Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Two Dogs Revisited

So last week I had convinced myself that I couldn't care for two dogs the same way I care for one dog. It was more expensive, what if one dog was sick and the other one wasn't, how could I not play favorites, etc. I don't know if that's how I really feel or if I was just trying to convince myself.

Maybe Chale wouldn't have so many issues if he had a well balanced brother to ease his anxieties. If I got both dogs at the same time and there were no territory issues then things shouldn't be too difficult. One dog will inevitably pass before the other one but that doesn't mean that the new dog that I get to be with him will be a puppy. I know that I'm a good enough dog owner that I will wait until I'm sure my old dog is okay before I bring another dog into the picture and that I won't bring a 1 year old hyperactive puppy into my house with an 8 year old mellow dog. And really, if I don't think the old dog is ready then I won't replace the dog that passed. I have to give myself more credit than that. If anything I'll probably become an even better dog owner because I'll be so paranoid that I'm going to screw things up that I'll over do everything.

Yes, having two dogs will be more expensive. But with pet insurance those costs will be much less than they have been for all my pets up to this point. When I first got Chale, pet insurance wasn't available that covered genetic conditions so I didn't see the point in getting it. Of course now there are insurers that will cover hip displaysia, epilepsy and other genetic conditions. It makes me happy that the thousands of dollars that I've spent on him over the years will not likely be repeated on a future dog that is insured. I insured my cat earlier this year and will insure every pet I own in the future. Even if the monthly premiums balance out what the insurance company reimburses me for I would much rather pay a little bit each month than put $5,000 on a credit card in an emergency situation (like we had to this summer with Chale).

My mother has a four year old Maltese and a 14 year old Shiba Inu. When the Maltese was first introduced into the household the shiba was not very friendly. But over time they became buddies. The Maltese has a lot more energy than the Shiba so he gets additional walks and play times separate from his brother. But the Shiba gets massages and gentle play time alone to make sure his little joints are doing okay. They still play and walk together daily but they don't do everything together any more. My mother realized that they had different needs and changed their routines to accommodate their different life stages. They were both much happier when my mom stopped trying to force the Shiba to keep up with the Maltese and started pushing the Maltese to burn more energy.

I see a lot of people who have multiple dogs and seem to take very good care of them. I've seen people with 3-4 dogs who seem to manage without any problem and other people who neglect their one 5 lb dog. The bottom line is that if someone is a bad pet owner it doesn't matter if they have 1 dog or 3, those dogs are going to suffer. But as a good pet owner, I know that my heart and my patience can handle life with two dogs if it means 2 less dogs sitting in a shelter and twice the wet doggie kisses and snuggle time.

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Laws

I hate those TV shows where people constantly hang out with their families and everyone is best friends. The kids tell their parents everything from the first time they have sex to who they think the cutest boy in their class is. All the siblings love each other and hang out together even though they are years apart. I don't know if I would say that I envy these people, I am definitely intrigued by them. I had those friends in high school and college whose parents were super cool and ended up hanging out with us. On one hand I was jealous that they had such a great relationship with their parents but on the other hand I thought it was a little creepy having your parents in all your business.

I did not have a traditional upbringing. My father was too sick to parent for most of my life so most of his influences on me were indirect. My mother had a difficult time coping with having two children and a sick husband which prevented her from being available to us emotionally. She provided my brother and I with a lot of material things to make up for the lack of parenting. We were spoiled rotten but there were no real boundaries or discipline in our lives. When we were younger I stepped in and parented my brother when I thought he needed it. We also experienced the normal sibling rivalry and fighting that most people go through.

Now that we are adults, my brother and I get along great. We have very similar personalities and keep in touch regularly. I still tend to provide "parenting" when its required but he doesn't need it nearly as much as he used to. My mother and I have more of a sisterly relationship than a mother-daughter relationship. We talk on the phone at least once a week for a couple hours and talk about everything from her joining a dating site to why my husband and I don't want children. I tend to be the big sister in the relationship, giving her advice and a push when she needs it. I think this is the role that my father filled in her life so I think she will continue to lean on me pretty heavily until she gets into another relationship.

