Monday, December 31, 2007
Well, I'm finally starting to feel like me again...I think that's a good thing!
Okay, so 2007 wasn't marked by any great accomplishments for me. But it could've been much, much worse.
I'm not big on resolutions, but I do think of this time of year as a time of reflection, which can lead to goals.
I started this year thinking I wanted to be a paralegal, but a few classes showed me that if I'm going to pursue a better career in law, it would have to be as a lawyer. Which is not an option right now.
Come to think of it, I did keep a goal. Once I decided not to complete my paralegal classes, I told myself to wait at least a year (which would end in the summer of '08) before pursuing any new path or direction. So I guess I'm halfway there!
2007 was really about Sylvia. I started the year freaking out about her middle school education. She's now in my dream middle school, KIPP LA Prep. They've been excellent to her, and most distinctly different by making me feel like I finally have true partners in her education. And they've become friends as well.
Sylvia closed the year learning some difficult truths about her father, but couldn't have handled it better. By me not being in school anymore, I'm able to be there with her every school night, and she has told me how much it means to her that I'm there. I'd say 2007 was a major bonding year for the two of us, and gives me hope for the coming years with her.
2007 was also the year that I made "online-only" friends, and they've been great. Kori, Nikki, Christy, Kate, the ladies on the AP group, and all my other CafeMoms and Zoom ladies...they've all shown me new ways of looking at things, and let me into their worlds, and been there for me in ways that have been much appreciated. And the internet has kept me close to those friends in real life that are far away. Pretty cool.
Then there are the people at work that have been there for me for years now. It's a pretty awesome group of people that I get to see every day.
2007 was also the year I got to move back home. There should be more demons here, but there aren't. I guess all the good vibes were too strong for the bad ones. And I'm so silly, I still get excited about getting to park my car in a garage, run the dishwasher, do the laundry inside without quarters...
So it's already 2008 in part of the country...as my fave MD said, I am SO last year right now! And, truthfully, I thought I'd be sadder right now. I thought that I'd be thinking more about what I lack than what I have. But I guess I've thought about that enough lately. Right now, I'm fully appreciating all that I have. Not as much as some, but definitely more than others. And I'm proud right now. I still have a few more obstacles to go, a few more challenges to meet...and I guess I always will. Still and all, for now, it's good.
Happy New Year!!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
But I have absolutely no qualms about bitching about my ex here! He was the cause of some of the pain and anxiety. As were DirecTV and roofers. But I'll get to that in due time.
I've been on the brink of a breakdown for a few weeks now. A few times, admittedly, I went over that brink. I was trying really hard to hang on until December 26.
The day after Xmas was supposed to be the start of a Mommy vacation. My ex was going to fly down here and take the girls up to Northern California to spend a week with him and his extended family.
Instead, he disappeared for a while and ended up where I suspected he would: in jail. We decided to cancel the trip during the disappearance, unsure of where and how he'd show up, and very sure that he was doing drugs pretty heavily.
I came clean to the girls about his drug use, and the canceled trip all in one fell swoop. They actually took it really well. I think I've cried more about it than they have!
I had big plans for my week off. Well, actually, I had no plans, and that's exactly what I wanted. I took the time off work, too. I wanted to experience a week of freedom from responsibilities. I wanted to watch Oprah and maybe even a soap opera or two. I wanted more than an hour or so of adult TV time.
I suppose not many people get that kind of opportunity for a break as it is. Married folks don't tend to leave their children with others for a week at a time. Then again, married folk can sometimes go to the grocery store while their spouse stays home with the kids.
It was hard. It was hard to lose that. Particularly as I was still majorly stressing about $$ for Xmas presents (spell check says majorly is not a word - I'm going with it anyway).
The holidays, to me, represent a time of reflection. While there have been many good things that happened this year, every single one of them has come with a hefty price tag (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally).
Sometimes the unfairness gets to me. Particularly when there's someone like my ex in my world who seems to never have to worry about paying the rent, the utilities, the food, and no one expects much of him.
