Holiday Rant

It’s been a rough week around here.  My family had a nice Christmas, and I’m thankful for that.  But for everything else that has happened in the past ten days or so…well, all I can say about that is, “Hey world, go fuck yourself.”

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The entire week of Christmas my son was terribly sick with RSV.   For those of you who don’t have young kids, that’s a nasty respiratory virus that likes to linger and can often cause hospitalizations.  Bryce didn’t need to go to the hospital, but he did require round the clock breathing treatments and he had a fever for six days.  We were pretty much house bound the entire week of Christmas.  My husband and I started coming down with symptoms on Christmas day.  It only makes sense given how Bryce repeatedly coughed in our faces while we were caring for him.  He can’t help it.  He’s five.  The upside to this was that during our quarantine, we binge watched all the Star Wars movies and all eight Harry Potter movies.

We then had to cancel our holiday travel plans due to the respiratory virus that began sweeping its way through our house.   Our relatives thanked us for not exposing them to our hateful contagion.

10981156_901959096513277_5750103026687627852_n[1]Two days after Christmas, while this virus was happily laying waste to my holiday cheer and energy levels, I got on Facebook and found that the world had turned itself upside down.  You know those moments in life where your reality sort of tips over and sends you free-falling?  Two days after Christmas I discovered that an old friend whom I had known for more than twenty-five years had passed away.  We went to high school together and we kept in touch mostly through Facebook.  I know many people wouldn’t call that friendship, but I went to a small school, and many of us keep in touch with each other through this medium.  We post pictures of our kids and laugh with each other over the trials of parenting.  Well, this friend was a beautiful human being.  She radiated sunshine and light.  She was 40 years old and a mother of five beautiful children.  And, as it turns out, most of us didn’t know she was suffering.   I had no idea she suffered from depression.  I think most of us didn’t know.  She was always happy smiles and kind words, always giving of herself to help others.  She was a great mom and the kind of parent you sometimes envied.  You know, the one who seems to find the time to make everything from scratch and still look beautiful and like she totally has everything together. The day after Christmas she took her own life.  My heart is broken for her family.  For her children.  I can’t even  imagine the emotional pain she must have been suffering to make that choice.  To feel like that was the only option left to her.  Depression is a dirty, rotten, lying mother-fucker and it has claimed another beautiful soul.

Yesterday, my husband called our plumber out to the house because he noticed our hot-water heater was leaking.  Well, not only does the water heater need to be replaced, but unbeknownst to us, it had been leaking for a while, and we discovered black mold growing inside the wall and under the flooring.  We had a crew working all day yesterday, ripping out moldy drywall, wood boards and flooring.  We had no idea it was inside the wall.  I now have an industrial size de-humidifier in my house that sounds like a damn jet engine.  And because of the holiday and drying out/treatment process, nothing can be done for about five more days.  Half of my garage is tented off and part of the stairwell inside as well.  The noise from the de-humidifier is deafening, and I have no hot water for the next week or so.  I know, first world problems.  Blah, blah, blah.

Last night, I went to urgent care to deal with this respiratory virus that seems to be getting worse.  My lungs feel like they’re on fire and my throat feels like I’ve been swallowing glass.  The doctor at the urgent care was super hot.  (Huge sigh, accompanied by an eye roll.)  I look like death warmed over and I’ve got that awesome bright red ring around my nose that’s all chapped and painful.  I accidentally coughed in his face.  I’m sure he gets that a lot.  Whatever.  He says I have bronchitis. He gave me good drugs, so I’m thankful for hot doctor.

12208257_554026368082052_6033707881857329575_n[2]Today, after not sleeping much and dreaming about friends lost, I was woken up at the crack of dawn by the sounds of the moldy men crew using electric saws to cut apart my walls, once again.  After they left, my husband left for San Diego.  He’s going to the Holiday Bowl with his best friend.  While I’m home…sick…with two kids…all the pets…in a house that sounds like it’s sitting on an airport runway.  He’ll be home tomorrow.  He’s staying with his friend in San Diego tonight because it’s a night game.  That means he’ll get a hot shower tomorrow before he comes home.  I can’t shower.  Because there is no hot water.  For a week.  I think I hate him a little bit right now, but it’s not really his fault.  But I’m going to act like it is because I need someone to blame.  I know, it’s the bronchitis talking.

