Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Busy as Ever

This year has been as busy as it's ever been for me.  I've been doing a ton of traveling, all while constantly questioning if I should be bringing my babies at extra expense or leave them at home for someone else to do my mommy job.  Making time for health and playing pool is as tough as ever because making money and spending time with my kids take priority.  I had the chance to be at the APA Team Nationals this week.  During my shows, I get to take challenges, photos and sign autographs.  My fans get the time to talk to me, ask me questions, share their story and sometimes, share how I inspired them to keep playing because of the obstacles I've overcome.
Overcome.  Interesting how often I've heard that word and how I never feel like it relates to me.  It does, of course, but it never feels that way.  Why?  Because what I've gone through never seems over.  It goes on and on.  After each of my surgeries, my friends would ask, "So, are you done?"  "Is that the last one you'll need?".  I always reply, "I hope so."  And then something else comes up.  Some new pain that I've never felt before.   Right now, it's a pain and weakness I've had since last October in my left arm and shoulder.  It's usually my back or at least it's related to some kind of joint pain.  This one was different.  It's nerve pain through and through.  From the bottom of my neck, inside my arm pit and along the inside of my left arm to my finger tips.  I have about 50% of my normal strength and a funny bone kind of pain.  The fact that it was diagnosed to be something that can't be cured doesn't help.  But I accepted it and moved on.  What choice do I have?  And now, the pain is getting worse.  So what to do?  Make another neurologist appt and move on.
One of the messages I tend to share and repeat is how important it is to be strong through these tough times.  Everyone has them.  Whether it's to you or to someone you love dearly, it happens.  And we need to be strong. Why?  Because the alternative sucks!  For everyone...

When things happen that we don't expect or want,  it's easy to feel alone or that you're the only one it's affecting.  And it's easy to feel that your world is falling apart. Sometimes, it is.  But it's not about whats happening to you.  It's about what you're going to do about it.

If there's one thing I learned from having a 20+ year as a world champion, having had 11 surgeries and 6 kids, it's that you don't have to feel strong to be strong.  In fact, most of the time, the people whom you feel are the strongest, feel weak more often than you think.  Sometimes 'strong' means just getting out of bed when you don't want to.  Doing the physical therapy, making the tough phone call, listening when you don't want to hear it.  I'm one of the strongest people I know and I can promise you, I haven't felt strong through ANY of my tough times.  I hate being dependent. I hate feeling weak, I hate having to ask for help.  I do, but I don't like it.  You just gotta keep going.  Doing the things you believe you are meant to do, whether or not you have the energy for it. Why?  Because staying in bed, feeling sorry for yourself, watching tv or other people live their lives is the most miserable existence and we are better than that.  We are meant to live a life that's meaningful but you'll never know when you surround yourself with self-pity.  I'm not saying we don't fall, that we aren't allowed to cry.  I'm just saying you shouldn't stay there. We all fall.  We just need to, in short time, dust ourselves off and keep going. That's what makes you strong. That's what allows us to discover what we are meant to do and sometimes, you will finally see, that through your pain, you can inspire others to have strength when they've run out of it.  They don't want to see the person with the perfect life. They want to hear from those that haven't ever gone through anything.  It's us, those that have endured, that have the power, the influence, to change lives.  We are not alone, even when we feel that way.  We all know pain, suffering, loss, doubt, fear.  Some experience it differently than others.  I believe in us.  I believe in you.  But it doesn't matter what I believe, or even what you believe.  It matters that you keep going, never give up on you.  Don't let yourself or others limit you.  Don't focus on what you don't have.  It gets you nowhere. Focus on what you want and take one day at a time and work for it.  Then give yourself a hug because we often need it.  I love hugs.
This morning, most mornings anymore, I don't want to get out of bed.  My body aches all over and I have so much work to do.  I want to have a good future for our family which takes a lot of work in the office and out of town, but I want to enjoy my children now, which takes a lot of time, and this body is so beat up that I'm exhausted by noon.  Sometimes I cry because I'm just overwhelmed and don't know how to keep going.  It doesn't matter.  I get up, I do what I can and I enjoy my children.  I accomplish more than I think I can.  Even the days I feel like I haven't gotten anything done, I give myself a break and say, Hey, at least I got out of bed! You wouldn't believe how many don't.   :)  I am surrounded by love by my family and friends, I have the greatest fans in the world, I work in a field that I love and I still have two arms and two legs.  I can still make choices, however small.  I have a voice that people listen to because I kept going when I didn't think I could. You don't have to FEEL strong to BE strong!  God bless you all.  Discover your strength!  It's there, I promise it is.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On the Way to the World Games

