Archive for March, 2010


Out of Action

on March 31, 2010 in Misc 9 Comments »

I got a smidgen of good news and some whopping bad news.

The good stuff:   My chiropractor made me feel better and I’m now in less pain.

The stinking bad stuff:   He discovered that I had a separated shoulder and torn cartilage in my ribs.

AAAAACK!

screaming-mummy

That’s how I feel right now both emotionally and physically. That’s also the very vigorous noise I kept making as he gently but oh, so very firmly squeezed and twisted and pulled at me to get my body parts reconnected and to loosen my muscles (seems they tighten up just about everywhere in a natural response to protect an injured area).

And bless him, he was pretty steamed when he found out how I’d been injured.   No stranger to the martial arts himself, he insisted that the sensei at my dojo (and yes, he used the proper terms) should ream out the black belt guy who injured me, and he should do so in front of the whole class.

Anyway, back to my poor ribs.

Seems that torn cartilage needs about eight weeks to heal.   MAYBE in about four weeks I can go back to fencing, if only because I’m a rightie and it’s my left ribcage that’s injured.   But for about eight weeks any weight lifting is verboten, and this after Robert wrote such inspiring comments here about how important weight lifting is and I really wanted to go for it.   Also no real stretching or more aggressive movements for my entire upper body.  

In fact, even basic yoga is too strenuous.   As for anything aerobic – fuggedaboudit.   Since my injury I get winded while merely walking, and apparently my lung capacity will be diminished for a while.   I’m determined to do what I can to keep my lower body in shape and loose, but only by using slow, controlled movements.   The last thing I need is to re-injure my ripped-up cartilage.   Besides, I REALLY want this pain to stop.  And I want to stop dreading coughs and sneezes because they make my rib cage feel like it’s being mangled by a T-Rex.   I’d also like to eventually sleep once again on my back and left side.

So there you have it.   Layla is physically on the sidelines until around the third week in May.   But does that mean she’s down and out?   Hell no!   I mean, my Layla plan also calls for more cerebral and forbidden skills.  

soccer-sports-injury-xsmall_jpg_w300h199

In all honesty I’ve again been slacking off with my lock picking efforts and studying Arabic and French.   Now these things will have to take the place of my workouts.   Then there are my novels to edit and get ready for publishing.

Who knows? Maybe while I’m studying and picking and editing away, I’ll find myself hatching some really big plot or planning a cool adventure. Something like… me as Layla finding the hidden treasure of the Incas!   Or – I know! – trekking into a desert in the Middle East in search of the Lost Ark!

You know, I really shouldn’t write this stuff while I’m on medication.

Banged Up

on March 28, 2010 in Misc 8 Comments »

emergency

Remember when I wrote a mere two weeks ago that I might not get injured in Aikido?

Remember how, in my next blog days later, I pointed out that Aikido has a gentle philosophy about not hurting people? How “I’m in an excellent dojo where the instructors seem determined that none of us novices get banged up”?

Silly me.

I should have considered the possibility that, unlike the instructors, one of the advanced students we beginners share the class with, someone who should know a hell of a lot better, might do something really, really stupid. That this one advanced student who’s sixty years old, strong as an ox, and weighs around 200 pounds, might – just might – decide to teach me a lesson the hard way after I do something wrong in a move, by suddenly picking me up and slamming me to the ground. And maybe I should have considered – because said elderly jackass obviously didn’t – that with this being only my fifth Aikido class, I haven’t yet learned all the different ways to fall without being injured. That instead of throwing out my arm when he dropped me – as he unhelpfully pointed out afterwards – I might instead instinctively tuck it into my rib cage, which would send my elbow into my rib cage with tremendous force as my body landed on top of them both.

After a few minutes I thought I was okay. I managed to finish class while the whole left side of my rib cage merely ached. This was Saturday morning.

By Saturday afternoon I had to go to the emergency room because I was in so much pain it hurt for me just to breathe. Last night I slept fitfully and only on my right side because I had trouble breathing if I lay back flat and there’s no way I’ll be able to sleep on my left side for about another week.

It’s Sunday night. My weekend was pretty much shot because I spent most of it trying not to walk like Quasimodo around my place (going anywhere but the emergency room and the store for more ibuprofen was out of the question). I did at least get a couple of chapters of Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar edited, but I couldn’t do a whole lot else.

3d_injured_neck

I’ve just taken my eighth ibuprofen for today and before toddling off to bed I’ll take another tablet of Hydrocodone/Acet 5mg/500mg that the doctor prescribed me; it doesn’t help with the pain as much as I’d like, but it does make me drowsy enough to sleep.

