Boyhood – the film no single mom should see

By , 10/08/2014 00:36

Saturday night, when my little guy goes to my mom’s so I can have a night ‘out.’ Of course, the reality is that I typically haven’t thought of what to do on this ‘night out,’ my single friends have plans and my married friends are, well, married. With a few exceptions, though, I avoid planning ahead for Saturday night because it seems when I do plan then I am so bloody tired I end up wishing I hadn’t and could just sit at home watching a marathon of whatever show I am currently making my way through on Netflix.

The result of this not planning ahead/general malaise is that I am frequently left at 6:00pm on a Saturday trying to sort something out to do alone and, not infrequently, this means going to a movie at my neighborhood theatre by myself. I don’t have a problem with this, per se, and yet each time it feels just a teensy weensy bit pathetic that I haven’t managed to even rustle up a co-watcher on Tinder or something.

This is generally how I select films to see: 1) are they playing at the Los Feliz 3 or Vista Theater – because I can walk to them and 2) have I heard of them. In my passive pursuit of non-planning, I typically know little if anything about the plot/story line. Tonight, I headed over for the 8:40 showing of Boyhood – which I had heard about mostly because the cast was shot over a 12 year period so you actually see them growing up/getting older.

 

I made my way into the theatre and –  it was weird – everyone was sitting with two spaces between them and the next person. In the centers of all but the front rows. I picked my favorite row and there was this guy, right in the middle, with two seats on either side of him. It was awkward because this meant I either had to sit next to him or the people on the other side of the two seats which is totally not kosher in America where there is generally a one-seat buffer between parties. I like sitting center screen and, since it was going to be awkward any way I worked it, I went for it and sat next to the guy in the middle. Then a bunch more people came in and a couple agitated to have others move to make room for them and pretty soon ours and the adjacent rows were full.

I kind of felt bad for him as I had the idea he left the two seats intentionally because of his intense social anxiety or something but, when I made a comment about the place filling up, he got all chatty. He seemed nice. I thought, wow, here I came to a movie alone and I met this nice, attractive guy. A couple of times, his elbow brushed mine on the arm rest and it wasn’t accidental, you know? I wouldn’t go so far as to say there were sparks but I did imagine possibly going for a drink after or something – you know, what normal people do.

But then, there was the movie. I won’t spoil the whole thing for you but one major plot point is that the boy whose boyhood we are following keeps having these awful stepfather characters come into his life. In the end, it’s his more or less absentee dad that’s the good guy. His mother is smart and beautiful and none of the guys seems awful at the start but over time they devolve and she has to flee or kick them out. Now, I don’t know about other single mamas but, for me, this is pretty much my worst nightmare – that I will bring someone into my son’s life who will hurt him even more than his dad’s absence does. As the film ended, I wondered what we would do. Would he say something to me? Would it be awkward? Would we go for drinks and end up together only to have it end up that he’s a total freak who would damage me and/or my son forever? It was all too much, really.

So, rather than wait for the credits to finish as I am now in the habit of doing (my kid always wants to wait to see if there are any little surprises at the end), while the titles from the sound track was scrolling, I just left.

It’s a wonder that I’m single…

By , 28/06/2014 20:26

Today, at a six-year-old girl’s birthday party another six-year-old girl set up a tattoo shop. By ‘shop’ I mean a couple of chairs. By ‘tattoo’ I mean glitter, applied with a stencil and what appeared to be ordinary glue.

DIVA*

Sorry, can’t get it to flip and I’ve got a movie to catch – so it’s the mirror effect for tonight!

In case you can’t see it, it says “DIVA*” in varying tones of orange and pink. Simple. Classy. Right? I then spent the rest of the afternoon following kids around the yard and walking around the neighborhood. It wasn’t until one of the guys at LAFD Station 35 (‘our’ fire station) asked if I’d gotten sun burned that I realized I forgot sunscreen this morning. Oops.

