Not to mention, the days! Here it is the middle of December, and my last post was on Halloween. Bad blogger, Jean! Bad!
I at least have good excuses for several of the periods of silence. This time of year, I normally work gainfully for only a few hours each week; however, with the departure of another staff member at my university office, I took on responsibility for responses to surveys from all the various and sundry college guides. As a result, I've worked a bit more than halftime for the last several weeks. The increased paychecks are certainly nice this time of year: Besides Christmas, spring tuition, room, and board are due for younger son in early January, not to mention the annual car insurance premium due at the middle of the month.
In terms of my silence in November, I offer this photo as defense exhibit 1. That's me on the left with the blurred hand. I have a black and white version of this photo but am using the color one so that there's no confusion over the color of the belts these folks are wearing. Yes, they're black. The annual Myo Sim black belt rank exam was on November 21, and I was one of the four people testing for first-degree black belt in Myo Sim kendo. In practical terms, this meant that I spent the fall being in the dojo practicing either kendo or karate for two to three hours every weeknight as well as every Sunday morning for three to four hours. Saturday was my "day off," on which I only did a half hour or so of cardio. This level of training was not a mandated one, but one I chose in order to be as prepared as possible for the test. If you zoom in on the photo and look at the faces, you'll probably notice some wrinkles in my face that aren't there in the faces of the other three people. Their combined ages totaled only about seven years over my own, singular age. I figured that what I lacked in age, I could make up for in preparation. I think it worked.
I have to admit that getting my black belt probably was a bigger accomplishment to me than even getting my PhD; I at least had much more of a rush after the black belt exam than I did after my doctoral orals. I didn't cry tears of sheer happiness then, but I did after I went through the line of master instructors and got my certificate and belt. When I started grad school and throughout it, earning the PhD was something I almost took for granted. I'd always done well at academic work; why wouldn't I finish it? When I started studying kendo almost four years ago, I wasn't even thinking about a black belt someday. Only after I got my brown belt did it really start seeming like a possibility. I did not, however, expect to be invited to test this year after being gone for two months on the Grand Adventure to Hue and back. I came back from the trip thinking that I would not be considered for the black belt exam but that if I was told I would be considered then I would do everything I could to be at the needed level. From the point at which I was told that I was under consideration for the exam, I worked my butt off. I ended up being invited to test, and although all four of us made various mistakes on the exam, I don't think I was by any means the weak link among the four who tested.
I should also note that, at the same black belt rank exam, older son tested for and earned his third-degree black belt in Myo Sim kendo. He's not big on being praised for such things, though, so I won't say too much more here. I will say, though, that I felt much more comfortable with his being "on stage" along with me at the exam. Having been through several black belt exams, he was able to give me the insight scoop on what to expect, which really helped me feel ready when the exam rolled around.
Finally, to catch up on a loose end from my earlier posts, the cabin quilt, Sibling Revelry, made it to Norway via the husband's early November trip to Sweden. I put a note on the outside of the box that held the quilt asking them not to open the box until they were together at the cabin. They did, and sent this photo along with their thank you. They're standing on the porch of the sauna house. In the image I made for the quilt, the white diagonal on the left side of the cabin is actually one side of the roof of the sauna house. The man to the left behind the quilt is one of the brothers for whom the quilt was made. Needless to say, they really loved it and said that they will give it a place of honor in the cabin. It makes me very happy to see my quilt babies go out into the world into good homes, hands, and hearts.