Where is My Village?

January was a difficult month, there are whole parts of it I don’t remember and I swear it was the 16th just yesterday. You may have been wondering where I was or if I had stopped writing altogether. Never fear, I was only sick and I have no plans to stop writing.

January was a month of learning lessons and feeling isolated. Mid January I got sick, really sick. Some kind of virus set up shop in my body and played havoc with my digestive system and brain. No joke, I swear I heard it laughing inside me. Erie.

It came on fast, and it stayed too long. It drained my body of fluids, and my brain of the ability to think or make good decisions. It pushed me farther than I thought I could go and forced me to make choices I shouldn’t have been making. Seriously, it was a giant slap in the face.

What I realized, while considering my demise, was that those around me are more capable than I gave them credit for, and I am seriously deficient in the number of those around me.  In other words, my 2 and 4 year old children were better at accepting my illness and inability to help them than I thought they would be. They managed to go potty alone and find their own snacks. They played alone in their rooms for significantly more time when I was unable to watch them properly. They never complained. They were tiny rock stars. My husband stepped up and actually went to the grocery store. Sure it took him 4 trips to get everything but he went, he did it well, and he even found some new gluten free things I didn’t know about. Plus, he managed two trips to the urgent care and one trip to the emergency room without succumbing to his germ-aphobic paranoia. Heck, he even managed to enter the same room I was in without holding his breath, and I swear one time he even rubbed my back for a half a second. :)

Bottom line was we needed help, seriously, we needed someone to watch our kids, make sure I was getting rest and fluids, and allow my husband to go to work daily. We didn’t have it. So I learned we can manage, though it was ugly, but we should try to open our village up to new folks so maybe we won’t have to do it alone next time.

Friends and resources are important for so many reasons. We should have had an emergency plan in place and a sitter who had already been to our home and knew the lay of the land. We should find people with similar interests and children the same age as our boys just in case we need last minute support that only more people can provide. Sometimes it does take a village. Not a dysfunctional mess of a village full of idiots, but purposefully selected and competent villagers who care and are kind.

I’m not great at making friends and I’m worse now that I have children. I honestly don’t like many other moms and the way they treat their children is appalling (though I’m sure many of them feel the same about me). Plus, I have significantly reduced my inner circle by removing people who were damaging to me and by having others walk out of my life for no reason I can discern (I guess maybe I was damaging to them?). So I guess I need to make new friends a priority. I guess I need to stuff my superior feelings and just learn to accept others flaws and all and just be glad when those flaws don’t include being hurtful.  While I think people can hurt your happiness, and even intentionally prevent one from attaining true happiness, I now see that the right people can be instrumental in helping you achieve and maintain happiness.

So here is to a future of friends, or at least resources in place to make our next emergency less traumatic. And a big thanks to my family for supporting me in my moment of utter despair. I’m grateful I have such selfless people in my life. I am thankful I have such wonderful, confident, and empathetic children who did their best to help mommy. Kind of a tall order for those under 4, but those two managed that and then some.

I’m not back to full strength; it could be a few more weeks before that happens. But in the mean time I’m just going to take it easy, smile more often, be thankful for great insurance, and rest.

The Best of 2013

I’m not going to lie, 2013 kicked my proverbial ass in many ways. In other ways it was one of the most eye opening and life defining years of my life. Entering into motherhood three years prior had left me feeling like I’d lost myself. Losing my sister three years ago left me feeling broken.  I continued moving forward because that is what life is about, that is how you get unstuck from the muck and that is how you create the life you want, but in many ways it was just me going through the motions as opposed to me really living life. On the outside it looked like I was getting stuff done, sticking to a plan, on the inside it was like watching a movie and wishing it was over so I could sleep. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children, I love my husband, I love my life, but sometimes life knocks you down and makes other plans and you can stop and wallow in that shit or you can give it the middle finger and keep on moving even if you are injured (see that old intentional living I have been going on about for months).

2013 gave me a sick baby and doctors and hospitals and people I wish I had never had the need to meet, but am so grateful I did. It had my family discovering that Celiac Disease is actually a positive thing (when I consider the other potential options). It had me falling in love with my husband all over again by being lucky enough to watch him embrace his life as a responsible adult (something I think men struggle with). 2013 had me reach my pre baby weight but not my pre baby body (I still hope to shock and amaze you with before and after photos one day, maybe a 4 pack at 40 kind of thing by June??) but I learned my ability to be a dude is far more important than a flat stomach.  2013 saw my mother move to our property, my oldest learning how to be a good big brother, and my youngest potty training himself. 2013 let me reconnect with old friends, find my soul sister, and create laughter. But 2013 also brought me something else, this blog.

