Category Archives: Trust

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

A Man Punched a Woman at the “One Direction” Concert

I had never been to the Rose Bowl for a concert. While I was a UCLA Bruin, I melted in the stands with my friends as we cheered our football team on during home games. But this experience was different. I was surrounded by thousands of screaming tweens and teen-aged girls. Their excitement was palpable and the decibel levels grew almost unbearable. Seeing my daughter singing and dancing with her friends made my heart smile, despite feeling exhausted from my summer of hellish business travel.

It was a beautiful summer evening in Pasadena, filled warm air and framed by clear skies. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking about all the press coverage on domestic violence in the NFL. A Ray Rice video had just exploded on to our TV screens and monitors. The video showed Rice punching Janay Palmer, who married him a day after the indictment was issued, and he was cut by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. The media also covered the recent story of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson being indicted by a grand jury on a child abuse charge for his method of disciplining his son, with a switch cut from a tree. This violence didn’t surprise me. It angers me. It frustrated me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t shock me. What did shock me happened two rows in front of me at the concert, during one of the many pop radio hits that One Direction has.
Situated in the second row from the top, we had a lot of space to stretch out and dance. From my vantage point, I saw a few 20-somethings drinking the overpriced concession stand beer and neither saw nor smelled evidence of pipes, bongs or even vapes being smoked. This evening’s entertainment came in the form of a concert fueled by tween adrenaline and hormones.

Because of the warm evening air, the individual vendors found themselves busy. People in the stands wanted to buy the frozen lemonade, ice cold water and soda without leaving their seats. Towards the end of the evening, I saw a male vendor walking across the fairly clear seats to sell a bottle of water to mother with her two young girls. One of the adult concert attendees, a woman, was trying walk past the vendor to reach the clear section of bleachers. She tripped over something a bumped the vendor’s empty plastic tray that was strapped to his front, like a large marching band bass drum. I saw the 6’ 1”, 215 lb. vendor snap his head around, mouth something like “what the fuck?!” and reach his fist back all the way to Tallahassee and strike the woman on the back of her head, near the base of her neck. The woman went down, face first, and the vendor looked a bit taken back and surprised. It seemed as if he didn’t realize what he had just done but a split second later, he tore down the bleachers through all the singing and dancing One Direction fans and tried to get outside of the venue as soon as he could. The security guard to my left saw it happen and gave chase. The woman slowly got to her feet and stumbled back to her seat. Two of the four young girls she brought to the concert sat down, stunned and quiet for the rest of the night. The other adult with them didn’t say a word to the girls, she checked in on the woman who was hit and sat in the bleachers, doing nothing. I heard the woman say, “I think I’m bleeding,” and “I am going to find that ****er.” I found another security guard and suggested that she come over and escort the woman to find medical assistance and/or the police.

Honestly, I have no idea what came of the incident. It just brought all sorts of feelings up in my head and heart that night. My heart hurt for the young girls who saw their adult chaperone get pummeled. My heart hurt for the woman who was struck by a strange man who was in the employ of the concessions vendors and trusted to provide a service at the Rose Bowl. My heart hurt as I remembered being hit by a boyfriend when I was fifteen.
Domestic violence comes in the form of a variety of abuse. It might be psychological, emotional or physical.

On September 8, 2014, Elahe Izadi wrote an article in “The Washington Post” whose headline read: “Nearly a third of U.S women have experience domestic violence”.
More than 31 percent of women in the United States have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey”.
Intimate partner violence covers “physical, sexual or psychological harm” by a current or former partner, according to the CDC. In addition to experiencing physical abuse by a partner, an estimated 22.3 percent of women (and 14 percent of men) have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
Among the most common types of severe violence women experienced by intimate partners: being slammed against something and being hit with a fist or hard object.
The survey also captured forms of non-physical abuse, with nearly half of women in the United States having experienced at least one act of psychological aggression by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. Psychological and emotional violence covers acts such as threats and coercion.”

