Things I learned this week (October 23 – October 29)

This week I learned…

…that apparently my husband can either relate to or, more likely, commiserate with the characters of the new sitcom Whitney.  I’m not really sure how I feel about this because Whitney is nuts.  I’m a lot of things, not all of them flattering, but nuts is not one of them.

…that my obsession with the Real Housewives franchise is waning.  I guess all things, including guilty pleasures, must run their course.  I’m a little sad by this, but I’m sure it won’t be long before something equally trashy comes along and piques my interest.  I only have to look as far as the Bravo network.

…that nothing makes you appreciate a former co-worker like having to deal with some of her former crazy clients.  Boy, do I wish I could tell you all about it.  I can’t.  You know, that whole confidentiality thing.  Attorney’s are sticklers.  Who can blame them?  Getting sued sucks.  But trust me when I tell you – clients are CRAZY.  I miss you, Val.  Seriously.

…that failing to remember to do something and then have it negatively impact your child sucks. I forgot to refill my daughter’s lunch money card.  She didn’t complain – just texted a sad face.  Poor kid.  However, I tried make up for it by arriving to pick her up from school with a PB&J in hand.  She’s a good girl with a forgiving heart.  I earned a smile and an “I love you”.  I will try to do better.

…that I am having a serious case of writer’s ADD.  I’ve started five blog entries (unrelated to Man vs. Beast or Things I learned) and have lost interest in all of the subjects.  Perhaps, lost interest is not really the right way to describe what I’m feeling.  Maybe I am going through a period of self-doubt.  When I started this whole blogging thing, I swore to myself that I was going to write as an exercise and not care if anyone really read it. Now that I see people do read it, I am worried about writing uninteresting things.  No offense, but I think I need to go back to not giving a shit and just write for me.  I seemed to be more productive that way.  Of course, I love writing the Man vs. Beast and Things I learned blogs too.  Oh man.  I’m so…SQUIRREL…

…that the honey badger just don’t give a shit…

…that the Princess Bride is a wonderful movie.  Megan and I watched it for the first time over the weekend.  She was less enthusiastic about it and told me that it was stupid.  I’m going to venture to guess that this just wasn’t her thing.  Not that I’m surprised.  Next, I’m going to make her watch D.A.R.Y.L.  I think she will like that one better.

…that my Western Civilization professor is a Monty Python junkie.  As a means of helping us understand the role of knights in medieval Europe, he had us watch clips from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I’ll be honest, I’ve never really understood the allure of this genre of comedy, but I love that he has a quirky sense of humor.  This alone will earn him a positive review from me on www.ratemyprofessor.com.

…that as a history major, the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens incites a vast array of emotions in me.  None of them favorable toward the show.  However, there is one thing about it that makes me giggle like a school girl.  Giorgio Tsoukalos and his ever-growing hair.

…last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought you by my brother, Rob.   He was kind enough to pass along this adorable picture of a chimp giving its kitty a hug.  Enjoy.

Man vs. Beast VII

Are you ready to find out how far the animals have progressed in their endeavor to take over the world?

I am.

Here we go…

A Texas man, diving off the southwest coast of Australia died over the weekend in an apparent shark attack.  Officials are taking this latest attack, the third in just two months, very serious.  They have organized an aggressive hunt for the shark with orders that it be destroyed on sight.   Rumors are flying.  Locals believe that they are dealing with a “rogue” shark who has developed a taste for human flesh.  Um…duh.  Of course, experts scoff at this idea and warn that killing the shark goes against conservation efforts to protect the endangered species.  As usual, the experts don’t know shit.   To me, it looks like the animals have deployed the big guns Down Under.  They have called in the ninja shark assassins.  No one is safe now.  My advice – stay the hell out of the water!  [Click for story]

Near Vancouver Island, a man mistakenly shot his friend when he mistook him for a bear.  The two men were camping near the Nitinat River.  During the night, one man was awoken by what he thought were the sounds of a bear trying to break into the tent.  Instead of trying to first identify the source of the ruckus, he pulled out his gun and began firing randomly, in the direction of the sounds.  He hit his camping buddy, who was still asleep, in the face and arms.  The man will recover, however, there is a valuable lesson to be learned here  – tents are for stupid people; be smart, spring for the hotel room.  [Click for story]

