Saturday, November 26, 2016

Stuff I've Learned

Me celebrating the big 4 - 4 at jiujitsu. 
Every year on my birthday, I've posted something. I think. Maybe. In truth, sometimes I forget how old, literally, I am so it's likely one year I forgot to post.

Anywho, this year I thought I'd post a few things I've learned through 44 years of living. And, yes, I realize I've already posted about turning the "double 4" but that was kind of a wallowing rant. This is me getting a hold of myself! (Btw, my kids say going #4 in the bathroom is, THE WORST! So, when I say, "double 4," they look at me with equal parts fascination and sympathy. I don't know what #4 is and I'm not going to ask!) 

1.  Not everyone will like you. This is good. If you were always liked you’d be a wimp with no stories to tell. 
2.  Everyone has a story. Listen to it.  
3.  You can still like people that don’t like you. (Trust me. I do this ALL the time.) Their actions do not determine yours.
4.  How you treat people is about YOU, NOT THEM.
5.  Forgiveness is for you, not the person you are forgiving.
6.  Forgive yourself.
7.  Hurting is ok. Pain, whatever the kind, is a message. Listen to it. Get ok with it. Fix it a sandwich and a spot on the couch. Because the opposite of pain, not feeling, is not living. You don’t know true joy without knowing pain.
8.  You do NOT have to be happy to be joyful.
9.  Fear and anxiety are not the same thing. Fear gives, anxiety takes. Fear says, something is not right, protect yourself, you're worth it. Anxiety says, you’re not right, you’re defenseless, you’ll never be enough. 
10.  You’re totally enough.
11.  Even if you don’t believe you can do something, go ahead and do it. It’s ok to be afraid. Really. If you aren’t afraid you aren’t brave and everyone should get the chance to be brave.
12.  Hug people. This is a new one for me. I’ve only recently gotten comfortable with it. And, I have to say, to this day, I do not regret hugging anyone. But, I’ve watched them walk away without hugging them and wished I had.
13.  When someone walks into the room, look at them and smile. ESPECIALLY YOUR KIDS. More than anything, most people just want to be acknowledged. Don’t do it so they will see you.
14.  Don’t do things so folks will see it. Do it because it’s right. In fact, do good things and keep them to yourself.
15.  It’s better to do right than be right.
16.  Keep a few things to yourself.
17.  Thank people. Even if it makes them uncomfortable.
18.  Learn to be ok in your own company. 
19.  Genuinely compliment people. Some won’t believe you, some will think you are a butt-kisser. That’s about them, not you. Always compliment kids. Tell them they are wonderful because they are still figuring out who they are and you may be the only voice telling them who they are is great.
20.  Treat yourself with respect because you are teaching people how to treat you.
21.  Watch people. Watch how they move, gesture, and move through the world. You will learn things that they will never tell you.
22. Don’t expect other people to be you. Let them speak their own language. How they say I love you may not be how you say it and if you force them to say it your way, it’s not genuine.
23.  Write something. It’s cathartic.
24.  People will not change until it hurts too much to stay them same.
25.  Make a change before it hurts too much to stay the same.
26.  Go ahead and be vulnerable in front of people. Own your issues. If folks don’t like it, they aren’t your tribe. (See #1)
27.  Make friends with people that make you want to be better than you are.
28.  It’s ok to disagree. It opens your mind and can bring you closer to people. It’s ok to fight. But the first one to lose their temper, loses altogether. Hear a person out. Talk it out. Hug it out.
29.  Shut up and listen.
30.  Be a safe place for somebody. Let them mess up. Forgive them. Encourage them to forgive themselves.
31.  Respect everyone until they give you a reason not to. Even if you don’t respect someone, treat them respectfully.
32.  Tell a man you respect him. Tell a woman you love her. Because, if you treat a man respectfully, he will feel loved. If you treat a woman as if you love her, she will feel respected.
33.  Get some sleep.
34.  Rudeness will get you nowhere. 
35.  People who are excessively confident are not confident, they are guarded. And, you don’t put up walls unless you feel assailable.
36.  Don’t be so guarded. Let somebody in.  
37.  Quit believing that the existence of something requires your belief! Look for fairies, portals, dragons and magic in the world. The more you look for the unlikely, the more likely you are to see the impossible. On that note, angels exist. And, maybe they are walking around with tattoos and tunnels.
38.  Don’t let your faith hinge on what God does. Affix it to who He is. Just because He doesn’t, doesn’t mean He can’t. You don’t have to understand Him and there’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t understand Him. It doesn’t show lack of faith, it shows people that even if you don’t understand them, you will stand by them.
39.  Everyone has something to teach. Everyone has something to learn.
40.  Go ahead and cry.
41.  Somebody being better at you at something doesn’t mean they are in fact better than you. And SO WHAT if they are! Do you really want the burden of being someone’s standard?
42.  Read a book.
43.  If someone is begging for attention, go ahead and give them a little.
44.  Jesus is enough. He’ll always be enough. He won’t leave you feeling half empty. He loves you no matter what. Really.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Driving 44

