Friday, March 18, 2011

More of the same but quite a bit different. Life appears to have gone from fairly orderly to a continuous increase of chaos. My life last year and a day ago was pretty busy with lots of good stuff. There was of course some trying stuff, but generally speaking, life was quite good. Life is still quite good, but there is a lot more difficult stuff to deal with as well. Two years ago I began my daily practice of sitting zazen. A year after that I was hit by that truck. Another year later I am still sitting zazen, but life is quite different in many ways.

A little less than a year ago I began my discovery and adventure in sewing. Since then I have made 5 sets of curtains, 3 mens shirts, 2 purses/bags, 5 pillows, a knitting needle bag, and started quilting. I have so many ideas of things that I want to create, but when I am working I like to go at a pace that is enjoyable.

I finally, recently heard what my teacher has been telling me for quite some time. That it is more important to sit regularly than the quantity of sitting. So with all the added chaos in my life it has forced me to be more flexible with my sitting time. I have become even more regular, as in rarely ever missing a morning or evening sit, but the time of the sit has become more fluid. The other wondrous aspect of my practice that has recently manifested is a weekly group sitting at Zanzilla's, Thursday mornings. For the first couple of months there were some logistics to be worked out, so there were quite a few sits where I was the group. However, more recently others have begun to show up and I am quite grateful.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sewing Quilts and Sitting

So, I recently, the last few months, started another new hobby, sewing. It sure seems like I am striving to be one of those jack of all trades and master of none types, without consciously trying. I was working toward my mastering of judo, but the minor set back with the leg has currently taken that out of contention. Just a quick clarification of my personal definition of master, is one who actively studies and practices an art or science or I guess nearly anything for a very long time. Long enough that one begins to work with the subtleties within that art. Of course if I do stick with anything long term maybe my definition will change.

So, sewing. Well it all started with some new curtains for our new old trailer. I've been able to sew straight lines for quite some time. After that I did some matching pillows for the trailer and stepped up my sewing game when I added some zippers. Oh yeah! During this process my sister loaned me her 1966 Sears Kenmore machine. She doesn't know yet, but I'm going to use it for quite a while. That's not true I told her I'd keep it in exchange for sewing whatever she needs. Of course now that she has seen all the stuff I have done she has gotten re-excited about sewing. So I may have to find my own machine again, if she ever takes me up on my offer to over and do some sewing together. I think I will recommend she go buy an outfit for my niece to get her properly motivated. So, what else have I sewed since I started sewing so, so. After the pillows I did some new curtains for my sisters kitchen. She picked out some really great fabric and got to work on my top stitching skills. After that I feel like I dove in whole heartedly when I bought a pattern for a Hawaiian style shirt. It took me a good month of trying to figure it out, cutting out the pattern and then material. I didn't finish the cutting for about two weeks just because I knew if I finished I'd have to move onto the sewing phase and I was totally lost about most of what the pattern directions said. Finally, with the support and help of mom, my sewing teacher, I got started. Once the sewing began a lot of those cryptic directions started making sense. I finished off the shirt in a couple of days after I started. After that the flood gates opened. I sewed a purse for Tisha, then did another shirt, this time in a couple of days, then another purse. The second purse pushed my skills to another level with the material thickness and design complexity.

All the while I have been seeking and finding fabric shops all around my local area. Kelly at this one shop, my favorite shop,, started talking to me about "modern quilting". Other shop owners and employees and even neighbors had already mentioned quilting to me, several times. My first reaction was more questioning than anything. For one, I'm a dood who is already sewing. Now you are talking to me about "quilting", as in something you can probably catch my grandma doing? So eventually I looked into this modern quilting stuff. Guess what? It got me fired up about trying some quilting. So now I'm into the holiday season and have more projects than I have time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Vintage Trailer Travel Rally 2 Rivernook

Another great trailer trip. We traveled north east for about three and a half hours to the south western edge of the Sierras, Kernville. Definitely a more beautiful, family run campground in comparison to the Beullton Flying Flags campground. A fairly uneventful trip except for one little navigation disagreement, until we traveled a ways down the 178. This highway is up through a beautiful rock canyon on a very narrow feeling two lane. I was quite concerned for a while about having my trailer ripped to shreds catching a rock edge.

