Saving on Surgery

“Your gallbladder is inflamed, with over 20 stones, full of fluid, infection, and possibly gangrene.”

He went on to tell me it has been sick for over 10 years, but it was hard to concentrate because I was medicated and he looked like Santa Claus! It turned out he is Santa Claus, and had his picture taken with over 400 children last year…

…and he is married to the surgeon who would perform the operation!

(Yes, I live in a small town. My cousin’s wife is one of the surgical nurses.)

The 35-minute surgery took 2 hours. He told me it was like picking up a baseball with a pair of tweezers. My sister thought I was going to die.

(Spoiler alert – I didn’t.)

I learned a few things along the way:

  1. Take the medication: They made me drink something to get my bowels to move because the regular medications didn’t have any effect on me. I had a toddler visiting and she noticed the pretty button on the bottom of the bed. She pushed it, and as I went up, so did the medication. But I drank every concoction they prescribed.
  2. Limit painkillers: A fever forced me to remain in the hospital the second day. My system still was not functioning, even after 4 doses of Milk of Magnesia, stool softeners, and 2 suppositories. The painkillers grind your digestive system to a halt. The second day I stopped taking them. I stayed still and napped as much as possible. When I got home, I took two and went right to sleep.
  3. Fruit is your friend: I ordered fruit, fruit juice, and fruit pie to try to help my system naturally. At the suggestion of my youngest son, I finally asked for prune juice! Three hours later, my body started working again and I was able to finally go home. I continued drinking prune juice, (gag) until I no longer needed the painkillers.
  4. Keep your sense of humor: 1) Before they rolled me off for surgery, they asked my birthday. I subtracted 20 years. My oldest son quipped, “Yeah, she was 5 when I was born.” 2) I told my regular doctor that the 20 stones each weighed a pound. I wasn’t really overweight…it was the stones.
  5. Eat: I ordered a salmon sandwich and it tasted like Spam. My daughter-in-law kept pushing me to eat one more bite. When my husband came on his lunch hour, he bought the salmon sandwich. I sent her a text, “David bought the Spam sandwich!” She replied with emoticons of chicken leg = something brown = house. When I asked her about the “no-bake cookies,” she explained: food = poop = going home.
  6. Walk: My first walk was short and slow. My second walk was longer and I passed two older men. They seemed to speed up. I don’t know if it was from competition or they were hoping my gown would fly open!
  7. Nap: Our hospital has a quiet time when they ask visitors to leave. Since you are going to be awakened throughout the night, it’s a good idea to sleep when you can during the day. Rest is the best prescription.
  8. Get all the prescriptions: I had been home over the weekend when the pharmacy called to say my meds were ready. I didn’t recognize the name of the doctor and called the clinic. It turned out the infection was antibiotic resistant. They tried two different antibiotics in the hospital, but when the final blood test results came back, they realized it would take a different one to kill it.
  9. Accept help: My family and church members brought over meals. That took the pressure off of my husband who was waiting on me hand and foot. (Those were his words, not mine.)
  10. Stop: Don’t do any regular activities until the doctor releases you. Delegate anything and everything. I wanted to post on this blog the day I got my stitches out, but the doctor restricted me to the couch for another week. Take it slow.

The best way to save on surgery is to have an outpatient procedure. That means you have to take care of things right away. Don’t wait until it is infected and an emergency situation.

If that is not an option…


Your goal is to go home as soon as possible.

Some of my Get Well cards included original art!

Some of my Get Well cards included original art!

©2009-2016 All Rights Reserved.

Crybaby in Bay #2

I didn’t burst into tears, but I did have the start of a panic attack. I don’t even know why? I had a tooth pulled before.

And then Emily began to sing and I calmed down. 

I’ve known Emily since she started preschool and I loved hearing her sing over the years. She joined her father’s practice and was singing along with the music in the dentist’s office. It calmed me down and I remembered the last time I lost a tooth…

…it was the year my dad died and my new daughter-in-law thought I was going to die, too. I felt like it!

I ended up in the ER with severe pain in my ear and neck. It was diagnosed as a sinus infection because the drainage had made my throat raw. It took four antibiotics, two pain killers, and a month in bed to get me through that infection.

