Namido St. Louis

One of the greatest compliments that I get from my readers is that they think, based on my descriptions of combat, that I am a trained martial artist.  I’ve heard this multiple times.  I always kind of chuckle when I’m asked what style I studied.

The truth is that the extent of my martial arts training was a half-semester taekwondo class as a P.E. credit in college.  That and a Tae-Bo video.

My books were never intended to be a treatise on the martial arts.  The ADVENTURE CHRONICLES is my tribute to 80s martial arts movies.  My interest in the martial arts influenced these books, for sure.  But only from an academic level . . . not a practical one.

Fast forward to now.  I’m about to begin Judo lessons.

I stumbled across Namido St. Louis by accident when one of my friends, Chad Daugherty, posted on Facebook that his friend needed to raise money to buy new mats for his Judo school.  This was July 3.  I went to the friend’s page—one Samuel “Shmuly” Pilkinton—and added him as a friend, as well.  I then sent him a message asking him how much lessons were.

To my shock, he told me that they were free.  Even the belt tests are free.  All we had to buy was the gi.  And an athletic cup.  The lessons are a ministry and meet twice a week at the Sanctuary, a Pentecostal church in Hazelwood, MO.

Initially, this was just for my stepson.  I’ve been going to the lessons simply to take Jayson.  He’s really enjoyed the training and has already earned his yellow belt.  I struck up a friendship with the coach, who prefers to be called Shmuly, due to being an ethnic Jew who has become a Christian.  That’s the Jewish way of saying Samuel.  He’s a kind man and he, being Pentecostal (and, incidentally, Arminian) puts in some good-natured ribbing against Calvinism in class often, just to make me feel like part of the group.

A few weeks ago, the oldest student in the class, Drew, told me that he had initially taken his kids and just watched.  Then, because he was starting to feel the “pains of aging,” he started doing the non-Judo exercises.  Finally, he joined the class, too.  Now, he also is a yellow belt.  I found myself intrigued, as I’m older than Drew by a few years and haven’t really started feeling these pains of age of which he was speaking.  What I do have is Type 2 Diabetes and a weight problem.

My doctor has put my wife and me on a low-carb, high fat diet.  This has worked extremely well for her, as she has lost over seventy pounds.  I have lost some weight but it’s coming off at a much slower rate.  I’m only down about twenty pounds.  So I’ve decided to join the class.

It’s been a process of preparation for me.  First of all, they do many exercises that scare me.  I haven’t done a push-up in twenty years.  Sit-ups have never been something that I’ve been particularly good at doing and a boy who just took his orange belt test had to answer the academic questions while standing on his head.  Shmuly suggested that I begin walking and doing push-ups.  The former is something that is not too bad.  We live on a block that is on an incline.  To walk around the block, I have to ascend a rather steep hill that shoots my heart rate through the roof.  For the push-ups, I’ve started with the ones where I pivot on my knees, rather than my feet.  They almost seem too easy, though, so I’m going to have to bite the bullet and just force myself to do some of the traditional ones . . . at least as many as I can.

My cousin bought me my gi as an early Christmas present.  I got a size seven, which wasn’t the largest one that they had, but it’s pretty darned big.  The jacket almost seems too big.  The pants, however, are not big enough.  I can’t even bring the ties together in the front and there is NO WAY that I could fit a cup in there.

So I’ve bought a pair of black sweatpants to wear until I’ve lost enough weight to fit into the proper pants.  I okayed this with Shmuly first, of course.  I’m waiting for my wife to order my cup from Amazon, as no store in this are carries one that’s big enough for me.  In the waist.

To lost weight, I’m going to try something that I saw on a YouTube video.  I’m going to have two boiled eggs and a slice of cheese for breakfast, a piece of fruit or a simple protein for lunch, and a sensible dinner.  I’ll do this for a week and measure to see if it really helps.  I’ve heard people swear by it.

