Sunday, November 22, 2015

You Have to Rescue Yourself

Everyone has a story and you can learn a lot if you just shut up and listen. 

I spent the past week in North Dakota, meeting up with lots of old and new friends.

I gave presentations at Minot State University, the Minot Job Corps and the Boys and Girls Club in New Town, North Dakota on the Fort Berthold reservation.

I also met a lot of people and heard a lot of their stories about overcoming (or not) everything from alcoholism to domestic violence to methamphetamine addiction. Different people, in different cities in different situations said pretty much the same thing :

It comes down to this: you have to rescue yourself.

It IS terrible and wrong that your husband beats you, but he probably is not going to stop, as harsh as that is to say. The police can arrest him, your friends can offer you a place to stay but YOU need to decide that you are better than this, take your children and leave.

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence 10 times, been sent to treatment four times and have just been released from jail, your family may be willing to help you, there may be an open bed at a treatment facility, but YOU need to decide to go.

Sometimes when I say things like this, people object and say,

You don't understand, it's not as easy as it sounds.

Actually, THEY don't understand, because I don't think it sounds easy at all. Listening to someone talk about leaving her husband, being homeless with three children while she looked for a job - that didn't sound easy to me at all. What an amazing amount of strength and courage that she did it, though!

I know a lot of people who have been alcoholics and the hardest thing they have to do, as far as I can see, is honestly admitting they have fucked up. One man told me,

At AA meeting they have you say that you are an alcoholic and you have no control over your life. I said it but I didn't mean it. Not me! I was (a professional athlete)! I had a nice house, nice cars, women! There was nothing wrong with me!

Ever hear the phrase "painfully honest"? It takes a painful amount of honesty to look in the mirror and admit that you are wrong, what you have been doing is wrong and bad and (if you are an addict) it has been bad and wrong for a long time.

I heard a lot of stories by and about parents this week who gave their adult children money for drugs so they would not have to go through the pain of withdrawal, so they wouldn't steal the money for drugs and go to jail, who didn't turn them in when they DID steal the money, family members who denied being beaten by a relative.

Even if it is not that extreme, though, I think we all end up sometimes in situations where we are waiting for someone else to rescue us or trying to protect someone. That is fine if your four years old but not when you're forty.

Since I'm in the airport and have a few minutes to blog, let me give you some advice: Rescue yourself.

If you had a really good friend, a child, someone you loved, here is how I think you would treat them:
  1. You'd be honest with them, even when they didn't want to hear what you had to say. If they were in a bad situation, you would tell them. 
  2. You'd have the courage to face up to other people, even to that person him or herself, and help them make a change, whether it is moving with them to a new city, changing schools or filing charges against an abuser.
  3. You'd have the strength to continue on, even when people around you questioned your commitment, your motives, even when it was hard and you were tired and the road ahead to get a degree to get a job so you could support yourself, or to finish treatment or pay off your bills seemed so long.
That's what we do for people we love and if you would do that for your children, your best friend, then why can you not do it for yourself?

Plane boarding. Gotta go.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gompers Judo Christmas Camp: With a LOT of help from my friends

Just when you need more faith in humanity, your friends come through. For those of you who like to hear good news, here is what is up with Gompers Judo

  1. My friend, an anonymous benefactor bought Adidas judo gis for everyone. Many of our gis initially came from friends whose children had quit judo or outgrown their gis. Over the years, those had gotten pretty beat up. A year ago, Jesse Moya, of Moya Brand, had donated gis for every student - but kids in middle school grow FAST so many had outgrown theirs, and we had new kids join. So, look how cool they are all in judo gis that fit!
  2. Our friends at Gracie Barra Newport Beach offered up their school for two days on a weekend in December, for free, and instructor Tom Reusling offered to help teach.
  3. My friend, Steve Seck, 1980 Olympic team member in judo is coming to teach.
  4. My other friend, Gary Butts, a judo black belt and Marine Corps wrestler is coming to teach.
  5. My other friend (how did I get so lucky!) Patricia Gill, is a college admissions counselor and she's coming to speak with our students about college requirements and what courses they should be taking in high school.
  6. My friend (yes, I have another one), Brian Marks is one of the most renowned kata instructors in the country. He is coming to teach kata to get our green belts ready for their brown belt test. Another talent of Brian's is Christmas decoration. Yes, he has one of those unbelievable houses with the kid-size train set you can ride, slides and light displays that people drive to Orange County to see. He has invited us to his house after the team dinner on Saturday for a traditional Christmas party with cookies and hot chocolate.
  7. My lovely youngest daughter and HER friends are going to come in the afternoon to tutor students between practices.
  8. My lovely niece, her fiancé and HIS friends from U C Irvine's doctoral program in mathematics are also coming to tutor students.

