Thursday, February 13, 2014

I am sick of the last six weeks

The last six weeks have been double plus ungood.

This is a long story, but I really need to get it all out, at least to vent.

Ok... here goes.

So, just before we left New Hampshire, after a month of looking for a house and being repeatedly disappointed (a couple were sold out from under us, a couple weren't available 'til March or April etc... etc...), we managed to sign a lease on a house in Laconia.

Laconia is the biggest town in the New Hampshire lakes region, and largely the center of activities for the area. It's a nice place, an old mill town, and it still has a lot of the original 19th century architecture.

If you're a biker, Laconia has additional meaning, because it's the home of the third largest motorcyclist gathering in the country (after Daytona and Sturgis); Laconia bike week, held the week of fathers day every year.

The house wasn't exactly what we wanted (we wanted rural, or at least private, on some land if possible), but it was near the big lake (less than a mile from Winnepesaukee), pretty big (5 bedrooms, over 3000 square feet including the partially finished basement), in a nice quiet neighborhood but still close to everything, and it had a big fenced yard (important for the dogs). It even had a good sized pool off the rear deck.

So yay, new house.

Now all we had to do was drive back to Arizona, get our stuff and our dogs, then haul all of it, and us, back to New Hampshire.

How hard could that be, right?
**No, I wasn't silly enough to actually say, or even think, "how hard could that be" or "what could go wrong". After DECADES of extremely painful experience, I most certainly know better. Ask those questions, and they WILL be answered, THOROUGHLY.
Yeah... So that's when the REAL unfun started 

Actually, to be fair, the prelude to the unfun started on Christmas day, when Mels 93 year old grandmother (who lives with Mels dad) had a stroke, falling and breaking her hip in the process.

Now, our original plan was to drive back to Arizona over new years, spend less than two weeks with Mels dad (one week of which I was supposed to be at a clients site in Seattle), hook up the trailer, pack up the dogs, and head straight back to New Hampshire.

The second part of that got screwed up just before we left.

Mels grandmothers injury put her in the hospital for a week, after which she was transferred to a rehab clinic. The plan to deal with Grandmas injury was to have her come home from the rehab clinic the following week, and get a live in home care aide.

From a practical standpoint, what that meant to us, was that we couldn't stay with Mel's dad, because the spare bedroom would be in use by the home care aide.

So then, the plan was to stay with Mel's best friend (none of my friends in the area were in a position to put us up for a couple weeks). Unfortunately, her housemate (who is also her brother) objected to living with a two extra adults and a teething baby for a few weeks (understandably. It's a small house, and there's not a lot of noise isolation).

What we ended up having to do, was stay in a hotel; which should have been fine, since it was only supposed to be for a couple weeks anyway.

Sure, it's not cheap even in a room with a kitchen (it ended up being about $450 a week at an Extended Stay America. You pay more for the kitchen, but spend a LOT less on food and drink), but it's certainly tolerable.

So... then we actually set off...

The trip itself was pretty nice actually, minus the repeated ice storms. We got to hang out with friends and family we haven't seen for a while, and I got to meet family I hadn't met before; always good things.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the drive, I started coming down with something.

From about January 4th (when we checked into our hotel), I had a full blown flu. From the symptoms, likely H1N1 aka "Swine Flu", which has been widespread this flu season.


...actually, while we were driving from NH to AZ...

...the client changed their schedule.

So, instead of being onsite the week of the 6th, I was supposed to be onsite the week of the 13th.

From one perspective that was a good thing, since I ended up being sick the week of the 6th and wouldn't have been able to fly out there anyway.

Unfortunately, we were planning on LEAVING Arizona the week of the 13th (we were supposed to take possession of the house on the 15th). Moving the onsite a week later, also also meant staying in AZ until at least the 20th, and for logistical reasons the 25th.

So, we changed our plans again, and extended our hotel stay to the 25th.

Then, the Friday before I was to leave, the client cancelled the onsite week entirely. So, yay, I didn't have to fly while I'm still sick, but we'd already prepaid for a hotel through the 25th (had to prepay or it was 20% more expensive), and rejiggered everything else to make the 25th work. We couldn't change it all back.

Turns out that the later date would have been necessary anyway however, for four reasons:

First: At the same time as my client was being fickle, our new house in New Hampshire had a pipe burst. A large portion of the house flooded, with significant water damage; and the house wouldn't be ready for us to take possession until at least the 1st of February, possibly later.

