Monthly Archives: October 2016

The Bunion Diaries – First Month

Now that I’m at one month post-surgery, I can tell anyone who’s contemplating a bunionectomy what to expect. Warning: gnarly photos ahead; not for the squeamish (this means you, dear husband)!!

Day of surgery 

We arrive at the facility at 7 a.m., where the TV in the waiting room is endlessly replaying recaps of last night’s endless presidential debate at top volume. This is one time I would give anything for Keeping Up with the Kardashians or any of the Real Housewives.

I’m prepped, changed into a gigantic dressing gown and stuck with IVs and other stuff to measure my vital signs. My blood pressure is very low (100/70) so I am either actually relaxed or a zombie, not sure. Luckily, hearing Trump did not spike my BP to lasting effect.

We talk to the anesthesiologist, who is extremely thorough and asks detailed questions nobody else has. I see my doc and it’s off to dreamland from about 9 to 12, when I emerge in the usual post-surgical fog. (Note: they use a general anesthetic since they literally don’t want you to move a muscle.)

Here’s my “before” photo. Pretty ugly, I know. That’s why I’m here.


Once home, I settle into bed with the following:

  • Wedge pillow plus another old pillow under leg to keep elevated (also brought to surgical center for the ride home)
  • Computer and cell phone
  • Glass of 7:1 water/orange juice to stay hydrated
  • Meds and saltines to avert opiate-related nausea
  • Stack of magazines and book (the latest from the excellent Alan Furst)
  • Rented knee roll-about scooter (mine’s a nice shiny red) and crutches for tomorrow.  img_1567

Today’s about resting, following multiple instruction sheets, eating mild food and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.

Day 2

No pain yet so nerve block must still be working. I take pain meds prophylactically every four hours to avoid it though. My main job is to alternate ice on/off every 30 minutes and keep moving my legs and rotating my ankle to prevent blood clots.

I’m not at all hungry until dinnertime, and still in a drug fog most of day. My poor husband has to do all cooking/cleanup/etc. and it’s going to be a long slog until I can contribute.

Day 5

My foot is bandaged like The Mummy, and just about as shapeless.


I’m now taking ibuprofen only if needed. The pain block (Exparel) lasted 4 days and is a bona fide miracle drug.  Getting around on the scooter is quite a production. It doesn’t have much of a turning radius and I have to keep locking the brake so it won’t slip. Once locked in position, it gives me a secure place to rest my leg.

Crutches require upper body strength so I’m lifting hand weights to help. I can touch down with my operative foot (partial weight is ok) which is better than hopping. But it’s a pretty exhausting way to get around.

I’m officially allowed to shower, which is a multi-step process beginning by removing my safety shoe and encasing my foot in a knee-high plastic bag that looks like a giant condom.


Funny, I never noticed before how high the “lip” of the shower is; trying to get over it with one leg is quite a challenge. My DH (dear husband) helps lift me in; once in, I’m fine. His back, not so much. We don’t attempt this again– back to sponge baths!

Day 6

My heel and the sole of my foot are quite bruised. I resume taking oral arnica, which I stopped a few days ago, and start applying topical arnica too. Hope this helps.


First post-op visit

It’s 8 days after surgery. DH drives me and the scooter over to the doctor’s office. His nurse removes the bandages. The top of my foot is swollen and my toes look like fat little sausages. She tells me that swelling can take 6 months to a year to fully resolve. Oh joy. The incision is about 3″ long and is healing well but I can’t transition to a walking boot yet; the bone a little softer than ideal for full weight-bearing so I’ll have to wait and hopefully get the boot next week.


Week 1: Who are you and what have you done with my ankles?!

I bump up my calcium intake to 600 mg twice a day, having slacked off to once a day during the previous month. (Note to those of you anticipating having this procedure: Make sure to increase weight bearing exercise and check your vitamin D levels well before surgery since vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption.)

Pain is low level but I experience occasional throbbing. Ibuprofen at normal levels (a 200 mg tablet every 4-6 hrs as needed) is helpful. Sleep is more challenging.

