Holding Hands


This was originally posted in 2010.  Mom is gone now but I hope that this blog will cause those that still  have their moms around to cherish their time.  If your mom is gone, I hope you will remembers some good time.

In another blog I talk more about mom, and how her near death helped form the way I try to live my life.


Mom is getting frail, in body but not in spirit. Now, she has never had great balance, and I would have to say I probably inherited that trait from her, along with my lack of any sense of direction and a tendency to be kind of ditzy sometimes. I think I get my sense of humor and ability to laugh at myself from her for sure.

One of my memories from childhood is watching mom careen like a ping pong ball down the hallway in the mornings, heading in the general direction of the kitchen in search of her first cup of coffee. Even in a fully caffeinated state she walks a lot like Bette Midler, kind of teetering with short steps even if she doesn’t have on high heels. We’ve always joked that she would not be able to pass a field sobriety test if she was ever pulled over, because she has never been able to walk a straight line.

I was an only child for five years. I wish I could remember those times, but I don’t. It surprises mom that I don’t remember the flight from Guam, where I was born. Of course I was only 13 months old…

Yesterday, helping her get in and out of the car and to and from the restaurant, we held hands. I held her hand to make sure she didn’t fall, and to help steady her as she walked. Just as she held my hand over fifty years ago as I learned to walk.

At some point in time we quit holding hands. I don’t remember when. I don’t remember starting to pull away from her, but I’m sure that is what I did. Keely does that now. As we walk through parking lots (read: danger zone! in my mind) she walks beside me. But I still reach for her hand as we start to cross the street. She doesn’t like it, and has voiced her opinion about her competency to cross the street by herself in very emphatic terms, but I still reach to hold her hand. I need to know she is safe as we cross the street.

Mom and I took a trip together to England ten years ago. We had a blast. While on the trip, I realized it was the first time I had mom to myself since I was five and life changed from solitary child to oldest child. For two weeks we explored London, and visited my friends Terry and Mandy Brake, who invited us to stay in their wonderful home in Wilshire. That trip was one of the highlights of my life, and I think mom would agree a highlight for her as well.

We held hands the entire trip.

Remember what I said about mom having no sense of direction? Well, she gets lost very easily. In shopping malls, in large buildings, even in one of my former houses. I learned at an early age to pay attention to landmarks on our trips cross country, as she would get off the interstate for gas then head back in the direction from which we had just come.

I was very concerned about losing my mom on our trip to Great Britain. And she was concerned about being lost. So we either held hands, or she held on to my jacket or purse if my hands were full.

We had a memorable experience in one of the tube stations where the door to the elevator started to close after I had entered. I had walked in and turned around. Mom was standing on the other side of the door as it started to close. I remember thinking “if that door closes I’ll never see her again”. I reached to her and grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her in, almost knocking us both over. I held on very tightly as we laughed.

We still laugh about that incident. I know I probably over reacted. If the elevator had gone up I could have waited. I assume mom would have gotten on when it came down and we could have met up. But I didn’t think that far ahead, all I could think of was that I had to keep her close to keep her safe.

Lovers hold hands for the connection, the sense of love and security. So it is for parent and child.

I continue to grab Keely’s hand as we cross a street. And I hold my mom’s hand as we walk. I realize that there will be a time when Keely will be too old and independent to rely on me for guidance and safety. That is as it should be. But I’m also very thankful to be able to return the favor to my mom, and help her as she walks, as she guided me so many years ago.

Texting and Self Defense

A post on Facebook this morning (thanks Leslie for reminding me to write this one)

This morning on the way to work I watched multiple cars go around a stopped school bus, several people who had small kids riding in the front seat of vehicle and another with a load of kids in the back seat — none of whom were in a car seat, booster or otherwise wearing seat belts. Basic safety people! These kids count on you to be responsible.

Our kids do count on us to be responsible.

Sunday evening as we were driving home from dinner on Chenal Parkway, we had a close call.  A car was barreling down the lane in front of us on the wrong side of the median.  They were in our lane and headed right towards us.  Steve and I both said Whoa! at the same time.  He reacted very quickly, put on the brakes and edged into the lane beside us.  There was a car in the lane, but the driver noticed what was going on and made room for us.

The driver of the other car evidently noticed that there was something wrong and went up on the median, then made his/her way into traffic, going in the right direction this time.

Someone that cares a lot sent this to me with the message “Please watch this.  Please.”   He asked me repeatedly throughout the day if I had read it.  Eventually he wore me down and I did.


I may not be able to ever quantify this statement, but he may have saved my life.  So now I’m going to ask you.  Watch the video.  Please.  Take the time and watch all of it.

And then think seriously about whether or not you need to text or check your email while driving.

