Sunday, February 10, 2019

Do what you can. Life lesson 1,012 learned from judo

World judo champions are a small club and I don’t fit in. Let's look at what some other world champions did post-competition

  • Mike Swain - owns a company that sells mats
  • Jimmy Pedro, Jr. - sells mats and runs a judo club
  • Kayla Harrison - competes in mixed martial arts
  • Yamashita - something judo with the IJF

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m so not in with the cool crowd that I have no idea who won medals or what most of them are doing. Travis Stevens got a silver in the Olympics (I think) and now does judo and jiu jitsu clinics. Some guy in Canada got a silver medal a while back, I only remember he was nice because - Canadian  - and I think he does something with their national sports program.

Then there is me. After the world championships I went off to get a Ph.D. , specializing in Applied Statistics and Psychometrics. I’ve founded four companies and spent most of my days writing software, meeting with investors and potential customers, writing budgets or writing up results of quasi-experimental designs for grant reports or academic journals.

It’s not that I don’t like judo or think it’s a good thing for people to do but I’m pretty busy. You don’t see Bill Gates out on the mat, now do you? (No, I’m not Bill Gates but I’d kind of like to be, except I’d like to not be a guy and keep my kids.)

 This IS my day job. Check out Making Camp Premium for your iPad/ iPhone  or Google Play or on the web. You’ll learn about the Ojibwe people, brush up on your math skills and other useful knowledge like synonyms and idioms. Get it for yourself, your kids or donate to a school to help other people’s kids.

I’ve gone from doing judo every day and twice a day on weekends to once a week and now only a few times in the last year. 

Occasionally, I’ll wonder for a moment if I wasted all those years. Maybe I would have been better off taking more computer science courses, learning more about algorithms, practicing not telling people to go fuck themselves if they pissed me off (still not one of my better skills). Perhaps I really WOULD be running a business the size of Microsoft if I’d put my energy into that instead.

Oh, and don’t start with the “Look what great friendships you made.” I only like a few of you people and I haven’t even talked to you guys recently because I’ve been in Chile and my phone was stolen. (Yes, I owe a lot of phone calls to people now that I just got back.)

When I think about it for more than sixty seconds, though, I always realize that there is a great deal more I learned from judo than how to transition into an arm bar. 


Some of this came about because I did NOT have the advantages that “kids these days” swear they need of just doing judo full time. Since I was working full-time during my competitive years, there were a lot of times I couldn’t be at the best judo club, or sometimes any judo club. I learned to do what I could.

  • Can’t get to practice? Get up and run sprints in the morning before work.
  • Can’t get to practice? Lift weights at the gym near my house.
  • No one near my size/ age to train with? Ask the guys at the Naval Training Center to run matwork drills on them over and over.
  • No one really interested in training seriously at the club? Ask each person if they’d mind taking 25 falls for in a line so I can get in 200 throws.
  • Injured my knee and can’t do standing technique? Do dumb bell curls and exercise to build up my hands and arms for gripping and chokes. Do sit-ups. Do matwork drills.

I don’t remember anyone ever specifically teaching me this. I think I just figured it out through necessity of wanting to win and being in a lot of situations that were suboptimal for making that happen.


I’m writing this on a flight from Santiago to Panama City, after which I have to sprint to catch my connecting flight to Los Angeles. I’ll be spending 19 hours in planes and airports, none of which have wifi. What would be the optimal thing to be doing right now? Working on the new game we have under development for which my part is behind schedule. Unfortunately, the first thing I’d need to do is pull the changes from the other developers on the team, which I cannot do because of the whole no wifi thing.

So, what am I doing? Well, other than this blog post (seriously, it didn’t take me 19 hours), I’m writing up several lesson plans for the new teachers’ site we’re creating to go with our games. To do that, I’m playing the games that have an offline version, taking screen shots and writing the lesson plans, so when I do get back to Internet connection land, I can slap in some links and boom! have three or four ready to go with an hour .

Before I left, I downloaded two books on Wordpress and one on virtual worlds on my iPad and packed a book on game design (yes, an actual book on paper) so I can read up on some areas that will help with the various projects I’m working on.

What I learned from judo is not only that winning is a habit but also that WORKING TOWARDS winning is a habit. Even if conditions are far from the best you could hope for, there is always something you can do to be pushing forward towards your goal if you just cut the woe is me crap, find it and do it.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

No, a stolen iPhone isn’t a brick: How thieves access your data

Maybe you’ve heard that a stolen iPhone is nothing more than a brick. Stop and read this. It may save you whole lot of grief and panic.
Perhaps you feel as if your data is safe.
  • You have a password and it’s not 123456.
  • You have find my iPhone.

