Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peak Run

I took off this morning for a run. Ran my heart out to a loop of this song as Hurricane Irene rolled in. Feeling one with the pavement, one with the music, one with the storm, one with the rain... it was like nothing else. Arrived home drenched in sweat and rain - feeling cleansed and clear-headed - and much better.

It was a Peak Experience.


Friday, August 26, 2011

First Day

Saw the Teen off to his first day of Sophmore year this morning.

He's been much better about transitions in these last months. We've had one vacation departure and one first day of school now with minimal outbursts and anxiety. Hoping his day is going well.

My own Inner Teen has been sulking a bit over things she can't change. I'm giving her a little space to pout, but not much. I tell her what I tell the kids - It is what it is. It's your choice to either sulk and be sad about what you're missing, or to focus on all that you do have, be grateful for it, and get on with your life. Either way, it's your choice and you have to own it.

At times like this, I try to keep her busy doing the kinds of things she likes. She's a sweet girl, my Inner Teen, and while she's only a small part of me, her needs are important too. I love her and want her to be happy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Catching My Breath

So it's been a really busy week.

I woke up last Thursday, took the boys to martial arts, took class myself, went out to lunch, handed the kids off to hang with their friends, came home, packed and headed for Maryland with a bunch of Girl Scouts.

Had a great time in Ocean City and on Assateague Island.

Came home Sunday, took a shower, did some laundry, checked in with Savageman and the Teen, spent a night in my own bed then packed up Middle and Little for Ohiopyle with our friends early Monday afternoon.

We arrived, checked out the area, set up camp, ate, slept. Tuesday morning we rented bikes and rode 26 miles round-trip on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail before the natural water slides, which were a great hit with the kids. (I didn't slide, but I did enjoy soaking my tired legs in the cold mountain spring water.)

The next day, we got up, broke down camp and headed out to Cucumber Falls for more water fun, then did the guided tour of Laurel Caverns. We took a short hike to a scenic overlook before the ride home, and a stop for dinner together along the way.

Although we did a lot, the pace was leisurely enough that we didn't feel rushed. We took our time. Our friends had taken care of all the planning and shopping and it was nice to be along for the ride this trip.

And now I'm back. Savageman had cleaned the house (particularly the garage) in my absence, which was really wonderful. The Teen had written drafts of his two papers, worked a bunch of hours at his McJob, and had prepared for school, which starts tomorrow. I was impressed at how well they were able to (with the help of my parents) hold down the fort, even during a work week. A confidence-builder for us all.

Today was spent editing the papers with him before his McJob, repacking and reshelving the camping bins, doing tons of laundry, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, helping Little make his first Boston Cream Pie from scratch, etc. Busy busy, but with plenty of time for reflection alone while mowing and on the phone with my camping friend while we were unpacking. Much to think about as we transition into a new school / homeschool year.

None of which I am ready to write about yet.

So for now I will say that I am grateful for the opportunity to travel this last week and to see so many beautiful places with some truly wonderful people. It reminds me of how much more there is to see and do while the kids are still young. I'm eager to do more as circumstances allow. There's still a bunch of backpacking equipment on the shelf waiting to be put to use and a whole lot of destinations on my travel wish list.

I'm optimistic that I will find the time and the companions to make it happen.

:-D

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Home Again

... for the moment.

While I was sitting on the beach watching the scouts ride the waves, I got a call from my friend asking if the smaller Savages and I wanted in on a camping trip to Ohiopyle she was planning for this week. Meaning I would be getting home, unpacking, spending a night in my own bed, then packing up for the woods again the next morning.

Sure, why not?

So that's the plan. I'm actually looking forward to time away with the boys, since I kind of missed them while I was camping with the girls these last days. I would have preferred that Savageman join us too, but he has to work. As does the Teen, who also has two essays to write before the start of school Friday.

But the three of us spending a few days with our good friends exploring Ohiopyle should be a fun time. Our friends are familiar with the area and what it has to offer, and the meals and activities have been pretty much planned so all we have to do is to pack and show up.

