Thursday, September 25, 2008


The music group Journey was one of my favorites as a teen (and I still enjoy their music.) Matter of fact, I just went to their concert about 2 weeks ago and their new singer just blew me out of the water. But that is beside the point. The reason I start with this is that when Journey first came on the scene - or rather when they first starting enjoying major success - they were often asked why they named the band "Journey". Their reply? "Because we all felt like we were from another place - on a journey."

And we are all on a journey. Our journeys begin about the same - we are born. And our destination is the same, too - death. (Okay, I know that opens up a whole new can of worms, but let's leave theology out of it…you know what I mean…you leave this world in a physical sense.)

Since I started this blog, I've mentioned how my martial arts are all about the journey, not "arriving" at a certain belt color / rank. And I stick by that belief.

The various stops and stations in my martial arts journey are the things that make me want to continue on my path. From the first little feelings of , "Hey I enjoy this!" when learning it when Buddy was taking the first class all the way to getting my yellow belt a few months ago, each new thing in between and since excites me even more.

If I had a scrapbook of my journey in martial arts to this point, the first page would include a photo of me watching Buddy learn moves in his first session, and a text bubble over my head, thinking to myself, "If I'm gonna learn this anyway for him, I might as well learn it for myself, too!" A few pages later may include a xanax taped to the page - to symbolize the nerves I had watching Buddy's class, waiting to go to my first adult class as soon as his was over. Afraid everyone would laugh at me. Another page might sport a photo of a teenager staring their first day in a new school. The nerve it took to say hi to people and engage them in conversation to the point that I consider many of these people very good friends now. I might tape a little fake set of car keys to represent the feeling of exhilaration driving on my way home from my first class - knowing I had taken the a crucial first step of my journey. (And I have had that same feeling driving home from almost all the classes since then.) I could go on and on and if you're at least to the point in your journey that I am, you will know exactly what I'm talking about - the first sparring match. The first time you made it all the way through your first kata with no mistakes. The first time using a bo staff. The first time you received a compliment on one of your techniques. The first time you felt your own technique worthy of a compliment. All such small steps, yet such big hurdles!

The reason I'm waxing so nostalgic is that one of the senseis who started our karate school died this past weekend unexpectedly. He was a very high ranking black belt in more than one discipline. Taekwondo, Judo and a few others of which I'm not sure right off the top of my head. He was a police officer for many years, including terms as police chief in multiple cities. He served more than one term as the Executive Director of our state's Police Association. O-Sensei was a World War II veteran and a Korean War veteran. He was our Sensei's sensei. He had a wife he adored (who preceded him in death by about 2 years) and lots of children and grandchildren. He had a very full and honorable life. His martial arts journey has ended, whereas mine has just begun.

Even though I had only met him once, I was asked if I would like to attend his wake with others from our school. Approximately 12 of us attended, carpooling since it was a pretty long trek to his wake. The funeral parlor was packed. Lots of family, friends, many different police officers dressed in various municipalities' uniforms in attendance. I hope it makes a difference to that many people when I go. It was heartwarming to see.

It may sound tacky to say that I enjoyed myself, but despite the circumstances, I did. I felt a connection to our school and those currently involved as well as those who have gone before us. The history of our school surrounded me. I met people I had never met before from a sister school. The people that I see every week and know - I learned things about them I had not known before last night - Our highest ranking sensei who still teaches, started our dojo's location 28 years ago, the two senseis with next highest rankings started with him almost 20 and 21 years ago to the day. I saw one of those senseis mist up a bit when we walked by O-Sensei's casket and she realized that this wake was taking place on what would have been his 83rd birthday. I asked a couple - one a brown belt, one a black belt, which of them had started first and learned they had begun together about 10 years ago or so. A woman getting ready to test for her green belt tomorrow night said she had started when the woman of the couple was pregnant with her second child - so almost 4 years ago. I met one of our black belt's wife, whom I had never had the pleasure of meeting before. And the highlight of the evening - I had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of one of the other senseis who had started our school. His personal history was as colorful and honorable as the sensei who had just passed away. He was a bit frail, but formidable. And charming! I introduced myself as a beginner and he introduced himself as having 65 years in martial arts. I could tell he genuinely enjoyed meeting me and seeing the others he already knew. And the feeling was completely mutual. You could just feel how much everyone truly liked one another and respected him.