This past week has really kicked the shit out of me.  I’m exhausted, physically and emotionally.  So instead of writing a Happy New Year post filled with bullshit optimistic resolutions, I’m just going to be thankful for my life.  I’m thankful for my family, my recovering health (Yay for drugs!), that I have a house and the resources to fix what’s broken.  I’m thankful for my friends, both real and imagined (that means you WordPress!).  I’m thankful for hot doctors and urgent care centers.  I’m thankful for pharmacies, pizza delivery guys, Advil, coffee and that box of homemade fudge my neighbor brought over.  I’m thankful for endless boxes of tissues and Carmex ointment to put on my chapped nose.  And lastly, I’m thankful for the heart that beats in my chest.  The heart that fills with joy at the sight of my family and also breaks with sadness at the loss of a friend.  I’m thankful for my ability to feel and love and grow from the hard things in life.

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Happy New Year, world.  Wherever you are, may your New Year be filled with light and love.

Cheers,

Wanda

Happy Anniversary, Wanda!

one year anniversary badgeToday marked the one year anniversary of A Girl Named Wanda!

In the past year, Wanda has gained 220 followers and has been viewed by people from 94 different countries!

Holy shit, that’s amazing!

I started this blog as a hobby.  As an outlet to help reclaim my sense of self, which I felt had become lost in the day to day grind of life. I was dealing with some depression after moving to a new city with my family, leaving my career to become a stay at home parent, and finding it difficult to orient myself to my new life and surroundings.  Wanda became my anti-depressant of choice, but I never really thought anyone would read it. So the outpouring of encouragement, love and support from my friends and family, and then from the WordPress blogging community has been incredible.

In the past year of blogging I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve learned that I’m funnier than I think.  I’ve learned that we need to share common experiences with each other in order to feel connected with others around us.  I’ve learned that no matter where we’re from, most of us are more alike than we are different.  I’ve learned that other bloggers curse more than I do,  and other bloggers curse less than I do.  I’ve realized that I edit my posts too much based on my audience and I probably still care a little too much about what others think of me.  I sometimes allow that to influence what I write about and sometimes I envy other bloggers who’ve chosen the path of anonymity.  I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn, from all of you.

Like I said, I've learned a lot.

Like I said, I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve always said that I’m not a writer.  I’m not trying to get published.  I’m not trying to write the next great American novel.  I just enjoy sharing hopefully funny stories about life, parenting, and the frequently absurd moments that make the journey of self-discovery worth sharing.  My goal now is really to connect with others.  To laugh.  To learn.  To be a part of something bigger than myself.

Although I struggle to find the time I need to post with consistent regularity, I have fallen in love with my Wanda, and with all of you.  So thank you for sharing in this with me.  Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your stories.  Thank you for reading my Wanda!

Wanda Says…Settle down tiger, it’s just camp.

kids campI sent my daughter off to camp today.

Her entire fifth grade class left this morning for science camp.  They get to spend five days in the San Bernardino Mountains, doing science experiments, learning about nature and doing a ton of other cool stuff, like archery and zip-lining.

Five days.

And no contact with parents is allowed.

No contact.  For five, whole days.

I’m a fucking mess.

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She was pretty nervous about going, and the last few days have been hard for both of us.  Hard for her because she was suffering from anxiety and nerves.  She’s never been away from us for that long.  Hell, she only started feeling comfortable doing sleep-overs this year, and she’s ten years old.  Outwardly, I’ve been supportive and encouraging.  I know this is important.  I know she needs to spread her wings and begin to learn to be more independent.  She needs to see how capable she really is, and that can only be achieved by working through tough stuff.  In this case, it’s working through her separation anxiety and realizing that she will be ok and can have fun, even when she’s missing her family.  In this sense I’ve done nothing but tell her how much fun she’ll have and what amazing memories she’ll make.

