humorous essays

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,

Dad

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.

 

                 

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.

My Own Fast Food Nation

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.

Cool.  Then not cool.  Then cool again.

Cool. Then not cool. Then cool again.

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.

Lookin' good, Billy Ray.

1977 fashion - Lookin' good, Billy Ray.

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.

Admit it.  Your parents had a fuzzy toilet cover.

Admit it. Your parents had a fuzzy toilet cover.

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.

He was not gay!

He was not gay!

As I moved up the chain in the world of Food and Beverage, I always remembered Cheryl and the work ethic she installed.  I adopted her old slogan of “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” More than once, I asked myself in a difficult situation, what would Cheryl do?  She was such a great inspiration and example for a young girl and I often think of her and wonder where she ended up. 

To have such an impact on someone’s life is powerful. And, when I think of the fact that in 1977, Cheryl was only nineteen years old, it makes it even more amazing.
 
When I was sixteen, nineteen was a world away.  Nineteen was an adult.  Nineteen could drink and buy alcohol (that really was back in the day) and nineteen could be a store manager at Wendy’s.  Was nineteen in 1977 different than nineteen in 2010? 

Somehow, I think it was.

 

 

I get by with a little help from my friends

Paula Addul

Paula's reaction when her accountant showed her the bill from her plastic surgery!

I’m positively giddy . . . school girl giddy.  Guess why?  No, Paula isn’t returning to American Idol (I wish!).  And nope, Kate and Jon haven’t reconciled.  But, almost as exciting . . . I’ve hired an accountant!

Okay, so you may not get that funny tickle in your tummy or need to use the restroom, but this is a special milestone for me and our blossoming company, Windy City Publishers.

Surprisingly enough, I have convinced, yet, another friend to join our little family.  Doris and I go back, way back, to my first few years in Chicago.  We bonded when, as senior accountants for a troubled hotel company, we single-handily saved them from financial ruin (at least that’s how I remembered it).

Doris

Doris is a no-nonsense gal who actually enjoys accounting and is proficient at it.  She’s no drama queen, keeps her nose to the grindstone and stays out of trouble (or she’s just really good at not getting caught).  Just like me.  Maybe that’s why we get along so well.

I had been telling Dawn and Kristyn that I had become too busy to work the numbers, but in reality it was literally (figuratively?) boring me to death and squelching my creative instinct.  Not to mention, I have a small bald spot on the side of my head where I have pulled out the hairs – one by one – while looking at long columns of numbers.
 
Dawn and Kristyn initially looked skeptical when I mentioned Doris could “cook our books” (this is my own phrase that comes from a combination of my catering and accounting background.  It has nothing to do with illegal or unethical activity). 

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Jon and Kate going over the divorce settlement with their accountant. Not happy campers!

But, the good news is that I am an excellent sales person.  “We” decided that WCP needed a professional and they jumped on board quickly because, apparently, it is important to them that our bills and employees get paid on time.
 
When Doris first arrived at our Global World Wide International Offices in Palatine, Illinois, I welcomed her with a warm hug and a raspberry martini.

“It’s 9:00 in the morning,” she said, not blinking  (FYI – you can always tell a real accountant by their steely stare, their passion for butterscotch and their penchant for Lou Reed).

“Is it?”  I winced as I dumped the drink down the drain.  “I hadn’t noticed.”

“We should get to work.”  She carefully arranged her coat then pulled out a portable adding machine.  “Where should I set up?”

“Right this way, ma’am.” I said saluting her.  This was going to be just like old times – Doris working the numbers and me, supervising and keeping it real.

I showed Doris the books and, while she looked at the numbers, I filed one nail to a sharp point.  Idea – no need for toothpicks, hmmm.  “Look, Doris, built-in tooth cleaner.”

She looked up.
 
“Impressive.”  She put her head down but quickly looked up again.  “Have you paid Craig this year?”

“Nope.”

“Kristyn?”

“Uh uh.”

“Dawn?”

“I give her lunch.”

“What’s this?”  Doris pointed to a line item labeled “Swiss Bank Account.”

I Googled Famous Accounts and this is what came up.  Seriously - there are none.

I Googled "Famous Accountants" and this is what came up. Seriously - there are none.

“Hmmm, that’s weird.”  I scratched my chin.  “That should be our savings account.  Kristyn probably did that.  Sometimes when she gets bored she gets into the system and messes with it.”

“What about this expense?   ‘Dale’s Escort Service and Spa’? For $850?”

“Oh, yeah . . . that’s personal.  That’s a mistake, an honest mistake.”  I poked my sharp nail into a pencil and then balanced it perfectly on an upright finger.  “Hey, can you do this?”

Doris peered over her glasses at my finger.  I thought I saw a glimpse of envy in her steely stare. 

“What about this, ‘Money owed to @#$%^&*’.”

“Ah.  That’s money I owe Dawn.  I just blanked on how to spell her name.”
 
“Have you begun to do your 1099’s?”  Doris was like a machine, typing furiously and moving the mouse like no one’s business.
 
“My what?”

“Your 1099’s?  It’s what you need to give to your employees by January 31st.  Next week?”

“I’m working on it, but . . . “  I sighed a long sigh as I drilled my nails on the desk.  “I think I have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Can you fill them out?”
 
“I’m assuming you have the forms?”

“You have assumed incorrectly.  I do not.”

