Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Different isn't so bad...


This will probably come as no surprise, but my 9 year old son is a little on the quirky side. I will not deny it is a trait pulled straight from my DNA. Quirky is a little more acceptable at 40 than in third grade though. My experience has shown me that it only gets worse through middle and high school. This is a personality trait that most hot cheerleaders won't find attractive, but I'm secretly okay with that. It will only be cool when he is a Pullitzer Prize-winning author. (Although I'm sure plenty of girls will dig that brooding, artsy type.)

Aside from being guilty through genetics for making him this way, my mothering skills (or lack of) contributed as well. I just wasn't wired for babies and had a hard time with the cutesy, goo-goo baby talk. I treated him more like an adult than a child. I would carry on conversations with him like he understood me. He would look at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears, but to this day, his language skills test off the charts. He's just an old soul.

He has a wild and fascinating imagination. This could be in part because I don't allow video games in the house. If you can't entertain yourself, then go read or go outside and ride your bike. Instead of wasting hours in front of the TV screen, he writes and illustrates books. If he is especially proud of his work, he will actually bind them. He even adapted a book into a play for his class. Yesterday, I caught a peek of him putting on a concert in front of his stuffed animals. He was the announcer/director/sound guy and his little sister was on "stage" singing a Jack Johnson song at his request. I love this about him. To me, all of that is better than scoring a touchdown.

I'm really torn. I know it may be hard for him not being the "cool athlete" at school, but I also know that his academic success and pursuit of creativity will be what matters as an adult. Even though he has plenty of friends, he's starting to understand what it means to be popular and the social dynamics are changing each year. I just hope he stays true to who he is and understands that his non-conformity will serve him well one day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pain is relative...


I thought I was dying. The truth of the matter is that I really could have.

Each day was a new chapter in pain. I would wake up and announce my Ailment du Jour. "I think my ankle is broken." Impossible, of course, because it wasn't broken before I went to bed. "I can't use my hands today." This sounds crazy, I know, but some days my fingers just didn't work. My husband would have to help me get dressed and buckle my seat belt. My wrists wouldn't even allow me to hold a coffee cup. And then there were the days when my temperature would soar to 104+ for no apparent reason. No flu. No virus. Just me, shaking uncontrollably, wondering why my body had betrayed me. My hair was falling out and I could barely stay awake from the fatigue. I would wake up at night drenched in sweat as if I had been sprayed with a garden hose. Yep, I'm dying.

The doctors were puzzled as well. Maybe it's lymphoma. The lymph node biopsy crossed that one off the list. How about a bone marrow biopsy? They were just sure it was cancer. By the way, do you know how a bone marrow biopsy works? They put you on a table face down and stick a giant needle into your hip bone to extract the marrow. Yes, people, they stick a needle into your bone. Wait, it gets even better. During my procedure, the giant needle became stuck in my bone. The doctor climbed onto the table, put her knee on my back and pulled with all her might. It was kind of like the Sword in the Stone. She must have been the chosen one because the needle eventually dislodged.

All that drama and still no diagnosis. I even had one doctor tell me I was just anorexic. That makes sense because the symptoms of anorexia are high fever, night sweats, extreme pain and weakness, right? If I had been able to make a fist, I would have punched him.

The light bulb moment came when my mom asked, "Have they tested you for lupus?" That was it! My dreadful family inheritance had come. I had one aunt who died from lupus and another who had been suffering for years with the disease. How did we miss the symptoms? Lupus runs in our family, and I was its next unfortunate victim.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is the proper name. My immune system can't tell the difference between a nasty, foreign invader and my healthy tissue. "Shoot first and ask questions later" seems to describe it fairly well. At this point, my entire body was under attack.

Every inch of me was inflamed - my joints, the lining of my lungs, the lining of my heart and even my blood vessels. The pain in my feet was so severe that every step I took felt like I was walking on broken glass. They pumped me full of meds trying to thwart the attack, hoping that my kidneys hadn't yet been compromised. At 25, kidney failure and a lifetime of sickness wasn't the future I expected.

So I fought back. I exercised even when the pain was excruciating. I did my best to follow a healthy diet even when my friends were eating burgers. I vowed to live as though this bitch called lupus had never found her way into my life. She picked a fight with the wrong girl.

I started winning. My medicine was slowly decreased and eventually stopped completely. The pain was negligible and the fog was lifting. The disease would not dictate my life. I will run, do backbends, take walks with my kids, and even have a glass of wine of the beach. I will do whatever I want to do. Lupus doesn't make the rules here.

I've been in remission for 10 years now. I'm sure most people who are my age feel much better than I do, but I'm also sure that I can run a half marathon in under two hours in spite of that fact. Lupus is always going to be in the background waiting for a chance to rear that ugly head again. I say go ahead if you dare. I kicked your butt once before, and I know I can do it again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Going Green


My daughter goes to a "green" school. They have done so well in their endeavor to reduce their carbon footprint that they won a state award and several grants for their hard work. Correspondence from the school is always via e-mail so that one more tree can live to see a new day. Parents have been instructed to pack a completely healthy and waste-free lunch - no drink boxes, bags of chips or anything else that will end up in the garbage. They even want us to send cloth napkins instead of paper. These people are HARDCORE.

