21 12 2011

We met on an elevator at work, of all places. I actually made a real effort NOT to notice him because I couldn’t bear having to tell my mother that I met a guy on an elevator. Mom has very specific ideas about dating and none of those ideas involve elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks or even the bus. As best I can figure she only approves of men that her daughters meet at cocktail parties or in line at the DMV. She’s nothing if not whimsical.

Point being, it was my third day of work. My arms were full of paperwork and a small bunch of flowers for my cubicle. I felt him try and make eye contact but I purposefully didn’t notice. I squared up my shoulders and resolve and promised myself I would not engage in conversation.

Of course, I underestimated James.

To this day he claims he didn’t do it on purpose. As the elevator started moving he pushed my elbow and my armful of papers and flowers fell to the ground. We both stooped to pick them up and I found myself staring right into the most perfect eyes ever made.

“I am so sorry!” He efficiently gathered my stuff and stood, still holding the pile. “Please accept my apology.”

More than a little flummoxed I smiled but said nothing.

“I’m James.” He holding the my papers carefully but made a move to hand them back. The elevator’s sudden stop knocked the flowers off the top of the pile. He handed me my papers then snatched up the posy.

It was my floor. I smiled again and reached out a hand for the flowers. “I’m Sarah.”

I left the elevator quickly, embarrassed somehow by the encounter.

It took me twenty minutes to get my mind back on my work that day. According to James it took HIM two hours.

For the next three months we rode the elevator together every morning. After two weeks I had figured out that he left much later than I. As a low-level programmer my shifts at the start-up software company were vastly different from James law-career-induced hours.

But we saw each other every morning. Exchanging a smile and maybe a few words. Once he brought a coffee that he claimed was “extra”. I took it and couldn’t bear to tell him that I never drank the stuff. The gesture was too kind for honesty. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Every Woman Should Try Martial Arts

15 08 2011

If you have spoken to me in the past five months you have heard me gushing about Kempo. Kempo, for those of you who are unaware, is a martial art that is a mixture of karate and kung-fu. It is strike-based, versus Jujistu, for example, which is primarily grappling. The second law of Kempo is “strike first”. Basically, once you’ve assessed that someone is a threat don’t wait for him to hit you!

I have strong feelings about martial arts, and my dojo/lineage in particular. Given the opportunity I would shout to the hills the wonderful benefits of Kempo for the average Jill. (The average Joe I cannot speak for- I know only one Joe and he seems to be rather un-average.) So, for all you gals out there, I’m going to break it down and explain why I think you should visit a Z-Ultimate dojo.

1) The People My biggest trepidation before trying martial arts was not “will I fall on my face” or “will I make a fool out of myself” or “are they gonna hurt me”. Knowing myself those were automatically going to be “yes”. No, my concern was “Is this going to be some kind of macho club where the boys are boss and spare time is spent chanting to Buddha?”. It took only a few moments for those fears to be put to rest. There are a few rituals- bowing and so forth, but nary a Buddha in sight and no suburban Vin Diesels leaking testosterone onto the carpet. Quite the contrary, with very limited exceptions, every person I have spoken to at karate has been fun, funny, positive and encouraging. Even when someone is pummeling you to powder they are doing it with a smile on their face and narrating HOW you can improve.

2) The Combination Ego Boost/Constant Humbling Our teacher is particularly awesome at being encouraging but all the teachers are great. If you do something wrong they correct you, sometimes with a good-natured laugh at your incompetence. Occasionally you will fail EPICLY and the whole place will dissolve into hopeless laughter. Once, I literally ran into someone’s fist while sparring. You can imagine. My Sensei was almost on the floor laughing. But when you turn around and do something truly well, the praise is enthusiastic and lavish. It’s a great atmosphere overall.

3) The fitness Two words: weight loss. Two more words: strength training. Since beginning training five months ago I have lost almost 15 pounds, my cardio stamina is vastly increased and I’m a lot stronger. If you invest your effort and show up to class, you’ll be amazed at the results. Honestly, girls, bikini season never looked so good. In fact, I’ve been mourning our rainy summer because I have a four-pack and it never gets a chance to be appreciated.

4) Fear Factor Growing up I was no fragile flower. I climbed trees, jumped off of stuff, did flips on trampolines, chopped wood, built forts- the whole shebang. But neither did I take crazy risks. There was never a moment where I thought “hey if I hold a sheet while jumping out my second story window I bet I can fly!”. Thus, I have never really tested my physical limits. Like most women, I have been subtly afraid of pain. It’s an insidious fear, incidentally, and pervasive amongst my sex. Flash forward to kempo. Last week I took two punches straight to the sternum from a man who was 1) twice my size 2) probably thrice my strength and 3) PISSED OFF because I’d just punched him repeatedly in the groin. Needless to say his punches were NOT love taps. And you know what? I’m ok. Bruised, sure, but unbroken. Through many similar experiences I have learned that my body can take quite a lot of punishment. The fear is gone.

I understand that a lot of women will not take to martial arts. It’s punishing and difficult and there ARE those men out there who will take out their insecurity on you. But your teachers have your back always and I have never ever felt unsafe at the dojo. I cannot recommend martial arts enough. The confidence-boost, the newfound safety in one’s own skin, the health benefits and camaraderie are all unique.

So try it out. And let me know how it goes. Maybe in a few months we can get together and compare bruises.

Art, Martial Arts

7 07 2011

A little over a month ago I was driving home from karate exercising my ability to dream. “What,” I asked myself, “is your perfect way to spend next year?” The answer was instantaneous, “art class during the day and karate at night”. The whole concept was so exciting that I went home and looked up places to take art classes.

