Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Mr. B had great fun with niece Jacqueline yesterday; pampering, spoiling, feeding...and then back over to mom and dad for diaper changing :-)
More T-Day pictures available for viewing by clicking the link under Mrs. B's "Stuff".
Mrs. B

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'd STILL Hold His Hand!

This picture, which I'd never seen before, came courtesy of a family friend. It is (l-r); my Father, me, Bobby Jr. (the family friend) and his wonderful dad, Bob Sr. We were at a work picnic/party of my Father and Bob Sr's employer at a place called Indiana Beach.
The year was 1967 and Mrs. B was about 3 1/2 years old.
I don't remember it, but, I'm absolutely in love with this picture...and the fact I'm holding my Father's hand :-)
Love ya, Father!
Mrs. B

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Diatribe on Healthcare Reform

I began a thread on Facebook the other day about the recent appalling recommendation from a government appointed panel that women don't need mammograms until age 50. This set off a fairly interesting conversation amongst serveral of my Facebook friends who have differing opinions on the whole state of health care/proposed reform, etc. As it was I who started this topic, I figured I'd weigh in a bit more on what I think. And, it IS what I think; not necessarily right or wrong or even as informed as it should be. Incidentally, I've found what everyone has posted on my Facebook page to be well thought out and each post has given me food for thought. Which is as it should be.

