Monday, January 14, 2013


Stuff's getting better.

After a week of back exercises and forcing myself to consistently stand up straight, then five (I kid you not) five hours Sunday of nothing but taekwondo actions and two of my most basic forms, I felt something beginning to click.  I'm looking better.

Part of it was finding the balance between relaxation and tension.  In recent weeks, with my enthusiasm to do everything with more power, I have been tense all over, the whole way through a form.  The Master encouraged me to think about snapping a chain - muscles more relaxed up until the block or strike itself.  This idea, combined with some observations and suggestions the guru has made while home on break, led me to drill the taekwondo actions with more dynamics - relaxed, firm, relaxed, firm - until it started to feel natural to do them this way.  The basic forms are built of these individual actions - and doing them like this, along with maintaining strong, straight posture - made everything look and feel much better.  I was happy with the progress, and with the feedback I got yesterday.

More importantly, the problems and frustrations I've been having are starting to feel less overwhelming.  I've resigned myself to the fact that it will take years - decades, even - to begin to master the vast amount of material we've covered.  But at least for now, I have a handle on what is required at this particular point, to get off this particular plateau.  I have specific goals to work on that will make me better.  Problems have been identified and I know what I need to do toward solving them.  Putting in the hours to do it is sometimes the easy part.

My work / financial situation is also better.  As much as I hated middle school as a student, I love it as a teacher.  I taught 7th grade English last week, 6th grade English / Social Studies today, and tomorrow I have 7th grade Science.  Definitely looking forward to that.  Savageman thinks I'm very brave, but honestly, most of the time I'm grinning to myself, thrilled that I have the good fortune to actually be paid to do this.  Today, I spent two periods watching a movie, and two more (plus lunch) in planning / free periods reading by myself.  It was the most peace and quiet I can remember having in a long time.  In the 4 other periods, the kids were generally good and did what was asked of them.  It's a good age - they are old enough to be somewhat self-sufficient, but young enough to still (usually) respect authority.  I hope we're doing something cool tomorrow in science.

Savageman seems to better enjoy his role as house-husband.  Today, I came home to a clean house, laundry done, dishes done, doctor appointments made and/or rescheduled, and kids driven to physical therapy and religion class.  Maybe tomorrow I can get him to cook and pay bills.  That would be awesome.

Finally, the kids are doing better.  Tonight, the Teen had two basketball games and Middle had an orchestra concert at school, and we managed to juggle all that with the help of the grandparents.  I was tickled to hear Middle perform - he's new at the violin and still can't play very well, so he was given a tambourine and a wood block.  He rocked on extra percussion and likely faked the pieces in which he had his violin.  He hadn't been too sure about participating in this concert, but we were all very proud of him. 

The Teen has a new girlfriend (they made it "facebook official" today) who is smart and sweet and fun and nothing like the other girls he's brought home.  We had a nice family evening with her last night.  He's determined to lose weight and he's actually studying (a little) for his midterms.  It's progress, it's a glimmer of maturity, and I'll take it. 

I'd like to say something about Little as well, but he's just his usual sweet self.  Which is enough for me.

And I'm beat.  The phone starts to ring with sub calls at 5:30 a.m. if I haven't taken an assignment before bed.  5:30 is okay if I go to bed at 10.  But that never happens - 1 a.m. is more often the case.  Savageman has LOTR on and is waiting to rub my feet, so I'm going to join him before I turn into a pumpkin.  At least I already have a job tomorrow and won't be getting those early calls.

It's been a good couple of days.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Day 364: Yes, It's Been a Whole Year

... and we're still alive, still married.  Today, he shaved off his beard and had an interview that went pretty well.  Tonight, he is soft and smooth and looks ten years younger.

It's been quite an adventure having Savageman home these many months.  I will certainly miss him when he does start working again.  I will miss our almost-daily excursions to the gym together, our lunches together, and our many long conversations about this or that while we putz around the house together.  He's good company, and we've had a good time together.

On the other hand, I think he'll be happier once he's working again.  And without him home, I will certainly be bored and lonely and will want to work more as well.  I've been called for two substitute jobs in the last two work days that I couldn't take because of prior commitments. Once I clear my calendar, I could start working every day if I wanted to, for a neuropsych practice and three different school districts.  Not to mention the Catholic schools, if they'll accept my recent certification.

With both of us working, we could actually have Money.  Money to buy more than just the bare necessities.  Money to save up for the boys' college, or a new vehicle to replace Savageman's aging truck.  Neither of us has ever been particularly driven by the mere acquisition of dollars, but I have to admit, it's nice when we don't have to worry about whether we have enough of them either.

But mostly I just want Savageman to feel happy and fulfilled.  He's a good person and he deserves it.  Putzing around the house isn't all that fulfilling for someone of his brains and talent. 

