2018: The Year in Back Pain

If you know me in real life, you probably know that I injured my back this summer. You would know this because that’s pretty much all I talked about for two months or so. I didn’t want to be constantly whining about it, but when you’re in constant pain or discomfort, and can’t really sleep at night, it tends to consume your thoughts. For those of you who are unaware of the story, or just like to read about the pain and suffering of others, here’s a relatively brief summary of what happened:

I’ve had issues with my upper trapezius area of my back for years. While I’ve had the occasional flare-up, for the most part, I’ve been able to manage the problem with stretching. That changed in July.

The 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was in Washington DC, and to coincide with that event, they put on a FanFest event at the DC convention center. I have to say, this was an awesome event, with player meet-and-greets, batting cages, and all sorts of other cool exhibits. If not for the fact that I may have permanently impacted my health, I would give the event a very high grade.

FanFest

I took a turn in the batting cages, and based on the video I saw, my years away from playing baseball or softball have left my swing in sorry shape. Despite coming away from that activity with a slight twinge in my back, I also decided to participate in the Under Armour athletic challenge which included performing physical feats such as push ups, standing jumps, and a sprint. It was in the final few meters of the sprint that I felt the unfortunate sharp pull in my back.

I figured that like the previous times I had felt such a pull, it would be better in a few days. A few days later, I convinced myself it was improving and it would be okay to play kickball. It was not. The kickball game might not have made the problem significantly worse, but it sure didn’t make it better.

Not only was my back in severe pain, but I was getting shooting pain and numbness down my left arm. Between an inability to get comfortable while lying down and a variety of medications (they didn’t do all that much to help the pain, but they did screw up my sleep cycle!), I went through a three-week period where I didn’t really sleep at night. It got so bad that I considered six consecutive hours of sleep to be a good night.

The pain was so bad that I even saw a chiropractor. That’s kind of amazing due to my long-standing distrust of chiropractors ever since my mother took me to hers as a child. He turned out to be a quack who did something strange to me and slowed down my aging process. (This theory has never been officially confirmed.)

She diagnosed me with a cervical herniation. This meant that one of the discs in my spine was bulging, and putting pressure on the nerves in my back and arm. Eventually, this was confirmed by an MRI, but it took a while to get that test done. (Further discussion about that may come in a future post about opioid abuse.)

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A little spinal herniation goes a long way. (Image source)

For a while, it seemed like the problem wasn’t getting better, and I even had to visit an orthopedic surgeon to explore surgical options. Thankfully, I started to improve, because spinal surgery didn’t seem like an especially appealing option.

Eventually, I improved to the point where I could sleep through the night. Oddly, the biggest jump in my recovery came when I got sick. One morning I woke up feeling feverish and crappy overall, but my back felt the best it had since the original injury. For the most part, the numbness and tingling in my arm was gone. I suspect that I contracted a virus which caused my immune system to kick into high gear and as a side effect, my body finally started to attack the herniation in earnest.

Since then, I’ve undergone physical therapy which has helped me get to as close to 100% as I’ll probably ever get. I’ve been able to go back to the gym, however, my routine has been curtailed, and I have to be especially careful that I always use good form. Unfortunately, this means that I can no longer do a single pull-up, which apparently are a lot harder to do if you use correct form.

Considering that a few months ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d ever be able to sleep normally again without surgery, I think “not being able to do a pull up” is a completely acceptable place to be.

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Ad Pundit: NFL Shop

You may have seen this NFL Shop commercial with the Eagles and Cowboys fan in the elevator:

The Cowboys fan is portrayed accurately, as 99% of their fans are awful people who engage in anti-social behavior. But I can assure you that the Eagles fan is not an accurate representation of the Eagles fan base. He’s far too polite and nice.

This is a better indication of how an Eagles fan would react in that situation:

While I don’t often jump into people’s faces with my middle finger extended, I’m also not quite as gracious as elevator guy. I’ve found myself in similar situations many times before: I’ll be wearing a piece of Eagles clothing (I have a lot of Eagles clothes. When people can’t figure out a good gift to buy me, they usually just get me something with the Eagles logo printed on it. They’re not wrong), and a rival fan does not like what he sees.

My cockiness in responding to them often hinges upon how the Eagles are performing that particular season. The current edition of the team is 7-7 and struggling to make the playoffs. Normally, that wouldn’t merit a particularly cocky response. However, the Eagles did happen to win the Super Bowl back in February (Did you see the game? It was awesome!) and by my count, that makes them the reigning Super Bowl champions.

So when one of these rivals says something to me, I usually hit them with a, “Oh, don’t you like winners?” They usually don’t like this, so I follow up with, “Hey, did you happen to watch the Super Bowl this year?” They often don’t like that much either.

Presuming the Eagles don’t pull off a miracle finish to the season and capture another Super Bowl, I’ll soon have to retire that particular taunt. That’s sad, because I’m not going to lie to you: It’s been really fun.

 

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Holiday Clips: Kiss Saves Santa

Remember the time Santa was kidnapped, and the only ones who could save him were the rock group KISS?

