The Sun Sets on Another Year: 2015

Reading posts on this year in review and resolutions for next year, I’ve decided I should at least make some attempt at summarizing 2015. I’m no good at resolutions. The rebel in me causes me to rebuke my own.

I decided to do this by months, as it’s the only way I am apt to recall what has actually gone on this year, it’s been such a whirlwind. Really, it has gone by like a fast moving hurricane, cutting like a circular saw through the center of Florida. We ended 2014 with a wonderful, memorable trip to St. Augustine while it was all decorated for Christmas and had a lovely time.

JANUARY– We were stressed by a “would be” boat scammer who took off with our 36 foot cabin cruiser without paying. That took a couple of months to resolve. In the end we received our money, after many painful hours of dealing with authorities and detectives and banks.

FEBRUARY-The movie “Selma” came out and I missed a really good opportunity to ride the coattails of that one in promoting my book, Red Clay and Roses. Things were too hectic around here to do much in the way of marketing.

MARCH-I finally convinced my doctor to cut my bipolar meds in half after many years of begging him to allow me to give it a try. I dabbled with beginning a book about a couple of characters who started the orphanage I lived in a few years in the seventies. With my creative juices flowing, my finished and fully beta-read crime novel Naked Alliances was shelved and I got started on the next novel in The Naked Eye Series and was making fast progress until April rolled in.

I wacked off my long blonde hair that took way too much time to manage with my lifestyle, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Yes, it’s short, yes it’s gray. I’m embracing the me I have become in 55 years. No regrets.

APRIL-Nearly crushed me with the loss of my dad. I had so hoped once he sold his business and finally retired he would make a trip down here to visit, but that wasn’t in God’s plan. He was a quick-witted man and one of a kind. He is sorely missed.

MAY-Brought the sudden birth of our third grandchild. I say sudden because I don’t believe my daughter was in labor more than a few hours, and the baby decided not to wait for the mid-wife. Kira was born into her daddy’s hands, while grandmother was trying to get the other two kids into the car for a trip to her house. The midwife did get there in time for daddy to cut the cord. One life ends and another begins.

Before the baby was born, I committed to detoxing my body and quit smoking tobacco, started vaping. I’m doing really good with that and have cut down the nicotine. I also stopped the 6-8 diet cokes I was drinking daily, along with the 6-8 cups of coffee. It’s slowed me down a bit, but I feel 100% better.

JUNE-With the new baby and dealing with all that ensued in the wake of my dad’s death, this month pulled me off the computer while trying to assist my dad’s widow and a half-sister with running his insurance business. They both leaned on me and it was a difficult position to be in trying to advise from 500 miles away. Making matters worse, two estranged sisters who had not had anything much to do with Daddy in thirty years came up with a law suit against his wife and the estate. Needless to say, that was no fun. That discord lasted for months.

I started a new book, The Conduit, in the hope that throwing myself into some creative work might ease some of my mental load. It worked off and on, but about a third of the way through the book, I had to back off on that, also. I re-blogged a lot and tried to stay in touch with my online friends offering what little support I could.

Getting diagnosed with diabetes sent me online for some heavy research and I unveiled so much new research that contradicts what I was taught in nursing school about the disease, it’s complications and management, that it is just now starting to sink in that it may not have ill-fated prognosis it once had. It can be totally reversed, and I’m on a personal mission to do that. This mission resulted in a nutritional consult and major lifestyle changes that pull me off the computer daily, but have my blood sugars within normal range and my Hgb A1C down from 7.5 to 5.6.

JULY-I set out to find a developmental editor for The Conduit about the middle of the year and got connected to a English gentleman in Ireland who took on the challenge of giving Naked Alliances a few passes as that manuscript was finished, I thought. He was quite impressed with the progress me and my beta readers had made, but certainly has helped polish that novel into something I’m really proud of. I had shelved that book, not knowing if I would ever publish it, but encouragement and support from some very dear blogging friends motivated me to go forward. Thank you all…you know who you are.

It’s a far cry from Red Clay in Roses in both style and content, but it’s been a really fun project. I’m still working through the second edits and it will need a final proof. I’ve thought about pitching it at the 2016 Sleuth Fest in Deerfield Beach in February…still uncertain if I want to go that route. It just might add pressure I don’t need at this point. I enjoy writing for fun and would not want to get myself into a position that might jeopardize the joy I find in writing.

I had to have surgery this month and that set me back both with my lifestyle changes and writing as I could not sit at the computer for more than just a few minutes at a time. But all is well.

