No Apologies: Week Six of Self-Defense

Tonight we had a very small class, and we did the most work. It was excellent.

I’m working through my fear. And each week, with each move and scenario, I’m overcoming it.

I worked with a woman I’ve been hoping to work with the whole time. She’s taken the class multiple times and really has it down. She’s also a very shrewd critic of how I’m making mistakes so that I can do the move correctly. For which I’m very thankful.

She is patient but also generous. She told me to slow down and make sure I’m doing all the steps. I was hung up on doing them fast, trying to prove something. I was also doing things wrong with my footwork.

She made me break it down step by step and really slow it down, so I understood WHY I needed to do it that way.

I’m seeing physics in this class. Bases, fulcrums. Ways to leverage my weight against my opponent.

I’m starting to really understand the value of plain ol’ repetition. I’ve been out of school so long, I miss it. I miss the routine, the structured classes, the opportunity to compete with my classmates. Right now, I have all that. I’m lucky to have wonderful classmates who are not mean or spiteful. We all help each other.

THAT is the point of Feminism. Our instructor is a male, but he’s on our side. No one is add odds with anyone.

We’re all a team.

I’m learning that I was freezing up sometimes, afraid of the pain. But in a real situation, I’m not going to have time to stop because it hurts. I’m going to have to fight THROUGH the pain.

And I will. I’m already doing it.

After repeating the moves several times and breaking them down, I’m understanding where I’m faltering, how I can correct it, and why it’s useful to do it the way I was taught.

Also, again I answered the question our instructor asked us. The answer was simple.

He asked, “What does it take to survive?”

Your will to live needs to be stronger than your attacker. That’s it.

When attacked, you take control and defend yourself. That’s what you do.

I’m not a victim waiting to happen. I am a defender. A defender of myself and others.

No one did any of the moves lightly tonight. The woman I worked with used real force– I was startled. I DID panic. But then I overrode it, with her help.

I also worked with another woman who is much taller than me. But she wasn’t self-conscious about it at all, which I loved. All the women in this class have healthy self-esteem and body images. I love that.

After I tried a move on her when I was the attacker, she did it correctly. Then she apologized to me.

“No apologies,” I told her. “We PAID to do this!” Anytime I get hurt a little, it toughens me up.

And I learn something. And I keep going.

This is a safe environment where we can make mistakes and LEARN from them.

And it continues to change my personality for the better. I’m not putting up with people taking shots at me.

I’m putting people in their place when they are being totally inappropriate, both women and men.

A co-worker asked what I weigh last week. She wouldn’t drop it, and was trying to guess my jean size. She told me hers. I told her it’s none of her business. She doesn’t need to know. I was just a broken record, saying I’m not telling her. She got annoyed and quit.

That’s what happens when your self-esteem is higher. A few months ago I would have told her out of habit, thought I didn’t want to. I know what she’s trying to do: call attention to how small I am. So what? I used to work as a weight loss counselor and a lot of the women did that to me. They didn’t think I could help them because I wasn’t overweight. But I did help them. I knew the program and I believed in them. I helped one woman lose 40 pounds! It was their loss for assuming that I was less skilled at my job than other co-workers.

I get asked that a lot by other women, who think they have right to comment on my weight or my size.

They don’t. No one does. It’s my body, my business, not theirs. I know they’re only doing it comparatively, anyway. What does that prove? Nothing. I never criticize other women’s bodies or weight. In fact, I always encourage them and tell them they’re beautiful the way they are.

Ladies, STOP comparing yourself to other women. I’m not judging you. If someone is judging you, that is THEIR problem, not yours! And if you’re assuming they’re judging you, you are being crippled by your own insecurity.

Don’t let anyone take your power from you, and don’t give it away.

The Golden Set List

I still can’t believe that I got my FIRST set list on Saturday night.


I almost gave it away at the show– I thought about it. But then I thought, “That’s crazy!”

