Saturday, March 26, 2016

You're Blaming the Wrong Person

I was making beef stew with my granddaughter the other day - now I will pause for a moment to let the unexpectedness of that statement sink in - and it occurred to me that I used to cook every day and now I almost never do.

For a minute, I started to blame my husband - he criticized my cooking, so I said,

"Fine! You do it!"

and it got to the point that my children would tell you,

All my mom ever made for dinner was reservations.

That's been true for the past 16 years or so, and kind of ironic since one of the first jobs I had was teaching cooking classes - at the time, it was my only real skill besides judo.

When I thought about it for more than a minute, though, it really wasn't my husband's fault that I quit cooking. Shortly after we were married, I started a consulting company and when I weighed the money I could make during the time I would be grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning up against the cost of dinner at a restaurant, it made a lot more sense to make reservations.

Ronda also started judo around that time, and the next thing you know, I was taking her to practice seven days a week. About the same time, three of my four kids decided to be vegetarians.

The truth is, though, it wasn't my husband's fault or Ronda's fault or my vegetarian kids' fault.

Last week, I actually cooked dinner three times, and I'm making enchiladas for a dozen people this week.

My point is not that you be impressed with my amazing culinary skills - that is optional - but rather that we often blame other people for decisions we made ourselves.

If I had really wanted to continue cooking, I wouldn't have let a comment here or there about something needing more salt discourage me. Maybe I couldn't have made dinner every night, but I could have found some time to cook, if I really wanted to.

It's not all that uncommon to blame someone else when life is not completely to your liking.  Here are just a few examples:

  • I didn't go to class because the teacher is boring.
  • I didn't do my homework because the book was confusing.
  • I didn't go to practice  because the other members of my team don't want to train as hard as I do.
 You get the idea. The point is, in each of those, and thousands of other possible examples, you're blaming the wrong person. You made your choice. You had other choices - drink coffee or take notes to stay awake in class, ask a teacher for help, study with a friend, do drills with anyone who will train with you.

Maybe you made the right choice - I don't regret the time I spent taking my kids to practice or the mall, writing grants or analyzing data instead of perfecting my Christmas cookies. Right or wrong, though, the choice you make is your decision. Own it.


My decision right now is to be working on an awesome version of our new game Forgotten Trail.

You can buy our existing games that teach math and history, Fish Lake and Spirit Lake, right now.

Forgotten Trail will be available for purchase in 60 days. You heard it here first.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Support Pico-Union Boxing Program because Jennifer Says So

You probably don't hear much about my other middle daughter, Jennifer. She teaches at a middle school in downtown Los Angeles and the student body is pretty much what you would expect - very low income and with almost no access to sports programs.

I normally ignore requests to help with fundraisers because there are so many scam artists out there.

However, Jenn forwarded me this link to donate to the Pico-Union Boxing program.

I know I am the third member of my family to donate to it and I intend to remind a few others.

You can read all about the program in this LA Times article linked here. Frankly, I'm shocked they've only been able to raise around $5,000 so far. 

Maybe it is because, like me, people have become cynical.

Jenn isn't at all a public person. You have to really look to find a picture of her anywhere, so if she speaks up and says something is important to the community, it's important.

She pretty much verified everything the LA Times article said - the boxing program has made a noticeable difference in the lives of the kids she teaches and she sees the difference in them at school. It provides them a place to work out and get physically healthy, working with adults who are good role models and care about them.

The instructor is a doctoral student who is soon graduating and will be moving out of the area, so the gym needs both funds to buy equipment and volunteers to continue teaching and running the program.

I have some friends who know a bit about boxing and I will reach out to them, but I am sure there are a lot more knowledgeable people in the Los Angeles area than just the few that I know.

So ... if you can help this program out in anyway, please do. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Texts with My Daughters: Reebok Women Lunch

I have said many times that a great Christmas gift would be a book, "Texts with My Daughters".  We have a family group text and many times it is pretty funny.

Take today, for example.

This text string was preceded by a discussion of the proper Spanish translation for "guinea pig", recipes for cooking guinea pig and an admonition by me to leave my guinea pig the hell alone.

Ronda: Looking forward to seeing you guys today. I pulled my fancy watch out of the bank safe deposit box to look more professional.

Maria: Wait, is this a fancy thing? Like, I wasn't wearing sweats but do I need to wear a dress?

Ronda: LOL. No, it's like a brunch with grandma attire.

Maria: Ok. They sent us Reeboks to wear so I figured it was not suits/ ball gowns.

Ronda: I'm wearing Reeboks. I have like a Serena Williams look going.

Maria: Good, because my ball gown is at the cleaners.

Me: Since I am in fact a grandma, whatever I wear is grandma attire by definition. I'm going in footie pajamas - with Reeboks over them, of course.

