Tales of a 33-year-old green belt

So. Sewing.

When I joined Tang Soo Do, I was issued a uniform, and because I am obese (as the squeaky voice on the Wii Fit likes to announce to the world every time I use it) and Tang Soo Do uniforms aren’t sized for chicks shaped like fireplugs, I needed to significantly hem that uniform.

Being a white belt of unsurpassing optimism, I promptly bought a sewing machine.

Now, here’s the thing. I’ve sewn before – enough when I was in my teens to decently hem a pair of pants or fix a cuff or patch a knee or any of the other things someone at 5’2″ tall and klutzy would likely need to do. I know how to use the iron to press the seams, turn a corner by keeping the needle in the fabric, and sew in a straight line.

Or, at least, I did.

The hemming of my white belt uniform could definitely have gone smoother, but I figured hey, I’m a beginner, and I’ll re-learn how to sew while I learn all this awesome martial arts stuff.

As a green belt, I’ve gained just a touch of wisdom. Or rather, I have gained the ability to recognize that I need the ability to recognize a mistake when I’ve made it. The mistake I made tonight was listening to my inner white belt. She said that I’d improve on my sewing by sewing with every uniform upgrade. She said that by the time I’m a black belt, hemming my own uniforms would be a practiced skill.


See, it turns out that hemming uniforms once every year and a half doesn’t make you a seamstress any more than doing a side kick every three months makes you a martial artist.

I started hemming two green-trimmed uniforms at 9:00 tonight, and I just finished 10 minutes ago. 4 hours to hem two pair of pants (badly) and sew on a total of six patches. I didn’t even bother hemming the sleeves after botching the pants and pulling out more seams than I swore I sewed in. My sewing machine is full of demons. Every 15 minutes or so the thread would break or the sewing on the underneath with the bobbin string would just go haywire and I’d end up pulling out stitches. It took me 10 minutes to figure out how to put the bobbin back into the machine after it emptied and I had to refill it — I was holding it backwards. You’d think the phrase was “cursed like a seamstress” not “cursed like a sailor” the way I went about the task.

God bless all those who really can sew, and more importantly, enjoy it. I do not think I will become one of those people in the next two years, or twenty. If I’m going to get eye strain staring at tiny strings, I’d rather do so tying a knot to hold a hook onto my fishing line. There’s more bobber to me than bobbin.

Tonight was a subtle reminder that as a green belt I must learn to recognize those things I cannot do, without sacrificing the unbridled optimism of a white belt to try those things I might be able to do, but have never tried before.

Tales of a 31-year-old white belt: random connections revealed

I had a great time out at lunch with two friends who are black belts (one’s a m\Master) in Tang Soo Do today. One of the great benefits of this new activity is that I now have a point of connection with incredible people I might have otherwise lost touch with. That by itself is worth the price of admission.

I’ve also learned through a clothing shopping trip yesterday that my fluffy body has already started to reorganize. I haven’t lost any weight, but certain pockets of fat are starting to disappear. Benefits: less fat. Consequences: now I don’t wear the same style of pants I did 3 months ago and had to move to a different rack at the fat girls’ store. Can’t say that’s a bad thing.

And finally, here’s a skill I didn’t think would be involved in martial arts: sewing. I bought a sewing machine this week because my fat ass takes a size 6 do bokh (uniform) and that’s the same size that my friend the six-foot-four Master wears. Or to put it another way, I had to hem almost 8 inches of fabric off the bottom.

I just might make my fortune by commissioning someone to create Tang Soo Do do bokhs in patterns designed for women. That is, after I do the other eight hundred things I was going to do to conquer the world.

Unrelated aside:
The awesome folks at the Apple Store managed to take apart the monolith, clean her up, and call me to pick her up already by this afternoon. So we’re back on the iMac and life is good. I’m a happy camper.

Tales of a 31-year-old white belt: 3 lbs of furious wattage

So things have been a little crazy the last few days or so….I have a major project due on Monday at work and it’s brought with it a lot of new challenges, particularly around project management. The root of the issue is that when you take a new businessperson and team them up with a new information architect (me), and a few other individuals who haven’t necessarily ever filled their exact roles before, and let them loose on a project with a vague scope, well, there’s a lot of cat-herding going on.

And I’m not afraid to say that I panic easily, am terrified of upper management as a general rule, and get obsessed with having pixel-perfect wireframes (yes, I know that’s a contradiction in terms). The end result is an all-nighter last Friday into Saturday (along with a few other assorted hours throughout the weekend) to get my wireframes done, crazy hours Monday, crazy hours again yesterday, and crazy hours today.

And OH MY GOD I’m exhausted.

The problem is I’m so exhausted I forget I’m exhausted. Case in point: I was smart enough to go home Monday after work instead of going to martial arts because I knew I couldn’t get through the calisthenics and I’d collapse. So that was smart.

What wasn’t so smart was not realizing that I wasn’t any better off yesterday.

Yesterday, I ate a healthy breakfast, ate a healthy lunch, and then spent four hours in an intense stress-filled situation cramming to finish a presentation that I then had to give to upper management (see point A about my feelings on management above). As soon as the presentation was over, I literally ran to my car (choking down a York peppermint patty on the way) to go to martial arts, which is in another building down the road.

