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WAKARUSA -- Here's the secret. Five Wakarusa housewives are sleeping with their gardeners.
So what makes them any different from Gabby on the hit TV show, "Desperate Housewives?" Gabby has the hots for her gardener, too.
The answer is simple. Debbie Parisi, Cami Marshall, Cindi Haijcek, Karleia Parker and Dawn Zeigler all have husbands trimming the trees, mowing the grass and pruning the perennials while they cook the meals, clean the house, wash the clothes and shuttle the children off to school, gymnastics, sports, church and other activities.
Westgate Crossing may look like the TV show's Wisteria Lane, but the housewives who are carving out lives in this little piece of suburbia will tell you they're feeling anything but desperate these days.
"Think about it. The root word of desperate is despair, and despair means there's no hope," said Cindi Hajicek, a former marketing professional.
"For years and years, I had a good job with good people, but it doesn't hold a candle to how fulfilled I am to be married and to be a mom," said the mother of two toddler girls.
"This is just a wonderful season of my life."
Hajicek's neighbor, Karleia Parker, wears the housewife title with honor.
"A lot of time in today's culture, it's not perceived as the awesome role it is," she said. "I can't really imagine anyone else raising my children."
Beth Martin Birky, director of the women's studies program at Goshen College, uses clips from the TV show "Desperate Housewives" to illustrate some of the extreme character portraits from the show that bills itself as dark comedy.
Birky only actually watched two complete episodes and found the show's violence shocking.
But, as with any satire, "Desperate Housewives" has educational potential.
"For it to work in society, people have to be able to detect the gap between real-life women and the satirical characters," Birky said. "If they can't distinguish that, they consume the stereotypes uncritically."
Real-life Westgate Crossing housewife Cami Marshall, mother of boys younger than 3, sees a little bit of herself in Lynette, the "Housewives" character who's struggling to balance life at home with work.
"Lynette's freaking out about her kids," Marshall said, laughing and recalling some of her own recent freak-out times.
"I do everything a housewife should do. I cook, clean, bathe the kids, change diapers and make sure the kids are healthy and happy," she said.
Sometimes it's chaotic doing all that, plus trying to make a go of the appraisal business she runs out of her home.
"I work when I can," Marshall said, recalling one of the lighter moments when her work life collided with her mommy life.
A client called and wanted an immediate meeting, so Marshall shed her jeans, styled her hair, put on makeup and pulled on more professional attire.
"I cleaned out the crumbs in the van. You should have seen me wet-wiping the food off those leather seats," she recalled.
Marshall's business meeting went well. But now she's wondering if the client noticed that backward turtleneck.
Like Marshall, Debbie Parisi, mother of 4-year-old triplets, puts the children's needs ahead of work. She teaches physical education 21/2 days a week, and is home the remaining days.
"Desperate? I just can't relate to those ladies (on the TV show). ... I'm desperate for time, but who isn't?" asked Parisi.
"I'm having a good time, but it's hectic," she said, adding life today is no more hectic than it was when she was single.
"We make ourselves desperate," she said, clicking off the long list of children's activities. "Soccer. Ballet. Gymnastics."
"My children like to be involved, and I like it, too. But it's hectic."
Parisi's neighbor one cul-de-sac over, Dawn Ziegler, traded full-time work for part-time hours that coincide with her three pre-teen's school and activity schedules.
"I don't want a job that's so important that I can't miss work," she said.
Ziegler calls herself a blessed mom. "I tell people I'm a stay-at-home mom, then we never stay home," she said. "We're running everywhere with the kids."