Category Archives: Food

Tuesday, Life, And Me

I visited my primary care doctor this morning. Inexplicably, my appointment started 45 minutes later than it was supposed to. Due to C19 (thanks, Lynette, for the cool abbreviation), I had to wait in the parking lot, observing the spectrum of patients waiting to be called from their vehicles. That’s what gave me time to write my Stolen Beauty post. Since I arrived 1/2 an hour early, I called 30 minutes after my appointment. Drinking two nutrition drinks, two bottles of water, and two cups of coffee before leaving the apartment (one from Kum & Go) left me with a conundrum: public urination in said parking lot or going inside the covid perimeter to the bathroom. Luckily, the woman on the phone could hear that I was almost gargling with the need to go. The nurse and I had a long and fascinating conversation about hospital conditions, my journey toward losing all the weight, and a dozen other topics. She told me she’d been put in the position of being the only nurse on an entire wing before she left her last job at a hospital. She also encouraged me to hide behind the door in an attempt to scare the doctor. Again. I’m guessing we laughed thirty times while we talked. Laughter is the best medicine – and they’ll likely bill me for that too. 🙂

The notecard is one I left on the doctor’s table prior to his arrival. He laughed about that, too. No one found the other couple of witty messages I placed in the exam room. At least, not yet.

I did hide behind the exam room door to scare and/or startle him. I think he might have charted himself a reminder to check behind the door on the way in, though, because he cautiously opened the door and peeked around just as I surprised him. The doctor was in shock that I’d lost so much weight. During my last visit, I told him he’d never see me fat again. I asked him to chart it when I last saw him, because I knew then what no one else believed: I was done being overweight. Though unplanned, The Stay at the hospital left me about 90 lbs. lighter than the last time he’d seen me. I told him the story. He said, “Yours is the single biggest self-done transformation I’ve witnessed as a doctor.” Please forgive me if this comes across as humblebragging. I stopped taking my blood pressure medication shortly after I saw him last year. Yes, my blood pressure has been fantastic since I went below 190 lbs. He told me details about my procedure that I hadn’t known. A herniation happened around my appendix, an improbable combination. He couldn’t tell me if they removed my appendix, though. Because of the CT Scan in the ER, the surgeons expected a tumor or something horrendous. I never knew that. The area affected was minimal compared to what they expected. They gutted me and fixed it in record time. Biopsies and lab tests confirmed nothing suspicious. He said I might be able to return to work once the staples are removed from my abdomen. (Note: they don’t want you to keep them and make a commemorative necklace out of them. That’s disappointing!) The doctor and I talked for several minutes. We laughed several times, too. I’ll never forget last year when I told him that I was over wasting time gaining and losing weight.

I didn’t sleep well last night. But I did stand on the landing outside my apartment as the lightning, wind, and rain made their approach. I could feel its chilly proximity. When the sheets of rain reached me, I felt like I was the only person outside witnessing it. It was sometime after 1 a.m. It was beautiful. The clotted overhead gutters gushed water in torrents unidirectionally. I was glad to have witnessed it. Later, around 4:30, as I started my morning, I watched the lower water-laden branches of a tree cast witch shadows across the pavement, the movement resembling awkward stop-motion photography. After my doctor’s visit, I noted that the parking lot is increasingly awash in thousands of newly-fallen leaves. I said “Hello” to the hummingbirds, who’ll soon leave for the season.

Because of the cause and a friend always recommended it, I went to Peace At Home Thrift Store. I found a shirt that called my name. I had to cut the shoulder pads out of it, which indicates which section I found it in. And for a pittance, I bought several things that seemed like they needed to come home with me. One of them is a nice fleur-de-lis brooch inset with sparkling stones. The woman who helped me pick them out had on a cacophony of jewelry herself. She laughed when I said, “I don’t really wear jewelry.”

Because it’s so close, I had to celebrate the great doctor’s visit by going to Renzo’s and getting a Caprese salad. I liked Caprese before but discovered that Renzo’s connected the dots regarding what it is SUPPOSED to taste like. When I arrived at the apartment, I ate half of it with pleasure. You might have heard me yum-yumming with delight?

“Old keys don’t open new doors.” That’s true. But they unlock parts of our lives that need to be examined. Closed rooms are secrets, ones that occupy parts of our minds and hearts that need to be aired out. A house is meant to be lived in – and our minds are meant to be free and open.

This beautiful key was a gift. It hangs on the wall next to my stove.

P.S. IF all goes well, I might be able to return to work shortly after my staples are removed.

Misadventure At Jason’s

Misadventure At Jason’s

Having a horrible experience at a restaurant is a first-world problem; that, I acknowledge. Covid doesn’t factor into my latest mess. Few people working or visiting the eatery in question wore masks yesterday. That’s okay by me. Having survived attempted strangulation by my bowels makes it hard for me to throw stones at external threats beyond my control.