For now, I'm relaxing, appreciating hanging with my Savageman and being in my house - which is remarkably clean thanks to him - and decompressing quickly from the last 4 days' excitement.

Grateful for a hubby and parents who support my volunteer activities, especially when they have to hold down the fort for several days. Also grateful for a Troop of Leaders and girls who have made me feel so welcome and appreciated, and for good friends to camp again with this week.

Feeling quite blessed.

And tired.

But in a good way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boardwalk Scenes










































Road Trip

Headed here with my Girl Scouts!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Weeding Once Again

This time, I was uncharacteristically Brutal.

The thorny raspberries that keep pushing their way through the fence into my tomatoes and peppers? Gone.

The "volunteer" pumpkins that all but took over the whole garden this year? Gone.

Any of the veggies that weren't producing, weren't pulling their weight, weren't justifying their existence in my garden? Yep. Gone.

Sorry, lame veggies.

It took more than 4 hours of work, but I have reclaimed my garden. And, as always, I have come away with Insights.

Sometimes you have to be Brutal.

I once told someone that I "didn't have it in me." I once broke down in the changing room after having to fight my close friend during class, fearing my own ability to hurt her.

I let plants I didn't really want take over my garden because I didn't have the heart to kill them.

No more.

I am Strong. I am Fierce. I am Brutal.

Fear Me.

And admire my garden.



Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hanging on to Summer


Today, School for Middle and Little consisted of morning at the dojang, pizza buffet lunch with their ninja buddies, a long stretch at the park, and back to the dojang for more classes and more time with the ninja buddies.

Middle's still there - I doubt he'll be doing any other work today.

But that's okay. It was an absolutely beautiful day to spend at the park. It was 80 degrees and a little breezy; the sound of the cicadas filled the air, as did the smell of someone's barbeque. The kids spent the first part of our time there impressing each other with their feats of strength and flexibility - and bravery - jumping and flipping and climbing in new and interesting ways the playground equipment and wide open fields afforded them. Then Little and his buddy took off on their scooters while Middle and 3 of his bffs lay in a heap on the grass with their heads resting on each other, staring at the sky, talking and laughing and probably playing Truth or Dare. (I'm guessing becuase every so often, one of them would get up and do something goofy.)

It was positively idyllic - I hope these are the memories he carries away from his Tween years - warmth and acceptance from longtime friends, laughing and playing and sharing secrets and making each other friendship bracelets.

Which is what they did when we got back to the dojang - took off for the craft store and came back with string to make friendship bracelets while they waited for their classes to start and while I took kickboxing.

Between classes, they walked across the street to get dinner together, then came back for Competition Team practice. Where they'll likely be until 9 or so.

Definitely a long day, but a very full one.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easing Back In


Today was our first day.

Both homeschoolers did French on Rosetta Stone for their allotted time. Little made Lemon Squares from scratch, Middle made a bunch of friendship bracelets, and The Teen went shoe shoppping with Grandma, did his French (although he's been doing that all summer) and started work on his English packet.

And I made a Real Dinner we actually sat down and ate together.

I know, it doesn't sound like much, but the beauty of homeschooling is that we can take a few weeks to gradually get used to the routine, adding a little more each day.

Transitioning into a new schedule is never easy for our family, including me. I am sorry to admit that I was not the friendliest person. A few supportive phone calls from my friends and a new espresso machine* Mom picked up for me helped get me through the day. No martial arts for me this evening - I was pretty full from eating dinner at 5. That part of the schedule will need to be tweaked. Perhaps Lunch will be our sit-down meal. At noon.

Snuggling up to watch a movie tonight and finish my lesson planning for the year. I have a bunch of great supplemental science and art projects chosen and put on the calendar - hoping this year we get to do them all. The more I do ahead of time, the better it is in the long run.

