The life video

Tom Callos sent an email today, with a link to a video by Ira Glass. I’m going to include the link, but I know most who read this won’t view the video. Actually, that was kind of the point of Tom’s email, but that is a whole other story…

Ira says a lot of important things about the creative process of making videos. What struck me though, are the parallels between making a video and life. About making a video and doing just about anything that is important. One of the points Ira made is that many people stop making videos because their product doesn’t live up to their “taste”.

Maybe, because I was taking a break from writing new copy for the website, this struck a chord. Or maybe, it was because I’ve been trying to outline a new curriculum. Or, because I’ve been struggling with making weekly journal entries. Or because I….. (Insert just about anything I do here)

I’ve always been an “outside the box” kind of person. Artistic to a degree, but not particularly talented. I like to read, and enjoy expressing myself through writing. Sometimes the ideas and creativity flow, sometimes I feel like I’m hitting my head against a wall.

I’m reminded of one of those toys that just keeps pushing forward against a wall until the batteries run down. If you turn it away from the obstacle, it will zoom off. Until it hits the next obstacle. Then it stays stationary with wheels spinning, batteries draining until empty.

I’ve got some deadlines I need to meet. My wheels have been spinning a lot lately, my batteries are getting depleted.

I have to acknowledge that my efforts are not going to always match my vision. That is ok. But if I don’t continue the effort, I’m never going to get better.

To be honest, it’s really easier to quit. I could just be content to settle. To be content with the status quo. The copy for the website is good enough. My last journal entry was good enough. The curriculum we have is good enough.

The work I am doing for the Ultimate Black Belt Test is good enough. My training and physical conditioning are good enough. My relationships are good enough.

Right now, my finished product doesn’t look anything like my vision.

Of course, it’s easier to just quit.

I can listen to the little guy that lives on my shoulder (he’s invisible you know but I think you probably have one too) that tells I’m too busy or too tired or not smart enough or not strong enough or not talented enough or just not good enough to do what I’ve set out to do.

Or, I can dig deep. I can look back at what I have done, see the good in it, and use that as a foundation for the next step. I can listen to the gal that lives on the other shoulder (yep, she’s invisible too) that tells me that I can do it. She reminds me that I am a black belt, a teacher, a leader, a mom, a friend, a citizen of this planet and I have ability to do whatever I set my mind to. Her voice is much softer than the guy that lives on my other shoulder and sometimes I have to really strain to hear her.

I also have to recharge my batteries. I do that when I sit on my deck and meditate while listening to the birds sing. I do that when I read an email from a friend that tells me I have helped him or her during some difficult times. Tom Callos recharges my batteries with his emails and videos, as do my UBBT teammates with their journals and their work. I need to spend more time recharging.

Recharge. Think. Visualize. Get to work.

This video of my life. It is a work in progress and I’ve got the camera running every moment that I’m awake. It can have real depth and meaning, perhaps even move and inspire, or it can be a lot of blank screen and white noise.

My choice.


In April of 2000 we were working on two on one sparring during the noon class.  I was the target, while two of my friends and fellow students were the attackers.  A low kick hit my knee from the side and within seconds on was lying on the mat with incredible pain in my knee.  Within a week I was recovering from surgery for a torn ACL.

The surgery really wasn’t that bad.  I was up and walking around, ditching the crutches within the first few days.  I started physical therapy immediately, and felt pretty good about my progress.

Then, while I was doing one of the PT exercises at the therapy center, I felt a strong sharp pain in my quadracepts.  A therapist was walking by, and I told him I thought I had torn my quad.  “Nah, you couldn’t have done that” he said.  So I did some more reps of the exercise and finished up my session.

The pain continued, but none of the therapists seemed concerned.  But a few days later, I had the first muscle spasm in my leg.  Wow that hurt.  And then there was another.  And another.  Until I was experiencing debilitating leg was spasms periodically during the day and the night.  The Doc told me that he wasn’t sure what the problem was, but that I could not have torn my quad.   He told me to lay off the exercises, and to do massage and stretching during my sessions instead.  I did.  The spasms continued.

