A Happy New Year Free Of Fear

I’ve largely lived my life by these words, in spite of sometimes vacillating when I’m on the precipice of going through with whatever it is that’s frightening me…

Generally – after tears have dried, and doubts have reached their peak – I dive in. Why? Because ANY day could be my last. Not going through with something is a disservice to every part of me – heart, soul, mind, body, spirit.

For years, though, I shied away from figure skating, a sport I grew up doing. I learned at so young an age that the slick, icy surface of the rink was like walking on solid ground is to a toddler… The rink was my second home. But after a massive setback in 2012 with a leg torn in three places, severe contusions, a 2-in-1 reconstruction surgery, and a complicated…very long-winded…recovery, I always seemed to find a reason not to lace up again.

With the goal to become a Black Belt (and getting sidelined while at Brown) I went back to the Martial Arts that claimed my left knee. A year and a half later another round of ballistic kicks tore the right ACL and meniscus, though this time I flat-out refused to fix it. As my right leg is my “landing leg” in skating, the fact that I’m missing the tendon responsible for holding the patella in place (in the forward direction) has been the key driver of my anxiety.

Enter needing to move my belongings from my home of 33 years, five years after the first knee injury… There I find my beautiful custom ice skates, hand-crafted by a legend, in desperate need of TLC – I actually shook my head in disgust that I’d have let them sit there so long unloved. After brining them back home and finding a pro sharpener, my husband hopped in the car and drove me a distance to get them tended to.

Once at the rink I began to share my experiences with the sharpener and his wife, both of whom remember what figure skating was in its heyday (honestly, a lot different from what it is now.) We gushed about compulsory figures and the impeccable edge manipulation of the pros back when…and of the strength, power, and infinite grace of the skaters who were on the world stage at the time I was training. I mentioned some of the places I trained, and the coaches I worked with – to my joy, they knew exactly who I was talking about – it felt like I was chatting with old friends. ❤

I’m certain I was brimming over with happiness – feeling as though I was back in my world – and as such, my husband decided to give me a nudge. And then a few more… He could tell I needed (and deeply wanted) to be encouraged…but that anxiety was doing it’s best to keep me derailed.

No such luck!

I remembered the phrase above (uttered brilliantly in a favorite Bar Luhrman film, Strictly Ballroom) and I thought…“damnit, I’m here. I am putting these on and I’m just going to try…” I was sure I’d face plant but the encouragement of my husband (and knowing my parents would have been at my side too) helped me brave the moment.

I went around two times, came off…and burst into tears. I feel the tears overtaking me even now, and can’t begin to enumerate the breadth of feeling within me. I posted a photo on social media as some of my friends (who endured the brutal winter winds at 5:30am alongside me!) would understand the accomplishment. The comments – wholly unexpected – not only warmed my heart, but brought (thankful) tears to my eyes. To know that I was remembered is like receiving a gift I never dreamed of receiving… The joy of my parents and in-laws too…it’s overwhelming and incredible. Figure skating was my “language” – it gave me words when I could not speak, and courage when I was in the throes of fear. I felt as if I was the wind itself…  

Feeling “home.” And…once a performer, always one! 😉

I have struggled over the last two decades feeling that I shouldn’t have given up the potential, the dreams, and the hopes… I remind myself that going to college was the “right” decision, and an important one. . .but I would be lying if the “what-if”s don’t’ plague me at times (never a good thing – to read my post on “Letting Go Of SHOULD”…click here.)

Part of my emotion is sadness – I know I can never go back, and that my landing leg isn’t stable enough to sustain the jumps I so loved doing…

That hurts

But I also know that no other sport has been as “right” for me as figure skating. I was meant to be on the ice and if getting my sea legs back means I can at least help others (Special Olympics and adapted sports are on my mind!) in future, then I know it was worth doing.  

2018 arrived in the same silent fashion as the sun each day – there were no fireworks beyond what we (as human beings) artificially set off. It is, therefore, up to US to “just do it”  – carpe diem, carpe noctem, carpe VITAM. We can easily sit on the sidelines and watch life go by, but we deserve so much more than that. . .

It’s okay to cry.

