Having a baby around the holidays – what was I thinking? Obviously, I wasn’t. Either with the planning or the execution, but there’s no walking that cat backwards. I’m stuck with a late December kid. On top of that, I have a husband with an early January birthday.
It’s not hard to hear that collective groan – I realize I’m not alone. Because I’m good at math, I know that approximately 1/12 of the population has a birthday that falls somewhere near Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, New Year’s Eve or one of the other 28 “winter festivals” (seriously – check Wikipedia). Everyone knows someone who has a holiday birthday.
But like many of you resourceful folks, I have a found a few ways around the extra work these birthdays bring. Thoughts to share:
January birthdays are a great way to recycle unwanted holiday gifts. Don’t care much for the moose-shaped oven mitt from your crazy sister-in-law? Fill it with candy and give it to your kid. How about that dashboard Jesus that was all-the-rage a couple years ago? Pass it on to your pastor/priest/rabbi as a reminder that someone else had a birthday at Christmastime.
Work the “combo gift” angle. Get the 8-pack of batteries and tell your daughter you upgraded from the 4-pack and it’s for both her birthday and Christmas. Same idea for your mother, buy the broom and dustpan – killing two turtle doves with one stone.
Old holiday cards work great for new birthday cards. Just scratch out the “Peace” before . . . on Earth and replace it with “You are.”
If worse comes to worser, you can always claim that, in the midst of the holiday craze, you simply forgot the birthday and will celebrate in the near future when things settle down and you can catch your breath. Usually the birthday girl/guy feels guilty accepting a promise from such a busy person. Besides, it seems rude to remind someone they owe you a gift.
Now, I must mention in the vein of fairness and because my husband can be a crybaby, that there is another option. You could possibly go out of your way to make the holiday/birthday person feel special. Don’t re-gift. Don’t use holiday paper instead of birthday paper. Spend the extra $3.00 for a birthday card and make a concerted effort to make the day about the birthday and not the holiday. This does take some time and planning but as someone very close to me reminded me in a whiny voice, these are the people you love.
As with many decisions, it’s not always clear what the right choice is. If you’re not sure how to handle this somewhat delicate issue, I feel it’s perfectly acceptable to flip a coin or roll the dice. And if push comes to shove, you can always say Merry Birthday and call it a day.
Lise Marinelli – author of Merry Birthday (Windy City Publishers, 2013)
I’ve been accused of many things in my life. Like not knowing (what I consider) my ”asset” from a hole in the ground. Or being a pain in the asset. Or having my head stuck up in that same asset. But one thing I have never been accused of having is a small asset.
I come from a long line of “healthy” women and men. Not particularly large – just . . . healthy. We enjoy growing food, cooking food and eating food. There are a few select deviants, but generally speaking, the members in my family are of a sturdy pioneer stock, ready to march across a mountain if a good meal is involved.
I didn’t see this coming
As luck would have it, one of the deviants happens to be a direct descendant of mine, my 10-year old son, Sam. He started out as one of us – he was a healthy 7 ½ pounds at birth and, at six-months he tipped the scales at 25 lbs. But by his 2nd birthday, I could see that he was unusual, that he wasn’t progressing in the “normal way.” I, like many parents who sense a peculiarity in their child’s behaviors, was afraid to admit my baby was different.
For example, Sam had an odd habit of putting his fork down when he was full. I have witnessed this behavior in others, but never in one so close to me. No matter how much I tempted him with extra helpings, he seemed content with a reasonable portion. More times than not, Sam was persona non grata in the “clean plate club.”
Another red flag – Sam ate his meat and vegetables first. Often times, the breads and the potatoes were left on the plate with Sam’s complaints that he was “too full to finish.” Not only were they left on the plate, but there were actually times when Sam asked for a second helping of meat before he finished his au grats or garlic bread.
In addition, Sam has a lot of energy. He can jump high, run fast and is one of those kids who can vault himself into a convertible with little or no effort. Lately, he has taken to working out and is convinced that I need to do the same. He came into my room last night as I was engrossed in The Biggest Loser and asked if he could speak to me about something serious.
“Of course, honey,” I said. I set my bowl of ice cream down, put the TV on mute and sat up. I do feel it’s important to give the impression that you are listening to your child.
“I thought it would be good if you started an exercise program.” Sam coughed nervously and produced a clip board from behind his back. “I wrote down some things like sit ups and leg lifts that you can do and I can help you.”
Sam, with his little washboard tummy, looked so cute standing there that I just wanted to eat him up. “That is so sweet, Sam. I would love to work out with you.” I glanced at my program on the tube – they were nearing the weigh-in. “Can we start in the morning?”
“Sure, how about 8:00?”
“I’ll be ready, I promise,” I replied as I turned the volume back up. “Now be a good boy and go get mommy a soda to wash down her ice cream?”