IMHO, I see the current health care mess as a dysfunctional three-legged stool with a sometimes wobbly seat. By dysfunctional, I mean that, at any given time, one or more of the legs are shorter than the other(s); these legs being: The Government, The Insurance Companies and (let us not forget) The Medical Practices/Health Care Systems. The seat is us consumers; who either take care of ourselves physically and emotionally (or don't); get regular check-ups (or don't); have jobs (regardless of what they pay) or have had jobs in the past or are either retired, have been laid off, have found other means of money (inheritances); whatever (or have never worked and/or contributed in any way to society).
Because I think it's usually best to provide an opinion based on in some part personal experience, here is mine (long-winded as it turned out to be).
Leg One: Insurance Companies. Like most people, I've had my run-ins with them. Most recently, when having to shop around for a new policy, I received a quote from United Health Care (Aetna wouldn't provide an individual policy in NC) for a fairly decent plan. I knew I'd be paying a higher deductible in turn for a lower monthly premium, but, so long as the plan covered preventative/well-women care before deductible, a relatively low co-pay for office visits and a prescription drug plan before deductible, I was ok with it.
I completed an on-line application and received a pretty decent initial quote. I was then required to send in three months worth of premium and wait to hear the official terms of the policy/if I'd REALLY be approved from the underwriters (that dreaded group of folks who must complete their tasks while they are chained up in hell). About two weeks before the effective date of my new policy, I had a phone call from the underwriters. They wanted to know about my prescription for Clarinex (allergy medication); how long I'd been on it, how often I took it, the dosage, etc. I answered all their questions honestly.
A week later, I received my policy in the mail. I'd been approved BUT they had placed a rider in the policy that stated the usual $100 deductible per year for brand drugs was raised to $1,200 per year (there is no deductible for generic drugs, just a $15 co-pay per prescription). It was, of course, no coincidence that Clarinex is only offered in brand form (still under patent). They, in effect, assured that they would not have to pay for the Clarinex because, surprise surprise, a one year's supply is currently about $1,200. Additionally, they raised my monthly premium about $45 per month. I called and inquired as to why. "Because you take a prescription". "Excuse me, don't MOST people, even healthy people, take prescriptions from time to time?" "Why yes, but, that's the way the policy is written". In other words, take it or leave it.
I took it, because a) my other insurance was running out in a week and I done enough shopping around to know that this was about as good as it was going to get; b) other than the prescription thing, it covered everything I wanted it to and c) I could get around them not paying for my allergy medication by switching to Allegra, which does have a generic alternative (which they are covering at $15 per prescription).
However, what if this had been a drug that I desperately needed and either there WAS no generic alternative OR, even if there was, the generic wasn't as effective? As one Facebook friend pointed out, at least I had the option to tell them to go to hell and go find someone else HAD I WANTED TO; and, yet, chances are, I'd have run into the same thing with ANY one of them. For people that are truly sick/need the coverage/have had something denied and have filed a complaint; the insurance companies can be masters at the red tape nightmare. One woman wrote in an editorial (about a battle her cancerous husband had with their insurance company over a claim) that this is one way insurance companies have gotten around the whole pre-existing condition; they don't deny it, rather, they simply keep rejecting it, asking for more input from the doctors, sending more paperwork, etc. until the person gives up (or dies, which is what happened to her husband).
In this regard, I'd love to see some regulation, but, given this recent government panel's recommendation regarding mammograms, I'm no longer so sure that the government alternative would be much better. BTW, what I think I understand about the "reform" is that it isn't as though there will not be private insurance companies that folks can utilize, it is that there will also be what equates to a government insurance company that will provide insurance for anyone and everyone who needs it. Of course, this will mean the rates for the private insurance companies will skyrocket as they loose business. One of the issues that some folks have with the potential for the government insurance company (this is just what I'm calling it) is it's not going to be cheap to cover millions of people who currently do not have insurance (a vast sum of which can't afford to pay for it) and this means either more deficit and/or higher taxes.
The other issue is the concern that certain programs will be cut in order to pay for it and the folks who administer the government insurance company will be ignorant, uniformed, inefficient, have their own share of red tape and rude (think DMV employees and shudder). There is probably also a little bit of, "Why should I have to pay for other lazy slobs to be insured?" I know I sometimes feel this way, but, my feeling is there are more people out there that deserve to be insured but have been caught up in the same stuff I was (but denied for significantly worse conditions) than there are people that are looking for handouts who won't get off their butts and get a job (this would be one set of the wobbly seat contingent).
