Friday, August 24, 2012
...to sit and read and get caught up. I'm having a moving sale today & tomorrow to see what I can sell before Purple Heart comes next week. I opened at 9 and so far have made my fortune...all $3 worth. I've never had much luck with garage sales for some reason, although this time I actually advertised on Craigslist. One guy came right at 9 and was a total jerk..."This is all you have??? I thought you were having a moving sale???". Whatever.
So, I left off on my last update with waiting for the property management guy to call me back. He did, later that day, came out to do the paperwork & pictures on a Wednesday, showings started on Thursday night & I accepted one by Tuesday. I would have had it rented even sooner but that was right before my black belt test & I told the real estate guy I wasn't going to look at or think about offers or talk to him until Monday. I ended up accepting the first offer, she was willing to sign for 2 years. One of the other offers came with demands of all the things the guy wanted done to the house before moving in. Sorry buddy, you'd be renting, not buying, so you don't get to make demands. If I was selling the house it would be different as the things he wanted done would be the same things I'd do anyway (repaint, curtains, etc), but I'm not going to bust my ass trying to get cosmetics done before moving.
So my house here in MI is rented and I was in France last week to sign the lease for the house I'll be renting there. There was a little snafu with the bank, I had asked for checks when I opened the account and was told I would have to come to the bank to pick them up in about 2 weeks. Based on my travel schedule it was more like 3-4 weeks but when I got there I was told they had not yet ordered the checks and it would be 8 days. Of course, I needed the checks that afternoon so I could rent the house. I was very relieved that they finally offered to do cashier's checks for me, but said I had to came back at 2 pm to pick them up. I assumed that meant they would use the intervening time to actually make up the checks...my bad. I arrived promptly at 2 and that is when they started writing the checks. My appointment was at 2:30 so I was late but at least that part is over and I have my house.
Skipping around time wise, back on 8/6 we had our appointment at the French Consulate. In mid-July my contact at the French Immigration office in France told my my paperwork was complete and sent to the Consulate and to make the appointments to submit our long-stay Visa applications. The Consulate is in Chicago, about 5-6 hours away from where I live. We left on a Sunday morning for our Monday am appt., to have some time in the city. Jacq brought a friend & I took them to the Aquarium and to the Cheesecake Factory. Monday morning we arrive for our appointment, I'm called up to the counter and told "I'm sorry, you have to leave. We don't have your file. We'll call you when you can come back." Yeah right, heard that before!
After phone calls and e-mails over the next 2 days it turns out that what probably happened is that the file was sent to some intermediate office in France which was supposed to forward it to Chicago...and never did. So this time the person at Immigration confirmed the file was sent and confirmed with the Consulate it was received and back to Chicago we went for an early Friday appt. Bureaucratic efficiency at work.
I'm not picking on the French either, US and MI state government is no better!
Immigration confirmed our Visas were approved...except that I was actually leaving for France again on Saturday (to sign my house lease) and had to keep my passport. No problem, said the Consulate, just mail it to us when you get back to the US. Being a firm believer in Murphy's Law and all his Corollaries I just knew there would be a problem doing it this way but for once things seemed to work well. I received our passports & Visas in the mail yesterday so now we are official to leave.
Now the real fun begins. I have to get everything in the house sorted into piles of "taking", "leaving/storing" and "selling/donating". Then I have to clean the house & have the carpets done. I have to sand the wall repairs and repaint a few walls, put in a new bathroom sink faucet and change over the one last outlet so it matches the rest of the house (having it be different is quietly adding to my stress; yes I am a bit OCD/Type A about some things). Although while emptying the bookcase (built in) earlier this week I discovered there is actually an outlet built into it underneath that I wasn't aware of and I have decided I will NOT change it over too. Unless, of course, the disruption caused by non-matching outlets grows to be too much to bear; it could very well eat away at me for the next 3 years, knowing that there is one non-matching and hideously ugly outlet left undone. Unfortunately that isn't a joke; I might as well just admit I'm going to change the darn thing so I can sleep at night.
