Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tania's Birthday

This weekend was Tania’s birthday. So on Saturday we went to the International Festival at Soka University of America. I have never heard of Soka University before this. It is located in the hills of Aliso Viejo. It is a non-profit liberal arts college that focuses on international studies. All students have to spend at least one semester abroad. We went to the festival just because we were looking for something to do with Tania’ parents for her birthday. The college hosts a lot of events and Dan (Tania’s father) has always wanted to see the college.

The weather was perfect, not too hot, and not too cold. They had three different stages with something always going on; either a dance performance, choir or music. They had a lot of the typical booths you see at these things, arts, crafts, etc… Tania always like checking out the different jewelry people are selling. What made this festival stand out was the food. A lot a different student groups had booths selling food from their home country. I bought a lot little snacks here and there just to try things. Lunch was a combination of Greek, India, Korean, Thai, and Turkish food. However, Dan had a hamburger (reminds me of dad).

After spending a few hours at the International Festival, we headed over to old town Orange to walk around the antique shops. The art gallery on the corner was having a show, so a few artists were there along with cheese, fruit and crackers. They had good water color paintings a lot of different types of glass art. But the best part of the whole day was that there was no traffic on the way home. We have had that hour trip turn into three many, many times.
Happy 37 years honey.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm Back

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted something. I got tired wondering if anyone was reading this. So if you want more, make sure to post comments. It gets boring talking to yourself. Even on a blog.
Back surgery update: I had my first one-disc fusion about 1 ½ years ago and my second two-disc fusion about six months ago. While I am definitely better off now than I was before the first surgery, I am no where near pain free. I still have at least six month of rehab so it would be expecting too much to be pain free at this point. I was taking 3-4 pain pills a day (24 hr period). I am now down to only one. On most days, I can get by the whole day without a pain pill, but it is nearly impossible to fall asleep without one.
I do physically therapy three days a week in a pool and do daily basic core exercises at home.
I can keep the pain down pretty well by being sedentary, but that’s not my style. Even simple things like grocery shopping can cause pain. The hard part is that I don’t get pain when doing something. I usually don’t start hurting until the next day or two. I have had a few set backs here and there, but all in all, I am seeing slow but steady improvement.

Conejo Valley Chili Cook Off
I went to the Conejo Valley Chili Cook Off and Car Show this weekend. (Conejo Valley is the area where I live; Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills). I was thinking that it would be fun to participate so I thought I would go this year to see what the competition was like. I was expecting a lot a very spicy chili, but it was actually the opposite. There were some excellent chili, but there were also a lot of ho-hum recipes, no better than Hormel.
So everyone can expect some chili on the family get togethers. I’m going to be spending the next 12 months playing with different recipes and spices. It’s always a dangerous thing with I play around like that. Sometimes it comes out great, but disaster also frequently strikes. I have a bad habit of under estimating the power of hot spices.
I need to get some tips from Ruth on how to use a pressure cooker. The tricky part of these chili cook offs is that you only have about 3-4 hours to cook your chili. Ideally, I would like to slow smoke some shredded pork to put in the chili, but I won’t have the time. My plan is to try to get a smoked pulled pork flavor from a pressure cooker and add it to the chili towards the end of the cooking process.

Amber’s Volunteer Work in Costa Rica
Amber singed up to do some volunteer work in Costa Rica this summer. She will be working with disadvantage children and get college credits for her time, so it’s a win-win situation. She nearly didn’t get to go because her Spanish is not quite as good as they prefer. Amber’s resume was so good on everything else that they decided to let her go anyway. They want all the volunteers to try to help raise money for the cause, so you can all expect to be getting something in the mail. The money is not to pay for Amber’s way (we’re paying that), it is to help the charity buy equipment and supplies like books, etc.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recovery Update

Recovery from my back surgery is going MUCH better this time compared to my last back surgery but I still have a ways to go before I am completely recovered. Currently, I am scheduled to go back to work on Nov 9th.

I had a Lateral Interbody Fusion of my L3/4 and L4/5. My previous surgery was a fusion of my L5/S1. So now, the bottom three discs in my back are removed and replaced with nuts, bolts and bone.

