Farewell My Sweets

December 23, 2015 by Rieshy

January 1st looms large.
It looms, equal to an echoey Norse hall minus the mead.

A house of mine?  Minus cinnamon baked love?
A house of mine?  Minus stashes of jalapeƱo sweetness?

January 1st looms large.
A library without books.
Santa without the sack.
A lover without a kiss.
A runner without tights.

January 1st looms large.
It looms quietly, absent the crinkly sound of joy unwrapped:
That inoculator against stress,
That magical deliverer of caffeine,
Portable bliss,
Transporter of mothers.

To precious Chocolate,  
               Farewell my Sweets.

Sniff.  Sob.
Pity my children and curse my Sensei.


Not To Mention Luck

December 19, 2015 by Rieshy

Dreamers living intentionally?
Savorers remembering to save?

Between building barns or sucking the marrow.

Go with the flow thinks  uptight.
Planners think  disorganized.

Glass half empty, glass half full;
buy new glasses.

Dogs to walk, babies to shoe.

List writers, chaotic accomplishers,
filling calendars or losing them?

Goal setter along for the ride?
Choosing paths or defaulting to them?

Even visionaries need clean socks.

Self disciplined or experientially slammed;
all of the above.... or just confused?


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Quantifying Kinematics

December 6, 2015 by Rieshy

I don't love you Sparring.   I know I used to, you didn't do anything wrong; No, really it's not you, it's me.

I've fallen for Rolling.  We get along better, Rolling makes more sense to me.  I feel less awkward around Rolling.

Can we still be friends?

Our dojo has a fun, healthy attitude toward sparring- great people to spar with and wonderful Sensei.  It's not the setting it's not the support, so I've been asking myself why I don't love to spar.  I love to grapple, I love the Judo I've been exposed to even if it almost entirely consists of me learning ways in which I can be pitched through the air.  But sparring? I'd rather wall kicks any evening.

During sparring or stand up self-defense I often am transported to the middle school dances I chaperone where the main move is simply trying to catch up with the beat without looking too stupid.  Not to mention, sparring is startling, I'm bad at seeing things coming. While sparring I frequently see what just happened and what I just did wrong or what opportunity I just missed instead of seeing in real time.  During stand up self-defense I often start the exercise feeling defeated, just waiting to get flustered and girly and feeling out of control.

Rolling?  It's a challenge but it has a significant difference- you have a hold of your opponent.  You can feel them shift their weight, and fists and feet aren't randomly flying from outside of your peripheral vision.  Even just one hand on my opponent makes me feel more confident and less like I'm about to die.  Afterwards, I replay the roll in my head and still see what I should have done and opportunities that I missed, but they make sense and it's exhilarating; no matter how many times I tap out, grappling makes me feel strong.

My husband joked that if I had spent more time as a kid imagining trajectories of toy rockets and the geometric planes of cars jumping jumps it would have helped my sparring.  If I had, perhaps the visual of a collar bone shifting from its natural horizontal to 30 degrees might mean something to my blocking arm before I get bopped in the head. Too late now; so how to remediate?

I'm going to try something new.  A mind game to trick myself into not being startled sparring.  A mind game envisioning connections before physical contact is made.  Think invisible strings that form the edges of the geometric planes connecting feet, elbow, fists and knees.  Invisible strings that I can plan on using and pretend to have contact with.  I don't know if I can see quickly enough during sparring to manage it- but with the slower practice speed of stand up self-defense maybe it will form the beginning of the end of my super-ability to psych myself out.


Some Things You Never Want To Learn About

December 3, 2015 by Rieshy

I've never had to google adenocarcinoma before.  I've never tried to learn about the different stages of cancer.

I don't know.

Sometimes you get bad news and your brain has to pause in order to give your heart some time and you depend upon the Holy Spirit to do the praying for you.  My oldest sister went to the doctor with fall allergies and came home with lung cancer.  

She doesn't smoke, she's not around smokers.  She's as fit a woman as you could meet.  She has a family, a job, plans, a big smile and a big laugh.

Now that she also has lung cancer; she still has a family, a job, plans, a big smile and a big laugh.

I don't know anything, except I look forward to hearing that laugh often and for a long time.

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Imaginary Schedules

November 27, 2015 by Rieshy

I adore notebooks and pens and calendars and writing up schedules and plans and lists.  It's always better dreaming about how perfect you are going to be and act as opposed to getting off the sofa and actually doing something.  This time I have an excuse, a carte blanche for my dreamering; my training at MMA this year requires me to have a personal training plan written up.

The problem is, will I obey my plan?  Will it be so amazing that it stifles and depresses me?  Will it be so easy that I despise it?  and more importantly when the heck am I going to fit it in?

A plan that doesn't actually conform to the realities of time and space usually doesn't work... I know because I've written a lot of non-confomist plans before.  They are my specialty.  But oh, how I shine in my mind in those plans.  Shine and speak a half dozen foreign languages, do daily science experiments in my homeschool, grow all my own food, and benchpress twice my body weight, all while my family rises up and calls me blessed.  My stretch marks even disappear with adherence to those plans.

Crash.  Reality.

I need a 3 day a week plan for strength.  I need to be going over katas on my own.  I need to run- because running is what keeps me sane, relatively speaking.  I need to be drilling jujitsu moves and Thai-combos because my brain is like cheese cloth and info keeps draining away.

How long can I sit here drinking coffee looking through sites of workout plans?  I really should get up and do something or at least stretch.  But maybe I need new, more motivating stationary to write my plan upon.  Or an app.

That will solve everything.  I just have to spend more time looking...


November 25, 2015 by Rieshy

"How did this happen?!?"

"Who did this?!?"

"Why were you even touching this?!?"

"What is that?!?"

I might as well make these sentences into permanent signs, affixed to foam core,  ready to flash at my younger children as the need arises.  But then I would need to take pictures of blank faces to flash back at myself.

