Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My sagging knees aren't a crisis, and other comforting thoughts

We live up the road from the beach. It's about 15 minutes from our back door to the sand. A straight shot.

A few weeks ago we loaded up the car and headed off. At the end of our street, instead of turning right and heading down the hill, Sam turned left.

"Maybe he is avoiding the traffic." I thought to myself. "Or maybe he's going to swing by Fukushima's for some chow fun."

As he came to the next intersection he slowed the car, and then hesitated. "Which way do I go?" he asked, turning to me. "Are you kidding?" I asked as I fiddled with the radio.


I looked up, annoyed. He started driving again, in the opposite direction of the beach. My annoyance switched to alarm. "Where are you going?" I asked. "What are you doing?" He stopped again, then swung the car to the left and headed in a different direction. He was confused. Disoriented. I told him to pull over.

"No, I'm fine," he protested. "I just got confused about which beach we were going to." We drove in silence for a few moments, and then he asked, hesitantly "Does the beach have just one entrance? Or is there a second one?"

And that was the moment when I knew that something was seriously wrong. We have driven by this beach hundreds (thousands?) of times. We live on an island, on the side of a mountain. You can see ocean from every major roadway. The beach is not hard to find. First of all, it is downhill from where ever you are. So, that's pretty easy to figure out.

I worried that it might be something else besides the Lyme Disease. Maybe a side effect of the medication? Maybe wholly unrelated to illness or treatment? Oh god, what if he was starting to lose, for real. Is this what it's like to get older? I was worried about the skin over my knees starting to sag - this was putting that in perspective. Which is to say, still an urgent problem, but definitely not as serious as my husband losing his mind.

The next morning I called his doctor. The nurse refused to put me through to him. I talked very slowly and clearly.

"I need to talk to the doctor. I don't care about HIPPA laws, he doesn't have to say a word, he just has to listen. My husband could not find THE BEACH this weekend. Couldn't remember how to get there from our house. Wouldn't you find that alarming if it was your husband? The doctor diagnosed my husband with an illness, but something is very, very wrong. It's more serious than we thought, maybe. I need to tell him that."

"Well, if you are having a medical emergency, you should call 911 an-"

"No, this is not an emergency. I mean, it could be, but my husband is at work right now. I am not calling 911. I need to talk to the doctor."

"I'll give him the message."

"Thank you. I really appreciate it."

An hour later the doctor called me back, then talked to Sam, extended his antibiotic prescription and ordered an MRI of Sam's brain. The MRI was clear, but they added yet another week of antibiotics just to be safe, and referred Sam to a specialist for follow up.

We have learned over the past month that Lyme disease is more than aches and pains and rashes.
It can affect every single cell in your body. One of Sam's first symptoms was clumsiness - he was dropping things and falling over his own feet - more than usual, that is. And that might continue for a while - today the specialist reassured Sam that the disease, while still in his body, is dead. That now all we can do is wait for it to flush out. Sam may feel the residual effects for months. He may be more easily fatigued. He may stumble from time to time, or feel achier than usual. But he's going to be fine.

I would be relieved, except I knew that already: Sam drove to the beach last week without prompting.
Well, you know, without more prompting than usual. He may be better, but I'm still an asshole.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Babyfesto: Quit hard-timing the babysitter

In my attempt to write a book while simultaneously being available to my children every day after school for assorted activities and homework assistance, and in my quest to have a job that fulfills a need in my community, I launched an after-school program.

For those of you who are reading this and thinking "Oh my", let me assure you - it is even less glamorous than it sounds. But I am picking up my own kids, and feeding them a snack and entertaining them - so why not a few more kids in the mix? The more the merrier, right?

Which might explain why some people seem to feel that my after school program should be free. Or that, perhaps, payment is something that can happen "sometime". Also, that cancelling at the last minute, or expecting me to just hold a space "in case a playdate doesn't manifest" is cool.

Yeah. No.

When I was a teenager, babysitting was very straight-forward. Parents called and hired me, I showed up to work on time, they came home and paid me cash, everyone was very happy. As an adult who still provides childcare, all I can tell you is I have no idea WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED but something's gotta give. For babysitters, this is a crisis of biblical proportions.

Here are a few guidelines for the care and feeding of YOUR childcare provider - and I think it covers everyone from teenage babysitters to live-in nannies. As a parent I also needed this reminder, because I have on occasion broken most of the rules outlined below - sometimes simultaneously. Luckily I pay well, rent movies, have pizza delivered, and buy good snack food - so all was forgiven.

