It’s nearly time to wrap up 2016 and start a brand new year. Joelle over at A beginner’s Journey has reminded me I ought to be doing a year in review post…..because that’s what you do.
Although, as social media feeds keep reminding me, 2016 has been a year of losses (even in the last week), 2016 has been a pretty good year for me personally. A lot of the people who died were from the world of music and arts. One of that number hit much harder than the others, and was way more confronting, because they were a friend and musical colleague of mine, and they were of my generation and it was way too soon for them to leave. In perspective, I see it as a reminder that (1) we don’t live forever and that is part of the beauty of life, and (2) we should make damn sure we do and say everything we need to today and not wait for tomorrow, just in case….
To be honest I don’t know where the year went. Life has been crazy busy. I have had lots of music commitments, I have continued to work in an ever changing and challenging (often to the point of being frustrating) environment, I have been helping my kids learn various life skills, I have been experimenting in the kitchen, and I have been holiday planning and travelling. In addition to being a musician, a professional, a mum and a wife, I have been training (Karate) fairly intensively this year. So I guess the old adage “Time flies when you are having fun.” is probably a reasonable explanation to why this year has felt so short (when actually it had a whole 24 extra hours!!).
Musically speaking, I have been involved in several performances (both choral / vocal and instrumental) with Lumina and Lyrebyrd and also done some singing and playing just for fun. I have not had time to write anything new but I had one of my works performed again in the fringe and to top it off it was voted by the audience poll as the most popular piece in the concert, (which was an absolute honour, especially considering the programme included some absolute gems).
I am not at liberty to say much about work but despite its frustrations (mostly related to IT issues), I am grateful for my job and my colleagues and continue to be challenged by my clients (in a more positive way than I am challenged by the IT issues!!). And besides working pays for extras like presents and karate lessons!
PARENTHOOD / FAMILY
I have said it before and it bears repeating: Being a mum (or a dad) never really gets easier; it just gets different. I am a fairly practical mum. I feed my kids, I try to teach them right from wrong, I cuddle them, I read them stories, I give them band-aids (if there is blood), I cough up money for teeth, I make their birthday cakes. I help them learn about the world through experiences, by spending time with them, and leading by example. I try not to shelter them and I am honest when they ask questions (even where others may perpetuate a myth).
I am probably not ever going to be one of those mums who sacrifices everything for my kids. If I was, I don’t think they would ever learn that I am important too, that I should (and do) respect myself, and that I deserve respect. If they don’t learn that, I don’t think they will learn to be independent, or confident, or respect themselves. I love my kids to the moon and back, even though I have moments where I would like to send them to the moon and ask them not to come back for a while.
The more my kids grow up the more their personalities and preferences, strengths and talents shine through, and the more I realise that despite the fact that they have, by and large, been parented in the same way, they are so different from each other.
My big boy is a very academic and almost pedantic individual, who likes to think, at least when it comes to things like information and concepts. He doesn’t think a lot about feelings (other than his own at times). He struggles to control his moods, and he struggles with the world not being all about him, which has found him in all sorts of strife, particularly at school. He is all about pushing boundaries, and saying no, and he is very stubborn, (like his mum), but hasn’t yet learned to channel that stubbornness into drive.
My baby girl is the more empathetic and caring of my kids. She is artistic, musical and often socially adept beyond her years. She can also be stubborn but generally she uses this rather better than her big brother. She is competitive. If her brother has it, she wants it, especially if it is a skill. She just decides what she’s going to do and practises determinedly until she gets it. This was particularly noticeable when she wanted to swim, and when she wanted to ride a bike. I think at least some of this tenacity and confidence has come about through training Karate, which she really enjoys. She struggles with so many things at school, and because her big brother is (and was at the same age) so far ahead of his peers in things like writing, maths, and spelling, it’s hard to accept (for her and sometimes for us), that she’s normal and not really too far behind behind. I think she has now decided it’s really time she could read properly (and I am all for it) so she’s been struggling her way one letter at a time through books with me.
FOOD AND COOKING
My adventures in the kitchen have been more about making good food in large batches quickly (at least in terms of preparation time) than about making lots of fancy things that take forever to make and 5 seconds to eat (or having the small fry take a look and refuse). I would love more time in the kitchen (and the last 2 days I have had the luxury). Usually though, with work and training and all the other stuff, having meals planned and ready to go in 5 minutes is essential. That said, I have been enjoying some more relaxed meal preparation and catering over the Christmas and New year break while we are all home and unhurried. I have made some old favourites and tried some new ideas. I even made vegan Bailey’s tonight for me and my husband, after he suggested it as a way to use the vast and static collection of whiskey that has now moved house with us about 5 times without much disturbance! (It was delicious and way too easy!)
Another thing I have been playing with is the lowest common denominator approach to cooking. I have several friends with food allergies / sensitivities and other dietary preferences. I have enjoyed the opportunity to prepare fodmap friendly, gluten free, nut free, (insert any other requirement) vegan food, insomuch as it presents as a problem solving activity and an art of deception. I made a lovely pesto yesterday which had to be gluten free (ok), vegan (ok), and garlic / onion free…..difficult but succeeded….and it was made primarily from homegrown ingredients picked fresh from the garden!
