A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with the First Step"

Still Alive and Kicking-11 years with MM

 “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”  My journey in martial arts began a “thousand miles” ago in 1997 when I donned a crisp white uniform and belt. This journey has had many winding roads, starts and stops.
    I was excited to join my husband and three children and start on the path my family had begun.  However it was short-lived as two more children joined our family and my green belt was set aside.
  Over the years I watched each of our five children rise through the ranks. I dreamed of practicing and testing along with each one of them, but as the responsibilities of being a full-time mother, part-time business owner grew, this dream faded into the background and I hung up my yellow belt.
Martial arts has been a big part of our family and has made a lasting impact on our family culture.  No matter the age of each of our children, they all had something in common with one another. It was wonderful to find an activity where everyone could be involved.  “The family that kicks together sticks together,” seemed to be our family motto.
I attended many rank tests and tournaments over the years as I supported my husband and children through their journeys.  At one point I was practicing enough to enter a tournament. I remember entering in the women’s 18-34 sparring competition.  I was 34 and my first opponent was 18. It was not pretty and I ended up on the floor and at the chiropractor the next day. But it was thrilling to actually compete instead of being on the sidelines.  However, life with a busy family once again took priority and I hung up my blue belt. 

Weapons form to the song “Survivor”

My journey came to a crashing halt in 2008 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma; cancer of the bone marrow.  I immediately begin treatment including two stem cell transplants and three years of chemotherapy and maintenance medications.  My life, goals, and dreams for the future were all put on hold with the real possibility that my life would be cut short. I dealt with extreme fatigue, intense bone pain, kidney and liver damage, cataracts, and a myriad of other side effects.  It took many years to recover. Although Multiple Myeloma is incurable I have been blessed with the gradual return of good health. I am one of the lucky few.  
     Five years ago my oldest son asked if I would be willing to help him at Maple Mountain Arts studio which he owned on main street.  I began helping out with new students and office tasks. My energy level was just returning and some days it would take all that I could muster to make it down to the studio for a few hours but it was a blessing to have some responsibility and a place to gently recover.
      As my health returned my goals and dreams for the future came back into focus.  I began teaching four years ago at the Jr. High, and am now teaching full time at the High School.  Although I was busy with a new career the thought of earning a blackbelt once again became a possibility.  
    So with some persuasion and encouragement from my husband and son I once again donned a uniform, dug up my old blue belt and started over, re-learning the forms.  I was feeling old, out of shape, and very hesitant but I was back on my journey and decided I would just take it one step at a time.  
    This journey has been tough! Everything is a challenge from memorizing forms, stretching out limbs, to learning to punch, block and kick with a class full of teenagers-some of whom I have taught in school.

Me and my sparring partner, grappling buddy, and daughter-in-law

I have been so fortunate to continue on this last leg of my journey with my daughter-in-law.  We have vented to each other after a tough class, laughed until we cried as we learned to grapple, and encouraged each other to keep going when it was tempting to quit.  
The closer I get to the end of this journey, the more I realize that a black belt means so much more to me than learning to kick and punch.  It is about overcoming.  
Overcoming the limitations of the past.  Overcoming physical challenges and poor health. Overcoming the barriers we set for ourselves about, age, skill level, and past experiences.  It’s about overcoming excuses. There have been many moments on this journey when I have thought about quitting, and many times when the possibility of giving up this journey seemed inevitable.  

     Life has thrown me some pretty good reasons to walk away from this goal but the chance to join my husband and children in the rank of black belt has driven me to continue this journey.  To overcome the challenges put in my path and to relish this opportunity to realize my dream that began a “thousand miles ago.”   

The chance to join my family as a black belt finally became a reality!

So grateful for the love and support from my family!
       

Eight Years!

