Category Archives: health

Health and wellness

Let’s just give everyone a gun…

and go out in the street to shoot at each other.

I am so fucking angry about the way our country has treated the firearm issue.  NOBODY in a free and peaceful nation needs an AR-15 or AK-47 rifle.  NOBODY.

NOBODY in a free and peaceful nation needs a large-magazine handgun.  NOBODY.

Our second amendment is valid.  We need our ability to quickly raise a popular militia.  But we do NOT need citizens keeping multiples of military-style weapons.

Paddock was NOT to blame for the Las Vegas massacre.  Paddock was sick.  A seriously sick individual who was able, easily, to acquire an arsenal of dangerous weapons.  Did Paddock need these weapons?  No.  Did anyone suspect that Paddock had such an arsenal?  No.

I don’t care if you’re Jesus Christ himself.  You have no right, no reason, no cause to possess such weapons.  I’m sorry, but I’m a Christian first.  I’m an American but I’m a Christian first.  Love & tolerance is our code.  We lay down before our enemies.  We rely on God.  We are strong because we have faith.  Period.

I will stand up against ANY person who owns a firearm and claims to be a Christian.  Own a gun or be a Christian.  You decide.  Fuck you.  You can shoot me while I bear witness to the power of Peace.

I’m not armed and I don’t want to be armed.  I don’t need a primitive weapon to know I’m strong.  Bring it.  My faith is a LOT stronger than whatever you think you get from a fucking gun.

If you’re male, this is especially addressed to you.  We don’t need guns to be good sons, fathers, husbands or grandfathers.  In fact, those of us who really care have no guns at all.  I would much rather be the grandfather who never had a gun and taught his grandchildren to never give in to this insane gun culture.

 

 

New info on Irma

The storm has steered due west across the northern coast of Cuba, enough so that much of her uplift mechanism is currently over dry land.    Will likely reduce both windspeed and rainfall forecasts for this evening.  I still believe, though, Irma will regain Category 5 strength before her Sunday landfall on the Florida Peninsula.  Folks on the Southwest side of Florida and the Gulf barrier islands – from Ft Myers Beach north to the north side of Tampa – should already be gone.  I think the impact along the Ft Myers coastline will be the worst they’ve seen there is more than 100 yrs.

 

 

Strong Storm for Florida

From what I can see in the forecasts, Hurricane Irma will resume her Cat 5 status as she crosses the warm water of the Gulf Stream and the Florida Straits.  If she steers West up the western coast of Florida, then all the more reason she will reach some high windspeed records.

But I don’t think the storm will cross the really susceptible parts of Florida.  Miami, Ft Lauderdale, the SE coast.  This is an intense, well-developed hurricane with extremely dangerous wind.  When she strikes the Florida peninsula, I predict there will be wind gusts above 200 mph.  If you think the theme parks at Orlando are such a big deal, please go now and write a check to the American Red Cross.

Irma’s a nearly picture-perfect repeat of Hurricane Andrew; but with some important differences.  Andrew came ashore as a force 5 storm in South Dade County and caused such significant loss of property and life over Homestead Air Base, the reports and post-storm imagery were simply devastating.  Unfortunately, FEMA was barely an agency confronted by a huge loss of life.  There are many, some maybe credible, accounts of US Govt responders (FEMA) burying the dead in mass graves.  Estimates of life lost in Hurricane Andrew range from about 1,000 to well over 10,000.

But FEMA is a fully legitimate (and accountable) federal agency now, and we have many more ways to insure credible response from FEMA and other important disaster relief agencies.  Our gross response to Irma is phenomenal and very well coordinated.  Federal response is exceptional and appropriate.  FEMA, Red Cross, and state agencies in Florida are wayy ahead of the tragedy this storm COULD inflict.

We gotta remember the people of Florida confront at least one big storm every year.  Many years 3-4 big tropical storms.  Public preparedness and planning, unlike in SE Texas, is taken very seriously and it’s much more effective than the government planning in Texas.

Still.  I do think Irma will make landfall, as a category 5 cyclone, on the SW tip of the Florida, and will remain a dangerous Category 4 storm as her center moves up the western half of Florida.  Onshore flows (storm surges) may not be as strong as those predicted for the eastern side of the peninsula; but winds surrounding Irma’s eyewall will be ferocious.  Remember, this storm was making windspeeds of 225mph as she traversed Puerto Rico – and she still has the Florida Strait (with very warm water temps) before we see her come ashore.

If I were in Miami, Ft Lauderdale, or Tampa, I’d be inclined to hunker down.  Run from water, stay for wind.

