It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Sometimes life can be overwhelming. Sometimes that shelf is too high for you to reach. Sometimes things require more strength than you can muster. Sometimes what is required is not something you know how to do. Sometimes you realize that acting on your own could make things worse. Sometimes you find yourself in a scary situation. When that’s the case for me, I ask for help. And that’s okay.

Asking for help does not mean that you’re weak. It does not mean that you’re a victim. It does not mean that you’re being manipulative. It simply means that you need help.

A true sign of weakness, in my opinion, is refusing to ask for or accept help when it’s obviously needed. If you’re going down for the third time, it’s foolish to drown because you’re simply too proud to ask for help. It’s so much more self-destructive to suffer in silence than it is to swallow your pride and reach out for assistance.

If no one ever needed help, then societies wouldn’t have been invented. Think of asking for help as the ultimate form of taking care of yourself. You should be proud of your ability to recognize that need and act upon it.

And helpers are amazing. There was a reason that Mr. Rogers said to look for them when you see something scary. Helpers are generous and kind and compassionate and caring. A true helper isn’t going to judge you for your need. They’re not going to think less of you. They are going to realize that someday they just might need help, too. And that, too, is okay.

The coolest thing about being a human is that your asking for help today does not preclude you from lending a helping hand tomorrow. So don’t let anyone make you feel like a victim. We all have good days and bad days. There’s no shame in that. The strength is in recognizing that fact.

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Seals Will Be Seals

Trust me, you don’t want to be a penguin on Marion Island. The seals there seem to have lost their moral compass. And now that they’ve tasted the forbidden fruit, it seems, there’s no turning back.

According to this BBC article (which, I must warn you, includes several very disturbing videos), the first time scientists spotted a fur seal attempting to copulate with a king penguin was back in 2006. Needless to say, that raised a few eyebrows, but they assumed it was an anomaly.

But no.

Since then, these penguin rapes have been on the rise. And it is more than one seal that’s in on this act. Fur seals are capable of learning from one another. Unfortunately, they seem to have chosen a pretty twisted mentor.

What they’ve been doing is chasing these penguins down, throwing themselves on top of them, and having their way with them for up to 5 minutes at a time, all while the penguin screams in agony. In one really creepy incident, the seal then killed the penguin and ate it. What a horrible way to go.

The perpetrators of these moral outrages are all adolescent males. It figures. The victims, on the other hand, seem to be random penguins of either gender who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m sure that there are seal apologists out there who will chalk this up to the fact that there’s really nothing much to do for fun in the sub-Antarctic. Or they’ll say this has something to do with how the penguins are dressing. As enthusiastic penguin-shamers, they’ll say those birds just lead them on. They’ll say they wanted to be crushed by an animal that’s at least three times their size. Because size matters. Seals will be seals.

I, on the other hand, feel that this is a sign of the coming apocalypse. Someone has to speak for the penguins. They cannot speak for themselves.

(Shame on me for making light of this situation. It really is disturbing and disgusting on so many levels. I just wanted to make it blatantly clear how absurd and wrong it is to blame victims.)

https _upload.wikimedia.org_wikipedia_commons_5_55_Antarctic_Fur_Seals_of_various_sizes_(5724162986)

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Tall Tale Tellers

I’ve worked with several pathological liars in my lifetime. It’s a mental disorder that I struggle to understand, because there seems to be no emotional payoff. Do these people not realize that for the most part, everyone can see right through them? They’re certainly confronted enough. This causes them not to be trusted, and their social relationships are therefore not particularly stable. Telling whoppers is a self-destructive habit.

The thing I find most interesting about these people is that even when you catch them in their lies, when you hit them with the cold, hard facts, just as with Trump’s political base, they still will not change their stance. For example, one coworker claimed to have several masters degrees from a variety of Ivy League institutions. I looked up a few of the degrees in question, and these particular degree types were not offered by those schools. Ever. Showing him this irrefutable evidence did not even make him blink.

Their lies always seem to fit into several general categories.

  • One-upmanship. If you happen to mention that you’ve been to Spain, the pathological liar will have lived there. For years. During the civil war. And wrote a best-selling novel about his friendship with Franco.

  • Physical Prowess. Pathological liars can beat up every man in the bar and walk away without a scratch. They can also lift cars off of crushed orphans. Don’t even get me started about their sexual conquests.

  • Amazing Possessions. One coworker, who lived in a trailer with his mother, said he had an original Van Gogh hanging in his living room. He could never produce a photograph of it, though. And when in financial dire straits, he couldn’t ever seem to find a buyer for it.