If the statistics say “nearly 1/3 of U.S. women have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner” and I think of me and my two best friends from high school, those statistics hold true. We were all straight-A honor roll students, involved in school clubs, and varsity athletes. None of us came from families of divorce. We definitely did not look like poster children for domestic abuse. Speaking from my relationship, I thought I could change my boyfriend’s jealous thinking and love him enough to make him realize that he could trust me.

This is a very typical thing for young girls to do when they think they are in love, fix the broken boyfriend. Some girls rescue lost and abandoned puppies, I tried to “love” away the abuse that my first boyfriend grew up with from his alcoholic and cheating father. His emotional and
psychological abuse of me escalated to the point where he actually struck me, in the face, with a closed fist. My softball picture from high school stills shows the black and blue mark on my left cheek, he was right-handed. Thankfully, I did remove myself from that relationship and that situation and found support from a variety of resources. I sought good counseling and filled my time with lots of academic and athletic challenges to distract me. There are stacks of journals and poems to prove that and my biceps and quads got their birth back then.

As I said, domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone, yet the problem is often overlooked or denied. This is especially true when the bruises are on a person’s ego and heart, not on their skin. It is clear to me that being Asian prevented me from speaking up against
the abuse and seeking out help. I was ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want to shame my parents, who didn’t approve of me having a boyfriend at all.

They say that noticing and acknowledging the signs of an abusive relationship is the first step to ending it. No one should live in fear of the person they love. The bigger problem is to uncover why men in our society use physical and emotional intimidation. How do we prevent this cycle from repeating? How do we provide support to women who leave relationships with no income or means to shelter themselves? How do we stop abuse from happening at all? I witnessed a man strike a woman who was a total stranger in the back of head at a One Direction concert. I’ve been punched in the face by a man who said he loved me. Crisis centers, restraining orders and advocates provide very minimal protection. How do we stop domestic abuse from happening at all?

Seven Things NOT to Say to Asian Americans

I am contributor to this article but I am removing the name of my company from it.

Written by Stacy Straczynski for DiversityInc

Confronting subconscious biases and stereotypes about race is a frequent occurrence for many professionals in the workplace—in particular, those from traditionally underrepresented groups. While many comments and questions are raised merely out of curiosity or ignorance, it doesn’t lessen the offense.

“Stereotypes make people feel like they don’t belong, like they’re an outsider looking in,” according to Linda Akutagawa, a Japanese-American and CEO and President of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP). “It’s not necessarily the phrases or comments said, but the insinuations and how things were said.”
What can your organization do to improve cultural competence?

According to Pi’ilani, a Filipino-American and National Manager of Diversity and Inclusion for some company, everyone has a choice of how he or she addresses negative comments. “In a case where there is a personal relationship and a certain degree of trust, I encourage people to have a private conversation to explain the negative impact,” she says.

Educating employees and exposing them to diversity is “critical to addressing comments born of ignorance,” says Dr. Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President and Global Chief Diversity Officer of Sodexo, who is Indian-American. “These impact how Asians are represented in the workplace.”

7 Things NOT to Say to Asian-Americans
1. “You speak English well. Where did you learn it?”
Typically meant as a compliment, this is one comment that really “pushes my buttons,” says Anand. “Just because a person has an accent—and possible appearance—that’s different than the mainstream” results in the assumption that a person can’t communicate.

2. “You need to improve your communication skills.”
Akutagawa does note that with globalization, there are increasing numbers of professionals who speak English with accents. And this can become an issue during performance reviews: Many times, Asian employees are simply told they need to improve their communication skills but are not given any elaboration on what that means.

“No one wants to come straight out and address the accent,” Akutagawa says. “It’s a two-way street: The manager has to think about what they’re doing to listen fully and be present in conversations.”

