Monthly Archives: April 2014

Letting Go & Logos – Part 2!

Email from the gym today on me teaching kung fu: “…I think it would be awesome to try it out here if you are still interested.”

There is most definitely something to be said for letting go!

Letting Go and Logos

I took a break last night from kung fu, aided by nasty weather and aggravated arthritis.  I spent the evening instead working on a logo for a baking venture that’s starting to feel inevitable, if only for a little extra money to spend on kung fu!  I came to logo creation after putting in yet another phone call to the director of children’s programs at the gym to see if they’ll let me teach a kung fu class.  They told me she was in a meeting.  So I thought it best to turn my attentions to another potential income venture that makes me happier than my job currently does.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times in my life I’ve consciously told myself to let something go, following it with the thought that if something is supposed to happen it will.  That’s because my natural tendency is to be a doer and a fixer.  If I want something to happen, I try to make it happen – often to the consternation of others involved in the happening.

I really want to teach kung fu again.  So I’ve done the best I can to press without being scary.  That, in and of itself, is a big deal for me – the whole attempt not to be scary.   Ten years ago, it was practically my motto to let the chips fall where they may.  But last night, I told myelf not to send this woman another email after she failed to take my call and return it, and I didn’t.

Not being scary has gotten me six weeks of “we’ll get back to you.”  It’s also now gotten me a logo for a baking venture.

First of Many

My daughter always calls me on the way home from Sunday visits with her father. These days, I’m often still cleaning up from training at the gym or just starting the evening’s dinner when she calls. In that event, she leaves a voicemail telling me that she had a good day; she’s tired; she’s only a little bit hungry; she loves me; and she hopes I like her message. That’s almost verbatim. Her Sunday call is a perfect example of the tendency toward repetition and habit that people on the spectrum are known for. But this Sunday’s call was different.

In this call she told me how her father’s decision to play Dungeons & Dragons with his younger son and our eldest (who joins in by Skype before leaving for work) prevents her from really spending time with him. It was obvious information that I was previously aware of, but I’d never heard her express it with the terms and tone she chose that day. She spoke with analysis, instead of complaint, and sadness, instead of irritation. She sounded as if she’d turned the first of many corners onto a higher level of maturity. She sounded so markedly older, I saved the message.

I thought about us girls being together in Pittsburgh just one day earlier, how young she’d seemed waiting impatiently for her event to be called, and how proud and confident she was after scoring so well. It seems a stretch that the one and a half minute it took to perform long staff in public for the first time would add some maturity to her. But who knows? Earning a black sash definitely changed my brain chemistry. Maybe her kung fu milestones are changing hers.

Doing the Math

I practiced four different forms in an amazing training session at the gym Sunday. The result was an endorphin high and a new outlook.

Before I knew it, not only were the requested vanilla cupcakes with lemon icing and the last smidgen of my “oatmeal brittle” disappearing before my eyes, but I’d compiled a rather unexpected and long-overdue tally.


It turns out it costs me approximately twenty-six cents per cupcake when I bake. It would cost forty-three cents per to package them for sale. Now that’s what I call food for thought….



Girls’ Day in PA

At the Steele City Tournament today, I received a higher score winning silver than I did winning gold in Florida.  That says it all about the quality of my competition.  I was edged out by a tenth of a point to a well-executed spear form that I’d never seen before.  I thought as I watched the nimble thirty-something-year-old (no bitterness here, really…) that I was going to have to knock it out of the park to score higher than her.  I was quite proud of my performance, but a homerun it obviously wasn’t.

Oh, well.  Can’t win ’em all.  And if I could, first place wouldn’t be worth much.

Now, the really cool news of the day: my girl and I received the same score for the same form – only she came home with her first gold!


For the next tournament, we’ll finally get my better half on the floor!  After operating the camera for two tournaments and waiting out a healing meniscus, she’s more than ready to add her own medal to the family stash!


Practice Space

The first time I booked a room in a hotel recommended by tournament organizers, I knew I would never do it again. On this trip, I’ve been well rewarded for ignoring advice that probably comes with a kickback. The room we three girls are sharing – for a notably lower price than where the tournament folks are staying – is so big, I brought the staff inside to practice. Last time, I just left it in the car until the next day’s competition.


Now, did my girl take advantage of the practice space? Of course not. She took a soak in the tub. We’ll know soon enough how that choice plays out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out well for her.

Thursdays with Pooh

I entered the school with a big smile on my face, happy to see him after a two-week absence from his class. But I could barely get his attention long enough for him to bow. He was distracted and looked befuddle in a way that made him seem like an oversized, living teddy bear – a 21st century Pooh, who’s deadly even when confused.

Siheng C was working on a mystery when we came in, trying to determine who’d been in the school before he came to open up and why. As I listened to the most talkative instructor in the guan rattle off break-in theories to the parent with three children waiting to warm up for the sparring class, I couldn’t help but chuckle at how nice it was to be entertained by him again. My children have good taste in role models, I had to admit, though it took some time for him to grow on me.