  • Related to Fame. If you admire Barbra Streisand, the pathological liar will be her second cousin. Or he’ll have had dinner at Jacques Cousteau’s house. Or he’ll be in regular e-mail contact with Matthew Broderick.

  • Amazing Survival Skills. A coworker once told me that a tractor once rolled down a hill and crushed him beneath its wheels. He was able to extricate himself, though, and crawl 5 miles to civilization to get help. He then spent 6 months in a coma.

  • Success. It seems that these liars are always recognized by one and all for their superior intelligence, and often receive the highest awards. They also are promoted at young ages, and only make the best investments. And yet they aren’t any further ahead in life than the rest of us.

  • Generosity. “For Valentine’s Day last year, I gave my wife 60 dozen roses.” Yeah. Sure you did. And you support a thousand famine victims, too.

  • Victimhood. Perhaps the most insidious category for the pathological liar is that of placing themselves in the roll of victim. This is when these liars cross over to becoming con artists, because people who don’t know them well are naturally trusting and tempted to help. One coworker said he was living in a trailer in Florida without air conditioning and had no food. A friend drove 25 miles to his house with 6 bags of groceries, only to find that his cupboards were full to overflowing, and his air conditioning was on so high she could practically see her own breath. Another friend gave this same man a car. He was also the healthiest lung cancer sufferer I’ve ever seen. He never went to a doctor. He’s still out there somewhere, conning more people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Barbra Streisand has second cousins. There have to be a few truths mixed in with all those lies. But what are the odds? How many of us can consistently boast of both quality and quantity? Not me. That’s for sure.

The only theory I have is that these people don’t think they’re special enough without all these outlandish embellishments. They think they will only be liked if they improve upon their boring little lives, when in fact this isolates them even more. It makes them the victim of ridicule and the butt of jokes.

That, or they believe all their own fantasies and are too far gone to get back to the real world.

Either way, how very sad. Sad for them, and even sadder for those who get caught in their web of lies.

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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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Nails

One of my rear tires was looking slightly flat. Again. It would never lose enough pressure to set off alarm bells in my mind, but it really was starting to annoy me.

The gas station’s mechanic must have seen me muttering to myself at the air pump, and he came over to investigate. He offered to remove the tire and inspect it for free, and sure enough, I had picked up a nail somewhere along the way. He repaired the tire for 16 dollars and off I went. That’s excellent customer service.

I must have been driving around with that nail for months. How amazing that something could have such a low grade negative impact on my life and yet I hadn’t noticed for so long. It made me wonder what other “nails” I carry around without even realizing it.

Almost immediately after having that thought, I stumbled across my journal from my senior year in high school. I sat down to read it for the first time since I had written it. It was a painful read.

I had forgotten how miserable I was as a teenager. My self-esteem was at rock bottom. I was so starved for love and validation that I went looking for those things in all the wrong places. For example, I described an excruciating date in which the boy in question had treated me horribly. I mean, really, there was no excuse for his disrespectful behavior. And then I wailed, “And he didn’t even kiss me good night!” Ah, teenage angst.

I practically had “welcome” tattooed across my forehead. I was a bleeding fish among sharks. I was so easy to victimize that I drew unscrupulous people into my orbit. The 52 year old me weeps for the 17 year old me. But the 17 year old me did not know any better. She had no frame of reference that would lead her to believe that she deserved more.

Those old journals are heartbreaking. But I’m going to continue to read them, because I cannot affect repairs on myself until I know exactly how many nails I’ve been driving through life with. I think I have some customer service I need to apply to myself, and it’s long overdue.

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One Slap at a Time

I am convinced that the reason so many violent and/or abusive people in this world get away with their bad behavior is that we have a tendency to break things down into separate incidents. If you look at a wife beater’s conduct one slap at a time, for example, it should still be considered unacceptable, yes, but it’s a lot easier for society to discount. (That is, unless you are on the receiving end of such treatment.)

When forming an opinion about someone, it’s really important to look at the totality of their actions. If an individual has a bad day and is moderately nasty only once, and shows some form of contrition, that’s one thing. But if that person is moderately nasty the majority of the time, that tends to add up. Working or living with someone like that can be exhausting.

It’s an insidious form of abuse, because to the outside observer, who is seeing only one incident, it may appear that the victim of this abuse is overreacting. But context is important. That’s why it’s so vital to speak up. If you don’t share that history with the wider world, then you enable your abuser.

Think about it. Before police agencies were able to share information about criminals, they were able to get away with a lot more. They could just continue their shenanigans in a different city, county, state or country. Now it’s not quite as easy to turn crime into a career.

