Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween 2011

The phone / internet came back on today.

Spooky.  It was a Halloween Miracle.

Today was indeed Halloween, but in our part of the world, we Trick-or-Treat the Thursday before, just to be weird. 

Anyway, I saved the picture for the actual holiday:

Middle, Little, and their Ninja Buddies
It was really hard getting this picture - the rest were blurry streaks of excited children running from house to house.  Thankfully, the man with the bowl of candy at this particular house (perhaps taking pity on the flustered parents with cameras) required them all to line up in an orderly fashion, so I seized the moment. 

They had quite the wacky fun time.  Of course, the best part was sitting around the living room trading the candy with each other afterwards.  Which I missed because I was teaching my childbirth class, but I heard it was fun.

Good, sugary fun.

And now that October is drawing to a close, I'm gearing up for NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo.  Hoping to keep my fingers extra busy this month, especially since I finally fired the Inner Editor and Other Critical Voices with the tail end of this fall's Life Purge.  There could be oodles of crappy writing, especially with no one doing quality control, so if you don't enjoy crappy writing, (or reading about my life in general), I advise you to STAY AWAY because the innmates are now running the asylum. 

Consider yourselves warned.



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Snow Weekend Continued

So last night our phone went out.

And of course, with the phone went the DSL.

Verizon tells us they will be happy to send a service tech out November 9th.


So here I am, at my parents' house, checking my email and taking care of all my other online business.  We lost phone service for a week during the last big storm, and I didn't have a smart phone then, so this time should be a bit easier. 

But still.

NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo start in 2 days.  Granted, I don't need internet to work on NaNoWriMo.  As a matter of fact, the distraction might be a hinderance.  NaBloPoMo is another story, but there are opportunities to sign up for that every month now, so it's not as big a deal.  I guess I can blog about how badly NaNoWriMo is going from my phone or my parents' for the first part of November if I really want to do that.

Which begs the question, "Why am I doing this again?"  Every year I try, and every year I crash and burn at the Write-A-Novel-In-A-Month challenge. 

It's probably something to do with the mentality I learned doing martial arts: as long as I keep showing up and doing my best, whatever my best might look like on that particular day, I'm going to improve more than if I had just stayed at home.  You can apply that same philosophy to pretty much everything - maybe it goes for writing too.  God knows I spend enough time writing every day, whether the end result is something I publish or something I leave as a draft.  Being comfortable with the fact that first drafts, especially ones thrown down in 30 days, are supposed to suck, is part of the challenge, part of the fun. 

It's an exercise in muzzling my Inner Editor and other Critical Voices and just running around barefoot in my imagination, allowing myself to totally suck - and still feeling good about who I am and the fact that I keep showing up to give it my best shot.

It's therapy for a brain that spent decades being paralyzed by perfectionism, being far too self-critical and sensitive to the disapproval of others.

Screw it all, I say.

I love my sucky writing, and I love that once a year I can attempt to churn out vast quantities of it for an entire month.

Curling up tonight with my copy of No Plot? No Problem! and a big goofy grin on my face.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween Snow Weekend

Okay, this is just weird.
Back porch.  Taken earlier today.

A few days ago, it was about 70 and beautiful. Now it's snowing. It's been snowing all day and there's probably 6 inches piled up out there.

"ROBUSTO!" says Savageman.
It was actually nice to have a snow day.  I made Italian Fall Soup with Collards from the CSA newsletter, and Little and I made butter & maple syrup snow candy.

Maple snow taffy
Little built us a fire and spent much of the day outside in the snow with his buddies, and Savageman and I got some house projects done.  The Teen was at work for a large part of the day, and Middle spent the day at an indoor skate park riding his rip stick.

Little's Fire

So far, we still have power, although I understand several thousand people in our county do not.  Heavy snow falling on trees that still have leaves is supposedly a big problem for power lines.  Keeping our fingers crossed and our candles handy.

After we get Middle from the skate park, the plan is to hunker down and watch a movie.  But if we lose power, at least we have this nice fire and several organized, decluttered shelves of board games we can play together. 

Snow in October.

Weird, yes.  But not too awful.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday Night Mixing Bowl

Friday night is sparring night at our karate school. 

The kids have the first hour, taking turns sparring in a ring with judges, going for points like they would in a tournament.  They wear protective gear and there are very specific rules regarding where and how hard they can hit.

The second hour + is for the adults and teens, who pair up and spar continuously, without judges, wearing minimal gear and switching partners every 15-20 minutes or so until we've had at least 4 fights each.  Courtesy rules apply as always, but beyond that, anything goes.  "Kick and punch him and try not to let him kick and punch you," were my instructions when I began.  Depending on who you pair with, you could be in for a gentle talk-and-tap with a friend, or an adrenaline-spiking, sweat-drenching, "holy-crap-I'm-dead-meat" serious fight with an adversary who will hit you hard if you don't protect yourself. 