By now, over two months had gone by, and I couldn’t walk, sit, or lay down without muscle spasms in my leg.  I went back to the Doc, and he told me he really didn’t know what to do for me, so he was going to have me try Muscular Dystrophy medicine.

As I left his office, I dropped the prescription in to the trash.

One of my student’s parents was an orthopedic surgeon at University of Arkansas Medical Science.  That evening at the school, I told him what was going on.  He called his office and got me an appointment to see him the next day.  Several tests later, the results were in.  I had indeed torn my quad.  But the tear was in an unusual place, the “mushy” muscle beside the tendon.  Essentially, my quad was unraveling, and we were dealing with a very rare injury.  First move was to put me in a full leg cast from the ankle to the groin to immobilize the leg.  In the month of July.  In Arkansas.  I was not a happy camper.  I slept in the recliner for the entire month, it was just too difficult to try to sleep in bed.  Driving my F-150 truck was a challenge, but I became pretty adept at braking with my left foot.  My right foot stayed by the gas pedal since it was impossible to move my right leg.

A month later, the leg cast came off.  Within a week the spasms were back.  I can’t begin to describe how discouraged I was.

Did I mention that I had just bought the school?  I had so much to do, so much to learn, and I was dealing with constant pain and frustration.  I had been working out at least an hour or two a day, and now it was everything I could do to walk from my car to the house.

My Doc didn’t want to do surgery, he would have to cut open the muscle, and the tear was in the part of the muscle that would not respond well to stitching.  Mushy like the part of the chicken breast next to the tendon was the  way he described it.  So the advice was…do nothing.  Don’t exercise, don’t stretch, try to let it heal.  I asked how long this was going to take, and he said he didn’t know.

It took two years.  No martial arts, no running, no biking.  No exercise at all.  Every time I would venture out on the mats to try to work out, the leg would start aching and hurting in the vulnerable area.  If I pushed it, the spasms started again.

The saga continues …next week.

My Sister Tracey’s What Is My Tree Project

My sister Tracey and I are very close.  Not in age, I am the oldest and she is the youngest of four.   But in temperament and interests, we are very similar. We are the best of friends.  She is my workout partner in martial arts, my confidant, my sounding board.  Everything a sister should be, really.  We even look alike.   I talk to her almost every day.  I know when she goes to the doctor, I know when she buys new shoes.  

But you know what?  She still surprises me.  

When I announced the What Is My Tree? Project, I could tell she was not excited about it.  As testing drew closer, I was gently reminding all of my students that they HAD to turn in the Phase I of their Tree Project before testing.  Two days before testing, she plopped down in the chair across from my desk and said “I want to talk to you about this Tree thing”.  The look on her face said it all. She was not happy.

She went on to describe everything she was already doing.  And to express her frustration that I was asking her to do more.

When she was done venting (in a very calm and professional way), I explained to her that she was done.  She had already done everything needed for the Tree project, all she had to do was write it up.  She was already being a leader with her actions, I just needed her to write it up so that others could be inspired by her.  

This is yet another case of the teacher learning from the student.  The following is the first What Is My Tree? Project report at Little Rock Martial Arts.  I’m very proud of my little sister.



What’s My Tree Project

Tracey Campbell



As Ms. Ray knows, I was not thrilled to do this paper (project); I whined and complained for weeks.   I explained to her that for twelve years, before recycling was “cool” – I was already doing it.  She told me to put the reasons why on paper, so here it goes.


Several years ago, I began reading about the environment and the effect that the use of certain products is hurting the environment and destroying future resources for our younger generation.    The average American discards 4.6 pounds of garbage every day.  EVERY DAY!!!  The garbage goes to landfills and it is buried.  The garbage continues to grow and it effects our environment constantly.  Recycling reduces the amount of solid waste going into landfills, making each landfill last longer. 


After I read that, I began recycling, and made my husband recycle also.  Here are some statistics for you: 


  • Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water and 65% less energy, and it produces 95 % less air pollution than virgin paper production.[1]


  • When making cans, using recycled aluminum requires 96% less energy than manufacturing new aluminum form its virgin material, bauxite.  Four pounds of bauxite are saved for every pound of aluminum recycled.


  • Recycling plastic bottles uses 76% less energy.


