Monday, October 27, 2014

All About the Competition

I don't compete anymore. I am not against competition; on the contrary, I actually think it is a fantastic way for martial artists to challenge themselves. It just isn't for me right now. That being said I do enjoy watching other people do it, so this past weekend I spent a few hours at the NY IBJJF Pro at City College. Here is what I did there:

  1. Watched a couple of small black belt men invert upside down and roll around like spiders. They are quite good at this. In fact, one of them actually invented it!
  2. Observed Lloyd Irvin being Lloyd Irvin. This included checking his phone a lot and managing to look both bored and intimidating at the same time. Even when his students won (which unfortunately happened frequently), he didn't smile much. His students didn't either. I don't know any of them personally, but they all come across as being not very nice. Perhaps it is just an act, some kind of "game face"?
  3. On a similar note, every time one of the Lloyd Irvin guys (or gals) won they would flash the "LI" symbol in the air. Which, when you think about it, is some pretty good brainwashing on that dude's part. Like, "so listen guys when you win make sure you hold up a sign with my name on it. So everyone knows. Yeah, I know that you were the one who actually did the work on the mat but I want to make sure everyone sees MY initials. Thanks. Now go work some armbars or something." Weird dude, that Lloyd.
  4. Keenen Cornelius was there. I missed his matches but I am sure there were some lapel grips involved. (For those of you who don't know who I am talking about, go Google "worm guard". And while you are at it, you can Google the guy who beat Keenan, Leandro Lo. He is pretty good too.) 
There were also people from my own BJJ school competing; some won and some lost, but the whole experience reminded me of an class interaction I had with a guy about a year ago.

I didn't know the guy that well but he was sitting against the wall so I asked him if he wanted to roll with me. His response was, "Thanks but I want to only work with people who are my size right now. I am competing in a couple of weeks." 

This is not the only time I have heard this, although it does not happen often. When it has, it has always been a white belt. I think only a white belt who is new to competition would have both the balls to say something like that, and the inexperience to think it was important. 

I am not saying that training with people who are similar to those you will compete against is not important. But is it that important? So important that it needs to be every single round? So important that you cannot waste time ever rolling with anyone smaller, or bigger, or higher ranked, or faster, or whatever?

I also would get it if I were gigantic, or spazzy, and the dude was worried about getting hurt. But there was little chance of me injuring him, in fact, I was much more likely to come out of the experience banged up than he was.

I do not think a purple belt would never say that. Why? Because a purple belt would understand that number one, it is only one round, and number two, perhaps there is something to be learned from every partner. 

I get what that dude was saying. He wanted to focus on training partners who would simulate what his experience on the competition mat would be. But I do not think he gets what else he is saying. Like "I am only in this class to train for my competition. There is no other reason for me to be here, and all of you are just here to help me prepare. I have no obligation or interest in helping anyone else improve their jiu-jitsu." And "I do not see any value to rolling with you. Forget that you are actually higher ranked than me and have more experience. Because you are small, there is nothing I can gain from you."

Ok, maybe he pissed me off a little. 

But is this kind of attitude really necessary? I don't compete so maybe I am missing something? I would think that when you are training for a competition you would want all the practice you can get, if not with different sized opponents, than at least with different styles. And if you do want to work on something specific, there is a nicer way to go about it. In fact, one of my regular training partners competes all the time. Sometimes when we are rolling, she asks to work on a specific position or technique, something she is having trouble with. I am always happy to oblige. She never says, "No thanks, you are not in my weight class."

I also wonder what is going to happen to these white belts when they no longer want to compete. Is their jiu-jitsu experience over? Or will they find some other focus in their training. (For their sake, I hope they do. )

What do all you competitor folks think? Maybe it is me who doesn't get it.

Oh, and by the way, if you don't know who Lloyd Irvin is you can Google him too. There is a lot of information out there. Some of it is true.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Que Linda!


