Friday, November 1, 2013

Bunion post-op update. The agony of de feet.

Isn't this cute yet somehow sad?

It has been over four weeks since I had bunion surgery on both feet.  I walk like Frankenstein, which seems appropriate since yesterday was Halloween.  My feet are still bandaged and probably will be for another three weeks.  I tried to get a photo of my unwrapped feet while I was at the doctor's office, but I blacked out--not from the sight of my feet, but from the excruciating pain.  If you want to see gory photos of stitches and swelling, the internet can provide you with plenty.

I'll give you a few highlights of post-surgical progress, but remember, how you fare after your own bunion surgery depends on how severe they are and what type of procedure you have done. (See post just prior to this one.)  My bunions were severe and I needed an osteotomy on each foot, plus some fancy bone drilling on one foot.  I'd lost a lot of cartilage on one toe.  Curse you, Mrs. Lipman!  (My ballet teacher.)

After one week, I went to the doctor, who removed the bandages.  He happened to mention, "This is going to hurt," a split-second before grabbing a foot and re-wrapping it.  On a scale of 1-to-10, the pain was a startling 8.  Not as agonizing as childbirth (a 10), but it made me cry and I started shaking.  Fortunately, I was tanked up on painkiller.  But all the progress I'd made in the first week seemed to disappear, because I hobbled out of there as if I had just had surgery all over again.  Two days later, after applying ice packs for many hours, I felt better.  And when I say ice packs, I really mean bags of frozen peas.  They drape around the foot better than crushed ice.

Two weeks post-op, I went back for a bandage change, tanked up on a larger dose of painkiller.  This part of the proceedings went better than last time, but then my doctor did something I did not expect.  He bent the big toe on each foot forward and backward as far as he could, to gauge range of motion.  On a scale of 1 to 10, this was a freaking ten.  It was brief--just a few seconds--but very intense.  He says that when he does the toe-bending, sometimes his patients yell at him, order him to stop or even kick him.  I was better behaved than that, but it took enormous will power.

Some patients refuse to let him bend their toes during this phase of recovery and even refuse to bend their toes themselves at home between doctor visits.  Unfortunately, these patients then end up with severely stiff toes that do not make contact with the ground.  The toes stick up and won't flex when the patient tries to walk.  It's a major problem and ...I guess it cannot be undone...? I'm not sure if it's permanent or not, but dammit, I am NOT going to find out.  I know the importance of having it done, so I let the doc bend my toes.  I cannot sugarcoat it.  It hurts.  Or at least, it hurt like hell to have my doctor do it at two, three and four weeks post-op for the type of surgery that I had done.  I've heard other people say the whole bunion thing was no big deal.  I don't know why it varies so much from one person to another.

Three weeks post-op, the doctor recommended that I bend my toes myself 2 or 3 times a day.  He says I don't have to bend them as far as he does, but I need to start bending them a little more each time and make progress each day.  When I bend my own toes, the pain is mild--perhaps a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, plus I feel better knowing I have control over the pain.  Even as I increase the range each day, I still only feel a level 2 pain.  And bending my own toes frequently in the course of the day does have the added benefit of helping me walk (or hobble) increasingly better, without crutches.  It is only when my doctor bends them, really forcing the range of motion, that the pain is intense.  At one visit, I started blacking out.  At another visit, I nearly threw up.  But as intense as it was, it only lasts a few seconds.
The bunions, before surgery.

So, if I had it to do over again, would I still have this surgery?  I can't answer that yet, since I am only four weeks through recovery.  But I don't think I had much choice.  I suspect I will never be able to run or dance again.  But walking and cycling are vitally important to me and I was beginning to have trouble with both.  I'm hopeful for a good outcome.  Meanwhile, I sleep a lot and feel achy from lack of exercise.

Hope this info helps, but without giving you nightmares.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy.  Yes, I survived and I continue to make awesome things for you.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Bunions?! WTH!

Bunions.  Meh.  Such a silly word.  Sort of a cross between Bunnies and Onions.  And who has those things anyway?  I was pretty sure it only happened to 80-somethings, along with their lumbago and other antiquated grandmotherly illnesses.

