Write On

I have this thing about needing to change my environment while I write; I take my PDA and wireless keyboard and go over to the BX Food Court – or sometimes just a notebook and pen – where I grab a soda (diet, or course, out of the machine to avoid saccharine), pick a nice quiet corner, and sketch out whatever chapter I’m working on.

For whatever reason, this works for me. Just getting away from my computer seems to clear away whatever cobwebs are getting in my way, and I’m able to make real progress. Once in a while I grab lunch while I’m out, but paying heed to my weight (which is a rant all by itself… though I’m not really ranting right now), I don’t do that often.

The BX Food Court, even when there aren’t many people there, is usually pretty noisy—which makes finding that nice quiet corner a bit odd, but even with all the noise, I can usually find it. I can lose myself in the din of conversations, kids crying or laughing or even just yammering away with the same questions, over and over and over. It’s a different kind of quiet; it’s a loud, boisterous, in your face kind of quiet.

It’s being alone in a crowd. And it works.

When I first got my PDA and keyboard (at Travis AFB) not too many people had seen the combo and often interrupted to ask questions. Now, at home, if I’m on a writing streak and someone interrupts, I feel a little annoyed. Okay, quite a bit annoyed. But it never seemed to bother me there. It was a curiosity, and those not too shy to ask wanted to know what it was, where I’d gotten the keyboard. It inspired a few birthday and graduation gifts. I’d talk to whomever a bit, and was able to ease right back into what I was doing.

Today I went to the BX Food Court and sat there with my diet Pepsi and a notebook, scribbling notes about the current chapter I’m working on, when I heard a small child, about 5 years old, a few tables over, asking his mother what I was doing. They spent at least five minutes discussing the possibilities, and came up with everything from a letter to my mother to a grocery list.

And then he asked—loudly. “Lady, what are you doing?”

I looked up and smiled, mostly so his mother would know I wasn’t perturbed by the interruption. “I’m writing.”


“Just some notes for a book I’m working on.”

“Does it have dragons in it?”

“No, it’s not that kind of book.”

“What kind is it?”

“It’s a book for grownups. It’s about a boy and a girl…”

He snorted. “That’s boring.”

I was snorted at.
By a five year old.
He made my day.

I’ve tried writing other places – the bowling alley, Taco Bell, McD’s (though I have had some laughs there listening to people) – but the Food Court seems to be the best. Maybe it’s the ebb and flow of people. Maybe it’s the kids, or the fact that on a military base people feel a bit more free to approach someone. Maybe it’s just me.

But whatever works, I’ll keep doing it until I’m done with this book.
And it’s about half done.
That’s gonna be a lot of days at the Food Court.


Change The Channel, Baby

Ok, Our esteemed President is going to hijack every channel on TV here in a little bit to give his State Of The Union address. It’s supposed to go on for, what, about an hour? Since GWB’s voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me, I think I’ll skip it and find something else to do.

I’m sure he’ll have some important things to say, and hey, who knows, maybe he’ll give us a decent reason why we’re heading for war. Being married to a military guy, I have a vested interest in that; after all, every day is another day to wonder if he’ll get the call, and find himself sitting on some mountain in some country he can’t even tell me about.

And yes, we signed up for this. That doesn’t mean I want that call to come. It doesn’t mean I want someone else to get deployed in his place. It means I don’t want things to get any worse than they already are. I don’t want anyone to die unless the cause is clearly, profoundly, and undeniably just.

And vested interest or not, I just can’t bring myself to watch Junior give this speech. There’s something about him that creeps me out, even more than the freaky eyes on my MRI image. Before he was elected, I said he’d get us into a war one way or the other; it was a hunch based on nothing but gut feeling. My gut said we’d get there, and here we go… I never could have predicted how, but damn.

I wanna go bowling. At least that makes sense.


I'm Watching You...

Pull your pants up. Really now.

[really is my brain!]


Just When I Thought My Nipples Were Safe…

It is farkin’ cold out there today! Cold I haven’t felt since we were in NorthDakota (though, admittedly, not as cold as it used to get there.) My intention was to spend today inside, warm, sitting at the computer working, perhaps wrapped in this nice blue feather filled lap blanket my sister-in-law sent for Christmas. I had no reason to go outside, where it topped out at 9 degrees with a wind chill of about fifteen below. No reason at all.

