Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays! May you ache less in the new year

Work has quieted to the sound of the HVAC system and I'm ready to head for the Holiday break after getting some work done in the quiet.

May we all be less achy in 2016!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recipe Test: Simple Blue Fish with lemon, butter and parsley.

Photo from Simply Recipes.com
Last night I tried something new with a fresh filet of Blue Fish. It was amazing! I was happy to read in this recipe that kids other than ours seem to love Blue Fish. And it's healthy!

Simply Recipes.com Baked Bluefish 

Blue fish is one of our families favorite. But it's hard to cook right. Usually, I've just made sure it's fresh and cover the top with mayonnaise and Old Bay seasoning and broil, but this was better.

I've made sure our children have grown up with fish. Omega 3 fatty acids have proven benefits, and fish is high in protein and other nutrients. Our kids both have had fresh, and canned fish (wild caught Salmon and sardines from Norway) since they could eat anything. Now, they both eat almost any fish.

And I'm a big fish eater. I love fish the way I love cheese. I love cheese that is expensive from caves, and I love the cheap stuff from spray cans. I'm equal opportunity. With fish, I like it fresh caught and cooked quick. But I also like it from cans (sardines are in my desk) and I subscribe to the thought that high quality wild caught Salmon from a can can be healthier than fresh fish from a farm.

Good for babies to adults. 

Here's some more fish for kids help.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Achyier Dad.

Powerful photos from photographer Brittany Greeson of a 60-year old father raising 2 young boys in rural Kentucky. Also covered by CNN.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to make a sun protection pirate shirt

I rented a small Sunfish sailboat a couple of months ago at a local lake (Spofford lake in NH). To get ready for a day of full sun on the water, I decided to make a shirt to protect me, but also be cool.

I found a light colored and light weight old dress shirt that was too small and got a large pair of scissors.  I just made four cuts in the shirt. I cut each sleeve, the collar, and the bottom.

To cut, I just twisted the sleeves tight and cut through with a large scissors in one swoop. I cut the collar off at the fold-over point so there was still some collar left for neck protection, and the bottom like the sleeves. It worked like charm to protect my body, elbows, and neck (along with my Tilly hat of course). I kept only the top button buttoned to increase ventilation.


Here it is in action. Next, I need some pirate pants next to protect my knees. Cutting an old pair of light colored pants or white light weight sweat pants right at mid calf would work great.

This all made me think that maybe those pirates made their clothes tattered at the ends on purpose?! The cuffs of normal shirts and pants could get caught in ropes easily and are not good when swimming, but tee shirts and shorts don't protect elbows and knees from the sun.

I sniffed around a bit. According to Cindy Vallar, on her The History of Maritime Piracy, Pirates and Privateers site, it's somewhat true about short hems, and they liked tight clothes to keep out of ropes, but also lots of lowly crew just had old clothing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Creamery covered bridge in Vermont via drone. Perhaps the beginning of a project?

Just did a drone fly through, under, and over, the Creamery covered bridge in Brattleboro, VT. What fun! I find covered bridges are perfect for drone photography because you can fly all around them. I'm making a playlist of Vermont covered bridge by drone videos and hope to get them all through crowd sourcing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Good Star Trek first movie for kids: Star Trek, The Voyage Home

Just watched, Star Trek: The Voyage Home (IMDB) with Shaw at age 3.5. I've been showing him the less violent Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes since he was a toddler.

It was a great movie for us both! He got an hour in before wanting Curious George. The Voyage Home has got a very solid message and is about whales. The movie is done in the tame, humorous, low violence 1980s style and has great visuals and lots of spaceships, but also, regular city buses, ships, and garbage trucks from San Francisco 1986. It's also full the relationship dynamics of the original Star Trek crew and the humor, and a little camp, underneath like some of the original episodes. There's Kirk the leader, and smooth operator with, in this case, Earth girls. There's Spock dynamic making us think about our humanity, and the crew's unique skills and diversity.

Sure, I grew up in the 70s and 80s, so it resonates, but it is also true that the content is more kid friendly then a lot of Star Trek movies. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Tesla Model X debut, Sept 21, 2015

Model X Gull wing doors that fit in a garage and parking lot
Model X Gull wing doors that fit in a garage and parking lot
At times like this I question my career choices in terms of what kind of car I can sanely afford.

Luckily these times are very rare. In fact this is a first for me. An electric car I really, really, want. Basically everything I like about my Subaru Forester, but electric, with more room, and faster then a Porsche 911, 0-60.

Skip right to here in the Model X debut video the good part.

Model X debut with Elon Musk
Model X debut with Elon Musk


Model X space comes from no engine, gas tank, transmission, converters, muffler, exhaust pipes
Model X space comes from no engine, gas tank, transmission, converters, muffler, exhaust pipes
Model X can fit lots of luggage with all three rows of seating, or a bike with both tires in with seats down.
Model X can fit lots of luggage with all three rows of seating, or a bike with both tires in with seats down.




Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Pope's speech to congress

Just watched it on my computer (I always forget C-SPAN covers visits like the Popes of this kind of event.)

I also watched the tour around the White House with Biden and Boehner through the halls and to the Pope's balcony speech.

I'm not totally up on politics having young kids and all, and I'm a sucker for events like this.

I was moved by his speech though. I think it was a unique event to witness live. The contradictions, and politics were of course astounding. There was plenty to rail and fume against about the entire event if one chose to. I'm interested to how this event plays out in history.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Visit to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center Nuerological Review of MRI

Google map of DHMC. Very lush, surrounded by woods.
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center was amazing, what pros. Greater at the door, like Wallmart. This may seem funny, but I thought about it and it reduces stress in folks  who don't know their way around.  Reducing stress is key for sick people, and for positive user experiences. So of course, have someone at the front door who can point you to your reception desk before your body releases all those stress chemicals one gets when lost, and sick.

Very little wait. Easy check in. We paid a baby sitter to ride with us and take Ivy for a walk around the huge hospital in an body carrier, so Laura could come in with me. Very little wait. The in take nurse said her name, and asked ours, did the vitals, and asked then, casually, "how do you best learn?" and listed things like reading, video, interaction, discussion, etc. That also put me at ease, maybe because they were humanizing me?