 Year four and it’s happening again. The first year, it started a couple weeks early but that’s understandable. It was uncharted territory. I looked up at the wall and imagined what horrors lie beyond. I felt pretty certain I would be greeted on the other side with chin hair and a mandatory uniform of mom jeans. Now, having made the official transition and then some, I can honestly say that getting there is far worse than being there.  

Second time it bothered me far less. I was still enjoying the new car smell and the fact that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. In fact, it kinda rocked. Still there was a twinge, a bit of discomfort.

I turned around and it was happening for a third time. I laughed about it, wrote Haikus for 42. The anxiety was appreciated and laughed about. I blinked and I was 43 and I’m not sure I remember… Wow. I literally do not remember what I did for my 43rd birthday. 

But now, here I am, SIX WEEKS OUT from 44 years of livin’ and I have to say, I’ve got equal parts pride and paranoia going on. I mean, I love the 40s. They are fantastic. You literally feel better than ever mentally. Of course, you forget a lot, that may be part of why it’s great. Again, I do not remember what I did for my 43rd birthday.

It's not that I don’t want to be 44. It’s just that I want the perks of being 44 with the perkiness of 24. I want my now wit, wisdom, complete lack of tolerance for people who expect me to be anything but what I am and the ability to see them coming from a mile away. And, I want yesterday’s look. That’s not how it works though. I watch Dr. Who. When you go back in time you are what you are now. Only the epoch has changed. You can’t be younger or taller or an ocelot or anything. (I so want to be an ocelot when I grow up.)

Here’s what I’ve decided about it all. Getting older is like driving. I know, it sounds ridiculous, stay with me. You come into the world a passenger. You don’t have any say where you go or what you do. Then one day your parents try to feed you something you have made a conscious decision that you don’t want and you put your hand up. You take charge. That’s when the keys jingle, the keys to your life actually being yours. Next thing you know you’ve taken your first step, grabbed the keys off the hook and you’re on your way.

Up until you are a teenager, you are oblivious to the drive.
It’s a beautiful time. But turn 13 and it’s off to the races. You just want everything to go faster. Problem is, you don’t know how to drive. You crash and burn a lot. There’s tears, angst, and weird smells filling the car. You don’t ask your parents for help because they’ve suddenly become complete idiots who obviously know nothing about driving. So, you ignorantly swerve down the road of life with your head out the window yelling YOLO, thinking you are going the speed of light, thinking you are light, you are the sun and the world revolves around you. You’re not. You’re sputtering, you’re coasting and the only things revolving around you are the people trying to stay out of your path of destruction.

Turn a corner and your in your 20s. It’s a tough time actually, harder than being a teen because you are in your “getting there” phase. Whatever your “there” is, an education, a career, financial independence, a home of your own, a spouse, a family, you want to get there and you want to get there fast. If you’re lucky you have parents who have miraculously lost their ineptness and can guide you a bit. You may even find yourself trying to get back in the car with them once or twice.

Suddenly, you get to your “there.” Most likely part of that place involves you having someone join you in the drive. Some days you’ll be madly in love, some you’ll be just plain mad. You will hold on tightly one moment and the next wonder just how fast you have to take a corner to throw them out of the car. It’s normal. Keep looking ahead.

Maybe you’ll have a baby, a little helpless passenger who can make no choices on their own yet control every single choice you make. The tunes, the thermostat, the size of your butt in the seat, it all changes. Even the car changes. You may wake up in a minivan in a cold sweat, horrified.

