Friday, April 29, 2011

Fun Friday XXVII: The Blame Game


Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

Having a friendly little debate seemed to work well last week, so let's try it again. I really hope some parents will chime in for this topic, as I don't have children and therefore don't have the level of experience with this topic that those with kids (especially daughters) will.

Last week, a CNN contributor by the name of LZ Granderson raised hell when he wrote an article blaming parents for dressing their young daughters like "tramps". If you haven't already read the article, you can do so here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/04/19/granderson.children.dress/index.html

Understandably, parents--and particularly mothers--were incensed at the finger of blame that was being pointed at them. You can read some typical reactions here: http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/04/this-is-so-worst-thing-youre-going-to_19.html

Now, I do think some of the stones being thrown at Granderson are unnecessary. I don't think he's a pedophile, and I don't think he's really going to break his son's legs. He was being provocative and inflammatory to prove his point--a point that pissed a lot of people off.

Since I don't have children, I'm not around them enough to see much evidence of this disturbing trend. The school groups that come into the museum where I work tend to be dressed appropriately, from what I've seen. The cute little girls look like cute little girls. But I have experienced how difficult it is to find clothes that deviate from what is currently in fashion. If you don't want to wear jeans that make you look like a plumber, you have just one other option...the so-called "Mom" jeans, and who wants to wear those? So you buy the low-rise, butt crack be damned! If it's that difficult for grown women to find options, I can easily believe it's just as challenging for parents shopping for their kids.

Toddlers wearing bikinis isn't new. Any old photo I look at from the seventies had little girls in two-piece bathing suits, but no one thought it was provocative then--it was cute. And midriff-baring isn't new, either--I remember receiving several "crop tops" for my thirteenth birthday, and they weren't considered sleazy. My mother didn't have a problem with them.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Is this a problem? Are our daughters being "sexualized" too young? If so, is it the fault of the parents or the manufacturers?

Write away!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Ok, I'll Buy Your Book...Just Please Shut Up!

Take it from this guy--pimping is just plain tacky.

Hello Dear Readers,

I realize that most writers have to market their own work, especially in this era of e-publishing. The self-published novel seems to finally have lost its stigma (a stigma that was mostly benefiting the traditional publishing houses). Even those with a glossy hardcover being released from one of the Big Five (or is it Big Three now--I've lost track?) have to do a certain amount of self-promotion, unless their last name happens to be King. I get it. I sympathize. Heck, my day job is in marketing and public relations--when I get published, I'll be right there with you. But there is a fine line between doing it well and just plain over-doing it. And too many seem to be falling into the latter category these days.

Take Facebook. It's a social networking site, right? But it didn't take long before entrepreneurs saw its untapped potential. Soon every corporation,company, and product had its own Fan Page (and yes, I have one too--something I created for a school assignment and am still not completely comfortable with), and that's fine. If I choose to "like" the page of Sally Twopens, Writer, I am consciously (most of the time) opting to hear how things are going with Sally's writing. If her best-seller, Writing My Way Out of a Paper Bag, gets released in paperback, I probably want to know. If it gets nominated for a Governor Generals Award, I may want to know that, too. I'll most likely want to comment, "You go, Sally!" or something equally poetic. If Sally gets her own website and meets her agent for lunch and they bond over tuna fish and then she decides to write a movie script, all in the same day...well, I may decide I've had enough of Sally for a while. But at least I opted to get those news feeds.

What about if you're just my Friend? Do I really want to see incessant status updates of "buy my book...buy my book...BUY MY @!@%@^#^*^^*^(%^#%#@ BOOK, ALREADY!!! Hey, how come no one is buying my book yet?"

Um, in a word...NO.

Like I said, I can sympathize. I know as writers, we're often reduced to trotting out the push-carts and hand-labeled signs. But self-promotion needn't give way to pimping, and on Facebook, no less. If I'm your Friend, I want to hear about you. Show me something that amused you. Tell me something interesting once in a while. Tell me there's more to you than what you have to sell. Because otherwise, I'll start to feel like you only want One Thing from me. And trust me--if I'm feeling that way, others are too.