I went to my dentist for a routine cleaning 6 weeks later and he said the tooth was cracked and dead. It had started to work itself out on its own.

This tooth did not!

I started feeling discomfort last week, but we were getting ready for our son’s graduation and I ignored it. Graduation was Sunday and I could not ignore it any longer! I couldn’t sleep and I could no longer tell which tooth it was. They all hurt, lower and upper!

My granddaughter rescued me.

The dentist was out of town and I could not be seen until mid-afternoon. I was going crazy when I remembered we bought Orajel for our granddaughter when she was teething. Yeah, it was old…but I didn’t care. It sufficiently put my mouth to sleep.

She rescued me again today, when the Ibuprofen was not enough. I woke up on that side in the middle of the night and there was a little swelling. My instructions were to alternate Ibuprofen and Tylenol if I was still experiencing discomfort.

We didn’t have any Tylenol in the house, but we did have baby Tylenol. I took a half a bottle…one after the other…because that was the adult dose. It helped enough that I finally got dressed at 10:00 am.

What does this have to do with saving money?


If we had not budgeted our money there would not have been anything in the “dentist” category. We didn’t spend the money we set back there on anything else and when I needed it, I was able to just go and get help.

There was gas in the van to drive to the dentist. We don’t live paycheck to paycheck and drive the last day on fumes. The tank is always half full and we fill the top of the tank.

There was soup in the cupboard. I shop the sales and the pantry, refrigerator, and freezer are well stocked. I didn’t have to go to the store for soft foods. I was able to go home and turn on Netflix.

I didn’t move for a day!

The dentist and I discussed trying to save the tooth. The root was curved and it would require a specialist to perform a root canal, $1,000.00; and add a crown, $500.00. The tooth had two filled cavities in it and he was not sure if those measures would even work.

All I could think about was another painful night while I waited for the specialist to get me in. I told him to yank it out.

Being frugal is not being cheap. It is telling your money where to go, and when you need it, the money is there.

Sorry, no pictures.

Marriage is Not Like a Car

We are celebrating our 33rd Wedding Anniversary this weekend! (Yes, we were really young when we got married. No, I was not pregnant; we waited four years to have kids.)

Cake topper from our wedding.

Cake topper from our wedding.

When people ask us the secret to a long marriage, we usually joke, “Marriage Counseling.” But there is no secret, you have to take care of it.

Flower girl basket, bridal bouquet, untiy candle, and maid of honor bouquet from our wedding.

Flower girl basket, bridal bouquet, untiy candle, and maid of honor bouquet from our wedding.

Marriage is not like a car that you can trade in for a newer model when it breaks down or starts to age.

Marriage is like a breast.

  1. Only adults have them.
  2. It starts small and grows so gradually you barely notice.
  3. It needs constant protection and support.
  4. It needs frequent examination against the cancers that will harm it. Those cancers can kill you.
  5. If properly cared for, it will nurture your children and be a source of comfort and pleasure for the rest of your life.
  6. The alternative will cost you physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially for the rest of your life.
  7. Investing in your marriage does not require expensive gifts, trips, or dinners out. It requires time. Time to dream, plan, and just touch base.

It’s the best investment you will ever make!


This Is Not A Shot Glass

Part of my eye wash system.

Part of my eye wash system.











It’s that time of year again…tree pollen triggers watery, itchy eyes.

I’ve already woke up with one eye that suspiciously looked like pink eye. Yet, when I rinsed it out, used Patanol eye drops, and popped two Benadryl, the redness faded.

The last time I was at the eye doctor’s we had a discussion about pollen affecting the eyes. We talked about using an eye wash system. I could buy one and use purified water, but I explained to him my more frugal method.

First I boiled water, that I had run through my PUR water filter pitcher, in a tea kettle.

Boil purified water in a tea kettle until it whistles.

Boil purified water in a tea kettle until it whistles.

After I let it cool, I poured an 8-ounce glass and sprinkled a dash of salt in it. I stirred the water to dissolve the salt. I poured the water in my clean hand and blinked a few times in the water. I repeated the procedure in my other eye.

The salt and water rinse the pollen from your eyeball! According to the eye doctor, there is more salt in my tears than the amount I put in the glass.

