Blessings, Life is Weird, Writing

The One where I’m in La-La Land

I’ve been in LA for 2 days and I can’t get over how warm it is in February. Why does anyone live on the East Coast?? I’m here for a few weeks, trying to pitch Maybe Baby, a screenplay I finally finished after starting and stopping it no less than a dozen times. I’m also here to start a new project with Daniel. I’ve never written with anyone before, and I don’t think he has, so this should be a blast. We’ll be working on the pilot for a sitcom and depending on how we do we’ll probably start to pitch that as well while I’m here.

So far, I have to say that being here has been rather surreal. Got my first Hollywood wrap party under my belt. Had pictures taken on the red carpet, was interviewed by TMZ, and hung out with Andy Dick. My life suddenly got very weird… It’s now after 1 in the morning, still 60 degrees out, and I am turning in for the night. Tomorrow the work begins. #LovingLA

Blessings, Deep Thoughts, Favorites, Life with Kids

This Kid Though…

When my house is noisy, I relax a little. Noise means I can pinpoint my son’s location at any given time and I can check in on him to see what he’s up to. Silence is scary. Silence means he’s up to something. Earlier today there was an unnerving lack of noise coming from his playroom, his last known whereabouts. I walked into his room and happened upon this scene:


Me: Jack, what are you doing?

Jack: (Without even opening his eyes) Meditating.

Me: Why?

Jack: ’cause I want to see what my future looks like.

Me: I, wha–, um, ok. Carry on.

Jack: Ommmmmm.

Blessings, Life with Kids

A Day in the Life

My 7-year-old has developed in interest in cooking lately. I think it’s great, especially since it’s not a particular skill I have, though my husband is quite adept at it. So Jack has taken to watching youtube videos on how to prepare different dishes. It’s kind of amusing watching him flip from a Scooby Doo video to a cooking show, really. So last night he got serious about it. He watched a video (repeatedly) on preparing some potato and cheese dish that he wanted to try out. Next thing I know I come into the kitchen to find him with his apron on, the video playing on his Ipad on the counter, and a pot of water filled with water sitting on the stove (which, since we’ve instilled in him NEVER to use the stove without an adult present, was not on). He had taken two potatoes from the bag and place them on the counter, along with other ingredients the recipe calls for (salt, pepper, cheese, etc.), and all the appropriate measuring cups and spoons. I was a little horrified to come upon this scene, but mostly really impressed that he pretty much got everything right.
A discussion ensued about cooking abilities. Jack informed us that he likes our neighbor’s lasagna better than Aaron’s because Aaron uses too much sauce and not enough cheese, whereas Alissa uses the perfect amount of cheese. To which Aaron replied, “You rarely even eat lasagna, how would you even know what’s good?”
Jack, to his credit (and my utter amusement), shot back with: “Hey, I’m not Garfield. Lasagna is fattening!”
garfield lasagne 1 copy1
Touche, my son. Touche.
Still, as lasagna happens to be among my favorite meals, fattening or not, maybe I can get him to give that a shot next time.
Oh, and with proper supervision, Jack cooked the potato and cheese dish and we all enjoyed it thoroughly!
Blessings, Favorites, Life with Kids

The One with the Bargaining

We’ve come to the stage in my son Jack’s development where he’s learning how to bargain.

“Have I got a deal for you!”

Oh, boy. My kid is going to be a used car salesman. Or a game show host.

Jack: Since I skinned me knee today, can I stay up an hour later?

Me: No, Jack, it’s already 10:00. Go back up to bed.

Jack: Mom, mom, just let me say this: I’ll give you ALL my cash if you let me stay up later.

Me: No, Jack.

Jack: Mom, ALL my cash.

Me: No, Jack.

Jack: Okay, if you don’t want a dollar ninety…you’d be riiiiccchhh.

Me: Goodnight, Jack.

Since I’m almost 8, can I…

Since I’m about to give you the biggest hug ever, can I…

Since I…

I’ve become quick enough where I can usually stop him before he even gets the whole question out.