1. Treat your sitter like a precious commodity. The first and most important thing to remember is: A good childcare provider does not need YOU - YOU need THEM. They are the reason you are able to have a career/exercise regimen/date/life/modicum of sanity. It is like the golden rule, but platinum: treat your sitter as you would want to be treated, or you will find yourself without a sitter and also up shit's creek, because they will tell every other childcare provider that you are an asshole. Getting blacklisted by your babysitter is a very real thing that happens. Don't let it happen to you. Every parent needs good, reliable childcare at some point.

2. Pay your sitter well, and pay them on time. Once you have a babysitter that you love and trust, hang on to them. The best way to get - and keep - their devotion (translation: availability) is paying them a decent wage, in a timely fashion. I have had parents comment on how little I charge, and then - almost in the same breath - ask for a discount. No. I have also had parents forget to pay me. Hey, I get it. It happens. I mean, I have NEVER forgotten to pay my babysitter after a night out - but I have on occasion forgotten that it was "payday" for my babysitter on Friday afternoon after a long week of work drama. And upon remembering, I have driven to her home immediately - at night, in my pajamas - to bring cash and ice cream. Because she earned it, and I need her.

3. If you cancel, remember that your sitter was counting on that money. You need your childcare provider. You need them to be available and ready to love and entertain your kids and watch them carefully and keep them safe. This is their job. Do you have a fantastic sitter? Lucky, lucky you. Is your sitter always there when you need them? Good. So, if for some reason you don't need them at the last minute, even though they have planned for it, cleared their schedule and counted on that money, you should still pay them. Don't ask. Just pay them. Because you want them to continue to be available to you. Consider putting your babysitter on salary if you know you need them a certain number of hours every week.

4. Your sitter's job is just as - if not more - important than your own. Which brings me back to the whole "you need them" thing. Childcare is not optional, especially if you work. And caring for your child is their JOB. Do not behave as though their job is something that is beneath you. They are caring for your child - the most treasured and beloved part of your heart. Their job is more important to your child than pretty much any other job that anyone else has - including your own. Because you wouldn't have that job if you didn't have reliable child care. Are you picking up what I am laying down?

5. Childcare is not free. It amazes me that I even need to say this, but I will: childcare is not a playdate, and vice versa. In order to have a playdate, your kid needs to be invited. If you need someone to watch your kid so you can work/sleep/swim/yoga/date/etc. that, my friend, is babysitting.

The difference - which you may have noticed - is between being invited, and requesting an invitation.

As with anything else in this world, if you want someone to do something for you, at a specific time, for a specific length of time, you should pay them for that time. Especially if you want that to happen on a regular basis. ESPECIALLY if it is so you can earn money. Which brings us back to (gosh I hope you are getting this) the fact that you need childcare sometimes.

The bottom line is, it takes a village, kumbaya etc. etc.until the day I've spent $15 on organic grapes, cleaned a booger off the inside of my car window, checked an itchy head, fished Nerf darts out of the light fixture, washed three pairs of muddy feet - none of whom belong to my own kids - in my once clean bathtub, and found a puddle of pee next to my toilet. You owe me. Group Hug!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Every little thing is going to be all right. Lyme Disease 0, My Marriage 15

It's late. I am finally, after several sleepless nights, almost feeling......tired. Maybe.

Just wanted to update the blog to say that the MRI was negative - which is actually a big positive. No signs of tumors, and no lesions or any other visible damage from the Lyme disease.

The antibiotic prescription has been extended for an extra week just to make sure they really zap it.

And tomorrow we celebrate 15 years of wedded bliss. Ups and downs, but mostly ups to be sure.

Today I walked around the mall waiting for Sam to let me know the test was done. I wore his wedding ring on my thumb. He had handed it to me when I got out of the car. I stood there, frozen and confused for a moment as his ring rolled around in my palm. It was all I could do not to cry. He looked at me strangely. "They said no jewelry or metal of any kind in the MRI suite."

Oh, right. The bad stuff is over. He'll be back in a little while. It's just a quick test. I forgot, everything is going to be all right. I know, because he has told me so over and over again the last few weeks - reassuring me even in the face of uncertainty and illness and conflicting information. Even as they were sticking a needle in his spine. "It doesn't even hurt!" he insisted. "I can't feel a thing!"

Tonight I am grateful for finding a person so wonderful that - when he became ill, and many other times before and since - I am reminded how lucky I truly am. A kind and gentle soul, a sweet and generous man, a loving and devoted husband, and a fun and firm father figure for our kids.

How lucky am I, right?

Yeah, pretty lucky. It's a good life, and I'm glad he's sticking around to share it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Thought he was being an asshole, but it turned out he had Lyme disease. So really, I'm the asshole.

