Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Roads Always Taken

Now that construction has been completed, I'm back to my favorite commute route through Griffith Park. Having traversed the freeway while certain sections were shut down, I can say that it is sometimes faster than the freeway, and definitely more predictable. Not to mention, nicer scenery and sometimes coyotes.

The only downside of this commute is when there is only 1 lane and someone takes the 20 mph sign a bit too seriously. Now, I'm not one to do 60 here, and I am alert to the various crosswalks and stop signs, and drive accordingly. Still, as pretty as it is, I do need to get to work eventually.

I drive through Griffith Park 4 times a day. First, to drop off the girls at school, then to go to work; at the end of the day, I have to pick up the girls of course, and drive them home. Or Sylvia to dance class, or whatever. The route is very familiar!

Now the cars are becoming familiar, too.

There's one green sedan I see quite often. I'm happy to let him drive in front of me. He's not reckless, but he keeps a good pace.

I pulled up behind the sedan in the intersection leading into Griffith Park. A little while later, I noticed he had weaved his way up a few cars.

I try not to weave. It's seldom worth it, and I'm just too lazy. I will generally put up with the speed of the car in front of me.

But then I noticed the van in front of me with its distinct sticker in the top left corner of the rear window.

These days, my memory is faulty. I tell the girls to text me reminders of things I need to bring them, I ask them to add appointments to my calendar when they tell me during our commute, and if I don't add something to my grocery list, I will come home without it.  Even learning new song lyrics isn't as easy for me as it used to be! It's frustrating, but I've learned to live with it.

The memory of this van in front of me, however, was surprisingly vivid. I remembered all too well how slow they drove, as if they didn't want to miss a tree leaf. I was sure they added 5-10 minutes to my commute the morning I'd previously seen them (which could've been yesterday or last week; that, I don't remember).

I weaved and pulled in front of them.

I imagine the green sedan remembered them, too. It didn't take long for the van to completely disappear from my rear view mirror.

It's nice getting to know your commute neighbors. Especially, knowing when to avoid them!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Celebrating Friend-Love

This V-Day, I've decided to celebrate - and even brag a little - about the wonderful friends in our lives.

We are spoiled rotten with love in its most beautiful form. Love that is expressed in smiles and laughter, respect and kindness, in gifts of time, thoughtfulness and compassion. Our biggest challenges in dealing with our loved ones is having enough quality time with all the people that we are lucky enough to have in our lives.

In my pre-kid days, there were always a few people that I considered my pillars. These days, we have our own tribe.

There's K, one of my longest-standing pillars, that loves and respects my girls and they love and respect him right back. We don't see him that often, but whenever we do, it's like no time has passed, and our time together is full of music and laughter. And I know I can - and do - call him anytime and vent or cry or share with him a really stupid story that I know he'll enjoy.

Just recently, we had a fantastic time with S, the Arts Director at the girls' former after-school program. The dinner lasted almost 3 hours, and there was never a lull in conversation. The girls and I always brighten in her presence and we are so grateful for all that she's given all of us. She cheers us on every step of the way, and offers each of us all the support she can.

R is another great friend we don't get to see often enough, but every memory brings a smile. He's so smart, so encouraging, and has also been instrumental in changing the girls' lives for the better. We laugh a lot during our bowling or roller-skating adventures, as he brings out the kid in all of us.

AH and KR became great friends of ours when we all did The Music Man together. They're fairly new to our tribe, and we always look forward to spending time with them. AH is so calming and soothing, and shares all my greatest passions. I can't get enough of her. I'm lucky to spend at least one night a month with KR, but I always crave more time with her. She makes me laugh, makes me think, and she was one of my greatest sources of comfort when Bobbie died. She will always hold a special place in my heart.

Of course, my work friends remain an important part of our lives. The girls love stopping by and saying hello to all these amazing, funny, smart people with whom I get to spend at least 40 hours a week. You know they must be pretty great when we look forward to spending time together outside the work-week, too! 

The tribe is growing with all the great people I get to spend time with at Board meetings and events. I am loving getting to know these people; they are smart, compassionate, talented and even better, just so much fun. I love that they don't take themselves too seriously as they forge ahead in making a difference in our community. I can't believe I get to work right alongside of them.

There are so many people missing from this list. Friends from all our walks of life; our schools and former schools, former colleagues, blogger friends, and of course, our family. My parents and my sister always have and always will be our best pillars.

Today, I want to celebrate everyone (including readers) that have opened their hearts to us. Friendships free of drama or ulterior motives, friends that warm our hearts and inspire us. Really great people who are our heroes.

We love you, we thank you, and we are honored to celebrate our love for you. Not just today, of course, but every day. Thank you for your love, and know that you have ours.

P.S. If you've posted about love of self, friends or any other loves besides romantic, please let me know! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

V-Day Eve

For the past few years, I've been posting on Self-Love on Feb. 14. This year, I'll be posting about the value of loving friendships.

If you'd also like to post about the loves in your life other than romantic partnerships (including self-love), please send me a link! Comment, email, whatever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

One of the first lessons of single motherhood is learning how to ask for and accept help. I've gotten pretty good at it when it comes to friends and family.

Of course, I try not to take that help for granted, and I am always prepared for someone to say no, and I try to give back and/or pay it forward.

