Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snow Day

It's halfway through Christmas break, and we're enjoying a beautiful snow day here.  This is the perfect kind of day for a good Pandora station, a big pot of homemade Irish Potato soup (singlehandedly prepared by Little), and lounging around (or being photographed on the back porch) in karate pants.
 Last night, I had a good night of sparring, followed by an equally good night of pizza and conversation with my karate mentors.  I'm loving this phase of my training, when the academic part is beginning to mesh with the physical part in a more seamless way.  My body is strong, my endurance continuing to improve noticeably each week.  While the dojang has been operating on limited hours this week, I have spent more time at the gym, running and lifting.  Thanks to an intensive daily effort at stretching and strengthening, my hip flexors are finally feeling like they should.  I've been trying to squeeze some good yoga into my schedule, but haven't managed to be consistent with it. Planning to make another attempt at that soon. 
 In the meantime, I'm reading, reading, reading, and watching videos online to supplement what I'm reading.  My new interest is in bunkai, the process of breaking down forms (kata, or poomsae in Korean) and analyzing their purpose and practical applications.  Now that I have all of my color belt material committed to memory, I am beginning to work on moving beyond the "what" to the "why" of each action.  I've also been practicing them with more power these last few weeks, surprised at how exhausted I am after completing each series of about 20-60 actions.  I discussed this frustrating development with one of my mentors last night, and he pointed out that the stronger I become, the more power I will likely put into the form, leaving me feeling just as exhausted as I was before my endurance was as good.  Not a bad thing, just a natural part of training at this level. Feeling exhausted at the end of a form means you're doing it right.  It was reassuring to know that the younger and stronger men I train with have the same experience when they push hard.   
Tonight, I plan to build a fire and read, or perhaps watch a movie with Savageman and the boyz.  There's a lot that needs to be done around here, but tonight is for relaxing and enjoying the cozy house and the view of the pretty snow outside.
Grateful tonight for a warm home, good food, the time to study and practice, and for all who support and teach me.  
And for the beautiful snow!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

This is It

It's December 20, 2012, and according to a lot of superstitious people, the world is supposed to end tomorrow.

I don't happen to be one of them.  I already have weekend plans.

But that doesn't mean that the whole idea of the End being Near didn't capture my imagination a bit.

When I first heard about this prediction, about 3 years ago, it got me thinking, and asking myself, if I knew I only had a few years left, how would I spend them?

And then I went and did that.

Because, honestly, Mayans or not, none of us is immortal; none of us knows what life has in store for us.  And the worst thing I could imagine was finding myself at the end of my life and having Regrets. 

So even though deep down, I believe this Mayan prediction is nonsense, I have to give it some credit, since the idea of it has had enormous impact on my decision-making over these last years.

I have made bold decisions.  Taken risks.  Refused to be anything less than my authentic self.  I've let down my guard and opened myself up in new and courageous ways, resulting in the experiences of both incredible friendships and also of painful loss.  I've redefined my roles of wife and mother.  Redefined my relationship with my body.  Examined myself and made the changes I found myself needing. Fed myself with experiences for which I had been starving.  Dedicated myself to a rigorous course of mental and physical discipline.  Found ways to give back to my community.  Learned things I had previously thought I was too late in life to learn.

I've been a sponge, absorbing all of the experiences and challenges and connections and pure bliss I could manage to soak up.  "Sure, why not?" has been my mantra - and I've rarely regretted saying it.

Today was Thursday.  I got up, went into work to get set up to sub in the truly challenging classrooms - the emotional and behavioral support classes, the autistic and intellectually handicapped classes, the multiple disability classes.  After that, I took two exhilarating hours of karate, went out to lunch with Savageman and four of my favorite karate friends, spent some time with the kids, taught my childbirth class.  The Teen's team took second place in a basketball tournament.  Middle went to a concert at the High School and came home with friends.  Little helped us make a snack and we hung out until bedtime.  I'm writing now while Savageman cleans up and then we'll finish the movie we started last night.  One of us may even get a massage. 

If this were indeed to be my last day on Earth, I have no complaints or regrets.  This was a good day, spent with people I love, feeling challenged and fulfilled, doing things I love to do.

String together 365 days like this a year and you find yourself living the life you're meant to live.

Grateful for it all.  Every bit of it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


We got our tree last night. 

I know what you're thinking, if you've been reading this for a while.  Christmas preparations in our house don't usually start until at least the 22nd.  Until that point, we are happily in denial, keeping the TV off, listening to CDs instead of the radio, avoiding the malls and big box stores, keeping our focus on Getting Through Today.

This year, of course, things are different.  All of the kids are in school.  Savageman is not at work, and I am, as often as I can be.  This week, I spent Wednesday playing School Librarian at a local middle school, and Friday doing a neuropsych evaluation. 

I was actually wrapping up said neuropsych evaluation, double-checking my scoring and preparing to fill in my report, when I happened to check the news.  Reading about the school shooting in CT completely knocked the wind out of me.  Glad for my private office, I cried my way through the rest of my scoring and headed home to Savageman and the two older boys, who held me while I sobbed for the victims and their families and friends. 

