Homemade Body Butter and Dry Skin

I’ve mentioned before that I have seriously intense dry skin. It is so extreme that I go through several bottles/jars of lotion a month and I still scratch my skin in my sleep until it bleeds. Last week, I decided to try something different. I’ve been doing the barrels of lotion thing for years without relief. I think I’ve tried every brand on the market and even tried prescription lotions. Someone last year suggested I try body butter. I’d never heard of that so I began investigating it. From what I could tell body butter was just thicker lotion with an outrageous price tag. Then I started searching for all natural body butter brands… and wow, the all natural body butters are not just thicker lotion, they are thickened oils such as shea, mango, avocado, and cocoa. I bit the bullet and tried one that was shea butter based and $24 for 5 ounces.

Five ounces won’t do my entire body and I need it from the ears to the tips of my toes. It did give some relief to the shoulders which is all the 5 ounces covered. I read the ingredients and it was shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado butter, beeswax, and a few other things that acted as emulsifiers, preservatives, and thickeners, plus a fragrance oil. Wait, really? I paid $24 for this? I can make this and it will only cost me about ten cents an ounce. Over the weekend, I decided to make some using shea butter, avocado oil, grape seed oil, olive oil, beeswax, a touch of coconut oil, and my own fun essential oils (for scent), plus aloe and vitamin E. I had a little trouble getting it to its (semi) solid state, which is why I added about two tablespoons of coconut oil. But Saturday night, it was a solid and I was able to put it in jars.

Sunday afternoon, I needed a shower which I dread especially during the winter. When I got out, I tried out my new body butter. It was a bit greasier than the commercial product (but not as greasy as just rubbing straight oil on my skin – which I have done before), but it did melt to oil with body heat, and I was able to slather my entire body in it. I applied generously and waited. Lotion dries faster, which I knew and expected, but I wasn’t so greasy and oily that I couldn’t get dressed. I dressed and waited. Usually a few minutes after the lotion dries, I start to have dry skin itches all over. A half hour passed and I still didn’t itch. I didn’t itch at all Sunday evening.

Then came the real test: overnight. I can’t count the number of times I’ve awoken the morning after a shower with either long red scratch marks on my leg or worse, blood on my sheets (from my toenails gouging furrows in my legs). When I awoke Monday morning I had no new scratches. My legs were not irritated or red and it didn’t appear I had scratched my legs at all in my sleep. Wow. I don’t think that has ever happened during the winter. Now, as I write this, I’ve got a dry skin itch in the middle of my back, but it’s been 18 hours or so since I applied my homemade body butter.

I’m going to create a page on my blog with the recipe so that all my fellow dry skin sufferers can have the recipe, because I am seriously impressed with how well it has worked. And it is super easy to make. Also, I bought my avocado, grape seed, extra virgin olive oil, and organic coconut oil at Aldi’s, making them super cheap (the avocado oil was 50% less at Aldi’s than Kroger and 75% cheaper than at HyVee and Moser’s). The bottles I bought of these (16 ounces each) will make at least 4 batches of this body butter (I made a double batch that turned out to be a quadruple batch because I can’t do math).

The War on Drugs An Unusual Opinion

This blog post will be controversial. Some will immediately be angered and consider me a moron. Some will be triggered as they bare scars from our war on drugs. However, my opinion has been formed in stages over the course of my life and is based on both my historical knowledge and my personal experiences. My purpose in sharing this opinion is to stimulate thought in those that read it.

The ancient Egyptians recommended used opium to dull the senses before surgery and afterwards to ease pain as far back as 3000BCE. Pliny the Elder in Greece cautioned about overuse of opium a few thousand years later because it had an addictive quality. In South America tribes people were cultivating the coca plant for the medicinal stimulative effect of chewing coca leaves about 500 years after Pliny and by the time the Incan Empire rose in Peru the coca plant was in regular use by members of the Empire and we’ve ignored the fact that Spanish Conquistadors took back barrels of coca leaves as well as gold when they sailed back home. In Central America and North America the native empires of the Aztecs and Apache were using peyote for its medicinal properties as well as religious rituals and on the east coast of North America the native shamans used marijuana as medicine.

The point is, as long as human beings have had civilizations, they have used drugs. Naturally occurring drugs such as opium, cocaine, marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol have long and storied histories. And we’ve known about addiction. The ancient Egyptians understood that opium use led to opium addiction. Incans knew the stimulative high derived from chewing coca (this is the root of cocaine) was addictive. The Mohawk understood the difference between physical addiction and mental addiction and limited the use of both marijuana and tobacco because of it.

Now, 3000 years after a Greek physician wrote about withdraw in opium eaters and smokers, we are still struggling with drugs. We also have problems he never dreamed would exist. He couldn’t have predicted organized crime syndicates would murder tens of thousands of people a year to protect their crops, shipments, and profits.

