Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seeing Friends in Quechee and Helping My Mentor

Had a chance to help out our good friend and my "real man" mentor Gary Lovell, who happens to run Balloons Over New England, the premier ballooning operation in area. Sorry, had to give him a little plug. He needed some books in his condo, and there are apparently some problems with the lock, so he asked me to try and I managed to get in using my own "creative" means. It gives me a glimmer of pride to be able to come through for Gary by being resourceful, even if it could land me in jail.

We also ran into a boatload of friends at the Quechee Ski Hill, and it's yet another thing we love about living in a small town, even if we don't live in it anymore. Seeing and connecting with friends wherever you go, it's nice with families because even if you don't want to see them, your kids are usually excited to see their friends.

So much going on but not much to really report on. Got my home improvement book and will begin the process of finishing that barn when Spring hits. We'll see how that goes.

Until then, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ugh! So Much To Do and Practicing My Katas

Today is a good example of owning up to your responsibilities and not being a whiner about it, much in the spirit of living in New England. It snowed for days yesterday, and I'm talking feet... well, not quite, but nearly two feet, which when you get down to it, makes for "feet." Anyway, since it was coming down in buckets and we were out playing, of course I didn't get around to shoveling, because we were having too much fun playing in the snow.

Well, as the saying goes, you play, you gotta pay. Today we are slated to have a playdate with our buddies over on Webster Road, and it's an early morning gig, but I have to shovel and fill the wood box. AND, I've got to make something to bring over for lunch. The question is, when do I get to whine about it?

I'm going to have to get out before everyone wakes up and shovel astronomical amounts of snow, not to mention rake the roof, but that can wait until later. The main thing is to clear a path to the wood pile so I can get more wood, because it gets cold once the sun goes down.

Anyway, I'm a firm believer that parenthood has given me the emotional and psychological fortitude to just deal with it, which is no small thing when you're training to be a real man.

Speaking of which, I've been practicing my bo katas and the biggest problem I face is not remembering them properly, though I do think practicing them wrong is better than nothing. It's so much to remember, and my mind goes blank when Master Hammond (Joe to everyone else) is glaring at me. I feel the strong desire to win his approval, but that's the Asian in me.

We'll see. Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Septic Permit and More Snow!

Amazing-we got an official okay from the state to build our septic system. I can't believe it, after all that. Interestingly, Todd Hill said he had no worries from the get go, but boy did it take a lot of time and sweat. Thus for with this barn, nothing has come easy, but maybe that's the point. Either way, we received official notification by mail yesterday, and now we are all set. Now all we have to do is come up with the funds to pay for it. I'd better start writing that screenplay ASAP.

I've also ordered a book on how to build a house, and while this oversimplifies the process, it's at the very least, a start, and not a bad way to get my mind around the whole process. The problem I've found with talking to people is that everyone does it differently, but maybe that's something I've got to embrace rather than fret over.

We're supposed to get some mega-snowstorm today, and though I love the snow, I'm not looking forward to all that shoveling. At least our wood box is full... sort of. Enough to get us through the next couple of days.

At least the skiing should be good. I've got a dentist's appointment on Friday but am thinking I'll reschedule so we can get a day of skiing in with the kids, since they didn't do as much as they'd wanted this past weekend.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hartland Winter Events

Hartland Winter Fest (ice sculptures, chili cookoff) is coming. It's pretty cool when the small town you live in hosts so many cool events, and it all boils down to community involvement, because it wouldn't happen otherwise. Another good example of this is Hartland Winter Trails. They are an amazing group that maintains the XC ski trails for anybody who wants to use them, and they do a fantastic job. Things like this can't be taken for granted.

We were planning on doing all sorts of downhill skiing this weekend, Audrey and Nicholas were pumped, but things sort of fell by the wayside. We skiied on Friday, skated at Occom Pond on Saturday, and Sunday was XC ski day in Hartland. We figured we couldn't do both without overwhelming the kids, so given the choice, they decided to XC ski w/Clara. So I went snowboarding by myself in the AM and took them to XC ski day.

