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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

It's been rather eventful! I took a wonderful 6 days off of work to spend with my family... and had a bad cold all 6 days. But I didn't let that get me down!

Not enough time to write a long, detailed post, so I'll cut to the highlights:

My brother came in town for a few days with his new girlfriend (who is awesome). It was great to see him!

Lovely Christmas Eve dinner with The Man's family.

Beautiful Christmas Eve Mass, quiet Christmas morning at home opening tons of presents.

Fun, awesome Christmas Day with my family opening tons more presents. (I think I had too much fun, I had to spend most of Monday in bed recovering, and was treated to delicious homemade turkey soup.)

First two days of Rank Camp Monday and Tuesday (I am SO SORE!)

And today we welcomed The Man's first grandchild to the world! She's precious! I can't wait to go meet her... I have to wait till all my cold symptoms are gone. And no, she will not be allowed to call me Grandma. Not if I can help it.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Red Decided

That's it. My last color belt. The next belt I earn will be Sho Dan Bo (black recommended).

This time I learned that there is always room for improvement. My last two promotions felt great. I felt strong and confident and like I performed well. For this one, I feel like I want a do-over. I was out for two weeks of the cycle with a knee injury, and I didn't practice nearly as much as I needed to. I knew the material in my head, but that just isn't enough. I have to practice, and then practice some more.

But I passed, and that's the important part. I will always have more to learn and I will always have techniques I need to improve, and each step of the journey isn't necessarily going to be forward.

I'm really proud of Little Man. He did an outstanding job in his promotion. Much better than his mommy. His focus and technique have improved so much from hours of practice at home, and I'm so proud of him for sticking to it. That's an incredible feat at 5 years old.

The week after Christmas I'll be doing Rank Camp again (yes, I am crazy, thanks for asking). What I think is really neat about this one is that The Man earned his Sho Dan Bo with a Rank Camp, and now I'll be doing the same thing, years later. Then it's just two more months to black belt. I can't believe I'm this close. It has felt so far away for so long.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Remembering Gratitude

I've been working on it lately. Because it's too easy to get caught up in the stress that life can create, I'm trying every day to remind myself how lucky I am.

To even have a car that can get broken in the first place, because so many people have to make do without one.

To have so many family members whom I love dearly.

To have a warm bed, and enough food, and a place to call home... because the poor lady who lives under the bridge near where I work doesn't have that.

So when tires go flat and radiators get broken and bills come in and turn our budget upside down and kids drive us crazy... we're still incredibly blessed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What I Want for Christmas

Even though my sisters like to tease me about being the girliest member of the family (they're right), when it comes to gifts, I don't think I'm all that girly. Of course I'm dazzled by pretty sparkly things, and sometimes they make perfectly acceptable gifts, but when it comes down to it I would rather have something useful. A close friend once noted to me that her spouse would be in deep do-do if he gave her a kitchen appliance for her birthday instead of a piece of jewelry. Honestly, I would be thrilled with a new blender.

And there are other things I want that no one else can give me, like:

More time with my family. My Christmas gift to myself is to take all of my available PTO and have nearly a full week off for the holiday.

And these shoes: (my brother will be so proud), and these:

I'd love to have the set-up equipment for my spring container garden (how many women do you know who would actually ask for a big bucket for Christmas?), and a pull-up bar, and frames for my Grandpa's paintings so I can finally hang them on the wall.

Mostly, I want to see the joy of the holiday in my son's eyes, to spend the days with people I love, to have what I need to continue to make our lives better. I don't want to stress over shopping, or have other people do so for my benefit. I would rather have your company than another pretty thing to put on the shelf.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

So much to be thankful for. So many loving family members, so much good health, so much good food and a roof over my head and my beautiful child and days filled with joy and love and silly arguments that end with kisses and sleepy mornings on the back porch and going home to a house filled with the smell of dinner and the sounds of family.

We've come so far, and we have so many new adventures to take on.

Thank you, God, for putting me on a path I couldn't predict.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Next Step

This past week, The Man spent many hours taking grueling written and physical tests for his next promotion as an instructor, and I'm so proud of him. Not because I know that he passed, because we won't know that for several weeks. I'm proud because of the dedication and commitment it took to get to this point - the years of work, the months of preparation, the hours of studying that he put in. Watching him teach is one of my favorite things - I love seeing the joy on his face and the way he interacts with the students, especially the young kids.

There are two types of rank in our organization - belts for students, which takes about two months to earn, and collars for instructors, which is much more difficult and can take several months or several years, depending on the level you are attempting.

When I first started this journey, I didn't even think about getting my black belt, let alone becoming an instructor. But the closer I get to my black belt, the more I think this might be my next step. I'm a little intimidated by the process, especially watching him, and my dad, and all the other instructors go through this week, but it's exciting to think about also.

He is encouraging me to do it, of course, but I know that if I am going to commit, I have to come to it on my own. The main thing driving me to the decision right now is the belief that teaching can make me a better student.

Friday, November 4, 2011

6 grain-free, low-carb weeks

12 pounds (to bring me to my December goal weight more than a month early) UPDATE: Make that 13!
2-3 blood sugar crashes a day
Urgent, post-lunch need for a nap and/or caffeine infusion
Adult acne
Bloating and irregularity
PMS-related moodiness and cramps (I'll need a few more months to know if this is permanent or a single-cycle fluke)

Clear skin
Normal hunger (not sugar-crash induced feed-me-now craziness), and the ability to feel hungry for a period of time without panicking
Looser clothes

Yep, I'm sticking with this. :)

I've been doing quite a bit of reading and research here:, and here:, and on the abundance of links to other studies provided on both. It all makes sense, but really the most important piece of research for me is my self-experimentation and finding how much better I feel.

