26 May 2011


I know that it seems like I talk about nothing but fighting class lately, but the fact is that I scarcely have time for anything else, between work and getting ready for camping and more work. And I love it. Today we did multiple attacker scenarios, with kickboxing and then gun disarms and choke holds, and then all three together. The instructor spun us around and around and then had people choke us from one side and then the other while we were dizzy, and we had to fight each of them off. We left, as always, exhilarated and unsure which sweat was ours and which belonged to other people.

On the way out the door, I said, "If I had known this was so much fun, I would have started it years ago."

"I know, right?" my classmate said. "Me, too."

Oh, and: I managed to break-fall correctly, twice, even being thrown onto the ground fast and hard. Admittedly, I screwed it up once and my head hit the ground and reverberated for a while. Details. I'm getting better.

23 May 2011


Did I mention that I now have a phone book against which to hit my arms and legs, to calcify the bones so I can better beat people up?

I do. One of my classmates gave it to me.

I also have bruises from it. I have given myself bruises by hitting my arms with a phone book. On purpose.

21 May 2011


I am the worst at falling. "We need an entire class that just consists entirely of throwing M. on the ground," I said at advanced fighting class on Thursday, but I was working with an experienced student who patiently told me to curl up as I fell, and things got instantly better, even though my timing on the slapping the ground as you go down continues to be abysmal. (I just spelled abysmal right on the first try. Major points to me.)

I am also the worst at knife sparring, but really both worsts are understandable because I am the newest in the class, or was, this week. I don't have the first clue what I'm doing with knife sparring - am I just lunging? how am I supposed to know how to feint? - but I have learned that what this class requires is persistence and a refusal to get discouraged. That, and the willingness to drop without argument to do your pushups when you get tagged with the knife, even if your hand is burning from the good thwap it just got, even if you think you might have tagged the other person first.

"Why do you like fighting so much?" S. asked today, on the way back from walking through the woods, and I didn't really have an answer, except that from the first day I went, it was something I could do. It worked, in a way that no other sport ever has, and I keep wanting to go back. Then, too, I feel stronger and more confident now that I can defend myself. Although whether or not I could defend myself in an actual attack is questionable: I periodically fight back when we practice the scenarios, and any of the people who have been doing this for a long time beat me, regardless of whether they are bigger or smaller than me. It is problematic, but I am going to assume that someone who attacks me on the street is generally not going to be a trained fighter. Also, I can really hit them. If they are a trained fighter, though, I'm screwed.


So we walked through the woods today, a straggling crowd of us. Everything was green and growing, and the stream bubbled by happily. At the waterfall, I stood mesmerized. There is something about falling water that makes me feel like I am at the beginning and end of things. I have a hard time dragging myself away.

One end that did not happen, of course, was the rapture. The church I grew up in did not believe in the rapture, so I don't know that much about it, but I did work in a Christian bookstore in high school and I learned some things, mainly by reading that awful Left Behind series (I only made it through the first book; the writing was too terrible to continue, and also I did not care about the characters enough to pick up the second or third or forty-seventh one.). I do know enough to know that the rapture didn't happen today, or that if it did, so few people were taken that the rest of us have yet to notice that they are gone.

I was sitting on my porch at the appointed rapture time, talking to a friend, turning my face up toward the strange yellow object in the sky. (Some of you who see it more often may know it as the sun. We don't see it often enough here to recognize it.) We didn't even notice that the alleged rapture time had passed.


When I get out of Universe City, out in the trees and mosses of this beautiful state, I catch myself hoping that I never have to leave. The state, not the city. But it lasts only until I see a photo of Africa on my screensaver, no longer.

20 May 2011


I left kung fu sparring class a little early to get ready for the Church Ladies Book Group. (I had already jammed my hurt toe again, anyway, when my sparring partner blocked my kick.) I raced home to put scones (previously frozen) into the oven, sweep the floor, put away the last few dishes and the dishrack, and turn on the kettle.

Except that I forgot the kettle until the ladies had arrived. But overall it was a smashing success. The cheddar garlic scones and coconut scones received great acclamation, as did the spicy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

People apparently like the things I bake, which seems strange to me. I like them, obviously, or I wouldn't keep baking them, but when other people rave about them, I'm always somewhat surprised. "You like them, too?" I want to say. "Are you sure?" But entire boxes of cookies disappear when I put them on the counter at work, and so does the coca-cola cake. These people must be telling the truth when they say that they like them.