Allow me to burst your bubble by telling you what happened to me and why it could have been WAY worse. Also, turn off Siri right ###ing now. If you cannot bear to part with it, turn it off when locked. Go to Settings , then Siri and Search. Turn off answering when locked.


On Thursday, when I got of the subway I noticed the side of my bag was unzipped. I didn’t see my phone but my credit card and money was still in the pocket so I didn’t think I was robbed. I just figured I’d thrown it in with my computer. When I got home, i emptied my bag and still couldn’t find it. I used find my iPhone and saw it was 7 miles away. So, I put it in lost mode.
Keep this mind, the thieves had my phone for an hour at most before I noticed and locked it.
After I contacted people from my office and made sure I hadn’t left it there,I erased it.


In the meantime , the thieves had gotten into my yahoo email and my Facebook  page. How did they do that?
Because when you get your phone and you don’t disable this, Siri will answer hi when your phone is locked. Say,
“Siri, what’s my phone number? Siri, what’s my email?”
.... and Siri will tell you.
So, now the thief has your phone, your phone number and your email. TURN OFF SIRI NOW!
I never would have thought the default setup would have such a huge security flaw.

It gets worse.

Now the thief goes to yahoo, enters your email and click “Forgot my password.” They have the reset sent to your phone and then they reset the password .  Guess what? The default is that messages show up on locked iPhones so they get the message and enter a new password. Now, they have your email and your password and your phone.
Next, they go to Facebook and log in using that email. They say that they have lost the password and have the password reset code sent to your iPhone or email they have stolen.
Now the thief has your email, Facebook, phone and phone number.
By this time, it had maybe been a few hours, I had figured out what they were doing ERASED  my iPhone using the Find my iPhone app, deleted the yahoo email from my Facebook and changed the phone number on my yahoo account .


This is where disaster really could have happened. So, I’m back in the office on Friday trying to do a million things plus reset my password on everything , handle things that come up every day with two companies in two countries and in one of my company accounts I get a message from “Find my iPhone “ . It looks legit . It says we’ve found your iPhone. It gives the model of iPhone , storage , how would a thief know that ? If you think about it , duh, they have my iPhone . But I’m thinking someone jacking iPhones on the subway certainly doesn’t have the skills to create something  this professional. So, I click on it.  Nothing happens. Thank God for my internet provider that strips out malicious code .

What this was supposed to have done was take me to a page that asked for my Apple ID and password to prove I was me. I might have done it, too. I’m staying with my ISP for life now.
After I switched phones,I got the same message in a text to my new phone number. I can only guess that either a) they were still logged in when I changed it or b) they searched for me on Google.

!!!!! These were not some gifted thieves. There are actually SERVICES that do this for them ! Want to get the Apple ID  and password of a person whose phone you’ve stolen? Send them all of the info you have and they will create the rack email and text messages !


They can (and did) swap that into another phone so not only can they use that phone to make calls and send text messages, charged to you, of course, they also will receive any calls, messages or FaceTime intended for you. If you have not disabled charging to your phone, they can charge any premium services to it and this will show up on your phone bill. When I thought of it two days later,Dennis disabled the account with ATT and he got a message that it was now disabled on a Huawei phone which is not sold in the US but very popular in Chile .


  • Obviously the Apple default is a huge security flaw. I should have disabled Siri as I never use it and also disabled messages showing on lock mode.
  • Ironically, I had the yahoo account on my Facebook account thinking it gave me EXTRA security. I hadn’t really used that account in years .
  • It was possible to reset my yahoo account from a phone, so if someone had my phone they could get access to my email.


  • I had a second email account that could NOT be reset from a phone. I used that to lock the thief out before they thought of removing it.
  • When I changed the password and phone associated with my email and Facebook I picked “Log me out of other devices” so if they were logged in somewhere else they couldn’t just change it back.
  • My phone does not allow purchases so even when someone had my SIM card they could not use it to buy anything. We turned this off with ATT years ago.
  • None of my bank information is written down anywhere ,  not passwords, accounts,  SSN, nothing . I memorized them. Logins for things like that Software I bought five years ago and the license are written down , or for that stupid forum on blogs. These are not used for anything important .
  • Any information that might be important is recorded like this:
  • Password- same as for that computer we used to have in the living room
  • Had an Internet service provider that stripped out the script on the phishing email and saved me from a huge mistake.
  • Called ATT to block the number so no one else could use the SIM card
  • My social media accounts are not connected. Getting into my Facebook doesn’t allow you access to my Instagram, Twitter or anything else. Whenever Facebook asks to connect to anything I say No.
  • There is very little information in my social media profiles and some of what has been put there automated by Facebook is wrong. So,if anyone was hoping to use the information they got for identity theft they are out of luck .


