Common Sense Self-Defense

These days rarely a day goes by without us hearing about home invasions, random killings, stores robbed at gunpoint, abduction, rape, theft; you name it; it’s in the news. I think we all hope that nothing like this ever affects us or our loved ones, but you never know.

Years ago I taught self-defense and gave seminars throughout New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I taught men, women, teenagers and children. The point of it all was to raise awareness about how to keep ourselves safe and be aware of what is going on around us.

This post is part of a series of self-defense tips I plan on putting up on this blog now and then. My hope is that it will help and not scare anyone. Today’s post is about having your own self-defense plan and being aware of your surroundings.

Part 1: Have a plan

A large part of self-defense is having a plan. If you think ahead, you can plan ahead. When you prepare, it takes a lot of the guesswork and fear away. In your spare time, think up possible scenarios that might happen. Don’t let this scare you! Let it help you prepare by focusing on what you can do to protect yourself. This will change the fear of “what if this happens” to “what I’ll do if this happens.”

The following are some possible situations and actions: 

You are stopped at a red light in traffic, and someone approaches your drivers’ side and tries to open the door. Make sure that your car doors are ALWAYS locked, no matter how short the commute! In this case, blow your horn, shout, and make all the noise you can. You want people around you to see what’s happening. This may be all you need to scare off a would-be attacker.


Someone approaches you as you walk out to the parking lot toward your car. For no reason you can name, you become afraid. Listen to that inner voice that’s telling you to be afraid! Try to get a vehicle between you and the other person if you can, and shout “FIRE!” as loud as you can. (Sadly, few people will respond to “HELP!”) Create a scene. Anyone wanting to hurt you will not want a lot of people to notice.


You are home alone, and you think you hear someone breaking in. Call 911 immediately, and tell the operator your name and address and that you have a prowler. If you can, leave the phone on so that the operator can hear what’s going on while help is on the way. Don’t ever assume that this is “probably harmless;” don’t take chances with your life.

If you own a gun, have it loaded and ready to go. Be sure that you have practiced using it and know what you’re doing.

NOTE 1: Obviously, if you have children in the house, lock it and the ammunition up.

NOTE 2: Check with your local police to find out if/when they give a course in self-defense and/or how to protect yourself in your home.

If you don’t have a gun, have something in every room in your home that you could use as a weapon. Remember, you want to stop or at least slow down an attacker so that you can get away, and/or call for help.

REMEMBER: Be prepared; not scared.

Get the idea? Now start thinking and planning; you’ll be amazed at how being prepared will make you feel less afraid and more in control.

Part 2: Don’t be a victim

No one, no matter how much karate they know, or how many guns and knives they carry, is completely safe from attack. But we all stand a much better chance of avoiding attack if we learn how NOT to act like a victim. Statistics prove that many victims of violent crimes act like victims. These are people who:

  • Don’t seem to know where they are going
  • Fumble with car or house keys
  • Appear to be “tuned out” to the world around them
  • Wear headphones while jogging, walking, or biking – they are not paying attention to who or what is around them
  • Walk around talking on a cell phone and not paying attention to who is nearby

If you are guilty of any of the above, or indeed ANYTHING that takes your attention from where you are and what is around you, you need to make some changes. You may think that you are still paying attention while otherwise engaged with something like talking with your friend on a cell phone, but studies prove otherwise.

You can change yourself from being a potential victim to a non-victim by:

  • Knowing where you’re going – keep your posture straight and eyes open. This gives off an “I’m in control” vibe.
  • Having your keys ready in your hand before you actually need them; you won’t be fumbling at the door, but will be able to get right in.
  • Being aware of where you are at all times; pay attention to your surroundings at all times.

The next self-defense post will be about fighting back if you get into a situation, and some “common sense self-defense.”





The Participation Award Syndrome

I taught Tae Kwon Do for years, and each fall we joined with other karate studios in the yearly tournament. The black belts refereed each event for all age groups. The trophies were lined up on stage; grand champion, first place, second place, third place, and the participation trophies.

It was an all-day event, and for weeks I and my two co-instructors drilled our students on how to introduce themselves to the judges, and what was expected of them during their events. The whole idea of the tournament was to meet students and teachers from other karate studios, and to make it a friendly and get-to-know-you experience.

During each class we drilled our students in every event, and made a point of telling them that, if they wanted a first place trophy, they had to earn it. We told them to do their best, and to prepare themselves mentally for the tournament. Anyone who wanted extra coaching got it.

