Family Trait

The landlord for my storefront encroached upon my personal space and time every single day for a week.  I finally had to send a gentle email requesting that he give me space.  Perhaps I should have shelled out for the more expensive property on the other side of the park….

Middle-aged, longtime plumbers can be incredibly insulting and condescending when one is simply trying to obtain an estimate for the installation of a sink.  My life experience forces me to wonder if being both African-American and female didn’t fuel his lack of manners and professionalism….

One hundred pounds worth of flooring is showing up at my house today for carting down the street to the store, and it’s a complete toss-up as to whether someone will be home when it arrives.  Being forced to trek to some far out postal facility looking for the floor to my backroom two days before the health inspection is not my idea of a good time.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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Meanwhile, on the kung fu front, my boss at the gym is on her way out the door to another job, and her boss doesn’t care enough about the kung fu program to properly promote the next session.  The new flier is great.  The problem is getting it out of the company computers and in view of the gym members!  Call me crazy, but I’m fairly certain that’s the best way to attract students.

Last night, my son was intentionally mauled by a Siheng who outranks him for having the audacity to land a good punch in Sanshou class.  Now, there’s a new measure of bad blood in the family relationship with the guan.  I’m just glad I wasn’t upstairs to see the fight.  My mother bear alter ego (or is that my primary ego?) might have turned it into an all-out brawl.

I have to admit I was happy to hear that Aaron recovered from the beating to ultimately win a fight that was only supposed to be a sparring match.  That’s kind of how I felt going through my whole week of remodeling and regulatory madness.  It must be a family trait.


Sunday Rites

Back in the blogosphere, if only for an hour or so!  I haven’t had time to write or read (outside of work material) for a week, which has been disturbing.  I thought about pouring out all that I can about the week’s adventures in store making, but my thoughts keep coming back to the warmth of my favorite day.

Sunday is great.  It’s almost as busy as any other in the week; so its greatness doesn’t lie in being a day of rest.  What makes Sunday so wonderful to me is that it’s the day I get to do everything I most enjoy.

I get up and indulge the journalist in me by watching the news talk shows.  After twenty years of covering the federal government and the people in it, it’s a task as automatic as brushing my teeth.  It’s also an unspoken job requirement (for just a little while longer), since I’m supposed to know what the big stories and sound bites of the day are.  I watch while eating, stretching and warming up for the beginner kung fu class I teach at noon.  Then, I’m off to my students.

I teach the kids for an hour, doing my best to keep a straight face when the front kick instruction suddenly turns into a conversation about peanut butter and birthday parties.  Today was a particularly special day, as it was the last class of the session.  I taught everyone the final moves of the white sash form, and my star students perfected what they already knew as I worked with the younger attention spans in the group.  It’s been a long time since I’ve taught a set of students an entire form – and the only time I’ve done it alone!   I look forward to awarding yellow sashes in a couple of weeks.

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After my kids and their moms left me alone in the yoga room, I continued my Sunday ritual.  I always spend a second hour in the gym trying to lower my stances, speed up my spins and quicken the pace of my performance of the White Eyebrow staff form.   I use Sunday to practice the corrections Sifu gives me in Saturday class.

For several months now, the day’s routine has ended with me replenishing the carbs I burn off in training as I watch a baseball or football game.  Then, I cook dinner for the family and work on recipes for the sweets shop.  This Sunday, I ended the afternoon by meeting one of the better handymen I’ve ever known at the site of my future store and going over all I need to hire him to do to get it ready for a grand opening.

And so, the ritual has changed.  Going forward, Sunday’s greatness will likely always include time at the store.  Soon, that will be true of all days.  How great is that?

 


In the Corner of My Eye

Sunday was a great day to be a Sijeh.  My seven-year-old social butterfly, who’d rather chat with me about friends and fashion, gave her most focused effort yet.  I had to have her practice alone for a bit as I worked with the five year old who missed class last week, and I was stunned by what I saw out of the corner of my eye.

She did one repetition after another without prompting and even self-corrected after watching me with her classmate.  I didn’t know she had it in her – the inclination to keep her mind and body on kung fu for more than three minutes at a time.  I was so proud of her (and the classmate who finally earned his white sash) that I felt high for hours afterward.  A second grader’s concentration made my favorite day of the week even better than it normally is.  It’s still the little things, always and forever, that make the biggest difference.


Fever and Frenzy

It’s baseball fever in Baltimore, but for me, it’s bakery fever.  And as the temperature rises , so does the level of craziness in my days.  The last forty-eight hours have looked something like this:

-Emails with publicists, authors, journalists and politicos (the day job) interspersed with emails and calls with the staff of the property manager who hasn’t spoken to me directly since calling to tell me the lease is mine; requesting and receiving an emailed confirmation of being approved for the lease.

