Saturday, May 6, 2017

Never Too Old for Mono

They call mono "the kissing disease." You're supposed to get it when you're a teenager from making out.  You stay home from school for a few days while classmates gossip about who you got it from. You heal by watching soap operas, old TV shows and documentaries about serial killers.

While I have always been a late bloomer when it came to my physical development, my first kiss, and first husband, I never thought I would contract mono at such a late stage of my life: a stage where another woman might be marrying off her kids, winning a Nobel prize, be established in a career of her choice or getting ready to retire.  I have mono.

Fortunately, I work from home so the two naps a day thing doesn't get in my way too much as long as I don't leave the house.

The dogs don't like when I go back to bed in the afternoon, so I have to crash on the couch. That way they can sleep in rectangles of warm sunlight. Otherwise, they bark at me, sending waves of guilt through my weak body.  Then, I stumble to the couch and we all peacefully pass out.

Apparently, I have had mono for several months, but pushed through it -  which got me sicker.  I'm used to having a boxer's mindset of just forging through whatever difficulty you are facing.  That doesn't work with Mono.

It's part of the reason why it's been so draining for me to work out hard or stay focused when I am writing.  In a way, this is a relief.  I thought I was just getting "old."  I know some women can keep grinding it out for longer, but others run out of energy sooner.  There comes a point where no matter how hard you push yourself, you don't get stronger and better, you just go further downhill. So you have to listen to your body.  At least now, I believe I can get strong again. I just have to go at a different pace.

In the past several months, I have spent more time outside the boxing ring coaching, than inside battling it out. The idea of getting my cardio up to "fight ready" is daunting and doesn't even seem possible in this moment. The good news is that the two girls I'm training are getting closer to that, have eight times as much energy as I do, and more pop and explosiveness in their punches and footwork.  It's a different kind of pride knowing I helped guide them. Also, I discovered a protectiveness I never had for myself.

Since I never had kids, I am a bit delayed developmentally. (There are other reasons.) I didn't have a reason to grow up or a way to mark time besides the death of my dog. But even then, Gary and I started over again with puppies so we basically became new parents.  Being dog parents is like the movie,"Groundhog's Day."

Gary is the same way. He is a grown man with a light saber.  So we feed into each other's delusion of being 28. Or,in his case, 12.

Coaching these girls is giving me the feeling of a "life cycle."  I can remember when I first learned to box and the way I looked at my coaches and the girls I trained with. I remember the intense hunger to learn and get better.  While I still have that to a degree, I enjoy watching the progression of my fighters- watching them go from that stage to where they are now and eventually to teaching. I look forward to the day they get in the ring and fight.

Being in their corner during a fight will be my version of going to my daughter's wedding.

As Gary and I get ready to move, I have to practice the "Power of Now" and all the other self help shit I read.  We are moving into another stage of life - one with a yard in a grown ups neighborhood;  one where young girls are trusting me with their training, where I am doing more writing and editing and less working out.

As we cross each dimension of life, it's difficult to accept the next one.  But, you really have no choice.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Finding Peace

I purposefully didn't post much about the election. But I did march against hate. And I will march again.

I'm not continually posting anti-Trump articles (although that is easy to do...considering) But I am signing petitions and trying to stay aware of what else I can do to protect the right to be diverse in a country that was founded upon it.

I'm not in South Dakota, protesting against Standing Rock, but I did make a donation, sign whatever petition I could, and pray.


The dreaded Christmas season is upon us, which is stressful as it is. But on top of that, we have so much unrest in the world, fear of hateful ideologies becoming the new "normal," fear of ....so much more, I don't even want to list them because we are bombarded with it every day.

The question is, how do we stay positive and productive without "living in a bubble?" Obviously, there is a balance, but I am finding we are living in a time where I must consciously create that balance. If we live in fear and bitterness, we won't be in a place to make a change. If we completely ignore what is going on in the world, we are becoming a part of the problem.

It was difficult to have a "Happy" Thanksgiving, knowing the people, whose land we have taken, are peacefully protesting their right to have clean water in an area we "designated" them to.  It's difficult to accept that WE are the assholes doing it. But, I am grateful for the life I have created- my family, my friends, the people around me, my health. We have to be grateful every day for what we have; grateful that we live in a country where there are small things we can do to make a change- even if it's just making our voices heard.  I felt some guilt even just writing that. Guilt that I have that choice and others don't.