Scarier still is the day that little passenger jingles their own keys. You watch them grow and wreck and make completely stupid driving decisions. You spend half your day screaming at them to get the hell back on the road and the other half begging them to just stop driving, to just for one second go back to being that little passenger that loved you completely and smelled of utter perfection and life unsullied by the road.

My 40th birthday Lazer Tag party. My friend Kim won. She
just hid in one spot at shot everyone as they went by. Cheater.
And, Winner. She's wearing the shirt I'm wearing. It reads, "It's
my 40th birthday! Where's my spanking???"
Then, you get to where I am: the “gotten there.” Life’s not easy, but you’ve learned how to drive, you get it. You’ve learned to navigate the potholes, the detours. You run off the road on occasion but you’ve got insurance, you can handle it. And for some reason, maybe someone you love leaves the drive of life, maybe you finally notice the road map of veins on your legs or wrinkles on your face and you realize how completely fast it’s all going. You sit back, set the cruise control and begin really appreciating it all, the journey, the landmarks. You take mental pictures, take in the smells, take people closer, and just take longer because you see that the road is never long enough.

Then you remember all the things you’ve passed along the way that you never took time to regard. The radio station gets set to the songs you heard in high school and college. You take a good look in the rearview mirror, looking for yourself and finally see how beautiful you were. Your thighs were completely normal. Your hair didn’t need to be bleached. You didn’t need to be tan. You really didn’t need to be how you thought you should be and all you really needed to be, you were. It's a beautiful moment.

You look at the wrecks from which you never thought you’d recover and you see them for what they really were. You see what you caused to happen, what you allowed to happen and what just happened. You see the truth, the wins, the losses, the not quites, the absolutelys, the shoulda-coulda-wouldas, why-did-i-evers and the wow-I’m-so-glad-I-didn’ts. And because of them all, despite them all, you’re still here. And here, now, you realize you’ve finally got this driving thing down.

Then you look back ahead and everything just keeps going faster, it’s wonderful and terrible all at the same time. You finally appreciate what’s ahead and what’s gone past. You finally love the drive. You are changing lanes, drifting around curves, downshifting and loving that basically nobody born ten years after you has any idea at all what downshifting even is. 

You don’t want to stop driving. Ever. You want to run your car into the ground and when they bury it , you want the smoke from your engine to continue seeping out of the ground in steady, winding plumes.

But, all the same, you want to slow down.
Slooooow dooooown

I just want to slow down. 

So, I guess that’s my main issue. It’s not getting older. It’s just that it’s happening so fast and I want it to take longer because I love it. I want to be 43 a little longer because I’m old enough to know how great it is. The days are long, but the years are short and the long day of yesterday I was too young to appreciate how short years are. I had no idea that tomorrow I’d be staring 44 in the face…and that below it would be a neck that really isn’t even trying any more. 

Yes, don’t let this philosophical homily make you think for one second part of my issue isn’t plain old vanity. I feel so good and strong both mentally and physically. I feel more
"Do you want whipped cream" is one of the dumbest
questions ever!
like me than I ever have. Is it crazy for me to want to look the way the real me feels? Doesn't everyone  want their outside to feel as great as their inside? Of course. It’s like when the barista asks if I want whipped cream on my coffee drink. Why do they even ask? Of course. Of course I want whipped cream, and for a neck with some guts and for my butt to stay where it is and to think that the cute guy at the store is looking at me and not the much younger, prettier girl behind me and her obedient neck. 

But, I digress.  

I’m happy with my drive. Neck and all. Life’s not easy. Don’t think for one second my life is easy. No really good life is. Great lives are full of detours and potholes and flat tires and sunsets you wouldn’t have seen if you weren’t broken down on the side of the road. I like where I’m going. I’m at peace with where I’ve been. I’m very much happy with who I am. And, I suppose if my only payment for the blessings I have and the wisdom I’ve earned are wrinkles and incidental gravity damage, it’s a small price. The drive is worth it.  

(Who DOESN'T want whipped cream!!! Seriously!)