The Lateral Interbody procedure is new. It is a lot less invasive than normal back surgery but still requires three incisions: two on the side and one in the center of the back. Here are a couple of videos on the surgery.

This is a short video explaining the surgery

This is a video of an ACTUAL surgery. The video is long but it is kind of cool watch. They have cameras inside of the body.

I had my surgery on September 21 and it is now October 14, so it has been about three and half weeks since surgery. The first week and half after surgery I was talking two Norco (super strength Vicodine) every four hours. At hour three I would be counting the minutes until I could take the next set of pills. It would then take about an hour for the pills to kick in. So was really only getting me about an hour of relief. A relief was really just making the pain manageable as opposed to making it go away.

The next week or so I was taking the same amount of pain pills but the pain was manageable for about 3 of the 4 hours between pills rather than just one. Now I am only taking one pill about 4 hours or so, except in the evening when I still take two. And while before I was lucky to get four straight hours of sleep, I now can sleep for about 6 – 7 hours before I am awaken by pain.

In the operation the cut me on my side and insert a small metal tube through some muscles all the way to the back bone. They then spread the muscles a part so they can get at the discs. This muscle runs down the side of your back bone and down your leg. Because of this, I had a very difficult time moving my right leg after surgery. It was extremely painful to straighten it out so I had to keep some pillows under the knee to keep it bent. This also made it difficult to walk and it is hard to walk without straightening out your leg. Right now, I think the leg pain is worse than the back pain which my doctor says is a good sign. He said that the larger the muscle, the more painful it is. But the fact that my leg is bothering more than my back shows that my back has improved.

Before surgery, I used to get a lot of nerve pain down my left leg. This pain is completely gone now – very good sign.

So right now, my doctor wants me to try to get up and walk around a lot. My back is growing bone where the disc used to be and I need to make sure my back is straight or the bone will grow in wrong. Tania is taking me on “field trips” everyday so I can get some good walking time in. Although after 30 minutes or so my leg gets very sore and start limping. I went to the grocery store with Tania on Monday, yesterday we went to the mall and today I get to go to Target. Boy, my life is just full of adventure.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

25 Wonderful Years

Facebook really kills the motivation to blog. I am way behind on the blog updates. So much has happened since my last post I am not sure where to start. Should I just leave out all the things I meant to blog about but never got around to, or do I just jump into what I did yesterday (which was Tania and my 25 year anniversary).

I completely procrastinated on blogging about moving Crystal into her dorm. It was 98 degrees the day we moved her in. 95 degrees in San Fransisco only occurs on days when you are moving. Lucky for my back a helpful college student carried the majority of boxes up the stairs for us. I guess it helps to have a cute daughter. Crystal's roommate is VERY quite and I think more shy than Crystal. She is from Georgia and flew in by herself. While Crystal had four suite cases of clothes, her roommate only had one suite case and a back pack. That included clothes, bedding, towles and four three ring binders. I'm not sure how that poor girl will avoid freezing over the winter.

All-in-all my back held up extremely well on the trip - the car ride up, moving in, walking ALL over the city, sleeping on a cheap bed in a crummy motel in Santa Cruz, and the ride home. Matter of fact, my back has been in "low-pain" mode ever since I booked my surgery (which is two weeks away). That's the way it usually goes, right? Now what do I do?

While in Santa Cruz I was sitting at a stop light at a major intersection when a guy walking across the street got hit by a truck going about 30 - 40 miles an hour. I was the third car in line and wasn't paying attention so I didn't see it happen. The thud sound (not a thump, nor a bang, but a thud) made me look up in time to see someone rolling over the top of the hood of a red truck. His tennis shoe when flying. He ended up in the center devider, while his shoe was three lanes away on the sidewalk. Yep, I saw someone get knocked right out of his shoes. Well, at least one of them any ways.