As he was leaving, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to have such a thoughtful child. I felt differently though when at 8:00 the next morning, as I was reading the paper and enjoying a carmel latte and double-chocolate biscotti, he showed up with that ridiculous clip board.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Are you serious?” I replied.
“You said you would. I have a whole program for you, 1000 sit-ups, 500 push-ups and some basic cardio.” He looked pretty determined. “You promised.”
“But, I didn’t pinky promise,” I countered. This was a sure fire way to get out of the standard promise contract.
Sam looked so disappointed that a tinge of guilt set in and I began to reevaluate my pinky promise response. Would it really kill me to do 1000 sit-ups? After all, he was making the effort, the least I could do was try, right? I knew Dr. Phil would think it was the right thing to do.
No pain, no gain
So, I did and we made it thru 82 sit-ups and 19 girl push-ups – not so bad for the first day. He made me sign-off on the workout and we agreed (not promised) to implement a workout program in the near future. My schedule has been such that I have not had the opportunity to start the plan, but I can honestly say that it is on my list of things to do.
The whole Sam thing, with the eating and the exercise, did come to a head and I know there comes a time when a parent is forced to face facts and confront the situation. Inevitably, this leads to discussions between husband and wife and inevitably, secrets come out.
It was during one of these sessions that Craig, my husband, admitted to me that he too had been a thin child with a lot of energy. Nothing could have surprised me more. I had always assumed he was like me and my family as I have seen him eat a large deep-dish pizza in a matter of minutes and then work his way through a super-sized tin-roof sundae with never so much as a stomach ache or chronic diarrhea.
The good news is that we have worked through our issues. We have accepted Sam for who he is and I have forgiven my husband for his deception and all in all, we are on the path to recovery. We just need to remember to stop along the way to enjoy a little chocolate now and then.
Because we are all of the same gender, there are common excuses that are acceptable under any circumstances. Having to leave early because of a nail appointment or spa treatment is perfectly acceptable. Sick children, visiting in-laws, cramps or a great sale at Macy’s will also never get you fired.
Our work days usually revolve around food and typical staff meetings start with lattes, baked goods and gossip. Everyone looks forward to lunch where it’s not uncommon for one of the ladies to experiment with a new dish, preferably low-cal and 15 minutes from oven to table.
We have an unusual agenda for meeting, but it serves us well. First items on our to-do list are the complaints. Husbands, then children, then how poorly we’re treated by our husbands and children. Apparently they don’t appreciate the fact that we have given up . . . things for them. But the point is that we girls have each other’s backs. With the exception of Leigha, our newest and youngest member who is still in the “honeymoon” phase of her relationship, we all rise and fall with our comrades regarding their marital woes and home life.
“Dave was a jerk last night,” Mary mentioned at our last meeting.
“Oh, my God, again?” Dawn commented while pouring her third cup of java. “What is with him?” She took a tentative sip from her cup. “By the way, love your earrings.”
“Thanks,” Mary smiled as she tossed her head back. “It’s probably just manopause,” she added, basking in the love and glory we showered upon her. Real friends don’t need to question why. If Mary says Dave was a jerk, then Dave was a jerk and support is garnered. We all commented on Dave’s jerkiness and offered hope that he could turn himself around before he pushed Mary too far.
“Kids caught a flu bug yesterday,” Kristyn said as she set up her laptop. “Both of them sick as a dog last night.”
“That stinks,” Janet offered as she reached for a doughnut.
“Take two,” I whispered, “They’re small. And you look so thin.”
Janet thanked me with her eyes. “Vomit?” she asked Kristyn.
“All over the bathroom floor.” Again, as a group we all sympathized with her particular plight and wished we had a nickel for every time a kid (or in my case, a husband) couldn’t quite make it to the toilet.
“My John is so sweet,” Leigha announced unexpectedly. “Last night he brought me dessert. In bed.”
Everyone stopped talking. Eye rolling is only intended for those who are not present so we all nodded pleasantly and mumbled “that’s nice” while looking away. No one wanted to be the bearer of bad news so we let poor Leigha live in her little fantasy world. It would end soon enough as we all knew – no need to crush her dreams just yet.
“Okay, gals,” I tapped the table with my nail file. “Time to get to work. There’ll be plenty of time to get Rachel’s recipe for goat cheese dip and to discuss the PTA and the crazy new president they just voted in.” I heard the click of the keyboard as the women started making notes. “Kristyn, can you review our strategic business plan for this month and then let’s discuss how to hold on to that 15% increase we saw in revenues last quarter.”
Dawn raised her hand. “Quick question.”
“Shoot,” I said.
“Does anyone know how to remove urine stains from a car seat? Shiloh had an accident on the way to the vet yesterday.”