Confession time here…I’ve been known to text and check my email while driving.  I’ve even done it while driving with Keely in the car.  Keely, smart girl that she is (smarter than her mother, obviously) has told me “Mom, you are not supposed to text on your phone while you are driving”.  OK, so I have now been schooled by a seven year old on safety.

We now have laws banning texting while driving.

We need to pay attention to them.

If Steve had been texting while driving Sunday night he would not have had time to react as he did.  It’s as simple as that.

80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes involve some form of driver inattention within 3 seconds.


Did you know that if you are involved in a crash, insurance companies will check your cell phone records?

We strap our children into their car seats.  We hold their hand when crossing the street.  And we need to put our phone down while we are driving.

So if you send me a text and don’t get a response, don’t get offended.  I’ll check it and respond when I can do so safely.  Not while I’m driving a car.  I hope you will do the same.  I would much rather wait for a response from you, then to never talk to you again.


A very wise person taught me something many years ago.

It takes two people to have an argument.

Well duh! That seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

That was my first introduction to anger management over 30 years ago and I’ve used the technique a lot.

When emotions become too intense for coherent thought…walk away. It sounds logical and simple. Especially for adults. Because we ARE grownups aren’t we? We have self control and self discipline. We can walk away when negativity and hurtful words start flying. We can think before we speak, measure our words carefully. Think about the impact of our words before they reach the ears of the person we are in conflict with.

But it doesn’t always work that way, does it?

Walking away and taking the time to digest what is happening, looking at the situation from the other person’s perspective is a valuable tool. But what if you can’t walk away? Have you ever tried to walk away from a fight, only to be pursued with demands to continue the argument? Emotions escalate and words and actions become become vicious and hurtful.

Both parties must learn the tools to navigate anger.

I’ve learned that as we develop relationships, our behavior becomes a dance. Each partner learns their moves; eventually the patterns become very predictable. Those patterns can be positive and constructive or negative and hurtful. The relationship can become toxic and may be irreparable.

I believe that there is much more to the definition of self defense than learning physical skills to ward off an unknown attacker. Anger Management is self defense. Pure and simple. Learning how to control our anger can help prevent heart attack and strokes. Anger is the root of domestic violence and the abuse of children. Bullies are male and female; children and adults, and they use anger to get their way.

Anger is something we all have to face. Anger can irretrievably damage relationships at home, at school and in the workplace. I’ve received certification as an Anger Management Educator because I believe that martial arts instructors must teach anger management alongside the physical techniques of their art, to arm their students with the mental, emotional, and physical skills they need to safely navigate the world as it is today.

As we teach the tools to deal with anger this testing cycle, I’ll be posting blogs to keep you up to date on our progress.

Competiton and Fear

We went to a tournament in Fayetteville this weekend. The entire Sellers family; John and Jennifer, Sarah, Hannah and Ben competed in the white/yellow belt divisions for their age group. Heidi Mullins also made the trip for her first competition.

Early in the day I was able to give Ben a big hug when he walked out of the ring carrying his two trophies. Because I was judging in another ring, I didn’t have the opportunity to see all of our guys compete. I caught little glimpses in between the action in my ring. But all of the LRMA students came home with two trophies each.

That is not what this is about.

While placing and winning a trophy is great, what impressed me was that these students got out on the floor and competed. I realize that many of our students could not make the trip because of other commitments or finances. But I wonder how many did not even consider competing because of fear.

Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.

How often do we keep ourselves from experiencing something really great and rewarding because of fear?

I wish you could have seen the huge smiles on our guys’ faces after their events. Yes there was fear, trepidation, nervousness beforehand. But that was overcome. Each of them stepped into the ring. They faced their fear.

Look, you can’t grow if you don’t get out of the house. Yes, you may fail. You might mess up. And horrors! Someone might be better than you. So what? At least you got out there and DID something!

To my students that have had the courage to step out on the mats and learn martial arts, I applaud you. So many want to do what you have done and haven’t the courage.

To my students that have competed, you ROCK!

To those of you that are still sitting on the sidelines, what are you waiting for? Here is an invitation…start right now. Take martial arts with us, or with someone else. Martial arts or ballet, soccer or oil painting, it doesn’t matter. Take this time you were given on this earth and grow in courage and confidence by getting off the couch!

Life is a Story

I just had a conversation this morning with a dear friend that is going through some difficult times. She made an error in judgment and her life changed in the blink of an eye. There will be short and long term repercussions, none of which will be pleasant.

Yesterday, I asked a friend how she was doing. She said her life “was in shambles”. She has a three year old daughter and is seven months pregnant. Her husband has decided he doesn’t want to be married anymore.

I received a phone call this week from the parent of a student to tell me about a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer, just 200 cases per year. Surgery is scheduled over spring break.

I believe that we may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. It’s a lesson I’ve learned through some of the challenging times I’ve faced. It’s a truth that is reinforced every day as I experience more of life.