Yes, Tammy, I should have opted for Sam’s rotisserie chicken. : ) Now that I’m out of the hospital, I wanted to enjoy a calorie and flavor-rich simple meal prepared by a restaurant that c-a-n make delicious food. It was to be my first post-surgery restaurant experience. It was late enough past the post-lunch crowd that the most significant impediment would be circumvented. Or so I thought. After realizing that Renzo’s was closed on Sunday, my friend and I immediately agreed on Jason’s Deli. We used the app to simplify the process and paid online. I took a large cash tip with me to reward the employees involved. Curbside pickup would make it easy for me to avoid unnecessary strain and bypass any covid issues. (Not that I’m worried, as so many vaccinated people are getting breath-through cases.) I wasn’t in a hurry, and I left to go pick up the order.

Calling the number on the Curbside pickup sign, I immediately knew that I might have a bad experience. The employee answering the phone lashed out. My response was both surprise and a little laughter. I tried to picture what Hell she’d already experienced by 1 p.m. to motivate her to practice that degree of insult. Avoiding any humorous snark, I answered her as best as I could. The details don’t matter. I called my friend, laughing, telling her what the Jason’s employee had said. Since I work in an environment where customer service often morphs into malicious compliance when an employee gets angry, I easily recognized that the employee in question would have gladly jumped off a building to get out of there. I lowered my expectations and waited.

After 30+ minutes past the initial “order-ready” time, I went inside to the to-go area. I wasn’t upset, just confused. At this point, I was still laughing a little at the unlikely outcome I’d got myself into by choosing Jason’s. I called my friend who was going to share the meal with me. I apologized for laughing. It was so ridiculous I didn’t know how else to respond. I sent a picture of the lop-sided layout; 99% of employees on the dine-in side and one lone guy attempting to keep up with the to-go/curbside/driver end that comprised at least 50% of the business.

People were waiting, frustrated. A lone male employee was manning the entire ‘out’ portion of the long prep bar. He was hustling against piles of half-prepared sandwiches, missing items, and dozens of order tickets thrown and stuck everywhere. A dozen employees were helping dine-in customers get their food quickly.

A couple of food delivery drivers expressed their frustration and walked out. One announced, “Okay. I don’t want any of these orders. I don’t care about the money or the food.” And he left.

Twenty minutes later, I finally got to the to-go register. “Can I speak to a manager?” She looked at me, angry. “No. She’s working the line for dine-in.” And she answered the phone, ignoring me. I stayed in my spot. The woman looked back up to see me and walked off, leaving her spot. Another employee came up a minute later, and I said, “I’d like a refund, no harm and no foul, and thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time to issue refunds. You get what you get.” I’m paraphrasing. “Wait, ma’am, I’m sorry it’s so busy, but I’m tired and stressed. I need a refund.” She walked off.

Customers and delivery drivers watched and listened. For the second time, I thought maybe I was on an episode of “What Would You Do.”

When the first woman came back to the register, she didn’t make eye contact. “Move. I can’t help you. The manager is working the line and can’t come up here.” Stunned, I stepped slightly to the side as the employee helped someone else. I’m omitting things that would make this encounter worse. You can imagine the other words said to me and around me. Each time the phone rang, the workers recoiled and had an epithet to utter.

I waited a few more minutes. Order tickets, half-prepared food, and boxes continued to pile up as the single male to-go person fought against a tide of orders. Another driver said, “Hey, you’re supposed to treat this like a drive-through and process us out. I’ve been here an hour and have orders sitting in my car getting cold/hot/old.” No one listened.

I was sorry for everyone, workers and customers alike.

All the energy and enthusiasm I’d had evaporated. My body just wanted to sit down, even if I had to eat slices of bread for a meal.

I cut through and walked around to the dine-in register, now empty. The lunch rush was well over by then. No one wanted to come to the register. An employee walked up, exasperated. “Can I take your order?” I said, “No, I’m sorry. Look, I need a refund. I’m sorry.” I’m editing this portion, too. The employee, a young female, didn’t quite know how to do it.The long to-go order person walked up, answered the phone, and said, “#$#@ I’m working on it!” before I said anything. He threw a piece of paper at me. It said “$0” on it. It wasn’t a canceled receipt. “Sir, I’m sorry, I need a receipt cancellation, something indicating my order was voided.” Angry stare, followed by angry words. He waved me off, telling me to leave and shut up. Incredulous, I repeated, “Sir, I apologize it’s so hard here, but I need just a second…” He said something bizarre to the caller, held the phone against his chest, and screamed down at the manager working on the prep line, “Come take care of this asshole! He won’t shut up.” He shook his fist in the air in front of me. It was not a polite gesture. I took a breath. I remained standing there, waiting to give it one more try.

The to-go order employee screamed at the manager again. I won’t cite words here, either. Whether you believe me or not, I felt sorry for him. Work shouldn’t push anyone to that point. I’m pretty sure a few people in my position would have thrown a punch.

The manager walked up and said, “It’s always this way.” I said, “The details don’t matter. I just want a refund. I know it’s busy, but your employees have been rude, cursed at me, and treated me and others like we’re not human. I wasn’t in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone. Is this a receipt?” She looked at it. She gave me another explanation.

