Friday, February 29, 2008

Just When You Think You've Heard it All...

As bloggers, students of life, in late night conversations, over dinner, the myriad of subjects have been discussed. We've talked about every stage of human development, every kind of love, every political position, and even sex. Well, I just came across this article in the New Yorker which tackles a subject that has only been a punchline. The culture of the public restroom.

An entire course on the subject? I have no desire to sign up, but thought it was worth at least a blog.

As much as women have bemoaned the lines in a women's restroom (and more than one of us has ventured to the men's in desperation), I'm not sure we're really ready for the thought of public restrooms going unisex outside of "Ally McBeal."

Is it sexist? Most likely. But for the first time ever, I'm wondering if that's such a bad thing.

It's one thing to have a private unisex bathroom that only one person can use at a time, but actually going into a stall while some random guy's at the urinal? I'm not so sure about that. I'm not one of those women that must be with friends when I venture into the ladies' room, but I might become one if I knew there was that possibility!

Can you picture it? This ultra modern public restroom with the changing table, the comfy chair for the breastfeeding mom, the family stall, the urinals, the private stalls, and the inevitable line with the men cutting in front of the women for the urinal, the total macho jerk making comments about how these women can't wait to see "his," the metros and the teenage girls fighting over the mirror...

Is it just me? Or is this taking equality a bit too far?

Flashback Friday

CableGirl started the great concept of Flashback Friday that I've been participating in for a whopping 3 weeks now (including this post), but I don't know if I should continue after today. Thinking about the past is really hard for me.

It's a family trait. We prefer to forget and move on. It's a defense mechanism to avoid the pain. Denial isn't always a bad thing.

I know I've had 4 good ideas about what to post today - but then the memory loss kicks in and I can't remember what they were! And then I start thinking about stuff that no one would want to re-live; getting a phone call at work from your husband that we've been evicted and he's going to jail, being a very literal SAHM because the car got "stolen" (which I doubt, but never knew for sure) and having no $$ to do anything that involves walking outside of the house (in Pittsburgh, in the winter - I'm a California girl), getting phone calls from creditors you didn't even know you had...good times, huh?

Childhood should be easier, but it's not. It reminds me of all the things I thought my life was going to be that just didn't come to fruition. Regret sucks.

Yep, denial is much easier. Living in the moment, and trying to plan for the future is much healthier for me.

However, I did find one thing to post about which isn't completely depressing, and an accomplishment of which I'm quite proud. My college graduation.

It really shouldn't have taken as long as it did. But, as we all know, life happens. First, I got a recurring role on a TV series fresh out of high school. When that got canceled, I was trying too hard to get another gig to take the time out for college. Then, I got incredibly involved in my theatre community and just didn't see the value. Then kids, trying to make my marriage work, blah blah blah...

Finally, after a year of being settled into a job and single motherhood, I decided it was time. I wanted to give myself the chance to start thinking about careers rather than mere jobs, and I knew it wouldn't happen without that degree.

I'd had a few starts and stops up to then, so I was almost halfway there. I joked that it would take me 10 years to complete the degree, but at least I was getting there, 2 classes at a time. I ended up finishing in 2 years.

Part of that was because of the school I chose. Antioch University Los Angeles is set up for people to do while working a full-time job; they don't even accept incoming freshman. Because it's geared towards working adults, they also have opportunities for you to get college credit for your real-world experiences. You can also do extra work for an extra credit in the classes you're taking.

Classes met once a week, so I could take classes 2 nights a week, and/or on Saturdays as a part-time student. My parents were awesome about watching the girls for me on those nights, and I could focus on school while knowing that my girls were being loved and well cared for in my absence. I'd study and do homework while my girls were doing theirs.

I really loved going to school. Antioch (if you haven't heard) is one of the foremost liberal arts schools around, and of course, that aspect really made the experience all the more fulfilling for me. They don't give tests, but rather you write papers for all the classes. Clearly, that fit me perfectly! And surprisingly enough, I remember more facts from what I learned at Antioch than at any other school I attended.

And in June 2006, I wore that cap and gown. And I pulled my daughters out of school to be there, and they cheered and clapped like I'd won an Oscar.

I've never done things conventionally. However, nothing could have served our family better than for me to wait until being 30-something years old and having my girls as my cheering section on that day. That's something I'll never regret.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quirk: a peculiar trait, idiosyncracy

Huckdoll tagged me to do this meme: a list of 6 quirky things. Let me just preface this list by saying, it's really hard to keep it clean!!

1. In order to keep myself from having to make decisions, I make little games or rules for myself. Things like, I must wear things as they are ordered in the closet. Or my latest, I'm listening to my cds (keep in mind, they're all Broadway musicals) by finding their degrees of separation to each other. For instance, I'm listening to A Chorus Line, which features Wayne Cilento, who choreographed The Who's Tommy, which starred Marcia Mitzman who was in Chess...and so on and so forth. Prior to making up this little game, I was listening to them in order of the organizer, which got boring.

2. I've never been to a rock concert - yet I've been to the opera, jazz concerts/festivals, countless musicals and plays, and local clubs like The Whiskey. I really want to see Prince, but I can't afford the $3,000 (or standing room $300) ticket.

3. I'm a 3-fisted drinker, when possible. I like to have a soda, an alcoholic beverage, and coffee all at one time.

4. But the chances of me finishing any of those drinks are slim to none. I never finish a drink.

5. I can get in and out of a women's restroom (provided there's no line) in about a minute (and no, I don't take shortcuts - I wash my hands!). I can also get ready to go out in 5 minutes. I also hate shopping and jewelry. All of these combined have made some question whether or not I'm a real woman.

6. In fact, the consensus is that I'm a gay man trapped in a straight woman's body.

And that's as clean as I can keep it, people! I don't tag (hey, could I've listed that as a quirk?) so have at it if you're so inclined...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Don't Make Me Hate You, Hillary!

I've said before that I'll support the Democratic nominee no matter what because I prefer either of them to McCain. I didn't previously name the candidate that got my vote because of that. However, I have a blog and I'm not afraid to use it!