Yesterday, while walking up 105th street towards the dojo, I encountered a man. He was middle aged, typically dressed and Hispanic. When I passed him, he stopped, fixed his creepy gaze upon me, produced a half smile/half sneer and muttered "Que linda!"

This is not the first compliment I have received from a total stranger. Sometimes they like my shoes, or my shirt, or my hair. I have been called beautiful in multiple languages. Men have also told me to "Have a great day" and to "Put a smile on that face" and numerous other random comments. My response is almost always the same: I smile, say thank you, and move on.

There are, of course, much ruder comments that I have heard as well, although thankfully not very often. Comments that involve body parts, sexual acts, and so on.

I am fine looking. I am not fishing for compliments, I am happy with the way I look. I have a skinny athletic build and nice hair. I am also short and small breasted. I almost never wear heels or revealing clothing. I say that not because there is anything wrong with wearing these things, but because I imagine a tall, curvy, busty woman in a short skirt would get far more comments than I do.

While I do not speak much Spanish, I know what "Que linda" means. In theory, it is a compliment, as is "Hello beautiful" and "I like your hair." In fact, some women even speak positively of these comments, they enjoy them, and even go as far as to categorize who is allowed to compliment them; if he is cute and in a suit it is ok, if he is old and homeless, not so much. But here is what I hear when I am walking down the street and a total stranger calls me beautiful:

"Lady, I want to put my penis in you."

Excuse me for being so blunt. I am not saying all guys are jerks. I am not saying every man in a construction hat is a rapist waiting to be let off his leash. But when you stop a total stranger on the street, a woman you have never met, and the first comment (and often the only comment) you make is about her looks, that is what I hear.

"Lady, I don't care who you are. I don't care what you do for a living, or where you are going, or if you are married with five kids, or if you like to do Zumba in your spare time, or that your favorite food is calamari. I don't care how old you are, or how you are feeling today. I don't care that your mother is sick, your child is going through a tough phase, you have had a cold for a month, you were just stuck on the subway for an hour. I don't care about any of these things. You just walked by me on the street and I want to put my penis in you."

In other words, calling me pretty is really not that different from telling me where you want to stick it. Sure the words are more polite sounding. But in the end, it is all the same message. And it is not a compliment. Not because it is not ok to want to have sex with a woman. Or find her pretty. But because it is not ok for it to be the first (and sometimes the only) thing you think of when you see her.

Listen dudes, I get it. Sometimes you guys see a beautiful woman and you just can't help yourself. You want to say something. You need to say something. Just in the off shot that she turns her bright blue eyes to yours and immediately falls into a desperate love (lust) swoon she simply cannot contain. So how about you try this comment on for size.

"Hello."

Not "hello beautiful". Not "hello baby". Just hello.
In other words, speak to me the way you would speak to the old lady in the elevator. Or the dude behind the counter who makes your egg sandwich. Hello. How are you? Have a nice day!

Do you know what I do when someone says hello to me. I say hello back. And then I smile and keep walking because I am not interested in meeting you. But I am not insulted. Let my husband call me beautiful. Or my friends. Or my mom. Or anyone who actually knows me. But the guy on 105th street? A simple hello will suffice. 

Right now some of the ladies out there may be saying "Hey! But I like it when guys compliment my hair. It makes me feel attractive. What will a simple hello do for me?" I could go on and on about how that hello makes you a human being, gives you value beyond just your looks, yada, yada, yada. But the truth is it is fine to like the compliments. Really. So long as you are able to correctly translate them all into their true meaning:

"Lady, I want to put my penis in you. Even though we just met. And even though there are so many other qualities that make you valuable. I think you look nice and that is what matters to me."

And by the way, all men have penises. Not just the cute, rich ones.

So enjoy it! All of it.
As for what you say back, hey, that's your business.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

It's Meningibolaids Season

I teach 4 back to back classes on Tuesdays, starting with an adorable big headed three year old named Marcus, and ending with my most advanced 6-8 year olds. Yesterday, about halfway through one of his katas, one of my yellow belt boys took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and said "I think I have pinkeye."

