Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 83: Katniss: Zen Master

She never fails to seek me out and hop onto my lap, curl up and start her cute little squeak-purr just as I'm about to get up and go do something productive.

She clutches my arm with her paw and gazes adoringly up at me as if to say, "I so love this quality time with you."

My heart melts and I'm stuck sitting there, forced to be mindful and content for a few minutes.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Day 82: Working Hard, Playing Hard

Another long day of Real Work administering and scoring neuropsych tests. 

Which I actually enjoy very much.  I wouldn't mind doing it full-time.

But I sure do crash when I get home afterward - and there's stuff that needs to be done here too.

It's also weird to be cooped up inside all day - mostly in one windowless office.  I'm used to moving around a lot, going outside, running errands, etc. throughout the day.  When I got home, I didn't really know what to do with myself.  I wound up setting the kids up with schoolwork and taking a nap. 

Needless to say, it felt good to get to the dojang tonight.

I worked on forms by myself for an hour and then sparred for another hour +. 

Afterwards, soaking wet and completely drained, I joined the others for pizza. 

And now I'm sitting here, too tired to go upstairs to get a shower, but badly needing one.

Sigh...  Going now.




Thursday, March 29, 2012

Day 81: Choose to be Happy

Stealing from something a friend posted on Facebook today, since I worked all day and all evening and just now got home from cleaning the dojang, which got done after the cafe tonight instead of before. 

So sweet that you guys waited for me to finish childbirth class before going back so I wouldn't be left out, btw. 

You know that I live to mop and practice the 15 Lock Drill.   :-)

Anyway, if you don't want to read the whole article, here's a recap:

15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy:

1) Your need to always be right

2) Your need for control

3) Blame

4) Self-defeating self-talk

5) Limiting beliefs

6) Complaining

7) Criticism

8) The need to impress others

9) Resistance to change

10) Labels

11) Fears

12) Excuses

13) The past

14) Attachment

15) Living up to others' expectations

Wow, that's quite a list.

No time to go into detail about any of them tonight, but I did like one part enough to recopy it here.  It was under  #6 - Complaining:

 "Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it."

I will remind myself (and the people in my life I love and want to see happy) of this when I see them giving others the power to make them unhappy.

Really.  I will.  I promise.

Starting tomorrow.  I have to go to bed because I'm working again in the morning.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Day 80: Getting Serious

It's been two and a half weeks since my belt test. 

Between earning the stripe and beginning to learn my red belt material, watching Middle prepare for his own black belt test, and all the extra time I'm in the dojang cleaning and practicing after hours - I'm hitting a new level of challenge and commitment. 

I'm starting to think of myself as an Advanced Student, and I have the desire to look and feel like one as well.  I've been fortunate to have several first and second degree black belts giving me extra help and encouragement as I work to move off my plateau, and it's been great to have them sharing ideas and suggestions with me, practicing with me, and showing me ways to improve without putting me down or discouraging me. 

It's been very empowering, and also very humbling.

I find myself wanting to practice more in my free moments.  I have mats and a kicking bag in the basement, but what I really find myself needing is a wall-sized mirror so I can see what I'm doing.  That's something I can only find at the dojang right now, and it's not often that I get a large section of room to myself there.  It has been suggested to me that I should find a peaceful place in the woods to practice, and that's probably true - but for now, I crave mirrors.

Plus, I am in a time crunch.  No time to hike anywhere peaceful to practice. Tomorrow I will work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at my two jobs, possibly with a short break to stop at home, but possibly not.  I might get a little practice in after my childbirth class, if everyone hasn't already left the dojang for the cafe.  Friday, I am giving IQ tests all day, but should hopefully make it to sparring that night.  Maybe the group of us will squeeze in a weekend open session, which would be nice.

In the meantime, I have lots to read and I can always practice in my head.  I'm being introduced to new approaches and strategies and exercises, and I want to try them all - I just lack the time and space to do so. 

Sigh... maybe the lesson for right now is one of patience rather than performance.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Day 79: Cleaning Crew

It was a day of hard work, and of good friends.

Hard work in the dojang, where I took three classes and pushed myself hard.  I'm in training mode for ToughMudder now, as is The Master, so there's no slacking.  My ice pack is my new best friend.

Hard work at home as well.  In addition to schoolwork and paperwork and chores, we have a new family therapist coming Tuesdays to work with us and The Teen.  I won't go into detail there other than to say that he's really good and that it's hard work.  Exhausting, draining, hard work.

And immediately upon the completion of the 2-hour session with him, I ran back to the dojang to clean with the Ninja buds.  Mopping all the mats, etc. is a lot of work as well, but it has theraputic value of its own.