So, all these people in one place for one reason. People all at different marks on the timeline of their martial arts journeys. From the lowest ranking person who attended (me) to the highest ranking in attendance were all there to honor O-Sensei and his journey - his martial arts journey as well as his total life journey.

Reminder to self - It's not about the destination, but about the journey…

Friday, September 19, 2008

Martial Arts for the (OLD) Ages...

One of my favorite bloggers, Black Belt Mama (I'm sure you all know BBM. If not, you HAVE to check out her blog at, wrote a blog the other day about not ever feeling she'd be the same after ACL surgery on her knee last year. After feeling almost confident enough to return to her karate class after about a year, her daughter had run into her leg and it set BBM back both physically and mentally.

Not since last year when she first experienced the injury, have I "heard" that despair in her written word. When BBM progressed through all the stages: Denial ("Oh, it'll be okay in a few days if I rest it"), then online ACL research - just in case it was worst possible scenario, she'd know what to expect, to the doctors appointments after realizing that "just resting it' was not doing the trick, to accepting she was going to have to have reconstructive knee surgery if she ever hoped to return to karate, we, her readers, could not-quite-literally feel her pain. I know I thought to myself, "Wow - what if that happened to me?" and I wasn’t as worried about the everyday stuff as I was worried that if it did, how would I live my life without martial arts in it? Here, I just found martial arts, and love it more than anything I think I've ever done besides marriage & kids, and one moment in time could potentially remove it from my life altogether!

I thought about the obvious - the pain. I thought of the other obvious - not being able to get around easily. But then the other hypothetical questions began swimming in the shark-infested-waters of my brain. Worse than the pain. Worse than the inconveniences. What if I were sidelined from martial arts for a lengthy stretch of time? It actually made (and makes) me cringe just to think of my life without martial arts in it on a regular basis.

I thought all this then, but I'm also thinking of it today because that fear, although not quite founded, is a real possibility in my hopefully very distant future. Don't know if I told you before but I, just like my dad, have flatter-than-flat feet (Flintstone feet, I call them). They are so flat, you could almost call them concave…really. As I've gotten older, I have noticed them aching more than before. I get actual pains in them for no apparent reason. My knee started giving me some trouble earlier this year and I started taking Glucosamine Chondroitin, which really has helped. But for some strange reason, maybe because I'm approaching another birthday in December, my ankles are starting to really rebel. My left one, especially, feels as if my ankle is sinking down into my foot. It is very painful. Not very often, mind you, but a couple of times, the joints have just "given out" and I felt as if I was going to fall, but caught myself.

I did not participate in karate class last Thursday because of the left ankle. When it initially started to cause a lot of pain, I thought maybe I twisted it or something without realizing it. It killed me to leave and know the rest of the class was going to do what I love to do so much. So, I did "give it a rest" for a few days and hoped for the best last night at class. I went, had a great time, as always, but did notice a lot more pain in the ankle as the night progressed - especially in some yoga poses we did as warm-up and then in walking kicking drills. It did not let me down (this time literally) and the knee nor the ankle buckled when all my weight was on it. (And remember in my last post - I have weight to put on it too!) So, I was relieved about that, but by the time we lined up to bow out at the end of class, I was in excruciating pain. I was limping and could barely walk on that ankle. By the time I lay down to sleep. I had "four-point" pain - both knees, both ankles. And I've noticed that on karate nights, I tend to get Charlie-horses in my legs. Getting older is so much fun.

There goes that nagging fear again…What if I couldn't practice martial arts on a daily basis?