Ft Myers, though, or the barrier islands to the West, I’d already be gone.  Sanibel Island, for example, might be completely scraped.  I’m all for that, so long as life isn’t lost.

Y’all folks at Ft Myers and Sanibel Island, get your feet down deep in the sand!  If you’re gonna stay, then stay strong.  When the building disintegrates, find the lowest place you can and stay low.  It’s gonna blow.  Keep your love, tolerance and faith FIRST-most in your minds.  Gather up water, hunker down in safe places TOGETHER, be kind and care for each other no matter what, and be safe.  Remember our story of Noah and his Raven.  This too shall pass.

 

Prayers from a prayerful church of God,

Steven Milstead

Many prayers needed

Please step aside this evening, perhaps light a candle, and pray for the people of SE Texas.  Many of my friends there, people I’ve cared for and worked with more than 30 years, are without their homes tonight.  The water damage at Fulton, Rockport, Aransas Pass and Port Aransas, is not that bad.  But the wind damage is extraordinary.

Unless I have reason to go elsewhere, I intend to fill up my car with food, water and blankets, and go to Port Aransas on Friday.

I just saw the Port of Corpus Christi remains closed.  That means there are, literally, hundreds of ships at sea lined up to go into the port.  As a nation, we need that port open and we need the adjacent gasoline refineries up and running.

Safety comes first, though, and I am duly impressed by the emphasis Texas has placed on rescue, recovery and safety.

A magic time

Life really DID seem to be a fairytale.  I was living with the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known, in an old magic adobe house, just above the river.  Our road would take you down along our river, through its canyon, until you reached the John Dunn Bridge on the Rio Bravo.  Our Rio Hondo joined the Bravo just below that bridge.

I painted two of the best things I’ve ever done during that period.

I learned that magpies are not all they’re cracked up to be, though watching them frequently cracked me up!

Arroyo Hondo Community Center

I’d never experienced anything like the singularities we had in that relationship, or the  “matched hearts and minds” we had.  I’d never met anyone even remotely like her.  It was certain I’d found my “soulmate”.  She stunned me and said she felt the same way.

Right by the sign that says, “Beware of Rattlesnakes”
Poplar logs left on the truck bed to dry/cure
Right down the street from our old house.

She took me camping and re-introduced me to outdoor life.  She insisted on certain diet constraints.  When I followed her example I felt better.  When I listened to her and followed her lead, I was healthier.

What a spectacular and precious spot! We had this entire alpine meadow to ourselves. Prettiest place on Earth.
Mia holds off the impending stampede!
Our awesome campsite next to the Rio Costilla
House at Hondo
Where I lived with her almost a year on the Rio Hondo north of Taos. The adobe structure is over 100 years old.

She taught me to cook better food with less; to split logs with an axe and heat our home with a wood fire; to compost and to do all our laundry as simply and contentedly as possible, then hang it to dry outdoors.

I don’t know if we would have survived as a couple, had I not had an alcohol relapse, but I’d like to believe we might have.  I’ve never felt more in love or more admiration/respect for a partner.

I did so many wrong things to her ,though, and behaved so badly around her, I now owe her a huge debt of gratitude I will never be able to repay.

I used her to feel good about myself – when my whole life had fallen apart.  I told her I was a non-smoker then immediately started smoking when I felt secure with her.   I was frustrated and angry over the way my life had played over the last few years, and I directed much of that frustration and anger at her.  I abused her, and the beautiful setting of her home – a wonderful, clean, natural and spiritual place – to consummate a crash into depression and relapse of my alcoholism.  Last Winter was the worst thing, the worst terror and behavior, the worst darkness of my alcoholism; a time when I was 100% out of character and lost – manipulative, mean and dishonest.  I am not proud of, and will always regret, the way I treated my soulmate – a gift from God whom I abused horribly.

My biggest amends to her is to simply stay sober and stay out of her life.

She taught me things about the world and the wilderness that I’ve since relied on.  I’ve since gone out to the high mountains with little more than my tent, sleeping bag, and small stove.  She showed me how.

But I will never see her again.

When it starts to really hurt, this stuff about my son, and I start to cry, she is the one I first think of – the one I most wish was in the room.  The next several months, without her help and guidance, may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done by myself.

That’s just how I feel.  People tell me to just say what I feel and stop – before I go adding language, logic and persuasion.

The Dalai Lama has said, “contented abiding is our highest form of meditation.”  I have practiced this and know it to be true.  It’s hard to feel contented, though, when you’re abiding the disintegration and death of you child.

 

Tribute to a Man Far Bigger than Me

My oldest son, Martin, has been an outgoing and caring man his whole life.  He has served his community as a peace officer, and his country as an active and motivated soldier.  He is well known and very respected in Lubbock TX, where he’s helped so very many people.