A Minnesota man was enjoying some peace and quiet on the porch of his cabin last month, when he felt what he thought was a mosquito brush the back of his neck.  Imagine his surprise when he reached back to swat it, only to come in contact with a wet, furry nose.  He  turned around and found himself face to face with a bear.  Having obviously read the manual on how to survive a bear attack, the man did not move a muscle.  He sat motionless as he bear stared at him for several seconds before becoming interested in a nearby bird feeder.  Still, the man didn’t dare move from his spot.  It was a good thing, too.  A few minutes later the bear returned to the porch and proceeded to thoroughly sniff his face.  Eventually, the bear lost interest and wondered off for good.   I think this animal might be one of the few that has not turned against the humans, though, I’m sure that is of little consequence to this man who likely had to change to soiled undies immediately following this encounter.  [Click here]

Last week in Newport, Oregon, a surfer was lucky enough to survive what could have been a deadly attack by a Great White.  In classic Great White style, the animal attacked from below, lifting the surfer up into the air.  Fortunately, the only thing the shark got its teeth into was the man’s board.  Beaches were closed as officials kept an eye out for the shark.  It seems that Australia’s ninja shark assassins are infiltrating our western coast, as well.  Though, this one does not seem as skilled as it’s Aussie friends.  The victim, who was understandably shaken by the incident, says he is done with surfing.  Finally, a surfer with common sense.  [Click here]

Just in case you were not aware of what a classic Great White attack involves:

And lastly, we have the Utah hiker who came across two moose – a male and a female – and decided the only logical thing to was approach them and capture them on film.  Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I can bring this man’s stupidity to you.  It’s okay to laugh out loud.  I did.

Things I learned this week (October 16 – October 22)

I learned this week…

…that Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale is bawdy, raunchy, and not unlike a lot of off humor comedies in popular culture.  It’s not usually the kind of thing I find entertaining.  I mean, I think I am the only person on the planet who was offended by The Hangover.  Having said that, this particular sequence in The Miller’s Tale was so unexpected that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud – after I figured out what exactly Chaucer was referring to:

The night was pitch dark, coal-black all about.
Her rear end through the window she thrust out.
He got no better or worse, did Absolom,
Than to kiss her with his mouth on the bare bum
Before he had caught on, a smacking kiss.
 
He jumped back, thinking something was amiss.
A woman had no beard, he was well aware,
But what he felt was rough and had long hair.
 

The Canterbury Tales, The Miller’s Tale.  Geoffrey Chaucer.

O.M.G.

…that in-class group projects suck.  Not because I am so anti-social that I am loathed to interact with my classmates….huh?  Oh, shut up.

…that my daughter seems to be embroiled in a sort of love triangle – with brothers!  She has made friends with two brothers, one in 7th grade, the other in 5th. They live just around the corner from us and have become something of a fixture around the house.  I believe that she has a bit of a crush on the older boy, however, both boys appear to be quite smitten.  I see heartbreak, tears and a trip to Sonic for the consolatory M & M blast in our future.

…that I really hate chronic complainers.  So much so that I find that my favorite new past-time is complaining about their complaining.  The irony is not lost on me.  However, at this time, I am going to choose to ignore the hypocrisy and continue complaining about other people’s complaining.

…that it was time to decatify my house again.  It seems like I just did it, but the dust bunnies rolling out from beneath the couch told a different story.  I spent my Saturday moving furniture, vacuuming, dusting and polishing.  With five cats in the house, we will never be completely cat hair free but, at least for now, it is safe to sit in my favorite chair again.

…that I really hope the Libyans have a plan.

…that sometimes my sweet-natured daughter needs to be reminded that I am empress of my domain and this empire does not lean toward democracy.  Luckily, she usually only needs a small reminder and peace is quickly restored.