Or is that just what you have to say? I guess not - people have actually looked me up to tell me how wonderful things were. They could have just avoided the topic. I dunno. I like them, though, and I'm happy to feed other people. It's very satisfying, in a rushing world, to stir something with your own hands (I rarely use a mixer, even now that we have two of them in this house), and to wait for something to bake, and to share it with other people.

19 May 2011

Cultural Events

My roommate M. works for an organization that puts on Cultural Events, and periodically she invites me to be her date for one. They tend to be on Thursday night about half an hour after advanced fighting class ends, so I take off my sweaty fighting clothes, freshen up the deodorant, throw on a dress, and head to a Cultural Event.

As I was getting into my car tonight, leaving fighting class for the Cultural Event, I mentioned to my classmate, also an M., where I was going. She said that she always feels tough after fighting class, and it might not mix well with Culture.

That is not, interestingly, a problem that I have, at all. I can shut the fighting part off like a bulb when I leave the studio. I sat in the Cultural Event and let the music flow over me. A while ago, some of M.'s friends were critiquing a prior Cultural Event and one of them asked me what I thought. "I thought it was beautiful," I said. "I really don't know enough about music to say anything more than that. I just sat back and enjoyed it." And so I did again tonight.

Segue-less return to prior topic: I also feel no less girly now that I fight for fun, which I would have thought I would. In fact, because I feel more confident in what my body can do (i.e., kick ass), I feel more feminine, because women are strong and capable.

That, and there is no way to learn to love your body like seeing it in a studio mirror four days a week. Didn't like it before? You'd better learn now.

18 May 2011


I have lost my ability to put words on a page, and I blame Scrabble. Everything was fine as long as I was unable to download Scrabble onto my ipod touch, Winnie. (Winnie replaced Wilbur. Wilbur now lives with my sister. Wilbur replaced Wallace, the ipod whose grave is that pit latrine in Southern Sudan.) For a long time, I was unable to download Scrabble because it costs money, and my identity had been stolen by someone making purchases in New Jersey, and it took me six months to activate the new debit card the bank sent me, which I finally did a few weeks ago and now I have to spend every spare second playing Scrabble or I will get yelled at by the approximately seven people with whom I'm currently playing multiple games, at least two per person. (The only reason that doesn't make 14 games is that some games have more than two players.) Oh, I'm only playing one game with Guest 21394873948723 or whatever her/his name is, the random person who started a random game with me.


Also, I'm going broke on account of fighting class and kung fu. Like, my toe keeps getting jammed, right? So I had to buy mat shoes. And doing laundry to keep my single kung fu uniform clean was getting out of hand. So I had to buy another gi. I also need sparring gear for kung fu and for boxing (they are different), as well as boxing gloves. And once I have all that stuff, I need a bag to carry it around in.

I have the following gear: one mouthpiece.

My collection is not very impressive. I have to borrow gear every single time. It gets kind of embarrassing, and also a little disgusting, because gear gets sweaty over and over. I have actually put on borrowed boxing gloves that were wet on the inside from the last sweaty person.

One time was enough.

16 May 2011

week in review


The evening sun shone sideways through the window - I always forget how quickly the evenings get so very long here, come spring - and we sat talking about how to know when things are dangerous, and what you should know before you travel. S. is going to Liberia soon and so was asking me about the country, and the other S. looked at me shrewdly after a few minutes of conversation.

"You want to go back, don't you? You aren't going to last here long."


Fighting class, kung fu, I don't know.


Advanced fighting class was canceled, and I took my bike out for the first time this spring, in that same sideways evening light. I wanted to go to rei, and I remembered how I used to use my bike for transportation instead of just for riding in circles, so I pumped up the tires and checked the lights, and off I went. It was easy on the way there, all downhill and smooth. I spent far too long studying hiking backpacks, and then finally I paid for one (it is to arrive in the mail soon) just as the store closed, so I had to ride back uphill in the dark, on the long, unending, winding road to my house. I stopped for a car. I started again, so slowly that I ran into the curb. I started again, and again. Finally, at the turn onto my street, I walked my bike for a few dozen feet, lungs and legs screaming, before climbing back on to finish the route.


