that he has not used yet).

Then, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, in the afternoon when I was outside with Luke, he came out and told me he knew what was wrong with him. He said that a week ago he had eaten a berry and that he had looked it up and it was nightshade, and he was going to die. Now, my husband has a habit of self-diagnosing and then assuming that whatever is wrong with him is the worst thing possible. Also, he told me about eating the berry at the time that he ate it, and he described it as like a raspberry, so I assumed it was an unripe blackberry, since we have blackberries all over the place. I said that if it was poisonous, he would be dead by now, but he said no, that you felt better for a while and then you died, like that guy in Alaska in Into the Wild. He said he knew what he had eaten was a nightshade berry.

I had him take me to where he found the berry and show one to me. He took me to a blackberry patch, but we found no berries. So, I asked him to show me the berry online. We looked up nightshade berries, and they are round and smooth and look nothing like raspberries. We looked up “poisonous red berries in Washington” and saw nothing that looked like a raspberry. There was one page that also showed blackberries, both in their unripe and ripe stages, but that was a general page about berries. (I suspect he saw that picture and it was next to text about nightshade.) I thought I had him convinced he had eaten a blackberry, and he finally finished the conversation by telling me that you had to eat fifteen to die from them, and he had only eaten one. OK, I thought, even though he was still convinced he ate a nightshade berry, at least he doesn’t think he’s going to die. He didn’t seem to be able to grasp that a blackberry could be red, and he said it didn’t taste good, to which I replied, “That’s because it wasn’t ripe.”

I thought that was taken care of, but on Monday an innocent question about how he felt brought out that he was in the stage where he felt better but he was going to die. This time, I went downstairs to his computer with him and asked him to show me the page he’d been reading (last time we were on my computer), but he couldn’t find it. Then we went outside and walked around until we found a red blackberry. At that point, he finally agreed that he had eaten a blackberry, but he wanted to taste it to be sure. I said to him, “You are not eating any more berries. Leave the berry picking to me!”

Tuesday I went with him to the doctor’s office. He is so constipated that his entire colon is full. The doctor gave him a bunch of suggestions of things he should try, in order. So far, he hasn’t done any of them, which is also something he does when his self-diagnosis works out to be incorrect (which is always). Sometimes I wish the internet had never been invented.

That was so traumatic that I hardly feel like telling about anything else, so if you want to hear about our hike, my art class, or Luke’s further progress, just put in a comment and I’ll answer.


A hiking emergency

On our hike last week, we returned to Lacamas Park to attempt to hike the part of the park that we didn’t get to before. We were only partially successful in this. We set off in the opposite direction from before, but we ended up doing a loop in the part of the park that I didn’t really want to repeat, it being the wildest, and still missed some of the same part of the loop as we did before. My sister, Sue, went with me and Maja, one of my hiking friends, and it’s a good thing she did, too, because she is a nurse.

Just as we started into the area that I didn’t want to repeat, accidentally through not understanding the maps we saw (it’s annoying to us that so many parks leave out the You Are Here marker on most of the posted maps), Maja had some sort of attack. She became very dizzy and said her neck was hurting her. We stopped and tried to get her to sit, but she wouldn’t sit. At another point, Sue urged her to lie down in a meadow so she could put her feet up, but she refused. We had to continue on very slowly, with frequent stops, and unfortunately we were in the most remote part of the park, so it took us about an hour to get out to the car. All the time, my sister and I said later, both of us were worried that Maja was going to pass out.

Maja and Sue on the bridge at Lacamas Park very shortly before Maja had her episode. Not a good picture. I can never see what I’m taking outside, and I must have moved the phone, because the women are blurry.

Once we got to the car, there was a debate of what to do next. I thought we should go to the nearest urgent care, whereas Maja wanted to go to the urgent care in Battle Ground (40 minutes away), which she knew was in her insurance network. I think it’s ridiculous that during an emergency we have to worry about this stuff. Sue started to take her to a hospital that was in her network, but I pointed out that most insurance companies want you to go to urgent care first. We ended up going where Maja wanted. Then the urgent care wanted to send her to the hospital (the one we passed on the way there, that Sue wanted to take her to) by ambulance, and she didn’t want to take the ambulance. I wasn’t driving, and Sue had run out to get us something to eat, since we assumed that we would be there a long time. I told Maja that if the nurse thought she should take an ambulance, she should take one. So, she did, and we were away from there in a surprisingly short time. It turned out that she had stopped taking her blood pressure medicine over a year ago without telling her doctor because she didn’t like the side effects. Also, she had already been diagnosed with some sort of blockage (I didn’t really understand what they were talking about), and her blood pressure was really low. (Her top number was 85!)

