Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.



Orange is the New Black S3Ep4 #OITNB @baldmove @realleadelaria

ARon and I recorded this episode on the morning that the SCOTUS was expected to pass marriage equality in the United States. I had been helping to prepare a statement from my company about what this means to us and our team members. Also, this episode happened to be heavily focused on a very out lesbian character, Big Boo, and I talk a lot about LGBT equality, from an ally’s perspective. We also diacuss menstral cycles and strap-ons so there is something for everyone in this episode.

Hello Texas, My Site Visit February 14 – 16, 2015


After working in the Plano temporary office for three days, I flew home Friday night to pick up my Valentine’s Day date. Yes, I had to fly back to LAX at 6:50pm on a Friday night so I could board a flight at 9:15am on Saturday morning. Not the most efficient process, in my mind, but rules are rules.

February 14, 2015 Happy Valentine’s Day! The welcome video showed greetings in a variety of languages. I was on the shuttle with a woman who works at my affiliate and she brought her husband and precocious young daughter. The others who boarded the shuttle are not familiar to me, they flew in on a different airline so I wasn’t sure even sure whether they worked in CA, NY or KY. We didn’t say more than a polite “hello” to one another, maybe I should have been more welcoming in my greeting? Oh well. Too late now.

The announcement about the company’s move dropped ten months ago and since then, I’ve had a lot of time to mull it over. Personally, my boyfriend and I have discussed options about moving in together. His attitude about where we would live has been especially reassuring. He realizes that it would be easy for a straight white dude to move to Texas and if I decide to go, he would move there with me. Having that support has helped me a lot by alleviating the pressure of wondering what my geographical location will do to my relationship. My mom and I talked about the move, as well. I explained that the financial incentive to move is extremely generous and essentially, it could help cover my daughter’s college expenses. My daughter will be graduating from high school the year that my company moves and she is committed to continuing her education and I am committed to funding it for her. The thought of moving farther away from my parents as they continue to grow older hurts my heart so I am not sure if I can do it yet. But I am considering it a lot more seriously than I did ten months ago, On the professional side, I’ve been working on initiatives related to the move and I see the care that our company is taking to help employees make this transition. My position in the company provides access to a lot of the decision-making and I am impressed at how much effort our company is making to bring everyone to Plano. No one will be laid off, everyone who wants to move will be offered a position. There is a luxury automaker that recently announced their intentions to move their HQ location. In this process, they placed their employees are in one of three categories: We want you to move, If you move you might have a job and We don’t want you anymore, “bu-bye”. My company is not taking that approach and for that, I am grateful. It would be no question in my mind to leave a company like that, even though I am confident that my job would not be in the “bu-bye” category.

Since I’ve been to the temporary office a handful of times for work already, my goal was to see Plano through my daughter’s eyes. When I first talked to her about my company moving, she was adamant about not wanting to move to Texas. Honestly, my initial reaction was the same. I never imagined voluntarily leaving the California lifestyle unless it was to live the Hawai’i lifestyle full-time. We wanted to have a “real life” experience in the area so we went to the local mall to see a movie. Truthfully, this was my first experience outside of the temporary office or work-sanctioned dinner so I had no idea what to expect. I was curious to discover what traffic would be like in the area on the weekend. Unfortunately, it was Valentine’s Day AND “Fifty Shades of Gray” is out so the theater was crazy busy with the usual groups of rowdy teenagers and numerous pairs of couples on dates. It made me giggle to see how dressed up some of the people were at the movie theater, I assumed because of Valentine’s Day. I really hope that typical attire for a Friday night movie isn’t cleavage out to there and hooker heels for women. My tank top, yoga pants and slippers don’t meet that dress code at all.

My daughter wanted to see “Kingsman – The Secret Service”. I was excited to see this movie because it looked like a lot of fun. I gave “Kingsman” a B-/C+ because I love Colin Firth in everything he does. Mark Hamill makes an appearance early in the film, much to my delight. He will always have a soft spot in my heart because of the impact that “Star Wars” had on me as a child. The action and fight scenes in the movie were very fun to watch and of course, my daughter swooned over the young lead actor. Unfortunately, there was a point in the movie when the “Obama” president had his head blown up and the audience applauded and cheered. That quickly reminded me that I was not in California anymore.

