Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Something Scary

Hello Dear Readers,

I really appreciate the kind comments on yesterday's post--all the more so because it was such a personal thing to write. So thank you.

It's an old adage that we should do something every day that scares us--the idea being that we'll force ourselves out of our comfort zones, and be that much closer to leading extraordinary lives. This isn't easy to do--especially not everyday--unless you happen to be scared of a lot.

However, I was scared enough yesterday to make up for at least seven days. It was my first double-class Monday in a while, which includes "Stamina Monday" (usually the toughest Level 1 cardio kickboxing workout of the week), and an hour and a half of Level 2 (muay thai fighter training). And in some fit of stupid ambition, I also scheduled a sparring session right afterward with my dojo's top fighter. Yep, I'm insane.

The Stamina Monday class went well. It was a challenging workout, but not overly so...nothing to push me out of my comfort zone there. But Level 2 classes are becoming more and more difficult, and for some reason, I'm the only woman who seems to go to them anymore. That didn't bother me, though. My fear really didn't start until Grant chose me as his partner.

Let me explain...from what I've heard (and I'm sure Grant will correct me if I'm wrong), Grant is about 6'4" and 220 pounds of solid muscle. In short, the guy is huge. His reach is 74", and he's been enrolled in martial arts in one form or another since he was nine years old. (I'm not sure how old Grant is, but suffice it to say he didn't start training yesterday). Next to little ol' 5'8" me, he's a giant. And I knew he was going to kill me.

We started out with leg-trapping exercises. For those of you who aren't familiar with them, they go something like this: you kick, and your opponent grabs your leg and does any number of nasty things in retaliation. Because of our height difference, when Grant trapped my leg, it was really far off the ground. If I'd lost my balance, it would have meant a nasty fall, but whenever I did falter, I clung to Grant like crazy. No way I was crashing to the ground! My heart was beating like mad. I was terrified the entire time.

That class was long, with each exercise more scary than the last. But I survived it. Grant didn't kill me, although I have a rainbow of bruises in places I've never been bruised before...my collarbone. Both shoulders. All the way up and down my arms. You get the picture.

I was so exhausted and beaten up by the end of class that sparring didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I was basically a punching bag for Wayne. But I survived that, too.

It may sound strange, but what Grant and Wayne did is actually an act of kindness. Because they're punishing me now, by the time I step into the ring in October, I'll be ready for whatever my opponent will throw at me. And no matter how scary my opponent is, she's not going to be 6'4" and 220 pounds. What could possibly be scarier than Grant? :)

How about you, Dear Readers? What have you done to step outside your comfort zone lately? Was it worth it? Do you believe in doing things that scare you? Why or why not?

* I dedicate this blog post to everyone who's ever kicked my ass in the course of training, especially Grant and Wayne.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reinventing Ourselves

Welcome back, Dear Readers.

Ever since I began this blog over a year ago, I've received some negative commentary about my participation in martial arts. Why, when there is already so much senseless violence in the world, would people deliberately seek out opportunities to hurt others? My dedication to muay thai may seem directly opposed to the message of peace I often preach.

Admittedly, I have met students who were in martial arts for the wrong reasons. These were bullies and thugs who wanted free license to damage other people--they could care less about the hundreds of years of tradition. Simply put, they just wanted to hurt somebody. Unfortunately, I imagine that those who have no experience with martial arts assume the majority of us are like that, and that is not the case. Those people were--and are, I'm happy to say--a sad minority.

I've met the kindest, gentlest people through martial arts. These are people who may perform well in the ring, but who would otherwise take great care to avoid or prevent violence. They are giving, empathetic creatures-perhaps because they know what pain feels like, they give it a greater respect and think twice before causing any themselves.

A lot of people develop their first bit of self-confidence through martial arts...not because they can beat someone up, but because they have mastered a complex set of skills, or survived one of the toughest workouts on the planet. Martial arts develop discipline in unruly children and absent-minded adults. Training can keep depression at bay and improve sleep. There are dozens of benefits one receives without even so much as stepping near a boxing ring.