-Learning from the city’s chief health inspector the brands of ovens that eliminate the need to change the ventilation system in the building; learning more about plumbing building codes than I ever wanted to know; finding out that even my frequently generous plumber has limits to his generosity when tearing out a floor is likely (the three compartment sink might cost more than the specialized oven).

-Sending out the promotional announcements for the next live show, sorting by copyright my guest author’s books and cracking the cover on the first.

-Searching for a place to get passport photos taken for my food manager’s license and having it take much too long, when I needed to keep my lunch hour to 30 minutes.  Having a little birdie whisper in my ear “don’t mail that” right before I walked into a training session for the company’s new edit software and later being glad that it did; calling during training break to find out that the new procedure, just days old, is to deliver the application in person and have the pictures taken onsite.

-After two hours of software training, making a mad dash to the train to get picked up by my family for kung fu class.

-Two hours of sparring and long staff work later, taking the whole family with me on a brief, unimpressive tour of a commercial kitchen I can rent, if sink issues delay opening the store.

-After shower and food, shopping online for the best equipment prices and comparison shopping on business insurance policies; being forced by my better half to shut it down and grab some sleep as the clock sped past 1:30.

-Waking 20 minutes later than normal, needing more sleep and anxious to get into the future store again.  Meeting up with property manager’s assistant to get measurements in the shop and make notes; taking my food manager’s application downtown on the way to the morning train, only to be told it needed to be accompanied by another larger application – and a larger check.

Another dash to another train.  Another day of emails and calls on the current life and the future one.  Another afternoon of training on software I won’t be using for long.  Another day of acting like it was just another day… and loving that it wasn’t.


Short…and Sweet!

Starting a business, while slowly extricating myself from a full-time job that requires a three-hour round-trip commute and continuing to train in and teach a discipline that requires abundant energy, may prove to be the unreasonable endeavor of my middle age.  It certainly leaves me with a fraction of my former blogging time.  In short, I have to keep this short; so I’ll get straight to the point.

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Just when I thought that the highlight of Sunday was teaching my most reluctant student to do a pretty decent long arm swing, I got the call…

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The store is mine!!

May the battle of licensing bureaucracy begin….  Stay tuned. :-)


Cosmic Caffeine Boost

I’ve gotten a total of nine hours sleep over the last two days – not counting the snippets of time spent inadvertently snoring or drooling on the commuter train.  Surprisingly, I awoke the last two mornings feeling more refreshed than I have on the rare occasions that my nightly sleep reaches or exceeds seven hours.  Anticipation is the reason.  I think it may be life’s cosmic caffeine boost.  There’s been no difference in my training regimen, eating habits, nightly routine.  Hope is the only reason I’m rested without rest.

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This storefront – five blocks down the street from my house, a block up the street from one of the city’s high foot traffic restaurant areas – may soon be mine.  They’ve had my financials for more than twenty-four hours; they told me it would take no more than forty-eight to know whether my person and my vision are things they want to gamble on by granting a commercial lease.

I’m one giant step closer to adding baker-by-day to my life of Sijeh-by-night!  It’s going to be a long weekend if I don’t hear anything today.  But I suspect it’ll be the most exciting sleepless weekend of my life… however the crumbs may fall.


Inspired… but Tired

It’s after 1 a.m. on the East coast, and I’ve just watched the Royals battle back to win the wild card game.  It’s hard not to be inspired.

In the wee hours of this first day of October, however, I realize, as I tend to my throbbing right shoulder, that I’ve now been working on this form for the same amount of time as a full-term pregnancy – and I still haven’t been taught the final moves.  I’m ready to have this baby already!

Not yet.  Not yet….

Sleep would be good, now.


The Probability of Blows

Martial artists know techniques for injuring quickly and with minimal effort.  That fact floats into my head whenever members of an increasingly inconsiderate public seem to enjoy acting uncivilized – but not for the reason one would think.

An instance of uncivilized behavior has stayed with me for a few days now.  A man was flying through the parking garage at the gym, ignoring stop signs.  I had to hit the brakes to keep him from plowing into the passenger side of my car – which, at the time, was occupied by my son.  I looked at the driver with a what-is-the-matter-with-you expression and motioned for him to continue on.  He stared at me a second, then laughed before peeling away.

“I wanna rip his face…” my son said angrily.  “Never mind,” he quickly added with a heavy sigh.  “But did you see that?? He was laughing!”

I told him I saw it but thought it best not to think about it.  Thinking about it would make me want to go chase the guy out of the garage.

A chase would be stupid and juvenile, of course.  A chase would automatically escalate the confrontation.  And once words were exchanged – particularly with a son who already wanted to “rip his face” – the probability of blows would be disturbingly high.

I’ve met many who, upon learning that I practice and teach kung fu, raise their eyebrows with what looks like disapproval, though usually cloaked in politeness.  One acquaintance actually made comments about promoting violence.  But the truth is precisely the opposite.  Most people don’t know that an evaluation of kung fu skills includes assessing one’s level of control.

