Overcoming 10.5 Months of Opioids is Not Easy

Jul 17, 2017 by

Overcoming 10.5 Months of Opioids is Not Easy

As a result of a chiropractic injury, I spent 10.5 months on opioids and the results of having been off them for almost four months now still afflict me.

On Friday the 13th, May, 2016, I went to what was then an unlicensed chiropractor operating in Mesquite, Texas. I did not know this at the time of treatment. I went in complaining of upper back pain. The man noted that my SI joint was out, too, and said he was going to make adjustments to my upper, middle and lower back. The next day, I was in so much pain, I could not drive to my daughter’s mother’s house to take pictures of the twins in their prom dresses. I returned on Monday, May 16 thinking my SI was out again and the pain was from that. It was not. The problem was from the treatments to my lower back.

A few weeks later, barely able to walk more than 20 yards without being in excruciating pain that required me to stop walking, I went to my PCP. She put me on hydrocodone and muscle relaxers. Nothing worked. I did PT. After three visits, the therapist said not to come back until after I’d had an epidural. This meant getting an MRI, seeing a spine surgeon, and a pain management doctor. The pain guy switched me off hydrocodone onto Nucynta. It didn’t work either. A month later I had a three-level laminectomy in my lower lumbar. This led to more meds and instead of stopping the pain, made it manifest in both legs, not just one.

My Sleep Cycle app graph from last night. After four months being off opioids, my brain is still affected.

My spine doctor wanted to do a fusion. But I also had a hernia he wanted repaired before he would operate again. In September 2016, I had two hernias fixed. Seeking a second opinion about spinal surgery, I went to a neurosurgeon who didn’t want me to have one and instead said we should test other options. This led to my being on Percocet and other meds.

Finally, in March of this year, the neurosurgeon put in a pain stimulator in my spinal column and buried a battery pack in my right hip.

In April, I took my last Percocet, having weaned from three per day to one-half.

It’s now mid-July and I’m still suffering the consequences of having been on mind-altering drugs for almost 11 months.

My sleep schedule is so erratic I have a hard time functioning. The Sleep Cycle app shows that my sleep is a mess. Naps are part of my day because I’m so tired constantly. Even with walking and a proper diet, I’m struggling to function.

I understand the need for opioids or pain-relieving drugs. The pain I’ve endured the past 14 months has been horrific. But the long-term impact of the meds is something I did not expect. I would like to be able to get a sound night of sleep. I would like to be fully functional again at normal hours of the day. But that’s not happening. When I saw my sleep doctor back in April he said it could take months for my brain to recalibrate. MONTHS. He was not kidding.

I have been walking in the mornings to get my brain used to seeing sunlight first thing in the day. By noon, most days, however, I am asleep again, sleeping more soundly than I did all night. This is a vicious cycle and I post this so that others can see the impact it can have.

I was lucky. I was determined to not become an addict of opioids. There are thousands of others who are not as strong-willed and who succumb to the need for meds. Some people are known to do dumb things so that doctors will be compelled to give them more—have you heard of these people who break bones in their hand with a hammer so they can get more opioids?

I cannot imagine getting to that point, but what I do know is what I continue to experience having been on these meds for so long. They have an impact on your mind that does not go away overnight. The opioid epidemic is real and it’s a problem that many people face.

And at this writing, I have yet to find an answer for the impact it has had on my brain.

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Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

Jul 15, 2017 by

Zelda Fitzgerald’s Parents’ Graves–The Sayre Graves

The graves of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents are in Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama.

The grave site of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s parents and family members in Montgomery, AL.

They are marked as #28.

They are not easy to find unless you know what you’re looking for.

How To Find The Sayre Graves

Oakwood Cemetery section. How to find the Sayre graves, the parents of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.

Heading east on Upper Wetumpka Road in Montgomery, go past the Montgomery Police Department and down the hill toward Alabama Public Television and Paterson Field.

The last three entrances to the cemetery are important. The third one leads to Hank Williams’ grave on top of the hill.

The first one, St. Ann’s Street, is the entrance to the section leading to the Sayres.

Once you pull in at St. Ann’s, take the first left onto Stella Street. At the first right, turn north on Clarmont Ave. and go up the hill. The first right near the top of the hill is also Clarmont, but go straight another 20 or 30 yards. Then stop.