Leg Two: The Medical Practices/Health Care Systems (hospitals, medical groups, HMOs, PPOs, specialists, labs, pharmacies, etc. etc.) In this, I'm not referring to any particular PERSON (e.g., doctor, nurse, lab technician); although some of the administrative people can be quite rude. Anyway, really, my biggest rant is for this leg. I have countless examples of how ludicrous their fee/rate schedules are, or, how they try to confuse/bully people into paying bills that they are not responsible for. It may be as simple as sending a bill (say, for the difference between what they charged for a procedure and what the insurance company will pay (which they'd agreed to; the whole "preferred provider" thing) OR calling and leaving countless messages to call patient accounting and threatening to send an account to collections (for an amount you don't even owe). Some people, a lot of people, would either assume they owed the money and pay it, or, give in to the threats (especially in this economy when a bad blip on your credit is an even worse blight than it was before).
Here is one example. I had to go to the ER five years ago; nothing serious but Mr. B figured I'd best go. He took me at 2:00 am. They did a few simple fluid tests, I talked to a PA, they gave me TWO pills; but, mostly, I laid there waiting because my situation was not life or death and it was an ER, after all.
There had been a blip in my insurance coverage right around that time as I moved from an employee policy to COBRA. It was the same insurance company, but, they inadvertently dropped me out of the system so I showed up as uninsured. As I dealt with that, I started receiving the bills from my stint in the ER. All totaled, it was something like $2,000 ($100 of that was for the two pills; $50 a pill, give me a break!) $2,000 for, basically, a lab test, a brief consult with a PA, and two pills. It took about a month for the insurance company to get their act together and coordinate with the patient accounting people; in the meantime, I received bills almost daily with threats that they'd go to collections. I called patient accounting and explained what was going on; they wanted me to pay it, the entire $2,000, anyway, and then get reimbursed by the insurance company once the insurance mess got worked out. Uh, I don't THINK so!
What the insurance company ultimately covered was around $250; the rest was written off, yours truly paid absolutely nothing (other than my monthly insurance premium, that is) and I never heard from patient accounting again.
So, a person who did not have insurance would have been stuck with a $2,000 bill. My point here is, these practices are charging the very people who cannot afford and/or have been denied insurance astronomical amounts of money for services.
Along those lines, here is another, more recent example. Mr. B had an ER stay this past June. The hospital/patient accounting somehow missed the fact he had insurance (even though he gave the receptionist his card at check-in). He was sent a huge bill for one particular service but was told if he paid it right away, there would be a 50% discount. What the heck is this? Anyway, his insurance paid about 1/4 of the total bill, the rest was written off. He is STILL getting calls from patient accounting telling him he owes the other 1/4 of the 50% discount because it wasn't paid right away! The insurance company keeps telling Mr. B that he doesn't owe it, yet, they are not bending over backwards to help out by calling patient accounting, either. Are they in co-hoots? I don't know; but, again, this type of crap can't keep going on. Mr. B will sue their pants off if they put something on our credit, but, not everyone has the fortitude and wherewithal to do something like this; to fight back.
Leg Three: The Government. OMG, haven't we ALL had issues with some branch/agency/area our government? I cited the DMV before; I truly do shudder to think about a slew of lazy, uncaring, underpaid people deciding the fate of my health (if that, in fact, is what it will be; I'm not still not sure). Or, anyones health, for that matter. In all fairness to the current administration, they didn't get us into this mess, it's been a long time coming. However, I am annoyed that the two primary parties are spending their time bickering about this and refusing to work together to come up with a plausible solution. So, the Democrats came up with some reform proposal that means higher taxes, more burden on business, higher deficit and the Republicans scream and yell and call for a holy war (that Senator from Utah, gotta love him) and yet refuse to propose something of their own. How does this make sense? So, this will be the entity, potentially, that administers this new reform; a government who won't work together? What sort of worse mess are we going to end up with?
The Wobbly Stool. Us. First off, we need to take better care of ourselves; in general, Americans are so damn unhealthy. Obviously, this is contributing to the problem; an unhealthy person likely requires more medical care, and, if they are not insured, who is paying for the cost of their care? This drives up premiums for everyone else (like the uninsured driver premium we all pay in our car insurance). Even those that are covered who routinely get sick simply because they are not taking care of themselves drives up the cost for everyone else in their rating pool. Hey, I know sometimes a person gets sick, contracts a dreadful disease and it's not their fault, but, there are too many people out there that could do something about the state of their health and they are not. That's one wobbly part. Secondly, if a person has a legitimate medical bill to pay, they should pay it, or, if they cannot, make arrangements to pay it off as they can. No more throwing up the hands and saying, "I can't afford it!"; that doesn't mean you don't OWE it! People walking away from their financial responsibilities, no matter how harsh, is NOT HELPING the situation.
I've spent the better part of an hour writing out this diatribe. And, now that I've come to a close, I have to confess; I'm not really sure what to do about it. I don't believe totally Government run health care is the way to go, however, something has to change in order to keep the insurance companies and the medical providers from continuing to make profits at the expense of consumers bank accounts and lives.
And, consumers need to be more accountable for their health and finances.
So, I'll close with an all-American thing to do; blame our government parties for squabbling about this (and also the government in general); insurance companies and medical providers for not figuring this damn problem out. Hell, if THEY can't, who can? I dunno, perhaps all my super smart Facebook friends who, although are not in agreement, have been making the most sense I've heard about the issue so far!

