Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A Word About "New School" Veterinarians

It was my birthday this last week, which meant I received a years' worth of texts, phone calls and messages from friends and family. In a way, it puts me to shame, because I'm the worst person for remembering others' birthdays, but my tribe is a forgiving sort, and so year after year they continue to remember me and my day anyway. 

But with one of my friends, our birthday conversation turned to our animals and the veterinary care they receive. I stated that after our current dog and cat pass away, we're going to take a break from domestic pets for awhile, in no small part due to troubles we've had with veterinarians "over-serving" us. It's a "New School" approach to treatment.

She concurred, and told me she and her husband have decided the same thing. They recently took their terminally ill dog into the emergency vet's office on a Sunday afternoon to get the dog some pain killers, since he had awoken that morning in great discomfort. Instead of just dispensing the meds, the emergency vet basically ran every test the original vet had to confirm the diagnosis (at a cost of nearly $1,000) before agreeing to dispense the pain meds. Yes, even though the tests had already been run and a diagnosis of a terminal liver tumor had been confirmed, the emergency vet insisted he had to run all his own tests before agreeing to provide pain medication to the dog, who was clearly old and suffering.

Here's an example another friend of mine recently experienced: She has a cat that appeared to have a bladder infection -- urinating constantly, seemingly in discomfort. I happen to know her Old School vet personally, and worked for him for a time. I know for a fact he would have seen the cat, done a general physical exam and then sent Kitty home with some antibiotics, telling  my friend that if the cat was not improved in three days to return for more testing. And with 98 percent cats, the antibiotics would do the trick.

Unfortunately, my friend saw a New School Vet. New School Vet saw Kitty and ordered up a complete blood panel, a urinalysis, a kidney ultrasound and an overnight at the animal hospital before diagnosing a bladder infection and, you guessed it, sending Kitty home with  the same antibiotics Old School Vet would have given her. 

Old School Vet's treatment plan would have cost about $65. New School Vet's protocol cost about $1,000. My friend is a senior citizen on a fixed income, and this devastated her financially for the month. Yet both scenarios ($65 versus $1,000) end with the same result -- Kitty going home with antibiotics and getting better.

The problem is that New School Vets take advantage of us by 1) blocking the way to treatment by demanding extensive testing, and 2) preying on the responsibility we feel towards our household pets. And honestly, it's gotten to a point where I no longer feel comfortable having a pet in a vulnerable state where both of us can be taken advantage of. 

So while we'll continue to keep chickens and other small livestock, we'll probably be taking a pass on any animal that may someday require a trip to the small-animal vet. Because you just never know anymore if you're going to get Old School or New School, and while I appreciate that both probably think they are doing the best for their four-footed patients, New School Vets leave me feeling victimized at a time when both me and my best animal friend are in distress -- a time when our only option is to trust the doctor we see. And with Old School Vets hitting their senior years themselves and retiring, we're going to see more and more New School Vets on the scene. 

Not a good scenario for either ourselves or the house pets we love.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

If it's been flipped you must (not) acquit

So here we are in the middle of an Oregon summer, on a seemingly endless house hunt. As of this writing, we are still in our rental, which has become very comfortable, homey and livable...especially considering we do not pay any utilities, and have been watering the grass furiously (no shortage of water here) and setting the thermostat at 75 degrees through some warm (90 degree) days.

But we'd like to find a real home; a place we can list as our permanent address, where we expect to be for years to come. But despite looking at quite a few houses, it just hasn't happened yet.

Part of the problem is that we're still learning our way around the region. Every time we go to an Open House or to see a house with our realtor, we discover a new neighborhood. Doing this has allowed us to narrow down our search, which has been great. But it's also been a little like going on 20 first dates. It's enlightening finding the neighborhoods, but sometimes a little depressing when it comes to the homes themselves.

Yes, the homes. Let me tell you.

