Monday, March 27, 2006

You Know You're Gonna Do It

When you go out of town you know you need to load your pockets with cash. Either that or have a big fat ATM or Credit Card handy because leaving the house it just expensive. Gas, food, snacks... toys.

We spent the weekend in Los Angeles - our home before exile in the desert - for a friend's birthday party and to see people we love and miss. Significant Other version 1 (4 year old son) is such a homebody that almost from the time we got in the car was asking to back go home. Not that he doesn't like to go. In fact, when we are home he asks everyday where we will go that day. And he is game for a long car ride provided he has an adequate supply of snacks, juice, toys, books and music he can "rock it dude" to (hey, don't blame me the "rock it" comment is all S.O.'s doing). And provided the final destination sounds promising.

So a 'party' sounded just swell to him and after a 4 1/2 hour car ride we were there. My girlfriend whose party it was announced games with prizes, so needless to say, he was intrigued. But this was already well after 9 o'clock and he was tired. The adults played 'adult' games (now, stop it! That is not what I meant, get that mind out of the gutter!) for a while and he tried to feel like it was fun but he just couldn't manage it. And after he dozed in his chair and did a stupendous stuntman-like prat fall off of it, sending him to the ground and the chair upended, and a collective "Oh!" from the crowd of game playing adults we figured it was time to go back to where we were staying the night. So we made our way out of the party, which always takes a long time because you have to say goodbye to everyone and you get involved in another conversation, "Oh did I tell you so and so is...", and frankly, you just don't want to leave yet. It always takes forever to get out of a party doesn't it? And especially when you haven't seen people in (*gulp*) a year and a half. You always seem to be leaving places before you are ready to when you are a parent of toddlers...

We were walking out to our car and Significant Other version 2 (2 year old girl) was more than happy to be making the trajectory towards bed but S.O.v.1 had heard that word 'prize'. It took me a few repeats to understand, through all the tears, "Me no want to go. Me didn't get a prize". Quick thinking I say, "Oh, I know honey. But you'll get your prize tomorrow for good behavior in the museum". He buys it and I feel pret-ty darned clever. See, we had planned on going to Angels and Shadows or Snowflakes and Leopards or Ashes and Snow, I think, in Santa Monica; the nomadic museum exhibiting the work of one artist's take on the relationship between human and animal... over and over and over and over and over and over... sorry, I am exaggerating. I was a stunning collection and beautiful exhibit, very absorbing... over and over and over and over... stop it! Sorry.

Next morning, on the way to the museum I kept reiterating that this 'prize' would be given after good behavior was exhibited over and over inside the museum - knowing full well that photographs are not the toddler's best friend. I thought the bribe would work given S.O.v.1's great love of animals and elephants, in particular, of which many were on display. But the ambience scared him. You know, it's the typical mysterious/spooky music along with dimly lit hallways with spotlights directing you specifically to the experience the curators hope you will have. But S.O.v.1 was not having that experience, he was having the "scary, me wanna go home" experience. And a scared toddler does not, under any circumstances, want to hear that home is 200 miles away and would take many hours in the car to get there even if we planned on getting there today. Which we did not. I am thinking, however, that there will be the inevitable "museum-to-squeeze-more-money-than-even-the-price-of-admission-out-of-you-store" at the end. And at this museum store surely there would be elephant and leopard figures to purchase. A new elephant for S.O.v.1 and a tiger figurine for S.O.v.2 would fit the bill perfectly! Boom, prize taken care of. Let's eat lunch!

Nope. Only really pricey postcards of elephants with little meditating boys next to them in robes. Not the 'prize' he would be looking for I know so I don't even try to convince him. I just try to put it off a little so that we can at least eat lunch first. Plus, 3rd Street Promenade is mere blocks away and we will find a toy store or something he likes there!

Except that we couldn't actually find lunch speedily. We went around and around and checked a few places and there were just no tables. It was Saturday at lunch time, what did we expect!? Finally we find mediocre and loud sports bar and get mediocre and not quite so warm sandwiches and burgers into our bellies. I must say our friend, and her boyfriend whom we just met that morning, did a fine job helping to keep our hungry and prize hungry toddlers entertained.

But still there was no prize and with a belly full of French fries, S.O.v.1 remembers this. S.O. and I then circle 3rd Street several times in search of the Toys R Us we remembered being right there! with no luck. Finally, we find a toy store and by this time S.O.v.1 is well asleep in the stroller he is now too big for (but thank goodness for it because who can weave in 3rd Street foot traffic carrying a 45lb little guy!) but S.O.v.2 is well awake. Within minutes we find the perfect 'prize' for S.O.v.1 and send our little girl on the loose telling her to look around, that she can pick one thing, not too big.

