Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why Brown Belts Are Such Good Fighters

I've been to three classes since my test - and I think I've collected more bruises in this past 10 days than in the entire previous year. People's thought processes seem to run like this - She's a brown belt. Brown belts are tough fighters. I'd really better kick up my game and attack hard! If this keeps up, I'm going to be a ferocious fighter in short order, just trying to keep my head on my shoulders!

On the good side, all the bruises are on shin and forearm - so despite the extra oomph, people aren't getting through to target zones. I begin to understand why James (my cousin, black belt in a different discipline and pretty darned impressive), spends so much of his spare time thumping his shins and forearms with a kali stick. A little extra toughness there would be very helpful, if only to keep the bruising less visible. The last time I was getting this bruised regularly (way back before kids), a client slipped me a business card with the local DV Hotline number written on the back. At least this time I can say, honestly, that the bruises don't come from Rob. Back then he was taking Isshinryu with me, so some of the bruises were from him.

Other news: My FIL spent several hours in the ER yesterday with a blood-sugar crash. So Rob is going down tomorrow to stay with him until he can put him on the plane to Doug's (Rob's little brother), where he will stay about three weeks. This was to be the first weekend in about three months where Rob could simply stay home and relax, but such was not to be. I really, really wish there was some way I could do some of this for him, but to go down myself, I'd need to bring the children, which would make the whole thing too much for Dad Wood. Going down myself instead of Rob, which we considered (very) briefly, wouldn't go over well either. With any luck, though, once we get down to Mississippi we can just relax and have a good holiday. Plus, we should get to see Becky - yay!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Run-up

Okay. I've had a week - well, nearly a week to absorb brown-beltness. Time to get back to work. It's time to take a look at everything I need to do to be ready for black belt. My minimum time-in-belt is one year. I could have much longer than that (Sensei's last brown belt was brown for eight years, but he kept traveling away.), but one year is the time frame after which Sensei could decide I'm ready and test me with only minimal warning, so I want to be comfortable with what I can do by then. (Whether I feel ready or not is a whole different matter...)

The good: Three essays - not a problem. I have first drafts of two written already, and will be continuing to work on them. General knowledge - being inveterately curious, I generally tend to know brain-wise not only what I need to, but several times that.

The bad: Five katas to learn - three empty hand and two weapons. The one I learn last, Sanchin, is the one I need to know cold, because I have to do it stripped to the waist (with a sports bra), and while being thumped by enthusiastic TKD b lack belts. I really want to get through the first four quickly, so as to have time to get Sanchin into my bones. Self-defense - I know most of my required self-defense, but the difference between what I do, and what L did at his test was striking. Again, I'll be being tested by enthusiastic TKD blacks and I'd better have it perfect - and fast. Which leads to:

The ugly: Speed and power. I now know what was so funky about my kata. Unfortunately, fixing it will mean going back and dissecting every kata I already know, and fixing them move by move by move. Sigh. Time to take my own advice to Black Belt Momma - whom I told accurately, that if your technique improves and you don't have to dissect your kata, your kata is lagging behind. I have the speed and power available. I proved that in kumite and breaking at my test. I just need to figure out how to apply it in kata. Dissection is so fun.

In other news: We just got Aaron his third pair of new sneakers in six months. The kid is going to be growing like gangbusters here soon, if the feet are any indication.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Phew!


Well, it's Friday evening. There are three boards and one haydite fewer at the dojo, two candles have been punched out (second shot each time), seven katas performed with one mistake (missed a stab in Simple Sai because I was getting freaked about my sais catching on my sleeves), and I have a new brown belt sitting in my dojo bag.

I think I have the answer to my frustrating kata performance. Oddly enough it was Rob, who hasn't taken karate in a decade, and not either of the judging black belts who managed to define the problem. Sensei and Sensei Don could only tell me that the empty-hand kata lacked power compared to the weapon katas, and especially compared to kumite and breaking. Rob says I look like a bad CGI, where the arms and legs have been pegged onto a stationary torso. Even when I turn or bend or leap, I apparently hinge at hips and shoulders, but nowhere in between. Given my blocky torso, he said I resembled a can of vegetables with arms and legs. The posture in question is very correct (proper singing posture, would look entirely proper on a Victorian lady), but it never moves. Why this is, or why I do move through the torso for weapons, I don't know, but at least I now have something I can actually work on. The odd thing is that I have been trying specifically to add hip power to my punches for several months now, but apparently whatever I've been doing either isn't right, or hasn't taken.

Kumite went really, really well. I fought three of the other purple belts (the fourth was video-taping), and pretty much cleaned up the floor, which is unusual for me. Generally my mind runs ahead and I miss opportunities, or get locked up because I'm over-analyzing. This time my mind was directly on business, and I chased everybody out of the ring at least once. The extra fitness work really paid off too. I was drenched, but not at all worn out by the end.

Breaking also went really well. Sensei held to his threat, and added two breaks to my requirements, so instead of just a punching break (single board) and a hammer fist (haydite), I had to break two other boards. I opted for a chop and a side kick. Everything broke on the first shot except the kick, where I went high and off-center - I've gotten so much more flexible that I seriously underestimated my most comfortable height! I readjusted the board up about six inches, and got a clean easy break on the second try. The haydite was also a little nerve-wracking. I've never done a hand break on a haydite before, nor ever broken from a kneeling position before, so it was learn-as-you-go time. However, it broke cleanly on the first shot (yay? That would have hurt to miss.), and my positioning was off only barely - I have a scraped spot on my wrist that will have a bruise tomorrow.

All my freaking out about the candle-punching seems to have paid off - or rather, I suppose, all the practice I did because I was freaked out. I put the candle out first try with my right, but barely tapped the candle and had to do it again, whereas the first punch with the left failed to put it out. Second time was the charm for both, though.

Self-defense went smoothly. I did the six presets, which all went pretty well, especially for not having been able to practice them on an actual person for the last month. I did one more, just for good measure, my favorite double-lapel grab/break, which quite unexpectedly tossed Sensei's daughter onto her back several feet away. Normally it only twists her around sideways.

Overall, I'm fairly pleased. I'm going to take the sleeves on my new gi (not worn yet), back to forearm because I don't want a repeat of the sleeve catching thing. I am very pleased at having an actual useable description of what's going wrong with my kata, so I can start working on fixing it.

Onward.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Happy Birthday, Kathryn!

Of course, by the time you read this, it won't be your birthday any more where you are - and possibly not here either. But for now, at least, it's still your birthday. I hope you had a great one.

Kathryn was my first, and for many, many years, my only niece. I don't get to see her near often enough, seeing as she lives in Germany, while I've been bopping around various parts of the US. She was born over Thanksgiving vacation, my first year at college. I remember going up to visit Aunt Brooke and Uncle Rollin, getting my luggage "lost", because I'd arrived at the airport so early they sent it up by an earlier plane. Arriving to find nobody there because wires had gotten crossed and they thought I was arriving the next day. Finding out that Aunt Brooke was pregnant, which was a substantial surprise, as she and Uncle Rollin had been married for a number of years, and she was 42.

I knew that Kelly (my SIL, Kathryn's mom), was due any day, and I was really hoping she would give birth over vacation, so I could celebrate with family, rather than plugging right along with school work. Kathryn obliged, and we had a celebratory Thanksgiving indeed. I didn't see her in person until she was getting around on two feet, but I have photos of her as a newborn. She's much bigger (and more beautiful, though not cuter) now. Also considerably more articulate.

Happy 20th, Kathryn! The best of everything to you this year.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Minor Irritation

Why, oh why, has the music teacher given Aaron (the only kid in his class with a speech impediment) a line that includes the words "Wampanoag" and "Patuxet"?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Visits and Meetings

Sorry for the long pause. Dad Wood has been visiting this last week, which seriously cut into computer time. Among other things my computer is in the guest room, and when you do most of your blogging at night, and your guest goes to bed at 9pm...

That said, we had a good visit. Dad Wood seems to be coping with Ma's death about as well as could be expected. Getting out of the overly empty house seemed to be good for him, and we'll probably have him up here again after the holidays (we're going down to him for Thanksgiving).

Sensei and I had a meeting of minds, and my brown belt (ni-kyu) test is scheduled for Nov. 30th - I.e. Friday the week after Thanksgiving. I'm practicing my (not-so) little butt off. Candle-punching is still my worst skill, and the only one that has me truly worried. Practicing at home I'm getting the candle out 50-70% of the time with my right hand, but only about one time in six with the left. Which if I only get two shots per hand is not good odds. My problem seems to be two-fold. First is my general slowness/lack of snap. With poor snap, my punch has to be right on top of the candle to put it out. This combines poorly with my tendancy to misjudge the amount of hip twist when checking my distance. Otherwise known as I tend to tap the candle, which is an automatic fail, even if the flame goes out. If I can improve the snap, I won't have to judge my distance so finely. If I can judge my distance right, my lack of snap won't matter quite so much. Practice, practice, practice. It's all I can do right now.

We also had a meeting with the Special Education Team at the school, this time about Robbie, instead of Aaron. It was an interesting (and funny) meeting. Full of comments that were polite versions of "If he's paying attention 18% of the time (the official count), but heads the class, why is the problem with his attention, rather than with the level of the material?" In the end they agreed with us, and Robbie is now officially in the Gifted & Talented program, rather than Special Education. (It helps that his test scores were above average to well-above average nearly across the board) I had the intake interview with the G&T coordinator on Friday. She seems like a very nice lady, and I'm very pleased with the program as outlined. Best of all, the G&T program is done by "cluster" teachers within each grade, and Robbie's teacher is the cluster teacher for 4th grade, so he gets to stay where he is. Woot! Because he seriously loves being in Mr. Julian's class. Actually, Mr. Julian had already started grouping Robbie with the G&T kids for pull-out work before we even had this meeting - so yay for him.

