Lauren Wellbank

One mom and her struggle to survive until bedtime


Month: May 2016

Gang aft agley*

This isn’t the path that I started down.  That’s the thought that keeps running through my head today.  This morning, while doing my normal morning Facebook perusing while my daughter stares slack jawed at Elmo on the TV, and I waited for my coffee to brew, I checked out my “memories”.  If you don’t know what that is, it’s a feature that Facebook has where it allows you to look back over posts that you’ve made on this day in years past.

For the past week or two there has been a running theme, my future.  In 2010 I went back to school to become a nurse.  I can remember the exact moment I decided that it’s what I wanted to do.  I was sitting in my car alone, staring out the window at some bushes, having just finished having a very long and loud cry.  I thought, “This isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing with my life” and immediately after, “I want to be a nurse.”

Now, go back two years.  I was nearing the end of my longest lay off yet.  My job hunt had been wildly unsuccessful as most of the major mortgage companies had been closing their doors, the market was flooded with capable candidates, and any companies that were managing to keep their doors open were tightening their belts and working on keeping the lights on.  In other words, nobody needed one more account manager on the books.

I had blown through my savings and maxed out every credit card I had (once I figured out that I could pay the electric bill with my visa, it all went rapidly downhill).  I was eating cucumbers and dip for dinner most nights.  I had begged, borrowed, and stolen as far as I could and things were verging on the brink of dire.  Or maybe things already were dire and I was just focused on the silver lining (after all, I could afford dip for my cucumbers, life wasn’t all doom and gloom).  I had called a temp agency to try and get my foot in the door at one of the few companies that was still writing mortgages.  Naturally, I had secured a job interview for the same day that I came down with a stomach virus.  I interviewed while green around the gills and trying desperately be both impressive and to not puke on anyone.  For some strange reason they offered me the job.  I was there for approximately three weeks before they announced that they would be closing the branch.

This is how things went for me back then.

They had given us plenty of notice so I had some breathing room while I searched for a job outside the industry (and at a much lower salary).  That ended up being a sales position with a pest control company.  So, yeah, way outside the industry.  Also, way outside of my comfort zone.  I do not like sales.  Selling things is the worst.  You have to be “on” at all times, which is something that I am not.  Fortunately, it was around this time that HARP/HASP were rolled out and things were beginning to look up.  I was able to leave (read: run screaming from) my sales job and return to doing what I loved paid the bills.

I mentioned before that the moment I decided that I was going back to school I was sitting in my car while parked in front of some bushes…  well that was two years prior to when I actually went back to school.  That’s right, I made the decision that I wanted to do it, and then it took two years to actually do it.  I can hear my mom’s voice in the back of my head telling me that if I had gone back when I first thought about it I would have been finished by the point that I actually ended up starting.

So, in 2010 I went back to school to become a nurse.  It was a wildly exciting and terrifying time.  Aside from going back to school after an almost ten year hiatus I had a lot going on.  It was probably not the best time to start something as hard as nursing school (as the best time would have been two years prior jackass… that’s me, not you), but it was the time that I chose none the less.

According to Facebook I loved it.  I did very well in the first two courses that I took (it’s six years later and I don’t really remember anything that I learned during that period of time, which is a little scary).  I was full of enthusiasm and excited by the promise of the future and what lay ahead of me.  I don’t need Facebook to help me remember what came next.  I was two courses in before I had to drop out (the first time).  I couldn’t keep up with the work load and put in as many hours at the office as I needed to in order to meet expectations.  I had to decide between my possible future as a nurse and my present day situation of being a person that needed electricity and food and water and stuff.  The food and water and stuff won out (I had gotten used to eating things other than cucumbers for dinner by then).  The second time I had to drop out was for the same reasons, current responsibilities and expectations won out over the someday future in which I would become a nurse.

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Lots of things happened from that point on.  I out lasted one more company and two more job changes before deciding to leave the work force.  I never went back to school.