I know people that are negative, angry, judgmental and pessimistic. They fall in to victim mode when faced with adversity, blaming others and wallowing in self pity. They usually are not very successful at getting through the challenge because they are too busy feeling sorry for themselves and trying to find someone to blame. They flail away, digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. Frankly they are not very pleasant to be around because they want to bring those around them down to their negative level. I make a conscious effort to stay away from them; I don’t like the environment they choose to live in. And it is a choice.

We all know that there are going to be some bumps in our road, some unpleasant twists and turns in our life journey. We will experience agony and ecstasy, tragedy and joy in our lives. Now, maybe we try to hide this fact from ourselves, but the truth is bad things happen to good people. Sometimes we contribute to the occurrence, sometimes it just seems to pop out of nowhere.

Resiliency is the ability to cope with those things. It’s our ability to bounce back after being knocked down.

If you have been reading my blogs, you know about my friend Benita. She died a few weeks ago after battling cancer for five very long years. And this woman did battle; she fought the cancer with chemo, radiation, surgery. She stayed alive when the doctors told her it was not possible. She was a warrior in the truest definition of the word. She faced pain and hopelessness every day, every moment. Yet she continued to be positive and optimistic.

She didn’t fall into victim based thinking. She accepted the diagnosis, which she couldn’t control. And then she proceeded to deal with the challenge in a positive and optimistic way. Not to say she didn’t get down and depressed at times, but she didn’t stay there.

Benita lived a life in those last few years that inspired hundreds of people.

A friend lost all of her financial resources last year because of the economy and tough job market, battled cancer before that and went through a divorce. But she continued to look for ways to help others less fortunate. She is now working with the Make a Wish Foundation, a perfect fit. What a story she has to tell.

Things happen. We may not know why at the time, but later someone walks into your life with the same challenge, and you tell them your story. So what is your story going to be? Are you going to say “I totally fell apart, curled up into a fetal position and quit?” Or, are you going to be able to talk about the process. Acknowledge that it was tough, that you had some down times, but gritted your teeth and pulled through. Use your experience to teach and help others.

That is what our life is…a story. And while some parts of the plot may be a surprise, we do control the dialogue.


We had tryouts this weekend at LRMA for the USA Teams to compete in England this spring.  It took courage to travel to Little Rock to try out for the team.  It took warrior spirit to make it through the try out, it was intense to say the least.  For those who made the team, there was a two hour work out that evening, and another five hours the next day. And that is just the beginning of the training that will take place to get ready for the international competition.

We will travel across the ocean to face unknown opponents.  We will have done thousands of repetitions, logged hundreds of miles of cardio, pushed ourselves mentally and physically, to get ready for a few short minutes in the ring.  The judges will make a decision, and it’s done.  Win or lose, we will come back knowing more about ourselves. Win or lose, we will come back to our lives, to the “real world”.  But we will come back.

I’ll go see my friend Benita today.  It will probably be the last visit. The time of her death is very near.  Here is a link to what I wrote in April of 2009 about her.


Her battle with cancer continued throughout 2009.  It will end within the next few days.

I went to see her on a Sunday January 17, a little over a week ago.  It was a beautiful day, she had the door open so that she could see the sun outside, but she also had a fire going in the fireplace.  She sat in a chair, bundled in blankets, pictures of her daughter and her family and friends arranged on the table in front of her.  She had lost so much weight I almost didn’t recognize her.  Her face was drawn, I’m sure from the pain.  Yet her eyes lit up when she saw us, and her smile was authentic.

We talked, and I brought her up to date on the events in my life.  I probably babbled a bit, trying to find positive things, humorous antidotes to tell her, so that I could see her smile.  You know, when you meet with friends, there is a give and take in the conversation.  You ask about their life, you tell them about yours.  I found myself trying to fill the time telling Benita about my life, because I didn’t want to hear about hers.  But finally, I had to ask.

There was an acceptance this time.  She has confounded the doctors many times in the last few years.  We have been told “this is it”, and then she has clawed and fought her way back from the brink.  It’s not going to happen this time, and she knows it.

She was waiting, that Sunday afternoon, for daughter to home so that they could have “the talk”.  Monday she would go back to the hospital. She knew she would not be coming back home.

How do you find the words to tell your 8 year old daughter that you are dying?

Puts some things in prospective, doesn’t it?

This 42 year old woman who has never put on a martial arts uniform has been such an example of courage and warrior spirit to me.   How very fortunate I am to have known her, to have learned from her.

As we get ready for England I’ll be thinking about Benita.  Her name will be embroidered on my jacket.  The pain of training?  Nothing compared to what she has gone through.  My time in the ring will be a few short moments, she has endured a painful battle for years.  Her grace and spirit leave me in awe.

We hugged as I left.  Told each other “I love you”.    There really was nothing else to say.

Love You Girl.  God Bless

The thing about jumping rope is….