However, as I searched for a non-scavenged package of chocolate chips to bake into cookies I came across this:

Aha, the red stains on my bathmat, in front of the laundry room door and on the driveway make sense.  

In a vague and infuriating sort of way.


Of Fear and Martial Butterflies

November 21, 2015 by Rieshy

At last night's meeting for the 2016 candidates for black belt testing I was taken aback by my emotions.  It was our first meeting- just to go over necessary info and dates for the 39 weeks of testing.

39 weeks.  I'm scared spitless.  I really am.

We were all asked to share what scares us most about the 39 weeks; for me this was the de facto beginning of testing.  Saying publicly what scares you most is pretty.... scary.  I felt a water-buffalo-herd of emotions as I waited my turn.  It was impressive to hear even the youngest testers communicating very insightful fears.  It got harder to breathe.  All my doubts about myself were suddenly almost suffocating.

My main fear was easy to identify.

But later I realized that most of all, even more scary than fears I have about the testing itself is that it's very scary to admit publicly that you really, really, really, want to accomplish something that's a little out of the norm.  No matter what that something is.  The sudden feeling of vulnerability took me right back to middle school, where sharing a heartfelt passion or a dream with classmates was as safe and friendly as swimming off Amity Island.  But, there's no room to pretend that this is a vague, sorta interest; at my age I'm either all in, and by definition totally insane, or I wouldn't be testing.

As I sat there I also realized that this feeling of fear isn't bad.  Doing something, trying for something that you can publicly fail at is exhilarating.  Butterflies in the stomach sort of exhilarating.  An enlivening, falling in love sort of fluttering of richness.

I've since determined to enjoy every second of even the fiercest and most fearful martial butterflies.


Everyday Vacations

by Rieshy

My hands are freezing cold as I type.  I just got in from a day of errand running with my 16 year old daughter. First she did my make-up in the car to artfully hide my jujitsu-errant, elbow-blackened, eye.  Then we went birthday shopping, thanksgiving food shopping, tripping over a shirt the color of a green-blue so gorgeous that I wanted to eat it but after looking at the price was glad that it didn't come in my size kind of shopping.  Such good company.

Teens can be good for the soul.

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Words that Bore

November 15, 2015 by Rieshy

Drilling to add information. Drilling to extract.
Drilling for muscle memory or indoctrination.
Add or subtract?

Cavities and math tables;
Minotaur horns of fables.

Some words bore more than others.


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Magical Commodities

November 8, 2015 by Rieshy

I'm working on school at a coffee shop.
Or, I'm pretending to work on school at a coffee shop.

If only they sold sleep as well as coffee.

My neck is sore from jujitsu.
Or, my neck is sore because I need new pillows.

If only they sold ibuprofen as well as coffee.

My brain is full of transforming, motivational ideas.
Or, I'm full of thinking of ideas in order to postpone actual work.

If only they sold motivation as well as coffee.

Because, I'd take a grande-motivated-americana-with-a-double-shot-of-sleep-topped-with-steamed-full-fat-foaming-anti-inflammatory-and-a-sprinkle-of-inspiration. 
Oh, and I'd have a coupon. And can a masseuse come with that?

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Letters that Split Your Personality

November 5, 2015 by Rieshy

I got a letter Tuesday night.  It's one I'm both excited about and ridiculously nervous about.  It was a letter informing me that I'm on the black belt training team for 2016.  I wanted to run circles around the mat waving my letter in the air and simultaneously I wanted to go hide and take up origami instead.

Part of me is saying: Crap.  I'm  old; I learn slowly; I have arthritis; I'm awkward.  Crap.

Another part of me is saying: Wahoo!, tally ho!, Go team!

Have I mentioned that I'm awkward?


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Inadequacy Of English For Mothers

November 3, 2015 by Rieshy

There is no word for that special fugue of despondent rage that covers one when at the highest watermark of sleep deprivation a nap is finally carved out and achieved, with the verbal instructions, "Do not wake me unless someone is bleeding or the earth is being destroyed," only to have your body ripped back into consciousness for a pointless question about dinner, or Legos, or giving a friend a ride.

There really should be a word for that.

There is no word for the feeling of a fat, round, warm little arm wrapped around your cold neck early in the morning; giving you their first spontaneous, onesie-wearing, full body, joyful-gleeful toddler hug of the day.

There really should be a word for that, because the sensory memory of that word penetrates even fugues of despondent rage and covers offspring with a grace that lasts through their teen years.  A grace that they won't understand until they have children of their own.

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Mommy Dance

November 1, 2015 by Rieshy

Not the dance caused by children in all of the available bathrooms, the dance caused by changing stages.

Warning- this is the obligatory, "My baby is turning (fill in the blank) post."

Last night I dreamed that I went with the older half of my family to a wedding in Memphis for the weekend leaving my two youngest at a Montessori School in Nashville by mistake.  For some reason known only to the Sandman I couldn't leave Memphis but had to wait two days to go pick up my sons and worried the whole time because I couldn't remember their teacher's name and didn't know any phone numbers to call to find out if they were o.k.

Thankfully the boys were sent to a Percy Jackson-esque, "Camp Thunder" and had a really fun weekend; sustaining no sword wounds.  This all made perfect dream-sense.

We don't live in Nashville.  My boys don't go to a Montessori School.  I don't know a soul in Memphis.

When my oldest sisters went to college I remember feeling that the salad days of our family were over.  My younger brother had died years before and I was suddenly an older, only child.  Hard to have shenanigans at the dinner table with just yourself when you are used to snorting peas with siblings.  My parents shifted into neutral parenting gear; they were tired.  It was lonely for a while.  A family dance of shifting relationships and roles.

My seventh and youngest baby (here it comes) is turning 8 years old this month.  I'm tired and could easily shift into parenting-neutral because I have so many adult children around that love to do things with their younger brothers. It's a real temptation.  But.... he still needs me to read to him and snuggle and practice multiplication tables.  And most of all, he needs me to be excited about doing all those things for his first time.