While away for the weekend with my sister-in-law, I told her about my eye wash system and that I was looking for a shot glass to use. I thought it would be safer than using my hand. She inherited a collection from her fiance’s grandmother and gave this one to me.

Now it is not a shot glass…it is a neti pot for my eyes!

©2009-2015 All rights reserved.

 Twitter – @frugalfishorg

Facebook – Frugal Fish


I Did It…Regrew Lettuce

Yes, I’m a salad nut.

Or just a plain nut depending on how well you know me.

I like salad for lunch…even in the winter! I tried eating other things, but I got sick and decided I needed to have raw veggies every day to keep my immune system working well.

If you are what you eat…I’m green.

It’s okay. I’m Irish.

But fresh ingredients can be pretty pricey when the temperature dips below zero.

You know me, I am always looking for ways to save money. When I saw this online, I didn’t think it would work. They showed leaf lettuce regrowing after it was cut. They just stuck the base in water.

I have been trying this over the last few weeks. I have a sunny south window that is ideal for growing things. After tossing a few experiments, I think I finally figured it out.

  1. Cut the leaf lettuce off at about 2/3 of the way down. You will need to leave the tiny center leaves intact.
  2. Cut a thin slice off the bottom and put it in water.
  3. Add water to the glass every few days.
  4. If the outside leaves start to rot, remove them.
  5. When the leaves start growing, pull off some of the tops.
  6. If a stem starts to grow in the middle, the lettuce has bolted (gone to seed) and the leaves will be bitter. Removing leaves will keep it from bolting.

I usually buy lettuce every week, but today I started my salad with just the leaves from the lettuce in my window.

Have you tried this at home?

The plate of lettuce pulled off of lettuce I am regrowing.

The plate of lettuce pulled off of lettuce I am regrowing.


Christmas Eyes

I woke up with “Christmas Eyes.”

What are those, you ask?

That is when my normally hazel eyes, look green and bright, bloodshot red.

I avoid Christmas Eyes because they bring all sorts of nasty gifts: watering and mucus, that leads to infection, that leads to sinusitis, that leads to bronchitis, that eventually leads to pneumonia!

Yeah. I like to stop it before any gunk appears.

The first step is to determine what has set them off: Ragweed, tree pollen, grass pollen, animal dander, dust, or a sad movie. Yes, excessive crying can cause my eyes to react, too.

It’s January; which means I can rule out the sad movies. The Christmas movies are over and Hallmark has rolled out their Valentine series.

It’s also Iowa; which means the low is 7 below and I doubt there are any grass, trees, or weeds that have survived.

Animal dander. When was the last time I was around a dog? Um, August? That would really be a delayed reaction!

Dust. The Christmas decorations on a shelf in the garage. I do admit the house does not get dusted as thoroughly during December because of all the decorations…I just don’t get into the corners as well. But the shelves are bare.

The Valentine decorations made it as far as the dining room table and are not yet charming vignettes.

That leaves one last thing – the furnace filter.

We have an “asthma/allergy” filter that removes everything from the air. Unfortunately, we have to vacuum it and clean it with a power washer at the car wash once a month.

We try to clean it on the first of the month, but the weather does not cooperate in the winter. We couldn’t remember when it had last been cleaned.

I needed a visible reminder to tell me the last time we cleaned it. I pondered that as I poured myself a glass of water.

Yuk. When was the last time I changed Pur filter?

I looked at the sticker on the side and saw it needed replacing, too. I pulled out another filter from the three pack and rinsed it. The sticker that comes with each filter fell on the floor.

I usually just throw it away because I am able to move the indicator sticker around on the circle calendar on the pitcher.

Then it hit me. That is just what I need to indicate the date we cleaned the furnace filter!

I went downstairs and slapped that puppy on my furnace.

When did I wash the furnace filter?

When did I wash the furnace filter?

The second step is Benadryl and Patanol eye drops. I’m done with Christmas Eyes!

©2009-2015 All rights reserved.

 Twitter – @frugalfishorg

Facebook – Frugal Fish

Chocolate-Covered Raisins Craving

I am a choc-holic.

When I do mending for my sister-in-law, she pays me in candy bars.

