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!”

“M” is for Migraines…and so is Magnesium.

authorphotoHi everyone.  Welcome back.

I’d apologize for the lack of a blog post last week…but I can’t.  I was spending a little vacation time with my children and grandchildren in Florida.  With a lap full of grandsons, typing our a blog is a little difficult…and definitely not the preferred activity when you’re surrounded by three squirming little monkeys who hold the key to your heart.

Hopefully this week’s blog will more than make up for last week’s lack thereof.

This week I’d like to address migraine headaches-the scourge of many as well as a debilitating nightmare for those who suffer them.

Before I get into the crux of this weeks’ discussion, I’d like to share an experience I had yesterday that both elated and appalled me at the same time.

After much nagging and prodding on my part, my fiance’ finally broke down and made an appointment with a local Internist.  Since moving here from Tennessee, she’s been “forgetful” when it comes to establishing herself with a local sawbones.  She’s an extremely competent and intelligent nurse, yet sometimes puts a little too much faith in her ability to finagle around the system.  She moved here well over a year ago, so it was high time for her to pay a visit to, and become established with, a doctor instead of quick trips to the walk-in clinics for prescription refills.

Yesterday was appointment day and I went along because she had just gotten home after a string of night shifts and needed someone to keep her awake during the long drive to the doctor’s office (you have to keep in-network with most insurances so we had to travel quite a way to get to an in-network doctor who was actually accepting new patients after a month’s wait for the appointment).  I went into the exam room with her to insure her accelerated level of tired after three twelve hour night shifts in a row didn’t cause her exhaustion addled brain to miss any of the details the doctor related to her, and so I could keep her from nodding off during the ordeal.

Her new MD, a younger guy, reviewed her list of meds and supplements and seemed impressed with her supplementation regimen and even discussed a few other supplemental options that, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I’d already considered and discussed with her, or dismissed for other options.  What elated me was his openness to herbal supplementation and his knowledge of the subject.  It appears that there may be hope yet for the newer generation of allopathic medicos who appear to believe that there are options other than those synthesized in a laboratory and given to them, along with pens, pencils, pads, free lunches and other “gifts,” by the drug reps.

The appalling part was his exam.  I’d call that cursory at best and thoroughly perfunctory at worst…and that’s being kind.

I was actually wondering whether he knew where the T1 and M2 sounds of the heart were located, and whether his stethoscope was actually even touching her back as he listened, briefly, to her lungs through her shirt in only two places (she wondered the same thing and later shared that thought, along with a few laughs about it, with me).  The purpose of an exam, at least in all the classes I’ve taken, is to detect potential problems and deal with them before they become serious problems.  You can hardly do that when the exam takes two minutes and is so superficial that even known problem areas aren’t examined.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m no medical doctor and wouldn’t, for a minute, tell one how to do his or her job, but common sense would seem to dictate that if you’re going to be tending to the medical needs of a patient, prescribing for that patient’s continued good health, you’d want a clear, concise and thorough picture of who and what you were dealing with. In these days of fast food medicine and insurance companies limiting the amount of time a doctor can spend with a patient, I personally believe that allopathic healthcare is lacking woefully in the patient care and doctor/patient relationship arenas.  Clearly stated-you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broke!  Preventative medicine seems to have become a thing of the past.  Whatever happened to an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

*stepping off the soap box* But I digress, and that’s an entirely different subject that I’ll probably address in a blog at some later date when my indignation level finally reaches a point where I can’t help but vent.

Let’s discuss migraines.

I had done a little research into herbal supplements for migraines, and even studied them in one class or another some years back, but put it on the back burner while doing a paper on herbal supplements for hypertension (a future blog).  I believe I did that at the time for somewhat selfish reasons: I have been dealing with hypertension myself since the seventh grade while, thankfully, I have only suffered through one migraine in my life-and that was brought on by an irresponsible change in prescription blood pressure medications.  Go figure?

And that one migraine was more than enough, believe me!  If you’re a migraine sufferer, you have my deepest, most sincere sympathies.

It wasn’t until I saw, first hand, my fiance’ dealing with a nasty migraine that I decided to re-investigate herbal supplementation options for migraines.  The lovely lady is now the subject (translation: guinea pig) of a study I’m conducting on preventatives for migraines based on the ongoing, exhaustive research I’m doing on the subject.

There are as many prescription remedies on the market for migraines as there are reasons why so many people suffer them, but the vast majority of those are to lessen the unspeakable pain suffered during a migraine, or limit its’ duration after it’s begun-not to prevent them or lessen the loss of quality of life they bring with them.

It is estimated that more than thirty-six million men, women and children in America suffer from migraines. Eighteen percent of American women and six percent of American men suffer through this pestilent pain on an all too frequent basis.  It is further estimated that there are eight-hundred-thousand ER visits each year in the US for migraine headaches.  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Very few people who suffer migraines regularly are treated in the ER.   Staggering, isn’t it?

Migraines are much more than just a bad headache.   Migraines are defined as an extremely debilitating collection of neurological symptoms consisting of excruciating. throbbing pain on one side of the head, (although in about a third of attacks, both sides are affected) and are often accompanied by visual disturbances (auras that may include flashing lights or bright spots, zigzag lines, changes in vision), nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to touch, smell, noise and/or light and are often accompanied by tingling or numbness in the hands, feet and face.

Research continues into the causes of migraine headaches, but a lot still remains unknown about their exact cause.  It is known that genetics and environment do play a key role for those who suffer them.  It is also believed that migraines may be caused by changes in the brain stem and its interactions with the Trigeminal nerve (the fifth cranial nerve)- a major pain pathway.  It has also been found that chemical imbalances such as serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter and pain regulator) vary appreciably during migraine attacks.  This may cause your Trigeminal system to release substances called neuropeptides (the nervous system’s messenger boys) which can send the wrong signal and irritate the meninges covering the brain and bring on a migraine attack.

The first and most important step for those with suspected migraine headaches is to be seen by a physician to insure that there isn’t some other underlying cause for your pain.  Head trauma, stroke, hypertension, tumors, homeostatic or hormonal imbalances and a myriad of other conditions can cause migraine symptoms.  Your doctor will need to run some tests to insure that what you’re dealing with is indeed idiopathic migraine headaches.

There are many known, and unknown, triggers for migraines.  The actual trigger, or triggers, specific to an individual may differ greatly from another individual.

Known triggers range from hormonal imbalances, (estrogen in women during pregnancy, menstruation and menopause) processed foods, MSG (a preservative/flavor enhancer) aspartame (a common artificial sweetener found in, among other things, diet soft drinks) coffee, red wine, caffeine, too little or too much sleep, flashing lights, certain smells, stress…the list goes on and on.  This makes pinning down the particular cause of an individual’s migraines difficult at best.  Often your doctor will ask you to keep a log relating to your migraine headaches including everything you’d eaten, drank, done, products you’ve used, etc, leading up to the onset of migraine symptoms to help him or her determine the trigger.

In most cases, chronic migraine sufferers are prescribed various drugs from NSAID’s to barbituates to antihistamines to antihypertensive drugs to ergotamines and triptans like Imitrex® which are more migraine specific.  These come in pills, nasal sprays, injections, liquids, etc.  Unfortunately, there are currently no available drugs that specifically prevent migraines; only those that alleviate the symptoms.

Of course, finding your personal trigger and avoiding it, if possible, is probably the best way to cut down on migraine headaches. Unfortunately for many, that isn’t possible.  Eliminating stress in your life would be a definite step in the right direction…yeah, like that’s going to happen in this day and age.