Now, it’s not quite as easy as enrolling in University. Primarily because University art courses are… shall we say… lacking. If I wanted to sit in a room and listen to someone drone on about Art History I’d go to University. Since I actually want to improve my SKILL SET, I needed something else. Enter The Gage Academy. For those of you who know the art world, it’s an Atelier. For those who can’t even pronounce “Atelier”, it’s an apprenticeship. The student spends 30-40 hours a week in their corner of the studios completing assignments and being critiqued.  Learning through DOING. It’s not officially decided but I did get accepted and I would love to go.

Also, Fins Bistro has put me on the list of artists. I’ll be having a show down there during the month of August. Of course, as of the 30 day mark I had not one single painting prepared. Luckily I paint fast so I should be ok.

In the world of martial arts things are moving on apace. I’m a yellow belt now and had my first night of sparring last night. (You’ll never know what a thrill it is for an ex-ballerina to own a mouth guard!) Naturally, most of the night was spent in “flailing newb” mode, but there was a lot of learning happening so I don’t mind. You can bet I’ll be at every sparring class between now and the tournament. If I’m going to pay the entrance fee and buy the sparring gear I better freaking win at least once!

My love of kempo continues undimmed in the face of a bruised/broken second toe, a collection of bruises and bumps that span the colours of the rainbow and a bunch of strained neck muscles. What I do not love is sparring with guys who take one look at me and go into “got something to prove” mode. Frankly guys, I’m a YELLOW BELT, you don’t have to throw a punch like Muhammad Ali in order to break my guard. I’m not that skilled. Just take a deep breath and be sneaky instead of coming at me with brute force. Please. Kthanksbye.

Point being, life is good.

Everyone’s got a Fortress

5 06 2011

Growing up I had a deep and abiding desire to be Superman. Not because of the flying or the super strength or even the excellent hair (though it IS excellent) but rather because he had a super cool second home. That’s right- I was jealous of the Fortress of Solitude. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I still am completely jealous of the caped-man’s ice palace.

It’s been an interesting month. Begun with great disappointment, filled with work of various kinds, and replete with new and happy experiences. You can imagine the appeal of a far-removed and silent room. The older I get, though, the more I am able to remember that everyone who knows the Lord HAS a fortress of solitude. It’s an interior castle and easily accessed.

In other news the latest show at the Theatre has been more enjoyable than I anticipated. I’ve found some really good sorts among the cast and enjoy my nightly talks with various people. I’ve learned a few things about kung fu movies and horrified everyone with my karate bruises. Today I had to have one of my old buddies smell-check my hair. (The guy behind the theatre has a smoker and when I went outside to do the recycling I came in smelling of woodsmoke and bacon. Luckily we determined that as long as no-one smelt my hair I’d be ok).

It’s hard for me to find  the right blog topics. When things are going well I haven’t the time to write and when things are hard I am wary of “spilling my guts” all over the internet. Especially when the people who read this would gain little from full disclosure.

Suffice it to say that work is an emotional challenge, karate is continuously awesome and JCS is a twice-weekly ego boost.

For your amusement: Dreams

4 04 2011

My journal used to be like everyone else’s journal on the planet. It included brief entries regarding important events, hopes, frustrations, wishes and the occasional sketch. Sometime over the last two years it has turned into almost purely a “dream” book. Not a “I want a house where all the walls are floor to ceiling bookshelves” kind of dreams- the kind you get during a good REM cycle.

In the absence of anything extraordinary to report I will copy verbatim some dreams as written down in aforementioned journal. (Can I write a sentence or can I write a sentence?!)  Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Karate and Why My Life is Super Fun

26 03 2011

For the past five weeks I’ve had the novel experience of attending martial arts classes at the Z-Ultimate Defense Studio in Redmond. Initially I attended because my adopted kid brother James invited me. He and one of his best buds had signed up for some free intro classes and when I heard about it I was psyched. My near-superhero best friend did karate as a child and I remember watching her take class when we were kids. Even as a little squirt I found the whole concept intriguing but I was super busy with dance so karate was not an option.

Fast forward a decade and a half. I’m a lot taller, a good bit more massive (in the physics sense) and stoked. There is something super empowering about knowing that you can defend yourself if necessary.  Read the rest of this entry »

Something Missing?

13 03 2011

Tonight I went to work to see a production of our latest show “Iron Curtain”. I anticipated loving the show because the authors of Iron Curtain are also the authors of my favorite show VT has ever done, “Once Upon a Time in New Jersey”. There was no way that they could have disappointed me. Actually they surpassed my wildest expectations.

It was the funniest show I’ve seen in ages made all the more enjoyable because it’s chock full of my favorite local actors. I say “local actors” as though my wide acquaintance among thespians includes actors from all over the globe! Let it be noted that it does not. Point being the actors that I do love best in all the world are all in this particular show. If I could fold them up and keep them in my closet where they could sing and dance for me always I would do it. Next best is to put them in an old-hollywood-feeling-smorgasbord of awesome.

You heard me. Smorgasbord of awesome.

I find enjoyable theatre to be a mixed blessing. While I’m in the seat watching and listening it’s all wonderful but when I get up to leave my heart hurts. I miss being a part of the performing arts. Give me a stage and let me dance! Hand me some Shakespeare and I’ll gladly declaim. Just don’t send me home knowing that of all the lights around that stage not one is reserved for me.

Last time someone asked me “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” my immediate answer was “act”. Which is strange because you could never get me to admit that acting is something I want to do. At least, not in casual conversation. The truth is, though, that it’s not acting that scares me. I know in my heartiest heart that I have talent- perhaps not in any extraordinary degree; I’m not genius- but I’m capable. No, the scary part is the auditions and the rejections and being surrounded (literally every day) by people who act for a living. That’s a lot to live up to when you are the least experienced, least significant novice imaginable.

Anyway, there’s a little glimpse into my psyche. Lucky you.