I took Audrey and Nicholas along to meet some friends at Hartland XC ski day. It was a beautiful day and Clara and Aidan joined us, along with the parental units of Amber and Kathy. I get a sense they are experienced skiers because they sure knew what they were doing. Anyway, I had reservations about Nicholas keeping up, and for that matter, me keeping up, but Nicholas really bit the bullet and went for it. I'm so proud of him. Andrea, who runs the trails with her husband (again, they do a fantastic job) was overseeing the table with snacks and hot cocoa, which the kids loved.

When we set off on the trail and got more ambitious than I would have preferred, but it was a good thing because we got to see more of the trail than I usually get to. I generally do the loop in Bischoff meadow and head home, but we went for it and climbed the hill to get to Merritt Road. The climb was brutal, and the whole time I was thinking, "Heck, we gotta get down this hill, as well." We turned back a little bit after passing Jan Fisher's house, though I know Audrey could have gone on longer, and by default, Nicholas would have followed. But it was time to go home.

The trip down the hill wasn't worth the drama, so Nicholas and I walked, but Audrey just cruised down. When she sets her mind to things, she's pretty amazing. In fact, I was impressed with how well she skied, keeping up with Aidan no problem. We headed back to the car in the after glow of our long journey, tired by satisfied, after having completely lost sight/touch with Aidan and Kathy. They just took off and went for an adventure. Kudos to them.

Back at the truck, we had all of our hockey gear, and of course Clara wanted to join us, so we went over to the rink around 3:30 and skated for a few hours. Clara had been up since 5:00 AM and was still going strong. She's an amazing hockey player, as well. Such a natural.

It's pretty cool how active people are, and for that matter, we are, in winter time. There are so many fun and rewarding activities to do up here, it's really great for families. We have recently picked up on hockey, not really serious, but just hitting the puck around, and it definitely makes skating a little more interesting. Plus, Audrey and Nicholas just love it. We don't want to fall into the parental trap, however, of too many organized sports. Parents just seem to run their kids ragged with scheduling, and hockey in particular has a brutal schedule with all the traveling.

Had karate last night and Grand Master Hammond was there, focusing once again on me and Robert to do the Bo Katas. It's a bit of leap for me, and I feel like I always let him down because I'm not always quick on the uptake, and it takes some time before they click with me. I'm grateful for the attention, and not so grateful, as well. The pressure is killing me. Belt testing is coming up, I'm thinking maybe in March. It still impresses me how dedicated Chip and Master Hammond (I think I'm too afraid of the guy, I'm going to lighten up and call him Joe) are, it's inspiring. Sparred with Peter, my regular sparring partner, and I'm really beginning to get a feel for learning on the fly. We'll see how this goes, I need to practice my darn katas.

Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Free At Last... At Least For The Moment

If you can believe this, we finally got all of our water tests done and filed them with the state in order to complete our permit for the septic system for the defunct project of finishing the barn. It's amazing to think that this all started five or six months ago, and this is as far as we've gotten. Todd Hill said not to worry about the permit passing, he seemed to indicate that it was a no-brainer, but at this point, I wouldn't take anything for granted. It was a complete rigmarole just getting all the necessary tests to satisfy the state, but in all fairness, Terence Shearer has been very helpful and understanding, so I can't really complain. This is just how things get done.

In the meantime, it's getting cold, and we're getting some ice buildup on the roof, but I'm not sure if I'll need to go up on my trusty ladder and knock it off. I hope not. Kurt mentioned that if it isn't leaking, then it might be better to leave it, because you can do more damage by chopping away at the shingles, especially a guy like me.

Say no more.

Thinking of hitting the dump today, then doing the week's shopping. I'm guessing I'll see some friends at some point, I always do. Such is the life in a small (-ish) town. Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Meeting More Of Our Neighbors

I realize this sort of thing happens all the time in New York, where you cross paths with certain people but never get around to meeting them. Well, believe it or not, it happens sometimes in small town America, as well. We live nestled in the woods, but it is hardly in the middle of nowhere. In fact, it's about a mile walk into town, so people walk around here all the time, and in addition to the XC trails, we end up getting a lot of traffic out here.