What’s left?

Like the pain relieving drugs used for the treatment and reduction of migraine headaches, there is no silver bullet to be found in the vast realm of herbal supplementation.  For most, the use and associated serious side effects of most of the prescription medications are pretty scary.  Many prefer the natural route if relief or avoidance of symptoms can be found without the potential side effects and hazards associated with prescription medicines.

These alternatives may be some possible options worth your consideration.

Another lowered level found in those suffering from migraine headaches is a mineral called magnesium. Magnesium is usually found in abundance in the body and is known to be responsible for more than three-hundred chemical reactions from blood to bones that keep the body functioning properly.  Magnesium is usually supplied to the body through high fiber foods such as spices (corriander, dill, sage, basil), nuts (especially almonds), cereals (whole wheat, oats), coffee, cocoa, tea, and green, leafy vegetables and is absorbed into the body through the gastrointestinal tract.  While magnesium deficiency is uncommon in industrialized countries, those with diseases that limit or prohibit vitamin absorption (malabsorption) in the intestinal tract such as Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, certain cancers (Pancreatic in particular), etc., or a diet low in high fiber foods can cause lowered levels of magnesium (as well as many other vitamins and minerals) in the body.

Magnesium supplementation, unlike many other supplement claims, has been studied for the prevention of migraine headaches many times with varying results.  However, the more controlled studies such as this one are fairly indicative that lowered magnesium levels are a major factor in the onset of migraine headaches.  More importantly, the body naturally eliminates excess levels of magnesium through the kidneys so overdosing is extremely unlikely unless the supplement is used irresponsibly.

Magnesium is known to bind with some medications and decrease their efficacy.  It is recommended that if you are taking a tetracycline type antibiotic, thyroid medications or many other prescription medications you space your dose of that medication and your magnesium supplement to avoid the interaction.  In the rare instance of excessive magnesium intake, diarrhea is usually the only side effect: and that goes away when the supplementation regimen is reduced or discontinued.  To avoid stomach upset, take the supplement with food.

Compare that to the side effects of the prescription and even the non-prescription, OTC, migraine relief options available and I think you’ll agree that if magnesium works for you, it’s a far more appealing, (and far less expensive) option.

If you’d like to try magnesium supplementation for migraine prophylaxis, the recommended dosage is 400mg of magnesium oxide twice a day.  Generally it takes two to three months before any appreciable effects are realized. Choose your supplier wisely and insure you buy only high quality, made in the USA, supplements.

Another natural preventative for migraine headaches is called Feverfew.

Feverfew, a bush, has been used as far back as ancient Greece to treat menstrual cramps and inflammation.  Feverfew has also been used in folk medicine throughout history as a fever reducer; which is where the plant got its name.  While the name might suggest feverfew’s ability to reduce fever, those claims don’t seem to have withstood the test of time.  However, other more relevant uses for this herb have been discovered.

As for feverfew’s migraine relieving properties, the following is from the University of Maryland Medical Center:

Migraine Headaches
Feverfew was popular in Great Britain in the 1980s as a treatment for migraines. A survey of 270 people with migraines in Great Britain found that more than 70% of them felt much better after taking an average of 2 – 3 fresh feverfew leaves daily. Several human studies have used feverfew to prevent and treat migraines. Overall, these studies suggest that taking dried leaf capsules of feverfew every day may reduce the number of migraines in people who have chronic migraines.
One study used a combination of feverfew and white willow (Salix alba), which has chemicals like aspirin. People who took the combination twice a day for 12 weeks had fewer migraines and they didn’t last as long or hurt as much.
Another study found that people who took a special extract of feverfew had fewer average number of migraine attacks per month compared to people who took placebo. A 3-month study with 49 people found that a combination of feverfew, magnesium, and vitamin B2 led to a 50% decrease in migraines. ***author’s note: B2 is often referred to in herbal supplements as Riboflavin***
Not all studies have found that feverfew worked for migraines, however. Whether it reduces migraine pain and frequency may depend on which supplement you take. Ask your doctor to help you find out more.

Unlike magnesium, feverfew does have some known side effects.  Some of the more common ones, but certainly not all, include abdominal pain, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and nervousness.  People with allergies to chamomile, ragweed, or yarrow may be allergic to feverfew and should not take it.  Ask your doctor before taking feverfew if you take blood thinners as feverfew may increase your risk of bleeding.  Pregnant and nursing women, as well as children under the age of two, should not take feverfew.

If you’re considering trying feverfew for migraine relief, 50-100mg daily of the crushed leaf capsules are the suggested dosage.  Like magnesium, it takes a while for feverfew to build up in your system and start bringing about results.  Again, and as always, be certain you’re buying the best and freshest supplements available from a reliable US manufacturer.

There are a few other supplements that are believed to relieve or alleviate migraine headaches, some in combination with magnesium and/or feverfew, such as Riboflavin (vitamin B2 quoted in the study listed above).

COQ10 and Butterbur have also been studied in the quest for a migraine reliever, but these appear to be less effective in most people, and in the case of Butterbur, seem to have a higher incidence of side effects.  While these may be possible avenues to relief, they should first be discussed with your healthcare provider so any drug interactions or condition-specific contraindications can be considered.

Should you decide to try the herbal approach and give magnesium, feverfew or one of the other supplements for migraines a try, do not be fooled into buying those so called “Migraine Complexes” or “Migraine Cocktails.”  Those are almost always a concoction containing lesser amounts of the supplement you need, and a whole bunch of others that may or may not even have any migraine relieving properties; much like many of the Male Enhancement Supplements advertised on TV.  One of the ingredients may possibly be beneficial to the condition, but it’s usually added in lowered amounts so cheaper, inactive fillers can be mixed in.  There are some containing magnesium, feverfew and Riboflavin that I’ve seen, and those may be an option when purchased from a reliable manufacturer if the dosages for each are correct, but if you should have an allergic reaction to one or the other ingredients, you won’t know which one it was.  It’s better to start with one or the other by itself.  If the outcome is good, but not great, add one of the others and see if things don’t improve even more.  Like everything else, no two people are alike, no two migraines are alike and treatments must be tweaked to suit the individual.

As always, consult your healthcare provider before starting any supplementation regimen.  The information shared here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any medical conditions.  I am not a medical doctor and make no claims to that effect.

I’ve mentioned this many times in the past, but it bears repeating:  before there were pharmaceutical companies, Mother Nature supplied the therapeutic needs of her children through her flora and fauna.  While I’d never claim that pharmaceuticals are inferior, let us not forget that most of them are enhanced or synthesized versions of a natural genus.  Many prescription medications may seem to work better or faster at alleviating their intended ailment, but along with that speed usually comes side effects-some far worse than others-that should definitely cause both prescriber and patient to pause and consider benefits versus consequences.  Why drive a finish nail with a sledge hammer when a tack hammer will do the job very nicely?

For many people the herbal route may not work.  That doesn’t make herbals any less viable an option on the whole.  Every migraine is as different as the person suffering it.  This is also true for prescribed medications.  What works for one may not work for another.  Such is the diversity of life.  Vitamins, minerals and herbs are alternatives and supplements that may work on their own to alleviate one individual’s migraines, or may work hand in hand to enhance the performance of a pharmaceutical in another. For me anyway, if an herbal remedy will work, it’ll always be my first choice.  Not that there aren’t side effects associated with many herbal supplements.  There are.  However, when compared side by side to their pharmaceutical counterpart, the associated risks and harmful potential side effects of most herbals generally pale by comparison.

