Yup. My kids say that I am weird. They tease me for a number of reasons:
My fondness for brussel sprouts and kale.
My need to do yoga, where and when the spirit moves me.
They find it odd that I have never watched The Fake Housewives from Hell, oops, I mean, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Shore , or the Simpsons. Or a dozen other shows that have a huge following.
My sneaky cooking- putting tofu where it does not belong and in their words- “that means on a plate!’
My public (inconvenient) comments- “Please answer your child! He’s been calling ‘Mommy’ for fifteen minutes while you yap on your bling covered cell. Thank you very much.”
My need to lock myself in my room and dance to funky loud music whenever they get on my nerves, emerging later as an exhausted, too tired to argue or remember what we argued about- mom.
Having no clue how to dress. I wear my girls’ handy-me-downs and am a lifetime wanna-be contestant for What Not to Wear. I have begged to be submitted, but nooooo.
My need for weeds. Weeding that is.
My children loathe weeding and find my interest in digging out those pesky roots, incomprehensible.
If I ask them to help me weed, I will be locking myself in my room afterwards, guaranteed and there’s not enough funky music in my collection for that battle.
Today I weeded.
I love getting close to the earth, to feel the support under my knees, to get dirty like I did when I was little.
I love the feeling of working, using girl power and winning a battle, one that I actually can win, for at least a week.
And those weeds, even in their inevitable death, bring me peace.
It’s quiet outside with the exception of the birds chirping and the crickets. The sun is shining and my mind is free to wander.
I think about the weeds and how I wish I could weed through the decades of my life. How cool it would be to pull out the painful memories that haunt me. Pull from my mind the hurt, the grief and disappointment. I could make room for more flowers and new growth and continue my goal to blossom.
But then it hits me, that while my garden will suffice without those weeds; my life wouldn’t be the same. I am who I am because of the hurt, the grief and the disappointment. Without those things, I wouldn’t appreciate the joys and blessings like I do.
When I am done weeding, I stand and take a good look at my flower bed. I like what I see. I’m proud of who I am. Weeds and weirdness and all.
My mother is a neat freak. When you enter her small, tidy home, you are hit with the fragrances of spring potpourri and bleach. Lots of bleach. She bleaches the countertops, she bleaches the toilets, and she bleaches anything white that can fit in her washing machine without making it explode. Everything has a space and a place. There are no piles, crumbs, smudges or smears in sight.
When my mother wants to visit, I cringe. I have one bottle of bleach, circa 2003. I bought it under duress once when she was visiting, because she said I needed it. “Use it for your water stains, hon.”
The smell made me nauseous, it made me gag, it burned my eyes. The rebel in me sanctioned the bottle of unwanted bleach to my basement, minutes after she left, with all of the other useless stuff.
Every visit by my mother comes with the same litanies.
“A good wife keeps a tidy home.”
“The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
“Women should be home with their kids, not at work.”
I am a good wife. Not because I do cook and I do clean, but for many other reasons that my mother would never understand.
She and my father did not have a great marriage. There was no hugging or kissing or teasing. There were no cards or anniversary dinners or nights out together. They worked and raised five kids and were in it for the long run. It worked for them.
My life is different. My husband and I don’t want or need those roles. I will take out the trash. He will do the dishes. I can check the oil and he irons much better than I do. I don’t have the patience! I’d rather scrub toilets.
While I love to cook, I hate to clean but I do it anyway when I can no longer take the state of disarray my house is in. Cooking is enjoyable. It’s a way to express love- love through food- flavors, smells and texures. But cleaning, where’s the satisfaction? I could clean my house well enough to eat off the floor only to have my 18 year old son come in from work 10 minutes later with mud- crusted boots. Useless.
So, when my mother is not visiting, I tidy up. I do clean and keep it, uhm, lived- in looking. There aren’t shocking messes, just a pile of papers here and there, a sweatshirt on the couch, dust bunnies down below and fingerprints on everything in view.
After a call from my mom, after a scream and oh crap, and shes’sonherway, I go into hyper speed. I grab everything that looks out of place and put those items in one large (very large) convenient box (kept in my basement of course) and suddenly, instant perfection. Then for ambience, a touch of bleach in the toilets and on my countertops. Yes, you may pilfer my sly tactic if need be.
Before she has the chance to dig deeper into the abyss of my home, I am greeted with, “Your house looks nice and clean.”
But then, she needs something- a needle and thread, a magnifying class, the bleach (grrrr) and is sent to an unorganized portion of my home. A closet capable of catapulting curling irons or an overstuffed drawer. Or she sleeps on sheets that have not been soaked in, you guessed it, bleach and only smell of lavender dryer sheets. Oh the pain! How I have failed her and her hopes for my domestic capabilities.Woe is me!
