Tuesday, June 24, 2008

School's Out

Sylvia had her last day on Tuesday. I said my good-byes on Monday, and gave all her teachers and the Principal a thank you letter. And donuts. Couldn't get through it without crying, of course. This past year at KIPP has represented everything that can work in education. While I'm trying to reserve judgment, I hope that some of it at least can work out for next year, as well. One good note: I've met her math teacher for next year, and he seems really great.

Sylvia won Best Actor in a Play for her Junior Thespian Club!! Which she totally deserved. My girl lit up that stage, and I'm not just saying that because I'm her mother. And she's got an award now to prove it :)

And from the "things that annoy me" category: Why oh why do I need to write all three of my phone numbers (home, work, cell) THREE times for ONE enrollment application for a summer program? Multiply that by two, of course, for the two girls. I know that's not just the Boys & Girls Club. That's every official form for everything and anything. We could seriously use more efficiency in so many areas of our daily lives.

The girls had their first day at Boys & Girls Club today and had a really good time. They can paint, play sports, read books, play games, and in a couple of weeks, be able to go swimming on a regular basis. Riley especially likes the lady who runs the kitchen and loves to help her. Pretty soon, she'll be making dinner for us.

Riley's given me a run for my money lately as a mom. I even called my own mom tonight, feeling completely helpless. My mom talked to her for a while, and Riley improved her behavior after that. (I've gotten over that whole "must do everything myself" stuff. One of the most important lessons I've learned these past 5 years as a single mom is to ask for help when I need it.) Hopefully, she's got it together now at least to last us through our weekend at Disneyland.

I just want us to be able to spend 3 whole days with no housework, no work, no real obligations outside of enjoying ourselves. That would be nice.

So I most likely won't be posting until we return. I'm trying to keep up with my Reader, but it's so hard. And I know missing a whole weekend will make it harder, but I'll do my best to catch up as I can.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Thank you to everyone who participated in the BlogBlast for Education! Everyone's posts were so thoughtful, heartfelt, and inspiring. Inspiring because they told me that this is an issue where we all do have a lot of common ground. I do not believe that the problems in our system are insurmountable. Because this is so important, we're doing it again :) New buttons and date to follow, but it will be in September sometime.

And have I mentioned my undying love and gratitude for CableGirl for designing our very cool buttons? There is simply no way I could've pulled this off without her.

I have more good news - can you believe it? The owners of the condo have agreed to sign another lease to let the girls and I stay here for another year. They are keeping it on the market, so I may have to deal with potential buyers, but I told them either a year or I move out. They chose the $$. I'm not dancing in the streets yet because we have not yet signed the lease, but I hope to take care of that this week. This, as most of you know, is such a huge weight off my shoulders. Particularly with the KIPP situation, I need this year to know whether or not this is where we want to stay. Plus, with my promotion and all, I could use a year to see if I can save $$ and maybe even be able to afford to buy something - maybe even the condo.

But that's next year's problem. And that's all I really wanted. Another year to breath and think. And Riley can stay in her same school. And I don't have to use vacation time to move.

The cloud that was hanging over my head every time we came home, every time I entered my address, every time I tried to contemplate the future will soon be a speck of gray that doesn't need my attention for a WHOLE YEAR!!

A dear friend tried to convince me that maybe this means things do work out in the end. I'm really not a negative, pessimistic person. Hey, I love musical theatre. Anyone who loves musical theatre as much as I do cannot be a pessimist - the art form doesn't allow it. But I still feel like a part of me needs to remain on edge, ready to deal with whatever else comes my way. Because it's only when I'm not prepared for it that it knocks me down completely into a crying, depressed mess of a girl. So, once the lease is signed, I will take a moment to celebrate, but keep myself sober enough to deal with any other problems and challenges that come our way.

Speaking of musical theatre :) the Tony's were okay. I was disappointed that Sondheim didn't get a proper tribute for winning his Lifetime Achievement Award, and that he wasn't there to accept it, but I found a new favorite musical: In the Heights. I'm not a rap fan. Like at all. But the combination of rap, Latin music, and Broadway harmonies is something I cannot resist. I downloaded it while the Tony's were still on, and don't regret it. I also downloaded Passing Strange and Xanadu, but have not fallen in love with either of them the way I have In the Heights. Xanadu seems like fun, but is something that probably needs to be seen in order to be fully appreciated. I can't get past the Strange in Passing Strange yet.

