Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Well, that's over!

I expected that I'd get more emotional about Riley finishing elementary school, especially since I really did love the school and the parents and others I met there. Still, I can't seem to get worked up about it. Right now, I'm just enjoying life without monthly book reports and homework, and easier mornings and nights.

And I'm thrilled to be done with Sylvia's middle school! It wasn't until the very end that I finally came across a few teachers and one counselor that I could appreciate, but it was too little, too late. I'm proud of how Sylvia came out of it a better person, but I think it was mostly in spite of and not because of her school.

I don't think the new school year will make me wistful, either. I'm too excited about their schools to come.

At the same time, I think that's also how I'm feeling about life in general. I'm just not looking back that much anymore. I'm looking forward.

It was 8 years ago that I put myself and the girls and our cat on a plane and truly left my husband and our lives in Rochester, NY back to L.A.

When I first got here, I thought I was moving backward. And in many ways, I was. I was living with my parents again (only with two daughters this time). I had no car, no money, no job. I was starting completely over.

But at the time, that's not how I saw it. I was afraid I'd just wasted years of my life. After the first few steps forward (a job, a car, a place to call our own), I thought that was it; the rest of my life was going to be one long, uphill struggle. And for a few years, it was.

But then, I got a college degree. And then I got a promotion. And my kids went from these little helpless girls to girls with their own opinions, their own ambitions, their own personalities. And now, I've graduated from this leadership program where I met these amazing people and walked among them.

Yes, we did all graduate in these past few weeks. But theirs were called promotions, and mine might as well have been, too. Because these ceremonies weren't about our past accomplishments, but about the new expectations upon all of us. To do more, to be more. So we're looking forward, readying ourselves for what's next. Some knowns, lots of unknowns, preparing however we can. And in the meantime, soaking up the joy that is our present.

Monday, May 30, 2011

My Not So Little Girls

My elementary school graduate and my middle school graduate, excited for the next chapter to begin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Other People

Riley's 5th Grade Promotion was very, very nice. Riley looked so sweet, and the slideshow at the end was beautiful. I don't think I was geared up to get emotional, but even if I'd wanted to, the mood would have been shattered anyway. By other people.

There was a note in the invite to please leave strollers and balloon bouquets in the back of the auditorium. I appreciated that. I would've appreciated it even more had people paid attention. Instead a woman behind me tried to hold her balloons down, but they were too close to my hair for my comfort. And the sound...doesn't help that I have a thing against balloons anyway, I'm sure. Balloon bouquets were scattered throughout the auditorium.

I suppose I should just be grateful they weren't obstructing my view. Not to say my view wasn't obstructed sometimes. By parents standing to take photos or wave, choosing to be completely oblivious to other people who were trying to also take pics of their students from their seats, or simply trying to enjoy the moment not through a lens, but in real life!

Some families tried to prove how much their kid was loved by screaming the loudest. I'm all for making a little noise, letting your child hear you cheer them on...but there's no need to act like you're seeing Elvis rise up from the dead! And if you get this outrageous for elementary school promotion, just how high will the expectations be for middle school, high school, college? Some students may opt out of post-graduate degrees just to avoid the embarrassment!

In spite of the other people, it was a very nice ceremony, and I'm so proud of Riley.

Maybe I'd be more excited if I didn't know we're about to enter middle school again? Yikes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Now I Get Sappy

So all things considered, I did really well while Sylvia was gone. There were no tearful goodbyes at the airport when she left, we kept in touch while she was gone, and while I thought of her often, I was okay with it. Part of that, I'm sure, was because I was pretty busy myself, but also, I just didn't see any reason to worry.

I picked her up at the airport, and we went to my parents' house so she could tell all of us at once about her trip. She endured all of our questions, shared her funny stories, and had gifts for all of us.

When we got home, I got all sappy and held back the tears. She'd done it. She'd packed herself (wouldn't even let me check her suitcase), had this amazing trip, and made it back all in one piece. She'd even handled our "interrogation" with no eye-rolling! And the gifts she'd picked out for each of us were just perfect; so thoughtful, and clearly selected with a lot of love.

How did she get to be this mature?

Riley and I spent some time looking at a baby pic of Sylvia that had been returned from the yearbook committee right before she left. It seems like just yesterday she was that little girl, not a care in the world, no thoughts of future beyond the next minute. Now, she's old enough to pack for a 6-day trip without any help from Mom, experience new sights and food without anyone coaxing her to just try it, and perform a dance number that brought the house to a standing ovation.