By now I have mastered the multi-step shower dance: first, DH places a chair outside the shower so I can use the chair back as support. I ease in and sit on the shower bench and then DH moves the chair so the door can close. You do not want to be in a rush for this one!  If my shower didn’t have a built-in seat this would not work, since I can’t balance on my left heel for the time it takes to shower and do my hair. Best plan is to alternate with sponge bathing for now.

2nd Post Op Visit

Big disappointment at Week Two:  Although everything is healing well, my nice doctor wants me to stay off my foot for another two weeks to be on the safe side. We do not want the pins in there shifting around. Ergo, still stuck with the scooter. On the plus side, my triceps are tightening up from lifting and repositioning the damn thing every few minutes.  And since the incision is almost fully healed, except for a couple of steri strips, I have a new cleaning option (sans giant leg condom): the tub!


Week 2

This is way easier: position the scooter next to the tub, step in with my good leg, then lower the other one, making sure not to step down. All good.

Weeks 3 & 4

Continue to heal, no pain although bruised areas are still sore, and finally when I see my doctor at Week 4 he lets me transition to a walking boot. It’s very space-age, with a pump to inflate and deflate pressure. Unfortunately, the sole of the boot is 2″ higher than my regular shoe, so I am listing like a drunken sailor. But, I’m ambulatory! BTW, you can order a sort of platform thingy from Amazon called EvenUp. It looks a bit like a snowshoe and adds 1/2″-3/4″ height to your normal shoe or sneaker. My hiking boot is almost the right height so I’m not too uneven for the two days I wait for Amazon delivery.

Week 4

My tasks at home are to exercise the toe by bending it forwards and backwards (ouch) to keep it flexible (3 sets of 10 reps, twice a day) and to cover the scar with ScarAway, a silicone patch you cut to whatever size you need to help prevent and flatten the incision. So far, I’ve taken four baths and it hasn’t budged.


After 4 weeks I’m still swollen around the ankles as well as the ball and top of my foot (an ace bandage leaves indentations) but I can already see improvement. Best of all, I’m now cleared to drive so I feel much more independent.  Come spring, I might even splurge on some Jimmy Choos!

Breaking Up With Your Housekeeper

I always feel conflicted when someone else cleans my house. On the one hand, there are times I’m sidelined due to injury or illness, or just plain too busy to keep things looking tidy. On the other, it feels much too “Lady of Leisure” to be lolling about while someone else does the scut work, regardless of how much they’re being paid. Ideally, I’d be out of the house but it’s not always practical.

This feeling of guilt makes it even more difficult to fire someone if they’re (OK, she – because, let’s be honest, it’s usually a woman) is not doing a good job. Admittedly, this is a “high end” problem that won’t get you a lot of sympathy from any friends and family who clean their own homes.

Nevertheless, whether and how to do it is a legitimate quandary.

I hate to generalize, but I’ve found that even the best cleaning people become complacent after a while. If you really like your housekeeper but are becoming unhappy with the quality of work, here are some suggestions before you pull the plug:

  1. Make sure you’ve given clear direction, such as “Please clean under the bed.” Leave a pair of shoes under the middle of the bed and if they’re still there after she’s finished, well, there’s your first clue she’s not too motivated.
  2. Give her several chances to do better if you really like her, without letting her know she’s on probation. Each time ask for specific chores to be done and notice whether she added these to her to-do list or skipped other tasks to make time.
  3. Ask her to help plan her schedule and make sure you set reasonable expectations. Maybe she only needs to clean the oven or guest shower every two weeks or once a month, whereas she must do the master bath every time. Make sure she actually has enough hours to do what’s needed and adjust accordingly. And of course, make sure you pay the going rate for your neighborhood.

After a few weeks, one of two things will happen: Either you’ll be happier with the work or it will be time to part ways. Needless to say, never break up with someone if they still have your keys!

This is one of the few instances where I believe fibbing is in order.