 
 It has been eight years ago today since I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.
October 29,  2008 will forever be etched in my memory as the day that changed the course of my life. 
    On the one hand, it was as if a bomb had exploded, taking away my health, shredding my future, and destroying my hope.  But on the other hand this is the day that my journey began, and I cannot erase the dark painful days without giving up  the miracles and blessings that have come about while climbing this Myeloma Mountain.
     It has been eight years!  Four years longer than my first prognosis.  
    I am healthy and strong!  My lab results show no signs of Myeloma.  Is it gone?  Will it come back? I don’t know.  But I am going to ride this wave as long as possible and maybe mm won’t crash back into my life again.  I can’t ask the “what if’s” anymore.  Instead today is a time to reflect and share some of the miracles and blessings I have received during this journey.

Spending time with my family in
Star Valley, Wyoming
(7 new family members since diagnosis,
and a new daughter in law, and a
grand baby–both coming in May.)



Spencer, my youngest, just starting his
 Senior year of High School!
He was 10 when I was diagnosed:(
Trent and Lys are getting married in May.
Aren’t they cute!

      

These kids are my amazing, wonderful,
crazy grandchildren!
(Eight years ago I wondered if I would
ever get to be a grandmother. )

 I started back up in Martial Arts.
It took a while for my body and brain
 to get back in shape!
My son Tyler and I after my
 senior brown test.
I have slacked off the last
several months
 because
 this
 happened……..

I got a teaching job!
After graduating 25 years
 ago in
Family and Consumer Science
 Education,
I finally get to teach!
I am teaching
7th, 8th, and 9th grade.
It is CHALLENGING, HARD, and EXHAUSTING.
and
 I am loving it.
Besides Junior High Kids can’t scare me, I’ve had cancer!

The Family That Kicks Together-Sticks Together!

The Kellys  Oct. 2008
Front row: Mallory, Trent, Spencer
Back Row: Joe, Kris, Jace, Dani, Tyler


I went back to work this month.  
Is it a job or an adventure hmmmmm?
I’m working at our family owned and operated martial arts studio.  
The front desk
My family has been kicking in the martial arts for about twenty years.
It all started when my husband and my oldest son at 7 yrs. old began training.  
Well to make a long story as short as possible……
Tyler competing in forms

In 1997, we opened our own martial arts studio in a building behind our home.  My husband taught classes in his “spare time” in the evenings.  Eventually our own children and several students also became instructors. 

             Spencer practicing self-defense 


I used to run a preschool in the building during the day then move all my equipment out of the way and help run the studio in the evening.  I look back now and think, “Wow! how did I ever do it.”  I definitely don’t have enough immunities or energy now for four year olds.

In October of 2008, we moved to a building on Main Street and then to our current location a year ago.  My son took over the management of the studio. (We opened a couple weeks before I was diagnosed with mm.  I remember painting the walls and complaining how tired I was. :) Fortunately at that time, Joe was able to step back and spend more time caring for our family and me.  What a blessing!
Tournament sparring

Well that’s the history in a nutshell.  Maple Mountain Martial Arts continues to do well and as it grows a decision was made that the business needed a “studio mom.” Someone to run the front desk, tie Little Ninja’s belts, answer the phones, answer the questions, and just be there to meet and greet students and parents among other things.   So I’m now working at Maple Mountain Martial Arts for 2-3 hours, three to four afternoons a week.  It has been great for me to get out among people again and have somewhere to go everyday.    

  
 Jace after testing for his black belt and 
Mallory earning her 2nd degree black belt.  
Joe also tested for his 3rd degree that day.
(you don’t see brother/sister hugs like that everyday….very rare!)



This isn’t exactly what I earned a college degree for, however I am very blessed to have such great working conditions and there are plenty of “perks”. My son is  now my “boss”  I work with my daughter; she is one of the instructors, and I take my youngest son with me.  He does his homework there and attends class. 


Myeloma medication-dexamethasone is still wrecking havoc with my energy levels.  I battle fatigue daily and bone pain whenever it decides to appear.  Having a job helps to put cancer on the back burner.  Just what I need. 

Another view of the studio.  We are in the process of remodeling the basement to add additional space for classes.


Who would have thought any of this would be possible when my husband and son put on  crisp new uniforms and clean white belts twenty years ago.  


We have definitely had ups and downs, but over the past few years our back-yard business, our family, and I have grown in many ways.  Our lives have exceeded those white belt expectations and our family continues to kick together and stick together.