Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 51: Gratitude Check

... because it's more important now than ever before.

So tonight, here's my list, in no particular order:

Little, who got a good amount of work done for a Wednesday

Middle, who just totally rocks 
       (I cut his hair today and my friends and I noticed him admiring himself in the mirror during kickboxing class.  One of them yelled across the room, "Lookin' good, [Middle]!"  Most 13-year-olds would have been mortified.  He grinned and gave us a thumbs-up.  The essence of cool...)

The Teen, who has been teaching Little to play lacrosse and who ordered takeout and watched the Smurf movie with his little Lax-bro while the rest of us were out tonight

Savageman, who cleaned up the kitchen while I was in the shower and who is going to give me an amazing massage tonight (hint hint)

My parents, who are pure awesomeness

My ninja friends, who keep me laughing, even when we're doing a bazillion jump-squats or side-crunches

My non-ninja friends, who call and stop by, breaking up the monotony of a rainy day at home

A strong and healthy body

Good food to eat

A productive homeschooling day

An interesting and challenging job to go to tomorrow

A fun and engaging childbirth class to be with tomorrow night

Knowledge that I can keep our household running on a greatly-reduced income

Quiet movie time tonight with Savageman

... as soon as I'm off the computer.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day 50: First Day Back

I got back in to karate tonight, after seven days of rest and rehab.

This time the injury in question was, most likely, iliopsoas bursitis. Which would make sense, given what I've been doing to prepare for my upcoming green stripe test next weekend.

It made doing burpees kinda difficult.  Ditto for jumping that darn stick, or doing crunches or leg lifts, or pretty much any kind of kick.

Also getting out of a chair.

So instead of going to martial arts classes, I've been resting, icing, and Advil-ing it into submission this last week.  Mornings at the gym have consisted of heat, stretching, walking, running, stretching, leg press, stretching.  Followed by more ice and Advil.

Although I've still been running, it amazed me how a week without karate had affected my outlook.  Today was the day I had set as my goal to be back at class.  When it came time to go, I really didn't want to.  I was feeling cranky and antisocial.  I didn't want to exercise; didn't want to see anyone.

I went anyway, of course.  Class wasn't too hard - we had a good warm-up and then we worked on forms.  Strenuous, but not injury-aggravating.  Kickboxing was another story.  The burpees alone were crazy - I counted and we did (I kid you not) 115.  Interspersed with hundreds of crunches and leg lifts, and of course, kicking with our partners. 

Happy to report that the hip is fine. 

Happier still at my mental and emotional shift.  Calm, centered, cheerful. Feeling strong.  After a few minutes at home and then a LAX meeting at school, I met up with everyone for our Tuesday hang-out time and felt like my normal self again.  Which is good, because I really don't like CrankyMe very much.

Grateful tonight for the karate school and my karate friends - both are so, so good for me and are key to keeping me happy and healthy. 

Grateful also for my body's wisdom and the healing that took place this week. 

Grateful for the lingering euphoria of a strenuous workout.

Grateful for a hot bath with a good book and a glass of wine - which is where I'm headed.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 49: Scrivener

Today I finally managed to go through the Scrivener tutorial start to finish.

What a cool thing!

I'm uploading my NaNoWriMo draft and getting to work adding my research, preparing it for editing, getting it all organized. 

Just playing with it in the context of the new software is kind of exciting.

I'm a little nervous to actually read it.  I already know that there are a lot of things that need to be changed; some of them are major things.  My main characters are too much alike, there's not enough tension, my minor characters are bland, and the ending... let's just say I got to 49,980 words, wrapped it up quickly and said "The End." 

I knew I would have to go back and give it a proper ending at some point, but it was the end of November - the conclusion of NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo - and I was just happy at that point to be stumbling over the finish line at all.  Now that I've had some distance and perspective, I'm certain that it will need a completely different ending anyway. 

Going to be brave and finally take a peek.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 48: The Granola Recipe

I made a lot of granola yesterday.

Crunchy as I am, this was my first time making my own granola.  My good friend Julia provided me with her favorite recipe

She pointed out that the part of the recipe that calls for a Tablespoon of salt had to be a typo, so I went with a half teaspoon.  I also followed her recommendation to skip the coconut chips.  What is a coconut chip, anyway?  Is it like a chocolate chip or a peanut butter chip?  Or is it a chip of actual coconut?

Either way, it's not in my granola.

