Life and career update – 11.5.22

I’m still writing for Sauk Valley Media’s magazine line (“niche pubs”), and am not leaving that position. I am, however, lightening up my load to help improve my work abilities and my physical abilities.

Some of you may have noticed that I have been absent from fall postseason coverage for high school sports. That is true. I also have been covering fewer games in the past couple of years.

As of the middle of October, I have – very, very reluctantly – relinquished my sports journalism responsibilities.

Doctor’s orders.

I was to relieve certain aspects of life that were getting in the way of eliminating stress essential to improving my physical health. Sports coverage was something included with my typical 37.5-hour work week with the magazines. I also, on a rarer occasion, had chipped in to some news coverage, too. It eventually got to the point where it was running me rampant, and interfering with the time needed to get my top priority work accomplished.

(To view SVM’s magazines, go to the top left corner of this website, click on the box and then “Cody’s Articles & Journalism Links”)

I am taking my sports passion, accumulated over 20 years, and converting it into the passion to become a healthier person. That’s going to take quite a few steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I didn’t get this large overnight. However, it’s reached the point where something has to be done.

In dedicating my time 100% to the niche pubs, I hope that it can improve the workload management there.

These past couple of weekends have been real tough. Seeing all of the Twitter updates on fall sports playoffs made me feeel real homesick.

Giving up sports, however, was a tough, TOUGH pill to swallow. However, swallowing pills has been commonplace twice a day for me lately.

About 2 and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I’ve been a big guy much of my life, and there have been days where pop was the only thing that could make me function during a day. That battle has been a struggle. While I’ve been reducing fast food intake, the reduction of pop intake hasn’t slowed down as much as I would like. I’m still nowhere near what I was slamming down during my gas station shifts at Shell 10 years ago (100 ounces in 9 hours), but I’m definitely not “sober” from it yet. As far as the sugary treats go, that intake also is significantly down from a few years ago, but I’m still not quite “sober” from it yet. With each of the three cases, I’ve tried the Cold Turkey route. They failed.

In the summer of 2019, my weight reached a certain number that’s too embarrassing to even tell you (let’s just say I’m twice the size of a normal person). That sounded an alarm. And the only reason how that was discovered was due to the treatment of an ear infection. It wasn’t until a stomach abscess 2 months later that diabetes became a possibility, and then a certainty. With the help of a free diabetic consultation program at the Whiteside County Health Clinic, I was able to shed 45 pounds starting from the summer, through the winter of 2019-20, and the very early spring of 2020 before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The consultation program was put on hiatus in order to focus on the growing pandemic, and I was then kind of on my own.

Luckily, while sheltering in place and staying at home did a number to many people’s bodies, I was fortunate to have kept the weight loss going by continuing to go about my daily life, but with a mask on when needed. In the next 2 years, I shed another 25 pounds. The last two months, however, have not gone to plan, and I was back at my pre-COVID weight. This necessitated the need to make even more changes to life.

The diabetes is being helped with by Metformin. I take two in the morning and two at night. On top of that, I am taking Atorvastatin for high cholesterol, Lisinoprol for high blood pressure, and Mounjaro also for blood sugar and like “gastric bypass in a box.” There have been a couple of multi-day periods in the past 2 years where I stopped taking my pills due to forgetfulness. The last occasion was this past February, and when I started going back to my Metformin, I battled a brief period of poor vision. Since February, I have been taking them consistently; and when I have rarely missed, I make up for it.

Work stress picked up this fall, and I’m chalking my current struggle up to that. So with trying to make things less stressful at work, I’m hoping that can start a chain reaction of getting things better.

Giving up the sports was hard.

I spent most of my 20 years in sports journalism working concurrently at gas stations in town, until I “retired” from Casey’s in Rock Falls in the summer of 2018. At that time, full-time openings at SVM were looking to become reality, and I slid in one not too long after I left Casey’s. That was a mixture of different responsibilities: Sports, Community news briefs, news coverage, letters to the editor, niche pub features, and even for a short time I had served as the unofficial sports editor of the Prairie Advocate weekly newspaper for Carroll County.

After about a year of that pie chart of a job description, I was asked to fill a full-time news reporter slot that came with a significant reduction of sports commitments (but not entirely eliminated). I did that for about a year and a half. When the pandemic hit the Sauk Valley, I was the reporter who broke the news about the first case in Whiteside County. From there, the company news reporters flung forward like a fan set to high. Pandemic coverage, quotas, etc., and I was wondering how much more of this I was going to take – mind you, no prep sports was happening at this time.

