ACW Episode 277 – School’s out!


Click on the image to view it full-sized.

So, I’m a little late getting this one up. I mean, it’s the middle of July and I’m talking about the end of school, so yeah, a little late. But this one was actually too good (in my opinion) to not draw and post. And yes, this actually happened. The kids finished up with school in time for us to drive 2 1/2 days to Milwaukee so we could spend 4 days doing nothing but karate. And then we spent a day visiting with family in Chicago, and then we spent another 2 days driving home. And I was soooooooooo exhausted when we got home. But we did survive and make it home, so there’s that.

Move It Mama Monday – More Love for the MisFit Shine

Well, I’ve had my MisFit Shine for over a month now, and I’m still very happy with it. While I do miss some of the features of the Up Band, the fact that I now have an activity monitor that tells me both how much I’m moving and what time it is more than makes up for that. Seriously, I hated trying to wear a watch and the Up Band on the same wrist. The Up Band needs to be worn on the side of your non-dominant hand, which is the same side I wear a watch on. I cannot stand to wear a watch on my right wrist because I feel like it interferes with my ability to draw and type, two things I try to do lots of throughout the day.

In fact, the problem with needing a watch and an activity monitor had led me to depending a lot on my Wii Fit U monitor (yes, I am one of those weirdos who wears multiple fitness monitors; sue me). The Wii Fit U monitor shows both step count, calories burned, and the time of day! Pretty handy, but it doesn’t come with a wrist band. Instead, it comes with a clip. I prefer to wear the Wii Fit U monitor clipped to my shoe laces, because I think it takes more accurate readings of my step count that way. But wearing it on my shoe meant that every time I wanted to see what time it was, I had to bend over to check my shoe. And that looked a little too much like an invitation to be kicked in the rear-end for my tastes.

So, I finally have my combined wrist watch and activity monitor and I’m happy. Plus, as I mentioned last time, the MisFit Shine just looks gorgeous! Very sleek, very polished. It has also proved to be water-proof, at least during my water aerobics class, though it doesn’t track an hour of water aerobics the same way it tracks walking or dancing. And I’m finding that no fitness band can really seem to track the amount of effort I put into karate classes. I accrue more steps in a 20-minute walk than I will in 2 hours of karate. Granted, I cover more distance in the walk, but 2 hours of karate class leaves, with all the kicking and punching and push-ups and deep squats, leaves me exhausted. But it’s done in a very limited space, so I guess that’s what’s throwing off all the fitness monitors I’ve ever used.

The solution to that may be to set the MisFit Shine to specifically track that activity while I do it. There’s an option to track particular activities by triple-tapping on the Shine before starting that activity. It can be set up in the app for the Shine. But the app doesn’t list karate. It does list yoga, though, which is the activity I think is closest to karate, so I may try setting it up for that. Or maybe I’ll set it up for basketball. Basket ball is somewhat similar to karate, although I don’t think kicking and punching an opponent is allowed in either yoga or basketball.

But overall, I’m still loving the MisFit Shine!

ACW Episode 248 – Karate Camp!


Click on the pic to see it bigger!

At the beginning of the month, the whole family went to a 4-day karate camp in National Harbor. This was a major event, since 4 of the instructors there were from Okinawa, including the son of the current head of our style of karate. We did 3 hours of karate the first day, 6 hours on the second and third day, and by the fourth day we couldn’t move, so we didn’t.

I’m still sort of recovering from that camp. Of course, I had Girl Scout volunteer training all weekend, which has left me exhausted, and I’m trying to get ready for a kobudo (Okinawan traditional weapons) test this coming weekend. I am very, very tired.

ACW Episode “This is not a webcomic” – joint pain, priorities, and MEESMo

No webcomic today! Although I promise you there will be some fun cartoon art later down in this post.

