Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Looking back, looking forward

I have been in NY state since July 4, staying with my parents on an extended time away from the city. Owen is in a morning day camp and I am starting to dig into my sabbatical project. Chaut.au.qua is a kind of lecture/performance/artistic venue and because of this, Owen's day camp consists of visits from the resident ballet dancers, opera singers, and concert violinists. I'm excited that he's having the experience--so different from the typical emphasis of nursery school--even though he probably doesn't realize how unique it is. I hope to come back every year to give him some continuity with this place. Many people have been coming every summer all their lives. Maybe he'll have friends for a lifetime. This is something I wish I had--a deeper connection to the people here. Maybe Owen will have it instead.

I think about that alot. I want Owen to have deep connections, lifelong friends, and so many things that I feel in some ways I am lacking myself. I have had many close friends throughout my life, from every stage, but I've been crap at keeping up with people and I've moved so much that I am basically out of touch with many of them. My closest friends still live in the Bay Area, and I see them when I can. But I've lost touch entirely with my childhood friends and it saddens me sometimes. I wish I had prioritized friendships and relationships over career in my late 20s and 30s. But I didn't, and I don't think I would've even if I'd known then what I know now. Nowadays, it's so much more difficult to find and keep close friends--at this age, with all of our busy lives. I often feel very alone and bereft of friends.

About a year ago, I found out about the death of a close friend from college. The crazy thing is, I found out about it SIX YEARS AFTER HE DIED. This is how out of touch I am with old friends.

Ok, back up. He was not just a friend, but the most intense and real love of my life. We were together for about 4 years, including the last two years of college, but he was older than me and he left our college town. He was a total drifter and we eventually moved on because we were never in the same place. When he met the woman he would eventually marry, we fell out of touch completely. What we had was very special and intense, and I can see how even retaining a friendship with me would have been difficult while pursuing a new relationship. Anyway. He died. Of melanoma. And I found out because I was doing genealogical research on An.ces.try.com and I searched for his name because he had never showed up ANYWHERE, like Facebook or anything, and I was always wondering WHERE IS HE?? And there appeared his obituary. From six years ago. You can imagine how I felt at that moment. He had been in the ground for six years.

I found some pictures of us that my parents have here and it makes me long for those days of freedom and happiness and joy and friendship and bonds that you had in college. I miss him, and I miss those days. He was a soul mate; he was so full of life, more than anyone I've ever known. So his death is particularly hard to come to terms with.

This sounds really strange but part of me thinks that he has been watching over me. I don't know why but the way that Owen arrived in my life---it was so meant to be and so full of luck---I can't help but think about it.

I cry about it even now. I wish I could have said goodbye.

Where am I going with this? I guess I feel a bit lonely, and sad. I am so lucky to have my little boy, who makes me feel joy every day of my life. I want him to have a life full of love and enduring, meaningful relationships. If there is one thing I hope I can do as a parent it will be to foster that, and to impress upon him that success in life is not defined by money but by love, friendship, and deep connections.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Not-so-light decisions

This past year with Owen has been wonderful and challenging, and one of the biggest challenges I continue to grapple with is our educational and financial future (the two are intimately intertwined). Making choices about schooling and housing (also intertwined, to be explained) has been very difficult for me. I find that I yearn for a second opinion from someone who has the same issues at stake...a partner in other words. But I don't have that, obviously. It's hard for me to be confident about decisions of this magnitude when I don't have anyone saying "this is absolutely the right decision" in the background.

The problem: I have a great career and I wouldn't trade it, but it's in the arts, and let's face it, I'm never going to make the big bucks. My budget is a struggle each and every month. I also live in a very high cost of living part of the country (the Northeast) and pay $225/week for daycare (started at $250 when he was an infant). Suffice to say, I've been looking forward to getting Owen into public school to relieve some of the financial burden.