And as I drift off into sleep, I am going to remind myself that there is no such thing as a safety-proof sport. That if I don’t do something stupid, someone else can very likely do something stupid to me. Then there’s always the chance of a freak accident happening. Like the time years ago when I was young and fit and managed to injure myself while sleeping alone in my bed. I did this by somehow turning over the wrong way and putting a nasty crick in my neck that lasted for weeks.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t even go to bed. Maybe I’ll just stay up all night and watch action movies wherein someone other than me is getting banged up.

Taking Charge

on March 23, 2010 in Misc 10 Comments »

printing press

In the second half of this Year of our Lord 2010, I plan on turning into a self-publishing maniac.

Remember how back in December I wrote about why I was planning to self-publish The Compass Master, starring Layla Daltry?  Well, I have a confession to make:  I’ve got three manuscripts ready for printing.

The other two are historical romps set in America in the late 1860’s.  I finished them both several years ago, tried to get an agent, and after more than dozen rejections (nearly all in reaction solely to my query letter for the first manuscript only), I grew discouraged and gave up.  Next I wrote Compass, thinking it was more commercial, therefore more likely to be snapped up by a publisher …

Damn, I was delusional!

Bear in mind that I already have one published novel (way back in 1989/1990), Prophecies, on Bantam.  So I’m not a novice to the publishing game.

You know, having three unpublished novels sitting around in your head and in your home ain’t healthy.  It’s kinda like having writer’s constipation.  Like putting a fundamental part of your life on hold.   And so I really can’t tell you how deeply happy and strangely free I feel (no more backed-up crud in my soul) every time I think that in only a few months at most, after I finish editing, my novel Charity MacCay and the Almighty Dollar will be in print.  Shortly after that, Charity MacCay and Holy Relations and The Compass Master will come out, and all under my control.

three books

The reason I have to delay Compass’s printing is because I’m still in the process of obtaining copyright permission.  Two stanzas of a Monty Python song appear in the manuscript along with quotes from a non-fiction book.  Let me tell you, this permission stuff is really tedious and takes so LONG!  Especially if you’re dealing with solicitors in London.

When these novels are finally in book form I will, of course, shamelessly talk them up on this blog and include a link to them on Amazon (and hopefully in local Denver bookstores).  I will also have to thank writers like Hart Johnson.  She has a great blog with her Confessions of a Watery Tart, in which she encourages fellow writers and provides a helpful list of other literary blogs.

And while I’m at it, I SWEAR I’m going to get my geek up and figure out how to list other people’s blogs and stuff here in my own space.  I also have to figure out how to replace “Admin” with Helena.  Not that Admin isn’t a lovely name.

Finally, a postscript of appreciation to a couple of readers:

Robert – you’re a “barely-competitive Olympic-style weightlifter”?  Wow.  That’s a whole lot better than anything I’ve ever been, physically speaking.  What goes on in those competitions?  Besides a lot of grunting and sweating, I mean.  (Hot, sweaty men – what a pleasant thought.)

Ben – if you’ve got a blog, send me the link, because I definitely want to check it out.   It’s good to know you’re a writer too.

Dojo Mojo

on March 19, 2010 in Misc 10 Comments »

aikido_founder[1]

REWRITTEN!

THIS TURNED OUT TO BE THE MOST WRONG-HEADED ENTRY I EVER PUT INTO MY BLOG!

AND THAT’S BECAUSE THE AIKIDO SCHOOL I WENT TO, NIPPON-KAN OF DENVER, TURNED OUT TO BE A DISASTER!

On March 19 2010 I wrote in this entry about my first few classes of Aikido.  That was fine.   But here’s the paragraph I wrote that would, by the end of that month, prove to be BULLSHIT:

Oh well. At least I’m in an excellent dojo where the instructors seem determined that none of us novices get banged up. The dojo is Nippon Kan, which was founded by Gaku Homma Sensei, a student of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Mr. Sensei even stopped by last Sunday’s class and gave us a lecture/demonstration. He also talked about Aikido’s philosophy of harmonizing with one’s attacker and not seriously hurting him or her.

I really cannot emphasize to you how much the above paragraph is pure and unadulterated BULLSHIT!

And now, here’s the entry as originally written, minus that paragraph.

. . . . . .

Maybe I should’ve researched Aikido more thoroughly before signing up for it. I mean, I like this martial art and will keep going to classes for now. It’s just that it seems I have, per usual, jumped head first into something before thoroughly researching it. Maybe such impulsiveness gives me a thrill. Maybe it’s a way of compensating for the way I over-think too many other aspects of my life. Whatever the cause, I just keep jumping before looking.