Off to your left, three rows in, follow the path of Clarmont to the west. You will see several tall and full trees, and there are two obelisk-like markers to the west in the next row of the Sayre resting place.

Once you are three rows deep, turn to your right and the Sayre site should be to your left.

Clearly marked at the front of the site is a memorial marker to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, who are not buried there.

Photos of the Site

I’ve included photos of Minnie Sayre’s grave, as well as Anthony D. Sayre Sr’s resting spots. Minnie is buried on the far left and Judge Sayre is three graves to her right. Zelda’s brother Anthony Sayre Jr lies immediately to the left of the Judge.

Marker for F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in Montgomery, AL

The grave of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Fitzgerald.

Close up of the tombstone of Minnie M. Sayre, the mother of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, who was born in Montgomery, AL

The tomb of Judge Anthony D Sayre, the father of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, in Montgomery, AL



















Zelda, Almost Home

In June 2017, I made a short film about Zelda. The premise, what if Zelda returned to her hometown Montgomery as a ghost?

Thing is, the more I learned about Zelda and her haunts in Montgomery, the more it seems she actually does return to the city quite often.

July 24, 2017 will mark the 117th anniversary of her birth in the Capital City of Alabama.

Here is Zelda, Almost Home, available on YouTube. Music courtesy of Moby.


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The Barrowfields–Book Review

Jul 13, 2017 by

It’s taken longer than it should have but last week I read The Barrowfields by new author, Phillip Lewis. 

The book starts out a little slow, but once you immerse yourself in the story, and that becomes easier to do with each passing page, Lewis takes hold of you with his quality, rich characters.

I enjoyed this book and will read it again. There are not many on the New York Times Bestseller List I would say that about. It seems of late the publishing industry is all about a bang for the buck that lasts three weeks and no more. My pen-pal, Amor Towles, currently on the list for 32 weeks with A Gentleman in Moscow remains there because his book is of substance. Something someone will want to read again.

The Barrowfields is of that same ilk.

Lewis blends a rich knowledge of literature, books and North Carolina lore together for a superb recipe of a tale. He takes us through his father’s courtship of his mother and the relationship with his grandparents. Then we see the main character seek to recover from the events of home that linger. He seeks to escape his past but like none of us, is able to do so. It comes racing back into his life and he is compelled to deal with it.

I am an active reader so there are a few lines from the book I underlined as I read.

A beguiling optimism is often the first step toward folly. Page 29

“I write, because it’s one of the only things that seems real to me.  It’s the only way short of death to make time stop.” This was not a simplified explanation for a ten-year-old. This was his truth. Page 45

As a fellow writer, I understand the perspective of Henry Aster’s father about writing.

And I so much would like to meet a woman as grounded as Story. She was a dear and though she herself is dealing with her own familial emotional baggage, she makes the story come alive and enjoyable.

I encourage you to find the book and give it a read. It is one you won’t want to take to Half Priced Books in a three weeks along with your current Grisham, Clancy, Patterson, Steele and the like. No, you’ll want to keep this with your Towles and Lees and Patchetts.

This book also helped me with my own writing. The language is rich and colorful and immersive. I look forward to the next book by Phillip Lewis.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

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The Artist’s Way–Week 11

Jul 7, 2017 by

The Artist’s Way–Week 11

I’ve reached Week 11 of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. My life has changed tremendously in the past 11 weeks. I will tell you that. Probably more so than any stretch of time the rest of my entire life. The positive impact this book has had on me can scarcely be measured.

Everything You’ve Got

My twin daughters were visiting on Tuesday for the Fourth of July and the younger one, Haley, (by all of seven minutes) (Oh, and they turned 18 today) kept noticing and making fun of taped images I have at key places around the place. The note says, “Everything You’ve Got.” She was trying to be grammar queen on me and tell me it should be “Everything I Have,” but I’m not changing it.

The origin of the line comes from Ryan Gosling’s character Seb in La La Land when he’s talking to Mia outside the Griffith Observatory toward the end of the movie. She’s auditioned for the part in the Paris film and she’s asking him about what they’re going to do about their relationship and their chase for their dreams. Will he come to Paris with her or stay in LA and pursue his dreams while she goes to Paris to chase hers? He tells her, “When you get this part, you’re going to have to give it everything you’ve got.” He knows the importance for her of chasing her own dream, one that is not his own, and he knows the importance of chasing his dream. And to accomplish the dream, every dream, ones you and I have as well, that’s what it takes, “Everything You’ve Got.”