A little over two years ago, Martin underwent an aggressive double-knee replacement.  He was unable to stand or walk for an extended period.

About 18 months ago, Martin showed up at the emergency room with two large blood clots in his lungs.

That was the last I heard from Martin for over a year.

He had been diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called “Factor Five Leiden Disorder”, which causes his body to constantly create blood clots in deep veins (DVT’s), mainly in major muscles, that travel through the vascular system to become lodged all over the body.  He and his doctors have now been fighting the disorder for more than a year.  While the disorder is not always fatal, a lot depends on early diagnosis and treatment.  Martin had already had two pulmonary embolisms by the time he sought treatment.

He did not want the rest of our family to know the gravity of his illness, mainly because of his own powerful will to live and overcome, and partly because he knew how hard it would be for us to see his condition first-hand.  He didn’t want us to see him as the disease progressed and they attempted all kinds of chemical & medical solutions, always hopeful and always positive, but filled with risk and further destruction of his body.

Finally, though, Martin called last week and revealed his doctors had given up and told him he has little time to live.  We were stunned.  We’re still stunned and trying to accept.  Even then, he insisted we not go to Lubbock or try to seem him; but family is family and my mom and I needed to see him.

We went anyway, against his wishes, and have been there several days as he transitions to hospice care.

I was stunned by the condition in which I found my son.  He is covered with blue & purple lumps  – clots moving along veins and arteries – and looks like he’s been beaten with a bat.  These life-threatening DVT’s (Deep vein thromboses) are extremely painful.  Martin now has significant clots in his lungs, brain, and other vital organs.  Doctors are using huge amounts of blood-thinning medications and painkillers, mainly large doses of Fentanyl, to keep him comfortable and buy time with his vascular condition.  He’s developed tolerance/resistance to all of the opiate drugs.  Luckily, there are 2-3 more (even stronger) synthetic opiates that will help as he becomes resistant to the Fentanyl.

He now has life-threatening clots in his lungs, heart, and liver.  Many muscles have failed.  About 30% of his skin has died from lack of blood flow.  It looks like shingles, but it’s even more painful.  Martin’s blood is black as coal.  He’s lost use of his right arm/hand.  He shakes uncontrollably because of the blood thinners and Fentanyl.  He experiences inappropriate or inaccurate emotional responses, like an alzheimer’s patient, because of the location of the clot in his brain.  It is hard for him to put together a sentence, as speech is also impacted by the clot in his brain and the medications’ effects.  He may lose his speech entirely as more clots develop and heavier medications are employed to keep him comfortable.

Martin told me Wednesday morning he’s tired of fighting.  He’s fought with all his (significant) might for over a year.  He’s done.  He’s made his peace with a God of his understanding, he remains dedicated to his AA sobriety, and he will continue to do everything he can to help others; but he’s done with the fight, the pain, and his diminishing ability to be of service.

Even now, though, when his Army National Guard unit is called up for training, presentation, or combat assignment; Martin shows up in his wheelchair, in full uniform.  I’ve never known anyone in my life more worthy of the flag/armband he wears, an image of the little Cannon at Gonzales and the words, “Come and Take It.”

Martin is an adored member of his unit, the police forces he served, and his community.  We got out to a restaurant for lunch on Wednesday and complete strangers came up to him all through our lunch to thank him for his service and his attitude, some asking for autographs.  He’s been on Lubbock TV several times.

Martin has always had the gifts of enthusiasm for life and caring for others.  Even now his smile shines through the pain and disfigurement, and his message is unmistakeable:

“There is nothing we can’t do, no pain we can’t overcome, no hardship we can’t endure, so long as we have a God of our understanding who’s there by our side.”

Martin has stood with the teams of Texas Tech University and given this message to stadiums full of people.  He’s drawn praise and commendations from the highest military leaders in the nation.  Deployed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan confide in him and send prayers.

It wasn’t until early this morning, 48 hours after we were together, that I realized I had sat with him in awe, unable to speak.  I hadn’t said a word during our time together, except to put my arms around him and tell him, “I love you and I am so so very proud of you.”  I’d gone to Lubbock expecting to experience a lot of dread, sadness, and pity.  The likelihood I would be losing my first and much-loved baby stood strong in my heart.  I didn’t know how to deal with it, how to confront it.  But Martin showed me the way.

I left Lubbock a couple days later with Martin’s message that we rarely suffer long without God’s intervention – and the indelible image of his smile.  He is not my baby anymore.  He is not my boy anymore.  Instead, he is God’s man.  A man who has changed people’s lives.  An exemplary man.  A lover and a warrior in every sense.