Siheng C is a very big guy, who’s currently getting smaller. He has loud, adorable children who are incredibly fun to play with, though sometimes hard to teach. When I first saw him in the school almost three years ago, he looked much too out of shape to be a marital artist. I assumed he attended the school long ago and returned to get back into old form. He talked a lot, struck me as much too familiar with total strangers, and made the unthinkable affront of publicly disregarding Sifu’s directives. In short, he rubbed me the wrong way. His children made him someone I would get to know regardless, his and my own.

My son says Siheng C is like another father to him; my daughter is more comfortable with him than any other instructor in the school – which has sometimes been detrimental to her learning sparring, but that’s another story. The long and short of it is: he’s been brightening Thursdays for them a while now, and that eventually became true for me, too.

Journalist, Sijeh, Baker, Mom

The title of this post most succinctly describes who I am, in no order of experience and certainly not in order of importance. Still, they are me. As my children approach their last years in senior and junior high school, I find myself thinking often about these descriptors, wondering if the newer additions to the list can ever take center stage.

Journalist and mom are the two things I wanted to be from as far back as I can remember. I got my first paycheck for the former a year out of college and became a mother five years into my career. From minute one, being a mother has filled me with unmatched senses of wonder and responsibility. I would move Everest one fistful of dirt at a time for either of my kids, if I had to.

Most of my time in print and television news and public affairs has felt almost as touched as my life as a mother. I’ve met and produced interviews with countless VIPS, including former U.S. presidents. So, I could leave my career tomorrow feeling that nothing’s been left undone. And I wish I could.

The career has satisfied my intellect and does a good job keeping the children in all that they need and most of what they want. I’d like to do something more soul soothing now, which brings me to the remaining items on the list.

I’ve been baking since I was a child, taught by my mother and grandmother, but I didn’t do so with regularity as an adult until my mother died in 2007. I could now fill a very large bakery with the number of pies, cakes and cookies I’ve made since then, for one simple reason: when I miss her acutely, I bake. It’s an activity that satisfies an emotional need.

I’ve perfected so many recipes, it’s been suggested by more than a few that I sell what’s coming out of my oven. But that won’t pay the mortgage – at least not from my oven. And if it did, it wouldn’t leave time for kung fu and being a sijeh.

I need not explain the importance of being a sijeh, a kung fu black sash. Most days, my blog is about just that. It is among the most soul-soothing components of my life, as it satisfies a host of needs as well. It is, in fact, a way of life. But it, too, will not pay the mortgage – at least not any time soon.

And so I continue on with what does keep the bills paid and the children fed, while grabbing the kung fu clothes daily and the mixing bowl weekly. Neither can play a larger role in my life for the foreseeable future, but these parts of my persona that have grown considerably in recent years are as much a part of me as the things I always wanted to be.

Missed Signals

Those of you who’ve done me the honor of regularly reading my posts for four months now know that I’m putting some effort these days into being more mindful of the world around me and more attentive to the details emanating from its inhabitants. The hope is to use what went previously unseen to be less intimidating, annoying or otherwise irksome to the non-type-A members of the human race.

So when I walked into the gym tonight fifteen minutes after the yoga class was scheduled to be finished and found the yogis just leaving, I suspected I might have to wait for time in my new sanctuary. Rather than wonder, I went to ask. Before the yoga teacher even reached the door, I could see something in her face that was less than pleasant. I prepared for disappointment.

“Do you need the room?” she asked. We’d met a few times and chatted on Sundays; so she was smiling.  I nodded but told her I could just go to a squash court until she was done. “That’d be great. I’ll come get you. It’ll be about half an hour.”

I guess I read her wrong, I thought as I walked toward the courts.

Forty-five minutes later, after warming up and doing a few abbreviated forms in the boxed in boxing room because the squash courts were occupied, I headed back to the yoga room. Camille was still there.

I gave it another fifteen minutes, but she and a yogi were chatting on my second return. At that point, type-A woman that I am needed some clarification. I knocked and was granted entry.

“Just real quick: in the future, should I figure on you using the room for at least an hour after your class is over?”

“Yeah. I’m sorry,” she added, looking at the clock. “I take private clients at the end of my class. But not Sundays. You’re still good on Sundays.”

Heading back to my staff, I couldn’t stop shaking my head. Why wouldn’t she just tell me to begin with that she had a private client and I wouldn’t be able to use the room? Was that passive aggressiveness at work? Conflict avoidance?

Whatever it was, it made me awfully comfortable to continue being a potentially intimidating, annoying or otherwise irksome, type-A woman. I may miss a few signals from others but at least mine are clear.  So…note to self: trying to be more attentive and less irksome doesn’t mean others will do the same.


“So, I am definitely not going to Pittsburgh, because I have the ACT this Saturday!” my son told me this morning in a surprising text message. I responded with no small measure of incredulity.

I wondered how I could possibly have missed this. I, the keeper of the family calendar by default, had overlooked a major academic test for my eldest held on the same weekend of a tournament? There had to be something in the water.