Grateful for the opportunity to teach Middle and Little for at least one more year, and for a first day that didn't go too badly.

The Lemon Bars were delicious.



*I haven't completely fallen off the coffee wagon; I'm just happy to have it now as an occasional treat instead of a daily necessity.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Barefoot / Chi Running Day!


So I spent a good part of this morning reading about and watching videos on different ways to run.

This is something to which I haven't really given much thought, even though I've been running with some regularity since I got my Vibrams in April.

But reading Born to Run has been such an experience so far, I needed to learn more about "natural" running. And, as it turns out, children and members of native tribes known for their running abilities do run differently than most American adults.

I've just started learning about this, and there's a lot of information out there. This site has some really interesting stuff I'll be sure to spend some time with, and youtube has a lot of videos showing in slow motion the difference between running in shoes vs. running barefoot or in "minimal footwear" (like the Vibrams) and running with the heel strike vs. the midfoot or forefoot strike.

Fascinating stuff!

Of course, I had to try it out for myself. Savageman, Middle and I went to the gym and I spent quite a bit of time on the treadmill, in my Vibrams, focusing on keeping my feet under my hips (not out in front), striking with my forefoot, and kicking my heels up to almost hit my butt. Middle still seems to do this naturally, but for me, it felt very different.

After the initial burn in my calves and thighs settled down, I found my rhythm and it was all very easy. When I got to the end of the time I had set for myself, I started the cooldown and changed my mind - I wanted to do more. I did stop myself soon after that, remembering that it's important to start with smaller distances when making a transition, but I felt good enough to keep going. We'll see how I feel tomorrow. Despite the martial arts conditioning routine I've been following, I'm expecting to be a little sore.

Taking an Aleve and putting those legs up. Maybe Savageman will rub them while we watch a movie together.

:-)





Saturday, August 13, 2011

Grown-Up Time / Teen Time

Tonight was the first night in recent history that, instead of entertaining Middle's group of friends, Savageman and I went out to a party with a group of grown-up friends of our own.

It was fun. I got to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a while, and see Savageman out in public, where he is very charming and funny - both very nice things.

Having a group of the martial arts kids here was also very fun for me, though. Even though they are technically Middle's friends, I work out with them at the dojang too, and many of them outrank me and are just as much friends and mentors to me as they would be if they were adults. The teenage girls especially hold a special place in my heart, because in some Alternate Universe somewhere, I was just as strong and brave and capable as they are. They represent everything I would have loved to have seen in myself as a young teen, and hopefully they know I think the world of each and every one of them.

I had some quality Girl Time last week with them, and am looking forward to more Girl Time this week, and even more next weekend when I head to Assateague Island with my scouts. I think the world of them too.

At this age (middle school & early high school), it's my belief that the more people in a girl's life who think the world of her, the better. Not in an indulgent way, of course, but in a high-expectations, high-accountability kind of way.

Feeling grateful tonight for both my adult friends and the Teens and Tweens in my life.

:-)

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Art and Science of Gratitude


I recently came across some interesting articles like this and this regarding the benefits of taking some time each day to write about things that are going well, aspects of the day to be happy about, people and events to be grateful for.

Robert Emmons and his colleagues at U.C. Davis have found that people who keep a daily gratitude journal report more optimism and satisfaction with their lives, sleep better, and are generally healthier for doing so. They've also found that, while reports of general happiness fluctuate with the events of daily life, establishing a daily practice of noticing and writing about gratitude-inspiring events can help change an individual's "set point" for happiness.

"The set point concept is supported by research that shows that people return to a characteristic level of happiness a short time after both unusually good and unusually bad events. But the research on gratitude suggests that people can move their set point upward to some degree, enough to have a measurable effect on both their outlook and their health."

Emmons asserts that gratitude is a choice that we make - not only in what we journal about, but where we choose to direct our attention, what we talk about with others, and who we choose to surround ourselves with.

