Food and Drink

Cicadas are coming! Why I Wear Cordura Chaps

Hello.

Scientists and the media are warning us cicadas will soon emerge from the earth. Some weird sh$t might happen! I have some first-hand knowledge of said sh$t, so I'm sharing my funny and almost entirely true piece, Why I Wear Cordura Chaps. I hope you enjoy the read and then prepare for the cicada invasion. 

Why I Wear Cordura Chaps

I’ve been hit by crumpled burger wrappers, glowing cigarette butts, and a pink rubber flip-flop while driving my motorcycle. The laws of physics tell us, and our bruised bodies back up, that objects hurt more when they strike us while we’re driving fast in the opposite direction. The formula is: one-half the weight of the object times the square of its speed = kinetic energy. I dress for 70-mile-per-hour levels of pain.

I’ve seen bikers travel at top speeds with no windshields and wearing short helmets that didn’t cover their faces. Plain stupid, is what I called them, even if their casual protein consumption was higher than mine. Were you aware that caterpillars contain as much protein as, and more iron than, beefsteak? I didn’t know if the same held true for butterflies, which bikers were more likely to consume. I preferred the nutrients I got from foods I ingested on purpose.

I had nothing against insects and understood that much of the food we eat contains ground up bug bodies. For example, the Food and Drug Administration determined that chocolate met their safety standards as long as there were fewer than 60 bug fragments and one rat hair per 100 grams (3.5 ounces or two regular-sized candy bars). And pasta was A-OK as long as it contained less than 225 bug fragments and 4.5 rodent hairs per 225 grams (about 8 ounces). We’re all bug eaters, even those of us who think we’re vegans. A serving of canned spinach shouldn’t contain more than an average of 50 or more aphids, thrips, or mites; or two larvae or spinach worms. And while bugs were in many of our foods, I didn’t want to inhale or swallow them while riding my motorcycle. Most tasted bland or bitter served splattered raw and without the benefit of spices or hot sauce.

My Honda cruiser named Hazel had a windshield that kept most flying objects from hitting my torso and head. Most, but not all. Wind swirls sometimes rerouted horizontal rain and low-flying birds toward my bike that then smacked me in the chest, neck, and head. I once had a pigeon cream me at about 50mph and, while I know that many fine restaurants serve pigeon, I wasn’t in the mood for warm dove tartare with no capers or crusty French bread. These wind-eddy encounters were rare, and my windshield and full-faced helmet did a suitable job of sheltering my upper body.

Protecting my lower body was another matter and a greater challenge. I didn’t know what was about to hit my legs until it happened because safe driving protocols demands that I kept my eyes forward and in front of the bike. Imagine being blindfolded in a cage with a ball-pitching machine aimed at your legs. The balls come at you fast and some are spikey. That’s the difference that speed makes on the hurt that bikers experience.

To reduce pain and injury to my lower body, I wore Cordura chaps—cut long, so they’d cover my ankles and boots while riding. You might notice bikers walking funny to keep their chaps from dragging on the ground. We’re all modern-day cowboys and girls.

If I crashed, they’d keep me from scraping the skin off my legs. The durable, abrasion resistance, and waterproof qualities of Cordura prevented rain from soaking my legs and boots, and the chaps protected my knees and calves from flying debris. After an afternoon ride, I could stretch out my leg and see remains from thousands of little bugs and a few larger ones.

And then there were the enormous bugs: cicadas. I rolled into Chicago June 16th while on a solo cross-country trip. I’d heard on the news that cicadas would be invading the area as they emerged from the incubation period they spent underground. Once every 17 years, cicadas came out by the millions to live, breed, and then die. They lived only a few months above ground but made a lot of noise and a sizeable mess while they were here.

I saw a handful of cicadas on my first day in the area and hoped this would be all I encountered. No such luck. My heart sank as I rounded a curve on I-94, heading toward Milwaukee. I heard their sinister high-pitched buzz through my full-faced helmet, over the roar of my 1100cc engine, and despite the droning traffic noise. Their friction-induced screams for attention from the opposite sex warned me they were ahead, and then I saw them. Like a cloud of bulked-up flies, some the size of White Castle sliders, they floated in erratic circles. I was going seventy miles per hour in heavy traffic and couldn’t stop or avoid getting hit by their freakishly gargantuan bodies.

My motorcycle’s windshield took the blow for my upper body. They hit with a smash and then splattered part. It was disgusting. A few bounced off the top of my helmet; they’re juicy suckers. I didn’t have a fairing to shield the lower half of my body. When cicadas started hitting my knees and legs, they felt like rocks except that they broke apart on impact. Even with my Cordura chaps, my knees and calves jerked with pain each time a bug hit them. Percussive thuds punctuated their shrill buzz as the Cicadas became rush-hour victims. I didn’t slow down or want to stop; I ached—literally—to get through the ordeal. My voice boomed as I shouted into my full-face helmet. You can do this! Just focus! Don’t look at the splats. It will end soon. You’ll be OK.

