I highly recommend taking a kickboxing class with Mrs. Elizabeth Cummings at ATA Martial Arts Studio. Find out how empowered you become after just one class!
When I first entered ATA Martial Arts Studio, I was greeted warmly by Ms. Bethany Gagelin. Her excitement transferred immediately as she eagerly got me signed up. Ms. Bethany’s radiating energy was welcomed after my long day at work. I also knew just how out of shape I had recently become.
Watching the chatter around the room, it was easy to see that everyone was family at ATA Martial Arts Studio. I was welcomed right off the bat. I knew I was in great hands from the second Mrs. Cummings started us with warm ups. She was never far away and always assisting me.
The coolest thing about kickboxing at ATA is that you never feel helpless. I knew it would be a struggle. I had no stamina; I was overweight, and weaker than a small tree twig! This class was going to kick my butt. But if you do have to take a breather, at least five people come running with moral support. I swear I heard more "You're doing great!" "You've got this!" "I'm so proud of you!" comments in one hour than I had in an entire month. This was an incredible family I would die to be a part of. Even though I still have to quit early in the game, I'm motivated to push through longer each time. With only two classes under my belt, I am already missing my new friends and a great workout.
I was so mentally and physically at peace, and already empowered after that first class. It was easy to just fall asleep when I was done. I cannot wait to see where I'm at once I finish my ten classes. So far, it's one of my favorite things new activities.
There is a Tucson tradition you must hear. Ben’s Bells Project is a story like no other. Check out their website if you are not in Tucson. However, if you are in Tucson, I strongly encourage you to visit one of the studios. This will allow you to spread kindness, love, and the joy that comes from compassion at work.
While visiting Tucson, AZ, my college friend, Shannon, pointed to a sticker on a car window that read, "Be Kind." Shannon was excited as she began to share the following story.
On March 29th, 2002, a family's life was changed forever. Their son, Ben, who was nearly three years old, was struggling with a terrible cold. Ben’s airway swelled shut. It took only seconds for him to become unconscious.
My heart broke at such a sad story. How terrible it must have been for his mother, Jeannette, who fought, giving her baby boy mouth to mouth, trying to save him. Unfortunately, Jeannette was not successful in her efforts to save Ben. I wanted to cry. However, the story did not end there. To honor Ben, the family came up with a design for Ben's Bells and started making these bells with friends. The family decided to make hundreds of Ben's Bells to distribute randomly throughout the community of Tucson. They wanted to encourage the spread of kindness. The same kindness that people had shown them as they struggled to get through each day following the death of their son. On the first anniversary of Ben's death, hundreds of Ben's Bells were distributed throughout Tucson. They symbolized kindness, and its power in healing.
Ben's Bells are scattered throughout the community, each with a story of inspiration and kindness attached. You cannot buy these bells. They must be found. If you find a bell, you are allowed to take it home. It signifies as a daily reminder of inspiration, education, and motivation for people to realize the impact of intentional kindness.
My heart ached to help out. Shannon smiled at me and said "We can!" Opportunities abound at the Ben's Bells Project. This includes donating money and physically making the bells themselves.
We went to the Main Studio. Shannon and I worked on the clay pieces. The other kids painted some that had already been through the kiln. After working for an hour, I had managed to make a clay dolphin, some hearts, and some "I Love You" hand signs since Jaennette was a Deaf Education teacher and an interpreter. She would never see our efforts, but I wanted to share my sorrow and respect for Janette and her son. The act of giving gave me a sense of peace and joy I will never forget.
I posted on Facebook with enthusiasm that I now had two weeks of vacation but nowhere to go. And when my friend, Shannon, made the side comment that I could meet her in Tuscan, AZ and we could drive back it was a thirty minute decision before I purchased the plane ticket and I sent her a text that I would meet her in 2 weeks. I could only envision the look of shock on her face. You see, Shannon introduces me to her free spirited friends as her "more conservative and reserved friend with a two drink max". So the fact that I bought a plane ticket to go somewhere random, to stay with a house full of people I knew nothing about, and was putting my life in her hands freely and openly was a complete shock. Even when I saw her she told me "I'm impressed that you really came out here!" But that's not all I had in store for my carefree spirited friend. I was determined to give her at least a little bit of a run for her money....
First night in town on my Arizona trip consisted of going to a karaoke bar because my friend Shannon is a diehard fan, to put it mildly....But karaoke isn't what I remembered it being in the past. More of these people sounded like they should be on American Idol, Shannon included! I think I really need to take the time to point out that I was a dancer and NOT a singer.
