Learning the importance of Medicare Part B, the hard way

My mom tripped and fell on Tuesday.

I got the call from the folks at her building and it was panic mode for the rest of the week. It worked out fine this time, but we learned how ill-prepared we are. And we are going to be better prepared if anything like this happens again.
The really, really good news is that her head was not damaged, even though she smacked it hard on a heavy chair. She has some impressive scrapes and bruises, but her wit and sense of humor never left her for a moment. A battery of MRI scans, X-rays, and examinations revealed no serious internal injuries. Whew!
She did, however, get some delicate little fractures. What made them problematic was bilateral symmetry: one fracture on her right elbow, and two on her left wrist. It will be a long time before I get rid of the image of my mom in a hospital bed with both arms bandaged and splinted.
So here is this woman who cannot put her hand to her mouth, grasp a cup, or — and this is the big one for her — turn pages in a book. So, OK, that night I got her a Nook (still trying to get library books to load on it). But there is still all that eating and drinking and other body-related activities.  She obviously couldn’t live by herself. Could I move in with her? Maybe… but I could not be there 24/7, which is what it looked like she would need. They were talking four to six weeks. Ai!
Phone calls ensued. Lots of calls, to sort out what was covered, by who, and what sequence of events had to transpire. For example, we learned that a nursing home would be covered ONLY if my mom was discharged directly from the hospital to the nursing home. If they sent her home for an hour first, it wouldn’t count.
Wednesday the hospital was ready to discharge her.  Her insurance covered three rehabilitative care facilities in the area: One is in the far corner of the county. One nearby, that my dad had been in very briefly, where they packed ’em in  five to a room with the beds an arm’s length apart. One in South Seattle. We researched and found lots of better possibilities, all of them covered by Medicare Part B.

My mom does not have Medicare Part B.

Why not?
My dad was retired military. When he was working in the Army instead of making lots more money in the private sector, part of the deal was military health care, for him and his wife, that would continue after he retired. That has been tinkered with. At one point, I think in the ’90s, they had to choose between government-funded Family Health Plan (FHP) coverage and Medicare. They chose the government-funded plan (the one most like the coverage they’d been expecting to have, back in my dad’s working years), and signed some sort of pledge to not sign up for Medicare. Within the past few years my Mom was told that she must sign up for  Medicare in addition to FHP. So she did, but never signed up for Part B because she still had FHP.
The hospital kept her Wednesday night, because we had no place to put her. Meanwhile they decided not to splint her right arm because the fracture was such that it would heal just as well without it. She started re-building strength in her right hand and arm.
Thursday we were able to check out the place in South Seattle, and found it actually pretty good, much better than the one nearby. We got her settled in, and expect her to be back home within the week. At 87, she is healing like a 20 year old. We tend to live a long time in my family.
I’m reading up on Medicare Part B. If she needs a nursing home in the future, we will be prepared.

I have a loom! I have TWO looms!

My friend Judy is moving out of state, and clearing out a lot of stuff she has not used and does not want to haul away with her. Jim’s been facilitating all the work involved in preparing her home for sale, and today he brought home a few things she wanted off her hands:

  • A beautiful table loom
  • A warping frame
  • A very nice tapestry loom, with a project started
  • Books on using a tapestry loom
  • Assorted shuttles etc.
  • Lots of thread and yarn

And I’ve not even gotten through it all yet. Whee!

Jim even has a plan for where we can set up the loom: As we finish up the laundry room, we’ll set up the loom in there. I think if we set it up on a sturdy wheeled base, I can wheel it up to the window to weave, and work looking out on the garden. When I’m not weaving, I’ll roll it out of the way and use the same spot for folding laundry or ironing, all looking out on my garden.

Is your head doe bossing you around?

In my little goat herd, Rosie is head doe. Goat herds are not exclusive clubs. Nearby chickens are included. People are too. As far as the goats are concerned, I’m a member of the herd, and that’s usually really nice. We’ve cleared brush together companionably, and they miss me if I’m not the one to look in on them.


The head doe does boss her followers around. Gigi’s felt Rose’s horns more than once. Unfortunately, so have I. Not often, but it happened again a couple of days ago. Here’s what I’ve done to clarify our relationship.

Grabbing the goat by the horns

The horns that make Rose’s bossiness a problem are also a great way to get a handle on her. Literally. Rose is stronger than I am, but those horns give me an advantage. The first time I had to use them was a few years ago. She was a couple of years old and felt it was time to take me in hand. I couldn’t quite control her by holding her horns and didn’t dare let go. She was seriously trying to take me down, as she would an impertinent goat in her herd. I’m not as tough as a goat, and she probably could have hurt me far more than she intended to.

We danced around for several minutes before I thought, “Hmm. Goats do not like to lay on their side. If I switch this hand… to the rear leg… and pull…”

It worked like a charm. She went down hard and I had complete control. More important, I had her complete attention. I lectured her on appropriate behavior toward humans. I don’t know whether she understood any of the words, but she definitely got the message. I avoided her the next day (I was pretty pissed) and that had her really worried. We’ve not had many issues since then.

Last week I had the girls out on a lead. Rose wanted to move to a new location, but I was still working with the lead (which Gigi, as usual, had wrapped around the stub of a shrub). Rose hooked her horns into my thighs (ouch), threw me off balance, and made her escape — all of three yards, to a bit of blackberry vine she’d been eyeing.