…that at first glance my Western Civ test study guide appeared harmless.  Boy, was I wrong.  We are closing in on ten pages and I’m not done yet.  I have a feeling this guide will be my constant companion until Thursday’s exam.  After that, I just might have a celebratory burning – and a swig of something potent.

…that my daughter is at the age where doctors begin to encourage the HPV vaccination.  At her annual well check this week, her doctor (who has treated her since she was born and knows me very well – deals with me very well) urged me to have it administered.  I declined.  I’ve done a lot of research on this – both for and against – for a series of papers last year.  I see both sides of the controversy, but do you know what my biggest issue is?  Rick Perry’s mandate.  I’m still pissed about that.  I will revisit the issue next year.  Maybe I will feel differently.

…and last but not least, this week’s awww moment is brought to you by three little piggie bums.

Steffen Schmidt / EPA

Okay, not really.  But this picture did make me snort ever so slightly.  Please, no bacon jokes.  I have a little soft spot in my heart for piggies.

…Our real awww moment is brought to you by this baby Bornean orangutan born last month at the L.A. Zoo.  A true picture of maternal love:

Tad Motoyami / L.A. Zoo via AP

Pumpkins and spice…

Well, good morning, Autumn.  I see Mother Nature has released you from your cage and allowed you to bless us with your presence.  Has she finally forgiven us for whatever transgressions we unknowingly committed against her?  Or has someone at last taken my advise and supplied her with an endless stream of chocolate?

I bet it was the chocolate.  That always fixes what ails me.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, the reason for her reversal of favor doesn’t matter much, just that you have finally arrived.

And so here we find ourselves in mid-October, in the Lone Star State, with our first noticeable cold front of the season, sweeping down from the Rockies.  The air is cool, crisp and refreshing – the endless brutality of the scorching summer just a distant bad memory.  Everywhere you look, fall festivities are in full swing – haunted houses, pumpkin patches, the State Fair.  It is truly the best time of the year.

Now, I must admit that I’m not real big on the fair.  I understand the draw for people who like that sort of thing, but I don’t find it overly enjoyable.  It’s crowded, expensive and well – did I mention expensive?  The pumpkin patch, on the other hand, is something that I thoroughly enjoy.  The price is right, there’s always fresh kettle corn and who doesn’t dig a good old fashion hay ride? The homey, festive feel of these little tracts of land covered in endless rows of pumpkins, hay bales and corn husks never fail to fill me with the spirit of the season.

The year is filled with lots of holidays – Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year.  I don’t get excited about any of them.  My least favorite – Christmas.  I’ve been told that I am a bit of a Scrooge McDuck.  I’ll own it.  I would rather spend Christmas on a remote tropical island sipping fruity, frozen cocktails and watching dolphins frolic in the surf.

What?

Don’t you judge me.

I’m not the first person to think Christmas is a royal pain in the ass.  There I said it.  Christmas is painful – from the blood baths at the mall, to the marathon baking, to the cluttered tree trimming, to the infuriating debate over the origins of the holiday.  By New Year’s Day, the overwhelming pressure of it all turns me into a twitchy basket case, in desperate need of a very big glass of tequila.

In spite of my holiday loathing, I love Halloween.

In stark contrast, Halloween is carefree and simple.  It’s all about fantasy and fun.  Caramel apples and pumpkin spiced lattes. Jack-o-lanterns and spooky stories of headless horsemen.  Costumes and pillowcases full of sweet treats.   The best part – no one demands a damn thing from me.

What’s not to love about that?

Unfortunately, fall will give way to winter.  All too soon I will be consumed with hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, elbow deep in cookie dough and gift wrap.  I will curse the traffic, the shoppers, and anyone else who gets in my way and dream of a beach far, far away.  One with fruity, frozen drinks and frolicking dolphins.

For now, though, in the calm before the storm, I am going sit here in my favorite sweatshirt, sipping a warm pumpkin spice latte, and just relish in the feel of fall.

Man vs. Beast VI

I’m going to have to be completely honest here and say that I was prepared to skip this week’s Man vs. Beast entry for lack of any good animal mischief.

Boy, was I mistaken.