And I tried to make a human connection: “You know how you never know what someone else is going through? I’ve been respectful, calm, and patient. I waited 30 minutes outside and well over an hour here inside. I apologize that everything is impossible in here, I truly do. Let me show you that we have our own issues.” I lifted my red t-shirt and showed her my long, jagged metal staple wound. “I don’t think I’ll follow-up about this visit, but if I do, please remember that I was polite, didn’t raise my voice, and my only crime was trying to get food and celebrate. I’m so sorry for all of us.” I meant it.

She apologized. I felt terrible for her, the workers, and everyone else who found themselves in an unexpected retail Hell.

I left, feeling like I’d been at Jason’s for the equivalent of an entire afternoon, even though it had been at most two hours. Another Uber driver spoke to me outside. I told him a ten-second recap and wished him well, knowing his afternoon had already crashed. “I’ve got orders in the car, ones I’ve had over an hour.” I smiled. “I’m so sorry. There’s no fix for this.” And there’s not. The corporation won’t staff adequately, and the employees don’t know how to go from incredible anger to communicate the mess effectively.

I drove back to the apartment.

Within a little over 30 minutes later, a local Chinese restaurant delivered a mountain of dishes. I ate like a king. But the mess and melee of Jason’s stayed in my head all afternoon. More than anything, the most significant realization is how a retail encounter put so many people in the position of being lesser than any of us should ever be with one another.

I treated everyone I came into contact with kindness and regard. It was supposed to be a simple meal, one to celebrate being out of the hospital.

Instead, it was a reminder that staffing is too low everywhere – and that it’s easy to use stress as a lever to be hateful.

I’m not sure I can indict Jason’s Deli too harshly. But it now holds the title of worst retail restaurant experience of my life – and that’s quite the feat at my age.

Did I go too far showing the manager my surgery incision? Maybe. But we always hear that we don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. I put myself into the shoes of every Jason’s Deli employee during and after the mess of yesterday. Except for the manager, none of them imagined why the soft-spoken guy in the red shirt looked so forlorn about humans being unable to stop the madness and reset.

I haven’t processed some of these same lessons from being in the hospital last week. People are stressed, understaffed, and unmanaged. Many of us don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to respond to situations that force us to forget that we’re just momentary flashes of life and need to do better.

Love, X
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My Date With Fast Food

Because I’d dropped to too low of a weight, I decided to have my first full meal at a fast food place: Burger King. I ate an impossible Whopper and fries. I’ve eaten the patty from an impossible burger about once a month, but never the sandwich and especially not french fries. I don’t count calories, but the Impossible Whopper is about 600-800 calories. I love them. (The calories and the burger.)

Most people who skip eating such things for a while say that eating it the first time makes them queasy. Not me. It was delicious. I didn’t feel nauseous. And I don’t feel guilty. I’ve said 1,000 times that I don’t believe that foods are intrinsically healthy vs unhealthy; it’s just quantity and frequency that cause us problems. I’m rounding the corner in a few weeks to making my health plan succeed for a year. I’ve paid a hard price for all of this and don’t want to compound those failures by derailing my success.

Even though I wasn’t hungry, I just ate a healthy meal of fruits, vegetables, and yes, meat. I also drank a V-8 and ate a banana. I drink 1 or two V-8 every day, take fiber, the best multivitamin I can find, and a couple of other supplements that were recommended for someone like me with my activity level.

I was so proud that I’d listened to someone who was telling me to “pull up” on the eating scarcity. Instead of conveying that message, I inadvertently came across as snarky. The dumb lesson is that I communicated with a picture instead of an explanation. I thought, for once, I’d forego torturing someone with my inability to say something simply. 🙂 Yeah, I failed. It turns out, sometimes needless explanations are preferable to succinct ones.

I didn’t eat Burger King to make a point: I ate it because it’s delicious and a great way to eat calories.

I went to Harps over by the campus a little bit ago. I finally bought a package of Oscar Meyer Smokies, which for a lazy vegetarian, are about the best snack item I can imagine.

I also limited myself to 500 pushups today. That’s another success, too.

The people, the noise, the traffic, the joy of people celebrating. I’m not a sports fan, but I was taken with the sheer enthusiasm in all the hubbub. It was so contagious even I’m beginning to believe we could pull off an upset.

What Is Too Thin?

This post is personal. Please forgive me if my tone is harsh; it’s not my intention. Like I always do, I write vaguely at times, use a word or adopt a tone carelessly. Read this with the idea that you’re getting to know me better. If you read it looking for errors or a fight, you’ll of course find motive.

I woke up this morning to find myself weighing 146.9 lbs. I was shocked. I knew my day yesterday had been intense. I walked over 40,000 steps and managed to do 2,500 pushups. Not to mention an insane amount of physical work during the day, too. I’ve always imagined 165-168 as the control setpoint, with 170ish as the upper limit.

I am a little amused that anyone would lecture me by saying, “You’ve lost too much weight.” From my perspective, it is a great compliment. Losing 35% of who you were makes for interesting stories.

I’m sorry you don’t see my weight as normal. That’s a problem.

