family humor

January Blahg

By Lise Marinelli

Craig

My husband – back in the day. His favorite number (guess) comes from two Cleveland (Calves and Browns) draft picks in the ‘70’s.

Today I feel like complaining.  You might be wondering how this day is any different and, actually . . . it’s not.  Even my complaint is recycled, but it’s a fan favorite and one that never grows old.  At least for me.

Before I get started, I must preface my grievance with a simple statement that, in fact, I like one of the two subjects I am about to criticize.  You might even go so far as to say I love my husband – he is an extremely affable chap.  The other, *sports, is a horse of a different Cinderella story.  Maybe it’s because I live with three males and grew up as a coach’s daughter, but I find my tolerance level for locker room talk has waned. *The term “sports” includes, but is not limited to: sport’s teams, sporting events, sporting arenas, players of sports, commentators of sports, spectators of sports, TV and radio shows regarding the aforementioned, etc.

When I put sports and my husband, Craig, together, I get a headache a mile long.  We have left weddings early (our own) in order to watch a basketball playoff game.  I labored my third birth in front of a hospital TV watching a baseball game (for kicks, I just asked my husband what game: Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, October 14, 1999 – Sox lost). He has a photographic memory when it comes to stats and for some reason he thinks I am as interested in how many touchdown passes that Peyton Manning threw in a single NFL season as he is.  I’m not. (55 BTW)

His bucket-list is comprised solely of having “his” Cleveland team win some big title, playoff games he wants to attend, players he would like to shoot a round of golf with and historical plays, that if granted the power, he would change.  When I once questioned him about a 1985 boxing match he was re-watching on ESPN Classic, mentioning that he already knew the outcome, he replied proudly, “Even better, I was there.”

When I first met Craig and declared that I didn’t watch much TV, he claimed the same. It wasn’t until our first holiday together when I received a new color TV and cable, that I found this not to be the case. He fessed up and shared that there had been more than one Sunday when his day started at 7:30 am and lasted until midnight watching pre, post and who-gives-a-rat’s foot, ball related programs.

Even though I am not a big fan of any game (though I play a mean game of PIG), I know how much these games mean to my husband.  And now, how much they mean to me – the biggest bonus of having two boys with a fanatic is (say it with me, ladies) my free time. This year’s birthday gift to Craig was a weekend in front of the TV watching football playoffs.  Between lunching with girlfriends, shopping with my daughter and a bedroom TV all to myself, it was his best birthday ever,

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My dad, Larry, and step-mom, Janet, in December.

Some say I married my father, a star athlete in high school, college and even the minor leagues, who, at 77, still ref’s high school basketball. There is no sport he is not proficient at and excels at most  – from golf to tennis and everything in between. But more importantly, he set an example of being a good-sport to his children, as well as the many young athletes he picked up and dusted off along the way.

I will admit to enjoying a great ball game every now and then – that kind of excitement invokes the nostalgia from a time long-gone.  As a child, I remember falling asleep to the unmistakable radio voice of the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell, as he called the game. And from my dad, as he coached the Tigers in the dark, from our living room couch.

 

                 

Bear with me, folks . . .

By Lise Marinelli

I am a lover not a fighter.  Even though I don’t always love what I don’t always fight. To explain myself, I am referring to fighting a bear.  I do not love bears and I do not want to fight them – much to my mother’s chagrin.

There is a story behind this rambling mess and it begins this past summer in the small, idyllic lakeshore town of Frankfort, Michigan.  My mother and step-father, Pete, have retired there and a summer visit is a must, though my sisters and I like to double up as it is easier to do battle with my mother when it’s two against one.