And this beautiful work of art wasn’t made with ordinary glue. Oh, no, it’s some kind of super-duper-kid-tattoo glue that did not wash off in the shower. So, basically, I have burned and will continue to tan around this beauty…and my DIVA* status will be semipermanent.

Sent the kid off with my mom for their regular Saturday night sleepover and realized – oops – I also forgot to make plans for the night. I do this a lot – the whole week is so scheduled and hectic, I am loathe to fill the weekend but then, when I have time to go out like a real grownup single American human being, all of the other real grownup single American human beings have other things going on.

Other than a BBQ in Orange County, I had nothing going on. The drive to OC being as appealing as it is, I opted to take myself and my badass DIVA* tattoo to a movie.

Yep. Living the crazy single life.

Remembering the Sabbath

By , 02/09/2013 22:24

It’s a constant litany I hear in my practice, from moms and non-moms working and trying to make it all make sense in an ever-accelerating world.

“I need to find balance!” “There’s just too much to do.” “I feel like just as I am catching up, something happens and I’m back buried by the next wave.”

or simply,

“I’m exhausted.”

You would think I’d have this down. I’m actually quite good at helping others figure out how to balance things more effectively, how to make meaning in the bustle, how to create islands of quiet in the fray. Still, in my own life, I am always a few steps behind on the different fronts I am working…and never feel like I can do enough for my five and a half year old son whose dad is continents away. Many nights, I find myself on the edge of emptiness, with a mountain of urgent To Dos and no petrol in the tank.

I was struck this quote, which the Interaction Institute for Social Change posted today:

To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is itself to succumb to the violence of our times. Frenzy destroys our inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful. -Thomas Merton

Wow. While ‘finding balance’ sounds good and I’ve realized it’s necessary to keep up with all I am doing, could allowing mental ‘frenzy’ really be to

succumb to the violence of our times?

Yet Fr. Merton’s words ring true. This year, I set the New Years intention to move toward a life that is more sustainable in the long-term. I started by signing up to participate in the Courage to Lead retreat series for Nonprofit leaders which is all about taking time to reconnect with one’s most closely held values and knowledge in ways that are restoring and regenerative. I highly recommend the Courage and Renewal® retreat for anyone feeling burnt out. Not a nonprofit leader? There are retreats all over the world.

Here in Southern California, Courage and Renewal retreats are held at a beautiful conference center in Montecito, near Santa Barbara. Retreats for me so far have meant great conversation, lots of hiking, and active reflection and planning for my life. When I joined the Fall retreat last month, though, I was forced to slow down. I was sick and trying not to get sicker. So, instead of taking up every opportunity to hike, I did more sitting and drinking tea, or laying quietly by the pool.

As a part of our more structured activities, there was a reflection on Sabbath and the value of rest and something clicked. I set the intention of carving out more time to do absolutely nothing – especially on Sundays. Toward the end of the retreat, the facilitators gave us each a small box that, when opened, was empty. We were invited to take some small things to remind us of our retreat time, something we wanted to remember when we went back into the activity of ordinary life. I thought about it a bit. Then, I went to the mound of art supplies (that are always available at the retreat – we are encouraged to write a lot but also can paint/draw/collage/do nothing if it suits us). I took some sheets of paper and cut them into strips about one inch wide and folded them into the empty box, which I brought home and put on my nightstand.

Yesterday, on Sunday, my mind was crowded and worried with all that had been undone. Thoughts of the nonprofit, private practice clients, house purchase, and mounds of unsorted personal business swirled around my head. My son had no school last Friday, today and is off again this coming Thursday AND my mom (who pinch hits on child care) is out of town. How was I going to do it all?

He was a bit under the weather and we had decided to stay in out of the heat and watch movies. At one point, he said, “MOM, come WATCH with me.” I realized that I was allowing myself to be “be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns” and missing this precious time with this precious person who, soon enough, won’t be begging me to sit and watch movies with him.