At the same time, I know that I'm luckier than a lot of people. I have a job that provides for us, understanding bosses that don't give me a hard time about coming to work late to see my daughter's holiday show, supportive family and friends. So while part of me is feeling sorry for myself, the other part of me is mad at me for feeling sorry for myself. Trying to balance those two parts can feel like drowning at times.
That saying that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger...I'm just not feeling it these days. I feel more like I'm just treading water.
So it stands to reason that I felt a break would be in order.
Well, we don't always get what we want.
So plans were rearranged. I've been home with the girls since I got off work on Xmas Eve, with the exception of the day they spent at Disneyland with their aunt and uncle and cousins.
To add insult to injury, my DirecTV box died a week ago. I lost all the movies and shows we had recorded. So much for Oprah.
The new box was supposed to arrive Thursday. Okay, we can survive a couple of days without TV.
The day after Xmas, the roofers came. The roofers that were supposed to come weeks ago. The roofers, who ripped out the satellite antenna so that even though the box did arrive on Thursday, it does me no good while the roofers were still here. And then I get to pay DirecTV $50 to re-install it.
And then there's the pounding. The pounding, the hammering, the constant noise from above for 3 days. I've had a perpetual headache for all 3 of them.
I kissed the girls good-bye as they left with my sister today, who took pity on me and offered to take them for a few days. I know they'll be loved, and I know they'll have fun, as they always do at her house.
So now I get to cram what had been planned as a 7-day break into 2 1/2. And wait for the DirecTV installer that is thankfully coming tomorrow.
It could be so much worse, I know. I have healthy, wonderful girls that are dealing with their father's shortcomings with more strength and less trauma than I ever did. They've made me laugh and given me so much love. They are both better people than I am.
But I won't deny that it has been hard.
Maybe this time, next year, I'll be able to see some wonderful thing that came out of this time. I'm not convinced of that, though. Right now, the lesson I have is to keep expectations low. Low expectations help lessen disappointment.
Monday, December 17, 2007
I'm not your typical "butch" girl. I'm not into carpentry and I scream at the sight of a spider.
I'm not your typical liberal. As I've blogged about before, I'm anti-union and also have a problem with pat answers from either side. I just happen to agree with the left side more than I do the right most of the time.
I want everyone to like me, but I'm not going to bend myself into a pretzel to try to make it a reality. I want people to like me because of our differences as well as similarities.
I can be outspoken, but I'll turn into a wallflower at a party where I don't know anyone.
I know many people would label me "emotional," but I feel like I'm suppressing my emotions at least 10 waking hours of the day.
While I'm no traditionalist, I'm not so far out there that I don't take my responsibilities seriously.
I don't know how to be anyone other than who I am. If I could do it better, than I would be.
At the same time, I try every day. I see my failures, my flaws, my downfalls pretty darn well. But I'm not sure how much more I can change them or grow or try harder. And, yes, there are days when I just don't even feel like trying. There are also days when I can drive myself to that place called crazy either trying, or in spite of all my best efforts to steer the other way.
And at the end of any and all those days, all I am is human. Full of questions, attempts at answers, dysfunctional, jumbled up, confident, vulnerable, passionate, gloriously right, hideously wrong, plain old-fashioned human.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
1) I am a has-been child actor. (Thus, the web address formerlyaprildawn.) You can look me up on imdb. Although they left out "The Wonder Years" and gave me credit for "Young Warriors," which I was not in.
2) The acting days lasted long enough for me to be on a cast recording. "The Cradle Will Rock" 1994 Los Angeles cast recording, to be specific. You can buy me on Amazon.
3) I have lived in Huntington Beach, Bakersfield, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, Denver, San Jose, Pittsburgh, and Rochester (NY).
4) I truly have a best friend forever - I think it's been 21 years now.
5) I hate mustard.
6) I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. (Or, I'm experiencing a mid-life crisis.)
7) I am half-Irish, half-Mexican (which means that I have a fiery temper, and I love to drink).
8) I hate jewelry and do not have my ears pierced.
9) I could play solitaire or hangman all day, if given the opportunity.