Also in Robbie school news, he's just been selected for the Academic Competition Team. He is seriously excited about this. Competition, plus science and math, all in one place. Robbie has been competitive from the get-go, and this should be right up his alley. Plus both this and being with the G&T kids may help him develop some more friends.

Nothing new with Aaron school-wise. But in Taekwondo, he should be testing for his yellow stripe next month. I hope the test is scheduled for sometime when we're in town, since we're headed down Mississippi way on the 21st. If he misses, he'll have to wait until January since the TKD people schedule mass tests once a month, rather than our individual tests, scheduled at the testee's convenience.

Oh - and it looks like I'll have an audience for my test. At least three people from the TKD side have asked for the date, and said they'd make a point to be there. Eeek?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tournament and Kata Frustrations

Back from the Great Lakes Games/Lennox Legacy Tournament weekend. A good time was had by all, and in general things went very, very well.

We missed last year's GLG, so it was great to see all of our friends again. I didn't play nearly as many games as usual, but it was great fun anyway. I did get to try Goa, which is involved, but fairly fun, a really cool matching game named Quirkle, and an expansion to Ticket to Ride that puts you in Switzerland, which I really liked.

I hit the road at 3:30am to get to Hanchi Duessel's 8:30 seminar in Akron (tournament started at 10). I was 5 minutes late (aargh!). Fortunately for my pride, an entire dojo contingent walked in about two minutes later, and I used them as cover to slide into place. All but one of our dojo members were there and competing (the lone absentee is seven, a white belt, and doesn't know her first kata yet). We did, as a group, very well. I think everyone came home with at least one medal. The kids, especially, did great. The kids divisions were all pretty sizeable, but we had medals of all colors in both kata and kumite. Sensei's daughter took a second in kumite, and pretty clearly deserved first. (She scored two beautiful kicks to her opponents mid-section, clean and unblocked, but in each case the fight had worked into a corner and not enough judges saw the hit to allow the point. Even without those two points, the match went 2-all. Our newest adult student, who was so nervous about competing she nearly refused to enter, even though she was already there for her two sons, took home a gold in kata (against two higher ranked competitors, doing Seisan against Wansu and Chinto), and a silver in kumite (again against higher ranked competitors). We won't have to beg and plead to get her to compete next time.

In my division I took silver in kumite, with a 2-2 sudden death in the fight for first place. The girl I fought against (yes, girl. They changed the age breaks, so instead of being a senior in the 36+ like last year, I'm in the 18-38 division.) was tiny, but very quick. She had a large cheering section, which was nice to see. In weapons I got an autmatic gold for being the only weapons competitor in my division, but then competed one division up. I landed middle-of-the-road points wise there, which is fine by me, since I was using Tsu Yoi Bo (Power Bo, our prepratory bo kata), against people doing Tokumine no Kun or Urashi Bo, plus some sai katas I didn't recognize - not hard, the only Sai katas I recognize are Simple Sai and Kusanku Sai (which I've just started learning)

Which brings me to kata. I've found a perfect description for my kata results in Isshinryu tournaments here. To wit, I've landed in exactly the same spot in every Isshinryu tournament I've ever been in - dead last. I'm beginning to get a) puzzled and b) very frustrated by this bit of consistency. I don't think I do bad kata. This impression is seconded by my results in non-Isshinryu tournament (I've only been in two, but medaled both times), by my sensei's comments, by my competitors' comments, and even by the comments of the judges whose scores put me last. I hunted down three of my five judges this time and asked for suggestions on how to improve my kata. They gave me good advice (deeper stances and more varied rhythm), which I intend to follow, and went out of their way to mention that they thought my kata was otherwise good. One asked me when I thought I would test for brown, and seemed pleased that it would be soon. But at least a couple of the other competitors in my ring had kata that weren't terribly good - I.e. kata where I will be pretty upset if the video shows that I was as stiff, or weak or hesitant. Two years ago I placed last against a truly wonderful field, and I felt really good about being scored even in the same league, but that wasn't this year's set.

To try to be clear here - I'm not upset about my placement per se. I couldn't care less whether I bring home a medal in kata or not. But this makes something close to ten tournaments where I have finished last, and I can't help but think that there's got to be something fundamentally wrong with what I'm doing for that to have happened. Each time I've looked for suggestions on how to improve, and gotten them. Each time I've worked on the things I've been told - and sure enough the comments are different the next time I finish last. Whatever it is doesn't seem to afflict my weapons kata. Rob had the interesting suggestion that since by next year I will know both Kusanku and Kusanku Sai, I should do those two, and if I place well in weapons but not in kata, I will have a very specific way to zero in on what difference the judges saw.

I just know that it seems pretty pathetic that my goal for kata for next year is to do a kata so wonderful that the judges have to rank me above somebody.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Life Goes On

Rob is down at his father's until tomorrow morning. He would really like to spend an ordinary weekend at home, but it's not happening any time soon.

Report cards and parent/teacher conferences were Thursday. Both boys got straight A's, which is wonderful. Aaron had some worrisome benchmarks though, so we're discussing some changes to his IEP (Individualized Education Plan). In first grade, none of the tests on which his grades are based are timed, whereas the benchmark tests, which are used to rate the school, but not the students, are timed. The differences were striking. The worst was math, where he had a 96% score for his grade, and a 25% for the benchmark. All the benchmarks were noticeably lower than the class grades, though most by less dramatic amounts. The general opinion is that his writing is the problem. He's slow at it and tends to overgrip the pencil, leading to rapid fatigue, which is exacerbated by timed tests which add pressure while removing time to rest his hand. So his teacher is looking into the possibility of allowing him to take some tests orally, and possibly some with an AlphaSmart (a dedicated word-processor), so that his testing can reflect his knowledge rather than his fine motor coordination or lack thereof. He would continue to do homework and untimed tests by hand, since it's important that he at least be able to write, but nobody sees any benefit on testing him via his worst skill.

We've also started Aaron in our dojo's Little Dragons TKD class. I have mixed feelings about this. I've written about the TKD instruction here before, and I would really rather have him in Isshinryu. On the other hand, he was getting upset and frustrated at having to deal with a class full of bigger, stronger, better coordinated people all the time, even though he still liked the idea of karate class. When we put him in a trial Little Dragons class, he slid right in. They teach 4-7, so he's at the older end of the age range, where size, strength and better concentration can make up for coordination problems. I'm hoping that by the time he graduates Little Dragons (usually a year to 18 months), he will be ready to come into the Isshinryu class. Most of the basic things they're teaching the little kids are applicable to both styles (excepting the Korean, but that's alright). The only thing I've seen so far that we just don't do is an axe kick (well, and the rotated punch, but that's inevitable).

Robbie's taking a cartooning class this month. He's really enjoying it. My favorite of his drawing so far is a little (recognizable!) head of Einstein, eyelids drooping saying "E=mc2zzzzzzzz..."

We're headed out to Great Lakes Games next weekend - an annual board-gaming convention, much fun to be had by all. My schedule gets complicated because Heidi Gauntner's Lennox Legacy Tournament is also this coming weekend. It's the one tournament that Sensei really cares about us going to, and I always try to get there. This time it means getting up at 5am Sat. and driving from the convention to the tournament, competing and driving back, because I am not paying for two hotel rooms in two different states on the same night. It would be a little easier if I weren't taking the seminar before the competition, but Hanchi Duessel is teaching it, and he's always worth the effort. So I guess I'd better know Chinto well enough to do it in my sleep, because that's exactly how I might be doing it!

Other random karate news: Sensei started teaching me Kusanku Sai last night, which is really cool. Though it's a little weird to be learning the sai kata before the open hand kata. Also *product endorsement* I found the most wonderful athletic bras. Title Nine Sportswear makes several different bras that keep me from bouncing at all. I had pretty much resigned myself to kaboinging through karate and Turbokick, but I ordered three bras from this place, and the two I've tried so far really, keep me from bouncing. (For the curious, I ordered the Cuz-She-Said-So bra, the Frog Bra, and the Three Blessings Bra. I've tried the first two, the last is on back-order.) The Frog Bra presses my breasts in pretty close in to my chest and holds them that way, while the Cuz-She-Said-So bra holds them up, but they both work really well. Highly recommended.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Well, the last few days have been a learning experience. We found out, for instance, that coronors want cash up-front (though they'll take a cashier's check or a money order). If my Mom and Dad hadn't felt that an autopsy was as necessary as we did, we wouldn't be getting one. On the downside, we now owe Dad $3000 - ouch!

Funeral homes, on the other hand, have payment plans - 1 year, same as cash! This is good, in that people actually get buried. On the other hand, the prices are stunning. Literally. Rob isn't stunned by too much, but he was practically speechless when he called me from the parking lot. $8900 for a pared-down service - some of the expense is because of the autopsy/delay/DadW. wants to view the body, but even without that, it would still be running very steep. All for a woman who stated baldly and repeatedly that if it were legal to toss her in a hole in the backyard, that's what she would want. Funerals are for the mourners, though, not for the dead, so the funeral is what it needs to be.

At some point we'll be having a memorial service up in Long Island, where Ma lived almost her entire life. Most of her friends still live up there, and most of them can't make the funeral. I was thinking to make it at Thanksgiving, which was Ma's favorite holiday, but DadW. is emphatic that he wants us down at the house with him instead, so that's what we're doing. It's going to be very strange doing Thanksgiving without Ma, and I expect that having it in the house, with all the memory-provoking things around every corner, is going to be hard on Rob.

He gets home late Monday and wants to go to work Tuesday. Somehow I think I'm skipping karate on Tuesday.

Friday, October 19, 2007

RIP Etta

My mother-in-law died this afternoon.