In the words of the immortal Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

I hope this week’s post has been helpful and educational.  As always, if you have any comments, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have any comments or questions you’d prefer not to have posted on a public forum, feel free to send an email.  I try my hardest to answer all of your emails within twenty-four hours.

That’s it for this week.  Until next week, I wish you peace, love, happiness and good health.

Brian

 

 

 

The Over Fifty Herbalist: Week 4-Vitamin D and the D-ficiency Pandemic

authorphotoHi and welcome back.

This week I have some information that may be shocking to a great many of you: and may even save your life.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,  and many other reputable publications, Vitamin D deficiency is now recognized as a worldwide pandemic.  It is estimated that the number of vitamin D deficient people in the world is over one-billion!  Why this hasn’t been splashed all over the mainstream media is beyond me.

Not surprisingly, I learned this first hand when, after some routine annual blood work, my doctor prescribed an expensive vitamin D tablet that, in my usual, anal fashion, I researched and found to be inferior to the vitamin D supplements I could get much cheaper and without a prescription from any reputable supplement supplier.

As early as 1950, German scientists realized that vitamin D2, (Ergocalciferol- which is synthetically made from radiating a mold that forms on cereal plants) used in most prescription vitamin D, was inferior and far less potent than vitamin D3, (Cholecalciferol-which is a cholesterol that is extracted from wool grease and wool wax alcohols obtained from the cleaning of wool after shearing. The cholesterol undergoes a four step process to make 7-dehydrocholesterol, the same compound that is stored in the skin of animals. The 7-dehydrocholesterol is then irradiated with ultra violet light.   Cholecalciferol is produced intrinsically in human and animal skin when exposed to UVB light, and Cholecalciferol is what’s contained in most quality vitamin D supplements.  German doctors changed their prescribing methods and started prescribing D3 as far back as the mid-nineteen-fifties. A great many American doctors, to this day, are still prescribing D2 in higher dosages to compensate for the deficiency between D2 and D3.

Vitamin D is a gift from the sun.  It is absorbed through the skin.  Given the current scare of skin cancer melanomas believed to be due in large part to the deteriorating solar UV filter, sunblocks, long sleeves and avoidance of the sun have become the norm.  That leaves oily fish, (which we discussed last week in our omega-3 discussion) fortified milk and a few bread and yogurt products as our only source of dietary vitamin D. Unfortunately, as we age, our skin becomes less able to absorb sufficient vitamin D from the sun.  So if you’re over forty, have milk allergies or just don’t drink milk, follow a vegan diet or have health issues such as Crohn’s Disease or other issues that prohibit or limit the intestines from absorbing vitamins into the system, chances are you may be a member of the vitamin D deficiency club.

In the words of the infamous Groucho Marx, “I refuse to belong to any club that would have me as a member!”

The list of possible diseases that a chronic vitamin D deficiency has been associated with is massive.  These are some of the known consequences of vitamin D deficiency.   Many others are still being studied:

  • Osteoporosis and Osteopenia
  • Weak Bone Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Rickets in children
  • Metabolic Syndrome and Type-2 Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • 17 varieties of Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Gout
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infertility
  • Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Psoriasis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Pain Syndrome
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

And the studies continue into even more conditions and diseases linked to vitamin D deficiency.  If this hasn’t scared you into insuring that your next blood test includes a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test (25-OH-D test), you may want to go back and re-read the above list.  The normal range is 30.0 to 74.0 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Not that I’d recommend skipping routine annual blood work, but if you’re needle shy or insurance deficient (as many are these days) there are kits available where you just prick your finger with a lancet, smear the blood drip on a chemically treated blotter and send the sample off to the lab you bought the kit from.  There are also kits where the results can be seen immediately, but I don’t know enough about them to list their pros and cons.  Once again, never self diagnose.  See your doctor and request that the 25-OH-D analysis be added to your annual blood work-up if at all possible.  Chances are it will already be included anyway.  Some members of the medical community do keep up on the latest in vitamin and mineral deficiencies and ways to detect them early.

According to Medicinenet.com, the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for those between one-year-old and seventy-years-old is 600IU’s of vitamin D a day.  For those over seventy, the RDA rises to 800IU’s a day.  Unless you’re following a diet high in oily fish and vitamin D fortified milk and cereals, or if you have a condition that limits your absorption of vitamins and nutrients, it may be time to consider a vitamin D3 supplement.

As for the osteo (bone) issues linked to a vitamin D deficiency is impaired intestinal absorption of calcium, which results in decreased levels of serum total and ionized calcium levels. This hypocalcemia gives rise to secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is a homeostatic response aimed at maintaining, initially, serum calcium levels at the expense of the skeleton. Following this PTH-induced increase in bone turnover, alkaline phosphatase levels are often increased. PTH not only increases bone resorption, but it also leads to decreased urinary calcium excretion while promoting phosphaturia, (Phosphaturia is a urinary tract condition where there is too much phosphorus in urine and it causes the urine to appear cloudy or murky color.  This is just a symptom of possible underlying renal issues).  This results in hypophosphatemia, (an electrolyte disturbance in which there is an abnormally low level of phosphate in the blood which exacerbates the mineralization defect in the skeleton.[1}

Read and heed, my friends.  For a few dollars a month spent with a reputable vitamin/mineral/supplement supplier you can take one of the risk factors for all of the above out of the equation. Obviously there’s no such thing as a magic bullet guaranteed to cure any and all ailments, especially for those in the over forty club, but as our elders always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Words to live by.

That’s about all I have to say about vitamin D, except to remind you to have your vitamin D levels tested during your annual check-up.

As always, if you have any comments, good or bad, please feel free to leave them below.  If you have questions or comments that you’d rather not post on an open forum, feel free to send me an email.

Until next week, I wish you peace, happiness and great health.

See you in the funny papers!

Brian

1. Dan L. Longo, Anthony Fauci, Dennis Kasper, Stephen Hauser, J.Jerry Jameson and Joseph Loscalzo, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 18th edition, p.3094

Calling All Big Boy and Girl Scouts. New Camping Group Forming.

Hello, my friends and any perspective campers who will soon be friends.  Welcome!

A little change of pace with this blog.  Now that I’ve “almost” finished the camper (known to most as Nosty’s Nook) and it’s camp-able, and the new standee camper is still on the drawing board, it’s time to get out there with it and start enjoying the fruits of my labor; as well as the stress relief that only a weekend in the woods can afford me.

What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than with friends, old and new?

I’m in the polling stages at present, looking to find out if there’s any interested adults who’d like to be part of an active camping, and, of course, dog friendly, group with one agenda:  Fun.

As for me, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Brian Greenleaf.  I have been an avid camper since my Cub Scout days back in the sixties.  I have slept under the stars, spent many years tent camping, have owned a pop-up and a full sized camper and now take great pride in the tiny travel trailer I spent a year building. I am a super hero by day and a Failure Analysis Technician by night.  I wrote my first camping book back in 1999 called The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping.  Over the years, I have been part of many camping groups, mostly family oriented groups, and have decided it would be a whole lot of fun to get together with a zany bunch of like minded middle-agers and make some memories.

Sour pusses and overly anal retentive people need not apply.  Those terminal diseases are contagious and would spread through the group.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tent camper, pop-up or camper enthusiast, like to sleep under the stars, or whether you own a 30′ motor mansion, we’d love to have you.