So, I took one of the strips of paper out of the box and wrote the date then quickly listed of all of the worries flying around my brain on it. I folded the paper and put it back in the box, mentally locking it up for the day.

Then, I cuddled up with my little guy and watched what may be the worst Disney movie ever made. It involved courageous appliances. Really.

And it was wonderful.

Mama’s Back!

By , 25/03/2013 22:42

Hey there. Where have you been?

Kidding. I know I was the one who bailed for a bit.

The thing is, about eight months ago, in the midst of some big, crazy stuff regarding my kid, my blog started sending out links that took people to some weird sites proffering eastern European get-rich-quick schemes and other unsavory opportunities. I’d been hacked or malwared or something. I spent some time trying to sort out what to do about this issue but – not having the technical knowledge, time to gain said technical knowledge,  or funds to pay someone else with such technical knowledge – I soon gave up. Put it off for a day when one of these resources magically became available.

And got really busy.

Then, yesterday, I decided to have a look-see at the old blog again…and it seemed the problem was gone. Mind you, in eight months, WordPress had more than a couple of updates. When I loaded them up, things seemed to run like a CHARM. So, I figured I’d give it a go.

So, this is a test. If you get any weirdness, please let me know. Direct Message me on Twitter @MominLACity or email me at mamapaloma at gmail dot com.

The past while has been super intense and I’ve been processing a lot. There’s a lot of good that will come out of this time and, I think, a lot of good writing. Here’s a snapshot of the past two-thirds of a year, and what they have me thinking about.

Drama with the preschool got worse (if that was possible). The little guy started in a new school which has been all right but a tough adjustment, in large degree because of how crappy the original school was about it. It was sadly comforting to see the reports of another school that was closing due to almost identical issues – because I had been painted as being over-reactive by my son’s school, which is still open, and some of those evil people are bringing their kid to my kid’s soccer team (well, it’s not ‘his’ per se but we did get there FIRST). Can’t say much more about that as there are legal issues still pending. Still thinking about making our communities safer by challenging the ‘culture of silence’ around child sexual development and abuse prevention.

This connects to my recent obsession with Zerlina Maxwell and several rape cases that have received unusual press coverage.  One blogger wrote about the night that Jane Doe was repeatedly assaulted in Stubenville, Ohio as “the saddest night that Steubenville, Ohio, has ever seen.” It was sad all right, but hardly unusual. The videos and commentary by the perpetrators’ and victim’s peers made it clear that this was nothing new in Stubenville. For those of us who have been working in the rape crisis sector for years decades (!), nothing about these situations are surprising. This kind of assault is so common, especially in High School and college social scenes (though I personally have been assaulted twice in my thirties and forties by men my age). What is awesome about this and other situations coming out is the amazing conversations going on about rape culture and how to change it, particularly about how to raise our boys to not rape or be silent bystanders.

Recently, after a long hiatus, I made a foray into dating. With a much younger guy. It was fun for a New York minute but, man, did this dude have some internal conflicts and an inability to express what he really wanted. Desire for connection and sex and commitment are so easily confused and tangled up and put in opposition to one another. This has me thinking (in parallel to/connected with the combating rape culture theme) also about boys and the mixed up messages they get and how to raise my son in a way that he can fully enjoy being affectionate and sexual and own his own longing for connection and be ethical and respectful about it. Am sure there’s more to say about that.

Hopefully, there’ll be more dating in my future as, contrary to rape apologists’ ideas, this super feminist lady does love men and is ready to get back out there.

Then, just under two weeks ago (the morning after I told the young fella to hit the bricks once and for all),  a friend finally lost her war with cancer. There had been many battles and she was a trooper and the end came abruptly for those of us who had seen her rally a dozen times before. She left two little boys, almost exactly eleven months older and younger than mine. In addition to the sadness I feel that she isn’t in the world, this has brought up a ton of stuff around our mortality, our children’s fear of losing us, my son’s father being so far away and what will happen if he never sees him again, valuing people while we are lucky enough to have them around, and honoring them when they are gone.

