Lyme disease

Lyme disease ticks (CDC image)I live out here in New Mexico where I’ve never even seen a tick on one of my animals much less been bitten by one, so I’m not really familiar with Lyme Disease.  It seems, though, that if you live on the US east coast, you’ve been infected, and that motivated me to look into Lyme more.

What I have learned is scary, not because Lyme Disease is a killer, but because it isn’t.  No, Lyme is a stealth disease, one that sneakily steals health and erodes a life without ever intending to kill its victim.

Googling tells me that the CDC and NIH recommend a single course of antibiotics as soon as you can after the first symptoms of Lyme Disease appear.  If you get bit by a blacklegged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) that harbors Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme bacterium can persist in your body for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, while most people recover when treated with a few weeks of antibiotics, some don’t. Some don’t recover even after months of IV treatment.

Maybe the antibiotics that were used didn’t do the job for those who continue to suffer from the symptoms.  Or maybe there’s more going on — after all, there are 20 known species of Borrelia that can cause human illness. A tick can harbor two or more of them, passing them on to their human victim. Plus there are other non-Borrelia microbes that those ticks can generously share with you.

Or maybe there just weren’t any symptoms after being bit. Sometimes a person with a healthy immune system can harbor the bacteria for a long time and never display the obvious symptoms.  But the bacteria are there, spreading throughout the victim’s body to eventually become an inseparable part of his or her microbiome.

You don’t want more antibiotics, though.  Research shows that additional antibiotics don’t help people with lingering symptoms after an initial treatment. More antibiotics could make things worse rather than better. And to add insult to injury, the symptoms of chronic Lyme Disease are often incorrectly diagnosed since they could arise from many other causes.

Without a vaccine or a drug protocol that will work, right now the only thing you can do is to become generally healthier. This makes sense, given that chronic Lyme Disease is a whole-body issue. So the first step is to build up the immune system. This is the foundation upon which recovery is based for chronic Lyme and, in fact, for any health issue.

Building your immune system doesn’t mean you have to suffer!  Getting rid of symptoms won’t get rid of the disease, of course, but you don’t need to feel terrible while you’re dealing with getting healthier. Keep in mind though — healing takes time, particularly when your health has been worn down by nasty bacteria. Plus you may have other health conditions that compound the effects of Lyme Disease.

So start with this:

  • Clean up your act if you’re abusing yourself with drugs, alcohol, or too much social media
  • Get more exercise if you’re a slug
  • Get more quality sleep if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends
  • Eat healthy: more raw veggies and less meat, and of course cut out the junk food
  • Reduce unnecessary stressors, such as social media and political arguments
  • Become proactive about your health and care of your own body because you only get one and because you can’t expect others to care for it more than you do

It’s possible that with just the above you can reduce your symptoms and help your own immune system to deal with the Borrelia. You may not ever be free of it, but you might be able to live a normal, symptom-free (and by the way, healthier all around) life.

There are claims for alternative treatments for Lyme Disease. Google led me to the Buhner Healing Lyme approach. Will it work? I don’t know, but I like Stephen Buhner’s smile on his website. He reminds me of my brother-in-law, Jeff, who builds beautiful acoustic guitars.  I also liked the fact that Buhner tells you what the herbs are instead of making you opt in for anything.

Take back your life, my friends.  That’s my message for today.

Look but don’t touch

Cholla blossomSometimes when I get to feeling that maybe it’s a little too hard living here in my part of New Mexico, particularly at nearly a mile and a half above sea level, the land gently reminds me why I’m here.

Right now we’re all waiting, hoping, praying for rain.  Not too much rain, mind you, not all at once.  That’s a male rain and it leads to floods.  No, we want a daily dose of gentle female rain that soaks into the soil.

When it finally does rain it’s like a miracle how little it takes  for plants to respond.  It’s a desert phenomenon:  The air smells fresh, withered grass turns green in hours, flowers blossom overnight.

Everything is in a rush to attract, to reproduce.  We don’t get all that much rain.  Winters are long.  Strategies for survival are a necessity.

