THE AUTHOR

Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, MLive.com and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Saturday
Jan032015

New Year's resolutions, more or less (or fewer)

On the last day of 2014, I was a bit surprised to read many "Good Riddance!" sentiments toward the past year on social media. Was 2014 really that bad of a year for people, or did my Facebook newsfeed and Twitter timeline just happen to be concentrated with a dose of negativity at a certain time? 

Maybe it's natural to dwell on bad events when you're ready to move on. Why would you want to let go of good feelings and memories? But it's surely typical to think about improvement as one year ends and a new one begins. What can be better? What will be better? What needs to change? 

A. was surprised when I told her that I felt like 2014 was a pretty good year. How could I possibly feel that way when I was hospitalized for the first time and required surgery? OK, that certainly wasn't a highlight. And "Don't be in the hospital again" is something to shoot for in 2015. But as painful and scary as it was, I can't feel bad about anything that's happened since then.

Had I not developed that infection, I would probably still be walking around undiagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, wondering why I was frequently tired or developing any variety of other health problems. I wouldn't have made major changes in my diet and lifestyle and lost weight. I wouldn't have experienced the sort of kindness and charity that has truly humbled me.

(I still have mixed feelings towards those who seem to have been completely weirded out by something bad happening to me, but I suppose I can't fault people for not knowing how to act. Even if kindness from strangers does sometimes make me wonder why presumed friends wouldn't or couldn't act in the same way. Yet I get that it can be difficult, and I'm sure I've behaved similarly.) 

For whatever reason, this Bob Seger song was in my head as I woke up on Jan. 1. I hadn't heard it on TV or in a movie beforehand. I didn't hear it on the radio. It was just there. That doesn't seem like an accident to me. 

I feel like I'm on the right track going into 2015, and am eager to keep moving forward, to keep improving. In terms of health, fitness and so forth, I'll save that for another blog post. (And as I'm sure I say at the beginning of every year, I'd like to write here much more in the days, weeks and months to come.) But it's natural to think about what can be done better, what changes can be made as a new year begins. 

Some years, I feel like New Year's Resolutions are silly because they're quickly broken or never kept. But this isn't one of those years for me. So here are my resolutions, more or less. (Or fewer, when correct English applies.) A few of them might run contrary to one another. Maybe some will be repetitive. But these are the changes I hope to enact in 2015. If I achieve even 10 percent of these, it will probably be a great year. 

More patience, less anger.
Read more books, more longform features. 
Read fewer viral blog posts.
Less weight.
More cardio, less weight-lifting.
Write more articles and posts. Write fewer words.
More compassion, less judgment.
Watch more movies, less sports. 
More music. More podcasts.
Take more photos, more videos. 
More tweets. (Seriously.) 
Watch more baseball. 
More cooking, less dining out. 
Write more fiction, less nonfiction.
Read more fiction, less nonfiction. 
More tolerance, fewer grudges. 
Drink more good coffee, less bad coffee.
More correspondence, less losing touch. 
More creativity, less same. 
More organization, less clutter. 
More Michigan football. 
More listening, less talking. 
More writing for me, less writing for them. 
Less bullshit, more authenticity.
More learning, less accepting. 

Tuesday
Nov112014

My new low-carb life

So do you want me to write more about my health and recovery from surgery? Is that what you're telling me? I really appreciate the response I've gotten from you here and on Facebook, especially the comments to my most recent post, which provided some very useful information.

Last time around, I wrote about being diagnosed with diabetes while recovering from surgery. My wound healing was the short-term problem. Getting my blood sugar down and making some major lifestyle changes was the long-term issue. 

When I came home from the hospital, I was taking insulin — a lot of it. Keep that blood sugar down. And have stuff around in case it gets too low: fruit juice, regular pop, peanut butter crackers, glucose tablets, etc. Four times a day: prick the finger, check the blood sugar, take the shot. Pay close attention to what's on that plate: A protein, a starch, vegetables, and maybe some fruit or a cup of milk. I was actually told I needed to eat more carbohydrates than I had before to help keep my blood sugar at a safe level.

That was my routine for a couple of weeks, while I continued to recover from surgery. I was getting used to being a pincushion, though the finger-pricking was never fun. (It wasn't bad or painful. I'm just kind of a wuss.)

Checking blood sugar and taking insulin made going out to eat difficult, but maybe that was a good thing. I was probably doing that too often anyway, and maybe it was a big contributor to my condition. The one time I did go out, we had a table in the back corner of a restaurant but a waitress still saw me take a shot in the back of my arm. I can only imagine what that looked like. Maybe she thought nothing of it. I was mortified.

