Saturday, September 26, 2015

Everyone's a Failure...and That's Okay

 These are some of my recent failures

1) A short story was rejected from a publishing magazine. (15th rejection in two months)

2) An activity in a lesson I taught didn't go well like I planned. 

3) I was turned down for a lucrative student coordinator position at a university.

4) An assignment I turned in for my certification program wasn't up to scratch and I had to redo it...for the third time.

5) I was turned down for a date. 



I've enjoyed other failures in my life as well. 


6) I've failed to get a book published. 

7) I've failed to stay in a long term relationship.

8) I've failed at exercising everyday.

9) I've failed at reading at least one book a month.

10) I've failed to be kind, non-judgmental and considerate in every social interaction with every person. 



I am a failure. I have been a failure. I will continue to be a failure. I will lose and I will lose badly. I will have my ego and self-esteem maimed by own shortsightedness and laziness.

I will have dreams crushed under my souls as I try to stumble my way into finding them. 


I will never succeed in all things I want to do. Even if I had a thousand years to achieve everything I wanted, I think I would still fall short on certain things. 


Failure, is the essence of my life...and the same is true for you. 


Even if you've never enjoyed those ten failures I listed, you've failed in your own special ways. 


Like me, you've probably been hurt by some failures more than others. Some of these failures have kept you up at night or reduced you to tears...or both. 


Like me, you've wasted a lot of time abusing yourself over roads you took and others you didn't take. 


Like me, you've probably kicked yourself again when you consciously fail to implement the advice about failure you read in every feel-good article or blogpost. You know the one that usually goes along the lines of...

Yes, dear friends, we are failures; unequivocal failures. Yet I don't want to end with the same platitudes about how 'true failure is giving up' or 'if at first you don't succeed try, try, try again'.

There's nothing wrong of either of those sentiments. 


It's just that you and I have heard them far too many times before. I'm not sure at this point hearing those mantras again benefits anyone.


What I don't think we hear or read as often though is this: 


Failure is normal and it doesn't have to be our enemy.

There will never be a time when you or I will not have to deal with failure. We will never know a period of our lives where we are not falling short in some way. 


We may succeed at some things, we may make many dreams come true after years of enduring doldrums and false starts. Yet with each success will come new challenges and we will fail at some of them.

Failure will always be with us. Yet that is okay because failure in the end is not an enemy unless we make him one. Failure can be our greatest friend.


He's the personal trainer who yells at us during the race but takes the time to point out how we can run better next time. 


He's the teacher who checks our work everyday to make sure that we are spelling our sentences correctly. 


He's the drill sergeant who breaks you down day after day to your very core so that you can rise again stronger.

You may never be able to love him but I think we can all learn to respect him. So the next time you fail don't hurt yourself or try and attack Mr. Failure for doing his job. Instead reach out with an open palm and give him a firm, professional handshake and a smile. He's been with your first day and he'll be with you to your last and he's the strongest ally you will ever have. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Badass Women of History- Mochizuki Chiyome


Mochizuki Chiyome

The Ninja



The only recorded female ninja in history, Mochizuki Chiyome was a crafty and highly lethal agent in Japan's Warring States Period (1467-1603). 



This era (imagine Game of Thrones in Japan) was a one hundred and seventy six year time of conflict in which samurai warlords from rival clans fought each other for territory and power following the decline of the Japanese Emperor's authority. 

Along with frequent battles between massive armies, long sieges and bloody pillaging of villages, a parallel conflict raged in the shadows. It was led by spies and assassins we know as ninjas.



Divided into loosely knit family clans, ninjas served various samurai lords and had longstanding rivalries with ninjas who operated for other factions. 

A descendant of a ninja clan patriarch, Mochizuki Chiyome started her career as a spymaster after she married Moritoki, a member of the Takeda family. 

A powerful faction of the time, the Takeda lords had been locked in a struggle with the Uesugi and Tokugawa clans for their region of the main Japanese island, Honshu. 

The head of Takeda family, Takeda Shingen, had narrowly escaped several assassination attempts and wanted to create his own intelligence network to serve as his eyes and ears. 

Portrait of Takeda Shingen

When his nephew, Moritoki, died on the battlefield in 1561, Shingen approached his widow Chiyome and made her an offer. 

To avenge her husband's death, Shingen proposed that she use her background to set up a network of women ninjas and informants to serve the Takeda clan. 


Chiyome agreed and went straight to work. 


Disguising herself as a charitable noblewoman, she traveled to Koga Province and set up her ninja academy in secret. 

Advertising her headquarters as a religious school for underprivileged girls, Chiyome traveled around Koga and other nearby provinces in search of pupils. 


Her main recruiting tactic was to visit villages and towns that had been sacked and burned by marauding samurai (a frequent occurrence in those days). She would then find orphaned girls or girls who's families had lost their homes and offer to take them in as an act of charity. 


Once she recruited them, Chiyome would bring the girls back to her school, where she and her associates would give them a formal education...and secretly teach them the arts of spying and assassination. When the girls finished their training they were sent to infiltrate settlements controlled by Takeda enemies. 


What women ninjas DIDN'T look like


While the term 'woman-ninja' conjures up an image of a bunch of women in black outfits leaping from rooftop to rooftop, the truth is most of the girls were trained to be spies first and assassins second. 

They were taught how to hide in plain sight and play a variety of different roles. They learned how to seduce and charm men, what to look for on an enemy base when they infiltrated it, how to record and smuggle sensitive information without detection, how to withstand torture and if needs be how to kill and defend themselves. 

Chiyome's women agents took on a number of different disguises. Some became bar maids or prostitutes attached to enemy armies. Others infiltrated the households of nobles as servants. A few took on the guise of noblewomen and actually married enemy samurai who were none the wiser to their wives' true identities. A large number became priestesses and Buddhist nuns. This allowed them to travel between various settlements without as much harassment or questioning. 