I really believe that there is power in teaching both empathy and action. Last weekend, just after Denise died, my little guy had his third haircut ever at the LAPD/LAFD annual St. Baldrick’s Day event. He got sponsored (you can still chip in!) to have his head shaved to benefit children’s cancer treatment and research. Before he let them take off a year’s growth, he helped his buddies at Station 89 polish their truck before Chief Cummings showed up. The firefighters invited him to join their lineup and this photo has been making the rounds.

In other news…

My non-profit has grown and expanded projects. While we carry on developing our innovative peace-building project for Liberia and supporting transgender youth to find their social media voices, we’re getting ready to launch new collaborations with families affected by incarceration and Los Angeles area homeless people. It’s pretty awesome and terrifying – especially as our funding has not grown and expanded with the work and I am broke. Know any rich people who want to make their legacy by launching an innovative, awesome nonprofit into the stratosphere? Send ‘em my way!

Seriously, though, we are always looking for volunteers and are assembling a fundraising committee of people who love putting on events (I don’t) who will have a blast getting our work visibility and support.

So, this was meant to be far more entertaining. Sorry. This WordPress thing seems to be working, except the photo posting bit. I’ll get right on that…after I go get the laundry, tidy up, sleep a bit, get through tomorrow…OK, I’ll get to it eventually.

Of an intimate nature

By , 18/07/2012 22:10

This is a tough post for me to write for a couple of reasons. The subject matter is sensitive and the situation in question has been really, really difficult for me.

It’s every parent’s nightmare…that your kid tells you that someone did something to them. You know the kind of ‘something’ I mean. In my case, it wasn’t so bad. My kid told me that another kid had introduced him to, ahem, age-inappropriate information and activity. My kid, in a very preschool manner, told me initially by acting out with me, suggesting I do to him what he was asked to do to another child. My twenty-plus years of dealing with these kinds of disclosures (had to do my first suspected child abuse report over 20 years ago while a volunteer in college), knowledge of child development, and experience helping children who have been through sexual abuse served me well. I think I’ve done okay and my kid will be okay.

But this situation has me thinking about  how damn hard it is for adults to deal with these kinds of situations on behalf of kids. This has been the worst part of the whole thing for me. In the ONE situation in my WHOLE LIFE where I should be able to just be the mom – just look after my child, just fall apart when he’s asleep and a friend is near – I have had to be an advocate, an educator, and a scapegoat.

His awesome preschool that I have loved for many reasons has flat out refused to take responsibility. Their response to my clearly articulated concerns has been to state 1) what happened was ‘nothing out of the ordinary’ (trust me, it was) and 2) that it didn’t happen.

The fact is, it did happen. My kid spontaneously described at least four interactions with two different children in three specific locations. What happened wasn’t ‘ordinary’ behavior for 4 and 5 year olds. The things that were done and said are things that a kid does and says when an adult has done and said them to the kid, or when another child who has been abused acts out with that kid. Do I know where it started? No. Do I know that it started somewhere? Yes.

Somewhere is patient zero, the child who was abused.

And this school that is otherwise so loving, so protective, so encouraging to little minds, would prefer to put their collective heads in the sand than deal with that reality. It has been made clear to me that I am the problem and that they don’t want other parents at the school to know that anything really happened.

Adult fear is understandable but can not be a reason for ignoring a problem. Kids who have been acted out with, like my son, are primed for future abuse and for acting out with other kids, perpetuating and expanding the circle of vulnerability. I can’t participate in that.

So, my son is going elsewhere and we are getting professional help to try to ensure that this stops here. There may be other ramifications for the school’s choice but I can’t control that.

