How is this fun to watch?

So, this is awkward.

Since I started working on my memoir Bark and Lunge, this has become a dog blog. I love all the people I’ve met in the dog blogging community, and I plan to continue blogging about dogs.

I’m working on my second book, a novel about a mixed martial arts fighter who rescues pit bulls. You may have noticed that I post a lot about pit bulls and rescue dogs.

I haven’t written about MMA for a few years, but today I want to write about Ronda Rousey. I’m just going to Trojan Horse it with a picture and a video from last year of her with her dog, Mochi.

ronda mochi

Are Tamagotchis still a thing?


Now then. I love Ronda Rousey. I’ve been following her for years, and gained understanding and huge respect from her memoir, My Fight / Your Fight.

It is a solid memoir, thanks to Rousey’s co-writer, her sister Maria Burns Ortiz, a journalist. It tells the story of a little girl whose verbal skills were slow to develop, leaving her unable to explain to her family that all she wanted for her birthday was a Hulk Hogan wrestling doll. When she starts competing in Judo, her mother, a Judo champion herself, instills a confidence and drive to win. The thing I admire most about Rousey is how hard she works. She goes into every fight expecting to win, which is why she took her losses in Judo very hard. Turns out, the sport she was born to do hadn’t been invented yet; women’s mixed martial arts wasn’t even a thing.


I was fairly devastated on Saturday when Ronda was knocked out by Holly Holm. And I feel defensive about any backlash and criticism of the sport.

People have every right not to enjoy watching cage fights. I don’t like baseball or basketball. But I don’t criticize people who do like it. I don’t ask, “HOW is this fun to watch?”

Still, I will answer that question. Make no mistake. It was NOT fun for me to watch Ronda get punched bloody, kicked in the neck, knocked out, and then punched three more times while unconscious. Just like it’s not fun to watch your sports team get trounced or your favorite player get carried off the field.

Setting that aside (which I have trouble doing because watching the fight was emotional for me), an objective person can see the athleticism and skill behind Holm’s punching and kicking.

Just imagine if, instead of getting knocked out by this this top-notch kickboxer, Rousey had shot in, taken Holm down and submitted her in a choke or an armbar. Everyone would be talking about Rousey’s Judo skills. How amazing it is that a person could defeat such a formidable opponent without doing any physical damage.

That’s what I was hoping to see. And maybe we will see it in a rematch.

**For anyone who compares mixed martial arts to human dog-fighting, for now, I will say only that the difference is, the dogs didn’t sign up for it.

Taking Wonder with a twist of Danger

During a recent martial arts class, Rob asked his students whether they saw the world as a dangerous place with moments of wonder, or a wondrous place with moments of danger.

Definitely a wondrous place, I thought. Then I considered my writing and realized that to move the action forward in my novel, I need more moments of danger. Nobody wants to read a book about a happy well-adjusted young woman in a great relationship who loves her dogs. That’s why I didn’t have a memoir until Isis died. Pain equals conflict equals drama.

A few days later, I made one of my fictional doggie characters viciously bite someone.

I didn’t stay in the dangerous world long. Last weekend, I participated in Stephanie Renee Dos Santos’ Saraswati writing and yoga workshop.


Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science… depicted as a beautiful woman to embody the concept of knowledge as supremely alluring… Saraswati is the goddess of learning, and not a god; the feminine aspect signifies creativity. … Saraswati is known as a guardian deity in Buddhism who upholds the teachings of Gautama Buddha by offering protection and assistance to practitioners

I’ve dabbled in yoga for many years, but never connected it to my writing practice before. We met on the labyrinth at Fairhaven Park, a perfect setting for outdoor yoga. After an hour of poses targeting our hips, back, neck and shoulders, opening ourselves to creativity and culminating in Tibetan meditation, we sat down to write.

Stephanie guided us through writing prompts focusing our attention on the natural world. The yoga gave my writing an awareness of my physical surroundings that I sometimes neglect. We returned to our mats for a few more vinyasas before a final writing exercise to bring it all together. I was quite surprised to find that the stream-of-consciousness observations from the earlier prompts fit perfectly into my novel, and I wrote a short scene that I didn’t even know my story needed.