Because the patriarchal society of medieval Japan largely regarded women as non-players in the affairs of war, Chiyome's agents were able to successfully penetrate and disrupt the operations of the Takeda's rivals without being discovered for years. 

What a women ninja probably looked like

Battle plans were exposed to the Takeda and their enemies started losing... badly, commanders and noblemen began mysteriously dropping, messages containing sensitive information were changed between being sent and being received causing confusion. 


Rumors began to spread through Uesugi and Tokugawa camps that female demons were wreaking havoc on their operations with curses and black magic. 

Chiyome's network continued to grow and find success. By the end of 1573, she had around 300 women working as spies and assassins. 


The Emblem of Chiyome's backer the Takeda Clan


She remained in close contact with Takeda Shingen, accepting his orders and informing him of enemy plots through her informants. 


Thanks in no small part to her operations, Shingen was able to expand the Takeda's lands to nearby provinces. By the end of his life, the Takeda were the most powerful samurai clan in Eastern Japan. 


However, despite all her efforts Chiyome's backer mysteriously died in 1573. Little his known of how Lord Takeda Shingen perished though he seems to have died in an act of subterfuge while he was laying siege to a castle. 


After his death, all record of Chiyome and her vast network of women ninjas vanishes completely from the history books. 


There's a great deal of speculation as to what Chiyome's fate was. 

Was she killed as part of a massive Tokugawa or Uesugi plot against her and her Takeda backers? 

Did she dissolve her network and hide out or did she continue to operate? 


Did she fall out with Takeda Shingen and have him killed before disappearing? 


We will probably never know. Chiyome's story, like so much related to historical ninjas, remains mired in mystery. 



Women were drilled in etiquette, dance, singing, disguise, and infiltration techniques to blend in with regular society, and could convincingly masquerade as traveling entertainers, religious pilgrims, noblewomen, priestesses or prostitutes.  They were taught what they needed to look for in the enemy base, and taught memorization techniques to remember it down to the slightest detail.  They were trained in how to get drunk military officers to cough up good information, how to hold out under torture, and how to problem-solve and improvise on the fly so you don’t need to fish in your pocket for a smoke bomb every time a bunch of sword-swinging samurai are chasing you through a burning building.  - See more at:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Dear Aylan, I Have Failed You




Dear Aylan,


I know what I write here does you no good. You are gone from this world that failed you.


I write to you for selfish reasons. I write because I saw you washed up, alone, on a distant beach in Turkey. Seeing you has made me reflect about what humanity has done to you.


Many saw you. Like me many cried for you. We felt our hearts grow heavy and sink as we thought of you scared, confused and in pain as the sea took you. 


Yet we also felt shame. Shame for ourselves, shame for our species, shame that we are not decent people as we suppose ourselves to be. 


Some of us will be moved to action. Most will be moved to strong words online. 


I wish I could tell you that your death will move the hearts of the world. I wish I could say that the politicians in Europe and at the UN will at last agree to actually lead and do the right thing. I wish that I could say that all the racists and demagogues who demonized you, your family and those desperately seeking a new home will fall silent and that the borders and arms of the men who guard them will open. 


I wish to tell you this and perhaps one day I will. Yet fear is strong in this world you walked in for three years. These days, it seems to be all that drives us.


Fear dominates too many grownups, especially those with the most peace and wealth to share. We who have so much are terrified of losing even a tiny portion of what we have. We have so much to spare but we are selfish, petty and protectionist.


When we see those in need pounding on our doors we spend money we could have used to feed you on walls to keep you out. Never mind that the walls are more expensive.


Instead of making sure you and your family could have joined your aunty in Canada, we denied you. 


Why? Because we don’t want to lose anything we have, especially to people who don’t look like us, speak like us, and share the same faith as us. We didn’t want to feed you, clothe you, and unlock the doors of our schools to you because of who your parents were and because of where you were born.


We know better than to lump you with those terrible men in black who drove your family and four million others to flee for their lives, but we still label you and all your people as terrorists because it made it easier for us to push you away.


For this, I am truly sorry. You didn’t deserve to be rejected. You didn’t deserve to live all your three years on the run, in camps. Your hometown, Kobani, didn’t deserve to be pounded into dust by ISIS shells and American jets. Your nation didn’t deserve a president who mowed down ordinary people when they demanded their rights. 11 million of your fellow Syrians didn’t deserve to become homeless when the soldiers and the rebels fought each other for their country’s future, never stopping to realize that they were extinguishing an entire generation in the process.


We shed tears for you now Aylan, but we had none when your country collapsed into brutality. Our eyes were completely dry as we watched the camps in Turkey and Lebanon swell year after year. And not nearly enough of us shared photos of people like you stranded at sea when they tried to escape.


This hits me especially hard Aylan. It hits me because I was a guest in Syria. I saw your homeland when it was still beautiful. I walked among the ancient sites of Damascus, Hama and Kerak. I ate shawarma in the Old City and sipped pomegranate juice. I took a bath and got a massage in a Hamam and I talked with your people about your world and what you wanted from it. I saw children like you playing without fear in the streets.


Oh, Aylan how I wish you could have seen this beautiful Syria. All you knew of your homeland in three years of life was ruins.


It was a glorious sight Aylan, with glorious generous, hospitable people. The fact that my countrymen and those who share my privileged Western, first world life could not show you, a baby, the same hospitality and the same openness is a stain on us.


I pray that we become better people and that we cease to be ruled by fear. I hope that your memory rises from the depths and finally pushes us to welcome those who come after you with warm embraces.


If we do not than we, as people, as human beings, are lost and we never deserved to share this world with you in the first place.

Much Love,