It's kind of like a "wax on, wax off" type of thing, except with us there's laughter, flinging suds, and spontaneous sparring matches mixed in, followed by hot cocoa and awesome cheesecake together.

After a day of hard work like today, I can't begin to express my gratitude for the hugs and smiles and goofiness of these guys who brighten even a difficult day and keep me laughing so hard I get an extra ab workout when we're together. 

Between my time with the them tonight, lunch with The Master, a movie with Savageman (and my ice pack), and all that hard work I did today, I feel pleasantly exhausted.  Peaceful, even.

Grateful tonight for work to occupy my body and mind and beloved friends with whom to share the load.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 78: Black Belt Attitudes and Skills for Success

Good reminders for both in and out of the dojang, for black belts and color belts alike.

1) Success Skill - Visualization:
Winning black belts learn to practice, mentally rehearse, and visualize the successful outcome of activities.  The mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly imaged.  They learn to pre-play and re-play performance to anchor success and eliminate failure.  Winning black belts learn to control their physical and mental state and create an ability to maintain relaxed alertness and to maximize their flexibility and ability to respond quickly and appropriately.

2) Success Attitude - Positive Self-Expectancy & Goals Attainment:
Winning black belts learn to have an overall attitude of personal optimism and enthusiasm.  Winners understand that life is a self-fulfilling prophecy - a person usually gets what he or she actively expects over the long run.  Winners have HIGH EXPECTATIONS of themselves and work to achieve those outcomes.

3) Success Skill - Positive Self-Talk:
Winning black belts learn to control their "inner dialogue." They create a supportive conversation with themselves that supports their goals and their energies.

4) Success Attitude - Positive Respect:
Winning black belts have the ability to be happy and to function in the world, while showing appropriate conduct and good manners.  Respect represents a sincere appreciation of values and the rights of other people.  They respect themselves, and avoid habits and behaviors that are unhealthy or destructive.

5) Success Skill - Total Self-Confidence:
Winning black belts have the ability to accomplish anything they are willing to work to achieve.  They are not intimidated by the negative reactions of others - nor do they get mired in mediocrity.  They rise above the crowd to achieve great heights.

6) Success Attitude - Unshakable Character & Personal Honesty:
Winning black belts know who they are and where they are going.  They affect their environment rather than letting their environment affect them.  They make decisions based upon their own moral compass, not based upon the tides and whims of those around them.  Events don't alter their understanding of right and wrong or of truth and falseness.  Winning black belts understand that honesty is more than simply avoiding lies.  It includes a belief in the pursuit of truth.  In order to have healthy relationships with other people, honesty must be present.  Winning black belts take responsibility for their own actions.

7) Success Skill - No Excuses:
Winning black belts accept 100% responsibility for the outcomes in their own lives.  Winners take credit or blame for their own performance. They never "externalize" their failures, but take responsibility for their own performance and results.

8) Success Attitude - Positive Self-Motivation with Definite Commitment:
Winning black belts dwell on the rewards of success, not on the penalties of failure.  We always move in the direction of our currently dominant thoughts.  Positive self-motivation arrives through visualizing your desires while limiting fears.  Motivation also comes from focusing on the long-term results desired, not the daily disappointments and struggles.  "Whatever you can do, or dream you can... begin it. Boldness has Genius, Power, and Magic in it."  Do or do not; there is no try... Winners commit to their dreams and then work diligently and tirelessly to achieve them.

- Stephen Oliver, Mile High Karate

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Day 77: Wrapping Up

Breakfast this morning was Quaker instant oatmeal eaten directly out of the little paper pouches it comes in.  I had no idea you could even do that.

We hiked back to the lodge, still soggy, and had another training.  This time a family practice M.D. talked to us about medical issues related to Women in the Wilderness, Lyme disease, and Wilderness First Aid.  Very interesting and very useful.  Looking forward to taking the full Wilderness First Aid training course this year when it's offered.

We prepared more backpacking food, brainstormed more ideas for upcoming trips, discussed icebreakers for the girls, etc.

I came home with a wish-list of books and equipment, some of which will probably have to wait.  Fortunately, I got all of the important stuff a long time ago.  I'm eager to finally put it to use.

Grateful today for these kinds of opportunities, and for a family who successfully holds down the fort so that I can participate in them.  I came home to a clean house and happy boys. 

Showered and fresh and getting ready for an evening out with the Ninja women tonight.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Day 76: Soggy Backpacking

My first backpacking trip was a wet one. 

But it was actually good to train under these conditions because a good weather trip can only be easier.  Now that I've done it, I won't be daunted if I need to take a group out when there's rain in the forecast.