Of course, I never really get around to actually meeting them. Yesterday at the Hartland rink, Audrey and Nicholas grew weary of skating and decided to play in the snow, so I walked over and had a chat with the after school monitors, Bonnie and Mary Jo. Having just met Bonnie, I learned that she is in fact one of those mysterious walkers with whom I exchange frequent anonymous greetings on the side roads out here. FYI, Bonnie is also neighbors with our good friends, the Hales.

Either way, of course they know Marty and Scott, and the subject of building came up. They both had extensive experience with building additions or even entire houses, much like most of the people up here, and we discussed the possibilities of finishing the barn. These women were much like a lot of women I meet up here, independent and very capable.

It's no wonder men strive to be real men in this area, they have a lot of competition from the women, who give them a run for the money. Either way, they both had good advice about building, but the take home message, especially from Bonnie, was that you can do it yourself if you really want to and have the time.

Nice to hear, and another reason why we love it up here. Until the next time, thanks for reading. Oh, and my name is Fred Lee

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moving Towards My Blue Belt

I have to confess, when I get to karate class and see that Grand Master Hammond is there, my heart sinks a little. I am intimidated as heck by the guy, he's a seventh or eighth degree black belt, or something crazy like that, but he's no nonsense, and it's stressful working with him because I want to perform at an adequate level. He's been teaching me bo-katas and it's high pressure, because not only are his expectations high (I'm honored he's focusing on me), but all the parents are just two feet away, watching. It's a little nutty, and more than anything I want to do well by him. The ball is in my court, I've got to practice.

It all boils down to the fact that I've got to man up and just do it. Easier said than done, but such is the life of a real man in training. I'm coming up on my blue belt test.

He keeps talking about tournaments and competitions, and I have a feeling that my time in hell is coming. Not sure what to make of it all, I'm not one for competition, especially where blood and pain are involved, but I'll just keep practicing and let the cards fall as they may. It's a good lesson, actually, in not only overcoming my fears (which are seemingly insurmountable) while alos learning to go with the flow and not try to control that which is uncontrollable. I can't control the future, but I can only do the best that I can do and try my hardest. Be in the moment, don't forecast too far into the future, because the stress will kill you, and you can't do anything about it, anyway.

My name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Skiing in the Green Mountain State

One thing about living in Vermont is that when the weather gets cold and the snow starts to fall, you ski. Whether it be XC or Alpine, it's just the thing to do around here, and something that I've wanted to encourage in Audrey and Nicholas from the get go, especially with the kids. Having grown up in Southern California, skiing was an activity that only few people had the means or the desire to do. Consequently, it has an air of exclusivity and privilege, regardless of whether or not it's warranted. Then again, this LA we're talking about here.

It's different up here. Everyone skis, and it really is accessible to most people. All the schools have ski programs, and there are affordable lift tickets and equipment. I tried to encourage Audrey and Nicholas to downhill ski, but they just never really clicked with it. Maybe I jumped in too fast and they just weren't ready, but they indicated that they just weren't into it. I was bummed, but the bright side was that I could snowboard by myself, even if my dream of skiing as a family had come to an abrupt end.

We took up XC skiing, instead, and they enjoyed that, even if it was more work, it is a more thoughtful and soulful experience, and one we've done as a family for the past year. Well, just the other day, as I was getting ready to snowboard at the Quechee Hill, they told me that they wanted to ski with me. I couldn't believe it, and we hit the slopes and they had a blast.

A complete turnaround. We had to upgrade Audrey's stuff and tune it up, and Nicholas is due for the same, but we skiied two days in a row at the local hill. Saw a bunch of our friends, the kids made huge strides in their skiing, and now we're a skiing family. How cool is that?

When in Rome, and all. I'm excited but have to take a deep breath and take it slowly, but for now, I'm stoked. Want to go skiing all the time, and they've reached a point where I could probably bring my snowboard while they skiied, but I want to be there for them if they need me.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Calling All Real Men-Homeowner Disaster

We had a bit of a home disaster yesterday, born out of our own neglect, mind you, and yet another adventure in home ownership. One of our water pipes burst and flooded the mud room, and being a real man in training and all, I had to move quickly to stem the tide of disaster, bearing in mind that this was all new to me.

