Penguins

“They (penguins) then fall madly in love and live happily ever after.

And so you ask yourself: “If a penguin can have a worthwhile, stimulating relationship, why the hell can’t I?”

Or maybe you ask yourself: “Would I be happier if I started dating a penguin” ~ Bradley Trevor Greive, Looking for Mr. Right

Last week was a tough week.  I worked extremely long hours, even more than I usually do.  One night I was stuck at the office until 2:30 a.m., and then I was back at work by 8:00 a.m.  Thankfully, it was spring break for LittleG, and she was at her father’s house, so I did not have to worry about her.  However, I broke my gym streak and I did not work out even once last week.  Hopefully this week will be better.  Working out at the gym is my one real “vice” and I feel irritated and short-tempered when I don’t exercise.

I had lost a bet to a friend last week as well, and so I was obligated to perform an act of her choosing.  As luck or misfortune would have it, my obligation to fulfill the bet was to go on one date.  Where would I find a date?  She suggested that I create an online profile.

Over the years I had created dating profiles only to promptly remove them.  This time was no exception.  I find it unnatural to offer yourself up to others like an item on a restaurant menu, and to initially be judged by a few photos that only give a glimpse of who you really are.  I am definitely not judging those who do internet date, and I know it has been successful for many people.  I am speaking solely for myself, and for me, it feels unnatural.

And unsuccessful.  While I did get many likes and messages, they were mostly from old and fat men, and one lesbian who offered to paint my nude body.

Profile deleted.  I’ll have to find someone the old-fashioned way, I guess.  Does anyone date the traditional way any more?

Oh, and yesterday, LittleG officially became a young woman.  She got her first period, and as her mom, I congratulated her on her first step of her journey towards adulthood, but secretly, I cried for the end of her youth (and the official start of my old age).

There Will Be a Fish

“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” ~ Ovid, Heroides

Last year, I made a life-changing decision to try one more time.  One last attempt, I told myself.  I fought with myself for weeks, oscillating back and forth from “should i do it?” to “I will definitely do it!” and I did definitely do it, and looking back, I am glad I did.

It was not easy.  I felt as though I had to swallow every last shred of pride and dignity that I had left, and I had to stop my mind from going back to those dark years of my life with him, but I somehow managed to pick up the phone, dial his number, let it ring, hear him answer, and simply talk to him.

The first few minutes were awkward, strained even.  But I was determined.  I had to let him understand that I was not reaching out to him for any other reason other than to try to bridge the years and the distance and the time lost between my daughter and her father.

He did not believe me at first.  Too much time had passed, he said, and he didn’t see the sense of it all.  Deep down I felt that he was scared.  Scared to make the effort, scared to feel the fatherly feelings towards his daughter, only to find her rejecting him in the same way he had rejected her all these years.

I begged him to try.  Not for me, but for her.  Because no matter how we felt for one another, she was innocent.  And she deserved to meet him at least one time in her life.

I told G that I had contacted her father.  She immediately wrapped her arms around herself and her body stiffened.  I felt her bracing herself as I summarized my phone call with him, and told her of our plan to meet.  She was silent.  She looked apprehensive.  After a few seconds, she said, “Ok.”

She met her father for the first time on a cold night last January.  It was anti-climactic in every way.  There was no big crying reunion scene between father and daughter.  Instead, it was an awkward and tense evening that left all of us emotionally drained.

If one were to ask me that night how I would envision the next year to be between us, I never would have imagined the situation that it is now.

Now, one year later, after many rough months of ironing out of differences and building trust, she divides her time between her father and me.  Sometimes she is with him (and his new wife and her son), and other times she is with me.  While he and I will never be friends, we get along better now than ever before.  It is a relationship born out of the mutual love we have for our daughter, and while far from perfect, it is better than I had even hoped.

I am proud of myself for giving him one more chance, even though I felt at the time that he never deserved it.  But G deserved it.  And I’m glad that I fought for her chance.