3. “Asians are not discriminated against. All of my doctors are Asian, and the Asian kids in school are the ones getting top honors. It’s the white kids who are at a disadvantage.”
Even positive stereotypes are damaging: The myth that all Asians want a career in medicine, math and science is limiting. Additionally, you should never assume that an Asian employee is the IT person.

4. “Asians are good workers but seldom want to become leaders.”
There’s a strong stereotype that while Asians are good individual performers, they are not leadership material—and that’s OK with them, according to Akutagawa. As a result, she says, there is an unconscious bias that prevents Asians from being considered for more senior-level positions.

For example, Pi’ilani recalls an anecdote someone shared with her: “After voicing her opinion in a meeting, my colleague’s male manager said to her, ‘You’re not like my Asian wife. You speak up.’ It is hard to forget a story like that.”

Anand says the issue lies in a lack of cultural competence. Many Asian-Americans with strong non-Western cultural roots might have a quiet leadership style, more behind-the-scenes than what is considered mainstream. The solution? Draw attention to a variety of successful leaders and management styles.

5. “Can you recommend a good [Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, sushi, etc.] restaurant?” Or “Chinese food is cat meat.”
Don’t ask for dining recommendations out of context or assume an Asian has this information on hand.

6. “Where are you from?” “No, where are you really from?”

Aside from the fact that the question already implies that an Asian is an outsider, repeating it is even more offensive. Akutagawa says, “I get the question only every so often, but it’s frequent enough to remind me that stereotypes are there.”
“How often do you go home?” also should be avoided. Pi’ilani says her typical response is: “I am from the Monterey Bay Area. I can drive there in about five hours,” even though she knows this isn’t what the person meant.

7. “Asians are overrepresented at senior and C-suite levels.”
Despite a variety of data, including DiversityInc Top 50 data, that consistently prove otherwise, this is a comment Akutagawa heard a speaker say at a recent conference. “It was so blissfully thrown out. My thought was, ‘We have a few high-profile CEOs and all of a sudden we’re overrepresented?’ Maybe when people see the one, they feel like they’re being overrun.”

The actual numbers show that Asians, much like other underrepresented groups, are lacking representation in upper management: DiversityInc Top 50 CEOs are 8 percent Asian, and Fortune 500 CEOs are only 1.8 percent Asian.

5 Ways to Prevent Asian Stereotypes
Don’t perpetuate stereotypes—even positive ones.

Make opportunities available outside the stereotypical career track.

Assign cross-cultural mentors and offer stretch assignments.

Elevate the mission of resource groups beyond sharing cultural practices and celebrating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Draw attention to successful Asian leaders and role models.

More Things Not to Say
Any derogatory term

“You don’t act very Asian.”

“What’s your name again?

“You all look alike.”

“What kind of Asian are you?”

“Are you a bad driver?”

“Can you speak your language?”

“Were you a fan of Jeremy Lin?”

“Why do you only hang out with Asians?”

19 Ideas for a Happy Life – What’s your #20?

keeping it simple this week…

  1. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  2. Believe in love at first sight.
  3. Don’t judge people by their relatives.
  4. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
  5. Keep your heart healthy with exercise and by surrounding yourself with love.
  6. Remember the three R’s: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.
  7. Marry the person you love to talk to about everything and nothing.
  8. A loving atmosphere in your home is important.  Do all you can to create a tranquil, harmonious home.
  9. In disagreements with loved ones, deal with the current situation.  Don’t bring up the past.
  10. Spend some time alone.
  11. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
  12. Share your knowledge.  It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  13. Be gentle with the earth.
  14. When you say, “I’m sorry”, look the person in the eye.
  15. Never interrupt when you are being flattered.
  16. Mind your own business.
  17. Don’t trust a person who doesn’t close his/her eyes when you kiss.
  18. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
  19. Approach love and cooking with reckless abandon.

