A Close Call

~The car crossed the center line and headed right for me.  There was nothing I could do but wait and see what happened next.~

I had a close call this morning.  If you live in the Bloomington-Normal area, you’re probably familiar with Linden Street.  It isn’t especially busy, and it’s a straight shot for me to work.  I’ve taken it everyday for pretty much sixteen years.  Most of it is a basic two-lane road, but it widens out to four lanes in the Illinois State University area.

This morning, I’m driving along, listening to WGLT (89.1 FM) like I always do.  Some cars were heading towards me from the opposite direction, but this isn’t an unusual occurrence.  All of a sudden, I noticed one of the oncoming cars start to cross the center line.  Time slowed down as I watched it creep more and more over that line.  Before I knew it, it was three-fourths in my lane and showing no signs of correcting course.  The car crossed the center line and headed right for me.  There was nothing I could do but wait and see what happened next.  I hit my horn, hard, and got over to the edge of my lane as far as I could while applying my brakes.  I continued pressing my horn.  For a moment, I considered jumping the curb.  At the last second, I saw the driver’s head whip up and then they veered back into their lane.  I continued pushing my horn long after they were past me.

I got lucky.

In that moment, I realized that my morning could have gone very differently.  While neither of us were going fast enough to likely cause any serious injury, you never know.  It absolutely would have been a practical head-on collision, though.  My car would have been seriously damaged.  I would have been very late for work.  I could have been hurt–maybe seriously.

My imagination works overtime, one of the perks of being a writer, so naturally my mind raced with all of the possibilities.  I soon felt the adrenaline flowing through my body.  I made myself calm down, told myself all’s well that ends well, but, even ten hours later, it still leaves me a little rattled.

It shook me up because there was literally nothing I could do but wait.  I honked.  I slowed way down, almost to a stop.  Beyond that … nothing.  Powerless.  Accidents can happen that randomly, that quickly, that drastically.

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an accident.  The other driver was clearly looking down at their phone.  The collision would have been due to negligence, recklessness, and very likely a healthy amount of ignorance.

Oh, the other driver?  I’m sure you’re assuming a teenager drove the errant vehicle, but that would be incorrect.  I saw a head full of short, white hair.  I don’t know if it was a man or a woman, but it was certainly an older person.

Please, please, please, whether your are old or young, man or woman, please stay off of your phones while driving. car accident

(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

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The Weekly Weigh-In: Made It To the Single Digits!

I’ll be honest: this was a tough week for eating well.  My wife and I went on a date to see The Favourite last Saturday.  Afterwards, we visited my favorite local Mexican restaurant Hacienda Leon and–there’s no other way to say this–I gorged myself on chips and salsa.  I know chips and salsa isn’t terribly fattening in and of itself, but when the main course arrives and one isn’t even hungry anymore … that could be a sign.

I also sampled a few more of my wife’s Valentine’s candy.  Just a piece a night for a few nights, but those empty calories add up.  Again, a treat every once in a while isn’t a big deal, but I knew I got the week off to a rough start and then indulged in candy, too … My willpower struggled.

However, with my public weight-loss journey and the next weigh-in looming, I cleaned up my act.  I had a salad for dinner a few nights later in the week.  Truthfully, though, I didn’t think it would be enough.

This week I hoped to hit my scheduled target of 211 pounds.  I weighed in at 212 or 213 pounds for most of the week, so I really did not think it was going to happen.  In fact, I spent the latter part of the week composing this article in my head.  I figured I would talk about how setbacks are only natural in this process and that I can’t let them have an adverse impact upon my mental well being.  I decided I would write about how the weight loss will eventually even out and the pounds will stop falling off at such a rapid pace.

I know that article will one day have to be written when there just isn’t as much weight to lose, but–I’m pleased to say–it won’t be this week.

This morning I left the double digits and came in at 209 pounds.

I weigh myself every night and every morning.  I weighed 212 pounds before I went to bed, so I felt confident I would wake up at my goal of 211 pounds, maybe even get lucky and hit 210 pounds.  I did not expect to be as low as 209 pounds.

So what happened?

I’m going to be very honest with you.

Maybe too honest.

This was a very stressful work week.  My body seemed a little … bound up all week, if you catch my meaning.  This morning I slept in and woke up feeling refreshed and … relaxed.  My body seemed to uncoil a bit, which allowed everything to loosen up.

Consequently, even with the big dinner last Saturday night and the Valentine’s chocolates, I maintained my new habit of healthy cereal for breakfast and oatmeal as an afternoon snack.  I think choosing these sensible foods, along with not eating anything after dinner, is having the greatest effect upon my weight loss.  Other healthy habits I’m continuing are no soda or sweet tea, no second helpings at meals, a moderate amount of bread, and few if any sweets for treats.