I scoured the school calendar that’s been pinned over the television in my cubicle since September. The damned test wasn’t listed on it! My ego was momentarily restored. Once I regained my equilibrium, the mama bear in me breathed a sigh of relief. Watching my boy spar in competition would have to wait for at least another three months.

Nine hours later, my equilibrium was upended again.

“She can’t come in. This is an adult facility. The only way she can work out in the gym is if she’s working with a trainer.”

“But she’ll just be practicing kung fu with me.”

“Can’t do it. What if I another parent sees her and says, ‘I thought you said my kids can’t work out. Why is she allowed to?’ I can’t have that happen.”

“But I told the woman who signed me up I’d be bringing my children sometimes for extra kung fu practice, especially before tournaments. And I told her how old my children are.”

I was talking half to the gym employee and half to myself. Did I forget that my girl is only old enough to use the pool, or was I not told? I wondered. I honestly couldn’t remember.

I apologized profusely to my daughter and kissed her goodbye before my better half carted her back home. I felt bad through the first sloppily executed minutes of training, until my partner returned to the gym and told me to cut it out. Apparently, my daughter couldn’t get out of the car fast enough to go play computer games undisturbed. I was the only one bothered by her denial of practice time before the tournament.

I pondered whether to cancel this trip and have her wait until the local June tournament. But I wasn’t back in the house for more than five minutes before she happily asked me: “How much is my share for the tournament again?” That put an end to the idea of waiting another two months. I’m not about to squash a newfound commitment to the art she’s been going along with for half of her life. My equilibrium could never be that upended.

A Way of Life

Bob walked past the windows of the yoga room on his way to one of the “employees only” areas, holding up five fingers.  Since it was six fifty-five, I concluded that I either had five minutes to vacate the yoga room or five minutes to quit the gym. The man at the front desk ended my confusion, and I rapidly ran through the first half of the White Eyebrow form twice more, before throwing on my fleece and sneakers and heading for the elevator.

In the era of gyms that are open around the clock, I join the only one in the downtown area that closes before sundown on a Sunday, I thought, shaking my head and smiling at the irony.  I had hoped to get in fifteen forms, after spending the day at work producing a live show.  I was leaving with four forms to go and more than enough energy left in the joints to pull them off comfortably.  I was bummed.

I held the elevator for a fellow member who came through the exit turnstile just as the doors were about to close.  He thanked me as he got on and shot a glance at my staffs.

“Doing martial arts, huh?” I nodded. “Which one?”

“Kung fu, Northern Shaolin.”

“Aw, that’s great!” he said with a surprising depth of appreciation. “My father signed me up for judo when I was kid, and I did it intensely for years. Went to the Junior Olympics….

“Wow!” I gave the once over to the tall, thirty-something-year-old with solid muscle definition and genuine love in his face and thought: Yep, he’s one of us.

“I just loved it!” he continued quietly, seeming to go someplace special in his memory. “Martial arts. It’s not a sport. It’s… it’s a way of life.”

“It is!” I agreed, as the elevator arrived on my floor of the garage.  Smiling, we wished each other a good night, and I disembarked.

Though I didn’t get his name, I felt like I’d just met an extended family member.  And just like that, I was no longer bummed.

Facing the Door

“You have to turn more. You should – ”

“Just go.” Sifu told him, interrupting Siheng Steve’s instruction to me and keeping the rotation rolling. Siheng did the section of the spear form Sifu assigned to him, then immediately came back to me to finish his sentence.

“You have to swing your hips, then your arm, then the staff,” Steve said with an earnestness that made him seem vested in my ability to get it right. “Make sure your body is facing the door before you swing – on both swings.”

Oh! I thought. Why didn’t anybody tell me that earlier?

“Yes, sir,” I answered happily, with the imaginary light bulb in the balloon over my head shining brightly. Sometimes it just takes one turn of phrase, one short and sweet sentence to make it click. The elusive move doesn’t just become doable, it becomes easy to master with just a little bit of practice.

Siheng Steve was the one who came up with the directive I needed. Only three words to remember: body, facing, door. I was starting the swing ninety degrees early. In an art of inches, that’s a big error to correct without the perspective with which to fix it. One of the three instructors I most look forward to seeing in the school had just saved the day.

“That’s much better!” he said smiling, when I got it right for the first time in three classes of drilling on it. It felt like he was happy I got it right – not just satisfied or content, but happy. He reminded me of myself back in my teaching days, when a newbie would finally perfect the stomp kick in the white sash form.

Siheng Steve is a kindred spirit as both an instructor and a fellow student. He’s the only other middle-aged, martial arts diehard I know who shares most of the injuries, ailments and limitations that I do.

“Aging stinks,” he said laughing with me, as I limped away from a rotation last Saturday with an aching back. He’s right, of course, especially for athletes of any kind. But as I thanked him today for his correction, I couldn’t help but note that aging isn’t so bad when falling apart in good company.