I don’t get out to a lot of shows, but I have plenty of hardcore music fan friends who do. I know a woman who goes out to shows constantly because that’s her passion. The set list is her goal and she often gets it. She has a collection.

And I know that the SET LIST is a prize. It COULD be an adventure. It could be something to fight for!

Now I remember how in high school, the punk kids always had patches with safety pins of the bands they’d seen on their hoodies and back-packs. Usually black hoodies. I was such a goody-two shoes in high school, I didn’t even go to parties. Heck, I wasn’t even INVITED to parties. I was as straight-edge as it gets. Maybe people didn’t think to ask me because they didn’t think I’d want to go. I wish they had! But I made up for that in college.

High school was a very innocent time for me. I’m glad I had that. As I age, I realize some people never did. I had a lot of friends but I never dated anyone seriously. I was very close with my family and my youth group. I had “uncool” friends just like me and we had a blast.

I brought my leather jacket along to the show but kept it in my trunk at first. Usually it’s pretty hot in there! But unfortunately this show wasn’t a bunch of people packed together. It was people sitting at tables, and then the back section was more standing room only. I wished the crowd would get to their feet! I should have set the example. I DID scream a lot, and I’d like to think that’s why they gave me the set list. I have to say, it wasn’t as much fun in that aspect as a regular show.

Nothing beats being smashed up against a stage front-row, guarding your space like a parking spot during Chicago winter. Having to elbow other fans who wants to steal it. Getting there early to claim it. Or even better, fighting your way through the crowd and cutting in front of people and refusing to move. Being small has it’s advantages at shows! Ha ha! I’m not blocking anyone’s view, so it doesn’t usually bother anyone.

The set list is gold, with black duct tape– as per the band’s colors. The back door was open during the show, and the breeze was making me cold. So I dashed out to get my leather jacket. Better.

After the show, I had to tape that set list on my jacket! People thought it was rad.

And then I remembered those high school punk kids, and I understood. They were proud.

They were saying, “This is who I am. These are the bands I love. These are the shows I’ve seen.”

They wanted people to talk to them about it. They wanted to meet other fans, argue about the music.

On my way out, I bought a black hoodie. I paid the $55 bucks because I just really wanted it and decided to splurge for my birthday. Normally I would never pay that much for a hoodie, I’d get one at Old Navy.

But this show was special. And I don’t have any good hoodies anymore! It’s perfect for fall.

I want everyone to know I’ve seen Stryper. I want everyone to know I’m a Christian.

That hoodie isn’t just about advertising the band– it’s about claiming my identity, as well.

I hope I meet some other fans, and get in some great conversations because of it.

I may keep the list on the jacket for awhile to see what conversations it starts– but I’m also afraid some rude person will just rip it off or steal it just to be nasty.

What do I do with it? Put it on my wall? Frame it?

I want to keep it, preserve it. I wonder, how many can I get?

I don’t expect I’ll ever be GIVEN one again. Or maybe so!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to get a list? Tell me your stories!

What do you do with them?

Michael Sweet Threw a Bible, and I Caught It: My First Christian Rock Show!

I’ve been avoiding music shows lately– I’m tired of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll being championed.

The gold set list on my black leather jacket-- God and rock 'n roll!

The gold set list on my black leather jacket– God and rock ‘n roll!

Tired of hearing rants about how wasted they got on the way to the show, challenging the audience to do shots. I know it’s all part of the image and that partying is what the industry is built upon. But I don’t drink or do drugs and although I go for the music and have a great time, I get tired of being one of the only sober people in the room. Tired of being hit on.

Luckily, my friend Tammie had invited me to see STRYPER last night! And I felt totally at home.

Everyone from the bands to the road crew setting up seemed to be sober. Maybe a few weren’t– but it definitely changed the atmosphere for the better. They played Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in Bolingbrook, IL.

People DRANK Coke, rather than bragging about doing it. I saw crosses, not cleavage, everywhere. Mostly, I saw a lot of respect. For the band, for the audience, for the venue.