We planned on, and agreed with the owners to take possession of the house on the 5th of February (that way we could leave the Friday before, and drive over the weekend, giving us plenty of time to get there).

Second: The next week, the steering on our truck failed while Mel was driving it.

Thankfully no-one was hurt, but the entire steering mechanism and part of the suspension were badly damaged, and needed replacement (with a newer design, heavier duty setup from the factory).

The failure was due to defective tie-rod ends (which it turns out were subject to a recall). The tie-rods were covered under the recall, but the parts that were damaged or destroyed because of them (and the associated labor) were not. The repairs, all up, including a rental car for five days, ended up costing about $3,000.

Third: Money...

By January 31st, between repairs, hotel bills, additional meals, additional travel expenses, and unreimbursed expenses from work (they're being paid on my check this Friday), we had to lay out a HUGE amount over our planned and budgeted expenses for the month.

Then there's the AMEX bill, covering all the previous travel and expenses, and purchases from December (moving is EXPENSIVE).

Then there's the actual BUDGETED travel expenses, and all our regular bills and expenses (truck payment, fuel, food, insurance, phones, medications etc... also budgeted).

Combined, our total outlay Jan-1 to Jan-31 (which, to be fair, included paying most of the bills and expenses from December) was somewhere around $17,000 (and no, I don't make NEARLY that much a month. In part it was covered by expense reimbursement, combined with pretty much all of what I took home in January, and part of what I took home in December).

That's nearly double the outlay we had planned for the month.

That $17,000 meant we wouldn't actually have enough cash to complete the move ($4,200 in rent and security deposit on the house, and $2,500 in travel expenses for the drive. Hauling a trailer, 3 people, and 2 dogs 3000 miles is EXPENSIVE) before February anyway.

Fourth: At that point I was still sick, and getting sicker.

The flu seemed to subside around the 14th or so, which was good. Unfortunately, the flu led to a sinus infection and bronchitis, which was not.

The sinusitis and bronchitis hung on for a while, but I was managing the symptoms fairly effectively with medication (I take adderall, and a very strong anti-inflammatory anyway, and it just so happens that the combination makes a pretty effective treatment for the symptoms of sinusitis and bronchitis).

Unfortunately, I take those medications because I need them to function properly. When their effects are being taken up relieving symptoms, they aren't actually making me functional.

Worse, the medications also masked the fact that I wasn't actually getting better. I was just staggering along being propped up by the wonder of modern medicine.

Some time around Friday the 24th, I started getting sicker again.

MUCH sicker.

For the first week I thought it was just a combination of sleep deprivation, and a relapse of the flu.


We couldn't extend our stay at the Extended Stay America past the 25th, as they were fully booked. Unfortunately, this is the time that peak golf travel season hits Arizona, and rates at any of the extended stay/kitchen suite places went from $450 a week, to $700 a week, basically overnight.

Thankfully, rather than find a place for a week at a ridiculous rate, a friend agreed to let us stay with him 'til the end of the month (when we planned to leave for NH).

Unfortunately, he got sick that week as well (though not from me. I was past the contagious stage then, and it turned out to just be a bad cold or maybe a light flu for him).

And I kept getting sicker...

By Sunday the 26th, I was pretty much in bed 24/7. In fact, from the 26th until today (February 13th. 19ish days ), I've pretty much been sick in bed, minus changing the actual location of said bed.

A couple times I've felt better for a day or two, only to be slammed back down even worse afterwards.

Anyway, our friend was sick, and he needed his place free of a teething baby and two houseguests in order to rest.

So, we ended up transferring from our friends place to another hotel a couple days early, and swallowing the $700 for a week (six nights actually). At least it was a much nicer place than the ESA (a Hilton garden inn, with a 2 room suite. Funny thing was, it was actually only $40 more than the ESA would have been).

Unfortunately, I couldn't enjoy the nicer surroundings, because I was pretty much out of my head sick. By that point, it was clear that my Bronchitis had developed into pneumonia.

And then life got more complicated...

At that point it was ALSO very clear we wouldn't be leaving AZ until WELL after the fifth. So, we asked our new landlords if we could take possession on the 15th.

Initially they agreed. Unfortunately, a few days later, they insisted that we take possession on the fifth, and pay a full months rent for February, plus the deposit etc... and that they wanted the full amount by the 5th.