After that infusion of wonder and beauty, I went to a dark place. Literally. I pulled Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places off my shelf. I tried to start it a few months ago, but wasn’t in mood for dark that day. I read the first line (I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ), and thought “Not today.” Can’t remember what I read instead, but since then I’ve read some Chuck Palahniuk, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and I Am Forbiddenthe latter being this month’s book club selection.

Without any sense that this book could help me with my novel, Dark Places looked good to me on Monday. I don’t write violent psychological thrillers, but I sure do enjoy reading them. Once again, my inner reader knew what I needed even when my conscious mind didn’t. The main character in Dark Places is a damaged young woman with a violent past. She is angry and stunted, rather like my main character in Fight Like a Lady.

You find inspiration where you least expect it.

Write what you know

When I started NaNoWriMo in November 2009, I wanted to write something that was actually fiction, rather than a thinly veiled version of my life. I thought, “What can I write about, that I know a lot about, but that wouldn’t be about me?” Of course! Mixed martial arts. Rob’s passion.

I gave up trying to write it in one month, thought about it quite a bit over the next year, then signed up to take a 3-term novel-writing class at WWU starting last fall. The novel has come a long way since then, and I still feel like it has great potential and is totally original and marketable. Plus, I expanded the plot to include my passion: dogs!

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been on a stay-at-home, play-with-the-dogs, write-a-novel vacation. I felt way more productive last week, because it was sunny and warm, so I’d write a few pages, go lie down on the grass with my dogs in the backyard, rinse and repeat. Still, I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to produce 10 pages a day. This is a somewhat misleading goal, since it involves rewriting and combining scenes that already were written. I didn’t write 10 brand new pages each day. But the important thing is that I now have about 100 pages of novel to show for myself.

Yesterday, I felt a little bogged down in the martial arts stuff, which is peculiar, since that’s what the book is about. At this stage of my writing, I have two main audiences in mind. People like Rob, who will read my book because it’s about martial arts, and the people in my writing class (we’re continuing to meet monthly even though the course is over) who don’t know anything about martial arts, don’t really even like martial arts, but who like my writing and have been enormously helpful in developing my book so far.

The people in my class are not going to enjoy reading 30 straight pages about grappling and hubud and cage matches. But all that stuff needs to be written. Before I share it with them, I’m going to have to take a hard look at it and anticipate them saying that they don’t understand my description of what the hell hubud is. How does the hubud scene advance the narrative, other then to show that the heroine likes the way her instructor’s arms feel against hers?

I feel better about it today after working on some dog stuff. The main dog is absolutely a fictional character. He’s a pit bull named Apollo and I love him. I have a vision of what the book cover will look like: A silver pit bull with a pink boxing glove in his mouth. The title: Fight Like a Lady.

Don’t steal my idea, OK?

Don’t cry for me, Ipanema

A few months ago, we were watching an episode of the International Sexy Ladies Show (yes we were). This stimulated a discussion about wanting to go to Brazil.

I went into full trip-planning mode. February tends to be a glum time for me, so we should go then. Oh, except I’m signed up for a weekly writing class that meets through March 1. So we’ll go March 2, and be there for Carnaval! Ignoring the nagging feeling that really, we can’t afford two airline tickets to Rio, let alone the travel between regions, I proceeded to come up with a great itinerary.

Five days in Rio, where Rob will train at a Brazilian jiujitsu (BJJ) studio. Fly to Pantanal for wildlife viewing. Fly to Iguassu Falls for waterfall viewing. Visit the Amazon.

One of my fantasies was that there would be a BJJ camp like the Muay Thai camp we went to in Thailand. It provided lodging and two meals a day for cheaper than most hotel rooms. This would solve the problem of hiked hotel rates and lack of vacancies during Carnaval. Unfortunately, BJJ in Brazil is a bit more expensive than Muay Thai training in Thailand. While camps like that do exist, they’re very expensive.

I had to get real. We can’t afford it this year. Which makes it all the more painful to listen to the four Brazilian music CDs I uploaded onto my work computer.

The castle in my backyard

Construction has begun on Rob’s dream: a backyard building where he can practice martial arts. I have a vague fantasy that I’ll be able to park my car in the garage when all is said and done, but who knows, he may decide that the kettlebell collection needs to stay where it is.

It’s a stressful thing, home construction. I’m in a weird place where I don’t actually have any opinion about what goes on inside the building (please don’t ask me how many electrical outlets and where they should go), but I’ll be damned if the roof is going to be “gray” instead of “stone.”