I believed the cicada storm would stop if I could make it through the next mile or two. How many could there be? Although I kept my eyes focused forward, I saw people pointing at me from their cars. Counting their blessings that they weren’t me. The bombardment ended after about five minutes, and I pulled off the road and into a truck stop to wash my windshield, headlamp, front grill, helmet, and chaps. It took me over a year and many washes to get the all cicada DNA off Hazel.

Cicadas—which are high in protein and nutritious—were a staple food for many peoples, including Australian Aborigines, New Guineas, and American Indians. The ancient Greeks found the cicadas a delicacy because of their nutty flavor. Cicadas are the most desirable just after hatching (when they’re called tenerals), because their shells are still soft. Hatchlings emerge from the ground early in the morning and are easy to catch because they can’t fly for several hours. For best results, marinate live cicadas in Worcestershire sauce (this kills them, I know you were wondering), dip them in egg and flour and fry them until golden brown. Count on having fifteen cicadas per person for an entrée-sized portion.

Two days later, while I was driving north of Minneapolis, I encountered hail. It was loud and fell hard, even though the ice pellets were about pea sized. I made it through the hailstorm after two or three miles. I couldn’t seek shelter because this unpopulated stretch of highway had no overpasses or exits. In case you think I was a fool; I would’ve pulled over if the hail had been larger.

Before I took this forty-day solo trip, I used to moan about riding in gray drizzling rains common in the Pacific Northwest. Even soft rain felt like little nails when they hit my knees and calves. Our occasional fat-rain storms hurt enough to cause some bruising. I also whined to my husband when I had to drive in the rain the long way home around the Puget Sound when the ferries were out of service. My perspective about these minor inconveniences have changed because I know it could be worse.

You might wonder why I bothered with these painful pursuits. Why anyone would put themselves through a gauntlet of unwelcomed road obstacles. If you added accident stats and the high costs of bike gear and accessories to this theoretical discussion, you might suggest I should’ve re-assessed my priorities. Perhaps you think this avocation adds up to an illogical mess best avoided.

But consider this question. When we’re eighty and looking back on our lives, what will we remember? Which recollections will make us smile? I hypothesize that we won’t talk about the times we drove a silver Honda Accord to work and back or the places we didn’t go because the conditions were uncomfortable. While motorcycles provide a means a way to get from point A to point B, they also tap into our spirit of western-ho independence. Each outing offers riders obstacles and opportunities to feel victorious. We sashay off our bikes wearing our ride and full of pride because we owned the road. We have splendid stories to tell during coffee shop gatherings and on our Facebook pages.

I got stuck behind a semi that blew a tire. Chunks of hot rubber and rocks hit me for what seemed like forever. Cracked the plastic red cover on my left turn signal. I could see the driver cackling in his rear-view mirror and did the highway cha-cha to get away from the SOB. I’d show you my scars, but I wore my Cordura chaps and sustained only a few bruises. Those chaps are worth more than a lifetime supply of MoonPies. And you know how I feel about MoonPies.

My biker friends know I speak the truth. Wear Cordura chaps to ensure your misadventures don’t land you in the emergency room. And relax. A few bugs up your nose won’t kill you.

 


The Human Body is a System

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I had few health challenges until I was 35. Then the chaos-theory-reverberation-making-proverbial-shit-hit-the-fan. But this is not a woe is me post. It's a reflection on the circuitous path we have to walk/run/dance/jump when trying to investigate what ails us.

Wait, Lisa. Isn't that what doctors are for?

If I could hire a private investigator with a medical degree, sure. But our healthcare delivery system is fragmented and focused. And my primary care physician - theoretically the overseer of my care - is so overburdened that she is forced to farm out anything requiring more than ten minutes to resolve to specialists. 

I have a lot of "ologists" on my medical team. They're super smart about a few things. They've studied a small number of health problems in depth so they can get really good at treating them.

The problem with this is everything is connected. Human bodies are chaotic systems. Interesting fact: It was in the context of the body that Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, the Father of Systems Thinking, fathered systems thinking

"As long as we single out individual phenomena, we do not discover any fundamental difference between the living and the non-living." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Problems of Life: An evolution of modern biological thought

"In order to understand an organized whole, we must know both the parts and the relations between them." Ludwig von Bertalanffy, The History and Status of General Systems Theory

Having specialists looking at their assigned piece of me is helpful but insufficient. My oncologist doesn't know about diet or metabolism. My endocrinologist doesn't know about cancer or the heart. My cardiologist doesn't know about the digestive tract. My neurologist doesn't know about arthritis or strength. My personal trainer (not an ologist, but on the team) doesn't know about medications and blood test results. But my cancer affects my digestion. And the oral chemo I take affects my heart. And my metabolism affects my thinking and movement. And my diet affects everything. 