Angry VolcanoInwardly, I want to shout and scream and demand that the school bring my baby home now!  I can’t believe I paid for this shit!  I can’t believe I agreed to let my daughter go two hours away into the mountains and be supervised by people I’ve never met.  Doomsday images keep floating through my head.  What if there’s an earthquake?  THE earthquake?  The big one that will supposedly redefine the west coast?  How would I get to her?  What if there’s a bus crash?  What if she meets up with a bear?  What if some asshole ten year old from her class shoots her with a goddamn archery arrow?  What if one hair on her beautiful head is damaged in any way?  I will go ape shit and rip that camp apart looking for retribution, that’s what!

(I’m taking some deep breaths right now.)

This was probably the wrong week for me to give up wine and coffee, but that’s a post for another day.

The truth is that my heart feels like it has a giant hole in it.  The house feels empty.  The hallways sound hollow.  She’s only been gone for twelve hours and her absence has left its mark on all of us.  This morning her little brother cried.  He loves her so much, and he couldn’t understand why his Bryn was leaving for so many days.  I held it together until the bus pulled away from the school.  Then I couldn’t stop the tears.  Other parents saw me quietly crying, despite my giant sunglasses covering my face.  They offered me sympathetic looks and as a few of them tried to talk to me all I could do was put up my hand to ward them off and march home, crying the entire way.  My husband held me and offered to take the day off work so we could spend the day together and take my mind off of Bryn’s absence.  While I adore his gesture and love him more than words can say, I decided to just keep busy and get on with my day.

A few of the other parents have been thoughtful and kind enough to text and email me today, checking in to see how I was doing.  While I truly appreciate their consideration and thoughtfulness, it makes me feel like a giant candy-ass.  For fuck’s sake, it’s just camp!  My head knows this, so why does my heart feel like it will be ten thousand years before I see her again?

We’re a close family, and we don’t like to be separated.  I’m so thankful for that.  I’m so thankful that our family unit is so connected that when one of us is missing, we are all affected.  I grew up in a household where that wasn’t the case, so I am doubly appreciative of the bond my husband and I share with our children and with each other.  It’s priceless.

And learns how to do her ponytail!

And learns how to do her own ponytail!

So, I am now trying to banish the ugly, apocalyptic thoughts racing through my head and find the silver lining.  I’m trying to focus on the good things that will come from her week at camp.  She will learn how to manage a bit without me.  She will learn to be more independent and self-assured.  She will learn how to keep track of her own stuff.  She will learn how to pack her own damn suitcase when it’s time to come home.  And, for the love of God, if one of her friends actually manages to teach her how to do her own hair, then it will be worth every tear shed and every expensive dollar that it cost to send her there.

So, if you feel like contributing, I would love to hear your best camp story.  🙂

Wanda Says…I have a cold, and other stuff.

Hello, world.

This isn’t a real post.  Things have been crazy at my house, so I’m just checking in on Wanda and playing a little catch up.

Two weeks ago my son caught a cold, which he passed on to both me and his sister.  Dan is the only member of our family that has not been sick in the past two weeks.  Both kids seemed to rebound quickly, although they are still experiencing the typical lingering effects of a cold.

I am a different story.  I am a hot mess.

cold germsFor whatever reason, this cold virus hit me much harder than it did the kids.  I can tell that I look as bad as I feel by the way my husband looks at me.  His look says, “I feel so bad for you, but please stay out of my air space.”  My nose is red and chapped.  Skin pale.  Limp hair.  Dead eyes.  You know the drill.  My voice is gravel and my throat hurts because I’ve become a mouth breather.  I’m pretty sure that when I try to sleep I sound like Darth Vader.

Sadly, life doesn’t stop for a cold or my shitty complexion.  Tomorrow I have to teach 30 fifth graders how to make compost in a gardening lesson at my daughter’s school.  And Friday Dan and I are having dinner with his boss.  His boss, who happens to be the CEO of the entire company.  Great.  This dinner has been planned for a month and I can’t cancel.  It doesn’t matter that my nose looks like a neon sign of germs and my pockets are stuffed with used tissues.  Time to break out that tube of face spackle I bought from Sephora and work some magic!

