MANday Week 1

If you missed last week’s post and don’t know what MANday is, you can see a MANday post on my friend Jillian’s blog. Basically she’s posting eye candy for the ladies to make Monday more fun. Great idea!

So, last week Jillian and I made a bet. If she can get 5,000 people to post on my MANday challenge by June 30, I’ll pose (shirtless) for her blog. She’s off to a good start, but she needs as much help as she can get. If you comment on the MANday challenge page, you could win $500. Well worth the 20 seconds it’ll take you to click over and back.

I’ll wait…

This is my second week of exercise for MANday. On my way around the block this week I was thinking the key part of my exercise routine is that moment when I feel like I can’t go on. My heart is really pumping, or my legs are starting to hurt, or the wind is blowing in my face. I seem to live on the only block in the world where the wind blows against you on three of the four sides. At least it’s not all uphill.

Anyway, when I don’t think I can go on anymore, that’s the moment when it is really important to push. That’s when I’m building my endurance and breaking through to another level.

Being an author has serious advantages then. It’s one of those times the voices in my head are really useful. The exchange between author CJ and personal trainer CJ goes something like this:

ACJ: “My legs are getting rubbery.”

PTCJ: “Don’t be a sissy. You walk around this block every day.”

ACJ: “Yeah, walk.”

PTCJ: “You’re not running that fast. Some lady’s going to pass you power walking.”

Another two telephone poles go by.

ACJ: “The wind is in my face again.” It’s more a thought bubble than a whine.

PTCJ: “Do you know how many hits Jillian gets? You don’t want to look like that fantasy author* posing with the romance covers. Do you?”

My pace picks up and pretty soon the crisis is past and I’m climbing the big hill that’s my last real obstacle in the four mile course. This week I ran the 4.1 miles twice. (It rained two days.) My legs are feeling strong and not terribly sore, so I’m thinking in a few weeks I’ll start extending my range or picking up the pace. Not sure which yet.

The voices help when I’m doing planks, too, but the most helpful thing is watching the clock and never letting myself down until I tie my previous record.

Each day I post my time on #PlankADay on Twitter. It’s a great supportive community with a lot of people who hold a plank much longer than I do. I’m encouraged, but I’ve got a long way to go. I time my first plank of the day, which is always my best.

My times for the first two weeks looked something like this.

:30
:35
:40
:45
1:01
1:05

1:10
1:30
1:35
1:40
1:45
2:01
2:01 (I almost died)

I feel like I’m on my way with planks and running. For next week I’m going to check out some new ab exercises. I’ll share my new finds then. If you’ve got a great exercise you enjoy, tell me about it.  I’ll try anything once.

* Thanks to Facebook friend Bri Clark for the link!

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The Plank

How to do a plank correctly


Are You Safe At Home?

Imagine Michael O’Connor hiding in a closet while you sit in your living room watching television. You go up to bed and he starts rifling through your things, taking what he wants. You hear a noise downstairs. It’s dark. You’re alone. The noise is too sharp to be anything but someone in your house. A footstep. A thud. You don’t have a dog or a husband. What do you do?

You call the cops. Five minutes pass. You hold your breath.

He’s coming up the stairs. You’re on the second floor. Too high to jump.

If this guy wants to hurt you, he’s going to. You imagine being stabbed. Raped. Killed. He’s almost to your door and you have no defense except to hide.

The sad reality is that cops don’t prevent crime. They react to it. Little solace when you’ve been victimized.

Have you been robbed? I have.

Chevy Cavalier Z24

In 1995 I bought a brand new Chevy Cavalier Z24. It wasn’t the coolest car on the planet, but I worked my butt off to buy it. The first night I parked it at my apartment, someone jammed a screwdriver into the lock, got in, and ripped the plastic off the steering column. Luckily the thief couldn’t get past the alarm.

A few years earlier I had a Datsun 210 parked in front of city hall in New Bedford. That car was stolen on a Saturday afternoon. My college textbooks, my golf clubs, clothes. Stuff I was really attached to. I was a kid working my way through college 80 hours a week in the summer and fulltime during the school year. I couldn’t afford to replace all that stuff. But some punk took my stuff and sold it for a tenth of its value.

Years later I lived in a really nice neighborhood, the kind of place you move to get away from city life. Three years ago people started breaking into houses and cars at night. I had had enough of punks walking in and taking what they wanted from me. I had plenty of guns, but nothing suitable for regular carry. I bought a .380 that I could wear every day. And I did.

An old boss of mine said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Three times I did what George Zimmerman would have done. I saw cars parked in the neighborhood that didn’t belong and I walked up to them, gun in my belt, and asked what they were doing. All three times they drove away and I didn’t see them again.

I didn’t flash my gun. I didn’t shoot anybody. But these guys knew not to come back.