The Writer’s Path

There now are 24 days left for those of us in the final stages of The Writer’s Path Program at SMU. On Aug. 1 we turn in the first 15 pages of our manuscripts for blind-judging. Thirteen of us in the program will be selected to go to New York in November to meet with publishers and agents with the Big Five. The pressure is on. 

But what I have found by working through The Artist’s Way is that whether or not my book gets selected, it’s going to be okay. I’ve taught myself over the past 11 weeks that I am “a prolific writer and a great artist.” We were told to practice saying that allowed in one of the first few weeks. It was kind of hard to do at the beginning, without laughing that is. I’ve gotten better at saying it aloud over the past few months.

My art is an expression of the inner child who lives within me. The one who has been squashed, crapped on, booed, chided, beaten down, put down, insulted, and abused over the course of my life. All those words are being brushed aside because of TAW and what I’ve learned by reading the book, writing my morning pages every single day since I started them, and doing the chapter tasks.

Not Just For Writers

I told my daughter Haley the other night that she should start working in her own book. That it would change her life. Then she threw more wood on the fire of the past saying “I don’t want to be an artist. You’re always broke.” Ouch.

I’ve had a hard eight years of life and no, I’m not making as much money these days as I used to. But more importantly, emotionally and mentally, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. I’d trade that for lots of money and the problems that come with them any day of the week. Would it have been nice to have more disposable income? Without a doubt. My life would be even more drastically different had that been the case. But God has also used this opportunity to teach me much about life that I was missing.

I’ve never been much for material things. I want a reliable car, a roof over my head, my Macs, Canon camera equipment, and oil paints and canvases, a comfortable bed to sleep in, health care, healthy food to eat, and enough furniture to be able to sit in a chair and watch TV on rare occasions. The car is somewhat on the fritz right now, which is troubling, and income is shallow. But I have most of those other things and they’re helping me in my experience with life. They are helping me write my book. Two weeks ago I made my first short film on Zelda Fitzgerald. And because I’ve made changes in my food lifestyle, weight is falling off my body. My back injury the past year has hurt me in many ways and held me back. That issue is being addressed through legal channels.

What is most important to me though is how close I’ve grown to God and seen that God, as the great creator, created me, you and the world around me. He made the world in seven days according to the Bible, but he didn’t just stop creating then. He still does it today. And in me, he has given the ability to create new stories, new films, new colors, new paintings, new building designs, new whatever he and I can pair up together to dream.

That’s the satisfaction I have from 11 weeks of reading and working in The Artist’s Way. One does not have to be a writer, or a self-declared artist to gain something from this book, but I will almost bet anyone who follows it methodically, working one chapter a week and then doing all the exercises, writing the morning pages, and doing the weekly artists days will find such a dramatic change in their lives, they’ll never regret having invested the time.


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Zelda, Almost Home

Jun 27, 2017 by

My favorite shot in the short film, “Zelda, Almost Home.” The tunnel leading to Riverfront Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

The premise for the short film Zelda, Almost Home became quite simple: Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1900, lived a wild and tumultuous life with the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom she met in 1918. What if she came back today as a ghost?

The inspiration to shoot Zelda, Almost Home came from watching Vincent Laforet’s Reverie on YouTube. You’ll also notice there’s a hat tip to Damien Chazelle and his film La La Land— Zelda walks in front of a mural. Simon Cade from DSLR Guide has been a big influence and coach as well. (This is my first short film. I’m 51 years old.)

Come to find out, there are ample stories around Montgomery already to suggest the premise for this film is dead on. The halls of Baldwin Middle School are full of stories alleging apparitions of Zelda. As I talked with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum Executive Director Sara Powell last Friday, she had two more accounts, recent ones, as the museum prepares to open upstairs rooms as a bed and breakfast.

So as you read and watch the film, please know, it is grounded in much less fantasy as you might first suspect.