Prior to getting sick, I was already in a funk.  I know I promised to break up with depression this year, but that dirty little liar just won’t take no for an answer.  When I get depressed I get behind on everything, and I have a hard time finding anything I want to write about.  I’ve seen this theme floating around WordPress lately.  It seems a lot of us have been battling with the big D.  Could it be the time of year…like the post-holiday blues, or something?  I don’t know, but I’m trying to spend some time today catching up and reading what’s been going on with everyone else in the world.  That helps.  It always makes me feel better when I connect with others.  🙂

 

Wanda Says…Waiting for Superman.

Super HerosIt’s here. I couldn’t stop it from happening.  For some reason that I don’t fully understand, I’ve been dreading this milestone birthday, and Superman didn’t show up to gallantly circle the earth at inhuman speed backwards to reverse time so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I am now 40.  Fuck you, Superman.

I woke up this morning and found myself continuously fighting back tears, despite the kisses and hugs and shouts of ‘Happy Birthday’ from my family. I didn’t want to appear sad or ungrateful in front of them, so I smiled and thanked them for their love.  My son was so excited, and he dragged me by the hand downstairs because he wanted to present me with my birthday balloons.  (My husband and I always set up balloons and decorations after the kids go to bed the night before their birthday, so when they wake up it’s like the birthday fairies visited to surprise them).  But there were no balloons.  Bryce looked confused.  He stood there looking around the empty living room and said, “Mommy, where are your balloons?”  He doesn’t understand that these things don’t just magically happen.  All I could say was, “I don’t know, buddy.”

My husband could tell I was emotional and asked if everything was ok. I told him it was fine.  He had this look on his face like he was disappointed that I wasn’t more excited to face the day.  I know it sounds terrible, but I don’t feel like this birthday is any more special or different than any other, and the truth is that I wanted this birthday to be special.  I’m 40.  I suppose I was hoping for something out of the ordinary to help ease the transition.   I didn’t get to do anything exciting for my 30th birthday.  While all my friends were throwing themselves big, elaborate parties to celebrate entering their 30’s, on my 30th I was 9 months pregnant and having contractions.  So I spent my birthday lying on the couch enjoying a celebratory pizza.  I gave birth to my daughter four days later.

A group of my college friends and I had been planning a 40th birthday trip to Mexico.  Since we all turn 40 this year, we picked a weekend to celebrate all of our birthdays together.  Unfortunately, I had to cancel the trip for myself due to some financial constraints.  The trip is coming up next month and I’m disappointed and sad that I’m not going.  Most of my close friends live in other parts of the country, so I tend to feel isolated out here in LA.  I’ve also been missing my family and the support and unity that come from living close to people who have known you your whole life.  This is a big part of the depression I’ve been experiencing. I miss my people.

So this morning, as I faced the fact that I am now a member of the 40 club, I allowed myself to have a few minutes of privacy so that I could host my own little pity party. I cried and processed through my feelings.  I cried for missing my best friends.  I cried for missing my family.  I cried for all the safe choices I’ve made and the risks I didn’t take in the last 40 years that have prevented me from doing much of anything that I could look back on and say, “Wow, that was so amazing and I can’t believe I did that!”

Be your own Hero 2When I was finished feeling sorry for myself, I dried my tears and reminded myself that attitude is everything, and I have always been a badass, take charge kind of girl. I reminded myself that I am responsible for my own happiness, and it’s up to me, and only me, to change my attitude and embrace this new chapter in my life.  Sometimes you have to be your own Superman.  Sometimes the people who love you are so busy taking care of you in other ways, that they can’t foresee and anticipate all of your emotional needs.  Sometimes you have to save your own day.

When I accepted this and embraced my new attitude, so many wonderful things happened. I had an amazing lunch with my dear friend and neighbor.  She took me to a fantastic seafood restaurant down by the beach and we enjoyed several gourmet small plates, all made from fresh caught seafood.  (One of the benefits of living alongside the Pacific Ocean).  When I arrived home, there was a vase filled with beautiful multi-colored roses waiting for me, and my husband went to my favorite bakery to get a sampling of all my favorite cupcake flavors.  The day was starting to look up.

That evening, my husband made dinner reservations for us at our favorite sushi restaurant. At first I was a little surprised that he chose this particular restaurant because we go there frequently.  It’s sort of our go-to sushi spot and part of our ordinary routine.  I thought to myself, “What’s special about that?”  But my new attitude prevented me from suggesting we go someplace else.  He made the effort to arrange our dinner and make the reservation, so I would appreciate his thoughtfulness and enjoy our date.

