Saturday, July 21, 2018

Don’t turn a bad five minutes into a bad day

Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Albert Bandura. He is the most famous living psychologist and for good reason . If you’ve ever talked about a sports or entertainment figure being a bad role model, you’re referring to Bandura, whether you know it or not.

He said that the happiest people have “an absence of self-ruminative thoughts”. Unhappy people, on the other hand, are constantly thinking over and over of how they look, that the guy at the coffee shop called the person in front of them ‘sir’ but just said to them,’here you go, guys’.

If you’re more the podcast type, you can hear Eva and I discuss mango popsicles and the secrets to happiness on the More Than Ordinary podcast. We’re back with a new co-host.

Somehow, I gradually slipped into the habit of being really bad about this. I would have a meeting where I completely disagreed with some policy and be mad all day about it. I’d be walking through the park and instead of noticing all of the really beautiful and interesting sights, I'd be ruminating about how unfair it was that my travel expenses did not get approved because I did not keep my boarding pass to show I actually went (really, dude?).

Solve two problems at once. Quit thinking and do something

I read something on instagram (yes, really) that snapped me out of it. I can't remember if it was Louis Velasquez or Alejandro Peraza, they both post a lot of interesting stuff, anyway, (whichever) he said,

Don't turn a bad five minutes into a bad day

I realized that's what I was doing. I would get notified we received a grant, we'd have a new game published in the app store and Google Play, we'd have another school district adopt our games and I'd be thinking all day about that expense reimbursement that got declined instead of doing the happy dance because business was going so great.

Here's what else I realized, I was ruminating about those things that made me unhappy instead of doing something about them.

Do you feel as if someone is continually dismissing your ideas and treating you as if you are a moron because you are a woman/ young/ black/ Hispanic / whatever ? Don't work with that person any more. Seriously. There are billions of people on this planet. Don't work with people who ruin your day every day. That's just silly. Find a new lawyer/ accountant/ agent. (Note to gossip-mongers: This is just an example. I like my lawyer and accountant fine and I don't have an agent.)

Decide and move on

There are two decisions you can make. One is that this behavior is unacceptable and you need to take action to stop it. Then, you do. Many times, I've found the paperwork  required to get funds for a grant or contract, whether for judo or my business, takes so much time that if I just did consulting work and billed for those hours, I'd come out ahead financially and could spend the money however I wanted. If you are continually mad about how your time is being wasted, stop and think about it in terms of how you could address that.

The second decision you can make is that it is not worth getting too upset about. Some family member I was talking to on the phone cut me off and said, "I have to go", like they had more important things to do than talk to me. Maybe they did. Honestly, I just called to check in to let them know I was thinking about them and, mission accomplished, so on with my day.




Sunday, July 15, 2018

Yes, You DO Have Time for It

There are several things in my life I don’t feel as if I have enough time to do:
  • Learning more about programming
  • Improving my Spanish
  • Hiking
  • Strategic planning for our company rather than putting out the latest fire
  • Teaching judo
  • Keeping up with people - answering email, returning phone calls, just checking in
  • Data analysis and research

I’ll bet you have your own list. There might be some times, temporarily, when you have to put everything else on hold, but be careful of letting it become your lifestyle.

My guess is, if you are reading this blog, you and I may have a little bit in common. Speaking for myself, one of the tendencies I have is to go all in. That can be good. It led to a world championships, a Ph.D., a published book, a few companies founded. That can also be a bad thing.

I’m not one of those people who hate on Facebook. In fact, my friends’ list is regularly curated so I only see what I want, which is how my friends and family are doing and people who post interesting (to me) stuff. I admire those people who manage to always have time for their family and hobbies while simultaneously holding down a job that supports said families and hobbies .

However, I’m not talking about those people, I’m talking about me and the last few months have been simultaneously a disaster and an amazing success. The success part is that we hit a lot of deadlines with very good results for our company. I pitched at 3 Ed Tech events, including 2 in Spanish, which takes me seven times as long to write and practice because it’s my second language.

Me, at my day job

 I  did three presentations in Spanish, two live and one streamed to over 7,000 people. One of those live presentations was hosted by a ‘district’ seven hours south of Santiago, where I also visited two schools and discussed our latest games. I could go on, but you get the idea.

No greater success than seeing kids' interest in our games

Have you ever been like that? You have so much going on with your job or your sport that you exclude everything else?

Well, stop it. Like so many things else in life, my base in judo is helpful here. I won a whole bunch of gold medals while going to college, going to graduate school and working full time as an engineer. I also had a baby/ toddler the last two years. So, I know from personal experience you don’t have to spend 100% of your time on one goal to be a success. Maybe you do TEMPORARILY, like the two months leave I took from my job to compete and train in Europe and focus on my training in the US. However, if that two months turns into six,  you might want to start questioning how temporary this is.