As for me, I was in the gym bright and early this morning, working mainly on posture and core.  I look ever so much better when I stand up straight (and I am much taller as well). I took my posture awareness with me to kickboxing and class, where I kept it as my primary focus. My back is tired tonight, but in a healthy way.

The visceral reaction I had to VideoMe has attenuated a bit.  The guru reminded me tonight that everyone feels that way when they see themselves on video, himself included.  I'm realizing that the camera is a valuable tool with lessons to teach me, but I need not be so easily shaken by it.  I will tape myself again after a few weeks of work on my core and posture, with the expectation that I will see a difference.  And maybe a few weeks later, I'll do it again. 

Improvement, whether in small increments, or in giant leaps forward, adds up to steady progress. Just a little bit of improvement each time I practice something, each time I push myself harder physically, each time I incorporate new knowledge into my techniques - I get a little bit better.

Just be better

Maybe that's what he meant. 

Or maybe it's not.  Who knows? 

Maybe it's for me to figure out. 

Maybe I'm supposed to stop thinking so darn much and just do the thing.

Open and ready for all the good stuff that will be coming in the next 365 days.

Monday, January 07, 2013


It's been an intensive training weekend, and not all of it was good.

Good, yes, in the sense that it was useful and important stuff I needed to know and practice.

But at the same time, it was seriously frustrating.  Discouraging, even.

I rolled out of bed, threw on half my gi and stumbled into Saturday morning class with just enough time to finish dressing and spend a few minutes stretching.  This class is an extra long one, with emphasis on strength and fundamentals, so I've been dragging myself out of my warm bed on Saturday mornings to do it.  This week was no different, and since only black belts and red stripes showed up, it was especially challenging.  We were reminded many times of what might show up on our black belt tests, and we had plenty of practice running through our forms while mentally and physically exhausted. 

I received many encouraging words from the Sabumnims after class.  This after lots of equally positive feedback the previous night at sparring, where I also felt I had done really well against challenging partners.

So far, so good.

Feeling pumped, I came back in the afternoon for open practice.  The guru showed up and worked on forms with me, then sparring (with an emphasis on protecting my face whilst being pummelled about the head by him).  We spent a good amount of time working one-on-one and wrapped up with somewhat of a pep talk regarding thinking outside the box, and my frustration about wanting to improve, but not always knowing the best way to do so.  He would show me something, and I would try to copy it, but I couldn't objectively tell if I was doing it like he was or not.  It occurred to me that I needed to see myself on video to really understand the differences and he agreed that it might really help.

"You know, this whole conversation could be summed up in three sentences.  Actually, one," he told me as he packed up to go.

"Which is?"

"Just be better."

I laughed.  "If it were that easy, I'd be doing it."

"Someday you'll understand what I mean.  Just be better."

See why he's the guru?

I spent much of the evening trying to figure out what he was talking about, and today I took the video camera in with me and videotaped myself doing a form.

I was dismayed when I looked at it, and texted the guru:

I look much worse than I thought I did.  I might cry.  Or quit. :(

And he texted back:

Well, that would certainly be one way to handle it...


So I recorded the rest of my forms, and when he came in, I recorded him doing a bunch for comparison.  My assignment: watch everything and figure out how to fix what needs fixing.  It's clear from the video, just like he said back in November, it's not my knowledge of the forms, it's my execution of them.  It's my body.  I lack power and efficiency and speed and crispness.  On the video, I look... wobbly, especially compared to him. 

Warriors don't wobble.


After many hours and many viewings of the videos in question, I'm over my initial disgust with myself tonight and back to working the problem.  I need a stronger back, a more solid core, and I need to pay more attention in general to how I hold myself and move about, both in and out of my martial arts practice.

More strength, more yoga (I started up again last week), more awareness, more fundamentals.

I'm taking comfort in the fact that it's fixable stuff, but remembering that this was what he had described a few months ago as the largest hurdle I will face since starting my training. 

Tonight I saw why with my own eyes, and it was indeed humbling.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Thank God it's 2013!

We made an extra pork roast for extra good luck this year. Because it's coming.

Good things are coming this year.

The extra pork was also good because I had two carnivorous Adopted Daughters to feed New Year's Eve, and the group of us made fast work of the thing before midnight, in addition to the shrimp and fruit and fruit and fruit and... chocolate and caramel dip for fruit.

We've reached the point in life where the kids really want to spend special occasions like this with their own friends - which is great for us, since we love their friends as much as they do. They are wacky and silly and smart and sweet and so so much fun to have around.

They complete our family in a way none of us ever expected, and we're so blessed to have them in our daily lives.   

Apparently my head was also on the menu.


So, so grateful for the family we've created, biological and otherwise - and for all the good fortune coming our way in 2013.  Happy New Year!