Monday, March 31, 2008

Balancing Racial Identity

Roadkill Refugee pointed out this article that made me want to talk about this subject of race just a tad more. (Well, maybe more than a tad.)

I pointed out yesterday that I am Mexican. I am also Irish. We weren't raised immersed in the Mexican culture; we were raised in Santa Cruz! People were always asking my mom about her heritage, and it's a question I get sometimes, as well - although people always guess wrong. I get Jewish a lot, and my mom is presumed to be Chinese. My mother comes from a time where assimilation was the thing to do. It was better not to stand out - particularly when married to a white man! I was raised to be color-blind.

She did attempt a few times to teach us Spanish, but we just didn't see the value in it at the time. I was more interested in learning sign language (although I never got further than the alphabet). We picked up a few phrases here and there, but didn't really consider ourselves "Mexican."

We didn't consider ourselves "Irish" either. We were raised that we were Americans, first and foremost, and that our race should not matter. Of course, on those forms, you can't just say that. You have to pick a race. For a long time, I picked 'Caucasian.'

When we moved from Santa Cruz (where I was considered "ethnic") to East Los Angeles, can you say, culture shock? I was one of the whitest kids there, and no one believed me if I mentioned being Mexican as well. Although, one year, I let some girls do my hair for picture day. "Chola" is really the only word capable of describing how big it was! I was also guilty of picking up the cadence every now and then...bugged the heck out of my parents!

In high school, we discussed race on a new level, particularly when it came to college admission applications. I was encouraged, by every teacher and my parents, to select 'Hispanic' as my race. It took some getting used to for me. It felt dishonest somehow. In the end (and I'm sure I had some help on figuring this out, but I can't remember who earns the credit for it), I decided I was helping to re-define what 'Hispanic' meant by not being what was considered a typical Mexican. I was a 3rd generation Mexican from a middle-class, interracial family.

The other interesting note about race that I encountered at the time was that my long-time high school boyfriend was African-American. (I think we still said "black" then, though.) I remember once we were asked about how our parents felt about us dating. We didn't quite understand the question at first; we both had to have it explained to us that they were referring to whether or not it was a problem for our parents that we were dating someone of another race. I asked my parents how they felt about it; my dad's answer was that he didn't care, so long as we avoided the South, where he feared our safety. (He was born in Louisiana, and after his years as an Army brat, ended up in El Paso, TX, where he met my mother.)

My own encounters with racism or prejudice are much like I described yesterday. A few years ago, at a multi-cultural school event no less, a mother told me that she was transferring her daughter out of our daughters' mutual class because there were only "three white kids" in the class. Again, I was pretty shocked. I did point out that we were Mexican, and she started her back-tracking dance - which I might have found amusing, had I not been so irritated!

When I was working on the cruise ship, there was an older gentleman passenger who, when hearing that I and another entertainer were from Los Angeles started to go off on how the city's gone "downhill" since the "blacks and Mexicans took it over." That was the hardest encounter because he was a passenger, and our job was to make sure he was satisfied, but neither of us were willing to compromise ourselves in order to make him happy. I don't think it occurred to him that either of us could be Mexican (which we both were) - luckily, my colleague did the majority of the talking. It was a great lesson for me in how to be diplomatic without compromising yourself.

I know I'm sort of rambling here, bear with me. My point is, that it really never affected me so much as it seemed to affect other people. But I guess that's pretty much how racism and/or prejudice works, huh?

Not really knowing any other way to do it, I've raised my girls the same way. They're aware that they're Mexican, Irish, and Greek (their father is full-blown Greek). However, I've also had to stop and ask myself which box I should check when it comes to those forms. They're "less" Mexican than I am, and I read in the L.A. Times once that it actually helps on our CHOICES form to put "Caucasian" rather than "Hispanic" because "Caucasian" is the minority here. I still hate the whole thing. I still hate having to check a box.

My oldest daughter has also been accused of not being Mexican enough. I hate my answers to her because they're contradictory: "First of all, you are Mexican. Second of all, it doesn't - or shouldn't - matter." I hate having to talk about it.

Of course now the 'in' thing is to be in touch with your heritage. I always groan at these school projects. I probably shouldn't. I probably should embrace their quest to learn about their heritage. My mother helps a lot, as does my dad (for which I am grateful) when it comes to those assignments.

I'm still trying to balance this whole race issue out for myself, and for my kids. That article (referenced above) is probably the first one I've read that talks about me, as a whole person, and my girls. I don't want them to deny any part of who they are, and I don't want them to feel like they're stuck in any box. I understand the values of the boxes a little more - that it can help show how far (or not) we've come in racial equality - but is it too much to ask for those boxes to start letting us pick all of who we are?

I've noticed on surveys that I fill out that more and more, they're letting me say that I'm Caucasian with Hispanic descent. I think that's the most apt definition of who I am, and who my daughters are. And maybe even a definition of how far this country has come as well.

Edited to add: I just found out today was Cesar Chavez Day - guess I'm more out of tough with my Mexican culture than I thought!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

The ugly beast of the condo problems reared its head again on Friday, and I've been in a funk ever since. I've been dealing with a realtor who seems to be under the impression that I have either $500 a month more to spend on housing than I've told her, or $100,000 more hiding in some savings account somewhere...and that I'm just not willing to be "flexible." On top of that, the people who want to sell the roof over our heads wanted to come in and interrupt our Sunday, our one day home this week. Call me inflexible, but I just wasn't willing to give that up.

So I gave myself most of yesterday to just veg - reading, watching TV, and hanging out with the girls. It didn't solve any problems, apart from the one about me obsessing about something over which I have little control, but it was a welcome escape. Sometimes, reality is overrated.

Friday night, I went to the theatre! I don't get to go nearly as often as I would like, but I couldn't miss my old theatre company's world premiere of Dickie & Babe. It was so well-done, and of course, as captivating a true story as any. Truth is always stranger than fiction.

I watched No Country for Old Men last night. I know everyone focused on Javier Bardem's performance, but to me, it was all about Tommy Lee Jones. By this time, I've heard all extremist opinions - people loved it or hated it. I thought it was extremely well-done, and clearly darker than most Coen brothers, but personally, I missed the dark humor that usually accompany their films. I still prefer Fargo.

Sylvia had an awesome week. On Thursday night, she got to go (and I accompanied) to the DVD release party of "Alvin and the Chipmunks." I was very afraid, not being a fan of the Chipmunks myself (their uncle took them to that one), but I couldn't help but smile as I watched all the kids so excited to be there. It was a mini-Hollywood event, with a red carpet and some star sightings. My favorite was Jason Lee:

There was one quite disappointing moment, though. I was sitting near some kids (who weren't from KIPP) for a while; the boy was around 12 or 13, and he was Mexican, and the girls were 6 & 8 and not. At one point the 8-year-old started teasing her little sister by telling the boy, "she likes you! She likes you!" The 6-year-old answered back angrily, "no, I don't! I don't like Mexican boys!" To which, the 8-year-old tried to make up for it by saying, "aw, don't worry about it. I like my men Latin." Eight! Eight and six! I was totally dumbfounded and aghast by these remarks. The fact that I also happen to be Mexican is just a small part of it. The fact that they were African-American only made it worse for me.

It's not like I live in complete naivety over the fact that racism exists in this country, or even this city. Yet it always seems to take me by surprise. Not to mention, where in the world does an 8-year-old get the notion of liking "Latin men"? I know I shouldn't spend too much time dwelling on this, but at least it made me appreciate my own kids all the more.

I have to thank Lis Garrett for letting me know through her post about last night's Earth Hour. I don't normally consider myself so ill-informed, but I heard nothing of this in advance. The girls were happy to participate, although it did bring up Sylvia's fear of the dark, so we just spent the time talking. We made a decision to continue our own Earth Hours once a weekend from now on.

This week, I have much fodder for posts to come, thanks to Tara, Don Mills Diva, and OhMommy for providing inspiration, not to mention CableGirl for Flashback Friday. I know, you're all just on the edge of your seats now :)

Friday, March 28, 2008

WijvenWeek - MommyBloggers

Click here for more Wijvenweek posts.