Ok, first of all, no. No you do not have pinkeye. Dude, have you seen pinkeye?? It is not discreet;rather your eye bubbles over like a wild Hawaiian volcano. Believe me, if you had pinkeye you would know. I would know. Most of all, your PARENTS would know and maybe, just maybe, you would have stayed home today.

And second of all, get the hell out of my dojo!

It is that time of year again. Time to buy stock in Purell. Time to hand wash like you are going into surgery. Time to invest in a protective bubble. A few days ago, while she was putting on her shoes, one of the other kids sneezed directly onto Maya's head. My kids class sounds like feeding time at the zoo. Did I mention that I teach four year olds. They don't cover their mouths when they cough. They wipe their noses on everything. They are smart, sweet and funny, and are absolutely, entirely composed of germs. Highly contagious germs.

Of course it does not help that I am a terrible hypochondriac. My head hurts, its a brain tumor. My neck is sore (a weekly occurrence in my world where someone is almost always trying to choke me), meningitis. I feel feverish, Ebola. And so on.

Some martial artists have an ironclad routine, a schedule that is absolutely impenetrable. Like my husband. He trains Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Period. Unless they are closed. Or he is really, really, really contagious. Like pinkeye, for example. He would not train with pinkeye.

Me, I like to be allowed to make game time decisions. And by game time, I mean "Hmm in order to make it to class I need to leave the house some time in the next two minutes. Time to assess how I feel. And how many episodes of Dance Moms I have saved on my DVR."

The truth is I usually end up going to class. But just in case you are on the fence, here is my totally not at all expert opinion on when you shouldn't go:

  1. When it is on your skin and your sport is grappling. Dude, ringworm is not cool. Stay home and put some cream on that. Your teammates will thank you.
  2. When bodily fluids are involved. A little congestion is fine. Everyone has a cold. But if anything is coming out of your body at regular intervals it is probably best to stay away. 
  3. If you have a fever. If I am not allowed to send my kid to school with it, than you should probably not train with it.
  4. If your body is telling you to sleep. In my experience there are minor illnesses where sweating it out makes you feel fantastic, and then there are those where you are better off in bed. If you listen to your body, you will probably be making the right choice. In other words, if training feels bad, it probably is.
And if you are feeling a bit under the weather today, here is a song to cheer you up. Maya made it up in the bath on Monday. And it is in Spanish!!


"Yo y tu diventido
Animales y caballo
La manzana rojo."

There was another line too, that I don't remember,  also ending with o. Now I do not know Espanol all that well but I am pretty sure the lyrics to this song translate as "You and I have fun. Animals and a horse. A red apple."

I was pretty impressed with her . 

I mean, have you listened to the radio lately? La manzana rojo is a damn good song. Grammy winning even. Go Maya!

So, to sum up:
Don't take karate class if you have pinkeye. 
It is always meningitis.
And...a red apple.

Adios amigos!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Take Your Daughter to Work

My dad is a photographer. Nowadays he shoots mostly digital, but when I was a kid he used black and white film and printed the photos in our kitchen. Looking back on that time, I remember feeling excited on the nights he would set up this makeshift darkroom, like there was a wild adventure about to happen inside my little Manhattan apartment. He would hang thick, black curtains over the kitchen door and windows and a long clotheslines across the center of the room to hang his photos on while they were drying. The chemicals were poured into red and orange trays. Usually, I was asleep for all of this; but every so often, for reasons I do not remember, I was allowed to stay up and join him in that Halloween-like room that smelled strongly of photo chemicals and looked nothing at all like my kitchen. I would watch, wide-eyed, as blank pieces of photo paper turned into pictures. Sometimes he would even let me swish them around in the tray prior to hanging them. 

Before printing, my dad would have to load the film into a metal canister to develop it. Since this procedure had to be done in absolute darkness, he would go into one of our hall closets, close the door, and perform it as if blind, with only his knowledgeable fingers to guide him. I vaguely remember trying this once too, when I was older, with my own roll of black and white film. 

