The Struggle is Real.

Hello, and welcome.

After putting some finality on The Paramedic series with The Never Ending Nightmare, and with a continuation of Born Bent Over still on and off, I took a little time away from the laptop and did some home remodeling and worked in my workshop to try and clear my head and come up for some new ideas for my next cloistered adventure in my office. God bless my understanding, saint of a wife. She suffers my peculiarities with just the occasional shake of her head.

After about six months, plenty of splinters and some unique, permanent paint stains (including a few on our two Dachshunds) a few sparks started firing around in my aged gray matter. Stay tuned for future information on those.

Determination ruling the day, I assembled a new playlist on my media player and made the requisite trip to the office supply store; known as both Mecca and Purgatory to most writers, and filled my cart with the standard office supplies: pens, legal pads, pencils, Twizzlers, spice gumdrops…the standard supplies.

But between the last spinning contest in my desk chair, and the last blue streak of curses spewed after the ever present, poorly aimed hammer injuries, poorly measured cuts and paint spills, I bought a few ebooks from other writers who write in the erotica-love story world to get an idea of what others were doing to advance the growing interest in, and diminish the age old stigma of, the erotica genre.

Let me state here that some of you have some very vivid and far flung imaginations! And, not surprisingly, some of you are truly sick and twisted. And to all of you I say: write on!

It has, unfortunately, been my experience that while diminishing somewhat, erotica writing bought by sane, rational, normal people are still kept in secret files on tablets and laptops in folders named “recipes” or “taxes.” Our puritanical roots still runs deep in much of our society. The stigma of the dark, sleazy, sticky floored movie houses of Pee Wee Herman fame, and the curtained back rooms at the video store where the evil porn flicks were hidden from their unintended audience still seems to keep those petrified by the fear of being a known as an erotica fan behind closed doors.

While even I do have a certain line I don’t cross in my writings, I fully support and defend those who choose to go somewhat beyond that line in their reading and writing tastes. I look forward to the day when the stigma is lifted as more and more readers aren’t afraid of, or could care less if their Alexa is reporting back to the porn police that they’d purchased a racy erotica novel to read in front of the fireplace on a cold winter’s day.

Contrary to what your mom told you, it won’t make you go blind.

From the reading I’ve done, I have determined that there truly are vast, far flung differences in the genre, yet all books with any kind of explicit love scenes are required to carry the dreaded adult content, scarlet letter. From the more graphic parodies of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the imagined antics of the crew of the Star Ship Enterprise, they’re all still lumped together in the dank bowels of the online book sellers.

On Smashwords, where I initially sell my work for distribution on Amazon, Apple and others, no one who is just perusing the site, looking for a good read, without being a member and signing in, is allowed access to any books with the aforementioned adult content, scarlet letter descriptor. It’s done to keep those under the age of eighteen from purchasing a book or story they’re not legally allowed to purchase. I can understand that to some degree. But come on! Graphically vivid, free porn videos for every taste and fetish are available all over the web for anyone with a mouse to view. The adult content rating limits access to my work and the work of others who write stories involving explicit love scenes between consenting adults to those who bite the bullet, request membership on the site and subject themselves to the constant string of pesky emails from the site and the third party minions they sell your email address to. You know the routine. Sign on to a news feed and you’ll soon be inundated with scads of those sales offers for everything from copper cookware to quirky tee shirts that foul your inbox numerous times daily . As we have all learned, surrendering your email address on any site on the web is a guaranteed prelude to hours spent deleting junk mail. Sadly, just logging on to Facebook these days makes you a target for ads for anything you’ve purchased online since the advent of online sales.

Along with the sites’ ban on things like erotic works containing child porn, bestiality, rape, etc., (a limitation I do support and understand-all of which are far, far over that line I never cross) the behind the curtain, backroom, dank leaky basement placement erotica is relegated to needs to end. The stigma needs to be lifted with, of course, the above referenced limitations being adhered to.

While I consider myself a writer and teller of love stories with plausible plots and, yes, some steamy love scenes, I don’t believe I’m destined to eternity in asbestos underwear, dodging the piercings of Satan’s pitchfork. Nor do I believe those who read erotica will suffer that fate. While discussions regarding sex still bring about blushes and giggles from the immature, (and lawsuits or professional ruination for injured sensitivities in certain circles) in my many years on this earth, in many, many varied social situations, I have never met anyone who didn’t look forward to participating in the sweaty, mood altering, mind blowing, adrenaline filled , toe curling act of coitus. If they don’t, they’re obviously not doing it right!

As a disclaimer here, I fully admit to choking up during Hallmark Christmas movies and any other cinematic marvel that has a happy ending. Wherever the underdog prevails, (of if there’s a dog involved) I’ll be reaching for the tissue box.

On that same note, I have sadly accepted the fact that I’m not the premiere writing sensation of our time. However, I’d like to think the sentiment and feelings I try to put into words does manage to shine through for many. The intimacy I write into my stories, in my humble opinion, is intended to deepen the emotion of the scene and spark a certain something in the reader; drawing them intimately closer to the character I’m trying to depict. It’s never done to shock and awe. My days of spewing the dirty word in the classroom to gain admiration from my classmates never ended well for me. As a matter of fact, my name was mentioned across many dinner tables back in my blue word phase, followed by parental edicts to steer clear of that kid! I was a highly misunderstood child.

More to the point, writing and reading erotica is not a crime. And while I realize that it is often depicted as the cause of depravity, lewd acts and the ruination of society from many Sunday morning pulpits, I think it’s fair to say the occasional voyeuristic readings into the sex lives of characters conjured up in the minds of erotica writers will not buy you a ticket on the express train to eternal damnation.

And it may even spice up those snowy afternoons when you’d just planned on reading a book. (wink wink)

Whip out those debt cards, read the latest terms of agreement on PayPal, visit Smashwords and take that final step into what the puritans call our seedy underbelly and proudly take advantage of your right to buy and read a steamy piece of erotica. It might even give you a few new ideas on spicing up your love life.

Until next time, and as always, I wish you peace, happiness and fair winds.

The Never Ending Nightmare is here!

It feels like I just gave birth after a three year gestation period. Thankfully, the end result was worth the long and agonizing labor.

The Never Ending Nightmare, book three in The Paramedic series is finally available in ebook format here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/956203

The saga continues and the plot thickens as Doc and Nancy are cast unwittingly on a perilous path they’ve been unknowingly drawn onto due to the dubious, despicable acts of someone they thought they knew.

Just to whet your appetite for The Paramedic series, I’m offering book one, The Paramedic, free until October 30th, 2019. Follow this link to Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/360394 and enter the coupon code, LG37D at checkout.

Book two in the series, Cast Adrift, is available here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/364678

From the first page in The Paramedic, the heartbreak, trials and tribulations our friends experience in their day to day existence is sure to draw you into the lives of our motley crew and endear you to each and every one. Strong bonds, deep love and passion keep the story flowing as the perils and pratfalls bring you to the edge of your seat.

I hope you’ll read and enjoy The Paramedic series half as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing them to life.

All three books in the series contain explicit love scenes so the series is not recommended for those under the age of eighteen. However, while explicit, all the scenes are consensual, heartfelt scenes meant to further endear the reader to the characters.

Try the series and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, and as always, I wish you much love, peace and happiness.

A New Day Dawning

For those of you who’ve stuck by me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I’ve been doing 120 in the fast lane for the last few years, in a good way, but that has curtailed my writing passion considerably.

