Archive for June, 2015

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

It’s been one week since I experienced what I hope will be the worst bus ride of my life.

Until now, I have only ever retold one bus anecdote: the time I missed the school bus in 6th grade.

My mom would have been livid if she discovered I missed the bus due to my negligence. I had no choice; I had to run for it.

route

The distance between my Mom’s house and the bus stop in Cambridge Village. Walking via the streets: 22 minutes; running through the woods: 11 minutes.

I quickly imagined the bus route in my mind. The bus would continue west on Wallings, and turn north on Skyline Road and then back east down Sprague, ending at the last stop in Cambridge Village, a posh neighborhood by Brady Bunch standards which featured a parking lot and swimming pool, before heading toward Chippewa Elementary. Hoping to meet the bus at that last stop, I high-tailed it through the woods like a frightened fawn, stumbling through the Hasting’s backyard, tramping through tricky territory beyond the back yards of homes and into the borders of the development, running along the curved streets until someone inside the bus spotted me and asked the driver to stop.

Panting for breath, I was welcomed aboard with a thunderous round of applause, and one standing ovation (thanks, Chris Corum).

I have to suspect that most parents do not have so forceful and effective a hold on their children.

Thankfully, my punctuality was never again an issue, and most other bus rides have not been noteworthy.

However, Chicago makes car ownership difficult, the local municipality squeezing every drop out of the unsuspecting legal parker. Street cleaning days pop up overnight like weeds with $150 fines attached.

After a few such incidents, I unloaded my car, donating it to a charitable organization, only to see an eerily similar 3-door silver Saturn in my neighborhood. Ah, well, it was someone else’s problem.

My new problem was getting back and forth to Cleveland for the “required” twice-a-year visits (disappointing my mom remains unwise). I know I have to visit, and I want to visit. I love my family and Cleveland friends, I truly do. I just don’t love the idea of spending $400 (minimum) on airfare to go to Cleveland twice a year. It’s a lovely place, but I’d like to see the rest of the world, too.

Enter the dreamlike solution of the Megabus. Cheap—cheap. I have never paid more than $50 dollars for a round trip journey, and I have frequently paid as little as $20 and occasionally even as little as $8. This is a good price. The tolls alone between Chicago and Cleveland are more than $20, so I ride the Megabus. Happily, the other passengers tend to be broke students, with whom I will always have a lasting bond, both having been one and teaching them for so long.

megabusIn order to fund more far-flung travel, I have endured countless Megabus trips, some worse than others, but never as bad as one week ago today.

The bus arrived late because the day of my departure coincided with the Chicago Blackhawks parade and rally (Go, Hawks!) I anticipated a delay. No worries there. These things happen. The 1.5 hours late departure was corrected by our quick escape from city traffic. The driver was making excellent time. I had a book, friends to text, and a completely prohibited and clandestine flask of whiskey.

At the first rest stop in Howe, Indiana, I bought a bottle of Gatorade and a snack. Resupplied, I returned to the bus at the allotted time of 9:15 pm. With darkness falling, seemingly all the passengers settled in for the next two-hour leg of our shared journey which would culminate with a stop in Toledo.

Except someone didn’t make it back to the bus.

Some total moron hadn’t made it back to the bus after the rest break.

Worse, we had to turn around and go get her.

Everyone was amazed–confounded.

This was not a person who was old, infirm, or sick. This was not a child, or the pregnant woman we’d all noticed while waiting. This was just a person incapable of following the rules.

Under protest, we were forced to turn back. Not right away of course, we had to keep traveling east to Toledo before we could find a turn off. The entire process took two hours. I sent a lot of texts; I posted a lot of Facebook updates. I was entirely out of whiskey.

When she re-boarded the entire bus was silent; I have never been in a vehicle that was so eerily quiet.

I didn’t see the woman when she got back on the bus. She entered on the main floor and stayed there.

I was truly tempted to share with her what I had known since I was twelve years old; if you ever miss a bus, it’s your responsibility to run after it.run2

We arrived at the next stop at 1:10am; I envied the people who were able to exit at Toledo, which was a first.

When we reached our final destination in downtown Cleveland, it was 3:18am, approximately eleven hours from the indicated start time.