I don't want to be negative, feed negativity or feel overwhelmed by a situation that I can only do a little about - and that little bit, might not even be doing anything. When I put it out there,  yes, it's annoying to some, but that's not why I don't. I'm used to putting myself out there in ridiculously vulnerable situations and accepting the criticism that comes with it.  I just don't want to feed the fear.

There must be a system to live your life in a way that is not hardened to others suffering, but also where you can find some peace in your daily life.  I guess the key is having faith.
But is that too passive?


That's the challenge. What is the balance?

Perhaps I'm not saying anything unique, but I thought it was worth putting out there. As the Christmas season rushes upon us like a freight train, how do we manage finding peace?

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

When the Thrill is Gone...

It's a personal thing, knowing when your fight time is up. For me, I think that time has finally come.

No one wants to be the punch drunk boxer that climbs between the ropes only to get their head knocked off and have everyone feel sorry for them because their time was up a while ago and they never got the memo.  Or the fighter who is no longer in their prime and has to take mediocre fights to look good in the ring.

Mind you, I don't think I'm at that stage.  I just don't want it badly enough, and it's showing.

Even though it will make my parents happy that I am finally not going to compete, that is definitely not why I'm doing it.  Still rebellious at my age, that would be the only reason I wished my heart was still into it.

I felt this day coming.  When I really wanted to fight, even when I was tired, I would push so hard to fight back and work every day to get better conditioning.  I wanted it so badly that I would push beyond my limits just to go three or four - three minute rounds in the ring.  That seemed to be my limit.  This is an exhausting process, by the way.  People with natural energy can do a lot more than that, but I'm not one of those people.  I have to work a little harder. I only have to fight three or four two minute rounds in my division and I could always get to that point.

Even though I started boxing at 40 and just turned 50 last month, I don't think it's an age thing.  It's a desire thing.  I'm grateful for the journey fighting gave me.  I went from freezing and crying in a corner, getting pummeled on to....well, let's just say yesterday, I rested in the corner, but I was relaxed and blocking punches.  I didn't have the desire or the energy to pivot out, throw back, etc.  I don't feel like I have anything to prove anymore.  Is it embarrassing to get that tired during sparring with a twenty-something?  Yes.  Not embarrassing enough to try and make myself the victor.  I don't really need that anymore.  That's when you know the thrill is gone.

Last July, I won the National Golden Gloves in the masters division at 106lbs.  I  traveled across the country, dealt with jet lag, cut weight in the most humid state of America, and fought a worthy opponent.  Was I dying to do that?  No.  I heard this woman, Angela, wanted a fight.  While she did some unsanctioned fights, she wanted to do a sanctioned one against a woman of a similar age.  Planning on being there to film the Women's Boxing Hall of Fame and to possibly work the corner for my friend, Traci, I had the time to train - so I agreed to fight her.  She had more energy, but I had more ring experience and was able to use my boxing to beat her.  Once I was in the ring, I knew I wanted to win badly.

Yesterday, after a long time off, I decided to get in the ring and spar with someone new.  She was a bit bigger than me, maybe 10 - 15lbs; a young muscled MMA fighter.  I knew our coach, Wayne, would make sure that we were not going to war and trusted my defense was good enough that I wouldn't get hurt.  When I arrived, my old friend, Kaiyana Rain, was there.   Four or five years ago, we trained in boxing together.  She went on to be a pro MMA fighter, Mauy Thai fighter and boxer.  I help manage her.  Very athletic, she does all of these things very well.  My first round was to be with her.  I know Kaiyana and she knows she can bully me and beat me easily that way.  She is bigger and stronger and I just gas out at the end of the round so my boxing skills go out the window.

However, it's more of a challenge for her to try and outbox me.  Years ago, this wasn't happening.  Now - it's happening!  But, it's okay.  I want her to be the best fighter she can be.  This is what she does.  Does it sting a little in the ego department? Yeah. But, if I acted out of ego, I would be one hurt puppy.  Besides keeping in mind that this is all she does, while I balance writing, making films and editing, I also know she is just more gifted.  It's just the way it is.   If I REALLY wanted to be the best boxer I could be, I probably wouldn't believe that.  Or, I would just work harder.  Never give up.  That's what has been my saving grace all these years.