So our meeting was delayed a few more minutes by a discussion about dog urine and whether or not bleach is the answer. But there comes a time when we know we have to get back to business. It’s tough though, the lines have blurred between family and work, and friends and employees, especially when you work out of your home. But being able to multi-task is essential – if you can brush your teeth while typing an email, you’re good. Throw in waiting on the phone to speak to a teacher and you’re executive material.
What makes it all worth it though, are the relationships we have and we build. I continue to be impressed by the women (and man) that I work with – their integrity, talent and heart continually inspire me.
Life is good.
My cleaning woman got a boob job. But she also drives a Mercedes so it’s painfully clear to me that I’m in the wrong business. I was completely unaware that a career in the domestic sanitation field could be so lucrative.
On top of my ignorance about job-choice economics, I also hadn’t ever really noticed that “Trixie” was a candidate for breast enhancement surgery.
I may not have noticed she needed implants but I could certainly tell she got them. It was hard not to. When she showed up to clean last Friday in a tight white t-shirt that could have easily said Hooters on it, my mouth dropped to my own bosom.
“Nice, huh?” She raised her eyebrows at me and winked.
“Uhh. . . sure,” I said. Feeling like I should make some kind of a positive and supportive comment I added, “Wowser.”
“They look good, right?” Trixie turned to show her profile.
“They certainly look substantial.”
“Yes they do,” she said as she lifted up her shirt to reveal an industrial type of bra similar to the one I wear. “I have to wear this stupid granny do-hickey for a few weeks until they can stand on their own.”
“Hmmm,” I muttered to no one in particular. “It’s not bad – kinda sexy in a maternal sort-of-way.”
Trixie ignored my as she weighed her new breast in her hands. “Four hundred cc’s. Each.”
“I got four hundred cc’s of solution in each breast. It’s like a DD size. I didn’t want to go too big.” And before I could say “bigger is not always better”, she unhooked her granny do-hickey to reveal her new and improved self. Trixie nodded at me proudly, “Go ahead, touch em.”
I knew it might be a while before I ever got that kind of an offer and frankly I was curious so I obliged. I poked and prodded at her new additions. They felt hard and weird like a pregnant woman’s misplaced belly. Of course, it was at this moment that my partner, Dawn walked in.
“I’m sorry,” she said as I quickly pulled my hand off Trixie’s breast, “Am I interrupting?”
“Gosh no,” I exclaimed. “It’s not what it looks like.”
“It never is,” she said sweetly.
“No really, look.” And like Vanna White on the Price is Right, I offered up Trixie’s humongous chest. “She had some work done.”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Dawn’s eyes grew as biggie as Trixie’s boobs as she took in the site.
Trixie was then kind enough to offer Dawn the same opportunity for a quick feel as she had me. It’s a hard offer to resist and Dawn was as drawn in as I had been, poking and prodding Trixie’s chest like a pro.
“Don’t worry, you can’t break them.” Trixie told us. “Well, I guess you could puncture them. It does happen, you know. My doctor told me that if I notice my chest deflating, I need to give him a call.”
“Makes sense,” I said.
“Yeah, and I’m still a little sore.” She slowly lifted both her arms to reveal dark bruises from her elbows to the middle of her torso. “They insert the bags through your armpits.”
Both Dawn and I folded our arms across our own chest and I imagined how a man might feel being kicked in the groin. I think it would hurt. Alot. I was hard-pressed to envision a guy ”taking one for the team” in that particular region.
“Okay, Trix,” Dawn sat back, her arms still folded. “Do you mind if I ask you how much the new additions cost?”
“Well. I got a family discount because my sister had the surgery last year. It’s about $7000. But I get one year to pay for it.”
“Ah, they have a credit plan. Clever.”
“Yeah, but if it’s not paid back at the end of the year, they charge me thirty-percent interest.” Trixie carefully re-holstered her big guns.
“Thirty-percent!” Dawn and I stared at each other. “Trixie, are you telling me that if you don’t pay in full, you have to pay 30% on the outstanding balance?” Again, I am in the wrong business.
“No, not on the outstanding balance, on the total.” Trixie tucked in her skin-tight t-shirt and picked up her mop.
“That’s highway robbery, Trixie! How can you afford it?”
“I am going to have to work more hours. And weekends, too. $7000 is a lot of houses to clean.”
I thought I detected a tinge of regret in her voice. A $7000 bill that needs to be paid off in one year is staggering – for anyone.
“Well, good luck,” Dawn told her.
“Yeah, thanks.” Trixie grabbed her bucket of cleaning supplies and started out of the office. “I forget to mention,” she added as she began pulling the door shut, “I’m going to need a raise.”
I’m on vacation (again!). This is a posting of one of my favorite blogs.
My maternal grandfather was a thief. And he was proud of it. He boasted, to anyone would listen, of all that he had pilfered from the navy during World War II.