I’m disappointed that Guns ‘N Roses never made a Christmas special of their own. I think they really could have done something with that.

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The Cutlet’s Emotional Reunion with Her Teeth

For those of you anxiously awaiting to hear how the tooth story would turn out, I have an update:

I had my co-worker write the Cutlet a letter from the Tooth Fairy, and she did an amazing job. The handwriting was fancy – she even put¬†starbursts over the I’s! I left the letter on her nightstand, and she was quite surprised to see it the next day.

I’m still not completely sure if she believes in the Tooth Fairy or not. It’s entirely possible she knows the truth, and is just acting like she doesn’t because she’s worried the money will stop if she lets on. On the other hand, she remarked to our au pair, “And I know Mommy and Daddy didn’t write it, because that wasn’t their handwriting, and the I’s had starbursts!”

The letter said that if she really wanted the teeth returned, she needed to leave a cookie by her bedside. She dutifully placed a cookie on her nightstand last night, so I located the extracted teeth, wrapped them in a tissue, decorated it with a heart, and left it by her bed. It was quite difficult to remove the cookie without waking her up, but somehow I managed.

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Next time, I’ll just call the Rock (Image source)

When I walked into her room this morning, I expected to see a big smile. Instead, she was crying. I instantly suspected the worst: She had woken up while I was in her room last night and realized that the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real. Instead, she was crying because upon opening the tissue, she managed to drop the teeth and now she couldn’t find them.

Fortunately, the Cutlet is really bad at finding stuff so it took me about three seconds to locate them. She was still a bit teary, but she assured us that was just because she’s an emotional person and missed her teeth so much.

Her teenage years are going to be so much fun.

We still don’t know what she’s planning to do with these teeth. All I know is that if she tries to give them back to the Tooth Fairy, she isn’t getting any more money for them.

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Nazi Socks

I had to get an X-ray done on my ankle today (That’s another story for another time). As I took off my shoe, and put my leg on the table I suddenly realized that I was wearing socks with a picture of a Nazi on them.

Please don’t think too poorly of me. I’m not about to go out and buy a tiki torch or anything like that. I just happened to be wearing the latest selection from the 12 Days of Marvel socks that Mrs. Cutter got me as a present.

MarvelSocks

Knowing my love of Marvel Comics as well as my love for getting socks as presents, Mrs. Cutter found an ideal gift. Unfortunately, the first two days’ selections were both low-cut socks, and I can’t stand the feel of low cut socks on my legs. So the Cutlet was the lucky recipient of Black Widow socks, and Cujo got some Rocket Racoon socks (which I’m not sure he’s taken off for the past three days).

Today’s socks were full cut, so I was able to wear them. However, they have a picture of Captain America’s arch rival the Red Skull on them. That seems fun and all, until you remember that, oh right, the Skull was a member of Hydra, which was a sub-group of Nazis.

RedSkull

Let’s just hope that tomorrow’s socks have either Kitty Pryde or The Thing (Both Jewish!) on them, so I can redeem myself!

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Ad Pundit: Duracell Santa

Let’s take a look back at another Christmas commercial from yesteryear. Today’s entry comes from Duracell:

Santa announces that he’s not going to leave any Duracell batteries under the tree this year, and everyone at the North Pole is like “Whaaaaaaaaaat?”

I mean, just listen to that anguished “Oh no!” reaction when Santa makes his announcement. And they all make it clear that it isn’t just because things need batteries; they need Duracell batteries, or else Christmas is going to royally suck.

I shudder to think what would happen if he said he was going to leave Energizer batteries. Would that have been the final straw that provoked the elves to finally rise up and rebel against their master?

Elf

Look at the anguish!

It seems like all is lost, and this is going to be the worst Christmas since that year with the Heat and Snow Misers. But no, Santa’s just playing around! He’s not going to leave the Duracell batteries under the tree – He’s going to put them in the stockings!

Christmas is saved, and everyone has a good laugh. But I wonder…Could this have caused the elves to reconsider their position in this arrangement? Sure, Santa didn’t mess around with the Duracells this time, but this was a perfect example of how the entire organization hinges on the whims of a fat, old man.

Then again, if they hadn’t learned their lesson the year that Santa almost quit because he had a cold, I don’t think a potential battery shortage is going to do it either.

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Elephant in the Room

My office just completed its holiday party. It was a fun affair with food by California Tortilla, some raffles, and a few festive games. (I was unable to defend my title in the ugly sweater contest, although I felt that I really deserved to win.) The final game of the day was a white elephant gift exchange, and like any good office gift exchange, it did not come without its share of controversy.

I recently became a member of the office party planning committee. I quickly realized that I was the only man on the committee, and I assumed that meant that everyone would automatically defer to my obviously superior wisdom and judgement. I was wrong.

Last year’s white elephant game ran long, and everyone was in agreement that we needed to find a way to shorten it. It was suggested that a gift could only be stolen three times before it was rendered out of play. So whoever was the third person to steal would go home with the gift.

I countered that the later numbers are supposed to have an advantage, but in this setup, they were at a disadvantage. Several good gifts would likely be out of play before people even had a turn. I suggested that we limit it to a maximum of two steals per round.