Deadbeat

“For every father who steps out to get a pack of cigarettes, never to be heard of again, there is a child who grows up with an inerasable sense of abandonment, despite any success they may achieve in life.  I hope it was worth the smoke, you deadbeat motherfucker.” ~ Beryl Dov, 50 Shades of Green: Poems and Aphorisms about Time, Aging and Childhood

I cannot know how she is feeling because I grew up with both my father and mother.  I saw her crying in her room last Friday and when I asked her what was wrong, she said that it was the night of the father and daughter dance at school, and she said that she had been dodging questions from her classmates as to the whereabouts of where her father is.

She knows where her father is.  He is in Brooklyn, less than ten miles away from where we are.  He has never made attempts to see her.  Prior to the new year, she even sent him a “friend” request on a social media site.  Not only did he not accept her request, he even took the extra step to block her.

She cries, not because she longs for him, but because she cannot understand why her own father, her own flesh and blood, wants nothing to do with her.

I cannot understand it either.

Single Parent Life

“Don’t be ridiculous, Charlie, people love the parents who beat their kids in department stores. It’s the ones who just let their kids wreak havoc that everybody hates.” ~ Christopher Moore, A Dirty Job

The life of a single parent is hard.  It is damn hard.  There are many days when I wonder how I can possibly do it all – wake up, make her breakfast and a lunch to bring to school, race to get her to school, race to make it to work on time, race to pick her up from afterschool, bring her to her scheduled activities, go home and make dinner, spend time with her, do household chores, exercise – and still stay somewhat sane.

On Monday night, she asks me if I am going to her spring concert.  “Sure,” I said.  “When is it?”

“Tomorrow night,” she answers.

“What?!  Tomorrow night?  Why are you just telling me about it now?”

“I forgot,” she retorted.

I told her that because I was not given ample notice and that I already had other things planned for Tuesday evening, I would not be able to attend the spring concert but that I would still drive her to school so that she could perform.  She seemed content with that.

On Tuesday, I drove her to school in the evening and I picked her up after the concert.  I asked her how it went, and she said that it went fine.  She then mentioned to me how “Ally’s mom and JJ’s mom were there and they recorded me and told me how great I was.”  I told her that I would ask them for a copy.

When we got home, she asked, “What did you do the whole time during my concert?”

I told her that I had made dinner and some other household chores.  She said, “That’s it?”

I answered, “Yes, that’s it.”  I could tell she was angry that I did not attend her spring concert, but after all the prior weeks preparing for her Communion, I really was not in the proper frame of mind to attend her Spring Concert, especially considering that she had failed to mention it to me until the prior night.

She then blurted out, “I wish you were like other moms.”

I told her that I wished that I was like other moms, too, and that I wished I could get the help that they have — a husband or a family to help them with everything since I was alone and doing all the work of bringing home an income, making sure that she gets to/from school, eats three times a day, and has activities she can do to keep her mind and body busy.

Some days are just damn hard.  Yesterday was one of them.

Communion

“Love and Compassion are the true religions to me. But to develop this, we do not need to believe in any religion.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV

G had her First Communion this past Saturday.  In her words, she feels “good.”  I am proud of her.

We had a small luncheon after Mass at the neighborhood Greek restaurant.  After lunch, we went to visit the local firefighters as the city was holding an open house at all the firehouses around the city.

It was a great Saturday.  Sunday was not so bad either as I finally had time to upload my photos from my recent trip to Italy.  I’ll be posting those soon – cheers!

There Can Never Be Too Much Love

“Yes, I’m adopted. My folks were not blessed with me in the usual way. But they picked me, they chose me, from all the rest, which is lots more than most kids can say.” ~ Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It

G has been depressed lately.  I often find her staring off into space, and when I ask her how things are going with her, she tells me that she feels sad “for no reason.”  I get worried that she might have inherited my dour disposition.