On my Avianca flight to Cali, I went to the bathroom and there was an older woman ahead of me.  She proceeded to speak to me quite quickly in Spanish, asking me if the bathroom was available.  I replied in Spanish.  "It is not.  Right now, the sign is red.  It is full.  But when it is green, it means you can enter."  My spanish is quite limited...but I was thinking, How did I even manage that?  I took one year of spanish in the 8th grade.  Wasn't even paying attention back then.  I was too busy feeling sorry for myself having recently had Scoliosis back surgery.  A little side note is that I also took 7 years of French, 4 semesters of Latin, 1 semester of German, 1 in Italian and four years of Korean. But of all those things, I think Latin taught me the most in terms of teaching me the root of the word, how words are built and is similar in all the Romance Languages.

As soon as I got off the plane, there were signs leading Athletes and Officials for theWorld Games to the proper places.  Very friendly faces everywhere.   Already so many people just hanging out in clothes that clearly represent their country.  I see a couple of USA Dance and Wall Ball competitors.  Dont' even know them but so excited to see others from my country.  Heading out to the Accreditation Center to get all our badges and paperwork.

I spent the whole plane ride working on product licensing, brand designs, web design, upcoming APA Nationals, my upcoming Black Widow Experience, little ones upcoming birthdays....but now that I'm here. It's so REAL!!!!  Forget all that other stuff!  I"m HERE!!!!!
I'm going to really really enjoy this HONOR to represent my country playing the sport I absolutely LOVE now and forever.  And best of all, I get to do it with my mom!  My hero!  She's taking pictures as we drive by these sugar cane we don't have those in the States...Well, They ARE Columbian Sugar Canes, after all!  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Why I'm dancing when I can't even rack the ball