The neurologist was not rushed and listened and educated us. He said the variables are staggering, so there's no single magic cure. My back isn't too bad, and was probably having these bulges for a while, but didn't kick in until a mixture of events I reported (lot of stress, in bad shape, slept wrong). Some folks he said have bad backs in general, prone to injury, some don't, hard to tell who is who.

Most likely culprit, 6/7 bulge.


Some have worse issues than mine, but less pain, and some have less issues, but way more pain. He said, he thought Brattleboro's radiologist missed a C6/7 little bulge he thinks, along with the one's in the report at C4/5-5/6. My old family friend who's a really good neurosurgeon also agreed. The doc at Dartmouth prescribed PT and traction, which he said I probably could have had sooner, but most regular docs are scared to prescribe it for backs without an MRI review by a surgeon. He said I need to call them anytime if I want to try help at the pain clinic, such as a shot cortezone in the back. And if "life is miserable" for too long, there is surgery, but he doesn't think I'll need it. PT starts Thursday.

The Dartmouth doc said keep taking substances like fish oil, Zyflammend and/or the Golden Milk, Vitamin C and B, water, etc are all good ideas too and might help, probably won't hurt. He said he's open to chiropractic, massage, long walks, lifting light weight, working, etc. as long as it doesn't aggravate it and make it worse, or hurt. And if I'm getting slowly better, keep doing what I'm doing (resting in bed on the wedge, slowly doing more, taking care of myself).

He said do some range of motion movements that don't hurt each day. And when it doesn't hurt, start high repetitions with my arms and upper body of very light weights, starting at like 2 to 5 lbs. Good to get a standing and sitting desk. Ok to be on computer in bed if neck if fully supported.

And an new bit of data. I know I shouldn't pull up straight to get out of bed when lying on my back, but I didn't know why. It tightens the muscles on the front of my neck, which is the worst place to tightenen down on the spine because it pushes the other side of discs out. I can't begin to tell you how hard this is not to do when in bed on my back, especially with kids and computers! He closed by saying yes, when better, stay in shape, stay flexible, especially when stressed. Duh, but...

I felt better right away, actually I felt very relieved, in that way that makes one want to cry, but not because you're sad, but because you've been heard and taken care of in way that is assuring.

We had lunch in the cafeteria, which I also always love to do at hospitals, colleges, etc. Wasn't too bad and a good price.

PT starts 24th. I'm slowly improving, very slowly. Family got colds, so I had to do more, and yet my energy is also coming back slowly too, and the pain seems to be moving slowly away from my arm to my shoulder blade area where it started.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Touch a Truck 2015. Shaw has lunch with his Gods.

Imagine having a yearly appointment with the Gods (or whatever) you worship and believe in passionately. For Shaw, Touch a Truck is like a yearly standing appointment to have lunch with Jesus, a hot dog with Buddha, or a truck cab chat with Stephen Hawking, depending on your faith.

Here is a little bit of this year's event, Shaw's third in his three years on the planet. I could only attend briefly due to back issues. Laura and Grandma Betty did most of the work.


Got a nuerolgocal review appointment at Dartmough Hitchcock tomorrow.

Been working on a neurology consultation appointment at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center up in Lebanon, NH since Friday. I've been very positive and nice, and excited to visit them, while remaining firm and mentioning 6 weeks of pain. They had me for the 22nd, but just called and said they can fit me me in the 16th! They also got both my doctor records and MRI in one day. They seem very on top of things.

Incidentally, I was born at the old Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital near the Dartmouth campus when my father was finishing his undergraduate studies after a 3-year stint in the Army interrupted his studies.

I've made a list to bring with me to help with my own patient advocacy. We'll get a sitter for Shaw. Laura and Ivy will come.

 Key background not in my files

  • 1995 L4/L5 discetomoy after trying all else, also stressful and bad health time for me. Print out with me of MRI. Surgery worked. Only one flare up 4 years later of extreme pain during very stressful time.
  • Pregnisone’s first two days of 60MG a day dramatically reduced arm pain. It crept back as it scaled down from day 3 to day 12, mostly back to normal pain.. So, I thought, inflammation is key here? Yes? No?
  • Status
  • Slightly less arm pain especially in last two weeks of more focused rest, pain moving back to shoulder where started. I’m very slightly improving each day, but the severe pain in armpit, elbow, top of forearm, top of hand to pointer and index finger still happens with certain movements. I’m doing light movement that doesn’t cause pain, like range of motion, to do something besides be in bed.
  • Meds: 4 Aleve a day. Tylenol when needed. Valium at night. Tylenol 3 when really needed. Taking Zyflamend (tumeric/ginger) from Proctor & Gamble/New Chapter. Fish oil. Lots of water. Vitamin C. Bananas.
  • Stress at work that contributed to this is gone.
  • I started having to use reading glasses several months before this, which caused me to hold my neck in all kinds of lower and higher angles. Recommend bifocals?

Questions

  • I’d like to see my MRI with you showing issues, especially top down view? I’ve have studied a CD. It looked like three discs protruding to me, not just the two from the report.
  • PT when and if? Traction? Is walking ok on a flat surface, slowly. It makes me feel good to be in nature, and to move and get blood flowing, but swinging arms sometimes feels bad.
  • Is my bed rest posture okay at 45 degree angle on a pillow wedge, neck and head fully supported, laptop high on two pillows so I can use with neck relaxed and ears aligned over shoulders?
  • Work posture better if I get a desk that can both sit and stand in good posture?
  • Messages okay to get? I got one, they were careful, but it felt good for a day or so.
  • Any special foods or other over the counter recommendations?
  • I’m almost out of meds. Any you suggest besides Valium, tylenol 3, Aleve. Muscle relaxants? I hold stress in my back and body when I don’t walk/run or go to gym.
  • Can I get a copy of your report?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Family update videos

Some videos in the playlist here for how the family is generally appearing. The hard part of me being in bed lot isn't shown, but more how the kids are doing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

MRI report, advice, homeopathic ideas,

We're about five weeks into this now. Emotionally, it takes a toll on me. Mostly in terms of the family. I'm strangely pretty okay with staying in bed with books and a computer, and trips to work for meetings. But I miss being able to be part of the family. I can't lift Ivy, or Shaw, or do things they want to do. And, over time, pain is a drain on me and Laura. And Laura is often saddled with the two kids for longer periods of time the if I was just at work.

