Loose Cannons Among Us

I don’t like Internet shame culture. I figure that everyone has bad days, and I hope that none of mine ever become viral. Because of this, I will not name specific locations of the incidents I am about to mention. In the past twenty-four hours, I have twice witnessed adults scolding elderly people as if they were reprimanding misbehaving children. I feel that this a new low, and I sure hope it doesn’t become acceptable. It seems that fuses everywhere are growing shorter, but this is a brand of loose cannon I don’t want anywhere. These confrontations I saw were over trivial things, battles not worth choosing at all. The first happened in an art gallery. An attendant yelled at an elderly woman for signing the wrong guest register. Then this morning I saw a woman grocery shopping and heard her yell, “I SAID EXCUSE ME!” to elderly couple choosing canned vegetables. What in the world is going on here? I don’t know how to react, and I feel bad for saying nothing at the time. The incidents were momentary, and I was afraid that joining the fray would be like throwing a lit match on a pile of kindling.

The Appetite Control Snack Trio

When I am trying to lose weight, as opposed to maintaining my weight, there are three snacks I try to eat every day. All three have good nutrients and help me control my appetite:

  • An ounce of nuts
  • An ounce of cheese
  • A serving of whole grain crackers

Typically I choose six Triscuit crackers, twenty-three almonds and a slice of cheese. I usually stagger them though my work day, but I sometimes eat two of them at once. These snacks are in addition to usual meals.

I think that these snacks help me because the three together have a good amount of fat, protein and fiber. I do not avoid high fat foods in moderation. If I do, I have a much harder time controlling my appetite. My health “numbers” have been good as well. I have had the opportunity for cholesterol screening and the like on a yearly basis. My total cholesterol has ranged from 135-166, and my triglycerides have been >50.

Fitbit Hack

I started using a Fitbit back in November of 2015. Prior to that, I had been logging exercise online, which I found tedious. Curious to see how much such a device could encourage me toward consistent exercise, I bought the starter device Fitbit Zip. I appreciated its flexibility in recording both steps and exercise bike workouts. All I had to do to record a bike workout was clip the Zip to my shoes. After a few months, I was curious to see if I’d benefit from having heart rate tracking, so I moved up to a Fitbit Charge HR. I’ve enjoyed seeing all of the data generated by the Charge HR. It’s been encouraging at times to scroll through months of my activity, seeing that there is good likelihood I can sustain that level of activity in the future. My sole frustration with the newer device was low to no recording of steps taken when my arm is stationary, such as when pushing a shopping cart or riding a bike. This week I tried a different placement of the Charge HR to remedy this problem while maintaining heart rate tracking. I placed it inside the band of my socks while riding an exercise bike, and the HR recorded my workout as accurately as it does when I wear it on my wrist. I also went grocery shopping with it inside my sock band. This also worked well. Once I find a way to reliably fasten the HR to the inside of my sock band, I will regularly change its position to my ankle as needed.

Success is a Point of View

Recently I wrote about my success in keeping off 115 pounds for three years. Looking back, I’ve held that weight at bay for nearly four years. In the interest of full disclosure, I will reveal that I haven’t been absolutely successful in this battle. Who has been?  I actually lost 135 pounds originally, and I have reached a turning point where I know I must be positive or I will eventually gain back more weight. Now is the time to refocus my efforts and to get back closer to my goal. If I had consistently followed the tips I outlined in the above link, I believe that I would not have slowly gained back twenty pounds over this time. My weak link is being honest with myself about how much I eat. This kind of self deception can grow slowly, where I start eyeballing servings to create larger portions and so on. This week I am trying to “get real” about what I eat and more accurately record my intake in my food diary. I don’t watch what I eat on holidays, and back when I was losing weight, that meant actual holidays. I have created a few too many extra food holidays during my weight maintenance.

I don’t have nearly as much struggle with exercise. I think this is because it is easier to record activity honestly, especially with my use of a Fitbit.I’ve also made exercise convenient by putting a TV in front of my elliptical machine. I can slowly binge watch series on Netflix and the like while getting in a work out. While I was saving up for an elliptical, I wore out an exercise bike in front of the TV.

One motivation I had in maintaining a 100+lb weight loss was the fear that I didn’t have it in me to do that again. That concern has served it purpose, and I think I do have the strength to lose those twenty pounds again. Even if I do not succeed in that venture, I still have maintained a 115 pound weight loss.

Southbound

I have yet to infect anyone with my enthusiasm for Thin Lizzy. I suppose this affinity is like my passion for barley, something that happens spontaneously and cannot be taught. I had heard “Jailbreak” many times while growing up and found it merely tolerable. It was one of those songs that would not compel me to change the radio station to avoid it. Sometime around the two hundredth time I heard it, it suddenly captured my attention as if I were hearing it for the first time, and I was impressed enough to check out the band’s back catalog. Soon their songs became a regular sonic thunder that helped propel me through my awkward spell in retail after dropping out of college back in the 90’s.

My fascination with Thin Lizzy was no exception to my tendency to ask myself oddball questions. How many other people read the Bible story about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana and wonder whose wedding it was? With Thin Lizzy, I speculated whether “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town” referred to the same people but from different points of view. Was the jailbreak successful and the second song the celebration of it?