At first I wondered why I feel so much better this time than I did the last time I tried a low-carb "diet" to regulate my blood sugar. Then I realized that my focus is different this time - the first time, I focussed narrowly on reducing my carb intake, and relied heavily on processed, soy-heavy supplemental and convenience foods. This time I'm doing my best to return to real, whole, fresh foods.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Red Recommended

I earned the last color last night. It felt good to tie on a red belt, and know that the next time the color of my belt changes, it will be to black. Of course that's another 6 months or so away, but it feels so close. And I felt stronger and more confident as a martial artist than I ever have at any other promotion. I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of things. But that wasn't the best part of last night.

My Little Man earned his blue decided belt. He's still a long way away, but he has come so far. Last night, after hours of hard work, and frustration, and practice, he looked like a real martial artist and not just a little kid doing it because his parents told him to. I am so proud of him. But to be honest, that wasn't the best part of last night either.

The best part of last night was my dad. My dad, who as long as I can remember has constantly pushed himself to improve, and done a thing wholeheartedly or not at all, got his black belt. He has ever been the rock of our family, and an inspiration to everyone he meets, but he stays humble. In class, he is focussed and powerful, helps others, makes jokes, and makes everyone around him want to punch harder, kick higher, and practice more. He's not just an incredible martial artist for his age, he's an incredible martial artist period.

When he executes a form better than people half his age, or punches through double boards and makes it look easy, I can't help thinking (and sometimes saying) "Yes, that's my dad!" I couldn't have been prouder to see that black belt tied on him, and I couldn't be prouder to call him my dad. As he always has, he makes me want to be better simply by being himself.

(I tried to add pictures, but I can't seem to get them to post correctly - if I can get them to cooperate I'll add them later.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

White Belt

May 26, 2009

There's a fancy official description of what the white belt means that uses the word "pure," but what it boils down to is: you don't know jack yet.

I certainly didn't know jack when I tied on that belt.

I didn't know where the journey would take me, but I was (reluctantly) willing to find out.

I didn't know how I was going to support us. I had a fledgling direct sales business of my own at the time, but it wasn't making me much (any) money and I wasn't in love with it.

I didn't know how to be both mother and father to my son.

I didn't know how to get the confidence and independence back that I had lost somewhere along the way.

I didn't know when, if, or where I would find a partner who would truly love me for who I am, love me the way I needed to be loved.

And because I fear the unknown, and need to be in control, and most of all (worst of all), need to be perfect, I told myself for far too long that I still didn't know jack. I kept that white belt and everything it meant. I dropped to a class where I wouldn't promote in rank, and I stayed a white belt for close to a year.

I had my excuses: I didn't have time, I had other priorities, I just wanted to exercise and not memorize stuff, I had a business to run.... but they weren't the truth. I was in the habit of telling myself I wasn't good enough.

The best, most important thing I didn't know at the time was how martial arts would help me find so many of the answers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Beginning

May 23, 2009

"Where is his father?" was the first thing the school owner said to me.

My eyes filled up. Not here. On the other side of the country, and I think maybe he prefers it that way.

He asked because on my son's very first day in TaeKwonDo class, he would only listen to female instructors. His particular favorite was the one he would eventually call his sister (though of course we didn't know that yet).

At the time I could see very little good about where I was. I can look back now with gratitude that it led me here, but that day I was just surviving. Confused, badly wounded, searching for a way to raise my son and make a life for us.

My son got his white belt that day. I had no idea that I would join him, or the nature of the journey we were just beginning. All I knew was that I needed help. I wanted something to give my bright, stubborn, rambunctious, charming little boy a physical outlet and some more discipline and focus.

I didn't know, as I stood in the back of the room and watched my son try (and mostly fail) to stand still and pay attention, that we would find a family here. And a goal, and a whole new life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Knoxville and Chattanooga

Okay, I'm back. I'm sure my brother is the only one still interested in reading this, but I'm going to write it anyway. Just for you, bro.

We left Warren, OH (can you guess?) very early in the morning, since it would take us all day to drive down to Knoxville, and we wanted to get there early evening. Of course we got there about an hour and a half late due to completely inexplicable traffic (I still have no idea why everyone slowed down!). As we neared town, I sent my brother a text message:

"Pick a really nice place to go eat, we want to take you guys out to dinner."

He replied, after a few minutes:

"How does Greek/Mediterranean sound?"

Well, I love Greek food, so I thought that sounded awesome, and told him so. He replied:

"Okay, we'll make a reservation."

No further conversation required. So we get into town, and thanks to our trusty GPS, finally find the house - a cute little old cottage house on the slope of an uphill road (okay, so people who live in mountainous areas would laugh at me, but it felt pretty steep to this flatlander), with a little garden in the front, and the fireflies were just starting to appear.

My brother and his wife greeted us at the gate, and we went in to visit a while before dinner, since it was only about 5:30.

The house had been divided into three apartments, and theirs was tiny, but neat and cute. To be honest, my family greeted the news of them moving to TN with a great deal of apprehension, but I've never seen them happier. They clearly really love that town.

The name of the restaurant, they said, was King Tut. They had been told by many of their friends that it was a great place and they really should eat there. Well if it's that good it must fill up on a Saturday night, right? Should we call and make reservations? Sure, why not. So The Man put in a call and told them we would be coming to eat about 6:30. The lady who answered the phone said "OK" and started to hang up without even getting his name. Huh. Weird.

