Category Archives: Relationships

Proud of my Daughter 

Motherhood Dare Challenge Accepted!I was challenged to post a picture that makes me happy/proud to be a mom (yes just one photo collage.)

This young lady has the highest quotient of emotional intelligence of anyone I have ever encountered. Kanoe’s spirit and energy is like poorly bottled sunshine. Her heart is as big as her smile. And learning disabilities have not stopped her from wanting to go to college. That makes me proud. 


She’s grown up so quickly and still hangs on to that incredible spirit of adventure and fun. We all spend so much time laughing and smiling that my cheeks ache at the end of the day sometimes.  

My daughter keeps me young and she loves that she’s got a nerd for a mom. I know people question why I work so hard sometimes but this smiling face is the reason why. I work my ass off to pay for my house so she could have a stable childhood, even though she was raised by a single mom.

I want her to understand that anything is possible if you have discipline, respect and the will to work hard. And, as women, we need to be able to stand on our own and support ourselves and our sisters around us. My daughter makes me very proud, she’s a gift in my life. 

“Moral Compass” #DojoOhana #LiveAloha

At the top of the meeting today, my boss introduced me to the entire group as a hard-working leader, dedicated LGBT Ally, and the “moral compass” of the department.  That struck me as a bit of a surprise. According to the dictionary, the phrase “moral compass” is used in reference to a person’s ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly.  

An image of Season 5 Glenn Rhee from “The Walking Dead” popped into my head.  His character always worked to find the win win solution or to avoid unnecessary violence on the show. Glenn put his family and loved ones first but never intentionally harmed another character. In the show, Glenn played the role of level-headed thinker and worked hard to keep peace for his group. (I really can’t help myself. I nerd out over “The Walking Dead”, “Star Wars”, and “Game of Thrones” while I’m at work.)

The interesting thing is, as I considered what “moral compass” meant, I remembered what happened when my Kumu gave our class Hawaiian names. Everyone had pretty names that started with the letter “K”. We had “Kaleikamaka” and “Kalani Ki’e Ki’e” and “Kapualani”, amongst other names. My given Hawaiian name was different from everyone else, “Pi’ilaniwahine”. When I asked what my name meant, Uncle Randy replied, “I see you as someone who works very hard, hula doesn’t necessarily come easy to you. You also always want to do the right thing and help others. So your name breaks down like this:  Pi’i = to ascend; Lani = heaven; wahine = woman.  Pi’ilani was the last king of Maui so ‘wahine’ is important to your name. You also always fight for equality for women.  So, your name means:  ‘The woman who ascends to heaven and achieves greatness.'” At the time, my name felt like big shoes to fill. It was a surprise to hear that he saw me as a person who always does the right thing. I fought for the underdog, I believed in equality and integrity. These days, I don’t even consider the deeper meaning of my name, I just love it because it is mine. 

As I reflect on the past eighteen months and all the change that our dojo has endured, being a moral compass becomes even more notable. We have experienced betrayal and uncovered dishonesty from people we once trusted. We have also seen loyalty dissipate in a flash. But instead of lashing out by taking an eye for an eye approach, I believe that living with respect and acting with integrity is the right approach. Team Togisala will rebuild by staying focused on our goals to teach karate, drill basics, and develop champions. 

To anyone who has knocked one of us down or stolen what isn’t yours, you cannot break us. When you point your finger at us in judgment and accuse us of doing something wrong, take a look at how many fingers are pointing at you. And as you try to keep someone from our dojo under your thumb, look around. You are no match for the multiple pair of hands around us that lift us up. The true meaning of Dojo Ohana is to give and love with no expectations of receiving anything in return. Our Dojo Ohana crosses multiple martial arts disciplines and even crosses state lines. As much as you try to take take take from those who you once called your friends, you will always wind up alone. Even Zazou in “Lion King” knows, “Cheetahs never prosper.”  


My boss may consider my role on the team as the “moral compass”  But I believe in Living Aloha. Do not harm but take no shit. Family first and family is not limited to blood relatives. My moral compass is grounded in the values I learned through my martial arts journey:  Respect, Discipline, Integrity, Perseverance, Humility. That’s what drives my moral compass. 

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.

 

 

Grateful for great friends 

There have been many times in my life when I’ve truly marveled at my good fortune. Don’t get me wrong, I have experienced grief and sorrow that I would never wish on my worst enemy but over my lifetime, I’ve been truly blessed.  My travels bring so many diverse people into my life and force me out of my comfortable introvert bubble. I know that some of you who have met me find it difficult to believe that I’m an introvert but I am. My mom thinks of me as “lively” but I am a true INFJ. 

When I stand in front of large audiences or workshop groups, it sucks every ounce of energy out of my core. By the end of a presentation or session, I just want to be alone to recharge and reenergize. No phones, no people – just Pi’ilani all alone. 

