Monday, September 24, 2012

Embracing the Past

I didn't comment on a friend's FB status because I disagree:

Be careful NOT to bring your past into the present. It's a clear sign of being stuck in realm of time that no longer exist!

When I moved back to L.A., back in with my parents, back to being single, I believed something akin to that statement. I felt like I'd completely wasted the last decade, and had accomplished nothing; except now I had debt and two kids to support.

Driving down streets where I'd thought my life would end up so differently was depressing for a long time. Look at who I was. Look at what I could've been. Look how much I screwed up my life, and now, the lives of my daughters. I did feel stuck.

Over time, after starting therapy, I was able to see it differently. I started searching for old friends from my former life. I wanted to remember who I was, and each connection brought me back to the person I was then, but better.

I was able to start re-building my confidence, but with a better awareness of my faults. I was able to connect more strongly with both old and new friends, but only after I knew I respected and trusted them. I was able to give my daughters a revised, yet stronger vision of family, now that we were geographically closer to my parents, my sister, and plenty of extended family.

And instead of looking back with regret, I look back with a stronger sense of self.

I am no closer to perfect today than I was then, but I have accepted who I am, while still having goals for improvement. I can laugh at the things I thought or said or did that was so stupid and naive, but I can also appreciate that my life up until 20 or so was pretty damn special. And by having memories of things like my 19th birthday in Bermuda, and seeing Les Miz on Broadway two months after it opened, and dancing at the Pantages, how could I possibly feel stuck or stifled now?

By appreciating the realm of time that no longer exists, I can better appreciate the realm of time today.

And, looking at it from another perspective, I hope that my girls will look back on this realm of time with appreciation, and feel like their past enhances their present.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Accepting the Gift of Singlehood

This will be the final post for National Unmarried and Singles Week 2012.  

In a single parents online forum, one member wrote that "finding real love and companionship is a gift, and I feel it's up to me when or if I receive it."

For me, trying to remain available for such a "gift" meant keeping a hole in my life. It meant focusing time and energy and attention on this invisible relationship that may or may not come to be.

It meant that my life was somehow incomplete as it was.

Sometimes, closure is good.

Sometimes, accepting exactly where you are is the best step to truly moving forward.

No less importantly, it also means that I get to live a life that few daughters get to see. They don't see me as incomplete or longing or even lonely. They see me dance around the house, enjoying a good moment. They see me laugh with friends and sing on stage and study and work and volunteer and maintain a household.

I want them to be open to accept the gifts of friendship and discovery and trying new things. I want them to be just as crazy busy and happy as we are now for always. I want them to find their own ways to give back to their communities, to express their creativity, and go for their dreams.

I want their lives to feel fulfilled and complete no matter their relationship status.

Happy National Unmarried and Singles Week to all who celebrated! (And yes, that includes anyone that accepts and appreciates that any relationship status can be someone's happily ever after.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two Parents Not Always Better Than One

I've talked about why I love being single this National Unmarried and Singles Week. Now I have to talk about the challenges, particularly as a single parent.

It's not about not having help, or not having a second income, or any of the other advantages one might believe makes being a single parent harder. Not to say that those aren't challenges, but for the most part, we've overcome and/or accepted them.

No, the real challenge is in somehow having to prove my worthiness as a parent because I'm single. 

Particularly during campaign season, politicians and pundits love to talk about how two parents are better than one. And unlike me, they never feel the need to add disclaimers to that statement. Always, no matter what, two are better than one.

Now, why get worked up over it, you might ask? Why do I have a problem with government funding going to promote marriage? Why do I take issue with politicians and pundits and bumper stickers that say that all research supports that?

Because I have two daughters who live in this same world.

Because I have two girls who shouldn't feel the need to defend me, their dad, or their life because I happen to be single.

Just like it would be wrong to blame a child for being born, it's wrong to make a child feel less than because of their parent's marital status.

My daughters do not need to see a bumper sticker or poster promoting mothers to wed their child's father. They don't need to hear that our family is a "drain" or a "tragedy" or some other negative connotation. They don't even need a sympathetic (one might say condescending) look from a teacher for not having a dad around.

And it's simply incorrect to say that our family is a drain on the system. I am not on welfare or any other government program. I pay my rent, my utilities, and even their school lunches at full price.

That was not true when I was married. We were a drain when I was married, thanks to my X constantly emptying my bank account and landing in jail. And while it did take a few months of government help, we weren't in the "system" for even a year. It did exactly what it was supposed to do; helped us get on our feet again.

My daughters have been through a lot, absolutely. I won't deny that the first few years were rough for all of us. I will say that the last few years with X were harder, though. And I will say that the girls absolutely believe that we are all better off now than ever before.