  1. Say you’re going on vacation. Then try a cleaning service.
  2. If the service does a noticeably better job, it’s time to cut the cord and trot out your best excuse. My suggestion: “I have to cut back on our spending. So I’m going to have to clean the house myself. I’ll never do as good a job as you do.” There is absolutely no percentage in telling someone she’s not up to your standards.
  3. Wait until after she’s done for the day. You don’t want her to be simmering with resentment while she’s dusting the breakables.
  4. Pay severance if she’s been with you for a while – at least the amount of one or two service calls. She counts on the income and it may take a few weeks to add a new client.
  5. If you’re letting her go because you’re moving, make sure to give her plenty of notice. An extra bonus is a nice gesture.

All things considered, I prefer using a cleaning service. You always get new people, so you don’t develop an awkward relationship. And I think they try a bit harder.

Remember: Be fair. Be firm. And line up your next option before you quit cold turkey.

9 Quick Sleep Tips

If you’re finding sleep a bit elusive these days, here are some tips I’ve collected this week.

In no particular order:

  1. Have a small amount of milk or plain yogurt before bedtime. The proteins are soothing and will keep you from waking up hungry.
  2. Turn the thermometer down to 66.2 degrees F, which is apparently the optimal sleep temperature.
  3. Read something relaxing for 30 minutes to calm your brain.
  4. Lower all lights as soon as the sun goes down to jumpstart the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, as soon as possible.
  5. Do some yoga stretches and deep breathing – you can even do these in bed.
  6. Drink a cup of South African red rooibos tea before bedtime. Its medicinal properties are believed to improve restfulness.
  7. Sniff mint every two hours. Peppermint is said to be calming.
  8. Keep a sleep diary to note your natural patterns. It may be perfectly normal for you to take an hour break in the middle of the night as long as you fall asleep again, so don’t let it stress you out.
  9. Drink Montmorency tart cherry juice a couple of times a day. It’s packed with sleep-inducing melatonin as well as antioxidants. In a 2012 study, subjects who drank it for seven days had higher levels of melatonin as well as improved sleep.



I was going to write about something else this week; something more lighthearted than lewd remarks made by a person running for office.

But I feel the need to go on record: crude, demeaning, objectifying language about women is not “locker room banter” or some benign indication that “boys will be boys”. And no half-assed apology after the fact dilutes the message.

Remember that old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me”? Not true. Words have power. And allowing language that insults women to go unchallenged encourages a culture which is one small step away from a date rape, abusive marriage, serial cheating, or any situation in which a woman is viewed as “less than”.

In my twenties, when I was a junior copywriter, I had a supervisor who was very tall, very large and very intimidating. I knew he had a bit of a crush on me so I kept our conversations brief and professional. One day, he came into my office, closed the door, and pushed me up against the wall as he attempted to kiss me.

Another time, a different man – married, and also my boss – slipped me the address of a friend’s apartment, saying he had been asked to “apartment sit” and hoped I would meet him there to “relax” outside of the office.

These weren’t the only incidents.

In those days, women joked off advances to save face for the men and to hang onto their jobs while maintaining a decent working relationship. There was no term such as “sexual harassment” and if you’d gone to HR you would have been told, “They didn’t mean any harm; just laugh it off”.

I’ve read that many of today’s young women reject the term feminist, thinking it equates to “man hater” or means they are unfeminine. That’s because they haven’t had to fight overt sex discrimination at every step of their careers. They take equality for granted, even though women are still paid less than men.

But here’s the thing. When a man talks about a woman in terms of her body parts, or comes on to someone who isn’t interested, it isn’t flattering – it’s offensive. Just as saying, “I love women” is patronizing and reductive.

It’s not a compliment when someone grabs your ass, tells a buddy about your great rack, or jokes that you are “hard to get”. Whether he’s 17 or 70.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been raped, and I’ve never had to make the agonizing decision whether or not to have an abortion. I don’t know what I would have done. But I know this: my body is nobody else’s business – to flatter, insult, violate, or make decisions for.

In the immortal words of the great Aretha Franklin, “All I’m asking for is a little respect”!

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – especially when it’s your stylist, manicurist, housekeeper, etc.

