Friday, January 31, 2014

My Six Year Old: "Life is crappy... Strawberry Shortcake told me so."

My children, on Friday nights, get to go to bed with a DVD playing. This is something that may not make me parent of the year, but it how things roll in my house (unless the child is grounded for some reason, that is). A one night reward of a movie to go to sleep to shouldn't ruin them... right?

I tend to screen what my kids are allowed to watch fairly seriously. I disallowed Spongebob after I witnessed Mr. Krabs instructing Spongbob and Patrick about "panty raids". I also don't have cable, satellite, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, or anything of the like in their rooms. We have these things in our living room (where they can be monitored), but in the kids' room they only have DVD/VHS players. (Yes, we still have some old VHS tapes. Don't judge.)

So... tonight my six year old daughter, who went to bed watching "Strawberry Shortcake: Let's Dance", just came out of her bed room dragging her teddy bear... she was very upset.
It looks harmless enough.

Her: "Daddy. Strawberry Shortcake said life is crappy. That makes me sad."

Me: "What? I don't think she said that."

Her: (almost in tears) "She did. She said that. I don't think life is crappy."

I picked her up and hugged her and continued to tell her that I didn't think that Strawberry Shortcake would say that 'life is crappy'. I mean, Strawberry Shortcake is always happy... and solves problems... and does sweet things for her friends... and wants everyone to get along. Strawberry wouldn't say that life was crappy. My daughter vehemently insisted that she had said just that.

This had to be resolved. I tucked her back into bed and I rewound the movie to find out what Strawberry Shortcake had actually said. Once my daughter had seen what Strawberry had actually seen then all would be well again... right?

So... what did I hear Strawberry say?

*drum roll*

Strawberry Shortcake singing: "Let's Dance, 'cause life is crappy."

I had to try to explain that it was a matter of context in the story of the song... that it was discussing tricky steps and not giving up when you make mistakes... that even if thing were crappy you could still "do it" and that dancing was their metaphor... all that story that was going on in the song on the cartoon... that things might be going bad right then but they would dance and it make Strawberry and her friends feel better... and that Strawberry wasn't telling her that life is crappy over all....

This was not a conversation that I ever thought I'd have in reference to Strawberry Shortcake... to my six year old who was crying because "Life is crappy... Strawberry Shortcake told me so."

Does my child just pick up on things that other kids don't? Does she not shrug things off due to context as she "should"? I remember some rather adult themes in cartoons when I was a child. Watching some of those late '70s and 80's cartoons with my kids has left me a little red faced once or twice.

I don't know if I should count this as a win - as it did allow me to explain the meaning to my child, eventually getting her to feel better about it, and we did share a very tender and sweet moment - or if I should feel upset with what society thinks it's okay to expose kids to.

I know that children of earlier generations were exposed to far more, in some ways, than kids today. I also know that kids today tend to be far more desensitized to things that would have been shocking in ages before. I ultimately think I'll chalk tonight up in the win column... but I'll count it as an uneasy win.

***By way of an update: Thanks to a friend (Melly) listening to the song, and suggesting that I look up the lyrics (which I had tried to Google a LOT, and failed) which were available on the DVD... if you put on the closed captioning... Strawberry actually said (as she was snapping in her dance number) "Life is SNAPPY"... not crappy. I pointed that out to my daughter... I had her read it. What was her response?


I can now file this moment under "the night my daughter first joined the ranks for those who 'mishear' lyrics... See also: Slow Motion Walter, The Fire Engine Guy -and- There's A Bathroom On The Right.

Strawberry has been exonerated. My daughter is happy. I got to have an awkward conversation with a six year old, with tears in her eyes, way too late at night... for no reason... other than I'm her Daddy, and I love her... and I don't want her to think life is crappy (at least not until she's out of college and trying to find meaningful employment in a career that holds real importance to her... then, she'll figure it out on her own... Nothing I can do about it.)***


Monday, January 27, 2014

And now a few words from my sponsor...

Quality of Life 
(getting it back)
- Scarlett Littlejohn Sharpe

I guess it is important that I first let you know a little about myself.  I have a BA in English with an emphasis in technical writing. In the past, I had quite a bit of corporate experience with technical writing and more recently I have done all sorts of freelance writing work.  I was once one of those people that was on the fast track up the corporate ladder and also had freelance side work to add to my income. I am also an extremely creative person and as most of my writing was rather dry and certainly not anything I was passionate about, I filled up the creative side of myself with other projects. I learned how to make jewelry. I enjoyed sewing clothes. I would sometimes paint or draw with pencils or pastels. Sometimes I did these things for my kids or for myself; sometimes I even did them for others and made a little more side money. I also spent tons of time with my children, often including them in my creative endeavors, and it seemed the world was my oyster. I was stereotypically a young single mother in her twenties that had tons of energy, ideas, and potential. Suddenly that came to a screeching halt.