One place we toured, built in the 1940s, was glorious...original plaster walls, huge garden, but updated with central air conditioning, heating AND solar. The fly in the ointment was the teeny-tiny one car garage, which MIGHT hold a mini-cooper if you had nothing else in there. Big Ag's comment: "Cars were big in the 1940's. I don't get it." While I've read KonMari's Tidying Up book just like everyone else, I still refuse to get rid of my Christmas decorations and patio decor, so garage space is mandatory, especially when you figure most of the patio furniture will get stored once the rains come. (Actually KonMari lost me when she wrote how she'd gotten rid of her tools and now used a frying pan to hammer nails into the wall, instead of just keeping her hammer. We clearly live in different universes.)

Hello, Garage. Might there be a house hiding somewhere behind you?
 Another place we saw was a home on a nice piece of land at the right price point, but was the victim of a terrible remodel, where the garage was extended forward and forward until it completely eclipsed the front of the house. And the new kitchen was placed so that as you walked through the front entry, you basically walked into the enter of it all. Considering the state of my kitchen most days, that's not the way I want to greet guests.

And then there are the many, many bad flips we've seen, all done in the Chip-and-Joanna style of Everything Gray, white subway tile in the kitchen/gray quartz counters, and taking out the shower and soaking tub in the master to put in one GIANT open shower. Oh, and the vinyl wood-look flooring, which is not too bad except when it's gray, like the walls, counters and tile often are. Truly, we've seen about 10 homes like this and want to shake the flippers and take away their HGTV-watching privileges. Don't they realize that buyers know these things are a trend, same as "open concept" once was, and that like most trends, not everyone is interested in them, long-term?

A flipping awful kitchen, with repainted old cabinets, subway tile and gray granite. Because Chip and JoAnna said so.

No tub for you. Gray shower for you.

And so there you have it...our new hobby, house-hunting. If we don't find anything in the next six weeks or so, we may be in this house until spring, when the market picks back up. Of course I can find lots and lots of houses I'd love about 200K above our price point, but isn't that always the way? Maybe I'd better start playing the Mega Millions lotto. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


This is what "unclenched" feels like.

About six months ago I was talking to a friend about anxiety -- something we've both experienced on a chronic basis at different times in our lives -- and she described it as "clenching." As in she'd wake up and think of some task that needed accomplishing in her classroom that day and get a tightened-up feeling in her solar plexus that would radiate throughout her body and create a "fight or flight" reaction.

She was clenched. Clenched over bulletin boards and history papers. Like a fist, ready to strike out and get done what needed to get done. I've been clenched at various times in my life, for things both greater and less than those things. 

Those times in my life include, for some reason, the last few years or so, where I felt that way most of the time. Clenched describes it perfectly.

But not anymore. I noticed the other day I am definitely un-clenched. For some reason, I've relaxed, which I only realize when I compare myself to where I was before I came here. 

Our locations, to some extent, define us. And even if we hold ourselves apart from those places, they still rub off on us. We breathe them in, we bump up against them in the market, and we drive along their roads. We pay our taxes to them. It's as if we are water and our location is the rocks around us that we flow in response to. Whether we like it or not, our location shapes us and defines our boundaries.

Rocks that define us (in this case Proposal Rock)

These days, I'm honestly no longer bothered by the little voices that used to chide me always to do more, to be more, to drive faster, work faster, and keep up, keep up, keep up. Make no mistake, although people talk about how "laid back" California is, that's probably the greatest myth about my home state. Californians live hard, drive hard but, to their credit (or detriment, depending on your personal philosophy), they play even harder. Which is why the wine country regions of the state are such a rousing success. Work hard, play harder. 

And I think living in what became one of the "play harder" places in the state just did not agree with me. Hence, a very primal kind of clenching began, which was nothing more than a soul trying to tell its person that they both needed to be someplace else, not soon but rather, yesterday.