We have baseboard heating in our house, but we never use it because we heat with wood. The problem is, the mud room is almost a separate room, adjacent to the house. We keep it isolated because it get really cold and thus cools the house. Of course, with the freezing temps we got the past couple of days, the pipes froze, and as the weather warmed up, it caused the pipes to crack.

Luckily I had gone in there just as they opened up and discovered the leak. The floor was covered with water, and it could have been a lot worse if more time had passed. As I stepped into the pool of water that was once the mudroom floor, I did what came naturally to me - I panicked and called for help. Ruth came rushing over and tried to stem the tide, but the pipe wasn't exposed and water kept flowing out.

I ran down to the basement and shut off the water main, temporarily solving the problem, then we thought about the problem while we sopped up the mess. It dawned on me that we never use our baseboard heating. In fact, I didn't even realize that it was connected to our water supply, for some reason I thought it was an isolated system. Either way, we needed water, but didn't need the heating system, so I had this brilliant notion that we could simply shut off the heating without losing our water, since I figured that each "zone" could be independently monitored.

Feeling empowered, I sprung into action and did what I always do. I called one of my real-man mentors, Kurt Boland of Boland Custom Home Improvement. Sorry, just had to give him a plug. Like Paul, he's a good friend and very capable and knowledgeable. Of course, it being Sunday, he was busy with family stuff, but was kind enough to take my call and answer my question. Just for the record, he was at hockey practice with his kids.

He said our idea would work, and that later that day while he was plowing our driveway he would have a look.

Now I don't know about you, but if you've ever looked at your plumbing system in the basement, it's a complete mess. I don't know how to make sense of it all, so I painstakingly traced the pipes from the vicinity of the mud room and found where they connect to the boiler, then took a leap of faith and shut off the valve.

Holding my breath, I turned the house water back on, and voila! All was well, for now. Kurt stopped by later to drop off Clara, his daughter who also is best friends with Audrey. He said it would be fine, and talked real-man talk (i.e., contracting) about possibly just isolating that room by cutting it out of the heating loop, but that's for another time.

We were just glad to avert a complete disaster, and we did it ourselves. How's that for being a real man?

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Practicing My Katas, Staying Warm, and Keeping the Barn in Sight

I've been having trouble being truly disciplined in my quest to be a karate man in that I set a goal of practicing my katas and one-step spars every day, and never seem to pull it off. Come Monday at class, I'm embarrassed to reveal that I don't know my stuff, and feel I've let down my sensei, whose dedication is second to none. I'm in awe of how much he and the Grand Master devote themselves to something that pays them nothing and requires so much of them, and admire them for their desire to persevere. It inspires me, but clearly not enough.

Anyway, my point is, I've been practicing more, because we are slated to test for our next belts, and I'm up for my blue belt. I'm still not sure if I want Ruth and Audrey and Nicholas to be there to watch, though they'd be thrilled to pieces. It might even inspire the kids to want to join in, but I'm not going to pressure them. It doesn't take much, and I've found being more aware and conscientious about my sparring techniques has broadened my repertoire and increased the diversity of my moves, if that makes any sense. In other words, thinking about what is and isn't working, and contemplating new things has helped me in sparring, and there's nothing like putting it into play and seeing things work out. It's really satisfying.

Part of my goal was to also increase my stamina, a goal that I've made no progress towards because the idea of exercise has no appeal to me in the heat of the moment, though in the big picture it haunts me. I still think jumping rope is my first goal, because I really need to work on my footwork in terms of my sparring. XC skiing would be nice, as well, though whenever I have free time, I just want to snowboard.

Speaking of which, I want to hit the slopes today but am worried that it will be a zoo. Big weekend, and all.

It's warmed up today to a balmy zero degrees, and yesterday when we skated at Occom Pond it was sizzling in the teens. It's a lot of fun out there, though at times I feel (being the neurotic adult that I am) like a stranger in a strange land, and pine for our home ice in Hartland. Saw an old friend, a woman who actually hails from So Cal and now lives in Hanover, enough said. I see her all the time and our kids are the same age, but whenever we meet, I get the distinct vibe that I'm intruding on her territory. She always asks me the same thing-isn't there anything to do where you live? She asked this when we went swimming at Storr's Pond, and she asked it again, yesterday.