Mrs. B

Friday, November 13, 2009

We Interrupt This Life Of Leisure For A Foray Back Into The Real World!

Here is the next chapter in the saga of the company I've been doing some consulting work for since August '08.
I knew my former co-worker and pal wasn't terribly happy in his HR position. You might recall "management" was bringing in an outside consultant to evaluate the department. I declined to attend and was later contacted by the consultant (interestingly enough, someone who I'd reviewed an offer package on for THE top HR job there but that never came to pass) so he could tell me he didn't need to talk to me. Uh, ok; didn't INTEND to talk to you, matey!
Anyway, life went on, bringing dribs and drabs of offers and various questions from that neck of the woods.
Then, this past Monday, I received an email from the 2nd in command HR person informing me that my pal had moved on to sales and marketing and she needed quite a bit of help putting together generic job descriptions and perhaps some other generalist work, such as writing policies.
Ok, in all honesty, these are probably two HR tasks that I loathe more than anything else (although easy enough for me to perform as I do seem to have the gift of the pen); the only worse thing, IMO, would be if she'd told me she wanted me to write an AAP; ugh (or, perhaps, lay people off. Never fun for anyone involved).
She sent me a grid of JDs to write; generic JDs (not geriatric); meaning, very, very general; nothing specific to a particular job. In addition to rank and file, there are a lot of executive JDs they need (which will be even MORE generic, since, last I looked, most companies don't have job descriptions per se for their executives). And, man, talk about the levels. Japanese companies are supposed to be lean? Not this puppy. In one management grade alone, here are the positions: Division Director. Director. Senior Director. Assistant Vice President. Vice President. Senior Vice President. Crikey!
But, hey, yours truly is not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. If they are willing to pay me my hourly rate to perform tasks that a very junior level HR person in another company (like the one I used to work for) could easily do, that's their business.
Gotta get the old thesaurus out, of course, to find ump-teen other ways to say "responsible for" or "proactively" or "is required".
What all this means, of course, is I'm not living the life of Riley right now. I'm actually WORKING quite a few hours every day. This means little time for blogging, Facebook, chipping away at my projects, etc.
So, there you have it. This is what's been keeping me from y'all.
Until this particular gravy train leaves the station, that is.
BTW, The idiom "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" never made much sense to me, or at least I didn't try overly hard to figure it out. Since I keep saying it, I figured I'd ponder it.
Before I look it up, this is what I THINK it means:
"If someone, for absolutely no reason, gives you a gift of a horse, don't open its mouth to check how old it is, how healthy, or if it has rotten teeth, just be thankful you now have a horse. In other words, don't either make too much or too little about it".
...from Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms (left-over resource from my brief foray into teaching English)
"To criticize or refuse to take something that has been offered to you".
Origin: "Based on the idea that you can discover a lot about a horse's condition by looking at its teeth".
I guess I picked up something from that foray, as well!
Mrs. B

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eating and Drinking Our Way Around "The World" at Epcot

