Salty Cappuccino

December 24, 2016 by Rieshy

Christmas Eve Gift everyone.

If you are highly competitive with pointless verbal games and you are from West Texas you will understand that I just won the Christmas Eve competition by saying it first, yet you will argue that electronic delivery doesn't count. But deep down, you know you just lost.

If this makes no sense- don't worry after 29 years of marriage my husband, who isn't from far enough west, thinks shouting "Christmas Eve Gift" and then arguing about who "won" is beyond bizarre.

Having just lost the Christmas Eve verbal gifting game with both my 8 yo,  and 15 yo sons I sat on the sofa sipping cappuccino.  My 15 yo was wearing a bright yellow Pikachu onesie and wrestling around with his two younger brothers while my 22 yo daughter and I tried to wake up.  Wrestling punctuated with motherly advice.  Mom wisdom like: "don't kick the bookshelf,  no slapping- just punching, hey- no punching to the back of 15 yo's head, get your knees around, take the milk back to the kitchen.  Hey, 10 yo said he needs to use the bathroom you better get off."

The 10 yo breathed deeply on 15 yo with morning/dragon breath to finally achieve freedom.  Whereupon 15 yo jumped up to do a few pull-ups, dropped down and snagged his hoodie on the pull-up bar.  Trapping himself quite neatly.

"Help Me!" he cried.

What did his loving mom say?
Nothing, I was laughing too hard.

What did his loving younger brother see?
A large yellow defenseless punching bag.

What did his 22 yo sister do?
Take photos.

Tears of joy in my cappuccino, it's a great Christmas Eve Gift.
I hope you and yours have a wonderful day.

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December 11, 2016 by Rieshy

My face hurt Saturday afternoon after the first belt testing at the new school.

Testing days at the dojo.  Everyone is intense.  Parents are zeroed in, the children are both nervous and ultra focused, staff is hyper.  It makes for an energized event.  With new belts as icing.

New belts that stick out funny when they're tied.  Belts that flash an unfamiliar color in the corner of your vision.

One of the most memorable testings that I ever experienced, not as part of staff but as a student, was a testing I went through while wearing a knee high ortho boot to protect a shiny swollen grade 2 calf-muscle tear.  I had to do katas in a chair in unison with my class.  I had to kick against "attackers" coming from multiple directions from a chair.  I did Thai combos while balancing one legged and faked the Thai kicks with thrown elbows.  At first I felt awkward and stupid and not a little embarrassed at the extra attention putting a chair on the mats required.  I sweated buckets and it was painful and clumsy and then the energy of the class and the discipline of the moves made me forget being embarrassed and stupid.

It's not the belts that make testing exciting- the belts are the icing.  It's not the "showing off" to an audience that makes it exciting.  At least not for me.   It's the energy bouncing around the room, the way all the students try to move as one,  It's the community of growth and the oneness of focus that I love.  I hate performing.  But I do want to shine- and when everyone around you wants to shine and snap and kiai crisply too... it's a lifting, soaring feeling.

I didn't have to test that time while wearing a boot; I don't even remember the rank I was testing for.  I got to test because I have awesome Sensei and they didn't want me to have to miss out.

Maybe I'm strange and testing is just a nerve-wracking hoop to jump through for everyone else... but I don't think so. I saw a lot of people on Saturday whose faces probably ended up aching too.

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Ubiquitous Hairband Folly

November 30, 2016 by Rieshy

The set up:
I'm sitting in church between my 9 year old son and my 17 year old daughter.  Sitting is hard for me, especially when it involves shoes and chairs. I'm trying to model appropriate behavior even though my 17 yo is shifting around next to me.  I desperately want to pull my legs up and criss cross apple sauce to relieve the ache in my knees.

My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

Then I notice my 17 yo has a hairband in her right hand.  She's smoothly manipulating it with just her right hand so that a knot appears.  Knotted, unknotted.  Knotted, unknotted.  How is she doing that- and does she know the cherry stem trick?  Stiff knees forgotten I watch fascinated.  My 17 yo notices me watching and whispers, "Do you want to try?" A part of me knows to say, "No."  But there was an edge of challenge to her whisper.