I almost made the girl cutting my hair cry. (In fairness, I almost cried myself when she chopped three or four inches off a huge chunk of my hair that I did not want cut so short, or so much of it short.)

"Um," I said, "I am kind of panicking over how much you just cut off. Didn't we say long layers?"

I made up for it by giving her an obscenely large tip.


I needed a kleenex, and the bathroom was full - the whole living area was full, in fact - so I darted into the K. parents' bathroom to grab one. On the way in, I slammed my knee into the footboard of the bed, and crumpled over in that can't-breath-nothing-exists-but-pain manner to which I have become rather too accustomed since beginning fighting class. (Usually it is my toe; the sensation is the same.)

I spent some time contemplating the fact that I run into things constantly, my general clumsiness, as it were, and I reached a conclusion: I am rushing through life. I need to slow down.

My knee is an awfully vibrant purple with little darker dots.

Later, over cigars to celebrate B.'s graduation, F. told us how he had accidentally sent a message, intended for S., to the man he had just met with about a contract. It said, "Ask Princess to recommend a good contract lawyer."

I'm not even fighting the Princess thing anymore.


Just as the sermon started, I handed N. a zot in church, a pink one. It was watermelon flavored. A few moments later, he jumped nearly out of the pew, and I couldn't look at him for five minutes, because we were both laughing so hard we almost couldn't sit up.

"I knew it was going to fizz," he said after church, "but I didn't expect so much fizz so suddenly."

I tried ribs for the first time ever at lunch, and everyone watched me taking little nibbles off the forkful of meat. "Delicious?" someone asked. It actually was, as long as I could forget that it was pig on my fork.

On the drive back to Universe City, I almost missed the county line, where usually I despair over the fact that I am returning here, because of the rainbows appearing and disappearing and reappearing again over to the east as the sun set through the rain.


I have grown accustomed to checking my car for flat tires just about every time I get in it. I live with a constant suspicion that something is wrong with one of the tires, and as they say, it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Another one was flat today. Not, fortunately, the one that I just replaced three weeks ago, for there would have been swearing, but the other rear tire. I drove slowly to the tire place and once again - once again! I've only had this car for seven and a half months! - spent my lunch hour contemplating racks of tires while the tire guys fixed my tire.

Apparently it had taken on a piece of metal.

I am beginning to despise my tires.

(Random side note: in the middle of typing this post, I had to restart my computer. The v, c, and h keys had stopped working. Try typing without them. It's harder than it looks.)

09 May 2011

The mirror at the martial arts studio informed me today of something that I had barely noticed before: I am incredibly pale. I mean, don't get me wrong, I know that I come from northern European stock, where the sun shines as little for much of the year as it does here and the people are approximately the color of the new-fallen snow (it's for camouflage in the snow, I am quite certain), but for most of my life I either 1. lived in Africa, or 2. was in school and had summers free to be outside.

I guess I didn't quite realize that my natural skin color is quite as, er, putty-like as it actually is. This is a scarily white town with very little truly warm sunshine, and most of my fighting class, and the larger kung fu class, is pretty pale, and it's barely the end of winter here, but I am quite possibly the palest of them all. The palest of them ALL. This never happened to me in the Dutch-land of West Michigan. I could always count on someone (eh-hem, my sister) to be paler than me.

I don't like it. I also, however, do not like skin cancer, not that I've had it but of course I do not want to have it, and so the pale will likely continue. Even when I go to warm places, we now all wear that cursed sunscreen paste to protect ourselves from the flaring sun, and those of us misfortunate (shut up, that's a word; because I say so) enough to be born of the people from the northern part of Europe, we stay the color of the off-white wall.

I miss my tan.

I also continue to maintain that skin this light is just not practicable for survival in the real world. The sun will kill off all the people with too little melatonin to fend off its rays. There is nothing but sunscreen we can do about it, and really, we all get sunburned despite that stuff, anyway. Pale skin = wimpy, by necessity. I am not sure what evolution was thinking.