And while it's hard to see things that could be in places you are not, pondering/exploring those futures is something worth thinking about if you're less than totally happy where you are now. For years I thought my anxiety was purely biological, or a product of upbringing, or of age. But it turns out a good part of it was where I was living. Not only did I need to slow down, I needed to live in a place which gave me permission to do so. I also needed to live in a place with a more gentle climate in summer. Because most of us are, as it turns out, defined by our location. 
Chickens are clenched, but I think they like being that way.

At this point I'm not sure what this area is all about, but everyone doing their own thing and giving others space, respect, and kindness seems to be high on the list. For me, this made it OK to finally relax and draw inward a little bit more without feeling like I'm either missing out on something or slacking off. 

And so, from an unclenched place, I wish you a good mid- summer.

Neskowin Wildlife preserve is extremely unclenched. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Summer notes

So western Oregon is in that transition between spring and summer right now. Temps are mostly mild, and we've had a few little rain showers here and there that have helped keep things green.
This was taken at 3:45 am the other morning. Short nights here!
One thing we're having a hard time adjusting to is the length of the night. This part of Oregon sits at about 44 degrees north latitude, like parts of Minnesota, which means our nights are short this time of year. Sunset/rise seem to be at fairly normal times (9 pm and 5:30 am, respectively) but there is a lingering twilight/dawn that lasts a few hours on either end that has made sleeping eight hours a challenge. At the same time, getting up to close a window at 4 am gives a peak at the beginnings of a two-hour sunrise, which is very cool.

But you want to hear something else cool? The latitude of the Willamette Valley also sits on a parallel with Provence, France. So those tall pine trees and fields of tall grass Van Gogh painted also appear in our landscape. Vincent would feel right at home here. 

The girls are finally out of their enclosure and free-ranging for part of the day, which lifts my heart and probably also the nutritional content of the eggs they lay, so that's good.

Just don't crap on the chaise lounge.

I am kind of surprised how much my mood has changed since living here. It seems I'm just consistently in a mellow, congenial kind of attitude, with almost no angst at all. I've realized that's because through most of my adult life I've always hated summer; hated when it started early and stole from spring, hated when it was in its triple digit height from about July through mid-October, and especially hated when it wiped out autumn entirely. That's a lot of hatred and, hence, the angst. 

And the  brush fire danger has gone away, too. I recently took down the three-part list I had posted on the fridge with what to gather up in a wildfire evacuation if you have 5/30/120 minutes to pack. There will be wildfires in Oregon this summer, to be sure, but probably not where we live. 

A Van Gogh kind of summer
Back before we moved here I used to wonder what I'd miss about California, and the answer is nothing...except the people we left. Luckily we've had no less than four friends come to see us since we moved, and more are on the way. Some are just visiting, and others are looking at possible relocations themselves. Either way, it's nice to see familiar faces in new places!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

About a Pine

Small damaged things...

So as I think I've written before, once our move to Oregon was a definite thing, I dug up the Scotch Pine I'd bought as a seedling from a friend's son (part of a Boy Scout Christmas fundraiser) a few years ago. 

Back when I received it, I tended to the pine in its tiny plastic pot until it was ready to go into the ground, and then I planted it in our backyard in Paso Robles. But after a year of typical brutal sun and wind, one side of the tree was completely scorched, to a point where I thought it might die. And since pines don't like alkaline water and our well water was high in alkalinity, even the manual watering I provided was just not to its taste. Literally. 

But I refused to give up on it. I have great sympathy - maybe too much -- for anything that is originally planted in the wrong place, because that is the story of my life. Born in the middle of the city, should have been in the country. I spent most of my childhood acutely aware that somehow, I'd been mailed to the wrong address, and yet I still stayed for 30 years or so before finally getting the guts to jailbreak myself out and into a small country town in Central California, which was better, but still not the four-seasons climate I always felt I belonged in.  

...become big and beautiful in the right places

So when I noticed the pine tree was failing, of course I decided to dig it up and put it into a temporary container and bring it along with us to the Pacific Northwest.