Here's the rub. The public schools where I live are mediocre at best and I am finding it difficult to commit to this course. To complicate matters, I bought a condominium 3 years before TTC while I was still in the optimistic "I'll meet someone, get married, buy a house, and have a kid" stage. I didn't even look into the elementary school in the neighborhood I chose, and it ain't good. The condo itself is also not what I would have envisioned as a place to raise a child and has been a real pain in the neck in many ways. I planned on selling it after about 5 years even without a child...well, here we are, 6 years and one major housing crisis later and I find myself stuck in this place and unable to unload it, a place inadequate in many ways for child-rearing but most importantly, for schools.

Thing is, my city doesn't present many options at all for good public schools. My choices are basically to suck it up and make it work for Owen at a less-than-standard school, pray that he gets into one of the charter schools (very bad odds), send him to a private school (goodbye financial future), or move to a suburb that will add to my commute and logistical headaches. The last option is something I am seriously considering (assuming I can sell my condo within the next 1 or 2 years). But if I do move to said suburb, I'll be removing myself from a community in which I feel at home, one loaded with the kind of people who are presented with the same challenges and struggles as I am, but who make it work. The suburb---beautiful place, great schools---is known for being very wealthy (it is) and has that air of entitlement such riches entail. Not only am I not keen to have Owen be the only kid in school without a BMW with a bow on his 16th birthday (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean), but I am also not sure how much I will like living there. Aside from a house with a yard and a 10/10 school, is it worth it? I think many people would say yes....I am still not sure.

Strangely (I say this, because I am surprising myself), I believe I am tending toward options number 1 and 2---trying to make it work either with charter schools or the public schools or a combination thereof. I would love any feedback on this, but my feeling is that the test scores at a given public school do not tell the whole story. There are several elementary schools where the test scores are rather low but where there is a very strong PTA and lots of enthusiasm for trying to make it a good learning environment. I would be ok with Owen at a school like that I think, but I still need to move to be near those particular schools. My dream is for him to get in (by lottery) to the bi-lingual charter 'international' school. To make this happen, though, I still have to move, because the lottery favors kids from particular neighborhoods. I know, crazy to move just be in a neighborhood that may or may not get us into a lottery!!  But at least in this case I would be moving to an actually very wonderful neighborhood where I have lots of friends and colleagues who "make it work" with families.

I'm seeing a trend here: I have to move, but where?? Now let's pray for the condo market to recover!!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Mommy, Do We Have Any Ideas?"

This was Owen's cute "quote of the day" yesterday. He picks up pretty much any phrase I use and re-tools it in some way. So I think my use of the phrase "I have no idea" became in his mind the very earnest question, "Do we have any ideas?" (I told him that my idea was that he would take a shower [a new thing] and go to bed. He told me that his idea was that he would get a dog, and, go up into a tree.)

Owen is SUCH a talker, I get to follow his entire thought process from start to finish...the roundabout, searching-for-words, sometimes irrational thought process that is the 3-year-old. It's great fun. The thing that is so amazing about this age is how sure of himself he is. His thoughts and his feelings, well, they are what they are. He even tells me I am wrong sometimes, ie: No, Mommy, that's not a robin, it's a cardinal. I usually let it slide. :)

We are currently in Chau.tau.qua, which is in western New York state, a kind of combination retreat/artist's colony/performance venue/lecture venue. My parents live here in the summers since they retired. It's on a beautiful lake. Ah...sabbatical! They have a morning camp for 3s and 4s, so I've been able to get some work done in the mornings. They even ride a yellow school bus to school (which Owen, being a city kid, will probably never experience in his normal school life!) It's all very good but it puts into focus how much of our behavioral challenges arise when we have a schedule to keep. We've been basically without a schedule since I stopped work in late June, and camp started this week. All of a sudden everything is a struggle--eating, napping.

My parents are helpful but not that helpful. There are so many things that only I can do, or deal with, of course. This is the reality.  And sometimes my parents assert themselves in the wrong way. But it's good to have family around, if only to help with meals and laundry! And the joy of not having to clean!  Really, though, sometimes when I am parenting at home I think to myself "This kid is so awesome, so funny, so smart! I wish someone else could experience this with me!" Sharing our experiences is definitely the best thing about being here.