I sent a text to my sister’s kind husband, who was still willing to pick me up, “I’m at the corner of 21st and Prospect, wearing a pink polka dot cardigan and an expression of death.”

I hope to forget the frustration and fury I felt by December when I am again faced with a choice of $200 airfare or $20 bus fare.

Even now, it’s hard to know which is worse.

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By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Well, my 21 day challenge is in the books. I am happy to report I did survive, and I was successful.  I am pleased that I did it and I think I have emerged from the experience wiser concerning how to eat.

One thing I noticed during my three weeks is that the sugar cravings never subsided.  I expected to hit a point around Day 8 or 9 when I would stop obsessing over the thought of bread, treats and snacks. That didn’t happen. Up until day 21, the image cd36d89c9b208b75c1d09f17ef38940f of cinnamon rolls and cupcakes danced through my head on an hourly basis. So not surprisingly, one of the first things I did when I completed the challenge was head for The Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor in Forest Park (the best of the best). I ordered a couple big scoops of pralines and cream.  Honestly though, it wasn’t all I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious. But I couldn’t help but notice it was just too sweet.  The sugar was so intense.

This is the biggest thing to take from my challenge.  Sweets still taste good, but I now  tire of them quickly. I no longer crave a hundred cookies, or a big ice cream cone.  It is just too much. One month ago, I wouldn’t have ever written such a thing; so I guess the 21 day challenge did help.

20% This

20% This

But, that will be last challenge/fast/cleanse for a long time.  As my wife points out, there is a much better way to eat. It is the 80/20 method.  80% good, and 20% bad. 80% lean meats, greens, complex carbs, whole grains; 20% sugary treats, baked goods, and simple snacks.

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80% This

100% percent bad is obviously not the way to go.  I like having my teeth, and being able to fit into my jeans.  But, 100% good is not realistic either. For me personally, and my wife as well, eating 100% good creates food obsessions.  We constantly think about decadent eats.  Though physically healthy, 100% good is not psychologically healthy.

And so I am shouting from the rooftops: 80/20 from now on!  I am sure some days will be closer to 60/40. Some days 95/5. An even keel over the long haul is the goal, and I think the waters look pretty smooth from here on out.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

write

Students love double-sided handouts!

Field trips transform an ordinary school day into an adventure. I’ve always adored field trips, even more so now that I get to select when and where we’ll go. At this point in my career, I’d be in favor of a field trip every other class, but relying on students to show up to class is a tough enough, let alone asking them to find their way somewhere else. As savvy and self-assured as college students pretend to be, most of them have no idea how to transverse this city, which only makes field trips more necessary. Although I am limited in my (happily flaneur-esque) wanderings with my students to a rather small walkable circumference of the downtown RMU campus, there is plenty to see and do that meaningfully enriches their studies.

I favor a walking tour, accompanied by a demanding handout with question after question to guide their experience. Lest these excursions sound too prescriptive, I do ask students to create their own questions, and occasionally allow students to make the entire assignment. I am not surprised by the enormous differences between my assignment (a double-sided page of probing questions) and that assigned by students: go to the place and take a selfie. The perspectives of an instructor and a young college student are often separated by a wide chasm. Indeed, many 18-to-20 year-olds are just beginning to gain experiences of any sort. They are still invested in the visit, not necessarily concerned about doing something worthwhile once there. Here I am reminded of a friend’s regret that when he visited Ireland after freshman year of college, his 19-year-old self spent the entire trip drinking in the pubs. He had been to Ireland and essentially seen little of the country. I am certainly not one to underestimate the importance of pub culture, but there is a bit more to Ireland than a pint of Guinness, including the one they pour in the scenic bar at top of the terrific Guinness museum!

Field trips are made more necessary by the continual infiltration of technology in the classroom. At least while walking to a new destination, my students must look up to find me in the crowd. Sometimes it seems as though the entire population needs to be encouraged to look up! I walk much more briskly than they do, on purpose. A teacher ought to push students to keep up, in any way possible.