Maria: Damn it. Now I have to change so we're not twinning.

Jenn: What the heck are you guys doing?

Me:  We're going to some Reebok lunch. Do you own any granny attire? Oh, wait, that's what you wear to work - ha ha . You can borrow my Reeboks. And I thought you were in Oregon.

Jenn (who is inexplicably not in Oregon): No, I'm cleaning my house, smart alec - bring me free shoes.

Me: What color?

Jenn: Not ugly.

(Since "not ugly" is not a color, it is evident why Jenn teaches history and not art.)

Julia (who is in Calculus class): I don't know what we're talking about but free shoes - sign me up!

Maria's Personal Stylist, Age Almost 8
Maria: Would a person wear jeans to brunch with grandma - like nice jeans, because I have been trying to determine what a Serena Williams look is and I got nothing.  Eva just picked out my outfit for me.

Ronda:  She wears dresses with sneakers.

Maria: Too late. You're not the only one with a stylist, Ronda.

.... and those are just our texts when we're getting dressed in the morning.

We finally managed to get dressed and out the door.

When I am not getting fashionably dressed, I'm making games that make you smarter.

Check them out here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Some Day Will Be Your Last Day on the Field

Wow, it's been a minute!

I didn't realize until I sat down at the computer tonight that it had been two weeks since I wrote my last blog post.

After the International Sports Hall of Fame weekend in Columbus, I came home to work on our in-house hackathon for Forgotten Trail. Then, we took off to Big Sur to go camping for Julia's birthday.

We kicked off the next week with a sprint on marketing initiatives - blogging, pitching at two start-up events. Then, it was off to Palm Springs where we had an exhibit and I gave a talk on educational games at the Computer Users in Education conference.

I'm also teaching a course on epidemiology and ... well, you get the idea.

I've been so busy I even had to miss the Gompers Judo team competing at the Gardena tournament. I was so bummed!

Putting it into perspective somewhat, I was at Julia's soccer banquet today and her coach made the comment,

"Some of you will have walked off of the field for the last time."

I found this really interesting, for two reasons.

  1. Out of the seven seniors on the team, only one of them, Julia, has committed to play in college, 
  2. Most of those kids had been playing for 10 years or more. They did a cute video that showed their progression from little four-year-old soccer players to ten-year-old soccer players until now. Except for Julia. Her four-year-old and ten-year-old pictures were in a judo gi since she did not start soccer until later.
 The point the coach was making, though, was that things have an end and they go from being our day-to-day life to our memories.  Whether it is soccer or judo or work, many of us have something that seems all-absorbing for a while, often a decade or more - and then it is over.

That is not a bad thing. It's totally okay to move on.

 These girls will go on to college, to careers, to raise families. As the coach said, they will remember one or two games they won or lost but by and large, those things that loomed so huge in the moment - missing this goal, letting that one through, having a bad day at practice - will completely fade away. They'll remember the feelings of being sore after the first two-day tournament of the season, the times they didn't want to go to practice but did anyway. She's right - I'll NEVER forget the winter training at Waseda University - getting up and having to run to the second closest train station to my house because not even all of the trains were running that early, and training with all of the windows and doors open in January at 5:30 a.m. to "toughen us up".

I think about this sometimes when I am in the middle of what Ronda calls "the grind" with my company. There is always so much to be done, but some day, sooner than you think, this will all be a memory. It's good to keep that in mind, both to savor the moments while they are happening and not to take the day to day too seriously, because, at the end of the day ...

It's tomorrow.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Help a sister out - tell people about our games

One of the reasons that it's difficult to find time to blog is that I run a company that makes video games. It is a really, really worthwhile use of my time.

Kids who play the games improve their math skills significantly. We have new games coming out that teach English, too.

It's not just kids. I've noticed that since I've been playing the games (for, ahem, quality testing) I'm a lot quicker and more accurate at doing multiplication and division, and I have a lot more of the basic math formula on the tip of my tongue.

So, it's a really good thing and I'm committed to making more games and getting more of our existing games into homes, schools and libraries.

So ... every time I am writing a blog or attending a Hall of Fame dinner or teaching judo, our investors are like ,

Um, hey, how about those games you're supposed to be making and marketing?

If you read this blog, which obviously you do, because you are at the end of this post, help a sister out.

Buy a game. Donate a game to a school.

See how easy that was?

If you don't have any friends or relatives that have children, say, you are a monk, for example,  then you could just retweet the link on twitter, post it on Facebook or write it on the wall in the chapel where you made your vow of silence.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

International Sports Hall of Fame !

You can read my acceptance speech below. To see what it was like to be there, check out the evrybit below.

There is a level of arrogance bordering on insanity to being a world champion.

You have to believe, deep in your heart, that you are better than everyone in the world.