I think my unique relationship with my mother and my brother makes for pretty relaxed in-law relations for my husband. When we visit my family, we can stay with my mother and still enjoy ourselves. My husband and I can go out and do things on our own without worrying about hurting her feelings or her guilting us into taking her along or not doing anything at all. She will join us when invited to go to the movies, bowling alley, etc. We can sit in her house and have a conversation with her without censoring ourselves. She neither smothers us nor ignores us. And if she does get on our nerves we can just tell her because she is no thin skinned. We see her more than some of the other relatives because its only a six hour drive and we don't have to spend a lot of money on a hotel. She is not religious and is politically fairly moderate to liberal so we share most of the same views on current events. Admittedly, she usually has a list of projects for us to complete when we come to visit since she lives on her own and the closest relatives are pretty far away. And my husband does have to listen to me complain when she's been leaning a little too heavily on me during our weekly phone conversations but, for the most part, I don't think he has a lot to complain about.

My brother and a few of my cousins are just like good friends to me. My husband and I can hang out with them like we would any one of our friends. There is no strain and they dislike members of my extended family as much as I do. Along with my mother, they make up what I would consider my immediate family. These are the people that my husband and I must visit and talk to regularly. While any travel is a bit of a chore, I usually look forward to these visits and am in good spirits after them. I cannot say the same for my husband's family.

He has one sister who I blatantly refer to as my favorite. She is married with two kids and we always have a lot of fun when we go to visit them. We do stay in a hotel when we go to visit them because we enjoy our personal space and neither of us has the patience to spend a long period of time with children. We always enjoy our visits with them and keep in touch regularly through social networking sites and the occasional phone call. While they are very religious and conservative it doesn't affect their ability to have fun. They are capable of being true to their faith without being too strict with their children or too repressed in their daily life. They seem to realize that there is nothing in the bible that says being faithful is equivalent to being miserable.

My husband also has another sister and a brother who are much older then him. My husband has fond memories of fun times that he had with all three of his siblings when he was younger but something happened to two of them after they got married. They both went from being mildly religious to being cult-like in their faith. My husband also has an aunt who filled the mother role for him in many situations in his past. Her and her husband are essentially my mother-in-law and father-in-law. All three family members warrant individual blogs for me to thoroughly explain their personalities and why they drive me crazy. But the common problem is that they all have selective memories where my husband is involved.

Much like my relationship with my father, my husband's mother was sick for much of his life. The main difference is that my husband was stuck living with and taking care of his mother because he was the youngest and all of his siblings had moved away to raise their families and live their lives. When my husband came to visit them he was happy to be free of the burden of taking care of his mother for a few days. When they came to visit him and his mother the impact of her illness was reduced because there were multiple people to split the tasks among and because she was in very good spirits because she had company that she didn't see often. While I am confident that my husband enjoyed these visits I also know that none of them really know who he is as a person even though they like to think that they do.

My husband's mother died four months after we met. While she knew me as a family friend my husband never had the chance to tell her that we were dating. Her death prevented the much warranted outburst that had been building in my husband for years. He never got the chance to tell his family how pissed off he was at them for deserting him. He had his own apartment near his mother for a few years before her death but he was still responsible for many of her daily needs. They know that he quit his job and moved to another state to start fresh to be with me a year after we met but they do not know that he was planning on making this change long before he met me. He never got the chance to take a stand and put himself first while his mother was still alive. They do not know the full extent of the substance abuse that my husband suffered through when he was trying to cope with this life that he did not chose. They barely know his likes and dislikes because their point of reference is the boy that he was 15 years ago, when they last spent significant time with him, and not the man that he is today. While my husband has become extremely skilled at biting his tongue around his family and putting his needs second I am not okay with this.

I try to be supportive of my husband but it is difficult not to point out how selfish many of his relatives are, how delusional they are about their relationships with my husband and how much they take him for granted. Part of me feels bad that we see my family more than we see his family but a bigger part of me knows that he can only handle his family in small doses because he can rarely relax and completely be himself in their company. So we will continue to visit the good sister and hope that the rest of them eventually come around. Because if they don't one day they are going to push my husband too far and he is going to unload years of anger and frustration that they are not ready to deal with.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rude People As Usual

I love Panera, Thruway rest stops and other places that offer free WiFi. It allows me to get work done when I'm not at the office without going blind by trying to do everything on my blackberry. So why is it that no matter how far in the back of the room I sit or how many seats are available in the area, some asshole always sits right next to me.