  • Recycling paper uses 45% less energy.  It also saves trees and water; making a ton of paper from recycled stock saves up to 17 trees and uses 50% less water (7000 gallons).


  • Recycling glass uses 21% less energy.


Recycling reduces air and water pollution because the recycling process reduces the amount of air pollution produced by power plants and the amount of water pollution produced by chemicals used in the manufacturing process.


When plastics are recycled, you can produce coats, industrial equipment, school equipment, garden furniture, boxes, spare parts on cars…you name it, it can probably be created with recycled products.   I just bought a pair of running socks made from recycled water bottles and Mountain Dew bottles!  Who would have thought about that?


There are a lot of things that I try to do for the environment, but I admit there are just as many I can do better.  I am terrible about buying bottled water; I have bought several recycled, reusable water bottles to take to the gym and TKD class instead.


I am one of those people you see in the store with the reusable, recycled shopping bags; I have those but I still put some things in regular plastic bags.  I do take the extra ones back to Wal-Mart so they can be recycled, but the best thing to do is not get them.


What do I do right?

  • I pass around magazines when I get through reading them; I refuse to throw them away. 
  • I take books that I have read to the nursing homes or give them to people who I know will enjoy them.
  • I use dryer sheets to polish my furniture instead of throwing them out.
  • We have cut down on our paper towel use; we still occasionally use them, but I have several hand towels now that are used more often.
  • I always run the dishwasher and washing machine first thing in the morning; that is when the energy and water demand is lower.
  • Every room in our house has energy efficient light bulbs.  It took some getting use to, but I don’t think we have a regular light bulb in the house. 
  • You will never see a can, plastic bottle, or newspaper in my trashcan.  I recycle everything I possibly can.


So, these are the three levels for my project.  I will keep doing what I am doing for the environment and I will hopefully make a difference

[1] I Love A Clean San Diego website

Writing Fatigue

I enjoy writing.  When I’m troubled about something, I’ll do a “dear diary” type letter to myself.  Many times the process of putting my thoughts on paper allows me to evaluate a situation and, if not come up with a solution, at least have the facts laid out in front of me to clarify my thoughts.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge of posting a weekly journal as part of my UB BT requirement.  I’ve found myself being much more aware of my surroundings, my interactions with others, even more aware of my thoughts because I knew I was going to have to find something to write about each week. 

I have not posted a journal in over a month (maybe more, I’m afraid to look).  I had good intentions, and have even started a few.    All I can say was that I just wasn’t in the mood.  I know Tom has said each journal entry does not have to be an inspiring masterpiece, but anything I would have posted in the last month would have been along the lines of “I’m writing this because I am supposed to, but I don’t have anything to say.”

I think I’ve been suffering from thought fatigue.    I just have not had the internal strength to take the seed of an idea and flesh it out. 

But what I have done is read the journal entries of my students and my fellow UBBT team members.  You guys have kept me inspired and motivated when I was out of motivational “gas”. 

For me, one of the greatest benefits of UBBT is being able to get inside the head and hearts of our fellow team members.  What’s cool is that you do not have to be a member of the UBBT to have access to this incredible resource.  When I’m feeling empty, I go to the UBBT journal site to get recharged. 

Try it.

Take the high road and I love you Mom.

A high school teacher committed suicide a few days ago.  He was a favorite teacher of one of my staff members.  Almost every freshman had a class with him and there are a lot of hurting and bewildered 14 and 15 year olds in our city today.  Sudden death, by suicide or accident, has a lasting effect. 

Take the high road.

Sixteen years ago, my mother had a “mild” heart attack.  Several days after the attack, she was scheduled for a routine angiogram.  I went by the hospital to see her that morning, but had a lunch appointment during the time of the actual procedure.  So I hugged her, told her I loved her, and went to my meeting.

The doctor was very honest with her.  Usually this occurrence was fatal.  Surgery was going to be very risky.  They were able to stabilize her, but she needed to see her family quickly, and then they needed to go in and see if they could repair the damage.  They waited for me to get there before taking her into surgery.

We told each other goodbye that day.  She didn’t expect to live; they couldn’t even give her odds because the surgery was so rare. 