Fight Like a Girl


Fight Like a Girl

My guess is that every person who reads this has lost at least one loved one to cancer.  And there are so many types out there:  breast, colon, skin, bone, cervical, brain… name an organ or a body part and someone you know has probably died from that type of cancer.  This disease doesn’t discriminate based on socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, military status, or even age.  People with money die from cancer.  People without money die from cancer.  But it seems like the people with the brightest spirits and most positive attitudes find themselves fighting cancer.  And to that I say, “Fuck Cancer”.

My dear friend, Tina, had leukemia when we were in elementary school.  She was the youngest child of Chinese immigrants, I don’t even remember if her parents spoke English, and she was nothing but a tiny bundle of sweetness and smarts.  Tina wore a colorful hat in kindergarten and first grade.  She would run around on the playground with us, playing foursquare and tether ball, always a step or two behind because she was weak from her disease.  I never had to check to see if she was following our group because I could hear her giggle catch up to us about 10 seconds before she did.  Tina had a quiet spirit, a loud laugh, and her smile was so authentic and honest.  Despite her illness, she was just another kid at school.  I remember there was a very windy day on the blacktop, my hair was whipping around in my face and my favorite navy skirt was flapping in the wind.  I silently thanked my mom for making me wear shorts underneath it.  Unfortunately, Tina’s hat flew off on the playground that afternoon.  She grabbed her head with her hands, hung her head in shame, and stopped.  It was as if her feet froze in place and she was torn between running after her hat or hiding her bald head from all of us.  I don’t remember which little boy brought her the hat, I just remember Tina sobbing as the teacher on recess duty wrapped her up in a big embrace and helped her place her hat back on her head.  She wasn’t completely bald, it was as if she had long strands and random patches of hair.  Some of the crueler kids laughed and pointed.  I wanted to go kick all of their asses.  I was a total tomboy back then and felt a responsibility to protect all the other Asian immigrant kids.  I don’t know why but I definitely kicked a few boys in the nuts for making fun of my friends who didn’t speak English or had cancer.

A few years later, my mom sat me down in the family room to “talk” to me.  It felt scary, like a big cloud hung over our plush brown couch.  My family never held family meetings or sat in the family room other than to watch TV together.  I looked up at my mom and her eyes were puffy and she looked miserable.  She looked at her slippers, and the coffee table and finally she looked into my eyes and said, “Your Grandma Connie has cancer.  It is terminal.”  I didn’t know what that word meant, “terminal,” so I asked her and my mom snapped, “It means she is going to die!” and she stormed toward her bedroom.  As the eldest girl, my mom was very close to Grandma.  And one of the rules in our household was always, “family comes first.”  Whatever behaviors you exhibit reflect on your family, not just you as an individual.   So to say we were close as a family unit is an understatement.  My mom was truly devastated by the news that my Grandma was dying from cancer.  We all were.

During one of our hospital visits, Grandma said to me, “Hoy, Jen-nee-pear, (she had an adorable Filipina accent) I have black blood.”  That simple statement FREAKED ME OUT.  How was her blood black?  Why was it black?  Could they fix it?  Could I catch it?  Why wasn’t anyone doing anything about it?  My head was spinning and I felt scared and sick but Grandma sat there, smiling in her tissue-thin hospital gown, her eyes as bright as always.  She didn’t mean that her blood had become black in color, Grandma asked who had donated her most recent blood transfusion.  The nurse replied that the donation came from a nice African American woman.  See, my Grandma had black blood now.  That experience always sticks with me and I am sure that it why I try to donate blood to the Red Cross at least twice a year.  I am a universal donor, O Positive, and with all the recent disasters and emergencies happening around the world, the Red Cross is in desperate need of O Positive blood.  Trust me, they call me incessantly every eight weeks to get me down to the office.

My Grandma passed away peacefully at home.  She was sitting in her own bed, surrounded by relatives and friends.  A nurse was with us in the room, cooing soothing words that Connie was getting ready to pass on and that we should all prepare ourselves.  I remember staring wide-eyed at my aunties and cousins, trying to figure out what to do.  We were just waiting for Grandma to die and I felt tear welling in my eyes and my throat.  The nurse finally said that she was gone and when I looked at Grandma, her jaw was opening and closing so she couldn’t be dead.  Unfortunately, the nurse said that was an automatic muscular reaction and that Connie was indeed gone.

