Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Few Lessons Learned

So I may not have the numbers of a star blogger, but my readers rock! Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and advice on getting through this rough first week of school. The writing for the sake of writing is always cathartic, but it's the love I feel in the comments that truly make this endeavor worthwhile to me. Thank you.

I don't know why Jen of A2eatwrite's suggestion did not occur to me, but I abided by it and wrote a note to Riley's teacher about the lack of friends Riley's made. Riley's teacher called me last night and told me she's asked a few girls to look after Riley during recess and lunch, and said that Friday at lunch Riley was playing with a group of kids. She did seem happier yesterday when I picked her up. I'm so glad that we have a 3-day weekend to recoup, relax, and rejuvenate before a 4-day school week. (Happy Labor Day, everyone!)

Riley also seems to have a really stuffy nose, so her physical health may be part of the reason that she's had a more difficult time adjusting than her sister.

Sylvia, btw, has had a very smooth start. She's really happy, is excited that she's in Band and Acting, and already has a lot of friends. I think that year at KIPP gave her a great foundation. (And that first awful night was the last of her bad temperament.)

The main lesson I learned, though, is that part of it was me. Big surprise, right? I realized that the lack of commute wasn't giving me the decompression time I used to have between work life and home life. So, per Kori's suggestion, I'm going to take 15 minutes for myself before I go get the girls to give me the time I need to switch gears. It's not that I've done anything wrong, per se, it's just that I haven't been of the state of mind to do my best because I haven't quite adjusted.

I also realized last night that I have to get back to doing things I enjoy - like keeping up with my Reader, and blogging more regularly! The constant struggles between Riley and me kept me from doing that most of the week. I would fall into my sofa and watch the DNC and then drag myself to bed. (The DNC helped, BTW. Who knew I could find comfort in politics?) And, truthfully, I've been slacking on my housekeeping duties, too.

Now I can keep making excuses to myself that there just aren't enough hours in the day, but I know that's really not true. I just haven't been utilizing them in the best ways - for me, for Riley, for our family.

Riley (and most kids) can pick up on our moods and respond to them. Now, there's nothing really wrong, but when I'm not doing the things that make me feel my best, there's a difference. And even the slightest bit of negativity can build as quickly as a rolling tumbleweed. But it's not unstoppable. I just have to make the decision and take the action to stop it.

We'll be okay. We'll all be just fine.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's Only Tuesday?!?

I'm having kind of a bad week. Well, not completely. At work, all is well. Our new secretary started today and I love her! But I wish I could hire someone to take over at home.

So, this will be a fairly self-indulgent whiny post. Just warning you.

Everything seemed fine when I picked up the girls yesterday, their first day of school. They both said they had good days, both seemed happy, had gotten to the Boys & Girls Club all right. Yay. Great.

Then it starts. The whining. The talking back. All while I'm trying to get dinner done, and fill out all the paperwork. (The first day's homework is always a heftier load for the parents than the kids.)

I know a lot of it has to do with working really, really hard at being good at school, being nervous about their first days at a new school, lots of tension and anxiety being released. I get that. But it still doesn't change the fact that I expect my girls to listen to me and to follow directions. I expect to be treated with respect. (I know, dreamland, right? Still...)

I did one of those "go to bed" deals. I was just so done. I knew they wouldn't really go to bed. I just needed some time to wash the friggin' dishes already! (And hello?!? I wanted to watch Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama!)

Things went from bad to worse to OMG, I have no idea what to do anymore. Then, when things were finally starting to settle down, Riley got a bloody nose. They didn't end up going to bed until about 10 pm, and they're used to going to bed at 8:30.

I did watch Ted & Michelle - and those 2 girls the same ages as my daughter. And thought, I totally suck at this motherhood thing.

In the morning, they got up in plenty of time, but Riley had another bloody nose. I went through more than one roll of toilet paper on that one. Then, as she was just cleaning up, she sneezed, which started a whole new gush. We barely, but barely, got Sylvia to school on time.

After dropping Riley off, I stopped by the office to pick up a uniform waiver. (An aside: why do the elementary schools require uniforms, but not the junior highs? It seems to me there are more valid reasons for uniforms the older the kids get? Also, what's up with signing a waiver and getting it out of it that way? On the first day of school, a good 70% of the kids were not in uniforms. Kinda defeats the purpose, if you ask me.) On my way back to the car, I saw Riley standing by herself at her line. She looked so small and alone. I couldn't go back to her because you need a visitor's pass to get on school grounds and plus, I had to get to work.

Cut to tonight. First, Sylvia called me at 5 to tell me she forgot one of her books she needed for her homework. We decided we'd have to go early tomorrow morning so she can get her homework done before school.

They seemed fine (again) picking them up. Riley talked in the car about how great her Speech class was, and Sylvia was really excited about her Music class. It seemed like they both had good days. Riley has been nothing even close to fine the minute we got inside the house. She didn't finish her homework at the Boys & Girls Club and completely whined and had a fit every time I told her she had to do it. Since Sylvia had finished everything else, she offered to help. This right here is the most beautiful, perfect 5 minutes I've had at home with the girls in two days:

And that's about all it lasted. Soon after that shot was taken, dinner was ready. Riley decided it'd be much more fun to mess around all during dinner than actually eat.

Then, she wouldn't let her sister help her - and I told Sylvia to stop even trying. Riley continued to give attitude, throw things, and basically just make life a nightmare all the time I was washing dishes.

Finally, finally, we had a break-through. Riley talked about the "bad" things that had happened. Somebody picked on her at Boys & Girls Club - said she looked more like a pre-schooler. Her friend didn't come back to play a game with her. Nobody talked to her at school. Of course, my heart broke for her all over again. 3rd grade is a really tough time to find your place in a new school. So I let her talk it out, and soon enough, she was talking about the good times she had. She seemed ready to tackle her homework again.

But here's the thing: it's almost 9 pm, and she's just now finishing! She still has to write out her "book report" and fill out her reading log, but we're going to take care of that after we drop Sylvia off early. And I didn't get any laundry done tonight, and Riley's backpack stuff is still all over the place, and I'm tired of the transition period!! I just want us to have our routine together. One that doesn't involve the whining and the crying and the screaming and the carrying on.

Sometimes, I wish there was no such thing as a summer break.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Our weekend started a day early - I took Friday off to be with the girls. Our friend invited us up to a private ranch he runs, and we had so much fun there! Riley in particular seemed to really love it. I think she could spend every weekend up there, and never get bored. She has an infinity for animals that goes beyond what most of us feel.
We spent most of our time with the horses. Most of them are awesome: beautiful, good around people, and very loving.

This is Dawn. We got along especially well. She even protected me from her niece/sister (the relationships are all so Dynasty), Ali. Ali is 3 months old. She's very mischievous and I love to give her a hard time - but she totally started it! First she bit me, then she untied my shoes! Dawn did her best to keep us separate after that :) Here's the little bugger:

The girls rode Dusty - but our friend didn't know if/when he'd be called away for work, so they just went bareback with Dusty back to the stables. Sylvia was kinda freaked being up that high, but Riley could not have been happier:

Oh, and then there was Dixie. She completely adores our friend. She's deaf, but somehow still knows when he was driving back to us after dealing with work stuff. She is a sweetheart.

After a while, my camera's battery died (which is a trend - I always forget to charge before I use it), so alas, there are no pics of us running the dogs. Running the dogs means we get in the Gator and drive while the dogs run near us. I know most dogs are very happy creatures, but these dogs especially have it good. They ran and ran and ran, jumped in the creek for a cool-down and ran and ran and ran. We stopped to pick some grapes and eat them off the vine, and then ran them back home. Dixie's a little too old for this, so she rode in the back of the Gator with the girls.