As I sat in the waiting room with my family, I thought about a future without her.  I thought about the time I had had with her.  One of the things that comforted me was the knowledge that my mom knew I loved her.  We said those three words every time we talked on the phone or saw each other.  And I said it with my actions too.   I could sit in the waiting room and not feel guilt or regret about harsh words or hurtful actions. 

What I learned from that time was that I did not want to feel guilt or regret if someone died.  That may sound simplistic, but that has guided my life ever since.  I’m certainly not perfect, and sometimes I slip.  But if I say or do something that is hurtful it eats me up until I rectify it.

  1. But when you are able to make a conscious decision to take the high road, you are the one that benefits the most.

Acts of Kindness are not for those on the receiving end.  They are for you. 

Forgiveness of wrongs and hurts is for your benefit.  It’s much easier to forgive than to live with guilt and regret for the rest of your life.

If someone is important to you, tell them.  Write a note.  Call them.  Hug them and tell say those three words.  I love you.

These last few months in the UBBT I’ve had the concept of self defense redefined for me by Tom Callos and my team members.  I get it.  I get it that eating right is self defense, as is taking care of the environment and controlling my anger and stress.  I get it that Acts of Kindness may be the most basic level of self defense.

Why not develop a new habit.  The habit of being aware of the people you interact with and their value to you.  And develop the habit of telling them those positive things.  Those actions may not be enough to change the course of their life, but I guarantee it can change yours. 


I called my mom to get the dates of the heart attacks.  I told her I was writing something, and would print it out and bring it to her for Mothers Day this Sunday.  As we were hanging up she said “You know, having those two heart attacks were the best thing that ever happened to me.  Things that used to make me mad don’t anymore.  I just forget about it.  It’s not worth it.”   

 I love my mom.

What Is Your Tree and The Green Belt Project

whatisyourtree1What Is Your Tree?

Julia Butterfly Hill is an American  activist and environmentalist.  She lived in a 180-foot tall, 600-year-old California Redwood  tree for 738 days.   Hill lived in the tree, affectionately known as “Luna” to prevent loggers of the Pacific Lumber Company from cutting it down. She was awarded the Courage of Conscience award October 31, 2002.  Julia was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

UBBT Coach Tom Callos interviewed Julia recently.  You can hear the recording by going to the ubbt site. 

What Is Your Tree?

That is the question that Julia asks.  What do you believe deeply and passionately about?  Anything?  Are you willing to actually DO something instead of TALK about it? 

Your Tree does not have to be something tied to the environment. 

MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers)

Candy Lightner founded MADD in 1980 after her daughter, Cari, was killed by a repeat drunk driving offender. Cindy Lamb—whose daughter, Laura, became the nation’s youngest quadriplegic at the hands of a drunk driver—soon joined Candy in her crusade to save lives.

Susan G Komen Foundation

Susan G. Komen fought breast cancer with her heart, body and soul. Throughout her diagnosis, treatments, and endless days in the hospital, she spent her time thinking of ways to make life better for other women battling breast cancer instead of worrying about her own situation. That concern for others continued even as Susan neared the end of her fight. Moved by Susan’s compassion for others and committed to making a difference, Nancy G. Brinker promised her sister that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever.

Andy Mandell “Mr. Diabetes”.

I had the honor of meeting Andy in Greensboro, AL.  A fellow martial artist, Andy, at age 62, just completed walking the perimeter of the United States in order to raise awareness about diabetes and how it can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle.  He is the founder of the Defeat Diabetes Foundation, and the author of a curriculum that I will be using at LRMA and in the local schools to educate the public about diabetes.   

These are examples of ordinary people that have found their Tree and  taken action in a life changing, history changing way.  We can’t all make such a huge impact, but we can take steps to change ourselves, our family, our community. 

 Green Belt and What Is Your Tree

While the concept of finding your Tree goes way beyond the environment, we are going to use it for the title of our Green Belt Project.   All students at LRMA are required to complete this project as part of their training to become a Black Belt. 

Step One

Pick a subject related to the environment that interests you.

Step Two

Do some research, look into the problem, what caused it, what can be done.

Step Three

Write a report so that you can share with your instructors and fellow students what you have learned.