As I mentioned, I’ve been part of various other camping groups over the years and, unfortunately, many of them failed miserably due to waning interest directly related to internal strife or disagreements, usually brought about due to the advent of the dreaded “cliques.”  Once a clique gets started, it’s like a festering pustule that almost always signals certain death for the group.  I’m hoping to start a group of like minded (translation: slightly crazy) folks who’d look forward to group trips to various and sundry places within reasonable range of the Upstate of SC/Georgia/NC;  places decided on by democratic vote, of course.

As those of us who live here well know, there are a plethora of beautiful places to camp in our area.  From the mountains to the sea, and everything in between, we have it all right here in our own back yard.  What better way to reduce stress, meet new people and just plain have fun, I ask you?

What I’m hoping to bring together are folks who’d like to get out in the woods once a month, (or twice a month or once a quarter depending on what everyone wants), see new and different places, relax, have fun and meet new people.

As I write this, I have a cast iron griddle, recently obtained in what most would consider pitiful condition from a closing antique mall for a song, seasoning in the oven.  I admit it.  I’m a camping addict. I eat, sleep and drink camping.  I’d rather have the Outdoor Channel than the Playboy Channel…….OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture.  I enjoy camping; fall, winter and spring, and plan on having my Thanksgiving turkey breast, (actually, probably a steak and baked potato), beside a roaring fire again this year.  While I realize that everyone doesn’t have a taste for winter camping, late winter and spring are the perfect time to get out in the woods for almost anyone so, if we get the ball rolling now, we should be able to plan the inaugural camping trip in early 2013 (if the Mayan calendar prediction doesn’t come true and we’re no longer inhabiting this world after December 21st).

In summation, I am  hoping to bring together an all-for-fun group who enjoy camping and having fun.  People who would get a kick out of participating in things like chili cook-offs, lively and jovial fireside cocktail parties, great conversation, probably some singing and story telling (and, of course, SMORE making) around a roaring camp fire; possibly visiting some of the local attractions wherever we camp………..you get the picture.  And all of this with fun people who appreciate and don’t mind going along with the democratic decision making process.  If all goes well, and we’ll do our best to insure that it does, everyone will get to go to the places they’d like to go and do the things that they’d like to do at some point during the camping season.  All for one and one for all.  No fuss, no muss, no infighting.  Personally, I can have a great weekend anywhere when I’m camping.  Rain or shine, there’s nothing like camping.

What we don’t want is a strictly regimented group where every minute of your weekend is planned out.  Camping as a group is a blast.  Being up everyone’s butt every minute of the day doing planned activities becomes tiresome.  The group, as a whole, will choose what they want to do and everyone will be free to either participate, or take a stroll down to the water with a rod and reel and scare the fish or crawl up in their preferred mode of camping with a good book.

Axe murders need not apply.  It’s nothing personal, but I get the heeby-jeebies being around someone crazier than I am.  Other than that, the only other requirement is that you have to love to camp and have fun.  Married or single, everyone is welcomed.

If you’re like minded, and would be interested in becoming part of the group, you can contact me via email:  doc@bgreenleaf.com , on Facebook,  or comment below.  If the interest is there, I’ll put up a web page dedicated to the group where we can share ideas, chat and keep abreast of what’s going on, all while secretly plotting global domination.

I look forward to hearing from and talking to you and, hopefully, sharing a campfire with you in the near future.

Until next time, I wish you peace, fair winds and happy trails,

Brian

Some Emily Post for Cell Phone Users!

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m warning you ahead of time; I haven’t taken my meds today so we’re fixin to get busy in a most euphoric way.  Once again, I’ve swerved off of the camping course to air another pet peeve: cell phone etiquette.

As always, I like to qualify my statements by showing that I have some knowledge and or experience on the subject I’m speaking on.  While I may be fifty-two, and considered by some to be a dinosaur, let me assure you that I am now, and have been for many years, gainfully employed in the high tech electronics world.  I proudly fit most of the criteria for being a card-carrying geek.  I have, and drool over, a whole host of the latest electronic gadgetry; including a  cell phone, which is my only phone.  I am a fairly competent “texter” and I can surf the internet on my Droid with the best of them.  I consider cell phones to be one of the greatest inventions since the automobile:  in their proper context.

For starters, since doing away with my home phone some years ago, my cell phone is my only connection to the outside world (the internet not withstanding).  That doesn’t mean that I want to be that accessible.  The idea of someone knowing where I am and what I’m doing at any given time just isn’t me.  It reeks of Big Brother.  Just because I have a phone on my hip at all times, that doesn’t mean I like being called constantly and pulled into unnecessary conversations at all hours of the day and night.  Frankly, I hate talking on the phone; land line or cellular.  I freely admit to being one of those, Say what you’ve got to say and get off the line, phone minimalists.  When I’m talking to someone, I like to watch their eyes and their facial expressions to insure I’m getting the straight poop.  I keep my cell phone to be accessible to my children and grand children to hear about their latest ups and downs, occasionally, though grudgingly, for work and to prove one of the many bullshit artists I come across on a daily basis wrong with a quick visit to Google.  Other than that, there’s a great big world out there full of real people to converse and mingle with. 

I am a fairly laid-back fella, tolerant of others and their different ways, but nothing can get my dander up quicker than trying to carry on a conversation with someone who is half in our conversation and half into a text conversation; or even a verbal conversation, on their cell phone while I’m trying to broaden their horizons with my wealth of useless information.

The dark side of my font of useless information comes from the information I’m forced to ingest just for committing the heinous crime of being seated near someone on a cell phone in a restaurant.  It’s like watching an old movie where Ma and Pa Kettle get their first crank up phone and have to scream into it to be heard by the party on the other end.  You’re sitting there, trying to eat or have a real time conversation with whoever you’re dining with while having to listen to supposedly intelligent people speaking into their cell, at a volume far higher than the ambiance requires, telling the individual on the other end about their hemorrhoids, toe nail fungus or the sordid details of last nights’ conquests.  TMI, people!  I’m trying to eat in peace and converse here!

Moreover, Mr. Webster and a few others spent a great many years compiling a dictionary that has come to be the literary bible for most of us.  Underpaid and overworked teachers dedicate their lives to teaching our children the English language.  Yet, in the comparatively short time since texting has become the preferred source of communication, the English language has been reduced to a lingo, unintelligible to most of us over forty, that would have Mr. Webster rolling over in his grave.  I shudder at the thought of the literary masterpieces that will come from the current texting generation.

I love the written word.  I am a voracious reader and, according to some, a hack writer (to them I say, DILLIGAS).  I spend a great deal of time writing and looking for just the right word to make my point.  I put great stock in words and, admittedly, though probably wrongly, sometimes measure people by the way they communicate; both verbally and in print.   If I’m going to tell someone that I love them in a text, it certainly won’t be with ILY.  Love is not a word that should be taken lightly.  To abbreviate it just takes all the zing out of it.  If I’m going to take the time to thank someone for something they’ve done for me, THX just doesn’t express that sentiment sufficiently; IMHO.

Most work places have a break area with an insufficient number of uncomfortable tables to, in “the Man’s” warped way of thinking, insure that the masses keep their breaks to a minimum.  As such, at peak break times, it is often necessary to share a table with others.  More often than not, that table is probably inhabited by others carrying on a face-to-face conversation, yet more and more people find it acceptable to sit at that table while talking on their cell phone, thoroughly disrupting an ongoing conversation, and share, on occasion, details of their personal lives that no one else should ever hear or care to hear.  And, more often than not, they’re talking on their phone while shoveling food into their mouths; totally oblivious to the others sitting inches from them.  Whatever happened to not talking with your mouth full?  How about my mom’s favorite: Don’t interrupt people while they’re talking, young man!”  I know; I’m ancient and from a land and time where manners were of prime importance and considered the norm instead of the exception.