Despite my quiet nature, I’ve made a deliberate choice to be open to meeting people and experiencing life to the fullest. My daughter, who is an extrovert with a capital “E” has set an excellent example for me to follow. She lights up a room with her smile and warmth. It is hard to not fall for her dynamic personality and charm. So when I’m in a new and unfamiliar situation, I choose to reach out to people and make connections.  This has led me to meet so many interesting people and has created a large support network for me.  It also makes life hella fun!

In June, work events kept me away from paddling, hula and karate. I’m grateful to be doing work that has an impact on so many lives but it has been extra demanding of my energy since April 2014, when the company I work for announced that they would be relocating all HQ offices to TX. Personally, I felt a lot of anxiety about it throughout 2014 and I was tapped to do North American Diversity Communications, on top of my day job, and that caused my workload to grow exponentially.  Now that I’ve made a conscious choice to focus on helping the company through this transition and not worry about whether or not I will be moving, my personal stress has been alleviated. However, I’m dealing with conflicting priorities, different laws and regulations, and a lot of unknown factors. Trying to provide clear, concise and constant communications through this time of unrest and turmoil presents quite a challenge. There are no rules because we are writing new ones.  There is not one work culture because we are combining four. Being comfortable with uncertainty is very difficult for most people. I’m just doing my best to stay flexible like bamboo, to bend but not break. 

And, I am now seeing friends leaving the company. That never used to happen. It feels like a little funeral when I see people pack up their desks and go. And every time it happens, I need some time to mourn the loss. 

So all this change and uncertainty seeps into my heart. When any other stressor is introduced, I find it really hard to keep smiling because my heart aches. Over the past few weeks, our country experienced mass shootings in African American churches and my mentor from work was arrested in Japan for mailing herself her own Rx painkillers. This happened while I was trying to nurse a horrible injury that completely disrupted my preparation for a karate tournament. Ugh. I just couldn’t deal with so much at once. 

Thanks to social media, my friend discovered that I was in AZ for work and sent me a two sentence text that cheered up my horrible day. “I was wondering why the sunrise was so beautiful. Now I know because you are close.”  How lucky am I to have such sweet and supportive friends in my life?  He and I met BF (Before Facebook) and have kept in touch, despite living in different states and timezones. Our daughters bonded as pre Tweens over french fries and ketchup/ranch dressing art. So J, and all of my friends who hold my heart so gently in your hands, especially T-rouble, I say Mahalo nui loa for reminding me that being lonely isn’t the same as being alone. I’m grateful and blessed. 

My Guest Host Appearance @thebecauseshow @baldmove 

 “The Because Show” is an affiliate podcast on BaldMove.com. I started as a listener, contributed silly ideas/voicemails and look at me now, Mama, I’m a guest host today!

http://baldmove.com/the-because-show/ep-151-you-used-to-not-like-the-because-show-but-now-you-do/
We talk about Mad Men, restraining orders and vibrators. Super fun topics  for adult audiences only! 

Take a listen and please leave a five star iTunes review, if you love it as much as I do. 

Aloha!

Brain Drain and Pain – Why Inclusion Matters

When a human being is born, their brain weighs one pound. If you are reading this blog, your brain probably weighs about three pounds. Through normal human development and physical growth starting as a swaddled infant to toddling around as a toddler to tip-toeing through life as a tween/teen and eventually, achieving adult status, your brain gained two more pounds. Every life experience, jump rope jumped, schoolbook read and to a lesser extent, television show watched, has contributed to your brain’s development and weight gain. Every human being is unique because no one has had exactly the same life experiences. Even identical twins bring diversity to a conversation because genetic make-up aside, they are not exactly the same person.

That was the gist of the first two minutes of a presentation I heard this week by a woman who is a UCLA professor in the Psychology Department and the Anderson School of Management. Because my career has been focused on creating work environments where people can bring their full selves to work and contribute freely in a safe environment, I became intrigued with every word Dr. Iris Firstenberg spoke. Diversity is so much more than race and gender, that I understood and tried to communicate in all of my presentations and interactions at work. But to learn about how neuroscience creates diversity in each and every human being was truly a “mind blown’ moment. And I do not find myself shocked or surprised by much at this stage of my career. Pi’ilani’s mind went kaboom.

Here is what I learned about the brain.

 

 

Near the center of the brain exists the Limbic System. According to Wikipedia: “The limbic system was originally defined by Paul Broca as a series of cortical structures surrounding the limit between the cerebral hemispheres and the brainstem: the border, or limbus, of the brain. These structures were known together as the limbic lobe. Further studies began to associate these areas with emotional and motivational processes and linked them to subcortical components that were grouped into the limbic system. The existence of such a system as an isolated entity responsible for the neurological regulation of emotion has gone into disuse and currently it is considered as one of the many parts of the brain that regulate visceral, autonomic processes.”