No, Jack, you may not have ice cream for dinner.

No, Jack, you may not wear slippers to school.

No, Jack, you may not put duct tape on the dog.

No, Jack, you may not stay up an extra hour to see if Jon makes Garfield a birthday lasagna.

My favorite is, Mom, since I’m your only son and you love me to the moon and back, can I…

While both these statements are true, no you may not…

The stakes are getting higher with my boy. He recently earned his orange belt in karate, and since he did he wants to go to Hong Kong to meet Jackie Chan. And he wants to go Saturday.

jack orange belt1 - Copy copy

Blessings, Deep Thoughts, Teachable Moments

In Which I Return and Talk More about Karate

Wow. It’s been a wicked long time since I’ve posted here. Sorry ’bout that. Been busy. Life got in the way, as it tends to do. Some of you know by now that I’ve been very preoccupied with a new writing project (which you can read about here), so my attention to this blog has been lacking at best.

Anyway, this is going to be a short one, but today I wanted to write about one of the last things I wrote about on this blog: martial arts. AND, you guys, this is so cool: I recently purchased a Wacom Bamboo tablet and though my artistic abilities are, um, nonexistent, this thing lets me create illustrations to go along with my posts. Illustrations! So accompanying today’s post will be the first of my experimental illustrations. Cool, right?

Ahem. So, martial arts. Readers of this blog know of my deep love for martial arts that dates back to my early childhood. (Click here if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Go ahead. I’ll wait.) I walked into my first dojo when I was 11. Over the years, I’ve gone to a variety of schools and studied a number of different styles. My latest foray into the Arts came in April 2011, when my husband, my son, and I all joined American Cadre Karate. Again, if you’re familiar with this blog you know that I have a history of finding my way into or back to the Arts after particularly traumatic or otherwise life-changing events in my life. It’s like the universe is somehow handing me something to hold onto during tough times, and it has always, always managed to ground me in a way that nothing else can.

Finding American Cadre was no different. We started in April 2011, just four months after the death of my best friend, Paul. (You can read more about that here.) Paul’s death left me broken in ways I can’t even describe. It was a brokenness, a sadness, I internalized because I didn’t know what else to do with it. When I joined American Cadre it gave me an outlet. Eventually, of course, I was able to take my sadness and grief and turn it into something positive and productive, but studying at Cadre filled a void for me that I desperately needed. It got me out of the house and doing something physical, but it also filled an emotional void. It once again ignited a passion for the Arts in me that I had been missing since I’d last studied more than a decade earlier.

Through the years I’ve had some decent karate teachers, but I’ve only ever had two great ones: Bob Beatrice, at South Shore Academy of Martial Arts, and Shihan Scott Fuoco, at American Cadre. And by extension, the other Cadre owners and teachers I’ve had the privilege of working with–Shihans Dana, Reesie, and Kevin, and Sensei Marco–have also played a pivotal role in my life as a Martial Artist now. These men and women have all taught me by example what it is to live the Martial Way, and for that I am more grateful than words can convey. Shihan Scott has an uncanny ability to know exactly what kind of workout I need, and he never fails to deliver. And like Bob Beatrice, he pushes me in a way that instills a confidence that I not only need, but one that I thrive on.

Over the next 2 years I studied at Cadre, I grew physically and emotionally and I was blessed to take the journey with my husband and my son. The people at our dojo became our friends, and eventually an extension of our family. And for me, the dojo itself became something of a safe haven. I had the keys to the dojo. That’s not a metaphor, like “I had the keys to the kingdom”; I actually had the keys to the building itself, so I could go work out when ever the spirit moved me.  The dojo was a safe place for me to go if I needed to get out of my head. I’d blare the music and work the bags or do kata and just lose myself in it. As much as I loved my time in the dojo with my fellow Martial Artists, I also cherished those times when I could be alone in the dojo and just escape the outside world.

