Spring Cleaning

March 25, 2017 by Rieshy

Each spring I want to rent a humongous, ridiculous, turbo powered leaf blower; open the front and back doors of my house and blow the entire contents of my dusty wintery home to the curb.

I also wish I could do that with my brain.  There are so many things I want to learn, so many goals that I set for myself.  Taken singly each are awesome and accomplishable.  Accomplishable is probably not really a word but that's o.k. because when lumped together and attempted in a jumble my goals are not accomplishable anyway.

Mental spring cleaning.  Physical spring cleaning.  Probably shouldn't attempt the two at the same time; I might find my own body lying by the curb.


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From The Dragons

March 4, 2017 by Rieshy

No Sarcasm, Just Logic.

While pointing at his knee, my sensei carefully demonstrated a neatly chambered and recoiled front kick for a weyr of awed Little Dragons. He then asked them what was really important in order to do the kick correctly.

Their hands shot into the air; bellies thrust out and excitement blazing.  The boy called upon to answer, proudly shouted his knowledge for the rest of the class, who nodded in sage agreement, "YOU HAVE TO HAVE LEGS!"

It's All About Your Goals.

As a Dragon left the school I gave him a high five for his hard work; as he passed by to the front door another sensei congratulated him on his focus.  His mom, trailing behind while juggling keys, a wallet and his dragon belt, looked up and said, "You did good but I want to see you snap more when you punch."  He responded happily and loudly enough for the whole dojo, "Yeah, but it was a great class Mom, I didn't get ANY wedgies!"

The Unfortunate Thing About Dojo Mirrors.

It's always a male Little Dragon with only brothers at home: why shut the rest room door?


Bending Light

February 28, 2017 by Rieshy

My superpower as a mother?

While grocery shopping for the week with three boys in tow I can put a huge box of chocolate candies in the cart, transfer it to the conveyor belt, pay for it, have it bagged, have my boys load it in the van, have them carry it to the kitchen and yet whisk it to safety WITHOUT them ever becoming aware of its existence.

Proof that invisibility can be cast by sheer strength of a mother's desperation to occasionally not share.


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Finishing Words

February 18, 2017 by Rieshy

Being a reader means mourning, often.  Hearing a voice that you've grown to know, that's rolled about in your head for pages and pages of years but is now finished.  Gone.

And you wake.  And look about, and real life seems a bit pale.   Your voice, in your own head, retains a slight accent or even the cadence of the book's voice.   You feel vague and restless.  Hungover.

Eat chocolate.  Do jujitsu.
Walk in sunshine.

When there's no chocolate, no jujitsu and no sunshine?

That's when being a reader is a really regretful thing.  You can no more solve the problem by picking up another book than you can adopt a new puppy to take place of a beloved aged dog that has finally died.

Haphazardly flipping back to a few favorite passages; walking about crankily and daydreaming of being a better person while fussing about muddy footprints in the den, because it's all about finishing the words.

Letting them roll hither and thither to finally settle.  Deciding if the voice was right or smart or even likable.

Finishing the words so that you can find your own voice again.


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Drip Coffee Joys

February 16, 2017 by Rieshy

The joys of parenting are small,
Drips and drips.
An automatic coffee maker.

From long ago fat toddler arms hugging my neck, skin on skin with a powdery scent; the joys have changed.
Superseding dirty socks left on sofas and curfew disagreements.

Watching my nine year old, the morning light glancing off his neck, make pancakes from scratch;
the family sized mixing bowl bigger than his body.
Resting while my fifteen year old does jump kicks.  Enjoying his dancer's spin and grace but basking in his smile after spinning flops.
Reading group texts amongst grown children
where they tease and plan get-togethers. And include me.

All drips, that make splashes
that fill my mug.


Conducting Drills

February 12, 2017 by Rieshy

Standing alone together,
moving in unison.
Awaiting cues while
straining sideway's vision.

Willing body parts to flow
and snap.
Not jerk and wobble.
Because muscle memory works both ways.

Listening for breathing.
Remembering to breathe
while imagining foes;
tickled by wayward brain's imagination.

Sweat incommensurate
with visible work.  Rumpled gi and
itchy eyebrow ignored.

Hoping belt doesn't fall completely off;
next cue almost missed.