We are still lagging behind, though, when it comes to disclosing the behavior of domestic abusers and the small percentage of the mentally ill who pose a danger. Knowledge is power. Until dangerous behavior is shared among various social agencies, there is no way we’ll be able to reduce the number of tragedies that occur every single day.

The system is broken. It needs to be fixed. That needs to be a priority. How many more people need to die before it becomes one?

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Drop Dead? Really?

We all come with baggage if we’ve actually made an effort to live our lives. Mine includes staying in a 16 year relationship that made me, for the most part, really unhappy. Don’t get me wrong. He was a really good guy. And we did have our good times. That’s why I stayed so long. That and I couldn’t justify, in my mind, hurting someone who hadn’t done anything wrong. When he finally did do something wrong it was a doozie, and that’s why I left.

In hindsight, I suppose it would have been kinder to be cruel at the outset and nip it in the bud so that we both could have moved on, but I didn’t know how to do that. I do have some regrets about that. I was always the stronger one, and by not breaking things off at the start I did us both a huge disservice. We could have been great friends, I think.

But deep down, I didn’t want to be considered the bad guy. I never cheated on him, I even financially supported him for many years, and I helped him start a career. His uncanny ability to be the victim made me loathe to be the perpetrator, but I didn’t understand the unwritten rule: the one who does the breaking up is ALWAYS going to be considered the bad guy, even if it is totally justified.

Friends have told me he seems to have landed on his feet. He’s married now, so I’m assuming he’s happy. At least I hope so. Genuinely.

In every other way his life doesn’t seem to have changed much, whereas mine has changed so much that it’s barely recognizable. That was one of our problems. My dreams were always a lot bigger than his. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Your dreams should fit you, and no one should force you to change their size. If you’re happy, that’s all that matters.

Given that he seems to have found love, you’d think he’d be glad I finally ended things. But this is a guy that is still bitter about things that happened to him in high school. He’s a grudge-holder. He doesn’t let things go. People always wonder why he can’t even smile in photographs. He wants the world to know how unhappy he is. He doesn’t move on. He lets things fester. That always made me very sad for him.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see what was on his facebook page the other day. He posted the song “Drop Dead” by Ghoti Hook, and said, “Makes me think of my ex…”

Seriously? You’re that angry over something you brought on yourself? When you’re supposed to be happily married? You hold onto a little cup of acid in your soul like that?

If anything, it makes me feel even more justified, because I wouldn’t wish death on anyone. Especially not someone I shared 16 years with. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to sleep next to someone with those sorts of sentiments about another human being.

The irony is that the reason I went to his Facebook page in the first place is that I wanted to give him some good news that affects him, too. It was something that I strongly suspect he’d have been happy to hear about. But instead, apparently, I should drop dead. Ah well.

The fact that no one “liked” that particular Facebook post of his, even his family members who never liked me in the first place, tells you all you need to know about how sad that sentiment is. I’m sure he assumed everyone would find it amusing. Not so much.

For my part, I don’t maintain any bitterness. Everything in my past brought me to where I am now, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I wish him well. But I also feel very sorry for him, when I take the time to think about it. If I could send him a song in response to his “Drop Dead”, it would be “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. I truly hope that some day he is able to do so.

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“Look at me! I’m miserable!”

I used to know someone who would never, ever smile in photographs. He said it was because he looked funny when he smiled, but he didn’t look any funnier than the rest of the world. If you looked at his vacation photos, you’d swear he always had a horrible time. But I think it was less about an unattractive smile and more about his “I’m a victim” philosophy.

He used to dress in black from head to toe as well. He wanted the world to know he was angry. He was still upset about how people treated him in high school, even though he was in his late 40’s, so heaven only knows what other long-standing grudges he held.

Yes, all these things were cries for help, and he definitely needed help, but what he didn’t seem to realize was that by turning himself into a completely passive sad sack, by making no attempts to help himself, he turned people off. After a certain point, the world gets a little sick of feeling sorry for you.

I’d see this recurring pattern with him. Someone would meet him, think he was a nice guy, pity all that he goes through, and maybe even come to his defense. For a while. Then they’d start to avoid him. Once you realize that a very large adult male has figuratively put himself in diapers and a pacifier and expects you to carry him wherever you go, you suddenly think, “Hold on, I didn’t sign up for this.”

I think the fundamental problem with his mindset is that, yes, martyrs are often revered, but they usually have to die to reach that point. And he is not only alive, but he’s also an emotionally draining black hole. No one wants to approach his event horizon, for fear of being sucked in.