I've really enjoyed doing WijvenWeek (this will be my last WijvenBlog post), as redundant as it may seem. Duh, I'm a woman, I always approach things as such, but I liked the opportunity to talk specifically about raising girls. There's a lot more I want to say on the subject, but right now, I've got another post bursting inside of me.

Lunanik posted a confessional of sorts, where people can confess things anonymously. I like to check in there a couple of times a week, but this comment in particular really rubbed me the wrong way:

Anonymous said...
I feel bad for children who are home while their mothers spend all day on their computers trolling for readers and comments. It's fucking sad. Are they raising themselves? If the writing was that fucking interesting and worth reading, they wouldn't have to hunt down new people to read it.

March 23, 2008 12:41 PM

*sigh* Where to begin?

Well, let's start with the fact that this person didn't play by the rules. The point is to confess about yourself, not make judgments on other people.

Then there's the fact that they've taken a tiny part of who we are, and decided they can judge who we are on this one little thing.

I haven't been doing this all that long, but even I have noticed that people come and go for a while. We do make our families a priority, and the posts and comments taper off when there is no time. I don't think any children are not getting fed because Mommy's blogging.

It's so very sad that someone - male or female - felt the need to attempt to demoralize women in particular this way. It shouldn't surprise me, but it does.

I keep wanting to believe that we're getting past all this name-calling. I want to believe that the mommy wars is a figment of the media's imagination. I want to believe that women who are looking to get ahead in the workplace aren't called "ambitious" in the same way one would say "convict." I want to believe that women are looking to support each other, and not try to tear each other down for running their household differently from another.

Hopefully, for the most part, my beliefs can hold true. Unfortunately, I have come across evidence to the contrary in all of these scenarios.

You want to know where I find the most reason to believe? In the blogosphere. I interact with women from every walk of mommy-hood life. I know SAHMs, Work From Home Moms, Single and Married Moms who work or go to school, and they've been witty, smart, supportive women who have something to say.

And I think that's what it comes down to in the end. Those that want to listen and be heard, and those that want to keep us down.

What's this? Women expressing their own opinions? Yep. We're not the desperate housewives - or single moms - anymore. We're not afraid to share our thoughts, our opinions on current events, our personal strengths and weaknesses, our fears and pride in motherhood. We're letting it all (or at the very least, some of it) hang out.

And we're looking to each other for advice, support, wit, and relaxation. We're not paying our therapists or for books written by men to feel better about ourselves, and to feel whole. (And, just a note, I applaud the daddy bloggers as well; for entirely different reasons, but just as loudly.) We're finding our own way with a little help from our mommy blogger friends.

I am proud to be among this group. I think we are all better mothers, and just as importantly, women for it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

WijvenWeek - La Casa de Chicas

Click here for more Wijvenweek posts.

First, I need to vent. Two bad nights in a row with the girls. They're driving me INSANE!!!

I'd already chosen to post about the advantages of having an all-girl household, and maybe doing so will help me remember just what it is I like about them.

The toilet seat's always down. Although, there was one time, after a male friend visited where I had that "WTF?" experience!

No one asks if it's that time of the month. A bad mood is just a bad mood, possibly blamed on being tired or a hard day, but never does the cycle come up as an explanation.

Open swooning for hot celebs. Although, there are some disagreements. Riley doesn't get the Johnny Depp thing.

I don't get the Zac Efron thing.

Neither of them get the George Clooney thing.

Nobody answers, "what are you thinking about?" with "nothing." Yes, it's possible you might get way too much information, but awkward, quiet moments just don't happen. An expansion of that is...

No one holds back their emotions. It's all out there for everyone to see and hear, and deal with. And all problems are thoroughly talked out. And here's one I learned from "The Brady Bunch:" no one goes to bed angry.

I'm not chastised for being scared of spiders. The girls don't laugh at me or make fun of me when I scream at a spider. They're very empathetic, and when possible, do the killing for me. (Now there's a lifelong skill for them to take with them!)

No roles are set by gender. I know this couple that gets some very weird looks sometimes because the woman always drives. She enjoys the driver's seat, he'd rather not listen to her back-seat directions. It works for them and shouldn't need explanation. Growing up, my dad did all the cooking. I drive, I cook, I clean, I discipline, I comfort, I play the games, I'm the good and bad cop, I've even hammered a few nails and fixed a few toilets over the years. However, they've also learned that sometimes you ask for help. Or directions.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wijvenweek - Body Images

Click here for more Wijvenweek posts.

Nat's post inspired me to talk about women and weight as part of Wijvenweek. Although, it should be noted that she is one of many bloggers tackling the issue of weight.

I'm always uncomfortable tackling this subject because I've never had major problems with my weight, and I fear other women's hatred because of that. I generally try to shy away from the topic after learning from experiences that bemoaning any body issues out loud could cause usually normal, happy women to hiss and roar at me.

However, contrary to some people's opinions, I am not a beanpole. I have curves, and not always in the right places. Particularly now in my thirties (and being in a job that has me sitting on my rear most of the time in front of a computer), it's not as easy as it used to be. Again, please don't read this as a complaint. It's just a fact of life.

But that's just a little background, not the main point of this post at all. I want to talk about raising girls with a healthy outlook on weight, and their bodies in general.

They're both in good shape, and I don't really worry about them yet, but I worry about the messages they're getting from everywhere else.

I worry about "America's Next Top Model" (as Nat mentioned) and the images that we have all around us of what being beautiful is supposed to look like. I worry that the focus on the problem with obesity in America is going to turn them into anorexics in order to avoid it. I worry that they will not remain as active as they are right now naturally and will obsess about their weight, food, etc. I worry about them being raised here in "LaLa Land" where there are always 10 more women in the vicinity that are skinnier, taller, and better dressed than you. (At least, that's been my experience.)

I try to keep the girls' focus on eating healthy because it's good for you, and staying away from unhealthy foods because it's bad for you, not because it'll make you fat. I also believe that trying to instill moderation is key. I don't ban all sugar or fast food because I don't want them to feel completely deprived. My own experience was that I was almost never allowed to have soda growing up. I remember my first few shopping trips as an adult, I felt like I was doing something wrong by buying the soda. Then, I embraced the freedom and became a bit of a soda-holic. I think too much deprivation can lead to over-indulgence later.

I never use food as a punishment or reward. I have no rules about having to finish dinner. We also don't have dessert every night. They're allowed to have candy and soda at parties. They are allowed to have Hansen's natural sodas at home a few nights a week. If they are still hungry after dinner, they're allowed to snack on carrots.

I don't ever try to focus on their weight. I try to concentrate on the substances that they're putting in their bodies rather than the look of their bodies themselves. I explain that too much sugar will make them too hyper, or vegetables will help them grow stronger. It's never about what will make them "fat" or keep them "skinny."

Luckily, I still don't have any worries about the amount of exercise they get. They dance, jump rope, run, etc. as much as humanly possible. Both of their schools have PE, plus they go hiking and running with my parents.

However, this is all very early in the game. They're not yet adolescents, and I worry about the peer pressure they'll encounter. I don't remember where I read this, but I do recall reading that peer pressure has been proven to be more influential during the teen years than parents. I don't necessarily worry about this by itself, but to completely dismiss peer pressure as a valid problem would be naive.

More than anything, I worry about my ability to be effective if it ever is a problem because of my lack of understanding.

I watched the Miss America pageant for years, but I always knew in my heart that I was just not one of those types of girls so it was never an aspiration. Nor was being a model. I played Barbies obsessively as a kid, but they were so unreal-looking to me that I never thought of them as role models. Mainly, they were just the "actors" in my plays that I wrote, directed, and produced :) As an actress, I was always going out on auditions where the character breakdowns included the words "off-beat looking" so I never thought of myself as beautiful, or that beauty was something I needed to protect against all odds.

I never thought of myself as anything other than average as a woman. There are times, sure, when I've felt beautiful, sexy, ugly, overweight, etc. But they were all fleeting moments that didn't hold a lot of value to them.