So you can imagine my distress when, in April of this year, because of reasons, the dojo closed its doors. We were told that it was just a closing of the physical space and that the school would in fact be relocating in early summer over at the RAC (the local gym). Oh boy. I’ve been here before. I’ve been part of a dojo that relocated from its own space to a gym or some other already established place and I knew full well that the dynamic was necessarily going to change. I’m not good with change on my best day, so this hit me hard. To me it felt like a loss, one in a long line of losses over the past couple of years, and it shook me to my core.

Two months of not working out left me physically sloth-like and emotionally drained. But happily, June 1 arrived, and the dojo did indeed reopen as promised at its new location. Things are different; it’s no longer American Cadre, but rather Raynham Martial Arts. That’s a little sad to me, because I had come to have great respect for the other owners whom I may now never get to work with again. But Shihan Scott and Sensei Jon have helped guide us fairly seamlessly into our new reality, and I am deliriously happy to be working out again.

Getting back into a routine was not easy, especially since I spent the 2 months of our dojo limbo in a state of near-constant inertia. Alas, once I got moving, I felt awesome. And now, for your viewing pleasure, I present an illustration of how working out makes me feel. Enjoy.


(click pic to embiggen)

Deep Thoughts, Teachable Moments

9/11: We Remember

As we stop to reflect on the anniversary of the attacks on America, it is obvious that the world is as scary a place today as it was on that day 11 years ago when life changed forever. Everything these days is measured by 9/11. Events happened pre- or post-9/11. We are certainly not as innocent as we were before that day. That innocence, that naiveté, went up with the smoke that rose as the buildings were brought down by so much hatred and intolerance. While we are not the same people that we were back then, changed by the images of death that haunt us still, changed by the voices of the unfortunate souls whose only mistake on that day was being American, we have, I believe, lost some memory of the horror. Some would say that’s a positive thing, a necessary means to going on with our lives; others would say that’s a negative thing, a step that ensures a repeat of the horror as we let our collective guards down.

That day still lives with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think, in some way, of the souls that were lost that day, or of the insanity that ended so many lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t fear something awful is about to happen to us, to Americans, yes, but more importantly to mankind. How many deaths, in how many nations, under the guise of how much nonsense, must happen before we burn ourselves out? Before we lose the essence of our humanity, and once and for all become something less than human. No God justifies this kind of hatred. My God, your God, is weeping these days, as he opens his arms to more casualties of our intolerance. How did we get here? And is there any going back?

America watched in horror that bleak Tuesday as it was cruelly and cowardly attacked by an enemy who lurks in the shadows. Over the days that followed I struggled with the reality of what had just happened to our country. I watched or listened to the news greedily, trying to understand. I continued to work, I kept in touch with my colleagues in New York, and I did what I imagine many people did those first days after the unspeakable tragedy: I cried and I prayed.

What I noticed over those first few days was how deeply everyone was affected by the attack on our nation. People were numb and nobody wanted to be alone. I noticed that people were going slower in the days that followed. No one seemed to be in such a rush anymore. Perhaps we were all looking around a little harder and starting to understand how precious life really is. Or perhaps we simply forgot how to function normally after witnessing the worst kind of evil on our own soil.

I noticed, too, that people became more willing to touch, to weep, and to get close to their fellow human beings. Personal space just didn’t seem important. I watched as perfect strangers became perfect friends.

It doesn’t matter who you are in America. Every soul in this country was touched by this unspeakable tragedy. Whether or not we were directly affected, we were all touched. We had for so long been insulated from this type of evil. We have an ocean on either side of us that had generally protected us from this type of terror. These unspeakable acts happen in other places. Now it’s been brought to our shores. It’s come into our home. How can we ever feel safe again?

Ground Zero, New York became a war zone. The skyline was devastated almost beyond recognition. There was a palpable absence where the mighty Twin Towers once stood and a grief-laden silence hung in the air and traveled through the ether to touch every corner of our world.

