Friday, March 16, 2012

Victory is Mine!

It's official—I'm starting my fabulous NEW JOB on Monday! I'll be working in a customer service capacity for a giant company that's been doing commercial printing for more than 140 years.

No more spending all day in sweatpants and flipflops.

More t/k!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hair Growth Watch

While Queen Michelle was sitting in the stylist's chair in Scotland, getting a trim on Saturday, we were tweeting back and forth about haircuts, hair growth, and regret.

Queen Michelle's hair had been exceptionally for years, perhaps long enough to reach her jeans waistband. Maybe she'll confirm this. I'm not sure of her reasons, but sometime recently, she cut off two feet of hair. Two feet! It's now somewhere below her collarbones.

My hair was down to my lower back until late 2009. Then I decided it was too long for a woman my age (I was 43), and I got about a foot cut off. Yeah, that was a great idea. Who cares how long your hair is when you're 43?

The cut I got was decidedly lackluster and mumsy, but I lived with it. Soon after that, I went to New York, and as a result of serendipitous and benevolent arrangements made by WendyB, I had my hair cut in her hallway by the lovely and talented Julie Matos, who styles WendyB's hair for special events. I took a picture of my haircut that day, and I can't find it. It was the best haircut I've ever had—Julie took my hair from mumsy to yumsy.

Even as Julie was working her magic, I knew her housecall range wasn't likely to include California. Gulp.

With that grim realization, I returned home to my California stylist, and the cut's direction changed, as it was bound to do with someone else at the shears. I tried to accept the new direction. I kept the same basic style, a just-below-chin-length bob for a few months. But it just wasn't the same. The edge and uniqueness was lost, and with it my interest in the cut. I was ruined for anybody but Julie. Within months, I succumbed to frustration, and I told my stylist I wanted "big change." A bog-standard bob doesn't allow for much change, but he did what he could. He cropped me about as short as is tolerable. He did a great cut (photo, below left), but in retrospect, I realize we took it too far. I had made a mistake. That day I knew I wouldn't cut my hair again until further notice.

Circa March, 2010 (left); Mid 2011 (center); Februrary 2012 (right)

When she was in the chair getting a trim, Queen Michelle Tweeted that cutting her hair had been a mistake, and that she was growing her hair out. I understood that. I didn't think cutting my hair was a mistake when Julie cut it, but I was wishing for longer hair after just a months of not having access to her cutting skills. So after my wacky experiment with the Shortest.Bob.Ever, I am on a mission to grow my hair out. Same with Queen Michelle.

After some commiseration, Queen Michelle and I have agreed to a Hair Growth Watch, wherein we will be each others' support if we are ever tempted to chop our locks. We have chosen a goal of chest-length for our hair. Mine is past my collarbones, but it seems as if it has been the same length forever. I'm forcing myself to be patient, and it's not easy. I want it long now. Maybe I have a case of "grass is greener," and I assume I'll be happy with longer hair. But if I ever get to the point where I can't resist the temptation to get a serious haircut, I'll buy a ticket to New York, and book an appointment with Julie. Then I'll lose my return ticket.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Minimalism as Feedback

Queen Michelle's post on ballet grading prompted me to make some comments about karate and belt gradings (called "testing," in our dojo).

She talked in her post about what it's like to be involved in ballet as an adult. I am enjoying learning about it from her perspective. Queen Michelle strives for continuous improvement, which I admire. Improvement in ballet can be benchmarked through gradings. She mentioned that she can gain access to her grading papers to read the notes written on them by those evaluating her skills. She can then use these notes as cues to how to improve. If I were in her pointe shoes, I would appreciate getting this kind of constructive criticism, too. In my dojo, students don't get that kind of feedback.

Me in my karate suit
I think I can draw some parallels between Queen Michelle's "learning-ballet-as-an-adult" story and my karate narrative. I started Goju-Ryu karate as an adult (I was 42). It's very humbling, and I bet Queen Michelle would admit to humbling moments in her ballet training. I can't imagine that any aspect of ballet is easy for an adult or for a child. Her descriptions of what it's like to move and function with such grace show clearly that there is much work involved, work that is difficult to discern for the untrained eye.