Then reality slapped me the face.  And it slapped hard.  Yes, there is a medical condition called bunions and you can get them in your TEENS and 20's.  And although I tend to keep my medical travails private, because that's just how I am,  I will tell you about this one because I hate the thought of others not knowing what these bumps are and not seeking medical attention early enough to avoid pain.

I had gone to a podiatrist for a sports-related injury, tendonitis on the side of my right foot.  In the course of x-raying my foot and taping it, he mentioned that I had a rather serious bunion.  It was a bump that stuck out the left side, just under my big toe on the right foot. I had had a slight bump there for years and didn't think it was important.  I had gone from wearing a B width shoe to a C width shoe and thought maybe that slight bump had something to do with it.  But I never dreamed I would ever need surgery for it.  In fact, I didn't have pain from it at first and later learned the reason for this is because I had somehow learned to walk in such a way that I spared my feet the discomfort.  But in doing so, I was causing ankle pain and other weirdness.

I have since learned a few things about bunions.  For example, wearing high heels or being inclined to exercise heavily despite a mild deformity can turn said deformity into a major one.  I continued to bike ride vigorously and aggressively after being diagnosed with the bunions--there was one on the left foot, too--and I will confess, they both became more serious within a year.  I could see them getting larger and they were beginning to hurt more. 

The photo above shows how the bunions looked a few days before finally having surgery.  Notice how my toes all sort of slant to the side.  The big toe on each foot is so dislocated that all the other toes are pushed away.  The left foot has a severe bunion, plus a lot of cartilage has worn away in the big toe joint.  But the right foot, which looks relatively harmless to me, also has a fairly severe bunion.

So I had bunion surgery this week.  There are dozens of different types of surgery, and many types of casts/bandages, etc. and every recovery is different.  But once you have a diagnosis, I recommend skimming the Foot and Ankle section of this health board forum.  Scroll half-way down the page and you will find a couple hundred topics specifically about bunions.  Sift through many topics, because sometimes you will find the same issue under a slightly different phrase.  Just please find out from your doctor how severe your bunions are, what procedure s/he recommends (and get a 2nd opinion from another doctor) and be sure to compare apples to apples.  In other words, if you are having a minor procedure, don't pore over the notes of someone having bone replacement, cuz you'll just freak out.  And if your bunions are severe, don't expect to go back to work in two days just because someone else did.  Also, if you post a message in a forum and get some feedback, that's great, but remember, they don't know you and haven't seen your x-rays.  Still, it's okay to ask your physician something like, "Hey, I was wondering why I have a bandage instead of a cast."  Or "is there a less invasive procedure that will work for me?"  They're your feet and you have the right to ask lots of questions.  

Good luck and avoid high heels.  And remember, men can get bunions, too.  But it's less common.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy.  None of our merchandise has been on my feet.  Ever.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Saving money on clothing. Now's the time to buy your summer wardrobe. Now.

When I tell you that you can save tons of money by buying clothes in the off-season, I can practically hear you saying, "Duh! We all know this!"  But I also know from my experience as an online retailer that people don't actually DO it.   I sold a pair of sandals and a pair of peep-toe pumps on eBay this summer while an awesome pair of wintry shoes just sat there despite an amazingly low opening bid.  Later on, I'll easily sell those wintry shoes at a much higher opening bid, just because it will be winter and people will be more in the mood to buy them.

I have seen people go out in throngs the day after Christmas to buy every shred of holiday wrapping paper and ribbons on the shelves. By the time they depart the Christmas aisle in any given store, it looks like a ghost town.  Why wouldn't people take the same devoted attitude towards cleaning out the clothing clearance racks at department stores?  There is much to gain by shopping at the end of the season and saving money is just one of the advantages.  So please hear me out.   (Clearing of throat.)

You can easily save 75% or more on seasonal clothing by buying it at clearance sales at the end of the season.  This might not be true globally, but at least in the United States in the midwest, where summer and winter climates are sharply defined, department stores have a lot of summer merchandise to get rid of in July and August.  You can find men's, women's and children's apparel--shorts, short sleeve shirts, summer pajamas, sandals, sundresses, bathing suits, swimsuit cover-ups, capris, pants in light cotton fabrics, white jeans and more--on discount racks for up to 75% off easily.  With searching, you can find 90% discounts. (Stick with me, here, as my advice is about to become less obvious.)

