I Can See Clearly, Now…

The words, “You need a neurologist,” were still ringing in my ears. The implication in that statement was clear. My condition was not a pinched nerve, as I had initially hoped. It could be the “other” possible diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.

That possibility rattled in my head while I navigated my learning curve of receiving a referral to a neurologist. At the time, I didn’t even have a primary care physician. For the first time in my life, I acted immediately on a medical recommendation. Some would call it a miracle.

I called to make an appointment with my new primary care physician, and the first available time was when I was scheduled to be out of town for work. They found an available appointment time for the day after I returned home from my business trip. I resolved to work hard and put all of my worries and concerns behind me during my business trip. And I could have been successful at putting it out of my mind if it wasn’t for one huge issue. I work with four individuals who, in the past 10 years, have become part of my family. Keeping this possible diagnosis from them was not a possibility.

I knew there was only one way I could tell them. I had to get “Gone in 60 Seconds”, white-girl-type drunk. And to make a long story short… I did.

Okay, maybe slightly less drunk than this. But just a little...

Okay, maybe slightly less drunk than this. But you get the gist…

Photo courtesy of Andy Watson-Smith via flickr.

Of course, they were completely supportive and made the whole situation better by keeping me laughing with jokes. It’s how we roll. It’s how we cope.

After that night, I felt better and kept the hope that it wasn’t MS, but something much easier to fix and much less permanent. It could be a vitamin B deficiency! I had hope.

Until two days later, when I woke up and my vision was off. When I closed my left eye, I realized it was my right eye that I was experiencing issues with. It was like the top third of my vision in my right eye was tinted dark, like a car window tint. I could still see, but it was dark and I had a lot less definition.

All my mind could process was, “Okay, what in the eff is this?”

Once I arrived at my office, I told my (very close) friend and colleague John that I was having difficulty seeing clearly. His immediate response?

“If you go all crazy-eyed, all of our future meetings will ONLY be via phone.”

I nearly peed I laughed so hard. And I needed to laugh. Badly.

So, to show my appreciation, I decided to send him a text. In essence, it said:

"John, come talk to me... my crazy eyes want to seeeeeee youuuuuuuu..."

“John, come talk to me… my crazy eyes want to seeeeeee youuuuuuuu…”

Inappropriate? Yes. Sometimes, inappropriateness is required. When is it required, you inquire? At about the time that my inability to see clearly helped me prepare for the future.

The future that contained a real possibility of a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis for me. That future, I can see clearly, now…

Paragraph Break

Today, I am dedicating my blog post to the black belt characteristic of modesty. Recently, I witnessed a group of kids display a great deal of modesty and compassion towards others, by being wise enough to realize that even though they are in a position to judge others, there is a way to do it kindly, constructively and without superiority. It was beautiful. It refreshed my faith in humanity. There is hope…


I Feel Like I Am on Pins and Needles…

November 6th. 19 days after I had completed a black belt test; the test where I had earned my conditional first degree black belt.

November 6th. 8 days prior to the semi-annual Black Belt Extravaganza where I would finally receive my conditional first degree black belt.

8 short days from receiving the belt I had worked over three years to get. 8 days.

I woke up numb.

Not emotionally numb because I had just spent 13 weeks of working out 25 hours a week for 13 weeks and had to basically shut down my life to achieve my goal. Nope, that is not what I am talking about.

I woke up physically numb. My hands were tingling with the pins and needles sensation you get when you go numb from remaining in one place for too long. The bottom of my feet were, too. But the weirdest part of all of it was my core was numb, too. Starting at my upper abs spanning all the way down to the top of my knees, front and back. But this part wasn’t pins and needles numb. Oh, no. This was like I had just received an epidural-numb. If you have never had an epidural, here is an example of how it felt: if I scratched the skin on my stomach, I couldn’t feel the scratching on my skin, but the muscles below that area of the skin could feel the pressure of my fingers scratching.

Numb Graffiti

Hop aboard the Numb Train!

photo credit: via photopin (license)

I woke up wondering, “What in the ever-living hell is going on with my body?” It was bizarre.

So, I did what any educated individual with health insurance would do to get an accurate and immediate diagnosis. I made a doctor’s appointment. I went on WebMD.com.

After a thorough check-up search of my symptoms, my doctor WebMD came back with two possible diagnoses.

Option One: A pinched nerve. Okay, I can deal with that.

Option Two: Multiple Sclerosis. Uh, yeah, but no. Pinched nerve, it is!