This morning as I enjoy my souflee and smoothie in Panera before I head out to a meeting, I am enjoying the pissing match between two "businessmen". I put businessmen in quotes because they clearly come into Panera every morning and bitch about how difficult their lives are but neither of them has a laptop, blackberry or anythign else that they could use to work. One of them is about 350 lbs and wearing a flannel shirt and sweat pants. The other one is in a track suit. I don't want to judge other people but what kind of business are these people operating? Neither of them seems to be very motivated to leave here anytime soon. They are moaning about the government and the stock market etc, they know the names of all the employees at Panera (who also seem to know who they are); it's like an episode of Grumpy Old Men live in here. I think you have assigned seats when you come in here every day and it doesn't matter how many seats are available you always have to sit in your same spot every day even if it inconveniences someone else who was there first. I guess I just have a bad habit of chosing the wrong seat. Maybe if there were name tags on the seats that said "Reserved for loud, smelly fat guy who reeks of cigarette smoke and breathes with his mouth open" I would know not to sit next to that table.

Incidentally, I am here to have breakfast before a 9:30 am meeting. Panera is closer to my meeting location than to my office so it is a common stop for me. I will be here for about an hour total. I am not wearing a track suit or a flannel. I am not talking loudly on my cell phone or trying to prove how smart I am by talking about current events at the top of my lungs. I had a complegtely different blog topic selected but was so overwhelmed by the insecurity of the men near me that I had to change topics. I think I might have to relocate to my car and squint at my blackberry in peace so I'm relaxed for my meeting!

Relatives aren't Automatically Friends

My wedding was fantastic because everyone partied together. I think it was the first time anyone in my family saw me drink and dance (that tells you how fun other weddings have been) and the only time I wasn't self conscious about my behavior around them. A wedding is that unique, once in a decade (in lifetime in some families) setting where all bets are off. You can sing the lyrics to Baby Got Back at the top of your lungs while doing the lambada with your high school boyfriend 10 feet away from your grandmother and no one will blink an eye. My wedding was the best party that I've ever attended. Everyone told me it was one of the best parties, not just weddings, that they'd ever been too. The problem is the familiarity that some of my relatives are trying to establish with me post-wedding as a result of the success of the wedding.

Don't get me wrong, I think its really awesome that people bring up my wedding every time I talk to them even though it was over a year ago. But I shouldn't have to sit in my uncle's living room for hours because he wants to hang out with me because we danced near each other at my wedding last year. I don't know how dancing until you were drenched in sweat and your feet were sore translates to sitting on the couch and having conversations about nothing while the TV drones on in the background. The guilt trips that I have been receiving from my family members about not spending time with them or talking to them on the phone forces me to either give in to their requests and be miserable or be a bitch and blow them off. It's not like they're inviting me to an event. They seriously just want me to sit in my car for 6 hours to sit at their house and do nothing or, worse yet, they want to sit in their car for 6 hours and invade my house and disrupt my life.

Up until 5 years ago, I lived no more than 3 hours away from most of my mother's family (my father's family has not been in my life since his death). So I attended almost every wedding, baby shower, holiday dinner, picnic, etc. without being too inconvenienced. At the time I was single and my dog was younger and healthier so traveling to all these events wasn't' that much of an imposition. Also, a lot of my friends from high school and college lived nearby so I could do the family thing for a few hours and then go out and party with my friends. My husband and I have been together for 4 years (three of those years living together), my dog is almost nine years old and has a number of medical problems and I live at least 6 hours away from my closest relative. All of my close friends have moved to other states; the friends that are left really are more acquaintances than friends and are as much a pain in my ass as my family.

When my family went from seeing me multiple times a year to seeing me once a year or less, they freaked out. Suddenly they didn't know me and were desperate to spend time with me to maintain these imaginary relationships that we had. Now really, they never knew me and they still don't but for whatever reason they associated seeing me regularly with knowing me. I could ask my family 10 random questions about me that any one of my friends would be able to answer with ease and my family wouldn't get a single question right. But the wedding made them think that we were pals and they want to see me and talk to me all the time to relive the fun they had at the wedding. No way is this okay.

