Black Belt of the Mind or Notes From The Front Line of COVID-19

Sunday February 23rd

My husband, an emergency doctor whose work place is preparing for COVID-19, tells me that we may want to stock up on essential supplies. “I’m not afraid of the virus,” he says. “I’m afraid of people panicking.”

In the end he’s the one who does the shopping, as I’m tied up with our three kids. He texts me that the grocery stores are packed. He returns with enough legumes, rice, eggs, and milk to last us two to three weeks. He orders a normal (for a family of five) supply of toilet paper from Amazon. We don’t want to over shop – we just want to have a buffer.

I text my best friend, telling her to stock up. She’s a psychologist who lives in New York with her two children; her physician husband, an infectious disease specialist, works long hours. His hours are about to get longer, and I don’t want her to get stuck. I send her a list that my husband and I have created. “But he forgot to include tampons,” I text.

I call my parents and leave a message, telling them to let me know if they want us to buy them groceries. My father, who was a child living in Normandy during the Second World War, remembers long weeks of privation. “There was never enough soap,” he says, “nor enough food.” Once, the neighbours dug up a recently deceased horse and cooked it. When I was a child, my father always stocked the pantry with dozens of bars of soap. I’m not surprised when my mother calls me back and reports that they already have enough supplies to last them several weeks.

Wednesday February 26th

My husband advises me to cancel a long-awaited girls’ weekend in Washington with my best friend. “You don’t want to stuck with a bunch of people in a confined space right now,” he says. This trip took weeks of planning, especially on the part of my friend, who works in an American psychiatric hospital and only gets one day off a week and who, because she has just started to work in this hospital, has no extended time off. Reluctantly, I cancel my trip and inform my friend. She texts me that it makes sense, particularly because, she writes “your husband isn’t an alarmist.”

My parents are scheduled to fly to France mid-April to visit my grandmother, who has just moved into a retirement home, and plan to combine the visit with a French river cruise. A few weeks before, my father, who’s eighty years old, flew to France to be with my grandmother, who had taken ill. Around the world, borders were starting to close. For days I worried about him getting home. Then I worried about him being cooped up in a plane. Finally, after several weeks, he made it home, healthy. “Nobody was wearing a mask on the plane,” he tells me. “Not the flight attendants, nor the passengers.”

Now my parents are planning to leave again. I call my mom to ask her to cancel their trip. “It’s a cruise,” I tell her. “That’s the worst possible scenario. Have you been following the news?”

My mom is in a chronic state of exhaustion caring for my sister, who has special needs. Although my sister lives in a group home, she needs constant input and care-taking from my mom. My mom refuses to cancel the cruise. She adds that she still has time to change her mind. “I really need this,” she says.

Tuesday March 10th

We’ve been aware of COVID-19 for a while now, but we’re not yet taking it seriously. I go about my day. My daughter is on March break, so we take the opportunity to shop for her grade eight graduation dress. My husband is on a day shift at one of the three hospitals where he works, so I text him photos of our daughter, whom I barely recognize in her slick, semi-formal dresses.

“She looks happier in option 1,” he texts. “But looks great in both.”

When I ask my husband what time he’ll be finished work, he texts me that he’ll be late. “Lab here is broken.”

Turns out that someone pulled a fire alarm and the sprinklers went off. Lab work is delayed.

“Argh,” I reply, and send him a grinning smiley face. “Kind of funny though.”

My husband send another text: “That + COVID = very bad.”

Black Belt of the Mind or Notes From the Front Lines of COVID-19

Having been confined to my home with my three children, and being married to an emergency physician, I’ve decided to shift my focus from writing only about karate to the situation at hand.

On the other hand, being a karate-ka means practicing mental strength. A few days ago, after the reality of the pandemic and what it meant for us as individuals and as a family sunk in, I realized I had to begin practicing mental resilience. I needed to develop a “black belt of the mind.”

My shift from practicing karate to working on mental strength started earlier this year, due to a persistent hip injury. In early March, my injury unresolved, I decided to take a month off karate. Telling my students that I’d be back in April, I arranged for my colleagues to take over my class and prepared myself for an enforced rest.

Now, with many of us stuck inside, barred from gyms and exercise classes, I figure we’re all in the same boat. Time to share our stories.

