Monday, December 31, 2007


As my voluminous output for December demonstrates, it's been a freakin' busy month. Trade shows, gup tests, XMas planning and execution, weeks of house guests and the overall blur of things-to-do that accompany all of these things have all contributed to an incredibly high-pressure / low-pleasure holiday season for me. Frustrating, to say the least.

On the up side, it's nearly over. One more party tonight (someone else's, for a change), a day off tomorrow, and then we plunge into an extremely busy quarter here at the office. The kids get back to school on Thursday, which will hopefully go a long way toward getting their behavior back to normal -- the complete lack of structure over the past couple of weeks has them acting like loons, not to mention stomping repeatedly on my last nerve. And this weekend we'll have our house to ourselves again, so with any luck we'll be back on an even keel by next Monday.

One thing I've learned about myself this past year is just how much I like my routines. Not that I live a terribly regimented and rigid life. But I like having a pretty solid idea of what I'll be doing on any particular night during the week. Training Tuesdays and Thursdays, sometimes Mondays as well. Gumdo on Friday evening. I like knowing that once the kids are down for the nights I can look forward to a couple of hours of just relaxing on the couch with Christine, watching the tube or reading a magazine or whatever. Knowing that Saturday goes like this: I get up around 7:30 and make a pot of coffee. While it's brewing I make 2 shots of espresso, and use one of them to make Christine a latte. Then I sip coffee, read email and news on my iMac until about 9:00. Then we start rallying the kids for 10:15 family class, after which we hit Starbucks so the kids can get their respective treats (Trevor: vanilla bean creme. Miranda: tangerine juice blend made with the cream base instead of tea). Then, typically we run by Target, do a little shopping, then head home and just chill out for a couple of hours. Maybe play some video games together. Then, maybe some dinner with friends, or invite some folks over to watch a movie.


That's what our Saturdays usually are, except we haven't had one like that since prior to Thanksgiving, what with all the "fun" of the holiday season. And I haven't been able to just relax on the couch with my wife after the kids crashed for nearly a month. So I'm really ready for the whole holiday season to end so I can get my humdrum on.


So, 2007 is pretty much over, and I couldn't be more pleased. While we've made it through alright, this was not a good year, characterized predominantly by Too Much Change. I am atypically, enthusiastically embracing the illusory "clean slate" that January the first theoretically brings. And with this come a few general goals -- not exactly resolutions, so much as ideals. This year, I'm going to try to laugh more. I'm going to try not to dwell on things I can't fix or change. I'm going to try to count to ten before reacting when under stress. I'm going to play Rock Band at least once a week. I'm going to take one really amazing vacation with my wife and not freak out about how much it costs. I'm going to take my kids someplace that's not a theme park that they'll remember for the rest of their lives. I'm going to pay more attention to tending my friendships.

And I'm going to train my ass off. Tang Soo Do got me through some very rough spots this past year. And even though I'm feeling a bit stagnant right now (not testing again until February, and I'm getting antsy) my commitment to achieving my training goals hasn't wavered a bit. I've got a small tournament coming up at the end of January, my first as a red belt. Much higher levels of competition, especially from the more established 2nd and 1st gups, so I'll need to train hard to have a shot at bringing home anything shiny. But I'm going to try my best and see what happens. And then I've got testing in February, after which the tournament season will kick off in earnest in March/April, capped off with the Nationals right here in Texas in July not to mention the Lone Star Invitational (Master Nunan's tournie) in August or September. Big year for us Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Texans, I'll tell ya.

So, here's to 2007, and the setting sun. And here's to 2008: may the best things that happened to you in the past year be the worst things that happen to you in the coming one.

Mood: Weary
Now Playing: Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlanticism"

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bah Humbug

No, no, I’m not dead. Not yet, anyway. Just having yet another one of those months where I'm spread so thin that time to write is nearly non-existent, and inspiration/motivation to write when there is time is even more so. Frenzied and frustrated, but well.

Not a lot of Tang Soo Do talk to engage in just now. Still training 3-4 times a week, still loving it, but no big new events to report. Christine, Miranda, and Trevor all tested last weekend, and they did fantastic. Miranda is now a 3rd gup (red belt) while Trevor and Christine are 4th gups. Now they’re all on a 6 month wait until their next test. As for me, I’ll be testing for 2nd gup in February and I feel solid enough in my techniques that I have no real concerns. It should be a cake walk, more or less.