Oh, we also saw deer, a bunny, and a movie shoot. It was a really wonderful day.

We ended with a marathon viewing of our latest Lost DVD.

Yesterday was spent getting ready for school. We bought notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, all that fun stuff. (The girls already have their LL Bean backpacks.) I adore office supplies. I'm a little envious of the girls getting to start a whole new school year. At least they're excited. Sylvia has been practicing her locker combination for hours. Riley and I put together her backpack last night. We also stopped by the school to find our her teacher's name and room #.

Of course, I have the nagging feeling that I've forgotten something, but I do think they're ready. I think I've done everything I can to encourage and support a good start, and they're doing everything they can with their great attitudes and eagerness. Now, the question remains, how long will this enthusiasm last? Can it go the whole school year? We shall see...

Oh, and I almost forgot to share our biggest news! So the girls and I are fans of the show Clean House. I was watching it as motivation, and the girls enjoyed it, too. About a year or so ago, I found out where one of their yard sales was going to be, so my mom and I took the girls. They filmed the girls, but when the original episode aired, the girls weren't on it.

They've started this "behind the scenes" show called Clean House Comes Clean. We've been taping that, too, and yesterday, I had it on in the background while I read some blogs.

All of a sudden, I hear this very familiar voice. I look at the TV, and there's my Riley!! After that segment, they showed both Sylvia and Riley talking to Trish!! My girls have been on TV. OMG, they were so excited. We've watched it about 10 times already. I've scoured the 'net for a clip of it, but can't find it. I'm dying that I can't figure out a way to get it off my DVR and onto my computer to share with you all! Anyone have any ideas? Conversely, you can keep your eye out for it by looking for the "Best Friends" episode. Even the hosts of the show said that they loved the girls :)

All in all, couldn't have asked for a better final weekend of summer.

Friday, August 22, 2008

10 Things

LittleMansMom tagged me for this meme. Since I can't think of a topic on my own, this works out nicely.

“Tell us/me/the world 10 interesting/random/quirky/normal/silly things about yourself … things you’re looking forward to, things about you personally, whatever you want.”

1. I'm so glad my girls are home! Yes, I enjoyed my time alone, but there's nothing like the hugs and kisses I got when the girls and I were together again.

2. I love my recurring lunches. C. and I go to Porto's once a month, S. and I go to Acapulco's in Glendale so we can smoke, T. and I go to this local Mexican restaurant that I think is called Don Diego's. We'd first re-dubbed it Don Juan de Marcos in honor of this man:

Then, we started referring to it as Taxos, due to someone's typo in an invite. I prefer to call it Don Juan De Marcos. More than anything, though, I look forward to catching up with my friends.

3. I had the weirdest dream the other night that started in the home of someone I don't particularly like, then became a reunion party, and ended with me in a tank, attempting to do a production number with a whole bunch of sharks. I freaked, got out, and my guilt for not following through woke me up. (I needed to get up anyway.)

4. Every time I see Wicked, I can feel my heart at the end of the first act. It's why I've seen it five times, and am planning the sixth.

5. When I was a SAHM, I decided to try and play all 25000 Freecell games. I think I made it to 1700 or something, but now there are 100,000. I'm thinking of trying again. What a worthwhile life-time goal!

6. I need to update my blogroll. In the past few weeks, I've found some awesome new single mom blog friends! Including Littlemansmom.

7. I don't know why I even attempted to do this "10 things." I've been trying for about 24 hours now, and I have a terrible time trying to find things!

8. I'm on a political hiatus. Pundits are starting to sound more and more like Michael Kohrs on Project Runway, and it's annoying. I've made my decision. Can I just vote already?!?

9. I haven't been paying much attention to the Olympics, either. I get all my Olympic news from my dad and bloggers.

10. I can't wait for Pushing Daisies to come back.

I know, it's all thrilling and exciting. I'm sorry - I really, really suck at these. Kori, Lori, Nat, you're up!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Children and the Industry

[This post is going to jump around a bit so bear with me, please.]

FreedomFirst responded to my previous post about Julianne Moore's comments on sheltering her kids with this comment:

Given the nature of her line of work, I can excuse that way of thinking more in her than I might in others. If I were in her shoes, I might want to
shelter my kids from the hectic and pressured scene of the film industry.

[FF: I hope you're not offended by my quoting you here. You inspired me!]

Okay, I know, I know, we all hear about the kids in show business who get mixed up in drugs and are self-centered and otherwise clueless. No, I can't blame anyone either from not wanting their kids to be that.

I first moved to L.A. back when I was in junior high for the purpose of attending the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. By some fluke, I had an agent within the first few months of living here, and I had my SAG and AFTRA cards before I started high school. Now, I certainly wasn't in the league of a Lindsay Lohan or anything, but I was surrounded by artistic people.

I'd like to debunk a few myths about both artistic people, and children being raised in Los Angeles.

I went to junior high in El Sereno, which is considered the northernmost part of East L.A. Even being half-Mexican, I was one of the whitest kids there. While it was mostly a Hispanic population, we also had at least a token showing of nearly every minority group. We may have hung out in "like groups" at lunch and recess, but in class, I didn't see any major racial tensions. Our teachers encouraged us to talk about our differences in culture and points of view. I think it would be extremely difficult to hold onto prejudices based on race when surrounded by such diversity. And I think one good thing to come out of all the moving the girls and I have done is they too embrace diversity, and, more importantly, can adapt to most situations.

It's not just the racial diversity that makes me glad that I raise my children in Los Angeles, but also the diversity in the people and landscapes and opportunities.

My girls have spent time in Griffith Park, in Hollywood, in East L.A., downtown L.A., the Valley, the beaches. On field trips, they've gone to the Getty Museum, the California Science Museum, the Disney Concert Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, a DVD premiere party, a Dodgers game, a house in the Hollywood Hills. Sylvia alone has met Mayor Villaraigosa, the Mayor of Burbank, Jason Lee, Jane Goodall, actors in Wicked, and LA Symphony musicians. There's not many places that can offer such a diversity of experiences.

Now, I haven't gotten her in the industry as I was, because (and don't tell her this) I'm not real sure she can handle the emotional highs and lows that come with it. I may have been in touch with my emotions as a child, but I also didn't have the trauma of an absent father haunting me either. Maybe, if her first 6 years hadn't been so hectic, I would consider it, but I don't think it's a healthy environment for her at this point in time.

And maybe that's what goes wrong with some of the children in show business. I know it seems like it's all of them, but it's really not. Anne Hathaway, for example, has done a fine job of maturing from the Disney teen of Princess Diaries to a mature actress. There are many, many more examples of children who came out of it all right, and some went on to do other things. That's just not as good headline copy as the ones who get arrested or seem unable to drive a car without incident.

I don't want to say all the fault lies with the parents, but it certainly starts there. Maybe they start off okay, and then the parents relax a little bit, and that's where the trouble starts. Maybe they're just part of the general population that can't handle life. I know enough of you know about not only my ex, but people in your own lives who have fallen apart; we just don't see them in the news. I don't know exactly why that happens, but I also think that we are enough of individuals that it's not one thing that does it. In other words, I don't think it's "the business."

I went to my high school reunion a few years ago. I was nervous (aren't we all?) about going. I hadn't "made it." I was a single mom. What did I have to brag about? Was it going to be clique-y?

And then I got there, and I remembered what my high school was like. Everyone was great. It was that safe haven that I'd nearly forgotten I ever had.

I think LACHSA grounded me. It was a place where we all felt supported. Sure, there were your usual squabbles and such, but the negative was quickly replaced by hugs and forgiveness. I'd say only maybe 20% were still in the industry professionally, but we'd taken the lessons of teamwork and our love of the arts (and thereby humanity) wherever we went.