We also discussed what it was like to work hard for first place, and that sometimes we have “off” days and don’t do as well as we wanted to. We told them repeatedly that practice and preparation were the keys to being ready mentally and emotionally.

However, each year as always, there were winners and losers. Many of our students truly tried their best, but fell short anyway. Sometimes it was plain old nerves that defeated them, sometimes they hadn’t prepared themselves well enough, sometimes it just wasn’t their day.

It was difficult for the kids who had really put their heart and soul into training to come home with a participation trophy. This trophy was simply something to take home to say that you were part of that year’s competition. The kids of course were disappointed, and I can’t count the times we would sit with them and go over their performance.

What we heard the most was, “but I tried my best!” It was very hard to tell them, gently, that even when you do your very best, there can always be someone else who is better or who just practiced more. We told them that you don’t always win; that’s just how life goes.

What these kids didn’t realize at the time was they had just learned a major life lesson; sometimes you don’t win. Nearly each one of the kids who went home with only a participation trophy came back stronger the next year. Many of them took first place because they worked as hard as they could. They remembered how it felt to lose, and they didn’t want to have that happen again.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with a participation trophy. It can be an affectionate reminder that you took part in an event that meant a lot to you. All of the schools that took part in the yearly tournament agreed that we should have participation awards so that everyone would have something to take home.

This isn’t a bad idea, but these days we have become a nation of “everybody wins” and everybody gets an award just for showing up. In fact, there were many of us that disagreed with having participation awards at our tournaments. We argued that part of life is losing now and then, and you must learn how to deal with disappointment. This is how life goes, and losing can be a great teacher.

Personally, I feel that that this “everybody wins” syndrome is not helping our kids learn how to deal with life. Each time you do your best and fall flat on your face, you learn something. It’s a tough lesson, but as we said to all our students who came home with participation awards, “did you learn from this?”

Trying and failing is part of life. Nobody wins all the time. You may practice ten hours every day, tell yourself that you are a winner every minute of the day, and keep focused on your goal—and still lose. Things like this make us stronger. Things like this help us grow. Things like this make us more focused. Things like this actually make us better people.

My hope for kids today is that the participation trophy in their room makes them more determined to be better and acts as a reminder that they are worthy of trying; even if they fail.


“What’s the Point?”

I’ve heard more people say, “you’re born, you live, you die; what’s the point?” What’s the point?! The point is that we have been given life and a finite time in which to live it. The point is that no one has ever been like us, or ever will be again. The point is that there is only one of us. The point is to live this life the best way we can.

Certainly there are parts of our lives that have or will give us pain and misery. There may be physical or mental or spiritual damage we have to endure. We will lose people and pets along that way that we cherish, and feel bereft without them. Terrible, awful, horrible and hurtful things can happen to us. We can’t know what’s coming in our lives; all we can know is what’s in the NOW.

The Now is all we really have, and the whole point of that is to be fully present in it. That is the point of this life we have been given. Even if we have long stretches of hours and days where we may only breathe, eat, sleep, watch TV, play games on our devices, or just sit staring at the wall—the point is to appreciate that time.

Like every other person on this planet, I have and do spend a lot of time worrying about what might happen instead of staying in the moment. I lose sleep worrying about things that may never happen to me; and yet, I still worry.

Someone I once knew had an uncle who was told by a fortune teller to stay away from airplanes. She told him that an airplane would end his life, so he never flew anywhere.

Guess how he died: he was walking in a field, and an airplane was passing overhead. For some reason, a panel on the side of the airplane came loose, fell on him and killed him. What are the odds? Was this foreordained or just something random that happened? What was the point of that? Who knows?

What I do know is that I am right here, right now, and I am doing my best to live in the moment and be in the moment. That’s not easy to do when you have spent a goodly chunk of life worrying, but I’m trying to change.

So yes, it’s true that we are born, we live and eventually we die. The point of it all is the living part. Living our lives doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to travel the world, ride an elephant, find a cure for cancer, go to Mars, write the most amazing novel, paint a picture that changes the world, or save the environment. It can be enough to simply live our lives well.

Living our lives means just that; living it. Oscar Wilde once said, “be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” As no one can be you but you, live life as best you can. That is the point.

Lobster Rolls by the Sea

Last night the Crankee Yankee and I took off for an early supper. We have been on a mission to try out all the lobster rolls in all the restaurants along the coast; so far we’ve sampled four.