This is why I drink coffee.  This is also why I love having children; they keep you dancing on your toes and if they don't kill you, they keep you young.



October 23, 2015 by Rieshy

Because, if you tell your boys to move the chairs from the dining room table so you can deep clean they will have ideas.

Because, when you are deep cleaning, your deepest desire is actually to have a bunch of filthy backyard toys brought into the house.

Desire fulfilled.


Underwear Storage

October 16, 2015 by Rieshy

Laundry morning.
13 yo son does all the boys' clothing  I conquer sheets and towels.

That night a 13 yo son pitching a housewife's fit from the boys' bedroom as he tries to get ready to go out, "Where are all the underwear?  Who has them!!!  I washed and put everything away!"

Time to ponder.  Who is lying in the living room and just what, besides the soccer ball did the 7 yo son use to fill out its flesh?

IKEA can't beat this underwear storage idea.


Of Jelly Fish and Judo

October 13, 2015 by Rieshy

Feet paddling, arms out palms down superman style,
Waiting for that surge of surf, that aligning catch of swell;
Waiting patiently, rolling over Poisidon's shoulder and soaring,
Bodysurfing, cresting above blue green seas, below blue gray skies
to the rhythm of seagull cries.
Towards shore and unloading tumble into sandy foamy salt, sometimes with splats.

My Dad in his short 1970's trunks, soaked white t-shirt and sun blackened skin must have shown me how a thousand times. Ever fishing-hat-hatted.  Ever with a grin.

I wiped out a thousand and one, wondering how ten pounds of sand could fill a bathing suit crotch lining that was impossible to remove in public.
Again and again 'til lips turned blue with chill and momma noticed, or the absolute official maritime ender of lessons and joy swelled in.

Damned Jelly Fish.

Riding waves of shoulders, an Uke soaring circles to softening mats and satisfying controlled thumps, minus the salt, unless sweat counts; but it doesn't.
Then being the shoulder, whose timing, coordination and patience needing an ocean's wave worth of alignment wipes out a thousand and one with splatting bumps of uncontrolled thumps.

Again and again, 'til, a wayward surge of apology causing tentacles of stinging doubts, the self-conscious martial ender of learning and joy, swell in.

Damned Mental Jelly Fish


Risky Business

October 12, 2015 by Rieshy

Something unusual happened this weekend.  On Saturday afternoon my husband and I drove our two youngest out of town to spend the night at a big sister's house so she could take them to a children's symphony and feed them lots and lots of sugar.

That in itself was not unusual; my two oldest children both live on their own in different cities within driving distance and regularly invite siblings for a night out.  However,  this Saturday the planets aligned, deer bowed their heads in awe throughout the State of Tennessee at precisely 5:00 p.m., and the prophecy of the recent blood moon was fulfilled; two of our other children were out of town hiking and the fifth child had a late date.  That made seven children accounted for and most importantly, simultaneously NOT AT HOME.

Yes, my husband and I had sole possession of our house for a full half-day.   For the first time ever as a mom I told a child, "Do NOT come home early from your date."  This of course reminded her of a scene from "Failure to Launch" and she was very very afraid....

My husband and I felt like adults.  We could watch what we wanted.  Everything we put down stayed where we put it.  It was like.... we owned our own home.  We finished conversations. 

It was everything I ever dreamed it could be.

But, I did leave a block fort barricaded by army jeeps in the center of the den.  My husband and I stepped over it all evening- because it was nice to know that our house mates would be coming home.


Break Falls and Broken Jaws

October 1, 2015 by Rieshy

Sometimes memories take your breath away with a swift kick to the solar plexus.  When I saw a recent Instagram photo my 15 yo took of her older sister it was one of those kicks and gasps of what-could-have-been because:

as every parent of teens knows, any phone conversation that begins with, "I'm o.k.," means that your peace of mind and the money saved for new carpeting is about to disappear.

A little over a year ago I got a phone call from my oldest daughter that began, "I'm o.k. but Sarah thinks she may have broken some teeth."  They had gone long boarding...

Neglecting to also inform me that Sarah was covered in blood led me to direct them to meet me at the Dentist.  Poor dentist. poor alarmed hygienist, waiting patients, secretary- I've never seen so many eyebrows at full alert of alarm as when I walked in the office to find out how much "fixing a couple of teeth," would cost.

We went straight to the hospital.

It's funny now, sort of, how when the E.R. doctor walked into the exam room holding her x-rays, he almost tripped and then walked out again only to return a few minutes later.  I didn't know why until later, when Sarah was out of the room, he explained that he'd seen x-rays like her's before but those patients were all unconscious and permanently brain damaged as a result.  Walking into the room and seeing Sarah drinking a coke and making jokes made him believe he had entered the wrong room.

The difference was, when Sarah's borrowed long board hit the rock at the bottom of the steep long hill she was zooming down (typing that makes me want to smack her even now) and launched her airborne, she automatically did something Karate class had trained her to do: a front breakfall.  It saved her life.

Her jaw was still fractured in triplicate, her chin was still pretending to be an expensive jig-saw puzzle, her road rash was still painfully impressive and she still had to spend the next 3 months miserably horizontal.

But.... because of that successful breakfall a year ago here she is- belt-testing.

Isn't her jaw pretty?


On Working The System

September 25, 2015 by Rieshy

In college I took a philosophy class with a boyfriend.  I always knew how to work the academic system and used short-term memory with great success.  Imagine my shock when during a joint study session my boyfriend is asking philosophical questions outside the scope of the upcoming exam and reading extra writings only tangentially related to the assigned readings.  Tsk, tsk, wasting time.... I made an ‘A’, he did not come close. 


Don’t ask me today to explain the difference between Kant and Kierkegaard; I’d have to google it... but my boyfriend-turned-husband, remembers.