I’ve been getting some feedback from my students about our conditioning warm-up.  Some of the feedback has been non-verbal and consists of groans and rolling of eyes when I tell the class to “grab a jump rope”.   However, a couple of the students have been so enamored of jumping rope that they have written about it!

Richard Schreiber wrote a journal entry today on the LRMA site:

“I am new at jumping rope.  I can play every musical instrument invented except for drums and flute, I got a pilot’s license, manage a multi-million dollar company, owned a restaurant at age 23, fathered children, am a happily dutiful clergy spouse, can cook, and was an usher at the International Barbershop Quartet Convention.  I am terrible at jumping rope.

I am getting better.  I started this new hobby in August when I re-upped at LRMA.  In the days of Mr. Hudson and Mr. Turley real men didn’t jump rope…and then Mrs. Ray came along.  In August I couldn’t get that rope around twice, now I can make it 30 seconds or so before that little timer in my brain says, “Miss it, and miss it”!

Pre-school girls can jump for hours and giggle at the same time.  All of the women in adult class skip over the rope perfectly timed to the thumping music on Mrs. Ray’s iPod. 

And then there’s Mrs. Ray.  She doesn’t jump rope like a girl.  She jumps like a person possessed, in double time, occasionally glancing at the clock wondering if we should go another couple of minutes. 

Someday I hope to be good at jump rope.  Not like “Cinderella dressed in yellow”.  Maybe like, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee“.

 Jennifer Seller on Face book yesterday:


So what is the deal with jump ropes?

With the advent of the New Year, I’ve been on a mission to get back on my workout routine.  After my test December 11, I took a few weeks off from training.  (The fact that I couldn’t walk on my right heel for a couple weeks did have something to do with that decision.  Four inches of wood for a board break did more damage to my heel than the boards)

The break was nice, but time to get back to the routine.  If you there on December 11, you probably noticed that cardio and conditioning was a major component of my 5th Dan test.    If you weren’t there, let me just say that I was really glad I had been working hard on cardio and being in shape.  If I hadn’t, I would not have survived the test. 

One of my favorite conditioning warm-ups came from Master Dring.  It includes jumping rope. 

Two years ago I went to Master Dring’s for a workout at noon.  He told us to get the jump ropes out.  Ten minutes later I was a ball of frustration and my toes had welts on them.  I felt awkward and uncoordinated, and I was not a happy camper.  I chalked it up to a frustrating day, and forgot about it.

The next class…same thing.  And I was just as awkward.  Plus I was gasping for air.  In retrospect, I might have been winded because I was holding my breath while trying to concentrate on jumping rope without bruising my feet.

By the third class in a row, it became evident that jumping rope was going to be part of the workouts with Master Dring. 

When I got back to the school I got online and ordered 30 jump ropes.  If I was going to have to jump rope, I was going to learn how to do it.  If I was going to learn how to do it (because it was good for me, right?) then my students were going to jump rope also. 

Here is the thing about jumping rope.  If you are in my classes, you have probably figured out that jumping rope is going to be a part of your future.  It’s a great way to get cardio in, and it works on footwork and coordination.  I don’t think it’s the cardio that is the challenge (although I could be wrong) I think it is the coordination and footwork that is causing the problem.  Yes, I do see the clenched jaws and frowns of frustration on my student’s faces.  I know learning this new skill feels awkward.  Been there myself.

It took a while, but I was eventually able to jump for 30 seconds or so without whacking my feet to shreds.  That is when it started to be fun.  There was the challenge of how long I could go without tripping.  Could I make it all the way through “Right Round” or “Boom, Boom, Pow”?  There are variations with the footwork and rhythm….feet together…two each side then two together…knees up…slow/fast….

So now we put the jump rope together with Master Dring’s’ conditioning workout.

This is the “getting back in shape” version:

1 minute jump rope, then 30 seconds each jumping jacks, shuffles, squats, mountain climbers, pushups, ab work.

We do three rounds.  It takes less than 15 minutes. 

That is going to be the warm up for the next few weeks.   Fair warning!

The “getting into better shape” version:

We will work up to 2 minutes rope, 1 minute each of the rest of the components. 

By our next test in February everyone is going to be in much better shape.  Hang in there with me guys!

The Test Is Tonight. But It Started Thirty Three Years Ago.

I told myself I wasn’t going to get emotional about this.  And I’ve done pretty well until this morning.   I think I’m going to blame the emotionalism on Kira.  She planted the seed last night when she stopped by the school.  I think the comment was along the lines of “you are going to be crying tomorrow night when this is over”.