So there I stood, Sesame Street playing in the background, coffee mug filling up before me, and my phone in my hand.  Scrolling though Facebook declarations of what a slightly younger me had decided would become of my life.

The best laid plans, right.

I took my mug to the couch and sat down and sipped hot coffee next to my daughter.  She leaned into my shoulder and pulled her blanket up and yelled out, “Elmo!” in her sweet little voice.  I put my phone down and leaned my head back and smiled.  I’ll never know how much deciding not to stick with school changed my path.  Would I have decided to return to work after having my daughter?  Would I have even had her yet or would I still be focused on my career and getting to where I wanted to be, children still on the back burner?

Would I have found as much joy in the sound of that sweet little “Elmo” yell? 

I still manage to get my fill of helping people these days, which is the real reason why I wanted to become a nurse, in caring for my daughter and my grandmother.  Some days I clean up puke, some days I organize pills, and some days I fish boogers out of noses (I’m going to let you make your assumptions as to who I am talking about for each of those things).  I have traded scrubs for leggings (boy have I ever), and job security for questioning what I am doing EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. OF. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

Maybe in the future I will return to school.  And maybe this next time will be the time that I am able to stick it out.  For now I find myself exactly where I am supposed to be in this moment.  I’m not going to tempt fate by making any great proclamations of what comes next or where I’ll be in another six years.  All I know for sure is that if I’m back in the mortgage industry, something has gone terribly wrong in my life.

 

*Yeah that was a super obscure Burns reference

Drinking with Guns

I’m going to tell you a story.  This is real life, pulled directly from the archives of my misspent youth (please note, I’m being a little free with the whole “misspent youth” thing as my youth was rather tame by comparison.  I’m a white girl from the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I did spend a good deal of my childhood in a trailer park, but that’s about as far as my street cred extends).  It’s about the time that my life almost turned into an Afterschool Special (and if you don’t know what that is, then you are probably too young to be reading this.  Also, ugh).

So, prior to the birth of my progeny, the scariest five minutes of my life happened in 2001.  I was nineteen.  I have taken some liberties with people’s name because… well, quite frankly it’s been almost twenty years and I forget some of these people’s names.  Also, sometimes you have to just assume that other people don’t want crazy stories from their misspent youth on the internet.  You know, like sane people.  Also, there is underage drinking, gun violence, and mild adult language.  Proceed at your own risk.

It was a very cold winter night when the guy I was dating at the time (sorry, husband!!) picked me up to hang out.  We were going to our friend’s… let’s call him Rick Palmer… house.  Well, it was his dad’s house because we were all basically children.  I was nineteen, the guy I was with was only just barely a man at twenty-one, and the person whose house we were going to was a paltry eighteen years old.  We were all coming together to hang out and drink, because that’s what you do when you are in your most latest of teens in the suburbs… or I guess… in America.

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Okay, so I totally had one in the back of my fridge but there is a reasonable explanation for it

I can’t tell you what we were drinking.  Back in those days I was all about malt liquor in the 40 oz variety.  Grown up me would probably get a terrible case of indigestion if I drank it now.  Actually, grown up me has a terrible case of indigestion just thinking about drinking it now.  Now a days I’m all about an ice cold lager or a very large glass of wine.

But, back to the scariest five minutes of my young life.  My beau and I, let’s call him Todd Fields, were going to Rick’s house for an intimate gathering of friends (read: drunken night of debauchery, but for youths).  Todd and I were sitting in the living room on the couch chatting with some friends from out of town.  Everyone else had been there for quite a bit by the time we arrived.  As my grandmother would say, they were pretty far into their cups.  Todd and I were trying our best to catch up.  Well, I was, Todd was driving and therefore was not drinking.  He had to sway the scales back in his favor somehow, I mean, he did buy beer for a minor.  Rick was playing the gracious host and going from room to room making sure that everyone was having a good time and (if memory serves me correctly) making sure nobody touched a goddamn thing in his dad’s house because we were definitely NOT supposed to be there.