Mutely, I hold out my hand and she slips the hairband over my fingers.
My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

I tried to roll the band this way, then that.  I used my thumb to twist it- it was like a miniature game of Chinese hopscotch from my childhood- except harder.  The service retreated. Thoughts of Baltimore playgrounds flashed through my head.  I would figure this out! I wonder to myself if the name Chinese Hopscotch is even used anymore or if it is now considered culturally inappropriate. I could feel my daughter smirking beside me.  I add my pinky to the mix and twist the band in the other direction. We are a competitive lot and I was losing.

Then TWANG.  I managed to launch the hairband through the air so hard that it hit a woman's head in  the pew in front of me with enough force, and the correct angle, to bounce off her head, skim to the left where it bounced off her bald husband's head only to miss their child's head and finally land in the aisle.

It was as if they had both been bitten.  Amazing how high startled people can jump while remaining sitting.

My 17 yo starts shaking with suppressed laughter.
My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

The husband looks at his wife with confusion and no small part irritation and reaches across his child to fetch the errant band to hand it back to his wife.  I see her mouth, "NO, it's not mine."  He drops it as if it were a loaded diaper.  I can't blame him; hairbands of unknown origin are not something I would pick up either.  They both look around.

Dignity, always dignity.  My daughter and I stare straight ahead.
My 9 yo is paying attention to the service.

The couple in front of us shift back in their seats. I become acutely aware of the row behind us.  They know something's up and unfortunately the row behind me contains more of my children and their spouses... People I've spent a lot of years trying to model appropriate behavior to.

I feel the sobs of laughter rising.  Tears come to my eyes with the effort of holding in snorts.  As a diversion I smack my 17 yo on the leg in that timeless hand-language of blame-assignment hoping everyone will assume she is the culprit.  Yes, I publicly blamed my daughter for something I had done.

17 yo shakes harder with not-so suppressed glee.  Not only has she won the hairband competition but she knows that I've tried to blame her thus creating a double win based on public cowardice.  If I had audibly snorted it would have been a triple play.

But here's the catch, after being hand-language blamed if she were to whisper, "Mom, you did that," as the teenager, she will look even more guilty.  She will look childish and a bit foolish.  She will be the disruptive pouting teenager.  She falls right into my trap, "Mom," she hissed.

Mwahahaha.  So there, girl-child of mine.
Dignity, always dignity.  I won after all.

Rest Days

November 28, 2016 by Rieshy

Rest days.  I have seven children and it was Thanksgiving weekend so the phrase is an oxymoron but I've rested from martial arts for 5 days.   Not even in my living room.  I restrained from side kicking my 15 yo in parking lots. That's a long stretch and there were a lot of parking lot opportunities this weekend.

I have walked, quite a few miles.  Over the holiday break my husband and I started looking up a coffee shop that's operated out of a trailer.  They change locations almost daily- it felt subversive- like we'd also need to know a special handshake.   If we could walk to it without having to walk on a highway we went for it- even if it was a 7 mile stroll.

I was hoping the time off and gentle walking would quiet the odd pain I picked up during jujitsu last week.  -The strain from trying to hold a spider guard while being slowly stacked/squashed.  Pain in a location that's awkward to massage in public.

The result?  I feel dusty and not quite awake and a little too old; like I could pull something if I moved too quickly.  I ache from sitting so much but for the first time in months my shoulders don't hurt.  Who knew that resting would make me so very hungry, and my spider guard pain?  It's no longer waking me in the night but it's still quietly glowing and sending occasional bonus sparks.

I'm curious to see how I'll feel today when I get back on the mats.  I need the dust blown off and my muscles warmed up.  I want to make sure I can still kick.  After all, what 15 yo son doesn't need to receive a loving motherly parking lot side kick?

I just wonder- at 49 maybe this many rest days in a row is counterproductive?


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November 21, 2016 by Rieshy

Today is a hard word.
Except for dogs.

Especially when you wake wrestling with yesterdays and tomorrows.

Being today requires focus
and faith
and hope.

Today is made by God's hands.
He compassionately holds the yesterdays and tomorrows remote
because todays are hard.

and if God's love is renewed every morning.
that's today too.

