Monday, March 6, 2023

It was worth the drive

Our Designer Cat, Larisa, was 17 years old when she "crossed the rainbow bridge" on December 1. We called her a Designer Cat because my husband Art is allergic to cats, and she was hypoallergenic. 

When Art and I  first got together in 1992 my previous cat Muffin had been in my household for five years. One day Art said he was sorry, but if the cat was going to sleep in our bed he would have to sleep in the guest room, because he was allergic to her. So after that we closed the bedroom door and Muffin slept somewhere else.

After Muffin was gone we were catless for five years. Then I heard about Siberian Forest cats. The breed began to be imported from Russia in the 80s, but I hadn't heard about them until I started researching hypoallergenic cat possibilities. Some, but not all, Siberians lack the protein in their saliva that causes allergies. 

In 2008 we drove to Stayton, Oregon, to do an allergy test with Larisa, one of the Lundberg Siberian queens. Art buried his face in her fur, and he didn't get all watery eyed and sneezy. He wasn't allergic to her! So we put our names on the Lundberg kitten list, hoping for one of Larisa's kittens. Six months later, we were looking at the Lundberg Siberian webpage and discovered that Larisa was being retired as a breeding queen and was available for a family. We applied to purchase her and we were accepted. We drove again to Oregon. We let Larisa out of her crate in the car on the four-hour drive home, and she did her exploring. But once we got her home, she hid, as cats usually do in a new and unfamiliar place. Larisa knew where the litter box was, and she found the food and the water. But she lived mostly under the bed, and we'd had her for 62 days before she'd let us touch her.

Larisa took her time to become a regular house cat. She was always a bit shy, not much of a cuddler. But she loved to be brushed, and she spent time near us in the evenings, usually on the back of a sofa where she could see what was going on. When we started dividing our time between Brier, a Seattle suburb, and Tucson, she traveled with us in her soft-sided Sherpa crate, under the seat in front of me on the plane. Both places were home to her as they are to us.

After Larisa died, I did a national search for another retiring Siberian queen. I found five - in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Arizona.  I'd developed a short list by Christmas, and asked Art what he thought. He said, "I know you want another cat, but I think it's too soon." He rarely expresses an opinion, so when he does I listen.

We decided on a cat living in Kingman, Arizona. Her registered name is Pumaridge Killjoy Dutch, but she is called Dutchy. She is a red mackerel tabby. She was due to be bred one more time, and her owner said she'd probably be ready to pick up in June. That was fine with me. We'd be traveling home to Washington in late April. I intended to have my knee replaced in early June. I figured by July I'd be ready for a new cat. We would fly to Las Vegas to pick up Dutchy, with the cattery owner driving from Kingman to meet us.

In late January I heard from Tina, the owner of the Pumaridge cattery in Kingman. She said they'd decided not to breed Dutchy again, so she would be spayed and available to us in late February. I wanted to be sure Art wouldn't be allergic to her, so we decided to meet Dutchy first. As it happened, we were meeting several of our grown children in Sedona for four days in early February. When our family time ended, we made the three-hour drive from Sedona to Kingman to meet the cat. Again, Art buried his face in her fur, and again he did not sneeze or get watery eyed. 

So last weekend we drove from Tucson to Kingman - a five-hour drive - to pick up Dutchy. We spent the night in a Kingman motel. We arrived at the Pumaridge cattery at 10 a.m., and by 11 we were on our way back to Tucson, with the cat in a crate in the back seat of our Accord. Dutchy did a lot of talking on the way home, but she was a pretty good car traveler.

Road trips used to be more fun than they are now. Art and I are older and way less agile than we used to be. Every time we got out of the car for a meal or for gas, it took a few feet of walking for us to get our legs working properly, and Art used his cane most of the time. Plus, I did most of the driving, because Art is a very assertive driver and when he is behind the wheel I am scared. So this trip to Kingman was a must-do thing, but I wouldn't say it was fun. 

For the first 24 hours at our house, Dutchy talked a lot. I'm thinking she was asking questions: "Where am I?" and "Who are you?"

Dutchy has been with us for a week now. She knows where the litter box is, and she's eating and drinking. She's found her favorite hiding spots. But she's already let us touch her - no 62-day wait for this one! She loves to be brushed under her chin. We heard her purring yesterday. She's starting to hang out with us, though she dashes away at sudden sounds or movements. We put treats where we want her to explore, and she finds them all. Including the ones on our bed. I suspect she'll be a snuggler when she feels at home.