When we got to the front doors of the restaurant I started to slow my walk and hang back a little so he could go in first, but he was holding my hand and started to sling-shot me forward, sort of gently pushing me through the doorway. I started to turn around to tell him to stop shoving me, when out of the corner of my eye I saw several balloon bouquets…and a wall of our friends and family.  I was sort of struck dumb as I stood there processing the room and looking at the excited faces of several people that I know and love.  Some of my husband’s fraternity brothers were there with their wives and girlfriends.  All of these men I love like big brothers, and their wives are amazing, too.  My neighbor and friend who had taken me to lunch (and led me to believe she had other plans that night), was standing there with her husband, smiling radiantly.  My godmother and her wonderful husband were there.  Another very good friend that I hardly ever get to see because of her crazy work schedule came as well.

I was overwhelmed. I wanted to cry.  Again.  But this time the tears weren’t for self-pity, but for this amazing realization that all of these wonderful people were willing to go out of their way and come together to help make my day special.  Some of them drove from over an hour away.   I moved through the room, hugging and laughing and kissing all of these lovely people, and feeling happier than I can describe.

When I managed to make my way back to my husband, his face revealed so many emotions. I could tell he was happy, relieved, and proud.  I hugged and kissed him fiercely, and thanked him for everything he had done to make my day so special.

Super LoveSuperman came after all. He may not have been able to reverse time and prevent me from turning 40, but he went out of his way to not only plan this party, but keep it so secret that he had to allow me to wallow in my self-pity in order not to spoil the surprise.  He filled my day with my favorite flowers, desserts, friends, and love.  And he didn’t forget the balloons, which were my favorite color, red.

Wanda Says…Let’s talk about something fun, like zombies!

Scared girlIt’s been a rough week for me. I’ve been battling a bout of the stay-home-mommy-blues and I’m depressed about my upcoming birthday.  I’ve started and deleted about four different posts this week that were a bit ranty, but I don’t want to get in the habit of that because it really doesn’t make me feel better.  So, just for shits and giggles, let’s talk about something fun, like zombies!

Like many people, I am obsessed with zombie fiction.  I read and watch entirely too much science-fiction and post-apocalyptic literature.  It stresses me out and entertains me at the same time. I love stories about humanity’s ability to rise above chaos and disaster when the world goes dark and monsters are lurking around every corner.  However, my love of these genres does have an unfortunate tendency to make me a little paranoid, and that spills over into my real life where I imagine all sorts of crazy scenarios that require me to protect my family at all costs.

For example, a few months ago we had to take my son to the emergency room on a Saturday night.  If you’ve ever spent a weekend evening in the emergency room at any major urban hospital, you will totally understand where I’m going with this.

In the waiting room, there’s an air of desperation that surrounds you and permeates your pores in a way that makes your skin crawl.  While we were there, one guy sat for several hours waiting with a broken arm.  Several people sick with the stomach flu were given emesis buckets and sat amongst everyone else while they waited to see a doctor.  More than a few people traded seats for the other side of the room when the pukers sat down.  The man sitting across from me had a partially severed finger and was bleeding steadily, yet still he waited with everyone else.  Everyone had these terrible expressions of pain and suffering on their faces.

At one point, I looked around the room, and could clearly imagine that if a zombie apocalypse was going to happen, an emergency room in the middle of the night was the perfect origination point for such a disaster.  Although it sounds very dramatic, I would be lying if I said I didn’t scope out the exits in case I needed to make a break for it with my family.  I could clearly picture the woman sitting across the room, staring blankly into space while clutching her throw-up bucket, morphing into some half-dead creature of the night who wanted to eat my brains.  At 2am, anything seemed possible.

And don’t even get me started on the crazy thoughts running through my head after watching the movie World War Z.  Afterwards, I told my husband two things.  Number one, we needed to go on diets, because we were too chubby and out of shape to outrun any zombies if they really attacked.  And two, I needed to go to a shooting range and learn how to accurately fire a gun so that one of us would be able to wield a weapon and protect us during the invasion.  Without those two major lifestyle changes, our ass was grass if the worst should happen.