For you fans of The Paramedic series, the final book will be coming out within the next couple of weeks. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to bring to press, but, well, see the above. However, I promise it’ll be worth the wait. Follow Doc, Nancy, Butch, Mike and the….well, I’ll let the book fill in the details.

Also on the horizon, two new, totally different books will be rolling off the presses at Danby Mountain Press. Both of which I’m extremely proud of and I believe you will enjoy. More on those soon.

I was asked a funny question the other day that took me aback for a moment. A dear friend asked me, first, why I wrote erotica. With the exception of The Tenderfoot’s Guide and Born Bent Over, The Paramedic series, as well as the new books coming out are erotica.

I first explained the difference between erotica and smut. Not that I begrudge those who write smut. If that’s what you feel inside, have a ball. We do still have a first amendment in this country and there are a whole lot of readers who read and enjoy smut and will admit it. There are scores more who read it and prefer to keep that little tidbit to themselves. Frankly, if it doesn’t involve minors or barnyard animals, write and read away.

All of my erotica revolves around loving relationships, caring people and, at least in my humble opinion, has a plot. I have always been of the opinion that adding explicit love scenes between consenting adults just adds a higher level of intimacy to the story and makes the reader that much more familiar with the character. Again, just my humble opinion. I’ve been called sappy at times. I guess I am. I cry at old movies, certain songs, weddings and whenever the mortgage bill comes in the mail.

I believe I’m a kindred spirit with a lover’s soul. Must be my Italian heritage. Nothing has me grabbing for a tissue faster than a mushy love story.

Please bear with me for just a short time more. I believe you’ll be pleased with the upcoming additions to our book catalog.

And for those of you who read and commented on But for Lisa’s Voice, I want to thank you. While I did respond to your wonderful comments, I’d like to thank you again. That was one of those that has a special place in my heart for numerous reasons.

Until next time, I wish you all much peace and happiness.

God Bless!

But for Lisa’s Voice

Who Dat?!

I know.  It’s been a while.  A long while.  There’s been a whole lot of “wow” going on in my life the last two years, very little of which allowed much time for blogging, but most of it grand.

I’ve got a couple of new books in the nail biting stages of editing so stay tuned.  A new website is on the horizon, too.  Don’t give up on me yet.

I was perusing one of my old back-up hard drives, searching for ideas for something to knock the cobwebs off of this dusty, neglected blog page and came across a story that was written with wet eyes.  It still brings on the tears when I read it many years later.  I’d like to share it here with you.

And don’t count this old fella out yet.  The dust covers have been pulled off of the presses at Danby Mountain Press.  Not to mention that I married a nurse so I can not get my Geritol intravenously now.

 

       But for Lisa’s Voice

©Brian Greenleaf 2007-2019

The florid, changing leaves; those still clinging to the near barren trees along the sloping path, lacked their usual, flamboyant, appeal.

The breathtaking collage of gold and red, gently spiraling to the thick, panoramic carpet covering the ground, seemed monochromatic in comparison to the exhilaration their beauty used to bring him.  A few days of late fall wind would take away the leaves, but not the memories.

The prospect of the snowy nights soon to come, Thanksgiving, and having all the kids together again under one roof; the only time they all seemed to be able to gather together anymore, bore a foreboding connotation this year.  The euphoric sense of peace and comfort that always enveloped him at the thought of seeing his three children and five grandchildren was absent.

As he walked, his mind wandered back to the Thanksgiving before.  The now deathly silent house had been, only a year before, transformed into a cacophony of lively, cheerful conversations as well as a few slightly heated debates, sibling rivalries, wafting together from different rooms.  The echo’s resonating of the giggling and gleeful screams of sugar rushed children playing and calling for “Grandpa to “watch me,” brought him no pleasure tonight.   His mouth no longer watered, as it once had, as he vividly recalled the tantalizing flavors and the unforgettable smells of the sumptuous desserts and all the Thanksgiving accouterments baking in the kitchen.  Now they only haunted him.

A single tear streamed down his ruddy cheek, unchecked.  It was just another of the so very many that moistened his unshaven face every time his thoughts turned to her.  A brisk wind whistling through the swaying trees dried the lone tear; but did nothing to ease the anguish that reached to his very soul.

His youngest daughter, Katie, although she now went by Katherine, except to him, (she would always be his Katie), called at least once a day to fill him in on the daily events in his grandsons’ lives.  He enjoyed the calls immensely, although they were always too short, but found himself feeling emptier still as he hung up.

Katie and her husband, Ron, moved to Montana, of all places, to follow his dream of fame and fortune in the real estate market.  Truth be told, Ron couldn’t sell toilet paper in a diarrhea ward.  Ron was now one of those stay at home Dad’s, as Katie called him, (the big “L” flashed across his mind) but Katie loved him, and that would have to do.

David, his oldest, called from time to time, but the same strained relationship they’d always maintained seemed to permeate every conversation.  Their talks were almost formal in content, lacking only the sales pitch to make them seem like a telemarketing call.  Harry Chapin singing, Cats in the Cradle scratched invisible fingernails down a chalkboard somewhere deep in his mind.

His workaholic ways had built an empire; but the emperor lost his son.  The added guilt further compounded his suffering, and the tears began to flow anew.

Roughly wiping his moistened cheek with the back of his cold hand, his thoughts turned to Deb, his middle, and most “interesting”, child.  He concentrated hard, both in an attempt to remember their last conversation, and to relieve the guilt laden thoughts of his relationship with David, still stinging, as they splayed forth from the wide opened pages of the mental book he kept of his life and times.

Deb, the “middle” child, was her mother incarnate; a beautiful girl, tall and slender, with long brown hair, piercing blue eyes and a quick smile that almost always worked on him as her “get out of jail free” ticket when she’d managed, almost daily in her teen years, to get herself into mischief.   More to her credit, Deb was a free spirit, unmatched by any he had ever encountered, (also inherited from her mother).

Deb was a dedicated and gifted artist whose work had been earning her awards and accolades since junior-high school. It was only a small surprise when she came to him, after graduating college, to tell him she was moving to Paris

He remembered, thoughtfully, how they’d talked long into the night; he, pleading with her, trying to talk her out of it.  Deb was having none of it.  He’d argued his side with the diligence of a seasoned barrister, feeling certain that she would surely starve, be murdered or, worse, marry one of the myriad of bums most people associated with “starving artists” that slept on the Paris streets, suffering for their art.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Deb may have been her mother incarnate, but she had a little of the old man in her.  Deb thrived in Paris.  While she still painted well enough to be commissioned on occasion, her passion turned to photography.  There was rarely an occasion, as he perused the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble, or anywhere, for that matter, that he didn’t see one of Deb’s photos gracing at least one magazine cover.  It always made his chest swell with pride.

Deb returned home from Paris after a few years, well established as an artist, and now lived in New York.  She, too, called regularly and, as much as he hated to admit it, he enjoyed her calls most of all.  Deb was a natural comedian.  She could make him laugh; something he rarely did anymore.

It wasn’t that he’d ever played favorites with his children; unless you were to ask David about it after he’d had a few too many beers; but talking to Deb was almost like talking to Lisa.

Lisa.

He swayed slightly, a sudden, all too familiar, dizziness washed over him.  He sat down hard on a felled tree; his shaking legs threatening to fail him.  In a fleeting instant, he tried to change his thought processes, thinking with a brief smile at his expense, that at least there were plenty of leaves to cushion his fall if his legs actually give out; but to no avail.  Lisa’s face played like a kaleidoscope before his eyes; her smile flashing over and over as if he were trapped in an all-night movie theatre where the movie never changed.  His entire frame shuddered in his grief.  Salty tears came in a wash of emotion he thought he could no longer muster.  He made no attempt to wipe them away.  They were cleansing, in a way. At least that’s what the doctor told him.  She said that grieving was healthy, and prescribed some pills to help him deal with his grief; pills he refused to take.

