Vows to Take Before You Become Parents

After recently officiating a wedding, the idea of vows has been on my mind– although not the type that you might think. My boyfriend and I are raising our beautiful and rambunctious daughter in a non-traditional setting. We are going on our fifth year of dating, fourth year of living together and second year of raising our unexpected and cherished little squirt. As LA transplants without family around, we were thrilled when my sister and niece decided to blend their family with ours last year, now living together with us in a large house in The Valley, with two dogs to boot.

Parenthood has been an incredibly transformative experience for us as a couple– shocking I know. And while we haven’t yet taken the leap to say “I do” in the form of marriage vows, our commitment to our family and mutual respect for each other is hopefully reflected through our actions.

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So back to the idea of vows… I wonder why we don’t as a culture express verbal parenting vows? Not vows expressed to children from parents, but from parents to each other. While some marriage vows encompass the trials and changes guaranteed by the introduction of a new member to one’s family, I think such a rite of passage deserves its own pact, especially for those non-traditional couples out there.

Knowing now what I didn’t know then, these are the words I may have expressed to my boyfriend prior to our venture into parenthood:

“You are a wonderful companion– my confidant and best friend and it is with great joy (and optimism) that I embark on the journey of parenthood with you (hoping that this does not, in fact, destroy us).

May our love grow deeper as we expand our family. Together we stand as one, sharing our future as it comes, knowing that we are moving forward into what will be a joyous and challenging new adventure. We may not have the freedom to sleep in or watch endless crime-thriller marathons in bed anymore, but hopefully our child will give us all the more reason to stay in our pajamas for days on end, and also a reasonable excuse to bail on the weekend bar-hopping excursions that we’ve come to loathe in our late 20s.

The first time we found out we would become parents, I felt nervous and unsure as to whether I was totally ready (read: a cocktail of panic-stricken hyperventilating and uncontrollable sobbing).

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With you by my side, however, I feel a sense of strength and conviction, ready to embark on this new chapter with confidence, determination and joy. As the days grow to weeks, and the weeks to months, and the months to years (at least 18, from what I hear), may we never forget this joyous day and the vows of commitment we are pledging to each other today while we are still well-rested, well-groomed and ignorant of what life has in store for us as new parents.

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Knowing that this journey is a new one for both of us, let us acknowledge that each of us has strengths and knowledge, as well as individual emotional challenges that may surface based on our life experiences. I promise to be open to your ideas for how to raise a child no matter how zany they may seem– and also to be sensitive to the fact that you may not share my overzealous intention to serve our child a strict diet of unprocessed, unrefined foods. I promise not to judge you for forgetting all of the words to my favorite nursery rhymes, and I ask that you exercise restraint when laughing at my widdle biddy baby banter.

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Hand in hand, I acknowledge parenthood is a journey we are embracing together, and I promise to stand by your side, to love, help and encourage you even in the wee hours of morning, on the days when neither of us has eaten or showered, and the moment we realize that our weekend sex routine has been replaced with singing along to the opening credits of the “Elmo’s World” segment of Sesame Street.

I vow to take time to share my concerns with you, and to listen to your concerns with an open heart and mind. I promise to calmly and graciously speak up when I need personal time, and to remember that you will also need personal time. I vow to take turns changing diapers and comforting our child when she awakens in the dead of night, and also take turns acting as dance partner when she insists on swaying endlessly to that robotic version of “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.”

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Recognizing that we may face differences in small, everyday decisions like how to dress our child in coordinating on-season attire, to big decisions like how to explain the concept of death to our child, I promise to approach parenting decisions with your values in mind, knowing that there may be many times during which we need to find a happy compromise. I promise to pick and choose my battles and not obsess when and if our child comes home from school wearing pajama pants.

Acknowledging the importance of teamwork and (at the very least) the perception of a united front, I promise to support you and stand by your side when you decide that it’s time to implement a timeout when she puts herself in near-death situations.

I promise to attempt at least a basic level of personal care and hygiene if we can both accept the fact that sometimes an afternoon nap is worth letting the dust settle on our bookcases.

I promise to always treat our child with compassionate, loving kindness, and know wholeheartedly that you will do the same. I promise to continue to hold you in the highest regard, and to remember these vows of commitment, patience and honesty today, tomorrow and for the rest of our lives. I love you. Let’s do this.”

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What about you? Did you take parenting vows prior to expanding your family? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter.

Images via: Split Shire and Gratisography.

A Beginner’s Guide to Riding the LA Metro

So you’re considering riding the LA Metro.

