Posted by: dougis | January 4, 2009

A look back and forward

It is that time again where many folks tend to reflect on the past year and look to the upcoming one. I am no different (although I don’t typically go in for resolutions, I do like to set goals for myself).

I plan to do the same this year, but first a look back at some of the high points of 2008.

Good things that happened (just a few highlights that stick out since I won’t remember everything).

  • My family
    They will always tend to top this list as they give me the most joy and support.
  • Teeny
    Yes I know I just mentioned family, but she stands out simply for her ability to make me laugh or cry just by knowing the right thing to say (and there is nothing like a 4 1/2 year old climbing in your lap for a hug to put life in perspective).
  • Leigh
    Again, part of my family but also my best friend and one person who really understands me.
  • Fall Camp
    This too will be on the list each year as it is always a joy to spend time with Sensei, seeing old friends and making new ones.
  • The dojo
    In many ways this feels like repetition as this has become an extended family for me. I have so many wonderful people here who provide help and support that I can’t imagine what things would be like without them.
  • Kids Aikido Summer camp
    To get to spend a couple of days with a wonderful instructor (thank you again Dennis Sensei) and my daughter doing something I love was an incredible experience.
  • Nana and her moving into the Highly capable program at school
    To see her truly challenged and blossoming is a wonderful thing (and yes I am bragging about her, I am her Dad it is my right).
  • Home improvement projects
    This is always a source of enjoyment for me as I get to make the house better as well as try new things.
  • Kids Aikido (especially with Nana)
    This is perhaps the most fun out of all the things on the list. Getting to watch all of the kids we teach improve and become more comfortable on the mat has been a great source of joy over the past months. While all the kids are special, watching my daughter grow in her technique and love of the art is especially gratifying.

There are many others as well, but those are a few of the things that really stick out (hmm, notice how many things revolve around either the dojo or family…).

And now my goals for 2009.

  • Continue my training and test for Shodan at fall camp 2009 in Arizona
  • Take a family vacation (already have reservations for July)
  • Add more distance to my running and run a 10K race at some point
    (my eventual goal is a 1/2 marathon, but my brain isn’t ready to commit to that yet 🙂
  • Help Leigh to deal with whatever happens
    (some of you will know what I mean by this and some won’t, but lets just say that life tends to throw curve balls)
  • Start a small home based business for computer consulting for added income
  • Read MORE for fun
  • Lose another 35 pounds
    (actually I want to lose another 50, but this is a good goal for this year, next year I will work on the other 15 if they are still there)

There are many other things I want to do, but that is enough for now.

What are your plans for the coming year and what has brought you joy over the past year?

Posted by: dougis | December 5, 2008

Memories of fall camp

I don’t know about you, but I tend to have a few very precious memories that are like photos in my mind.

All I need to do is think about them and I can see the image in my head like it was in front of me (we won’t discuss how accurate that image may or may not be). Things like the day my folks dropped me off to go pick up my little sister (we are both adopted), running home from kindergarten to watch speed racer with my best friend Guy and the look on the doctors face when my oldest was safely delivered via forceps after many many hours of labor.

These things will be with me forever and I was fortunate enough to add to the list a couple of weeks back. I was at fall camp for Kokikai Aikido in San Francisco.

There were several things about camp that I enjoyed immensely (which I may talk about later) but one moment in particular stuck with me (and it wasn’t even on the mat).

I had already spent a good amount of time with friends enjoying camp and several of us we were sitting outside Sunday for lunch.

The day was sunny and warm, the view was spectacular (the Golden Gate bridge was visible over the buildings of the Presidio) and everything just seemed to gel and make sense for a moment.

One of those perfect moments of clarity that you don’t get often, but you really need to relish when you do.

Posted by: dougis | September 8, 2008

Why am I running if nobody is chasing me?

I never thought I would be one of those people who enjoy running. I used to make all the usual jokes about “the only time I will run is if someone is chasing me”.

Now however I am enjoying it and starting to see what the attraction is.

I started trying to run last year after I tested for 3rd Kyu. The reason for this was simple, by the end of my freestyle I was much more winded than I felt I should have been (although I was still standing, barely) and wanted to be in much better shape before I tested for 2nd Kyu in front of Sensei.

I started by spending some road time on my bike, but here in the northwest winter is NOT a good time to be on the roads and be less than visible and as time went on it became more of a pain to get things ready for a bike ride and argue with traffic. Riding helped for a month or so and I still like to jump on the bike at times, but I decided to try running and see how it went.

It was good exercise for me but I still never understood why some folks enjoyed it so much.

Fast forward to January when the weather is nasty and cold but for some reason I am still making an effort to get out and run even though my test was in November (and yes I was happy with how it went thanks). I am not sure why but if I don’t get out and run at least once a week I don’t feel as well, something is different than when I started doing this.