Without going into nasty details that would hurt or humiliate people I love, my childhood was not a happy one. There was abuse--some physical, but mostly emotional--on an almost daily basis, which completely eroded my self-esteem. I could stand up for my friends, but never for myself. My elementary school was ruled by a pack of mean-spirited older girls who threatened violence if you accidentally glanced their way. When I look back on my youth, the overriding feeling I remember is fear--fear at home, and fear at school. Not a nice way to grow up.

My opinion of myself was so low that by the time I was a teenager, I couldn't look in the mirror unless the lights were off. I was convinced that I was the ugliest person whoever lived, and so did not desire to live. I was often suicidal, and deeply miserable. Only my writing and a few close friends got me through that period.

When I moved to the city, I was still scared. Walking down busy streets, I was convinced that I would be mugged. Whenever I left my home, I was positive it would be broken into. As a wounded bird, I attracted more than my share of cruel, abusive men.

Martial arts didn't change my personality overnight, but slowly, my inner strength began to build. This was the same survival instinct that had seen me through so many tough times--only, now it was encouraged to thrive. I walked with my head held high. I found the courage to speak my mind. I didn't become a bully or a thug, but I was no longer a victim. I walked away from the people who treated me like crap, and surrounded myself with good friends and positive relationships. Muay thai gave me the courage to reinvent myself, and every time I train, I get stronger. I still put myself down far too often, and take mistakes too hard, but I am learning to be kinder to myself. I'm becoming a better person, one kick at a time.

I'm not saying that my experience with martial arts is the same as everyone else's. But what I do know is that when I train, I'm not surrounded by dangerous, violent people. I train with healthy, happy souls who have smiles on their faces and an encouraging word for everyone...even strangers.

Not what you picture when you think of martial artists? Then I hope I've at least helped to change your mind.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fun Friday XXX: Rain, Rain, Go Away....

Happy Friday, Dear Readers, and welcome to flood country. Where I live, they're forecasting a full weekend of rain...rain we definitely don't need. The city has issued a basement-flooding advisory, and our rivers are still swelling well past capacity. I feel very sorry for the poor farmers to the south.

With rain in mind, I thought it would be fun to discuss the best way to spend a rainy day. How do you entertain yourself when there's a downpour outside? Are you one of those people who does what you want, rain or shine, or are you more a "weather permitting" kind of person? How did you occupy yourself on rainy days when you were a kid? How do you entertain your own children?

How does the rain make you feel? Does it bring you down, or do you love the way the air smells when it rains? Any and all comments welcome. Stay dry!

As for me, the very best way to spend a rainy day is safe at home, snug in bed, with a great book, wonderful snacks, and two very cuddly kitties. I hate having to go anywhere when it's raining, and cloudy skies make me blue, but if I can stay home and relax, it's not so bad. A hot bath is always a nice option, too...especially if you've been caught in the rain.

But thunder and lightening storms make me want to write. I love working on one of my scary novels while there's a terrific storm going on outside. It sets the mood and completely inspires me. I find it hard to resist.

Your turn, Dear Readers. Have a great weekend!

**This wonderful illustration is by PeggyDressel

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Challenge #10: That Empty Feeling

Smile while you still can, lady. That rush will be over soon enough.

Welcome back, Dear Readers. I hope everyone who had a long weekend thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks to everyone who sent me birthday wishes, whether here on the blog or on Facebook. You made my day!

As we all know, hindsight is 20/20, and when I look back, I can see a lot of reasons that I found myself in such a financial mess. Sure, there were unexpected emergencies that I just couldn't cover with savings alone. And I didn't scale back my spending accordingly when I scaled back my successful freelance business and took lower-paying jobs. But I really got into trouble when I began to use shopping as an emotional crutch.

I think most of us know that you can't cure emotional emptiness or any kind of depression with shopping, but too many of us try. Buying something new triggers a temporary endorphin boost that can mimic happiness. The trouble is, it doesn't last. And the resulting bills can trigger a new round of depression.