Don't get me wrong. I love that she is being exposed to this kind of education. The problem that I'm having is that it shines a spotlight on my complete and utter laziness. I desperately want to be a tree-hugging hippie. I really do want to care about saving the rainforests and the ozone layer. I want to be that sporty gal that paddles her kayak down the river to view the elusive spider lilies that only bloom for 7 hours every other leap year. I just can't do it.

I'm not an earth-y girl at all. The closest I've ever come to being "one" with nature is attending Camp Cherokee as a kid. (That may have done more harm than good, though - think "Chigger Junction".) I have never slept in a tent in my life. The thought of a zipper and some nylon being my only defense against wild animals, serial killers and unusually large bugs makes me shudder. Don't you know that there are crazed madmen hiding in the woods, just waiting for you? HAVE YOU PEOPLE NEVER SEEN "DELIVERANCE"? My philosophy is that I want my vacation spot to be nicer than my every day life. I want someone else to make the bed and wash the towels. Is that so wrong?

I guess for now, I'll keep up my guise as a crusader for the environment. I'll recycle my milk cartons and wine bottles and hope that word doesn't get out that sometimes, I actually run the washing machine when there is only half a load.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

ADDICTED!

"Hello, my name is Lynda and I'm addicted to Facebook. My addiction to Facebook has affected my life negatively in the following ways..."

Ok, maybe it's not THAT bad, but if there was a 12-step program for addictions to social networking sites, there would have been an intervention arranged for me by now. I'm sure of it. This addiction has definitely made me ponder why I'm so interested in reading what other people are doing at this very moment. "Kim is heading out to get a pedicure." Or how about "Kristen can't wait to go to dinner with her BFF's!" Why the hell do I care?

I don't.

First, let me say that I have truly loved getting in touch with old friends. It has brought a new level of joy to my life. All of the "remember whens" have been a blast. It used to be that long-lost friends and lovers STAYED lost. Now, with just a few clicks, we're in the virtual high school cafeteria again. That can be good and bad. Sometimes old feelings that were long ago dead and buried come to the surface and that can be weird. On the other hand, it has been comforting to find that even after a couple of decades, we can pick up where we left off as friends.

My addiction is more about me. Even though I have always been shy, as the years have passed, my shyness has become debilitating. I was slowly becoming a hermit, content to stay out of the spotlight and away from the crowds. I would dread meeting new teachers or being the "Room Mom" at school because that meant I actually had to speak to people I didn't know - in person - face to face. Even though I always knew there was a diva inside me waiting to break free, I just settled into my safe life, letting my very outgoing husband do all the talking.

Then along came Facebook...

I reluctantly joined at the urging of my neighbor. I figured I would join, look at her pictures, and then forget about it. What I discovered is that I had a forum to speak my mind, comment about whatever I wanted and force you to see what kind of music I love. I can finally let the Freaky Diva in me shout out to the virtual world! I can do all of this and never have to look you in the face. It couldn't be more more perfect.

I don't plan on getting help for my addiction just yet. I still enjoy the challenge of creating a status that will confuse you or finding a completely obscure music video and daring you to watch. I realize that there are only a select few people in this world who "get me". And that, my friends, only adds to the fun...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Out of the Ashes

2008 was the worst year of my life. I say that at the top of my lungs and without any hint of hesitation. I am almost unrecognizable as the person I was before that awful year. It's as if I was struck by lightning and the circuits were crossed, wires burned out, cords left unplugged.

My mom died last year. Parents aren't guaranteed to last forever. It's going to happen to all of us sooner or later, but you always think it's going to be later. I just assumed she would be around to see my kids grow into adults.

It was a different kind of relationship. I am the baby of 6 kids by many years. While my siblings moved away and created their own lives, I stuck around and took care of my mom. My dad died in 1990, so my entire adult life was spent on "Mom Alert".

In 2005, I decided that it was time for her to move in with my family. She was having a harder time driving, shopping, cleaning, and I knew she would feel safer with me. My kids were thrilled to have "Granny" in the house all the time.

Looking back on it now, I know I missed the signs. My mom was in constant pain. The doctors attributed it to arthritis and I was too busy for it to be anything more. She had always been healthy except for orthopedic issues, so take the medicine and deal with it, right?

Out of the blue last June, she called me at work to say she was too weak to go downstairs. That seemingly vague symptom lead to the discovery that my mom had Renal Cell Carcinoma - kidney cancer - that had spread to her lungs, bones, head.

The summer of 2008 is a complete blur. Work, hospitals, doctor's office, day camp, nursing home, phone calls, e-mails. What now? Is this really happening?

Even though I'm the baby of the family, my siblings understood that I was making the decisions, right or wrong. A nurse once asked me where I fell in the birth line. When I told her I was the youngest, she said it was unusual for the baby of the family to be in charge. I knew my mom trusted me more than anyone and I knew I had to make it right for her.