“Real men don’t need pills to solve their problems!” he’d told the doctor in no uncertain terms.  He’d gotten this far without them, and he wasn’t about to start now.

He was unaware of how long he’d sat there with Lisa’s angelic face replaying before his eyes.  He’d been oblivious to the world around him.  The sun’s shift to the west, as well as the mounting chill, gave the impression it had been one of his longer spells.

Will this damn pain ever go away?!”  He was screaming inside his head against the injustice life had dealt him, teeth grinding, knowing deep down in the depths of his shattered heart that the pain would never go away.

After a short time, he felt some degree of control returning.  He stood, slowly, and took stock of all his faculties before starting back toward the house.

He and Lisa had made the same walk almost every night since they’d bought the place, especially when it snowed, with ease; reveling in each others company and the successes and good fortune they’d achieved in their thirty years together.

Tonight, however, the distance to the house seemed insurmountable.  He felt tired; a deep rooted, all numbing, tired as he’d never experienced before.  A bottomless sense of dread encompassed him; an ill feeling that even his very bone marrow had ceased to make the cells necessary to sustain him.

Grudgingly, and with great effort, he put one foot in front of the other and, feeling as if his fifty years were now multiplied ten fold, made his way toward the house.

The house that Lisa built, he thought, remorsefully.

His mind wandered back to when they’d first looked at it.  The place had been a wreck; long since abandoned, and longer still without repair.  The only positive thing that could be said to its’ benefit had been the twenty-acre apple orchard, long untended, and the panoramic view of the mountains.

He remembered standing on the crumbling front stoop, listening to that bullshit artist realtor speaking out of both sides of his mouth; schmoozing them with assurances that the house was a rock solid diamond in the rough, with its five “spacious” bedrooms and, he smiled, remembering the incredulous claim; indoor plumbing!  It was nineteen-seventy-eight, for Christ sake!  With the exception of a few places in the Ozarks, indoor plumbing wasn’t much of a selling point; it was a birth right.

Lisa was sold immediately.

“This beautiful old house has been sitting here abandoned for so long because it was waiting for us to find it!” She’d proclaimed, jubilantly.

Where Lisa saw limitless potential, he saw years of roof repairs, plumbing and electrical upgrades and a host of other nightmares that didn’t, at the time, immediately present themselves.  The “to do” list would be endless; not to mention expensive.

After some long debate, he’d convinced Lisa to go home and sleep on it, but that had only delayed the inevitable.  For every reason he had to run screaming from the house and never look back, Lisa had three reasons why they should call the realtor back that very instant before someone else stole their dream house out from under them.

He’d always fancied himself someone who thought everything through rationally, invoking reason and fact to reach a decision.  Lisa, on the other hand, thought with her heart.  Doing battle with Lisa’s mammoth heart, not to mention her stubborn side, was like a dullard going to a battle of the wits.  He had been unarmed.

They rarely argued, per se.  As in every marriage, they had situations, usually concerning the kids, where they disagreed.  More often than not, common sense, and the mutual respect they shared, mediated their problems; eventually turning mountains into mole hills.  He laughed, a soft knowing laugh, as he remembered that Lisa’s ace in the hole had been when she’d come to the bedroom from the shower, rubbing her bulging stomach, (David), and flashing those beautiful blue eyes.

“With the way this little guy’s kicking, he’s going to need lots of room to run, Daddy!”

They signed the contract the very next morning.  David decided to start his running career as the movers were placing the last box in the dilapidated foyer.

“And what a transformation you made, Lisa!” He croaked aloud as he reached the house and opened the door, stepping into the veritable showplace she’d created.

Methodically, he hung his jacket on the hook and began his nightly post-walk ritual, not long ago modified to accommodate a party of one.

He reached, without looking, into the freezer and pulled one of the many frozen dinners from the frosted shelf.  The contents didn’t matter.  The dinner would only serve to take the edge off his growling stomach.  Food had pretty much lost all flavor of late.

Placing the frozen block in the microwave, and pressing the requisite buttons by rote, he moved to the center island and reached blindly into the cabinet below.

Pulling the near empty fifth of bourbon to the granite counter, he bent further to make certain he had more in reserve.  Seeing only two remaining fifths, well hidden from prying eyes, he made a mental note to restock the next time he went into town.

Never much of a drinker, he remembered the kids taking dusty, unopened bottles of various and sundry liquors home with them after they helped clean up after the funeral.  Most had been there for years; left over Christmas gifts from clients and a few from odd raffle winnings, etc.  He told the kids to help themselves, but for some inexplicable reason, asked that they leave the bourbon.

Filling a generous sized glass, he raised it, shakily, and made his nightly, heart rendering, toast to Lisa.  The amber liquid brought on the only peace of mind he seemed able to find anymore.

“If only you could speak to me, Lisa.  Let me know you’re OK.  I love you so very much.  I don’t know how much longer I can be here without you.  It’s just… too…. Hard!”

He silently admonished himself for weeping as he spoke, feeling the need to be strong when he spoke to her.  He finished his short vigil as the annoying beeps emanating from the microwave alerted him that his dinner was ready.

He reached for a new bottle from under the counter, refilled his glass and retrieved his dinner, a fork and his rejuvenated glass, then headed for the den to eat and watch the evening news.

The ringing phone startled him from a fitful sleep.  Reaching blindly for the handset, he knocked over the now empty bourbon glass and sent the untouched dinner sliding to the precipice of the coffee table.  It teetered precariously, almost spilling to the floor.  He pulled it back as he answered.

“Hello”, he murmured, his voice gravelly from sleep and the bourbon.

“Were you sleeping, Dad?”  It was Katie.

“Not really, Punkin, just dozed off in front of the boob tube.  What’s up?”

“Oh, nothing much.  I just wanted to call and say hello.  Stevie had a football game tonight.  I’ve got court in the morning.  Ron took the kids to the game so I could get some work done, but I was feeling a little guilty about not being there.  I’m going over to see if I can catch the last quarter.”

A brief, sad, memory of all the games and dance recitals he’d missed over the years flashed through his mind.  Important moments missed in the name of success.  He silently chastised himself again.

“Are you OK, Dad?” Katie questioned, concern evident in her voice.

“Fine, Sweetheart.  And how’s Michael?”

“Full of piss and vinegar, same as always.  I’m going to need a separate filing cabinet for all the notes I’m sure to get from his teacher this year.  I wish I could bottle all his energy and sell it.”

“He’s all boy, that one!” he replied, rather monotone.

“You sound tired, Dad.  Have you been sleeping OK?”

“Yes Mom!” He replied, a slight hint of humor in his tone.  “I’m just a little tired.  I took a walk up the trail tonight before dinner.  I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“Aw Dad!  I only hope to be in the great shape you’re in when I’m eighty-seven!” She laughed at the timeless joke they shared.

“You’re not too old to take over my knee there, Young Lady!” he teased.

“Be kinda hard to catch me in that wheelchair, Old Man!”

“I get no respect!” his laugh a little more evident.

“Aw, you know I love you, Dad.  Listen, I’m pulling up to the field now.  I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Ok Honey.  Kiss the kids for me.”

“Will do, Daddy.  Love you.”

“I love you, too, Baby.  Bye.”

