Thursday, September 29, 2011

National Coffee Day

Who knew this was a real thing, but apparently, today is National Coffee Day. I've always loved the song Taylor, the Latte Boy, but I think I may love the rebuttal even more.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Budgeting Update: Reality Smackdown

Cars, as we know, cost us as soon as we drive them off the lot. My beloved car was driven off the lot 10 years ago. Over 120,000 miles ago. It's starting to get fun.

Ironically, just as my car hit 120k is about the same time that I went from commuting about 9 miles a day to about 60 miles a day. Timing; it's everything.

My check engine light came on. I made the mistake of trying to hope for the best instead of prepare for the worst. I'd hoped that my mechanic would find nothing wrong. Not the case. So I've had about 18 hours to figure out how to pay nearly a grand of unexpected costs.

This is one of those moments where it feels worse than it should. For the most part, I can get along just fine, better than fine, given our circumstances. But every so often, the circumstances win. The reality is that I started over 8 years ago, am raising two kids completely on my own, and have chosen to drive 50 miles out of my way to give them the best opportunities possible. That doesn't have its consequences.

The consequences are that I'm still living paycheck to paycheck, and there is no spare thousand lying around for these moments.

If I believed in regret, I could start kicking myself, but then, how far back do I go? I could say I shouldn't have bought the laptop...or for that matter, gotten married, or for that There's no point in all that.

So I have to put more on the credit card. So I have to come up with a little creative financing. So I'll have to re-evaluate the budget again.

This is the life I've chosen for us. All things considered, I stand by those choices. Which includes, of course, paying for them.

Still, kinda sucks sometimes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Presently April Dawn

For approximately 15 years, I've been Formerly April Dawn. For the past two months, I've had the opportunity to be April Dawn, the actress, again.

I keep having these moments of integrating my past into my present. This is another one.

I've always hated labels, because I don't like to think of myself as just one thing. I'm not just a single mom, just a paralegal, just an actress, just a blogger. And there are very few times that I am one thing at a time. I like to juggle, but not just because it's challenging to figure out how to be two places at once.

I think that each experience enhances the others. I think I can be a better mom, a better actress, a better employee because of what I learn from being a blogger, a Leadership student, a head of household. I like playing with these different facets. I like finding the unexpected similarities and complementary differences.

I have only one regret about this experience - but since I don't really believe in regret, a lesson learned, really. I wish I hadn't limited my bio to my previous experience as April Dawn. I wish I'd included more of who I am today.

As this experience comes to an end, I don't know what label will replace this one. I didn't know about this one until the opportunity presented itself. I will just continue to be open to new labels, new experiences, and finding new labels.

Oh, in the midst of all this, I acquired a new label: I became a Top SoCal Mom blogger on Circle of Moms! Thanks to everyone who helped make that happen.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Reading

Sometimes, it feels like we're parenting in a fish bowl. That's the topic of my post for MomsLA.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

True Love

Photo: Stock Xchng/flaivoloka
My desire to celebrate being single can sometimes be misconstrued as a slam against couples. It's really not meant that way.

There are a few couples in my life that I know with certainty belong together; their partnership strengthens each other, and they can't imagine a life without each other. Those marriages are very cool. You can see and feel the true love between them.

True love can be about other relationships. Talking about loving my children is too easy. There are other true loves of my life.

My best friend, K, is a true love of my life. We don't see each other often, but the connection remains strong. We bring out the best in each other. We respect, value, and complement each other. We just don't have to do so every day.

One of my work friends is a true love. I know she will be a part of my life forever. Even though we live hours away from each other, have family commitments, and other obstacles, we still make time to spend together outside of the workplace. She is often my theatre date, and we have a wonderful time together. I can't imagine my life without her, and I know I don't have to.

Theatre itself is a true love. It's been a part of my life since I was 6 years old, and it's my longest truest love outside of family. I will make personal sacrifices to see a new favorite musical, I've watched every Tonys broadcast since 1984. I crave them, can't get through a day without 'em. Musicals are my constant companions.

I try to fill as many hours of my life as I can with things I love and people I love, truly love: respect, value, and crave. They give back in ways that fill my soul. From the day I could finally download The Book of Mormon, to the Thursdays I have marked in my calendar for lunch with my best work friend, to the moments in the car with the girls while we belt out our favorite songs from musicals, I experience true love every day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Alone and Lonely are Not the Same

Photo: Stock Xchng/CWMGary
In the past few years, I've become more aware of the references around us that being single isn't okay. The most common argument against being single is that you might end up alone. As if being alone means you're destined for a life of loneliness.