Luckily, our niche pubs department had been reorganized into a separate advertising division of the SVM umbrella, and that involved a change in written content. Previously, magazine stories had been written by a combination of existing reporters and freelance writers, but it changed to where one person would be writing about 98% of the content – and I was chosen to do that. The job description and process was much more relaxing than the hectic pace of full-time news, and it was a relief. However, it came with more reductions of sports duties where I was only covering football and used for other seasons on an emergency basis.

The niche pub department added a new monthly magazine for Lake Carroll (“Lake Lifestyle”) by the time I arrived there in the summer of 2020. With all of our magazines, plus the Lake Carroll monthly, our team has made several improvements to the product: 1) Page counts for almost all of our territorial “Living” magazines, as well as “Lake Lifestyle” went up; 2) Advertising revenue for most mags, and definitely “Lake Lifestyle,” had gone up; and 3) Positive feedback from our content went WAY up. We were doing something good, and keeping that trend going up involved a much greater deal of concentration of work on my end.

Magazine work was crunching at times, but really crunched this fall. I was feeling it both professionally and physically. I had no desire to give up covering football, as I considered it my escape from the tough workload – but in reality it was making it worse. On top of that, I felt that my football coverage this year was my weakest output since I started back with SVM in 2014, regardless of deadline changes.

I’m hoping that reducing my sports concentrations will “clear up the clutter” in my head. That will also mean spending time away from even watching the games, as even those appearances further intensify my desires to go back into a sports mindset, and thus, lose focus on my current job duties. I still plan to write the occasional sports feature for Lake Lifestyle (thus spending more time at Eastland High School than even Sterling or Rock Falls), and maybe even sprinkle in a sports feature into the magazine lineup. I can’t quite sports Cold Turkey, but at least I can limit it to the equivalent of having a single M&M per week. Down the road, when all becomes much better, I hope to ease my way back to token sports coverage, and then maybe even more than that.

I had struggled with coming to terms with the “end” of my sports writing career, but remembered that there have been successful journalists who became news editors who started in prep sports. Once I thought about it, I believed I was simply “moving on to the greater need” with taking whatever talents I have from the limited prep sports scene and applying it to the community at large.

I’ll still continue to post sports-related trivia, tidbits, facts and history on my Twitter page, where most of my followers follow me for sports stuff. In that role, I hope to provide some “The More You Know” moments to the typical sports information one normally sees. Think of them as tiny bite-sized columns of 280 characters, plus whatever strings. I also hope to keep you updated on my progress.

My absence from the prep sports world will seem like a typical “Thanks, good luck, don’t let the door hit you on the way out” moment. I don’t like that. I still hope to maintain professional friendships with the state’s sports reporters, and hope one day I may rejoin their ranks. I’m not visible as much anymore, but I still hope to stop by and visit every now and again.

I would like to thank my sports editors at SVM and Shaw Media over the years: Dan, Ty, Kevin, Eddie, J.T, Kyle and everyone else who has put up with my questionable writing skills, all of my sports colleagues inside and outside the company, and all of the players, coaches, administrators, officials and IHSA brass for their support over the last 2 decades. That being said, I look forward to working better with Rusty, Jennifer and Jill in making a kick-ass niche product.

So what about my health?

I’m hoping that the reductions in duties will be the answer to both negate my recent weight increase and establish a daily routine. With winter coming, I’m hoping to make it a habit once again to return to morning walks at Sauk Valley Community College, which I had been doing with my friend Charlie before the pandemic.

After mid-November, I will be entering a slow publication stretch where only two magazines will be worked on for the remaining of the year. I am hoping to use this time to plan ahead to take loads off next year’s schedule and make it more streamlined to where I can plan more exercising on an efficient basis (get a gym membership and actually remember to use it consistently). Right now, magazine work has become more rushed, and thus stressful, and that’s causing what’s happening now.

My Monjauro medication will switch to a much more powerful Ozempic in the coming weeks. I started on that in mid-October and am already seeing good results. The Ozempic should keep that momentum going.

This is a lot of shocking stuff, I know. However, with the loss of sports duties and what I love a lot, I’m hoping that will finally be the motivation I need to get under numeric weight thresholds and open the door to what goodness can possibly happen when I am much lighter.

If I put as much passion and dedication in improving my health as I did with high school sports for 20 years, that may be the difference.

Sports will go on forever. I may not.


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