Not for me. You. 🙂

My cousin is concerned, and rightly so, because she recognizes how easy it is to let a goal turn to obsessive madness. I’m not anorexic or suffering from an eating disorder. There are days when I burn as many calories as an athlete. Work alone is so intensely physical that I look back over the last 16 years and wonder how I managed to be obese so many times. My cousin has earned the right to be the chiding voice in my ear. Her voice is in my head, reminding me to eat a wider variety and more calorie-rich foods in the process.

It was in part due to my cousin that I started doing pushups on June 1st. If you’d told me that I’d do 2,500 in a day 13 weeks later, I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But I did learn an invaluable lesson: there is no upper limit to how many I can do. At the outset, I had to be careful of my right shoulder. Work is intense and taxing. The pushups have largely eliminated the pain. I’m going to do my best to limit myself to 500 a day for a while. Yesterday will be in my head for years, though, because I surprised myself. That can’t be taken away from me when my body finally gets old and surrenders.

In October of last year, I had an epiphany. I saw myself as thin. Explaining the certainty of it doesn’t translate well when I talk about it. While my goal shifted increasingly downward as my vision became a reality, I didn’t plan on going past 170 in my wildest fantasy. While other parts of my life exploded, whatever happened to my head in October didn’t fade. As the months passed, I was amused that people attributed my success to willpower. It wasn’t that. It was clarity and stubbornness. Looking down at the scale and seeing “155” is a fantastic feeling. 146.9 is a bit disconcerting. I’m working on that without succumbing to many bad eating choices: Doritos, thick pizza, cheese, 54 pieces of chocolate, that sort of thing. I eat “unhealthy” food at times. (I hate labeling food as healthy or unhealthy; it’s volume and frequency that are the culprits.)

There are a couple of precursors to my “moment.” In February of last year, I started the process of losing weight, in part due to Covid. Stress took its toll, and I regained most of the weight I lost. Not all of it, thank god. At some point, I replaced the relatively new stove in the house with a bigger, better one to be able to more easily cook batches of healthy food. That drive to finally kick the fat bucket was brewing inside me. I know that reeks of an excuse. In October, my brother Mike died. Thereafter, I thought I had Covid and felt like I was dying. That morning is when the light bulb went off with an explosion in my head.

I often think about what would have happened to me had I not lost the weight. Would I have experienced a health issue? Or died? I know that losing weight during the long stretch of the Covid run saved my bacon on countless days. It let me stop feeling my knees hurt and my back. The converse of that is whether or not the rest of my life would have blown up had I stayed obese. It’s a real question for me. How much did my massive weight loss and attitude change have to do with my marriage imploding? There’s no question that staying so fat was going to cost me a part of my mobility – and perhaps forever. Being so overweight takes away a bit of so many corners of a person’s life. It’s because we gain incrementally and in ways we don’t notice. From there, we realize, “I’m fat. Oh my god.” We choose the hard that we’ve learned rather than embracing the hard of making positive choices.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the feeling of eating healthy and making endless good choices is sublime. It’s a self-reinforcing mandate. This is true for any personal goal.

Today was the lowest weight I’ve hit. I got close Monday night after foolishly running five miles. Upon returning, I had to drink a gallon of water and then attempt to sleep. I think I dreamed about a running river, and that made me nervous for reasons that should be obvious.

For weeks, I’ve been in the low 150s. This week has been a barrage of work, running, walking, and pushups.

I get a lot of compliments. Questions. And some criticism. Some people are waiting for me to balloon back up. When I started, I repeatedly objected with, “Let’s see in a year.” The year is coming fast upon me in October.

One morning, the wife of a friend passed me in the hallway. “You look amazing, X!” We both laughed. Yesterday, someone said, “If you lose any more, you’ll dry up and blow away. You look great.” She lost a lot of weight herself for health reasons not too long ago. There’s rarely a day that passes where someone doesn’t notice that I’m thin. Today, a security guard who resembles me was standing by the elevator and saw that it was ME standing there. He thought I was someone he didn’t know. “You need to tell me your secret and how to do it.” He patted his stomach. “I’ll call you,” he said. He’s going to be disappointed when I tell him the big secret is to choose healthier food and to listen to what his body actually needs. “Keep your mouth closed” is a terrible name for a diet book.

On a recent morning, someone asked me in all seriousness, “How did you do it? You’re not sick, are you? Or did you have the surgery for weight?” I told her that it was simply eating well and that I didn’t have a secret. I told her about my friend Tammy, who managed to do what I did and that she was also about my age- and that if she could, I had nothing except excuses. I indeed started doing pushups on June 1st. But I had already hit 150 by the time I started.

“Just don’t lose any more weight, X.” My coworker meant it in kindness.

I have a couple of people in my life who resent that I lost the weight. It’s a bit bizarre to me, even now. I made it clear when I started that I was a bystander to my transformation. While I did adopt a diet that I experimented with, a big part of what happened was as if it happened to someone else while I observed it. All I can is that obsessively following a system yields results.