Rob has gone down to help out his father. His brother is flying in tomorrow. We still have no idea what was actually wrong with her, so there will be an autopsy. If it turns out to be something simple and/or curable that simply wasn't found because her doctors weren't willing to put in the time for someone on Medicare, I am going to be pissed.

She spent most of her "treatment time" waiting for one or another doctor's appointment. Her PCP referred her to an internist (1 week wait), who referred her to a gastroenterologist (2 week wait), who sent her for tests, which were cancelled because she was in too poor a shape to tolerate them (another week). He referred her to a hematologist/oncologist (2 week wait), who set up some more tests, which were again cancelled for the same reason. He then opined that whatever it was it wasn't cancer, and referred her to a neurologist.

That last visit with the hematologist/oncologist was Monday. Her neurologist's appointment was for next Thursday.

Waiting for an appointment is not treatment. A referral is not treatment. Ignoring the effects of the symptoms because you haven't found the cause is going to kill your patient. Learn it. Remember it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Because It Is Hard

Why do I take karate? For some reason it's a question I've been getting a lot lately. "Because it's hard" is my usual answer. Which gets a lot of blinks, but it really truly is the answer.

Before karate, challenges in my life mostly came in two flavors. There were the things that were easy, and the things that were impossible. Standard schoolwork was easy. There were a few classes in college that I floundered in, but for some reason (that I couldn't figure out at the time) they all ran to impossible, rather than merely difficult. As it turns out, the two classes I did flounder in were classes I was woefully unprepared for without knowing it - such that in order to actually understand what was going on, I would have needed to take an entire other class first - in one instance, two other classes. There was really no such thing as challenging, but still doable. When in physics I was top of the class by some improbable number, I envied the lady who was #2 - because I was where I was by fluke. She was where she was because she earned every point of her average. She went to both sections of class and both sections of lab. She studied her heart out. After the first test she asked me to tutor her, and we met for an hour twice a week from there on out. She hadn't been in school in twenty years and she had no aptitude for physics, but she worked and pushed and stretched her limits until she was top of the class - except for me. So I envied her - and I felt guilty, because she had earned that #1 slot, but she didn't get it.

Outside of schoolwork, life frequently ran to the impossible. Cope with the predatory teacher? Impossible. Dealing with depression. Impossible (funny how that pretty much disappeared when my metabolism got straightened out). Getting myself organized? Impossible (still haven't figured that one out).

But karate isn't any of that. Karate is hard. I have to show up to classes and bust my butt to learn it. My brain may pick up on the ideas quickly, but that doesn't translate to what my body does. Only hard, repetative work puts karate in my muscles and bones instead of just in my head. It's a challenge to concentrate on where every finger and toe is. It's a challenge to push my body and reflexes to be quicker than they want to be. It's a challenge to stop analyzing my fights in the middle and relax into mushin. Karate challenges me every day. It makes me work. It makes me stretch my limits. Where I am and what I become in karate isn't a fluke, not of genetics, nor of experience. What I am in the dojo, I earned.

And that's why I take karate.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Good class - mostly

Had an interesting karate class today. Both Robbie and Aaron say they want to start karate (Robbie again, Aaron for the first time). However, when we actually went to class, Robbie decided to sit it out and work on his comic strip - he's starting a cartooning class at the local college in a week - while Aaron put on the gi and started, but jammed a finger (doing toe-touching) about ten minutes into class and abandoned ship. I'm not quite sure what to do here. Both boys insist that they want to do karate - except when actually in class, when they seem to want to be anywhere but there. I signed Aaron up for a two-week stint, which may allow him to make up his mind (I suspect it's going to be a not yet), without having to shell out too much money. Robbie, on the other hand, is a yellow belt. He's not eligeable for introductory periods, but he's just as flaky as Aaron about taking class and paying attention.

Other than the Aaron incident, though, class went pretty well. We went over tournament tactics with me as the demonstration dummy - lots of kicks to the ribs, fun! And then Sensei looked over a couple of the kids who are getting ready for belt tests while Sensei Don had the rest of us matching up for kumite. Our newest adult has suddenly lit up in kumite recently. She's gone from being a typical adult woman beginner - overthinking and a bit timid - to a serious danger. She's got some really good kicks and a lot of snap, though she needs to work on not leading with her face (like I can talk).

We ended up the class with a two-on-one bout between me and two of the young-teen boys, which was a ton of fun. They kept me running the entire time, but I scored some hits I'm really proud of (one front kick/side kick combo really came off well), and by the general reaction, I think I held my own. I love two-on-one fighting, there's no time to overthink and no time to take a break, and this is the first time I've done it since my last dojo. I'm hoping we get to do it again sometime.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

It's going to be a lonely weekend. My MIL is going downhill again and we still don't know what's wrong, which sort of limits the doctors to treating symptoms. So Rob is going down tomorrow and spending the weekend helping out. She's got a new symptom now - her hemoglobin count keeps dropping. She's had five transfusions in the last week, but none of them help her count for long, so she just keeps getting more. There's been blood in her stool pretty steadily, but not near enough to account for this kind of low count. So either she's bleeding quite a lot somewhere they haven't spotted (I.e. internally), or her bone marrow is shutting down production. Neither of which is exactly encouraging.

She sees an oncologist today, though, and a hemotologist next week, so maybe one of them will have a brilliant idea. At least they should have some things to test that don't involve laxatives or exploratory surgery, neither of which is possible because she's not strong enough to tolerate them.

The rest of life progresses on. Aaron is liking his weekly PT, and has asked to start karate with me, so we're signing him up for a trial period on Thursday. Of course in his first class he managed to hit himself in the eye with his knee, so the coordination issue may be a problem.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Reading, therapy and stuff.

Okay, Sensei asked my belt size tonight. If he's ordering belts, testing is in the offing.

It's been a busy week or so. I'm reading a ton of stuff on bilingual education, specific language impairment (SLI), and related stuff onto tape for A, who's a Ph.D. student. She has a minor reading disability. Her eye tracking is funky, so she has trouble following the words line to line, which makes her reading very slow, particularly when the text is small and/or complicated. It's never really bothered her before, since it doesn't affect her comprehension and she's fanatical about staying ahead of her assignments. But now that she's in the final push for her dissertation, she's supposed to be reading about 200 pages a day of really complicated stuff, and it just wasn't happening.

So now she mails her articles to me to read onto tape. It's working really well for her (and I may even get paid!), but boy howdy does reading that much material aloud each day suck up the time. Plus swim lessons just started, Aaron starts a couple of months of physical therapy this week, and Robbie is now taking guitar. So I've been running from place to place non-stop, except when I'm holed up with an article and the tape recorder.

The physical therapy should be interesting. Aaron's pediatrician was concerned that his balance and self-care skills are still behind the curve, even though his writing and the rest of the stuff the school is working on are improving drastically. So she sent us off for an evaluation. The verdict is that Aaron has a motor planning problem. I.e. when he's learning a new skill (or putting two older skills together), his body can't figure out which muscles to use - so it tends to use all of them, or at least lots.

For example - put him on a half-ball to test his balance and he's fine. Have him toss bean bags at a square and he's fine. Put him on the half-ball and have him throw the bean bags and suddenly they're going in completely random directions.

It explains his first class in karate beautifully. Sensei showed him a front kick, and he plainly understood the motion just fine. But when it came time to actually kick, both legs were thrusting, so he was jumping off the floor every time he kicked - and when Sensei told him to concentrate on stopping that, Aaron fell on his butt every time he actually managed to not jump. He just couldn't isolate the motion to the kicking leg.

I'm a little at a loss as to what exercises a therapist could do to help with this, but she seems confident that she can, and fairly quickly too (she says about 2 months). So I'm very curious.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Annoyed or Flattered?

I was talking with Sensei last night. Though he hasn't mentioned it directly, we're definitely in gear-up mode for my brown belt test. We've practiced punching out candles twice now, he's given me one pre-test run-through of my katas, and we've been discussing various aspects of the test. I feel pretty comfortable about everything on the test except for the candle-punching - which mainly just needs practice. I've managed to put out the candles a couple of times with each hand, but I'm not at all reliable yet. In particular I keep rotating my hips into the punch more when actually punching than when checking my distance, and hitting the candle (an automatic failure). When I try to compensate for this, I end up too short of the candle, and don't put it out. Sigh. More practice, and I'll get it.

Anyway, Sensei and I were discussing the test requirements last night after class, and he commented that he thought perhaps they were too easy, and he should add some stuff. Which I have mixed feelings about. He's the Sensei, whatever he chooses to put on the test is fine. Plus, he's passed a female brown belt before, and apparently didn't think this same test was too easy then for her, so that he thinks it is now for me is sort of flattering. On the other hand, these are the test requirements I've known and been practising for, and it feels a little unfair to have him add more at the final countdown to the test.

In the end though, I think my first thought was the right one. He's my Sensei. He can test me on whatever he chooses to test me on.

Last night's work-out included pushups. Not ordinary pushups. Slow, perfect form pushups. We didn't do a whole lot, really not any more than usual, but my whole upper chest, back, and arms are killing me today. I haven't had muscles this sore in ages.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

War & Peace in the closet

First off - sorry to not be posting much. I have a paying knitting project, and a semi-paying (barter) project of reading academic articles onto tape for a Ph.D. student with reading difficulties. I still have an enormous stack of articles to do, but I'm beginning to get into a rhythm which works for me, so the rest of my life is re-emerging.

Now, for the title of this little piece. My sons, Aaron and Robbie are both quite bright, but very different critters. Robbie is academically quite brilliant - and loves everybody to know it. If he learns how to do something, or figures out some obscure thing, he will broadcast it to the world. Nobody is in any doubt of how much Robbie knows.