One of the highlights of Frankfort, besides the Dairy Freeze, is biking along a beautiful path that runs inland from Lake Michigan and my sisters and I are no strangers to this pleasurable ride. But choosing between my parent’s only two bikes is a lose-lose situation.  For this particular ride, I won the throw-down and chose the men’s ten-speed from 1979 with a seat so high so that my feet left the peddle every time the wheel turned.  First gear was the only gear in my sister Becky’s bike and to watch her peddle ferociously like a mad circus clown was definitely the gift that kept on giving.  But neither handicap was a showstopper – see, in my family, we consider it a personal challenge to overcome the most inane and ridiculous obstacles.  To break down and buy new bikes would be admitting defeat.  Some call it stubborn; we call it winning, just like Charlie.

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Idyllic Frankfort, Michigan – where, apparently, only the good die young.

So, we’re halfway through the ride, enjoying the incredible scenery and, because I am a multi-tasker, I was talking on the phone.  I did notice a couple approaching us riding extremely close together and it was only after my sister said, “Holy shiznet,” that I realized that the close-knit twosome looming ahead was actually a large black bear.

We cautiously slowed our bikes and Becky and I stared at the impressive beast, trying to put the surreal scene in perspective.  He was on all fours, maybe 250 lbs, and stood in the middle of the bike path about 20 yards out. Now, I wasn’t sure how fast bears can run, but I had a feeling it was faster than I could peddle and certainly faster than Becky could. The gravity of the situation swept over me – I knew it could go either way and I am not ashamed to say I was scared shiznetless.

“Becky,” I whispered, never taking my eyes off the bear, “turn back.”  I didn’t have to tell her twice – she whipped that clown bike around like a professional from the X Games and took off like a slow bat outta hell.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t get my feet on the peddles. I fumbled and stumbled and dropped my phone.  Because of the high bar across the bike, I couldn’t easily lean over and when I tried, the large bike fell to a 45 degree slant. I knew if I didn’t get my shiznet together soon I might soon be dead.  Or at least playing dead.

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This guy can run up to 30 mph. The good news is he has no endurance! The bad news is I don’t either.

I took a deep breath, got up and turned the bike around, jumped on as elegantly as a middle-aged woman can and rode off, never looking back.  Becky was 10 yards ahead, but as she heard me huffing and puffing to catch up turned her head around and called out, “Did you get a picture?”

I, unfortunately, did not.  Oddly enough, it had occurred to me, but in my haste to make a speedy exit, the time to snap a photo escaped me. As I was later explaining this to my mother, she announced, “Well, you could have easily done it.  Black bears are a dime a dozen around here. They’re very friendly, more of a pest actually. If you want them to  move, you just shoo them away.”  And then, like a cheerleader at a pep rally, she clapped her hands out in front of her and chanted, “Shoo, Suey. Shoo, shoo.”

Becky and I looked at each other with that familiar “okay, she’s nuts” face.  “First of all, Mother,” I began, “We don’t know if was it was a ‘he.’  It could have been an angry female protecting her cubs. Secondly, why would I want to poke a bear? It’s not like I need to prove to him how tough I am.  I admit it – a bear is tougher. In a fight he would definitely win.”

“And isn’t ‘Suey’ a pig?’ my sister added.

“You girls are making a mountain out of a mole hill. Make a little noise,” she clicked her teeth as one might do to call a cat, “they just run off. They’re scared of people, you know.”

“He didn’t look scared to me,” Becky offered, then added, “Have you ever seen a bear?”

“A thousand times.”

“Really, Mom? When?” I asked.

“I don’t remember, but I know I have.” She looked around for my step-father and then screamed, “PETE! PETE! When was the last time we saw a bear?”

“Never saw a bear, Claudia,” Pete answered from somewhere in the house.

“Well, he’s wrong.  I know we have. Hmm . . . unless I’m thinking of a bobcat.” She adjusted her glasses. “All I’m saying is you had nothing to worry about. They’re harmless.”

Not two weeks later my mother, the fearless seventy-two-year old bear hunter, sent an article about a young girl that had been mauled by a black bear, 50 miles from where Becky and I were riding.  Thank goodness the teenager was okay – apparently you can fight a bear and win.