My job is to discover how things are connected, make meaning, and fill in gaps. To do this, I listen to my ologists and do a lot of research using reliable sources. Maybe I go back to my ologists with my findings. Sometimes I'm on my own.

It's a lot of work and my most important job. And when I figure something out, it's sweet like cherry pie.


Update: Fitness Misadventures

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Several weeks ago I wrote about how I needed to focus on getting stronger and lighter and that this effort would be a big potential misadventure that would enable me to live a more misadventurous life. Here's an update.

My plan. I have a new virtual personal trainer, and she's awesome. The format suits my style and needs. She created a plan for me and then we did a couple of live sessions where she showed me how to properly do the strength training exercises. We have a private Facebook group where I post what I do each day, and include any proof (like screen shots from the Fitbit app). The result is that I have accountability, independence, and flexibility. The plan will be updated as needed with additional one-on-one sessions to learn new strength exercises.

My activities include:

  • Strength training twice per week using routines my trainer designed.
  • WaterRower and Peloton bike twice each per week.
  • Easy and light yoga once per week.
  • Dog walks (were already doing these).

To augment my home gym, I've purchased 3,5, and 10 pound dumbbell pairs, a set of resistance bands, a thick yoga mat, and ankle weights. I already had the WaterRower (15 years old still my favorite piece of exercise equipment) and the Peloton bike.

I'm in the middle of my third week! I'm getting stronger...slowly...which I know is all that this 56-year-old immunocompromised body can manage. I feel the usual hey-you-worked-out muscle pain the day after, and the next, and next...

I'm feeling optimistic about the "get stronger" part of my goal. The "get lighter" intention will be a tougher challenge because my diet is fairly plugged in (90% while food plant based) and my metabolism runs like a sloth on quaaludes. 

Although I could've researched and created my own plan, having a virtual personal trainer helps me stick to a schedule because I've promised to post my activity in our FB group.

I could fib, but it would be obvious because the post would lack the detail or proof of my truthful checkins.

And lying would be wrong, of course. I meant to say that first. I'm not religious, but it seems plausible that I could be struck down for such shenanigans. Bad juju, or something.

I'd surely get caught and suffer greatly EVEN in spite of my considerable prowess for creating far-fetched fiction...I'm not doing it. (I know adverbs are bad but are they bad juju? I don't think so.) 

Why so much energy about fibbing to your personal trainer, Lisa? 

Let's just say I experienced a moment of truth the first day I fell short of the assigned activities. I'm proud to admit that I did not lie. I requested and was granted a mulligan.

Today is my "Pull" day of strength training. I'm getting psyched up for it right now. This set includes 8 exercises that I'll do 2-3 times, each for 12-15 reps. I'll do some stretching, too. 

Progress. I'm progressing in wee bits. Therefore, and in usual Lisa form (delusion), I'm imagining walking a 1/2 marathon in Albuquerque in March and then biking 50 miles or so through the rolling hills of the Bluegrass next summer. Plus hiking for 2 weeks in New Mexico's High Desert (or Sedona), and kayaking a lot.

Some of these aspirations might be a stretch but the thing in March is for real. Such a lovely time of year in New Mexico. The picture above is of Sandia Mountain (means watermelon in Spanish because of how the mountain looks at sunset) in Albuquerque. Lovely, eh? Oh, and I'm going to hike all the way from the bottom to the top of Sandia. And eat lots of chile (that's not misspelled).

Focus. I should probably start with finishing a 5k around my neighborhood without having my knees file for desertion. Or divorce. Whichever applies to abused joints seeking another body or arrangement. 


Mini-Misadventures: Running Amok

I used the phrase running amok this morning to describe sprouting sweet potatoes that are vining all over my dining table. If I don't do something with them - kill or plant - the vines might just take over the kitchen. Then I wondered...where does running amok come from? Who was the first person to run amok?

Here's the fascinating story of the phrase quoted from the Mental Floss website

"The English word most directly comes from the Malay amuck more or less meaning “attacking furiously” or “attacking with uncontrollable rage” or, more aptly, “homicidal mania.” Some theorize this Malay word may have Indian origins or be from the name of a group of professional assassins in Malabar, called the Amuco. Others theorize that it came from the Malay word amar, meaning “fight,” specifically via Amar-khan, which was a certain type of warrior. Yet another theory is that the Malay amuck ultimately comes from the Sanskrit amokshya, meaning "that cannot be loosed."

I've been to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, or KL, several times and enjoyed it. This capital city is both modern and traditional. I didn't witness anyone running amok there. The book, Common Phrases: And Where They Came From, suggested that the phrase was first used to describe opium addicts in Malaysia who, apparently, sometimes did extreme and violent things. I didn't hang with any opium addicts while in KL. That I know of. 