Then the dentist called. I’ve been on their wait-list for getting my teeth cleaned, and they had an opening this morning, so I took it, before I remembered how cold it was. So I bundled up and went outside, and thought, “This isn’t too bad. Not bad at all.” I started the car and began to brush snow off my windows—and then felt the wind.

The wind was light, but it was cold.
Very cold.
I swear, my nipples puckered.

I braved the cold and went anyway, leaving their office 45 minutes later with bright shiny teeth and an appointment for February 11th, because I have a small cavity. And a fractured tooth. Ick. I headed home, thinking warm thoughts, looking forward to being toasty the rest of the day.

Then I got email from The Boy. “I lost the check you sent. Um, can you cancel it and resend it? And today, because I need it for a deposit on a new apartment…” He lost the check. A five hundred dollar check, he misplaced it. As if he gets one every day, no big deal, nothing to keep careful track of.

A. Five. Hundred. Dollar. Check.

Back out into the cold I went, to get to the post office to send him another check, after emailing him back that he had to go to the credit union to take care of the original. It was colder, the wind stiffer, and as I walked from my car into the post office I could feel the hairs inside my nose freezing (now, granted, this is a unique feeling and not altogether unpleasant, but it does make you realize how cold it is). I realized on the way home that I was no longer just feeling chilly, I was cold, very cold… numb fingers and toes cold.

Frozen nipples cold.

A short time after I got home the phone rang. It was The Boy. He found the check. In his laundry. Laundry that had already been washed. Basically, he found what was left of the check. In his pants pocket. In pieces.

A Five. Hundred. Dollar Check.

I could have gotten mad, but there was no point. He found the check, which means it wasn’t floating around there, waiting for someone else to find and attempt to cash. I had other things to worry about, anyway.

Like the cold.
And my nipples.
And what happens if I sneeze, and they go flying off.



Is She Frigid?

I sat here today, freezing my nipples off. I had the thermostat set to over 80, and still I shivered. My legs were painfully cold, chilly even to the touch. The heat kept coming on and I checked the vents to make sure it was actually blowing -- and sure enough, it was. Nice, warm, blowing air.

I checked the thermometer in the living room -- it was down to 65 and dropping. In the fifteen minutes I snooped around, checking vents, it went down another 5 degrees.

What the hell?

Knowing not what else to do, I went back into my office--the warmest room downstairs--and decided to suffer. Upstairs was much, much warmer, but Hank can't go up the stairs, and it didn't feel right to leave him all alone. In the cold.

Eventually, Hank had to do what dogs have to do, and headed for the back door. I got up and followed. And then it hit me.

I hadn't locked the door after he went out this morning.
Our back door doesn't stay closed if it's not locked.
I pulled the curtain back, and sure enough, the back door was open about 3 inches (making me very glad PsychoKitty tends to stay upstairs during the day, and that he didn't discover the open door and go out to investigate the world.)

Now, it was about 15 degrees outside.
The door blew open.
Duh, of course it got cold inside. I locked it after Hank came back inside, and within an hour it was nice and toasty--and then I remembered how high I'd turned up the thermostat.

I really am losing my mind.


Quote Of The Day

Said by the Spouse Thingy, during an early dinner:

I did Chuck Yeager!

Heh. Whatever sends you home with a smile on your face...


Snow What?

I should be working right now; I have a half dozen things to do, but I’m not managing to get to any of them. I have submissions for an upcoming anthology to read and a book layout to work on, and I have my own book whispering to me, telling me it’s not finished and needs to get out of my head and onto paper.

But it’s snowing outside, and it’s that nice, fluffy, come-outside-and-play-with-me kind of snow. It’s the kind of snow that, even though it’s only 18 degrees outside, doesn’t feel all that cold, and shoveling the driveway isn’t a chore.

I opened the window shade this morning and saw the first flakes starting to fall (and consequently wound up laughing at the cat, who seemed to think the sky really was falling), and knew my work day was trashed. I ventured out to buy stamps (the bills have to be paid and mailed in, dangit, no matter what the weather), then came home and had lunch, watching as the snow fell layered gently across the lawn and driveway, until it was a good three inches deep.

Knowing the Spouse Thingy would be getting off work soon, I decided to go out and shovel the driveway—my across the street neighbor was doing the same thing, only she was bounding from driveway to driveway, doing them all. She sighed and said (as she heaved a shovel full onto her yard), “Isn’t this just so beautiful?”

I had to agree. It is absolutely beautiful.