So we all pile into the car and head over there. I almost didn't see it... it was a tiny building that sort of resembled an old shotgun house, painted an entirely unremarkable shade of brown, and the sign was barely visible from the street. Okay....

Then we walk in, and see this:

Yep. Take it all in. Santa in the window (remember, it's July), shelves of random trinkets, a box of CD's (you can't see it, but there's a karaoke machine to the left, too), and my favorite, the novelty traffic light. Awesome.

We all turned to look at each other in shock, and had a few awkward moments of deciding whether to turn around and walk out even though the owner of the place has already seen us. My brother said to me, "Sorry, we've never been here before." Oh well, we decided. We're here, might as well eat.

The place is tiny - there are four booths along the wall and two or three tables in the center. The opposite side of the restaurant (at this point, I hesitated to call it that) is dominated by a bar, which is filled with hanging glasses and various trinkets on the shelves, but no liquor in sight. Apparently the place is BYO. Classy.

So the owner of the place, who calls himself Mo but probably has a longer, less pronounceable name, comes and seats us at the first booth (with what looks like a white card table and an aluminum chair pulled up to it to accomodate our slightly-too-large-for-a-booth group). He greets us in broken English and suggests that we have the Greek salad and Mediterranean sampler. He gives us each a menu, which is completely befuddling in its syntax and decidedly unappetizing in its choices - so we go with the recommendation, and order our drinks.

While we waited for our drinks we entertained ourselves by reading all the novelty license plates and bumper stickers that lined the walls. They were all kind of like this one:

Surprise number two: he brings out our drinks (go back and check the first picture to see what I'm talking about) in huge flower vases, each one different. With regular-size straws.

Surprise number three: We were, um, admiring the decor while we waited for our food, and noticed a review article posted in a frame next to our table. About halfway down, the article said something about the place being "cash only." Oops. So to avoid having to wash dishes for our dinner, The Man and my sister-in-law slip away to the bank down the street.

While they were gone, Mo brought us our salads ("Best Greek salad in Knoxville, and second best Greek salad in Knoxville"). First of all, they're huge. I'm glad he recommended one salad per couple. There's no way one person could eat all that. We waited for them to come back before we ate, so it was a few minutes before we got surprise number four: they were fantastic. It really was the best Greek salad I've had outside of Greece.

Then came the sampler. A small plate for each couple with two servings of each of three mediterranean foods (hummus and four pita triangles, two small grape-leaf wraps, two falafels, and a tiny dish of white beans). Um, ok. My brother said something about being baffled by the portion sizes. Guess we're grabbing a burger on the way home? Nope, there's more. Two more plates of similar things. And another plate of a noodles and sauce concoction. Four plates full of food. And once again, it's completely delicious. Now we all understand why my brother's friends told him to come here.

While we're eating, a large party comes in and fills up the center tables. Mo entertains them with bar tricks (I can pull this dollar from between these two bottles without the top one falling, and so on), and jokes - and of course since we can see and hear everything, he is entertaining us too. At some point we noticed that there were mulicolored disco lights on the ceiling - maybe King Tut doubled as a night club?

We finish every bite of our delicious dinner, pay our bill in cash - at the register at the front, of course, rather than at the table, and head into Knoxville to explore downtown. Once we got there I realized I left my sweater in the booth at the restaurant.

Downtown Knoxville has a market square that's cute, and fun, and has an extremely small-town feel to it. There were tons of people walking around and kids playing in water spray - very idyllic. We had some delicious fresh-made dessert crepes in a little cafe, and walked through the sculpture garden (Little Man liked the man-made stream running through it... he had to walk the length of it twice).

And of course, despite half of us being afraid of heights (no, I won't admit which half), we went up in the glass tower to see all of Knoxville from the top.

It was lovely at sunset. I can't remember the name of the tower. I could cheat and look it up and pretend I remembered, but I won't. If you ever go to Knoxville, it's easy to find. Its the only building with a giant glass ball on the top of it.

After we finished our tour of the town, we went back to King Tut to retreive my sweater. When we got there, it was about 9 pm. The  place was packed, the flourescent lights were off and there were black lights on and the disco balls were rolling. You could see the flash of colored lights and the noise of music and party chatter from outside the tiny windows. I guess it really does double as a nightclub. That was the strangest and funniest dining experience ever.

We went back to my brother's house and visited a while, and I'm so glad we stopped to see them, because they are so clearly happy, and it's more obvious in person than on the phone or by email. I needed to know that, to understand that they did what was right for them, in order to see that them moving so far away for no apparent reason was a good thing.

We left for Chattanooga that night, and spent our only night in a hotel of the whole trip (thanks to lovely, generous family all along the way!). The next morning we went to Ruby Falls. Yes, I know it's kind of a tourist trap... but it's also fun, and beautiful, and interesting, and worth doing at least once. It's about a half-mile, one hour guided hike down to the waterfall and back. It was when we rounded the corner to the room where the waterfall is and saw this:

...that Little Man said, "This is the BEST VACATION EVER!" After we got home, his conversations about vacation consisted almost entirely of "going to the underground cave."

After we returned to the top, which is actually the top of Lookout Mountain, we were treated to this view of Chattanooga:

Since we were finished with the tour by lunch time, and it was only a few more hours back home, we decided to go home a day early and sleep in our own beds. We were tired after all that excitement (and driving)!

That's it. No more vacation stories till the next one. :)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Goodbye, Paul.

