November 2015

I bought a coloring book this summer and began coloring – as an adult. I used to love coloring as a child and I had the huge box of Crayola crayons to prove it. I cannot draw, but I can color.

I found some online sites which allow you to print out things to color and I did that, but these were usually not as intricate or else they were too intricate and all in all, it was a way to see if I was really going to like this, but not a good way to keep up my new hobby. I began my descent into obsession, which is my usual method of finding a hobby.

I have learned some things along the way. I thought I would share some of my insight.

  1. This is a wonderful way to relax. It takes concentration but not total concentration. This means you can watch TV and color at the same time. Or you can color with music in the background. Or you can color and just color. Sitting in a quiet room with a scented candle and peace and quiet is wonderful. But you do need really bright light to see what you are doing, not just the candle.
  2. There is no such thing as too many coloring tools. Each different brand of pencil is a slightly different color. So if the pencil claims to be red (and there is a specific definition of red in the science world) the shade will vary slightly by brand. So go ahead and buy different brands and get all the different shades. Each different book of pictures is a unique collection of varied works.
  3. You need to have a pencil sharpener for your colored pencils. I tried a standard pencil sharpener from Walmart and had trouble with it. I don’t know exactly why, but an eyebrow pencil sharpener worked better and a specifically purchased sharpener worked even better.
  4. Crayola pencils give me the most trouble sharpening them. The point will almost appear and then it breaks off. I have spoken with other people and they have this same problem. I don’t know why it happens or how to make it stop. It is annoying and ruins the Zen-type experience, but one must soldier on in the face of adversity.
  5. Not all adult coloring books are created equal. Some are printed on two sides and I have no idea why that happens. What in the hell are you supposed to do with the second side? (Markers bleed through to the other side and make it not good for anything while pencils and gel pens do not.) Some are produced with perforated edge so you can separate the pages. You need to separate the pages. (You need to twist and turn to get things colored and it is hard enough with one sheet of paper, the rest of the book would be horrible, as would the height of the coloring surface.) When they aren’t perforated, a wallpaper knife works to cut the book apart but be sure to use a cutting board (I have two scratches in my countertop because I did not do this).
  6. Some designed looks beautiful until you start to color them and then realize they were made to draw and weren’t really made to color. I have an entire book of butterfly pictures that look better in the drawing rather than in the coloring. It has taken me several tries to figure out how to actually color the things and found that I was coloring in the negative spaces and it finally worked. My current picture, now that I have figured out their method, is turning out lovely and I will enjoy the rest of the book. See rule 10 for further thoughts.
  7. There are no real rules. I’ve had friends who have said they would be too afraid of making a mistake. My pictures are full of mistakes, but I don’t believe anyone who looks at the overall finished picture has ever seen them. I have made a bad color choice and then had to carefully choose the colors around it to mitigate the error and found that the overall effect has turned out splendid. If it with pencils, you can layer the colors and create a whole new color, which has made for some lovely effects. I have run out of the lines and with colored pencils you can erase it if you do it quickly. With other media, you cannot. Whoops.
  8. You can mix media. I began with just pencils and then snuck in some gel pens. And then I got a panoply of Sharpie pens and then I got off brands of everything. The only thing that doesn’t work is the washable Crayola markers. They are washable because of some chemistry crap which makes them smeary and uneven color distribution. They are beautiful colors and I wish they would work, but I’ve ruined two pictures with them. They would work for other art projects, but they don’t do well on this. I bet if they weren’t washable, they would be wonderful and I have looked for that, but apparently kids are messy and so this isn’t the best media choice for adults.
  9. Gel pens and markers go on wet. If you run your hand over them before they dry, it will make you cranky. You either smear the lines or you get color on the side of your hand and blob it elsewhere on your paper when you go to color a different space. Use something to cover the wet – I have extra paper around which I use as an ink blot.
  10. It is okay to quit and throw it away. When you don’t like the way something is turning out, you are permitted to throw that sheet of paper away and start a new picture. It’s really that simple. There is no reason to keep working on something you don’t like. You can try to fix the problem and if it isn’t fixable, toss the damn thing. This is supposed to be fun. It is not punishment. You are the boss, be kind to yourself.
  11. If you color too long, you will get a stiff neck. As with everything else in life, there is no perfection. This is a great relaxer right up until your neck is so stiff you can’t turn your head. There are a couple ways to mitigate this side effect. The first would be to not color so long you get a stiff neck. This is not my preferred method, so I use some stretching and mobilization techniques to work the stiff neck out.

