Monday, May 2, 2016

Newb

I am about to admit something pretty embarrassing. I am 40 years old and I do not have a drivers license. Yes I am aware that most 17 year olds have managed to accomplish the simple task of learning to drive, however I was not one of them. I tried, sort of. In my mid twenties, I got my permit, spent a month or two learning how to drive a car, failed the road test a few times, concluded that driving was not going to be my thing and quit.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I decided that it was finally time to try again. This time I signed up for lessons. My driving teacher is a middle aged guy named Mark from Queens, who speaks with a heavy accent and operates his small but very busy driving school mostly out of his car. In addition to the basics of Brooklyn driving (turn left, turn right, stop at the stop sign, stop at the red light, stop for the lady staring at her cellphone, stop for the biker staring at his cellphone) our lessons have included a stop at a gas station so he can fill up the tank, a stop at Bare Burger to order dinner for his ten year old son, and our regular Wednesday routine which involves picking up the girl who takes the lesson directly after mine and having her drive me home. He shares his office with a dentist so my five hour class (which thankfully only took 2.5 hours) was conducted in the waiting room alongside posters of smiling dental patients and brochures for teeth whitening. 

I really like the guy actually. On my very first lesson, during which, like all new drivers, I was positively terrified, he took me all over Williamsburg. There were no small deserted streets, we went right down Bedford Avenue. It was turn right here, turn left here, stop, go. He took multiple phone calls. Occasionally he would gently adjust the steering wheel for me. There was so much going on it was impossible to be nervous, which I am sure was exactly the point.

Since both Mark's schedule and mine are pretty complicated, we have only had time for one lesson per week. So on the other days I drive Matthew and Maya around. They are both incredibly supportive. Maya keeps up a steady stream of "You are doing GREAT mommy!" and Matthew manages to look completely relaxed and zen like while reminding me that I am a little close to that parked car on the right. 

Since most of you are already New York drivers, this next part will come as no surprise to you. Not everyone on the road here is a nice person. Some of them are. But a lot of them are like the lady on 4th avenue, who when she saw that I was trying to change lanes, honked loudly, sped up to like 50 miles per hour and tried to drive through my car. It was a green light and there were only two other drivers on the road at the time. In other words, her letting me into her lane meant absolutely no inconvenience whatsoever, except that she had to actually do something nice for someone else which clearly was not her thing. 

These people are all over the city. People who have no intention of sharing the road unless their own personal safety absolutely requires them to. Sometimes not even then. It is as if that 30 minutes in their car is the only moment of power they get in their entire life and they are going to milk it for all it is worth. Or maybe they are just really angry all the time. Sounds exhausting, all that anger. Maybe try yoga or something?

Listen, I know that I am a new driver. When I am driving in Mark's car, which has his driving school logo on the back, at least people can see this fact. But still, if you are stuck behind me it is probably a little annoying. I get that. I expect a bit of superiority, an "Oh look how cute Bob, a student driver" attitude.  What I don't really get is the disdain. Everyone, every single person on the road, was a new driver once. Even if it was 40 years ago, you were me once. 

It happens in the dojo too, this disdain for beginners. The student who gets annoyed when he has to help the newbie with the drill. The impatience when she doesn't get it fast enough. The eye roll exchange when the instructor has to stop to explain something twice. Thankfully, most senior students are not like this. They are happy to help a new guy out because they have a longer memory than those others. They remember being new themselves, or even if they don't, they understand that this scared, confused white belt is going to be them someday. Or at least he will be if his training partners treat him right. If they take care of him, protect him, make him feel welcome. If they don't run him off the road.

Its called empathy people. Learn it.

In my opinion, those humans who have no patience and compassion for beginners are kind of like grownups who hate children. Not the ones who just would prefer to not become parents. Those guys are fine. I am talking about the ones who cannot handle it when a small child sits next to them in a restaurant. Even if it is a quiet child. Dude, you WERE a child once. And when you are whiny and old and cannot remember where you put your glasses, that small annoying creature is going to be all grown up and ordering mimosas with brunch just like you are now. Also, you are going to die soon. And that child, she is taking your place in the world, on the mat, on the dojo floor, everywhere. And yes, that is terrifying. Deal with it.

Children are just small adults. Black belts are simply white belts who never quit. And new drivers are just experienced drivers in the making. 