Here's what's in my granola:

2 & 3/4 cups oats
sunflower seeds
chopped pumpkin seeds
chopped pistachios
chopped pecans
chopped almonds
almond meal from making almond milk (I toasted it with cinnamon sugar)
chopped dried cherries
chopped dried dates
1/2 tsp salt

On the stove, I heated 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup real maple syrup and 1/3 cup olive oil.  I poured this over the mixture (minus the fruit), spread it on a pan lined with parchment, and cooked it at 300 for about a half hour, stirring a few times. I added the chopped fruit when it was done.

It was very tasty, but a little salty, so I made two more batches without the salt.  I added some cocoa powder and vanilla to the liquid instead.  When all three batches were done, I combined them.

Just right.

I guess the Savages like it, because they've been eating it constantly. They're snacking on it plain; they're eating it with almond milk.  They're feeding bits of it to the pets, who seem to like it as well. 

It's been a big hit.

Nice to know that the rest of the family is crunchy too!


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 47: Hat Trick

I spent the morning with Middle at a karate tournament. 

We were iffy about going, with finances being what they are, and with only one of his teammates going.  Most of the others spent last night at their school's Thon fundraiser and would have been in no shape to compete this morning.

But with Little away and The Teen at work, we had the day to ourselves.  He misses competition season, and I knew it would be a nice thing to do together.

He came away with three first-place medals.

His young teammate took home a first and two seconds.  A good day overall.

(Pics aren't great - I got a few with my phone.)

P.S. The evening lacrosse game was also a success, with a 5-1 win for The Teen's team. And Little reports that he is having a great time at camp. A good day all around.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 46: And So Begins the Weekend

Savageman and Little are away at Winter Camp.

Here at home, we're hunkering down for a windy, back-to-February night.  Pizza digesting, half a movie watched, we turned in early.  The Teen has to work in the morning and Middle wants to go to a karate competition. 

I'm in bed, alone, unless you count My Cat, who is curled up at my feet.  My Cat respects my space.  And I respect hers.  That's why she's My Cat.  We're also the only females in the house.

Speaking of females, my very lovely and talented friend showed up today with a load of freshly dyed wool.  She did a magnificent job, especially considering it was her first attempt. 

I'd post a picture, but Savageman took the camera to camp. 

Sometimes I envy my friend's crafty abilities.  Or at least her follow-through.  I can't sit still and pay attention to things these days like she can. Rug hooking is very meditative and satisfying, but the only times I've really been able to do it have been when I'm visiting with her.  Times like that - where I'm forced to sit still for a while - are good for me.  But I rarely sit down most days, other than when I'm driving and I have no choice.

I'm not sure if my constant need to be in motion is a good thing or not.  I do know it's been keeping me from working on The Novel.  Today I did put sticky notes on every page of the country-self-reliance book that contained information I wanted to impart to my characters. 

I imagine them there, in the world I created for them, arms folded, scowling, looking up and waiting. One of them taps her foot impatiently.  "When are you going to teach us about solar panels?"  "And how to butcher rabbits," the other chimes in.  "And pickle vegetables." "And grind corn."  "Hurry up with that country skills book - we're cold and hungry here and we need to be preparing for whatever godawful winter you have in store for us."

My characters need to know how to can vegetables and build a root cellar, Middle needs to be taken to a compeition, the Teen needs to be picked up from work and then driven to lacrosse tomorrow night.  Also, the laundry needs to be done, the house picked up, more of the garage could get cleaned, and I'm determined to make a delicious batch of homemade granola before Savageman gets back. My plan is to secretly replace his $4.50 per 10 oz. bag of organic granola with my own homemade organic granola and thus save myself enough money over the next year to cover the cost of driving to the lacrosse match and competition tomorrow. 

If it's good, I'll post the recipe.

It's not even tomorrow yet, and I'm exhausted.  I guess I should sleep.

Hoping Savageman and Little are having a good time at camp.  My Cat and I are going to spread out and enjoy having the bed to ourselves.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 45: Productivity!

That was the theme today.  We were up and in the gym by 7:30.  I heated, I stretched, I walked, I ran, I stretched again, I used the leg press.  I'm rehabilitating a hip muscle injury, so this was an important start to the day.

Schoolwork, then wool / rug hooking supply shopping with my enthusiastically crafty buddy.  She went home and spent the afternoon dying and preparing wool for us.

I went home and did


Both kayaks are now suspended from the ceiling with a rope system that allows me to raise and lower them in a jiffy. 

I also cleaned out my side of the garage, so I can once again park my car there.

It was a productive day, to say the least. 

The fact that it was 60 degrees didn't hurt.  It felt so good to be outside, working on a satisfying project. 

I didn't get to kick and punch, but I still got plenty of exercise.  After my childbirth class, I managed some quality time with the ninja friends, which was great since we haven't really seen much of each other since our trip on Monday.  We got three days of catching up done in about an hour - also very fun and productive.