 

Better late than pregnant

 

For those who have not experienced the thrill of a vasectomy a frozen bag of peas are a great comfort.  And you don't eat them.

For those of you who have not experienced the thrill of a vasectomy, a frozen bag of peas is a great comfort. And you don’t eat them.

As awesome as it might seem, expecting another baby, my fifth, at age 52, does not excite me.  In so many ways it does not excite me.  And, I know for a fact, it would not excite my husband, as we purchased and used that bag of frozen peas a number of years ago.

But in the haste of getting my last blog published (it was 2 years late), I mistakenly gave folks the impression we were anticipating another hellion. I, of course, did not realize this, until my ears exploded as people quietly discussed my state of mind behind my back, then called my parents to share their disbelief. Now, I blame them not. I, too, would question anyone’s sanity who thought getting pregnant in the throes of middle-age would be fun.

It’s not that I don’t care much for children. I like other people’s just fine – it’s mine I have an issue with. They’re a lot of work. Maybe I’m just tired – I’m going into my 33rd year of motherhood and have another six years before the last one heads out to college, the army, or prison. At that time I will have had children in my house for almost forty years.

But once again, I digress.  Let’s see . . . tired, crazy, old . . . oh yeah, my parents. So, after my blog faux pas, I get an email from my mother that says, “Ha, ha ha!!!”  Then she sends a shout out on social media that I am going to be the oldest woman alive to give birth, which is totally not true.

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Rajo Devi is the oldest woman on record to give birth – she was 70. Now that’s just plain fun!

Then my dad called. “Honey,” he said nervously clearing his throat. “I just had dinner with Aunt Carol and,” he cleared his throat again, “well, this is a little delicate, but we think you’re just plain idiotic and a raving lunatic to have another baby. But we’ll support you, no matter what,” he added. “Just not financially,” he whispered.

I tried to explain to both of my parents that my blog about having a December baby is a subtle way to let people know that my new book (Merry Birthday plug) is now published and available on Amazon and at Barnes&Noble.com (Merry Birthday plug).

“Well, that’s just silly,” my mother snorted. “Why don’t you just come out and say it?”

“Social media doesn’t work that way – you need to establish relationships.” I told her. But trying to explain today’s marketing technology to the elderly (Ha ha ha) is never easy. “It’s like asking someone you just met to be your husband.”

“It worked for me,” my mother said, before covering the mouthpiece and screaming, “PETE! THE TOILET’S PLUGGED AGAIN!”

She has a point.  And she has been known to think she’s always right, so here goes.

My new book, Merry Birthday (Windy City Publishers, 2013) is now for sale.  It’s a children’s picture book about a young boy who has a late December birthday and is frustrated when his special day gets lost in the holiday shuffle. It has great pictures and is lots of fun to read.  I think you should buy it, because, not only will you enjoy it, but it will make me feel good about myself and I have notoriously low self-esteem. It’s really a win – win for everyone.

Not so Merry Birthday

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.

Craig and baby Sam.  My Merry Birthday boys!

Craig and baby Sam (circa 2000). My Merry Birthday boys!

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:

A little scary but kids like this kind of stuff.

A little scary but kids like this kind of stuff.

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.”

This looks like a regular fat-old bird to me.  I don't get the "turtle" part.

This looks like a regular fat-old bird to me. I don’t get the “turtle” part.

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)

 

Why some animals eat their young

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.

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Good, clean living, my friends.

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.

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Here's my little butterball!

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. 

 The “Talk”

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It's a tough road, best of luck. gang.

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.

Not Sam's first choice . . . very strange indeed.

Not Sam's first choice . . . very strange indeed.

“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

Lise Body builder - Copy

It's amazing what a few sit-ups and some basic cardio can do.

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.