So if you see me driving down 4th avenue, desperately trying to get to the left lane so I can turn, please just let me in. I know I am new and a little awkward but I will get better. And if you ever want to try jiu-jitsu, by all means come by the dojo. I promise not to choke you unconscious on your first day.

Well, maybe only once.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

For Maya

I recently did something against my better judgement. I disagreed with someone. I offered a different view. I did this on the Internet, a place where human beings seem to think that it is ok to say anything. Where they often forget that they are talking to other human beings, ones with feelings, and families and lives that they know nothing about. I know better, but I forgot.

Over the past couple of days I have been personally insulted. My child has been insulted. My parenting abilities have been insulted. The people who did so will say that they were not being insulting. Or they will say that I asked for it. Whatever. It is my own fault for forgetting the rule, for forgetting that I am supposed to surround myself with positive people, with ones who can lift other people up without needing to tear anyone else down.

Today I was fortunate enough to have a private class with a wonderful black belt from Brazil named Felippe. He spent our hour selflessly teaching me jiu-jitsu, moves that will improve my game, make me better. Not only that, but he did it with a smile. He enjoyed it. This whole hour class that was all for my benefit and he was still having fun!

It is so easy to let other people's anger tear you down, make you weary. Sadly it is sometimes the ones who claim to be fighting hardest for others who are the most draining. That is ok. Their heart is in the right place, even if their methods are not. People in need will still be helped.

I try very hard every day to not judge others, especially my fellow parents. Unless you are teaching your child to hate and to hurt, do your thing. Make your choices. We are all following different paths. I do not assume to know yours, to know your struggles or those of your children.

All children deserve to have a voice. ALL children.

My child took a test this week. She told me it was easy. Maybe it was easy because it is an easy test. Maybe it was easy because she is white and comes from two well educated parents who are lucky enough to be able spend a lot of time with her.  Maybe it was easy because she is one of the hardest workers I know, because she never stops trying. When Maya is scared (and she is often),  she takes a deep breath and dives in anyway. Sometimes she cries. Sometimes she struggles.  Sometimes she asks for help. Sometimes she wants to quit. But she stands strong. Always.

When Maya sees a friend in need, she helps. When her friends are sad, she hugs. Often when my child sees a homeless person on the street she bursts into tears and asks me if we can please, please give them money. She is sensitive, and loving and has a heart as big as all of Brooklyn. She is inspiring in so many ways and I am impressed by her constantly.

And yes, she is also lucky. As am I. These are things that I am aware of every single day and I certainly do not need a bunch of angry people on the Internet to remind me of them.

Here are the things I teach my child. To be kind. Always. Even when people are not being kind to you. To never give up on yourself because even if you cannot do something right now, it does not mean that you cannot do it ever. There is always a way to succeed, even if it is not the way your friends are taking. Find your way. And then teach it to others who cannot find theirs. That what you say is important but what you do is even more so. So don't just offer your "thoughts and prayers", DO something. It does not have to be what everyone else is doing. It just has to be what you think is right.

I try to lead by example. I teach. I volunteer. I show compassion and love. When I mess up, which is often, I apologize.

In other words, we are the same, you and I. We are trying to raise decent human beings, the best way we know how.

If you want to comment on this go ahead. If your comment attacks anyone, anyone at all, it will be quietly deleted. No arguments. Just deleted.

I forgot the rule but I remember it now.
Always surround yourself with positive people. Ones who are moving forward, upwards, and bringing others up with them.

Life is simple.
Peace, love and cross collar chokes.
That is enough. That is plenty.



Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Opt Out, Opt In

If your NYC child is in grades 3 and up, they are probably taking State tests this week. We all remember those. Filling in little bubbles with number two pencils. Reading passages that are about subjects you would never choose to read on your own. Forcing yourself to remember terms like main idea and pivotal point.

This year the reading test is untimed and split over three days. That means kids can take as long as they need to to finish each section. For my child, it meant she finished pretty early and then sat and read the book she had brought from home. She says she was reading it for quite awhile. So long that it prompted an email from me to her principal in which I volunteered to come in today and help out. Can the kids go outside when they finish? Can they go in another room? Can they do anything else other than be forced to sit there and read a book after completing a reading test? I would be happy to supervise them.