Stop complaining. The remarks last night about having to go first were quite unnecessary. You took a strong stance this weekend, and I'm glad that they started with the Sybil impression you gave from praising to shaming Obama in 2 days' time. I wanted to know why, too.

Say something new. You may have spent 16 minutes talking about health care, but guess what? You've had 19 other debates, and you just explained the differences last week! Just because you're in a different state does not mean you get to keep repeating yourself. If we're still tuning in, it's because we want to know more. In those 16 minutes, I learned nothing new, and you were driving the conversation.

Learn how to pronounce the (presumed) Russian President's name. That was embarrassing. That was a Bush mistake. You're better than that, and you're smarter than that.

Stop with the speech complaint. It's a campaign. You're both making speeches. All you do is make speeches and debate! Obama hasn't called you out on this one, but I will. Campaigns are only words. Deal with it.

Stop insulting Obama's supporters. This is the biggest one. If, somehow, you do pull yourself out of this losing streak, you're going to need the Obama supporters on your side. I've been one of the least vocal Obama supporters, and you're annoying me. If you win, I want to support you 100%. It was a tough call. It was a difficult choice. Give me credit for making an informed choice that felt like the right one to win in November. Stop belittling me already!

Oh, and Jeff at View From the Cloud wrote an awesome Open Letter to Ralph Nader. I can't add to it, other than to say "...what he said!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Guess it's Time

I don't really talk about my atheism here that much, but it seems to be a good time to bring it up.

I'm not an atheist because of any despair or anger. It's simply a matter of disbelief. For a long time, I considered myself an agnostic that didn't believe in organized religion. The amount of history that seems based on a premise of "my God is better than your God" just seemed silly. I know that usually, it's not about religion, but about power doesn't persuade me that religion itself is worth the enormous divides in our humanity based upon the differences in religion.

I thought that I believed in a God, but I really never did. I never could quite phrase a sentence about it without saying, "if there is such a thing."

Which isn't to say that I'm not spiritual, or don't believe in the wonders of nature. The lunar eclipse the other night was awesome. The planets are awesome. The way a tree or grass can grow is awesome. But I don't need to put a name on it or try to explain it somehow. I simply enjoy the wonder of it.

I do appreciate the scientists and others who do want to understand it, and I think their talents and appreciation are worth so much to our humanity.

I believe in humanity. I believe in doing the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do and makes one stand a little prouder because of it. We need to be able to depend on one another to be there for us when a helping hand is in order. And we give a helping hand when we can because of our humanity, our longing for connection.

I believe strongly in our Constitution, and our right to be free to believe, and to say what we think, but always being conscious of how our actions can affect others. I wouldn't interfere with anyone's right to believe in the God of their choosing, but I would ask that they not interfere with my right not to...nor do I truly understand the need.

We all have good times and bad times. We all have been hurt by others. However, if we shut ourselves off from others in our times of need, we shut ourselves off from their experiences and what they've learned and how they survived it. This is why support groups are so successful. It's also why I look outward to others when I need help. What people have learned and what they're willing to share can be so valuable, and has helped me many times.

I'm much better today because I put myself back out there again. I got myself back into a conversation which I'd been avoiding. Now I have interaction with people I missed again! Now I have the opportunity to ask theoretical questions again. Having that back was really all I needed. I had shut myself off, and now I'm welcoming it all with open arms.

That's not to say I won't be hurt again. However, I know have support from others. I know I have places I can go and people I can talk to when I need them who will pick me up again. For me, it's more effective than any prayer I've attempted.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Is This It? Is This the Other Shoe?

So some things have been going on lately. Some of them far too embarrassing to share, some of them involving far too many people and details to try to recapture here. Forgive a bit of "running of the mouth" commentary, but I'm trying to process and hey - what's a blog for if not to process?

First of all, it ain't all that bad. Things could be much, much worse. Having said that, I can't help fearing that the worst is yet to come. During my previous crisis of confidence, someone tried to make me feel better by saying, "it can't get much worse." Why not? What rule is there that says things can't get worse? None! And it seems every time in the past I've tried to accept that premise, they have gotten worse. And in trying to be all positive, I just end up more hurt by feeling more blind-sided.

I came across this post at Lyrics of My Life that describes me pretty well, too. I am sensitive. Some might say "overly" or "emotional." Whatever. I am what I am, and I am affected by what people say sometimes.

It doesn't necessarily mean I give it all credence. I know that sometimes what is being said is not really who I am. Doesn't mean that it can't hurt for people to think that it is. And it makes me question myself: is that really how I come across? And here's the thing that really doesn't make any sense at all: when people attack someone personally and then don't understand why it was taken personally! Wasn't that the intent? Just how else should one take it?

There are some times, too, that I just don't feel like being the bigger person. I'm the "bigger person" than my ex every day by going to work, taking care of the kids, and being the responsible one. I love being their mom, but I don't want to have to feel like everyone's mom.

I'm sure this is not making much sense, and I apologize for that. I just want to know, is it the worst thing in the world if sometimes I am weak? I mean, so long as it's not hurting or even affecting my children, why can't I have permission to not only feel what I feel, but say what I feel?

It seems some people think that's too much to ask. Well, frankly, my dears, I'm at the point where I don't really give a damn! There are some settings where it is appropriate to say what I think, even if it's unpopular. I'm done playing nice. Baby's getting out of her corner!!

(Okay, so I lose points for originality by posting 2 movie quotes in one paragraph.)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Weekend Wrap-Up

Not to gloat or anything, but it seems I did a pretty good job picking the Oscar winners - except for Supporting Actress (did not see that one coming) and Picture. Why is it the things I do well don't pay. Ah, well...

Jon Stewart did a really nice job, I thought. Although, I could've used a tad more political humor from him.

The show itself didn't have many highlights outside of him. It was nice to see Amy Adams singing one of the Enchanted songs, and I love Kristin Chenoweth so that was a nice surprise for me. I was a trifle sad that Stephen Schwartz (also composer of "Wicked") didn't win an Oscar, but I do want to see Once now due to that Best Song win. I could've done without John Travolta.

