Category Archives: Women

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

Back on Track #trainmean Discipline, Respect and Humility

So far, 2017 has rolled over me.  We have lost family members and friends in our personal lives.  That means memorial services, funerals and lots and lots of tears.  At times, I’ve had to be strong enough to hold my loved ones up.  Other times, I’ve cried into my pillow or sobbed in the parking lot at work to let it out.  We hosted family from out of state after being away for a week for SuperGrands and sandwiched in between the sorrow, I’ve had to travel for business so I can network for my future career.  2017 has been whirlwind of frenetic activity.
My intention was to start training for my next race back in November 2016.  I wanted to train for 12 weeks to work on my race pace.  My goal was achievable but challenging.  In my first half marathon back in 2012, I ran a 13 minute mile and finished the race in 3 hours.  Somehow that race wound up being 13.98 miles instead of 13.1 but whatever.  A 13 minute mile for a half marathon is my race pace when I don’t prepare and the weather conditions are mild, not too hot or cold.


My best time has been a 13.64 mile race at 12:21 miles/minute and a time of 2 hours 48 minutes.  That race was the 2015 Avengers Half Marathon, which I did in conjunction with the Captain America 10K.  The two races together were marketed by RunDisney as the “Infinity Gauntlet Challenge – a 10K early Saturday morning and a half marathon the next morning on Sunday.  I took that training really seriously because I was concerned about whether my body could handle that many miles over one weekend because #ihaterunning.  That training paid off:  my body was in very good shape, my stamina was excellent, and my confidence was very high.  The root of those positive results:  fit body, better stamina and higher self-confidence, are founded in core values for the dojo, two that we carry-over from Rabago Shorin Ryu:  Discipline and Respect.  I would like to add a third core value that I want to include for Togisala Shorin Ryu Dojo:  Humility.

This word “Discipline” is defined by Webster as:  “1.  Punishment 2. obsolete Instruction 3. A field of study 4. Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.”  In their Children’s Dictionary, “Discipline” is defined as “Strict training that corrects or strengthens mental ability or moral character.”  That defines what we want to teach in the dojo.  My training for half marathons fulfills the role of reinforcing the importance of my own discipline in training and conditioning my body.  Last year, I focused 50% of my energy on my day job, raising Kanoe, and being a good girlfriend; 35% of my energy on opening up the new studio; and 15% of my energy on my own training.  I would never approve of one our students only putting in 15% of their energy towards training and I had been very down on myself for that.  But life was filled with many barriers taking up my time after November.  December’s calendar listed business trips, a halau Christmas concert performance, the dojo Christmas party, and SuperGrands.  Honest reasons but not good excuses for being less than  disciplined on my training.

I already mentioned what January felt like for us.  And it all led to depression and health issues for us.  We are focusing on  getting his blood pressure under control and managing his blood sugars to get off of medication.  That takes discipline on both of our parts.  I need to ensure that we have healthy meals to eat and lots of opportunities for exercise and healthy distractions.  He must resist the temptation of sugary foods and drinks and the habit of mindless, late night snacking.  This discipline is critical to his health. Our lives are so intertwined because we live together and we share the responsibilities of running the dojo.  His health impacts my health and vice versa.

Our second core value for Togisala Shorin Ryu, “Respect” may sound simple.  The word is used every day in formal and casual conversations. However, the dictionary defines this word as a noun that means, “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” In addition, as a verb, the definitions reads as, “Admire (someone or something) deeply, as  result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”  What would that look like when one enters the dojo?  Students must bow before they walk onto the mat to train.  In addition, we bow to a photo of the late Sensei Rabago, who taught both Sensei Butch and me, of Rabago Shorin Ryu.  Before we start class to stretch and warm-up, we show respect by bowing to our Sensei and Sempai.  In addition, students must bow to one another while doing partner drills together.  If they are sparring, tapping gloves shows respect that each student will show good sportsmanship.  Winning is always celebrated with Respect.  Show-boating when winning is frowned upon.  Crying when losing is also not allowed.  We want to teach our students to Respect the lesson in each match or each drill.  Showing courtesy by using the words, “thank you” and “please” also builds Respect. Having such Respect starts with Discipline.  Many children start martial arts at such a young age that they don’t consciously understand these concepts but I trust that consistency and setting a good example will allow them to internalize these lessons.


But a more difficult value to teach and learn is the word, “Humility.”  I am going to spend more time processing this definition and tying it to our teaching at Togisala Shorin Ryu.  Look for a new blog post building on this one soon.  I need to go tend to our new puppy.  I want to name her “Kihon” (look up this Japanese word, if you don’t know what it means).


 

 

 

 

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. 

My #UrbanDecay Addiction #lipstick 

I grew up a total tomboy. All of my cousins who were close to my age were boys. We threw footballs and climbed trees and played “army” games as kids. All of this happened pre-Internet and pre-Xbox home gaming systems. My cousins and I would play outside all day, without supervision, until the street lights lit up. Grandma rarely had to come outside to find us but when she did, we knew someone was going to have a chinela thrown at their head or smacked on their okole. 

