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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.