It was not easy.

For a good portion of my early childhood, my father was a stay at home dad. In addition to photography, he was an avid jogger, who liked to run around the reservoir in Central Park. Sometimes he would take me with him, and since I was a kid, therefore not so great at jogging, we would do an exercise that he referred to as "run a little, walk a little."(It is exactly what it sounds like.)

Growing up, my dad and I had all kinds of problems too. I was a willful toddler, which is a nice way of saying that I liked to scream and yell when I didn't get my way. I then grew into a difficult teenager, which is also a nice way of saying that I liked to scream and yell when I didn't get my way. But the rest of the time, there was jogging, and the smell of photo chemicals, and pasta sauce cooking and my mom scratching my head when I was sleepy and all kinds of other memories that are the warm, fuzzy stuff of memoir and poetry. Not just dinner and swings and baseball, but the activities that are unique only to your family.

In addition to a love of writing and a passion for making up her own lyrics to songs, my daughter has inherited my stubbornness. When I was a toddler, I would sometimes fall asleep outside my parents bedroom, head slumped into my tiny chest, refusing to give up my tantrum. ("I waaaaaant one more hugggggg!") Although she is older now, and her crying fits are few and far between, Maya still has the occasional meltdown. She is nothing if not determined, willing to commit a full twenty minutes to dramatic wailing and the deep, deep sorrow that is really only appropriate in Shakespearean tragedy.  "I want someone to lie with me. Pleeeease. I just want some love. I feel like no one loooooves me!" When you implore her to please stop her monologue and go to sleep, she says. "I caaaaaaan't I am just toooo sad." (Oscar worthy, that one.) 

But most of the time, Maya, like the childhood me before her, is engaged in the kind of special activities that make up our life. Like sitting on the sidelines of a class that meant for 3rd degree black belts and up, a class where the students have all been training for over twenty years. At the last one of these, Maya watched, unfazed, while we tried to stab each other with wooden knives. Normal. She has sat at the head table with us at events where we were special guests, a table that was reserved for only karate instructors. She has followed us to BJJ classes and made rubber band bracelets on the side while we attempted to choke our partners unconscious for fun. Normal.

Over the summer, Maya played chess against a master in Washington Square Park. She tried to explain this experience to one of her friends once. ("You know that park in Manhattan where all the chess players are? The one where Josh Waitzkin used to play? You know, from the chess movie?") It did not even occur to Maya that playing chess in the park was not something that everyone did, that her friends not only had no idea what she was talking about, but had no idea what an arm bar was either. 

One of her buddies is the son of restaurant owners. I am sure he could tell her exactly how to make an arepa, about early morning visits to a fish market, about the night the fire department was called. When Matthew was a little boy, he napped in the back of a delivery van while his dad ran his pre-dawn paper route. Normal.

Sure, tumbling class and babysitters is the stuff of a typical childhood. But so are sweaty mats and the smell of photo chemicals and sidewalk chalk all over your butt, and the egg cream from the Brooklyn Luncheonette that you bought all by yourself , and the time you and your buddies found that body in the woods behind your house...

Okay, that was Stand By Me. 

But this other stuff, its important. More important, in my opinion, than what mommy and me class you take and which stroller you buy.

In our never ending quest to keep our kids safe from evil predators, to be the perfect parents, to raise climate conscious, quinoa eating, Prius driving leaders of the world, lets not forget to take them with us to work sometimes, especially if work happens to be a makeshift darkroom in your kitchen. 

Lets make our own normal.

Provided, it is safe and legal of course. 
Mostly.
Mostly safe and legal.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

New Belts for All!

When you run a dojo, there are a lot of things you have to think about. What classes you are going to offer. How much you are going to charge for tuition. What to do about that slowly leaking pipe that is directly above the mens changing room. (Seriously, can someone come and fix that!) What color gis should everyone wear. And if your students wear gis, they probably wear belts. And if they wear belts, you are probably going to have to figure out how and when to give them said belts. Which means some kind of promotion. 