I told them about Chasing Stormi which somehow interpreted into Stormi was going to sing karaoke. Great. Now I was going to have to apologize to a room full of strangers in advance....But the book was HUGE and everyone wanted it so I picked a song that I thought I knew well enough and waited my turn. The DJ was terrible. He was picking whoever he wanted to sing and new people weren't getting their chance as often as the regulars. So as I sipped on liquid courage I noticed that my voice was going all together because we were yelling while trying to have some conversations while we waited for what felt like an eternity. So I started drinking water and automatically started signing to Shannon since we went through the Interpreting Training Program together and I knew she could understand me.
Just as we prepared to leave, the DJ called "Next is Stormi!". Seriously? I had no voice! How was I going to sing?! But I promised myself that I was going to continue to get out of my comfort zone even on vacation so up I went. Usually I have no issue being on stage, but that was as a dancer. I can sing in a chorus as long as I have a voice to match with, but all karaoke has is words. That aren't in time with the music more often than not I learned quickly. Awesome. I have no voice and I have words that aren't matching the tune! Well, I had ironically chosen "So What?" by Pink as my song and it was time to just give up trying to be good and have some fun!
I squeaked out the song as loud as I could and started rocking out adding some dance moves. Shannon and my new friends cheered politely, a group of girls were jumping up and down like me singing and dancing in the corner and that was all I could see from the stage lights. I messed up the in between parts, but you know what? "So what?" Ha! By the end of the song I knew I could proudly check karaoke off my list. Not sure I would do it again, but I felt pretty cool that I had jumped up there. And with no voice none the less! I honestly feel like Chasing Stormi is making me braver and I hope it is helping you too. Normally, I would have sat on the floor and just listened to everyone, but instead I got up there, faced the fear of pure humiliation, and sang/danced my heart out without hesitation after the first few seconds. Go me! So what are YOU going to sing?...
I had gotten on Groupon.com and saw a hiking option at Adventure Zip Kansas City. Since I enjoy hiking I jumped at the opportunity to see some place new! The thing I missed was that it was an obstacle boot camp!!! There was a lot of confusion as to what the Groupon coupon actually included. The rest of the group thought they were zip lining that day. Our guide, James, said we wouldn't be zip lining today, just hiking and he got us pumped up for the trip. However, his excitement was a bit misleading to what was ahead. We hiked for a little bit as he showed us one of the first zip lines and talked about the vegetation and life that he has come across since working at Adventure Zip Kansas City. Then we came to a muddy pit where you had to hang on ropes and zip line across to safety on the other side. "Uummm. Seriously? I have NO upper body strength! And I'm not a fan of landing in the mud pit right off the bat. I like these clothes..." said my brain. Yet there was no way around. Well....here goes! And I made it a little more than 3/4 a way across. Shoes got a little caked, but I had survived. Go me! Then we were off again.
Next came a large pile of rocks and the goal was to not step where someone else had stepped. "Seriously?" said my brain. "Hush!" I said. "We used to love this as a kid! We've got this!" Turns out we didn't have it as well as we remembered and I lost my balance more often than not but I made it. Sweat was everywhere and bugs were swarming despite having bug spray on, but off we went again.
Every time I started to enjoy myself with the hiking portion we'd come across something that I was pretty sure was designed to punish and kill me. What was next? A tilted bus that you had to not only struggle with balance to climb through, but the view point messed with your perception and made you dizzy! "Awesome" said my brain sarcastically. "You could be a little more positive" I said. "You're so out of shape it's not funny" she snarled. "Enough!" I said. And although it took me longer than most I did it! "Ha!" I said. "You're not even half way through" my brain smiled wickedly. And off we went again.
This was an ongoing battle throughout the entire 2.5 hike. James noticed I grew slower and fell farther behind so he automatically stopped leading and came to my aid in the back. Other people noticed too and in this group of strangers I found all of them cheering me on and yelling things like "You can do it!" and I loved them all instantly.
I climbed up AND down through the tilted bus. I crossed logs that covered mud pits, were a teeter tauter and required a huge amount of balance. As I lost more energy and stamina, I will be honest and tell you I couldn't quite do EVERYTHING that was placed in front of me. My body was too weak to allow it. However, the ongoing love of a group of strangers encouraged me to keep going and do absolutely everything I possibly could! Not even my negative, shady brain was going to discourage me!
