For those who thought I had dropped off the planet, I thought I would let you know I'm still here. It has been a very challenging summer for me, to say the least. Trying to jump back and forth between jobs and still find time to practice my martial arts was difficult, but not out of the question. I was training for a tournament, when while sparring, I was throwing a kick at the same time as my opponent and managed to end up with a beautiful knot about the size of half a tennis ball right below my knee. About a month or so ago, and it is still healing. About the time I thought to myself, "Self, you should go see your doctor about this," my wife was setting up her class room (she teaches science) and managed to drop a 120 pound lab table on her big toe. A comminuted fracture (think fragments), severe laceration right behind and under the nail bed, soft tissue damage... I was a medic in the National Guard, and when I arrived, my first (unspoken) thought was, "she's going to lose her toe." She hasn't but it is still a mess, and still painful. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse... Did I mention never to think that? It will come back to bite you if you do. At any rate, just when I thought so, her mother was diagnosed with stage four cancer. My wife's mother has been like a true mother to me over the past thirty years, so it hurts more than I can explain. Originating in the gall bladder, her cancer has metastasized, and at this point the only real treatment is palliative care. She declined chemo. At eighty, with compromised cardiac, renal and hepatic components, I understand why. With my wife mostly immobile, it has meant I have had to step up and do more. Lately I've missed as many lessons at karate as I've made it seems. Maybe more. But somehow, when I went in today, I decided to complete my testing for my black belt. I'd previously submitted my thesis. I've demonstrated various techniques over time. All that was left were four kata (two empty hand and two weapon), plus the kata of my own devising. Somehow, despite being more nervous than I have been in a very long time, I managed to keep breathing, and keep my mind focused. I passed my test and received my Shodan from Dan Distelhorst, who trained under Jay T. Will, who trained under Ed Parker and Al Tracy. So, that's good news.