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,
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.
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.
There are certain guidelines that are suggested the “cleansor” follow. First, it’s best to choose a target that can’t fight back. This will eliminate spouses, family members and Rush Limbaugh. Second, make sure your digs are confusing enough that you can always claim that the “cleansee” took you out of context and didn’t understand what you were trying to say. An example might be something along the lines of “I didn’t mean stupid. Stupid has more than one meaning. Sure it can mean dumb, but it can also mean injudicious.” Chances are they will not know the meaning of that word and will be unwilling to admit it. Snap. Point scored.
Let’s get started
My personal opinion is that once you hit middle-age, you can’t, with a straight face, say that you are a “rocker”. You can claim you enjoy rock n’ roll, or you used to be a “rocker” but that’s it. When your hairline is receding or you stop buying your bras from Victoria’s Secret, you have given up the right to use hip verbiage or hand signals.
If I hear one more suggestion that Paula Abdul is an alien, I will personally issue a call to my own mother-ship and lodge a complaint. Paula has always been misunderstood (the sure sign of a genius) and even though she speaks in tongue at inappropriate times, it is all a part of her act. And it’s obvious that she is an excellent actress.
I am tired of seeing women who are old enough to have grandchildren in bikinis and miniskirts (Hello Demi Moore . . . Jennifer Aniston?) Have some self-respect ladies! You may look hot but you’re not fooling anyone. Your insecurities are written all over your face and trust me, that is one thing Botox won’t cover. I am not envious (give me a break – I choose to wear stretch pants), I’m just concerned that you may be headed for a fall and frankly, I don’t have the stomach for one more break-up.
I wonder if Glenn Beck is as charming in person as he is on TV? I love a man who can cry on cue and act as melodramatic as a teen-age girl on a bad-hair day. There’s definitely something appealing about Glenn Beck . . . something that makes me want to tell him Sarah Palin called and wants him to run as her VP. Then tell him I was pulling his leg. Is that wrong?
There should be celebrity regulations on whining and complaining about being a celebrity. Unless you have been granted special permission by Paula Abdul, you can’t mention that you are tired of being thin, rich or talented. Also, no more droning on about open crotch shots by the papparazi; if you think you might accidently spread your legs at an obscene angle when getting out of a car and you aren’t wearing underpants, make sure your parents won’t find out and have to explain that one to the bridge club. (Lindsay, Paris and Britney – it’s called common sense, but there’s nothing common about it. The upper-class can also enjoy it.)
Am I the only one that is confused by Justin Timberlake’s appeal? Sure he’s kinda funny and can sing like a girl but so can Prince and I haven’t heard much from him since Purple Rain. I wonder if JT hadn’t pulled that “wardrobe malfunction” stunt with Janet Jackson if he wouldn’t still be on the Mickey Mouse Club. Think about it.
I think it’s so unfair that Joel Stein gets his own column in Time Magazine. The last I knew, he was trying too hard to be funny on that silly show “I Love the Eighties” (who doesn’t love the eighties, Joel?), but as a self-professed hater of America and a lover of porn he has somehow risen in the ranks. Well, I’ll do you one better, Mr. Stein. I hate the world, no – the universe, and I not only love porn, I think I’ll marry it. Get over yourself, Mr. I’ll-say-anything-for-attention.
Is Ryan O’Neill as crazy as he says he is? My bet is yes, probably even crazier. Crazy and asinine are two traits I personally know are hereditary and his children have had the poor luck of picking up at least one, if not both, of those genes.
As I read what I have just written, it occurs to me that some will see this exercise as mean-spirited and insensitive. This is totally not my intention and with all due respect, might I suggest that you are being a bit injudicious?
The following is a true story. And the kind of incident that occurs frequently enough so as to prompt my sister, Becky, to say, “Why do those kinds of things always happen to you?” I’m not sure, but as a writer, I’ve been blessed with a fate that has been sprinkled with unusual and tempered with bizarre. I’m also lucky to be alive (as I’ve been told).
So I’m on my way to visit my mother and Pete in northern Michigan, my boys buckled in the minivan and deeply engrossed in a highly educational DVD. I was bored. We were in no-man’s land – my cell couldn’t get any reception, the boys weren’t fighting and even the satellite radio keep going in and out.
I became obsessed with mastering the cruise control. Keep in mind that in the ten years we have owned a Honda, I had never used this feature, located right in front of me on the steering wheel. But as you may have guessed, I am also blessed with the ability to multi-task. So, not only was I driving a 3000 lb vehicle at 70 mph with my young children and a dog in the back, I was also trying to figure out the mystery of the confusing cruise control.