After his death, we found a large sextant still in its original packaging, a silver sugar and creamer set from the Officer’s Club, a pair of binoculars, and a life raft from a ship that he wasn’t even on. He had no compunction of stealing the paper from his neighbor and it was not unusual for my grandmother to have to supply a new one to the angry fellow next door.
Although he married my grandmother, a well-to-do only child, he was extremely tightfisted and shopped at the local Salvation Army, stuffing all he could into a brown bag for 25 cents. I remember as a child, him offering to spring for my own 25 cent shopping bag, and how excited I was to pick out whatever I wanted.
He had closets of old clothes, none of which really fit but he knew exactly what was there. He didn’t mind stealing, but he was extremely angry if he thought anyone was stealing from him. We were always were grilled as we left the house after a visit, sometimes even emptying out our pockets to prove we were “clean.”
“the Old Man”
Anyone who knew him called him “the Old Man,” and he had a reputation of being belligerent, cunning and lithe. At eighty-five years of age, we witnessed him riding across the yard on a unicycle. When he was a mere eighty, he set himself up a small sled he had made from a bucket on a skateboard and took it down their steep driveway. To this day, my husband tells the story of “the Old Man” jumping up on a counter to change a ceiling light bulb with more dexterity than a twelve-year old. He had the nimble physique of a monkey and I can only imagine what he was like as a young man.
He held grudges, even with children, as though there was a secret covenant to try to trick him or put one over on him. He once accused my, then, fourteen year-old son of stealing a moth-eaten fedora from him and until the day he died he referred to Marcus as sneaky. If he took a dislike to you, he had neither the manners nor the inclination to hide his feelings.
He treated his only daughter terribly and told her to her face that he wished she had been born a boy. He took to calling her “Myque” (Mike), a nickname that stuck, and it wasn’t until I was a teen, I realized my mother’s name was really Claudia.
He was a devout atheist and a staunch democrat and considered anyone who dared to disagree with him an idiot. He also had an eye for a pretty girl and there was more than once that I heard my grandmother complaining of his many girlfriends that would phone the house. And he always took the call.
Frank and beans, anyone?
The first time my husband met “the Old Man” was during a holiday dinner at my mothers. My grandfather showed up in the middle of winter in loose nylon running shorts from the seventies (the really short kind), penny loafers, and a tattered sleeveless gray wool vest. He pulled a bar stool up to the table and sat higher than the rest of us, leaning over to eat. He chose not to wear underwear that day and shared his own pride and joy with anyone who had the courage to look.
He startled everyone by announcing in a loud angry voice “Who the hell took my goddamned fork?” He repeated it again until someone offered to get him a new one. Needless to say, my husband was speechless and I had to assure him that the family secret was that I was adopted.
He was a very odd man and I didn’t like him very much – he scared me. He died when he was eight-nine, his skin stretched so thin you could see the numerous tumors that filled his stomach. My grandfather dictated that he wanted to be cremated and requested no funeral or memorial service. So there was no closure in any way, for anyone. He just disappeared.
Bunghole is not a bad word. But, like many of you, I have overused the saying, “Get the bunghole outta here!” in a clever attempt at crudeness. However, as any 17th century seaman will tell you, a bung is a tube-like cork that is used to plug a hole in a barrel. And that’s where the word ‘bunghole’ originated. How it morphed into the present connotation of a dirty word is anyone’s guess.
This is but one of the many fascinating facts that our family learned on our recent vacation to the east coast. Because I have been deluged by requests (stop the madness, folks!) to share our pictures and every detail of our trip, I will humbly indulge – within reason. Because of space and time restraints, I can only give you this blog – the good news is you can order a copy of the extended super huge scrap book and CD I will soon be selling on Amazon.com. I’m also setting up a website.
So, buckle up gang as we revisit our family’s trail to the east coast and maybe, just maybe, learn a little something along the way,
Top ten things I did not know:
1. Niagara Falls sucks. Not the actual Falls, they are incredibly beautiful and to see them first-hand is breath-taking, but past that, the city (on the Canadian-side) is what I call “a cluster-fart,” (or something siniliar).
Think Disney plus Great America plus Las Vegas, on steroids, times a million, with a bad caffeine buzz and a cocaine problem. I have never been on a street with three Ripley’s Believe It or Nots, four dinosaur rides, ten ice cream shops, eight Starbucks, a couple of vertical roller-coasters and a hookah bar. Top that with a gazillion whiney kids, a loud motorcycle gang, cash-strapped parents and a ninety degree day and you have yourself a good old-fashioned cluster-fart.
2. That a ball of Silly Putty, when thrown from the back seat on a minivan at a high rate of speed and gets stuck in your hair, is nearly impossible to get out.
3. It is possible though, while driving and trying to follow a GPS in a foreign country, to reach behind the seat and punish a disobedient child.
