Thursday, July 2, 2015

How to raise your children to be good people

The title of this blog is deceptive because it implies an answer.

 Anyone who claims to know how to raise children to be good men and women is lying. Most parents do the best they can. Then, there are a few people who are living proof that a parenting license test should be implemented. Hell, the damage you can do in a car accident is minor compared to how bad parenting can wreak havoc.

The marvelously talented Hans Gutknecht took this picture today of Ronda, Justin Flores, who is coaching her  in judo leading up to her world title defense, and Josh Ramirez who was training with her.

Ronda, Justin Flores , Josh Ramirez and Me

It occurred to me that I remember when everyone in it was born (except me) and I was very happy today seeing what fine people they had grown up to be.

My four wonderful children are doing wonderfully well at the moment so people ask me for advice. To quote Shayna Baszler,

I will not share with you the answers that I have not got.

I asked Jake (Justin's dad) what he thought, and he said,

I tried my best. 

Which sounds a lot like Shayna's answer.

 Today, I was driving by a huge billboard advertising Special Olympics and I thought to myself,

I'm so achievement-oriented, I don't think I would be a good parent for a child with a disability.

It was several miles down the road before it occurred to me that I had one child who had epilepsy and another who had developmental delays and required years of speech therapy. Never for one second did I consider either of them to have a disability. I just wasn't having it.  This makes it sound like I thought things through, but not really.

 It just never occurred to me that my children were anything short of amazing in every way. That is one thing that I know Justin's parents, Josh's parents and I did have in common.

If you think all parents think that way, I can assure you that they do not.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My bullshit per day ratio has been exceeded

This past week, I have heard more lies and supreme hypocrisy than any time in my life. My bullshit per day ratio has set a personal record.

I don't even know where to begin. There are those people who try to rewrite history,

"Oh, it really wasn't that bad. We got along okay."

This happens particularly if you are successful. A good friend of mine told me that since he has done well, there are lots of people coming up to him saying,

"You remember the good old days when we all did judo?"

and his response is,

"You mean back when I was young and you were a complete dick to me? Yeah, I remember it."

(You can tell there is a reason he is a good friend.)

Related to that are the people who want to forget history.

"Let's not get all up in who lied, cheated, stole or stabbed who in the eye. Aren't we big enough people to overlook it?"

Notice that it's always the lying, cheating, stealing, stabber who says that and never the stabbed.

The answer, as a lovely person said tonight is,

"Gee, I would have come over there and pissed on you when you were on fire, but I was running late to a meeting."

Along the lines of people who want to pretend they aren't a waste of oxygen are those who see their "friends" being treated badly and don't say a word or lift a finger. I brought this up to someone today who said, very self-righteously,

"Well, I try never to get involved in politics."

I said,

"Oh no, you're not getting out of this with me. This wasn't a discussion of the fucking federal trade deficit. This was someone being abused and you didn't do a thing!"

As an old friend was fond of saying,

"Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, honey."

I'm not going to ask the people who are lying, cowardly assholes to own it and just admit that they are taking advantage of people or pretending to be a friend. I'm pretty certain that people like that are trying to convince themselves that they are worth the $3,000 they charged you to take your cat to the vet, "Because it could have died if it didn't get its shots and I know you love that cat. "

The best comment I heard recently, about someone whose relative had abused his trust,

"Just because we don't say anything doesn't mean we don't know."

Sometimes, if you think you are getting away with something, it is only because they are waiting for the right time to bring the hammer down.

I have always truly believed that people get what they deserve in the end. That should make some of you feel comforted and others very afraid.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Other Side of Bullying

When the subject of bullying comes up, I often hear people urging,

 "Teach your child to stand up for himself. Have him kick that bully right in the nuts so he can never reproduce little bullying clones of himself!"

and they think I will agree with them, which I only partially do.Yes, it is good to teach your child to defend him or herself, although it may be a little harsh when you are advocating playground castration of second-graders.

There are two other aspects to reducing bullying, though. Here is one important one - Teach your kids not to be little assholes. Those bullies belong to somebody and that somebody is probably thinking, "Not my kid."

 Have "The Talk" with your children

I don't mean talking about sex (though you should probably do that, too) but talking about bullies and "mean girls" at school. When I would see Disney channel shows where the hero / heroine is left out or picked on by the popular kids, I would launch into what Jennifer calls "Mom Lecture #734" where I would say,

 "See those kids with the flashy cars and the blonde hair, that just pushed that kid down and everyone laughed? Those kids are little assholes. They think they are all cool but they'll probably end up working at the gas station after their divorce while that kid they are picking on will be president of Shell Oil or win the Nobel prize for medicine." 

 Julia made the mistake of buying a shirt that said, "You can't sit with us." 