On nights at the dojo when our Sensei seems even more chipper and energetic than usual, AND has a certain sparkle in his eyes, we all know that we are about to be tortured, oops- challenged, with a leg workout.

Last night, I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw Sensei Richard walk onto the mat; maybe it’s the angle to his grin that’s his “tell”.  Sure enough, we were sent to the walls for wall kicks and then to the bags with a partner to count timed round-house kicks. 

The thing is, I’ve done this before; I know full well that my first 30 second count will be the benchmark I must exceed with each successive 30 second, one minute, 2 minute sessions.  The smart thing to do would be to kick just a tad more slowly than I’m capable of in the first session thus ensuring easier success for the following sessions. 

However instinct kicks in, literally, and you can’t help competing with yourself. 

Which is a good thing, because working the system in a learning setting is always about outward signs of success at the expense of real gain. 

It’s a lesson I hope my kids learn at the dojo as teens.  My teen-years are long gone and I finally get it; I just wish there was an online vendor of fast twitch muscles.


Faith, Failure, and of course- Martial Arts

September 20, 2015 by Rieshy

Last week was whirlwind week of schedule clashes, flat tires, kids, school, jobs, missing chocolate bars, impatient mothering, and all around fails.

I also attended an amazing jujitsu seminar with Kelley Farrell.  She is a phenomenal teacher and the day was so full of things to learn and people and colors and thoughts and smells, compounded by the week of people and colors and half completed thoughts that after the seminar I had to decompress with a solo run under a blue gorgeous sky.

As I ran along my brain bumped along over my fails; last week's share of fails being larger than my general average afforded my brain plenty of bumps to run with.  Parenting fails, work fails, schedule fails, friendship fails...

Maybe that's why I love floor exercises in karate and drilling in jujitsu so much.  You get to do the same move over and over, making corrections each time.  It's tiring but each move teaches you about how much more you can improve for the next move.  Cathartic and joyful.  A sort of re-wind option that life generally doesn't provide.

Or maybe it does, Prayer can be the same way; tiring, yet cathartic and joyful.  God's mercies never end, so it's a renewing- every time.

On the missing chocolate? My husband had found my stash of chocolate bars and to tease me unknowingly put his offspring in great danger by relocating the stash and going his merry way.   Luckily, before I had time to build a medieval rack for thorough questioning of each chocolate-theft-denying child, I messaged my husband with my intent to do so.

Text messaging between spouses? Neither a re-winding nor a renewing but a reprieving, rescuing redemption from chocolate-less ranting reprobation.


Magical Mystery Tape

September 3, 2015 by Rieshy

Watch a class of martial art students near a planned testing date.  If the sensei even remotely moves a hand toward their belt all eyes focus. Laser beams toward that denoter of progress, that badge maker of accomplishment, that electrical portal to the next rank.

Because on the sensei's belt hangs the Magical Mystery Tape.  

This week my sensei said, "By the Power of Greyskull."  Or maybe he said, "Wonder Twins Power Unite." Or, maybe he just said, "Here, you need to help when I'm stripe-ing students today."  At any rate I got to wear the tape.  And with the maturity of a pre-teen I excitedly forced a co-worker to take photographic evidence.

See, it's right there.  And one day, sometime in the misty future I hope to wear that tape of ultimate power... 

(a da-dum sound effect should be mentally added at this point) 

Electrical tape- energizing and motivating martial artists everywhere, even old ones. 


Camping, Chaperoning, Being Blessed with Black Belt Candidates

August 30, 2015 by Rieshy

Rocky running with rubber knees bouncing side to side,
parkour style.

Frantic pace following testosterone driven boys with a lung reserving space to hollar, "no higher" and,  "no closer to the edge."

Barely keeping up.  Using the boys as an excuse to race, undignified and gleeful with trails tipping up and twisting down in narrow tunnels of roots and rocks and hard state park tourist packed dirt.

"Excuse us, coming up on the left."

Sweat joining humidity, muscles burning, lungs screaming after sprints.  A glorious moment of treacherous cheating finds me the leader of the pack and I pretend to soar with thunder behind me until the thunder passes with the smell of multiple Axe cologne wearers and I stumble to a slower pace.

Joyful gulps of outside freedom and approximation of flying through late summer and distant water.

Then, with joy imbued in its watery molecules, the run ends with a splash.  Falls and falling love.  The love of a God so amazing and so varied and so physical that he provided waterfalls with rock slides and swimming holes to jump into fully clothed and drenched with happiness.

Chaperoning was never so fun as this.


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School Of Hard Knocks

August 28, 2015 by Rieshy

After martial arts classes or open mat I like to jot down things I learned or things I didn't understand and I especially write things down that I sucked at.   Note-taking after the fact was always my best learning strategy in college.  Doing a mind dump onto paper solidifies and makes real the subjects I'm studying.

Unfortunately, when I get home from martial arts class and everything is fresh and ready for writing I often don't get a chance because of that pesky little thing called Real Life.

Which leads me to the built in note-taking of jiujitsu and sometimes even karate.  Visible reminders.  Those identical bruises on each ankle? Oh yeah, we worked on ankle locks.  The bruise below my clavicle?  Oh yeah, I tried for a triangle but forgot to shimmy up first and my training partner accidentally got me with their elbow.  The Gentle Art may be gentle but accidental hard knocks are part and parcel.

I find it amusing.  My husband less so.  Especially when people look askance at him because of my "visible reminders".

Last night in karate we were training in self-defense, working on blocks.  I have the amazing  lightning response time of a sloth.   A slow sloth at that.  A slow sloth that all the other sloth relatives consider awkward and uncoordinated.

Our sensei mentioned trying to practice, building reflexes as much as possible; I immediately pictured Cato.  He would be a great aid to my martial arts journey but I'm pretty sure I couldn't afford him or the extra drywall repairs.  Instead, I told my 13 year old son, and fellow martial arts student, to please randomly strike at me during the day.