It's not just about the money.  I know, in July and August, you may be tired of summer clothing, but this is the best time to buy summer clothes because you already know exactly what is in your wardrobe.  You may have realized that you tend to buy too many dresses when what you really crave are more capris.  Or you may have figured out that those fancy rayon blouses you bought for work are too uncomfortable when the temps are in the 90's and you prefer more practical cotton knit tanks instead.  And if you live in a northern climate and think you might be headed to Florida or Arizona or Cali for a winter getaway or to see family during the holidays, you will have a head start on having the right clothes to pack.

Also, buying new clothing at this time makes you review the rest of your wardrobe, which means you can clear out debris and start a few boxes of stuff to sell in a garage sale.  Garage sales have flourished during the recession and if you have a yard or know a home owner willing to let you use their yard to sell off some of your "carp," you will make more money than you would have pre-2008.  If you don't have much time to organize a sale, see if you can find four or more people willing to go in on a sale together on a Saturday only, with each of you working a two-hour shift.   Or donate to charity and take a tax write-off.  Use whatever money you earned to buy new clothes at end-of-seasons sales. Once you get used to shopping during the end-of-season sales, you may not go back to shopping early in the season when the prices are high.

There are some items that do not always get included in end-of-season sales, especially year-round staples, such as underwear and socks.   But often you can find good prices on staples during back to school sales.   These sales focus on kids' clothes, but high school and college "kids" wear adult sizes, so any adult can find good prices on athletic shoes, jeans, t-shirts, trendy clothing in general, and basics such as underwear and socks.  These items won't be as sharply discounted as the stuff on the summer clearance racks, but it's still worth taking a look.  I always find the best prices on athletic shoes in August.

January and February are the best time in the U.S. to stock up on snow boots, fashion boots, scarves, knit hats, sweaters, anything wool, anything with autumn leaves or Christmas designs, coats, heavy jackets, gloves, boot socks, leg warmers, long underwear, layered sports jackets, children's snow pants, overalls and mittens.  Again, it's all discounted.  And you know what you've been wearing for the past few weeks or months, which outfits you favored, what you needed but didn't have and what colors you still need.  Depending on where you live, there may be plenty of winter left and you can start wearing new purchases right away.

Children's clothing in the off-season can be problematic, since kids grow at unpredictable rates.  You have to guess what size they will be nine months or so in the future.  Look for stretchy sport pants instead of more precise-fitting jeans.  Find dresses that can be hemmed up if necessary.  Girls' leggings can make a too-short dress wearable as a tunic if your daughter grew taller than expected.  Sandals and shoes may not be wise to buy for children far in advance... unless, say, you have three daughters, in which case you can pick up something for the oldest girl and assume that size will fit at least one of the girls at some point in time.   You can usually get snow boots at the end of winter if they are multi-sized and therefore leave a little room for error.  You can also try to find clothing in colors that will suit either a boy or girl, so if you guess wrong on a green sweatshirt you had in mind for Michael, maybe Sophia can wear it instead.

If you're yawning because you know all this (don't make me come over there and slap you!) consider this, which you might not have thought of:  You can find clearance clothing online, and the season for finding what you want can be much longer depending on site traffic and who the sellers are.  Online shopping sites will have varying discount periods.  High traffic will swarm all over the cute summer tops on clearance at Coldwater Creek.  But on a less popular site, it may take longer for the deals to disappear.  Those winter wool socks you had to fight three bidders for on eBay last December are just sitting there, without bids, from March until September.  The person selling them might be open to "best offers" from you, wherein you negotiate the price.  I have gotten winter coats very cheaply in spring.

Also, if you live in Florida but need something wintry for a trip to Canada, online sites will offer far more options for you than your local stores will.  Sometimes I am surprised at the number of Etsy sellers who don't bother to list their summer merchandise in winter; Canadians headed for Florida need that stuff.