There's also a level of sacrifice bordering on craziness. You give up time with your family - my first baby took her first steps when I was thousands of miles away, winning the Panamerican Games. You ruin your body - I've had so many surgeries, my knees look like I was attacked by a midget with a chain saw.

It takes a level of obsession. For years, when I opened my eyes in the morning, my first thought was "What can I do to win?"

It is a shared craziness and shared sacrifice. No one does it alone. You get to this level because some people, somewhere, cared very deeply about you winning.

Never assume just because you don't see kids parents at an event that they don't care. My mom almost never saw me fight. She only had enough money in the budget to buy gas to get to work and back. There was NO extra. We lived so close to the edge.

Judo tournaments cost $2 to enter. My mom was one of the few mothers that worked back then. She had 50 cents a day for lunch. We had so little that my entry fee came from her skipping lunch 4 days out of the week so she could give me the money. I would hop into the car of whichever parent from the club was giving me a ride that week, with the money my mother saved by going hungry and by God I was coming home with a medal!

When I came home from the hospital after surgery and couldn't even stand up, my 19-year-old brother, who had dropped out of college to get a job, gave my mother money to take me to Florida to stay with my grandparents. He said,

"Don't come back until she can run a mile."

That year, I won my first national judo championships, my first international judo gold medal and set four of my university's track records while I was at it. Shared craziness.

I should never have won anything in judo. I'm not male, if you haven't guessed, I'm not Japanese, my first coaches were guys at the local YMCA, I had no money and because I was so injured I couldn't even do most of the throws. Dragging people to the mat and arm barring them  is a style when Royc Gracie does it. When I did it, it was  because that was the only thing I could physically do. Yet, I won anyway.

Winning at the level of insanity is an abnormal thing and I don't believe people escape unchanged.

You can become a jerk with a gold medal and believe the rules of common courtesy and society don't apply to you because you are so awesome - and if you've never had moments of that, you are a better person than me.

You can take that same insanity and apply it to life - I earned a PhD and, as a widow with three small children, quit my safe university job to found my first technology company - and I am looking at an entire room full of people who have that same level of craziness.

Being on top of the world is a gift you can't adequately show your gratitude for. Literally, you have had your dreams come true. It's crazy.

If you're really, really lucky, you will have the opportunity to infect that level of craziness into the next generation

Every time I say to a child
- Winning is a habit. No one has the right to beat you.

Every time I pull a nervous student aside and say, "NiƱa , I will never ask you to do anything I don't believe you can do. You can do this."

--- That's my way of saying thank you.

So, thank you

Here is my evrybit from the International Sports Hall of Fame.

Thank you to Julia De Mars for the photos and video.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Arnold Sports Festival Takes Over Ohio

Awesomeness ! Look How Far We Have Come

Off to Columbus!

I'm writing this from a seat in first class on a flight en route to Chicago. I like flying first class but not enough to pay extra for it since, as The Perfect Jennifer tells me often, I am just a couple inches over the height to be qualified as a "midget". The extra leg room really isn't necessary. The free Chardonnay they keep coming by with is appreciated, though. (So, you will understand if this post has some spelling errors.)

I'm being inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame this weekend, which, I must admit is pretty cool.

I'm really flattered that some people went out of their way to nominate me for the hall of fame and other people advocated for me to be inducted this year over the other, no doubt really deserving, nominees. To me, it is particularly cool because I grew up in that pre-Title IX era when women and girls were actively discouraged from participating in sports - particularly in combat sports like judo.

I have to admit, though, that I'm more excited to be spending the weekend with my not-so-little angel Julia than the Hall of Fame.  She is going off to college in less than six months, so any extra time we get to spend together is precious. She's on the flight an hour behind me since we did not get our act together in time to book her on this one. Julia is the one in the middle.

This is the third time I have been to the Arnold Sports Festival/ Expo/ Extravaganza. The first time, I was coaching. Ronda, Julia and my friend, Tina Thomas, were all competing in a judo tournament as part of the event.  Julia won the mini- me division and then fought an age division up and got second, and Ronda won her age group, the women's division at her weight and the women's division at the weight above hers. I think Tina got second or third which is more impressive if you know that Tina is blind and competed in the regular division.

The second time I went, Ronda was competing for the Strikeforce  world title in MMA.

Now, it's the third time and no one from our family is competing, unless Julia decides to jump into the soccer tournament on Saturday, which is kind of unlikely since she doesn't know anyone in Ohio.

I'm really looking forward to just checking things out with Julia. This event is HUGE and sports range from the Olympic (fencing, soccer) to the really? (pole fitness, I'm looking at you).

I'll post updates over the weekend of the cool stuff we see and do. Also, I have been informed that there are a couple of dinner / party things to which I am expected to wear a dress. That should be interesting.  Stay tuned.

I have a real job where I make adventure games that teach you stuff.

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