As a result, I have been thinking a lot about adopting.  I just have not decided if I will adopt another child, or perhaps rescue a dog.  I know, I know.  A child and a pet do not compare, but both will require love and attention.

Isn’t love the antidote to depression?  I feel for G, living her childhood with just me, and growing up without ever knowing what it is like to have siblings or even a pet to love and bond with her.  Because she is an only child and only has me to talk to all the time outside of school, I feel as though she is mature beyond her years, and has skipped much of the innocence and playfulness of childhood.

If we had another child with us, someone she could grow up with, bond with and love, she might not feel sad anymore.  I had little time to feel sad when I was growing up because I was too busy playing with, bonding with, and even fighting with my siblings.  I want the same for G.

I am also open to rescuing a dog.  She loves dogs as much as I do, and it is proven that pets do wonders for one’s health and emotional being.

Whether I decide to adopt another child or rescue a dog, both will add to my already stressful and hectic lifestyle.  But I am willing to endure whatever additional hardship it will bring to my life because I know that love is always worth it.

Tragedy and Miracles

“It strikes me profoundly that the world is more often than not a bad and cruel place.” ~ Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
I woke up Sunday morning to hear of the tragedy that happened in Orlando, Florida.  It is the worst mass shooting in American history.  My heart aches for all the victims and their families.  It is just so senseless and tragic.  Events like this make me want to give up on the human race.


On Saturday morning, G and I had brunch with my old neighbor, S, who moved to Ohio last summer.  She came back to NYC to visit with her two sons, and her one month old baby daughter.  I had not even realized that she was pregnant, let alone that she had given birth.  She had to undergo fertility treatments to conceive her boys, and so this baby was completely unexpected.  She said that she had thought that she was going through pre-menopause when her cycles suddenly stopped, but a visit to her doctor confirmed that she was instead pregnant.  Imagine that — her fertility doctors had sworn that she would never be able to conceive without medical intervention, and yet here she is now.  It just goes to show that the human body is a wonder and a mystery and that sometimes miracles do happen.

After brunch, G and I went to Bowne Park in Queens.  The park has a pond that is home to families of turtles.

And apparently it is also home to people who know how to have a good time, as evidenced by this sidewalk chalk advertisement.  G actually wanted to ring the number.  I had to explain to her that it was not real.  Oh, how I love the innocence of children.  Later on, I got to thinking about what her nine year old mind considers “a good time.”  Was she thinking that if we rang the number that little ponies and puppies would magically appear?  I should ask her later.

Afraid for our Future

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm

G and I have been having some tough days.  She turned nine three weeks ago, but she’s already been exhibiting signs of spoiled teenager-itis.  My patience is thin when it comes to juvenile tantrums, and so she and I have been flexing our respective guns.  I was raised in a very strict Asian upbringing, and so I refuse to let her “win.”  She, by my parent’s definition, is completely American and lacks all the submissive qualities that are typical in Asian children.  In one sense, I am happy that she is headstrong and determined, but in other ways, I am disappointed that she has elected to direct her rebellious ways towards me.

Yesterday morning, she and I had a heated argument.  I feel weird calling it an argument since she is only nine years old, but there it is.  We were in the car on the way to her school, and she was upset that I had bothered her about eating breakfast.  “You are soooo strict,” she whined.  “All the other kids don’t have their mothers bothering them about breakfast.”

“I would consider myself so lucky if I had even one person bothering me to eat something,” I answered. “I could starve and no one would care to even ask me if I wanted anything to eat.  I feel sorry for those kids whose parents don’t bother them to eat.  I am sure they would be happy for a mother like me who will feed them all the time.”

In typical tweeny fashion, she just rolled her eyes in response.  I would have let it go at that, but unfortunately, she continued.  “You are soooo annoying,” she said.  “None of the other kids eat breakfast either and their parents don’t care.”