I’m very pleased to report that with a total loss of 6 pounds in 4 weeks, I’m ahead of schedule.  My goal is to lose 10 pounds by near the end of March.  My ultimate goal is to get back down to 195 pounds by summer, which is appearing more and more realistic with each passing week.  But, slow and steady, right?  Let’s take this one week at a time.

(February 23 — 209 pounds)

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

The Repercussions Of Student Fights

I typically don’t discuss anything negative about my career as a high school English teacher.  Funny stuff?  You bet.  Inspirational topics?  No problem.  But those things that could be viewed as “airing dirty laundry?”  Nope–won’t write about it.

Until now.

I suspect the topic I’m about to address, however, is not unique to my place of work.  I’m willing to bet a lot of schools suffer the issue I’m about to explore.

We had a fight at the school today.  I’m sorry to say this is not all that unusual lately.  Though I wasn’t involved with it in any way, the effects of the fight were felt throughout the building.  I heard students talking about the fight gleefully, as though they watched some kind of live entertainment.  I saw students in the hall reenacting the fight as they smiled and laughed.

This upset me.

Look, kids get into fights.  Kids like watching fights.  It breaks up the monotony of the day, because no matter how fun we try to make school–school is school.  Anything exciting and dramatic is always welcomed by the students as respite.  None of this is new in the history of public education.

But when I see students taking joy in each other’s discord, when I see them celebrating their peers’ violence, it makes my heart ache.

Our school tries to teach social skills.  Some of our staff go above and beyond in working tirelessly to help kids bond and form communities.  Our entire staff buys into building relationships with the students.  We’re trying.  We’re all trying.  I bet your school is trying, too.

But try as we might, this is an issue that’s difficult to overcome.  I wish we could get the kids who like to fight–as well as the kids who like to watch fights–I wish we could get them to see the value in supporting each other, to realize that building each other up is so much more productive than tearing each other down.  I wish they knew that, once they leave our school, no one out there is going to do them any favors.  They’ll have to rely on themselves.

I wish they felt like they could also rely on each other.

Look, this is hard to write about.  I hope it’s coming across as intended.  I’m not trying to criticize my school, and I’m certainly not trying to belittle our students.  And most of our students do support one another.  But those kids who take pleasure in fighting, starting fights, and watching fights … I worry about those kids and what kind of a future they have in store for them.  I want the best for all of our students.

As teachers, we have to keep pushing social skills.  We have to keep building kids up.  We have to keep creating communities within our school.  We have to keep helping kids find their niche.

All I ask is that the community outside our school walls do the same.  Help us reinforce the power of education.  Help us show kids that love and kindness is always the answer.  Help us teach kids that we are always stronger when we stand together, not apart.

A better tomorrow can only begin when we work for a better today.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

 

The Weekly Weigh-In: A Valentine’s Treat

I started a journey a few weeks ago, a journey that–so far–is going very well.

Since January 25, I’ve been mindfully trying to lose weight and inches.  My goal then was to lose ten pounds over the course of ten weeks.

I’m glad to say I’ve been slightly ahead of schedule each week by coming in a pound under my target weight for that period of time.  As I’ve said before, that’s not a trend I expect to sustain, but I’ll certainly accept it when it happens!

If you’re new to this series, I strongly believe in healthy weight loss through portion control.  Since we’re in the dead of winter, even moderate exercise is difficult to achieve, but portion control is something everyone can do.  However, weight loss through portion control has to be executed patiently and sensibly.  Crash diets are not sustainable, but slowly reducing caloric intake can become part of a lifestyle change that, over time, can be maintained.

So, with that being said … I’m still sticking to cereal every day for breakfast.  I think this has made a huge impact on my weight loss.  I’m also pleased to say that Lactaid milk has made this possible.  I’m not lactose intolerant, but milk is really rough on my digestive system.  As a result, I typically avoided glasses or bowls of milk.  Thankfully, Lactaid, which doesn’t bother my stomach at all, has made cereal a viable option for me again.  No more microwavable sausage and pancakes for this guy!

I’m also sure to have a mid-morning snack–usually a banana or a serving of trail mix.  Lunch is usually just leftovers from the night before or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I often have an applesauce cup, a mixed fruit cup, and a cup of black olives, too.  I might throw carrots and celery in there as well.  No chips or pretzels.