Lamentations 3:22
Psalm 118:24
Matthew 6:34
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November 18, 2016 by Rieshy

front door wreathes
and open windows.

Fall days of 80 degrees
and dogs fed twice by mistake.

pumpkin muffins
and Christmas wish lists

Fall days of 80 degrees
and children sleeping late.


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Constantine the Great and BJJ

November 15, 2016 by Rieshy

Yesterday, I got to free roll quite a bit.  My main thought was survival.   I watched myself, with brilliant instincts, move in all the wrong directions and in all the wrong ways.  Repeatedly.  I wanted to give up.

Why did I feel defeated?   Because I tapped out?- I'm used to tapping out.
Moving wrong, unfortunately, is nothing new to me.  Moving wrong, being drenched in sweat and feeling exhausted aren't new to me either.

I went home thinking that I've always been a Jack-of-All-Trades-but-Master-of-None; so why am I fighting to change that when I'm about to turn 50?  Ridiculous.  Lots of other negative self talk ensued. Then came the whining.

Sometimes, and it's rare, when I'm free-rolling fight or flight turns to flight but it's kind of impossible to fly when you are caught in s-mount or side control or mount or even with a really weird kimura. Thwarted flight is the epitome of powerlessness and defeat.

In my history class today one of my students read this quote; attributed to Constantine the Great, "Thinking is the great enemy of perfection, The habit of profound reflection, I am compelled to say, is the most pernicious of all the habits formed by civilized man."

I think he was talking about Jujitsu.  In other words; it's time to think less, and wash and dry my gi for another round.

Universal Solvent

November 6, 2016 by Rieshy

Sometimes tears hang hard
they get stuck
and won't roll,
After things go from scary-bad to

They feel ungrateful and superfluous.
After all is well.
After all, he's well;
released from the E.R.

Eye brims burn
feeling hot
almost angry.
a mom's heart doesn't count the cost.

But sometimes, mine wants to.
sometimes mine does.

A squeezing blink and the hot and angry
the tired and grateful merge till
that superfluid rolls.

Moral Quandaries

October 31, 2016 by Rieshy

Halloween, Oh Halloween,
every year posing the same parental ethical dilemma:

How much is too much to steal from a sleeping trick or treater? 


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Dancing at the Exit

October 21, 2016 by Rieshy


Is it irony that we were at the E.R. two nights ago after my recent Middle of the Night post?
I don't thinks so.  It's just life.

Life is pretty awesome. 
And easy to miss.
Don't miss it.

I love that scene in the old Parenthood movie with Steve Martin when life is likened to a roller coaster ride.  

This little guy scared us all with a seizure.  I learned a new medical term.  Benign Rolandic.  Anything beginning with benign is a good start.

Outside our children's hospital there is a statue of children dancing in a circle with a gap left.  The gap has often troubled me.  A missing child?  Ominous symbolism outside an E.R.  But the brass statue has two, shiny outstretched hands, rubbed free of patina; proof that children instinctively know something adults often forget.  

They know to reach out, grab hold,
and join the dance.

Joining the dance with Psalm 150.


Dojo Lego Moats

October 19, 2016 by Rieshy

I've read a few articles on the importance of developing mat awareness while grappling.

Yesterday, while drilling BJJ at a friend's house, who is on maternity leave from the dojo, I realized that we have accidentally found the perfect way to fine tune the skill.  Toys.

Yes, toys.

In addition to her newborn, my drilling partner has an almost 3 year old who plays around our bodies as we drill; sometimes adding dropped action figure toys to the mix.

You do not want to be elevator swept, or elevator sweep your partner, onto a 2 inch tall Mighty Morphing Power Ranger doll.

So, pesky students who don't/won't pay attention to where other students are working?  Legos.  Throw a handful onto the mats.


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Middle of the Night

October 16, 2016 by Rieshy

Awake in the middle of the night because of arthritis pain with a fuzzy brain; dreading the lack of sleep to coffee ratio boomerang to ensue tomorrow.

People with regular insomnia? I don't know how you survive.