Aaron is much quieter. A lot of people don't really have any take on how smart Aaron is, because he not only won't broadcast what he knows, but will actually hide it unless directly asked. We didn't find out he knew any of his letters until he knew all of them. By the time I figured out he was a dinosaur nut, he could tell me that a Dimetrodan was not, in fact, a dinosaur, but rather a mammal-like reptile - at 3! The family quote on Aaron comes from his aunt Kelly. "You'll find out Aaron can read when you catch him in the closet with War & Peace."

Well, Aaron can read - and Kelly was damn near right. We knew he could put together short words, and keep up with the reading requirements of his first grade class pretty easily, but that's a far cry from sitting down with a book for enjoyment. I still had him classified in my head as a "learning reader", rather than as an outright reader. But last night after shutting down all the lights, I went upstairs and noticed a light coming out from under the bedroom door. I opened it, and there was a little thump as Aaron dropped what he was holding and looked up with big eyes. "I'm sorry, Mommy. I was just doing a little reading."

Sitting on the floor was "The Pokemon Handbook", which is a book of lists about various things Pokemon. I've had Robbie following me around with it before reading things off. It's cut into short hunks, but it is not an easy-reading book. I would peg the reading difficulty at about chapter-book level, though with fewer big blocks of text.

When the heck did this kid start reading bigger books for fun? I'm not complaining, mind you (far from it), but how did he slip this little development past us?

Do I ever stop getting floored when Aaron trots out some dramatic new ability completely out of the blue? Do I want to?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

So, That's a Black Belt Test

Congratulations to L, our newest (and first!) Shodan!

Thankfully, since L was the trailblazer, I got a nice preview of what's likely to be on my plate in another year or two. What he was actually asked to do didn't look to terribly scary (for the most part) - however the way he did it was damned intimidating.

L does great kata. He's incredibly fast and powerful. He puts every ounce of his energy into every move, and it really shows. Of course, it also caused him problems. His breathing is not terrific. He's been working on it hard, and it's much, much better, but he's still putting out too much energy for the way he breathes. He had to take at least a quick break after every kata to recover, and twice left the mat to get some water and stretch. (Though the stretching was because he pulled a hamstring doing the jump-kick in Chinto.) None of the breaks was more than a minute or two, so not too bad. Six months ago, he was having trouble getting through more than five or six of the empty hand kata before completely pooping out, simply because he didn't breathe enough.

Sanchin was impressive and a bit scary. Sensei borrowed four TKD blackbelts and had them test the kata ("Let him know he's being hit"). There were no boards or bos broken on him, but he took a lot of solid thumping on torso, arms, and legs. Afterwards Sensei called across to K and I (the two adult san-kyus) "I won't go easier on the ladies!" As long as they don't go harder, I think I'll survive - but I doubt I'll enjoy it much. My friends' opinions to the contrary, I'm not that much of a masochist. L stripped to the waist for Sanchin. We'll have to do the same, except that we're allowed a sports bra. Yay - nobody wants to see me do full-frontal nudity, trust me. Everybody still gets to see my stretch marks, but if I keep losing weight/getting in shape at the rate I have been, the muscles underneath won't be anything to sneeze at by then.

Self-defense was just the nine presets - no freeform, which surprised me. Four of us (three TKD blackbelts and me) took turns being the attacker. Sensei wanted me in the line-up because preset #4 involves a takedown with a kick to the knee, and he wanted someone who knew it was coming and wouldn't get their knee busted. I was also called up for #9, but had to trade with one of the guys, because #9 has an upper chest strike, and L flinched rather than actually hit me in the breasts. Which caused a general chuckle.

There was no kumite, which surprised me. Every test up to black has kata, kumite, and a combined technique/vocabulary test with Sensei calling out instructions in Japanese, and the testee having to decipher them and do what they're told (though you will not fail for asking him to repeat in English). The knowledge portion is usually done verbally, but for black you have to write three essays: What is karate to you? In your opinion what is a black belt? In your opinion what is a sensei? I'll be working on these over the next year. I'll likely post them here when I've got satisfactory first drafts, looking for feedback.

Overall, I think Sensei's comment before the test, that the Brown Belt test was going to be physically harder is probably accurate. I don't have to get pummelled through Sanchin, but I will have kumite and breaking, which I think will make up the difference.

Breaking for brown, btw, includes punching through a 12"x 10" board, breaking a haydite (light concrete) with a hand technique of my choice, and punching out a candle with each hand. Punching the board isn't a problem, but does anyone have any suggestions on the others? The haydite makes me nervous, though stomping one for green was no problem. I'm thinking about using a tetsui for it. Punching out candles is likely to be the biggest problem though. Even L had problems with that way back when, and while my precision is as good as his, I lack his speed and snap.

I know all the information I need for brown. Now it's a matter of getting the techniques right. And then it's on to prepping for what L just completed.

Congratulations Sensei Johnson!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Well-knit

Had an interesting sensation tonight. We have a new student (yay!), a little girl about Robbie's age, already a soccer player, and delightfully enthusiastic about karate. We split up into pairs tonight and worked on kata, and I ended up being her teacher. Lots of fun.

Anyway, she's too new to really get into her first kata yet, so we worked on stance, blocks, punches and kicks - all the basics. But she wanted to know what the others were working on, so I explained kata, and then demonstrated Taikyoko 1 for her (this is our first basic kata, 1 of 3, that we teach to white belts - they're not an official part of the Isshinryu set). I guess either the improved energy, improved fitness, or perhaps the sheer amount of practice time is kicking in, because it felt...different. More connected, more powerful, like everything from my heels to my hairline was involved in every move. It's a dead simple kata, and one I could do in my sleep, which also likely contributed, but I don't know, it's never felt like this before. Before when I tried to be powerful, I was waving my arms about more strongly, or sometimes improving my mechanics, but the feeling of power came from my simply being a fairly large, muscular person. This time it felt like I could have punched through the wall, and I wasn't particularly trying harder.

I was intensely dissappointed that instead of switching up partners so I could try a more advanced kata and see if I could duplicate the feeling, we pulled out the tape and played foursquare for the last half-hour. I want to do it again! That felt like L (our brown belt, who does really impressive kata) looks.

And next class, no kata either - drat. I'm going to have to find a large enough spot somewhere to do some serious practice this week. Though I can't complain about the lack of class time - L goes up for his black belt Friday. I'll gladly donate kata practice time for that.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hot!!!

We're in our second week of 100+ degree weather this week. The kids started school on Thursday, and they cut both days short because the school air-conditioning couldn't keep up with the temperature. Today they're doing a full day, but one of the other mothers just called me to say they're letting the kids outside for recess. She found out when they called her in because her older daughter was in the nurse's office for overheating - and then when she went in, she discovered that her younger daughter (in Aaron's class), was out on the blacktop for recess. We will note that it's currently in the upper 90's with an air advisory, and that her younger daughter has asthma and had not been given a dose from her inhaler before being sent out. I know the school needs to run the kids around somehow, but if they're going to send them outside when it's this hot, they need to be very careful about it. Particularly when there's an air advisory. This is the Ohio River Valley, we have a high level of asthmatics. I wouldn't be surprised if a good 20% of the kids at the school have some sort of breathing trouble(asthma, pollen allergies).

We're supposed to have an outdoor combined class on Thursday, but a bunch of us spoke to Master Bertrand (dojo owner, and TKD head) at the pool party on Saturday and he agreed that if it doesn't cool off at least a little, we'll have class inside instead.

In other news, we're building a new dojo! Master Bertrand made the announcement at the pool party. It's about a mile down the road from where we are now. It's going to be about double the space we currently have, and in a more high-traffic area. About the only downside is that we need a lot of new members if we're going to pay for the new place, so we're all being asked to be proselytizers for KMA. I love karate, and I do talk it up as a great thing, but honestly I'm not going to start strong-arming people in the door. It would be lovely if we could add 5-10 people on the Isshinryu side of things though. We suffer a little bit from a lack of variety in the people we work with. All the adults (except the newest guy) are very used to each other by now, and it limits our ability to adjust to somebody new quickly. Plus we added only one new white belt in the last year, and she left again after about a month due to problems with our dojo manager. We had a largish batch of new students start last summer who have all stayed, but nothing like that has happened so far this summer. I guess we're like my friend B's UU church - the retention rate is excellent, it's getting them in the door that's the problem.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Medical, Medical

We've been spending this last week at my in-laws. Rob's Mom is sick, and has been for a while, so we went down to help for a while. We got there to discover that my MIL, who was already underweight at 105, had dropped to 90 pounds. She's been sick for 4-6 weeks (intestinal), but only saw a doctor for the first time about 10 days ago. Our being there helped, but she was already in such poor shape that her internist admitted her Friday - official weight at intake was 86 pounds. At least at the hospital they can sit on her - give her food she should be eating (she designs meals around Dad's dietary requirements and ignores her own), supplement her food and fluids with IV's as necessary, and keep her from trying to do things she shouldn't. She already sounds better just having had intrevenous fluids - she was so dehydrated going in that they had to use a chest vein to start an IV - and that was after a week of us pushing fluids on her! We don't have a diagnosis yet, but the doctors appear to think she'll recover, as long as we can convince her to take care of herself.

I had my own check-up this week (had to scoot up to Louisville from Nashville and then back down again, but they had no open slots for rescheduling). The Crestor has done wonders, my cholesterol is down 70 points. Liver and kidney functions are both fine. I've lost an official 16 pounds since Febuary (total of 29 since last Sept.), and my blood sugar levels are fine. The lab forgot to check insulin levels though, so I'm now in possession of the funniest lab order I've ever seen. All the usual things are checked off, but on the line for other tests, "Check insulin levels" is written in all caps, underlined, exclamation pointed, and starred. Rob took a look at it, and said "I'm surprised they didn't tattoo it on your arm!"