Because of all this activity, coupled with playing tennis as a young girl, sports became my hobby of choice. I even played little league baseball and AYSO soccer with the boys instead of softball and all girls soccer. Well, my hobbies became sports and reading. I didn’t know it was nerdy to like to read. I also didn’t realize that it was a bit of a contradiction to be a girl who loves sports as much as she loves reading Sci fi and fantasy books. 

As I grew up and the hormones kicked in, I developed an affection for make-up, especially red lipstick. The elusive perfect red lipstick!  In the 90s, the look was matte lips, especially in brick red or dark brown colors.  The MAC Cosmetics counter at Nordstrom became my favorite place to shop. Lipsticks with matching liners. 

Once I had my daughter, my priorities shifted from lipstick and clubbing to being a single mom. Luxuries like going out or buying make-up fell off of my list of “to do’s”. All I did was take care of her and work. My goal was to hussle and save enough money to buy a house for us in the very expensive LA market. Hussle led to work at a major automotive company, an opportunity to shape a new department that influences the culture of the company. I truly believe that I was put on the path to find my career in diversity. It met the intersection of providing a more than adequate salary and fulfilling my passion for helping good things become great. A few years after I purchased my house (with a bit of help from my parents) and a couple of major promotions at work, I had disposable income to go back to buying lipstick. 

Enter Urban Decay. This brand had intimidated me because it seemed so rock n roll and alternative. My mindset had became conservative because of my career goals. No one at work knew that I had eight piercings and one tattoo. I dressed in suits with pantyhose and kept my make-up minimal and Bobbi Brown neutrals. But friends of mine praised this brand for their long lasting pigments and staying power. 

The first Urban Decay Revol lipstick I purchased was “Manic”. The description of this color was a soft wine but I thought it was more of a rich plum with some red blended in for depth. I wore it every day for a couple of weeks, and it lasted through both a long day of work and two hour sweat fest on the dojo floor. I was hooked. 


The hunt for the perfect red lipstick began in the summer of 2015. I own the following Urban Decay reds:

Revolutions Lip liners: 69, Catfight, Mrs Mia Wallace, Rush, Rock Steady, 

Lipstick Revolution: 69, Catfight, Mrs Mia Wallace, Rock Steady (Gwen Stefani’s collection)

Lipstick Sheer Revolution:  F-Bomb

Lipstick Matte Revolution: Bad Blood and Mrs Mia Wallace 

Now my collection includes every Urban Decay Revolution formula:  sheer, matte, and the standard Revolution plus a few Revolution lipglosses .  

My collection has grown to this: 


Revolution lipsticks have incredible pigmentation. The color stays true on my lips but I’ve noticed that the natural pink/tawny tint of the melanin in my lips changes the color of the lipsticks on me. 


Sorry the swatches are a bit smudged, I was just playing around one night and started looking at all of my lipsticks. When I realized how many I had accumulated over about a five month period, I decided I should blog about it. 

Here are my Sheer Revolution swatches: 


And the Revolution lipglosses:


I didn’t get these arms from applying lipgloss all the time. But I sure do enjoy flexing my arms as I apply my Urban Decay lipstick. 

* This blog post is to share my personal opinions on this product as a consumer. I wrote this to alleviate some guilt from spending so much cash on make-up. I still feel like spending money on luxury items for myself is bad, even though I deserve to treat myself once in awhile. That’s the mindset of a single working mom shining through. 

When Hormones are Not Your Friend. Too much business travel and not enough sleep makes Pi’i UnhapPi’i. 


Six Weeks of Travel = An Increase in Cortisol, a hormone that is not your friend when eating clean and living healthy is a goal. 

Business travel is a privilege, not a burden. At least, that’s what I recite to myself when I my alarm goes off at 4:00am prompting me to stagger out the door, tumble into a cab (“no money, no honey”) and ride to LAX. I wrote those words to close out one of my last blog postings, 98 days ago. About a month ago, I wrote about receiving a box of costumes and a gi from Sensei Richard Rabago. The four year anniversary of his passing away is next week Tuesday. My body has crossed so many time zones and my heart has felt so many different emotions over these last several weeks that I can’t even think straight or process what I am feeling today.

At the beginning of 2016, I felt very healthy and stopped taking the blood pressure meds that my doctor has prescribed because of all the stress I took on with my job in 2015. My mindset had shifted to helping the company become positioned for a successful move instead of worrying about my personal career choice regarding Texas.  

I had completed a personal fitness challenge to do a 10K and half marathon back to back in one weekend, which resulted in a personal best time for a half marathon. 


One month after that, I passed my 2nd Kyu belt test in the dojo and began taking a more active role in teaching. All of that felt good and felt right. 


 And even though Uncle Randy’s health was up and down at the time, we were attending halau on a regular basis and that is also pono.

Today, in May, I feel unhealthy and off balance. Side effects that I am experiencing, lack of sleep and lack of exercise and a poor diet equal a few extra pounds have snuck onto my frame. All of my training for the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge resulted in a lean, fit physique and now, I’ve got a bit of fluff to shake off again. When I am diligent about eating clean, I have a much easier time sleeping. If one is not sleeping well, it creates a viscous cycle as the stress hormone cortisol builds up. Cortisol creates a “fight or flight” state within the body and increases one’s appetite. And, exhaustion means less motivation to exercise and less will power to eat clean. It also adds and more of a propensity to use sleeping pills or red wine to help with winding down before bedtime. Couple that with working in different time zones and not having easy access to clean, fresh snacks and BOOM! My okole grows once again. 