  • At the very least , this second, disable Siri when locked and turn off notifications when locked.
  • Turn off purchases from your phone.
  • Turn off resetting your password from a phone .
  • Disconnect social media accounts form each other so if someone has one account they don’t have all of them.

And for the love of God quit believing that bullshit that a stolen iPhone is no more than a brick!

Support my day job! 

Learn Native American history, math and English all at the same time. You can play it on your iPad, the web or on your phone (if it isn't stolen).

Friday, January 18, 2019

Producer #3 : The Ronda show all about Ronda and did I mention Ronda? Ronda!

When we left off our story I was writing from a plane flying TO Devils Lake and I had just concurred with producer number 2 that I was not involved in enough bar room brawls to make a reality TV show with him.

 Now I’m on a plane flying FROM Devils Lake. I have two things to say about North Dakota
1. The people are nice
2. It’s fucking cold.

Now that you know the two most important facts about North Dakota, on to the rest of the story.

When we met with Producer 3 we mentioned that the first producer was only interested if we could promise to have a lot of screaming fights, preferably where we ganged up on Ronda and brought up anything from her past that could be embarrassing. I jokingly said there was nothing embarrassing because all my children are perfect.

Producer 3 ,
“Ronda will be in the show, right?”

We said sure, our initial idea was to film in Tobago and she would come for a couple of weeks. She’d be in about one-fourth of the episodes. Ronda plays a lot of games and drops in from time to time with ideas for games. She occasionally sits in on a game design meeting. Of course she drops by my house or Maria’s a few times a month.

This is Tobago at night. It's a beautiful place

This is Tobago during the day. That is Julia. Not Ronda.

Producer 3,

“Can you get Ronda to teach judo or workout in the show?”

I said we’d have to ask but I didn’t see why not. Maybe we could film something at Gompers Middle School if they gave permission and if not, I have plenty of friends with judo clubs .

Producer 3 to software developer walking by, 

“What do you think about Ronda?”


 “I’ve only met her once in a game design meeting.”
“What kind of person do you think she is?”


 “I guess she’s nice. She brought us doughnuts.”


“I brought the doughnuts.”

Later ...

We find out that Producer 3 has told a network that Ronda will be in every show.

Me: “Why would you tell them that?”

P3: “I’m just spinning it. Everyone does that.”

Me: “You mean lie?”

P3: “I’m sure when the show gets picked up Ronda will want to be in every episode.”

He proceeds to tell us that no one is interested in a reality TV show without Ronda in it. Maria points out that is obviously not true because the only reality shows there are  on TV are ones without Ronda in them. There  are TWO shows about baking cupcakes and, because it’s apparently a separate genre , a third show about baking cakes! There are shows where people clean houses,  buy old stuff and bid on storage units. It’s hard to believe traveling all over North and South America making video games is less interesting.

So, we pass on Producer 3.

Games ARE interesting and can be really artistic- speaking of which , AzTech Games won best artwork at the ED Games expo.

You can get a sneak peak at the newest release of AzTech: Meet the Maya here before it is available to the public next week.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Reality TV Show Producer Number 2: How many bar room brawls do you have in an average month ?

Writing this on a flight to Denver and then changing to a little puddle jumper for Devils Lake , North Dakota where I will land at midnight. Surprisingly, all the rental cars in Devils Lake are reserved but the Spirit Lake Casino, like any casino I’ve ever heard of is open 24 hours a day so they are very kindly sending someone out to the airport to pick me up in the shuttle they use to bring employees to work.

After meeting with Producer #1 who said our family needs a few more addictions and dysfunctional relationships,  I had a talk with producer number two. He had two names, neither of which I remember so let’s just call him Bob-Bob . The business associate who connected me with Bob-Bob is a really straight up honest guy and also quite successful. He pretty much ordered him to give us the straight scoop and only work with us if he thought it would be beneficial,

Bob-Bob was hilarious. He’d worked on some shows you’ve probably heard of and he said, 

“My speciality in reality TV is drama. We put people in situations where drama is likely to happen and if it doesn’t we create it,”

I asked him how exactly he did he do that and he gave me an example from one of his shows.