Now you wouldn’t think that a *lobster roll could be very different from place to place, but it is. Just as soon as we hit the last seafood shack and try that last lobster roll, I’ll post the results.

But more than the hunt for the perfect lobster roll is the time we have together doing our lobster roll research. For example, last evening was purely beautiful; low humidity in the mid-70s, with a periwinkle blue sky above full of scudding white clouds and seagulls calling overhead.

We rode along, cracking terrible jokes from the third grade level and laughing our heads off. There were loads of people out and about; on the beach, strolling along the sidewalks eating ice cream, biking, surfing, or just sitting on the rocks, taking in the view.

The air was full of summer scents; sun tan oil, seaweed, fried food, the somehow intoxicating smell of low tide. This unique smell comes from the various sediments full of micro-organisms that produce a strong sulfur odor. Most everyone just refers to it as the scent of the “clam flats.” (We just call it the “clam farts.”)

I haven’t worn perfume in decades, but if anyone could make a perfume that smelled like that, I’d wear it every day—yup, even if I smelled like the clam farts.

I grew up thinking that all of the oceans of the world were just like the Atlantic ocean; rough, cold, and delighting in smashing sea shells to bits (so that you rarely found anything whole), freezing your feet and legs, and generally being a real jerk. The Atlantic ocean dares you to surf in it and survive, and it sneakily sets up rip tides that can entrap you before you know it.

This gruff and unfriendly ocean might grudgingly let you have a few tumbled periwinkle shells, a slipper shell or two, or even a scuffed moon snail shell. More likely you would find bits and pieces of shells, a few crab claws and blue mussel halves, and the usual battered purple and white quohog shells.

If the Atlantic ocean was a person, it would be a wealthy but stingy and crabby old man with a bad attitude on people and life in general.

When I finally visited the Pacific ocean, it was as warm and friendly as a new puppy. The water was soothing and inviting, and the waves were gentle and glassy blue-green. There were great riches of whole sand dollars, whelks, olive shells, angel wings, limpets, sea fans, cone shells, and brightly colored coquinas strewn lavishly on the sand as from a billionaire’s hand.

Now if the Pacific ocean was a person, it would be a really fun aunt who loves to surprise you with extravagant gifts, lunches at fabulous restaurants, and who would give you the diamonds off her fingers just to please you.

I loved the Pacific ocean, but being a northerner, it seemed more a fantasy than the “real” ocean I was used to, crabby and cantankerous though it may be.

But any ocean is a good ocean. There is something about it that draws us in, even when we know that there are creatures in there large enough to swallow us whole. It may be that the pulse of the surf matches the pulse of our hearts. It could be the mystery of all that lives in the vast oceans of the world, or the fact that we still discovering new life in them.

Or it could just be the experience of eating a really good lobster roll by the sea.

*My fairly recent post called “Yelpers” explains in detail what a good lobster roll should be; check it out.

Just Drop Your End of the Rope…

I had lunch yesterday with my best friend (also my sister-in-law). We got talking about what it’s like when someone tries to engage you in a conversation you don’t want to have; for example, politics and religion. Unless you know that the person with which you are having this conversation agrees totally with you, it can be a slippery slope.

I told her about an incident I had; the person I was speaking with was the exact opposite of my own politics. This is not a situation I like; so I stayed as neutral as I could, replying with many an “uh-huh” and “that’s interesting.” I did not want to engage and get into an argument.

My best friend told me that this is called “dropping the rope.” I love this saying! It’s perfect: when someone is trying to get you to agree with something you don’t agree with, you can just drop your end of the conversational rope. This way it all stops, and no one gets hurt.

Should the person try to keep that conversation going, it’s on to the verbiage, such as: “I respectfully agree to disagree,” or, should the person really push, it’s ok to say, “let’s change the subject.” But if push comes to shove, then just drop the rope and walk away.

That way, the drama ends, the friendship hopefully can stay intact and move on. Seriously, I think that phrase says it all: “just drop your end of the rope.” If you do this, the other person only has a slack line to hold on to; there is no more pulling and tugging. It’s the way of saying, ‘we’re done here. Let’s let this go.’

Dropping the rope is not giving up; it’s giving peace to ourselves.

People-Watching — The Show is Free

The Crankee Yankee and I drove out to the beach the other evening and had a bite to eat. The place we chose was popular and there were crowds of people there. It seemed that everybody had been on the beach in the sun for hours; there were sunburns and the smell of sun lotion everywhere. Most everyone had that glazed and over-baked “I am so done with the beach” look on their faces.