Step Four

Take action!  Do something to make a positive change in for our environment.  Start with yourself and your family.  Then, how about showing what true leadership is, and make a change at your school, your place of business, the community. 


Time and An Update On Time


The first journal entry was written September 20, 2008.  What follows this entry is my current journal update of April 20, 2009.  This is also my first interview with a living hero for the UBBT.

TIME-September 20, 2008

I’m having lunch Monday, September 22, with a friend of mine.  So what, right?  Well, let me tell you about my friend.  She moved here from N. Carolina seven years ago.  We became friends, and I was very honored and blessed to be the person that was with her when her daughter was born six years ago.

We gradually started losing touch with each other.  The visits were farther apart, as were the phone calls.  We still had the friendship, it just was kind of on the back burner. 

Three years ago she was diagnosed with cancer.  Operations and follow up chemo.  I visited her when she was in the hospital.  Did some follow up phone calls.  And, again, we drifted apart.

 Three weeks ago she was in the hospital again.  And, as always, “B” was cheerful, asking how I was doing.  Smiling when I walked in the door, even though I knew she was in a lot of pain.

She is 42 years old.  A single mom of a six year old girl.  

She is dying.  The doctors have told her that there is nothing they can do.  No more operations, no more chemo.  No more hope. 

42 years old.  

You know what one of the biggest fears every parent has?  That they will not be there to help and guide their children to adulthood.  

“B” is fighting to see her daughter grow up.  To be there to hold her when she is hurt, to celebrate birthdays, a wedding, a victory. 

I know, and she knows, that she is going to a better place where she will not suffer anymore.  “B” has the strongest faith of anyone I have ever met.  A serenity and peace about life and its hardships.  But I also know that her biggest fear is leaving her daughter.


We all have the same amount of time in a day.  But we don’t know how much time we really have.

I wish I had spent more time with “B”.  

As I look at my life, and how I spend my time, I realize that I throw away so much of something very precious.  Every minute that I waste staring at silly TV shows, playing solitaire on the computer, surfing the internet, is time that cannot be put to good use.  Time that I didn’t spend with my daughter, with my family, with my friends, with helping others.  I don’t know how much time I have, but I am going to use it wisely.

Monday, I’ll have lunch with “B”.  She has an idea of how much time she has left.   And it breaks my heart. 

AN UPDATE ON TIME-April 20, 2009

I didn’t have lunch with B in September.  She was too sick from chemo to meet with me.  And yet again, I let time slip away.

I saw her when I took Keely to the church Easter Egg hunt last Saturday.  Her great smile, warm hug, asking how I was.  I felt about two inches tall. 

We set a date, that day, for breakfast on Friday, which was last week, April 17.

We sat on my deck in the sun, drank coffee and ate strawberries.  We talked, we laughed, we cried.

B is on a brief break from chemo, she’s allergic to all of the poison that they have been flooding her body with. Her body has become so weak and tired that she needed to stop chemo just to try to build some strength up.  Before starting again.    She’s still working, she has no choice.  It’s a struggle.  Finances are a struggle.  Sometimes putting one foot in front of the other is a struggle.  She is living with pain and fatigue every day, at a rate that I just cannot imagine.

And she smiles, and laughs, and talks about how good God is.

The cancer, which spread to her liver, is not operable.  Chemo is the only hope.  There are only seven types of chemo that can be used for her type of cancer, and she seems to be allergic to all of them.  Her doctors are trying something a little different this time, hence the four week break before starting over.  She knows that the cancer is growing within her during this break. 

And this incredibly brave woman will start chemo again.  She’s been doing this for four years.  Can you imagine?

Knowing her faith, I asked her.  Knowing how I feel, as a mother, I asked her.

“If you didn’t have a daughter, would you still be fighting this?”

Very quickly, she told me no.  She would have gone Home a long time ago.  “This world is only temporary; I know where I will go for eternity”. 

She is still here because of her love for her daughter.

So she goes to chemo.  She fixes dinner, and feels guilty about sometimes using the TV as a babysitter.   She takes her to dance, and to the park.  And feels that she still is not doing all she can for her. She is staying alive for her.  She is so very aware of the precious nature of time; she is fighting every day to make the most of every minute.