The show was exactly what I needed after work, especially since a co-worker told me, “You look like a nun.”

She didn’t mean it as a compliment, although nuns ARE awesome. I ran home and dressed up for the first time in months, it seems. I wore a white shirt that I love with golden crosses all over it, and my favorite dangly heart earrings. I put on eye-liner and mascara and actually used hairspray! I searched frantically for the Stryper album I still have on CD, but couldn’t find it. My phone was nowhere to be found so I Facebooked my friend that I was leaving, Googled directions and wrote them down, and got to Tailgator’s within about 25 minutes.

My friend Tammie was waiting for me at the door, bless her. She’s always been a steadfast friend. Even better, she had bought our tickets in advance and we had a table RIGHT by the stage! In the left corner, where Michael Sweet would step out later on a few times.

The two opening bands were wonderful– Ignescent, and Signature. The first was definitely a Christian band, and I don’t think the second was, but I really enjoyed both! As always, I missed a lot that I couldn’t hear– but the musicianship and performances were great. I loved the fact that Ignescent front woman Jennifer Benson was a petite woman about my size. Seeing her up there rocking out– for the Lord!– was so inspiring. I loved that she still locked like a rocker, but modest as well. She had on a black dress, black shredded jeans, and a cute black skirt and black shoes. On the way to the bathroom, I met her! She talked to me for a few minutes and had the best smile. She was really sweet.

When I returned, Signature lead singer Sami Carava walked by me and gave me a sweaty kiss on the cheek, and I grinned.

And as set-up began for STRYPER, I saw the set list being duct-taped down, right in front of us! Black tape.

Bass player Tim Gaines was directly in front of us.

I asked Tammie to use her phone to look-up the verse on the banner behind the drum kit, Isiah 53:5. She had a Bible app! We scrolled down and found it, and I loved it.

Once the set began, I was transported.

Earlier, Tammie had posted a Facebook photo of a BIBLE Stryper had thrown into the crowd Friday night at an acoustic show at the same venue. This was the electric show. As soon as I saw that, I decided my goal would be to GET ONE myself! She also had a yellow guitar pick, given away for their 30th Anniversary tour– they began in 1984.

I saw the tiny hornet-yellow picks set up on each mic with an apparatus that had them lined up for the band members to toss to the crowd.

During, “Call and Respond,” Michael Sweet was throwing Bibles.

I JUMPED out of my chair and waved my hand without shame. “ME!! ME!!”

He looked at me, smiled and tossed one to me. I caught it!! It’s pocket-sized, perfect.

And suddenly, GOD is rock n’ roll. I am so excited to see a legendary band like Stryper endorsing the Bible. Plus, it’s the most genius gimmick ever. It’s the NIV, New Testament. It’s black, with a black band sticker.

They embodied the virtue of charity, throwing out several Bibles and guitar picks.

Sweet was riveting. I loved the Abalone squares on his guitar, and the fact that he wore nice black leather shoes, like a gentleman. Black jeans with yellow crosses down the leg and on his back pocket.

And it was so clearly about the MUSIC, the Lord, and the fans. He talked to us. But unlike every other front man I’ve ever seen, he wasn’t leering or gyrating. He was there to praise, not seduce. To commune with the fans, not challenge them to get wasted. He asked for a show of hands of fans who had been to past shows– smiled in recognition at some of them.

I realized why MUSIC is the booming business it is. It’s healing, on a soul level. And how much pressure Christian bands must face to conform– the gigs they lose and the money the pass up, to adhere to their faith. The pressure they all face to sexualize themselves to sell more albums.

I’m going to look for more Christian bands. Not so say I’m abandoning secular music– but I love the atmosphere of a Christian show and I’ll take the challenge to find more!

