Monthly Archives: June 2014

Money Under the Door

I slipped the last ten dollars in my wallet under Sifu’s office door before leaving the school on Saturday, then fought back resentment all the way home.  I’m nevertheless glad I gave.

The money was a donation for movie night at the guan.  Unlike movie nights of old, it wasn’t simply a social gathering opportunity.  It was a fundraiser – one of three currently running – to help pay for Sifu’s travel and testing materials to become a certified judge for wushu competitions.  He’s using paid private lessons, a new student’s services as a massage therapist and a movie night to pay for it.

I think the relatively new practice of project and charity fundraising through social media is phenomenal, and I’m all for it. I myself have benefitted from the kindness of friends and acquaintances who, some twenty years ago, pitched in to get me a plane ticket home from school in Texas when my mother had to have a sudden operation.  I have nothing against making a pitch to the masses when money is needed for a worthy cause.  But Sifu’s fundraising has rubbed me the wrong way because of…let’s just say…inconsistencies in philosophy and behavior.

When announcing his need in an email, he suggested that private lessons could be used to learn more of one’s form or a new one entirely.  This from a man insistent that forms should be learned very slowly, in sections that are repeatedly practiced before new moves are introduced.  Apparently, that deeply held principle can be irrelevant at times of his choosing.  Additionally, the Jekyll and Hyde nature of our Sifu, which I’ve written about in this previous post, is even more apparent when he wants something more from his students than he already demands.

Two hours before bowing out of the building with a big smile on his face, warmly proclaiming his desire to see everyone at movie night, he barked angrily at a student, saying: “It doesn’t matter what you thought; all that matters is what I’m telling you now!”  He was in the process of changing a move that it seemed everyone in upper sash class had learned a different way, and we were all a bit confused and slower than he wanted us to be.  This tension was after a return-from-banishment Friday night class (the aftermath of which is pictured below) that was surprisingly easygoing – which made his Saturday morning mood all the more jarring!  In short, Sifu’s demeanor can give one whiplash and dampen any inspiration to assist in his ambitions.  And yet….

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What could I accomplish by being an obvious abstainer to the fundraising effort?  As the saying goes, resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

I want good things for this person whose instruction has visibly changed a lot about me and my life.  I want to be at peace in this relationship that can be so trying, with this person who can be so disappointing.  I want peace, so I must offer the very thing I want.  I wasn’t going to give him my Saturday night, but I could at least slip my money under the door.

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Rituals and the Rolling Stones

“Hola, Mommy!  Como – How are you?”

It was like manna from heaven, the sound of my boy’s voice, replete with a Spanish accent and brimming with a level of excitement I hadn’t heard in him in a long time.  There was no need for me to ask if he was enjoying himself at his Spanish immersion program.  It was clear.  If he was bothered by four days of mandatory silence with the outside world, it certainly didn’t show.

I put him on speaker phone and all of the females of the family peppered him with information and questions.  He answered rapidly, with only thirty minutes total to talk to us, his father and the girl he started dating before leaving for a month, but I could see the smile on his face through the phone, nevertheless.

He has the same smile today as the one he was born with.  It’s still there, though it’s been studded with teeth now for quite some time.  Occasionally,  a certain tilt of his head coupled with the mischievous rise of a corner of his mouth brings his infant self flying back into view.

I listened to him tell us with giddy giggles  about his ritual of racing across campus at dawn to get thirty minutes of kung fu training in before his regimented day begins, and I thought, for perhaps the tenth time this month, where have all the years gone?  Wasn’t it just a few years ago we had our own morning ritual of dancing outside his crib to the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction?”

Nope.  Not even close.  It was almost a lifetime ago.  His lifetime.

I’m going to need a bit more of mine to get over that.  Sigh…

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It’s All Over…

Wednesday is second only to Monday as the busiest night in the gym.  It’s the evening there’s a spin class, a yoga class, and an occasional bootcamp in the hallway.  Meanwhile the squash round-robin group owns both courts until at least eight o’clock.  If there’s anyone in the boxing room, then I’m just completely out of luck until as late as 8:30.  It used to be quite a challenge and lesson in patience to get my training in.  Not anymore.

I now have access to this room,…

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despite this sign.

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It’s a perk of being an employee!  And after months of waiting, wondering, preparing for it not to come through, I’m officially part of the team.