Settling in with an ice pack and more Dystopic Fiction with Middle tonight.  Speaking of scary futuristic worlds, my ninja bf is ordering our Hunger Games tickets online - it took her two days to read the book, just as I predicted.  Can't wait.

I'm on a roll.  Hope it continues, and that the hip heals quickly.  Belt test is in 16 days, then serious ToughMudder training begins.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 44: Saving $$

So I  posted on Facebook that we were looking for good money-saving tips.  And I got loads of awesome responses.  But I think this was my favorite:

"I make my own laundry detergent for less than $6 dollars for an entire year. Let me know if you want the recipe."

Hell, yeah - we ALL wanted the recipe.  Here it is:

2 cups water
2 ounces grated bar soap (she uses Kiss My Face Olive Oil variety)
1/2 cup Arm&Hammer Super Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax (which we already had for science experiments)
1.5 gallons water

In a large stock pot, melt grated bar soap in 2 cups water over med/high heat, then add washing soda and borax. Sitr until disolved then add 1.5 gallons hot tap water. Stir, cover, let sit overnight.  Fill used clean laundry detergent bottles with laundry detergent. Shake well before each use. Use 3 ounces of detergent for each full load of laundry. This is also safe for hand washables. (And hE machines.)

I mixed it up last night.  I made a half recipe because I didn't have a bottle big enough for 1.5 gallons.  The half recipe fit perfectly in a large Tide bottle that probably cost my mom $12 at the store. 

The homemade batch cost me about 60 cents.  It took about 10 minutes to prepare.

Sure, you say.  But did it work?  Did it get stink out of clothes?  Foody stains?  Dirt?

Yep.  I just did two loads of icky boy clothes and everything came out very clean and fresh.  No real fragrance to them, but they don't smell stinky like they did before they got washed. 

I'm a convert. 

Grateful today for friends with awesome money-saving tips like this one.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day 43: Happy Birthday, Savageman!

We met when we were 17.

Now we're 42. 

25 years, we've known each other.  Almost 60% of our lives.

 We've been through it all.  Good, bad, rich, poor, sick, healthy.

We have three boys, two pets and a crazy, on-the-go lifestyle.

We're not about doing things the traditional way - we find our own path.

You wash dishes, do floors and change sheets. 

You help me get out with friends, kick and punch, and kick back and relax.

 You're smart, you're funny, you're a listener who genuinely cares.

You're my best friend, who knows me and loves me for who I am.

You let me know you and love you back. 

How lucky am I?

Pretty darn lucky. 

You're the best.  Happy Birthday, Love of my Life!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 42: Road Trip!

We took the Young Ninjas to Gettysburg today. 

Awesome time.

Awesome kids.

Can't wait for the next adventure - we're compiling a wish list.


9 kids, 2 reenactors

The new cyclorama exhibit was amazing!
Playing charades after lunch

Spectacular view

Little Roundtop

"I'm King of the World!"


Good kids = Happy adults

Taking pictures

Enjoying the sun

"Look up!"

Looking down
Savageman enjoying one of his favorite places

A successful day, overall!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day 41: Gratitude Check

Clearly something I need to do more often.

Tonight, I'm grateful for:

my parents, who arrived home safe after being away for 2 weeks
my husband, whose birthday is this week
the boyz, who are sweet and funny and who keep life interesting
the petz, for the same reason ;-)
a jillion friends who offered me money-saving tips this weekend both online and in person
warm baths and good books
a full tummy
a clean main floor
knowledge that the bills are paid and the grocery shopping is done for the week
karate friends who are generous with hugs and smiles
karate friends who helped me with my longstick form today
roadtrip plans for tomorrow
movie / relaxation plans for tonight
a glass of red wine
February being almost over
first steps toward editing the NaNoWriMo novel
creative urges in general
a strong and healthy body
the beginning of Lent this week
thirty days until the beginning of Spring
martial arts, basketball, lacrosse, baseball
being surrounded every day by the best people I could ever hope to meet
love and support

faith that it's all going to be okay.

" Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?"  - Matthew 6:26

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 40: Wisdom I Found on Facebook

Secrets of Success
1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
2. Work at something you enjoy and that's worthy of your time and talent.
3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
5. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
6. Be generous.
7. Have a grateful heart.
8. Persistence, persistence, persistence.
9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
12. Commit yourself to quality.
13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
14. Be loyal.
15. Be honest.
16. Be a self-starter.
17. Be decisive even if it means you'll sometimes be wrong.
18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you'll regret the things you didn't do more than the ones you did.
20. Take good care of those you love.
21. Don't do anything that wouldn't make your Mom proud.

