I am a Teenager Stuck in a Middle-Aged Body

I am 16 years old at heart, but I am stuck in a middle-aged body.  I may not wear bootie shorts and crop tops, every calorie I eat goes right to my hips, and can’t dance to save my life, but in my heart and soul I am still a teenager.

There is nothing more satisfying than sleeping in on a Saturday morning, and a weekday sleep in makes me giddy. I prefer to stay up late at night, and even if I didn’t, I have a hard time going to sleep at all, much less early. My body, however, prefers not to hang out at a movie, restaurant, bar, or party into the wee hours. It would rather plant itself firmly on my bed in the comfort of home, with my husband next to me, and the dog curled up under a blanket at the bottom of the bed.  I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I will never fill my closet with black and beige, and I refuse to wear “mom jeans.” There are certain styles of tops I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, and I was once told (by a slightly older friend) that the cute brown and pink hoodie I was buying looked like it was for someone younger. Recently, I was at a shoe store and the sales associate took me over to the clunky, white, walking shoes. My body was suddenly (and horrifyingly) taken over by a rude teenager who shouted out, ” I’m not wearing those ugly things!” I spent the next 10 minutes apologizing for my alter-ego. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

When my husband goes out-of-town for work I sleep with a stuffed animal  that we got while on a date night. We were at Build-a-Bear and he pulled all the cloth hearts out of a large tube and put them back in the top until he got to the only one we could find that said “I Love You” on it.  I won’t change the sheets on the bed until he gets back, and before he leaves I change my jammies every night for a few days so I have several pairs to wear while he’s gone that I have worn with him by my side. If those get dirty, I resort to his t-shirts. He is my movie star. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

A few years back, I was driving my son and a friend’s daughter to school, we were talking about a specific person and I said, “She’s OUR age.” I was a 40ish year old woman talking to a 16-year-old girl. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

Although I appreciate many genres of music spanning over a number of decades, I will also listen to (and enjoy at a frightening level) the music my pre-teen and teen listen to. Some songs I will play over and over, never tiring of them. I will sing along, and may even dance. If only the dance moves matched the age of my heart and soul. I am a teenager stuck in a middle-aged body.

I would rather feel young at heart, with the knowledge and experience of a seasoned adult than be 16 again. Being a 40-something kid has plenty of advantages. The most important being an appreciation of and love for life.  I’ll take being trapped in this middle-aged body any day of the week. It has been through many trials and tribulations, and it has made me who I am today.

 

 

 

 

 

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What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

Part III –  Repost for Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week. Spread the word.  Share to increase awareness. There is hope!

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

WINE and Milk

Today, as I wrote a grocery list for my husband to take to the store, I thought about the ways I try to relax. How I deal with the pressures of parenthood, and how I occasionally escape them.

The first thing that came to mind for my list, was WINE. I need wine, to deal with the whine. Recently, a glass of red every evening seems to do the trick. Two on a bad night. As the kids get older and want to drink soda and juice more, I tell them to drink more milk and water. I have even stopped buying juice and soda as often. But as I have reduced the money spent on those things, I have increased the funds spent on wine.

I start looking forward to my glass of vino around 3PM, but I won’t drink if I have to drive, so I usually have to wait until around 6PM.  It takes the edge off. Dealing with a pubescent  tween, and a teen, is a difficult task. One on the way in, one on the way out. One girl, one boy. Big mess. The college kid is still living at home too. This means we know if he wakes up late, gets to school or work late, doesn’t go to school or work, or stays up all night. Things we would be oblivious to if he were staying in a dorm. There is a perpetual parental lesson going on. I am constantly trying to find a happy medium for my younger two children, and give independence to the oldest to find his own way.

Every now and then, but not nearly enough, I get together with a group of friends from my city. We met years ago, when our children were toddlers and newborns, in a local moms’ club. We have grown very close. At times, they are my rock. I can say anything to them, and them to me. We do not judge. I recently started saying “I love you” to them. A lot. I do. They are amazing. I don’t ever want them to think otherwise. They make me laugh. They put me into happy hysterics. They keep me sane.

We went out on Friday night. We ate some food, and drank some wine. And some Rumchata coffee. And a few Rumchata and Fireball Martinis (Except the designated driver, of course…..and to that person, I got it next time. You deserve to drowned your worries now and then too.) We know when it’s time to stop, and we don’t do it often, but the occasional release from the everyday is bliss.

