Saturday, January 28, 2017

Oregon Bound

This was the dismal discharge information we received on Jan 3 from Cole's staging.  He's responding well to his new chemo regiment, but the clock is ticking more loudly than ever.
Life isn't about how many toys you've had, it's about the memories you've made.  We lack 5 states in the NW to complete our cross country odyssey.  Short survival time...sounds like this is our last opportunity to make more memories.
Cole has his skijoring clothes and harness.  
Ditto on the snowsuit.
Pete now has a snowsuit too.
Doesn't Garrett's derriere look darling in his?
Even have longjohns for them.
Boots too.
Pete, it turns out, is the hardest to dress.
He's a clown.
A clever one too, he can unfasten a boot faster than I can put another on.

Video of the goofball.

We're all ready:  reservations made,
we won't be camping this time.
 Snow tires get put on the car next week...
We're doing it:  Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming in February.

Life is the only game in town.  Play hard and play for keeps.


Trupanion is the name of Cole's health insurance company.  Blue Cross Blue Shield is mine.  Let's compare, shall we?
First, let's establish that I signed Cole up after his two cranial cruciate surgeries,
after the bulk of his other misshaps...
So, the first 8 grand was all on me.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has left me to the wolves twice now.  Once 8 years ago when I developed heart problems.  To cover my costs, I sold my farm, placed my horses, sold every stick of antique furniture I had... that kind of stress really helped the heart problem.  Not.
I learned a valuable lesson.  Be prepared and self-reliant.
For this last knee surgery, I dotted my i's and crossed my t's;  I requested printed estimates from the surgeon, I called my insurance multiple times to confirm coverage of MRI, surgery, rehab.  Blue Cross refused to send me anything in writing, but I felt I had assurances.  Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Guess who had to foot the $7000 surgery herself?  I'm sure I could hire an attorney and end up owing the attorney more than my returns.  Good news is:  I sold some harnesses I haven't used in years, cashed in some retirement savings, but didn't have to sell Angus, again.
Even though I've been offered 15k for him,

 he's not going anywhere.  Angus was sacrificed once for the good of the rest of us and it took me three years to get him back. Never again.
Cole's cancer treatment last year is included in +13k, 

the only caveat is the vet bill must be paid before a claim can be filed.  So 2016 was terribly stressful financially, but Trupanion always came through and reimbursed me roughly 75% of all of Cole's claims.  
I didn't have to sell my truck, my horse, my kidney... isn't that what insurance is supposed to be about?
If I can convince Trupanion that I'm a 6 year old (dog years) Canadian Spaniel, I'll drop Blue Cross Blue Shield in a heart beat.  
A large corporation and high ethical standards, not mutually exclusive, imagine that.
Last week I received $1100 reimbursement from Trupanion, it went directly into my TD Ameritrade fund and I exclusively bought TRUP stocks with it.  
They've won me over, what can I say?... 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dixie Weather

Three weekends out of five I've been hunkered down in the barn because of either potent storms or arctic weather.  Stress cracks are starting to show.  
This particular weekend has been one of the deadliest Januaries for tornado deaths:  20 dead in Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
Mother Nature had our attention from 4 AM Saturday morning to Monday morning.  

Four rounds of storms filled with lightning. I live in the Lightning Belt, Central Florida is the worst, we come third! Not a prize to covet.
 Horses are tall lightning rods that congregate in bands under trees.  Perfect recipe for losing multiple animals.  
Any animal living outside is at risk.
You could lose your whole herd in an instant.  
Fear storms.  I was hit by stray lightning when I was 13, while washing dishes, my mother next to me, the lightning came through the open window and shot me to the ground.  25 years later, Cole and I were huddled in our utility room when lightning struck my house and blew up the breaker box 5' from our faces.  When Mother nature is PMSing, get out of the way.
Added problem with horses is that only 1% survive a lightning strike.
Herding them in, then out when the weather breaks, then back in, over and over again in one weekend had us all confused.
"Am I coming, or going?"
By Monday, I had no idea either!  48 hours of living in the barn office...
...watching for lightning and tornadoes on the radar and feeding the horses  5 small meals a day, then hay snacks at night to keep them calm and busy; it took it's toll.  
Was it worth it?
Take a wild guess.  
The catch is to be on alert for tornadoes and be able to throw open all the stall doors to run the horses out beyond the building.  Then grab the dogs who already have their life preservers on (protects them from flying debris) and make a run for it ourselves.  Hence the long sieges in the barn.
Considering how unlucky many people in our community were this past weekend...

Smiths station high school.

Even closer in Crawford.  
Makes me thankful the worst we had was a runaway 16' trampoline,

and some damaged fencing.
The single irreversible consequence is that I want to move into the barn permanently.  With the sliding barn doors shut and the office door open, the barn aisle becomes our living room.  It's a blast when all 13 kids are in the house!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Cole's Bucket List

What would Cole's bucket list look like?
Anything to do with hunting, duh.
He was born at McAlister Kennels and through Cole, the McAlisters and I have built a decade long friendship.  
Cole has been my squirrel, goose, duck and rabbit hunting buddy.  He asks that we not forget the deer he helped get too.  But, quail, never.  His mom, pops, siblings... all log many hours quail hunting.  Time to check that off his list.

All aboard Monday morning for Cole's first quail hunt.  David McAlister went through the trouble of crossing the county to procure a dozen quail to put on a hunt for Cole alone.
Traditionally, the quail are placed in hiding among tall grasses.  The hunt master being the only one who knows where all the bird are set.  Then the hunter and his dog go about finding them.
Tradition flew out the window with the covey of quail from their holding box overnight. David was distraught.  I thought it was hysterical that a dozen quail were waiting for Cole and I in his front yard, huddled under a camellia bush.
A new plan was hatched: Cole would flush them out into the nearby field.
The birds had their own plans to fly higher and further than your average quail.  A dozen overachievers.  I'm glad Miss Susan wasn't home to see the shooting start in her backyard.  
Within minutes, we had a bona fide mystery on our hands:  where did they go???
Over yonder?
Over hill.
Over dale.
One by one, the quails' scent gave them away to the Great Colemiester.
He was in sensory overload mode, loving every minute of it.  Cole was finding them in the most unusual places:
He wedged his 70 lb self into 6 inches of crawlspace. 
He is my genius. His nose was right and he was relentless.
I shot one, David another, but Cole wished for us to save our ammo, by nabbing three on his own.
Unbeknownst to all of us, a bird was hiding in the garage.  I was in the loo adjoining the garage when I heard the C-bomb hit.  Cole tore the place up, knocked plants over to get his bird. I'd just finished picking up the debris field when he tore back in for the second bird hiding in the Boston fern.  Miss Susan, sorry for the wake of destruction.  If it's any consolation, he had an absolute blast.
For supper that day, we all shared in quail with mustard and white wine sauce.
Old King Cole preparing to feast.
Huge thanks to David for the adventure and it's delicious aftermath.
Memories made and cherished.

Good Ideas Better Left Alone

Everyone has horrid sweaters in the back of their closets.  What if you could repurpose them?  
What if... could make mittens out of dated, horrible knit hoodies?


I wonder what else I can carve up in my closet?
Reminds me of the time a well meaning grandmother gave her 11 year old granddaughter a fur coat to try to bring some style into her life.  What I saw was an opportunity to keep my hands from freezing when I was driving my snowmobile.
I made them so large to allow a mitted hand to fit inside.  They were the most wonderful thing for long rides.  I hear that now the modern snowmobiles have warming handlebars.  Still, I shall not relinquish my 34 year old mittens, I may need them for mushing in Alaska someday.