Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Meridian ATA Martial Arts: A Love Story in Fits, Starts, and Parts: In which I am suckered into trying Krav Maga

If you’re just getting involved with this story, please start here.  Then go here.  It’s important that you have the background before we proceed.

All caught up? Great.  Here we go:

A few months into my tae kwon do training, Mr. Neitzell approached me about trying another class offered at the school, called Krav Maga.  For all the strides I made in TKD, I was uncomfortable with the portion of class devoted to real life self defense situations.  Mr. N pulled me aside one night after class and said he thought I ought to try Krav Maga—“I have a class that might be better for you.” were his exact words.

But, what exactly IS Krav Maga, you ask?

krav maga

Krav Maga is a simple, effective self defense system. It emphasizes instinctive movements, practical techniques, and realistic training scenarios. That means hitting and punching and kicking and grappling and a whole bunch of other stuff that is just freaking scary. 

As I sat through my kids’ tae kwon do classes, I often saw the members of the Krav class coming and going. All of them (at the time) were grim looking burly dudes with necks like tree trunks, heavy shoulders, and thick arms.  Out of morbid curiosity, I would peek into the room where they were training. They were punching and kicking the crap out of each other, to the tune of some very hairy sounding music.  It looked rough. Really rough.


How was this going to be “better” for me?

As scary as it looked, I was fascinated.  And frightened out of my mind.  Krav Maga? Better for me? NO THANK YOU!  (But I’ll watch, from over here by the exit…)

Mr. N persisted. “Come try it!” he’d say. “When are you coming to class?” he’d ask.  “Get in here!” he’d say with a smile.  “It’s fun!” he’d say.  I’d laugh nervously and shake my head. I think one time, I might have even skittered away from Mr. N as he was headed into teach Krav, half afraid he’d drag me in by my shirt collar. (But he would never do that…I think….)  I was so scared of Krav, but I couldn’t stay away---I’d find myself peeking through the door, paying less attention to my adorable little ninja children and more to the down and dirty fighting techniques the bad-ass dudes were doing.

One day, as I was pretending to watch my kids during their TKD class, Mr. Neitzell came to me and told me the Krav class was going to play flag football (without the football) and they needed one more player and would I mind helping out? I had played this a few times in tae kwon do and was fairly decent at it, so I agreed.  (I am SUCH a sucker. I can’t believe I fell for that.)

It was a blast! Especially since I managed to keep my tags for most of the game. And I was playing against thugs! Go me! Of course, now I wonder if Mr. N staged my victory, just to pull me in…(“Okay, guys, go easy on her. This time….”)

But whatever.  I had fun---my adrenaline was going and I had even laughed a little, and done a tiny victory dance. (No gloaters here!) And then I stayed for the self defense technique of the day—getting out of a choke from the front. I’d done that before in tae kwon do! And, it was a GREAT WORKOUT! And the self defense techniques did seem really practical. And what, what? No uniform required? No wedgie?  Okay, I’ll try a full class.  Just one. 

Just. One.

And thus, I entered the world of Krav Maga.  And this is the part of the story where I get emotional and stupid and have to stop and just say this much: Though I have had a push-pull relationship with it over the last few years, Krav Maga has been very, very good for me. Especially recently.

But that’s a future post.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Coming up…

In the last couple of weeks, I have thought of a bunch of post ideas—but because they are dear to my heart, or hard, or just plain work, I have shied away from actually writing them.  Because, you know, that would require emotional investment.  And I’m a little tapped out on feelings right now. I’d like to just not feel anything---

Wow—that sounds so doom and gloom.  It’s not—a lot of  the feelings I’ve experienced in the last couple of weeks have been joyous and amazing and life altering in very good ways---and some of them have been just silly and fun, and others have brought me to the depths of despair---the tired cliché “emotional roller coaster” is tired for a reason. It’s been running non-stop for awhile around here.  (Bad joke, sorry.) Mostly, it’s been awesome---but now I’m just freaking tired. 

So, after a good long nap…at some point…soon…I hope…I will post about the following things: (Yes, I’m setting myself up here---to those who will keep me accountable---you know who you are, heatherstaceybethjanet!)

Rosegaelle: Orphans, Adoption, and Child Sponsorship

Rosgaelle 3

I don’t yet even know where to start with everything I have to say about our experience sponsoring this little girl.  It’s been amazing and enlightening and wonderful and heartbreaking. All at the same time.


Meridian ATA Martial Arts: A Love Story, continued—Krav Maga

krav maga

A continuation of my story with Meridian ATA Martial Arts---because this post and this other post weren’t enough.