When I caught up with her, I grabbed her horns and twisted her head to one side, as if to lay her down, and gave her a synopsis of the earlier lecture. For the next two days she sidled up to me at every opportunity, nuzzling me, giving me her best doe-eyes, and essentially saying, “We’re good, right?”

Life is back to normal in the herd. We’re a close-knit group where Rose is head doe. But I’m the boss.

Goats and sneezes

Social animals, like goats, have ways to sound an alarm. It might be a bark, or a trill, or a shriek. With goats, it’s a sneeze. Really.

So, there I was in the chicken run, which is right next to the goat run. I had a cold. I sneezed. And Gigi, my easy-going docile little Nubian goat, came dashing out of her stall. She was on alert, looking around for the source of danger. She was coming to my aid! I’m not sure what form that aid could possibly take. But she was not going to let me face danger alone.

It’s just so darn sweet.

Improving the eggs-to-feed ratio

These old vans tended to get good gas mileageYears ago, when  I lived in the city, I had a problem with the gas mileage on my car. It got really bad really fast, and soon I was down to about three miles per gallon. As a friend of mine said, “I don’t think a Volkswagen can run at all if it’s in that bad shape.”

I fixed the problem by getting a locking gas cap.

Now I’ve been seeing a similar situation with the chicken feed. The organic feed I get costs twice as much as the standard stuff, and I’m hardly seeing any eggs lately. In fact, feed consumption has gone up even as the flock has diminished by natural attrition.

If you keep chickens, you’ve already guessed the problem. The other day I found a rat. Not some scroungy refuse-eating alley rat. This is a country rat, the kind that makes a living off of whatever the woods have to offer. On a good day, she’ll find a stand of something yummy all ripening at once. On a very good day, she’ll find the food people leave out for their animals.

This particular rat had enjoyed many very good days. So many, in fact, that her route through a bit of 1″ x 2″ wire mesh no longer worked. She was stuck. She struggled, then sighed, rolled her eyes in exasperation, and rested. Then she struggled again.

She was actually quite lovely, as feed-stealing pests go. She was plump and sleek, and her pelt had that healthy sheen that comes from eating fresh organic eggs. I recognized the look on her face as she worked at getting free: a little frustrated, very practical, and readily accepting that she and she alone had gotten herself in that situation.

When I found her, I was just leaving the house. When I got back, she had slipped away.

Since then, we’ve watched rats come into the run at night. They don’t seem to bother the chickens. They grab a mouthful of feed and dart away. Repeatedly. So I take the feed away from the chickens at night now. I know it’s only a temporary solution and that we need to get rid of the rats. Even country rats are not good to have around.

Some year I’d like to have a run with a concrete footing and walls of quarter-inch mesh, roofed in clear panels with plenty of overhang so the run stays nice and dry even along the edges. It would be a palace for the girls, and I could leave their food out all night.

Meditation on a bead

This morning I awoke to a meditation that left me calm, strong, and grounded. I needed it. It’s been one hell of a week, in a hell of a winter.

This was the winter that Jim was diagnosed with diabetes. It’s the winter he had heart surgery, putting in two new stents. This winter we haven’t quite crashed on financial rocks, but we’ve scraped them a little and they are still so close.

It’s the year we realized the rewiring / remodeling work required a whole lot of seemingly unrelated permits. Expensive ones. (Septic review, although we aren’t changing the number of bathrooms. Critical Area review, although nothing about the exterior is changing.)

It’s been a cold La Niña winter in a stalled remodel, with no furnace. (But we have a good wood stove.)

So when Jim said on Monday that his heart was giving him trouble again, it hit me hard. (They are testing, but it looks like it was the diabetes and not the heart. They won’t be opening him up any time soon.) When I had trouble capturing a clients’ voice, it hit me hard. Everything hit me hard.

Running out of wood, with snow on the ground, just seemed to summarize the year.

The meditation:

In my mind, I pick up a garnet bead. It’s about the size of a large pea, and glows deep red. I hold it up, it transforms into a pearl, and it floats away.

Intrigued, I pick up another garnet bead. This time I notice that it flashes through different color as it transforms into a pearl. I watch it float away.

I pick up another. Something about these colors.

Another. I watch closely, slowing down the transformation. The garnet glows orange. Now yellow, transformed into a citrine bead. It folds into itself and emerges emerald. The emerald shimmers through sapphire to tanzanite, that hovers between deepest blue and deepest purple. A moment of amethyst. And a pearl, floating away from my hand.

Ah. Chakras?


Again, slowly, with focus on my chakras as the bead changes in my hand. Now it grows as it changes, until I’m holding a pearl the size of a melon. The pearl glows, and floats away. I’m calm and strong.

Today I visit my friend Judy. She’s giving me some firewood she has no use for, and we will have tea.

Purring Chickens

The wood shed is almost empty (and still so much winter to get through!), so now when I bring in wood I’m looking out on the chicken run where it backs onto the woodshed.

There are lights on in the chicken run all the time. They only need 14 hours of light a day to keep laying, but the timer is packed away somewhere. If I’m getting wood late at night, I get to watch the chickens at their evening routine. Most of them are dozing on the roosts or on the ground. A few are poking around the run, doing chicken things.

And they are purring. Just a soft cooing under their breath. It’s pure contentment. I stand there in the shelter of the woodshed, in the cold quiet night, and listen to them. I love my life.