Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Randomness Wednesday: Change of Plans

Okay, I took Memorial Day week off then got lazy. I'm going to get just a touch soapboxy today, so if you don't want to read on, I totally understand. I'll see you Friday. If you are interested, well...

I am putting Little Red Wolf on hold for a little while. I know, I know! I already published book 1, when is book 2 coming out?! Well, I'm looking at maybe July. I have another project that is consuming me. Let me explain.

By now most of you should know that I am fairly liberal and a total hippie. Like tree hugging level. Except spiders and mosquitoes, I love all life and think every soul is sacred. (Except the aforementioned insects. Those fuckers can go to Hell and burn forever.) So, when the person who I already detest whose name I flat-out refuse to use in a sentence referring to a position of power, declared that he was telling the rest of the world to fend for themselves, I got a little bit cranky. I hope everyone realizes that is a drastic understatement.

The truth is we as a country produce a lot of things. We have numerous companies that are household names all over the world that started here, some of them very close to me. But, our greatest export remains our culture. Pop or otherwise, American culture is a hot commodity in many places int he world. We are a world leader in many things. And, our scientists already know how to make us a world leader in renewable energy technology. We have the skill, the materials, and the infrastructure to change the global energy economy. We can influence the world!

But we're not. And why? Because big business and the politicians they own, think there's no money in it. Pure and simple. It is making them a shitton of money to destroy our environment. Now, that being said, there are quite a few companies who are taking action. Who have signed agreements with governments to reduce their carbon footprint. There are even some whose entire business model is built on that one goal. They are making a difference, but they are individual and separate. One person recycling is great, but an entire community is what it takes to make a difference.

Enter the Paris Agreement. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend doing so. It is well thought out and practical. While there are points we as a country may contend with, the basic theory and motivation behind it are sound. Namely to save the world from our destructive tendencies. We as humans have the power to stop destroying our planet. And, we have the ability to clean up the messes we've made. Not doing so is acting like a tantruming spoiled little brat who won't clean their room. Problem with that analogy is that the room is full of toxic chemicals that are giving your neighbors cancer and a whole slew of other nasty diseases.

Our oceans are in serious trouble. If you think that isn't a big deal, please remember that water covers 71% of our planet's surface and most of that (96.5%) is ocean. If all the ice in glaciers and on mountains melts, that number will raise significantly. As so many memes and t-shirts say now, "there is no Planet B".

Because I am passionate about conservation and have trouble extrapolating my thoughts without putting them into story format, I am putting werewolves on a back burner and cranking through an old NaNoWriMo project. It is my conservation manifesto. It is my position, thoughts, feelings, and desperate warcry for action with regards to this beautiful, amazing, dynamic planet I feel blessed to call home. I hope you join me every Wednesday to learn about the Earth, climate change, and the process of writing this book.

The following links are a good place to start if you are interested in doing your own research.

United Nations Paris Agreement
USGS Water Statistics
Unstoppable by Bill Nye
NOAA Climate Change Indicators

Monday, June 12, 2017

Martial Arts Monday: Bruises

Let's face it. Bruises are a part of life. From the time we are born, we accumulate minor hematomas. A bump here, a bonk there, hell learning to walk is one of the most violent things we ever do to ourselves. Well, unless we are involved in contact sports.

I have troubles working in an office setting. Winter isn't so bad. Pants and sweaters cover a lot of skin. But int he spring and summer when I bust out the skirts and cute shirts my extensive collection of bruises is on full display. Honestly though, I wear them with pride. They are the marks of hard work. Of mistakes I learned the hard way. Of someone else's skill that I helped to hone. They show just how awesome my friends are and how tough I am.

They are outward representations of your journey through life. Each bruise, while it does eventually fade, is a marker of a collision with something that you survived. And that in and of itself is pretty badass.

But for someone in martial arts, they are a constant. There is rarely a moment when you are riddled with the odd blue, purple, black, green, or tanish tinge of a bruise in some point of forming or healing. It's inevitable. What I have learned is that most people don't really care. Unless it is huge or obvious (flashback to my giant black eye from ducking when I should have checked) most people assume you are in some kind of sport. Which they are completely correct on.

