Friday, October 31, 2008

a little experiment

While the American--indeed, the world--economy is crumbling around me, I am actually in better financial shape than I have been in years. This is largely due to having a spouse who pulls his share of the weight, and, like me, is keenly interested in getting out of the debt we racked up during our personal life-crises.

I made a nice bit of mad-money during the last quarter, from my sewing side-job. About a quarter of it went to sewing expenses and reinvesting in the business. Another third I am saving. The remainder went to household expenses, such as buying a side of pasture-raised beef that should feed us for the next year.

With that savings as a cushion, and the optimistic, but not unrealistic, expectation that I will continue to generate sewing income during the upcoming year, I took a look at my budget and I decided to get more aggressive with my debts. I can feasibly have my car paid off in another year--in half the time allotted by the loan.

After that, I can start throwing some serious money at the big one, the consolidated debt that the SP and I collectively rolled up over the four years before we were married. I calculate I can have that paid off in two years. So--three years before we're free of consumer debt. I'll still have student loans after that, but I can make quick work of them and be completely debt-free before I'm 40. That's not to be sneered at.

I'm also looking at ways to save us money on food, since that's our primary expense. The beef is a big help. Our cost breaks down to about $3.99 per pound--that includes roasts, steaks, ribs, and a mess of hamburger--and it's hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef. I'm also considering joining a produce cooperative, but we're getting into the fall of the year and there aren't too many options right now. In spring, we'll see.

It helps to live frugally when your primary sources of entertainment are sewing, writing, and practicing. Don't need much in the way of expenses for that. In fact, that's how most of the current Old Masters got good at kung-fu--they grew up in Communist China, when no one had any money and half of them weren't allowed to work--all they could do to amuse themselves was practice.

By the way, I made an awesome chicken pot pie last night. Eating out has been a big drain on our budget, but I intend to go back to cooking more regularly. I'm going to be more careful about my time so I'm not neglecting my health in the interest of sewing work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

I believe that you want to believe the aliens could be out there

Found this fascinating list of Things That Do Not Make Sense. Scientific things, that is.

I'll admit, some of them are over my head--I'm just not up on theoretical physics the way I should be--but other things, like homeopathy, I am fairly familiar with, and fascinated by the unknown quantity. I enjoy the unknown factor because it leaves room for the existence of yung yi (internal force).

Who was it said, Only a fool would say, "That's impossible?"

Thursday, October 16, 2008

enlightenment, motivation

Sit tried a new teaching method with us t'other night.

He drew a little chart to illustrate the 3 parts of tai chi power: hard power, soft power, and so-called internal power. This concept is taken directly from his most recent article in Tai Chi Magazine, which talks about how to build Nei gong. He's been trying to get the guys to read it. I'm not sure if any of them have.

He tried to explain that having good body mechanics leads to relaxation which leads to internal power, and all three feed back to increase each other. But Internal Power is ultimately the heart of tai chi, and when you have it, it trumps the other two, because it takes so very little to get the job done.

"It's like Scotch," he said. He made a half-inch space with his thumb and forefinger. "You put that much in a glass, right? Because it so concentrated." He paused for a moment. "You guys all drinking Coca-Cola... supersize!"

To give us a spectrum of ability, Sit ranked his favorite grand master at the maximum of "4" in all three power categories. He put himself at about 2.5 (which is pretty daunting, considering how much better he is than all of us) and, picking on me as an example, ranked me at "1" in each category. He said that small people usually catch onto the concept of softness and internal power faster than big people, because smaller people don't have the muscle to fall back on. Because of that, he said, I have a little more internal power than the guys, but not enough to overcome their sheer muscle. (A fact of which I was already aware!)

All of this was very enlightening to me. I had read his article several times before--had actually written the first draft of it for him, but that was almost two years ago and I knew at the time that I wasn't getting all the meaning out of it--I was just transcribing his words. My understanding has increased a lot since then. As the SP put it, I've started to "believe" in the internal power. I feel it sometimes, but I can't hang onto it, figuratively speaking. It's an ephemeral thing, like trying to fall asleep--if you push, it retreats. I was glad to see my assessment of my own abilities confirmed. Sit's not the type to hand out empty praise, so I could see this as both an affirmation and a challenge--this is where you are, this is where you want to be.