10) I try to be as balanced and fair as a bitter divorcee, bleeding heart liberal, feminist can be.
Again, I'm not going to tag anyone - use it as you like. Just let me know so I can go read yours as well!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
It's taken 4 years of good and bad experiences, 2 years of therapy (for both me and my girls) and a myriad of other conversations, trials, tribs, blah blah blah to get where I am with this. Not that I'm perfect at it, but these are the things that are most important to keep in mind.
1) Child support and visitation are, for the most part, exclusive of each other. Check your local laws, but usually, you cannot withhold visitation for lack of child support.
2) If it all possible, get sole legal custody. This means that you do not have to get the deadbeat's permission on school forms, out-of-state travel, and a myriad of other things that may come up.
3) If you're concerned about alcohol or drug abuse, or any other problems that might make the deadbeat an unfit parent as well, set up conditional visitation. For instance, my visitation only applies if my ex has (a) a driver's license, (b) established residence in the same county as us, and (c) random drug tests at my discretion but his cost. So far, he hasn't made it past (a) yet, so he is not entitled to any visitation whatsoever.
4) I do allow visitation under proper supervision. Now that he's living with his parents and near the rest of his brothers and sisters (and their children), I do allow about 2 prolonged visits with them a year. (This also gives me a break from being "Mommy" for a few days.) However, they must arrange and pay for flights or other forms of transportation. The girls are also old enough to understand that their dad does not have a valid driver's license, and therefore, is unable to drive them anywhere. The girls have a great time with their family, and I feel safe about their well-being.
5) The major question that you should ask yourself is whether or not your child will be safe, or what can be done to make the situation safe? If nothing can be done to make the visitation safe, then you need to say no.
If your deadbeat tries to make you feel guilty for keeping the child away from their father, try to keep in mind, is this person really a father or not? Can he live up to the responsibility that the word "father" implies? If you have any doubts whatsoever, then you are under the obligation as the mom, to NOT let your child/ren be alone with him. If it's just your anger or hurt that's holding you back, then you need to let it go. Every child does deserve as much love and support as they can get.
Of course, it's important not to badmouth your ex (however bad he may be) to your child/ren, but it is acceptable to tell them the amount of truth that they can handle at their age. For instance, at this point, my daughters do know that their dad has not lived up to the "rules" in place by the court in order to have regular visitation (i.e., every other weekend, like some of their friends). They know he doesn't have a driver's license and does not live in the same county as us. They do not know the last condition, but it's only a matter of time before it becomes appropriate for me to share that with them. Throughout certain events, they have learned that their dad isn't very responsible, and they are aware that he does not give me money on a regular basis.
They are also learning, just through our daily existence, that I am the one that's here for them. I'm the one who has gone to every school event, every Halloween parade, signed all their report cards, gone to all of the parent teacher conferences, and taken them to every doctor's appointment. As the years go by, while they still love their father, and miss him, they do not rely on him the way that they rely on me.
As hard as it is, as frustrating as it can be, the rewards are there. They're there in the tears you wipe, the hugs and kisses you give, and the oohs and aahs you exclaim over their latest drawing. The truth always outs. And being the responsible parent always pays off in the end!
Monday, December 10, 2007
Dear L.A. drivers,
Hi. I’m someone else on the road that, and I know this may come as a great shock to some of you, YOU DO NOT OWN…particularly those of you in a Mercedes or BMW. Just because you paid more money for your car, you still don’t have right-of-way at all times.
I know for some of you, it has been a while since you’ve read the DMV rules, and some of you may not ever have read them, so let me enlighten you:
A stop sign does not mean to simply put on the brakes, and once stopped, to go. A stop sign means that you do not have the right-of-way and should wait your turn! 4-way stop signs (I know these are confusing, but hang in there) mean that we all take turns.
If you are going to turn, there’s a little handy device called a blinker that should be used so that those either behind or oncoming to you can know that you will be turning. While it may seem like an awful lot of work to flip that handle, you never know when you might be the one waiting to make a left-turn only to find out the car for which you were waiting was turning, too, and you totally could have gone! Think of it as self-serving, if that helps.