What was always more important to me was what was on the inside. Have you ever noticed how certain people become more or less attractive to you the more you get to know them? That was what I kept as my focus. That's what I have to keep my focus on for the girls, too, I guess.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Birthing Stories

If you'd like to participate, this is the brainchild of Sarcastic Mom.

When I was pregnant with Sylvia, I was obsessed with wanting to know what labor felt like. I was afraid I wouldn't recognize it soon enough, and not get to the hospital in time. Of course, from other moms I was met with a lot of laughter and "oh, you'll know"s.

Not only did I recognize it and get to the hospital with time to spare, I was too early and they sent me home. I was grateful because I totally hated the nurse that was there at the time. Without getting into too much detail, let's just say that her inability to find a vein was much less painful than the catheter.

My labor had started upon waking up at 6 a.m. Finally, at close to midnight, we went back to the hospital. I made it through 18 hours of labor without pain relief. More than enough time for me. I was begging, screaming, and crying for an epidural by the time we went back.

My husband (at the time) was driving me crazy. He kept mirroring my pain back to me. I didn't need empathy, I needed reassurance! Before the epidural kicked in, I ended up slapping him. I was going through that "I want you, get away from me" thing that whole day. He'd keep leaving me alone while I was in labor which was making me crazy, but as soon as he got back, I'd want him to go again.

After the greatest invention EVER - the epidural - was administered, I was able to get some sleep. I woke when they were checking how dialated I was and my water broke.

You know how in all those movies, they show the woman almost giving up at some point saying, "I can't, I can't!" I always thought that was really stupid. Particularly since it always happens so close to the actual birth.

Sure enough, I became one of those women. There's a certain point in the birthing process - and those of you that have experienced it will understand at which point I mean - where the pain is unlike anything else. It feels like it's ripping you to shreds, and after so much labor, so much pushing, you really do feel like you are so done.

But I got through it, albeit with a little more humility. And, of course, it was very very worth it. I had no idea I could feel that much love as I did when I held her in my arms that first time. What's even more amazing is how much more I love her today than 10 years ago.

Riley's experience was just crazy. We were supposed to be moving from San Jose to Pittsburgh. We still had some packing to do before we left town, but we'd given notice to be out of there within a couple of days.

I woke up that morning, and my water broke. Nearly seven weeks early.

Now, I don't know if anyone else has experienced this, but when my water broke, it was like a bathtub spout coming out of me. I changed clothes twice, and finally just gave up. We were freaking out a little because we had no idea where to take Sylvia. I called her old day care provider who said without a moment's hesitation to bring her by.

I was still pouring when we got to the hospital. I swear, I had no clue one could even have that much water in their body!

I knew before any doctor told me that Riley was not positioned right. She was laying across me rather than breach or the proper method. I was not surprised when they said they'd have to do a C-section. The fact that they had to put me under general anesthesia was a surprise, but whatever. After the experience with Sylvia, I wasn't all too anxious to relive that again!

The worst part was, after she was born, and after I was coherent again, they weren't letting me see her! They didn't have the results of my TB test (I think that's the one) so they said I'd have to take a chest x-ray. I said, "let's go!" I put one of those protections around my stomach (and after a C-section, it was NOT easy) so they could take the picture.

Hours went by. It was the following day, and still no doctor was examining it to okay me to let me go see Riley, who was in the NICU. I knew she was "going to be fine" and just a little jaundiced, but that wasn't comforting me. I wanted to see my baby.

I finally started crying and carrying on to the nurses and within an hour, a doctor had okayed me to go there.

At 5 1/2 pounds, she looked tiny to me. And then I saw the other babies in the NICU. Mine looked giant compared to some of them. I couldn't wrap my head around what some of the other parents must be going through, although I didn't see many other parents around.

We both were going to have to stay a few days. Our fabulous, amazing child care provider took Sylvia on her family vacation with her while we were recuperating. I would go down to the NICU every 2-4 hours to feed Riley. Even with her jaundiced, she was still beautiful.

I remember having this fear, before Riley was born, that I could never love anyone as much as I loved Sylvia. We have a saying in our house about that now: "nobody loves you like I do." I love Riley so completely for who she is, and the same for Sylvia, but both loves are completely different, yet equal. (Yes, in this instance, separate but equal can apply.)

Both were the most incredible experiences of my life. And I never want to do it again!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up - Part Dos

Hope those that celebrate had a nice Easter. My girls celebrated the secular aspect, and I got a nice break at home. Oh, I did some cleaning and such, but still managed to catch up on "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report."

Thanks for your compliments on the new look. I'm glad you like it! Hopefully, it'll take longer for me to get sick of it - too much of the same color bores me after a while.

I haven't said anything about the Obama/Wright issue. Obama really said most of what I think about the racial divide in his speech on Tuesday. If you've been living under a rock, you can see it here. Beyond that, I've been trying to stay away from the punditry because I know it'll just upset me. I have noticed that some people have gone from thinking he's a Muslim to thinking he's a blind follower of his Christian pastor in a matter of days. Does anyone else find this ironic?

I finished Where the Red Fern Grows last night. And cried. Again. I also watched The Brave One, and was disappointed. I'm a huge fan of both Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard so I was hoping to like it much more than I did. But the script was merely so-so.

Oh, and I read about this HBO documentary premiering this week called "Autism the Musical." I know it's probably going to be incredibly heart-breaking, but I still really, really want to see it.

The girls were on Spring Break this past week, and spent it with their grandparents. They went to the St. Patrick's Day Parade downtown, went to the zoo, and hiked.

Riley was suffering from candy envy earlier. I let them each pick one piece of candy to have before dinner (because they really don't need any more sugar afterwards). Riley hemmed and hawed and finally chose something. Then she saw what her sister had, and couldn't help wanting that instead. I let her throw the marshmallow thing away (after convincing her that throwing candy away is not the same as wasting food) so she could have what her sister was having. This is how to avoid sibling rivalry; I'm all about balancing the candy distribution!

Aren't they just the cutest?!? Not like I'm biased or anything :)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Can't Stop Blogging - Early Weekend Wrap-Up

I normally take Saturdays off, but lately...I just can't seem to stop blogging!

Kori has been bugging me for months now to read Operating Instructions. It's not that I don't trust her opinion - I do, implicitly. I'm just, to be honest, I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy reading about a newborn outside of my favorite bloggers. My kids are seven and ten; I'm well beyond the baby years! Well, I'm in her son's 3rd month, and am loving this book! (Yes, Kori, you can say "I told you so.")

I think my favorite line so far is, "I was never all that big on reality." Oh, yeah! For anyone who wonders why I read and watch TV and movies so much, that right there is the reason: a need to escape. Oh, sure, sometimes it hits home, too. Sometimes, there's something I read or hear that makes me think about my own life in another way.

Like the other day, this time it was listening to KPCC's The Story. Specifically, this story about a family who has been homeless for the last few years, most recently squatting in a foreclosed home. It started with an apartment that blew up due to electric wiring problems. Then they moved to a place that got devastated in a hurricane. Then, there was a problem with the water heater in another place. They ended up in their car. And from there, into this home where someone else's dream had been lost, but where they have to leave Monday, and will most likely be sleeping in a car again.

Earlier that day, I'd heard another story about a slumlord who could possibly be shut down - and leave 300 people homeless. Humbling reminders, to say the very least, that our condo situation may not be the end of the world after all.

I went home and watched "Make Me a Supermodel." Enough reality, thanks very much.

Back to the book (forgive, again, this somewhat stream of consciousness)...Lamott also is very open and honest about her struggle to integrate being a mother into the person that she was before giving birth. It's something I still think about.

I am not one of those women who dreamed of being a mom. I didn't diaper baby dolls, or talk about what I would name my children. I didn't even really dream about a wedding!

To my credit, I wasn't so shallow that all I dreamed of were Oscars and Tonys (although, sure, I did make up acceptance speeches). I just wanted to work. I just wanted to do what I thought I did best. I wanted to explore humanity through the arts.