To some of you that may not even be note worthy. To me it has been a journey, and at times, an eye opening experience as I peruse all things in life looking for a better life, a happier life, a good way to live. By writing about my thoughts, by conveying what I have learned and all I have read I have not only learned much about me, I’ve learned so much about that better life. I am now able to turn off my mind when it tries to harm me with thoughts about my past or future, thoughts I cannot change and events I cannot alter. I have learned how to find happiness in this moment, how to let go of pain, how to manage my finances, how to talk to my husband, how to confront constructively, and how to love more completely. I have far more patience than I did when I started this journey and I can actually see the me I used to be before kids, before loss. There she is, looking at me in that mirror. There she is lounging surrounded by pups. There she is playing games with her kids. She didn’t disappear, she just got a little lost.

I spent a lot of time this year feeling defeated, scared, beaten down, broken, just utterly lost. I was frustrated that life wasn’t what I had been sold, that things could go horribly askew without my consent, and that so many people all over the place, every where I looked, were suffering. Then one day I sat down and I Googled happiness. I Googled, happy life. I Googled Zen. And it changed everything. Something so silly and ridiculous changed everything. So while we are better off financially than we were, our son thankfully does NOT have cancer, and our family life is full of laughter and peace, I know, I know in my heart and my head that I got to this place thru the journey of intentional decisions. Of choosing to shape my future so it would not be defined by my past. Of choosing the identity I wanted instead of the one I had fallen into.

While I think there is value in many of the posts from 2013 (I am bias after all), here are the most popular posts and those YOU found value in. May 2014 be a year where we all continue to make our own destinies and give the middle finger to anything that tries to stop us.

Things Dads Do- Apparently you all love videos, especially if it is a video of my husband doing questionable things with his children.

How to get laid more- Apparently you all love having sex too. I’m shocked by this one. :)

I help you all pick a deodorant- or at least I make you feel less alone picking a deodorant.

3 Songs- I got a lot of feedback on this one that it reminded people to remember what they love about their significant other. It went a way I didn’t expect when I wrote it, I’m glad you all took it another way. I was instantly more grateful.

You and Your Finances- This one made you all feel a little less alone. I know it made me feel less alone and it was the first step, a coming out if you will, that allowed us to get on the road to fixing our finances.

How to Kick Ass at the Gym- Speaks for itself.

and my favorite, not just because it is about me, but because writing it and really considering it,  opened my eyes and reminded me of who I am and why I like that person. About Wendy

Christmas Outtakes

  Christmas 2007- Just me and my “boys”

I don’t have many family traditions when it comes to the holidays. Unless you count someone over doing it on a prescription medication while the rest of us act like there isn’t an elephant in the room to be a tradition, which I don’t. And since my sister died in 2010 I haven’t had the Christmas spirit the way I used to and I am still wondering if it will come back to me or not. In the mean time I have been faking my way through the holiday season, not really depressed, just not really feeling it either. I often wonder how many people are faking it and how many people are really filled with the spirit of Christmas and everything that goes with it. I’ll probably never know since people are pretty good at faking what they don’t actually feel.

I’m not  religious, but somehow this year I feel compelled to go to the Christmas night proceedings at the little church we used to go to when I was a kid. The last time I remember going there was with my sister when we were in our twenties. They handed out a copy of the Christmas story and apparently our copy was different than the pastor’s, so as he read the stories didn’t match up; I still don’t know why, but Carri and I could not stop laughing at how funny it was. There we stood, strangers in this congregation where only the pastor remembered our little kid faces, laughing and snorting behind our hands simply because the words didn’t match. Maybe the story was just a metaphor for the fact that we didn’t match either, and were completely out of place even if the church used to be our story. I don’t know if I want to go to feel closer to her, or to find something missing inside. I don’t believe in God, now more than ever, but I am drawn to the peace of strangers holding candles singing carols and reciting stories about a baby born in a manger. I don’t think my sister will be there, but I sort of hope that if I go I will see her covering her mouth with her hand snorting with laughter that the words don’t match. That would make it all worth while. I miss her.