Putting on said blinker doesn’t give you the right to go, however, if again…well, it just ain’t your turn yet!
Putting on said blinker from the far right lane does not mean that all the cars to the left of you will suddenly disappear so that you can turn left from there.
Turn the bleeping blinker off once you’ve changed lanes!
When there is traffic, and people are merging onto the freeways, what works best is if we let the cars in one-by-one. We’ve all been waiting a long time and letting that one car in is not going to kill anyone!
When there is traffic, riding my bumper is not going to change the fact that there are about a million cars in front of me. I can only go as fast as the cars in front of me.
When on surface streets, revving by me when I’m already going 40 in a 40-mile-zone is only going to mean that I get to laugh at you when we reach the stoplight and are indeed face-to-face again.
When there is a picture of a U-turn with the circle and the line going through it, it means NO U-TURNS ALLOWED. I’ve never seen a disclaimer under it that says, “oh, except when you really, really want to.”
If you’re running so late that you don’t have time to wait for the cars that have the right-of-way to go before you merge in, guess what? That’s completely your problem and not mine.
While I appreciate the drive-through service of flowers and oranges by the side of the road (and I generally love all drive-throughs – Starbucks, if you’re listening…more, please!), only buy if you’re prepared with the money in hand and you keep an eye on the lights.
Whatever happened to hugging the curb when you’re going to turn? That was a nice little gesture to the cars behind that aren’t turning. Can that please make a come-back? I’ve tried to re-ignite the trend, but it just doesn’t seem to be catching on!
So that’s my list for today. I’m sure I’ve neglected a few items that will most likely occur on tonight’s drive home, but I’ll try not to obsess about this. At a certain point, however, something has to be said!
Thanks to anyone who heeds this list in their future driving…most especially if you’re driving in L.A.!
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Well, my land is here on the world wide web.
This week alone, I've been involved in online discussions about abortion, tax and health care reform, separation of church and state, deadbeat dads, female suicide bombers, the gag rule, Xmas wars, gay marriage, the shooter in Texas, the London baby, the MySpace mom, the 6-year-old arrested for a felony tantrum, vegan eating and the dangers of dairy, the Catholic priests guilty of child molesting, the cult that encouraged raising "sexual children," best and worst business stories of 2007, life insurance options, and had a tiramisu thrown at me.
And yet...still can't think of anything to write here!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Play along if you’d like. Leave me a comment so I can go read your answers.
1. What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now? White Rain shower gel
2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator? No. I may live in L.A., but I don't think even we have watermelons right now!
3. What would you change about your living room? something that keeps all those kid things off the floor!
4. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty? dirty
5. What is in your fridge? It's way over there. I'm not getting up to look, sorry. There's food and drink.
6. White or wheat bread? Wheat.
7. What is on top of your refrigerator? candy
8. What color or design is on your shower curtain? dark green - it was here before I moved in, and I liked it so it stayed.
9. How many plants are in your home? none - I have a black thumb.
10. Is your bed made right now? No.
11. Comet or Soft Scrub? Comet
12. Is your closet organized? Yes, it is! I totally love my organized closet.
13. Can you describe your flashlight? Adding to grocery list: flashlight.
14. Do you drink out of glass or plastic more at home? Glass - cheaper.
15. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now? No, but I normally do in the summer.
16. If you have garage, is it cluttered? I do have a garage :), and it's not too cluttered, although I could restack the boxes.
17. Curtains or blinds? Blinds.
18. How many pillows do you sleep with? one. There are 2 in the bed, but the other one is used by my cat and my kids when they crawl in (usually Riley).
19. Do you sleep with any lights on at night? no, but I leave a light on in the girls' room.
20. How often do you vacuum? I'd like to say once a week, but usually, it's every 2 weeks.
21. Standard toothbrush or electric? Electric. But I need a new one.
22. What color is your toothbrush? Again, that requires getting up and checking. Not going to happen. Oh, I think it's red!