Connected to everyone but
working from inside out:
Minute shifting, balance testing.
Intent searching.

What does that angle mean?

Energy sharing or draining,
conducting or insulating across the mats.
Line drills,




Funny Bellies

February 9, 2017 by Rieshy
Why are toddler bellies so cute?
It must be ingrained in us by God.  Hardwired for our species survival.

Last night at Karate a mom confessed.

"My 2 year old opened the staff fridge, and ate your chocolate. I'll bring you some more!"

I looked back with horror, because I have a lot of chocolate in the staff fridge.  A lot.  All a bit fancy and far more than any 2 year old could or should eat.

Dark,  lovely chocolate.
Chocolate rations.
Chocolate covered pumpkin seeds.
Chocolate covered chilis and chocolate with dried cherries.
Chocolate soul and body.  
Chocolate that I don't share with my own children.

Just how much did he consume?

"I hope he's going to be okay?" I gasped with dismay.  Dismay at both her probable evening full of a stomach-achy two year old and my chocolate loss.  Grief started to set in.  How could this happen?  When can I get to Trader Joe's again!?

Then I looked down.  The guilty one was standing beside her,  with a round full belly poking out between his tee-shirt and his pants.  He was holding her hand with a bit of chocolate smeared down his forearm and had the most cherubic satisfied chocolaty smile I've ever seen.

But the belly?  It was the belly.  It was so cute, so adorable.  I couldn't even hang on to annoyance much less grief.

The phrase, "A belly laugh" has a whole new dimension.
And it's a wonderful dimension full of dark chocolate.



Everyone Is A Critic

February 2, 2017 by Rieshy
Van conversations are always interesting when you have a lot of children.  Innocent questions asked in order to redirect conversation from who got to sit in that seat last time, or questions asked in order to avoid hearing a group chorus of the latest ear-worm sung by pretend Yodas, often yield unexpected information.

After church Sunday, in order to prevent the two youngest from spending time explaining to me the finer points of a video game that they were hoping to play,  I asked my youngest man-child what he had learned in Sunday School.

"There's a really mean kid in my class."  he commented rather cheerfully.

"Oh," was my brilliant reply. "Um, how do you know he's mean?"

"He likes to randomly hit people.  When I walked in the room and was going to the table he punched me in the stomach."

"Oh," double reply from me and his fifteen year old brother. whose ears had suddenly perked up.  Brilliance runs in the family and the fifteen year old has proprietary rights over messing with his little brothers.

Fifteen year old gave a better try, "Don't you think he's just trying to play around like we do when we punch at each other to have fun.  Maybe the kid just doesn't know how to let you know he's trying to be friendly."

Pause from the back seat, "No, he's just mean.  He punches other kids too. "

I jumped back in, "Where was the teacher?"

"She wasn't there yet."

Hmmmm.  I'm thinking fast.

"It's o.k. though," my nine year old explained with a bit of world weary confidence.  "The kid does NOT know how to throw a punch properly AT ALL.  So it doesn't hurt."

I know what I said- but I'm curious; what would you have said to your nine year old, especially if you have a nine year old who does know how to throw a punch properly?


Angry Artists

January 26, 2017 by Rieshy

My youngest son loves his art class.  It's usually the first thing he tells me about when I pick him up from his weekly tutorial day.  He is meticulous about not damaging his artwork; his shoes, pants and jacket may be filthy and ragged by the end of the day, but his artwork?  Pristine and carried proudly so no harm can come to it.

Which was why I was a bit curious this Tuesday when I had to ask him about his art class.  "Oh," he muttered with a scowl, "We had to copy some really freaky picture of a naked boy by some artist."

"Whoa," I thought.  More risqué than the typical homeschool tutorial fare.  Now I was really, really curious.

He dug around in his backpack and pulled out a crumple and stained piece of paper.  Obviously copying naked and chubby, angel babies is not something my 9 year old son finds palatable.

I challenge you: Have you ever seen a Raphael angel that looks quite this annoyed?

He wanted to throw it away.  I'm saving it for whenever I need a good laugh.


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Mental Lyrics

January 22, 2017 by Rieshy

The drive to the dojo,
so full of opportunity for that closed loop, auto-play self talk of pep or dismay.

Which begs the question, "Why?"