- Author Unknown

Honestly?  I live by this.  I do my very best, day in and day out to do every single one of these things, even when it's hard - especially when it's hard.

My only issue with this list is the title.  Contrary to what we might like to believe, none of this guarantees success.  You can consistently do all these things and life still may not go the way you want it to go.  The world doesn't owe you a steady income, perfect children, lifelong friendships, or fabulous adventures - even if you bend over backwards to be the very best person you can be, day in and day out, even when it's hard. 

The only certain payoff  from all this effort is that you can sleep with yourself at night, knowing deep in your heart that you did your best that day and that tomorrow you'll work harder at the areas in which you're struggling.

Maybe that's the essence of true success.  In any case, it was a good list.

Grateful today for reminders like this that pop up when we need to see them.  I'm posting this one on the fridge. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 39: Home Alone

I made my family disappear!

Seriously - I'm home alone.  For the first time in I-don't-know-how-long.

The Men are all out with my karate friends, and I'm here, not quite knowing what to do with myself. 

For starters, I have Girl Music on and a loaf of homemade banana chocolate chip bread in the oven, which is starting to smell really good.

I could read.  I could write.  I could watch a movie.  I could finish cleaning my desk area. 

I could actually do all of these things :-)  I'm starting with writing.

I'm realizing that February is not only my least favorite month of the year - it is the worst month to be cooped up with the rest of the family day in and day out.  Having That Dog in the house most of the time is bad enough. 

Now that Savageman is also part of the equation, I'm really starting to feel claustrophobic.

It's nothing to do with him personally - he's actually a very wonderful and entertaining individual.  It's just the addition of One More that I'm struggling with.  (The Teen has a 4-day weekend, so today it was Two More.)

I'm sure he's picked up on it.  I'm short with him when he asks me a question and then I feel even crappier because it's not his fault - he'd probably rather not be here to begin with, and on top of that, he's got me snapping at people.

After the kids are (finally) in bed at night, I enjoy his company again.  I guess I'm just feeling overwhelmed.  It only takes one small thing - today it was finding out we've lost our dental insurance and I had to cancel my March cleaning - to sink me for the day.   It would be one thing if we knew that we have to live within this budget for X many months and then things will be normal again - or better than normal.  But we have no idea. 

That's the part that overwhelms me.

I'm crashing hard from the last month of being constantly busy.  It's hard getting up in the morning, hard dealing with petty garbage between the kids, hard dealing with stubbornness over schoolwork, hard dealing with the Teen and his own seasonal depression, hard going to the grocery store and having to say "no" to anything other than necessities. 

Things will get better, and they could be so much worse.  We're very blessed, and I keep trying to remind myself of that.

I have another hour and a half to myself before they get home.  Going to relax and enjoy the quiet while I can.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 38: A Much-Needed Break

I spent the majority of the day out of my house. 

Went to the gym in the morning.  Came home, did a token amount of schoolwork with kids, then headed over to my friend's house where we sat and played with our wool and made interesting and intelligent conversation for many hours. 

Exactly what I needed. 

Little played with her daughter, who had a half-day of school.  At one point, they did the old Mentos-in-the-Diet-Coke-bottle trick outside and took a cool picture of the geyser they had created.  Which may have even been educational.  Either way, it was all good.

After that, we went to kickboxing, then I taught my childbirth class, met up with Middle at the Starbucks, hung out there with the ninja friends for a while, made roadtrip plans for Monday...

... and now I'm finally home.

Which feels nice after not being here all day.

Maybe I need to make this a habit.  Put both kids in school next year like their brother and get a job.

I don't know. There would certainly be much to gain from that, but also much to lose.  Including days like today, spent with a good friend, doing whatever we feel like doing.  Soon it will be warm enough to garden and hike and camp and kayak - all things to look forward to as well. 

Circumstances down the road may leave me with less of a choice in the matter, but for now, I like the job - jobs - that I have. 

I just need to remember to get out of the house more often.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 37: I Didn't Want to Get Out of Bed This Morning

And, given the way the day went, I probably shouldn't have.

I felt like this much of the day:

The morning workout at the gym sucked.  The car ride with Savageman sucked.  We don't seem to be agreeing on much lately, which is not a good thing when he's in my psychological space just about All The Time.

I'm sure he would tell you that I'm no picnic to be with all day either.  (See picture above.)

The suckitude carried over into the house and the schoolwork with Little, who wound up sitting at the table in front of a 10 minute math assignment for - I kid you not - 5 hours before I finally left the house to go kick and punch things that were, thankfully, not him.  After I left, with specific instructions for Savageman not to let him out of his chair for any reason until it was done, he did it quickly and without incident.