I know, it's not the weekend anymore, and no, I haven't written the story about Knoxville yet. I know.

I was preoccupied by the passing of a great man. We lost my grandfather on Friday evening.

It's always sad when you lose someone you love.

But when that someone has left a legacy of deep faith, and quick humor, and quiet love, and hard work over his 97 years, and raised 9 brilliant, funny, interesting men and women, and had dozens upon dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it's a little easier to handle. We all miss him, and we're all sad, but we know he has gone to his reward. Home to his amazing wife. To his son who died far too soon. To count the blessings of the almost-century of his incredible life.

Goodbye Grandpa. Thank you for raising my dad to be the man he is. Thank you for your example of faith and devotion. Thank you for memories of holidays surrounded by family members and great food. Thank you for the funny stories we'll never forget. Thank you for being you. I love you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Making time (or not) to write

I keep thinking about that entry I want to write... the one about our last two days on vacation, and the crazy experience in Knoxville, and then I think "I don't have time!"

Of course I don't have time, in between work and TKD and worrying about this and that and everything else, and stomach viruses, and children who don't (or do) get picked up from school, and fundraisers (ack!), and other things I have to write.

Time doesn't appear on its own. I have to MAKE time to write. Or else I won't write. Because when I have a few precious moments to myself, I want to sleep, or passively stare at a screen and turn my brain off. So I have to tell someone that I will get it done so that I feel compelled to meet my self-imposed deadline.

I will write that story this weekend.

Because after that I have other things to say.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dear Grains: It's over.

And white potatoes and refined sugar, listen up.

I'm done. I'm breaking up with you.

I've had it with the blood sugar swings (and accompanying mood swings), the sluggishness, the belly fat I can't get rid of despite obsessive calorie counting, and the mid-day slump.

I want to be able to think and behave like a rational, sane human being when I'm hungry.

You're right, we'll probably have a fling every now and then, but you're not moving back in, so don't try to tempt me with your comforting sweetness. I'll get my comfort elsewhere.

Pasta, you know I'll miss you most of all, but I just can't take it anymore. Good-bye.

(Note to readers: I'm not "doing" Atkins, or South Beach, or Paleo, or anything else in particular... for now I'm just getting rid of the foods that I already know cause me problems and eating pretty much whatever I want otherwise.)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Happy Birthday to the original TKDMom

She and my little sister started this whole crazy TKD family thing, and I'm so grateful.

Happy birthday to the woman who taught me how to appreciate my own talents, how to make a good roux, and how to change a diaper.

Happy birthday to the woman who stood by me in all the darkest times of my life... and the most joyful.

Happy birthday to the woman who celebrated my successes, pushed me to reach my goals, and wiped my tears when I fell.

Happy birthday to the woman who showed me the value of generosity, and affection, and real love, and friendship, and loyalty, and courage, and faith.

Happy birthday to the strongest, bravest, smartest woman I know.

I love you Mom!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Home Stretch

Sort of. When you've been studying something for nearly two and a half years already, 6 months doesn't seem all that long.

I received my brown decided belt last Thursday night. That means I have only one color left (two belts, red recommended and red decided) before I move into black belt territory.

I'm nervous! I still feel so clueless. I've learned so much, but I still feel lost at times. I still struggle with certain techniques.

Last night I got completely trounced in sparring by a little kid half my size. Granted, he was a black belt (and a quick, agile little ball of fury), BUT STILL. It's embarrassing.

This is the most time and effort and energy I think I've ever spent on something I wasn't good at right away. If I'm not naturally good at something, I don't want to do it. Sticking with TKD (especially weapons and sparring) is teaching me more about dedication and commitment, about committing to a goal even when it isn't always fun. My next goal is to find the discipline within myself to spend even more time on the parts I'm struggling with, because without that work, I won't feel ready to be a black belt.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vacation day 3 through 9

Okay, back to vacation before I forget what we did. Here’s my long, rambling account of days 3 through 9… if you’re still interested (if you’re not it’s okay, I’m just writing this down so I remember).

We left Oma’s house bright and early and got into Cincinnati (which I still cannot spell correctly without looking it up) in mid afternoon on the third day; I think it was around 4 pm. The people we visited here are cousins of The Man – a brother and two sisters and their respective wives and children. We pulled up just as one of the sisters was leaving for the airport to go back home (in another state), so we only saw her and her family for about five minutes. We were at the brother’s house and the other sister was staying there – between them they had 5 or 6 kids there. Little Man was thrilled to have kids to play with, and immediately went to run around and get sweaty and tired in their huge backyard.

This was our first serious encounter with fireflies (of course Little Man had to go chase them!), and our first visit to Graeter’s – an ice cream shop that has been in Cincinnati since 1870, and is easily some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. If you ever go to Ohio, do yourself a favor and stop here. Seriously. I had the black raspberry chip flavor (their oldest signature flavor), and… oh my. I don’t think my taste buds have ever been so happy. Silky cream, rich, slightly tart raspberry flavor and huge chunks of high-quality semi-sweet dark chocolate. Now I want some more.

We spent the night there, and had a wonderful time. The Man and his cousin broke out the guitars and jammed for a while, and I got to relax (and not be in the car!), and Little Man wore himself out and fell asleep early (well, not normal early… just early for vacation).

The next morning was the 4th of July, which of course means there was a mid-afternoon barbecue we had to attend… in Warren. Five and a half hours away. So we had to leave Cincinnati at some unmentionable hour before dawn. I picked Little Man up and carried him to the car. I don’t remember much of the drive… I probably fell asleep several times. Luckily I didn’t have to drive!

