Time’s up

Today is my last day of medical leave. I’ve been off for six weeks and three days and I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to get back to my job.

What a disappointing week, to say the least. I should have been back to work last Wednesday, November 9, but I asked for a couple extra days when I last saw the surgeon. I knew I’d be up late watching the election returns and I wanted to be able to sleep in. Turns out it was a smart move in more ways than one.

Being in the Pacific Time zone, I didn’t have to stay up in the wee hours to see the general direction things were going. Election Night was also a knitting group night, and since we all wanted to watch the returns I invited people to my house. We started out happily enough at about 6:30 PM. As we watched the sea of red grow on the election map on PBS we got more subdued. When the results for Pennsylvania were posted we knew it was over.

I went to bed that night with 90% certainty that HRC lost the election, but I still had some hope. The next morning all doubts were resolved.

Since then I’ve been laying low. Partly because I’m depressed and distressed by the results, and partly because I’m relishing my copious free time while it is still available.

My recuperation from surgery has been pretty smooth, but despite spending so much downtime around the house I’ve managed to injure myself. Within a single week I whacked the baby toe on my left foot hard enough that I’m sure I broke it, and then misstepped in my driveway and sprained my left ankle badly.

(My left foot and ankle have sustained more injuries than any other part of my body. I first sprained that ankle when I was 10 and have lost count of how many times I’ve done so. The last time I injured that ankle was a fibula fracture two years ago. I got a ride to the local hospital for an x-ray just to make sure I didn’t fracture it again, and was happy to find out it was just another sprain.)

Since my mobility was restricted, I’ve been rather sedentary during the past six weeks. I watched a lot of streaming media. Read a few books. Completed the knitting, blocking, and sewing up of two sweaters. Made good progress on a third sweater, and restarted knitting on a little shawl that keeps confounding me when I check the stitch count.

I’m not sure if I’m mentally ready to resume work now or not, but that doesn’t matter at this point. I think I’ll go set the alarm now so I don’t forget.

Entertain me! (What I’m watching)

I’ve been off work for the past five weeks recovering from my surgery. That means I’ve had plenty of time to read and watch media. I’ve done some reading, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of multitasking (knitting) that is difficult to manage while reading, so there has been a significant amount of viewing happening. (Yes, I do find it possible to knit while reading, but only very simple knitting; working on a cabled sweater isn’t simple for me.)

While I do have “pay channels” they aren’t the premium ones, so most of the media I watch is streamed through my Roku on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. I also recently purchased a Blu-Ray player since I was finding it a PITA to keep connecting up my laptop to the TV when I wanted to watch a DVD. (Also, my laptop is old enough that I don’t think it would even play a Blu-Ray disc if I wanted to rent or borrow one.)

Here’s what I’ve been watching and enjoying:

Poldark: This BBC-produced PBS Masterpiece series is currently broadcasting Season Two now, but I hadn’t gotten around to watching Season One before my convalescing period, so I had to catch up first by watching Season One on Amazon Prime. Then I was able to piece together Season Two from my DVR recordings and the PBS app on my Roku. What’s not to love here: beautiful scenery, a very attractive leading man who is also a likeable character, great costumes, a decent storyline, and a historical setting. (Amazon Prime, PBS app, local PBS station)

Fleabag: Another BBC drama, but this one is contemporary. Each of the six episodes is only 30 minutes long, so it doesn’t take long to binge watch. I watched them all in a single afternoon while I was still in the hospital. (Hooray for great hospital wi-fi!) Yeah, the main character has done some questionable things in her life, but seeing how her family treats her you start to understand why she is an emotional wreck. It’s not a light-hearted series, but I’ve been recommending it to my friends because it is so real and raw. (Amazon Prime)

The Kettering Incident: I actually watched the first two episodes of this thriller back in early September when I had some plane travel. I was intrigued, but found I wasn’t deeply pulled in until about the third or fourth episode. By the end of the series, I was hooked and I’m hoping the show will continue. (Amazon Prime)

Love & Friendship: I love costume dramas, but don’t automatically consider myself a Jane Austen fan. I have a hard time struggling through the writing and dialog from that period, and I know I lose many subtleties. So I guess it’s no surprise that I’d rate this movie sort of “meh.” It seems witty and clever, and there were parts that just went right over my head.  It did get very good reviews, though. (Amazon Prime)

Longmire: Crime dramas are like popcorn; it’s easy to work through quite a bit without paying close attention. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement of this series, but it engages me at just the right level. Plus I love the scenery of Wyoming and have learned how surprisingly diverse it is. (It’s not all cowboys and Indians.) I’ve also become invested in the characters, too. I’m nearly through three seasons and still have two more left, but I was still bummed to see that the series is nearing its end. (Netflix)

Anzac Girls: I ran across this series last year and set my DVR to record it. But when I went to watch the first episode I recorded, I realized that it wasn’t the first of the series so I deleted the few I had captured. Then I ran across the DVDs at my local library and decided to check them out. (Actually, finding this series on DVD was a pivotal reason I ordered my Blu-Ray player.) The subject matter is serious — nursing in WWI — but the series is based on historical figures and features strong female leads. This is the type of medical drama I enjoy much more than the contemporary ones. (DVD)

The Durrells in Corfu: Set in the 1930s, this memoir of growing up in a quirky British family that moved to Corfu is delightful. So far only three out of six episodes have aired on PBS, so there are a few more to look forward to in the coming weeks. (PBS app on Roku)

This isn’t a comprehensive listing of my viewing habits. I’ve also consumed some local news and spent one day largely zoning out to HGTV as I napped off and on. As I’ve recovered and increased my stamina I’ve been watching less TV and spending more time getting out and about. I still made time to watch a few games in the World Series and was ecstatic that the Cubs won this year! Woo hoo!