I heard today that there were many comments made on the DWTS website about the Stars.  I asked about what people were saying about me and they said the best ones were that I was danced great considering my condition. The worst was a guy that seemed to be a pool player complaining that I go to tournaments complaining that I can't rack because of my back. .. and then here I
am dancing?  I never feel like answering to people that are obviously not fans nor do they care about me or want to actually hear an answer.  They are just hateful to complain on such a positive show. I do, however,  think it's a good topic. I thought it would be nice to share with those that DO matter.  I had/have fairly severe scoliosis. I also have bursitis in both shoulders so it grinds when I use them. I have trochenteric bursitis in both hips. It hurts to walk or lay on my dide. I have deteriorated discs in my neck which cause pain in my neck but also affects my nerves so I get nerve pain. I  have two deteriorated discs in my lower back L5 and L6 and I've been laying on my right side because my left leg hurts.  I have some neurological damage in my left leg and hips. It means my leg/hips at times feels really cold, sometimes itchy, throbbing, numb, needley, aching... in any combination of those. I have Parsonage Turner Syndrome, which means that I have pain, tingling and weakness in my upper left extremities including my neck, shoulder, armpit, inside of my arm straight down into the palm of my hand. Raising my arm above my heart hurts and feels like someone is trying to pull my arm off. I cannot lay down without pain. It has been painful to lay flat since my first back surgery when I was 12. When my discs started deteriorating five years ago, it hurt to lay on my left leg so now I only lay on my right.  I have very little strength or control of my left leg.   After I got pregnant with Savannah, I started to feel pain in my hips. It got diagnosed as bursitis. I can't lay on either side without pain. I used to be a world class sleeper. I could compete with anyone. More, now I wake up every couple hours in pain, all through the night. I'm in pain from the time I wake up till I go to bed. I have arthritis and degenerative disc disease. There is no doctor on this planet that thinks I should be playing pool. This isn't complaining. This is a FACT. So, understandably, when I can control the conditions, and ask for a racker when I'm competing as not to wear out my back, I do. If I can't, then I don't have to play. That's my choice. Fortunately, there are people that care about my condition and are understanding enough to provide me with a racker. It doesn't help me make the nineball and my opponent always has the same option to ask for a racker. So why am I dancing? Cuz I want to. Its my choice. No, the doctors don't recommend it. It's not good for my back, knees, shoulder, hips and it can cause more damage particularly to the deteriorating discs in my lower back as well as goodness knows what other risks. I don't know when I decided it but I just don't want to live in fear.  I want to do the things I want to do with no regrets.   I don't want my past to be an excuse for why my future isn't bright.  I can't help my past but I can help my future by making decisions based on what I dream for instead of what I fear. I can actually say that I really wanted to dance.  I've always wanted to dance.  I watched the show regularly,  recorded every episode as well as 'So You Think You Can Dance'.  I love to dance.  Never thought I could do it.  Nor did I have the time.  Then this opportunity showed up.  I don't want to say no to what I think is a once in a lifetime opportunity just because I'm AFRAID I can't do it.  Of COURSE I'm afraid I can't do it! I'm afraid of so many things!  I just don't ever wants let that fear stop me.  So,  I'm doing this!  I'm in agony but I'm happy as I've ever been!  Professional dance lessons was on my bucket list.  What better way to cross that off?  So, long story long,  I ask for a racker,  because I can,  and it's less painful.  I play pool because I love it. And I'm dancing because I love it.  The bottom line is,  this body of mine is deteriorating.  There's no cure.  So if it's gonna go, then I'm going to do and enjoy the things that my body can do,  even if it means testing the limits just to find out what they are.  I'm not live by my doubts, even though I have so many.  I'm gonna try not to be stupid.  Thanks to all my fans for your constant support. I know you really care about me.  I'm currently ranked third in the World by the WPBA and love pool as much as ever,I have six wonderful kids and a beautiful granddaughter, my husband loves me,  and I'm dancing!  I'm truly blessed. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013


Last night was so exciting. I competed on Korean national television on Dancing with the Stars. I just wanted to challenge myself and inspire others to go after the things they love despite their challenges. I love to dance even though I have pain, I'm weak, and I'm not flexible. According to every one, I put in more practice time than anyone else. The dry rehearsals that day went really well. No problems. At show time, I was so nervous but excited. My family and friends were there holding up signs. In the end, when it was time, I started off strong and somehow, Lost my timing, went too fast, and because of it, missed some steps. I'm not sure the viewers could tell but I knew it and the main judge knew it. I went too fast when I should have slowed down. I ended up tying for the lowest score. So sad. I felt so disappointed. WE did so great in rehearsal. I'm a champion, a pressure player. I'm supposed to rise to the pressure, not fall! I didn't expect to be at the top but I shouldn't be at the bottom. At least give me a score according to how I've been dancing....but instead, we scored a miserable showing....That's competition for you! I felt bad to my dance partner and to my family and friends who have given me so much support to do as much practice and preparation that I did. AAAArgh! I would send photos but we weren't allowed to send photos. I'll try to post some others tonight though. I spent four hours with teacher Hoosun Lee yesterday. He is really great. I can tell he's disappointed to but he says, we should just let it go and focus on Waltz. How do I arch my back when my back doesn't arch? With ILLUSION!! We have a long dress in waltz and I can bend at the knees. I'll do my best. We have two weeks before the next show, March 16th. It's a live show. Every week will be a live show! Hope you can watch the episodes and encourage all your Korean friends to vote. Here is the link Only people in Korea with cell phones can vote by text only. One vote per star per cell phone. Here's the link. I know I can't practice harder than I've been practicing. I physically can't. I have done as many hours as I can stand. I'm in the hospital regularly for treatment. In the gym for exercising and stretching, and hot pack and hot baths. With injections, my back, hips and knees are holding up okay but my ribs....torn tissue, bruised good. It's being grabbed in the turns, spins, lifts.....and it might be my doom, but until I'm actually down, I'll keep fighting! Ugh. So, my main focus is on studying the choreography more when resting, listening to the music more when resting. I could do more of that. And in general, more positive thinking and less worrying. Easy for me to do in pool, but in dance, all that comes out and I need to remind myself that positive thinking and mental preparation is key to success! Nevertheless, I'm having a great time, learning so much, meeting great people....but.... I miss home... Love, J