It is amazing to watch a page turn from black and white into a work of art. It is fun to see the way different media work. Some sparkle, some are really glittery, some are flat and bold, some are pastels and delicate, some are layered or shaded. It becomes fascinating to see what you can create. Even if the colors don’t seem to match right away, even if you run out of the lines, if you carefully and creatively work towards filling the page with color, the end result is amazing. And Dick says I’m much calmer.

Different books, different types of pictures, different media

Different books, different types of pictures, different media

I remember a time when people who jumped out of hiding and attacked at random and without benefit of official military sanction were called guerrillas. The official definition from Google for these people is “a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces”.

The official Google definition of terrorist is “a person who uses terrorism in the pursuit of political aims”. Apparently the difference between the two is who the target is. But is that even real? The jihadists seem to have declared war on the world’s infidels regardless of uniform.

I prefer the word guerrilla because it is closer to the word gorilla which is large scary animal and I could probably get the official Google definition for that, too, but we all know what a gorilla is. Today’s terrorists seems to be guerrillas which isn’t as terror inducing as the term terrorist.

In 1897, Frederic  Remington became very bored by the lack of anything newsworthy in Cuba and cabled to William Randolph Hearst, “Everything quiet.  There is no trouble here.  There will be no war.  Wish to return.”  In response to Remington’s message, Hearst reportedly replied, “Please remain.  You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

This is what has been described as the essence of yellow journalism. It is the usage of words as weapons. It is non-substance based “news” used to sell newspapers. It is how we know words matter.

Today, there is bad stuff in the world just as there has been since the dawn of time. If you are a Christian, you need look no further than the story of Cain and Able and if you aren’t you have your own history to check. Violence is a thing and always has been ever since that big guy noticed he could force that little guy to do something against that little guy’s will.

I am not denying there are horrible things happening around the world. I just want to know why everything bad today is carried out by a terrorist, a word which itself inspires fear and … terror. What happened to the nice old word guerrilla. I believe at the time, Che Guevara was a guerrilla rather than a terrorist, but I may be remembering wrong.

A terrorist will sell more news than a guerrilla can. I believe the world is no more hostile than it has ever been. In fact, looking at good old fashioned pictures of Inquisition torture devices, we seem to be less brutal now.

We are frightened of our own shadows because somewhere we began to believe that we could make the world safe. That’s ludicrous. If the bullets don’t get you, the germs will. No one gets out of this alive. It has always been this way. But at least now, we have antibiotics.

Someone decided that modernity could solve every problem. I have no idea why because when looking around the world, all the problems are still there and unsolved. We live longer, even in developing countries. (See what language does? These used to be called the Third World, but now they are “developing” even though most of these countries are in areas first settled by humans. Confusing.)

In our desire for safety, we are scaring the living crap out of ourselves and giving up the things that make life most desirable. Helicopter parents are protecting their snowflakes from any damage, making them unable to fend for themselves in kindergarten, college, and the real world. TSA agents are frisking old ladies at the airport and letting weapons on planes because the routine is never scrutiny.

Bullies are decried, but go ahead and try speaking without political correctness and see what happens to you, even if you are speaking the truth (as a scientific fact might be considered a truth or a historical fact might be considered truthful). But no one is teaching the bullied how to stop the attacks. Sometimes the way to stop being bullied is to fight back, sometimes it is to behave confidently – something snowflakes never learn. They are very adept at whining and pointing fingers, but they melt under pressure.

Words matter. Terrorist implies terror and helps to sell ink, airtime, clicks, whatever you are selling. Guerrillas don’t have the same cachet. Why are we helping the bad guys with our language. Oh yeah, Hearst taught us well.


Guerrilla or terrorist?

Hard word beats talent.

That’s baloney. Well, if talent does nothing at all, hard work might outrun it. But the moment talent begins to try, hard work can be beaten – easily.

Sarah is a artist. She is naturally talented. She is also schooled, but no matter how much work or schooling I put into drawing, my stick figures aren’t even up to par. I am not an artist. I have other gifts.

I can, as my Facebook friends have been forced to see, color. I can color up a storm. I’m good at arranging a palette and putting the colors together. I need someone else to draw the picture for me, but then I can color. This is a good thing because we all need our places to shine.