This cortisol rush all started when my Uncle/Godfather passed away unexpectedly. He went into the hospital experiencing pain, was prepped for emergency surgery and didn’t survive. My own heart broke and when I thought about what my cousins must have been feeling, it shattered into even smaller pieces. Talking to my mom was hard because I didn’t want her to worry about my tears, as she felt truly devastated. Uncle Ray was her little brother, the jokester who always filled the room with laughter. And he was my Godfather, which added to our relationship. I love his children like my own siblings, growing up with them shaped my entire childhood. After the funeral, my life would move in and out of suitcase for a month and half.
Sandwiched in between mundane and necessary trips to meetings in our office in Plano, I’ve ventured out to Oklahoma to play pai gow. And my Ninja Bear ran his first 5K as a birthday present to me in San Diego where we squeezed in a trip to the local casino before rushing off to a tiny karate tournament. 

The big highlight for this trip was seeing President Barack Obama as the keynote speaker at the APAICS Awards Gala dinner in Washington, D.C. Never mind that my company received a corporate award that evening, seeing POTUS speak live and in person, only 25 yards in front of me, that was a truly a once in a lifetime experience. He has been the President for my people. He built a diverse cabinet and pushed forward programs to help underserved communities. Now, he fights for immigration reform and true inclusion of the LGBT community.

Here is how he greeted the black tie crowd:

President Barack Obama is my president. He and his wife keep it real by singing and dancing (he cannot dance in his mom jeans) and living life as a happily married couple who love their children. 

POTUS was funny, direct and personable in a Presidential but I can still kick with you kind of way. 

I am in Week five of six straight weeks of business travel. My enthusiasm for work is waning. The announcement about my company moving to Texas happened two years ago. They made the announcement to all employees on April 28, 2014. Not the best way to celebrate a Birthday Eve. Anyway, a few of my work friends have retired, more of them have left the company and a couple of handfuls have already packed up their lives and moved to the Lone Star State. The office environment feels simultaneously tense and empty. Some of my colleagues are still agonizing over whether or not to move. I’m hearing that many people are asking my teammates if I am moving. I assume that people are asking behind my back they want my job, not because they care about me. And why wouldn’t they? I work in a fantastic position – direct communication to the senior most level of the company, decision making power on which non-profit organizations to sponsor, and I have responsibility to create an environment where all people have a voice and can thrive at work. 

After next week, we need to make some decisions about the dojo. Shortly after that, my Ninja Bear goes to court to move closer to finalizing his divorce. And I hope to sleep for more than 8 hours at a stretch. Clean eating and moving more will commence shortly thereafter. 

 

Belt Testing with Our Martial Arts Ohana

Pre-rank test photo on December 6, 2015

  
Togisala Shorin Ryu had an awesome day for our belt promotions on December 6, 2015. I’m so proud of Team Togisala! My fellow students all showed so much heart and dedication. Sensei Butch pushed everyone very hard during the rank test but I know we made him proud. Oss!
Personally, I wanted to send an extra big Mahalo Nui Loa/Domo Arigato to our esteemed black belt panel. There were a total of twelve black belts on the review panel. We had a wide variety of martial arts styles represented, world champions, esteemed expert teachers, and, to my delight, three women. When I starters training, there was only one Black Belt who was a woman that taught us on a consistent basis. To have three women sitting on the panel, made me feel honored and humbled that day. I wanted to kick ass on my test and earn my rank. 

But there were also Sensei on the panel who studied with Sensei Rabago. I felt a bit worried that my performance wouldn’t live up to Rabago Shorin Ryu standards. That was just my own insecurity and abnormally high performance standards. If one of them mentioned Sensei Rabago, I would have cried. At my core, I am a sentimental sap. 

Another lesson from my training is that as an individual, I have power and control over my life if I stay focused and disciplined. In 2003, Sensei Rabago brought in boards for some of the students. The physical part of breaking boards isn’t difficult, what usually holds students back is over thinking it. The idea of breaking a solid board seems intimidating and perhaps challenging. In fact, all one needs to do is focus the power of the strike past the board. 

  
When I asked why we didn’t break boards more often, Sensei Rabago said that boards don’t hit back. I giggled. 

All of these lessons stay with me. And even though I don’t train to spar anymore, I use the ideas and principles of being disciplined and focused to spar during my belt test.  Despite being physically tired, I knew that the fighting wouldn’t last multiple rounds like a UFC match. My experience has taught me that sparring during a belt test is more about heart than strength. I’m confident in my heart and passion for training.  What I didn’t expect was to fight a brown belt from another dojo. Check it out below:  

  

 I wound up with some gorgeous bruises. 

The best part of this test was having my little dojo brothers and sisters give me high fives after I sparred. 

Mahalo nui loa, @KwabenaFoli I am a Healer 

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

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

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

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

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

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