January Blahg

By Lise Marinelli


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,


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.


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.

bear 2

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.


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.

vitoria - Copy - Copy

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.

photo (5)

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”


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


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 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.”


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.


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.


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.

Boobs R’ Us

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.


I've never been, but word on the street is the Hot Wings are fantastic!

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.”

Some gals make their living with their "assets"

Some gals make their living using their "assets"

Trixie ignored my as she weighed her new breast in her hands. “Four hundred cc’s.  Each.”

“I’m sorry?”

“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.


It's not just women - men have issues too!

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?” 

Who doesn't recognize this famous bosom?

Who doesn't recognize this famous bosom?

“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.”

Catching the Crazy Train

The Essential Ozzy Osbourne album cover





This is Ozzy - not my grandfather!

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”


the "Old Man" at age 87

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.

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How I spent my Summer Vacation

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.

Some famous sports guy i Boston

The boys with some famous sports guy in Boston

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 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.

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Just another fun form of torture!

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?

Max and Sam learning the ropes

Max and Sam learning the ropes

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.

Max and the "Sea Rat"

Max and the "Sea Rat"

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.


How I became a psychic

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.

imagesCA7OZAHZIn 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.

imagesCA0NQIA0(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

Some of the gals

Some of the gals brave enough to be photographed

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.

Sister Christian

How could you not believe her?

“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


Notice the Gemini symbol looks like pi symbol? Smart and psychic - not so bad, huh?

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.

One Bad Mutha

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.

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford - the ultimate "Bad Mutha!"

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

I guess Bette Davis was no peach either.

I guess Bette Davis was no peach either.

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

How about their step-mother?  (I always wondered if their father was an idiot?)

How about their step-mother? (I always wondered if their father was an idiot?)

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.

How about her for "Mother of the Year?"

How about her for "Mother of the Year?" Has Britney regained your trust?

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.

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


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


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.”


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.