I know it’s silly, but to preserve my image as a mostly sane and reasonable person, let’s pretend that I’m not paranoid about zombie invasions, and I’m really just referring to emergency preparedness for your typical Southern California earthquake disaster.  That’s more palatable to the average person (and to my neighbors).  People tend to think you’re a freak when you admit your Costco shopping run was due to the fact that you were up all night having nightmares after watching an episode of the Walking Dead.

I go through these little stages of feeling like I need to have supplies on hand in case there’s a natural disaster, like an earthquake (or a chemical spill that causes all life forms to mutate into horrible creatures), and our utilities or local services are shut down.    Since I live in Southern California, this only makes good sense.  And plus, I live in Los Angeles, and everyone knows that all the alien and zombie invasions will happen in either LA or New York first, because all the film makers say so.  So my husband and I have prepared a stash of water and food supplies for emergency purposes.  He calls it my zombie stash, because he totally gets me and sees it for what it truly is, no matter what I tell our neighbors.

I try not to let myself get too carried away though.  I have to draw the line when I start thinking about the potential benefits of going to survival wilderness camps, or going to Home Depot to buy large sheets of plywood boards that could be used to board up the windows of my home to prevent looters (or the soul-sucking undead) from raiding my house.

But if the worst should happen, you can bet your ass I won’t be going anywhere near a hospital emergency room.

If you ask me what I do all day, I will punch you in the throat.

WORLD-S-OKAYEST-MOM-Women-s-T-ShirtsI became a stay home mom almost four years ago after the birth of my second child.  Prior to that I was a working mom, and at one time in my life I was a single working mom.  So having experienced the parenting challenges inherent in those situations, you can imagine how thrilled I was to have the opportunity to be able to stay home with my kids.  I thought it would be fun and I imagined all sorts of scenarios involving playdates, an immaculately clean house and home-cooked, healthy meals I would make for my family every night.  I mean, how difficult could that be?  I would be home…with my own kids…ALL…DAY…LONG.

Cue the hysterical laughter.

The reality for many of us, or at least for me, is that being a stay home parent is a lot like being stuck in Groundhog Day hell.  You tend to repeat the same activities over, and over, and over. My life often feels like an endless loop of housework, laundry, toddler drama, managing school drama, homework, cooking and hygiene.  And the hygiene management isn’t even for me.  It’s amazing how difficult it is to get a school age child to care about showering or brushing their teeth, or teaching a potty training toddler how to wipe without creating a disaster area that requires a hazmat team to clean up.

make_the_donuts[1]Sometimes, when I’m doing housework, I imagine that old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial where the old man goes through his morning routine, saying in a dreary voice, “It’s time to make the donuts.”  Here’s my rant about housework, so bear with me…If I spend an hour cleaning my hardwood floors, in another hour they look like shit again.  I do the dishes so that we continue to have more clean dishes to dirty.  Laundry is an endless cycle of wash, dry, fold and repeat.  Nobody likes a dirty bathroom, and with young, potty-training children in the house, I could clean the toilets daily and they may still look and smell like gas station toilets, which is just gross.  And the toys…oh, dear God, the toys.  I can pick them up, but the second I put one away, three more magically appear out of thin air.  Is it me, or do crayons and Legos have the ability to multiply on their own?

Now let’s talk about caring for young children and running household errands.  For the sake of providing a brief, yet complete picture, let’s just say that taking care of young kids is a lot like what I imagine it would be like working for a bi-polar, incontinent dictator(s), except without the threat of death or having your fingers cut off.  “I want milk!  No, I want orange juice.  Give me some orange juice!  No, I want milk!  I have to have milk!  Now I have to poop!  Mommy, wipe my butt!”  So demanding!  And grocery shopping with toddlers is like willingly entering the seventh circle of hell.