My first bout of serious illness was relatively short. I was in my mid-twenties and it only lasted a few months. It came out of nowhere. I had some severe pain in my abdomen. I had absolutely no energy whatsoever. I had pain that came and went in intensity all over my entire body. I constantly had a headache and all too often it went into a full blown migraine that might last for hours or days. The doctors ran all sorts of tests and found little things here and there but they never fully discovered what was wrong with me. It was bad enough that I had to quit my job and go live with my grandparents in another state. Within a few months the symptoms subsided as quickly as they had come on and I was able to get back to work and get my own place with the children again. 

For a couple years, things were great. I became very active again and was excelling at both my work and my hobbies. I met someone and ended up having another child. Not long after I gave birth, the symptoms came back worse than before.

I have been going through this cycle of severe sickness for over a decade. The bouts of illness continued to become closer and closer together and be more intense and last longer. I had several surgeries throughout the years when a doctor thought they had figured out what my problem was. None of the surgeries or medications or treatments ever kept the mysterious illness away for long nor did they fully treat the symptoms when I was suffering. I no longer had an actual LIFE…I was simply fighting to make it day to day. I was suffering from fatigue, insomnia, pain, anxiety and depression. If I had only know then that there was a plant called kratom that had been used by other cultures for centuries that would help with all my symptoms!!

At one point, I was even put on a strong dose of methadone for the pain and at that time, I believed that I should do as the doctor said. Being on that horrible medication was one of the worst things I have ever been through. It didn’t really take away the pain. It just changed my brain to the point I didn’t care about the pain. I didn’t care about anything. I decided to get off of the medication against my doctor’s advice and the withdrawals were worse than anything I could have ever imagined. I found out after the fact that the doctor had weaned my off the medication way too quickly. I was hospitalized twice while getting off the medication for severe dehydration as I couldn’t even keep sips of water down.  I never touched methadone again and according to one statistic I read, only EIGHT PERCENT of people do not relapse onto methadone. I thank God for my strength to get through the withdrawals alive and to never again let a doctor put me on such a destructive medication.

The problem was that after I decided to not take those heavy medications, I had no relief from the pain. Being in that type of pain with nothing to lessen it nor even a break from the pain really begins to take a toll on your mental and emotional state. I began having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. There were so many days that I am shocked I made it through. 

In my desperation, I remembered speaking with a customer at a former job I had worked for at a web hosting company. He had a website talking about a plant commonly called kratom that I had never heard of before. I remembered him talking to me on the phone about his story of living with chronic pain and his refusing to use opiates or other narcotics for pain management as he too saw there was more bad than good in using those medications. I was at a time that I didn’t have insurance and couldn’t have gotten back on medications if I HAD wanted to, so I decided to look more into this kratom he had mentioned.

When I first began my research, I really had very little hope it was even worth bothering with. I knew there were all types of supposed herbal help out there that were nothing but a waste of money. Without having that client tell me his story, I would have never looked into using kratom myself at all because I saw it sold at headshops and smoke shops as a legal high. But because this one man in his sixties was so convincing and his story was so interesting, I dug a little deeper.

Once I read about kratom from sites that were selling it as an actual holistic medicine and NOT marketing it as a legal high, I began to take a very different and hopeful view of the use of kratom. I learned it had been used in other parts of the world for centuries. I discovered that much like many other herbs that came from the east, the west just hadn’t been exposed to its medicinal properties. Kratom seemed much more like a completely natural solution to many of my symptoms without all the negatives that come with pharmaceuticals. After all I read, I wasn’t fully convinced it really was going to be the miracle treatment that many claimed it was, but I was convinced it certainly wasn’t going to hurt to give it a try.

In the beginning, I ordered a sample pack from a vendor that had good reviews and focused on using kratom as responsible treatment for illness and not as a legal high. When I received it, it was just kratom leaves that had been ground into a powder. Each different strain of kratom was a different color. I wasn’t exactly sure even how to take the kratom, so I began to research that. I finally settled on the “toss and wash” method which basically means you toss the powder into your mouth and then take a big drink of something to wash it down. It was awful! I was only using water to wash the powder down and the taste was terrible. Also the powder stuck together in clumps once it was wet and clung all over the inside of my mouth. I gagged slightly to get it down. Even though injesting it was not a good experience, within 20 minutes or so, I started to feel completely different. My pain was subsiding significantly and to my surprise I suddenly got a bit of a burst of energy and a mental desire to get up and get things done. I did not at all feel high or buzzed or foggy or any of those things you get from opiates. I simply got symptom relief and a mood and energy boost that felt like my old self!

