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Shifting Paradigms

Approaching Life, Five Subjects At A Time

Month

October 2015

There’s Neck Pain….and Then There’s Neck Pain

I’ve talked about before that my wife and I have problems with Arthritis.  She has moderate to severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and I have a form of Osteoarthritis that invaded my left knee from repeated trauma when I was in my teenage years.  But for the last, almost, 3 years I have been dealing with a kind of neck strain that, on occasion, would be really hard for me to deal with.  It would wake me up at different hours of the night, interrupting sleep or causing me to have to lay in bed for much longer than I wanted or needed to.  Over the past few weeks, though, things have gotten even worse with last night being one of the worst episodes yet.  I had been trying to figure out, through my rheumatologist, what might help with the swelling in my neck and shoulder blades that was making life pretty miserable for me.  This time, though, I decided to try a different route and see my orthopedist who surgically repaired a torn meniscus in my knee back in March.  As it turned out, he had an opening today.  So I cancelled what would have been a scheduled massage, which can help in the short term, and decided that this had gone far enough.

It was a good thing I did.

As it turns out, I have what is called “Military Neck”.  I have virtually no natural curvature to my neck.  It is, like the picture above, very straight and also slightly bent from left to right as you would be looking at me.  My muscles are just so kinked and spasm so frequently, from being so out of line, that is creates extremely painful headaches that reach from my shoulder blades, up the back of my neck, over the top of my skull, and down to my cheekbones.  But usually this only happens when I am sleeping, when my body puts itself at rest.

Oddly, what I think started making this happen more profoundly was a change that I made to my golf swing a couple of weeks ago.  My coach wanted me to straighten my back by pulling my shoulder-blades together and lift my head up so that the angle of my posture was more like a straight line…as it should be.  But this created all kinds of spasms between my shoulder-blades, which in turn made it worse for my neck.

So now I am on muscle relaxers for when I go to bed, a prescription strength of Naproxen, and an 8 week course of Physical Therapy to include Dry-Needling which is an interesting form of acupuncture.  There might also be a needed purchase of a jacuzzi tub in our future, as well.  That was the one thing, when I was on the cruise, that really helped to relax my back, shoulders, and neck.  It would be good for my wife’s RA, as well, so we might have to put that on an early list of necessary things to get done.  We will have to see what we can do to facilitate this.

I’m glad I caught this when I did.  It has really put a problematic issue to bed and will hopefully open up a much better life for myself and my wife.

If you could all keep us in your thoughts and prayers, it would be greatly appreciated.

See you all soon!!!

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To NaNo…or not to Nano

NaNoWriMo.  A literary bloodbath that people subject themselves to for the 30 days of November.  Fifty Thousand words in 30 days.  Extremely daunting for many as they look to this time of year as a form of Lenten practice, as they hide themselves from the world and bury themselves inside a story hoping that they can write a story that has any semblance of readability to it.

My wife and I seriously attempted this maybe 3 times in the past 8+ years of marriage, succeeding in hitting our goal only once, back in 2012.  And we are considering giving it a run, again, this year.  Health may have some say in all this as we are both fighting a prolonged cold or something, as well as our normal arthritic issues.  She will need some help, in the next couple of days, to see if she can get her story ready to write, before Nov. 1st hits.  And I…well…I have to decide what story to work on.  I really need to finish up my “Sand People” story, but I won’t need 50,000 words to finish it, so that would mean having another 50,000 word story that isn’t finished and having to figure out what to do with 2 unfinished stories.  I might just finish to the end of “Sand People” and then see if I can immediately jump into “Nowhere” or perhaps some other story that I haven’t though about yet and get my word count that way.  A daunting task to be sure.

If any of you are ever interested in attempting this feat, you will know that you are not alone in your endeavor.  There is a very large community of folks at http://www.nanowrimo.org and they are all interested in helping you to get through this journey with the best tool available…encouragement.  They are normally a great group of people to be around and can help to motivate you to write faster and for longer periods of time than you thought you might be able to.  It’s quite an enjoyable experience.  And it has the added benefit of being around people who share the same kind of literary passion as you might have.

I will probably see if I can figure out a way to do NaNoWriMo in a different way.  I like the idea of sitting down with some folks once a week to see if I can drum up some good motivation.  Besides, we have a new library opening up either today or tomorrow!  Would be nice to break it in and get some good word counts going so I can finish off “Sand People” and get it out for editing.