4. Not all of the witches in the Salem, Mass trials were hanged. One gentleman, who refused to enter a guilty plea of having a pact with the devil, was pressed to death by large stones, added intermittently as he lay on the ground. Folklore has it that, as he struggled for breath and the local sheriff stood over him demanding that he admit to the crime, he would repeat, “I will not, sir. Add another stone.” He was eighty-one.
5. The “Ivy League” of east coast universities is not named for the green ivy covering the dated buildings in this elite group of schools. It actually began as the “IV League” of four colleges (Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale) and the “IV” comes from the Latin number four. Use this fact to stump your fancy Ivy League friends – it will make you feel smarter than them as I guarantee they will not know this fact.
6. There is no such thing as a hotel room with reasonable rates for a family of four. Either you get two double beds or pay up for a deluxe suite which gets you a queen and a pull-out sofa. Maybe some of you have children that can sleep next to each other without biting or kicking (liars!) but this is a very tight situation for most of us. I don’t need a mini kitchen with a stove, or even a couch. I need a king and two twin-sized beds! Hello? Hilton?
7. The expression “learning the ropes” comes from the sailors of the sixteenth century. When ships took on ten- and twelve-year old boys as apprentices, the first thing the kids had to do was learn where the five-hundred or so ropes, associated with the different sails on the ship, went. I wonder in four hundred years if there will be a new expression, “learning the iphone?”
8. Inmates in east coast prisons staged a revolt protesting the all-too-frequent meal of the “sea rat,” a creature of great abundance at that time. To this day, there stands a law in Maine that prisoners cannot be fed the sea rat, or as we know it, the lobster, more than twice a week.
9. Climbing the 300 steps in the Bunker Hill Monument after walking four miles to get there, was not as much fun as I thought it would be. Maybe it was the completely vertical steps with no ventilation? Or the tight, dark, dank staircase? I don’t know, but the kids did enjoy it. I passed them on step fifty – I was going up as they were already on their way down.
10. It’s like so, so great to spend all that time, in a minivan and small hotel rooms with your family. I mean really really great. The language, as well as the bodily function element, of pre-teen boys is not only charming but refreshing and pleasant while driving through the miles and miles and miles of desolate northern Pennsylvania.
I’m not one to honey-coat everything, so I will admit, towards the end of the trip and as we headed to stay the last night at my in-laws in Cleveland, I got a tiny bit grumpy. But I did what anyone would do in my situation: I locked myself in an upstairs bedroom with a bottle of wine and let the boys and Craig sleep in the basement.
Attitude adjustment successful.
Okay, I’m on a plane. Again. Why I do this to myself is beyond understanding. I can only blame Kristyn and Dawn for forcing me to go to BookExpo as I would never voluntarily stick needles in my eyes if I didn’t have to.
I’m sick to my stomach. And no one even seems concerned about the grinding noise coming from the belly of this beast as we limp down the runway.
It’s only minutes into the flight and I’ve already had a few “misunderstandings” with my fellow companions. First, the sadist who doubles as a flight attendant informed me I can’t use my ipod during takeoff. Something about the possibility of messing up the flight signals.
This makes no sense to me as every plan crash disaster movie I’ve ever seen has people using their cell phones to make their last call. Didn’t affect that flight, did it? I can’t speak for anyone else, but drugs and loud music help dull the panic and terror that frazzle my brain during take-off and landings. I’m not happy that I can’t lean on the Bee Gees in my time of need.
Second, the check-in dude didn’t buy my argument that I should be moved to first class because, psychologically speaking, I believe I’m safer there. Seriously. So, I’m stuck in the high mortality section of this death trap where if I want a snack I have to sell a kidney to come up with the cash.
Then, the woman in front of me, who is of the French persuasion by the way, (not that there’s anything wrong with that) threw her seat back and forced the tray table into my chest, where it figuratively, knocked the wind out of me.
“Really?” I say loudly enough to cause her to lean around her seat and say, “un petite?” and give the universal hand sign for ‘just a little.’
Well, I held back from giving her another universal hand signal, but that didn’t stop me from groaning loudly, “Whatever,” in my best Valley Girl voice and kicking her chair every time I crossed my legs. The nerve of some people.
The good news is I am sitting next to a very nice woman who has been overly polite and accommodating – as if she’s also afraid of something. I guess I’m not I the only nervous Nelly flyer.
(By the way, when you accidently drop a pen in one of the toilets on the plane, it takes an extra flush to get it to go down. Just a helpful hint.)
It gets worse. When I questioned the sadist, who has continually tried to ignore me, about the noise I heard during take-off, she claimed to have not noticed it. I don’ know how anyone could have missed the sonic boom that rocked the plane and rattled the windows. But what she told me next was so ridiculous I can only imagine it’s true.
“When we land at LaGuardia,” and she looked me straight in the eye as she spoke, “you’re going to hear dogs barking.”
