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. 


Rape and Emotional Abuse Part I

I can’t believe that I have had my head in the sand about this for my entire life.    I was a victim and didn’t even know it.  And of course, now that I have decided to become more educated about it, I’m realizing it is everywhere.  And it has been here since the beginning of time.

Violence against women. 

Abusive relationships.


Domestic Violence.

I’ve known, unfortunately, several women that were raped. 

One woman was asleep on her couch when an intruder entered through the unlocked door.  The door that her drunken husband had left unlocked when he staggered upstairs to the bedroom. 

Another woman was kidnapped from a discount store parking lot.  She was taken to a dark deserted road, raped, and left on the side of the road.

These are the scenarios that women fear.  These are the scenarios that are in most of their minds, and the minds of their fathers and husbands that urge them to come to one of my self defense seminars.

This is the scenario that is least likely to occur.

What is more likely to happen is that a friend, a lover, a husband, a brother, an uncle or a father will rape commit the rape.

But there is more.

There is the rape of the mind, the rape of the soul.  The rape may not be physical, but it is the damaging Physiological/emotional abuse that many of us live with. 

Anger, jealousy, control, lies. 

Your sister.  Your co-worker.  Your friend. 





Discipline and Abusive Relationships

I’d like to write this as an” I AM” entry, but that would be dishonest. 

I could say that I AM Disciplined…in spurts.

I AM Disciplined…in some things.

But that is not good enough.

I’m a martial artist.  I’m a business person/school owner.  I’m a mom.  I’m an adult (at age 51 I can’t even say I am a young adult, I’m in full fledged adulthood here)

I tell myself that I am going to _____ (fill in the blank).  I have great intentions.  Maybe I do _____ a couple of times, or for a while.  Then I start slipping.  I come up with reasons (read: excuses) and the next thing I know I’m right back where I was. 

No, I’m actually worse off because I lied. 

I lied to myself.

I have students that tell me they are coming to class the next day.  And they don’t show up.  Now, I know that life gets in the way sometimes, but when that student consistently has something “come up” I have a tendency to not be surprised when they don’t show for class.

I have a friend that agrees to meet for lunch and then can’t make it.  Three out of four lunch dates are postponed. 

There is always a good reason.  But I start to wonder if it is really a reason, or an excuse.  Or even a lie. 

Action not following the words.  That can be a killer in a relationship, can’t it?

During the course of conducting self defense seminars for women, providing information about abusive relationships/domestic violence has become a very important component of what I teach. 

I’ve been reading a lot of books about abusive relationships and domestic  violence.  There are so many stories of women accepting their abuser back into their lives because they promise to change.   The abusers  do make changes for a little while, and then the behavior starts again. 

Sometimes action not following the words can actually kill. 

So what does an abusive relationship have to do with Discipline?

The killer is the lie.  The killer is the action not following the words.

If I tell myself that I am going to complete 150 pushups and crunches a day and I don’t.  I’ve lied to myself.

If I lie in bed at night and tell myself that “tomorrow I am going to eat healthy” and I don’t, then I lied to myself.

After a while, I don’t believe myself when I make that vow.  Actions not following words. 

I’m going to be very careful about what I commit to.  Because whatever I say I am going to do I’m going to write down.  And I’m going to do it.  No excuses.  No lies. 

I have to build an honest relationship with myself. 



 This Saturday we are holding a Garage Sale at Little Rock Martial Arts.  It is a fundraiser for The Alabama Project. 

 I thought it appropriate to raise funds by getting rid of all of this STUFF I have.  We have.   So that we can help those that have so little. I hope that at least 30 of our families will participate.

 That will be a lot of stuff.

 It starts at an early age.  My daughter Keely had a play date Sunday.  It was the first time she had been to this little girl’s house.    I asked what they had done.  They played with Barbies.  They played with 

“Ashley’s” toys.    And then it started.  It seems “Ashley” has more Barbie’s than Keely.  More Hannah Montana stuff.   More everything.    Keely has some Barbies.  Some Hannah stuff.  But now she needed more. 

 Fifteen or twenty years ago I read the book “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas Stanley and William Danko.  It’s still in print and available on  I’m going to read it again. So many things stuck in my mind but I need a refresher. 

 Stanley and Danko set out to research how the wealthy got that way, and what their spending habits were.  

 First, wealth is not things.   We all know that.   Technically, your wealth is your net worth.   Subtract all of your liabilities (debt) from your assets (cash, stocks, depreciated value of fixed assets.  The difference is your net worth.  Hopefully it is positive, and not negative. 

 Here are some things I got out of the book.  Now, let me put a codicil on this.  It’s been twenty years or so since I read it, so I’m not saying this is exactly what is in the book.  I’m just saying this is what I got out of it….

 Many of the millionaires bought their clothes at JC Penney or Sears.  Not Saks or Neimans.

Many of the millionaires bought their cars used.

They clipped coupons.

They stayed in their first home instead of buying bigger and bigger homes.

They saved instead of spending.


Think about this.  How many of us stay in the first home we purchase?  Barring moving because of school or career, why do we move? 

 So we can move up?  Bigger house?   Better neighborhood.  More amenities?  Because our friend from college or work moved and now our house is not good enough?

 If you buy a bigger house, you have to have more furniture.  More stuff.  

You know what happens to most of us after we’ve bought and bought and bought?