"If we hang out with ungrateful people, we will ‘catch' one set of emotions; if we choose to associate with more grateful individuals, the influence will be in another direction. Find a grateful person and spend more time with him or her."

Given that our own attitude can infect those of others, it follows that it would be difficult to raise positive, happy, upbeat, resiliant children if we don't model these attitudes ourselves.

An article in Mental Health News suggests: "At the end of each day, talk to your children and help them reflect on their day and think about the things that made it a good day. By ending each day thinking about what happened that made them happy, you can help them learn to accentuate the positive events in their lives."

While I haven't yet begun a structured activity like this with my kids each night, they do see my own habit of ending the day by blogging about something I feel good about, and I hope that something about that practice or the effect it has on my attitude is rubbing off on them. Even if it's been a difficult day here at home, I can write about martial arts or a book I'm enjoying - there's always some good I can find if I think about it.

No one's life is without its share of challenges, but facing those challenges with an optimistic spirit and a focus on blessings rather than curses - and keeping company with people who do the same - can have a major impact, not only on our own lives, but of the lives entrusted to us.

Daily gratitude journaling is one powerful step in reshaping - not only attitude - but, indirectly, the culture of the whole family.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Movie Night



Middle and the martial arts gang having an impromptu movie night. Watching Scott Pilgrim and baking chocolate peanut butter bars.

Best. Kids.

:-)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Eating Post-Workout

Tonight I vowed to cook.

Even though I was, as usual, not going to be home from martial arts until 9ish, I had a plan in mind that involved fresh, local ingredients and a small amount of work to prepare. Once I got home, that is.

But here's the thing. I can't eat for a few hours before I go. Doing what we do on anything but an empty stomach is asking for... upchuck. I think we finished kickboxing with 25 Burpees, 200 crunches and 100 leg lifts - and that was the wrap-up. And all of this was before the hour of Jung Sim Do class, which wasn't a cakewalk either.

Not that I'm complaining, of course. It's honestly the highlight of my day.

But afterward, I'm waiting for Middle to finish up with his Demo and Competition Team friends, and I'm ravenous, so I eat a Lemon Cliff Builder Bar with 20 grams of protein. And it kind of fills me up.

But I have this plan!!! So I get home, husk my fresh local corn, heat the grill, roast the corn on the grill and mix up some cilantro/lime butter.

Then I get out the magazine with the great recipe in it, wash the cherry tomatoes from my friend's garden, cut up the fresh olives I got in the gourmet section of the store yesterday, rip up the bread from the same gourmet section, toss it in extra-virgin olive oil, slice up garlic and onion from the CSA farm, peppers from my own garden, and I roast all of this in the oven.

By now it is about 9:30. Savageman and the kids have eaten a Tony's frozen pizza and have moved on with their night. I'm alone with 5 ears of corn and an oven full of delicious food. I eat two of the ears of grilled corn with the cilantro/lime butter and they are delicious. I call for the other Savages. No response.

When my bread, tomatoes, olives, etc. are cooked, I toss them with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Fabulous. But way too much for me, especially since I already had the Bar. And now two ears of corn, the rest of which are getting cold. I call again. No one's interested. I eventually guilt Savageman into eating some of it and he complains that eating this late will make him fat.

No kidding. But when else am I going to cook?

C'est la vie. After the large glass of red wine and the Aleve, I'm no longer feeling pain or irritation. I'm getting in a hot bath with my full stomach and a book about ultramarathon runners.

I'll deal with the leftovers tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sew Happy


Feeling very pleased with myself tonight.

Faced with a rainy morning alone (the boys all slept in), I dug out my giant bin of fabric, the ironing board and iron, and the sewing machine. The fabric was a jumbled up mess. My best guess is that the bin tipped over at some point and someone (possibly even me) just stuffed it all back in there. And didn't touch it again for several years.

So, one piece at a time, I ironed, folded, and organized all the fabric. Little helped after he woke up. It took all morning, but it was so satisfying to see it back in the bin nice and neat, ready for use in a project.