My legendary shoe collection is the result of two relationships: one merely incompatible, the other miserable. At one point, I had almost daily "gifts" coming to my house from EBay sellers. It was like Christmas every day. But even that kind of artificial joy wears off, and soon packages would languish unopened. I'd have to remind myself to try clothes on before it got past the date where I could return them if they didn't fit.

You've probably heard of emotional eating. Well, I was an emotional shopper. My life is much better now, but life is never perfect, and I had to develop healthier ways of coping with occasional depression, boredom, and loneliness. None of this is rocket science, but a hard workout, time with good friends or the love of my life, a cuddle with the cats, or just a hot bath with a good book makes me feel better without wrecking havoc on my bank account. This was a lesson hard-learned, but I'm so glad I learned it when I did. Things could have been so much worse.

This post concludes the Climbing Out of the Big, Black Hole series. I hope it's been helpful. Have you ever used shopping to cheer you up? What healthy measures do you take to blast yourself out of a blue mood?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fun Friday XXIX: Take This Job and Shove It

Happy Friday, everyone. If you're in a region of the world that has a long weekend coming up, enjoy! I'm praying the weather reports are wrong, and that we'll actually get some sunshine on Saturday and Sunday.

For this week's Fun Friday, I want you to tell me about your worst job. We all had to start somewhere...what was your worst of the worst?

My worst job was a slow death in a beige cubicle. Everywhere I looked, all I could see was beige. Even the people were beige. I was surrounded by co-workers in their twilight years who said, "It was just a summer job when I was fifteen...just a summer job...." That place was a trap I was desperate to escape. I would have gnawed off my own arm if the museum position hadn't come along.

I should have known I was in trouble when the office supplies I inherited from my predecessor had the word Help scrawled on them. Or when the vacant cubicle next to mine was filled with name plates--names of the poor souls who came before me but hadn't survived. When I left that place, I took my name plate with me. There was no way I was adding to that trophy wall.

There wasn't much for me to do, but what there was was mundane, monotonous, and tied up with red tape. Any creative spark was quickly crushed under foot. I went crazy with boredom. The other bright, ambitious souls who'd been trapped along with me left before I did, with each departure leaving me sadder and more alone.

I worked with a team of women who, left to their own devices and without much to do, grew nastier and nastier. They devolved into a pack of wild dogs, snapping and snarling. They chose victims and circled, making their prey's life one of misery and ostracism. My poor male boss had no idea what was going on and couldn't understand it, so the situation only got worse.

I have never felt more free than the day I left that office for the very last time. And I will never work in a place like that again, ever. The very worst day at the museum is a million times better than a "good" day there.

Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, I'm free at last.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me? Part Two

Yep, it's that time of year again. Sigh....

Usually, I don't mind my birthday (having a birthday is better than the alternative, right?), but last Saturday at my dojo's kickboxing tournament, I looked around and thought, "wow, am I the oldest one still doing this?"

I know that's not the case, and even if it was, I should be proud of it--not embarrassed--but there's something unnerving about getting to an age that makes people gasp in disbelief. Yes, people, it's true. I have lived that long. There is life after thirty (and after twenty, for that matter).

I've decided to face my birthday curse head-on and pack the weekend with fun plans, if only to keep me from delving into lonely introspection. I'm proud of my twenties: I started a successful business; spent a month in Africa on assignment; sowed my share of wild oats; lived with a friend, a lover, and on my own (not all at once); ventured into the corporate world; and saw my bylines on the front page of a major newspaper. In short, I really lived. But what have my thirties been about?

It's not like I haven't accomplished a thing in this decade, but there's still so many aspects of my life where I haven't seemed to make any progress. No published books. I'm still living in the same place I vowed to leave. No fights in the ring (hopefully that will happen this fall). But I am almost out of debt, so that's something, and I'm surrounded with much better people. In any case, I have a lot of work ahead to make this decade of my life truly memorable.

I hope that, by my next birthday, I'll be able to look back and say, "Wow, look at all I accomplished!"