Writing and connecting

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to write here over the past few weeks, yet I keep putting it off. Why?

I don’t really have a goal for this blog. It’s just a place where I write about stuff that I experience in my life or that I have thoughts about. I started writing a blog many years ago when it was a popular thing to do in the knitting/crafting world. I wrote only about my knitting and my gardening in the beginning. It didn’t take long for that “format” to become more loose and just reflect my life in general, though.

There are many excellent blogs I read because of their compelling content. Every time I read these blogs I learn something about a topic or gather information about an experience that interests me. In my blog reader I’ve categorized the long list of blogs I follow under categories like Crafts, Food, Personal Finance, Lifestyle, and Friends.

Over time, a couple of those blogs have moved from their original category to the Friends list, even if the content hasn’t changed. I’ve happily built some friendships through these online interactions, and have even been blessed to meet some of these bloggers in person.

My online friendships are also advanced through Twitter. Some of these same people who I met through their blogs are followed daily through their tweets, and they have helped me connect to others on Twitter who have enriched my life. (Although, I am really frustrated by the changes in the Twitter algorithm that now result in a jumbled timeline of tweets. I hate seeing a tweet hours after it’s been posted. Argh!)

Are there still doubters who don’t believe online relationships are just as important as IRL ones? I have learned so much from the perspectives and life tales of my online friends. Most of them are younger than me, and seem so much more enlightened and “together” about social issues. I am constantly learning from their perspectives and comments.

I understand life (and blogging) isn’t a contest, but I feel like my contributions — my observations, experiences, and writing skills — pale in comparison to these folks, and that sometimes inhibits me to write here. Also, I am lazy. I often prefer to consume others’ writing and leave comments rather than write a full post.

Maybe I just need to write shorter posts. Maybe I just need to get over myself and keep repeating the observation above: this is not a contest. (Also, the best way to get better at writing is to write more, so just do it, Linda!)

Anyway, here are some of the online connections I make regularly and that have become important to me.

A Gai Shan Life: Revanche is a Bay Area blogger who writes about money, family, and fun stuff like travel. Her unique perspective comes from years of supporting her parents and sibling, and living with a disability that can cause chronic fatigue and pain. Despite her challenges she is compassionate and positive. She also tweets @RevAGSL. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Revanche in person, and she is just a wonderful as she is online. 🙂

Funny about Money: Sometimes she comes across as crotchety and she is always opinionated, but I like reading FaM’s observations about her life in Phoenix and her challenges to maintain her lifestyle in retirement. I admire her writing style and skills, as well as how she explores new income streams and shares her experiences. FaM has a few other blogs specific to her publishing business, and they’re easily accessed from her main blog. She used to teach, as well, and had a blog about topics relevant to life as an adjunct, but I’m not sure if that blog is active anymore.

GeekyLyndsay: Except for the occasional professional (and insightful) article that she tweets, GeekyLyndsay is a Twitter-only presence. She is spunky, likes dogs, and is invariably positive. I look forward to her daily selfies, as well as photos of her dog Luigi and delicious food. She has tweeted some awesome self-care resources and has also inspired me to read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which is the first comic I’ve read in roughly 30 years. (And she’s right, it is a great comic!) Thanks to Revanche for pointing me in her direction!

Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured): I’ve been reading this blog since nicoleandmaggie were untenured (hence the parenthetical note in the blog title.) Nicoleandmaggie (not their real names) and the “Grumpy Nation” of commentators have widened my understanding and perspective on a number of topics, but it’s their unapologetic feminism and advocacy of each person’s awesomeness that I love the most. Yay for the Grumpies and yay for me!

I Pick up Pennies: Abby blogs and has a Twitter account @ipickuppennies. Her observations about budgeting and frugality while also living with chronic fatigue and depression are witty and grounded. I appreciate her insights and lessons, as well as her combination of kindness and tenacity, and her learner’s mindset to every obstacle she comes across. Abby is always “keeping it real,” and I appreciate that perspective.

NZ Muse: From the other side of the world, NZ Muse inspires me with her observations about being the primary breadwinner in high cost of living area (Auckland, New Zealand). She’s shared her doubts and challenges in her relationship, and is driven in her pursuit of better compensation so she can attain her goals. NZ Muse also tweets @eemusings, and I’ve happily met her in person as she traveled through the US as a newlywed. Sadly, we were only able to spend a few hours together one evening, but I hope I helped her appreciate the perfection of a Chicago-style hotdog at the iconic Superdawg.

Conspicuously absent from my list of online connections are Facebook “friends.” While I do have a large number of them, I am careful to curate my Facebook posts now that so many of my work colleagues are connected to me. While I’m never less than genuine on Facebook, I just feel less constrained here on my personal blog and Twitter. I used to have my Twitter account “feed” my Facebook account but recently disconnected them since I wanted to be able to tweet about stuff that may not be appropriate for work colleagues to read.

There are many other people I follow on Twitter or via a blog, but these folks are my “core.” They’re the ones I look forward to reading every time they tweet or post a blog entry, and to whom I’m likely to respond in kind. I have grown as a person because of the observations, perspectives, resources, and links shared they’ve shared, and for that I thank them!

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.

*sigh*

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.