I would also like to say before I begin, that when you take this story in its true context, without creative license, it is incredibly heartbreaking both for the man who took his own life and the innocent animals who were gunned down by authorities.  I understand that these animals were dangerous to the public at large, however, I really wish there had been a better way to handle the situation.   This is a truly tragic story.

Having said that – let the fun begin:

In Zanesville, Ohio, the owner of an animal sanctuary was found dead on Wednesday.  Police say that the man committed suicide, but not before releasing all of the animals housed at the sanctuary.   Animals such as lions, tigers, bears, and monkeys.  The logical question that comes to mind here is:  Why?  Why would a man who would care enough about these animals to provide them with a secure habitat to live out their days, suddenly release them and kill himself?  Things don’t really add up, do they?  Well, of course they don’t.  This man didn’t kill himself.  He was murdered in a sophisticated jail break orchestrated by the animal revolution’s masterminds.

Who are these evil masterminds?

The penguins.

I think you would have to be incredibly naive not to see that this situation has the penguins’ stench all over it.  They have been mobilizing for quite some time, recruiting animals where they can, and trying to get their convoluted message of world domination out to the masses.  Their mission: to unite the animal kingdom, overthrow mankind, and take over the world.   In an effort to increase their numbers, they seized on an opportunity to recruit animals who were already living within the vein of human society.  Think of it as a sleeper cell of sorts.  They broke into the sanctuary, killed the owner, and released their comrades.  Unfortunately, these animals have lived most of their lives in captivity and, although they supported the penguins’ cause, were ill-equipped to handle the severity of the situation.  Their lack of training was obvious.  Instead of moving stealthily though the brush, the animals frolicked through the fields and out into traffic on a collision course with the gun-toting American public.  A drastic and costly miscalculation by the penguins for it was a suicide mission from its inception.

Yes, I know what you are thinking – there were no penguins found at the Ohio animal sanctuary.  Of course, there weren’t.  From the moment it was evident that the mission was a failure, the penguins were on the move.  Where they have gone, is anyone’s guess.  But rest assured that this will not be last we hear from them.  If nothing else, this incident will only serve to strengthen their resolve to obliterate the human race.

Things I learned this week (October 8 – October 15)

I learned this week…

…that looking for the perfect pumpkin is serious business in my house.  Last weekend we went to our favorite pumpkin patch.   In a dusty, weed filled field, we searched – row upon neatly constructed row.  There were big ones and small ones, fat ones and skinny ones.  Some that where lopsided, some with twisted and gnarled stems.  The search was exhausting, but finally we spied him – our perfect pumpkin.  His color lovely, his skin roughly textured.  He had character.  We quickly deemed him worthy of the noble position of front porch sentry.  He would guard our door faithfully when the hordes of trick-or-treaters come knocking.  And there he will stay – until he rots or is stolen and murdered by the evil neighborhood teenagers.

…that I still loath Beowulf with every fiber of my being.  While I can appreciate the artistry of the piece, a tale of a heroic warrior’s adventures of dragon slaying just isn’t my thing.  Giovanni Boccaccio, I’ve discovered, is my thing.  It has everything I love in a story – jealousy, betrayal, and murder with a slightly sick twist.  In The Decameron, Boccaccio tells us of a knight whose wife is in love with his best friend.  The knight plots the murder of his friend, cuts his heart out and then instructs his cook to make an elaborate dish out of it.  As his cheating wife cleans her plate and licks her lips, he says:

“What did you think of that, madam?”

“In good faith, my lord,”…”I liked it very much.”

“So help me God,”…”I do believe you did.  But I am not surprised to find that you liked it dead, because when it was alive you liked it better than anything else in the whole world.”

From “The Ninth Story of the Fourth Day” The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio.

Yes.  Sick and twisted.  Definitely my thing.

…that I have broken my pledge to avoid the State Fair of Texas at all costs, two years in a row.  Last year my BFF Amy talked me into going.  I was powerless to refuse the only thing she asked to do while she was visiting from Florida.  This year, my resolve was crumbled by the most beautiful pair of blue eyes.