I was aware of Aikido’s basics, of course. About how this particular martial art emphasizes redirecting an attacker’s force and momentum against him/her. That Aikido requires little physical energy (i.e., not much upper body strength) to throw and disable the attacker.

What I hadn’t anticipated was that Aikido training calls for constant partnering. This means our beginners’ class of about ten students is balanced with an additional ten intermediate to advanced students who go through the movements with us much like choreographers teaching dance moves. That’s okay. Choreography I can do.

Then there’s the grappling. In my last blog, Robert commented that he himself wasn’t too sure about the grappling vs. striking debate. What the hell is grappling? I asked myself. And more important, does it hurt? So I looked it up and learned that, yes indeedy, Aikido is a grappling art – very hands on the opponent, grapple as in clinching, manipulate the joints, holds, throws. That I can do.

unity handsBut what I definitely won’t like is the backward roll. Aikido calls for lots of throws and falls and rolls. Falls and front rolls are a piece of cake. But going backward? Figuratively, I go backward all the time. I am the goddess of regression. But for some reason I’ve always been afraid of injuring my neck in a backward roll, and it doesn’t take much for me to put a painful crick in my neck. Making me do a few too many backward shoulder rolls is a sure-fired way for it to go AACK!

(PARAGRAPH REMOVED)

(AND BY THE WAY, AT NO TIME AT THIS SCHOOL DID WE BEGINNER STUDENTS PRACTICE ROLLS OR FALLS WITH OR WITHOUT OUR PARTNERS.   THIS WAS IN SHARP CONTRAST TO THE MUCH HIGHER SAFETY STANDARDS AND MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING THAT I EXPERIENCED IN TAE KWAN DO CLASSES ELSEWHERE.)

. . . . . .

Okay, I gotta say that the notion of protecting an attacker from injury is pretty weird for me.

If someone ever attacks me, my first two reactions will be to 1) save myself by 2) killing my attacker. Tae Kwan Do reinforced this instinctive feeling. We were often paired up in those classes too, but to kick, punch and block. Let me tell you, I learned right off that seriously hurting a big, strong man was nigh impossible for me. Even the scrawny adolescent guys I sparred with weren’t easy taking down. What I realized instead was that if I’m ever attacked in real life, I should go for the kill as quickly as possible.

At the risk of sounding morbid, I’ll explain.

ballerina_battement[1]When I was in college a few of my student friends were studying nursing. These same sweet-looking nursing students told me how easy it was to kill someone with your bare hands if you knew how to: among other things, go for the throat and crush it or rip it open.

Then there’s the ballet lesson.

In college and afterwards I took lots of ballet. It was in one of those classes that an instructor told us bunheads about how strong our grand battement (high kick) should be. He said he knew a delicate-seeming ballerina who was attacked by a would-be rapist. She instantly killed him by giving him a powerful grand battement to the throat.

Fast forward to the present. Now I’m studying Aikido. Will I truly adopt its gentle philosophy? I kinda doubt it. On the other hand, I do wish to learn this remarkable art of throwing/manipulating people bigger and stronger than I am and without hurting them.   After all, odds are I’ll never meet someone I’ll need to kick in the throat (and I certainly hope not!).   But I often meet people I wouldn’t mind tossing around.

Aikido Woman

on March 15, 2010 in Misc 4 Comments »

female-aikido

I might – just might – survive Aikido without sustaining any notable injuries.

I am not used to this. I mean, you’re talking to the woman who suffered through grueling parkour/free running classes that left her limping and whimpering for days afterwards. Fencing bouts that drench her in sweat and prickle her with nasty little bruises. One-on-one workouts with Eric to build gymnastics strength for climbing and the kind of second-story stealth stuff that Layla does. Private stretching efforts to loosen up chronically tight hips. Endless physical reminders that she is middle-aged and no longer enjoys the natural athletic benefits of a youthful body.

And of course since I’m no virgin to the martial arts, it seemed reasonable that I would exit my first Aikido classes exhausted and aching. After all, that’s what happened years ago when I took up Tae Kwan Do intensively (4-5 times a week) for six months. Ain’t no way you can feel just peachy-keen after sparring bouts and doing several hundred kicks and punches and blocks and push-ups and sit-ups while grunting in Korean.

Ah, but that’s just it. Turns out Tae Kwan Do, along with Karate and Kung Fu and most other martial arts, are of the kick-punch-block school of thought. Aikido, in contrast, has a kind of go-with-the-flow philosophy that includes using an attacker’s movements and momentum against him, and if said attacker is coming at you or trying to hit you, don’t block him or the blow because that could hurt you. Instead, simply get out of his way.