Gals Gone Wild

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Another Motley Crue

I work with all women.  Well mostly – Michael is our IT guy and we all adore him, but it is IT, so enough said.   The rest of our motley crew is female and with the exception of a few minor catfights (usually over food) we seem to function relatively well.

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. 

 

Leigha

Leigha in love . . .

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.”

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Dave and Mary in happier times

“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.

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I think we all recognize this sign

“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.

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I wasn't kidding - the PTA president is really crazy!

“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.

Birthin’ babies – not as easy as it looks

What I should have been doing: holding Lisa’s hand as she labored with her first child.
 
What I really was doing: balancing a plate of brownies as I ran around the hospital looking for an entrance.

I was out of sorts, discombobulated, if you will.  Maybe it was my “inner idiot” messing with me, maybe it was my insecurities, I don’t know, but I wasn’t my usual confident, poised self.  Lisa had specifically chosen me, out of her handful of competent friends, to guide her through the child birthing experience and so far all I had done was, well . . nothing.

Working out the kinks

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The Schmagenbuch Family. In the long-run - no harm done.

The frigid December air swirled around me, but the jogging had warmed me and I transferred the plate of brownies to my left hand and unzipped my parka.  A car slowly cruised up next to me, but before I could wave them past or flip them off, the window rolled down and a man’s voice called out, “Lise?  Is that you?”

 

It was Dave, Lisa’s husband.

“Hey, Dave,” I replied, my voice strained from the exercise.

“What the heck are you doing?”

“Looking for an entrance.”  I slowed my pace a little to catch my breath.  “What are you doing?  Who’s with Lisa?”
 
“We forgot the camera.”  He stopped the car.  “And no one’s with Lisa.  Hop in.”

I followed his instructions and got in the warm car.  Dave, being the kind of annoyingly charming guy who always knows the right thing to do, parked the car and got us immediately to the maternity ward and to Lisa’s room.

Still no sense of humor

Lisa was mid-contraction when we walked in so she didn’t look very happy.  She declined a brownie and when the pain subsided asked politely if she could have more ice chips to suck on.

This was my chance for redemption.  I immediately barked out to the nurse that we needed ice chips.  And by the way, who was in charge of the ice chips and why hadn’t Lisa’s ice chip bucket been filled!

I wasn’t the only one surprised at my outburst.  Both Dave and Lisa took notice as the nurse stalked out. I wanted to apologize and start over, but that ball had already started downhill and was picking up speed.

It was soon after the ice chip incident that things really started not going so well.  I found fault with the TV, the the paper towels in the ladies room and the organization of the linnen closet, to name a few.  My inner idiot had muscled her way into the room and became irritating to the point of obnoxiousness and I was powerless to stop it.  Worse yet, I joined in.

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer

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All's well that ends well - no matter what some idiot does.

“Can’t you see my friend is in pain,” I screamed out to the attendant as Lisa began another contraction.  “When will she get some relief?  Who do you have to sleep with to get an epidural around here?” 

 I ran out into the hall looking for Lisa’s doctor.
 
The head nurse grabbed my arm.  “If you can’t get a hold of yourself, you’ll have to be removed from the room.  You’re scaring the patient.”

“That patient has a name – Lisa!  And Lisa is in pain.”  I brought my voice under control.  “When can she get some drugs?”

“We’ve already ordered the epidural.  Doctor will be here any time now.”  In an odd way, she reminded me of that crazy nurse from One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest.
 
“Great.  That’s just great.  When he finishes his cigarette, tell him we’re waiting!”  I rolled my eyes and went back into the room, just in time to watch Lisa’s monitor registering a contraction.  A big one.

“Okay, Lisa,” I warned, “this is a doosey!  It’s gonna hurt and hurt bad so get ready.  Here it comes!”  I watched the monitor as Lisa grimaced in pain and Dave held her hand.  The hand holding was supposed to be my job, his was the camera, but in the confusion, everything got turned around.