Little was due home about an hour later.  We decided not to tell him about it right away.  Information was still sketchy, and I wanted my own raw emotions to settle down a bit before discussing it.  This is, after all, his first semester in an elementary school building, and he's not the kind of kid who will acknowledge if he is worried about something. Best not to freak him out needlessly.

Besides, I was just so happy to see him and cuddle him and sniff his sweet head that I didn't want to spoil the moment when he got home.

That night, I did wind up keeping him up for an extra two hours, reading Harry Potter together and snuggling and talking and savoring this time that suddenly seemed so precious.  I pushed aside the twinge of guilt that occasionally bubbled up and asked me why I didn't spend this kind of time with him - with all of them - every night.  I was doing it now, and I would be mindful to do it more often. 

I also resolved not to wait until Christmas Eve to start thinking about Christmas this year.  Little is especially interested in doing family stuff together, and he had been asking for a few days when we could start shopping and decorating and making cookies.  Getting Through Today was going to have to begin to include some of these things. 

So Advent began here yesterday.  We got the wreath and the tree stand out of the attic, headed for Lowes to pick out an inexpensive tree, and stopped at the store to get ingredients for a treat.  We put a Christmas station on Pandora, set up the tree, made our treat, played Scrabble, and snuggled up to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas together.  Savageman and I celebrated the third day of our return to HappyMarriageLand and watched another movie together after the kids were in bed. 

All is currently well here in our little corner of the universe.  And while the school shooting in CT was, of course, mentioned in Mass this morning - thus prompting a discussion with Little afterward during soup and donut time - it turned out he had watched the news before we got up today and already knew all about it.  He didn't seem particularly concerned about his own safety, pointing out that his school is about 10 feet from the police station and that they regularly have intruder drills and already know what to do.  We talked a bit about the statistical improbability of something like that happening in his school, but the conversation was brief.  As for the plight of the families in CT, this is one of those times that I am thankful that he's not the world's deepest thinker. 

For those of us who do tend to think more deeply about these topics, we are trying to limit our musings to those things within our own sphere of influence. 

For now, just loving each other and cherishing our time together and this happy season is enough.

Monday, December 10, 2012

As Predicted...

I'm back to normal tonight.

Got up, made meat sauce in the crock pot, got the kids off to school, went to the gym, stretched, ran a mile, worked out on the machines (upper body, because I have to do this gawdaful pole-vaulting move at the end of longstick 3 that just hasn't been happening for me), did forms and burpees in the Other Room. 

Got the TB test I needed for one of the school districts.

Met up with an old friend from high school and had coffee with him and Savageman for a few hours.

Went to the dojang an hour early to train with Kickboxing Guy, then did my regular cardio hour, then class. In cardio, in addition to our usual kicking, punching, and core work, we got longsticks and worked extensively on the very move I'm struggling with.  We also ran around the room, leaping and bounding over obstacles.  Yes, is what I thought.  This is what I needed

In class, another red stripe and I each had the chance to lead the class for a short while.  Despite years of watching others do this with ease, it's quite a different situation when you're in front of the class yourself, calling out the commands and counting in Korean. Despite the small mistakes we all make at first, it's a great confidence builder. 

Tonight, my tummy is full of good spaghetti, a tasty Belgian White beer, and a peanut butter cup swiped from the secret stash.  Savageman cleaned our room, everyone's homework is done, a chapter of Harry Potter has been read (Little reads a page, I read a page), and I am ready for a hot shower and a good book. 

Happy me.

Sunday, December 09, 2012


Last night was the Christmas Banquet.  Nice video presentation of the demo team here:

Despite the night of festivities, surrounded with good food and good friends, I woke this morning feeling exhausted, drained, shut-down. 


Was it the rainy, cold weather?  The fact that I missed several cardio classes last week and also sparring on Friday?  I worked on Friday - my first day as a substitute - and went out to eat with relatives that night. It was the first weekday in recent memory I had no gym, no dojang, no exercise at all.  Was it the fact that I had overeaten on both Thursday and Friday, leaving me feeling bloated and sluggish?  Family stress and the cumulative effect 11 months of unemployment has had on our marriage?  The transition into my new role as Working Mother?

A combination of all of these?

Whatever it was, watching myself sinking deeper and deeper into depression is not a good feeling.  Like a fog settling down over me, it presses me down, sapping my energy and motivation.  It's been ages since I've felt this way.  Thankfully, it's a rare thing now.  I hate it.

Thankfully also - it never lasts long.  I have very little tolerance for Depressed Me.  I force myself to move, kicking and screaming, anywhere but down.  I know myself well enough to realize that getting some exercise, cleaning the house, throwing myself into a project, forcing myself into a social situation - always makes it better.  Movement, even in the wrong direction, is better than doing nothing at all and letting the depression tighten its grip on me.  It's a choice - to wallow, or to struggle free - and I'm too stubborn to go down without a fight. 

So tonight, I dragged my sullen ass to the computer and am now blogging myself this pep talk.  When I am done, I will go downstairs and kick the crap out of my kicking bag, do 50 burpees, work through my forms. Tomorrow, if I am not called in to work, I will go to the gym for more of the same, plus running, and tomorrow night I will go to cardio and class.  Back to normal.  Back to feeling fit and strong and healthy.