Even more disturbing; how many times have you walked into a public restroom and heard voices wafting over the top of the stalls?  There’s nothing more unsettling than to hear something like, Of course I love you *grunt* baby doll!  There’s no other*pffffffffttttttt* woman in the world *splash* for me!  How romantic!  A profession of love from a petri dish of fermenting filth.  Frankly, I’m one of those who has worked diligently at training my bowels to function only at home so as to avoid the disgusting experience of having to even sit on a public toilet.  In keeping with my geek persona, I even keep a tub of Lysol wipes in my backpack, right next to my collapsible umbrella, “just in case.”  The thought of sitting on one of those fungus colonies while holding my cell phone in my hand, probably the same hand that will soon be used to do the paper work, and then return that phone to my mouth and ear shortly thereafter, is revolting.  Just the smell of a public restroom should be sufficient to deter anyone with any sense from even pulling a cell phone out of its’ case for fear of untold, and as yet unidentified, germs jumping on it and later causing them to grow a third eye.  I’m ugly enough.

Ladies, you have my deepest sympathies over your disqualification from the stand and deliver method of elimination.  That, however, is an entirely different blog.

That third eye takes on even scarier connotations when you factor in the radiation you’re absorbing into your brain while you mindlessly blather into your phone.  They have actually categorized said radiation now and have named the phenomenon SAR, (Specific Absorption Rate), measured specifically from the brand of phone you use.  It must be something worth considering if they gave it an acronym all its’ own.

I’ve been secretly doing my own scientific research, observing those who constantly have a cell phone glued to their ear to see if I notice any ill effects from SAR.  So far, my research is proving fruitful.  Those who are constantly on their phones are usually observed walking around in a daze with that glassy eyed look I used to see in my days as a medic on the campus of Happy Acres (my alias for an insane asylum for those of you who are new to my warped sense of humor).  A great many of them are also crotch scratchers and nose pickers.  The more dedicated cell phone addicts have even developed a facial tic.  None of them realize that whatever their spouse or significant other is doing at that very moment can wait til they get home!  As a father, you can trust me when I tell you that  lil Mortimer is certain to make another stinky on the potty.  It’s nature.  You’ll see it in all its’ technicolor glory soon enough.  Get a life!  Converse with real people.   I’m going to publish my scientific findings soon so I can’t divulge anything further for fear of plagiarism.  I’m sure MAD Magazine is chomping at the bit to publish my thesis and a great many unsavory hack colleagues would love to beat me to the punch.  If you fit the aforementioned description of a cell phone addict, please get help before it’s too late.

A very good friend of mine, a computer geek of the highest esteem, was one of the first people, back in the day, to own a blue tooth.  Imagine my surprise, having never seen one, when I walked outside to the break area one night to see him storming up and down the sidewalk screaming at, I thought, himself.  Being a member of the medical team, I reached for my radio to call out the rest of the team to help subdue poor “Myron” and get him neatly packaged and properly restrained in the back of an ambulance and off to Happy Acres.  I knew “Myron” and his wife were having some extreme marital difficulties and I just assumed he’d finally snapped.  I do have to credit him for having the deportment to have his breakdown outside and out of hearing range of everyone else, though.  Imagine my chagrin when the team showed up and found “Myron” wearing his blue tooth.  Maybe my phone has an extremely high SAR and my short, infrequent use of it emitted enough radiation to  cause me irreversible brain damage?  Most who know me would probably just shake their heads knowingly in the affirmative.

So, in the relatively short time that cell phones have been around, we’ve managed to cause Emily Post and Noah Webster to roll over in their graves and untold millions to say WTF?  That’s quite an accomplishment for one little piece of electronic gadgetry.

Cell phones are wonderful devices.  However, in the wrong hands, they are a public nuisance.  Don’t be a nuisance.  Be considerate of the people around you.  Walk off someplace private to have your conversations and allow the rest of us not interested in lil Mortimer’s bowel habits to converse in peace.  After you’ve disconnected, get a life!  That person sitting next to you might just have something interesting to say.  In these days where everyone thinks the internet is the real world, the art of conversation has all but died.  Whatever happened to visiting?  Enjoying the company of  people in their flesh and blood persona and not as an avatar?  Shut the damn thing off for a while and smell the air.  There’s a wonderful world out there, full of beauty and knowledge.  Grab your piece of it before it’s too late.  Remember, if your cell phone is turned on, Big Brother knows where you are…………..GPS can be used for good and evil.

I have to give credit and thanks my beautiful daughter, Shelby, for her input on this blog.  She’s got her daddy’s heart wrapped around her fingers and always has.  The lil darlin is the texting queen: a true master of the lingo.  With the exception of the idioms and acronyms I see on Facebook, I am ignorant to most of the latest lingo…….and I intend to stay that way.  I don’t understand half of my daughter’s texts.  She usually throws in enough of The King’s English to allow me to follow the gist of her conversation, but the rest is all Greek to me.  I texted her to get a list of the latest abominations to disperse throughout this rant so as not to preclude any of the cell phone generation from the point I’m trying to make.  I’m a firm supporter of proper English and I support literacy for all: literacy meaning reading and writing in proper English!  Drop the phone and read a book.  I hear that up-and-coming, stupendous author, Brian Greenleaf, has written a few doozies!   Check them out here.  I know.  That was a tasteless and tacky promotion.  ROTFLMAO!

Until next week, dear friends, unplug once in a while.  Snuggle up with the one you love and reaffirm your position in reality.  Most importantly, be considerate of others.  Walk away to have your phone conversations and keep them brief so you can get back to the conversation at the table and maybe learn something or even make a new friend.  Life’s too short.  Live it for all you’re worth.

B4N,

Brian

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.

Gun Control Is Not the Answer!

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back.  I’m damn glad to have you here.  I’ve got something to say.

Let me start with an apology.  I made a promise to myself when I started writing this blog that I’d keep it light and humorous.  The news reports these days are always so full of gloom and doom that I had hoped to be an outlet for laughter and a little food for thought.  There are enough political blogs out there with a never ending range of viewpoints.  I don’t want this blog to become one of those, but I feel so strongly about this week’s subject that I’m compelled to say what I’m about to say.

The never ending, rhetorical chant from our elected officials and liberal news media to make villains out of gun owners with their misguided, ad nauseam, plea to the masses from their bully pulpit about America’s need to render the victims (those being the honest, hard working legal gun owners) unarmed and at the mercy of the animals who, of late, seem to be coming out of the wood work has finally plucked my last nerve.

Let me first say that my heart goes out to the victims and loved ones of the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting.  What happened there is so tragic and senseless that no words of sympathy or comfort could ever console the victims and grieving families of this senseless tragedy.  I pray that your friends, loved ones, your memories and your faith help you cope with your sorrow in your time of bereavement.  This despicable,  premeditated act was committed by a deranged coward who should die a very slow and painful death in the public square.

Unfortunately, immediately following the movie theater tragedy, and after just about any other major crime involving firearms, the liberal news media and our clueless elected officials were again ablaze with their patented war cry: “Gun Control!”

The matter of gun control hits very close to home for me.  This is not a story I like to dwell on; one I would love to be able to forget, but I will tell it to show my credentials for making the point I’m trying to make in this post.