There are the hardy ones, the few plants that gamble on rain to come.  They get going early so they have longer to reproduce and, perhaps, to store up for the coming times of dry and cold.  There are seeds that germinate even though nighttime temperatures are still below freezing and daytime temps aren’t much above.  There are plants with tough stems that put out bits of green and even blossom early on, while the rest of the world is still dust.  Sometimes they die back and come back.  Tough plants for a tough climate.

But critters are desperate for moisture as well.  For every early leaf there is an insect or animal that lusts for fresh, moist, tender greens.  So plants have developed other strategies as well.  Around here it seems everything has thorns, needles, burrs,  prickles, or barbs.  Sharp ones that always end up in me.

They still have beauty, these tough plants.  It’s not always obvious, but it’s there.   I walk carefully through the sere grama grass that can slice the skin, and step around pale amaranth stems that appear so deceptively fluffy.  So intent am I on not getting scratched, pierced, and scraped that I almost miss it: the chartreuse of a fragile cholla blossom nestled in the midst of sharp cactus needles and the barbs of last year’s tumbleweed.

I am once again reminded why I am here.  I am blessed to be reminded every day that all I have to do is look and I will find beauty.  I am blessed to be reminded that treasures are most valuable when they are rare.

And I am so very thankful.

 

Love It or Leave It

Love it or leave it … or fix it.  Old Glory

Today is July 4, Independence Day in the US. Every town’s having parades, BBQs, fireworks, and concerts. Fishing derbies, flea markets, big box store sales, baseball games, you name it, whatever it takes to celebrate our country’s birthday.

It’s easy to succumb to feelings of pride in our nation on this day. After all, we’ve come a long way, baby. We owe it to ourselves to be proud.

On the other hand, many are not so proud today. Many are hungry. Many are in pain. Many are weeping while others are cheering as they wave Old Glory in the name of independence.

Many are angry, even as they put relish on their hot dogs.

This is as it should be.

Our country, the United States of America, is not a single organism. It is a group effort of many people who come from all walks of life, and who have different opinions about how things should work here. The US, when it is healthy, should be a bubbling, fermenting brew of thought, emotion, and striving for betterment. That’s a messy process.

Yes, on this day there is misery in the world. But history tells us that misery has always been part of the human condition. Our Declaration of Independence acknowledges it: “…all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

So yeah, people do put up with a lot. We want to live the good life. We are happy to be cruising along in our comfort zones.  We don’t want to think about problems. We don’t want to have to deal with our own problems much less anybody else’s. Experience tells us, though, that most people will tolerate only so much before they do something about it.

The US might not be perfect, but that’s because we’re human. We don’t live in a utopia; we live in the reality of 2018. Not everyone is celebrating, but we haven’t forgotten about them. The good news is that we citizens of the US are doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We have heaved ourselves off the couches of content and are paying attention to the problems.  We’ve rolled up our sleeves and we are slinging around the tools that will fix things: ideas.

Ideas are how it begins.

We do want to make things better, and in the US we are free here to work out how that will come about. We all have ideas about how to best go about fixing things and we’re free to have those ideas and to express them. We are free to argue with each other about the way we run the place, and then we are free to vote to make it so. Our form of government is messy, sometimes ugly, but that’s the nature of liberty.

This is, my friends, a big deal, and you betcha we’re celebrating. Tomorrow we’ll get back to work.

Rejected but not dejected

One good thing about getting enough rejections from agents and publishers is that after a while they don’t really hurt. Each new one is just another paper cut. I haven’t lost enough blood yet to swoon.

I swear, if an agent or publisher ever accepts one of my submissions I think I won’t even notice. I’ll just assume it’s another no. Gotta watch out for those kinds of expectations.

But anyway, I just wanted to talk a bit today about how we writers (and other creative types) deal with with rejection. I may not speak for us all, but I’m pretty sure how I react isn’t that unusual.

In the beginning I was shocked, incredulous that I got a rejection because I was so sure my work was way too fabulous for anyone to not love it and want it immediately.

So I had to get over that.

Then I got to where when I got a rejection I thought it was because my writing was no good.  That I was a crummy writer. This required a bit of mental judo, as I had to ignore the nearly two decades of being paid well to write non-fiction. I had to make myself believe that my fiction work was inferior — because if an agent or a publisher sent a rejection that’s what it must mean, right?  Even though that’s not logical thinking, that’s where I went.