Riley completed her career as a second grader. To be honest, her last few weeks, she wasn't the type of vigilant student that she's shown she can be in the past, but she also had a lot working against her. I was spending so much time dealing with the KIPP situation, Sylvia went on her 3-day field trip, plus the knowledge that she might not go there next year must've been a lot for a 7-year-old to try to handle, so I'm not giving her too hard a time about it. I just hope that she remains focused next year at the end of the year...and that I have no major KIPP-like situations going on at the time.

Next weekend, we're celebrating the end-of-school-year down at Disneyland. I hope that it's not 112 degrees like it's been this weekend! I've used our a/c at home this weekend much more than I would like. But since we're staying down at the Resort, we'll also have the benefit of a pool and hotel room to go to when we need some downtime. We may have visitors come and go to help us celebrate, which would be nice. If not, we'll manage to have fun, just the 3 of us.

The job's going well. It's a little bit surreal still, having people take me seriously as someone who knows what the heck I'm doing! And there's still so much to learn. But my freaking out has remained at bay for the most part, thanks to so many people cheering me on, available to answer all my stupid questions, and giving me the chance. And the days go so much faster as I exert so much more brain power at work!

Oh, and I've started reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope. He's so thoughtful, so aware of his own biases, as well as the biases of others. If we are so lucky, he will make a great Commander in Chief. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend...and I'm only on the first chapter!!

Wow, this wrap-up is long. I'll shut up now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

BlogBlast for Education

Today was Riley's last day of school. In a conversation with her sister, she said she thought that learning was the most fun. Talk about a proud mama moment!

But she's only seven. I worry, obsess, and drive myself crazy worrying about whether or not she'll keep that joy of learning.

What's incredibly sad is that nothing drains that out of a kid quite like a poor education at school. Tedious homework without a purpose, overstuffed classrooms with poor air ventilation, teachers that don't believe your kid is special, administrations that aren't respectful, authoritarianism, bad peer influences, not enough textbooks...the list of what can go wrong is astoundingly long and its effects on my child's love of learning can be nearly insurmountable to overcome.

But what phrase can drive me quicker to insanity than any other: parental involvement.

This phrase has been thrown around as the answer to all problems. If we "make" our kids do their homework, even when they're screaming and crying because they don't understand it and they don't like our explanation and they're up until 11 o'clock at night. Volunteering to sell goods at the bake sale, even if you're a single working parent that can't afford to take time off work. Taking gift wrap catalogs to work and forcing all your colleagues to buy some...and then buying 20 more rolls so that your kid can get the prize they want...and then buying another 20 rolls from all your colleagues' kids' catalogs since they bought from you. Drilling your child with the times tables. Getting them all freaked out about standardized tests.

I swear, this is what I thought parental involvement meant a year ago. Because that's all that I was ever told by the schools. And my oldest daughter was losing her love of learning.

Most 5-year-olds I've met are like Sylvia was at 5: interested in everything, constantly asking how things worked, why we did this, where's that? Our children are sponges that find everything fascinating and want to take it all in.

And then they start school. And if all the stars align, and we're nearly perfect parents, or we're lucky enough to have kids whose dream is to compete in the National Spelling Bee, then all goes well. If the parents stay together and never lose their jobs, and are able to sock away for a good college, then all can go well.

But many of us experience something a little different than that. As much as we want to make our children the center of our lives and the universe, we're still expected to pay the rent/mortgage. Someone gets sick. Parents divorce. Someone's job gets outsourced. A myriad of things can go wrong, and do. And without a strong support system, we're left floundering.

And somewhere in there, we forget to take the gift wrapping catalog in. Or we can't make the PTA meeting at 8:15 a.m. Or we don't sign the field trip permission slip. And our "support system" in the school says, "oh, well. Not enough parent involvement." And our child is written off.

It doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be this way.

And all around the country, movements are happening. Revolutions are happening. Parents are starting to stand up and say, "wait a minute. That's my child. My child is not just a number to factor into your standardized test scores!"

And I'm standing with those parents. And I'm standing with those teachers and principals and parents and community leaders to say, "not my child."

