Category Archives: Single Mom

lessons learned from a leadership journeys #diversity #leadership

I’ve been asked to speak at a conference this summer.  It will probably be my last national presentation as a leader at the Japanese car company where I have been employed for almost nineteen years.  As a diversity leader, I can make a presentation and share insights, stories, and experiences with attendees around career development or business strategies.  That is bland and dry as over toasted Wonder Bread.  The sound of the teacher from “Peanuts” would be echoing in my own ears as I spoke on that topic.  Blah, blah, blah, diversity, blah, blah, blah, business impact, blah, blah, blah, leadership, blah, blah, blah.  Instead, I want to tell a story.  I want to share some thoughts on standout moments and lessons learned from my leadership journey as a small business owner, karate instructor and brand-new Shodan.

The conference is by far my favorite event of the year.  It is an event designed to bring together multicultural women from corporations all over the globe.  It takes place in NYC and it provides an outlet for high-achieving and high potential multicultural women to be confident, courageous and take the next steps in paving the way for a stronger, more inclusive, and more trusting environment. The theme for this year’s conference, Race to Trust, reflects an intention to create a conference that inspires higher cross-cultural understanding and explores concerns among women that trust in the workplace is on the decline due to the current cultural and social trends.   My favorite part of this conference is meeting powerful and inspirational women of color from different industries and I have made several friends at the event over the years.

If I think about this opportunity as my last, I have to consider what my legacy will be.  My biggest accomplishment at the Japanese car company where I have been employed for almost 19 years are employee resource groups.  We started with 2 in 2001, just as pilots, while I worked with HR, Legal, and senior leaders to craft a policy that made all levels of the organization comfortable.  Now there are over 60 chapters across North America, with new groups being created in offices in Canada, Baja, and Puerto Rico.  I was dubbed the “Godmother of Business Partnering Groups.”  Where’s my fairy dust and magic wand???

However, I think that a presentation about 2016 would be more interesting to me.  We discovered that our dojo was operating without a business license or insurance for years, as we were told that we were losing the lease to our old studio.  I elected to become the small business owner created the S-Corp, purchased all the insurance and licenses, found a location, and continue my quest to become an instructor.  During the Summer of 2016, we taught karate in my backyard, on the stiff grass.  It wasn’t until late July 2016 that we moved into the new studio.

Now I am processing all of the emotions that I experienced last year to get the business launched.  All of this happened while I faced the end of my tenure with the Japanese automotive company where I continued to work full time, my daughter started her senior year of high school, and my boyfriend finalized his divorce.  Stress on top of stress on top of change on top of stress.  2016 weighed heavily on my shoulders…  more to come

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. 

Thoughts on Running from the DiversityNerd: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly, Part Three

The Bad

In my last post, I wrote about shoes and considering buying another pair for shorter runs.  This brings me to one of the “bad” things about running: shopping.  Any time one picks up a new hobby, interest, or workout, one needs the proper equipment.  At the bare minimum, this requires shopping and shopping is good and bad.  I hate running but I’ve grown to hate shopping even more these days.

I enjoy looking at new gear and the fitness industry has fantastic advertising and marketing to reach active women. But do I really need to have color coordinated socks to match every outfit I work out in?  Probably not.  And do I need to buy special laundry detergent to care for my sports bras, capris, and Drifit tops that is drastically different from what I use for my other delicates?  Not likely.  I grew up in the 80s and 90s when consumerism and designer everything was all the rage.  Buying the latest and greatest became a competition of sorts back then.  Labels were important and I was sucked into the whole shopaholic movement in my youth.

Today, I continue to try to downsize the “stuff” in my house and my life. I know there are work clothes that I don’t wear hanging my bedroom closet.  I definitely have dozens of shoes that I used to wear when I was clubbing three nights a week that just sit on shelves in my guestroom closet.  They rest in their clear plastic Container Store boxes, waiting for me to slip my feet into them and go shake my okole on some dancefloor.  I’m over 40 now and although dancing is still fun, the dudes in the club are now young enough to be my children.  I’m trying to shake off my Cougar status and do not need to pick up Pedophile status.