The situation will probably get worse before it gets better. If you follow the news, or if you know a health care worker (or, in my case, are married to one and suffer an onslaught of regular health care updates), it’s clear that our 2-week isolation period is likely to be extended to several weeks and possibly several months. At some point, like the Italians, we might be confined to our living spaces (if we’re lucky to have a living space – many are not.)

For the next few weeks, I’ll post my COVID-19 diary, taken largely from my personal journal.

On Transverse Abdominis and Miyamoto, Or, On “Not Doing Anything Useless”

It turns out that when you’re over forty, you should not practice karate one week after delivering your third child – at least not full out. Who knew?

With my first two pregnancies, I trained right up until delivery, and went back to the dojo a few days postpartum. I assumed I could do the same with the third child; I hadn’t factored in that, as a friend of mine is fond of saying, I’m no longer a “spring chicken”.

Since having my third child almost four years ago, I’ve had several injuries, all related to an injury from having returned to training too soon after delivery, before my body was ready. The original culprit was a bulging disk, and the remedy, according to my physio therapist, was strengthening my transverse abdominis, or “core”, in laypersons’ terms.

For the past few years, I’ve relapsed several times. Every time I’m pain free, I embrace exercise with gusto. I lose myself in training (in the throes of meditative aspects of kata) – and pull a muscle. The other day, when I told my students I would only be kicking with one leg due to a pulled hip muscle, a child asked: “Is Ms. Baudot injured again?”

Yes, Ms. Baudot was injured again.

It’s maddening.

Last year, I was running a household, working on two books, and managing a major family celebration. I started feeling unwell. I struggled to get out of bed. Since I consider myself a morning person, I saw my struggle to rise as a warning to pay attention – a canary in a coal mine. I booked a consultation with my doctor. Tests showed that I was in excellent health.

I was simply burnt out.

I hate to slow down. I love to move. I adore the physical aspects of karate. The clean line of each movement, the Ki. I value losing myself in the flow of training, which keeps me physically and mentally fit.

Nevertheless, I’ve slowed down my training. I’ve decided to see my injury as an opportunity to fix what I’ve been doing wrong all along. Turns out that I never properly engaged my core strength in my training. This means that my strikes, while speedy, don’t have the force necessary to disarm an opponent.

So I’m working on increasing my strength. I’m diligent about doing my physio – when I’d rather be doing anything else. Listening to audio books helps. (Lately I’ve been reading cardiologist Kathy Magliato’s memoir, Heart Matters, which effectively distracts me from the mind-numbing effort of doing yet another transverse abdominis contraction.)

I’ve also slowed down my kata practice, focusing on engaging my core with every move. It’s a laborious, frustrating process. But I’m working on it.

A co-instructor who struggles with a disc injury gave me some advice. He reminded me that karate is about training the mind as much as the body. He suggested that I use my enforced stillness as an opportunity to focus on karate’s mental aspects.

My first sensei lectured us on the ideas of Musashi Miyamoto, 17th century swordsman and author of The Book of Five Rings. “Don’t do anything useless,” my sensei used to say. I took this instruction to mean that I should bring an equal amount of effort to all tasks. When writing and raising children, I try to marshal a razor-like focus. In life, as in the art of karate, I’m heeding my first sensei’s advice, all the while repeating to myself Miyamoto’s teaching: “Don’t do anything useless.”

Tournament

My nine-year-old son and I placed in our recent karate tournament. He placed in the white belt category, I, in the black belt. He demonstrated Itsutsu Uke, I—Jitte. He was pleasantly surprised at his own success. I was flabbergasted at mine.

My son doesn’t always try his best. In trying to motivate him, I apply the principle my first Sensei used to promote, that “when the student is ready, they will listen.” In other words, I have faith that my kids will eventually take in all those instructions I repeat incessantly to them.

I drill my son a little bit mercilessly, on the walk to and from karate practice.

“Which comments did you receive last week that you will apply to your practice today?” I ask him at the start of each karate class. After class, I reframe the question: “How will next week’s practice be better?”

I can assure you that he’s thrilled at my questions.

Sometimes he makes an effort at practicing. Sometimes he doesn’t.

I’ve taken the stance that my husband is to blame for my son’s lack of motivation. (It’s pleasant to veer from my usual tendency—cleverly aligned with social norms—to blame myself, the mother, for my children’s challenges.)