I've been very fortunate to get to know an organization called the Los Angeles Parents Union. My "rep" - who is really more a friend at this point - just got back from Sacramento where myriads of schools and families came together in front of the Governor's office to protest the budget cuts. She's also working on the Small School Initiative, which would require high schools to cap enrollment at 400, and open hundreds of new, smaller schools throughout the district. Parents are insisting upon having a voice in their kids' schools.

And parents should also demand better support from within the schools. When a child loses interest in school, we should all be able to get together and figure out what's going on. Every child should be treated like they have the ability to be a straight A student. Every child should be encouraged to pursue their dreams. And every child should be exposed to as much of the world as possible to even find out what those dreams are.

A child should not be told they just need to learn "faster." They should be encouraged to slow it down and make sure they fully comprehend it. Our children should not be punished for being either ahead or behind the learning curve. They should be given the resources they need to either catch up, or be given higher standards to achieve.

If a parent is expected to help with the Math homework, then we should expect the teacher to send home something that explains how they taught our kids so that we don't confuse them with our "outdated" methods. (Ideally, the teacher should be available to answer questions after school hours, but I know that only happens at a few schools.)

If a parent is expected to bring something to a pot luck party, then I should expect to be notified at least a week in advance so that I can shop for it on my schedule.

Schedules should NOT be changed. And schedules should accommodate the fact that over 70% of parents work outside the home.

Boys and Girls Clubs should be available for every school. And should be big enough to accommodate every student that needs after-school care.

School lunches should be healthy and prepared at the school, not brought in frozen trucks.

As much as we get patted on the head and told that everything will be fine, we are not wrong for feeling like we know our kids. And we should be able to complain about any teacher, any administrator without fear that our child will suffer repercussions for it.

I live in an extremely turmoiled district, a district where the in-fighting is slapped on the front page of our paper. And I see a lot of finger-pointing. And now it's our time. It's time for the parents to get their say. It's time for the parents to come together, and say enough. Our schools should not be permitted to fail our children. Our schools should not be setting our children up for failure. Enough. It's time to find the solutions.

Got a BlogBlast for Education Post? Sign the linky love so we can go read it!!

BlogBlast for Education is Tomorrow!!!

It's here, it's here, it's finally here. Almost. 24 more hours...

I can barely stand it!!!

And now my big confession: I have no clue what I'm going to write! I've been fighting so hard to keep the school I love and I'm losing. My anger has lost its enthusiasm. I cried and cried today. But tonight, I spoke to someone that has helped me regain my strength. I'm so not done. I can't be done. It's too important.

And I guess I know what I'm going to write about tomorrow after all...

I cannot wait to read all your posts!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Terrible Tuesday - Lust

Many, many thanks and claps to Lunanik for this very fun carnival. I shall miss it!

So this is the last post. The lust post.

These past few posts, I've concentrated on the aspects of the sin that make it worthwhile. You didn't think I'd stop doing that for lust now, did you?

When used carefully, I'd even argue that lust is better than love - far less heartache, patience, or brain power required to get you through it. And again, let me stress, when used carefully. Being stupid with lust is playing around with your life - in every sense of the word.

But we've all had those moments of pure lust that feel so good it must be wrong, right? And, sure, some sense of playing with fire is attached to it.

We're raised in a society that is constantly pointing out the dangers (sometimes real, sometimes taught) of lust.

Now, does the thought of my daughters experiencing this sensation scare the blog out of me? You bet it does!

I already have had one of those moments where the words that came out of my mouth were shocking to me. The first time Sylvia mentioned the s-e-x word to me, I snapped, "you're way too young to think about that!" Well, she was! She was 8 at the time!!

But I do not want to be a mom that is not honest with my children about s3x. Nothing will turn me into a phony liar to my kids faster than denying that lust feels good.

My own parents let other people handle the "talks" with me, for the most part. I went to Planned Parenthood clinics for information sessions, and took the S3xEd classes in school. I also grew up at a time where the biggest danger of having unprotected s3x was AIDS, not pregnancy. AIDS scared me.

Growing up in theatre, AIDS touched me before I was an adolescent. Musical theatre greats like Michael Bennett went down, friends of friends were lost to this dreadful disease. I was performing for AIDS benefits on a regular basis by the time I was 15. AIDS scared me into a fairly late bloomer - at least, among those in my peer group - when it came to actually engaging in such activities.