Then we laughed because a lot of caveats have to accompany that instruction.  I pictured standing in line at Starbucks, sporting some jiujitsu bruises, when my 13 year old suddenly throws a punch at my head.  Not exactly socially acceptable; DHS might be notified, or even worse; I might spill my coffee.

But I am renaming my homeschool.

Abused By Health Care

August 12, 2015 by Rieshy

The hidden health cost of health care brought on by the stress by paperwork and hours of phone calls to insurance and health companies is one of the special parts of dealing with a child's chronic illness.

It's why I'm gray.

I'm so angry I can barely limit this post to one story of what I consider the intentional incompetence that I have had to deal with over the past 9 years.  I am ashamed that I desire special circles of hell for certain subgroups of humanity... but people who design the billing and insurance company policies are seriously difficult for me to forgive.  Their designs intentionally inflict suffering and lost hours and untold worry on caregivers.  Even worse their models rob, yes, absolutely rob people who don't have the hours or know-how to fight and appeal.  And I mean rob- no less than if I held a gun to someone in a parking lot and demanded their cash.

Case in point:  My son needed a blood test in January, I was assured it was covered, I asked multiple times- I showed them my insurance.  They said they would double check.  A month later I received a bill from the lab saying insurance was denied and I owed them $10,000.

I appealed.
I appealed.
I appealed.  I got a EOB from my insurance company saying that they would cover part of the $13,622 bill.

?  But whatever.  One thing you get used to is that no bill is trustworthy, they play around with the numbers.  Imagine Kroger doing this.

Yesterday, I got a bill from the children's hospital where the blood draw was taken.  They politely told me that this same outpatient work done in January was $19,460.76 and now due.

More phone calls.  The "system" was blamed.  Give me a break, systems do not give birth to themselves... not yet anyway.  This happens every single time our child has a hospitalization.

The really fun bonus is that sometimes bills will be bumped to a collection agency because the appeal process is so lengthy that the bill becomes "delinquent".

Time.  My time.  My children's time.  I really hurt for someone without the ability or gumption to fight back.

Not to mention the inches and inches of mail that these companies try to drown you with.  If you have a problem requiring multiple labs or doctors and hospitals, good luck keeping up with who legitimately needs to be paid and who is sending bogus or inflated bills.

It's criminal, it's intentional, and we should be ashamed as a nation that we have allowed this parasite of bureaucracy to suck the life blood of our patients and their families.


These Go To 11

August 10, 2015 by Rieshy

It's happened, it's finally hit, my youngest are tired of summer.  They don't realize it yet but the cranky meter has been rising.  When it hits 10 I either make them do an unpleasant and heavy duty chore or I sell them to a passing carnival.

Unfortunately our county fair no longer buys minors, even in bulk and the only heavy duty chores left to do this summer require a two story ladder or my invested involvement, both of which I'm loath to supply.

It is the bane of suburbia- energetic boys living where bush hogging is frowned upon.

However, creativity is the mother of rowdy boys; I will prevail.


Don't Fly With Friends

August 7, 2015 by Rieshy

I love listening when I'm out and about.  Life is infinitely fascinating if you pay attention.

This morning my husband surprised me with an impromptu apple fritter and coffee run.  And no- we didn't get any for the children.  Mwahhahah! The early birds get to gain all the weight.

As we sat eating our fritters at our favorite tiny local donut shop the owner was checking her child's backpack for their first day of school while issuing last minute advice.

"Pay attention to teachers, don't fly with friends, friends don't take you anywhere."

I don't know if this phrase is a translation of a common saying from the owner's native Chinese but as someone who teaches, it is gloriously spot-on descriptive.

I left the shop full of caffeine, sugar, and language.  Flying.


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Painful Options

August 2, 2015 by Rieshy

If it hurts, don't do it.

Unless you have arthritis.

With arthritis often the less you do the more you hurt. I tried the less.  I avoided shaking hands with people, avoided using my arms.  I lost grip strength, the pain worsened and I felt old and decrepit; my brain began to decay and crumble like dried up school glue.

Now, I'm doing the more; it's been years since my last significant flare up.  This flare up I don't feel old and decrepit... mostly.  Sometimes when my hands or feet hurt, when I've woken in the night multiple times with my shoulders throbbing, on days when I can't quite make a proper fist, I know that hitting or kicking a punching bag is going to hurt like blue blazes or like screaming flying monkeys but afterwards I'll be able to move more easily.  My ankles often hurt more before my runs than after.  Counter-intuitive: if it hurts do it.

Sometimes my elbows ache, a background sort of ache but I do pushups anyway.  Girly sort of pushups but it's the motion that counts.  After I hyperextended my elbow this spring I didn't realize how badly I had mangled my arm.  I kept doing pushup and pull-up practice, it was the motion that counted- this time against me, making my injury take much longer to heal.

I'd rather do and hurt, than not do and still hurt   I'd even rather do and mistakenly injure than not do and still hurt and grow weaker.

I'd really rather my options were a bit more varied, but actually I feel quite blessed.  My pain keeps me moving and though it is sometimes a treacherous-tutor it does keep me motivated.



July 27, 2015 by Rieshy

Every once in a while I'll hear someone comment that they wish that they could go back to childhood with its worry-free ocean of spare time.

I always wonder where they grew up.

I had a great childhood with loving parents, shelter, and siblings that didn't kill me- but worry free?

The worries of children are a million myriad things, some fanciful some not, with that coveted ocean of time in which to swim about.  Lack of experience is a magnifier.

That's why parental laps are such a necessary thing.


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How Not to Sell Jujitsu: Dojo Road Trip Part II

July 22, 2015 by Rieshy

On my tour o' dojos across country it wasn't all... normal.

The big black lettered all caps sign on the front door of the dojo screaming:  NO REFUNDS! was a tad bit jolting and unusual, bemused but undaunted I stepped inside.  I found myself in a large lobby full of trophies.  Trophies everywhere, many larger than me; for a split second I thought I had wandered into a trophy shop.  Then I spotted two women in a glassed room practicing a bo kata.  A bo kata I was familiar with.  A bo kata being executed weirdly, like women posing for baton twirling photos; it was like watching an accident happening in slow motion.