My husband tells me that he was not intrinsically motivated to study until he reached university. As he tells it, his motivation to work hard turned on abruptly one day in his late teens, and then went into overdrive.

I’m waiting for my son’s internal motivation switch to turn on, like it did for his dad. Because when he’s motivated, he succeeds. His kata was proof of that: precise, spirited.

Afterward, he was proud of himself—as was I.

As for my performance, I was flummoxed.

I used to be extremely competitive. As I age, my competitiveness has mellowed. I work harder, but I don’t worry about other people as much as I used to. Well, it’s possible that I’m exaggerating. Occasionally, when others succeed where I fail, I’m possessed by an enraged, jealous demon. Sometimes I want to use a little sparring technique on my competition. It happens.

The past two years have been dispiriting, karate-wise. After the birth of my third child, I suffered from a post-partum back injury. For two years, a bulging disc prevented me from training. Only recently have I felt like I’m regaining the musculature and technique lost to my injury. When I signed up for the tournament, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to practice a kata to a tournament-level calibre.

Plus, I’ll confess: I hate tournaments. Demonstrating kata seems harder to me than other kinds of performances. The opportunities to slip up are abundant. Your muscles can be so tense that your kata looks stiff. You can experience a lapse of concentration, and forget moves. I’ve seen advanced black belts begin one kata, switch halfway through to another kata, only to conclude on some variation of their own invention—a feat impressive on its own terms, but not something I aspire to.

Terror of failure is partly why I participate in our annual tournament. On a fundamental level, I think it’s important to do things that scare us. It’s crucial for me to perform at the tournament, simply to overcome my fear of kata demonstration.

On the day of the tournament, I had two goals. One: to get through the kata. Two: to obtain a score above eight (out of ten) from the judges. I was particularly keen on receiving a good score from my instructor. He’s an exacting teacher and judge, and he’d never scored my kata above an eight.

As soon as I got up that morning, I started saying a mantra. Mantras are said to work partially because they displace negative self-talk. So I started repeating my favourite mantra, the one I summon every time I have to do something terrifying: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

I repeated this mantra when downhill skiing for the first time as an adult. As a child, on a school trip, I’d been basically thrown down a hill on skis without any instruction, and this experience had ruined skiing for me. As an adult, I successfully skied by chanting my mantra under my breath.

And here’s the thing: For some mysterious reason, I had a great time with the kata. I enjoyed every moment of the demonstration. To paraphrase Elizabeth Gilbert and her theory of creativity, in that moment, my “genius”—that elusive demi-god the Greeks and Romans believed visit artists at their own whim—was with me.

Afterward, I stood in front of the judges and waited.

“Nine!” said the Sensei. “Eight point five,” said the rigorous instructor. I couldn’t help it—I beamed.

For the first time as a black belt, I placed in the top three participants.

I learned a few lessons that day. One, that mantras work.

Also, an already-familiar lesson: pleasure displaces fear.

Jitte, which means “ten hands” in Japanese, is a stunning kata. I love the contrast between the slow, Sanchin movements and the rapid-fire moves, erupting with power. In the end, the highlight of my tournament experience was the kata itself. For a few, rare moments, I became lost in the kata’s attack and defence sequences, in the timing of the moves, in the coordinated breathing.

The kata seemed to take place of its own accord. Performing it was like writing a poem and recognizing that you have found the dead-on word to say what you want to say. Each word, each line so adept that you think to yourself that you could not have written the poem in any other way.

 

 

Conflict (Part I: The Street)

Turns out that revising a book for publication and working on a novel while raising three kids is not conducive to keeping up my blog. I have a lot of catching up to do. A topic I’ve been wrestling with lately is that of conflict. General conflict (Barcelona attacks have just taken place, the Syrian conflict continues to rage—not to mention the ongoing war in the Central African Republic) but also conflict as it plays out in places that are supposedly safe, particularly in public spaces. Also, what it means to be a bystander, my belief that we should almost always get involved, and how karate training ties into these issues.

***

Two years ago, when my third child had just been born, a house was going up across the street from mine. The work was taking place a few feet from the neighbour’s lot, where we rent a parking spot. The space is narrow, requiring some adept manoeuvring to park the car. One afternoon, I was chatting with the owner of the property, when I noticed that some building equipment had been left in my spot.

The owner of the house is a Portuguese woman in her seventies. She’s slight, stooped, and wears thick-lensed glasses. I asked her if she’d given the builders permission to store gear on her property.