A good night for me has some of each.

Afterward, we shake hands, hug, pat each other on the back...

and go out for pizza.

Our school almost completely takes over the pizza joint every Friday.  People of all different ages, fitness levels, socioeconomic statuses, educational backgrounds, belief systems, employment histories, cultural backgrounds, political persuasions,  etc. sit down and eat and talk and have a great time.  In most cases, the only thing they have in common is the karate school. They are either karate people or are parents, siblings, or spouses of karate people.

It's like a big family dinner every week, with the adults at one big table and the kids piling into several booths, playing silly word games, sitting on each other, looking at each other's electronic devices, and eventually heading outside to skateboard or ripstick, loiter at the Big Lots, or walk to the Cinema Center for a movie. 

Tonight, the teens and tweens saw a movie, so it was calmer than usual - until they got back.

Friday night facebook will often feature silly pictures they took at the restaurant or in the movie theater with their phones.  They're already starting to trickle into my news feed.

The adult table is quite lively as well.  Conversational topics vary widely and wildly.  There's a lot of laughter.  Everyone is kind and relaxed, open and friendly.

Even the normally reclusive Savageman will come out for Friday night pizza, and he'll do it even on nights when I have another commitment and can't be there myself.  Which says a lot.  It used to be weird, knowing he was there hanging out with my friends while I was at book club or away camping or whatever, but now they're just as much his friends as they are mine.  Which makes me very happy.

When I think about the fact that family dinner at our house happens in shifts, that we stand in the kitchen and munch, sometimes together, sometimes not, I realize how far we've drifted from the evening ritual I had wanted for us.  Karate and our other sports have made sit-down family meals all but impossible for years now. 

But we always have Sunday dinners at my parents' house, and we have Friday dinners with the karate family.  Rituals we can count on, that we look forward to, that make us feel warm and happy and connected.
Celebrating a birthday with one of Little's homemade cakes.
It's not a bad trade-off.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I had a really good birthday.

The day started with coffee and a treat with a homeschooling friend, followed by morning martial arts class.  Middle and I had a good workout and also learned something called a 15 Lock Drill where we used pressure points and joint manipulation on the arms, wrists and fingers in 15 different ways, some more creative (and more painful) than others.  I'm happy to report that he's been gung-ho to practice this new skill every chance he gets.  "Grab my arm, mom."  Sigh.  The good news is that when you don't push these techniques all the way to the point of real pain, it gives everything a great stretch. 

As we crossed the creek on the way home, it hit me that it was a beautiful day and I had really wanted to spend it on the water.  My Craigslist kayak deal had fallen through, and I felt a pang of sadness that today would not be the day to put my new kayak in the water as I had originally planned.

I remembered that a good homeschooling / martial arts friend who lives across the creek from me had offered the use of her 3 kayaks whenever we wanted to use them.  I called her.

Not only was she willing to loan them, she drove us up the road a ways to a good put-in and we spent the next 90 minutes or so exploring the Conodoguinet as we traveled back to her house. 

Awesome time. Beautiful day.

I came home On Top Of the World. Did some tidying up, flushed the toilet in the boys' bathroom (because they're always forgetting) and took a minute to check some stuff on the computer. Took an online punch to the chest* and watched as yucky water poured out of the light fixture above the kitchen sink at the exact same moment. Scrambled to deal with both.  Shit happens. 

Regrouped and headed back to the dojang for two more hours of class and kickboxing. 

Came home feeling pleasantly exhausted, changed and headed out for dinner and beers with part of the dojang crowd who will be out of town the night we had actually planned to celebrate and go dancing. Savageman got the kids settled in and came out too, which was great.

Collapsed into bed after midnight, having truly experienced a full day.

*As for the online punch:  It was brought to my attention in a rather painful way that my last post, in which I mentioned a past relationship, was viewed by that person and it upset her.  Seeing it through her eyes, I understood why, and I was sorry to have hurt her.  It wasn't intended to do that, merely to remind myself of some conclusions I'd reached after a great deal of processing.  All I can say is that when a relationship ends, you can dwell on the things you miss, or you can focus on reasons it worked out for the best.  I've spent plenty of time doing the former, and now I've moved on to the latter.

I'm sure she could think of similar things about me that she has missed and things she's glad to be done with.  For her, the cons outweighed the pros of continuing our friendship. 

Sometimes, the best way to love someone is to let her go when she asks you to.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birthday Thoughts

A good friend cornered me at the dojang last week and reminded me that my birthday is coming up and we need to pick a night to celebrate.

