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Second Quarter Life Update
Staying Alive and Moving on, 2023 Edition
I’ve been wanting to release more juicy stories of sex, work and shame from the vault of my brain, but then a bunch of events that started in April have sent us packing and I’m still trying to catch my breath and unpack it all.
I’ve been wanting to move for years now. I still love Portland despite it’s reputation so I knew I wanted to stay in the area, but I’ve been in same house since I moved here in 2015. It was never meant to be a forever home, it was the fourth house I put a bid on after three months of active searching and I was tired of living out of a suitcase in a furnished studio. I poured about $225k over the last eight years into that little old house and I certainly improved it (and it now makes me money as a rental) but it always felt cramped, especially with the two of us working from home. I’ve also thought I’d get used to living a hundred yards from a four-lane road that’s really a race track— but either cars and motorcycles have gotten louder and the drivers douchier or I’ve gotten more sensitive to environmental noise as I’ve aged. So I’ve been obsessed with finding a home with newer construction on a quiet street for years. My partner moved in with me in October 2020 and they didn’t want to move out to a new place, which created tension as I threatened to just move out by myself and buy little one bedroom condo for me and make them rent the whole house out (which they couldn’t afford anyway, plus that would be just dumb.) So I was secretly going to open houses in the area for the last few years and I even dragged them along to some. Like Goldilocks trying all the porridges, or Melissa trying to find a partner on OKcupid, there was always a major flaw that made them not quite right— either way were too much of a fixer (that’s the problem with old charming houses, the ones that are in our budget are money pits and I learned this lesson the hard way.) Or It’s a sweet house but near a hella noisy street (I made a promise to never live within a block of a double yellow line road ever again.) Or it’s in an area that’s not very walkable/bike-able to stores or anywhere (I don’t have a car and I like the “urban fabric” of my ‘hood, I hate the sprawling car-centric suburbs.) And the most pervasive flaw: The house is in perfect condition, it’s 3 bedroom, 2 bath with a garage for storage and a little yard. It’s updated with a well-designed space on a quiet walkable street near bike lanes, shops and restaurants. OMG it’s absolutely perfect, I want it I want it I want it! Let’s put a bid in before all these other people at the open house snatch it up! Wait it’s how much? $850k? (ends up selling a month later for 1.2 million.) Queue the wahh wahhhhh trombone sound. Yes, even with Portland’s reputation as a shit show, the market here keeps rising as Bay Area housing veterans like me keep moving here.
So in April I found a modern three bedroom condo for sale in a neighborhood not far from my old house that’s less fancy— more rentals and multiplexes, younger folks, some low income housing. Having more density and diversity feels like what a real city should be, it feels like a real community. The first thing I loved about the house were the massive windows, the natural light, the views from the top of trees— so I made my partner to come to the second open house the next day. We decided (well, really me) to put in an offer, but how much? This place was priced on the low side to get a bidding war going and I didn’t want to get swept up in emotion and have regrets. I decided to go low and put an offer of only $10k over asking (the seller’s agent and I played the “I’m thinking of a number” game but I kept my Poker face steady.) If it was meant to be we would get it, but there were others who also putting in bids. I was scared I was being too cocky.
Forty eight hours after the first time I saw the house, twenty four hours after we put in our bid I was strolling around the new neighborhood and the seller’s agent called to say we got the house.
“Wait- What? What? WHAT!!!” I kept yelling on the phone. It was like a doctor telling me I was pregnant when I was trying to get pregnant. But fuck, I didn’t think I would get pregnant this soon and now we’re pregnant and we’ll be having having this baby in only a few weeks- the closing date is a month from now and this very expensive child might be ours after jumping through a lot of stressful hoops. Or we may lose her if we can’t get a loan.
So late April we are mortgage shopping. I’m the questionable self-employed woman in the double application process with no W-2’s or steady employment so I’m questioned constantly by the bank underwriters like I’m under investigation for murder. It drags on for a month. At one point they accuse me of using my partner like a shill to get a loan (even though I own property and my partner doesn’t) and they don’t believe we are a couple as they couldn’t find “any info about us online”, which I had to explain in a letter there was a reason they couldn’t find any info (I’ve had to deal with stalkers so I go out of my way to not have my home address on anything and not have my partner’s name connected to mine.) I had to write these anonymous underwriter dudes a letter about my stalkers and about putting everything in a trust and using different names. Since they didn’t believe my partner and I were in a relationship and had doubts I even owned my house, we decided to take selfies standing on the front lawn of my house holding our cat in one arm and a piece of paper in the other with the date and time so they knew we were real. It was maddening but at the eleventh hour we squeaked by and got the loan. At the same time I was packing up eight years of accumulated stuff and selling whatever I could on Craigslist to lightened our loan, plus I wanted to get newer furniture that matched the modern space. In my old house I had to paint, do repairs and varnish the floors before the new tenants moved in. I didn’t sell my house as it’s part of my income and my job as a manager- I built a small house in my backyard a few years ago that I rent out to short-term guests on a platform that begins with A, ends with B and blatantly discriminates against my community. I’m conflicted because I’ve built up my business over the years and it’s allowed me to take a step back from seeing clients and focus on my creative pursuits. I could lose that business if I speak out publicly against them as they’ve banned many of my friends for no given reason (It’s a topic for another Substack piece.)
Anyhoo, we got through the move, the new renters are all moved in and happy being there. We are still unpacking boxes and figuring out where to put stuff like puzzle pieces. I’m painting a few areas of the house with some punchy colors to balance all the safe and boring tan and beige walls. I’ve been slowly furnishing the new place with cool mid-century modern tables, chairs and rugs. That’s the fun part of life right now.