IDU (Idaho Destination Unknown): A new series

cornerstone bistro food

For Mother’s Day, Julio took me to an amazing restaurant, The Cornerstone Bistro, where we chatted with other patrons seated at our table.  One gal told us that she and her family used to go on spontaneous road trips—day trips to wherever—they just started driving and stopped when something looked interesting.  She called these “DU (Destination Unknown) trips.”  We loved the idea and took off on our own the next day.



New series: Passion and Purpose:

Cantus Youth Choirs

cantus youth choirs logo

One of the many beautiful things about homeschooling is that it gives parents the opportunity to handpick teachers and mentors for their children.  We have been incredibly blessed to find many people who are living their dreams, sharing their passions and expertise with us.  The first post will introduce you to Cantus Youth Choirs, the community choir my kids have been involved with for the last three years.  This is not your ordinary choir, my friends—this is transformative.


Passion and Purpose: Xpressions Dance Academy

xpressions logo

In the second post in the Passions and Purpose series, I’ll introduce you to Alexis Langworthy, director of Xpressions Dance Academy and all around amazing woman and dancer, who changed my little Gloria’s world through dance and artistic expression.


Random Bits: Stuff I’ve been reading, watching, or thinking about

I daresay that one’s pretty self explanatory.


Okay. Now, I’m committed.  After all, I posted pictures.  I’m such a stinking tease.  More soon.  Hold my feet to the fire, people.



Friday, May 3, 2013

Meridian ATA Martial Arts: A Love Story in Fits, Starts, and Parts, continued…

If you’re just tuning in, please start here, or you might wonder what the heck I’m talking about.

So—after my little freak out—and Ms. Strader’s kind and true words about being safe in the ATA family, I sheepishly made my way back to class.  I fully expected everyone to look at me warily and keep their distance, or perhaps whisper about the crazy chick, but my beautiful classmates and instructors acted as if nothing had ever happened. The only awkwardness came from my own self consciousness. I wish I could say it went away completely, but as the class continued to stretch me physically and mentally, I worried.  Could I stay in control if confronted with *something* again?

I found that certain drills and self-defense techniques triggered my panic mode, but I was determined not to lose it again.  My instructors walked me through tough techniques and let me opt out and just watch when I needed to.  I felt like a pansy sometimes a lot all the time.  I wanted to be able to just walk into class and kick butt like everyone else.  Some days, I had to talk myself into going to class, because I’d want to chicken out, or I had convinced myself that people thought I was ridiculous.

But I kept going back, because no matter how pathetic I felt, I was supported and cheered on by my instructors.  I grew especially fond of Mrs. Karen Redmond and her husband, Mr. Steve Redmond. Mrs. Redmond was great at explaining and demonstrating techniques (over and over again because I’m a slow learner!) and she is SO patient and upbeat. Mr. Redmond was exacting and has a dry sense of humor that made me laugh even as he doled out extra jumping jacks or tension kicks to whiners me the class. I also found out that one of the instructors, a venerable man named Mr. Roy Ivey, was connected to my family—he was the childhood friend of one of my uncles, and they still golfed together regularly!


A line up of instructors (l-r): Miss Shaw, Mr. Ivey, Mr. Bullock, Mr. Redmond, Ms. Strader, Mrs. Neitzell, Mr. Neitzell (P.S. I’m seated in front of Mr. Redmond.)

The teen instructor trainees were amazing, too.  Kids as young as 13 or 14 who were in training to become certified instructors were so mature and helpful. It was humbling to have to call a teen “Sir” or “Ma’am” and recognize them as my superior in class.  But the kids took their role as instructor trainees seriously. They always showed courtesy and respect to the class and to each other. I mean, it’s built in to the system, but the feelings and behavior were genuine.  They were patient and enthusiastic and encouraging. And they know their stuff.  Any question I had was answered. Any technique demonstrated.

I learned to loosen up and laugh at myself.  When I was frustrated or discouraged, or had fallen on my butt (a common occurrence), people were there to offer a pep talk, or relate their own failures and shortcomings and how they dealt (or were dealing) with them. Often the stories they told were hilarious and we’d get laughing so hard, we’d cry.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE had a “can-do” attitude. One of the mottoes of the ATA is “Today impossible, tomorrow possible.” Another is “Everything turns out beautiful and perfect.” How can you not love something as optimistic and affirming as this? In fact, the whole philosophy behind the ATA is about growth and possibility and living up to your potential.  Not that growing and living up to one’s potential was ever easy. But, I can tell you that my experience in the Meridian ATA tae kwon do program made me more comfortable with myself—physically and emotionally, and boy, did I gain confidence.