How smart is that?

Thus at the end of my first Aikido class, I had only one physical complaint…

I WAS FRIGGIN’ FREEZING!

I really am not joking when I say that my bare feet were partially numb and I was starting to hallucinate about hot baths. And why? BECAUSE THE DOJO WAS SO DAMN COLD!

Seems that the heat is always turned off overnight and the dojo’s traditional Japanese architecture means zilch insulation. Hence the thermostat hovered at 50 and my blue toes looked like cute little icicles.  Needless to say this cold is NOT good for muscles.  By the end of class I hadn’t even worked up a single bead of sweat, which says something about the class (I was pretty disappointed) and the environment.  You know, the least we paying students deserve is some heat on bitter winter days and air conditioning on sweltering summer ones.  Apparently this dojo doesn’t always bother to provide either.

ghostbusters_venkman_slimed-776087

I feel like crap.

I mean, we’re talking serious crap.   Fuzzy brain, sore throat, glands swollen like diseased gills, red blurry eyes set in a mean squint, inability to stay lucid for half an hour at a time.  I went to work this morning because there were a few tasks I had to get done.  But after growling at my colleagues and whining to my boss, I figured it was time to go home.   They were all glad to see me go.   I am really, really not a nice person to be around when I’m sick.

Tomorrow, unfortunately, I gotta go into work no matter how I feel ’cause there’s a proposal to get out.   With any luck I won’t get my cooties and bad vibes all over the project and hence doom it to failure.   And to help stave off such misfortune, I’m going back to my bed as soon as I finish typing this thing (I spent the afternoon there, curled up in a fetal position).

In the next couple nights I should be healthy and dangerously action-packed again, and that’s when I’ll let you know about my upcoming plans.    On the agenda: akido and a self-defense course, among other things harmful to my body.

Oh boy!   More injuries!   More bruises!   More trips to my chiropractor!

I really should know better by now and just stay in bed.

Ghostbusters_9066 red eyes

Action Fashion

on March 4, 2010 in Misc 2 Comments »

Indiana Jones machete

Putting together an action fashion wardrobe ain’t so easy. But for those of us writing about a lead character in a thriller (and for me, living like that character), it’s a necessary ingredient we’ve got to work with.

The good news is, I’m using Layla as my role model and she dresses more like Indiana Jones than James Bond. No expensive, high-maintenance outfits for her. She also has what I wish I could get: a 1930’s elegance mixed with modern-day touches.

futuristic costume

This means perfectly cut dresses and trousers, skinny pants tucked into boots, a brown leather jacket, and tops or sweaters with clean lines that cling without restricting her movements, ‘cause she’s gotta be able to move freely. Oh – and she doesn’t own a whole lotta clothes because shopping bores her.

I put Layla in a brown leather jacket because black leather can look too hard. When I was in Belgrade I saw Serb tough guys ad nauseum wearing black leather jackets like some kind of uniform, usually unzipped just enough to show off their holstered guns. They looked like rabid rottweilers. Ever since then I’ve gravitated toward the softer, earthier look of brown leather. But yeah, Layla still has black pants and sweaters and some black ankle boots (flat-soled and comfortable so that she can run and climb in them). And now I do too – except for the perfect lace-up ankle boots, which aren’t easy to find.

Because The Compass Master takes place in November I haven’t thought out her summer duds other than what she wears while roughing it on the Panamanian island. Basically hers is a sleek, simple look she can toss into a duffel bag at a moment’s notice.

OSullivan

Wrinkle resistant fabrics are a must. And given that she works mostly in Europe and the Middle East, she’s also picked up the French flair for style, hence everything she wears fits perfectly, and when she has to impress she might throw a Hermès scarf ($275) about her shoulders. Beyond the scarf, she can’t be bothered with silly over-priced designer stuff.

Obviously Layla dresses the way I’d like to if I were more sophisticated. She also looks a lot better and she’s years younger. Damn it. But I gotta thank her because simplifying my wardrobe to match hers has not only saved me money (of which I have an ever-dwindling amount), it’s made me throw away all floral prints (what was I thinking?) along with semi-hippy items left over from my long-ago Boulder days.

Currently the only things in my closet I don’t especially like are some of my work clothes – bland things I can wear to the office and not care if they get worn out. Still, I’ve resolved that once they do get threadbare I’ll replace them with fewer, cooler pieces I feel good in.

I can do this and get away with it because I’ll be modeling myself after a realistic woman like Layla. If, however, you’re personally going for an action hero along the lines of Van Helsing or Ripley in Alien or Bruce Willis at his most kick-ass, then human resources might take you aside for a little chat.