So, to begin with, I am 42-years-old, weigh 291 pounds, and have a 48-inch waist.  I had blood work done on Tuesday and the doctor told me that, unless my A1C is really high, he is going to wean me off of Metformin.  If it was high, they were supposed to call me by Friday.  They did not, so maybe that’s a good sign there.  Let’s see how this goes as I join a Judo class as the oldest student.

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Legacy Blog #35: The Car Wreck

My Beloved Daughter,

Before we dive into the summer of 1993, we’re going to go back to another defining point in the life of our family.  My senior year, I resolved to get perfect attendance for the first time ever.  But it was not to be.

I was in Mrs. Hager’s typing class when Dana Lofton came in and told me that my uncle was coming to pick me up from school.  There had been an accident.  Uncle Junior told me that your Uncle Kenny had been in a car wreck and was unconscious in a hospital in Northern Arkansas.  Your Grandparents and I were going down there.

Someone had anonymously reported the wreck.  Kenny had slammed into the wall of an overpass, too stoned from marijuana to be able to function.  The crash had left only room in the car for his body.  It was a miracle that he survived it at all.  The doctor at the good-for-nothing hospital that he had been taken to first couldn’t figure out why he was unconscious and actually shook him to try to awaken him.  When he was finally transferred to a Veteran’s hospital in Memphis, they realized that he had a broken neck.  That idiot doctor could have killed him by shaking him without even having x-rays done.  She probably did contribute to the brain damage.

It took months of recovery.  His head was put in a halo so that he couldn’t move it while his neck healed.  At first, he would wake up but not be able to talk.  He knew we were there and would weep when we would leave.  On the plus side, the nurse who took such good care of him in that hospital was African American and Kenny seemed to overcome the racism that he had picked up from your Grandma Pat’s first husband.

It was during this time that I met Kenny’s cousin.  I’ll call him D.  D was Kenny’s biological father’s nephew so, thankfully, was no relation to you or me.  He would brag about being “Kenny Jr.” in such a boisterous way, one might believe him.  But, as he truly wanted to “be” Kenny, he went so far as to betray your uncle in such a way as to destroy a part of his life while he was still in the coma.  I won’t go into it here but, if you ever want to know what D did, just ask me verbally.

The halo was still on after I graduated.  Kenny, estranged from his wife because of the very thing that caused him to need her the most, was forced to live with your GG.  The summer after I graduated, I bought your cousins, Sarah and Kody, a Super NES.  I left it at GG’s apartment, where your Uncle Kenny played it with them.

Their mother sold it.

Kenny never quite got back to normal.  Though still strong as an ox, his speech is slow and slurred from the brain damage.  He walks with a pronounced limp from damage to his leg.  His personality changed so much.  We love your uncle.  We always will.  But we miss seeing the old, confident Kenny.

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FULL CIRCLE is Released . . . and Earns an Award!

This past weekend, I attended the Burg Con in Harrisburg, IL.  It was great fun, with me being on a Q&A panel for self-publishers, led by the always boisterous Brian K. Morris.  Also included were comic-creator Sean Dulaney, “Mike and the Ninja” creator Brian Rhodes, and Indavo creator (and my cover artist) Nathan Bonner.

The day of the event was the official release date of FULL CIRCLE, the sixth volume of the Adventure Chronicles series.  The ebook is available for 99 cents for the next two weeks.

On top of all that, the book has already won its first award.  Check out Peter Younghusband’s review here.

I’m hoping to get back to editing some friends’ work now.  Also, I hope to get back to updating this blog more frequently.

Until next time, God Bless.

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BOOK SIX Cover Reveal

For your viewing pleasure, I give you the cover to FULL CIRCLE:  Book Six of the Adventure Chronicles:

ebook Cover6

The book officially releases on August 26, but you can pre-order the Kindle ebook now.  The pre-release price for the ebook is only 99 cents, which will go up after the release date, so jump on it now!

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Preview #3 of Full Circle

The courtroom was cold.  Jamie guessed that the temperature was set low to battle the intense, August heat.  He took a seat next to Mr. and Mrs. Brown in the front pew.  He prayed silently for Shawna as she made her way to the podium where she would speak.

