Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Back pain sucks

I am writing this not (just) to whine about myself, but because I know that back pain is a near universal experience that most of us can relate to!

My history with back pain started on December 8, 1980. I remember that I played racquetball that morning with my good friend and coworker David Fryer (he was 'Da Fly' just as I was 'Da Mule' -- there's a funny story or two there but I will save that for another blog). I don't remember a specific play where I got hurt, I just remember that I was in quite a bit of pain most of that day. I was annoyed because I had to stay up late to watch the Monday Night Football game; I ran the weekly football pool at work. I remember the date vividly because, late in the game, Howard Cosell announced, in as dramatic a fashion as only Howard Cosell could muster, that John Lennon had been shot in New York City. I immediately (tried) to jump out of my recliner (the typical post college recliner with holes in the fabric), but instead fell flat on my face because my back would not cooperate. I literally crawled to the radio and turned it on to try and get more news about Lennon's condition.

So that began a lifetime of on and off pain in my lower back. I managed to work and play through it, with the help of my good friend Advil, until January or February of 2008. I suddenly started to feel severe pain in my left hamstring and calf. When this did not go away in a week or so, I made an appointment at the Emory Spine Center. Long story short, I had a herniated disk (L5S1) that was pushing on my sciatic nerve. I realized that I had been experiencing similar pain for a couple of years when riding more than 30 or 40 miles; I just attributed that to muscle pain and took Advil, but I realize now that was probably also due to the disk leaking out over time.

So, today, after a series of cortisone epidural injections and a year of resting and doing cores, I am mostly better. My cycling is still severely limited; I did manage 25 miles 2 weeks ago, but this past weekend I was in pain after 13 (I was in the middle of a 20 mile ride). I still have bad days however, which is why I am writing this blog - yesterday I sat at my desk in my home office for 5 hours catching up on email (I was out 2 days a month ago and had not been able to catch up!); then I drove an hour over to Marietta for a meeting with CCE (Coke bottler). Then I sat for 3 1/2 hours in this meeting (I did stand up to stretch several times); then I drove home in Atlanta traffic, which took an hour and a half. I was in pretty bad pain most of the way and had to stop and stretch mid way through. I got home, lay flat on my back for about an hour (made great progress in the book I have been trying to finish since March!), then did my cores. I felt better, but was still in enough pain to pick a few pointless arguments with my wife.

Now to the universal experience portion of this blog - pain in general can really sap your energy, but it seems to me that back pain is all encompassing. It's hard to do anything when your back hurts. I have several friends dealing with this now, one is about to undergo surgery. I was lucky to avoid that, but at one point last year I would have welcomed it if I thought that it would cure me. I never really 'felt old' until last year; I am hoping 2009 will be my 'rebirth' year and I can get back to where I was in '07. My dream is to ride in the MS ride again (I did 11 in a row from 1997 to 2007). That's a 65 mile ride 2 days in a row. It's in September, so I need to start building miles now. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 19, 2009

My dad

As Father's Day approaches I once again am stymied as to what to get my dad. I'll figure something out in the next day or two, but in the meantime, now that I have officially joined the blogosphere, I feel it is appropriate to dedicate a blog to him!

The best thing I can say about my dad is how much I always respected and admired him; my goal in life was to earn his respect and to one day be a husband and father that modelled him. Dad was not the kind of father to yell and scream and threaten us; I rarely if ever heard my mom say, "just wait until your father gets home." However, when I messed up, all he had to do was look at me with resignation and tell me how disappointed he was in me. Those were the words I most dreaded!

My dad is a product of the generation that came before women's lib; I don't believe he shared equally in the domestic chores around the house. What he did do was to get up every morning and go to work (I don't recall him ever 'calling in sick'). He did this without complaint; in fact I remember many mornings when the teenage me would be up moping over breakfast and he would give me a cheerful 'Good Morning!'; I would mumble something back and he would scold me for being morose and disrespectful. He modelled a very strong work ethic, and he exhibited airtight integrity. My brother and sister and I have very different personalities, but we all work hard and keep our word - if Jeff or Lisa tell me anything, I never have to wonder if they are being honest with me. To be sure, our mother exhibited these same qualities, so we had a double dose of good role modelling to learn from!

I am sure that there are many fathers of my dad's generation that practiced strong work ethics and high integrity; the "more unique" (that's for you dad!) aspect of my dad is that he is unafraid to show love and affection. He and mom were always very affectionate; even after 40 years of marriage their love for each other was plain for all to see. All us kids learned from them, and on my best days, I try to model that (unfortunately I inherited the 'fiery' side of my mom's personality rather than my dad's serene demeanor!). He has never been afraid to hug his kids, to this day we hug each other when we say goodbye.

I am so blessed by the parents I was lucky enough to have! Dad, I love you more than I can convey in words. Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I've joined the blogosphere!

This is my first blog - yes, I am that last person on earth who is not yet self-published! At least not until I publish this posting.

So what am I supposed to write about? I used to fancy myself a pretty good writer - heck I won a play writing contest in 8th Grade! We even got to stage it for the whole school and they gave me a cameo part (I am definitely NOT an actor). My first major in college was journalism, until I figured out that I didn't want to be writing obituaries for the Peoria Post for 5 years. I think I would have been a good reporter - maybe a war correspondent, or, better yet, a sportswriter! (I identified with Oscar Madison on the Odd Couple!). Recently I thought I might become a religious writer when I retire from my day job - maybe write Sunday School lessons. Who knows?

When I realized there was no money in journalism I switched my major to computer science (I have always been very practical). Back then, Ohio State was one of the first colleges to offer a computer science degree in the business college. I was a hot property after graduation; I tried to start a bidding war between IBM, Hewlett-Packard and NCR. I ended up at NCR and eventually made my way to EMC. A few years back I thought I was burned out and needed a career change, so I attended some sessions of the Crossroads Career course at church; I did enough surveys and skill assessments to learn that I should be doing something that combined social activity in a technical field ... which, as a pre sales consultant for a storage vendor, was exactly what I was doing! So I decided to bitch less and focus on the positive. To a large degree, I've been successful.

So no one really cares about my background, which brings me back to my opening question - what do I write about? This isn't Twitter, so I don't want to tell you that I had cereal for breakfast (again!). This isn't Facebook, so I don't want to tell you what my status is ("Brian is trying to write a blog"). However, I am fairly new to FB, and just joined Twitter this week (I have 2 followers, even though I have yet to tweet!). This is my 'going public' phase, I guess. The cool thing about Twitter was watching the #iranelection discussion the past few nights, with all the tweets out of Iran, and the links to YouTube videos of protesters getting beaten up.

So why a blog, why now (my wife wants to know)? I've thought about this for quite awhile, but just never got around to it, never had the time, etc (still don't). This morning on NPR they were talking about the new rules for job seekers; for example one hiring manager said that if he gets a paper resume and cover letter folded neatly inside an envelope he just throws it away. If it's not electronic, it doesn't exist. They said that many contacts are made through professional networking sites like LinkedIn (I'm on there but I don't have any recommendations). Then there was the throwaway comment that if you didn't exist online and if you didn't have a blog, then you were suspect. So that was the excuse I needed to start one!

Time will tell whether this is my last blog or whether I will actually post on a periodic basis. Right now I have to decide if I'm going to post this link on Facebook or just let it sit in the ether and see if anyone actually stumbles across it (maybe the slightly crude blog title will "attract a few flies" (sorry - bad pun!).

Thanks for reading!