For those of you who don’t know me, I was the victim of an armed home invasion two years ago that, to this day, still haunts me to my very core.  During this nightmare, I was shot three times.  I no longer feel that warm-fuzzy that the warmth and safety of being “home” brings to most people.  Every strange sound I hear in the night sends ripples of fear throughout my mind and body as I’m reaching for my gun.  On those rare occasions when I don’t have the horrors of that night on my mind, I have two lead slugs in my right hip to remind me of what happened in my own kitchen two years ago.

Two weeks prior to this incident, I was away for the weekend and came home Sunday evening, in the pouring rain, to see my shed door swinging in the breeze and one of the front windows broken out.  After closer inspection, I found that the tools I had stored out there were gone and the inside of the shed was in shambles.   My cornice flood lights on the corners of my house had been extinguished when the perps killed the main breaker to my house so they could take their time in the dark back yard without fear of being seen by the neighbors.  They weren’t even kind enough to turn the power back on after their cowardly act so, over the weekend, without power to the house, all the food in my freezer thawed and everything in the refrigerator was useless.  The police made a cursory investigation, tsk tsk’ed a few times and told me about the terrible times we were living in as they took the report that, I knew, would never be investigated.

I work a weird shift and usually get home at around three-thirty in the morning.  I got in that fateful morning, two weeks after the shed robbery, went through my usual routine; a glass of tea and a quick perusal of my email and Facebook page to wind down, and went to bed to watch some mindless TV before I went to sleep.

Just as I was drifting off, the TV and the lights went out.  I initially suspected a power outage, common to this area on rainy winter nights, until I looked out the window and saw the street lights on.  Suspecting the worst, I grabbed my gun and a candle (my flashlight batteries had died) and went outside in the freezing rain to reset the breaker.  When I went around the back of the house to reset the breaker, a cranked up neighbor slid in the back door to hide and wait for me.  This was someone who lived right across the street from me and who knew my schedule, knew when I was home or away and knew that he had ample time to do his dastardly deed while I was at work.  He wanted to break in while I was home!

I came back in, locked the door and stepped up into my kitchen, only to be met by a masked, gloved maniac awaiting me with a gun pointed inches from my head, screaming at me to get down on the floor.  A gun which we later found out was borrowed from someone else of questionable credentials for the soul purpose of insuring that it couldn’t be traced.

It’s amazing how the mind and the bladder work together, believe me, but I knew in an instant that if I went down on the floor, I wouldn’t be getting back up.  Running entirely on my most primal fight or flight instincts, and not the machismo that most  who profess the bravery they’d exhibit in a similar situation say they would show,  I jumped back behind my refrigerator and started shooting blind from around the corner.  A lot of that night is still fuzzy, but sometime amid the ear-splitting booms and the thick blanket of acrid cordite smoke that permeated the small kitchen, I took three in the gluteus and, as I later learned, so did he.  I made a dash for the back door while he bolted for the front.

Fortunately, he didn’t have time to take anything but my sense of peace and tranquility.  He did, however, leave, to date, two years of nightmares and two of the three bullets still in my right butt cheek…….and an almost new pair of jeans that are probably still in the evidence room at the police station.

One day I’ll be able to write this story with a humorous twist and throw in all the unspeakable acts of debauchery performed on me, both by the police and the staff at the hospital, with the comedic slant that they now so deserve but, to date, I haven’t been able to muster that amount of mental healing.  I fight daily to clear it from my mind and stop being a victim, but I have been unable to, as yet, fully achieve that.  It will come, I’m sure.  If nothing else, I’m an optimist.  One thing is for certain; I wouldn’t wish that feeling of helplessness on my worst enemy.  However, thanks to my gun, I lived to tell this tale of woe.

The point of that story is this:  Had I been unarmed that night, and left to the devices of a crank infused, mentally unstable, would-be thief/potential murderer, I probably wouldn’t be here to write this blog today.

My guns are registered and I carry a  legal concealed weapons permit.  I went through all the requisite steps to legally carry a gun.  How many of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes do you think have done that?  As a matter of fact, current laws would prevent most of them from legally possessing a firearm at all.

According to Wiki, it is estimated that between forty-three and fifty-five million households in the United States own at least one gun.  That’s a liberal estimate because those are the guns owned by people who went through the necessary steps and bought their guns legally.  These “ordinary people” have proven to the extent required by existing, satisfactory law that they aren’t felons, don’t have a history of mental illness and all the other mandated criteria the federal and local government requires of those who legally own guns.

Of those approximately fifty-five million legal guns, only one percent of the crimes committed in the United States with a gun were committed by those fifty-five million legal gun owners.  One percent!  I’d have to conclude from those statistics that it’s fair to say that the legal gun owners who follow the rules aren’t the people we need to fear or place further restrictions on.

I could mention the extremist’s view and say that if law enforcement were doing their jobs, we wouldn’t need to be armed.  The more rational among you all know what a foolish statement that is.  Police departments everywhere are all woefully understaffed and under funded.  Police men and women are underpaid and over worked.  Given the alarming crime rate, due in part to our plunging economy and the amount of drugs available on every street in every city in the country, the police are basically outnumbered and doing their best to put out the small fires while the raging inferno continues to blaze hotter by the hour.

I read constantly.  I’m a bit of a news-a-haulic and spend a great deal of time sifting through the news on the internet to weed out the hogwash and pick the gems out for future reference in my ever growing font of useless information.  Like it or not, a lot of the tidbits I picked up along the way hit really close to home.

I learned that before the Nazi’s took over control of Germany, the preceding Weimar Republic put into place gun laws that were later reinforced by the Nazis which,  in 1938,  effectively disarmed the citizenry.  From 1939-1945, over 13 million Jews and others, unable to defend themselves, were sent to their deaths.

In 1929, the government of Russia imposed gun control.  From 1929-1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.

During WWII, one of the key reasons the Japanese never invaded US soil was because they knew that a great many Americans were armed.

These are but a few of the many things I’ve picked up in my reading.  The list is endless but this is a blog, not a book, so I’ve whittled the list down a bit.  The point is that if you take the guns away from the law abiding citizens, only the criminals will have guns.  It’s so blatantly obvious that the question of gun control should never even be broached in intelligent company……which explains why the politicos keep waving the gun control flag.

More to the point, the Constitution of the United States was written for a reason.  It has, in effect, ruled the land and brought this country from the revolution to the strong, free, wonderful country that we have enjoyed for over 200 years.  It is the very foundation that our culture was built on.  The 2nd Amendment is a part of that constitution.  Thomas Jefferson said it best when he said, The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.  If we start changing the very basic principles of our country to satisfy the whims of a few, as we seem to be doing with the current trendy fad of political correctness, (another blog) we’ll have anarchy.  Does that sound extreme?  Possibly, but it is something I believe deeply and, considering that this is my blog, and because I’m an American with the right of free speech, also thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution, I can express my views as I like without fear of reprisal; other that that which I’m sure I’ll get from those who disagree with what I’ve had to say here.  Feel free to comment below.  While it is my right to voice my opinion, it is your right to disagree.  Welcome to America.  She may have a few chinks in her armor, but she’s still the greatest country in the world…….and we speak American English here.  If you would care to view this blog in Spanish, push the escape key numerous times and, please, let me know how that works for you………..reply in English, please.

Agree with me?  Disagree with me?  Agree to disagree with me?  Just keep this in mind:  According to the New York Times, police response times to priority 9-1-1 calls has increased to an average 8 minutes, 25 seconds in metropolitan areas.  Even longer in rural areas.  In that amount of time, you and/or one of your loved ones could possibly be murdered or assaulted, your home cleaned out and the scum who committed the crime well on their way to the pawn shop where everything you’ve worked and slaved for will be sold for drug money.  While owning a gun, and knowing how to handle it properly, may not save your life, it will certainly level the playing field somewhat and possibly save your life or the life of someone you love.