We made it just in time to go visit and eat barbecue, I met a couple dozen of The Man’s family members, and the party was lovely… except that right when we were about to eat (outside, of course) the clouds that had been threatening all afternoon finally opened up. So we ran inside and ate in the house. Most of this part of the family doesn't have young kids anymore... but there was a 4 wheeler to ride!

No, I didn't let him drive it himself! He just happened to be sitting on it by himself when I took the picture. I made the "adults" drive.

That night we watched a fireworks display in town, but we didn’t have to go far – we just set up chairs in someone’s front yard a few blocks away from the house where we were staying. I forgot to bring my phone with me, so I didn’t get any pictures of the fireworks, but they were pretty cool – although I’m not sure which Little Man enjoyed more, the fireworks or playing with the horde of kids sitting on the lawn with us. Their parents were nice enough to share their sparklers and snappers with us, since we didn’t bring any (way to think ahead, mom).

Tuesday night we went to Pittsburgh, and Little Man got to go to his first baseball game with the boys. I stayed at the house where we were spending the night and took a long nap on the couch.

The next day, we spent the day doing touristy things in Pittsburgh. We went to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History,

where Little Man dug for dinosaur bones, and we rode up the incline. And down the incline.

And I just got close enough to the window for a few seconds to take this picture. Yikes!

But the view from the top of the incline was incredible.

Look! It's Pittsburgh!

While we were in the shopping center at the bottom of the incline, the boys were excited to find a map of the stadium they had gone to the night before to see the baseball game.
Thursday and Friday we spent at a camp on Lake Erie in Ashtabula, OH. We didn’t camp, there was an RV with running water and A/C, but we were out away from the city, on the lake.

Those tiny critters out there are Little Man and his new little buddy playing on the swing set in front of the camp.

The weather was amazing… 80’s during the day, mid-50’s to low 60’s at night, and it only rained once in the middle of the night. Thursday afternoon we went fishing on the lake. Little Man caught his first fish on his new Spiderman fishing pole, and I caught my first bout of seasickness. In case you didn’t know, I’m not a fan of nausea. But I had a blast anyway! It was fun to ride the boat (when it was moving) on that huge lake, and it was fun to watch Little Man enjoy the ride and the water and catching fish. Of course, I didn't take that picture with my own phone... so you'll just have to imagine him holding up a small perch on the end of a Spider Man fishing pole and grinning from ear to ear. It was cute, I promise.

We made a few trips during the week into Amish country, where we went to the cheese factory and bought fresh cheese, and rainbow popcorn (I had to, it was so cool!), and the best peaches I’ve ever tasted. We bought two dozen peaches, but by the time we got home I wished we’d gotten a bushel.

We left OH at the crack of dawn on Saturday (notice a trend?), and went back down to the other side of TN to see my brother and sister-in-law - Little Man’s godparents. I have to stop there because our evening in Knoxville needs its very own entry.  

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kindergarten is off to a rocky start

Last night's activity before dinner was writing a page full of lines:

"I will not touch anybody."

I've already gotten an email from his teacher. *sigh*

It is funny, and difficult, and entertaining, and utterly maddening to have a child you know to be brilliant, and charming, and good-natured, and loving, but who is also a hard-headed, rambunctious BOY (Wild Thing). All the teachers/caregivers he has had tell me the same thing: He's really smart, but his behavior needs work.

Believe me, we're working on it.

I worry that he'll miss out on all the things that amazing brain of his can do if he gets branded as a problem. That teachers won't see the kid who tells great stories and remembers EVERYTHING, but the kid who talks too much and can't keep his hands to himself.

I'm sure he'll always be a Wild Thing to some extent... but I'm hoping some day (soon!) we'll figure out how to help him channel all that energy. TKD certainly helps, but it's not enough.

Meanwhile, he looks so cute in his uniform!

(I promise my next post will be the rest of our vacation - before I forget what we did!)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thoughts from Little Man

"Hey... that cloud looks like a dinosaur. There's his head, tail, and arms. It's gonna blow away and be dinosaur bones."

"When I grow up (holding arms far apart vertically so I can see how much bigger he'll be), I won't be old enough to be a dad, because I'll still be a kid."

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Had a DUH moment

Okay, so I have alot of those.

Background - I like forms (if you're not tkd-savvy, it's a series of moves we have to memorize in order, sort of like a simulated fight with no opponent). I spent the better part of my childhood in dance lessons, and learning a routine and learning a form is pretty similar. So I enjoy it.

Weapons and sparring, not so much.

My weapons hit the floor alot, and sometimes my face. My sparring matches aren't much better - even lower ranks beat me every time. I don't like either one very much, I just do them because I have to if I want to keep learning forms and promoting. They're like an afterthought in my martial arts training.

That right there is the problem. All of my at-home practice is working on my form. I practice it because I like it, when I really should be spending most of my extra practice time on the things I don't like because I'm not good at them.

I'll only get better if I train, and if I never train in the things I'm not good at because it's not fun (it doesn't feel good, it's frustrating, it's embarrassing), I'll never be better than I am now. Self-improvement doesn't happen if you avoid doing the hard, uncomfortable things.


Yep. I get it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Beginning of the School Year

Last Saturday, we went to get Little Man all his supplies for kindergarten. He went with me and sat in the buggy and collected all of his new, neatly packaged treasures, naming off each one as I checked it off the list. As soon as we got home, he wanted to take them all out and put them in his new backpack (the bright green and gray one we picked out first, even though he wanted the rolling, black and red Spiderman backpack that cost 2.5 times (!!!) more).