After a shopping trip, our usual two+ hours of martial arts, and some homemade guacamole (I'm on a kick), I actually used the fabric and the sewing machine to make something fun. No one helped this time, but Little did watch me use the sewing machine, and he stuffed a small pillow for himself. Middle checked out the new sewing kit I had picked up for myself at the craft store, and strongly objected when I tried to stick some pins in the cute little tomato pincushion. He's sensitive like that when he's not kicking butt.

Little made an Oreo / pudding dessert while we were at martial arts and he is now looking through the new Hershey cookbook we picked up on the shopping trip. So tomorrow may be a baking day. If I leave the sewing machine and fabric out, it may turn out to be another sewing day as well. Maybe we'll make some whimsical sock creatures - that used to be a favorite activity with them.

Glad the little Savages enjoy cooking and sewing in addition to baseball and karate and soccer and basketball. Although I do want to stick pins in my tomato without being accused of cruelty.

:-)

Monday, August 08, 2011

Happy Birthday!


Today is the birthday of one of my dearest friends.

I can't think of a better occasion to write about how much I love and appreciate her.

One of the most caring and nurturing people I know, she's always there to listen, to hug, to offer wisdom, or to put together a hike or a girl-day, often before I even realize it's exactly what I was needing. She's smart and perceptive and has a unique sense of fun that makes her a joy to be with.

Visiting her home is like spending an afternoon at a spa. Beautiful and open, filled with light and growing things and pleasant smells, it's one of my favorite places to retreat to - such a contrast to my House of Men. There's usually something yummy to eat or a healthy smoothie to drink, and something crafty available to do together. The love and attention she puts into her home inspires me to do what I can to improve the quality of my own surroundings, knowing the good feeling that comes from such a peaceful space. I always return home feeling refreshed and rejuvinated after a visit with her.

One of the things I admire and appreciate most about my friend is her openness to learning and growing in new ways. Whether it's learning to paint or quilt, writing fiction, baking homemade bread, taking zumba dance classes, or going back to school, she embraces opportunities to challenge and enrich herself in new and exciting ways. She leads by example, showing her kids the value of trying something new and working hard to master it, while at the same time being patient and forgiving if perfection doesn't come right away. As a result, she's a great source of information and wisdom on so many different subjects. Decorating, gardening, nutrition, health, writing, movies, books... I've been blessed on so many occasions to have had her as a resource in so many ways.

And she can skim a book - with full comprehension - in one sitting. How awesome is that???

Because I've known her and her husband since our kids were wee little, I've seen theirs grow through the years into some of the best people I know. I'm so blessed to have her, and her whole family, in my life.

Happy birthday, beautiful friend - with love and gratitude for all that you are!

XO

Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Details


Okay, so here's our story from D.C. this weekend.

We arrived Friday afternoon. Checked into the tournament, checked into the hotel. Two teammates were competing in the XMA (Extreme Martial Arts) portion of the tournament - both dropped their weapons and were disqualified. It happens.

We went out to dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant in National Harbor, down the street from the hotel. Had gourmet personal pizzas and good fun together with the other 18 parents and kids who were there.

Back to the hotel, where Middle and Little had goofy fun in the hotel room until Much Too Late. Little made himself a nest in the closet, Middle and I took the two beds. Middle woke me up at about 4 a.m. saying he was having a hard time sleeping. Thanks, Middle.

Got up Super Extra Early for a run and some laps in the pool, which we had to ourselves. Then we headed for the tournament.

Middle started with weapons - and again, he's been working so hard on this nunchakau form, he really had high hopes for it. And he looked spectacular - until he dropped one of his 'chucks - then hit himself in the eye, then did his release but couldn't catch it because he no longer had binocular vision... all in all, it didn't go well.

Open hand forms didn't go so well either. He was pretty discouraged.

I got him an energy drink. 130 mg of caffeine seemed to perk him up quite a bit. He geared up for sparring.