Speaking of Etsy, you may find off-season apparel marked down.  But your selection is often the best in the pre-season.  That's partly because artisans cannot easily replenish stock the way a retailer can.  An example:  it takes me hours to knit a winter scarf.  I have to make scarves all summer to have enough inventory for fall/winter.  Then the scarves start selling around September.  By November, they are selling like crazy and I have far fewer winter scarf listings in my shop because I just plain can't keep up with demand.  Anyone who shopped my scarves back in September benefited from a bigger and better selection. By December, they are well picked over and the customers are pretty frantic, e.g.: "Can you make another one by this afternoon?! And send it express tonight?"  Um, sorry, no.

Revised October 30 to add:  Pay attention to business news about retail chains that are struggling so you can go forage their wares.  They may cut prices very aggressively.  J.C. Penney is in very dire straits and I picked up a designer dress from their website for half price this year.  Abercrombie & Fitch's sales are down at present and I just saw $58 skirts on their site marked down to $10.  Aeropostale also had weak earnings lately; I see $5 t-shirts on their web site today.  American Eagle is having some issues and on the day I write this, every sweater on their site is on sale with free shipping.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Beware of eBay listings that state clothing is New With Tags.

Some eBayers will list clothing or shoes that are new but the tags have been removed.  But I recently bought a pair of leather boots that were supposedly New, albeit without the box, and here's what I received:

How did she think I would not notice this?

One boot had a footbed liner that appeared to have been worn.
The other boot didn't have a liner at all.

The Lesson:
If you ever place a bid on eBay for "new" clothing without a tag or box, you might want to inquire about it first.  Get the seller to guarantee you that it is, indeed, a new and unworn garment, as the eBay rules state.  They are not allowed to list something as new if it has been worn.

Or to play it safe, only bid on clothing that is New With Tags.  Even then, you can get burned, because some people find a way to wear something with tags in place.  Or they remove the tags, wear the clothing, then replace the tags with one of those retail guns that attach tags.

I have filed a complaint through eBay and hope to get this resolved soon.  If the seller pays for return shipping, I will ship them back.  If not, I will donate them to charity.  But I just can't bring myself to wear used boots.

UPDATE August 6, 2013.  eBay was very cooperative.  Their buyer protection plan is wonderful and I ended up getting my money back, even though the seller completely ignored my emails.

UPDATE October 5, 2017: I have had many other disputes with sellers who list merchandise as New Without Tags and, in fact, the product is not new at all.  I am avoiding any seller whose feedback score is under 99.9% positive and I am avoiding all merchandise other than NEW WITH TAGS or NEW IN BOX.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy does not sell used shoes or new shoes or any kind of shoes at all.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saving money on smart phones.

I am better at saving money than perhaps 95% of Americans and I've decided to start sharing my money-saving tips with others.

Today's topic is smart phones.  You've probably seen articles about comparing costs of cell phone plans.  But another way to save money is by not buying the latest smartphone within five seconds of it hitting the market.

If you want to update your cell phone, talk to your neighbors and friends until you find somebody who has a fairly current one they aren't using.  This shouldn't be too difficult.  According to this Wall Street Journal video, there are roughly 34 billion extra cell phones out there, nine billion of which are iPhones.

The federal government is taking a stand on that whole unlocking of cell phones thingie.  Until they get that settled, you can also search online for unlocked cell phones at bargain prices.

Consider, too, that your old cell phones are probably worth money if they still work.  Newer ones are worth more than older ones, obviously, and will run more apps.

Personally, I think it is wise to continue using a phone until it no longer works.  My cell phone is the kind that flips closed.  It's not connected to the internet and it doesn't run apps.  No one has made fun of me for it...yet.  But when they do, I will point out that I have never had a broken screen as a result of dropping it.

And I don't pay all those internet connectivity fees for my phone.  Honestly, I am on the internet all day because I run an online business and would scream if I had the internet in my pocket every time I leave the house.  I don't want to be on the internet any more than I already am.

Not many people feel this way.  But then again, not many people pay $0 for car payments each month.