Middle proved himself once again to be the Brains of the Operation around here and, sensing that I was in a Very Bad Place, cheerfully and efficiently got his own schoolwork done and got himself to the dojang as quickly as he could.  "I'm a good boy," he told my karate bf with a big grin as I recounted my tale of woe to her.  He seemed particularly proud of himself.

The Teen was... well, the Teen.  What can I say?  He did play a lot of 80s music tonight while I was eating dinner, so at least I didn't have to fight over having gangsta rap in my auditory space.  One has to note progress when one sees it, right? 

I'm thinking that what I need right now is 1) a good glass of red wine (we have none), 2) a serious massage (not likely), and 3) a hot bath and a good book. 

I'll settle for one out of three.

Hoping tomorrow goes better.  I'll try to be more like this:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 36: Valentine's Day

And I just woke up, having fallen asleep on the couch watching X-Files with Savageman.  So maybe this won't be one for the books.  We usually celebrate the day after anyway - the candy and gifts are all 50% off .  It's our own little frugal tradition. He's a sweet man, and we've been together for 23 wacky years now - and married for more than 17 of those years.  He's still one of my favorite people in the world, and I'm blessed to have him.  There was a balloon and a card and a funny little book waiting for me when I got home tonight, and the Teen had made us a cake with homemade chocolate icing.  Good stuff - and frankly, more than I had expected.

I learned something interesting in a group conversation tonight about how we've celebrated February 14ths of the past.  Several of us recalled our favorite Valentine's Day as being spent, not with our spouses or significant others, but in the company of our girlfriends.  (The guys probably have equally fond memories of those years, having been released from the pressure and expectations normally put upon them - while still scoring what-a-guy points for encouraging our Girl Time.) 

It actually makes sense, when you think about it - girls get this stuff better than guys do. 

And love takes all different forms. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 35: Mentoring

a.k.a. The Blind Leading the Blind.

That's our little inside joke about the volunteer position Savageman and I hold at our Church - we serve as a Mentor Couple in our marriage preparatory program. 

Tonight was our second meeting with our current couple; the night we present them with the results of the computerized online inventory they each took; the night we get into the real nitty-gritty of marriage. Families of origin.  Temperament.  Communication styles.  Values and beliefs.  Parenting.  Finances.  In-laws.  Intimacy.

It's a lot to cover in five weeks, but I'm glad the program is in place, and I'm glad we've been a part of it these last several years.  It's good for an engaged couple to address these issues one-on-one (or rather, two-on-two) before taking such a big step, and it's been good for us as well to reconnect with what keeps our own marriage ticking - what works for us, what we continue to struggle with, and how far we've come since we were in their place.

When a couple acknowledges that they are having a problem with this or that or the other thing, chances are, we've been there ourselves.  Maybe even earlier that week. This is one of the advantages to the policy of "we don't want perfect couples - we want real couples" in our marriage prep program.  More importantly, we've been through therapy.  Good therapy.  With a good therapist who dove in there and got us to really examine ourselves and our relationship, and who taught us new ways to communicate with each other and get our individual needs met. 

She's deceased now, but this mentoring thing we do together is one small way we are able to pay forward what she did for us as individuals and as a family. 

When we talk to our couples about their families of origin - all the good, the bad and the ugly - we finish by emphasizing that, in all likelihood, they will someday be someone else's family of origin.  Hopefully, that puts in perspective how important it is to use this time to fine-tune their communication skills, methods of conflict resolution, and other issues of unity and intimacy they will need in place in order to have the most functional marriage they are capable of having - for their own benefit as well as for that of their future children.

Bringing together two distinct individuals from two separate families, each with their own values, their own culture, their own spoken and unspoken rules - is no small feat.  Add to that the individual temperaments, preferences, needs, and anxieties of those individuals and you have an extremely complex system - even before the addition of children and parenting issues. 

The fact that it works at all is the stuff of Miracles.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 34: Balloon Animals

Today was our Troop's annual visit to the Interfaith Family Shelter, where we host a party for the children staying there.

We brought the cakes we made (and then froze) at winter camp, balloons, craft materials to make Valentine cards, friendship bracelet string, water bottles and beads and a glue-gun to make water rattles for the toddlers, washcloths and rubber bands to make boo-bunnies, bubbles and straws, and of course, our fun and friendly girls, who made each one of these children feel special.

The other leader remarked to me how glad she was to see the girls so enthusiastic about this project in particular. I agree - of all the things we do, this is the one that really gives them an opportunity to spend some time face-to-face with truly disadvantaged folks facing serious hardship - and to do something to brighten their day and put smiles on their faces.