So, what does that actually mean? The limbic system is responsible for both emotions and memory. Consider an experience from your life that was highly emotional, maybe you were PISSED at your best friend for borrowing your favorite sweater or perhaps your favorite pet passed away unexpectedly and you cried for days, aren’t those memories burned into your mind? In your brain (and every other human being’s brain), the emotional center is right next to the memory center. That means that highly emotional experiences are highly memorable experiences. Much to my delight, I also learned that food and alcohol directly impact the limbic system. That satisfaction and gratification can elicit an emotional reaction and create lasting memories. For an Asian Pacific Islander like me, every social gathering must revolve around food and drink. For example, holiday get-togethers in my family consist of multiple rounds of food starting with loads of appetizers, followed by a hearty meal with both ethnic and American dishes , ending with delightful desserts and all accompanied by fine wine, hand-crafted cocktails or fancy sodas for the kids and/or teetotalers.

Another thing to consider is that people need to constantly stimulate their brains. Because your brain is constantly sculpting itself and growing and changing through experiences such as traveling, reading, dancing or playing music. This sort of on-going learning stimulates growth in your brain and can help stave off Alzheimer’s, even if you have a genetic disposition for the disease. So encourage your elderly family and friends to read, do crosswords, play cards, exercise and stay social to keep that brain sculpting going.

But what about when people are experiencing stress? They are being driven by their emotional brain – fear, danger, nerves, anxiety. When there are lots of connections going up to that area and not enough connections coming down to placate that brain, the emotional brain is overwhelmed.  Emotion trumps logic every time. Human beings absolutely need to calm that brain down to think logically. Think about when you’re arguing with your partner or sibling or child and you’re both so sure that your point of view is the right answer. As you build your argument and elevate your voices and blood pressure, it becomes harder and harder to truly hear the other person’s point of view. If you are trying to end the argument or calm the situation down, remember this little tip. Louder is not better. The limbic system hears in a nonverbal manner. So take a breath and sit next to the person, not across from one another, to make it easier to calm them down. Feel free to give them a drink or some food. Because a sense of touch is calming, it may be appropriate for you to gently touch the other person, place a hand softly on their shoulder, or hold their hand in yours. This can all help calm down the limbic system and allow the disagreement to begin to dissipate.

So how does this relate to one’s work environment? You risk charges of sexual harassment if you place your hand on a work colleague. And it is rare that a disagreement would escalate to a yelling match at the office. But what happens when you don’t include people at work. Maybe you walk around and look at your shoes or your phone because you’re a bit of an introvert like me. Or perhaps you really are so busy that you forget to say Hello to someone in the hall or people who sit near your desk. Exclusion, even when it is not done with any intention of hurting someone, can directly impact morale and productivity. In fact, neuroscience has proven that being excluded or rejected can be as painful as being socked in the stomach, people elicit the exact same brainwave patterns in each case. Whether it is a person who never gets invited to lunch or a person who just got dumped by the love of their life, it all hurts the same in their brainwaves.

Consider a time when you felt social rejection as a tween or teenager. We all have stories of being rejected or excluded and we probably all remember how much it hurt, despite our well-intended parents telling us that “you’ll get over it” or “this too shall pass”. These rejections stay with us as adults and definitely impact our decision making and socialization.

I grew up in a fantastic neighborhood where I could walk to my elementary school and all of our neighbors were very friendly. I was lucky to have kids across the street who were close to my age, who cares if they were mostly boys, I learned how to throw a tight spiral in 5th grade. Around the corner, my best friends lived and we roller skated and played together all the time. But one thing was missing, there were no other Filipino kids in my neighborhood. My besties were also children of Asian immigrant parents but none were Pinoy. At around 12 years of age, I wanted to learn more about Filipino culture and asked if my mom would take me someplace so I could learn Filipino folk dancing.

The national dance of the Philippines is called the Tinikling, which pays homage to the movements of a much-loved bird, and is a graceful and athletic challenge of dancing and jumping in between bamboo poles that are being struck together to keep rhythm. It looks similar to playing jump rope, except that the dancers perform the steps around and between the bamboo poles, and the dance becomes faster until someone makes a mistake and the next set of dancers takes a turn. It looked like fun and I really wanted to connect with my culture so my mother took me to the Filipino Community Club across town so I could join their youth group.

I walked in wearing my Izod polo shirt, jeans, and Birkenstocks. The other kids from this neighborhood were in baggies, MaryJanes and Chucks. All of girls wore lipstick and used hairspray and looked so much more feminine than me. They were polite to me when the supervisor walked me around to let them know I was going to join their dance classes. However, as soon as we were left alone, one of the girls stage whispered to her friend, “What IS she wearing? Hippie shoes, ugh, gross.” At that moment, I decided that I wouldn’t come back and I never told my mom why. It became really hard for me to make friends with other Pinay girls after that because I thought they would all reject me in that way. Thankfully I had awesome cousins who were like my best friends so I did get large doses of my culture that way. But unfortunately, I never learned about Filipino folk dancing until college.

Inclusion is fundamental to all human interaction. When you include people and treat them with respect, they feel engaged and trusted. People need to be welcoming and honest to build friendships. Leaders have to be vulnerable for employees feel trusted. When someone feels excluded, the brain reacts to it in the same way as when the body is kicked in the stomach. Do your best to behave inclusively in all of your relationships. And keep in mind that logic cannot be achieved if emotions are running high.