Sparring in a NASKA tournament is different than any sparring he's ever done before. It's full contact, meaning you can hit the person anywhere and as hard as you want. Because of this, you have to wear a chest protector and face guard in addition to the helmet, gloves, boots and mouthguard he already wears. Also, instead of 1st person to get 3 points wins, these rounds go 2 minutes. Kicks are 2 points, punches 1 point. If you have at least 7 points and are up by at least 5, they will end the match before the two minutes are up.

This actually seemed to work well for Middle, who is often hesitant because he knows he can't hit the head or crotch. Here, he could just go full-force without worrying about pulling his kicks and punches. He won his first round.

His teammate, and one of his best friends, won his first 2 rounds. They now had to fight each other. Considering how quickly he had won those rounds (well before the 2 minutes were up), I was expecting him to do the same with Middle. They're usually a pretty equal match when they spar in the dojang. Much to my surprise, it was Middle who won in probably under a minute.

Now he had to fight the other undefeated guy for 1st place. He fought really hard for the full two minutes and lost 7-4. So he finished in 2nd place.

The best part? Their ring had a large group so it was taking a long time to get through their events. By the time they were starting these sparring matches, the rest of the team were done with their events so everyone was there to cheer for Middle and their other teammate. Every time either of them scored a point during their combined 5 matches, there was a huge erruption of noise as about 25 people cheered and celebrated. (It was a little more subdued during their match against each other, for obvious reasons.) What a thrill to have some of his closest friends and mentors standing by to cheer him on and encourage him to "Be! Aggressive! Be-Be Aggressive!" and to hug and high-five him when it was over.

It was time to go for Mexican food. Rosa Mexicana has the best guacamole ever. We ate a lot, went back to the hotel, the gang of kids took off together while the grown-ups had some down time, and then we got back together for the Big Show where all the cool XMA people did their amazing stuff on stage. Video below.

We got home at about 1:30 a.m., tired and happy. So proud of Middle and all his teammates. What a great experience overall!



Saturday, August 06, 2011

That's One Big Trophy



We came home from Middle's very first national NASKA tournament in D.C. with this, which he won for kicking some serious butt.

More tomorrow.

Friday, August 05, 2011

US Capitol Classic Tournament

We are here.

Looking forward to a weekend of watching Middle and his teammates kick and punch and twirl weapons with the best in the country.

If nothing else, it will be a great show and a fun weekend away.





Thursday, August 04, 2011

I Could So Get Used to This...


It's latelatelate and I just returned from yet ANOTHER jam-session on my lovely friend's back deck.

So. Much. Fun.

It's a gorgeous moonlit night, there's a campfire burning poolside, and we're taking turns with the guitar with the crickets and cicadas singing backup, looking up chords and lyrics, working out harmonies, telling stories of concerts we've been to, sharing memories we've attached to various songs from our youth, eating and drinking and laughing and high-fiving each other late into the night.

Her friend is visiting from out of town with her family and the friend's husband plays the guitar for real, so this time I could just sing and enjoy.

I had to finally tear myself away, but it wasn't easy. The martial arts competition is in D.C. tomorrow and Saturday - I need some sleep. I did leave the guitar for them to enjoy this weekend - so glad to know it will be put to good use. As always, I'm vowing to make the time to learn some new chords, learn some new songs - even though she's always happy with the same old stuff I play every time. At least now I have some callouses on my fingertips.

Going to bed feeling positively blissful after a week of 2+ hours per day at martial arts - and two much-deserved nights out with friends.

Tank full, batteries recharged.

Happy me.

:-)

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Pain...

... is weakness leaving the body.

That's what we tell ourselves, anyway.

I'm no longer at the point where I feel every workout the next day, but I'm feeling it now. Especially in the arm and shoulder regions. Not sure if it was all the pushups and planks earlier in the week or being repeatedly thrown on the mat by the 19-Year-Old-Wonder - I love that guy - but I'm feeling it tonight.