When I woke up on Saturday, I realized how much better I feel the next day, than when I did after a night of drinking in my twenties. I could actually function. My stomach felt a little off all day, but nothing like the miserable hangovers I had in my younger years. I thought to myself……I think I’ll skip my daily glass for a few days. Maybe even weeks. The thought of a drink was not appealing. When I was younger, it would have been weeks at least, before I would partake again, and I wouldn’t even make it out of bed that day. It’s not that I’m proud of my higher tolerance, I just find it interesting. When I recall back to childhood, I don’t remember my parents having a daily drink, at least not faithfully, until the first child hit high school.  It must be something about those teen years. One child affecting  you sooner than the last. A cumulative effect.

On the complete opposite side of the “party with friends” spectrum, the restorative effects a hot cup of coffee, quiet house, and a good book can have are amazing. Escaping from reality for a few hours. Living in a different world for just a bit. A warm blanket, a lap dog, a purring cat. Heaven

As I’ve gotten older,  I enjoy staying home more than going out. There are actually days that I have little battles of will in my brain. “Maybe I should have my gal pals over.”  “Ooooor….I could just snuggle into bed and watch Netflix.” “I could really use some girl time.” “Movie marathons with Bill are so nice though.” “If the kids are doing their own thing, it may be quiet.” “If not, we do have those really good ear plugs from our overseas flight days, and I’m reading a really great book.” Usually, a quiet evening at home wins. That’s what makes those girls’ nights out so special when they do happen.

This afternoon, as the tween mouth went off on a rampage, I realized one day without my glass was plenty. Cheers…. to the lessons I learn from the kids I love, the love of my life, whose always by my side, and the best friends a girl could have. None of which I could live without.

 

 

On the Corner of “Hope” and “Faith”

Bill has always said I can make a friend anywhere. Usually I have no problem striking up a conversation with a total stranger, but for months I have wondered about the stories behind some of our local “sign holders,” and have been too afraid to approach.

They appeared a few years ago, out of the blue it seemed. Along a major highway in our area, at every intersection. Different people, all the time. I hardly ever saw any one person twice. We all wondered what was going on. Were they drug dealers disguised as homeless? We’re they just looking for easy money? Did they work in shifts?  It couldn’t be legitimate, so we drove on.  As the weather got worse, they dwindled in numbers.

It has eaten away at me since the beginning. It breaks my heart.  I want to help. When we lived in Shanghai, we were told to be careful of the beggars. They make more money begging than working, so that is what many do, hanging around areas where westerners live. Regardless of this warning, I used to give a handicap gentleman in Shanghai money when I passed him. He never asked, but I knew he needed it. He was sweet. He always smiled and said hello, even on the days that I didn’t give him anything. I enjoyed our little interactions, which were limited by the language barrier.

When we were on vacation in Chicago, my daughter, at the age of 8, had the compassion to give a homeless guy outside of the Disney store, a few dollars of her allowance. When we were in Washington D.C., my fourteen year old son asked if we could buy a homeless guy a sandwich and drink at Starbucks, which we did, and the oldest son volunteered at a food bank during his senior year of high school. We often give to charities for the needy. We have taught our children to give to the less fortunate, yet I kept passing them by on the street.

Lately, there has been a gentleman standing by a local church. A beautiful church, which was recently deemed a minor basilica by Pope Francis. He is almost always there. His sign says “Family Hungry, Need Job, Do Anything. ” Carleigh and I gave him a dollar once when we were sitting at the light, but it is on a major street, so there is no time for chatting. He is out there in any weather. In below zero temperatures, biting wind, and blowing snow.  This made me believe that he must really need the help, as it is only the diehards I see out there now. The same people, all the time. Today I decided to take him a hot chocolate, and talk with him. As I turned the corner to park, I saw he was smoking. I had a judgemental moment. He was buying cigarettes with money he could use for something else. I almost left, but I didn’t. I’m so glad I stayed.

His name is Steve, and he is 60 years old. He is Catholic, and occasionally attends mass at the church which he stands by. He rents a room about 25 minutes from the corner, and takes the bus to get there. He has two children. A fourteen-year-old daughter, who according to him, is just beginning to blossom, and a twelve-year-old son. They live with his ex-wife, and mother-in-law about a half hour away from where he is standing, in the opposite direction from where he lives. He sends money to his mother-in-law for the kids, as he says his ex-wife is not trustworthy. He visits when he can. He appeared to choke up a little as he told me that his kids do not know he stands on a corner.