I’ve tried to avoid being too evangelical about weight loss. Some people do have medical issues that make it impossible or difficult. For those who’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve done, I attribute it to that odd human proclivity toward pettiness. Watching someone do it renders many objections that it is difficult or impossible to be completely moot. With enough motivation to move from ‘wanting to’ toward ‘making it a reality,’ most people can do it. Anyone who decides that it is a ‘must’ will find a way. Or try. I remember a cartoon from years ago. A man was sitting on the pavement, having stopped halfway through the race. He said, “It’s too much. I can’t run 26 miles.” The next panel showed a man with prosthetic legs racing past. The people with the “sitting on the pavement” mentality often don’t appreciate it when people go racing by, ignoring objections. I used to find myself being that type of person, too.

It’s tough to be around someone who steps into a new motivation. Though I never intended my weight loss to be an insult to anyone else, it did happen. This sort of journey inevitably changes a person. A success in one arena drives them into others. Of course, the person is going to change. Sometimes fundamentally, especially as behaviors become habits and a new way of life. A common complaint in relationships is “You’ve changed.” A trite but true rebuttal to that is, “And you haven’t.” We’re not meant to be static. If you’re in a relationship and one of you will transform themselves, my word of advice is to have frank conversations about it – and go to a counselor if you see that it’s becoming a wedge.

One critic insisted that people were constantly saying how ill I looked. That I am too skinny. Relentlessly adamant. They quoted the anonymous “they” to me. When I’m ready to hire a consultant about my choices, I’ll let them know immediately. IF such people care for me, they will find a way to communicate it to me. Since they didn’t, I have to attribute what ‘they’ allegedly said to a polite conversation with my critics. There’s no crime in honestly talking to someone about their weight if you care about them. The bigger sin is not to do so.

So, of course, despite having the tools to show otherwise, I visited a nutritionist. She said, “Oh baloney!” She agreed that some of it is attributable to the fact that I was obese for so many years and that the change was abrupt and substantial. She looked at my pictures at 252 and 232 and then as I am now. “You’re great, X. If you do add muscle, your BMI will seem off. But it won’t mean you’ve become unhealthy. You have to balance your body against more than a simple BMI. If someone still incorrectly tells you that you are underweight, send them to me. I’d be shocked if they don’t realize how overweight most people tend to be now.”

If I continue to be as active as I am now, muscle mass will increase, resulting in a higher weight without the associated fat content.
I chose 168 as my set point. My job is very physical, and I’ve kept my leisure time activity rate higher than average, too, without going to a gym. I’ve channeled my anxiety into exercise. As the counselor I saw told me, short-term measures are warranted; if they become long-term measures, you’ll have to figure out that, too.

I lost a lot of weight that year, as part of an intense 3-way weight loss bet.

Most of us don’t have a realistic idea of how much we should weigh, nor how many calories we should eat on an average day. I look back at my pictures and shake my head. I missed out on a lot by being so overweight. I can’t get that time back, so it’s on to the next goal of ensuring my habits remain permanent – without risking developing a food issue. They are rare in men who are 54 years old. Food is too damn good and calls me by name like everyone else.

The majority of people around me don’t think, “Ugh, he’s TOO thin and looks terrible.” They think, “X looks normal.” So, if you’re in the minority who feel like I’m too thin, get online or talk to your doctor.

Or get a hobby.

The consensus is overwhelming: I’m at a normal weight, with a buffer of loss and gain comfortably on both sides.

This is how I’m supposed to look, so get over it and be enthusiastic for anyone who can do it. If you love me, of course, you should step in and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass if I continue to lose weight.

To be clear, I’m not talking about my face; whether that’s normal is up for the monkeys to decide.

My weight, though? I’m good. It’s not just my body saying so. It’s science.

In time, people will see this as the new normal. It looks normal, but it feels fantastic to be able to move with agility, walk for miles, do pushups, and run even if I stupidly decide to do so.

There’s always the danger of forgetting the lessons I learned.

One of those lessons is to stop letting critical people get inside my head. They can make fun of my brooches all they want. Just not my weight.

And if I get off track or fail, I proved to myself that my objections and excuses about why I couldn’t do it were all dumb. And that I could do it again. We all fail until we don’t.

No matter who you are, you can do something today. That’s enough, no matter how small. Tomorrow, a little more. The law of increments seldom disappoints.

If you see someone finally get past their excuses? Take the time to applaud. We need it. We’ll return the favor when you succeed.

PS For my cousin: I don’t plan to stay quite this thin. I love you. Please keep an eye on me, though.

Love, x

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Extras…

In Cancun…

Color 4 Life

I’ve missed Mr. Taco Loco.

The mundane laziness of distance infects me. In The Before, as I call it, I drove miles out of my way to enjoy the eatery’s healthy chicken and pico de gallo extravaganzas, either in Springdale or Fayetteville. The truth is that it’s just not convenient to drive to MLK, much less to Springdale. Quick minds will point out I’ve walked past it during the nights the Wanderer calls me to leave my apartment and walk for miles.

