I never dreamed that I would be a morning person. Juggling an obnoxious schedule forced me to broaden my day to fit in everything that I had to do, resulting in early morning start times. I choose to walk my dog Henslee in the wee hours of the morning (some would consider it to still be nighttime) because it feels like the only consistent part of the day and is critical to both of our well beings.
It became my favorite time and ritual of the day. My arch-nemesis is still my alarm clock but I find that my most honest, creative and interesting thoughts happen when I am well rested with the freedom to day dream. As the day goes on, I develop narcoleptic tendencies making problem solving more difficult and easier to procrastinate. Without traffic and congestion, Henslee can sniff and play in the park without bothering anybody and and the city feels very simple, calm and completely mine.
Always an active person, the city over time became my gym. There are places to run, bike, great tennis courts and parks. Recently, many of those miles running were training for my first half marathon, which took place just a couple of weeks ago here in Lansing. That may not sound impressive to seasoned runners but the decision to take my “it would be cool to do someday” goal and place it into the “holy moly I just ran 13.1 miles” list of achievements was a very proud day for me. I used to run in the mornings sometimes when it was really hot just to avoid the urge to die, but until recently, it was just ridiculous to wake up any earlier. My new schedule is amazing for morning workouts and I spend the rest of the day feeling like a warrior who has a legitimate reason for being hungry all day.
Can you judge a book by its cover, a neighborhood by its edging or a person planning to hurt or rob you? Maybe. But, maybe not. I have been asked if I feel safe being out and about alone so much in Lansing (or anywhere) and I honestly do. Of course, when I am with Henslee, he is my fierce protector with his watchful eye (he really only has one eye), with his other-a prosthetic-an unassuming decoy. However, alone or not, it is important to remain observant, devoid of the bold arrogance that makes me forget that I am not exempt from bad situations.
I would like to think that life is rainbows and jelly beans but people and situations can be deceiving. My neighbor Lynn once said that your home is your little piece of the earth to take responsibility for, hone and take care of. As communities, we have the obligation to do just that for ourselves, families and neighbors because together feels better than alone. Unsurprisingly, the Lansing Police Department (LPD) claims that most of the time when a criminal is caught it is because a neighbor called in suspicious activity. Potential overreacting could make all the difference.
Not that I have ever been scared or felt intimidated (cough), but what is the best way to react if a jerk decides to violate your security? I would like to think that I would have an instinctive guard with catlike reflexes; a super sleuth. Realistically, I’ve hid in my bedroom after hearing noises that were probably squirrels. Only once have I ever been in a compromising situation, which luckily ended well (read the synopsis here). However, if the circumstances were different, I shudder at what could have happened. I decided to be proactive instead of hoping that my reactive skills prevail.
Luckily, one of my neighbors is Jessica Yorko, a good friend whom I respect very much, and also our 4th Ward City Council Representative. Always knowledgeable and rational, she put me in contact with the LPD who offers a women’s self defense class for free a couple of times per year.
Organized by three women police officers, their fundamental goal is to help women be aware and stay alive. To a gymnasium full of women ranging in age from high school to senior citizens, they emphasized essential considerations, actions and moves that can mean survival.
- Confidence. If it isn’t genuine, fake it. Criminals seek out the meek and occupied.
- Avoid simple mistakes so that you are less vulnerable: park in lit areas, wear your purse on your less dominant arm, keep keys in hand when walking to your car, keep your head up, look around and use your judgment.
- Use your voice. It is the most important tool we have. Yell, rather than scream, to bring attention to you.
- Fight. You are only given one life, despite your cat like reflexes. Do what it takes to survive.
They also taught us some easy moves that anybody can do beginning with a flat handed thrust (think kickboxing) while yelling “STOP!” to keep them out of your space. Many times, that reaction alone is enough to make them realize that you will fight back. Whether they are seeking you or your stuff, criminals want an easy target and do not want confrontation. Other moves include a flat punch to the stomach (or someplace soft), shin kicks and slides, a foot stomp and methods to get out of choking.
I highly recommend that everybody take this or another class. If nothing else, it improved the way that I think and made me consider things that I hadn’t before. What I described above is far from comprehensive and is only a basic overview of the insight gained. A good online reference can be found here, however, the best place to start is to call the LPD and find out when their next class is. Visit them online http://www.lansingmi.gov/police/ or call 517-483-4680.