A recent independent survey of Facebook users held by an advertising company showed that the number one reason people delete Friends, Fan Pages, Groups, or block news feeds was "too frequent updates". As in sales pitches. People do not delete Friends for being witty, charming, and interesting. They delete them for acting like Amway sellers.

There's another reason this constant pimping doesn't work. It comes off as desperation. If you've got a great product, by all means, mention it. But then shut up about it, and go back to being the wonderful person your Friends know and love. Let word of mouth do its job. Five readers posting about how great Writing My Way Out of a Paper Bag is has got to be at least fifty times more effective than Sally Twopens telling us to buy her book the same number of times. After all, she's Sally Twopens. What more does she have to prove?

Have you come across this common Facebook sin, Dear Readers? Does it drive you crazy? Share your story of social networking faux pas! And if you've discovered the perfect way to market your book without losing friends and family, by all means share.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ugh.


Hello Dear Readers,

I don't get sick very often anymore, but when I do, it's a nightmare. After suffering from a vicious sore throat last week, I took a couple of days off to rest and recuperate, and then came back to work. Bad idea. I was very ill throughout the long weekend, and am still sick this week. Today was my first day back at work, and my head was pounding through every hour. Ugh. I hate being sick.

Our health is so important, but often we don't appreciate it until we're ill. I'm really looking forward to feeling like myself again.

Am I this sick because of over-training? I don't know, but I do know my body is telling me I need a rest. And, for a change, I'm listening to it. I'm going to ease back into my usual routine, beginning tomorrow, instead of plunging ahead full-throttle. I just hope this hasn't set me back too far in terms of my muay thai training. I hope I haven't lost too much strength.

I do think being sick can teach us a few things, if we allow it to. When your body forces you to rest, do you look forward to resuming your daily routine as soon as you're able? Do you enjoy the idea of returning to work and the rest of your life?

If so, great. If not...it could be time to make some changes.

That's all from the sickbed today, my friends. Stay well.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dumped!


Hello Dear Readers,

I may be one of the only people who can say they've been dumped by their personal trainer. Helene gave me the news on Monday, just as I was waiting for my eagerly-anticipated meal plan (well, to be completely honest, it wasn't always eagerly anticipated).

Helene was afraid I'd be upset, but I wasn't--for two reasons. One, she had a very good reason for letting me go. And two, I agreed with her.

I've been concerned that I jumped into hiring her too fast. My kickboxing schedule is so hectic and draining that I haven't had the chance to complete the short running test she asked for, let alone try one of the workouts she designed for me. But, having spent the money, I felt I had no choice but to go through with it. I didn't want to tell her that perhaps I'd made a mistake...something she figured out on her own, anyways.

You see, Helene is very concerned about adding anything else to my plate. She's afraid I'm at risk of over training, and that the addition of anything--even a meal plan--could be too stressful for me at this point. She knew I was comfortable with the Eating For Life plan, so she suggested that I follow it again, while being sure to add extra protein to each meal and take plenty of fish oil supplements.

She also refunded my money. I am still in awe of her honesty. I think most people would have taken the money and ran. I'm very grateful for what she did.

My kru has a new training schedule for me that we're going to go over next week, so I can prepare for my first pre-test in June. From what I understand, this plan will have some flexibility built in, so I can make some of my own choices, which would be great. To pass the test, I need to start running and working with weights, but if I'm kickboxing eight hours a week or more, that doesn't leave me with a lot of extra time.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Was Helene right to "fire" me? Is over training really a risk? Have you over trained before? If so, what happened? And how important is an eating plan to your workout regime?

As for me, I'll be starting my Eating for Life plan on Tuesday, after the holiday. I'll also start mixing up my routine with running and weights next week. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Challenge #7: Food Fight


Welcome back, Dear Readers.

Sorry for the infrequency of my posts lately. I'm still trying to find some balance between my insane kickboxing schedule and everything else in my life. After an extra-long boxing class on Saturday and four rounds of sparring, I wasn't feeling so good, so I've been bedridden with what feels like a combination cold/flu and sheer exhaustion ever since.