For those of you who have never been to Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival, let me explain!
The part of Epcot known as The World Showcase becomes this fantastic festival from (roughly) the end of September through the middle of November. In addition to the countries that a permanent part of the showcase (Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, USA (to name a few), additional kiosks are put up in (relatively correct) geographic arrangements around the showcase. Each represented country provides tapas-size portions of food and desserts, as well as beer, wine, and/or a signature cocktail. Non-alcoholic drinks are often provided as well (such as iced mint tea or smoothies). The cost of each item ranges from $3 or so up to as much as $10 (France being the most expensive country; are we surprised?) In addition to the special kiosks, the regular countries have their standard food/beverages available as well (such as Mexican food in Mexico, margaritas, Dos Equis, etc.)
So, the idea is to wander around the world and taste different foods, wines, etc. that you might not otherwise ever get the chance to try. Or, get your all-times favorites, it really doesn't matter so long as you have fun doing it!
In addition to the food, there are usually wine and beer tastings, free samples of some countries speciality import (this year Italy had an olive oil tasting), seminars on a variety of culinary topics, live music, shows, shops to browse in, restaurants (including a world class sushi bar in Japan) and good old fashioned people watching. For a (substantial) extra fee, one can make an RSVP to attend a Wine Maker Dinner; wines of note paired with meals prepared in real time by such famous chefs as Bobby Flay.
Following is a summary of most of what we ate/drank/did while at the festival this year. Keep in mind we went four days, so, we didn't do it all in one day! Also, it is 1.3 miles around the world; we went at least twice, if not three times, every day we were there. It took us about 2 hours per trip (a bit less when it was just the two of us).
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Beef Empanada with Tomato Salsa
Mexico City, Mexico
Corn Tortilla Filled with Shredded Pork and Purple Onions
Corn Tortilla with Chipotle Chicken
Quesadilla con Chorizo
Dos Equis Beer
Fiesta Margarita (as in, I had one of these each day, first thing!)
Barcelona, Spain
Taste of Spain -- Serrano Ham, Chorizo, Manchego, Olives
Shanghai, China
Grilled Chicken with Cumin and Traditional Northwestern Chicken Spices
Ginger Mango Rita (with vodka and rum)
Cape Town, South Africa
Mealie Soup with Crabmeat and Chili Oil
Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree and Mango BBQ Sauce
Bangkok, Thailand
Singha Beer
Munich, Germany
Nuernberger Sausage on a Pretzel Roll
Beck's Oktoberfest
Bologna, Italy
Chianti Placido
Vienna, Austria
Paprika Beef Stew with Bacon Dumpling
Hops and Barley (US)
Boston-style Crab Cake with Cabbage Slaw and Remoulade
New England Lobster Roll
Sam Adams Beer Tasting and LOTS of Sam Adams, in general
New Orleans, USA
Spicy Cajun Crawfish and Vegetable Stew
Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
Abita Amber Beer
Tokyo, Japan
Kirin Beer
Marrakesh, Morocco
Beef Kefta Pita Pocket
Tangerine Mimosa Royale
Paris, France
Kir Royale
Grand Marnier Orange Slushy
BEER BEER BEER (e.g., Strongbow, Boddington's)
Cork, Ireland
Lobster and Scallop Fisherman's Pie (Mr. B says this was the best thing he had the entire time)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bacardi Frozen Mojito
I wish we could go back RIGHT NOW!
Mrs. B

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Florida Vacation Summary

Wow, it was three weeks ago today (already) that we left for our wonderful vacation! Time sure flies. Although it's nice to be home (sure missed our pets), at times, I really wish we were back wondering around Epcot!
Here is a summary of our trip; I'll blog later about what we ate (and drank) at the festival.
17 October 2009
We left home at 6:11 am; just a few minutes late! All cats were accounted for before we went out the door (just in case one decided to try and sneak into the car and go with us!) Four were watching us as we left; Pete (for whatever reason) was hiding underneath our bed. We're on the road now as I write this (obviously I am not driving); near Lumberton. Crazy-ass drivers abound as usual. We're glad to be going on vacation!
19 October 2009
Although it was a long drive, it was an uneventful one to Ocala. We had a very pleasant evening with Mom and Dad B.
Poor Mark is not feeling the best (allergies/sinuses) so we got him some medicine and he took a nap before we left Ocala for Orlando while I had a nice chat with Mom B. We left Ocala around 2:45 yesterday with me driving as Mark was still on sleepy pills.
The resort is quite nice. I always worry that we'll get some shitty room or that we'll get hassled about attending a timeshare presentation but we didn't get any hassle and our villa is just fine. It's a bit removed from the "main" area, but, actually, this is okay with us as it is very quiet. It's laid out nicely; the guest bedroom/bath near the entrance/kitchen; good-sized dining room area/family room and a great master suite with a huge spa tub and its own lanai. The guest bedroom has a lanai (smaller) as well. Too bad we are not allowed to smoke our cigars out there but Marriott has a 100% smoke free policy (I was told smoking was only allowed in the parking lot!)

