Grappling Games, Part 1

December 11, 2017 by Rieshy

Standing with my 16 year old in line and having to explain, 4 times, that the spectator bracelet was for my son and not for me was fun.

Having all my children excited for me was both an ego boost and a prod.

(note to self, get photo of children standing still and looking at camera)

Having a teammate to pose with was awesome.

Knowing that my Sensei Dani and Larry Kooyman, from Family First Martial Arts, were both there with their kiddos to support Tina and me brought home comfort to an unfamiliar arena.

Having a blast both losing.

And winning.

And losing.

And winning.

The Jujitsu community is amazing.  
Sean Patton from UFC in Hendersonville coached me- just because he is awesome.


Rule of Thumb- No Snakes In The Dark

November 30, 2017 by Rieshy

I love teaching martial arts.  I love having a mat full of kids; it's a mat full of potential and I don't mean just martial arts potential.

Someday everyone of "my" kids is going to be out there; adulting.  I'd like to think that the discipline, focus, patience and kindness they practice every time they come onto the mats will become part of who they are.

A couple of days ago I was talking with a class about how performing kata solo in front of an audience can be nerve wracking or scary but it helps you lock the moves into memory and strengthens your ability to rely on your own knowledge.  I thought I'd segue into a little motivational talk on the importance of forcing oneself out of comfort zones to practice self-reliance and strength....

It was all going well; one child raised their hand and talked about how scary it was presenting a science project at school, another child talked about dance class.  Encouraged I said, "Find something a little scary, like doing your kata in front of your family or friends, and make yourself do it.  Practice bravery."

At this point a nine year old raised his hand; with a frightening lack of facetiousness he blurted, "I think playing with snakes in the dark is scary!"

We took a water break.

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Daily Swindles

November 19, 2017 by Rieshy

Confidence is a shell game.

Fake it 'till you make it.
Speak softly so people will listen;
except sometimes they won't.

       Is that where the big stick comes into play?

Believe in yourself,
your talents,
your skills,
your worth.

       But what's the grading scale?

Know yourself,
your talents,
your skills,
your worth.

       Is there an office for remediation?

But don't think so much.
Convoluted venn diagram contraindications.

Only God remains,
immutable and most surprisingly of all;
omnisciently still in love with us all.


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Planning Squirrels

October 10, 2017 by Rieshy

A skill I'm working on.

I fly by the seat of my pants.
Most of the time.
I plan just enough to have a track to be derailed from
because, duh, trains can't fly.

My 10 year plan?
It's been: be alive
while not eating cat food as a dietary staple.

It's not lack of faith nor a paucity of dreaming.
It's years of mothering and multitasking others.
Years where flexibility equaled survival.
And admittedly the latent tendency to let a teenaged daughter convince me to purchase new socks.

The exact same socks I had in 7th grade.
Except in 7th grade I wanted to be too cool for pompoms so I cut the pompoms off.
Pompoms- eternally derailing but actually kind of fun.

what was I planning?


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Drip Drab

September 30, 2017 by Rieshy

Everyday decisions.

No puppy dog tails,
Instead mostly Dribs.

I've started testing for my second degree in mixed martial arts which ends late September 2018.
I've got a plan- and a training schedule for the pre-season and I'm pondering running shoes and the disappointing impracticality of 35 year long-desired nose piercing.

I'm vibrating now but I know the dream squisher is coming:
the Everyday Drab.

I was told last weekend to have one goal and accomplish it.  I don't have one goal, my brain is too messy for that.  Jujitsu- siren song, Goju Shorei- rock in my awkward shoe.  Curses, I find myself lusting after swords and hakama.  Or maybe I'm just a little in love with Caitlin Dechelle.

And that's just martial life goals.

Drips and drops.

Because brains and muscles take time and everyday coffee needs brewing, children need civilizing, bills need paying,  mowing needs scheduling and eyebrows (occasionally) need plucking.

One goal? ARGGHHHH.

So it's everyday drips and drops the dribs and drabs of training for a person who loves grand schemes.  Living... everyday... patiently, it's a hard skill.  The lack of fanfare a temptation to quit and not even  grandly; just slowly fade until life is just a series of everydays, all passing through.

This testing? Drips and drops, dribs and finding joy in drabs.
Hoping for sugar and spice along the way.


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It's All About Age

August 20, 2017 by Rieshy

One shining morning at our Baltimore, Maryland kitchen table, with early a.m. sunlight glancing off a mixture of airborne dust motes and chalk dust,  my father let ME squeeze a bladder that puffed chalk off the surface of some ancient tablets while leaving chalk in the cuneiform impressions left by a thousand or two year old scribe. ME, small, young and hyper me, was trusted to hold the entire tool in my hand like a real archeologist.

It spurred me to find important artifacts on my own.  I dug in my back yard.  Some old milk jars and a broken bracelet were not that exotic and the holes left behind annoyed my mom, especially when she realized I had but a vague idea of where our property line was situated but when we went to Texas that summer I hit pay dirt.  A real artifact!  Something impressive that had been alive a long time ago:!