Now back to the Climbing Out of the Big, Black Hole series.

I once spent a year living in pretty extreme poverty. After graduating from high school, I worked as a Pizza Hut waitress in a small Northern town. It wasn't unusual for fifteen teenagers to come into my section and place one order for cheese bread and a round of waters. Not that I begrudged the town's youth their fun, but when they took up several of my tables for hours with a $10 tab, I knew the night's take was not going to be good. My pay check was so small that it just barely covered my rent. Everything else, including utilities and groceries, was paid for with my meager tips. I remember digging under my couch cushions for coins, hoping to find a little loose change so I could buy some food.

When I went to the grocery store in those days, I took a calculator with me. I had to be very careful about every cent that I spent, and this meant I didn't have a lot of leeway to purchase healthy food. I ate a lot of boxed macaroni and cheese that year, and learned that generic cereal is just not worth it. Disgusting!

That said, I'm really glad I had that experience. I believe it made me appreciate everything I have today much more than I would have if I'd never had to struggle to make ends meet. But it also made me feel like the real definition of wealth and abundance is being able to buy whatever you want at the grocery store.

My mother believed in a well-stocked pantry, and I inherited that tendency from her. However, I've come to realize--through trial and error and much unnecessary food spoilage--that it's better to buy what you need when you need it than to stock up on enough food to last through a nuclear war.

(When I was home this past Christmas, I was surprised to see a Rubbermaid bin filled with China Lily Soy Sauce--at least a dozen bottles, if not more. When I asked my mom about it, her reasoning was, "sometimes I can't find it at the grocery store". So you need a bin full of it? How much soy sauce do you people use? Note to China Lily: please send these people a lifetime supply.)

That kind of stockpiling used to seem normal to me, but I'm struggling to change my ways. I don't have much control over my utility costs or Internet service, but I can control what I spend on groceries. It's so easy for food costs to get out of control, especially when you're trying to follow a healthy, high-protein eating plan.

How about you, Dear Readers? Do you find you buy more at the grocery store than you can possibly eat? Do you have any cost-saving tips?

Oh, and tip your waiters generously! They need it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fun Friday XXVI: Sexist Pig?


Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

The weekend is finally upon us. Whew!

This may be the last of the "Fun Fridays". I haven't had much of a response to them, whether I invite a full-fledged story from a writing prompt or ask a simple question to get a dialogue going. So, I'm taking one more stab at it--trying to have a fun little debate with whoever wants to chime in. If this doesn't work either, I'm going to have to accept that writing exercises just don't work on this particular blog.

As a woman, I'm highly sympathetic to tales of the glass ceiling and especially to what females are subjected to in other countries. But I'm wondering if we occasionally take the accusations of sexism too far in North American society.

Yes, there are still sexist pigs out there. But are we using that to defend our own shortcomings just a little too often? I'll explain.

I was recently told that a man I know in a professional context "underestimates women". I was really surprised, since that hadn't been my experience at all. Once I heard the other side of the story, it was clear that the woman in question--while highly skilled--hadn't been willing to do the work to reach the level she was demanding, and was offended at the very idea that she was required to do any additional work. In this case, writing the guy off as sexist was easier than admitting there would be a lot of effort involved to achieve the goals she wanted.

While I get along great with men for the most part, and wouldn't trade my male friends for anything, I have probably been guilty of leaping to the "sexist!" excuse too fast as well. When I first began my career, journalism was very much an Old Boy's Club. In many ways, it still is. I was a rookie reporter who thought she was doing everything right--during an internship at a tabloid, I made it very clear that I wanted to work for them full-time once I graduated. I spent hours on a creative resume and cover letter; I had an impressive portfolio, and I worked really hard during my three week internship. When I was passed over for my male classmate, who tossed a crumpled piece of paper with his number on the editor's desk before leaving, I thought I was a victim of chauvinism. Look how hard I'd tried! Look how much I'd proven myself! Clearly, I had no hope of winning favour in a place where all the editors were men who talked about sports all day--conversations my classmate easily joined. Plus, it was said (among the female reporters) that the editor was sexist, and had a "thing" against the women who worked for him.