A dear friend writes:

“A couple of months ago, I decided I was tired of paying $100+ for hair color every four weeks (for one-process color, no highlights or anything exotic!) So I started doing it myself and actually my hair seems healthier and I love the color. When I went for my next haircut, I told my hairdresser that I just couldn’t justify paying over $100 for hair color. I told her I wasn’t going anywhere else, just doing it myself. Of course, she copped an attitude and I got a really crappy haircut. I thought, “Hmmmm…I hope she isn’t being spiteful.” Then the next month, I got an even worse haircut! This confirmed it for me and I won’t be going back, but I haven’t called yet to cancel my next appointment. What do you think? Have you been thru this???”

Yes! And more than once.

When I lived in New Jersey I regularly went to one salon for haircuts, color, skin care, manicures and massages. For a long time, a woman I’ll call Lisa cut and highlighted my hair and did a terrific job. I was willing to overlook the increasingly bizarre stories she’d tell about her relationship with the boyfriend who didn’t want to marry her. But after a while it became too stressful to listen to her tales of woe when all I wanted to do was relax and get my hair done. I was also hearing from my facialist that Lisa was driving her co-workers and other clients crazy; it wasn’t just me. I finally cut the cord, switched stylists, and eventually Lisa was fired. I always felt badly because she was clearly troubled, but I had to make a change.

About two years ago I had another unfortunate experience. Out in Oregon I had a good haircut and decided to have “Alice” touch up my highlights the next time. The result: wide, orangey, hideous streaks. After two tries, she was able to tone them down but the color was still way off.

When I got back to Austin I immediately went to my regular salon for help. A new colorist (“Casey”) decided to apply overall color (which I don’t need since I only have scattered grays) to blend everything in. Unfortunately, it was much warmer than my natural shade. And now I had a whole head of it! The only remedy was for everything to grow out, switch to yet another colorist (who, thankfully, is much more knowledgeable) and wait a year for my true base color to emerge. It was awkward having my hair done by someone else when Casey was in the salon but luckily she has now moved away – turns out she’d f’d up several other clients’ hair as well. It’s not me; I swear!

So here’s what I’ve learned: 1) We’re entitled to get what we pay for, but 2) many of us have trouble ending these relationships and feel anxious making up excuses.

Why is this so hard? Let me count the ways.

  1. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  2. Nostalgia. We remember that one perfect haircut, color etc. and know they have it in them to do a fabulous job.
  3. Fear of retribution. Unless we’re moving or planning to change salons and never come back.
  4. Fear of confrontation. Few of us like it.
  5. History. We’ve been together a long time; often they’ve been a confidante and friend.
  6. We worry about being premature or unfair. What if it’s a phase and he/she is going to be great again?
  7. Laziness or low self-esteem (a subconscious feeling that we don’t deserve “great”).
  8. We feel guilty, as if it’s somehow our fault and we’re too demanding.

Repeat after me: It’s OK to move on! Once you are ready to break up, here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide if you’re done with the salon or just the stylist.
  2. If you don’t like the salon anyway, ask friends or co-workers with similar hair texture where they get theirs done and then ask their salon manager for recommendations.
  3. If you like your salon and the problem is the stylist, talk to the manager. Be honest and specific and ask for someone new who’s good with your type of hair.
  4. Never settle for a bad cut or color! A reputable salon will have someone fix the problem as soon as possible at no charge. After all, they want to keep you as a client.
  5. Try a different stylist at your current salon on your old stylist’s day off.
  6. Make sure you try the new person a couple of times or until you’re comfortable.
  7. Once you have transitioned to your new stylist, tell your soon-to-be ex you need(ed) to go in a different direction (“It’s not you, it’s me”). No long explanations! If you have been seeing him or her for a while, or if you get other services at the salon, you may want to give (or leave) them a little thank-you gift with a note so you won’t feel totally awkward when you run into them.
  8. Most important: Do not have make-up sesh! You will get a revenge cut!

Next time: How to break up with your housekeeper. (Or should you?)