The MRI showed no changes in the adenoma since January (yay!). cortisol was normal, though it bops all over the map, so one normal reading is pretty meaningless. The only real change was that TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels have risen, though thyroid levels remain the same. Because of this, I've been put on Synthroid. Which has been an experience. I started yesterday. Today I was sweeping the kitchen floor, and suddenly stopped dead. I had realized that thus far I had unpacked from Tennessee, done some laundry, done a load of dishes, unloaded a storage crate, gathered together our school supplies and checked them off the list to see what we still needed to get. It was about 2pm, and I wasn't tired.

Now you have to understand - I'm always tired. I don't wake up in the morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I'm already tired when I wake up, and it doesn't get better. There is never a moment in my life where, if someone presented me with a bed and said "I'll take care of everything, just rest", I wouldn't happily crawl into said bed and take a nap. I've been this way, not only my entire adult life, but for as long as I can remember. I know what bright-eyed and bushy-tailed feels like because it's happened to me twice. One day in the spring of 1997, and once in sophomore year of high school, I actually woke of feeling energetic and rested. That's it - my entire life experience of not being tired.

Until today. I accomplished approximately three times as much today as I usually do - and I'm not even feeling energetic - just not tired. It's a really strange and subtle thing to experience. I hope to God that it sticks and that it's not just an effect of adjusting to the Synthroid - 'cause I could get used to this really easily.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Combining Forces

Last night we had a combined TKD/Isshinryu class. Today we skipped class and had a pool party instead.

The combined class was interesting, as always. Master Bertrand, the dojo owner and head TKD instructor, taught the first half, and Sensei Rodeghier (my sensei) taught the second half. For the first half we did some one-step sparring (which confused several of our people, because it's not something we do), and then went from there into self-defense techniques. For some reason I've been practicing defense against choke holds for a week now. Every class, it's choke holds. I'm feeling fairly confident that I have a good set of options for dealing with them now, ranging from the merely controlling to the outright lethal (though obviously we can't practice the latter full out). I need to practice some more to have them well locked in - but not this week, my neck is getting awfully sore!

The second half class was sparring. When everything shook out (I.e. the people not sparring stepped out) we had about equal numbers TKD and karate for kumite. So Sensei matched us up TKD vs. Isshinryu, not for scorekeeping, but just to mix up partners, since both groups get very used to fighting the same people over and over again.

As the last time we held a combined class, I was struck by a couple of things. One - these people throw beautiful kicks - high, strong, and fast. Two - they can't aim for shit. Their senior blackbelts are dangerous, but the lower belts, and sometimes even the shodans, just don't have good aim. Outside of the blackbelts, the hardest I've ever been kicked in a mixed class was by a guy who was fighting someone next to me! He threw a spinning back kick without spotting for his target and nailed me in the small of the back, while I was sparring somebody else altogether. My opponent last night threw a lot of wonderful kicks but I don't think he connected more than twice, neither time solidly.

I always feel weird at the combined classes. I enjoy them a lot, and go when I can, but I feel a little like a fraud because I'm milking them for what I can learn (which is a good deal, just to be clear), while really not respecting their teaching methods very much. The teachers themselves I respect. They clearly love their style, and they have a ton of knowledge. It's just that somehow it's translating into students that with very few exceptions are sloppy in critical ways.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Black Belt Daze

Our new black belt taught most of the class last night - self defense moves. I liked a lot of what he showed us. He tends to the quick, easy, and vicious. Though I do keep looking for moves that would have been useful in the only self-defense situations I've ever been in, which would need to be considerably less damaging.

That's something I've wanted to address in self-defense classes for a while, but I haven't sorted out how to go about it yet. Most self-defense is geared toward the guy who's trying to kill you (and has a good chance of succeeding. Yet relatively few women end up in that sort of life-or-death situation. The only woman I've taught self-defense to who has used anything I taught, used it on her husband to get out of a humiliating, but not at all deadly situation. Fortunately, our class had included a non-lethal response to the particular pin he had her in.

In my case, the only time someone ever tried to kill me, he was 80+ years old, and utterly incapable of doing me serious harm. Really. I stood there and let him choke me until he got tired, and sustained no physical injury. But I didn't want to stand there and let him choke me - I simply knew no way to break a choke hold that wouldn't have also broken him (I had my back to a wall, so I couldn't have backed out.). I was seriously shaken simply by having someone assault me that way, and not having any good way to fight back and make him stop.

I'm still sorting this out in my head, but it seems to boil down to self-defense being largely geared to a maiming response to a possibly lethal stranger, when far more women end up being groped or pinned or otherwise manhandled by people they know, who aren't a lethal danger, and who they do not want to maim. I am learning some of the responses geared more towards controlling the attacker as time goes on, but mostly not from the self-defense classes.

In other news, our one remaining brown belt, L, has been working with sensei privately (he moved over an hour away about a year ago). Sensei announced last week that L will be testing for his black belt August 25th. This will be Sensei's first black belt promotion (yay!), and also means that I won't be his first black belt when I test in another couple of years (double-yay!). L wants to open up his own dojo in his new home town. I wish him all the best on his test, and hope his new dojo is a winner.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Stuck

I'm working on a revision for Ghost Dancer, and I've gotten stuck. It's not surprising I've gotten stuck, but it's still a problem. You see, I've now written hundreds of pages (hopefully one day to be thousands and tens of thousands) of material moving forward, but my experience as a revisor is much more limited. I'm not used to having to edit more comprehensively than minor line, or at most scene edits: correction of errors, or switching around some point of action or dialogue.

What's happening in Ghost Dancer is more elaborate. Having written the story of Kira, I've then gone and expanded her universe. Bad guys who were simply lurking around being bad now have histories, motivations and political movements. A larger context is now around the entire story, making it much more complex, even though the basic sequence of events is the same.

Which means that every scene in the novel now has many more implications and needs much more nuance than it did when originally written. It also means I need to add either some additional scenes, or add additional characters to existing scenes, because otherwise my readers are going to be seriously confused when politics begin to fly and nobody has said anything until now.

And this is where I'm getting stuck. Ghost Dancer editions 1 & 2 were pretty tightly plotted. A led to B led to C, without much room for extraneous motion. It's like getting all dressed to go running with the slick running outfit, only to realize you've got to bring your wallet and your great outfit has no pockets. Where the heck to you stick the thing? Except it's a lot of things. I've not only got to add the wallet, water bottle, snack bar and first aid kit, I've got to make those things integrate smoothly with what's already there, such that nobody watching me run down the street is going to see them hanging about oddly.

So how do I stick a really good sleek fanny pack on a novel?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

New Student?

Quick congratulations to a brace and a half of new orange belts, first off. Three of our four yellow belts tested on Friday, and all did really well.

We have a new guy at the dojo. He's been to four classes so far, and it looks like he'll probably stick unless something goes wrong. It's a little different from the usual new student though. This guy's a san-dan (3rd degree black belt), and yes, it's in Isshinryu.

This is where it gets a little strange. Our new guy says his last promotion was in 1991. Since then he really hasn't done Isshinryu, though he's done some other martial arts on and off. Plus, during the interim, he sustained a major burn. One that's left him with substantial scar tissue on both legs, neck, and possibly arms.

Which puts him in a weird position in the dojo. He's a black belt, so he's up with Sensei, and there's no question he's earned his belt - the amount of knowledge stuffed into the corners of his brain is impressive. But at the same time, he's having to dredge deep to bring up the Isshinryu specific stuff. We've started him at Seisan and are working him back up, and even at the rate he's recalling stuff, it will be months before he's brought his knowledge base back up to the front. Plus he's having to relearn the actual motions as reworked for his body as it is now, which isn't easy. So in some ways he's senior to everyone but Sensei, and in others junior to all but the very newest students. It's got to be an awkward position for him, but he's handling it with grace and a good low-key sense of humor.

I hope he does stay. We could learn a lot from this one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Joys of Transparency

Yet one more chronic condition to add to the list. Quite possibly the first time in my life I'm overjoyed to be so pale as to be practically transparent.

Apparently I've developed vitiligo (pronounced vittle-I-go) - or more to the point, have had it for at least a year or so. Vitiligo causes patches of skin to lose their melanocytes, and turn pale - for all intents and purposes, you break out in albino spots. It's highly associated with Hashimoto's (about 21% of all Hashimoto's patients develop it sooner or later), so not exactly a stunning surprise there. (Though it would be nice if the Hashimoto's information sites (or my endocrinologist) had mentioned the connection.) There are a few treatments, all for the cosmetic issues rather than for the source. Fortunately for me, I'm so pale the only one who can even find the lighter patches without a strong light and having it pointed out, is me. So not exactly a major cosmetic problem. Even a massive outbreak of demelanization would only mean I start wearing foundation. Well, plus any patches on my scalp would grow gray hair, but my mother started going gray in her twenties while I'm 38 with no gray at all, so that wouldn't exactly be a tragedy.

This feels very tree-in-the-forest. If I have a condition whose only negative aspect is cosmetic, and the cosmetic doesn't affect me, does it count?

Heh

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I was thinking I'd get a PG rating myself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I'm Baack!

Sorry to be silent for so long. I and the boys went on an extended trip to the northeast, covering Boston (Hi A!), Worcester (Hi L!), and Philadelphia (Hi B!). A good time was had by all, but we're quite done in by now and glad to be home again.

While we were up there, the boys got their first taste of a summer camp, in the form of a YMCA day camp. Generally they had fun, but the camp administration left a lot to be desired - starting with losing our paperwork a couple of times before we even got there, progressing through putting Aaron in the wrong section to start with, and culminating in not calling me when Robbie got a second-degree burn on a hot iron (the plastic-welding sort). Not only not calling me, but not even telling me about when I picked him up. I noticed the band-aid after we'd gotten back to my friend's apartment. Plus, when I checked on the accident report the next day, they had not given him appropriate first-aid. A quick splash of cold water and a band-aid is not sufficient for a deep 2nd degree burn - they're horribly prone to infections.