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dancing my Life Away!

I finally get to share my news with you.  I'm in Korea to participate in Dancing with the Stars. What an opportunity!  I know what you're thinking!  "How can you do it,  Jeanette?!!" I know!  I can't bend to either side or backwards,  I can bend forward but with no arch, so I can't do a body wave....I have so many medical issues... but still!  I have heart!  I will try my best!  I told them my physical condition.  They are still willing to have me.  Thats all I need to know.

Did you know professional dance lessons was on my bucket list? I always thought it was so beautiful and fun. Some friends are saying, "You can't do this!  You're crazy!  You could get hurt!"

YES, I COULD!  You know what?  I could get hurt doing anything.  If I let my fear of failure or injury stop me from things,  I would never be a world champion or experience so many of the incredible things I have gotten to enjoy. Sometimes, MOST of the time, actually,  it's very hard work,  sometimes painful.  Sometimes,  things don't work out well in my favor. But in the end,  I have lived my life with no regrets, instead staying on my couch in my robe complaining about how much my back and body hurts, letting people feel sorry for me.

Please don't tell me I could fail. I'm 41 years old. I already know I could fail. But let me find out if, just maybe,  I could be great!  No matter how hard this will be, I will enjoy the journey.

If you live by fear,  you will always be the one watching others really live.  True courage is walking forward in the face of fear, not the absence of it.

If you compete only to win or lose, ultimately,  you will surely have your share of losses. But if you also do it to experience and enjoy the journey, then you never ever lose. You will always gain something. No matter how I do in this competition,  TRUST ME! I have already WON before I have even begun.  I am so happy to get this chance. The chance to learn something new, in the face of all obstacles,  a chance to grow as a human being,  and a chance to inspire. Of course I'm afraid I'll get hurt! Of course I might be a terrible dancer and humiliate myself!  No regrets! Atleast I have the courage to find out instead of letting my body and my fear determine what my future is. Let's Go! Fighting!  To the end!

I'll blog as often as I can and post photos.

Please stay in touch!  I'll also talk to you guys on my Facebook Fan Page /jeanetteleetheblackwidow

Sunday, February 10, 2013

WPBA Hall of Fame Induction

I just had the most amazing night of my life. I was inducted into the WPBA Hall of Fame. My very good friend, Dr Donald Wardell gave the speech, had us all in tears! I had a friend record it so as soon as its ready, I'll post it up on my website. It was so emotional because it was the very first time anyone, including myself, had talked in depth about what I've been through to get where I am. My husband, three of my daughters, my cousin and a few good friends traveled a long way just to be there. This award was so very special because it was with the people I have shared my journey with all these years. No one understands like my girls on the WPBA what it's like to want to be the very best and the sacrifice it takes to get there...and stay there. I'm so grateful for them and everyone else that has been part of my life throughout. I really wish you all could've been there. I don't have all that Don said in his intro but here is some of what I said.

I would like to express my appreciation, not just for this award, but for the hard work of everyone in this room and the ones before you who have put me in the position to stand before you today. We are only as good as those around us. I feel lucky to be surrounded by some of the most talented people in our industry. Thank you WPBA.

I want to take this moment to be thankful for my husband George's most difficult accomplishment, putting up with me all these years. Not many people understand how our marriage works, with us being so different, but no one understands me the way you do. Thank you for giving me so much support, letting me shine when I need to and reminding me to park the Black Widow at the door when I get home. I love you!