But first, let me 'splain…

Over the past few months, I've been having increasing problems with joint pain. It actually started years ago, after I gave birth to the Princess and then had two knee injuries in a row. My knees hurt for months, but eventually the pain faded away to the occasional twinge when I went up and down the stairs. After Pixie was born, my knees began causing me so much trouble, I ended up going to a physical therapist for a couple months to strengthen them and reduce the pain. That seemed to help, and again, the pain faded away to the occasional twinge when heading up or down the stairs.

But the knee pain kept coming back, off and on throughout the years. I realized certain types of exercise – yoga, biking, swimming, water aerobics, and Wii Fit – seemed to keep the pain at bay. Other exercises – high impact stuff like running and karate – seemed to make it worse. I eventually gave up running in favor of water aerobics. As for karate, I started learning how to do things with as little impact on my knees as I could achieve (no more deep knee bends for this karate woman!). I figured it was osteo-arthritis, and it was only natural for a woman approaching her mid-forties to feel aches and pains in her knees from time to time.

Of course, there was also the occasional time when I'd come down with what I thought was the flu and I'd wind up stuck in bed for a day or so. Only I didn't have a fever… Or any congestion… Or any nausea… Or any other symptoms except aches and pains in my joints that put me under the covers with the heating pad for a while.

All of this was okay, though. The knee pain slowed me down a little, the flu-like days were a minor pain but nothing more, and none of it was enough to interfere with my daily life. Then last November I tore my meniscus and ACL in my right leg, and it was all downhill from there.

Let me say up front that I had a very successful reconstructive surgery and that my physical therapy, while it lasted months, did miracles for me. By the time March came around, I no longer limped and I could walk, swim, bike and hop on the elliptical with no pain. But during the months from January to March, I had a couple more instances of those flu-like days. When I went to see my orthapaedist, I told him it felt like I had sick knees; they felt feverish and achy and kept me in bed. The orthapaedist had no idea what it could be, since my knees seemed to be working just fine. He suggested I talk to a specialist, and I said I'd look into it.

I decided to start with a physical first. It had to be scheduled months in advance. The earliest date I could get was in November. Since I was back to normal activity, mostly, and had started easing back into karate classes, I wasn't in any hurry and I figured that was okay. Once the summer started, with all that warm weather, my knee problems mostly seemed to disappear. I was still recovering from the torn ACL, so it seemed natural to me to have problems getting up and down the stairs at the end of a long day. I was in the pool and on the bike with the kids everyday, too, so I expected to be tired. The girls learned to come downstairs to kiss me good night before they went to bed, so I wouldn't have to haul myself upstairs with my tired, aching knees.

And so it went, right through to September. Then sometime in that month, the back ache started. I developed this persistant pain in my lower back that dogged me all day and night. At first, I thought it was because our mattress was overdue to be flipped, so Hubster and I flipped it, but that didn't help. Then I thought the problem might be with our couch. I spend a lot of time there when I draw and crochet, and our couch is over 20 years old. I got some firm pillows to put against my back and made certain to sit with good posture, but that didn't help either.

The knee pain kicked in as well. And then the hip pain. And then the foot pain. That last was especially bad in the morning. In October, when my parents came to visit, I got the shock of my life when I got up early one morning and I met my mother in the hallway. We were both shuffling along with that same, painful, arthritic gate. Only my mom is in her late seventies and I still haven't hit 45 yet.

By that point, I was trying everything I could to get the joint pain under control. I ate gin-soaked raisins and took supplements of tumeric and fish oil and vitamin D. I swallowed huge capsules of OTC pain-relievers. I slept with my heating pad and took plenty of hot baths. I did yoga until I could bend myself completely in half without breaking a sweat. None of it worked.

Finally, November hit and I went in for my physical. I told the doctor everything. She ordered lots of blood tests and prescribed Gabapentin, which is an anti-seizure medication that also works with rheumatoid arthritis pain. I spent a week waking up completely loopy because of the medication I took the night before. When the blood test results came back, everything was normal.