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

BJJ after 360 Fusion

Because of my size, I only needed the appliance
on one side. You may be different.
If you are new to the show and haven’t read my post, 360 Fusion aka Fried Egg Surgery, I will quickly
recap. In January, a disc in my lower back collapsed. (How did that happen? Hard work and dedication, that’s how!) Its collapse compressed my sciatic nerve causing me to lose function and feeling in my left foot, a condition known as “foot drop”. In order to avoid the paralysis from becoming permanent, I had emergency surgery. The disc was removed and my L5 vertebra was permanently attached to the S1 with titanium. (See pic)  

   While recovering, I scanned the internet to learn how my jiu-jitsu game would change after the fusion. I found absolutely nothing. In fact, there wasn’t much positive for anyone hoping to get back to any activity outside of walking. There were warnings-a-plenty and after care instructions that would bore an anvil but nothing that made the tedious effort of recovery feel anything less than a daily shlog.

   Here is what I wish had been there for me. Do not do any of the following without consulting your doctor. In fact, call your doctor now and ask if you can even keep reading.

Pre Op: 
   Leading up to surgery, walk or swim as much as pain allows. Eat plenty of protein and calcium rich foods and consider taking supplements K2 and D3 which aid in calcium absorption. You will need this to build new bone in the gap of the removed disc. Ladies, get a good probiotic, some cranberry juice and D-Mannose to thwart UTIs caused by the catheter and upcoming restroom issues.

Note: In the days leading up to surgery, if you notice sudden weakness in any appendage, call your doctor. You may have compressed a nerve as I did. If that compression isn't relieved within a few days, the loss of function is more likely to be permanent.

   Stock up on leafy greens for post-op. You will need both the calcium and fiber. Speaking of fiber, it is likely the doctor will have you cleanse your bowels. If that isn’t mentioned, request a prescription for GoLYTELY. It will save you a good bit of trouble after surgery. (Be advised that name is completely ironic. You will not, in fact, go “lightly.” I would venture, however, that a more accurate moniker i.e. Bowel Bomb, would be a hard sell marketing-wise.) 

   Ask if you will be given a walker at the hospital. If not, buy one and grab a shower seat while you are at it. Do not attempt to use crutches or a wheelchair. Handy tip: get a tool belt to hang on your walker for odds and ends like the remote, phone etc. Also, if there is an item that you use daily that is stored below waist level, put it on a counter. You will not be bending over for one month and kneeling won’t be possible for at least a week or two, maybe three. But, that’s ok. You’ll be ok.

   When you tell your surgeon that you do BJJ, they will likely look at you like you said you’re a unicorn rancher. You’ll probably then call it Judo or wrestling to help them understand which it won't. I can almost guarantee they will be negative and tell you that you will never do it again. That’s their job. They can’t say you will be fine because sure as shootin’ some stupid patient will hop back on the mat while still on pain meds and end up paralyzed. Remember, the goal of the surgeon is to get you back to a higher quality of life than you have at your worst, not your best.

(The following timeline may be different for you. Might be shorter, might be longer. Either way, be patient. Suck it up, buttercup. If at any point in your recovery you believe you have injured yourself, get ice on your back and call your doctor immediately.)

Day One:
   Today will be terrible. As soon as you are solidly conscious from surgery, you will be taught to get out of bed and made to walk. Yes, even with “foot drop.” A little strength will return to your appendage as soon as the sciatic nerve is freed from the pinch of the disc. But, expect full function to return slowly. (At the writing of this, 7 months post op, my foot and leg are still not 100% functional and may never be. However, nerve regeneration is painfully slow and a bit more may return. I don't notice it on a daily basis and it hasn't caused me issues on the mat. I can even jog some and skip un-inspiringly.) 

   You will also be given a little plastic toy that you blow into to keep your lungs clear. It looks fun. It ain’t. All of this will suck. A lot. (Crude, yes, but completely appropriate.) You’ll be ok. As terrible as today was, you are one day closer to being better that you are right now.

Day Two:
   Today will be worse than yesterday. You will practice getting in and out of bed a lot and walk down the hall. Other patients will stare at you in horror and you won’t care a bit. Take your pain meds around the clock. Hit that morphine button all you want. It’s ok. Your catheter will likely be removed and you will go to the restroom a good bit. It will get on your nerves but it's actually a healthy sign so get over it.