Apparently the husband (who had initially agreed to our request) was fine with what we wanted to do, but the wife wasn't, and she was making the decisions.

After I told them this was unacceptable to us, they agreed to prorate the rent from the 5th, but no further.

I told them I was perfectly willing to pay from the 15th, ON the 15th, whether we were there to take possession or not; but that we weren't going to pay a full months rent for a half months occupancy (or likely less, given that we wouldn't even be able to LEAVE AZ until at least the 15th... frankly I doubted whether we could get to NH before the end of February). I thought it was kind of silly to lose tenants over a matter of 10 days rent, and that if they agreed to the 15th I would be willing to send them half the security deposit immediately.

Well, that wasn't acceptable to them.

So as of February 1st, we were stuck in Arizona, no longer having a new house to bring our stuff and our selves back to.

We started looking for a new place immediately of course.

And we had to change venues again...

By the 1st, it was clear that Mels grandmother wouldn't be coming home. Between her injuries, the stroke, and her dementia, she can no longer be cared for at home, even with an aide. She's still in the rehab facility, but when they release her, we're transferring her to a 24 hour care facility.

This is really for the best. She needs 24 hour care that she can't get here.

That also meant that the spare room in my father in laws house would be available to us again (of course, it ended up being available the whole month, and we could have avoided wasting $2,000 for a months worth of hotel charges, and god knows how much more on a bunch of takeout/restaurant meals for when we didn't want to use the kitchenette... but we didn't know that at the time).

So, not knowing how long it would take to find a new place to live in NH, and rather than pay for more hotel rooms, on the 5th we transferred our operation back to Mels fathers house.

And I kept getting sicker...

The day we moved over my father in laws house, I basically collapsed into the bed, and I've barely left it since.

The last eight days have been really bad, with low to medium fevers, sweats and chills, lots of pain (particularly joint pain, and stomach pain), a nasty cough, myalgia, stomach and intestinal issues, sinus problems, photophobia... it's just sucked frankly.

Actually, yesterday (the 12th) was the first day since the 24th that I didn't have a fever.

The only compensation has been that for most of the past week, the pneumonia has knocked me out for 10 or 12 hours a day. For the first few weeks of this crud, it was bad enough to keep me from sleeping, but NOT bad enough to knock me out.

Oh and by the by, my wife, and my 10 month old son have ALSO been sick for the last three weeks (since the week with our friend), though thankfully it's just been a mild flu or bad cold (it can be hard to tell) and a touch of bronchitis for them.

...Of course, it's also kept THEM from sleeping  until the past few days as well.

Combined with the boys MASSIVE teething issue the past month or so... (he's cried more in the last six weeks than he did in the entire previous 9 months)... I pretty much hadn't slept the entire month of January.

Basically I was averaging about 2 hours of not particularly restful sleep out of every 24.

And then of course there's been the stress issue. The money, the mad rush, the uncertainty, the not having a place to live... You could say it's been a LITTLE bit stressful.

Between being sick, and not sleeping, I was pretty much a zombie for most of January (unless I was taking plenty of adderall, nasal spray, and anti-inflammatories, which you can't do all day every day).

Oh and of course, stress, sleep deprivation and exhaustion make illnesses worse, and make healing much harder. Frankly, it was probably the sleep deprivation and exhaustion that made it progress to pneumonia in the first place.

The bad news...

I just spent most of my second month (and half my third month) with a new employer, dead sick. For two weeks of that, I've been damn near useless.

I've been so sick, I've barely done any useful work in the last two weeks (I've been doing a lot of reading and research, and a little bit of writing), and I haven't been on anything billable for four weeks.

Also, I'm still in Arizona, a month after I was supposed to be back in New England, with at least a few more weeks to go before I actually make it back.

They're somewhat less than thrilled with me at the moment.

The good news...

I've got two pieces of good news actually.

First, the pneumonia seems to have broken. I haven't had a fever in over 24 hours, my coughing is greatly diminished... the only major thing really left is a particularly nasty sinus problem... and I think that's really a leftover, not a new sinus infection.

Second, we found a new house... and it's damn near exactly what we were looking for, at about half the price the Laconia place was (though it is MUCH more remote... which is both good and bad). Even better the owners are going to work with us on a lease to buy option. We're in the process of signing on it now (more on this house in a later post).

Ok, vent over...