The pets all have to go back to the vet a final time for their health certificates because those are only valid for 10 days, then I take the certificates to the USDA office in East Lansing to be validated. This morning I got the car & hotel arrangements made for here next week, our flight booked & hotel & car arrangements for at least the first few days in France. Then I had to call Air France and book the animals travel on the same flight, keeping my fingers crossed that it would work out & I, Jacq & all 4 pets would actually be able to go on the same plane.
Fortunately Air France is able to put us on a direct night flight with 3 of the 4 pets going as checked bags (Turtle gets to come in the cabin with us because she is small enough. And scares easily so she would have a really tough time in the hold). Had we gone on Delta as I had intended originally we would have had to leave Detroit an noon, go to Minneapolis for a 3 hour layover and then connect to Paris; 3 of the pets would have had to go as cargo, not checked bags, at the bargain price of $3000. Yeah, that's not an extra zero, which is what I thought at first (their website says $600 per pet and is very unclear that there are extra charges). Air France is much cheaper.
We leave on Saturday 9/1, now that the flight is confirmed for all of us. Tonight I have to go buy pet carriers for all of them, and new bedding for me & Jacq. Tomorrow we get luggage and I complete the inventory form for the movers, who are coming Wednesday & Thursday to pack everything for moving & storage. Friday I'll get the carpets cleaned. I have to call the vet and reschedule our appointment to Monday so I can go to the USDA on Tuesday.
And while all this is going on I am trying to do as much as possible to prepare my son to start being more independent. He passed his driving test on Monday so I took him to get his license on Wednesday. I've added him to my low limit Visa and to 2 store charge cards, so he can start building a credit history and has a way of paying for things like car tires or repairs, can buy clothes as needed, and cover any unexpected urgent expenses or emergencies as they come up. Unfortunately I can't count on his dad to help him out if needed...this is the man who tells his son that moving in with him "messes up all my plans". WTF? Who says that to his child? Apparently my ex does and sees nothing wrong with it.
Anyway, before I get pissed off all over again, my son is supposed to move in with his Dad...sometime before I leave. His Dad is pathologically incapable of making a decision and keeps saying "I'll get back with you" when I push him for a move date. Whatever. If necessary I'll go around him and call one of his uncles to see if Matt can stay with one of them; word will spread through the family (again) that my ex is a PITA POS and he will (again) be humiliated through every fault of his own.
OK, now I'm happy again. Time to get back to sorting.
Friday, August 17, 2012
So my big news...I passed my black belt test!
Testing was as hard as I expected and yet in a way not as bad. The test itself lasted over 3 hours. Typically the testing would have been twice as long but typically there is more than just one person testing so it goes slower.
We started with pushups as the very first thing, then the sit-ups & lunges. If I failed any one of those I would not have proceeded to the actual testing. I was slightly nervous.
OK, I was actually scared out of my pants because of those damn push-ups. I had them down (50 in 2 minutes) until I found out at the pre-test on June 30 that we actually had to go practically all the way to the floor. Place your hand flat on the floor & place your other hand flat on top of it...that is how far down we had to go - chest touching the counter's hand..and in a sports bra I didn't have much of an advantage over a guy. I made it through 41 of them at the pre-test and struggled for the rest of the month to try to build up to 50. Prior to the day of the test I had only succeeded once and it took far longer than the 2 minutes allotted.
It is worth noting though that 2 of the other 3 possible candidates (both teenagers) couldn't do all 50 either and is part of the reason why they didn't test with me. The 3rd candidate was recovering from emergency gall bladder surgery.
So anyway, morning of the test, I had worked myself up into a state over those damn push-ups. For no reason it turns out. I pushed through the first 40 in about a minute, slowed a bit on the next 5, paused to take 3 deep breaths and pushed out the remaining 5 with 45 seconds to spare. Believe you me, I was MOTIVATED! No push ups = no black belt & I would be damned if I was going to let all my work from the previous 2 years be wasted (plus I had no intention of being embarrassed!).
Then the shaking started, I had so much adrenaline at that point I didn't know what to do with myself. But the hardest part was over. The next few hours were demonstrating all of the techniques, I got to throw my daughter to the ground a few times (she was my partner during part of the test) and then we left for the track to do the 2 mile run.
I have videos of the katas, I will post links once I figure out how to put them on YouTube or somewhere. They are too large to load here.