Now I know I'm reading way too much into this, but being the suburban lifer that I am, I can't help but dwell on the subtle (and not so subtle) undercurrents of exclusivity that you get in Hanover and Norwich. When you really get down to it, Occom Pond is a country club, so east coast Ivy League, et al. Either way, it was fun, I just do better when I avoid people like that. It brings me back to the dark days of suburbia hell of LA, and completely reminiscent of life in Providence, RI.

The barn is once again in my crosshairs, though we got some crazy news from Ruth's parents. They want to buy the house they've been renting for 40 years, thus closing the door a bit more on any interest in their living in the barn. That doesn't change my resolve to finish it, and I've ordered a book on DIY building. I've got Homestead Gary looking out for me, as well, and he's been throwing suggestions my way, so come Spring, I'll hopefully be able to hit the ground running.

Yeah, right. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Burning Wood as if it Grew on Trees

It's so cold, it's amazing, really. We're hovering around -20 and it makes it hard to get outside and get anything done. We've been burning wood at pretty good clip, though I will say this-our stove is amazing. We've yet to turn on our boiler and use the baseboard heating, we've relied solely on wood, and it's been just right. In fact, when it really gets going, it's almost too hot, and I walk around in shorts and t-shirt. Not today, of course.

But, we are burning through out wood pile, no pun intended. I've been trying to keep tabs on it and I've been filling the thing about every three days, and as it stands right now, we've gone through a little over a quarter of the pile. February should be brutally cold, and things should mellow in March, so I think we're okay, and we always have our propane in an emergency.

Still learning the ropes on firewood, however. This could take years. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to warmer weather when I can put more thought into the barn. Then again, I can put plenty of thought into without actually doing something.

Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Discipline, 007

Discipline and focus, the mantras of karate, and yet, I find time slipping through my hands.

I make a vow every Monday night before, during and after karate to practice more and keep the lessons I've learned in mind each and every day, and as the week progresses, find myself failing miserably. When it comes down to it, whenever I have some free time my first impulse is to lie down and take a nap, not that I ever have any free time.

Either way, I managed to practice my katas yesterday, and it really doesn't take much. A couple weeks ago, my practicing sparring really paid off when I sparred with Peter as I tried out some new moves that really hit the mark, both figuratively and literally. With the new belt tests coming up, I really should be doing more, and I will. It doesn't take much, maybe twenty minutes a day, and the benefits are huge.

It's getting cold out here, there's some major cold front from Canada coming in, called the Alberta wind or something like that. Wind chills are supposed to drop to -20, if you can believe that one. Good thing our wood box is full.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go break boards with my head. Until the next time, my name if Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Getting Cold for a Karate Man

It's been getting cold out here, as you might have guessed, but apparently we're slated to get some ugly cold weather, on the order of -20 degree wind chills. At that point, you're getting into the danger zone. I figure that I'll fill the wood box today and be prepared, the key to being a real man.

As I've mentioned in the past, I love winter up here. The skiing, skating, and just being outdoors is inspiring, but dealing the practical logistics of every day life can be a chore. I spent the entire morning yesterday shoveling, and I heard that we're going to get more tomorrow, so I have to confess, I'm pretty tired. Couple that with the fact that for the past several days, I've been the one who has had to shovel the ice skating rink, and that adds up to a whole lot of shoveling. In all fairness, the moms do a lot, as well, but being the real man in training that I am, I can't sit back and watch them do it. Part of being a real man is being a gentleman, as well.

Chivalry is not dead in Hartland.

Got to see our friend, Leslie, at the rink. The funny thing is, we saw her husband at our Currier and Ives weekend in Hanover. Small town life, you gotta love it.

Last night in karate our sensei mentioned that we'll be testing for our next belts. I'll be going for my blue belt, but more on that later.

I'm having problems with Blogger, so I'll end it there. My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

Ugh! More snow. I know, I'm merely getting what I asked for, but it's only January, and we've gotten loads of the white stuff. Of course, I went skiing yesterday and blew off my responsibilities at home, so now I've got loads (no pun intended) of shoveling to do, but that's just a part of life up here.