Now, I’ve been fairly certain all winter that I did not want snow, I’d had enough in North Dakota, and that we could remain gray and dry all season long. But watching this snow fall, I remember what I loved about winter in ND; it’s just pretty.

I reserve the right to complain in 3 or 4 days, when it’s old snow and not so pretty anymore.


Bowling For Pizza, Bowling For Fun

Every Sunday the bowling alley at WPAFB has “Family Day.” For $6.00 per person you get 3 lines of bowling, shoe rental, a slice of pizza, and a small soda. Sounds like a lot, but when you factor in the real costs – games are normally $2.45 a line, shoes $1, pizza $1.25 slice, and a small soda is $.75, it’s a bargain.

Yesterday the place was packed; Family Day starts at 1pm and we got there at about 1:05, when there was already a long line at the counter to get a lane. We counted the people and determined we’d have no problem getting a lane right off, so we waited, paid our money and got our Free Pizza ticket, then got our balls and shoes out of the locker (yep, the free shoe rental is wasted on us; we’re the geeky people who try to bowl at least once a week) and started to bowl.

It was a good bowling day. Unlike last Sunday, when I couldn’t seem to get the ball off my hand without turning my wrist or crossing my arm in front of my body (and the scores showed it), everything felt right. I was hitting my mark, my delivery felt smooth, and I was picking up spares.

I even got one terribly ugly split, the kind you expect only people with 200+ averages to pick up (and that is so not me), and told the Spouse Thingy that if I picked it up, he owed me dinner out. It was a safe bet; I left a 4-7-9-10 split. We both knew I could get the 4-7, but tip the 4 over into the 9 and have it take out the 10? No fricking way.

Oh yeah. He owes me dinner out.

We got halfway through our second game when a family took the lane next to ours. They had with them a little girl, about 3 or 4 years old (so, of course, the bumpers went up). We both like watching little kids bowl; they try so hard to mimic the adults, right up to sticking their ball-side leg out after rolling the ball.

This little girl, though, wasn’t intent on mimicking anyone. She just wanted to have fun.

Every time she rolled the ball, she squealed “YAY!!!!” and clapped her hands.
Every time her mother or father rolled the ball, she squealed “YAY!!!” and clapped her hands.
Every other roll or so she added “I did it!” or “Daddy did it!”

It didn’t matter whether or not any pins were knocked over. She had no concept of the score or who was winning. It didn’t matter. She got to use a bright orange ball, and she got to go out there and set it down, then push it with both hands, and she got to watch it roll. If it hit pins, great. If not, that was fine, too.

We spent more time watching her, laughing at her sheer joy. We paid less attention to our own scores, mostly because we didn’t care. We were having too good a time watching this little girl have the time of her life.

I can clearly remember thinking that I wish I had ever had that much fun playing a game. The things I do, I want to do well. I want to break my average every time I bowl (which, when you think about, is borderline stupid, because breaking it just makes it go up every time, and ceases to be “average.”) When I’m involved any game—Scrabble or Monopoly or golf or fricking Tiddly Winks—I want to win.

It clicked.
That’s not playing.
That’s working.

The best thing… when I stopped paying attention to my own game, which was actually going pretty well, and started enjoying this little girl’s sense of fun and accomplishment, I started doing even better. I topped my average by at least 16 pins.

I was actually playing at the game, not working at it.



Ok… I was supposed to have an MRI in November; I showed up for the appointment, feeling fairly confident that in spite of some mild claustrophobia, I could handle an hour in a loud, uncomfortable, giant lipstick tube.

I was wrong.

Fifteen seconds after the technician slid me into the tube, I was clamoring to get out. There was no way I was lying there for an hour. She slid the table back out, and without any trace of amusement or sarcasm, said it would be no problem to reschedule; I could get a scrip from my doctor, something to keep me relaxed.

I was rescheduled for December 17th, but someone else’s emergency took precedence, and the little I have learned about it, this person definitely needed to be there more than I. It was scheduled again for January 9th—and I showed up right on time, with my bottle of two tiny little Valium in hand.

Fifteen minutes after I took it, Spouse Thingy and a medical technician had to help me walk down the short hallway to the MRI room (ST, as I took it: “you know, your legs might feel a little wobbly in a few minutes.” Really? Just a little?); Spouse Thingy had to stop just short of the door because he had a stethoscope and other metal thingies that could have quickly become lethal flying objects once near the MRI machine. I was plopped down on the table and shoved in… no problem.