About a decade ago, I began to think the war on drugs was backwards. We’ve been fighting it since the 1980s when the US government instituted D.A.R.E. programs across the nation in elementary schools. I am still in contact with the police officer who served as my DARE officer (1987-1989). The more restrictive society and government becomes with drugs the more overdoses and addicts we have. According to the CDC 140,000 people a year die in the US as a result of alcohol use (these are suicides, diseases related to alcohol abuse such as cirrhosis, cancer, overdose, and accidents caused by over consumption). Yet, we have not banned alcohol sale and consumption in the US because we know what a disaster that is.

The Temperance Movement began in the early 1800s and culminated in triumph when the Volstead Act was passed by congress in 1919. January 17, 1920 the 18th Amendment banning the manufacturing, sale, and consumption of alcohol in the US went into effect. This directly led to the rise of the gangster, organized crime, illegal moonshine, and later, the creation of the drug cartels in Central and South America. Prohibition didn’t just outlaw alcohol, it would eventually outlaw cocaine (and force Coca-Cola to change it’s recipe), peyote, and marijuana in the US and limited the sale, manufacturing, and consumption of opium derivatives to medicinal only. When the 18th amendment was repealed in the 1930s, only the alcohol prohibition portion was repealed leaving the above mentioned drugs illegal.

What we discovered during the 1920s was that making something illegal didn’t limit its consumption. It increased it! Even as moonshine killed drinkers with poisons such as wood grain alcohol, people continued to drink it and its usage skyrocketed, as did alcoholism. Unfortunately, statistics on addiction to drugs were not reported and we don’t know the number of people addicted to things like cocaine and Laudanum (a concoction made of opium and alcohol), but most historians believe the number of opium and cocaine users increased alongside the increase of alcohol consumption.

We do know that in the 1950s and 1960s the demand for cocaine increased, giving rise to the first “drug cartel” which began trafficking in cocaine in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Amphetamines, a stimulant, available over the counter in the US were in high demand from 1920-1959 and they were not being used by the poor but by the middle class and use was dominated by women. They provided “extra energy” to ensure a woman could work all day, come home clean, take care of the children, make dinner for the husband, and still have the energy for any sexual demands after the lights went out. But cocaine provided more of a boost (this was true until the creation of meth amphetamine). The use of stimulants led to an increase in the use of cocaine, nature’s most potent stimulant.

Yet we have documented evidence that servants in the 1700s and 1800s were using cocaine in the Americas and Europe to assist with job performance. Cocaine was also a favorite among the creative types during this time and many of the centuries most prolific writers were also avid cocaine users, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde might be a fictionalized account of cocaine use with Hyde representing the cocaine addict) and most people did not consider cocaine use to be a problem. They even knew cocaine was addictive and still didn’t consider it an issue. Today, we all know cocaine has nasty side effects, but it’s still used and we know making it illegal didn’t curb its use.

That is really the point. Until a drug becomes illegal use and abuse is moderate. There will always be people who want to use cocaine, opium, or marijuana, it has been a historical fact. But rampant out of control use has always been tempered in the past and not by its status as an illegal or illicit drug, but by the societal repercussions of their abuse.

It’s time to strike down the remainder of the 18th amendment and go back to legalized drugs. Let’s put cocaine back in Coca-Cola and put Laudanum back on the shelves of our pharmacies, because cartels and illegal drug use is killing more people than legalized drug use ever did. Fentanyl overdoses continue to rise and it almost never turns out to be Fentanyl the person is abusing when they overdose; it’s cocaine or meth or scarily marijuana that’s been laced with Fentanyl for some reason.

Also, we should leave drug sales as a competitive business: let Bayer and Merck price battle over the cost of a bottle of cocaine infused water (or bring back the Original Coca-Cola, so that Bayer and Merck can battle the powerhouse of Coca-Cola over the price of their cocaine infused concoctions).

“HJ, think of the crime wave! Look at how much crime is fueled by drug addiction now.” I am thinking of drug related crime. If Bayer, Merck, and Coca-Cola are trying to underprice each other, cocaine becomes affordable, sex work to feed a $200 cocaine a day cocaine addiction is no longer necessary as $20 might buy a 12 pack of cocaine infused Coca-Cola. Neither are burglaries or hold-ups or car thefts. Also, the drug cartels lose the market for their blood drenched Fentanyl-laced cocaine. Drug dealers and gangs no longer need to battle over turf to sell the cartels’ cocaine. We could decrease meth use by reinstating milder amphetamines to the pharmacy counter and the era of the skinny housewife with the energy to do it all can return (amphetamine use is also not mentioned in the idealized 1950s when every woman was a housewife who stayed home and took care of the children and her husband fantasy that people harken us to return to… but it was rampant).

“HJ legalizing marijuana hasn’t stopped black market pot.” This is true and it’s because marijuana growth and sales are not competitive businesses. Government regulations prevent competitive marijuana business practices. Brand X is not competing with Brand Y for customers, driving up prices and there might be a bit of price fixing going on as well. A “dime bag” at a dispensary is going to cost you way more than $10 and that is an issue. Prescription drugs are treated the same way in the US and that’s why our prescription drug prices are outrageous – Yes, Bayer and Merck both make insulin, but your pharmacy decides which brand to use, so Merck and Bayer only need to seduce your pharmacy CEO or insurance company to get their products sold and do not need to directly compete with each other over the price of their medications.