The crowd was full of little kids with pails and stuffed animals, moms and dads keeping them in tow, teenagers in bathing suits and cover-ups talking and texting at the same time, young lovers, old friends and of course, folks our age and older.

The older I get, the more I enjoy people-watching. People of all colors, sizes and shapes were there. It was an amazing assortment of humanity, and I wondered what each person’s story was—you never know what others’ lives are like. Wouldn’t it be amazing to know about them all?

Everyone has a story, and you can’t tell what it is just by looking at them. Oh sure, we get an impression of who they are by listening to them or watching them, but can we ever know their hearts? How can we know, just by looking, who they really are?

At this stage of my life, I have pretty much given up judging people (at least I try). I have seen people behaving badly, arguing, fighting, doing stupid things, swearing and making asses out of themselves; but is that who they really are? If so, who am I to judge? I have no way of knowing what they’ve been through or the challenges they have had to face.

When I was younger, I did a LOT of judging. I made assumptions about people without knowing them; who they were inside, not what showed on the outside. How little I knew then. I hope I have learned better by now.

When I was young, I just assumed that I would always be straight and strong, with beautiful soft supple skin with not a wrinkle or an age spot. My entire body was a well-oiled machine; every part was strong and useful. I never had an ache or pain; my knees were strong, my face unlined, my stomach flat.

These days when I look in the mirror, I see a nice-looking older woman with suitable makeup and clothing (and jewelry, of course). I could spend hours complaining about my flaws, as there are many, but I don’t choose to. All that is just part of getting older and more comfortable in my own skin (saggy though it may be!).

As I always say when I people-watch, I hope that others are getting enjoying watching me as I am watching them! 🙂

The Alphabet of Awful Children

(This poem was inspired by The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Edward Gorey’s most iconic alphabet book. I am a big fan of his work (as was my mother), and the following is my own homage to EG.)

A is for Alice,

Who pooped in a pot,

Then blamed the whole thing on her big sister, Dot.

B is for Beaumont,

Who stole from the store,

Hid all his loot, then went back for more.

C is for Carol,

Who once on a dare,

Put French onion dip in her mom’s underwear.

D is for Donna,

Who answered the phone,

“Everyone’s dead—please leave us alone.”

E is for Edward,

A liar and sneak

Who hid a dead mouse in a sock for a week.

F is for Fergus,

Who ate his own snot,

And left his bag lunch in his locker to rot.

G is for Gertie,

Who still sucked her thumb

And scratched, in public, her pimply bum.

H is for Hoover,

Whose teeth were pea-green,

And whose hands smelt of places they shouldn’t have been.

I is for Ivy,

Whose toenails were long,

And poked out her shoes as she shuffled along.

J is for James,

Who spat in the chowder,

Then blamed his brother, and couldn’t be prouder.

K is for Kendall,

Who picked at his face,

And left bits of skin all over the place.

L is for Lola,

Whose rank, rancid breath

Hastened the class turtle’s imminent death.

M is for Mitchell,

Who threw up a frog,

That hopped on the floor and was et by the dog.

N is for Nicholas,

Who feasted on flies,

And secretly snuck them into blueberry pies.

O is for Octavia,

Who sculpted with Spam,

And topped her creations with nasty toe jam.

P is for Pete,

Who cheated and lied,

And bragged of his exploits with unseemly pride.

Q is for Queenie,

Sneaky and sly,

Who doctored the family dinner with lye.

R is for Roland,

Whose armpits were smelly,

And liked to pick lint from the hole in his belly.

S is for Selwyn,

Who peed in the hall,

All down the stairs, and all up the wall.

T is for Tilly,

Whose glasses were smeared,

And was fully as weird as originally feared.

U is for Ulrich,

Who farted while sneezing,

And set the whole household and neighbors to wheezing.

V is for Victoria,

Who flicked boogers at teachers,

And laughed as they shrieked, the unfortunate creatures.

W is for Wendell,

Who whimpered and whined,

And pouted and fussed while the family dined.

X is for Xander,

A fractious young man,

Who ate jalapenos straight out of the can.

Y is for Yolanda,

Whose odor atrocious,

Made all her clothes stink something ferocious.

Z is for Zenita,

Who barfed in the sink,

And left the whole mess, all curdled and pink.