Now this is how you know they are always listening and understand more than even they know let alone you. S.O.v.2 plays around with several things with some midling interest. But then I, without having looked at the price, see a rack of push toys and pull one down. She immediately lomps on to it and doesn't let go. By the time I look at the price tag she is in love. She is pushing this little dragon all over the store. I try to direct her to a Zoey (from Sesame Street fame) doll. She has shoes with Zoey and she loves them. Elmo doll is likewise a no go. Puzzles, books and noisemaking toys - all no go. The more domestic toys; cooking, sewing, dollys - no go. See, she had been listening to us the whole time trying to placate S.O.v.1 for nearly a whole 24 hours, promising that he'd get a really nice prize if he behaved well (even though technically in our house fussing is not such good behavior and he had been fussing about the prize). She behaved beautifully the entire time. Not one annoying peep out of her, only the absurdly cute ones where you think "Can one child be so adorable? Where will all the other kids get cute if she has it all?"

And I kept asking her, "What about a new doll? You wanted a new doll?" and in the store I just got a shake of the head and an "un uh". All this time S.O.v.1, who had been so concerned with this 'prize' is sound asleep. The one we had been focusing on... And when it came time to actually get the 'prize' she had her plan in place and she stuck to it. And frankly, it worked like a charm. She never had bad behavior, she never fussed about it. She just refused any other toy and she wouldn't let the push-dragon go. She just wouldn't.

It was supposed to be a little thing, you know, a trinket. A little monkey doll or something to say "Remember we got that on our visit to LA to the birthday party"... So, S.O.v.1 got his little $9 tube of dinosaurs and S.O.v.2 got herself a handcrafted, heirloom quality push-dragon for $33.00... just a little something.

You know you're gonna get it for them when they give you that look... I don't know why we even bother to fight it.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Stagnant Pond

Though not what you would call a "frequent blogger" I feel like it has been eons since I have felt like I have had something to say... call it over active brain. I mean, it's not like I have nothing to say, it's just that the 'things' come to me in short bursts of brilliance instead of cohesive blogworthy discourse. And I dunno, but I am not into the little short burst blog... though I do like to read them... I am more of a beginning, middle and end gal (though I am sure that could be arguable from reading some of my entries).

But I realize that I get caught up. Caught up in lots of things. The search for a big boy bed for S.O.v.1 for instance. Then add to that the need to make S.O.v.2 also feel special (she is getting the crib hand me down to sleep in and is well aware that is used to be big brother's) about her move to a new bed. It is tax time and my mind had been, on a semi-subconscious level, tallying up what write offs we might have and figure out where all the W-2s are, etc. The computer that I am editing the documentary I am working on for work is having 'challanges' and that fix is always on my mind... so it is not that I haven't the actual time to blog or more importantly, write. (Oh, add to the preoccupying occupants the Nicholls and how to polish the script I want to submit...) I realize that there is space but it is like a big project where you need alot of table space but there are several other little projects cluttering it up.

Who says women are not problem solvers? I mean, I realize that men get the 'problem solver' label because when you say to them "I have cramps" they always want you to take an asprin and stop complaining, women are far more obliged to solve the everyday problems of a life that arise... like dinner, checkbook balancing, attention between children balancing, taxes, redecorating... whereas men are really good at managing the DVR list and balancing the TV viewing, we women are about all the other many, many tasks that need to be accomplished in a life in order to keep it moving.

It is no wonder that men can and do devote more time to work. It is a no wonder that they are promoted in larger numbers. They just haven't as many responsibilities. See link below and (if you are a woman, that is) weep. But really, unless you are a gay man or devoutedly single, weep. Because when women suffer we all suffer. "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" is how the saying goes and it may be more prescient than the first utterer supposed.

I would love to have more time to create and be generally more organized and be able to actually complete projects rather than shove them to one side of my stagnating pond/brain but the very volume sometimes prohibits this. It takes an awful lot of time and effort to run a life. Just as you look at your income and think "that must be enough" but it isn't, you think you can run a life and actually have one at the same time. But I am questioning whether that is really so. If I could actually get a life then I might make enough money to pay someone else to run mine. But then I would have an employee to keep up with... And of course I would have to pay someone else to raise my kids. Right now I am only paying someone 75% of my wages to look after them part time. There is just about enough left to buy gas to get to work and to the babysitter's and back.