Everyone was having fun.  Todd and I were sitting in the living room talking about what we were going to do later that evening.  A few friends on the couch across from us were talking about some other nonsense that seemed really important at the time.  I don’t really remember the preamble to what came next at all, but I remember the following five minutes with the clarity that I remember my phone number or home address.  From the other end of the living room, seemingly out of nowhere, Rick blurted out, “Hey, who wants to see my dad’s gun?”

Now, I was a few beers in, and we have already gone over the fact that Todd had questionable judgement (beer for minors anyone), but we both looked at each other and had what was probably our one moment of agreement ever.

“Um, maybe that’s not a good idea Rick.”  Todd said.  I patted him on the arm to let him know that I thought this was good thinking on his part and said lamely, “Yeah, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We’ve all been drinking, and, well… this is how, like, 90% of all Afterschool Specials start.”

We may as well have been whispering from the bottom of a large well to passengers on a plane as it flew above.  Almost everyone jumped at the idea.  The two friends that had been sitting on the couch across from us looked around horrified.  Apparently they had also seen an Afterschool Special or two in their day.  I could read their thoughts on their faces as plainly as if they had spoken them.  So, this is happening?  Are we really going to live through the next few minutes when one of our friends gets their brains drunkenly blown out?  I looked at Todd again.  He was an adult, after all, shouldn’t he be doing some adulting?  He just shook his head and shrugged at me as if to say, well, we tried.  I leaned back and braced for whatever would come next.  I’d like to say that I jumped up and marched into the other room where everyone (it’s worth noting that “everyone” was all the men in the house.  The smart people, the women, were still safely in the living room… with Todd) was gathering and put a stop to it using what is now known as my Mom Voice…  But, that would be a lie and revisionist history and I’m not too big into either of those things.

The house was small enough that you could still hear most of the conversation that was going on in the other room from our vantage point on the couch.  We weren’t eaves dropping, per say, we just had a clear ear line to the bedroom.

It went like this:  Rick pulled out the gun.  Everyone ohh-ed and ahh-ed.  A loud gun shot rang out in the mostly quiet house.  Rick shrieked, “DID I JUST SHOOT YOU?!” in what was perhaps the most predictable moment of my life.  Followed by his, and this completely caught me by surprise, laugher.  “Nah, man, I didn’t shoot you.  It’s loaded with blanks.”  Then came another predictable event, the sound of flesh on flesh where Ivan (sure, let’s call him Ivan), the kid who had the gun leveled at his chest when Rick pulled the trigger, punched him square in the heart.

Everyone had a good laugh and came tumbling out of the back bedroom.  Rick told us how his dad kept the gun loaded with blanks.  Real gun, fake bullets.  He knew this going into the room and had planned to “shoot” one of our friends, he just didn’t know who until they were all in there.

I would like to take this moment to point out to my mother that while I was underage drinking I was not one of the people who said, drunkenly, “let’s all go look at a gun!”  I feel like a “sorry” is warranted none the less.  Sorry, mom. 

Also, as a fun follow up, I messaged Rick on Facebook recently and asked him if he cared if I shared the story about the time he pretended to shoot that guy.  He responded with, “I didn’t pretend shit, that gun went off in my lap”, so, yeah.

 