So, what’s my answer? Well, you are reading it. Those deadlines I had to meet were really important but one thing I have finally managed to understand is that not everything is equally important. Event at U.S. Embassy with 20 very knowledgeable people on education in Chile - extremely important and can’t be put off.  Someone want to meet with me and talk about using our software in our schools on Monday - if they called me Friday afternoon, I DON’T have to spend all weekend preparing for it. In fact, if they are the kind of person who thinks I should jump at the opportunity to meet them at the last minute, maybe I don’t want to work with them.

(Proof I take my own advice, I'm back to doing the More Than Ordinary podcast with a new co-host)

Here’s a key point ... you’re making yourself crazy

Most likely, if I tell that Head of School, “Could we meet the next week instead? Here are three times that work for me, are you available any of those?”  They will be perfectly willing to meet with me later. They just threw out the first time that was available. (Go back and read my other post on not giving it more attention than it deserves.)

Now that I’ve gotten through the immutable deadlines, that’s what I’m doing. Because I’m me, it would be easy to get back into the same rat race of waking up, taking 10 minutes to shower, dress and dash out the door, a frantic day of meetings, then more work until I fall into bed, drink a glass of wine while reading my email and go to sleep exhausted.

What I have decided NOT to do is go back to this schedule by trying to do everything every day.

What I have been doing is started working on a couple of items on my list every day. In the morning, I just work on learning more Spanish or programming , sometimes both. That’s what I do the first hour that I’m up. More, if it’s a weekend . I started going to bed earlier,getting up an hour earlier and doing what I most wanted to catch up on first.

I turned the international plan back on for my phone and I’ve started calling a couple off people a day just to catch up.

One of those calls was to James Wall who mentioned the JudoCon in Kansas City, November 2nd and 3rd. I had thought of presenting at that and concluded I could not spend an extra week or so in the U.S. Again, it occurred to me, hey, if the people I am working with can’t accept that I’m going to be gone a few extra days, perhaps those aren’t the right people to be working with. I mean, it’s not as if I’m a slacker.

So, yeah, I’ll be in Kansas City in November, head home to southern Cal in time to vote and then, most likely, head back to Chile after doing my civic duty.

There’s your answer then - make the time. Start work an hour later. Take a vacation . The people around you most likely will be totally fine with that. If not, find new people .

AzTech: The Story Begins - Mr. Gonzalez history class loses an average of 2 students per year. What happens to them?  Find the answer while learning fractions, statistics and Latin American history .

If you play on an iPad, leave us a review on the app store. However you play, feel free to send me your comments/ suggestions at annmaria.demars at

Friday, July 13, 2018

I Need to Take My Own Advice, Or Stupid Things I Do and Maybe You Do, Too

Like Alice in Wonderland, I often give myself good advice but very seldom follow it. I've decided to get back to blogging and make this into a series: advice of my own I should take. Who says you can only make resolutions on New Year's? No one asked me about those rules.

I've decided to make July resolutions that will lead to me being happier, and you, too, if you follow along.

Don't give it more attention than it deserves.

I stole this line from Gary Butts and it's very good advice. Do you ever catch yourself worrying about something over and over? There was a misspelled word on my slide in that presentation. That person corrected me in a meeting and,  in fact, their correction was wrong, how disrespectful!

I left my keys in the office and had to go back for them. Is that an early sign of Alzheimer's?  I am getting old, after all.

The fact is that even things that seem SUPER-IMPORTANT at the time really aren't that big of a deal in the overall scheme of things. I like Facebook for seeing what kids I knew when they were in judo are doing now. That kid who was just devastated not to win the junior nationals at age11 and beat herself/ himself up about it is now a speech pathologist, married, with two kids and just bought a house. Really, was it that important that you got caught by a foot sweep?

I know I am a big hypocrite because I was always upset when I lost. Even today, if a sale to a school district doesn't go through or we don't get a grant funded or an investor decides to take a pass on us, I feel like a big failure. It's silly, I know, but I'm working on it.

At the end of the day - there's another day, because that's how time works.

There's a really big world out there
I've always been kind of like this my whole life, blowing things out of proportion. I think it comes from wanting to do everything perfectly, which sounds good on the surface but no one is perfect and trying to be is the key to always feeling like a failure.

