The Most Fun I’ve Ever Had Exercising

True confession: I hate to exercise. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. I’d sooner remove my kidney with a rusty grapefruit spoon, without benefit of anesthesia, than exercise.

I have never jogged a day in my life. Oh, I used to zoom around as a child, but I considered it to be play, not some form of physical torture in an attempt to avoid the inevitable waltz with the grim reaper. I liked to ride a bike as a child as well. It is the closest thing a minor has to a feeling of freedom. Now it’s a sweaty, uphill slog, all while desperately trying to avoid being hit by a car. Bleh.

But I would like to stick around a while longer. And I’d like to do so with a reasonable amount of quality of life. So, with dread in my heart, I recently joined the local YMCA.

And an amazing thing happened. I learned that exercise doesn’t have to be tedious or torturous. It doesn’t even have to be sweaty!

I discovered the pure joy of aqua aerobics. I do like swimming. And they play great music. And I’m in the pool with a lot of people who are, so to speak, in the same boat as I am. It’s actually fun.

It’s also a workout. You don’t really think about how much resistance water provides. And you can do a lot of exercise without putting any strain on your joints. This appeals to me greatly, as does not coming away all stinky and sticky and overheated.

In fact, I usually leave the Y feeling fantastic. Maybe there’s more to this exercise stuff than I realized. For the first time in my life, I’m willing to find out. (Once the Y opens again.)

aqua aerobics

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Evil Mind Control

Help! I have the Baby Shark song stuck in my head! And now you do, too, if you’ve ever heard it. You’re welcome.

The reason for this is that they were discussing it on NPR during my commute home from work. I went home and watched my husband cook dinner. We talked about our days. And the whole time, inside my head, I’m going, “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”

We settled in for a cozy evening in by the fire. We binge watched Better Call Saul. My dog Quagmire snored on my lap.

And yet, inside my head, here was the narrative. “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…Argh! Stop! How do I stop this? Maybe I should replace it with another ear worm. How about Mna Mna? That should do it.”

Hoo! Blessed relief. But for only a second. The minute my mind wandered, Baby Shark slipped right back in there, and I must have done about 10 choruses of that before I even realized it was back.

I tried everything. Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. I Can Sing a Rainbow. It’s a Small World After All.

You get the picture. (And if you’ve clicked on any of the links provided in this post, you are officially a masochist, in the same way that writing this post makes me a sadist.)

I think earworms are a unique form of torture. Lock someone in a room and play nothing but earworms continuously, and I guarantee they’ll tell you everything you want to know, if only you’ll stop. But even after you stop, they’d STILL be hearing those songs for the rest of their lives. And no one around them would know.

As I sat on the couch with my husband, enjoying a pleasant evening at home, he had no idea that I was in the throes of an internal battle with a baby shark. That’s what makes it so insidious. It’s so loud inside your head that it practically blocks out all other thought, and yet no one hears it but you. I even had dreams about it that night.

I find it extremely creepy that it’s so easy to control what someone else thinks about. I mean, 5 minutes after you read one of my blog posts on any other day, I suspect you’d be hard pressed to tell anyone what it was about. But today, you’ll be singing Baby Shark. All day.

I’m up inside your head. And there’s nowhere to hide.

Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…

earworm

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Child Witch Hysteria Revisited

I’ve written about the Child Witch Hysteria in Africa before. It pains me to have to do so again. But the crisis has not abated.

A new, disturbingly detailed report has come out, entitled Branded and beaten: The children accused of witchcraft and murder. It focuses on Nigeria in particular. It discusses how the local Pentecostal Churches, supported by the Nigerian film industry, are perpetuating the beliefs that child witches exist.

The film industry benefits from perpetuating this myth in ticket sales. It’s akin to America’s fascination with zombie movies, but with more disastrous consequences. And false prophets from these churches benefit because people will pay exorbitant prices, often equivalent to more than a year’s pay, to have their children exorcised. It’s an insidious industry that preys on the most vulnerable among us.

Once a child is branded as a witch, usually because of some family misfortune for which he or she is blamed, that child will be tortured to exact a confession. Some of the documented forms of torture include hot irons, hot machetes, acid in the eyes, nails driven into the skull, starvation, beatings, drinking concrete, and/or being forced to sit on a fire. Some of these children are as young as two years old.

I think the reason this cause strikes such a chord with me is that when I was a child, my family suffered a great deal of misfortune. It’s simply by virtue of the fact that I was born into a culture that doesn’t take witchcraft seriously as a general rule (anymore), that I made it to adulthood unscathed. Location, location, location.

Child witchcraft is a sick, brutal, warped cultural belief borne of ignorance and financial desperation. These practices must be stopped. Please join me in supporting Safe Child Africa to protect these children and restore some semblance of life to them.

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Death by a Thousand Cuts

I absolutely hate being told that I’m overreacting. Unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes, you don’t even know what I’m reacting to, Buddy-Roo. You have no freakin’ idea.