Later that day, I took another strain that was described to be more relaxing and helpful with getting a good night's sleep. Sure enough, I actually slept through the night without waking in pain. I slept soundly and didn’t toss and turn. When I awoke, I actually felt rested and ready for the day…something I hadn’t felt for a very long time. I didn’t at all feel groggy or foggy like I had when I woke up after other prescription sleep medications my doctors had had my try. I was amazed at the results the kratom had given me, both in helping me get through my day and helping me get a good nights sleep.

I soon found out that I had NOT taken kratom in the best way possible. First I realized that simply using a much more flavorful drink such as orange juice to wash it down helped considerably. That still was unpleasant so I continued to look for other methods to ingest the kratom.  Eventually I ended up ordering gel capsules and a machine that allowed me to place the kratom powder into the capsules with very little effort and taking them just like I took any other medication or vitamin.  I found reputable kratom sites that also sold the powder already in capsules which was very helpful for the days I was so bad that I didn’t even have the energy or coordination to cap the pills myself. I also discovered there was a tincture that I found worked best if I took less capsules along with it and I was able to get the same or better results without filling my belly with so many capsules as my toleration is fairly high…unfortunately probably due to being on methadone for so long before. Many people get the same relief from their symptoms that I have taking much less than I need to take. Not taking the kratom every day also helps to keep one’s tolerance as low as possible which means you don’t have to take as much of any of the kratom products and that of course means you spend less to maintain the same wonderful results.

The reason I’m telling you my story is because I believe it is a story that might be able to help others. If someone else hadn’t told me their story, I would have never known kratom existed let alone would I have tried it and got some quality back in my life! Kratom truly is one of God’s miracle plants. It helps with so many different symptoms that people suffer from including pain management, stress relief, help with anxiety, help getting a good night’s sleep, and even help with withdrawal symptoms caused by stopping taking harmful opiates or even simply being out of the prescription opiates one may be taking. There are so many people out there that are suffering as I had been and either do not want to take addictive narcotics or have tried the narcotics route and still are not receiving enough pain relief.  I wish that I had discovered kratom much earlier in my illness and I hope by telling my story, someone else will lessen their own unnecessary suffering.

I have tried buying many different strains of kratom from many different vendors over the past couple years since I have been taking it for my symptoms. I found that you definitely want to avoid any site that markets the product as a legal high. I found the best product comes from companies that specialize in kratom and not sites that sell many supposable holistic medications. I found that to an extent you get what you pay for. That does not mean that the most expensive product is the best but it does mean that if you find kratom that is priced considerably lower than the majority of companies, you are going to get a worthless product. Of all the places I have purchased kratom from, is by far the best value of any company. Their product is consistently of the highest quality and consistently one of the cheapest for the superiority of the kratom they sell. Kratom infusion sells all the different varieties of kratom from the powder, to the tincture, to the pre-prepared pills, to the kratom teas. I have not yet tried the tea, but I have heard wonderful things about it and plan on trying it the next time I place an order.

My hope is that some of you that are reading this that are suffering from pain, insomnia, anxiety, and/or depression will take a chance and try kratom. Each strain varies slightly and each individual will find that some strains work better for them than others. Dosages of kratom also vary greatly from person to person. Someone who has taken opiates for their illness will probably find they need a much higher dose of kratom than someone who has not yet gone down that path.  It takes a little experimentation to find exactly which strain of kratom and which kratom product works best for you and your symptoms, but everyone I have known or talked to that has tried kratom has found a type and amount that relieves their problems better than any prescribed medication and without all the awful side effects of many doctor prescribed drugs. Doctors aren’t going to tell you about it because it is simply a plant that you ingest and it helps. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want anyone, including your doctor, to know that you can receive such wonderful results from a plant that does not even need to be chemically modified in any way. If you or someone you know is suffering, please take the chance and try using kratom. It is completely safe and totally natural. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I’m so glad I took the leap of faith and tried kratom for myself. It has literally changed my life from the depths of despair to the soaring rush of hope and possibilities.


Friday, January 10, 2014

What's New? My January 2014 edition.

"Hey, Dennis! What's new? What have you got going on? What will you be bringing us in 2014?"

I know most of you haven't been burning with desire to get the answers to these questions... but for the few of you out there who have asked... and as general information to everyone else... I'll answer them.

Well... I'll give you a couple of answers... for the rest you'll have to wait until further into 2014...


After a long journey... and several failed edits and versions... it looks like Wednesday will make its way to print and eBook in March or April of 2014.

S.K.Whiteside has crafted a beautiful cover for it and, well, I have to say I'm more than a little impressed by it.

There's a listing for it on Goodreads, and I've put up a few little teasers for it here and there but this is the 'semi-official' blurb...

When everything in life has been against you, who can blame you for not trusting or playing nice with others?

After all, no matter how much someone cares about you... they can only do so much... can only go so far... are your only real shot at coming out on top.

Sometimes reclaiming your life requires a body count.

