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.