Below is the abnormal part of my written MRI report. My family doctor (an osteopath) has referred me for a neurological review to go over the below text report, and the MRI images for next steps.

So basically for now the best he can do until expert advice on PT or surgery is to advise rest, avoid lifting anything, don't do anything that aggravates the issue. So, light work, rest in bed supporting neck, light movement around the house, etc.

My armpit, elbow, forearm and to of hand (not thumb though) are in moderate pain most of the time, severe pain with to much activity, or rolling over in bed. 

Medication wise. I'm to take up to 4 Aleve a day, or less (or Ibuprofen). Up to 6 extra strength Tylenol a day. Tylenol 3 when bad. My pain is manageable this way.

On the homeopathic front, he said some people report the following helps.

MRI Report (abnormal part)





Tuesday, September 8, 2015

MRI video walk through and Xray images of cervical spinal vertebrae with left cervical radiculopathy

I got the CD from my MRI on Friday. I used Camtasia to make this video walk through.



Here is the text of my report from the radiology dept.
I'm going in for a consult with a Nuerologist next for the real plan of action of time and PT vs surgery and how long to wait. 

This page about cervical radiculophathy from American Family Physicians page has two MRI photos as well.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

MRI is in. Here's a screenshot.

MRI was only mildly terrifying. It was in a new "Titan" model by Toshiba. The machines are bigger now, more room in the tube, better air and light then 20 years ago.  I got a CD for the scans right then. It is so important to remember that you own scans you pay for and should always get a copy for yourself. Brattleboro Municipal Hospital provided me a CD very quickly for $16.00 and also FedExed a copy to my other doctor for  second opinion free.  In a strange way, they are kind of beautiful.

Screenshot of one of scores of different scans, both side of body, and top down. Healthy disks down low. Messy middle ones.

Close up. 3-4th disks down look darker, and pushing out to left on nerves. We'll see.

But they immobilized my neck with pillows and a plastic contraption. And put in ear plugs, so I was pretty claustrophobic. I thought mostly of a cheeseburger I'd get when I got out. My left arm hurt a lot lying flat for 25 minutes. I feel a bit more broken, seeing the messy discs in the effected area, but I don't really know what I'm looking at. Pain in manageable, but still hurts a lot if I cough, am stressed, move my neck too much, etc.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cervical Ridiculousness. A "back log" about several weeks dealing with Left Cervical Radiculopathy upper back and arm pain and problems.

Image from Wikipedia cervical vertebrae entry
I hope you're not in pain if you're reading this. If you are, I can relate. This is a "back log" for any other achy folks out there who might be surfing and looking for someone elses experience, or might be helping someone who is suffering. Comments welcome!

Let me start with a reminder to myself for the rest of my life. Whenever I feel any back issues that cause pain, loss of strength, or numbness in my arms or legs, I need to immediately jump into bed, rest, de-stress, move to light activity, and see a doctor who is a good listener. To keep this from happening, I need to pay very close attention to my work posture, stress management, diet and exercise.

Brilliant and original a know, but hard for me to remember in the moment!

This post is about dealing with Cervical Radiculopathy, pain and neurological symptoms from condition that irritate a nerve in the cervical spine (neck) over several weeks.

"Best Rest" should be called "Bed Healing"

When I'm in pain, I don't want to rest, I want to heal to stop the pain. It took a few weeks of this pain for me to remember from my past back issues that "bed rest" isn't really resting, as much as bed healing. I was going to work too much, driving too much, taking baths with my head tilted too far forward (although Epsom Salt helped a lot), taking slow flat walks outside once a day, which turns out not to be as good for cervical backs, as for lower backs. Generally not really piecing together that my back was causing my arm to hurt. And that meant nerve pinching, and that meant I really needed to get the weight of my head off the spine and loosen the muscles behind my neck that were compressing my spine from stiffness and holding stress in. That means bed rest at 45 degrees, neck supported, or lying all the way down, or on my side in fetal position. Bed rest is so hard at anytime, but with a job, young family, etc. Even harder.

Precursors

1995 MRI. Black disc protrusion hits bright nerve cord.

Deep "back"ground

In 1995 I had back surgery on a herniated (bulging) disc in my low back, the classic L4-L5 disc. I had a discectomy, wherein they hollow out the disk and let the bulge that was pinching nerves in my left leg and back, drop back in and fill the disk area with scare tissue. Those disc issues were caused by a injury years before, and like this upper back issue, brought to the forefront by mismanaged stress, bad posture, poor health and being out of shape. In that case, I was in the worst break-up of my life, smoking, and working on the computer too much.

Stress

Stress. I hold it in my back, and I sit a lot while I do. This time I had work and family stress. At work Fall approached, when we have to get our enrollment numbers, and a personality conflict happened with two folks I work closely with, and needed to get things done with. Horrible workplace overflow of anger, hate and bad communication (fixed now). I started sniffing around for backup work, which is stressful too. And at home, a baby and toddler. And I had a side contract, and work starting at a local public school.

Posture, Health, Exercising

I've been tilting my head forward, and backward, a lot. Some because I'm still adjusting to having to wear reading glasses! Sometimes to read to my toddler in his bed. Sometimes to look down at my laptop in meetings away from my monitor.  I  stopped exercising at the gym where I was at least walking to work 3 days week and doing light strength training.

Medical Log To Stabilized Moderate Pain, Pre-MRI.

08-03-04-15ish. I woke up after falling asleep in my toddler's bed reading to him. I couldn't straight my neck for days. Started popping Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, alternating since they don't conflict much. Mostly my back hurt under my left shoulder blade and left spine around C4-C7. Felt like I tore something.

