Thursday, October 27, 2011

Antisocial Butterfly


I recently discovered a new (well, new to me anyways) blog that I love. On the surface, we seem to have nothing in common (she's a stay-at-home mom, a lover of sparkly pink clothing and makeup, and addicted to trashy TV, while I have no kids--unless you count the four-footed variety--wear barely any makeup, and don't have cable). But every now and then she'll write something that proves she may be the only person in the world who completely gets me.

Case in point: http://www.confessionsofacookbookqueen.com/2010/10/cinnamon-sugar-pumpkin-blossoms/

Like the Cookbook Queen, there's nothing I despise more than drop-in visitors. I blame my mother for this, because we used to spend half the weekend lounging around in our bathrobes, and whenever the doorbell rang, we'd hide. I'm sure this seemed like a super-fun game when I was a kid.

My mother is also responsible for teaching me that you can't have visitors unless your house is perfect. This means no errant cat hair, no stray scraps of laundry, and no dust. (Also no chairs with claw marks or drywall in need of repair.) As the Cookbook Queen writes in her post, people say they don't care what your house looks like, but they do. This became abundantly clear to me when I had friends over to play games one Sunday night. Unexpectedly, a woman decided she should move one of my couches to improve the seating arrangements. Well, I hadn't thought to clean under the couches (I have a life, people!), and somehow my two cats had managed to create a third kitty of hair under there. Disgusting. The woman immediately pointed this out, and called me on it in front of everyone. Needless to say, this chick is not my friend anymore. :)

I've gone to ridiculous lengths to avoid unexpected guests. I haven't admitted this to many people, and I'm not proud of it, but when I was in my early twenties, I did something pretty bizarre. My roommate and I had given our notice to the Landlord from Hell, so said hellish landlord decided to show our place to prospective new tenants...without notice. I was working from home, in my bathrobe, of course (I'm quite partial to bathrobes), when a real estate agent with a couple in tow showed up at the door. I didn't have a lot of time, and I knew they'd be touring the entire house, so I ran down to the basement and hid in a giant packing box for an hour...just to avoid them. True story. (Or perhaps it's a hypothetical situation. You decide.)

When The Boy moved in with me, he was very much an open-door policy sort of person. I quickly cured him of that. In my neighbourhood, if someone turns up at your door unannounced, there are four possibilities:

  • A drunk from the Marion or Chalet Hotels who lost his way.
  • People selling scams, vacuums, or religion.
  • People who want money for a ride to Selkirk because their wife is giving birth in a hospital there and they can't afford to get to her otherwise. (These callers usually occur from between 1-4 a.m., so they're easy to spot.)
  • Census takers and water-meter readers.
So you see, it's just best in all cases not to open the door. In my world, friends are people who call first.

How do you feel about unexpected guests? Are you like the Walsh family, or more of the hide-in-a-cardboard-box person? What's the most embarrassing uninvited guest moment you've had?

Special thanks to the Cookbook Queen for letting me know I'm not alone! Love this woman.

Thanks also to Graeme Balchin for the incredible artwork.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

End of the Road


It's hard to believe that the end of the road is almost here. In just two short weeks, I'll be stepping into the ring for the first time. And shortly after that, fight camp will be over.

Where did the time go?

In some ways, I'm ready for a break. I've been noticing that it's harder to drag my body to the gym these days--there were at least two days this week when I was really tempted to play hooky. But once I'm there, I always have a great time and feel so much better.

I'm tired of lugging my sixty pound bag of gear everywhere, and monitoring my weight and every single thing I eat to make sure I'm still on track. I dearly miss my boyfriend and friends, not to mention free time to do whatever the heck I want without feeling guilty. And writing...yes, I kind of miss that, too.

But there will also be a lot to miss about fight camp. I'll miss being that driven towards a fitness goal. In the past, if I was feeling lazy, there was nothing to stop me from taking a day off. These days, no matter how I feel, skipping a workout is not an option. I've developed tons of discipline.

I'll miss the high level of our training (Level 1 will definitely not be the same after this), and all the specialized attention. In some ways, fight camp is like having a personal training session almost every day. I'll miss the camaraderie of a group of people who are just as dedicated, just as determined, and just as tired and injured. There's comfort to be taken in knowing others are in the same boat along with you, that someone besides you cares whether or not you succeed. I've learned to separate the emotion from the training, and recognize that when someone is being hard on me, it means they care--not that they hate my guts or have had a bad day.

