Maybe it's dealing with cancer, maybe it's the deaths of some of my friends parents, or perhaps it's my own upcoming milestone birthday (I'm turning 40) but I've been thinking a lot lately about my life, what I've done so far, and especially about what I want to do yet before I leave this earth. What should I put on my bucket list? I've already thought of a few things:


1. Step foot on all the Continents. Maybe Antarctica is optional, but if I can take a ship over from South America or Africa (whichever is closest) just to say I set foot on there, that might be good enough.

2. Earn all the levels of Instructor. Become a Shifu, even if I only ever teach out of my own basement.

3. Get in good enough shape to look nice in a bikini, even if I never wear one (I have some significant scars that I'm self-conscious about and radiation has only darkened them).

4. Visit Sweden, Switzerland and Germany - countries my family emigrated to America from.

5. Give blood. Yes I've never done this. No I don't have a good reason why I haven't.

6. Learn to play guitar. I don't have to get good at it, but just good enough to play a simple tune. Learn to read notes is critical.

7. Visit Ireland. Tour the Guinness Brewery.

8. Ride on a motorcycle. With someone I trust.

9. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

10. See the Pacific Ocean (the farthest west I've set foot in is Phoenix)

11. Visit New York City. Eat some of their pizza.

12. See Niagara Falls

13. Have Maine Lobster. In Maine.

14. Have Jambalaya. In New Orleans.

15. Visit the Rocky Mountains.

16. Take my step-daughter to Disney World (that one's actually in the works)

17. Maybe compete. Just one more time.

18. Learn to dance. Type right now is being debated.

19. Go to a football game in Lambeau again.

20. Visit Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China.


That's the list I've came up with so far in no particular order. What's on your bucket list?


Wu Song Beats a Tiger (武松打虎)

I realize it has been a really long time since I last blogged. Really reading my older posts makes me long for the days when my biggest worries involved the size of my waistline and the length of my drive to get to kung fu class.

I never expected to be diagnosed at 39 with cervical cancer. Cancer in my mind was reserved for two camps, those poor unfortunate children in the commercials for St Judes (which are heartbreaking) and old people. Like my mom who got breast cancer at 72. Not middle aged women with careers, husbands and mortgages. Not me.

I was told about my cancer Just over a month ago. I was on my way to pick up my step-daughter from daycare. It was a Friday. My doctor had called me in the car but I didn't pick up because I was driving. However I pulled over into a parking lot to call her back. I thought maybe it would be some good news about a cyst I had removed. It wasn't.

So now I'm sitting here, hooked up to the chemo (which I refer as "being plugged into the Borg Collective" fellow Star Trek fans will get that). My first week went rather swimmingly, but I'm too much of a realist to think the remaining 6 weeks of treatment will be that easy.

However this detour in the road has made me more aware of some truths in life:

1. Sickness can affect anyone and everyone should listen to their bodies. If you have a nagging pain or anything else that seems odd, don't ignore it, hoping it will go away. Tell a doctor. Have it checked out. If I hadn't saw the doctor and insisted upon a physical exam because of suspicious bleeding, I wouldn't have been diagnosed at stage I2B and treatments would have been worse and the prognosis more grim. So listen up because your body will tell you when something is amiss if you let it.

2. Explaining unpleasant things in life to children is hard, but do it anyways. Recently my step-daughter, Rhianna, came out and asked my husband, "what exactly IS wrong with Rachel?"  This conversation was prompted by a locket that my sister sent her to wear as a sign of support for me in my battle. Mark explained as best as possible and with the least amount of trauma, that I have cervical cancer and because it was caught in time that I will survive.  The last thing we wanted was to mention the word cancer and have one of her school friends, whom perhaps had a grandparent or other relative not win their battle tell Rhianna "Oh your step-mom is going to die" In fact we don't even entertain the thought that I won't make a full recovery in our household.

3. Being optimistic doesn't make you a Pollyanna or in denial. It may even save your life. I'm not deluding myself. My cancer at the stage it was caught at has a 70-80% cure rate, depending on who you ask. Some might interpret that as 20-30% chance of death. I choose to see that as greater than 50/50 chance that I'll recover fully. If someone told you that you had a 70-80% chance of winning the Powerball Lottery, you'd be pretty psyched right? I also have some things in my favor, not the least thing being my age. Statistics are averages and statistically cancer tends to strike older folks, and my relative youth and vigor means I can take a tougher course of therapy. But studies have shown having a positive outlook helps with prognosis. Besides it's more fun to laugh than cry.

4. Being optimistic can be learned. I'm not a born optimist. I spent most of the early 1990's like many people my age, listening to "grunge" and being an "angsty" young person. I didn't really start being more optimistic until I met Mark. His optimism was contagious and after spending so many years being "glass half-empty" I decided I'd simply "practice" being more optimistic. Funny thing is the more I practiced, the more good things started happening which made me more optimistic. So just today, even if just for practice, try to find one good thing about the day and focus on that. Today it rained and I won't need to water my plants, yay!