But I do remember one talk that my mom and I had about it. And what I appreciated most about it was that she didn't lie to me. She didn't tell me it wasn't enjoyable for the woman or anything like that. She just informed me of all the responsibilities that came with it.

Now, by no means was I perfect. Nor can I honestly say that I didn't let my parents down. But in the end, we all make our choices and have to live with the consequences. While mine didn't include disease or pregnancy, you're just going to have to trust me when I say, I definitely faced some consequences!!

And I guess that's what it comes down to: I can ensure that my children have as much information as possible, and I can try to warn them of every possible danger associated with their choices, but in the end, not only is it up to them, but most likely, they'll find new dangers or consequences that I couldn't even imagine!

Just a week or so ago, there was a guy on "Colbert Report" who was saying that every person desires a non-monogamous relationship at one point or another. Now, before all you happily married folk write to tell me that you never want to think about that, I'll clarify what I think was his point: we all feel lust.

We all have felt lust, greed, envy, wrath, sloth, gluttony, and vanity, among many other emotions. And yes, we've all been guilty of overindulging in them from time to time.

But I can't help but go back to my life motto: it is all about balance. It's not the emotion itself that's trouble, but how we balance it within our lives in the healthiest way possible. We will never get it right all of the time. It is a constant, daily struggle.

And with all that each has given me, with all that I have learned about the strength I can have or have seen in others, with the sense of achievement when I do get it right from time to time, at the very heart of it, is the truest sense of being human.

For me, it makes it all worthwhile.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

I'm wrapping up a bit early this weekend because we'll be celebrating Father's Day with my own dad later, and then tonight, it's the all-important (to me) Tony Awards. I'm most excited because Stephen Sondheim, my favorite composer, is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award tonight. I've been grilling the girls, who now can tell you that Sondheim is the genius behind Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, Sweeney Todd, Company, as well as the lyricist of Gypsy and West Side Story. (He has many more credits, of course, but these are the ones that my girls know and love.)

Yesterday, we had so much fun at the company picnic. Can you believe that Riley thought it was more fun than D-land? I think it's because everything was free, and there were shorter lines!

The latest update on KIPP is that we have an alternative strategy that we're now working. That's all I can say at the moment.

Sylvia thoroughly enjoyed her 3-day field trip (all expenses paid) to San Diego. They went to museums, parks, swimming, Sea World, Belmont Shores, the Zoo, and the beach. In 3 days! She had a blast, but was still tired on Friday, 2 days after her return. Of course, the kids stayed up too late talking after curfew. But she did handle herself well, and my lack of worry for her was well-founded. She's a good girl who follows the rules and keeps with the group. I'm very proud of her.

Just a note for the single moms out there who might be struggling this Father's Day. I do know how you feel. I haven't mailed Sylvia's card to her own dad (which she made herself, because I refuse to spend more than the postage to mail it). Does that make me a horrible, vindictive person? Here's a better question: do I really care? Since the man has done nothing (nothing) this past year to prove himself worthy of the title "Dad," I'm not going to fall all over myself making sure he gets a card. I'll tell the girls to call him later today, and I won't inquire about the thousands of dollars he owes in child support. That's as much a Father's Day present as I have it in my heart to give. Single moms, just know that I'm thinking of you today and all you do for your kids.

To all the dads who do deserve a Father's Day, then I hope you have a great one!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Flashback Friday - Rejection

As usual, you guys rock! Thanks for all your support on my ongoing KIPP struggle. The struggle continues, really nothing new to report, other than there are now 12 of 18 teachers who will not be coming back next year. I'm waiting for one of the Board members to get back in town and hopefully respond to some of my concerns. Reading your comments definitely helps me keep my determination to keep fighting. Thank you.

This post was actually mostly written last Friday, but I never got a chance to finish it and post. I'm so looking forward to Blog Hopping tonight and catching up with some of you!!


The girls and I have a new show (to pick up where "Step It Up and Dance" left off - congrats Cody; although we were rooting for Mochi): Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle. On the first episode, they went from 50 to 30 to 15 to 10. Of course, the closer the girls got, the more devastated they were to get cut. (There was one girl in particular that I really liked who got cut in that last round that I disagree with - but what do I know?) Riley asked me if I'd ever been sad not to get a part. I decided it was a perfect story for Flashback Friday.