As a consequence I have been serially apologized to by the entire administration, will recieve a discount should I send my kids back next year, and we have a free three month family membership awaiting us, should we ever have need of it. In Boston. Heh.

After Boston, we went down to Philly, which went a bit smoother. We all trotted off to see the King Tut exhibit, which is spectacular. There was a little too much effort put in to making a mysterious ambiance for my taste, but the pieces were wonderful anyway. I do wish someone would realize that a dark exhibition hall with the exhibits in spotlights doesn't work so well in a jostling crowd - especially while trying to keep track of children. The actual historical information was also really interesting, though I wish there had been more of it. It's quite startling to realize that Tutankhamun was Robbie's age when he became king of all Egypt. Robbie was pretty startled to find that out too. The rest of the museum was also excellent - we stayed until they kicked us out at closing time. Then we went out for dinner (bison is quite good), and dessert. B took us to an Italian gelato place where the lemon ice cream is the next thing to a religious experience. Based on the noises, the boys had the same feelings about their Bing Cherry sorbetto (Aaron) and White Chocolate Kahlua (Robbie).

Lastly we went up to Worcester, where we got to be in on the arrival of some new guinea pigs. My friend L had some in her teens - her last one actually died the day of her wedding. I remember it vividly, since as Matron of Honor, my job expanded to guinea pig transport and related items. She hasn't had any in the fifteen years since then, but has now decided that rather than inflicting a new kitten on her remaining older cat, she would get some piggies instead. Cute things too. A pair of rescue brothers, one tortoiseshell and white, and one red and white. Her oldest son got to name them (Warrior and Burglar), and is supposed to be their co-owner, though he really hasn't quite got the quiet and gentle part down yet. Upon being told to be especially quiet for the first day to avoid startling the already nervous pigs, he took to pushing over Aaron & Robbie, and then reprimanding them for making too much noise. It will be interesting to see if he learns better over time.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

One Week Later...

I had a lovely family visit this last week, but it didn't allow much time for blogging. Or much else, to be honest, though I did make all relevant karate classes. Robbie's aunt, uncle and cousin got him a 3/4 guitar for his birthday, which he is enjoying (and which Mommy is sneaking off and practicing with a couple of time a day). Tomorrow is his actual 9th birthday. With any luck we'll have at least a couple of kids over and avoid the fiasco that was last year's party. Today I'm calling around to twist arms and make sure of that. It's embarassing, but better than the devastated kid.

I mentioned earlier that Sensei is working at the same company my husband works for. True, but not complete. He actually works for a contractor, but is trying to hire on direct. While he's angling for the change, he's working some odd hours - which means occassional last minute subbing in class. I got to teach last Friday, which was fun. I pulled out the gymnastics mats and tortured everybody by making them learn shoulder rolls. It seems to have been a good choice. Shoulder rolls are something that's demonstrably useful and that I can do easily (legacy of two summers of gymnastics camp), but that almost nobody in class has experience with. Even our ADHD boy settled down and got (a little) serious about trying to roll properly, and as a result almost everyone had actually managed a proper roll or two by the end of class, even though nobody could at the start. The relatively difficult move combined with my ability to do it also seemed to underline my authority, so I didn't have any problems with the mid-belts accepting me as their teacher for this class, which is sometimes a problem.

It's hard for a teenaged kid to accept someone of their own rank, even if older and more experienced, as an actual authority they should listen to. It will be interesting to see if I can cement my authority, such as it is, at this level, or if shifting to brown belt later will be required, or something else altogether. Right now I keep control of the class by a combination of psychology (such as teaching the shoulder rolls), and fear. I'm not too sure about the fear. I don't try to inspire it, and I've never hurt anyone in the dojo, but about half the kids are terrified of me in a fight. It's a weird feeling. Why on earth would they be more scared of me than of Sensei or of L, both of whom are far more dangerous fighters? Sensei opines that it's the spectre of a Mommy trying to hit them, but then shouldn't they be afraid of K too?

In other news, I did remember (or rather he remembered) to have Bill video me doing Seisan kata. He's downloaded it into his computer, and is trying to figure out how to format it so that I can either put it up here, or put it up on YouTube and link to it. So with any luck, I should have that up soon.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Why Yes, I am up at 2am, Writing about Writing.


As mentioned previously, I'm currently in the throes of rewriting my first novel Ghost Dancer - again. This is the second or third major rewrite, depending on how you count. Since I've never done the serious editing thing, each time I try something new, I'm fumbling through, trying to figure out how this thing goes.

The first time I redid the book, I had a new plot twist to add. Despite coming early in the book, it proved fairly easy to insert. So easy, that I suspect that it was hiding around in my hindbrain from the very beginning. There was even foreshadowing already in place! So I slipped in the two new required scenes, altered a few references later in the book (to people as living that were dead in the new version), and voila! Good to go.

This time is proving a bit trickier - which is odd because the revisions are actually more minor. I've had a number of discussions about the GD universe and politics with my writing buddy Ledasmom, and consequently I now have a much more in depth and nuanced view of exactly what the bad guys are up to than I did when I first wrote the book. The changes aren't major - they still do the same things, just for more complicated reasons. They've switched from fairly stereotypical evil-overlord wannabees, to people who want something for good reason - they merely want to so badly they're willing to commit atrocity to get it. But to make this situation clear without resorting to a substantial infodump, or worse several "As you know, Bob" sessions, I have to drop little tidbits of background everywhere. Plus a few new characters to illustrate the opposing points of view with people more sypathetic than unrepentant mass murderers. As of last count, I had added two new scenes, and about 1500 new words, with at least two more new scenes to go. Fortunately for my ultimate total word count (trying to stay under 100,000), I'm also finding plenty of opportunity for tightening elsewhere.

I know that no book is ever perfect. But when the heck do you know it's ready?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Little Knitting

I'm just about ready to restart normal life. I went to two karate classes this week and was able to make it through both, even if I was staggering by the end (my stamina still sucks). Tuesday I think I'll go back to yoga to start easing back into my full exercise routine - I don't think I'm quite ready for Turbokick yet. Probably next week.

In the meanwhile, I got started on a new sweater - the one you see pictured at right over here. It's the Arietta pattern from the current edition of Knitty . I've chosen some different colors to do it in, as the warmish browns really don't excite me any. Instead my five colors are hyacinth (a light blue-purple), violet, sky blue, aquamarine (a pale color) and turquoise (which is quite dark). I'm about 1 1/2 color repeats up the back thus far. It's slow going, since this is a fine guage (25 st./4") plus it's mosaic knitting, so two rows knitted for every one row up. Fortunately for me I like fine-guage knitting (I did an adult sweater in fine sock yarn once). Plus I've never done mosaic knitting before and I'm finding it pretty neat. Two colors in every row without ever having to knit with two colors at once. Cool!

The rest of what I'm doing this week is getting the house ready for guests on Saturday (See you soon, Bill, Kelly & Kathryn!), filling out annoying forms for a week's summer camp for the kids, and working on a major edit on Ghost Dancer, which is worth a post all its own - probably my next one. Gee, maybe the slow going on the sweater isn't just the fine guage.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The BBM Diet & Exercise Program

To open with, I'll post a picture of the boys. This is Robbie and Aaron in their tuxes, just before their stint as ring-bearers in my friend A's wedding. You can get a good idea of how strong the resemblence is here. (Robbie is the taller one on the left.) I get asked if they're twins an average of twice a week.

Sorry for the long wait between posts. Brochitis has been kicking my butt for the last week and a half. I haven't even been to karate, which is unusual for me. I did try on Friday, but was foiled by Sensei craftily having to work and cancelling class. Just as well I suppose, since I'm still getting coughing fits bad enough to make me hyperventilate. Passing out in class would probably not go over well. On the good side, as Black Belt Mama reports, a good round of bronchitis leads to both weight loss and strong abs. The weight loss is enhanced when you combine a deep chest cough with nausea-inducing medication (I leave the resultant synergy to the reader's imagination.).

Just to add to the fun of this last week, the boys' last day of school was Tuesday. Plus Rob was out of town, so I had two kids wanting Mommy attention, when all Mommy wanted to do was crawl into bed and hack her lungs up in peace. Both boys did well. Robbie made the A/B honor roll (B in Language) for the year. Nobody in the entire third grade made the A honor roll. The grading at Parkwood is really tough. An A is 93% and up, rather than the 90 or 91 I'm used to. That means that on a 10 question test, which would be about half of their tests at this age, even one question wrong means a B. Aaron was S's (Satisfactory, the highest Kindergarten rating) across the board except in Writing Mechanics (how he holds his pencil), and Identifying Information (He can't seem to remember our phone number). I'm not sure about the number, but given that he gets 15-30 minutes of special help daily on how to use his pencil and manipulate things manually (scissors, glue, etc.), it would be shocking, delightful but shocking, if he did manage to get an S.

Keeping our fingers crossed for 1st grade and 4th grade respectively. If we get our teacher request for Aaron, I'm pretty sure he'll have a great year. Robbie is more of a crap shoot, since we don't know any of the fourth grade teachers. Unfortunately, Robbie is actually the fussier child when it comes to teacher matching. A great teacher means a fabulous year (THANK YOU MS. EDDINGS!), whereas a bad match, not even a bad teacher, just a poor match for Robbie, spells universal disaster. A nine-week stint with a new math teacher in 2nd grade nearly had him suspended by the end of it, and the behavior problems weren't just in math class either. We had notes home from music, gym, English, everything, for as long as he had that teacher for math. When the math class rotated, the problems vanished within a week. So heavy finger crossing there.

I'm starting a new sweater from knitty. I just cast on today. I'll post about it sometime later.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Double-Meme

Becky went and tagged me twice, so I'd better get busy answering.