AUGUST-Things started settling down a bit. I got into Kombucha brewing, and I’m on my ninth or tenth 2 ½ gallon brew now. The lifestyle changes really started making a difference and I began to shed some pounds. Managed a small promo that sold a few books and revived my firstborn a bit. Got heavy into my writing and got two more book outlines accomplished for the Naked Eye Series.

SEPTEMBER-More of the same. More time for writing and editing, but less time for marketing and blogging. Tradeoffs. I’ve missed you.

OCTOBER-Sent Naked Alliances off to an editor.  I was so deep in the zone, I was barely able to manage three re-blogs this month, but I did manage to get by familiar blogs for some awesome reading and a few comments.

NOVEMBER-Back in May, the 13th to be exact, when I smoked my last cigarette, I had connected with a large group of vapers that support each other in every way imaginable through a forum and Google Hang Outs and we’re planning a big shin-dig in Florida for April. I took on the role of treasurer and organizer for that group, so about twenty of us, from all over the U.S. will be meeting up in Bradenton Beach in April. These people literally saved my life. We’ve rented a huge house and have plans to eat good food, talk for hours, get some boating and fishing in. This adventure gave me and the RS the delightful task of a reconnaissance mission over to the area and we had a lovely vacation of sorts with the RS and his brother and girlfriend for a week on Anna Maria Island with the Bay out the front door and the beach out the back. It served well to let us leisurely scope out the area and rejuvenate my soul.

I managed to get one guest post done this year on the dear and amusing Barb Taub’s blog. I’m looking forward to setting up more guest posts and interviews over the next few months, so if you hear anything about anyone on the lookout, let me know. I’ll have more time on the computer as the year turns.

DECEMBER– Well, I managed to lose forty pounds this year. I only have forty-five to go. Hopefully, by this time next year I will have met my goal. I have a photographer friend who is doing a photo shoot in the near future, so you might see my 8 year old profile pics change everywhere in the next few months.

Naked Alliances is almost ready for its final proof. Yay! It’s been nearly two years since that first draft was penned and I am most grateful for the dozen people who gave me feedback as beta readers. It really did turn into a team project with me at the helm. With your help, I narrowed down to two choices for a cover image via 99Designs, and I’m giving one more cover artist a shot at it.

This really grew into a much longer post than I anticipated. I’m truly grateful to be alive and to have so many wonderful people in my life. I am looking forward to healthy and happy NEW YEAR and hope the same for you. As the sun sets on the old year, I leave you with a meditation video I made on Anna Maria Island. The silence between the surf as significant as the sounds of the sea.

Kombucha Project # 1

We all know I can’t be satisfied with one project in the works. I have to have three, or more, in the works. With two novels in the editing phase, I took on a home project brewing Kombucha and I want to show you how this is coming along.

Kombucha is fermented tea with the health benefits:

*contains probiotics
*alkalizes the body
*detoxifies the liver
*increases metabolism
*improves digestion
*alleviates constipation
*cancer prevention
*reduces blood pressure
*relieves headaches & migraines
*aids healthy cell regeneration
*reduces kidney stones
*high in polyphenols
*improves eyesight
*reduces eczema – softens the skin
*prevents arteriosclerosis
*speeds healing of ulcers
*helps clear up candida & yeast infections
*boosts energy – helps with chronic fatigue
*high in antioxidants – destroy free-radicals that cause cancer and promote healthy cellular development
*rebuilds connective tissue – helps with arthritis, gout, asthma, rheumatism

 

You can do continuous brew (CB) or batch brew (BB), and I thought, since this was my first time I would do BB, and if I liked it well enough, switch over to CB. At $4.00 a pop in health food  stores, it can get quite expensive if you drink a couple of servings a day.

To brew Kombucha at home is really very simple.

You need the following:

A healthy SCOBY (A symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) In my case two. Yes, they’re alive!

1 cup -2 cups strong starter liquid per gallon

A brewing vessel (plain or fancy) a glass pickle jar will do, you can get a fancy ceramic urn with a spigot, or what I have that is a cross between the two, a 2.5 gal glass water dispenser with a spigot. I want to be able to watch the process, but have the convenience of a spigot.