My home remedy for post-workout muscle aches? Aleve and red wine. (Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants.) And a hot shower or bath.

Which is where I'm headed.

And that's all the whining I'm going to do. Pain: physical, emotional, spiritual - is often an essential step toward a stronger body, mind and heart. I'm learning to embrace it and all that it has to teach me.

This is the strongest I've been in so many ways, and I have - in large part - the pain to thank for that.

Feeling so very blessed to have these aching muscles.

:-)

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Outta Time

The little sproingy thing on my watch broke early last week.

This watch is the last thing I take off when I get in the shower and the first thing to go back on. And unless I'm in the shower or the pool or the dojang, it's been a fixture on my arm since around when Middle was conceived.

So it's a little weird being without it.

For the first day or so, I must have looked at my bare wrist 500 times.

The next couple of days were better - if I really needed to know what time it was, I pulled out my cell phone and looked at it.

Now I don't even do that.

There's something about being all Zen in the summer, just doing stuff with the kids and not needing to know what time it is (other than for martial arts classes.)

Looking forward to a few more weeks of hanging out at the pool, in the woods, and with our friends just enjoying the summer with no time constraints.

Not hurrying to get my watch fixed. My arm and my spirit are lighter without it.

Monday, August 01, 2011

100% Better


Dance music is pounding, I'm drenched in sweat, my arms and legs are shaking. "Five more seconds." I'm holding a side plank and those last five seconds feel like ten minutes. It takes every ounce of my concentration and will to stay up. "On your backs for leg raises! Right away! Go!" I flip over and focus on my breathing as I watch my legs move up and down to the beat.

Then we're back up for more kicking and punching. Side kicks. First speed, then power. More speed, then power. Switch. I hold the bag for my partner, who's driving through me, but I can't let myself be knocked backward - I need to be a strong target for her. I let out my air with each strike and lean into it. My turn again, and I try to hit harder this time. She's solid, strong. I can go as hard as I want. I think through the bag and try to push her back with each kick.

Punches. Speed, then power. My knuckles are starting to feel raw, even with the gloves, so I mix it up. Jab cross. Jab jab cross. Hook uppercut. Knife hand ridge hand. Ridge hand knife hand. Palm strike palm strike. Switch. She's pummeling me but I stand strong and lean into the strikes.

Back on the floor for crunches and leg raises. Planks. More crunches.

Jumping front kicks, jumping roundhouse kicks. I hurl myself through the air, hitting the bag with everything I've got. I dig in while my partner does the same.

Finally, after an hour of this, we stretch. We're dripping wet, relieved it's over, happy, dancing, guzzling water and Gatorade, high-fiving each other, then dashing into the changing room to get into our gis for class.

Bowing in.

I'm in the second row, right behind the red and black belts. Class isn't much easier. The Sabumnim didn't take kickboxing tonight so she's not thinking about what we've just been through with the Master. She puts us through more of the same. Pushups, crunches. Do a form. Do a form with a pushup between each move. Tap drills. Run through all 20 fighting techniques including trips and falls. Run through all 20 fighting techniques from the opposite stance. My partner is 19 and he's amazing. One of my favorite people to work with. We show each other no mercy. Seven lap sprints. Crescent jumping inside crescent kicks from both stances. All 36 Tae Kwon Do actions. Jab cross hook uppercut roundhouse low high back leg. Back to forms. I haven't done this form in weeks - I struggle to remember the complicated string of moves. My mind races to keep up while my body is on autopilot. More pushups. Crunches. Pushups. Crunches. The hour's up.

Bowing out.

And now I'm home. The cat is purring on my lap, I'm enjoying a Belgian white beer, getting ready to put in the laundry, take a shower and put the kids to bed and feeling...

wonderful.

Strong, healthy, calm, relaxed, centered.

I wish it didn't take 2+ hours of torture to get to this, but if it does, I'll gladly take it. Any day. Every day.

Deep sigh.