When I was 8 years old, I auditioned for a national tour of Annie. I want to say it was the first national tour, but I could be wrong. The auditions were in Sacramento, it was an open call, and inSANE! But I couldn't have been more excited to be there.

This was when Annie was all the rage - or at least it was to me. I sang "Tomorrow" and "Maybe" every chance I got. I listened to the record (yes, vinyl) at least a gazillion times. I think if my sister hears either of those songs ever again, it'll still be too soon.

First round, I sing about 2 bars - on to the next round. This trend continued for many of the rounds. Some girls were singing longer than me, but I was still just whizzing on through.

I was called back for the next day. Again, same sort of thing. I just keep doing my thing and getting through to the next round.

Finally, the very last cut of the day, I was cut. As I came down from the stage, there were 8 girls left. There was the cast. And I wasn't in it.

To say that I was heartbroken, to say that I was devastated doesn't quite describe it. I vividly remember standing outside of that theatre, and just crying and crying while my dad held me. He was so great. He just let me cry. He didn't try to make me feel better - although he did point out that all the girls were shorter than me (which is ironic, considering I'm still short at 5'3" now!), but mostly he just let me cry and be devastated.

Whenever I watch these reality competitions now, and hear people say how they just want it sooo bad, and think that wanting it bad enough will translate into getting it, I just have to shake my head. Yes, you have to give it your all and do your best every single time. I played it over and over in my head for days, weeks, afterwards, and I really did do my absolute best. When it comes to jobs, roles, etc. (presidential campaigns), there's no "deserving" it, either. It is what it is. And accepting that was my first harsh lesson. In show business. (I still struggle with it IRL.)

But that first cut was the deepest. No matter how many other close calls I've had, no matter what other roles I didn't get, none of them compared to that first rejection.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Bit of a Ramble...

So I went tonight to the KIPP meeting after all. I wasn't going to go. I was going to give myself the night off. I was going to spend the time with my Riley, while Sylvia's still away on her field trip. We were going to have a quiet evening at home.

Wouldn't you know, Riley said she wanted to go. My 7-year-old daughter wanted to spend her evening in a Board meeting. I've corrupted my child!

So we went. I did learn some things. But, unfortunately, not many of them were encouraging. I'm Chicken Little. I'm screaming at the top of my lungs that the sky is falling, and while they listen (and don't laugh), I don't feel like they hear me.

I just made one more effort, one more attempt. I wrote a 1,240-word email. And somehow that's not enough. Once that was done, all I wanted to do was blog. No wonder my 7-year-old is corrupted; I'm seriously disturbed.

I haven't eaten dinner these last 2 nights. I've been in meetings, and when I get home, my appetite has been thoroughly drained. I'm tired, but I can't sleep.

Tonight, I'm having some wine to go w/ my whine. I may have to qualify this as a BUI post.

So here's my main concern. Because screw it, I'm putting it out there.

I have no confidence in the woman who has been hired to replace our Principal. I don't feel like she gives a crap about our concerns. She's treated the teachers poorly. As of tonight, 2 of them still don't know if they have a job next year! As of tonight, 9 out of 18 teachers will not be returning next year. After tomorrow, that number could rise to 10. I personally know only 2 teachers that are returning next year, and only one of them will be my daughter's. I think.

I don't know what the changes will be in the curriculum. I've heard that some subjects will be combined, but when my daughter's in school for nearly 10 hours a day, I don't see the need. Nor do I know what she will be doing in the times she used to take certain classes.

Probably the most uncomfortable (and yet, oddly, the most fun) moment of our meeting last night was when I kicked the new Principal out of the room. It took fifteen grueling minutes to get her out, but eventually she caved. Because I wasn't going to. She hadn't been invited, and I had some things to say about her.

There is something desperately wrong when a teacher is found crying in the bathroom by one of the parents. There is something wrong when the Principal and at least 4 teachers turn in their resignation. Particularly when 3 of those people relocated to take their positions.

And tonight, I figured out the heart of it. Money. Money, money, money. They chose money over our personnel.