So the doctor forwarded me to a specialist, who I will see in January. In the meantime I am doing everything I can to manage my symptoms. Some days I am so pain-free, I feel 15 years younger. Other days I am back in bed with the heating pad by 6PM. I've learned to pre-set my bed before I head out to pick up the kids from school in the afternoons. I gather up everything I know I'm going to need in the evening – paperwork, iPad, Surface tablet, crochet project, whatever I need to work on – and I lay it out on one side of the bed, along with a comfortable set of sweats or PJs. My work hours have been drastically reduced to 1-2 hours in the day and another 1-2 hours in the evening. I've learned to take advantage of the morning hours, when I have the most energy, for things like exercise and Girl Scouts paperwork (which is probably the most exhausting task I have to face on any given day). I try to save the evenings for drawing and crochet, activities that I can pick up and put down as needed whenever the girls need my help with their homework.

Because of the drain on my work hours, I've also found myself having to make decisions everyday about what I'm going to work on. Last week, I finally emailed the staff at our Girl Scout service unit and told them i needed to step down from the Volunteer Support Team and any committees I was on due to health issues. This weekend, I had to choose between taking a karate test for 4th degree black belt and cleaning the house (no way in hell were both of those tasks going to get done!). And I also had to choose between drawing today's webcomic and drawing a new Christmas card design, something I've been trying to get to for weeks now.

It's probably too late for this card to be done in time for anyone to buy it for is Christmas. I still have several hours of work left to do on it. BUT it will be done in time for any after-Christmas sales that Zazzle may do, so if you're the kind who likes to buy your Christmas cards on sale a year in advance, this one is for you.

(And this is the part where I show you that fun artwork I promised at the beginning of this very long post.)


I'll do a big reveal on the final artwork once it's done and posted to Zazzle, but for right now, the point I really want to get across is this…

I am doing everything I can to draw as fast as I can to keep the webcomics coming. But there are other projects that I need to work on as well. I have a TON of evil greeting cards that I want to draw, and I have promised both my girls that I will illustrate two stories they've written (that's one story per child!) and get those stories epublished somewhere. If for some reason, I don't get the ACW webcomic up on time every Monday, I will at least post something that I'm working on, be it artwork from a greeting card or calendar or an illustration from one of the kids' stories. And you may see more single panel webcomics from me. Honestly, there are plenty of events that happen around me that would make perfect single panel cartoons, and I may even turn some of those into greeting cards as well, if they work out that way.

So what I'm saying is be patient with me. I'm going to see a doctor, and in the mean time I will keep plugging away as best I can. I will even eventually finish setting up the Etsy shop I started working on last month. It will all happen, slowly, over time.

I promise!


Move It Mama Monday! The benefits of karate

I went to our dojo’s Winter Karate Camp two weeks ago. One of the weapons I took a class on was the jo, a staff about 4 1/2 feet long. I spent an hour working on Jo Kihon, or the basic jo kata, and I’ve probably already forgotten most of it because I’ve got a lousy memory. But I did come away with a few basic jo skills that I was able to put to use the next day at Princess’ birthday party.

Get ready…..



If that looked painful, don’t worry. Sponge Bob deserved it.

Of course, looking at these pictures now, I can tell you what my instructor would say. “Your hands are too far apart! Choke up on your grip!”

Oh well. Maybe I’ll learn better next year?

Move It Mama Monday! Suck it up, cupcake!

We have now entered the season of “Suck it up, cupcake!” In other words, the months prior to my next black belt test, where I can no longer avoid karate class or practice by using excuses like, “I’m tired, I stayed up too late, I’m too busy…” No, now I have to dig a little deeper and get my butt out of bed in the morning so I can head outside to practice, and then haul my ass into class four hours every week and fulfill whatever other requirements I need to make sure I’m ready to test come the end of summer.