I get home about 3:30, and that’s a dangerous stretch for me.  In the past, I’ve been known to gorge a bit.  The last few weeks I’ve limited myself to one serving of flavored oatmeal.  It’s not great, but it curbs my appetite.

For the most part I’ve continued to cut soda and sweet tea from my diet.  Those are empty calories that can add up in a hurry.  I did have soda one morning due to a rumbling stomach.  Forgive my bluntness, but the soda helped me burp.

Cutting breads at dinner has worked well in addition to generally eating less.  I’ve talked about this before, but I am now sure to have two tacos instead of three, a half bowl of spaghetti instead of a full, that kind of thing.  For example, we went out tonight for dinner.  I ordered a calzone.  This baby was huge!  The old me would have eaten the whole thing.  I’m proud to report I ate half of it and brought the other half home to eat for lunch tomorrow.  Guess what?  I’m still full from the half I ate.

Speaking of which, nothing after dinner to eat.  Nothing.  If I get hungry, I have a glass of water to give my stomach a little relief.  This isn’t starvation–I typically don’t even get hungry at night.  I’ve conditioned my body to accept the fact that it’s not consuming any calories in the evening.

What’s that?  What about Valentine’s Day, you ask?

Funny you should mention that.

My wife is an elementary teacher.  Every year, her students’ generous families shower her with gifts, candies, and chocolates.  She brings home a LOT of chocolate.  Now, I like chocolate as much as the next person.  Did I deny myself one of her chocolates?

Remember what I said in an earlier entry about denying yourself a treat?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that if I deny myself a treat, I just eat twice as much later because of some weird sense of entitlement or something.  In the long run, it’s better for me if I just have that treat and get it over with.  However, I have to be smart and purposeful about it.  So, I had one chocolate from her stash.  Just one.  It tasted great, and I appreciated it all the more in knowing that it was the only one I would have.  It’s called a “treat” for a reason, right?  If you stuff the whole box into your mouth, that’s not really a “treat”–that’s a meal.

So, last week I wanted to weight 213 pounds, and I came in at 212 pounds.  Today I hoped to maintain that 212 pounds as it was my projected weight for this week.  Guess what?  I kept the trend going and came in a pound under again–211 pounds.  Again, I don’t want to get too excited about this trend because I know people tend to generally lose the most weight up front since there’s more to lose in the beginning.  At some point soon, the extra pound a week is going to stop, and I have to be okay with that.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–it’s a marathon, not a race.

I hope your journey is going well, too.  I wish you the best!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s Dr. Nekros e-book series HERE)

The Weekly Weigh-In: An Unexpected Development

Last week, I discussed the secret to losing weight.  I also challenged you to join me in trying to drop a few pounds.  More specifically, I publicly declared that I am attempting to lose ten pounds within the next ten weeks.  Finally, though it’s a little embarrassing, I revealed my then-current weight in order to put my money where my mouth is.  My weight back on January 25th?  215 pounds.

Though a pound a week may sound a little slow-going to most, it’s generally considered to be the healthiest, and most long-lasting, process to weight loss.  A pound lost a week signifies portion control without starvation.  We all know that extreme weight loss in a short amount of time often indicates an unsustainable diet.  The real secret to weight loss is modest portions all day, every day.  We’ve got to reduce those calories.

With that being said, I had a fairly successful week in regards to my eating.

I cut back on bread, like I wanted, but did not take it out of my diet completely because I know that isn’t realistic.  I still ate my sandwiches for lunch, I still had pasta for a few dinners, but I made sure not to eat the extras when I could help it.  For example, no garlic bread with said pasta.  (Confession: I snarfed a small piece–just one.)

On taco night, I limited myself to two tacos instead of three.  I also excluded the chips and salsa.  However, I still enjoyed my shredded cheese.  Again, I’m  not going to make myself suffer during this process.  I like cheese.  I’m going to eat cheese–just not as much.

For drinks, I stuck to water and coffee only.  No sweet tea, no soda.  Sweet tea and soda are killers for me.  As I’ve been doing for years, I also kept my creamer to one tablespoon per mug.

Potato chips did not make it onto my plate at all.  I’ve never really craved potato chips, so this isn’t a huge deal to me.

Finally, my daughters and wife made chocolate cake one night.  Of course I’m going to eat my daughters’ cake!  But, I only had a half of a slice.  Just one.  Haven’t had any since.