That wore off after a while, sometimes within minutes, sometimes much longer.  Then I’d get pissed off about getting a rejection. It doesn’t take a mental giant to see that a lot of what gets published is pretty awful. My work was definitely better than that schlock. And I’d show those publishers.  Someday I would get published, and then those dummies who passed on my work would be really, really sorry.

Maintaining a perfect state of pissed-offness is energy intensive and depressing so inevitably I”d move on to vowing to never write again. As if that were possible. Okay, maybe I just wouldn’t write fiction anymore. Maybe I’d go back to working under contracts to write for others. I’m pretty sure that road’s still open to me.  But I don’t want to write what other people want me to write anymore. Nope. Not happening.

Inevitably after a bunch of moping around and self-flagellation, during which time I’d torture myself with visions of a life empty of purpose and passion, a brilliant idea would smack me between the eyes, an idea that would not be denied. I’d drop everything to capture it, scribble on a pad holding a flashlight in my teeth in the middle of the night, sit in front of the computer all day long till my eyes wouldn’t focus and my fingers were about worn off. Taking what I learned from the rejections and fixing…

Whoa there. Wait a minute. That last bit… the learn from part. NO! That’s not how it goes. You know why? Because getting rejected doesn’t teach a writer anything. Rejections aren’t necessarily about the writing at all.  IMO they are all too often about the fact that a whole bunch of agents and publishers only think they know what they’re doing.

Yup. That’s not just sour grapes on my part (well, maybe a little sour). You don’t have to take my word for it. You can prove it for yourself. Meanwhile, consider my reasoning.

First of all, let’s start with the fact that agents and publishers all have slightly different query requirements. Why is this? After all, it’s a time sucker and a real drag for writers who want to get on with writing the sequel to their novel.  Writing summaries of a book requires special skills. Writing query letters to successfully sell a novel to an agent or publisher is made nearly impossible because that special skill requires being able to read minds.

What? Yes, that’s right, reading minds. I’m sticking my neck out here, but seems to me that much of the blame for unsuccessful queries is on the people who supposedly are the experts, the ones who’re going to market those books, the agents and publishers who don’t bother telling authors exactly what they want to market. So when a writer (me, for instance) hunts for an agent or publisher to query, we have to intuit, or guess, or consult a Ouija board, to figure out whether the manuscript is a fit for that agent or publisher. Or just send out query after query, racking up the rejections.

Check it out for yourself by reading your rejections, which no doubt you’ve saved. Don’t they all say the same thing basically? Don’t they use phrases like not quite what we’re looking for right now and the fit was wrong?

Excuse me?  Not quite what you’re looking forHow could that be? I’m sure I’m not the only writer who obsesses over what agents and publishers are looking for. I don’t need waste my time querying anybody who isn’t looking for what I’ve written. And yet in the end, isn’t that what I’m doing? Spending valuable time querying when I could be writing a book?

Only to get rejected?

Could it be… the [gasp]  [drum roll] “Rowling Syndrome”?

You probably know that the author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series received 12 or so rejections for The Sorcerer’s Stone. That’s no record. Many famous authors have received more.

Rowling gets to have the syndrome named after her (by me, I just dreamed it up) because when she sought to publish the first book of her Cormoran Strike series under the pen name, Robert Galbraith – after selling millions of copies in her Harry Potter series — one rejection letter actually recommended that she take a writing course. And even more amazingly, the publisher who first turned down Harry Potter also rejected Cormoran Strike — and did so rudely.

Wait — how could this be? Why would anyone have rejected a manuscript that must have been clearly marketable?

To be fair, publishers and agents get overwhelmed by the queries. There’s an art to prognosticating best-sellers. The public is fickle, tastes change quickly these days, and it’s a long process getting a book from agent query through to hitting the shelves (or Amazon!). What everyone wanted to read then might not be what they want to read now. I get it that’s it’s not easy. Particularly when the author is new.

So sad, too bad. Letting a best-seller slip away is still an agent’s own fault.

