Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dirty Dancing on Stage

I saw Dirty Dancing at the Pantages a couple of weekends ago. I had a really fun time, but would be the first to admit that it's not for everyone.

If you remember "Nobody puts Baby in a corner!" and the opening credits sequence, and "I carried a watermelon!" go see this show. You will have a fantastic time re-living the memories, and you can scream and carry on like you were a school girl again and no one will look at you funny.

It's high energy, great dancing (the choreography is nearly identical to what was in the film), and doesn't leave out any of your favorite parts from the movie.

The first act follows the original screenplay almost word for word. In the second act, however, they added about 20 minutes of mostly superfluous dialogue, and a 16-measure duet between Baby's mother and father that just didn't belong. The additions that were useful all involved the character of Baby's mother, who is more fleshed out and gets a back story! But for the most part, the additional scenes are the lowest points of the show.

It all comes back to high energy when they go back to the screenplay, and the talent show at Kellerman's. By the end, you're ready to find the nearest dance club playing your favorite '80s songs!

The dancing is superb. The actor I saw playing Johnny was totally hot, and had the Swayze physique (and, thankfully, had plenty of stage time without a shirt). The unfortunate part is that he's from Australia, and while a well-trained dancer, he's not so superb with the American accent. I never got used to the lilts that came in and out throughout the show.

The only other singing (apart from the strange duet) is done by two singers, one male and one female, and the male was mind-blowing phenomenal. I mean, this guy has a voice that sends chills up your spine! The female singer was completely capable, but overshadowed by his brilliance.

I went with a couple of female friends from work, and there were tons of females there in our oh-so-vague age group. There were also plenty of couples (guys, you will almost definitely get la1d if you take your woman to see this). We all went nuts at the end, and had a great, great time!

It is not musical theatre. The music is all solely from the film soundtrack (except, again, for that odd duet). It's not a Broadway musical by any means. But it is a really fun night out.

Dirty Dancing will be playing at the Pantages through June 28.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Kitchen bonding

I'm no Martha Stewart. In fact, I'm sort of the opposite. A confession: I probably stayed with my X longer than I should have because he cooked for me. I'm not necessarily a foodie, but I certainly prefer to have my food served to me than do the serving.

When I did leave my X and was left to fend for myself (and the girls - unfortunately both on solid foods), I tried many different cookbooks and online menus, but I still hated the whole process. We survive now mainly because of DreamDinners.

Sylvia couldn't wait to start her cooking class this semester. I wasn't excited; I was too fearful that it would result in even more time in the kitchen for me watching over her...not to mention, that she would finally see what a loser I am in the cooking department (just what I need: another reason for my tween to disrespect me).

I'm pleased to report that the experience thus far has not only been a success, but a wonderful source of bonding for us. Now Sylvia cooks for us every Sunday night.

In Sylvia's homework projects, I've mainly been able to step back and observe and she's impressed me with how well she can handle it. She has a great attitude about it, and has learned safe cooking procedures thanks to her teacher.

It's a source of pride for her to cook a meal, and how could that not be a source of pride for me?

Dinnertime used to be a time of battles for us. Because Sylvia remembered her dad cooking, she used dinnertime as a means of expressing her frustration at the lack of control she had over the situation. Never the best of eaters, she became even pickier, and would refuse to eat things she had enjoyed in the past. While I understood this, it didn't necessarily make it easier - especially since cooking was never my favorite thing, and now I had to be concerned if she was actually getting the food she needed.

It's gotten easier over the years, but by doing the actual cooking, she's far more willing to experiment. On Sunday nights, she beams, and the mood is infectious.

I have a lot of fears for Sylvia's future: what kind of man she'll love, how independent she'll be, how she'll weather the many obstacles she'll meet along the way that I won't be able to shield from her. There's comfort in knowing that she'll not only be able to nourish herself, but take pride in doing so.

This post is inspired by SV Moms Book Club pick for May, Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs.

A Setback, but not the End

Join the 1 Million for Marriage Equality

I can't rant today. If I think about this too much, I'll become a bawling mess, and I can't be a bawling mess today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Cause for the Next School Year: Homework

Here in California, it's easy to just focus on the budget problem of our public education system, but there are many more obstacles inhibiting our children from getting the best education possible. For most of the school year, I've been floundering around, trying to pinpoint where I can actually make a positive difference for my daughters.

