Health updates

I’m three weeks post-op and feeling pretty good! I still get tired more easily and require extra sleep, but being off work means I can take naps whenever I feel the need.

I have three weeks left on my short term disability leave and am trying not to think about work. Mostly my thinking is about how to find more satisfaction with my work and not about actual projects or business relationships. For now I let the thoughts float by, but don’t try to turn them into anything.

At my two-week check in with the surgeon advised that I could start slowly adding higher fiber foods into my diet. So far I’ve been careful not to add anything with small seeds, nuts, and cabbage-y foods. But eating whole apples and whole grain products (a little whole grain pasta and some whole grain bread) is so satisfying!

Due to the pre-op prep and post-op dietary restrictions I was off all alcohol for more than two weeks. Once I started adding alcohol back in — a drink with dinner most nights — I observed issues with my sleep patterns. The nights where I’ve had beer seem to go OK, but white wine, red wine, and hard liquor lead to me waking up and having trouble going back to sleep. Considering I live in wine country, it’s kind of disappointing that my tolerance for that beverage is not that good. I think I need to just stick to drinking herbal tea most evenings and enjoying a beer maybe once or twice a week.

In two weeks I get to visit the dentist and have two small cavities filled. To me this is a *big deal* since I haven’t had a cavity in more than 40 years. Yes, I have had no cavities since my adult teeth emerged! These two little cavities are in my molars, and the dentist said they likely happened due to me clenching and grinding my teeth at night.

At around 30 I had to start using a mouth guard every night due to pain in my jaws caused by clenching/grinding. I stopped using the mouth guard when I had orthodontia a few years ago and was just using my retainers at night. Since I had no jaw pain I thought perhaps my issues were cleared up. Apparently not. I’ve caused small cracks through a molar on each side of my lower jaw, and that’s where these little cavities have formed. Now I’m back to wearing a mouth guard and will have to deal with fillings for the first time in a very, very long time. Ugh.

At least my bad eye seems to be doing OK lately. My pressure has been stable for months, which means I can keep putting surgery off. I’m also getting used to relying more on my left eye for reading and fine work. Adjusting to not using my right eye for those things was really tough and caused a lot of discomfort and fatigue. I think I move my head a lot when reading now, but maybe that’s just me being self-conscious.

I’ll have a field of vision test next week to check whether I’ve had any more loss of peripheral vision in that eye, and I’m not due to see the glaucoma specialist again until April unless there are problems. I saw the local ophthalmologist last week and he confirmed that there are more visible changes to the eye. I’ve noticed this dark spot in my iris and I didn’t recall it being there before. The doc said that it is caused by the coloration from my iris being “rubbed away” and the eye muscle showing underneath it. I’ve noticed that I’m more sensitive to light changes in that eye, too, and he explained to me why. (I love this local ophthalmologist. He is so great at explaining stuff.) At least my pupil isn’t as distorted as it used to be; it was looking pretty creepy back when my pressure was higher.

How is your health?

Increasing my income

My solo phase in my house comes to an end next week. As planned when I bought the house, I’ll be sharing my two bedroom/one bathroom house with a roommate so I can generate some extra cash flow every month.

Getting a roommate wasn’t difficult at all. There are many people in need of affordable housing in this area and I just needed to decide what kind of roommate/renter I wanted: short-term or long-term. I decided to go with a short-term renter, as it would allow me to have some solo periods if I wanted them. If I had wanted a long-term roommate, I likely would have contacted the local housing match coordinator for help. This free program run by the county does screening and matching between people with rooms to rent and people needing housing. Although I didn’t end up using this service, it sounds like a great resource and I’d recommend that anyone thinking about renting out a room look for similar programs in their area.

Once I had decided to go for shorter term roommates/renters, I knew I’d have to furnish the room. I had an extra shelving/desk unit and chair that I had used in my bedroom in the rental, but I didn’t have an extra bed. I’ve had so many other expenses with a new house that buying a bed wasn’t something I had wanted to deal with right away. I had been thinking about putting off the final arrangements until after my surgery, but what looked like a great opportunity appeared through a Nextdoor posting. So I took care of that final detail one weekend by visiting a local mattress company and having them deliver and set it up the bed the next day. This potential roommate (who would only need the room during the week) didn’t pan out, but I was ready now.

