All Women Are Created Equal

15 Oct

My daughter turned me into a feminist.

The North Shore Invitational Taekwondo Tournament circa 2010. My son and daughter, young adults, each competed in black belt breaking competition. Men’s and women’s divisions of course. Robb sets up his routine, and you can see it in the eyes of the black belt guys who will be holding boards and who are watching as they wait to compete: this is going to be good.

Tricia sets up her routine and you can see it in the eyes of the black belt guys who will be holding boards: she’s going to try this? Yeah, right.

I might have read them wrong, but I’d been reading such reactions and interactions, including my own, within Taekwondo for two decades by then. I’d heard the after-talk of board-holders, competitors and judges regarding ambitious routines of both males and females for nearly as long. I know the way Taekwondo guys “talk in the locker room” about such matters. That’s within the context of an art-sport that I see as very open to, equal for, girls and women in regards to opportunity, challenge, accomplishment, empowerment, respect. It’s a fantastic endeavor for girls and women, even if it’s still largely a guy’s sport.

So, it wasn’t that event per se, but . . . my daughter turned me into a feminist. Continue reading

A Diamond Mine

1 Oct

I recently attended an event sponsored by the fantastic Hermantown Area Chamber of Commerce . Former Duluth mayor Don Ness spoke. After two terms as Duluth’s second-youngest mayor ever, with astronomical approval ratings, Don is now Executive Director of Workforce Training and Community Development at Lake Superior College.

Speaking to the challenges that employers have in maintaining a capable workforce, Don uttered a statement that made my heart flutter:”Businesses need to be willing to Continue reading

Everyone has a book in them

5 Sep

Bemidji, Minnesota, February, 2011. My son, Robb, twenty-two at the time, competed in black belt sparring. Robb caught a kick to the head that resulted in him losing the match. It wasn’t just the points that got him, it was the physical effect of the kick; he couldn’t give it the right effort the rest of the match. Afterward he noted that he wasn’t going to compete in sparring anymore: “I’m going to be an attorney, not a Taekwondo olympian, and I want to keep all the brains I can.” Good call, Robb. He’s now a year into legal practice and proving he’s got some good skill to bring to the table.

Recently I was greatly moved in reading the story of former NFL tight end Ben Utecht. Getting hurt in football is just part of the gig, right? The gig of concussions went places he’d never imagined. My son Robb played tight end in high school. Ask him some time about the spectacular head-on special teams crash he doesn’t remember, and about his rubber-legs when getting off of the bus after the game in which he continued to play after said spectacular play. The extra-big highlight reel, MVP push, often proves itself to have been a bit overboard. Continue reading

While Watching a Rerun of The Bob Newhart Show After Returning Home From a Wedding

20 Aug

August twentieth, two-thousand-sixteen. Blythe and Jason get married in a service that makes my eyes moist. The beginning of a lifetime together.

December, nineteen-eighty-five. A rerun of M*A*S*H was playing on the TV. Bonnie sat on the couch. I was doing some sort of exercise across the room, wearing shorts that would be way too short in 2016 (or for any year since then, including that year, and most years before).

I stopped what I was doing, sat down next to Bonnie, and said, “So, you want to get married or what?”

“Are you serious?”
“I’d love to.”
(Hug. Kiss) Continue reading


3 Aug

I recently returned from my fifth year helping to run our Rotary district’s week-long youth leadership camp. How does a volunteer team of more than forty mostly-20-somethings help to empower nearly 150 mostly-17-year-olds?

A paraphrase of what one camper said last year summarizes it well: “I came here expecting to learn a cardboard cutout of what it means to be a great leader. Instead, you showed me me.” The camp curriculum and process gets to the heart of recognizing, respecting and using individual uniqueness and gifts, both one’s own and those of others, as the most powerful way to lead. Continue reading

What’s The Condition of Your Blade?

2 Jul

At one point I operated two separate Taekwondo studio locations myself. Certainly not all by myself; I had a number of black belts who would assist as they were able and also cover classes in my absence. That was important because I had one overlapping class night and could not be in two places at the same time.

I ended up with the two locations — one my own original location and one my instructor’s, which he passed on to me — for two reasons. First, I hoped to ensure that both communities would have the opportunity to train in Taekwondo into the future. Second, I hoped to earn some semblance of livelihood through Taekwondo instruction and, between the two locations, I felt that might be possible.

As soon as one enters the realm of traditional martial arts studio operations there are lease commitments, overhead costs, facility maintenance needs, and constraints of operating Continue reading

How To Avoid Getting Trapped in the Web

26 Jun

“Hello, this is Chris.”
“Hi, Chris, it’s Tom Marchetti; does that ring any bells?”
“Gee, your name sounds familiar, but sorry, I’m not making the connection.”
I was at RYLA; my mom is Sue Ma . . .”
“Oh, gee, yeah, TOM! I can’t believe I didn’t recognize your name. I remember you clearly.”

So it continued for a bit with Tom, a camper several summers ago at our Rotary District 5580 Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp. A rising high school senior then, he has graduated from college and is working in a professional sales position. He thought of me as someone he could contact as part of his outreach.

Before we wrapped up that phone conversation, I stopped to ask Tom what about RYLA has stuck with him. He didn’t hesitate before he told me this:

“You know that Spider Web challenge my family (team) did? We completed it, but I think almost all of us had touched the strings in some way. When our facilitators asked us after how we think it went, we all knew we had touched the string and at first no one wanted to say anything; we were so happy and relieved to complete it. I knew then what integrity was. We admitted it, tried it over, and accomplished it. I still think about that all the time.”

My head and heart were exploding! Continue reading

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