With the benefit of hindsight, I view this incident very differently. The paper prided itself on raw coverage of crime and anything scandalous. It didn't shy away from being pushy and offensive. As a reporter, I had my strengths, but being pushy and offensive was not my style. If someone didn't want to talk to me, I showed sensitivity and respect, and left them alone. Those attributes were not valued by the paper I wanted to work for. The cover letter I'd thought was so creative was a hokey gimmick. I was a kid, and that's exactly what my "give me this job or I'll just die! Or beg" pleas made me out to be.

However, my male counterpart (the guy who got the job I so desperately wanted) was much better suited for that environment. He's a brilliant reporter, and he's not afraid to stick his elbows out and get the story at any cost. He's a nice guy, but he can leave nice at the door in order to do his job. He did extremely well for that paper, and they made a smart move in hiring him. His star has never stopped rising, and it's well deserved. I don't begrudge him any of his success.

As for the so-called chauvinistic editor, I'll never know for sure whether he was or wasn't, but I do know he hired the right person. Being a woman had nothing to do with why I wasn't hired.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Are women too quick to assume men are sexist? Have you made this judgment yourself and been wrong, or know someone else who has? Or do you think women have every right to be defensive about this? Guys, I would love your opinion, too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Name By Any Other...


Hello Dear Readers,

This one goes out to my fellow scribes: when is it appropriate to call yourself a writer? When you've had a book published? When you put your story up for sale on-line? When the only person who has seen your work is your mother, as you quietly pound out your fiction on a computer in your basement?

Are you a writer even when you're not writing anything? So often I've heard the admonishment, "Writers write. It's what they do. Period. If you're a writer, you must write."

Really? What about when you're too busy, or lack inspiration? What about those days, weeks or months where you just can't manage to find the time? Are you any less a writer because you're going through a time of low productivity?

It may not be as catchy, but I think the saying should be changed to: "Writers want to write. And they try their best to find ways to accomplish this."

People tend to be fairly touchy about labels, and this isn't restricted to writing. My blogging buddy Kimberly Belle was once attacked about a fairly innocuous post where she called herself a chef. Some people took issue with that, saying she was "just" a caterer. It's unbelievable how incensed one woman in particular became about a title.

For myself, I'm not comfortable with people calling me an "author" or a "novelist". Yes, I've written several novels, but until the general public can access them, I'll stick with "writer". Even when I don't have time to write, I'm still a writer. (And I'm always writing during my day job, this blog, and my freelance business. Can't escape that.)

The problem is, if you tell someone you're an "author", the follow-up question is invariably:

"Oh, what's the name of your book? Where can I buy it?" or "Would I recognize your name? Would I have read anything you've written?"

Writer can sometimes generate these responses, too, but not nearly as often.

What do you call yourself? Have you ever been in the position of having to defend your title?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Confessions of an Addict


My addiction began when I was twelve years old. When I lived at home with my parents, it was kept in check, but once I grew up and started living on my own, it ran rampant.

It replaced too many things in my life, including water, and even food at times. It encouraged me to consume too much junk, as crap eating was the perfect accompaniment. It kept me awake at night, and left me feeling ill, bloated, and crampy.

It wore away some of the enamel on my front teeth, creating a deep groove. And god only knows what it's doing to my bones. Not to mention it's becoming quite the expensive addiction. I'm paying quite a bit more than I should for something that is bad to me.

It's time to say goodbye, Diet Pepsi.

You may laugh, but addiction to diet soda is no funny business. I can expect a few weeks of headaches and general crankiness, which is why I'm weaning myself off the crack gradually. I hope to keep myself to one can per day until my current 12-pack is done, and then that's it: it's over.