Until then, let us eat cake.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Challenge #9: The Giver

Happy Hump Day, Dear Readers.

I feel a bit odd continuing this Climbing Out of the Big, Black Hole series, since I'm almost out of debt, but I still have a (short) ways to go, and hopefully telling my story can help others avoid these financial pitfalls.

While cutting back on the things I bought for myself was hard enough, curbing what I purchased for others was worse. I love gift-giving. One of my favorite things to do was to go shopping with a friend, watch as she raved about and pined over something she couldn't afford, and then sneak back and buy it for her. Usually by the time Christmas or her birthday rolled around, she'd completely forgotten about it and was ecstatic to receive it.

Giving a great gift isn't about money, of course. It's the thought involved. By have any of you noticed how often those thoughts cost dearly? I always tried to keep to a budget of under $1,000 for Christmas gifts. It never worked, even when I made a lot of the gifts myself. I also loved to entertain, and would invite people over for parties that included huge platters of food and open access to my little bar. Only in the last year or two have I been able to get my generous nature under control.

My friends (hopefully) still know I love them. And I'm sure not a single one wants an extravagant gift from me while I'm still mired in the misery of CIBC owning my ass. Most of us have agreed that time together is more important than things, so on special occasions, we've shared cheap (but delicious!) dinners together, gone for a walk, or watched a matinee.

While I am looking forward to more flexibility when it comes to presents for friends and family, I'm going to be better at setting a budget and sticking to it in the future. Spending yourself into a hole is a gift to no one.

How about you? Do you find it easier to spend more on family and friends than you would on yourself? Do you go crazy around the holidays? How do you keep your gift-giving under control?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Interview with a Warrior II

Wayne Pokornik on Saturday night.
Welcome back Dear Readers,

I was lucky enough to be at Wayne Pokornik's first fight over two years ago...which didn't seem like a first fight at all. From the very beginning, he was a calm, controlled, and incredibly skilled fighter. Wayne never loses his cool, and he works harder than anyone else I know. This may be why he's had such success--recently placing first in kickboxing and second in muay thai at an epic tournament in Calgary, and now besting his opponent, Carl Stewart from Offenberger, on Saturday night to win by unanimous decision.

Wayne completely transformed his physique before this fight, and his dedication to training is unrivaled. He is also the nicest person you could ever hope to meet, generously going out of his way to help everyone else. Since he manages to fit in a very busy family life (between Wayne and his wife Charleen, they have six kids!), I figured it was time to sit down with him and hear his thoughts on fighting, training, and life in general. Enjoy!

Q1) Congrats on your big win, Wayne! Can you take us through how you were feeling before, during, and after the fight?

A1) Thanks a lot, Holli. Before the event started I was pretty calm--after my pre-fight medical, I went to the back warm up room and had a nap. Once the event started, though, and other fights were going on, I became very excited! Then, when it was finally my turn to fight, I was focused and calm again. It was such a great feeling to walk out and see and hear how much support I had from everyone. I couldn't believe how loud it was!

After the fight was over there was a lot of adrenaline and excitement going through me.

I was extremely happy I was able to put on a great show for everyone and get a win.

Q2) I've heard you got down to eight percent body fat. That's insane! How did you do it? What training diet do you follow?

A2) I really impressed myself with my fat loss.

It started out with my gym Snap Fitness having a weight loss competition. It was a team competition, so I signed up with Charleen, Derrick (Fisher, another KWest fighter) and another friend of ours. Thru this competition is how I was able to find out my fat percentage.

But getting there was a lot of hard work. I started a (nutrition) program with Isagenix, and through Charleen keeping me on a healthy diet and the Isagenix program, as well as all my training at Kwest, my strength training, and cardio training, I was able to lose my fat.

Q3) You work harder than anyone else I know. How many hours a week do you typically spend training, and how do you manage never to get run down? What's your secret? How do you stay so enthusiastic and pumped all the time?

A3) I typically train in muay thai five days a week, sometimes adding a sixth. I also go to the gym for strength training and cardio training five days a week. Just adding the hours up now kind of shocked me, but it ended up being about 15 hours of kickboxing and about 10 hours of strength and cardio training a week.