08-07-2015. Doctor visit. He's still rushed, tired, but okay. I wish he's slow down though and connect with me and educate/advise me more. Diagnosis. Cervical anterior longitudinal ligament sprain. Thoracic back sprain. Neck sprain in other words. I was prescribed Diacnoflac (daytime painkiller), and Valium and Tylenol 3 Codine for night time.  Worked, but it really hurt for days. Went to work some, rested some for a few days. Put off a long drive. Then took the drive for work and the pain started to really hit my elbow joint and forearm. Bad. Make it home, in bed. Hot baths with 2 of Epsom salt really help for a bit. 

08-22-15. Family leaves in pre-planned week long trip to grandma's farm. Probaaly better for my wife not to have two kids to take care of and a baby all alone! I had friends, and neighbors. I make the guest room into my hospital room. Bitter sweet to think of the week ahead. Good for resting, books, movies. But I wanted to go sailing and hiking too and out with friends. Not that any of our friends go out much anymore with all the kids sprouting up.  I take a long slow walk in the woods a couple of times on a flat path, slowly. Seems to help my mind at least and my back is temporarily better, but then bad. I work in bed on a laptop with a wedge pillow, neck fully supported, reading glasses tiled way down to keep my neck on the pillow, laptop on pillow on lap.

08-23-15. I carefully go shopping. Driving a stick and steering is a bit hard, but otherwise I just take it slow. I remember thinking that this is what it will surely feel like to be very old and shopping! I stock up on my favorite healthy foods for mending: Wild caught Salmon (for protein and fish oil), spinach, blueberries, bananas, yogurt, fresh unfiltered cider. I make a killer movie list and stop at a book store for "World War Z" (great read!).

8-25-15. Worse arm pain. Strange days of movies on the laptop sleeping sideways, Prednisone hot flashes, but the arm pain was still not as bad as before. My mood was suffering though. Go to doctor.  Diagnosis: Cervical Radiculopathy. Taken off pain killers. Given Prednisone 10mg staged 12 days in lower and lower doses. The first two days at the higest dose the pain almost entirely left my arm and forearm. Like magic. Pain is only in my back at the source. Still can't lift head, back, and if do and turn it, then the pain shoots down my arm. Then the pain comes back, slowly each day, but still better. Xray ordered. I call one of my best friends, now a doctor. He helps me a lot by listening and supports my doctor's moves, but not his impatience. Mom and dad are worried. Family calls every night. Lots of time dazed out and watching movies in bed on my side, with laptop at 90angle on bed, so it's parallel to my eyes.

08-25-15. Get Xray. 2-day turnaround, but I didn't get an appointment for two weeks. I'm feeling really pissed at my doctor.  I call and get an appointment the next day. I write a passionate note with my questions. I manage to do some work, and it doesn't make it worse. I changed my computer sitting position completely and am in a much better posture, not looking down at laptop screen and then up at main screen, all one screen.

8-26-15: Xray results. Degenerative disk disease, C-4-C6. Cervical Radiculopathy. MRI time next week. I push my doctor to listen to the note I wrote, about being really hurt, scared and down and needing more care. He softens up a bit. Really though, I think he needs care too. He's harried, burnt, or his bedside manner is impatient. I think I'd heal better if he connected more with me, listened to my questions, talked to me about what I'm up against. I think most folks would. Part of my job is to help professors use their computers and the Net to support their teaching. I know how hard patience is to keep! I often just want to tell them to do what I know they will end up doing and not have to explain, listen, help them get to their own action point. But still, it's the best way, to work because when they are empowered and educated and that is calming and motivating. Prednisone seems to hit me a 3-4 hours after taking it. And it gives me a hot flash and then helps the pain it seems. Given that, I'm taking it with my yogurt, banana, vitamins, 16oz of water breakfast. And then again at dinner so it helps with sleeping.

08-27-15. My mother brings in the big guns, a family friend who is a retired neurosurgeon, and a pretty famous one. He actually calls me at night. He listens well to my backstory and then asks simple questions like, "does it feel better if you lift your arm over your head?" (Yes). "Does your thumb hurt?" (No, forefinger sometimes). Then he says Cervical Radiculopathy, probably C5-C6, get an MRI. Send him the disk FedEx. And, "Think of this like a pebble in your shoe. You have to stop grinding the pepple on the skin. So, with this, you have to get the weight of your head off your spine, relax, bedrest, supported neck, and there's an 80% chance you won't need surgery." That really helped me relax.

8-28-15. Stabilized at home alone. 6-8 Tylenol only. Everything in back and left arm hurts, but it’s moderate, not severe.

08-30-15. Family inbound tonight. Still stabilized, still pain all in that area. It's a big problem though, I can feel it.  I have hope, and feel pretty good that I won't need surgery. I gave one of my contracts to my friend and told my boss I'm on light duty.


08-30-15. Slightly better every day. At least days I really rest between light activity. I actually started some very light range of motion movements and stretching - avoiding all pain points though. MRI this week. Got some more Tylenol 3 and Valium to help with bouts of severe pain and sleeping. Armpit, and arm to hand still are painful, and hurting when rolling over in bed, in morning, and if too active. Going into to work every day for a hour or two, but then lying down. Then up to help with the kids, then lying down. Family return was very strange. Arrival 9pm two days ago. Shaw just awoke after sleeping on drive. I limped to kitchen and Laura was back to me wearing new clothes and with bushy hair. Shaw had on a new hat and was back to me. I honestly didn't really think they were my family! But they were. Since they've been back we've been in a bit of a emergency configuration of care. I focus on resting and keeping my job. Laura focuses on her health and the kids, activities, home, finances, etc. We check in often, but are free to focus on these priorities. Working more in bed on a laptop with a wedge pillow, neck fully supported, reading glasses tiled way down to keep my neck on the pillow, laptop high on foam pillow on lap so hands aren't tiled back and my head is really resting on the pillows.

