November 10, 2019

A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step"

Still Alive and Kicking-11 years with MM

 “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  My journey in martial arts began a “thousand miles” ago in 1997 when I donned a crisp white uniform and belt. This journey has had many winding roads, starts and stops.
    I was excited to join my husband and three children and start on the path my family had begun.  However it was short-lived as two more children joined our family and my green belt was set aside.
  Over the years I watched each of our five children rise through the ranks. I dreamed of practicing and testing along with each one of them, but as the responsibilities of being a full-time mother, part-time business owner grew, this dream faded into the background and I hung up my yellow belt.
Martial arts has been a big part of our family and has made a lasting impact on our family culture.  No matter the age of each of our children, they all had something in common with one another. It was wonderful to find an activity where everyone could be involved.  “The family that kicks together sticks together,” seemed to be our family motto.
I attended many rank tests and tournaments over the years as I supported my husband and children through their journeys.  At one point I was practicing enough to enter a tournament. I remember entering in the women’s 18-34 sparring competition.  I was 34 and my first opponent was 18. It was not pretty and I ended up on the floor and at the chiropractor the next day. But it was thrilling to actually compete instead of being on the sidelines.  However, life with a busy family once again took priority and I hung up my blue belt. 
Weapons form to the song "Survivor"
My journey came to a crashing halt in 2008 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma; cancer of the bone marrow.  I immediately begin treatment including two stem cell transplants and three years of chemotherapy and maintenance medications.  My life, goals, and dreams for the future were all put on hold with the real possibility that my life would be cut short. I dealt with extreme fatigue, intense bone pain, kidney and liver damage, cataracts, and a myriad of other side effects.  It took many years to recover. Although Multiple Myeloma is incurable I have been blessed with the gradual return of good health. I am one of the lucky few.  
     Five years ago my oldest son asked if I would be willing to help him at Maple Mountain Arts studio which he owned on main street.  I began helping out with new students and office tasks. My energy level was just returning and some days it would take all that I could muster to make it down to the studio for a few hours but it was a blessing to have some responsibility and a place to gently recover.
      As my health returned my goals and dreams for the future came back into focus.  I began teaching four years ago at the Jr. High, and am now teaching full time at the High School.  Although I was busy with a new career the thought of earning a blackbelt once again became a possibility.  
    So with some persuasion and encouragement from my husband and son I once again donned a uniform, dug up my old blue belt and started over, re-learning the forms.  I was feeling old, out of shape, and very hesitant but I was back on my journey and decided I would just take it one step at a time.  
    This journey has been tough! Everything is a challenge from memorizing forms, stretching out limbs, to learning to punch, block and kick with a class full of teenagers-some of whom I have taught in school.
Me and my sparring partner, grappling buddy, and daughter-in-law
I have been so fortunate to continue on this last leg of my journey with my daughter-in-law.  We have vented to each other after a tough class, laughed until we cried as we learned to grapple, and encouraged each other to keep going when it was tempting to quit.  
The closer I get to the end of this journey, the more I realize that a black belt means so much more to me than learning to kick and punch.  It is about overcoming.  
Overcoming the limitations of the past.  Overcoming physical challenges and poor health. Overcoming the barriers we set for ourselves about, age, skill level, and past experiences.  It’s about overcoming excuses. There have been many moments on this journey when I have thought about quitting, and many times when the possibility of giving up this journey seemed inevitable.  
     Life has thrown me some pretty good reasons to walk away from this goal but the chance to join my husband and children in the rank of black belt has driven me to continue this journey.  To overcome the challenges put in my path and to relish this opportunity to realize my dream that began a “thousand miles ago.”   
The chance to join my family as a black belt finally became a reality!
So grateful for the love and support from my family!

Fourteenth Year Cancerversary

              My husband and I at my 40th High School Reunion.                                                    Am I seriously that old?! ...