Sunday morning he came out with his loaded backpack on his back, carrying his lunch box. I'll have to remind him for a whole week that he doesn't start "big boy school" till next Monday.

I'm glad he has that excitement. I remember that feeling, how fun it was to open up new school supplies, start fresh notes with clean, crisp notebooks and new pens, meet new teachers, pick a new seat in the classroom, and learn new things. I hope that he always loves school as much as I did.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Conversation with Little Man

This one is from a few weeks ago, after the third day in a row that he got in trouble for hitting another kid at school:

Me: "What do you think?"
Little Man: "I don't know why I keep being a bully when I want to be good."
Me: "I think it's because you lose your temper and forget what you should do and hit because you're so frustrated that you can't control yourself."
Little Man: "Mom, I think you're exactly right."

I wonder how many more years I get to be "exactly right"....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Tournament #2

Last Saturday was our own school's tournament. It's the only tournament of the year we don't have to go out of town for, and this is the second year we've gone to it. It's great not to have to travel and stay in a hotel, or get up at the crack of dawn so we can drive there that morning.

We use the new gym of a local park - it's a big, clean, lovely facility - of course when you cram 700-ish competitors and their families into it it doesn't feel quite so big anymore, but it's a very nice place to hold a tournament.

I competed, and so did both my guys, my dad, and my sister. It was my little sister's first competition as a newly minted black belt, and she did fantastic. In fact all of my family did well - every one of us took a medal in every event we competed in. That doesn't happen all the time, and I'm proud of us.

I didn't do as well as I hoped but I did very well considering the amount of time I put into preparing, which was not very much. That's my main problem at this point - disciplining myself to practice and perfect my technique as much as I need to in order to achieve my goals. I still managed to squeeze out two third place medals. If I hadn't froze toward the end of my form (I call it my "oh shit what's the next move" moment - it's caused mostly by nerves and I still have it regularly), I probably could have made one of those at least a second place medal. In sparring, I actually scored a couple of points! Every tournament I sparred in before this one I was shut out in the first match - so these were my first competitive sparring points. That sure felt good. I'm actually learning something from getting the snot kicked out of me in class all the time!

I watched Little Man compete - his sparring has improved quite a bit. He actually looked like he was fighting, and not just flailing his arms and legs and hoping to hit something. He got a couple punches in the right place, and he threw a couple of blocks. He's still too young to earn place medals, but I thought he did better. I think he's starting to get the point of sparring, because he got frustrated and said he got "beat up," because the other kid got more hits in than he did. He is and always has been very good at memorizing his form, but his technique still needs alot of work. It could be that he just hasn't grown into himself yet. He is only 5, after all.

I learned some important things this tournament, and not from competing. The lessons actually came from talking to other competitors - my classmates, my friends. One is that I am only competing with myself. I'd heard that before but it didn't really sink in until she said to me that she asks herself one question, "Did I do better than at the last tournament?" That's the goal. To constantly improve on yourself. Not to beat someone else, or win a particular medal, but to improve on your last performance.

The other was a conversation I had at the celebration after, about why I'm not a black belt yet. I should be. I have been learning martial arts for more than two years - slightly longer than a couple of the black belts in our school. And it frustrates me at times, but I have to remember that my journey is not the same as theirs. Each one is different. But one thing I never realized (or never admitted to myself) until Saturday night is that I chose not to promote because I didn't feel I was good enough. I stayed a white belt for 8 months because I lacked the confidence in myself to say "I can do this." And it wasn't just that I didn't feel good enough at martial arts. I didn't feel good enough, period. I allowed the circumstances of my life to steal my confidence and undermine my sense of self-worth.

Realizing that filled me with gratitude - because I got it back. This sport, and these people I've encountered through it, helped me get it back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


I'm supposed to be writing about the rest of vacation, but that's not what's on my mind right now. I'm thinking instead about anonymity.

I think that it's possible I might maybe have absorbed some of my ex-husband's paranoia over the years we lived together. Ok, maybe some of it wasn't paranoia (he called it OPSEC and PERSEC), but the result is the same. I now cannot bear the thought of posting something with (*gasp*) our real first names in it to a public page (i.e., one that is not locked to only be viewable by people I designate as friends). But my full name is listed on Facebook.... but not my location. I know it's odd.

Writing about our vacation is what got me started thinking about it, because I realized that continuing to refer to my guys the way I started out doing so was confusing and awkward, which made me contemplate using our names.

This is what blogging creates: an awkward social space in which you are able to bare your thoughts and feelings and struggles and experiences to anyone who will read them, but at the same time, since anyone can read them, you have to consider how much you really want to bare....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vacation Day 2

After buying a box full of liquor (most of it wasn’t for us, I promise), we headed down to Clarksville, TN to visit with Little Man’s great-grandmother.

Because of crazy circumstances on our part (which might be a story for another time), and her being older and not travelling very much anymore, Little Man had never gotten to meet her. Every birthday he gets a package full of new clothes, and every Christmas he gets a box with a new stuffed toy, a set of pajamas, an ornament, and a tin of cookies and candies. I tell them they are from his Oma (she’s German), but he didn’t really know who Oma was other than a voice on the phone and a name. Now he has pictures and memories of a fun day and lots of hugs and kisses to associate with that name.

After working all day Friday and then driving till after midnight, getting up in the morning and driving some more, by the time we got to her house the next afternoon we were wiped out. Little Man was perky because he napped on the drive (both days, lucky kid).