One thing Wright Patterson AFB Med Center has that Travis AFB didn’t: they could play music for me while I was shoved in there. I brought my John Barry Moviola CD… Best. CD. Ever. I listened to it through clunky rubber earphones, not caring about a thing, not even when the machine broke down for twenty minutes. Hell, I didn’t even realize it was twenty minutes. I knew it had gotten quiet for some time, but phfft, so what? Soooo freakin’ what?

I love valium.

I’m pretty sure that after I got home (Spouse Thingy was able to get off the rest of the day to drive me home, leaving my pretty purple toy car in the hospital parking lot) I got online and stared posting on WWDN, but I wasn’t banned, so it must not have been too bad.

Valium… Best.Drug.Ever.


The Fear Of Movement

Everyone is afraid of something—everyone. Even the most macho, testosterone-laden tough guy out there has his fears. Some fears are silly, and we know it, but that doesn't keep them from haunting us, lurking there in the shadows of our brains, making our guts churn and burn. I have a sibling who is deathly afraid of bugs—any bugs. I honestly think she would call a total stranger to come in and squash a tiny little spider if there was no one else to confront the little household intruder. She knows it's silly, but she can't help it. She hates and is afraid of bugs. I have a friend who is afraid of the dark. He's over 40 years old and knows there's nothing there in the dark that wasn't there when the lights were on, but he can't help it. His house has a nightlight in nearly every room.

The things we are most afraid of have a root cause. We can't always identify that root, but we're not born afraid. Fear stems from something. Sometimes fear is a good thing—it sharpens your instincts for what doesn't feel right and for when your guard should go up (pick up a copy of The Gift Of Fear by Gavin DeBecker). That deep down gut fear can help you avoid dangerous situations, and should be listened to carefully.

Fear is also what keeps a lot of people out of the martial arts and in their own safe little world. Fear can also keep someone with a lengthy background in the martial arts from stepping back into training. Training can be painful. You get hit, you get thrown, you use muscles you forgot you had, you burn, you ache, you sweat in rivers. You may have been very good at one time, with that strong, enviable shoulder high side kick and a lightning fast back fist that had people seeing stars, but after such a long time out of the arts, you're afraid to go back in. You know that it will be like starting over. You know the pain you'll feel, and the abilities lost to disuse.

It's just easier to find a less involved physical activity. Take up aerobics, or line dancing. Swimming takes pressure off the muscles and joints, free weights don't hit back... Those activities might not be as interesting, but at least they're less painful and no one in the jazzercise class is going to toss your over their shoulder.

Something I've learned over the past several years: easy isn't always the best. Safe isn't always as interesting. Pain free isn't necessarily better.

A little over five years ago I justified my lack of training as taking the time to heal—and that's exactly what I was doing, on medical advice. Allowing a battered body the necessary time to get better, to heal, to be stronger so that I could get back into life and train hard without having to back peddle three steps for every 2 I was taking. When it was later realized that this body wasn't going to get any better, that I was stuck with what is, and that I should consider backing off and finding less strenuous physical activities, I took that to heart—and I became afraid of the very thing I loved so much. I was willing to listen to that fear and back off from even thinking about training in a martial art.

At the time I wouldn't have chalked it up to fear—I chalked it up to common sense. After all, a workout routine that involved letting people batter me with fists and feet and my already aching body flying through the air and slamming down on to the floor could not be a good thing. I'd have to be nuts to keep doing it. With regret—deep regret—I resigned myself to a nonmartial arts lifestyle.

Backing out of the martial arts is not an easy thing to do when several of your closest friends remain in training, and teach as well. They know how to teach around someone else's limitations and don't see you as any different. They're full of advice, and sometimes other things that stink. But, they care, and they don't give up on you. They just hammer away, day after day, with a multitude of well intentioned suggestions and training tips. You might have left training for your own good, but it's just not leaving you.
You find yourself wondering, "Don't they get It!!! Don't they understand I can't do this anymore????"

They do get it. They know that you hurt, you loved what you did, and you won't be happy unless you find a way back, and they're willing to help. And until you take a better look at it, they're just going to keep on being royal pains in the behind.

I really did think I had stepped back for my own good.

The logic was simple: with my condition, repeated injury can cause clusters of trigger points, which refer pain all over the body. The more trigger points, the more pain. The more pain, the lower the quality of life. Sparring can cause trigger points. Self defense training, throwing and being thrown, all those joint locks and shoulder throws, can cause trigger points. That means more pain. No thank you.