We had driven out to my grandfathers farm one hot summer day in West Texas with an Aunt following my granddad's El Camino pickup in our family vehicle, a Volkswagen Beetle, a dream vehicle lacking both air conditioning and space for its family of 6.  I remember dust and annoying my mother by asking why Granddaddy lived in town but farmed out of town while my other grandfather lived on his farm.  The niceties of a economically devastating drought decades prior not being quite proper to bring up.

I decided to distance myself from my inexplicably annoyed mom for a bit and found something wonderful.  Something large and mysterious and definitely within the purview of both an archeologist and paleontologist.  Something that Had to be taken home to investigate further and to use a prop for future pretends.  And with the mysterious power sometimes imbued to children under the age of six I managed to wrestle my find to the Volkswagen and stow it under the driver's seat completely unseen.

On the drive home after about 1 minute my mother suddenly asked, "Who stepped in a cow patty?"  Everyone dutifully looked- a task not made easy by how tightly we were all packed in that baby blue, 1975 Volkswagen Beetle.

1 minute more passed and my mother more sharply asked, "Who got manure on their clothing?"  Everyone was clean.

Ten more seconds and my mom jerked the car over to the shoulder and shouts, "Everyone out- someone stinks to high heaven!"

We all disembarked and were all visually checked and double checked by both my mother and my Aunt.  Suddenly I was nervous; things were often my fault.

We got back in.  My mother was gagging, everyone else was also now complaining of the smell.  My aunt suggested that there could be a dead animal in a ditch and that we just needed to drive faster.  We drove faster as my mom gagged more and more frequently.  The car swerved a final time to the shoulder and she leapt out, gagging quite grossly.  She had a sensitive nose.

But this time as my mom crouched by the car, head near the ground trying not to vomit from the mysteriously terrible smell with a car full of adolescent onlookers she spotted something white sticking up just a bit from under her car seat.  White and definitely not part of the car.

All I remember next is my mother's version of cussing (which never included any actual curse words) as she and my aunt worked for 15 minutes to get my find dislodged from underneath her driver's seat and tossed into the ditch.  I was heartbroken.

I learned then that it's age that makes things interesting; the tablets Dad had been translating were accounting lists of goods sold in an ancient Mesopotamian market.  And organic things must be very, very, very aged before you are allowed to either collect them or find them interesting.  Recently deceased and somewhat still-gooey cow skulls, even if they did have horns, were unequivocally not old enough to be interesting and more importantly not collectable.

My career trajectory was obliviated.  I was devastated and changed my future professional goals to things that wouldn't require as much time; settling for a future as a stunt double or spy.  Or both.



August 7, 2017 by Rieshy

Apartment complex leaf capped
brown branches
multi-storied above.

Swinging high
Swinging cold
Swinging sock-less alone.

Campfire smoking kerosene
log scented
pseudo wilderness below.

Swinging high
Swinging cold
Swinging sock-less.

till tree dumping to state park sounds
of exotic
bathhouse directed golf carts.

Swinging high
Swinging warm
Swinging surrounded

in borrowed socks.


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Moving Children

August 3, 2017 by Rieshy

Boxes and dust and questions.
That drawer full of miscellany ignored with determination
until unceremoniously dumped in a box at the last.

Every adult needs a drawer of easily accessible guilt.
Where to put it in the new house?

How do you pack a still-damp shower curtain anyway?
Why have I held on to this and not that and
where the heck did I pack my skillet?

Being taught how much wrapping paper is cushioning enough;
learning that that was not enough.

Leaving always has a being left.
Leaving is adventure.

Parenting is all about being left.
But there's joy there in the cascading crescendo of being left.
It starts with spoons held in chubby fists,
and ends... when they have a family confab and take your driver's license away.

Part of that joy?
Their junk drawer of remonstrances calls only to them,
and the damp shower curtain?

They"ll learn to leave it behind.


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Vacationing Enough

July 24, 2017 by Rieshy

I napped today after morning jujitsu.
In my gi.
During the day.
A week day.

I fixed sautéd spinach and pork chops and served it with a red blend on china at my dining room table.
For lunch.
On a week day.
Watermelon for dessert plus a bite of apple fritter my nine year old had wantonly abandoned on a plate uncleared from breakfast.

Because, I didn't do the breakfast dishes until AFTER lunch.

Then I cruised Facebook without (much) guilt and thought about weighty reading without opening a book,
And a meaning filled life, without getting up.
And paths, without planning.
And my children, without them present.
And kata without kata-ing,
And I uttered prayers, without enough faith.

And then I took another nap.
On a week day.
It was pretend-
Just for the luxury.

Vacationing on a beach could be better;
my Instagram account could stop languishing,
but for now, vacationing with naps and china and play-acting at thought and action and especially praying,
Praying to the God of the Universe, who created beaches but never takes time off from listening to even my weak prayers, is vacation enough.

Now,  off to wash my bedspread because
I fell asleep after jujitsu in my gi during the day,
on a week day,
which even on vacation,

is actually really gross.


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Paper Thin

July 3, 2017 by Rieshy

I'm blessed with two sisters.  Both are often irritatingly wise so when one suggested that I ditch my daily checklists and myriad of schedules for the summer I grudgingly gave it a go.

It's been rough for a person who judges herself at the end of the day by how many boxes are ticked off.  My mental, "Am I a good person?" as I drift off to sleep has no data driven answer.

I'm paperless, light, and the world hasn't ended.


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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.