Responsible and legal gun ownership is our constitutional right and, to coin an old phrase, the only way they’ll get my gun is to pry it out of my cold, dead hand.

Until next week, I wish you peace, love and every happiness.
Brian

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.

My latest book, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, is now available as an ebook as well as in paperback and hardbound editions.  Order your copy today.  I promise there are no tangible political opinions in the whole book.  There are, however, laughs galore.

Peruse our politically incorrect website at your leisure.  Read some of my stories and get information on all of my books at www.bgreenleaf.com

A Born Bent Over-Achiever Goes Camping!

Hello, my friends.  Welcome back!  It’s great to have you here.  “Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”  I’m like a fungus:  after a while, I grow on you.

Yes, I’m slowly getting back to the important things in life; camping and writing so, God willing, the blog will go back to a certain regularity and, hopefully, be more informative and entertaining than ever before.

I don’t know whether it was all the time I spent editing and revising Born Bent Over for ebook publication, or just the typical day late and a dollar short realization continuum that is my trademark, but a funny thing dawned on me the other day that set off bells and whistles all over the atomic wasteland I call a mind.

Before I go any further, let me clarify one thing:  I have been an avid camper from my short-pants days in the Cub Scouts and have probably logged more hours in the woods than a few middle-aged bears I know (most of them are moving into the suburbs now, anyway).  I have camped extensively up and down the east coast and have even hiked a significant portion of the Appalachian Train.  Suffice it to say, with all that experience and the fact that my first book, The Tenderfoot’s Guide to Family Camping is in its’ third printing and still receiving great reviews, I might be considered somewhat of a camping expert:  in my own mind, perhaps, but an expert nonetheless.

That being said, and in keeping with my Born Bent Over birthright, I have had some experiences in the woods that would have most mere mortals running for the comfort of a Holiday Inn.  It’s my lot in life.  I accept it and have learned to deal with it……somewhat.  If something didn’t go wrong in everything I do, I’d get extremely nervous and start chilling the beer and awaiting the arrival of those five, thirsty, dreaded horsemen (whom are rumored to be coming December 21st, bwahahahahaha!!!!).  That drunken sot guardian angel of mine, the infamous Murray, just keeps falling deeper and deeper into the bottle and the Victoria’s Secret catalogs and the proverbial poo just keeps hitting the fan.

Am I bitter?  Nah!  I just pray daily that the curse ends here and my children and grandchildren are spared the wrath.

Anyway, back to my intended point (I tend to drift).  Just a rough pass through the moldy, yellowing, brittle files in my gray matter brought back some graphic horror stories from camping trips past that really got me thinking.  Some of them are so bizarre that, at the time they occurred, the only way I could avoid a stint as a guest at Happy Acres on their Celebrity Haldol and Shock Therapy package was to opt for selective amnesia with the hope that, if the memories ever resurfaced, they would do so well past the statute of insanity limitations and become funny fodder for future campfire stories.   A few of them still send a chill up my spine; but I’m long past PTSD due to the far more frightening events that have made up my everyday life for lo these past fifty-two years.

So, I said to myself, “Self,  why not compile those stories into a new book?  Born Bent Over Two:  Camping Stories No One Would Ever Believe.  I can even hear the banjo music theme song now.  I guess I’d better learn to play one before I finish the book.  Look at the pretty colors!  Squirrel!!!”  The seventy-five voices currently occupying my gray matter all agreed in unison that a compilation of all those horror stories would be a great idea.  That’s the first time that ever happened.  They’re such a diverse group, as those of you who’ve read Born Bent Over well know.

One story comes immediately to mind.  This tale may not be for the faint of heart, so those of you with a weaker constitution might want to skim down to the end.  This ain’t pretty.

Picture this, if you will:  Orlando, FL, the Year of Our Lord 1993.  My son was seven at the time and my daughter was just the cutest little two year old holy terror you’ve ever seen.  Up until that point, we’d been avid tent campers.  I had always been a tent camper and, by golly, I was going to remain one til……..OK, til I started waking up paralyzed from sleeping on the hard, root-riddled, damp ground.  I was thirty-three with the body of an eighty year old and the whole “roughing it” thing was losing its’ appeal rapidly.  To top it off, Florida is Africa hot: always.  No exceptions.  Throw in the constant, 300%, humidity and you’re pretty much living in a twenty-four hour sauna bath.  We needed AC just to breathe!   At the time, we were camping, on average, two weekends a month.  What’s a dad to do?

Swallow your pride and buy a camper, that’s what.  For the kids sake, of course.

Having never before owned a camper, I asked around a bit and did some research on what type of camper would best suit our needs.  I was on an extremely limited budget so whatever I decided on would, without fail, be not-so-gently used and require a great deal of elbow grease and fix-it acumen.  I figured I had those so, on one crisp, clear Florida Saturday morning, my son and I, “Campers For Sale” paper in hand, went cruising.

I don’t know how many counties we covered that morning, but by early evening, almost ready to call it a day, we passed an old farmhouse somewhere in Deland with, as “my” luck would have it, a pop-up camper, fully erected, sitting on the front lawn with a For Sale sign on it.

We stopped to look, but it appeared to be in immaculate shape so I assumed our stopping was for naught.  My son jumped out of the truck and went running up to it as the owners, who resembled the sweetest pair of Norman Rockwell grandparents you ever saw, came to greet us.  Here’s where that old line, “Never judge a book by its’ cover.” comes into play.

After some sugar-coated introductions and their oohs and aahs over how cute my wing man was, I asked right up front how much they were asking before bothering to inspect it.  If it was something astronomical, we’d just thank them for their time and go home and try again another day.

“Eight hundred dollars and not a penny less,” grandpa said.  Danny had absolutely no poker face back then.  “Dad!  That’s what you said we could spend!  We can get it!  Yeah!!!”  I could have strangled him right about then but, as I said, he was such a cute little guy.

I proceeded to look it over closely, pretending to know what the hell I was looking for while Danny was doing his own inspection of the inside and extolling grandma with his camping acumen.

“The tires are new, the wheel bearings were just packed and she don’t leak a drop,” the aged, used car dealer from hell proclaimed.  I still stick pins in the voodoo doll I had made of him in Cassadaga on a later camping trip.

I had to admit:  a visual inspection of the “beast from hell,” as I would later name it, was impressive.  I spent a good thirty minutes checking this and “ah-ha-ing” that, pretending to be somewhat of an expert.

“Sir, as you can see, I’ve got two small children at home.  We love camping and we’d like to get out of our tent and into a camper, but to be honest, the most I could possibly come up with would be six-hundred dollars.  I’m sorry we wasted your time.”

“Aw, give it to um, Henry,” the aged Stepford wife giggled as she was listening to another of Danny’s stories while telling him how cute he was.  He was always such a little ham.

“Well………. Sure; what the hell.  Ma and Me were young once.  Six-hundred and she’s yours!”

I couldn’t believe it!  I’d finally won one (or so I thought).  My dumb ass usually ends up offering more initially than the seller was thinking of asking in the first place.  Danny got his poker face from me.

With Danny’s staunch and boisterous supervision, I paid the man, got the camper hooked up to the hitch, waved our good-bye’s and thank yous and we were off.