While I looked at Craigslist for “market research,” I hesitated to list my spare room there. Nextdoor would have also been an option, but I didn’t list there, either. I chose not to list on them because I didn’t want to have to filter through a bunch of scams or people with sad stories, but I did regularly look at them for people seeking housing, just in case. For my own listing, though, I decided to target a group of people who I knew would be stably employed, yet not likely to stay long-term: travel nurses.

One of my friends had been a travel nurse years ago, but I learned more about how it works from an acquaintance I made at a Meetup shortly after I moved here. I learned that the local hospital used a lot of travel nurses. Contracted medical professionals like travel nurses get a housing stipend, and they can decide to use it all or pocket any extra to supplement their contracted income. The placement agencies will usually find nurses housing in furnished apartments that exhausts their housing stipend. In this area that housing is not in Napa, but a community just to the south. The commute during rush hour is slow, and the location is near a boring strip mall. While my room didn’t offer the privacy of an apartment, I could offer a traveling nurse a short commute (10 minutes maximum to the hospital), a lower monthly cost than the standard housing (therefore increasing their income), and proximity to nice restaurants and leisure activities. I found a Facebook group for traveling nurses and listed my room there with a few photos.

Then I had an opportunity fall into my lap. One of the women in my knitting group mentioned that an intern at her company needed to find a place to stay. The housing he had lined up fell through, and he had been living in an expensive hotel. I suggested she put us in touch and that’s how I acquired my first short-term roommate. The timing wasn’t ideal since he’d be here during my surgery and while my sister was staying with me, but we worked it out. While I offered to let him stay with me through the end of his internship in December, he was focused on finding a place of his own and only stayed with me two weeks. When he moved out at the end of September he sent me an electronic payment for the rent, and left me with a very nice bottle of wine.

Now that I knew this arrangement could work, I redoubled my efforts. I kept checking the travel nurse Facebook group and saw that people most frequently mentioned finding their housing through Craigslist or Airbnb. I was still reluctant to list through Craigslist, but I had had positive experiences using Airbnb as both guest and a host, and lots of positive ratings as both. I took photos of the room and the common areas of the house, built a listing on Airbnb specifying a minimum 30 night rental, and posted a link to it on the travel nurse group.

Within in couple days the inquiries started rolling in. I had six in one week: travel nurses, a business professional on a short-term contract, and a couple interns in the wine or restaurant business. Most people wanted to see the house and room. I was open to showing them the place, but told each one that I had multiple inquiries and wouldn’t hold the room for them. Over the weekend I showed the place to a young man who will be interning at a restaurant up the Valley. His mother and sister accompanied him and we had a nice, short visit while they viewed the house and room. A few hours later I got the confirmed booking request and accepted it.

So, starting next week I’ll have my roomie in place through the end of February, and I’ll also get the bonus of income AND lots more tax deductions for my “rental property.”🙂

Do over

I need a fresh start, a do-over. I had high hopes for landing here in the Bay Area and building a new life. I wanted a life that was based on positivity and taking good care of my body and mind. I wanted to let go of the bad attitudes and habits that had made me feel so down about my life in Chicago.

Shortly after settling in here, I felt like I was on the right track. I was involving myself in active social events like hiking and making friends. I was finding joy in life every day and loving my new town.

Then negative stuff started to intrude. I had a series of health setbacks (diverticulitis #1#2, #3, and #4; hormonal imbalances; a rare eye disease; and, a renegade ovarian cyst). My work changed and I had a whole new team/boss with a different culture to learn. I tried dating, and while I had some good experiences in the early days, after spending more time with each person I realized there were issues that made a relationship unworkable. I let all of this stuff drag me down again and my mood switched from mostly positive to negative.

So I’m declaring a fresh start now. I put myself through two surgeries in the past year because they were necessary to me regaining my health. They are done and I’ve got another month to rest and recover. In that time frame I will also start building better habits for myself. I will get back into meditating and studying mindfulness. I’ll allow myself to dream and free associate about my work and professional life. I may look for a local therapist. I’ll look for more ways to continue building my social network. Dating will not be something I actively seek to do, and I’m not sure what I’d do if I met someone socially that interested me. I guess I’ll deal with it if/when I need to.

Sister time

When I scheduled my colon surgery I reached out to my sister and asked her if she would come here to help me when I was released from hospital. After my last surgery I needed help simply getting out of bed and up from the couch for the first few days, and I expected to need similar help this time. Additionally, I knew I’d be limited in my ability to lift anything more than 10 lbs, so having someone on hand to help with anything involving lifting would be important.