One of my cousins had a baby last October. I have not met that child, I did not attend the baby shower and I'm not sure that child even knows that I exist. Another cousin has a 6 year old child that I haven't seen since she was 2 years old, the last time I went home for Christmas. I'm pretty sure that child doesn't know I exist. My cousins do not care about this any more than I do. We are not close and they do not really expect me to be a part of their lives. Many of them have not met my husband and did not attend my wedding. They are thirty somethings like my husband and I and have their own lives; they get it. Their parents and my other older relatives do not get it. They think it is a travesty that I have not met my newest cousins. They frequently reference how close the family was when they were kids and how they spent all this time with their extended family, blah, blah, blah.

I am close to some of my relatives. I talk to my mom and my brother all the time and see them at least a couple times a year. I am close to three of my cousins and attend their special events and keep in touch with them. But we all have things in common and go out and do things when we visit. We have things to talk about and don't experience long awkward pauses in our conversations. We often commiserate with each other when we discuss how tedious it is dealing with some of our other relatives. I wish I could just say to my other relatives " DNA in common does not mean that we are bosom buddies. Get a life and leave me alone!" But of course I can't do that. I must walk the line between my happiness and their neediness and compromise much more than I'd like to. My husband and I joke that we should move even further away so its even more difficult for people to visit us (believe me they aren't really psyched about coming to Syracuse) but that will just make it more difficult when we have to come visit them.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Dogs

My husband and I have had a lot of conversations lately about having more than one dog. I have never had more than one dog at a time. But, Chale is the first dog that has been completely my responsibility. Every time I see a story on TV about an animal hoarder or some other terrible situation where a dog has been in a bad situation, I want to save that dog and make his life better.

I have friends and relatives who have more than one dog but, to be truthful, a lot of them are not great dog owners. The struggles that they have would likely exist no matter how many pets were in the house. A friend of mine who is a good dog owner said that having two dogs was like having 4 times the work and expense. He is a good dog owner who currently has one dog but who has had two dogs at a time in the past. The food, the training, the vet bills, etc. are already a significant part or our budget. I can't imagine doubling what we currently spend on our animals without sacrificing the financial stability that we have worked so hard to achieve.

Chale has had a lot of health problems over the years. Thinking of all the money that we have spent on him and having that number doubled is difficult to imagine. Even if we were financially blessed enough to afford to properly care for two high maintenance dogs the emotional toll would be too much. The bond that I have with Chale is so strong that I worry about making that connection with two dogs equally. If one dogs needs acupuncture or some other special treatment what will the other dog think when I'm taking that dog to the vet all the time and leaving him alone? How would I not have a favorite? Could I realistically be as emotionally involved in both dogs as I am with Chale? When one of the dogs passed how would I help the other dog cope? Would I replace the deceased dog? How would I know if the old dog was ready for a new brother and how would I select a dog that suited his temperament after he had already lost one brother? The cycle of constantly burying and then replacing one dog while continuing to nurture the other dog would be too much for me to bear. I know that most large dogs live for about a decade. While it is difficult to imagine, I am emotionally prepared to lose my dog when he reaches the end of his life. But I don't think I could continue to care for another dog while watching the first dog age and knowing that his time was limited and then saying goodbye to him.

Unfortunately, some dogs only live for a few years while others live much longer than expected. Going through this emotional roller coaster with two dogs would make me a total wreck. I couldn't deal with losing two dogs close together or having an old dog like Chale with a set routine and then introducing a new dog, like Chale was 8 years ago, into the household. That wouldn't be fair to the dog or to me.

I know that other people do it all the time without all the drama that I've created in my head. But I also know myself and my capabilities. Because really what I want is to rescue hundreds of dogs, not just two. To be in a position where I could start my own little Dog Whisperer ranch and take all the dogs that no one else wants. That would be my dream retirement. If the dogs were my purpose, my job and I had a staff of people to help me run it. That would be amazing. Because I could still have my one pet dog but I could also help other dogs. I just wouldn't have to mother and care for all of the dogs as if they were my own. I could feel like I was making a difference without sacrificing my own sanity.

I'm 33 years old. My husband and I have no plans to have children. I think it really is possible, upon retirement, for my dream to become a reality. Even if its on a small scale I am confident that I will be able to make a difference one day. That knowledge keeps me from running to the German Shepherd rescue down the road every time I hear a sad story on the news. I may only be able to save one a time for now but I know, in the future, I will touch many more.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Fat People and Children

I went to the home opener for our local minor league hockey team this past weekend. There aren't any pro sports teams here in Syracuse so the minor league teams get a lot of attention. Syracuse ended up winning 6-1 (which is a rarity if you are familiar with Syracuse Crunch hockey)and the fans were very into it. There were a couple of really good fights and it was a nearly perfect evening. Unfortunately, the woman sitting in the seat next to me and the children sitting behind me made it difficult to completely enjoy myself.