That’s why it’s so annoying to hear men downplay the whole #MeToo movement. “It was JUST a little slip of the hand. You can’t even be sure it was intentional. What’s the big deal?”

The big deal is that it’s one of the thousands of slippery hands most women have been forced to endure throughout the course of their lives. Just like that Chinese torture called “Death by a Thousand Cuts”, one may not seem so bad, but eventually, the accumulation is what kills you. (Incidentally, that torture wasn’t outlawed in China until 1905. That gives me the chills.)

Men can downplay their bad behavior by thinking that they’ve “only done it to her once”, but to the victim, it is cumulative. (And, by the by, how many women have you “only” done it to once, hmmm? Shame on you.)

Maybe you guys will get it if I put it in a different context. Let’s remove the female body from the scenario. There. Now you can concentrate on what I’m saying.

I came home the other day to find that some jackass had entered my yard and cut all the rose hips off my rose bushes. That person is damned lucky I hadn’t caught them in the act, because I was furious. I had plans for those rose hips.

But they’re “just” rose hips, right? What’s the big deal? The big deal is that someone came into my yard. Someone invaded my space. Someone took something that belonged to me. Just like so many other people have done.

I hate thieves. I hate being taken advantage of. I hate being screwed over by the government, by employers, by people who think they’re stronger or more powerful than me. I especially hate it when people think they have a right to help themselves to what I’ve nurtured and cultivated and looked forward to harvesting for months. Sometimes I feel as though opportunistic buzzards are pecking at my very flesh. It gets old. Just because you can get away with something doesn’t mean you should.

So, am I overreacting? Well, to that I say, keep your hands to yourself and grow your own damned rose hips.

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Who’s the Animal in This Scenario?

One of the most distressing features of social media is that it really highlights the more despicable aspects of humanity. If I’m not reading about some sick $&*@(% who buried a dog alive, leaving only its snout exposed, causing its eventual death, then I’m seeing pictures of men cheering as roosters slice each other to ribbons. If I’m not hearing about people who get off on torturing black cats at Halloween, then I’m learning that the Amish (whom you would expect to have a moral compass), are some of the worst perpetrators of puppy mills, because they see dogs as livestock to be exploited. And how does one hunt not for food, but for fun, Trump Junior?

And then there are all those animal rescue videos. It warms your heart that all these animals are saved, rehabilitated, and given forever homes, yes, but it’s horrifying that they were abandoned in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to spay or neuter your pets, or, here’s a thought, not take the responsibility of owning one if you don’t have the maturity to follow through?

And don’t even get me started about people who tie their dogs up in the back yard, all alone, even in the worst weather imaginable. Because I’ll cut a b****, if I have to, to prevent that. I really will.

There is nothing lower than someone who abuses, neglects, abandons, or tortures a helpless creature. How do people who do that carry on with the rest of their lives? How do you send out for pizza while you have dozens of animals starving in their own filth in a shed somewhere? How do you read your kid a bedtime story after having reveled in the painful death of a creature that you’ve forced to fight for its life? How do you decorate your Christmas tree after dumping kittens on the side of the road like so much garbage? How does that work?

Trump Junior

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Donkey Basketball

Don’t ask me why, but for some reason just the other day I thought of Donkey Basketball for the first time in decades. For the uninitiated, this is, basically, regular basketball, only the players are riding donkeys. These games are usually fundraisers held at local schools.

As a kid, I thought these events where hysterical and fun. As a member of the urban poor, it was my only opportunity to see donkeys, up close and personal. Even then, though, I wondered what their hooves were doing to the basketball courts. It couldn’t be good. Yeah, that’s how my mind worked.

What I should have been thinking of is what this game was doing to the donkeys. Imagine, being thrust into an unnatural environment, surrounded by a screaming pack of humans, and most likely being ridden, shouted at and kicked by someone who is not only way too heavy, but also has most likely never ridden a donkey in his or her life.

That sounds like it should have its very own circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno. How totally and utterly terrifying. It must feel like being suddenly thrust into a ring with a Roman gladiator.

As much as I enjoyed those games as a child, I think we as a society should have reached a higher level of sophistication by now. There are a lot of ways to raise money without torturing animals in the process. For more information, check out this article written by PETA.

donkey basketball

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There Are Just Too Many of Us Now

I just read an interesting article in the New York Times entitled, In China, Wives Fight Back After Their Activist Husbands Are Jailed. It went on to describe the kinds of human rights abuses you come to expect from China: Defense lawyers being imprisoned simply for standing up for the rights of their clients. Being detained without counsel for months or years. Being tortured. And their families pressured. Children kicked out of schools, wives fired from jobs, families evicted from their homes and prevented from traveling. Guilt by association.

What was new and interesting is that a lot of these wives have found each other and are speaking out and organizing protests. Even though the authorities have told them to be compliant and not make waves, waves they are definitely making. Good for them.