“You’re peaking!” I yelled as Lisa doubled over in pain.  When it was over she brushed her hair from her eyes and whispered, “Drugs.”

My clue to over-react

I marched back out into the hall.  I was sweating profusly and my knuckles hurt from squeezing Lisa’s foot.  Going through labor was beginning to take its toil on me.  Not only was I a mess, but Lisa wasn’t doing so well either.  Watching her twist and turn in agony was more difficult than I expected and I was powerless to help. 

“Where is the damn doctor?”  I grabbed the frightened janitor, who was shaking his head and mumbling in Spanish.  I stomped to the nurse’s desk.  “Why is it taking so long to get an epidural?  This is crazy. Lisa’s writhing in pain and you’re not doing anything!  Trust me when I say customer service will be hearing from the Schmagenbuch camp tomorrow”
 
I turned on my heels to go back to the room but an iron grip clamped on to my arm.  It was Nurse Ratched.
 
“You’re not going in there,” she spoke softly, a terrible grin on her face.  “I warned you once before.  You will stand in the hall.  You will not say a word – to anyone.  You will behave yourself or I’ll have you removed from this hospital.  Do you understand?”  She leaned in and put her mouth to my ear.  “I eat people like you for lunch.”

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Isabelle is NOT afraid of me. She's just a . . . serious baby.

She may or may not have said that last part, I don’t quite remember, but she scared me.  And she scared my inner idiot because as I looked around, she had disappeared.  I was alone and embarrassed.  And I was missing out on the birth of my dear friend’s child.
 
The doctor soon showed up and administered the epidural.  Hospital personnel rushed in and out of the room and within an hour I heard someone call out “it’s time”.  I continued my stand of shame outside the room and again, I wanted to apologize but it was not the right time.  Lisa was having her baby.

Shamed into submission

At the last minute, Nurse Ratched took pity on me.  “If you think you can participate without causing a scene, you can join us.  Do you think you can do that?”

I nodded and walked slowly back in the room.  Dave actually smiled at me and asked me to film the birth – he was busy holding his wife’s hand.  I eagerly grabbed the camera, excited to be doing something that wouldn’t get me disbarred from the hospital.

Of course, this story has a happy ending.  My actions were soon lost in the exhilaration of a healthy baby girl being born.  Isabelle was beautiful and Dave and Lisa were on cloud nine. 

My inner idiot was nowhere to be found.  As usual, she had high-tailed it out of there when the going got tough, and once again, left me to fend for myself. 

Not to worry, she’ll be back.  I’m sure of it.

Note: Lisa and Dave declined my offer to assist in the birth of their son, Jack, fifteen months later. I guess they felt they were “experts” by then.

Dandy – my favorite midget stripper

At one point in my life, I hadn’t thought much about midget strippers.  I was young and naïve and under the impression that all strippers were the good-looking athletic type.  But (you can see where this is going) we all know that assuming anything can be the kiss of death and I was wrong – sorely wrong – anyone can take their clothes off for money. 

WARNING!

This next blog is not for the faint-at-heart or the politically correct, but I can assure you that you will learn a little something about yourself.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be a better person for it.

prince

The artist formerly known as "Crazy as a Loon"

michael

Just a thought - would you even recognize him with hair?

The year was 1993.  A town in Waco had become popular, Prince was known as that “bat-crap crazy” artist, and Michael Jordan retired for the first time.  And me, I had managed to get through my fifth college and come out, for the first time, with a diploma.
 
It was a time to celebrate and I decided to host a party for myself, acknowledging the fact that I had finally finished something I started.  Sure it was fifteen years later than when I first walked the campus of Central Michigan University, but I am a slow learner and, frankly, I had issues that I now understand are my mother’s fault.

both

We don't look so bad together - could he have been "the one that got away"?