First of all, I hate people who show up late for sporting events. Especially when its the first game of the season. They had already introduced all the players and sang the national anthem when a morbidly obese woman and her family sat in our row. My problem is not with this large woman attending the game. My problem is with her sitting next to me, a stranger, instead of next to one of the three people that she was related to that came in with her. The seats at the War Memorial are similar to most older arenas: stadium-style, flip down, metal seats. When this woman sat down beside me, her body not only took up her chair but spilled into half of my chair despite the arm rests built in on either side of each seat. I was forced to turn sideways because I couldn't sit all the way back in my seat. I was visibly uncomfortable but she did not change her seat. I don't think I could have said something to her without coming across as some sort of "Fat Hater". The worst part of it was that her husband kept getting up to buy food and she was eating through 2 straight periods. It was very difficult not to have very rude comments going through my head the entire night. I was extremely sore by the time we left the game and had a hard time falling asleep when I got home without the help of Advil and a heating pad.

When people ride on planes and are too large for one seat the airline makes them buy two tickets. I know that this can be embarrassing for the person but I can't feel sorry for them. You knew you were that large when you walked in the door and you knew that you're butt wasn't going to fit into those little seats. This has happened to me before at the movies and on airplanes and it just sucks. So why people should act surprised or offended when people bring up their size is a mystery to me. If no one points out that you won't fit into one seat then will you magically fit? Is it fair to the other patrons that they will be uncomfortable because someone wanted to be politically correct and not point out your obvious size? Much like rides at amusement parks that show height and weight limitations, arenas and other public setting need to start doing the same thing. With more than half of this country obese, this problem is only going to get worse.

The children issue is one that I 100% blame on the parents. Much like dogs who misbehave, it's the owner's fault that the dog is bad and their responsibility to train him to be a good citizen. Kids kicking my seat, elbowing me in the head, smacking me with their hands while they jump around like monkeys on Ritalin, shaking my chair, yelling in my ear, etc. remind me of why I don't want to have children. There are plenty of well behaved kids but they never seem to be sitting next to me. The parents seem happy to have their children entertained for a few hours and just let them act up. My parents would have never let my brother and I get away with that sort of thing. They would have told us that we were being rude and made us apologize to the person and then apologized themselves. And really, one icy stare from a stranger after you kick their seat is generally enough for the average kid to realize that they're annoying someone and cut it out. Once again, this is a theme that repeats itself in movie theaters and on airplanes. I suspect that a lot of these kids will grow up to be rude adults, much like their parents. Parenting seems to end for some people right around the time the umbilical cord is cut.

Short of flying first class or buying an entire section of seats at sporting events and concerts, I don't think this problem is going to go away. But I have to admit that my bias towards morbidly obese people and people with children continues to grow with each negative experience. I picture myself living in one of those communities that don't allow children when I get older and going to 4:30 early bird dinner specials to limit my exposure. Either that or barricading myself in a house at the top of very steep hill that only moderately fit people and people with long legs can climb.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Black People Don't Listen to Country Music

Well that's not true actually. I am a black person and I love country music. Both of my parents are black people and they also listen to country. It is not all that I listen too but it is a good part of it. I have met black people who only listen to country and I would imagine that they have dealt with more scrutiny than I have.

Growing up in the south it seemed like everyone listened to a little country even if they didn't want to admit it. I was rarely the only black person at concerts or dance clubs. I always got a few looks but nothing nasty. People were actually generally nice to me and invited me and my friends to hang out with them. I was always asked to dance and I rarely felt excluded. It wasn't until I moved north of the Mason-Dixon that I started to feel like I was being judged and stared at for being the black person at the country shows.

I don't have any friends in New York who listen to country music so I no longer go line dancing or to many country concerts. My husband, who is white and doesn't listen to country music, went to see Rascal Flatts with me earlier this year because they are one of my favorite bands and I hadn't been to a country music show since college. I felt like I was the show. I could feel people staring at me for a lot longer than was polite. People weren't talking to me. I usually meet one or two new friends at concerts and we danced and sang songs together throughout the night. But any small talk that I initiated with my neighbors was met with silence and a cold stare. But to my credit, I danced and sang along to all the songs and had my own little party. It was a good time, not as good a time as it would have been with my friends in Virginia, but it was fun.