I will say this-the skiing was killer. Or should I say boarding? The day started out with poor visibility but great snow, and then as the morning progressed, the snow stopped, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Beautiful.

My day of boarding, BTW, came as a bit of a surprise, actually. I had intended on staying in and getting stuff done around the house, namely dealing with the snow, but then Ruth asked if I was going skiing and I was off and running. That was all the encouragement that I needed.

Except that now I've got to pay for my sins, but such is the life of a real-man in training. My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Our Currier and Ives Moment and More Barn Stories

We had an amazing day yesterday over in Hanover, I must confess. All of us went to Occom Pond and went ice skating, and it really was a fun and special time. The place was hopping, with tons of people skating and playing hockey, but the pond is so big that it's not an issue. Audrey and Nicholas got to show off to Ruth their skating prowess, and it was nice to hang out with the family. The scene was so "New England" and Ruth and I commented, once again, how lucky we feel to live in such a wonderful place.

They had a small bonfire going and provided free marshmallows and hot cocoa for a buck. We really had fun, and it's skating on such a huge rink. Hope to do it again, soon.

Just had a thought on what Hillary said about the barn. Now I know she was just teasing, and her comment was valid, but she hinted at my ineptitude at building. I had given her a brief explanation about how the plans for the barn were all in place, and then they fell through. I told her maybe it was meant to be and that I was going to try to do it myself, it's just that now it was going to take a couple of years, to which she replied, try more like five.

Thanks a lot. Then again, I haven't earned her confidence, or her praise, so who am I to say? I will say this, small town life has come up once again. It turns out that when I asked her advice about finishing the barn, whereby she/he completely blew me off (no hard feelings), it turns out she actually worked on the things, installing the windows. Thus, the Goldblatts know Scott and Marty. Small towns, you gotta love them. This may explain why they're blowing us off.

Either way, that's the way it stands. Trying to cut back on blogging, it's taking too much time.

Haven't done any karate practice this week like I'd said I would, and now it's Monday. Why is this so hard for me? Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Snow and Karate Misconceptions

For all the talk about how much I love the snow, is it all right for me to say that I could use a break? We got dumped on yesterday, a bit blindsided actually because I didn't realize we were going to get so much, but it kept coming down all day. It made skating a bit challenging, but kids have fun no matter where they are, as long as there are other kids.

I didn't have time to rake and shovel as much as I would have liked, and now I have the formidable task of dealing with it, and it ain't gonna be easy. The roof is what kills me, you can't delay it even for a day, because icicles will form and then it's too late. What a bear.

Either way, as I was saying, I could use a break, and it's only early Jan, so it could be a long Winter. At least I'm getting a good workout out of it.

Yesterday I was speaking with Cal and he mentioned his friend, Eli, and Eli's dad, Peter, in passing. Eli and Peter are in my karate class, and Peter and I are regulars at sparring by virtue of the fact that we are the only adults in the class. I've been in the class for about six months longer than he, so we are very evenly matched.

Well, it came to light that people in the class think I'm a black belt in another discipline. In fact, as similar idea has come up before, even the Grand Master commented that it appeared that I'd trained in something else, but I can assure you, I've never taken martial arts before. I did some kickboxing in New York, but it was more of an aerobics class sort of thing. Otherwise, I'd always wanted to study martial arts my entire life, but never did. Until now.

It's nice that people might think I have some ability in karate, but I'm not sure what to make of it all. It's sort of funny, actually, but in a nice way. I guess I'm in the right place, doing the right thing.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

The Barn Revisited and Small Town Life

We met a family the other day at the rink and it came to light that the wife is a carpenter and her husband works at Dartmouth, coupled with the fact that they have a daughter around Audrey's age who is very nice and clicked with her made for an immediate bonding experience. Now being the real-man-in-training that I am, I couldn't pass up an opportunity for some free advice about building and broached the subject with the mom, Hillary, and then heard nothing from them. Maybe I came on too strong, maybe they felt insulted (she's in the process of a career transition), but I have to confess, I was little bummed.