During a set break, Tammie showed me the Rosary she had made with rose petals from her mother’s funeral, 15 years ago. I was so happy she let me hold it, it was the most intricate Rosary I’ve ever seen. I’m Catholic and she’s Non-Denominational Christian, but we focus on what we have in common. Earlier this week, we’d talked about attempting to learn to pray the Rosary together. I love that she wants to share that with me, even though she’s not Catholic. What an extraordinary display of friendship.

Whenever I have doubts about this blog, Tammie is there reassure me I should keep going. She’s been a subscriber since she learned about it.

I felt Christ’s presence in that room. Maybe that’s a bold thing to say, but I’m alright with that.

I’ve been looking frantically for His presence– I only thought I could find it in Mass. I’ve been anxious because when my work schedule changes, I won’t likely be able to go to Mass as often, or maybe at all. But now I know you really don’t need to go to a church to find Him.

God, Christ, whoever you identify with– He’s all around us. If you only have the courage to look.

Seek the GOOD– and you will find it.

And I was reassured that I’m not alone in my faith walk. I never wondered what denomination anyone was– it didn’t matter. I felt united under God’s rock concert. We’re all struggling. We’re all trudging forward, best we can.

A man at the table to my immediate left held up two fingers in a cross sign. I saw people closing their eyes, being still- seemingly in prayer.

I loved when he said the band was going to “stop trying to be modern,” (If I heard that right!) and just go back to their roots. This was their last American tour stop before heading out to Brazil. What are the odds that I got to see them!? God’s brought me there for a reason.

I’m an old-fashioned gal, who doesn’t often feel at home in this newfangled world. Hear, hear! I was bummed that earlier I couldn’t find the CD of theirs I had bought in 2005, which still have! I wanted to show it to them, maybe try and get it signed. But look what I got instead!

God’s abundance. Thanks for reading this far– I know I’m a verbose lady!

They closed with an encore performance– “To HELL with the Devil!” That’s the only song I previously knew, and it was absolutely perfect. I was AWED that Sweet’s voice really IS as operatic as it sounded every time I played it in my car.

I bought my first and only Stryper CD in 2005, when I was living in Freeport and working as a news reporter. I interviewed a woman who was selling a bunch of random things in her home– and I snatched up that album.

Now I write on my own terms– with this blog.

The best moment of the night was after they closed with their encore performance, “To Hell with the Devil,” of course!! FINALLY, the audience all got to their feet. I had thought they were a little TOO respectful, all sitting down the whole time.

But it was also just like any other rock show– there were still drunk women lunging at the stage.

Last night was I reminded I’m right where I need to be for me, right now.

Especially when as the road crew packed up, a man HANDED ME the set list with a smile! I screamed and taped it on the back of my leather jacket. I didn’t worry about anyone stealing it, and no one did.

Tammie was so happy for me, too.

Robert Sweet fist-bumped me, and Ox Fox shook my hand as they exited the stage. They were so gracious.

We stopped at the merch table on the way out, and I decided to buy myself a birthday present: I’ll be 34 next month. I don’t have anything planned as of yet. I’ve gotten down on myself in the past for not having the markers of “adulthood” yet– not being settled down with a family and mortage.

I’m still renting and I’m single.

But God gave me this FREEDOM for a reason. And I’m grateful. I’ll enjoy it as long as I’ve got it!

I spied a hoodie with– what else?– To hell With the Devil– on the back, in yellow script lettering. I asked if there any smalls?

ONE left.

Most of my money these days goes toward basic expenses: food, bills, gas. Books. I rarely buy clothes.

But I decided I deserved this. And I gave myself permission to splurge and get it. Now I’ve got a perfect new hoodie for fall, and I can’t wait for Stryper fans to stop me and talk to me about it!

I’m sure that’ll inspire some conversations about religion and God, with all sorts of people.

I can’t wait.

Milkshakes and Laughs

Just got home from a night out with two female friends of mine, it was just what I needed!