I denied it of course.  I might tear up when awarding rank to my students, but not about my own test.  I have been in work mode these last few weeks, struggling to fit in personal obligations, staff changes at the school and final training for my test today.  Yes, I have been stressed.  Waking at 2:30am and getting on the computer to work out a new schedule or jot down curriculum ideas.  Spending hours each day training with Master Dring or on my own, trying to get more repetitions in.  I still don’t know what board breaks I’ll be doing.  My self defense demo was put together in an hour on Tuesday.  Many many thanks to Tom Genz, Brady Speers and Surya Cheek for their patience and good humor while I figured out what to do.  I sincerely hope they remember to wear a cup.

I finished the newspaper this morning and allowed myself to think about this evening.  Not the technical parts which I have been obsessing over (moves to the forms, self defense, shadow boxing, board breaks, sparring, conditioning) but the meaning of this test for me.

I found myself drinking coffee on the couch, tears streaming down my face. Thinking about the people that have been with me for the journey.

My first Taekwondo class in 1976.  Carla Griffey was in the class.  Now Carla Hazelwood, she is still part of my life and does all of the beautiful calligraphy on our black belt certificates.   Jim Bottin owned the school and talked me into trying a class.  He is my landlord and is a great resource of knowledge.   Rick Balkin was in the kids classes I used to teach. He will test for Master early next year and is both instructor and friend to me.

Jim Robinson will sit on my judge’s panel tonight. He was my first instructor and tied my black belt on me in 1978.  He inspired me then to push myself, to be tough, to not be satisfied with anything other than my personal best.  He set the example.  I never imagined that he would still be a part of my life 33 years later.

John and Allison Drew will be driving in from Dallas to be on the panel.  Allison will spar with me, as we did when we tested for 4th Dan.   John is now Master Drew;  Allison received her 5th Dan a couple of months ago.  Fellow school owners, but more importantly, friends that I know I can confide in and depend on.

Marcus Roby will be there.  I didn’t know him when he was on staff at Little Rock Martial Arts, but met him shortly after I started training there.    He has taught seminars at my school, driven from Texarkana to work out.  So many lunches and dinners, laughing and talking.

Gerald Garbett.  The “General”.  A fixture at LRMA, he received his 5th two months ago.   Friend.  Confidant.  How many classes, camps, seminars have we done together?  Thirteen years.

My little sister Tracey.  My closest friend.   Now a 4th Dan.  There are no words.

Master Danny Dring will be running the test.  My instructor and friend.   Week in and week out for six years he has put up with me.  One of the toughest men I know, he has an incredible depth of martial arts knowledge.   I’ve been honored to learn from him.   He has also set the example on physical conditioning, the man is crazy.   He was the second phone call when I found out I needed a hip replacement.  I insisted on the same brand of metal hip that he has.  He did all the research for me.  Unfortunately it didn’t make my kicks anything like his.

I could write pages reminiscing about “the old days”.  Too many people to list.  But all of them in my head and heart.

Charles.  Still my friend and supporter.  He cut the boards for my test tonight and even sanded the edges so the board holders could hold tighter.   He has always believed in me, pushed me to be better.  He supported my decision to buy the school, helped set me on the path of whom I am today.

Joseph Jordan.   We were to test together.  Because of his back injuries  I’m doing this alone tonight.  But he will be there.   He has been my friend, my partner.  What an extraordinary young man he is.

My staff.  Jackson and Kailum are the best.

Students and parents.   The reason I do what I do.  When I see the sense of accomplishment and pride on the face of a student, when a parent sends me a note telling me I have changed their child’s life, I know that I am doing what I am meant to do.

My “Peeps”.    Kira, Tracey, Patti, Leslie, Sheri, Jill, Heidi, Jessica.  My go to group of friends for lunch, dinner, “girl’s night out”, talks on the phone or dancing in the living room.   All friends because of martial arts.

Tom Callos and The Ultimate Black Belt Test turned my world upside down. My UBBT team members set the standard.  Tom continues to challenge me to think outside the box. Sometimes I fall flat on my face.  But I know that this year of UBBT has made me a better person and a better martial artist.

Steve.  My rock.   He knows when to push me, and knows when to back off.   He is the calm in the storm.

As I sit here, thinking about this test, it’s like a huge mosaic of faces, names, experiences.   Some are dusty and from the past, others new and shiny.  Martial arts have been part of my life for thirty three years.  I could never have imagined how my life would be changed when I took that first class.  So I’m going to head to the school, walk through the patterns a few more times.  But I know the test really isn’t tonight.  The test has been for the last thirty three years.  And it will continue on Monday.


Just A Few Thoughts…

I have not been getting journal entries posted. I’ve started several (no points for that though) but haven’t finished them. 

So instead of trying to write something really deep and meaningful, I’m just going to jot down a couple of thoughts.

Life gets in the way all of the time… Schedules, relationships, health, finances, motivation…all of these change.  I’ve sat in my office and listened, and cried, with my students, parent s of students, or friends during the last year while they have gone through the turmoil of change. 