After 10 years (on and off) of boxing, I am lucky to have no lasting injuries.  My memory is failing, but it was failing anyway.  I got into the best shape of my life at 40 and continue to keep reasonably fit.  Now, I just want to write a damn good screenplay.

Where is the joy in boxing?


The joy these days comes from teaching others.  It comes from seeing the spark in a young girl's eye when her glove cracks the mitt for the very first time.  It comes from watching my students who used to constantly get tagged in sparring, block and move and counter, using moves they learned in my class.  It comes from working with domestic abuse survivors and seeing the joy that fills their hearts when they realize, they have the power to change their bodies, their minds and their lives.  It comes from the bond with these women that originally drew me to the sport.  We are a bunch of weirdos. Weird, subversive, knock-around women who understand how much we can grow, improve, balance our ups and downs, change our lives and help each other in a sport that is still not embraced by most people.  It's a sisterhood that cannot be explained.  That's what I love now. Time to move on.





I still wish I could like yoga...but I don't.





Thursday, March 3, 2016

#SMDS


Dad called me yesterday morning from the hospital.  Not only was his pancreatitis acting up, but his heart was beating super fast.  Turns out he has heart arrhythmia.  He is stable now and asking the nurses to show him how to take selfies.

I had lunch with him on Monday before he took me to the airport.  I was going to Uber if he was drunk, but he seemed okay and drove us to his favorite Portuguese restaurant in Newark, The Spanish Tavern.  There were signs on the Turnpike directing us.  My dad said the restaurant probably paid off the city in order to have those signs posted.  When we got there, I pulled my ridiculously heavy camera bag out of the car because my video camera was in there and...we were in Newark.  Almost brought my suitcase too, but dad said the parking lot was safe.

It was a large, high end, restaurant with cloth napkins folded uniformly on the plates – not what you would expect to see in Newark.  Darkly lit and old school New Jersey, it looked like a place Tony Soprano would dine.

On our walk to the table, my dad gave a flashlight pen to the Maitre'D.   Right off the bat, Dad told him he sold them and that they were good for writing down orders in low light.  Our waiter jokingly asked for one and my father sent me to the car to get “a half dozen” more.  When I came back, Dad ordered a sangria and I stayed with water.  I had just completed a week long trip in New York which included going out with friends almost every night, staying up way too late, and drinking red wine.  Not my usual lifestyle, but I don’t regret it.

When the waiter took our order, my father asked to see the manager.  I suddenly got uncomfortable and shifted in my seat.  I knew he was going to try and sell the guy flashlight pens.  I know the drill.

The manager, dark, fit and handsome, came over and my dad told him about how great the pens are and how he could have “Spanish Tavern” printed on the side.  He flicked the light on and off and urged him to go ahead and try it. 

Proudly, Dad declared, “It actually writes.” Not only that, Dad explained, “In a pen’s lifetime, it gets passed around at least 10 times, so that’s 10 people who see your business.”

I have heard this 1000 times.

The manager looked at him and then, at me.  I could tell he wasn’t sure what to make of us.  Then, he asked what kind of battery the pen took. 

My dad said, “I don’t know. I’m not very technical.  I’m just a bullshit artist.”

The manager smiled and looked at me.  I shook my head and shrugged and said, “That’s my dad.”  He warmed up to us a little more.  Maybe his father was a character too. I told him to just use the pen until the battery ran out.  My dad was giving him a tremendous deal – 200 pens for 79 cents each.  Dad buys them for 69 cents each.  Or at least that is what he told us.  Who really knows?

We slowly finished our delicious lunch of branzino and lamb chops.  After another sangria, my dad talked to the manager about how the area is changing and how he had been going to the Spanish Tavern for decades.  The manager said his family owned the restaurant since 1971.  Then, the manager asked my dad to call him on Wednesday.  He wanted to buy 200 pens.  He walked away.  My dad looked at me and winked with a little glint in his eye.  He’s still got it.  Maybe it’s even better now that he is older.  He can get away with a lot more. 

Then, my dad, a former marine and boxer, commented on what good shape the manager was in.  While I was struggling with my camera bag at the table, dad was on his way out the door.  He told the manager, “You’re in good shape.  Keep it up.”