I am not sure how I do not get over-trained. I have read a lot about over-training and the symptoms, but I haven't had any effects of it yet. It might be as you told me once: " a body in motion, stays in motion".

I am always super excited to train, and look forward to it. I think it all really comes down to Charleen. She is my rock, without her none of this could be possible for me. She motivates me, she pushes me, and is there for anything I need. She is there with me every step, coming to Kwest and going to Snap Fitness with me.

Q4) When and why did you first get into muay thai?

A4) I wanted to take up a martial art. I looked around at the various clubs around my home. I looked at karate, tae kwon do, and kung fu, but when I saw muay thai I knew that was the art for me. I really liked how devastating but beautiful the art can be. I have been training for about five years now. The first few years were just on and off; it’s only been the past 2.5 years where I have been training on a full-time basis.

Q5) How did you first know you wanted to fight?

A5) After the first time I went to watch a live muay thai fight, I knew that day I wanted to step in the ring and fight. At that time I had only been training for a few months and never even sparred yet, so I knew it was going to be a while before I was ready. I was also at a point in my life where I was unable to train much. It wasn’t until I met Charleen and came to Kwest that I was able to train enough to feel ready and confident enough to fight.

Q6) What's the biggest challenge you'd still like to overcome?

A6) My ultimate goal is to fight professionally. I would absolutely love it if I was able to train and fight for a living.

Q7) What inspires you?

A7) My desire to fight professionally in my biggest inspiration. Each time I watch fights, it pushes my drive that much harder.

But also I find just learning and training is a huge motivator. Each time I train, spar or fight, I am just happy for the opportunity and try to learn as much as I can from it. Also Char's desire to help me reach my goals keeps me inspired.

Q8) Why do you stay with KWest, not traditionally known as a fighter's gym?

A8) I have trained at another gym that is typically known as a fighter's gym, but left because I did not like the atmosphere and attitudes.

I came to Kwest and really love how everyone bands together to help each other out. I love how much support everyone is willing to show for each other. When someone needs help, there is never a shortage of volunteers.

Now with a few Kwest fight cards gone by, we see more and more fighters showcasing their talents and desires to be a fighter. I think as each fight card has passed, and as each fighter fights, this image of being a fighter's gym or not is changing and will continue to change.

Now everyone can see Kwest is a great place to train no matter what your goals are. If you want to train to become a fighter, or just to get in shape, Kwest can handle your needs.

I have thought about fighting MMA (mixed martial arts) one day and I had started training jiu jitsu and wrestling at WAMMA (Winnipeg Academy of Mixed Martial Arts) but with me stepping up fighting muay thai lately I just have run out of time. But it still is another thing I want to do.

Q9) What do you feel is your greatest strength in the ring? Greatest weakness?

A9) My greatest strength, I think, is just my desire to fight. I just want to fight and compete--it doesn't matter who it is.

My greatest weakness is almost the same as my strength. My desire to fight is so great I can be caught brawling instead of sticking to my game plan.

Q10) Did you plan out what you were going to do in the fight beforehand? If so, how closely did the actual fight follow the plan?

A10) I had a fairly good game plan. I had video of Carl's previous fights and was able to set a game plan out. But my biggest plan was to just adapt as the fight went on. Use what worked and what didn't.

But with that said, I didn't follow my plan. I had combos I worked a lot on and didn't throw them once. I also thought he was going to be tougher in the clinch and wanted to stay out of the clinch. But I didn't follow that particular plan very well, did I? Hahaha.

Q11) What aspect of your training was the most beneficial to your success? The least beneficial?

A11) My biggest success came from all the clinching training. But I really don't think any training can be "least beneficial". As long as you are learning, you are going to benefit from it.

Q12) How do you balance training with such an active, busy personal life?

A12) It is very hard to balance work, training, family and fun. If it wasn't for all of Charleen's help, as well as my family's understanding, it wouldn't be possible.