Like I said, I just found martial arts. I wish I had found it when I was a teenager so I could have all those years under my belt and could have been feeling then what I feel now, largely due to karate. I may not be all that great at it, but I try hard and I think that goes a long way. So, I can't imagine not feeling that feeling of confidence it gives me. I can't imagine the not feeling safer walking down the street. (Although that stays with you - that could never be taken away - I would always feel safer walking down the street.) I can't imagine not feeling stronger - physically. I can't imagine not feeling stronger mentally. (But again, that is something that will always stay with me because of my experience in martial arts.) I can't fathom not seeing our senseis each week, my classmates, the new people just starting out and experiencing that feeling for the first time like I did.

So, what do I need to do to ensure I can be as healthy as I can be in order to not let these obstacles sideline me from what I love to do? Well, I've taken the first step…as I wrote in my previous post, I'm losing weight. If those OLD joints of mine don't need to support as much weight, then obviously, that has to be better for them and me as a whole.

I am going to look into some stylish but made for comfort shoes. I have heels for work, and love the way they look with dress clothes, but when the bottom of your foot is shaped like a flat board and the shoe is shaped like a 3" tall sliding board, you almost have to be asking for trouble. I am just going to have to find something more comfortable yet not sacrifice my professional look for work.

I will see if I'm taking the optimum dosage of Glucosamine Chondroitin. If not, I'll adjust that as well.

In other words, as I age, modifications may need to be made in my everyday life as well as in my martial arts journey. I will do everything in my power to continue in martial arts until the day I take my last breath. And that determination is what martial arts has done for me that drives me to make that statement.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Know What I Have to Do...But I Don't Like It

I Know What I Have to Do…

Okay, the subject of this post is a weighty issue…literally. I have to lose weight. That is all there is to it. I know it, but like most people, I don’t like it.

Before I started martial arts, my main motivation for wanting to lose weight was always to look better. Other times, I'd tell people it didn't matter to me how I looked, I just wanted to be healthier in general. (Are you buying that? Nah…me neither.)

But now that I've found karate, I find that the main reason I want to lose weight is to improve on my martial arts experience, whether that be that it would be easier to bend in half in warm ups, or kick a little higher in actual class, or just that my gi would fit a little looser across my tummy and waist. (And let me tell you, that in itself is MAJOR motivation! A gi that is tight in any spot at all is very uncomfortable.)

If my stomach was smaller, I would only have the "Girls" to deal with when bending in half (See one of my first blog posts, "Bend It Like Dolly" )

If my legs were thinner, I bet my ankles and knees would feel MUCH better. I attribute some of my ankle and knee pain to getting older and the fact that I have flat feet - make that flatter-than-flat feet. But I also know that if I were to lose about 50 lbs or so, I am sure there would be a noticeable improvement in my archless wonders and those joints. I mean, after all, let's be frank - if my feet, ankles and knees had less weight to support, they'd probably let out a big old sigh of relief.

If I were to become more fit, I could breathe easier. The pranic breathing I am learning would come easier. It does calm me and help me, but sometimes, with extra weight, those deep breaths can be downright uncomfortable. And a nice, deep, cleansing breath being uncomfortable cannot be a good thing, can it?

And I exercise. I ride my bike occasionally. I do karate on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am on my feet a lot at work and at home. So, not everything I do for myself is bad.

But I eat too much.

Wow, it hurts to just blurt that out like that. It's a weakness of mine. (Eating too much, not the blurting...okay, I blurt too much too) It's a common weakness. (again, the overindulging in food, not the blurting) But it's also embarrassing. Embarrassing that you don't have enough control over yourself to stop eating when you know you've had a proper portion. (Have you seen a proper portion lately? Gimme a break - there ain't nothing "proper" about it! I ate more than that when I was a skinny kid!)

I eat too much or too richly and get indigestion, heartburn, gas, a myriad of other unmentionable side effects. I feel bloated and my gi fits even more snugly across my tummy. How can I put all I have into my karate performance when I feel like I'm stuffing myself into a sausage casing?

But I know what I have to do. And just like in the first paragraph of this post, I don't like it.