   Point of interest, you may feel little scabs all over your scalp. Do not let the pain meds mess with your head and make you tell the nurse that you have bed bugs - like I did! (I’m telling you, saying “bed bugs” in a hospital is like saying “bomb” on a plane. It doesn’t go over well.) The sores are from wires they attached to you to be sure your spinal cord communication wasn’t disrupted. (Freaky. I know. Don’t think about it.)

Day Three:
   You will go home. Getting in and out of the vehicle will be terrifying but you will do it and you will make it home to your bed and be ok. Keep using the breathing toy every few hours and wear those super sexy therapeutic hose. When you look at your back, don’t freak out and don’t forget there’s another incision just as bad on your lower abs that you won’t be able to see for a while. (I have pics at the bottom of the page. Consider yourself warned.)

Week One At Home:
   Your job is to eat well and sleep hard. The latter is CRUCIAL! Sleeping is when your body does the most healing. Ask your doctor if you can take magnesium at night to aid muscle relaxation. Do not sit up more than a few minutes at a time - 10 minutes max. Get in and out of bed as you were instructed and walk with the walker around your house as much as you can even if you just go to the front door and back to bed. Wear that medieval torture corset (back brace) as much as possible. Do not go to the restroom without your walker and don’t shower without the shower stool.

   Keep a notebook by your pain meds. Write down when you take them and make notes of all the wonderful things you saw while legally high off your rocker. If said rx has you constipated, drink prune juice. You can take a stool softener as well but the juice is better. But for the love of light colored carpet, do NOT take a laxative. You do not want bowels that go faster than your legs or anything that causes abdominal cramping. (Aren’t you already going though enough?) 

   Everything about the restroom is going to be precarious! You’ll be ok. Ladies, take your probiotic and D-Mannose and drink your cranberry juice. Oh, also of note, might be a slight digression, but if at any point you strain, cough or sneeze you will be completely sure your back has exploded. And, if that happens on the commode, well, you’ll get religion. But, you’ll be ok.

   If your doctor used skin glue on your incisions it may start peeling. Leave it alone. Make your loved ones leave it alone. (You will be surprised how many of your loved ones and friends suddenly become highly skilled doctors!)

You will see your surgeon this week. Riding in the car will be scary. Wear your back brace. You’ll be ok.

Week Two:
   You will turn a little corner this week and upgrade from feeling horrifyingly awful to just terrible. Ween off the pain rx as soon as you can. Switch to acetaminophen. Remember, NO ibuprofen for three months.
Continue to take your walker with you to the restroom and keep that seat in the shower. Eat well, sleep lots, walk often. You may now take off the therapeutic hose and display them proudly on your mantel. 

Weeks Three & Four:
   Continue walking. You can’t walk too much. If you have foot drop, do not walk until your foot drags behind you. It's not good for your foot or your self esteem. (Although, it's a pretty sweet gansta swagger!) Wear your back brace a little looser to make your abs work some. Do not be tempted to bend at the waist. Remember that scene in Alien where the little critter burst out the guy’s stomach? If you bend forward it will feel like that except out your back. 

Month Two:
   Get to a physical therapist that actually knows what Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is! Ask around at your gym or call local MMA/boxing/gymnastics gyms. Find who those athletes go to and start going. The therapist will work on your flexibility and strengthening your core and by core I mean everything from the base of your neck to your knees. The fusion(s), once set, will not break because they will have titaniumly awesome support. Notice that I said, once set. Do not disrupt that crucial process by doing anything other than walking. Don’t even do an elliptical just yet. It takes a full year for the fusion process to complete but months one through three are when you have to be most careful. 

   Although the titanium in your back is basically indestructible (btw, you won’t make metal detectors go off), the discs above and below the fusion will be working extra hard to make up for the mobility and will be fragile because of it. Those discs should be cared for and valued like they hold the secret to life because they are key to you getting back to it! You want to be sure they have tough muscle supporting them. 

   The physical therapy will be crummy. Be patient. If you have “foot drop,” be extra patient. You may have to go for shorter walks multiple times a day. Again, don’t walk until that foot is dragging behind you.  

NOTE: Somewhere between months two and four you are going to have a mental set-back. You will find yourself more mobile. You will be turning over in bed without waking and moving a little quicker. But, you will also be keenly aware of the metal in your back. And, when you cough or sneeze, you will still brace for explosion. You will wonder if this is how you will be forever. You won’t. Promise.