Tea, (green or black)

1 cup granulated cane sugar per gallon (feeds the yeast, not you)

4-6 bags tea bags per gallon

distilled water

tea kettle

cloth cover

rubber band

  Steps

  1. Boil 4 cups of water per gallon.
  2. Add hot water & tea bags to pot.
  3. Steep 5-7 minutes, then remove tea bags.
  4. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Let tea cool down to room temperature to prevent killing SCOBY! Add to vessel.
  5. Fill vessel most of the way with distilled water, leaving just 1-2 inches from the top for breathing room.
  6. Add SCOBY and starter liquid. (Best source for these Kombucha Kamp, Hannah also sells heater strips for those in cooler climates, as ideal brewing temp is around 74 to 82 degrees.)
  7. Cover with cloth cover and secure with the rubber band.
  8. Say a prayer, send good vibes, commune with your culture (optional but recommended).
  9. Set in a warm location out of direct sunlight (unless vessel is opaque). Mine is in my darkened studio, but I also wrap it in a dark blankie.) The area needs to be well ventilated.
  10. Do not disturb for 7 days. (Mine took 14 d/t quantity)
Healthy SCOBY

Healthy SCOBY

I purchased my SCOBY, starter and heating sheet from Kombucha Mama at Kombucha Kamp. I can’t say enough about Hannah and her helpers. Her customer service is impeccable. She really knows her Kombucha and if you have a question about the process, she has the answer somewhere on her site.

SCOBY are stored in my SCOBY Hotel. Here I have two mamas and a baby. There are stored in a glass container with starter liquid which has been pulled from the top of a fermented batch.

SCOBY are stored in my SCOBY Hotel. Here I have two mamas and a baby. They are stored in a glass container with starter liquid which has been pulled from the top of a fermented batch.

Kombucha set-up. I added an aquarium thermometer so I could judge the brewing temp.

Kombucha set-up. I added an aquarium thermometer so I could gauge the brewing temp. The mamas will sink as the baby forms on the top.

With the heating element added around the base (also available at Kombucha Kamp) I'm keeping SCOBY warm and productive. The mamas sink to the bottom, while the baby forms on top. I named my mamas Laverne and Shirley and my baby's name is Stuie.

With the heating element added around the base (also available at Kombucha Kamp) I’m keeping SCOBY warm and productive. The mamas sink to the bottom, while the baby forms on top. I named my mamas Laverne and Shirley and my baby’s name is Stuie. See the yeastie bits forming?

The tea lightens as it ferments.

The tea lightens as it ferments.

 

Here is Stuie being born, sealing off the top and doing his job.

Here is Stuie being born, sealing off the top and doing his job. Bubbles of carbonation are building under him as he grows to seal off the tea from the air.

Once Stuie has done his job (7-14 days, a little longer if you have slow starter or a large quantity. Only three or four days if you use continuous brew method.) the mamas and baby are set aside into the scoby hotel. If you are doing CB, you don’t even have to do this step, just decant a third from the bottom, then pour in replacement fresh sweet tea. I wasn’t sure about the first batch, but will be CBing in the future.

Ready to decant. I have my SCOBY Hotel to the left. Bottles for second ferment, and the mature KT

Ready to decant. I have my SCOBY Hotel to the left. Bottles for second ferment, and the mature KT. My currently unused art studio serves as my KT brewing room. You can brew in a lovely ceramic brew pot, also available at Kombucha Kamp, right on your kitchen counter top.

Kombucha Brewing First batch 010

I’ve prepped my fruits and herbs and spices. I’m making pear with ginger and cinnamon, peach ginger, strawberry, and hibiscus with cinnamon. A little goes a long way. You only need about a teaspoon per 16 oz bottle. The KT acts on the natural sugars to add more carbonation to this fizzy drink during the second ferment, which takes three or four days.

My bottles are prepped with fruit and spices. You don't have to puree the fruit. You can cut into bits and drop in, but I have another use for the leftover fruit I'll tell you about later.

My bottles are prepped with fruit and spices. You don’t have to puree the fruit. You can cut into bits and drop in, but I have another use for the leftover fruit I’ll tell you about later.

Decant into your 16 oz bottles from the spigot, or you can pour from a jar over the sink. The spigot is a lifesaver. My funnel has a screen which filters the yeasty bits.

You want to fill your bottles nearly to the top so as little space as possible is there for air. This speeds carbonation. VERY IMPORTANT: Burp your bottles every day or two to avoid EXPLOSION!!!

Place bottles into a cooler for safety and to keep dark at room temp. Don't forget to BURP them every couple of days. Keeping them in a cooler prevents glas and booch from spraying all over the place in case carbonation builds up and you have an explosion.

Place bottles into a cooler for safety and to keep dark at room temp. Don’t forget to BURP them every couple of days. Keeping them in a cooler prevents glass and booch from spraying all over the place in case carbonation builds up and you have an explosion.