Instead, I find myself immersed in humanity in a whole other way. I was never very good at improv, and yet that's what most of my life feels like now. I used to concentrate on being in touch with my emotions; now I don't just work to control my own, but those of these two little girls that are looking to me (me!) to guide them.

I was once asked when I believed I was a mom. It comes and goes.

I remember confiding to my husband that I really loved stepping over toys because it reminded me that I was a mom. Now I just try to control the scream. There's a Dora game that is heavy and big and out to get me.

I spend most of my waking hours thinking about these two little souls, but there are times when they're sleeping that I'm gripped with a sense of, "OMG! I'm ruining their lives! I didn't read to them today. I never answered Sylvia's question about how far the Earth is from the moon. I should've let Riley tell me that stupid, not funny joke one more time (after the first 4 times). I'm stifling her creativity." Okay, well usually, not all of those at once. But you get the idea.

Around Sylvia's 10th birthday, I started freaking out that I'm more than halfway done with her and there's still so much I haven't done with her yet. I see teenagers on the street, and most of them look so...unremarkable. That's not what I want for her. I don't want her to live the quiet desperation. And, given what she's been through with her father, I don't want any other man to break her heart ever again.

But I know they will. Maybe not so fervently, but she'll mourn a love of her life. We all do, right? But why should she have to?

And then I feel bad that I'm not worrying about Riley enough. She just seems to have such a good head on her shoulders. She's never lost that wisdom that so many babies seem to hold. She speaks her mind, she deals with her emotions in the most healthy way I've seen on any human being. She's so incredibly well-balanced that I don't believe she's actually mine. (I was under general anesthesia. It's possible.)

So I must be missing something with her. Why is it that she never seems fazed for more than 2 minutes? How is it that she knows exactly what she needs to do to feel better? She's just imperfect enough for me to know that is indeed human, but beyond that...what am I missing?

Is it any wonder, then, that sometimes I'd just rather watch "The Riches?" (Seriously, great show. It's got that cultish thing about it that I find fascinating - like "Big Love.")

Friday, March 21, 2008

Flashback Friday - Fighting Fire with Fire

I went to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts as a vocal music major. We used to tell people, "it's like Fame, but we don't dance on the tables." Although, we did break out in song every now and then.

You would think that we'd all be totally stuck up, competitive, and crawling all over each other to be the best. We weren't. The school was still so new at that time, we were all just grateful to be there. I believe mine was the 4th graduating class - something like that. We had been the geeks at our previous schools that no one got. We were the ones who weren't interested in going to the football games (except for the band, maybe) and got excited when a Sondheim tour came to town. We were the people who wore black, but weren't into punk. We were the ones voted "Most Talented" in the junior high yearbooks.

Our high school finally gave us a place to belong, to talk about big band jazz versus jazz fusion, or whether Mozart or Beethoven was a better composer, or whether Andrew Lloyd Webber added value or too much commercialism to Broadway. We once had an hour-long discussion on what defined "classical" music. (I can only speak here about the music majors.)

Junior year, we had some new students come in. (At the time, the high school only went sophomore-senior year.) One new student wasn't quite acclimated to our culture yet.

We all had opportunities to do our best and worst work in our music class, and in front of everyone. Sometimes you rocked it, and sometimes you failed. Because we all knew that the next time we got up there could be the time for us to mess up royally, we were pretty supportive of each other when someone didn't do their best. We all critiqued each other's work in a constructive manner. And, to be fair, we were all so different that someone was always doing something that we personally couldn't do. We had gospel singers, opera singers, pop and Broadway singers. And we all were required to try different things that weren't really our specialty.

Come to think of it, it's a bit like the blogosphere. We all have things in common, but different experiences and background. With a few exceptions, what I've experienced here is the most akin to what I experienced there; a chance to support each other, and learn from each other.

Anyway...I'm so dragging this out, aren't I? One of the new juniors just didn't get it. She decided to pick on me. She made really rude remarks about one of my solos in a way that just wasn't necessary. No, it wasn't my best, but I was working on it. Her remarks didn't scare me; they just ticked me off. They ticked off my friends, too.

From then on, we made her life miserable. We'd critique her work so thoroughly that there was nary a breath left that we hadn't commented on (all the while doing it "constructively" so that there wasn't anything our professors could find wrong with what we were doing). We'd make catty remarks as she passed us in the halls. We definitely left her out of our reindeer games (Heathers? Anyone?).

A couple of months of this, and by the semester break, she decided to go back to her neighborhood school. I can't say I'm proud of it, but at the same time, I really had no idea that we'd had such an effect on her!

Cut to a few months later. I was working for one of those dinner cruise ships out of Los Angeles Harbor. One of the musicians and I started flirting. He asked me out. We had a good time. Before we had a chance to proceed from there, we ran into each other at some show. It came up then that I was going to LACHSA. He started talking about his niece who went there. Yep, it was her!

Funny, he never asked me out again!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Balancing Control

I started thinking about this last night as I was watching "In Treatment." The therapist was explaning to the teenaged girl about how we have no control over anyone else's actions but our own.

Now, this isn't a new concept for me. However, it did take me about 7 years with my ex-husband before I could really grasp it; that no matter how much I loved him, stood by him, threatened him, cajoled him, lectured him, begged him, I could not make him stop taking drugs and start taking responsibility for his own life. While the words make sense, the reality of it can be much harder.

However, last night, I was thinking about it as a mother. I was thinking about how incongruous this concept is with parenting. Even though I know that I can't control my kids, it's ironic how much we're expected to, isn't it? Of course, there's a vast difference between attempting to control them, and attempting to guide them in the right direction. To some extent, we can control them by being attentive, providing them with safety and security, being a role model, listening to them, helping them work out their problems. Still, we do have to accept that our job is to let them live independent lives eventually.

I hate that.

Control is a beautiful thing. I completely understand how people can go stir-crazy for it. I go stir-crazy without it - as evidenced by most of my posts for the last week! I'd much rather be able to berate myself for mistakes than feeling like any aspect of my life is not under my direct control. My name is April, and I am a control freak.

For what it's worth, I've never been able to amass much power to really do anything with it - for harm or for good. For the most part, I think I would use it for good.

My dream in life is to create a non-profit organization for single parents. Ideally, it would include affordable housing, a child care facility, a career center, a clothing swap center, workshops and classes for both the parents and the children, a single parents co-op, if you will. Of course, I'm too busy raising my own kids to even attempt something like that right now!

I'm totally digressing. I've lost control of this post.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thank You, Update and Rambling

Thank you all for your kind words of support and encouragement. One of the hard parts of being a single parent is having no one to mull it all over with at the end of the day. Thanks for letting me say the things that I need to say in order to work it out in my own head, and just for being there. Your comments were sweet morsels of reassurance, and I appreciate that.

I talked to the girls last night, and it went fairly well. Sylvia (who resembles me in the way she is so open emotionally) cried, and Riley asked a lot of questions and wanted to understand. At one point, Sylvia was afraid she wouldn't be going to KIPP anymore, and I told her, "I promise you, you are staying in KIPP, no matter what." Riley looked right at me and said, "but you can't promise me, can you?" I answered her truthfully, "no. But I'll try really really hard." She came over and gave me a great big hug. Both of them made it clear that they did not want to move, but they also know that I've been mulling this over for days now and don't see any other way to make it work. Then Sylvia said she didn't want to think about it anymore, and could she turn on the TV. Which, all in all, I thought was just fine.

We've talked about it a couple of times since. Riley had a more emotional reaction tonight, but I dealt with it. Not long after, we were all belting along with Legally Blonde: the Musical, and Riley was blowing kisses to me.

I do feel so much better now. And I'm able to get outside my own head...always a good thing, 'cuz it can get pretty scary in there at times!

So, in an attempt to lighten the mood around here a little:

Is anyone else watching "Celebrity Apprentice?" I grant you, it's really stupid, but somehow, always makes me smile.

I've been really disappointed in "The Daily Show" lately, but I'm loving "Colbert Report" - although I'm a few days behind.