And while I do try to brush off all those pundits and politicians because I know their words do not apply to our family, I do remember when they really did make me feel less than, when they felt like salt on a fresh wound, and it made it that much harder for me to build my strength to be the best mother possible to my girls. And I wonder how many single parents, still in their "surviving" mode, it hurts today. I wonder how many sons and daughters feel like victims to their family's "single" status.

I want to wrap my arms around every single one of them and shield them from that kind of hurt and helpless feeling as these talking heads bash them with their oh-so-smug superiority. They know single parents and children living with single parents exist, but they seem to think none of us can hear them.

We hear you. And while you might hurt us for a while, in the end, we are the ones who are superior in our compassion for our fellow parents and students, in our ability to overcome challenges, and in our hope for the future and our children's near limitless options. Because we won't let our children become sorry statistics. Because we won't let our marital status stand in their way. And neither will they.

I know some might find this heartbreaking or appalling, but single parents and our children are here to stay. And every day, more and more of us cross the threshold from surviving to thriving. I find it breathtaking. In a very good way.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Finding My Happily Ever After

I'll go ahead and 'fess up. I'm no good at relationships. I screwed up any of the good ones, and stayed too long in the bad ones.

I would make that classic mistake of obsessing far too much over the relationship and not spend nearly enough attention on the other aspects of my life, even if they were more rewarding.

There's a moment that I always remember. I told a friend something that most people say at some point: if this doesn't work out, I'm never trying again.

Here's the thing, though. I remember that moment. There's a lot that I don't, but that moment comes back to me often. And I think it's because I regret not sticking to it. I think it was a moment of honesty that I'd been convinced to brush off.

Instead, I made that relationship my first failed marriage. And after that, my next failed marriage.

They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, but most people don't think that applies to relationships. For me, it should.

Because eventually, I found more happiness and a stronger sense of fulfillment when I stopped trying to make dating or relationships work for me.

As has been said before, I exhaled. I felt free. I felt at peace. I felt comfortable in my own skin. And I still do.

All journeys have their ups and downs and mine is no different. I won't pretend that I'm at peace every moment of every day. But I will say that, just as some might say their lives took a turn for the better when they walked down the aisle, mine got better when I embraced my single status as a permanent one.

Written in celebration of National Unmarried and Singles Week 2012. The fabulous Eleanor Wells is hosting a giveaway with prizes *almost* as fabulous as she is!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Finding Rome and Mexico at 24th Street

The 24th STreet Theatre invited me to their production of Roma al final de la via (Rome at the End of the Line).

I'd never been to this theatre, nor had I ever been to a play performed in Spanish with English supertitles. I'm very happy I decided to attend.

This two-person play is performed with exquisite perfection by Julieta Ortiz and Norma Angélica, making a special appearance here in Los Angeles from Mexico.

The play is about two females, starting at age 7, and then again at 13 (as pictured here), 20 and so forth until they are 80. At these intervals in their lives, they visit a train track in their small town with the hopes of boarding and making their way to Rome. 

While the play follows their journey of balancing their hopes and dreams with their reality, it is truly a story about friendship, and how their friendship helps them both cope and dream.

I brought my 14-year-old daughter, who thoroughly enjoyed the play, and found it a lot funnier than she expected. I went in with no expectations, and was thoroughly immersed in their journey.

Probably the most surprising was how much I enjoyed the transitions. What could've been abrupt halts in the flow were instead beautifully directed (by Alberto Lomnitz) mini-scenes that kept the audience both informed and captivated.

Another nice surprise was the sound design by Alejandro Lopez Velarde and Javier de la Peza. In a small theatre like this one, the high quality sound added depth and understanding of the characters and their world.

The 24th STreet Theatre is celebrating the premiere of their 15th season with Roma al final de la via, billed as not your typical TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences). Sylvia and I especially appreciated that their mission includes teaching children about loss and heartache in addition to love. Roma... is recommended for ages 12 and up, and that seems appropriate. Each play, as their executive director Jay McAdams explained in his curtain speech, will have its own age recommendations.

Roma al final de la via is running now through October 7; Saturdays at 2 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2 pm at The 24th Street Theatre, located on the corner of Hoover and 24th St, with a small parking lot across the street for $5.  Tickets range from $10-$15, with a special 24 cents price for North University Park residents. Like 24th STreet on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Disclosure: I was given two free tickets and free parking to attend. No other compensation was given, and the opinions expressed here are completely my own (plus Sylvia's).