Clean up is a breeze with vinegar. Never use soap and water...even trace amounts of soap will kill your culture.

Clean up is a breeze with vinegar. Never use soap and water…even trace amounts of soap will kill your culture. If you are doing continuous brewing instead of batch brewing, you only have to do this about every four to six months. Once fully fermented, I’ll be poring off into the Grolsch-style bottles.

Once your KT is ready, you can pur yourself a refreshing glass and drink right away, or strain into fresh bottles to get rid of the organic matter, which will continue to decompose if not removed. I strained into Grolsch-type bottles to go into the fridge right away. KT will not spoil.

Once your KT is ready, (about a week) you can pour yourself a refreshing glass and drink right away, or strain into fresh bottles to get rid of the organic matter, which will continue to decompose if not removed. I strained into Grolsch-type bottles to go into the fridge right away. KT will not spoil.

If you have leftover fruit. Mix it with two or three tablespoons of chia seed for fresh fruit chia jam and place in fridge. It will be great on nut butter toast for breakfast.

If you have leftover fruit. Mix it with two or three tablespoons of chia seed for fresh fruit chia jam and place in fridge. It will be great on nut butter toast for breakfast. It keeps fresh for two or three weeks.

I can’t say enough about Kombucha Kamp and the Kombucha Mama. Hannah Crum is truly awesome and she is available to get you started with all the supplies you need. She also supports you through the process if you have concerns. She’s been in production for seven years and has attended many seminars and appeared on TV shows where she explains Kombucha and how to make it. Here is a cool video where she explains how to flavor during the second ferment:

From Coffee & Diet Coke to Kombucha & Everything Between

The coffee pot has been placed into the pantry on the top shelf and the grinder cleaned and put away. That’s right, no post for health 005more coffee. I stopped the caffeine frenzy back in May when I stopped the tobacco habit and haven’t looked back. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to call myself a writer without a daily coffee regimen.   

My six to eight diet Cokes a day were gone in that bargain, also. It’s all about making healthier choices. I get my fizz fix from an occasional flavored sparkling water…no sugar or artificial sweeteners, or Kombucha. My concentration, productivity and focus are much improved without the caffeine.

I had elective surgery in June, (one I had put off for six years), which took me to my general practitioner’s office for a follow up. Although her information came after the insurance company told me, she advised me that I was no longer in prediabetes, but had crossed the bridge to diabetic. (HgbA1C = 7.5) Immediately, she wanted me on metformin. I didn’t take that too well. Then she proposed another drug with weight gain as a major side effect. Not going there either. I’ve been losing weight; don’t want to do anything that’s going to compromise that progress. She was concerned about my total cholesterol, (just over the line at 201) even though my HDLs were good, my LDLs weren’t as good as they could be.

Meanwhile, the RS gets informed by his physician that he is prediabetic  (Hgb A1C=6.8), he’s had cholesterol problems for a few years and just recently had to stop a statin d/t side effects.

What to do???

The old hippie philosophies resurfaced. I’m a firm believer that there is a plant out there somewhere with the capacity to heal whatever ails animal kind. With little more discussion, we decided to seek out the assistance of a holistic nutritionist. A lovely lady was highly recommended, Dr. Samadhi Artemisa, who is a licensed nutritionist, iridologist, yoga instructor, massage therapist, and acupuncturist. She also writes a column for the local paper, The Orlando Sentinel.

 

While she lives the vegan/raw life, she was more than willing to help us meat-eaters develop a better balance and work to ward off some serious health risks. After four and a half hours of consultation and an iridology screening, she placed us on a gluten free, dairy free (except for European cheeses in very small amounts), soy free, low carb, sugar free diet that permits no GMOs or artificial sweeteners. Organic vegetables & fruits and grass fed, antibiotic & hormone free beef preferable. We eat five to six times a day, every two to three hours, small portions of healthier foods…nuts and nut butters, veggies, hummus, guacamole, sardines, wild caught fish, lean meats pressure cooked, seed crackers, millet bread, sugar free coconut milk frozen dessert and cultured coconut milk. I’m learning to spiralize zucchini, beets, rutabagas, daikon radish, and other veggies to make low carb noodles, rice and pasta.

This was my lunch today.

Mediterranean Salad 001

Mediterranean zucchini faux pasta salad with heirloom cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, anchovy stuffed green olives, artichokes, tiny Gruyere cubes and lemon-herb vinaigrette.

