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    Why Renaissance?

    What does it mean to be a renaissance man or woman--at least to me?

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    Suicide Survivor

    When a hard life becomes harder.

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Befuddled & Annoyingly Dazzled

Oy. I use this company called Endicia for my business postage. Works great. In Dazzle, (the program that you use to print the postage) I am befuddled when it asks me as I print postage on a late Friday night, "Because it's after 5PM on a Friday, would you like to have the postmark date set to Monday?" Seriously, what small business owner in today's world DOESN'T work on Saturday?????? (grumble, grumble.)

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Raw Milk Step 1 (The Decision): To Drink or Not To Drink?

In my journey towards better health, I have sprung upon a new tangent: that of traditional cooking and eating. What does traditional mean? It means to revert back to a natural, ethnic diet that my ancestors ate, where I make my own foods in my very own kitchen. (Yes, as a girl who grew up in the suburbs with a mother that hated to cook, I am nervous! But over the years I have learned to be a better and better cook, and I did not start with much. Even cooking toast in the toaster used to be a challenge!) The ingredients: All organic and raw. (I am passionate about avoiding GMO's (Genetically Modified Organism)!!!! In fact, I am quite obsessed with it.) And this includes milk... Having done quite a bit of research when it comes to raw milk vs. pasteurized... I have decided after much thought and prayer, that I will give raw milk a chance. Members of my family are nervous about this. But after learning about the huge nutritional difference, the possibilities of raw milk in creating many, many different products in my own kitchen, and with an understanding that knowing my farmer and their practices in how they treat their animals means all the difference in the world in making this choice. I believe that with this knowledge I am making a good choice and I feel strongly that this is where the Lord wants me to be. I have been relying heavily on Sarah Pope, also known as the Healthy Home Economist (www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com), and the knowledge and guidance she offers on her blog in articles and video's. I have also been reading a lot! I'll list the books later on so you too can check them out. And so... here I go. I shall follow up in "Raw Milk Step 2: Choosing The Farm.

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Life, What Art Thou?

Aiye… life.  What is this thing called “life”?  *sigh*  I spent the evening getting reacquainted with my best friend from when I was 14, 15 years old.  As a kid, my family moved a lot. 10 schools in all, kindergarten through high school’s senior year, and that doesn’t count all of the moves.  In each location, I had a “best friend”, but to me, she was the best friend of all best friends.  The one I clicked with the most, and the one I always wondered how she was doing all these years.  To be quite frank with you, many of those years are now all mushed together in my head.  It’s a funny thing too, because I used to be obsessed with remembering every event and detail, regardless if it was big or small.  Years ago, I was so focused on remembering everything that went on, so I could at some point in my future, analyze everything that had happened… in hopes to someday process it all so I could eventually move on from the B.S.  That was the plan anyway, and I think I can say that I did follow through on that plan.  That was my gift to myself, and I have learned so much from that process and healed a lot (thankfully).  I do, for the most part, consider myself victorious over all that crap.  I think that’s why I don’t remember a lot of it now.  I truly have put it behind me.

Three hours into our dinner, it was time to go home and she needed to check-in her at her hotel as she was in town on business.  I really enjoyed hearing about her life, and telling her about mine.  Many questions that were abruptly left unanswered almost two decades ago were finally put to bed.  It was great to see that she has become successful and found a place in life where she is stable and takes good care of herself.  More than anyone, I think she deserves it. 

But as I drove home, the emotions started to hit me.  The grief, sadness, anger, frustration… so much crap happened in our childhood.  There is so much water under the bridge.  I had a hard childhood, and hers, realistically, was at least twice as hard as mine.  Maybe three times harder… who knows if it can really be measured?  Fighting back the tears, and the indigestion (I won’t be eating there again), I just can’t help but ask myself what this thing called life is all about.  There are days I think I got it all figured out.  It’s a “spiritual school” where we learn love, and we learn pain, and we learn to move through it all, all the while loving and hurting.  It’s a yin/yang thing.  And then there are nights like tonight, where my heart is overflowing, and I just feel the loss and wonder, truly, what it is this thing called “life” is all about.

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Tuning... From A Rusty Approach

Oh... tuning.  Something so simple and basic... but is it really?

Uh, I don't think so.

To tune correctly, you have to be able to hear... in tune.  And having not played for 12 years or so, well, easier said than done!

For whatever reason, I could not hear correctly.  I consistently managed to tune flat when using a drone.  At the time, flat seemed correct to me.  But I would always double check with a digital tuner that used a digital needle on an LCD screen.  This is how I learned that everything was flat.   So to rehabilitate my ear I would adjust the strings so the meter read correctly.

Eventually, I started to recognize that when the pitch is correct, it has a certain "brightness" that I now listen for.  I am consistent now in hearing the pitch correctly.  But it took some time to make this happen.