During practice, Sit was trying to get me to relax into a leg wrap-and-throw move. I could do it mechanically well enough, but I wasn't making good contact--not enough soft energy. He demonstrated on me: first he wrapped the leg, then made contact with his arm and shoulder. A good, solid, three-point connection. "This what you do."

Then he relaxed his calf and thigh. His leg became like a towel wrapped around mine. His arm molded against mine from shoulder to wrist, seeming to disregard the presence of bones and joints. He sank his waist, hip, and ribs against the side of my body, so it felt like I was pressed into a foam mattress. I was engulfed in purposeful contact. It was weird, a total invasion of personal space, which is the whole point of the exercise and probably why most of us are reluctant to do it. He melded us into a single organism. When he moved, I had no choice but to move with him.

I've had him throw me many times, but never had him break down the move so slowly and methodically. It was a tremendous gift. It was kind of awe-inspiring, too, to realize how much awareness and control he has over his body, that he can not only do the right thing, but deliberately do the wrong thing and then systematically adjust it.

"You learn to do that," he said, "you get a '2' in internal power, on that chart, you know?" He pursed his lips for a moment. "That make you better than ninety percent of the so-called tai chi masters around here."

Now that's the way to motivate somebody. I know better by now than to try to build internal power--it's more of a side effect of good body structure, relaxation, and clear mind. But those three things I can work on, and will. I'm really quite excited.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Well, I've been sewing.


Well, I've been sewing.



I'm tired of talking about it. I've got one more commissioned outfit to make--the cocktail dress, so at least it's something different. I should get some cute pictures from it. I am seriously thinking I may not do any more PVC suits. They just take too damn long and the fitting makes me nervous. I don't like fitting anything that tight on a body I can't personally lay hands upon. But my new Teflon topstitching foot was definitely a good investment.

Let's see, what else is new?


I bought some fabulous red/gold shot silk for the curtains in my workroom. The SP is doing his on-again/off-again thing with the woodwork--other duties keep pulling him away and now he's got to make a couple of swords for our kung-fu brethren. The silk is so pretty I almost hate to put it on the walls--I keep thinking what a wonderful bustle gown it would make.


I have a whole backlog of things I want to make for myself--a stripey corset, a brocade jacket, some silk trousers. Patterns for sale. Dolls for the Christmas season. I also have a glimmer of an urge to make another bustle gown--this one white and fawn. I have the fabric; I've had it for years. For some reason the desire is on me. Maybe if one of the others would sell I'd have an excuse.


Since we are nearing the Halloween countdown I'm getting a lot more idiot queries. I always hated the Halloween season when I worked in the fabric store, because folks who would never dream of sewing anything the rest of the year suddenly get brave (or desperate) at ten days before the holiday. I guess I should applaud their efforts to make something for their kids instead of forking over gobs of money on rubber and vinyl, but it was very wearying on me as a clerk. It's wearying on me now. Just read the damn FAQ, people.


We are getting a quarter of a cow early next month. The farmer emailed us (which is a ponderable sentence, itself) to say they would be hauling beef on the 22nd and we'd get our meat a couple weeks after that. So we need to go buy a freezer and clear a space in the basement to put it.


We got our first load of firewood last week. Yay! Soon it will be woodstove weather.


I took a big chunk of the Harley money and bought us a new mattress. I am still getting used to that. For the most part, it's a big improvement, much more supportive, but now my pillow feels too flat. At least my back and knees don't ache anymore.


I am seriously considering installing a grow-light somewhere in the house so I can keep herbs all winter 'round. The problem is, where? There is no space, and even less warmth. The best place I can think of is the pantry, but we keep that room curtained off during the winter to keep the drafts out of the kitchen.


I think I may also buy some insulation this fall, to put in the basement ceiling. Something must be done to heat the bathroom. Brrrr.