But for now, I am going to finish off watching “Mr. Holmes” on iTunes and call it a night.

See you all soon!!!

Learning to Love the Things I Have Always Loved

I have not been feeling well, as of late.  I started coming down with a bug or something on or around Tuesday and still haven’t shaken it.  But the downtime has given me time to rest and try and get some energy back.

In the midst of all this, I was listening to a talk, of sorts, that Brandon Sanderson was giving at Google a few weeks ago, during his recent US book tour to support the beginning of a new trilogy of books, buidling off the already amazing “Mistborn” trilogy.  While there was a great many things said, the one thing that really stuck with me was something that he said while on the Writing Excuses Cruise, as well.  Namely, that he loves what he does…writing.  As someone who aspires to be published, and is also a writer, this really struck both a chord and a nerve with me.  It struck a chord with me, because I too love to write.  But it struck a nerve because I seemingly don’t love it nearly as much as Brandon does.

And so I am venturing to resolve these disparate set of feelings that I have, over something so seemingly innocuous.

One of the things that gives me some comfort is knowing that I have done this before with Golf.  Having spent literally 1000’s of hours of time at the Driving Range or on the Golf Course, I have a veritable wealth of experience to draw from.  So long as I keep a proper perspective to all of it.

I just need to allow my brain the ability to remember how much I have always enjoyed writing and really get down to the idea of loving to grind out a story as much as I enjoy grinding out a change to my golf swing.  I just have to learn to assimilate certain feelings from Golf and transfer them to my writing.

I have always imagined having a filing cabinet full of stories that I have written.

Maybe it’s time to stop imagining the filing cabinet is full, and start filling the filing cabinet (Let’s just forget that I don’t actually have a filing cabinet, yet.)

See you soon!!!

Finding Peace After 10 Years

I’ve talked about the effect that Golf has had in my life, in a previous posting.  But, outside of conversations with my wife, I have never openly discussed just how much I wish things could have gone differently for me.  Nor how much I wanted I wanted it to be my life…my career.

I first got into golf when my dad introduced me to the sport, when I was in my early teens.  I took some early lessons and played a few rounds, here and there.  But I didn’t really take it seriously until I took an elective class at Community College, and I met my first long-term golf coach at the Driving Range where my class would meet once a week.  He offered to teach me for free, if I would show up 5 days a week.  It worked out great.  I was down to a single-digit handicap within 18 months and tried to qualify for the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur not long after that.  I knew, then and there, that I wanted to make a life out of golf.  It wasn’t long after, that I moved to Orlando and really took my Golf life to the next level.  I worked at a golf course across from Sea World, where I could get free practice and play, I was playing on local mini-tours.  I was well on my way.  But 2 years later I ended up getting a class 1 separation in my right shoulder and a class 2 separation in my left shoulder.  I had played too much golf and my body had had enough.  I required surgery on my left shoulder, and so I moved back home.  Even when I had just had surgery, I asked how long it would take before I could swing a golf club.  I was told 7 weeks.  I practiced my chipping and putting the entire time I was healing, and when the doctor gave me the okay…he told me to take my time.  And I did take it slowly until I was fully okay to play 18 holes.  But things changed and I went off to Seminary.  I still played golf, but I had other things on my mind to occupy me, but golf was always in the background.  During the summers, I would go off to Arizona for a few weeks and play/practice out there.  I even took some lessons with a coach out there, and it seemed to help.  During my fifth year of studies I came down with Chemical Depression and it was agreed that I should take some time away from my studies.  I had earned my Bachelor’s Degree, so it wasn’t a total loss.  But when faced with what to do next in my life, there was really only one answer.  Golf.  Within 6 months, I moved out to Arizona and got myself ready, or so I thought, for the next phase of my life in golf.  I was going to turn professional. But a terrible thing occurred shortly after that.  I lost the ability to hit my Woods.  I was a mess off the Tee and no matter what I did, it just would not get any better.  The one thing that I didn’t do was fire my coach and get a new one.  In hindsight, I should have.  The more things he tried, the worse it got.  And then I lost my confidence and my love for the game.  It was no longer fun to go to the golf course.

Thankfully, I met my future wife and I said goodbye to the game I had always loved.

I would try, from time to time, to see if there was anything there…if there was some kind of spark that might reignite my love for the game.  But to no avail.