Actually, this is an ideal time to suck it up. The weather is warm, which means I’m actually looking forward to exercising outside early in the AM. In winter, when it’s cold, not so much. I hate exercising in the cold for a number of reasons, not the least of which is all the fond memories I DON’T have of getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to participate in ROTC workouts when I was in college. Trust me, running stadium steps at 5AM in the morning in December when it’s 20 degrees out is not my idea of happiness or fun. Heading out for a run and karate practice at 6AM when it’s a warm spring day, though… Well that’s all together a different story.

It also helps that I have a clear goal in mind. Knowing that I am testing for san-dan makes it easier to motivate myself to do what I would rather not do (i.e. shift my sleepy butt out of bed and do some serious exercise). So I know this summer should go well because of those two things – warm weather and a goal.

What I’m thinking about now though is how I might continue karate practice after the warm weather and the test have passed. I know, I’m thinking months ahead, but I’m doing so because I realize this is a problem I have. Finding a place to practice karate is tricky at best. It almost has to be outdoors, unless I can find a large open indoor space. The only one I know of is the basketball court at the local Y. I’ve used it before and it’s perfectly fine. However, I’d have to somehow fit extra trips to the Y into my already crowded schedule. I much prefer to step out my front door for a run and a practice. Not to mention the fact that it’s damned hard to get through the doors of the Y carrying all my gear (and yes, I do have a lot of gear; I work with 8 different weapons, some of which are 6 ft. long).

So heading outdoors is most expedient. I can carry short weapons in a backpack while I run through the neighborhood and then stop at the tennis court to practice. For the long weapons, I can just leave them right inside the front door and when I get back from a run, grab them and practice in the backyard.

The problem is the cold. I don’t have the right clothing to run in the cold, and I need to fix that. So I’m going to be spending this summer researching cold weather running gear and see what I can come up with before the first fall frost. Ideally, I’ll find something that will keep me warm (and dry!) even in the middle of January, when it’s absolutely freezing cold out. I’m sure such an outfit(s) will cost money, so I’ll have to buy it a bit at a time. Thus all the more reason to start looking into the matter now.

So yeah, summer will be the season of “Suck it up, cupcake!” But fall and winter will be the season of “Keep sucking it up, cupcake!” and that will be the bigger challenge.

Move It Mama Monday! Too many choices?

I’ve always been of the opinion that it’s good to have choices when it
comes to exercise. Relying on just one activity for my daily exercise
needs is not a good idea. For instance, if I only swim, then what do I
do on the days that the pool is closed? If I only run, what do I do
when my knees hurt to bad to jog even five minutes? If I only do Wii
Fit Plus, how will I get my upper body workout in (an area that Wii
Fit Plus is still sadly lacking in)? No, it’s best to have choices,
that way when one kind of exercise won’t work, I can simply turn
around and do another. Good, yes?

Except that lately it seems like I have too many choices, and I’m not
getting much of any exercise done at all.

My problem is that I want to exercise all my options, and I really
only have time for one a day. I can’t run and do Wii Fit and go swim
at the Y all on the same day. Or rather, I could, but then I wouldn’t
have time to do anything else, like work or clean or even eat. I’ve
put on a few pounds lately, so I’m chomping at the bit to go, go, go
exercise, but I simply can’t do it all. Add to all of this the fact
that my schedule has been so erratic lately, I’m having a hard time
figuring out what it is I should do when I finally do get time to
exercise. In the face of all my choices, I sort of freeze up. I can’t
decide which form of exercise would be best to do right then, so I end
up doing nothing at all. This all results in a very frustrated,
unexercised me.

So what to do? In my case, I’m assigning specific days and times for
each activity. On Mondays and Fridays, I plan to go to the Y and swim.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll take karate class. On Wednesdays and
Sundays when I’m home, I’ll hop on the Wii (and if Wii Fit Plus has a
problem with me not training with it every day, then it can go soak
its head in a bucket). That leaves one day, Saturday open. In theory,
I could take black belt class at the dojo that day, and I will
probably try to fit that in as often as I can, but if I only get to
two karate classes a week instead of three, I’m not going to sweat it.