There are reasons to be incensed at our government’s actions in dealing with rogue regimes. But none of that matters right now. Our government has never been perfect. But the one thing those cowardly terrorists didn’t count on was the fact that while we’ve long felt free and easy about the world in which we live, and while we may have become a bit too complacent, when you attack Americans we fight like cornered animals. What they don’t understand is that we don’t live in America, America lives in us. The American Spirit and American Resolve are mighty and powerful, and when you incur our wrath the fabric of our society is not torn, but rather made stronger.

The pulse of the country was weakened that horrible day. It became faint even as we held our collective breath in anticipation of more violence. But it remained detectable and rebounded stronger than ever. The heart of America makes it so.

Let us not forget.

Totally Random

Small Town Crime

I love living in a small town. The following are recent excerpts from my town’s police blotter:

Wednesday, June 27, 2:11 a.m.–Suspicious activity reported at Raynham Park. Officer responded. Parties clamied to be looking for Big Foot. Sent on their way.

Tuesday, July 3, 5:45 p.m.–Suspicious activity on Nicholas Road reported: a neighbor’s mailbox was wide opened and filled with peanuts.

Heh. Open my front door and you can practically hear Opie whistling the Andy Griffith theme on the way to his favorite fishin’ hole.

Blessings, Life with Kids

My Son Is a Jedi

From a recent conversation with my son during the nightly struggle to get him into bed at a reasonable hour:

Jack: Mommy, can I watch my white computer in bed? (His portable DVD player.)

Me: No, Jack. If you want to watch a movie in bed, you need to go to bed earlier so you can have lights out at your usual time.

Jack: But it will help me sleep.

Me: No it won’t. I only let you have it last week because you had a bad cough and I figured it would distract you.

Pause. With the dramatic flare and conviction of a 6-year-old: {cough}{cough}{choke}{hack}{cough}

Me: Jack, you do not have a cough.

Jack: But it will help me sleeeeeeppppp!

Me: Did you ask Daddy?

Jack: No.

Me: Uh-huh.

Jack: Really. I didn’t.

Me: Oh, I believe you. Why then did you ask me? Because I’m a pushover?

Jack: [Batting those long eyelashes over his baby blues] No, ’cause you’re the boss.

Ah, yes. The Force is strong in this one.

Favorites, Teachable Moments, Totally Random

The One with The Book

I recently finished reading a book that was recommended by friend called “Many Lives, Many Masters,” by Dr. Brian Weiss. I devoured the book. And by devoured I mean I purchased it just before 6:00 one night, started reading around 10:00, and after a few interruptions to take the dogs out, make tea, check on my sleeping son, and answer nature’s call (after several cups of tea), I read the last page about 5 hours later.

First let me just say that I love when people recommend books to me. Love it. If someone takes the time to mention a certain book, it means it had some kind of effect on them, and that’s all the information I need to give it a try. So, thank you, Mat, for suggesting the book in the first place.

When Mat told me about the book, I searched Amazon to see if there was a Kindle format I could download instantly. It took me a long time to embrace the Kindle. I like holding a book in my hand, the physical act of turning pages, and having the ability to underline passages and take notes in the margins (which, by the way, is why I’m totally banned from borrowing library books in my hometown). I finally got one for Christmas and I have to say, I love it. I carry it everywhere because it’s a lot easier to load into my purse than a 300-page hardcover. And, admittedly, it does enable me to electronically highlight passages and make notes, so that’s cool. But it has had the negative consequence of chipping away at my patience when I want a book instantly (or at ridiculous hours of the night when the bookstores are closed and I suddenly get the urge to read something RIGHT NOW) and it’s not available to download. Such was the case with “Many Lives, Many Masters.” But, as usual, that’s the universe telling me to stop being an asshat and take a breath. So not being able to download it gave me the opportunity to take my son to a brick and mortar bookstore and spend a leisurely Sunday afternoon browsing the titles. He chose a Disney bedtime stories book, and I came away with the Weiss book.