Overall, I thought the eating part was going well. Portion control has always been an problem for me, and watching everything carefully — with the help and support of my family, who have been amazing and indispensable — was helping with that. I wasn't losing weight, maybe a pound or two. But more importantly, I wasn't gaining as my body was adjusting to this new way of life. I was told that if everything went well, I could eventually get off insulin, and that was the goal. 

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Then I saw an endocrinologist, and most of this went out the window. My sister is a Pharm. D. who works with many diabetic patients, and she advised me to reduce the amount of insulin I was taking. So I was already on that path, but the nurse practitioner I saw wanted me to push it much further.

More specifically, she wanted me to lose weight — as much as I could. And that probably wasn't going to happen with what I'd been doing for the past couple weeks, especially if I couldn't exercise while my surgical wound was still healing. 

So I was told to adopt a strict low-carb diet, inspired by Gary Taubes and Dr. Eric Westman at Duke University. OK, no problem: I knew I should cut down on bread, rice and pasta anyway. I tried to eat less of that stuff while lifting weights and attempting to get in better shape. Although I certainly had my moments of weakness with a good artisan bread or pigging out on Italian or Asian food. I love noodles, man. 

Oh, but there was so much more. This ketogenic diet called for no sugar and no starch. Say goodbye to that oatmeal I thought I was eating for a healthy breakfast. And all the fresh fruit that, again, I thought was part of my healthy diet. No fruit — period. Sweet potatoes were another thing I believed I should be part of a healthy routine. Not here. Potatoes, peas and corn were all not part of the plan. No beans (which also meant no hummus). No milk, though a little bit of cheese (and cream) was still allowed.

No carbs, no carbs, no carbs. Or very few carbs. Like less than 20 grams per day. That's a slice of bread, folks.

But I could eat all the meat I wanted, along with leafy and cruciferous vegetables. That didn't sound so bad. I do enjoy meat, and have been kind of a nut about trying to eat a lot of protein while weight training. And eggs? I could live on eggs. The most difficult part of becoming a vegetarian (or vegan) to me would be giving up eggs.

And I like vegetables. Gimme a salad or some broccoli. Or some asparagus. Cabbage? Brussel sprouts? Love 'em. Olives? Hey there. Avocados? Why, yes. I was worried tomatoes might not be kosher because of the sugar, but they are on the list. Oh, baby. I can still eat tomatoes, which means tomato sauce. And chili (with no beans, of course). 

I've even begun eating a couple of things I previously would have stayed away from because they seem unhealthy, but they have no carbs so they're allowed. Pepperoni, for example. Pork rinds have become a go-to snack (and decent bread crumb substitute in meat loaf and meatballs). Maybe not the best thing to take into a movie theater, though. (Unless it's Interstellar with BIG, LOUD SOUND.)

And sometimes, the highlight of my evening is a cup of sugar-free Jell-O with whipped cream on top. You want to hear someone yell out in surprise and delight? Tell him or her that they can squirt some whipped cream from a can (not Cool Whip) on top of sugar-free Jell-O when they've been fixating on not being able to eat anything sweet anymore. (It's one of the highlights of Dr. Westman explaining this diet to his patients.) 

I'm now into week four of this low-carb (no-carb?) regimen, and I adapt more each day. It's especially encouraging to see some rather immediate results in terms of weight loss, which is the whole reason for this in the first place. Targeting weight loss has drastically reduced my need for insulin, and I'm eager to see where I am by the end of the year. 

There are days when I feel like I would fight someone for a slice of toast with breakfast or I'm a little tired of eggs and some berries or grapefruit seem to be a nice alternative. But that's only at the beginning of the day. The rest of day is fine. I don't miss rice, pasta or starchy vegetables. 

Deep down, I know I should have been eating this way for a long time. I've wanted to, but could never really commit to it. But now I have to. I don't know how long I'll have to stick with this, but it does get easier every day. And I'm eager to see the results once I can start working out again (with much more cardio, instead of mostly lifting weights). 

And I'll keep writing about this stuff, since it seems to have gotten a nice response from friends and followers. I'm not about to become a health or fitness blogger, but hey — if I wrote about those things semi-regularly, at least that would update this blog. But I'm not going to be posting any photos of weight loss or anything like that. No one needs to see shirtless before-and-after photos of me, and I sure as hell don't want to take them. But if this yields some results I'm proud of, who knows? 