Your tolerance for the daily gridlock in this city’s notorious traffic has reached its maximum level, but you’re scared to venture into the widely uncommon practice of riding LA’s train to work. Or, perhaps you’re seeking a better way to travel home from a drunken night of debauchery – one that doesn’t involve a ridiculously expensive cab or a less-than-ideal excursion from your not-so-reliable Designated Driver.

As Heidi Niedermeyer and Elena Crevello playfully demonstrate in their “Shit People in LA Say” video shown here, most Angelenos consider the Metro completely intolerable. And honestly, if you’ve been to other major cities around the world, you may find LA public transport a bit limited (if from Chicago/NYC), if not downright horrifying (if from Seoul/London).

Los Angeles Metro map vs. Seoul Metro map

Los Angeles Metro map vs. Seoul Metro map. The route options don’t even compare!

But, allow me to provide you with some real-world pointers for LA public transport etiquette to help you overcome any apprehension for venturing into the unknown– a decision that just might improve your daily commute forever.

Reader, consider yourself forewarned that this has been written by a girl who has taken public transportation her entire life which requires a certain amount of tolerance for germs, socioeconomically diverse crowds and street smarts. If you lack said tolerance, perhaps you should address these qualities prior to riding the train.

I’ve always thought of riding the train (or as I like to call it, the subway, ooh lala) as a rite of passage as a modern urban-dwelling career woman. Growing up I envision “adulthood” as myself riding the subway to a downtown high rise building wearing a chic suit holding a briefcase as part of what. Therefore, riding the train for the past five years is somewhat like fulfilling an adventurous childhood dream from which no amount of homeless co-riders will deter me. Therefore, I feel it part of my civic duty to share the love with you, along with some pointers for your first train voyage.

Plan Your Trip: The Metro staff is surprisingly helpful

If you are taking the train for the first time, unless you are super savvy with maps, I recommend that you call the Metro directly (213-680-0054) for personal guidance. I’ve spoken with Metro staff on more than one occasion and not only are they patient, but totally helpful and willing to offer you detailed turn-by-turn directions that a child could follow. [p.s. This post is no way endorsed by the LA Metro as you’ll probably figure as you continue to read.]

Once your route all squared away, here are some of my tips for some real deal preparation. I take the Red Line, which is probably the most common train which the tamest crowd, which runs from downtown to the Valley in North Hollywood and consists of just 12 stops. From doorstep to doorstep, my commute from home to work is approximately 30 blissful, traffic-free minutes during which I read, write blog posts like this, nap and/or shamelessly apply my eye makeup. These tips are specific to this train but probably applicable to most Metro riding experiences.

Keep in mind that it’s good to know the name of the last stop of the train that you plan to ride as this is how you will know if you are boarding the train heading in the right direction. ie: If boarding the Red Line from the Pershing Square station to the Universal City station, make sure to board the Red Line going to North Hollywood (its final destination).

Location: If you’re not underground, you’re not in the right place

A Beginner's Guide to Riding the L.A. Metro

A Beginner’s Guide to Riding the L.A. Metro

This may sound a little obvious but if you did not take an elevator or escalator to a below-ground platform with train tracks, you are not in the right place. You are probably waiting for a bus or just hanging around. I wouldn’t type this out if I haven’t seen this happen to my out-of-state visitors. If you can see the sky, you are not waiting in the right place.

Elevator/Escalator Etiquette: Don’t be an asshole

Yes, even before you get to the platform, there are unspoken rules to be aware of. If you are taking the elevator, don’t be that asshole who closes the doors when you see someone approaching. Slow your roll, and hold the door. Also, if you aren’t handicapped, injured, commuting with your child or a bike or the elderly, I recommend avoiding the elevator because you cram yourself within a 5 x 5 foot box with about a dozen other people and, honey, it doesn’t smell like peaches in there.

If taking the escalator like most do, take note that other people are in a hurry so stand to one side (preferably the same side as your fellow escalator-riding peers) so that others may walk past you.

Bike riders: invest in a heavy-duty bike lock that secures both tires if you plan to leave your bike at a station. There are also special lockers you can rent but there is a six-month waiting list. Or buy a cheap bike from Craigslist that you wouldn’t be sad to see stolen. Otherwise, take that bicycle with you, my friend.