And who has time to shop these days? Not Pi’ilani.  I am on the road two weeks out of the month traveling to different time zones.  That time suck means I have to be very conscientious about budgeting my time and is the second “bad” thing about running.  My daughter, her life, and her school work come first.  I’ve put my physical health higher on the list since the announcement about my company moving to Texas hit.  If not, I would probably be super stressed out and fifteen pounds heavier.  Of course, I still need to manage the house:  cooking, laundry, cleaning.  Even with a housekeeper coming in twice a month, there is the usual maintenance that needs to happen at home.  Kanoe is a great help but there is always something to clean up in and around the house.  And my hobbies have suffered.  Being on the road means my days available for paddling were slashed this season and once I got injured, I was two months behind my teammates in terms of conditioning and practice.  Time suck.  Work travel usually falls from Tuesdays to Thursdays, which means I miss karate on Tuesdays, paddling and hula on Wednesdays and get home around 11:00pm on Thursdays.  Time suck.  Fridays I spend back in the office so on Friday nights I’m jetlagged and cranky.  I don’t even have time to shop on-line because I’m just tired.  So damn tired.

Maybe I don’t really hate running? Running while on the road is the easiest type of exercise for me.  Sometimes hotel gyms look more like closets so there isn’t really space to dance or do kata.  I try to make time to run at least once when I am on a business trip.  But I can’t carve out time to shop on the road.  When I do, I wind up with more Urban Decay make-up and not with practical things I actually need.

A third “bad” thing about running is the amount of water I use to do laundry and take showers. I have a separate laundry basket for my workout attire that needs to be thrown in the washer at least once a week.  That doesn’t even include the everyday clothing that my daughter and I use.  I feel like I am not helping with the conservation of water in California by keeping my gear clean.  However, I’ve run past people who have stinky running clothes on and I was just working out by a woman in the Machida Karate seminar whose gi was offensively stank.  So let me remind myself of that nasty fact every time I wash clothes from here on out.

The Ugly

The list of “uglies” that I experience from running is brief and hopefully easy for me to describe. First and foremost, I worry about my knees.  I grew up playing tennis, basketball, baseball/softball, and volleyball.  All of these sports demand explosive movements that put demands on one’s knees.  I remember talking to my college tennis and volleyball coaches about their knee surgeries to repair damage from wear tear usage.  When I transferred to UCLA, I added hula and then karate to my list of activities.  Both of these arts demand strong, low to the ground stances.  In hula kahiko, it was once believed that your energy comes from the Earth so you need to dance low to the ground to pull that mana into your movements.

As I began training for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge, I reminded myself to wear my patella/knee band for protection from injury. If I thought it would help to run with ti leaf in my sports bra, I would do that too.  I wore bands on each knee for any run over four miles and avoided injury over the last three months of training.  (Knock on wood).  The crazy thing is, my knee used to hurt more from paddling than it ever did from running, maybe I need to rock the patella band if I ever make it back to six-man training on the water.

The second “ugly” about running is me. The time suck means I have no time for manicures, pedicures, haircuts, or eyebrow waxing.  Usually it doesn’t matter that much since I’m not dating or going out dancing all the time anymore.  So the people who I spend time could care less if I have naked nails or caterpillar eyebrows.  But when I go to work conferences and reach out to network with people, I admit that I notice when people are well-coiffed and have nice, neat nails.  Thankfully I have all that Urban Decay make-up I buy during moments of on-line shopping weakness so my lipstick and eye make-up looks polished.  But my nails sure look ugly when they are just short and naked.  The least I should do is toss some clear coat or sheer pink on them before I travel to avoid the basic ugly hand syndrome I’ve been suffering from this year.