Replacing the coffee pot on the counter and taking up space in the fridge) are our supplement bottles which contain: manna stem, angelica root, aloe leaf, senna leaf, rhubarb root, zedoary root, myrrh stem, carline thistle root, camphor, black snakeroot, valerian root, cardamom fruit, saffron pistil, sunflower lecithin, muscadine seed, red Yeast rice, post for health 013CoQ10,flax seed oil, sunflower seed oil, raw sesame seed oil, evening primrose oil, algal, coconut oil, rosemary leaf oil, and oat bran oils, ginseng root extract, holy basil leaf extract, fenugreek seed, gymnema sylvestre leaf extract, Ceylon cinnamon, vanadium, bitter melon fruit extract, turmeric root, ginger root, jambui seed, digestive enzymes, B12 liquid, local bee pollen, Bragg’s apple cider vinegar, polycosonal, artichoke leaf, hawthorn berry, turmeric root, fennel seed, ginko biloba, banaba, and bladderwrack.

Sounds like witches brew, huh?

This concoction of herbs, extracts and oils is supposed to lower our bad cholesterols, raise our good ones, control our diabetes, and enhance our brain’s performance. My energy level has, at least, tripled!

Some of them are more palatable than others.

post for health 015

Yummy and thicker than axle grease!

We’ve had two visits for therapeutic massage and two visits for acupuncture. So far, the RS and I have lost twenty pounds each in three months. His fasting blood sugars have come down from the 130s to the 80s, and mine have come down from the 130s to 110s. He hasn’t had his HgbA1C checked again, but mine has come down to 6.6 from 7.5. I’d still like to see my fastings come down under a hundred, but it’s early yet. Today I discovered that my two hour post prandials vary between 106-116.

I’ll add that we are both swimming and walking daily with three ten minute exercise routines, after breakfast, lunch and supper, that aren’t terribly strenuous and can be done in a bathroom.

Little strides over time.

The RS doesn’t like it, but I’ve added Kombucha, an effervescent, fermented tea, to my regimen. He says it tastes like flavored beer to him. I never liked beer, but I love Kombucha. If you would like to learn more about Kombucha and brewing it, I recommend the Kombucha Mama’s blog, web site, store and videos. Her Kombucha Kamp has everything you need to know to get started brewing your own.

There are so many added health benefits. The antioxidants, polyphenols, and probiotics are reason enough to drink it.

What it does:

*alkalizes the body

*detoxifies the liver

*increases metabolism

*improves digestion

*alleviates constipation

*cancer prevention

*reduces blood pressure

*relieves headaches & migraines

*aids healthy cell regeneration

*reduces kidney stones

*improves eyesight

*reduces eczema – softens the skin

*prevents arteriosclerosis

*speeds healing of ulcers

*helps clear up candida & yeast infections

*boosts energy – helps with chronic fatigue

*destroy free-radicals that cause cancer

*rebuilds connective tissue – helps with arthritis, gout, asthma, rheumatism

You can buy commercial brands, but why, when you can brew it yourself?

I keep it in a dark, well ventilated room. The temp stays between 75 and 85 degrees.

MOST SIGNIFICANTLY, I FEEL BETTER THAN I HAVE IN A VERY LONG TIME!

Have you made any dietary changes to improve your health?

What is working for you?

Detoxing a Writer’s Brain and Opening Up New Worlds

I am feeling better than I have in a very long time. No cigarettes. Minimal caffeine. Sparkling water all day. Delicious fresh salads for lunch. Minimal carbs. Feel as if I have detoxed my system.

Most significantly, my head has really opened up. My writing has taken off. I may not get thousands of words a day, but what I am writing is really, really good. Yes, I’m impressed with myself.

Clearing the fog and the crashes has allowed my creativity to blossom. My thoughts are better organized. I have focus, clarity, alertness that simply didn’t exist before.

I’m giving my attention to a suspenseful psycho thriller. My main character, Jillian, has clairvoyant nightmares. There’s a serial killer in her past and another in her present. The dreams from the past are in the victims’ POV. I know, I know, it can be hard to be inside a victim’s head, but it’s working…at least for me, now. I may rethink that later.

It’s limited omniscient POV. There’s a therapist and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) liaison. Jillian has an eighteen year old son and a twelve year old daughter. My psych and forensics background makes this writing relatively easy once things gel in my mind.

The dream sequences are written in first person, but the storyline is third. A bit unconventional, but it’s working out so much better than when I had it in all third person. I had to rewrite two chapters.

It’s fast paced and much happens to her that brings everything close to home. I’m excited about how things are coming along.