We had some wonderful neighbors again this trip. On one side of us were neophyte campers like ourselves, but only on their first trip. So I got the chance to help them like I was helped on our first trip. It is a neat thing to be given something and then be able to pass along that gift to another. Our other neighbors, the Klopes, I recognized the gentleman right away but could not place him. It was not until nearly leaving on Sunday morning did I finally figure out where I had met them. At their home, in Ventura, where we did some traffic engineering work in their neighborhood. Small world keeps shrinking.  We later met their son and daughter-in-law, who were staying around the corner is a homemade "midget" trailer, a big tear drop. It was another inspiration to want to build my own tear drop. As we pulled in, we spotted one of our neighbors from the Buellton rally, and residents of Santa Paula, around the corner from Ma, the Colemans, in their beautifully rebuilt 1976 12' Cardinal.

They were on the same row as us, the "called at the last minute (catlm)" row. Funny how my acronym sounds like "cattle em". The neat thing was being in the front row, so everyone saw our awesome little trailer on the way in, there were several not so neat things. So we pull in to the catlm row around 4:30pm after a longish drive. I'm more ready this time with my understandings of hook-ups and such. We both still feel very neophyte-like with so few trips under our belt, but more ready each time. So we pull into our pull through site, chalk the tires and disconnect the trailer, level it, stabilize it, start to get the hook-ups connected and come to find out my electrical cord is rather short. NOOO! So guess what I have to do, everything, again to move the trailer about 5'. Oh well, so everything gets redone, we settle in, then notice the fridge isn't on. What the? Turns out our electric box is being problematic. We work it out with the park manager that we will stay over night, and not move, again, and they will just refund us the difference in hook-up cost. After all of this we decide not to cook dinner but to go out instead. We didn't pick the best place to eat but we were full.

After a fairly good sleep we woke up at our standard early. Tisha brought some delicious cinnamon rolls. So after a little lesson from our first trailer excursion, I fired the stove up with not to much difficulty, which was awesome. We also picked up an explosive gas alarm so we got that hooked up and then it promptly went off. Then to add insult to injury, our smoke alarm goes off too. So we ended up having slightly warmed cinnamon rolls. After breakfast our electric got hooked up, so we were in business again.

Later in the morning we took a walk to go visit our friends from the Buellton rally. They weren't home but we met several new friends. Those friends introduced us to a guy I had been talking with via email for some time. Tom is another cardinal owner, another 1966 17' delux owner. Tom and I talked for a couple of hours I think. It was great to see and compare another trailer, the same as ours. We spotted several things we want to change/add/tweak/modify. The main things were the original fridge and containing cupboard with drawers. The other original feature in Tom's Cardinal was the cushion and upholstery setup in the nook.

We finally met up with our Buellton neighbors later in the afternoon. First we walked down and sat at the very beautiful Kern river. There were several men fly fishing. I think that is something I am interested trying out, especially when camping. Their was a psuedo organized potluck on Saturday night that we were told about as we were eating our traditional mac 'n cheese with hotdogs, green beans and salad. So we passed.

The next morning we made super camp breakfast. We helped our neighbors get packed up a little, got ourselves packed up, said our good byes and hit the road. The trip home felt way faster.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Serious Vector Changes in Life

No posts since spring and now with a warning, graphic content within. The long delay was mostly because I was writing about certain activities in my life, that all came to an immediate halt on March 17th. I was riding my bike home, like nearly every day, when I was broadsided by truck. Ouch. Flying through the air, then thud I hit the sidewalk. Immediately, there was massive pressure in my leg. I took a look I could see things weren't aimed in the right directions. I was surrounded by a crowd, which fortunately included an off duty emt. The first words, out of my mouth, as I lay their clutching my leg, "is someone calling 911?". One of the people in the crowd was the guy who hit me, and was a apologizing to which I replied yelling about how he wasn't even looking. It seemed like no time before the ambulance arrived. The trip from the sidewalk to the ambulance and then the ambulance ride itself were uncomfortably rememberable. 