And I continue to throw away and waste so much of the time I have.  Honestly, it makes me ashamed.

I Hide My Eyes In Scary Movies

You are going to hear this from me over and over, this concept, this truth that has become one of the foundations of my thinking.  Little Things Add Up To Be Big Things.  Tom Callos said it.  Tom Callos pushes that concept on us constantly through his work with the Ultimate Black Belt Test.

We’ve seen how it works with our Acts of Discipline program.   Simple math, really.    Set a big goal.  Divide it up into manageable pieces and then get to work.  50,000 pushups in 13 months can be accomplished by performing 125 a day.   If you miss a day, simply increase your reps and catch up.

Cleaning the house?  One room at a time.

Reaching black belt?  One class at a time, one belt test at a time. 

College Degree? 

OK.  You’ve got the picture.

Little Things Add Up To Be Big Things. (LT=BT)

Can that simple truth save our planet?

Confession time.

I detest scary movies. The last horror film I went to was The Exorcist in 1973.  Yes, I’m old enough to have gone to the movie theater when The Exorcist first came out.  The month before my friends and I saw a zombie movie.  I don’t remember which one, but I know that was the last of that genre I ever watched.

Of course many movies incorporate suspense into the plot.  Just because I don’t go to horror movies doesn’t mean I don’t get startled or frightened while watching a movie.

Sometimes the scary moment seems to come out of nowhere.  I’m sitting there, engrossed in the action, and all of a sudden a bad guy jumps out from behind a door.  Usually I jump in my seat, and then feel really stupid for getting caught off guard.

Then, there is the other scenario.  The music starts building… I know something is going to happen… and I close my eyes so I won’t see it, won’t experience it.

If I know something scary is going to happen I close my eyes.

What does this have to do with LT=BT?

The music has been building for a long time about our planet and our environment. 

I’ve had my eyes tightly closed.  Have you?

Tom Callos made learning about the environment a part of the curriculum for UBBT.  He’s forcing me to open my eyes.   And if I truly believe in the concept of LT=BT I’d better get busy. 

Being “green” has become very popular.  Cosmetics are marketed as being “green”.  There are “green” building products, “green” clothing. 

We are being told to recycle, compost,  use different light bulbs.

Every day I make choices.  Do I go with the easy familiar choice or do I make a choice that is better for the environment? 


No more plastic water bottles.

I’ve purchased several water bottles, and of course we have a bunch for sale at the school.  I bought a water filter system to attach to my sink.  I reuse left over large plastic bottles and store the water in the fridge.  When I leave in the morning, I fill my water bottles with cool purified water, squeeze some fresh lemon juice in it, and I am good to go. 

Easy, it tastes great and it is good for me and the environment.

Here is where I am going with this. 

Green Belt = Green Conscious

It is a six month process to go from Green Belt to Blue Belt.  Let’s use that time as an opportunity to open our eyes about our environment and make some changes.  I’m asking my students to first, do some research, find an environmental subject that interests you.  Water, soil, air, plastic bottles, trees, compost, recycle, electricity use….whatever resonates with you.  Do a short report.  Write down what you have learned and put it on the Digital Dojo so others can learn from you.

Then, create an action plan.  Knowledge is one thing, action is another.    Decide what YOU can do to make a difference.   Write it down and tell us about it on the Digital Dojo.  Be prepared to tell us about it at Graduation, because this is part of your curriculum.

If you have already advanced through Green Belt, guess what?  You get to do this project too! 

If This is what a martial artist does.  We don’t close our eyes, sit back and let others face the reality.  We should be at the front, learning and taking action.  And we should demonstrate leadership by educating and enlisting others in doing what is right. 

If you have questions, if you need some ideas or guidance, contact me and we will talk.  

Slapped Upside The Head

I could call it a small world.  I could call it the truth of the theory of seven degrees of separation.  Or I could call it a coincidence.    But Saturday I got smacked right upside the head with all of the above.

We had a class for special needs kids at Camp Aldersgate yesterday.  Mr. Jordan conducted the class while I took pictures.  Chase showed up with his mom Leslie and his sister Lacy.  The class was great, of course, the kids, counselors and even a few Camp Aldersgate Board members seemed to have a great time.

