Make it a half dozen

Yesterday marked the six year anniversary of training with ABADA-Capoeira San Francisco. It also marks a year since I last wrote here, but no matter. The idea is that you stick with it, right?

Well, I’d like to think I am a bit more dedicated to capoeira than I am to this blog. But the reason I am writing this is that I want to express my love and gratitude for the people and the place where I can always find what I need to feed my body and soul and more.


Here are a few things that I love about it, in no particular order:

  1. I never leave class regretting that I went. Even on the days that I drag myself there because I am tired or just defeated by work or life, it always makes me feel better mentally and physically.
  2. I probably don’t have to worry about being tended to if I get injured as there is likely a doctor around. There might even be a scientist, a teacher, a lawyer, an artist, or a programmer should I need one. There’s a lot of knowledge and talent in one room.
  3. I’m almost as likely to hear Spanish, Japanese, Hebrew or French in addition to English or Portuguese. It’s an lovely linguistic melody.
  4. I now have friends and acquaintances in many different places throughout the world because of capoeira. I may even take some of them up on their offer to stay at their homes some day. Watch out.
  5. I’m always finding new layers of things to learn and appreciate about capoeira, and it only gets richer and deeper as I continue to train. Be it the aspects of capoeira’s history, martial arts, music, etc., each time I think I know something, I find that there is something deeper to uncover behind it.

Obrigada capoeira.


Fifth anniversary


Yesterday was the day of Iemanja, the mother of all orixas in Umbanda and Yoruba cultures, and more specifically, the patron saint of fishermen, but also women.

It also marked the fifth anniversary of the day that I started training with ABADA. The fifth anniversary is wood. This picture seems fitting to cover both.

In the past five years, ABADA has remained the one constant in my life. It’s seen me through death, break-ups, job changes, and more. The people who inhabit the space on a regular basis, including everyone from Mestra Marcia to new students, inspire me not only to train, but to keep pushing through even when I am not feeling great.

In class, I have sang my lungs out, laughed hysterically, and even cried, both from joy and from sadness. When everything is aligned right, how I feel in my mind and body, combined with the energy from those around me, there is a levity and a positivity that I don’t experience anywhere else. At the bare minimum, I’ve never walked into the studio and trained, and then went home regretting it.

I’m not sure how long my lungs and limbs will cooperate enough with me to continue training, but I will see how far they will take me. Continue reading

It’s a thing

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Roughly three percent of the population has anxiety. To clarify, it’s not “Oh, I feel anxious before a presentation” type of anxiety. It’s ongoing. If you try to tell this to people, you’ll be met with disbelief for the most part.

But, it’s real. I don’t bring it up to whine about it. I bring it up because there are many things in life that are not easy or beautiful, but they are a part of life. The more we deny them, the worse they seem, and the more they take over our life.

I started writing this post last year after reading this Salon article, but then never finished it. It is a short summary of what anxiety feels like, accompanied by a few methods on how to deal with it. It’s a complex subject, but I think it’s a good article for both those who suffer from anxiety and those who don’t know how it feels.

I post about anxiety often because addressing it publicly and trying to think through it to understand it makes it less scary for me. It will likely always exist in my life because that is how I am wired.

What’s interesting to me is thinking about it the way the article calls it out. That is, I’ve always known I wanted to survive. My brain is just in overdrive about it. I want to live and experience what I can out of life. I just have a jenky filter when it comes to knowing when survival instinct is warranted or not, and my job is to sort that out when it happens.



Do you hear that? What’s that buzzing that I hear coming from the other room? It’s a radio, turned up high enough to hear, but too low to be able to make out what song it is.

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That’s what a day with mild anxiety is like. It’s there, the buzzing, but you can never really make out what the song is. You want to turn it off, but you can’t. It’s in another room that you can’t access.

You go through your day, hearing it on and off. Every time someone says something that irritates you, or you do something wrong, the volume goes up. Sometimes it gets so loud that you can’t concentrate, so much so that you want to scream back at the radio: “Shut the f#$* up!

If you are fortunate, you have learned to stop to remind yourself that it’s just a radio, and the volume goes down. But you still can’t turn it off.

No one else can hear it. They give you funny looks because it seems like you are getting irritated for no reason. Or, they say, “can’t you just switch it off?” Gee, well, hell, why didn’t I think of that?

If you could, you’d go crawl back to bed and shove a pillow on top of your head to block out the noise. But it will be there still. It will always be there, and you know it. In fact, it may even get louder if you give up.