Still, my sappiness isn't one of longing for those days. Just overwhelming pride in what she's accomplished. And gratitude that I've been there every step of the way.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Full Steam Ahead

It's been a crazy week. I closed one chapter, opened another, all while Sylvia was having the time of her life on her trip.

The insanity started the week before, when I had the crazy idea to audition for a musical. Haven't done that in I don't know how many years.

Sylvia was already auditioning, and I asked her what she thought about it. She thought I should. Actually, she said she didn't really care either way. In teen-speak, I think that's approval!

During that first audition, I was totally freaking out. I hadn't done this in a whole lot of years! Didn't help that the accompanist and I started in different measures, but soon enough, it worked out. Then I had to read a scene. Then I had to dance. Thankfully, nothing too difficult, but it's been forever since I've had to learn choreography.

Over the weekend, we got the news that I'd been called back, but Sylvia was too young. We thought that might happen. She took it well. She has so much going on in her life right now that it might have been too much for her.

For the call-back, I had to learn a song from the show. Another thing I haven't done in so many years. But the more I practiced, the more I remembered.

I hadn't told anyone besides the girls what I was doing. I ran into someone I knew, and vowed them to secrecy as well. It was hard enough to get myself into this without other people asking me how it went. 

Tuesday morning, at 5 a.m.,  I put Sylvia on a plane. Tuesday evening, at 6 p.m., I was at a call-back. I sang, read various scenes with various actors, learned another dance routine...and I had the best time! I'm sure there were some things I could've done better, but for my first time out, I felt like I'd conquered the most difficult part; getting over my nerves.

The day after the call-back, I graduated from my leadership class. I've had the most amazing time with this experience. I've met amazing people, I've learned things about myself and my community that I wouldn't have known otherwise. I tried new things. I was completely exhausted, but thrilled and honored to have been part of it.

The next day, I was offered a small role in the production.

I don't expect to be doing shows on a regular basis, but once a year might be fun. I feel like it completes the circle of integrating my past into my present.

When I first started this journey as a single mom, it felt like there weren't any choices left that I could make for myself. While I accepted the responsibilities and sacrifices that come with being a mom, it took a long time to feel like there was room for me, too. I enjoyed going back to school, but it was still something I did for the girls. Starting this blog was the first thing I did just for me. Being a mom, of course, is still a big part of my blogging. The leadership class ended up showing me that there was still a lot I could do. Doing this show is not just about me, either. I think it also shows them that it's never too late. That you can still have things in your life you do just for fun.

My girls have asked me plenty of times what it was like for me to perform, and then not to perform. They are excited that they'll get to see me on stage. They get to see a glimpse of who I was before I was "Mommy."

During this crazy week, Sylvia has called and texted with bits and pieces of her trip. She's had the best time.

This week will be another kind of crazy. They are both graduating from their schools. I've gone to my last PTA meeting. I will no longer have a child in elementary school. And all of us are so excited about the future, we're full steam ahead to see what's next. For all of us.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekend Reading

On Parentella, We Need to Talk.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Release and Catch

Sylvia has an amazing opportunity to perform out of state with her dance team. She'll be traveling with 5 other girls, and 3 adult chaperones for 5 nights. I'm slightly surprised by how many people ask if I'm going, if I wish I was going, if I'm nervous about her going. Answer to all of the above: no.

For starters, she'll have her cell phone and can text or call me anytime. (I laughed at myself the other day when I told her, "text me if you need anything." Not call, text. Yes, I think I'm comfortable being a 21st century mom!) I also have the cell phone numbers for the chaperones, the hotel info, and the flight info. I'll know where she is all the time, I'll know how to reach her anytime.

I know the chaperones very well, and know they adore Sylvia and all the girls. They're at least as responsible as I am...and they're willing to chaperone 6 girls ages 12-14. I? Am not. They're definitely better people than I am.

Parents are actually not invited, and I think that's a good thing. The girls earned this experience, and part of the experience is being there sans mom or dad. They will be supervised by adults 24/7, but there is a sense of freedom just because parents aren't there.

It's not that I think that this experience will in any way prepare her for adulthood without me. She won't have to worry about expenses, home maintenance or anything! But it will be an enduring memory.