In the last two days, I’ve filled out almost as many papers as it took to buy my house, sat through my supervisor reading the employee handbook to me (at least she was entertaining while whizzing through forty pages) and taken a computerized test on sexual harassment.  It’s now all over but the bowing in… and the CPR course.  I have more than enough time to take it, because the club’s annual cleaning and refurbishment is three weeks from now.  My class starts the following Friday – July 18th at 6 p.m.

Until then, I’ll be perfecting my White Eyebrow in the room with the most appropriate of signs. 🙂

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Delicious Irony

I had a tournament yesterday.  It meant so little to me that I neglected to mention it beforehand on this blog, where I subject readers to all things kung fu in my life.  The obvious question is why it meant little to me.  The obvious answer is that the whole competition thing has become old hat.  That’s not it.  In fact, the DC tournament’s “seniors” division is actually 36 years old and up.  That puts me up against several more competitors than when the division is 44 or 45 and up!  The challenge is too healthy to be boring.

I started learning White Eyebrow at the beginning of February, and aside from time spent in June correcting the walk (which I was only told needed correcting the same day I left for Florida with Ava), I’ve taken to the form pretty quickly and could easily have learned the whole thing by now, were that Sifu’s inclination.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t do White Eyebrow at the D.C. tournament.  When I registered for it, I expected to know the whole thing by the time the day arrived.  That disappointment was a big reason the tournament felt like a chore, as I stretched out for my events, and felt even more like something for which I should have just forfeited the entry fee after I messed up the end of Lian Huan Tui.

Then, the God of my understanding decided to whip out the fantastic sense of humor that makes so many ironies just delicious.  At this tournament in which I competed merely not to have wasted the money, I scored a personal best with long staff that I can’t possibly beat in the future.  I should now retire the form from competition, having seen not one but two 9.9s out of a panel of three judges.  The third judge scored me at 9.7.

Frankly, I think they were ridiculously generous.  Though it felt overall like it was my best performance of the form, I was conscious of not having the proper grip on the staff when I began the spins, which made the spinning slower than it should have been.  Obviously, the judges didn’t care.

So I guess we can never know what’s in store for us, despite what we may expect, and even if in a low mood.  Just showing up can sometimes do the trick.

The only thing to dampen the moment was the absence of my son and fellow kung fu fanatic, who had taken off that morning for a month of Spanish immersion at a college in Vermont.  That, too, dampened my competitive fire, as I knew he wanted to compete as well but had other obligations.

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Congratulations to my daughter for electing to compete in the more difficult advanced division, while allowed to compete with the intermediates.  She took home third and second place medals – and a great deal of personal and parental pride.

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And thanks to her father (bushy-haired guy staring at her in upper right hand corner) for coming out to support her – and having the presence of mind to capture my personal best on his phone!


Proper Distance and Speed

Less than two months into the school year, my daughter’s weekly grade reports from her English and History teacher always had a zero on them.  She would either not complete the homework she handed in or forget to hand in the homework she completed.

Then there was Math, the subject for which she has a natural aptitude.  She hated it.  She had to actually pay attention and read the questions thoroughly to keep from making mistakes of oversight.  And the girl was used to just flying through math homework on the way to anything more interesting.  So getting my ADD girl to slow down, pay attention, remember assignments and, well, care – without taking medication – felt like a second job.  That job lasted through the holidays, then into the new year, and all the way to winter break.

When all was said and done and the final bell rang on seventh grade, that girl of mine brought home a report card with nothing on it lower than a 90!  It was her best academic year yet, and it required a celebration.  So on Friday, after a relentless stream of appointments and errands that included my drug screening for teaching at the gym, the family took off to Ava’s personal idea of heaven on earth: Dave and Busters.

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By the time she finished playing every driving game in the building and cashed in her tickets, she was a happy high honor roll student – and I was ready for a nap.

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My afternoon was supposed to end with a meeting to fill out my employment paperwork at the gym, but that had to be postponed to Tuesday (the program director and Kid’s Club director have yet to get together on when and in what room my class will begin!).  I opted to drop by the gym anyway and put the proper distance and speed on The Walk in White Eyebrow.   It was the right choice and a very successful night of training after a wonderfully celebratory day.

I got a frown and a perfunctory return on the bow to Sifu this morning.  It may have had nothing to do with my absence from Friday class.  Either way, I was completely guilt free!


“If You’re Not Injured…”

This time tomorrow I will have completed the paperwork and drug screening for the gym.  I should know by the end of the weekend if my future supervisor’s first choice for class days will in fact be the schedule.  It will depend on when there’s class space in the gym.

This time tomorrow I will also either be nursing my wounds from my return to Friday night class or feeling anxious and guilty for not having gone.  The jury’s still out on which it’ll be, but I’m reluctantly leaning toward the former.