A third and final “ugly” is pain. I anticipated being in so much pain after running more than19.3 miles last weekend that I took Monday off and scheduled a massage for myself.  However, other than being sleepy, I felt great.  My body didn’t hurt much and even my feet were fine.  No blisters or lost toenails to speak of this time.  But there are stories out there of runners who have toenails that turn black and eventually fall off of their feet.  That sounds so ugly and painful to me.

Pain does hit me during the act of running, which is a valid reason for hating the act of running. Around mile five or after about 45 minutes, the tiniest bit of pain is exacerbated and exaggerated in my head. I think that happens because I get bored when I run and I hyper-focus my attention on the pain.  That is the mental challenge of running that I am still working on.  And of course, I figured out a way to injure my elbow while running.  How frickin’ creative of me, right?

Truth be told, my elbow injury was probably the result of paddling, running and learning how to use my sai all during the month of June. That is a lot of wear and tear to put on one joint in an old lady’s body.  My elbow developed swelling and pain that was not alleviated through weeks of the usual physical therapy with my sports medicine doctor.  The only way I found relief was through acupuncture and a damn cortisone shot.  I felt so much intense pain that I couldn’t go to work.  The injury occurred in my right arm and that just sucked.  But to not be able to take a trip to see my long distance boyfriend blew donkey nuts.  Missing out on that trip made me angry and it was a big “ugly” to experience.  I hate injuries.  Sitting still isn’t easy for me.  I needed to ice and rest my elbow but all I wanted to do was cry because it was so hard to take care of stuff while I was injured.  That is pretty ugly, too.

Despite the “bad” and “ugly” of running, I really enjoy the racing. RunDisney events are unique because they attract Disney fanatics who run, rather than running fanatics who are pushing for PRs.  And each RunDisney race has a theme so some competitors take as much time preparing their costumes as take in training to actually run.

I hadn’t submitted a half marathon time to the race coordinators so I was placed in the last corral with runner who had a 15 or 16 minute/mile pace. Since my goal for my race pace was 12:30/mile this race, I felt I would be able to break off from the back of the pack fairly easily.  But being with the folks who were really doing the race just for fun gave me a new appreciation for fitness and health.  Waiting for an hour in our corral before we were even close to the start line, I met a few people and chatted a bit.  One woman had just turned 50 and was doing her first half marathon.  We had fun talking about being moms and taking time out for our health now that our kids had grown up a bit.  Another woman, who was probably in her late 20s, signed up for the race with her husband.  He submitted his time and was in corral B and didn’t bother to come back to the last corral to start with his wifey.  (I raised my eyebrow at that comment.)  She laughed it off and said she would see him later.  They had travelled from the East Coast so 52 degrees didn’t feel particularly cold to her.  It felt nice to chat with people before the start of the race and it helped me to pass the time without growing more and more nervous.

Once we got to the start line, I put on my headphones, started my “Avengers” playlist, and started to jog to get out of the crowd It took me a half mile or so before I could actually hit full stride and run.  For my first mile, I went too fast, I was running at 10:40 min/mile.  I hadn’t trained for long distances at that pace so I slowed myself down.  It took me almost two miles before I felt warm enough to throw away my zip up hoodie that I wore to stay warm before the race.  Two miles later, I took off my long-sleeved dark green pseudo She Hulk skin and ran in my tank top.  The course only spent two miles inside the parks and the entertainment along the route was mostly high school cheerleaders and marching bands so it wasn’t much of a distraction.   At each water station, I grabbed a cup of both water and PowerAde to stay hydrated and said, “Thank you” to the race volunteers. I didn’t realize it until we made the seven mile turn towards Angels Stadium that I was running my pace very comfortably.  Maybe I don’t hate running after all?

Between mile seven and Angels Stadium, the course turned into a single lane dusty horse trail so it became impossible to run that section. And, there was a huge cosplay group that stationed themselves there, wearing full Avengers costumes so participants slowed down for photo ops and such, some signaled by raising their hand but not everyone respected that etiquette.  I saw a couple of runners stop short and I even ran smack into one woman.  She received my apology in the wind.  In addition to the cool cosplayers and high school band, there were homeless people’s tents along the course. I didn’t see the actual residents but it was obvious that people lived under the freeway.  It made me think about the amount of money that RunDisney demands of their participants and I felt a bit sick for the homeless people.  There just wasn’t way for me to frame fairness in this picture.  It made me sad as I ran onto the Angels Stadium parking lot.

