I know this is a small picture, but it's for use as an avatar and I needed it somewhere...
A year ago, my back injuries and chronic pain got so bad I had to retire from nursing as my career. After spending more than 20 years helping people, I was through, and I didn't know what to do! My old boss went to bat for me with the hospital, and the HR people called me with an offer: "You can go to the Home Telehealth team and work as their PSA (program support assistant), or we will have to terminate your employment as we have no other positions to offer you." Of course, I took the offer. So on top of the stress and depression related to the chronic pain, I had the depression of losing my career, and the stress of going into a new job I was not trained for.

I took the cosmic dice and rolled... and for once, I didn't crap out! My new boss was a wonderful person who hired me knowing I was going to have a higher-than-average use of sick time and doctors visits, and she was completely supportive. Luckily for me, I'm a very computer-literate person, so training as a PSA was a piece of cake, and I have found I actually enjoy the job (most of the time).

So with the back in bad shape, I kept training, and completed the "Front Runner Metric Century" with my wife - a 100Km organized ride. Then in May, came the "Salt Lake Century"... and the day before - I was injured. I was running to catch my train, when I felt something pull and tear in an old surgical site in my groin. I had torn my old hernia repair. Yeah, I didn't end up riding the SLCentury, and I ended up having surgery to re-repair the hernia - which led to several weeks off of the bike.

Finally I started feeling a bit better and started riding a little again as LeAnn and I had another big ride coming up - the "Tour de Donut" in early July. We were riding a tandem bicycle (bicycle built for two) in the tandem division.

We made it to race day (with far less training than I'd hoped), and we were off! We ended up coming in second in our division! Yeah!

Then, about a week later, I had pain in my left Achilles tendon and in the inner area of the ankle. After some therapy and multiple visits with the podiatrist, it was official... I was set for my second major surgery this year! Stinking 2013!

The surgeon went in and cut the ligament that goes from the medial malleolus (ankle bone on the inside of the ankle) to the heel which was constricting blood flow to the nerves in the bottom of my foot and toes, as well as causing pain in the ankle.

The surgery was a success, but through the time to heal and therapy, I was off of my bike from late July until one week ago - mid Feb 2014. Almost 7 months!

Being back on my bike, and working my way back up to being active has really helped my mood, and I'm back on track in trying to lose weight and be healthy.


In April, LeAnn and I managed to ride a metric century (100km or 62 miles). Just after the first rest stop - about 20 miles in - LeAnn looked over at me and said "I haven't got another 20 in me". We talked as we rode, and she decided she would ride back to the train, and meet me at the end in Ogden.

She turned back, and I looked ahead and saw a group of riders, so I poured it on to catch them and ride with the pack. It took me a little over 10 miles to reel them in, and then shortly after I dropped them because they were going too slow for me.

I got to the next rest stop, refilled my bottles, ate a banana and was back on the road. I rode alone, occasionally being passed and occasionally passing and doing pretty well for riding by myself. When I was about 10 miles from the end, I started to cramp in my right quad. I slowed my roll, and tried to work it out. with about 5 or 6 miles to go, the cramp got so bad I had to stop. I got off my ride, and started working out the cramps - now in both quads and both calves.

After a few minutes, I was back on the bike and pushing toward the end. With about 3 miles to go, I picked up a screw in my rear tire. I heard it clicking on the ground, and quickly stopped. Luckily for me, it hadn't punctured all the way into my tube, so I was able to remove it and roll on.

I rode the last miles in, fighting cramps all the way, but I finished!

Then I looked for LeAnn, and couldn't find her! At that point, I realized I had her phone in my bags. I couldn't even call her! Wondering what happened, I pulled out my phone to call her brother Jeff, who was also on this ride, and saw I had a text message from a guy LeAnn and I had ridden together with in the first 20 miles. It said "... your wife is at the second rest stop and you have her phone".

At the second rest stop? How? She turned back. Didn't she?

About 10 - 15 minutes later, here comes LeAnn, rolling in under her own power across the finish line. I came to find out that when she was only a couple of blocks into her return to the train, she realized that I had her wallet and phone, so she turned around again and tried to catch me... and never saw me again until the finish. She came across the guy we had ridden with, and she told him what had happened. This wonderful man offered to ride with LeAnn for the rest of the ride so they could help each other out, and helped her finish on her own.