I'll also miss the excitement. I've never been good with boring ol' routine, and even though fight camp means working out almost everyday, there's always something new to learn, always some scary drill I haven't tried (Olivia made me practice my footwork while moving backwards on a treadmill the other day), and of course, the excitement and trepidation of the upcoming fight always on the horizon. It's kept life interesting and challenging. Don't be surprised if I immediately come up with another goal to keep me busy once fight camp is over. Pushing yourself can become addictive if you let it.

No matter what happens on November 5th, I know I will look back on this experience with pride and be very happy I went for it. It was worth the aches and pains, the bruises, and the fear. It was worth sacrificing every other interest I have for a year.

In many ways, I will miss it when it's over.

Friday, October 14, 2011

MVP or MIP?


I used to date this guy who loved sports. It wasn't unusual for him to wear his filthy New Jersey Devils cap everywhere, even to bed. He was fanatical about cheering on his team, and when he played a sport himself, he gave it everything he had. When he took up pool, he bought his own cue and carried it around in a pretentious little case, despite my merciless teasing.

Mike's love for sports was much greater than his ability. He was never the best skater or shooter on his hockey team. He was far from the fastest on his running team. He didn't have the most coordination on his ultimate and soccer teams. But he went to every game, he never missed a practice, and he always did his best. And, win or lose, he had fun.

I grew up in a town where participating in team sports was reserved for those who were athletically gifted. Mike was the first person I met who played every sport he could--and enjoyed doing so--even though his talents were average at best. One thing he told me that will always stick with me is this: "I may never be the Most Valuable Player, but I can always be the Most Improved."

Mike won the medal for Most Improved player many times, but far more important to him was the sheer joy of playing his sports. There's never been a game that man doesn't love, and for him, staying active is the way he lives a life less ordinary.

I've been thinking of Mike and his MIP ambitions a lot lately. It's easy to get down on ourselves when we're learning a new skill, or struggling with something that is difficult. But instead of expecting perfection, what if we just strive for improvement each and every day?

There's no shame in being the most improved player. It shows growth, it shows determination, and above all, it shows heart. The person who has to work damn hard to achieve success grows so much more than the one who hit it out of the park his first time at bat.

I knew from the start that I wouldn't be the most skilled fight camper. There are many things I can't control: my height, my reach, my experience, my natural ability. But what I can control is how hard I train, how much I want to succeed, and how much I put into my sport.

Like my dear friend Mike, I'm striving to be the MIP. Win or lose, no one will ever be able to say that I didn't give it my all.

And where's the shame in that?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's About Bloomin' Time


Hello Dear Readers,

Were you a late bloomer or an early bloomer? In my experience, early bloomers are easy to spot: they are those people you occasionally meet who always find some excuse to talk about the good ol' days--i.e. high school. These are the former jocks, cheerleaders, the old popular crowd of the great Alma Mater. Maybe even some of the "brains" who received top marks in every assignment, were well-liked by everyone (especially their teachers), and voted Most Likely to Succeed by their peers. The Brandon Walshes of the world.

Late bloomers tend to be more difficult to spot, because unless you've known them for their entire lives, they seem to have always been this awesome. Many people hit their stride as adults, and as a result of their not-so-satisfactory high school experience, they often have a down-to-earth humility which is admirable. Once you've been picked last for gym team, you're not bound to forget the experience. That alone can make you more sympathetic than your early bloomer cohorts. However, the treatment you receive in your youth can mean your confidence takes a beating.

Anyone who follows this blog will not be surprised to learn that I consider myself a late bloomer. I envy the idyllic adolescence of early bloomers, but I've been a bit saddened by the ones who can't seem to move past their first taste of success. If high school represents the pinnacle of your life, what is there to look forward to in the future? Is being captain of the football team really as good as it gets? For some, perhaps.

When I was a kid, quite a few people called me weird. Now my so-called "out-of-the-box" thinking is appreciated and even admired. I was always picked last for gym teams, and even hid on dark stairwells to escape participating in team sports. (The Cat Ate My Gymsuit was one of my favorite books at the time.) Now I'm regularly referred to as an athlete, a description that still startles me (and makes me very proud, because it was so hard earned). I was always a writer, but back then, I couldn't get a summer job working at my small town paper. Now I've written for some of the best and biggest papers in the country. Pretty good for a late bloomer. ;)

There's still so much I haven't accomplished; so much I have left to do. I hope I get the opportunity to do it all. In retrospect, I suppose it doesn't matter if you bloom late or bloom early, just as long as you keep blooming.