When I look at people I know who are usually happy, they all have this in common
... they don't get upset by things that aren't all that important. For example, I went to pay the notary -everything in Chile requires a notary and you have to pay in cash ( - if you are interested in my life in Chile, check out the Start-up Diaries over on the 7 Generation Games site) and she said my 20,000 peso bill was fake. I tried to give her another and she said that was fake, too. If you don't have the Chilean peso exchange rate memorized it's about 20,000 pesos = $67.  I was pretty pissed off.  I had gotten that money from the ATM at the bank and you'd think that wouldn't give you fake money.

I thought of some of the happiest people I know, and channeled my inner Alice, asking:

"Is $68 really going to cause you to go bankrupt? Is it worth ruining your day over?"

The answer was,


I went to Santa Lucia Park, ate fresh strawberries I bought from a fruit stand on the street and wrote this blog sitting next to this giant piece of pre-Columbian art

Here are my next four or five posts in this series, coming up  (I say four  or five because I'll probably end up putting a couple together....
  1. Your success in life and value as a human being are not decided on just one day (no, not even if it's the world championships or Olympics - maybe especially not then, since you must have done a hell of a lot to get to that point. )
  2. Don't talk about other people. In fact, don't even think gossip about other people
  3. You decide how happy you are
  4. The secret to happiness: The absence of self-ruminative thoughts. 
  5. Yes, you do so have time for it (see, that's why I'm back to writing this blog).
  6. The other secret to  happiness: Focus on the good
  7. Yet another secret to happiness: You don't need to be perfect and you don't have to know everything (yes, really)
Like this blog? Help a sister out by playing AzTech: The Story Begins . It's free!
You can play it on your iPad or on the web on your computer.

Email  and let me know what you think.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Everybody should have a "What If" bag

This weekend, I was debating whether I should rent a car and head out to Valparaiso, on the coast of Chile. There were a lot of  "What If's" that ran through my mind.

  • What if I get in an accident? My car insurance doesn't apply in Chile.
  • What if I don't know where I'm going and get lost?
  • What if they don't understand me at the rental car office? My Spanish could be better.
  • What if I get tired and don't want to drive back?
  • What if I don't find anywhere to park the car near my apartment?
  • What if  don't have anyone wants to go with me?
  • What if I don't  drive as well? I haven't driven a car in 4 months.
  • What if I don't get enough work done and fall behind schedule? 

Since you are reading this, you may have guessed I did not die in a fiery crash. Also, I went to Valparaiso.  It looked like this:

I also went to Viña del Mar, which I liked better, it looked like this:

And I stopped to go for a hike twice on the way there, it looked like this:

And this:

Here is a secret to life that I am passing on to you- have a "what if" bag.  I was at the Arnold Classic in March when Ronda got inducted into the sports hall of fame and one of the many bits of swag they gave out was a string back pack.

When Ronda was here, she forgot many things (if you know her, this does not surprise you at at all), including a small bag for - I don't know, for small things.

My What If Bag

These two comprise my "What if" bag.  What if I DO go and what if I DO decide I want to stay in Viña del Mar over night?

Have a "What if I DO" bag. Throw in a toothbrush, a change of clothes and a phone charger. There's really not much you need.

When I checked into the hotel - which I had booked on my travelocity app when stopped at a light two blocks away  - the desk clerk asked,

"Is this really all you have for luggage?"

I told him,

"Yes. I wasn't sure if I was coming, but now here I am."

We both laughed and the bell hop insisted on carrying my "What If" bag to my room.


What if you wanted children to learn math, history and English all at the same time?  Making Camp Bilingual will teach you about Ojibwe history and culture, refresh your math skills, increase your vocabulary and improve your Spanish. All for $1.99. How could you NOT check it out?


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Miracle Kim, Chile's Boxing Marvel: And you thought you were tough

Chilean Boxing’s Small Miracle

Next time you think you’re a bad ass, ask yourself if you’d compete in a gym that doesn’t have heat. It was 50 degrees outside but it was a damp night and felt a lot colder. I asked the photographer from the local TV station why they didn’t turn the heat on and she said,

“This is a poor area. The gym doesn’t have heat.”

Oh, by the way, there are 14 matches and the last one is Miracle Kim Sandoval, the one I came to see.

I was in Concepcion this month at a conference on women defying stereotypes. Since I’m president of a company that makes applications to teach math and English, I was mostly interested in the talks by women in technology, science and entrepreneurship. However, there was a 16-year-old speaker, Kim Sandoval, who is the women’s boxing champion of Chile and a silver medalist in the South American championships.

It turned out that Ronda was one of her role models in getting into combat sports, and Kim lives in Santiago, so of course we had to have lunch when Ronda was in town last week.

Kim La Pequena Maravilla Sandoval , or as Ronda nicknamed her “Miracle Kim” because she’s a small miracle is super popular in her community. How popular?

