Two Down, One to Go

Saturday was my requirement check for my black belt test.  Our academy decided to have those testing for full rank come to a pre-test to perform all the requirements for our test (which is a lot more for full rank than for a standard color belt test).  I was stressing about it so much the few days prior.  It also didn’t help that I was pre-menstrual (sorry guys!).  I always feel stressed that time of my cycle and the test anxiety added to it made me a little jumpy.  I had become seriously OCD about the paperwork I needed to turn in that day, especially the Kukkiwon full rank application.  Every hour or so the day or two before, I would go through all my paperwork to make sure nothing had mysteriously vanished.

My youngest daughter tested on Saturday, and passed, but not without a little struggle on her poomsae.  She kept turning the wrong way and finally fixed it after a brief review with one of the supervising black belts.  It was a good experience for her having to struggle a little.  All her other tests came fairly easy and I think that it was important that she had one that didn’t go all that smoothly.  She got a little frustrated and teary, but in the end found the strength to perform well.  I was paired up with her for sparring, since there was not another higher belt available.  That was a little weird, but she did really well and it was acknowledged that she improved since her last test.  Because I was present for her test, and the requirement check was afterward, I didn’t have the time I hoped I would to review my requirements.

So I went in relatively cold, which in retrospect was probably good, considering that I was drenched in sweat by the time I was done.  We are only allowed three mistakes in order to pass.  I made two very minor ones but corrected them immediately.  I knew as soon as I did them that I made a mistake, and both were at the beginning of a sequence of requirements.  There were three others testing with me and they had us start at different points in the requirement sequence.  This made it a challenge to focus and not get distracted by the fact that my neighbor was doing something different.  At one point, the others were instructed to review specific requirements because mistakes were made, so I was on the floor by myself performing the rest of my requirements.  It could have been stressful, but I think the time I’ve had in front of class leading warmups and review made it easier for me to be on the spot without completely loosing my composure.

When I came out, the higher level black belts (who will be testing for their next full rank next month) congratulated me, and that felt great!  It’s been acknowledged that due to the amount of material we need to perform at the requirement check, that it is, in effect, our black belt test.  The test I will perform next month will be much shorter in duration and have far fewer requirements (actually the same as verification, which was part 1, and is a sort of requirement check, to make sure that you are learning all the requirements necessary).  I’m actually looking forward to it and not dreading it (although ask me 2 days before the test, my feelings on that may change).

Looking back, it’s hard to believe I’ve come as far as I have.  I can still remember what it felt like to be a white belt surrounded by all these colored belts and not knowing what I had gotten myself into.  I can also look back and not recognize the person I was at the beginning of my training.  I had no idea at that time that Tae Kwon Do would transform me, mind body and soul.  My journey has taught me the truth of Pil Seung.  That winning IS inevitable.

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Is it Possible to be Both a Dick AND a Dork?

Have you ever done something that you felt was quite innocent at the time, but think about it later and realize that you may have been a total dick to someone?  Then you agonize over it, and beat yourself up, finally apologizing, and that person was like, what the hell are you apologizing for?  And then, THEN, you feel like more of a dick because you just pointed out a moment when you thought they might have been offended, and then start worrying about whether the act of pointing it out will actually make them offended, when they weren’t previously?

Do I just accept the fact that I’m going to occasionally be a dick by accident and hope it doesn’t become a habit?  A lot of it is the inability to function if I know somebody is upset with me.  I am primed to take responsibility and apologize, even if I wasn’t in the wrong.  And why the hell does something so minor (and it is minor, yet still dickish) upset me so much?

For the record, I acknowledged to this person that I did in fact, act somewhat like a dick, and I will do my best not to have it happen again.  I refrained from adding “But it probably will”.

Thoughts from my Morning Ride

I logged 14.75 miles today and I also made some observations, presented to you in a handy dandy bullet list, whee!

  • How is it that my route felt like it was uphill both ways?
  • To the lady coming out of the dog park with her dog on a 10′ lead.  It is not cool to stop to talk to your friend while you allow your dog to cross the path using the entire length of the leash.  Then when you saw me, you still moved at a snail’s pace to cross, making me slow from 12 mph to zero on crushed limestone.  You suck.
  • Acorns make traction on crushed limestone a little dodgy.
  • When walking three abreast towards me while taking up the entire path, please step back to your half of the path for the 1.2 seconds it will take me to pass you.  I do not want to go on the grass.  There is a reason it is called a forest preserve.
  • Why are the buttons from some crosswalks over 15′ away from where I need to stop to cross?  By the time I push the button and get back in position, the light is yellow.  WTF?
  • To the lady who turned left in front of me to get to the bank.  You suck.
  • To the man in the van waiting to get buzzed into the private drive, thank you for pulling up to give me more room to get around.  I said thank you, I hope you heard me.
  • To the city of Naperville.  Why install a crosswalk button that doesn’t work?  I pushed it and waited two light cycles before I gave up and crossed on the red, hoping that the opposite direction traffic didn’t get the green when I was halfway across.
  • To the lady who let me turn left at the 4-way stop without requiring me to come to a full stop, thank you.  I was willing to stop, and was hoping that you would let me go, but didn’t expect it.

I spent a good time yesterday cleaning my chain & derailleur (it was neglected for a while) and adjusting the brakes.  Sadly though, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.  Or as my husband likes to say, you can’t polish a piece of shit.  For a whopping 5 minutes, my brakes were quiet, then they started chattering again.  I probably could use new brake pads.  The loud brakes work to my advantage though when I engage them to slow before passing someone.  They make my presence known.