After a ridiculous amount of red tape, I moved my mom into our local Hospice House. It's the most beautiful, peaceful place that I hope you NEVER get to see. She spent only a week there, confused and mostly unconscious, but they gave her the dignity she deserved.

I watched her die on a hot, muggy summer morning. Only 2 months had passed since this ordeal began.

So here I am, forever changed. I want my life to matter now. I want to be happy because I have seen first hand that life is fleeting. Life is too short not to make every moment count. Cliche? Yes, but when you watch a life slip away so quickly, it lights a fire under your feet.

My burning feet and I are determined to leave the regrets behind and find the woman I am destined to be...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cheeseburger in Paradise

I pretend I'm strong. I just
Want to be skinny, but
To eat a cheeseburger...heaven!
See how it calls my name?
You flaunt it in front of me but
Again, I refuse its power.
You take a delicious bite and I
Have to turn away.
My willpower is like steel and my
Heart and rear-end thank me.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Things I Love

1. The smell of freshly cut grass. It makes me think of being a kid and running around the yard barefooted. I lost count of how many honeybee stings I suffered between my toes, but it was worth it. By the way, I NEVER go barefooted now since our vet gave me a quick course on microorganisms.

2. Hushpuppies. I can't eat them now because I have to be concerned about the size of my butt, and hushpuppies work against me in that respect, but aren't they delicious? It may be weird, but I always dipped them in ketchup. I think I ate my weight in hushpuppies at the beach as a kid. I really miss my old metabolism.

3. Wine, but you probably already know that.

4. Music. In fact, I'm completely obsessed. I truly have a soundtrack playing for my life. I carefully choose the score for my day. It has to fit perfectly with my mood, the weather, the season. (Yes, there are songs that only work in certain seasons.) I love everything from Merle Haggard to Metallica to Celtic folk songs. I even love Fergie. I'll admit it. Some days I just need to be alone in my car and sing "Fergalicious" at the top of my lungs. So what's in my car cd player today? Lily Allen, Neko Case, Weezer, and INXS greatest hits with "Need You Tonight" on repeat.

5. Sneaking kisses.

6. Being alone. This never happens any more, ever. I treasure time alone to be quiet, find a moment of clarity or just do nothing. I haven't done that in about 9 years, literally. Refer to #3.

7. Harry Potter. I know that probably seems weird for a 40 year old woman. I love magic, fantasy, spells and castles. I love Sirius Black. (May he rest in peace.) I love Severus Snape. (He's really misunderstood.) I love that Daniel Radcliffe is now an adult.

8. Mexican food. It's like hugging your mama. It's warm, comforting and somehow knows how to make it all better. (Well, that might be the margarita.) You can wrap just about anything in a tortilla and it tastes good. Have you ever opened the El Grande Burrito to see what's actually inside? Don't.

9. Yoga. I would probably commit a crime if I didn't have this tiny amount of "Me" time each day. I am completely jaded and cynical and never thought I would enjoy some hippie telling me to "breathe deeply and release thinking mind". It worked.

10. My family. As Un-Cleaver-like as they may be, they tolerate me. I am completely hard to handle, but they love me and let me be the Queen any way.

11. Me...sometimes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Things I Hate

1. CD wrappers. Why do they make it so hard on me? Don't they want me to listen? I end up tearing it off with my teeth and saying bad things.

2. Local TV news. I feel pretty sure that there are other things happening besides car wrecks and 20-something punks shooting each other. Maybe if you quit running teasers about what's "lurking on my kitchen counter that might make me sick", I might consider ending my boycott.

3. My hair. Why was I cursed with awful hair?

4. Other people with good hair. If I see one more flannel-clad, comfortable shoe-wearing female with a head of luxurious hair stuffed into a ball cap, I will not be responsible for my actions.

5. Waiting. Please don't ever make me wait. I will hold it against you for a long time. I also don't like waiting for my birthday, waiting for Christmas, or waiting in line behind people who act like they have never seen an ATM before.

6. "Spaceballs".

7. Fake friends. I'm referring to people who want me to be their friend on popular social networking websites because they remember me from high school. Maybe they forgot that they never gave me the time of day in high school, but now I'm acceptable? Go have yourself another Zima and find some other wallflower to help soothe your karma.

8. Ugly feet. I'm not being snobby, because I have the worst feet ever. I'm just saying that I hate them all, mine included.

9. Stupid people. I know I'm not a brain surgeon, but I do know to sign all my checks and have my deposit slips ready when I pull up to the bank window. "No, ma'am. You may not apply for a car loan at the window." PARK YOUR CAR AND GO INSIDE.

10. Neighbors who don't mow their lawn in a timely manner. Cut your damn grass.

11. Bagging my own groceries. I don't work at the grocery store. I am tired of working part-time for free because they don't want to hire teenagers to bag my groceries. It's either waste my precious Saturday at the grocery store or bag them myself.

12. Dog hair. It is the sharp thorn deeply embedded in my side. I have swept up enough dog hair to sew 3 full-size English sheepdogs. When you get the word that I have been "sent off to the country to rest for a while", you will know the dog hair won.