Dam That Introvert

beaver-46239_960_720

A few years ago, I broke my front teeth doing something particularly stupid. I was helping to train a puppy to be a search and rescue dog air scent canine, but that wasn’t the stupid part. Continue reading “Dam That Introvert”

Dam That Introvert

Introvert Under the Big Top

circus-308718_960_720

At the last book signing for Soul Search , I heard circus music. It was not very loud, the crowd was admittedly small (but growing since the last event!) and the colors in the meeting room were subdued. So, why was I hearing circus music? I think the music may be a remnant from corporate meetings that began playing in my head because I encountered some kind of trigger. Maybe this is a lesser form of PTSD.

My name is Reyna and I am a recovering corporate refugee. I have witnessed strange things that I cannot un-see.  Continue reading “Introvert Under the Big Top”

Introvert Under the Big Top

My Plott Hound is an Introvert

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There have been many famous and talented writers who had special pets in their lives.

  • Mark Twain owned a “large and intensely black” cat named Bambino who went missing from his household when he lived in New York. This author offered a $5 reward for the return of his beloved pet. While the entire world lined up at his door with an assortment of cats just to meet the great Mr. Clemens, Bambino eventually returned of his own accord and saved his owner the reward money.  I have two enormous black cats, so logically, I should be twice as amusing a writer as Mr. Clemens.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s constant companion was a Cocker Spaniel named Flush. She was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. I have no talent for poetry, but I do own a Cocker Spaniel named George. Based on this connection, I hold out hope that I will one day wake up with a sudden ability to write lyrically.
  • John Steinbeck had a near-final, handwritten draft of his classic work Of Mice and Men eaten by his dearly loved Irish setter, Toby. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

In my opinion, every writer needs a Plott Hound. For most people, this is meant in the metaphorical sense – a muse who will inspire a plot that can be shaped into a compelling story. Few writers have literal Plott Hounds, mainly because they can be a handful. These dogs were bred for over 250 years in the hills of North Carolina to hunt bear, boar and other large game. If they’re not afraid of bears, they’re not afraid of you, so you need to be an experienced dog owner if you want to adopt a Plottie.

Jackie Mousseau is the only other writer I know who owns a Plott Hound. She refers to her Plottie, Opha, as her writing buddy. Jackie writes paranormal romance with a co-author.

My Plott mix, Zackie-O, is unlikely to eat my Soul Search manuscript like Toby devoured John Steinbeck’s work, but this is only because I backed it up on a Google drive. Another copy resides on my laptop and I am not being one bit paranoid when I tell you that I fear for the safety of my electronic devices. When Zackie-O was a little younger, she stole my earpiece and left little bits of plastic and circuit board under a bed. Not too long after that, I had to replace my cell phone because two large bites in the case killed my ability to receive calls. The phone could call out just fine, but it would only produce a skirling noise when a call came in and nothing I did would allow the call to be picked up. I can only surmise that Zackie-O, after an initial dissection, developed an almost surgical skill when it came to disabling my electronics. A laptop is pretty big and you would think that it ought to be safe from a marauding Plott Hound, but that’s probably what the bears thought right before they got themselves treed.

Given this background information, why would I suggest that my Plott Hound is an introvert?  In an unscientific poll on the Facebook group I Love My Plott Hound, half of Plott Hound enthusiasts identified their dogs as context dependent in terms of their behavior. Of the remaining poll takers, almost three times as many identified their hounds as extroverted (would approach a stranger with tail wagging) compared to introverted (wants nothing to do with strangers or just ignores them). If this finding on Plott behavior in a small sample can be extrapolated to the true population, my girl is an outlier. Her stranger behavior has been borne out over many search and rescue public events with meet and greets. Zackie-O has an interest in people’s scents, but after she gets a whiff of them, that’s enough for her. She allows herself to be petted because I ask her to do it, but she’s certainly not seeking out attention. In terms of interactions with other animals, she’s fine with our other pets (although she sometimes gets on George’s last nerve with her high energy and rambunctiousness). If strange dogs challenge her, she is completely unimpressed, even if they are significantly larger than her. I’m pretty sure she’d take on a bear, but I hope to never find out. Like most introverts, Zackie-O is a complex mix.

I live in a neighborhood dominated by golden retrievers, the extroverts of the dog world. Despite the fact that Zackie-O is an active search dog and performs a service for the community AND has a great deal more obedience training than your average family dog, the folks here always give her the hairy eyeball when I walk her. Because she’s a hound, she has a habit of nosing the ground and picking up all sorts of things when we go on a walk. To circumvent this behavior, she frequently carries a stuffed animal in her mouth. While I do not think she can necessarily compete for cuteness with the Staffy in the shower, she does have a charm of her own that goes completely unappreciated in this neighborhood. It is maybe for this reason that I felt compelled to immortalize Zackie-O’s playful and snarky nature in the psychopomp character in Soul Search.