Because she continued, and because her attitude was crass and disrespectful, I got angry.  Furious, even.  I ripped into her by telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she was to speak to me in that way, and that maybe if she was so unhappy with me, that she could go live with her drunk of a biological father as he would with all certainty not care if she ate breakfast or not.  Perhaps, in retrospect, I should not have said that, but what can I say – I was angry.  She, of course, started crying as she got out of the car to go into the school, but not before slamming the car door with all her strength. I drove away, seething, but forgot about everything as I boarded the train to head into work. A little while later, my mobile phone rings.  It is the school psychologist.  “Your daughter was very upset this morning and she was crying.  When the teacher asked her what was wrong, she said ‘my mom told me not to tell.’  Did something happen this morning?”  His tone is questioning.  Accusatory. I felt insulted.  It may not have been, but I felt as though he was judging me on my parenting skills.  “Did something happen?”  “What happened was that my daughter was being a disrespectful brat, and I verbally put her in her place.  She got upset and started crying.”

He paused before replying. “Well, when kids come to the school visibly upset, we have to ask, in case of….”  I stopped him before he could finish. “My daughter and I had a mother-daughter talk, and unfortunately, she got upset.  Nothing happened.  Thank you for your concern.”

While my parents used to smack us on the back of our heads whenever we were being bad, I cannot even talk harshly to my kid now lest I be investigated for child abuse. I am afraid for our future.  I feel as though we are raising our future generations to be wimpy, disrespectful and unafraid of authority.

In Her Eyes

“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.” ~ Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

G asked me recently, “Why do you get divorced so much?”
Her question caught me off guard.  I answered with another question.

“What do you mean?”
“Well,” she said.  “You are divorced from…” her voice trailed off.
We don’t like talking about him.  She may be biologically connected to him, but except for that one little fact, there is not much else that connects them.
“… And now you are divorced from…” her voice trailed off again.  Although GP and I never married, we were, for all intents and purposes, married in her eyes, as we were engaged and living together as a family.  
Our lives were turned upside down last summer with the news of his affair.  It was not easy news for me to take.  
It was not easy for her, either.  When he broke the news to her, she was angry.  She cried and yelled at him.  “How could you do this to mama?” she wailed.  Big, chunky tears streaked her face.
Although she is aware of the circumstances of what he did, there is a part of her that seems to blame me for the breakup, that perhaps I had a part in making him do what he did.
“All my friends in school have a dad.  But I have no dad.  Because you get divorced all the time.”

I really didn’t know how to answer her.  I felt like she stabbed me.  I don’t care so much about what others think of me.  But criticism from her – it hurts.

All I could say in response was that someday, when she is older, she will understand.  She didn’t seem convinced.

I walked away before she could see that I was struggling to keep my tears from flowing down my face.

Not Enough Snow

“Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.” ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

I knew it snowed last night when I woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of the snow plows scraping the city streets.  I went back to sleep and dreamt of puffy white snow.  I was hoping to wake this morning and roll around in the snow with G, but Mother Nature just cannot seem to churn it out the way that she used to here in New York City.

Only about two inches fell, and looking out of my window now, it looks like it is turning into freezing rain.  I hate days like this.  It’s not solid snow where you can go outside and play, and to go outside in freezing rain simply is not fun. We might venture out later if it stops snowing/raining, but for the moment, we are housebound.

Last night, we did manage to make it out to Jackson Heights in Queens where we met a friend for dinner at Black Thai.

I had the garlic shrimp, which was very, very good, but it was just a little too spicy for my tolerance.  After a few bites, I couldn’t stop from sweating and my mouth felt like it was literally on fire.

G, however, thoroughly enjoyed her beer-braised crispy ribs.

So today will be a good day to lay around, watch television, read books, and do some light cleaning around the house.  It won’t be a complete day though without my [decaffeinated] coffee.  I’ve become quite the master at making pumpkin spice lattes.