So onward and upward. (Or downward, when it comes to my weight.) Thank you again the support and feedback. Anything you choose to share in the comments is welcome. 

Wednesday
Oct292014

As healthy as I wanna be? Not even close

First, I want to thank everyone who read my last blog post about undergoing surgery and reached out to express sympathies through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Even the sports talk radio hosts I talk to each week had kind words to say on the air, which was surprising and touching. 

I'm doing really well with my recovery. My wound vac came off a couple of weeks ago, far sooner than I ever would have imagined. But my surgical wound has been healing so well that there was no longer a need for it. I'm grateful that I was able to get that machine, however. Not just to accelerate the healing process, but to save us from what would've been a torturous, grueling 2-3 times a day ritual of changing those dressings. 

I thought I'd have to carry that thing around, hooked up to me, for at least another month. I'd actually gotten used to being connected to the device all the time, having to remember I was attached whenever getting up to flip a light switch or what-not. Since I was basically toting a purse with tubes running out of it, I'd get a few curious looks in public.

The worst was a woman at CVS who saw it and said — a bit too loudly, I thought — "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?" Really? She hadn't seen worse or stranger with all the elderly people passing through? Or maybe they all go back to the pharmacy, while the front counter deals with people buying candy, chips and pop. 

Anyway, that's the only mildly uncomfortable situation I can recall, so the entire experience couldn't have been that bad. I briefly felt some separation anxiety when the wound vac was taken off, but the freedom of being able to move around and not lug that thing everywhere (or deal with the tubes while showering) quickly made up for that. 

Now, I'm dealing with the longer-term ramifications of what happened to me.

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The infection I developed grew out of control because my blood sugar was extremely high. The A1C test taken at the hospital revealed a blood sugar level twice as high as what's considered healthy. Part of the reason I stayed in the hospital for four days — in addition to my surgical recovery, obviously — was because my blood sugar had to be constantly monitored and brought down to manageable levels before I could go home. 

My name is Ian Casselberry, and I am a diabetic.

(No, I did not have to watch this in the hospital, though I was asked to watch several videos on learning to live with diabetes and taking insulin. They get you while you're bedridden, man.)

I knew there was a pretty good chance of this, since my mother was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic a few years ago. Being overweight certainly made me more likely. But since I didn't have health insurance, I never went to a doctor to get that checked. Plus, I was always afraid of what the answer would be. 

I figured if I exercised and ate right, the problem would take care of itself. And maybe it did, up to a point. I really don't know how long this thing was cooking in me. But over the past five years, I've exercised pretty regularly. During the past year, I feel like I re-dedicated myself to it and was seeing some very positive results.

However, I really wasn't losing that much weight. And I know I wasn't watching what I ate as carefully as I should have. Summer has so many temptations with fruits, pies and ice cream. There were various times when I tried to cut down on my carbohydrates and concentrate more on eating protein, vegetables and fruit, but I never truly committed to it for more than a couple of weeks. 

From what the diabetes education team at Asheville's Mission Hospital later told me, it probably wouldn't have mattered if I changed my diet or not. My weight and extra belly fat made me more susceptible to insulin resistance. My mother comes from a region of the world — Southeast Asia, particularly the Phillippines — where the rate of diabetes is high, which could have been another influencing factor. But it was mostly the weight. And that shouldn't really surprise anyone (though I was probably in some denial).

Once my surgical wound healed and I was able to exercise again, I was going to have to change how I worked out. Previously, I emphasized weight training, trying to get stronger and bigger. I did cardio mostly just to warm up. That would have to change and become a far larger part of my daily and weekly routine.

And of course, I would have to change the way I ate. But how about I devote the next blog entry to that, since this one is going on a bit long and I don't want anyone to feel like they're reading a Russian novel. So I'll have the rest of the story in my next post. Thanks for checking in. Part 2 of this whole thing will be up very soon.

Thursday
Oct092014

Surgery? Hospital? Me? Life can change so quickly

Two weeks ago, I needed surgery and ended up staying in the hospital for four days.

I've often told myself how lucky I was to have never been in the hospital, especially considering all the time I've spent in hospitals with the various health problems my father had before he died and the surgery my mother required two years ago. Hell, I've never even experienced anything like a broken bone.

But that all suddenly changed for me a couple of weeks ago, with the events happening so fast I almost didn't have time to think about what was happening. 

So why did I need surgery? You'll have to trust me when I say you probably don't want me to get into specifics. Let me just put it this way: I developed an infection in an area of the body where no man wants anything to go wrong. Any doctor or nurse who's read my chart, been filled on the procedure I needed or helped with post-op care immediately says, "I'm sorry," and has an deep look of sympathy. 

