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Posts Tagged ‘middle age’

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

 

 

 

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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Hi, remember me?  I know.  I’ve been very naughty.  I should be spanked.  Line up, ladies.  I’ll bring the whips, dark lager and whipped cream.  Party at Brian’s!

Unlike my past blogs, this one isn’t about Nosty’s Nook.  While that project is still ongoing, the hot weather and life in general have put her on the back burner for a little while.  You’ll be hearing much more about Das Nook when the temps get down below 100 degrees.

Since my last blog, both of my children have blessed me, each with a perfect grandson.  Noah Patrick Tolbert, now eight months old, and Hank Daniel Greenleaf, now three days old, have further blessed what has become a very wonderful life.

Facebook has been occupying a great deal of my gray matter lately so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on that subject and share some other news.

As of this morning, my latest book, Born Bent Over: Flashing the Vertical Smile at Middle Age, has been granted premium distribution and will be available in ebook, paperback and hardbound formats through all the major book and electronic book distributors within the next few weeks.  To say that’s a milestone for me would be like saying a nuclear explosion in my underwear drawer was a minor disturbance.  I’m so proud.  Danby Mountain Press, my publishing company, (my children are named Daniel and Shelby, hence the name Danby) has been a struggling, scratching entity since 1997.  It’s taken us a very long time, but we’re finally starting to see some light at the end of a very long tunnel.

Anyway, enough about me.  Bring on the blog!

Is Facebooking for the Aged?

“What the hell is a face book?  Did you write that?  It isn’t one of your naughty books, is it?”

Believe it or not, I still hear that from some very intelligent people who refuse to be assimilated into the world of cyber communications.

My very best friend in the world; a man to whom I would give a kidney, and with whom I shared my first cigarette, my first beer and who was also in an adjoining bedroom the night I “became a man,” refuses to have anything whatsoever to do with a computer.  Of course, he’s a mail delivery person so he’s probably fallen into the whole email vs. the postal service conspiracy, but that’s another blog.  He does, however, tell everyone he knows to look me up on Facebook.  Don’t worry, Dude; your position is safe.  I get enough junk mail on a daily basis to keep the post office afloat for many years to come.  If you’re really worried about job security, become a sanitation worker.  I haul bags of the aforementioned junk mail, shredded, of course, to the curb daily.

I became ensconced in the world of Facebook shortly after its inception.  Unlike my aforementioned “brother-from-a-different-mother,” I freely admit to being a computer nerd.  I’ve been playing with computers since the internet was nothing more than a bunch of picture-less billboards and the TRS-80 was giving way to the 8088.

Ok, so I’m old.

My original intent in becoming a FB’er was to get the word out when I published a new book, or to occasionally converse with my minions who will, one day, help me conquer the third world country I will, without question, become the fair and just ruler of.  The gang at Happy Acres is just waiting for my signal to come across the Take-over Hot Line (two tin cans tied together with a very long string).  Thorazine and shock therapy are our friends………..

However, what started out as a platform for my books and stories has become a lifeline of sorts.  On a daily basis, I can keep in touch with friends, new and old, family up north and, most importantly, my two children; both of whom have, within the last eight months, blessed me with two beautiful grandsons.  I have an entire external hard drive dedicated to the pics my daughter and son post daily of my two future camping buddies.  While nothing can compare to holding those two little monkeys in my arms, I’m stuck in the middle class.  Until that semi-hostile take-over (a few at Happy Acres have anger issues….Sue!!) of that third world country, I don’t have access to a private jet and can’t make it down to see my kids and grandkids as often as I’d like.  I’m hoping my retirement will be a healthy (both physically and financially) one, and I’ll be able to haul my camper down there for long stretches of quality time.

Who’d-a-thunk it?  With a few mouse clicks, I’m up to date on all that’s going on with the people I care about:  and all from the comfort of my office chair.

I’ve talked to a few of my colleagues who flat out refuse to become involved in the world of social networking.  Many of them are computer savvy, some can barely check their email.  Their reasoning for avoiding social networking sites varies, but some of the most interesting responses I’ve gotten are from those who profess a fear of becoming addicted.

Wait a second!  Is that a bad thing?  I may as well stand and take the pledge now:  “Hi, I’m Brian, and I’m a FB addict.”   I have a feeling there’ll be a twelve-step program available to those of us with this affliction very soon.  I, however, am not a quitter!  Until some better way of communicating comes along, (or until FB “updates” with that one straw-that-breaks-the-camel’s-back, irritating update, (like Timeline) regardless of how ferociously FB addicts object to it) I’ll be a dedicated FB’er.

FB has helped me rekindle a great many old friendships that, due to the miles and life’s different paths, had been dormant over the years.  I’ve managed to be brought up-to-date on what’s going on in many people’s lives, and have marveled over how many of those who, like myself, were voted most likely to become wards of the state by our graduating class, have managed to become pillars of their community.  Admit it, a whole bunch of us denizens of the “back path” at Taconic have managed to move from the back path to the front office.

One of the amazing things that FB has brought to light in spades is the fact that many of the young and vivacious class of 1978 are now grandparents.  We, the seventeen and eighteen year old graduating class from Taconic High School, who were sprung loose on the world to reap havoc and shake the establishment to its very core, have Preparation H and a whole host of prescription bottles, balms and salves in our medicine cabinets.

Where has the time gone?  If my math is correct, our thirty-five year reunion will be coming up in 2013.  Judging from some of your profile pics, most of you have aged gracefully.  Some of you, even amazingly, *wink*  My profile pic is fair warning to you all not to call animal control when I walk in the door.  I am not an animal!  Unlike most of you, time has not been very good to me.  As a matter of fact, if I’d been born with an identical twin sister, my profile pic would be her; cigar and all.  Just add about 200 pounds.

To answer my original question, I don’t know whether FB is for the aged or not.  We’re not old.  It took a long time, but I honestly believe that you truly are as old as you feel.  That being the case, I’m still that seventeen-year-old who had to wrench his diploma out of Mr. Diamond’s hand back on that hot June day in 1978 and run from the platform before he had a chance to snatch it back.  I am the grandfather of two perfect little boys.  The honor of the title of grandfather is not an indicator of age.  It’s a blessing from God.  There may be some prescription bottles and Preparation H in my medicine cabinet, but that seventeen year old is still at the helm.  Never let a number rule your life.  Keep grabbing for that brass ring and never succumb to black socks and orthopedic sandals.  The grim reaper can’t catch you when you run in Nikes.

In closing, I’d like to thank my 180 FB friends for the many laughs and for sharing your lives with me.  I have always shot for quality, not quantity, in my friend’s list and can honestly say that, with the exception of a few businesses and organizations I enjoy hearing about, the wonderful people on my friend’s list are all truly people I know or have met through other friends and whom I consider an honor to call my friend.

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

Brian

Thanks to my wonderful sister, Michelle, my website, bgreenleaf.com has been totally revamped.  The short stories page is still in the development stages, but will be available soon with new stories from the depths of my warped and demented mind.

Stay tuned to this station for forthcoming podcasts featuring none other than yours truly!  We’re in the development stages and are currently putting together a studio here at Happy Acres.  If nothing else, they’re sure to be interesting.  More on that as the project progresses.  As if I haven’t pissed off enough government agencies; now we’re going to poke the FCC tiger.  *rubbing hands together while flashing an evil grin*  Life is grand!

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