Our new girl was worth the drive!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Good things during our time away

When Art and I got together in 1992, his six children ranged in age from 5 to 19. Most of them visited us on Tuesdays and Thursdays and every other weekend. Some of them lived with us for a time until they graduated from high school or went on to college or graduated from college. I know them all pretty well, and they know me. We joke that I am their Wicked Stepmother.

We have a timeshare in Sedona, Arizona that we've owned for about 20 years. Before Art and I retired, we spent two weeks in Sedona every other year. After that, we usually spent a week there in February. Sometimes it was just us, other times another couple, and a number of times two to five of our children. Seven of the eight children in our blended family have spent time with us in Sedona at least once. 

This year we reserved two units for February 3 to February 7. Art's grown children Melissa, Jason, Pete and Greg flew from Seattle, along with Jason's son Kaleb (14) and Pete's girlfriend Danielle. Art's daughter Laura flew in from Philadelphia. My sons Russ and James had planned to come, but they both had to work. So there were nine of us.

Our custom for these times together is that people do their own activities during the day and then everyone gathers for dinner. On Friday night, after a long travel day, we went to a Mexican restaurant. 

On Saturday, all seven of them took a long Sedona hike. For dinner, Greg (the chef) rummaged through our refrigerator and found pork chops, potatoes and broccoli. He served a delicious meal to six of us at the main table and the other three at the patio table dragged in from outside. 

On Sunday, two of the women took another hike and the other five rented mountain bikes. In the evening Greg prepared a chicken pesto spaghetti, artisanal green salad and crusty bread. 

On Monday they all took another long hike, and Melissa made her signature enchiladas for dinner.

The seven hikers and bikers talked on the trail, kidding around but also encouraging each other, and commenting how good it was that they could be together as grown siblings and enjoy each other's company.

Art and I took many hikes like that years ago when we were younger. This year we stayed in our unit and read or napped. I was glad to read five back issues of "The Sun", the only magazine I currently subscribe to.

I'd been feeling sad that the young people were doing things I used to do but no longer can (bad knee and elderly). One of the stories I read in "The Sun" talked about not looking back wishing I could still do those things, and trying to still do them, but, instead, being glad I had done them and looking forward to what I still have ahead of me. That is helpful.

Everyone but us left on the early morning of the 7th to catch flights out of Phoenix. We had an appointment in Kingman, Arizona, about a three-hour drive from Sedona. Here's that story: 

Art is allergic to cats, but there is a breed that's often hypoallergenic. Siberian Forest cats began to be imported to the US from Russia in the 1980s. Some of those cats lack the protein in their saliva that causes allergic reactions. There are tests available that will identify that protein level, but the tests are expensive. Another reliable test is for the allergic person to bury their face in a cat's fur to see if there is an allergic reaction. Back in 2008 Art buried his face in a cat's fur at the Lundberg cattery in Stayton, Oregon. Larisa (Windrifter Larisa of Lundberg) was four years old at the time. He had no reaction, so we added our name to the Lundbergs' kitten list. Several months later I looked at their webpage and saw that Larisa was being retired from her breeding career. She was available for sale. We put in our appication, then drove from Seattle to Oregon and bought her. Larisa lived with us from that time until she "crossed the rainbow bridge" on December 1 of last year. 

I did a nationwide search for a retiring Siberian queen. I found two in Boston, one in New Hampshire, several in Oregon, and one in Kingman, Arizona. Our timeline was for a spring pickup, after a period of mourning for our beautiful Larisa.

As luck - or fate - would have it, Pumaridge Siberians in Kingman had a queen available. They planned to breed Dutchy (Pumaridge Killjoy Dutch) one more time, with a male whose line they wanted to establish. She'd be available for us to pick up in early summer. That sounded good to us. Then, two weeks ago, I got a call that they'd decided not to breed Dutch again and were having her spayed. So she'd be ready to go to a new home in late February. Since we'd be in northern Arizona anyway, it seemed reasonable to drive to Kingman at the end of our Sedona trip to meet Dutch and see if Art was allergic to her. We could then return a couple of weeks later and make the drive with her from Kingman to Tucson, where we live in the winter.

All went well in Kingman! We met Dutchy and spent about an hour with her. I was grateful to observe that she looked and acted nothing like Larisa. Different color, different eyes, different face shape, friendlier. It seemed the only thing the two cats had in common was their breed - Siberian Forest - and their hypoallergetic status.

So, two weeks from today we'll be driving home from Kingman with our new girl. We're taking the cat condo, litter box and other feline accessories out of the shed and setting them up. We're buying the same food and cat litter and food Dutchy is familiar with. We're making an appointment with our Tucson vet to meet her and get her chipped. We're excited.