I think it's doubly interesting that so many words - amuck, Amuco, amar, and amolshya - describe something ominous or dangerous. Makes me wonder about a guy I dated decades ago named Amar who seemed a bit off. Hmm.

Back to my current problem. Are the sweet potato plants furiously attacking my table or should I have used a tamer phrase to describe their advancements?

I think they are.

Let's hope we don't transition into the homicidal mania stage...

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Lavender Sales are Soaring. Real placebo effect?

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We the people are buying a lot of lavender right now (according to this story on CNN)

I've not bought lavender and am now wondering if something is seriously wrong with me. Because I love lavender. 

Case in point: I named my purple motorcycle Hazel, that's short for Purple Haze. And while you might think the name referred to the Jimi Hendrix song by the same name (which I like), it was actually paying homage to a lovely lavender farm in Sequim (western Washington) called Purple Haze. We visited that Purple Haze several years ago during the Sequim Lavender Festival.

That's pronounced SQWIM, I know you were wondering.

I loved sitting in the lavender fields and breathing in the lovely fragrance. So much, in fact, that doing the same thing among lavender fields in Provence, France is on my bucket list.

On the when things get back to normal bucket list. The make it through the pandemic bucket list should apparently have "buy a bunch of lavender products" on it. 

We're buying lavender because we're stressed and we think it will help. That's what the article claimed. It also said that there's no actual proof that lavender helps us de-stress.

But does that matter? Placebo affect and all? If we love how it smells, and tell ourselves that it's calming, then BINGO, it will be. I suppose we could ask Dr. Lavender, but I bet his answer would be pro-lavender for stress, fear, loneliness, and, agoraphobia. For all the things, lavender is the answer.

Placebos, even when we know they're a placebo (inert) are often more powerful than things that claim to not be placebos. I bet there are more placebo things than not placebo things. 

I gotta go. Time to place an order for some lavender. How about you? Might make your weekend and week more ________ (fill in the blank with whatever you want, that's what's cool about placebos, they're flexible!). Perhaps I'll roast some root vegetables with Herbs de Provence, heavy on the lavender, which I'm sure will feel pretty close to being there.


Misadventure: Making Thyme for What Matters

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One of the ways I experiment with making my life more misadventurous is to go against my type and strengths and try something that falls into the category of "things I usually botch." Often fabulously and flamboyantly botch.

Today's story is about a wee thyme plant (pictured above).

I'm a hit and miss gardener. Not much in the way of good instincts, but I've learned a few things that seem to work for me. As a result, we tend to have a decent herb garden each year. If you've read my stuff for a while, you know that my husband Bill does all the cooking. The herb garden is my contribution to our food preparation. And placing pick up orders. 

I decided to broaden the narrow list of things I managed not to @%$* up by one or two but knew I'd need to find a coach or take a class. Not read a book. Have you read gardening books? Most are far too detailed and so boring they make better sleep aids than skill builders. No offense to gardening book writers out there (but, come on...).

I found and decided to take Ron Finley's gardening class on Masterclass. He calls himself the "Gangster Gardener," and was the perfect teacher for me because he cut to the chase and gave practical, doable advice. He talked action, not science. 

One of his lessons was on propagation - making new plants from other plants. Propagation is a 301 level gardening class, and my capabilities had proven to be 101 at best. But Ron made me think I could do it.

I had a dead thyme plant that had been undone by Lexington's cold and wet winter and spring. Poor thing. I had cleared it out of its planter and was about to throw it in the compost bin (another thing Ron taught me to do). I looked at the ugly mess on my planting bench. Was it really all and completely dead?

I decided to try propagating a part of the brown, brittle herb plant. I cut it down to the base and separated a small piece that felt less dead. I stuck the new creation in the corner of one my raised beds. I vowed to talk to it every day to encourage my creation to spring to life.

At first, it did not look promising. The wee twig/plant just sat there. But then, weeks later, I saw a tiny green leaf. And then another. And although I've never really had motherly instincts related to humans babies, I found myself proud of my little creation. I starting planning for when it would grow up big and strong and change our culinary world.

Ron had been right.

Propagation is the slow way to go, though, and after three months my wee thyme plant is still just two inches tall. During this same timeframe, I've managed to plant and kill a dozen other herbs and vegetables (the confidence I gained from taking Ron's class might've gone to my head). 

So while home grown tomatoes, broccoli and melons will not be featured on the Haneberg dining table this year, we will have, in time, very special thyme.

This misadventure has been a circuitous but resounding success (she says with her fingers crossed behind her back hoping not to jinx herself given that much can go wrong in matters involving outdoor gardening). 

What new against-type-and-strength skill shall I try next?