The Making of Zelda, Almost Home

One of the first things any viewer will note is the music, Almost Home, composed by Moby and used with permission from his website, MobyGratis.com. He offers free use of his material provided it’s used for purposes like this—non-commercial and creative expression.

The film is shot entirely in Montgomery, Alabama, June 22-25, 2017. And that is part of my commentary for shooting this, there are almost no films about Montgomery that are actually SHOT in Montgomery.

It is all shot with a Canon D60, part with a Nifty Fifty lens and part with an 18-135 mm. The camera for the most part is mounted on a Neewer Image Stabilizer. Shots from the car the camera was mounted on a tripod.

Shot List

The intersection of Zelda and Fitzgerald, Montgomery

The street sign at the corner of Zelda and Fitzgerald in Montgomery, Alabama.

The opening shot is designed to give homage to Montgomery for honoring Scott and Zelda, while also having our Zelda set the scene that she was full of life when she lived here. It is not hard to imagine the real Zelda spinning around her street sign with glee.

Five minutes after we left the scene, I drove back through and someone had called Montgomery Police to investigate what we were doing. A patrol car was sitting where I’d been parked and was using the lights of the car to light up the street sign.

Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum, Felder Avenue

The house on Felder is now a museum. They have a fascinating collection of Fitzgerald memorabilia and are open very day of the week except Monday for tours. And they are in the process of opening an upstairs suite as a bed and breakfast so those seeking inspiration for their writing or filmmaking can soon stay in the same rooms as the Fitzgeralds for nine months back in the 1920s. This is said to be the longest the two lived anywhere together. And it was the last place they ever lived as a family.

Winter Place, Goldthwaite and Mildred

It is often said that Scott and Zelda met at the Montgomery Country Club. But lore now suggests in fact that they met at Winter Place on Goldthwaite. Part of the tale goes is that Zelda’s daddy, Judge Anthony D. Sayre, who lived four blocks away, would not have approved of her being at Winter Place so saying they met at the country club was much more proper.

The McBryde-Screws-Tyson House, Mildred

Christian Lowry, the owner of the house, tells the tale that Zelda was friends with the girls who lived there at the time. He says Zelda used a ring she’d been given by Scott to carve their initials in a second story window. Mr. Winter, who owned Winter Place across the street, is said to have had a thing for Ms. Zelda when she was younger and so as an admirer, when McBryde-Screws-Tyson lie vacant, he sent men into the home to extract with window pane Zelda carved initials into.

The McBride-Screws-Tyson House in Montgomery, Alabama.

It is hoped, that since Mr. Winter was something of a pack rat, that as Winter Place goes through renovation, the original piece of glass will be found and hopefully returned to its rightful window.

But this is the sentimental importance of this shot in the film.

*I have been spelling McBryde with an I instead of Y. That’s now corrected on June 30, 2017 though I can’t change it in the YouTube post.

The Train Shed

There are stories about Zelda and the train shed in Montgomery. It was the prime way in and out of town for Zelda and Scott. But it is also said that she dressed down one day and walked around with a tin can seeking donations. News of this, of course, stirred Judge Sayre. Which is probably what it was meant to do.

The Riverfront Tunnel 

The Riverfront Tunnel has changed over the years. Only recent efforts by the city to bring night life back downtown have led to the amazing lighting in the tunnel. The colored lights and the depth of the shot make this one of my favorite scenes in the film. I thought about going back and having Zelda walk perfectly framed up the lighted tunnel but then it’d be too staged and too fashioned, something the true Zelda would not allow.

Tallapoosa Street

This is one of the apex locations in downtown Montgomery, connecting with Commerce Street, critical to the city’s past and present.

The Alley

Over the past 15 years, the Alley has really come to life as an attraction in Montgomery, and wherever there was a party in this town, well, it’d attract Zelda.

Tallapoosa and Commerce Statue of Hank Williams

The Hank Williams Statue is now the gateway into the Riverfront Park area of the downtown area.

RSA Tower Fountain on Dexter Avenue

David Bronner has built a series of buildings throughout Montgomery over the past 40 years. The fountain this Zelda is playing along wasn’t here when Zelda was, but like the real Zelda, my character couldn’t resist the temptation to play. And she really wanted to get into the water like the real one would have done, too.