He grew up on the east side of Detroit, and is a florist by trade. He worked in his parent’s flower shop on the corner of Jefferson and Alter. When the area started deteriorating, and they were robbed, they closed down. His parents are now both deceased. He took care of his mom for the last six years of her life.

His most recent job was as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, but it closed 8 months ago. He is always looking for work. He just applied for two more jobs. He said he has found jobs standing on that corner, or the other one he uses two miles south. He takes day jobs that people offer him until he finds something more permanent. He is trying to get enough money to pay his room rent.

After about 10 minutes of chatting, he tell me he has to get back to “work.” He doesn’t  want to miss a job opportunity. I gave him five dollars and told him good luck and God Bless, that it was nice to meet him. Then I left him there. Standing on the corner of “Hope” and “Faith,” holding a sign, repeating the Rosary over and over in his head. Looking for a break, but not giving up.

 

 

 

What I learned from my Crohn’s Disease

As I have said before, I have Crohn’s Disease. It has been in remission for 12 years, but from a year after my diagnosis in 1998 to August 2002, it was like a wildfire reeking havoc on my body.

I spent three years, from the summer of 1999 after Brennan was born, until my major surgery in 2002, fighting for my life. I didn’t realize it at the time. It snuck up on me in little increments, and before I knew it it had overtaken my body. Specifically, my large intestine. I was on a severely restricted diet, and took handfuls of medication and vitamins. I was constantly in doctor’s offices, or emergency rooms. I had raging fevers, higher than you would think a person could survive. Higher than the kind that send parents into panics. I had a racing heart, even at rest, lost partial vision in my eyes, and fought a staph infection in my leg for a week in the hospital. I never had the stomach pains that many people with Crohn’s do, but I probably spent more time in the bathroom than the average person will spend in their lives. My weight went down to 88 pounds.

In the end of December 1999, after spending the holidays (which are crazy busy during NORMAL circumstances) at my grandmother’s and Bill’s grandfather’s viewings and funerals, I got what appeared to be the flu. It went on for a week or so, and didn’t seem to be getting better. As lay down for a nap one day, I said a prayer. I asked God to give me a sign. To let me know if I should go to the doctor after the New Year, or if it would go away on its own. When I woke up, I had little insect bite-like bumps all over my body. I will never forget that moment. We are a quietly religious family. I have always been a believer, but this was a pivotal moment in my life, my belief, and love of God. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital.

I remember, sometime in the second or third year of my Crohn’s, being exhausted. Tired of the constant battle. Laying on the bed, getting ready for another nap. I, again, said a prayer. I asked if I would be feeling better the next day, and begged that I would. Within a minute or two, and I kid you not, the phone rang a strange double ring. It reminded me of the way my phone at work rang when I was getting an interoffice call. When I picked it up, it was an operator recording. “I’m sorry, your request cannot be processed at this time. Please hang up and try again later.” I ran downstairs and asked Bill, who was sitting on the couch, if he had heard the phone ring. He said yes, but didn’t notice the weird ring. Another moment I will never forget. I am still quietly religious, but much more so. I believe. No one could ever tell me otherwise.

I fought having the surgery to remove my colon for a long time. I was too young to have an Ostomy bag. I was only in my early 30’s. How could I deal with that for my entire life?! I finally gave in to myself, it was my choice. I wanted to be there for my boys, and I was just too ill to be the mom I wanted to be. When the surgeon went in for my pre-op colonoscopy, he couldn’t even complete it due to the swelling. I had put the procedure off, and if it had been done sooner I’m sure they would have told me how dire the circumstances were. I’m glad I made the decision myself prior to that. I’m glad that I did it for the love of my family. In the end, it would turn out to be so much more than that.

That surgery saved my life. Literally. It was that bad. I can now eat anything I want, I take no medication for Crohn’s, and am back to a more-than-healthy weight. And I am LIVING. Living a life I wouldn’t be, if not for said surgery. I am living a life I would not be, if not for Crohn’s Disease.

I have learned to appreciate the little things that so many take for granted. The blue sky, white clouds, green trees. The contrast between them, and the beauty of it. The breeze. The birds. The smell of fresh air.

I have learned not to take my family and friends for granted, and to catch myself when I think that I am. To take care of them, as they took care of me. To love them with everything I have. To look to them for strength when I need it, and to give strength and support to them when they do.