Tommy Howard, the Weekend Camping Coordinator offered to take us on a tour.  We had the choice of walking or taking a ride in one of the golf carts.  We elected to walk, it was a beautiful day and it gave us an opportunity to get a little exercise in.  What kind of martial artist would ride in a cart rather than use their feet, right?

What a beautiful facility!  Located just off Kanis Road, the camp is spread out over 120 acres.  Open year round, Camp Aldersgate is an ACA Accredited camp for children with disabilities, developmental delays and medical conditions including autism, cardiac conditions, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, arthritis, cancer, epilepsy, asthma, kidney disorders and diabetes.

As we walked down the paths and Tommy pointed out buildings and described the mission of the camp, I started to see similarities in the buildings at the camp and the structures I had just toured the week before while in Greensboro on our UBBT trip.

The 12,000 square foot Commons Building received the first LEED Gold green building certification in the state, and is also one of only three buildings in Arkansas certified by the US Green Building Council.

 New cabins especially equipped to house children with wheelchairs were pointed out.  They reminded me of the house we built for Mr. Jabbo last week.  I mentioned this, and proceeded to tell him about the experience.  When I mentioned Sam Mockbee, Tommy said “Yes, I know about him and the Rural Studio.  He’s been here.”

Sam Mockbee visited Camp Aldersgate right after he was diagnosed with cancer. His visit happened to coincide with a camp for children with cancer. He liked what he saw.   I’m not sure exactly how it all worked, but his influence reached out to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and many of the new structures at Camp Aldersgate follow the Mockbee theory of design.

How cool is that!  Sam Mockbee in Little Rock!

Two weeks earlier, without the life changing experience of The Alabama Project, I would not have seen the similarities of design.  Two months earlier I would not have known who Sam Mockbee was.  Six months earlier I would not have known, or cared, about a LEED Gold certification. 

So thank you Coach Tom Callos for enlightening me on Sam Mockbee and his influence on Hale County, and opening a door for me to discover something really awesome in my own hometown.

When the student is ready the teacher will come.

Tell Her I Love Her

I’m not in the habit of turning on the TV in the morning.  Usually, if the weather is “iffy” I’ll check the weather, but I usually prefer to read my paper and drink my coffee.

This morning, for some reason I turned it on. And saw the news that the body of eight year old Sandra Cantu was discovered.  She was found stuffed into a suitcase in an irrigation pond. 

Footage from a neighborhood security camera taken the day she was abducted showed Sandra skipping across the street.  The blurry image could very easily have been my six year old Keely.  Hot tears in my eyes as I watched.

Can you imagine?  Can you imagine how Sandra’s mother feels?  The guilt she will feel for the rest of her life?   Second guessing her actions.   The mental image that will loop in her brain up of what Sandra must have felt and experienced during that time.  Will she ever sleep peacefully again?

Was it a random, impulsive action from the evil housed in a human body that took that little girl?  Or was it someone she knew and trusted with the innocence that we try to preserve in our children? 

It makes me want to keep my daughter in my sight, to hold her tightly whenever we leave the safety of home.  I want to put a bubble around her to keep her safe.

I pray for Sandra’s mother.  And when I pick my little girl up today from school I will hold her extra tight.  Smell the Keely scent of her neck and hair.  Tell her I love her. 


Greensboro and Building People

I haven’t stopped smiling.  My energy is at a new level. Thank you UBBT 6 members, Pam and especially Coach Tom Callos for a truly life changing experience!

It takes a while to digest the whole experience.  I’m sure there are going to be several journals about it.

I met some incredible people.  Rori, who quickly became my sister/daughter (she is the same age as my son, but I think I have found a sister soul in that dynamic little package!)   Matt, who I only connected with on the last evening, but wished I had much more time with.  Rick and Jen,  Katrina, Chris and Christine, Chan, Jeff, so many others.

We left our egos at the door.  Really, we left them wherever we came from, because Tom laid the law down the first evening.  He drew a very clear picture of his vision for the weekend, and motivated us to live, at least for those few days, outside ourselves.  It worked.

Let’s face it.  We had the potential to be an environment of way too many “chiefs”.  But the chiefs all of us are in our own lives and schools became willing helpers.