The next argument against legalized drugs is the idea that addiction rates would soar. There was not a significant increase in alcoholics after the repeal of the Volstead Act. Many who argued against the repeal swore there would be a huge surge in alcohol addiction after the repeal. There wasn’t. In fact the opposite happened. Binge drinking at speakeasies and private parties dropped because alcohol was again legal and the mental aspect of knowing one could go back to having a few beers while watching the baseball game in one’s own home supplanted the need to over indulge during the one night a week someone could get out of the house for the sole purpose of getting drunk. I suspect responsible use of newly legalized drugs would eventually supplant the over-indulgence “abuse it while you can” mindset. Also, we know that making something illegal makes it more interesting. With the taboo of cocaine use gone, fewer teens and young adults would try it leading to lower addiction rates. We can also combat this by teaching people to understand their bodies. I have severe anxiety. Caffeine is the only stimulant I’ve ever been willing to try. I have never once thought I’d like to try cocaine – not because it’s illegal but because I imagine it would be hell on my anxiety. My resting heart rate is in the 90 beats per minute range even on wonderful days (we don’t know why my resting heart rate is so high, it’s been that way for as long as I can remember and a heart stress test showed it took serious exertion to raise it above 110, so I guess that’s good), cocaine would shoot it into the 140 beats per minute range I suspect, and that would be bad. Because I know my body, I know cocaine, meth amphetamines, and even mild amphetamines would be hard on me, so I’ve never considered trying them. This leads to the final argument against in a weird way as we move towards responsible drug use.

What about all the accidents: unfortunately, there have always been people who fail to use drugs and alcohol responsibly, not because of addiction but because of over confidence. I’m not a huge drinker, never have been, because I don’t like the sensation of being drunk. Having said that, I’ve been drunk more than once, which is how I know I don’t like the sensation. Not one of the two dozen times I’ve been drunk, have I driven a car, because I knew I couldn’t operate a motor vehicle safely. These days; I don’t drive as a general rule for two reasons. The first is that I find driving painful, however if that was the entire issue, I’d still do things like drive to the store when I desperately need something instead of waiting on J or my mom to get motivated to go. But… I take opioid pain medication for the daily pain in my hip and I won’t drive on them because it causes impairment. This makes me a responsible drug user. Unfortunately, there will always be impaired drivers, because most of us are over confident in our driving ability and driving impaired by drugs or alcohol is really no different than driving distracted by your cell phone. February 8, 2023 recreational marijuana use in my state becomes legal. I’ve seen a couple editorials proclaiming the accident rate will soar after that date because of the number of people who will get stoned and start driving around. Uh, what? People who recreationally smoke pot and drive under its influence isn’t going to change, because those people have been doing for years while it was illegal. And these are realistically probably the same people who routinely drive while intoxicated and compulsively text while driving.

In summary, I think legalizing drugs is the best way to combat them. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but history shows that drug use will always exist and when they are legal the negative ramifications are fewer to individuals and society as a whole.

Connection

Aside from a plot, when I write a D&R novel, I need a connection to the characters that make up the plot: the killer and his victims. For several weeks, I’ve been struggling with this as I write the next D&R novel. I know the why and how of what the killer is doing, but I feel apathy towards him and so my killer chapters are flat; they lack flow and oddly, words. The first killer chapter is a stilted 1,239 words. Killer Chapter 2 has 0 words, but I’m on Marshal Cain chapter 12… so that’s an issue. I’m not sure what the problem is… I really like the plot of Psychic Dreams and there’s so many fun directions to take a killer of fictional psychics.

Before I went to bed last night, I went through my usual before bed writing ritual. And then I overslept. Most people think it’s weird that I set an alarm to work for myself from home, but I find routine is a good thing for creative functioning. Since switching bedrooms to the spare room full time because of hormones not letting me sleep as well now that I’m over 40, I’ve adopted a new routine: I take 10 or 15 minutes before bed and make a list of what I want to accomplish the next day in my book and I go to bed earlier every night. My bedtime has moved from 1 am to 11pm and I have an alarm set for 8:30 am. Normally, I wake before it goes off. Last night, I ended up staying awake late and then I slept through the alarm and felt discombobulated as a result. I didn’t even realize it was Friday the 13th until someone sent me a Happy Friday the 13th with a meme of a dancing Jason Vorhees.

As I sat down to write after lunch because again, it was nearly 10 am before I got out of bed(!) and I had to go to the grocery store, I reviewed the last chapter and my list together intensifying my sensation of discombobulation. After about half an hour of this, I closed the file and opened a different file. I need to find my killer for this D&R novel… most writers talk about the mechanics of writing, but for me, writing is about emotion. If I can’t emotionally connect to the killer than neither can my readers, because the character is a two-dimensional caricature of a person – a clichĂ© that is unlikeable, uninteresting, and silly not scary. The killer is what makes D&R novels what they are: there’s a horror in the realization that the killer in D&R is so pedestrian. They could be your neighbor or teacher or friend.