Of course there's the usual parental involvement. I've become an active member of the PTA and will be serving as the Secretary next year. I've written to my politicians, voted in all of the elections, and even contacted my local school Board members. At home, I ask my daughters about school and make sure they get their homework done. I go to the parent-teacher conferences, and participate in most of the fundraisers. It still doesn't feel like enough.

A couple of weeks ago, Riley (my third-grader) started with the homework battles again. At first, I thought it was due to the break in routine. They'd recently completed their standardized test weeks, when the homework load lightens considerably. Still, the more she resisted, the more I began to see her point.

She was supposed to be doing three pages in her workbook of cursive letter writing. She was supposed to a page of l, a page of m, and then one of n. Talk about boring!

Nevertheless, I tried to reason with her - the more practice she got, the easier it would be. "Just do it for 5 minutes, and see how much you get done," I offered. She was having none of it.

Riley blurted out, "We shouldn't have to do homework!" And with that, my thoughts started racing.

I remembered reading articles about The Homework Myth and The Case Against Homework. I remembered talking to a Principal about them, and how even he didn't agree with giving homework, but left the decision up to his teachers.

I decided to do things a little bit differently. I told Riley to write a convincing paper to her teacher, in cursive, about why she shouldn't have to do homework. She went right to work. She would read me a sentence, and I'd probe her for more information, and bring up arguments to her point. She would write some more. (She did her draft in print.)

Once we were satisfied with it, she went to work on copying it in cursive. She would get frustrated as she realized she didn't know how to connect letters since all they'd done so far was write the same letters. However, she was determined to finish the task, and completed her paper in cursive with pride. I wrote an accompanying note to explain to the teacher why we did it this way instead.

When the teacher and I spoke about it later, even she agreed that Riley probably got more out of writing the paper than she would have doing the l, m, and n drills. I'm pretty sure it took longer than the drills would have, either, but at least we weren't fighting about homework anymore.

This is not to say that all homework is irrelevant. Not even practicing cursive is irrelevant. I just think there are more ways to accomplish the goals of homework than I sometimes see in what is given.

I'm making it my own homework assignment to read more about homework and its value over the summer, and to find out more about what actually reinforces learning in the classroom that we can do at home. I intend to look at their homework carefully, and even change it if I feel it's in my daughter's best interest to do so. My goal is to put an end to the homework battles while still encouraging their love of learning.

So I may not be able to get more money into my district's budget. I still intend to do all that I can to ensure that my children get the most out of their education.

Originally posted on LA Moms, May 22, 2009.

Oh, you fabulous Friday, you!

Phew! I'm still not done with this week yet, but the end is near!

I'm so looking forward to doing as little as possible this weekend. We have nothing on the schedule except for the girls going to the Christmas Carol Train Day with my parents.

I don't really have the brainpower for anything too heady so consider this an early weekend wrap-up. Which, sadly, is the only thing I'm writing consistently these days!

Work has been very busy, but it's all good. I really enjoy my work, and those I work with, so I like it when there's a lot to do.

Yes, I'm still having DSL problems at home (grrr) so between work being busy, and no internet at home, I think at last check I had over 800 unread posts in my Reader. Amazing how fast that happens! It just might be worth it to spend another 2 hours on the phone with ATT this weekend to get the DSL back at home.

I'm incredibly nervous about the CA Supreme Court decision coming out on Tues. Heads up, I will most likely be writing about it either way.

I was asked today if I'm ready for it if we lose. My response: "as ready as I can be for total injustice!"

Ugh, and Coolio is driving me insane! I'm thankful that we're no longer cube-neighbors, but even walking by him to and from the kitchen, I manage to hear more idiotic stuff come out of his mouth than one person should be allowed to utter and still live.

Yesterday's gem: After someone else was mentioning how people cared more about voting for American Idol than in the CA election on Tuesday, he tells them, "no offense, but their vote counts more on American Idol than it does in an election."

Sylvia learned 3 years ago that just putting "no offense" in front of something doesn't mean that it's not offensive. More than the rest of what she said, that's what bothered me about Miss California's remarks. When you feel the need to say "no offense" before you say something, you're admitting that what you're saying WILL be offensive.