As I stood entranced by the weird and pointless bo flourishes a young man came round the corner and stopped, obviously surprised by my presence, "What do you want?"

"Ummm,"  I was equally surprised at him.  Usually in dojos people wear gi or at least athletic type clothing.  He was wearing ratty jeans and a t-shirt that was split from the underarms down to the waistband.  "I'm visiting the area and wanted to pick up a schedule and see what kind of classes you offer."

"Oh. Well the owner took off on his bike.  I don't know- but you can go in there," he pointed to the bo staff room,  "And ask the pretty one about classes."  At this he turned and disappeared around the corner.  I stood there looking through the glass wall pondering which girl was "the pretty one" for a second but on hearing an adult male's voice yelling at what had to be young children doing bag work from around the corner to, "Stop doing it wrong!" I decided to slip out.

That's when I heard the first young man's voice shouting, "Hey, there's an old lady out front that wants to know something."

I was smiling broadly when "the owner" came round the corner.  He had the grace to be taken aback at my obvious and unfortunate lack of deafness.  I was taken aback by his ratty non gi clothing.  He and his younger worker looked like every photo I've ever seen of meth lab arrestees.

He hung his head and said, "I'm sorry about him."

"No problem, I was just looking for a schedule- I'm going to go ahead and go."

"No, wait a minute, I can answer your questions."  I froze on the spot.  It's not everyday that you meet a dojo owner/lead instructor in ratty jeans and a t-shirt too small for his gut who also happens to have no teeth.  Nor is it everyday that said man has a nervous habit of licking his lips coupled with the the habit of talking to your chest.  For a split second I thought perhaps I had wandered out errand-running naked and felt compelled to look down too.  Nope, everything normal... and covered.  Talking with him was like watching window wipers: look at breasts, lick lips, remember to look up for a split second before, looking again at breasts, licking lips, remember to stop, rinse and repeat.

This was getting funnier by the second.  I scrambled for a question, "So what kind of martial arts do you teach here?"  He named a jujitsu system I'd never heard of; I had to ask him to repeat the name a couple of times, finally I admitted that I'd never heard of that type of jujitsu.

"Oh, well, that's the name of our instructor so we call it that type of jujitsu."  Immediately I thought of Rex Kwon Do and started looking around to see if I was actually on a movie set. "Yeah, he continued, as if I had responded, "We like our girls to start jujitsu young, fourteen at the oldest because if you don't get between their legs while they are young, they just won't let you."

Gee, I wonder why.

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The Jujitsu Blues

July 20, 2015 by Rieshy

Somedays it sucks to be slower, lighter, weaker, older and less technically skilled than all of your grappling partners.

Somedays it really sucks but if you mention this to your children they will mock you.  Which is a good reminder that at least you've not raised whiners.  Unfortunately, that means that you have to stop whining too.

Somedays parenting sucks. On the upside you can hug said unsympathetic children while soaking wet with sweat from jujitsu practice thus grossing them out.

Life does offer surprising consolations.


Playing Pretend

July 18, 2015 by Rieshy

Sitting on a bench next to my granddad in the mall as a child I learned how to pretend.  We would pass the time while waiting for my grandmother and various aunts to finish shopping by active people-watching.  My granddad would pretend to know all sorts of secrets about the passing shoppers.  It was always Cold War intrigue and the stories he would make up on the fly were both elaborate and entertaining.  The number of Russian operatives in his small West Texas community was impressive.

Pretending runs pretty rampant in the family.  I can use words other than "pretend"  if I want to sound more adult, for instance, I might admit I sometimes visualize ninja warriors attacking me as I work through my Katas.  But it's pretty much playing pretend.

My seventy-five year old father is honest.  He told me that when he takes his dogs on his daily 5 mile woodsy walk through the deep Michigan snow, he likes to pretend that he's part of the Finnish resistance of WWII, especially as he crests hills.

One of my children, who shall remain unnamed (Ben) for several years regularly donned dress pants, a white dress shirt, cowboy boots, and a black clip-on tie in order to ride his bike through the neighborhood.  Though he looked like a junior Mormon missionary in reality he was pretending to be Chuck Norris, Texas Ranger style.

Another unnamed child (Sarah) wore a polka-dotted apron like a cape and one weight lifting glove on her left hand for most of a year.  We never figured that one out.

Two weeks ago I offered my seven and nine year old boys the opportunity to earn $15 apiece for sanding our deck in preparation for re-staining it.  The terms were agreed upon, it being most important to the seven year old that I pay in One Dollar Bills.  I have to capitalize One Dollar Bills because in the negotiations every time my seven year old repeated the phrase he over-enunciated quite vehemently and his eyebrows raised with each separate syllable.

The boys did the best sanding job I've ever seen and I paid them in One Dollar Bills.  Visions of legos and Percy Jackson books danced in the 9 year olds eyes as he pocketed his money.  The seven year old however made me pause.  As he twisted his stack of one dollar bills into a fat roll he mentioned matter-of-factly, "Mom, now you need to buy me a very small suitcase and a package of rubber bands."

I'm hoping he's pretending.


Dog Days of Summer

July 14, 2015 by Rieshy

Since the end of the school year my two youngest boys have not wanted to play in the backyard.  This coincided with the warmer weather and with the unrealistic but eternal hope that the vacuum created by the absence of school work would be filled with unlimited video games.  A hope that cannot come to fruition from the backyard.

The excuses were slightly varied but with a theme.

"There's a mean dog that keeps jumping out of the bushes at us."

"It's too hot, we might get heat exhaustion."  -they learned that phrase after a visit to their Texas grandmother.

"We are afraid of the dog."

"We need a snack."

"That dog might be hiding out there and try to bite us."