The problem comes in when you look like you had your ass handed to you (which you might have if you box) and you walk into a place like a church with your husband who is a foot taller than you and wears a permanent scowl. Yeah... awkward! BUT, I quick explanation and inspection of the calluses on your knuckles clears up the confusion, and accusations, without much fuss.

As a parent, I am less concerned with my own bruises and more concerned with my son's. Nothing makes finger shaped bruises on a kid's arm sound like a good thing. I mean really. "No, it's okay. His friends did that to him. He's fine. He let them do it. They were practicing." Again, awkward. And you look like the shitty mom that lets other kids beat the crap out of your kid. Yep. That sucks. However, I know that if anyone wanted to mess with my son, they have a nasty surprise coming. I also know that if I am in the store and anyone starts behaving a little iffy, there is a really good chance a herd of martial arts kids will stampede to the rescue. Helping at a dojo has a few odd perks.

So, I say wear your bruises with pride. Hold your head high with the knowledge that you are a little tougher, a little stronger, a little more badass for surviving whatever gave them to you.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Martial Arts Monday: Stress Relief

Imagine if you will, you've had a bad day. Life got stressful and everything Murphy and his law could throw at you landed in your lap. Sucks right?

We've all been there. Life is heavy. There is no rhyme nor reason, but somehow everything you try to do you just can't win. The load of chicken you already didn't want to haul to and fro spills in the back of your car. The person you try to avoid but can't makes yet another innuendo that is borderline harassment and refuses to take the hint and back off. Your boss berates you in a group email to the rest of the staff because she forgot how to read. Yeah, that's happened to me too.

Now, imagine you have an outlet. There is somewhere you can go with all that rage, frustration, pain, and hurt. All those feelings of being unseen, unheard, and disrespected swirl inside until you feel like you are going to burst. What if you had a place where that is okay? What if you had a padded room full of punching bags and friends?

Martial arts is a wonderful way to blow off steam. There have been days (like the one described above) where life just plain fucking sucks. On days like this I usually tell my friends that I need to just hit something. I am too mad, frustrated, sad, and disappointed to handle sparring with someone I don't actually want to hurt. That's when I bust out the boxing gloves and go to town on the bags until I am sweaty, exhausted, and potentially crying. It is an energy release. It gets all that pent up rage out in a constructive way. I don't hurt anyone. I don't even hurt myself. I get the rush of endorphins from the workout. And, it clears my mind.

Exercise of any kind is great for calming someone down and working through emotional upheaval. That being said, boxing, Muy Thai, or any other striking style of martial arts has the added benefit of channeling the physical aggression you feel when you are truly pissed off. There is just something immensely satisfying in hitting a bag and watching it swing from the force of your effort.

The danger is when you can't control yourself until you get to the dojo. Think bar fights and assault. These people either don't have enough self-control to make it as long as it takes to get there, are chemically impaired, or have nowhere to go. I truly believe most conflicts CAN be solved with honest, open communication. Unfortunately, most communication is neither honest or open. If the physical aggression is taken out of the equation, the only thing that is left is the rational explanation for the situation. Heads clear, hearts calm, and understanding can take place.

Now, I am one of those weird people who has a small in-home gym. So, if I'm really pissed, I can pull out my own punching bag and vent that pressure. If you don't have this set-up, then a pillow works great. Shut your bedroom door and lock it if you can. Make sure you are alone. I mean really alone. Yes, the cat counts in this case. Kick it out. Yeah, all of them. Now, place a pillow in the center of your bed. Put another one end to end. Sit on the first one on your knees so you're straddling it. Now, ground and pound the crap out of the second one. Fists, hammerfists, elbow strikes, head butts, whatever inspiration strikes, go for it. Yell and scream and rant and rave and tell off that pillow.

Feel better?