Girl Scouts is about empowering these young women. Seeing them travel to places they may not have had the chance to visit otherwise, seeing them challenge themselves in the outdoors, or learn new skills indoors - it's all great. But helping them to know that no matter what's going on in their own lives, there's always someone else with larger struggles, and giving them the opportunity to reach out and do something for someone in need - that's a whole other kind of empowerment, and it's a beautiful thing to see.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 33: Ninja Party

Middle (and Little) threw together an impromptu party tonight for their friends from the dojang.  As a result, we had somewhere between 10 and 15 young Ninjas eating, playing, dancing, and watching movies here - a treat as always. 

Several of the parents hung out as well.  We always have a good time together - always plenty to talk about, always a lot of laughs. They're good people, happy, friendly, easy to get along with.  We're blessed to have them in our lives, blessed to have the wisdom and humor of both our karate Master and his wife in our social circle, blessed that my kids have adopted another of these friends as their honorary "Aunt," blessed to have known yet another for 9 years now and still be close and comfortable friends - despite the fluctuating closeness of our kids' friendships with each other as they branch out in different directions. 

I worked on my rug hooking project while we sat around the table together, snacking on my friend's amazing homemade guacamole and enjoying each other's company late into the evening.  The kids were great as usual - singing, dancing, making up games, then settling down for a movie together.  They have their little dramas between them, but for the most part every one of them is Good Kid through and through.  The older kids (7-11th grade) are welcoming and kind to the younger ones (3-5th grade), and the younger ones don't seem to need to annoy the older ones.  There's a good mix of girls and boys, and it's a safe atmosphere for them to learn about their similarities and differences, especially the ones in middle and high school who are starting to think about dating relationships.

When kids are good like that; when they know the limits and have freedom to play and be themselves and have fun within those limits, the adults can relax and enjoy their own social time.  It's an expectation, and a value, we all share, and thankfully, with this group of kids, it works. 

Now that everyone's gone, I'm tired and my back aches from spending hours this morning rotary- cutting wool into shoelace-sized strips.  How something like that can cause more pain than being repeatedly thrown on the mat or doing a thousand burpees amazes me.

I'll look forward to getting back to the bodily abuse I'm more familiar with on Monday.  For now, I'm glad that these friends we see every day of the week also want to be with together on Friday and Saturday nights as well. 

We are truly blessed.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 32: More Wool

So much fun to turn this:

Into this:

And then this:

And finally, this:


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Day 31: Wool

I spent a chunk of today with one of my favoritist people in the world picking through thrift store racks. 

We were there on a treasure hunt - for wool.

My friend has discovered the amazing art of rug hooking.  This is not the yarn and stamped mesh Latch Hook from our childhood days.  This is something entirely different.  You take some coarse linen fabric, stretch it out on a quilting hoop, and use a little tool (or a very small crochet hook) to pull small loops of prepared wool strips up through the fabric.  It's not terribly difficult, but the results are truly impressive.

Needless to say, when she offered me some fabric and wool strips so I could try it myself, I was intrigued.

When I told her this morning that I had started working on a project with the materials she had given me, she was excited and decided we needed to find more interesting wool that wouldn't cost a fortune.

We headed for the thrift store, where blue label items were $1 today and white label items were 50% off.  It was great fun, picking through the different rows of clothing, checking tags for "100% wool" and looking at the different colors and textures and weights. 

We wound up with quite a few skirts and blazers, most of which were only $1.  At home, we spread them out on the couch and floor and spent the next hour or so cutting them up, discarding the linings and such, until we had two big multicolored piles of wool, one for each of us.

Tomorrow, it gets washed and cut into thin shoelace-like strips.  From just this one trip, we're going to have enough for a year's worth of projects.  And if we do need more, the thrift store is two minutes away, with plenty to choose from.

As I was ripping and sorting, it occurred to me that we could easily put together kits containing a variety of recycled wool strips, a piece of fabric, and a hook - and sell them for $30 each.  Wonder if there would be a market for that...

There are certainly worse ways to spend an afternoon.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Day 30: Jumping the Stick

So I'm learning this new longstick form for my test next month. 

And as I mentioned yesterday, the thing feels completely awkward to me.  I keep switching it back and forth, back and forth.  Low block, low block, upward strike, across.  Low block, low block, upward strike, across.  Sometimes my hands come out right, sometimes they don't.  And I'm only beginning to add the footwork. It usually takes several weeks of consistent practice for me to learn an open-hand form.  Put a weapon in my hands and the amount of time increases exponentially.

One thing I have to do for this form is to hold the stick out in front of me with both hands and jump over it.  I've heard lengthy conversations between the other women at the dojang regarding this daunting task, the insurmountable nature of it, the psychological obstacle it creates, etc.  Other advanced students have told me that they have had to pass it behind them instead of jumping it - for now, anyway. 