I was very annoyed by the lighting in "John Adams" (I've only seen the first part so far). It's a little too dark in the dark parts - they know we're watching it in our living room, right?

If you've seen Juno, you have to read this post by Ken Levine. Also, he gives great "American Idol" blog!

I've been re-reading Where the Red Fern Grows; I bought it for Sylvia, but had to read it once more before I let her read it. I haven't read it since I was a kid myself. It's such a great book, but it's weird to read him about cutting down these massive sycamore trees, which would most likely get him landed in jail today!

Does it sound like I watch too much TV and read too many blogs? You're right, I do. My distractions are very important to me, and I'll stay up 'til midnight for 'em!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Revelation (I think)

I have to give a little background info here, which frankly, I wasn't feeling like sharing because it pains me, but I'm finding it necessary to do for cathartic reasons. (My therapist is no longer on my insurance plan; I've got to get it somehow!)

At the beginning of this year, I was in quite a bad place, emotionally. There had been events with the girls' father, and then fall-out to that which was just really hard for me to bear at the time.

Bear with me, because this is a hard post for me to write. I'm still struggling with how much detailed info to give. Oh, screw it! I'm going for it.

I'd written previously about how the girls' holiday trip got canceled because of their father, and how I'd finally told the girls about their dad's drug problem. I thought we were getting through it okay, and then Sylvia had a bit of a breakdown when she returned to school.

She started seeing the school's therapist, and I went in for a session. I came back from that session, and sobbed like I've probably never sobbed before. The issue of how much we've moved since leaving my husband and coming back to L.A. came up - it was presented to me as a question about the "lack of stability." I took that very personally.

Each move was for a good reason. The first move was from my parent's house to our first apartment - a one-bedroom (all I could afford at the time). I gave them the bedroom, and slept in the living room. The second move was an upgrade into a 2-bedroom apartment. Unfortunately, I didn't learn until after the move that it meant a change in schools for the girls (stupid me, I know). The next move was this latest one to the condo for Sylvia to go to KIPP. Every move was pretty much for them, but I can also understand the comment about the instability, and it was something I had never thought of before, and I was devastated and angry at myself for never having thought of that.

This is something that goes back to my own childhood. We had our fair share of moves as well. The first couple, I either was too young to understand, or young enough to just think of it as exciting. But I very clearly remember one move absolutely devastating me as a child. I even remember (and for me to remember anything, really, is quite astonishing in itself) writing in my diary how much I hated my parents. I didn't understand it, I was an egocentric kid (aren't they all?) and I was very upset, and personally offended.

So I can see it from my children's point of view as well. And that's what hurt so much, is to know that I'd most likely hurt them in ways that I should have been well aware of, but had that grown-up mentality about - 'hey, I survived it, they can, too.'

Anyway, I worked through that about a month ago. Had a few good therapy sessions myself, Sylvia and I have really bonded lately...even to the point where she told me a few weeks ago that she's glad I'm a single mom. All was well.

And then, the condo thing happened. I don't know why it hadn't even occurred to me as a possibility, but somehow, having signed that 1-year lease, I felt protected. Which was stupid. So, yet again, I feel like an idiot for not thinking of this as a possibility, and yet again, I'm faced with having to move again.

(BTW, I have faced the reality that I'm going to have to move. In every possible outcome, I don't see it being financially viable for us to continue to live there.)

Okay, so that's all the bad news. Here's what I think may be the good news; or at least, the lessons learned.

I have been keeping this whole thing secret from my girls. I didn't want them to worry, I wanted to protect them. But here's the thing. I think this may have been where I've previously failed them. I think that I kept it all too secret from them until things were known and final. I most likely did not give them a chance to process all the information, be involved enough in the process. I made them feel like things were just happening to them.

Not this time.

I'll most likely wait until the weekend, but I think the best thing I can do differently this time than in the previous times is to be upfront early in the game. Let them know what's going on, let them see what I'm trying to do about it. The biggest concern is keeping Riley in the same school, so I've already talked to a friend about keeping an eye out for me (this is East L.A. - not going to find a lot of listings on the Internet, and you really have to drive the neighborhood in order to know whether or not it's going to be safe). Start looking now, since my needs are so specific, and let them come with me. Drive around on the weekends, and walk around. Let her know that I'm doing everything in my power to keep her world as stable as possible. And hope that something works out.

I'm hoping that the more time they have to digest everything, the more they are involved within the process, the easier it will be for them. I could be wrong...but I don't think so.

I think I've gotten through the worst of my own emotions about it now so that I can be strong enough for them; and that I could use needing to be strong for them to keep myself from wallowing in self-pity about it. We can live the KIPP motto of "when there's a problem, we find a solution." There are life lessons to be learned here about getting through it, and hopefully, coming out better for it. No, we don't always get what we want, but it doesn't mean that it has to break us. It's not about "there's a reason for everything" but that we can get through anything. [insert appropriate cliche here; yes, I'm the queen of cliches.]

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why I Hate Shopping

I was all set to do my part for my country and shop 'til I dropped this weekend. No, we weren't going to solve the economy's problems all by ourselves, my sister and I, but we'd drop a few bucks here and there.

First store: way too young for us. OMG, we're so old!

Second store: Payless. Oooh, shoes! We both managed to find pairs we wanted, all the while not remembering what it is that we needed. You know how it is: you're getting dressed, and you don't have the right pair of shoes to go with the outfit. But when you're standing in front of that wall of shoes, it's just all too overwhelming. You can't remember what it is you actually needed! But I found yet another pair of black shoes that I liked. Only the 7s were too big. The 6s too small. The 6 1/2 may have been just right...if only they had them in stock. What to do: go with the pair that feel like they might fall off at any moment, or go with the pair that are snug and will cause pain after an 8-hour day? Yes, I went with the painful pair. I keep hoping, with shoes like that, that there will be some evening event where I can wear them for just a couple of hours to break them in. All the while forgetting that I have no life. At $10, though, how big of a mistake can it really be?

Third store: we were most excited about checking out Steve & Berry's, and specifically, Sarah Jessica Parker's new line. Everything in the store was $8.98. Awesome! Only problem: finding things that we actually liked and that actually fit.

I tried on a pair of size 8 pants. They're too big - always nice. I try on the size 6. While they fit right on the hips, the waist is way too big, and I just don't want to be one of those women that's showing off her panties while sitting...especially at work. So I either need to gain weight to fit into them properly or lose weight to fit into a 4. (And isn't the waist supposed to be smaller than the hips?) Since neither option is appealing, I didn't buy the pants.

Then the shirts. The Mediums were just way too big. The Smalls were just way too small. Really? I don't have the right body type to just buy clothes? I managed to find a vest that fit okay. And that's it.

The good news: I didn't spend a lot of money. The bad news: I remembered why I hate shopping. I'll most likely not attempt that again for at least a year.

The highlight: margaritas at lunch, Starbucks on the way home. Those fit just fine!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

I'm still struggling with the news about the condo, but I'm coping. To my credit, none of my tears have taken place in front of the girls, who remain blissfully ignorant of the news. I'm in the process of getting advice from friends, co-workers, family, and my credit union next week, because frankly I'm not ready to give up on my home yet. I'll be the first to tell you that I feel like a three-year-old temper tantrum inside, stomping up and down while crying, "but it's mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!" I know I may have to accept defeat somewhere down the line. Just not yet. The mailers I'm getting for moving services aren't helping.

The visit with my sister did bring some respite from all of that. We got to meet their new parrot:

We're always happy to see the dogs, Colonel and Liberty:

And the cats. Roxie is the baby of the family - who doesn't like to pose much for pics! She was too busy trying to get lovins from everyone:

Edgar's the man of the house. Meaning, of course, that he lies around like this all day:

My good news for the week: the very cool Huckdoll honored me with this award:

Thanks, Huckdoll! Praise from the Huckster is praise indeed.

I pass it on to the fierce and fearlessly honest Immoral Matriarch.