I couldn’t hide anything for very long when regularly practicing tae kwon do (or Krav Maga—but more on that later.)  The physical exertion of martial arts stretches one to one’s physical (and sometimes emotional) limits. Very quickly, I had to accept the fact that I was out of shape, inflexible, and had very little endurance. I mean, I already knew that, intellectually, before I started tae kwon do, but Spanx has no place in martial arts. (It restricts range of motion significantly….not that I would know….I plead the fifth on this one.)  At any rate, it was immediately apparent what I had to work with.  Because it was impossible to fake my abilities, I had to accept what I had and go from there.  This was very freeing.  I was free to work, free to challenge myself, free to actually see improvements bit by bit…going from not being able to do one abdominal crunch when I started, to (months later) busting out full sit-ups like nobody’s business. I lost 20 pounds in three months.

Accepting where I was emotionally was tougher.  I didn’t trust anybody much, and wasn’t willing to “let people in.” I admit, I still struggle with this today (says the gal who posts all her angst on a public blog.  I’m better in writing than in person, it’s just the way it is.) but I’ve come a LONG way in learning how to speak up, set boundaries, be kind, and learn to discern who is trustworthy and who isn’t.


Me and my classmate, Tracy, in 2009.

And what about my kids---the ones who started this whole adventure and led the way for me?  Well, they thrived.  Calvin—who was always previously outshined by Ellen’s stellar little self—came into his own.  He was good at tae kwon do. He was regularly given leadership opportunities and he gained confidence and a sense of humor (there’s a pattern here, you know.) Ellen, who had previously never struggled with ANYTHING and thereby got complacent and even a little lazy, found that she had to WORK---and it agreed with her.  She was able to see her own progress, and learn how to deal positively with disappointment and failure, and how to set and achieve goals.  She also gained confidence and learned how to handle her nerves.  Gloria just loves using her body, moving around, showing off trying new things. When Blythe got old enough, we enrolled him as well---an adventure, which Mr. and Mrs. Neitzell and the other instructors have borne with grace (and the use of Spider Man and Avengers stickers to encourage Blythe to behave.)


Mr. and Mrs. Neitzell with the kids in 2008.


Blythe.  The pose says it all.

Our instructors have been more than just teachers in a class a couple times a week.  They have helped me back up parenting decisions and my value system by adding another layer of accountability for my kids.  They check in on the kids’ behavior and chores. They encourage the kids to practice respect, courtesy, kindness, and positive attitude—and they do it in the best way—by example!

My Meridian ATA family rocks.  (I’ve had a blast looking for pictures for this post—there are gazillions and they all bring back fond memories.) Stay tuned, because I’m still not done (with the story or the photos.) Telling my story here reminds me how blessed I’ve been to have these people and this organization in my life. They are my home.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Plan with Rigidity, Execute with Flexibility?

A few months ago, my husband had the opportunity to serve at the Boise LDS temple re-dedication.  He was part of the Spanish translation team for the broadcast of the re-dedicatory services.  He spent all three services (or sessions, as they’re known in Mormon-ese) in the basement of the temple, in a small utility room, the only place where the microphone wouldn’t pick up extraneous noises from the broadcast equipment and crew, who were also set up in the basement. Between translating at each session, my hubby got to chat with the security personnel who were charged with keeping things running smoothly.

The LDS prophet, President Thomas Spencer Monson, was at the temple that day and my hubby got to speak with the director of the prophet’s personal security detail.   President Monson’s frequent travels take him all over the world, and apparently, he creates quite a stir wherever he goes--stopping spontaneously en route, to visit at hospitals, homes of members, or to just greet interested passersby.  This behavior requires “on the fly” changes in security plans.

The director commented to my husband that, “We have learned to plan with rigidity and execute with flexibility.”

I have been thinking about that a lot lately.  I started out this school year with high ideals and intricate plans—and they have largely fallen by the wayside (again.)  It’s hard not to beat myself up about this—but I think I (and many others) underestimate just how much “life” happens to throw off the best laid homeschool academic plans.  When I first noticed this, I thought I just needed to plan better, be more rigid, demand more out of every minute: HERE IS MY PLAN AND BY GOLLY, WE WILL STICK WITH IT!
But it never works.  Ever.  So I keep trying, and keep getting frustrated when things go awry.


Because I’m a slow learner, I recently bought myself The Ultimate Homeschool Planner from Apologia.  It sounded awesome, and I loved its set up. “Use me,” it seemed to say, “and all your scheduling and planning issues will be solved! With me, you will reach your goals, your children will be studious and focused, you’ll have a clean house, and maybe even lose ten pounds!”