This afternoon, I will meditate on what’s missing from my killer. Once I find him, the book will begin to flow and the writing will become easy.

Electrolytes & Urine

Last week, I had reason to Google “Why do we leave the water dripping in our house when it’s cold”… There was no clear answer and I Googled it because it seems unrealistic to expect that small trickle of water to cause enough flow to prevent water freezing in the pipe. However, one of the results that came up was a conspiracy site that claimed it was a myth created by water utilities to increase usage during slow usage seasons, such as winter when people aren’t watering gardens, filling pools, or allowing kids to play in sprinklers.

I’d done this search on my phone while watching TV and a few days later, I found the website still open on Safari, so I went close out my 12 open tabs and there was a new front page conspiracy theory. I read it and thought “WHAT THE F*CK!!! NO, DO NOT TELL PEOPLE TO DO THAT!!”

The claim was that sports drinks are a scam. It agreed people needed electrolytes, but there was no need to waist money on expensive sports drinks loaded with excessive amounts of salt and sugar. Humans create all the electrolytes they need, the problem is it’s expelled in urine. Their recommendation was to collect your own urine and run it through a Brita filtered pitcher and drink the now sterilized and clean urine to replenish your electrolytes. Please do not do this!!!! Pretty, pretty please!

As a historian, I find it weird that humans have been obsessed with drinking their own urine for millennia. During every great plague from the Justinian Plague in the 500s to the Black Death (2300s) to the polio pandemic in the mid-1900s, drinking one’s own urine has been offered as a possible cure/preventative measure.

The purpose of urine is to expel waste and toxins from the body. The purpose of a Brita filter is to remove heavy metals from water. Most of the waste and toxins expelled in urine are not heavy metals. This means a Brita filter will not purify urine to the point it is safe enough to drink. Interestingly, the most common electrolytes lost in urine are calcium, potassium, and sodium, and some Brita filters will remove these minerals from water… meaning it will remove them from urine, thereby removing the very reason for drinking the filtered urine.

At this time, I know of no at home filtration systems for purifying urine to the point it is drinkable (I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong, but I decided not to do an intensive Google search for a home urine filtration system because I don’t want Amazon giving me recommendations for one the next time I open it). Should you decide to try it anyway, you are actually not putting electrolytes back into your body, but the waste products and toxins it has already worked to expel.

The point is, don’t drink your own urine. Even in emergency situations, drinking your own urine is a bad idea. And a Brita pitcher, no matter how good the filter, is not designed to remove waste and toxins from urine making it safe to drink.

Dear Autocorrect, WTAF!?

Last night I typed this text: I tripped over a dolly. Autocorrect decided dolly was not the correct word and what I meant to type was I tripped over a cat.

I did not misspell cat by spelling dolly… Dolly in no way resembles the word cat. They have exactly zero letters in common and they don’t even have the same number of letters. The word dog would have been a better replacement than cat…

I’m used to Autocorrect making all of us sound like morons, but this one is the second worst autocorrect issue I’ve ever seen. The first was in 1997 when Spellcheck in Microsoft Office (I was typing an email in Outlook) changed the word discs into dicks in an email to my boss. Thankfully, he found it hilarious. However, at least the words disks and dicks are similar… cat and dolly are not.

And yes, I tripped over a dolly lying in a yard last night. I did not trip over a cat, that probably wouldn’t have left a bruise on my shin. Who leaves a dolly lying in their yard? Worse it was a dark colored dolly in a very dark yard and even after I hit the ground and rolled over, I couldn’t see it well enough to figure out what it was… I had to get up and turn my phone flashlight on it to see it.

Changing the Way We Think

In early November, the kids in Olathe started passing around a virus. It was not cleared up by Thanksgiving and my mom and I woke up exactly 7 days after the holiday sick. I was running a fever and felt blah, mom was coughing and felt blah. Seven days later, I made her go to urgent care; because her primary care doctor didn’t have any openings until Mid-January and she needed to be seen faster than that. The coughing was impeding sleep and her torso had begun to hurt even with regular breathing. Going was pointless, urgent care couldn’t do anything for her they said, not even prescription cough syrup because it has codeine and codeine is addictive.

I have lots of experience with addiction; my father was an alcoholic who got sober and managed to stay sober nearly 40 years until his death. My mother is 70+ years old and is not going to become addicted to codeine cough syrup with this one prescription. When she had bronchitis more than a decade ago and they prescribed codeine cough syrup she didn’t get addicted that time.