I worked on the Rosenwald School for the most part, with a little time on the last day at the Thrift Store.  I was drawn to the Rosenwald project because of my past experience with renovation.  I’ve done 14 complete renovations over the years, several looked much like Rosenwald on day one.  A few  won historic preservation awards here in Little Rock.   Driving and walking through Greensboro, looking at all of the fabulous Victorian and Antebellum homes, I was like a kid in FAO Swartz.  My hands were itching to grab every single unloved  house and make it a home.

Of course, I’m usually the one in charge.

There was something liberating about walking up to the jobsite, asking who was in charge (Corrine) and saying “what do you want me to do?”  I grabbed a sander, put on my goggles and face mask, and got to work.  Working on one of the walls, I noticed there was a lot of damage to one of the windows.  I pointed it out to Corrine; she asked what I thought we should do.  “Pull it out.”  So that’s what we did.

The school, when we finished, had a barn owl in a chimney hole, the sky peeking through some of the walls, and no windows.  But it was lovingly, carefully sanded and painted by a group of diverse people who truly left their egos at home.

The Rosenwald School became a symbol to me of what the UBBT is all about.  When I started, I was in the same state as the school on that first day, standing, but with vines intertwined slowly tearing me apart.  Just as the school had become a storehouse of junk, so had I.  Stress, bad eating habits, lack of focus was slowly tearing me down.

There are still holes in the walls at Rosenwald, just as there are spaces that need to be rebuilt within me.  Some parts of the school could be re-used; some parts will need to be built from fresh clean lumber.  So it is with me.  I can reuse some of the existing Michelle material.  But I’ve got to fill some of those spaces with new material.

I found that new material in Greensboro, and I brought it home.  Tom provided much of it, with his guidance and wisdom  and example on how to live as a true martial artist and a citizen of the world.  Andy, with his passion for changing the future through education about Diabetes.  Pam, with her joyful smile and dedication to making a lasting impact on the people in Greensboro.   Every UBBT 6 participant provided it with the smiles and willingness to help and share.  Susan, one of the most awesome women I have ever met, will be in my thoughts for a long time.  Randy Edwards with his calm laid back attitude of just getting things done.  And my special girl Rori, who has so much wisdom, energy courage, and joy in her heart and soul.

So thank you, all of you that participated in Greensboro.  You’ve given me some very high quality material to build on.

Do Not Let Trifles Disturb You

Do not let trifles disturb you.

I made a great investment last week.  I purchased a book called “8,789 Words of Wisdom” by Barbara Kipfer.  I purchased the book to use as a resource when I’m trying to come up with something to write about to comply with my weekly journal commitment for the Ultimate Black Belt Test.  I’m also writing a new character development program to use at LRMA, so this little book has come in very handy.

I’ve completed the Anger Management course that Tom Callos has made available online.   The quote above was going to be the beginning topic for some discussion on anger management.

Then I read Leslie Herrington’s journal entry on the LRMA site.  If you haven’t read it, please do.  She shared the news that a Sunday School classmate of her son Will has been diagnosed with brain tumor.  An eight year old little girl.

And instead of being a topic for a discourse on anger management, this quote now  meant something else to me. 

Do not let trifles disturb you.

How many times have I let a mundane frustration, a trifle, create a rift in a relationship?  How many times have I zeroed in on a little negative and allowed more negativity to come into my brain, my soul? And how many times have I hurt someone over a trifle?  Trifles have a tendency to add up.  If you allow them to.  If you recognize them and give them weight.

As I think about it, I realize that the times in my life that I focused on trifles were those times when I didn’t have a good grasp of the bigger picture.  Those times when, for whatever reason, my thinking had gotten narrow and small.  Self centered.

Isn’t it funny how the definition of a trifle can change? 

A clean room, finishing a meal, speaking politely, picking up toys and helping with laundry have all been sources of strife in our house in the last week.  These things are not trifles in the big picture of teaching self discipline and responsibility to Keely.

But they certainly seem like trifles if I had just found out she had a brain tumor.

I need to take a close look at what I allow to disturb me.  I need to be less self centered and more other-centered.

And I need to hug and kiss my little girl a lot more.