With all my training, and my kids, who are all involved in something (did I mention I have six of them?), it keeps my life very busy.

I just want to say thank you again to everyone who has helped me in any way. Whether it has been training with me in the gym, coming to cheer me on at a fight, or to just passing on a good luck message to me, I appreciate it so extremely much and thank you all.

And one last big thanks to my rock. Charleen!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Five Tips From a Frustrated Editor

Happy Hump Day Dear Readers,

As an editor, I see a lot of the same mistakes being made, time and time again. I'm not even talking about grammatical or spelling errors per se. You can benefit from the so-called wisdom of my experience, and make your advertising, public relations, or marketing copy a lot stronger by following these five tips. (They can benefit your fiction writing, too.)

1) Eliminate all exclamation marks. Now. Replace them with periods and review your copy to see if you actually needed to sound so excited. If you use an exclamation mark, it better be the most exciting phrase ever. Do you know how often I've read We Are Open Today! or something to that effect? Sure, it may be important news, but it's not revolutionary. Overuse of exclamation marks screams amateur hour.

2) Use quotations carefully. When you're reading a paragraph and a phrase is contained in quotes, if it's not an actual quotation, it's used as a wink to the reader. (Or should be.) If you write, for instance, our "talented volunteers" will guide you, you're suggesting that the volunteers aren't really talented. Or volunteers. In any case, something is suspect about the phrase. Unless you're trying to say allegedly trained volunteers, skip the quotations.

3) Unique is not the word you want. Trust me on this one. Unique may be one of the most overused words in advertising copy. The true meaning of unique is "one of a kind"--as in, if something is unique, you honestly can't find it anywhere else. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the word unique describe a mass-produced item. A recent correction I read from one of my superiors at work said, "It's not unique--we carry it in our gift shop." It made me smile. So true.

4) Get rid of modifiers. Most of the time, you don't need them. Almost, all, basically, nearly...these have no place in your copy. For some reason, when beginning writers script speeches, they insert the word "all" everywhere, so the speaker ends up sounding like a hillbilly:

I'd like to thank you all for coming here tonight. You all have made a difference to us, and we hope you all come back again soon.
If you're in the deep South, this may work, but if you're not, get rid of the all!

5) Cliches. These overused words and phrases are overused for a reason--everyone understands what they mean. They create an instant picture. They're also lazy. Try to think outside the box (which is a cliche in itself). So is the one-of-a-kind phrase I used to define unique. You get the picture (another cliche).

There you have it. What are your favorite writing tips? What errors or examples of lazy writing drive you crazy?

I'm sure I'll have more examples in the future.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where Did It Go?

My motivation. It's gone.

You'd think that after being sick and losing all that training time, I'd be chomping at the bit to get back. But no--far from it.

I've tasted freedom, and now I can't get enough of it. I dread going to kickboxing class, especially on Saturdays. So sometimes, I just...don't.

I'm hoping this Saturday's fights at my club will help re-motivate me. I certainly need the boost. It doesn't help that both my jobs are especially busy this month. Working on my book? Forget it.

After seeing my boxing coach post-fight, I questioned the wisdom of stepping into the ring myself.

How do you motivate yourself when you're feeling sluggish? Anyone got a "kick in the pants" for me?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fun Friday XXVIII: Five Things

I'm totally going to ditch the gloves. What's the point?

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

I hope the sun is shining where you are.

For today's Fun Friday, I chose an easy exercise, so I hope more people will participate. What five things do you want to do in your life? You can go into detail, and explain why these things are important to you, or--if you're short on time--feel free to write a simple list. I'm looking forward to hearing about your five things!

As for me, it's already pretty obvious that I want to publish novels and fight in the ring, so I'm going to leave those off my list and share things you may not know.

1) I want to go white-water rafting, preferably in an exotic locale. When I visited Africa in 2001, that was on my "must-do" list, but the Zambezi River was too high.

2) I want to move to a warm, tropical climate where shoes are not required. I was not cut out for this cold weather! For me, happiness is a looking out over my porch to see waves breaking against the sand. I want to live somewhere that lets me spend part of everyday walking (or running) on warm sand.