We went to Publix (love that store) and got stuff for dinner (tons of other timeshare/resort guests doing the same thing). We had hamburgers and asparagus, then, played cards, got into the tub, etc.
Peri and Michael arrive late tonight; probably after 10. Mark and I plan on going to Animal Kingdom and maybe Epcot today; also, we need to find an ABC store.
So far, so good!
We did go to Animal Kingdom where there are a few fun rides. I really liked the Mt. Everest ride (not its actual name, can't remember now what it's called). Quite a surprise "ending", though, so I won't spoil it for anyone who has not been on it yet!
We went over to one of the resort outdoor bar/grill joints for a late lunch, then, took a nap so we wouldn't be zonked when Peri and Michael arrived. Good thing, since they didn't get here until after 11 (they got lost; not hard to do in this area at night).
Regardless, we stayed up LATE (to 1 or so) catching up!
We went to Epcot for the majority of the day and thoroughly enjoyed the IF&WF. They've made some improvements to the process since we were last there in 2006, namely, the pre-paid cards you can purchase (to make the procedure at each kiosk at bit easier) are now on these little bracelet/wrist bands. Towards the end of the evening, we took the Monorail over to Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, they were having one of those silly Halloween parties so we were only able to stay for about an hour before we got kicked out. We went on a few rides in Fantasy Land (AKA Stroller Hell Land). After we left the parks, we went back over to Publix to get items for an impromptu dinner. Mark thought he was getting a box of chicken wings but, when we got back to the villa, he realized he had an WHOLE rotisserie chicken! After eating, we played Who Knew (Woo Nu), which was a riot! Discovered Michael likes bats, ha ha ha.
After trying to find an adapter cord for Peri's "sleep" machine (a fruitless endeavor), we went back to Magic Kingdom for several hours. Now, here is a weird freaky thing. We took the Monorail over from Epcot. In the car with us was this woman, who was by herself and looked quite grouchy. She kept giving us the stink-eye (maybe because we were all together and probably looked like we were having a lot of fun because we were). Anyway, after going on several rides (including Splash Mountain, where we got soaked), we took the Monorail back to to Epcot. When we got off and were walking down the ramp from the station, I turned around and saw that same grouchy woman walking behind us! What are the odds? Creepy.
Anyway, we once again enjoyed wandering around the festival. It takes us about 2 hours (or so) to get around the world showcase. We made it around twice before we called it quits and went back to the resort where the rest of us decided to hang out and smoke a few cigars with Peri while she smoked . There is a raccoon hanging about the resort; quite unafraid, too.

Peri and I hung out by the pool while Mark and Michael went grocery shopping. It wasn't exactly the nicest weather (it rained) but we did get a few foo-foo drinks in. Later, Michael stayed in the villa making dessert; Mark came out for a beer.
Margot came at 3:30 and we enjoyed a great pot roast dinner + Michael's pie (quite rich). We stayed up WAY TOO LATE talking but it was worth it.
After a yummy breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits (courtesy of Mr. B), we said good-bye to Maargot and hit Disney Hollywood Studios today. Michael and I braved Tower of Terror (loved it). We only went on a few other rides, including a roller coaster in the dark based on Aerosmith music (you have to see it to believe it).

Then, back over to Epcot for several glorious hours! Some lady with a stroller almost ran over Mark.
Peri and Michael leave tomorrow; we'll go over to Epcot one last time Saturday and then head back to Ocala Sunday for the afternoon/evening before our long drive home Monday.
25 October 2009
We had a real nice time at Epcot yesterday although it was REALLY crowded and HOT.
We left the resort around 9:30 am today for Ocala. Again, we had a nice visit with Mom and Dad B, including sitting outside by the pool for several hours in the pleasant fall Florida sunshine!
We decided going to the IF&WF at Epcot every three years is about right!
Trip Pros
-Visiting with Mom and Dad B and Margot
-The resort/villa
-Having Peri and Michael with us
-The International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot
-Playing games
Trip Cons
-The pillows were awful (this is always one of my cons!)
-Surly maids
-Strollers/rude people at Disney World
-Expensive liquor store near Publix
Mrs. B

Friday, November 6, 2009

But They're SNAILS!