I thought for days how I was going to organize our hours, days, weeks, and months using this planner.  I spent several hours last week working up THIS week’s schedule for my two older kids.  I sat down with them and went over the plan.  I even made a meal plan for the entire week.  I was pumped, the kids were pumped.  We had a PLAN! We were going to ROCK next week!


Nothing has gone according to plan.  NO-THING.  The night before this awesome plan was going to work it’s magic, the dishwasher broke and flooded the kitchen from UNDER the wood floors.  The sub-flooring was soaked, the wood floor was warped, and there was water under the house.  Oh, and I had two days’ worth of dirty dishes that weren’t getting done.  The water had to be shut off, along with the electricity in the kitchen so we could fix the dishwasher.  We had no kitchen, and no water for 24 hours.  And then, when the water was turned back on, it came in one temperature: scalding. (I’ve heard of people having no running water, or no hot water---but no cold water????) I couldn’t shower or bathe my kids, or even work on Mount Dishmore because the water was TOO hot,unless we filled up the sink and tub and waited around for an hour or two---which just DIDN’T JIVE with my schedule…

(Keeping it real, folks. Really real. This is what my kitchen looks like when I fall behind on dishes—and don’t have a dishwasher. Or cold water to counterbalance the boiling water from the faucet.)

Okay, so the world’s tiniest violins are playing for me—really, this was just a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but it THREW my schedule—my PLAN!—out the window on the very first day.  Sigh.

I had also forgotten to include in my plan the fact that we had dentist appointments and a book club meeting on the first day.  AND, I didn’t account for a last minute change in schedule to my kids’ piano lessons.  My eight year old missed her dance class. Oh, and I misplaced the meal plan, which included my grocery list.

I was in the depths of despair until the mailman arrived with a package from my best friend from childhood, full of paper for school and art projects AND three notebooks we wrote back and forth in throughout the ninth grade.


The note enclosed said: “I included some ‘historical texts’ you might enjoy!” (Thanks, Cathi! I love you!)

So, all was not lost—I may not have had the perfect “DAY ONE OF THE NEW REGIME” but this made up for it!  I was ready to attack the rest of the week (oh, and my dishwasher and water issues were resolved that evening—a definite morale boost!) We also took the kids to Chuck E. Cheese so I didn’t have to cook and the kids could eat pizza, slurp soda, and generally run amok.

Day 2 was spent partying and dancing the Samba at our homeschool co-op (which was ON THE PLANNER! Woohoo!), resurrecting the house, and catching up on dishes and laundry. And showers.


It is now Day 3 of my grand weekly plan---and while I tried to start the day with optimism and a degree of grace, I have already yelled at my six year old for not doing his language arts worksheet, threatened to turn a timer on for the big kids who are dilly-dallying instead of working on math, and abandoned school for the 8 year old entirely for the day. I let the kids eat Girl Scout cookies for lunch. And the baby is careening around the house in nothing but a diaper, a runny nose, and two stuffed unicorns under her arm, shouting “Twilight Sparkle! Twilight Sparkle! Twilight Sparkle!”


Okay, that IS pretty cute.

But back to today. The lesson in all of this, I suppose, is that while I managed to plan with rigidity, I also tried to execute with rigidity.  This has merely resulted in a stress headache. And an alarming lack of Thin Mints.

My day—MY LIFE—seems to go better when I PLAN with flexibility.  I have often been told by my Type A husband and friends that I fly by the seat of my pants. My lifestyle makes them a little crazy. Even my religion touts order as the ideal. And I admire that, I do.  I aspire to it.  But, maybe my sense of order---as disordered as it feels to others, is still order. It works for me, until I start looking around at how other people are ordering their lives and I think, “Hmm. They seem so put together, maybe I should try a different method!”  It’s comparison, of course, which doesn’t do anyone any good—unless perhaps one is shopping for a new dishwasher.

The truth is, I’m pretty put together when I do things my way. My way takes a lot of big swoops and nosedives. I sort of catapult through life.  To mix metaphors: I’ll never be accused of missing the forest for the trees.  My house is cleaner, my kids and I are happier, we get more accomplished, when I’m NOT trying to adhere to a rigid, intricate plan.  If I make a rigid plan, I feel the pressure to execute it in the same manner.  And no matter how many times I tell myself “execute flexibly” it just doesn’t happen, because I’ve set up the expectations with my “plan with rigidity” mindset.

So, again, I’m going back to flying by my seat. Over the forest. The view is great up here!