This is a rule of life: If you can’t articulate your desires accurately then the odds are high that you won’t get what you want. If the queries an agent or publisher receives are not quite what they’re looking for, perhaps they are the ones who haven’t made it clear what they want. If you’re a writer you’ve probably been as frustrated as I am at how some agents (particularly the new ones) ask for such a broad range of genres that they’re obviously just chumming for a best seller.

So okay, no point in getting dejected that I haven’t found my agent or publisher yet. I have to believe I will find them and they’ll be way better than the ones who’ve rejected my work so far. But still.  If I was more into burning my bridges, I’d send replies to those rejections, suggesting that perhaps taking a writing course would help. I’d thank them for reviewing my query and tell them I was sorry they didn’t fit my novel’s needs.  And that maybe if they wrote better descriptions of what they want on their #MSWL Manuscript Wishlist they’d get better queries and have more successful sellers.

But I won’t, of course. I’ve still got to cross the bridges and it’s stupid to scorch my own feet.  Where is that confounded bridge anyway?

#amwriting

April Snow

Snow at dusk in April

It had been a brutal day, a hard edged wind coming from the north and cutting through the many layers she wore.  Even when the sun broke through the heavy clouds it was cold, cold for late April.  But here in the mountains of New Mexico weather was like that.  Nothing unusual at all.

For a brief moment at sunset a rosy golden light limned the mesa top, gone as quickly as it had come.  She smelled rain, but there was nothing yet to moisten the dust and the struggling grass that was already turning gray with thirst.  It would come, though, she knew it.  If she could smell it, it would come.

She built a fire in the wood stove, smiling at the fancy she’d had that she was done building fires till next fall.  She settled into the evening, waiting.

The wind stopped.  The world held its breath.  Silently fluffy white flakes drifted down into the dusk, covering the branches of the apple trees that were only this morning braving the first bright green leaves of spring.

The rape of a state

Viewscape pollution - hundreds of wind turbines

Is this really fighting climate change? Or is it just more pollution of a different kind?

I read an opinion article in the Albuquerque Journal this morning, New Mexico out in front on wind power, by Kevin Robinson-Avila.  It made me want to weep.

It seems to me that selling the world on the idea of creating green energy asks us to focus on “green” while minimizing the full cost of increasing energy production.  As if the only important point was that the energy comes from the sun or the wind.  Can we afford to believe that the true cost can be measured solely in dollars that yield immediate energy gain? 

I mean, look who’s selling us the idea: corporations that make big (subsidized!) bucks for creating energy in the name of “sustainable energy”, or “fighting climate change”.  Green energy promoted by oil companies?  By for-profit corporations that have been set up just to create wind farms?  Corporations that are so well known for their interest in saving the environment? Uh huh. 

Here’s the question I have: is “green” energy really green? What are we really being sold?

What’s really going on?

The blind rush to develop wind power in the Land of Enchantment dwells on the wonderfulness of “green” energy and how much money would come from from it. But where is the consideration for the long-term impacts of thousands of square miles of wind farms and transmission towers on residents? Where is the discussion of the impacts on the wildlife of our vast grasslands that will be forced… where? To live in a forest of wind turbines? Or to die, because all their habitat has been stolen?

Where is the disclosure of what covering the open land with wind farms will do to New Mexico’s beauty? Not just the views, but the noise.  A pollution of a whole other sort.

When do we see any analysis of the impact on tourism? I mean, really — who will want to drive around a place where most of what they see looks like New Jersey? (sorry NJ, but my memories of you are of lots of towers and wires everywhere).

Where is the discussion of the non-monetary costs of “green” energy and what these projects will truly do to (not for) our state?

Because forget NIMBY*.  Let’s talk benefits.

Simply speaking:  What do New Mexicans get for giving up what makes our state unique?  I’ll tell you what: not much.

First, let’s remember that most, if not all, of this energy is going out of state. Second, let’s remember that the building rush may require lots of workers, but will they be New Mexicans? Will New Mexicans only be offered the lowest-paying grunt labor?  Third, after construction the only jobs will be in maintenance, and that requires hardly any workers.  We are talking dozens, not thousands of jobs — and will New Mexicans be hired for those jobs or will the corporations send their own trained workers?