 I went into full mom rant mode about how I hated that attitude and I could not stand those girls who told other people they couldn't sit with them. Who the fuck did they think they were, anyway? What the hell kind of person is mean to other people for no reason? Finally, Julia said,

"Mom, calm down. I know how you feel about mean girls and I'm not on the Disney channel. It's just a shirt they sold in the Promenade." 

 I think it "accidentally" got ruined in the dryer the next week. What a shame.

Here is the second part of reducing bullying - teach your child to stand up for other people as well as him or herself Again, don't raise a selfish little cowardly asshole who thinks,

 "As long as no one is picking on me, it's okay. Every man for himself!" 

 Why should your child stand up for other kids? Because it's right. It's kind. Teach your child to be kinder than necessary, to be a person who is strong but not mean. Not only will there be less bullying, but you will have a good kid. What about those "other kids" who don't learn to stand up to bullies? They are their parents' problem, but if you raise your kid to be a decent human being, their parents will have fewer problems and so will you.

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Joys of Air Travel with Snorey Bob

Last week, which was the last time I had a free minute, I gave the bonus tip that it helps you sleep if before bed you start counting the things you have for which to be grateful.

My lovely niece, Samantha, has pointed out to me that people do not appreciate the amazing world in which we live. Everyone gets off a plane and complains how miserable it was after FLYING ACROSS THE CONTINENT THROUGH THE SKY.  If you think about it for a minute, that's some serious Harry-Potter shit there. I mean, if you were actually on a broom I'll bet it would be a lot less comfortable than sitting in row 34F , what with the wind and all, and you probably wouldn't be going in excess of 350 miles an hour.

Yes, but ....

Let me tell you about Snorey Bob.

I was on the plane, planning to go to sleep on the flight, but the noise from the prop engine was keeping me up. We get up in the air, and the noise stops, which is a little disturbing. Then, it starts up again. Thinking that's weird, I turn around to the direction of the noise and realize it is a guy a few rows behind me on the other side of the plane. Some unfortunate young woman is sitting next to this guy. Deciding to make the best of a bad situation, she puts her headphones on and I can only guess cranks her music up to maximum volume.

I am watching this because I cannot imagine what it is like to have to sit right next to this noise. I'm trying to give Snorey Bob the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he is one of those people who has a fear of flying so got shit-faced drunk before getting on the plane.

Fortunately for her, he wakes up after a while. Not so fortunately, he starts coughing - and coughs his spittle all over her and the tray table in front of her.

She doesn't smack him. In a display of the world's greatest manners, she pretends to not even notice!

When I fall asleep eventually, one of the first reasons I was grateful was because I was not sitting next to Snorey Bob.

Finally, the plane lands and we are sitting on the runway for half an hour for no reason I can fathom other than that this seems to be the thing with planes these days. Someone's phone starts ringing - and ringing - and ringing.  I assume, as does everyone around me, I think, that someone left their phone in their luggage in the overhead compartment. Still, we are sitting on the tarmac with no apparent intent to move the plane any time soon and the foghorn blaring sound is getting old. You would think whoever it belongs to would consider getting up, opening the luggage compartment and silencing their phone. I am surprised it doesn't go to voice mail or the caller doesn't give up, but no.

After over 10 minutes has passed, Miss Manners politely turns to Snorey Bob and says,

"I think your phone is ringing."

At which point, with a look of wonderment, he reaches into his pocket and learns that - he has a phone! And it is ringing! I can only assume it is his wife and she is not hanging up until he answers so that she can tell him that she is divorcing him because, seriously, what the fuck?

He probably assumes so, too, because he hangs it up, without answering. At which point it starts ringing again.

And THAT, my dear Samantha, is one of many reasons that people hate flying. It is nowhere near as cool as it sounds.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

More Advice on Life: Enjoy it While It Happens

"Advice # 4: Appreciate how great life really is."

Most of us, if we have 99 things go right will be focused on the one that went wrong. Maybe that is a good way to make sure we don't leave sponges inside patients while doing surgery (hey, I got 99 of 'em, what do you want, perfection?) Still, we could all do with a little more stopping and thinking how amazing life is instead of grumbling over the small stuff.

Today, I was really irritated because I had to fill out some very lengthy forms. I had to fill these out because my company received a $100,000 grant to develop a prototype of a game to teach statistics to children who are limited in English proficiency. I'm super excited about the project and the people I will be working with. It's a project I wanted to do for a long time and now I finally get to do it. Yet, I caught myself being all bent out of shape because I had to fill out a form. How dumb is that?

Someone made the brilliant comment the other day,

The human race would be a lot happier if people didn't forget so quickly all the good things that happen to them.

Too often, we overlook the many good things that are happening all around us because the waiter is too slow bringing our beer while we are having a drink with good friends watching the sun set over the bay.