Part of the problem is the definition of addiction, according to Webster’s dictionary the definition of addicted is: physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects. Except this is the description of physical dependency and it is different than addiction because non-addictive medication can cause physical dependency. One of my mother’s statins (a medication used to assist lower high cholesterol) carries the warning “sudden discontinuation of this medication can cause adverse side effects such as migraines, feeling of lethargy, restlessness, and blah blah blah.” I don’t know anyone who is using a statin as a party drug, nor do I know anyone who would say a statin is an addictive drug.

In my experience, we should alter the definition of addicted to be: physically and mentally dependent on a particular substance and unable or unwilling to stop usage despite experiencing adverse side effects.” It’s a small wording change, but I want to share a few stories.

While I was growing up, my father always had a little yellow tin in his pocket. ALWAYS! That tin contained a handful of little white pills. If my father was in danger of running out of those little white pills, he would stop and get more. It didn’t matter if there was a blizzard or two inches of ice on the road or 3 am, when he got low he always went to the nearest gas station and bought another. What was this little yellow tin with little white pills that my father HAD to have? Anacin, a name brand form of aspirin. If you take aspirin every day for five years, then suddenly stop taking it, you will not experience adverse effects. Aspirin is in no way an addictive medication nor can you become physically dependent on it. My father’s use of Anacin was extreme. In the early 1990s he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer along with some other digestive issues and the doctors told him he had to stop taking the Anacin. He did not, because HE NEEDED that Anacin. It took a hospitalization and surgery on his stomach before he switched from Anacin to Tylenol for his arthritis pain. That is addiction.

Also while growing up, I ate a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, not because I liked peanut butter, but because peanut butter was cheap and my father was an alcoholic. When he got paid the bulk of his pay check went towards buying alcohol (whiskey if he could afford it, cheap wine and beer if he couldn’t afford whiskey) and Anacin. People need to understand my father having a tin of Anacin was more important than his children eating dinner. When he started the process of getting sober and entered a treatment facility, the doctors warned my mother that he might die from the DTs (DT stands for Delirium Tremens and is a serious side effect of alcohol withdraw). Normally DTs make people sick, in movies it’s portrayed by uncontrollable shaking, vomiting, crankiness (which occasionally manifests as aggression), confusion and in severe withdraw hallucinations. No one in the movies or TV shows die from DTs. In real life, people do die from DTs and the doctors gave my father terrible odds. The odds were so bad, my mom took me to the treatment facility to see my father, just in case. Remember that bleeding ulcer and digestive trouble I mentioned before, they were related to his alcohol and Anacin abuse. My father stopped drinking and taking Anacin (often together) only because the doctors told him he was going to die if he didn’t. That is addiction.

In September 2017, I got some bad news… I was officially diagnosed with CRPS and told the rest of my life would probably entail the usage of prescription pain medication. Except addiction runs in my family. My father was not a one off, all my paternal great uncles and my grandfather were alcoholics, several of my cousins on the paternal side of the family were alcoholics or recreational drug users (I am talking about serious drugs not marijuana; things such as cocaine, meth, PCP…) and often they were both alcoholics and recreational drug users. And now, I who wouldn’t even drink more than a few times a year and never with the intention of getting drunk was going to have to take 2 addictive drugs for the rest of my life: gabapentin and an opioid in order to function. To me this news was devastating. So, I called the person I knew with personal experience with addiction issues to see what to do.

My father was the person who taught me addiction and physical dependency were different things. He said “other people will see it differently, but most of us are physically dependent on medication to live. No one thinks twice about taking nitro pills for a heart condition or SSRIs for depression, but if someone is on pain medication society thinks poorly of them, regardless of their addiction status. As long as you aren’t robbing stores to pay for illegal drugs, then you aren’t an addict, you are physically dependent on a medication to improve your life and that makes you no different than anyone else. It’s when you start doing things that are detrimental to your own well being or those around you in order to get those drugs that you become an addict.” Just as he had with alcohol and Anacin. Those things were more important than anything else, even his health and making sure his kids got fed.

Now, this is not to say some people are not more prone to addiction than others, because there is a genetic predisposition to addiction. But those people do not need to be exposed to an addictive substance to have an addiction. My grandfather’s half sister did not drink alcohol and did not do drugs, but she had seven closets full of clothes at one point, several of them still had the tags on them and shopping was every bit as important to her as alcohol was to my father. Shopping was so important she went tens of thousands of dollars into debt buying clothes and when she passed away my cousins discovered it wasn’t just tens of thousands… She had taken out a second mortgage on her house to cover her credit card bills and she had a credit card for every clothing store where she lived. However, no one would label her an “addict” because she wasn’t buying booze or illegal drugs, she was buying clothes.

Technically, hoarders are also addicts, but again we don’t call them that, because they aren’t buying booze or illegal drugs, they are hoarding stuff (be it newspapers and magazines or shoes and cans of corn). Instead, we restrict the label addict to people who abuse alcohol or illegal drugs and sometimes to people who do not abuse, but simply use their opioid pain medications.