Our Girl Scout Council is implementing a new 5-tier program for girls who want to "achieve the ultimate outdoor experience by reaching goals through physical and mental endurance, preparing for the unexpected and understanding nature and the various ecosystems our world has to offer."  Girls start with an easy two night trip on Girl Scout property (which is what we are doing this weekend) and potentially progress to planning and executing a 10-12 night backpacking trip on unmarked trails in the wilderness, which could take place anywhere in the United States. 

It's an ambitious program, and I'm excited to be in on it at the ground level.  The other volunteers are a great group of people, and we are already talking about possibilities for our next adult training trip. 

I'm also finally getting comfortable with all the backpacking equipment I bought two years ago and have yet to really use.  Learning how to work my water filter, how to hang a bear bag, how to plan and prepare backpacking meals, etc... It's all stuff I've read about, but actually experiencing it with people who know what they're doing has been really good.  My confidence has grown enormously and I can't wait to go again.

Some pictures from today:

Heading out

Setting up camp

Pumping water

Bear Bag

Heading back to camp

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 75: Backpacking, Finally!

Got home this morning at 3 a.m. Slept a few hours, got up, worked a full day doing a testing, quickly packed, and here I am. Had Leave No Trace training tonight, and now we're in the tents. More training tomorrow morning, then we backpack over the hill and spend the night there. Looking forward to putting these new skills to use!

Day 74: Oh Yeah

It was THAT good.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 73: Countdown...

We've read the books over and over again.  We've had lengthy discussions about the characters and themes and written papers about them together.

We named our cat Katniss.

Tonight's the big night - at midnight, we'll be there with our friends to see the opening of the eagerly awaited film.

Can't. Wait.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 72: Green Stripe

Promotion results were awarded tonight at the end of class.

In Jung Sim Do, the Green Stripe belt, or Third Gup, is three steps away from the First Dan, or Black Belt.  For me, it represents:

33 months of training 4-6 days per week, usually 2+ hours per day,
36 taekwondo actions
35 hapkido techniques,
30 fighting and judo techniques,
13 open hand kata,
4 weapons forms,
various falls, punches, kicks and hand techniques,
sparring and grappling
(plus the physical endurance to survive the test itself)

By now, I'm at the point where I am beginning to know how much I really don't know.  It's a humbling place to be.  For example, I may know the 38 or so moves in Pal Gwe Oh Jung, but executing them with proper stances, hand position, and power will take me much longer to master.  I'm finding myself needing to go back to basics in order to hit the level of performance above simply knowing what the moves are. 

There are other things too, like my side kick, which needs more of a hip twist to really be right.  Working on changing the technique of it sends me a giant leap backward now in balance and power, although I have been assured that those things will eventually come back.  Again, very humbling.

Fighting techniques are okay, as long as my partner throws a punch or a kick from the right, which is our default way of practicing.  Throw from the left and I'm compeletely awkward.  They need to be automatic from both sides, which will take a lot more work.

And of course, there's sparring.  As a yellow belt, I was just proud of myself for showing up and hanging in through 5 matches.  But as a green stripe, I need to learn to actually become good at it.  Ditto for grappling. 

Fortunately, I have many many people who are patient and happy to observe and teach and work on all of these areas with me.  With each new rank, I find myself thanking more and more people for all of their time and help in getting me there.  I hope someday I will be able to pay their effort on me forward to others.

Martial arts training has probably been the most transformative experience in my life thus far.  (Other than having children, of course.)  It has changed who I am in such a profound and positive way and I am eternally grateful for it, and for every member of my dojang family. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 71: Backflip!

My Ninja Bud and I took a small road trip out to Gettysburg tonight to catch a glimpse of Rick Santorum.

I'd actually met and spoken with him before, during one of his Senate campaigns. He's a nice guy with a nice family. A Catholic homeschooler like myself. I have his wife's book, Everyday Graces, which uses stories and poems to teach good manners to children. I used to read it to the boys at bedtime.

Not sure if either of us will vote for the guy, but it was a nice excuse for a roadtrip.

It was fun to get away for a while. We didn't get real close to Rick, and I didn't get to have my book autographed as I had hoped. We did, however, meet two of the Duggars, which amused me very much, because my friend recognized them immediately and I thought they were just two regular people like us on line. We got our picture taken with them. They, and all the people we stood with on line, were extremely nice.

And, as always, we had a lot of laughs.

I got home to find out that, after close to a year of work at it, Middle had finally mastered the backflip. (Probably better that it happened when I wasn't around.) I know it was a proud moment for him, though, and I'm happy to see that his hard work finally paid off. 

He did get this cool video of it:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 70: Clearing the Garden

Yes, it's that time of year again. 