Not surprisingly, the answer was no, not really. It would cause too much noise and disruption to have kids moving from place to place. She did say that she would look into how many kids were finishing early and see if there was anything else for them to do.

So today I sent my child to school with the same book. At least it is one she likes. She will probably finish the whole thing by tomorrow. I also cancelled her afterschool chess class so she could come out of school and go right to the playground. 

You do what you can.

My child actually does not have to take these tests. Many NYC parents have chosen to "Opt Out" of them altogether. They sent a note to their child's principal stating this choice and requesting that their child be sent somewhere else during testing. Parents have the right to do this, and in fact, many of them should. These State tests are particularly unfair for kids who have been identified with learning disabilities and have IEPs. They are especially hard for children for whom English is not their first language. Parents of these children are certainly justified in opting out. And I respect them for making that decision. Unfortunately, I am not always respected for mine. 

I got the same information those parents did. But I chose to have my child take the State tests this year because I know it will not be a big deal for her. She will not take 6 hours to complete it and it will not be super stressful. I am very lucky that this is true. Other parents can not say the same.  And although I do not necessarily believe schools should be evaluated based on testing,  it is the current reality, it is what we have right now. When Maya's principal took over the school a few years ago, it was a struggling place with abysmal test scores. When I signed her up for pre-k these low scores were a definite concern for me. 

I have since learned that sadly most State test results are more a measure of poverty level then anything to do with the school's ability to teach. Is this wrong? Of course! Is is unfair that kids from more educated, more affluent families score higher on tests? Of course! Do we need to provide more opportunities for lower income kids to succeed? Yes, yes, yes! The system is broken. But that is not the fault of Maya's principal. She is just doing her job, trying to make a bad school, better.

The Opt Out advocates would seize the story of my child reading her book as proof positive that everyone should refuse these tests. If the test weren't so long, my child wouldn't have to sit there. If the test weren't so poorly designed, my child wouldn't have to sit there. The system is wrong and we should all fight it!

All that may be true but I still sent her off to school this morning with a "good luck on your test today". And another book. Because no, sitting there reading for an hour is not ideal but whatever, she will survive. Another parent in her class made a different decision, and their child is not testing today. That kid will also survive. These are not life and death issues. Its just a reading test. 

Being a parent is about making choices. Not everything in life is perfect. Not everything is how you want it to be. Some things are hard. Some things are no fun. Some things just plain stink. Deciding when to fight back and when to just suck it up and do it is what life is all about. It is what we have to teach our kids to do. Make choices. Work hard. Fight for what you believe in, or make your best of a crappy situation. Both lessons are important, both skills are necessary.
For those of you who chose to opt your child out of the State tests this week, good for you!

For those of you who chose to have your child take them, good for you!

There is no right choice for everyone. Respect each other. That is the MOST important lesson.

Friday, March 25, 2016

New Belt, New Goals, New Stress

Promotions are awesome. There are few things more exhilarating than a fancy new belt tied around your waist. I mean look at those kids over there! Look how happy they are to be junior black belts! All that hard work, all those days of promotion, finally over. And now they get to come to karate class every day just like they used to except they get to line up somewhere different, and people call them "Senpai" so and so, and oh my god they also get to put on a BLACK BELT! Every single time they take class!! (Those of you who have been there understand what I am talking about. That belt. It is yours now. Forever. And not only do you get to keep it, but you get to WEAR it. In class! Its incredible really.)

When it comes to karate, I have been a black belt for so long that I rarely think about promotions anymore. I still take class because I enjoy it. And because I need to teach this stuff and I cannot teach things that I never practice. But if I am being perfectly honest, most of my karate training is simply because it is my job. I do not necessarily mean my job as a dojo owner, although that is also true, but because it is my job as a fifth degree black belt to keep on working on karate. I have no interest being that Sensei who doesn't train, that black belt who no longer spars. There is always something new to learn out there. But I am never training for my next rank.  At this point another stripe on my belt just seems silly.

I was a BJJ white belt for a year and a half and a blue belt for more than three years. At the school where I used to train promotions were a surprise and I was often unclear on what the criteria was. In that kind of environment it is hard to use your next rank as a motivator. In fact, the only time I ever really thought about my next belt was when I was miserable and frustrated and needed a reason to not quit. As in "well you should at least get your blue belt first".