 We get rid of it.

We retire.  The kids are gone.  We don’t want to polish the silver, clean the crystal, and dust the stuff.  We buy a smaller house or a condo; get rid of all of the stuff. 

 My first house was a 10,000 sq. ft former home for disturbed children that my husband and I renovated.  Three stories, a ball room in the basement, nine bathrooms, seven bedrooms.  Then we went to 5,500 sq. ft house down the street and renovated that one.  Then a 4,000 sq. ft renovation in the country so we could have horses. Then, when we thought we were retired and the kids were gone we moved into a 2,000 sq. ft. home.  Now that I’m single, I’m in a 1,200 sq. ft. house.

 Every time we downsized the garage got fuller and truckloads of stuff went to the Goodwill. 

 I think back to the amount of time I spent cleaning those big houses.  Rooms that were used a couple of times a year.  Thousands of hours gone forever.  Now, it takes about two hours to get my little house clean.  And we live in and use every square inch. 

 No matter how large the house, our family actually used and lived in just a few rooms. Bedrooms of course to sleep in, bathroom, family room, kitchen.  Those were the rooms we used.  We didn’t really need the 14x 28 dining room, the third floor play room, the library, formal living room.   

How much money did I give to utility companies for electricity and gas to heat and cool all those unused rooms?

 One of my goals this UBBT year is to be much more thoughtful about what I buy.  To free myself of this need for “things”.

 The first step is this garage sale.  I’ve been going through the house and the garage, sorting. 

 I think after Saturday I’m going to feel lighter.  

Sparring Yourself


This morning, my friend bumped his head as he was getting in the car.  He has actually done that a couple of times in the last few weeks.  An hour later, he banged his arm pretty hard on the side mirror.  I looked at him, doubled over laughing, and told him “I don’t even need to spar you, you spar yourself!”  Fortunately he thought was funny, so we both got a good laugh.

An hour later I was checking up on a friend.  She mentioned that she had been going through some tough times, dealing with “issues”.  Fighting her.  I asked again if I could help, she said “no, it’s all mental.” 

Let’s face it.  We spar ourselves, and many times we defeat ourselves.  Mental.  The Mind Game.  Call it what you want, but who you are, what you accomplish, how you live your life comes down to how you think.  Sometimes we defeat ourselves, knock ourselves out and then we are down for the count without ever leaving our bed or our chair. 

The expression “I am my own worst enemy “can be very true.

Then there is the physical sparring that we do with ourselves.  We are motivated by pain or pleasure.  And sometimes it is simply not pleasurable to do what we have to do.  I much prefer snuggling in a nice warm bed instead of getting up on a cold dark morning to make a 5:30 am workout.  Dealing with aching joint pain in hips and shoulders that won’t go away with pain medication makes me want to quit.    Getting my nose bonked or my chin whacked when I’m sparring hurts

So do you go down for the count?  Lots of people do you know.  You’ve seen then.  You know them.  They decide that the couch is easier than the mats or the gym.  The current situation is livable.  Fast food and junk food are easier than eating healthy.   Somebody else can help the poor, the old, the hungry, and the planet.  Mindless TV watching or internet surfing is easier than reading and learning and writing. 

Every day there is an opportunity to spar with yourself.  Are you going to defeat yourself?  Or fight the battle, keep fighting the battle as many times as it takes, and win?

LRMA and The Arkansas Rice Depot

Tom Callos, my coach in the Ultimate Black Belt Test and founder of The New Way Network, has this saying:  “Taking Martial Arts out of the Dojo and into the World”

I really like that saying.  I really like that idea.

We are in the process of redefining what it means to be a Black Belt at Little Rock Martial Arts, what it means to be a martial artist.

January 10, 2009 was the first venture into Community Based Projects. 

35 students, children and parents from LRMA volunteered at The Arkansas Rice Depot.  

Let me tell you how this affected my daughter, Keely.

Keely is 6.  She was not excited about spending part of her Saturday at something called the Rice Depot.  She was less excited when I strongly suggested that she use $5.00 of her Christmas money to buy food for Rice Depot.  I explained that she would be helping other kids that might not have food to eat.  She was sympathetic, but not enough to feel enthusiastic.

I picked her up from school on Friday, handed her the $5.00 bill that we had set aside, and we went to the grocery store.  She put her items in her child sized grocery cart, and put items in my cart.  When we got to the check out counter, she handed over her $5.00 bill.  

Austin Herrington, is one of our LRMA students and Chairman of the Board of the Arkansas Rice Depot.  I’d told him earlier in the week about the $5.00 contribution Keely was making.  When we showed up at the warehouse, he made a big deal about Keely using her money to buy food.  You should of seen her smile and look of pride.  Those words from Austin meant a lot to her.  It reinforced how important words of praise from someone other than a parent are to our children.  

We were at Rice Depot for two hours.  We put together 750 disaster kits.  Three year olds worked.  Keely worked.  And we all had a blast. What a great way to spend a couple of hours on a Saturday.   Keely did not want to leave.  As we were walking to the car, she wanted to know when we could come back.  

Studies have shown that when we can get outside of ourselves, connect with others, do something good for others, we are happier.  I want that for my daughter. I want that for my students.  

LRMA will be at Rice Depot every two months. We will be finding more Community Based Projects to challenge ourselves to make a difference in others lives, defining what a martial artist really is.