I ran into a friend of mine tonight from my theatre days. We were, within minutes, telling each other our happiest and our scariest thoughts. There was little pretense in this old friendship.

Artistic people have a reputation of being flaky egocentrics. There is no harder bottom line in any business than an opening night. Come show time, that curtain goes up. Next to raising children, it's the most disciplined work I've ever done. And nothing prepared me better to deal with the everyday challenges of raising children than having to cover for mistakes on stage. They both demand the most of yourself you have to give.

I would be proud to have Sylvia to go to high school at my alma mater. Now, if she doesn't want that, that's okay, too. But, frankly, I would prefer her to be in a setting that I know will challenge her and support her, and I know she'd get that at LACHSA.

It's easy to focus on the smog, the insecure, and the stereotypes of both Los Angeles and show business. It's so much more fulfilling, though, to live deep within it, and overcome those obstacles. (And a movie set is pretty fun to be around. It's worth it for the food at Craft Services alone!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Parents as People

*I just want to say a heartfelt thank you for all your amazing comments on yesterday's post. I am so glad I shared my story, and to those of you that may be struggling with sharing yours, I know that someday you'll get there. And I also want to say, I know that my story isn't the most dramatic out there, nor did I suffer nearly as much as others have. But the more of us that share, the more of us that attempt to understand, the more difference we can make. Thank you again. And now back to the regularly scheduled post...*

I've been a fan of Julianne Moore since Benny & Joon. I think she's a great actress that makes really good choices (for the most part). However, this interview in Parade - not something I generally read, but I was passing time - disturbed me on a few levels.

After stating that her children (10 and 6) have never seen her work on film, she says:

"As a rule, kids are just not very interested in what their parents do for a living," Moore says. "If I ever say to somebody, 'Quick--what's your mother's office life like?' They go, ' Duh...ahhh...hmmm...,' and they can't answer. Children are only interested in their parents as parents, and that's the way it should be."

Moore says she would be surprised if her children even watch her many films after they are grown. "I want them to be interested in their own lives and their own accomplishments," she explains. "I don't want them to be interested in mine. Mine are of no consequence to them. I am their mother. That's all I want to be to them--not some artist who discusses her work with them. I don't care if they appreciate my artistry. I just want them to appreciate my unconditional love."

First of all, let me just preface this by saying this is not a criticism of Julianne as a mother, but I think her world is a little too narrow to speak for all children and their parents.

My children were with me when I graduated college. My children were among the first to know about my promotion. My children may not understand exactly what it is I do, but they've been to work with me, can describe my workplace to you, and they understand that my work is what provides their shelter and clothing. Sylvia even understands why it's important for me to get my office that's supposed to come with my promotion. She gets that my work requires concentration and quiet that I can't always get in my cube. But I digress.

Maybe, when you have a lot more than what it takes to provide the basics, you don't know how to explain what "work" is, but I think it's part of the process of parenting for our children to know that with adulthood comes responsibilities. While not all mothers report to an office, we all have jobs and duties, and it's much easier to tell your child to do their homework when they see you doing what you have to do. As Sondheim says, "children will see and learn."

I find it more than slightly pretentious that she feels the only way she could talk to her children about what it is she does is to talk to them about her artistry. How about teaching them about discipline by them seeing her be disciplined at her profession? Even better, that pursuing your passion can sometimes pay off? She's an incredible example of someone who "made it" by doing the work, and people sitting up and taking notice.

Particularly with a child as old as age 10, while it may not be time for picking careers or even colleges, a child that age should start learning at least a little about the possibilities of careers out there, and where better to start than with their own parents?

There's also an underlying tone of condescension to those who work in offices. No, I may not have a glamorous job, but I'm damn proud of it, and of my accomplishments. I'm also proud to work with a bunch of great people that I consider friends as well as colleagues. I may not get nominated for awards for the work I do, but my girls are still respectful of my work and workplace.

I also disagree that our children should only see us as mothers. My children see me being there for my friends, answering to my bosses, laughing with my sister, relaxing with a good book. My children have seen me cry and get angry, and have moments of elation, and have moments of self-pride. Our children learn to deal with our emotions not by what we tell them, but by what we show them.

Our children should see us as people who are interested in the world around them, who take pride in our community, who volunteer to help others, who actually take a break when we need one, and accept our imperfections with grace and humor.

And I don't think it's realistic, either, to expect our children to be grateful for our unconditional love. It should be a given, and I feel for the kids who don't get that. I get frustrated just as much when my kids don't appreciate all that I do for them, but then again, it's not really their job to indulge my martyrdom. It's probably better that they don't, actually, since I find martyrdom to be really, really annoying.

I also think that she's wrong that her accomplishments are of no consequence to her kids. The people most proud of me at my college graduation were my parents and my children. My children were acutely aware of what Mommy was doing nights and weekends to lead to that moment. And I was happy to have them share in that so that they could see that hard work can lead to accomplishments. Having our children share in our accomplishments helps them shape their own dreams and goals and make it all seem possible.

Before she left for her vacation, Riley was concerned that I wouldn't have any fun while they were gone. I assured her that I would, and she was happy to hear it. I think our children can't take the pressure of feeling that our whole world revolves around them, yet my girls still know that they are the most important people in the world to me. There's a difference.

Now, again, I'm not criticizing Julianne Moore directly, and I'm sure that there was a lot to that interview that wasn't published, but the statements still bothered me. I think it just puts too much pressure on both the parents and the children to separate their lives so distinctly. And more pressure, I just don't need.

Monday, August 18, 2008

My Story

A few days ago, pisceshanna wrote about abuse, and got a lot of us riled up at her neighbors, who basically got angry at a woman who is an abusive relationship when she asked the police to release him (for throwing her out of a window). One of the neighbors said, “F** her then. See if I call 911the next time it happens.”

Okay, I get that the neighbor feels like her help was slighted, but honey, it isn't about you!! At least the other neighbor had a bit more understanding of what is most likely happening: "Maybe her self-esteem is so low, she thinks she just has to deal with it."

As you'll see from the comments, a lot of women who can be considered smart, independent women have found themselves in abusive relationships. And I consider myself one of them.

I wasn't beaten physically. I was just emotionally beaten down so that I basically thought that staying with my husband was my best option. I'm quite certain that every woman who has been physically beaten was emotionally beaten first.

I may not have been college-educated at the time I first met with my ex, but I don't think I was stupid, either. I was, however, pretty lost at the time.

I'd recently left my first husband (oh, yeah, did I ever mention that? Not actually a big deal - a cruise ship romance that I was young and naive enough to think could work on land), and we started off more as a summer fling kind of thing - a rebound. But he really knew how to make me feel like the most important woman in the world; the most beautiful, the smartest, the sexiest...well, you get what I mean. What woman wouldn't want to start taking a guy like that seriously?

So I did. We agreed to be exclusive and the honeymoon period was insanely wonderful. I was working a graveyard shift at the time, and he would wake me every day, on the dot at noon. Hearing his voice first thing upon waking came to be something I depended upon. Our times together - as I suppose most couples' beginnings - were like a slice of paradise in an otherwise hectic world.

He listened very intently to everything I had to say. While I was flattered at the time, what I've come to understand since was that he was storing everything up. Everything that made me smile, every weak point I had, every relationship I had and all their trouble spots. And, slowly but surely, he began to use it all against me.

He came to show me how everyone in my life that was close to me was not a true friend, put their needs first. So I pulled away from them. He exploited all the inevitable differences between me and my family. So I pulled away from them. He came to be the only person that truly understood me. Or so he led me to believe.