I was thrilled that Diablo Cody won. That moment made me tear up a little.

But this weekend has been devoted more to the PBS airing of Stephen Sondheim's "Company" (if you're searching on your TiVo, look under Great Performances). It's hard not to watch this and think about married life versus single life - I mean, it's the whole thought (not plot) of the show. I confess, I'm as ambivalent as Bobby.

The nice part about the girls getting older is Sylvia wanting to watch the Oscars with me (and "Company"). It's those things that I miss most about having someone else in the house. And, in some ways, Sylvia's better than any husband who most likely would not have appreciated our swooning over Johnny Depp. Sylvia laughed at my commentary much more than I deserved. And isn't the sound of our kids' laughter the most beautiful sound ever? Unfortunately, she didn't appreciate the Sondheim interview following "Company" nearly as much. But she will.

As much as I was looking forward to watching "Company," I was - oh, heck, I'll say it - ambivalent about the cast playing their own instruments. One of the most gorgeous things about any Sondheim score is the orchestrations. I'd heard some of the songs from the cast recording on Sirius' Broadway's Best, and the orchestra had clearly been pared down from the original. However, what I learned from being able to see it was that it really brings about the best of the orchestrations. The '70's feel of the original is lost, though. Some might think that a good thing. Not me.

And, I'm sorry, but the saxophones aren't nearly as cool as the girls singing "doo doo doo doo" in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." And what is up with Marta's coloring of "and they walk together past the postered walls" in "Another Hundred People?" She just did it again. I hate that part. But the rest of the song she does well.

And I never thought I'd get over not hearing Dean Jones sing "Being Alive." I'd seen Raul Esparza do it at the Tony's and wasn't blown away. However, watching the character develop and grow and come to the conclusion of "Being Alive" made it so beautiful...I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch that part without crying now.

As Sondheim says in his interview, you have to be willing to accept that there's not a clear plot, but there is a story. There is a development of character - all of them, actually. There's even a beginning, middle and end. But here's a sad commentary on today's culture - Sylvia wants them to make a sequel.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

My Oscar picks

But first, a little housekeeping. I'm trying to Blog Hop, really I am, but my friggin' computer has to stop and think longer than it takes John Kerry to finish a sentence. (I know, dated reference - and yet the first thing that came into my head. Go figure.) Any help from computer pros on what I can do (besides throw it out and spend thousands of dollars on a new one) would be greatly appreciated.

Also, a disclaimer: I'm not doing this based on the actual movies themselves, given that, as usual, I haven't seen them all. But let's face it: politics play a role here. Plus, that "buzz" factor. So let's see how I do, shall we?

Best Actor: Much as I would love to see Johnny Depp win this (particularly since we were deprived of an acceptance speech for his Golden Globe win - and also because he did an excellent job with a role that I questioned his ability to play), I think Daniel Day-Lewis has this all wrapped up.

Best Supporting Actor: I don't see any way that Javier Bardem doesn't walk away with this one. (No, I didn't see the movie - I'm just using common sense here.)

Best Actress: I think this could be one of those surprise moments where Marion Cotillard wins. But the buzz seems to be with Julie Christie.

Best Supporting Actress: I know conventional wisdom is giving this to Cate Blanchett, but she just won one of these a couple of years ago, wasn't it? I think Ruby Dee will win for sentimental reasons. (Haven't seen either of these movies, btw.)

Best Director: Got to be the Coen bros for "No Country for Old Men."

Best Adapted Screenplay: Again, "No Country..."

Best Original Screenplay: If "Juno" doesn't win, I will be among those outraged. No, I haven't seen all the nominees, but this was just so great. It deserves an Oscar win of some sort with some relevance.

Best Picture: Now, you'd think I'd say "No Country..." but I was among those not surprised when "Crash" won a few years ago. The Academy seems to like to spread the love a bit. I think this will go to "Atonement."

I confess, I'm an awards show junkie. I don't know why. I guess there's just something really cool about watching people's dreams come true - even if they are a bit trivial and non-consequential. I mean, I can't live on Election Days alone!!

But hopefully, the best part will be watching Jon Stewart. I'm very much looking forward to his return.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Flashback Friday #2 and 100th post!

What a dilemma! I suppose the easiest way to deal with this is to post 100 things about my past lives. But I'll probably get tired about halfway through - as I'm sure anyone would trying to read all 100 things.

1. I have moved (including in-town moves) approximately once per year throughout my adult life.

2. I was in labor with Sylvia 25 hours - 18 of those with no epidural.

3. I had my first kiss at age 6.

4. We became "boyfriend/girlfriend" and never officially broke up.

5. I think that makes me a bigamist.

6. I once got a bloody nose on stage.

7. I'm already bored...

8. Seriously, how do people do this?!?

9. I once tried to write 100 things about me.

10. And gave up.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What's Your Type?

In another online community, I had the opportunity to take this personality test. I love these kinds of things! My favorite business professor would always have us do things like this so that we could assess our strengths and weaknesses to help us succeed in the workplace. (She's also the one who suggested I read The Executive's Compass, which in turn gave me my life's motto and thus the blog name: It's All About Balance.)

The most incredible thing I learned about strengths and weaknesses is that our weaknesses are our strengths overused.

Before I heard that phrase, I was under the impression that our weaknesses were the opposite of our strengths. However, because we're aware of this, we do tend to concentrate more on what we perceive as our weaknesses, making them less weak. Our strengths, however, we're so anxious to use that we may fall into the tendency of overusing them, thereby, making them weaknesses.

So let's say you have a good eye for detail - might that turn you into an "anal-obsessive" at times? Or, a willingness to listen to others turn into never making a decision individually (or worse yet, turn what should be 1/2-hour meetings into 2-hour meetings)? Or, *sheepish grin* your need to express yourself turn into very long posts that don't get to the point?

I am an ENFJ, according to the Juno test. I'm an idealist that is abstract in thought and speech, cooperative in my style of achieving goals, and directed and extraverted (hmmm - you think?) in my interpersonal relations. (citing Kiersey Temperament Website)

Typelogic says that my personality type is a global learner. I have to agree with that. If I could be a professional student for the rest of my life, I would do so in a heartbeat.

