Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dress-making 101

Time to pull out the old sewing machine. It's been a few years since I've made anything, but in two weeks I get to be Matron of Honor at the wedding of a dear friend, and I need something to wear. Not being a fan of shelling out $100+ for poorly sewn acetate, I've decided to make my dress instead.

This dress is what I've chosen. Purple being the wedding color, I've got a deep purple silk, and a lavendar lace for the overlay. (It's hard to see in these pictures, but the dress is two layer.)

Wish me luck. I used to be quite a competant seamstress (I made my own wedding dress.), but I haven't sewn a complete item of clothing since shortly after my first son was born.

The wedding itself should be interesting, if it doesn't kill me. The bride is an old and dear friend, finally marrying the guy she's been dating for more than five years. Unfortunately her family (read her parents), are a fairly crazy bunch. I fully expect to be running completely ragged the week before the wedding, mostly putting out fires set by well meaning relatives. For example, we've already had to nix her mother attempting to have the florist put large boquets along the aisle. As if a bride negotiating the trip with crutches really needs a few more obstacles thrown in her way.

Update on the pulled groin muscle. Yep, it's definitely pulled. At least for right now my left kicks (all sorts) have to stay below knee height or I regret it. Deep Seiuchin is also out, as well as anything that involves a straddle position. The good news is that at my current rate of improvement I should be fully functional by the time I get back from the wedding on Sept 8 (I leave a week from Friday, on the 24th). At that I got off lucky. One of the TKD black belts broke her foot. Sensei thanked me for bringing the ice chest & packs, and said that next year we're going to haul it right in the door, and set up a first-aid station with sign. This year I was handing out ice packs from the back seat of my van because we weren't sure of the reception we'd get if we brought it inside, but a lot of people who could have used the ice didn't see us.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Lots of Little Pieces

The Break-a-thon is over. 1000 boards have been demolished. It took about 40 people 19.5 minutes to do the deed. We raised somewhere around 2500 dollars for the National MS Society (The final tallies aren't in yet, but we were at $2325 when I left, without counting concessions or on-the-spot donations.)

I'm a bit the worse for wear. We'll see how bad it is tomorrow and Monday. On one side-kick break, my holder, apparently unused to seeing his breaker charging him, backed away just slightly, and I over-stretched into the kick. I made the break, but pulled my left adductor (inner thigh muscle). The TKD people make their side-kick breaks by using what we would call a spinning side-kick, while I used a step-behind side-kick that covers a good deal of ground. Other than the pull, I'm pleased with the day. I broke about twenty boards - knife-hand both left and right, palm-heel, stomp, front snap and side-thrust kicks, most were 9" boards, but the organizers overestimated how many small boards we'd need vs. large ones, so by the end the adults were breaking the kids' 3 and 4" boards.

On the slightly intimidating side, Sensei took me aside shortly before the breaking started and told me that his special project for the next three months is getting me ready for the Lennox Legacy tournament. Meaning, apparently, that he intends to work my butt into the ground, and expects me to win kumite and possibly kata as well. My tournament performance so far has been highly mixed. I won the Grand Champion beginner's woman trophy at our local tournament last year, and even beat out the intermediate Grand Champion in the fighting ring - but that's a very small tournament. At last year's Lennox, however, I placed last in both categories, albeit not by very much. That's been my performance pretty consistently so far. Local tournaments, I do very well. In away tournaments, even fairly small ones, I place nowhere. I don't know if its a mental problem, or a statement on the quality of our local dojos.

I look forward to the intensive course anyway. I always love being pushed.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Growing Up Bullied

Amanda, at Pandagon, has a recent post and thread regarding a new video game showing a bullied kid getting even - not by gunning people down, but apparently through such things as throwing bags of marbles on the floor, and other such stuff. Some school administrators are denouncing the game, and Amanda is commenting that the main reaction to tragedies like Pearl and Columbine has been to crack down on the people being bullied as violence risks, rather than to crack down on the bullies.

This post isn't about that one though, even though I think it's dead on. Rather, in the comment section, where people are relating their own tales of being bullied, a commenter says that all these people relating their stories are immature, have anger issues, and should just get over it. Everyone had a miserable time in HS, even the jocks and cheerleaders, and those who have commented are just a bunch of whiners.

Somebody needs a swift tap with a clue-by-four.

The two most common comments I heard from adults as a kid were "You don't have a problem, really. Everyone thinks they're unpopular," and "The kids bothering you are just jealous. Ignore them; be a boring target, and they'll get tired of it and go away."