And as I wrote my 1,240-word email, I sobbed. Not just teared up a little. I wept. I wept as I wrote about the teachers and Principal my family will miss deeply. I wept as I finally learned what I was fighting against. I wept as I realized that this dream-come-true year is coming to an end. My anger has lost its enthusiasm.

That doesn't mean I'm going to stop fighting. I have one more plan up my sleeve. One more plan that I really, really don't want to use. Because I'm as scared of that possible outcome as I am about the inevitability of what's currently happening. I've already gone to the Board, and I anxiously await their decision. I have not told them my final plan, nor that I have one. I need to talk to a few more people before I let loose on that one. Right now, however, if nothing I've done so far changes anything, I don't see any choice. Well, I suppose I have one. To just accept it. But I can't. Not just yet.

I didn't want to not like, trust, or have faith in this woman. I would love to just be able to say that as much as I'll miss those that are leaving, I can open my heart to the new. But I just can't. She's not just young and inexperienced, she's immature. She visibly tenses when you don't agree with her. She loves to say one minute that she's in charge, and the next, take names. She buries herself in her note pad while she shakes her head. Her face gets red. She sighs audibly, impatiently when she has to answer the same question more than once. She ignores calls and emails from teachers trying to find out if they have a job. She doesn't respect that I'm there, saying what I'm saying, doing what I'm doing, because I want the best for my daughters. She takes personally what is a job to her, and a personal issue for me. She can't tell us what discipline policy she'll enact.

A teacher tonight said that she's so afraid that she's wasted this last year of her life. I fear losing this last year. I fear not feeling like a valued member of this Team & Family. I fear that Sylvia won't stay the exceptional student and person she's become this year. I fear that the disappointment and frustration will suck the confidence and love of learning right out of her. I fear that I will break my promise to Riley that she'll go to KIPP when she's in 5th grade. I fear that we'll miss the opportunity that the whole condo situation has given us to leave LAUSD and move to a better district. But I also think that the KIPP standard is worth giving another year.

This whole thing changes everything. I don't know what to do, where to go from here. I can see all my options, but none of them come with a guaranty.

Okay, I'm not sure how many words has been, but it's enough for now. For now, I want to step back into Denial for a good 7 hours. Now, sorry Kori, but I'm ready to escape from these questions into a mindless television show.

Terrible Tuesday - Greed

For more Seven Deadly Sins Carnival posts, go see Lunanik.

When I think about what I crave, what I'm greedy for the most, it's changed through the years, but there is an underlying greed for validation that has remained consistent throughout.

Greed is most often thought of in the more traditional definition of the insatiable desire for more money or possessions. But what causes that desire? What do people get from having more money or possessions? Is it just to say, "mine, mine, mine?" Underneath that "mine, mine" is some sense of feeling validated. The more obvious feeling would be entitlement, but again, I think that sense of entitlement comes from feeling validated that they deserved it to begin with.

I often associate greed with an insatiable desire for power. Again, what does that power mean? That they're validated somehow.

Inside all of us, that ego needs to be stroked. That sense of who we are is okay is what we all desire most.

Greed is the overindulgence of that. Greed is akin to most addictions; an unhealthy way to deal with our insecurities, and our quest for validation.

Now, that certainly doesn't make it okay. Greed turns my stomach, particularly greed for power to control others. At some point, people's issues are not acceptable excuses for their behavior. But it's something to think about.

*and that's as far as I can go with this. I know there's more, but I don't have the brain power right now to get there. So I open it up to you...*

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Hi. Remember me? I don't think I really need to apologize for the lack of posts, since most of you were probably grateful for a lower number in your Reader, but if you have missed me, gee thanks!

And thanks to those of you who have taken the Blog for Education buttons, pimped it (jen of A2eatwrite - I can't thank you enough for all your kind words), shown your support and your willingness to participate. I know I keep saying this, but I am so excited!

So, onto the wrap-up...

Busy, busy, busy week. Started the new job, which is going well. I'm having that feeling of, OMG, what the heck am I doing?!? but I have so much support that I know I'll get through it. There's so much to learn, and I'm waking up every day excited and anxious to get to work. I'm still also doing most of my old job as well, so it's definitely crazy and hectic, but again, with the support of my department, we're getting through it.