23. Do you have welcome mat on your front porch? yes
24. What is in your oven right now? Nothing.
25. Is there anything under your bed? Yes, my blue overnight bag is stored there. And that's all I'm going to cop to at the moment.
26. Chore you hate the most? cleaning my cat's litter box. Somehow, has never managed to be fun.
27. What retro items are in your home? My fave is the sauce pan I have that was my parents' in the '70s. It's got blue flowers on it.
28. Do you have separate room you use an an office? No.
29. How many mirrors are in your home? Including the wall in my daughters' room, 4.
30. Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home? If I did, I would've forgotten where it is. But I have found money in places I wasn't expecting to. That's always fun!
31. What color are your walls? The living room and dining area are a light blue, my bathroom is light green, my bedroom is a much hotter pink than I expected, but I'm dealing with it, and my daughters' room is a light pink.
32. What does your home smell like right now? I can't really smell anything specific.
33. Favorite candle scent? vanilla.
34. What kind of pickles are in your refrigerator right now? kosher
35. Ever been on your roof? nope.
36. Do you own a stereo? yes
37. How many TV’s do you have? 3
38. How many phones? one cordless, two cells.
39. Do you have a housekeeper? LOL no.
40. What style do you decorate in? whatever's given to me, cheap, or on sale.
41. Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints? solid
42. Is there a smoke detector in your home? Yep!
I realize this isn't the best meme ever, so sorry about that. My brain's just a little too discombobulated today.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I think it's because we're all completely freaked out about this upcoming holiday season. I've had quite a few conversations with many different people about their financial fears and woes over this season. Yes, we all know it's not supposed to be about commercialism, and we all believe that the holidays should be about spending times with the ones you love. But we also want to give those ones we love something special. We want a gift from us to make them smile.
Those of us who are parents want to see our children's eyes light up with what they really want.
It's ironic, isn't it? This Christmas war (whatever side of the fence you may be on) is actually a sign of what we all have in common. Our wish to give our loved ones the very best, and the scary realization that we'll most likely fall short.
It's easier to get mad at "them" than to stay mad at ourselves or our circumstances. We can spew and rant and rave, but once we've gotten all that out of our system, what do we have left?
Our disappointment and our fear of our loved ones' disappointment...well, maybe not their disappointment, but not the sparkle that we all want to see in their eyes when our holiday of choice comes around.
I came clean with my girls tonight. I told them that I'm going to do the best I can, but that so far, I haven't bought a single present for them. We usually go get fast food on payday for dinner as a treat for all of us. I told them we're going to have to put a stop to that until after Christmas. They looked over their lists (my kids know about Santa), and pared them down for me a bit. That was helpful, because now I know what will light up their eyes, and I can set more realistic goals, and know exactly what it is I'll be shopping for when payday comes around.
I managed to have this conversation without drama from any of us. I didn't cry, neither did they. I reminded them of the great vacations we took earlier this year. I reminded them of the $400 I've had to spend to keep our car in working order over the last month or so. They were quick to jump in and tell me that they know I'm trying. Then, they started conspiring about what to give me for Christmas.
I'm reminded of a saying the girls taught me: "you get what you get and you don't get upset." I have to take that to heart right now. I have to accept that I just don't have what I want to have financially this Christmas. So be it. I will find a way to make those eyes light up, and we will have a Merry Christmas, dammit!
It's easy to find the scapegoats or even get depressed this time of year. But it only takes just a little more digging, just a little more acceptance, and I think we all can find a way to have a happy/merry [fill in the blank]. Happy shopping!
Monday, December 3, 2007
Riley is a good student. She's not the best, she's not the worst, but she's good. She gives me plenty of reasons to be proud of her. Of course, there's always room for improvement.
Problem 1) Disorganization. I've lost count of the times she's forgotten to bring homework all the way home. She's left papers in the car that need to go to school with her. She once even left her whole backpack! I do my best to nag appropriately: Put it in your backpack. Do you have everything? Where's your jacket? Where's your lunch box? However, I'm not there with her at the end of the day. I'm not there when she gets picked up by her after-school program. I'm only there in the morning, and in the evening. And even then, well, any mother knows how it goes! Sometimes, you just miss it.