“We brought these people together who really didn’t like each other - but nothing happened. So, we put them in our vans and drove them all to a bar. Still boring. So, we tipped the bartender to give them free drinks but still nothing was happening. Finally, we bribed the bar owner to keep the bar open after hours and after 2 or 3 am when we’d been plying them with free drinks for hours, some fights broke out and people calling each other names and bringing up some pretty awful stuff from ex-friends that we could use.”

I told him, 

“ You know, you aren’t making yourself look so good here, Bob-Bob .”

He laughed and said,

 “I’m just telling you the truth. It’s a living. The people on our shows, they don’t usually have much talent or education or connections. Yeah, maybe the show makes them look bad but it’s more money than they’d be making doing anything else and no one is making them do the show . I’d like to see a show about a functional family and successful people who like each other. I think if I pitched it to my network they’d say it was not our kind of show but I think other networks might pick it up.”

Bob-Bob and I had a nice conversation but we both agreed he wasn’t the type of producer we were looking for, although he had some great stories and I would totally invite him to a party.

As for the other networks he recommended, we never did get around to contacting them because we went through meetings with producers three, four , five and six and we are really busy running a company (you can read how awesome that is going here).

In fact, I have the opposite of an Instagram life, where people post pictures and make it look like their life is so amazing. Often I don’t post the awesome stuff going on, either because I’m just enjoying the moment , or I don’t want to impinge on people’s privacy or I am just too damn busy making shit happen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My Life Needs Better Writers (or, what happened to our reality show)

Yesterday, I wrote about our first idea for a reality show. I thought it would be amusing to go through some of our discussions with producers.

The first conversation went like this:

Producer: How many children do you have? 19? 20?

Me: What? No. I have four. All daughters. All wonderful.

P: Any addictions? Alcohol? Drugs? Sex addiction?

Me: Um, well, we drink wine and sometimes a martini. But no, none of us have ever been arrested for DUI or in treatment or anything like that.

P (incredulous): NONE of you? Out of six people?

Me: Well, actually, I think that's pretty typical.

P:  Dennis isn't having a sex change, by any chance, is he?

Me: No!

P: Are you considering whoring Julia out to hip-hop stars?

Me: NO! What the fuck? She's 17 years old!

Me: Look, here is my idea. We make video games and we want to open an office in the Caribbean because we think that would be a good market. Tobago is absolutely beautiful. We can have the show cover a game from start to finish, where we have to come up with the design and Maria and I, who are the least laid back people you ever meet, hire our crew from the island and have Julia I-can't-get-up-before-noon as one of our interns. Trying to get a game done on schedule is drama and tension in itself but add in starting with a new team and cultural differences and I think it will naturally get to the point of me wanting to kill people. I am sure I can set up teaching judo at some of the local clubs. Hopefully it will help them and I'll need it with the stress. Ronda says she'll drop in for a fourth of the episodes, lend advice on game design and testing, party with the locals and try to keep the peace.

Producer: I'm going to give you my honest opinion. This show will never sell. Your family is too boring. You don't have a million kids. You aren't little people. You have successful children and you all love each other. No one wants to watch that. They want to see people drunk and puking, screaming at each other, crying, talking about their addiction. They want to see a family that is a dumpster fire so after they watch it they can feel good about themselves.

We talked to six producers and I actually thought all of them were pretty good people but for various reasons, we didn't end up doing the show. Three of them passed on us, two of them we declined and one was mutual.

As for this particular producer we actually had a very nice, funny discussion. This was one person's honest opinion. I appreciated the honesty although I disagree.

from the north woods to New York City

Our family is not boring. We just need better writers

I think if you can make a show about people losing weight where standing on the scale is drama, if you can make a show about baking cakes and another about cupcakes and ... well, I think you could make an interesting show about us.

Take today, for example. Maria gave a talk about making games in DC at a conference with 1,200 kids - which still went on despite the government shutdown and the fact that she rewrote her talk at 4 am. It was great, by the way. Then, she was mobbed by kids wanting to play our games.

Ronda was doing a live wrestling show in Orlando. She travels so much that I actually had to look it up on the internet to what city she was in.

Julia took off for London where she is going to be living for the next five months.
The last time we'll all be in the same place until June

I went into the office to work on a proposal for a new game, discussed the design of a game in progress, tried to figure out how to renew my visa for Chile, came home and taught an online class on biostatistics with all kinds of technical glitches, then created a video on exploring data.