Months Three Through Six:
   Time to pick up the pace! The growing bone needs to solidify and your movement helps that process. Walk more. Walk farther. Walk faster. But, just walk. No running. The elliptical will likely be fine but ask your PT first. Don't ride a bike because of the fall risk. Also, stretch as much as possible, at least once a day.

   You should be good to drive now. Wear the brace every single time you get into the car until your PT says otherwise. Whenever possible, park so that you don't have to back out. Looking over your shoulder will be very hard. 

   Drive to your BJJ gym. Smell the funk and watch class. (Don’t you dare get on that mat or walk across it while others are rolling.) Work hard in PT. Make them push you and do the exercises at home that they prescribe. You will be able to take ibuprofen soon which will really help.

   Keep an eye on your scars. Note the swelling and tenderness. How you are healing on the outside is a good indication of how the inside of you is doing. Remember, you had major surgery. There were a lot of doctors in the room for a reason. It wasn’t a club meeting!

Months Six-Ten:
   With PT approval, get back on the mat…sort of. You will not be sparring. You will find a purple or higher belt THAT YOU KNOW to flow with. (Do not be tempted to roll with a lower belt no matter how easy they promise to go. Also, steer clear of folks you don’t know for now. Just trust me.) If you aren’t skilled enough to flow, tell your partner to help you. You should be in no situation that requires you to tap! If you are too tired or sore to keep flowing, see if anyone will just let you practice technique and transitions. 

   You will likely be shocked at how your game has changed. You will not have the mobility you once had. A backward roll won’t be possible just yet. When you pull your knees to your chest and fall back, you will look like a Lego block toppling over. If the fusion is low on your back, your hips will make up for the lack of mobility and be very sore. Be patient. Go slow. Don’t do anything fast. The only goal you have right now is increasing your flexibility. Do not try to get better at BJJ. Just figure out your new game and I will tell you, it may not be on your back. That’s ok. The beauty of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is that you can adapt it to your needs.


Months Ten - Twelve:
   Spar easy after a good long warm up. Do not ever start class without warming up. Start practicing shoulder rolls from the ground as well as granby rolls. Use a wall to help you do some backward. Tell your high belt partners (still purple and above) to put you in submissions and allow you to work your way out of them. Get your defense and escapes solid with your new “game”. Don’t worry about your attacks. If you see one and can get it, great. But don’t work for it. It’s the defense that will keep your back safe. 
Tell your partner no wizzers, bow and arrows, stacks, or anything that twists or puts pressure directly on your spine. Remind your partner to sweep slowly and go gently into truck. 

   The majority of your pain will be from stiffness. Good ole’ BJJ will help with that. If a hand, fist or foot gets trapped under your back on the site of the apparatus and you lie back on it, it will smart and maybe remain sore afterward. You’ll be ok. If you are sore after class, ease up for the next couple and, sore or not, get some heat on your back after every single one. You may notice your vertebrae above and below feel bruised. Tell your PT. Likely, it's just muscle soreness. Epsom salt baths are great for that and don't forget to take magnesium at night. Again, make sure your doctor is ok with that.

One year.
   Attack! Get back on that mat! You will be better than before in many ways. You will have a greater appreciation for the mat and the patience of Job which is as valuable an attribute as any other. Be thankful for your new body. Encourage others who are injured and just work to be bester than you were yesterday. Yes, I said bester because today is your best day for the simple fact that you have it.

   Seven months post-op, I don’t feel much in my back. Every now and then, I forget about it altogether. I’m still stiff and it is weird that a portion of my back doesn't bend. There are moves I’m not up for yet. Before, leg triangles from the bottom were my go-to. I haven’t pulled a single one off post-op but I’ve done them from side control which people don’t see coming as much so it's a better option anyway. 

   Even with stiffness and slightly limited mobility, my BJJ is better than ever, in part, because, for the first time, I can train five + days a week and spar every round. If I get sore during training, as I did today, I take a round off then get back to it without issue. Before surgery, I could only train twice a week and couldn't spar more than two rounds without taking a break. Otherwise, I would be in too much pain for days after to be productive. 