I can't stand myself like this.  Really. 

Pep talk over.  Time to start moving.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Testing Day

... on which I did not test. 

I'm not eligible to test again until at least June. 

So I went, I watched the black belt test at 8, then dressed and sat in the back for the color belt test at 10.  A few times, we were asked to get up and help, which was nice because sitting still for 4 hours is almost as torturous as testing.

In any case, the black belt test was small, only three people, two of whom were the guru and one of the Adopted Daughters testing for their Second Dan.  They were, of course, fantastic.  I definitely have a lot of work to do between now and June if I am to test then.  Like healing and strengthening my hips and legs. They did so much kicking... and kicking... and kicking... I think my legs would simply fall off if I had to do that much kicking in a two hour period.  Which would be embarrassing. 

I also need to work on grappling.  My favorite grappling partner is home from college this weekend, and we had a good match last night after sparring, but most of the time she made me feel like a squashed bug.  We're the same size, but she is wicked strong and I'm clearly out of practice.

Watching the black belt test was certainly inspiring.  My three friends, each with different stories, different strengths, different challenges, looked amazing.  I have a lot to live up to. 

Immediately afterward, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to Harrisburg for a demo, in which the same Adopted Daughter, after her Second Dan test, and after assisting with the color belt test, performed with her usual energy and enthusiasm.  Absolutely amazing.

Feeeling particularly inspired tonight to get back to work training and preparing.  Maybe I'll head to the gym for a while.  I think the young ninja crowd is due back here to watch a movie and celebrate tonight. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Six Months

Yesterday, The Master finished teaching me the material I will need to know for the rank of Black Belt.  I now have six months to polish it (and everything else I've learned) - and to get myself into peak physical condition.  The first test for which I will be eligible is at the beginning of June.  If The Master does indeed invite me to test at that point, I want to be ready. 

Having been taught all of the material is an important milestone for me.  When there's material to learn, part of my mind is always in acquisition mode - keeping an eye out for The Master, prepared to stop what I'm doing and learn and memorize if he offers to teach me the next section of a form or the next hapkido move that I need.  Now, my practice time will be spent running over (and over and over) what I already know.  Breaking it down, fine tuning it, asking questions, fixing the tricky parts, getting the balance and timing right, transferring it to "muscle memory," putting it back together, understanding what it's about, giving it power and life, making it look and feel awesome.  A process I have come to really enjoy. 

Which is good, because beyond Black Belt, that is much of what I will be doing.  New material is taught for the second Dan and beyond, but it's nothing like the color belt pattern of learning several new open hand forms, weapons forms, fighting and hapkido techniques, and testing every three to six months.  Black Belt students have much less new material, and years, not months between tests to master it and learn to apply it. It's a different set of priorities.

Now that I have everything I need, working toward mastery of the last 3.3 years' worth of material is my new focus.  And, of course, conditioning, which is ongoing, and important for keeping up my endurance and preventing injuries. 

Which reminds -  Savageman is waiting for me at the gym.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Something Clicked

Aahh, Bruce.  Always good to see an inspiring quote from him, especially after a week or two of frustrating reminders of my own phyiscal limitations, including a hip flexor strain that just never seems to get any better.

So Bruce happened to show up on my Facebook feed yesterday morning, perhaps planting a seed of inspiration in the back of my mind.  I spent the day feeling antsy and eager for afternoon open practice, determined to accomplish a time-consuming but necessary back-to-basics goal.

Accomplish it I did - about two hours worth of monotonous basic actions that left me soggy, breathless, and exhausted, but definitely feeling more powerful and confident than when I started.

When I returned to my normal practice of running through my open hand forms, something just... clicked.  I was suddenly not performing a robotic series of actions.  I was training for combat.  A concept I had previously understood in my head, but not with my body.

It was a true aha! moment as I felt myself launched upward off of the plateau. It reminded me of one of those magic eye pictures that you stare at and stare at and then suddenly your eyes unfocus and you see this whole 3D world that wasn't there before.

I demonstrated my first basic form for the guru.

For the first time ever, I heard him say: "Good.  Now do them all like that."

Very satisfying.  And motivating. 

I need to rehabilitate the hip.

Hip therapy started last night with a hot bath and a lengthy massage from Savageman, for which I was extremely grateful. 

This morning, I got up, ran through an abbreviated Ashtanga Yoga series, and iced it.  Tonight, I will stretch extra well before and after classes and hopefully get another massage.

No limits, only plateaus.  I'm determined.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


It hasn't been an easy year.

The loss of Savageman's job ten months ago, the tough decisions that followed, and the stress that came with all of these changes made this perhaps our most difficult year as a family.

When dealing with the crap that life sometimes dishes out, I occasionally revisit Randy Pausch's Last Lecture for some perspective.  I listened to it again on the long car ride to the SADD conference last week.

The five teens in the FunMobile groaned a bit when I started it up.  It was early in the morning and I think they were hoping for music, not Teachable Moments. They should know me better.

"Really, Kathymommy?" I heard from the back.

"I'm playing a chapter or two and if you hate it, I'll change it, okay?"

Reluctant grumbles.

But sure enough, when I checked in with them a few chapters later, they said, "Leave it on, it's good."