Fourth, fifth, and on to infinity, let’s never ever forget to follow the money.  These wind farms proposals are put forth by energy resellers.  They get subsidized to construct wind farms on public land, they get tax breaks for generating green energy, and they turn around and sell the generated energy… to other resellers in other states.  Little, if any, of that energy gets used in New Mexican homes.  Little, if any, of that money winds up in New Mexican coffers.

RIP Land of Enchantment

Land of Enchantment? Let’s also remember that when you fill all the open space with wind turbines and transmission lines, it will no longer be enchanting. It will be the Land of Ugly. And it will still be the Land of the Poor, because most people (including me) feel that caring for the environment, as well as for the greater good of humankind, and for our lovely state, should be a selfless thing, and such people don’t understand that the LLCs and corporations aren’t selfless, but rather are greedy.

And greed, taken to the extreme, is a kind of evil.  To quote a favorite author of mine, Mercedes Lackey in her book Arrow’s Fall, “…evil is a kind of ultimate greed, a greed that is so all-encompassing that it can’t ever see anything lovely, rare, or precious without wanting to possess it.” 

Or, I might add, to exploit it.

It really is sad.  It makes me want to weep.  Our lovely New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, is being raped. Yes, I use that word.  Rape is using force to take what is not being offered.  We want green energy, but are we really offering all that is beautiful and uniquely ours, offering our wildlife habitat, our peace and quiet — everything we love?  Pressure is on us to give in.  To give it all up.

It’s rape all right.  And it seems most everyone is telling us we should relax and enjoy it.

Wind turbines against a sunset sky

Is this the Enchantment you had in mind?

 

*NIMBY = Not In My Back Yard.  Because many New Mexicans would be literally surrounded by these wind farms.  Not just back yards, but in side yards and front yards.  For miles and miles and miles.

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The Mother of Invention

A fabric wall hanging being worked onNo, I don’t mean Frank Zappa, not that he and his Mothers aren’t worth a listen.  But discovering that you don’t have what you need when you’re at a quilting retreat far from anywhere doesn’t mean it can’t happen there.

We’re sewing in a restaurant.  Long story… READ MORE

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I’m over there!

I finally went live with my Patreon Creator account after a lot of dilly-dallying about it.  Asking for money to support my creative efforts was a high bar for me to leap.  I bashed against that obstacle for a year before finally just hurling myself over it because… after some point it’s either put up or shut up.  It’s part of the creative process, this money thing.  It’s not about starving artist, it’s about validation.

Believe me, many artists would rather be validated than eat.  Chocolate or approval of my work… chocolate or approval of my work…  

Please, take my chocolate.  It would be a fine thing if you went over to Patreon and gave me a thumbs up with your patronage.  Thank you!

The one solution that’s not been tried

Female Mexican wolf

A female Mexican gray wolf, seen upon her release in Arizona in 1998 as part of the federal reintroduction program, eventually died in captivity. (Source: Arizona Game And Fish Department)

The Mexican wolf program is supposed to reintroduce wolves to the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico. In my opinion, the project been doomed to failure from day one, but that’s a topic for another day. What I’m considering today is the one approach to management of Mexican wolves that’s never been tried, the one approach that actually might have a good chance of succeeding. The one that’s never going to happen, not in today’s world.

That is, stop messing with the wolves.

Really. Leave them alone. Wolves have absolutely no problem breeding and spreading out in any area that’s suitable for them. The government’s given them the place, so now why not give them a chance to do what comes naturally?

Wolves are intelligent. They’re highly successful apex predators that live and hunt in close-knit groups called packs. In the wild, packs are stable hierarchical structures, with an alpha male and female that typically mate for life. Pups grow up with pack members teaching the young everything they need to know about how to be an apex predator. When they’re old enough, young wolves move out of the pack to join other established packs or create new ones. Mother Nature (time/natural selection) has cleverly created a perfect system to ensure species survival — genetic diversity and increasing population are achieved through the reward of a highly social life for pack members and a higher chance of survival for individuals. And intelligence. Did I mention that wolves are smart?