Which brings me to my thought number two – what I can do. Which is why I am writing about this, my experience. Like I said, my kid is going to be okay. I have handled things remarkably well, if I do say so myself.

And I am a wreck. My eyes are constantly red and irritated from fatigue but I haven’t slept before midnight without Benadryl (hard core drug for me) in over three weeks. I get heartburn (heartburn? didn’t realize what it was for a few days…never have it) whenever I think/talk/write about it (excuse me while I get a Pepto). Mostly, I am sad. Sad, and scared. Even though I know I have done things right, that what happened was relatively minor (I have plenty of perspective on that), I worry that this will be somehow significant in his schema. I am grieving my inability to keep him protected from the seediness of the world for a little longer.

And I am mad. Mad at whatever adult started this string of acting out with some kid out there. Mad at the school for responding so poorly. Mad at our twisted up culture that links sex and shame so tidily and deeply and keeps parents and kids silent about their experiences.

It makes me appreciate how hard this is for other parents who don’t have the benefit of years of training and experience, of seeing the effects of unattended abuse and the benefits of appropriate action. Other parents who had their own weird experiences and don’t want to mess up their kids with their own ‘issues’ and so believe a school administrator when they finally get up the nerve to say something and hear “Oh, that’s normal.” Parents who are so scared to see/hear what their kid is trying to show/tell them that they hope it will just go away, that their kid will forget.

And so I am committed: to making our communities safer for kids, to expanding the circle of support for parents.

But first I am going to go about making sure my kid is all right, that he gets to learn about his body and sexuality in safe and enjoyable ways, at the times that are right for him.

One of these things is not like the others…

By , 14/06/2012 00:06

My son is over the moon. This weekend, we get to go camping with about 30 other families from his preschool. Sounds like fun, right?

I have been preparing for weeks. This year, I decided to go ahead and buy us sleeping bags and a tent and to take the opportunity to simultaneously upgrade our emergency preparedness kit by getting things to cook with (I think my original plan was to just put the soup cans directly on the camp stove). I have lists of supplies, a menu, and a travel scrabble kit.

What I can’t prepare for is something more intangible. Can I be honest here? It is sometimes really hard being the single mom in the bunch. I should be used to it by now, I suppose, but I am not.

Occasionally, I am aware of being treated or regarded differently because of my singleness. Sometimes it’s pity, sometimes mistrust…especially on the part of other moms. This makes it hard to just hang out with other families, as there’s this weird vibe like I’m after any good dad that might be around.

Mostly, though, this discomfort is my own. I can almost hear that old Sesame Street song in my head:

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things doesn’t belong.

Can you tell me which thing is not like the others before I finish this song?

So, the whole pack-way-too-much-in-the-car-to-go-sleep-in-the-dirt part of it aside, I should be excited to be going on this camping expedition. And I am. Really.

I am also dreading it. Other families hang out regularly and already have plans to collaborate on meals. Other families (except one with two moms) have dads who will be there for the Father’s Day activity on Sunday. Other parents will trade off for trips to the loo and showers.

And then there’ll be AJ and me. Which I actually like, in a lot of ways. Except when we’re in a crowd of “real” families. Then, whether I should or not, I can feel like the wallflower in the ugly dress at the prom.

Whose life is this, anyway?

By , 11/06/2012 22:37

It just occurred to me, when I stopped in at my local FaceBook, that I may need to step out of my bloody cave. For when I peeped in on what my 945 closest friends are up to, I discovered that the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup tonight.

Wait, what? The Kings won the Cup for the first time ever, just miles from my house and I had a sitter and I used that time to work.

Seriously.

To be honest, I do have a ton to do. Unpaid work is kicking my ass (in a good way) and the paid work is screaming for some attention (in a less good way). Then there’s the whole I-have-this-kid-and-that-means-things-like-laundry-and-food-shopping-can-only-wait-so-long thing.