Regardless of my mother’s opinion, I will never focus my energy on keeping a clean house. If I am not tidying up or cooking or grocery shopping or making appointments, or trying to raise three kids, I am:
Life is way too short to worry about what my mom or anyone else thinks of my role as a domestic engineer- a lousy one at that. I have a long list of things to do on my life list and damn if I’ll let some dust bunnies, or even dust rhinos get in my way.
Sorry Mom, put your hopes in your other two daughters!
Have you seen the movie Breaking Away? Well, if you haven’t, you need to. The movie follows a young adult, Dave, who wants to be a professional cyclist. He spends much of his time riding his bike and ignores, much to his father’s disappointment, his chores and task of getting a job. This behavior prompts the following discussion between Dave’s parents:
Dad: (referring to son Dave): ”He isn’t tired. He isn’t miserable.”
Mom: “He’s young.”
Dad: “When I was young, I was tired and miserable.”
Seems as though the longer ago you were young, the more tired and miserable you were. There’s a reason for this- times have gotten progressively easier for the young. No one walks in the snow and rain to school up hill and bare foot any more. Those were the “old days” and this generation- Generation Y or the Millennials, has no interest in hearing about how tough those of us (forty or older) had it.
It’s true that every generation is a tad jealous of its successors who inadvertently get to go through life a little easier. Take for example, my dad. I remember the day I bought (with my own babysitting money) my first brand new 10 speed bike. I was fourteen. My dad took a long hard look at my new purchase and said, “I never had nothing new till I was in my late twenties. All handy-me-downs before then.”
He was amazed that I had a new bike.
It would have been easy for my parents to give me the things that they never had (easy, if they had the financial means that is) but they didn’t and even if they were independently wealthy, they were far too frugal to waste money on “things you want” before “things you need”. And what little money we had always seemed to go to the things we needed- food, clothing, heat, etc…
So when I asked for a new pair of Jordache jeans for my fifteenth birthday because all of the kids were wearing them and my Lee jeans were suddenly looking ragged (in my opinion, anyway), my dad said, “You want those jeans hon?”
I smiled.“Yes, Daddy, more than anything!”
“Good, work harder and save your money! It’s important to have a goal behind your sweat,” he said.
After I retrieved my jaw from the floor and stormed out of the store- I ran home. I was mad enough to get even. I had one babysitting job at that point, did my best to get more, worked harder and bought two pairs of Jordache jeans with my earnings thank you very much!
What I didn’t realize back then was that my father taught me a huge lesson that day and it’s called a work ethic. Today, not many young adults know how to work hard and have pride in a job well done. When I babysat, I also cleaned up after the children, took out the trash and did the dishes.
“Pretend it’s your home and your kids,” said my parents. “Do the chores that come with having kids. The parents will appreciate you going the extra mile. And, it’s great birth control! Kids are tons of work- sooner you learn that, the better off you are.”
Most of the time, jobs today don’t get done, let alone “the extra mile” done.
Have you been to a department store lately? Have you had to wait until Suzie finished her cell phone conversation with Romeo? Did she look at you like you just ruined her life?
Do you know several twenty somethings who still spend their weekends sleeping till noon?
How many young adults do you know whose parents still make their beds, pay their bills, and wash, then fold their laundry? Put it away even.
What really perplexes me is how many young adults suffer from a sense of entitlement, that not only is it our responsibly to provide for them, but to provide what and when at their beck and call.
My children (all young adults) are not totally independent of course, but are on their way. They know what they can get away with when it comes to relying on me or my husband, and when they better get their butts in gear and get the job done pronto. I have slowly given them more responsibilities each year and stick to the slogan, “Happy Birthday! You now have an additional privilege, but also an additional responsibility.“
One example of this slogan: “So, now that you are old enough to legally drink, you can also start paying your car insurance!”
While giving your children everything you didn’t have may seem the right thing to do, consider this: the ultimate goal of successful parenting is to create responsible, independent, conscientious human beings. Reflect on this goal. How you are doing?
I sometimes joke with my husband regarding the “When I was a kid stories” that our children will tell their children. Perhaps they will sound like this:
“I had to take my dinner out of the oven myself; we didn’t have robot butlers back then. It was exhausting!”
I’m sure Generation Y-ers will still find something to gripe about and do their best to convince their offspring how tough the good ol’ days were. After all, those “When I Was a Kid” stories have been around a long time and life wouldn’t be the same without them.
Yesterday, I was invincible and strong. I walked two miles and did Pilates. I felt twenty-something instead of my real age of forty-um, something. I had a kick in my step while running errands, almost dancing through the aisles of Shop Rite-embarrased to say- to Madonna. Yesterday I felt like the world was at my fingertips and anything was possible.
But that was yesterday.
Today, I awoke abruptly at 4:15 am to a racing mind and dancing feet. The dancing feet are a product of Lyme and it’s called restless leg syndrome. Usually it passes once I massage my legs but this morning, I was a Rockette. I spent two hours in bed planning the events of the day while flexing my feet and calves for relief. Later, I would call clients. Pay bills. Tackle the house and the state of disaster claimed here from the recent flooding. Now that my kids are back to school living their lives, I am excited about getting back to mine and based on yesterday’s energy, I assumed enormous success.