So you go about your day, trying as you can to go through life, blocking out the noise when you can, or making it part of your soundtrack when you are at your creative best. Sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail horribly. But the radio, it’s always there.





Snapshot of my father

Today is the first father’s day that I won’t be able to call my dad on the phone. Not that he ever was much for talking on the phone. Usually if he answered, he’d say hello, followed quickly by “Here’s your mother.”

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Dr. Robert Sieling during a patient consultation in the early 1990s.

It’s been 10 months since he died. I’ve wanted to call him many times to tell him about trips that I’ve taken or stories that I’ve read, and then I remember that I can’t.

In this time I’ve spent many hours trying to sort out my feelings about him. The sadness and emptiness after a death is easy to recognize. But there is something that digs deeper inside of me that pulls out those deep grieving sobs that sometimes emerge without warning. This grieving has been complicated by the added layer of pain left by the ending of a nine year relationship, creating a molasses-like coating of sorrow that makes it hard to extricate one feeling from another.

A couple months ago I was finally able to separate the two. I saw that I not only was grieving over the death of my father, but the fact that I never felt that I ever connected with him personally. My father held many things inside and usually my siblings and I wrote it off to the fact that it was just the way he was. He only gave us little snapshots of his life. He infrequently volunteered stories about big parts of his life like his work as a surgeon or his time during the war in Vietnam, but he always liked to chat about the latest front page story in the newspaper.

I spent much of my life trying to connect with him, hoping to tell stories that would amuse him or impress him with my work. I would feel triumphant if I could make him laugh or smile. He may have been proud of me, but he rarely said so, so I will never really know what he thought about me. It’s something that I hope that I can let go of some day.

Lessons from Dad

I haven’t written most of the year. It’s been busy–a new job and a new position taking up most of my time since when I last wrote on here in February.

It’s also a year that I’ve experienced emotions that made me feel like I had my insides scooped out with a metal spoon. It left me so exhausted that every time that I wanted to write, I figured that what I put down in words was trite, or I just didn’t feel like sharing because these kind of feelings are a bit hard to understand until you go through them. I certainly didn’t understand the depth of those feelings that others had in the same situation until I experienced them myself.

My father in college

My father in college

So, when my sister suggested the family create a book about our memories of Dad to share with Mom for Christmas, I had a hard time sorting out what I wanted to write.

The one common thing that did come up over these past few months is how much I called upon my father’s usually unspoken lessons when things got tough for me. Below is my contribution about my father.

“Lessons from Dad”

Because Dad worked so much and at all hours, when he was home, he was exhausted. He reverted to his room to rest and get his energy back, either by sleeping or reading books. So, our time at home with him was usually either around the kitchen table at breakfast while he drank his coffee and read one of the two or three newspapers that were delivered to the house, or at dinner when we all talked about what happened during the day.

A trip after church on Sundays to either Chuck’s Donuts or Ed’s Smoke Shop for magazines and sweets was one of the few times during the week that we got to spend time with him outside of home, but even that depended on if he was on call at the hospital that day or not. Overall, there wasn’t a lot of talking on these outings, but even when I was young, I knew that the time I had with Dad and what he said was special because it wasn’t frequent.

Now when I think of Dad, I think of someone who taught me lessons during the few moments that he could, often without words, and instead by example. Here are just a few of the lessons that Dad taught me:

  1. People are…not always good or reasonable (that’s a nice way to put what he actually said). You just have to learn to deal with them and get on with what you have to do.
  2. Do the best job you can do and take pride in it, but don’t expect an award or praise for it. Do it because you want to do it.
  3. Be financially independent. While Dad was generous with money, it was clear he believed it was important to support yourself. No one else will do it for you.
  4. Work will take its toll on you. Take time to go off and be by yourself when you are tired mentally and/or physically, even if it doesn’t seem to be the socially correct thing to do at the time.
  5. Cycling is one of the most practical ways to get around. Dad rode his bike to Kaiser every day for some years. I now don’t own a car and rarely drive. Though, he taught me to drive a car, too. Of course, as the automobile lover he was, not being a car owner isn’t something that Dad would have necessarily encouraged.
  6. Gardening and yard work is a great way to keep busy and be outdoors at the same time. With Dad, it was a social time, listening to the baseball game on the radio while we all dug in the dirt or raked the leaves.
  7. Learn how to read a map. I think he taught me how to read a map on our family trips to keep me quiet in the car, but now I have a pretty good sense of direction and don’t have to rely on GPS to get me places.