The book is Weiss’ story of how he reluctantly partook in past-life hypnotherapy with a young patient and how, ultimately, he came to discover some pretty powerful insights. The crux of it was thus: Our bodies live one life, but our souls live many lives. Each reality our souls take on is purposeful and has a far deeper meaning than we as humans can comprehend. There are lessons we need to learn in each incarnation, and our present existence is meant to lift our souls to a higher plane.

Several things struck me. First, his belief that as souls we choose our next life and everything that happens in it. At first I was sickened by the thought. Why, for instance, would anyone choose to be abused, raped, abandoned, murdered? Why would they choose to be addicts or to be infected with any number of diseases? It makes no sense. But the deeper meaning is that we choose such hardship in human form to enlighten our souls and to help others in some way. I’m still leery about that one, but if I can strip the human emotion and pain from it, it makes sense on some level. Second, that souls tend to reincarnate in clusters, and so the people you’re closest to in this life, or those with whom you share some bond, are likely those with whom you’ve traveled (proverbially speaking) before. That one I could wrap my head around a little better.

Not usually my cup of tea, but I have to say I was quite drawn in by it. I give it two thumbs up, for what it’s worth. Actually the book reminded me a lot of Arthur Rimbaud’s work…only far less dark. I didn’t so much want to stab myself in the neck with a sewing needle after reading Weiss. Such is often the case after sitting with Rimbaud’s words for any length of time.

Anyway. The book was amazing on so many levels. I was at once fascinated and disturbed by Weiss’ words. Parts of it felt like a warm embrace; other passages made my blood run cold. But my appetite for a deeper understanding is voracious to be sure.

Oh, um, full disclosure: In addition to finishing “Many Lives, Many Masters”, I also started a book called “My Best Friend Is a Wookie,” a memoir by a guy who became obsessed with the Star Wars movies at age 7 and whose main objective at that tender age was to become a Jedi Knight. Hi, my name is Michelle, and I, too, was a charter member of the Star Wars fan club. (I had a membership card and everything.) I strove to procure The Force, which I was so sure could protect me from the evils of the world. Plus? I really wanted a lightsaber and to hang out in the swamps of Dagobah with Yoda, just lifting shit up with my mind all day. So, yeah, I’m enlightened enough to have been captivated by Weiss’ work, but I’m also a fangirl geek at heart. Just wanted to put that out there, lest you mistake me for highly evolved. Heh.

Blessings, Deep Thoughts, Teachable Moments

The One with All the Karate

I live in a subdivision called Whippoorwill Estates.  It’s a great neighborhood, full of young families. I love that I’m able to raise my son here. Nothing gives me greater joy than looking out my office window onto the front yard, watching my son and his friends play wiffle ball, their laughter echoing along the quiet streets of our neighborhood.

If I had one complaint about living in this neighborhood, it is thus: My neighbors are ridiculously obsessed with fitness. Obsessed. There’s a bit of a Stepford quality to the neighborhood, really. I’d be offering a conservative estimate if I said 90% of my neighbors belong to the RAC, our local gym. And it’s not at all unusual to see any number of them power walking through the neighborhood in their spandex shorts and tankini tops, iPods secured to their hips, Asics sneakers all shiny and white, staring intently ahead, exhaling loudly as they pound the pavement, pedometers counting each step taken, each calorie burned. Being the polite neighbor I am, I will always give a smile and a wave as I sit by the pool, hoisting whatever the frozen adult beverage of the day is. I offer a hearty greeting as they chug past me. I’m all, “Heeeeeeyyyyy, nice day for a run.” And they’re all, Run, Stare, Grunt, Repeat.

Actually, not much of that is true. First, I never rarely tip my elbow during the daylight hours. Second, my neighbors, while most are in pretty remarkable shape and do belong to the local gym, are not the asshats I just described. It makes for a far better anecdote, but really I have the coolest neighbors ever. And honestly? Living here has inspired me to loosen my grip on indolence and embrace movement once again.

