Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kick butt? Why, yes, I do!

You may call today's entry the Happy Dance blog post.
I got second place in sparring this weekend at the Taekwondo America National Tournament.
My final match went into overtime twice before my opponent eked out a couple of extra points over me to win.
I'm pretty stoked that I got the silver medal although I had hoped for gold in my division. The girl who took first earned it. But I made her work for it :)

I didn't place in forms/patterns, the other portion of the competition, but I'm most proud of this.
Sounds strange, eh? Let me explain.
(By the way, martial arts forms or patterns are a set of movements one has to perform to demonstrate skills in kicking, punching, jumps and stances.)

Saturday's competition, which took place in Winston-Salem, N.C., was my third national tournament.
I did terribly in patterns my first two tourneys because of stage fright. Even though I knew my forms, I forgot them as I performed because I was so nervous and just froze halfway through them.
(The only redeeming part of last year's tournament was that I placed in sparring. 2009's tournament? Don't event ask.)

I went to this year's nationals as an act of faith.
I didn't want the fear of performing in front of people to have mastery over me.
So, as I prepared for the competition, I prayed. I also asked three dear lady friends, Caroline, Rachel and Melanie, to pray for me regarding my fear.

Specifically, I wanted to not only do my pattern correctly and in the right direction (you can get turned around easily!), I also wanted to enjoy it while I was at it.
I felt kind of silly asking them to pray about this small thing. But I know that God cares about the big and the little things in our lives.

On Saturday, during the competition, I performed my pattern from beginning to end before dozens of eyes. No hiccups.

I didn't come home with a medal in forms (I got a respectable score but not high enough to place) but I scored a major victory over fear.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Reliving the memories 10 years later

As a writer there are times when experiences are hard to put into words.
This is one of those times.
To jog my memory, I pulled these out today for the first time in 10 years.

I confess that I hate even having to relive this.
I've never written down my memories until now.

When the Sept. 12 and Sept. 14 issues of the New York Times arrived at my Brooklyn doorstep in 2001, I didn't bother to take them out of the plastic. (Not sure what happened to Sept. 13.)
The emotions were still too raw.

I had just arrived at my college campus in Brooklyn the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 when I learned that two planes had slammed into and eventually felled the Twin Towers in Manhattan. I thought of my dad right away who worked a few blocks from the towers. I repeatedly called his cellphone but couldn't get through to him. I tried to choke down this feeling of dread rising inside me.

My best friend Joanna, a few other friends and I spotted each other and prayed together briefly right on the lawn as other students hurried by and buzzed with the news.
The college president dismissed school and we all attempted to make our way home. All subway service had been suspended and as a result, all the buses were packed.

Neither Joanna nor I wanted to be alone. So we first went to my apartment, about 15 minutes from campus, to drop off some things. Then we went to hers for a little while.
I still couldn't get a hold of dad. I left Joanna's and decided to head to my parents' house. I felt like I spent half the day riding the buses and walking just to get there. In reality, it was maybe three to four hours.
I finally made it home and there my dad was, sitting on the leather sofa with his shirt off and feet propped up on the coffee table. I rushed into his arms.
He was one of the thousands of New Yorkers who walked from Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge to get home.

Every other family member was eventually accounted for by that evening. All day and that week, we got calls from relatives and friends from all over the country and the world making sure we were OK.

The days and weeks following the attacks were among the most sobering in my life. There was this subdued silence on the subways -- which was odd because there is always noise on a New York City train.
One time, I was on a train and as it came overhead, you got a view of the Manhattan skyline. The only thing was, there was smoke still rising from where the Twin Towers used to be.
I got this sinking feeling in my stomach. I looked at the other passengers and saw the same feeling reflected in their faces.

In the decade since the attacks, I have not allowed myself to watch any television specials or movies or read books or articles immortalizing and analyzing that tragic day. I was there. That's enough for me.

Until today.
I read a special section in the Knoxville News Sentinel. (The insert was actually from Friday's paper but I finally got the nerve to read it this morning.)

These last 10 years, however, I have asked questions countless times:

What does it look like to forgive?
What does it look like to move on?
What does it look like to live life fully?
What does it look like to hope?

I've memorized two Bible scriptures that I recall often whenever bad things happen or when life is hard.
The first is Psalm 90:12 - "Lord, teach us to number our days so we may gain a heart of wisdom."

The second is Romans 5:3-5 - "We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."