"I'm thirsty."

"It snarls."

"I  have to go to the bathroom."

"That dog chased us again."

I couldn't figure out what dog they were talking about at first; when I realized they were describing a tiny Yorkie I was less than impressed.  I had seen an older Toy Yorkie loose in the neighborhood, and wondered about the kind of person that would allow their dog to roam.  But really, afraid of a Toy Yorkie?  I never saw it anywhere near our yard- and I did look, multiple times.  They just really really wanted to lay their bodies across sofas and play video games.

Annoyed with the exaggeration and laziness I told the boys to get over it and kicked them back to the back yard.  When I found them playing, not on our huge play equipment or in the trees but huddled on the porch,  I was annoyed.

A morning or two later I decided to do a walk-through of the back yard picking up toys and boy-detritus (you know, the odd work glove, goggles, an old box, an unauthorized wooden addition to the trees) and was enjoying the general quiet of a yard at rest.  Suddenly, I felt a horrible sting to my bare calf.  I whipped around and there, charging out of the depths of our foundation bushes, was a snarling growling Toy Yorkie.  In My Backyard.  He charged me a second time then upon spying my raised foot slipped away like a ghost through my neighbor's picket fence.

A Toy Yorkie!  It's bite broke the skin and badly bruised my calf.

Hiding in the bushes.

Jumping out.


A Toy Yorkie.

The dog days of summer- when you have to apologize to you sons for not believing them.   Being rather savvy of mothering-guilt they worked the apology into some extra video game time.


Grappling, With Words

July 6, 2015 by Rieshy

Coulomb's Law, spinning orbit; pulling braids and bruises for later.
Personal space turtled with heartbeat slowed, arms T-rexed.

Take rest in dipole-dipole interaction.

Unequal breathing equals advantage and humidity is in motion.
Random limbs misplaced and found,

Blessed, cursed lock-location.

Round the flow of fields, full feints, grips playing chess until;
with a sudden flip of polarity
                             potential energy finally

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Dojo Road Trip: Part I

July 4, 2015 by Rieshy

About a month ago I had the opportunity to stop at a few BJJ schools and Karate Dojo's while on a road trip.  It was an unusual opportunity for me, as a mother of 7, to be in a car alone for days (wahoo!) and because I have very little experience with martial arts outside my home dojo.  I did my homework; I found some places that looked reputable; I contacted them ahead of time and made arrangements for dropping in and got some advice from my sensei at Family First Martial Arts about how to stay safe.  I also got a heartfelt request from my husband to, "Please Do Not Get Injured".

And away I went.

The first school, Atos North Dallas, Team Pedro Mello, was amazing.  This was my first time ever inside a purely Brazilian Jujitsu school.  The place was massively intimidating to walk into.  Torture devices (cross-fit equipment) ranged along one side of the gym and loud music shook the ceiling tiles.  Very fit looking men were standing around waiting for class to start.  The mat was chain-link fenced from the rest of the gym.  Something about the chain link seemed very serious and reminded me of the book, The Outsiders, or maybe a scene from West Side Story.  Not that whistling and dancing are all that scary... but I digress,  all I could think was, "I am about to die amongst strangers."  And when I found out there were no changing rooms or showers I mentally amended that to, "I am about to die sweaty and amongst strangers."

Limbering up was also intimidating, driving 5 hours straight after a day of driving 10 hours straight tends to make arthritic knees revengeful, and I was the only woman on the mat at first, not to mention the only person well over forty.  To be honest, my hands shook but the mat felt familiar and the atmosphere seemed casual and team or family-like rather than ego driven.

The professor was welcoming and explained the shrimping and rolling warm-ups completely. When the rest of the class, who were all advanced belts, didn't roll their eyes or act annoyed at such basic explanations I started to relax.  I have to say watching a bunch of BJJ black belts do shrimping warmups is really beautiful.  When we paired up to drill I was specifically matched to a purple belt who was patient and helpful and long-suffering.  It turned out that he coaches some of their kid's classes.  I bet he's fabulous with the kids.

I had the time of my life and learned an amazing amount.  It was fascinating to experience a martial art's culture so different from my own.  I bowed at the wrong times, I hustled at times that everyone else sashayed.  I responded with a couple of instinctual and loudly misplaced, "Yes Sirs."  Yet the similarities were striking: the respectful intensity with which the participants listened to their professor, the sense that we were all there to work hard, the way that I was placed specifically with a partner unlikely to accidentally hurt me, and, equally important; how I was given a partner savvy enough to avoid being hurt by an unknown and probably spastic white belt.  Even the sense of fun that I love about my home dojo was a part of the work out.

Atos North Dallas with Padro Mello

The experience psyched me up for the next school on my list, 300 odd miles to the West.  I had picked this school partially because my 13 year old son loved the name, Zombie Jujitsu.  As he put it, "How can you not want to work out at a place called ZOMBIE?".  Bolstered by my Atos experience I walked in this school with a modicum of confidence, or at least enough confidence that my hands didn't visibly shake.  Once again the culture difference.  Jujitsu schools seem a much quieter experience than a mixed martial art school and I missed the constant kiai and the inherently satisfying thwacking sound of bagwork. In fact, the quietness actually made me a little homesick.

At Zombie, with Joseph Tonche, we did some self defense work using a padded wall; it was a blast slamming and being slammed into the wall.  Yes, there is something very theatric and wrong with me. We don't have a padded wall at my home dojo so the drills were all new to me and they seemed quite practical.  Later I got myself very very squashed free-rolling an experienced white belt who completely controlled me with just her grips; I think she actually had 4 arms.   Once again I learned a lot.  It was a pleasure to work hard with people, even though they were absolute strangers.  It was also interesting to see a similar gentle demeanor that I'm used to seeing in my three sensei at home in the professor and coaches at both jujitsu schools.