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In my first year as a stay home mom, I was a raving lunatic about the house.  It was my job to take care of the house, and how could I do that if everyone keeps wrecking it?!  One day I said to my husband, “Imagine you went to work and finished a big project.  And then someone comes into your office and destroys your project and tells you to start over.  I bet you’d be pretty pissed about that, huh?  That’s what every day is like for me.”  My husband suggested we hire a housekeeper to help me out.  I got upset (over-reacted), and said absolutely not because if I’m home there’s no reason to pay someone money for something I can do myself.  (Again, cue the hysterical laughter.)

wine-parents-mother-drink-family-funny-ecard-e7d[1]I did actually have several emotional breakdowns.  A couple of times I just started crying in the middle of folding laundry.  I began to resent the dust on the floors and the animals for constantly shedding their hair. I was short-tempered and impatient every time someone got out a toy or dripped something on the floor that I just cleaned.  I wanted to scream over spilled milk. I felt isolated, spending up to ten hours a day alone with my kids and the only person I had to talk to was more interested in playing with his toe jam than in having a conversation with his Mommy.  In short, I was a hot mess.

I was depressed.  I thought what the hell?  Is this my life?  When did I become this person?  I used to have a career!  I used to feel respected and like I was a valuable member of a team.  Now I feel like I’m just here to cook, clean, chase kids and make everyone else’s life easier. I worried that my value would be diminished in my husband’s eyes because I no longer had interesting and intelligent news to contribute over our dinner conversation.  It’s hard to feel valuable when the extent of your daily news is how many times our son went pee-pee on the potty, how many loads of laundry I did, or how I struggled to help our daughter with her fourth grade math homework.  (And fourth graders do hard math these days, so don’t judge me.)

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There are some women who seem to be able to do it all. They can keep a nice house, go to the gym every day, cook homemade meals with organic, unprocessed ingredients, grow their own vegetables in a garden, volunteer at their kid’s schools, and also volunteer at church every week.  They make it look effortless.  I’m convinced that these women take drugs, or they’re just really good liars, but that’s pure speculation on my part.  Regardless, I’m not one of these women, and I’ve learned to be perfectly fucking okay with that.

I have now allowed myself to try and let go of most of my self-imposed expectations, and I accept having a not-so-perfect house.  I understand and accept that my sanity and my family’s overall happiness is more important than clean floors and picked up toys.  I understand that playing games with my son and reading books with my daughter is more important than trying to live up to an impossible standard of perfection.  I’m learning that sometimes doing less really does equate to more.

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What changed?  First of all, my Wanda reminded me that depression is an asshole, and we don’t choose to be friends with assholes.  Second, I reminded myself that attitude is everything.  The outcome of any given situation is largely dependent on the attitude you adopt while dealing with it.  And up until that point my attitude sucked.   I also realized that I have to take advantage of this gift of time I’ve been given with my kids and my family and stop stressing about unimportant things.  Now, when my son walks up to me at 10am on a Wednesday and says, “Mommy, can we just snuggle?” instead of thinking about the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the dryer, I just embrace that time with him.  In those moments, I feel like I have the best job ever.

1375266_183307995188929_1395468096_n[1]Sure, I look around my house and see stuff that needs to get done.  Some days I tackle those things and some days I don’t. Some days I get a small amount of time to myself, but most days I don’t.  Some days, I want to walk outside and beg a stranger to have an adult conversation with me, but I never follow-through on that impulse because that’s just weird and I don’t want to be the neighborhood weirdo.

I’ve learned to embrace yoga pants and pony tails.  I’ve accepted that I will not wear make-up every day, and some days I just feel fortunate to get a shower alone and my teeth brushed before noon.  I still battle with the stay-home-mommy-blues, but I take what good things I can get, where I can get them.  I’m trying to find a balance between making myself happy and doing what I need to do for my family.  This is difficult, but I keep trying.

And the most incredible validation comes when my husband walks over to me, usually after spending a weekend taking care of the kids, kisses me and says, “I don’t know how you do this every day, but I’m so thankful that you do, and I appreciate you so much.”  That makes me feel respected and like an important member of our family’s team.  And I thank God every day that I have a supportive  and understanding partner, because if he walked in after work, looked around the house and asked me what the hell I did all day, I swear to God, I would punch him in the throat.

What’s in a Name?