Okay, well, my day was not that exciting today, but there have been other days in the past year when I've climbed a mountain to see the condors, went hiking in the driest desert in the world, watched hoop dancing at a pow-wow, been stuck in a hotel during a blizzard in North Dakota. Every year, I'm everywhere from the north woods to New York City. I'm scheduled to be in four states and three countries in the first five months of this year - and that's only what has been confirmed as of the first week in January!

Let's face it. I don't care who you are or what you do, much of your daily life is pretty mundane. (Unless you are working with Producer #2 .) You get up, have some coffee, take a shower, drive to work, go to a meeting, read your email, eat a sandwich. The winning competitions you didn't enter (strange, but true), laying on a Caribbean beach or heart-felt discussions with your children about life are just a fraction of that. Even Harry Potter and Hermione spent most of their time studying, sleeping and eating.

Speaking of sleep, I have to get some.

Buy Parenting Like I Know What I'm Doing , by me and Maria Burns Ortiz for only $1.99 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Rowdy Family Business Reality Show: What I was doing three years ago

 Searching an old email address, I came across this email sent 2 1/2 years ago when my lovely daughters and I were discussing a reality show.

Think Duck Dynasty Meets Silicon Valley with some very attractive real-life CEOs

The opening RouseyOrtizDeMarsTaylor group text begins

Mom: I'm in North Dakota, freezing my ass. 
Ronda: I'm doing a Sports Illustrated photo shoot from an undisclosed island location. Someone is currently painting my ass. 
Maria: Salt Lake City, pitching investors. I do not discuss asses. This is why I am the CEO
Julia: I'm in hell, commonly known as high school.
Jenn:  In 20 minutes, I have to go back to teaching middle schoolers about the constitution. Why are you people bothering me?

The series centers around Maria Burns Ortiz and AnnMaria De Mars, a daughter and mother who are the CEO and president of an educational video game start-up, with frequent appearances by younger sisters Ronda Rousey, a professional athlete, actress and entrepreneur and Julia De Mars, a soon-to-be college student and aspiring actress.

Maria balances three children aged 1-8 with a husband running his own journalism start-up and trying to cope with her unconventional extended family. Mom gave up the job as CEO to Maria because,

"Someone needs to wear a suit and not tell potential investors to go fuck themselves if they say something incredibly stupid. I am not that person."

Episode 1 has Maria and younger sister, Ronda, trying to convince the family that a reality show would be good for business. The first, literal, sign this may not be easy is the sign that hangs on Mom's office door, which reads "First of all, no. Second of all, no." When they enter their mom's office, she starts the conversation with,


They point out that they haven't even said anything yet, to which she replies that every time they come to her with that look it has been some crazy ass idea. Ronda wanted a monkey. Maria wanted to move into her own apartment when she was in high school because her sisters were annoying, etc.

They try Dennis, step-father and CTO (bit of back story on Dennis coming into their lives after Ron died makes him seem a sympathetic figure). He refuses to open the office door 

"Only if you don't show me on television."

One of the daughters asks,
"What if we just record you through the door?"

The sisters regroup to a coffee shop to plot and the final scene is a game design meeting in the conference room of the company offices, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Annmaria, with Dennis on Google hangout, is running through artwork, game mechanics and some esoteric coding and statistical details, with Maria adding information on the story line and characters. At the end of the agenda when AnnMaria asks if there is any new business, Ronda enters the conference room.

She says we need to discuss this reality show idea. Half the developers immediately find somewhere else they need to be. Maria and Ronda give a convincing 2-minute summary on why this would be good for the company and, as a result, help children everywhere get access to the games and a better education.

AnnMaria grudgingly agrees and the final scene has her saying to the computer, 

I'm going to regret this aren't I?  

Dennis answers from Google hangout - probably

So, whatever happened with the reality show? Well, we had a few discussions with producers but for the rest of the story you'll have to read the next blog post.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

How to Have a Merry Christmas

I'm sitting here drinking peppermint mimosas with my lovely Julia and ruminating on how good life is. Christmas has almost always been a very happy time of year for me. There have been a couple of sad Christmases - the first one after my divorce, the first one after Ron died - but usually the holidays are the best time of the year.

Peppermint Mimosas - Look better than they taste, but still okay

I know that a lot of people have a hard time at Christmas. They don't get along with their families. Their families don't accept them because they are gay, married outside their religion/ race,  cut off all contact with an abusive relative or a million other stupid reasons.