Walking the Line

I think that I have been walking a thin line between thinking that my daughter is some super advanced genius child and maaaaaaybe there’s something wrong with her.  On the super-genius-child side we have the fact that she is excellent at making connections.  We taught her that if you rub your fingers together (you know, in the universal “psst psst psst” way that you call cats), the cats will come to her.  She chases them around the house doing it and it’s great fun for everyone that isn’t a cat.  Today we were playing with a farm toy and it had a picture of a cat on it and she did the “psst psst psst” thing with her fingers to the picture because it’s a cat and she knows that cats like that.  I found that to be absolutely brilliant.  She has also become quite the mimic.  She walks around pretending to talk on the phone and wiping down the furniture with anything “wipe like” that she can get her hands on.  You know, just like mom, always gabbing on the phone with somebody or running around cleaning.  She thrives on a reaction from us.  If you laugh at something that she does, she will put on a little show and do it again to get more laughs.  On the down side of that though she thinks that anytime we tell her “no” it’s just the beginning of a super fun game where she does whatever she is not supposed to do again, and I run after her, pulling my hair out and trying not to cry while correcting her.  Actually, this is more of an evil genius kind of thing because it doesn’t matter that the thing she is trying to do is bad (like why she needs to try and put her hand in my grandmother’s water glass all day is beyond me), she loves it and she will find any way that she can to keep doing it.

And then there is the stuff that she doesn’t get.  I found her licking the stairs yesterday.  Just standing there, hands down by her sides, acting like the snozzberries tasted like snozzberries.  She licks the fridge (which I probably should just give her a tick in the win column for because after all, that is where the food lives).  She has only mastered one word so far, and it’s “hi” and she says it about a million times a day.  It’s precious and adorable but really, she could not have picked an easier word.  I’m trying to get her to say banana but she’s struggling with it.  She gives it more “na’s” than Batman gets.  I worry that she’s behind with language.  I mean, she’s only 13 months old*, put a little more pressure on her, right?

Refrigerator

This is one of the hard things about parenting.  It’s the constant need for her to be “typical”.  I went through it when she was first born and we were having to make bimonthly trips to the pediatrician to have her weighed because she was below the third percentile for weight.  It ended up being the result of an undiagnosed dairy allergy which has thankfully cleared up.  I really struggled with that number.  I also really struggled with comments from random strangers about her weight.

Here’s a PSA for everyone in the world ever, DON’T COMMENT ON PEOPLE’S WEIGHT.  It’s not something most people can change.  And it’s none of your business.  If you have to say something about their weight say it behind their back like a normal person.  And don’t ever tell a mom that her baby is too small and ask a bunch of invasive questions about whether she’s sick or was she a preemie or what does the doctor think?  Because what was missing from the stress of having a newborn with slow weight gain is having to explain myself to the sales woman at David’s Bridal. 

Anyway, I got way off topic because I just got all stressed out about her weight again when it doesn’t even matter.  She is up to where she is supposed to be now.  A number that someone, somewhere, decided was the best number.  But this is just it, it’s the constant need to meet the goals and to be like every other kid.  It’s stressing me out.  She is perfect just the way she is.  Even if she just runs through the house yelling “hi” while chasing cats and pausing briefly to lick everything.

Do all moms go through this?  Or am I just a crazy person?  Today she was running through my parent’s house on her tippy toes and I swear to god I thought, “Okay, she’s autistic.”  Of course when I talked to my mom (who is a normal non-crazy person since her children are all grown) she basically shot down my autism theory and told me that all kids go through a phase where they do that and to just cool my jets.  So, here I sit, jets set firmly on cool.  And I can’t help but wonder when all this fear goes away, and if it even does.  Part of me just assumes that as she gets bigger, so will her problems.  It will never end and OH GOD, WHY DID I DO THIS?!

*This was originally written four months ago.  A lot has changed.  She now says about 50 words (and can probably sign just as many), some of them well enough that people who aren’t me can understand them.  The stairs have apparently lost their appeal but now she really enjoys licking the coffee table.  My jets are cooled at least half the time.  The other half of the time they are set firmly on blast, or whatever jets do when they are in a state of constant terror. 

I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

Except maybe to add a few more babies into the mix.

Maybe I am a crazy person…     

Thanks Mom

Becoming a mother has been one of the most rewarding (awful), magical (terrifying), and amazing things that has ever happened to me.  I cannot even begin to fully explain the range of emotions that it fills me with every single day.  It puts me even further in awe of my own mother.  I know what it feels like to be her daughter, and how much I love her.  I can only hope that someday my own daughter will feel the same way about me.  For that reason, I try and be as much like my mother as I can, which means I follow the example that she has set for me over the past (redacted) years.