The following weekend I spent familiarizing myself with all the gadgets and doo-dads, cleaning this and that, fixing the tail lights that didn’t work and preparing for our first trip in a camper.  We were all as elated as a fat kid locked alone in a candy store over night, all working together, prepping for the following weekend.  After a full weekend of preparations, we went inside and perused the Woodall’s Catalog for a great place to go on our first trip.  After a whole bunch of giggly back and forth (Shelby suggested Hawaii), we decided on Tomoca State Park in Ormond Beach.  It was relatively close to the house, had full hook-ups, fishing and hiking as well as an interactive Native American exhibit; the prospect of seeing that thoroughly fascinated the kids.

I spent the entire week packing this and checking that: trying to insure we had everything we needed so that nothing could possibly go wrong and put a damper on our first camper outing.

Boy, was I a dreamer.

Everything started off well.  We’d gone out for groceries the night before, packed the coolers, sundries and half of Toys R US in the van and made it to the park without incident.  Ah, but the plot thickens.

We no sooner got the camper set up when the sky decided to open up with a deluge of biblical proportions.  No biggie, right?  Wrong!

The rain relegated us to the confines of the camper for the duration (which turned out to be the entire weekend).

Again, no biggie, right?  We weren’t in a tent any longer.  Like the late George and Weezie, We were movin on up!  We had a camper with electricity, running water and a VCR with stacks of movies for the kids just in case such an emergency befell us.  We were no amateurs!

We’d been inside for about all of ten minutes when my wife began a sneezing fit, followed closely by my asthmatic son.  The sneezing we might have passed off, but the advent of the hives and swollen eyes from both of them told me only one thing: those “sweet, kind” former owners had dogs who camped with and slept with them in the camper; contrary to their claims to the negative.  Both my son and my wife were terribly allergic to dog hair and I specifically asked Ma and Pa Kettle if they’d had any dogs in the camper.

I was digging through a cabinet, looking for the first aid kit containing the  Benedryl when I heard a pop and my daughter crying out that the TV went off: and right in the middle of her favorite movie……which she’d watched six-thousand times.  At just about that time, I began to feel as if I was being subjected to the Chinese Water Torture.  Drops of water were coming down on my head at an alarming rate and, as I later learned, on top of the TV, too……which shorted out (eating Shelby’s favorite tape in the process).  Water was pouring down on the beds, the counter top, the floor…..you get the picture.  The canvas on that camper was about as water repellent as cheese cloth.

But, if you spent just a month in my shoes, you’d learn quickly to always look for a silver lining.  You know it’ll never come, but you look for it nonetheless.  It’s what keeps me out of Happy Acres.  Determined to save the day, I went out and pulled the plug to insure the whole thing didn’t short out, dug the umbrellas out of the truck and took my soggy band of stoic campers to see the American Indian exhibit……..which was closed for renovations.

We went back to the camper to regroup and see what we could salvage, hoping that the rain would pass quickly as most Florida showers do, when we realized, rather shockingly, that when I backed the camper into our site, I’d parked directly over a very active, angry, fire ant mound; the inhabitants of which were now occupying the inside of the camper, en mass…….and they were pissed!

A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.  Head hung in defeat, (it should be obvious by now that I’m definitely not a winner: at least not in the literal sense) I loaded the family into the truck while I, now soaked to the bone, collapsed the camper and prepared for our trip home.  I could have used Moses at about that time to part the angry sea because it was high tide inside the camper and, even collapsed, water was pouring out from under the half-doors.

In an attempt to mount the trailer tongue on the hitch ball, I realized that the jaw wasn’t opening and the two refused to mesh.  In the interrum, the deluge had reached a point where I was considering building an ark.  The wind decided to join the parade and, in some places (namely right where I stood) it was actually raining up.  We’re talking serious rain here.

Expletives spewing from me like a man possessed, I opened the back doors of the van to get at my tools and, hopefully, fix the receiver. I’ll never forget Danny’s little face as he looked over the back seat, eyes puffed closed and a huge bugger stuck to his upper lip as he asked, through slightly swollen lips, if I needed any help.   All I wanted was to get everyone home safely, find a huge cliff to push the camper off of and reconsider taking up golf when, in my rage, I accidentally reached under the receiver a little to far just as it decided to relent and come down with a resounding SMACK!, (followed closely by a series of loud, effeminate shrieks) sandwiching my finger between it and the hitch ball.

You’re laughing, right?  Admit it.  But wait:  it gets better.

My van was a three speed with the shifter on the steering column.  My wife couldn’t drive a three speed.  My nearly-severed finger was now resting in a cup of blood-soaked ice that I was holding between my thumb and three remaining fingers.  Daddy needed to get to a hospital to have his finger sewn back on before shock set in and Daddy had to drive there.  I still remember fondly my little ghoul two-year old wanting to see Daddy’s boo-boo finger and just staring at it without the slightest bit of revulsion or disgust, just amazement.  My lil punkin!

Go ahead and laugh.  This was just a day in the life for me.

I made it to the hospital, using language (derived from pain and my inability to drive a manual transmission truck with one hand, I assure you) that probably still haunt the kids dreams, (who am I kidding?   They could probably teach me a few new expletives) only to find that the local hospital didn’t have a hand surgeon and they needed to call one up from Daytona Beach.  Thirteen hours later, with an IV catheter still in my arm due to a disinterested nurse and pain meds sufficiently on board, two bored-to-tears, screaming kids who were acting out the American Indian war dance they never got to see and a tired, hungry, disheveled wife in the waiting room, (not to mention an enormously large bandage on my hand and my arm in a sling) we headed home in torrential rain, pulling a trailer with a three speed that I was steering with my knees and reaching my left hand over the wheel to shift:  the gear shift that was on the right side.  Did I mention that the van didn’t have power steering?  Just wanted to paint as clear a picture as possible.

That’s one of my more mild camping experiences.  We didn’t have to bury any bodies on that trip.

And I still love camping!  The rumors must be true.  My mother did raise an idiot.

You know life has dealt you lemons throughout when you’re working on a sequel to a book on just how screwed up your life is and there will still be tomes more to write.  Ain’t life grand?  Admit it: you wish you had my life.

Right now I’m awaiting a slight reprieve from the Florida-like weather we’re having here in SC so I can drag Nosty’s Nook out of the barn and get her ready for what I hope to be a long and frequent camping season.  I’m hoping that September through May brings about some fantastic camping weather and I can get out and do what I love best……..well, second best, but I’m currently camping alone so that prospect is a moot point.

I may be fifty-two, but I ain’t dead!

In closing (the crowd moans, “Thank God!”), things are hopping at Danby Mountain Press.  Aside from the forthcoming sequel to Born Bent Over, the Paramedic sequel is nearing completion and should be published later this year.  On top of that, Danby Mountain Press has added an audio studio to our glamorous, skid row, publishing facilities so our published works will soon be available as audio books.  Busy, busy, busy.  I don’t date much, can you tell?

Until next time, and as always, my friends, I wish you peace, love and every happiness life has to offer.  Until the next blog, beware the couple from the American Gothic painting trying to sell you a pop-up.  It’s sure to be a lemon!

Adio!

Brian

If you haven’t read my latest ebook, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, shame on you.  Everybody needs a good belly laugh and Born Bent Over is sure to please.  Download your copy now.  You won’t be sorry.

Again, my many thanks to my wonderful sister, Michelle, for her hard and creative work on our website.  We all know who got the brains in the family.  Stop by and check us out.  We’ll be uploading some new stories very soon.

©Brian Greenleaf 2012.  All rights reserved.