Middle of the night reflections on a rather momentous doctor's checkup for my youngest children:  It's been almost 3 years since my now 10 year old's last hospitalization.  I started this blog in the middle-of-the-night period of my life when I could never sleep more than 4 hours at a time (if I was lucky) without waking to feed my son.  We had to feed him multiple times in the night until he was 4 and then once a night until he was 6 1/2 years old.  And that was when he was well.

When he was sick there was no point going to bed at all.  He was sick a lot.  Added to that his younger brother had to be fed at night too.  On a different schedule.

I had a lot of middle of the night reflection time so I wrote and I knitted and I prayed.

We were in the hospital a lot.  So I wrote, knitted and prayed.

I took up spinning wool so I'd have more yarn to knit.

Four years later and my body still wakes at 1:30 a.m. almost every night.  My master closet is packed with a massive wool stash not exactly appropriate for someone living in the South.

Back to the momentous checkup:  The boys no longer have to do regular checkups with their geneticist.  There are no more tests to be done.  They are stable.  We still don't have an answer for what exact gene or genes are causing their hypoglycemia.  It doesn't really matter at this point because we know how to treat them when they are well and we know how to treat them when they are not well.

It may not sound momentous.  You have to listen carefully for the mental clicks; I'm no longer a medical-mom searching journals.  I'm not looking for a complete diagnosis or for a cure.  Their doctor said it's a bit like wearing glasses.  We don't have to know the exact gene for a particular case of nearsightedness; we just order the glasses and deal with the inconveniences.

We still have backup.  Their charts light up like Christmas trees and bump them to first in line if they have to go to the E.R. but I feel free.  They feel free.  They are not patients anymore.  That's the important click, the truly momentous and much prayed for click.

Anyone want to buy some wool?


Naming Pity

October 9, 2016 by Rieshy

Testing Moments

Autopiloting to the dojo
while reconsidering scrap booking.
Suddenly snipping in a living room
sans Master filled panels and bruises
and possible pity is appealing.

That perfect hobgoblin
The principle fear.
The question I couldn't answer honestly.
Even to my Soke;
naming it invites it.

To receive pity?
A spectacular fail is a softer mat.
Pity is the sloppy breakfall on your elbow.
that wrenches your gut and
pops something in your shoulder that you should never hear pop.

Pity is a fraction times you;
defining and excluding in a testing hall wreathed with smiles.
The children's table at Thanksgiving
minus the cheer and good food.

Pathos, the Preventer.  The anti-hero who won't try to fly.
And whose spin hook kick sucks.


An Observation of Bruises

October 2, 2016 by Rieshy

Because I'm a klutz with a tendency to be anemic, because I do mixed martial arts and because I play jujitsu, sometimes I have visible bruises, bumps and/or mat burn.

Not all the time and not always spectacular.  It's amazing what eyeshadow and a tan can cover.  My 17 year old daughter has gotten quite adept with a kit she bought me for christmas.  I don't even know what the tubes and powders are supposed to be for- for normal women- but they work great at covering the marks left by leg locks, thai kicks, accidental elbows, tight grips and gi chokes.

When I bother to use it.

When I don't I've observed some interesting phenomenon while out and about in my suburban area.

Mostly people are embarrassed and avoid looking.  You get your coffee really quickly from the barista when you pay with a complete 5 finger handprint bruise on your forearm.

People get overly friendly and talk to you like you have the brain power of a daffodil.  A trashy daffodil.

Then the really freaky one- you get oddly calculating looks from men. Very unpleasant.

The rarest response?  A friendly, "How did you get that bruise?"

If you have your young children with you while visibly bruised?  Angry.  People jump to angry.   You  see it happen quickly; they notice the bruise, their eyes narrow as they hand you your change and their normal smile flattens.  And they say Nothing.

Humans are weird; I don't know why God puts up with us.


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September 29, 2016 by Rieshy

Sometimes I think my words might smother me before I can wrangle sense out of them.  I'm bombarded by upper and lower case fonts.  Or maybe I just read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom too many times to my children.

This weekend was a new beginning for me in my martial arts journey.  I thought that when nine month long test was finally over that my overwhelming sensation as a baby black belt would be one of relief and lifted weight, less stress.  But it's not.

