Category Archives: dating

How Brown Gets Down 2nd Kyu Karate

(I never know where my blog postings are going to go.  I wanted to write about my brown belt test and instead thoughts of my two divorces pounded out on my keyboard.  The idea of having two failed marriages sounds a bit humiliating but you know what, it is a part of my life story and I am ok sharing it.  I am definitely not the same person I was 20 years ago when I started karate, fourteen years ago when I got married the first time, or even two years ago when I went back to my martial arts training at Togisala Shorin Ryu.)

December 6, 2015

Today, I passed a test.  It wasn’t a test written on paper.  It wasn’t a compliance eLearning module from work.  And I certainly have no need to take a pregnancy test.  The test I passed consisted of challenging physical exercises, open hand kata, weapons kata, and sparring against two dudes at once.  At my vintage age of 45, I went through a grueling physical challenge to earn my 2nd kyu rank in Shorin Ryu karate, better known by lay people as a brown belt.

You might ask why an old lady like me would want to train in martial arts. My dojo classmates are between the ages of 6 and 35.  I am fairly certain I am the oldest colored belt ranked student on the dojo floor.  Even my Sensei is a year younger than me.  I started training in my 20s, I worked out diligently for a few years, four days a week.  But when birth control failed and I found myself pregnant, I had to stop training.   Unfortunately, even though I was about to test for my green belt, Sensei Rabago had me stop at purple because it would be a huge liability for him to test me while I was hapai (pregnant).  I still trained four days a week until my belly started to show at four months, just like I played softball with my co-ed work team until I hit five months preggo.  They all yelled at me every time I ran the bases because my favorite way to slide was face first.  “Run!  Don’t slide!  Don’t slide!  Don’t’ slide!!!” they yelled at me as I turned toward second base.  Ha.  I still slid feet first for a couple of games.

So why now?  Why am I back on the dojo floor after twenty years?  Simply put, I love karate.  Lessons from my Sensei, the late Richard Rabago, gave me more tips about surviving and thriving in Corporate America as a single mom than any self-help seminar, book, or MBA could have.  Unfortunately, despite trying to go back to Rabago Shorin Ryu intermittently, raising my daughter alone and having a demanding career trumped the hobbies in my life.  While my daughter was very young, dancing in halau gave both of us a sense of ohana.  As she got older and I earned a better salary, I could afford to pay for childcare while I went to outrigger practice.  Now, she is almost out of high school and becoming more independent.  We both dance hula and I feel comfortable and confident going to the dojo three times a week to train now, without feeling guilty about doing something without my daughter.  The best part is, she gets along with the students and parents at the dojo so sometimes she comes to hang out and talk story with everyone while I practice.

Today, I sit in a very different position in life and at work.  Personally, I haven’t had much success with personal relationships, as I’m twice divorced.  Both relationships were based on strong friendships but not much romance or heat.  The first marriage ended when he decided that drinking the boys was more fun than spending time with his wife and stepdaughter.  He wasn’t going to stop drinking and I wasn’t ‘going to let him hurt me or my daughter.  I sure as hell wasn’t going to let him abuse me in any way in front of my daughter.  But he left without ever looking back so we both knew the marriage wasn’t meant to be.

In my experience, it is pretty much impossible to have a serious relationship while holding down a demanding corporate job as a single mom.  I never had a problem being asked out on a date but having a significant long lasting relationship became an elusive thing for me.  Because of the nature of my work, I am on the road about 25% of my time.  Planning dates and building a foundation of a relationship takes quality time, face to face.  The whole “free time” thing has felt like a luxury to me for most of my life.  Dating without a lot of free time doesn’t work out very well.  And, most of all, being a mother surpasses anything else in my life.

My second marriage looked perfect on paper.   Once we walked down the aisle and signed the actual papers, it all fizzled into complacency and a wonderful roommate situation.  He was neat and kept to himself.  He even bought his own groceries and laundry detergent separately from us.  Has anyone heard of a marriage like that?  Sad.  We had shared friends, and grew up with a common culture.  It should have been an easy relationship to nurture.  But he kept himself separate in so many ways, it was easy to say goodbye.

Why do I bring those failed relationships up?  I learned after my recent divorce that I needed to focus on my own happiness as an individual.  Tying my happiness to someone else or something else wasn’t going to bring lasting contentment or love.  And karate is an individual sport.  Karate taught me discipline as well as self-defense.  In my opinion, karate fueled my independence and nurtured my self-confidence.

When I started training 20 years ago, I worked out four nights a week and would  often stay late with Sensei Travis when his friends would come in to spar or work grappling or just do my kata.  I am quite certain I was in the best physical condition of my life.   I felt great.  Karate became the perfect supplement to hula and the values I learned through both reinforced all the lessons I learned from my parents and grandparents.  Family first.  Be humble.  Work hard.   Help others.  Give back.  Your actions represent your family, your halau, your dojo so act accordingly and don’t be a douchebag (ok, maybe I adjusted that last one a bit).