…that (in reference to the above) the Fair is still overpriced and crowded with rude, obnoxious people.  However, I did eat a Fletcher’s corny dog and a fried pumpkin pie.  Both pretty darn good.  Still, I don’t understand why anyone would coat their corn dog with mustard, then walk around trying to eat it.  Totally disgusting.

…that the discovery of the private study rooms at my campus library was a wonderful thing.  Sure, I don’t get to people watch and play my beloved “What if?” game.  I am saddened by that, but it is a small price to pay in order to avoid inconsiderate, germ-invested young people.  Plus, lack of distractions leads to increased productivity. I was able to get an entire blog finished on Tuesday and about 1000 words written in Retribution on Thursday.  Not too shabby.

…that technology is not always my friend.  This is the second time I’ve written this particular blog entry.  Very frustrating, but I am trying to look on the bright side – at least I didn’t accidentally delete the 21,000+ words I have managed to eek out for Retribution thus far.

…that I don’t get this whole Occupy Wall Street thing.  I saw an interview with one protester here in Dallas who boasted of quitting her job at Neiman’s so that she could protest.  Really?  What kind of message does that send?   Look, I’m all for exercising one’s constitutional right to assemble.  I understand that the country is angry, and rightfully so, but these folks need to consolidate their message if they want anyone with any power to incite change to take them serious.  Right now, they look like a bunch of campers making a mess at the local city park.  I feel sorry for the park employees who will have to clean up their mess once they are finally evicted.

…and finally…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by a crazy little squirrel who looks a bit like Einstein to me – well, if Einstein were a Russian squirrel with hairy ears.

Maxim Shipenkov / EPA

Man vs. Beast V

Academic overload.

That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

What does it matter, anyway?  It’s Tuesday and I’m giving you what you want a day early.  Surely, that earns me some forgiveness.  Yes?

What?

You say, you didn’t notice my lack of post last week?  I’m crushed.

Well, for those of you who do care, here are what the animals have been up to since we last met.  Enjoy.

**edit** Special thanks to my brother, Rob, for providing me with leads on more than a couple stories used in this weeks blog.

In Newport, Pennsylvania, a bear followed the family dog home and attacked its owners, landing them both in the emergency room with gashes and bite marks.  Wardens believe that the bear, likely a female, felt somehow threatened by the dog.  Bullshit.  That dog is a traitor, a turncoat, the Benedict Arnold of the canine world.  As I’ve said for sometime now, there is a conspiracy afoot.  This dog is in on it.  Remember the biblical story of Jericho?  The prostitute Rahab?  She let two of Joshua’s spies into the city and protected them until the onslaught of the siege that destroyed everyone but her.  Do you see the correlation here?  I do.  You can read more about this story [here].

If you are an unlucky golfer whose ball ends up in a hazard lake after a shot gone awry, you might want to reconsider going in after it.  Why, you ask?  Because you just might get eaten by a killer bull shark.  Ridiculous?  Nope.  Just ask the folks at Carbrook Golf Club in Brisbane, Australia.  That’s right.  After recent floods in the area, the lakes on the golf course have become shark infested water.  Seems the shark population in Australia is taking this war on humans very serious.  They are expanding the scope of their killing spree to include golfers.  You can read more about this story [here].

A woman was attacked by a mule deer near her home in a rural area of Idaho last week.  The deer also injured the man who came to her rescue.  The article [read here] states the woman tried to play dead in order to discourage the attack.  Silly, misguided woman.  Everyone knows that playing dead only works in event of a black bear attack.  See the photo below:

In New Hampshire, it took nine of Manchester’s finest to pull a stubborn moose from a backyard swimming pool.  Not really an attack, I know, but what struck me about this story is the assumption by the everyone involved that the animal was in distress.  I don’t think that at all.  I think he saw an opportunity to kick back and relax.  The swimming pool wasn’t in use.  Who was he hurting?  No one.  Listen up, guys.  The next time you see a moose your backyard swimming pool, leave it alone.  It’s just looking for some quiet time.  Mating season is hard on a fellow.  You can see the video and read a bit more [here].