It’s life.  I’ve gone through some pretty difficult times myself.  All of the above in fact, all in the last year.  But I know my experiences have made me wiser, and hopefully, more of a resource for those that need me.  

Time Management…..

Where does the time go?  And yes, being a fine example of Adult ADHD does not help the situation at all.  I’ve got as many hours in the day as everyone else.  I also realize that all those things undone stress me out and make me even less productive.  My priority, my goal, for the next 60 days is to develop that skill, both for myself and for my staff.  I’ve got my Franklin Covey Day Planner; it’s just that I keep leaving it wherever I am not.

Eating.  Food.  Weight.

How many times have I lain awake, beating myself up for what I ate that day?  Most of my life my weight has fluctuated with my emotions and injuries.  Always excuses.

This year of the UBBT that changed.  I’ve had injuries.  I’ve kept training.  I’ve had more emotional stress in the two years than I ever thought possible.  I’ve kept to good eating habits.  My weight continues to drop, I’m healthy and strong. 

This is the 500 pound gorilla that has been in the room with me forever.  It’s the 500 pound gorilla that so many of my students and friends struggle with.  I’ll be writing more on that.

Exercise Discipline…

I’m consistently working out five days a week, either when I teach class, or going to Master Drings or Master Edwards .  I’m climbing Pinnacle and/or running the base trail once a week when possible (when it’s not raining).   I’m in better shape than I have been for years.  I’m still trying to find a good balance between pushing myself and killing myself though.  I do like a challenge….

I’m A Student…

How can I be a teacher if I am not a student?  I’m reminded every time I train with my instructors how important it is to have the humility to empty my cup of knowledge.  It’s so very easy to stay in my safety box of knowledge and only do the things that I do well.  Getting out on the mats and looking and feeling like a fool is difficult.  I’m not going to say I enjoy it, but I know it is necessary.   And, if I am not willing to try and fail (also known as learning) how can I expect my students to?

Friends and love are important…

I am so very blessed to have friends that love me.  More on that later also, because the older I get the more I realize how important those friendships are.  



Pinnacle Again

In January I climbed Pinnacle Mountain for the first time.  I wrote a blog about it.  I was so darn scared, hanging on to those little skinny trees for dear life while Joe Jordan hopped and skipped up and down the mountain.

So of course I had to climb some more.  I wasn’t going to let my fear of that mountain defeat me.

I’m in better shape now than I was in January, and that certainly helps.  The six hour hike in Hilo with Tom, Nevin, Joe and Michael gave me a lot more confidence about hiking and climbing.  I’ve even graduated to the  East Summit side of Pinnacle, also known as the “hard side”.  I’ve taken several of my friends up Pinnacle for the first time, memorable trips with Kira, Melissa and Sana.  But every single time I go up and down that mountain I’m scared.  Not as much, and not as often, but I am scared.

Sunday I went up with my friend Steve.

Steve has done a lot of hiking and climbing, and is an incredible natural athlete.  He is also very analytical and not shy about voicing his opinions to me.   So it made for an interesting climb for me.

One of the things I like about the East Summit is that it is steep enough that most people with common sense would use hands and feet to climb.  I actually prefer it because I have four points of contact between me and the mountain, instead of trying to balance on one or two of my feet while climbing.  Steve and I did not take the same route up the mountain.  He looked for the areas where he could stay up right and walk/jump  from rock to rock.  I just barreled ahead and climbed and crawled.  We both got there.   One of us was much more graceful than the other, but I’m not naming names.

At one point he stopped me and I got a bit of a lecture.  He wanted to know why I was climbing the hard way.  He said “you have the strength, you have the balance, you have all the tools.  You just don’t trust yourself”.   And then he did a circle, jumping from rock to rock, some of which were extremely narrow.  He looked like a human mountain goat and I was incredibly envious.  Then he told me, “you  just have to work on the basics”.  So I followed him.  By now we were at the top of the mountain, so it was like walking across a level field of rocks.   He deliberately stepped on the narrow and scary rocks, by passing the nice big flat ones that I would have chosen.  It was kind of like learning to walk on a balance beam that is lying on the ground.  No real danger of falling any distance, but it let me develop the skill of balancing.

So why am I talking about all of this?

How many times do I crawl and climb and take the difficult route because I haven’t mastered the basics.  How many times do I wobble because  I don’t trust myself?  I have the tools and the skills, but for some reason I’m not willing to go for it.  Fear of falling.   Fear of failure.

Sometimes I can figure it out for myself.  I can step back, see the problem, and come up with a solution.  But other times…wow.  I’m just climbing, and slipping and sliding, so busy trying to get to the top without killing myself that I don’t take the time to evaluate what I’m doing and improve on it.

Steve calmly gave me some pointers.  And you know what?  I was willing to listen to him because he obviously knew what he was talking about.  I’m not willing to try to learn from someone just because they say they have the knowledge.   He literally “walked the talk” on the top of that mountain.  He got my attention.