It also mentions my tendency to take on more of the burdens of others than I can bear. Yep, I agree. I've toned it down a lot. Some, I'm sure, would think me as incredibly cold, but for me, it's all or nothing. If I care about you, I'd do anything in my power to be there for you. If I've found reason not to care about you, I don't even want to take the time for small talk. However, my empathy can take on unhealthy proportions. I've been known to cry and obsess about other people's problems.

What I'm most proud of, however, is the knowledge that Johnny Depp is also an ENFJ :) (As are Oprah, Abe Lincoln.)

If you're so inclined, feel free to take the test, and write about your own results, and let me know so I can read it - and obsess about your life :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop...

I'm doing quite well. I'm...dare I say it? Happy. I'm enjoying my life, I'm enjoying my kids, I'm not obsessing in a negative way - which is not to say I'm not obsessing, but so far, in ways that aren't doing me harm.

When I first recognized this feeling, all of a sudden, I felt butterflies in my stomach. What's going to go wrong? How bad is it going to hurt?

There's been much talk lately about staying in the moment. I've done that. I've flown by the seat of my pants and ended up falling flat on my face. Which I was fine with doing when it was just me. I could have my nervous breakdowns, and pick myself up again. Of course, I'm not alone anymore.

I have made mistakes that have hurt my children. The pain of those mistakes hurt more than any pain ever - more than childbirth, labor, gall stones - anything. I can grin and bear pain. I sob like a little girl when I'm faced with the knowledge of what I've done to them.

I haven't done it alone, I know. My ex did the major damage. But, hey, I married him, right? I stuck it out much longer than I should have. And some decisions I've made even after that have been questioned. I know they were the right decisions, but even the questioning of them was hard.

I know in my heart that love doesn't matter. I have loved and lost so many times, and I don't even buy that there was a reason for it. I'm not just talking romantic love - I've had other passions die as well.

But hey, who hasn't, right?

My point is (and I do have one - I think) that I'm past all that. Right now. I've realized the good in the bad, I've accepted my faults as a parent, as a human. I can laugh at myself quite easily and heartily. I can even say that I think I'm doing a pretty good job at being a mom - even with my mistakes.

Yet, it's still really scary to feel this good. Because no one can guarantee me that the worst is not yet to come.

I'm trying. I'm really trying to enjoy it, and smile and laugh as much as possible. To revel in the good feelings of friendship and love and happiness. But experience has shown me that it can go in a second.

I really shouldn't be terrified of pain. And it's not a fear of success or fear of happiness because pain is so uncomfortable. It's exactly the opposite. I don't want to go there again. I just don't.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's All About Sylvia

Today, I glowed as I left my parent-teacher conference from KIPP LA Prep - my daughter's charter middle school that I love, love, love. If you're new to my blog (and thanks to all the blog hoppers that have stopped by to say hello) and you're a parent, please check out my post on KIPP.

Sylvia is doing really, really well and her grades improved this quarter compared to last. She still gets anxious taking tests, but we talked about ways we can all boost her confidence, and the fact that Saturday school will solely focus on test taking should help there as well. (As I've said before, I'm not a fan of tests, but they are a part of academic life, whether I like it or not, so it's still important for her to succeed at them.)

She couldn't wait to talk to me about the meeting (hmmm - guess she knew it'd be good ;) and tonight, she kept being extra good to "keep the moment alive." She really is something else.

Also, I had an email conversation today with a friend who is a mom with a daughter close to Sylvia's age (she's 10), and we were talking about something I'd originally thought I'd leave off this blog...and then I remembered it's cyberspace, and within a week no one will care! However, within that "week," I thought I'd go ahead and share how I'm dealing with Sylvia's approach to adolescence.

A few months ago, I introduced her to the concept of her period. She did not want to talk about it. At all. However, I held my ground because, as I told her, I didn't want it to completely scare her if it happened. In an online community, I've heard of many girls getting their periods at Sylvia's age, so I felt it was important to bring up. (And, really, didn't Carrie make all of us understand the importance of ensuring that our girls know what's going on down there!)

A few weeks ago, we were watching Grease (again), and we got to the point where Rizzo decides to have unprotected sex with Kenickie. I couldn't help myself from remarking on how completely STUPID that was. It got Sylvia and I to talking, and I asked her what she knew about sex.

Turns out, some friends in the 4th grade had told her the basics, but she'd thought I would be mad so she didn't want to tell me. I reassured her that I wasn't mad, but that it was important for her to talk to me about these things, as kids don't always give accurate information. (We'd had an incident with one of Riley's friends telling her something that wasn't right, so Sylvia understood what I meant.)

I thought this was a perfect chance to talk about birth control, and AIDS (which she does know about) and other STD's. I know she has no desire right now to have sex (she doesn't even have a crush on anyone), and that's why I thought it best for me to try to lay a foundation now that hopefully will stick in the later years.

I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing. (The first time she ever said "sex" to me, I completely freaked.) It was more important to me to tell her the accurate information than anything else. Also, knowing in my heart that she has no desire to do it now made it easier, too.

This is not to say that the decision I made is right for everybody. I just thought I'd add my voice to the mix, and at least hopefully, get the parents of tweens thinking about it. I know we'd all like to believe that adolescence is far, far away. But, in reality, it's closer than we think.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My First Blog Hop - I need to lie down!

I'm pathetic. I only made it through the L's...and I even had a 3-day weekend! But I've really enjoyed getting to read some new people. Thanks, BusyDad!

I just want to take a moment to clarify yesterday's post. These are pet peeves, general annoyances, but I don't think parents are doing any harm to their kids if they speak in higher octaves or offer empty praise. Consider it a general rant blog. Cool? Cool.

In my Blog Hoppin', I came across a few really cool things that some bloggers are doing. Project Lovey is gathering bloggers to give blankets and such to the homeless. I Once Was HP is giving away a laptop. Emma Sometimes has a blog to help newbie bloggers (like myself) get schooled in HTML and the like. If Mom Says OK takes the philanthropic prize, however. All good causes, and worth the click over.