I have promotion on my mind right now. We just planned a big kids one at our dojo for early October. In mid October, our style promotes black belts, for which we currently have 4 candidates. My BJJ school is promoting students tomorrow. All of that adds up to a lot of pieces of colored cloth.

There are many different ways to do belt promotions, and since I have been involved in multiple arts with gis over the years, I have witnessed a bunch of them.
  1. The promotion "exam". This is what most karate schools do. There is a specific day set aside for promotion and students are asked to come and participate in a special class where they demonstrate adequate knowledge of their required syllabus. Often this day includes a physical challenge as well, like multiple pushups. Sometimes sparring is required, and occasionally there is even a written test. When it is all over, you are rewarded with a new belt or stripe. Attendance at this testing day is usually by invitation only, and students rarely fail because they are only asked to go for promotion when their instructor feels they are ready. The good thing about this kind of promotion is that you always know when it is your turn to go. Also, the expectations are very clear. There is a syllabus for every rank and in some schools, a required amount of time and classes for each level. Students receive an invitation to attend promotion so there is never any confusion. Everyone who attends receives a new belt, no one feels left out. Since knowledge is required, however, it can sometimes take students who learn slowly a long time to get to their next level, which can be frustrating.
  2. The ceremony. Like the exam day, students are invited to attend this promotion but there is no testing portion. Often there is a giant class which everyone is welcome to attend, even those people who are not getting a new belt. At the end of the class, belts are awarded. Sometimes your progress is based purely on class numbers; other times it is more subjective, but either way you receive a letter ahead of time so you know you are receiving new rank that day. I have seen a few BJJ schools that promote this way. The ceremony feel makes for a fun event, however, some practitioners feel that the class counting method allows for less skilled students to achieve rank that they do not "deserve". 
  3. The "surprise" promotion day. My BJJ school does this. There is a specific day set aside for promotion, but no one knows ahead of time if they are receiving a new belt. Everyone in the school is invited to attend, and students are forced to guess if it is "their night" based on how they are doing in class, how long it has been since their last promotion, who got promoted last time, and anything else they can think of. (Does my instructor like my hair today???) There is no physical portion, although after new belts are tied on there is often an open mat where everyone trains together. Some schools do a form of "gauntlet" where you have to roll with everyone there, or a "belt whipping", which is what it sounds like and is, in my opinion, stupid and more than slightly offensive. The surprise promotion is very exciting but makes for some hurt feelings when students wrongfully thought they were getting a belt. There is also no chance to invite friends and family who might want to see you receive your rank, since you are never certain and no one wants that awkward moment. ("Thanks so much for coming grandma! I am sorry it wasn't my turn tonight. Can you leave the senior center again in 3 months?") 
  4. The surprise belt on a random day when you are least expecting it. This one is notorious in BJJ. You are rolling with your teacher and you are so busy defending the triangle choke that you do not notice he has replaced your blue belt with a purple one. (Thank you You Tube!) You just won the absolute division and on the podium are awarded both a shiny trophy and a brand new belt. Right before showing the move of the day, your teacher pulls a belt out of his gi and calls some shocked student forward. This method is really cool, except for those students who hate surprises. It it also torture to those of you who are obsessed with knowing where you are in the lineup, since on any given day someone could suddenly be awarded new rank. I am not sure what criteria teachers use to determine who they award belts to, but I imagine it is mostly based on class performance. 
These are the ones I have seen the most, but I am sure there are other ways to award students with new rank. In my opinion, it does not matter which one your school chooses, so long as it is a positive experience that makes students feel good. The only problem I see is when promotions are too stressful (ie: teachers are so tough on everyone they become insulting), or are used as excuses to reward only the top students while making others feel like they are being picked last for teams in gym class. New belts should be a reward for hard work, time put in, mental and physical effort. In other words, skill and sweat. 