Here is a video of Michael eating Escargot at Epcot a few weeks ago. Friend Peri shot it; a slightly tipsy Peri, I might add! Her commentary is hysterical. The B's make a cameo appearance, too.
Mrs. B

Thursday, November 5, 2009


I am a bit remiss on posting this entry!
We ended up going over to brother Jon's Saturday to go trick or treating with them, the girls and my mom and dad (followed by adult conversation, beverages, and dinner). I can't remember the last time I went out trick or treating; I'm pretty sure it may have been when I used to take my brothers out years and years ago in Tierrasanta.
Anyway, Shannon made the girls' costumes. Sophie was an angel (complete with halo and harp) and Jacqueline was a devil (with a pitch fork that she did not like and a cute little devil's tail). No, it is not really indicative of their personalities (their mom and dad assuring everyone who asked along the route of this!)
Sophie got into the gig pretty quickly; she figured out that people were giving her something good, even though she wasn't sure what (having no concept of what candy is) or that she wouldn't be eating any of it (that task going to her mom and dad).

After the first house, she somehow dropped her candy bar and realized it; starting to fret until Uncle Mark went back and found it.
She was quite possessive of her little pail.
Jacqueline, on the other hand, was not really thrilled with what was going on. She was definitely not impressed with Grammy's witch costume
and was entirely freaked out by Grandpa (no one knows, incidentally, what, exactly, he was supposed to be!)

BTW, I DID attempt to wear something of a costume; I had a shirt I bought that said "Trick or Treat" and I found a deeply discounted long wig and a kitty mask at Kroger. However, the long wig got tangled up plus the cats were following me around trying to climb up the hair and the kitty mask mashed my eyelashes so forget that.
Mr. B said he should have brought his 10-key so that he could have been a CPA. How original!
Mrs. B

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Path to Five Cats Part Three: The Routine and The Naming

In all honesty, it was not all that hard fostering the Greek Gang, especially once I got into some sort of routine.
I expected (and received) quite a bit of hostility from them initially. Seriously, who could blame them? They had been pulled from a storm drain (IBM at RTP) at around 7 weeks; one week shy of officially being feral. Frankly, it's near impossible to tell, exactly, HOW old a stray animal is (case in point; we were told by APS when we got Lucy 1.2.07 that she was 2-3 years old; our vet said she was definitely no older than 18 months).
Anyway, Dan (another Hobbes House foster person), who works at IBM, saw them one day when leaving work; their mother was also there. Because he keeps traps in his car (a very dedicated soul), he was able to get four of the five plus mama trapped. One of the grey ones was left alone for a few days until he could get back over there and trap it (I am fairly convinced now that this was Ares).
Mama was fixed, given shots, and sent back out into the wild (way too feral to socialize/adopt out). This left the Greeks, who ended up housed with Christy, locked in a bathroom with no windows. Now, in fairness to Christy, this was only because she already had several other foster litters scattered about her house (included three bottle feeders who were hanging out in the garden tub in their master bathroom (being too small to get out; this was a perfect "cage" for them!)) So, no wonder she was looking for someone to take same of these kittens off her hands (I had told her NO WAY would I foster babies/bottle feeders).
Ok, so, The Greeks were pissed off when they arrived. At least, though, they had this nice bedroom to stay in, two windows to look out of, and a huge bed to hide under when mean new foster mom came in to try and play with them.
I found right away that, as scared as they were, they came out almost immediately to eat and use the litter box (good signs); so long as I wasn't in the room, that is. They arrived on a Thursday; it wasn't until Saturday morning that I was able to lure some of them out from under the bed to play with a wand toy (ONLY if I was sitting on the floor; the moment I moved, they all ran for cover).
The initial daily routine was something like this: Go into the room in the morning, give them fresh water, fill up their dry food bowl and scoop out their litter box (they initially had an open box; I changed this to a big closed box once they were big enough to climb in and out of it).
An hour or so later, I'd go into their room and we'd "play" (which typically consisted of me sitting on the floor with the newspaper and waiting for one or more of them to get curious enough to come over and check me out; then, I'd get the toys out and most of them would scamper about having great fun). It was during these first few morning play sessions where I realized one of the grey males (almost impossible to tell apart from his grey brother) was definitely the bravest and friendliest and that the others tended to hide behind him. I decided he'd be Zeus, the leader.