Pre-Test Checklist

This Saturday is Part 2 of 3 of my Black Belt test.  It is the longest and most involved part, and once I get past this, it’s fairly smooth sailing.  Let’s see how prepared I am (everything needs to be turned in on Saturday):

Test Application – not filled out yet

Essay – half-way done

Test Fee – don’t want to think about it

Kukkiwon Application – complete except for my head shot

Community Service project – almost done, and write up needs to be completed, with pictures

Requirements – I feel pretty good about them.

I need to know a lot and went through all of the requirements yesterday at my private lesson.  I was happy that any mistakes I made were not the kind that will count in the test.  At this point, I feel very comfortable with where I am with everything.  All my Tae Guk poomsae have been fine tuned and committed to memory.  I just hope I don’t botch something simple,  like a white belt technique.

Tonight I’m going to focus on completing my essay and community service project, and tomorrow I’ll focus on the rest of the paperwork.

Flying Without Leaving the Ground

My youngest daughter wanted to ride her bike to school the other day.  I decided to ride with her so I could help her lock up.  My 11 year old left her ID card at home, so I decided that after getting my youngest to school, I would just bike to the junior high school to drop off the ID card.  Why oh why had I not gotten on my bike all summer?

A long time ago, I was riding 15 miles every other day and loving it.  There’s nothing like coasting on a nice downhill stretch to get that feeling of flying.  The wind whistling past my face and the raw, pure feeling of speed.  Recently, I found the blog of one of my old high school friends and she is all about cycling, it’s what she does.  This woman, whom I haven’t talked to in 20 years, has inspired me to hop on my bike for the last three days.  My ass hurts, and I really need to invest in a few pair of padded shorts, but I’m loving it.  I’ve logged a little over 26 miles in the past three days and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

The thing is, my bike is ancient.  It’s an old (over 15 years) Trek 820 mountain bike.  It’s heavy, and it’s slow.  I never go off-road.  The closest I’ll ever get is the crushed limestone on the Illinois Prairie Path.  So of course I’m shopping around for a new bike.  I stopped by my local bike shop (LBS) yesterday to pick the brain of the manager.  I told him that while I enjoy my bike, it’s more for slower family bike rides, I’m looking for something a little zippier and lighter.  I was considering a regular road bike (those are the kind with the super skinny tires), but I couldn’t do any gravel (see:  Illinois Prairie Path) with them.  He suggested I look into a cyclocross bike.  They are lighter than a mountain bike, but built to be a little more rugged than a road bike.  The tires are a bigger diameter than my mountain bike, but they are smoother, with a little tread on them (unlike a road bike, which has smooth tires).  It seems to fit the bill, and I would just need to decide what kind of handlebars to get.  Currently my mountain bike has flat handlebars, which gives me a more upright posture.  The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning toward drop handle bars to give me a little variety in hand positions.

Looking at the price tags, I definitely haven’t gone bike shopping in quite some time.  The cyclocross bikes I saw start at about $800.  Not to mention I need shorts, gloves, and I need to decide what kind of pedals I would get.  If I go for clipless, I need special shoes.  All that would add up fairly quickly.   And I can’t even afford the bike right now.

Maybe if my interest in this continues over the next couple of weeks, I can work out some sort of pre-Christmas arrangement with my mom and dad.

Eight Years Later, It’s Still Easier to Distract Myself

Eight years ago, my husband was in Manhattan on business and I was home with a three year old and 6 month old.  The shock of what happened was such that I didn’t even think about my husband being in the area until my neighbor asked if he was traveling.  Then I was freaking out.  Thankfully, I knew that he wasn’t quite in the same area as the twin towers, but didn’t know how close he was.  After calling his office and getting transferred to the New York office, I was relieved when they even picked up.  I asked the receptionist how far away they were from what was going on, and my heart started beating again when she said “far enough”.  Turns out “far enough” was not as far as I thought, but I’m glad that I had that ignorance then.  It took 6 hours before my husband could reach me, and 4 more days before he managed to get home.  For quite some time afterward, I suffered from increased nightmares and general anxiety (which was a problem even before 9/11).

We have a friend in the naval reserves.  He would constantly send me emails with “Never forget” and pictures of the flaming towers.  I finally had to tell him to stop, and trust me, I would never be able to forget.  I still hate (HATE) seeing pictures of the towers.  When the towers fell, I knew, and said to my neighbor at that time, that we were watching people die.  To me, posting pictures of the burning towers is like posting pictures of a gruesome car wreck that a family died in on the anniversary of their death.  Why would I want to keep ripping a scab off of something that I had to work hard to blunt the edges of?

Last month, I was in Manhattan with my family for a weekend.  We stopped in a church (the name escapes me) that had become a museum, a shrine of sorts to 9/11.  There were photos of loved ones that were lost that day, there were letters and gifts from school children around the world.  I was in there for maybe 5 minutes when I came across some paper origami cranes that were just a sampling of the 10,000 cranes that schoolchildren in Japan made and sent to New York.  The crane is a symbol of peace, and my mind was just blown that so many were made and sent.  My daughter (I don’t even remember which one, at this point I could barely breathe), was asking me about it, and every time I tried to open my mouth, I couldn’t get the words out.  I quickly walked her over to her father and rushed out of there.  I felt foolish, but I hadn’t realized how much I’ve suppressed emotions from that time.  It’s still easier to do.  Thankfully my husband understood.  Even eight years later, it was too soon for me to be so immersed in remembrance.

So forgive me if I don’t immerse myself in 9/11 memorials, TV specials, etc.  It’s not that I want to forget, it’s that I remember it all too clearly.