UPDATE SEPT. 19, 2013:  Sadly, this aged, antique flip phone began malfunctioning. I would press send on text messages that somehow didn't go through.  That sort of thing.  It held up for something like ten years, but it was finally time for a new phone.  After reading reviews of smartphones and "dumb phones," I realized that the phones that do not require data plans are not very reliable.  One of them was notorious for hanging up on incoming calls whenever the user retrieved the phone from a pocket.   So after considerable debate, I decided on an iPhone.  But instead of rushing to buy the top model, I waited until one week before the newest iPhone was about to launch and picked up an older iPhone for a lower cost.  I realize many of you reading this think I am either being cheap or antiquated, but so very many of you are in debt, I hope you will at least listen and have an open mind.  Some of you have spent hundreds of dollars on a cutting-edge smartphone that will be eclipsed in a couple of years, whereas I have an iPhone that has many amazing features that are new and exciting to me.  And I probably still pay less per month than you do.

UPDATE OCTOBER 1, 2017:  What the hell was I thinking when I wrote this post? I cannot live without my iPhone. It helps me run my business.  (Deep furrowed thought.) But if I had never owned a smartphone, I would not feel this way.  We want what we are used to.  Once we are used to it, we think we cannot live without it.  But there was a time when people didn't have cell phones, text messages, air conditioning, cars, indoor plumbing and nobody screamed, "I can't live like this!" They just dealt with it.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition on Etsy.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I don't wear earrings any more.

I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time, but kept putting it off for fear of alienating some extremely talented jewelry designers I know online.  Well, my designer friends, I still think the world of your talents.  But I almost ended up permanently disfigured by a pair of pierced earrings.

About seven years ago, I was having a garage sale.  I was handling germ-laden cash.  And a peculiar customer brought his pet bird into my garage and I let the bird perch on my finger.  Not sure whether I picked up some germ from the cash or the bird.  But as the day wore on, I was getting tired and I took my earrings off and massaged my earlobes.  And bad things happened. 

Later that night, my ear lobes were sore.  The next morning, they were red and slightly swollen.  By nightfall, they were beginning to throb and ache.  The next morning, they were very red and hot to the touch.  And part of my face was now swollen.  I made an emergency trip to my doctor, who informed me that I had cellulitis, which is typically caused by a staph or strep infection.  I had trouble listening to him after he used the phrase, "flesh-eating bacteria."  But I remember that I needed a daily antibiotic as well as a shot injected with a needle the size of a freaking harpoon every 48 hours.  And with our fingers crossed, just maybe I would not have to be hospitalized.  (Did he say hospitalized?!) These proceedings went on for a week and towards the end, my doctor said it was "touch and go" for awhile.  If it had spread further into my face, he said, I could have been permanently disfigured.  If it had reached my brain, I could have had meningitis.  And meningitis can be fatal.

Okay, enough drama.  The antibiotics worked and I was fine within ten days.  I became more diligent with cleaning my earrings and my pierced ear lobes, but to be perfectly honest, I'm something of a germaphobe, so I was already good about ear lobe and earring hygiene.

Fast forward a year.  Despite my diligence, I got another bout of cellulitis in one ear lobe.  It was the weekend and my doctor's office was closed, so I went to an immediate care walk-in clinic, told the doctor on staff that I had had this before and what I thought it was, he agreed, gave me a shot and I started the antibiotics on the spot.  I only needed one shot and yet I got well faster than I did last time.

But now I'm wondering, who else goes through this?  My doctor knew immediately what it was.  He had seen it before.  It is not uncommon.  Apparently anyone with a body piercing or tattoo is at risk.  Why aren't people talking about it more?

Hence this blog post.  I hope I can stop at least one person from going through what I went through.  Google the word cellulitis.  Look at the nasty pictures.  And then please do what you can to keep any broken skin very clean.  If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.  I am in good health and don't have any known risk factors for this condition.  And after what I have been through, I will never wear earrings again or get any kind of piercing or tattoo.  It's just not worth it.

Update:  this post gets a large number of hits, so I am guessing that a lot of people are going through symptoms of cellulitis at the site of a piercing and wondering what it is.  People, I beg you, go see a doctor.  Don't let my comment about the harpoon-sized needle make you hesitate.  You can deal with the needle far better than you can deal with permanent face disfigurement or death from meningitis.  The sooner you go, the sooner you will get well.  Don't end up in the hospital just because you hope it will go away on its own.

dj runnels
Life's an Expedition
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