I have traveled farther out of my comfort zone than I ever thought I would. If not for Crohn’s we would not have traveled abroad, adopted our daughter, or lived in China. Before Crohn’s my life was ruled by fear of the unknown. After Crohn’s, by the spirit of adventure, and a love of life.

I have walked on the Great Wall of China, and stood before the first emperor’s Terracotta Warriors. I have trekked through the rainforest in Langkawi, Malaysia, and floated through the mangroves. I have basked in the hope of longevity from the waterfall of the Pure Water Temple in Kyoto, Japan, and walked the Nightingale floors of Nijo’s Castle. I have explored the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, and traveled through the Mekong Delta. I have walked the beautiful beaches of Vietnam. I have zip-lined through the trees in Thailand, and fed an elephant bananas. Right into that giant mouth. I have been to the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea, and I have stood in North Korea, in the MAC (Military Armistice Commission) building.

Through my Crohn’s Disease I learned how to live. How to love. How to learn. But I’m not done. I have so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to love, thanks to my Crohn’s Disease.

For The Love of Two Worlds

Remembering China fondly today, it will always be close to my heart. This Valentine’s Day, I am posting a blog entry of mine from September, 29, 2008. For love of my second home.

Similaries and Differences

If I am sitting in my room with the windows open on a cool fall day,  I could be in China, or Michigan,  they both feel the same.  If the kids are playing in the park and I am sitting on the bench watching, it is the also the same. Sitting in Starbucks reading a book is no different. There are times in China that feel just like Michigan. When it’s hard to notice the differences,  but here we have luxuries that we would not have at home. Yuan-Yuan comes for the day to clean and cook,  and Mr. Tao pulls up in a silver Buick minivan to cart us all over the city. These things are very different. It  feels strange to have someone else taking care of my home.  I miss driving.  I miss having a car to jump into whenever I want to go somewhere.

There are many wonderful things about this experience,  many adventures to be had, but there are also wonderful things that we have left behind. We are seeing parts of the world which many will never see, we are learning a new language, and culture, but instead of learning it in a class, we are living it. We are strengthening  our minds and our spirits. It is a growing experience which I believe is very important for our children, especially in today’s world. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone is a hard,  but rewarding thing to do. I am proud of us for taking such a bold step. I am proud of my children, for  even though they may not have had much of a choice, they have handled it well.

We have left our home, friends, and family to move to the other side of the Earth. That was very hard. As we all know,  our home is a soft place to fall,  and when things get tough that is where you want to be. I look forward to the first time I sleep in my bed at home again, lying my head down on that soft pillow,  and being a car ride away from those I love.  We are doing great here, but we look forward to our upcoming visit.

There are so many differences in our surroundings here compared to home.  When a guest arrives, you bring them a cup of warm water. This is better for the body.  They will take off their shoes at your door even if you tell them they don’t need to. You must offer them a pair of slippers.  If you ask your Ayi or driver if they’re able to do something,  the answer will be “yes.”  They will not tell you that they do not want to do something,  or know where something is. That would be “losing face.”

There is not a fourth floor in most buildings,  as the word for the number “four” sounds too much like the word for “death.”  I’m sure Yuan-Yuan is not happy that Carleigh  has drawn a three foot tall “44” on the wall by the study. She has had to pass that forbidden Chinese number 20 times a day, and I think she’s afraid to touch it to wash it off. You can’t drink out of the tap, and must order water for the water cooler. Most bathrooms  STINK.  Here  you learn the places that have Western-style bathrooms and avoid the ones that do not. Tissue is always carried with you, as bathrooms do not always have toilet paper,  or soap, making  hand sanitizer a must as well. Surprisingly after the last statement,  there are always workers cleaning on the street,  and in the buildings.  You  will not have trouble finding someone to clean something up. Service in  restaurants is better than in the US, and no tip is required.  You must ask for your bill or it will never come.

You’ll never see more bikes than you see in Shanghai.  You will probably never see as many cars either. You would  be amazed at what can be fit on a bicycle. Don’t ever think you can’t move a refrigerator just because you don’t have a car. Nothing is too dressy to wear while riding a bike.  Heels are almost a must,  good for any occasion. Ankle-length nylons are fine with capris, or anything else for that matter.  Getting  there first does not mean it’s your turn,  getting noticed first does. If this means pushing to the front of the line,  so be it. Sleeping can be done anywhere, and is.

We enjoyed living in China. Its differences are intriguing and its similarities, when found, are little gifts.