The course took us into the stadium and we were able to run the infield, which made this former tomboy baseball player smile with delight. And outside of the stadium, on my left-hand side, there was a long line of servicemen and servicewomen waiting to cheer us on and offer us high fives.  They were both active and retired and most wore their full uniforms.  I felt grateful to them for their service and I thought my grandpa who was the bravest solider I know, a Bataan death march survivor as a Philippine Scout during WWII.  Grandpa Ben brought his family to the United States as an officer in the  U.S. Army to provide them a better life than they (we) would have had in his war-torn country.  That was a boost that I needed going into mile nine, I felt pride and love for my grandfather and other Veterans in my life.

On my right, there were WWII re-enactors and a swing dance group. I felt mixed about the WWII re-enactment group because they were all white. That statement doesn’t have any other deep meaning to me because it was just a thought that popped in and out of my head at that moment.

Heading back towards Disneyland, my legs felt good, my knees were strong and I didn’t have any fear that my asthma would slow me down going into miles 10 – 13. My self-talk was, “I feel strong.  One mile at a time.  Keep your pace because you’re the shit.”  My minute per mile pace slowed to between 12:30 to 12:50 for the last four miles, which was frustrating to me.  My race pace goal was 12:30 min/mile and I felt like that goal was slipping away from me.  Rather than letting that consume my thoughts, I kept running and thought about how good it would feel to cross the line and eat some food.  Even the puny snack box breadsticks and white cheddar cheese spread sounded like a gourmet meal to me at the time.  And it worked; I crossed the finish line with no pain and received both my fancy spinning Avengers Half Marathon medal and the Infinity Gauntlet finisher medal.  My GPS read:  13.64 miles, 2:48:25 minutes, 12:21 min/mile pace, 1,714 calories burned.  BOOM.  Cross that bucket list item off my list.  Adrenaline is my drug of choice.  I may hate running but I sure do love racing.

Training with my new sai without a *sigh* Falling in Love Again… #martialarts #okinawanshorinryu #karate

May 10, 2015

Just one week ago today, my sai arrived. The week prior, at our monthly beach workout, I had requested some minor custom modifications to the shape of these weapons, based on my very limited experience with sai. The shape of the factory delivered sai prongs felt too square, were spaced too wide, and looked too generic for my feminine hand. Apparently, the baton fit my arm perfectly since I am not built like an Asian waif. The pair I chose felt heavy, like they had substance and heft to them. I didn’t want the hybrid material tournament versions of the sai, they felt much too light and not durable at all. I wanted to feel the solid weight of the metal and hear the loud “clank” when they struck each other. If I am going to train, I want to do it like a badass.

When Sensei Butch brought my sai to our dojo last week, my face lit up and I beamed like someone had just handed me a five pound bag of red, white, and green gummy bears (my favorite flavors and the only ones I eat) that were zero calorie. It felt exciting to have my own weapons to train with and to use in competition. The faster I started training with them, the faster my mana would become a part of these sai. Mana is energy, power, and strength. We learn about mana as a concept in hula. Wearing the same practice pa’u (skirt) to dance rehearsal allows your mana to permeate the pa’u. Dancing low to the ground draws  mana from Mother Earth. Extending your arms shares your mana with your hula sisters dancing next to you. There is power in working and sweating together towards a common goal and a shared mission. Weapons training is an individual task and the mana in my sai will come from my own hard work and dedication and sweat. And I am all for that right now.