By the end, there wasn't a piece of my clothing that was not drenched in sweat, my boots were caked in mud, I was covered in mosquito bites, and I was completely exhausted with no energy left in me. But I did it. I survived Adventure Zip Kansas City, and I am even determined to return in the fall and try zip lining! Talk about being outside my comfort zone....I'm terrified of heights! However, my experience at Adventure Zip Kansas City has made me realize that I have GOT to get into shape. It also made me realize just how much I love doing Chasing Stormi. I was telling everyone why I was doing this boot camp from hell hike and they were just as excited as I was about it! I even got everyone to do a group photo with me in the end. They were good sports... :)
So if you see the "Hike in Bonner Springs at Adventure Zip KC" on Groupon.com, know that you need hiking boots, you need LOTS of bug spray, you're going to get your butt kicked if you're not in any shape of any kind, you won't be doing zip line, you will want your camel back if you own one, and you will be surrounded by amazing encouraging people to help you along the way. So strap on your books and get going because YOU'VE GOT THIS!
Archery is an amazing experience. The “swoosh” of the bow when you release the arrow is like nothing else! A little, quiet, hole in the wall provides a very rare experience. It was time to see if I could hold my own next to Katniss.
My next Groupon® adventure consisted of an archery lesson at KC Performance Archery & Range. I was totally stoked! Who wouldn't want to be the next Katniss in The Hunger Games? Besides, my dad was always amazing with a bow and arrow. I really wanted to make him proud.
Instead, it turned out that I shoot arrows as successfully as I shoot darts. It was obvious that I would actually be the first one to die in the Hunger Games. I couldn't aim to save my life! After a thorough rundown of how to handle the bows and arrows, the instructor stepped back and let me shoot. I was shaking from my medication. This wasn't exactly helping the situation. The instructor quickly taught me how to make adjustments. I put the arrow in place, raised the bow, drew back the strings, and got a thrill as I heard the “swoosh” of the strings as I let go. I at least looked like I knew what I was doing. However, the landed arrows told a different story.
For whatever reason, if I actually tried to aim, I couldn't hit the target to save my life. There were a couple of times I hit the wooden board above. I squealed as the arrow bounced off with a terribly loud thud and yelled, "SORRY!!" I was trying too hard, and it was showing.
I had no one to impress. It was time to relax and get in the zone. I did just that. When I wasn't trying to hit the targets, I actually nailed them! With every release, I became more excited. The feel and sound of the bow was exhilarating! I've got this, I thought.
I shot arrows for an hour before I really began to feel it in my upper body. Who knew archery was so tiring?!
Although I had a 25% accuracy rate, I am pretty sure I would be the first to go if there were actually a Hunger Games going on in Johnson County.
When I told a friend I was going to take my first yoga class, her response was "You're going to get all sweaty." I thought, why? It's just stretching? Boy was I wrong!
I was at Lotus Yoga and Wellness Center for their open house. I politely told the ladies in the room that I was a yoga virgin, and I didn't know what equipment I needed. They smiled sweetly and encouraged, "Someone had to tell us, too." Two women took my hands and walked me over to where the equipment was stored.
With the proper equipment selected, my place on the floor claimed, I waited for class to start. The instructor, Sue Park, walked in with such an aura of peace and comfort; it was trust at first sight! However, these are some things that I learned very quickly....
* Yoga is very difficult if you can't get your mind to clear.
* You are crazy if you don't think you're going to sweat.
* Even if you used to be a dancer, it doesn't mean that balance and flexibility are automatic.
* It helps to know the terminology so you don't get a kink in your neck trying to watch everyone else.
* Yoga takes practice to fully enjoy and appreciate the benefits.
It might sound like I didn't like yoga, but that's not the case. Once I figured out what some of the stretches were, my body responded with a familiar feeling. It brought back fond memories of "good dance stretching.” I began to think of all the great memories I had growing up as a dancer.
Then I suddenly became sad. Once again I began to mourn what was unexpectedly taken from me. I suddenly felt the need to cry. Next, anger welled up as I put myself down for perceived lack of balance and flexibility. I hated what was happening in my head as I wandered through so many emotions in a 60 minute class. Yet in the end, I found myself strangely at peace, despite being forced to face things that apparently still affected me after so long. Yoga’s effect was more than just physical. Even as a beginner, it began working on my heart and head as well as my body.
My favorite thing about the yoga class was the leader. I admired how helpful and peaceful Sue was. She was very attentive and patient as I struggled to get into most of the poses. Sue was always magically by my side, giving me suggestions on how to position myself to get the most from the poses. Despite the emotional battle going on inside my head and my heart, Sue was helping my body to find its sweet spot. This allowed me to let go of everything, and find peace all around. I may have been struggling internally that entire hour, but I had fallen in love with this experience overall.
I was told of an amazing opportunity that encouraged me to step even farther out of my comfort zone. Sue was going to do a week-long yoga retreat in Belize! What an opportunity. My heart ached to join in, but I just wasn't ready to jump yet.