At this point, the manager was sitting across from another guy dressed in a suit and they looked at each other.  Dad didn’t know how gay this sounded.   I laughed out loud and they caught me.  I apologized and thanked him for being so nice to my dad.  He said it was his pleasure.

I thought back to when I was a small child and dad would bring me with him on sales calls to sell checkbooks.  He said people were more likely to buy when I was with him. If the small business had kids, my dad would do yo-yo tricks – around the world, walk the dog, rock the cradle and more.  He always had at least one yo-yo in the car.  He became the best salesman in the country for his business and won awards.  I was always super proud of him for doing so well with only a high school education... and the Morley charm.

This isn’t dad’s first date in the hospital with pancreatitis.  He has been there a few times before.  However, he still chooses to drink.  Every day.  Wine in the morning, afternoon and evening.  I know I go on Facebook and write down all the #shitmydadsays, but as funny as it is, it’s also sad.  I’m sad he is choosing to go this way.  The truth is, he is in his mid seventies and for the amount of damage he has done to his body, he has lived long.

I am not looking forward to the day I won’t have any more shit my dad says. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

FIRED

For the first time in 27 years, I got fired. It was a part time job, that I was doing for “fun.”

I attempted to teach boxing at a new gym. It was a crossfit kind of place with energetic instructors who wear headsets and bark in sing songy voices over speakers to get people excited.  They teach boxing off an app.  Yes, an app. 1 minute on airbikes, 1 minute, combos on the bag.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, yeah, once you figure out what group goes on the bike and what group goes on the bag, it is easy. But, not easy for me.

I was told I was not energetic enough.  Even after they coached me extensively about how to make my voice change octaves, talk louder, softer, faster, slower.  They taught me how to “walk with purpose” when approaching a client; to kneel down next to him to show how determined I was.  They showed me how clapping your hands next to a person gets them to move faster. 

However, I was unable to generate genuine excitement during the class. I couldn’t yell at them like Richard Simmons to do their combos faster.  I guess that’s what happens when you put a depressive in a high energy job.  To my credit, I told them this when I first saw the class. 

Matt, the instructor, was a pretty blonde man with pretty muscles and pretty sparkly blue eyes.  He was over the top exuberant when teaching combinations and danced to the music playing in the background while he blasted out commands on the speakers.  He liked to high five people as they made their way from the bikes to the bags.  He seemed like a nice happy guy.  Next to him, I was Wednesday Adams.

I took Matt’s class and when I saw his energy, I knew I would never be able to teach that way.  I’m quiet.  Low energy, unless I’m drunk.  Or angry.  I am unable to get so excited about encouraging a bunch of people that I will try to high five every single one of them.  When I train, I don’t get high fived, and I’m going to high five these people for their shitty boxing?

I told the manager that I am not a cheerleader type and would never be able to teach like that. He said maybe there was something else I could bring to it.  He liked the fact that I was a real boxer.   A female.  A Golden Gloves winner. 

What I do offer is a good knowledge of proper technique, fight experience, nurturing, and compassion.  I’m repulsed by seeing terrible technique and will make it my business to work with people until they get it right.  The reality is, seeing a room full of 20 people who don’t know how to box, whaling on the bags wildly, was going to drive me bitchcakes. 

So the bigger question here is, why did I even try to do this?  Don’t I know my skillset?  I’m a grown ass woman.

As a struggling actress in New York, I had the romantic notion of waiting tables.  After getting fired three times, I realized it wasn’t for me.  It’s too fast paced; too many moving parts. I get overwhelmed. I was “in the weeds” most of the time.  I’m forgetful.  I don’t remember the onion rings or the dressing on the side. And I don’t think it’s okay for people to talk down to me.  I’m also not ... perky.  Not that you have to be, but I hear it helps with tips.

Does that make me a complete fuckup? Hardly, but that feeling is familiar.  The fuckup feeling.  It’s more distant now, but I remember when I got fired from my third waitressing job. It was in Gramercy Park in a place that had high ceilings and a jazz brunch and I immediately befriended the first gay waiter I saw, which was... immediately.  I felt bad for him because I knew I wasn’t fast enough in my section and he had to take over some of my tables.  I messed up too many times, so I was canned. 