What makes it awkward is that I knew we'd run into them again because we live in a small town, and sure enough, yesterday we saw Hillary and Anyata, the daughter, at the rink, and clearly there was some cloud hovering above us. I decided to drop it altogether, because they clearly were not comfortable with something and I'd still like to be friends, or at least have our kids be friends. Why does parenthood have to be so complicated.

Anyway, as it turns out, not only did she bring up the issue of the barn (so they did get my email!), but this being a small town and all, she was actually involved in the building of it. Can you believe that? She knows Marty and Scott and apparently they approached her or her brother or something like that and had them install the windows.

I couldn't believe it, the long arm of Marty. So of course she had an intimate knowledge of the barn and could probably dispense any relevant advice, but that ship has sailed, and I am once again on my own. Such is life.

The rink yesterday was hopping, BTW. With school back in, there were dozens of kids for after-care from school and though I was bummed at first, it was a blast. The kids were all nice, especially to Nicholas, and they seemed to have fun. I spent the entire time shoveling the snow off the ice, and let me tell you, it was a bear of a job. I was so tired, but the rink looked good, and the kids had fun, so it goes without saying that it was well worth it.

There is something (a lot of things, actually) that you've gotta love about small town life, and suffice it to say, things like that just don't seem to happen in LA, and I'm not just talking about the snow.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Lessons Learned from Karate

I think a lot about what I do in karate, and a lot of what goes on in my head seems so relevant to what you encounter in life. Mainly the idea of discipline and focus, and the need to take some chances and mix things up in the process of growing as an individual.

Part of this process is placing yourself in situations that you don't necessarily want to be in. If anything, by the end of the day, the very idea of suiting up and going to class takes everything I've got. It was really hard making it to class in the beginning, and I wasn't the model of consistency, but now I've found I look forward to it, though when there's a layoff due to holidays or sickness, it's hard to get back into the fold. Either way, it reminds me of lifting weights, you get addicted to it.

In terms of learning, this really came to light when I spar. I've been sparring regularly with two people, Peter and Chip, and one thing I've found is that when you come to rely on the same old repertoire of strategies, people can read you like a book and you crash and burn. This is especially true with Peter, who is more on my level.

With Chip it's a situation of competing against someone who is way over my head, and needless to say, he's upped the ante in terms of sparring against me. It's no longer fun and games and love taps, I get the sense sometimes he is really trying to hurt me.

Whatever the case, I'm being challenged, thus creating the need to improvise and adapt. When you throw the same stuff at a guy like him, he just sits back and has fun with you, so I've had to be more thoughtful and assertive, and I've changed my game plan.

I've found this has paid off in a big way, and sparring has taken on a whole new meaning, not to mention being really satisfying and even fun, mainly because Chip shows me mercy.

Now all I have to do is apply these lessons to my writing. It's possible that nothing will come of it, but one thing I've learned is, when you maintain the status quo for an situation that is not to your liking, then all you guarantee is that you'll be unhappy.

Until the next time, my name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Breaking in My Gi Like a Real Man

Just wanted to share a manly anecdote about my karate class last week. I asked for and received a new gi for Christmas, my old one was too tight and I felt like a 70's reject wearing it, so Ruth got me a new one. On my first night wearing it, Chip and I were sparring and I split my finger open and blood came squirting out, staining not only my brand new gi, but Chips gi, as well.

He felt sorry for me and we called it quits, but I felt like it was a fitting beginning to my new gi, though a real karate man bleeds on the inside, right?

My name is Fred Lee, and thanks for reading.

Real Man Training

My karate class has been cruising along at a steady pace, and I have to admit, I have a lot of respect and admiration for my sensei, Chip, who is the quintessential real man. Not only that, but he's a really decent guy, so outgoing, polite and courteous. It's impressive for a real man, and you don't always find it that way.

With the vacation and all, the class has slowed down and I was beginning to wonder if it was even going to happen, but when I showed up last week, sure enough, he was there. You have to admire Chip's level of dedication to the cause, because not only does he get paid nothing to teach, but he works very hard at it, a true sign of his love for his craft.