But when I got out of bed after 6am, my legs were cement. My lithe body of yesterday, replaced by one plagued with aches and stiffness. My back hurts. My neck too. I recall reading an article about what it feels like to be old. A journalist likened the experience to having bags of flour mounted to the back, knees, hips and neck. My first steps this morning exposed each bag. My mind demanded me to move, my body refused. Yesterday’s flexibility felt foreign and unobtainable.
After a few steps, I gained my balance and the flow returned so that I was able to move with less difficulty. Still, my hands dropped my cup of coffee and are making typos as I write this- every other word for the most part. Thank God for internal corrections!
It would be great if I could live without Lyme, but it turns out that I probably have chronic Lyme, a term that many physicians and scientists argue doesn’t exist. My body doesn’t care about Lyme controversies, or the Latin name given to the spirochete that invades me (Borrelia burgdorferi), or who determines the validity of a disease. My body simply responds to the bacterium that is a parasite. I have proof of the existence of those bacteria in my body- ten tests worth of proof. Actually I need no test to know when the disease is active. Aside from feeling older, my face looks older too. I have circles under my eyes.
This imprisonment began in 2008 when I found a bull’s-eye rash the size of a grapefruit on my left thigh. I wasn’t sure immediately that it was a bull’s-eye, the universal sign of a tick infection, but as a resident of Hunterdon County, New Jersey, I was suspicious. I love to be out doors, and unfortunately, so do deer and deer ticks.
Having some knowledge of Lyme’s Disease, I circled the ring on my leg with a permanent black marker then cringed with disbelieve as it grew before my eyes. By the time the ring expanded to a cantaloupe, I couldn’t walk five feet without gasping for air. My body was exhausted, my mind foggy, and I had chills. I was 42 years old and an exercise enthusiast. As a massage therapist and personal trainer, never had I gasped for air like a fish out of water while sitting! Pathetic.
My husband rushed me to the ER where I tested positive for Lyme disease and was placed on intravenous antibiotics. At the hospital, I received overnight treatment, a prescription for additional Doxycycline (oral antibiotics) and was told to follow up with an Infectious Disease doctor, right away.
And so I did. I went as soon as possible to the Infection Disease Associates of Hunterdon County and saw a female doctor who took a quick glance at my blood work (from the ER) and said she wanted me retested. I was retested and came back a second time with a positive Lyme titer and she dismissed me in a matter of five minutes, saying that I did not have Lyme but that I most likely had Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia and to find another specialist.
I was exhausted and had driven one hour each way to see the ID doctor, practically falling asleep at the wheel- only to be denied my rights as a human being to be treated with respect. My doctor did not believe in Lyme Disease!
Dejected and angry, I decided that day to get informed. I researched all aspects of Lyme disease and wrote and published an article in the May issue of NJ Monthly magazine (http://njmonthly.com/articles/lifestyle/lyme-time.html) which explains the controversies surrounding the relentless pest, as well as general information and resources.
The countless interviews I conducted to write my article fueled the unsettling truth behind my doctor’s quick dismissal of me and my disease. Not all doctors, not even infectious disease doctors, believe in Lyme and the destruction it causes. And Lyme is not alone; many doctors dismiss Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia with similar ease.
Soon after my infectious disease doctor said there was nothing she could do for me, I found relief on additional antibiotics prescribed by my general practitioner. And after three years on and off Doxycycline, I was treated by a Lyme Literate doctor in Medford who placed me on homebound intravenous medication. That intervention granted me three Lyme free months! What relief!
My symptoms are timely. In the mail today I received black and white pages that tell me a lot about my body’s chemistry. Mostly, it shouts that I have tested positive for Lyme once again. These results further explain my ongoing battle. Back to Doxycycline and an irritated stomach.
I have a dear friend who lives with Multiple Sclerosis. Four years ago, I was making meals for her to assist her on her tired days. Last week, we had lunch together and walked the same- with balance issues and fatigue, leaning on each other like grateful octogenarians. Tomorrow, I might be able to pick her up and twirl her around! I never know what each day will bring- though I know, none of us do.
Now that I am informed, I can live with Lyme disease. There are new treatments to explore. Through massage, acupuncture and healthy eating, I can find some relief on my bad days. The adage what doesn’t kill you– you know the rest, will make me stronger.… I’ve learned the importance of being an advocate for my body. I will never let a doctor dictate my health because of his or her beliefs. I know my body and my normal better than anyone else. What might be normal for me could be a sign of impending doom for another. I will always follow my intuition when it comes to my health and the health of those I love.
While Lyme might feel like a life sentence today, tomorrow, I might be dancing and singing in the rain with the neighborhood kids. And with this non-stop flooding, I might just be doing so in my basement. I’ll be optimistic- so where’d I throw those galoshes now?