I once commented that I felt I had better friends than I deserve to which Jacob Flores, Jr. (the son of one of my very best friends) commented,

I don't think that's possible. I think people get exactly the friends they deserve.

Damn! I sure hope he's right, because if he is, I must be far more amazing than I think!

In the Christmas spirit ?

Buy games that teach math, social studies and FUN !

Buy it for yourself, for a gift, or donate to a school.

Buy Fish Lake or Spirit Lake and we'll throw in a beta license for Forgotten Trail for free. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Random: What you don't see at a judo tournament

On Sunday, somewhere between working, mass, dropping Maria, Eric and children at the airport, I managed to fit in an hour to watch the Mojica Judo Tournament in Baldwin Park.  I went with a mission - well, a mission other than not missing my one chance a year to tease Tony Mojica about wearin a suit. (Evidence duly attached.)

My mission was this: I wanted to test my hypothesis that judo players do not do either counters nor combinations in tournaments. I decided to watch 10 matches and record how many times I saw either a combination or a counter. I was there around 12-1 so I was watching mid-range players. The tiny little kids had already competed and the black belts weren't up yet.

Here are my results, which were pretty consistent with what I have discovered at every camp, clinic and tournament that I've observed:

Players very rarely do counters, combinations or transition. This includes combinations of a standing technique and mat technique, two standing techniques or two matwork techniques.

In the ten matches I observed,  I saw zero counters, one attempted (unsuccessful) combinations and three transitions from standing to matwork (two attempted by the same person).  Let's look at this in percentages. Of the 20 players in those two matches, 0% did a successful combination, 5% attempted a matwork combination, 0% attempted a matwork combination, 0% attempted a counter and 10% did a transition from standing to matwork.

There should be a hint for you in here if you are an instructor or a competitor. Work on counters, combinations (particularly on the mat) and transitions to standing to matwork.

 It's a winning strategy to be strong where others are weak.

It's an even more winning strategy to be strong where others are non-existent.


Buy a game this week and we'll throw in a copy of our Forgotten Trail beta for free ! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It Stripped Me of Everything I Knew

I've been trying to cut back to working 10 hours a day. I figure that makes 70-hour weeks and our investors should be happy with that.

In my spare time, I have been reading and I even watched one movie with my lovely family. In the evening, I read books that have no professional benefit whatsoever.

I just finished  The Hot Seat: Love, War and Cable News, by Piers Morgan,

In his first TV interview he asked Oprah Winfrey how many people she trusts and she answered,

 Probably five or six that I ultimately would trust no matter what, and if I were to be betrayed by those people, then I would say I don’t know anything. There’s a wonderful line in a Toni Morrison book that says, ‘It stripped me of everything I knew.’

 That line came back to me again when I was reading a book tonight, Knocking on Heaven's Door, by a woman dealing with both of her parents dying.

My husband died when I was 36 years old. It stripped me of everything I knew. We were going to have another baby after Ronnie, who was 3 years old, when he had his accident. My whole life seemed to be in three pieces. Before the accident. After the accident. After he died.

We were going to have four children and live out in the country. He was getting his pilot's license. He said flying was even better than sex because you could do it for hours. I was going to get tenure at the university, become a full professor and then retire. The kids would grow up picking wild blackberries and learn to ride horses. Ron was going to teach them to drive a stick-shift and shoot a gun and I was going to teach them math and not to have a country accent, that words like huntin', fishin' and darlin' actually have a 'g' at the end and it's pronounced "business" not "bizness". We used to laugh about that a lot.