When I host extended family dinners, my mother brings an extra-large, dark chocolate bar in gratitude.

I have homemade trail mix, complete with M & M’s, made up at all times.

I have a stash of chocolate hidden in my bedroom. (Unfortunately, my youngest son found it.)

Every once in a while I get a craving for a certain kind of chocolate…like chocolate covered raisins. Since I am trying to control my weight I look for a substitute. I satisfied that craving by sprinkling raisins over a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles!

More filling, fewer calories.

An alternative to chocolate covered raisins!

An alternative to chocolate covered raisins!


We just got off of a winter storm here in Iowa. There was freezing rain followed by snow. I won’t mention any names, but a member of my family was late to work because the vehicle would not make it up the hill and they had to go around another way…only to fall on their butt when they arrived…twice.

Yes, we are tired of winter here in Iowa and flying to a sunny beach is not an option. It was while I was reading in front of my large, south-facing window that I discovered another alternative.

I got out my thermostat/humidity detector and put it on the arm of the couch where I was reading. After ten minutes, it was registering 91 degrees. That was amazing since it was 68 across the room and 7 on the outside of the glass.

Light therapy is often prescribed for those suffering from eczema. The dermatologist uses a special “light box” that only emits a certain type of rays. It is also an expensive treatment. When I am suffering from an outbreak, I will lie on my couch and expose the rash to the warmth. It does help it to heal more quickly.

Some patients find relief using tanning beds, but that can lead to skin cancer. If I limit my time on the couch to ten minutes or under, I get the benefit without the risk.

It is also helpful for those who suffer from depression during the dark days of winter. Find a sunny spot and spend some time there doing an activity you enjoy.

My free tanning couch!

My free tanning couch!


It was Christmas Eve and my husband and I were asked to sing in the choir. My right foot fell asleep during practice, but that was the least of my worries.

We were singing “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and I learned we would not be using music. I realized I’ve played the carol many times, but I have never sung it.

Luckily, they would have the words on the projector screen…but the monitor blocked part of the screen from my view.

I fumbled through that carol, singing softly, and thought I was home free. I was wrong.

When we came back on the platform for the next two carols, I found I was having trouble walking. I was trying desperately not to limp.

Of course, when I went to find my seat for the sermon, I could not find my husband. Someone had taken our seats and he sat down in the front. I walked to the back of the sanctuary before an usher caught up with me. She led me to the row my husband was seated in.

All I wanted to do was put my foot up on the back of the seats in front of us. I put it on my knee instead.

I decided the problem was my shoes needed replaced.

I don’t have many shoes. I alternate between white and black athletic shoes during the week. I also have one pair of hiking shoes because they were on sale.

I purchase shoes in January and July. Usually, I buy one pair of white walking shoes and one pair of black walking shoes. In the summer I wear the white shoes the most and black shoes in the winter. It is easy to forget which pair is oldest.

I decided to write the date I purchased the shoe on the inside of each. I threw away the oldest pair.

Write the date you bought your shoes on the inside.

Write the date you bought your shoes on the inside.

The next service it was bitterly cold again. I pulled out my trusty snow boots and wore them to church. I was shocked when my foot fell asleep again. I pulled off the boot and looked at the size. They were a 7 1/2 wide and I need 7 extra wide or EE.

It wasn’t the shoes…it was the boots. I went online and ordered snow boots in the correct size. Since it is so late in the season, I couldn’t get black or white…I got shiny purple ones. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on my boots; after all, you can’t miss them.

I listened to my body for the last three weeks as I fought an infection that took three antibiotics to kill. That was followed by a 4 day migraine. I rested instead of writing. I was so sick that I only got up to change my pajamas that first week. Anyone miss me?



My husband’s company does not offer the option of a medical savings account. I opened a savings account just for medical bills. I put a set amount in it every month. I no longer worry when I need to go to the dentist because I know there is money in that savings account.

Since the only money in there is for medical expenses it does not get spent accidentally. I was glad of that when I received my bill for a recent trip to the ER. They offered a 15% discount if it was paid in full within 20 days. Thanks to my medical savings account. I was able to pay it right away.

A note on the bill for the ER visit.

A note on the bill for the ER visit.