What began as a curiosity quickly became a major issue that needed attention. I went to a doctor, underwent several tests and was promptly told I needed emergency surgery. The consequences of that didn't fully hit me right away. This looked like a probably outpatient procedure and I'd probably be home later in the evening. 

The seriousness of what was happening finally got through when the doctor visited me in the surgery prep room and told me there was apparently a misunderstanding in what was communicated to me. I was going to be in the hospital for a few days. Whoa. This wasn't just some outpatient thing. 

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That's when some fear began to set in. I was there during my father's two heart surgeries. I was there when my mother had her own issues with an infection. Both of my grandparents died in hospitals. Each time, I thought to myself, "I hope I never have to go through anything like that."

By "that," I mean the surgery, of course. Getting poked with all the tubes that need to go in. Being wheeled into the operating room. Having the oxygen mask placed over my face. Waking up in the recovery room, wondering what the hell just happened and coughing because that breathing tube has been pulled out. Seeing the worry on my mother and sister's face as I'm taken back to my room. 

But I also mean just staying in a hospital. Being in a bed all day and hooked up to IVs. Peeing in a catheter or canister. Eating bland, terrible food. Getting woken up every two hours to take some medication or have something checked. Taking short walks with baby steps down a long corridor, holding an IV stand in one hand, and hopefully someone else's hand with the other. And making sure the back of that hospital gown is tied together. 

I'd been able to avoid all that throughout my life, though I dreaded that those experiences would be in my future if I didn't lose weight and improve my overall health. Now, here I was. Part of what happened was a freak occurrence, but it was fueled by not being as healthy as I thought I was. I exercise every day — pretty hard, if I may say so — and believed I was eating right. I was right on one of those two. 

Had the surgery been my only issue, I might have been released from the hospital in a day or two once the right antibiotic was found and the infection was under control. But everything else had to be monitored too: Blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. I wasn't going to be the same person when I went back home. Or at least I needed to make damn sure I wasn't from here on out. 

For now, I have to carry a wound vac around with me, essentially carrying it in a pouch while a tube is attached to the dressing. I have no idea if people are staring at me in public, but it feels like some might be. Maybe they're just wondering why that guy is carrying a purse.

Basically, I've become the old people that live around me and I often poked fun at. My days are filled with doctor and clinic visits, some of which take more out of me than I ever would have expected. I'm taking several medications and need to follow a tight schedule. I need to be driven around while on pain medication. 

It's been incredibly touching and humbling to realize that so many people are willing and able to help me. The hospital, care managers and providers have been incredible in working with me to make sure I get what I need to recover and can pay the bills that are about to pile up. Famlly and friends have willingly put their busy lives on hold to spend time with me, stock up on groceries and supplies and drive me where needed. I'm a walking charity case. As many times as I've said "thank you," it just doesn't feel like enough. It isn't enough. 

I also realize how ncredibly fortunate I am that my work and life allow me to do what's necessary to get better. I don't have to get back to an office right away. I can do my work while lying in bed, which is currently the only position that feels comfortable for more than a half hour. I can plan my day around follow-up doctor and wound care visits. 

Those dressing changes are not fun, by the way, especially when they're in an area you typically keep concealed. It's a painful and embarrassing experience, three times a week. But vanity went out the window about two weeks ago. It's amazing what you can become accustomed to in a very short time. Sure, everyone come over and have a look down there. Even the young nursing student! Hopefully, this doesn't emotionally scar her for life.

During those nights when it was just me in a dark hospital room (and I could stay awake), I told myself that this was a good thing for me. Even though I went under the knife, I was incredibly lucky because it could have been so much worse. I could still avoid what I've feared for so long. This was a new chance for me, a reset that allowed me to make things right and actually become the person I thought I was being.

Obviously, I was kidding myself about my health and that put me in the hospital. But now, I can change all that. I have to. 

Monday
Feb102014

A personal addendum to Sunday's Pistons post

Wait a minute — don't I have a Pistons blog to write stuff like saying Joe Dumars should be fired? Well... that didn't exactly work out. Mo Better Pistons hasn't been updated since before Thanksgiving, and it's probably just a matter of time before we shutter that blog. I mean, the site is named after the coach that was just dismissed.

I was excited about collaborating on a Pistons blog during a season in which it appeared the team would be much improved. I was eager to write about basketball. But it soon became clear that the time and interest wasn't as strong as that initial excitement may have indicated. The fact that the Pistons played far below expectations and became difficult to watch didn't help matters. 

