What I’ve Learned in 55 Years

I was planning to finish off with the single most important thing I have learned in 55 years, but life has a way of running away with me. Between meeting with an after-school program that will be using our game next month, a meet-up in San Jose, getting our update 2.10 ready to go, writing a book chapter and three conference papers and scaling up for our new grant – well, blogging just hasn’t been at the top of the list.


(For an explanation of the no unicorns, click here)

…. which brings me to number 54 of the things I have learned


One the questions I get asked most often is,

“How do you get so much done?”

The year I got divorced, I won the world judo championships. The year my second husband passed away I wrote an article in an academic journal, a book chapter and a couple of large, successful grant proposals. I also taught college full time.

It took me a long time to learn that when I was at work, I should just concentrate on work. It also paid off for me in multiple ways. I have a private number only my family has and only for emergencies. As I told my children when they were young,

Unless there is blood dripping on the floor, don’t call me.

No matter how stressful things were at home, I could just concentrate on work when I was at work. While trying to figure out the error in my program, I wasn’t worrying about how this child was doing at school, my husband’s health problems or the argument last night. No matter how much work I had to do, it was relaxing in its own way.

I see mothers in particular who are completely stressed out at work because they are trying to juggle the soccer schedule, order their child’s schoolbooks on line and referee arguments all in between meetings or with a client on hold.

Don’t. When you’re at work, work and when you’re away from work, don’t.

I work in an office downstairs and I feel no guilt shutting my office door and telling my family that I’m busy. The world does NOT revolve around my children and it is not a bad lesson for them to learn that early. I *hate* those Disney movies where the mom misses the winning soccer goal her daughter scores because she is on her cell phone negotiating with a client. I once turned to The Spoiled One during one of those and said,

“She can afford that damn soccer camp BECAUSE of those clients on the phone, you know.”

On the other hand, a lesson it took me longer to learn was that when you are not at work, forget it. I don’t take very many days off but when I do, I read books, go hiking, swim in the ocean and don’t feel bad at all about the grants I’m not writing or phone calls that I’m not taking. I teach judo once or twice a week and when I’m there, I don’t take calls, I don’t check my text messages. It can wait. Every time I come back after taking time off, I’m noticeably more productive. The trick though, is when I have time off to really have it be time off and not just a laptop with a view, which is nice also, but not the same as a vacation.

#55 Children are more worth than they are trouble

At age 55, I have learned that life is seldom black and white. One of the few things I can say for an absolute fact is that in my life, children have always been more worth than they are trouble. If you knew how much trouble some of my children have been, you’d know that is saying a LOT.

I’ve never been one of those stay at home and make play-dough moms, and I have never for half a second regretted it. I’m a lot more of the “Find your shoes, quick, because I have to catch a plane after I drop you off at school” moms.

I never bought for one second that bullshit about how having children forces you to make compromises in your career. I’m typing this in the San Francisco airport on my way home from meetings with staff, an after-school program and Kickstarter backers, and also a few days with Darling Daughter Number One and the grandchildren.

My children are smart, funny, independent, good people. I talk to at least one of them every day and many days I talk to all four of them. If it wasn’t for them, I would not have been to Tunisia, attended plays in Broadway and LA, taught judo in south Los Angeles, gone to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, spent lots of days on the beach, been to Disneyland more times than any human beings needs to go and laughed harder and longer than would ever happen in a board room.

The main lesson I have learned – life is good. Work is good. Children are worth it. You CAN have what you want out of life if you keep trying .

There isn’t an age limit for having a good life.¬†


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  1. #55 is absolutely true, mostly. My kids are definitely worth a lot and are not much trouble. I’ve encountered other kids (of friends, relatives) who are loads of trouble without redeeming qualities. Different parenting approaches, not being tough enough, and not encouraging the kids to do things themselves or to think for themselves.

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