A few weeks ago, Sensei Butch had shown me how to flip and twirl a sai (singular, we only had one to practice with in the dojo, totally not sure who walked off with the other one) but we hadn’t started working on an actual kata yet. I’ve already committed to entering the weapons division in an upcoming tournament, representing Togisala Shorin Ryu so I cannot back out now. Since I have never competed in a weapons division and implements complicate things in terms of needing better coordination (something I feel that I lack), nerves and uncertainty filled my head and heart. This would be a multi-pronged challenge for me:  physically, mentally, and much to my surprise, emotionally. Neuroscientist tell us that adults need to work different parts of our brains to continue developing and growing. Throughout this year of great turmoil and change at work, karate serves as my mental WOD by helping me stay grounded and giving me focus.

When I worked out at his dojo in the mid 90’s, no one in my class trained with the sai. My Sensei, Grand Master Richard Rabago told me that sai were one of his favorite weapons. I didn’t even know how people held them much less used them to strike or do kata. In my eyes, the sai looked like clunky and over-sized shrimp cocktail forks. While studying weapons training with Sensei Richard, we all learned the bo kata first and many students moved on to the kama afterward. But I clearly remember Sensei Richard wielding the bo, the kama and the tonfa. He always showed so much discipline in his weapons demonstration. Discipline plus power and speed, like a badass Jedi. I asked him about the sai and whether he thought they would be a good weapon for me to learn. Sensei looked directly at me and took a long pause, a painfully long pause, which made me wonder whether I should have even asked the question. He simply replied, “You have to be strong to learn the sai.” I still wasn’t sure if that was a yes or a no and stared back at him, blankly. Sensei followed up with, “Finish the bo and I will teach you the sai. You’re plenty strong.”

My weapons training ended abruptly when I discovered I was pregnant and I never finished learning my basic bo kata. Thankfully, Sensei Richard’s words rang true, I was plenty strong as a single mom. I know the discipline and self-confidence that training in the dojo taught me has served me well in my career, my life and in motherhood. I feel like I learned so much from my martial arts training 18 years ago and not all of my learnings were evident to me at the time.

Although I’ve begun training for a competition at the end of June, these sai mean more to me than a pair of tournament weapons. Training with the sai works my brain and my body, reminding me how much I love karate. I am rediscovering the joy in training, just like I felt when I was studying with Sensei Richard. Class was always physically demanding and I was in the absolute best physical shape of my life because of karate. My body was strong, lean, and super fit. Today, karate grounds me and provides a sense of emotional security. I’ve had a lot of heartache and let-downs in my life: a boyfriend physically abused me, an ex broke into my house to steal jewelry, and my car, and more recently, I had an unexpected near death experience. That shit is real and that shit truly impacted my heart and emotional health. Trusting people is really hard for me and learning how to trust is a part of my emotional development from karate. I still work to Live Aloha and give to others and leave the world a better place, unconditionally. But I have a very hard time letting people help me because of all the broken trust I have endured.

I feel love when I train on the dojo floor. That might not make sense to you, especially if you don’t work out in martial arts, but it makes sense to me. What made me realize this strange “love” fact happened on Mother’s Day, while I worked with Sensei Butch on my weapons kata.

I already had a keen awareness of how much I had respected him as a teacher when I trained with Sensei Richard. Sensei Butch consistently won tournaments and travelled the world to compete. He could have been an arrogant ass but totally wasn’t. He always showed so much patience and humility with students. Sensei Butch worked especially well with the kids in class and pushed them to improve without making anyone cry or want to quit. But I never had a chance to work with Sensei Butch other than when he dropped in to teach an occasional class or came to serve as a judge for belt testing days. I definitely never had a private lesson with him, one-on-one. Even when he teaches our group classes now, I haven’t felt this way. This epiphany didn’t strike me until today but because of it, I feel blessed to study karate again. That is the only way I can describe what I experienced. I realize that I trusted Sensei Butch’s skill as a teacher and I also trust him as person who has been in my life for almost 20 years. Sensei Richard held Sensei Butch in very high esteem. And when Sensei Richard regarded someone at that level, it felt natural for me to feel similarly.