Whenever I take a BJJ class now I get to tie on a beautiful new purple belt. It looks good with every single one of my gis. It matches my pedicure. It brings out the highlights in my hair. But in addition to being an awesome item of colorful clothing, my new purple belt has come with all kinds of angst. The kind of angst that makes me want to train a lot, all day, every day. Knowing that I worked my ass off and earned that belt does nothing for the feelings of insecurity that come with it. I suck at this. There are new white belts who can tap me. I don't know enough submissions. I can't escape triangles. I am too tiny. I am not strong enough. And so on and so forth. My frantic desire to feel worthy of my purple belt means that I have taken almost every jiu jitsu class my schedule allowed in the past three weeks. I made my husband roll with me for 45 minutes on Saturday. My brain says "Get better, get better, do it NOW!" It wants to be training all the time. My body is trying its best to keep up. (Hold on buddy, just a sec, let me get some water. Ok, go ahead, go to class again, if you must. )

I know this stress is all in my head. Sure I have known a few judgmental people, the kind who see others get new belts and gossip about how little they deserve them. Small minded people. People who don't understand that there is more to training than how many people you beat up that day. People who have probably already quit jiu jitsu, or who will quit after their first injury or the first time they realize they aren't the alpha in the room. I am not the alpha in the room. But none of the folks I currently train with seem to care. They respect me for my skills, my experience, my hard work and because I am actually a nice person who tries really hard to be a good training partner. 

Tell that to my insecure brain.

Of course I am sure all this excitement will wear off eventually. I will stop feeling like I have something to prove to myself and just get to be a plain old boring purple belt. Hopefully when this happens, I will have come up with a whole bunch of projects to work on. Guard passing. Back takes. Sweeps. Whatever. But not belts. My next BJJ rank is so far away there is no way it can be a reasonable motivational tool. It it like sitting in a little rocketship here on Earth and saying wow, I cannot wait to get to Saturn. Some day, some day.

Do I want to be a BJJ black belt? Of course. I would be lying if I said I didn't. But right now that path is so long and twisted that I can only see the part that is currently right in front of me. The part that says go to class today and work on your half guard. A lot. 

As for the next step? I guess I will figure it out when I get there.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Purple

This is my third time starting this post. I know I have something to say but for some reason I am finding it hard to put my finger on exactly what it is, what story I want to tell. 

Jiu Jitsu has always been a struggle for me. In the end, that may be why I actually love it so much. It has never been easy. In fact, some days it is so hard that I cannot imagine getting up the next day and going back to class. And I have done hard. I am a fifth degree black belt in karate. I used to fight a scary man named Paul Williams on Friday nights who would sometimes push his sparring partners into a corner and pummel them until the bell rang. 

But Jiu Jitsu is a different kind of hard. True sometimes I am still fighting to survive. (Like that time last year when I suddenly found myself rolling with the spazziest white belt in the room and knew that if every ounce of my focus was not on, I was getting injured. Not tapped. Injured. Perhaps seriously. )

But if I am being honest, most of my rounds are not like that. On the best days there is the beauty of perfect movement, a roll that flows like a prima ballerina commands the stage. The moment when suddenly your hands and feet and brain are all in perfect sync. 

And then there are the times the teacher shows a new move and you just can't get it. You roll with someone and they just keep tapping you. You are forced to reevaluate yourself again and again on the mat. BJJ, at least at the schools where I have trained, has no set syllabus. What works is what you know.  You know what you practice the most. You need to roll again, and again, drill again, and again. It is never over. You are never done. 

This constant struggle is not the same for everyone. But everyone who has been training awhile has felt a touch of it. And while it is brutal, I think it is also the thing that keeps us coming back in the end. The quest to get it. To get more. To do more. To be more. It is the heart of it I think. It is where the love is.

I know that I am not the best fighter in the room. I know that there are people who are bigger than me, stronger than me, better than me. But I also know that training is supposed to be about more than that. It is supposed to be about being the best you that you can be. About being better than you were last year, last week, yesterday. And it is also about your training partners,; how you treat them, how you make each other better. My best days on the mat have lifted me up, made me feel invincible, and it has very little to do with who I tapped that day.

One of the versions of this post thanked a whole bunch of people. Training partners, teachers. And believe me, there are many of them to be thanked.  No one trains alone. But I will be in class next week. I can thank you all in person.