I’m spoiled by time and distance now, living in the midst of so much and so many. Since I don’t bring unhealthy things home to eat, it’s easier than ever to eat without much thought. I’ve tried to incorporate more from the work cafeteria; it’s ironic that now that I could eat there more, their selection has diminished to a series of undesirable options from which I can choose. You’d imagine that a medical cafeteria would be predominantly healthy, especially since visitors can’t use it, thanks to Covid. You’d be wrong.

After stopping at a couple of flea-markety boutiques today, I realized that I could easily have 19 projects going if I didn’t deliberately choose a couple at a time. Yesterday was a barrage of creative and practical projects. The last boutique I visited had a nice collection of brooches. One of the workers there commented profusely about the polychromatic hummingbird I had pinned to my bright orange-red shirt. Several people commented at work. I’ve amassed a large number of explanations for why I’m wearing brooches. It’s amusing to know that people are taking an extra-long look and wondering, “Why is he wearing THAT?” Most people are inquisitive and interested. I’m not expecting a resurgence in brooch popularity anytime soon, though.

It was at that point my stomach said, “Hey, you might want to eat at some point!” In my defense, I did have a bag of PopChips earlier and a cup filled with baby carrots and hot sauce for breakfast.

I went to Tacos 4 Life. Despite its reputation for being a little pricey, I entered intending to find something delicious and healthy. Given that I no longer worry about looking dumb, I asked questions. Lo and behold, they offer lettuce beds instead of tortillas. Since I have two CASES of PopChips in the car, along with a large bottle of Tajin seasoning, I came prepared. Opting for the grilled chicken taco deal, minus the sour cream, cheese, and other needless ingredients, I was pleasantly surprised when the cashier said, “Oh, health care worker discount!” Total? A little over $12. That might sound like a lot – but I can’t go to a Tex-Mex place without spending $20 thanks to my pico de gallo addiction.

The cashier brought me chips and salsa. Or it was supposed to be. He got queso and chips instead.

“You can keep the queso. I’ll bring a bunch of salsa for you.” He noticed my large bottle of Tajin. “Wow, you brought your own spice.”

I offered some to him and explained its history. He was intrigued.

I finished my meal, beyond satisfied by volume and flavor.

Going up to the cashier, I handed him my large bottle of Tajin.

“This is for you. Give it an honest try. It surprises people. And I’d love to be the one who makes you a life-long fan of the stuff. I eat it on just about everything.”

He told me about his everyday supper and promised he’d try it later.

I surprised him. It’s nice being able to surprise people.

I went home and started another project, a custom paper trash receptacle to go by my desk. It’s going to be made out of a cardboard box, at least 500 sheets of differently-colored paper, and two miles of clear tape. People have told me that I sometimes look like Rainman when I’m engaged in these sorts of tedious and labor-intense projects. I’ll have to decide whether this box will be a 5-hour effort or 15. Keep in mind that in the picture, this is just the first stage of craziness.

But? I’m full of good food and creative energy. Doing 1,500 pushups yesterday and not sleeping well for two nights didn’t drain me yet.

As long as I can surprise people, there might be hope for me yet.

There’s a blog link to a sample of my previous box decorating.

Love, X

Cigars and Sashimi

I got accused outright of having a sheltered life earlier in the week.

The accuser wasn’t wrong. I thought quite a bit about it, and to sit and steep myself in the allegation. I indicted myself in agreement with the conclusion.

To be clear, I have witnessed some sh!t in my time. All of us have in varying amounts. Most of our lives probably overlapped a great deal. Thankfully, not everyone had a wild ride of it and each of us disparately experienced what I would label as “fringe” events.

But there’s a lot I don’t know. Obviously. My spell checker reminds me every day, as do my co-workers, neighbors, ex-wife, and even the mailman drops by every couple of days to shake his head in bewilderment at me.

Even at 54, I’m still finding out that there are worlds within worlds all around me. Words, foods, drinks, ideas, a cauldron of ceaseless wonder.

When you don’t eat sushi, for example, the barrage of specific vocabulary one must learn to order it for someone else becomes overwhelming, like signing up for Beginner’s Spanish only to later realize that it was in fact “Belgian Spanish.” I have no problem insisting that I’m ignorant and therefore need guidance. Otherwise, people will be eating a can of tuna and crackers. I won’t even get started on how they price the stuff. The sushi, not the canned tuna.

Food and flavor are 100% opinion.

NO, I don’t care what the various kinds of sushi, sashimi and blah, blah, blah are actually supposed to be called. That you like it is all that matters. I don’t have to like it. I like it that YOU like it. That’s pretty much how all of us should respond to friends and family when they love the stuff we wouldn’t eat if the human race depended on it. I know for a fact that some of the stuff I eat would make Bill puke until next Tuesday. Sorry, Bill. It’s true. Besides, you’re definitely not busy next Tuesday anyway. Yes, I read your calendar, the one by the fridge.

But the prices? I know for a fact that in a dark basement, probably in New Jersey, there’s a really big man who spins a wheel and randomly determines the definitions for both ‘quality’ and ‘price’ of sushi. The worse it looks, the more it costs. (Note: it’s a shame that isn’t actually true for a lot of things, right?)