All black people listen to rap music. This isn't true. Have you seen MTV lately? A lot of rap videos and a lot of white viewers. Most of the cars that speed through my upper middle class neighborhood with their base booming and rap music blaring are white teenagers. Do you really think Jay Z, Snoop Dogg and other rap mega-superstars are famous by only having one minority group of the population listening to their music? My husband listens to a lot more rap and r & b music than I do which suprises people because apparently you only listen to music that is made by people who look exactly like you. That's like saying Obama is president because every black person in the country who voted, voted for him. Which is impossible; that would have left him with about 30% of the vote, certainly not enough to become president.

Korn. Rob Zombie. Garth Brooks. Alan Jackson. Indigo Girls. Tori Amos. John Mayer. Luther Vandross. A Tribe Called Quest. All concerts that I have been to and loved. My musical tastes span across several genres. So I would encourage the ignorant people to open your closed minds and get past your stereotypes. You might realize that you have more in common than you think with people that look different from you. And if you get out of your box and extend a little kindness you might make a new friend and teach some of the other ignorant people a lesson.

Fat Karate Instructors

I have studied martial arts since 1995 and one thing that has always amazed me is how many morbidly obese karate instructors there are out there. Now I'll admit that I need to lose about 20 lbs and cut my body fat in half to be at a healthy body weight but I am very average size for a woman. These people must have been in top physical condition at some point and then they just let it all go. We all gain weight over the years but there is a difference between needing to go up a couple of sizes in your clothes and having to buy your pants online.

My first karate instructor was awesome. He was right out of a movie: middle aged, super fit, kind of scary. He spent most of time during class teaching techniques to the students; he rarely worked out with us. It was obvious that he was working out on his own time to maintain that level of fitness. When we went to karate tournaments or seminars I would notice how some of the other instructors were really fat. I was glad that they weren't my instructor and wondered how beneficial their training was to their students.

I understand how it happens. You become a 5th degree black belt and open your own karate school. There isn't anyone there to challenge you so you have to have the willpower to challenge yourself or seek out people who are more knowledgeable than you to continue to grow as a martial artist. So you spend all your time building your school and passing your knowledge along to your students. That ravenous appetite that you had when you were working out 12 hours a week is still there but you are no longer working out regularly so the pounds start piling on. The food is filling the hole that karate once filled. If you don't find another hobby to commit yourself to once you stop regular karate training then overeating is just as easy a vice to pick up as any.

A handful of my karate friends turned to excessive drinking and partying when they stopped practicing regularly. Others gained weight. Some found something else to fill that part of their life: children, spouses, a new career, etc. I'm sure it might seem odd to someone who isn't a martial artist to understand how karate can be such an important part of a persons life. What you have to understand is that a martial artist, a true martial artist, not someone who took a few classes at their local mall franchise karate school, but a real martial artist is defined by their practice. Before I started karate I didn't have a sense of who I was. It was like there was this piece of me missing that I could never explain and karate was the answer. My self esteem, my friends, my personal choices, everything changed after I started karate. When I stopped practicing karate after 10 years of consistent training I lost myself. A new job, moving to a new house, meeting my husband all took my attention for a while. But while I found myself fulfilled in areas of my life that I hadn't been previously I still felt off. It wasn't until I started training again this year, after 4 years off, that I felt like I was myself again. i proudly show off my bruises and complain about my sore muscles. I feel like a martial artist again and I love it.

My previous three karate instructors were morbidly obese. I found fault at each of these schools because the training didn't compare to the training that I had received at my first school. It wasn't until after I left these schools that I realized that each of these men were miserable. That they had lost themselves at some point and that they weren't happy in their lives. I wasn't in a position to help them and honestly, even if I had inquired, I doubt I would have been able to do anything to help them. My current karate instructor reminds me of my first instructor. He is intense but happy. His life appears to be in balance. He works out with us all the time and talks about his workouts outside of the dojo. I feel like I have found a great school to train in for the first time in a long time but I can't help but think of the instructors that I have left behind and where life has taken them. They remind me of how dangerous it can be not to cultivate my spirit. I will not let myself become like them; I will not lose myself.