Mother Nature knows best. But for twenty years the Mexican wolf program has done it’s best to ignore the nature of wolves. For twenty years the program has done everything possible to create dysfunctional packs.

And people wonder why the program has been so unsuccessful.

Consider this: The very things that it takes to make for cohesive, successful wolf packs — packs being the very heart of wolf survival — are all disrupted by the management practices of the Mexican wolf program.  Maybe the reason the program has such poor results is because the program is driving the wolves crazy.

Breeding animals are chosen by the program for their genetics, instead of by wolves who lead packs. Here is a species where alpha pack animals usually mate for life — but the Mexican wolf program doesn’t give their breeding animals that option.  Some of them don’t even get to mate.  Semen is harvested.  Females are inseminated.

Wild wolves don’t examine each other’s genetic makeup before bonding.  They prove themselves within the pack structure, they lead by having the right disposition and skills, and they breed because they have proved their suitability through doing.  There is more to individual, pack, and species success than a biologist’s determination of ideal genetic structure.  Success in the wild depends on brains and the strength of a pack.

There are no packs for captive breeding wolves, so the wolves that are transferred to the wild from captive breeding programs have not been educated to hunt.  They haven’t been educated, actually, in any way to be normal mentally healthy wolves.  Humans can’t give that to wolves.  Only wolves can.  But the wolves are ripped away from any familial type relationships they might manage to develop.  If they are lucky enough they’ll be dumped into the wild with other “genetically suitable” wolves that aren’t necessarily pack members.  But they will still need to fumble their way to a successful hunt (for how do they learn to hunt in captivity?) in strange country they have not been raised in and for prey of a type they may never have encountered before.  And on top of that, they are trespassers in the territory of another pack.

Then, supposing they survive — meaning they haven’t started hanging around humans for a handout, or killing livestock or pets — the wolf program never allows wolves to gradually get wild.  No, they’re trapped every few years to be vaccinated, to have physical exams, and to have their tracking collar batteries changed if they’re going to be left in the wild.  Or they’re moved to a different pack that biologists have determined would be better, or taken back to captivity to be used for breeding.  Whatever happens to them, they are handled by humans, fed by humans, and the wolves get used to being around humans.  They lose their fear of humans — if they ever had any to start with.

Mexican wolf pup born in captivity, the result of artificial insemination

A three-week-old Mexican gray wolf pup, born as a result of artificial insemination.  \ ENDANGERED WOLF CENTER

If they’re born in captivity, they’re handled and fussed over.  They’re usually raised in facilities that let humans come and view them.  And the wolves view back.  What natural, healthy fear will a grown wolf have if it has grown up being carried around by humans as a baby?  What will prevent a grown wolf from seeking out the first “pack” they knew — the company of humans?

The worst thing that has ever happened to Mexican wolves is the Mexican wolf program.  

I just wish they’d put the whole program on hiatus for ten years.  Or forever. Stop capturing them to vaccinate, change collar batteries, give them physical exams. Stop raiding dens and planting pups that are the result of captive breeding programs.  Stop releasing wolves.  If wolves are trapped or removed from the wild because they are livestock-killers, or they’re nuisance wolves (meaning they hang around humans) then put them in captivity and never ever release them into the wild again.  Just stop it all.

It’s been 20 years since this fiasco of a program was started.  If wolves haven’t managed to thrive in the wild by now, maybe it’s because of the wolf program.  Maybe if the one approach that’s never been used was taken — leaving wolves alone to develop naturally — the Mexican wolf population might not just grow, but thrive.  Maybe if mentally healthy individuals were allowed to form functional packs without human intervention, livestock killing incidents would go down on their own.

Maybe all it would take for Mexican wolf reintroduction success would be to allow wolves to become wild and mentally healthy on their own.

But we will never know, because too much money is made off the Mexican wolf program. Agencies wouldn’t get their funding. The lawsuit-crazy enviro groups would have nothing to sue about, and couldn’t appeal to the public for more donations.  Follow the money.  It always tells you where the problems are.  RIP Mexican wolves, the least important factor in the Mexican wolf program.