Zombie Jujitsu 

Martial Arts and hospitality intertwined on this trip.  I am grateful that both Atos North Dallas and Zombie Jujitsu were kind enough to let me drop in on their worlds.  To my husband's relief I even came home uninjured.

Part of the reason I came home uninjured is because I choose not to stay to work out at a third school (which will remain unnamed) that I also visited... but that's Part II.


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Growing Up On The Mat

June 27, 2015 by Rieshy

Some nights our dojo's schedule means that it's just my 7 year old son and me taking classes.  This means he does his karate class and then sits and waits for my two adult classes to be over.  He's good about waiting, though sometimes he hears more gory chitchat about the best ways to dislocate random body parts than the average boy his age.  The other night my last karate class was an unusually small group, all of us jujitsu enthusiasts, so our sensei asked our jujitsu coach to lead the work.

I learned several lessons, not all of which were actually part of the drill-work.
  1. Kimura's are fun, and working them from the bottom is a great tool.  If your partner is a StrongFirst Kettle Bell instructor who is at least six inches taller than you- forget about trying for a Kimura because except for during drill-work, it's not going to happen.
  2. When rolling to get the mount and your partner weighs considerably more- always remember where your kneecap is, and where you would like it to remain.  Seriously, this was an injury-free aha, during a moment of sloppy technique, where I realized just how badly things could and would go if I didn't learn to pay closer attention and apply leverage properly.  
  3. Play is work and my youngest child is growing up.  This takes more explaining.  When class ended I realized my 7 year old had sidled up next to our sensei and was sitting on the mat watching the class intently.  We had time for some free rolling so I invited my son to roll with me before I rolled with the other adults.  He leaped at the chance and we started rolling, complete with my verbal encouragements and occasional sound effects, just like we do when we play grapple at home.  After a moment he leaned close as he worked for an arm-bar and whispered, with a glance to the other groups of working students, "Mom, please don't make noises, you're kinda embarrassing me." As his request was politely and rather vulnerably made I complied.  It made me a little sad for how seriously he takes himself, but at the same time I felt like I got to know my youngest a little better.  I think I may have a budding fellow enthusiast.  And our "playing" at jujitsu at home?  - It's all important work to someone growing up on the mat.


The Basics

June 22, 2015 by Rieshy

I'm a habitual questioner.  For instance, I sometimes question why I love to run.  I'm not fast, I'm not efficient, I don't run races or with friends, I don't run impressive, brag-worthy mileage and I don't have cute running clothes.  When it comes right down to it I just run because it makes me feel 7 years old to have the wind whip past my face- and because no one talks to me when I run.   It's been a frustrating couple of months because I sprained my toe and have desperately missed my runs.

The sprained toe?  That leads nicely to my real topic.  My other loves are knitting and martial arts.  I did not sprain my toe knitting; I sprained it trying to do a spinning hook-kick.  My body turned, my foot rotated but my toe stayed put.  Ouch.  Turf-toe.

So why do I love martial arts?  Goju Shorei Karate and Jujitsu particularly?  I'm not young or naturally talented, I'm not Olympics or UFC bound.  I'm not ever going to be a Worlds anything but I love martial arts.  I love it with enough passion to not terribly mind a hyperextended elbow or the current huge bruise I'm sporting above my left eyebrow.   I love it enough that I hope I get to tap out for at least another 40 years.

But why?  And does knowing the why matter?  I've been pondering both these questions for a year or so and have finally come to some conclusions and happily none of the reasons include insanity or a higher than normal propensity towards violence.

To the Why of martial arts love:

For the sheer joy of movement.
For the sheer joy of doing something hard.
For the sheer joy of learning.

Knowing the why does matter, because of weeks like last week:

Weeks when I go to class with a sore toe that makes me feel clumsy.  Weeks when I go to the class and am asked to do a move that I know, that my sensei has spent endless time and energy covering and teaching, yet my body rebels and refuses to execute.  Weeks when I forget the sequence of a simple kata in front of everyone.  Weeks when I fail to stripe for testing and I feel like I've let my sensei down.  Weeks when I feel deflicted and awkward and every second of my 48 years.

Because I know why I love martial arts, weeks of failure don't steal my joy.  They don't make me quit.    Looking back on last week's failures, I still had a blast;  I moved through the air, I worked and failed but I worked hard, and I learned.

All in all it was a great week and the whys give me tenacity and determination.

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Secret Lives Of Children

January 31, 2015 by Rieshy

One of the joys of teenaged children is the solving of family mysteries.  Who broke your antique cookie jar ten years ago might be confessed during a family dinner as your teens choke on their green beans with laughter.

 I was given a rag doll when I was two.  Forty five years has not been kind to it, yet it is the only childhood toy that I truly loved and when I look at it I feel cozy inside.  Think Jessie Doll feelings of attachment.

Evidently when my children look at it they see a crazed murdering figure that may or may not come to life at any moment.

My youngest daughter once told me that she liked it too so I gave it to her and told her she could play with it at anytime.  Yesterday it was revealed to me that she only told me that she liked it because at the time she was afraid it had heard us discussing it.  She was trying to flatter and appease it so it wouldn't exact horrific revenge.

Doll appeasement, and at great price because I was so excited that she actually liked it that for a time I placed it lovingly on her bed.

My 8 year old son heard our conversation and revealed that he and his younger brother both find it, "really freaky, especially the way it sits high up on the bookshelf and looks around," furthermore he confessed, with a nervous head-twitch towards my bedroom door, it is why neither of them like to go into my bedroom.

Ah, another mystery cleared.  I had noticed the mad dash my two youngest always use when they have to fetch something from that side of the house.

So- young mothers, one day probably at a holiday dinner, you will discover how and why your son really cut his hand (perhaps while making carrot puppets with a butcher knife) or how that the garage trash can "spontaneously" caught fire (spontaneous- meaning tennis-can cannons)  Most importantly, if you want your kids to stay out of your bedroom; buy a doll.

I submit to you a lovely photo of "Boopie".  Freaky?  I think not.