First, the Mommy Meme:

1. WAS YOUR FIRST PREGNANCY PLANNED? Umm, yes, sort of? We had decided it was a good time, so I went of BC for one cycle, during which we weren't really trying. Then circumstances altered suddenly and the timing wasn't so great anymore, but by then I was already pregnant.

2. WERE YOU MARRIED AT THE TIME? Yes, we'd been married for seven years.

3. WHAT WERE YOUR REACTIONS? I was utterly floored. By the time I found out, I'd almost forgotten we had "tried", and I had not the least suspicion I was pregnant.

4. WAS ABORTION AN OPTION FOR YOU? Not even considered.

5. HOW OLD WERE YOU? 28.

6. HOW DID YOU FIND OUT YOU WERE PREGNANT? I broke my little toe (stubbed it on a wooden magazine rack). When I went to get it X-rayed, they gave me an automatic pregnancy test before shoving me under the X-ray machine.

7. WHO DID YOU TELL FIRST? My husband.

8. DID YOU WANT TO FIND OUT THE SEX? Yes

9. DUE DATE? June 6, 1998

10. DID YOU HAVE MORNING SICKNESS? Yes. Though it all magically vanished within a week after quitting my extremely stressful job.

11. WHAT DID YOU CRAVE? Tuna fish. Canned, water-pack tuna fish. And occassionally french fries.

12. WHO/WHAT IRRITATED YOU THE MOST? My father-in-law, who would make retching noises at the breakfast table.

13. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CHILD'S SEX? Male

14. DID YOU WISH YOU HAD THE OPPOSITE SEX OF WHAT YOU WERE GETTING? No. I was pretty indifferent about which sex.

15. HOW MANY POUNDS DID YOU GAIN THROUGHOUT THE PREGNANCY? 40

16. DID YOU HAVE A BABY SHOWER? No. None of my close friends lived in-state, and I didn't work in that kind of office.

17. WAS IT A SURPRISE OR DID YOU KNOW? N/A

18. DID YOU HAVE ANY COMPLICATIONS DURING YOUR PREGNANCY? A couple. My hip ligaments over-loosened and caused me chronic hip pain after month 6 or so, and a case of the flu about month 7 turned into an overnight hospital stay for severe dehydration and pre-term labor.

19. WHERE DID YOU GIVE BIRTH? Tucson Medical Center

20. HOW MANY HOURS WERE YOU IN LABOR? 22 1/2. Unless you count the four bloody weeks I wandered around 2 cms dialated and contracting every 20 minutes. Annoying that.

21. WHO DROVE YOU TO THE HOSPITAL? My husband.

22. WHO WATCHED YOU GIVE BIRTH? My husband, the doctor, 2 nurses and some NICU staff.

23. WAS IT NATURAL OR C-SECTION? Emergency C.

24. DID YOU TAKE MEDICINE TO EASE THE PAIN? Yes, after the first 12 hours I asked how far along. They said "about halfway." I said, "I want the epidural, please!"

25. HOW MUCH DID YOUR CHILD WEIGH? 9 lbs, 12 oz.

26. WHEN WAS YOUR CHILD ACTUALLY BORN ? June 18, 1998

27. WHAT DID YOU NAME HIM/HER? Robert Xavier

28. HOW OLD IS YOUR FIRST BORN TODAY? Eight. He'll be nine in less than a month!


The second meme is the meme of sevens. I have to list seven random facts about myself, and then tag seven people. The first should be much easier than the second.

The facts:

1. I'm an inveterate, addicted reader. I'd rather read than eat, watch TV, go anywhere or do anything. My record reading marathon was 27 books in three days.

2. (Related to 1) Deprive me of good books, and I'll start reading anything available - romance novels, encyclopedias, L. Ron Hubbard - anything.

3. I'm a purple belt (san-kyu) in Isshin-ryu karate. This is my second time up the ladder, having reached ni-kyu (brown) before I had kids. If I make it to black, I will likely be my sensei's first or second promotion to black (depending on whether our current brown can stick with it while nearly two hours away).

4. I have written a novel, and am partway through writing two others. I would dearly love to be a published novelist, but overcoming my own procrastination is proving a major hurdle.

5. I am currently on three prescription medications and heading for a fourth. Rather than risk being without any of these, I keep them in my purse, which as a consequence does a nice stand-in for a maraca.

6. I love knitting and spinning, but have difficulty in actually making myself anything. My success rate in attempting to make myself sweaters is currently two sweaters out of over a dozen attempts. This is not because the sweaters don't get made, but because they end up going to other people, either over issues of fit, or of flattery.

7. Somewhere in Tennessee is a Congo African Grey Parrot named Mystic that I hand-reared from a chick. She was my bird for about eight years, but I had to give her up when we moved to Arizona. So if you ever wander into a pet-store (her new owner is a pet-store manager), and here a gray parrot with a red tail saying "My name is Mystic!" - that's my old bird. Give her a scratch for me.

Now the tough part. Becky tagged me, and she already got Frotoe and Black Belt Mama, so, hmm:

1. Craig
2. Miss Chris
3. Mat
4. Bill (I know you don't have a blog - you can put responses in the comments if you want)
5. Ryan
6. Eveleaf
7. Polarchip

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

School! and stuff

Four more days of school left. Starting next Wed. I have to figure out what to do with my crew all day, every day. Rob, the stinker, is out of town all next week (and part of the week after), so I'm on my own for the first several schoolless days. In the effort to get a head-start on things, I've made both boys an offer: If, working together, we can get their rooms actually clean and organized, then I will help them to redo/decorate them as they see fit. This is up to repainting, new curtains, painting a mural, or putting up posters, but does not include new flooring or furniture. Since Robbie's room most recently belonged to a little girl, while Aaron's room belonged to a sports nut teenager, the offer intrigues them. Whether they'll follow through with actual cleaning effort? Who knows?

All the exercise time is really beginning to pay off. Exercise sessions at the beginning of karate, which used to be doable but strenuous, are becoming easy. I can grab the balls of my feet on a straddle stretch now, which is further than I could get when I was 12 and in gymnastics! My hamstrings have always been my tightest muscle, but the yoga seems to be getting to them. Plus muscles are starting to pop up all over. I'm ready for next week when the dojo switches to summer casual - no air-conditioning, so we can ditch the jacket and wear gi pants, t-shirt and belt.

As expected my PCP put me on a statin (Crestor to be precise). This caused a rapid weight-loss in the short term, as I was one of the lucky 5% who ends up with nausea from Crestor. After several days of diddling around and trying various things, a simple suggestion from a friend proved the key. A, who takes multiple medications and so is wise to their ways, suggested that I time when the nausea occurred, and then time swallowing the Crestor such that the nausea is happening while I'm asleep. Presto! As long as I don't have to get up in the middle of the night, I'm set. Thanks, A!

Fortunately for future midnight emergencies, the nausea is supposed to fade out over time, so mainly I need to get through the first month or two.

Nicky is completely fine again, having mystified two vets. His recovery was too fast for spinal injury, too slow for a pinched nerve, epileptic fit or blood clot. TIA is possible, barely, but there's no evidence of such a thing. Plus the progression really doesn't fit any neurological condition either vet can think of. Timing would be about right for a toxin, but the only toxin with a front-to-back progression of paralysis is ethylene glycol (antifreeze), and if he'd gotten enough of that to paralyze him, he'd be dead. Paralysis tick might work, but a) no ticks in our yard that we've ever found; b) Nicky has a monthly tick treatment; c) the paralysis progression should go the other direction with a paralysis tick; d) the emergency people checked for ticks and didn't find any. In the end they shrugged and said "If it happens again, maybe we'll be able to compare and figure it out." Thanks, but I'll skip if I can.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Interview by Black Belt Momma

This is a slightly different meme that seems to be propagating. BBM has sent me five questions (I volunteered), and I will answer them to the best of my ability. If anybody wants me to interview them in return, let me know, and I'll toss five questions your way.

1.What is your favorite blog to read and why?

First off, I'll freely admit to being a blogoholic. I read about 30 regularly, divided among political, writing, martial arts, knitting, and friends, with some overlap of categories. There are half-a-dozen I check every day without fail. First among these, though has to be Pandagon. I started reading Amanda (Pandagon's owner), back when she wrote for only her own tiny blog called Mousewords. Actually, Mousewords was the first blog I ever read, before I was even too clear on what they were. Be warned, Amanda is a serious progressive and feminist, and often snarky and/or foul-mouthed. I like her because more often than any other person I read, she'll say something completely outside of my line of thought, and I'll say "You know, she's absolutely right, and I never would have come up with that!" Even when I seriously disagree with what she has to say, she's always interesting to read. Several other regulars at Pandagon are also good reads, so it's always my first stop.

Pandagon being political, my other favorites are Martial Views for a martial arts blog, See Euny Knit for knitting blogs, and Miss Snark for writing. Miss Snark is also very acid (though not technically foul-mouthed). I find it sort of interesting that I like reading that sort of blog so much since it's pretty much the opposite of how I operate.

2) What is your favorite TV show and why?

In contrast with blogs, I watch very little TV. A couple of shows a week is about it. In current fare, House would probably be my favorite. I like trying to beat the plot to the diagnosis (even if I've only done it a couple of times), and the lead character is marvelous. Unfortunately its airing time conflicts with karate class, so I mostly see it on DVD. Also, my life is beginning to resemble one of their case studies a little too closely for comfort.

3) What's the best meal you ever had?

That's easy. Hands down the meal at the CIA we had to celebrate my BIL's graduation from college. That would be the Culinary Institute of America, btw, not that other place, which I don't think serves memorable food. Everything I tasted was knock-your-socks-off good, and not even torching my hair on a table candle spoiled the evening.

4) If you could offer one piece of advice to a beginning martial artist, what would it be?