I’ve had a health issue around my uterus and my estrogen levels. I’m on hormone replacement therapy to help me from waking up every night burning hot after five hours of sleep (and then not being able to fall back asleep- I haven’t had a full night of sleep in months, which contributes to my depression and ADD and my partner and I fighting and that gives me nightmares that wake me up and...ugh.) So I talked to my doctor and decided to double the dose of my estrogen patch— and within two months it made my boobs a cup size bigger (and also tender and sore so not so fun) and I also started bleeding again (a very bad sign when you’ve been in menopause with no periods for years.) I had an ultrasound and they found a cyst and abnormality. I attempted to get an endometrial biopsy from my gyno but they couldn’t get the instrument through my cervix, so they sent me to this fancy clinic. We did a tele-heath video visit initially. They said they wanted me to schedule surgery and they prescribed some Metapristone to soften my cervix (ah, now I understand how it works for self-administered abortions.) They explained I would feel cramping and pain but that’s not what scared me on the call. They called it “surgery” and not an in-office visit even though it was a 15 minute procedure in an office.
“You will be getting an estimate of cost from our health team”, the doctor said.
Huh, that’s weird, it can’t be that expensive. I didn’t get an “estimate of cost” for the procedure from my other doctor at Zoomcare. This procedure is ordered from my doctor so insurance should pay for some portion of it.
I got an email a few days later an estimate of $2500 to $3200 which doesn’t even cover the outside lab costs. I was shocked.
So I contacted my health insurance company over the phone to try to understand my benefits and out-of-pocket expenses. I tried so hard to follow what the rep was trying communicate but it sounded to my ears like a math equation I couldn’t do— If a train leaves Chicago westbound at 8:42am and you’ve only spent $765.89 of your $8000.00 deductible this year and the procedure code is 58558, the Dx Code is N95.0 which are the codes for endoscopic surgery and not a regular office visit…. and the moon is waning with the tide going out that month….which would be outside the scope of preventive care….
Me: This is all so confusing! Just tell me how much Regence is going to contribute to the bill.
Representative: Um, well… since you would have to spend another $7234.11 to reach the deductible, you would be responsible for all of it.
Me (shocked and pissed off): Welp, guess I’ll have to wager a bet against cancer. Fuck this country’s fucked up health care system!…Oh, uh, I’m really sorry for yelling. it’s not your fault, I know you’re just an employee there.
Her: I totally understand, it is a messed up system. (then goes back to her script:) Is there anything that I can help you with today?
Yes, pray that I can find a decent gyno that uses the right diagnostic codes so I can get this procedure covered and that a big pile money falls into my lap until I can change by health insurance provider in November.
In the midst of moving last month, we all went to my cousin’s wedding outside of Seattle. It was a little rainy but still lovely. My father and stepmother came all the way from Florida to attend, a rarity as my dad doesn’t like to fly these days. He said it’s harder for him being older with health issues. My stepmother is a few years younger than my dad and travels regularly around world on adventures with her friends every few months. She is very social, outgoing, doesn’t have GI issues and sleeps well ever night. The opposite of us. She is the yang to my dad’s yin.
With my parents getting older, I can’t help but imagine playing a scenario in my head of getting a phone call telling me one of them has died. And it’s always G, my stepmother calling me to tell the news that my father died. This past week I was on the phone with my dad telling him about the new house, and then he said abruptly, “Are you sitting down? I have some news.”
He didn’t sound too upset so I thought for a moment he and G were separating (I’ve witnessed so many separations and divorces in my dad’s life maybe it just seems normal to me now.)
He told me after they flew back from the wedding G wasn’t feeling well so she went to the doctor. The did some tests and discovered she had stage four pancreatic cancer. * I was silent as I let his words and thoughts wash over me.
It makes no sense, seeing someone so full of energy with no health issues suddenly having a death sentence like this. I’m trying think of all the positive things. I’m grateful I’ll be seeing both of them in North Carolina next month after our big family reunion in Connecticut. I’m grateful I got to be part of their wedding fifteen years ago. They showed me and the world you can find new life partners in the last act of your life. And I feel grateful and guilty that it wasn’t G calling me to tell me that I needed to say goodbye to my dad.
I cried over the phone as my dad spoke in his rational tone. He said he had cried a lot but was also doing a lot of processing and reading a lot of books on the subject (that’s my dad, always the psychology professor.) He told me not to worry about him, but that’s really what my tears have been about. G does so much in their relationship- the cooking, cleaning, accounting, how to use the computer. I feel horrible for my father who’s lost so many relationships over his eight-two years on this earth, as well as my stepbrother who’s my age and also an old child- grieving alone for the loss of his mom. I pray that my dad doesn’t go into decline after she leaves. I’ve seen the decline and depression many other times with my dad. The thought of moving to Florida to become a caretaker never crossed my mind until now. I’m suddenly feeling old and vulnerable. So this week I’ve been tackling the unpacking, organizing and tending the garden to ground myself. I know I need to to do the practical things like make an appointment with a doctor and accept that it’s damn expensive and damn necessary, write up my own will and talk about these scary things with the partner, but our relationship has been rocky with everything going on. In the end, all we really have is ourselves to depend on, as unromantic and bitter as that sounds.
I better take better care of me.
* If you are a family member hearing about G’s cancer for the first time (I’m sorry, I needed to write about this) please do not contact G directly, we haven’t disclosed this to extended family yet. She doesn’t want any phone calls at this time but she would love to hear from you through email and texts.