Now for the bragging about the girls. Sylvia got straight As on her progress report card (how much does she rock?), and Riley scored 92 on her fluency test, blowing past the benchmark 78 wpm. (Yes, yes, I know, comprehension is way more important than speed, but still impressive.) Riley's also starting speech therapy. I'm glad she'll be able to say her name properly (her "r"s still sound like "w"s), but I'll miss how cute she sounds.

Hope everyone enjoys a little Irish spirit on St. Patty's Day!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Flashback Friday - Sisters

When Sylvia met her sister for the first time, she said, "she's so pretty." As much as they fight and drive each other crazy, they need each other as much as they need me.

We're going to spend the weekend with my own sister (not sure how much Blog Hoppin' I'll get to do), and I'm so looking forward to it!

As much as I hate shopping, I love shopping with her. Of course, there will be more talking going on than shopping, and that's how it should be! Her husband will watch the girls while we get our own "girl time."

My sister is 6 1/2 years older than me, so she was out on her own by the time I was in junior high. We weren't really that close when we were growing up because of the age difference. I, of course, was the bratty little sister who thought I should be able to do whatever she did, and she was mostly annoyed by me. I can't blame her.

When I was in 7th grade, a teacher asked me if I was an only child. I answered, "yes, but I have a sister." It made sense to me! She didn't live with us anymore, so in the every day life, I was an only child.

It wasn't until I was in high school that we started getting close. When I was 18, I lived with her and her family for a few months when I was doing a show at a Resort near her. I think that's probably what really cemented us into being the best of friends.

In some ways, we're polar opposites. She'd never have a blog...she wouldn't want to post things about her life in this type of environment. But she holds no judgment about me being the kind of person who does. She doesn't put her foot in her mouth nearly as much as I do!

But we're also a lot alike. At the last family event, we both said something to the kids in the exact same way at the exact same time, same inflection and everything! It was like in stereo. And then we looked at each other, and busted up laughing.

When I moved back to L.A., we got on the same phone plan so that we could talk to each other as much as we wanted whenever we wanted, and we take full advantage of that. We'll call each other about a funny bumper sticker, or because a celebrity we hate is on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (we trade giving each other subscriptions to it). Of course, we also call each other with the bad news, too.

We can laugh with each other like no one else. We make fun of ourselves and each other in a way we wouldn't really allow anyone else. And we say the hard truths when necessary, but we haven't really had an argument in probably a decade now. We've been through enough to know that nothing is worth the loss of each other, and we'll work through anything that we have to. We can spend hours talking politics or TV shows or hair. We're sisters. A relationship like no other.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Leave Silda Spitzer alone!

I know I already posted today, but this really bugs me. Why are we so quick to judge other women's actions? Particularly when she was not the one who did anything wrong!

She has a decision to make. A very difficult decision to make. A life-changing decision.

I've been through divorce. Prior to that, I left my husband and came back a few times. It's really, really hard.

What's to say that, had she not stood up with her husband today, there would've been a whole group of women, saying how dare she not stand by his side during this time?

And really, what business is it of ours? Not what he did, but how she handles it. Her business is her own.

I wouldn't be surprised, frankly, if a few months from now, there's a little blurb about her filing the petition for divorce (or, as the laws state here in CA, the dissolution). But, really, it's her decision to make.

And, let's not forget, the media loves to watch (or create) a good cat fight. They love to see us tear each other apart for working or not working, breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, voting for the female or the African-American...

I think it's important for us to use our voices, yes, and not be silenced. I think it's important for us to explore why we make the decisions we make. But I think we should be in a place by now where we can respect and learn from each other's different decisions rather than just make judgments on them.

And there's my two cents on the subject.

My Weakest Point

This whole condo thing is bringing to light my very weakest point - not being able to cope with not having control over the situation. I really, really hate that.

The thing is, there are no moves for me to make at this point in time. It probably went on the market just in the past couple of days, and given the market, it would be financially stupid to make an offer, even if I had the funds to do so. Make 'em wait, make 'em sweat. That's the smart move.

It's hard for me because I'm not good at waiting. I have very little patience (and all of it is currently being used being a mom right now), and I hate limbo. I want to know. I want it all sorted out. But this thing won't be sorted out for a few months, at least.

Yesterday's post was very maudlin, and full of self-pity, I realize. Part of it was also poking fun at myself, but it probably didn't come across that way.

I will get through this, I know. We will get through this. I'm not a big believer in "everything happens for a reason," but I know I can get through almost anything. My girls are healthy. And smart and funny and kind and loving.

But it still feels like I've been hit. I know as well as anyone that stuff happens to people all the time. I know that life is just a journey through problems and times of calm. I knew there'd be more problems ahead. It's my own fault for not seeing that our home could be vulnerable.

Thank you all for the advice and the support. It means a lot to me. I can't just brush away the dark cloud hanging over me right now, but maybe I can learn to live with it a little easier, and come out a more patient, less controlling person. To be continued...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No - this is the other shoe

It was less than a week ago that I wrote this post, regarding our current home. I've also previously written about wondering if/when the other shoe would drop. It has now landed.

I got a call a few hours ago from the property manager of our condo that the condo has been put up for sale by the owner. I have a lease, which will have to be assumed, through July 31, but chances are, we'll be moving that day.

I am so sad. And scared. And wondering if I was a Nazi in a previous life for all the bad karma I seem to be working off this lifetime.

If you read that previous post, then you know how much this place felt like a real home to us. It's sad enough to lose that. Then to add to it, the stress and anxiety of finding a new place to live, that's affordable, that's in the right area of town, that will hopefully mean Riley not having to change schools again, obviously that will not interfere with KIPP...And of course, I can't even start looking right now because it's too soon. I'm obligated to the lease as well.

Is it too much to ask just have things stay the same?!? In my case, apparently, yes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Another LAUSD Rant

This article on parent-teacher conferences made me tense all over. What better way to deal with it than by posting a rant?

I wrote about Parent-Teacher Conference #1 with Riley's teacher here.

I'll try not to reiterate all the same points I made in that post, and in all my posts about why KIPP rocks, but rather focus on some of the massive generalizations made in this article.

And let me start by saying, I know I'm going to be guilty of generalizations as well, but since they apply to literally all of the LAUSD teachers that both of my daughters have had, I think that makes them pretty fair generalizations.

Okay, first off, which is it? Are parents not involved enough, or helicopter parents? Again, all I ever hear from LAUSD is how parents need to be more involved, and yet this article also complains of the parents who feel they are their children's best advocates. How about balancing out these generalizations of parents, and realizing that, while there are extreme cases on both ends, shouldn't we get the benefit of the doubt that most of us fall somewhere in the middle?!?

Next, please do not waste your funds or school funds on [expletive] mood music or scented candles. If you want to make sure I don't go off the deep end about how poorly my child is doing, then don't wait for a parent teacher conference to tell me. Call me, write me a note, an email. Let me know my child is in trouble as soon as possible. Parent teacher conferences should not be a place for major surprises.

To the teacher who was surprised that positive reinforcement actually works, please find another profession.

Quoting a teacher in the article: "It never ceases to amaze me how some parents want to tell teachers what they don't think they should be doing, what they should be doing, what should not be included in the course, what the grading scale should be -- basically how we should do our jobs." (Someone sounds defensive!)

It never ceases to amaze me how many teachers and other LAUSD staff assume that they know everything about our home lives based on assumptions they've made. "Oh, she's a single parent." It never ceases to amaze me how our level of involvement is based on how many chocolates we sell for the fundraiser, or how many times we can show up to assist in the classroom. This is Los Angeles, people! We all need to work to afford our housing!

Recently, I was talking to the lawyers here about the spelling tests my 2nd grader takes. The claim is, they're teaching phonetics. Yet, only about 3 out of the 10 words have the same phonetic sound. If you're going to teach phonetically, do I really need a teaching degree to figure out that maybe all of the spelling words should contain the same phonetic sound, but with all of the different spellings?

I used to drive myself crazy, wondering if I was actually the crazy one by not buying into all the whining (in various forms) that I've seen over and over from people representing LAUSD. KIPP LA Prep has proven to me that I am not the problem. No amount of coddling by the L.A. Times is going to convince me otherwise.