Anyway, I showed up last week and was the only one there, so I got a private lesson, which was pretty cool. I think belt testing is coming up, I just may be in line to get my blue belt, but the ball is in my court and I need to show the dedication and desire to get there. I think I can do it.

Class was a bit of a grind. Being one of two adults in the class, I think Chip expects more of us, and consequently drives us a little harder, even though class was fun and light-hearted since it was just Chip, Tracker, and I. But with only me to focus on, it was a workout, and when it came time to spar, we went at it for about ten minutes, which in sparring years is hours. I was sweating bullets and panting furiously, but several things came to light. First off, I'm out of shape. Secondly, I need to work on my breathing. Thirdly, it clarified something I've always known but not always practiced-in order to grow, you have to break out and take some chances.

This is so true with sparring. You can sit back and take a defensive stand, but with sparring, especially with an experience opponent, they will simply come after you. You can run, but you can't hid. The best defense is an offense, so you have to step and take some chances. Sure, you're going to catch a few bruises, but it's all part of the process, and with Chip, he knows what he's doing and isn't going to hurt you. Sort of.

It was a good spar, I was worked, but I felt like some techniques were clarified for me, and at the very least, I've changed up my routines and have some new things to throw out there. This helps when I spar with Peter, who can anticipate my moves, but will now have to contend with a new arsenal.

I love the idea of karate as a metaphor for life. Makes me feel like a real man, sort of.

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Taking Care of Business and Connecting with Neighbors

It was a quiet Sunday morning and normally I would have tried to squeeze in a day on the hill, but figured we had things to do, and I'd gone on New Year's Day, so instead I went for a XC ski in the big field. The conditions were not optimal, but there was snow and it was fun. I had this epiphany about skiing and the differences between Nordic and Alpine, and how they are somehow allegorical to life and the different philosophical approaches to it. Downhill seems more in line with suburban consumer mentality, reckless, carefree and hedonistic. XC requires more work, is more thoughtful and more like soul skiing. Besides, XC is free while downhill can be expensive. Either way, it was nice to get out and break a sweat. I'd like to do it every day, if I can motivate.

We did manage to finally take down our Christmas Tree. It was time, the cats were doing a number on it, and there were needles everywhere, so that was a good, cathartic experience.

We were lounging around the house all day and at some point felt like we needed to get out and about. At the very least to get some fresh air, though it was a cold one outside. Anyway, Ruth wanted to get some work done and it was a good excuse to pack up the car and at least go for a ride. Unfortunately, it also entailed passing through West Leb, the ugly commercial traffic zone of the Upper Valley. We wanted to get, of all things, calendars for the new year at Borders.

Anyway, we headed out to DHMC but this time came prepared-we'd brought sleds and snowboards to play on the hill outside of work, and it was a lot of fun. It's not a bad idea to have these things on hand because you never know when they'll come in handy.

After work, we jetted out to W. Leb, battled the horrible traffic, got our calendars, and then planned on hitting the Hartland rink, but time was getting short. It was nearing 4:00 and with the sun going down, it was getting cold. We got there just as the sun was setting along the trees, and of course, it was getting cold. There was a family on the ice, the last ones to brave the tundra, and we put or skates on and went for it.

It was a lot of fun, Audrey, Nicholas, and Ruth really enjoyed it. We finally got to skate the Hartland rink as a family, and best of all, we made some new friends. The Goldblatts, I believe, Alan and Hillary. They had really nice kids, and they were nice to our kids, so it goes without saying that we'd want to try a playdate. Funny thing, they know a lot of the people we know, and their kids were Waldorf early learners who eventually branched out, much like ours. It's a small world, is it not?

My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve in Hartland

We had a mellow but awesome New Year's Eve, just as we like it. We had the opportunity to attend a party of our dear neighbor, Marie, but it was a late bloomer, and we didn't want the kids to be up too late, and we're just not the party going types. It's unfortunate, because Marie is such a great person, and she was nice enough to include us, but that's the fate we must suffer for being anti-social people.

Either way, spent the day at the Hartland rink and then came home to make New Year's feast. Happy New Year, everyone. My name is Fred Lee, and until the next time, thanks for reading.