On Sunday, we joined the bus tour that would take us to Uptown/Downtown Dallas. Highlights of the tour were:

  • The Arbor Hills Nature preserve in Plano, TX. This is a 200-acre park featuring vast areas of natural beauty for walking, jogging, hiking, orienteering, and other outdoor activity.  It just struck me that there would be a preserve to go to if I moved to Texas, rather than just having a beach and the mountains all around me in California. That become a HUGE a shift in lifestyle and mindset.
  • I learned a little bit about the culture of shopping in North Texas, which seemed to be HUGE. We drive past the Shops at Willow Bay, and were warned that most malls don’t open until noon on Sundays. But our tour guide and most other people I’ve met in North Texas always pointed out the shopping centers and outlet malls. They are a respite from the heat and shopping seems like a competitive sport to many people I’ve met in Texas. Designer attire, luxury vehicles and impeccable hairstyles/grooming seemed to dominate my initial impressions of the people I met on my first expedition to North Texas.
  • In addition to most of the stores opening at noon on Sunday, liquor stores are closed on Sundays. However, but you can purchase beer and wine after noon in the grocery store, just FYI.
  • We zoomed by a bunch of locales:
    • A West Plano mixed living area in Willow Bend area, near the Tom Muehlenbeck Recreation Center. We held some meetings with the CEOs of the local hospitals in this center on our visit in August. This recreation center looked state of the art, with a huge swimming pool that looked extremely inviting because of the 100 degree weather.
    • The tour guide mentioned Lake Texoma that is north of Plano but I know nothing more about it.
    • Apparently I should eat at Lockhart’s downtown Plano for BBQ
    • In-N-Out Burger has a presence there but Wataburger is the official burger place of Texas.
    • East Plano is the older part of Plano and the homes have bigger lots and the population is more ethnically diverse.
    • Collin County Community College has campuses in Plano, McKinney and Frisco.
    • We drove by Highland Park and University Park which apparently has very expensive real estate and a great school district.
    • White Rock Lake in Dallas has non-motorized boating and I would assume Dragon Boat teams because they have crew rowing in their photographs. Also, I saw disc golf, which my boyfriend would probably enjoy.
    • Uptown Dallas was the place I wanted to see most. Lower Greenville/”M Streets” is known as a very popular place to live because it is 2 miles from White Rock Lake and near bars and restaurants.
    • Lakewood area also sounds like an active and fun neighborhood. Knox/Henderson is the northern edge of Uptown and there are entrances to the Katy Trail, a biking/walking trail that takes you right into downtown Dallas (very popular & it has completely revitalized this area).
    • Uptown is very popular with young people and empty-nesters. I like to think of myself as a “Young Empty-Nester.”
    • McKinney Ave is in the heart of Dallas.
    • We drove through West Village in Oak Lawn and saw that you can take a free trolley (M Line Trolley goes to Uptown & Dallas Arts District. Free parking! West Village is luxury apartments above and walking/shopping/movie theaters below. Turtle Creek is high rise living with Azaleas blooming, Lee Park is in Turtle Creek (the tour guide kept saying how pretty this area is in the Spring.)
    • Klyde Warren Park connects Uptown and Downtown Dallas on Woodall Rodgers highway

We saw a lot of Dallas on the bus tour. It made me think I could live in Dallas for at least a couple of years, as I would be considered a “young empty nester.’  Doesn’t that concept of being an “empty nester” make me sound like I will have one foot in the grave? Damn. I’m thinking that living in Uptown will afford me opportunity to live a single person lifestyle, hitting the hip bars and shaking my booty on the dance floor. Empty nester sounds more like a boring old lady wearing support hose with blue hair than a woman with eight piercings, two tattoos and cute little bangs.