She replied in the negative so, seeing one of the workers working on the new build, I called out to him and asked if he could move the equipment.

He was about five foot eight and broad shouldered. His hair was long and he had a few days worth of stubble on his chin. His eyes were red and he swayed on his feet. He was either intoxicated or coming off something—either way, he was in a very bad mood.

“Talk to the owner if you have a problem,” he said.

“He’s not here,” I said. “I’m going to hit your stuff on my way out. Do you mind if I move it?”

“Don’t you touch it.”

“You know this is this woman’s property, right?”

“It’s public parking.”

“No, it’s not. Can I have the owner’s contact information?”

“No.”

“How can I talk to the owner if you won’t give me their phone number?”

“It’s not my problem.”

“I’m going to have to move some of it.” I walked toward a metal cart.

“Don’t you dare!” He came around the fence that divided the building lot and the neighbour’s lot on which the owner and I stood. He grabbed the cart and put it back where it had been, a few inches from my car.

Recently, when I told my eight-year-old that I have a bad temper, he looked at me like he’d never seen me before. Twenty years of meditation and karate have helped me control my quick-temperedness, but I’m not always on top of things. Karate teaches us to diffuse situations, not exacerbate them. I could have let the issue go—after all, I could have tried to manoeuvre my car around the building equipment. But I was annoyed, and so I didn’t. Instead, I engaged the guy. It wasn’t my finest moment.

I took a hold of the cart and pulled. Again, the man grabbed it and rolled it back to its original spot.

He parked himself in front of me. I smelled the loamy scent of the mud on his work boots. “I’m calling the police,” he said.

I’m five foot two and a half, and, even post-partum, I only weighed about one hundred and twenty pounds. My eyes were level with his neck. I had to tilt my head up to look him the eye. “Perfect,” I said. “Call them.”

He made as if to reach for something in his jacket pocket, and his hand was trembling. “F**K you,” he said, coming so close that his jacket brushed mine. “I’m not here to give you an orgasm.”

Because these are the kinds of things men say to women when they’re angry at them.

At this point in our encounter, neighbours who had been drawn out of their houses by our raised voices came a little closer to watch the action.

I learned two things that afternoon. One, you can’t count on anyone to protect you on the street. Two male neighbours stood by and watched as a man verbally abused me, and did nothing.

Two, my karate training stood me in good stead. My first sensei always said, “when you find yourself facing an attacker on the street, you won’t be afraid. You’re used to facing attackers in sparring!”

Opposite the guy, I prepared to defend myself. I assessed a few of my target hotspots. The man’s nose—exposed like an enormous button of the kind toddlers love to push—seemed to me to be the most obvious target. His abdomen, partly shielded by a heavy canvas jacket, wouldn’t be ideal. His shins looked promising.

I wasn’t afraid. I really wasn’t. I was angry. I think he sensed this, because he yelled out a few more insults—as amiable as his last ones—and walked away.

It was only later that I became afraid. My husband was out of town. I was alone at home with a newborn, and the man knew where I lived.

I also felt that sense of shame that is specific to being on the receiving end of sexual verbal abuse. Welcome to being a woman (or anyone not gendered male, realistically) in the public sphere.

Later on, I managed to contact the owner of the new build. The construction company CEO came to our door and apologized. The construction worker who had threatened me disappeared from the work site. The home owner, a wide and no-nonsense Albertan, came to my door bearing a basket of blueberry tea and Saskatoon berry jam. “I’m really sorry you had to deal with that,” he said.

So that, friends, is what karate gets you. A lack of fear in a difficult situation, apologies, and delectable jam.

 

 

 

 

The Post-Partum Body

Simon_First Smiles_December 2015

Above: The Reason Behind My Six-Month Leave

In January I returned to training after a six-month maternity leave. I was fifteen or so pounds heavier than what I had been pre-partum. I had a poochy stomach, and I had fat where I used to have muscle.

I was afraid that I would neither regain my shape nor my technique. It was my third pregnancy. I was old. I was tired. I might never recover.

On one hand, I want to live with my post-partum body, partly because our society despises it. Conversations following birth revolve on how quickly you return to your pre-partum weight. “When did you fit into your jeans?” we women ask each other. When my newborn was one week old, women (always women) ran their eyes along my midriff as if to assess where I could be slotted on the post-partum weight-loss continuum.