As a practicing introvert, I have learned a great deal from Zackie-O on how to manage social situations that may become intrusive. If you meet me at one of these events and you are a raging extrovert, be careful not to stand too close.

awkward close talker

Image credit: Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half

 

If you would like to comment on anything in these posts, I would be delighted to hear from you. Please also visit my author’s website at www.reynafavis.com and SoulSearch on Pinterest.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog, click on the three bars at the upper right. The next post will be available on July 31st.

My Plott Hound is an Introvert

Introverts and Exercise (or Pickle Juice, the Elixir of Life)

img_0618

Introverts have a storied history with exercise. By some accounts, we don’t exercise – this is more an extrovert thing. For introvert writers, writer’s butt has taken off as an affliction in the blogosphere where it is gaining momentum and is almost as prevalent as writer’s block. In the Twitterverse, the hashtag #WritersButt has been assigned to this topic. Contributors to this discussion alternate between chastising themselves (for the unhealthy habit of sitting too long) and congratulating themselves (for their dedicated focus in putting words on a page).  Indolent introverts have even become something of a marketing force in the exercise industry. We are encouraged to “feel the burn in a more independent setting than your extroverted friends” and to engage with health and fitness systems designed for the introvert lifestyle.

I own a high drive dog and I am a search and rescue volunteer. Because of these constraints, despite the fact that I spend long hours sitting and writing, I am unable to faithfully fulfill my obligations as an indolent introvert. That and my husband gifted me with wearable technology that displays angry red bars whenever I sit for an extended period of time. The unhappy consequence of certain physical activities (e.g. running full tilt through wilderness in hiking boots during search dog training and going mile upon mile in steep terrain) is severe and unrelenting muscle cramps in my shins and calves when I’m at rest. During an online discussion involving search and rescue workers, the dirty little secret of muscle cramps was openly discussed. I refer to it as a banned topic because no one wants this to reflect on their mission-readiness (but c’mon, even marathon runners get cramps) and it is part of the culture to suck it up and not complain. I was relieved to learn that I was not alone with my physical limitations. One remedy that was suggested by many individuals was drinking pickle juice to relieve the cramps. Because pickle juice was independently brought up by so many people, I needed to know whether these anecdotal reports were merely the result of placebo effect, or if there was any real science behind it.

Dr. Kevin Miller of Central Michigan University has published work on the efficacy of pickle juice as a treatment for skeletal muscle cramps. His research concluded that in comparison to deionized water, pickle juice relieved muscle cramps almost twice as fast in dehydrated humans (84.6 +/- 18.5 for pickle juice vs 133.7 +/- 15.9 s for water).  And contrary to the explanation offered online by search and rescue workers, the effect could not be attributed to the pickle juice simply restoring electrolytes to the cramping muscle. Five minutes after consuming pickle juice or water, plasma samples from victims subjects were analyzed to determine electrolyte concentrations. Dr. Miller found that the ingestion of water or pickle juice had little impact on plasma composition. The research team hypothesized that “rapid inhibition of the electrically induced cramps reflects a neurally mediated reflex that originates in the oropharyngeal region and acts to inhibit the firing of alpha motor neurons of the cramping muscle.” In other words, perhaps the acidity of the pickle juice was interacting with receptors in the mouth/throat that talk to the nervous system and convinced it to stop insisting that the muscle must contract. Brilliant research, but this raised at least one more question for me.

If all it takes to get rid of muscle cramps is to drink something of similar pH to pickle juice, then why can’t I just chug a Mr. Pibbs? I would find this to be a much more appetizing alternative to pickle juice. In the spirit of being a pain in the butt (not to be confused with #WritersButt) to academic researchers, I sent an e-mail to Dr. Miller asking him this question. He replied within minutes, providing a copy of the original research article and answering my question. (Dr. Miller is a good egg.) While he has not yet been able to determine exactly why pickle juice seems to relieve muscle cramps, he elaborated that the hypothesis is that the vinegar in the pickle juice causes the activation of TrP (transient receptor potential ion channels) receptors in the mouth, which then cause a reduction in nervous system activity. Dr. Miller suggested that it’s probably not necessary to actually drink the pickle juice, since swishing it around in the mouth and spitting it out should provide the same relief if the hypothesis is correct.

I am not sure that I would have the presence of mind to remember to swish rather than swallow when in the grip of a painful muscle cramp. For anyone out there who is scientifically inclined and suffers from muscle cramps, I’d appreciate it if you could reply to this blog with any experiences. If he does not file a restraining order against me, I’ll be sure to let Dr. Miller know of your findings.

All errors are my own. If you would like to comment on anything in these posts, I would be delighted to hear from you. Please also visit my author’s website at www.reynafavis.com.

If you would like to subscribe to this blog, click on the three bars at the upper right. The next post will be available May 31st.

Introverts and Exercise (or Pickle Juice, the Elixir of Life)