Then he went down that hill and broke his back and then he died, piece by piece over the years until he died altogether.

It stripped me of everything I knew.

I have a good friend who lost his wife when he was relatively young and had young children at home. Let's call him Bob. We talk about it sometimes and agree that there is no question that it changes you. People who have not been in that situation can sympathize but they can't really understand.

I've read studies that say that whether people win the lottery or become paraplegic as a result of an accident that within the year they are just as happy as they were before the event. Maybe so. I know both my friend and I have gone on to live productive, generally happy lives. Still, it changes you.

This was brought home to me recently when some random people I did not know were saying vicious things about me on the Internet. An acquaintance came up to me and politely expressed sympathy, made some nice comments intended to cheer me up. 

Seriously, it was a kind, well-meant gesture and I appreciated it, but after he walked away, Bob and I doubled over laughing. We had seen tragedy and BasementBoy007 saying on a forum that you should shut the fuck up you grey-haired old lady is definitely not a tragedy.

They (whoever "they" are) say everything happens for a reason. Both Bob and I dispute that being widowed (widowered?) made us better people, but there is no question it changed us.

If you had asked me two years after Ron died, I would not have hesitated and said there is no compensation and nothing would change my mind about wanting him back.

Now, I have a wonderful 17-year-old daughter who I would not have had if my husband had lived, if I hadn't remarried. Would I turn back the clock? I think of her and the answer is clearly, "No."

One thing I can say for sure - if you experience the death of someone close to you, it changes you. Things may get better. I suppose it's possible they may get worse. One thing I know for sure is that they will never be the same. You will never be the same.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Life of a Lie: It's quite simple

 My very good friend and business partner for decades,  Dr. Erich Longie, talks about living the life of the truth or the life of a lie.

Erich is an amazing guy. When I met him, he was academic dean of the tribal college on his reservation. He eventually became college president, the first member of his tribe to earn a doctorate, co-founded Spirit Lake Consulting, Inc. with me and April St. Pierre, co-authored articles in scientific journals and a bunch of equally super-impressive things.

Before I met him, he was an alcoholic, broke his back in an accident, was in rehabilitation - both the physical kind and the drug and alcohol kind. It's hard for me to reconcile the person I have always known with the stories I hear about him.

Erich says that it's quite simple, really. You either live a life of the truth or a life of a lie. If you are an alcoholic, you are living the life of a lie. You are telling your boss lies for the reason you didn't make it to work or made a mistake - the truth is you weren't sick or distracted, you were drunk. You are lying to your spouse or parents about why you came home late or didn't show up for some family gathering. You are lying to yourself that everyone gets a DUI now and then, it's normal to get fired from your first job.

You don't have to be an alcoholic to live the life of a lie.

One day, my husband was looking at some site for people who want to have affairs. He wasn't looking for an affair. He was actually sitting in bed next to me reading it out loud on his laptop. On the home page, it said,

If it bothers you to constantly lie, you should not have an affair.

We both fell over laughing, thinking, who the heck at that point says,

Okay, I'm cool with the constant lying thing, what else you got?

Those sites seem to get a lot of traffic, though, and I'll bet it's not all from people like us who are reading just to laugh at them.

I'm not perfect. (God, am I not perfect!) However, I try as much as possible to live a life of the truth. I love my children, grandchildren and husband. I try to the best of my ability to make games that make people smarter - in math, social studies and English. I do studies to test whether what I'm doing works. I hire people in the U.S. , preferably California, because I want to support the community where I live. I teach judo to kids at Gompers Middle School because I genuinely believe they are some great kids and I am blessed to have terrific instructors like José, Will, Blinky, Jimmy and Steve to help me out.

What you see is what you get. 

I have another friend, a software developer named Joe Perry, who told me once,

People like to say, "It's complicated", but it's really not. Do you respect the people you work with? Are you proud of the work that you do? 

Just this week, I had a conversation with someone who told me something that was somewhat important to me. I asked him if he was sure what he said was true. He said,

I swear on all the saints and the Blessed Virgin, on the grey head of my sainted mother, may she drop over dead. It happened exactly as I told you.