For those who aren’t around smokers, there are twenty-two million kinds of tobacco and specialty products available now. I remember in the early 70s when you could easily memorize the main twenty or so tobacco products. Now the racks look like Heidi Klum’s makeup room. There are so many adjectives you need to know to ask for the right thing that I feel like I need a thesaurus when I’m around it. Things that look cheap are obnoxiously expensive. Things that look expensive… well, they are expensive too.

The point of this is to forcefully point out that I am very ignorant about more things than you’d realize. I am very knowledgeable about a lot of things, too. But it is a lot of work hiding my ignorance – not that I make much of an effort. I’d need a big box for that.

Because I’m rejuvenated, I’m going to share another vow with you, exactly like the one that allowed me to lose all this weight…

I am going to say, “I don’t know” a lot more often.

I am going to say, “You probably need to show me this again, for the fifth time, unless you’d like a disaster.”

And if you need me to go buy good seafood, lord help you until my ignorance abates.

I’ve always been quite ignorant. You just might not have realized how much. I’m here to help you with that misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, be yourself. Smile, laugh, and growl sometimes if that is what is needed. Eat the foods you love even if your mom vomits, and let everyone eat the foods they love. Take that same acceptance and throw it into all the other areas of life where we encroach needlessly on people’s ability to live freely.

P.S. I have not been drinking. But I am going to have a bit of vodka and homemade sweet and sour.

And those index cards on the floor leading the rocking chair were part of an elaborate ruse that I couldn’t execute today. I have optimism for tomorrow. You’ll note the rocking chair is in front of an open door, leading to a balcony and a whole new world.

Love, X
Amen

Listen Closely

I’ll start this post by commenting on the picture. This woman is beautiful, no matter what age she might be. She reminds me of one of my aunts, had she had the chance to live an entire life. “Everything’s eventual,” old age included. If we are lucky. A bit of advice? If someone timelessly admires you, take a minute to nod in their direction.

One of the sublime emotions that is hard to pin down is the let-down one feels when others fail to take advantage of the knowledge of someone right there who has been there and done that. At 54, after many failures, I bite my tongue quite often. If someone asks me, I tell them my story and do whatever I can to motivate them. I’ve learned that preaching entrenches people.

My healthier eating journey seemed like a miracle to some; to me, it was inevitable. I’m not saying I have all the answers and certainly not that I’m doing things correctly. But if that’s the case, very few are. No matter what else I’ve mismanaged, I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight, as well incorporated a staggering amount of better choices into my diet. I did all this without feeling hungry. That’s a success.

And because I did it, I know other people can do it too.

And a certain percentage can do it as easily as I did, without upending their life or putting themselves on a literal treadmill to do it.

I see people struggling and unhappy with their weight and some of the consequences it brings.

It’s needless for most of them. Not all, because some people have circumstances or medical issues that prevent them from accepting their body how it is and learning to be happy about it – OR, taking steps now, from where they are. If a non-diet or intuitive eating approach is what they would rather do, then get with it!

People aren’t going to change their habits unless they want to or are forced to by external forces. Wouldn’t it be simpler to listen to a dork like me now instead of waiting for a harsher force to intercede?

We don’t need complicated formulas, expensive supplements, a gym membership, or much of anything, not really, to lose a lot of weight. BUT if you do need those things to get you there, I’m not pointing a finger. If it gets you to your goal, for heaven’s sake, do whatever you need to, even country music. If you do it to prove me wrong, I’ll be happy for you. Success is a beautiful thing. People who’ve achieved a goal radiate in a way that others don’t. We all gravitate toward them.

If you don’t want to, that’s great. Stop paying homage to the diet rat race and stop focusing on external programs you honestly aren’t interested in. I’m here to tell you that you can do it in incremental steps OR with sweeping, immersive life changes. Something will work for you. Please keep trying! My penultimate post was titled, “You Fail Until you Don’t.” Whether it’s weight, work, or any other change you would like, staying where you are is the bigger problem.

But if you are interested, take a moment and pretend that I might know what I’m talking about. I can undoubtedly uncomplicate it in your head, which is ALL the battle, anyway. Once you commit yourself, the road becomes more apparent.

Here’s the first step: tell yourself that you’re going to make changes. Stop focusing on the things you perceive as failures. If you’re smart enough to love yourself for who you are, one of these days, tomorrow or 2026, you will succeed. If you have a fan in your corner, give that flame of admiration some encouragement.

Love, X

Lunch Among Strangers

I left the bright sun behind me as I entered Mr. Taco Loco on Emma. A wall of scents and smells assaulted me. Because I can easily go without eating all day, I forget hunger sometimes. I risk admitting that because people have their filters and triggers that make such a statement sound like psychosis. It’s not. It’s just a fact. And it is an extraordinarily good thing for me and my life. I still love food, but I’m not food-centric anymore. Mr. Taco Loco is one of the places that let me healthily eat delicious food. Eating less grants me peace in moments that would have otherwise been consumed by wanting to eat, or worse, being too full.