I'm glad they liked it - I think it's something everyone should hear, especially 14-16 year olds who still have so many decisions and challenges ahead of them.  Dr. Pausch has much life wisdom to share in his book, but the way he handled his cancer diagnosis and impending death put life's disappointments and crappy moments in perspective like few other things could.  And while they're young in years, these guys are mature enough to begin to understand:

"You cannot change the cards you are dealt, just how you play the hand."

How true is that?

His stories of going after his life dreams, of overcoming obstacles and challenges, and the fun and satisfaction he found on the other side were great to hear as well.

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something."

Love that.

But probably my favorite quote from the Last Lecture was:

"You just have to decide whether you are Tigger or an Eeyore. You have to be clear where you stand on the Tigger/Eeyore debate."

I'm so glad that I first heard these words long before this particular year.  It gives me a visual framework for when I am taking inventory of how I'm handling something.  If I feel myself drifting toward Eeyoreville, I know I need to readjust and reconnect with my Inner Tigger. (This usually involves dojang time, but hey, whatever works.)  I'm happy to report that it has been an extremely effective strategy for me.  A few hours bouncing around in my happy place with the other Tiggers and I'm good to go.

Attitude: readjusted.
Mock me if you will, but I'm All Tigger. Life is too short not to be. 
And today is Thanksgiving. 
So I'm thankful, in my best Tiggery way, for everything that makes me laugh, stimulates me, challenges me, and fills my world with joy.
Starting with, of course, Savageman and the boys.  We may push each other's buttons, we may need our space and our time apart sometimes, but we still know how to have a great time together. 
My parents are the absolute best.  Our Sunday dinners together provide consistency and tradition in what can otherwise be an often chaotic family life.  (And also, leftovers.) They are always happy to take a kid or two out of the mix for the time-apart thing I just mentioned, and they lessen the burden on us in so many ways. The seven of us have made so many happy memories together - we're so blessed to have such wonderful, supportive parents living so close by.
My karate family - we laugh together, learn together, sweat together, struggle together, celebrate together.  We lift each other up.  And throw each other down on the mat. :) So many happy times spent with them, both in and out of the dojang, my second home.
My primary home, especially our new downstairs, thankfully completed before we knew what was coming financially.  It cleans up nice, this place, and I'm glad we are using the space effectively and entertaining more.  Our room has been cleaned up as well, as has the basement. Looking forward to making everything pretty for the holidays.
My work - neuropsych evaluations and childbirth classes have become much more important to me this year for the obvious reasons, and I just received word that my emergency teaching certification has been approved by the Department of Education, so I can begin substitute teaching.  I'm All Tigger about work as well, and plan to make my days enjoying someone else's students and lesson plans as fun and exciting as possible. 
The pets, especially My Cat.  That Dog is sweet, but he belongs to Savageman and the boys at heart.  My Cat is mine and I love her.  It's a relationship built on mutual respect, adequate personal space, and blissful squeak-purr cuddle time.  And pipe cleaner toys.  And fresh water.  Sometimes with ice cubes for her to bat at with her adorable little paws. 
Our kayaks, also thankfully purchased before (right before) Savageman lost his job.  The sense of: well, we paid for them, we might as well get a lot of use out of them - was probably a blessing in disguise.  I have taken so many pleasurable trips down our lovely creek with Savageman, the boys, my Mom, and several of my friends.  Even going out on the creek alone fills my soul like nothing else can.  I may even go out today for a while. 
Our Y membership.  Savageman is there every day, exercising and networking.  It's his happy place, and I like to join him there when I can to run and lift and practice forms. 
This brings me to my body, which amazes me every day by doing things I never thought it could; things I probably shouldn't ask it to do.  But I'm thrilled with it.  Just thrilled.  Spending a few hours a day punching, kicking, throwing, falling, wielding weapons and doing pushups and crunches and burpees and forms, forms, and more forms... seeing myself improving, becoming stronger, more flexible, more precise... I'm loving myself more than I thought I could.  I once said that karate made me feel like I'd been bitten by a radioactive spider, and it still feels that way 3+ years later. Nothing compares.  Nothing.  
Finally, my blog.  I don't have much time for it these days, but I love having a place to record these thoughts and share them with my closer friends and family.  It's nice, when I have the time, to go back and look over what we were doing at different points, complete with pictures and video. 
Grateful for today, for all of these things, and for the opportunity to share Dr. Pausch's book with my young friends last week.
Off to make an apple pie. Dinner in four hours.

Monday, November 19, 2012


I've done it for years, in one setting or another.  Time spent as a graduate teaching assistant, teaching undergrads and running the electrophysiology lab at VA Tech, spending my summers running camps for kids and teens, teaching childbirth and breastfeeding to new parents, and then homeschooling the boys and teaching at the homeschool co-op... all were great experiences that have helped me prepare for my new career, substitute teaching in the local schools.

I spent today getting my feet wet in public Middle School, where I spent the morning with 8th graders and the afternoon with 6th and 7th graders.  I saw Social Studies, English, Algebra, Science and Health taught by people who seemed pretty darn good at their jobs.  I was impressed with them, as was I impressed with the technology I saw in just about every classroom.  Smart Boards, Netbooks, YouTube videos seamlessly incorporated into the lessons... it was very cool stuff. 