This subject is probably different for a single parent than someone that's child-free, but I don't think it's just about kids.

And frankly, I love my children more than anything, more than I've ever loved anyone, more than I could ever love anyone else. I don't want to live with them for 40 years. I can't imagine any one person's company being so fabulous that I'd want to see them every single day for decades to come.

That's not to say that I don't want or need people in my life.  I love spending hours with a friend, talking. I prefer one-on-one interaction over parties, but a small group is okay, too. Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to find more than a handful of friends whose company is (almost) always welcome.
I have awesome friends from every facet of my life; actor friends and friends I've known since I was a teenager, and friends from this job and previous jobs and blogger friends, and the list gets longer every year. Not to mention, a really huge family. There's always someone with whom I'd be happy to spend some quality time.

That's not to say that everyone's available to me 24/7. In the earlier years of single parenthood, there were definitely lonely moments where I got a friend's voice mail instead of their ear when I thought I needed it. And you know what? I survived those moments. I learned that loneliness is like every other emotion: with a beginning, a middle and an end. I would blog or cry or turn on the TV or read a book, or just sit with it until it passed. I can do that again.

I felt loneliness far more often when I was married. There are some married moms who feel like single moms, and I know what they mean because I was there. That was way worse for me.

Being alone isn't a fate worse than death. Solitude, to me, is freedom. I control the remote, I can listen to musicals until I'm sick to death of them (hasn't happened yet), I can go out or stay in, I can be silly without fear of judgment...and often am. I can just be me.

*I'm celebrating National Unmarried and Singles Week.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happily Singled Resources

Over the years, I've found some great blogs and sites* that celebrate being single all year long: 

Onely - Lisa and Christina graciously took the helm of National Unmarried and Singles Week this year, and have also started an Open Salon for onelies.

Bella DePaulo is the nation's foremost expert on single issues. I'm honored to call her my friend. Her book Singled Out is phenomenal. Her Psychology Today blog is one of the first I found that opened my world, and she's also started another site, All Things Single.

First Person Singular has nice, bite-sized looks at the singular life.

The Spinsterlicious Life usually says what I want to say, but nicer.

I love Isaa's Your Single Parenting site, as well as her personal blog, Single Mama NYC. Every Sunday, she features a different single mom blog.

As I've mentioned previously, BigLittleWolf is a constant source of inspiration and hope for me.

I'm a member of the FootlooseFemails group (yes, gents, only ladies allowed on this one).

Bella, being the expert and all, is compiling a more in-depth list of singles sites and blogs.  She also brought to our attention this NY Times article on singles.

*Partial listing only.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Discovering I'm Single at Heart

Photo: Stock Xchng/sundstrom
This week is National Unmarried and Singles Week.

Bella DePaulo wrote a great post posing questions that might reveal whether one is single at heart. I could answer yes to some, but not all, of the questions, and that was more than enough to reveal to me that I'm meant to be single.

My parents were cleaning out their attic recently, which meant that I had to go through some childhood boxes. I came across a paper I'd written about how I imagined my life at 30. I wrote about living in a Flashdance-like warehouse, taking voice, dance and acting classes, going to rehearsals, performing. There was nothing in that paper about a spouse or date. Granted, the paper was a fantasy, but I find it telling that the fantasy didn't include a man. (Or woman, for that matter.)

I don't remember ever fantasizing about a wedding when I was a kid, either. Nor do I ever tell the girls, "when you get married..." or even "when you have kids..." I don't presume that's their future. I might say, "if you get married" or "if you have kids," but I try to make it clear that's it not necessarily a given.

I thought it was a given. Even if no one explicitly said it, the presumption was there. People grow up, develop their careers, get married, and have children, right? Not necessarily.

While I have been married twice, I can't say that either time really felt like it was a choice. Who says no to a marriage proposal? (Particularly if you're pregnant with the asker's second child.) I'd never heard of or seen someone actually turn a proposal down. If someone asks, then there must have been something I did to make them assume I'd say yes.

X and I had talked about the fact that we weren't married, but I think he took my question to mean that I was fishing for a marriage proposal. I hadn't been. I was just wondering out loud why neither of us felt it necessary. But when he did propose, I sort of felt cornered into saying yes.

Being married felt like one of those responsibilities one takes on in adulthood. Like paying your rent/mortgage, or buying insurance. It never felt like a choice.

The day I became divorced was one of my happiest. And I don't think it was just because I was ending a bad marriage. I think it was because I was no longer married, period. I get to be single again; phew!