Fun, huh?

So now, we're getting ready for the Salt Lake Century - 100 miles from Salt Lake to Antelope Island and back. It's Friday, May 17th, and we need to check in and get our race packets. LeAnn and I were going to meet at the Galivan Center and check in together. As I left work, I saw the train was coming into the station - about 5 minutes early. I took off at a dead sprint to catch the train, and I felt a tearing sensation in my lower abdomen where I'd had a hernia repaired in 1991.

I made the train, and got to the Galivan Center... no LeAnn. I called her work phone... no answer. I called her cell... the same. I waited about 10 minutes and repeated the calls... no answer. Finally I left a message that I would go to packet pick-up and wait in line. I got us both checked in, and finally LeAnn returned my call. She had forgotten and lost track of time.

When she finally got there, we went to dinner, but I was having increasing pain in my abdomen. I finally agreed that I needed to be seen, and we went to LDS hospital. 5 hours and one CT scan later, I was referred to a surgeon to repair my newly ripped hernia.

Dr. Jackson checked me out Wednesday, and I'm up for surgery next Thursday, May 30th.

Oh, what fun. I missed a ride I had paid for, and now I get surgery. I just love my life sometimes.

When I last wrote, I had just been robbed, and I was in the beginnings of treatment for my back pain.

It's many months later, and here's the update:

After all was totaled up, I lost over $3,500 in the robbery, and most of it has not been replaced. The insurance paid up, but there was a $1000 deductable, so I lost out on that part as well.

Dr. Zaman saw me a few times and then told me "I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do for your. You will have to find someone else to help you". I couldn't believe what I was hearing! What a jerk! Well, I went and found another pain specialist, and had 2 more sets of spinal injections - which didn't help - and then 2 sets of 4 injections in my neck to test if the nerve block would help. It didn't really do much, but Dr. Kahn thought RFA (Radio Frequency Ablation) would give me some relief in my neck.  I had the left side of my neck done in Nov 2012, and within a couple of days it felt like someone was dragging a cheese grater across the occipital region of the left side of the back of my head all the way up to the crown. Along with the constant pain, I started having "spikes" of pain in the left occipital area that would bring me to my knees.

I then had the RFA on the right side of the neck about a month later, and it lasted a whole 3 days! (It's supposed to give me 6-18 months of relief.) At least I didn't get the whole occipital spike thing on the right side as well!

Treatment went on for a couple of months, without much help, and then I'm told that Dr. Kahn had left the practice, and my care was being turned over to the physician's assistant that worked with Dr. Davis - Dr. Kahn's partner. No problem, a PA has a lot of schooling, and is plenty qualified to give good care. However, Kyle didn't seem to care too much. I would complain about the occipital pain and spikes, and he would do nothing. I would complain again at my next monthly visit, and nothing. Finally after four months of complaining, he tried a nerve block in the scalp itself, which helped for about 24 hours and then petered out.

I tried yet again to get some relief, and to get Kyle to address the fact that in the last 9 months I haven't slept more than 4 hours a night because of pain... nothing.

I finally threatened to leave the care of their team and he stepped up and is trying me on a new medicine regimin.

He gave me another nerve block - 5cc's of fluid in the scalp, which burns like hellfire! This one helped quite a bit though. He also changed my neuralgia med to Lyrica, which seems to be helping with the occipital pain, but it costs me $149 per month - AFTER my insurance! I'm not sure what is worse, the pain in my head, or the pain in my wallet!

To top everything else off, my back has gotten so bad that I had to step down as a nurse and take a clerical job in the hospital. I like the work, but it sucks to give up a career that I had put over 20 years into.

On the plus side, my daughter Chrissy and her husband got sealed in the Salt Lake Temple along with their three kids!  A shining beacon of light in an otherwise painful existence.

Yesterday I had a great morning.

One of the best I've had in a long time.

I slept for a total of 9 hours (with a few interruptions for back pain),

I got up and got a few chores done. 

I had to go to the social security building to get a new card, and it only took me 45 minutes to get in and out! I couldn't believe I hadn't spent the entire morning there!