It was NOT my fault, I repeat, NOT my fault
Here is my disclaimer: Even if I had seen the bale of straw sitting in the middle of the road at the crest of a small hill, it would have been too late to do anything. I hit the bale bomb with a resounding “thud”, and though it’s half the size of a bale of hay, it still packed quite a punch. The car shuddered, the boys threw off their head sets and began screaming, the dog started barking and thick smoke obscured all the windows except the windshield.
So you completely understand the decision I made, I will outline the facts.
1. I was in shock! This is important to keep in mind.
2. We were in the middle of nowhere.
3. My phone didn’t work.
I couldn’t figure out the smoke thing. My car was still running and I didn’t detect any funny sounds, but the heavy dark smoke had enveloped us. I could hear other cars honking (as if I were unaware!), but I was afraid if I pulled over, I would be stuck. I thought I should try to make the Big Rapids exit, two miles up the road.
Suddenly, as I neared the exit, the smoke instantly disappeared. I looked out my rear view mirror and saw a small fireball rolling back down the highway. It came to rest at the side of the road where it promptly burst into a large fireball.
This is where I had my ah hah moment. I had been dragging the bale of straw under my car and the friction had caused it to ignite (the smoke!) and when it burned down enough, I had shaken it loose. I was instantly relieved that we weren’t dead, but I was still visibly upset and I needed to see what kind of damage I had inflicted on my beloved minivan. I pulled off at the intended exit and headed for the only gas station, a mile down the road.
Rule of thumb – Know your Audience
I got out to inspect my beat-up car and immediately started recounting my situation to the large tattooed fellow on the Harley Davidson, getting gas next to me. Remember, I was still in shock. As I was explaining my story, I noticed a smell, a funny smell, one that I recognized from back in the day – the guy reeked of marijuana!
It was just my luck that the biker dude was stoned to the beejezus! The whole area was filled with the stench of pot but I had already engaged him and I didn’t want to appear rude or insult the dope-fiend, so I finished my story.
“Well, that explains it,” he drawled.
“What?” I asked.
“Why you smell like Cheech and Chong.” He nodded towards the van where my two boys’ faces were pressed against the window.
“Me? What do you mean?” I turned around and smoke was still pouring out from every crevice of my van. Smoldering pieces of straw stuck out from the door jams, the windows and even the gas cap. It then came to my attention that the smell of burning straw smells suspiciously like you-know-what. He wasn’t the pot-head - I was!
“I’m a responsible mother! I only did that once,” I gulped, “back in college.”
“I bet you didn’t inhale, either,” he chuckled.
Just then, a small group of fire trucks and police vehicles, their sirens blaring, passed the station, racing out towards the highway.
“Looks like you have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy.” The biker/comedian pulled his helmet on. “Good luck,” he said sincerely as he roared off.
The Walk of Shame
I slowly walked in to the gas station and announced to the two gals listening to the police radio that I thought I might be the one who started the brush fire out by the highway. They looked at each other as if they had never started a fire and handed me the phone.
Later, as the police were taking my report, the officer mentioned, more than once, just how lucky we were to be alive.
“You know,” he said as he took my registration, “those gas tanks are made outta plastic. If you’da pulled over with the bale still stuck, the car probably woulda exploded. You’re lucky you hit it straight on,” he added, “most folks would have jerked the steering wheel one way or another, coulda hit a car or veered off the road.”
So, it was a good thing that I didn’t do as common sense would have dictated. By not seeing the straw bale in time and not pulling over immediately, I may have inadvertently done something right. . . by following some crazy, shock induced logic; I may have saved my family from, well, something not good.
“I could have been planning three funerals right now,” my mother commented when we arrived safely in Frankfort. “Four, if you count the dog . . . and this is a busy weekend.”
I do hate to put people out.
Little Max and Sam are a bit of a challenge. Now, I know boys will be boys, but our sweet angels have been known to push the envelope and our biggest challenge is to figure out which household items can be easily converted to weapons.
I’m not talking obvious – sure knives and scissors are considered dangerous by some. But it’s the every-day candle or can of soup that can throw a parent off. Did you realize that a dismantled Lego, when thrown with the right velocity and at the perfect angle, can take out a tooth? Who knew?
Who’s the Boss?