And just because you can vote a gazillion times on American Idol does NOT mean that it counts more. For one thing, who wins American Idol does not affect my daughters' education! And it was also idiotic because his fiance is a teacher!

Speaking of education, I wrote more about homework on LA Moms today.

Riley slept funny the other day and walked around the entire following day looking like the Hunchback! She still favors one side, but she's doing better. I picked her up early and she came to my work and fell asleep. I joked about my work being boring, and she almost looked offended: "no, it's not! Your work is awesome!"

Next Friday night, they'll both be performing at the Boys & Girls Club end of year showcase. Sylvia's doing 2 dances, a scene and opening the show with her singing solo. Riley will be doing an acting scene. I think this show will be much, much better than the PITS show at Sylvia's junior high a couple of weeks ago!

Riley's team won a soccer game! By forfeit, but still...She doesn't seem to mind as much anymore, and is playing hard and having fun.

And I know there were other little odds and ends, but I need to save my remaining brainpower to wrap up my work-week.

Hope everyone has a nice Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Everything Changes

Sylvia hates talking about anything related to puberty. It took me about a year to have the first talk with her about her period. She would literally run screaming from the room whenever I tried to bring it up!

Her Changes is a product designed to help her understand what is happening with her body. The kit includes a booklet explaining the facts, a journal, a calendar (yes, like the ones you see at the OB's office), stationery and 3 kinds of perfume.

Even after getting through "the talk," even with her level of acceptance that she will indeed progress into adolescence, Sylvia still doesn't want to talk about it. We turn into the classic clashing mother/daughter. Frankly, she's sick of hearing me say that she can always come to me.

With that, I feel better about knowing that she has this kit where she can access the information privately, and I'm confident that the information is accurate (unlike what she might hear from her friends at school). And she knows (and would tell you she knows while rolling her eyes, exasperated) that she can come to me with any additional questions she might have.

I was disappointed that the booklet didn't discuss alternatives to tampons or pads, like the DivaCup or Instead, but at least their website includes a message board for additional questions.

I like the fact that the kit comes in both a "Young Miss" and "Tomboy" version. I have a feeling I'll be buying the Tomboy kit for Riley, when the time comes. And Sylvia loves the perfumes that come in the kit.

Either as an introductory tool or a bit later in the process, I think most parents and daughters would appreciate this kit as a great resource for getting through this inevitable time!

Monday, May 18, 2009

(BRIEF) Weekend Wrap-Up

My stupid DSL hasn't worked all weekend at home so I'm way behind on my reading (and my thanks to everyone who visited during BusyDad's BlogHop on Friday). I've thought about quite a few different things to write about, but am too bogged down at work (yay!) to do so right now.

I want to write a review of Dirty Dancing (the musical) which I saw on Friday. I want to tell you how happy I am that Sylvia no longer has cheer practice! I want to write about some upcoming events, like seeing Natalie in just a couple of short weeks. I want to write about finally seeing Milk this weekend, and I want to rant some more about prejudices against single parents and homosexuals. I want to tell you how much fun Sylvia and I had cooking together on Sunday night. I want to tell you how cute Riley is when she talks about Lost and her obsession with the season finale. I want to rant about homework, the Governator, our election tomorrow, and how much I'm looking forward to this 3-day weekend to do as little as possible.

Unfortunately, the work beckons and then another soccer game for Riley. So instead, all I can do is point you in the direction of my latest Examiner article.

Hope you all had a good weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm in the majority?

I'm fascinated to find out the results of the current census. Clicking from one link to another, I came across one statistic that said that 51% of women are currently not married, but then I learned that percentage includes women 15-18. So I did some more searching and found that in 2005, fewer than half of all American households contain a married couple, though I don't know if that stat includes spouses current living elsewhere (e.g., military spouses). One of the links (sorry, don't have the URL) stated that unmarried women were an important voting block in last year's election.

What's most fascinating to me is how many of us, however, still feel marginalized.

Most of the books I read and movies I see that feature a single woman (or man) (parent or not) usually end with that person finding their "soul mate." That always lets me down. I wish just once, one of these pop culture stories would end with that singular person living happily ever after alone.

This is not to say, however, that some people shouldn't be married. My parents, for instance, are an enormously happy couple. I know many more.