3) I want to spend time abroad volunteering for a meaningful cause, like helping to save the sea turtles in Mexico, or helping to build homes in Africa. I want to see the challenges of people (or animals) somewhere far away, in a place unfamiliar to me, and be enriched by the experience.

4) I want to cuddle a koala bear, a baby panda, and if possible, a red panda. Obviously this will involve some traveling.

5) I want to continue to challenge myself physically: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, walking the entire Great Wall of China (as much as possible), scuba-diving at the Great Barrier Reef, training with the great muay thai instructors in Thailand. I want to never live an ordinary (or sedentary) life.

What are your five things? Please share!

Have a great weekend. Thanks for being here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Return of the Hooligan

Well, I did it.

I finally returned to the dojo, after over two weeks of flat-on-my-back illness.

Strangely, I really didn't want to go. When I first got sick, I was frantic about missing any training time, although it quickly became apparent that I didn't have a choice. But after awhile, it became difficult to imagine returning to that frenetic, unbalanced lifestyle. As much as I hate to admit it, it was nice to slow down for a bit.

My kru Kelly was fully in agreement that I take my return slow--no double classes at first, and he let me partner up with my best gym buddy yesterday--always a treat. I was really nervous that I'd completely lost my power, but actually my kicks felt just as strong or stronger than they were before I got sick. What a relief! My cardio wasn't too bad, either. The biggest changes I noticed were that my knee was more sore than usual (which is odd--shouldn't it feel better after a break?); my lower back was killing during the sit-ups, and my abs got to that burning, can't-possibly-do-another-crunch feeling a lot faster than usual. After the class, I was light-headed and completely agreed with Kelly's suggestion that I skip Level 2 this week. It was good to go home.

One thing I've learned about exercise (and almost anything that requires work--even writing) is that the more you go, the easier it is. If you take time off for any reason, the best thing you can do is return to your routine (or a version of it) as soon as you can. The more days off you have, the more difficult it becomes to get back in the zone, and the fact that you're falling more and more behind doesn't help. If you don't feel like going to the gym, the best thing you can do is go. Then it's a lot more likely that you'll feel like going the next time. It may take awhile, but you'll see the truth of it if you keep at it.

It's an old cliche, but I believe a body in motion really does stay in motion, and the same goes for a body at rest. What do you want your body to be more accustomed to?

Just think about it.

Photo credit: Tony Nardella

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Challenge #8: My Other Addiction

Hello Dear Readers,

First of all, thank you for all of the heartfelt, insightful comments on yesterday's post. Just when I'm starting to lose faith in this blog and feel like I'm writing these words in a vacuum, you surprise and strengthen me. Each and every comment here is a gift, whether you agree with what I have to say or not.

Before I continue this Crawling Out of the Big Black Hole series on debt, I have some very positive news to share. When this year began, I'd hoped to be out of debt by December. Then my hot water tank burst. The threat of flooding this spring required the expensive installation of a sump pump. My furnace needed repair. The bad luck seemed never-ending, and it looked like 2011 was not going to be my year. But with a lot of hard work, and quite a bit of luck, I am thrilled to report that--unless my roof suddenly caves in--I will be out of debt by the end of this summer, or even before! I am so excited and pleased about this. It took some sacrifices and a lot of adjustment, but it was so worth it. I only wish I'd started sooner.

That said, let's talk about my other addiction, which isn't harmful to anything but my bottom line. Since I was old enough to have my very first library card, I've been addicted to the printed word. When I was a child, I read every single book that was of any interest to me from my small town's public library. From my school's library. From my mother's collection (I'm surprised she let me read some of that stuff--Jackie Collins was pretty racy). It was nearly impossible to keep me in books, and I didn't have many of my own, so I contented myself with constantly re-reading old favourites. And not just that--I read the backs of cereal boxes, waded through cookbooks and women's magazines. I read everything I could get my hands on. When books got passed through school, they usually stopped at me, and I confess I might still have a few schoolbooks somewhere. I was insatiable.