After the tour, we had dinner at Whiskey Cake with my dear friend Melissa and her mama. I’ve known Mel since before my daughter was born and her mama even attended one of my daughter’s birthday parties in Los Angeles. It was so nice to be with friends who live in the area. And Mel has such a positive energy, I love spending time with her.

My daughter is open to coming back to Plano with me for another visit. She wants to go horseback riding for the first time and she wants to visit the local colleges and universities. I also have a lead on a hula school in Dallas and hope to find a Shorin Ryu dojo in the area that I feel connected to enough to train with their sensei. Hopefully, my boyfriend will also join me on a trip in the next several months. The decision to move for my company is a big one that impacts my future and every aspect of my life. It is comforting to know that I am not making it alone. Texas life is definitely not California living.

LAX to SFO to LAX to JFK to LAX to CVG to LAX to DFW to LAX to DFW to LAX Jan 30-Feb 16

Business travel always seemed to be exciting to me. Getting on a plane, staying in swanky hotels, attending fancy business affairs to hear inspirational speakers, it all sounded like fun. Although I’m an introvert, I enjoy meeting new people and seeking out new connections. Connections may be minor, like we both work in Diversity or we both like Star Wars. Or I may meet someone sitting in the hotel bar who has an affinity for whiskey and we discuss the benefits of peat or smoke or oak flavors. And many times, I make connections that lead to friendships that last beyond LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Social networks grow out of a variety of channels and the ideal connection lead to real life, real time human connections.

Networking was not a skill I learned at a young age. But networking is critical to success in corporate America. Once I discovered that promotions and coveted assignments often went to people less qualified than me, I realized that I needed to develop a new skill and learn how to flex the networking muscle. There weren’t Crossfit WODs to teach me how to network, I just took baby steps towards becoming more comfortable with it. It really helps that I honestly believe that everyone has an important story to tell with a lesson for me to learn. Some lessons are life-changing while others show me examples of who I do not want to become. And my daughter is an extrovert with a capital “E” so watching her curious and fearless nature with people provided me an excellent example.

But now when I attend a swanky work dinner or fundraiser, I set a goal to meet two or three new people. These people may be important connections for my company. Doing this under the guise of “it’s part of my job” has benefitted me both professionally and personally. When I was being considered for the promotion to Director of Diversity, my internal network was thin compared to the other candidate. However, I had
mentioned in passing to a few people in my network that I was up for a new position at work and thought they would wish luck, nothing more. To my surprise, letters of recommendation from presidents and CEOs of non-profits and thought-leading companies in Diversity filled my email in-box. That felt good. Reading their opinions and thoughts about who I am as a subject matter expert, diversity advocate and a professional provided a boost to my ego. I kept thinking how I knew I was the most qualified candidate for the position, what was the debate over? It came down to the other candidate’s internal network vs. my external network. My external network proved my credibility and knowledge base. Now, my external network leads to speaking engagements and invitations to join committees and nominations for external board of director roles. So having a week or two of back to back business trips is a part of my career.
Tonight is an awards dinner event by a diversity business consortium who recognizes financial services companies doing innovative and ground-breaking work in diversity. I look forward to seeing friends and gleaning ideas for how to continue
to advance the field of diversity. Tomorrow I’m providing diversity education for a group of our business partners who provide communications support to my company. Before I jump back on a plane, we will work on a new presentation that will set the tone for how our company sees the value and contributions of diversity and inclusion as we move all of our HQ locations to Plano, TX. In my mind, this presentation is mission critical to this transition and developing the culture and work environment for the company’s future.

So I need to buy shoes appropriate to wear during slush storms and a proper winter coat for these trips. But I love my career so very much that I will tolerate jet lag and wet feet to do it and travel LAX to JFK to LAX today and tomorrow.

This business travel marathon is sandwiched in between personal trips, as well. It started with Walker Stalker Con San Francisco #WSCSF, which was also my daughter’s 17th birthday. I will write about that next. So many feels about this past weekend, like a good introvert, I’m still processing all that happened.