I belong to a writing community. It is open to any who wish to join. People post their work and it is critiqued. Some people can learn from this process. Some people have been there for quite some time and their writing is still – as my mother used to say – NSG. (Not So Good)

I have talents in this or that area. And I can excel in those areas. Other people have talents in different areas and they excel in those arenas. If we were all the same, it would be rather boring and very difficult to find a decent job. But we are each different with a variety of strengths and weaknesses.

Hard work may help one improve. I work hard at a few things. My knitting is much better than when I began. But my unknitting still leaves something to be desired which makes completing projects more difficult that it should be.

But the myth that hard work can beat talent is absurd. No matter how much I practice singing, I do not have what anyone in their right mind would consider a mellifluous voice. In fact, when I sing it is possible to see people in the vicinity begin to have blood leak from their poor abused ears. Practice doesn’t always make perfect. You have to have something to work with before that can happen.

I work exceptionally hard at the gym, but I’m fighting a losing battle. I’m on the downhill slope of age and I’m getting older by the minute. I’m trying to overcome years of inertia. And I have never been particularly coordinated. So no matter how hard I work, I can’t beat the naturally athletic adult who is forty years younger than me.

There is a problem here and it lies inside my head. My brain is full of ways the world “should” work. Hard work is supposed to pay off with spectacular and astounding results. I have no idea why my brain thinks like this. I have seen it not work for over sixty years.

Being naturally smart means you get better grades than people who aren’t, even when they study like crazy. Being good with words and having a language type brain means I can string sentences together in a way that makes them readable. I’ve won enough contests to know that this isn’t a personal opinion, but actually an outside judgment of my writing capabilities.

I cannot sing for the masses, but I love singing for myself. I cannot draw, but I can color. I have a variety of things I cannot do and a number of things that I can. This is what makes us each an individual.

I would never expect myself to begin trigonometry work. I can’t even do calculus. The function of f of g was more than my brain can handle. I can only do math when there are limited number of letters involved. Once the whole damn alphabet gets in on it, it is beyond me.

But I know people who are math inclined. And I am amazed. But I’m not going to be hurt if I can’t keep up with them. I’m a word person, not a number person.

So, why do I punish myself for being not in my twenties, not genetically athletic, unbalanced, and weak? I don’t punish myself for not understanding higher math concepts. But I castigate myself on a regular basis for what I cannot do at the gym. I work hard. I wish I was naturally talented, but I’m going to have to talk myself into accepting that my hard work is not going to catapult me past talented, younger, stronger individuals.

I am the best I have ever been. Today I was tossing around weight I couldn’t even move off the mat when I started. Today I didn’t quit when I wanted to. Today I was a freaking rock star. I wish I felt like one.


Perhaps it is just my box, but I think it is CrossFit and the CrossFit mindset that is alienating people who just want to be healthier. Programming for the WODs each week are supposed to, in an ideal world, have some meaning, not just be a series of pounding “awesomeness” that lead to injury.

For example, this week at my box there has been a WOD calling for lateral over the box jumps (24/20) for a total of 30 jumps split into rounds of ten (along with other crap). What better way to blow out your knee that putting that type of cross stress on the joint. I may at some time in my life be called upon to jump over something. But if that happens, I sure as shit am not going to turn sideways to do it because that would be monumentally stupid. (I did step overs on a shorter box because my knees were already damaged from Monday’s WOD.)

Today, there were burpee deadlifts. Is that even really a thing? What sort of idiot would think that instead of jumping for the burpee, one should pick up even a lighter deadlift weight (185/133)? This was in an AMRAP, and the reps were set at 10 per round. I’m wondering how many people actually set up right for the lift each time instead of powering through and trying to get the next one done. This is a great way to injure oneself.

And this is what CrossFit has become. A great way to not be awesome, but hurt. The CrossFit Games tried to kill the fit of the fittest this summer. Tremendously strong and healthy athletes were injured because of shit programming. What has happened to the CrossFit goals of functional fitness?

A burpee deadlift is never, ever going to be functional. This doesn’t really happen to people. Sure, I have to carry all the groceries into the house, but not by doing burpees along with that.

I love that I have gotten stronger and I love pushing to see how much farther this old body can take me. But by creating punitive workouts and acting like all this risky nonsense is helping is just posturing. And it isn’t helping the boxes grow. New people come in and trust the box to have a safe way for them to work out and then are expected to do dangerous things. So they try. And then they are hurt and think that CrossFit wasn’t for them.