My relationship with my sister has been a rocky one for most of our lives, but in the past few years it has improved. It used to be that she would lash out at me the majority of time; lately that has happened infrequently, and she’s been apologetic for her cruel behavior when it does happen. Getting emotionally eviscerated is never good, but this is truly progress considering where we started.

Sister seemed flattered that I asked for her help, and excited that she was going to take care of her “little sister.” Of course, she was also glad to be visiting Napa, too. After all, she and her husband own a house here that they purchased because they plan to move to Napa eventually.

In fact, their house in Napa became a focal point of her trip here in the weeks leading up to my surgery. Certainly she still crooned about taking care of me, but she also decided that she wanted to try furnishing the house while she was here so it could be marketed as a short-term rental and make it easier for them to take possession when they are ready to move. And this was probably the source of the stress that caused trouble for me.

Sister flew in the day after my surgery and took care of my house and dog until I was ready to be released. She also picked me up from the hospital on my release date and helped me with the chores I couldn’t do, such as wheeling the waste bins to the curb, and carrying groceries and laundry. However, she was clearly mostly focused on furnishing her house and preparing an online listing.

I accompanied her on most of the trips to the consignment and thrift stores since I was feeling well-rested and had only small amount of well-controlled pain. Sitting in my car as a passenger or sitting in a chair while she shopped allowed me to take it easy and take a look at what the shops had to offer, too. But as sister started feeling her time for prepping her house running out, she started acting more resentful and angry towards me when I asked for help.

One morning in particular stands out for me. It was waste pick up day, and I had asked her to roll out the big bins the night before. We were up early and the bins hadn’t yet been picked up when she discovered she had overlooked rolling one of them to the curb. Sister ran out to put the bin in position, then came back inside to get her breakfast ready. Just as she was sitting down to eat I found a bag of trash she had forgotten to put in the bins, so I asked if she could quickly bring it outside. She exploded at me.

Did I expect her to wait on me hand and foot? Why couldn’t I take the bag outside myself, since it seemed lightweight and under my 10 lb limit? Why was I being such a baby? I started crying and reminded her that my gut had been cut open just the week before. She was not deterred and downplayed my surgery; after all, I had small incisions, it couldn’t have been that bad and I was clearly exaggerating. I continued to cry and pointed out to her that there were other reasons I needed help besides my lifting limitations, including having pain and fatigue. And then I walked away and tried to remind myself that she would be gone in a few days.

What was truly hurting me wasn’t just this exchange, though. Over the course of the week sister had made the observation that her husband and I had similar thinking and communication patterns. I could observe her interacting with him in a patient and loving way, yet she didn’t do that with me. While I was crying that morning I asked her why this was the case. Why was she able to be so patient and kind to her husband yet so hurtful to me?

It took a few minutes for her to think and to apologize to me. But the damage had been done. I knew that her main focus had become readying her house and not helping me, and that I had better limit the number of times I asked her for assistance.

The outburst did help us build a bridge in one way, at least. Sister had mentioned that I had said a few things in the past few days that had hurt her feelings. At first she said she didn’t want to tell me what those statements were despite my request that she do so that I may gain better awareness. Eventually she did tell me, and it was helpful to have a better understanding of her tender points.


My family is so hard to deal with. I still have hope that at some point I’ll be able to enjoy time with sister without getting a picked on. I hope that day isn’t very far off.



Revisiting the budget

I track my spending in Mint as much as possible and check it several times a month to see if my spending is in line with the budget I’ve set. It rarely is, but I don’t worry about it much as long as I’m not spending more than my income for several months in a row and see a consistent uptick in my bank accounts.

A few times a year I try to adjust the budget categories in Mint so I’m not seeing too much red when I sneak a peek at my dashboard. In the past three months I’ve had some big changes — buying a house, and a change in salary — that require me to adjust my budget lines, so let’s dive in.

First, the income line needed to be adjusted to reflect my recent raise. It wasn’t a lot, but it means I should see roughly another $200 in income every month. Last month I also received a much better bonus than I had expected. Once all the taxes, my 401(k) contribution, and other deductions were subtracted, I ended up with enough to pay more than half my expected property tax bill, so that makes me happy. Finally, September was one of the two months out of the year where my 26 pay periods yield three paychecks. It’s like having a little bonus twice a year, and is very welcome right now.🙂

My expenses have changed with the purchase of a house. My mortgage payment is $200 more a month than my previous rent payment, so I had to adjust that budget expense line. The expenses that fall under “home services” and “home furnishings” have been so crazy high that it’s been hard to effectively plan for them, too. This is an adjustment period, so I’m just trying to track those anomalies and try to balance them out by under spending in other categories. I’ve been mostly successful with that strategy, including:

  • $354 under in Groceries
  • $759 under in Restaurants
  • $184 under in Gas & Fuel
  • $585 under in Utilities
  • $90 under in Gifts
  • $615 under in Massage Therapy
  • $124 under in Books

I use the roll-over method in Mint, so these figures are based on several months of under spending that carries over to the new month.