Good things happened during our time away!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Two days in a row!

I am not a morning person. At all. One of the great benefits of retirement is being able to sleep until I wake up without an alarm clock. Usually.

Yesterday, though, I had an 8 a.m. massage appointment. It was the only one available from my fabulous therapist. About a 25-minute drive for me. So I woke up at 7, jumped in and out of the shower, had a quick cup of coffee and a piece of toast, and drove to my appointment. I arrived right on time. The receptionist welcomed me. I said, "I have an 8 o'clock appointment with Angie." The receptionist said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. I tried to call you to let you know that Angie called in sick this morning." I hadn't heard the phone but apparently the call came in ten minutes before I arrived. I said, cheerfully, "Oh, well, sometimes these things happen." I made another appointment for next week and left.

On my way home it occurred to me that the place where I get my pedicures was right on the way. So I stopped in, looking forward to having someone take care of my feet. Parked the car, walked across the sidewalk and read the sign, "Hours 9 to 6". It was 8:20. Too early. I drove home and finished my now-cold coffee.

Then today I actually had another 8 a.m. appointment, this one with my new medical provider. The doctor we've been seeing while we're here in Tucson in the winter is leaving the clinic, and we'll be seeing a PA instead. The appointment was for a "transfer of care" conversation. Again, I woke up at 7, did my morning things, drove for 20 minutes, and got to the clinic at 8. I said to the lady at the front desk, "I have an 8 o'clock appointment with PA Goodman." And the lady said... "Oh, I'm sorry, the PA called out sick today. We called your number and left a message." I stood there for a few seconds, thinking maybe this is Groundhog Day, and then I said, "Well, can you reschedule me?" My appointment is now February 24, nearly six weeks out. 

I had a conversation with my son James earlier this week. He'd gone out to get in his car and it wouldn't start. He said, "I'm cursed!" I said, "James, everyone has problems." Then today, he told me it was a dead battery and all is now well. His was a car, and mine was two canceled appointments.  

Two days in a row! However, there are these positive things:

  • Both receptionists were apologetic and pleasant
  • Early morning traffic was light
  • I got replacement appointments
  • I can afford a massage
  • I have good medical coverage
  • I am not sick
  • I saw the sun rise both days

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Eight hours on the phone

My son James started his own business last year. For the prior 15 years he'd been an employee and gotten medical insurance through his company. He decided to get some medical coverage as a self-employed person for 2023. Actually, I was somewhat of an influencer because he's 43 now and that's about the age things can come up. Besides, I'm his business manager.

When we've got coverage through work we usually don't pay much attention to its costs because we're not paying for it directly. When we're buying it ourselves, we do. So when James and I had the discussion he emphasized he doesn't want to pay a whole lot. 

Because his business is only a year old, his income for 2022 was fairly low. So I checked out the state Exchange to see if he was eligible for a supplement for his insurance cost. He was.

My husband and I are insured with Kaiser Permanente in Washington, so that's where I started. Kaiser has really good coordination of services and we've had excellent care for many years. I went on their webpage to apply for James' coverage using the Exchange. The site said to enter the net taxable income. I subtracted the standard deduction amount from his net income and went to the Exchange site to order the insurance. The price on the Exchange was $300 more a month than on the Kaiser site!

I called Kaiser. They said the Exchange determined the price. I called the Exchange. They said Kaiser determined the price. I was pretty annoyed to be in the middle of two "it's not our problem" statements. I called our lawyer to make an appointment the next day to talk about possible "bait and switch" consumer fraud.

I called Kaiser the next morning and got a different customer service person. I explained my problem. They said if a person gets a W-2, they enter the net taxable income on the form. But if they're self-employed, they enter the net income (without the standard deduction amount). When I entered that amount and went to the Exchange, the numbers matched exactly. I ordered less expensive insurance. Then I called the lawyer and canceled the appointment.

I was in IT before I retired, and I knew the sentence on the Kaiser form was misleading for self-employed applicants. I called customer service and asked to speak to the technical department. They transferred me to sales. The man didn't understand what I was talking about. He said, "Well, you got the insurance, right?" I said yes, but I wanted the tech people to add a phrase to the form about self-employed people applying. He said, "I'll call someone and get back to you."

He didn't. Maybe he thought I was an unreasonable old person instead of a customer wanting to prevent other self-employed people from having the same problem.

Eight hours on the phone, on hold for much of it because "We're experiencing a higher than usual call volume." My son James is happy with the insurance I chose for him. But I feel bad for all the other confused self-employed people who thought they were getting good assistance, but ended up with insurance they couldn't afford.