Oma and Little Man went for a walk; meanwhile it looked like there’d been a gas leak in her living room, with me out cold on the couch and Big Man sleeping on the floor. When we had sufficiently recovered, all of us went out to dinner and to a lovely little playground/park right on the Cumberland River, just in time for sunset.

After dark we lit sparklers in the driveway and Little Man watched the night sky for fireworks. It was only the second, but we could hear the booms from a few people starting their celebration early.

We spent the night there, and after a lovely breakfast and promises to visit again soon and for longer next time, left early in the morning to head to Bowling Green, KY. Of course, being the outnumbered female, I had to take the boys to the Corvette Museum so they could ooh and ah over all the gorgeous cars (I have to admit I appreciated them a bit myself).

Little Man was a bit of a Wild Thing, probably from spending so much time in the car at this point, but we had a great time.

Then it was lunch and on into Cincinnati.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vacation Day 1

Or: Drivapalooza.

We have returned to normal life now after 10 days and roughly 2200 miles of fun.

Friday we left work a little early and drove to just outside of Nashville, TN. The first leg of the trip was a whole lot of this:

We started seeing some hills just before dark, and after it got dark, The Man turned the brights on so I could see the rock walls rising up next to the road.

It was getting late, but we had a goal – The Man’s sister’s house outside of Nashville. Beds and a breakfast visit were waiting for us there. So we pushed through and finally made it in about 12:30 am. Little Man was a zombie. He swore he wouldn’t sleep alone in the little bed provided for him, but within five minutes of being tucked in and assured that Mommy was just on the other side of the wall, he was out cold.

After a lovely breakfast and a couple hours of visiting the next morning, we headed to our next stop: MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, KY.

Paul has been a dear friend – like a brother to me, really – since our freshman year of high school. A little over two years ago, when his time in the Army was almost up, he told us what he wanted to do next: make whiskey. I wondered if he was hit in the head during training. It was the last thing I would have expected him to do. I happily admit my misgivings were totally off-base. They are doing incredibly well. The tours are professional and informative, he and his wife and staff obviously know their craft and have a passion for it, and the liquor speaks for itself. I’m not much of a drinker, but this stuff is GOOD. I wish I’d brought more of it back with me (luckily, they ship all over the country!).

That was the first day (half of one day and half of the next really, but close enough).

Friday, July 1, 2011

These shoes were made for fighting

Inspired by this writing prompt at The Lightning and The Lightning Bug:

Mat shoes. Quite a fashion statement, aren’t they? Add to their beauty the fact that I got them a size too large in order to accommodate chunky cushioned insoles. Totally look like a clown. Okay, maybe not really, but I feel like I do when I wear them.

I have a love/hate relationship with these shoes.

This time last year, I was preparing for a tournament. In fact, it was to be our school’s first tournament since the new owner took over, and my first tournament with our school, ever. I was also preparing to get my camo belt (why yes, there is a camouflage belt - insert "only in the South" joke here), which would move me into the intermediate class. I had technically been in basic for over a year, when the average in that class is only 6 months.

Just a couple weeks before the tournament, my left foot started to hurt. At first it was just an ache at the end of a long day, but pretty soon I couldn’t walk without a limp, and some mornings, that first step out of bed would nearly send me to the floor.

If you don’t know me, you don’t know that’s a big deal. I’m not a wimp. Okay, my family members can stop laughing now – I am a wimp about some things, but not this kind of pain. I’m the 9-hours-of-induced-labor-with-no-pain-meds girl. For those of you who haven’t had a pitocin induced contraction, just read that as “super extra painful.” Point is if I’m limping something is VERY WRONG.

The day of the tournament, I sat in the bleachers waiting my turn with my foot resting directly on a bag of ice. It was nicely numb by the time I was called to my ring, so I managed to compete. I even managed to snag two second place medals.

A couple weeks later, I promoted from yellow belt to camo. Barely. Then I couldn’t take it anymore. I called my doctor.

Doc said rest it and quit walking around barefoot. I said um, TKD is a barefoot sport. Doc said take a break and if it doesn’t get better, I’m gonna refer you to a surgeon. Break it is.

They called me with my x-ray results two days later: definitely a heel spur.

6 months. 3 full promotion cycles. Watching friends and family members pass me by.

When I just couldn’t stand sitting on the sidelines anymore, I got the shoes, put two fat gel insoles in each of them, and started again. The cushion and support allowed me to go to class. I felt self-conscious in them. When everyone else is barefoot, people notice if you are wearing shoes- especially if you are wearing huge, unattractive shoes. But it was worth it, because I earned my green belt. Finally, after 8 months.

Eventually I was able to retire them. I keep them around – I might need them again. And I’m grateful for them. They remind me of a part of my journey.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A conversation from last night

Little Man (who is 5):

"Mommy, when are we going to have a day when we can stay home all day and all night and stay in our pajamas and do nothing?"

Apparently, we really need that vacation we're going on next week.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thoughts on Father's Day

A bit late, but we were quite busy on the day of.

There are many, many reasons I stay in TKD, but only one reason I walked into that school in the first place: my son. His father and I were separated at that time, and his contributions to the work of parenting have ever consisted almost solely of funding and genetic material. At three years old, my son was obviously bright, but undisciplined and unfocussed. A sweet, loving boy, but clearly in need of a strong male role model. When my sister told me about the school, and the people she’d met there, and how it could help him, I thought I would try it out.