And know that your best achievements are still around the corner. Gives you something to look forward to.

Were you an early bloomer or a late bloomer? What was your high school experience like?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

She Who Hesitates


It doesn't matter how much time passes, or how dated the clothes and hairstyles are. The original Karate Kid, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita, will always rank right up there with the most inspiring movies I have ever seen. (Don't even talk to me about that mockery of a remake with Will Smith's son--ugh!)

There's a moment in The Karate Kid where Mr. Miyagi talks to Daniel about the dangers of hesitation.

"Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do "yes", or karate do "no". You karate do "guess so", sooner or later, get squish just like grape. Understand?"

My greatest barrier to achieving success in sparring has been the same. I hesitate, I think too much, I throw out a half-hearted kick that is too slow and/or too weak, and I get the squish, just like grape.

I think this lesson can be applied to many areas in life, not just martial arts. How many of you know a person who seems to lead a charmed life? This guy (or girl) takes incredible risks, but somehow, they always seem to end up okay. I have friends who've sold everything they've owned to move across the country for true love, or to discover a completely new life in Africa. They gave up steady jobs, nice homes, and even their pets in order to follow their dreams, and I've never once heard them regret it.

We tend to regret the things we haven't done much more than anything we've tried and failed. It's human nature to be afraid of failure, afraid of getting hurt, afraid of looking foolish. But the truth is, we learn by making mistakes and the only way to truly know if something is for us is to try it.

But try it wholeheartedly. Seize that new career. Send that novel you've been keeping in your closet to a publisher. Get in the ring and throw a few punches.

Just don't hesitate, or sooner or later, you'll get the squish...just like grape.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fight Camp: Three More Weeks


Where did the time go? It's hard to believe, but I have only three more weeks of hard training before my fight.

When this fight camp began, I wondered why anyone would ever sign up twice. This isn't for me, I told The Boy. I need more balance in my life.

And now here I am, in the home stretch, and looking back, the experience doesn't seem that difficult. I had the opportunity to bond with some really great people. I received personalized attention from my kru. I enjoyed some challenging but far from impossible workouts. I lost fat and gained muscle. And I learned A LOT.

I never thought I would say this, but fight camp has gone by too fast. Part of me wishes I could start it all over again. But mostly, I'm just glad I had the opportunity to be a part of it. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone who applies for fight camp is chosen. For me, it was a long, hard road. I had to apply at least three times before I got in, and now I see that I wasn't ready before. You really have to be willing to sacrifice everything else in your life in order to be successful.

Since the end of the road is so (terrifyingly) close, it's natural for the fighters to be asking ourselves the BIG question: will I be ready?

My coach Olivia has a great response to this: "With a month more of training, you could always be more ready. But the important thing to remember is that you will be ready. You will be as ready as you could possibly be at that point in time."

Then she goes on to razz me about how I should have fought a long time ago, etc...but her first statement is still valid. :)

The toughest part of this journey for me has been the mental aspect. But I'm coming to a point where I'm tired of being scared, tired of worrying, tired of being concerned and intimidated.

I'm accepting that I have what it takes to be a fighter, for better or worse. Bring it on, already!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thankful



It's that time of year again in Canada.  In celebration of Thanksgiving, a lot of us will be sitting in front of a turkey dinner at some point this weekend.

How many of you take a moment during the holiday to actually give thanks? I know we never did in my house. Thanksgiving was all about food, food, and more food. It may be a cheesy convention that only exists in fiction, but I think it's a great idea to go around the table and have everyone mention at least one thing they're thankful for.

Since Thanksgiving Monday is a holiday, I most likely won't be blogging. So welcome to my table a few days early.

Here are just a few things I'm grateful for:

  • The most beautiful summer and fall this city has ever known. Do you know it was over 30 degrees Celsius here the other day? In October! Unheard of. And if any place deserves a break in the weather department, it's Winnipeg.
  • The Boy who supports me and my crazy training schedule, who makes the healthy salads I eat for lunch each day and packs up the cottage cheese in reusable containers, and who deals with cleaning the kitty boxes and all the other things I don't have time for these days...without (much) complaint.
  • My friends, who continue to cheer me on, even though a lot of them haven't seen me for some time. I include my four-legged friends, who see me more often, and who bring so much joy to my life.
  • My kru (coach), who has been there for me 100 percent through this process. I am so grateful for his support.
  • Being in the best shape of my life. I'm wearing a pair of white! pants with stripes that I've never worn before because the slightest flaw or bulge made them unflattering. If anything, they're a little too big now. Incredible!
  • This Sunday, during which I plan to do absolutely nothing but relax. Ahhh....
  • Being out of debt, and having a roof over my head and good (if limited) food to eat.
  • Having the opportunity to challenge and push myself harder than ever before. It's a blessing, even through all the devastating lows and self-doubt I've experienced.
  • Good books and hot baths.
  • Autumn air.
  • Sunshine.
  • All of you. Happy Thanksgiving!
What are you grateful for?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Unfettered Genuis