The other version was all about Matthew. There are so many different layers to the wonderful surprise he arranged for me yesterday and I am still a bit overwhelmed that someone could care about me that much. But that story is for him to tell. Or not. Perhaps those details,  things that are more romantic than any bouquet of roses or box from Zales will ever be, will remain between us.

(You should know, however, how much I love being in Matthew's BJJ classes. The amount of time he spends thinking about teaching is incredible. His is a mind that can scan a room and then come up with a lesson that somehow challenges the black belts, excites the white belts and keeps everyone safe while still allowing them to work their asses off. It is no easy feat and he is a master at it.)

I also thought to tell you how I ended up leaving my BJJ school of close to five years (and why) and training with a wonderful teacher at a small school out in Brooklyn, a teacher who believes in the beauty of movement and the value of hard work.  And how when Matthew called that teacher to ask if it was ok to promote me, he was nothing but excited. This man is building something special out in Crown Heights and I am honored to be a part of it.

But my reasons for ending up where I am now are not relevant. Not anymore. All that is relevant is the journey forward. 

Finally, I thought to tell you about  Matthew's teacher, a man who believes that jiu-jitsu can change lives. He strives to run a dojo where everyone can succeed. He preaches a message of hard work and cooperation, of teamwork and setting goals to better your entire life.  His knowledge and experience in the martial arts is incredible. He is the real deal. No matter what other bullshit you might hear on the Internet.


There are purple belts who I can hold my own with on the mats and there are white belts who can tap me a hundred times. I do not care. My BJJ journey is neverending. I worked my ass off to get where I am now and have no plans on stopping.

So in the end I guess what I wanted to say is simple. Jiu-jitsu is fucking hard. But it is so so beautiful. And so so worth it. (Just ask Meisha Tate.)

 I am always myself out there on the mats. There is no way to be anything different. The me that is a purple belt is still going to struggle, to rise, to fall, to rise again and to love and hate the path from one day to the next. 

Only now I get to do it with a really pretty color around my waist.




Osu. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Yelling to Be Quiet

It seems that every day my third grader comes home from school with the same story. This teacher yelled at our class today because no one was listening. We had to wait in the hallway for ten minutes before going into the lunchroom because kids wouldn't stop talking. We didn't do much in gym today because he kept having to wait for everyone to be quiet. Be quiet. Stop talking. Sit down. 

Never mind that they are 8 and 9 year olds who are already forced to spend most of their school day sitting and being quiet. Never mind that their recess is all of 20 minutes, at least 5 of that spent getting to and from a quiet line. Never mind that they cannot go outside when it is below 30 degrees, or when there is any snow on the ground. Never mind that some teachers still think it is ok to threaten missing recess as a punishment for not sitting still in class. (The absurdity of punishing kids who have trouble sitting still by taking away their only chance to move around just blows my mind!)

Why does the gym teacher have to wait for everyone to be quiet before he starts his lesson? It's GYM!! Make them run 20 laps. Trust me, they will be panting so hard talking will become virtually impossible.

Do these teachers get that lunch is basically the only school time these kids have to actually socialize with their friends?? Because god forbid they talk in the hallways! And classroom time is for learning, which we all know cannot happen if students are talking, or moving, or you know, using their imaginations.

To be fair, there are certainly times during the school day when quiet is absolutely necessary and appropriate. Like when the teacher is explaining the lesson. When instructions are being given. When a new skill or game is being taught.  When there is a fire drill. I will even give you quiet in the hallways because sure "other classes are trying to learn." (This seems to be the elementary school mantra. Learn it.) But every child who has been through pre-k has learned the difference between "indoor voices" and "outdoor" ones. So why is it so terrible to let them talk to each other sometimes? So long as they aren't screaming. (That lunchroom is kind of loud.)

When I was in 6th grade I had the privilege of getting to leave my classroom every Friday afternoon to go to a writing workshop run by Teachers & Writers Collaborative. At 2pm every week I went into this special classroom where we could sit wherever we wanted, write whatever we wanted. Help was given if needed. Collaboration was encouraged. I do not remember the teacher in that room ever asking us to "please quiet down". Probably because he didn't need to, we were all too busy writing. In other words, we were so interested in the activity we were doing that there was no need to entertain ourselves in any other way. If we did talk to each other, I am sure it was about writing. That was the kind of classroom it was.