It took me a second to even think about what to say. All I could come up with was, “Are you high?”
“No, seriously. When the landing gear comes down it sounds like dogs barking.” She didn’t smile or follow up with a, “Just kidding, I am high.” She just continued making her coffee. I figured her for the kind of person who makes fun of the handicapped. Not cool.
So now the pilot tells me we’re only one hundred miles from NYC and the very spot that my personal hero, Sully Sullinberger, took out a gaggle of geese. Although when Matt Damon was a guest-star on Thirty Rock, he said that a really good pilot wouldn’t have hit those birds in the first place. Good point.
I’m being told it’s time to turn off my device and start praying to whatever god will spare us. The sadists don’t use those exact words, but I know that’s what they mean. The craziest of them looks at me and mouths “listen for the dogs” as she cheerfully picks up the paper I have nervously shredded and tossed on the floor. I am certain I am headed for a fiery death.
As we barrel through the clouds I do have a parting thought. If this should be my last blog, let me go on record by saying, “I told you so.”
My first job, when I turned sixteen in 1977, was at Wendy’s. I had waited my whole life to do two things – drive a car and get a job. From my thirteenth birthday on, it was all I could think about. I applied for the position the month before my birthday knowing that the processing, assuming I was offered the job, could take some time.
All my friends worked at Wendy’s including my boyfriend, the head burger flipper, who got me an interview with Cheryl, the manager.
Cheryl was an intimidating figure who carried herself with the self-assurance that came with such a high-ranking position. She was pleasant and friendly, but there was no getting around the fact that she meant business and she made it clear there would be no Tom Foolery on her watch. We snapped to attention whenever she was near, knowing that if she caught you taking an unapproved break she would push a rag in your hand and announce “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
Tough as Nails
Cheryl was strict, but fair. If she detected someone illegally helping themselves to a single with cheese or failing to punch in on time, she might issue a warning. Next offense could get you sent home. Third time was no charm and we watched more than one embarrassed violator turn in their name badge and kerchief and slink out of the store, tail tucked between their legs.
I worked extra hard to please Cheryl. I wiped the ashtrays in the lobby like no one’s business, practiced my handiwork on the register, and vacuumed the carpets with the gusto my mother never could inspire. I even wiped the urinal in the men’s room – a job most unpopular with the staff and often ignored.
My hard work paid off and I was soon rewarded with a badge that read ‘Crew Leader’ and all the responsibilities that came with it. I walked proudly into “my” restaurant every noon, and to “my” position at the cash register, knowing that I was responsible for getting our customers a hot meal. Cheryl made a game of pitting the front line against the cooks in a race, each trying to leave the other in the dust as we moved through the lunch rush. She kept track of the score, telling each side separately that she thought they were the faster team and she was secretly rooting for them.
When my best friend’s mother got cancer and Kelly and I chose to show our solidarity by wearing a thin gold chain, Cheryl went to bat for us with the Regional Manager to make an exception to the “no jewelry” rule.
She once asked me to drive her new Ford Mustang back to her house when her boyfriend came to pick her up, and to this day I remember how carefully I drove, terrified that I would somehow wrap the sports car around a light pole or pick off an innocent by-stander and wind-up having to deliver the news that would certainly seal my fate as an ex-employee.
Paying my fast food dues
I worked at Wendy’s for almost two years. By the time my eighteenth birthday was in sight I was looking for a higher paying job as a waitress, besides Cheryl had been offered a promotion to Regional Manager and would be leaving. There didn’t seem to be any reason to stay, anymore. There was a new crop of sixteen year-olds and I was over the fast food thing. Besides, with Cheryl gone, work wasn’t fun anymore.
As I moved up the chain in the world of Food and Beverage, I always remembered Cheryl and the work ethic she installed. I adopted her old slogan of “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” More than once, I asked myself in a difficult situation, what would Cheryl do? She was such a great inspiration and example for a young girl and I often think of her and wonder where she ended up.
To have such an impact on someone’s life is powerful. And, when I think of the fact that in 1977, Cheryl was only nineteen years old, it makes it even more amazing.
When I was sixteen, nineteen was a world away. Nineteen was an adult. Nineteen could drink and buy alcohol (that really was back in the day) and nineteen could be a store manager at Wendy’s. Was nineteen in 1977 different than nineteen in 2010?
Somehow, I think it was.
I do not believe in astrology. However, I am a Gemini, the sign of the twins, and I’m only speaking for one twin. The other twin is a believer. I also admit I may be prone to exaggeration, but I promise you the following story is true.
In January, I attended my good friend Lisa Schmagenbuch’s monthly party (remember her birthing experience?). The interesting twist on Lisa’s monthly parties is that you never know why she is throwing one. I have attended jewelry parties, life coaching parties, home good parties, clothes parties, and raising your self-esteem parties. There are always two things in common with her events: 1) plenty o’ food and drink and 2) the need to bring a checkbook.
