LET’S GET READY TO ROLL

I became interested in Mixed Martial Arts over 10 years ago when I was living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A few of the guys I went to high school with were really into it and UFC was extremely popular since wrestling was big in Oklahoma. My favorite fighter was Forrest Griffin. I wasn’t really aware of any gyms in Tulsa that would train teenage girls but I did go to a few Jiu-Jitsu tournaments that a friend entered, as a spectator. I really enjoyed attending the tournaments and wanted to try but was too scared.

Fast forward to 2018 in NYC and I became friends with a guy who was a member of a kickboxing and grappling gym and another guy who trained Jiu-Jitsu regularly. They both convinced me (along with a few other friends online) that I could do it and that it wouldn’t be as bad as I was imagining. I was a super small kid and when I took Judo for a few months in Hawaii I remember even the warmups before every practice being so hard. I was scared I would show up to one of these gyms and embarrass myself, not to mention the gyms in Midtown Manhattan are crazy expensive.

I put it off again and then the pandemic hit in March of 2020. Fast forward about a year and I joined several neighborhood Facebook groups in my area. One day another female posted in one of the groups inquiring about Jiu-Jitsu classes in our neighborhood and someone responded telling us to check out Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu of Washington Heights. I decided to face my fears and anxieties and sign up for a trial–after 12 years of debating and being too scared to try, I finally bit the bullet!

I don’t regret it at all! The coach trains under Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro in his Times Square facility and is a Purple belt. He offers kids classes too. NONE of the hundreds of things I was scared of happened–all of the anxieties I had were pointless. I haven’t embarrassed myself, I wasn’t too out of shape, and even though I am the smallest person in the class, everyone has been really supportive, kind, and helpful while teaching me. Tonight I have my first class as a full member of the gym!

One great thing I love about this gym is that it isn’t cost-prohibitive like the Gracie schools in lower Manhattan. This is the cost of my investment so far:

If you are looking for a new sport to try, I can’t recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu enough. Leave a comment below if you have any questions!

NEW AND…IMPROVED?

The blog has been refreshed from top to bottom so take a look around. You can find links to my resume, a contact page if you’d like to work together, ways to contribute on the left, and links to all of my other social media channels as well. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let me know if you’d like to read, watch or listen to any specific content.

I plan to publish a new “project” in the coming week and I hope you all will stick around as I experiment with more writing, recording, and live chats this year.

60 Years and 1,738 centiMorgans: How I Found My Father’s Biological Siblings

This weekend my mother, father, and I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina for a once-in-a-lifetime event: we are meeting two of my father’s biological siblings.

My father is 59 years old and will be meeting members of his biological family for the first time thanks to something many of you may have tried: a commercial DNA test—an Ancestry.com DNA test to be exact.

I found out my dad was adopted at a young age—I don’t remember just how young but certainly before 2nd grade. Beginning in earnest around 5th grade, I attempted to find his biological family—this mostly consisted of combing through digital copies of newspapers or making posts on discussion boards.

I’m a naturally curious person and have always loved to do research but I can’t really tell you why I wanted to find his biological family. I know a big reason was my desperation to have a culture. Growing up in Hawai’i I always felt so, so left out and lesser than for not having a culture, language, or group to belong to—I thought if I could find my dad’s family that would be the key to unlocking my culture and all the amazing things that come along with having one. I was in 5th grade and obviously didn’t understand the larger implications of this but none the less it motivated me back then.

I was extremely close to his adoptive parents, even closer than I was to my own maternal, biological grandparents. They liked movies and music and were well educated. I was able to go to their house and listen to cool records, read interesting books, watch films, and hear all about politics and history.  My father’s adoptive father died when I was in 5th grade and his adoptive mother came to live with us shortly thereafter. She was dying of brain cancer at the time and was also suffering from several chemical dependencies. During her time living with us and during end-of-life care she told my mother and father details about his biological family that no one had known. She told us his biological family was from South Carolina, that his mom’s husband was a Postman who had been killed in an accident, and that she had several other small children to care for alone.

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My father was born at Saint Joseph’s hospital in Savannah, Georgia on December 28, 1959. His adoptive mother was a nurse at the hospital and after struggling with infertility she and her husband began the adoption process through the Catholic Church. The hospital contacted them immediately when my father was born and they were connected with a social worker who relayed details about his biological family and finalized the adoption. During that time, the State of Georgia “blacked out” all birth certificates of adoptees so there was no way for anyone to gain any information about my father’s biological family.

After adopting my father, his parents relocated to Athens, Georgia, finally settling in Carrollton, Georgia in the early 1960s.

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Throughout my life, I begged my father to find his biological family but he was never interested in doing so. He never presented any objections beyond saying he felt he had a good childhood and didn’t need a new family.

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When he became a grandfather in 2009 I asked again and he relented. After a couple of years of back and forth, he agreed to hire an agency to find his family. The agency successfully found his 80+-year-old mother. He was permitted to write her a letter and he did so but her response wasn’t what he had hoped. She responded to his letter and while the agency would not pass the letter on they agreed to read the letter to my father: his biological mother was not interested in establishing a relationship with him. They relayed a few other details over the phone but since my father didn’t have a way to record, reread, or take down the details, that was the end of the line.

I had been pushing him to follow through with this process for 20 years and when he finally agreed he was met with further rejection from someone he’d never met. The one friend I confided in said I should have just left things alone and that things happened the way they were supposed to in the past so I shouldn’t have pushed to change them now…I felt extremely guilty.