When she was the headliner at an event in a local gym that went past midnight in one of the worst urban neighborhoods in Chile  every single person stays, despite the lack of heat.

Kim’s mom, Jacquelyn, has organized this event. The family has very little money and from what I overheard, they get very little backing from the boxing federation. When I asked someone in the crowd why that was, he shrugged and said they don’t like her mother because she advocates for Kim, speaks out when she feels the athletes are not getting adequate support, and that old guys running the sport don’t like a woman that speaks up. Boy, did that sound familiar!

The event was a bit of a small miracle in itself. I’ve seen amateur boxing matches in Los Angeles and North Dakota. You know how it is, you go watch things your friends’ kids or in or that your friends are coaching. Payback for the many friends I have dragged to judo tournaments. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’d say the level of boxing overall was similar to what I’d seen in tournaments in the U.S. As with any event, some boxers were noticeably better than others. Nobody was seriously injured and a lot of young boxers got experience.  Except for the lack of heat and the lights going out at one point, and staying out until, I presume someone found a circuit breaker, it was a good event. Organized and well-run. It seemed to be put on by the people in the community with just about zero official support except for a couple of referees and a couple of police officers there for security .

I could totally relate to Kim’s mom’s realization that her daughter needed something, in this case more competition, and just creating it out of thin air.

Still, this kid is only 16 years old, her opponent is 28 and teaches boxing. 2 hours before her fight, in a freezing gym, Kim is hanging around the one, tiny  propane camp heater someone brought, and talking with her friends. She goes over to encourage a friend who lost his match.

At first, I’m not sure if she is not taking this fight seriously enough or if she is doing the exactly right thing. Like I always told Ronda, you see these people warming up all day at judo tournaments and their first fight isn’t for 6 hours. By the time it comes up, they are exhausted. The smart thing is to relax an start getting ready 30-45 minutes before you come up.

Sure enough, 45 minutes before her fight, Kim heads to the locker room. When she comes out, for her match, it is clear who the fan favorite is. I’ve never seen her box.

Well, I know very little about boxing but 3 rounds later, it’s clear who the winner is. After tearing into her opponent and winning a unanimous decision, Miracle Kim insists that Jacquelyn join her in the ring and the whole crowd joins her in singing her mom happy birthday.

Mark my word, watch this kid. She’s coming for you, training there in your fancy gym with that pansy ass shit like heat and lights that work.

If you'd like to see some video from her fight, scroll down


When I’m not at boxing matches, I’m making games.

Check out Aztech: The Story Begins .

Random fact: We made this bilingual game to teach math in classrooms where kids might speak English or Spanish but about 10% of people say they play it to improve their Spanish. Play it on the web or download it for your iPad from the App Store.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Why I have no intention of being nicer

Imagine this situation:

A guy, lets call him Bob, is doing business with someone and they make a mistake that costs him significant money or inconvenience. They incorrectly charge his debt card by a huge amount making his bank account overdrawn, the travel office in his company forgets to book his ticket so he's standing at the airport counter with no seat to that conference in Paris because the flight is sold out. The person who made the mistake says they are sorry, but there is nothing they can do to correct the problem. After all, what can they do?

Should Bob:

A. Accept their apology. The person is sorry. Everyone makes mistakes.
B. Say, "Fuck that. I am not paying for your mistake. Your company is going to fix this."
C. 'Ask nicely' is not an option because he already tried that and we are back to A or B

Or, try this one.

Bob, who is apparently having a really bad day, is standing in line in a dark theater waiting to go see the latest blockbuster. The guy in line behind him starts rubbing up against him, clearly excited to see him, if you know what I mean, and I am sure you do. Bob turns around and says, "Hey!" Pervert Pete says, "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you'd be into it."

Should Bob:
A. Accept his apology. After all, some people would be into it. An honest mistake.
B. Say, "What the fuck? Do that again and I'll punch you in your fucking face!"
C. 'Tell him firmly but politely' is not an option because he already tried that. Choose again.

Do you have your answers ready? If you wouldn't mind, I'd really appreciate it if you post in the comments if your FIRST response was A, B or C. You can do it anonymously, if you want. All comments are moderated, so they won't show up right away.

Now here is the second part and this takes more honesty than most people have, seriously. 

Think about if the situations involved Mary Lou instead of Bob. Would you have had the same response? Most people would say yes but virtually all research says no, you wouldn't. Here is a discussion of one study finding "men's anger works for them but women's anger works against them'". There are literally hundreds of such studies. If you are interested in finding more, I trust you have access to a search engine since you are reading this.