There has been a lot of media hype and attention to the fact that George Zimmerman was an older “white looking” guy and Treyvon Martin was a “black” kid. The media loves to inflame racial tensions when a story like this hits the news, but what about the facts?

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

What I haven’t been seeing in the media is that the residents of the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the complex where Zimmerman was community watch coordinator, made 402 calls to the police in one year. Are you kidding me? 402 calls. That’s a crime epidemic. No wonder Zimmerman was out there with a gun.

You may be thinking Zimmerman was a nut, calling the cops every five minutes. Nope. According to Wikipedia, Zimmerman called the cops 16 times. So, 386 times other people called.

My question to you is… If you lived in this complex wouldn’t you be out there with a gun next to Zimmerman?

We can’t know the outcome of this case before it is tried, but before you convict George Zimmerman in your own mind, consider the following:

  • The Retreat at Twin Lakes had 402 calls to the police in one year.
  • Zimmerman called the cops, one of the rare times he did, because he thought something was wrong.
  • Trayvon Martin may have been young, but he was 7” taller than Zimmerman.
  • There is a photo of blood coming out of the back of Zimmerman’s head, taken by a bystander.
  • Eyewitnesses report Martin attacking Zimmerman, though the information is sketchy.

When I consider these facts it appears to me that Zimmerman was part of the solution. He was out there trying to stop a crime wave around his home. Martin felt threatened by Zimmerman because he was being followed. Based on what I read, Martin had a right to be where he was, but instead of telling Zimmerman so, he attacked. Who attacked whom may not be known, but it appears that Martin was winning the fight and threatened to cause serious injury to Zimmerman by smashing his head against the ground. That’s when Zimmerman shot Martin dead.

Martin’s death is a tragedy. We may never know what really happened, but before you convict George Zimmerman, consider that we all have a responsibility to our community. Right or wrong, George Zimmerman was trying to protect his.

What do you think happened that night?


Intense Sadness is a Reflection of Love Lost

Yesterday I came online to horrible and unexpected news. A friend and supporter from Texas had suddenly turned ill and was in serious peril. Her young daughter who I had met on a recent trip there wrote to tell me that she was in intensive care, losing a lot of blood, and the prognosis wasn’t good.

At about 5:00 pm I posted a status asking for prayers.

The outpouring of support was immediate. Friends posted all over Facebook asking for prayers and support. A prayer vigil was held last night and I continue to receive messages asking about Terri. For those of you concerned about her, I still haven’t heard an update. I fear the worst but hold out hope.

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Terri and I at dinner January 2012

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting since yesterday, praying for the family, and hoping the doctors have been able to be part of something miraculous. In the midst of this I am thankful. Visiting her page on Facebook it is easy to see how many people she has touched.

I can’t help being reminded of a Spongebob episode where Plankton dupes him into being mean and then Spongebob saves the day by being aggressively nice. He runs around fixing kites, handing out hotdogs and candy, basically doing good deeds for people as fast as he can. This is Terri Krause to me. She truly cares about the people she meets and is always looking to help in any way she can.

Whenever I talk to Terri she tells me of the neighbor she is baking for or the author she is helping online, or the friend she is praying for. Mother Teresa encouraged us to “Do the little things” because people will line up to do the big things. In my mind it is the little things that bring us comfort in the end because they make us feel loved and cared for.

Today I’m unsure what will happen. My hope is tempered with sadness but underneath it all are joyful memories of her kindness.

My heart goes out to Annalise and Mark. I thank you both for sharing Terri with us.

************************April 24, about 3:00 PM EDT

Here is an update from Mark, Terri’s husband.

Terri is still in ICU. Sunday night and Monday were tough sledding for Terri. She just about died from rapid loss of blood following gastric varices rupture due to her liver condition. This came on suddenly because she has an edoscophy procedure in February which was OK.

Monday morning she had a “TIPPS” procedure done to put a shunt across her live to lower the blood pressure difference between top and bottom of the liver. This reduces the pressure on the veins in the stomach and hopefully will stop the bleeding. She was responsive for the first time this morning wound 10am. The first positive today. This was a big concern because her blood pressure dropped to 30/nothing and the veins they were putting fluid in started to collapse. For the next 48 hrs or so they will be trying to reduce the fluid they are putting into her and trying to stop the blood transfusion

Terri is at a crossroads now. if the bleeding stops in the next 12-24 hrs then she has the chanc to recover. If the bleeding cannot be stopped there are no other options.

I wanted to have my daughter here at the hospital but I found out last night that they are having the STAAR/TAKS tests this week so she has to take those tests while mom is in ICU.

Yesterday I thought we were going to loose her for sure. Today I am hopeful that she has a fighting chance

I would appreciate it if you would post this as I am Facebook less.

Thank you so much for all of your prayers and support. They do make a difference.

******** Update 4/25/12

Terri is still fighting in ICU.