A year or two afterward, I asked my mother to buy DNA tests in a last-ditch effort to find some additional information. My mother and I ordered Ancestry.com DNA tests. My father lives and works overseas so we planned to get him one at a later date. We spit into the tubes and mailed them off.

Continue reading 60 Years and 1,738 centiMorgans: How I Found My Father’s Biological Siblings

13 Reasons Why: Reality or Glorification?

I am an avid Netflix binge-watcher and a couple of weeks ago after freshly cleaning out my queue I was looking for something else to watch. Netflix suggested (and I chose) 13 Reasons Why. I haven’t read the book, I didn’t know it was a hit, I had absolutely no preconceived notions or prior information about anything to do with the story. The first episode caught me off guard and I thought perhaps I was too old to enjoy the story, but then I was hooked. I binged it over a two or three day period and absolutely loved it. Loved it in a dark, cathartic, ripping-the-band-aid off way. I posted on Facebook about it and several friends (of various demographics) agreed that they loved it or planned on watching it, and I saw a few articles about school districts suggesting parents and students watch it together. I thought: cool, this was a realistic show and I hope people take some lessons from it and that was that.

Then I started reading posts about people who HATED the show. A friend posted a status about the fact she would never finish it because it glorified suicide. A Catholic magazine I follow posted an article with a warning from clergy stating that people shouldn’t allow their kids to watch it because it glorified suicide. Other viewers and critics said they thought the show was over-dramatic and that high school really isn’t that bad. And I continued to see posts stating the show portrays suicide positively. I thought about it at length and realized it connects to something my last post touched on: the idea that talking about or portraying something in pop-culture dediabolisizes or normalizes it. I talked about my disagreement with this idea in the political arena, but it fits here too.

*SPOILERS*

If you haven’t watched the show or don’t plan to, this might be helpful.

So, I’ll get right to it. I don’t think this show normalizes, glorifies, dediabolisizes, or portrays suicide positively.

I understand why people may think the show portrays suicide as a solution (especially if they didn’t watch the entire series) because in fact, Hannah’s peers only understand how their actions impacted her after she kills herself and they choose to listen to the tapes she leaves behind. But the show does not portray suicide as a solution to Hannah’s problems.

The show never shows that Hannah killing herself or recording the tapes has any effect on she and Jessica’s rapist. Their rapist never hears her tapes. He is not held accountable for his crimes. Her death does not fix Jessica’s pain. Her parents financial problems are not fixed-in fact, her death makes them worse. Her death and her reasons for killing herself do not solve any of the problems she used to justify killing herself. Her death leads directly to another student being shot in the head (we don’t know the details surrounding that situation, yet). Her death allowed her to escape her circumstances as all death does, but the producers and author never even elude to the fact that suicide “fixes” anything. *Her tape to Clay does contribute to him being nice to Skye, buy his tape clearly states he was always nice to Hannah too.

The show also certainlyyy did not portray suicide as the easy way out. If we are to believe the tapes, this was far from an easy choice for Hannah. It took thirteen separate encounters for her to decide to do it. She didn’t get knocked down in the hall one day and decide, “Welp, imma slit my wrists tonight”. Her rape wasn’t even enough to make her kill herself.  She tried-12 times-to move on, to ignore, to make new friends and 13 times her efforts were met with yet another incident. The show does not portray suicide as an easy decision.

I’ve also seen posts stating that the tapes were a way to get revenge. I don’t see it that way at all. She thoroughly and diligently explains how each interaction with these 13 people made her feel. She got revenge in a passive way, of course. Those people will have to live with the knowledge of how their actions (even if they weren’t violent or mean) led to the death of someone, which is definitely some serious baggage to carry around. She uses the tapes as a way to explain why she did what she did, not as a way to seek revenge. Clay seeks revenge on her behalf, but her suicide is portrayed as an escape not as vengeance. The whole point is that she made the tapes so that people would listen to them and understand how their actions contributed to her suicide. It shows that children (and all people, really) just want to be listened to. She could have written notes. She could have left nothing behind. The emphasis is on the tapes for a reason and that reason isn’t to convince victims to kill themselves.

Also, the show explains that a HUGE part of Hannah’s suicide was caused by her OWN actions, not her victimization. Not only does it show that she ultimately chose to end her life, but two or three of the tapes (maybe more, I can’t remember) center around the fact that she did something wrong. She watched her friend be raped and did nothing. Her PTSD caused her to reject Clay and in turn made her blame herself for hurting him. The show made her an active participant in her downfall. While ultimately she was a victim, it did not paint her as someone who just had some bad stuff happen to them and decided to get revenge. If she was seeking vengeance, she was seeking it against herself as well as her peers.

Lastly but most importantly for my defense of the show, throughout the show the counselor and his lack of professionalism are emphasized time and time again. His character’s conscience is burdened from the start because he knows he did not act correctly to prevent Hannah’s death. By the end, we know that Hannah asked for professional help before killing herself! She did the right thing! She did what we are all taught to do! She asked for help. She went to a professional. She dropped her pride and fear and went to an adult. After trying 12 other times to avoid situations, to avoid being antagonized, to ignore her tormentors, to make new friends, to find love, to have fun, to express her pain through art (poetry), to anonymously ask for help (that letter in class), to change her attitude, she asked an adult for help. And that adult could not or would not or did not know how to help so then she took her life.

Continue reading 13 Reasons Why: Reality or Glorification?

Extremely bored…even more curious!