For some reason, this destroyed me.  Why couldn’t I do a simple waitressing job? Even though I wasn’t “trying” to be a waitress, it attacked my self esteem. It was like a solid punch to the solar plexus. There must be something deeply wrong with me, I would think. 

I tried to become a temp soon after that, but when I couldn’t type fast enough to pass the test, I did the only sensible thing.  I became a stripper.  Fuck waitressing. 

After my meeting with the gym manager, reverberations of that insecurity resonated deep down inside me. But it was a very faint feeling. My biggest feeling was of relief.  Being a drill instructor is not my dharma.

I have success in other jobs that require patience, thoughtfulness, being good with people, one on one and overseeing others in a quiet commanding way.  I know I bring a sincerity to everything I do and I just can’t sincerely yell at people, who are not professional athletes, to train like their lives depend on it. 

The manager and people who work at the place were uber nice and welcoming and cannot be faulted with anything; except trying to get me to be something I’m not, without knowing that I’m not cut of that cloth.  My cloth is darker, a little rough, and fraying at the edges.

The bright side: It’s still normal for me to push myself out of my comfort zone to try to have different experiences.  I’ve failed so many times in life that it’s not a big deal anymore; especially doing something I would prefer not to.  The best thing that came out of this experience is that what I used to equate with self-esteem, is now self-realization; a story to be told, and later, become a memory. 




Thursday, September 3, 2015

Backwards and in High Heels

This saying always makes me smile because it is relevant to women on so many levels.  For those of you who don't know the saying and may be too young to know who Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were; they were amazing dancers in old Hollywood films.  Fred Astaire would constantly be praised for his dancing.  Finally, it was brought up that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did except backwards and in high heels.  Why weren't we praising the woman who was equally as mesmerizing?  It's just how it goes sometimes.

I don't mean this in a bitter way.  I actually find it amusing and accept it on some levels.  Am I an angry feminist?  Sometimes.  But in reality, I just want everyone to be treated equally.  I guess I am an angry humanist.

I was talking with a famous MMA fighter recently and we bonded over how difficult it can be to train with our periods.  She said she would get overly emotional and not be able to control it.  I would get fatigue so badly, I would walk into punches and my sparring partners would ask if I was hungover.  I try not to spar during that time of the month because not a lot of good will come of it.  There might be a day or two before, when the hormonal anger can push me further, but for the most part, I get dizzy and tired and weak pretty quickly which frustrates me.  I start telling myself that I am too old or not good enough and will never be able to compete again.  Perhaps I won't, but these feelings pass and eventually I get back into the groove.  It's a constant struggle not to believe the negative thoughts during these times.

Fortunately, even though my last two fights were about a week before my period, I didn't experience the symptoms as badly.  I think it could be the adrenaline in my body knowing that it had to be prepared to fight.  Or maybe I was lucky.  Either way, I realized that not many people talk about this because it is hard enough to be a female fighter, without whining about your period.  We just try to tough it out.  Let the sparring sessions suck and the new moves we are trying to learn not stick.  We hope the next week it gets better and it usually does.

My recent cycle knocked me for a loop.  In sparring, it was as if I thought my head was supposed to aim for the glove. I had to convince the guys in my group that I wasn't drinking whiskey the night before.  They were all men so I don't know if they completely understand this feeling.  When I told them I had my period, they were grossed out.  Sorry, it's just the truth!

Anyway guys, please remember we are doing everything you are doing, except backwards and in high heels!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

National Women's Golden Gloves- Ft. Lauderdale

The Decision to Go




Three weeks ago, my friend Traci and I went to the National Women's Golden Gloves tournament in Ft. Lauderdale Florida.  We both knew we would have matches so it would be well worth the trip.  I was already planning on attending/shooting the Women's International Hall of Fame event which was to happen on the last day there so this was an added surprise.

I found out through a Masters Boxing FB page that there was a woman named Angela Woody Huffman, who was also a Masters at 106lbs.  While she has had some smoker fights, she never fought in a USA sanctioned bout against another "Master."  I put quotes around Master because to me, it's deceiving in reference to amateur boxing.  A Master is someone who has been doing something so often, for so long, with such passion, they have owned it.  They explored every part of the thing they mastered from the inside out and have a savvy execution.  The Masters division in boxing is basically people who still want to fight who are over 40.  We often started way later in life (in my case 40) and are still trying to get the hang of a "young man's/woman's sport."  Because we started the sport so late, we have not mastered the sport at all.  Not. At. All. But I guess it's better than being called "Seniors."