The weather is getting warmer, the birds and bunnies and bugs are out and about, and the grass is starting to grow again.

Time for me to head out to my garden for Hard Work and Deep Thinking.  This time, Savageman came as well, and worked in the raspberry patch.  He looks like he was attacked by a wild animal, but he got a lot of work done.  It was good productive time for both of us, in all different kinds of ways.

Working in the garden has always been a pensive activity for me.  Some people do their best thinking in the shower; I do mine working in the garden.

The garden is, more often than not, an apt metaphor for Life.  Probably why I find it such a good place to meditate, to let thoughts come and go, to check in with myself and listen to where I'm at.

Today, I was in a Good Place.

I found it so satisfying to pull out all the old stuff from last year and discard it so easily. 

Even stuff I had once liked, stuff I had thought I needed or wanted, stuff that was once important to me - I was able to see clearly for what it was and to let it go without a second thought.

I've come a long way.

The space in my garden is precious.  There isn't a lot of it, and I want it filled with good things, healthy things, things that really enhance the space, not stuff that I've been keeping just because I've invested so much effort into it that I feel obligated to hang on to it and continue to try to make it work in my space.

I wondered - how did it take me so long to learn this?

And I realized - it's a pointless question.  Regardless of how long it took to learn the lesson, the lesson has been learned and learned well.

And although I've done this same thing many times - pulled the same weeds and dysfunctional plants to keep them from choking my healthy growth - it's never been with this much ease and decisiveness. 

I still have more work to do, but the areas I cleared today are open and ready for nothing but Good Things to be planted there from here on out.  Sure, little weeds will pop up from time to time, but now that I know how to recognize them and have the will to discard them right away, they need never take hold again like they have in the past. 

What a feeling of excitement and optimism I felt as I once again filled the trash with crap that was sucking up valuable resources and space - space that I now have the option to fill as I wish, with only things that will make my garden - and my life - healthier and happier.

Already thinking of all the ways I can choose to use my space, now that it's truly free.

It's a wonderful feeling.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 69: Toe Rehab

The tape came off the toe today. 

It's been 16 days since I broke my pinky toe and I have to admit, I have not been especially patient in giving it time to heal.  I was back at martial arts after 4 days, working hard to prepare for my belt test.  The test itself was 8 days after the injury, and I was determined to not let it be a factor there.  This last week I followed my regular class and kickboxing schedule, including an intense night of sparring Friday.

The toe has been okay, thanks in large part to tape, ice, and a lot of Advil. 

The only thing I haven't been doing is running.  It's impossible to wear Vibrams with a buddy-taped toe, and the mile or so I did in sneakers felt so weird and wrong, I wasn't eager to do it again.

Realizing that I have backpacking training this coming weekend and a ToughMudder in about 6 weeks, the toe and I needed to have another talk.  After all, this little digit makes up a very small part of a much larger person, with needs and plans of her own. 

It was time to begin to wean off the buddy, if just for a little while.

Taking off the tape was okay.  Wiggling the toes was okay.  Walking around barefoot or in Birkenstocks was okay after the first few minutes. 

Forcing the toe into a Vibram Five-Finger running shoe was a different story.  One that made me gasp more than once with a shocking amount of pain that reminded me of the night I broke it to begin with.

I left the Vibrams on and walked around the house in them.  As I continued to exercise the joint, it started to feel better.  Out to the garden was harder, as the ground is uneven.  But the more I walked around, the less it bothered me.  Maybe the joint is just stiff and needs more movement.  The bone itself should take another few weeks to completely heal, if my reading is correct.  But I have faith that my body knows what to do and that it is healing as it should.

After a hot shower and some Asana Kisser salve, it feels nurtured.  Still painful to move certain ways; still not right, but I think the attention I gave it today was necessary and good for it. 

Tomorrow we're going running together, me and my little toe.

** Okay, it's now Monday night.  I did NOT go running today, but I did go all day without the tape or the Advil.  I gardened and I took two classes (retaped it for that) and now I'm on the couch with ice on it, and I just washed down a handful of Advil with an entire beer.  I guess I pushed it a bit too much. Lesson learned...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 68: Happy Birthday, Mom!

Yes, my Mom's birthday is on St. Paddy's Day.  Which is actually very nice, because we always have something extra fun to do when we celebrate it.  Sometimes it's an Irish Pub, sometimes it's enjoying some Irish music or dancing at a regular pub, sometimes it's just corned beef and cabbage at home.  This time, it was a Hershey Bears hockey game.  My parents and a bunch of their friends had a box reserved, so we watched the game in style, with good food and good conversation.  It was my first hockey game, and it was an exciting one.  The Bears won in a shootout after a tie and overtime.