Listen teachers, I get you. I was you. Some of these kids can really drive you crazy. But stop waiting for quiet. Just teach. Make it interesting. The ones who want to learn will listen to you. The ones who don't, well that is their problem. Or maybe you could try reaching those kids in a different way, later, while my kid is quietly working. But please don't make her sit and wait for everyone to shut up before you teach her something. 

And absolutely ZERO minutes of gym class should be spent sitting down waiting for kids to be quiet!! IT IS GYM!! The place where whistles blow and balls bounce. Kids should be moving from the minute they walk into the gym until they line up to leave. You want them to line up calmly and quietly? EXHAUST THEM!

Third grade classrooms are full of children. You know what children aren't? Still. Quiet. So figure out how you can educate them anyway. But please stop yelling at them to be quiet.

A little hypocritical, don't you think?


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why I Didn't Win the Powerball Jackpot

I am sorry to disappoint you but I am not a billionaire. I know you may have been hoping to hear that I won the jackpot last night, and that your check is currently in the mail. But sadly I did not win. Of course, there was zero chance of me having the winning numbers. I know what you are thinking. There is always a chance right? I mean, someone has to win. A dollar and a dream and all that. But in my case there really was no chance because I never even bought a ticket.

Yes, you heard me right. Despite all the media hype and the Facebook posts and the fun pics of signs that could not go above 999, I didn't buy a Powerball ticket.

Don't get me wrong. I thought about buying one. I mean, everyone else was doing it. And who doesn't want to win the lottery.

Actually, me. 

Ok bear with me here. Because I actually gave this a lot of thought before deciding not to buy that ticket. And before we begin lets be clear. Yes, I like money. And yes, it would be nice to have a bit more of it. 

But what do people say about winning the lotto? What would they do?

"I would quit my job immediately!" Well, actually I love my job. In fact, if I had more money I would probably end up working more. We would get a new fancy dojo of course and fill it with all kinds of classes. And no, I would not hire someone to teach all those classes for me. I would be bored to tears! Plus, I would miss the little ones. They look so cute in their tiny gis.

"I would move to a bigger house." Nope, not me. First of all, I love the weird hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, with its skinny jeans and uber-fancy coffee. I have no desire to live anywhere in Manhattan, or own a brownstone in Park Slope, or suburban Jersey, or even to move into one of those new fancy apartments by the river that are going to be completely underwater the next time a hurricane hits. So we would use our winnings to get a new paint job, maybe take over the upstairs apartment and cover it with mats or something. But actually, I like where I live. Why would I want more rooms to clean? And more furniture. And more shelves which I will then be required to fill with more stuff. Ugh. I have plenty of crap piled up on tables already. In fact, I could actually use throwing out some stuff. And no, despite the so-called American dream, I really have no interest in owning a house. Seriously. I like apartment living. I know what you house people do on weekends. You are "working on the house." You are refinishing things and repairing things and adding on and taking away. There are roofers and plumbers and floor guys in your life. I don't want to spend my Sundays with these people. (No offense meant to plumbers. Plumbers are cool.) Do you know where I am while all this house fixing is happening? The rock climbing gym with my kid.

"I would buy a..." Ok, truth be told,  if we won lotto we would probably buy a new Camry. Because ours belonged to my mom and is from like 1994. But since we have zero interest in moving out of the city (read above paragraph), we also have zero interest in having a fancy car that we then have to worry about all the time. Only a fellow beat up car owner would understand the glorious freedom in not caring one bit about the guy who accidentally touches your bumper while parallel parking. So no fancy cars. And we already have an X-Box and a plenty big TV and computers that we like and cellphones that we like. I like jeans from Old Navy and Matthew only wears t-shirts with motivational BJJ sayings on them. Maya has a roomful of toys. I guess we could buy some new couches. The point is, there isn't anything any of us really need, or even want. So instead we would end up buying a bunch of crap because we are supposed to and then we would need a bigger place to store all that useless stuff and I already explained how I feel about moving. 