He replaced the handset softly and stared around the empty room.  At a loss for what to do next, he set about clearing the remnants of his untouched dinner from the coffee table and brought it to the kitchen.

He, once again, refilled his glass and started for his office to try and do some work.  As an afterthought, he took the bourbon along with him, rationalizing that it would save him a trip should the need arise for another refill.

As he sat at his desk, he was immediately met by the smiling face of Lisa, staring at him from the ornate frame beside his monitor.  It was his favorite picture of her, taken before the breast cancer had started eating away at the very core of the once vibrant, energetic woman smiling back at him.

He and Lisa had taken a spur of the moment vacation to the beach two years ago.  It was her idea, and she sprang it on him, rather abruptly, claiming that he had been working too hard and, frankly, spending too little time with her.

As was usually the case when anything threatened to disrupt his unbending work ethic, he tried to get out of it by claiming that he was too busy to take any time off.  As he always did in these situations, he made his usual promise to take her on vacation “soon”.

Lisa was having none of it.  “It’s your company, you’re the boss, and you can take off whenever you damn well please; and Mister, if you don’t say yes, things are going to get mighty chilly around here, comprende?”

In her usual, wily way, Lisa won out.

It had been the best time they’d ever had.

Every minute detail of the trip was etched permanently in the deepest recesses of his mind; a permanent reminder of better days.

They had hardly closed the door behind them in their hotel room when Lisa retreated to the bathroom and emerged in a flash, dressed in the most stunning red bathing suit he’d ever seen.  The effects of age and the changes usually evidenced from the birth of three children never visited Lisa.  She radiated health and an inner and outer beauty that no photograph could ever capture.

He, too, changed quickly and, like two mischievous children free of their parent’s watchful eye, they ran and frolicked on the beach all day.

Later, they walked along the shore, far from the throng of sun worshipers, talking, laughing, kissing; discussing everything and nothing at all.

Further down, in a moment of unbridled passion, they made love in a small cove as the tepid waves of high tide washed over them, threatening to sweep them out to sea.  For a brief moment in time, it was only they two, and life was perfect.

Afterward, they lay silently in the sand, wrapped in each other’s arms, watching the stars, reveling in the intimacy they’d just shared.  An intimacy that had grown and blossomed over thirty years into something so strong, time, nor tide could ever diminish it.  They promised then and there, with the stars and rising full moon as their witness, to share that love into eternity.

There had been only one down side to the entire vacation, but even that had been only slightly less pleasant.

Having spent the entire day in the broiling sun, both had suffered the wrath.

After returning to the room, all thoughts of further lovemaking, or keeping their dinner reservations at the cozy Italian restaurant the concierge had recommended, were replaced by mutual massages of sunburn ointment and cold compresses.  Again, like children, they laughed and played as they tended to each other, ordered room service, and cried together over, ironically, a rerun of, From Here to Eternity.

Later, during some last minute pillow talk in their moonlit room with the soothing sounds of the roaring sea lulling them to sleep, Lisa whispered softly in his ear,  “It was Kismet that From Here to Eternity aired tonight”, then kissed him longingly and finished the though.   “Our life together has been a beautiful merry-go-round ride.  We’ve grabbed nothing but brass rings, David.  I never want this ride to end”, as she drifted off in his arms into peaceful, exhausted sleep.

The next afternoon, heavily slathered in sun block, they visited some of the local shops and had a leisurely lunch before opting for the relative safety of the hotel pool and lounge chairs on the deck overlooking the sea.  Later, as the sun began to set, with the beach as a background and the memories of the day before still fresh, he took that picture of the only woman he had ever, or could ever, love forever.  The picture maintained its place of honor, never more than a turn of his head away from him, ever since.

The tears came again; slowly at first, before giving way to overwhelming grief, rabidly overpowering every fiber of his being, threatening in its intensity to drive him mad.

“Lisa!….  Lisa!…  I can’t do it!  I tried; I really tried!  I can’t live without you!  I’m just not that strong!”  His tormented screams echoed throughout the empty house, reverberating off the walls and returning in eerie, demonic voices to haunt him further.

Spasmodic sobs wracked his frame.

Seconds turned to minutes as his overwhelming grief poured from him in waves.  He could find no solace; no branch to grab to keep him from being washed away in the raging river of pain.  His usual logic and rational thinking failed to defuse the time bomb ticking in his head, threatening to explode and send him tumbling over the abyss into insanity.

“Why her, God!”  Why her!”  What could that beautiful woman have possibly done to deserve the vile and cruel curse you put on her!”

He found himself shaking his fist toward the heavens, screaming at God for answers; angrier than he had ever been in his entire life.  Venom spewed from every pour; obscenities flying like scraps of paper in a windstorm.

He sprang from his chair, toppling it back against his filing cabinet, and began pacing around the room, ranting, almost incoherently, pleading with anyone and everyone; offering everything he had just to hear her beautiful voice one more time.  “Help me, Lisa!  Tell me you’re OK!  Tell me what to do!  Help me, please!”

Like a madman, he grabbed the bourbon bottle from the desk and turned it up, the searing liquid no longer offering any warmth to his numb throat.  He finished half the remaining contents then smashed the bottle against the wall.

Throwing open the door, he staggered to the bathroom and retrieved the prescription tranquilizers he told the doctor he’d never take; then returned to the kitchen for the remaining bottle of bourbon.

“Forgive me Lisa, but I can’t do this.  I can’t live without you any longer.  God knows I tried, but I can’t do it!  I miss you to much!”

He was incoherent.  His ravings became disjointed.  His chest raking sobs and the effects of the alcohol turned his insipid mutterings to primal grunts.

With his screams now at a fever pitch, he didn’t hear the phone ringing atop the desk.  His diatribe continued as his shaking hands fumbled with the top of the pill bottle; the ringing continued unnoticed.

On the fifth ring, the answering machine activated with a loud beep, momentarily penetrating his tirade.

Lisa’s cheery, mellifluous voice chimed a greeting to the caller:

“Hi, you’ve reached David and Lisa.  We’re probably taking a walk, or plotting to overtake the government of some small third world country, so leave a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.  Have a great day!  BEEP!”

“Dad, you really need to change that answering machine message.  It kinda creeps me out.  Listen, Stevie scored two touchdowns tonight.  He’s anxious to tell you about it.  If you get home before his bedtime, give him a call.  You know he’s dying to fill you in on the details.  Talk to you later.  I love you.  Bye.”  It was Katie.

As if he’d hit a brick wall, all time stopped.  Unconsciously, he released the still unopened pill bottle.  It clattered unceremoniously to the floor and rolled away, unable to fulfill the dire task it had been retrieved for only minutes before.

Shaking off some of the cloudiness filling his head, and returning to some semblance of the here and now, he mustered the wherewithal to set the new bourbon bottle on the hall table and stood, statuesque; allowing some modicum of calm to creep over him.

Reality began to take control as the unthinkable, desperate thoughts he’d harbored only seconds before turned to fresh memories of Stevie in his ill-fitted football uniform.

On their last visit to Montana, he and Lisa had gone with Katie and Ron to see Stevie’s first game.  It was a bitter sweet visit, made to allow Lisa to tell Katie, in person, that Lisa had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

At that time, the extent of Lisa’s cancer hadn’t been clear.  It wasn’t until they returned home, and Lisa underwent further tests, that it became evident that the cancer had metastasized to an inoperable state, and Lisa’s chances for survival were slim.