I walked through the dark table and bar area. Ahead of me were two younger men, both avidly looking at the menu and comparing comments. After a minute, one of them turned and said, “Go ahead.”
I hesitated. “Are you having trouble deciding?” They both grinned and nodded. “What do you recommend?” I laughed. “Well…” I started and then mapped out two alternate ways to decide. The cashiers stood and listened to my sales pitch. When I was done, I said, “If you are not eating with cost being your primary factor, pick something with the type of meat you’d most likely be satisfied with.” Though it’s bragging to say so, they were impressed.

I went ahead of them and ordered—five chicken tacos for me, with lots of added pico de gallo. I’m not a barbarian, after all. The gentleman who started last week stood there, confident and smiling after just a week of training. “Are you still here?” I asked him, laughing. The other worker, a younger female, asked me if the order was for here or to go. I angrily pretended to ask, “It’s like that, is it? Am I not allowed to eat here.” It took a few seconds to realize I was joking. The new guy’s smile probably gave it away. I also confused them by not wanting a drink, which is now a common habit of mine when eating. When I returned to the counter to order a bowl of salsa, he told me that his female co-worker pointedly asked him if something was up, given my unexpected comment.

I threw out my tortillas and spread out the chicken and pico de gallo across the platter, adding onions, cilantro, lime juice, and Tajin. Since I brought three bags of PopChips with me, I opened those and used them as scoops. After a few minutes, I returned to get a bowl of salsa. It threw them off that I didn’t want any chips to go with it. I tipped them for the second time, which distracted them from further questions.

I sat a table away from the first-time visitors. They’d decided on my second course of ordering, choosing riskier and fuller selections. They were delighted. Once they had their food, I walked over and held up my large bottle of Tajin. “Since y’all are young, I’m going to save you some trouble. You can have a lot more flavor and eat a lot more variety if you find a seasoning you like.” I explained what Tajin was, then poured a condiment cup of it out. They thanked me as I went back to my table. After a moment, the younger man closest to me turned and said, “Hell, the difference with the Tajin-stuff is amazing!” His eyes lit up. “You can buy it at Walmart, too,” I told him, to ensure he would become addicted. Because I forgot to mention it, I also said, “Taco Tuesday, all the tacos are a dollar. You’ll love it!” I also made a mental note for myself to write Tajin Corporation and ask about commissions.

I ate my platter of minimalist craziness and considered eating the soggy paper left there too. As I left, the new customers said, “Hey, thanks!” again and gave me the thumbs up.

Though it’s hard for this to be true most of the time, it was true today: everyone was happy for even a brief moment.

PS I wore one of my rip shirts to work today. It turned out to be a wise choice.

Because Time Is Short

Minutes before, I endured a needlessly hateful experience at the retail level. I’d done my diligence and arrived with everything from the company itself to keep the process simple and without hitches. I should’ve known that would have disturbed the gods of Inner Peace & Tranquility. In response to being treated terribly, I gave my creative side permission to unleash a little hell on them. It was gloriously fun. I’ll write about it some other time. I admit that while I engaged in frivolous tomfoolery to repay their savagery, I was disappointed a bit at humanity in general, as if the rest of us were responsible for whatever that behavior was.

Proposed rule: “The greater your belief that you have dotted every ‘i’ and covered every base, the greater the likelihood that hell will rain down upon your head no matter what. And triply so if retail is involved or the word ‘service’ is literally in the job title of the person causing you grief.” I know the spirit of this is already contained in several Murphy’s Law. Nonetheless…

I ate lunch somewhere other than Mr. Taco Loco. (I wanted a lot of pico de gallo.) When asked for my order, I said, “Anything on special. Even cow hooves.” (Because I had no plans to eat it, anyway.) Two women were already seated closely nearby, to my right. Though I wasn’t eavesdropping, I could hear every word they said.

Something about the way they talked hinted at things that weren’t being said. I can’t put my finger on it – nor does it matter. I felt my mood flip to being grateful and for those in my life who could see past my stupidity and issues. It was Divine.

I told the waitress to bring me their check and asked her to say nothing to the two women. I spoke in Spanish, of course. The two women had carefully avoided speaking too loudly when they saw my little mountain of pico de gallo. I don’t know what they made of me. I ate quickly, too.

I paid for all three meals, tip included, and walked back to their table, placing one of my infamous index cards at the end of their table. “I included tip, too,” I said. I pirouetted quickly and marched quickly away from there before a torrent of thank-yous could envelop me. Near the front door sat a table full of construction workers. They looked up at me as I marched. The women behind me were excitedly commenting. I’m assuming the difference in pitch and enthusiasm, combined with me blazing across the floor after a dramatic pirouette confused the construction workers. I half-expected one of them to jump and prevent me from exiting. I laughed loudly and unexpectedly as I walked outside.

Behind me, as I left, I knew I’d surprised a couple of strangers. And that they had something to think about. All of us were a little more buoyant.

No matter who you are, take a moment and think about that sudden overwhelming flip of emotion I experienced at lunch, the one preceded by needless hatefulness and followed by sublime happiness. I hope you’re lucky enough to have people in your life for whom you can do the same.