Beyond that, I’m wondering if I should continue to do my
mini-workouts. I’ve started running again lately, and I’m back to
running the entire neighborhood in just 20 minutes. I’d like to keep
doing this because it’s the best exercise for me when I’m trying to
lose weight, but I can’t figure out yet when during the day I’d fit it
in. It will take some thinking to work this out.

Anyway, that’s my dilemma for the week. If anybody has any thoughts or
ideas on this, let me know!

Move It Mama Monday – Hai Karate!!

Damn, I own a lot of weapons. That picture you see above is all my gear for kobudo class. Kobudo is a form of martial arts weapons training, closely related to Okinawan karate. Last Saturday, Hubster and I tested for our 2nd degree black belts in kobudo, and I’m happy to say we passed.

The Hubster and I have been taking martial arts classes for about eight years now. In addition to our shiny new 2nd degree black belts in kobudo, we also have 2nd degree black belts in karate. We study both karate and kobudo under the same instructor, and Princess trains at the dojo as well. Pixie is chomping at the bit to get started. I think she may begin classes this January. So we’re obviously a karate family.

When we started karate classes eight years back, Hubster and I were still pre-children, so we had the luxury of being able to go to six classes a week together. Hey, we were young, we were excited, and we were all fired up about having the chance to beat the snot out of each other in a fun, friendly environment. I trained all through my pregnancy with Princess and had a blast in the process. Then after my first child was born, Hubster and I kind of slowed down on classes. We switched to each of us going to four classes a week, with one of us in class each evening and one of us at home with the baby (there were two classes on Saturday, so we both took a class that day and just handed off Princess at the door).

After Pixie came, things slowed down even further. Let’s face it, taking care of kids takes a lot of time, and can make it difficult to keep to a regular schedule of exercise. These days, I try to make it to 3-4 classes a week, but many times it’s only two. Between doctor’s appointments, sick kids, and work deadlines, it can be hard to make it to class. Thankfully, our current dojo offers day time classes, which is good for me because I pretty much shut down physically and mentally after 5PM each day.

I also have trouble these days finding the motivation I need to practice. But this past week, I discovered once again the truth of one of my rules for doing exercise when I feel like crud. Just go out there and do it. I don’t have to do it for long. If I go out with the plan of doing just five minutes, then that’s great. Usually, if I get out and do five minutes of any activity, that five minutes will likely turn into twenty, thirty, or even forty minutes, and before I know it, I’ll have done a whole workout. And on those days where I do five minutes and I still feel like crud, then I’m obviously not feeling well and I can call it a day. But I have to do five minutes first. This works for classes too. If I can just get to the class and do five minutes, I’m usually good for the rest of the hour. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever left class once I’ve gotten there. I just turn off the brain and do what my instructor tells me to do until class is over and then hey, look at that! I worked out for a whole hour.

Anyway, I followed the five minute/go to class rule all last week, and got in enough practice to do well on my kobudo test this Saturday. And now that I’ve got my shiny new 2nd degree black belt, I’ve suddenly got a little more motivation to practice and go to class on a regular basis. So if you happen to see me walking around, carrying any of the instruments of destruction shown in the above picture, you know what I’m up to.

Hai, karate!!

Sunday Contentments – Recovering

Once again, it’s Sunday. Hubster and the kids are off at church, while I, heathen and Zen Buddhist that I am, laze about at home. I had a killer week last week, and I feel the need to just become one with the couch. That makes it the perfect time to contemplate the zen that is contentment. Today’s list includes:

Missions accomplished – among other tasks last week, I finished recording and producing the longest episode of the Heat Flash Erotica Podcast. The story in question, A Room With A View, was 12000 words long. That meant a lot of recording and editing time. However, in addition to getting that out the door, I also finished up the cover art for the same story, along with three other stories I produced for the show last month, and all four will be coming out as e-books later this month. So I have that contented feeling of satisfaction at a big job well done and out of my hair.