Forgive me for being a little brain-fried today. The blasted roofers were back. Why oh why do they insist on ruining all my holidays, save MLK Day?

Okay, I'll stop whining now.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Keeping it Real

I encountered one of my parenting pet peeves today. Well, two of them actually.

We were at a race this morning (my parents are runners, and register the girls for some kiddie races at locations we like - today was the Rose Bowl). We were a little early, so I let the girls play at the playground for a bit. All around me, parents - moms and dads - were using their high-pitched, "talking to children" voices. This sound, to me, resembles nails on a chalkboard.

This is something that bugged me when I was a kid as well. If people weren't speaking to me in their real voices, to me, I wasn't being taken seriously. (Yep, I was a precocious little brat.) I hated being patronized.

A certain coloring, sure, but I don't understand the jump in octave when talking to kids versus talking to adults. And I wonder, too, at what age do the parents decide their normal voice is acceptable to use? Or, is this what the parents consider their public voice? Is it a necessary component of suburbia - and why I never fit in there?

The other thing was the use of empty praise. You know: "Wow, Amber, good job getting up there!" "You really went down that slide, Ashley!"

I can understand praise when your child makes it across the monkey bars all by themselves for the first time, or when your child says, "did you see me? Did you see me?" But how fast they slide? Are they really praising their child for gravity?

I'm all for keeping a child's self-esteem up, but there seems to be a prevailing sentiment lately that children must be praised for everything they do throughout the day - from getting out of bed to putting on their jammies - that I think negates the real praise for a real job well done.

It recalls an observance I made last year, when on a plane on our way home from Orlando. There were several families (big surprise), and in front of us was a family of four.

The daughter, probably 5, kept drawing pictures and interrupting her mother's conversation with another adult to hear her mother say, "nice job, honey." This went on about a dozen times until the mother started to tire of the game. She tried to cajole her son into playing instead, but he was having none of it.

It put into focus what I'd read in Liberated Parents Liberated Children, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish, which had first brought to my attention the needlessness of empty praise. The girl wasn't understanding what was "nice" about her drawings. She was getting more and more frantic, drawing faster and more furiously, to elicit a different response.

Eventually, the girl started to melt down, crying and whining, and the mother got more and more exasperated until she finally just gave up and got her husband to deal with it. The father distracted the girl with something else.

I made the decision then and there to attempt to never be guilty of empty praise again. It's not easy. We've heard so many parents do it for so long, it becomes part of what we think our roles are as parents. But each time I slipped into that habit, my girls would resemble the girl on the plane - trying different things to elicit a different response to help them understand what was "good" or "nice" about what they were doing. Now that I'm more in tune to it, I can usually break the cycle before it gets vicious, using descriptive words instead to say what I like about their drawing, their dancing, their singing...

And in the end, it just seems easier to me to keep it honest. As my daughter would say, "I'm just saying..."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Almost Mom of the Year

In one of my online communities, I was ahead in a vote for Mom of the Year. Then they canceled the contest.

Can I consider myself the winner, then?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Flashback Friday

CableGirl at 42 came up with this great idea.

I worked on a cruise ship as an entertainer when I was 19. We had one cruise that took us through the Panama Canal. I wasn't aware of this at the time, but it's apparently pretty common for people to die during this lengthy cruise. I think our total body count by the time we docked in Los Angeles was 19 - something like that. But that's not the story.

The night after we went through the Canal, all of a sudden, the ship started to list. We were turning around! Murmurs of "man overboard" were traveling through the ship faster than an "Obama is a Muslim" email trail!

Our crew, a bunch of Norwegian brutes, got that man on the ship. He was naked. That was weird. But we still celebrated late into the night in the OB (Officer's Bar) with everyone taking turns buying drinks for our life-saving crew.

By morning, word started to spread (mainly among the staff and crew) that this guy had not gone overboard from our ship. He wouldn't answer questions about his identity. The crew chaperoned him.

The following day, at lunchtime, we felt the listing again. What now?

Sure enough, that same man was overboard again! He had thrown off his clothes and jumped overboard!! The crew, a bit more grudgingly this time, went out to save him again.

This time, he fought them, saying "You are the Devil! I am swimming to God!" Eventually, they were only able to get him by shooting him up with a tranquilizer.

Once on board, he lost his stateroom privileges and was taken to the brig. His picture was sent to the Feds for identification. We never learned the name of our devil-fearing exhibitionist. He was taken off the ship in Los Angeles. that's where all these people come from!!

P.S. Our photographer made a fortune that cruise, selling pictures of the man to all the passengers. You know they couldn't wait to add that to their scrapbook!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It Almost Makes it Worth It

(I celebrated Wordless not posting a word!)

Today, I finally started to realize the benefits that my daughters' circumstances allow them. It is easy to see the negatives in raising kids in a single parent home. What's harder to find - or at least harder for me - are the positives.

My girls have had to absorb a lot of information lately about their father, about his present and past mistakes, about his drug problem, and about how his mistakes have hurt me and members of his family. They have been sad, angry, hurt, disappointed, worried, and yet, surprisingly well-adjusted! I have encouraged them to feel what they feel, all of it, and have reassured them that it's still okay to love him.

They got to speak with him on the phone this weekend for the first time in months. They each took time alone behind closed doors to talk to him, and I let them have it. Later, they did tell me that he apologized to both of them. They told him about things going on in their life as well.

My ex can do some pretty hurtful things, but even I know that he loves the girls and have told them so. Sometimes, however, love isn't enough.

It occurred to me today that, however hard this has been for them, they are learning some really valuable lessons that can only help them in all of their relationships to come. They know that people aren't all good or all evil. They know that it's possible to be angry and still love someone. They know that you can love someone, and still live a full life without them.

In the past few years, I've gotten stronger at some things which I think will also teach them even more. I am learning how to set the boundaries in a way that protects them yet still allows them to have a relationship with their dad. I have shown that it's not okay to let someone hurt you (not physically, but in other ways) over and over again. And I hope hope hope that they are learning that it's possible to have a full life after heartbreak.