I’ve lost grandparents, uncles, friends, acquaintences and co-workers to cancer.  There is no clear cause as to why some people get cancer.  The American Cancer Website has very clear and easy to understand informaiton to learn more about this group of diseases lumped under the term, cancer.  They write the following:

“Cancer is such a common disease that it is no surprise that many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. Sometimes, certain types of cancer seem to run in some families. This can be caused by a number of factors. It can be because family members have certain risk factors in common, such as smoking, which can cause many types of cancer. It can also be due in part to some other factors, like obesity, that tend to run in families and influence cancer risk.

But in some cases the cancer is caused by an abnormal gene that is being passed along from generation to generation. Although this is often referred to as inherited cancer, what is inherited is the abnormal gene that can lead to cancer, not the cancer itself. Only about 5% to 10% of all cancers are inherited – resulting directly from gene defects (called mutations) inherited from a parent. “

And then there is that very specific, breast cancer, which has prompted me to write this week.  Two very strong women, who are both rays of sunshine to everyone they touch, are in various stages of chemotherapy in their fight against breast cancer.  They are both very open with their experience on Facebook so that friends and family can understand and support.  One woman, I will call her Smiley, hosted head-shaving party before she started chemo and her daughter joined her in shaving her own hair off.  The party became a celebration of life and way to show solidarity with Smiley.  She is documenting chemotherapy treatments in photos and I marvel at her brave attitude.  But Smiley is a service woman in the US military.  She is no stranger to hard work, discipline and fighting.

My other friend, Sunshine, has been a survivor for the last several years.  She was quite young when her diagnosis was discovered, in her 30s, and endured treatments like a champion.  Sunshine also knows how to fight, as a Muay Thai kickboxer.  Her fighting spirit has served her well as she battles this disease.  And recently, the doctors discovered a mass that needs to be treated with chemotherapy.  Before the treatment started, Sunshine cut off her long tresses and raised money to harvest eggs for her future baby.  Preserving a future for fertility and procreation is not something I had ever heard about before Sunshine.  Of course I donated money and tried to spread the word about her cause.  I know my sister also made a donation, for which I am grateful.  The harvest was successful, Sunshine has a half dozen eggs.

And then I received one more piece of shitty breast cancer news about yet another dear friend.  This time she is my hula sister.  Hula sisters have a unique bond.  To be a cohesive group, ready to perform or compete, hula sisters have to sweat, work, sing, laugh, cry and sweat some more together, following the kauna of a hula mele and choreography of a kumu hula.  If you’re lucky, you also get to drink and disco disco and enjoy the world together.   But hula sisters feel me on this one.  It isn’t enough to take a class together, there is a special connection that forms with hula sisters.  That connection is for life.

I say all that because one of my hula sisters, who is a cervical cancer survivor, was diagnosed with a breast cancer tumor this week.  She will need surgery and all the treatment that surrounds surgery.  It felt like a punch to the gut to hear the news and I wanted to burst into tears as I read the email on my iPhone last night.  We are all praying for everyone fighting the fight.  And I’ve discovered there is this Breast Cancer Culture.  More than raising awareness of the disease or funds for research, Breast Cancer Culture is about women being strong and feminine and brave.  The color pink is associated with breast cancer to ensure that women continue to feel like women through their treatment and therapy.  Treatment may mean a mastectomy and losing one’s hair.  Therapy may mean dropping weight but not being able to exercise.  There is a spirit and a flair to “fight like a girl” against this terrible disease, breast cancer.  I know my friends are fighting like the mother who is also a soldier, a Muay Thai martial artist and hula dancer that they are.  All of those identities are a part of being a woman.


Every morning at 9am PST, we are sending a prayer mob/ho’oponopono out to my hula sister!