Being single is not the ideal choice for everyone. But what doesn't get said often enough is that marriage isn't, either.

We all have a choice. This week, I'll be celebrating mine.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekend Reading

At Parentella, I've posted the latest installment regarding Riley and reading.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Cruise Ship Days

Photo: Stock Xchng/strakplan (not the ship I was on, but comparable)
I was 18 when I got the cruise ship gig. I found out about 3 days before I was to fly out to Miami to rehearse for 5 weeks, and would spend the next 3 months living and working on the cruise ship. It was crazy getting everything done in that short period of time (including getting a passport), but next thing I knew, I was in the airport saying goodbye to my parents.

I didn't go away to college right out of high school. I had a TV series, and when that got canceled, I was still living the life of an actor; auditioning, working part-time jobs and being available for the next "yes." So I packed up my studio apartment, left my cat with my parents, and I was off.

It was a phenomenal experience. I was doing what I loved, and getting paid for it. I met people from all over the world, and I got to see some beautiful places.

I loved coming back to the ship from a shore excursion and calling it "home." I loved my cruise ship duty in the Library, where I would read and write phenomenally long letters home to friends and family. (This was before cell phones and international plans were the norm.) Whenever I wasn't loving life, I would simply go out on deck and watch the water meet the ship, and it calmed me.

I learned how to dance in 17 foot waves. I learned how to handle difficult guests without compromising my own sense of self. I learned how to find privacy in a crowd. I went horse-back riding in Puerto Vallarta, spent my 19th birthday in Bermuda, and marveled over the beauty of Alaska's glaciers. I learned how to survive without Mexican food and even came to appreciate Cuban cuisine.

I wish Facebook had been around back then. I've since lost touch with everyone from that time, and I'd love to know what they're doing now.

I loved living the cruise life, but I was also happy to come back home. I was ready to get off the ship and back to reality. Cruise ship life isn't real life, but it makes for some great memories.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Between Floors

I currently work on the 31st floor of a 32-story building. I spend too much time in elevators.

Today, I happened to be standing behind a guy whose t-shirt read, "Every minute I spend with you is the new best minute of my life." Gross.

At the end of another day, a woman told me and my colleague that she had brought "contraband" to work and opened her bag so we could see. After exchanging a look that neither of us really wanted to see this, she practically had it in our laps so we peeked and found a small dog. She said that the dog had been under her desk the whole day and no one knew. I guess she couldn't keep the secret to herself another minute.

Most of the trips are not that memorable. The fellow passengers are known to me as the woman who wears way too much perfume, or the guy that should have worn deodorant. There's one guy that  always inserts himself into our conversations, but he's so nondescript that we can't remember what he looks like...until next thing we know, he's talking to us.

We're supposed to move to another building in March(ish). On the first floor. I can't wait.

Monday, September 12, 2011

4 Years Ago...

This blog was born.

This past year has been the hardest for me to keep it up. My girls are older, and there are less details I can share to keep from exploiting them.

Our lives are also a lot less dramatic these days. When they asked the other day, I told them their dad would probably be in jail for about a year, and their reaction was, "okay." No more trips to the therapist, no anger or sadness; just okay.

While I think it's important to share our victories here, to be an example of a thriving single parent family, there are some posts that I can't even post for fear of sounding nauseatingly happy and well-adjusted. I mean, really, how interesting is that?

I hope you'll bear with me as I navigate this new world of parenting a high schooler, of figuring out what I'm going to do next, and hoping that there are less personal dramas in our future.

In the meantime, I've had my first opening weekend in about 15 years. If you're in the area and are so inclined, consider seeing Footloose the Musical. I have a small role (glorified Ensemble, really) in this amazing cast. The experience thus far has been thrilling, terrifying, and a combination of feeling like I'm doing something I've never done before, and coming back home. I'm still processing, still experiencing, and maybe by the end of it, I'll have an idea of what it means to be back on a stage again.

And I'll continue to come home to this blog. I remain grateful for your continued support. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years Ago...

Photo: Flickr/macten
We were living in Pittsburgh. I was living my stay-at-home life with the girls; nearly 1 and 4. I remember I was sweeping the front porch (something I'd been procrastinating for quite some time, so I was also mentally patting myself on the back) when the phone rang, and X told me the news.

The girls were watching some kids channel, and I didn't want to immediately change the channel.

I remember thinking about how devastated a friend (and mom) been during Columbine. Of course, this wasn't Columbine, but I remember thinking that I couldn't do it. I couldn't watch the news because I would become emotional and that couldn't be good for the girls.