Ticketing: Free isn’t free

There are automated ticket booths located in obvious locations on the Mezzanine level (the one you get to off of the escalator/elevators) of every station. At the time that I am writing this, ticket booths dispense cards that cost $1.00 and it’s $1.50 for a one-way ticket so you’re going to pay $2.50 for the first ride and $1.50 thereafter. Unless you are taking the train every day and transferring to more than one train, the one-way price is the most cost effective ticket. ie: I pay $3.00/day every weekday, an average of 20 days per month costing $60/month which is still less than the $75 monthly unlimited rides Metro pass. This is about the same price that a parking pass might cost you if you work in downtown LA, but factor in the price of gas and your emotional frustration to consider whether the train is a better option for you.

The card that you receive is reloadable and the machines accept cash/credit/debit. Note that you need an individual card for each rider, which means that you can’t just pay for you and an additional person with a single card– even your child.

There is a common perception from tourists that the LA Metro tickets are on the honors system. The truth is, attendants are never on duty check that you’ve paid, however, more often than not, Sheriff’s deputies will either board the trains or wait for you upon the exit at the most popular stations to double check for unpaid ticket riders, the fine for which is around $250. Scary bear!

Where to Go/ What train to board

LA Metro train platforms.

LA Metro train platforms.

Your ticket will grant you access past the turnstiles to take another escalator, stairway or elevator down to the train platform level.

The signs on the platform can be a bit confusing. Again, it’s good to know the final destination of your train to make sure you board the train heading in the right direction. If boarding from North Hollywood, you’re in luck as it’s the final stop so the only trains departing this station are heading in the same direction.

To know that you are boarding the right train, look at the signs that hang from the ceiling which indicate the final destination of the trains running along that side of the track. Take note that two trains with different destinations may run on the same track at some stations. For example, if departing from the main downtown LA 7th/Metro station, both the Purple Line (heading to Koreatown) and the Red Line (heading to Noho) run on the same track. The signs that hang from the ceiling indicate both Wil/Western and North Hollywood. You have to pay attention to both the announcements and the highly subtle digital signage on the train itself to figure out which one is approaching.

Timing

LA Metro late night hours. Image courtesy of Metro.Net.

LA Metro late night hours. Image courtesy of Metro.Net.

During normal weekday mornings, the train arrives every 10 minutes so don’t stress it if see your train just leaving the station. You see a lot of fools running shamelessly to catch the train as it departs. Seriously, is that necessary? I don’t recommend holding the doors here for someone running to make the train as I’m not positive that the doors won’t slam shut on your arm. Not worth it.

In my experience, the train runs on time about 95% of the time*. On rare occasions, the train will experience delays and the attendants will let you know what’s happening. I think that Metro might have an app so you’d know ahead of time if there are delays, but I’ve never tried it. LAMetro is also active on Twitter, but you can’t reach it from the train anyway.

In the evenings, the trains do not run as often so your wait will be longer and the good news is that they continue to run until 2:00 a.m. for your weekend adventures.

*A totally made up statistic.

What to bring
Equip yourself with headphones, a book, and an emotionless expression (or sunglasses if you really want to look pretentious). There is no wifi on the train so Internet surfing is not an option. Consider your ride a nice opportunity to unplug. What not to bring: your pet, obviously expensive technology, a scaredy cat face. Try to at least look like you’re comfortable.

Who you’ll encounter

Typically people do not make conversation on the train, with the exception of people begging for change or asking for your signature on an upcoming ballot measure. You’re also likely to encounter a mix of white collar work-bound yuppies, families, teenagers, blue collar workers, bicyclists, game-bound Dodger/Kings/Lakers/USC fans, and retirees of all cultures.

Basic train etiquette

  • It’s nice to wait for riders to exit before boarding… But on a busy evening train you might have to push your way on board.
  • There is “no smoking, eating, drinking, raucous behavior, loud music” allowed on trains, not that you’re planning to do any of these.
  • If riding with a stroller or bicycle, there are special carts for you. Look for the handicapped signs and board those carts.
  • Don’t be that guy who sits in the seats reserved for the elderly or handicapped if you are neither of these.
  • If exiting with a bicycle and you are crammed in the back of the cart, a loud but polite “coming off” prior to your stop will alert riders to kindly GTFO of your way.

If you encounter trouble

What kind of trouble am I referring? Well there’s a variety. Sometimes you witness people getting in verbal confrontations that begin to escalate. Honestly, I usually avoid acknowledgement and the promptly switch carts at the next station. I once witnessed a crazy physical girl fight during which I was desperately seeking the attendant’s button, which I’ve discovered are toward that end of each cart. I don’t mean to give the impression that scary things happen on the train often. In five years, I’ve only witnessed a handful of situations that caused me to raise my eyebrows and most of the time, they are entertaining at best and mildly troubling at worst.