Now I feel even more excited to continue my training. Sensei Butch has said that this may be the time for me to earn my black belt to start teaching. He trusted me enough to say that to me and I don’t take that lightly. I hope to continue to feel safe enough to trust and I never lose that feeling. I would like to encourage and nurture students to love martial arts in the way Sensei Richard and Sensei Butch have inspired me.

Interestingly enough, my competitive nature does not drive me to beat others or to win, I only want to beat myself and see improvement in my own performance. So it is easy for me to support others and cheer, I don’t feel compelled to be the star or win the trophies and take home all the ribbons. Sensei Richard instilled in me the belief that the only purpose of a belt is to hold up your pants. A true martial artist doesn’t need to be called “Master” and the color of one’s obi does not reflect one’s skill level. I allow student’s performance and drive to shape my opinion of them, not the color of their belt, just as a person’s behavior, not appearance, should influence your opinion of them.

Despite all of this, I find myself being hypercritical of my own progress and training. Why can’t I show myself the same grace that I show others? When I watch Sensei Butch with the sai, I want to be able to flip, spin and manipulate them the same way he does. But today, instead of getting frustrated with myself, I relaxed my wrists AND my attitude enough to follow the simple directions that Sensei Butch gave me. I found myself so open, more-so than I have been in months and maybe even years, like my heart was exposed and I trusted that Sensei wouldn’t let anything hurt it. And my sai flipped and spun properly. Even when I dropped the sai, I didn’t beat myself up with negative self-talk or discouraging words. I laughed, quickly moved my feet out of the way, and picked my sai to try again. “Fall down seven times, Stand up eight” applies to my weapons flying out of my hands, too.

Speaking of inspiration, I bought a simple 3mm silver band for myself last week and it says, “dream”.

dream ring

My thought was that the ring would be appropriate to wear during the summer months while I work out and I wouldn’t have to worry about a diamond falling out of the setting in one of my more fancy rings. It certainly wasn’t clear to me last week why I selected this ring. The other choices were words and phrases like “believe”, “friend”, “forever”, “be strong”, “never give up”, “choose joy” and “peace”. “Dream” isn’t a sentiment I thought of much in my younger life, I was all about “work” to handle my business and make enough to live the lifestyle that I want for myself and my daughter. Today, after karate, I was compelled to purchase two more silver rings to create a custom Pi’ilani set. The second ring is another tiny 3mm band that simply states, “love”.

love ring

And the third one, an adjustable silver ring, 1/4” wide, with two hearts, a half moon and a star. The inside of that ring reads, “I believe in you”. This set of rings is a lovely reminder for me to train hard because I truly love karate and I believe in myself.

i believe in you ring

ring collage

Lunar New Year 2015

Lunar New Year marks the one year anniversary of the DiversityNerd blog and I have about 50 posts on this site. Considering I committed to posting once a week, I didn’t do too badly in reaching that goal. The last two paragraphs of my first post read as follows, written about the Year of the Horse:

 

On New Year’s Day, look forward, not backward, as this is not a time to even talk about the past.  Keep positive thoughts in your mind about the future.  This year, give love.  Remember karma?  Well, the Horse can be impulsive, “act now and think later”.  Be sure to radiate positive energy so impulsive actions won’t bite you in the ass.  Don’t be a douche, be good to others, give more than you take and do it all with love.

If you’ve read this far, mahalo nui loa/salamat po (thank you very much) for hanging in with me, I really appreciate it.  There will always be a message about Diversity and Inclusion in this blog, as my career is truly a part of who I am.  In addition, I will continue to nerd out over important things like “Star Wars”, “The Walking Dead”, “Downton Abbey”, “Scandal”, “24” (can’t wait for the re-boot) and “Elementary”.  My daughter turns 16 this month and her high school experience an endless source of material to write about.  I’m waiting for the ink to dry on my divorce papers so a story or two about me dating is a definite possibility in 2014.  And, I stay active with fun things like paddling outrigger canoes, dancing hula, wogging half marathons and occasionally kicking and punching at the dojo.  On some days, this blog will be a mindless string of run-on thoughts and other days, I will say something profound and prolific.  The only thing I can promise is that it will be my truth, the truth of Jennifer “Jae” Pi’ilani, a DiversityNerd.