Thinking about it in this light makes it all almost worth it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What I'm Watching Now

Back in the fall, I posted my fall line-up. My, how a few months have changed everything.

Here's how I've been surviving the strike.

Monday: HBO's "In Treatment" and "A Daily Show" (not to be confused with "The Daily Show" - the one with writers) and "Colbert Report." And that's it. *sigh* I generally still have a few things left on my DVR to get me through the night, but last night, I actually went to bed before 10 pm! Unheard of!

Tuesday: Still with the "In Treatment" and Comedy Central shows, plus "Boston Legal." I think they still have one new episode left. Oh, yeah, and...don't hate me, but I confess, I watch "American Idol." I blame the office water-cooler factor, but I do kind of enjoy it, too. I'm glad we're done with the auditions, though. I love Hollywood Week!

Wed.: Wow, still all the same shows as above - minus "Boston Legal" and add "Project Runway" (Jillian's my fave so far - Rami's a little too full of himself), and "Cashmere Mafia." No, it's not "Sex and the City," but I like it for what it is. So there!

Thurs.: Still with "In Treatment" (although...I'm not real crazy about it. I think I just keep watching it because, well, it's on) and the Comedy Central shows, and (get ready for another embarassment) "Celebrity Apprentice." SO totally worth watching for The Sopranos episode alone! Also, I watched last week's pilot of "Lipstick Jungle," but so far, I'm disappointed. I already read the book! I want new things to happen to these characters.

Fri.: "In Treatment" - again. And "Real Time with Bill Maher." The show that makes political junkies feel proud :)

Sat.: my Netflix night.

Sun.: Right now, I think all that's on is "Brothers & Sisters." Plus, catching up on "Make Me a Supermodel" - I should be embarassed but I'm so not! And "Supernanny." Because we all need to feel superior sometimes!

Oh, and one show that I've heard about coming soon: "Baby Borrowers." I'm in love with the tag line: It's not TV. It's birth control. And is "Big Love" coming soon? I'm SO obsessed with that show!

Before you ask, I missed the boats on "24," "Heroes," and "Lost." I just didn't find them appealing from the start, and given their nature, I felt like it was too late for me to jump on their bandwagons. (Boats and bandwagons all in one paragraph. Yeah, I'm creative.)

And tonight, I hope to celebrate the END of the writer's strike and we can all go back to being couch potatoes, content that no guilt is required!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sondheimer's Disease

I've always had it, but sometimes it hides out in the background for a while. Lately, since the anticipation of Sweeney Todd coming out, it has been in full force.

For those of you unfamiliar, Sondheimer's Disease is the addiction to all things written by Stephen Sondheim, the greatest American musical theatre composer EVER. Sondheim rarely writes a song that isn't about the human condition. He's not your Rodgers & Hammerstein kind of composer - he writes about ambivalence almost as much (if not more) than he writes about true love. His characters can be almost schizophrenic in their contradictions. This is why I can relate!

I enjoy solitude, yet can sometimes ache with loneliness. I love and hate people with fierce intensity. In discussing politics, I can go from apathy to outrage in about 5 seconds. And apparently, I can go from talking about Sondheim to making it all about me in just that amount of time, too!

So...back to Sondheim. He's different from others (like that Webber dude) because he's much more interested in characters than candelabras. If you've seen Sweeney Todd, and this is your only exposure to Sondheim, even that can attest to what I mean.

I also highly recommend Into the Woods, which is my personal favorite. I swear, every time I listen/see this show (available on DVD), I learn something new. This show combines several well-known fairy tales in Act 1, and Act 2 explores what happens after "happily ever after." Overall, it reminds me that all of our actions have consequences. As a mother, I'm trying to teach this as well. Luckily, my girls happen to love this show so I'm hoping some of the message is getting through to them.

Company, one of Sondheim's earlier works, will be showing on PBS in its latest revival rendition on Feb. 23. This one is about a still-single 30-something man and all his married couple friends. There has been suspicion since its original Broadway debut that Bobby, the lead character, is gay, but this has neither been confirmed or denied by the authors. Either way, it says some interesting things about relationships, and individuality, and balancing the two.

And for anyone that doesn't think musical theatre is "for them," I urge you to try different ones that aren't the chestnuts. I have a friend who supposedly hates musicals but loved Avenue Q. Another non-musical fan raved over Wicked.

The genre was actually created for the working class. One of the reasons I get so down on Andrew Lloyd Webber was because it was his musicals that hiked up Broadway musical prices to such exorbitant amounts, it became inaccessible to so many. But it was not meant for the elite. It is not opera. (I don't even really like opera!)

At least start with renting either Sweeney Todd or Chicago. To me, saying one doesn't like musicals is like saying one doesn't like movies. You're not going to like them all, so be willing to try again with another storyline that may be of more interest to you.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Seriously, get help.

I was having a bad day. I won't get into the whys of it all, on the off-chance that someone might get their feelings hurt, but less than 12 hours ago, I was an emotional wreck. Since my children didn't disappear off the face of the earth during my little breakdown, they were being affected, too. They saw me cry, which I hate, but there was little I could do to avoid it. I snapped at them unreasonably, which I hate, but I needed space that they weren't giving me. I knew there was no magical solution to my problem, but I also knew that I needed to get these feelings out. I know how much worse it can get if I don't get that chance.

So I reached out. My 2 IRL friends that I trust with this type of breakdown were unreachable. I blabbered on a few sites, cried my eyes out, read a few sympathetic responses, and it was gone. The icky, horrible feeling of hopelessness was gone.

I can usually save this stuff up for my therapy sessions, or hide out in my room when these things happen but today, I knew that solitude would only make it worse...and I couldn't very well pop on over to my therapist! I knew I needed connection. I knew I needed someone to hear me.

My kids were fine once they knew I was fine. I don't feel like I'm a bad mother for letting them see my emotion - a criticism single moms often get. I think they need to understand that bad days happen to all of long as we show them reasonable ways to deal with them.