And interestingly enough, I still had a few things to learn regarding tuning that my teacher, Wes Dyring (www.DyringMusic.com), has taught me.  I am so grateful to my teacher as he has taught me so much!  Using moderate pressure that is even, with the bow close to the bridge, and using a long and single bow stroke (preferably an up bow) will produce the best sound when tuning.  I've also learned how to properly listen to the two notes being played when tuning, and what exactly "out of tune" and "in tune" sounds like.

Yes, you can indeed master tuning... though I didn't know it was possible.  If you ask me today, I do think I still have yet to master it, but I am working on it and am getting "there"!

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Improvement & Progress! Yeah!

So, it's been way, way too long since I last wrote. The journey of getting back into things has been a hard one. So many "mini-skills" that I took for granted when I was last playing diligently (and for such a long period of time at that) were completely lost! I discovered that every facet of playing, whether it's during your own practice session in the comfort of your living room, or you're playing in an orchestra, or even in the middle of a lesson, takes different skill sets all of their own. Sure there's a little bit of overlap. After all, you are playing the same instrument and most likely playing the same music (for the most part)... but boy, there's a big difference in what is required of you in each circumstance!

Often times, I just had to be happy with mediocrity... if you can call it that. Why? Because your fingers, or your brain or some thing else, just won't do what you tell it to do!!!!! Often, I have found it beneficial to take a break and do something different when I hit these walls. And by, has this been a frequent occurrence... especially in the very beginning!

But after 9 months of diligent practice, I am finally beginning to see significant progress and am finally just starting to feel comfortable playing my instrument.   I can remember back in "the day" when I was playing diligently, I used to think of my viola as an appendage... that's how comfortable I was with it.  It seemed like just another part of my body.  But starting up again, my viola often felt like it wanted to jump out of my hands, or like it could easily fall from them even with it clasped under my chin.  But lately, I've had glimpses of that feeling of familiarity.

It feels really good to reach this milestone.  Exciting!

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The Pain of Rebuilding Again

I thought about seriously playing the viola again for at least 2 years before I actually did it. Why? Because I knew just how painful it was going to be. I envisioned horrible scenes in my head of picking up my instrument with bow in hand, creating the most horrible sounds of screeching and squealing... and the squealing was coming from my stomach. Okay, yes, that is a bit of an exaggeration... but you get the idea. I kept in mind that I do have a tendency to make problems worse in my head, so it can't be that big of a deal, can it?

Truly, the idea intimidated me to no end. I really had no idea how to start. Ideas swirled through my head... Do I take lessons? If yes, from whom? Do I really need lessons, after all I did play seriously for 10-12 years and achieve some level of proficiency.... I think... uhhh... hmmmm... just then I started to remember playing 3 octave scales and just how hard they were when I was playing seriously.

But eventually the hunger for that beautiful viola sound started to grumble louder and louder, until I just couldn't not listen any longer... I had to start, and where ever I was, I was there. In the end, it just doesn't matter how bad it's going to be, because I can't change that until I start. After all, playing the viola is an art where you actually have to PLAY.

And on a personal note, I was beginning to run out of solutions in how to rehabilitate myself. For quite a few reasons, I had reached the burn-out point to the extreme. I haven't just hit the wall in my personal life once, or twice, but likely 20 or 30 times. Really, I'm not counting. And I keep going because there is no other option. When you take a beating, you keep going... there are no other alternatives in my mind. The largest beating and most recent was a violent death of a dear and loved one to me, which broke me into a million little pieces. So, what do you do? Pick up the pieces, one at a time. Eventually, things get better... to a degree. You're changed, hopefully stronger, but not without a sacrifice and a scar or two.

I was realizing that no amount of rest and time and talking it out was going to give me my vitality back. All I was doing all day long was output, output, output, output, output. And finally it occurred to me that I need INPUT. And the first thing that came to my mind was music.

More later...

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Short Weapon Training

Short Weapon Training, which is what we worked on in class this week, was a blast! For those of you who are unfamiliar with our curriculum (Street-Safe Combat Training), Short Weapon Training is Level 4 of our 7 advanced arenas of combat knowledge where we focus on knife and Dula-Dula (palm stick) tactics. One or two times a month, Sifu will visit this unique training segment in our beginners’ class to break the mold, and push the students a little further into the skills of “random concept integration”.

This week was our first in the new school at 5 Star Hall. I love it already. We’ve gone from training a little over an hour per class to 2 full hours. It’s funny, it seems that class went by faster, despite it being almost twice as long. I figure this is an illusion due to the fact that we didn’t have any time constraints causing you to constantly look up at the clock to make sure we were fitting everything in. Instead of orienting the class around “Father Time”, we were able to really explore the intricate concepts found within each drill.