We're truly blessed to have my Mom so close by.  Since she retired, she's been an incredible help with the kids, especially Little, who spends some time there every day doing handwriting, spelling, and times tables with her.  She has a way with him - with all the boys, actually - that's gentle and kind, yet effective.  She's the Good Cop, and provides a good balance to my and Savageman's more Tough Cop approach.  The Teen turns to her and my father when life at home seems too chaotic or stressful and they are always there to listen and gently guide him back on track.  They make it to every baseball, basketball, lacrosse game and karate competition or performance they can, they share Sunday dinner with us each week, and they make sure the seven of us get a week of vacation together somewhere every year.

Despite our different approaches to many things, we have always been able to maintain an attitude of mutual respect and affection for each other that I know many of my peers have struggled to have with their own mothers.  It's a significant relationship, the mother-daughter thing, and I feel blessed to have remained so close to each other, while still maintaining our own individuality. 

Happy to be celebrating yet another St. Paddy's Day birthday.  I spent most of the day working on a shamrock wool rug-hooking project for her.  She's not an easy person to shop for, but I know she enjoys the homemade gifts best. 

Just like a Mom.  :-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Day 67: Yes, I Worked it Off

Between the hours we spent deep-cleaning the dojang, the hour I spent working out alone during kids' sparring, and then the hour and a half I spent sparring 5 different partners after that... I think the carbs I ate last night were put to good use.

The best part about tonight?  Immediately after sparring ended, Savageman and I took Middle and his lovely friend to see a high school production of Les Miserables in which some of our karate friends were performing.

It was fantastic.  We could hardly believe that it was a high school performance.  Everything about it amazed us.  The talent of the students, the sets, the costumes, the orchestra, the choreography... even the acoustics in the auditorium - all were incredible.

I remembered my own years of musical productions in school and community theaters.  We didn't have the headset microphones or the full orchestra,  but we did a good job with what we had, and it was always both hard work and incredible fun.

Grateful for a wonderful night out and a wondeful show.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 66: Just Made This

Not a bad recipe - I got it from America's Test Kitchen. 

Cook some elbows until they are almost done, add a big can of diced tomatoes and let it cook a bit more.  Heat 6 T butter and a half cup of flour in a saucepan, add some cayenne.  Whisk together, add some half & half and chicken broth and shredded cheese.  Mix this into creamy yummyness and pour it over the pasta. 

The Test Kitchen says to bake it but it was 11:45 at night and we were hungry so we've been eating it out of the pot.

Not really the best midnight snack, when you think about it, but it sure is delicious.

I'll work it off tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 65: Juggling

House chores in the morning, off to work by 10:30, neuropsych tests until 6:30, pick up the Teen at lacrosse, grab my gi and dash into the dojang just in time for the 7:10 class.  With extra help and social time afterward, it's 10:30 before we're home.

Honestly, I don't know how people juggle a full-time job with keeping a home, raising children, nurturing a marriage, and still taking time to exercise and do something for themselves.

I guess that people who do it all the time figure out a routine that works.  I only work a few days per month, so there's been no real opportunity to do that. 

Grateful tonight that my work is just part-time at this point.  Right now, it's enough to help pay the bills and to make me appreciate the flexibility I've enjoyed for so long.

Grateful also for interesting and challenging work in my field that also pays well.

Grateful for a warm bath and a good book at the end of a long day.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 64: I Am an Athlete

I had a fresh new attendance card when I came in to the dojang today, which is typical after testing for a new rank.  Normally, you come in for class and move your card to a different box so that it can be stamped for that day.  If you take two classes, you write a little "x2" so they know to stamp it twice.

Today was a "x3" day for me. 

In the kickboxing class alone, we did over 100 burpees in the course of the hour, in addition to several hundred crunches, leg lifts, and of course, kicks and punches.

I did them all.

Damn, I feel strong.

At the end of kickboxing, we did some deep yogaesque stretching, which I did extra well.  Grabbing and holding my feet, not just my ankles.  Getting my knees to the floor in the butterfly position.  Stretching and breathing into each group of muscles, thanking them for their hard work today.

Loving my athletic body all over again.

Keep in mind, for much of my life, turning the pages of a book was about as athletic as I got.  Playing sports meant picking dandelions in right field.  Skiing was more about riding the chair lift with a good friend or a boy I liked.

In graduate school, I did work summer camps, including a High Adventure camp that required some strenuous hiking, paddling and climbing at times.  I was in good shape then, but I wouldn't have called myself an athlete.  A nature-lover, yes.  But not an athlete.