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fitness Friday: Break It On Down

So often we think of “fitness” as a purely physical thing. But it’s not. Just ask someone who is stressed out about losing weight how many pounds they are actually dropping. Hint, not as many as if they were relaxed about it. So, today is all about an emotional thing that keeps most of us sane.

In my post on Monday I mention a little incident in boxing class one day. A meltdown. Also known as a breakdown. Which is also considered an incoherent, sobbing mess of WTF-is-wrong-with-you. Answer is, I have no fucking clue.

Emotional breakdowns are as varied as the stars. They are all made of the same basic stuff, but beyond that, there is little similarity. Most breakdowns consist of sadness (rational or otherwise), frustration (again, rational or otherwise), rage (you’re catching the pattern here, right?), and crying (internal or all-out blubbering and sobbing on the floor in a public place). But, the most important thing about them is…

They are healthy! Yep. I said it. Having an emotional meltdown is a good thing at times. It means something is building up inside you. There is a surplus of emotion, of feelings you can’t rationalize away, or force down anymore. It means that you need to vent some unseen pressure.

Think of it this way. You are a peaceful, majestic mountain. On the outside everything looks awesome! There are peaks in all the right places, valleys too, and even a snowy cap that inspires others around you. But underneath, perhaps far underneath, magma’s a’movin’. Pressure is building up, seeping into nooks and crannies you had no idea were there. It is sneaky and unseen. Sometimes the mountain rumbles. A little earthquake shifts a little rock and a new avenue is opened for the steam to move into.

Staying with this analogy, there are two types of volcanoes (yes, I know there are more, I made it through science in high school and college too). The first one has hot springs, and mineral mud pits that people pay way too much to go soak in. These warm places are the areas where that internal pressure vents. Just a little outlet is all it takes to help release this pressure and keep everyone safe in the valley below. BUT, if there is nowhere for this steam to go, eventually the mountain will run out of internal space and…

KABLOOWY!! Vesuvius wipes out Pompeii, Mount Saint Helens shrouds the Inland Empire in sudden darkness, and there is residual damage that can be easily seen decades later.

People are no different. If we hold on to everything that irritates, angers, saddens, or terrorizes us, we will build up pressure. And, eventually we’ll explode. Just like a volcano, there will be casualties. Relationships, jobs, self-esteem, sense of worth, everything around and inside us will be effected by the cataclysmic blast of our emotions.

Enter the meltdown. When we break down and cry, we are actually building ourselves up. When we let our emotions be what they are, disengage our brain, and just feel, we vent that pressure. It doesn’t make sense most of the time. It never will. Because it is a culmination of days, weeks, months, or even years of suppression. All that stuff is being pushed through the steam vents to the surface and none of it is related to what is happening in the here and now.

Example: I was having a couple of stressful, hard weeks. On the surface they were filled with minor annoyances. Little things that are easy to shake off and move past. Until I saw a card I bought for my husband on a whim. Just a random card that I thought would brighten his day. I lost it. I mean, really lost it. Crying? Yep. Sobbing? Uh-huh. Jumbling sentences until I was speaking in tongues no one has ever heard? Definitely. I was not, nor am I still, upset with the card. I still have no friggin’ clue why it set me off. But I had a full emotional breakdown. That dam of emotional fortitude cracked, split, and crumbled into oblivion. But, you know what? It felt great! I cried hard, so hard my body ached the next day. The skin on my face felt like someone scrubbed it with sandpaper. When it was over and the tears were wiped away, I felt lighter, more peaceful. It wasn’t hard for me to be happy again. For whatever reason, I needed a good, long, honest cry.

Humans are messy. I don’t think anyone can honestly deny that. We make mistakes, we hurt eachother, we hurt ourselves. And part of staying healthy, of remaining fit, is to own that. To let yourself have that private time. To not shame yourself or others for it. Just like venting pressure makes a mountain even more majestic, letting yourself let go makes you stronger, happier, and more peaceful.