But this party was more esoteric than her usual shindigs. For a mere $60 (cash only, please) you could purchase 12-15 minutes of time with Jorianne (aka Sister Christian), The Coffee Psychic. Sister’s claim to fame was her ability to read your future from the cream she poured into an average cup o’ joe. Apparently, the way the Coffeemate settles into the coffee means a lot more than you think it does.
(FYI – in case you’re in need of an exorcism, worry no more. Sister can get rid of that devil once and for all for the bargain rate of $500. Unless you have a particularly stubborn demon - then it’s negotiable.)
A fool and her money
So there we were, all fifteen suburban moms waiting anxiously to hand our money over to the local clairvoyant (yeah, do the math – Sister was netting almost $300/hour).
Things got off to a rocky start though when our telepathic tutor announced that no alcohol was to be consumed until after we had finished our session with her. A hush settled over the room and an awkward silence followed. It was only until Lisa offered to babysit each of our children for a night that the gals even began to come around, but the natives were restless and trouble was a brewin’ (no pun intended).
Sister stood before us – a handsome blond, in her early fifties, with plenty of nice jewelry. She looked sweetly around the room, staring at each of us as though she knew our secrets and announced, “If you see me barking like a dog or baying like a sheep, there’s no cause for concern. I sometimes channel animals.”
But this was cause for concern because I do not channel animals nor do I speak their language. I also am concerned about taking advice from a cow – we usually just eat them.
“Also,” she continued, “If I say something that doesn’t apply now it’s because I might be referring to something that has happened to you in a previous life or something that will happen in your next life.”
Wow, what a disclaimer – when else could something have happened?
“Lastly,” she stated, “I want you to hear something.” She pressed ‘play’ on a small hand-held tape recorder and we listened to Sister Christian and a client talking. All of a sudden, a loud and clear ghostly voice interrupted the session. “Sister,” the spirit continued, “Sister . . . Sister.”
“Did you hear that?” Sister shook her head and held the recorder up to the heavens. “That was the client’s dead grandmother contacting me – right in the middle of our reading! Can you believe it?”
Frankly, no, I couldn’t believe it. Was she kidding me? I’m no techy, but in this day and age I’m going to need to meet that spirit and get something in writing before signing on to that program.
Not as smart as I look
Sister wrapped up her intro and we all chose lots to see who would go first. I, of course, drew #15, so I would get to spend the next 3 1/2 hours eating chips and guacamole and waiting for my turn at bat. The good news – I would have the opportunity to listen to the stories as, one by one, the gals came back from their reading and spilled on what had gone on.
“She told me I would get warts and my husband’s ex-girlfriend was stalking him,” Dawn grabbed her first margarita and chugged it.
“She told me that we would have catastrophic financial troubles this year,” Jenny added as she poured herself a glass of wine.
“Yeah, well, Sister told me . . .” Meagan took a deep breath, “I would have another child.”
“NO!” we all shouted in unison. Who was this woman that was wreaking havoc on the lives of innocent people? I couldn’t wait to get my shot with this poser.
Taking matters into my own hands
Finally, at a time that I normally would have been sleeping for a couple of hours, Sister called me in. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or the lack of margaritas, but the bravado I had planned on had lost its charm. I knew I would do something, I just didn’t know what. Sister smiled sweetly at me and I offered up a cheery “hello.”
She put her hands to her temples, closed her eyes and asked in a quiet voice, “Is there a ‘Bob’ in your family?”
“That would be my brother,” I answered. But this is not true. My brother’s name is Mike.
“How about a ‘Sue’?”
“My mom,” I lied.
She looked up at me, surprised. “Dave?”
“Oh, my gosh. That’s my uncle!” I exclaimed.
At this point, I wasn’t sure why I was fibbing to this poor woman just trying to make a buck (or three hundred). Maybe I was waiting for her to be psychic and call me out on my obvious falsehoods, but she didn’t. Either I was a really good liar or she was a really bad psychic.
Now this is the crazy part . . .
She was visibly elated and her hands shook as she poured the creamer into the coffee and watched as it sank into the swills. It was a moment before she sat back. “The cream has spoken. You have some kind of a gift.” She rubbed her temples and continued. “But you are afraid to share it. Hmmm . . . what is it? What are you hiding?” She was genuinely curious.
“Well . . .,” I started. I now knew why I was jerking her chain – after three hours and enough artichoke dip to kill a horse, I was enjoying myself.
“Go on – don’t be afraid. You’re in a safe place. Sister is here.”
I took a deep breath before I went on. “The thing is . . . I’m a psychic, too. I see . . .” I almost said dead people, but I didn’t want to push it so I finished with, “the future.”