My own education was decidedly low-tech.  Which had its own advantages.  Other than the cyberschool curriculum being online, my approach with the boys was low-tech as well.  I preferred they play with blocks, not pixels, and I sent them outside every chance I got.  So this is a very different model of education for me.

Being in the school building all day today gave me an appreciation for the boys' lives right now as well.  I don't know about them, but I felt like it was a long day.  Being cooped up in a building for that many hours - even with switching classes every so often - is a bit draining for me.  But I expect I'll get used to it, just like the boys did.

Besides, they're paying me.  With real dollars.  Which I need to buy groceries and pay the mortgage and the electric bill and stuff.


Honestly, there are worse ways to make money.  And I've always enjoyed the teaching opportunities I've had in the past. 

Grateful for my education and training and having a way to support my family.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Have I Mentioned My Hubby?

Okay, I guess I did, just recently, but I want to do it again.

How very awesome is this guy I married?

He cooks, he cleans, he folds laundry, he helps with homework, he drives the boys to school when they want more time in the morning, he listens to my daily life musings, he's always willing to stop what he's doing and run to the store for something.  He rubs my sore karate muscles (and frequently compliments me on said muscles), he kicks my butt to the gym three days a week and makes sure I get all the dojang and travel time that I need, supporting me even when it's more work for him.   He makes me feel loved and appreciated and beautiful and special.

Okay, he doesn't really cook. 

But he makes the kitchen spotless again after the boys or I cook.

He patiently accomodates my crazy schedule, my part-time work assignments, my writing projects, my need to fill the house with the same three Pandora stations 24/7, and my wacky Caveman Diet.  He isn't embarassed to be seen with me at the gym in my Footgloves.  He helps me stretch and keeps me company in the Other Room while I practice my forms, and stands and talks to me while I work on the weight machines or run on the treadmill. He cheerfully tolerates my need to occasionally assault him with spontaneous karate moves, and will even spar with me if I want to play. He kayaks with me, or does the driving when I want to kayak with a friend.  He's a good sport about almost everything.

And, of course, he makes me laugh.  He's probably one of the funniest people I know, which is, honestly, the reason I married him.  (And the reason he married me is probably that I'm one of the few people who understands and appreciates his sense of humor.)  Even when he is feeling his most dismal, he can poke fun at himself or at the situation and put it all in perspective.

Perspective is key with him.  He understands the value in seeing the Big Picture.  In not wanting to be part of the problem.  In thinking about how we're going to look back on this or that decades from now.  In stepping back and asking, "What does God want from me right now?  What am I meant to be doing at this point in my life?  What is my purpose?" 

Although he is an introvert at heart, he has embraced the gang of middle and high school karate teens who call our house their second home.  When I checked in with him regarding their frequent invasions of our space and kitchen, he reminded me that one of the best things we're doing as parents is being involved and making the effort to really know the kids' friends (and their parents) and making them feel welcome and valued in our lives. He gets the importance of this, and doesn't mind that our family has roughly doubled during a time of real financial hardship. 

Ever generous, he puts people before things every time.

It's been a difficult year for him, but he's handled the challenges and frustrations gracefully and with his core values intact.

And he's always ready with a secret stash of chocolate, an episode of zombies, or a massage when I need it.

Grateful to be married to my best friend.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Battle In Hershey

Hmm... guess I kind of dropped the ball on NaBloPoMo.

Oh well.  I've been busy.

Saturday, I was busy watching a competition in Hershey.

Middle, a day shy of his 14th birthday, took second in both weapons and fighting.  Quite an accomplishment, considering that this his his first season competing as a black belt. 

He is now in the same division as one of his very best friends, a daughter of The Master, who very often goes home with a Grand Championship trophy as well as several regular ones.

Hershey was no exception.  She and her sister were both named Grand Champions this weekend.  Phenomenal kids. And tough competition.

Add to this that Middle is juggling his karate time committment with his first year of public school, where he just made the Honor Roll. 

I couldn't be more pleased with him.

My Adopted Daughters also did well.  One took a first and a second and was in the running for Grand Champion this time, and the other took a first and two seconds.  They also made the Honor Roll. :-) 

Most importantly, we had fun.  After the competition, there was lunch at Fudruckers and then we came back to the house to celebrate Middle's birthday with our ginormous karate family.

We were also pleased to discover this weekend that our October trip to Baltimore had made the local paper:

The Demo Team has been busy as well.  Yesterday, we spent the day in Lancaster at the SADD conference, where the kids performed.  They also participated in workshops aimed at helping teens take leadership roles in their schools and community to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.

It keeps us busy, but being on the Competition and Demonstration Teams has been a great experience.  Traveling to and from events with the kids in my van - a.k.a. The FunMobile - has been a wonderful bonding opportunity for all of us.  These kids are my friends as well as his, and they push and teach me just as much as I (hopefully) am a positive influence in their lives. 

Grateful today for these teams, and for our karate family in general. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Shout-Out to The Hubster

Today was Tuesday.

If you've been reading this, you might remember that Tuesday is my intensive training day.