08 May 2011

death by flowers

I didn't make church this morning. Universe City is trying to kill me, what with the spring bursting out and the awful pollen-y flowers everywhere. (I am all the more frustrated because I love the flowers, and the spring, and I would be out in them if they did not make me want to die from the unending headache.) So when I woke up still feeling awful, I went back to sleep.

I woke up marginally refreshed two hours later, blew copious amounts of yellow snot out of my nose, took some ibuprofen, and went to an extremely woo-woo dance/yoga/tai chi class. This is the woo-woo stuff your momma warned you about, people, except maybe not my momma, because she thought it was funny when I told her about it. People talked about things like, "I am pure love. I am pure brilliance," and then we crawled on the floor and danced about throwing our hands in the air.

Pretty much the only part I was good at was the part where we did two kung fu poses and punched the air (kung fu poses to dance class by way of tai chi, I think). The rest of the time I just sort of aimlessly waved my arms about and looked kind of dumb. I am too tall for these sorts of gracefullness-requiring things. Then, too, I was wearing what I wear to fighting class, which is knee-length tight-ish exercise pants and a red racer-back tank with my martial arts school logo on it. Everyone else was wearing flowing things and pretty light colors. I might as well have carried a sign that said, "I beat people up" into a room full of pacifists.

Speaking of which, I went to kung fu sparring on Friday night, after just having done boxing sparring the night before, and nothing is more confusing to one's muscle memory than spending one evening learning combinations involving throwing a hook and then the next night being told that there is no hook in kung fu and how about you try a back fist instead?

There is no back fist in fighting class. My brain was massively confused. I'm still not sure I actually even know what a back fist is.

If I ever get in a real fight on the street, I am using that hook. I might as well practice it every chance I get.

05 May 2011

remedial kung fu

I am frustrated with kung fu, or maybe with myself. Kung fu does not come very instinctively to me. Fighting class feels much more natural. I can punch punch punch as hard as I can, yes, fine, and go home exhausted and happy, but to stand there with my knees bent at that angle, just holding the stance, that hurts, and it doesn't feel like a position that anyone would want to be in, for any reason.

Plus, I'm in remedial kung fu. My knees hurt so badly that when the other students practice the forms the instructor calls me over to the side and gives me exercises to practice to strengthen the muscles around my knees, and between that and the fact that I just this week figured out how not to be delirious and blind with hunger by the end of kung fu when everyone is practicing the forms,* I don't know them at all. Not even the first form we were doing, and now we have partially moved on to a new one.

I am frustrated. I want to quit, sometimes, but my stubbornness kicks in, along with the knowledge that it's good for me and for my body to persist at this new, unfamiliar thing.

"Do you know how long it takes to earn a black belt?" my instructor asked me.

"No," I said.

"It takes five years, at least. [Co-owner] has been doing it for seven years, and she's a green belt. You should feel like it's not working, sometimes. That is when you are learning."

* Nature Valley Crunchy granola bars save my life again.

04 May 2011


A group of us went to dinner on Friday night at a seafood place on the coast. It wasn't a fish-and-chips sort of seafood place, but a gumbo sort of seafood place. The four people at our table, a table that swung out from the wall so that we were sitting on three sides of it, all had big bowls of marinara or gumbo or cioppino in front of us when the table fell off the wall.

It was my end of the table that fell off the wall, and my marinara sauce spilled onto my leg and arm, but the bowl didn't fall. The guy next to me got a full plate of pasta right in his lap (photos were taken), and the two people at the other end of the table were fine.

We got free dessert, and the pasta-in-lap guy got his dinner for free, and later on one of the people at the table said, "That has never happened to me before, that a table just fell like that."

"You haven't gone to dinner with me enough, then," I said. "Things like that happen to me all the time."

02 May 2011


The sun was out at the coast this weekend, and S. and I sat outside at a cafe for brunch, toying with the idea of ditching our jobs and becoming beach bums, if only the paychecks would keep coming.

Instead, of course, we finished our coffee and eggs, and then walked along the beach until we found a spot where we could lay back in the grass out of the wind, and tried to soak up the light.

I felt almost alive again, until I crossed the county line coming back, and had to turn away from the water and the setting sun.