It could be, if the programming were better. The WODs tear us down. It is the rest that rebuilds and makes us stronger. To have day after day of long, punitive WODs leads to overuse injuries. On Wednesday, the people who actually showed up (fewer than on Monday) were all beat up before they were to do lateral over the box jumps.

One of the tenets of CrossFit is to leave your ego at the door. I would like to ask the person or persons programming for me, what is their ego telling them. It isn’t a systematic and incremental improvement plan. It is a “we are a bunch of fucking maniacs who can do awesome and stupid shit” sort of mindset. This isn’t helpful even for the best of athletes.

I am and have been the oldest member at my gym since I began. The likelihood of other people my age or older even trying this is nil. People my age aren’t usually this stupid. It shouldn’t be like this. People my age would benefit greatly from this – I have. I’m more flexible, have greater balance, am stronger, and do many awesome things that were only a dream before I began this journey. But the daily punitive WODs are grinding me down. I’ve been hurting too much of late.

I think an army of old women doing reasonable and scaled CrossFit would be freaking awesome. I would encourage my friends to join me, if I could depend on some constraint from the programmer(s). When the powers that be think that Dirty 30 or Filthy 50 is a good WOD, you know you are dealing with egos and not trainers. A laundry list of bullshit doesn’t speak to long-term goals of growth. It is just a way to beat your body to a pulp and hope you survive. This isn’t something I can recommend to other non-athletes who are hoping to get healthy.

I don’t believe walking is enough. I don’t believe running is enough. I believe in weight resistance, mostly because I have seen incredible results from it. But with ego-based, warrior programming, I can’t ask my old friends to join me. It is lunacy.


I keep trying to like yoga. I don’t. It is just one more thing I’m not able to do with any panache, skill, or even adequacy. I can’t even sit in lotus position. I’m not flexible enough to do the really beginner light stretch relaxation yoga. I tried. It was a nine minute video. I quit before it was done.

Yoga is supposed to be a beneficial way to stretch and relax and find peace. I stress and find my toes are about to crack off and my balance is enough to make me fall over and crack something on my nice yoga mat which offers no padding whatsoever.

Just relax into your breathing.

I hear that but it makes not even one whit of sense to me. I breathe simply to get air to my hemoglobin and have no idea how to relax into it. I’m lucky I’m still breathing, all things considered. If I focus on my breath, I get short of breath and start panting like a lizard on a hot rock. Or I get so light headed that I become dizzy. If I don’t pay any attention to my breathing, I seem to get along okay as I’ve not yet died of hypoxia.

Put this hand here and that foot there and bend backwards and kiss your ass. Relax.

I cannot do this. I’m precariously balanced, my ass is not happy with the gentle love, and if I was able to do anything else at this point, it would be to gently strangle the asshat who just told me to relax. And then stab her at least 75 times with a rusty a knife.

Empty your mind.

My mind worked really hard to fill itself up with mostly useless trivia. I have gathered together a repertoire of useless facts and can spew them out with wild abandon.  I have been accumulating these precious tidbits for decades upon decades and they do not easily abandon me, unless I’m playing a trivia game. While I am twisted into a variety of pretzel shapes with my toes cracking off is not the time for my mind to empty itself.

Stand on one foot and turn yourself into a corkscrew.

I cannot even just stand on one foot straight up. The twisting around after attempting to balance on one foot with the ankle wobbling around like a whirligig is not going to end well. At my age it is recommended that there be grab bars installed in the bathtub to help get in and out. It is not a good idea to make me fall over and crack my head open, but that may in fact help to empty my mind. So perhaps that is the plan.

Yoga is relaxing.

No it isn’t. It is brutally hard work for the stiff and unbalanced. I have not got a snowball’s chance in hell of actually doing the poses with full concentration let alone in a relaxed state. Sipping coffee and reading a book is relaxing. Yoga in contorting around in various attitudes from flat out on the floor, which has the benefit of not being able to fall over, to completely upright.

Yoga feels good.

Well, when you stop. Of course, slicing your arm off with a butter knife feels good when you stop, too. Something with the benefit of being great when it is over should be confined to CrossFit, something I’m already having enough difficulty sucking at. I do not need another arena in which to be a total failure.

So, I’ve tried to like yoga because it is so wonderfully relaxing and health inducing. But all I find is that I’m unable to manage it, I get stressed out beyond all reason, and the only part I like at all is when I stop.

I think maybe yoga isn’t for me.