Being an athlete is something completely different.  It's a way of life, a way of looking at and treating myself.  Everything is training, whether it's burpees or side kicks or hiking or carrying a load of laundry.  Even non-physical activities are training.  Staying calm and centered in a moment of stress, controlling the breath, not letting someone get under my skin.  It's all training, and each challenge, each success (and even each failure) has a lesson and the potential to make me stronger if I use it to that end.

Damn, I feel strong.

This last week has been full of such challenges and lessons.  It's been a lot to process, and I am grateful to be surrounded by people who are supportive of my growth, as I am of theirs. 

People tend to approach martial arts training in the same way they approach life, and this seems to be amplified during a promotion month so that our similarities and differences are all the more apparent.  It's been a bit of a pressure cooker, but it's pressure that makes us stronger, sharper, more decisive.  We're watching each other, gauging responses, learning who each other is, learning what we're made of.

How I approach this discipline says something about who I am. 

I am conscientious.
I am daring.
I am humble.
I am helpful.
I am encouraging.
I am a good friend.
I am enthusiastic.
I am positive.
I am strong.
I am fearless.
I am perseverant.
I am eager.
I am tireless.

I am an athlete.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Day 63: Back to Normal

Getting in to the gym yesterday was probably the best thing I could have done.  Today, I felt fine.

The toe still hurts, of course, but as long as I keep it taped, it's pretty much fine.  I did ice it for a while today, and I'm sure I'll have to continue taping it for several weeks so as not to re-injure it, but for the most part, the Toe Crisis is just about over. 

Looking forward to getting back into the dojang tomorrow. 

I wasn't there for class tonight. 

Tonight was our Marriage Mentoring night, which is where Savageman and I meet with an engaged couple from our Church and teach them about communication, conflict resolution, and other marriage skills.  We call it our Blind Leading the Blind Night because we often suck at these things ourselves.  But we keep getting up, day after day, and commit ourselves to trying again - which is half the battle right there.  Even marriage requires indomitable spirit from time to time.

Stephen Covey says that a typical airplane is off-course 90 percent of the time, but it still reaches its destination because the pilot knows to make the little adjustments to get it back on course as needed. 

So it is with marriage.

Our couple seems to really like us - when given the choice between making tonight our last meeting and going for the optional 5th session, they both agreed that they wanted to come back again.  That made me feel really good - we like them a lot too, and despite the differences in our ages and stages of life, we seem to laugh a lot and enjoy each other's company.  It's nice to know that the time we sacrifice to this ministry seems to be making a difference.  We'll miss them when our time together is over.

As for the rest of my night, I have a book to finish reading, and another one I'm eager to begin.  And I'm tired.  The Teen has been waking me up in the middle of the night these last few nights to lament the hives he's been dealing with all week (they started in the ER and have become progressively worse each day).  I keep telling him that unless his airway is closing up, there's really no reason to wake me - there's nothing I can do for him - but he just wants to share the experience with me.  At 4 a.m.  Last night's entertainment was watching his lips swell up like Angelina Jolie's.  Not kidding.  He's better tonight since we stopped giving him antihistamines.  This is the only kid I've ever heard of who seems to actually be allergic to Benadryl.  I left the doctor's office today with a prescription for Prednisone (which he said not to fill unless we absolutely had to) and one for an epi-pen (because anxiety that his airway may be next was probably feeding the reaction).

Hopefully, we'll all get some sleep tonight.

I'm looking forward to being back to normal.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Day 62: Recovery

Okay, I feel like I was hit by a truck.

Hearing that Middle's 16 year old buddy (and a fellow green belt who tested with me) felt the same way today made me feel better.  It's not just that I'm Old.

The toe is fine, as long as I leave it taped to its buddy.  It's the rest of me that hurts.  My arms, my legs, my back, my neck... it's all just... Ow.

Realizing that I'm going to be a whole lot worse if I let the stiffness set in, I dragged my butt to the gym this afternoon.  After a long sauna, some time on the eliptical and some running, I feel a lot better.

(I miss my Vibrams.  Since my toes are taped together, I had to run in the "foot coffins" which felt really weird after almost a year without them.  Extra motivation for the toe to heal quickly!)

The feeling of Ow I have today really isn't such a bad thing.  My body is reminding me of what I accomplished yesterday, which was no small thing.  Remembering it makes me feel Strong, and that feeling will last long after the Ow fades away.

Grateful tonight for:

yesterday's opportunity to prove to myself how strong I am and how far I've come in my training

recognition and praise from teachers and friends and family

Savageman, who came to watch my test and take pictures afterward

a strong body and mind

a clear head and a peaceful spirit

the bonding and trust - and enjoyment of each other - that my fellow students and I share

more fun to look forward to in the months to come

a hot bath and a good book... which are calling to me now


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Day 61: Test Day

I tested for my green stripe today.  Two more color belt tests like this before I test for my black belt.