When I was in high school, my father surprised me with a real treat. He rented an Apple IIe for the summer so I could type out my novel on a real computer, save it on discs, and print out as many copies as I wanted. If I made a mistake, all I had to do was hit the delete key. What a luxury! This was in the olden days, kids, when very few people had home computers, discs were the size of dinner plates, and if you wanted more than one copy of a document, chances were you used something called carbon paper, which left black smudges on everything and necessitated the invention of another now-obsolete product--Wite-Out.

After my summer with the Apple IIe, I was hard-pressed to return to the typewriter. I'd never heard of Steve Jobs back then, but from the time I was fifteen years old, he was making a difference in my life. Today, the way I listen to music, the laptop I covet, and probably dozen of other things I'm not even aware of were directly influenced by him.

Until the man passed away, I had no idea that he was more quotable than Mark Twain. All day long, social media outlets have been flooded with his words--words that are more brilliant and perceptive than most. How sad that we lost such a great thinker at such a young age (and yes, kids, 56 is young--you will find out soon enough).

Beyond his gift for innovation and his skill with words, I love that he was a champion for the rebel, the dreamer, the kid at the back of the classroom who is always getting in shit for not following the rules. I was that kid, and I can tell you firsthand that creativity isn't often appreciated in a world where we're expected to color in the lines and follow the leader. But maybe, with more people like Jobs blazing a trail, creative people will start being seen as a solution instead of a problem. I sincerely hope so, because--take it from me--sitting in the corner is not a fun experience.

If we can learn anything from Steve Jobs's life and all-too-soon passing, perhaps it is this: life is short. Make yours count.

Be brilliant.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fight Camp Day Twenty-two: The Protector


On Monday, I was waiting in a chiropractor's office to see if my tibia was fractured. As the doctor reviewed my x-rays, I held my breath.

When he told me the leg looked good, it was a huge relief. I've been down this road before...so close to fighting, only to break my wrist.

If it had been fractured, it would have been game over for me. Maybe some people would fight with a fractured leg, but I'm not one of them. I don't want this bad enough to sacrifice my long-term well-being (although I'm probably already doing that, to some extent).

What troubled me was realizing that--as relieved as I was to be able to keep going--I also would have been relieved to stop. And this made me question everything.

My emotions seem to change daily when it comes to fight camp. On some days, I'm determined to do this and looking forward to stepping into that ring. I am proud to think of myself as a kickboxer. On others, I wonder why I want to do this, or whether I actually want to at all.

One of my fellow fight campers loves getting hit in the face. I can't say I feel the same. There are many things I love more than getting hit in the face. For that matter, there are many things I love more than hitting others in the face.

I've been questioning whether or not I am a fighter. I spent some time thinking about everything I've survived in my life. And then I remembered one of my closest friends from childhood.

He was small for his age, but smart, and his diminutive size didn't stop him from speaking his mind. The end result was that other boys were always trying to kick his ass. As fearsome as my friend's temper was, the most intelligent course of action was to run like hell. So while he ran, there was often only one thing standing between an ass-kicking and freedom.

Me.

I was fiercely protective of my friend, and I didn't give a rat's ass who was threatening him. I boldly stepped in front of larger guys, meaner guys, and stronger guys. And I didn't back down. Eventually, they got tired of wrestling with me, and they left my friend alone. I don't remember getting hurt (although mud balls filled with glass were thrown at us one time--ah, the sweet innocence of children!), but even if I had, I know I would have stood my ground the next time. Because that guy they wanted to tear apart was my friend. And no friend of mine was going to get hurt on my watch.

So maybe I'd rather be your friend than beat you up. Maybe I'll use words to find a solution before I'll ever use my fists. Maybe I've seen the damage abusive people do, and would rather die than become one myself.

But when something counts, I can--and will--stand and fight for what I believe in. And that's all that matters.

What brings out the fight in you?