Angela's picture on Facebook looked friendly and sweet.  I could see she was a wife and a mother and liked to bake cakes and cupcakes with artful icing that looked amazing.  She also had a little spark in her blue eyes that showed me she was much more than a happy homemaker.   I agreed to fight her, so she would have the experience of a real USA boxing sanctioned match, but of course, I wanted to see how I would fare against another boxer of my stature who has been training a good amount of time.  My confidence with fighting was still a bit shaky.  I didn't perform so well in my last fight, even though I won, and I wanted to make up for that.  My nerves got the best of me.  I never fought in a tournament out of town and I like to do things that frankly, terrify the shit out of me.

I would be going with, Traci Konas, an emergency room nurse who has been competing in the amateurs for almost two years.  She is very strong, tough, has great head movement, amazing cardio and a incredible heart.  She fights at 112lbs.  She is pretty with kind blue eyes, a fair complexion and dark hair. Her body is strong and toned and compact.  At 39, she is still eligible to qualify for the Olympics.  She did go to the trials in Colorado and lost a close fight to one of the top girls.  Traci is attempting a Herculean task - fighting at an elite level at a later age with less years of training than the women who have been competing at that level for several years.  She always gives them a run for their money and her heart can never ever be questioned. We train together at Wildcard, spar together and give each other support.


Getting There

We decided to make the trip together, share a hotel room and make it a girls' vacation, complete with fighting and meeting other women of the same feather.  We would be each other's corners and find a licensed coach to help once we got there.

After our extremely uncomfortable redeye flight on Spirit Airilines (*cough*) we got in at 7am.  I was completely stoned from Ambien for the next 24 hours.   Never again.  The Ambien didn't even get me to sleep, just made me loopy like a mental patient.  Traci also couldn't get comfortable on the plane and we were laughing at how sore our backs were by the time we made it to the hotel room bed. It would be a couple of days before we would get on East Coast time and our bodies would unravel.

Once I made the tournament plans and posted them on Facebook, I found out Susan Reno, one of the women from my film was going to be there, coaching some of the New York girls from the Metro team.  She agreed to corner me if she didn't have to coach one of the other girls from her team.


Strong, confident and beautiful, Susan is a great role model for female boxers.  She is another compact strong little woman (I seem to collect them) with a great spirit.  She won the NY Golden Gloves during the making "Fight Like a Girl."  She is a pro, and along with her husband, Mike who is head coach of the Fire Department Boxing Team, now coaches the top amateurs in New York. It was fun introducing Traci to Susan.  Since both of them are in our tribe, we all speak the same language; which means we could talk for hours upon hours about our love of boxing.  Of course, Susan is more of a veteran and commands that respect.  It was a treat for the three of us to have lunch together at a restaurant by the water away from the Florida humidity.  Of course, we still had to make weight so it was salad city for us.


Making Weight

Traci likes to walk around near her fighting weight.  Even though many of us tell her it is too light, I think she is afraid of not making weight, so seeing the numbers on the scale close to that weight gives her relief.  I on the other hand, don't see the point as I enjoy ice cream.  I trust that my body will drop to 106lbs even if I typically walk at 110lbs.  Pro fighters have to make much more drastic weight cuts than that and do it all the time.  Also, I know if I am a pound or two over, it's easy to just sweat it out.  Not fun, but easy to drop.   

On the first day, we had to weigh in no more than two pounds above our fighting weight.  At that point, even after the plane ride (you retain water on the plane) I was 108lbs.  Traci was 111lbs.  We ran, shadowboxed, split salads with chicken, ate rabbit nibbles of Cliff bars and after a couple of days, I had only dropped a pound.  Still, I wasn't worried, since I remember losing a pound by jumping rope in heavy sweats for 20 minutes at the NY Golden Gloves weigh ins years ago, but Traci was worried for me.  