The teacher (I'll call her Ms. R) said that there will start being more consequences for not having homework completed. She'll start getting red tickets, which can affect their grades. Hopefully, this will be more of an incentive to Riley to take on the responsibility.
Problem 2) Writing. This one's two-fold. One is, she rushes through her work, not doing it as neatly as possible (or, conversely, erases and tries again so many times the paper looks like one of those old carbon copies where you can see every imprint). Ms. R said Riley doesn't seem to enjoy writing, which I find surprising because at home, she writes all the time!
The second fold is the more troublesome. Ms. R was showing me an example of a test where Riley hadn't followed the directions. As far as I could tell, she had. Ms. R finally acquiesced that the directions were confusing (she'd thought they meant the same thing that Riley and I thought), and that she was incredibly unhappy with the program. She gave me the name of the program (Lucy Calkins Writing Program - anyone familiar with this?) so tonight I've begun a rudimentary search for resource materials on this.
I stopped my so-far fruitless search to blog instead! Because here's the thing: where are the parent resources?!? I've heard over and over (and, yes, over) again from LAUSD that parents need to be involved. Yet, when I asked Ms. R if there were any resources on the Internet that Riley and I could use to help her understand this program, I got a blank look. Followed by "oh, that's a good idea!" Okay, I know the internet is still fairly new. I know that she's been teaching longer than the internet has been around. Yet, shouldn't this revolutionary program at least be in touch with the times? Shouldn't there be some way that I can help my daughter with this without getting a teaching credential?
Problem 3: Math. Specifically, number sense, statistics, data analysis, and probability. And yes, you read it right. My daughter is in the 2nd grade. She actually does really well on her in-class tests (she's gotten 100% on 3 out of 4) - it's just the standardized tests that bring her down to an 84% average.
Someone from KIPP described exactly why I hate tests: they're designed to trick students. You've got a 1 in 4 chance of getting it wrong, and the other 3 answers are exactly the kind of mistakes that students are prone to make. Well, isn't that nice? Isn't that encouragement for students to love learning?
But I know that she's got to know that oh-so-lovely standardized 'language.' She's got to learn how to decipher all the tricks they use to still get that right answer. Now, on this, there is some help available. So one of my homework assignments is going onto our State Education website and pulling some of that stuff to go over with her.
Ms. R did agree with me philosophically. And I had a realization that everything that Riley's doing less well in are the things that Ms. R herself doesn't like. I can accept that. However, now I have to pick up the slack and do these things that I don't like, either! "Parent involvement" seems to mean to home school - even when you're sending your kids to school. Fine. Last year, I fought it tooth and nail. This year, I'm saying, fine. I'll do it.
Riley and I sat down tonight and went through her report card together. We talked about these areas where she needs improvement (oh, getting distracted was another problem area - hmmm, wonder where she gets that from?!?), and while I set a goal that we should see all 3's on the next report card, Riley wants to get all 4's. I told her we'll make that the goal for the final report card.
When we went through the comments, Riley started to get very...inward. She does this "turtle-like" impression where she just wants to shut down completely. That was the moment when I was most frustrated with Ms. R. All in all, Riley's a good student. At least one of the comments should have been positive. She got mostly 3's and some 2's. The girl deserves a little praise - I mean, her fluency scores are well past benchmark! So I had to pick up the slack there as well, tell her how proud I am of her, what a good job she's doing. Mind you, not that I wouldn't have said that anyway. But it doesn't seem too much to ask that a little descriptive praise could've come from her teacher, too!
I guess I need to count my blessings, too. After all, I'm only going through this with one of my children now instead of both of them. Sylvia and her teachers and I are in communication as much as we need to be. I can email, call, check the parent website whenever I want. Sylvia can go to tutoring as much as she wants. I'm already seeing big improvements with her.
Just two and a half more years, and Riley gets to go to KIPP, too. This too shall pass.