09-03-15. It's been hard with the family. Laura is with baby, so she's really not in nurse mode for me. And she's not a natural nurse anyway. I feel her love though, and don't doubt it for a moment, but sickness and hurt pushes everyone's buttons. She had a sick father for a long time who wasn't able to be present a lot when she was a kid. Shaw is amazing, comes in every morning and says "how's your back" and the today say "babies are a lot of work! I sometimes help with Ivy, but I mostly now help with poppa's back."  I am easily lulled into the comfort of resting in bed, reading, etc. When sometimes gently helping around the house more would be good for my body and the family. It's easy to slip into a relaxing drug induced rest.  Laura and I talked it through, we marveled at how we're not getting enough help from friends when we need it and we're making more calls. We reconnected and cuddled. I'm mostly moderately in pain. When I cough, it hurts like hell in my armpit, deep in my shoulder, and arm. I easily tire and my arm kills if I move around to much quickly.  I can't move too quick, so a calm walk is good, but not around traffic with kids if I'm looking around for cars etc. MRI tomorrow.

As an older achy dad, posture and exercise will be so vital to getting through this and staying strong after.

Some Research 

Short Overview Videos
  1. http://www.spine-health.com/video/cervical-radiculopathy-interactive-video
  2. http://www.spine-health.com/video/treatment-cervical-herniated-disc-video 
  When to see a doctor. Mayo Clinic
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/basics/symptoms/con-20029957
“Seek medical attention if your neck or back pain travels down your arm or leg, or if it's accompanied by numbness, tingling or weakness.”

General Herniate Discs. Mayo Clinic
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20029957
“Avoid too much bed rest. Too much bed rest can lead to stiff joints and weak muscles — which can complicate your recovery. Instead, rest in a position of comfort for 30 minutes, and then go for a short walk or do some work. Try to avoid activities that worsen your pain during the healing process.”

Mental Health Mayo Clinic
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/herniated-disk/basics/coping-support/con-20029957
“Pain affects more than just your physical well-being. If you have to deal with recurring herniated disks or other back problems, your psychological and emotional health also are vulnerable. These tips may help you cope with pain related to a herniated disk:
  1. Identify pain triggers. Certain activities or behaviors may worsen your pain. If you identify these triggers, you can avoid or limit them.
  2. Manage stress. Stress magnifies pain. Try doing deep-breathing exercises and practicing other relaxation techniques when your stress level begins to rise.
  3. See a counselor. Talking with a mental health counselor helps you recognize and rethink unrealistic expectations and beliefs about yourself. Even if you can't change your chronic pain, you can change the way you feel about it.”
Cervical Radiculopathy Treatment & Management
Author: Gerard A Malanga, MD; Chief Editor: Sherwin SW Ho, MD. Updated 2014
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/94118-treatment

Cervical Radiculopathy: Non-operative Treatments and Cervical Epidural Steroid InjectionAlexander C. Simotas, MDAssistant Attending Physiatrist, Hospital for Special Surgery
Assistant Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine, New York - Presbyterian Hospital
http://www.hss.edu/conditions_cervical-radiculopathy-nonoperative-treatments-epidural.asp

“A high rate of disc herniation and spondylosis has been noted to occur in individuals who never experience symptoms. This occurs in higher frequency, perhaps not surprisingly, as people age.(2;3)”

“When pain is reduced, range of motion and strengthening exercises can help to gradually restore areas in the neck and shoulder that have been weakened by disuse and pain.”

Cervical Radiculopathy: Nonoperative Management of Neck Pain and Radicular Symptoms
http://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0101/p33.html 
JASON DAVID EUBANKS, MD, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, OhioAm Fam Physician. 2010 Jan 1;81(1):33-40.


“Chronic neck pain associated with spondylosis is typically bilateral, whereas neck pain associated with radiculopathy is more often unilateral.3


“Little high-quality evidence supports the use of an individual nonoperative treatment; however, a multimodal approach may alleviate symptoms.”


“Although education about these and other components of cervical radiculopathy may benefit some patients, a systematic review did not show that patient education (i.e., advice focusing on activation and coping skills, and traditional neck school) is beneficial in the treatment of neck pain and radicular arm pain.8


“Traction is most beneficial when acute muscular pain has subsided and should not be used in patients who have signs of myelopathy.2


“Although oral steroids are widely used to treat acute radicular pain via dose packs, no high-quality evidence has shown that oral steroids alter the disease course.3


“A graduated physical therapy program may be beneficial in restoring range of motion and overall conditioning of the neck musculature. In the first six weeks after onset of pain, gentle range-of-motion and stretching exercises supplemented by massage and modalities such as heat, ice, and electrical stimulation may be used, although this approach has no proven long-term benefit. As the pain improves, a gradual, isometric strengthening program may be initiated with progression to active range-of-motion and resistive exercises as tolerated.3


“The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries' criteria for initiating surgical management are six to eight weeks of conservative care (i.e., physical therapy, medications, or traction); subjective sensory symptoms or Spurling sign, objective motor, reflex, or electromyography findings; and abnormal imaging findings that correlate with the patient's symptoms.26

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Upper back (cervical) back is out. Family gone for a week!

This isn't a back sprain, I think it's more serious.

So, here I am in bed. I've got a week off alone after four years of family life without such a break.

I had other plans besides lying in bed feeling pain, but here I am in bed. Seems my cervical discs, the ones right above my shoulders, messed up and either a bone spur, and/or a herniated disc, something, is causing terrible pain under my shoulder blade, elbow, along the top of my forearm, sometimes to my pointer finger. 

I've seen the doc again, after  I had an x-ray. I've been moved off pain killers to and to oral Pregnisone (info). It seems to tell the immune system not to swell hurt parts of the body. Due to my forearm pain, doc and I are concerned this is a disc issue, not a sprain. The Pregnisone on a "staged" dose, a progressive smaller and smaller does for 12 days. It's toxic stuff.

Here goes the first dose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sprained upper back.