Please keep her in your prayers.

******* Update 4/25/12  3:05 pm EDT

There has been little change in Terri’s condition. Blood counts have been stable for the last 6 hrs.  She is still on ventilator and dialysis. She is somewhat responsive and appears to be in constant pain.

Thank you everyone for your prayers.

******* Update 4/27/12 11:21 pm

It is with a very heavy heart that I post this final update from Mark.

Terri left us at 3pm today to be with God.  She never made any progress from Tuesday on.  I suppose I will be making arrangements tomorrow and will let you know.  Please pass on to CJ and to the rest of her friends on Facebook.  I am exhausted and not going to call anyone else until tomorrow.

*****

Thank you everyone for your prayers up to this point. I ask you all to pray for Mark and Annalise. They need our support now more than ever.

*****  Arrangements for Terri (a message from her husband Mark)

I am sad to say that Terri left us for a better place where there is no pain on Friday April 27, 2012 at 3pm.  The doctors and nurses at St. Luke’s hospital here in Houston did an extraordinary job of giving her the chance for recovery.  It was just too much for her.

Visitation is on Friday May 4th from 6-8pm and the service is on Saturday May 5th at 1pm.  Details are on Earthman’s website www.earthmanbellaire.com.  Look for Terri Krause on the right-hand side of the page.

I am sad to say that Terri left us for a better place where there is no pain on Friday April 27, 2012 at 3pm.  The doctors and nurses at St. Luke’s hospital here in Houston did an extraordinary job of giving her the chance for recovery.  It was just too much for her.

For the last couple of years as her physical mobility declined her activity on Facebook increased.  It is important that all her friends know.  I am sorry I cannot tell each one of them how much they enriched her life.

 

 


Don’t Ask And I Won’t Tell

One windy day in the 1970’s a woman walking home down a city street in New Bedford found hundreds of dollars blowing in the wind. The woman was in dire financial need, her husband hurt and out of work while she was staying home to take care of three young children. The windfall was more than enough to solve her current problems and seemed like a gift from above.

She could have taken the money and used it for groceries or the mortgage payment. But she didn’t. She took it to the police station and turned it in. Who would do that when she so desperately needed the money?

That woman was my mom, a woman dedicated to strength of character and faith.

Mom never let us win at board games, instead she forced us to play better in order to beat her. She never let us cheat the rules of a game or school or heaven forbid, the law. Reality wasn’t sugar-coated to save feelings.

Honesty - on Youtube

You could say I come by my honesty naturally or that mom beat it into me. I speak plainly and can’t hide the truth unless I’m playing poker.

This “gift” has made things really difficult for me at times.

Several years ago I was in a marriage that wasn’t working. We had lots of money coming in and a few people told me that I should start hiding cash just in case. Later, when I moved out, my ex closed all our bank accounts and left me penniless.

Well not, penniless, but I wasn’t headed for the Ritz. I had a part-time job and about $130 in cash that was in my wallet the day my bank card stopped working.

Some might think I made a huge mistake. Some people said, “I told you so.” A few thousand wouldn’t have been a big deal compared to what we earned and it would have been really welcome in those months I was destitute.

BUT… that was a relatively short period in my life. About ten months. And when I look back I feel good about what I did. I was legally entitled to that money and I could have taken some, but it felt wrong. And if I had taken it, my image of myself would have been changed forever. I chose ten months of discomfort over twenty years of shame.

I’m on the other side now and on the road to emotional and financial recovery.

My backwoodsy directness is unchanged and I can face my reflection without fear.

 

This week I was reminded that my folksy, plain-speaking ways catch some people off guard. Someone asked me for feedback on a novel and I sent it in two pieces. My email contained effusive praise and one minor suggestion for improvement.

What I got back in response was a worried, defensive message that assumed I was using praise to water down my criticism. The author saw only the criticism and couldn’t see that I really loved the work… until this person read my formal comments. And then, they realized that I meant what I said. Imagine that. I meant exactly what I said. I loved the work and there was one minor suggestion I thought could make it a breakout hit.

It seems in today’s world most people speak in hints. They think we need to let everyone win so they don’t feel bad, and that we shouldn’t tell someone when they’re doing something foolish. Conversely, when people speak to us we need to guess at what they mean, because they are afraid of offending us.

It drives me nuts.

I’m reminded of President Bush and all the heckling he endured. He spoke his mind on difficult topics in a way we could all understand and he was widely criticized for his candor. Personally I prefer someone who has the guts to tell me what he really means whether I agree with him or not. At least we could have an honest discussion. But lately I think that there are so many special interest groups that you can’t say anything without upsetting someone.

 

What’s a guy to do, never say anything?