And last but not least…

A bicyclist was picked off by an antelope during a cross-country race in South Africa.  This was a strategic attack, well planned, and brilliantly executed on the part of the antelope.  This animal is surely the species’ most competent assassin, likely trained by elite fighters determined to take down the humans one biker at a time.  I applaud this animal on its accuracy and have now crossed mountain biking across Africa off my bucket lists.  Take a minute and watch for yourself.

Things I learned this week (October 1 – October 7)

I learned this week…

…that it sucks when my ankles swell up to a size they’ve not been since I gave birth to my youngest child some eleven years ago.  It also sucks that it took three days to get the swelling to go down.

…that my doctor will look at me like I have grown a second head when I come in with a written list of things I wish to discuss with her.  I’ve been saving them up for the last year – since my last appointment with her.  I think I may have overwhelmed her.  I really like her, but I miss my old doctor.  She understood me.

…that perhaps I should stop self-diagnosing and informing my doctor of what ails with me before she has a chance to offer her professional opinion.  I think she sends me out for diagnostics just to prove to me that she is the one with medical degree.

…that I still hate Beowulf with a passion and I am still unable to retain the story.  This caused me a great amount of angst and embarrassment this week when I bombed a surprise quiz on the piece.  When I say bombed, I mean I received credit for one correct answer out of five.

…that I really am disgusted with the cafe on my college campus and am dismayed to know that this campus is the only one in the district its lack of sufficiently nutritious lunch choices.  I am planning an extensive letter writing campaign to rectify the problem.  In case you miss my previous post on this subject, you can read more about my recent experience [here].

…that it is absolutely wonderful to see the beginning of October.  I am looking forward to spending a few hours at my favorite pumpkin patch this weekend and heralding in the start of the best season of the year.

…that I enjoy studying with the older gentleman who sits in front of me in my Western Civilization class.  He is a lot like me, in school for the sake of learning and no other reason.  However, the slacker who sits at the end of my row, in the same class, can bite me.  I would be more than willing to share my notes and study guide with him if he actually put forth an effort to show up to class.  Does this make me a bitch?  Perhaps.   However, in the last couple of years, I’ve become very familiar with the two types of students that darken the door of my classes.  You have your worker bees – like me – and the mouth breathers, as I affectionately like to call them.  They are the late arrivals, the nappers, the texters, the food munchers, the “my dog ate my homework” excuse slingers.  And that’s if they even bother showing up to class at all.  These are also the ones who dissolve into a full-blown panic attack on test day and want to borrow everyone elses notes and study guides so that they may have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing.  I am an unsympathetic person by nature.  I feel that your lot in life is determined by your own actions.  If you don’t put forth an effort to advance yourself, then you have no one to blame but yourself when everything goes terribly bad for you.  This makes me very unpopular.  I couldn’t care less.

…that my beautiful daughter is obsessed with something called Invader Zim.  I don’t know if I should be disturbed by this or not.  It seems to be a far cry from her former iCarly obsession.  Perhaps it will pass soon.

…that nothing ruins a workout more than having a woman get on the elliptical next you with foul-smelling breath.  Yesterday, I was minding my own business, getting my grove on to some 70s era disco music, when I smelled something horrifying.  I looked to my left, the direction I thought the odor was permeating.  Next to me was a woman who I regular see at the gym.  I’ve been stuck next to her on the elliptical before and it was a slightly unpleasant experience then, too.  Yesterday, however, she must have eaten a whole bushel of onions the night before because she reeked.  It was so nauseating, that I had to leave the area completely.  So, unfortunately, I did not get my cardio workout in, and instead had to pass the time on the weight machines.  I guess it all worked out.  Today, she was there before me and I was smart enough to opt for a machine at the opposite side of the gym.  The air quality was much improved.

…that it has been one of those weeks where I am academically overwhelmed and creatively uninspired.  Hopefully, next week will be better and the Man vs. Beast segment will be back in full swing.  I do have some great stuff bookmarked and my ever diligent brother has sent me a couple of things I missed.