We decided to go to Bonnie Canino's boxing gym to really sweat.  Bonnie runs the tournament with her partner, Yvette and offered the fighters her gym to train in.  Traci and I Ubered there and worked  drills in the modest ring.  There was a tall, lean, lanky girl with short dark hair jumping rope, talking with the guy that worked there.

We found out she was also fighting in the tournament at 132lbs.  Her name was Kim and she was from Chicago.  She and her husband, Mark, came out for the tournament.  They rented a car so she offered us a ride back to the hotel.  This was one of the best things that happened to us on the trip; meeting Kim, a savvy vegan with a wry smile and a cool wit.  She had won the Golden Gloves in Chicago and wanted to give it a go at the Nationals.  Immediate bonding began at the gym and continued in the car.  I need to mention that I love tall girls.  At 5'1", I accept my height, but tall girls get me excited about what life could be like a foot higher.


I found out that when Kim first started boxing, she read this blog!  She was excited to find other "crazy women" who did this.  She followed the same women in the sport that I follow and even read an article written by my husband about what it's like to be the husband of a female fighter.  She remembered it from two years ago and shared the crap out of it.  

Once back at the hotel, Kim made smoothies for us.  Since she is a self described OCD vegan she brought her blender, protein powder and had all the makings for delicious smoothies.  AND her room was right next to ours!  Her husband Mark was another tall drink of water and like my husband, he is a smart, cool Asian dude.  He agreed to shoot our fights with my HD camera.  Yes, we were able to get high quality videos of our fights and he framed them very well.

While walking around the hotel, from a corner, I heard, "Hey Jill." It was the sweet blue-eyed woman from the Facebook photos with her two adorable daughters, son, husband and coach.  Angela came up and gave me a hug.  I have to admit, I felt a little weird meeting her daughters and family face to face in such a casual way.  Usually, I don't know my opponent or speak to her.  It makes it easier to let go, hit hard and crave the win.  Looking into her children's adorable eyes made me feel a little....awful.  On the other hand, it is a sport, just like tennis.  I used to have to play my friends in tennis and I would be just as competitive as playing someone I didn't know.  Of course, I wasn't punching them in the face but we all know what we are signing up for when we agree to get in the ring....right?



Since we were to weigh in the next day and I still wasn't breaking 107 point whatever, Traci and I split another salad with chicken and at night, I went on the treadmill and ran for 20 minutes with my sweats on.  After a good sweat, I tried to just drink little sips of water until the morning.  Kim had a scale so I went next store so we could check our weight.  I was 106lbs even.  Kim was 129lbs, way under what she needed to be.  Relieved, we went to the weigh ins.  I saw Angela on line with her family and coach there to support her.  She was was so laid back.  What will she be like to fight?  I stood next to Angela and waited on line for my turn.  My nerves got my stomach churning, sent me to the ladies room and when I returned to weigh in, I was 105.4lbs on the scale.  Boom! (drop mic)

Yay!  Kim and I were victorious in making weight!

At lunch, I ate Susan's hamburger bun, my fish tacos, and Traci's pita she had left over.  Bread never tasted so good.  I asked Susan what I should do if Angela was not very good.  What if she just didn't bring it? She was so sweet and laid back.  Would I have the heart to really take it to her?  With her family there watching?  Susan said, "It's your responsibility to bring the fight.  The ref will stop it if it gets too rough.  Don't worry if she thinks this is just a family vacation.  It's not.  It's a fight." She was right, if I respected her, I would bring it no matter what happened. It was only fair to both of us and God knows, no one ever took it easy on me in a fight.

The Fight

I can't even say how grateful I was that Susan was there to wrap my hands and that Traci stayed with me for my warm up.  The support was so necessary.  Nerves were bubbling up inside and I was somewhat numb.  Once again, as my hands were getting wrapped I wondered, "Why the hell am I doing this?  This is definitely the last time."  I have thought that 9 times now.

As I went to the bathroom for my fifth pee, I saw Angela hitting pads outside in the front with her coach.  I suspected she didn't want me to see her.  She was hitting hard and fast with a lot of energy and great technique. My heart sped up and I started sweating.  I don't think it was a hot flash this time, just nerves.


I went back and told Susan and Traci what I had seen.  I assured myself that everyone looks good when they are hitting pads.  (At least people who are good)  They agreed and told me to concentrate on my own game.  Traci and I moved around.  I had her charge at me so I could practice dealing with a charger.