And he knew how they would fight that. He knew what they would say. He knew that they would accuse me of being a victim. And how I so was not. How could I, a strong, independent woman such as myself be a victim in a relationship like that? They were so wrong. (No, they weren't, but try to understand for a minute how I believed that.)

There was a blow-up. The blow-up that caused me to leave the condo all those years ago. The blow-up that I won't discuss in detail, but it was big enough for me to chuck everything and move to Denver with him.

Well, now, I was right where he wanted me. Completely cut off from everything I ever knew and ever loved. We didn't even have a phone! It was just us. And I got pregnant.
And we were going to be this very happy family, just the three of us, close to his family.

The first time I left him was when Sylvia was not quite a year and a half, and by now, we had moved to San Jose, and I was working full-time, trying to keep up with the bills in the BOOM that was Silicon Valley at the time (but not yet college-educated, and therefore, not really able to keep up). Well, actually, I didn't leave him. We got evicted and he got arrested.

Now, by this point, I knew he had a drug problem, but I still believed him when he vowed to quit. I still believed a lot of the lies he told me about what happened to the rent money or what have you.

And I was also a first-time mom. And, again, while I wasn't aware of it at the time, a single mom already. I was already the only person who thought about this child's well-being. I was already the only one who worried about making sure she had health insurance, her day care setting. It was all me. And it was completely overwhelming. And I'd never felt so inferior at anything before. And I believed that there was someone in this with me.

So, when he got out, and I'd been staying with his sister, then my colleague, I was desperate for someone else to take the helm. I needed help. (Somewhere in here, Sylvia also came down with chicken pox, just to make it all that much more fun.) I needed someone to take care of things. And he did.

This is what most people don't get. Abusers, they know when you're just about at the end of your rope. And then they swoop you up, apologize profusely, and I was so scared, so tired, that I was grateful. This is also the part where I partly blame fairy tales. These abusers know how to disguise themselves as the white knight of your dreams. But I digress.

Events like this happened more than once, I confess. But, again, I was without family, friends, and trying desperately for this mirage of a perfect family to be a reality. Yes, keeping up appearances was important, too. Because remember all those friends and family who had warned me about him? I had to prove them wrong. I was still stubborn enough to not go back with my tail between my legs to hear everyone say, "I told you so." There was no choice now. I had to make this work.

And then I got pregnant. Again. And that was pretty much it. I knew he was lying to me sometimes, I knew he was doing drugs, I knew he was using money I'd earned for things that had nothing to do with me or the girls. But this was it. This was the best I could do. No one would want a single mom with two children (and 2 failed marriages). I'd had a few tastes of single parenthood, and no thanks. I did not want to be there again. I could not do this alone. Completely and utterly alone. (And I still don't think anyone can, btw.)

And he continued to know when to prop me up, when to swoop me off my feet. When to listen, and when to flatter. And when to say, "you're a great mom."

You know how, as a parent, just when you're ready to lose all control in front of your child, they give you that hug or say that sweet thing and you swell with love? Yeah, he knew how to do that.

And so we moved to Pittsburgh. For another fresh start. And this time, he was going to be the breadwinner. And I was going to be a stay-at-home and get a much-needed break from the working world. Except now...I was more cut off than ever before. My family and friends were now on the other side of the country. And the only people we knew were his friends. And the people he worked with. We didn't even have a car. When I say I was a stay at home, I mean, days would go by without my even leaving the house!

I tried to go to school, but the day care situation fell apart. And I fell into a deeper depression than I've ever known. To the point where suicide was on the table. It was never the only option, but it was considered.

And then the internet saved me. I sound like Al Gore or something, right? But no, it really did. I started connecting with people again. People that were my own, that had nothing to do with him. And I started regaining some self-confidence. Not a lot. But enough to make a difference.

We moved to Rochester because I found us both jobs there. And while they may not have been the best jobs, it was what I needed at the time. It got me out of the house. It got me connecting with others IRL. And eventually, it was enough for the last bit of love to be knocked out of my heart.

And I was proud enough to put my tail between my legs and come home.

So what could you do for a victim of any sort of abuse? Start to make her feel like her again. Don't chastise her, don't berate her, and don't - whatever you do - call her a victim. Treat her like a person that deserves respect. Sooner or later, she'll start to believe it, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

It's Sunday morning, and the girls and I are relaxing for a while before they get ready for their vacation with my parents. They're spending the week at a resort where they'll get to swim, go on hikes, and generally enjoy the great outdoors. My parents, sadly, are way more active than I am. I consider a great day w/ the girls one that involves our couch, a DVD, and lots of snuggles. The girls are acutely aware that we won't be taking family camping trips so long as I'm in charge!

We had such an evening last night, watching our Lost DVD (Disc 1 of Season 2), and then The Miracle Worker. I spent half the movie trying to remember Anne Bancroft's name.

I'd like to give a shout-out to Netflix. We've all had bad customer service experiences. Jen of A2eatwrite just wrote about one that was truly horrific. Meanwhile, Netflix had a shipping problem this week, and they immediately, without any effort on my part, offered a discount for this month's service because of it. No one had to call and fight or complain. We were made aware, and we were compensated. Wow, what a concept! Thank you, Netflix!

So Sylvia had her orientation this weekend. Beyond the rite of passage, it went pretty well. She got her class schedule, her lock for her locker, we picked up the PE uniforms, the school books, and a bunch of other little things. I was disappointed that there wasn't a question and answer period, but considering the whole thing took 3 hours, I can see why that wasn't part of it. I was pleased to learn that they do use a site where we can check her grades and such, as well as a website for the school PTA. One of my favorite things about KIPP was that there was no PTA, but at least this one makes it easy to stay informed. (Of course, they have their meetings at 9:30 on weekdays. I haven't decided yet whether or not I'll attend.) On the upside, they have a real gym, a real auditorium, and a real sports field (all things KIPP lacked). Sylvia remains most excited about her locker. She was a little scared, but the fact that she's already been to a school where you change classes and the like helps her confidence level.

Sylvia had her first swim meet this week, and did an awesome, awesome job. She finished first in the Butterfly and Backstroke races! Her team didn't medal, and she was a little disappointed about that, but very proud of her individual wins. She also went to her first Dodgers game with the Boys and Girls Club, and nearly lost her voice screaming for Manny Ramirez.

Oh, and I finally found my camera - here's Sylvia's new haircut. She does look adorable, doesn't she:

Riley really really wanted to see her new elementary school. We tried to get a tour, but they were re-paving the blacktop, so we could only walk the perimeter. But that was enough for Riley. She said she thinks it'll be the best school she's ever attended. And when she saw the garden, she exclaimed, "isn't that the most beautiful garden you've ever seen?!?" Which is particularly funny, considering we could barely see it from half a block away! But I'm glad she's so excited. And here's her new 'do:

As for me, I'm hanging in there. Not too depressed, not overly excited. Just taking it all day by day.

This, however, is exciting. As I've said before, I find Tara of If Mom Says OK to be such an inspiring blogger that I'm incredibly honored that she has bestowed this award to me:

With it came these words from the award originator, RHD Mom:

‘It is lovingly called the “Share the Magic Award”. It is for sharing your magic in the world of blogging. I have met some incredible people since I have started blogging. I think of you as my friends and liken you a pen pal. I have met bloggers from all over the world, from as far away as Australia to as close as a nearby city (my own city). Although I have not met any of you IRL, I feel like I know you. We share our lives, our hopes, our dreams, and our most embarrassing moments. I don’t know how I stumbled upon my first blog, or why I got the notion to start one of my own. I have unleashed a passion for writing that I never knew I had. Because of the encouragement you give me with your comments, I am nurturing this passion, and loving every minute of it. That is the Magic of Blogging…..and for that reason I am bestowing this award to my wonderful friends in the blogging world.’