The female body and the maternal body continue to be central topics of gender wars. Some artists are trying to re-value the mother’s form. Jade Beall’s stunning book of photographs of mothers, The Bodies of Mothers, counteracts cultural body shaming and creates a media platform on which mothers can see reflections of themselves. I’m grateful for this and others’ attempts at exhibiting and appreciating the real maternal body.

I’m enjoying my own. I’m proud of what it has done (given birth) and what it’s doing (breast-feeding.) My son is growing from drinking breast milk only—the female body’s ability to nourish another body is a feat that continues to astonish me.

On the other hand, I miss my athlete’s body. My first Sensei used to talk about the pleasure of experiencing a freedom of movement that comes from having a strong, thin body. I worried about the impact of his words on students who were not rail thin or those who had eating disorders. But lately, as I’ve been losing weight and rebuilding muscle, I find myself remembering his words and partly agreeing with him.

In January, I returned to the dojo with my seven-year-old son. Each Saturday, I drag my transition-shy boy out of the house, into the white glare of the winter sunlight and, recently, into air sparkling with silvery snow motes.

Once we’re in the community centre’s gym, my son starts smiling. He loves karate. In the dojo, he doesn’t experience any of the mild behavioural challenges he faces at school. The instructors are strict but not intensely so. He adores them, in particular one of the men, who feigns to come at him with devastating punches. Once again, I’m faced with the gendered nature of experience: My son reacts better to male teachers than female teachers.

As for me, I’m finding the return to being a karate-ka slow. I had a complicated birth and my lower back and pelvis continue to recover. A weakness in my left leg is preventing me from kicking properly. But everything is improving. And I’m re-experiencing the sheer pleasure of being able to move again, the ecstasy of kicking and jumping.

Regaining my past athleticism is necessarily slow. I will continue to breast-feed my infant. Like the philosopher and feminist Lauren Bialystok, I find breast-feeding both instinctive and wonderful and have no intention of sacrificing it on the altar of body image. And I won’t be attending more than one karate class per week this year. I want to spend time with my baby and with my other children. Instead of class, I go to the gym, and supplement my training with yoga classes, which are shorter than karate classes and more suited to my tightly-packed days.

I’ll live with, and sometimes appreciate, my jiggly body. To hell with those who run their eyes along my maternal curves and bite their lips in judgment. I want my relationship to my post-partum body to be a personal one. I want the link between self and body to play out not on the public stage but in the private realm.

Mama, Again

My lifestyle gradually changed, and I no longer considered running the point of life. In other words, a mental gap began to develop beween me and running. Just like when you lose the initial crazy feeling you have when you fall in love. (Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.)

The above quote somewhat captures what I’ve been feeling, but not quite. I have been experiencing the mental gap Murakami speaks of, and this chasm lies between me and karate. On the other hand, outside circumstances have deepened that breach.

Still, in keeping with Voltaire’s caution that “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” I’ve decided to leave Murakami’s quote at the top of today’s entry.

What has happened is that I’ve become pregnant with my third child. Here are some of the things I’ve discovered the third time around:

  1. The first few weeks of a middle-aged pregnancy can be physically horrendous. In the beginning, I start to experience debilitating headaches that force me to go to bed at six p.m. every evening. I experience an unfamiliar nausea. One morning, my nine-year-old comes down to the kitchen in time to hear me retching in the kitchen sink. “What’s wrong?” she asks. Since I don’t want to tell my kids about the baby until the risk of miscarriage has abated, I lie to her. “A bad cough,” I say.
  2. By the sixth month of pregnancy I can no longer do karate spinning back kicks. The execution isn’t bad but once the foot is out there, it refuses to return smoothly. I lose my balance. Besides, I look ridiculous, tilting forward with my enormous belly—which is already a kind of shelf I can rest my tea cup on—then returning like a weeble wobble.
  3. After a karate class, everything hurts. My pelvis feels like someone has beaten it with a stick. My feet ache. My legs go into spasms for the next twelve hours. After a class, I come home, collapse on the couch, and can’t get up for at least an hour. The house starts to fall apart. I neglect my evening tidy-up. In addition, since we’ve emptied the kids’ rooms in order to paint them (what was I thinking?), we spend our time climbing over boxes of books and stepping on Lego toys.
  4. On the other hand, after a class, my mood is excellent. All things considered, I decide to continue my training.