I sprained my upper left back last week. Doc says it's a "cervical and thoracic sprain." Right behind my left shoulder blade and radiating pain at different times to back, arm, elbow, etc. I slept very wrong one night, that's what caused it. But there was a perfect storm of events leading up to it that made it happen.
  • Not going to the gym (I blame the new baby)
  • Internalizing work stress (I can't seem to find anyone to blame here, but I'm still looking)
  • Falling asleep in a terrible position in a terrible bed (ironically while trying to read my toddler to sleep). 
I didn't take it too seriously the first few days of pain, and just went to work alternating Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen as I used to when I had a herniated disk in my lower back,

Didn't work, of course. Doc gave pain killers, and relaxers. So, for literally five days, I was in a foggy, bedridden state of rest and pain. Lots of nerve pain down left arm and shoulder blade/back.

But also some fun! I'm now totally rested, caught up on movies, I get not to lift heavy objects, and I'm slowly recovering. I'm working, but fade fast in the afternoon. No long term damage I feel though.

Back issues are so complex! Some many variables!  And while it all feels physical, there's so much psychology around them.

If you ever get this kind of thing, rest early, rest often, and hydrate. I made it last longer then I should have.  Now I'm walking slowly to loosen things up, and taking lots of hot baths. When I'm not injured, I'll work on stretching and the gym. But the last thing you want to do with a sprain is stretch it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hey adults, stop telling gamers to stop gaming. Instead, respect, and redirect.

I hate it when I hear an adult, (especially a teacher!) react to a kid passionately playing a computer game by saying, "go outside," or in some other turn of phrase, squash their passion.

Good move adult role models. See passion in a kid, squash it.

Sure, it might be good advice. But there's two main reasons I think it's a mistake it doesn't usually work. Kids play more if adults react first by trying to stop them. They know the adults haven't given them the respect they deserve of trying to find out more about what games they are playing? Why? What's so fun about it? Now, they also know games are addictive, and they will need help balancing their play. But an uneducated response from an adult isn't the way. Learning about the kid's passion is the way.

Respect

Learn about and play their games, it's a sign of respect. How dare you comment on something you won't even try? Something you only watch. Ask a gamer to help you learn to play their free favorite games for a few minutes each. They will start to respect what you say more because you are respecting what they respect. Ask them who made the game? Why is it good? Have they written, or read, any reviews? Where do they find out the good games and how do they learn how to play them? What do they think about violence in the games?

Also, respect the valuable technology skills it takes to be a gamer. To be a gamer is to be good at computers. Gamers instal software, hardware, are often part of online communities and spend a lot of time reading, writing, and researching games. These are valuable skills in the workplace. Gaming is not vegging out on the couch with TV.

Redirect

Consumption to Creation

A gamer in school is a jewel. They want to game, so they will usually gladly MAKE games if it can count for homework. Creating games teaches math, programming, writing, project management, art, graphics, storytelling, etc. Free tools, below, are very high quality.

Some Resources For Starting To Make Computer Games

  1. Scratch web based game development form MIT 
  2. Scratch Jr. for tablets/phones is a great starting point when young. 
  3. Minecraft.net, especially Minecraft Edu.
  4. Roblox.com. Development environment for older kids and adults.
  5. Unity game engine. Development environment for older kids and adults.
  6. Recent Article: Varsity Gamers: Making History and Dumbfounding Parents.

Redirect to a Career Game Industry

Gaming is a viable career for many skills and passions from programming to music, to lighting, to costumes, to finance, HR and management.  And that's what I'll spend the rest of the post talking about.

Ocean Quigley, creative director at Maxis

Now, when it comes to encouraging a kid to move into the industry as a worker when they are older,  I have to bring in an expert from the industry. I'm a simple technology integrator and teacher, not game designer.

My main source is my step-brother, Ocean Quigley.

Ocean has been working in the gaming business since we both got started in technology in San Francisco in mid-1990s. He started at the bottom as a 3D modeler and has risen to be the art director and creative director for a bunch of very famous games, some literally in the top 10 of all time, including Spore, SimCity and the Sims. He's also a painter who regularly has showings. Ocean is his real name by they way, and yes, his parents were hippies.

I talk to Ocean often about the industry, and I refer to  a write up he wrote a few years ago often: Breaking into the games business.

Ocean's main advice in any area where you are involved in creation, is that you have to be able to demonstrate a valuable skill. You have to show you can do the work, better then most, in some sort of digital portfolio.

Moving into the industry as a project manager, accountant, HR person, etc. is probably a bit more resume oriented, but you'll need some relationship to the gaming industry, and some passion about it. 

I'll also add to Ocean's advice that college for game design is more and more an option. Even the small state of Vermont has a great bachelors degree in game design at Champlain College. College is a good option for some people who might need the structure, because it allows one to have time to learn, and time to create actual proof of a skill by doing projects and documenting them in portfolio.

It's only one way though, Ocean in fact has, "dropped out of several prestigious colleges," as he says. While I observed him learning valuable skills in colleges, he was and is very, very disciplined and self-taught in art and computers since early in high school when I used to watch him do graphics on a Commodore 64 in the 80's while he taught himself to draw and sketch on paper. He carries a sketch book to this day, everywhere.

Ocean started in the industry making rent for a little room in a shared warehouse in San Francisco by working in Photoshop making images for game manuals, while he drew and painted. Then some new software came out for 3D modeling (3D Studio Max) and was just becoming the main tool for making models for games. Ocean was in the Bay Area where lots of game companies are, in a deadend job, and he had always dreamed of making worlds.

Ocean ended up breaking into the industry by teaching himself to use that new 3-D modeling software. then he created an amazing virtual trip through an art gallery from the point of view of a house fly. On the walls of this virtual art gallery were photos of oil paintings he had done! It worked, and got two major offers. He took the one from Maxis and started working on SimCity 2. 

Here are two other good lessons. One, know when to move to the right city, and two, know what software is hot. But remember, Ocean also aligned all this with his passion, not just because it was hot. Passion is paramount.

The fact that Ocean knows how to paint and draw has also been key. He married classical training in art with amazing skills with software. Many young people can, and do, learn how to use advanced software, but they don't know about timeless skills like color theory, composition, light, and art history. That means they usually end up working for someone like Ocean. Not a bad thing, as the pay is great on his teams, but if you want to go to the top, you need to go deeper then knowing which buttons to push.