As a friend of a friend said, it's not the feelings that are the problem, but the actions which we take with them. Crying can be an acceptable response to feeling hopeless or frustrated. Talking to friends is helpful. I apologized to the girls for the unreasonable verbal snipes.

I get mad at myself for having these feelings in the first place. I tell myself they're stupid, I should be stronger than that...those words don't make me feel any better. What makes me feel better is crying. What makes me feel better is letting the emotion have its wave, and ebb and flow itself on out of me!!

Help can come in many forms. Today, it was online communities that let me say what I felt, and the moms who simply said, "yeah, I get it, and I'm sorry" that did the trick for me. Emotional breakdowns can have their place. I just need to remember to let them.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

4 Loads of Laundry, 15 Dinner Assemblies, and one 2-hour Beef Roast later...

Plus Sylvia's Saturday school, an hour of searching (fruitlessly) for the DVD remote, cleaning the bathroom, 10 chapters of Eat Pray Love, and 1 argument involving all 3 of us, I'm SO ready to go back to work!!

We have a saying at work: TGIM.

Speaking of work and dinner assemblies, let me take this opportunity to do a little raving about Dream Dinners, a working mother's dream come true. Please note: this is not - in any way - a paid advertisement. Merely a shout-out to a company that actually offers a product for which I am grateful.

My boss told me about Dream Dinners probably 2 years ago, but I didn't become a believer myself until about a year ago. I was fearful that our differences in salary might make this a non-starter for me. However, it's really not that bad. Actually, I think I'm saving money.

Dream Dinners offers a variety of dinners that are nutritious, and usually very easy to get to the table within 30 minutes (tonight's 2-hour roast notwithstanding). What you do is order your dinners online, then at your session, you assemble all the ingredients according to the directions given. Everything goes in the freezer when you get home, and you're also given a cheat sheet which tells you all on one page how long each dinner will take. I usually thaw overnight for the next day's meal. Your label tells you exactly what to do, you add side dishes (either bought by DreamDinners, or at the grocery store), and dinner is done!

Cooks and non-cooks (like, can do this! Cooks love the chance to try new things, and you're welcome to change up the ingredients according to your own family's preferences. Non-cooks like me can follow this even easier than a recipe, and my only downfall has been broiling, which I now avoid.

While this is especially helpful for working moms, SAHMs can benefit as well (like this one mother of 4 which include 2-year-old twins that I know). I'd say the only thing I'd change is they don't allow anyone under the age of 12, so I can't take the girls (who really want to come, BTW). I'm not sure about vegan/vegetarian options, but I think I've read that those are available.

I usually order a meal for KIPP's potluck school functions - I've never before been able to pass myself off as a domestic goddess! Oh, yeah, and there's the added benefit that this was my ex's biggest complaint about me. I think I especially resisted getting into cooking as a rebellious measure against his...well, let's just call them mistakes. There's a special joy I get when the girls tell him on the phone that I'm making their favorite, pork chops (his fave as well). With Dream Dinners, revenge can taste oh-so-good!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Political Fatigue

I really, really can't talk about Super Tuesday anymore.

And now for something lighter: Oscars! (With the writers and producers expected to reach a deal tomorrow, I think it's safe to say the Oscars will go on.)

I've just seen a few of the Oscar-nominated movies ('cause, you know, I'm a single mom that doesn't get out much), but here's what I've seen and thought so far.

Juno: So far, my favorite movie of the year. Yes, it is this year's Little Miss Sunshine - surprisingly not controversial, really funny with rich characters. Ellen Page deserves the Oscar nod, and the movie deserves all the others. Oh, and the soundtrack is really good, too!

La Vie En Rose: I may have missed some of the greatness of this movie by (a) watching it at home via Netflix, (b) trying to knit and read subtitles at the same time (don't try that at home), and (c) not being a big Edith Piaf fan. But Marion Cotillard really was very good. I'm just kind of tired of watching movies about famous people that, sure, have some troubles, but really, just don't let it go already!

Eastern Promises: I can see why the only Oscar nod this one has is for Viggo Mortenson. Not really a spectacular movie by any means. He is good, but I liked him better in A History of Violence (and the movie better as well).

Away From Her: I won't blame the voters one bit if they give the Best Leading Actress Oscar to Julie Christie for her work in this depressing, but really good movie. However, I feel like Gordon Pinsent got sorely overlooked for an impressive performance.

Sweeney Todd: One of my favorite musicals starring one of my favorite actors. I missed the chorus and some of the cuts from the original Broadway production, but Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tim Burton are all to be commended for this wonderful adaptation of Sondheim's most thrilling musical. (And for anyone who doesn't believe that Johnny Depp is our generation's Marlon Brando, rent Guys & Dolls.)

Ratatouille: Not my favorite Pixar movie (Finding Nemo still holds that title), but beautiful, and very well done.

Enchanted: Having not seen the other movies nominated for Best Song, of the three from Enchanted, I'd have to go with "That's How You Know." That was my favorite moment in this really fun film (Amy Adams rocked it!).

Sicko: I can't claim to be a Moore-lover or hater - sometimes, he really annoys me. But this film, I embarrassed myself by sobbing all over the place. Although, from what I hear, No End in Sight is pretty amazing, so he doesn't have it locked up this year.

And that's it. I don't think there's any way I'll be able to see all the Oscar-nominated films before the big night. Anyone with Oscar screeners? Anyone? Anyone?

For more info: go to

Edited: This weekend, I watched Elizabeth: The Golden Years, for which Cate Blanchett is nominated. And I don't get that. Yeah, she was good, but there was nothing about her performance which I found remarkable. I'm not a fan of costume dramas anyway. After seeing this, I'm reminded of why. Much ado about nothing, IMO.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My Poor Kids

They've had to suffer through hours and hours of me watching election returns, gabbing on the phone with my own punditry, and probably worst of all, throwing way too much information at them about just what it was that was going on.