And then almost 2 years ago, I began the process of seeing what kind of long-term solution I could find to renew my passion for Golf.  I knew it would take awhile to get everything to work in a way that I would see results.  With the death of my mother, 6-8 months after starting, it took longer than anticipated.

But then something interesting happened.  We had started to make some progress on things, right before I had to stop taking lessons to help my mom.  But it was a good 7 months or more from the last lesson with my coach and the first one, this past March/April.  But I hadn’t lost anything that we had worked on.  In fact, I actually had improved without even taking a swing.  Enough so that I think my coach realized that things were moving at a much faster pace and decided to “go for broke” as it were, and make some serious adjustments to get me in a position where I would eventually see some big changes.

And then last week…it happened.  Ball after ball going far, high, and straight.  I took a couple days off to let my head process the things my body was doing, and I went to the driving range on Friday.  I was a club longer than I had been when I played in a charity golf tournament, right before we left on vacation.  My drives were going around 270 yards, my 8-iron was going around 150 yards.  And I was hitting the ball where I wanted to.

And then I felt it.  Peace.  Not just a feeling of having fun again. I had already started to have that feeling over the past 6 months or so.  I genuinely felt at peace, again.  I no longer had the angst of all the years that were so frustrating.  I no longer felt like I was beating my head against a wall.  I sincerely felt like I had finally put all that behind me, and I could go and play golf and not be sour or sad about it.

Yeah…I still think about “What if…”  But it’s not the same anymore.  I can now think about taking my training to another level.  Maybe even being competitive again.  Who knows…I’ll be 43 in a few days.  Maybe 7 more years until I have a Senior career?

Even if I don’t, I can still say that with a little help from my coach, my wife, and the Man upstairs…I can finally have the peace I need to enjoy the game that I have always loved.

Thanks for listening to me ramble.

See you soon!!!!

WOOOO!!!! HOCKEY!!!!

Today is a great day, for one single reason.  The NHL regular season has begun and hockey is on tv almost every day from now until the middle/end of June.  For 8-9 months out of the year, fans, such as myself, sit enraptured in front of tv’s and mobile devices cheering on our favorite teams.  For me, my favorite team is the Detroit Red Wings.  I grew up outside of Washington, D.C. and most people think I should be a Capitals fan.  I am, in a way, and even had partial season tickets for a few years when the arena was in Landover, Maryland.  But now I spend the equivalent of one ticket to a Montreal Canadiens regular season game, for an entire year’s worth of hockey.  I can suck back on it, like drinking from a fire hose, or I can just enjoy my favorite team, or watch one of my favorite players for a night.

Tonight, my wife and I watched the Canadiens (her favorite team) take on the Maple Leafs (the “forever rivals” of the Canadiens) in the first game to start the regular season.  It was thoroughly enjoyable to watch and my wife was happy because Montreal won 3-1 and her favorite player (Carey Price) all but shutout Toronto, if it hadn’t been for a puck that deflected twice to get past him.  Them’s the breaks, though.  One of the other things that helps to make the season enjoyable is our being a part of a Fantasy League.  We don’t do it for money, so that makes it more enjoyable.  We play with 15 of our friends in two separate leagues. I run both of the leagues and have a team in each.  We play for bragging rights, as well as the extra excitement of following players and teams that we normally would otherwise just say, “Good for you” and not think twice about.  I have been doing Fantasy Leagues since High School, so yeah…almost 30 years (Wow…really? *sigh*) and I have just always enjoyed the way it helps to keep track of a season just a little more than I would if I didn’t have a team going.

I can’t wait for my Red Wings to play, starting on Friday, and I’m really looking forward to this season in general. Detroit usually has a very solid team and is looking to make the playoffs for the 25th consecutive year.  Longest in any major professional sport.  Next closest is the San Antonio spurs, who I remember the first of their 18 years (back when the NBA was more about basketball), when they made the playoffs with David Robinson and Sean Elliot.  Blasts from the past, I’m sure.  Anyway, I pretty much only follow Hockey and the Baltimore Orioles for baseball. I barely know who the other players are in Baseball.  I have been a fan of the Orioles since I was in Little League, when the team was playing at Memorial Stadium and bleacher seats were $5 or less per game.