The town council consisted of a number of business owners, including the town’s only resident physician, Dr. Zimmerman.  Notably a pro-life doctor, Jamie knew that he was interested in what was going to be said.

Madeline Sarrandon, the only outspoken atheist on the council, owned a bar on the outskirts of town that lay on the opposite side as Jamie’s house.  She scowled as Shawna took her place at the podium.  “Why do we have to listen to an adolescent in this case?  Aren’t we capable of coming to a decision on this issue with the facts we have?”

Dr. Zimmerman looked at the councilwoman and replied, “The petition requested Ms. Weston specifically to argue this case.  As the valedictorian of her class, we feel that she’s educated enough to present the con side of rebuilding the clinic.”

Shawna set her papers before her.  After calmly adjusting her notes, she looked toward the council and met each member’s gaze.  Her eyes settled on Mrs. Sarrandon, who returned Shawna’s stare with an icy glare of her own.  Jamie was heartened to note that Shawna’s gaze did not waiver.

Finally, the valedictorian began.  “Ladies and gentlemen of the council, I stand before you today—as a registered voter—on the issue of morals.  I have been asked to refrain from mentioning my religious beliefs to you, so I will not discuss Jesus Christ, the Messiah Who gave His life so that all who believe in Him can have eternal life.”

Madeline tensed visibly, her eyes glaring flaming daggers at the teen.  Jamie could barely note a quiet snicker from Mr. and Mrs. Brown.

Shawna’s face remained passive as she continued.  “Of the 824 registered voters in this town, 743 have signed this petition,” she held up a stack of papers, “stating that they oppose the reconstruction of the abortion clinic.  Many of these same people signed the initial petition and were told that it was too late to back out of the project at that time.”  She set the papers back on the podium.  “We know about it in advance this time.”

She stepped out from behind the podium, her hands clasped behind her back, and continued.  “Those of us who signed this petition—over eighty percent of our town’s population—did not appreciate having the abortion clinic snuck into our town under our noses.  We feel, rightly so, that abortion is not health care.  It is sacrificing the most innocent of us to the deity of Convenience.  We expect you, dear members of the council, to take this opportunity to correct a mistake . . . a mistake that has cost the lives of too many innocents.”

Jamie was truly amazed by the reaction that Madeline Sarrandon was having to Shawna’s speech.  The councilwoman’s face was stern.  Her eyes flared.  The veins in her temples bulged and her right hand squeezed her ink pen dangerously.

Shawna cleared her throat.  “In short, ladies and gentlemen, anyone who votes to rebuild the abortion clinic will find a new person occupying his or her place on the council after the next elections.”

The deafening quiet that followed Shawna’s final proclamation was broken by the hard snap of a breaking pen.

 

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Legacy Blog #34: Senior Trip and Graduation

My Beloved Daughter,

My senior year was the first time that I had done much travelling.  Up to this point, I had gone with your grandparents to Mississippi to see family, Alabama to visit my great-grandfather after he had a stroke, Tennessee to take Grandpa Chuck to catch the boat and pick him up, and Arkansas when we moved there for the last part of my eighth grade year.  Other than that, most of our family that we visited lived in Missouri—St. Charles and its surrounding areas—so we didn’t really leave the state that much.

For my senior class trip, I went to the Bahamas for the first time.  We had our (admittedly forgettable) Senior Prom at a hotel in Poplar Bluff, where we were the first class that was served roast beef, rather than steak (we even stopped at Dominos and got a pizza on our way home).  This was the Saturday night after finals.  I got home at just after midnight, climbed into bed and closed my eyes.  The three hours that I slept seemed like nothing before your Grandma Pat was waking me up to get ready to leave.