Two hours of class and practice in the morning, followed by lunch with The Master and company, then five hours in the afternoon / evening with Middle for classes, conditioning / kickboxing, and individual practice.

I've considered cutting back a bit, especially on Tuesdays, but I honestly don't know which class I would give up.

Tuesday / Thursday morning classes are usually small and intimate.  Morning class means starting the day with a great workout, plenty of one-on-one with The Master to learn new material, and going out to lunch afterward, which is a nice bonus.

I drive Middle and the Adopted Daughters to the Tuesday / Thursday 4:00 class.  At 5:00, we take conditioning / kickboxing.  Very important for me, especially right now.  This is where I drill my kicking and punching techniques, and also where I build up my cardiovascular endurance and muscle mass.  I take four of these per week, and while I find them exceptionally demanding physically, I also realize that they are the four most important hours of my week with regard to my health and fitness.

I stretched and went over things at 6:00, then at the 7:00 class, we worked on sweeps.  An important skill to do correctly.  We broke it down and practiced on each other in small groups. And  of course, when class was over, we spent time working on material while we waited for Competition Team practice to end.

I honestly couldn't have given up a single one of these hours without regrets tonight. 

Meanwhile, at home, Savageman cleaned the kitchen, folded and put away the laundry, drove the Teen to volunteer for election day stuff, made sure Little ate and did his homework, and picked up our room.  Later, he will likely massage my weary, aching body and put me to bed. 

In the morning, he will take me to the gym, oversee my new lifting routine, and keep me company, doing his own routine while I run and practice forms nearby. 

In the afternoon, I will go to do a neuropsych evaluation and he will once again be the one holding down the fort at home - a role he has accepted gracefully during this season of our lives and our marriage.

Grateful tonight for a husband who jumps in to do whatever the situation demands, who understands and supports my goals, and who has awesome hands. :-) 

Monday, November 05, 2012

New Routine

So I got up today, stretched a whole big bunch, ran a mile and did forms at the Y, stretched a whole lot more, and lifted weights.

Went home, took a hot bath, had some Awesome Husband massage and did my usual Home Stuff.  Wearing ankle weights.

Went to class this evening, stretched a whole lot more.  Teen Ninja Girl checked to see if I could touch my head to my knees with my legs straight.  She's taking her role as my stretching coach very seriously. We took a brutal kickboxing class which included no less than 60 burpees on top of the usual kicking, punching, and crunches.  I focused on power.  Left the room drenched and exhausted at the end.

Then changed for class.

The Sabumnim who taught class haden't taken kickboxing tonight, so she had no idea of what we had just been through.  She started class with 20 pushups - executed on my fists - and it got a lot harder from there. Running, kicking, falling, taekwondo actions in backward and forward order, forms and more forms... class doesn't get much harder than this one.

We ended class by pairing up and working on hapkido and fighting techniques.  I was paired with a new 13 year old white belt and was instructed to fix anything he was doing wrong. 

Being put in the position of teacher is a new thing for me - generally, color belts are not permitted to instruct, unless they are specifically told to do so.  The fact that the Sabumnim did that tonight was clearly an attempt to build my confidence.  I worked with him carefully, hoping I was remembering these basic techniques and explaining them correctly. 

So even the easiest part of the class was mentally challenging.

Between the two sessions, I felt like I had been through a belt test.  Exhausted and drained, but at the same time, weirdly euphoric. 

After class, while waiting for Middle's demo practice to wrap up, I got some quality instruction from another of the Sabumnims and worked for about an hour tweaking my material. 

After grocery shopping and seeing the boys off to bed, I managed an episode of zombies with Savageman and now I'm headed for another bath, hopefully another massage, and bed.

Focusing on strength and flexibility has added a new sense of challenge to my routine.  I'm definitely going to be sore tomorrow, both from the lifting and from the extra tough evening classes, but I regret none of it. 

Grateful tonight for this body and its ability to take whatever I put it through.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Open Practice

Spent 4 hours in the dojang today working alone and with the guru and Teen Ninja Girl.

Best. Coaches. Ever.

Nothing gets by them.  If a chamber is wrong, a stance is off, a technique delivered with less-than-adequate power - they see it.

And I do it again.  My afternoon sounded something like this:

"Stop!  Go back."

"Again. Like this."

"Go back."


"Better.  Once more."

"Now add this."

It's exhausting.  It's frustrating.  Extremely frustrating.

But at the end of it, I'm better. 

Much better.

In a follow-up conversation tonight, the guru made the observation that the plateau I'm on has less to do with knowing my material and more to do with executing the techniques with strength, flexibility, and efficiency. 

He went as far as to say that this hurdle is the largest one I've faced since starting my training, and I suspect he's right.

Now it's about the limitations of my body, which is 43; for the vast majority of those years it was inflexible and rejecting athleticism in any form.

His prescription for me? 

Back to basics. 

Working on the bags for power, increasing flexibility and range of motion. 


The truth is sometimes hard to hear, but I'll do it, because he is right.

Hoping to show some improvement in these areas when he returns in two weeks. 

Grateful for all of my teachers and coaches who have gotten me to where I am today.