Even in China, one of the last bastions of total public suppression, we the people can no longer be silenced. There are just too many of us now. We are talking to each other. It’s harder to isolate us when we are everywhere you look. The more educated we become (never trust anyone who demonizes education) and the more we connect with each other (never trust anyone who wants to mess with a free internet), the harder it will be to keep us down.

If you want to be on the right side of history, you should consider lifting us up so that everyone wins, including you. Because we are legion. And we’re not going away.

power to the people

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A National Case of Foie Gras Syndrome

Being force fed has to be the most horrible, helpless feeling on earth. I can’t believe Foie Gras isn’t outlawed. I mean, they stick these ducks in cages and then violently stuff corn down their throats to fatten their livers. It’s unimaginable to me that I’d be able to enjoy eating something that comes from such a ghoulish origin.

But force feeding isn’t just for ducks anymore. It seems we humans are getting quite accustomed to it ourselves. This most recent election campaign was the stuff of nightmares, regardless of whether the person you voted for was the one who was elected. It was nasty, brutish and looooooong. I haven’t talked to a single person who wasn’t stressed out by the entire process. And yet we sat there and took it.

We also allow the media to stir us up about crises that don’t really exist, while they fail to report on things that we really need to know. And we’ve become so addicted to our social media that taking away someone’s device can send that person into a panic attack. (When I tell a millennial that I don’t use my cell phone while driving, that I simply wait until I get home, and that in fact I can’t access the internet on my phone, they look at me in horror.) It always amuses me when people think they can’t live without something that humanity has been living without for centuries.

Is this just me getting older and more intolerant? Or is it all becoming a bit too much? Am I alone in this? I’d go live in a cave somewhere, but then I wouldn’t have internet access even at home. We can’t have that, now, can we?

Oh, and if you eat foie gras, shame on you.

mulard_duck_being_force_fed_corn_in_order_to_fatten_its_liver_for_foie_gras_production

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EVERY American Deserves a Political Apology

No, I’m not talking about who won or didn’t win this election (believe it or not). As a matter of fact, I wrote the first draft of this entry well before election day. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that this whole campaign experience has been stressful beyond belief.

There is absolutely NO reason why a campaign should drag on for more than 4 months. If you can’t learn enough about a candidate in that length of time, someone isn’t doing his or her journalistic homework. And shorter campaigns would be less expensive, and therefore donors wouldn’t have the opportunity to burrow so deeply inside the candidates’ pockets.

We need to make this a law. No political ads, annoying phone calls, back biting, in-fighting, junk mail, interviews, yard signs, drama or stupidity prior to the day after Independence Day. This would also allow us a shorter period to argue with friends and family, and less hard feelings and bitterness as a country.

This campaign was cruel and unusual punishment. I’m not the only one who was impacted physically and emotionally by this. It seems to be the general consensus amongst all the people I’ve talked to. There’s no need for it. We don’t deserve this. After all this torture, we are all left with a sour taste in our mouths, and a level of cynicism that makes it very difficult to function.

And let’s get rid of this electoral college BS and Gerrymandering while we’re at it. We have reached a level of sophistication in this country where we can count above ten, and election results aren’t being delivered by horse and buggy. (I swear I’m writing this without having a clue whether the popular vote will fall in line with the electoral college vote. It usually does, but not always.) Every single solitary vote should carry equal weight.

Democracy should not be equivalent to abuse. If this is the shape of things to come, I absolutely, positively cannot take this every four years. I just can’t.

democracy

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Have I Been Torturing My Dog?

A friend of mine told me about this article on the Mother Nature Network about why dogs don’t like to be hugged. Basically, many of them see this as a form of aggression, and it makes them nervous. It does go on to say, though, that not all dogs are alike. But it gives you advice to determine how your dog is feeling about the subject.

After I read this article, I was completely reassured that my dog Quagmire loves to be hugged. In fact, he will throw himself into my arms and bury his head in my neck at every opportunity. He’s a snuggle addict.

And then there’s Devo. Sweet, beta-dog Devo, my long-suffering best friend. When I hug him, he goes right to submissive pose, and he kind of makes this “oof” sound. On some level, I guess I have sort of known all along that it’s not his favorite thing, but… I love him so much! I have to hug him!

But do I, really? I mean, how inconsiderate. So now, I scratch him in his favorite spots. I tell him what a good dog he is. I throw the ball for him. And when he lies next to me I enjoy it, but I resist the urge to wrap myself around him like a blanket. It’s not easy. But in the few days that I’ve made this change, I can already tell he appreciates it. Now if I could explain to him that I don’t like my forehead licked, we’d be on the same page.

Sometimes the touch you’re giving isn’t the touch that’s being received. That’s the case with humans and animals alike. True love means taking that into account. Give it some thought.

Jasmine_gets_a_hug
This dog does not look happy to me.