5. I miss Kung fu badly, but focusing on one thing at a time is ok. Our culture idolizes multitasking, but how many things do you really want to juggle at once? I haven't been to class in over a month. I miss it, but for now, my battle with cancer needs my full attention. Kung fu will be there waiting for my return when I've slayed this dragon. I'm already planning for the next goal I want to tackle after I kick Cancer's butt: I'm thinking Senior Instructor Rachel Chapman would sound good.... So I'm a lousy multi-tasker. That's cool. One thing at a time.

I wonder what other lessons I'll have to learn (or in some cases re-learn) in future weeks.

Paul started his formal martial arts training in 1986, learning the modern Yang style Taijiquan short form. Over the next decade, he explored many styles including Shotokan Karate, Sanchin Ryu Karate, Northern Long Fist, and modern Yang style Taiji swordplay. In 2004, Paul returned to the UW-Madison Chinese Wushu and Tai Chi club to continue to both study and teach the Chinese martial arts. In 2006, he competed at the 1st North Regional Chinese Kuoshu Tournament in the Taijiquan division. Impressed by the level of skill displayed by the ZYKFA competitors, Paul began studying Bei Shaolinquan under Shifu Ferreira the following week. He has also had the opportunity to study under great teachers such as Shifu Kleppe, Zhang Xiaoling, Liu Yu, Norm Petredean and Wang Yu. He has travelled to China and studied at Shaolin, Wudang and Emei. Paul is an Instructor for the intermidiate and advanced classes at ZYKFA, he is also the Taolu Team Captain and was a member of the US Team for the 2009 World Championships in Germany. Paul became a World Champion at the 2013 WOMAA World Championships held in Dublin, Ireland.

Woody has studied at ZYKFA under Shifu Ferreira since 2003 and received his instructor's certification in 2010.  Woody's first martial arts experience was with the Aikido Club at NC State University in 1993.  He began studying Northern Shaolin Gong Fu and other aspects of Chinese martial arts in 1997 with Sifu Kenneth Yung at Qi Elements, in Herndon, VA.  He has also taken seminars with Dr. Yang Jwing Ming, Shi Yang Ming, Luo Dexiu, Kisu, and Lu Wejia.  Woody teaches intermediate and advanced Shaolin classes at ZYKFA and is a member of the Taolu team.

Kimba started his martial arts training at age 7, practicing judo for a short time. Eventually,he turned to Tae Kwon Do in 1986, devoting approximately 13 years to its study - while occasionally wrestling for his high school. In 2001, he joined ZYKFA and became a student of Bei Shaolinquan under Shifu Ferreira. Kimba has competed in local, national, and international events and is currently the Lei Tai Team Coach. He has earned medals as a member of both the Taolu and Kuoshu Lei Tai teams. Kimba represented the US in the World Kuoshu Championships held in Brazil (2003) and again in Singapore (2006) becoming a World Champion. Kimba is a Certefied International B Level Referee through the TWKSF and is the Lei Tai Referee General for the USKSF North Region Tournament and has refereed/judge at the 2012 World Kuoshu Championships in Genting, Malaysia.

Jeff began his martial arts training in 1982, under the guidance of his father, studying Tae Kwon Do and later on also studied Aikido. In 1999 he began his studies at ZYKFA under Shifu Ferreira. Jeff also participates in the ZYKFA Taolu Team, the Zhong Yi Lion Dance Troupe and was a member of Team USA for the 1st Pan-American Kuoshu Championship held in Brazil (2001), World Kuoshu Championship held in Brazil (2003) and at the Second World Kuoshu Championships which was held in Singapore (2006). Always looking to expand his knowledge of Chinese martial arts, Jeff studies Taijiquan under Shifu Elizabeth Jones. Jeff is also a certified judge (national) through the USKSF. Currently Jeff teaches Bei Shaolinquan to a youth group at the American Chinese School and Taijiquan on Madison's westside. He became an official ZYKFA Instructor in 2006 and just recently, in 2014, he became the very first Senior Instructor of the Association as well as the Da Shixiong (Eldest Brother) at ZYKFA.

Rachel began studying under Shifu Ferreira in 1997. A competitor in Taolu since 1998, she has gone from a beginner to an advanced competitor in three years  and she was a member of Team USA for the 1st Pan-American Kuoshu Championship held in Brazil  (2001) and again for the 2nd World Kuoshu Championships held in Singapore (2006). Rachel became a ZYKFA certified Instructor in 2005, becoming the first certified female Instructor in the association. Besides her competition activities, she is one of the dancers in the Zhong Yi Lion Dance Troupe. Currently she is an Instructor for Basics Shaolin classes. She is the Da Shijie (Eldest Sister) of ZYKFA.

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