At class, we did the usual warm-ups, then this cruel thing where you go from standing, to a squat, to kicking your feet behind you, do a pushup, back to the squat, then stand back up, then do it again. Ten of these. This was new exercise to me. My heart started pounding.

Then 50 jumping jacks. OK, I can swing that.

Then we went from standing into a squat, into a jump to tap our partners’ hands, back into a squat, like hyper frogs, for a total of 60 seconds. I think that’s probably when I started to lose my breath.

Then what I’ll call “laps” up and down the room – front kicks, then side kicks, then this cruel thing where you hop on one leg while kicking the other.

OK, look, I’m 175lbs on a good day and I’m 5 foot 3 when a generous nurse runs the scale. I’m built like a fire hydrant. Hopping on one foot sideways is freakin’ impossible to begin with, forget all the way up and down the room. Each lap I fell further and further behind the rest of the crowd, breathing harder and harder, heart feeling like it’s going to explode, which because I’m one bullheaded sunovabitch, just made me push myself harder. If all these other folks can do it, then the problem is I’m just not trying hard enough.

And I continued with that attitude until the edges of the room started to get kind of fuzzy and both Mr. and Mrs. Robinson made a point of saying “If anyone can’t handle this, you can bow out” while looking pointedly and directly at me.

Even I’m not dumb enough to ignore that particular mix of signals. Which is good, because by that point I was panting so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath at all. I think I might have been hyperventilating. Thank God I have a class of caring intelligent people — one of our highest ranking red belts came over and talked me through holding my breath just to slow my heart rate down so I could breathe again. And I got a good (positive, effective) talking to from both of my instructors, which I totally deserved for being so dumbass stupid and bullheaded.

But I couldn’t figure out what the hell happened. Yes, I’m out of shape. Yes, I shouldn’t try to keep up with people who have been practicing since 2005. Yes, I’d totally screwed my sleep schedule over the weekend and skipped not one but two workouts since the previous Wendesday. But I haven’t had a full breakdown of physical mechanics like that since college, when I discovered that not eating for an entire weekend is not conducive to crossing campus Monday morning.

And then tonight Nighthawk and I watched Human Body: Pushing the Limits, which we’d DVR’d, and something clicked. We were watching the episode on the human brain, which talked about the need for sleep, the need for cooling, and the need for energy. Turns out this three pound lump of grey matter between our ears uses on average 1/5th of our energy in a day. That’s right, the brain’s a giant energy sucker. And I ran it ragged for 4 hours.

Even though I’d eaten a good 1000 calories or so yesterday, the same amount I usually eat, and I’d had plenty of water, I’m now realizing that I’d burned through a lot more energy than I thought I had. (Keep in mind that if I eat more than 1550 calories in a day I gain weight. 1000 calories through lunch is actually *high* for my slow-ass metabolism.)

By the time I got to class, as my cousin would say, my stubbornness was writing checks my body couldn’t cash.

When I finally did catch my breath, by the way, I recovered enough to practice forms with the rest of the class with no further issues except for the blister I got on the bottom of my big toe. (Apparently they are not yet made of iron.) But I popped that nasty thing and it’s healing nicely, so I should be fine by Monday.

Monday — when I have to give two more presentations and hand over this project. Yeah, I’m thinking that had better be a 2000 calorie day.

In other news, I think I’m going to have all my ducks in a row without resorting to another all-work weekend by Monday, and then I might just get to revert back to a normal work schedule. As an added bonus, my brother and I are going to the Phillies game tomorrow, so life is really damn good. You know, if you ignore the screaming thighs, angry toe, and pure flat-out exhaustion.

Things I learned today.

Lessons from a 31-year-old white belt:

  • Roundhouse kicks are more fun than side kicks. And that’s OK.
  • Jumping jacks are not my friend.
  • The instructor might say that we’re doing these slalom runs through the chairs to learn agility and it’s not a race so there’s no need to rush, but when you’re the lowest rank in the room and the highest-ranking red belt is suddenly two feet behind you on her second lap while you’re still trying to finish up lap 1, you pick up the pace a bit.
  • Running across the floor a half dozen times will loosen up a respiratory infection quite nicely. After that point you sound like a three-pack-a-day smoker for about two hours.
  • When trying to clear a respiratory infection it’s possible to sound worse than the smokers at the end of the drills.
  • No matter where you put your water bottle, you will inevitably be led to the other side of the room.
  • First form is in the shape of an I. So are second and third, but we don’t have to get to those anytime soon. Especially when we continue to look like a train wreck in first form.
  • The big toe is critical to balance, which is why I keep pulling all the muscles on top of it. Some day I will have toes of iron.
  • No matter how much you enjoyed class and what you learned, there’s not enough room to practice forms in the shower.
  • Hell, you can’t even get off more than a semi-decent front kick in the shower.
  • If you enjoy what you’re doing enough, not only do you forget it’s exercise, but people start to ask you if you had older brothers to fight. When you reply that no, you’re the oldest, you get odd looks. And that’s OK too.
  • It’s only 5 days until Monday, when I get to do it again.