Lurie GardenMy most recent field trip involved visits to gardens along Michigan Avenue as part of a “Parks, Gardens, and Green Spaces” topic for the English 325: “Writing for the Community” course I’m currently teaching. These gorgeous spaces are a living embodiment of Chicago’s motto “Urbs in Horto” (City in a Garden), another new “fun fact” to share with my students.   Stops included The Lurie Garden, created in 2004 by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol design team, The North Garden at the Art Institute, designed by Laurie Olin and opened circa 1980, and the South Garden of the Art Institute, created by Dan Kiley and opened in 1962. These three gardens, all in close proximity of RMU campus, offer unique places to reconnect with nature in the heart of the city. These trips augment the assigned reading “Great Cities, Great Parks,” by Douglas Vaira in which he ranks Chicago’s Millennium Park as one of the country’s “Best Destination Parks,” but just steps away from RMU!

CalderinNorthThe students immediately express a preference to one of the spaces. My favorite moment from yesterday came when one of the students entered the remarkably serene space in the South Garden and said, simply, “Wow.” This place remains my favorite, as it features a bubbling fountain that almost successfully drowns out the sound of the passing traffic on Michigan Avenue. The sunken garden also features a canopy of interlocking tree branches that form a shady ceiling, lighting the garden in dappled green and gold.

After any field trip, students invariably ask where we’ll go next, a mark of resounding success if there ever was one. As higher education continues to espouse the virtues of experience-based education, I’m glad for the opportunity to lead my students out into the wide, wonderful world, encouraging them as they find their way.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Last week, I mentioned to my wife that I was contemplating giving up sugar for a bit.  If you know my wife, you know she grew excited with this passing comment. She pounced!  ‘Yes’! ‘Let’s do it!’.  She wanted to do the same thing, and she was correct to note that she would be more likely to accomplish this difficult goal if we did it together.  I knew the same thing could be said for me.  Backsliding is easy when you make difficult goals, and having a partner both pushing you, and watching over you helps a lot.

So, the goal was set: 21 days with no processed sugars!

Now, let me put this to you straight. This did not mean NO SUGARS at all.  Carbs and sugars are a necessary part of any diet, especially when you want to keep up the energy needed to go to the gym 5 times a week…or, like my wife, 5 hours a day, 7 days a week. So fruit is fine for us and whole grains are a necessity. What is off limits are treats, white bread, crackers, and a litany of other foods that are always cheap and plentiful in our 21st century society.

Oh, how I miss you homemade pretzels!

Oh, how I miss you homemade pretzels!

To be fair, our eating habits were already pretty far along towards our goal. Unlike so many Americans, we never drink soda, rarely drink alcohol, and avoid fast-food like the plague.  But, like so many of our national brethren, we love our pizza with white crust, the occasional ice cream indulgence, and the far too common homemade cookie.  If you remember from a previous post, I like to bake bread. My bakery is temporarily closed. No muffins, cakes, cookies.

But, this has not been the hardest thing. Recently, a different processed food packed with sugar has become a proto-addiction for

Evil. Pure Evil.

Evil. Pure Evil.

Jen and I: Cereal….  ‘Damn you Trader Joe’s and your delicious cereals (I shout shaking my fist)’.  Prior to our pledge, we had been burning through 4-6 boxes a week!  Holy smokes that is a lot of sugar. This weakness was the thing that pushed us to set a goal.

So how are we doing? Well, as I  type we are on day 7 of 21. Here a couple of quick thoughts:

1. Eating sugar has false promise. I want it, but I know it never fulfills my hopes. But, it is obviously addictive. The first couple days were extremely hard to not simply pop a sugary snack in my mouth. Even when I wasn’t hungry, I still had to consciously stop my hand from grabbing some crackers.

2. Processed foods, and the sugars within them, are ubiquitous.  It is amazing how many things have sugar added that you never notice. For instance, last night,

Said Chicken Fajitas

Said Chicken Fajitas

we made chicken fajitas (with stone-ground corn tortillas), and my wife and I both wanted to add hot sauces to our food. But, each of them had sugar added! Errrgghhh!

3. It is satisfying how quickly you can feel physical and mental changes without sugar!  Quite honestly, my mind feels more clear, and a little of the excess fat on the body is shedding.  All those useless, extra calories really do make a difference.

All in all, I am pretty well pleased with our challenge.  So, why write a blog about it?  Well, I am not bragging, and I am not trying to shame you into any new diet.  No, I figure putting this out there for people to read will keep me honest.

Otherwise, I might crack and grab some of that damn TJ’s cereal.