An (Unintentional) Taste for Irony…

1, 241 days. Otherwise known as 3 years, 4 months and 22 days.

Or, how long it has been since I started this blogging adventure.

When I started blogging, I never knew it would be this difficult. When I started this blog, I felt like I always had something to say. However, to ensure I had plenty to speak of and about, I decided to be “smart” and not only blog about my karate experience, but also parenting and life. Hence, the “…and Beyond” added to the end of “To Black Belt…” in the title. I am also a huge fan of the Toy Story movies. I thought I was being “cute” in addition to “smart.”

In all actuality, I was naive on how difficult blogging is. Yes, simply spouting off an opinion is easy. That wasn’t why I wanted to blog. I wanted to tell a story that might just connect with someone. A story that resounds with someone. A story that says, “If you want to do something, you can. I know it because I did. It sucked and hurt, but it was so worth it.”

Because I did and it was. It still is. That is an adventure I have every intention of telling, because it is a good story. It may take me a bit to tell it in ingestible chucks, but I promise I will.

First, let’s rewind a bit further back. To 1,241 days ago. The day I named this blog, and thought I was being “smart” and “cute” by adding the “…and Beyond” to the title. Come to find out, dear audience, I was unknowingly being ironic. Dramatically ironic, because I never knew where the “…and Beyond” would lead me.

Irony is Easyphoto credit: Irony via photo pin (license)

I am on the path to finding out. I promise to share that too, and in the meantime, I beg you humor me with a bit of patience while I wind my way there, and expand my understanding of what my “…and Beyond” will become.

Until then, I leave you with a the black belt characteristic of indomitable spirit, because it is my favorite. It is also the black belt characteristic that I hope I can maintain the most in all that I encounter.

indomitable spirit

XO to you all. ~Jess

 

And I am BACK!

Hello Friends,

My apologies for my absence… I have been a bit busy with life, etc…

And rather than type for days about what has happened, I thought I would just do this instead:

It’s a slide show video of my progress from white belt to now. Check it out!

Also I am pleased to say that not only will I be blogging LOTS more about the next part of my journey to black belt and beyond, but guess who else started tae kwon do? Yep, Big Ben and Chloe! Don’t worry, there are pics to come (I promise)!

Thanks all for hanging tight and begin patient with me… I really appreciate it!

XO,

Jess

From Pastime to Passion…

Perfect practice make perfect...

Perfect practice make perfect…

photo credit: Iguanasan via photopin cc

We started because it seemed like it would be a fun activity. And it was.

We continued because we realized we really enjoyed learning how to execute different kinds of punches and kicks. We continued because we liked learning how to put all the punches and kicks together in a form. We continued because we met amazing people who showed us that pushing ourselves farther than we thought we could would result in the ability to say, “I have a black belt.”

We continued through adversity, knock-downs, injuries, the message of the month (ugh), testing nerves, and epic fails. We continued even though we watched friends (sadly) drop away. We continued even when we were warned that most people quit during the brown belt sequence, because it gets considerably “less fun.” We continued because we could not imagine that it could ever get “less fun” when you were so close to the goal.

Well, here we are. In the brown belt sequence. So close to the goal.

Guess what? It’s decidedly, “less fun.”

Does that mean we are quitting? The answer is a resounding, “no.” Here is the reason: for us, tae kwon do has grown from a pastime that we enjoyed doing a few times a week, to a passion. A passion that we cannot imagine our lives without. A passion that will require serious bodily damage before the word, “quit” will enter our vernacular. And only because a doctor tells us we have to.

Okay, that sounds crazy. Let me say this… “Yes, it is crazy.” One hundred percent. Unfortunately, our pastime became our passion when we weren’t looking. And when a pastime becomes a passion, the “crazy” becomes “whatever it takes to reach our goal.”

What will it take for us to reach our goal? Attending at least two curriculum classes a week. And at least one sparring class. And one leadership class. Oh, and now that we are brown-red belts, we also are expected to help our instructors two classes a week. All, in addition, to the voluntary review class we have every Sunday morning for two hours.

That also doesn’t include the practice at home.

Our at home practice schedule for the best month...

Our at home practice schedule for the next month…

That also is the tip of the iceberg. In six months, we test to get into prep cycle. Prep cycle is the three months prior to earning your black belt, and it is all the things listed above in addition to meeting every Friday night and Saturday day. All day.

You are thinking we are crazy.

We are.

Crazy in love this damn sport.

So friends and loved ones, please be patient with us while we are “absent.” I promise we will be back… stronger, happier, and with our goal proudly displayed around our waists…

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Today’s black belt characteristic I would like to display is perseverance because today, we got to watch so many students earn their next belts at the 5280 Karate Academy belt graduation. I saw students who got lost in a form, but keep on going, anyway. I saw students push themselves and do more push-ups than they have ever done before. I saw students support each other by cheering their fellow students on with, “You can do this.” And they did. It was a good day…

perseverance

Oh, My Bad-For-Me, Hallucination-Inducing Friend… I Miss You…

This isn’t a really lucid post. It is a drug induced post.