It is sort of crazy how much my life has changed in just one year. As the ink continued to dry on divorce papers, the spark of a new friendship with a man who lives 2,000 miles away ignited to a long distance romance which is now a stable, loving and committed relationship. I am not sorry about not having blog posts about Tinder swipes or bar hopping or booty shaking at the club as I re-entered the life of a single woman on the dating scene. When I least expected to find a friendship on fire, this man walked into my life back in 2013. What started with an innocent night of talking and laughing about nerdy stuff led to a new beginning for both of us. Since then, only two days have passed where we haven’t communicated in some form or fashion. I am more connected to him than anyone else I have ever date, including the man I married.

Work continues to undergo chaos and change as we work to transition all four HQ locations to Texas. People are leaving the company for new opportunities every day and that is a new experience for most of us. I feel a weight on my shoulders to help the company be successful in this move. I also feel a responsibility to ensure that the new work environment continues to live the values that we have all grown accustom to in our current affiliates but evolves to include new cultural priorities. Business as usual won’t cut it in the future.

My return to the dojo has filled my life with new goals around martial arts. I want to train and become the badass black belt that Sensei Richard always wanted me to be. Not because rank is important to me but because it proves that I have accomplished the first stage of obtaining knowledge to pass along to students. I want to teach new students, especially young people, that the basics are everything. We need a foundation of basics to build our self-esteem and to understand how discipline on the dojo floor creates an avenue for success in all aspects of one’s lives. And the dojo is more than a room to sweat in three times per week, a dojo is safe environment in which to learn and where you can make mistakes in the spirit of continuous improvement.

And I am so grateful that my daughter is happy and healthy and still loves school. We have a special relationship because it has just been the two of us for so long. I see her developing her independence and it makes me proud. But I also see her struggle with the usual teenager drama and I wince when I remember how hard it is to be in high school. All I can do is to try to give her space to be a kid and to make mistakes and to know that I will always have her back.

I looked up what we have to look forward to in the Year of the Wooden Sheep and found this at: http://www.2015chinesehoroscope.net/

“2015 is the year of the wooden sheep (or year of the wooden goat if you’re using other sources).

The Meaning Behind the Year of the Sheep

The Sheep is generally considered a very lucky animal by most Chinese, and this is because the Chinese character for Sheep, which is Yang, sounds very similar to the Chinese pronunciation for luck, which is Xiang. Because of this linguistic similarity, the Chinese horoscope associates Sheep with luck, which is why they consider them lucky animals.

Predictions for 2015

Because the fire cycle is coming to a close, 2015 is believed to conclude many trends that had existed in the past few years. Many of the processes which have unfolded in the past are also believed to be wrapping up, which means that political and economic situations throughout the world are more likely to end. The downside to this, however, is that new troubles may also arise to replace the old problems that are expected to pass away. So the best way to greet 2015 is to expect a lot of changes, both good and bad.

If you’ve had nothing but bad luck in the past few years then 2015 may just offer you the chance to turn your life around. On the other hand, if you’ve experienced nothing but good fortune in the past then you may want to reexamine your priorities and make certain preparations just in case the worse happens. Either way, it’s going to be an exciting year.”

So buckle up and get ready for an exciting year of change, as if that is news to me. I hope to launch my podcast this year, earn my brown belt and do the Catalina Crossing this year. Cheers to the Year of the Sheep!

Births and Deaths – My Ash Wednesday 2015

Ash Wednesday is the one day of the year that brings me to church. I love the sentiment of focusing energy on one of the three things that the Catholic Church emphasizes during Lent, alms. The concept of alms is to humbly help people in need, with monetary donations or volunteering your time and energy in some way. Officially, Ash Wednesday is observed through fasting, abstinence from meat (cow and fowl) and repentance. For Pi’i, Ash Wednesday is about contemplating the past year and being deliberate about how I want to be in the year to come. Living the Aloha Spirit is the goal. The Aloha Spirit is about giving back selflessly, just as I interpret the concept of giving alms. So Ash Wednesday becomes a mash-up of the sparse religious education I received as a child, the values my parents imparted on me and the Aloha Spirit that I have adopted as a part of my life.