Sanshou on Monday took a toll on me that’s lasted all week.  I may actually have strained my right hamstring in Saturday’s class, but the discomfort from that is nothing compared to the abuse to which I subjected my remaining left knee components two days later while crawling around on the guan floor like an alligator.  The drill was meant to work all the thigh muscles, but doing it properly required sideways protrusion of the knees in a wholly-unnatural, horizontally-bowlegged position.  Long story short:  I could hear something in my left knee pop out of place.  I’ve been trying to realign it ever since.  So it should be a no-brainer that I stay home tomorrow night.

The problem is I continued to self-train all week, and Sifu saw that.  I’m fairly certain he’ll think I’m not injured enough to stay out of Friday class, when I don’t have travel as a reason to miss it.  The man’s motto is “push yourself.”  He’s also fond of saying, “If you’re not injured, you’re not doing it right.”  We who are invited to Friday class are expected to attend – especially at the conclusion of banishment.

But I have a class to teach perhaps as soon as Wednesday.  I simply can’t be too battered to demonstrate a snap kick!  So that’s that.  Right?  Right?….


Like Riding a Bike

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This is the picture on the notice the gym emailed to the parents of Kid’s Club members to finally begin the sign-up for my class!  I’m starting to get a little nervous, since I’m months out of teaching practice.  But as natural as sharing my joy of kung fu is for me, teaching it again should be just like riding a bike.

I’m so excited I can barely stay in my chair!  I’m suppressing the urge to keep popping up out of my cubicle like a mole that needs whacking.  More later….

 


Drugstore in the Desk Drawer

I rarely get to bed before 1 a.m., and I’m rarely able to sleep past 6:45.  I’d be in a hospital bed or mental ward were it not for the drugstore in my office drawer. Vitamin C, B12 and D3 do wonders for keeping a sleep-deprived, aging martial artist chugging along – that and a boatload of morning caffeine.

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As I groggily stumbled from bedroom to bathroom and back this morning, I ran a quick analysis of time management the previous evening.  After pick-up from the commuter train and a congratulatory chat with my daughter for her most successful academic year yet, we got home to my son and a school friend leaving the house.  I spent a few minutes talking with them before grabbing a yogurt and heading upstairs to change into kung fu clothes. Once fed and changed, I grabbed kung fu stuff and hit the car with Merle and Aaron.

We took Sanshou class, got notes from Siheng Mark afterwards on what we did right and wrong, and stretched out our tight muscles for a while.  I practiced picking up the pace on The Walk from White Eyebrow before finally heading out the door for the ride home.  After a stop for gas, I got home around 9:15.

I took a medium-length shower, tended to my knees with creams and ice, made and ate some food, then made and ate some more.  The clock read 10:45.  I checked baseball scores, emails and blogs while watching a cooking show, and then discussed the monthly calendar with Merle and what we were doing with the kids to celebrate their great school year before Aaron leaves for a month-long summer program.  Somewhere in there, I also balanced the checkbook.  At that point, the big hand was almost on the twelve.

I returned eyes to the television while blow drying hair I’d kept wrapped up since the shower and waited for the laundry to come out the dryer, so I could pack my kung fu clothes in my work bag for today.  Tuesdays and Thursdays we have to go straight from commuter train to guan for the early class; so the clothes must come with me to work.  (I guess I could have just worn the back-up high water pants and the shirt with the hole in the armpit, but not if I can help it.)

I went down to the kitchen for something, wound up in the downstairs bathroom (which is largely the one Aaron and I use most) and was painfully aware that my absence the previous week was particularly obvious in that room.  So I cleaned tub and sink, brushed my teeth and went upstairs to bed.  Merle was still up sorting clothes, and I was just floating into pre-consciousness when she turned out the last light.  It was 1:05.

I could probably shorten the time between meal and bed, regardless of whatever else I have to do, if I didn’t turn on the television.  But a good game or a good laugh goes a long way in a day that could otherwise be a grind… or in the case of Sanshou night, a beat down.

So what’s a woman to do?  I guess just keep popping the B12 and vitamin C until the next non-working Sunday morning sleep-in.  Things could certainly be worse.  Life could actually be boring.


Rolling Out & Rolling On

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Home sweet home – and just now enjoying a moment to breathe… and write.  Those thunderstorms that last day in Florida did indeed delay our return.  But Ava and I enjoyed a parting meal at a popular Daytona barbeque joint, before spending an extra two extra hours in an airport that can only belong to the city where Disney lives.