I've got to get strong again. This means making sure to hit the jacuzzi, getting more rest for my body, eating right, stretching and then getting to my gym to hit some machines.  I really need to do more cardio to keep my endurance up during tournaments but it's a struggle because I've never learned to enjoy it.  I love strength training but cardio is a bore.  I've got to figure out a way to make it more fun for me.

To God, I praise you and Thank you. I know I fall WAAYYY short of what you had in mind as one of your children. Thank you for loving me anyway and having the patience to help me grow every day, to be a better person!

As a mom, I always feel pulled between giving them the attention they need, keeping my business going of marketing myself and doing events, and playing pool at a World Champion level.  It's so hard.

Mom, I know you couldn't be here, but I'm finally learning what it means to be a mom. It's not easy but you always made sure to tell me you love me. You are the woman who has pushed me and guided me to be the best I can be. Thank you for making me so very proud to be your daughter. Dad, thanks for your patience and love and caring for us all these years. I love you both.

My darling children, thank you for brightening my days with your smiles! Thank you little ones for your patience with mommy's busy busy schedule, letting me practice pool even it is with you wrapped around my legs. Thank you for keeping me grounded with your messy faces, lost homework, chauffeur duty, skinned knees and all your little kisses and snuggles at bedtime!

Thanks to my big kids for your understanding and love! I'm so proud of you!

Gene Nagy for teaching me to play for the love of the game, to enjoy the journey, not just the wins. I wish you were here. I love you and I miss you.

Amsterdam Billiards for giving me so much support over the years from an amateur to a world champion, you've been there!

Gabe Vigorito of HBBC for giving me the nickname the Black Widow! I had NO idea it would become something I would love!

My first major sponsor, Imperial International for all those years that you were steady and true! All the sponsors that followed, I'll always be grateful for your support.

Thanks to APA for seeing me through surgeries, babies, APA Black Widow Tour, and teaching me so much about marketing and caring so deeply about the future of our sport! Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops, seeing the best in me, giving me the opportunity to become your friend while learning from one of the greatest, wisest, most giving men i know. Thanks for loving me and the game, your continued sponsorship and I look forward a long lasting friendship.

Tom George, my agent for the last fifteen years at Octagon for always having my best interest at heart in a tough tough business! For being a mentor, friend, and teaching me so much about sports marketing! I really don't know what I would have done without you all those years!

Teddy Bloch and Mike Scherer, thank you for being great agents and even better friends. I trust and love you both. I'm just so fortunate that you're in my life!

I learned so much from my coaches and I'm grateful to them all! I can't say enough about how much I've learned but I especially want to thank Jerry Briesath for teaching me the importance of good fundamentals and the perfect swing and his protege, Mark Wilson, my constant reminder to have a winning attitude. Thank you, Bob Carman for teaching me how simplifying my life makes me a better champion and a happier person. I AM a slow learner though! Still working on that one.

Tony Robles, you have always and continue to teach me what it means to be proud to be an ambassador for our sport. Thank you for that and your true friendship.

Dianna, my glue that holds everything together, thanks for always going the extra mile, for your thoughtfulness and caring. I can talk to you about anything and never fear being judged. So I'll thank you this one day for putting up with me the other 364 days a year!

Barbara, I met you before I ever became a pool addict and you've never missed a beat. You've been there through everything. You always took my side even when I was wrong and you wrote me over and over even when I was too busy to write back. You're the one that convinced me I was stronger than I thought and what being brave really means.

Helena Thornfeldt for being my best friend on tour. I'm so grateful for having had you in my life throughout my career. We've had some great times, but you also let me cry on your shoulders and cooked Swedish food for me when there weren't any words left. We all get distant a little when living so far apart, but you never let us get very far because you knew what was important! Thanks for not giving up on us! You really taught me so much and I love you.