I will miss her, of course. Like when Riley went to her Science Camp, our home won't be complete without our Sylvia. Still, Riley and I will get to spend some time together and Sylvia will be home again. 

Sylvia received a journal from her counselor so she can record the experience. I do hope she'll share that with me!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Weekend Reading

I didn't write this, but I'm quoted in this Schools.com article on being a student mom.

Also, a previous Parentella post of mine is now on Huffington Post!The comments have been mixed; it's a complicated subject, and the comments are giving me a lot to ponder.

And, both BlogHer and Since My Divorce are featuring my Balance De-Mystified post. I'm incredibly honored!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Who Am I This Time? (or Like Mother, Like Daughter)

Scene in which I have played both Daughter and Mother. (Granted, the topic is only typical in our world, but the scene may be familiar to other daughter/mothers.)

Daughter: What song should I sing for my audition?

Mother: I think [Choice A] is appropriate for both the type of show, and showing you off at your best.

Daughter: I don't want to sing that!

Mother: Why not?

Daughter: Because!

Mother: Because why?

Daughter: I just don't want to sing that! Pick something else?

Mother: Okay, how about [Choice B]?

Daughter: Not that one!

Mother: Why not?

Daughter: I just don't want to sing that.

Mother: I really think [Choice A] is what you should sing. Why don't you want to sing that?

Daughter: No, not that one!

Mother (giving up): Okay, fine, why don't you ask [adult who isn't Daughter's relative, but respected in Daughter's eyes] what you should sing.

Daughter: Fine.

Cut to: After Daughter has spoken to Adult who actually knows something.

Mother: So what did [adult] think you should sing?

Daughter: [Choice A - with no sense of irony or acknowledgment that this was Mother's idea all along.]

Mother: And...are you going to sing that?

Daughter: Yes.

Mother: [Bites off tongue to avoid saying, "I told  you so."]

Of course, when I told my mother that I have now played the Mother in this scene, she was hysterical! And I told her because I found it pretty funny, too.

I honestly have no idea why Mom's idea didn't sound good at the time, and sounded completely new coming from someone else, but it did. I'm just hoping I can keep my sense of humor with any future scenes that remind me of someone I know!

Balance De-Mystified

I was at a used book sale where one of the taglines of a book on motherhood said that balance is a crock. I get that. That is, if one is not looking at what balancing means to them, and, perhaps more importantly, what balance is not.

Balance is not about being perfect in all areas
. Balance is about deciding what's most valuable, most important to you, and making it a priority. It will mean that something will have to give. Balance is about discerning what are musts, and what can go. I've had to miss a lot of cool blogger events lately because even if they weren't going to interfere with work, it would mean time away from simply being at home with my kids. They would've been fun, but I'm confident that I made the right decision for us.

Balance is not about equal time to all things. It's about recognizing what is getting the least amount of time or attention, and making adjustments accordingly. We get out of whack sometimes, and realize that we haven't spent enough time with our friends, or one child has gotten more attention than another. Once I've recognized it, then I can prioritize it. And if it can't change right then, I look at when it reasonable and feasible. For instance, I haven't spent quality time with my sister at all this year. So I blocked off a weekend in June where we can hang out together. And I can hardly wait!

Balance is not about juggling or multi-tasking
. I can't talk on the phone and balance my checkbook simultaneously. I can't write a to-do list while I help the girls with their homework. I can't reply to a work email while at dinner with friends. One thing at a time. Give it my full attention, be satisfied that I did it right, and then move on to the next thing.

Balance is not about never having downtime. If I have to, I'll schedule it. My goal is to not have anything on the schedule for Sundays. It's not a hard rule, but a goal. When things were getting really out of control, and every day of every weekend had been packed for weeks, I finally just took a couple of days off work to do what I wanted to do at home. I chose Tues. and Wed. off so that I could still take care of all the Monday madness and end of week things at work without regret. Way better than a 3-day weekend!

Balance is not about bouncing back and forth. It's about having a center. I may get pulled in different directions, depending upon what kind of fire drill may be happening at work or a big moment in my daughter's life, but then things return to normal again. Recognizing that nothing lasts forever, that eventually, every problem is in the past, allows me to keep things in perspective. Going back to the center gives me that moment to breath, savor and enjoy all aspects of my life.

