Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Birthday Post

Today is my birthday. Won't you help me to celebrate?

 Months pass,
days pile up, like one intoxicated dream -
An old man sighs.

- Ryokan

[from 'One Robe, One Bowl', translated by John Stevens]

When I began the new job about a year ago I also began working from home. Sure I had to travel, but when I was home I was completely home and I liked that a lot.

Ironically, I also found that I began to feel a need to get out of the house! I also started to put some weight on from the traveling and noticed that some of my good habits were eroding.

I started kicking around the idea of getting out the house by beginning training in aikido again, and/or perhaps judo.

I found two dojo located fairly nearby. The first one only trained on Saturday afternoons, which is absolutely the worst time for me; plus what they worked on was sort of a mash up of what the teacher put together  of aikido and judo.

The second seemed ideal on paper. Aikido followed by judo (or vice versa, I can't remember), twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Unfortunately they wouldn't return emails or phone calls. It seems that they have closed.

While I was kicking around my options, the Mrs reminded me that a friend of hers has been going to an MMA gym for years, has a great time and is always talking about what a great bunch they are there. I decided to attend the free conditioning class and see what it was about.

I immediately signed up. I thought that I was in decent shape before but found out rapidly that I was mistaken.

The general schedule is a conditioning class Mondays through Thursdays at 7, followed by kick boxing at 8. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they also have Brazilian Jiujitsu from 6 until 8, overlapping the condiitoning class.

I am certainly the oldest guy there. My wife's friend is a year or so younger than I am and her sister is a year or two younger still. There are a handful of guys in their 30's or 40's who show up, but almost everyone is in their 20's including a handful of young women.

The young guys are pretty good to me. They tend to hold back enough to where I'm not getting my block knocked off, but I found that there is a wide range of interpretation of the instructions to "take it easy on the old guy."

In fact, a few weeks into it, I picked up  my first black eye.

I simply can't keep up with the gap between my reaction time and those of they young guys. I also noticed that my knees were chronically sore from the kickboxing too.

One of the assistant instructors suggested that I take up BJJ sooner rather than later, which I was planning on. He said that it would be easier on my body and that a lot of my disadvantages would be somewhat mitigated. In fact, having some patience would probably be to my advantage.

Then I saw this clip.

A 74 year old black belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu.

I don't know if this old bag of bones will stay together long enough to achieve that, but it is certainly a worthy goal. As a rule of thumb, it takes a "regular" young person about 10 years to get to black belt level in BJJ, so maybe it will take me 20. 

Besides being older, I travel for work and I have other responsibilities that simply doesn't allow me to put the time in that I would have as a young man. It's on the edge of the realm of possibility. You have to be somewhere and you have to be doing something. Why not? I'm game. A realistic shorter term goal is to still be doing this when I'm 60.

I've had a couple of pulled muscles and BJJ is a whole new kind of sore, but it's been six months now and I've stuck with it. I'm still among the least of the grapplers, but I do improve every day and have a blast, which is what it is all about.

One of my regular training partners has developed type 1 diabetes. She's trying to raise money for a Diabetes Alert Dog, which can sense when her chemistry changes and indeed save her life. A type 1 diabetic can slide into a coma while sleeping and simply die. The dog would sense the change and wake her. 

I don't want her to die. Maybe you can help her.

I'm 57 years old and I'm not a runner. I haven't run since I was a teenager and 5 miles was the longest I ever ran back then. I have found that running leaves me with sore ankles and knees. It's uncomfortable for me. I'd rather do just about anything than run.

A few months ago I found out that nearly 800 million people don't have access to to clean drinking water. They drink out of mud holes, out of water holes shared with animals; from wells that are so distant that the women and girls going to fetch the water are subject to assault, abduction and worse.

I live near the Great Lakes and can go out to the middle of Lake Huron and be surrounded by fresh water as far as the eye can see. To lack water is a concept that is kind of hard for me to wrap my head around

As I said, I learned that so many people are living in such desperate conditions and I also found out that a group named Team World Vision is raising money to address this.

For $50 a person can have clean drinking water for life.

By running.

And so I run.

This 57 year old non runner has signed up for the International Half Marathon to take place during the Free Press Marathon on October 19th. I am taking part in a fund raiser organized by Team World Vision. TWV distrbutes personal filter straws, builds filtration systems, digs wells, etc.

I showed up at the informational meeting held after the service at church, expecting to simply lend support to one of my daughters who had been talking about signing up for a marathon. The next thing I knew, I was filling out a form and was one of the first to hand it in.

Every dollar counts. Won't you please donate? You'll change, maybe save someones' life. My goal is to raise $1300.

 Won't you sponsor me?

Between running and BJJ, I think that NOW I'm in pretty decent shape. I guess that I'll find out in a few days.

I've been at the new job a year now. Both the company and I are pretty happy with each other. I've advanced the relationships they already had from first discussions to several development programs which should see production ramping up either later this year or early next. I've found them some some new customers which whom they've had no contact before.

The travel seems to be pretty seasonal. From autumn to spring is the traveling season. As my boss is in Chicago, I expected to go there quite a bit. As it turns out I've gone to San Diego more times than anywhere else. Not a bad place to visit.

There is a local charitable organization named Life Remodeled. They raise money, organize volunteers and go into areas that need a lot of work and get it done. The last several years they have concentrated on the City of Detroit, which needs a lot of work.

This summer they organized 10,000 volunteers over a week's time to renovate my old high school, Cody High in Detroit, and 100 surrounding blocks in the neighborhood.

That was my neigborhood. I grew up there. I know those houses. I played in those yards. My childhood home is within those 100 blocks.

Between conference calls and what not, I wasn't able to get down there to help and I was quite disappointed. However, even without me, by all accounts everything turned out great.

This month, my wife and I will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary.

Time flies like an arrow.

My oldest daughter finished a master's degree and is advancing her career. My youngest daughter completed her college degree and is working in her field. Everyone is doing well.


Jonathan Bluestein said...

Heartwarming and wonderful to read! :-) Very inspiring. Too bad we ain't getting 'Rick' on the blog more often. Best of luck on all of your endeavors, my dear friend. The rest I have written on your facebook wall...

Compass Architect said...

Happy belated b-day. Have a beer on me. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rick,

I enjoyed reading about your exploits and explorations!


Rick Matz said...

Thanks, guys!

Paul said...

You are a character!

Felicia said...

Happy Birthday! All the best with the run and BJJ :-)

Rick Matz said...

Thank you! The half marathon was an awesome experience and I had a great day on my birthday.