I’m excited though, to see the frame start to take shape. It makes me want to follow through with some of the improvements I’ve been meaning to do. My last effort at home decor was painting 3 of 4 walls in the kitchen a lemon yellow that Rob hates. I meant to do all 4 walls, but I got tired, and thought I’d save the last wall for another day. Then I decided it would be too much of a pain to paint around the sliding glass door and underneath the kitchen cabinets, so I left the last wall white.

That was President’s Day, I think. For some reason, I schedule painting for days when I’m home but Rob has to work. The green tea library walls were done last Veteran’s Day…the merlot foyer over Thanksgiving and the lemon kitchen on President’s Day. Might have been Martin Luther King Day.

Up next is repainting the peeling eave along the side of the house. Last weekend, Rob’s parents helped me pressure-wash the old paint off with a portable little contraption that I later broke by clogging it with mud. While we were at it, our friend/subcontractor doing the site prep stopped by and said, “Oh, if I’d known you were doing that I would have brought my giant gas-powered something-or-other that would take care of it in two seconds.”

Man, if I’d only thought to ask!

Other projects in mind are staining our little front porch and hanging bamboo shades in the front windows… but the priority might be repairing the little rusted holes in the gutters.

I don’t want to do my laundry

I literally have been losing sleep (people use that expression figuratively, don’t they?) over a couple of issues regarding my house. One involves the permitting for a large accessory building to accommodate the garageful of martial arts equipment currently preventing me from parking my car in the garage. In an unexpected development, I was the more distressed to discover that because something was done incorrectly in 1971, my property was not created legally. Technically. And no one discovered this until last week. Allegedly. Even though it has passed between buyers a number of times since then.

I’m not supposed to take Ambien (the generic equivalent, actually) more than 4 nights in a row, which is a problem, because when I don’t take it, I wake up at 2 or 3 and can’t fall back asleep, worrying about this crap, which I know will sort itself out. But it’s the sorting out of it is that’s creating the stress.

I won’t bore you with the vagaries of homeownership. Instead, I will regale you with the story of my washing machine.

It came with the house and had been making funny noises during the spin cycle for a while. During the first post-India load of laundry I attempted, the thing quit. Today, three weeks from my first call to The Maytag Man (now apparently The Whirlpool Man), I was able to do laundry again in my own home. Tell me again why I complained about it taking so long? Rob’s mom had been generously doing our laundry for us … and she folds way better than I do.

It took that long for the subpump to arrive in the mail. So, Whirlpool sucks. Midway through week two, I considered buying a new machine, like one of those super energy saving front-loaders. But I’m boycotting Whirlpool, and Lowe’s had about two models on display that were another brand. Hello, anti-trust police?

When the repairman came today, I put Isis in the backyard, because you never know how violently she’s going to throw herself at a newcomer. She yips quite a bit if I shut the door on her, but mostly she runs around the yard like a she-demon and entertains herself. I sat on the edge of the patio door, watching her, sort of keeping an eye on the repairman, and pondered what other people do when a repairman is in the house.

Do you stand there and watch him? Do you leave the room and go about your business and wait for him to call out if he needs you? Do you pretend to read a book or watch TV in the same room with him? (or her)

I hate having repairpeople over…and not just because I worry about the unpredictability of my dog. It’s so awkward. But then we don’t ever have friends over, so maybe we’re just awkward people. I figured I couldn’t be the weirdest person this person’s repaired for, what with my sitting on the step staring out into the backyard at my maniac of a dog.

Something started to smell. I mean, really reek. I don’t know if that’s what the inside of a washing machine smells like or what, but there was a distinctly sulfuric smell so strong that I checked my flip-flops to make sure I hadn’t stepped in dog poop.

The repair dude wrapped it all up pretty quickly, ran my card in his portable machine thingy and said, “Have a nice day.” Actually, he offered to vacuum out my dryer for $39.99 but I passed. I asked if I needed to sign for the credit card. He said no. I asked if I could get a receipt. He told me I had to call the office and they’d mail me one, because his mini-printer is broken.

I was sort of glad at that point that I’d remained in the close vicinity (that’s redundant, isn’t it?) the whole time he was working, as this was suspicious enough to make me wonder whether he was really a repairman at all or whether he had made off with my grandmother’s silver. Was I supposed to check his ID or something?

Whatever. My washing machine works.