Finally this spring it hit me, part of what I get out of running is a chance to try and employ the principles of Kokikai in a non confrontational situation completely under my control.

When I am running I find that if I relax the distance flows by more smoothly, if my posture is good then I am more comfortable while running, if I move from my center I move more easily and the runs are not as much work and finally if I keep a positive mindset I make better time and end up feeling better about the run.

I am now working on extending the distance I am running, and while my runs are pretty short to most runners, they work for me (working on 3 miles at a shot with 3 1/2 in sight).

I am finding running to be more and more enjoyable (I am turning into one of those people and while I don’t know that I will ever feel like running a marathon I will no longer say it won’t ever happen). I also have noticed that the end of the run is where I really get to see how I am moving that day, am I stiff where I shouldn’t be? do I allow myself to feel like I can’t go on and need to walk for a bit? or am I moving from my center, thus keeping things flowing and relaxed and does my mind simply tell me that I need to keep moving?

Rob at I dare posted his opinion of what defines a runner and I tend to agree. It isn’t distance or time (luckily for me) it is desire and planning both of which have become normal for me.

Tomorrow is curriculum night at Nana’s school, but before we go to that I have 3 miles or so to get in.

Posted by: dougis | September 5, 2008

Back to school already?

Wednesday was another milestone for us as Nana and Teeny are now back to school (where did the summer go?).

Nana ready for School

Nana ready for School

Teeny ready for School

Teeny ready for School

Nana is starting at a new school so she can take part in the district’s highly capable program (maybe this year we won’t hit the classroom boredom wall in March) and Teeny is back for her last year at her preschool before kindergarten.

They both had a hard time sleeping on Tuesday night since they were so excited for the school year to begin. I am curious if the excitement will keep up as they get older.
We dropped Nana off at the bus stop as her new school is too far to walk, then Leigh took me over by car so I could meet her before her first day (she wanted one of us with her, we will see how many more years that happens).

After dropping me off she took Teeny to school then came back to pick me up at which point we went to breakfast together. I think we are going to make an annual tradition out of that as well (Mommy and Daddy spend a morning out together on the first day of school).
Everyone LOVES their new classes and are really excited about this year so things are off to a good start.

How did your first day of school go this year?

Posted by: dougis | August 28, 2008

The test that really matters

I got beat to the punch by Shevitz Sensei at Aikithoughts, but I still want to talk about this.

Last Tuesday night was testing at the dojo.

This is not an unusual event as we try to let people who are ready test for new ranks every couple of months, however it WAS unusual for me in that it was Nana’s first test as an Aikidoka. She has been training again for a while now and was very ready for her test.

Ready for her test

Ready for her test

She went over all the questions she might have been asked, practiced her ki tests and techniques and generally did all the things she needed to in order to get ready for her test.
It showed, she did very well and was calm throughout her test (her only disappointment was that she didn’t get to throw me as part of her test, but maybe next time).

You can see her technique portion here.

She is my little girl and she did exactly what Sensei asks for, she showed her best. What more could I possibly ask for? (well maybe less guff at bedtime, but one thing at a time)

I have told her many times already, but perhaps someday she will read this and remember just how proud I am of her. Not because she passed her test, but because she did her best.

Posted by: dougis | June 6, 2008

The authors tea party

I was privileged to get to help out yesterday in Nana’s first/second grade class (she is in a split class).

They were having an event that I found to be incredibly fun, an authors tea party. The premise was that the kids would invite a special person in their lives (could be a parent or grandparent, Nana chose her Aunti Vicki) to come and have a tea party with the kids in the class room. During this tea party the kids would show all of the writing that they have done through the year and highlight one specific item for their guest.

They spent time learning how to perform an introduction, how to pass cookies (because what is a tea party without cookies?) and stressed good manners. Since Leigh and I have both volunteered in the classroom the teacher asked if one of use could be there to

  1. help set things up
  2. stand in for a missing significant other if needed (this teacher thinks of everything)

My help as a stand in wasn’t needed, but it was a lot of fun to watch the kids show off their work and enjoy basking in the glow radiated by their special guest. Some of the comments were pretty funny as well, things like “see this is what I wrote like at the beginning of the year, isn’t it bad?” and others along the same lines were heard all over the room.

After tea was served and the kids had a chance to show off their handiwork, they put on the entertainment for the event. All in all five nusery rhymes were acted out by various groups of kids, complete with props and costumes (Nana informed me that they have been practising for months on these).

It was a great example of why Leigh and I think so highly of Nana’s teacher and a great chance to be a fly on the wall (albeit a very large obvious one) at an event that I will remember for a long time.