   Don't get me wrong, I’m still sore - which I don’t consider to be the same as pain. My hips are sometimes so sore I struggle to stand up from the mat. But, I’ll happily take it. Honestly, my biggest struggle now is fear. I fear hurting my back again, fear my partner will hurt it. I fear the people around me rolling will hurt it. I think that's good though for now. I once heard George Foreman say his greatest ally in the ring was his own fear. It made him keep his hands up. The one time he wasn't afraid was against Ali...who knocked him out.

   Last week, I earned my blue belt. Without the fusion,
that wouldn't have been possible. If you've earned your blue belt, you know that once you do, everyone else picks up their game. All the high belts that used to let you work and get submissions will no longer do that. So, I’m getting thrashed. Soundly. But, if at any point I feel in danger, I tap. And, I’m still not up for rolling with people I don't know unless a higher belt can assure me that the new person is safe for me. There's nothing wrong with that. I'm plenty tough and I have no need to convince anybody else of that fact. The scars on my back and abs are proof that I have absolutely nothing to prove. 

   Above all, I’m finding that the surgery wasn't just a blessing to my body but spirit as well. I’m thankful every single day for my health. I cried for days after getting my belt just out of gratitude to the Lord for letting me get back on the mat.  

   That said, I realize that some of you reading this may find that your fusion(s) doesn't/don’t allow you to get back to BJJ. Pout, scream, cry and mourn for a while. You are allowed, it's justified. Then, move on. If BJJ was your entire life, you have a problem bigger than not being able to do BJJ.

   Go look at yourself in the mirror. Check out your back. Look at your x-rays. You’re blessed to be up and walking. At it’s core, BJJ is about adapting, flowing like water, constantly moving forward, and, in that moving, wearing down or maneuvering around whatever is in your way. None of those qualities are peculiar to the mat. Adapt. Flow. Refuse to give up. Once upon a time, BJJ was new. How do you know that whatever new thing that comes next won’t be as life-changing? 

God bless. Keep flowing. See you on the mat.

   (I would be completely remiss not to say thank you to my husband and friends as well as gym family who supported and still support me through this. The folks at Ground Dwellers Brazilian Jiujitsu, Spring, Texas, took care of me from the moment I stepped back on the mat and continue to care for me. Without a gym like I have, it would have been easy to stay in my recliner, to give up and resign myself to sitting on the sidelines. If your gym doesn't support you in your recovery, if they don't ask how you are doing, aren't extremely careful with you and encourage you, you are at the wrong gym.)  

If you have had this surgery, please post any recovery hacks I overlooked.

As warned, here's the pics...

Week One - The incision on my abs is too low to show.  
Week Two - Skin glue is peeling.
Week Three - still swollen even on flanks. Skin glue off left side.
One Month

Seven Months - TaDa! Behold, the cyborg!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Notes from the Thunderdome

I recently did a workshop at Realm Makers writer's conference on writing fight scenes. I spoke about the technical aspects of fighting which are often poorly portrayed in writing. And, why wouldn't they be? Fighting is a skill you have to learn. Much like writing, you may be naturally good at it, but you still have to learn how to do it properly. So, if the fight scene you write turns out to be an unrealistic mess, you're normal. 
       I apologize for not having a hand out. If I am honored with a second invite, I will have something prepared. What I have here are the bones of the thing. I didn’t go into detail because I want to give you all a reason to read the blog I should have up and running soon.   Remember, if there’s something you’d like me to look over, contact the folks at Quill Pen Editorial ( It’s better to have a scene looked at sooner than later. One change may affect everything that follows. 

Importance of self defense
  • Each minute, 78 Americans are victims of violence, and that’s just women. 20 of those are abused by intimate partners. (See my post on Aliens Against Sexual Assault 6/11/14)
  • Learn to defend yourself. You are worth it.

Three Things to Consider for Your Fight Scene
  • Why a fight is happening is the most important factor. (This is my first blog post so I won’t go into detail. Ya gotta wait for it!)
  • Where it takes place can change everything.
  • Who is fighting matters as skill, experience and size advantage come into play. However, those can all be negated by the first two.