The thing about me is this: I’m 39 years old. I have a 5-year-old son. Most of my exercise these days comes in the form of chasing my very active child around during the day. And really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, I’ve become dissatisfied with my quasi-sedentary lifestyle. I really do need to get back into some kind of routine. Power-walking around my neighborhood probably not gonna happen though…

I wasn’t always so prone to inertia. I’ve always been quite active. I’ve played various sports, love to ride my bike, enjoy swimming and skating. But the one thing I truly developed a passion for was martial arts. I started studying martial arts when I was a kid. I was 11 when I walked into my first dojo. Over the next few years I went to a few different schools and learned a couple of different styles. I had several surgeries over the years that interrupted my training, but I always went back to it with renewed vigor and intensity.

I never really found the perfect place for me until 3 days after my 23rd birthday when I walked into South Shore Academy of Martial Arts (SSMA). By this time I had really become interested in the philosophy behind it all, but most of the instructors I’d had never really touched on that. Bob Beatrice was the owner of SSMA. I talked with him for a few minutes before I sat to observe a class. He explained that he taught an eclectic mix of arts, but the main style was Uechi Ryu, an Okinawan karate. I’d never heard of it, but as I sat to watch the class I fell in love with the balance between the fluidity and the rigidity. It was a perfect mix of yin and yang. I signed up that day. For the next several years I was at the dojo 5 or 6 days a week. I rose quickly through the ranks and I started teaching kids classes. I loved everything about it. I loved being more confident in my ability to at least protect myself against an attack, but it was more than that. I loved being in the gi (karate uniform). I loved being in bare feet (I’d never wear shoes if I could get away with it). I loved controlling my breathing and my movements. I loved kata, which were so graceful and fluid, but perfectly functional. And I loved sparring. Bob Beatrice was a hard ass. He never let me (or anyone else) get away with anything. He inspired a confidence in his students that defied explanation. If there was anything we claimed we couldn’t do, he’d kick our ass until we did it 50 times in a row.

Eventually I had to stop training with Bob. A career opportunity arose that took me out of state and I was no longer able to continue training at the place and with the person that had changed my life forever. I will always be thankful for what I learned during my time with Bob.

A (not so) brief (not so) non sequitur:

Friday night, hot and muggy in the training hall and there we were: just another workout, any typical sparring situation. We were all lined up according to belt order and the way it worked out, I had a little time to warm up. I could stretch and bounce around somewhat. I didn’t have too much trouble keeping clear of the lower belts’ feints and kicks. It felt good. There was a clean sort of breathlessness in enjoying the give and take of it, the searching, the easy routine of the blocking and the counter-attacks. I was pleasantly fatigued and confident by the time when, in the rotation, I found myself paired with Tony.

Tony had been my regular sparring partner for about 3 years. He and I worked well together and never cut one another slack. We had tested together and always challenged each other to bring our best to the table. It was never an easy workout with him, but it was always an honest one. I felt safe on the floor with him, confident that while we go full contact, he is skilled enough not to hurt me. He had that same confidence in me. A year after I started sparring with Tony, I had a sparring accident with my instructor that left me with a fracture over my left eye and a broken collar bone. It was a freak accident, and completely my fault for panicking in the middle of a routine move. If not for Tony, I may never have sparred again. I came back to class 2 days after it happened because I didn’t want to psych myself out of something I loved so much, but I had a much harder time putting the sparring gloves back on. Tony’s patience helped me over that particular hurdle.

We squared off and bowed to each other, touching gloves to signal our readiness to begin. My being the lower rank dictates the roles we play. I’m supposed to lead the attack against the higher rank. So I moved in, back straight, reaching out with exploratory little feints, hoping to draw him out to exposing himself to a real attack. I guess we were both feeling good that day. We moved faster and faster together, our arms flashing and smacking agreeably into each other in the air, our legs pistoning out into kicks we guided away from ourselves, torquing our torsos deeply, looking for a way to slip inside each other’s guards.

It’s a hell of a lot of fun, you know. Despite this – and I don’t care who you are – if you go long enough it really does tear into your endurance. Your movements become more deliberate as your wind erodes, and you have to put everything into your decisions. It’s the envelope again, it’s raising your limbs when you really don’t think you can anymore. It’s finding a reason to go on.