Problem is, I really don't know what to replace it with. I know I should drink a lot more water in general, but it's so boring I can't see drinking it all the time. Sugary drinks like juice and ice-tea can't replace my habit, or I'll have another issue. Milk is okay, but it's not exactly thirst-quenching on a hot day, which can also be said for regular tea. I'm sure I'll have my share of Crystal Light and the like, but I want to curb my aspartame consumption...I want to make sure that if I give up my beloved Diet Pepsi, it really will benefit my body.

I used to think I wouldn't stop drinking Diet Pepsi until a doctor ordered me to. But it's kind of scary to think I knew that day would come. Why not stop now?

Have you ever kicked a soft drink or caffeine addiction? How did you do it? Or are you still addicted? Any thought of giving it up?

Wish me luck! This is gonna be hard!

PS...After seeing these disturbing photos of how bad one's teeth can potentially get, I'm happier than ever with this decision. The person on the left drank six cans of Mountain Dew per day; on the right is erosion due to Coca-Cola consumption. I wish I'd never started drinking this crap!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Big, Fat Inspiration


Happy Monday, Dear Readers...if there is such a thing.

Last week was a bleak one for me, which is why I didn't post as often. When I'm in a negative head space, the last thing I want to do is risk bringing all of you down. But, needless to say, I was in desperate need of inspiration.

Sometimes we find inspiration in the strangest places, and I discovered mine in a big, fat, animated panda. Who knew? I've always loved the movie Kung Fu Panda, but I never expected so much of Po's story to resonate with my own. After all, he's an animated panda with a duck for a father. How much could we possibly have in common? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

When the movie begins, Po is an unlikely hero. He's fat, out-of-shape, unambitious, and lazy. He spends his days working in a noodle shop for his dad, while secretly worshipping The Furious Five--the best martial artists in China.

Through a strange twist of fate, Po ends up being mistaken for the legendary Dragon Warrior, who is supposed to bring peace to the valley. He is torn away from the family noodle shop and suddenly under the care of Kung Fu Master Shifu, who has to take the pudgy panda and--against all odds--turn him into a fierce warrior.

Po's early days at the Jade Palace are not happy ones. Shifu is reluctant to train him, to say the least. His idols, the Furious Five, ridicule or openly despise him. And everyone believes his presence at the training camp is a mistake.

It is Po's great love for Kung Fu and his determination not to give up that keeps him at the Jade Palace initially, but slowly Shifu learns that he cannot train Po the way he has trained his other fighters. He must use Po's own personality quirks to his advantage.

The movie may have a simple message, ultimately, but it's an important one. Po doesn't succeed by imitating his idols--he succeeds by being the best big, fat panda he can be. As he says to his foe, "I'm not a big, fat panda--I'm the big, fat panda."

Other aspects of his story really resonated with me:

1) Training in any martial art is really hard, and a lot of the time, it sucks
2) No one is ever perfect at it, and your kru is always going to find flaws in your technique
3) The more you want something, the harder you have to work for it
4) The impossible can happen, and...
5) Embracing your so-called "weaknesses" can turn them to your advantage

At the very least, I am grateful that my training does not involve spiked clubs, geysers of fire, or nerve attacks. But my kru did warn me that my training will be "ramping up" next week....

In what unlikely places have you found inspiration? Do you find movies like Kung Fu Panda inspiring? Why or why not?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lest We Forget


Seventeen years ago today, violence erupted in Rwanda. By the time the killing stopped three months later, nearly one million people had been brutally murdered by their friends and neighbors. An entire ethnic group, the Tutsis, was nearly wiped out. Those who survived lost most (if not all) of their family members, and were forced to bear witness as their loved ones were tortured, massacred, and raped. Most of us will never be able to imagine what the survivors are faced with every single day, just to be able to put one foot in front of the other.

I was a young Canadian woman when violence struck Rwanda. Newly graduated from college, I didn't understand what was happening, and although I skimmed the headlines of my roommate's daily newspaper, I had only a vague idea of what was really going on. I wasn't the only one.

Even today, almost two decades later, a lot of people don't get it. You can find plenty of articles on-line that refer to Rwanda's tragedy as a "civil war". That suggests two armies fighting for control...not one group slaughtering unarmed innocents in what was clearly a racially-motivated genocide.