I’m having my usual holiday stress. I try not to be too “Grinch-y” at Christmas, but this year I’m feeling a bit more melancholy than usual. 2007 has not been a very good year – there have been some decent parts, but mostly it’s been a bit of a rapid-fire run-on sentence of a year, punctuated with notable negatives. Job loss and (thankfully brief) unemployment. Turning 40 (not a bad thing in and of itself, but something that has led to a lot more introspection than usual). Cancelled vacations. The death of a friend’s mom who was, also, a friend of mine. One notable broken friendship that is pretty much beyond repair. A couple of other friendships that are starting to fray around the edges due to distance and other factors.

Not that the year has been all, or even mostly, bad, exactly. We’ve had some great times this year, but the significant events of the year were largely negative ones, so all in all I’m looking forward to flipping the page on the calendar.

But first, I have to survive Christmas. I am so sick of spending money I could scream. We only have a few more gifts we have to get, and after that we are more or less finished. Of course, I know that “finished” actually means “well, aside from a bunch of last minute items that will occur to us in the next few days. Plus stocking stuffers. And candy. And all the stuff we have to buy for our Christmas brunch for 12 people.” So we won’t actually be finished until we get past the 25th and can stop it already. Or until we run out of cash. Whichever comes first, I suppose.

I wish I could convince my family to only do “gifts from everyone” for the kids and just do the “buy for one other person in the family” bit for the adults. I’d so much rather spend a couple of hundred on one really fantastic gift for one person than try to come up with gifts for everyone that all cost somewhere around the same amount and that they actually want. The worst thing is that we almost never come up with really great gifts ideas for anyone, anyway. This year a lot of folks are getting gift cards because we just can’t come up with anything that we think they want that we can actually afford, especially when it’s factored in with the budget of buying for everyone else as well.

I guess that’s why I dread this season so much these days. Every year it just turns into 4-6 weeks of stress about cash and little else. I enjoy seeing the kids open their presents, I enjoy throwing our annual brunch (a lot of work, but nice all the same) but otherwise the entire season is just a tawdry exercise in commercialism and greed with no focus whatsoever on anything meaningful.

People get all worked up over this idiotic fictional self-pitying “War on Christmas” garbage, claiming that people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” is somehow ruining or devaluing their holiday, when in fact the entire way we “celebrate” this season is crass and meaningless. Pundits blather on about “them” (choose your “them” – no matter where you are in the political spectrum you’ve got your preferred Bogeyman, and you blame them for everything – just admit it and more forward) destroying The Meaning of Christmas between periodic commercial breaks filled with messages designed to make you feel like less of a wife/husband/father/mother/brother/sister/child/friend if you don’t buy more expensive disposable plastic distraction that signifies your love for people. Instead of actually, you know, showing them that you love them all year round, you buy sparkly junk, wrap it pretty, and give it to them this one day and that means you’re a good person, even if the rest of the year you were sort of an ass. And apparently this has something to do with Jesus.

So yeah, all these outraged talking heads – or, more precisely, talking heads who make tons of cash by finding things to be outraged about and telling you that you should be outraged, too, and buy their books to express your outrage – are getting all Chicken Little about clerks in the stores selling people all this crap being instructed to say “Seasons Greetings.” This is, apparently, one more example of secularism destroying the holidays.


I have news for you -- the holidays are already destroyed. And it’s not because some PC folks have decided it’s better to use more generic, “inoffensive” greetings designed to avoid offending easily offended people who are actively looking for something to be offended by. They were destroyed the day we collectively decided that the only way to celebrate Christmas was to spend as much of our cash as we possibly could to make the holidays “special.”

Because like it or not, in our culture cash in not just physical currency (i.e. an abstraction of the value of a physical item, enabling barter without actually having to exchange the physical items themselves), but emotional currency as well. It’s become an acceptable way to say how we feel without actually, you know, saying it. The more you spend on someone, the more you love them. Combine this basic attitude with a constant barrage of advertising that assures you that you are inadequate or lacking and this can be easily fixed by purchasing something, along with ready access to any number of credit card offers are you have a perfect misery cocktail. Spend until you can’t possibly spend anymore, otherwise people won’t think you love them. And no matter how much you spend, there will always be One More Thing you should have bought.

Arrgh. It’s just depressing. I’ll try to find a more inspiring topic for my next entry, but for now I’m just sort of weighed down with cynicism.

Mood: Gloomy
Now Playing: Feist, “The Reminder”