I don’t remember how it happened, but we finally ended up in a situation where I’d just finished trying something, some combination or other, and I was looking at him to see what he would do. Tony came at me then, sliding in low and smooth and utterly fast, faster than I knew how to handle, too fast for me to do anything other than watch him come at me with that side kick of his that slips out to the side and hooks in at the last moment. It did its thing, unwinding like a crafty tight curve ball and I watched it disappear beneath my guard into my side and I just bent over involuntarily, folding up like a piece of heavy machinery done with its job. I stood outside of myself and observed my body falling, and there was nothing I could do about it. I simply watched as the wind left my lungs with a surprised Unnnngggghhh and felt the floor slam into my knees as I hit the ground.

I have to say, it was interesting. The pain didn’t seep in until just after. And it never went away. It was a sharp pain, complaining in my ribs when I breathed or tried to rise from a reclining position.

I’m telling this story because there are things that slip in and surprise you, and later, you think about whether you really should have been taken by surprise. And sometimes you can even watch these things as they happen. Is it useful to remember them? Is it useful to recall the failure and the loss? Is there any point in turning those memories over in your mind? Is there something useful in reliving how you’ve been hurt, even (or especially) those times you did it to yourself?

The easy answers are either “yes” or “no.” But if I refer back to my personal philosophy of thesis and antithesis yielding a more realistic synthesis, I can see that the answer lies somewhere in between. It depends.

The irony of the timing of my previous journeys into the world of martial arts is not lost on me: Both times I started studying martial arts occurred after I had been physically attacked. At 11, when I walked into my first dojo, creepy neighbor guy had by then already stopped doing creepy things to me. At 23, when I first walked into the dojo that would spark my true passion for martial arts, I had already sustained a vicious sexual assault that would leave emotional scars far deeper than the physical ones I endured. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t believe that had I timed things better I could have avoided the fate that awaited me regarding these experiences. No matter the training, at 8 years old it’s unlikely I could have defended myself against creepy neighbor guy and his unfortunate pedophilic tendencies. And even a decade later, I’m not sure all the training in the world could have defended me against the men who held me down in that squalid basement apartment that night.

No, I don’t think martial arts could have saved me from those things. But what studying and training has given me is a confidence in myself that I’m not sure I would otherwise have. It’s given me solid ground, peace, and contentment. Not to mention the ability to look my neighbors in the eye as they jog past my house on their way to whatever marathon they’re running this week. Heh.

I’ll try to pull this thing together with a timeline: I recently started training again. My husband and I, along with our son, Jack, joined American Cadre Karate several months ago, and once again this journey has changed my life for the better. Physically, of course, I have already begun to feel the effects. My wind and endurance have increased. I feel better physically than I have in a long time. I feel stronger, more confident, more focused. Shihan Scott and Sensei Marco train us hard, and I’m blessed to be able to share this passion with my husband, and especially with  my son.

The training is difficult…physically, to be sure, but also emotionally at times. There was a time when we first started training at American Cadre that one of the instructors came at me quickly and got me in a front choke hold, expecting I would use the technique he had just shown me to extricate myself. I had a moment of panic as a flashback hit me hard and I forgot for a moment where I was. The memory was sharp in my chest, rising, and when I thought about it there was no surprise in the thing at all. But I got through it, and I’m stronger for it. I know I’m safe in the dojo. And I’m so thankful that at this point in my life I’ve found teachers who once again inspire me and stir my passion for an art that I love so much.

Aaron and I tested for our yellow belts last week. Physically it was the most challenging test I’ve ever taken. But that just makes me more grateful. There’s no better feeling in the world than earning that belt, I mean really earning it. I thank Shihan and Sensei after every class. I thank them for pushing us, for challenging us, for teaching us. My gratitude runs deep.

And thanks to my newfound zeal for working out, I’m starting to sag less in all the right places. So I’m pretty thankful for that as well!