Even with that black cloud hanging over her head, the sight of Stevie in his oversized uniform, skinned knees and that endearing toothless smile, sent Lisa into a snorting fit of laughter that had gotten so out of hand, she began hyperventilating.  Her fit had been contagious.  All present, except Stevie, that is, were caught up in it, succumbing to Lisa’s infectious laugh.

It was that very picture of Stevie, now displayed in all his glory before him that caused him to start laughing.

His laugh was bass and resonant: a deep belly laugh that threatened to last for some time.  The sound was unfamiliar to him.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had occasion to feel the slightest urge to even smile.

The laughter carried him through a hot shower; slowing to the occasional chuckle only after a second cup of black coffee and four aspirins.

Returning to his office, he righted his desk chair and sat down heavily, resting his chin in his hands.

Looking deeply into Lisa’s picture, eyes locked on the image of his beloved’s laughing eyes, David Markham Sr. again professed his eternal love for his soul mate, then reached for the phone to hear all the details of his grandson’s two touchdowns.

His wish had been granted.  Lisa’s voice had shown him the way.  Somehow, deep down, he knew that she was OK and was still looking out for him; loving him.

It was going to be awkward, but Thanksgiving looked like it might not be so bad after all.

As he punched in Katie’s number, he began giggling at his own thoughts,

“I hope they’re not expecting me to cook the turkey!”

Gun Control, Survival Prepping and Other Controversial Subjects.

Hello My Friends,

authorphotoI know.  It’s been a long time since I posted, and for that I do apologize.  Many of you have been very vocal about that and I do appreciate the added incentive.  Keep those comments and emails coming!  In my defense, I’ve been in the process of enjoying life a little with my new bride and spending some time working on our new camper (now winterized for the season) and even doing a little camping.  As I always say, life is grand.

This week’s blog is a far cry from my usual topics; (I’ll get back on topic next week) but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a current events junkie.  I span the web frequently in search of interesting or poignant news from reliable sources.  Lately the topics of gun control and survival prepping have been foremost on my mind and I feel like babbling about a few of the things I have gnawing at my age addled mind.  Bear with my ramblings if you dare.

For those of you rolling your eyes, apparently you’ve never been the victim of gun violence.

I have.  So I speak from an enlightened pulpit.

For starters, lets face facts: gun control doesn’t work.  The very system itself is flawed from the ground up.  Those incapable of possessing a firearm legally can and will acquire one by any means necessary.  It’s no different than a lock on a door.  It keeps honest people honest.  While  I wouldn’t wish a home invasion on anyone, if Michael Bloomberg’s home were broken into, I believe his current, misguided tirade on gun control would end abruptly.  Of course, he doesn’t have to worry about that.  He has armed security around him wherever he goes.  Most of us “Joe the Plumber’s” don’t have that luxury.  At any rate, the man needs to take off his Ivory Tower, rose colored glasses and take a real look at what he’s proselytizing.

Look at the statistics!  The states/cities with the highest instances of gun related violence are those with the strictest gun control laws.  Washington DC and Chicago are two examples.  Why?  Because the law abiding citizens are ripe for the picking for criminals.  Those citizens can’t legally be armed and the criminals know it.  The criminals don’t seem to have any problem getting their hands on firearms.  Talk about lambs to the slaughter.

The Stand Your Ground laws are being revisited in states like Florida.  Why?  Because of a few unfortunate incidents where the shooter was exonerated by the legal system, through due process. for using necessary force, but the outcry from those uninformed soap boxers with bleeding hearts who took up their banner on a half cocked, loud crusade to right what they believe to be the wrongs done to individuals who were in the wrong place doing something they shouldn’t have been doing.  The loss of a young person is never a good thing, but when you play with fire you’re bound to get burned.

And don’t even get me started on these race baiting, nut job, banner wavers like Sharpton and Jackson whose only purpose in life is to stir the pot for their own nefarious purposes.  If only they’d use their limelight for the benefit of others instead of themselves.  These irreverent Reverends need to take a sabbatical from their rabble rousing and read the Bibles they claim to preach the teachings of.

None of us know all the details of what happened in the Michael Brown shooting, and I’d be an idiot if I were to claim that all law enforcement officers are straight up, capable, compassionate people, but I’d dare say that most of them are-and I sure wouldn’t want to have their thankless jobs for love or money.  My hat is off  to the 99% of them who put their life on the line every day to protect us.  Right or wrong, when a cop tells you to do something, just do it.  If he or she is wrong, deal with that later at the police station through proper channels, or with a lawyer. Getting into an altercation with a law enforcement officer is never a wise idea.  If you do, you’re bound to come out on the losing end.

Those of us who are legally registered to carry firearms are the least of your worries, but our government seems to be petrified of us.  In many cases, as I’m sure you’ve seen in those few unbiased news outlets who don’t hide stories for their political agenda, honest, law abiding, concealed carry gun owners have saved many situations by thwarting bad guys who were attempting to rob, loot and plunder and have aided police in many dire situations.  Click here to read  just a few of them.  We are, for the most part, gun enthusiasts who enjoy gun sports and appreciate and respect the beauty and power that firearms possess.  We also believe in our Second Amendment right to protect ourselves in times in eminent danger.

Those with violent or felony criminal records are forbidden by law to own firearms.  The fact that they’re criminals pretty much tells you that they don’t give a damn about the law.  They carry stolen guns or guns bought illegally (very easy to do) mainly so the gun can’t be traced to them after they’ve committed a crime.  The meth-head who broke into my house had a record as long as your arm and was even on parole at the time.  The .22 caliber pistol he carried was a stolen gun.  Had I not been in possession of my firearm that night, I wouldn’t be writing this blog today.  I have no doubt in my mind that had I not been armed, and had the presence of mind to use it, I’d have been a case for the CSI investigators.  I still have a lead souvenir in my right butt cheek as a memento of that night, and he has three in his hip, a scar across his forehead and the view from his new home includes razor wire and armed guards.  All I lost that night was a little blood, a pair of jeans and the sense of home and serenity I once had in the confines of my hovel.  That night and the subsequent PTSD led to my having to have an alarm system installed, a lot of lost sleep and an increase in my personal arsenal to insure that, heaven forbid, if it ever happens again, the odds of the perpetrator leaving in a zippered bag will be greatly increased.  While I suffered a pretty devastating loss, I’m still breathing, I still have all my possessions and time does heal all wounds.

I could sit here and quote gun statistics but that’s already been beaten to death in the news.  What bothers me most is that with those glaring statistics staring anyone with any common sense right in the face, these grand-standers like Bloomberg keep persisting in trying to make gun ownership more difficult for the average Joe who is only out to insure the safety of himself and his family.

While I don’t own any of what the media calls, “Assault Weapons,” I have fired many and, frankly, they’re a blast to shoot and a beauty to behold.  How many criminals do you think have an assault rifle stuffed down their pant leg?  It would be painfully obvious, wouldn’t it?  How many crimes do you think were committed with assault weapons?  Yes, they have been implicated in cases such as the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, but they are definitely not a weapon of choice for the common criminal and are very low on the scale when it comes to violent crime.

Clip capacities have come under fire of late.  Let’s be honest here:  anyone with any prowess with a firearm can change clips in the blink of an eye so how is limiting the size of a clip going to deter crime?  Large capacity clips are of more use for rapid fire, timed target shooting, a sport, than they are for the commission of a crime.  I believe all too many of these naysayers were raised on 1950’s Lone Ranger serials where a six shooter was capable of shooting unlimited rounds.

Hi Ho Silver!