…last but not least…this week’s awww moment is brought to you by Fran, a fifteen year old gorilla who resides at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and her encounter with a duckling who wandered into her enclosure.

Tom Warren / Solent News & Photo Agency

Nutrition + College = Huh?

Nutritional health is something very near and dear to my heart.  As anyone who knows me can attest, I am very particular about what I deem worthy of ingestion.  I can give you a ballpark estimate of the caloric content of just about anything – within reason, of course.   I wasn’t always this way.  I used to feast unabashedly on anything and everything that caught my fancy.  Of course, one cannot overindulged for any length of time without suffering devastating consequences.  It’s that whole cause and effect thing.  It will bite you in the ass every time.  It certainly bit me in the ass.  Hard.  At my heaviest, I tipped the scales at 170 lbs. That may not seem like much to some, but put that much weight on my frame and, well, let’s just agree that it wasn’t necessarily my most attractive moment.  I’ve talked about my awakening before and the journey to meet my weight loss goals.  It wasn’t easy.  It took discipline, committment, lots of exercise, and constant calorie counting.  This may sound burdensome, but after a while the counting became second nature and part of my everyday life.  A true lifestyle change.  My new normal.

Losing the weight, however, was just one step in the journey.  The moment of truth would come in maintaining it.  It is something I am still doing and will until I take my last breath.  Hopefully, I’ve staved off the end by a few years with my due diligence.  Or maybe it will all be in vain.  There is always the possibility that I will get hit by a bus crossing the street, but the way I choose to look at it is like this:  I will not have to worry about looking fat on the medical examiner’s table when he’s cutting open my chest in search of which blunt force trauma did me in.  I say that alone is worth the sacrifice.

This bit of rambling nonsense brings to me to what prodded me into writing this blog entry instead of working on the next Man vs. Beast offering that my husband would rather be reading right now.  I am on the campus of a community college twice a week.  I come early in order to enjoy a bit of quiet time and finish up any straggling assignments I may have or work on some of my other writing endeavors.  Unfortunately, all this exertion of brain power makes me hungry.  Sometimes, I have the forethought to stick a couple of things in my bag to nosh on, as I run out the door in the mornings.  Sometimes I don’t.  Today was one of the days I didn’t.  By midmorning my stomach was gnawing at my spine, and I was forced to wander over to the poor excuse for a dining establishment this campus offers.

My husband would say that my disdain for this place is my elitist personality rearing its ugly head.  That I am spoiled and am expecting far too much.  I would say that I pay good money (cash, paid in full at the beginning of each semester) to attend this school, the least they could do is offer me a decent place to eat with some healthy, nutritional food choices.

How bad could it be, you ask?

Well, I’ll tell you.

My first semester on campus during the lunch time hour was last fall.  I naively went in search of a turkey sandwich.  I like my turkey sandwich – and every other sandwich, for that matter – simple.  Meat, wheat bread, a little lettuce, a tomato or two.  No condiments, no added fuss.  Easy peasy.  I gave my order to the unpleasant lady manning the counter and was horrified by what happened next.  She plopped some mystery meat down on a greasy griddle, slathered two pieces of white bread with an equally mystifying oil substance, and then promptly slapped them down on the griddle next to the meat.  This was the conversation that followed:

“What are you doing?”  I asked.

“You ordered a turkey sandwich.  This is a turkey sandwich,” she said giving me a look I can only describe as demonic.

“No it isn’t.  I just want a plain turkey sandwich.”

“Huh?”

“You know, a sandwich.  I don’t want anything grilled.”

“We don’t have that today.”

What?

It turns out that this very nasty woman was right.  There was no plain Jane turkey sandwich on wheat anywhere in that place.  Every sandwich listed on the “menu” is prepared in this fashion.  That’s when I took a good look around and realized that anything that could be remotely considered healthy was relegated to a tiny area next to the cash register.  The pickings were slim.  Yoplait yogurt – not the fat-free kind (insert eye roll here) –  a pre-packaged container of a handful of grapes, a few slices of apple and a couple of crackers, those little single serving cereal things, and some unidentifiable muffins.   Though muffins cannot really be considered healthy once you factor in their overall calorie and sugar content.