Enjoy your ride!

Like I said before, these tips are based on the Red Line. Here’s a brief explanation of my impression some of the other trains:

  • Blue Line (Long Beach): Always crowded, kind of scary crowd
  • Gold Line: you can take this one to Pasadena but you have to go all the way to Union Station to transfer so kind of inconvenient. I’ve never taken this train.
  • Purple Line: shortest destination ever, only runs from downtown to K-town
  • Expo Line: the new line to Culver City! Probably the cleanest/nicest ride although I haven’t taken it yet.
  • Orange Line: super fast bus line, not a train.

I wish you the best on your Metro-riding excursion! I’d love to see our LA Metro improve and expand to more destinations so that more people have the option to use pubic transportation. Let me know how your experience is and if you found these tips helpful of totally obnoxious.

Slow Your Roll: A Letter to my 20-Year-Old Self on my 30th Birthday

Upon turning 30 years old recently, I dusted off a handful of journals that I’d used to document my 20s. Instead of strolling down memory lane as I had intended for this birthday tradition, I quickly tossed the first one aside after a few depressing entries realizing that there’s no reason to relive the heavy, pain-stricken moments that I deemed worthy of documenting that now defined my college-era memories.

I always think of my journals as a sort-of letter to my future self. But on my 30th, I felt it was more fitting to write a letter that I wish I could have received at 20, some guidance and glimmer of hope that my life would be “okay” from my future self. So here it goes.

Hey Self,

It’s you, 10 years from now.

Great shoes, by the way. You are so much cuter than you think.

I’m writing to tell you about some of fabulous things you have to look forward to in life, because you seem pretty burdened by your troubled love affairs, insurmountable insecurity and dysfunctional family situation right now. I’ll admit– you’ve faced a little too much responsibility and emotional turmoil as you’ve struggled through your teen years. And, although college has not been full of the wild, reckless, carefree adventures you were hoping, I promise you’ll make up for the lack of party invites by tenfold in the coming years.

letter-20-year-old-4During the next decade you will manage to …

somehow travel to Mexico, Ireland, Jamaica, Chicago, Vegas, Virginia, New York, Texas, Seattle and Bali despite your lack of financial stability or ability to budget or pre-plan; you will … also

jump out of an airplane,
host an ‘80s themed roller skating birthday party,
break a suitcase while tumbling down an escalator at the airport in a drunken stupor (on a work trip),
total a car,
see your photo and name in print often,
go on road trips and cruises,
start a career and then abandon it,
tattoo your body with a coy fish of ridiculous proportion,
meet celebrities you admire,
ride in an ambulance,
adopt a Shih Tzu,
live in 15 different homes including two high rise apartments and one house with people you’d never met in a frightening vibrant East L.A. neighborhood; you will …

sing karaoke,
miss a few flights,
sleep with a couple of virgins,
fight with a few friends,
dance on few stages,
eat sushi,
drive a convertible,
pet an elephant,
play beer pong and poker, and
take the train to work. You will also…
be experimental with your fashion and hair,
experience a few dating misadventures and
a couple of really good love stories. You will learn how to…
sneak your way into the VIP section of a Vegas nightclub,
talk to strangers,
work a room,
negotiate,
get out of a gym membership (a feat worthy of writing to you about),
close a sale,
bluff,
ask for a raise,
face rejection,
lease an apartment,
get fired gracefully, and
buy a car.

You will come to finally understand
how business, taxes and the government work,
how to stand up for yourself at work and in love,
how to let go of relationships that just aren’t working,
that even if you can’t pay all of your bills, that you should always scrounge up enough to cover your car insurance and your rent, and
that there is absolutely no excuse to miss a court date for minor traffic violations

You will come to terms with the fact that despite the physical evidence, you cannot afford the wardrobe you maintain.

You will help to plan
parties,
fashion shows,
photo shoots,
weddings,
funerals and
a high school reunion.

You will experience the heartache and chaotic aftermath
that follow death,
including the times that follow the loss of
your grandmother,
a friend,
your cousin,
your uncle and
your father.

You will have moments
when you feel as if despair and sorrow
are your only companions,
but the pain of life will compel you
to explore new spiritual philosophies,
and also, therapy.

You will work so hard
and feel underpaid most of the time.
You will be humbled by moments
when all you can afford is a bag of rice
to get you through a week’s worth of dinners,
while reflecting upon the moments
when you dropped $100
on single meals.

Even though you will spend many moments
accompanied by fear,
you will find that the universe tends to provide for and guide you
even in the most hopeless of circumstances.