This is why we need to change the way we think. Prescribing a woman in her 70s codeine cough syrup so she can sleep and not walk hunched over for a few days while she struggles with a virus is not going to make her an addict, it’s simply a temporary improvement in the quality of her life, while she deals with a serious, but temporary health issue.

This change is something I have been acutely aware of these last several months. Starting in late June I began looking for a part time job, to supplement my income a little while the economy did it’s thing this year. Yet, after six months of looking, I was unable to find a job, even when I was the best candidate, I wasn’t hired because I use opioid pain medication to treat my neurological disease. A store manager even told me, they couldn’t hire me, because they couldn’t have me overdose in their store. Uh, I’ve been using my medication for five years and have yet to overdose, I’m not going to suddenly overdose at your store just because you gave me a job. But the perception of opioid users, even if it’s legal is that they are all drug addicts. No doubt the person had concerns beyond the possibility that I would suddenly overdose while stocking shelves at his store, I mean as a drug user can I be trusted to be around the store’s stock and cash registers? As a person dependent on pain medication, I must be an addict. That is what society has taught us the last handful of years…. everyone who uses pain medication is an addict and probably uses other drugs.

We, society, need to remember we have known for centuries (Ancient Egyptians and Greeks knew so at least that far back) that opium is habit forming, carrying the risk of both physical dependency and addiction, yet not everyone who takes codeine cough syrup while dealing with a severe cough is at risk of becoming bank robbers to feed their addiction… as a matter of fact, it’s only the few.

Before I end this though, I want to talk about the terrifying statistic being flashed across the news at every opportunity: the opioid overdose rate. The majority of overdose deaths are related to ONE single opiate derivative: Fentanyl. In 2021, more than 70% of overdoses were related to the use of Fentanyl and here’s the really scary part of that, most of those users didn’t know they were using Fentanyl. It has become more profitable to mix drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and PCP with fentanyl than cornstarch. Let that statement sink in for a moment: it is cheaper to mix fentanyl into an eight ball of cocaine than cornstarch. Fentanyl is cheaper to make than buying a box of cornstarch…. Some years ago, while at a dart tournament there was a huge commotion and when I started poking around to find out what happened; I was told two dart players had been taken out of the tournament by ambulance because they overdosed on fentanyl. I later learned they didn’t use opioids, they had snorted cocaine to help with their stamina… something an opioid won’t do… So where had the fentanyl come from? The cocaine! Even tiny amounts of fentanyl can kill (seven grains is enough fentanyl to cause an overdose… seven grains! Imagine putting just seven individual pieces of sand in your hand… that’s enough fentanyl to kill the average adult male). It is the fentanyl laced illegal drugs sold by cartels and mafias driving the US’s overdose rate, not prescription cough syrup given to the elderly. According to the DEA less than 10% of opioid related overdose deaths come from prescription medications. Nine percent of 25,000 is still 2,250 people or so, but that number is less than the number of people killed by interactions between multiple non-opioid related prescriptions.

Furthermore, short term opioid prescriptions are not driving the addiction rate. Yes, we all know someone that broke a leg and became dependent on the opioid pain medication, it does happen. The majority of those people do not get cut off from their pain medication and immediately start shooting up with heroine. They get cut-off go through withdraw and denial and then they are fine. The majority of drug use is social. A bunch of people at a party decide to do cocaine or ecstasy or smoke a joint (both marijuana and ecstasy can also be laced with fentanyl, just FYI). That is how most addiction starts, at first it’s just “social drug use” akin to “social drinking” and then they start craving it when they aren’t with friends…. and then they start using without their friends and now they are spiraling into addiction.

I hold a different perspective regarding The War on Drugs as well as the battle with addiction and overdose related deaths, but that’s a post for a different day. The point of today’s post is that we need to change how we classify and view addiction and drugs. We have gone from over prescribing habit forming medications to under prescribing them and that is just as damaging.

Codex Pandemonium (NN 6)

Friday November 18, 2022 I finished writing Codex Pandemonium – Nephilim Narratives Book 6. November 25, 2022 I intend to start writing Nephilim Narratives book 7 (in progress title is Codex Asmodeus) and Psychic Dreams. I will come back to writing Stalker Dreams when the crappy thing is a little less raw and I don’t feel like crying every time I think about writing another D&R book.

I hope everyone enjoys the upcoming holiday. I will not be writing for a week as I need to prepare for Thanksgiving Thursday (bathing the dogs is my least favorite item on my to do list this week and possibly the most challenging). Aside from torturing Lola and Kelly with a bath, I’ll need to deep clean the house and Wednesday and Thursday I will cook until we serve the meal.

I started a post last week about Kelly, she is such a weird dog. J goes to bed between 8 and 9pm during the week. Kelly goes to bed with him for about 5 minutes. Then she gets up, finds my mom and glares at her… Kelly will sit and glare at my mom until my mom finally goes to bed. This is extra weird because Kelly does not go to bed with my mom nor does she sleep with her. When mom does give in and go to bed, Kelly jumps into the spare room bed and goes to sleep. So why does my mom also have to go to bed? We have no clue.