And I’m really bothered by the media’s portrayal of so called “Survival Preppers.”  While I will admit that some do seem, at least to the uninformed, to go way overboard, there are all too many practical reasons for being prepared for whatever nature, or the evil powers of the world, decide to  throw our way.  Given the current unrest throughout the world: especially the latest threat-ISIS (or as our illustrious dictator calls them, ISIL) and the headline news today/gone tomorrow Ebola scares, it’s time to give some honest thought to where you want to be when disaster strikes.  Let’s face it, folks, the world has become an ugly place and there is a never ending supply of radical nutcases out there who’d think nothing of opening fire in a crowded shopping mall or blowing up a populated building.

Even with the evil “what if’s” aside, what about the guaranteed occurrences-like being prepared for Mother Nature’s wrath?  I live in South Carolina where the weather is usually bearable, but our infrastructure frankly sucks.  All our power wires are still strung from pole to pole.  Every time we have an ice storm here, (at least once a winter) and the overburdened tree branches begin to fall on those power lines, vast numbers of homes and businesses go days, and in some cases even weeks, without power.  When even a hint of an upcoming storm leaves the lips of the local rumor mill, the grocery stores get cleaned out…especially the milk and bread.   Call me a radical prepper if you will, but we have a generator and a good supply of non-perishables, medical supplies, waterless soap and water so we can at least keep the refrigerator cold, a heater running, the toilets flushing and have the means to prepare nutritional meals in relative comfort…and not suffer the wrath of four or five days without a shower.

I also believe that the evil in the world is going to come to a head one day soon, though I pray for the sake of my children and grandchildren that I’m wrong.  Being prepared for such situations may mean your family’s very survival.  One errant strike from an EMP on our aged power grid and the lights are going to be out for a very long time.  After a few days, things are going to start getting very ugly.  Those unprepared will be out scavenging and those lacking any moral fiber will be out looting.  Desperation and hunger will bring out the worst in even the nicest people.  Will you be prepared to protect your home and family when, not if, disaster strikes?  Do you think FEMA is going to be knocking at your door the next day with a nice steak and a baked potato?  If you do, I want some of what you’re on.  Just ask some of the folks in Louisiana how Johnny-On-The-Spot governmental response to a disaster is.

I’m not saying it’s time to go out and buy a surplus deuce and a half and convert it into a mobile fortress, (although that would be a lot of fun), with a ten year supply of MRE’s stashed in various secret hiding places.  What I am saying is that responsible gun ownership and common sense preparation can and will improve your chances for your longevity and that of your family.  Laugh if you will at the folks on shows like Doomsday Preppers and other like programs.  Don’t fool yourself.  They’re the ones who are going to have the last laugh.  And with all the time, money and effort they’ve put into insuring that they have the means to survive, they’ve also developed the skills to protect it.

Just the opinion of an average, semi-normal, non-radical taxpayer that I thought I’d share.  As for me and mine, we shall err on the side of common sense preparedness.

Man it felt good to get that out.  Every once in a while you just have to vent instead of cursing at the news commentators on the daily news programs.  They can’t hear you anyway and probably wouldn’t care about what you had to say.  If you haven’t realized that Fox News is strictly conservative, CNN is strictly liberal and MSNBC is downright dangerous, and all report their stories with those slants, you haven’t been paying attention.

OK, time for my meds and shock therapy treatment.  It keeps the voices in my head cordial.

Until next time, as always, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.

See you in the funny papers!

Brian

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Apologies…

Hello my friends and welcome back.

Unfortunately I haven’t had time to put this week’s blog together in time. I made the unGodly mistake of buying a new laptop Friday and it came equipped with Windows (should be called widows) 8.1. I work with computers and software for a living and this beast still has me stymied. It’s Sunday morning, I haven’t been to bed since yesterday and I’m still in the cursing process with this entirely alien new 8.1 interface. May the fleas of a thousand camels infest Bill Gates nether regions.

Anyway, I’d like to apologize and make a promise that I will make up for this week’s lack of a blog in spades next week so stop back by. Worst case, I’ll go back to the old laptop and practice my quick draw on the new one at the pistol range.

Until next week, and as always, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.

Be well, my friends.

Brian

Natural Relaxants and Sleep Aids: Things You Need To Know.

authorphotoHello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you find this week’s blog interesting and helpful-albeit a little long due to the vastness of the subject.  Hang with me.  It’s worth the read.

We’re going to start this one off with a disclaimer because this is a very serious subject that needs to be studied, in-depth, before you decide to jump on the herbal relaxant/sleep aid bandwagon.

For starters, always remember that just because they’re natural and unregulated, that doesn’t automatically make them safe.  While side effects and overdose possibilities are generally far less with herbals, many do have them, including allergic reaction possibilities for those with sensitivities to certain compounds.  Always, always, always discuss any herbal regimen choices with your healthcare provider before starting one.

If you’re pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant or breast feeding, do not, under any circumstances, take anything without first consulting your healthcare provider.  Most, if not all of the herbal relaxants and sleep aids are contraindicated, (or should at least be carefully controlled and supervised by a medical doctor) during pregnancy or while breast feeding.

More to the point, while everyone occasionally has problems sleeping, or gets anxious or depressed from time to time, if you’ve ever felt like hurting yourself of others, become disoriented or lose memories or parts of the day, hear voices or anything beyond common life anxiety or transient insomnia, see your doctor immediately.  Herbal supplementation will not help you.  As strongly as I support and believe in herbal remedies, there are many times when professional medical intervention and prescription medications are the only option.  Only a trained medical professional can diagnose the difference.

I, for one, am always thinking.  My mind never stops plotting, scheming and fantasizing about the latest book I’m working on, life…especially about what we’re going to do when we win the lottery.  While I know that I’m probably not going to see my face on a Publisher’s Clearinghouse commercial, or have to dodge paparazzi as I sneak into lottery headquarters to collect my winnings, thinking about the possibilities of life without financial worries is my happy place.  Unfortunately, my happy place becomes less appealing as I lay there awake some nights trying unsuccessfully to shut down my thought processes and get some much needed sleep.  On those occasions which, thankfully are fairly rare, I reach for an herbal tea or a capsule.

And on those occasions when the annual house or truck tax bill comes, or it’s time for my annual review at work, or the dreaded annual trip to the doctor and I start biting my nails and cursing our state and local government, the establishment as a whole or my sawbones, a herbal remedy is usually the order of the day.

But which one you ask?  Ah, that’s the purpose of today’s blog because, believe it or not, the choices are many and many of the choices may be the wrong one for you.

Believe it or not, one of the first questions I ask those who inquire about herbal relaxants or sleep aids is what they know about them.  Almost everyone, and those are the ones who have even heard anything about them at all, say Valerian and Melatonin.  While both are good options in many situations, they are far from the only choice and, in some cases, the absolute worst choice.

Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons.

Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis):  Chamomile, especially chamomile tea,(derived from the plant’s flowers) has been used for centuries to bring on sleep, ease an upset stomach and even treat diaper rash.  It is a herb derived from a flowering plant in the daisy family and a close relative to ragweed.  While its’ natural calming effects are widely known, it has also been used to treat skin irritations, inflammations and even diaper rash.  There are scads of lotions and creams on the market to ease those conditions.  I can’t vouch for their efficacy because I’ve personally never tried them.

Lately, a lot of study has been done on the benefit of chamomile for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), migraine headaches, PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) and a whole host of other maladies including skin conditions.  However, we’re concentrating on sleep and relaxation this week so here goes.