But back to traditions. Now that I have little boys I want to create family traditions for the holidays. I want my kids to grow up remembering the things we did each year that made the holidays special, that hopefully they will pass on to their own kids. I would like the family time together to be about more than food and presents. I want them to look back and remember the events, the feelings, the love of traditions. My first Christmas with a baby was fine, but there were no traditions and I more or less phoned in the holiday. My sister had only been gone six months and I wasn’t coping well with her loss. I bought my son toys off the internet and I put up a tree, that was about it. I am grateful he was too young to know how little I accomplished, nor will he remember the lack of festive cheer or the tears I fought back most of the day.

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The second year I had just had my youngest and I was overwhelmed with two children and an out of work husband. We had just moved to Colorado from Virginia and while I tried to put in more effort that year it was about the same. I think we watched a few Christmas classics on TV and we made cookies to decorate with friends. That Christmas eve we spent with friends and it was the only time during the season I didn’t long for my sister, and it truly felt like a wonderful holiday. Last year was a repeat of the year before only I managed to buy presents on Black Friday and we skipped cookies. I felt weary and bad about not having the Christmas spirit, my kids were starting to figure out what Christmas was and how we should be acting.

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This year I am no longer mired in loss and I finally feel like I have enough sleep and energy to dedicate to the holiday that little kids love so much. We have made our hand/Santa ornaments, we have visited old St. Nick, we’ve bought presents and watched Mr. Grinch and we have talked about the meaning of Christmas. I think this will be a Christmas I will want to remember, one I will be able to look back on and say that is when we started our traditions. That was the year we made our first paper chains for our tree (when we stuck them together with stickers because Vazer used all the tape), the year we left cookies and milk out for Santa, the year we toured lights on houses and drank cold cocoa. I think I will look back on this year with fond memories of my sister and our time together instead of grieving what I have lost and the times we will never get.

In the midst of all of this there is only one tradition I have done faithfully since 2006. Sure that was only 7 years ago, but it is my tradition and it had to start somewhere, sometime. Every year I take a family picture right around the Christmas holiday. It started as an attempt to create fabulous holiday postcards, but it has turned out to just be a wonderful way to show the passage of time. The introduction of new family and the passing of old family. I love these pictures and what they have come to show about me, my life, and the people and animals I am blessed to share it with.

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My family has always had dogs in it and it was always my hope to include them in the family photo. I have managed that every year but last year and I still look at that photo and it feels empty to me, fake and somehow not a good representation of “us”. We even took it outside hoping it would make two kids and 5 dogs easier to get a picture of all together. It wasn’t it was terrible. Mind you, every year has its challenges. You try to photograph a bunch of dogs in a confined space with nothing but a remote control and zero for them to focus on. It isn’t as easy as it sounds and I don’t think I make it sound easy. Dogs are not good at getting their photos taken on a good day. Now add a person moving around and nothing to look at and you have general pandemonium. It didn’t help when we introduced kids to the mix either.

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Every year I flip through the 2 dozen or so photos we have taken looking for the “best one”. But even the best one won’t be that good. Someone won’t be looking at the camera, or someone will be licking their privates or making a weird face. But that isn’t why we take the photos, it isn’t why I insist on it every year. These photos are the real “us”. My family uncensored, unedited, unsterilized by a commercial photographer. It just doesn’t get more real than my husband jokingly choking out the Rottie for not behaving, or me pushing a Swissy away from my face because his tongue is in the way of the shot. My exasperated look and my children running around with dogs chasing them is who we are. I love these pictures and the 30 minutes we spend taking them because we have low expectations of the results, and no matter what they are hilarious and meaningful.

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So while I may not remember if we made cookies one year or not, and my kids won’t remember most of the gifts they get, we all will remember the moment we tried to get our family picture. We all will remember the yelling at dogs, the treats flying, kids crying, dad laughing and mom getting flustered as she keeps looking at the shots and saying “just one more”. I’ve only been taking these photos for a short time, I look forward to the day when my whole wall will be covered in the honest picture of our holiday seasons.  I love that I can see myself go from single to engaged to pregnant to a mom to a mom of two and growing children. I love that my favorite dog Cody is in the beginning with Rutger and Harold, then Rutger passes and his nephew Backup takes his place, then Cody passes and my baby joins us. It is a cool thing to look back on, where we have been. It reminds me of where I get to go and how exciting this ride is going to be.

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Below is what we have so far. Enjoy! And may your holidays be filled with the love and laughter of your family and friends. You never know when will be your last picture with someone you love.

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