In December I am going to bring back the new releases mailing list. I forgot that my mailing list died in early 2020 for reasons unknown to me… so in December I intend to get it back up and running.

New Medication and Sloths

The last four and a half years, I’ve been attempting to manage my anxiety without medication. This week, I’ve had to admit it’s not working. There’s just been so much happen this year (the last two years) that I am not managing my anxiety. I’m spiraling out when I go to bed as my brain creates mini-movies to play on the back of my eyelids of all the terrible things that could happen. My primary care physician retired in 2020 and my care was transferred to a just out of school new doctor who I instantly hated.

I went to see her for the first time when an ear/sinus infection didn’t clear up after the first round of antibiotics. This was not a first for me. I have a history of chronic sinus infections that require multiple rounds of antibiotics because of how bad they are (can get). During that appointment she pointed out I did not have a medical degree. She is not wrong. I do not have a medical degree. What I do have is 40+ years of experience living in this body and until I had rhinoplasty in 2005 all of my sinus infections required more than 10 days of antibiotics to treat and I can tell my sinus passages have shrunk again and rhinoplasty is not an option because of the CRPS. The second time… I got ringworm on my ankle and any parent could have diagnosed it. I knew it was ringworm. My mom knew it was ringworm. It was absolutely ringworm. I went in to see her to get something to treat ringworm. We start the appointment: “Somehow I got ringworm on my ankle” lifts pant leg and pulls down sock and shows her. “Do you have kids?” I do not. “Then it’s unlikely to be ringworm, lets try some antibiotics instead.” IT IS RINGWORM. I need some sort of fungal cream. I didn’t get fungal cream, I got amoxicillin. It didn’t clear up. I called and left a message that it didn’t clear up expecting she would admit it was ringworm and send in a prescription for antifungal cream. Nope. I got another prescription for antibiotics. So I bought some over the counter antifungal cream and cleared it up with that. I get it, she’s fresh out of doctor school and knows everything and is trying to prove herself and she’s pregnant with her first kid and she feels she needs to prove herself, needs to prove she belongs here but…. man I hate her.

So when the nurse practitioner in August told me I had to schedule an appointment for my annual physical with the doctor I groaned and said I didn’t need a physical… I see my pain management doctor every three months and my gynecologist yearly. I see plenty of doctors and a few nurse practitioners, I am good. I spent a month thinking of small things to mention during my physical, such as the mole on my arm that in the last year and a half has become scaly (scaly moles can mean melanoma – this one isn’t, it’s just dry). I’ll mention my bruxism because my grinding is out of control this year. Maybe I’ll mention the tight muscle in my neck that gets perfectly round and feels like a marble under the skin…

Huh… tension migraines, excessive grinding and clenching, sleeping problems, I haven’t written this year like I have in previous years… damn. I don’t think I’m managing my anxiety. But I don’t want to talk to her about it. Despite 19 years on medication for anxiety, she’s going to tell me it isn’t anxiety and piss me off. I didn’t sleep the night before my physical because I spiraled. My blood pressure was high when the nurse took it and I had to admit I hadn’t slept because the nurse mentioned how tired I looked.

The doctor comes in and here goes nothing. Except she listened! She listened and she didn’t contradict or belittle me. And she even agreed “That definitely sounds more like anxiety than depression. So what medications have you used in the past?” I explain about the SSRI intolerance and OH MY GOD! So, I do not sleep on SSRIs, at all. 1 dose will keep me awake and mostly alert for days. I have had psychiatrists tell me it isn’t the SSRIs because they have to build up in the system and a single pill wouldn’t cause insomnia, but a single dose of Tramadol causes the same symptom as a single small dose of Prozac… it is 100% the SSRI and this doctor who I have avoided seeing the last two years agrees with me.

She gave me several medication options, outlining the benefits of each. I decided to try amitriptyline, because it can help with nerve damage pain, migraines, and insomnia. I need assistance with all those things. It does come with risks because I still take opiates for my hip and arm pain and we discuss those and what I need to watch for… and tells me if I have issues with it, to call and she’ll switch me to my second choice and if we have to try forty medications she will help me get my anxiety back under control. Also, given my list of anxiety symptoms, has a doctor ever suggested that PTSD might be part of my anxiety issues. They have, I rejected it because I’ve never been in a war zone or had to kill anyone and am uncomfortable with labelling any part of my anxiety as PTSD.

“I suspect you experienced some sort of trauma as a child. You don’t have to tell me what it was, I just want you to think about it. PTSD has a variety of causes, including the death of a parent as a child. The history of nightmares and sleep anxiety are symptoms of PTSD and even if you don’t label it that… I need to keep in mind that whatever anxiety medications we try, need to treat nightmares, insomnia, and panic attacks.”