It’s okay to need an extra nudge or two…

It’s even okay to say “I don’t know if I can do this. . .”

But once that’s out of your system (and I’ve been there too), dust yourself off and take the plunge.

You deserve the richest and most wonderfully happy experiences in life – without trying, you’ll never know what you are missing. . .or. . .what you HAVE missed all along.



6 Personal Tricks To Maintaining Willpower

Every so often I’m asked what I do, or how I stick to my guns, in order to reach the goals I’ve set for myself. Some of my friends have said I stick to my routine like my life depends on it.  While it’s *generally* true that I color in the lines, it doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake all the time. Cake? Where?!  Is it chocolate!?  (See what I mean…?)

Some days it’s a challenge to keep myself on track, but I do have a few tried-and-true tricks to help me stay on the bandwagon when I want nothing more than to hurl myself off it!

Now it may be I’m already that crazy personality type that pushes myself extra hard…in everything…(and boy, is that exhausting!) It could be that I like routine. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen other people succeed, and I want to get there too.  Either way, these tricks do come in handy, and are worth a shot if you are having some difficulty motivating. . . They have helped me enormously, and continue to.

What is willpower, though, anyway?  Willpower is typically used to refer to that miraculous, supernal compass that allows us to abstain from whatever it is that ISN’T so good for us…  Or, as the dictionary puts it:

For me, that would be eating whatever I want, not getting up and exercising most days, and not following through with the things that will help me grow as a person, or in a field I’m interested in.  I’ve admitted to myself full-on how much easier that life would be…but when I think about the implications of walking that path, I’ve rerouted very quickly…

So there’s tip #1 right there…

TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

This trick works for me the majority of the time.  I don’t really consider it as guilting myself into things, it’s more that I focus on the implications of NOT doing the action I’m struggling with, OR staying where I am…which is not where I want to be.  I know that if I decide to abandon my dietary habits, I skip my physical activities, give up on something I really want to learn (which I almost did recently!)…I’m going to suffer on a number of levels.  I’ll feel more exhausted, depressed about how I feel / look / not achieving, my skin will probably freak out, the doctors (I’m sure) will be on my case, and I’ll very likely be in a shitty mood all around.  Bad for everyone!

Then there’s tip #2…which is similar to the first, but it puts things in a positive light (which, frankly, is where I personally prefer to be.)

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

When I focus on my goals, I get the most bang for my buck – more so than #1 because, again, I’m making this positive.  I focus on what I want most – whether to maintain my current condition, learn more about a subject I’m new to, achieve the next rank in my Martial Art… Whatever the goal is, I focus on HOW I WILL FEEL once I HAVE IT.  That’s how the magic begins.  How to keep it going?  Picture it as if you ALREADY HAVE IT.  Once you get there, you’re golden.  There are mornings that getting up and spinning is the last thing I want to do.  But I focus on the feeling of “that felt great – I did it, and I worked hard, and now I’m ready for the day!”  Focusing on the feeling I’ll have in accomplishing that goal makes all the difference.

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

Progress snapshots can take a lot of forms – it really depends on what the goal is. If it’s with regard to my Martial Arts, I’ll make sure to take periodic photos of my attendance card to see just how far I’ve come, and how close my next test is.  If it’s with regard to physical condition, photos go a LONG way.  Photos help us to keep track of how we are doing in the most real sense – I’ve caught myself being off track from pictures plenty of times!  It’s not easy to see ourselves as we really are sometimes – photos keep us honest.

TIP #4 – Staying Gentle with Ourselves

Life is a challenging journey any way you slice it.  There will be ups and downs, and days you don’t damn well feel like “making a gratitude list!” That’s okay.  What’s important is that you are gentle with yourself in understanding we all get a little sidetracked from time to time.  Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling fully.  Then dust yourself off, remind yourself how far you’ve come / that you have made it through successfully before (and I guarantee that you have!), and get to it!  Wallowing in our shortcomings is incredibly dangerous, and a surefire way to keep the negative cycle going.  Chin up  – you can do it!