Because we went and stuck with it, my son has more focus and discipline. He has a group of peers to train with, and a group of older kids to learn from. He is part of something bigger than himself; he knows what it means to practice and work hard and see the reward from it. But most importantly, he has in The Man Who Loves Us a good, kind, generous, honorable man to call Dad, to play with, to learn from, to look up to. He didn’t have to love both of us, but he did, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have him in our lives. Happy Father’s Day, darling.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Brown Recommended

I did it. I didn’t drop from exhaustion, though I kind of wanted to (5-6 hours is not enough sleep!!), I remembered my whole form (though I almost forgot the name…), and I broke both boards in two tries or less.

Now I am in what feels like the home stretch – the point in the advanced color belt program in which I now get two belts of each of the two remaining colors: one recommended (with a yellow stripe), and one decided (with a black stripe). Best case, I’m still ten months away from a black belt. If I can do another rank camp in January, I’ll shave off another two months.

This week has improved my technique, my physical condition, and most importantly, my confidence. I feel better about my abilities than I have in a long time.

This weekend I get the reward of going to visit some of my favorite people! I have a whole gaggle of cousins and assorted other family members who live roughly four hours away. We are leaving this afternoon, and we are so excited to see everyone!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rank Camp Day 4

Since I learned my whole form, and didn’t barf or fall down from exhaustion, I consider last night a success. And I’m less sore today than I was yesterday.

I was surprised, many months ago, to discover how political TKD is, but now that I think about it I realize I shouldn’t be surprised at all. There is a considerable amount of politics involved in any large organization, and there aren’t any more or less in ours than any other. And even more should be expected in an organization with military origins, a particular hierarchy, and rules for conduct; especially when there is so much room to move within the hierarchy.

The constant shifting of rank and titles, especially in individual schools and the more local parts of the organization, creates an interesting social situation. If you aren’t constantly moving forward, people with less experience can easily pass you. I’m in that situation now, where because of my own long and winding journey, I have to defer to people who started studying martial arts after I did. I have to watch them get their black belts, and know that I’m still nearly a year away, and I can’t tell you how frustrating that is. It takes an effort of will to swallow my pride and take direction from someone who is younger both in years and in the sport, and know that I should because they outrank me. But just like in the rest of life, you can’t stand still. You’re either moving forward or you’re falling back.

This rank camp (and hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to do another one in six months) will help a little bit in catching up, but the sting of watching others pass me by is unavoidable at this point. This is what makes my journey mine. Every delay, every injury, every mental and emotional hurdle I have to jump will make my black belt that much more meaningful.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rank Camp Day 3

I am sore, but not really any more sore than I’ve been in the past… it’s a good feeling, that ache that tells me I’ve pushed my muscles a bit further than they wanted to go. The worst part is the sleepiness. Just about the time we’re getting started each night is when I’m usually already in bed…

It will be worth it. I keep telling myself that.

When I tie on a brown belt after only being a blue belt for a week, it will be worth it.

When I get my black belt by March instead of July, it will be worth it.

When I see the improvements in my technique from a week of repetition and focused training, it will be worth it.

When I can be an example of hard work and perseverance to my son, it is worth it.

One of my classmates said last night that her decision to attend rank camp has nothing to do with jumping a belt. For her, it’s to get an infusion of that passion and motivation that keeps us going on our journey. I didn’t sign up to get that, but I’m getting it anyway. Thank you, Mr. H, for giving me a chance to remind myself why I love this sport.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rank Camp Day 2

I survived the first night. Surprisingly, I have the full use of all of my limbs and my face is not (yet) hitting my keyboard, although I see a search for caffeine in my near future. Since I typically head to bed just after I get Little Man off to dreamland, 11 pm is obscenely late for me to be out on a school night. But as I said, it’s worth it.

Last night we spent a large portion of the two hours working on technique, which is far less glamorous than it sounds. It just means we do the same move over and over again until we get better at it. I must have done 8 dozen round kicks, but the improvement is already starting to show. Whether I can lift my legs to do them again tonight is another story.

The other thing we did last night is learn the first several moves of our forms. There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced students taking this Rank Camp, so our lucky instructor gets to learn (or brush up on) and then teach three different forms. The form I have to learn is called Hwa Rang (pronounced Hwa-wrong, with an audible h and a rolling r).

What’s that you say? I get to learn a form with the same name as one of my favorite characters on one of the (very) few video games I enjoyed playing as a kid? Geeky coolness!!

If you’re a child of the 80’s (like me), you probably played some Tekken growing up. Maybe you played Streetfighter or Mortal Kombat, but if you were really cool, you played Tekken. If you are indeed cool, you probably remember a certain young TaeKwonDo master named Hwoarang. Yes, pronounced exactly the same way as the form I’m learning. I suspect they got their name from the same entity. The Hwarang were a group of youth trained in martial arts in the Silla kingdom of ancient Korea.  

Therefore, I am geeking out. I might have to practice saying the name of my form in the Tekken-announcer voice.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rank Camp Day 1

Eventually, I will go back and start at the beginning, but today I'm going to start with where I am right now, and that's Day 1 of my first Rank Camp, which will allow me to jump from the blue belt I just earned last week to a brown belt.

You don't have to be a student of martial arts to understand the craziness that is Rank Camp. You just have to have been a student of anything, ever. Rank Camp takes two months of material and crams it into one week - or in my case, since I have a prior obligation on the last two days, four days. That's right kids, I'm gonna learn 8 weeks worth of TKD material in four days. Starting at 9pm tonight, because in addition to being a martial arts student, I'm a working mom.

This week might be a blur of exhaustion and grumpiness, but on Thursday night when I realize the goal of shaving another two months off of my journey to black belt, it will be worth it.