After a few x-rays, my doctor decided that I potentially had just a pinched nerve, and we proceeded with treatment for a pinched nerve. That is, until the third appointment, when my doctor asked me to put my chin to my chest, and when I did, I jumped. It felt like an electronic shock went shooting through the top of my legs. When I told her why I jumped, she stepped back, put her hands in the air and said the four words I never wanted to hear:

“You need a neurologist.”

All I could do was drop my head. And feel the electric shocks shoot through my legs, again.


And here we go… Paragraph Break Today’s black belt characteristic I would like to highlight is integrity. Specifically, having the integrity to say what is right, to do what is right, and to expect everyone on your team to do what is right. No exceptions. Hmmm, I think I just discovered my next post topic. Stay tuned… integrity

Civilize the Mind, But Make Savage the Body…

So, the question was,

Did I make it into prep cycle?

The answer?

Of course I did, what else would have taken me so far away from my [insert here: blog, family, friends, free time, general enjoyment of life, etc…] for such a prolonged amount of time?

This is the beginning of a typical conversation I have with anyone who is curious about what exactly “prep cycle” is and how I got into and through it. Honestly, I just want to tell them what I really think of when I say “prep cycle” which is more along the lines of what a high-efficiency washing machine does, and not anything that has to do with taekwondo.

Alas, it is not related to a washing machine. It is taekwondo. It is physical tests. It is spirit runs and timed-mile runs. It is working out 20-25 hours per week. It is repeating the same form over and over and over again until a team of eight individuals performs it precisely, and as a perfectly formed solitary unit. It is sparring. It is late nights and early mornings that stretch into long afternoons. It is encouragement. It is pain. It is 13 weeks in length of incredibly hard work.

There were moments while training in those 13 weeks that I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “When this is all over, I am going to document everything I have experienced in my blog.” As I was living my weekly highs and lows through new milestones achieved and/or new personal challenges that were discovered and had to be overcome, I remember envisioning how I would structure my narrative about it. 13 blogs posts – one to describe each week of prep cycle. My thoughts about how I would tell my story were as harsh, hardcore and savage as my physical workouts were for my body.

This harsh, hardcore and savage mindset then began to eek from my physical workouts into my every day life. It had to. I was a married adult with a full-time job, raising two kids, who had committed herself to a process that demanded an additional 20-25 hours per week. In order to ensure everyone was where they needed to be, precise scheduling and multi-tasking became a must. Before I knew it, my family’s schedule had become harsh, hardcore and savage, and we had to be harsh, hardcore and savage to deal with it. A proverbial “fight fire with fire” situation.

During prep cycle, my husband and I would say to each other (almost daily), “When prep cycle is over, our schedules will slow down.” Prep cycle ended last October. What has our schedules been like since then?

Harsh. Hardcore. Savage.

It hasn’t changed in the slightest. The only thing that has changed? When we change the month in the following statement, “When [insert: month that 3 months from today] is over, our schedules will slow down.” My schedule has not changed for one reason. My mindset remains in harsh, hardcore and savage mode, and as long as it stays there, as does the rest of my life. It is time to let it go and find the calm and civilized me. And it needs to happen. Like, yesterday.

Civilize the mind but make savage the body.

Will I still workout like a savage? You bet, because I have finally found physical exercises that I truly love to do. But, as for my mind, my schedule and my free time? It is time to be civilized*.

Wish me luck. Lord knows I will need it. And booze, too…

*Please note, when I say “civilized,” that will absolutely not reflect anything that has to do with my use of foul language and/or consumption of wine and margaritas. Those, my friends, will always be done in an uncivilized manner.

Paragraph Break

I am dedicating today’s black belt characteristic of integrity to my son, because he is in the process of learning a very hard lesson… there are times when you have to ignore the what others have done to “get by,” to realize you are better than just getting by, and to understand that true personal integrity comes from setting your own high standards and achieving them. A hard lesson at 9. Or even at 99…


A Dream Is…

It was about this time last year that my son and I had earned our high brown belts. High brown was the last belt before testing in to the dreaded “prep cycle.” Prep cycle is the term we use for the three months a person has to prepare for their black belt test. Three months of exhaustion. insane workouts. mental and physical strain. hell. I had heard the stories of the experiences of black belts past. I didn’t care. I had no doubt in my mind that earning my black belt in tae kwon do was my dream.