You’ll no doubt hear more about hockey, and probably see some amazing videos of sick plays made by amazing players.  I can’t help it, and having moved to Canada and lived there for 7 years only made my passion for the game that much stronger.  You haven’t seen passion for a sport like Canadians have for hockey.  It’s quite amazing to see.

Anyhoo….If you have a favorite team, let me know what it is!  Always love to talk hockey with other folks.

See you soon!!!

Soundtracks and Novels

One of the things that is the most fruitful and yet most frustrating things that I love about writing, is coming up with a Soundtrack that fits what I am trying to write.  I like to have something taking up the space in my head, that helps to focus the tone of my novel as I write it.

Currently, I am writing a novel called “Sand People”, which may seem to suggest a more middle-eastern theme of music, but in reality is a fantasy novel whose settings are mostly not sand-related.  The scenery is set on the eastern side of a series of mountains with water nearby, which is predominantly more lush.  On the other side of the mountains, though, resides a landscape that is more desert-like, but that still is not where the majority of the story takes place.

“Sand People” has been very difficult to pin down as far as the kind of music I want to listen to for it.  It needs something that is not so heavy, and yet not so empty so as to feel like it is a bit soft.  It needs to have a quality to it that resonates with the book, and that has been difficult for me.  I originally started off with the “Children of Dune” soundtrack, which worked for a bit and then fell off because it got a bit too far afield with the tone.  Like a good story, you don’t want to continually be dragged out of the story by some odd word choices or disjointed pacing, or worse, grammar mistakes and misspellings.

Ultimately, I wound up with a particular song from the Da Vinci Code soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, entitled, “Chevaliers De Sangreal.”  It has enough of a fantasy feel while still giving a sense of wonder and mystery that I want to make sure I convey in the finished product.

I find it also useful to have different songs for different stories.  “Sand People” has a completely different feel from both “Nowhere”, whose feel should be more techno/cyberpunk-ish, and “A Knock at the Door”, which a song like Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence” or maybe even the “Seven” or “A Beautiful Mind” soundtrack might be good for, where there has to be a great deal of sympathy for the character and what he is going through.

The usefulness of the different songs also helps to put me in the right frame of mind for the story itself.  It’s almost a mnemonic device that instantly triggers the story in my head, even though I never associated the story, before, to such a song. It just fits the mental image of what I have in mind and moves my brain toward the part needed to write what I need to write.

Do you feel this way about any of the books you have read?  Do certain songs just come to mind as you read them?  Let me know in the comments!

See you soon!!!

Of Hurricanes, Novel Endings, and Hockey

We have a Hurricane bearing down on us for the weekend.  So what better way to use the time that will be spent indoors, then to work on finishing up my “Sand People” novel.

While on the cruise, I was able to finally outline the last third of my story and even got some time to free-write the climax of the story.  I will need to take some time and make sure I get the run-up and the after-stuff done alright, but after that I should be able to get the story in position to get to the run-up and then get the story finished.

On top of the work I got done on “Sand People”, I was able to start in on some pre-writing and free-writes for “Nowhere”, as well as pitch some ideas in a 1-on-1 with one of the instructors on the Retreat, who is an award-winning author in her own right, concerning my story “A Knock at the Door” which is really going to be a departure for me and I am excited to get to writing it, in due time, probably sometime mid-to-late 2016.  I have a massive revision/re-write of “Sand People” that has to have a full set of notes to send it off to a developmental editor, who has been waiting for my book for almost 2 years now.  Poor lady, having to deal with all the garbage that has been in and around my life since I first asked if she would look at my work when it was done.  She has really been faithful about making sure that I still have a spot in her timeline for me to sneak in, once I’m done.  She will be getting a big thank you in the acknowledgements, for sure.

And if this wasn’t enough, it’s October…which means that the NHL Hockey season is just about ready to start.  I am a HUGE Detroit Red Wings fan, and I am really excited for the upcoming season.  A lot of our younger players are really stepping up to take a predominant role with the team, so far.  It will be interesting to see how the team functions with a new coach and the addition of some needed pieces that have been missing for a few years.

The entire NHL season should be awesome.  I am running two leagues, this year, for some friends, so I have two teams to keep my attention fully on the season.  Looking forward to the autodraft for those leagues, tomorrow.

That’s all for me, tonight.  I look forward to letting you all know how the draft(s) went for me, and the progress on my novels.

See you soon!!!

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