I can't remember when my ignorance of Rwanda turned into a search for answers, but a search it is. It most likely started with a viewing of Hotel Rwanda, an excellent but heartbreaking true-life story of a Hutu man who repeatedly risked his life and livelihood to shelter Tutsis from the massacre taking place just outside his hotel doors.

After the world turned its back on Europe's Jews during the second World War, we cried "Never Again!" once the great atrocities of the Holocaust were revealed. But tragically, no one seemed to remember that resolution when Rwanda needed help. The international community ignored the tiny country; UN Peacekeepers stood by while innocents were murdered right in front of them; the priests and nuns who'd become a part of their community fled to their countries of origin, leaving their doomed parishioners behind to die.

"It's just Africans killing Africans," people said. "It's what they do." Blissfully ignoring the fact that all three ethnic groups in Rwanda had a long history of coexisting peacefully until Belgium colonialism pitted them against each other. It was white Europeans who forced the people of these hills to carry race identification cards, and who proclaimed one ethnic group was superior to the other. It was the Belgians who initiated a state of segregation in Rwanda.

In the last few years, I've read books by genocide survivors, experts, educators, and the killers themselves. I've been left with as many questions as I've found answers. The one thing I do know is that human life is valued much too little...if people who were lifelong friends can suddenly think of their neighbors as cockroaches and split their skulls with machetes, what hope is there for compassion in this world?

I'm still searching for that answer.

Ibuka. Remember Rwanda.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Challenge #6: Clicking My Way Into The Darkside


Happy Hump Day, Dear Readers,

When I decided to get out of debt once and for all, one of the first steps I had to take was ending my addiction to on-line shopping. EBay made it far too easy to damage my bottom-line: a few well-chosen keywords, and I literally had thousands of options right at my fingertips.

Ensconced in a less-than-satisfactory relationship, I comforted myself with presents...lots and lots of presents. At the height of my addiction, I had packages arriving at my door each and every day. On the bright side, there was always something to look forward to, but on the dark side, it was stuff I didn't need. While I never got to the point (thankfully!) where I would be featured on Hoarders, there were times I wouldn't bother to open the packages for months, or take the tags off. I forgot about all the things I owned and was surprised to discover them. That alone should have told me something.

My hometown has some nice stores, but it's far from a shopping Mecca. If I'd actually had to go out and buy everything I purchased, I never would have gotten into trouble. Breaking the hold on-line shopping had over me wasn't easy. Changing my life circumstances helped, but whenever I was depressed or lonely, I headed for the shopping sites. Telling myself I was just "playing", I'd fill a virtual cart with items just to see what the total would amount to...but then I'd click "purchase" anyway, and feel horrible afterward.

I called Victoria's Secret and other companies and asked them to stop sending me catalogues. I removed all shopping sites from my computer's bookmarks, and blocked them from my search engines. I even went to a financial counseling session, where I found myself surrounded by people whose wages had been garnished and who were being called day and night by collection agencies. I was far from being in that position, but it was a jarring wake-up call.

Here are some tips that helped me curb my desire to on-line shop:

1) A lot of shopping (on-line and otherwise) is done on impulse. Take a day, or even a week, to do some soul-searching and ask yourself if the purchase is really something you will need or use. Most of the time, it isn't!

2) Before you buy something new, take a look at what you already have. It might convince you not to buy even more stuff. Try to be grateful for what you have, instead of coveting more. (A trick for me was to make my way through my vast "To Be Ironed" bag before I bought anything else. That really talked me out of buying more clothes--hours of ironing will do that to a person.)

3) Start a savings account and begin saving up for something that's really important to you: a trip somewhere marvelous; a university course; a car. Once you see yourself moving closer to a goal, it's easier to avoid blowing your money on stuff you don't need.

4) Stay away from any triggers. Avoid shopping sites, fashion magazines (which often advertise shopping sites), and catalogues until you're out of the red.

