Wanda Says…Keep calm and head to Chicago!

Chicago-skyline-2[1]This past weekend I went to Chicago, alone, for a girl’s weekend with some of my college friends.  I needed a break from my stay-home-mommy-madness.  I needed a break from laundry, dieting, cooking, and repeatedly asking small people to brush their teeth and put on their shoes.

I love Chicago, and it is my favorite city!  Aside from being beautiful with endless cultural opportunities and diversity, there is a comfort and familiarity that always draws me in.  Lakeshore Drive, Michigan Avenue, State Street, Navy Pier, Grant Park, Buckingham Fountain and the Shedd Aquarium all hold memories for me that span the first 25 years of my life.

Millennium Park

Millennium Park

Some of my favorite memories include prom dress shopping at Lord & Taylor and Bloomingdales, attending the Taste of Chicago food festival, Cubs games, making a music video at Navy Pier (which I am still extremely embarrassed about), attending a friends fairy-tale wedding at the Hilton Towers, and endless nights of fantastically bad behavior while bar hopping with friends.

The weekend was amazing!

We spent time in downtown Chicago and went to Macy’s to look at the holiday windows.  We had lunch at the Walnut Room and I felt the holiday spirit begin to rear it’s glorious head as I drank wine and allowed myself to be sucked into the moment .

Macy's Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room

Macy’s Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room

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I believe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walked the city and visited Cloud Gate, or as the locals call it, The Bean, at Millennium Park.

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The Bean!

We drank endless bottles of wine, ate tapas and sang at the top of our lungs in a lovely little dive bar.  We reminisced over old memories and we laughed until our sides hurt.

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I froze my ass off, but it was worth it!

I want to thank my friends for making themselves available to me when I desperately needed to escape from my life for a few days.  Thank you, Jennifer, Katie, Amy N., Amy D., Jenn L., and Melissa.  Thank you for being the wild, wine-drinking, fun-loving, adventurous women that you are!

I also want to thank my mother-in-law for the first class plane ticket to Chicago!  You spoiled me rotten for my birthday and gave me a much needed boost to restore my sanity, and I can’t thank you enough!  🙂

Wanda Says…What happens on the island, stays on the island. Mostly.

Last weekend my husband and I went to Catalina Island for a wedding. Yeah, it wasn’t rough.

One of Dan’s fraternity brothers from college was getting married, and although it was a small wedding, the list of people invited ensured that the weekend would involve three days of organized hilarity and madness, which is just what this newly-turned 40 year old, sometimes depressed stay-home mom needed.

The weekend was fantastic! You have to take a boat or helicopter from one of the ports in and around southern California to reach the island.  It’s about an hour and twenty minute trip by boat.  On our trip out there, our boat was escorted by a large school of dolphins.  It was incredible!  The dolphins played and danced in the waves alongside the boat, and stayed with us for several miles.  There were baby dolphins as well, and my husband was hanging off the side of the boat to capture these pictures.

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The island is very small, so cars are a rarity and you either walk everywhere or rent golf carts. We stayed at a beautiful hotel located on the main street, ate fresh seafood at restaurants overlooking the bay, and the Catalina Air Show provided some very exciting entertainment.  Planes of all varieties were swooping and diving, skimming the water as the pilots showed off their mad skills.  The most exciting moments though were when an F-18 fighter jet practiced maneuvers over the island as part of the show.  I can honestly tell you, that was some sexy shit.  When that jet flew overhead, the noise was deafening, the walls of the restaurant rattled and every cell in my body jumped to attention.  I kept looking around, waiting for Maverick and Goose to stroll into the bar so I could buy them a beer.

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It was a Sunday wedding, and Mimosas were served on the lawn overlooking the bay with palm trees and blue skies as far as the eye could see. It was truly an incredible place to get married.

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I had planned to write a very detailed blog post, sharing all the bad behavior and drama that ensued over the weekend. Then I realized some of our friends might not appreciate that, because you know, what happens on the island….

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So out of respect for our friends, I will refrain from posting any embarrassing stories or moments that could be traced back to the not-so-innocent. But I will share this one tiny little bit of detail…while partying at the bar after the wedding, SOMEONE licked the chest, and chest hair, of the guy who officiated the wedding.  After observing this icky display of drunken madness, I looked at my husband and said, “That dude is not a man of God.”

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.