After onboard the ambulance, I remember being entirely to conscious of everything. I was asked by an officer where I wanted my bike taken. I said home but was adamant about them calling Tisha first, so they didn't just show up with my dented bike. Surprisingly my bike had little damage, other than a nice dent in to top tube. The physics of  injury boggle my mind a bit. The trucks bumper hit the outside of my quad, breaking my femur, which lacerated my femoral artery and still had enough force to dent my bike frame. I remember directing the officer to my phone in my pocket and Tisha's number. They told me they could hopefully alleviate some of the pain and pressure in my leg but it would come at the price of temporarily increasing the pain as they pulled my leg straight. I told them to go right ahead and probably added a please.

Apparently, the phone call to Tisha did not accurately describe my injuries, which at that time they did not know. They told her I was going to the emergency room with a broken leg. If only that had been the case. So we arrive at the hospital and I'm wheeled across what feels like the bumpiest concrete of all time to the outdoor xray/mri trailer. I hear my whole family, especially my little niece, cheering me on. I give them my best wave and thumbs up to attempt to convey that I'm doing just fine. Which at that point I think I am. I don't really recall my time in the emergency room. I'm told that after my pictures are finished at the photo lab I was sent off to my first of four surgeries. This first one they set my femur straight by hooking me up with an external fixater. Cut me open near my groin to pinch off my femoral artery, above where they had to sew my shredded artery back together. Look Ma, new artery. Then apparently, they had to perform a fasciotomy due to compartment syndrome. I had quite the team of doctors, over half a dozen, in my initial trauma surgery. 

I wake up in the recovery room, where you almost always wake up. I can't say I can really remember this any more. I have found it strange how the memory works through a traumatic incident like this. I only have piece parts of memories now. So they wheel me over to ICU at this point. I have an intubater down my throat which makes talking basically impossible, and a general state of uncomfortableness. I get to use writing as my means of communicating. I wrote a lot about how I was in pain, complained about how they were preserving paper, how uncomfortable the intubater was, and other random complaints. My loving family was with me the whole first night as they learned of my more serious injuries. I have learned that compartment syndrome can hit the kidneys pretty hard due to rhabdomyolysis and my "ck", creatine kinase, an enzyme released by damaged muscle, were incredibly high. 

Next operation a few days later is to put a half inch titanium "nail" up my entire femur. I remember this trip down to pre-op. My mom and my wife escort me down there. I became quiet familiar with the ceiling along the route to the pre-op room. My mom knows several of the people in there, this creates a sense of safety and care, which is quite nice in these tense situations. One of the people she knows gives me some nice drugs that relax you before they anesthetize you. She describes it as a warm tequila buzz without the hangover. Mom also knows and has worked with the surgical nurse, how great is that. So they give me the anesthesia, which is terrible tasting, straight up chemical taste and I'm out. Waking up in the recovery room again with a couple new cuts on my leg, no more external fixater and a shiny new 5mm titanium nail, complete with 3 screws.

More drugs, more fluids, more weird dreams. Because of the bad rhabdo, they filled me with an average of an extra 4 gallons of fluids. That's approximately 30lbs of water. Needless to say I was swollen, everywhere, including my skull. I kept telling people to check the back of my head for a scratch, which at first no one would really listen. Finally, one of the great ICU doctors took a look and agreed there was a scratch. He put in an order for bacitracin after that. Well due to those 30lbs of fluids that scratch spread from a 1/2 inch to 2-1/2 inches, which in the end took my hair with the scab. I have no idea about the line underneath. The dreams I had on morphine, dilaudid, and other opiates were quite bizarre. The most memorable one was being inside one of those 3d posters, a red one, with a buddhist theme. Lots of flesh and asphalt dreams and most of the time I was floating upside down with my nose only centimeters from the ground.