I was begging that question Saturday morning with this year's black belt testing team during the second quarter mile sprint, after side crunches and burpees and alligator breathing, with 2 more full circuits to go.

Black fuzziness around the borders of my vision produced a mental chorus of, "WHY am I here and how can I be so out of shape already?!?  And more importantly: will anyone notice if I slink off to relax at Starbucks like a sane person?"

During a recent karate class when I couldn't remember my left from my right or Sanshin stance from a hole in the wall and my sore hip wouldn't let me kick with anything more than an embarrassing sigh of a thwack, while wearing a black belt that winked and mocked me from my waist my brain sang,  "Why do I suck? And why do I keep coming back to suck publicly?"

Why do I do what I do?  I'm not on this year's black belt team.  I'm pretty sure I could come up with an excuse to miss Goju Shorei class.  I could work at Starbucks.  I wonder what the employee discount is?

I have to give my Etch-a-Sketch brain a shake.  I have to re-find my whys.
And I always come back to the same why's.
And they don't keep track of taps or require success.

But they do require kindness.  I would never talk to any student the way I talk to myself when I lose track of my whys.  "I suck," is a simple litany, an easy ditty to match to an earworm bit of melody.   A fluff of lies with which to fill the brain.  But it's just misdirection because it doesn't matter if I do suck.

I do what I do because of my whys and they don't include or even require success.

That closed loop auto-play?  I can control it.  If I can finish the 4th lap of a circuit devised by an Evil Madman, oops, I meant a wise and caring Sensei; then I can practice mental kindness and write new earworm lyrics.

And developing that lyrical strength is one of my whys.


Matryoshka Dolls On The Move

January 20, 2017 by Rieshy

Years ago my husband spent several weeks working in Russia; he brought home a Matryoshka doll for each of the girls in the family- including me.  They have lived together, with only occasional strife, on the top of my kitchen cupboards for years.    

Alas, two moved away.  The taller doll moves away in the next year. 

Then it will be but the little Matryoshka doll looking down over a house full of Legos, testosterone and abandoned orphan-socks. 

Is that painted joy or dismay on her face?
Or both?


Scenes from the Dojo: Volume 1

January 14, 2017 by Rieshy

After leading a kid's class last Thursday one of the student's grandmothers commented that I looked like I was having fun out on the mats.  And that would be because I was.  I do a lot of not laughing while at work.

Scene 1:
I have a line of young Little Dragons doing kicks against X-ray paper. The sound of a kick against x-ray paper is highly satisfying. I'm working with the cutest curly-headed blond five-year-old ever, who is the size of a grasshopper with the fierceness of a lioness. Over her head I see that the boy behind her is doing the required jumping jacks in line when suddenly he freezes as if startled, puts his hand into his gi jacket and pulls out his hand with pinky and thumb extended.  He resumes one handed jumping jacks while speaking into his hand.

I yelled, "Switch," and the blond ran to the back and the boy hopped one legged and one armed jumping jack toward me and then went into a one armed guard stance, still speaking into his other hand.  I leaned in to him, "We don't allow students to take phone calls while on the mats."

"OH, I'm so sorry," he said, "It's just my boss."  Then into his hand, "I'm sorry we'll have to talk later."  He closed his pinky and thumb  imaginary flip phone and tucked his hand carefully back into his gi.  Then with a huge kia and a very serious face he jumped back into proper guard stance and executed extremely focused kicks.  Not laughing is sometimes part of the job.

Scene 2:
I wasn't leading this class, so the story involves some theft- but I did witness it.  Once again Little Dragons (otherwise known as kittens wearing black gi) were gathered sitting criss-cross around the Lead Instructor.  This was a group of very serious small ninja kittens, so they were all sitting straight-backed and still with their hands in fists on their knees, looking straight at the Sensei.  All except one.  His hands were on his knees, but they were board straight with his thumbs tucked in.  The Lead Sensei's eyes went to his hands and paused for a split second.  Immediately the Little Dragon felt compelled to explain, "I upgraded my hands to knives; I don't have fists anymore."

The adults all paused.  The other Little Dragons paused and without shifting or a hair moving suddenly sprouted knives on their knees too.  Knives are cooler than fists.

Like I said, not laughing is sometimes part of the job.

But smiling? Smiling is a large part of the job- and I love it.