*While this post was not written in connection with National Unmarried & Singles Week, I find it appropriate to post about this play at this time. While the characters talk about their romantic relationships, it is the celebration of friendship and its importance in their lives that is the most inspirational message of the play.

Monday, September 17, 2012

National Unmarried and Singles Week 2012

It's National Unmarried and Singles Week! Our annual quest to inform the nation that there are indeed alternatives to married and/or partnered life.

I decided to go back to last year's posts, the first of which ended up being a personal fave.

In it, I mentioned that I usually make sure to tell the girls, "if you have kids" or "if you get married." Just a few days ago, we were talking about something, where they both ended up saying, "if I have kids." It seems my message has been received.

I was having dinner with some friends, where one of them admitted that she really hopes her daughters get married and have kids and love their lives as much as she loved hers. I responded that anything that could make her daughters that happy would probably make her happy. That's her "happy," and that's great. She's got a great husband, two wonderful girls and she does indeed love her life. I think all she really wants is for her kids to love their lives, too.

And I think that's what it comes down to; understanding and appreciating that what is working for you isn't necessarily what works for other people.

Of course, it's always hard to see things out of our schemas;  I'll never understand how anyone can like mustard! But hey, it's a valid preference. 

We need National Unmarried and Singles Week to build awareness that remaining single is also a valid preference.

So this week, I'll be sharing more about how and why it works for me.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

5 Years Later

It's my blogiversary!

5 years ago, I was restless. I felt as settled as one can in single parenting. I wasn't feeling challenged enough at work. I had received my BA, and didn't feel any different. I wanted more.

Now I'm on two boards, chairing one committee, on two more, and taking 2 classes. We have plans 4 out of 5 weeknights, and only Sundays are unscheduled.

With everything going on, it's harder to find time to write. It's harder to get myself in the frame of mind to step back and get perspective. But every time I do, it's so worth it!

It reminds me that I love my life, that the current challenges and obstacles of the day can be overcome, that I wouldn't have it any other way.

Whether you've read one post or 50 or 500, I'm so grateful that you're here, sharing this with me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Open Letter to LAUSD, especially Steve Zimmer*

*Slightly edited, here's the email I sent to all the LAUSD board members:

I'm a parent with a daughter attending a charter school, and I am writing to strongly, vehemently oppose Zimmer's resolution regarding charter schools.

Mr. Zimmer, I take this assault on my daughter's education quite personally and I am absolutely furious that you are trying to take away my opportunity to provide my daughter with the absolute best education that she can get.

I'm a single parent of two daughters. My daughters have attended public schools in both LAUSD and Burbank Unified, as well as two charter schools and an alternative high school.

My daughter's experience thus far at her charter school has been the absolute best by far. She finished 6th grade with straight As, something she never had accomplished in public schools. She is engaged in after-school activities, and she is absolutely thriving there.

On my income, I make too much to qualify for financial assistance scholarships, but not nearly enough to afford two college educations. My daughter has a much brighter future, thanks to her charter school.

Her teachers are amazing, the principal is fair, and the entire atmosphere is one that encourages learning on the deepest level possible. I feel supported as a parent; that I have a true partner in my daughter's education.

I understand that LAUSD, as well as other districts, as well as this entire state is in deep financial trouble. I see no reason to drain resources into this resolution. LAUSD has more than enough on its plate as it is.

Charter schools will fail if parents and students are disappointed in the results. I drive 3 hours a day to get my daughters to their schools of our choice. There's no rationale for me doing so unless they are working for my children.

I urge all of you to oppose this resolution. Mr. Zimmer, I strongly encourage you to pull it entirely and focus on the schools already in your control. I'm sure the parents and students there would appreciate having your undivided attention.

Thank you,
April McCaffery

The vote has postponed until next month. I hope I can post about a positive outcome then! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


So the play closed, and two days later, I started school again.

By the end of this week, our family will have at least 21 classes between us. And a 90% chance of more.

On top of that, I'm planning four events over the next three months in my various roles on committees, boards, and social host. And I'm joining another board, where I'm sure there will be more events to plan.

In order to most effectively manage our family's time, I am skipping Back to School Night. I realize this might make some teachers write me off as "uninvolved," but they are only seeing one piece of a rather large and intricate puzzle.

I have to do what's best for my family, not what is perceived to be best.

What's best for my family is having dinner together, catching up, and having time at home to get the homework done, get ready for the next day, and maybe even just hang out together.

I am learning to break this bad habit of mine of worrying how others are judging me as a mother, and just following my own instincts.  Well, okay, maybe I'm still worrying about it, but I'm not letting it run our lives!

I am hopelessly in love with this picture of Riley:

And yes, I am aware of how scattered this post seems. Matches my brain at the moment!