All this time they've told us we are required to run 2 miles in 18 minutes or less. Heading into the test I knew it was going to be close, I had let my conditioning slide and was pulling in 19.5 minute times...but I wasn't killing myself either so I knew I had some room to improve. Except the run is at the END of the several hour test, when one is physically whupped. But way back in the day, when Sensei B was just training with us and not the Sensei he had told me about his own test, that the run is more to prove you have the stamina to go the 2 miles after all the testing and as long as he finished in under 24 minutes he would pass that part of the test (apparently there is a handicap based on age!). So I wasn't nearly as worked up about the run as I was about the push-ups.
Good thing too, it took me 21 minutes. I was already beat starting the run and my right knee had been wonky & twingy all week; I had some intermittent mild pain throughout the run so I didn't push it. Didn't want to over stress the knee and wind up doing a face plant on the track.
And then I was done!
I received my black gi and belt at the next class on Tuesday and ordered my very own black sais (little trident short sword like weapons) as I had been borrowing the Sensei's.
I almost can't believe I did it. I trained from 2002-2006 and was ready to announce my intention to test in October when Master N closed the school in August 2006. Then I had some medical issues and surgeries, including replacing the ACL in my right knee, gained over 60 pounds and was completely sedentary. I had given up even thinking about finishing until Master N was able to re-open the school in March 2010...and then I broke my ankle 3 days before the 1st class. It took another 6 months before I could even try to start training again, and another 4 before I dared to think I could recover enough to actually earn my black belt.
That's when I joined SP. I was more than 60 pounds overweight, couldn't even walk a mile slowly without wishing I would die - and let's not discuss the joy of push-ups when you're over 200 pounds. Earning my black belt was a big part of my motivation to lose the fat and get healthy & fit.
No, it wasn't always easy. It was pretty damn hard some days. There were days I rebelled, where I refused to follow my program and deliberately did the opposite. There were days I blew off any physical fitness activities. There were even days when Old Me nearly succeeded in talking me out of everything - of earning my black belt, of becoming fit and healthy, of becoming New Me.
But, at the end of the day, I had my motivation, and that is part of what kept pushing me forward. All my Spark peeps are another big part of my motivation...both the giving and receiving of it. Your encouragement and faith in me has meant more than I can possibly even attempt to express.
And there are people - mostly in real life but here too - who have asked how I did it because they just can't seem to get motivated. How, they ask, did I stay motivated to lose 70 pounds, to earn my black belt, to run races, etc., because they want to be motivated too.
My advice to them is actually a question...How bad do you want it? Find your reason why and decide just how much you want it and it becomes easier (not necessarily easy, but easier). I completely & utterly loathed those damn push-ups from the bottommost depths of my soul but the end result meant quite a bit more to me than how much I dislike them...so I did them frequently in order to get what I wanted.
And now I believe I have been body snatched because I have found myself doing push-ups this week even though I don't have to anymore!
I think we can be inspired by other people but at the end of the day motivation has to come from within. We all have different wants and needs and differences in how much weight we place on each of those. My motivation was to accomplish something a stupid person once told me I couldn't do...to accomplish it for me, because I wanted it and because I could. I didn't have to prove anything to anyone...except to myself, because I chose to.
And now I realize that I have earned more than my black belt. I have earned the self-confidence and self-respect that goes along with it, and is part and parcel of living a healthy and active lifestyle. I did not reach the end of my journey, just a way station along it. I have found the last few weeks that I still want to get out and run, do the hated push-ups, eat good healthy foods...even though I don't "have to" anymore.
That's what motivation gets you...your goals achieved...and the more important lifestyle changes that become 2nd nature nature and define the New You.
Saturday, August 04, 2012
Thousands of hours of training
Hundreds of classes
Years of sweat
Countless bumps and bruises
One Black Belt
Saturday, August 04, 2012
Today is my black belt testing. I have been preparing for this for almost exactly 2 years.
I feel sick. I want to curl up into a fetal ball and cry for my mommy while being physically ill. I want to just give up and run away, telling myself this isn't really that important in the scheme of things, I don't really need to do this
BUT...I will not do any of those things.
I am FANGFACEKITTY, Warrior Babe.
I am an elemental force of nature against which nothing can stand.
I own this.
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