It's true. I'm turning 42 in a few days.

42 isn't a bad number. The shock of "Omigod I'm turning 40 and my life is almost half over and what have I really got to show for it" has worn off. As has the accompanying mid-life crisis.

To some extent, anyway.

If there's one thing I've learned in the last two or three years of rediscovering myself, it's that your true friends stand by you and encourage you, no matter what. They love you, support you, cheer for you and celebrate with you. They take pleasure in seeing you happy and fulfilled and you do the same for them, regardless of where you are in your own journey in that particular area of life, whether it be career, parenting, marriage, fitness, household management... whatever.

I've been fortunate enough this last year or so to be surrounded by people who are as comfortable with their own strengths and weaknesses as I am with mine. We all want to see each other succeed in our endeavors, and if one of us makes a forward leap, it's inspiration and encouragement for the others, not a cause for hurt or envy. Such a contrast from the days when I could expect anger and resentment for taking positive steps in my marriage, continuing to homeschool my kids, working at getting physically fit, enjoying time with my other friends, or even investing money in fixing up my home.

I've also learned that believing you can love and nurture someone out of her anger and defensiveness is naive. The energy spent managing such a relationship while still attempting forward progress of your own makes for a very difficult and conflict-ridden time.  Just because you believe in and encourage the dreams and goals of another person doesn't mean she will do the same for you.  A heartbreaking lesson to learn, but a valuable one all the same.

And I'm writing this down because it's important for me to remember as I move forward post-purge with a deeper appreciation of the friends I've reconnected with.  So grateful for people who cheer each other on, rejoice in each other's successes, and support and encourage each other through life's challenges.  My life would be so different without them.

Looking forward to celebrating another birthday with my newly refinished, uncluttered home  - and heart.

Another year older = another year wiser.

One Week

It's been a week since the floor project ended.

For me, anyway.  Savageman continued dealing with it, and the designer, etc. over the weekend, but I was doing martial arts stuff - including a national tournament in Baltimore where Middle took 2nd in Weapons Forms and 1st in Fighting.  His whole team did great - 6 competitors, 7 firsts in their various events and levels.  A great day overall.

Great for me to get away too.  After weeks and weeks of having the house torn up, working morning until night on the cleaning and decluttering effort, having people in the house, not being free to come and go as needed, sending the kids to my parents' house to get their schoolwork done, missing martial arts classes - I feel like I'm coming out of a fog and seeing my life again.  When I walked into the dojang on Monday, one of my friends commented right away, "You are absolutely glowing.  Everything about you looks different.  It's like a huge weight has been lifted."

How right she was.

There's more to be done, of course - there always will be.  But I've been doing it on my own, a little at a time.  Hanging curtains, replacing cabinet hinges, shopping for appliances and furniture, caulking and painting, looking at staircase ideas, cleaning and decluttering.  I've managed to keep the main floor clean this week, thanks to all the storage that we've freed up in the basement.  Two new storage pieces in the dining room and a wall of shelves in the living room will help even more. 

But we're taking our time with all that. 

In addition to reclaiming the house, I've also made an effort to reconnect with the other people in my life this week.  Lots of time with the karate friends, a long walk with my very good non-karate friend, book club tonight to kick off my birthday weekend.

It's important to me, this social time.  Going too long without it makes me wiggy.  I'm blessed with some very special friends, who took up a kayak collection for my birthday and put it in a homemade paper kayak.

So now I have no excuse.

After the month I've had, some sanity time paddling around on the creek sounds pretty darn good.

Friday, October 07, 2011


Little removing tack strips and staples from the subfloor

New paint, new underlayment and natural hickory hardwood

Little and Savageman removing old carpet and flooring

Saturday, October 01, 2011


No regrets, no looking back.

In the areas where we've worked this week, there is nothing left except those few things I could strongly justify keeping.  What I've saved for pure sentimental value is boxed up properly.  My storage areas are 3/4 empty.

And we're still not done.

As for the rest of the stuff that was cluttering up my house and constantly draining my energy?

I'm sitting here in my garage staring at it, hoping that people will give me money for it.  Half of my driveway is covered.

And right behind me is the trash.  Bags and bags and bags of it. 

I'm drained. 

Part of what makes this process so brutal - and it really has been brutal - isn't so much parting with the stuff.  It's stuff I wasn't using, wasn't missing, and in many cases didn't even know I had.  It's dealing with the fact that I ever let it get to this point in the first place.

Never. Again.

Ditto for the other things, people, thoughts and behaviors that distract me from the important things in my life, drain my tank, cause more hurt than happiness, lead to more frustration than enjoyment. 

I'm purging it all.  And this time, I'm being brutal about it.

Remembering how lovely my garden looked once I had yanked all the weeds.