I still don’t have a title for this new book and it’s killing me!!!

I owe a great big “Thank You” to Sue Coletta, who has posted some very helpful info in the past couple of months. I find myself bookmarking her pages frequently. Pay her a visit, especially if you are looking at mystery/thriller/crime fiction. She’s an awesome thinker and has some really cool contacts who contribute.

I don’t have an outline yet, beyond a fish bones skeleton. I tend to get about half way through, and then need the outline fleshed out to proceed.

I’m also reading and researching much material. So, I’ve had little time online beyond my e-cig forum support group and a bit of FB.

Just thought I should pop in and let you know I am alive and well. I do skim blogs but honestly haven’t done much commenting. I wish I had more time. Don’t know how you folk who work eight hours a day do it. My hat is off to you!

Hoping you all are doing well.

Do you get as excited as I do when you get deep into a new project?

What do you think about first person victims?

Vaping and Relative Self-Improvements

Choice between cigarette and e-cigarette

Choice between cigarette and e-cigarette

This post is a bit personal because my writing muse has just come back to visit me. For the last few months, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster and there hasn’t been much time for writing.

Things have settled down. Even with my meds cut in half three months ago, I haven’t gone off either deep end and have managed to keep my cool throughout some intense family drama for the past two months. So that’s good news.

First, I’ve stopped smoking. So far, I have 3 days and 19 hours, have avoided 115 cigarettes and saved $34.40, possibly my life. I have no desire or obsession to smoke.

I was up to a pack and a half. It’s only been four days, but with the vaping it has truly made a difference. I know vaping has not been proven to be harmless, but it has been proven to be tremendously less harmful than smoking. It’s satisfying. I have tried cold turkey, gum, lozenges, patches, Wellbutrin, Chantix (three times), and those nasty little electronic cigalikes that you can pick up at the 7-11.

Cold turkey= terrible cravings, substituting with food to get the hand to mouth thing, gaining 70 lbs in six months. (Was only able to lose half of it and slowly gained that back.) And the shortness of breath that goes with being overweight.

Gum=still wanted the analog cigs, hiccoughs, heartburn

Lozenges=Not satisfying at all, hated the chalky consistency and strong mint flavor, heartburn

Patches=Staved off the cravings. Put me in the hospital with cardiac arrhythmias and panic attacks

Wellbutrin=Did not stop cravings and gave me severe diarrhea.

Chantix=Three efforts, prescriptions required, two different doctors and had to call offices every month to get script renewed, I won’t bother you with the severe side effects. Trust me, there were many. And ended up smoking right through all three attempts because it was not satisfying at all.

Electronic Cigalikes= They were awful, both in taste and effect. Most are 100% propylene glycol (a medical antimicrobial liquid used in vaporizers like bronchial inhalers and nebulizers) and smoke very harsh on the throat and lungs. They tasted like medicine and weren’t very satisfying. You also could not control the nicotine.

None of these methods gave me the pleasure I get from separating myself from my anxieties, going off alone to reflect and meditate, like the caterpillar sitting on the mushroom. There is something about exhaling a cloud that I find most relaxing.

Enter vaping.

My half-sister was vaping at my father’s funeral and I talked with her about it. When I got home, I did a few weeks of research. You can get anywhere from 0 mgs nicotine to 24 mgs, if you are over eighteen. Nicotine in and of itself is NOT carcinogenic. It’s the tar of burning something organic, like tobacco, the carbon monoxide, over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins , including substances to make your body quickly absorb the nic, and flame retardants, and so on, found in cigarettes that are harmful.

Vaping gives you:

  •  Nicotine
  • Propylene glycol (not Ethylene glycol – which is toxic). Used in asthma inhalers and nebulizers.  An experiment using animals determined “air containing these vapors in amounts up to the saturation point is completely harmless”. The USA FDA has classified propylene glycol as “generally recognized as safe”.
  • Vegetable glycerol – low toxicity. Used in respiratory medications, cosmetic and food items.
  • You can get flavorings, which do have TRACE amounts chemicals, but nobody really knows, according to scientific research, if these will be harmful in any way. There simply is not enough data.

The risks are slim. It’s a risk I am willing to take to get off of analog cigarettes. After just four days vaping, I already feel like a new person. I can breathe, taste, and smell with absolutely no side effects whatsoever. Vapor is not smoke.