Some of the most anti-confrontational people I’ve ever known wear a black belt or sash during their off hours.  The power to injure quickly and with minimal effort is sobering.  It frequently creates people who would rather just say “never mind.”


The Safe Subject

At about 10:30 on Thursday night, I dialed my father’s phone number for the first time in a couple of months.   Why I don’t talk to him more often is a long, complicated, sad story – some of which I mentioned here.  Tonight, our negative history was irrelevant.

Sounding simultaneously happy and sad, the first thing he said to me was: “I knew it was you.”  Of course he did.  Only I could be calling him when Derek Jeter had just knocked in the winning run in the last game he’d ever play in Yankee Stadium.

It was 1977, and I was in the third grade.  It wasn’t my first trip over the western state line, but it was the first I could remember alone with my dad.  My parents were thankfully separated.  Life was much quieter.  But I saw almost nothing of the former man of the house – until suddenly he was taking me to Yankee Stadium.

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(from Wikipedia)

We sat with his friends from work in seats right above the Yankee dugout.  I yelled out to Reggie Jackson and got a smile and a wave.  My father smiled a lot, too, in between answering my questions about the rules of the game.  I couldn’t remember the last time he’d talked to me so much.  I’ve been a Yankee fan ever since.

The safe subject for most people is the weather.  For my father and me, it’s the Yankees.  Bad trades and costly contracts, win or lose, I’ll always love them for that.


Force of Nature

I am not a big fan of time today.

This girl..

..is now this teen.

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And she is, quite simply, a force of nature.  Her smile is infectious, and her bad mood can disappear on a dime.  She’s a talker with no filter and a math whiz who hates math.

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She throws a roundhouse that feels like a log and talks smack about sports better than a middle aged man. She’s made me proud and pissed off in the same moment on several occasions in her short life, and she’s sure to do so again.

Today, my youngest became a teenager….  I couldn’t be a more thankful and hopeful mother.  I couldn’t be less of a fan of time.


Herding Cats

My class was a playground today.   That was not a good thing.

Joining the four regulars was a four-year-old whose mom has been trying to get her in the door since the middle of the first session, but time was never her friend.  She told me that her daughter has an above-average attention span, bolstered by her enthusiastic interest in kung fu; so I was more than willing to see if she could follow along well despite being under five.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a chance to see how well she can follow along, because in walked a world of distraction that made even my industrious five-year-old think about everything but kung fu.

My first-session kindergartener returned without warning.  That’s the one whose dad wanted him to be there far more than he wanted to be.  With him came the entire family: a two-year-old brother who kept running up to hug him; a mom who kept getting up from her seat in the back of the room to reposition her son’s feet, over my objections;  and a dad who kept popping into the corner of the room behind me to take pictures of his hugging boys.  To add fuel to the fire, my old kindergartener goes to school with the new four-year-old.  So, in between having mom, little brother and dad stealing his attention, his classmate – the newest and youngest member of the class – kept trying to “help” her friend correct his hands and feet, though she herself was having trouble getting into a fighting stance!

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On top of it all, the other little boy in the class, who’d previously been plugged into my every move and coming along nicely in his martial arts aptitude, went off the rails with the addition of two younger children to the class.  He also had a baby sister watching from the sidelines with mom and dad.  That seemed to turn on an ADD switch that I didn’t know this particular student had.

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Long story made short: there were more spectators today than students, and the students suffered for it.  The highlight, however, was that after I allowed the youngest and newest to bow out early, I watched the more proficient students do the first seven moves of the form with surprising dexterity (they’d been practicing while I worked with the younger kids), and I was more than happy to reward them by teaching the multi-step move number eight, the end of part one of the form.  If nothing else, the oldest members of the class earned their white sashes today in the middle of a circus… and I learned what it feels like to herd cats.


Automatic Pilot

They wanted to know how fast the form is supposed to go.  So I showed them.  By the time I reached move four of the sixteen step sequence, I knew I was sacrificing precision for speed, and I was glad that I realized it.

It made me wonder: in any given day, how many things do I do on automatic pilot?  How many tasks could use more precision – deserve it, in fact – but I speed through them instead, out of habit?

I’ve known the white sash form for six years.  I’ve done it thousands of times as a student and a hundred or so times as a teacher.  Though it’s the simplest form in most respects, it’s also among the most painful for me because of the number of horse stances that must be executed with battered knees and the number of stance transitions that occur without benefit of standing up.  So it came as no surprise to me when I recorded the form and saw that my stances were too high and a few transitions were too muddled.

So, tucked into the ritual repetitions of White Eyebrow, with finishing touches that thankfully look more finished by the week, I went back to basics and refined the first form, the one from which all others flow.  Now, my star students, the only two who consistently show up on a Friday night, won’t make the mistake of losing precision as they acquire speed.

Bad habits are inevitable.  I’d just rather not teach them, if I can help it.


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