Catoma Street view of Troy State

Troy State wasn’t located here back in the day, but is an important part of the downtown scene, connected to the Davis Theatre and across the street from the Jefferson Hotel where Scott and Zelda are said to have stayed, as well as being near the Rosa Parks Museum, which I believe back in the day was also the Empire Theatre, one of the first air conditioned places in the hot of the South.

Sunny Paulk Civil Rights Mural, Lee and Montgomery Streets

Hat tip to La La Land and having Emma Stone walk past the You Are The Star Mural. Montgomery has a beautiful Civil Rights Mural here and we just had to include it. Zelda was gone before all of that came to be and so it was fitting for her to just walk past.

Oakwood Cemetery, Plot 28, graves of Minnie and Judge Anthony D Sayre

The Oakwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama where the parents of Zelda Fitzgerald rest in peace.

There is a memorial plaque for Scott and Zelda, their daughter Scottie Smith, and Zelda’s parents, Minnie and Anthony D. Sayre in Oakwood Cemetery. When we arrived for shooting, the sunset was alive with color and emotion.

The first shot is Zelda mourning over the plaque. She then runs her hands over the stone above her father’s tomb. Out of love and emotion, the Zelda character in the film lies down on the stone above Minnie and puts her hand on Minnie’s name. By then it was too late to see, but the poignancy of should not be lost. Zelda would dearly miss her Momma for many reasons all of us would.

Old Alabama Supreme Court Building, Dexter Avenue

Justice Sayre served on the Alabama Supreme Court from 1909 to 1931. Zelda would visit this place and miss her daddy.

Zelda visiting the Old Alabama Supreme Court Building on Dexter Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama.

The Alabama Capitol

The Capitol is just a stone’s throw from the Old Supreme Court Building.

Chris’ Hotdogs, Dexter Avenue

Chris’s Hotdogs is 100 years old this year. I don’t know if Zelda ever went there to eat before she left town, but the odds are pretty good that she would have. They have served every sitting Alabama governor since they opened. It makes sense the lead Flapper Girl would have been a customer, too.

Court Street Fountain

Many a girl like Zelda has climbed the fence at the fountain to wade into its waters looking down Commerce Street toward the Alabama Riverfront and up Dexter Avenue toward the Capitol.

Sunroom window, The Fitzgerald Museum

The sunroom at the museum would hold special value to Zelda. Scottie, their daughter, wrote about its importance during the Christmas the family spent in the home. As a ghost looking back, she would totally take time to look into this room and remember the gem of joy they experienced there as a family for one of the few times ever.

The Museum at night, Felder Avenue

Day or night, the museum is a treasure of Montgomery.

My Own Zelda Ghost Story

So, the night before we began shooting, while walking up the drive to the museum, a white and tan cat came running out of nowhere and up to me. I am allergic to cats and don’t care for them. This one, as I was standing in the drive looking at shots, avoided my Zelda actor, (Angie Tatum Weed) and began curling around my legs. I finally said, “Hey Zelda!” and the cat stopped.



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Mesquite Summer Sizzle

Jun 11, 2017 by

Mesquite Summer Sizzle

Today in Mesquite, Texas, the city held their Summer Sizzle event in Paschall Park. The day wrapped up with a spectacular fireworks display.

To shoot the event, I parked my car at Mesquite’s Hodges Park and walked along the Butterfly Trail, which I walk daily during sunlight hours. To get a prime spot for shooting, I went up along the alley behind Paula Drive homes. At the end of the alley, I befriended Mark Almond and his family and set up two tripods, one for my Canon D60 and the other for my Canon XA10.

At 9 p.m. the show began.

Here is what I shot, combining the synced video from the two cameras. In Premier Pro I added a Lumetri Color (SL Blue Day4Nite (Canon 5d)) filter on the XA10’s video as it included way too much light–I didn’t realize the camera worked so very well in low-light. The D60 I purposely had stopped down so it wouldn’t over expose. I also upped it’s frame rate to 60 fps so there would be no progressive layering or bracketing in the playback.

I’d also used gaffer’s tape to fix my Handy 2 external mic to the XA10’s tripod. I’m happy and not with the audio because it picked up scared dogs at the beginning and then someone kept resetting their car alarm during the show, only for it to be set off again by recurring explosions.

All in all, I’m pleased with the output. I hope you enjoy it, too.



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