Not that I'm in a hurry.  I like being a color belt.

And I like to test.

Even though it's awful.  I come out of it drenched, bruised, sore, and completely spent.

Plus, I went into this one already injured, although I did my best to play it down.  "It's just a little toe," I said to anyone who asked.  And honestly, once the adrenaline was pumping, it really was just a little toe.  I hardly noticed it.

Testing is indeed awful.  But it's also wonderful. 

Class, kickboxing and sparring are "flow" activities. I am completely in the moment, with all of my resources being spent on the task at hand - which is good for me.

But testing - that's a whole other level.  The adrenaline rush alone is something most people just don't get to experience in normal life.  It's hard to explain until you've done it, but it feels good to be pushed to your very limit - and survive.  It reminds you of how strong you really are.

The rush itself kicked in during the 40 burpees we did to begin our part of the test.  I know I can do 30.  But those last 10 were something else.  I found myself stopping for a second here and there because I was worried about blacking out.  I had to talk myself through the last five or so.  "You've done 38, you can do 2 more.  Just 2 more.  Come on..."

The relief I felt as I finished the last one was short-lived.   We immediately shifted to 200 punches in a horse stance.  Then, when our arms and legs were shaky and we were gasping for breath, we were told to do our newest forms.  At this point, I was thankful for the many hours I had spent practicing them, because they needed to be automatic.  And strong.

It continued this way - sparring the black belts until we were exhausted, then going right into demonstrating our forms or hapkido techniques.  Grappling the black belts, then doing our longstick forms.  And so on.  Without a break.

The people watching said I did my longstick form (complete with both jumps, I might add) four times.  I can't even count how many times I did my two open-hand forms. Hopefully, with all the power and precision I was shooting for.

All in all, it was one of the toughest physical and mental challenges I've had to face. 

And one of the most exhilarating things I can do.

I came home with a carload of teenage ninjas and crashed for a while.  (Middle did not test - he just came out to watch and support me.  His next test will be for his black belt.)  He and his friends were good about letting me crash for a while - they fully understood the exhaustion I was feeling.

Little and I went back out later to see our young friend perform in a high school production of Willy Wonka.  (She was awesome!)  It was good to do that, and spend some time decompressing together afterward. 

The other thing I love about testing?  The bonds that are formed over it.  :-)

Friday, March 09, 2012

Day 60: Test Tomorrow

Today was consumed with last minute preparations for tomorrow's test.  We practiced, finished cleaning, went home, came back, practiced some more, had a review class and another mock test, then went out for pizza.  Good times. 

Looking forward to this test tomorrow - but needing to get bathed and into bed. 


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Day 59: Longest. Day. Ever.

Not in a bad way, though.  It was actually a really good day.

A recap:

7:00-9:00 - Saw Teen off to school - finished updating karate notebook

9:30 - 11:30 - Karate class.  Did much better on the mock test this time.

12:00-1:30 - Showered, phone meeting with cyberschool, prepared for work

1:30-5:00 - Administered and scored neurospych tests

5:00-6:30 - Lacrosse dinner at high school

7:00-9:00 - Childbirth class

9:00-10:30 - practiced weapons and mopped dojang with ninja buds

11:00-present - cleaning, writing, icing foot, hanging with Savageman

That is one jam-packed day.  It doesn't get much more jam-packed than that.  This morning feels like it was ten years ago. 

It was also an exhilarating day.  Possibly in part because of all the coffee and the springtime weather.

In any case, I'm grateful for the people and activities that kept me busy today, and will keep me busy for the next few days as well.  Feeling very blessed indeed tonight.


Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Day 58: I Am Tougher than my Pinky Toe

I just needed a chance to prove it to myself.

Tonight, I didn't hold back much at all.  I went in early, worked on the longstick form for a while, did a solid hour of kickboxing, and took another hour of class, which included an intense warm-up and a "mock test" at the end. 

After class, I worked for at least another hour with the longstick and sword.  Both jumps are back in the longstick form.  The landings hurt a bit, but once the adrenaline is pumping, it's hardly noticable. 

I'll take some Advil and ice it a bit before bed.

Grateful tonight for a wise and patient Master, for good friends and a supportive dojang.

Grateful also for a strong body and spirit, both of which grow stronger with every challenge.

Finally, I'm grateful for my wonderful family, who support me in all that I do, even on weeks like this when I'm away a lot and am particularly focused on my own goals.  They really are the best.

Off to find the ice and Advil.  I'm ready for some downtime.


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Day 57: Testing

My green stripe test is in four days.

For once, I feel solid on my material.  My endurance has never been better.  And I probably have twice the required attendance needed to test for the next rank.