I am awed by, grateful for, and filled with admiration for my son’s spiritual fortitude.  He is far ahead of me, spiritually, with his acceptance and constantly-renewed commitment to the well-being of others.

Obviously, I am entering a hard & painful chapter of my life.  I really have no “guidance” for watching my child traverse the final months of life.  I have good support in AA, an outstanding sponsor & therapist,  hard-working sponsees, and my relationship with my mom to lean on.  I am no spiritual giant.

My son is a spiritual giant, to me, but I am nothing close to that.

I know that, despite my close engagement with my sponsor and support groups, there will be long nights alone.  Long nights of remorse and sadness, long nights of anger and frustration, long nights of denial and disbelief.

It already hurts to know how deeply it will hurt – and how deeply I will miss my son, my eldest child.

Your prayers and your tears (if you’re close to our family) are felt and appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

Northbound Again

Like the Dire Straits song but reverse the direction.

Leaving tomorrow or Friday for a week in the North country, mainly the headwaters of the Costilla River (right on the Colorado border) and the Blanca Peak wilderness area.  I’ve looked at Blanca Peak in awe, studied all the maps, and decided the best place to camp is accessible from the NE side (adding another 3 hours of driving).

My good friends, Debbie and Debi, will be joining us for the last few days of the adventure.  My best friend and sometimes nurse, Lysa, will be riding shotgun for the whole trip.

So how does a guy like me survive two nights in a freakin’ tent with three good-lookin’ women?  I’m thinkin’ the best way is to go to bed earlier than all my wild girlfriends, get settled, and make grunting noises when they bring all that girlpower into the space.  If that doesn’t work, then I go sleep in the car with the doors locked!

I’ve made two bamboo bobber rigs, and I’ve been practicing with my fly rod since April, so I’m gonna go terrorize those wild trout in the Northern Sangres!  All the fish I’ve seen up on the Costilla are really too small to eat; but the little monsters will be fun to catch & release!

Gotta stop in to see friends, too, in Taos and Arroyo Hondo; then the best AA meeting in New Mexico at Questa.  We’re going to hit the little club at San Luis, too.

Yayyy!  Finally going to the high country where it’s cool and we can experience a high-mountain thunderstorm!!!

Sadly I became such a worthless and arrogant prick, before I moved back South from Taos, most of my friends in the Taos area don’t even want to speak to me.

I no longer have the luxury of thinking I might never drink again; but two things give me much hope:  (a) I’ve never submerged myself to this degree in the honesty and humility of working our steps; and (b) I don’t have a lot of time left.  I don’t need to worry about staying sober for years.  Just today.  Just enough.

I want to die sober and surrounded by my loving, caring and TRUE family.  I can attain that.  Not so much to aspire to, based on the condition of my heart; but I’m 77 days sober and totally on fire with my own quirky step-driven spirituality.

Constant and persistent prayers for those of my past whom I have hurt or caused harm.  You are the most important people in my life, the ones to whom I owe the greatest debt of gratitude.

Que se vaya la paz contigo.

 

 

 

RCCLA rocks!

We have camped much of the Summer on land in far northern New Mexico that is managed by Rio Costilla Cooperative Livestock Association (RCCLA).  From what I’ve seen over the Summer, this organization does the best job in New Mexico of managing and maintaining the vital habitat and wildlife of the Sierra Sangre De Cristo.

It’s pretty cool to see that a for-profit organization (private ranchers) are doing a better job than ANY of our national forests of preserving ancient grasses, protecting one of our country’s most delicate wild trout habitats, and operating a truly magnificent campground facility; all within the context of an obviously well-run ranching enterprise.

It’s increasingly difficult to find a pristine, clear, mountain river full of multiple species of wild trout – without going to Alaska or off the continent – let alone such a place with domestic cattle and elk being co-managed so well by a local cooperative enterprise.

Seriously.  If you want to camp, fish, hunt in the most beautiful wilderness in New Mexico or Colorado, and you want to see what old-world private ranchers can do when put in charge of precious natural resources, the you owe it to yourself to go stay a few days.  It’s easily the best outdoor experience you will have in New Mexico.

Unfortunately, I don’t do well above 8,500 ft. elevation – and much of this wilderness area is above 9,000 ft.   The highest and best scenario for me is to go up to that altitude with an understanding that I won’t be able to do much more than a 1/4-mile slow walk, and to come back down within 24-36 hours.

I love the serenity, though, and the extraordinary alpine meadows with their creeks and mountain seeps running through spruce, pine and aspen.  Stewart Edward White and Teddy Roosevelt both wrote of hunting expeditions into this region (private ranches then) just before the 20th century.