There’s a lot of propaganda out there, primarily by Big Tobacco and FDA/gov’t. because of their missed opportunity to tax and make money off of vaping. Children will want to vape for the fruity, sweet flavors (not yet happened, but let’s get everybody scared, I mean, after all, it’s not like adults might like watermelon, peaches, custards, and crème brulee).

Exciting flavors and attractive packaging appeal to everyone, regardless of age. The range of age groups who vape crosses the spectrum, but doesn’t include minors. You’d be surprised how many elderly people love vaping, and love the different flavors they have at their choosing.

The trendy packing will attract young people. Maybe that’s true, but it’s a lot less harmful than smoking or getting wasted on booze. Trends come and go. You can get anywhere from 0 mgs nicotine to 24 mgs nicotine. The young people in the RS’s AA group who vape 0 mg have told me they have no desire to add nicotine to their regimen. Most are former smokers who are weaning themselves down and plan to stop vaping altogether at some point, and that is my objective.

My breath, hair, body, clothes, and back porch smells better already. I can actually smell my Shalimar perfume all day with just a tiny dab in the morning J

If you, or someone you love, would like to quit smoking, click the contact button above and I’ll send you some links, get you started in the wonderfully supportive ecf forum where you can ask questions (or simply lurk) and “meet” other more experienced vapers, and use Google Hang Outs, if you choose to, to connect if you find a good support group, like I have.

NEXT:

I cut out the diet cokes. I was drinking six to eight a day. Way too much caffeine, and now that my taste buds are alive, I don’t even like the taste. I get a bit foggy in the late afternoon, but that’s about the only withdrawal symptom I seem to be having. I’m drinking sparkling water with a hint of flavor and no sugars to get my fizz fix.

Finally, eating better:

I had a salad for lunch with mixed greens, golden raisins, apples, watermelon, blueberries, walnuts, a bit of balsamic vinaigrette, and oil. The melding of fresh flavors and crisp, cool deliciousness had me drooling. I topped it off with a peach vape (instead of a nasty cigarette), and I’m in heaven. I’m looking forward to exploring my once dead palate again.

Exercise:

I can breathe. Did I say that already? Where I was SOB just putting on my shoes a week ago, yesterday, I swam 100 laps in a 36 ft. pool, swept, vacuumed and mopped the entire house, and walked two large blocks around the neighborhood late at night without panting. That felt great!

Writing:

Dumping the emotional garbage of the last few months, engaging in better lifestyle choices, my muse has returned as of last night. I got deep into what is going to be a kick-ass psycho thriller, I’m certain. Nicotine improves concentration, attention and focus enough to qualify as a cognitive enhancer. And, oh yeah, it’s long been associated with weight loss, with few known safety risks.

Have you kicked the habit? Do you want to? Know someone you’d like to see have a better alternative to smoking? Are you making any positive lifestyle changes? Send me a note if you don’t want to comment (seapeachcove1@gmail.com)

Oh! I forgot to add, I’m getting a lot more French kisses than I used to get 😉

Medication Holiday and Why I Can’t Go There

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I made an announcement a week, or so, ago. My plan was to take a medication holiday from a mood disorder meds I have been on and off of since the age of nineteen. My courage has left me.

In the past, I was taken off meds to process through my education, or to carry my children. The meds slow thought processes (a compromise to learning new things), along with body metabolism. There is a numbing down of emotion and with that a deep and cutting loss of the ability to feel.

Being an extremely empathetic person, the loss of the ability to feel is not necessarily a bad thing. It does, however, pose limits to the experience of emotion. Sometimes those limits are good. Rage is in check. Anger is minimized. But so is joy, and happiness. On the meds, there is a numb sort of existence devoid of any extremes. Without the extremes, I made an excellent nurse for more than thirty years. I have a portfolio of commendations. Until the emotions began to bleed through due to stress.

I witnessed and contested some serious abuse and neglect in a pediatric long-term residential facility I was working in and up against a huge and powerful corporation and a gang of despicable people. Some of the abuse resulting in loss of limb or death. It was a two year battle. The place is closed now, if it’s any consolation.

I wrote a long and thoughtful post last evening but did not publish it.

I was recalling all of the times that I have gone over the edge and what happened. They were exciting times, filled with emotion, creative energy, and productivity. I had volumes of imaginative, expressive, original writing. I painted gorgeous pictures in oils and water colors, made fascinating jewelry, and had nearly a hundred ceramic creations that I ultimately smashed against my plaster walls in a fury.

You see, therein lies the problem.