I think that's true in karate, too. There's so much nuance, detail, and invisible stuff going on, it can be dizzying. Sensei's movements and execution look easy, but I know that even a feeble attempt at moving basics or renzoku bunkai takes (sometimes massive) effort. Improvement comes by degrees and inches. One cannot expect to breeze through the training if one hopes to really absorb the material.

Queen Michelle points out that adults move more quickly through ballet grade curriculum than children for various reasons. The same can be said about karate, because generally, adults have better motor control and processing skills than children, but unless one is extremely gifted, the process still takes time. I have been impatient with myself at times, feeling I'm learning more slowly than my grasping mind would prefer. Some say that we are never "done" with karate, that we are always learning, even at Seventh Dan. Karate is a moving goalpost.

In karate, the grades are called "kyus," and are visually represented by colored belts. Some kyus are signified by stripes made of black electrical tape, which are stuck onto the belts. When one begins training in karate, he or she enters as a white belt.

Here's how the Goju-Ryu kyus go:

White Belt (no kyu)
10kyu: add one stripe (What do you say when you get a stripe on your white belt? 10kyu!)
9kyu: add second stripe
8kyu; add third stripe

7kyu: Yellow Belt
6kyu: add one stripe

5kyu: Green Belt
4kyu: add one stripe

3kyu: Brown Belt
2kyu: add one stripe
1kyu: add second stripe

Shodan: Black Belt
(Grades proceed up from here)

One must work through 11 kyus before obtaining a black belt in Goju-Ryu (other karate styles have different belts and gradings). There are several grades, or "dans," of black belt. Dans are not evident on a black belt, as no electrical tape is applied at this level. It's said that once you reach black belt, you are finally a "beginner." So I am an intermediate sub "beginner," at 5kyu. (I recently told someone I had a green belt, and she asked "Isn't that one of the low belts?" groan.) I'm finishing up my third year of training this month. Some move quickly through the kyus, and some don't.

Back to constructive criticism: I wish, in our dojo, we had an opportunity to view our test comments and notes, like Queen Michelle has in her ballet school gradings. If I had that opportunity, maybe I'd be able to pinpoint areas where I need more work, and perhaps it I'd feel a more concrete sense of my own accomplishment. Alas, that kind of control is not in mine to behold. It must stay in Sensei's hands.

Validation of one's progress in karate will come as a surprise when Sensei issues a student an invitation to test/grade. A student is invited to test only when Sensei is confident that the student can satisfactorily meet the test's challenges. The test at this level* consists of performance of basic skills, kata, bunkai, sparring, and perhaps some physical challenges, usually done in a class setting. (Once, I tested in the company of two Senseis and only one other student, who happened to be my husband. I really prefer this to being in a full classroom, performing kata by myself, while everyone looks on.)

After one completes a test, one might receive two or three complimentary remarks, delivered in front of the whole class, but that's it. If you're not invited to test/grade, the implication is that you must keep working at the current level until further notice. Thus no feedback equals feedback. And there's no indication of exactly what you need to improve upon, or how long it'll be until you're invited to test/grade next.

It's a minimalist approach. One must be content to just keep training without input. One must train on a foundation of self-assurance and dedication, and look inward for guidance, rather than outside oneself. Learning without feedback has been a challenge for me. Sometimes I feel I'm completely at sea, with two left feet and an aging body, but it forces me to trust in something I don't fully understand.

*I might add that these feats are mild compared to what is required for a black belt test. And brown belts must begin teaching at some point, and carry on teaching as they progress toward black belt. Additional requirements at these levels include writing a research paper, community service, workout programs, nutrition assessments, etc.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Film Still Drawing #2

I've been practicing my drawing, as my 1 reader knows (ha ha). One of my sources of reference is the movie The Girl With the Pearl Earring. I love the imagery. Here's a film still I've drawn before:

Here's what I did last week, using the above still for reference:

I sat down for about an hour, I think, and did this in a single sitting. It's unfinished—I have not been back to work on it a second time. There's a lot more I could do with it.