The first thing I did was try to call 911. I say try because I got a message that the curcuits were busy. Our great 911 system at work. I am CPR certified so I got out of the car to see if he needed my help. I am not sure if he was knocked out at first or not but he started moving a little once I got to him. A couple of other people were already standing around him but they, like me weren't really sure what to do. His hands and face were bloody and he had a three inch chunk of skin missing from his hip. While their was a pretty good size puddle of blood, he wasn't bleeding profusely from any where. He tried to get up a few times but we kept him still until the ambulance arrived. Unfortunately, he didn't speak English so it took a little effort to get him to understand us. Being that I really didn't see how it happen, I left once the police and emergancy crews arrived. I was suppose to be picking up some breakfast for Tania who was waiting at the motel.

Since we spent the prevoius weekend up North, our Labor Day was pretty quite. Oh, also the fact that Drew stood us up in terms of coming down for the weekend also helped keep the weekend quite. I cooked some beef and pork ribs up on Sunday. They were slightly over done (I think I was the only one who noticed) but they were the most tender, meat-falling-off-the-bone ribs I have ever made. Drew missed out.

Tuesday was our anniversary. While we were trying to figure out what to do on the big day we noticed that August: Osage County was opening in LA on that day. Best of all, second row seats were still available. We were so close, smoke got in my eyes when the main character lite a cigerette. Tania wasn't sure about the play because she prefers musicals but I must say it was one of the best plays I have ever seen. I would list it somewhere between four and six in the play ranking. And yes, Tania agreed.

To beat the traffic into the city we decided to get there early and get pedicures and have dinner. My first pedicure ever, but I figured if Aaron could do it my masculinity would stay intack.

The only bad part of the night was the speeding ticket on the way. Oh well, nothing traffic school won't remove off the record.

Well, there is the summary of what should have been three or four seperate posts. Tommorrow I leave for Detriot on a business trip. Hopefully, my back will continue on low-pain mode.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life is Challenging Right Now

Damn, Damn, Damn. Sorry about the cussing but sometimes it is the only way to truly display your emotional state.

The back has been slowly getting better. Very slow, but improvement keeps hope alive that a pain-free life is a possibility. I have to different types of pain:

1) Nerve pain that starts at the lower back and goes down the back of the left leg all the way down to the foot. It is not a shoot pain, just an intense pain coming from a small area (about the size of a string) going all the way down the leg. I also get bad calf cramps and weakness in the leg when this nerve gets aggravated.

2) Intense lower back pain from the L3 - L5. It is the typical muscle pain you get with a sore back, but there is also an intense pain that feels like a bruise right on the back bone. This makes it very painful to walk up and down stairs (remember, I live in a four story house).

For the past several months, my back pain has really been under control. My main issue is that every time I step up my exercises I left leg starts acting up. However, this was soon to change.

Friday night, while playing poker, the pain in my back slowly starting escalating to the point that I put all my money in on a 12% chance of winning just so I could loose and go home. However, Saturday was fine. I actually did some new PT exercises and did some honey-do’s around the house. I felt good most of the day but Sunday night the back escalated higher than normal.

Monday was the same way; my back was sorer than normal but not so bad too keep me away from work. Unfortunately, throughout the day it slowly hurt more and more. By 4 PM I was in level 9 pain (at level 10 I can’t even move my body because it hurts so badly). Friday night I was pushing the limits on the number of pain pills and muscle relaxing I was taking.

Here is it Tuesday and I am spending the entire day in bed with my pay just one step away from incapacitating me. Hopefully, the pain will drop down to a manageable level by tomorrow. You never know, sometimes it heals quickly, sometimes you stay sore for a week.

It is definitely time to start shopping for a new surgeon (my old surgeon no longer accepts my insurance). Lucky for me I have a VERY good physical therapist. Over the years, he has diagnosed me better than some of the doctors I was seeing. I have printed out all the Orthopedic Surgeon within a 30 mile radius that accepts my insurance and physical therapist is going to let me know which ones he feels are the best.

I think it is time to get the L3/L4 and L4/L5 fused also.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Too Old for Children

Tania and I were the last stop on my nieces California tour of their aunts. My youngest brother, Adam, has three girls: Eden, Celesta, and Daniel. Eden, who will turn 5 in a few months, is the youngest of the three. She is a ball of energy and was a constant reminder of how old I’m getting. I’m sure glad we had our kids while we were young. I don’t know how I would have done trying to raise young kids in my late forties.