What's harder is asking for help from perfect strangers. But sometimes it's necessary.

Like this past weekend, when I did something truly idiotic.

I managed to throw my keys in the dumpster along with the trash. While I was perfectly willing to take the dumpster dive myself, my height didn't quite allow it. I probably could have climbed my way in, but I couldn't see anyway I could've gotten back out. My step-ladder would have come in handy, but that was upstairs, and I couldn't get in without said keys. My phones were also upstairs (I was only taking out the trash).

Thankfully, a neighbor (with whom I've exchanged nods and smiles) was working on his car in the garage. I introduced myself by proclaiming my stupidity upfront. He met the height requirement to be able to hoist and grab the keys without actually having to get in the dumpster.

I was so grateful, I found a gift card and swag to give to him as a thank you.

I pride myself on my independence, but I'm also grateful for the kindness that can be found almost anywhere. And I've learned a truly valuable lesson.

Always keep the keys in the other hand (or pocket) when throwing out the trash! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Own Sally Field Moment

You like me, you really like me!

For the third year in a row, I've been nominated as a Top Single Mom blogger on Circle of Moms.

Considering my lack of posts this year, I'm truly surprised, but honored and grateful.

Thanks for your continued support!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Neither Victim nor Hero

I began this as a comment to Semi-Hippie Single Mama's post, but I was writing so much that it merits its own post here.

I don't know if there were multiple ones, but I was one who helped launch a letter-writing campaign to the President regarding child support (and those who don't pay it). SHSM (to summarize) implied that such an action made single moms feel like victims.

My attempts at bringing our voices together were never meant to tell anyone how they should be feeling. If fighting for child support is not important to you, then by all means, don't. It was an avenue for those of us that wanted to do this. I would never think less of any single parent for opting out.

Having said that, I strongly disagree with SHSM's assessment of how I felt.

First of all, no one can tell me how to feel about anything. While I'm not angry about it all the time (or even most of the time), there is such a thing as right and wrong, and it is just plain wrong and illegal for anyone not to comply with a court order, which is the problem at its most basic level.

Also, as my girls have gotten older, they have begun to understand that I have done battle on their behalf, and I'm proud of that. At the same time, they will also be among the first to tell you that they are proud of what I have done to take care of them on my own financially. I don't think that being proud of yourself and fighting for what is right are mutually exclusive.

Frankly, I felt quite the opposite of helpless by being part of the fight to at least raise awareness. I felt empowered by it.

On the practical end, I can now say that having lived without child support for nearly 10 years, and having had it for 5 months, without a doubt, it made a difference to have it. It gave us a small but welcome amount of breathing room.

For the record, in my paperwork, I had to sign off on a form acknowledging that I consented to a monthly amount that is less than half of what the courts would normally order in our circumstances. In other words, what I have requested is less than what is even considered reasonable. But it was just enough to let Sylvia take a master dance class this summer, to pay for the gas for our commute, and in the coming months, could have been enough to help pay for her driver's training and her auto insurance.

Of course, we have and will live without it, too, and the girls understand that their dad loves them even if he can't financially care for them.

I don't vilify him, and in fact, the last two times we saw him, we all had a really good time together. But I have and will continue to call him out for the mistakes he makes.

My girls are more emotionally evolved than most people I know because they have learned that people, for the most part, are not all good or all bad. That we are all flawed, but still worthy of unconditional love while seeing someone for all that they are.

I'm passionate about this because it points to a larger problem of single-parent families being pigeon-holed. We're either strong or pitiful, awed or vilified, patronized or admired, and of course, in reality, we can be worthy of all and none of these things.

Yes, I get angry sometimes. Yes, I feel completely overwhelmed sometimes. And sometimes, I am  full of pride and joy. I can't tell you how many times one of us has said, "I love our family." And yes, the girls have said they've hated each other and me, too.

One post, one emotion, one moment can't define us. (And my, how boring if it could!) In any event, I never intended, nor do I want to be defined as a victim. I'm just another single mom, doing what I can.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Balancing Individuality and Equality - or trying

Oh, hello, blog! I could give plenty of excuses, but what's the point, really?

I was lecturing/parenting Riley on something the other day, and while she wasn't saying anything, I could at least imagine what I would be thinking if I were in her shoes. "Why is she giving me such a hard time about this? She never gives Sylvia a hard time about this. It's so unfair!"

So, I answered the questions that I imagined her asking.

"You might be thinking that I'm treating you differently than I would Sylvia in this situation, which is true. Whether or not you think it's fair, there are different expectations because you are different people."

Depending on the situation (and what might benefit them), they can either be quick to remind me that they're not their sister, or that they want to be treated the same way as their sister.

Of course, when possible, they are treated equally.  I try to make sure they each have the same number of presents on their birthdays and Xmas, and of fairly equal value to them. We rotate who gets to choose the restaurant, the movie...though I always retain veto power.

But Riley hates it if someone doesn't remember that she doesn't like chocolate, just because Sylvia does. Sylvia hates baked beans, but Riley loves them.While they both go to alternative schools, the choices were determined by their unique talents and needs.

With a step back, I can recall having similar thoughts and feelings about growing up with a sister. And with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how ridiculous I was whenever I thought things were unfair. I can only hope that my daughters eventually reach the same conclusion!