Balance is not an end goal, but a constant moving target.  I have moments where life feels in balance and being able to recognize and enjoy those moments get me through until the next one.

Balance is feeling that there's nothing else I should be doing right now, and nothing else I'd rather be doing right now. Not that I want that right now to last forever, but nothing does anyway. If I'm very, very lucky, the target reaches center at least once a day. And if it doesn't? There's always tomorrow.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Perfect for Me

As I read Good Enough is the New Perfect, I was reminded of an earlier time in my single parenthood. A few years ago, the thought of my life remaining the same was the most terrifying thought I had. That I would be single forever, that I would work in the same department forever. Now those same thoughts give me great comfort. If nothing changes, it will be perfectly fine with me.

So what changed? Not much, it turns out. But just enough to completely change my outlook. 

It was around the holidays, which can be a trying time when we're not feeling particularly celebratory. I was dreading the get-togethers, dreading if people would ask me if I was seeing anyone, dreading questions about my job, where I felt like I was getting nowhere fast.

I decided with the new year, it was time for some changes. I went to my boss, and asked for more responsibility (no raise or promotion, just something to keep me from going stir-crazy as a secretary, at the time). I went back to school for a paralegal degree. I knew it meant more time away from my kids, but since my parents were more than willing to watch them while I was in school (as they did when I went back for my bachelor's degree), it would be okay. My girls would be with people that loved them, and it was only two nights a week.

I also came to terms with being single. At first it was, I'm not dating "for now." For now has turned into years, and I've discovered that I really like it this way. There are still some times when it can be scary to walk into social functions with no "date," but for the most part, it's nice to not worry about whether or not someone else is having a good time, to enjoy the company of the people I meet there...and to have the freedom to leave when I want to go home!

It didn't take long for an opportunity to come up at work for a promotion (and a raise). I always loved the people I work with, and the company I work for, so to be recognized for what I put into it meant that much more to me than to just get hired somewhere else. Just last week, I was telling my parents that I'm actually starting to get a retirement plan together...that includes staying exactly where I am for 25+ years! And I just hope it works out that way.

A few weeks ago, I was worrying about the lack of space. As the girls get older, will they still be okay with sharing a room? (Especially when we all get on the same...cycle. 3 women in a two-bedroom apartment suddenly seems very, very small!) Financially, I'm still not ready to make a move to a larger space, and then I came up with another alternative. We're slowly moving Riley into my room. We haven't figured everything out just yet, but for now, she knows she has somewhere to go when she needs some space away from her sister. I pretty much only use my bedroom to sleep and change so it doesn't bother me in the slightest to have her in there. This arrangement can certainly work for at least another year, giving me more time to financially plan for a potential move into a 3-bedroom.

A 3-bedroom apartment doesn't sound like much, but it's the only thing lacking from my current picture of perfection. I used to dream of a house or condo, but now I realize, homeownership would be far too much to take on.  I don't think I could ever get a good night's sleep with a mortgage hanging over my head! As regular readers will know, I've put a lot of time and energy in the past year into getting my budget in order. Right now, my vision of financial success is one of no credit card debt and having an emergency savings fund (in lieu of the credit card to save me when the "unexpected" gets out of hand). Each month, I'm getting a little closer to that goal, and that makes me feel as savvy as Suze Orman. Well, okay, not quite, but I actually look forward to paying my bills now because I feel an empowerment over my finances that I've never felt before. And that's plenty good enough.

I distinctly remember that feeling of complete hopelessness back then. It wasn't even a depression, it was just an acceptance that my life would just suck for the foreseeable future. It only took a few adjustments to turn that around into a life I treasure today. A life that can feel at times like sheer perfection.  

Read more posts inspired by Good Enough is the New Perfect at From Left to Write. The links to the book here are associated with my Amazon affiliate account, and would generate a small referral fee for me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

My personal wishes for Mother's Day:

That Sylvia comes through with her promise to do the laundry.

That I don't have to break up any sibling rivalry...even better, that there is no sibling rivalry!

That I get to take a nap.

That the day is full of laughter, music, hugs and kisses. (and a little mindless Bravo TV.)

That all our wishes this Mother's Day come true!

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weekend Reading

For Mother's Day, Yahoo! Mother Board asked us to share what kind of mom we are in 100 words or less. (Mine is 100 if you don't count my bio line.)

At Parentella, I'm talking about the line between encouraging our children versus pushing too hard.