Three days later, when I went back to the Spa for another event, the flyer began to taunt me. Technically, I could tighten the reins and save up enough money for the February trip. I needed to have a vacation. I hadn't experienced that in a long time. What better way to really find one’s self? I wanted to be able to look back and have no regrets.
Yoga is not easy. It's not for everyone. However, this was an amazing opportunity, and I decided I was going to jump! I put down a deposit and began to make payments. I was sure I was going to drive everyone crazy until February, but I didn't care. I was going to Belize!
Thank you Lotus Yoga and Wellness Spa for being so helpful to this yoga virgin! I couldn't have asked for a better experience as a first timer. I cannot WAIT to go again!
Working with Challenge U was truly an experience like no other. I met the owner, Andi Burgis, through Leawood Chamber. When I told Andi about Chasing Stormi, she immediately grabbed my hand. “I have the perfect adventure for you,” she stated with a twinkle in her eye. I was ready for whatever she had in mind.
Challenge U provides an experience that is personalized to the individual, and it will change your heart, mind, and spirit. I encourage you to give this experience a try. It will teach you so much about yourself and how you communicate with others.
I will be honest. I had no idea what Challenge U really was about when Andi invited me to her 16-horse ranch. It turned out that I was going to work on my leadership, communication, and team building skills. Hearing that horses were involved, I automatically said "Sure!" We set a date to go on a new adventure that Saturday.
My friend, Cory Cairns, was there waiting when I arrived. Andi set us down to educate us a little about the horses and what was to come. It was truly fascinating to learn how horses use their sense of reading congruence to determine if they want to be around someone or not. For those that don't know, “congruent” means in agreement or harmony.
My first thought was that these horses weren't going to come near me! My brain is never in harmony with my body no matter how hard I try! Andi said to have faith. I just might be surprised. She also told us about many misconceptions regarding the differences between dogs and horses.
Andi went first to show us how to communicate with Jackson, our very own black beauty. Just watching her, you could see how much Jackson loved and respected her. It truly was amazing to watch. Andi was using her body language to convey congruency to Jackson in order to communicate the trust he needed to help her achieve her goals.
Cory was the first to go. He was so excited, it was exhausting to watch. There was definitely a difference in Jackson's responses, but not in a bad way. Once Cory got past his learning curve, he shined. I couldn't have been more proud. I still felt Jackson would be nothing but confused with me. Now it was my turn.
Before stepping into the pen with Jackson, Andi had me do some breathing exercises. I had to figure out my goals, how I planned to achieve them, and how I would communicate with Jackson. My brain continued to race, but I felt my heart at peace. I knew I had to try and keep it that way. I also felt that Jackson was letting me know that he was willing to trust me. It was time to greet Jackson.
Jackson allowed me to get close enough to pet his shoulder. I told him I knew it was hot. I stepped quietly into the center of the pen. Waiting quietly for a moment, my brain grew quiet, and I listened to what my heart had to say. I focused on my goals.
What happened next amazed me. I was able to get Jackson to walk, trot, change directions, walk some more, and come to a complete stop. I kept my focus and my heart at peace. Jackson let me know that he understood what my goals were. He trusted me enough to work with me. It was an indescribable experience!
For the first time, I had forced my brain to behave without medication. I was able to bring myself to a place of peace and slow my brain down. I was proud of having accomplished my goals; however, it was Jackson's feedback that was the most amazing. His ability to trust and willingness to follow my lead showed me that I am actually very clear when I communicate. I possessed enough congruence to never be a threat. Jackson's feedback proved that my previous notions were all wrong. I had long possessed a terrible tendency to tear myself apart and put myself down. Jackson's feedback helped me to see that I had more strengths than I knew. His confidence in me helped to build my own, and I am forever grateful.
An old friend always said, "I wish people could see how amazing you are." People also state that a picture is worth 1,000 words. So why not start with a photo shoot? On Groupon®.com, I found Laughter Loves Photography. When I first spoke to Sharyl Salmonson, I don't think she knew quite what to make of me. I was not doing the typical family photo shoot, or a high school graduation remembrance. However, after telling her about Chasing Stormi she quickly grew as excited as I was!
We agreed to meet at Cedar Lake Park in Olathe the next morning. I woke up to a chilly, dreary, and soggy morning, but I was determined to make the best of it. Who better to deal with stormy weather than me? I chose my three outfits, and I set off to meet my mystery photographer.
When Sharyl climbed out of the car, she took my breath away with her height, glow, baby bump, and contagious smile. Oh yeah. This was going to be fun!