You will learn that just because a job may promise
a lucrative income,
if it doesn’t make your soul sing,
It’s not worth doing.

letter-20-year-old-2Your desire to explore the world will never leave you
and your decision to move outside of your home state
and comfort zone
will be right choice.

No matter how hard you try,
your career path will always lead you
back to the things that do make your soul sing–
writing and human rights issues.

Finally, (and maybe you should sit down for this one), more than one psychic will tell you that you will be a mother and they are correct. Don’t worry, when this moment comes, you will be ready for it and you will accept the responsibility with an open, joyful heart full of gratitude and awe.

Also, some advice:
Take note that you spend too much time worrying. Some of your most productive work will be directly correlated with the nights that you let loose during  late night happy hours at that one bar.

When it comes to big decisions, trust your instincts.

Try to keep in mind that you really can’t change a person, and it’s not your place to try and help them change. This applies to both friendships and relationships. And also your friends’ relationships. Try not to judge your friend for going back to Mr. or Mrs. Wrong over and over again for they are marching on their own path and experiencing their own life lessons. You are seriously not the authority on healthy dating.

You will enjoy the next 10 years more if you realize now that you spread yourself too thin. By 30, you will realize that if there is any habit you wish you could have changed sooner, it’s your tendency to flake out on plans because you’ve overcommitted yourself on such a regular basis that you cease to enjoy your free time.

Also, beware of the habit that the editors of Self Magazine will cleverly dub the “comparathon” in which you set your imaginary bar for success against the accomplishments of your peers, friends, acquaintances, and friends of acquaintances …(Facebook hasn’t yet been invented, but you’ll understand soon enough). Remember, there is no age at which you should have been, done or accomplished anything at all. Your perceived lack of success is grossly out of proportion with reality, and 10 years from now, you will finally realize how far you’ve come, and how much time and opportunity you actually had. Try to start believing in yourself soon and know that it’s okay to feel unsure about what to do with the “rest of your life” at 23 (ya friggin’ perfectionist).

letter-20-year-old-1

Keep in mind that there are a few things still left to accomplish by the time you turn 30, so don’t feel like you need to cram it all into the next decade. Like (re)investing in a 401k for starters. And, do enjoy those irresponsible, adventurous and, yes, tumultuous moments reserved for one’s 20s. (There is a deadline for which it is socially acceptable to dress like this for Halloween.)

Good luck and enjoy the aforementioned moments rather than the ones you spent time scrawling into the pages of your journal.

With love,

30-Year-Old You

 

5 Things of the Week: Stories for the Modern Day Feminist

Famous quotes by stellar women: Olivia Wilde.

Famous quotes by stellar women on Refinery29: Olivia Wilde.

Refinery29’s “50 Amazing Women, 50 Hilarious Quotes” includes zingers by some of our favorite leading ladies of Hollywood including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Rashida Jones, and Olivia Wilde on topics that do not include anything relating to clothing, gossip or beauty regimes.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Sweaters for Days’s Jenny Trout compares the way in which the media spins Jennifer Lawrence’s public passion for food compared with Melissa McCarthy’s.

How to talk to little girls

How to talk to little girls

The next time you encounter a little human, take not of the way you speak with them– especially girls. If you’re anything like me, and despite of your feminist values and however much you make a conscious effort, you find yourself showering the little lady with compliments about her appearance. Girls in Real Life republished a great essay by Lisa Bloom about how to talk to little girls in a way that helps shape their intellect. [Image]

Neil Gaiman comments on "strong female characters" with BBC.

Neil Gaiman comments on “strong female characters” with BBC.

Writer Neil Gaiman shares uncanny insight into how to develop “strong female characters” with BBC News during a special commemorating the 10 year anniversary of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in which he suggests that writers actually go spend time with cool women.

Gaiman: I think the big thing to point out to people is, you know, possibly they should go and hang around with some women. And also, it’s worth pointing out that people, unfortunately, misunderstand the phrase ‘strong women.’ The glory of Buffy is it was filled with strong women. Only one of those strong women had supernatural strength and an awful lot of sharpened stakes. And people sort of go ‘Well yes, of course Buffy was a strong woman. She could kick her way through a door.’ And you go ‘No, well that’s not actually what makes her a strong woman! You’re missing the point.’

Read details on Jezebel.

Texas husband forbidden from taking his pregnant wife off of life support.

Texas husband forbidden from taking his pregnant wife off of life support.

Some controversial news has transpired in Texas where a man has been forced to keep his pregnant wife on life support despite his or her wishes. Read more on CNN.

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