And the whole KIPP thing is finally making some progress. I had yet another 3 1/2 hour meeting yesterday, and another one tomorrow, and I'm missing the one on Tuesday evening, but we have many more parents involved now, and we have the right ears listening to us now so there's definite progress. Will it change the outcome? I don't know. But I can't stop now. I was feeling discouraged earlier in the week, but then things really started to happen, and we got some words of encouragement from someone that I highly respect and that helped a lot. I've joked that it's like a third job - the hours I've logged; Thursday night, on the phone 'til 10:30 pm - but it's such an important cause...you know, my child's education (!), that it's worth every minute.

On top of that, I had Riley's Open House, tore apart a DVD player to get out a stuck Netflix DVD, celebrated a friend's birthday, took Sylvia shopping for her 3-day field trip to San Diego (for which we get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow), went to DreamDinners (where I ran into an old friend), acted like an idiot in front of Chad Lowe (no, I wasn't ogling him - I was too busy acting like a star-struck kid over seeing John Tartaglia from Avenue Q), did 5 loads of laundry today and cleaned the bathroom, but still have some major work to do on the living room. Oh yeah, and I know I haven't been the best of bloggy friends to most of you lately, and I hope to make up for that sometime. Don't quite know when because this week already looks to be as crazy as the last 2, but soon...

Now, I must be off to clip my cat's claws, which I've never done before, but that scratch from a few weeks ago? Turned into a permanent scar. My raise wasn't quite big enough to afford plastic surgery, so the claws have got to go. (Yeah, I say that now. I tried this a few nights ago, and chickened out.)

Oh, yeah. And the condo thing? Still hanging over my head. So if anyone has any property to sell in Los Angeles for real real cheap (but in livable condition), let me know!

(And please forgive all the run-on sentences and improper grammar usage. I'm saving those brain cells right now for work!)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Dona Nobis Pacem

With everything going on, I almost missed Blog Blast for Peace Day! But I didn't :)

I don't consider myself nearly well-versed enough to tackle such heavy subjects as the war in Iraq or Darfur or any of the world issues. I have to speak about what I know.

I do believe in the phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally." So what does that mean in terms of peace?

Honestly? I'm still figuring it out.

Here's what I do know: when I participate, when I get involved, when I take the time to do something for a cause that's bigger than me, bigger than my family, I feel great. I feel like my place in the world makes some sort of sense. I feel connected to the human beings around me that make it all worthwhile.

A couple of years ago, the girls and I joined an annual event. We volunteer for Jane Goodall's Roots and Shoots annual Day of Peace celebration. We get to go to one of the greatest treasures Los Angeles has to offer, Griffith Park, and watch doves made from love fly around us. We dance to music, we listen to speeches from brilliant people (including the amazing Jane Goodall), and we feel honored to be a part of it somehow. Sylvia even made her own speech there once:

It's an event that combines education and appreciation of our environment, our animals, and our humanity that together, can make possible Peace on Earth. Experiencing that, even just one day a year, is something we treasure and take with us in some aspect for the rest of that year until the next.

But there are even simpler ways to be involved, to make our own contributions.

The most obvious is for those of us who are parents to think about what we are teaching our children, and remembering that they learn the most from the examples we set.

But even more than that, there's simply each one of us. Taking the time to listen. Taking the time to care about another human being's troubles. Taking the time to offer a shoulder, and even more when you can.

And taking the time to take care of ourselves. We cannot run on empty forever. We cannot be at peace with ourselves if we continue to beat ourselves up for mistakes made long ago. We do the best we can to rectify them, live with them, and learn from them. We cannot be at peace with ourselves if deny our anger, our sense of loss, our desires. We have to find ways to deal with those feelings and let them pass through us in the least harmful ways. We cannot be at peace with ourselves if we shut ourselves off from those who care. We have to let them in, give them opportunities to earn our trust, and lean on them when we need it. We have to respect ourselves as we should respect others.

It can't get any more "local" than starting with just us. And anyone of us, and anyone of our children, could be as internationally important as Jane Goodall herself.

For more Blog Blast for Peace posts, check out Mimi Writes...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Terrible Tuesday - Envy

But first things first...did you see the cool Blog for Education button on the left over there? Ain't it grand? Don't you want it for yourself? Take it, take it!! And that's not the only one the awesome CableGirl made. There are two for you to choose from:

And thank you, Lunanik, for pimpin' it!