Sharing personal values with the values that I learned on the dojo floor made it very easy for me to train.  And, the more I studied and developed as a martial artist, the more I felt an obligation to give back.  Quite often, I would train as the only woman on the floor.  It was a rare occasion when I saw a female black belt.  Today, things are different but 20 years ago, I did not see many as many women at tournaments or teaching.

My rank test for 2nd kyu symbolized much more than just improvement in my training and/or martial arts skills.  It brings a large obligation to my life as I learn to be an instructor.  Although Sensei Rabago always emphasized that the color of someone’s belt is less important than their integrity and commitment, the average person will make judgments on the basis of what color a karate-ka wears.  And, research shows that people base 90% of their judgments on others based on the 10% that they see.  So, to gain credibility from one glance, a black belt earns it more quickly than a colored belt.

The rank test I passed on December 6, 2015 symbolizes one tiny step in my training.  My physical condition is excellent because I had trained to run 19.3 miles over a weekend for the RunDisney Infinity Gauntlet Challenge.  My mental condition stays strong and focused.  Much of that must be related to the miles and miles of running that I invested to prepare for both the races and my belt test.  But the best part is, my spiritual condition feels grounded and secure.  And that means my body is healthy, my heart is at peace and the possibilities ahead of me are endless.



Mahalo nui loa, @KwabenaFoli I am a Healer 

I just found this poem by Kwabena Foli and it made me stop scrolling through my Google images search as tears welled in my eyes.   
My eyes overflowed with salty tears and these simple but oh so wise words softened my heart.  This poem felt as if this artist, this poet, this stranger took great care to place the pieces of my broken heart back together.  These words gently repositioned one ventricle to another, I felt as if reading this let me know that I’m not an idiot. 

No, I’m smart. I’m educated. I’m hard-working. I’m talented. I’m generally very happy. I can even state that I’m successful in a field of work that grows more important as the the world grows smaller and the social constructs that divide us crack wider. But I am a healer and as such, I work to help others grow and develop and live fuller lives. This gallant enterprise just doesn’t translate when it comes to affairs of my heart. 

This Spring and Summer swept in with heartache and heartbreak.  Many people who I love fell ill:  urgent care visits, emergency rooms, ambulance rides, each of these houses family members of mine.  We had plenty of scares and unpleasant experiences with doctors and medical tests but so far, everyone is receiving proper treatment. One of my cousins is struggling with the big C and there will be no surgery or procedure to help her. That’s not  

The long distance relationship that I had been working to nurture faced a challenge, could we sustain it separated by 2,000 miles for yet another year?  The nerds that we are, we joked that Spock would say that the only logical thing to do is to break up.  Long distance with no end in sight just hurts.  But McCoy’s point of view chimes in with, “Dammit, Jim. You love her.”  We went against the emotional Dr. McCoy’s advice and agreed to call off our long distance relationship. I never felt like the word “girlfriend” fit for me.  At my advanced age, it sounded silly.  Now, I’m single and that sounds like a new beginning. 

Maybe I am broken and I’ve been avoiding putting my heart back together by staying in a long distance relationship?  He and I have one of those easy connections where we can talk and laugh for hours on end or sit comfortably in happy silence, as only two introverts can.  We no longer wear the labels of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” but we continue to love one another. 

Despite pain, uncertainty and turmoil in my family, my heart will remain filled with love.  I have gratitude for Kwabena Foli’s poem. He reminded me that it is time for me to heal myself with love. 

My Special Olympics World Games 2015 #worldgames #volunteer Experience

I feel very fortunate to live in Southern California. We have plenty of sunshine and warm weather. When I moved from the Central Coast to Los Angeles for college, I remember feeling like I would never need to buy another jacket or coat because the temperatures rarely dropped below 68.  Now that I’ve been here for 25 years (am I that old???) 68 degrees makes me run for my favorite fleece hoodie.

Another fabulous thing about Southern California is all the options we have for hobbies and work.  I have friends who work at large companies, small companies, in retail, as personal trainers, in “the business” above the line and below the line jobs or who are entrepreneurs.  We all zip around this city in our cars and meet at places like the beach for surfing or the LA Phil for classical music or an indie comic book shop for reading material or a taco truck for Ono grinds. The diversity of activities and people in So Cal keeps my easily distracted brain stimulated and prepped for new life experiences.

Today, I’m thumb typing this post from a large charter bus that is taking me to the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown.  The Special Olympics World Games kicked off on Saturday and my company is a major sponsor. We have been given the opportunity to volunteer for two and half days, with pay. I feel like this is truly a once in a lifetime experience and have been looking forward to it for months.   Ok, we just reached the venue and I am going to stash my phone in my very stylish fannt pack and just breathe in the experience.