Riley (she's 7): What are you voting for?
Me: Well, this is to decide who is going to be the parties' nominees for President.
Riley: They're having a party?
Me: No, a party is a group of people. There are 2 groups...well, actually there are more than that, but for a long time now, it's basically been 2 groups that pick someone to run for President, and it comes down to those two...although, there have been a few third-party candidates as well. The idea of a third party is nice, but it's not strong enough right now to get a 3rd party candidate elected, so really, they just need to stay out of it.
Riley: What's for dinner?
Me: I don't know. So, see what happens is...
Sylvia (10): I want Obama to win because Clinton's had her turn in the White House.
Me: Well, no, she hasn't really. She was just the first lady, but she didn't run the country.
Sylvia: But she had her turn! It's Obama's turn now!
Me: But it doesn't work like that! It's not the same. Just because she lived there before doesn't mean she can't run for President.
Sylvia: But...
Me: Quiet! (turning the radio up to check on new returns)

Get home, throw some chicken nuggets, celery, peanut butter at the kids, turn on ABC and blast it.

Me (to myself): "OMG! I totally forgot that Peter Jennings is dead!"
Returns start coming in with Clinton victories.
Sylvia: Oh, man!
Me: Well, no, it's okay, see, because Obama can still pick up delegates from these states.
Sylvia: What are delegates?
Me: [I really can't remember what BS I babbled at this point, but trust me, it wasn't worth trying to repeat anyway!]
Sylvia: "Who did T vote for?" (T is a family friend.)
Me: I don't know. [call T.] Who'd you vote for?

Talk to T for a good half-hour - okay, probably longer than that - discussing the McCain v. Clinton, McCain v. Obama, Clinton's education plan, Obama's, etc.
Me: Oh, yeah, I have kids!

[off the phone]
Me: Riley, did you do your homework?
Riley: No.
Me: Riley, get to work.

Riley continues doing...something other than homework, but of course, I'm too glued to the TV to really notice. Phone rings, I'm off and running my mouth for another good long time. Finally realize that it doesn't look like my kids are doing much of anything.

Me (yelling now): Riley, get to work!
Me, noticing Sylvia is just standing in front of the TV.
Me: Sylvia, do your homework!
Sylvia: But this is my homework!
One of her homework assignments was to watch some coverage, and write about it in her journal. Of course, that's just one assignment.
Me: Do your other assignments first, and then you can watch it with me.

Riley's still not doing homework. Off with the TV. I totally know better! I was just hoping against hope that I could actually do it just this once.
Help Riley with her sentences for spelling, then with her math, make lunches...hey, I'm actually accomplishing stuff tonight!
Riley finishes and runs off to my room to watch some Noggin. Sylvia and I turn on the TV again. She's still bummed that Clinton's winning states. I'm ecstatic that Romney's losing them big. She writes her journal, and I ask her to read it to me. I think the last line says it all:

"Well, I'm really tired now. I think I'll go to bed."

Lesson: the next time you really want your kids to go to sleep, just talk politics all night long!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday!!

Man, I love Election Day! A little pathetic, I know, but I just love it. I wake up with a little butterfly action in my stomach. I think it's called hope.

This year, there is so much reason for hope. I'm so proud of both the Democrat Party's candidates. After the Edwards thing, I decided not to promote my candidate because I will proudly stand by either of them when it comes down to it.

But I had to share a "proud mama" moment. Last night, when I was figuring out when I would vote, I'd decided that it would be in the morning after I dropped Sylvia off, but before I dropped Riley off. Riley didn't seem all too thrilled since she wouldn't be able to vote. So this morning, I'd told her I'd changed my mind, but she wouldn't let me :) She wanted to be there for this thing called "voting."

Luckily, the lines weren't too long yet (although I hope that changes). After I voted, one of the poll workers offered Riley an "I Voted" sticker. Riley loves stickers, and I was surprised that she wasn't putting it on. When I asked her about it, she said, "but I didn't vote." She didn't feel worthy of wearing the sticker. She put it on one of her toys instead.

I loved being able to share this with her today. I love these moments of believing in our democratic process. I don't vote absentee or anything because I love the experience of going to my polling place, waiting for them to find my name (somehow the "McC" thing always confuses them), and punching my ink ballot in, smiling the whole time. I proudly wear my sticker all day. 4th of July's got nothing on Election Day for me when it comes to this feeling of patriotic pride. This is what it's all about.

I'm a little bummed that watching tonight's returns most likely won't result in a clear Democratic winner, but I'll still be glued to the coverage - changing channels each commercial break to see what those pundits are saying. I'll force myself at some point to go to bed, most likely with one of the news channels playing in the background. I'll shoot out of bed tomorrow morning to see if anything happened while I slept. Come November, I'll do it all again.

Politicians and pundits get the rest of the year. We get today. Election Day is ours. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Bushism

My brother-in-law got me a Bush Out of Office Countdown calendar this year (to go along with my Bush countdown clock screen-saver) that has Bushisms for every day of the year.

Now, I personally never thought anything could top this one: "Rarely is the question asked: 'Is our children learning?'" However, today's did. I'm not sure if I'd conveniently forgotten this one or if I'd never heard it, but here it is:

Told to a single mother of 3 in Omaha on Feb. 4, 2005, "You work three jobs?...Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."

I was going to go off on a rant about this, but I'll let our President's words do all the talking this time.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2 Field Trips in <48 hrs = 1 tired Mama!

I don't normally accompany my daughters on field trips, but roller skating with Sylvia sounded like fun, and Riley was so excited about the field trip to the Getty Museum, where adult supervision was required, there was no way I could say no to her. Unfortunately, roller skating was on Thursday, and the Getty was today. As many times as I've complained about being tired in the past, not much will surpass the level of exhaustion for such a length of time that I've been experiencing since late Thursday!

It's a small price to pay, though (well, that plus the $$ I spent at the Getty today) for two happy, satisfied daughters.

The rain is supposed to start tonight, and I'm now thankful for the productive "free" hours I spent grocery shopping, gassing the car, etc. so that we can be house-bound 'til Monday.

My only regret: I forgot to set my DVR to tape the debates on Thursday! Maybe tomorrow, I'll have time to troll the 'net for a copy.