It is no easy task bringing plants along when you're moving 14 hours north. They take up a lot of space that could be used for other possessions and by nature, potted plants are not always stable when riding in the back of a car or truck.  But when Big Ag brought a bunch of things north a couple of months before we moved, I made him put the pine tree in the back seat of the truck and told him to find a shady spot for it someplace around the property we were going to be living on. Which, God bless him, he did. 

It sat here in Oregon for two months, with no water other than what the rain provided. But lo and behold, when I finally got up here, it looked better than it had during its entire time in Paso Robles. Lots of new needles, and the burned side (above) at least appeared to not be getting any worse. 

Sometimes the circumstances don't need to be perfect for us to leave and go to a new place; we just need to gather our courage, and go. As Goethe once said, "whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."

And sometimes there is even more than one right place!

Since it's been growing each day since it's been here, today I transplanted the Scotch Pine into a new, larger container, which will hold it nicely until we find a home we like and can plant it on the property somewhere. The scorched needles have dropped, and slowly new growth is appearing all over the tree. So it is when you end up in the right place. Old wounds from being in the wrong place begin to heal, and you begin the process of growth again. 

But it's the beginning it that's the key to everything, I think. Dreams were not meant to stay dreams forever; that's not what we were given the dreams for. And that's true whether you're a little Christmas pine tree longing for the cloud forest or a human being longing for a new home.

Begin it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

House-hunting, painting, hiking kind of week

So it's about right now -- a little over a month since we made the move -- that I finally feel like I'm getting my bearings here. My days consist of mainly painting, but when I'm not up on a ladder with a brush and roller, I'm driving around, learning the routes to new places I need to become familiar with, like shopping centers.

We are actively looking for a house, against the advice of one good friend, who said we needed to wait at least a year before deciding on a place to live. As as abstract rule, I understand how that could be a good thing. You get to see each area in four different seasons and you can really learn the ins and outs of individual neighborhoods. The cons to that are that 1) you'll never really learn the ins and outs of the neighborhoods until you actually live in one, and 2) for us, it would mean staying in a less-than desirable rental until that time.

The shortcomings of the rental are numerous. The house itself is a neglected manufactured house which was actually left open to the elements, with a sizable hole in the roof, for over a year. Even if that were not the case, it is now 15 years old, and most manufactured homes begin to decline after about 20 years, usually becoming worth far less than the land they are on. This house will be no different. It's sad because it has several really nice features I like -- soaking tub, plenty of room, double oven and huge walk-in pantry -- but we suspect the mold has set in due to its time when the roof was open, and therefore it's not a good long-term option for us.

But while we're here, we're committed to making it as livable as possible. When Big Ag said he found the riotous paint colors depressing, I set about painting in some soothing neutrals to make it less soul-suckingly ugly, especially since the company that owns the house agreed to pay for paint and any other repairs we wanted to make. So here are some before and after photos, along with a few shots I took on a day hike along the Lukiamute River natural preserve last weekend.

I liked the gray, but the paint had a lot of dents and scuffs where white showed through, with no way to match the color to repair. (And Big Ag hated it.) 

This probably made the biggest difference. That kitchen was just SO dark.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Spring in the forest

Last weekend Big Ag and I went to the Peavy Arboretum in Corvallis, which is not so much a flower arboretum as a forest arboretum for students majoring in Forestry Studies at OSU. But as with most forests, there is much plant and insect life under the pine canopy, and plenty of beautiful mini-meadows in the spaces between. One thing I love about Oregon is the abundant hiking trails, and this place was no different. We could have wandered for days through this preserve. Where we lived before you had to travel a good 40 minutes to get to the good hiking trails near the beach, here there is great hiking 10 minutes down the road. Hopefully this will be an incentive to stay in shape! 

Telephone pole pastoral.

The garter snakes in Oregon are orange and black. My Giants fan husband was thrilled.

Experimental forest

Sunbreak in the meadow

A land slug the size of my hand!