My first thought was to counsel patience, but on thinking upon it I decided against. Patience is so much a personality trait, that there are relatively few people who could take that kind of advice. Instead I think I'll offer the same advice I offer to people thinking of trying temp work for the first time. Don't be afraid to look stupid. You're doing something new. Something your body doesn't know how to do. Something your brain hasn't quite taken in yet. It's not going to come on the first try, and sometimes not on the twentieth. If you stick to doing only what you know you can do, you'll never get anywhere. Push yourself, be willing to look stupid doing it, and you'll get a lot further.

5) If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

I've actually thought about this one several times. Which is weird, since I've never bought a lottery ticket in my life. First, I would buy my in-laws house for them and get it fixed up while I was at it. Second, I would donate enough to let my kids' elementary school build a desperately needed new wing. Then I would probably hire a professional organizer and cleaning crew to come in and tackle the perpetual mess that is my house and show me how to maintain it. Oh - and a couple of new cars. Our old ones have been nursing along for some time now. The "new" car is nine years old with nearly 200,000 miles on it. It would be lovely to be able to take a long trip without worrying that something drastic is going to fall apart on our transportation.

That's the interview. Thanks for the questions, BBM.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Book Report/Basset

I'm reporting on a couple of kids' books this time around. The boys' elementary school just had their semi-annual book fair, and Robbie brought home two books which he promptly devoured.

The first is Ferno: The Fire Dragon, the first book in the BeastQuest series. Robbie liked it a good deal, and is intending to look for the next one. It's not the best of this kind of book by a long shot, though. You know the wish fulfillment is running heavy when even your eight-year-old finishes a chapter (wherein the 11-year-old protagonist is chosen by the king to save the kingdom from a fire-breathing dragon), looks up and says "But Mommy, he's never trained with a sword!" There were several such moments in the book. Plus the foreshadowing was running heavy. As in being dropped on by a backhoe. I'm 90%+ certain I have the surprise ending of the series figured out. I figured it out in chapter three. That's a bad sign. I guess my final say on this one is: for what it is, it's a decent read for a kid, but it makes me think of the Opus's line "Foreshadowing: your guide to quality literature."

The second book fared much better. The Sea of Monsters is the second book in the adventures of Percy(Perseus) Jackson, half-blood son of Poseiden and a mortal woman. Set in the modern day, where the Greek Gods have followed the heart of Western civilization and come to America (the Empire State Building is now Mt. Olympus). I won't say too much because this is one of those books that makes little sense by description unless the listener is already familiar with the world. Nonetheless, this book is entertaining enough for me to sneak off and read it on my own. It also stands alone pretty well, though both Robbie and I intend to find the first book (The Lightening Thief) and read it ASAP.

And finally, the Basset. We spent an entertaining night (midnight to 3am) at an emergency vet clinic when we discovered about bedtime that Nicky couldn't get up. His forelegs had no muscle tone. They couldn't support his weight. He'd thrown up a couple of times in the afternoon, which we attributed to a morning garbage raid, but otherwise he'd been behaving normally. The vet was puzzled. He showed no paralysis, just muscle weakness. The X-rays showed no problems with his spine, and were equivocal about his front legs - puppy rickets have left them short and twisted even by basset standards, so their hard to read. She decided evetually that he must have strained them with the vomiting, gave us a painkiller and told us to rest him.

By this morning, Nicky's hind legs weren't working either. Since he seemed in no other distress, breathing well, not in any discernable pain, cheerful, we put him out on the lawn with water, so he wouldn't have to move at all, and kept an eye on him. We seem to have made the right call. After sleeping the whole morning away, Nicky was able to get his forelegs under him for just a few seconds somewhere around 2pm. By dinner time, he was able to stand up for about ten seconds. We still have no clue what hit him, be it infection or some kind of toxin, but at this rate of recovery, he should be back to normal in another day or so. I wish I could have saved the nearly $500 the vet visit cost, but we couldn't take the chance that he'd injured his spine or gotten into something that needed immediate treatment (like anti-freeze, which needs very rapid treatment, and presents in much this way). Sigh. That's what emergency funds are for anyway.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Various and Sundry

Well, I survived my teaching stint - people are still coming to Tuesday classes, so at least I didn't crash and burn. Sensei now has a day job - working at the same plant as my husband! So now they're apparently gossiping about me during the day. It's interesting hearing what each of them chooses to tell me about what they talked about, often very different. It was interesting teaching, but I'm rather glad to be a full-on student again.

Our last two green belts became purple this last Friday (Congratulations J and I!). Sensei asked me to sit with him and act as a judge (or at least a vaguely apprentice judge-like being). I surprised myself by actually catching something in a kata that he missed - normally I'm not the best observer of such things. Rob will tease me about it sometimes. If we both saw a car accident and somebody asked us what happened, I'd say "The red car came from that-away (vague wave), and smashed into the white car." Rob would say "The red Corvette came around the corner from Broadway, I think it was about 20 over the speed limit, hit the right front bumper on the Escort and spun it into the railing."

More doctor things this week. I had a wondrous outbreak of Shingles about two weeks ago, which fortunately got cut short by a timely steroid injection and a course of anti-virals. My purse looked like a fricking pharmacy. While my PCP had me in hand, she made me go get a new cholesterol test since I'm overdue. I've been watching my diet reasonably well for the last year (Okay, I'm waaay overdue), and I was sort of hoping the Metformin would help lower my levels, since high cholesterol is one of the side effects of insulin-resistance. No such luck. My cholesterol is up about 30 points. So I have another appointment this week, and I'm thinking she's likely to stick me an a statin. Or possibly thyroxin, depending on what she thinks the low thyroid is doing in the mess that is my metabolism.

My I add (whine warning), that it's completely unfair that Rob eats the same diet I do, only with more meat and butter and cream, and his cholesterol is 120 points lower than mine? Erg.

I did get some amusement out of the answering machine message. The lab tech called with the gross results (I don't get a breakdown until the office visit), and included the generic advice. "You should watch your diet and increase your exercise." I just started laughing. Increase my exercise to what? Monday it's an hour of intense cardiovascular (I'm loving the TurboKick, btw). Tuesday it's an hour of weights, an hour of yoga, and 90 minutes of karate. Wednesday is Turbokick again. Thursday is weights and yoga. Friday is Turbokick and karate. Weekends I take off from formal exercise, unless I do the Sunday karate class. Adding it up, that's ten hours of exercise a week minimum! I'm losing weight only slowly, but damn I'm in good shape. I'm the only person I know with six-pack abs on a pot-belly - you can see the muscle lines in the fat.

In more cheery news, we took our first family camping trip. Both boys enjoyed the camping, with only very minor complaints of boredom (Mommy forgot to pack the coloring books), and both held up well on the hikes. The surprise eager camper was Nicky. We were expecting scrambling over rockfalls and up and down canyon trails (Clifty Falls state park, IN) to be hard on short, twisted Basset legs, but he went snaking up and down pretty much everything, with only an occassional boost for really high rocks. He wasn't even sore or noticeably tired afterwards (unlike everyone else) - and this is a dog who sometimes limps after walking to school and back! With such a success on the first outing, we'll undoubtedly be camping some more this summer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Oh, My

Well, Sensei doesn't seem to be in danger of leaving town, but I get to teach class for a while anyway. Due to job scheduling problems, it looks like Tuesdays are mine for at least the next month, maybe two. Tonight was the first night, with a full set of students since everyone was expecting Sensei. I'll know it didn't go well if nobody shows up next Tuesday!

The book I ordered (Speed Training for Martial Arts) showed up Monday, and I can already tell it's going to be a big help. It has a ton of training drills, both partnered and individual, for every imaginable aspect of speed (reaction time, technique selection, peripheral vision, and technique speed, just to hit the first three chapters). I used two of the drills in tonight's class and liked both of them, though I will probably choose differently if the same set of students shows up next week. Some students just should not be handed props! The first drill involved throwing various visually different balls at one student where each kind of ball was associated with a different technique. (E.g. the big ball is kicks, the purple ball is blocks, the tennis ball is hand strikes), and having them hit each ball with an appropriate technique. We split into groups of three, a tosser, a target and a ball chaser. The drill was great, but one team devolved into a rules-free game of ball tag any time they weren't being sat upon.

Other than that minor quibble, I was pretty happy with how class went. There's so much I feel I need to be learning about teaching, though. I not only need the drills and ideas from lessons that differ from Sensei's (not because his aren't good, but because I can't/don't teach like he does), but I feel like I need to research teaching itself. Like how to deal with a bright, motivated, but severely ADHD kid (who's also suffering from the onset of puberty - joy). On the good side, I do think there are a number of things I can plan lessons around that won't duplicate Sensei's classes, but will still be interesting and useful, so at least I've got that for a starting point.

But wouldn't you know that I finally get over feeling like an imposter with no right to the gi, and now I get to start feeling like an imposter with no right to be standing in front of the class?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Well that was Simple


Had my first class as a purple belt last night. Sensei took me aside for over 20 minutes and taught me Simple Sai - the first of the required new katas for my brown-belt test. It's aptly named. I have the moves down in my brain pretty clearly today, and can do them well enough to be certain of what I'm trying to do, even if my sai work is pretty pathetic still. So now it's a matter of getting smooth and strong with the weapon, rather than learning the kata itself.

I'm the first person in class to learn the kata, for the straightforward reason that I'm the only one with my own sais thus far. Rob got me a complete set of Isshinryu weaponry (except for a bo, which I already had) for my birthday last year. This year I'm just getting the book on speed and a new gi - well those and a purple belt, but I don't think Sensei remembers when my birthday is, so I doubt that was deliberate. It feels good to get the sais out and really start using them at last. Now I just have to stop stabbing myself in the forearm when doing a swooping close.