Instead of updating a blog, the Twitter account received most of the attention. (R.I.P., The Blog, 1997-2013.) It's certainly easier to tweet than write a longer piece of analysis or commentary. I understand that, especially when time and desire are precious. The Pistons blog was always supposed to be a hobby. I suppose I had bigger ambitions than that, just because I've always looked at blogging that way. But I also never intended to do it on my own. 

I realize that sounds bitter, but I'm really not. This was the second time in a year that I thought I'd be collaborating on a sports blog (devoted to the Tigers or Pistons), and it just didn't work out as I hoped. I think I've learned from that. Though I'll always have interest in tackling new writing projects, I have to realize that blogging is a major time investment that isn't easy. Especially when other, far more important matters take precedence.

Writing for The Outside Corner, editing for The AP Party and trying to keep this site updated is probably enough to keep me busy. (Hopefully, there are some outside projects to come. But pursuing those takes work too.) Blogging with friends sounds fun, but I don't want it to lead to disappointment — or worse. From here on out, I'll try to stay focused on what I can control myself. 

Friday
Nov152013

Awkward moments, brought to us by Blockbuster

In my post on the end of Blockbuster for The AP Party, I mentioned that I'd miss video stores around the holidays because renting a movie was the quickest, easiest form of entertainment with family getting together. This is sort of an outtake, something I wanted to include in the post, but there was really no place for it. 

One of my uncles who visited from out of town often picked something not quite appropriate for the holidays. Actually, his choices were sometimes wildly inappropriate. But who wants to watch Christmas movies all the time? Maybe he could've skewed his picks to more family-friendly fare, though. 

The worst example of this was when he rented From Dusk Till Dawn. I have a lot of affection for that movie. I've written about how big a fan I am of Robert Rodriguez. And I think it's notable in the career of George Clooney, showing he could go from ER to leading a movie in a completely different kind of role. 

So it was pretty funny watching vampires chomping on necks, while humans blew off their heads with shotguns. Blood, gore and cheese seemed like a great counter-balance to Christmas Eve church service. Grandma even watched with us politely, always happy if everyone else was enjoying themselves.

But it did get awkward at one point. Very awkward. Maybe you can guess when. It was Juliette Lewis' infamous line as part of Quentin Tarantino's dream/hallucination. 

Yep. I remember going to the kitchen to fix an even stronger egg nog after that. My uncle and I exchanged knowing, "Oooh, that was bad" glances. (We had a similar moment years before when I got a VHS copy of Clerks for Christmas, and he wanted to watch it. Oops, there were kids around.) 

But we never would've had such a moment without our nearby Blockbuster! So thank you for that. 

Thursday
Nov142013

Bye bye, Blockbuster: Are video stores truly dead now?

It probably would've been better to publish this a few days earlier, but other commitments and technical difficulties prevented me from running my post on the demise of Blockbuster for The AP Party

It's not nice to gloat over a company going out of business and I certainly don't want to see anyone lose a job, but Blockbuster has been on my shit list for years. That made me an early adopter of Netflix, and I did take some sadistic pleasure in seeing them kill the big, bad corporate video chain. 

Personally, Blockbuster was dead to me a long time ago. A long time ago. Their practice of sending late fees to collection agencies took things too far. Look, I know I was guilty of letting some of those late charges go too long. Did I go to other video stores in the area to avoid paying those fees? Yes. So maybe Blockbuster had no recourse. But getting a notice in the mail and having less than $20 potentially affect my credit (which I realize is an extreme possibility) killed any interest I had in giving that company my future business. 

You can read the full article here.

As much as I despised Blockbuster, however, I do still have a lingering affection for video stores. Blockbuster put a lot of those local, independent places out of business, so maybe they'll begin to pop up again to fill that void. But it will take communities supporting local merchants and probably seeking out more obscure titles, rather than the new releases that Blockbuster was able to flood the market with. But with streaming video so prevalent and easy to use now, it won't be easy. 

Saturday
Jul062013

That other Ian Casselberry 

Someday, I really want to write something about the other Ian Casselberry. Until then, I love jokes like this. 

One of the radio shows I appear on periodically — Ragz & The Bartender on 95.7 The Fan in South Bend, IN — asked me if I was the same guy in Olympus Has Fallen too. Although they didn't ask on the air, which would've been kind of funny. 

I've actually been in touch with Ian, hoping to do some sort of interview. Fingers are crossed. I think it would be fun.