The last thing I wrote may have alluded to some asshole behavior I might have been experiencing. Little did I know that the asshole behavior was all my own.


However, I am almost always willing to accept responsibility for my own behavior. And so, here is my mea culpa to the blogosphere.

For about 3 weeks, I thought my marriage was over. Does that sound dramatic? It should, because I was sick about it. My husband had become another person, seemingly over night. And I did not like this new guy. It was like every article in my mother's Redbook that I had ever read as a child about "When Your Spouse is a Stranger".

Sam and I celebrate our 15th anniversary this week, and because of all of the life experiences I have had, and all of the divorces and parting of ways that I have witnessed, I figured it was just a matter of time before something happened to fuck up our happy marriage. And I was ready to fight that "something" - for him and for our family. Though I admit, I thought that "something" would involve a vagina (mine or someone else's) not a deer tick.

Sam and I get along really well. We complement each other, we share a living space harmoniously, and we rarely disagree in matters of parenting. He deals with my crazy, and I deal with everything else. So when Sam started acting really strangely, I paid attention. I paid attention so closely that I (possibly) became a total bitch. He would do something weird or annoying, and my response was to freak out. Remarkably, he kept doing weirder stuff, and my freak outs elevated to a high pitched "WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM, MAN?" It was mostly a question of judgement: saying or doing the wrong thing, being incredibly inconsiderate or acting like a total bonehead. Sometimes he was downright mean. He fell down a few times while working on the house, smacked himself in the face with a pair of pliers......weird stuff that told me he was distracted. But why? I didn't even know what to ask him. Was he having an affair? Worried about work stuff? Was it Alzheimer's? Cancer? My mind was racing, and I spent hours running through a long list of possibilities. There were no tears, no accusations, just actions and reactions that continued and accelerated and grew until, well, all I can say is boy howdy, he was not my favorite for a while there. And then one night, I slept on the couch. I have voluntarily slept on the couch maybe three times in our entire marriage, and it was because one of us was contagious. So sleeping on the couch was a huge deal. A red flag that signaled perilous times ahead.

The night that I slept on the couch, he came out early in the morning to apologize - for his night sweats.

Night sweats? That was weird. I had slept on the couch because I thought he was an asshole, not because he was sweaty. After 15 years, I'm used to the sweaty. The man is like a furnace, and I went through menopause a few years ago, which is a terrible combination when you live in Hawaii. So let me assure you it takes a lot more than night sweats to get me to sleep somewhere other than my bed.

The next night, it happened again. I went out with friends to avoid an uncomfortable evening of spending time with someone I thought was being an idiot. When I got home, he was passed out in our bed, and I could see the ring of sweat surrounding his body on the clean sheets. Rather than being angry, for the first time in several weeks I had a rational, measured reaction. I woke him up, stripped the bed and remade it, laid down a towel, and got him a dry quilt. He said he didn't feel well.

And then I started to really worry. My husband was acting weird, extremely weird, and now he was sweating like crazy. Was it guilt? Maybe he really was having an affair. But no, he's just not that kind of guy. Was it hormonal? I spent some time online that night, trying to figure out if men actually went through a physical menopause, or just used it as an excuse to buy dumb expensive cars. (Still to be determined.)

The next night, he was outside grilling dinner and being weird - which was his new normal by now, and I heard Lucy say "Daddy, what did you do to your leg?"

I stuck my head out the door. He looked down and said "Holy shit! I have no idea!" I leaned out further to get a look. There was a large - maybe 5 inches across - dark red blotch on his leg. It looked like a bruise, or a burn. At least, it would look like that to someone who isn't from Connecticut, home of Lyme, CT and the deer ticks that can ruin your life.

"Sam," I said calmly, "you have Lyme disease. You need to go to the clinic."

12 hours later, after 10 vials of blood and a spinal tap, we were home with a bottle of antibiotics and a followup appointment to create a treatment plan. My hunch was correct, and we were lucky to get a diagnosis so quickly. There is no Lyme Disease in Hawaii, you have to catch it somewhere else - in this case probably during our amazing summer vacation in Connecticut.

Silly me, I thought the worst thing we had to worry about was catching our flight home.

So now we know. And the antibiotics are working. No one is sleeping on the couch, and I told him that while I was sorry he was sick, I was glad there was a reason we weren't getting along, because I can't imagine life without him, even when one of us is a hot mess (literally). He has almost finished his course of antibiotics, and has an MRI scheduled to try to pinpoint the cause of his confusion and general poor decision making lately. I don't know if we can blame Lyme Disease for everything, but I'm sure going to try.

Happy Anniversary to us. Taking "In sickness and in health" to a whole new place since 1998. Love and marriage is no joke.