So here it is. My advice and permission. You ready? Good. Get your favorite comfort food. Whatever it is, I promise there is no judgement. Got it? Good. Now, get some tissues. I’ll wait. Ready? Now, watch that one movie that always gets you right in the feels. Or, listen to that one song on repeat. Or, think of that one person or one situation that always makes the water works start. And open up. Let it all come out. Be with someone if you need to, or be alone, but let yourself feel all the things that clog your emotions and pull you down. This is not the time to write a letter, call someone, or drive anywhere. This is a time to feel. So, feel.

Once you are done and the tear wells dry up. When the sobs turn to hiccups of gasps and sighs. Wipe your face, blow your nose, and tell yourself, “thank you. I needed that. I feel much better now.”

The last part of this exercise is to move on! One of my favorite people always says, “if you’re going through Hell, keep walking. Don’t stop and buy a condo.” Maybe you are exhausted and need to sleep. Great, then sleep, but start tomorrow fresh. Don’t dwell on anything that came up for you unless it is serious. And I mean this, so pay attention. Anything that serious needs an impartial listener. No, the other patrons on the bus or subway do NOT want to be that person. I mean a counselor. Someone who listens to people professionally. Think about it. They are paid to sit and listen. That is their whole job. Sit and listen and occasionally give advice. These people are professional sounding boards. So go talk to them!

I know this post was long. There will be others about mental and emotional health, and each of them will be important. The biggest point here is to avoid judging or shaming yourself or others. Yes, it is rough. Yes, it makes you feel weak in the moment. But when it is all said and done, you’ll be stronger than ever. Thank you for reading along!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Randomness Wednesday: Ancient Cleanliness

Ew. Can we all just agree right now the hygienic practices of 2,000 years ago were f’in disgusting? Okay. Awesome! Have a great day…

When we think of ancient civilizations we tend to have this romanticized view of them. They had bathhouses, and the rich had a tub, and the poor had lakes and rivers and majestic waterfalls. They also believed that getting wet could kill you. No, really. They were afraid of water. Well, not really, but sort of.

Only the rich, and I mean disgustingly rich, could afford to go to bathhouses. They were a social hub for the highest classes of very few cultures. They were also used a maximum of 4 times a month. Let that sink (ha) in. Once a week you went to a building full of other dirty people, stripped down, and submerged yourself into a swimming pool full of germs, dirt, and people-funk without any chlorine or sanitizing anything. Ew!

Okay, bathing rarely happened and was not an option for most of the populations of the world. Let’s talk about the streets, shall we? Dirt. There was a whole lot of dirt. And horses, sheep, goats, and other livestock. Oh! And cats, dogs, rats, and people. All these creatures walking around on that dirt, beat it into a nice path until it rained. Then it became a muddy, rutty, treacherous place to be. People had to make way for wagons, which wasn’t always an easy task. The wagons were essentially locked into one track because the ruts got so deep. But wait, there’s more.

Though the Roman Empire did introduce aqueducts and rudimentary plumbing to the areas they conquered, it was not wide spread. Most of the world still used the trusty old bucket or chamber pot. Now, remember that they didn’t exactly have a sanitation service available. All that excrement went out the door, or window, onto the street, and sometimes people, below. Grossed out yet? Just wait.

So, now we have a muddy, rutty, poopy mess. Add to it the fact that all those animals I mentioned before weren’t concerned where they dropped one. NOW factor in the people trudging through this to cross the street.

Yeah, I know, this is kinda making me gag too. But once they made it through the gunk, they got to their locations and tracked it all over the floors there. And, if we wanted to bring this full circle, those caked, dripping people took off their minimal clothes and dunked themselves into the bathhouse vat that was most often a stomach churning shade of brown. OR, they took all their clothes to a central place to wash them. In this instance, the river or lake is a much better option for bathing. Finally! Something relatively clean!

So, when you read books staged in ancient civilizations, or watch movies based in those time periods, don’t trust the pristine image in your mind or on the screen. It was actually quite disgusting and many of history’s biggest epidemics occurred because it was so dirty in so many ways. Having said that, I urge you not to research this further. At the very least, don’t go looking for pictures. Stay with the pretty ones in your imagination because some things simply can’t be unseen.