-Wednesday Valentine

My best attempt, so far, to describe the piece is this:

"I don't think I've ever written a piece this vulgar... I keep telling myself: 'But... it's funny.'

It's like Boondock Saints meets The Professional... with a lot of hair dye and attitude..."

I'll attempt, yet again, for this post to define the piece... as best I can, anyway...

It's a violent cross-country ride with a hit-man and girl who never had a childhood, but never grew up. It's quirky, funny, violent, and emotionally raw. If that sounds like something for you, you should look for it soon.

Saturday Night To Infinity

After an even longer journey than Wednesday (that included complete format changes, and a film shoot)... it seems that Saturday Night To Infinity will bow its head as a novella and eBook in April or May of 2014.

Darryl Roosevelt provided some fantastic artwork and that artwork is being weaved into the cover design. It's coming along nicely, I believe. The concept art I'm posting here is a glimpse into the direction its headed. I hope you like it.

There's also a listing for this one on Goodreads, and over the last few years I've put up a lot of bits of it here and there (from Facebook to Blog, to discussions in interviews). This is the blurb for it...

"Time is all we have."

It’s the longest week of Andy Gordon’s life. Saturday night at midnight everyone for miles around dies, and only he knows why. How can he save countless lives when no one will listen to him?

The only help he has is Nora, a grad student in theoretical physics. Can they save everyone? Can they even save themselves?

I wrote the original draft of this piece in the spirit of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents or The Twilight Zone, but it really did grow with a mind of it's own.

I hope it looks like something you'd be interested in and I hope people enjoy reading it at least half as much as I did in finding the story (on its way to the page) for myself.

Also... as an aside...

I released a book on Tuesday, December 31st, to little fanfare... I'll throw some info up, tacked on the end, here... in case you were interested. 

The Last Day On Titan 5

This is my shortest piece to date, and it's Science Fiction. Allie Burke designed the cover art for me, and I'm pleased to report it turned out very well.

You can find The Last Day On Titan 5 here: Amazon or here: Goodreads

Charlie Atwood is all alone, and very, very far from home... 

The Titan 5 is the last of the Titan series of exploration craft, and Charlie Atwood is her last crew member. 

Buried under decades of routine, and assigned duties, Captain Atwood does his best to put all the negative out of his mind, and focus only on the positive - as little as it might be - as he endures the last day... on Titan 5.

The Last Day On Titan 5 is only 99 cents on Kindle... if you like short sci-fi...  give it a look...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Review - Inheritance: World of the Guardians

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The Blurb: 

“Talk about hell on earth…”

Sekhmet’s life was pretty good; you know for a goddess. Her job was simple – kill those that sought to go against the creator. It was a job she was good at but unfortunately got a little too carried away with when she almost single handedly wiped out mankind. For her penance she has spent the last thousand years serving as one of the Guardians; a group of immortals that protect mankind and led by the Goddess Isis – who kind of had her own anger issues. 

The Azura, a league of immortal bad asses, are literally trying to bring hell on earth and with it, Set – the banished God and ruler of the Makhaut. For the first time in history and with the help of the Makhaut, they may actually pull it off. Even the Guardians are at a loss.

In the Hail Mary of all attempts to save the world Isis, now going by Isira, sends Sekhmet to New Orleans, to find and protect the “Key” but when it is determined that a traitor lies among the Guardians, Sekhmet, now going by the name of Syn, is forced to seek help in the most unlikely of places…her least favorite person and fellow Guardian…Malachi.

What’s a former Goddess to do?

Oh yeah, kick butt and take names.

S.K. Whiteside has created a world of modern myth with roots in the ancient world, and she has done so in an unexpectedly marvelous way. My hat is off to artist and to the craft she used to take the idea behind this story to the actual reality of the pages. I was more than a little impressed.

The characters that drive this story, and are barely contained by it, are both larger than life and believable. No small feat. I understood their drives and passions, and still found their dialog impressive. 

This is not my normal "brand" of paranormal, but the characters made it easy for me to look past that. The Mythos and creatures presented aren't really my cup of tea at all, but I still found myself drawn on by this easy to read, hard to put down, page turner. It was at times fast paced, and contained easy to identify with language, emotions and attitudes. It's not often that I find myself as amused by, and attached to, characters in this genre... It really speaks volumes for the author. In short: this book is a wild ride, but one I felt was worth taking...  one I will gladly take again.

That being said... and in the spirit of honesty... I have to admit that I found Scribe (by the same author) to be a more satisfying read. This installment left me with a few unanswered questions... not big ones, mind you... but that took away, ever so slightly from the work, and makes my recommendation of Scribe all the stronger. Don't misunderstand, this book is a 4.5 star book... Scribe, though... 5+.

- Dennis Sharpe

Inheritance on

Inheritance on (Kindle or Paperback)