Funny thing, I happened to find out a couple of days later that he had lied to me. Hope his mom is still fine. Obviously, I'll never trust anything he tells me ever again.

Joe is right. People like to throw up a lot of smoke screens, but it comes down to this: Is what you are saying true? Is the impression you are giving people true?

If not, you are living the life of a lie, and that never ends well.

Since I'm in a pattern of quoting smart people I know, let me end with some advice from Dr. Jane Mercer, a famous and very kind sociologist who was on my dissertation committee. (No, my doctorate isn't in sociology but that's irrelevant.)

On the wall of her office she had taped this Turkish proverb:

No matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, turn back.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Count Your Blessings

Someone on a mailing list on startups sent  a link to this article:

8 Things to Remember When Everything is Going Wrong

It made me smile several times while reading it, and that alone is worth passing it on. These tips weren't written just for startups, although having started work 14 hours ago, I can certainly relate all of these to my work life.

My favorite was of the 8 things was this:

Everything in life is temporary. Every time it rains, it stops raining.

Notice that I said I started work 14 hours ago. I didn't work for 14 hours straight because after about 10 hours, my husband and I went for a walk along Ocean Avenue, just as the sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean.

We talked about this idea that everything is temporary. There are people I knew who were in the Olympics who ended up barely scraping by while others who lost in the Olympic Trials went on to have wonderful careers and wonderful lives. If you had looked at them on any one particular day, you might have thought, "This person is a winner and that one is a loser." 

And yet, if you looked at the same people three years later, you might find the situation completely reversed.

To their 8 things, I will add my own, ninth, suggestion - Count your blessings.

If you had looked in on my life 20 years ago, you would have thought I was in a sad state. My husband had died. I was working three jobs to support my three young children and I was always tired. There were medical bills, funeral bills, tuition bills, tax bills.

Yes, it was hard. As I was thinking about it today, though, sad as it was, I have been truly blessed. Not once, but TWICE I have had the great good fortune to be married for years to a man I loved.

Having a good marriage is one of the keys to happiness. Most people wish for it once and I got it twice. Certainly, everything is temporary, so appreciate your blessings now.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In Addiction, Who Is It That Has to Change?

Something has been on my mind a lot lately, ever since I started working on this grant on methamphetamine abuse (and no, crazy conspiracy theorists, this is not a veiled reference to any of my daughters).

As I was saying, I was working on this proposal with the Circle of Life program on the Fort Berthold Reservation, and we were reviewing the current research on family therapy for people addicted to meth. They are the substance abuse prevention and treatment experts and I am working with them to create a game that models what effective counselors do, just like our current games model what effective teachers do.

All of these treatment models assume that everyone in the family has to change. Now, I will admit up front that neither I nor anyone in my family has ever been addicted to anything, so I have no personal experience. I'm certainly willing to consider that if your 13-year-old son or daughter is addicted to meth, you took a wrong turn somewhere on the parenting journey. For one thing, how can you not know where your kid is for that amount of time?

It seems like, though, a lot of this treatment requires the people who are NOT addicted to change. When I read statements like,

"If you are too critical about their appearance, drug use or other behavior, you'll drive the person away and then the opportunity for treatment will be lost." 


"Because access to the drug is so important to an addict, you may need to accept having the dealer around until you can convince your loved one to enter treatment."

I found it all very confusing, and there is a reason that I focused on statistics and assessment instead of counseling. That's why I was wise enough to partner with the Circle of Life people. I know my own weaknesses.

Isn't denial supposed to be one of the problems of people with addiction? So aren't you feeding into that?

But then if you go along with the denial, or don't confront the person, then it's enabling their addiction. But if you don't go along with it, then it's not accepting the person and then worsening  their problem or driving them away?

It's all very confusing to me, and I think it is not just me because the rate of failure in therapy is pretty high. Not as high as the failure rate for startups, but still pretty high.

Speaking of startups, my required shameless plug 
.... check out 7 Generation Games - buy 'em

If you don't have ten bucks, try them free here.