My third surgery was to attempt to do my skin graft or better yet, to close up my fasciotomies. They got the outside one sewed up but there was still too much swelling to close the inside one, so they gave me a would vacuum instead. My last surgery was the actual skin graft. So I started my physical therapy while I was still in DOU, I think. That has continued to this day. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Zazen & Judo Training

Being that I am trying to get back in the habit of journaling, blogging, writing what have you, the only way is to do it. Seems a common theme for me, "Just doing It", thanks for swiping that wonderful phrase Nike and pigeon holing it to shoes. Not that it really stops its use, it's just that there is always, for me this after taste of shoe, when I say it. So last night I was talking to one of my fellow Judoka about zazen. He mentioned that he was interested in some introduction to it, led by myself. First and foremost, I was a little shocked that he saw me as someone who could do this. I then proceeded to tell him I thought the best way to be introduced is to start sitting every morning. The conversation has been ringing around in my head since then. I am asking myself if I told him the right, correct and accurate things. We talked a bit about concentration on breathe versus allowing breathe to come and go as it does, without paying it any special attention. I made some attempt to steer him toward either the sangha in Santa Monica or the one in Ventura. I am both hesitant and not at all hesitant about "leading" a sit with a small group. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Brad state that he was bored with his explanation of how to do zazen. I am currently practicing shikantaza, just sitting. I continue to read about this, "dropping off of the mind and body", but cannot identify that experience.

Zazen is definitely one of the oddest simple things that I have done. When one says to just sit, the enormity of the explanation not stated in that statement is well, big. How much the brain really, really wont just be still. In addition to it not being still, how we so naturally add energy to these unprovoked thoughts. I have read somewhere that a "moment" is a quantifiable time. This to me, does not feel accurate, as a moment is a totally subjective quantity of time. My reference to moment was to describe how one thought can floating into my mind, and without conscious effort I have added energy to the thought, and gone away on a little mental journey. That moment could be 5 seconds or 5 minutes. I try to never lose my awareness such that I am on a mental ride for that long. But, then the flip side of the coin is if you are standing in ever vigilant stance of smashing any arising thought, you are in a continuous thought about preventing thoughts. Then on top of all this madness, one is not to be concerned with the "quality" of each sitting. Some days I can hardly sit still and my mind races at mach speeds while other days my posture feels proper, not much need to move, and my mind is quieter. It is "unskillful" to compare and contrast these.

What about Judo? I lead the warm ups last night with some basic yoga. We got the blood flowing with jumping jacks. I added in the modified stepping for jumping jacks. We did several half salutes, then several surinamaskar (spelling) A then surinamaskar B. Neil said he thought it went well. I was sweating like crazy, but I do that at the drop of a hat, so I'm never sure about others. It seems these yoga series do a pretty good job of creating blood flow and stretching a multitude of body parts simultaneously. Neil went over a variation on ippon seionage. Block their gripping attempt or break their grip then keeping hold of their sleeve with a cross grip, your other hand goes under their arm you are controlling and grips their near collar. Similar to the grip for ude gaeshi but near collar versus far. Either wait for them to react by pulling up and away with this grip or you can step in deeper. I found it worked better to get in deeper and throw with more of a guruma motion. Neil said you could do it like this or more like standard seio. Something that was brought more to the forefront of my attention was turning toward the anchor hand. It is nothing new, I just typically think of turning away from the choking hand, and this makes me think for a half second longer than turning towards the anchor hand. I'll see. The anchor hand idea is somewhat new to me, at least in those terms.

That's All Folks

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Another Night of Judo, Another Day of Zazen

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going to the Hill Street Center, to do zazen with their sangha. Brad Warner lead the group and the topic after the sit was Zen and Sex. I'm still not sure what the point of sitting with a group is, but it is a different experience, so maybe that is it. My mind raced a lot yesterday, during my sit and at the same time the it was more quiet at times. My legs did not fall asleep, okay a tiny bit, but it was the best thus far in a 30 minute sitting. During my second sitting with a group, my leg fell asleep so much that when I stood up I almost fell over and sprained my ankle. Yeah, I still crack up on it, almost spraining my ankle from doing zazen! Classic. I learned yesterday about a buddhist food prayer, that until now I had not heard of. It seems there is much, much more reading to do. Along these lines and in the spirit of the topic, one member asked about coming up with prayer around opening the condom package. Wow, I did not see that coming. Everything I have read and heard about Soto Zen, says that Buddhism is Zazen and Zazen is Buddhism. Yesterday however seemed to show me a whole lot more.

Friday night Judo. One word description, intense. We had a good warm up followed by our standard, newaza. I missed the stand up technique series as I worked with two new guys on seionage. We then went on to form two lines facing each other to do static uchikomi to Ben's count. We did 100 I think, in sets of twenty. I miss this. As hellishly exhausting and somewhat monotonous as it is, I always feel like it helps a lot. We finished the class with tachi randori which we all love.