“The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the Self. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. In the contemplation and presence of the life force, Aloha, the following unuhi laulâ loa (free translation) may be used:

A – Akahai, meaning kindness to be expressed with tenderness;

L – Lôkahi, meaning unity, to be expressed with harmony;

O – `Olu`olu, meaning agreeable, to be expressed with pleasantness;

H – Ha`aha`a, meaning humility, to be expressed with modesty;

A – Ahonui, meaning patience, to be expressed with perseverance.

These are traits of character that express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s people. It was the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and was presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.

Aloha is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation.

Aloha means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return.

Aloha is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.

Aloha means to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”   http://www.atchawaii.com/LocalInfo/alohaspirit.html

I say all that because in 2015, my Ash Wednesday took me on an emotional roller coaster of sorts, as I meditated on my 2014 and envisioned what I wanted for the coming year. This week is packed with celebrations. The country observed the legal President’s Day holiday on the heels of the very commercialized Valentine’s Day. Then Ash Wednesday popped up, earlier than I expected. And the day after, we celebrate Lunar New Year, the anniversary of when I launched this blog. On a personal note, this Saturday is my father’s 80th birthday and we will all be together to eat a big meal and share some laughs. These are all pleasant occurrences, filled with giggles and celebrations and tradition. But this year on Ash Wednesday, I also felt sadness for a friend and a family member.

Today, I signed a condolence card for my friend at work. Her mother passed away last weekend. I know her mom has been ill for a while but I am sure she and her family were not prepared for this loss. To make matters worse, her mother lives 2,000 miles away in Ohio. There are no words of comfort that feel sincere, in my opinion, when writing on a Hallmark card. I would prefer to just hug my friend or hold her hand or just sit in silence with her. But I can’t so I wrote words on the Hallmark card to try to convey the sentiment that I feel for her.

That brings me to another death that our extended family has experienced recently and added a funeral to our week of celebrations. My extended family, a second cousin, experienced the most horrific thing a mother could possibly experience. She came home from work in the early evening to discover that her teenaged daughter had committed suicide. The details aren’t important as to how it happened, the only thing that matters is that her daughter is gone. I don’t know her daughter really well and I haven’t spent much time with this cousin since I’ve moved away from the Central Coast. But I am a mother of a teenaged daughter and our girls are only a few weeks apart in age and I know they had played together during numerous family reunions and baptisms and parties. And I can’t stop thinking about how much it must hurt.

The teenage years are incredible difficult. Peer pressure, hormones, Asian mothers, all impart incredible amounts of stress and uncertainty and confusion for a teen. I am sure that this young woman also had some sort of additional emotional challenges to deal with, as if being a teenager isn’t hard enough. Perhaps she needed medication but stopped taking it. Maybe she had a therapist that she couldn’t connect to or feel comfortable enough to truly share. Who knows what triggered this young woman to do what she did. I just hurt at the loss of her young life and I ache for the pain her mother must be feeling.

Thankfully, the second card I signed at work was for a baby shower. Another friend who I worked with six years ago is finally pregnant. She and her husband dated long distance for a couple of years before they moved in together. We used to go to lunch and I would outline my dating adventures while she would listen and laugh. For some reason, my friends found my dating life to be more entertaining than reality TV. I am happy to have a reminder that life goes on, despite the pain that others are experiencing. And as the season of Lent begins, I am holding my daughter a little closer and taking a more deliberate approach to living the Aloha Spirit. I also am giving up booze and baked goods. If I fall off the Lenten wagon, expect a big financial donation to a non-profit to come. The happy news of my friend and her husband expecting a baby brought me back to the Aloha Spirit, “the coordination of mind and heart within each person…Each person must think and emote good feelings to others.”