I really do want to give this one to everyone, but I'll go ahead and choose a few:

To Lunanik: I went to her in the beginning of my blogging days, and she wrote one of the longest emails on record with helpful tips and kind words. We met elsewhere, but developed our friendship through blogging, and I'm so grateful to her for cheering me on.

To Single Working Mommy: she actually took the time to go back to the beginning of my blog after we met to catch up! SWM, I'm pulling for you!

To Kori: At this point, there's nothing left to say except that I love you.

To pisceshanna: I love getting your take on things.

To Immoral Matriarch: Quite simply, the most kick-ass blogger. Ever. And she's giving away stuff! Go check it out.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Rite of Passage

My little Sylvia's growing up. Today, at orientation for her new middle school, she said to me for the first time, "Mom, you're embarrassing me!" (Apparently, I can't kiss her at the new middle school.)

They grow up so fast!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Our Stunted Growth

I can't remember (big surprise) where I said it, but on someone's post I commented that the human race would be so much more evolved if we could just learn from each others' mistakes. Since then, I've seen too many more instances where I've wanted to say it again. And again and again.

Now don't get me wrong. I get that we can't just act on someone else's experience, and that most of us have learned more from our mistakes than our successes. I also know that, as a mother, sometimes I will just have to step back and let them fall, and then be there to comfort them afterwards. But doesn't that really, really suck?

This isn't really about my kids, though. This is about friends and politicians and me and other supposed grown-ups.

Did you know that some animals are now learning to use tools in order to adapt to their new ecological surroundings? I don't remember the details (yep, that's me - the forgetting one), but I heard a very cool story on NPR about it.

So my question is, while we're innovating new products and technology all the time, are we really evolving? Or are we just adapting?

When I was in school, we would study philosophers and others as far back as we have written record. We could always find correlations to today's world. I used to think it was cool. Now I find it kind of sad. Hobbesian ways are still alive and well. The concept of the Other is still well too understood by way too many of us. We're still fighting the battles of the sexes. WTH?!? Why don't we progress further faster? Why does every generation basically start over from the very beginning? I don't mean human biological development - well, maybe, that too - but in matters of the heart. In matters of how we interact with each other.

More than once this week, I've heard adults use the term, "are we back in high school?!?" There are still cliques, and gossip, and backstabbing in the supposed real world. I'm horrified by what Kori has been through lately. I'm totally disgusted by the fact that our California legislature and Governator can't get it together to pass a friggin' budget already. I'm sickened by the amount of people that abuse their power. I don't see how "winning" the war in Iraq could be considered a win at all, considering all the loss it has cost...and, assuming, of course we "win." I can't believe that a smart, competent woman like Hilary can't seem to lead her supporters to support Obama without a stupid friggin' roll call! I can't even begin to try and understand the Russia/Georgia idiocy. (I know, I know, it's not idiotic to them - but I also believe they're not really seeing the big picture here. All of them.)

From the personal matters of the heart to the big matters of world domination, I'm not really seeing how the news of today is all that different from the news of a hundred years ago.

Yeah, this thought process will pick me right up!!

Actually, right now, I'm not depressed. I'm angry (good sign - still have enthusiasm at least). Because I really do think we're capable of so much more than this. I'm pissed that I can't figure out how to get there, though. I don't necessarily believe that we can all get along - but can we at least live and let live?!?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Little Things

Truth be told, I can feel the first signs of depression coming on, so this is an attempt to keep it at bay. It's supposed to be the little things, right? So here's a list of the little things that make me smile:

My recycling bin. The City of Burbank supplies even apartments with recycling bins! At the condo, I would keep all my cans separate, but of course, they would totally pile up in my garage. And I can not only recycle the cans, but the plastic containers, the paper, cardboard boxes, etc. And it's not one of those pint-sized bins, either. This baby can pack 125 lbs!

Corp. credit card and Blackberry. Yep, I'm getting a crackberry. I'm sure I'll live to regret being happy about it, but right now, I'm loving the idea. And the bills will be charged directly to my corp. credit card so that I don't have to put out the money upfront.

My new printer. I haven't had a working printer since the move to the condo. It just died. I don't know why. My dad found an awesome HP printer/copier/scanner/fax for a great price at Costco. I can also put my camera's memory card directly into the printer! Very cool.

My daughters' willingness to help with chores. I don't know how long this will last, but so far this week, Sylvia's been helping with laundry, and Riley's vacuuming under the table after dinner every night. Works for me!

My iHome. Yeah, so most of the things I like cost me $$. Hey, I'm American. I'm supposed to be materialistic! Anyway, I'm loving listening to Sylvia's iPod on Shuffle at night while blogging, etc. And I just added a bunch of '80s nostalgia. OMG, I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I just had to have certain tracks from Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl, and others that take me down that lane they call Memory.

My bling from Tara.

The pleasure is all mine, Tara!

My upcoming (2nd) Mommy break. Now you all know I love my girls. With all my heart. And I know I just got a Mommy break last week. But this week has been full of dentist appointments, school registration, and all that jazz. So yes, I'm looking forward to seeing Wicked (yet again), going out with the gals, not having to rush to the Boys & Girls Club after work, and being able to sleep until 7. (That "morning person" thing? Didn't last.)

School starting soon. I can't wait until the majority of our lives takes place in Burbank! This commuting to LA for the Boys & Girls Club thing is getting to be a real drag.

Not dealing with KIPP anymore. My friend called me today (her son is still going there), and from everything she told me about last night's meeting with the 6th grade parents, I don't think there's any way I would've lasted through it without some damage done to either myself or someone else in the room. My friend was incredibly frustrated, but we both agreed that I would've been in tears. (I still have to write that email.)

Dark chocolate. The stuff is grand.

Tim Gunn. I adore Project Runway, but I can't get through an episode without professing my undying love for this man.

My smart, funny, compassionate bloggy friends.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Another Education Rant

I was looking to be inspired to write something of more substance, and I went trolling around the Los Angeles Times website and found this article by a teacher who wants to continue to play the blame game with our children's education.

The author claims:
Students and their families make choices. Students choose to attend school or not, often manipulating their parents into letting them stay home or excusing the absences that accumulate from ditching. Other students and their families decide that although an education is valued for all you can do with it, there are other activities and people deserving more time and attention. Yes, the responsibility of educating should rest on the shoulders of teachers, but as teachers, we cannot change the choices of students and their families.

What's truly ironic is another article I found on the same website, an interview with an author who spent a year at Locke High School (one of LA's most notorious failing schools), this observer found:

The school really hasn't made an effort to reach out to them. It didn't happen. I found this really interesting: Whenever some of the teachers had real problems and called a parent, inevitably the parent would say this was the first time they'd ever heard from a teacher and things would turn around. . . . What I saw is that if you really reach out to them, of course they want their kids to achieve.

Thank you, Donna Foote! Thank you for acknowledging that parents really do want their children to succeed. Shocking revelation there, but unfortunately, there has been so much attention paid to the lip service that "it's the parents" that people like Applebee (the first author quoted) can get away with saying it yet again.

Most of you know that I spent most of May and June embroiled in a battle with the powers that be at KIPP LA Prep, what had been an amazing school all year long, when they decided to let our Principal and two-thirds of our teachers go at the end of the year. (Most resigned, some were not asked back by the new Principal.)

In my battle, I met with Board members, I met with the new Principal, I talked to teachers (that is, the ones who had resigned and weren't fearing for their jobs) I spoke for hours with fellow parents, I talked to people that I trust and respect, one of them being a former Board of Education member (not in Los Angeles). That conversation was the most enlightening. He told me I basically need to let the new Principal royally screw up before anything would be done.