Apart from these aspects….the other thing I have been trying to do is make use of food / by-products and minimise waste. Of course technically we don’t waste any kitchen scraps since we compost them (or at the moment feed them to the chickens next door), but if there is more I can squeeze out of something before it goes that direction, I will. I have even tried to make my own cleaning and “beauty” products, using things like orange peel, coffee grounds and other things one normally just throws away. I have learned how to take advantage of aquafaba (the liquid left after boiling pulses – eg in the tin or the pot), made my own apple cider vinegar and orange vinegar, invented lots of ways of using up almond pulp from almond milk making and am currently in the midst of inventing new ways to
hide use zucchini in recipes, as the garden is going nuts.
Planning a holiday overseas with 2 kids was fun but difficult. When you are a couple, you hop on a plane and play things by ear when you get there. You can’t really do that with kids. Although I didn’t plan our Japan trip down to the last second, all accommodation and internal transport arrangements were confirmed and booked (mostly independently) before we left. This involved lots of late nights because the kids like to interrupt or suggest the same thing a zillion times while you are trying to arrange things. On the plus side, travelling with a mobile router made life easier and allowed us to be somewhat flexible with the itinerary within an area. Overall the holiday was a success and my only complaint is that we didn’t have enough time. There will be a next time though. I am determined.
I have written over 1000 words and only mentioned Karate in passing…..OMG….how did that even happen? This year has been a pretty big year for me. I have learned so much, and gained so much. Sure there have been the observable gains in skill acquisition, but the internal changes and the things I have learned about myself and what I can achieve, were the bigger gains as far as I am concerned.
At the end of last year, my instructor helped me to “step up” my training. To be honest I was pretty perplexed about what “stepping up” would look like since I was already training more days in the week than I wasn’t, but, I went along for the ride, because I love Karate, and to be honest, when it comes to Karate I trust his judgement of what I am capable of (even if that occasionally initially surpasses what I think I am capable of)!
The year has been punctuated by various events of significance and interest, some of which I have written about in other posts throughout 2016. (You can catch up here on Karate posts.) The year was punctuated by several network and wider MA community events, which I had the privilege of participating in, including open and invite only workshops, a tournament, the annual gasshuku in Queensland, and my first 2 network panel gradings. Whilst all of these were enjoyable, informative, and fantastic learning experiences, I would have to say that my happiest times were at regular classes in my home dojo, just learning, learning to teach, and helping others learn.
Training has been full on, and I figured out by the middle of the year (if not before) what “stepping up” involved. By half way through the year it became evident that the plan was for me to do a double grading in November. This initially freaked me out somewhat if I am honest. I knew I would “get” all the kata and the physical requirements in time, but I wasn’t sure I could “be” a second kyu, especially not without having dipped my feet into the muddy (ie brown) waters at 3rd kyu for a good six months. It also meant going things alone for sections of the grading (since the rest of my “team” of purples were grading to 3rd kyu). November came and I was prepared. It’s been 6 weeks or so since I passed 2nd kyu and was awarded a Senpai title. With all my other belts, it took little or no time to get used to the new rank. My brown belt with it’s 2 black stripes, not to mention being referred to in social media and email and text and especially in person as “Senpai” has taken until about the last week or two to feel real and intermittently “comfortable”. At least I actually respond to Senpai now.
In terms of the more personal achievements, the stuff that is perhaps harder to see on the outside, I have been able to move on from some of the mental barriers and stereotypes that had been holding back my mind, and grow in confidence. I have had some support in this process, and there were times where it wasn’t easy, but time and reflection have helped a great deal. In a nutshell it has mostly been about extending and melding my personal attitudes into Karate and vice versa. Given that Karate is really a part of me, this has been a natural progression to some extent, but the “growing up” has been made easier by my “big brothers and sisters” having been there before.
After the excitement of our November grading, which saw us undergo a big colour change and my Senpai and 2 other Senpai at the sister dojo I train with, achieve their shodan, I had a great time helping plan and arrange our dojo end of year Celebration. I felt it was particularly important to arrange something to Celebrate our achievements as a club this year, because, as you can see, it has been big and exciting year, and not just for me personally. That said, at the dinner, I received the inaugural MIK (Most Improved Karateka) Award. I know I have improved but it’s hard to see yourself the way others see you. It was a proud moment for me (if not a surprising one), but not as proud as the moments I have had seeing others in the dojo achieve things they never thought possible.
THE END OR THE BEGINNING OR BOTH
So this is the end of looking back, or is it? Whilst we probably shouldn’t dwell on the past, I am sure that I will look back on this in future, as a reference point at the very least. Looking backwards doesn’t necessarily mean going backwards. Looking backwards can be a stepping stone to looking forwards.
2016 has been a blast. I don’t want to forget it, but I am really looking forward to 2017. I don’t really do resolutions anymore, they are too rigid. My aim in karate and in life remains open ended: To be better today than I was yesterday, and better tomorrow than I am today. With hard work and dedication, this is achievable. I’m up for that.
Left to right:
Top: Dragon fly in Kyoto, Temple Gates (Tori) Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
Middle: Me and Kyoshi after 2nd Kyu / Senpai Award, medals from the 2016 TJKN National Championships, Me and Mini Me at the Championships.
Bottom: Mini Me and her flag sparring medal from the kids tournament at Gasshuku, Selfie at the summit of Mt Misen, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Tofu selection at the supermarket, Kyoto (I think).