TIP #5 – Sharing Our Progress

Don’t forget to share your progress with those you trust and love – I assure you that they will want to share in your joy, encourage your continued journey, and would be willing to help you in any way they can.  That’s what loved ones are there for!  You aren’t alone, and you don’t have to go it alone. If you are having a tougher day, it’s okay to ask  a loved one for help, to vent, or to ask for a proper kick in the ass – like being brutally honest! – when you need it. 

TIP #6 – Changing Our Language and Inner Dialogue

I’m as guilty of the next person of putting myself down, and putting road blocks in my own way with negative thoughts or language.  It’s vital that we work on using positive language, such as “I can!”…and using it all the time.  When we are stuck in a rut, or feeling miserable about past failures, that’s when using positive language (and / or replacing negative language) is the most important.  We must remember that there is always a new opportunity waiting – there is no better time than the present to get back on track, and we can do that at any moment.  Forget four letter words like “can’t” as they serve only to derail.  Make sure your language is positive, and you are on your way!

Willpower can be hard to come by all the time…but it is NOT an impossibly-achieved, elusive superpower.  The more we work at it, the more we will have.

You have everything it takes to get back on – and stay on – track, so long as you really want whatever that goal is.

So. . .


TIP #1 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning the Implications

  • DO stay honest with yourself about the full implications of staying where you are 
  • DO visualize, and own up to that result (of not following through)
  • DON’T throw in the towel!  You have what it takes!

TIP #2 – Internalizing / Visualizing / Owning…and FEELING…the Goals

  • DO focus on how you will FEEL once you attain your goal
  • DO picture yourself already achieving that goal (this is the key to the miracle!)

TIP #3 – Progress Snapshots

  • DO take periodic “snapshots” to keep you honest with your progress
  • DO take photos, as they are the more true picture of reality than we sometimes like to pretend
  • DO be creative! Taking a picture of a school report card, or positive e-mail from the boss counts!

TIP #4 – Be Gentle With Yourself

  • DO praise yourself with affirmations when you do a great job of making benchmarks
  • DO share your joy with those you love, as they will be proud of you also!
  • DON’T beat yourself up if you had a tough day

TIP #5 – Share the Joy…AND the Challenges!

  • DO share your successes with your loved ones
  • DO share your struggles if you need or want to
  • DON’T isolate yourself.  You don’t have to brave the journey alone!

TIP #6 – Change Your Inner Dialogue 

  • DO use positive language, and try to use it all the time
  • DO believe in yourself and say it aloud if necessary
  • DON’T wallow past failure
  • DON’T give in just because you are in a bad place.  Without change, it’s going to stay that way.
  • DON’T use “I can’t” or “it’s too hard” or I’ll never _____”

You’ve GOT THIS!

“This Armless Woman Can Literally Kick Your Ass” by Sophia Rosenbaum

My heart is brimming over with emotion seeing this story

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

Jessica Cox has accomplished feats too challenging for those withOUT physical disabilities, never mind those that she has had since her birth.  She is – for lack of a stronger word – and absolute inspiration, facing her own fears (of which there are few) with a can-demolish kind of attitude.

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

It never ceases to amaze me that those in my Life (or those I have read about)  with the greatest “disabilities” – a word they generally do NOT use, by the way – manage the brightest smiles, the bravest attitudes, and the most positive outlooks.  I feel honored just to hear about what she has done in the face of an adversity that seems insurmountable.

Amazing, Jessica.  ❤



Martial Arts – Progression

I’m super thankful that I have been able not only to do five different Martial Arts thus far in Life – having, mind you, only started in my 30’s (I’m currently 38) – but also to have achieved some ranks in each one.  Mastery in the Arts is a lifetime pursuit – belt color doesn’t mean much when you look at the larger picture!  But taking tests – and passing – is a really awesome feeling.  I always like to be as prepared as possible, and feel blessed to have the opportunities to demonstrate my knowledge every so often.

I’ve been doing Ninjutsu for just over 8 months – I set a lofty and ambitious goal (from the get go!) of making every single testing cycle no matter what.  There are days where that’s not easy to do – I’m either physically not around to be IN class, or I’m flat-out exhausted.  That said, I keep in mind – always – that I have these opportunities NOW.  I may not always.  I want to take advantage of the learning, and progression while I can.