Of course he taught me so much more than what is written above. In the end, I think he led by action because he wanted to make sure we had the tools necessary to be responsible and independent people and so he could be proud of us. I’d like to think that he was successful.



Third Anniversary

Today marks the third anniversary of when I started training with ABADA Capoeira. I’ve discussed before how important to me capoeira and the people of ABADA are. With each year, this only grows more.


That said, I need to commit myself more to training this year. I don’t push myself hard enough and it shows. 

So, I need to set some goals for myself. Here goes:

  • Improve bermibau playing by practicing at home (now possible as I finally bought my own!).
  • Learn to sing at least one new song a month.
  • Accomplish a floreira, maybe a macaco, but to do that move I will need to keep working on rehabbing my knee. That includes continuing my regular acupuncture appointments and strengthening the muscles around my knees with cycling.
  • Improve the most basic of moves, the ginga, because I am still swinging my knee too much. It would also minimize the stress on my knee.
  • Participate more in the roda. Playing more is good overall, but will also help minimize the anxiety I have about playing in general.


Like the differences in physical pain, such as a pinched nerve or a pulled muscle, emotional pain comes in a variety of forms. There’s the ache in the hollow of your insides when you lose a loved one, or the sting in the temple of your head when you are embarrassed.


Then there is the dull weighted pain of unresolved injustices that people inflict within families and link everyone together like yoke on oxen.The weight of this pain moves everyone along in one direction, but without any real progress.

At some point, those who caused the pain may be gone, but the yoke is still there. No one thinks to lift it off. So the pain continues, a burden for the family to bear. The pain becomes familiar, so it feels normal, like if you’ve had a bad back for years. You learn to live with it.

When the weight of the pain is unbearable, some lift the yoke and walk away, leaving the rest to carry the weight. That may free them from the burden, but they will never be able to return without the possibility of picking up that weight again.

Alternatively, everyone could work together as a team to dismantle the yoke, freeing themselves from the pain. This takes effort and forethought, and may seem harder than just living with the familiar pain. Though, the payoff in the end would be that choosing to be together as a family would be based on mutual interest as opposed to a man-made construct.

When we spend time with our families today, or just interact with anyone in daily life, we should think twice about yoking them to the pain of an unnecessary construct. It’s easy to continue moving on as we are accustomed as opposed to making a positive change. But by being patient and treating others with kindness, we can help alleviate much of the pain, not just for others, but for ourselves.

A year later…

Been meaning to post about this for a bit, but didn’t want to be dramatic. Though, it was a pivotal point in my life. That is, the bike accident last year.

It sucked, and I’m still bitter, but I am:

  • alive
  • have a new bike
  • can finally play (and still suck at but love) benguela without significant pain

The physical stuff took me a year to get through, but the fact that I got to the point of life without constant pain or discomfort is what I am happy about.

This is what you get.

Old friends and ghosts

I saw an old friend of mine last weekend. We weren’t close in high school, but I always liked her. She was sweet as hell, could run the soccer ball well, and still go party at a concert afterwards. There’s a lot of good energy in this woman and I was happy and thankful to connect with her after about two decades, and she was kind enough to come meet me. I’ll see her again soon, which is great!


But weeks before I ran into her, I met up with a ghost of my past. Technically it was a ghost of a friend I hadn’t talked to for over a decade. Without going into many details, this person crafted a story for her world that was false in mine. So false, the characters would have never been able to practice their scenes together. Yet, in her mind it was a reality.

The saddest part is that the details of the storyline never came directly from her. At the time this all happened, it was her birthday. I tried to call her many times to see what she’d like to do, but she never returned my calls. She wouldn’t speak to me, sticking strongly to her fabrication. I only learned of her magnificent lie from others.

The irony of the whole thing is that I kept my friendships with the others, all of whom are part of my life today. The only time that she tried to contact me later, she did the lovely explanation of, “I was going through a hard time and I didn’t mean to hurt you.” No, I did not respond.

And then a few weeks ago she appeared at one of my places of calm, Sunday mornings at the farmers’ market. I thought it may be a fluke, but then she was there the next week, and the week after that. Grrr.

I realize that I have choices, two of which include ignoring her, and the other acknowledging her. At my age, acknowledging her is the mature thing to do, though I really wish she never descended upon my little place of solitude.

Next time I see her, wish me strength.