Polished politicians (like Barack Obama) do a great job of walking the line of political correctness. But when they refuse to give a substantive answer to questions they send up warning flags for me. It’s obvious they are hiding something and it takes real work to figure out what that something is. I’d much rather hear straight talk than have to dig through a pile of hints for a real meaning. When I see a candidate dodging questions, I start thinking they don’t deserve my vote.

What about you?

Are you frustrated that people don’t tell it like it is?

Do you ever call them out?

 

 


Time To Walk The Plank

On March 29, I posted about Cravings and the new book I’m writing about addiction. I decided that I could get in touch with what my characters were feeling by cutting out all the foods I love but are bad for me. And what better time to ramp up the exercise than when you’re already losing weight on a diet of carrots, cucumbers and baby spinach?

A few weeks later, my friend Jillian Dodd saw the post and challenged me to appear on her MANday page. Every Monday, she features a hot celebrity showing off his abs. Like this guy:

Image

Samoan Rugby Player
Sonny Billy Williams

I don’t qualify as a celebrity yet, so I really have to work my abs.

Jillian and I are targeting July for a photo session and a post if she wins our bet. Details on that coming here soon. In the meantime, I’m kicking my workouts into high gear and I thought I would share what I’m up to.

For any of you who exercise regularly you know the human body is an incredibly adaptive machine. I had been walking around my block (4.1 miles) every day as a way to exercise, rehab my knee, and ponder what to write each day. The scenery here is gorgeous and I enjoy the daily trip through the woods and farms.

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In the last two weeks I started running and something incredible happened. The first day I ran about three quarters of a mile and stopped. My heart was pounding and I could taste the blood coursing through my veins.

A few days later I slowed my pace and ran a little over a mile. Then a few days later I ran a little further. Then this week something shocking happened. I ran the entire block and even sprinted the last tenth of a mile. I thought it was a fluke until I did it again yesterday. My calves hurt, but I’m excited.

The running and diet should help me get rid of those last ten pounds covering up my abs, but when I find them I’m thinking they are going to need some work.

Some friends on Facebook have been talking about planks. I wasn’t convinced until last weekend I was doing some research on my new book and my nephew mentioned planks. Finally I had to see what this was all about.

Here’s a basic plank:

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Here’s how to do it:
1) Start on your knees, toes and elbows with your arms hanging straight down from your shoulders and your hands together under your face.
2) Press yourself up so your body is straight from your toes to your head. Form is critical.
3) Hold this position and tighten your abs.

It seems so easy. Friends on Facebook say they do this for two minutes. Once you try it you’ll know why it is so good for your abs. It’s not as easy!

I’m not going to tell you how long I can hold a plank. I’m going to use the excuse that I’m really long (6’ 2”). Next week I’ll share my progress on planks and maybe a few variations.

Have you tried planks?

Got a great ab exercise you want to share? I can use all the help I can get.


Step On That Chick And I’ll Smash Your Head

This Monday it hit 88 degrees here in New England, unseasonably warm for April. I took my two girls to Horseneck Beach in Westport to chill on the sand, listen to the waves, and soak up some sun.

To our surprise, the parking lot was packed. And because it is so early in the season the facilities were still closed, which meant no parking fee, no bathrooms, and no lifeguards.

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We walked down the path the beach and were confronted with a large roped off area blocking the beach. To get to the water we needed to walk about one hundred yards to either side.

Curious as I am, I checked the small sign hanging from the rope. The area was a tern habitat, reserved to protect a nesting and breeding area. Being a big nature lover I wasn’t inconvenienced by the walk down the beach to find a spot where we could spread our blanket and hang out.

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After a while of talking and playing a word game we enjoy, I noticed a woman duck the rope and walk right through the middle of the habitat. I think I have an overactive sense of justice, maybe that’s why I write crime novels. Anyway, I was really annoyed that hundreds of people walked around this rope and this woman thought she was entitled to walk right down the middle. Soon after another and another went, following her example.

For a while I thought that maybe it was too early for the birds to be nesting, but it has been a really warm winter and spring and who is to tell what timetable the birds are on. She didn’t look like a naturalist to me.

Needless to say, I’m not a fan of people who think the rules don’t apply to them. I wondered if other people were thinking similarly, chiding her silently but not saying anything because they didn’t want to seem too uptight.

This morning I’m thinking about rules and polite society in general and something interesting hit me. The rules of our society are put in place to protect people like her. This was a small, middle-aged woman. The rule she broke didn’t protect her, but imagine a time when people did whatever they wanted… Like cavemen.

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Yesterday I took my daughter out for ice cream. We waited for half an hour in line behind a lot of mothers who looked a whole lot like that lady. So if there were no rules, I’m the first guy in line. I’m by far the biggest person around. I could have pushed my way to the front, ordered my ice cream and been gone in two minutes.

But I didn’t. Who’d do that?

So my question is… How do you feel when you see people breaking the rules?

Do you get annoyed? Or are you the one parking in the fire lane at the mall?