Kim's fight was on before mine so I took a break from warming up and cheered her on. Six feet tall, lanky and strong.  She boxed her girl with nice movement, kept her back with the jab, hit her with powerful right hands and easily won the fight.  Somehow it was a split decision, but I am still figuring out how they judge these things.

Then, it was my turn.  Susan and Traci walked me to the ring and I got inside. My heart was pumping, but my nerves weren't as bad as the last time for some reason.  Maybe because the girl wasn't a personal trainer/weight lifter who was 8lbs heavier like last time. They announced Angela who got in the ring and raised her hand like she had done it a million times, and then they announced me.  I also raised my hand, playing the part of a boxer who wins.  In the middle, we touched gloves and went back to our corners.

My intention was to practice being calm, feel her out and fight my fight.  When the bell rang, she immediately charged at me and pushed me to the ropes.   I got out of it and started boxing her.  Moving around, making her miss and coming back.  She was a force to be reckoned with and any thoughts of taking it light went out of my head as she came at me.  I came right back at her.  I wanted to punch her as hard as I could with my right hand so she would think twice about coming in.  Uncharacteristically, I brawled, pushing her back with punches and force. "Nobody puts baby in a corner," was an actual thought that went through my head.  In fact, at one point, I accidentally pushed her down.  In the movie screen of my mind, I remembered seeing sparring sessions and fights where the other person was able to push me around and I was not going to let that happen.  Especially, since in the amateurs, they usually award the aggressor.

After the first round, Susan and Traci told me to breathe. Susan was grinning and telling me I won that round but not to brawl.  Box. That is what I do best.  My coach, Rich, called Susan earlier to tell her not to tell me to put my hands up.  For some reason, I breathe easier when my left is down blocking my body and my right is used to block punches and throw hard.  Not sure why that stance speaks to me, but it does.



For the next two two minute rounds, I boxed and moved and sometimes pushed back.   I ate more punches than usual since I was choosing to mix it up.  There was definitely an uppercut in there that I felt! I landed a few good right hands that sent her head way back and whenever they landed, she would laugh hysterically!  The little fighter in me vowed to keep her laughing.

She aggressively put me in a corner, I turned her and put her in the corner throwing non-stop punches.  Ugly, but effective, I suppose for the amateurs.  In the last round, we were both feeling a bit tired, but fought our hearts out.  At the end of the round, I was getting upset with myself for feeling the fatigue and yelled when I threw my right hand as if to force myself to keep going. At that moment, the bell rang.  Fight over.  Big hug to Angela.  What a warrior.  Toughest unassuming mom I ever met.

Susan and Traci were grinning ear to ear.  As they were taking off my headgear and mouthpiece, they said I did what they told me to do.  I listened and dropped body shots when they said, moved around, doubled the right.  Whatever they said, I did.  I was hoping for a good outcome.  No matter who's hand was raised, I actually felt like I fought a good fight.

When they announced my name as the winner, I was so happy and relieved.  For anyone who knows where I came from and how I started, winning the National Golden Gloves, even for the Masters Division did not look like it was ever in the cards for me.  Even though I had more fights than Angela, my confidence was not there the way it should be.  I told Angela she was a tough MFer, hugged her again, got my medal and left the ring.  My friend, Malissa Smith, a writer from New York who had seen my film and knows how far I have come, hugged me and complimented my skills.  I said something self effacing and she assured me that she saw skills in there.  Again, I know it wasn't a beautiful fight, but I did do a lot of things right in the heat of the moment.  It was better than the last one against a challenging opponent.  Any time I improve is a win.  My rule is if this fight is better than the last fight, then you won.  I hope Angela sees it as a win as well.

Overall, the whole trip was a win because I got to fight, meet amazing women, work the corners of Traci and Kim for their competitive fights, bond with weirdos like myself, and gain just a little more confidence in myself as a fighter and as a coach.  My run of training hard and fighting is coming to an end for now, as I need to concentrate on my film work; but I will keep doing light sparring and stay in decent shape for my mental health, as well as coaching others.  Please reach out if you want to learn to box.  It's the best thing ever.


Watch Fight Like a Girl if you want to see my very modest beginnings!