Grandpa Chuck dropped me off at the school at around 4 AM, where I caught the bus with your Uncle Evan and the rest of our class.  It was the same bus that picked me up for school every morning and it drove those of us who were going on our class trip to Lambert airport in St. Louis.  We caught a TWA flight to Orlando, where we took a chartered bus to the port in Cape Canaveral.  I don’t recall us having to wait too long to board.  And so it began.

Our boat was the Mardi Gras.  Interesting history, this ship has.  It was the first ship of the Carnival Cruise line and was smaller than the one that you went on with us this past February.  The doors to the cabins had a raised door jamb that was, I think, to block water from crossing the threshold.  Our trip was the last voyage of this grandfather of the cruise line.  It was moved to another location after this, where it was given a different name and served a few more years before being scrapped a few years later.

Originally, your Uncle Evan and I had the only room with just two students.  Another student, Steve, found himself sharing our room, however, when his roommates all picked up girls that they wanted to entertain in their cabin.

The first day, Monday morning, we awoke in Freeport.  The three of us found a cab and did some exploring.  Your Uncle Evan and Steve rented some jet-skis and Evan lost his hat in the ocean.  I remember the man who rented the skis, in his Bahamian accent, telling Evan that, if he wrecked the jet-ski, he would kick his . . . well, you get the picture.  Our class sponsors—the teachers who went with us—were Mr. and Mrs. Hager.  We even ran into them on the island while they were out exploring, sharing a limo with them on our way back to the ship.

We got back to the Mardi Gras later in the day to discover that our friend, Candy, had explored the island alone, even having some stranger propose to her.  We asked her to join us the following day.  We tried to pass it off as being protective of her but, in all honesty, it was just cool to have a pretty girl in our group.

Nassau was much different in the early nineties than it was when you were there.  The thatched-roof market was a different one than the one we visited this year.  Sometime between then and 2012, a hurricane had wiped out most of the island and many of the people had to rebuild.  I bought the first bamboo recorder that I had ever owned.  I still have a pic of it in a scrapbook somewhere, with me playing it and wearing a neon yellow cap that said “HEY, MON!!!!” on it.

That night was the captain’s cocktail party.  We all had to dress up.  I wore a blue blazer and navy tie.  I have a picture in that same scrapbook.

Come to think of it, I hope that scrapbook didn’t get damaged the last time our basement flooded.

That night, I tried wine for the first time.  I ordered a nonalcoholic wine, only to be dismayed to find that it contained .004% alcohol content.  I don’t know what I was thinking when I ordered it.  Truly nonalcoholic wine would just be grape juice.  And I wouldn’t have needed to pay fourteen bucks a bottle for that.

The following day was the sea day, as the boat slowly made its way back to the States.  We just kind of explored the ship, played some games, and even went to the gym.  I rode an exercise bike . . . worst twenty seconds of my life.  Heh.

We had two women who were with us as chaperons.  I think they were the mothers of two of the girls in our class.  Now I’ve never been much of a social person, although I have, admittedly, come out of my shell quite a bit since I was a teen.  But I definitely was having a good time on this trip, even if I didn’t show it in the way that others thought that I should.  But these two women decided to do something to liven up my trip.  So they told our waiter, at some point when I wasn’t at the table, that it was my birthday.  Imagine my shock to have a birthday cake brought out and to have the wait staff serenade me—two months after I had turned eighteen—during our last dinner.  The entirety of my class gathered around the table, including my high school crush (who shall, at least in writing, always remain nameless).  Having all of those eyes on shy little me absolutely MORTIFIED me.

It even made it into the yearbook.  Ugh.

The next morning, we roused ourselves from bed and had a continental breakfast on the Lido deck before disembarking and heading back to the airport, where we wandered around for three hours before catching our flight home.  They used to have a Universal Studios store in the airport, where I bought your Grandma Pat a pack of “Bates Motel” matches as a souvenir, since she loved the original Psycho and had watched it in the theater when she was thirteen.  I think she actually used them, too, not grasping the point of a rare souvenir.

We got back to Van Buren late on Thursday night and I was so sleep-deprived from the trip that I slept all day on Friday.  Jack stopped by after school, since everyone but the seniors still had class.