I’m super proud to have brought down my food expenses since I had been overspending in both the grocery and restaurant categories most of last year. I just had to stop treating myself and others so much. Since I telecommute most days, I don’t drive often and use little fuel. I’ve also been saving quite a bit on utilities since I canceled the premium channels in cable. The rest of my under spending is in areas that are discretionary and very flexible. I attach a budget to these categories simply to keep myself from splurging too much.

My “savings” in these areas, however, are not only offset by the increase in spending on home stuff the past few months, but some other areas, too.

  • $281 over in Entertainment
  • $988 over in Pets
  • $543 over in Clothing

I budget $40 a month for entertainment expenses and most months I only spend about $10 for my Netflix subscription. But I bought a 3-day pass to Bottlerock early this year, and that cost $331.50. I also bought the Lemonade album online, which set me back another $17.99. Those splurges are hard to work off unless I completely cut out all other entertainment expenses. I use my Netflix pretty heavily and like to go to a movie every few months, so that’s not going to happen. Instead, I think I need to figure out a more appropriate amount to set aside each month that would allow for the big ticket amusement expenses.

Clothing is another budget line for which I find hard to set a reasonable target. I buy clothing sporadically — maybe once or twice a year — but when I do buy clothes, it’s usually quality stuff for work that costs a few hundred dollars. I had tried setting up a budget line for clothing expenses every few months, but it was still not working out very well. For now I just don’t worry about it since I’m not having problems paying my bills or building savings.

Setting a budget for pet expenses has been a true challenge lately. For the past year, Hannah dog has had regular visits to the vet for bloodwork to monitor her liver health. She’s also had an ultrasound (and will likely have another before the end of the year), and has started on two new meds and a new supplement that set me back about $100 a month. I’m not going to start cutting expenses on vet bills, though, since I don’t think any of these expenses are truly over the top. Hannah is in her senior years and I don’t want to be cheap and take the risk that she’ll suffer sudden liver failure.

Actually my biggest expenses under the pet line are for pet sitting. Every time I’ve traveled this year I pay a minimum of $50 a day for pet/house-sitting, plus I pay a dog walker every week to take Hannah out on walks. The latter expense may seem superfluous since I’m home and should be able to walk my own dog, but I do this as a way of keeping my dog walker “on retainer” so that when I do have to report to the office and be away for 12+ hours I don’t have to scramble to find someone to make sure Hannah has adequate breaks. I’ve also made three trips back to Chicago this year for work or family events, and each trip has necessitated at least five days of pet/house-sitting.

As much as I like Mint, I have a difficult time using their budget feature. When I was trying to determine if I could afford the increased expenses associated with buying a house I looked at average expenses over time and not the amount I had set aside in my budget. I’m thinking that’s what I should do to try to smooth out the red lines in the budget for now.

Anyone have a better suggestion for how to use Mint’s budget feature or tips on how to smooth out the irregular expenses that cause spikes in budget categories?


I’ve been home for a week and am recovering well. Thanks to all my friends far and near, IRL and on the internet who sent positive thoughts and prayers my way!

Surgery went as planned with no complications. The surgeon made only four small incisions to perform to a laparoscopic low anterior resection. The largest incision goes through my belly button and is just over an inch long. Through this vertical incision he was able to remove my sigmoid colon and a portion of the rectum: 10 inches in all. He also removed my appendix, which was a surprise to me since there were no issues with my healthy appendix. The surgeon explained that it was a prudent precaution since I had already had two abdominal surgeries and it would best for me not to have another anytime soon.

I was helped up to walk around the nurse’s station the evening of the surgery, and was encouraged to get up and walk with every daytime shift change. I only needed help the first couple times until all the anesthetic had worn off and I was steadier on my feet.

My pain from the surgery was not as bad as I expected. I was surprised that my abdominal muscles weren’t as sore as they were after my laparoscopic hysterectomy, and getting in and out of bed wasn’t as difficult as I remembered. It just felt like I had some average menstrual cramps. I did make use of the Dilaudid pain pump a few times that first day and evening, but discontinued it by the next day.

