Mary Wagner

Mary Wagner
Wisconsin, USA
February 13
Former journalist, now criminal prosecutor, and award winning essayist and photographer, proves its never too late to make mid-course corrections! Vices include Belgian chocolate, Irish castles, great shoes, long clean shorelines, classic cartoons, big skies and Lee Child "Reacher" novels. Multiple degrees earned in the "school of life" include mother of four, former girl scout leader, truckstop waitress, cocktail waitress, office temp, judicial clerk, and radio talk show host. Latest essay collection, "Fabulous in Flats," just went live, preceded by "Running with Stilettos" and "Heck on Heels." Visit my website at


DECEMBER 6, 2011 10:15PM

The Bugs Bunny Diet

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I am counting on Bugs Bunny to get me back into shape.

I recently took stock of the past year, which has seen my weight hover consistently at far above a comfortable number where my wardrobe is concerned, and realized that in that time I've barely gotten any exercise at all.  Where I used to work one part-time job that left many opportunities to get to the gym or hike outside, that regimen went out the window last January. That's when I started to teach a college class on my "off" days, something that carved up my daylight hours and added several hours of couch-sitting in the evenings as I planned lessons and lectures, read ahead in the text, commandeered guest speakers, and wrote exam questions.

As the semester drew to a close, another absolutely splendid part-time opportunity arose, which included a substantial commute a couple of days a week.  And nearly six months later, I'm still at it, trading time at the YMCA for billable hours.  Add in a horribly painful early-summer fall on some unforgiving asphalt and then some late-summer abdominal surgery, and you get the picture.  The six pound cat could beat me up.  And even the six-pound cat has gotten in on the conspiracy. If you've checked out the "Meatball" videos that I posted on Growing Bolder, you'll see how taking a fifty pound dog and a six pound housecat on a daily walk in the woods has turned a formerly brisk hike into a lurching, stop-and-go adventure. No exercise, but much laughing.

At any rate, after the Thanksgiving dinner crowd and houseguests had thinned along with the leftovers, I looked ahead at my habits and jobs and realized that I was not going to return to working out at the Y any time soon.  So I did the next best thing--I went on Craigslist and bought an elliptical machine. Dirt cheap. Delivered, even. Surrendered by a woman who decided she'd rather just use her treadmill.  Much as I had sold off my own exercise bike a year before because I really didn't need it ... just before the extra jobs started coming in.

Before it arrived in the bed of a red pickup truck, I gave some thought as to how to best motivate myself to get moving. The perfect spot turned out to be in the rarely used family room of the house, parked directly in front of an older TV with a 25 inch screen.  I've had it disconnected from its earlier DirecTV service since nobody ever watches it anymore, and it would take $80 worth of digital converter and antenna equipment to make it able to pick up a weather report. BUT ... the DVD player hooked up to the old TV still worked.  And if there's anything I have an abundance of, it's collections of classic cartoons.

Two decades ago, when my children were still quite young and "recording equipment" meant a VCR, there were still old Merrie Melodies cartoons running for a half hour each afternoon. At three nearly every day, as the kids were getting off the school bus, I diligently sat in front of the TV and taped each of three classic cartoons, leaving out the commercials.  Call me obsessed (go ahead, we all know it!), but given the dreadful proliferation of Smurfs, Snorks, Thundercats, My Little Ponies and Power Rangers, somebody had to draw a line in the sand and save the good stuff.  By the time I was done, I had amassed five six-hour tapes of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and the occasional Tasmanian Devil. And the tapes were, in fact, cherished. Any time school was called off, out came the tapes while we snuggled on the sofa under warm blankets.  Any time one of the kids stayed home from school with a cold or flu, the plaintive request of "Mom, could you make me a cup of tea and put in some Merrie Melodies?" echoed from the living room. I would smile as I stirred lemon and sugar into a cup of tea, secure in the knowledge that I was cultivating a sense of artistic discrimination and appreciation for a lost art form.

When they started making these classics available on DVD, I was right there to snap them up, even as the last of the brood fledged and left the nest. We still pull them out when the kids alight for the holidays, but not with quite the same rabid devotion. And yet ...

I pulled out the first collection of Looney Tunes on DVD (I own five), put Disc One in the DVD player, and stepped up to the new-fangled gadget.  My goal was to apply myself to the elliptical machine for the length of a single cartoon.  Once I had met that goal, I'd try for two.

Well, as I said earlier, in the shape I'm in, the cat could beat me up without breaking a whisker. I was panting and out of breath after the first two minutes.  The cartoon ran for eight.  I've diligently returned to the machine every night since then, pushing myself a little longer each day before stopping to catch my breath. Last night and tonight I actually made it to five minutes.  Bugs Bunny is still running circles around me in the endurance department.

But there's hope in there somewhere. I've gotten started on my annual New Year's resolution of getting into better shape a full four weeks before the calendar turns over. I've started throwing some sit-ups and stretches and arm exercises into the mix. And at the very least, I'll have Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to keep me laughing in good company.



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Good morning Mary. Watch those sit ups after abdominal surgery. Had a similar summer. Surgery followed by a fall. I am getting back to simple walking, but being immobile for such a long time has not been good for my aging muscles. Good luck with the diet and exercise.
Loved the post -- especially the line about the six pound cat.

I used to collect vintage cartoons myself, but they were all on VHS and I recently parted with them, but still sneak in the occassional Youtube hit of old Tex Avery tunes.

As for making it through that ten minute stretch, I've found Pandora's "80's Cardio" pretty effective -- but now I can't get Billy Joel out of my head, and that's no place to have him. Then I discovered Pandora has a comedy station, so I make it through three or four acts before I find myself screaming, "Where are all the women, goddammit, can't this station play any women???" Then I jump off the Gazelle and stuff my face with brownies and bemoan the sexist universe. Still not losing, but at least I'm laughing!
CONFESSIONAL UPDATE HERE...I have to say that Bugs Bunny has fallen a bit by the wayside as my enchantment with the elliptical machine waned. Nonetheless, changing my dietary habits from "all chocolate, all the time" to healthier fare like granola and yogurt and berries for breakfast and celery with chicken salad on it for snacks has lifted nearly twenty pounds from my frame over the past five months and decreased my blood pressure significantly. Let the celery snacking continue!!!