Hey, speaking of Lunanik, let's get to Terrible Tuesday, shall we?

Envy and I have hung out for a very, very long time. I've wanted people's fame, I've wanted people's looks, I've wanted people's talent, and yes, every now and again, I've wanted people's money.

Now, just to be clear, envy and malice are just plain old ugly together. And, yep, I've been there, too. However, yet again, I choose to look at the bright side of envy.

I have used envy to make positive changes to my life. When I can look at what someone else has or does, and think - still stuck in A Chorus Line here - "I Can Do That," envy can be a great motivator.

I used envy to get myself back into college. I used envy to take on bigger projects at work. Envy got me my promotion. And no one got hurt in the process.

Have I shared this favorite quote here yet: "Depression is anger without enthusiasm." (Anon.) The right kind of anger with the right kind of enthusiasm can be one of the most effective motivators. Envy can be the emotion behind the anger to lead to that enthusiasm that inspires someone to find a better path.

Envy at people's clothing has inspired me to re-think what I already have in my closet, and how I might put certain things together differently to feel like a new look. Envy at people's looks inspire me to make changes to my daily routine to try and look and feel better about myself.

Interestingly enough, envy at people's money has only made me more grateful for what I have. Because I've read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and other books like it to see how they got what they got. And I see how much time and effort it takes, and what you sacrifice in order to get it. And then I decide, "yeah. Not for me, thanks. I like my life just fine."

Envy at people's marriages helped me find my way out of mine - one that didn't resemble that at all. And it has helped me from making like mistakes!

Envy at people's youth? That one's a little tougher. But while I may never be 25 again, I have these 2 amazing girls that have gone through stages I remember, and will always continue to do so. I get to remember, admire, and be a part of their own discoveries for as long as we all walk the face of this Earth. That's pretty cool!

Envy at people's maturity? Something to dream to achieve...

Envy is all in how you handle it. Like all emotions, it's not something to try and deny, but something to work through.

Wow, look at me being all positive!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Where to begin? How much to say? These are the questions that are making this week's wrap-up so hard to do.

Yesterday's KIPP meeting wasn't nearly as settling as I'd hoped, and afterwards, I found out there's still many more questions to be answered which makes it hard to know how much to say here.

But one thing's final. Our Principal is leaving. I was fighting for a while to try and keep him, but he told me a few days ago that he's done. I understand why, and I have to respect that. While I've accepted it, I still haven't let it sink in.

At KIPP, a Principal is given more autonomy than at your average, public school. This year, our Principal ran the school in exactly the way that I've always wanted. He was accessible, he was honest, he truly led and inspired. He took his responsibilities as a partner in our children's education quite seriously, and no job or task was too big or too small for him to handle in one way or another. He even knew how to say, "I don't know" - followed with, "but I'll find out." And he would. He understood our concerns, he saw us parents as whole people. He didn't put us in boxes because we asked too many questions or worked - or didn't. He made it easy for me to be an involved parent at KIPP. And he also completely understood when I couldn't be there. He never thanked us for "taking the time" (which has always implied, to me, willingness). He thanked those "that were able to make it."

And he hired teachers that exemplified the best qualities I want in a teacher. Teachers that understood that a little confidence in a subject can go a long way, that appreciated the concept of encouraging a life-long love of learning. Some of them are leaving, too.

There's more to the story. There's more planning going on. Unfortunately, all this "doing for the kids" has actually taken away many hours from the kids. I'm missing a meeting today to try and rectify that.

Also, saw A Chorus Line, and really enjoyed it (of course). It was great to be with Nancy the night I found out about my promotion. She allowed me to talk non-stop about it until the show began.

Last night, we had a family birthday party to attend, which was fun. Afterwards, my parents took the girls home with them, and I went with some of the family to see Anjelah Johnson perform. Have you seen her YouTube "Nail Salon" video? Completely politically incorrect, but funny. We had fun, laughed a lot...and drank a lot.

CableGirl is working on the buttons for BlogBlast for Education, and they look great! Also, big thanks to BusyDad for pimping it. I'm thrilled that so many of you are planning to participate! I can't wait to read what you have to say.

It's been quite a week, but I think it's just a warm-up for what's in store for next...