On the other hand, the kids, including my son, do it effortlessly.

When I asked about it yesterday, the Master told me to simply practice with a belt or a wrapping paper tube until I felt comfortable with a stick.  Looking dubiously at the stick in my hands, I was sure that would not happen any time soon.  He didn't seem concerned, though.

The female sabumnim with whom I had spoken about it assured me the obstacle was all in my head.  She said she had felt the same way at my rank and had started on her trampoline, using first her belt, a foam-covered PVC pipe, and then she had broken a couple of longsticks, but eventually she had jumped it and I would do it too. 

So today, feeling kind of crappy about the way the day was going, and looking for a way to snap out of the depression I felt creeping back in, I grabbed Middle and a set of escrimas and we worked on some basic longstick moves.  Low block, low block, upward strike, across.

And then, just for kicks, I decided I was going to jump it.  It wasn't going to break, and if I fell on my face or whacked my foot on it, it wouldn't really change the course of my day anyway.

I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but it was possible.  I hopped right over it.

Then I did it again.  And again.  And again.

Tonight, after class, I grabbed a stick to double-check the first part of the form with the Master, and he showed me the next part as well.  When he said, "Here's the part where you would jump it," I jumped it, much to his surprise. "That's awesome, ma'am!" he said.  It was the highlight of my day.

I'm realizing that there are plenty of things that I genuinely can't do yet.  But I don't have much fear of - or patience for - obstacles that are merely in my head.  And this was one of them.

There's a certain sense of freedom that comes from having been through enough garbage, enough pain and disappointment, that you can say, "What the hell?  How bad can it be?"  You no longer worry about what other people think, you no longer care about falling on your face, getting hurt or being cut loose. 

This is the point where you can truly stand apart, take risks, be genuine.  The worst thing that can happen is you can screw it up. 

Which, in the grand scheme of things, is really no great tragedy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Day 29: I Heart Tuesdays

It's 7:15 and I'm done for the day.  Running done, schoolwork done, martial arts class and kickboxing class done.  Delicious corned beef and cabbage waiting for me in the crockpot when I got home from class.

Nothing to do now but relax, clean up and chill with the ninja friends after competition practice ends.  These days, Savageman has been joining us as well.

The last few days of conflict with him have hopefully come to an end.  It's a time of transition and adjustment, and these little spats are to be expected as we redefine our roles and responsibilities and expectations.  Apparantly, mine were too high, at least while I wasn't feeling well.  Thankfully, I'm feeling better and don't mind taking back my normal responsibilities for the house and kids.  Speaking of feeling better...

I. Kicked. Butt. Tonight.

In class, I started learning the longstick form I need for my green stripe test.  (Green stripe! One test away from red - which is one color away from black.)  Never mind the fact that the longstick feels completely foreign in my hands - I watch the Master flip and twirl and switch it from side to side so effortlessly, and I feel like a klutz, whacking myself in the shins with it.  I felt the same way with the sword - I guess it will come with about a million hours of practice.

Little and his pal joined us for kickboxing for the first time.  This will give him an appreciation for his old mom, was all I kept thinking - as I pumped out 40 pushups and looked over at him sweating and struggling with... nothing close to 40 pushups.  He and his pal were fun to watch, though.  The pal's mom and I were partners and we kept laughing at how cute they were.  We were both glad we'd stayed for class, even though we'd both had the same achy cold virus these last few days.

Going to get the place picked up so I can relax and read or write or watch a movie later tonight. 

Love my Tuesdays.


Monday, February 06, 2012

Day 28 - Feeling Human Again

Grateful tonight for:

1) my Neti Pot, which was not fun to use, but was exactly what my sinuses needed

2) my very good friend who convinced me to go to kickboxing tonight - again, not my favorite idea at the time, but exactly what I needed

3) my other very good friend who was my kickboxing partner and who skipped a lot of the burpees with me and who also sat out the second class, giving us a chance to talk and hang out

4) my wonderful Auntie, who sent me an encouraging note and a Starbucks gift card, one of my favorite things to have on my person at any given time (Thank you! XOXOXOX!)

5) an almost clean desk area

6) a much-improved bedroom

7) a renewed sense of calm and and confidence that everything really is going to be okay.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Day 27 - Superbowl Sunday

Savageman's beloved Giants are playing in the Superbowl.  He and the boys have been watching it, and I think they just won, but I can't make myself care.  I'm tired, I'm sick and achy, my sinuses are pounding, and since Church this morning I've done nothing but clean, pay bills, do house projects, and watch Little swim at the Y.