Oh, and I'd very much appreciate your vote as a Top Single Parenting Blog, if you would be so kind. Thanks!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

My High School Job

I had an awesome high school job. I worked for this dinner cruise ship that went around the L.A. Harbor. They had cheesy entertainment, which was I applied. Alas, at age 17, I was too young to be a server, but they hired me as a cruise director; yes, like Julie on The Love Boat. (Okay, that reference was relevant back in the '80s!)

I would make the seating arrangements and seat our guests, help the servers, answer questions, and then I'd get to sing and dance. It was my dream job; I could actually make money doing what I loved?!? I couldn't ask for anything more.

The catch was that the LA Harbor was about 45 minutes away. So with my shiny new license, I was navigating LA freeways and traffic. My mother was freaked. Looking back, I'm surprised she actually let me do it. At the time, though, I was thoroughly annoyed that I had to call her when I was leaving for work, call her when I got to work, and then, yes, call again, when I was heading home. So she'd know what time to start worrying. And now, it seems completely reasonable.

I was waiting and waiting and waiting to turn 18 so I could be a server. I just wanted to be like all the other grown-ups! Little did I know then that I'd hate waiting tables, and would rather be a hostess anytime. But back then, it was everything to turn that magical number!

Of course, just a few months before I was old enough to vote, I got the bad news: the ship was closing shop. I was going to have my first experience getting laid off due to a company shutdown. (Unfortunately, it would not be my last.)

Our last voyage was on New Year's Eve. Shortly before, we had a holiday party, and I didn't know beforehand, but they also handed out awards.I was thrilled when I won the award for Cruise Director of the Year. That plaque was such an honor for me!

That first job had to be one of my favorites of all time. Even if I may have been the youngest, the truth is, we were all so young. We created drama of course, we laughed a lot, and we lived for the cheesy musical numbers.

Fast forward 20 years: last fall, when Sylvia was doing Willy Wonka, one of the actresses came up to me and re-introduced herself. We'd worked on that dinner cruise ship together all those years ago! Now she had two children, was also a single mom, and her daughter went to the same school as Sylvia! We couldn't get over how crazy it was that after all these years, our similar winding paths had brought us back together again.

What's even better is, as much as I loved my life then, I love it even more now. And I love that I have those memories.

This post inspired by Mama Kat's Writers Workshop.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Yeah, yeah, I know, I know...I've been totally absent again; both as a reader and as a blogger. Be honest, you've loved having less in your Reader!

Quick random updates:

I think I managed to sleep off the flu! Woke up yesterday feeling absolutely dreadful...either the flu or like a hangover, but without the benefit of alcohol! So unfair. I told the girls I wasn't going in to work, to which they asked, "does this mean we get to stay home from school?" "You've GOT to be kidding me!" Of course, I found the strength to get them to school and then went immediately to bed...until 1 pm! (Think there's any way I could've done that with the girls there? Yeah, don't think so.) Then I did what any self-respecting woman would do in the afternoon; watched Oprah and Ellen! Woke up the next day feeling SO much better.

Sylvia has a very exciting opportunity coming up. She's being flown to New Orleans to 1) accept her scholarship and have dinner with Hank Aaron (!), and 2) her dance team was one of 6 out of over 800 chosen to perform! She'll rehearse for three days straight, and then perform and get her honor for the scholarship, and go to dinner with the other 43 scholarship winners. She is beyond excited, as am I! It means she'll have to take her finals early, and gosh darn it, miss 4 days of school, but she's totally willing to accept these consequences. I am so proud of her!!

Sylvia and I have had some amazing talks lately. They're too private to share here (read: she'd kill me), but suffice it to say, I am not only proud of her accomplishments as a performer, but as a human being. I've been warned that we might not get along so well in her 9th and 10th grade years, so I'm totally going to enjoy the now with her.

Every day, I have to double-check my calendar because things just keep overlapping. We just have to get through May, I keep saying, and then life will ease up (I hope) during the summer.

Sylvia said last time she tried to call her dad on his iPhone, it was disconnected. Of course it was.

Tonight is my last PTA meeting as Recording Secretary! Woo hoo!

I will probably be writing a bunch more mushy posts as we are mere weeks away from the end of my daughters' careers as elementary school student and middle school student. I know there's still a long way to go, but these are milestones I want to savor.