The airport itself is like an amusement park wrapped into a city unto itself.  I know it’s convenient, but how can it possibly be peaceful to have a hotel room inside of an airport?

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Anyway, we made it back to Baltimore somewhere around 1 a.m., and the wait for both luggage and staff was thankfully only minutes long.  Though neither of us crawled into our beds until about 2:30, we successfully rolled back out of them for kung fu, and were stretching with Merle and Aaron on the floor of the school by 10:15.  It wasn’t until then that I remembered the email I received while sitting in the Orlando airport in an anxious but sleepy haze, looking for something to stream on my laptop to pass the time.

The email came from the gym, and the subject line read: “Offer Letter and New Hire Information.”  There’s a drug test and a training session to submit to, and then, all’s that’s left for the teaching to begin is the program director to tell me my start date!  It felt almost triumphant to whisper that news to the family while stretching in the guan during a class I used to help teach.

Just minutes after our smiles waned, I caught a green sash daydreaming while a Siheng was instructing her group.  I pointed her eyes back in his direction and said with a smile, “Wake up, lady.”

“I’m trying,” she answered, with shoulders sagging.  “Where have you been?” she whispered, walking to her place in the rotation line.  “I miss you teaching.  You keep my attention.  You get in my head and make me want to work.”

I wanted to answer her question.  I wanted to cry.  I managed to simply thank her and tell her that I miss teaching her, too.  Then, I took a moment to marvel at how the universe works sometimes.  Her words were a fantastic affirmation, perfectly timed, that the offer letter isn’t a waste of paper, that I belong at the head of a class.


Rhythm, Rest & Restraint

I began this writing from a rental car in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel.  I was waiting for a morning thunderstorm to lighten up enough for me not to be completely drenched just by opening the door.  It was the tenth or eleventh thunderstorm of the week, including the one we landed in.  I have to drive an hour down the highway to Orlando in a few hours and board a plane a couple of hours after that.  I really need for my departure from Florida to be smoother than my arrival.  That requires an extended window between thunderstorms that have seriously cramped the off hours of our week.

All’s been well for morning drop off, but there’s been loud and heavy rain both before and after pick up, daily.  Mother Nature gave Ava and me a short opportunity to stick our feet in wet sand and stroll along the pier yesterday before sending in another beastly wave of clouds.

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My girl and I are returning home without having shared a swim, but we did share a healthy dose of quality conversation.  That was most certainly worth a bad week of weather!

After spending five days rising for camp just thirty minutes later than we would for work and school, we’re both more than ready to sleep late and sleep in our own beds (unfortunately, I only have Sunday to do the former).  Creatures of habit that we are, we’re also anxious to get back to our routines.  For Ava, that’s looking ahead to Sunday with her dad; for me, that’s looking ahead to Sunday at the gym.  With a little luck, I’ll have something new to practice after Saturday’s class…assuming that what I tried to beat (rhythmically, that is) into my muscle memory this week doesn’t go on hiatus in front of Sifu.

One of these days I’ll take a break from work that’s actually restful.  That would require leaving the staff at home, of course.  It would likely require restraints of some kind, too. 🙂

 


Almost Nothing

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This was my mother’s house.  I was there today for the first time in almost seven years, visiting a stepfather to whom I was never close.

To my surprise, almost nothing has changed.  The furniture is the same and in the same place.  The pictures, both on the walls and side tables, are unchanged as well.  None of the rooms have been painted a different color.  None of the drapes have been replaced for more stylish patterns.  The only thing that’s different is the woman walking through the front door, using her own key.

 


Rich in Blue

It was a beautiful morning in the temporary neighborhood, briefly captured as best as possible from stop lights, stop signs and a parking space the aviators and techies were rushing me out of, once my daughter was safely in their care.

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Watching teensy little Cesnas (or whatever make they may be) take off over my car in one-minute intervals, into a sky that just doesn’t seem as rich in blue in my actual neighborhood as it is in the Sunshine State, planted Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” in my head at a high imaginary decibel.  It played on a loop right up until I started fidgeting with the air conditioning in the banquet room turned guan.  And it returned when, on the day’s twenty-third repetition of what I know of White Eyebrow, I obtained the proper pace and rhythm for “The Walk.”  At least it looks that way to me.  If I’m wrong, someone will most definitely tell me.  Many someones, actually.

I had to slow it down to even approach getting it right.  I apparently also had to step out of the shot (oops).   I’ll worry about the up-tempo version, well… tomorrow.  But just for today, it felt pretty good.