I have never aspired to be a nice woman. 

I have tried to be a good person, a fair person, a kind person but nice has never been on my list. I'll tell you why ...

Nice women get screwed over.

Recently, I was in a similar situation as Bob and I said, 

Fuck that! I'm not accepting your apology. You need to do something.
The situation was resolved and later I was told that I should have handled it nicely. I disagree. Initially, the suggestion was maybe it wasn't a big deal, like I could get to the conference a day late and so what if I missed meetings with customers.

Women get that a lot when they object to being mistreated.

"What's the big deal?"

I have seen this happen over and over. Whether it is a promotion, an upgrade to first class, the opportunity to speak at an event or an executive who sends you a picture of his dick, 

Yes, I understand you being unhappy, but you could be nicer.

Let me make this clear:

I am NOT "unhappy", I am fucking pissed and I have every right in the world to be.

Really the only reason I refuse to be nicer is that I strongly believe in being the change you want to see in the world and modeling that for my children and grandchildren. Very often, it is suggested to women, but not men, that they should overlook mistreatment, from sexual harassment to abysmal service, and, particularly, they should overlook unfair treatment in favor of men.

When I was a kid, my mom told me a story about how a girl in her high school class got the most votes for class president but the nun who was running the election announced that the boy who got the second-most votes would be president because it would help him get into college and that girl didn't need to be class president. My mom said no one spoke up because, "What good would it do?"

In my life, it has been suggested to me that I give up raises, promotions, offices to a man who 'needed it more' for either his family or his ego. It has been suggested that I should let bygones be bygones with people who have been blatantly dishonest in deals because "we need to get along" or "you don't want to get a bad reputation."

In short, throughout my pretty long life, over and over, I have seen "Be nice" said to girls as code for "Let me take advantage of you."

I'm not fucking having it.

And neither should you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Answers to Random Questions on My Life

I've gotten asked the same questions a lot lately so I thought I'd answer several of them while waiting for my flight.

You're living in Chile, the country?

Why do people ask me that so often? Is there some city - like Chile, Nebraska - of which I was previously unaware? Yes, I'm in Santiago. You can read about my adventures on the 7 Generation Games blog, including doing business in my second language.

Why weren't you at Wrestlemania?

I missed watching Ronda's Wrestlemania debut live because I was at a software conference (SAS Global Forum) that had asked me to speak months in advance. Dennis got a WWE pass that let us watch it on the computer, so I did that and skipped most of the opening session of the conference.

You can watch the video of me talking about non-traditional career paths here, and boy has mine been non-traditional!

I did skip this conference once, when Ronda qualified for her first Olympic Trials as a teenager. I was co-presenter on a paper but my co-author volunteered to give the paper so I didn't need to attend.

 A few people asked me if I had considered skipping it this time but that's not my style. If I say I'll do something, I don't mean, "Unless a better offer comes along." Also, let's be honest, if I flew back to the U.S. from Santiago every time Ronda did something amazing, I'd be pretty broke pretty fast. I already came back for 2 days to see her get inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame and get her sixth-degree black belt last month.

If I'd gone to New Orleans, I would have never met this bear

What happened to the parenting book?

I did the first crack at it and Maria did the rest.  It's free, for a limited time, and should be out in a week or two. Follow that link and read it carefully or you may end up with a picture of dirt instead and then don't say I didn't warn you. Maria has been crazy busy, flying to Trinidad, repping the family support at Wrestlemania in New Orleans, getting our Strong Body Strong Mind campaign going and so the book has been taking a while longer.

Starting a new company in a new country in a new language sounds crazy, do you really like that?

When I told my sister I had gotten selected for Start-up Chile she said,

"If you're happy, then I'm happy for you, but leaving my house, moving to the other side of the world, starting all over again in a new language sounds like my definition of hell."

A woman I met at the conference, who is from Rumania commented that people who relocate have a different attitude toward change. I think that must be so, because I am finding life pretty good. More of my time than I'd like has been taken up with organizational and legal stuff - incorporating the company, interviewing, writing contracts - and all of it being in a second language has taken me twice as long. Overall, though, life is good, and I even managed to knock out a good bit of code for our next game while sitting in the airport.

Have you done any judo in Chile?

Nope. Honestly, many days have been me getting up to go to my first meeting then answering a few emails before rushing to the next meeting and finally getting time to eat "breakfast" around 5 o'clock. Just when things were starting to settle down a little, I caught a plane to Denver. Okay, now my flight to Panama is boarding.

So, until next time, check out AzTech: The Story Begins because believe me, being bilingual has a lot to recommend it. You can play in English and learn math and history if that is more your line.