So, if you ever see a gamer who seems like they would like to become a game creator, don't tell them to get outside, encourage them to bring gaming more into their life, their homework, careers, writing, research, and to try and create games, not just consume them.

Other Stuff about Ocean






Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Study confirms my weight gain is my wife and kids fault!

"Fatherhood can affect the health of young men, above the already known effect of marriage,"

Washington Post, July 21, 2015.

Yes, men gain weight when they become dads, study confirms


From a "large-scale study that tracked more than 10,000 men over a 20-year period."

<snip>

"While the BMI difference appears to be small, researchers write that the estimates might be "conservative.""

<snip>

"We now realize the transition to fatherhood is an important developmental life stage for men's health," Garfield said.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Life Lesson: Bill Murray on how he learned to work with people by relaxing making people look good

Bill Murray, 63 years young, was recently in character on a panel at Comic-Con for his new movie Rock The Kasbah. During the QA 10 minutes and 2 seconds in, he had this gem of how he plays nice with others.  

“We try to be as relaxed as possible. It’s really the key for the way I like to work, is to be as relaxed as you can be. And that makes people feel comfortable. I came from Chicago and the Second City Theater and we were taught be a great director named Del Close that you don’t have to get tense when you’re working, you just try and think about making the other person look good, and then you don’t have to worry about yourself. And that’s the way I’ve learned to work. And when people see, holy cow, he’s not going to try and hammer me, or upstage me or anything, he wants to make me look good, then everybody relaxes and we had a lot of fun, we had good people.” 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blogger going!

I got my Blogger going in my Web page! I am the man!!!

I'll give you $20 if you can bring a Dunhill Red in the next 2 seconds...

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Family Update

Ivy 

Ivy can roll over. See below video about 30 seconds in. She seems upside down, but it's just that I'm holding my phone, with the flash lights on, above her as she looks back at me. Neat unintended effect!



Ivy is trying to stuff the entire world in her mouth, even innocent fawns are not safe.



She has left the "larvae" stage and entered into what Laura and I call the "anamatronic teddy bear" stage. Next is crawling. She is pulling the world into her mouth, can lift her head high during her tummy time, takes a bottle a little, and is possible for me to walk to sleep more. Doctor says she's about average weight, a little above average in height and head size. Oh, and she can say the sound "B" and has a vocabulary of different sounds upwards of about 8 meanings, I think...let's see. Happy, diatribe of playing-with-sounds-I-can-make, tired, sleepy, getting tired, hungry, I-will-that-thing-in-my-mouth-grunts, I'm-really-upset screams. Yes, eight.

Shaw

Shaw is talking up a storm, specifically:
  • "My name is Mr. Propwash Junction." We have no idea where this came from, but we love it.
  • "No, YOU have two choices. Go pick some vegetables from the garden, or play with trucks!" Yesterday in response to one of us telling him to do something and that he had two choices. 
  • "Taxis are called need a taxis because you need a tax when you get in." He doesn't know how right he is!
  • "Biplanes are called biplanes because the pilot says, 'bye bye.'"
  • "Man jumpers are like thunder because they both are in the sky." We're still foggy on what a "Man Jumper" is, but we think it's a plane with parachutes. We're not sure how he came up with the word, but he loves it and sees Man Jumpers everywhere and tells stories about them constantly. 
  • "Yes I can!" in response to me saying, "You can't hit Ivy," as I wisked him upstairs for a time out in his room. He's right of course, because he had in fact just hit her.  Laura reminded me to say, "You MAY NOT hit Ivy," not "you can't."
He is getting smart, devious, observant, and I think he knows how to spell because spelling words out around him isn't working so much anymore. He is still learning how not to kick Ivy in the head when he's mad at her. But it only occasionally happens and so far no injuries. Most of the time he's tender and protective, and Ivy is endlessly entrained by watching him. He's still running below average in height, average in weight, and with an exceptionally big head.

Laura

Mother's beach in Kennebunk, Maine. Ivy is wearing an actual old-school bonnet. They are really good for sun!
Laura has a sore entire upper body from baby holding, is harried from two kids at home while she struggles to finish her graduate course in online research with baby-brain, but she is doing it! Ask her about the rest and she's hiding things well in this photo!

Bubbe

75 and still a fish!
My mother Bubbe is loving the water as usual. Seems to be enjoying renting our tiny-ish house and has made it wonderful inside and is babysitting and cooking. Amazing have a grandma 30 feet away! Not all good, more to coordinate, but a total net positive for sure!

Grampa

Granpa Mimicking an old relative. He had the photo and frame restored.
 Back in Maine for the summer, moving with Shelia to a scaled down house, writing, working on building a road in some woods we own, seems okay from afar.

Betty

Betty's on the left her, watching her son get married.

My mother in law Betty has been off of Shaw duty and recently experienced her son getting married, and having the New York Times cover the wedding!

Achy Dad

Water. Good. Focus your gaze on the arms and shoulders, not the gut on the left side please.
 I'm back at work, which is good. I had a good vacation and was ready to get back to work.

It's amazingly hard with two kids. Everytime I feel the difficulty (emotionally, physically, mentally) I have to remind myself that this is THE HARDEST FEW YEARS for most marriages, and in the time-arch of raising children. At least in terms of the constant attention, worry, watching, pooping, peeing, screaming, etc. I'm sure harder times might come in different areas, like dealing with teenagers, but not in the day in and day out constancy of being the kind of parents that have one home fulltime and one working only about 40 hours a week (outside the house at least, I have side contacts I do at home).

It is a joyful and rich experience, but challenging too. But it is already changing for the better. Ivy, for example, is right now sleeping on my chest in a baby carrier while I type, and has started taking sips out of a bottle! And with Shaw is playing ball by himself with other kids, being mostly aware of cars, and going to sleep more and more with only a book or two read to him in bed.

As someone said, "The days are long, but the years are short." So in the blink of an eye they'll be in school and we'll probably miss having them around so much.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Kennebunkport Maine. Tips for a budget friendly family visit to Kennebunkport, Kennebunk, and Arundel Maine in the summer - from a former local.


Parsons Beach in Kennebunk Maine.