I don't want to have to plan. I don't want to have to limit myself to 1/2 cup of something. If I like it, I want about 2 or 3 cups of it! And what is healthy for us? Certainly not Chevy's chimichangas and Jumbo Jacks with cheese. So, instead we have broiled chicken and green beans. Oh, yum. Maybe if I'd been on that island with Tom Hanks, but living in a world of choices that include McDonald's fries and Crunchwrap Supremes…I don't think so. Seriously, I don't think I've ever said, "I'm dying for a garden salad with a bowl of fruit cocktail for dessert."

But I know what I have to do. And did I mention that I was not too thrilled with the prospect?

But I do desperately want to live "the martial way" as author Forrest Morgan puts it. That includes eating like "a warrior". In other words, I need to feed my body so it can do what it was intended to do…live in a healthy state - both mentally and physically. And I do like that and I'm sure I will like the effects from doing so. So, as I said…

I don't like it, but I know what I have to do.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Take This Job and Love It!

Well, I think I told you all about all the stress I'm under. Well, I'm about to embark on an even more stressful life event...I'm changing jobs. Yes, that is right. I have been an administrative assistant at my current place of employment for almost 7 years. I absolutely love my job and 99.999% of the people I work with. We have pot lucks, celebrate people's birthdays and babies, and grandchildren. In fact, we celebrate anything. It is like a giant family and I would hate to lose the friendships I have built with most of them in the past 7 years.
The problem is that I work for a huge corporation and everything must be approved through corporate office. My boss, whom I adore, has tried to get my job upgraded to a higher grade 3 times in the past 3 or 4 years and Corporate HR (who has never met me btw) continues to shoot her down. I am a walking, talking prime example of an employee who is very underpaid and under jobgraded for what I do. I can't blame my boss. She has truly tried over and over again. The other drawback is that there is really no place to which I could move up in my current employ unless I were to get clinical training. I have more interest in gouging my eyes out with red hot pokers than I do in getting clinical training.
Another entity within our organization has wanted me to come work for them for about 1-1/2 years. Because they had to again fight Corporate HR to get authorization to create this position, we all had to be patient. Well, they finally authorized it. The folks I know with the other entity who have worked with me in the past in my present employ, called me and told me to apply immediately, which I did. I was called for an interview, which went well. So well, in fact, I was pretty convinced I was going to be offered the position and went to work and started cleaning up my desk area. People at work just thought I got that spring cleaning bug in the middle of August. (I hope.)
The new job would be half as far of a commute, plus my husband and I could ride together as he works right down the road. The VP told me that the hours would be very flexible as they are not even in the office itself many days and I'm a morning person - the earlier the better in my opinon. I would be located right next door to the the company for which I worked for 10 years. I could have lunch with the girls I used to lunch with every day. My very close friend, the massage therapist, lives about 2 minutes away. My cousin, with whom I'm very close lives right down the street. My hubby and I could "do" lunch (get your mind outta the gutter...I only get half hour! : ) There is every fast food restaurant known to mankind very nearby, a library two doors down, all the stores to stop in on the way home. It would be like coming home again since I am so familiar with that area after working for 10 years at the company next door. As I said, I love my present job and the people, but the location is in a very, make that VERY elite neighborhood and the lowest cost lunch around there is an $8.00 burger and that doesn't even include fries!!!! (No fries? Blasphemy I say!!!) Oh, I never told you I was a "potato person" did I? I love potatoes in any way, shape or form. And anyone who know me, knows this. I even had a cardboard cutout of McDonalds fries adorning my desk at one time. I've never met a potato I didn't like! : )
So, I got the call Friday that I was, in fact, chosen over many other candidates for this new position. Panic set in immediately. The known versus the unknown. I think of not seeing my current coworkers every day.
The new position is a lateral move - no raise except the $40-50 I'll save on gas per week riding to work with my hubby. There is also room for advancement in this position. There is also the sheer thrill of creating this brand new job - a job no one else has held yet. A position for which I will set the standard, no make that set the bar - and I'll set it high, too.
I accepted the position. My current boss and my boss-to-be negotiated a last day at my current position and a first day at my new one - Oct. 3rd for my last day at my present job and Oct. 6th. as my starting day with the new group. My job was posted immediately to try to get someone in so I can train them before I go. I am very glad I can do this for my boss and coworkers - train someone to do the job simliar to how I did it - make the transition a bit easier for them. My boss and all my coworkers are sad I'm leaving. I am sad I'm leaving. I am so going to miss seeing them everyday. I know I will remain lifelong friends with a handful of them (Coworkers if you're reading this, you know who you are) but the lack of day-to-day contact with them will be tough.
But there is one bright spot to the sadness I feel in leaving them - they are having one last blow-out pot luck for me on my last day. Take a guess what they came up with to send me off in a manner in which I'd never ever forget - A POTATO POTLUCK!!!!!
And in ending this post, I'm quoting Sammy Hagar again, "It's the best of both worlds!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Karate and Tattoos and Genealogy, Oh My!