I most recently took my 6th Kyu test, and with that came a second “initiation test.”  The initiation essentially boiled down to one hour of my classmates testing my knowledge of all the techniques from the tests I have done up until this point, and doing it in a less structured, “real life” way – I have to say, it was maybe the most fun I’ve had in any Martial Arts test yet!  

The honor of receiving my Genbukan patch – one aspect of passing my initiation before 6th Kyu – was a big one. I come from a background in Korean Arts, so re-learning, adapting, and working within an Ancient Japanese structure has been a challenge, to say the least (maybe not AS severe as my Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, but difficult all the same!) 


While I have a LONG way to go – and yes, I have goals in place to pass my 5th and 4th Kyu by the end of the year! – I appreciate the steps along the way.  

Earning ranks, and the responsibility that goes with them, is an honor in my book, and a blessing.  I work hard for it, no question, but I also feel grateful because not everyone can.  Some simply are physically unable.  Others, less able to apply this level of discipline to an activity that’s “extracurricular” and supposed to be fun!  For me, though, learning IS fun – I enjoy the challenge and putting myself in places where I am not at all comfortable.  It’s in that zone where the good stuff happens. 🙂 

More Martial Arts fun!

Martial Arts – Taking Notes

Learning Martial Arts is something you can’t do online, folks. I’ve seen a ton of programs, and even heard about people who have purportedly reached high ranks by completing and online curriculum.  Really!?  I don’t know…I’d be highly uncomfortable claiming a rank without the experience.  It isn’t so much the being found out when you roll with someone at that level who far surpasses your skill and knowledge, but rather the inability to react quickly should you need to rely on your muscle memory in a rough situation.

You have to be in the thick of it, or you simply won’t be able to replicate the techniques the way they are intended.  You might conceptually understand the movements, but without doing them – repeatedly (read: thousands and thousands of times) – those motions will not serve you as you might want – or worse, NEED – them to.  It is both an injustice to yourself, as well as to the Art, to endeavor to attain ranks this way.  

Books, DVDs, online seminars and video tutorials – all of those things are WONDERFUL…as supplemental tools.  I use them often myself (though, more importantly, so have many of the “Greats.”)  Simply put, you have to come to the Dojo and be hands on, or you just aren’t going to “get it.” Martial Arts isn’t just about a sucker punch to the gut, or a kick that sends a heavy bag reeling.  And it’s definitely not about saying “hey, check out my new black belt (that I didn’t have to earn.”)  

Videos are often not permitted at Martial Arts schools either – my Grandmaster (8th Taekwondo, 9th Degree Hapkido, Swordsman, knife throwing, Kumdo etc) is the real deal.  And, he won’t stand for it.  NO VIDEO. Period. You have to show up and put in the dues in order to progress – relying on a video of someone who you replay over and over in effort to imitate isn’t going to get you there. And, as above, on that principle it is forbidden.

The idea is that you learn in the class from an instructor, you practice what you can, and retain what you are meant to retain in that time (everyone is different.)  

Each class allows you to build on previous lessons – with each one, you string more of the “words” or “vocabulary” together until finally you begin to make “sentences” with your movement (I like to refer to the movements in this way – the Art is very much a language where each small piece is a word, or a form of punctuation – once you are able to connect them into fluid meaning, you have your sentences.  As with your own native tongue, the options are endless!)

While in Taekwondo and Hapkido, I relied a great deal on memory, I still had to write a lot of things down.  I would also take videos of myself after learning a movement so that I could refer back when I had a question.


These days, I never show up to a class or lesson without a notebook – it’s either my Curriculum, or a notepad, and the notes are ample. There is ALWAYS a new detail to pick up, and always improvements to be made – I like to take note of any “Kuden” (secret knowledge in Ninpo / Ninjutsu), tips, tricks, or feedback on what I’m missing…not just the steps of the drill at hand.  

The act of taking notes itself helps to solidify some of the details discussed, but it is also a great resource when needing to refer back.  Sometimes I am the only person jotting things down – we all learn differently and “doing” may be enough for others.  I don’t mind taking an extra moment with my book if I have to, though – I never feel awkward about it.  