We met up at a ’50s diner, my idea. It was perfect– I couldn’t stop jamming along to all that old-school rock n’ roll! The three of us sat down and just caught up. Hamburgers, fries, and milkshakes. We usually hang out in a larger group but I wanted to get to know the two of them this time. I like plans one-on-one or groups of three best. It’s just easier for me to hear and keep up with the conversation.

All of three of us don’t do drugs and and they aren’t heavy drinkers either. It’s just so refreshing to go somewhere wholesome and enjoy each other’s company without having to say no to alcohol. It wasn’t even on the menu! Without dodging pot smoke, or smoke at all.

As much as I love my other friends who are different from me, it’s been an incredible comfort this year to get closer with and meet a few more female Catholic friends, as well. They’re both married, but I didn’t feel left out at all. The conversation was naturally light-hearted and flowed well between us. It was a lot of good news, laughing, questions about our lives.

When I had been having a rough week, just being around their calm influence balanced me out. As much as I’ve got a rebellious streak in me, I’m really a pretty simple woman. There’s no tension between us, we all have the same core beliefs. I need that relief once in awhile.

I think I know why Catholicism is important to me. It’s the closest I come to a feeling of family. As much as I love my family, we all work and don’t get to see each other often. These two women are conservative and I realized that deep down, so am I. We are sisters in spirit.

They reminded me of something wonderful: when you have a deep faith, life is generally happy and relaxed. Good things happen. You have stability and less worries. They are the example I need.

I know I’m on the right track!

And with great girlfriends like these, I’m not worried about when I’ll arrive wherever I’m going.

I know I’ll get there.

People I Admire the Most

are not the most successful.

The ones with the best jobs, the newest cars, the impressive homes and apartments.

But the ones who are independent– who pave their own way, even if the progress seems slow.

Who live within their means and are debt-free, or working toward it.

Who work constantly because they don’t want a hand-out, even if they barely get any sleep.

I admire those who are sober, or aspire toward it. It’s a hard road, but worth the struggle.

I admire people with the biggest hearts.

The ones who listen and remember.

Who challenge you, and inspire you to grow.

The ones who enjoy one-on-one time with you, and never care what you look like.

The ones who are kind and merciful. Who bring out the best in everyone.

What I value is peace and loyalty. A history with someone is special… it is to be cherished.

Preserve it, if possible. Growing up without siblings, I don’t take friendships for granted.

Sometimes forgiveness seems like a weak thing to do. But it can also be incredibly powerful.

Forgiveness is what sets you BOTH free.

Radical forgiveness is the epitome of unconditional friendship.

And friendship is the highest form of love.

If Someone Prays for You, or Wants to

it means we *care*.

It’s not an insult.

So many people seem to be offended if I mention that.

Now I sometimes ask, “Would you mind if I said a prayer for you?” Atheists are sensitive about it.

If someone wants to pray for you, please take it as a gesture of goodwill and friendship.

It doesn’t mean we’re trying to convert you, or that we think you need “saving.”

It just means you’re important to us, or if we just met you, that you did or said something that touched us.

It means that we’re thankful for you.

That we want to remember you.

I Will


Right now, I’m cleaning out and purging stuff. Today I got $7 for some DVD’s. I went to a local store that buys them used– everyone was so busy. Hustling. Isn’t that what we’re all doing? They told me most of my DVD’s were overstock, and one set (90210– the original!) was missing one DVD. I’m not sure I’ll find it. I went home and decided as much as I like movies, they take up a lot of space and there’s a lot I need to get done anyway so it’ll help to just not have them as a distraction. I kept 19 of them. I went back with another bag with most of my collection– but the store was closed. I’ll return tomorrow and hope to get some cash for them.

I also dropped off a bunch of VHS cassettes at Unique Thrift Store– I don’t even have a VCR anymore and it takes up a lot of space. To the Book Market I dropped off a bunch of books and didn’t ask for store credit– I just wanted to donate them.

I found a box full of CD cases. It has to go.

I just want to have less possessions and be unencumbered so I can move.