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  1. Be kind – my mother is one of the kindest people that I know. She may even be the kindest person that I know.  She makes friends with little old ladies in the restroom at the mall (no matter how many times I tell her not to talk to strangers).  Her heart is big and always giving.  She doesn’t say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help you” but instead says, “What can I do to help?”  If you’re sick, sad, or hurt she is usually there with some words of encouragement, fresh fruit, or a bottle of wine (and if you’re really lucky, all three).  There are very few people that don’t take to my mother.  Like, I bet if Hitler was still alive he wouldn’t be a fan, but that’s about it.
  2. Tell people that you are proud of them – nothing makes me feel more like I’m on the right path than when my mother tells me that she’s proud of me. I try and remember this when talking to the people that I love.  I tell my husband I’m proud of him whenever I can (honey, I will tell you that I am proud of you every day until we are dead if you can make sure both of your socks make it into the hamper at the end of the day).  I tell my daughter how proud I am of her all the time.  She thinks that an octopus is a dog and barks when she sees pictures of them so I’m not sure how much of it is actually getting through to her, but I still tell her.
  3. Time passes no matter what – my mother returned to college in her thirties. It was a bold move at the time since she was also trying to raise children and work full time.  She always said that the time was going to pass no matter what.  It didn’t matter that she was starting over at thirty and may not have a degree until she was forty.  She was going to turn forty regardless, she may as well do it with a degree.  I think about this all the time.  How brave it was to go back to school at that point in her life knowing that it was going to take forever to see any reward for all her hard work.  If you have been thinking about going back to school, do it!  If you had started working on it back when you first thought about doing it you could already be done.
  4. Have a sense of humor – Life is hard. It is quite possibly the hardest thing ever.  A well placed, “that’s what she said” or perfectly timed “your mama” can make all the difference.  Obviously there are things that are sacred that we don’t laugh about it.  I assure you, there are like, two things.  Most everything else is fair game and sometimes you just have to laugh to keep from crying.
  5. Admit when you’re wrong and say you’re sorry – Saying “you’re right and I’m wrong” is a huge deal because most people don’t do it. Don’t be one of those people.  Also, use your dang manners.
  6. Steak’s best friend is a nice red wine – Fact. I was one of those people that “never liked red wine” because I preferred a sweet wine.  I was also a vegetarian up until a few years ago.  My mother kept insisting that all I really needed was a good steak and a glass of red wine and I would forget all about sweet whites.  As she is about most things, she was right.  Now I can’t have a steak without a glass of red.  So much wisdom.
  7. It’s okay to fail – Just because you fail at something it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. I have failed at so many things in my life (and will undoubtedly continue to do so), but I know that doesn’t make me a failure.  You can’t have success without reaching further than you have before.  It doesn’t always work out for the best and that is okay.
  8. Be kind to yourself – It’s okay to take time for you. My mother introduced me to the “mental health day”.  Sometimes you just need to play hooky and clear your head.  Or spend the extra ten bucks and get the really good bottle of wine.  You can’t be any good to anyone else until you are good to yourself first.  Forgive yourself.  She would probably also like for me to forgive others too, but F that noise, I’m a grudge holder.  I must have gotten that from my father’s side.

Honestly, all these things don’t even begin to scratch the surface.  She has taught me so much, more then I will probably never even fully realize.  Chances are that your mother has too.  This Mother’s Day remember that.  Everything that you are today your mother had a hand in making.  Good or bad, your mother probably did everything that she could for you.  Tell her that you love her today, and every day that you have a chance to.  You may not always be around to say it, and she may not always be around to hear it.

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I love you mom, thank you for making me the woman and mother that I am today.  I hope that I am like you in as many ways as possible. 

And to any other mothers that are reading this, you have done a great job.

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HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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