The decision to train until the end of my pregnancy (which I did with my first two pregnancies) is scuttled by month six, during which I start to experience contractions. “It’s too early,” my physician husband says. “You really don’t want to give birth anytime before thirty-two weeks. Twenty-four weeks is bad.”

“How long do I have to wait?”

“Thirty-six weeks is best.”

When I go to my regular medical check-up, my O.B., an always-smiling woman in her mid-forties, asks me to consider “taking it easy.”

I tell her that in order to compromise that morning, I chose to walk rather than bike the three kilometres to her office. She looks at my feet. “At least you have good shoes.” She adds, “none of my patients are doing what you’re doing.”

I tell her that I intend to teach my last karate class the following week. The decision to stop teaching is based somewhat more on an emotional need rather than on practical considerations. I’m starting to feel embarrassed about my failing technique. I mourn the loss of my high side kicks. I have always been proud of my ability to keep my balance, a skill that in the last few weeks I’ve misplaced entirely.

But there are also practical considerations. Because the already-large foetus is constricting my lungs, I can no longer demonstrate a particular move and speak at the same time. I lose my breathe and become dizzy.

I’ve enlisted other advanced belts to help me, and they do. We take turns demonstrating and teaching. In the end, however, I have to concede that teaching is no longer possible. I find a talented and dedicated purple belt to take my place for the next year.

But quitting teaching turns out not to be enough. By the seventh month, I’ve gained 27 pounds, and it’s getting hard to haul myself around the city streets, let alone do karate drills. I’m also much older than I was during the first two pregnancies, and I feel the aches and pains of this pregnancy much more acutely. I experience insomnia, congestion, and a myriad of digestive issues.

On the advice of my O.B., I leave karate and switch to less dynamic sports: walking, swimming, and yoga. These challenge me but don’t knock me out the way karate does. The exception is when I take long hikes with my family. During a visit to relatives in Europe, my family and I hike twelve kilometres through Basque mountains in northern Spain. In the summer heat. In the afternoon. It takes me several hours to recover from the hike, and I concede to myself that I’ve overdone it and promise myself to walk for shorter distances.

I mourn the loss of karate. I miss karate’s dynamism. I miss feeling competent at a sport. I also miss my community of students and teachers.

A fellow instructor points out that this enforced break will encourage me to develop the mental aspect of karate training. He’s right, and I do find myself being able to draw on previously undiscovered mental resources. On the other hand, my general mental state is suffering. I’ve gone from a lifestyle involving rigorous exercise to a relatively quiet lifestyle. I’ve started to lose my patience. I dial up my participation in other sports in the hope that being more active will help me keep my temper. After all, I tell myself, it’s not fair to lose my patience with my existing children for the sake of the unborn child.

I cling to the fact that all this is temporary. The baby will be born, and after a few months, I’ll be able to train again. But I’m frightened: I’m getting older. What if I can no longer regain the type of physical fitness I had in my thirties? I re-read Haruki Murakami ’s memoir, What I talk About When I Talk About Running. His enumeration of his aches and pains, his expression of a sense of time’s passing and of his grief at becoming older—these comfort me.

During my seventh month of pregnancy, my husband and I take our children on a seven-kilometre hike in Northern Ontario. I huff and puff my way up a muddy trail. It’s so challenging that I become grumpy. “I’m not sure this is what Dr. M. had in mind,” I tell my husband. “When she told me to take it easy.” But it is a beautiful hike, through evergreens and birches. There are mushrooms I’ve never seen before: fiery red button ones; large, yellow flat ones in the shape of stingrays; bulbous brown ones that I tell my children are Smurf houses.

I won’t lie: I’m terrified of the first few months after birth. Those months during which you have so little time for yourself, and what little time you do have you experience as though you’re in a fog. How will I train? How will I write?

I am now in my eighth month. This week, I handed in my completed manuscript of short stories to a potential publisher. There’s nothing left for me to do but wait. A few weeks ago, I wrote a draft of a graphic novel. Since I have to wait for my illustrator to complete another project before she illustrates my text, I’ve started writing a novel that has been tugging at me for years.

Now, I’m thinking that blogging, writing a novel, and raising three kids while running a household might be overly ambitious. But who knows? Perhaps those mental resources my fellow karate instructor spoke of will continue to kick in, after all.