I went home, set the kids to work on their chores, and went to the temple.

I had a wonderful session at the Jordan River Temple, with such a great spirit there.
I was flying on a high on life.

I came home and decided to fix a sticky door in my bedroom, so I went out to my tool shed/shop to get a wood chisel…

And then it happened…

The tool holders on my pegboard were falling off or fallen on the ground, and most of my tools were missing. I figured someone had knocked into the board and not replaced the tools they knocked down.

I was a little mad, but having been on such a high previously, I decided not to let it bother me. I started looking through the stuff on the floor, hoping to find my chisel, when I realized the floor was much more cluttered than normal.

And I couldn't find any tools on the floor.  Odd.

I decided I would just use my router to take out the wood I needed to remove, so I turned to the shelf where I keep it.

It was gone.

So was my circular saw.

And my 154pc tool kit.

And my belt sander, my scroll saw, my router table, my rechargeable drill…

I had been robbed!

After calling the police, and going through what was missing with LeAnn, I am missing almost $2000 worth of power tools and hand tools.

The thieves were quite selective as well, since they cleaned me out of hand and power tools, but left my new mower, my gas powered trimmer, all of my yard tools, shovels, pick, wheelbarrow, axe…

All of my camping gear, including my two camp stoves were still there as well.

I am beside myself today. I have never felt so violated, so paranoid. I will be fixing the door on the shed, and changing some of the locks.

What a day.

(stock photo of a thoracic x-ray)
I have been suffering for several weeks with severe back pain. It seemed that one of my vertebrae had shifted, and was trying to push it's way out of my back from just below my shoulder blades.  I couldn't eat well, I kept being woken from sleep with pain so severe it was hard to breathe.

Dr Allen took some x-rays and said she couldn't see what the problem was, so she sent me to see Dr Faizel Zaman, a back pain specialist.

I had an MRI series of my entire spine, which showed degenerative bone disease in my spine, especially bad in the thoracic region (T4-6). This area has poor prognosis when it comes to spinal surgery - the outcomes are most often worse than the disease itself - so it was determined that I would recieve a series of steroid shots in the epidural space of the spine.

On June 14, 2012, I went in for this procedure. I lay on my stomach on the table, and Dr Zaman and his nurse prepped me by cleaning my back with betadine and alcohol.  Then, using fluroscopy (an x-ray procedure in real-time on a screen), they inserted two needles along side both sides of my spine just below the affected area and into the epidural space.  This hurt. A lot.

Then, they injected the medicine.  This hurt more.

After the procedure, I was taken back to a waiting room with LeAnn to sit for a few minutes to make sure I didn't have any adverse reactions to the medication.

After about 10 minutes, the nurse, Kathy, came in to check on me. I told her I felt fine. I wasn't dizzy or nauseous. Kathy said I was free to go, so I stood up - and nearly went straight to the floor!  My legs felt heavy as lead, and as wobbly as jello!  Kathy just smiled and said "oh, that sometimes happens".  Thanks a lot! I sure appreciate the heads-up.

The next morning, the pain in my back was diminished to the point of where I could barely notice it. On a scale of 0-10, I'd say it was down to a 2 from the 7-9 I had been feeling for weeks.  Nice!

Unfortunately, the effects of the injections wore off after only about 22 hours, leaving me with the severe pain again as well as feeling as though I'd been punched in the kidneys where the injections were administered.

I called Dr Zaman's office, and Kathy told me that the first set of injections just "prime" the body, and the second set - administered after 2 weeks - does a much more lasting job.

I sure hope so!

This is a cool little website I've found. If you play guitar, you may find some songs you would like to learn to play there.  Check it out!
Reposted from The Art of Manliness

How to Whistle With Your Fingers
Sunday, April 08, 2012, 9:35:27 PM | Brett & Kate McKay

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to know how to give a commanding whistle with my fingers in my mouth. You know. The kind you see people give in old movies when they’re hailing a taxi or trying to get the peanut guy’s attention at the ballpark. It just seemed like a cool skill to have. But alas, I’ve spent my entire young and adult life frustrated that I couldn’t uncover the secret to this age old trick.