I learned a little bit about the history of Laughter Loves Photography that day. Sharyl was also very supportive of my own new "baby.” I watched with awe at her amazing grace, even with her precious baby bump. Sharyl showed great creativeness as she worked with utmost professionalism, even with the huge amount of laughing, dancing, face making, and giggling that was going on.
It was when I was changing into my second outfit that I heard Sharyl entertaining us both with various sound effects. Proof we were kindred spirits. Now it was time to make sure she really got the full Chasing Stormi experience....It was time to turn the nerdette volume to max.
When we had finished laughing, and it was time to get serious, Sharyl showed me the various products she was able to produce. You could tell that Laughter Loves Photography was the real deal. I was thankful they were on Groupon®! However, it was seeing the pictures first hand that day that really sealed the deal for me.
I felt so liberated, alive, and motivated for my next adventure! This definitely proved to be the right first move. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
I think sometimes we get too caught up in life. We forget to let loose and laugh a little. It turned out that the laughing pictures were the ones I loved the most. They gave me pride and pleasure. Sharyl had definitely captured the “real me.”
During a time that I was trying to learn how to adjust my sails, I found someone that I was able to quickly call my friend. A woman that was full of inspiration. A woman who reminded me what I could be again: special, amazing, and worthy of only but great things.
The future was mine for the taking, and I was going to do just that.
Who wakes up at the age of 35, divorced for the second time, and juggling a full-time job while going to school for a brand new career? Apparently this girl. Hi. My name is Stormi and I have accomplished just that. I finished my second divorce March 5, 2015, I honestly don’t remember most of this past semester, and I have finally decided to grow up and try to become a successful business woman. So who is this person who is trying to give advice you ask? First of all, I’m technically a nobody. I have no fame to my name other than I was named after the song sung by the Classic Four. I have no PHD. I honestly don’t even have my bachelor’s degree yet. But I’m working for it as we speak! Secondly, I am not here to offer advice in any way. I’m simply here to offer comfort to those that might be struggling and just need a good laugh or the simple thought that they are not alone. Yes, there are a ton of self-help books out there I know. Some I have read. Some I have bought and keep telling myself I will read once I have some down time. However, the fact of the matter is that they are actually sitting on a table collecting dust. (Sorry inspirational authors around the world!) A book is great and uplifting if you actually have time to read one. But between work and school alone I struggle to get even my school stuff read let alone anything fun! So now what? Well, since life isn’t meant to be lived from books the only true option is to actually live and share your stories like a good girlfriend does so here I am! In the blogging world to share my experiences as I go through them, because everyone needs that comforting friend to make us feel a little less crazy so here you go!
A little bit about me….well, I grew up in Blue Springs MO. I was the nerd girl that had 30 college credits before I ever graduated from HS. I actually ended up getting a couple of associate degrees from Johnson County Community College in Interpreting Sign Language. In 2002 I found myself in Vegas. I was a dancer and a sign language interpreter until 2004 when my dancing career came to an unexpected end with a knee injury. I taught dance a little bit when I met my first ex-husband. I settled all the way through a year and a half of marriage before I realized that settling wasn’t the way to go. So after 7 years in Vegas I moved back home to bask in that Midwest hospitality that I missed so much. Shortly after I found someone that I thought was better but turned out to have more personal problems then even I could survive if I stayed so I once again found myself walking away from a relationship for the second time. All my life I had played it safe trying not to stir the waters, and all I had earned in return was a twice broken heart and an incomplete life. Then Taylor Swift released Blank Space with the lyrics of “Find out what you want. Be that girl for a month” and I thought “What a great idea!” So I started to do just that.
I’ve always hated the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” because I saw too many adults miserable with what they had chosen. The only thing I could tell you I wanted to be was to be happy and I meant it! But how do you pick something with certainty that it’s going to make you happy for the rest of your life? Which is why I struggled trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grow up. I was going to school for Business Administration because it was easy and required no challenge and I figured that was the best thing to do. After being told by several people that I needed to go into marketing I figured maybe they knew something I didn’t. So I switched my major. I took a jump and entered a career that I had no real experience in or even knew about. What’s the worst that could happen right? Although I have several freak out moments sometimes my ideas really work and I’m on cloud nine! Maybe there was something to being uncomfortable and not “playing it safe” after all….
I took my new home and I decided to not go with my usual safe colors. With help from friends I decided to be bold and fill my humble home with bright colors and other objects of inspiration. Then I wondered what else I could do so here I am! Stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing my stories to maybe inspire you to do the same. So what do you say? Are you ready to have an adventure?....
A girl just trying to find her way, stepping outside of her comfort zone, trying new things, and making new friends along the way!