Saturday, November 03, 2012


There is no way I'm old enough for a 25th High School Reunion. 
And yet, I attended one tonight. 
It was quite fun.
Grateful tonight for a chance to catch up with some old friends.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Ninja Feet

Behold my birthday present from my beloved parents, who think I'm wacky but who love me anyway.  ===========>
It's my theory that once people make the move to barefoot (or minimalist) running, they don't often go back.
For me, it's the fact that I never used to like to run, and now I do. 
It doesn't hurt.  It feels good.  Healthy.  Natural.  Like something my body is supposed to do.
(I will say that after not running this way for a while, my calves are sore for a few days after starting up again.  But it's not an injury-type sore, it's a these-muscles-need-more-work sore. And avoiding that initial soreness is a good reason to do it regularly.)
They're not just for running, either.  I use them for kayaking, and, of course, for karate.
Most of the exercise I get is barefoot, in the dojang.  But that space is not always available.  These footgloves are a great way to move my karate practice outside.  In the last week, I've used them to practice at both the park and the Y. 
Taking my training time to different areas, including outdoors, has been a welcome change.  It's good to rehearse the moves of a form without relying on the familiar landmarks of the school.  Also, outside, there are no mirrors.  In the room I use at the Y, there are extra mirrors.  Both situations have certain advantages and help me focus on different aspects of what I'm doing.
These new Vibrams cover more of my feet and are warmer than my original pink pair, so I'm looking forward to using them this winter.
Grateful today for my new Ninja Feet and for the parents who understand and embrace my quirkiness.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Training Day

Who am I kidding?

They're all training days.

I'm preparing to test for my black belt - and for the responsibilities I will have once I have earned it.

There's a lot to remember, a lot that needs to be automatic, a lot that I need to understand and be able to apply.

So I'm working my butt off.

And thankfully, I have a husband and sons who are supportive and understanding and self-reliant when I'm not home.

Tuesdays are my most intensive training days.  I start with coffee and stretching while I visit with a friend whose kids take the 9:00 homeschool class.  My class is at 10:00, and I generally continue practicing after class until about 12:00, when we go to lunch with The Master.

I get a little downtime after lunch, but at 3:45, I head back with Middle and the Adopted Daughters for the afternoon.

I take the 4:00 class and the 5:00 conditioning / kickboxing class. I practice on my own at 6:00, then I take another class at 7:00 and do more individual practice afterward.  We usually head home at about 9:00.

I'll admit that it's a huge amount of time.  On most days, it's less, but on an average week, I will log 20+ hours working on karate, either in class or open practice.

On the other hand, 20+ hours per week comes out to about 3-4 hours per day.  This is less time than the average person spends in front of the TV.  (I have virtually NO time in front of the TV.  It's hard enough to squeeze in 40 minutes of zombies.  If it's after 11 and I stop moving, I fall asleep.) 

So nowdays, if someone comments on the amount of time I spend training, I just smile.  After all, it's something I love, something that has absolutely transformed my body, my mind, and my spirit... and I could be spending those hours watching TV.

Or sitting at the computer.  I noticed that it is suddenly November.  Guess I won't be noveling this year, but I will take a stab at NaBloPoMo.  Just don't expect too much. 

I'm in training.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Birthday Weekend

My birthday was Thursday.

It was a wonderful day.  The best part about it?  It was pretty much my typical Thursday.

I did get to sleep in, but that was due to an alarm clock malfunction.  We ALL got to sleep in, and two of the boys missed the bus.  A minor inconvenience, but it was still nice not to wake up in the dark.

I took the morning class at 10, which is always especially good.  Got an excellent workout, learned some new material, felt 25 and invincible. 

God, I love my martial arts classes.

I got to pick the location for lunch, and chose Thai Palace where I enjoyed a fabulous buffet with Savageman, The Master and his wife, and a fellow student.  We ate and talked for hours, which was perfectly delightful.

After lunch, I did some shopping with my mom for some new Vibrams - equally delightful.  Then I headed home to get Middle and the two Teen Ninja Girls for the 4:00 class.  One of the girls had a cake for me, and the other presented me with a homemade card and a gift.

Love my adopted girls.

The 4:00 was also quite excellent, as was the 5:00 cardio / kickboxing.  I shared the cake with the teens in the back room, then packed up for my childbirth class.

It was the last class of the 12 week series, and everyone brought food, so I had another party.  Former students popped in with their baby and told their birth story, raved about the class and how well prepared they were for their natural birth and first weeks with their baby.  We talked and laughed and I felt all warm and squooshy inside knowing I make such a difference to these folks in their transition into parenthood.

At home, Savageman was his usual attentive self.  He had a sweet card and flowers and chocolate for me. We cuddled and watched The Walking Dead together.  (The Zombie Apocolypse is so romantic.)  A perfect ending to a perfect day.

But my birthday weekend had just begun!

Friday was orginally going to feature a hike to Pole Steeple, but I was called in to do a neuropsych evaluation, so I gladly took the opportunity to work.  The kids filmed a zombie movie after school. They were very convincing. We had sparring in the evening.  The guru came home from grad school and presented me with a freaky-big-face-cat-shirt.  I had several excellent sparring matches, got some extra help with my new forms, and we had a very fun time at the pizza place as always.

Saturday morning featured another demo at another fall festival. 