“I knew it!” She tapped the desk with her palm. “In a previous life you were a witch or a shaman or a mystic. You had psychic powers and they have stayed with you.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “You need to explore your gift, don’t let it scare you, let it lead you.”
“Praise Jesus,” I said, caught up in the moment. But she was so excited about my supernatural abilities that I was beginning to feel sorry I had lead her on. And oddly enough, I do feel like sometimes I know the future – like when the boys get home from school, I always know there will be a fight.
She pulled out her business card and pushed it across the table. “I want to show you how to use your gift. I want to teach you how to explore all the universe has to offer. I can help you.” She reached out and touched my hand. ”And I’m running a special this month for a price you can’t beat.”
Only if she teaches me how to communicate with my dog. I’d like to know why he bites people and poops everywhere but in the yard.
I am a bad mother. Ask anyone. I continually favor one kid over another, I never let any of them do anything fun, I don’t know anything, and I am mean and grossly unfair – always.
At least, this is what my children tell me.
They have mentioned, more than once, that, if I could go away their lives would be perfect (I wish), that they would live happily ever after (works for me), and that the adult therapy I have assured them they will need, will not be necessary (doubtful).
Like most bad mothers, I take their insults with a grain of salt. I can even go toe to toe with them on the mouthy thing. When told they can’t wait until they’re eighteen, I tell them I can’t wait even more. When one of them mentions I favor the other, I say you’re absolutely right – he’s always been my favorite. It just rolls off my tongue.
Sad, but true
A quick insight: I have been a mother for almost 30 years – and I still have 10 left to go. If and when Sam ever leaves, I will have had children in my house for 40 years and will have gone from being a teenager to, basically, retirement. Yeah, that hurts alright.
So, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the field of parenthood. Maybe not a good expert, but at least an experienced one.
Here are a couple examples of my parenting skills. Feel free to use at anytime. (Disclaimer – I cannot guarantee that children will not be mentally harmed by my advice – use at your own risk).
Kid: Sarah always gets candy in her lunch.
Me: That’s because Sarah’s mother still thinks cigarettes can’t hurt you.
Kid: Joe got a car on his 16th birthday.
Me: Joe’s parents must really love him.
Kid: Bill’s mom always lets him do whatever he wants.
Me: Bill’s mom is in rehab.
They’ll get you every time
Now, every once in a while things can backfire. When 11 year-old Gracie told me she was tired of playing the flute and I told her she had to finish her commitment, she accidentally beat the $300 instrument against a cement block until it was mangled and then explained to me that it fell.
When 5 year-old Marcus decided being grounded in his room constituted an emergency and called 911, it took some explaining before the police realized he had not been locked in his room forever and needed food and water.
When 6 year-old Sam wanted to run away and I helped him pack his bags, I thought I was using reverse psychology. But when I got a call from a store 2 miles away (they had caught him shoplifting a candy bar) and they asked me to please pick up my young son, I had egg on my face.
You just can’t win
It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Frankly, I feel somewhat put out that spanking went out of style just when I became a mother. It was a lot easier for my parents, they didn’t need anything more than a “Because I said so and if you ask me again I’ll tan your hide.” It obviously worked – I saved all my insults and tough talk for when they left the room and did whatever they told me not to, anyway. I just did it behind their back.
My generation has been forced to resort to explanations and understanding. This works fine for the first 100 times you say, “But I am not Susie’s mother. If I was, she wouldn’t get a cell phone for her eighth birthday.” And then you explain, again, how important it is for her to grow up slowly, that there will be plenty of time in the future for her to spend $400 on a monthly cell phone bill.
How much can I take?
But throw me a bone here – we’re only human, right? You can’t keep up that pace. How many times can you hear “That’s not fair!” before you answer, “Well, guess what? Life’s not fair. Get used to it.” And you leave it at that.
And now, they’re getting even younger. I swear I saw a two-year old scolding his mother for not letting him get a cookie. “Bad mommy,” he screamed as he stomped his feet. When the harried mother glared at me as I pushed my cart past, I had to remind her that I was on her side. She needed to focus her rage where it was intended – at the toddler, not at me. I actually enjoy watching other people’s children being punished. It makes me feel like I’m part of the club . . . The Bad Mother’s Club.
I like the sound of that. It sounds edgy and dangerous. Mutha . . .yeah, I’m one bad mutha. Don’t mess with me, I’ll ground you so fast it’ll make your head spin. Hah!
When I mentioned to my husband, Craig, that I was starting a Bad Mutha Club he asked why it couldn’t be a Bad Parent’s Club and be open to all parents, no matter their gender.
Well, for one thing, “Bad Parent’s Club” doesn’t have the same vibe to it as “Bad Mutha Club” and secondly, I can’t always do everything for him. If he wants a club, he’s free to start one – but, this was my idea and I can’t have him always latching on to my coattails. He has to grow up sometime.