Yinzers! My Experience Speaking on Diversity and Inclusion at “Vibrant Pittsburgh”

Thank you, Word Press, for reminding me that I was late in posting a blog entry for last week. I’d been in three time zones in two days, got a bit distracted and felt very jetlagged.
Last week, I travelled from 70 degree weather in Los Angeles to 30 degree weather (with snow on the ground) to Pittsburgh, PA. If there was ever a doubt about how much I love the work that I do, making this trip in a 23 hour timeframe must be proof.

I was invited to speak at an event, the Inclusion Best Practices Series, hosted by a wonderful organization called, Vibrant Pittsburgh. Vibrant Pittsburgh’s mission is “to embrace inclusion, ensure the Pittsburgh region’s growth by attracting, retaining and elevating a diversity of talent and promote the region nationally and internationally as a diverse, welcoming region of opportunities.”

It is also worth sharing the Vibrant Pittsburgh Statement of Values with all of you, (pulled directly from their website.) “Vibrant Pittsburgh believes that a diverse workforce is essential to the ongoing economic vitality of the Greater Pittsburgh region. We must attract, retain, elevate and educate people of all backgrounds, including New Americans, and create an environment that is inclusive and welcoming.
It is critical that the regional workforce be prepared for the job requirements of today and tomorrow, and that we attract qualified and diverse talent from across the country and around the globe.
Through the Inclusion Best Practices Series, Vibrant Pittsburgh features high-profile Chief Diversity Officers who will share their stories and best practices on a range of diversity and inclusion topics. Employers of all sizes will have the opportunity to learn from and interact with industry leaders on diversity and inclusion practices key to their business success.”

The topic of my session was – Mentoring as a Diversity and Inclusion and Elevation Strategy.
My friend and colleague, Melanie Harrington, is the CEO of “Vibrant Pittsburgh.” This woman is sharp and I respect her drive and intelligence very much. She served as General Counsel for D.J. Miller & Associates, Inc., a national management consulting firm. When I first met Melanie, she was President of the American Institute for Managing Diversity, Inc. (AIMD), a national nonprofit diversity think tank based in Atlanta, Georgia. AIMD conducts research, education and public outreach programs on the issue of diversity. I was invited to speak to the Diversity Collegium in Atlanta on the topic Generational Diversity and the event was hosted by AIMD. Based on that experience, Melanie and I remained connected through social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook. For those of you who scoff at the value of LinkedIn, scoff no more. Professional networks can help you gain employment or allow you to communicate with potential employers. In addition, leveraging those connections may help you in more ways than one. Melanie had seen articles about my company’s mentoring initiatives and diversity and inclusion strategy. So she reached out to invite me to speak at “Vibrant Pittsburgh.”

In preparation for this session, I looked up some facts about Pittsburgh, to supplement the input I received from my colleagues. From 2000 to 2010, there was an overall population decrease in Pittsburgh of almost 9%, according to the 2010 Census. In looking at the demographic mix: 64.8% of the population was White, 25.8% Black or African American, 0.2% American Indian and Alaska Native, 4.4% Asian, 0.3% Other and 2.3% mixed. 2.3% of Pittsburgh’s population was of Hispanic or Latino origin of any race. This city looks very different from any place I have ever lived. With a complexion as such, my instincts told me that the word “diversity” probably carried a lot of baggage associated with affirmative action and racial issues. I elected to NOT focus on this aspect of diversity but rather, to talk about all the dimensions of diversity that I bring to the work, as an individual change agent. I introduced the diversity in my household:

• Gen X
• Asian-American
• Single Mom
• Youngest child of immigrants
• Straight LGBT Ally
• UCLA Bruin
• Introvert
My Daughter:
• Gen C
• Bi-racial (Filipina & African American)
• Multiple Learning Disabilities
• High school freshman
• Extrovert
• Steelers fan