I also had to pay particular attention to the non-grey male (AKA Shy Boy) since he was the one Christy was the most concerned about regarding socialization. And, rightfully so. He'd come out from under the bed and hang out on the edge of the action, maybe even venturing close enough for me to lightly touch a paw or something, but, the MOMENT I moved, he'd be under the bed.
Zeus and the other grey male had no trouble running over to get attention; the two girls also seemed ok with it (but one was certainly more friendly than the other).
The Greeks would settle down for a long nap around 10 or 11; I'd leave them alone until mid-afternoon when I'd go up there with turkey lunch meat, which they'd all pounce on (it didn't take them overly long to come out from under the bed, even if I was standing there, so long as I had either lunch meat or wet food).
Early evenings meant wet food, followed by another play session, this time with Mr. B usually with me. I'd scoop the litter box again (a necessity with five kittens and one cat box) while Mr. B would keep them entertained. After a few nights, we began to let Pete and Lily in (who alternated between hissing at and playing with the kittens).
After several days, I'd pretty much settled on naming the female kitten with the beady eyes/sort of suspicious attitude Hera (if you know anything about Greek Mythology, this will make perfect sense to you)

which meant the other girl would be Athena.
This left the naming of the other grey male and the shy male. I considered naming the shy one Ares; hoping that perhaps giving him this fierce war god name might help him become less fearful. In fact, I sort of referred to him as Ares for a day or so, if only in my mind. But, the real Ares claimed his name one night while I attempted to pick him up and hold him. He brought up one of his rear feet, clawed at me with it, clawed at me with his front paws and promptly bit me. No doubt, he was Ares (and Ares STILL brings that back foot up when he's being held and he doesn't like it (about 99% of the time)) and he's just as liable to attack your hand as you are petting him as to accept it.

This left the name Apollo for the shy male, and, given that he has golden highlights in his fur, this, too, turned out to be highly appropriate to name him after the sun god.
Alas, Apollo remained quite shy and was near impossible to corral on the afternoons the Greeks were let out of their room to explore. After one particularly traumatic experience where he got wedged into the mechanisms of the elliptical machine, I called Christy to discuss his progress. We both decided it would be a good idea to isolate him for several days so that he would, hopefully, stop relying on his siblings to interact with the humans.
So, Apollo went into the bathroom and he did, in fact, become much friendlier. He allowed himself to be petted, picked up, held, cuddled, etc., SO LONG AS HE WAS IN THE BATHROOM. He also didn't mind hanging out with Lucy (who I'd bring in from time to time to keep him company).
After a few days of this, we made the executive decision to bring him back out. He promptly started running away from us/hiding under the bed again. So, back in he went. Repeat. Over the first month we had the Greeks, we ended up putting Hera in there once or twice as well as we realized she, too, was tending to run and hide.
By the end of the third week, we'd pretty much decided to just let them run free (although we did maintain the litter box/food station in the guest bedroom). This was certainly easier on me and it afforded them the opportunity to a) get used to other pets b) learn to behave in a house (not scratch, continue to use the litter box), c) get used to household noises/activities and d) become accustom to seeing people around going about their business. It also meant I no longer had to worry about little kitty torpedos rushing the baby gate every time I opened their bedroom door!
However, it also meant a big hassle on Thon days trying to get them into the cat carrier to take them to the show!
Mrs. B

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Recent Pet Pictures

Real recent; yesterday, in fact. I'm trying to put together our 2009 Holiday Card/Picture. So, I needed some decent recents!
What do you think?
Mrs. B