This week, we are going camping. Holy effballs, there’s a lot to buy and organize for roughing it! We (the other, unpaid work, we) are in high gear fixing the website in a new platform. Talk about a quick learning curve. Oh, and I got a call to maybe go to Sierra Leone in two weeks. So, there’s that.

But, nothing can be this important. Really. I used to like sports. Never a rabid fan but always knew what was going on for playoffs and participated in the fun. I used to like movies. Dancing until the wee hours. Sleep. The company of the opposite sex.

I used to have a clue what was going on in the world.

Now I have a tent and an effed up website and a beautiful little boy who berated me when I told him to toss a blue m&m he didn’t like on the ground.

“NO!” he practically screamed, “That is not part of Mother Earth.” After I put the m&m somewhere else (his cup holder in the car – remember this next time you want to judge a mom for the sticky bits all over her vehicle), he went on to tell me that Mother Earth (“Mudder Urf”) is everyone’s mother like God is everyone’s father. “We have to look after Mudder Urf, because she gives us life.”

Fuck the Kings. My kid’s a genius.

Don’t try to talk crazy

By , 14/05/2012 00:01

Just got sucked into an online ‘debate’ with a crazy person. Wow. disappointed in myself for letting that happen.

Reminder to self:

Life is too short. You have too much to do. Let crazy people keep their crazy delusions and keep working to be sure they don’t run the show.

My kid just said…

By , 08/05/2012 20:47

Mommy, I love you.

Even when I am angry, I still love you….

…Even when something is broken and I am really angry,

I know you are here.

And that is beautiful.

 

Outsider in

By , 29/04/2012 12:06

Last night, a friend who I met almost five years ago through our local MOMS club had her birthday at Akbar, a local and unpretentious gay bar/club where the 7 foot (with platforms) DJ in neon pink was spinning 90s techno to her hearts content. The  music was fairly awful, the beats irresistible, and the vodka effective.

We danced until well after midnight, and I had a great time.

Almost all of her guests are also parents, friends found through their preschool and others who work in ‘the industry.’ Almost everyone else at the club was gay.

And then there was me. Not gay, not coupled, not a writer/producer/actor. Not the same.

This happens all the time. I end up being the single parent in the group of coupled friends. Most of the time this is fine. Sometimes, the wives in these groups get weird and territorial when their husbands talk to me.  Occasionally, people have been unintentionally mean (like when one of the MOMS members made a comment about not choosing a charity that serves teen moms because, “…most of them are single and the MOMS Club is here to support families…“).  Here in liberal Hollywood, I am a  wild card, a threat to the order of things.

Even in the single parent scene, I’m a bit of an oddity. In my experience (which I admit is pretty limited) ‘single parent’ groups are mostly divorced people, dealing with the issues of coordinating with an ex (I wish my son’s dad would coordinate more but, given that he lives on another continent, every other weekend and shared school responsibilities are not a part of my reality) and wanting to smush their broken family with someone else’s (twice the dysfunction = twice the fun!). Now, I would like to date more, have more grown-up fun, and be open to connecting with someone and seeing where that goes but I feel no urgency to cobble together a family. AJ and I are a family, with a rich network of extended relations and friends and love.

I attended a group called Single Mothers By Choice for a bit and even had the honor of helping a friend get started on the whole sperm donor choosing process. Wow. Who knew?  But, ultimately, I didn’t relate there, either – I didn’t ‘choose’ this situation, really. I mean, I did make a choice to have my son…but these ladies are choosing to go to all kinds of lengths to be moms. I kind of fell into this world by accident, unprepared, and don’t know much about hormones and insemination and IVF.

So, in many situations, I find myself an outsider – observed observer in worlds I half inhabit. Still, I am not really interested in socializing with people based on their partnered/parental status. My friends are amazing, talented, wonderful people…and I want to spend time with them.

On the other hand, I am not likely to meet someone for me while dancing the night away at a gay bar with a bunch of couples. Just sayin’.

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