But Craig and I are responsible parents and after a long debate with Max, and to his bitter disappointment, we have decided firearms are off-limits, though the jury’s still out on explosives. I’m not saying that giving a shot-gun to an angry nine year-old with a vendetta is a bad choice, it’s just our choice.
Besides, who needs weapons when good old-fashioned hand-to-hand combat can be just as effective? And the bonus is it can be done anywhere. My little guys love to fight at parties, at weddings, on the bus (a favorite), at concerts and movies – really, in just about any public venue you can think of (I think it’s the excitement of having a captive audience). Why, just the other day I broke up an all-out brawl in the meat department at Costco. And I only became involved when the manager had the nerve to ask us to leave.
The best thing about the physical abusive Max and Sam inflict on each other is the colorful language that accompanies the beatings. For an eight and nine year-old, I’ll admit that they have a fairly sophisticated vocabulary.
Though it’s kind of funny, and I don’t know how they got it mixed up, but both my boys are under the impression that the phrase is “damn-god” not the other way around (as in “I’m going to knock his damn-god head off”). How cute is that?
Now Max is my strategic planner. Even when he was two, he knew exactly when to push his just-walking one year-old brother down the steps. He picked on Sam brutally until we showed Sam how effective biting can be. That seemed to even the playing board a bit.
It’s hard to squelch Sam’s fierce determination to retaliate after an unfair business practice by his brother. I’m totally astonished at how long he can sit-in-wait for the perfect opportunity to kick Max in the groin. I have seen him hold out for days before he finds just the right moment. You have to admit it’s a virtue, that kind of patience.
Weapons training for children – are they ever too young?
Sam is considered by some, an expert in managing the staff, or spear as we sometimes refer to it. Our “Sweetie-peetie-pumpkin-pie-Sammer” (my pet name!) is becoming so adept at handling this unique weapon, I’m thinking he could be a contender for the javelin in the 2016 Olympics. Last week I found him working diligently to remove the handle base from my house broom.
“There!” he cried as he stood and began twirling. That five-foot broom handle was turning so fast it was making my head spin.
“Light the ends on fire,” he shouted.
“That seems awfully dangerous,” I yelled back through the wind tunnel. “Can’t we just tape some knives on the end?”
“I want the fire!” he screamed, tossing the stick high into the air. It landed on the roof, between the rake and Craig’s new putter.
We try not to get involved as we have been advised by the “kid whisperer” that it’s best if children learn to negotiate and solve their own problems without the aid of an adult. This strategy does tend to throw people off as it can appear that the parent is ignoring the children’s bickering. This was definitely the case last summer when my good friend, Stacie, came to visit and we took the boys to the beach.
All was going well until Max looked at Sam and smiled. Apparently it was the “ha ha” smile and Sam wasn’t having any. I paid no attention to the threats of drowning or even the slaps that turned to punches. I turned a blind eye to the handfuls of sand that blew our way and only when a rock almost hit Stacie, did I step in and advise her to move her chair.
Of course, I explained our strategy and the theory behind it.
“How’s that working out for you?” she asked, in somewhat of a snotty tone (I thought). But she doesn’t have children so she hasn’t a clue as to what she’s talking about.
Good help is hard to find
It has been difficult to hold on to sitters. There has been more than one teenager that has gone home in tears and never returned. We’re lucky that our current adult sitter, Maria, is an admitted masochist and enjoys the “suffering” the boys impose on her. Though, she was a teensy upset when they locked her in the basement for an hour when they were just three and four. Of course, now it’s a favorite story and almost always gets a laugh at social gatherings. And, Maria’s eye tick has finally disappeared so it’s a win- win for everyone.
I know what you’re thinking and believe me, I feel the same way. . . it’s pretty obvious that the boys get their temperament from my husband and his side of the family. He has admitted as much to me in our family therapy sessions. Craig grew up the oldest of three boys, all two years apart, and there was more than one wall in their house that took an undeserved punch.
But those were the days when children didn’t feel comfortable expressing themselves in front of the adults that could spank them. We don’t believe in corporal punishment (before nine in the morning), so we are forced to be much more creative. Bribing and begging almost always seem to do the trick.
‘Tis the season and either you do or you don’t. I, of course, do. My husband does not. To garage sale or not to garage sale, that is the question.
I come from a long line of sturdy salers (no pun intended) and we take our craft seriously. Any of you in this exclusive club know exactly what I mean. Timing, appearance, and even tone, play crucial roles in negotiations and can mean the difference between going home empty-handed or with a car full of treasures.