At one point he had me balancing on a big rock.  My heart was racing, I was full out scared and wobbly.  He kept telling me I could do it, that I had the skills and the balance.  But I wasn’t moving.  Fear had me paralyzed.  Then he held out his hand and it made all the difference in the world.  That point of contact gave me the confidence to take those steps.  Next time I climb I’ll find that same rock and try it again.

We all have the skills within us for the climb.  But we have to work on the basics.  And sometimes we need someone we respect to show us the way and lend a hand.

Thanks Steve.

And thanks to Tom Callos, Danny Dring,  and Randy Edwards for being people I can respect and learn from.  As I get closer to the date of my 5th Dan test I realize how much work I need to do on my basics.  But I’ve got excellent teachers that I respect.  What more could I ask for?

Impressions from Hilo, The First Two Days

Tom and I were walking through Hilo this morning, after our cup of coffee at his favorite coffee shop. He asked me what I had learned in the two days that I have been here.  For those of you that know Tom, you know that one of his gifts is pulling information and thoughts from you.  It would have been very easy for him to tell me what I was experiencing.  But that is not the kind of teacher he is.

So here, maybe more for me than for those who might read this are some thoughts and impressions from my first two days in Hawaii.

To my knowledge, I haven’t seen a single tourist.   By walking to and through town, I smell the flowers; experience the rain on my skin and in my hair.  This is not the place for blow dryers and makeup.  Light rain, and then few minutes later the sun is out.  We walk over bridges and stop to see the water coursing over the rocks.  We have spotted a few turtles swimming in the calm water at the foot of the falls.  Thick jungle right in the middle of town.

I’ve walked on lava. I’ve seen the plume of smoke and flare of fire from a volcano that has killed, and will surely kill and destroy again.  The sun was setting, clouds in the sky tinted with yellow, orange, and purple.  Black lava as far as I could see, I wondered if this is what the surface of the moon looks  like, hard, barren, surrealist shapes silhouetted against the sky.

When I turned around, and we walked back towards the road, bright green, red and gold lights were flickering between the palm trees.  The lights were strung around top of a simple bar, with no walls and no doors.  Nine bar stools, a few were occupied by men enjoying the Monday evening.  We could hear music close by.   Tom asked if it was a private party?  We were told that it was, but we were welcome.

We sat a picnic bench in front of a garage at the end of a road, the volcano within site.  Dogs and children played around us.  A sound system was set up, and we listened to native music performed by incredibly talented natives.  The audience?  Uncle Ralph, the patriarch of the clan.  He sat in a golf cart, his skin almost as dark and craggy as the lava field a few yards away.  A middle aged woman, several teen age boys and girls.  Perhaps eight little girls and boys under the age of 10 were scattered in the yard. 

Gabriel arrived a few minutes after we did, the only other Caucasian in the group.  Tom of course immediately asked for his name and engaged him in conversation.  Gabriel was originally from St. Louis, had bounced around, a few years here, a few years there.  He looked at a map a few years ago, decided he wanted to live in Hawaii, and here he was.  He works in a grocery store a mile up the road. 

When we ate, the teenagers were next to us.  They laughed and chatted, obviously happy to be there.  I couldn’t help but wonder what some of the teenagers would have been doing on a Monday evening in Little Rock.  Plugged in by ear buds to music on iPods, on the computer, watching TV, playing video games?   Would they have been happy to be with family, listening to folk music and just talking?

The open walled garage was painted white, and decorated with street signs and prints of Jesus.  The smell of food wafted on the breeze, the Christmas lights of the bar were within site.  Music.  Dirt under my feet.   Another world.

Earlier, I had walked through a jungle, orchids brushing against my hair as we followed a narrow path.  We crawled through a hole into a cone shaped lava cave.   I’m not kidding, a lava cave.  A natural steam room in the middle of the jungle.   We sat on wood planks fashioned into benches on the lava rocks.  I look up through a small hole at the top of the hot lava walls and could see the blue sky.  Two days before I was in Little Rock, Arkansas.  It is almost more than I can comprehend

We went to a park, with coves and lagoons for swimming.  You’ve heard that expression “sink or swim”?   Tom handed me a snorkel mask and jumped into the water.  It took me a little more time because, yet again, I was walking on lava rocks.  I was being very very careful as I walked.  Once in the the water I put the mask on.  Or I thought I did.

Ummm….about snorkeling.   My last experience was very brief, and in Cancun about 15 years ago.  Needless to say I didn’t know what I was doing.  It is a pretty simple concept, obviously, but I still managed to screw it up. 

So picture this.  I’m in the water, Tom is already swimming around saying “look at that one it’s huge!” and I’m still trying to get the mask on.  I ducked my head under water and just about drowned.  Thankfully I could still stand up.  Tom pointed out that the mask was supposed to go over my nose.  Oh. 