Speaking of, it is time for me to go roll around on some mats!
              

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lincoln Tunnel

A little over a week ago we went to the NY Renaissance Faire. (Yes I insist on spelling it that way. Their website spells it that way. It is correct. Lofty, obnoxiously correct.) We had a great time watching knife throwing and jousting, eating overpriced fried foods, and enjoying the scripted antics of people dressed up like Shakespeare. On the way home, I did what I always do on car trips, obsessively checked Google maps for the most efficient, traffic-free route home. 

There are many ways to commute from Tuxedo Park, NY to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. All of them involve a bridge or tunnel of some sort, most of them through the fine state of New Jersey. Since I am a tad claustrophobic, if given a choice, I would always prefer a bridge. If it is New Jersey, I would prefer anything but the Lincoln Tunnel. Why such prejudice you ask? What difference does it make? 

It doesn't really. Only to me. I have some weird travel quirks.

In case you have never had the pleasure of this particular commute, here is a picture of the road that leads up to the Lincoln Tunnel.  It is called the Helix. 


 
Fancy, isn't it?
And here is a picture of the Helix during rush hour:


So, to recap, it is a long windy elevated road, full of slowly crawling traffic, with no exits, that leads to a hole underneath the Hudson river. 

All other New Jersey crossing have escape hatches. The Holland Tunnel has a bunch of gas stations leading up to the toll plaza where you can jump out of the misery for a moment to pee and grab some Twizzlers. The GWB has a few last minute exits. (Beautiful, beautiful Fort Lee!) Not so with the Helix. Once you are on that road you are on it until you die. Or at the very least, a truly painful half hour that you are never going to get back.

On this particular journey, Google Maps said there was an accident on the GWB so I told my trusty phone to navigate us elsewhere, into the Bronx, over some other bridge, far, far away from the evil clutches of the Lincoln Tunnel.

So there we were. On route 17. On another highway. On the Turnpike. On a road that...wait a minute...this road only goes to two places. Suburban Jersey. And...

Fuuuuuuuuuucccckkkkk!

It seems that after all my careful searching and refreshing and obsessing we ended up exactly in the spot I was trying to avoid: on the Helix.

Matthew just laughed at me. All roads are the same to him. And, in the midst of my frustration, I had to laugh too. What an absolute navigational failure.

In the end, it was ok. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend and traffic was pretty light. And, I got a very important life lesson out of it. A metaphor, if you will. 

I am one of those people who likes to plan for everything. You may call me neurotic; I like to think of myself as the ultimate boy scout. I am always prepared. Before I board the subway I make sure I have water, a snack, a pack of gum, some Advil, some Pepto Bismol, a book, a sweater, a machete and two sticks to rub together in case I need I start a fire. Ok, I am exaggerating. But only slightly.

Sometimes, however, shit happens anyway! God I hate it when that happens! How dare things break down! How dare people get sick! How dare the clouds produce rain! How dare you crash your car on the road where I was just driving, the road that Google Maps told me was completely traffic free! 

How dare things happen that I cannot control!
Like, um, almost everything!
How
Dare 
Everything!

Its almost as if no matter how much you plan, no matter how much you obsess and worry, sometimes you just end up in the Lincoln Tunnel anyway!!

But here's the thing about that. Even during 9am rush hour, you get out of New Jersey eventually, right? I mean, it may feel like forever. But really, it is just a teeny tiny fraction of the whole big timeline that is your life. So you can kick and scream and honk your horn and in a few hours it will all be over. Or you can exhale, turn up the radio, smile and eat some Twizzlers, and in a few hours it will all be over. 

I generally do the first thing. (I am really good at kicking.) But I am trying to learn how to do the second.

Wishing you all stress free commuting this week.
Now, off the the L train....

....

Yeah, about that.....

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Gratitude

I don't really believe in a higher power, certainly not the way most people do. I do not go to church on Sundays, or say my prayers when I lay me down to sleep. All the holidays that my family is inclined to celebrate tend to center around the same important tradition: food. 