Wow. Okay. So, yes I could have PTSD and I’ve known that for more than twenty years and I probably have a few reasons for it, but to have THIS doctor voice it… Well, this appointment went much better than the first two. Maybe she’s settling in and realizes self diagnosis by patients is always going to be a thing? Because when I call to make an appointment and they ask why I need to be seen, if I suspect I know what’s wrong, I tell them that not my symptoms. My prescription for the amitriptyline hasn’t gotten ready yet, but I hope to start it tonight and start feeling more like myself soon.

My computer when I logged on this morning, informed me it was International Sloth Day. Despite how Ice Age tried to spiff up the image of sloths, they are gross. Cute, but gross. I messaged my best friend telling her it was International Sloth Day and she messaged back “Why sloths? Do they have International Whale Day? Possum Day? Skunk Day?” I know there’s a whale day, I don’t know about the others…. I Googled them all and yep they all have days. Opossum Day was October 18th. World Whale Day is the 3rd Sunday in February. Skunk Day is June 14th. Now there are only 365 (sometimes 366) days in a year, not enough for every animal to get it’s own day…. so why do we honor skunks, sloths, and possums with their own day? I went and looked at a calendar of international animal celebration days and marmots have their own day… Marmots! Just so we are all aware marmots are akin to prairie dogs and we believe the were the original source for Bubonic Plague, why are we celebrating them?

A Collection of Thoughts

I haven’t done a blog post in a while and it’s been even longer since I did one that was a random collection of thoughts. So here goes.

Labor Day weekend, my husband was trimming trees and he trimmed an oak tree and I noticed this:

Oak Tree Gall

Uh, what is that? I poked it with a stick to see if it was solid and ensure I was not going to be overwhelmed by something gross like insects. It was solid and hard. Okay, that’s just weird, I’ve never seen anything like that. J told me, he’s seen them before and much bigger and that when they get big, they are really cool to cut open (this one was roughly the size of a navel orange). That doesn’t tell me what it is and why it exists and he proceeded to tell me some oak trees just make them.

Nope, there has to be a reason for it. So the following morning (I noticed it at night), I went to look at it again because it was so interesting and weird. In daylight I noticed a tiny hole, no bigger than that created by a hypodermic syringe in skin. Okay, so it has to be a nest of some sort… but what sort of nest? Being me, I Googled something along the lines of “what’s the weird thing growing on the branch of my oak tree?” It is a nest made from the oak tree for a wasp called a “gall wasp” or maybe “mealy wasp”… I’m still unclear on the name of the wasp, it could be both and usage may depend on where the writer is from. The name of the thing “oak gall”. The wasp triggers excessive growth hormones to flood the area of the oak tree where it lays it’s eggs so that one of these grows to protect the eggs and larva. And the reason they look cool when opened? Because the larva eats the pulp that surrounds it. Once the hormone has started flowing to this area it doesn’t stop and the gall will continue to get larger and larger. And yes, it damages the tree. Too many galls can lead to tree death and other issues. However, it is more common for the wasp to lay it’s eggs on a leaf and the tree to create a “leaf gall” which is also less destructive to the tree.

Anyone who reads my books or blogs, knows I enjoy professional sports. During the spring, I often listen to baseball games while writing. Late spring and early summer it’s soccer (futbol) and I devotedly watch World Cup (which is coming to the US in 2026 including a match or two in Kansas City (just 150 miles from me). During late summer and fall into winter I watch American Football and have missed very few Chiefs games since the 1990s. Thursday night, I was not watching the Miami v. Cincinnati game, I got a text from my football loving nephew Poor Tua got rocked.

At that point, I turned on the game in time to see replays. I did not know in that moment Poor Tua Tagovialoa had been rocked Sunday in the game against the Jets. Thursday as I watched the replay I thought “wow that could be a career ending hit” given his reaction. Sadly, it could be a career ending hit and it was avoidable. The NFL Player Association quickly fired the neurotrauma team that cleared Tua to play Thursday night, but is it enough? I love watching football and I even played one year in junior high and loved that, but more needs to be done to protect players. Doctors should definitely be preventing repeat injuries such as this one than serving the interests of NFL owners and teams. I have since seen the hit on Tua last Sunday and watching him in the seconds after the hit, it is obvious even to me he sustained a head and possibly spinal cord injury and should not have been on the field just four days later.

And this is true of all professional sports, not just football. I’ve seen baseball players sustain incredible injuries, ditto soccer players, and I know these guys are tough, but a body can only take so much abuse. Ten years in the NFL should not ruin the rest of a person’s life as they struggle with side effects of CTE. However, if fans and spectators don’t demand better care and treatment of players, then few things will change because even NFL owners have to bow to the pressure of fans.

I’m working to clean up my writing. This is adding another month or so to the editing process, but it needs to be done. I’m reducing adverbs, passive verbs, redundancies, and filler words. I’ve timed it a few times and it takes me around 7 hours to make all these changes to a single chapter. The bulk of these hours is definitely spent removing passive verbs such as “had”… sometimes, I can just delete the “had” such as “Detective Graham had reached” but other times it is way more complicated and I’m forced to reword the entire sentence (or paragraph), which is why it takes so long to edit a full chapter.