Yeah, he's cute and all, but would you want to spend an entire day with him?
Yeah, he’s cute and all, but would you want to spend an entire day with him?

It’s Not the Situation, but How You Cope With It.

A friend recently posted this on Facebook:

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I had never really thought of this! But it’s true. A potato definitely copes with boiling water differently than an egg does. This is the case with many things:

  • The sun will melt ice but harden clay.
  • If you drop a turtle into a pond it will swim away, but if you do the same thing to a tortoise, it will most likely sink and drown.
  • White reflects light, black absorbs it.
  • Fruit rots but wine made from fruit ages.
  • Tourists admire what residents take for granted.

It’s all a matter of perspective and attitude (and, yes, science, I suppose, but don’t mess up my analogy). You can be a victim or a survivor. You can strive or quit. You can give up hope or persevere. You always have choices.

So, as my friend Carole says, “Onward and upward, into the future!”

Ways to Increase Your Safety

I take the issue of safety very seriously, perhaps more so than the average person. Due to some abuse I experienced in my childhood, I have been diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It gets triggered when I feel as if people in positions of authority don’t have my best interests at heart, or when I don’t feel safe for whatever reason.

Given my history, I could have chosen to live my life in fear and hide from the world, or I could have become clingy, assumed a victim mentality and placed my security in the hands of others, but I choose not to hide behind some man. First of all, you can’t always count on the fact that one will be there when you need him. Second, if you spend all your time cowering behind someone else, your view ahead is very limited. You could miss a lot of good stuff that way.

So here are some tricks I’ve picked up over the years, either through safety classes put on by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, instructional videos, common sense, or learning from the mistakes of others. I hope these tips help others live more independent lives as well.