Got the mask on correctly, and again put my head under water.  Right there in front of me was a humongous turtle.  Did you know you can hyperventilate underwater with a face mask and snorkel?  Did you know it is not fun?

All I could think about when I saw the turtle a foot away from me was, does it have teeth? Does it bite?

It drifted away.  Tom was like a little kid, pointing out more turtles, each bigger than the previous one, or at least that is what he said.  I was still adjusting to the snorkeling thing, but I did manage to swim around and follow a couple of the turtles. 

Coffee this morning.  While Tom was on the phone I talked to Jas.  Strikingly beautiful blue eyes with dark skin and hair, and a smile that light up the shop when we walk in.  She is 26 and works two jobs.  She lives a very simple life, as many in Hilo seem to do.   In her free time she surfs.  She named all of the beaches, her face and voice animated.  Work and surfing.  I thought about her counterparts in Little Rock.  Work and …what?  Kids?  Clubs?  What kind of car to buy?   How do I step up the corporate ladder?

Tom and I talked on the way back.  We talked about Jas.  There is a part of me that admires those that find joy in simple, that find joy in nature and just being.   I’m drawn to the concept of escape from the world as I know it. I’m drawing peace and strength from the air and water and soil of this place. 

But I also know that I would become bored and restless.  I have work to do.  I’m still trying to process what that work is, but I know that I want to leave some type of footprint on this planet when I’m gone.  Tom Callos is leaving not just one footprint, but many.   My UBBT team members are doing life changing work.  Brian, Rori, Gary, Joe, Dan, John, the list goes on and on. 

Lately I’ve become very aware of the passage of time.  My body may be edging towards the 52 year mark, but I don’t feel old.  Well, at least not very often.   But I am becoming more cognizant of the fact that I am very probably past my half way mark of time on this planet.  Am I being egotistical to think that I might actually be able to teach, inspire and motivate in some small way?  Am I going to follow a comfortable routine, safe and dependable?  Am I going to take a few leaps, knowing I could soar, or fall flat on my face?

 I want to leave a footprint when I’m gone.  It may have a couple of face plant impressions around it, but I want there to be a footprint to show that I have been here.

Injuries Part 2, And The First Two Years As A School Owner

  (In my previous post, I described the quad injury and resulting muscle spasms that occurred right after I purchased Little Rock Taekwondo in 2000) 

Two years as a school owner, and I could not train.  I couldn’t teach.  I wasn’t sure I was a martial artist anymore.     I admit, right here, that I am a little competitive.  And it just killed me to see people that started after I did pass me up in rank.  Yes, I know that may be shallow, but it did. 

Also during those two years, some other things were going on that created a little stress.  My husband Charles had a heart attack,   five months later a five way by-pass.    We had another business from which I had semi-retired from when I bought Little Rock Taekwondo.   During Charles’ recovery, I was doing double duty.  A typical day began with me at the surety business at 5am, working through lunch.  Then off to the Taekwondo school from 3:30pm to 9:00 or 10:00pm.  Worry about Charles, about our family, and both businesses kept me on edge.  We experienced 9/11 which not only affected us all emotionally, but affected the martial arts school in a very negative way.   We closed our surety business, and Charles retired.  My former instructor and partner in the Taekwondo school left and moved to Dallas.   We adopted our daughter Keely during this time, and experienced all of the sleepless nights and stress of parents of a newborn. 

 And the leg injury was always there.  Twinges, pain, and spasms when I tried to push myself.  I gained weight.  I can remember the shame of sitting on the bleachers and watching camps, seminars, the US Team tryouts at my school.  I wasn’t participating, I was watching. 

For the first time in my life, I could not defeat an obstacle.  Believing in me didn’t get it.  Focus didn’t get it.  Physical strength, mental strength didn’t get it.  It is not easy for me to give up.  But I did.  Two years of hope and disappointment every time I tried to exercise finally defeated me. 

Then, I read an article about acupuncture.  And I thought, “why not”?  I made an appointment, and met Dr. Martin Eisele for the first time.  He wanted to know what was going on, not just physically, but emotionally.  It took at least an hour for me to fill him in on the soap opera of my life.  I started sessions that day.  Three weeks later, no pain in the quad.

Martin said that the pain and emotional stress that I experienced with and after the injury had all settled in my quadracepts.   The acupuncture sessions released the pain and stress from that area.

I don’t know how it worked, I just know it did.  I was able to start training again. 

I was thirty pounds overweight and woefully out of shape.  All of my staff out ranked me, although none of them had even been born when I received my 1st Dan in 1978.  All my friends that I had trained with before the injury were ahead of me.  I was the owner of the school; all eyes were on me every time I stepped out on the floor.  It was time to start over again.