“Who Cares if Daryl Dixon is Gay?” Isn’t Exactly What I Meant

As I mentioned earlier this week, I recently guest hosted on “The Walking Dead’Cast” podcast with Jason and Karen. We discussed Season Five, Episode 8, the midseason finale. One topic that came up, almost in passing, was the fact that Robert Kirkman announced that one of the most admired and fawned over characters is straight. That’s right, Kirkman definitely stated that the sexy crossbow wielding, hog-riding, emotionally brooding with super strong shoulders and a mysteriously gravely voice character, Daryl Dixon, is not gay. When I said, “Who Cares?” I meant, “thank goodness we can stop debating that fact.” What I meant was, “it wouldn’t upset me if he was gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, or any other category out there. I Iike the character un-shipped.” I don’t watch “The Walking Dead” for the romantic storyline possibilities. I am a fan because the show, at it’s core, is story of human drama and survival when all that is familiar in the world is gone.

In fact, I find it more interesting to leave Daryl Dixon’s sexual orientation in an ambiguous state. Daryl Dixon is clearly driven by caring about his group. He’s fiercely loyal to Rick, Carol, Carl, Michonne and the rest of the core group. And he’s wrestling with the horrible childhood experience of being abused, both physically and emotionally. I would rather see Daryl Dixon continue to grow and mature into emotional stability than to have the writers try to “ship” him on the show.

However, a fan wrote in and called out “who cares if Daryl Dixon is gay” and made me realized I should have stated why it matters if Daryl Dixon is gay on the podcast. I work in the field of Diversity and Inclusion to create space for people to bring their full selves to the workplace and for organizations to be brave enough to allow differences to be leveraged, respected and valued to bring innovation and creativity to businesses. So, thank you to the listener who gave me a swift kick in my ass and compelled me to leave my day job office and thumb-type this blog post.

Actually, if you consider how much Daryl Dixon’s character has grown, you will realize that HE knows “who cares”. Daryl is not a comic book character so the possibilities are endless with his development. Consider his redneck racist attitude when he was one of the Dixon Brothers in Season One. Daryl closed himself off emotionally to everyone except Merle. He also called Glenn “Chinese”. Glenn is Korean and he spat back that fact at Daryl. Season One Daryl didn’t give a crap about the details of what ethnicity anyone is, least of all this Korean American stranger, baseball hat wearing, ex pizza delivery guy named Glenn. Fast forward to Season Three, Episode Ten “Home”, when Daryl tries to convince Merle to join Rick’s group. Merle flatly states that he knows he won’t be welcome and says, “I can’t go with you! I tried to kill that black bitch. Damn near killed that Chinese kid.” Daryl replies, “He’s Korean.” Understanding that differences make a difference was a learning that Daryl Dixon had between Season One and Season Three of the show. I would bet good money that Daryl understands why it matters if Daryl Dixon is gay.

One of the hardest things to understand about diversity is that there is value in recognizing  differences. Different perspectives bring different thinking and can inspire new ideas and innovative breakthroughs. If we all think and look the same, what a boring existence that would be. And to complicate diversity even more, we have to realize one point of view is not superior to the other. Diversity and inclusion is about leaving space for both/and thinking and rejecting either/or polarization.

What does that have to do with Daryl Dixon being gay? For LGBT fans who watch “The Walking Dead” having one of the beloved main characters be openly gay and accepted by the rest of the main group would be a huge win. Seeing someone like you on TV leaves space for validation. So many people who are different feel shame because of their difference when the mainstream rejects or marginalized them. Why should a Gen X straight Asian American single mom working in Corporate America care if Daryl Dixon is gay? Because I started watching the show when I heard that the Korean American character on the show did not subscribe to typical stereotypes. I could see myself in one of the main characters on this show and now I’m a fan who podcasts and blogs about it. The same logic could follow with an LGBT viewer watching a gay Daryl Dixon kicking ass on the show. That’s why me saying “who cares if Daryl Dixon is gay!?” on the podcast was a lazy statement. Shame on me for not standing up and being an ally to the LGBT community. And thank you to the fan who wrote in to call us out.