Important BTW::   I love Mia!  She’s the most awesome girl I’ve ever known.  I’ve never even MET anyone with values like hers.  She’s taught me more than I ever bargained to learn… and she’s really really cute!  I don’t really know if I can survive a winter where she lives but – I think – we’re to a point in our partnership where we are both wanting to move South in Winter and back to Taos in Summer (with ample commuting as necessary).

It’s a little strange, I think, that so many people think of the Sierra Sangre De Cristo as if it’s a New Mexico area/culture.  If you’ve not been to San Luis CO (the oldest settlement in the state of Colorado) and looked back into the Sangres from the Northwest, or you’ve not driven South from San Pablo CO to Amalia NM and realized THAT is the original land grant from Spain which defines this region’s cultural and natural heritage, then find a way to come visit!

Just remember to leave it better than you found it, and to be respectful of an ancient ranching culture that is the nation’s best example of entrepreneurship without greed – and without compromise of natural and human values.

God acted with Grace when He gave us each other and this planet.  So our only logical response can be gratitude; but gratitude is meaningless without the actions of love, tolerance, forgiveness, generosity, and service.

 

 

Most Scenic Place in New Mexico?

I beg to differ with the travel guides who call the Lower Hondo Valley the most scenic place in New Mexico.  It’s indubitably a beautiful little valley where I live, but our state has some mighty scenic places – like the Rio Costilla Canyon Southeast of the town of Costilla.

We spent the weekend exploring the high country of the Northwest Sangre de Cristo range – mainly places in the Questa Ranger District – and had a wonderful time camping in the high meadows surrounding the Rio Costilla.  The drive up through the Rio Costilla Canyon is simply spectacular – and doesn’t seem to have been “discovered” by too many foreigners.  The river – with its wild cut-throat and brook trout – is a “best kept secret” of local fishing fanatics and it’s easily the most beautiful little river in the state!

We also visited Cabresto Lake and found it overrun with jeep’sters and foreigners gone fishing in the stocked reservoir.  We also found it’s no longer maintained for camping, dirty and trashy, and too high for me to get along safely.  The altimeter said we topped out at 9600 feet before dropping only a couple hundred feet to the lake itself, and it was obvious if I stayed for long I’d not be able to do much of anything.

So we headed on North, thinking we might go to the Latir Lakes (which turned out to be closed) and discovered the Rio Costilla Cooperative Campground on the road up the canyon.  It’s an excellent place to camp, and one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been.  One helluva beautiful little river!

We camped just below 9000 feet and I was able to get along pretty well.  I can tell, above about 8500 feet, that my heart barely keeps up and my muscles fatigue and cramp easily – a sign of the oxygen deprivation – but I’m probably safe to stay 2-3 days.  Above that altitude I start to lose so much function it’s not worth trying to stay long, and it’s likely dangerous for me.

We’re off to camp and fish on the Rio Chama next week, then I’ll bet we go back to Rio Costilla to fish and stay longer!

Obesity kills!

Even young women die from the heart complications of obesity.
Even young women die from the heart complications of obesity.

Obesity is now the leading cause of heart failure, and the leading preventable cause of death among women over forty.

The problem with obesity is that, as a society, we have not learned to treat it the same way we treat all the other addictions.  Obesity does not carry the stigma that comes with most addictions; but it needs to.  All the behavioral issues associated with other addictions appear in obese people, too.  So we need to move quickly to identify the intense denial, control, family codependence, and insidiously harmful priorities of the obese person.  They’re just as sick, probably sicker, than the alcoholic or heroin addict – and when the disease has finished destroying everything else in their lives, it will kill them.

In fact, far more people (especially women) die from obesity than from alcoholism and drug addiction combined.

But addiction is addiction.  When you hear a fat person blame their condition on people or circumstances beyond their control, then you know you’re dealing with irreversible addiction that can only end in one of two ways: abstinence or death.

Yet we continue to tiptoe around the “elephant in the living room” instead of being blunt and calling a spade a spade.  We gotta stop doing that!

How many times have we heard a non-smoker walk by a smoker and emit the little false cough, scowl at the smoker, or even say something derogatory about the smoking?  We need to treat obesity the same way.

So if you see someone obese, you might be saving their life with a bit of ridicule.  Remind them their obesity will kill them – and that you’re tired of paying high insurance premiums that come from the enormous medical cost of their obesity.

If you’re fat, lose weight.  If you’re not, then find someone who is and tell them to lose weight.  Now.  The more blunt you are, the greater the chance they will actually get help and lose weight before it destroys their lives.