Just back from our last big trip of this summer to Kennebunkport Maine. Not as a tourist though. I grew up there!

Returning with a kid that can run, and my mother, for the first time opened my eyes to the wonderful parts of the area for families.

Here's my inside review of budget-friendly things to do with a family in this very touristy, and thus often expensive and crowded area.

Ivy at the first Maine welcome center rest area off 95 Northbound after Portsmouth, NH.
On the way into Maine on Rt 95 there's a great welcome center rest area with bathrooms, info on attractions, vending, dog run, woods, etc. It's the first one going north after Portsmouth, NH. 


Mother's Beach
Mother's beach, Kennebunk. Shangri La for kids. Seriously. A large new Jungle gym at a safe, small real beach, with a few tide pools. Few parking spots, all need a resident, or purchased day, permit. Go early, go often.


A lobster we pieced back together on Parsons beach.
Parson's Beach.  Kennebunk. Shhhh. A large natural beach and river mouth. No services except a single porta-potty. Limited parking. Go early. Drop off by portapotty and trail head to beach, then park. Permitting might start in 2016.
Kennebunk playground near downtown
The town of Kennebunk, not Kennebunkport, is a more normal town and it's well kept up and suited for walking and families. It's on the way to the beaches and before the worst traffic. Cheries Cafe in Kennebunk is very good with food, wine and coffee. Especially their large breakfast paninis.  Across the street is New Mornings Natural food store, and a Dairy Queen for ice cream. About 1/2 mile away is a great library with kid's section, and a public playground.  There is a bus from Kennebunk to the beaches too.

Rachel Carson trail
Rachel Carson Trail. Very near Parsons beach. Short walk, flat, groomed for strollers and yet in woods and marshes. Good for a walk before a long drive home.

Trolly ride!
Trolly Museam. Rides! And restoring trolly's buses, etc. since 1939.

Children's museum in Portland if it's raining. Small, but it's inside.
Finklepod Farm stand. The stand run by the youngest Wentworth, Noah. The Wentworths farm was the epicenter of the alternative school and its community when I was growing up, and still is!


Mom and I love a storm. This pic is at Cape Porpoise.

Maybe you'll be lucky enough to have a (small) storm roll in. We were! So exciting to go to the coast in a hard rain as the tide comes in, the surfers gather, and the surf roars.

High tide at Kennebunk beach during a heavy rain storm
Surfers at Kennebunk beach during a small storm. Shaw and met ones from Canada and Vermont.
Have a good trip!  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

PewDiePie Making 7 million+ on YouTube in 2014 is okay with me.

PewDiePie is all over the news because he made 7 million in 2014 on YouTube making videos of himself playing and reacting to computer games. 

For an hour last night I watched a few of his videos (current, past, early ones, etc) and his below response to all the money that he posted yesterday. Lots of folks are hating on him.

After taking a look at his work, here's why I'm not a hater.
  • He works really hard
  • He gave a million to charity.
  • He's good, and knows his tools
  • He gets entertainment
Basically, his passion intersected with a new technology (YouTube with ad money)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Pickles! Natural Cleaner project done!

I've been trying to make a present for our friends who brought us so much good food in our meal train the month after Ivy was born.

I wanted to design a label for an empty gallon jug that had recipes on it for how to make natural home cleaners.

I'm not much of a graphic designer, and a bit color blind...what could go wrong?

I only got this far using MS Word.  I know, designing in MS Word? Have I gone mad? But I did't have a lot of time to make a layout in Adobe InDesign that matches the Avery label template. I don't use InDesign regularly enough to be fast. Word had an easy Avery Label template. Of course I spent more time friggin' with Word then I would have in InDesign, but that's probably predictable for you graphic designers reading this - not that achydad is big in the graphic design community.

Then I remember that my neighbor, Kirsten Ullrich, is an actual real live graphic designer! I showed her my Word mock up and she was so dismayed that I tried to make the label in Word, she banged out a label for me in under a hour, free! I offered her our third born, and our first born, since he was being a total pill that night. She declined.

Here's what she did! Another reminder about the value of graphic designers!





Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Is there a day off from being a father? Probably not. Should there be? Probably not.

My first present by the family was to be able to sleep with ear plugs in the guest room as late as I wanted.

I awoke at my pre-parent, no alarm natural time of a little after 8am. I took out my ear plugs and heard a small boy screaming "I want momma!"



He was in the rain in front of the tiny house. He seemed to only be wearing fire boots and a rain coat while he screamed. Bubbe (my mom) is living there for the summer and she was on duty watching him from inside the front door and letting him get out his anger and saddness. Laura had to go to the graduate class she's taking to maintain her teaching license. Ivy's been good so far in class. And there's a backup plan to have her video in if she's too noisy.

He went inside with Bubbe after a bit and quieted down. 

It's a nice present for me to be able to have a morning off. I'm taking some time to blog and soak up the quiet. I'll spell Bubbe soon.

But...I don't really think I'm "off" from being a father - ever. And I'm glad.

The family is healthy and strapped in and holding on for dear life amid all the summer fun, which can be intense! Sometimes I want to be back at work fulltime, hemmed in by winter, and on a predictable schedule. But mostly summer's been exciting and a welcome break from the grind. 

We're trying to have some home time too, like the above moment. Shaw and I built a fantasy "island" on the carpet, with a Lincoln Log house, box barn. The boats and sea animals were in the "ocean" (wood floor). Shaw got all his cars and trucks parked around the house because they were having a "wedding party." We just came back from Laura's brother's amazing wedding.

Ivy and I pacing while Laura plays softball
 Ivy and I are bonding for longer and longer periods of time,  but she's mostly still with momma.
She's grasping and almost crawling. Here's video of her going through all the stages.



And while she has several bouts of shrill hysterics every day, she smiling a lot too.



I'm bonding a lot with Shaw. I mostly put him to bed.

This is my favorite time of the day as a dad. It can be tiring to read him down with books I've almost memorized, and then almost fall asleep myself. But it's (mostly) a calm time and we talk about the day and tell stories.

When I try and sneak away sometimes before he's really asleep he says "no poppa, keep me company," and that's a great father's day present.