Sort of reminds me of the guys who used to get really big muscle cars in high school and then you suddenly never saw them around anymore because they had to go to their job after school. You'd ask them why they had a car and they'd reply, "To get to work" and then you'd ask them why they had to work and they'd say "To pay for my car". Sometimes I feel like I am stuck in this sort of circular logic. But really, just like the 16 year old male's desperate need for muscle car was really a disguise for an expression of self worth (OK, yes, and to get laid, they wanted to get laid too, I remember) so is my need to have a job that is worthy of me and/or to do work that I am worthy of a need to express my self worth. I don't think you can actually have a sense of self worth without an outward expression of it. Does anyone have just a nice little selfcontained nugget of self worth that doesn't need to prove itself? Is that even possible. Sounds alien to me and distinctly un-human.

Add to this the fact that 'blogels' are now being published in book form and given prizes (I wonder if there is one for best wandering rant?) and you have one mamma who is feelin' like a loser... but I am busy all the time! I get it, but I still don't get it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

In Light of the Oscars...

You know every year I watch/don't watch the Oscars with a mixture of interest, excitement, bitterness and dread.

You know, maybe it's just me, but I find it difficult to be entirely gracious about other people's success... Not because I necessarily begrudge them success. I mean I would love it if it were possible if everyone could somehow be successful, or at least work in their chosen profession and love their job. But face it folks, it's not. Don't let the new agey thing fool you, win-win is not always possible.

I have thought a lot about this of late because of my new found status as a loser. That's right, I have decided to embrace reality and see what it's like. Oh, I spent plenty of years with a cheery positive outlook, a never give up sensibility. But frankly that didn't get me anywhere. "But you never know when success will come," you say, "You can't give up," you say. Well true and true. But the reality is that up until this point I have been a loser. By my definition that means that I have had no tangible success in my career or personal life. (Children are barred from said discussion so I don't want to hear about the most successful thing I've ever done, blah blah blah.)

When you think about it, I am in vast company. Most people, by my definition, are losers. Most people don't succeed on some level. If we did we'd all be movie stars, lawyers doing commentary on CNN or feted surgeons with their own article in the New Yorker, or the like. Face it, the winners need us losers! Without the perspective of us, their lives are really just a lot of hard work! If we were all winners, winning would be so difuse as to be meaningless.

So, will I stop writing, no. Will I stop trying to be creative and do something with it, no. Will I stop hoping that someday I can find an affordable babysitter so that I can do some acting again, no. Will I give up on my personal relationships, no. Of course not. That is entirely not the point. The point is there is only room for a certain number of successes and if your ticket doesn't get called then you are, by default, a loser. If there are so many of us then certainly we cannot all be shiftless and unfocused. I know plenty of people with stark focus and a Protestant work ethic and they are not "successful". I know lots of people like that who are. No one group is any more worthy than the other.

You see, my aim is not to beat up on myself. My aim is to try to find the worth in the reality of my life. I am a loser. I am just as worthy of success and happiness and wealth as anyone else and the fact that I don't get those things does not make me a bad person, lazy or worthless. But doesn't something in you feel suspicious about that statement? Doesn't something just jibe wrong when you think "I'm worthy". Isn't your next question to yourself, now come on admit it, "Well if I am so worthy then why haven't I got ---- yet?!" It's not a natural or by any means comfortable thought or feeling but I suspect a lot more of us experience it than are willing to admit. Why do we feel this way? There is so much focus on 'success' as story, in media of all kinds, that failure fails to regularly make the front page. It's as if the only interesting stories are success stories. But I doubt if that is by any stretch true. All my friends are interesting, no matter their bank account, promotion possibilities or FICO score! Some of them are very successful and some are not. But haven't we been brainwashed to believe, just a little bit, that if you are just a 'good' person and going about life in a 'normal' way or only 'striving' and not yet 'there' then you are somehow less than?

I bring this all up because each year, as the Oscar/Awards season rolls around I am plagued by confusion and irritation. I want to watch, I don't want to watch. As I do watch the Oscars and part of me screams "I should be there!" because that is my chosen profession. But you know what? The reality is, I am in Palm Desert, not even near, both literally and figuratively, to being there. Why? No, not because I didn't work hard enough, not because I am not talented enough, maybe because I am not young enough but that's a whole other rant, but because I am just not. Think how many thousands, nay millions of actors, writers, editors, cinematographers, directors, etc. feel that same feeling each year. "I did good work this year" they scream silently or "I was so close" or even "I am so far from there but I want to be there". And you know what? They are not there. Just because they aren't.