It dosen’t get any better than this
This past Saturday was a red-letter day for our household. First, my daughter had borrowed my minivan to move her school furniture and I was fortunate to have her car, a 1995 Toyota Corolla. Second, my husband was working and third, Max and Sam had saved a few bucks and were pumped and ready to roll. The stars had aligned and our antennas were up and searching for the universal neon signs that would guide us to our destiny.
My boys and I can spend hours searching for bargains and I have taught them well. Not to brag, but for children still under ten, they can spot a “good” sale from the slow drive-by. “Baby stuff, furniture, large dish table,” Max, my nine-year-old, might comment. “Keep it moving.”
Many of the life lessons that I have taught my children come from the experiences I have had with the “sellers” that I have met along my journey. Example, they know how to play the “I’m only a kid” hand in the way that gives the biggest bang for their buck. They understand the “long face” and how that can mess with an adult’s decision. Most important, they have seen the power of a “walk-away” and the critical timing involved with the “over-the-shoulder last chance glance”.
You have to know when to hold ‘em
As I mentioned, Saturday we hit the motherload. It started slow but picked up after we discovered the free (yes, FREE) toboggan from 1965. It took us a sale or two to get into the groove, but by noon we could do no wrong. A harried mom in a stained sweatshirt, a damaged beater for a car, kids wearing Crocs that are two sizes too small, blue frosting still on their mouths from the last garage/bake sale . . . we were working it.
“How much for the hockey stick?” Sam, my eight-year-old, asked his first mark that morning.
“It’s a lefty; I’ll give you a dollar.” Sam reached into his Spiderman wallet and pulled out one of the carefully folded bills and waved it slowly in front of the man’s face. The “hard-cold-cash” ploy worked and the seller took it.
“Will you take 25 cents for this?” Max held up the electric bug zapper shaped like a tennis racquet to the woman at our next stop.
“I paid ten bucks for it,” she said as if insulted.
Max shrugged his shoulders and slowly set the zapper down. The woman knew that she either had to take the hit or keep the zapper. “Fifty cents,” she countered.
“Sold,” Max replied cheerfully.
And know when to fold ‘em
This shrewd bargaining is all because of the practice and the training they have received. Our special time is not only good mommy/me time, but it’s also an opportunity to teach them the value of money and the psychology of the deal.
“Now boys, watch, listen and learn.” I whispered to my little students. I picked up a stack of used DVD’s, each marked six dollars. “This seems a bit high,” I mentioned to the woman running the show. “They sell new ones at Blockbuster for five.
“Well those are my neighbors and that’s what they’re priced at.”
Now this kind of logic is the perfect segue into a life lesson for the children. I waited until we returned to the car and squeezed in, carefully avoiding the pogo stick and the stilts.
“This sale is going to end soon and that poor inexperienced woman will still have her DVD’s. No one will buy them for six dollars. Not even five or four. See, we don’t even know they work and you can buy new ones for not much more.”
“What’s a fair price,” my little bargainers asked.
“Well, DVD’s can be rented for a dollar at the red box at Walgreens and how many times can you realistically watch the same one.” I thought about it. “I’d offer a dollar for one, five for the whole lot.”
“Hmm,” they replied, and I could tell they took my advice seriously. Not only was I proud, but I realized these are the times that warm a mother’s heart.
I can’t help myself but I need to share some of the items we purchased that day. I guess part of the joy that comes, alongside the value, is being able to let others know that you now own something they don’t. My best buy came at the end of the day as the sellers were closing up.
We were packed into the car, lifejackets and books piled on laps, and the joy from earlier had turned to ugliness. There had been an out-and-out fistfight over the pogo stick and the woman at the last house had been unwilling to bargain over the four-foot tall armored Knight. No one was happy.
I left the boys in the car and walked up the drive. I found a bunch of books for my dad (no big deal) but when I spied the new wheelchair in the corner, I just couldn’t help myself. I asked how much.
“I was asking fifty,” she told me, “but I’ll take twenty-five.”
I have no need for a wheelchair and I don’t know of anyone who is presently sick, but I hesitated. Twenty-five bucks was a pretty good deal.
The hesitation did it.
“Okay, ten. Give me ten dollars and I’ll throw in the walker. I just want to get rid of it.” I glanced over and sitting against the wall was a shiny new walker. It even had the split tennis balls already attached to the front legs. I couldn’t believe my luck! Ten bucks for a new wheelchair and a walker! I accepted and we shook hands to seal the deal.
Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. My parents would be so proud.