(By the way, regardless of who in Pittsburgh heard that my daughter was a Steelers fan, each person immediately responded with, “Steelers Nation!!!” The shuttle driver told me that there is a Steelers bar in Sochi, Russia. My cab driver and I chatted about the Steelers upcoming NFL draft prospects. It was great way for me to connect with the locals. I respect what this city has done with their professional sports teams’ branding. Football, hockey and baseball all share the same colors – black and gold. This creates a sense of unity and pride that I found tangible but somewhat indescribable, it just “is”. I have mad respect for the loyalty that the people of Pittsburgh show for their professional sports teams. The black-and-gold color scheme has since become completely associated with the city and I liked it.)

And after the resounding applause that my daughter is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I lef
t all that talk about defining “diversity.” I didn’t come back to race at all during my presentation. Regardless of that, I heard a lot of questions in the large session and afterwards that danced around the issue of “diversity” and the baggage associated with the word. I had joked that 25 years ago, some companies took correction fluid to the business cards of people who worked in Affirmative Action and typed “Diversity Department.” However, I know that people all over the world, especially in the US, think that Diversity only means race and gender.

The bulk of my presentation was on creating a culture of mentoring and that any culture change takes time. An organization needs to make systemic adjustments in rewards and recognition programs, and have on-going education for employees to develop and practice new skills. A “mentoring program” won’t change a culture, it isn’t like flipping on a light switch. Culture change takes leaders at every level of the organization working on the same strategy. There is no magic bullet.

From what I gathered, the city has a long legacy of families staying within Pittsburgh. People are born, educated, employed and die within a few miles of their families. This culture of cradle to the grave existence must play out in the workplace. And not in an intentional exclusionary way but I imagine that it is hard for new people to break into the inner circle in Pittsburgh. Consider a time when you were “the new kid”, perhaps at a new middle school or transferring to a new department at work. Remember how hard it is to make friends and build a network of people to support your development? Imagine being new to Pittsburgh and trying to find a mentor. It must be harder for people who are different from the mainstream population, any outsider probably struggles to connect to the culture of Pittsburgh. I imagine that plays out in specific workplaces, as well.

I hope that the work that “Vibrant Pittsburgh” continues to grow and feels support from leadership within the region. If Pittsburgh wants its population to grow, attracting and retaining more generational diversity, people of color and immigrants must happen. Other large metro areas are experiencing booms in population growth via ethnic minorities and immigrants. From the 2010 Census numbers, Pittsburgh has fewer minorities than most other major regions in the country. Hopefully, my presentation added value to impact the mindset of the participants in the room and to Vibrant Pittsburgh overall. The notion of ensuring growth and development in any region of the US is critical to the on-going success in our country. Being “Team USA” also means being “Team Pittsburgh”, even if I am an Island Girl living in California, who writes a blog called “DiversityNerd”.

“Your Legacy is Bigger Than That Relationship”

imageNovember 2013 was a time of transition. Prior to that, my heart was locked up in Stillness, I kept myself busy moving and shaking and yet, I felt like my life had become a made for TV movie that I was passively viewing in the background. No, worse, one of those After School Specials that always had a sanitized moral ending that fit into the Judeo Christian view of “the right thing to do.”

My life affords me opportunities to meet powerful individuals: politicians, activists, community leaders, actors, musicians, podcasters, bloggers and more. People who are creating change in this world that can be so cruel. They change systems and policies and practices to create space for more inclusion. I do my tiny part to support this sort of change at my company. But in November, I felt like it was time to make a few changes in my personal life, including ending my very short lived marriage. Fortunately for me, my soon to be ex-husband felt the same. We had a serious talk about our relationship and the opportunities for improvement and the result was that we would end it, we would end the Stillness in my heart.