By the way, the urgent care folks said we should have gone to the hospital, and when she explained about the insurance people wanting you to go to urgent care first, the guy said, “I don’t know about insurance.” Well, that’s the problem, isn’t it? The health care people need to know about insurance. I noticed a ridiculous notice at that urgent care telling people to check their bills for out-of-network service and to tell them if anything is out of network. Well, what good will that do you? If it’s on your bill, you’ve already been served by out-of-network people. I think that urgent care and hospitals should have to assure that all the people on an emergency case or procedure are in the patient’s network, because how can the patient do that when they are in the middle of the procedure or emergency? Oh well, enough about our ridiculous health care system.

In any case, Sue said she probably got treated faster the way we did it, because if we’d gone to Emergency, we probably would have waited an hour before anyone looked at Maja. She said that since she arrived in an ambulance from urgent care, they would look at her right away. Since Sue works in a hospital, I’m guessing she knows what she’s talking about.

So, that was scary, but Maja is home now after being hospitalized for two nights. She said her arteries are in fine shape and she just needs to take it easier on the exercise. She is also on a different blood pressure med.

Here are the blue flowers in my garden, shaped more like pentagons than stars. I found a picture of them online, but they were not identified.

What else has happened this week? Well, it’s getting a lot springier up here. The valley has been looking beautiful for some weeks, but my cherry trees just started blooming and my apple trees are just beginning to open their buds. I took a picture, but it wasn’t very dramatic, so I decided not to post it. In my landscaped slope in front of the house, there are beautiful blue flowers popping up all over. Plus, I planted a few snowdrops in the middle of the orchard, but now I see a bunch more coming up in a wooded area next to the orchard. Likewise, there are lots of wildflowers coming up in the wooded area next to our pond.

Speaking of the pond, I’ve spotted the ducks several times, and the other day I was up in the orchard when I saw a lot of commotion in the water. I was able to see the heads of three or four beavers! I told Wayne that I guessed Mr. Beaver got married and had children, and he said he didn’t think marriage had anything to do with it. Last year, I only ever saw one beaver at a time, so I figured there was only one.

I haven’t seen any deer since Lukey and I spotted one at the neighbor’s house when he was a small puppy, so that would have been back in August or September. But when I was on my way to Luke’s class Monday night, I saw one go across the road. It’s nice to see them, since there has been so much logging around here that we see fewer and fewer deer each year. It’s been a couple of years since we saw them on our property, although they were eating things in my garden at some time last year, because I saw the nibbles. We got it partially fenced in, so they stopped going in.

Most of the days this week were dreary, but it was really nice and warm on Sunday. We did some outside work. I didn’t need to weed my garden last year at all, hardly, but this year, I have lots of things coming up in it. Since the weeds all look like the same kind of grass, I presume it has something to do with the alpaca poop I mixed into the soil this fall. I’m guessing it’s whatever they eat.

Sunday was so nice that for the first time in a while we sat out by the pond, and earlier in the week, we had lunch on the deck. So, on Monday I put on a lighter top shirt over the bottom shirt I wear all winter (not the same one, of course), but that was a mistake. Monday was cold! I ended up changing back. So, it’s not warm spring yet, or at least not consistently.

Here’s Luke wondering why I called him. It took several times to get him to look at the phone.

Luke is doing okay at Relationship Class; at least, he hasn’t been kicked out yet. Some of the other dogs are having a bit of trouble behaving as well; in fact, he did better than several of them during Monday night’s class. And just in case anyone is wondering what Luke looks like now, I took a picture of him. He is almost 11 months old now, and I think he is full grown. At least, he is about the same size as the adult Keeshond we used to have, knee high but stocky, so that he seems bigger.

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!

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.