So when the news came down that I had to move, I had a decision to make. I decided that I was not going to let my daughter be the guinea pig. I would move to a District that has been proven to be at least competent, rather than roll the dice with this virtually brand new school.

And Sylvia was not sad. After she learned about our Principal and almost all her teachers were leaving, she was almost as worried as I was. Today, she was thrilled to pick her elective, and can't wait for orientation on Friday.

And I have one more email to write that is still being formed in my head for those Board members I met with back then (and, btw, never responded to my 1,240-word email - other than a "we'll get back to you" email). I was an involved parent. I went to field trips, I went to every Saturday Breakfast with the Principal. I made sure Sylvia did her homework every night. I got her to school every day on time. I went to Back to School Night and Open House. I emailed and called Sylvia's teachers and her Principal as I needed. And for most of the year (as Kori can attest), I took every opportunity to brag about KIPP. I spoke at a fundraiser, I wrote articles and a few letters to the LA Times, I blogged about it, I spoke to friends and colleagues about KIPP, I was thrilled to be a part of the education system that was actually working (and in LAUSD, no less).

You cannot take away that much of the Faculty without concerning parents. And when parents raise their concern, you can't just pat them on the head and say all will be well. I wonder how long it will take this particular new Principal to blame the parents as well?

The first day of KIPP's summer school was today. I heard 40 students showed up at the wrong location. (I don't think I even mentioned here that the actual school was moving, too, and the new building is not ready yet.) I heard that "some" students would have transportation available. Before I'd notified the school that we were leaving, I never got my letter telling me about a meeting and the summer school location. I heard parents were not getting their calls returned.

I enrolled Sylvia today in about 5 minutes. I went to the Burbank school district office to enroll Riley a couple of weeks ago, and after my paperwork was filled out, I waited for the woman to finish with another parent for about five minutes. She then apologized to me for the wait. So far, so good.

(Oh, and pssst....another Blog Blast for Education is in the works. I want to get one more in before the election, so as you enter the new school year, keep that in mind!)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

I would love to post pics, particularly of the girls' new haircuts, but I can't find my camera. I know I put it somewhere "safe." I just can't remember where I considered "safe" at the time. I've slept many times since that day.

The week started with the girls going to San Jose. This trip had been semi-on, then off, and then back on again, thanks to the family of my ex. My ex couldn't get it together to make the travel arrangements in a way that I would agree, but his sisters figured it out. Proof that girls are just smarter? I'd love to say that, but in this case, just proof of my ex's inability to follow simple directions.

Anyway...the girls were really excited to go, not just to see their dad, but to see their cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. Most of the family lives in Northern California now. So I'm glad it worked out for them. They haven't seen them since last summer.

One of the best things about Sylvia having a cell phone? There was one day where I particularly needed to hear her voice. Just hearing it on her voice mail made me smile. She was good about calling me every day. Once, she called me twice in the span of 20 minutes. She really missed me. That felt good, too.

Talking to Sylvia on the phone, I'm always struck by how grown-up she sounds. She seems older to me on the phone.

Riley had clung to me for a good 24 hours before she left, so I know she missed me, but also had a great time. They both did.

I enjoyed my nights to myself. Although, I was sort of stupid at first and turned on Jon & Kate plus 8. And then went, why am I watching a show with a bunch of children when I should be enjoying life without children?!?

Which is what I did. I got caught up on my Reader, and enjoyed finding out what I've been missing with all of you. Then, a dear friend came over and upgraded my computer's memory and cleaned up some stuff so that I could enjoy my BlogHopping without waiting 10 minutes for a blog to load! Yay!!

It was quiet, but that was what I enjoyed about it. And, can I tell you what a treat it was to get up at 7, and have plenty of time (and quiet) before getting to work at 8?

Getting the girls home was a bit of a nightmare, though. I was flying up, and then we were turning around and flying back. We've done this before. A 45-minute flight from Burbank to San Jose. No biggie.

And weather really shouldn't be a problem for us, right? Well, the whipsmart schedulers at Southwest decided it made much more sense to go from Vegas to Burbank to San Jose. And Vegas had weather issues. So my flight was delayed to a point where I wouldn't be in San Jose in time to get on the flight back with the girls.

I had to go to the worst line in the airport. Not security, the one where people check baggage and change flights and all that. The one that I usually manage to avoid at all costs.

Of course, it was long. I decided to pass the time playing Sudoku on my cell. The woman in front of me in line was a woman I wouldn't want to know in my life for any reason. She had a flat-bed cart of luggage. To go to San Jose. And her husband had yet another wheelie bag for her. Her husband decided to wait in the chairs behind the line. She yells out at him to call Jessica (not really the name; not because I'm trying to protect the innocent, but because, really, wasn't important enough to try and remember). He proceeds to call Jessica. And she proceeds to insult him and make big sighs and rail into him when he got off the phone - from across the entire line of people - because, apparently, he didn't say anything "right." He didn't make a big enough deal about Uncle Joe being sick. He didn't stress the importance of his wife's trip enough.

She was the epitome of everything that men complain about women. She was nagging, bitchy, belittling, and rude. Part of me wanted to scream at her for not appreciating what a clearly devoted husband she has (who I later saw buying her a drink), and part of me wanted to tell the husband, I'm sorry.

It kills me when people in good marriages don't appreciate what they have.

After about 4 hours, I was finally in a plane to go to San Jose. I got the girls, but because of the changes we had to make to our ticketing, we were in the "B" check-in section. By the time we got on the plane, there was no aisle with 3 seats available. I tried to get a flight attendant to help me persuade one of the gentleman sitting by themselves to switch, but no, she said we had to get seated so we could leave. Yeah, it's okay to make us wait for FOUR HOURS, but then, you can't even take FIVE MINUTES to get settled! So, we didn't get to sit together, but across from each other on the flight.

But there was one nice moment that I got to witness between the sisters. Sylvia was exploring the Sky catalog, and showed her sister something. Riley had her head on Sylvia's shoulder as they discussed the merits of the item in question. It was SO cute and sweet.

When the seatbelt sign went off, Riley joined me and we hugged the whole rest of the flight. That was nice, too.

In the end, we made it home at nearly midnight. I now understand why people complain about flying. The delays and such can really make it a trying experience. On Friday, we were all exhausted! The girls spent the day with my parents, and my mom took them to a salon where they got their new 'dos.

Saturday, we went to a pool party at a friend's house and had a marvelous time. I laughed at our "white trash" moment. I was getting myself situated in my floating lounge chair, and Riley handed me my beer :)

This week, we're back to normal. The girls will have their last week at the Boys & Girls Club, and I'll also complete Sylvia's registration for school. They'll have one more vacation with my parents before school starts on Aug. 25. And I get one more parenting break. Although, this time, I'm making plans. I'm having a girls' night out with some friends, and also going to see Wicked yet again. It is my mission to have as many people I know see Wicked, and preferably with me, before it closes on Jan. 11.

Here's my last piece of bling to pass on. I think there are rules with this one, but Kori gave it to me so long ago, I can't remember what they are (that seems to be a running theme of this post. I should rename it "I can't remember").

I pass this on to a few dear bloggy friends:

Jen of A2eatwrite. From her first comment on my blog, she has been there for me. Thanks, Jen.

Tara at If Mom Says OK. She's funny, thoughtful, and an inspiration.

OHMommy at Classy Chaos. Really, what's left to say about OHMommy? I know you all love her as much as I do!

Lori at Hahn at Home. We've been virtual moving buddies. Welcome home, Lori!! Here's some art to add to your walls :)

And I think I've rambled long enough.