Eden kept killing me over and over again by shooting me with her finger. When she was shooting me or calling me fart-face she was hitting me with a pillow. One night I was lying on the couch watching TV with Celesta when Eden began plummeting my head with a pillow. I was trying to ignore her hoping a lack of response would make her bored of her antics. Of course that didn’t work. So after about 20 blows, I grabbed the pillow from her hands. After laying still for so long my quick move scared her and she went running to her sister.

As Celesta was comforting her I tossed the pillow in an arch and it landing right in lap. This verified in her mind that I was indeed an evil person and she began crying. Lucky for me Sponge Bob was on next because nothing shuts up a crying child faster than a funny sponge.

After Sponge Bob ended the girls went down stairs to play with dolls with Tania. This gave me a chance to watch some real TV. About a half hour later I heard Tania yell from down stairs but I couldn’t quite make out what she wanted. A few moments later Eden stuck her head out from behind the stairwell then went running back down stairs. Well, pay backs are a bitch – a couple of seconds later Tania comes up stairs yelling at me, asking why I would throw a pillow at Eden when she came up stairs after Tania asked me to get her snack. Before I could explain Tania went stomping off to the kitchen. And some says kids bring couples closer together.

During the drive bringing the kids to their home in Pahrump the girls told Tania that she is their favorite aunt. I think it has more to do with the American Girl dolls and Polly Pockets that we have in the extra bedroom than with anything particular about Tania. But again, if that was true they would have me at the bottom of their uncle list.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Hate Chase Bank

I had a Chase credit that I stopped using about year ago. I travel to Detriot and New York City frequently for business - at minium, four or five trips a year to NYC and about twice that many to Detriot. I also visit Chicago and one or two other cities. I have been traveling like this for the past five years or more. However, every time I used my personal Chase credit card out side the LA area they would turn my card off because of their fraud alert system. I would understand if it only occurred when I went to odd location, but purchases in NYC or Detriot are not a unique thing for me.

Now I appreciate their deligance preventing fraud, but after more than five years of using my card in NY and Detriot you would think they would get used to the idea that I travel on business. One weekend after a Detriot trip, I went on an erran run. First stop; Home Depot. I can't remember what I was buying but I didn't bring my wallet, just my money clip so I only had the one credit card with me and sure enough - no can use becuase of the fraud allert. I had to get out of line and spend 10 minutes on the phone verifying my two purhases in Detriot and then get back in line again to try to buy them a second time.

Okay, I can deal with that - they do this every time so I am used to it. Next stop, the drug store. Well sure enough, the card doesn't work again. I have to get back on the phone to verify the same purchases one more time. This time, I am a little upset so I let them know that I just verified these purchases and my next stop is at the grocery store and I don't want to have to go through this process for a third in a half hour. "Of course not, sir. Your card will definately work." I don't think I have to tell you what happens at Von's: card no worky again! :( Now I am seriously pissed. I have never used the card again.

Okay, I told you that old story so I can tell you this new one.

My bank, Washington Mutual was purchased by Chase. They haven't closed any location in Conajo Valley, just swichted them over to Chase so it didn't seem like any big deal and it wasn't, until...

I typically only use my ATM card for cash. While I can use my ATM at most stores, I use my credit cards instead to rack up the points. Well, the credit cards have been creeping up so I decided to use my ATM card more to prevent the credit cards from getting out of hand. I just used it one weekend at a couple of stores. A few weekend laters when I needed some cash I went to use my card and got an "unable to access your account" message. What the !?!?!?

I had go inside the bank to talk to a teller. She can't help me, I have to call the fraud allert hotline. That's when it dawned on me - this is the same Chase Bank that owns my credit card that has been hiding unused at the back of my wallet. After a short phone call, I verifed the purchases I made and was able to then get some cash out the of the ATM machine.

That was over three months ago. Yesterday, I needed cash again and low and behold... same message - no cash for you fool. The fraud allert was on agian! For the same purchases I made in May! Even the lady on the phone was surprised it was on hold for purchases made so long ago. I guess this is Chase's way of making sure you don't actually use their card for any useful purpose.

Damn, I hate those guys. Does anyone have a bank they would recommend?