Yes, I live in Colorado. No, I am not currently smoking pot. My drug of choice for the evening? NyQuil.

But it definitely wasn’t my first choice. (For my close friends out there, just for your information, pot wasn’t either. Smartasses.)

The reason for the meds? I have been hit with a bout of bronchitis. It has been at least nine years since my last bout – which happened to coincide with my departure from working the bar scene. I truly thought with the dry Colorado climate and my absence from the smoke-filled working environment, I would be exempt from the illness that would consistently hit me every year.

Last night, my old friend bronchitis showed up to inform me that I was wrong. Thanks.

So this morning, I woke up groggy, sick and exhausted realizing that I am in the midst of my son’s holiday break and I was still expected to keep two children from killing each other or destroying my house. Mama was going to need a little help.

I remembered back to my bartending days and immediately began searching for my old standby when it came to relieving the symptoms of bronchitis. The was ridiculously strong (so much so that one pill would eliminate my symptoms for 48 hours AND it would give me a rush better than ephedra ever could have), It had ridiculously scary side effects (a chance of stroke, in women? Nah, I am not scared… bring on the meds, Baby), the box was black and yellow (like damned Caution tape, seriously), and it helped me get through my shifts as a bartender where I would deal with people crying and/or screaming, throwing up, throwing beverages, and individuals being truly horrible human beings (you know, just like being a mom of two kids home during a school break). My old standby would be perfect to get me through the day.

See, I told you... like freakin'  CAUTION tape...

See, I told you… like freakin’ CAUTION tape…

I did a quick Google search and immediately found multiple results for my beloved Triaminicin. I clicked on the first link, and I was quickly alerted to the fact that my old, trusty, made-me-cracked-out-of-my-head, delusion inducing friend was….. DISCONTINUED!

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I was bereft with grief. I had to take a moment to mourn my beautiful, dangerous, bad-influencing, old friend. A moment of silence was had. That is, until my kids started threatening to break each other’s favorite toys in fits of rage and maliciousness.

I had to deal with it all without falling into fits of laughter because my old friend Triaminicin was not there to make my heart race or throw me into hallucinatory fits when the purple crayon come to life and write on the walls, all by themselves.

Alright NyQuil, you have big shoes to fill. Give it your best shot…

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Today’s black belt characteristic that I would like to discuss is indomitable spirit. I had a reason why, but I seriously cannot remember it. Ummmm, if you figure it out, let me know…

indomitable spirit

The Year In Review? Yeah, I Don’t Think So…

Every December 31st, it feels like every single television and radio station airs some sort of montage celebrating the past year’s happenings, gossip, music and/or celebrity deaths.

I hate them.

Seriously.

I hate them because I am always shown the horrible, catastrophic, and life-altering events of the previous year via images of those affected by those events. There are tears, shock, and desolation of the faces of innocent people. Basically, it is a three minute montage of human suffering that always results in the realization that my life is pretty damn sweet, and that my face is covered in tears like I had just chopped two bushels of onions.

It’s ridiculous. I hate looking back. Moving forward is my specialty.

That is why I am NOT going to do a year-in-review post here. Nope. No way. Uh-huh. (The lack of year-in-review post might also be due to the fact that I am quite positive I cannot remember the majority of 2013. It went by much too fast. Honestly, it was such an insanely busy year that it feels like the last 365 days were lumped together like a recently discovered species of amoeba – the It-Went-By-Much-Too-Fast-and-Furious species. Maybe.)

Rather than trying to re-hash fuzzy details, I would much rather move forward and talk about 2014.

Ahhhh, the promise of the new year. The new possibilities, friendships, accomplishments and discoveries are endless. I am sickeningly optimistic about the new year, and here is why…

1522084_735561466454834_1287282936_n

Precisely.

I have decided 2014 is the year of living dangerously. This is the year that I am going to push myself farther than I ever dreamed. To live without fear and with my goals in my crosshairs.

First item in my crosshairs? I am participating in the Ultimate Blogging Challenge where I have to post 31 blog posts in the 31 days of January. This is going to seriously flex my writing “muscle,” since the majority of 2013 was spent away from this space. I love it here, and I miss it desperately. I miss reading, commenting and participating in the blogging community. I am truly hoping this blog challenge will help me find more bloggers to add to my community; bloggers to learn from, read about, and share with.

Second item in my crosshairs? With any luck (and ALOT of perseverance), 2014 will be the year that Ben and I earn our black belts. The road is going to be long, arduous, and exhausting. We will have to give every ounce of strength (mentally and physically) to get to that goal. We will do it. I cannot wait – to both document the path and to celebrate the accomplishment.

The third item in my crosshairs? Life, in general. I am going to laugh more, dedicate more quality time to my friends and family that I love, and just enjoy more moments, as they occur. Less stress. More fun.