“Well, it’s too late to get them from the IRS for free – they’ll never get here in time.  You’ll have to buy them.”  She clicked away.  “You can get them at Office Max.  $25.00.  Next year, order them in advance and you can get them free.”

“No biggie.  We have plenty of money.  Look at our bank account.”

She clicked away again.  “You haven’t balanced your checkbook in three months.  You have $38.67 in your account.”

“That does not sound good.”  I pulled out another hair from my bald spot.  “I’ll just go out back to the money tree,” I joked half-heartedly.

Doris clicked and typed and a few minutes later she announced she had done all she could do.  She promised to return and, as collateral, I held her birth certificate until she did so.  I walked her to the door and thanked her profusely.

“I don’t know how I have gotten along without you, Doris.”  I patted her on the back as I handed her a plate of leftover enchiladas and a butterscotch candy.  “Thanks, I appreciate your hard work.

She had tears in her eyes as she took the gifts. “No problem.” 

She walked out the door but, just before I closed it, turned and said. “Hey, if that idea for the tooth-cleaner ever pans out . . .”

“Sure, Doris,” I replied.  “You’re in for a cut.”

It’s not easy being an idea person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanking the “little people”

So I haven’t written a blog in a while.  Get off my back, people!  You don’t realize the work that goes into one of these babies – creative genius does not come cheap or easy.

Sorry, that was the manic part.  The depressive part is that I really enjoy blogging.  Exposing my friends and family’s secrets gives me a greater thrill than passing along bad news.  I’m just running low on time.  Every time I sit down to write, some Tom, Dick or Harry interrupts me with some ridiculous request.

Example: The small blond one who lives with me might ask, “Mom, can I have some breakfast?”   Of course, he doesn’t see the candy bars right in front of his nose.
 
Or, “Lise, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”   I swear, Craig will intentionally will throw himself under a bus to get my attention. And breaking his leg to do so – don’t think I don’t see right through that stunt.

Kristyn and Dawn also have developed a bad habit of bothering me with work-related issues, especially during The Price is Right.  It would bother me even more if I was paying them.

I could sit here and blame others all day and, believe me, I would if I thought they might acknowledge anything was their fault.  But, I know my mother won’t, so I’ll move on. 

Skipping ahead to the “me” part – my resolution this year is to write once a month.  And it’s that time of the month.

Doing what I do best

I’d like to begin my first blog of the year by acknowledging and thanking some random people in my life.  Without their accidental input I may have taken a different path and who knows what dumpster I would be living in.  So, even though at the time I may not have expressed my gratitude in a socially acceptable way, I offer it up to them now.
 
To Mr. Deal:  In eleventh grade you thought I was skipping your journalism class and called my mother to rat me out.  But, I wasn’t at the mall – I was at home doubled over in agony.  Isn’t it funny that I might have died, all alone, when my appendix burst?   But, lucky for me, my mother did come home.  And even though she also didn’t believe me and returned to work, I had the last laugh when I was lying on the table prepped for surgery.  Funny, huh?  Thanks, Mr. Deal.

To the well-built fellow at the health club: Initially, I thought you did the double-take because I looked especially fetching in my workout clothes.   But when you burst into gales of laughter and pointed out to your goon friend the toilet paper I was dragging around, I realized this was not the case.  What you don’t understand is that, now, I am diligent about checking for such things every time I leave a public restroom.  I’m happy to report it has only happened once since then.  Mucho gracias, buff dude.
 
To the guy I had only one date with: Without your generous offering of cheap tequila, I might never have known that it didn’t agree with me.  I also appreciate the fact that you never sent me a bill for having to have your carpets cleaned or your floor mopped.  I do regret the cat incident, but frankly, cats are a dime a dozen.  Anyway, I wish you only the best.

To the woman at the cocktail party: Thank you for pointing out in harsh and vulgar terms that, just because a woman is older than the man she came with, she is not necessarily his mother.  I discovered that wealthy older woman are free to date men of any age and this is not a bad thing.  That information has come in handy more than once and I appreciate the fact that you could share that with me without the use of physical violence.

To the boy who called me names (as a teenager) on the Putt Putt course: You confirmed my suspicion that 16 year-old boys do not like to be called gay, or to be told that they are lacking in, uh, certain areas.   I also ascertained that a big mouth is no match for a sharp tongue.  But, outwitting a dimwit isn’t an accomplishment, anyone can do it.  And dimwits do not “grow out of it” as they get older, they get worse.
 
To my original college roommates:  It is clear, as an adult, that having one’s boyfriend over 24/7, in a room meant for half a person, would be considered rude.  Also, covering his eyes as you change clothes isn’t really giving you much privacy.  I am grateful that you had me moved to another floor during break as opposed to the middle of the school year.  That was classy.

To the woman at the toll booth that wouldn’t accept my fare in pennies:  Thank you for not calling the authorities after I ignored your instructions and gently tossed the money in your general direction.  I learned that my aim is, indeed, poor and that if I can’t afford to pay the tolls, I shouldn’t be on the road.

And lastly, to the boss that had a picture of a playmate on the shelf behind his desk:  I know that sort of thing wouldn’t fly in today’s work environment.  But thanks to you, even back in the day, I realized a boob is a boob, whether it’s sitting in a frame or on the desk right in front of you.

Happy New Year.