I remember hearing from adults when I was a kid "Because, that's why" and I always thought it so unfair, that response. There must be a reason! But I find myself saying the same thing to my toddler. There still isn't a reason. It is all just because. And of course it is not fair. Success never has and never will be doled out based on merit or on fairness. And yes, it sucks. But wishful thinking and/or bitterness (I can actually have both at the same time) neither make a difference. Should we all throw up our hands and give up? I don't really think so, though I have, on numerous occasions, wanted to... The only thing you can do maybe is just do what you like and try your damndest not to worry about the outcome... but then, really, who can do that? Someone without an imagination maybe... or the Dahli Lama... though he's pretty successful so he's one to talk.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Things I Said I'd Never Do

I have been thinking lately about all the things I thought I'd do/accomplish in my life. Very few have come to pass...

But it got me thinking about all the things I said I'd NEVER do/be and many of them have. Hmmm...

1. I said I would NEVER move to Palm Springs - Thinking that I had finally found the place that I could call my home and felt was my territory in LA (I know it sounds weird but what are ya gonna do...) and not only could I not imagine ever living anywhere else I just plain didn't want to. And yet here I am. Going on year 4...

2. I thought a woman with long hair after the age of 40 was RIDICULOUS - Here I am, at 40, and I looked in the mirror this morning and my hair has grown past my shoulders. I guess that could be considered 'long'. I don't feel, though I very well may be, ridiculous.

3. Get married before I was 30 - With two marriages under my belt BEFORE even turning 30 and the 3rd when I was 31 I guess that theory got all shot to hell. Like 'born again virgins' though, I figured my first 2 were just practice and my only 'real' marriage was the one I have now, after 30... does that work?

4. Have children BEFORE my career took off - Thinking that one would have to slow down their career once children were in the picture (Let me just clarify here, the career of the WOMAN, not the man, practically nothing changes for them career wise) I was sure that I would wait until I had some 'success' before I had children. Since there was no success in the offing for me I figured I might as well go ahead and have children while I still could. Now I wonder why I waited! Hey if I wasn't going to be successful anyway in my career what the hell was I waiting for?

5. NOT lose the baby weight right away - Well that theory was shit canned as here I am nearly 2 years post last baby and still with the bulk (and I do mean BULK) of the weight still on. Jogging stroller and all it is still hard to figure out the time and the spare energy to actually do it. Yes, of course you get more energy when you exercise and eat less sugar. But those people that say that aren't still waking up several times a night to comfort a scared child because the cat made a noise or the little one kicked you in the head.

6. After my last job (well the one right before the last) I said I'd NEVER work in an office alone again - Being a very social person, 4 years in an office with just me and the boss, and his two kids (home office) and occasionally his accountant/wife to talk to, I promised myself that I would never torture myself again with that kind of scenario. Here I am how many years later, working in an office alone. Except this time it's not a home office so I don't even have the wife and kids to talk to. I do have a building full of tenants to talk to but it is cordial and slightly awkward at best. I still, after living here for three years, do not have what I could call 'a friend'. Maybe only I think I am a social person and really everyone else doesn't think so. Of course the upside is that I was able to bring S.O.v.2 to work with me her first 7 months (and am able, in a pinch, to bring the kids to work without causing anyone but myself any consternation), saving a large amount of money on babysitters and me an enormous amount of abandonment guilt.

7. Give up acting - I may not have made that statement but I do have a de facto situation where, in point of fact, I have by necessity given up acting. Who knows what will come to pass in the future... but it has been 3 years, the longest period of time where I have gone without my true love and it utterly sucks. Oh sure, in theory I COULD go out and audition for the one, maybe two, local theatre companies but with very little margin for budgeting error what would I do with the kids? In my last production the other actors were generous enough to put up with me bringing S.O.v.1 along to rehearsals without too much complaint. But he was a little tyke. Now with a 2 year old and a 4 year old that just wouldn't, under any circumstances, fly. With no money for a baby sitter, a husband who works who ever knows what hours, no friend to lomp them on, I have, de facto, given up.

Which is just all to say, you never ever know, so maybe you just shouldn't say.

Now, if you have read this entire post to this point - TAG - you're it. You must now tell me what the 7 things you said you'd never do that you ended up doing anyway.