I just never have enough time to get everything done that I want to do.

One of the things I like the best about myself is that I have a lot of interests. There is just so much out there to learn about and do, I just don't understand people who have no hobbies or interests. There is so much about which to get excited! It probably sounds really selfish, but it actually seems unfair to me that there is not enough time to pursue all the things that catch my interest.

You already know about my obsessions with martial arts and reading. I've told you that once something catches my attention, I morph into "Research Girl" and read and watch everything I can about that particular subject. I also love tattoos. I only have one myself, but once I decided to do it, I knew I could not just walk into any old tattoo shop and pick some "flash" off the wall undoubtedly being sported by housewives who wanted to "do something daring". Yes, faster than a internet google, able to navigate search engines in a single keystroke…it's "Research Girl". I decided I wanted to design my tattoo myself. I started with the finished tattoo I could visualize in my head and used internet images and fonts along with magazine photos and the like to create my own design. Long story short - it is a "3 lock box" (I'm a major Sammy Hagar fan!) and the three keys and keyholes represent my husband and 2 kids. The blue scrolls at the bottom represent Cabo Wabo. I researched shops until I found a reputable one and a friend and I went a few weeks before my 40th birthday and an idea that had started in my mind is now a permanent part of my physical being. Anyway, it just has a lot of meaning to me and it always will. And I'll never regret getting it. And the next one is going to be a dragon…Okay, got off tangent there… Well, my newest interest is a fascination with genealogy. I received a wedding band believed to be my great-great grandfather's, but we were not sure. So, I started researching on and Using the engraved initials and date on the inside of the gold band, I found out it was my great-grandfather's ring on my grandma's side. It is from 1899. Is that not wild? I plan on giving it to my son some day to use as his wedding band. Then I found old family photos I had never seen before - my grandparent's wedding and my grandma's first communion. The worst part - and the best part - I have found more questions than answers. Like my great-great grandmother, for instance. She gave birth to my great grandfather. Then she had another baby in 1847. She and the baby died in 1848. No explanation. Was it an accident? An epidemic disease? She is buried "in the family cemetery on the family farm"???? What? Since their family was one of the founding families of this community, I started trying to find out just where this family farm once stood but so far, I keep hitting dead ends. But no way am I giving up. I can trace two family lines back to the 1500's! Is that not amazing? I am just fascinated.

But I work full time. I have a husband, a 10 yo ADHD son, an 18 yo daughter who thinks money grows on trees and that it is an abomination that she be asked to do the laundry, a household. Two elderly parents not in very good health. I serve on the PTA of my son's school. I do newsletters for my work, my church, my ladies' group, my son's school. I take martial arts classes two nights per week. I try to practice martial arts a few nights per week on my own. Money problems. Friends I don't have time to see. And I really do love me some good T.V., too!

So, you see, all I'm wishing for is for those people who don’t choose to pursue anything - I would like them to donate some of their time to me. LOL C'mon, it's not that outrageous of a request. People donate vacation time to help co-workers. They donate time to charities. I’m always in a hurry trying to fit everything in that I want to do and learn. Why can't someone give me some more time to pursue all my obsessions???

The reality is - they can't. We are all given the same 24 hours per day. We all must make the decisions to use that time in the best way we know how. They always say if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. I guess that's why I get asked to volunteer so often!

Time is definitely NOT on my side. Oh, yeah, and "I Can't Drive 55" either…