From this I mainly learned that no adult was ever going to even believe me, let alone take me seriously or help me as I tried to cope with my life in middle school.

Said life included such joys as being unable to eat lunch normally, because sitting down at a lunch table with any other kid inevitably got my lunch spit upon, used in a food fight, salt or mustard, or some other condiment dumped over everything, my tray "accidentally" spilled on the floor, or some other way of making sure I couldn't even eat, let alone enjoy my lunch.

It included being kicked, tripped, pushed down stairs, whipped with a jumprope, and having my possessions stolen at every opportunity. Ignoring them simply caused them to escalate, trying to make me react.

And lets not forget the teacher who harrassed me and attempted to molest me - probably because I was so isolated that I made an attractive target. In retrospect this teacher also actively helped further my isolation by favoring me in class in ways my fellow students were bound to resent.

All of this went on, day in and day out for four straight years. In those four years I can't remember a single day of being happy, of having a good time, of even being able to relax my constant vigilance against what my fellow students might do to me next. I was literally praying to God every night asking for him to let me die before morning so I wouldn't have to go back to school.

The worst thing about this is - my story isn't particularly unusual, and it's far from the worst one I've heard. I wasn't even the only person in this position at my school. There were at least two other similar kids in my grade, and at least one in every grade. That's somewhere between six and twelve kids living in utter daily misery in one school. Many others wobbled in and out of unpopularity, or gained temporary target status, but we were the permanent pariahs, and none of us lost that status by any method but moving.

Too many adults, like this commenter, think that kids are exaggerating, or that their lack of perspective makes their misery greater than circumstances warrent. They forget that misery is not dependant upon maturity. Often they will blame the bullied kids for their own status - as if any kid, under any circumstances, deserves the kind of treatment a school pariah recieves. They will tell adults relating these circumstances to "just grow up and get over it."

Remembering the circumstances of one's youth is not failing to grow up. Trying to make others understand those circumstances is not failing to get over it. It's a perfectly rational attempt to make other adults understand, because maybe, just maybe, if we can get that point across to enough people, it will stop being okay to look the other way when school kids torment others for being different. Perhaps if the problem is the downtrodden striking out with violence, the solution might be to prevent them from being downtrodden, rather than to stomp them harder?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Breaking Things

First off, I did pass my test. It was pouring rain in buckets, and only I, Sensei and one 9 year old white belt were there. Sensei was more stringent than usual (all that time, and no witnesses!), but I didn't make any significant errors, though he made some suggestions for improvement in my kata. Mostly that my stances could be purer - Seisan wider after turns, Seuichin deeper, transitions clearer. Kumite was brutal - Sensei himself until he decided he was tired. Breaking went well, I went through everything on my first try.

The three classes I've had since then have been prepping for the dojo Break-a-thon, which benefits the MS Society. That's this Saturday, and I've been alternating between practicing my own breaks, and helping some of the kids with theirs. We're supposed to be breaking 1000 boards in 30 minutes. The Taekwondo people (who own the dojo), set this one up. We generally don't teach breaking until middle belts, but the TK side does it from white belt, so a lot of our little ones want to participate, and we're trying to prep them.

One of our newest (the same 9 year old boy who was at my test) is waaay over-eager. If Sensei didn't keep such a tight watch on safety, he'd have injured himself by now. He's this way with everything - pestering me to teach him Taikyoko I by the end of his first class (after Sensei told him "Not yet."), hitting up everybody in sight to teach him anything they know about anything. It's always nice to have an eager student, but this one worries me. His ambitions are so far ahead of his actual ability at this stage of the game that he's a menace - mostly to himself. He wants to break the big boards with a seikan, when he can't hit a makiwara straight with one, and he can't break a little board with a kick. The most worrisome part is that he's willing to be deceptive - play a senior student off of Sensei, or fail to mention previous attempts or failures, in order to get people to let him try what he wants to. It's going to get him kicked out if he doesn't cut it out. Sensei's already warned him twice, and he's only been here 8 weeks (if that).

In other news, school started today. #1 son is in third grade, and reports that his teacher seems nice, and that there are about four kids he knows in his class - none of them kids he's had problems with before. #2 son started kindergarten. Unfortunately he was put in the wrong class (away from his best friend), by mistake, so the first day was marred by constantly looking for Ashley. We have it straightened out now, and tomorrow he starts in Ashley's class, which is making both him and Ashley feel much better about the whole kindergarten thing. He was so tired today after school that he lay down for half an hour after he got home, which is unheard of. Other than Ashley's absence, he seems to have no complaints about kindergarten, so I'm pretty confident about tomorrow going well.