My assignment?  Motor pool driver. (Insert joke about Asian driver here…) Unfortunately, driving in Los Angeles is not an easy task.  Thankfully, each vehicle would be equipped with a phone pre-programmed with GPS coordinates for each of our drop locations. In addition, the vehicles that have navigation system would have  that as a backup. We received strict instructions to not use our personal phones with GPS apps to avoid dropping off distinguished guests at the wrong side of the LA Coliseum, UCLA or USC campus, or the LA Convention Center. Another location on our lists were both LAX and Long Beach airports.  The way traffic runs in LA, these runs could take anywhere from 10 minutes to 120 minutes.

I spent several months of my life driving around Los Angeles when I worked as a production assistant on TV shows like “Vicki” and “Bill Nye the Science Guy”.  Keep in mind that my days as a PA occurred pre-GPS in cars and pre-smart phone. I had to use a Thomas Guide to get around Los Angeles County.  Because of that work experience, driving in LA is not my favorite pastime.  However, this assignment was not my choice and as a volunteer, I just wanted to be helpful and support the Special Olympics where they needed it.

Let me go back to the beginning of the day because the experience ended in an unexpected way for me. My morning began boarding the second chartered bus from work. I shared it with three other employees, one who I had known for over 10 years and the other two I just met that morning. Three of us wandered through the LA Convention Center together, checked in, bought coffee and looked for our assigned area, “Motorpool”.  We took escalators down in search of Kentia Hall. Although the walls and signs featured prominent labels pointed us toward Kentia Hall, it was not easy to find. We also picked up other stragglers who were searching for the hall, as well.

After several minutes, my new friend Daron found the correct door for us to exit.  We walked out to a huge garage area that had been used for one of the “Batman” franchise movies Batcave scenes.  There I saw a sea of shiny Camrys and Siennas.  Our next set of instructions were to sign our names on a sheet of paper and hurry up and wait.  I hung out with my new friend, a new employee who had been with the company for about six months. She introduced me to a colleague from her department, a young English guy who has been working at our company for about three years.  Color me a bit superficial but not only was he tall, intelligent and charming, but his accent was like chopped almonds and whipped cream on top of a caramel fudge vanilla bean ice cream sundae!  What is it about accents?  But I digress, this was a work event.

It always surprises me when I meet people who I have never interacted with at work.  We proceeded to spend the next four and half hours in lively conversation together. Topics ranged from work, the move, TV, movies, podcasts, on-line dating, worst dates of our lives, best restaurants for first dates, first date attire for men and women, on-line dating strategies for men and women, generational differences in on-line dating perspectives, books, gay marriage, running half marathons, and moving to another state for the company.   The conversation made me laugh and think and laugh some more.  My cheeks were in a perpetual smile.

Honestly, we talked for four hours and a half hours, which included a weak brown bag sandwich consisting of a Tarragon chicken sandwich and potato chips with all we could drink bottles of water, soda, orange juice and iced tea. I despise sandwiches and elected not to eat it. Luckily, the conversation sustained me through the morning.  None of us had been called to make a run with any distinguished guests at all.

So, we realized that we moved into hour five of talking and decided to go upstairs to watch some of the events.  A handball game between India and Egypt was on one court.  The English guy asked if I was familiar with the game and proceeded to announce that I may enjoy watching it because it is similar to basketball.  At some point in our four and a half hour long conversation, I must have mentioned playing basketball in high school.  We had covered so much ground I had forgotten that I had mentioned that!  Handball looked like a combination of soccer and basketball, the objective was to throw a rubber ball into a goal that was similar to one from soccer.  Rules appeared to be similar, each team member had to dribble and pass.  But I counted five players on the court and one goalie.  It was definitely heart-warming to see the game and to hear the fans cheering for each team.

We moved on to watch roller skating warm-ups.  These athletes wore in-line skates and were warming up in a circle.  I still don’t know what the competition actually would be, perhaps speed skating?  Badminton was happening when we first arrived at 9:00am, power weight lifting was in a hall that we couldn’t find.  The activities were happening everywhere and we had fun wandering around and cheering.

However, when we returned to the holding area for Motorpool, we saw no evidence that we would be called to transport any distinguished guests.  Instead, we realized that a shuttle would be returning volunteers to our place of employment in 30 minutes and elected to return home early.  We boarded together, English guy asked to sit next to me, even though the bus was only ¼ full.  He proceeded to talk about an interesting book he was reading, “The Third Chimpanzee” or something about a chimpanzee.  During the bus ride back, he also mentioned a bottomless mimosas brunch place that he had recommended during a funny story about the last time he went to work with a hangover and said, “Let’s pick a date and make that happen.”  When he had mentioned it six hours earlier, I didn’t think he meant he wanted to go with ME.  But I think somewhere between hour one and hour six, he did.  So although I didn’t have an opportunity to actually drive one of the distinguished guests anywhere, I did make a couple of new friends and will be enjoying bottomless mimosas with the English guy soon.