Friday, August 8, 2008

More Bling and Questions

I still have more bling to recognize and pass on.

From Florinda and KarenMeg, I got this awesome award:

There are rules to go with this one:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on his or her blog.

This time, I'll actually name names.

To Don Mills Diva - and no, not because you gave me one, but because it really is a brilliant blog.

To Mr. Lady - because I want the coolest blogger to like me!

To Kori - her Letter to her 18-year-old self is a must-read.

To BusyDad - the more I learn about you, the more I love you. (And for that HAWT fireman you posted not long ago.)

To Natalie - I can't wait to meet you!!

To Shiona - a new bloggy friend, and fellow single mom. I'm loving getting to know you!

To CableGirl - she's helping me (yet again) with a new blog layout so stay tuned!

There's one more award to go, but I'll save that for another day.

Citizen Jane tagged me for this meme, one I've been coveting for a while now.

What was I doing 10 years ago?
Ten years ago I was a first-time mom to 10-month old Sylvia. I believe we'd just completed our second, "let's start fresh" move to San Jose. I was about to meet one of the best bosses I'd ever had. I still believed that my marriage could work, but was feeling quite overwhelmed as a mother. Truth be told, I still feel overwhelmed as a mom - I'm just used to the feeling now.

What are five things on my to-do list today?
I'm going to say tomorrow instead since it's currently 10 pm on Friday night and I'm not planning on doing much more tonight than sloth.
1. Laundry. The second dryer STILL is not working.
2. Watch another episode (or two) of "Lost" with the girls. We're on Disc 6 of Season 1 so please do not ask me if I've gotten to [fill in spoiler alert]. (I almost actually posted a spoiler alert myself, but then realized how rude that might be for the remaining person or two that has not seen this show. I highly, highly, highly recommend it! It is WORTH going back from the beginning and watching. And Kori, you can rent it on Netflix. Do it. Don't question me, just do it.)
3. Go to a friend's house for a pool party.
4. Pick up drinks for said pool party. (Guess that should've come before, huh?)
5. Vacuum.

Snacks I enjoy:
Chips with melted cheddar cheese, dark chocolate, cereal, tortillas w/ butter or peanut butter.

Places I’ve lived:
I've pretty much covered this, but for the record: Huntington Beach, Bakersfield, Cupertino, Santa Cruz, Aptos, Capitola, Los Angeles, Vista, Hollywood, North Hollywood, South Pasadena, Denver, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Rochester, NY, and Burbank.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Open my dream single parents organization, buy a house, pay off my parents' and my sister's mortgage, vacay to Hawaii and New York, consider moving to New York, but decide I'm way too wimpy for the weather, and just buy a second home there.

And now, here’s who’s getting tagged next...

Anyone who hasn't done this one yet.

I'll fill you in on the girls' trip to San Jose, and our adventure coming home from said trip in my Weekend Wrap-Up on Sunday.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The New, Must-See Paris Hilton video...and bling!!

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

I never thought I'd be one of those bloggers who wouldn't acknowledge and pass on bling immediately. I've turned into one, apparently. The incredibly delightful Don Mills Diva gave me this award two months ago!

Thanks, DMD! I savor your posts, so this is especially an honor.

Jen of A2eatwrite gave me this award (which I admit, I've coveted for a while now):

Jen always feels like she's giving me a virtual hug - thank you!

This one goes to anyone and everyone on my Reader that hasn't received it yet. Because you all make my day!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The 200th Post

Thanks to all of you who make my days better. My life is forever changed for the better for being a part of the blogging community. I'm considering going to BlogHer next year and having the chance to meet some of you in person. But only if Kori goes (no pressure).

Thanks to everyone who contributed questions. And here we go:

FreedomFirst asks: Do you think it would be easier to have boys, or are you feeling luckier with girls? Just curious. I think the general consensus my friends and I have reached is that boys may require more physical stamina when they're younger, while girls challenge you more intellectually and emotionally as they get older, but of course that's a massive generalization. I always wanted girls. The only reason I ever wanted a boy was when I was pregnant with Riley, we had a different name picked if she were a girl and Riley was to be the name if a boy. But I so loved the name that we named her Riley anyway :)

Tara R wants to know: Since you are such a fan of musicals, if your life story was made into a musical, what would it be called and what songs would be on the soundtrack? We actually had a little joke when I was in junior high that if my life were a soap opera it would be called "When Doves Cry." (See what I mean about girls :) But I don't think that's the musical. I think I'd have to do a play on the words of my 6-word meme, and call it "Finding My Way." I've talked a lot here before about my constant need for validation, which comes with trying to figure out whether or not I'm on the right track with things. But there's also a sense of optimism about it, which is one of the reasons I love musical theatre as well. I always do want to find the hope in a given situation. The songs? Give me a good belting show-stopper anyday! "So Much Better" from Legally Blonde and "Defying Gravity" from Wicked are still my current favorites for that. Anything that puts it all out there. But with power. Anything that celebrates this moment in time. (And, of course "You Oughta Know" by Alanis for whenever I'm really, really pissed.)

hotmamamia queries: If you were given $1 million dollars tomorrow, what would you do with it? Even though we just got settled in our new place, I'd still move again if I had that kind of money for a decent enough down payment, plus some in the bank for the inevitable repairs and such if I could buy our family a house. Riley longs for it. Sometimes, it really does hurt that I can't give her that. She would love a backyard to play in. An apartment-building courtyard is just not the same. Plus, the stability that comes with owning a home (which would NOT, I repeat NOT be bought with any type of adjustable rate!). It really wouldn't change my day to day. Obviously, I'd still have to work and all, but it would be nice to have a real home. With a washer and dryer, of course.

Sybil Law asked two questions:

What jobs / professions do you THINK your girls might be good at, when they're older. (And I know - we all want them to be happy and blah, blah - just play along! :) LOL - Sylvia always wants me to tell her what to study, and I refuse to answer her with anything specific because I just think she's too young to narrow her focus. I want her to experience as much as possible, and believe that she can do anything she sets her mind to if she works hard enough at it. But I have told her that she needs at least two degrees. A Bachelor's just ain't enough anymore. Having said all that, the most I can pin it down is to say that she will most likely do something that involves creativity and passion. She has a lot of that.

Riley is a problem-solver. She's also very compassionate and warm. I hope that she'll do something that uses those skills of hers, and will not only help others, but will feel a deep sense of accomplishment every day.

How do you picture your life in 15 years? (Which is lame but I like seeing the answers, anyway!) Oi vey! You know, I never thought I'd say this, considering what type of person I started out being, but I could see myself in my same department, doing the same type of work, and still feeling satisfied. But my kids will be gone, and I'll have more of a life outside of work, too. I would like to be involved in theatre again somehow, but not as a career, just as a hobby. I would also like to be doing something to support the single moms in the next generation.

Kori wants to know: If you could legitimately kill your ex-husband and know you wouldn't get caught, could/would you do it? just asking, jeez! :) Of course, Kori would ask this one :) As I told you in an email recently, my hate for him has reached such a deep level that I'm numb to it now. He can no longer make me cry - but I can still work up a good rant every now and then. But, no, I wouldn't personally kill him. Which doesn't mean I haven't wished him dead. I've just decided it would create even more problems with the girls idealizing him far more than he deserves (which Sylvia still does to some extent, since he's so absent). I actually just wish he would go to jail once and for all and serve a very, very long sentence. 10 years ought to do it.

pisceshanna asks: What's your sign? I was gonna ask any other questions. Aries - not too obvious, right? As if that's not bad enough, I've got a Scorpio rising.