Many of you out there reading the blog feel the same way. Believe it or not, covering how to whistle with your fingers has been one of our most requested articles. Most of the emailers shared how they had a grandpa or dad who knew how to give a loud, forceful whistle with their fingers (in my case, my mom was the master of this kind of whistle). Like me, they thought it was a cool skill, but one which unfortunately hadn’t been passed onto them.

So I finally made it a goal to once and for all figure out how to whistle with my fingers, so that I could create an AoM tutorial on the subject. After just forty minutes of annoying my wife with intense practice, I finally mastered the skill that had eluded me since I was eight years old. Achievement unlocked!

Below, I show how you too can whistle with your fingers.

Choose Your Finger Combination Your fingers do two things that allow you to create an ear-piercingly loud whistle. First, they keep your tongue pushed back, and second, they keep your lips tucked back over your teeth. The pushed back tongue and tucked lips will create a bevel which will produce a tone when you blow.

There are a myriad of finger combinations you can use to get the desired effect. I’m going to show you my two favorites.

Two-Handed, Middle/Index Finger Combo

Extend your middle and index fingers on both hands, keeping them close together, while your thumbs hold down your ring and pinky fingers.

Place your two middle fingers together, forming an “A” shape. [See Fig. 1]

I feel like I get a louder and more forceful whistle using this finger combo.

One-handed, O.K. Sign 

This combo allows you to whistle with just one hand. All you need to do is form an “OK” sign with either your thumb and index finger or thumb and middle finger.

Wet and Tuck Your Lips Back Over Your Teeth

Lip placement is key. Give your lips a quick lick to wet your whistle. Tuck your lips back over your teeth. It’s what you do when you pretend you’re an old man without any teeth. Your lips need to cover your teeth in order to whistle successfully. [See Fig 2.] Feel free to adjust how much or little you tuck your lips back. It’s going to vary from person to person.

Your fingers will help keep your bottom lip tucked over your teeth.

Push Tongue Back Into Mouth With Fingers

This step is master key of successfully whistling with your fingers and also the trickiest to get right. It was for me at least.

Some people say you just need to push your tongue back in your mouth with your fingers. That advice was a bit too vague for me.

What worked for me was folding the tip of my tongue back on itself and holding it in place with my fingers, as you see in Fig. 3. Here’s how to do it with the two-handed, middle/index finger combo.

  • Place the tip of your fingers underneath your tongue right at the tip.
  • Push the tip of your tongue back with your fingers. You’re basically folding the first 1/4 of your tongue back on itself.
  • Push your tongue back into your mouth until your first knuckle reaches your bottom lips.
Same principles apply if you’re using the one-handed, O.K. sign combo.

Again, this method worked for me. Others do it a little differently–often pushing the tongue in without really folding it over. Experiment to find what works for you.

Blow With your fingers in your mouth, keeping the tip of your tongue folded and lips tucked back over your teeth, close your mouth around your fingers. You want to make sure you have a complete seal around your fingers.

Here’s how it should look:

Give a soft blow out your mouth. You should feel the air only go out over your bottom lip. If you feel air coming out the sides of your mouth, close your mouth tighter around your fingers. Remember, perfect seal.

Make sure you don’t see your tongue make an appearance in the hole between your fingers! It’s blocking the air from coming out.

You probably won’t get a sound right off the bat. That’s okay. Adjust your finger placement under your tongue and experiment with different finger angles and varying degrees of lip tuckage until you find the sweet spot. Experimentation is key–keep making little adjustments. You’ll know when you’re getting close to your whistle sweet spot because you’ll start producing a noise that sounds sort of like you’re blowing over a beer bottle. Start blowing more forcefully, until you get that high-pitched and loud whistle.

A word of warning: make sure to take a break between blows when you’re first starting out. I’m not kidding. If you keep blowing and blowing, you’ll just hyperventilate, make yourself feel lightheaded and dizzy, and give yourself a headache.

Practice Keep practicing until you get it. I was able to get it down after 40 minutes of dedicated practice broken up over two days. If you’re married or live with other people, go outside or in a room to avoid driving your loved ones insane. A good time to practice is when you’re stopped at traffic lights while driving alone. Once you figure it out, you’ll wonder why it took you so long to master this awesome skill!
This is a photo gallery from our trip to Moab for my birthday.