My name is Wanda.  Well, my real name isn’t Wanda.  Let me explain.  When I was ten years old I decided that my real name was not so great and I wanted to change it.  My real name was popular in the 70’s thanks to a well-known band and their one hit wonder about a sea captain and his favorite portside wench.  My real name was also very popular with dogs, as in I shared the same name with many dogs.  It was particularly popular with Irish Setters and Golden Retrievers.  Can you imagine what it’s like to go over to your friend’s house for the first time to meet their family, and then while scratching their dog on the head hear them say, “Oh, our dog’s name is ______too!”  It happened to me all the time, and at the tender age of ten this bothered me.  (Due to this childhood trauma, I have a strict policy of only naming my animals after literary characters or historical figures).

Why couldn’t I have a more interesting name?  Like Kelly, Heather or Wanda.  Wanda sounded very exotic and exciting to me at the age of ten.  It was exciting in an earthy, trailer-court-living sort of way.  I’m not kidding, and I’m not making fun of trailer courts.  At the age of ten, trailer courts fascinated me, and in the Midwest trailer courts were plentiful.  The houses were on wheels for God’s sake!  Some were on cement blocks or permanent foundations, but still, can you imagine being able to move your house?  To a ten year old that shit was fantastic!  And I wanted to be fantastic too.

So one night I asked my mother if I could legally change my name to Wanda.  My Mom just smiled at my request and said, “Sure honey, whatever you want.  But why don’t you take some time and really think about it before we do anything permanent, okay?”  If you knew my mother, this incredibly adult and rational response would shock you, and I guess it shocked me into putting some thought into it as well.  Obviously, my mother did not let me change my name and I eventually forgot about it and moved on.

But here I am many years later, and I will never forget that feeling of wanting to be better than I was.  I will never forget wanting to be different.  Not in a stand-out-in-the- crowd way, but just to be different than how I perceived myself to be.  I wanted to be brave enough to try new and challenging things without the fear of rejection or failure.  I wanted to be as good, special or talented as I perceived other people to be.  I did not want to be compared to dogs.  (I should say that I do really love animals, but to a ten year old, continuous dog comparisons were not good for my self-esteem).

I realize now as an adult that we rarely see ourselves as others see us, despite our talents, intellect, how we’re raised or what we’re told about ourselves.  And I believe that if we knew how others saw us, we would probably be well and truly shocked, in both good ways and bad.  But regardless, we all have that deep down desire to be better or different in some way.  We have that desire to challenge ourselves to be more than we thought we could be. It doesn’t have to be epic.  It just has to move you in a way that propels you forward toward something that helps you to learn, or evolve, or be happy and find peace within yourself.  That deep seeded desire is my Wanda.

Three years ago I left my previous career after the birth of my second child and moved to a new city for my husband’s job.  Somehow, I failed to find my balance in this life change, and for the past three years I have felt adrift and at a complete loss as to how to anchor myself again.  It sort of feels like leaving my career and devoting my life to my family somehow negated that part of me that is uniquely me.  I lost my Wanda.

I adore my family and I believe that my contribution as a stay home mother is important and has value.  But any stay home parent will tell you that choosing this path, while very rewarding, also has its own challenges.  It’s hard to feel accomplished and like you have contributed something important to the world when you spend your day cooking, chasing children,  doing housework,  homework and folding endless loads of laundry.  My family might be better for it, but some days I feel like I’m drowning.

Recently, my husband presented me with the idea of writing a blog.  He recognized that I needed a creative outlet and my own small way to reclaim my sense of self.   Immediately, the under-achiever in me (who I do not reward by giving a special name) felt unsafe and insecure.  I am not a writer.  Why would anyone want to read what I have to say?  How could I write anything that hasn’t already been written about by many other people, who probably said it so much better than I can?  Then my Wanda reared up her head and pointed out that I needed to get over it already and just write the damn thing because it would be a fun thing to do and I would enjoy it.  But what if nobody reads it?  And then my Wanda said, “Who the fuck cares?”

So here I am, writing a blog.  It’s time to try something different and to challenge myself to be more.  This year I resolve to embrace my Wanda!  I pledge to follow that saucy bitch wherever she leads me. I have spent three years thinking about the direction of my life and making no choices because all my choices seemed so intimidating or unreachable.  But those choices don’t have to be epic, right?  They just have to propel me forward.

My name is Brandi, but this is about the discovery of a girl named Wanda.