At the end of any one of those glorious manic episodes of profound self-discovery and accomplishment were days and weeks filled with hallucinations, delusions, isolation, darkness and despair. It was frightening…no, it was horrifying. The crash that eventually came caused me to either fight the ones closest to me, or to fall into catatonia so deep that my soul wasn’t present anymore. The depressive loss of the spiritual self so profound that I not only didn’t care whether I lived or died, I didn’t even know if I was alive or dead.

Say I am exercising good judgment to stay on my meds.

Say I’m a coward for not being willing to try.

Can I live in constant state of fight or flight?

I don’t want to know.

The torment of sanity can be worse than insanity.

I’m just afraid of going over the edge and not being able to get back.

There is some sweet sorrow in the fact that the meds make me better controlled.

 

Writing on the Edge of Insanity

In the Western world, there has always been some hopeful connection between genius and mental illness, between creativity and insanity.

quote-for-me-insanity-is-super-sanity-the-normal-is-psychotic-normal-means-lack-of-imagination-lack-jean-dubuffet-53418Famous Quotes:

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence– whether much that is glorious– whether all that is profound– does not spring from disease of thought– from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.”

― Oscar Levant

“THE EDGE, there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”
― Hunter S. Thompson

“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”–Albert Einstein

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The truth is…no studies prove any correlation between creativity and mental illness. In fact, to the contrary, psychosis and poor mental health seriously compromise the ability to function.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-r-keith-sawyer/creativity-and-mental-ill_b_2059806.html

However, the medications used to treat mental illness can also seriously compromise the ability to function.

I have not been totally satisfied with my writing since Red Clay and Roses in 2012. Lately, since I started on a new medication in 2013, my writing seems stilted, choppy, not nearly as fluid as it once was and I’m not able to readily pull up words that once came easily to me.

To enhance my writing capabilities and overcome some of the hindrances of my bipolar meds, my psychiatrist and I are undertaking a huge joint project.

I’ve kept no secrets about my bipolar disorder. I’ve been in treatment since the age of nineteen, and unlike most, have always been compliant. There were times in my life when my psychiatrist worked with me to reduce side effects of meds…to get through my five chemistry classes in school, to carry my three children, and so on. It has been a very long time since I have been off meds.

Altered thought processes can be a blessing or a curse.

When my thought processes are mildly altered, my creativity is greatly enhanced.

But that is a fine line to walk.

I have been stable for the most part. I am grateful. I have had some breakthrough episodes where the meds became ineffective and had to be changed.

To understand what goes on with the bipolar brain, you have to understand the role of norepinephrine and how the meds work.

Norepinephrine  is a catecholamine with multiple roles including as a hormone and a neurotransmitter.

As a stress hormone, norepinephrine affects parts of the brain where attention and responding actions are controlled.

Along with epinephrine, norepinephrine also underlies the fight-or-flight response, directly increasing heart rate, triggering the release of glucose from energy stores, and increasing blood flow to skeletal muscle. Norepinephrine can also suppress neuroinflammation when released diffusely in the brain from the locus ceruleus.

In the bipolar person, the norepinephrine floods and causes the person to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight. That’s a hard way to live. Moods swing from rage to withdrawal.

Mood stabilizers, like Latuda and Zyprexa, don’t stop norepinephrine from being produced, but block the reuptake of it in the brain.

Instead of a constant flood of this neurotransmitter, there is a more balanced stream.

So what’s the problem with the meds?

Remember when I said attention and responding actions were affected?

While in the sick person, slowing the attention down can prevent scattered thought process, delusions, and paranoia…it also slows down the ability to think, to call things up from memory.  It helps to keep thought processes connected, but can hinder creativity and cause sedation. Everything slows, including response time, so thinking can become more difficult. Reading and writing are affected. Finding the right words for expression of ideas can be inhibited. Imagination is severely stifled on psychotropic medications.

Anything that slows the brain also slows metabolism. People gain weight on these drugs.

There is also a very narrow window that allows most lucid thinking without any of these side effects.

That’s what my psychiatrist and I are trying to do. He’s willing to work with me to find that window.

It is a tedious process for the physician to titrate these drugs and can only be done with those patients who have very good insight and intuition, because it is done based on subjective responses.

Our emotions and behaviors have to be monitored by those close to us.

It’s a high wire act that involves removing the balancing pole and learning to walk the wire with less assistance. The consequences can be devastating, even life-threatening.

I’m going on a pharmaceutical drug holiday!

So, if I start acting really weird(er), let me know.

This physician has followed me since 2002. It has taken more than a dozen years to build up the sort of mutual trust to be able to proceed with this experiment.

I’m both excited and scared.