How about you, Dear Readers? Have any of you been infected by the Internet shopping bug? How did you beat it?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unforgivable Blackness


Hello Dear Readers,

Over the weekend, as I searched for movies to inspire me (and I'm sorry--The Fighter didn't cut it. I was very disappointed in that one), I ended up watching Unforgivable Blackness, a PBS documentary about Jack Johnson.

In case you don't know, Johnson was the first African-American to win the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. He paid dearly for his success.

Johnson started boxing in the late 1800s, and from the beginning, he exhibited a style that most fight fans hadn't seen before. He waited for his opponents to make a mistake, and then capitalized on their errors, adopting a more defensive approach than was seen in his day. As Johnson defeated all of the eligible black and white opponents, he began to demand a shot at the title. Unfortunately, the so-called "Heavyweight Champion of the World" was able to avoid facing Johnson in the ring by saying he would never fight a black man.

Thankfully, Tommy Burns finally bowed to public pressure, and lost to Johnson in the fourteenth round. But this still wasn't enough for a racist public, who said that since the former champion James J. Jeffries had awarded Burns the title but hadn't actually lost it in combat, Johnson had yet to defeat the "real" champion. Jeffries also played the racist card to avoid fighting Johnson--his awarding of the title to Burns was a blatant slap in the face. In 1910, Jeffries finally came out of retirement to fight Johnson, who knocked him down in the 15th round. The fight was stopped to prevent the public from seeing Jeffries get knocked out by a black man. Perish, forbid.

Johnson is widely regarded to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. His fight record is staggering: 104 fights, 73 wins, 40 knockouts, 13 losses, 10 draws, and five no-contests. (And this is in an era when boxing fights could last 40 rounds!) He was an exceptionally brave man who weathered constant death threats, riots that followed his wins against white fighters, nuisance arrests, and more. His opponents frequently taunted him with racist slurs throughout his fights...until he shut them up. Like Muhammad Ali who would follow, Johnson refused to "live as a slave" and was highly outspoken and clever. He dated whomever he chose, including white women, which led to his arrest on trumped-up charges in 1912.

One wonders how different Johnson's life would be if he'd been born today, and how he would have felt to see so many great African-American fighters win the title he fought so long and hard for--not in the boxing ring, but in the political arena, hoping for a chance to fight at all.

During the documentary, boxing was referred to as a great symbol of masculinity, and it reminded me how hard women have had to work to be accepted in the sport. Even though I haven't faced anywhere near the same amount of adversity Johnson did, I have had to struggle against the sexist, demeaning attitudes of other fighters and even gym owners. I've learned to leave the coaches who refused to believe in me and my potential and not look back. Unlike Johnson, I believe I've found a home in this sport. I only wish he could have had the same opportunity.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fun Friday XXV: The Calling


Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

As always, I am very glad it's almost the weekend.

Lately, I've been thinking about careers and how people discover what it is they love to do. I've always felt fortunate that I had a calling, very early on, to write. Even though I don't write novels for a living yet, my writing ability did lead me to the jobs I have today, and has supported me nicely throughout my adult life.

But what about those who don't have similar callings? I once had a friend who always wanted to be a hairdresser. She was accepted into school before she found out she was deathly allergic to a lot of the chemicals used in salons. Goodbye, dream. She felt lost, and had no idea how to figure out what to do next.

Since being a full-time novelist is far from a sure thing, I've spent quite a bit of time wondering what I'd do if I didn't write for a living. I enjoyed being a journalist, but I also think I'd love to work with animals, helping to protect them and their environment in some way. "Marine biologist" wasn't a career choice put before me when I graduated, but I wish I'd known about it when I was younger--it sounds perfect for me! (And I was always good at biology.) There's a course you can take to be an adventure travel guide, which sounds pretty interesting. I've also looked into being a firefighter, and when I was in high school, I strongly considered becoming a psychologist. If I was to go that route, I'd be more interested in the forensics side of the field--helping to profile offenders and analyze crime scenes--than I would be in family and marital counselling.

How about you, Dear Readers? What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid? Did you have a calling? Do you love your day job--why or why not? And if you could do something else, what would it be?

Have a great weekend!