My blogs usually begin with a definition of a word that means something, or weaves something into the story of my day. Today’s tale includes The Karate Kid and Mr. Miyagi, and since “miyagi” doesn’t appear in the regular dictionary (though it should), I thought it might be fun to turn to Urban Dictionary for today’s definition, which is exactly why there is no definition to start off my blog today. Because, well, look it up. I’ll wait. All of the definitions. Keep going. Yeah. That. Gross.

Day 3 of my 21 days off started out with a trip to IKEA to go furniture shopping for my home office. I have a vision in mind of a stenciled accent wall (yes, I will be stenciling), white furniture, a fantastic white office chair that’s both beautiful and functional and a comfy chair to switch it up a bit when I’m on long conference calls. Modern, clean and beautiful. Calming and inspirational. And where else do you go for modern on a budget, but IKEA, the place where everything has a wonderful Swedish name, where you can dream about having a kitchen with no cabinet doors that still looks perfectly in place and also get some meatballs.

Every time I walk in, I always think how much fun it would be to just design IKEA store vignettes all day; to have the whole store to pick from to create whatever bedroom, kitchen, office or combination thereof you could think of. To yell things like “get me the salmon color Bladvass!” (which is a quilt cover and two pillowcase) or my personal favorite, the Pysslingar, which are “practical storage pockets for drawings, newspapers, toys, etc” (and incidentally cost a measly $4.99). 

I felt like Goldilocks as I tried office chair after office chair. This one’s too hard, this one’s too ugly, this one is just right. After finding the perfect white desk and most comfortable white chair to eat my porridge in, we went to the area rug section where we found the most perfect color green rug, reminiscent of grass. We had a very prestigious multi-media client in NYC. They had grass “growing” out of one entire accent wall and I remember just standing in their hip lobby and wishing it was my living room. This rug reminded me of that, so I knew I was on the right track.  

After finding a way to maneuver all of this furniture into my car, which necessitated my boyfriend’s daughter laying across the entirety of the backseat holding onto the box with the desk in it, we swung by Dairy Queen to get her some ice cream to make up for it. Did you know they make blizzards in a mini size!? 

Wanting my office to have a little fun, I also went to Target to procure a must-have that I’d seen a few days before: a T-Rex lamp, because work should be as fun as it is hard. Plus, he’s the perfect green to go with the rest of my decor. Now, I just have to name him. 

It’s summer break and here in Phoenix, their school year ends much earlier than it did for me as a child in NJ. In Jersey, it felt like the sun never set, that you could be out until 9pm and still have plenty of light for whatever mischief you were getting into. Though I never got into mischief, because, you know, I’m an angel. Here in Arizona, we don’t put the clocks forward or back, which means though the sun sets later, there’s no 9pm light to play in. It also means that our cable shows come on an hour later half the year, which you get used to after a while. 

My summer breaks were a lot like my spring/fall breaks from school – me – and a project given to me by my parents. One year it was stenciling a border around the top of the kitchen. My mom took me to Jaeger Lumber (hands up for anyone who remembers that gem) and let me pick out the stencil and the color, a flowery dusky blue. And so I spent the entire week of spring break with a brush and a stencil, pounding the bristles into the wall with a technique the person at the hardware store had shown me. Have you ever tried to stencil the top of a wall? I’m gonna save you the time – it sucks. Royally. You’re either stubble-ing over your head or trying to squish your hand into the corners while you awkwardly half-sit on your ladder. My friends were off at Disney World, or visiting family in cool places and here I was, one-cheeked on a ladder shoving this paint brush into the wall over and over and over. 

It seems like kids now are so over-scheduled with their own activities – does anyone still have to spend their summers doing endless projects? While I’m sure if you could look back at my stenciling experience, you’d hear me whining the whole time, but I finished it, because I couldn’t leave my parents’ kitchen half done. Now, if you know my mother, she is phenomenal painter, as is my sister. Their kitchen now has a window scene straight out of Calabria painted on the wall courtesy of my talented mother. She didn’t need me to paint anything. She needed me to learn something. Discipline? Follow through? Stenciling? 

Did she know twenty-five years later I’d be getting ready to voluntarily take on my own stencil project in my own home, for a home office for a job that hard work day after day had earned me? Did she know that one day I’d be on video chats with said stencil work behind me reminding me day in and day out on this new job to work hard, to never give up? Knowing my mom, she probably expected as much. 

Day 4. There are two things worshiped in my parents house: Jesus and Jeter. Say what you want about The Yankees and their payroll, about the fact that they “buy” their championships, but there’s something to be said for their work ethic, the “gentleman” attitude that they strive to convey on and off the field. I learned as a small child that hard work will get you everywhere. For anyone following Derek Jeter’s post-major league career, among other things, he took his love of literature and started his own online magazine. Instead of articles written about athletes, it’s articles written by athletes. 

Today’s article was courtesy of Jorge Posada, famed catcher of the Yankees during their hay-day in the late 90s and early 2000s. It was written as a letter from Posada to himself as a 10 year old growing up in Puerto Rico. Look it up – it brought tears to my eyes. He likened his dad to Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid, teaching him, preparing him without him knowing he was being prepared. 

He talked about spending summers painting the house and leveling out the dirt in the backyard while other kids got to play. He talked about hitting leftie every time a righty pitcher came up in little league, even though he never made contact from the left side of the plate that first year. How he grew up a shortstop his whole life and only moved to catcher when his team needed him to. How the hard work he’d done as a child had prepared him for “the Yankee way” and how all of that hard work was paid back in the form of World Series rings and friendships with some guys that would last a lifetime. 

His own Mr. Miyagi reminded me of my parents. There is not a doubt in my mind that I’m where I am today because of my parents and their Miyagi teaching. 

So what are your kids doing for summer break? What are you doing for summer break? Who in your life could use a little Miyagi-ing from you?

Wax on. Wax off.