Yet this past week, I found myself waking up in a strange bed every morning, with my first thought being "Thank you God." 

This week was our annual trip to Long Beach Island, the cozy little beach town on the Jersey Shore that we go to every summer. It is a slowly meandering vacation. There is the occasional bike ride, or drive to the amusement park down the road, but for the most part it is just pure lazy beach time. A typical day involves drinking coffee on the porch, followed by dragging far too much gear (beach chairs, boogie boards, umbrella for shade breaks, snacks, towels, more snacks, that book you can't stop reading) down the street to claim a spot on the sand before the lifeguards set up their stations. Then there is a morning swim. Some conversation, catching up with family. You try to read but keep getting distracted by all the talking. At some point the ice cream vendor appears to ring his bell like the Pied Piper. You negotiate the ice cream rules. (Maya gets one per day, whenever she wants it.) You go back to the house for lunch. You take a nap. You go back to the beach. You go back to the house for dinner. You have a glass of wine on the porch. That cool cousin who loves to braid does some fancy crown-like thing to your hair. You play some cards which is really just an excuse to giggle a lot and make fun of your cousins. You go to bed. There is a lot of sand in there. You wake up and do it all over again. 

Of course, not every LBI trip has been so blissful. There was that year when Maya was two and would not let me leave her sight for a minute without screaming her head off. No napping that summer. ("Mama! Mama! Want mama!"MAMAMAMAAAAAAAA!") There were the weeks where it rained half the time and suddenly all those nice conversations started to feel more like being  trapped inside a crowded elevator with a bunch of people who would not stop asking questions. 

And then there was last summer. The summer of pain.

Dramatic, I know. But when I woke up every morning this week, my first thought was "Thank you God. Thank you for allowing me to get out of bed so easily. Thank you for letting me make my eggs and bacon without a splitting headache. Thank you for allowing me to sit on a beach chair for more than five minutes without grimacing. Thank you for another pain free day here at the shore."

Last year I had injured my neck and shoulder exactly two days prior to leaving for LBI and spent the entire week alternating between lying flat on my back on the floor and wrapping myself in a heating pad/ice pack. No position was comfortable for more then a few minutes. There were some nice moments in the water with Maya, and a few evenings where the wine took the edge off enough to enjoy the view. But mostly, it just sucked. And I did not realize exactly how much it sucked until I had this year to compare it to. 

Should I have been able to ignore my discomfort and enjoy my vacation? Yes, absolutely. I was not the only family member in pain that summer. In fact, every year someone is dealing with something, an injury, an illness, an emotional struggle. Most of these people manage to suck it up and enjoy the beach anyway. 

Or perhaps they just had a better poker face than I did.

But hey, there is nothing like a crappy vacation to make you really, really appreciate a good one, right?

So thank you universe. Thank you for this wonderful week with the family. It was one of the best ones in a long time. I even enjoyed the noisy arcade. (Almost. I almost enjoyed it. Although what I was thinking going on that nauseating roller coaster I will never know!) Thank you for beautiful sunny skies and cool, foamy waves. Thank you for Maya, who learned new card games, and how to boogie board and how to cross streets with her cousins. (Look for cars, goddamn it, look for CARS!) Thank you for morning conversations in the kitchen and afternoon conversations on the sand. Thank you for Oreos. Thank you for the ice cream truck. Thank you for fishtail braids (that I still cannot do) and good books and long walks collecting shells. Thank you for gross, farty little boys. Thank you for husbands and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and family friends and that one poor person on the beach whose choice of bathing suit causes hours of cruel entertainment. Thank you for coffee. Thank you for comfort. Thank you for a traffic free ride down the Garden State towards home. Thank you for the sand on my living room floor. Thank you for the sand in my daughter's hair that won't wash out until some time after Labor Day.

And so on. I'm feeling grateful.
You get the picture.

Happy end of summer everyone.
Bring on the second grade!

(For Maya. I already completed second grade.)