“Cowboy Song” made me wonder how many Irish artists explored themes of the American West. Both Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and Irish author Flann O’Brien imagined life in the Wild West in some of their work. This inquiry is one of many unanswered questions from my youth. Why would an Irish artist feel drawn to those themes? Did they find a small of measure of release from their postcolonial tensions in recreating the American frontier?

Southbound” is the Thin Lizzy song that I enjoy most. Outside the realm of alternative music, their are few songs that embrace failure and depression that don’t mention romantic loss. In the song, the lyrics tell of a man who cuts his proverbial losses and disappears, “taking only what I need before my head explodes.” Having quit and departed many circumstances in my past, I know exactly what that feels like, and I listened to this song many, many times in my younger days because it was a relief to hear that someone else had felt that way, too.  I feel that I have grown past my tendency to escape, except when I feel trapped if I spend more than an hour at time shopping. When I hear this song now, I do not feel tempted to bail out of situations, but it does inspire compassion for the quitter I once was.

Ham and Cabbage Dinner

I value simplicity when I cook. Although I enjoy reading many recipes, I typically cook without one. Often there are ingredients in recipes I can’t tolerate due various food intolerances and aversions, so I improvise based on culinary reading and past cooking experiences. I cooked this meal a couple days ago, and I was pleased that something so simple had a satisfying result.

  • 1 2lb presliced boneless quarter ham
  • 1 medium head cabbage, chopped
  • 2 14.5 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 8 oz can mushrooms, undrained
  • Cornbread for serving with meal

Place chopped cabbage into dutch oven over medium low to medium heat. Empty undrained tomatoes and mushrooms into pot and stir gently into cabbage. Place the ham on top of the cabbage so it looks a bit like a bird sitting on a nest. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. You may wish to lower the heat if the pot starts steaming out of the lid to prevent having a home perfumed with cabbage. For each serving, use a meat fork to pluck out a few slices of ham and then fill most of the rest of your plate with the cabbage mixture. Serve with cornbread.

 

Bring Us Your Ancestors

leslie-winfield-fairchild
My great grandfather, Leslie Fairchild aka Leslie Kelly

Back in my college days, one of my classmates suggested that a good salve for writer’s block was contemplating one’s ancestors. He reminded me of this once by saying “Bring us your ancestors!” from a second story window as I walked on the sidewalk below. Since I could hear but not see him, I first worried that I was having a command hallucination, which would have been a serious complication of the major depression that was descending upon me at that time. To my relief, he confessed that he was the one who spoke those words as soon as I walked into the classroom.

I avoided doing much research or writing about my ancestors because I was afraid of what I might find in studying them or the feelings I’d develop while writing about them. Would they seem perfectly functional in comparison to me, making me one of the original screw-ups in my family tree? Was it possible that some of them were infamous, casting my problems in a kinder light in comparison? I also considered that I might have no feeling whatsoever for my ancestors, the possibility I feared most, yet another experience that did not penetrate my unsentimental core. I was seldom sad while depressed. Instead, I felt numb like a limb fallen asleep, full of pins and needles.

Recently I dared to dip into the subject of my ancestors, and the discovery of one of my ancestors was compelling enough to me to cut through the concerns I had in the past. In discovering him, I understood that there was no point to judging my ancestors, for if they had lived their lives differently, I would not exist. There is nothing like finding out that the existence of me and nearly half of my close relatives depended on the drastic choice of one person to drive this point home.

My great grandfather Leslie appeared on a bicycle at his future in-laws’ farm in Middlepoint, Ohio, around 1926, and offered his work as a farm hand. While working on that farm, he was a man with no proof of his past, yet he quickly wooed and married my great grandmother. They had three daughters in the next few years, one of whom is my paternal grandmother. In 1936, the family of five was farming at night to escape the July heat and were in a car accident on the way home. Leslie and two of my great aunts lost their lives in that accident. My great grandmother and grandmother were critically injured in that accident as well. Inquiries were made to a town in Michigan that Leslie claimed as his hometown. No one in that town knew him.

Until this year, the only mementos we had of him were his death portrait, his hat and his long johns. His origin was a mystery that my family attempted to solve several times in the intervening years. Little did we know that in Michigan there was another family who knew his beginning and had been searching for information on his end.

Since I doubt that I will soon stop wondering why he did what he did, I will not linger here on the details of how I found him. I’m sure I will write of this matter again, as I have before. I discovered that in 1923 that my great grandfather became a missing person in Minneapolis. He left his home, where his first wife, his mother and five surviving children were living, stopped at work to collect his paycheck, and did not go home again. He had lost two children to a measles outbreak three years previously, so he originally had seven children in his first marriage. Since he left so many close relations behind and made no contact with them, the authorities presumed he was dead, yet he lived thirteen more years under a different last name in another state.

As his origin was revealed, we discovered that he was truthful on some details. He really had been born and raised in Michigan, just not in the town he mentioned. He offered his actual birth date and mother’s name on his second marriage certificate. What he did not reveal is staggering, that he left a beautiful wife, a loving mother and precious children behind. I can only imagine what forces inside and outside of him led him on this course. He did not live long enough to reverse it. He spoke of taking his second family to meet his relatives in the months leading to his death. I can only imagine how he might have negotiated that reunion.

This revelation healed a part of me. For years, I felt like I was the one who was out of place, a changeling or foundling child in mind if not in body. I am relieved to know that I was not the outlier. Now that I know more of my great grandfather’s story, it’s like a long awaited piano tuner has finally arrived and restored a piano fallen out of tune long ago.