More missions accomplished – yesterday was a busy day. Princess had her karate test at 9AM. Hubster and I tested for our 2nd degree black belts in kobudo (karate weapons). Then at 3, Pixie and I had to hotfoot it to another town an hour away for a birthday party. Needless to say, I was drop dead tired by the end of the day. I’d been dreading yesterday all week, and I am soooooo glad that I finally got through it and can now breathe a sigh of relief.

Surprises for the girls – Princess and Pixie don’t know it yet, but we’re going to Disney on Ice this afternoon. Hubster found out he could get tickets last night, so we made the quick decision to go see the show. We’re not even going to tell them where we’re going; we’re just going to climb into the car and head out. I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they see their very first ice skating princess!

Coffee and soft boiled eggs on toast – it’s the breakfast of champions, seriously. Combined with the Sunday paper, it’s a great way to just kick back and enjoy the morning. Add some hot sauce to really make things good (but add that sauce to the eggs, not the paper, otherwise you’ve got a mess).

A rainy morning – I love rainy days. I use them as an excuse to curl up with a cup of tea in my papasan chair or on my couch and do some reading. Think I will try to squeeze in another chapter of Drood today 😉

Mood music – it’s Fall, my favorite season of the year, and every Fall I pull out the same albums to enjoy: Enya, Loreena McKennit, Great Big Sea, Young Dubliners, Warren Zevon. An odd mix, I know, but those are the CDs that really bring out the nip in the air and make me want to curl up by the fire, again with a hot cup of tea.

I think that’s it for today. Hubster and kids are still out, and I’ve got some laundry to do. Going to clear the clean clothes that need folding out of my papasan chair so I can curl up with Drood for a bit. See ya later, and enjoy your Sunday 😉

Episode 35 – I Can Haz Karate Skillz!!

Ya know, I think this is the best Cynical Woman cartoon I’ve drawn yet. Lettering still needs work, but it’s getting better.

Yes, I am really and truly a black belt, which means I know the basics of karate and am most deadly to myself. I do train with various kobudo weapons, including the nunchaku, and I’m testing for my 2nd degree black belt in weapons this coming September (I’m already a 2nd degree black belt in open-hand karate).

I’m going to two classes a week right now, and those usually last 2 1/2 hours (thus the reason why I’m only doing two classes a week; I think more would kill me). I have on occasion hit myself – in the elbow, the leg, the back, and yes, the head. Others have hit me as well. In fact, the Hubster once mistook me for a 6 foot tall, 1200 lb gorilla during a sparring drill and to this day my right knee still has not recovered. Somebody else took out the left knee a few months later, so if I walk funny, you know why.

I’m heading to Chicago this weekend, and I’m taking a small drawing pad with me. Don’t know what I’ll draw, but it will probably show up here. Meanwhile, if you must see more of my work, I have set up a Deviant Art page. It’s at There’s various things there, including a few odd cartoons that have nothing to do with Cynical Woman beyond the fact that I drew them.

One final note, if you love me, if you really really love me, take a few moments to visit my podcast and enter my contest!!! I’m running a listener appreciation contest over at I’ll be giving away t-shirts, boxers and thongs, and print copies of my fabulous short story collection, Future Perfect. It’s all naughty stuff, and it’s good fun. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on the Heat Flash blog at or send me an e-mail at Contest runs between now and midnight EST, 26 August. Go here for specific details.

That’s it for now. I’ll see if I can’t get some funky doodling done while in Chicago. Hubster’s at a conference so I will be schlepping the kids around the city on my ownsome. Something painfully funny is bound to happen, I’m sure. Keep your fingers crossed that I survive.