I've never felt so ready - so pumped up - for a test before.

And then Friday I broke my toe.

Today I was back in class - taped up, but wincing with every twist, every hop.  I practiced my material... gingerly.

The sabumnims in the changing room counseled me not to test.  "It will be half-assed if you're injured," they told me.  "You'll feel crappy about your belt if you can't do everything on the test."  "Other students will be watching your example.  They won't know your foot is injured, just that your stances are sloppy." "You can always wait and double-test next time." 

They were trying to be helpful, and I guess they actually were - by giving voice to all of the doubts and fears that go through my own mind - the same doubts and fears and paralyzing perfectionism I'm working so hard to overcome as part of my martial arts training.

I gave their input some serious consideration.  But when it really comes down to it, this is my journey - not anyone else's.  I need to overcome these fears, not back down in the face of them.  I'm only responsible for myself and for doing my very best at any given time. 

Which I am committed to doing, injury or not.

Needless to say, I changed and went into kickboxing with renewed determination.  After class, I came home, ate, took Advil, and went back to the dojang to work on my notebook and squeeze in more solo practice on the longstick form.  By the end, I had restored one of the jumps and felt confident I'd have the other one back by Friday. 

Yes, it hurt.  And yes, I did it anyway.

The fifth tenet of Jung Sim Do is "Indomitable Spirit."  If that's what winds up being tested in me this Saturday, so be it. 

That's kind of the point of all of this.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Day 56: Lacrosse Season Begins!

Yes, the official High School Lacrosse season has begun.

The Teen and his teammates were out there at - I kid you not - 5:30 a.m. for their first practice.

At about 6:30, the Teen was hit in the abdomen with a ball.  He tells me that the ball can travel upwards of 80 mph.  It's about the size and weight of a baseball.

After several phone calls throughout the day from the school nurse, it was determined that the swelling and bruising was getting worse and he needed to be seen. 

At the E.R. 

Which is where we spent the next 5 hours.

He had bloodwork, urinalysis, i.v. fluids, a CT scan... and lots of waiting in-between.  He's going to be fine.

We had a nice time together, the Teen and I.  We don't usually get a chance to hang out, just the two of us, anymore.

We played Words With Friends, watched Judge Judy and some of Kill Bill on the TV in his room, posted stuff on Facebook, and generally hung out together.  It was nice.

Other than the fact that he was hurt and we were stuck in the E.R., that is.

We need to find a better excuse to do that from now on.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Day 55: Weeding The Garden

a.k.a. Taking out the Trash

Good scene from the movie I watched tonight with the Ninja buds.  The Peaceful Warrior is on our karate reading list, but since two of us are currently injured, putting our right legs up and watching the movie (about a gymnast who perseveres despite a crippling injury thanks to the help of an unlikely Zen master) seemed to be a good idea for the evening.

It was inspiring. 

There were so many lessons to take away from this one, but the one that resonated with me on this particular night (in addition to the perseverance theme), was this.  Dwelling on the past, worrying about the future - it distracts us from our purpose in the here and now.

And it leads to depression and angst. 

As do:

Wishing we could change circumstances or people outside of our sphere of influence

Worrying about other people's impressions of us, or what may or may not have been said of us

Fear of trusting and becoming attached; of being hurt or betrayed

Feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty

All are weeds that come up in the garden from time to time and need to be pulled, preferably while they're small.  If they grow for too long, they soak up too many resources and get so big that they're a pain to dig out. 

Weeding the garden - or taking the trash out (the metaphor in the movie) - needs to be done continually, not just when the weeds or the trash start to take over. 

The more it is done, the easier it is to do.  An important reminder for myself.

Striving to identify those weeds when they're small and to pull them quickly.  It doesn't stop them from showing up, but I don't need to let them take over my garden.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Day 54: Ouch

Yes, this is my foot.  I don't know if the picture does the swelling and discoloration justice, but let me assure you, it is significant.  As is the pain.

Did I break my pinky toe at sparring last night? 


Did I break it kickboxing?


Did break it practicing Longstick I?


Did I break it walking across my friend's living room with a monster cupcake in my hand?

In front of everyone?

One week before my green stripe test?


Grateful tonight for medical tape and Advil.

Day 53: Celebrating...

...our young friend's birthday. These are the best monster cupcakes I've ever seen. 
I have talented friends.

So adorable!

Grateful for celebrations and time spent in the company of wonderful people.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Day 52: Wiped Out

Worked all day doing neuropsych testing.

Worked out.

Worked all night teaching childbirth and cleaning the dojang.

Grateful for good work to keep me busy and good people with whom I spent the day.

Going to bed now...