The trees are a bit one-dimensional, but overall, I like it. I'm trying not to judge my results. In the past, I've had a lot of trouble drawing, because I can clearly and completely visualize finished drawings in my head, but I have difficulty rendering them. I don't like it when a drawing doesn't come out the way I see it in my mind's eye, so I abandoned drawing altogether for years.

I decided to try again, and see if I could enjoy just drawing what I see, with no expectations. Who says it has to be perfect? I'm accountable to no one. And anyway, I don't have any formal—or informal—drawing training, so any result is okay.

I enjoyed doing this one, and the others I've done. I'm going to keep working at it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal II

As all .008 of my readers know, I've been growing these daffodils for awhile now. For a long time, I thought they'd never come up. Then, in November, some tiny shoots popped up, and I posted a photo then.

Three months later, I've got 8" foliage in some cases. Almost every bulb has produced some sort of shoot. It's really gratifying, considering I've got black thumb when growing anything other than bulbs in a pot. I've tried more than once to grow sweet peas and other flowers, to no avail. Now I stick to what I know.

I spent a few minutes trying to work on perspective with this sketch of the square white pot. I think I did okay on the pot and daffs, but the table is way off!

Oh well, I like the drawing of the pot. Who cares about the table!?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Third Interview Notes

Thursday morning, I interviewed for the third time with a company I really want to work for.

I applied for the job in mid-November, thinking "this is way out of my league, I'll never hear from them." In early December, I got an email inviting me to do a phone interview on December 12.

When the call came, the woman conducting the interview identified herself as being a bigwig, in charge of the West Coast division I'd be a part of if I am hired. I found it interesting that she was conducting preliminary interviews herself. In my experience, first interviews done by phone are usually conducted by HR staff, to weed out people who are not viable candidates before the bosses get involved. But I liked the fact that the woman who would be my boss was so hands-on in this process. (Note: she lives out of state, and runs the division remotely from where she lives, which involves a lot of email, phone calls, and travel.)

The job sounded absolutely perfect. The phone interview went well, and she referred me to a man in the local office, telling me he'd be in touch to interview me. I sent her a thank you, and she confirmed that Mr. Local Office would be in touch "soon."

Mr. Local Office was in touch the next day, and we made arrangements for me to interview later that week, December 15. I enjoyed speaking with Mr. Local Office, and thought the interview went well—he and I agreed on that point. Mr. Local Office told me he'd report as much to Ms. Bigwig.

I drove home, thrilled and excited. I sent a thank you to both Ms. Bigwig and Mr. Local Office. Ms. Bigwig replied that Mr. Local Office had "great things to say about me," so I felt encouraged. But I also worried, because the holidays were coming, and I knew that some offices didn't do much during holiday time. It might be two or three weeks to hear anything about this job. I hunkered down to wait.

Xmas came and went. New Year's came and went. After three weeks I couldn't stand it anymore. I sort of knew that if three weeks had gone by, I was out of the running for the job in the local office, but I hadn't been rejected yet, so on a string of hope and a dose of wild tossing of caution to the wind, I sent an email to Ms. Bigwig, saying I wasn't sure where she was in the decision-making process, but that I was still very interested in the position. (I never do this. I stand firm on the ground that if people want you, they will contact you.) She replied that they'd filled the local office position, but that they had other openings in other offices. Ugh. I was crushed when my fear was confirmed, but that emotion was slightly offset by the possibility of a job in another office. She added that she was traveling and was going to be in the local office on January 19, and wanted to meet with me in person that day. My hope was truly re-kindled when I heard this, and we made arrangements to meet.

When January 19 came, we had our meeting in a local Starbucks. I enjoyed the meeting and must have made a good impression, because she told me she wanted to send me to another local office, to interview with at least two, and possibly three people. I am really pleased that she went out of her way to meet me on a very tight schedule, and that she is referring me to another office. I told her that I'm really excited about the possibility of working in this other local office. I'm nervous about meeting with so many people, but I'll do my best dog-and-pony show, because this job is just about perfect.

I'm waiting to hear what the next step is.

Fingers crossed.