People actually argued that what I was suggesting was unfair, and I countered that it’s an inherently unfair game. The later numbers are always going to have an advantage, but at least everyone conceivably has a shot at every gift. Several people agreed with me, but several did not. The ensuing argument was lengthy and heated, and by the end, the committee head was about to cancel the game altogether.

Ultimately, the other side won. Why? Well because…

We ended up “compromising” and setting the number of steals to five.

Naturally, when numbers were eventually picked, I had the next to last number. And as predicted, several gifts were already out of play. I don’t want to sound like I’m bitter because I didn’t get the best gift. I ended up with a pretty awesome gift (A set of chocolate liquors), and honestly there was nothing out there that I really wanted all that much. (How many Echo Dots does one family need?) But it was slightly heartwarming to hear other people agree with me that the setup was not optimal.

So what do you all think? What are the best rules to play by? Or are you better off skipping the white elephant game altogether?

 

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Bad Omen

I had a very good weekend; perhaps the best weekend I’ve had all year. But I was given a very early indication that the ensuing week wasn’t going to be nearly as good.

In addition to all the socializing I did over the weekend, the Eagles topped things off on Sunday night by pulling off an improbable upset victory over the Rams. As a result, I went to bed happy on Sunday night. However, I did not wake up happy.

The Cutlass woke us up in the middle of the night, crying for some assistance in the bathroom. As we helped her, I began to realize that my stomach didn’t feel very good. The feeling did not pass. I soon became violently ill, and the rest of the night was spent on the basement couch, because that was closer to a bathroom than my bed is.

When I saw Mrs. Cutter in the morning, I told her to pray that the incident was caused by something I ate, and was not the first case of an illness that might ravage the entire family. We’ve been through some incidents like that, and it isn’t fun. She told me to stay as far away from the kids as possible.

So far nobody else has exhibited any symptoms, but I’m still holding my breath. It’s possible that I am only feeling so poorly in reaction to the overexertion of the weekend. I’m feeling a bit better as I type this, so maybe this will be quick in duration.

On the other hand, if some of the kids get sick, this may be the last blog post I’ll ever be able to write. So if you enjoy reading this site, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

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The Night Owl

It wasn’t that long ago that going out on both Friday and Saturday night wasn’t unusual. Of course, in those days, I would often spend Saturday and Sunday mornings sleeping in and lounging around the house. Since the introduction of three children into my life, that recovery time is largely unavailable to me, and therefore weekend outings have become much less frequent.

This weekend, I decided that two consecutive nights of socializing was in order. On Friday night, I ventured down to Washington DC to meet up with friends. I had a good time, but by 11 PM, I was pretty tired. By the time I left the bar and completed the lengthy journey home, it was after 1 AM. That never seemed like an especially late hour to get home, but I also used to be capable of sleeping past 8 AM on a regular basis.

I was still productive on Saturday, ferrying the kids around before the entire family headed over to a neighbor’s holiday party in the evening. Mrs. Cutter bowed out sometime after 9, bringing the twins home. The Cutlet was playing nicely with her friends, so she got to stay out later.

The next thing I knew, it was approaching 11 PM. I told the Cutlet that she could stay longer, but she and her friends would have to clean up the mess the kids had made in the neighbors’ basement. She apparently really wanted to stay out, because she surprisingly agreed to this.

The Cutlet is capable of staying up past her bedtime, but the problem comes the next day. When she doesn’t get her full allotment of sleep, she tends to be disagreeable and grumpy. And since I had just had a second straight late night, I wasn’t exactly feeling my best myself. Which meant I was less enthused than usual to deal with a grouchy child.

I’d normally say that I was due for an early bedtime tonight, but unfortunately, the Eagles are scheduled for a prime time game. While the season may not be going well, as long as they’re still mathematically alive, I’m going to watch. Which means its going to be a third straight late night for me.

Ah well, at least the kids are in school tomorrow. So instead of dealing with grouchy children, I’ll just have to deal with grouchy co-workers. That’s much better.

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This Year Belongs to the Leaves

With the rain pouring down outside, this marks yet another Saturday afternoon when I won’t be able to finish cleaning the leaves in our yard.¬†I was able to get the front yard in decent shape last month, and I figured I would have ample chances to take care of the back yard at some point. Unfortunately, thanks to my weekends being full of rain and events, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Part of the problem is that the drainage in our backyard is sub-optimal, and a good quarter of the lawn tends to flood with heavy rain. So even if it doesn’t rain tomorrow, chances are that the leaves will still be completely soaked and hard to do anything with. There’s also the whole pesky “It’s dark at 5 PM” thing which makes it near impossible to do anything during the week.

I suppose it wouldn’t be the worst thing if I never get the backyard cleaned up. As long as the front yard looks okay, we won’t be the neighborhood eyesore, and thanks to the aforementioned flooding, that side of the yard never looks great anyway. Maybe it would be okay if we just let the leaves win this year.

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All hail our leaf overlords! (Image source)

So congratulations, leaves: 2018 is your year! May your time in the sun (or in this case, rain) be glorious!

 

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