Gone Baby Gone thoughts - SPOILER Alert!

Okay, now that abrightfuture has given me permission :), I'm going to go ahead and talk about this film. I can't discuss it without giving it away, so move on if you don't want to know.

It takes a while to get to the real point. What starts off as a semi-thriller/semi-drama turns into a mind-bending question about what is "right" in the situation of a child being born to a drug-addled mother, and when people take the law into their own hands.

Morgan Freeman plays the mastermind of the operation; a decorated officer who lost his own daughter that becomes the head of the missing persons unit. When the brother of the addict decides she's no longer fit to be a mother, Freeman decides to take the child. Casey Affleck is caught in the middle, and eventually figures out what has occurred. It is then his decision whether or not to return the daughter (a 4-year-old) to the mother, or let her be with Freeman and his wife.

There are valid arguments on either side of this. The child is shown happy with Freeman, who is ready to give her all that he could not give his own child. A real home, vacations, sleep-overs, etc. Why should this child have to pay for her mother's mistakes?

Then again, why not go about it in the right way? Why did the brother not call Social Services, and let the laws in place deal with it? The brother called a cop he knew, and this cop felt that Freeman deserved a second chance at fatherhood instead.

Again, if that's the case, then why not do it through the system? Yes, the system has cracks. Yes, these things can take a lot longer than we'd like. But, once we stop paying any attention to the line, then where does it stop?

I can certainly relate to not wanting a child to be raised around drug addicts. This is why I left my husband!

At the same time, I can't support this type of vigilantism, because what's to say Angelina and Brad won't decide that, gee, I have it real tough as a single, working mom, and my kids would be better off with them?

This need people have to interfere with other's lives because of holes in their own can be incredibly destructive. I've been put in a similar situation. Without getting into the nasty details of it all, I have experienced the very long lasting effects of other people's interference. I know they meant well. Still doesn't make it right.

Having said that, I think the brother should've done something to help this girl with this strung out "mother" who wasn't really a parent. I think he could've petitioned the court for custody, called Social Services, talked to counselors, hired Supernanny! Any myriad of options other than how he handled it. And Freeman could've adopted a child - an older child that has little chance at their "advanced' age of 10 or 12 to be adopted. A child that has gone through the very difficult trials and tribulations of the system, and still doesn't have a place to call home or people to call family. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. But a true sense of morality and justice should've been possible without breaking about a dozen laws.

I'll put it this way: if kidnapping, murder, and lies are involved, it's probably not the right thing to do.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Watched Gone Baby Gone. I really want to discuss this film, but don't want to spoil it for anyone, either. It raises some interesting questions.

Only my fellow musical-theatre lovers will appreciate this next paragraph. Sirius' Broadway's Best played "An Evening with Kander & Ebb," which was performed before Chicago opened on Broadway. The most exciting part was hearing the song "Roxie" as it was originally written, which was different than what ended up in the show.

I barely survived the work week as a person from another department, but just 10 feet away from me, threatened to take away all threads left of my sanity BY TALKING LIKE THIS. FOR FIVE. HOURS. STRAIGHT. Unfortunately, she has the emotional maturity of a toddler, so any attempts to request a lesser volume is met with even louder tantrums.

The biggest news was getting my hair cut. Now, mind you, I wasn't going for anything drastic. But, considering I first started thinking that it was time to get my hair trimmed back in November, it was long overdue. I actually made an appointment about a month ago, and then, of course, that's the day I had to go pick up a sick child from school and couldn't reschedule until now.

There was actual cheering as I left the office to finally get it done.

Here's a before pic that Riley took a couple weeks ago:

Now, let me reiterate, I wasn't going for anything drastic. Some were disappointed that my hair cut didn't completely transform me. Others were happy I kept it long. Because, apparently, my hair is for everyone else.

Here's the "new" me:

Everyone also wants me to get up an hour earlier to curl my hair like this every day. That's not going to happen. Riley thought we should at least take a picture.

Girls' highlights: Sylvia made the Honor Roll at school! She was so incredibly excited, and I'm so happy for her. And I love this pic that Riley took of her.

Riley is counting down the days until we go down to my sister's next weekend.

Oh, yeah! And I finally downloaded photos from my camera. (I think that took longer than getting my hair cut.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Flashback Friday - Coming Home

My Photo

I know, I threatened last week to stop doing this, but in the past week, I've begun to see the therapeutic value in looking back and putting it all into perspective. At least, that's my mood today. We'll see what next Friday brings.

Today's theme: home. I didn't have your normal childhood home. I was born in Orange County (which is just wrong, for someone like me), we moved to Bakersfield when I was 4 or 5, then to Cupertino, then to Santa Cruz, and in Santa Cruz County, lived in 3 different homes before we moved to Los Angeles when I was 12.

My parents claim we moved here so that I could go to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which was just about to open. I know it's the main reason, but I also think they were ready to come back to Southern California.

I did love Santa Cruz. It was a really great place to grow up, and where I got started doing theatre. However, it was time to move up (well, geographically, down) in the world and try my footing on some larger stages.

I just recently asked my mom how they found the condo that became our L.A. home. It was some type of fluke, of course.

I remember the night we took the drive. The U-Haul, my mother driving one car, the U-Haul towing the other that held our family cat, Sissy, who was in the family before I was! We arrived late at night, my parents tired from the trip. We put some mattresses on the floors of the bedrooms and my dad got a pizza. Even with the exhaustion, there was an excitement in the air about our future.

I bring it up because of what this condo has come to mean to me. It was where I spent junior high, high school, and beyond. Most kids leave home; my parents bought a new house, and I stayed at the condo. I would leave it from time to time and last left it in 1996, when I moved with the man who was to be the father of my children to Denver.

My parents still owned the condo for quite some time, and sold it just a few years ago.

This summer, I began looking for a new place because of KIPP. We were living in the Valley, I work in Burbank, but the school is near downtown L.A. The commute would've been crazy to drop her off before 7:20 and get my youngest daughter to her school in the Valley and get me to Burbank by 8 a.m. The commute would make more sense if we lived closer to KIPP and then I just commuted to work (not long - about 25 minutes or so).

My parents were going to meet me at a house in our old neighborhood to check out for a rental. We decided that on their way there, they would stop back at the old condo complex and see if any units there were up for rent.

The unit that my parents had previously owned was available for rent. On top of that, it was $100 cheaper than what I'd been paying for rent in the Valley. Plus, it has a washer & dryer (our old washer, actually), a dishwasher, and a garage - all amenities we'd previously been living without. Within a couple of days, the deal was done.

The girls and I were moving home. The girls thought it very cool to live where I'd grown up. Since the bedrooms are small, I ended up giving them the master bedroom, and I'm now sleeping in the same room I slept in when I was 12. And 19. And 21.

I get asked sometimes if it's weird living there again. The only thing that's weird is how not weird it is. It's home. I love walking over to the mailboxes again. I love parking in our garage again. I love that sometimes I'll walk down the hallway and have a quick flashback of a previous walk down that hallway when I was 14. Other people may have inhabitated that space over the years that I was gone, but it's still very much my home. And now it's our home.

I think I'll have even more flashbacks as my oldest daughter approaches the ages that I'd been there. I hope that it will remind me of what being 13 feels like, and help me relate to her a little more. And then, later, with Riley.

We may not have the biggest or best home, but it is filled with memories, with us, and I look forward to many more years in this most recent homecoming.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In the interest of equality...

I'm going to rant about some women now. Two days in a row, I've read two different blogs that basically threatened my ability to call myself a feminist for supporting Obama over Clinton. (I won't link to them because they don't need any more publicity than they've already received.)

To quote Stephanie Miller, shut the huck up!

One blog alluded to the damage I'm doing to my daughters by not voting for Hillary. Yeah, I don't think so. The other said that I wasn't grateful enough for the sacrifices trailblazing women have made before me to even give women the option. I can't really think of a good comeback to that one except "bite me."