We also got dessert one day at a restaurant.  The four of us split it–a skillet cookie.  Man, this thing looked delicious.  It was a giant chocolate chip cookie covered in warm chocolate syrup and topped off with vanilla ice cream.  That moment proved an important psychological test for me.  I knew if I did not have any of it, I would feel denied and bitter.  Those feelings would fester and, if personal history proved any indication, I would just binge on something else later to make up for it.  Instead, I ate a spoonful.  I got a taste of it, just enough, and felt satisfied.  Moderation.  Moderation is key.  (And then I had one more spoonful, but that was it–I promise.)

Generally speaking, I continued my practice of avoiding food after dinner.  I also did much better with my snacks between lunch and dinner.  I regulated myself to a granola bar or a bowl of healthy cereal.  That time between 3:30 and 5:00 p.m. has traditionally been a weak spot for me.  That’s the time of the day I most need to watch carefully.

The results of all this?  An unexpected surprise.  I weighed-in this morning at 213 pounds.  I hoped to weigh 214 pounds, so this extra lost pound pleasantly surprised me.  However, I’m not going to shoot for 212 pounds next Saturday.  According to my schedule, I hoped to weigh 213 pounds next week, so I’m simply going to strive to maintain 213 pounds.  We all know weight goes up and down according to water intake, bowel movements, stress, water retention–all kinds of things.  If I weigh 212 pounds next week, that’s great, but if I stick to 213 pounds, that will satisfy me as well.  The primary goal is to make sure I don’t go back up to 214 or 215 pounds.

This is a slow, methodical process, but it worked for me once before, and it will work again.  It just takes discipline, a positive attitude, patience, and portion control.

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Bill Maher Is Mostly Wrong, But He’s Also a Little Bit Right

I read an article over at ScreenRant describing an editorial by Bill Maher basically taking comic book fans to task.  More specifically, taking adult comic book fans to task.

This seems to be a complicated story.  It appears to have started when Bill Maher wrote a blog post called “Adulting.”  In it, he basically reacts to the huge outpouring of sadness related to Stan Lee’s death and claims that comic book fans need to grow up and leave childish things behind.

He then used his HBO show, Real Time, to try to clarify his remarks.  ScreenRant, via ComicBook.com, posted a transcription of what he said.

“Tonight’s editorial is about Stan Lee who, if you missed it, died in November. And a few days later, I posted a blog that in no way was an attack on Mr. Lee, but took the occasion of his death to express my dismay at people who think comic books are literature and superhero movies are great cinema and who, in general, are stuck in an everlasting childhood. Bragging that you’re all about the Marvel Universe is like boasting your mother still pins your mittens to your sleeves.

“You can, if you want, like the exact same things you liked when you were ten but if you do, you need to grow up. That was the point of my blog. I’m not glad Stan Lee is dead, I’m sad you’re alive. […]

“Director Kevin Smith accused me of ‘taking a shot when no shots are f**kin’ necessary,’ except again my shot wasn’t at Stan Lee. It was at, you know, grown men who still dress like kids.

“Can we stop pretending that the writing in comic books is so good? Oh, please. Every superhero movie is the same thing–a person who doesn’t have powers, gets them, has to figure out how they work, and then has to find a glowy thing.

“I’m sorry, but if you’re an adult playing with superhero dolls, I’m sorry – I mean collectible action figures – why not go all the way and drive to work on a Big Wheel?”

So, here’s the thing.  Bill Maher is mostly wrong–yes.  Without a doubt.  But … he’s also a little right.

He’s wrong in that we all know there are some very strong writers in the comic book industry.  Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Brian K. Vaughan, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, and Gail Simone are a few that spring to mind.  These are writers who have transcended their genre and written some comic books that should absolutely be considered “literary”–whatever that means.

He’s also missing out on some great cinema existing within the super hero genre.  After all, Black Panther just got nominated for a “Best Picture” Oscar.  Most consider The Dark Knight an instant-classic.  Not a classic “comic book” movie, but just a classic film–period.

But, let’s be honest, he’s also hit on some valid points.  Most comic books, and most comic book movies, are pretty easy to predict.  Most of them do follow a prescribed formula.  And many adults do take both comic books and comic book movies far too seriously.

The nature of the corporate-owned recurring comic book character absolutely necessitates the repetition of stories.  Think about this–Superman has been published monthly since 1938.  Batman has appeared every month since 1939.  It is impossible not to revisit similar plot lines every decade or so, especially when considering that these are not finite stories.  No matter what happens, these characters will be back in just thirty days.  It’s hard to get too original when working within these editorial confines.  They can’t really do anything too drastic to Superman for too long.  Same goes for Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, Spider-Man, etc.  If you’re a DC fan, how many “crises” have there been now?  If you’re a Marvel fan, how often has there been “an age of …” or “no more mutants?”