It felt as if I had said that no less than one thousand times. So often that the word had begun to lose meaning for me. So, as the ever-curious person would do, I looked it up in the dictionary (.com).

I read the first definition of “dream,”

a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal.

and I was comforted because that was exactly how I viewed earning my black belt. An ambition. An ideal. Cherished. But then, I continued to read and discovered it also meant,

an unrealistic or self-deluding fantasy.

Crap. That wasn’t what I meant when I said the word “dream”! I meant in the best possible way! Something I would do! Accomplish! All of the amazing things the the first definition inferred. I was indignant, as if the dictionary (.com) people had written that definition directed just TO ME! I would prove them wrong, they would see!

As I sat there, I told myself I knew exactly how I would prove them wrong. I would… I would… ummmm… wait, how exactly would I prove the dictionary (.com) people wrong?

That is when I realized in order to achieve my dream, I needed to stop thinking of it as a dream. If I continued to use the word “dream,” I would have allowed the smallest percent of my thoughts to wonder if earning my black belt as unrealistic. I had to switch my mindset from “earning my black belt is my dream” to “earning my black belt will be a reality.” Without the switch, I was leaving the achievement of earning my black belt to chance. With the switch, it would then be a goal and I would need a plan to achieve it.She turned her can'ts into cans, and her dreams into plans

So, I sat there. I wrote down my plans, which turned into a practice schedule. I knew the test into “prep cycle” was 4 months away and that I knew I had to know my curriculum at a minimum of 90% proficiency. I knew I needed to build my stamina, endurance and mental fortitude. I knew I needed to practice it all. My written practice schedule worked on all of it.

Before I knew it, four months passed and I had worked hard so I could prove it to myself that I felt confident in my knowledge of the curriculum, and of my desire pass the prep cycle test. Was I nervous. Uh, hell, YES. Was I prepared? Did I pass? That is for next time…

Paragraph Break

This evening, I am focused on the black belt characteristic of courtesy, because lately I have seen incredible displays of it and also a complete lack of it. Courtesy is one of those beautiful qualities that I think is the hardest to learn and maintain daily, but when it is done consistently, it is beautiful. Here is to its beauty…


An (Unintentional) Taste for Irony…

1, 241 days. Otherwise known as 3 years, 4 months and 22 days.

Or, how long it has been since I started this blogging adventure.

When I started blogging, I never knew it would be this difficult. When I started this blog, I felt like I always had something to say. However, to ensure I had plenty to speak of and about, I decided to be “smart” and not only blog about my karate experience, but also parenting and life. Hence, the “…and Beyond” added to the end of “To Black Belt…” in the title. I am also a huge fan of the Toy Story movies. I thought I was being “cute” in addition to “smart.”

In all actuality, I was naive on how difficult blogging is. Yes, simply spouting off an opinion is easy. That wasn’t why I wanted to blog. I wanted to tell a story that might just connect with someone. A story that resounds with someone. A story that says, “If you want to do something, you can. I know it because I did. It sucked and hurt, but it was so worth it.”

Because I did and it was. It still is. That is an adventure I have every intention of telling, because it is a good story. It may take me a bit to tell it in ingestible chucks, but I promise I will.

First, let’s rewind a bit further back. To 1,241 days ago. The day I named this blog, and thought I was being “smart” and “cute” by adding the “…and Beyond” to the title. Come to find out, dear audience, I was unknowingly being ironic. Dramatically ironic, because I never knew where the “…and Beyond” would lead me.

Irony is Easyphoto credit: Irony via photo pin (license)

I am on the path to finding out. I promise to share that too, and in the meantime, I beg you humor me with a bit of patience while I wind my way there, and expand my understanding of what my “…and Beyond” will become.

Until then, I leave you with a the black belt characteristic of indomitable spirit, because it is my favorite. It is also the black belt characteristic that I hope I can maintain the most in all that I encounter.

indomitable spirit

XO to you all. ~Jess


And I am BACK!

Hello Friends,

My apologies for my absence… I have been a bit busy with life, etc…

And rather than type for days about what has happened, I thought I would just do this instead:

It’s a slide show video of my progress from white belt to now. Check it out!

Also I am pleased to say that not only will I be blogging LOTS more about the next part of my journey to black belt and beyond, but guess who else started tae kwon do? Yep, Big Ben and Chloe! Don’t worry, there are pics to come (I promise)!

Thanks all for hanging tight and begin patient with me… I really appreciate it!