"I would travel the world." Well, if you know me you already know how I feel about travel. I don't like sleeping in strange beds and flying in an airplane feels a bit like drowning to me. So aside from the obligatory trip to Disney World (for Maya) and maybe a few days sitting on a random beach somewhere, I would rather be home. In my small Brooklyn apartment. And thankfully I married a man who likes his own routine even more than I like mine. In other words to travel would require him missing his Tuesday/Thursday 12:00 jiu-jitsu class. Which would make him miserable. Unless perhaps the random beach is in Rio and there are some Gracies somewhere to train with, neither one of us have much interest in "getting away from it all." Besides, we have family here. Maya sees her grandparents twice a week, every week. Her visits are a very important part of what makes them happy. And there is no way my dad is flying to Rio.

Since we are talking about family, however, I would be remiss in not mentioning that it would be nice to toss my parents a few million dollars. Here you go guys. Move into a super fancy place that has a full time staff whose entire job is to make old people happy. Only it has to be in NYC, since as far as I know my parents have no desire to leave the city either. (They are OLD. Old people hate change!) So yeah, some money for them would be cool.

Also, we have a few friends whose lives are kind of stressful. It would be nice to toss them a few million too. 

And then there are all those sick kids. And the homeless. And those poor sad-eyed doggies in the ASPCA commercials (damn you Sarah Mclachlan!). So yes, it would be nice to help a whole lot of people. In fact, if I were ever to win lotto that is where a lot of the money would go. To others. 

But really have you guys ever really thought about what your life would be like? You cannot claim your winnings anonymously. (I know, I Googled it.) So that means the whole world would know of your riches. All your friends. All your family members. Do you know how many phone calls you would get from "cousins" who need just a little help? Not to mention the criminal masterminds who have absolutely no problem kidnapping your child, or following you down dark alleyways. So you would have to hire security guards. Who would then follow you everywhere. Everywhere. Ugh. In fact, most articles about winning lotto recommend you immediately move to a new place, where no one knows you. And that you tell absolutely no one about your money. Ever.

Those same articles also recommend things like setting up a special corporation so you can claim the money in a name that is not your own. And how to avoid people constantly trying to scam you. And how to invest your winnings. And how to avoid drug addiction and gambling addiction and depression. Yes, depression. Because it turns out that winning millions of dollars actually does not fix your relationship if it sucks, or give you a sense of purpose in life if you have none, or makes you healthier unless of course the reason you are sick is that you cannot afford health care. (In that happens to be you, I take back everything I said. I hope you win.)

In other words...wait for it....yes, money does not in fact buy happiness. 

In fact, if you quit your job and spend your days buying stuff and then sitting on the couch, staring at your stuff, and then sitting on your hotel bed staring at the Marriot's stuff, in the end you might realize that what you have actually bought yourself is a whole lot of emptiness.

Here is the part where you hate me for being all high and mighty. For being above all those material things like cars and vacation homes. Here is the part where you sit there in your very nice living room and say "What a smug, self righteous bitch!" 

So before I have to go hire a security guard to protect me from you, let me explain. What I felt after my decision last night to not buy the Powerball ticket was not smugness. It was not pride at what an enlightened human being I was. It was simply gratitude. 

I am thankful that although we occasionally struggle to pay bills on time, our life is not one of constantly wishing for an influx of money to save us. To put food on the table, or clothes on our backs.

I am grateful for a family that I do not want to be too far away from.

I am extremely thankful that my desire for a few newer, nicer things is nowhere near my desire to keep the rest of my life exactly the way it is. To not shake it up, even a little bit. To keep teaching where I am teaching and training where I am training and sending my kid to the public school down the block and climbing the rock wall on Thursdays and Sundays and eating at the same burrito place and the same diner and the same Italian restaurant. To keep hugging the same man every night. To keep hearing the same little girl's laugh every morning.

Are there changes I would like to make? Sure, but to be honest, most of them are within my own mind, with the way my brain works, and no winning lotto ticket is going to help with those. (Although I could buy some really good drugs!)

Also, I am fully aware that at any point we could lose this. The dojo could fail and either one or both of us could have to go work at jobs we hate, for bosses we hate. Our house could catch fire, our family members fall ill. We could have injuries that prevent us from being the athletes that we love to be. So I am grateful for all the things in my life that I do not want to change. It turns out there are a lot of them.

So actually, what I really feel is lucky.
Ew, I know. 

It is because I am already so damn lucky that I did not buy a Powerball ticket. 

Which of course means I would have won if I had.
Which means you would have been very rich this morning.

So yes, go ahead and hate me.
I understand.