Marlene, Marc, thank you for knowing who I am and reminding me when I forget. Thank you for genuinely caring about the outcome of my life. Thanks for giving me such loving support through all the surgeries, miscarriages, babies, all the ups and down of my career, and most of all, being someone I can trust in a world that I have often felt misunderstood. I want to thank my Fans and friends out there that have given me so much encouragement. All fourteen of you have been amazing!! Just kidding! Hehe! I hope we can share many more years together!

Lastly, Don, for taking the time to make this the most special evening ever. Thank you for your kindness, caring, thoughtfulness, generosity, more importantly, for being one of the very very few people that might actually love straight pool as much as I do. Thank you for always being there when I needed you, all those positive affirmations and believing in me when I sometimes was too exhausted to believe in myself! I cherish our very special friendship and I hope I can express just how grateful I am for all you've been for me and my family!

Thankful for my family during the holidays

During this Holiday Season, I have had a little time to reflect on where my life is right now. How blessed I am to have a great family. Thank you GOD for loving me, for watching out for me and all those I love!
My mom is so considerate.  She is caring, generous, loving, hardworking, thoughtful, self-sufficient, helpful to her loved ones and to her community!  She's been there for me through every surgery I've had and most of all, she has shown me unconditional love.  She is everything I hope to be!  My dad has worked hard his whole life and I'm grateful that he has been there for my mom and us.
My husband is such a good man.  He is so loving to his children, he'll help any friend or stranger, he is super hardworking, he is dedicated and loyal, he is handy with anything around the house, he is witty, funny, smart, and so easy to get along with!   I'm so grateful he supports my love of pool!
My daughter Morgan.  She has married a wonderful husband Jason.  He is kind and supportive to her and all of us!  My Morgan has turned into such a lovely young lady. She keeps a beautiful house, works hard at their farm,  is a loving wife and mother and I couldn't ask for a better daughter. She knows how much her letters and photos mean to me with her living so far away!  My little Grandbaby Elliette is going to celebrate her first Christmas with Grandma and our whole family.
Olivia is so smart and fun to be with. She always makes time to visit us.  She stays true to herself and you know she is sincere!  We love how creative and artistic she is. She is super loving to her sisters and we always knows she is there for us whenever we need her, just as we are.
Johnny just showed me his grades for his winter semester in his junior year in college.  I am so proud of him!  He's killin' it!  I know college kids like to party and hang out!  I don't like it, but I also want him to be honest with me and know I'll be there if he ever needs me to drive or pick him up, or anything else!!  But with all the things that happens at college, he manages to stay healthy, work out every day, keep his grades rocking, and most importantly, he makes time to come home and hang out with me and the girls.  Most kids come home and spend every minute with their friends.  He loves hanging with his friends but it means so much to me that he also stay home and hangs out with me because I miss him so much!
Cheyenne is 8 now, in the fourth grade.  She is certain she wants to be an author. She reads books as fast as she gets them!  Very into this Warrior series!   She is very sweet and very easy.  She is healthy and loves to learn about science and history.   She's my first baby and she's so precious!
Chloe is 3 and is so full of energy!  Like....the energy of all of us put together!  Super smart, a bit devious, stubborn, and curious about everything.  On the other hand, she is very very loving, adoring, sweet, funny and a very good big sister to Savannah.  She has such a strong but wonderful personality!
Savannah is my littlest and LAST one!  She is gentle and easy.  She loves to smile and laugh! She loves, puzzles, and games, and loves to do tumbles and flips!  Most of all, she loves music. She loves to dance and is quite good at it!   I'm so glad that she'll stay little for just a little longer!  I love this age!
While they all know they are getting Gifts, I'm proud that they understand the spirit of Christmas and they are not all caught up in the Frenzy that can be quite stressful.  I love my family.  We are all going to enjoy a family vacation this New Year with all my kids and my mom, who they call "Halmuni" , Korean for Grandma!
Lastly, I'm thankful for my closest friends who have always been there for me, whether I need them or not!  I'm thankful for my Fans who keep me going when times are tough, and I'm thankful for this beautiful sport I love!   Have a Happy Holiday and a Great New Year!  Be thankful for all those you love!