Perhaps this is why I had such a great time in Short Weapon Training this week. Instead of just focusing on one advanced passing drill for 20-40 minutes, we were able to take that one drill and break it down into 4 other drills for almost 2 hours, enabling us really focus on each core concept found within each segment. I LOVE IT!

Breakdown of Knife Flow Drill:

To Start:

Closed Stance
Partner throws a #1 knife strike with the rear hand


1-to-1 ratio
1) Lead>Open-Hand “Passing” Check, Evasive weight-shift into back leg/slight step back
3-to-1 ratio
2) Rear>Jam/Spring-Loaded Style, Flat-Knife Pass
3) Lead>Pak-Sau
4) Rear>#1 knife strike

And your partner repeats the above, and around in circles you go.

With our old schedule, it would typically take us two days to go through our fundamental knife skill drills. But this week, we got through them in the first class! What was great about having the extra time, is that for our second class, we were able to focus on just this advanced passing drill! And even better yet, Sifu introduced the Dula-Dula last night by slightly modifying the drill! I love the Dula-Dula! So the drill changed to this:

1-to-1 ratio
1) Lead>Open-Hand “Passing” Check, Evasive weight-shift into back leg/slight step back
3-to-1 ratio
2) Rear>Dula-Dula strike to the forearm
3) Lead>Pak-Sau
4) Rear>Dula-Dula strike to the upper arm/shoulder

Sifu broke the above drill into 4 separate drills:

2 Beat Drills

1) Counter’s 1 & 2 vs. Rear #1 Knife Strike—Concept Focus: “Evasion to Explosion”, Waist Power, Forward Momentum, Sensitivity, Sticky Energy, Proper Distance, Efficiency/Economy of Motion, Precision in Striking

2) Counter’s 3 & 4 vs. Rear #2 Knife Strike—Concept Focus: Proper Directional Force & Displacement, Waist Power, Forward Momentum, Sensitivity, Sticky Energy, Efficiency/Economy of Motion, Speed & Power Development, Precision in Striking

3) Counter’s 2 & 3 vs. Rear #2 Knife Strike—Concept Focus: Proper Internal Body Mechanics, Waist Power, Evasion, Forward Momentum, Efficiency/Economy of Motion, Speed & Power Development, Precision in Striking, Maintaining Defensive Integrity

3 Beat Drill

1) Counter’s 2, 3 & 4 to a Rear #2 Knife Strike—Concept Focus: Evasion, Waist Power, Economy of Motion, Defensive Integrity, Proper Power Generation, Forward Momentum

You’d be surprised, even after breaking the original drill into 4 distinct pieces, it was still hard putting all four parts together—but it was easier, and much clearer in how to fully accomplish the end goal.

Self-Defense Concept Focus

The “Concept Focus” mentioned at the end of each drill is not an all-inclusive list. There are certainly numerous other concepts that could be focused on. The concepts mentioned above are assuming a certain level of base skill. It may be enough, if the beginning student is just starting out, to follow through with the movements, as they begin to build their Internal Body Mechanics, understanding their distance and knowing where to put their hands. But as the student gets a good base, they should be focusing on the above concepts mentioned.

Another note about the concepts mentioned above, these are just a few concepts that these drills shine the spot light on. These concepts are not meant to be a finite list, but more a guideline of what to emphasize and where to focus your mind.

Core Concept: Distance

One of the core concepts that this drill, or any Short Weapon Training for that matter, really makes you aware of is DISTANCE. As Sifu was explaining in class, there are 2 types of distances: Yours & Theirs. And when it comes to short weapon, especially knives, you better really understand BOTH! Sifu had a great lesson talking about proper distances and strategies for an effective defense against a knife.

One thought, to really make yourself aware of your distance when it comes to just being out of range from a knife attack, is to take the drill slowly. Even, take a moment and ask you partner to stop once they get to the “point-of-contact”. Get in the position of the “Open-Hand Passing Check” and see where exactly you are, while being out of range AND in proper structure. Where exactly are you in relation to the knife. Are you comfortable? Are you uncomfortable? Just how many inches is your face away from the knife? I’m willing to bet you don’t realize just how close you can be, while still being out of range.

Distance is not an easy concept, and takes practice to really fully comprehend. There are a lot of other factors, like power, sensitivity, quality of point-of-contact and evasion that all depend on this one concept. If you don’t get your distance right, it can and very likely will throw off your whole defense. Other than timing, Distance is one of the “keys” to unlock the “treasure trove” of self-defense skill success. Short Weapon Training is important to train in so that you may get a new perspective on Distance and Timing! Hopefully you are training with a knife and/or Dula-Dula to these personal benefits in self-defense skill.

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