She also asked: Have you always been a Californian? If not where else have you lived in the world? I was born in Cali myself. I was born behind the Orange Curtain, in Huntington Beach. Then we moved to Bakersfield, Cupertino, San Jose, Aptos, Capitola before settling at the condo in Los Angeles. I then lived in Vista with my sister for a few months while I was doing a show at the Lawrence Welk Dinner Theatre (don't laugh. It's how I got my Equity card). Then I moved to Hollywood (because every starving actor should at some point). After that, I lived on a cruise ship for 4 months, which traveled to the Caribbean, and then Alaska. Back on dry land, first back to the condo in L.A., then North Hollywood, then Pasadena, before heading back to the condo. Then the real moves began. First, Denver, CO, then back to CA (San Jose), then a cross-country move to Pittsburgh. Then Rochester, NY before coming back to Los Angeles, and starting in North Hollywood, then L.A., and now in Burbank.

Lynette wants to know: Do YOU believe in regret? Is there 1 thing that you've done that you can say you regret? My ex likes to say "regret sucks." Which explains why he'd make the same mistakes over and over again. But I still kind of agree with that. BS happens to all of us, and not even all of it is for us to learn a lesson. I always try to learn something, but I've also gone crazy trying to find answers when there simply is no there there. But I can't regret any of it.
I regret the little stuff, though. Stupid things I wish I never said. Getting caught talking to myself. Tripping over my own feet.

From Shamelessly Sassy: What is your favorite mistake? Smoking. Hands down. Should never have started it, waste of money, health effects, blah blah blah. But I love it. I reading the New Yorker outside at home while smoking (and getting 5 minutes away from the girls). I love going out with friends at work - some of whom I became very close to because of that time we spend together. I've quit trying to quit.

Single Working Mommy has lots of questions. 'Cause she knows, I've got all the answers :)

If you had three wishes... what would they be? 1. To never have to take the girls to the doctor/dentist/ER/urgent care again. I loathe that! 2. To die free and clear of debt, and 3. with something of value to leave my girls.

What is your favorite animal? Cat, in any form. (But I do like dogs, too; I just relate to cats better.)

What is your favorite color? Red. And black.

If you could do one job for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Money not an issue, etc.) Direct a non-profit organization that supports single parents, in any way, shape or fashion that they need.

What in this life are you most thankful for? My girls, of course. But relating to me? My brain for being able to keep up with them! So far.

GetSmartGal is almost as curious as SWM:

What is your favorite place/space in your home or outside of it? My smoking balcony.

If you had only one thing you could say or piece of advice you could pass on to your girls what would it be? To Sylvia: don't let your life be dictated by fear. Face the fear head on. You'll always be proud of yourself. To Riley: Don't be so hard on yourself! You're smart, funny, sweet, compassionate, and at your best when you believe in yourself.

Name one thing that no matter how many times you see it, hear it, or feel it you laugh uncontrollably? Full belly, liquid out of the nose, can't stop laughing! Camp Macamacawiya. The story's too long (and probably not nearly as funny) as I find it. But it still makes me smile after nearly 20 years.

Maria asks an interesting one (of course): What does a guy have to do to get into your pants? Some guys would say, not much! Others would see me as a total tease. They just don't realize they've turned me off, usually with some ignorant statement.

Natalie didn't really ask this as a 200-post question, but I told her I was going to answer it here: I'm curious as to what your stance is on that recent New Yorker cover, since you read it regularly and all. I *got* it, but what I find interesting is that so many people (on both sides) didn't get it at all. I think if it had not been the cover, it would've been fine. But the more time that has passed, the more I think that we should not allow the lowest form to decide what can and can not be on the cover of a decidedly liberal magazine! It's almost like letting that line of thinking win.

BusyDad, a fellow SoCal resident had this question: what's the best and worst part about living in LA? I am such a city girl. I love living here. I love driving through Griffith Park, I love "only in L.A." moments, like watching a movie in a theatre that happens to be a location in the movie I'm watching. I love knowing how to avoid certain freeways. I love that I could go to the beach one day, and the mountains the next (not that I ever do, you understand, but it's still possible). I love that my daughters get field trips to places like the Disney Concert Hall, and the Getty. I love going to landmarks like the Hollywood Bowl. I love that my parents are nearby. I love that I can be totally anonymous. The worst part? Definitely way too many people. Annoying people, bad driving people, stupid people, people just in my friggin' way!! People that think too much of themselves, people that try too hard. People that don't see just how big the world is around them. The cliche is that no one here has any depth. I don't believe that at all. But you do have to work to find the depth. People who complain about living in L.A. No one is forcing anyone to live here.

So there you have it. This post, I realize, is far too much text, but I'm totally following the lead of bloggers I love and admire that say, hey, my blog - I'll post what I want when I want. And no need to comment on the new look. I know, it's a boring template with no pizzazz, but I just wanted something simple and clean for the moment. I'm sure I'll get bored of it again in a few months, and switch it up a bit. So just deal!

I do have a few awards to give out, and that'll be soon.

Again, many many thanks for such a warm welcome you've all given to me! I feel so lucky to know you and be one of you.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

At Last, My Internet is Up Again!!

Holy moly, peoples. After 6 phone calls in 3 days with AT&T, the last one taking over an hour, I finally, finally have internet access at home again. First, they hooked up the wrong place. I had to wait another 24 hours before my blessed Broadband light was green. Then, I couldn't register my account because their server was down. Then, the registration wouldn't take. I told Sabrina, the last person I spoke to, that she is my favorite person at AT&T.

My apologies to Kori - I really wanted to guest post while you were gone, but never had time at work to complete it. And I'm woefully behind, of course, on reading everyone's blogs.

Of course, without the distraction of the Internet, I got tons done at the new place. The living room is completely done, and there are just 2 stray boxes left in my room, and 2 more bags of clothes to go through.

I had my first bad experience doing laundry at our apt. community laundry room. Of course, I picked the dryer that doesn't work! By the time I discovered this, someone else was using the only other dryer. A load of towels took about 3 hours to complete.

But this a.m., I was up at 6:30 and got all my laundry done by 11. Somehow, over the course of the last few weeks, I've become a morning person. Even though I've been getting up by 6:30 every weekday morning for 5 years, I could still sleep as long as the girls would let me on the weekends. Now, I'm the first one out of bed! Is this a sign of aging? Whatever. It's more productive, I guess.

Riley is registered for school, I've figured out after-school care (though I still have to sign them up), and we'll be going for registration/orientation for Sylvia's new school in a couple of weeks.

So the other day, I realized I left my grocery list at home - I was going to stop at the grocery store before picking up the girls - and it took me nearly all day to figure out that, hey, I can just stop at home and pick it up on the way to the grocery store. "Home" is no longer 25 minutes away from work! That was pretty cool.

The girls will be going up to San Jose on Monday to visit with their aunts and uncles and cousins on their dad's side. Their dad lives there, too, but none of us are completely confident that he'll show up. They haven't seen him since July of last year - when he was 2 days late for their visit. The girls have not forgotten that. I don't think they ever will.

Riley lost 2 teeth in the past week; one of them being in the top front. So now she lisps along with not saying her "r"s correctly. I didn't think it was possible for her to get any cuter, but this time, she's outdone herself.

Sylvia's kicking butt on her Swim Team. She's exceeding everyone's expectations. She's also been extremely emotional. I think the combination of the move, plus the trip to San Jose being on, then off and now back on again has been a lot for her to handle. At the same time, I can't allow her to get away with everything. As usual, it's about balancing - in this case, her emotional needs versus the needs of the entire family. And, okay, my need for a little sanity myself!

I look forward to trying to catch up with everyone, a little at a time. And hey, the next one really and truly is my 200th post :) I'll be answering readers' questions. If you have any, ask them in the comments.