Then, of course, there was the Tina Fey skit where she implied that all women voting for Obama were doing so because Oprah told them to do it - not to mention, all of the flak that Oprah received for supporting an African-American over a woman.

These are arguments that sound similar to Bush calling all anti-war protestors anti-American. I mean, how can you even argue with it? It's not based on any form of reality or logic, so why should I even try?

I know some Hillary supporters, and I respect that they believe she would be a better President than Obama. I don't call them "racist" for that. How fair would that be?


This primary election season needs to be over and done with because this mud-slinging is getting completely out of control. I suppose I could be found guilty of doing the same thing, but hey...can't let everyone else but me have all the fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Men not equal? Give me a break!

Yesterday, I encountered 2 different stories of men complaining about inequal rights.

The first involved the man who previously advocated to ban Ladies' Nights in bars now filing suit against the Colorado Rockies Ladies' Night promotion. Clearly, the man has decided he has no desire to get laid ever again in his lifetime.

These are promotions. They are not jobs, they are not housing issues, they are not education issues. These promotions are based on what a company's willing to offer for what they want in return. They want more women there. If you have a problem with having a large amount of women in an establishment, here's an idea: stay home! I find this insulting for every fight for true equality that minorities and women have faced in our long history.

Business have practices that I don't agree with, and here's how I deal with it. I don't go there. I will tell others that I don't go there, and why. I'll even write an email to the company and tell them why I'm not going there. It would never occur to me to file a lawsuit unless I felt that the business practices were illegal or immoral. I don't know how you compare the right to fair salaries to the privilege of a free game ticket.

The next one is insulting to me personally. It involves the lawyer who claims himself a "Dad-vocate." Kori has already blogged about this (I love Kori for never holding back any punches), but there's no way I can leave this alone.

David C. Stone likes to throw around statistics to prove his points. He likes to say how the mothers gain custody the majority of the time. Well, here's what I know about single parenthood.

I know many more women who are single mothers whose partner has abandoned their children. I know many women whose partner is not worthy of the title Dad. The problem, quite simply, is the men.

Now I know some dads here in the blogosphere and in real life who are involved in their children's lives. My own father took his role very seriously. This is not to take away anything from any father that has earned the title of "dad" or "daddy." You know who you are. This is not about you.

This is about the single mothers that are truly sick of being bashed upon. This is about the moms who deal with every sickness, every report card and parent meeting, every request to their bosses to please let them take an early lunch to be there for the holiday play, every question about why Daddy doesn't call, every mom who can't get a job because there are no laws to protect mothers from being discriminated against in the workplace.

Yes, there are cases where the guys get the raw end of the deal sometimes. I know of two, personally. Beyond those two, though, I know ten times more women personally who are doing this without the child support they are owed, without a dependable second parent, without the child support system doing their part, with no one standing up for them.

And if I hear the phrase again how "every child needs two actively engaged parents," as David Stone says, I think I will scream. Loudly and long and you will be able to hear it through your modems and wi-fis.

Yes, I would love it if I could depend on my daughters' father to have a stable residence (that wasn't a jail cell), be drug-free, have a valid driver's license, and hey! Why don't we throw in the thousands of dollars in back child support while we're at it? Are you kidding me?!? You're welcome to take him under your wing, Mr. Stone, and teach him how to be a man.

In fact, you're welcome to go to all of the actual mothers and children where the moms won custody and child support and find out if they're actually receiving that child support, and if the dads are showing up for their visitation. Since you're so concerned about these children, that's the best advocacy work you could do.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Obama on Education

Finally, some talk about education! Thanks to Roadkill Refugee for pointing this clip out to me.

Here is the clip, and then I have a "speech" of my own to make.

Of course, I appreciate the acknowledgments that our kids need to learn more than just how to take a test, that we as parents have obligations to our kids and to our teachers, and that progress should not be punished. However, I have some concerns that he did not address.

First of all, it's all well and good to tell the parents to call the teachers if we can't help our kids, but how many teachers actually give out that information? The only teachers I know that will do such a thing are those at KIPP schools.

I agree that children should not be left to fend for themselves at the end of the day, but why do we insist on keeping our kids in farmers' hours of education? The system was set up for an entirely different time, and it's time for our schools to keep up with the times. KIPP students are in school until 5 pm. This allows them the opportunity to have Music and Art and Social Sciences and P.E., and still have ample time for Reading, Writing, and Math. And, yes, Recess!

My high school did this as well. I went to the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, where classes went from 8 - 4, and all our classes after lunch were in the Arts. Not everyone went on to become superstars, but we all learned how to work as a team, how to think critically, and how to express ourselves. Sylvia wants to go there for high school, and I'd support that wholeheartedly.

But parental support and involvement has to mean more than selling cookies and wrapping paper. KIPP is the only school where parents' concerns and ideas are taken seriously, and often implemented. KIPP is the only school that doesn't ask me to sell cookies or wrapping paper. KIPP is the only school where there is no formal PTA, and yet I feel I have more of a voice there than at any other school. KIPP is the only school that has provided me with a website where I can check all of Sylvia's grades from assignments to test scores, and I have every teacher's email address. KIPP is the only school that has offered moral support in times of family problems, and even a licensed therapist. KIPP is the only school that understands that we all need to work together, and that means supporting the parents as well as the parents supporting the teachers.

I'd much rather Obama commit to scrapping No Child Left Behind completely and making drastic changes than the modest proposals he's made in this speech.

Of course, he's got to win the nomination first!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

This might become a regular thing for me, this weekend wrap-up. We'll see. Warning: random non-sequitors ahead!

I actually got through the entire blog-hopping list! If I didn't comment, it's because my computer apparently needs to rest every now and then, and I didn't get a chance to go back to your blog - sorry 'bout that! I don't know if I can do that every weekend; in fact, I'm sure I can't. It just happened to be a slow weekend.

I also finally managed to set up a Google reader. Love that!

I figured out why mostly women have left "Make Me a Supermodel" - it's on Bravo! Generally a lot more gay men and straight women watch this channel. Those gals never had a fair chance.

I'm officially sick of the primary election season, and hope that Tuesday gives us a final nominee.

I love this cartoon from the New Yorker.

I watched Across the Universe - and was decidedly too sober for what the filmmakers had in mind.

I got my tax refunds. In my head I've spent it 20 times over, but in reality (financial advisers be damned), I paid some of on my outstanding debts, but am going to hang onto most of the cash so that the next time the car needs repair/printer dies/[insert expensive need here] occurs, I can actually pay it with cash instead of putting it on the credit card. I think I'll use my forthcoming rebate for my student loans.

I got to have one of those moments where I truly appreciate my job. We have these little get-togethers on occasion where someone brings in cupcakes or what-have-you and we all convene in one of the lawyer's office to enjoy. This time, there was a lawyer from another department, which happens every now and then. We did our usual thing - commenting on current events, talking about our kids, always with a lot of laughter. At one point, the lawyer "from outside" commented that we're really a family. We all smiled and nodded in agreement.

This is actually the longest job I've ever held - this October will be my 5th year anniversary, and I'm the "newbie" in the dept. In some ways, it's quite surprising that I'd last longest as a secretary for lawyers in corporate legal real estate. During my interview with HR, she was quite skeptical of my staying power. But, beyond the practical reasons of good benefits and such, the reason I stay is because of the people. Lawyers get a lot of flak, and most of the time, they deserve it. These lawyers, however, do not. They're all kind, wonderful people that all have lives outside of the office. Most of them have kids. They're all grounded in reality, and understand the importance of a sense of humor. They've all worked in nightmare situations, and we're all appreciative of the head of our department, who is as nice as they come. Oh, sure, we have our little irritations with each other on occasion, but what family doesn't? Overall, though, I couldn't ask for a bunch of better people to see and work with 40 hours a week.

As for my girls, I think the highlight of the week was (besides the current moment of them painting while watching Sunday in the Park with George - again) the three of us in the car, on a random weekday ride home, belting out "So Much Better" from Legally Blonde: the Musical.