Posted by: dougis | June 3, 2008

What does Kokikai Aikido mean to me

In Kokiakai we are asked to write an essay on what Kokikai Aikido means to us as a part of our Shodan test.

While I will not need the essay for a while, I have been thinking about the subject and thought it might be interesting to see how my response differs between now and when I actually need it.

My first thought is to answer in terms of the things I associate with Kokikai: friends, family, physical challenges and changes to how I react to stressful situations. Those items don’t go deep enough though as there is more to Kokikai for me than the tangible pieces I see and feel. The connections and changes I get out of Kokikai are certainly a part of what it means to me, but they are not the entire picture. When I truly think about what Kokikai means to me I come up with the fact that it gives me the opportunity to both succeed and not succeed in the same moment. That may sound contradictory, but that is how I view the art and what draws me to it.

Allow me to explain.
By this point in my training when a technique is called out in class I am usually able to perform it adequately. At the same time I realize, with the help of my uke or others, that I can do better (maybe my timing was a little bit off or perhaps I tensed up during the technique). The technique itself was a success (I was able to negate my attackers intent), but at the same time it was less than a success in that there is room for growth. This sounds like it would always be frustrating (and at times it is) but it is also a great mindset to get into. I may not EVER be perfect, but I can always get better than I am today. How to get there will differ for most folks, but it is the journey and the desire to take it that matter most.

While the connections I have gained from Kokikai are important to me, they are not the things that have changed how I look at life (or at least how I try to look at life). It is the mindset of always challenging myself to grow and to be better tomorrow than I am today.

I am reminded of a saying repeated in McDonald’s training (I worked there for many years).
If you are green you are growing, if not you are rotting.

I used to think I understood the concept, but I don’t think I ever really did until I experienced Kokikai.

Posted by: dougis | May 23, 2008


As I have mentioned before I train in Kokikai Aikido.

One our basic principles is to relax and the benefit of this principle was driven home yet again yesterday while in the dentist chair. It was time for my 6 month checkup and he was cleaning my teeth.

I need to backup a little here and state that while I like my dentist, there are a lot of childhood issues still floating around that make me REALLY tense in a dentist office. This usually means I come home with an aching jaw even when nothing other than cleaning is done (I have been known to leave finger imprints on the arms of dental chairs).

Back to yesterday and as I am lying there I think about relaxing. I can tell that my shoulders and jaw are tightening up as he works on my teeth, so I make an effort to release that tension. This is an ongoing process as every couple of minutes the tension starts to build again and I need to work on releasing it once more.

At the end of the visit, my jaw doesn’t hurt and my shoulders don’t feel like I have been lifting weights.

This may seem like a small thing, but to me it is great progress.

What things in your life might get better if you were better able to relax through them?

Posted by: dougis | May 20, 2008

A nice quiet evening

Last night was nothing out of the ordinary.

My wife went to a friends for dinner, so I was home with the girls. They had dinner and then we went downstairs to let Nana practice for her choir concert.

I was a little stiff and sore from the weekend so I told her I was going to do a few yoga stretches while she worked on her music and of course teeny had to do them with me (try to talk a 4 year old through downward facing dog, I dare you). It was a lot of fun to listen to Nana while watching Teeny mimic what she thought I was doing.

Then we went upstairs and all curled up on the bed to watch part of The Neverending Story 2.

A bit later got Teeny in bed, read a couple of stories, sang a few songs and then kissed her goodnight after which I read another chapter of our latest book to Nana.

Got her all ready for bed (homework done) and then crashed downstairs to watch BSG on the Tivo.

May not sound too exciting, but it was a good night as I got to spend some quality time with the girls having fun.

Posted by: dougis | April 14, 2008

Class at an early age

This last weekend was our families turn to pick up my oldest daughters school (PTA commitment).

When we showed up on saturday to pick things up, the school grounds were covered in toilet paper. We made a few choice comments about both the folks who did it as well as the parents sitting down on the ball field watching little league games ignoring it and then started to pick it up.

We work in two teams, one of the girls goes down on the ball field with my wife (it was Nana this time) and the other stays up top with me to pick up the parking lot and playground. We had picked up the parking lot and a chunk of the play area and my wife and daughter had made the round of the ball field (still without a single parent down there getting up to do anything). I was working on getting as much of the TP off the playground as I could when I heard something. I looked up and a young lady who had been watching the games on the field below was sitting there. I asked her what she had said and she repeated “do you have another bag?”. I of course handed her the one I had left and she proceeded to help clean up the mess.

Let me make a couple of things very clear.

1) She was too old to have gone to that school.

2) She did not have ANY obligation to pick anything up

3) NONE of the adults who had walked past the mess to get to the little league games on the field below had done anything to clean things up.

I hope my girls end up with that much class and poise. She really made my day.

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