Saturday—one week after my Senior Prom—we had our graduation.  I walked out with your Uncle Evan and I remember your Grandpa Chuck finding a good place to take pictures.  The Music/Math teacher, Greg Bruton, sang a song (I wish I could remember what it was).  The valedictorian gave an incredibly moving speech, followed by the salutatorian’s poem.

And then it was over.  I was no longer a student at VBHS in Van Buren, MO.  The Dare club sponsored “Project Graduation,” which was intended to keep us from going out and getting drunk, by taking us bowling and roller skating.  We each were allowed to bring one friend, so Evan and I brought Jack and Josh King, respectively.

I can’t really explain the emotions of that time, other than to say that I found myself missing high school.  It’s strange that I started out my freshman year loathing the place, only to grow to miss it.  I’m confident that it had much to do with the friendships that I gained during that time.  I still keep in touch with some of those friends.  As I’ve gotten older, living in the Greater St. Charles area, I also find myself missing Van Buren, itself.  Funny that I wanted to leave it so badly until I had done so.

But I have much more to tell you about my time after high school before I can tell you about leaving my hometown.

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Preview #2 of Full Circle

Fishing the house key from his pocket, Jamie walked past his friends and cousins and unlocked the door, pushing it open.  Stale air poured out, surprisingly hotter than the August air outside.

“Whew!”  Jamie backed up from the door.  “I hope the power is still on.”

Buster stepped past Jamie and walked inside.  A flipping of the light switch inside of the front door turned on the light in the center of the living room.  Looking at Jamie, he said, “I guess that answers that.”

The teens entered the house, standing just inside the front door and looking at the mess.  The drawers in the entertainment center had been thrown open and all of the VHS tapes and Super Nintendo cartridges had been scattered in front of the television.

Jamie’s eyes narrowed.  “What happened here?”

“Dude,” muttered Dave, “Star never kept a messy house.”

Glancing toward Maria’s bedroom, Jamie said, “Spread out and check the other rooms and see if they’ve been trashed, too.”

He headed for her bedroom.  The dresser drawers had been dumped onto the floor and her jewelry box had been ransacked.  The mattress and box springs had been thrown off of the bed and now stood leaning against the far wall, next to the bed frame.

“What in the world happened in here?”

“Dude!” he heard Dave call.  “The bathroom looks the same!”

“The kitchen, too!” yelled Buster.

Then, an unfamiliar man’s voice yelled in terror as Jamie heard something heavy roll down the stairs.  Charging into the living room, he found an unconscious form lying at the base of the steps that led to the second floor.  A ski mask covered the man’s head and he wore a black sweat suit, despite the muggy, summer heat.

Yoshi stood over the man.

“What happened?” Jamie asked her.

“This man attacked me at the top of the stairs,” she responded.

Dave, Buster and Pete regrouped in the room with them.  Apparently noting something on the prone man’s back, Buster leaned over and pulled the man’s shirt up to reveal that his back was covered in tattoos.  Ranging from dragons, to Japanese demons, to samurai, the ink covered all parts of his skin.

Yoshi’s eyes widened in shock.

“What, dudette?” asked Dave.  “What is all’o this?”

She looked up at him and said, “This is big trouble!”

“Is he . . . Yakuza?” asked Jamie.

Buster’s eyes narrowed in confusion.  “What?”

“Japanese organized crime,” explained Yoshi.

Jamie looked at Buster.  “And I doubt that he was alone.”

“He wasn’t,” came a woman’s voice from the hall that led to the bathroom.

The teens all whirled around to find six men, dressed similarly to the first.  With them was a woman who was dressed in a ninja suit.  “We’ll be taking our comrade, now,” said the mysterious kunoichi.

“Why are you in our friend’s house?” demanded Yoshi.

The woman looked at her and, as her eyes settled on the dove pendant that she wore, she let out a barely audible gasp.  “Take them!” she yelled.

 

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