Tomorrow we Disc Golf

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Zazen, Judo, Yoga and Disc Golf

It's a new year and I have a renewed motivation to begin blogging again. My previous blog over at has entries back to when I started blogging back around June of 2005. It is mostly a training blog, but I was fairly consistently posting. My last entry was in June of 2009, so four years is a decent run, before taking a few months off. Yesterday I reread nearly the whole thing as a little review.

Soooo.... what's new? Well, zazen is one major new thing since then. I have been sitting nearly every morning since the beginning of last March. I was reading this guy's second book, "Sit Down and Shut Up", after reading his first book, "Hardcore Zen - Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth about Reality", and about 10 pages in I realized that either I put the book down or I get my rear end to a cushion. So I did. I went on to read his last book, "Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate: A Trip Through Death, Sex, Divorce, and Spiritual Celebrity in Search of the True Dharma" In the last few months I found a group, sangha, that meets the Saturday of the month to sit then talk. The group is lead by Kevin Bortolin, who like Brad Warner studied and received his Dharma transmission from Gudo Nishijima. Some interesting sychronicity there, I thought. I just finished reading Roshi Nishijima's book "To Meet the Real Dragon", as suggested by Kevin. One thing looking back that still makes me chuckle every time I think of it is how I set up in my mind these various goals/milestones. My first goal was to make it through a week, then a month, then 3 months, at which point I would be enlightened. Not really, obviously, but it was such a defining point that I made the joke with a friend on the 3 month morning that I hadn't achieved enlightenmet yet. So my next major milestone is coming up in a couple of weeks, my one year mark. That is pretty kewl. My zazen has evolved pretty radically in some regards and yet it is still just sitting in front of a wall. I definitely have moments of wondering what the heck motivates me to get up at 5am everyday to go sit and stare at a wall for a half hour. Even crazier is how I continue to increase how long I sit and have a goal of another 30 minute sit at night. The one thing that zazen has definitely done is put to rest the quiet, unquieting voice that said I should do zazen or meditation.

Where am I with my Gentle Way to Self Realization via the Art of Perseverance? Well, I have been studying Judo for almost 5 years now. I think I started back in March of 2005. My judo has definitely changed since then. Granted, the "end" is just as faraway as it was on day one. Of course, I do not believe any of these things have an "end". They are all about the journey and not the destination. A few months ago I got my ikkyu rank, the rank before shodan (black belt). One really kewl thing about being where I am with Judo, is that there are many people above me in skill and many people below me. It is a neat feeling to be aware of this and participate in it, in class. I do not feel anywhere near being ready for my shodan, and I am grateful, that is not my decision to make. In the coming days, weeks, months I will be adding blips of training sessions that stand out and I wish to remember. Neil Ohlenkamp, my instructor, teacher, and sensei at the Encino Judo Club, in Oxnard has recently started teaching these really incredible series of moves. Not that there wasn't great things to learn before, but I am thoroughly enjoying these. Judo continues to move beyond the mat in its scope for me.

Series 1 - right ouchigari > left hand kuchiki taoshi > knee over guard pass entry into newaza > kesa gatame > bridge and roll escape > arm post to block the escape > push hand over head and get the back

Series 2 - tate shiho > hands and knees top/bottom (slide to butterfly turn over) > tai otoshi > counter with kosoto gake > hands and knees turnout defense

So what's with this union of body, mind & spirit thing? Yoga. Apparently it's more than stretching. So in blog reading I found out I have been doing Yoga now for about three years. My teacher, Zan, from Zanzilla, teaches us twice a week at the city. So I did a bit of reading when I first started practicing yoga regularly. There a few perspectives regarding meditation and yoga. The one that stands out was I believe by Iyenger which stated that yoga and meditation were the same thing. I struggled with this for a while as it related to zazen. However, my teachers have told me and I am in agreement that zazen and meditation are not the same. Currently my focus has been on greater awareness of whatever area of the body we are working on.

Last bit about Disc Golf. Great sport that I commonly describe as hiking with a frisbee. That's about all I have at this time about disc golf.

This entry has taken me about three days. Hopefully that is not how they will all be.