The party was to be held in the 600 square foot shoe box my children and I called “hell-hole home”.  Anyone who cared to affirm that I had actually graduated came, and I found myself surrounded  (probably for the first time) with the warmth and love that came with such an accomplishment.  As I remember, it was a lovely party and the joy that we shared transcended the heartache of the world. 

But it all went terribly awry when, during a chorus of Kumbaya, Kelly looked out the window and gasped.
 
“There’s a midget carrying balloons headed towards the apartment!”  She crushed her cigarette out in her beer can and added, “And he’s dressed like . . . an Arabian Sheik.”

A little something special, just for me

We all rushed to the window and, sure enough, a very small man with very large balloons was skipping towards us.  As he came closer we could hear him calling out, “Leath!  Oh Leath!  Where are you?  Dandy ith looking for you!”

I assumed, since my name is not Leath, he was looking for someone else.  But he wasn’t.  He just had a lisp.  “Dandy” arrived, teeth as large as the big bad wolf, with his boom box and balloons and bowed deeply.  “At your  thervice, my lady,” he announced.  “Dandy is all yourths for the nexths thirty minuths!”

dandy

This part was kind of weird - in a freaky way

As he dug through his bag, I searched the partygoer’s faces wondering who could have done this to me.  There was a stunned silence as I met each person’s eyes and I found only confusion and disbelief.  No one had that “ha ha” look – they were as surprised as I was.  Only when my daughter, Gracie, who was just five, burst into tears did anyone even move.
 
By then he had slipped a cassette into the box, removed his shirt and pants, and was dancing seductively, wait . . . seductively is not the word I want.  Let me rephrase that.  He was moving towards me in a strange way and holding out, what appeared to be, a bunch of grapes.  As he swiveled his hips to Ice Ice Baby, he held the fruit out to me, winked and whispered, “Feed me baby.”

me

Here I am, pretending to be embarrassed

For the first time in my life, I couldn’t move or speak.  Bizarre is one word I can think of to describe the situation that I found myself in.  Humiliated, embarrassed, and shocked are a few more.  But it was also funny.  Funny in that really sick way that we all enjoy every now and then, especially at someone else’s expense.
 
After that, things went to hell in a hand basket.  Both my sisters, who are self-professed instigators, started screaming, “Take it off.  Take it all off!”  That’s all it took before the others joined in and the party very quickly went from a love fest to me feeling like Piggy, in the Lord of the Flies.   I may have looked like I was enjoying the gyrating midget as I fed him grapes, but it was all I could do to hold it together and not throw myself off the second story balcony.

Dancing with the Stars

Dandy pumped and danced as the crowd cheered and egged him on.   He sang loudly as he moved around the dance floor, his huge fake teeth causing him to shower anyone in his way with spittle.  I drew the line at having him sit on my lap and tickle his belly, but I couldn’t resist throwing a few grapes in his general direction and watching him dive to try to catch them in his mouth.  At one point, he spun like a break dancer on the floor, his sheik’s headress flying out behind him, and we had to physically contain my sister, Becky, from joining in on the action.   She apparently has some fetishes I am unaware of.

Finally, my little Dandy collapsed on the floor, panting like a worn out puppy.  The music stopped and the manic giddiness disappeared and it became weird again.  We helped him pack up the remainder of his grapes and handed him his sheik’s clothes, thanking him for stopping by.  He told me to keep the balloons and shook my hand before turning to walk out of our lives forever.  I thought Becky would actually break down as she followed him out telling him that “if he was ever in the neighborhood . . .”

With friends like that . . .

For some reason, my friends think it’s funny to do stuff like that to me.  It has been suggested that they are actually being hostile when they send a Dandy or, on another occasion, a Naughty Nerd, but I choose to believe it comes from a good place and not an ugly place some crazy shrink has dreamed up.

I have my friend, Denise (who couldn’t make it to the party), to thank for Dandy.  I can say with all seriousness, he is one midget stripper that I will never forget.  And that, my friends, is just the kind of gift that keeps on giving.