My overwhelming feeling, other than absolute bruised up physical exhaustion, is urgency.

I want more.  I want to train harder.  I want to learn faster.  I want to be there when kids in class suddenly get a move right and the look on their face changes.

I want to ride my bike down a curvy hill without my hands on the handlebars and feel the fall breeze whip around me.  

And then there is jujitsu.    My stupid injured rib keeps wanting to slip but I feel like I don't have a moment to lose; I can't see any progression.    My professor comes in 2 months but default fonts and sparring partners are still arm-barring me with impunity. Over, and over again.  Yet I love it anyway.

It's a new school year and I'm the dorky 9th grader who can't sleep, with my back pack full of fresh notebook supplies, the room full of the smell of erasers, and new school clothes folded at the end of my bed.

On our last mile as a black belt team the 59th Street Bridge Song, by Simon and Garfunkel, popped into my head and I tried to sing it.  Most of the team was too young to know it, not to mention I can't sing... It somehow seems an appropriate message to myself.


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Peach Cobbler Loyalty

September 4, 2016 by Rieshy

I baked a peach cobbler this morning to celebrate/mourn the end of summer.  It was a risky baking session because I used a recipe other than the family recipe.  I actually felt a little guilty.  I've always used my mom's recipe because the very smell of peaches remind me of her; she's been gone 23 years now.

I still miss her.

I still miss everything about her.

She'd love this recipe because she was all about baking new things.  She wasn't frozen in time while alive.  Funny how I keep her opinions frozen in death.


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Wishing the Gentle Art was comprised of axioms.

August 8, 2016 by Rieshy

Sisyphus's Slope
Icarus' wings in Tennessee heat.
Sphinx and their riddles.

They have nothing on Jujitsu.  Once the breathing picks up it's hard to remember.  Till the car ride home.

Drilling and drilling.
Rolling and rolling.
Washing the gi, again and again.

The moment I think I have something set- some scrap of knowledge all mapped and nailed to the wall, it slithers away, shape shifts and laughs.
And I tap out.

Then I start over.
But then again, that's the whole fun of it.

Heels Over Head

July 10, 2016 by Rieshy

Heels over head
pressed and distressed;
contraction as reaction.

Baiting and evading;
revolution with resolution.

Moving and proving,
over and over;
head over heels.


Flowing Thoughts or Moments of Panic Induced Clarity.

June 26, 2016 by Rieshy


From the roll,
thoughts flow from let's go
to no, no, Nooo!

Why am I here again?
Then crap, and tap.

From let's go,
till tilt, mat meets being
and the most existential of questions
rips through your body:

Why am I here?
Then crap, and tap.

From fist bump,
to a human parkour course.
Till the ummph of elbow-self-expressed air.

Crap and tap.

Till a circle started, finishes
with the sweet expression of
detoured movement, and causes
someone else's:

  Crap and tap.

Dear Dads of Girls: Beware of Posturing

February 7, 2016 by Rieshy

 Over the years I've often heard dads speak of gleefully eviscerating any male foolish enough to mess with their daughter.

Do it.  I'm all in, eviscerate away, just don't talk about it in the hearing of your young daughter because I promise you one thing- if you love her that much, she will love you right back.  Loving you right back will mean she won't tell you anything about anyone who messes with her.

Why?  Why would a daughter who knows her dad loves her and wants to protect her not go to him for help?

Because she will be too busy protecting you from: 

  1. Prison.
  2. From feeling like a failure as a father. 
  3. Because she will feel somehow less- and not want you (her hero) to know. 
  4. She'll be afraid that you will freak out and take all her freedom away.

Instead, teach her to defend herself.  Teach her how to use judgement about her surroundings and her friends.  Teach her that she is valuable and that nothing that happens to her can ever change that.  Teach her to be a good friend and to stand up and protect others.

Spend time with her and listen.  Don't cast her as a princess that has to be saved, that needs a man for meaning or purpose. When she hears you talking about her, talk about how smart and tough she is.  Not how tough you are.

Then try to keep her safe anyway.