Since we were living in Pennsylvania, I had a lot of phone calls that day, wondering about our safety. We weren't close to where that plane went down, but I appreciated all the people who thought of us and were relieved to know that we were just fine. They'd all want to talk about it, though. They'd tell me what they were hearing, but I didn't really want to know. I didn't want to feel it.

That night, after the girls were in bed, I took a deep breath and turned on the news. I watched for hours and wept, of course. I tiptoed in on the sleeping girls and gave them kisses.

The girls have only known a world where you take off your shoes at the airport. I now understand why people look at you differently  because you were born after Kennedy was shot. There are these events that forever separate the generations into pre and post. I understand the nostalgia that comes with that now.

As the girls grew older, I couldn't bring myself to tell them about 9/11. I couldn't figure out how to explain it to them because any explanation is lacking. They learned about it in school. At first, I felt bad about that, but now I'm okay with it because I know now I never would've been able to be the one that told them about it.

This wasn't a mere historical event for me. I felt 9/11. I may have staved it off for a few hours, but in the end, it was unavoidable. The girls will never feel 9/11 like I do. It's a date for them. They think it was sad, and they could watch the videos, but they don't feel the shock and devastation of it the way those of us that remember that day feel.

I wonder what difference it will make in how they see the world. Are they better for not knowing a world pre-9/11, forever being aware that someone could make anything into a weapon? Or are they missing some innocence and naivete that will hinder them? I don't know. I just know it can't be changed.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Reading

At MomsLA, I wrote about what the age 13 means.

Also, I finally made a FaceBook page for this blog! Would very much appreciate your "like." Thanks! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Family in Motion

So we had this 3-day weekend, with two days unscheduled. Yay, right? Chance to unwind, relax. Apparently, we're not too good at that.

I go to say goodnight to Riley on Monday night, and she freaks out, remembering that she still has homework to do. Other than reading, I'd forgotten to even ask about homework! She did most, but didn't quite complete it.

Come Tuesday morning, it seems I've forgotten how to get up at 6, and we're all scrambling to get ready in time. Sylvia wasn't quite sure what art class she had Tuesday afternoon, and therefore, had to take almost everything to school just in case.

Since the beginning of the school year, we've been going full speed ahead. Seems I still need to learn how to run this family from a sitting position.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh, yeah, She's in High School Now

For the most part, she's doing great. I'm saying that mostly for me, because I need to remember, overall, she's still a good kid.

I'd been warned by my good friend (and educator), 9th and 10th grade were going to feel a lot like 6th and 7th. Sylvia and I would find ourselves on opposite sides again much more often. I knew it was coming, I just hoped it would take longer than a week or so to get there.

Our schedule has been hectic, and that hasn't helped. I've had rehearsal almost every school night, which leads to a lot of running around, and long nights for the girls.

They both put up with it quite well. They both get their homework done, they're very well-behaved during rehearsals, and it's kind of nice to have them there so that we can talk about it together on the way home. They've been nothing but supportive about me doing this show.

It was the one night I didn't have rehearsal that things were less than peaceful, and the 9th grade behavior made its appearance. Rehearsal would've been less exhausting. It put us on edge for a few days, and just as we were making our way back to the nice amicable relationship we've mostly been enjoying, she was a half-hour late meeting me after her get-together with her friends.

I've given her consequences for both occasions. While I know I'm supposed to pick my battles as a parent, I don't take lightly to being treated with such disrespect, which was the main issue for me both times. Having said that, I can't say for certainty that the crimes were equal to the punishments because I don't think my intentions behind them were right.

What I want to be able to do is make this a non-issue. When I step back, I realize that's next to impossible. Was I completely respectful to my parents when I was a teenager? (Mom, Dad, I totally know you're laughing. At least, 20 years later, I'll be able to laugh about this, too, right?) No, I wasn't. Did one or two punishments mean I never did it again? No, it didn't.

Still, I have plenty of good family memories from that time. While I wasn't a perfect child, I certainly could've been a lot worse. And my parents were strict, but still allowed me to do the things that meant the most to me. I was never really grounded. I just had privileges taken away from time to time, which is the same route I'm taking with Sylvia.

She's going to make mistakes. Every 13-year-old does. Sometimes, I'll have to step back and let the natural consequences take their course; sometimes, I'll have to step in and guide her away from straying too far down the wrong path. I can almost guarantee that she will roll her eyes at me at least once a day, and for the most part, I can accept that. At the same time, I can't let her walk all over me, either.

Inevitably, it comes down to that balancing act. The goal, I guess, is to keep being able to say that overall, she's still a pretty good kid.