That evening was a Halloween party, followed by the 80s-themed birthday bash thrown by the karate women.  I wore the same outfit to both - kind of a green plaid skirt and white blouse (since I spent about half of the 80s in Catholic School) with a side ponytail, lots of blue eyeshadow, big earrings, and loads of bracelets up my arms. 

One of the Adopted Daughters did my hair, makeup, and accessories.  Not bad, considering she was born in 1996.

We ate, drank, and watched Pretty in Pink.  I felt blessed to have such very sweet girlfriends who enjoy kicking butt and doing wacky fun things like this.

The dojang women =>
We may look silly, but we're actually quite deadly.

Don't mess with us. :-)

Sunday started with church, then a rare outdoor (pre-hurricane Sandy) open practice at the park with Middle, the guru, and Teen Ninja Girl, followed by a relaxing lunch with them.  Always a good time when we're together.

The weekend wrapped up with the family party at my parents' where we had a delicious dinner, cake and presents.

All in all, it was a wonderful birthday weekend.  I got to spend it with all of my favorite people, and they really went out of their way to make me feel special. 

Feeling very blessed and grateful tonight.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Red. Stripe.

Class ended early today.  The Master lined us up to bow out, then had us sit or kneel with our eyes closed for meditation while he left the room.

We all knew what that meant.  It was time to hand out promotion results.

He returned and had us open our eyes. My name was called first.  "Testing for First Gup: Red Stripe - Kathleen Savage."  I stood and went to the front to receive my certificate and shake his hand.  Everyone clapped.  The other promotions were awarded as well, and we bowed out.

After class, I reported to his office, where he applied the tape to my belt himself and congratulated me once more.  The one thought that kept going through my mind was that this was the last time I would be presented with a belt promotion at the end of a class.  I have received 9 such color-belt promotions in the 3 1/4 years I've been at the school.  The next time I receive a belt, it will be at the conclusion of my black belt test, in the presence of the others testing, my superiors at the school, and any friends and family who are there to watch.   

Dare I calculate how many hours went into this one promotion?

Roughly 24 hours per week of classes, conditioning, and open practices...

times 14 weeks...

equals about 336 hours since my red belt test in June. 

At this pace, I should have at least another 1000 hours ahead of me as I prepare for my black belt test.

I have three open hand forms, another longstick form, and more hapkido to learn, as well as fine-tuning all of my old material so that I know it forward and backward, inside and out.  I need to be in exceptional physical condition, able to do endless burpees, pushups, punches and squats, able to hold a horse stance for crazy lengths of time, and of course, able to fight multiple opponents for as long as is required of me.  And then still think clearly enough to execute any of 19 lengthy open hand forms and 7 weapon forms with proper stances and chambers - not to mention the 25 fighting techniques, 50 hapkido techniques, the judo throws, the hand techniques, kicks, punches, falls and moving concentrations.

It blows my mind when I think about how much material we actually know by the time we reach this point. 

It also blows my mind to consider the fact that, once again, the people with whom I will be testing are likely to be decades younger and male.  I will have to continue to work twice as hard at conditioning if I want to match their endurance. 

Tomorrow, I'll be back at the gym, running and lifting in the morning, conditioning and training at the dojang in the evening. 

For at least the next eight months, "How much practice can I work in today?" will be the foremost question on my mind as I power up with my morning coffee.  Or energy shake.


Monday, September 24, 2012


 I went kayaking alone today.

I took the lighter of the two kayaks, (which I can lift onto the car rack myself), and headed for my favorite spot.  Carried it down to the creek, got in, and pushed off.

I can't even begin to describe the feeling of calm and peace that came over me as soon as I floated out into the middle of the water. 

It was late afternoon, and the reflection of the sky and trees on the water surrounded me. 

It was breathtaking.

I tried to capture it in pictures, but as pretty as they are, they really don't do it justice.

Nor do they give you the full sense of what it was like to smell the water, hear the birds and frogs and crickets, or feel the breeze on my face. 

I paddled to a small stream nearby and floated through a tunnel.  The tunnel was made of corrugated steel, and the lines running down the sides were reflected as zigzags in the dark, rippling water.  I was surrounded, above and below, with these surreal lines.

 Paddling back upstream, I spent some time exploring the other bank.  I saw some turtles sunning themselves.  When I approached, they plopped into the water and swam away.  Likewise, a blue heron took off as I got close, looking like something huge and majestic and prehistoric, and calling out with a raspy croak that sounded prehistoric as well. 

The blue herons are my favorite.  They're just plain weird.

I parked myself in some floating plants, which kept me from drifting downstream for a while.  Then, I just sat and breathed and watched and listened, soaking it all up. 

I didn't want to leave.

It was a perfect way to get away and think and meditate and just clear my head. 

Thinking I might go again tomorrow.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

1st Day of Autumn

Little and I took the kayaks out today for a little bit of bonding time.  I miss him now that he's in school every day, but I have a new appreciation for the one-on-one time we do have available now.  It was a beautiful day and we saw lots of fish, ducks, geese, herons, and a couple of turtles.



We came home to Middle and his friends, who were getting ready to prepare a feast to share.  Days like this, with the house filled with music and happy kids doing fun stuff together - they feed my soul like nothing else can.