Personally, I’m a choreographed athlete – skaters and dancers create routines in advance much of the time, so we know exactly what’s coming.  You show me, and I’ll repeat.  It won’t be perfect, but I’ll have the broad gist, and I can recreate it pretty quickly.

But life doesn’t exactly work that way, does it? Most of the Arts are not designed to be staged (getting mugged on the street isn’t going to play out the way you might think!)

Movements are complex and are there to give you a framework that can help you deter or alter an attack, let’s say – while you need to recreate those steps, they aren’t always going to come out so scripted. It is therefore important to pay as much attention to the details so that you have as much “vocabulary” as possible at your disposal in a non-choreographed scenario. . .which is MOST of the time!  


I encourage students to take the time to take notes for that very reason – if you can sneak them in during a demonstration, do it.  If you have to take five minutes after class, take a seat and get to it while it’s still fresh.  You won’t regret taking them…but you might regret not doing so.  When you review a technique down the road that you are SURE you had before, it is incredibly frustrating to start over – with detailed notes, you can always catch back up to speed leaving room for further learning, and assimilation of more detail.  

When push comes to shove – and in a rouge altercation in the street, it will! – you want to have as many neural pathways laid down.  Doing is KEY – you have to be present and physically doing the activity.  Taking notes while you’re there will take you deeper into the experience of learning as well, making those memories even stronger.  

DEFINITELY look to additional sources of information for more angles or tips about application, failures, etc.  But don’t expect an online-only course to deliver a certification that’s worth its purported weight – you need to show up first.  Go the extra mile while you’re at it – you will be thankful you did.


New Year, New Goals

There are about a million reasons why I believe in setting intentions and making resolutions at the dawn of a New Year – I am sure I will write at length about some of them going forward.

What I want to express now is, simply, “YOU CAN.”  

The language we use when referring to ourselves, to our abilities, our accomplishments…and in our own minds about ourselves…is outrageously important.  I’m willing to say it is vital to a happy and fulfilled life that we speak in the positive to, and about, ourselves.

Our self dialogue has a profound impact on every aspect of our lives, from health to relationships, to the ability to carry out (or set!) our goals.  For myself, it is something I acknowledge and work on each day.  Literally. 

I love being fit and active, for example.  But some mornings are tougher to motivate.  Instead of dissuading myself, I remind myself of all the reasons I want to exercise – not that I “need” to, but that I WANT to.  And once I focus on those things, I feel proud…because I know that I am both willing and able to push myself – knowing I am in control of the outcome by saying “I CAN DO THIS!” is incredibly empowering!

When you get through a tough workout, you feel amazing – not just physically, but emotionally.  You realize that you had it in you the whole time, and that “I CAN do this!” was up to you the whole time – that might be the best benefit for me personally.

A New Year is a great time to set some new standards for yourself – add a challenge or two.  And don’t worry if you don’t make a huge leap – small steps are STILL steps!  On the morning of the 1st I was exhausted – I was, like most people, up late.  Just watching a documentary and a few fireworks…but it was still, let’s be honest, well past my bedtime!  But I woke up and said to myself, “I can do this.  And I can do it BETTER than every before. Forget being tired, forget about wanting to rest.  I know I have this in me, and I want to start the year by crushing a goal.”


I didn’t get on the treadmill to do sprints feeling like I was going to go insanely above and beyond my normal record…but I DID have in mind to do better.  Instead of 8 to 10 sprints, I decided I’d do 13.  I love the number 13! 🙂  Once I got to 13 I thought “I could do that, I’m going to do 16 in honor of the year!”  

16 sprints, a few inclines, and some fast walking later…I had done my best sprints ever.  I’m not much of a runner, but I’ll get on to sprint a few times a week because I know it gives me the results I want – but I’ve never done that many, in that time, at that speed.  

Will I break that record tomorrow morning?  Probably not!  And that’s okay.  The goal was to start the year with a bang – go big, or go home!  I gave myself every reason to believe in myself and prove – TO ME – that I CAN.  And you know, it felt pretty darn amazing!


Never underestimate your own ability to crush your goals – once you start on those little steps, you keep moving forward.  Eventually you become a steam train and your goals get dusted! 🙂 

As Nike says…Just DO IT.