All around me the world is moving
a blur of motion
in every direction
with no destination
My life moves sways ebbs flows
and my heart is locked inside
protected by a fortress of solitude
cold steel walls
never moving
only beating for existence
not pounding for life

With that decision made and papers being filed in court, I selectively told people that my marriage was over. A few good friends heard the news directly from me I sure didn’t wave a flag that said, “Hey biatches, my marriage failed and I’m getting divorced!” If someone asked me directly, “How’s married life?” I felt obligated to be honest. The story was repeated over and over. People were shocked and concerned for me but I never shed a tear. When I told people, I almost expected people to look at me with disgust and wonder how I could have failed so badly and made such a bad decision to commit to something that didn’t last. It became clear to me that my true friends only showed me love and I had to forgive myself for making a mistake.

For example, one person from work said to me: “I am a little puzzled though, why someone would walk away from a girl like you. You have many great attributes… intelligent, elegant, great personality, big heart and (with all respect) beautiful!! Well, I have faith there is someone that WILL appreciate and compliment you. Just keep being ‘Pi’i’ and continue to shine your light! Your legacy is bigger than that relationship.”

Muchas gracias, work colleague who was so kind to email me this little note, it lifted my spirit like a virtual hug.

And it was a reminder of the concept of POWER en espanol, PODER. The word itself has strength in the way it sounds, say it out loud in Spanish or English and the word just has juice. POWER is staying true to one’s personal beliefs and values by living one’s purpose. It is critical to leave negative experiences in the past to start with a clean slate. One must also to not forget to always take care of oneself (I always take care of others first) and to laugh often. My intention became to move out of STILLNESS and back towards POWER.

There is power in being vulnerable. My heart is open to accepting what is to come. I don’t want to ignore when I feel a tug or am compelled towards a person. If I get hurt, I get hurt. That notion no longer scares me. Most importantly, let me be clear that I don’t think relationships are about “completing me” I prefer the notion of someone “complimenting me.” Think of an infinity symbol looped around two whole individuals vs. the yin yang/two halves becoming one whole. He needs to have his stuff together: focus, drive, command, strength, sensitivity, athleticism, and more. A tall order, I know, but I know he is out there. That is what I want and I am a patient woman because I am confident that it will all be worth the wait. So I live my life all in patiently waiting for that lightning bolt to ignite a slow burning fire that heats up over time. PD!

And I have to recall my list of Fifteen Things to build a powerful connection.

1) Don’t get involved with someone relying on their potential to improve, complacency may be close behind and you can’t force someone to become who YOU want them to be, you can only love and support who they are and love them, warts and all. (Um, maybe not genital warts.)

2) Be madly and passionately in love with your partner, their happiness should be priority and making them happy should make YOU happy. This does not mean sacrifice, suffer and bend over backwards for him, it means true love is about giving and true love gives back in return.

3) Sex is important in a relationship.

4) Communication styles are as important to understand as communicating. Introvert/extrovert; dialogue/debate; private/public; phone calls/text; in person/FaceTime. Figuring out communication styles goes hand in hand with figuring out personality styles. That is critical to understanding each other, especially how your partner deals with stress.

5) Similar values are critical as a strong foundation to any relationship. Is education important? traveling? life experience? meeting people? culture? art? music? politics? money? family? what is romantic to YOU? Work that out ahead of time, don’t assume your partner will be convinced that your way is best.

6) Sex IS important in a relationship.

7) It is ok to take care of yourself while in a relationship. Martyrdom sucks.

8) Stitch said it best, OHANA MEANS FAMILY family means you are legally obligated to these new people related to your spouse/significant other/life partner. Keep that in mind during the courting phase.

9) Sex is REALLY important in a relationship.

10) Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, it’s what you are expected to give — which is everything.

11) Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have at that moment. Sometimes you have to just shut the f*ck up and accept what your partner is giving you because they are giving you all that they have. Get it?

12) Just to clarify sex TOGETHER is really important in a relationship.

13) Make yourself a better person and know who you are before you try and know someone else and expect them to know you.

14) No man is worth your tears, and the one who is won’t make you cry unless they are tears of joy.

15) Did I mention that sex is important in a relationship?