  • Make sure you have efficient locks on all your windows and doors, and adequate lighting. Put a chain on your door that isn’t too long.
  • Never open your door to a stranger. Talk through the door if necessary. If you know you’re going to have to open the door, for example, if you’re expecting a pizza delivery, shout loudly over your shoulder, “I’ll get it!” You never want someone to think you’re alone.
  • Never sit in your car in a parking lot with the doors unlocked.
  • If someone walks up to you and you’re getting a bad vibe, before they’re too close, say, “Don’t I know your mother?” Criminals do not like to be known.
  • If you aren’t feeling comfortable, and you can have a friend watch out for you when you’re walking to your car, for example, don’t be hesitant to ask. You would do the same for them, wouldn’t you? Don’t let your pride override your instincts. But also don’t live your life counting on that person to be there. Accept your limitations, but also try to reduce them whenever possible. Your safety is your own responsibility.
  • Avoid “sliders”. This is a new phenomenon. When pumping gas, many women leave their purse on the seat in the unlocked car. Sliders will drive up beside your passenger side, hop out, quietly open your passenger door and steal your purse. So when pumping gas, keep your purse with you or lock your doors.
  • Never open your door to leave the house before first looking out the window or peep hole. You never know who might be standing there.
  • Carry keys in your hand. Don’t fumble for keys at your door. Keys can also make an effective weapon when interwoven between your fingers.
  • If you can avoid carrying a purse, do so. Pockets are better than fanny packs, which are better than purses. If you have to carry a purse, keep the zipper closed, the flap turned inward toward your body, in front of you and away from the street, and rest your hand on it as you walk. Never leave a purse hanging behind you on a chair in a restaurant.
  • If you have to carry a large amount of money, divide it up and carry it in several compartments.
  • Never enter an elevator with a stranger who makes you feel uncomfortable. When you do ride in an elevator, locate the alarm button in case you need it. Stand next to the control panel. If you suspect trouble, push that alarm button and as many other buttons as possible. Trust your instincts. Allow the other passengers to push the button for their floors, THEN push yours. If you’re feeling at risk, get off at an earlier floor if necessary.
  • When you leave a store, pause at the door and scan the parking lot before heading toward your car. Parking lots are high crime areas.
  • If you’re approached when you’re in your car, lay on the horn, long and loud. Flash your lights. Rev your engine. Step on your brakes. Put on your flashers. Set off the alarm. Do anything to draw attention.
  • Carry a flashlight at night.
  • If someone taps your shoulder, turn, yes, but keep walking, backward, away from him. Talk with your hands up at shoulder level so you can take action if necessary.
  • Always carry a well charged cell phone.
  • Never assume that clean cut young man is a good guy. Bad guys come in all shapes and sizes. The vast majority of criminals, however, are males between the ages of 15 and 25, so pay particular attention to them.
  • If someone pulls a weapon on you and says, “Give me your wallet,” by all means, give it to them. But don’t just hand it over. Throw it and run in the opposite direction.
  • Take self-defense classes if you can. There are all sorts of nifty wrist releases that you can learn that are beyond the scope of this blog entry. There are also a ton of wrist release and self-defense videos on Youtube. Check them out and practice with a friend.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your voice. Scream. Sadly, you’ll be more likely to get attention if you scream “Fire!” as opposed to “Help!” or “Rape!”.
  • People assume women will be quiet and polite. More than once I’ve turned to a potential bad guy and shouted, “BACK OFF!!!” They all practically soiled themselves while running away.
  • People also don’t expect a “normal” looking person to act crazy. So don’t be afraid to babble, foam at the mouth, twitch, even rub dirt in your hair and eat grass if you have to. It will freak them out, which will give you the psychological upper hand.
  • If someone grabs you, don’t struggle with the grabbed hand. While it’s holding you, you are also holding it. Worry about the other hand.
  • If someone pushes you, they will expect you to resist the push. So don’t. Pull. It will throw them off balance. Similarly, if someone pulls you, don’t resist the pull. Push.
  • Strike straight ahead if possible. It will block their vision. And go for the chin and nose.
  • Anything can be a weapon. A rolled up magazine to the Adam’s apple or a credit card or some folded glasses to the eyeball can do a lot of damage.
  • If your car breaks down and a stranger approaches, tell him or her that someone has already called the police and they’re on their way. Keep your cell phone to your ear and pretend to be talking on it. Or, if you let a good Samaritan change a tire for you, they shouldn’t be offended if you stay in the locked car while they do so.
  • Whenever possible, vary your routine. Try not to be predictable. But at the same time, if you’ll be doing something unusual, let someone you trust know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone.
  • If your state has a sex offender database, look up the locations of the sex offenders in your neighborhood. If you live in an urban area, you’ll most likely be horrified. I have 15 living in a two mile radius of me. Mostly these people like to prey on small children. But lawbreakers are lawbreakers, and some sex offenders like to steal identities so they can hide. Get to know their faces.
  • If you have a chance, chat with the beat cop who works in your neighborhood. He can tell you about hot spots, gang activity, crime trends, things to look out for. It never hurts to be on a first name basis with your beat cop.
  • If you ever have to give your car key to someone, like a parking attendant or an oil change clerk, ALWAYS remove the key from your key chain. Never hand your house keys to anyone. They can be copied.
  • Create the illusion of multiple occupants in your home. People are less apt to break into a home if there’s a chance that someone is there.
  • Put a sign by your doorbell that says, “One person in this house works nights and sleeps during the day. Please do not disturb.”
  • Leave some old muddy work boots on your front porch. (Although I have to say that the last time I did this, the boots were, ironically, stolen.)
  • If you go out at night, leave some lights on in the house. You can even get timers so they will go off and on at preset times.
  • Get a dog. It doesn’t even have to be a big one. Just a noisy one. Bad guys hate noise. If you can’t have a dog, create the illusion of one. Put up beware of dog signs. Leave a BIG water bowl and a heavy duty chain in a visible place. Buy some toys, have a friend’s dog chew on them so they look used, and then leave those toys scattered in the yard.
  • If you can’t afford a security system, you can buy a motion detector alarm from Radio Shack, and place it high enough up in a room that it won’t be triggered by children or pets, but it will alert you if anyone enters the front part of your house while you sleep.
  • Keep your shades down at night.
  • If you have a remote entry to your car, you can always trigger your car alarm from inside the house if you need to draw attention.
  • If you have keyless entry to you car, make sure you block the keypad with your body so no one nearby can see your entry code. And of course do the same thing at the ATM machine.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Scope out potential hiding places: shrubs, parked cars, blind alleys, dark corners. Give them a wide berth. Be alert. Don’t get distracted by your cell phone. Look around and also use your peripheral vision. Listen for movement behind you, too. If you can’t avoid dangerous places, have your tear gas in your hand and ready to be used.
  • Talk to your friends and family about safety. Share ideas. Share this blog entry. And if you have any other safety tips, please include them in the comments section below. Knowledge is power.

Remember, only you can assume complete mental and physical responsibility for your well-being. I can’t guarantee that any of the above ideas will work, but I certainly hope they’ll reduce your risk. It would be nice if there were always some big strong guy to come to your rescue, but relying on that creates a false sense of security. If you put your welfare solely in someone else’s hands, you’re living in a fool’s paradise. Be alert. Be safe.

Female self defense

[Image credit: rawfitnesssaratoga.com]