What I resolved for my own good was thrown back into my face by a well intentioned friend... "So... just what are you afraid of?"

Well, duh!

I am, still, afraid of the pain. I'm afraid of making it worse. I'm afraid of winding up with pain searing through every fiber of my body, unable to walk, or move without crying. I'm afraid of pain so intense I can't think clearly or focus on anything more than the moment. I'm afraid of the unknown.

"Ok... but can you really see your life without it? Is the treadmill enough? I mean, if you could leave it all behind, why do you still think about it, why do you still scour martial arts bulletin boards, why do you still ask questions and ponder training routines? Why?"

Then came the offer out of nowhere: write down every limitation you feel you have, all the things your doctors say you can't do, and all the things you want to be able to do but can't because of pain. Tell me what hurts and where, how it hurts more when you move certain ways. Find your comfort level, tell me all about it, and we'll see what we can come up with. Videotape yourself, show me what you can do now... Let me help.

Even when you're swimming in the pity pool, an offer like that is hard to ignore. Not "if you want me to I'll help" but Let me help. Please. Let me. Let me do this for you. Let me help you get stronger and get back to where you were.

Every fear I had was shooting through me like electricity: this was one of those offers only a moron would pass up, but it also meant confronting my pain, admitting that it was getting the best of me and beating me down in ways I never thought I'd allow anything to. I used to have little fear in the ring.

Suddenly, I was afraid to move.

I wrote what amounted to a dissertation, everything I could think of, I poured into it. I can't jump, not because I don't want to, but because my knees and hips and back can't take it. I can't spar. I can't pick anyone up, or let them pick me up. I can't be caught in a hold. I can't even let someone gently place their hands on my shoulders without getting sick from the pain. I can't run, my knees swell up like basketballs. I can't run from it, I can't hide.

Now, tell me what you can do...

I can still kick. I can still punch. I can still do forms and I can go through defense techniques if no one touches me. I can control my reactions to the pain if I have to. I can still learn.

I can confront what scares me the most...

As of January 31, 2003, I will have spent 6 six years in varying degrees of pain. Oddly enough, the pain is something you get used to. You know, before you put a foot on the floor in the morning, that something is going to hurt. You accept it.

The thing is, I allowed that pain to rob me of myself; even with all the prodding from friends, I never returned to my martial arts training. I wanted to, deeply and passionately wanted to. But even with accepting the pain and getting used to it, the very idea of placing myself in the position of making it worse made me back away from it. I know what I can do, but that doesn’t mean I do it.

I’m afraid to move.

Still, after all these years, I’m afraid to move. I’ve made stabs at it; I took a body conditioning class and thoroughly enjoyed it. I joined the YMCA and made use of their warm water pool, and exercised in it. I tried doing the Body For Life program, but the cardio portion damned near killed me. I tried a lot of things, but it always came back to the fear of moving, the fear of how much extra pain I was going to be in.

So I’m afraid, but this morning I finally said to hell with it. I’m tired of it. I have to do something, before the not moving kills me. I can live with pain, obviously. But if I don’t so something to get back into shape and lose the body fat that has accumulated through the last six year, it will kill me.

I fear death more than I fear movement.

I have to find something and stick to it. I have to push past the pain, past the fear, and do something before the damage is permanent. I just have to.

We're all afraid of something. I am not alone.


Seeing Red

It never fails.

If I forget a load of laundry in the washing machine, it will contain two things: several light colored shirts, and one fairly new red sweatshirt.

Not only will I forget this load, but when I remember it, the day after or the day after that, it will need to be re-washed, and I will forget to peek and see if the requisite light colors and red sweatshirt are there, thereby washing them together a second time. While they sit in the washing machine all night, all wet and icky, the red sweatshirt will, invariably, rest upon the lightest and most favored shirt, leaving large pink splotches on one side of the shirt only.

If it were on both sides, I could pass it off as some kind of fashion pretense. But no, the splotch will be single sided, and in a manner that suggest “this loser can’t do her own laundry.”

The rest of the clothes will have this faint, but obvious, pinkish glow.

You know, the same pinkish glow most people wind up with once, maybe twice, over a life time of doing laundry. The same pinkish glow that many men purposely attain in order to convince their female significant others that laundry is best left out of their hands.

You know, the thing a moron can avoid doing more than three times.

I’ve done it at least 50 times.
Over a 20 year period.
I’m not even a moron.