I just don't think it's for everyone. Whether or not there is "the One" for all of us doesn't necessarily mean that we all find our One, or stay with our One.

I believe in love, fiercely. I just believe that there are so many kinds of love that are often overlooked, but just as magical or beautiful or meaningful as a marriage.

I love Kori. I love Nancy. I love RadDude. And Natalie, and K, and my sister, and my cat, and certain songs and musicals, and so many people that I've met here in one of my passionate loves: the blogosphere. I do not believe that love is too strong a word to use with any of them.

We all know people that aren't married. Some of them are lonely, sure, but even happily married people get lonely sometimes! Loneliness isn't a disease from which someone needs to be cured. It's an emotion, and it comes and goes just like any other. I'll admit, I had it bad a few days ago, but now it's gone. And prior to that, it had been a very long time since I had last felt lonely. More often than not, actually, I find myself wanting to be alone when I can't be!

Whether or not I'm in the majority doesn't really matter. I still have plenty of love to give.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

I have many half-baked thoughts running through my head - we'll see how many of them actually make it into full-fledged posts.

I had a very nice Mother's Day. After surviving the nightmare that is a middle school talent show, the girls and I drove down to my sister's house. We were meeting my parents on Saturday for a combination Mother's Day/my father's 65th bday celebration. We went to a chocolate festival, where the girls got to do plenty of crafts, and I got a dark choco-covered strawberry, one of my favorite things in the world!

After lunch and some time spent window-shopping at one of the most obnoxious little streets ever (their furniture store had signs all over "no pictures please!") with high-priced and unnecessary items, we dropped my parents off at the train station, and went back to my sister's.

The girls swam, I sat relaxing in the sun, and it was very nice. Later, after my sis' hubby made us dinner, we relaxed in the Jacuzzi (which was the whole reason I drove down), watched ET and went to bed.

On Mother's Day, we got home around noon and found a lovely bouquet of flowers waiting for me from one of my mother forums, which was so nice. I also got a nice shout-out from And the girls made me lovely presents, which I'll post pics of someday.

The best part was Sylvia made me dinner. She's been taking cooking in school this quarter, and she made me tacos with only a very little help from me. She served me soda in a champagne glass (how cute is that?) and we had a lovely dinner.

I did laundry because I had to, but otherwise it was a very nice, relaxing day.

Sylvia is waiting to find out if she was elected to her student body council. She was so excited when so many of her friends told her they voted for her. I hope she makes it, but I think she'll be okay if she didn't.

Riley's soccer team still hasn't won a game, but they did score more goals last week than ever before!

I did get some sad news on Friday. I found out that my friend's wife died. Superduke, you're in my thoughts.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Remember the single moms this Mother's Day

Every mother raising their child(ren) deserves a little recognition on this hallmark holiday. Sure, it's kind of stupid. Sure, mothers should be treated with respect and love every day. But there is something nice about taking one day out of the year to celebrate the unsung heroes.

Take a look at your morning news programs, and all over the Internet. Mothers are judged every single day for some very difficult decisions they make. We've talked to death the Octomom, the mom who kicked her kids out of the car, and the mommy wars still alight the blogosphere from time to time. There are helicopter parents, and parents who aren't nearly involved enough, and moms have kept therapists in business for years.

I don't know of any mom who hasn't made mistakes. We're generally imperfect people, trying to do our best. We have a nearly impossible job: we're supposed to nurture these individuals, and help them through everything all so that they can eventually leave us and not need us anymore.

So, yes, I totally support the idea of giving us just one day a year, the day with the most cards sent and phone calls made in the U.S. There are some who will receive breakfast in bed, some who will be given expensive jewelry from their husbands, and most of us will receive handmade presents from our children, which we will cherish.

Yet it can be a very hard day for some mothers out there. Even with the handmade gifts, and children trying to be on their very best behavior, there will be some single moms out there who will miss not having someone care for them this Sunday. There will be some that wish they had a husband to take them out to a champagne brunch, or even just some friends to spend the day with, but their friends are busy with their own children that day.

Our family has a group celebration of sorts, so I will have a celebration this weekend. But I'm worried for some of my single mom friends out there that may not be recognized this year.