The main reason why I stopped using the Dilaudid was because I started having bad headaches and nausea. At first the nurses suggested that was caused by the anesthesia clearing by body, but as the headache and nausea persisted I started being told it may be side effects from the Dilaudid. Whatever the cause, I was regularly asking for the anti-nausea drugs and anything at all they could give me for the terrible headache. By Thursday night, I was sick a couple times and feeling my worst.

While it’s possible that the nurses were correct about the cause of my headache and nausea, I also suspect that my lack of any solid food contributed to my problems. I had been on clear liquids only the day before surgery. The day of surgery I was instructed to drink a small, clear Ensure at 3:30 AM, but was otherwise NPO (nothing by mouth); I wasn’t even allowed ice chips that evening.  On Thursday my meals were all clear liquids. Is it any wonder I was feeling so awful by that time? On Thursday night I dreamed about food: big, green salads, and toast with peanut butter. Nom!

Luckily they brought me solid food on my Friday breakfast tray. I was so happy to eat cream of wheat, scrambled eggs, and toast! Once I got real food, it seemed my recovery accelerated. I was walking the floor several times a day, my vitals were great, and my pain-killer use was orally administered Hydrocodone just a couple of times a day. The doctor even suggested that if I wanted to go home late Friday instead of waiting for Saturday that I could do so, but I declined. My arrangements for getting picked up had been made for Saturday and I just couldn’t switch them. I enjoyed a shower Friday afternoon and was packed up and ready to go Saturday morning.

My sister drove my car to pick me up late Saturday morning and I was back home by noon. Sister has been my care taker for the past week, and that deserves a whole different post.

The only bad experience I had in hospital was with a roommate who was brought in very early Thursday morning. I’m not sure why my room was chosen as the one to get a new admit sent up from the ER, but it was a bad decision for a couple of reasons. That was my first night post-op, and it was a decidedly unfun experience to be woken up at 1 AM as they readied the other bed.

The other patient was an elderly woman who had fallen and broken her hip. She was in a lot of pain and also very distressed, so she was quite vocal. I tried hard to remind myself to be compassionate, but I also regretted forgetting to bring my sleep mask. At least I could drown out most of her moaning and loud talk with my headphones. My doctor wasn’t happy to find out that I had such a loud roommate when he visited me on Thursday. I didn’t even have to say anything specific, just respond that I hadn’t slept well when he asked. He picked up immediately on the problem.

On Thursday afternoon they took the woman away to surgery and put her in the room next door when she was returned to the floor. I felt very bad for her discomfort and situation, but was glad I wasn’t going to have to deal with her or racist husband anymore. (The husband made pretty loud comments about the apparent race of the nurses and assistants more than once. Ugh!)


Tomorrow I’m being picked up at 4 AM and heading to the hospital for surgery. Today has been all about prep: cleaning the house, doing laundry, consuming nothing but clear liquids, and taking precautionary antibiotics. Oh, and there was that other type of prep, too. (Yeah. Eww. TMI.)

Over the past month I’ve asked myself if this is really necessary. Do I really need to have a bowel resection for the repeated bouts of diverticulitis or do I have other choices? Although it’s scary to think about having my abdomen opened up (again!) and dealing with the recovery, I still think it’s my best option.

I’ve been doing everything I’m advised to do to avoid yet another bout of diverticulitis, but it keeps happening over and over (and over and over) again. Surgery may seem like a drastic measure, but so is bombing my body multiple times a year with strong antibiotics. And repeatedly missing work at unpredictable intervals due to the pain and fatigue. And not knowing if I’ll be fit to travel for a scheduled business or pleasure trip. And not being able to eat wholesome food and stick to an exercise regime due to getting ill over and over (and over and over) again.

There are no guarantees that surgical intervention will work, but I’ve talked with a few other people who had this surgery and they are doing just fine years later.

Pretty soon I’ll be taking my first shower with the special cleansing wash, putting on freshly laundered PJs, and slipping into bed on freshly laundered sheets. I have one more round of preventative antibiotic tablets to take, as well as a single dose of gabapentin. (Why I need gapapentin, I’m not sure, but it’s prescribed for me, so I’m taking it.)

My alarm is set for 3 AM tomorrow, and I’ll get up and take another shower with the cleansing wash, put on freshly laundered, loose clothing, and head out the door. I expect to be back home on Saturday if all goes well. Wish me luck?