I left and vowed to never return.

The problem with making vows like that is that you often have to break them out of necessity or desperation.  Desperation lead me back into that diner from dietary hell today.  I perused the “menu” tacked just outside the door and decided that I would sacrifice some carbs and allow myself the pleasure of a bagel.  I took my place in line behind a young man who ordered a hot dog.  Not my first choice for breakfast fare, but you have to remember that these are young people who have yet to grow any common sense.   I have faith he will learn the error in his way one day.  As I stood waiting my turn, I watched the gentleman manning the counter pull a hot dog out of a refrigerated unit, slice it down the middle, opening it up butterfly style, and plop it face down on the greasy griddle.  He reached into a bread bag, pulled out a bun, slathered the inside with mystery oil, and slapped it down next to the hot dog.

Deja vu.

Seriously?

“Can I help you?”

I realize that this question is directed at me.

“I’d like a bagel, please.”

He gives me the look.

Uh oh.

He turns to consult with his co-worker.  After a few seconds of whispering, they both turn to me and inform me that they are out of bagels.

“An English muffin?”  I saw that on the menu, too.  No better or worse for my waistline.  The substitution was acceptable.

They shake their heads in unison.

Are you kidding me?

“I don’t want anything then, ” I said in a voice that was probably a lot bitchier than it should have been, but really.  Out of bagels AND English muffins, but the guy in front of me can get his fill of fried hot dogs?

Out of pure desperation, I settled on a cranberry muffin and a full fat yogurt.  More calories than I wanted to ingestion for breakfast, but I suppose that was my penance for not leaving the house fully prepared for the day.

Credit: Liz Hafalia/The Chronicle

I cannot help but wonder why, in this day and age of increased awareness in health and wellness, that this diner, or campus for that matter, would choose to provide sub-par food that lacks any significant nutritional value.  I understand that this is a public education establishment and there has been quite a lot of fiscal belt-tightening needed to keep up the level of services provided to the growing student body.  I also understand that a good number of my fellow students are young people who largely have no idea that the candy bar and soda they are consuming for breakfast every morning will cause them catastrophic health problems down the road.  Health problems that you and I and every other taxpayer in America will end up footing the bill for in higher insurance premiums.

Youthful ignorance is a wonderous thing.

However, these young people who throw dietary caution to the wind do not make up the whole of the student body.  There are plenty of people like me.  People who understand that they are what they eat, and who want a healthy alternative to a fried hot dog and greasy grilled sandwiches and fries.  I’m not saying that they have to get rid of this junk food.  I would certainly never want to deprive anyone of their sodium and fat fix, but why should this be the only thing available.  Why can I not get a salad?  A plain turkey on wheat?  A fat-free yogurt cup.  I’m not even asking for the healthier Greek yogurt.  Yoplait is sufficient.  I will even pay a premium price for these choices.  As would a large number of my fellow students, I’m sure, if they were given the choice.

I understand that with healthy food choices, the mantra “If you build it, they will come”, does not always apply.  There are many who are satisfied filling their bodies with junk.  However, I’d like to think that with the obesity epidemic that is plaguing our country today and the health issues contributed to such, that more and more people are increasingly conscience of what they ingest and are seeking healthier alternatives.  I believe this school’s dining facility is operating way behind the curve and has a lot of catching up to do.

So I’ve identified the problem.  What to do about it?  Simply bitching about the lack of choices will not bring about change.  I think a protest is in order.  A picket line?  Crudely made signs spelling out our grievances?  A sit in?  Perhaps we can chain ourselves to the legs of the pool table that sits right outside of the little cafe.

That all sounds very reasonable to me.  But then again, as I sit here in the library and scan the room, I see my fellow students drinking Big Gulps, chomping on chips, and snarfing candy bars.  Perhaps I am wrong.  Perhaps no one in this school wants to eat a salad but me.

Perhaps my husband is right and I am indeed an elitist snob who expects for too much from society as a whole.

I hate it when he’s right.