We didn't have a bookstore in my little town, so when I stepped into my first McNally Robinson in the city, I thought I was in heaven. I could easily spend $1,000 on books within an hour, and still not have satisfied my wordlust.

When I got serious about getting out of debt, I dusted off my library card and tried to get my fix for free. You're allowed nearly unlimited books here, so I would fill my basket so full I was barely able to cart them home. In spite of the pressure of having to read them all by a deadline, this seemed to work until...(SENSITIVE READERS SHOULD SKIP TO THE NEXT GRAPH) I borrowed a book that someone had repeatedly used as a Kleenex. It was so disgusting that, since returning it and informing the personnel, I haven't been back. I realize that this is most likely a very rare occurrence, but it sickened me, and after hearing from a friend who used to work there about all the other gross things discovered in the books, it might not be rare enough for me.

Still, it wasn't a problem. I had a pile of books waiting to be read, and I promised myself that I would only buy the books of my writer friends until I was out of debt. People like Barbara Ross, a wonderful woman who had just released her debut novel The Death of an Ambitious Woman, deserved the support of their friends. How many friends could possibly release books in 2010 and 2011? I was certain I could support all of them and still live within my means. However, when I took stock of my spending at the end of the year, I was shocked to see that--even with all the cutting back--I had still spent over a thousand dollars on books and magazines. Yikes! And no, they weren't all written by friends--there went that resolution.

I'm a junkie for new words, but I've discovered the joy of used words. A delicious way to spend a weekend afternoon is prowling used bookstores and sales with a fellow addict. Anything you find on these trips truly feels like treasure, and is so much more appreciated for the time spent on the hunt.

Now that I'm nearly out of debt and have some savings to spare, I've indulged in a special treat for my upcoming birthday: the complete series of Time-Life's Mysteries of the Unknown. Remember those books? I longed for them when I was a kid, and can see them inspiring a lot of intriguing stories, if not novels.

Any other book junkies out there? Feel free to stand up and declare your addiction--this blog isn't exactly anonymous, but it is supportive. What was the best book you read recently? How do you balance your budget while still fulfilling your lust for literature? What's the best treasure you found in a used bookstore or sale?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life is Cheap

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Jessica Dovey

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

A writer friend posted this on her Facebook page today, and I sighed with relief, because it sums up all I have wanted to say for the past couple of days, but much more eloquently.

I'm not gonna lie--sometimes this world depresses me. The value of life--be it human or animal--seems very low these days. Whether it's baby seal pups being inhumanely clubbed to death for sport (since seal products don't really have a market anymore), people celebrating the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, or well-loved pets being put down because they've become an annoyance, this has been a sad month.

I don't agree with what Osama was apparently responsible for (I say "apparently" because he will never stand trial and be able to tell his side of the story). What happened on September 11th, 2001 was a terrible tragedy and many innocents died. I remember CNN clips of people in the Middle East celebrating the attack on the Twin Towers, causing North Americans to gasp in shock and say the celebrants must be less than human. Now Osama is killed, and we do the exact same thing? How much sense does that make? In my city, the Sun's front page featured a photo of Osama with the headline, Burn in Hell. I'm sorry, but that just made me sad about how low we can sink as a nation. I'm with Martin Luther King Jr. on this one.

I'm finding blogging difficult these days--not because I can't think of what to say, but for all the things I can't say. In the beginning, I wanted this to be an anonymous place where I could be completely open and forthcoming about what's going on around me, but I was outed fairly early. (Hard to stay anonymous when you promote your blog on Facebook.) And now that I have photos on here, the cat is definitely out of the bag. So I keep my mouth shut about the things that could effect others in my life, or that I'm not supposed to have an opinion on. As a journalist, for instance, it's not right to tell you how I feel about my country re-electing a man who was found in contempt of parliament and who attempted to pass many scary Bills without our noticing.

I have to keep my mouth shut.

But this might be a good day to tell those you love that you love them...and that includes the animals, too. We're all in this mess together, whether we like it or not.