If you know a single mom, send her a card. Maybe even invite her to brunch on Saturday. Let her know that someone is thinking of her this Mother's Day. And then relish in every kiss and hug and smile that every mother so richly deserves!

Originally posted on LA Moms, May 7, 2009.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Need to Process

Mind if I use my blog to do so?

I've been having a conversation about anger, and how anger is really feeling a lack of control, and how the only way really to get past it is by feeling empowered.

There's so much anger out there. The men who responded to my article are clearly very angry. And yes, I'm still angry at my X. (I posted a response, btw.) I'm not angry every minute of every day or anything, but it doesn't take me long to get angry if I think about it for too long.

My first conversation with X didn't go so well. HE was angry. I actually didn't even think I was going to be talking to him at that moment, so I was more confused than anything. He called back and apologized, and eventually, we just had a conversation.

I told him that I wasn't punishing him or the girls, just trying to do what's best for them. I explained to him (very calmly) what it's been like for Sylvia lately, and the chain of events that led us to where we are today. And he seemed to understand.

The thing about X - he's not all bad. I don't really believe that pure evil exists, and even if it does, he's not pure evil. When I say that I tell my girls the truth, the truth I tell them is that he's just not capable of taking care of them. Sylvia pointed out the other day that he's not even capable of taking care of himself. And she's right.

He hurts everyone that cares about him. But in the process, he's hurting himself. I tried everything I know to get him to heal himself, but I had no control over that. And sure, that lack of control can still make me angry, but I've just truly given up.

He never learned how to deal with the disappointments, with the obstacles that life throws us. I think he still believes that someday, there will be some sort of happily ever after. And there just isn't.

I think one of the reasons that I've been able to enjoy my own life more this past year or so is because I've come to terms with that. My life is by no means perfect, and there are still things that frustrate me every day.

But I also revel in every time I laugh, every time my kids make me smile, every time there's a successful moment in my own life.

And yet, I still don't ask myself if I'm "happy." My mom always says that she just wants me to be happy. As a mother, sure, I can understand that. But here's a cliche that X taught me: "happiness is an unnatural state of mind."

I don't really believe that, but I believe that happiness is like any other emotion: with a beginning, a middle, and an end until you get to experience it again. A good day today doesn't mean tomorrow isn't going to suck, so what the hell, I'm going to enjoy today. And when tomorrow sucks, I'm going to be angry or sad or frustrated, and may even cry about it. But even on my best or worst day, I know that there are good and bad moments within it.

The worst feeling in the world (at least, that I've felt) is NOT believing that another moment of happiness is going to come. X's way of coping with that is to get high. My way of coping with it is to cry, and to reach out for help.

I spoke with Kori until my phone died on Thursday night. I was traveling alone and didn't yet know anyone at the conference. So I clung to her for dear life and she held on to me. And the next morning, I met someone else from my district, and we clicked immediately. And then I met more and more, and that night, I reached out again when I needed to. And one of them held onto me (figuratively) until I was okay again.

In the first few years following my divorce, my greatest fear was no one would hold me again. I didn't know yet that it didn't have to be a spouse. I was afraid I'd never be able to hold onto someone for support ever again.

In the years since, I've met these amazing people, these awesome friends that I have. I text them, I email them, I talk to them however possible. And then I can move forward, knowing that there's support there.

And that support was what allowed me to finally have a calm conversation with my X. And when he showed up the next day, it wasn't comfortable, but it wasn't terrible. We talked enough that I know that he still hasn't found a way to hold himself up, or ask for the right kind of support, but those are his demons. As long as I can protect the girls from them, it's okay.

And really sad for him. He's missing out on so many great moments of happiness. But I will not, under any circumstances, let him drag the girls down with him.

And thus ends today's processing.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Wrap-Up

I'm back.

It's been a very interesting week! So much has happened that it will take a few posts to process everything, but for now: I went to the CA PTA convention, saw my X and his mom (separately), survived the commentary from a men's rights activist group, found out that a few people I know from work got laid off, and logged a few hundred miles by car and by plane.

I've missed you all very much, and am trying to catch up on my Reader, but bear with me if I miss a few posts along the way.

Oh, and don't forget about the Jumpstart giveaway! Deadline to enter is this Friday. (And if you'd rather not comment on the web, feel free to send an email instead.)