Of all the available herbal sleep aids, for those with mild sleep issues, chamomile tea is probably what you’re looking for.  With few exceptions, it’s probably the most mild of all sleep inducers and probably has the least potential for side effects.  A cup of chamomile tea about an hour before bedtime will help all but those with the most serious sleep issues (or way too much on their minds) slip off into a natural, peaceful sleep.

However, for those with allergies to ragweed or pollen, chamomile is not recommended as some mixtures may contain pollen and/or ragweed.  It is derived from a flowering plant in the ragweed family, remember.

Chamomile is also contraindicated in those taking blood thinners because chamomile contains a natural substance called coumarin (which is synthesized and used in the prescription medication Coumadin), a blood thinner.

Pregnant women should not use chamomile as it is considered an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion).

Many people drink a cup every night before bedtime and claim that there’s nothing like it for bringing on sleep.

If you have no allergies to pollen or ragweed, are on no blood thinners and aren’t pregnant, try brewing a cup before bedtime.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that something so simple could do so much good.

Valerian (valeriana officinalis):  Most of you, I’m sure, have heard of Valerian and have probably tried it or know someone who has.  I’ve even spoken with doctors who recommend it to their patients whose condition may be mild enough that they would benefit more from Valerian than from taking one of the prescription drugs with their associated side effects and, in many cases, chances for addiction.  Many use Valerian for different situations from insomnia to anxiety to menstrual cramps.  Many swear by it, some swear at it.

The sedative properties of Valerian are found in the root.  While it can be taken as a tea or a tincture, Valerian smells really, really bad.  Think of an un-air conditioned, long untended, boys locker room loaded up with basket after basket of dirty BVD’s and gym socks…at high noon…in the desert.  Multiply that by ten and you have the general idea.  Even the capsules, when purchased fresh, will cause you to pause, (and to hold your nose) before taking it.  However, this is one instance when, if Valerian is the right choice for you, the end justifies the means.  If you wanna play, you’ve got to pay, and for most, it’s a small price to pay for the benefits that can be had from its’ use.  Generally, taking the proper dosage about an hour before bedtime will, for most, insure a peaceful, restful night’s sleep.

However, it is not without its’ downside.  Many people who use Valerian wake up feeling drunk/hung over, or remain drowsy for a time after awakening.  Many have said that, along with the lethargy when awakening, they also get a headache.

For those with common, garden variety anxiety brought about by an abundance of life’s every day troubles, Valerian is known to relax, calm and render a feeling of overall peace and tranquility.  Some claim to get relief within an hour, for some it may need to build up over a few doses before the calming effects are realized.  However, Valerian is not a cure-all.  It is intended for temporary use.  If those anxieties persist, see your doctor immediately.

Valerian should not be used for extended periods.  When it is, you may may not be able to just stop taking it without revisiting the initial problem you were trying to solve in spades.  Anxiety, nervousness, shakiness and insomnia have been experienced by those going cold turkey after a long stint on Valerian.  Often you’ll have to taper your dose over two or three weeks when you feel you no longer need it.

Always insure that you buy the freshest capsules available and that there are no inert or inactive ingredients mixed in that you may be allergic to.  Valerian allergies are rare, but some are allergic to it.  More people, however, are allergic to some of the additives in cheap, bargain basement supplements.  I know, you’ve heard me say this time after time, but it bears repeating: always buy your supplements from reliable, American manufacturers and, whenever possible, buy those certified for vegetarians and vegans.  By doing this, you’ll insure you’re getting a consistent, pure and measured dosage with no harmful additives.

Some of the more rare side effects of Valerian are are persistent nausea and/or vomiting, stomach/abdominal pain, yellowing of the eyes or skin, dark urine and extreme lethargy to name a few.  These are generally reversible when the valerian is stopped.

Dosages vary from person to person.  Valerian is not a “one size fits all” supplement.  The recommended dose on the label may be too little or too much for you.  Caution must be used when determining your proper dosage.

For those taking prescription medications, especially statin medications, erectile dysfunction medications, other relaxants/tranquilizers or cough and cold remedies containing diphenhydramine, you should not use Valerian as it may lessen the efficacy of those medications or multiply the drowsiness already associated with them.

Before we move on to the next option, I just want to mention that none of the above is meant to scare you.  Valerian, for most, is a natural Godsend.  My only intention in mentioning all of the above is to insure that you’re well informed before you pop that first capsule.  Valerian is definitely not for everyone and the information above is certainly not the all inclusive definition.  Research all medications and supplements fully, and discuss them with your healthcare provider before you decide to take it.  It could save your life.

Melatonin:   Is actually a natural hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  Its main purpose is to  regulate sleep and waking cycles and contributes to maintaining the body’s circadian rhythms.  Unfortunately, as we age, our body’s ability to produce melatonin decreases.  This explains why grandma and grandpa were always up at the crack of dawn.

Supplements, of course, are synthesized in a laboratory because, well, who’s going to volunteer to have their pineal gland tapped?  If that were even possible, I’m sure it would not be a pleasant experience so, technically, melatonin can’t be considered a natural remedy-but for many, it’s a sanity saver.

I’m a child of the night.  I work nights, as does my fiance’, so our sleep cycle definitely conflicts with the natural circadian rhythm of our bodies.  Being over fifty with decreased natural melatonin production abilities is also a major contributor to my occasional insomnia.  Luckily, Brenda is a sleep-a-haulic so sleeping is rarely an issue for her.  I, on the other hand, often have problems going to sleep for the reasons mentioned earlier.  On those nights when my ten-hour shift hasn’t totally exhausted me, mentally and physically (rarely), I reach for a sleep aid.  Sleep is a must whether your body wishes to cooperate or not.  For those of you who can drop off without a second thought, (narcoleptics excluded, of course) my hat’s off to you.  For those of you who cant, melatonin supplements might be the answer.

Surprisingly, some studies indicate that melatonin is ineffective for what is called “shiftwork disorder.”  Either I have some other sleep issue or, at least in my case and those of many I work with and have suggested melatonin to, I beg to differ.  Melatonin is usually my first choice, after a chamomile tea, when I can’t sleep and, for myself and many others that I know of first hand, it works.

The effects of melatonin and generally mild in those who tolerate it well and will usually just help ease you into sleep without your even realizing the effects (unlike most prescription sleep medications).  Side effects are generally mild or non-existent, but can include dizziness, daytime lethargy and headaches.   Other rare but documented side effects can include abdominal discomfort, mild anxiety, irritability, confusion and transient depression-especially in the elderly.

Additionally, if you take birth control pills, blood thinners, diabetic medications or immunosupressants, do not take melatonin without first consulting your healthcare provider.  Melatonin is released into the bloodstream so it may adversely effect other medications in your system.

Kava (kava kava):  I mention kava here with caution. Kava is a root found on islands in the South Pacific. Islanders have used kava for its’ medicinal qualities and in ceremonies for centuries.While a great many people do use kava for everything from sleep disorders and anxiety relief to a treatment for gonorrhea and as an analgesic (pain reliever), the possible associated side effects are many.  It is also used to treat asthma, urinary tract infections, depression and menopausal symptoms.

Research has shown that kava’s calming effects do relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms like tense muscles and muscle spasms.  It is probably one of the strongest of the readily available herbal supplements.

But!  Of all the herbal supplements I’ve studied, kava ranks right up there when it comes to possible serious side effects.  While certainly not one of the worst, and not a reason to totally disqualify kava as a possible, temporary supplement for sleep and/or anxiety, extreme caution and heavy research, including a discussion with your doctor, need to be done before you take it.