How to have a Merry Christmas

Let go of the expectations. People are who they are. It is what it is. Either change your thinking or change your situation and then let it go. Ronda has the organizational skills of a hyperactive squirrel. She is generous, smart, funny and kind but she probably just remembered on Monday that the 25th was Christmas. Maria had already finished shopping on the day after Thanksgiving and I suspect Jennifer already has her calendar planned out through December 25, 2019. Julia is cleaning her room now so that it will be ready for her grandmother when she arrives in six hours. You may think six hours is ample time but that only means that you have never seen Julia's room.

I'm not particularly the warm and cuddly type.  I do hug people and tell them I love them, but not every other sentence, like some friends of mine do. Jenn was shocked to hear that I actually baked cookies yesterday, which I found a little insulting.

I could go on but my point is this - everyone has foibles, flaws and failings. Many family gatherings fall apart because you find it so inconsiderate that cousin Tina is 45 minutes late for the eleventh year in a row or that your dad never listens to you and bought you a sweater with a camel instead of a cashmere sweater. 

You know that prayer about accepting things you cannot change and changing the things you can? My secret to enjoying the holidays and life in general is something like that.

Let it go or let them go

The unhappiest people I know CHOOSE to be unhappy. Yes, you do. I could get offended by off-hand remarks but it's a waste of energy.

I'm Catholic. I have friends and family members who are atheist. Every now and then they will make remarks like, "I can't believe that you go to mass." Well, I do.Yes, I am aware of the child abuse that has gone on for decades, probably centuries, and it disturbs me greatly.  We actually had a reasonable discussion about this at Christmas. I don't take it as a personal affront that people don't believe what I do. I listen to their ideas and keep drinking my peppermint mimosa.

We have a very good rule in our family -

"If it happened over a year ago, you can't bring it up in an argument."  

This is a rule my children have used against me on occasion, but it's still a good rule. I see married couples, parents and adult children, adult siblings all arguing about that party someone wasn't invited to in 1998 or the graduation someone didn't attend five years ago.

If you catch yourself saying,

"But don't you think parents SHOULD attend their child's graduation/baptism/ bar mitzvah/ wedding and don't you think they SHOULD feel bad and apologize?"

I don't know anything about your situation but since you are the person reading my blog, I am going to side with you and say yes, you are correct. So what? seriously, the point is, they didn't do whatever it was and they didn't apologize and buy you a gift and a doughnut to make it up to you.

Speaking of doughnuts ...

Fish Lake is an adventure game that teaches about fractions.  You can canoe rapids, solve math problems and if you need help learning, there are activities explaining fractions using turtle eggs, riding between camps and yes, even chocolate doughnuts used as an illustration of mixed numbers. Buy it and support my day job! Runs on Mac and Windows computers.

 So, you didn't get the apology or the doughnut. You felt undervalued and underappreciated. Let it go. That person maybe is not going to be as close to you or understand you as well as you had expected. Maybe you are adding now, fuming,

"As much as I had a RIGHT to expect!" 

So what? They are probably not going to change so you can decide to let it go or not.

The other option is to just not spend time around people who make you so unhappy. There are (former)  friends and relatives I don't see any more.  I had a friend who made a series of bad career choices, in my opinion. Every time I saw her she railed against President Obama's policies and how he was ruining the country and that is why she had financial problems. The last time I saw her, you'd think she'd be happy but no, she still couldn't get a job because "They are only hiring black people. I'm too white to get a job."

That's the point where I decided I was done. Probably stupidity isn't contagious but why take that chance?

If you have a racist/ misogynist / homophobic uncle, you don't have to sit and listen to that person. If some relative gives you the creepy vibe and you don't feel comfortable with that person around your children, don't go anywhere they happen to be.

Guess what else? YOU get to decide. If you have a relative who is always putting you down, telling you that you don't make enough money, you are too fat, you should be married by now or whatever it is that makes you feel bad, don't see them. Are they at the same gathering as your grandparents who you really want to see? Then call up your grandparents and ask if you can come visit on a random weekend in February. Flights will be cheaper and your grandparents will be thrilled to have their grandchildren think of them more than one season of the year.

Problem solved.

Much of the family happiness comes about because we really wanted our past to be different. Some of it is because there are people in our lives at present that we need to cross off the Christmas card list.

Let it go or let them go.

It's never too late to start living your happily ever after.