Bring it on, Life, here I come…

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Today, I am dedicating this post to the black belt characteristic of perseverance, because in 2014, I am going to need it. A lot of it. Wish me luck…

perseverance

What Would It Take?

All my life, I (as does every other woman I have ever met) have dealt with my own personal demons. One of those demons has always been questioning if I can actually achieve what I set out to accomplish or will I somehow find a way to sabotage my success. Another demon is always questioning my mental and physical fortitude, specifically wondering if I can push myself past my point of comfort. And lastly (and the beastliest demon I have) is the one battling my body image issues.

Ah, yes, the one demon that a majority of women all have to deal with. We all cope with the questions wondering if what we see is really there, whenever we look in the mirror or look at pictures of ourselves. It often sounds something like this:

“Omigod, look at my TRIPLE chin!”

“My gut and fat rolls are spewing over my pants!”

“My forearm flab looks like it is still waving even though my hand stopped waving a looooooong time ago!”

Worrying about how I look in pictures has become a fantastic way to take the joy out of any event. Yep, it is like being a perpetual ray-of-effing-sunshine. But not.

After reading a million articles on women and their ability to deal (or not deal) with their self-doubts, second guesses and body image issues, I finally had to ask myself…

“Seriously, Jess, what is it going to take to beat down these demons, if even for a few moments?”

I had absolutely no clue.

I am a (mostly) intelligent and rational human being. I should be able to read an article, analyze how it relates to me, synthesize a solution and implement it. But here is the snag: with these issues, there is absolutely nothing about them that is rational. It is simply irrational emotion that does not have a simple solution.

So, I carried all of these emotions, irrational fears and self-created demons into the Black Belt Test that we attended about a month ago. I didn’t realize I had carried them in with me. I suspect it is because I have been carrying them with me for so long, and I barely feel their weight, anymore. Please, allow me to tell you that now I feel their weight – every stinking ounce of it.

To give you a feel of what the Black Belt Test includes, I will briefly explain it. The Black Belt test spans two days, and is held every other month. It is two days filled with hours of grueling workouts that are meant to test not only your stamina, but your metal strength and your ability to push yourself.  A typical black belt test includes circuit training, fitness tests, running two miles, obstacle courses, three (!) hours of sparring and finally, formal testing.

I had heard the stories of how incredibly difficult it was. I absolutely did not think I would make it through until the end. Not even close. My goal was to make it through the first night. There was no way in hell I thought I would make it through mile one during the Saturday morning run. Completing mile two never even crossed my mind.

Hey, guess what? I made it through the first night. On my way home at 10:30 pm, I realized that I might be able to actually DO this. I felt the weight of my self-doubt get slightly less oppressive. However, when I went to sleep, I guess it crept back onto my shoulders because by the time we were prepping for our 7:00 am, 2-mile run, it has returned. In full force.

But guess what? To my own shock and disbelief, I completed the entire 2-mile spirit run. By the time the run was over, I felt unstoppable. The oppressive weight of my self-doubt lifted, again.

An obstacle course, three hours of sparring, an extensive review of our forms and an impromptu performance by my team during the formal test could not bring me down. Not even the last hour of workout brought me down. I just kept pushing myself. I finally felt like I could do this! At that moment, the weight of the You-Are-Not-Strong-Enough Demon vanished. I felt like I could finally breath a bit easier.

Then it was time to find out who has passed the test and who had not. Since Ben and I weren’t officially testing, we did not receive a pass or fail grade. But our team did get plenty of kudos for our hard work, and that was just as important as receiving a passing grade.

Then it got just a little bit better…

A few days later, one of the black belts posted some pictures from the test. There were two of me, and for the first time, the pride of my accomplishment overrode my overly critical instincts. Rather than picking apart my body’s flaws, one by one, I saw an individual who accomplished so much more than she ever thought she could. It was at that moment, the Body-Image-Issues Demon left my shoulders. For a moment, the weight from my shoulders, was gone.

BB Test Photos

Come to find out, the answer to the question, “What would it take to beat down these demons?” was a Black Belt Test and two pictures.

Now, I am not going to claim that those issues are gone forever. I am guessing they never really will be because since the posting of those pictures, those demons have made unexpected appearances on my shoulders. They snuck up on me like an old high school acquaintance I never had a desire to see again – they snuck up behind me, put their clammy hands over my eyes and made me guess who it is before they released me.

Let’s hope I can shake the demons the same way I shake the old high school acquaintances… “Hey, nice to see you, but I have got to go…”

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Today, I am dedicating the blog post to all six of the characteristics of black belt. The reason is tonight is the Black Belt Extravaganza, celebrating all of our students who have achieved an additional black belt rank. They are all a living reminder that modesty, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit can help you to achieve your goals. And that a black belt is simply a white belt that never quit…

modestycourtesyintegrityperseveranceself-controlindomitable spirit