If you are currently taking antidepressants or other mood stabilizing medications, you shouldn’t be taking any herbal anxiety/sleep supplements unless they were recommended by your doctor.  However, kava is definitely not for you.  Kava will multiply the sedating effects of mood altering ( psychotropic drugs), as will alcohol.  Do not drink alcohol while taking kava.

Kava has caused liver failure in people without any history of liver ailments.  Anyone with any liver ailments should steer clear of kava.  While liver failure is a rare side effect generally seen after long term, extensive use of kava,  it needs to be considered when contemplating a supplement.

Allergic reactions are not common with kava, but they are a possibility.

I have tried kava and had no issues with it, but after researching all the side effects, decided to opt for Valerian when the need strikes.  Again, that’s just my personal opinion relating to a personal experience.  Valerian works just as well for me, personally, so that is generally my choice.  Your choice, of course, is dependent on your individual needs and tolerances.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera-Winter Cherry): Originating in India, and used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogenic (promotes homeostasis), the root and berries of the plant are used for various remedies including everything from control of thyroid and adrenal gland disorders to mental agility to osteoarthritis  to an anti-inflammatory to claimed reports of tumor reducing capabilities and increased white cell production in cancer patients and, of course, for sleep disorders and nervous conditions.

In an animal-based study published in 2000, researchers found that ashwagandha root had an anti-anxiety effect similar to that of Ativan (Lorazepam-a drug used to treat anxiety disorders).

Surprisingly enough, and as a lessening of the pain from the constant thorn in my side regarding many allopathic doctors and their “pooh pooh” attitude regarding herbal remedies, ashwagandha has actually made print in none other than Psychology Today, a well respected magazine on mental health-Follow the link for the whole article.  Here’s an excerpt:

“One 2012 study of 64 volunteers randomized asked subjects to take either ashwaganda or a placebo twice a day for 60 days. The ashwaganda group’s capsule contained 300 mg of a concentrated extract made from the root. During the treatment period, regular telephone call check-ins assured volunteers were consistently taking the herbs or placebo, and were used to note any adverse reactions. The treatment group given the ashwaganda root extract exhibited a significant reduction in anxiety scores after two months relative to the placebo group, without side effects. Most notably, serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced in the herbal group (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012). Cortisol is the stress hormone that goes up when we are stressed out.  Cortisol also creates longer term fatigue and mental fogginess, and brain structures for emotion and memory are damaged when cortisol is too high.” 

Ashwagandha is another herb that I have personally tried.  I loved it.  While it’s effects are more cumulative than immediate, the resultant overall relaxant qualities after a couple of weeks were impressive.  I stopped taking it when things in my world balanced out enough and I was trying to reduce my daily supplement intake down to the bare essentials.

Of all the relaxants, ashwagandha is generally considered one of the safest when used short term.  However, there are some cautions:

As I stated earlier, if you are pregnant, considering becoming pregnant or breast feeding, do not take ashwagandha or any of the other supplements mentioned without consulting your healthcare provider.  Ashwagandha is considered to be an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion).

If you have high or low blood pressure, ashwagandha is contraindicated as it may lower blood pressure in those with low blood pressure, or reduce the efficacy of hypertensive drugs in those with high blood pressure on hypertensive medications.

Those with stomach ulcers should not take ashwagandha as it may irritate the GI tract.

Diabetics should not use ashwagandha due to its’ potential to lower blood sugar and may cause blood sugar to go to low.

People with autoimmune disorders should not take ashwagandha due to its’ penchant for increasing the immune system’s activity.

People with thyroid disorders should not take ashwagandha as it is known to increase thyroid hormone levels.

Hops ( Humulus lupulus):  I know the eyes of a lot of beer drinkers just sprung open.  For those who doubt the medicinal qualities of beer, read on.

The female part of the hop plant is used for the supplement as well as for making beer and numerous other uses.  Hops in herbal medicine are used to treat conditions from anxiety, inability to sleep (insomnia) and other sleep disorders, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), nervousness, and irritability, to increase urine flow and even bring on breast milk.

Hops does work.  However, even more so than ashwagandha, the effects are cumulative and may take as long as a month for the benefits to be realized.  Generally, hops are taken in combination with valerian or lemon balm and is more often used for the treatment of anxiety over a longer term.  I have mentioned it here only because it is considered one of the safer herbs for sleep and anxiety and it does work when taken consistently for a month or more.

Pregnancy and breast feeding are about the only known concerns regarding side effects although in some, it has been reported to cause depression.  Those results are questionable regarding any direct correlation to the hops itself.

St. John’ s Wort (Hypericum perforatum):  The St. John’s wort plant has yellow flowers and is considered to be a weed throughout most of the United States. It has been used for medical purposes in other parts of the world for thousands of years.

St. John’s Wort got a really bad rap in the press a few years back.  I attribute that more to the fact that people were taking it willy-nilly without doing their research after a few careless ads were placed in the media regarding the numerous benefits of this herb-but those ads failed to list the side effects and contraindications associated with this now much maligned herb.

With that being said, and given the numerous side effects and contraindications associated with the use of St. John’s Wort, it is definitely not something that should be taken for the relief of transient insomnia or occasional anxiety which is the focus of this week’s blog.

St. John’s Wort has been researched extensively and is being used successfully to treat various anxiety and depression disorders, but it is my belief that diagnosis of those conditions and which ones will benefit from supplementation with this herb should be determined only by a trained medical professional.

St. John’s Wort is known to interact unfavorably with numerous prescription medications including, but not limited to, antidepressants, anti-rejection medications, blood thinners, anti-HIV medications and birth control pills.

Psychosis is a rare, but a possible side effect of taking St. John’s Wort, particularly in people who have, or are at risk for, mental health disorders-including bipolar disorder.

To summarize St. John’s Wort- while I do believe in its’ healing properties, I do not consider it a safe option for common use.  Should you decide to try this herb, speak with your doctor before starting and do your homework.

The herbs we’ve discussed today are far from a comprehensive list.  The number of herbs, minerals and supplements out there used for sleep and anxiety are legion.  I’ve just covered a few of the more common, heavily researched ones for this blog because when all the contraindications are considered and disqualified as not pertaining to you individually, all of these are believed to be safe and effective.

One further note on these and all other herbal supplements: Insure that your doctor is fully aware of all your entire  supplementation regimen so he or she  has a complete picture when prescribing.  Also, stop any and all supplements at least two weeks before scheduled surgical procedures, including dental surgery, to insure there are no interactions between the anesthetics and drugs used during surgery and your supplements.

If you’re still awake,  I guess that’s about all I have to say about sleep aids and relaxants…and in just over thirty-eight-hundred words!   Sorry!

In conclusion, work, your spouse,  finances?  At some point one of these and a whole host of other life challenges cause us to stress.  Stress causes problems with sleep and anxiety.  In those instances, one of the above will probably help you through it…short term.  If those feelings persist, see your doctor immediately.

The next time you’re in a crowd, look to your right and left.  One or both of the people you see are probably taking a prescription antidepressant or mood altering medication of some sort.  The stigma that was once attached to them has long since been forgotten.  What was once considered a life with a scarlet letter on your chest is now accepted as a serious medical condition and is treated accordingly with a myriad of new and safer drugs coming out constantly.  Never take depression or severe anxiety lightly.  There is help…and it’s just a phone call to your doctor away.

As always, if you have any comments regarding this blog or herbal remedies in general, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have a comment or question that you’d rather not have seen on an open forum, please feel free to send me an email.  I always strive to answer all emails within twenty-four hours.

Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and good health.  Be well, my friends.

Brian