Angry Artists

January 26, 2017 by Rieshy

My youngest son loves his art class.  It's usually the first thing he tells me about when I pick him up from his weekly tutorial day.  He is meticulous about not damaging his artwork; his shoes, pants and jacket may be filthy and ragged by the end of the day, but his artwork?  Pristine and carried proudly so no harm can come to it.

Which was why I was a bit curious this Tuesday when I had to ask him about his art class.  "Oh," he muttered with a scowl, "We had to copy some really freaky picture of a naked boy by some artist."

"Whoa," I thought.  More risqué than the typical homeschool tutorial fare.  Now I was really, really curious.

He dug around in his backpack and pulled out a crumple and stained piece of paper.  Obviously copying naked and chubby, angel babies is not something my 9 year old son finds palatable.

I challenge you: Have you ever seen a Raphael angel that looks quite this annoyed?

He wanted to throw it away.  I'm saving it for whenever I need a good laugh.


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Mental Lyrics

January 22, 2017 by Rieshy

The drive to the dojo,
so full of opportunity for that closed loop, auto-play self talk of pep or dismay.

Which begs the question, "Why?"

I was begging that question Saturday morning with this year's black belt testing team during the second quarter mile sprint, after side crunches and burpees and alligator breathing, with 2 more full circuits to go.

Black fuzziness around the borders of my vision produced a mental chorus of, "WHY am I here and how can I be so out of shape already?!?  And more importantly: will anyone notice if I slink off to relax at Starbucks like a sane person?"

During a recent karate class when I couldn't remember my left from my right or Sanshin stance from a hole in the wall and my sore hip wouldn't let me kick with anything more than an embarrassing sigh of a thwack, while wearing a black belt that winked and mocked me from my waist my brain sang,  "Why do I suck? And why do I keep coming back to suck publicly?"

Why do I do what I do?  I'm not on this year's black belt team.  I'm pretty sure I could come up with an excuse to miss Goju Shorei class.  I could work at Starbucks.  I wonder what the employee discount is?

I have to give my Etch-a-Sketch brain a shake.  I have to re-find my whys.
And I always come back to the same why's.
And they don't keep track of taps or require success.

But they do require kindness.  I would never talk to any student the way I talk to myself when I lose track of my whys.  "I suck," is a simple litany, an easy ditty to match to an earworm bit of melody.   A fluff of lies with which to fill the brain.  But it's just misdirection because it doesn't matter if I do suck.

I do what I do because of my whys and they don't include or even require success.

That closed loop auto-play?  I can control it.  If I can finish the 4th lap of a circuit devised by an Evil Madman, oops, I meant a wise and caring Sensei; then I can practice mental kindness and write new earworm lyrics.

And developing that lyrical strength is one of my whys.


Matryoshka Dolls On The Move

January 20, 2017 by Rieshy

Years ago my husband spent several weeks working in Russia; he brought home a Matryoshka doll for each of the girls in the family- including me.  They have lived together, with only occasional strife, on the top of my kitchen cupboards for years.    

Alas, two moved away.  The taller doll moves away in the next year. 

Then it will be but the little Matryoshka doll looking down over a house full of Legos, testosterone and abandoned orphan-socks. 

Is that painted joy or dismay on her face?
Or both?


Scenes from the Dojo: Volume 1

January 14, 2017 by Rieshy

After leading a kid's class last Thursday one of the student's grandmothers commented that I looked like I was having fun out on the mats.  And that would be because I was.  I do a lot of not laughing while at work.

Scene 1:
I have a line of young Little Dragons doing kicks against X-ray paper. The sound of a kick against x-ray paper is highly satisfying. I'm working with the cutest curly-headed blond five-year-old ever, who is the size of a grasshopper with the fierceness of a lioness. Over her head I see that the boy behind her is doing the required jumping jacks in line when suddenly he freezes as if startled, puts his hand into his gi jacket and pulls out his hand with pinky and thumb extended.  He resumes one handed jumping jacks while speaking into his hand.

I yelled, "Switch," and the blond ran to the back and the boy hopped one legged and one armed jumping jack toward me and then went into a one armed guard stance, still speaking into his other hand.  I leaned in to him, "We don't allow students to take phone calls while on the mats."

"OH, I'm so sorry," he said, "It's just my boss."  Then into his hand, "I'm sorry we'll have to talk later."  He closed his pinky and thumb  imaginary flip phone and tucked his hand carefully back into his gi.  Then with a huge kia and a very serious face he jumped back into proper guard stance and executed extremely focused kicks.  Not laughing is sometimes part of the job.

Scene 2:
I wasn't leading this class, so the story involves some theft- but I did witness it.  Once again Little Dragons (otherwise known as kittens wearing black gi) were gathered sitting criss-cross around the Lead Instructor.  This was a group of very serious small ninja kittens, so they were all sitting straight-backed and still with their hands in fists on their knees, looking straight at the Sensei.  All except one.  His hands were on his knees, but they were board straight with his thumbs tucked in.  The Lead Sensei's eyes went to his hands and paused for a split second.  Immediately the Little Dragon felt compelled to explain, "I upgraded my hands to knives; I don't have fists anymore."

The adults all paused.  The other Little Dragons paused and without shifting or a hair moving suddenly sprouted knives on their knees too.  Knives are cooler than fists.

Like I said, not laughing is sometimes part of the job.

But smiling? Smiling is a large part of the job- and I love it.