Consequently, Bill Maher hit on something that’s been particularly troubling me of late.  Because so many adults do still read comic books, the comic book industry really isn’t aimed at children anymore.  It’s aimed at, well, grown-ups.  As a result, the plots get lazier and lazier.

Let me explain.

Because most people my age have read virtually every kind of comic book story out there, the industry feels the need to “shock” us time and again by killing off major characters.  First of all, no one believes Wolverine or Superman or even Jason Todd is ever really “dead.”  I just read a headline the other day that they killed off Dr. Leslie Thompkins.  This is a kind woman who helped take care of young Bruce Wayne after his parents’ murder.  She appears only sporadically in the DC Universe, but, because she’d never been killed before, they decided to “shock” the audience by calling her number.  There’s an entire comic book series going on right now called Heroes In Crisis whose entire premise is that heroes were murdered while seeking emotional support at a sanctuary.  Yes, you read that right.  I’m sorry, but comic books deserve every criticism they get when killing off characters seems to be the best the writers can come up with.

However, Bill Maher is missing something vital about super heroes.  These comic book characters are undeniably derivatives of gods and demigods from centuries’ old myths and religions.  We are intrinsically drawn to these characters.  At this point in human history, their archetypes are sewn into our collective subconscious.  They represent our hopes and our dreams, our aspirations to conquer fear and the unknown.

With that being said, I do think it’s important that adults keep these characters in perspective, though.  Let the children have these characters.  Let them inspire the young as they did most of the adults who still love them.  If there’s any bone I have to pick with my generation, it’s that we are unwilling to relinquish the things we loved as children.  We want Star Wars our way.  We want Ghostbusters our way.  We want She-Ra our way.  We want comic books our way.  We need to be wiling to stand back and let these things evolve in such a manner as to appeal to today’s youth.  We can enjoy these characters as they change for our children, and we can appreciate that they are not suffering arrested development.  Of course, that would require that the adults are unwilling to suffer arrested development as well.

So, as you can see, Bill Maher had it mostly wrong, but he was also a little bit right.  While I agree with him that adults need to lighten up when it comes to these characters and leave them primarily to the children, I think it’s vital that we don’t dismiss the incredible impact they have had on society and continue to have.  Like any book or movie, the extraordinary should not be suppressed merely because of its genre.

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 (Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

 

 

Best NFL Day Of the Year

If you love NFL football, it doesn’t get any better than today.  In fact, I think today will probably be better than Super Bowl Sunday.

If you don’t follow the NFL, a rare thing happened–the actual four best teams are left playing for their conference championships.  The winners of these two games will then go on to compete in the Super Bowl.  Even though I’m a die-hard Bears fan and would love it if they were still playing, I think it’s great that the four clubs with the best records and/or the best overall teams are playing today.  Yes, I know the Patriots didn’t have one of the best records, but they are the most successful franchise of this century–I think we all knew they’d make it this far despite their wins and losses.

So, even if you’re not a huge football fan, today will be well worth your while.  You will see some truly magnificent offense and defense on display.  You’ll see the incredible defense and creative offense of the LA Rams.  You’ll see the superhuman twenty-three-year-old Kansas City Chiefs quarterback named Patrick Mahomes.  And, of course, you’ll witness the masters of their craft–Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

Let’s not forget that the Chiefs, Saints, and Patriots have some of the best coaches in the history of the game–respectively Andy Reid, Sean Payton, and Bill Belichick.  And the Rams coach?  His name is Sean McVay, he’s only thirty-two-years-old, and he’s considered an offensive genius.

Each of these teams are highly skilled and deserve to be playing for the Super Bowl.  There aren’t any silly Wild Card entries who made it in due to a weak division and freak occurrence.  Today will be about as good as it gets.

Oh, and, of course, I’m obligated to offer my picks for the day.  Though I love the Chiefs and Andy Reid’s coaching, I think the experience of both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will prove too much for them.  Give Patrick Mahomes another year or two and he’ll know how to win these huge playoff games with Reid’s guidance.  Same goes for the Saints and the Rams.  I think all the battles Brees and Payton have fought together will ultimately win the day for them.  So, to be clear, I’m picking the Patriots and the Saints for the Super Bowl.

Just to be especially bold, I’ll go ahead and pick my Super Bowl winner, too.  I believe Brees and Brady will nullify each other, as will Belichick and Payton.  It’s going to come down to defense and special teams, and, in my opinion, the Saints are better at those two things.  So, I’m picking the Saints to win it all.

But I’m hoping it will be the Bears next season.

Enjoy the games!

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)