Trained Fighters
  • Even when they can jump farther, cats leap over divides by jumping ledge to ledge. This conserves energy. Truly trained fighters are the same.
    • Fighters do what needs to be done quickly and efficiently. (Unless personal reasons make them draw it out. If it’s simply a job to be done, it will be done with the least amount of effort. They won’t do a wild spinning kick when one stab will do the deed.)
      • A well trained fighter, because of his/her training, will be too good at heart to attack you without just cause or so good at it you won’t see the attack coming. So, don’t worry about somebody like Jason Bourne randomly assailing you in the Kroger parking lot. 
      • Fight training is humbling. Some of the deadliest people I know are also the kindest. Don’t make a presumption of evil because someone is, by training, deadly. 
  • Fighting is a learned skill. You may be a born fighter but you are not born knowing how to fight. 
    • How to make a fist.
    • How to punch.
      • When you punch, your chin should be down. 
      • Your chin is a knockout button. Protect it.
      • When you punch, you make contact with the first two knuckles on your hand. Making contact with the outer knuckles can cause the bones below to break. This is called, a “boxer’s break.”
      • A knocked out fighter won’t stay unconscious as long as they do in movies - barring a head injury sustained by falling backward
      • Beating somebody up is painful to do. It leaves you quite sore and eats up your knuckles.
Attacking Back (Ben was the attacker. I was the hapless victim.)
  • Unless there are personal reasons involved, an attacker will always choose who they deem to be the weakest gazelle. 
    • The lion doesn’t expect the gazelle to bite back. The element of surprise is my biggest advantage as I cannot overpower Ben. He is bigger and stronger.
      • God made men stronger, ladies. Get over it. 
  • An attack starts before contact. It starts when a victim is chosen or said victim feels inexplicably afraid.
    • That’s not inexplicable fear. Sometimes, in our gut, we know we are in danger. ALWAYS listen to that. Fear is a gift.
      • Suggested reading: The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker. In it, deBecker discusses those feelings of vulnerability and notes that if you feel afraid, good! That means whatever it is hasn’t happened yet.
      • If your character is being attacked, they will not feel afraid during the attack. They may feel panicked but not afraid. That is a blessing of adrenaline.
    • Adrenaline is generally not a fighter’s friend. Fighters learn to control the ill effects of it.

Attack Scenarios
  • Escaping wrist grabs
    • Throat strike defense. Use web of hand.
  • Defending punch
  • Pony Tail Grab
  • Black Friday Grab
    • Double leg take down. This take down is about displacing weight, not strength.
  • Gun/Knife defense
    • You cannot defend against a gun or knife at a distance. You must be close.
      • Redirect with wrist grab, fold weapon in.
  • Escaping Mount (He sat on my stomach.)
  • Choking from Guard (sexual assault)
    • Blood chokes hurt! It feels like your head is going to explode. You don’t simply go to sleep.

Things Everybody Thought Was Funny or Explaining the Memes
“Don’t kick him in the crotch. That only makes things worse. Make it count!”
Kicking a male attacker in the groin may buy you a moment, but that’s all. If he is on drugs, it won’t buy you any. So, consider it a waste of energy. Remember cats: ledge to ledge. Use that energy on a strike that counts i.e. one to the throat.

“Once he’s down, I run up him like a squirrel.”
After taking Ben down from the “Black Friday” attack, he was left lying out in front of me. I said I had two choices: I could run away or run up his prone body like a squirrel and hit him in the face. (Squirrels will totally do that. Don’t trust them. They’re shady.)

“When girls get into fights, I just back away and let nature take it’s course!”
I taught high/middle school for about a decade. In that time, I broke up a lot of fights. I was more likely to break up fights between boys. But, I wouldn't get between two girls once they had fully engaged. Girl fights are feral. 

“You can’t shove somebody’s nose through their brain. That’s not a thing.”
Somebody somewhere started the rumor that you could palm strike the nose thereby shoving the nose bone into the brain and killing the victim instantly. That’s not a thing. Your nose is mostly cartilage.

“A ninja won’t throw anything that goes thwop, thwop, thwop.”
I read a fight scene in which a throwing knife was used. In the air, it was described as making a sound. Small throwing knives don’t make sound as they go. That’s part of their genius design. Larger weapons like axes or machetes definitely do and larger hunting knives may depending on the surroundings etc. But, a ninja wouldn’t probably throw something large as silence is kind of their thing.

Thank you all again for the spirited, and, in some cases, downright nutty, support. Keep a look out for my new blog TBA.