And my to-do list is still way too long.

I want to work on my NaNo novel, or at least do the Scrivener tutorial, or something crafty, or read my library books, or read ANY book, for that matter - but my desk is a mess, I have stacks of papers and magazines I need to go through, the garage and attic and storage areas need attention, and I'm having a hard time doing anything else until all of that is done.

Besides, every time I do try to force myself to relax and watch a movie or read a book these last few days, I fall asleep.

All of the wonderful togetherness Savageman and I have enjoyed over the last month is starting to wear a little thin.  As nice as it's been, it's just not natural.  He needs to work, and I need to do what I do without the distractions and uncertainty we've got going on now.

Shopping at the discount grocery outlet yesterday was also pretty depressing.

I know - I'm whining.  I'll cut it out.

Grateful for a warm house, real food, good family and friends, continued progress with the various  projects, and a hot bath, which is where my achy body is headed.

Although I'll probably fall asleep in the tub. 



Thursday, February 02, 2012

Day 24 - Definitely Better

No real progress made, but Savageman and I spent most of the day out of the house and in the company of good friends, so I think we both feel better tonight.

He's watching a movie downstairs and I'm up here writing - and preparing to read.

I have Storey's Basic Country Skills: A Practical Guide to Self-Reliance next to me, and I am eager to incorporate said Skills into my novel.  Having thrown it down in 30 days, I didn't take much time to research the things my characters would need to know in order to survive the circumstances I created for them.  That was a task I set aside for January editing.  Which I then put off until February.

But I'm here now, and I'm ready to take the plunge.  Soon.  As I explained to my fellow-writer-friend over coffee this afternoon, as long as I don't read it, I can maintain the fantasy that it's this really awesome, potentially publishable piece of work.  Once I start reading, I run the risk of shattering these illusions - so it's a scary prospect.  She reminded me that it might take at least one full rewrite before I can make an accurate judgement as to its merit, which is certainly an excellent point, especially given that I didn't do the slightest bit of editing while I was writing it. 

So I'm a little more okay tonight about reading it and not being too disappointed if it sucks.

I might take some time to learn how to use Scrivener (my little celebratory gift to myself - half price for NaNoWriMo winners) - before I do any serious rewriting.  Maybe changing software will help me view the story with fresh eyes - and also to procrastinate just a little bit longer.  I  can also use it to record and incorporate my research and keep everything organized.

So tonight, I'm grateful.

For our fantastic friend who took us on a mission to Carlisle today and then bought us lunch

For another fantastic friend with whom I shared tea and coffee and mutual support this afternoon and who sent me home with rug-hooking materials to try

For my childbirth class who seemed to find my insights on counter-cultural birth and parenting choices particularly brilliant tonight

For my Tuesday / Thursday post-martial arts Starbucks friends (including fantastic friend #1 above)

For my Hippie Earthy friend with whom I had a great phone conversation about Trusting the Universe and Manifesting Abundance and Joy during the 20 minutes I was actually home today

For my wonderful parents who made sure schoolwork was being done while we got out today

For Savageman and the Savageboyz just for being who they are

For our wonderful library system

For my laptop, good music, and good writing software

For a warm bed and a full tummy

For a dog and cat who provide us with so much entertainment

For the sore abs which tell me I put in good work in kickboxing this week

For a body that, at 42, is in the best shape of its life

For kayaks and backpacks, ready and waiting for springtime

For a stack of good books to read, including (hopefully) my own

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Day 23 - Please Tell Me this is Rock Bottom

... and it's only going to get better from here.

Money concerns.  Insurance concerns.  Feeling like the world is pressing down on my head.

And there's nothing I can do about it.

I keep trying to get back to that be-grateful-for-what-you-have mindset and the just-relax-this-is-going-to-be-okay mindset.  It's like wandering around in the woods looking for that cool spot with the pretty view you remembered enjoying, but now you're searching and searching and can't find it and you're beginning to wonder if it was all in your imagination to begin with.

I'm sure I'll eventually get back there.  I just need to snap out of this.

Right now, I just want to crawl in a hole and hide and not come out ever.

I will force myself to take class tonight, which I'm dreading but will probably make me feel much better. 

I may even look at my NaNoWriMo fiction.  After a few rewrites, I could maybe have it to the point where I would be comfortable having someone look at it. 

So much of the novel deals with survival - self-sufficiency, frugality, living day-to-day on severely limited resources.  Revisiting it under the current circumstances will certainly be interesting.  It would probably benefit both the story and my real life to go back to researching these topics in greater depth.

Sigh.  This is going to get better.  And I am grateful for what I have.  I'll snap out of this.