Because I'm feeling extra blog-generous at the moment, here is a bonus advice:

"Advice # 5: When you go to bed at night, try to count 100 things in your life that are great and that make you grateful."

If you have trouble going to sleep at night, it's a good bet thinking about all of the good in your life will relax you and you will never get to 100 before you fall asleep. Don't tell me you don't have 100 because that means you ignored advice #4.

Good things don't have to be winning the lottery, having a book on the New York Times best seller list. It can be having enough food in your refrigerator, living in a place with good weather, having a nice comfortable bed with clean sheets on it, having a job to go to in the morning, someone who brings you coffee in bed, living in a time in history when women get to vote, we've gotten rid of slavery and invented the internet.

Right now, I'd go to bed but I'm on a plane headed to Washington.

I'm flying through the sky, using a computer that connects to the Internet through a signal beamed down to earth. How cool is that?

I spent all Saturday in Beverly Hills at a training session on 3D Game Development sponsored by Microsoft (thank you Microsoft, you don't suck nearly as much as I had originally believed). I'm going to be in Washington for three days learning about research done by small businesses around the country. Before that, though, I'm going to take a nap, hit the gym and then analyze the data to see how people who played our games last year improved their math skills.  I like data analysis so that is one of the things that make me grateful. See how easy that is?

And the flight attendant is bringing me coffee, for which I am immensely grateful!


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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Advice on Life #2 (and # 3)

Yesterday I gave you my Advice #1 on Life, Let Go of the Past

Many people can't let go of the past because they feel that there should be JUSTICE, DAMN IT! This almost always boils down to them wanting someone else to be different in some way.

"Advice # 2: Don't let your happiness be determined by other people."

They want their dad who was an alcoholic, their spouse who filed for divorce, the parent who left - to pay, to feel just as bad, it's only FAIR!

It reminds me of a line from Labyrinth, where the girl says

"That's not fair!"

and the Goblin King answers, 

"You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?" 
To take another line from Labyrinth, how she defeats the Goblin King at the end is to tell him,

"You have no power over me!"

As long as you continue to be concerned whether someone feels sorry for what they did, misses you, comes crawling back or whatever you think it would take, you're giving people from your past power over your present.

Am I suggesting that you just "let them get away with it"? After you've filed charges, filed for divorce, moved to Canada or whatever to dispose of the situation, I am suggesting you move on with the confidence that they already aren't getting away with it.  As my friend, Serge, pointed out,

Those people already have the worst punishment that there is - they have to wake up in the morning and be them.

There are some people in life who have treated me pretty badly, and if tomorrow morning, I woke up as one of them instead of me, you could hear me screaming all the way to New Jersey (which is not in Canada, FYI),

"NO-O-O-O !"

If you don't feel that way, then it's time for you to change your life. I have always strongly felt

"Advice # 3: Success is the best revenge."

It will probably grate on the people who openly or secretly wish you ill that you are having a great life. They'll wish they hadn't been such jerks to you back in the day so you would hang out with them now. Even if they don't think about you at all, you're still having a great life. There is no downside to this strategy.


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Advice #1 On Life

Like Alice, of Wonderland fame, I sometimes find it necessary to give myself good advice.

A few weeks ago, I attended a training session for community volunteers on the Fort Berthold Reservation. There was a lot of good advice administered that I should take to heart more, including this:

"Advice # 1: The past is in the past. That's why they call it that."

You cannot go back and have a happy childhood. Maybe someone hurt you, didn't sufficiently appreciate you, bullied you. Maybe YOU were the hurtful, unappreciative, bullying person. You had a boss that was a jerk, a teacher that treated you unfairly. You got drunk and did something stupid - for seven years straight!

Whatever it is, there are three possibilities.
  • You realized you did wrong and were man enough or woman enough to apologize and try to make it right, if possible. You bought a new birthday cake to replace the one you threw up on, told the kid from band camp that you really don't think he looks like a salamander.
  • The person who did you wrong tried honestly to make it right.
  •  You got the hell out and never saw the people in that hick town again, the person died before you could make it up to them or for any other reason nobody made it up to anyone.

Here's the important thing, whichever of those three things happen -and in most cases, it's the third one - MOVE ON.

When I had three small children, my husband died. Having a spouse die, especially when you have a young family, is just about the worst scenario that can be imagined.

A few months after Ron died, I met a woman at a conference and some how we got to talking about being widowed, about not wanting to change houses or jobs right away, the difficulty of adjusting. I asked her how long ago her husband had died and she said,

"Thirty years ago."

Whether twenty years ago you were widowed, abused, the prom queen or in a major motion picture, the past is in the past, you can't live there, no matter how grand or awful it was.

Take the lessons learned and you'll go into the future with more bravery and wisdom than you had in your past.