I’ve been accused of many things in my life. Like not knowing (what I consider) my ”asset” from a hole in the ground. Or being a pain in the asset. Or having my head stuck up in that same asset. But one thing I have never been accused of having is a small asset.
I come from a long line of “healthy” women and men. Not particularly large – just . . . healthy. We enjoy growing food, cooking food and eating food. There are a few select deviants, but generally speaking, the members in my family are of a sturdy pioneer stock, ready to march across a mountain if a good meal is involved.
I didn’t see this coming
As luck would have it, one of the deviants happens to be a direct descendant of mine, my 10-year old son, Sam. He started out as one of us – he was a healthy 7 ½ pounds at birth and, at six-months he tipped the scales at 25 lbs. But by his 2nd birthday, I could see that he was unusual, that he wasn’t progressing in the “normal way.” I, like many parents who sense a peculiarity in their child’s behaviors, was afraid to admit my baby was different.
For example, Sam had an odd habit of putting his fork down when he was full. I have witnessed this behavior in others, but never in one so close to me. No matter how much I tempted him with extra helpings, he seemed content with a reasonable portion. More times than not, Sam was persona non grata in the “clean plate club.”
Another red flag – Sam ate his meat and vegetables first. Often times, the breads and the potatoes were left on the plate with Sam’s complaints that he was “too full to finish.” Not only were they left on the plate, but there were actually times when Sam asked for a second helping of meat before he finished his au grats or garlic bread.
In addition, Sam has a lot of energy. He can jump high, run fast and is one of those kids who can vault himself into a convertible with little or no effort. Lately, he has taken to working out and is convinced that I need to do the same. He came into my room last night as I was engrossed in The Biggest Loser and asked if he could speak to me about something serious.
“Of course, honey,” I said. I set my bowl of ice cream down, put the TV on mute and sat up. I do feel it’s important to give the impression that you are listening to your child.
“I thought it would be good if you started an exercise program.” Sam coughed nervously and produced a clip board from behind his back. “I wrote down some things like sit ups and leg lifts that you can do and I can help you.”
Sam, with his little washboard tummy, looked so cute standing there that I just wanted to eat him up. “That is so sweet, Sam. I would love to work out with you.” I glanced at my program on the tube – they were nearing the weigh-in. “Can we start in the morning?”
“Sure, how about 8:00?”
“I’ll be ready, I promise,” I replied as I turned the volume back up. “Now be a good boy and go get mommy a soda to wash down her ice cream?”
As he was leaving, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to have such a thoughtful child. I felt differently though when at 8:00 the next morning, as I was reading the paper and enjoying a carmel latte and double-chocolate biscotti, he showed up with that ridiculous clip board.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Are you serious?” I replied.
“You said you would. I have a whole program for you, 1000 sit-ups, 500 push-ups and some basic cardio.” He looked pretty determined. “You promised.”
“But, I didn’t pinky promise,” I countered. This was a sure fire way to get out of the standard promise contract.
Sam looked so disappointed that a tinge of guilt set in and I began to reevaluate my pinky promise response. Would it really kill me to do 1000 sit-ups? After all, he was making the effort, the least I could do was try, right? I knew Dr. Phil would think it was the right thing to do.
No pain, no gain
So, I did and we made it thru 82 sit-ups and 19 girl push-ups – not so bad for the first day. He made me sign-off on the workout and we agreed (not promised) to implement a workout program in the near future. My schedule has been such that I have not had the opportunity to start the plan, but I can honestly say that it is on my list of things to do.
The whole Sam thing, with the eating and the exercise, did come to a head and I know there comes a time when a parent is forced to face facts and confront the situation. Inevitably, this leads to discussions between husband and wife and inevitably, secrets come out.
It was during one of these sessions that Craig, my husband, admitted to me that he too had been a thin child with a lot of energy. Nothing could have surprised me more. I had always assumed he was like me and my family as I have seen him eat a large deep-dish pizza in a matter of minutes and then work his way through a super-sized tin-roof sundae with never so much as a stomach ache or chronic diarrhea.
The good news is that we have worked through our issues. We have accepted Sam for who he is and I have forgiven my husband for his deception and all in all, we are on the path to recovery. We just need to remember to stop along the way to enjoy a little chocolate now and then.
Because we are all of the same gender, there are common excuses that are acceptable under any circumstances. Having to leave early because of a nail appointment or spa treatment is perfectly acceptable. Sick children, visiting in-laws, cramps or a great sale at Macy’s will also never get you fired.
Our work days usually revolve around food and typical staff meetings start with lattes, baked goods and gossip. Everyone looks forward to lunch where it’s not uncommon for one of the ladies to experiment with a new dish, preferably low-cal and 15 minutes from oven to table.
We have an unusual agenda for meeting, but it serves us well. First items on our to-do list are the complaints. Husbands, then children, then how poorly we’re treated by our husbands and children. Apparently they don’t appreciate the fact that we have given up . . . things for them. But the point is that we girls have each other’s backs. With the exception of Leigha, our newest and youngest member who is still in the “honeymoon” phase of her relationship, we all rise and fall with our comrades regarding their marital woes and home life.
“Dave was a jerk last night,” Mary mentioned at our last meeting.
“Oh, my God, again?” Dawn commented while pouring her third cup of java. “What is with him?” She took a tentative sip from her cup. “By the way, love your earrings.”
“Thanks,” Mary smiled as she tossed her head back. “It’s probably just manopause,” she added, basking in the love and glory we showered upon her. Real friends don’t need to question why. If Mary says Dave was a jerk, then Dave was a jerk and support is garnered. We all commented on Dave’s jerkiness and offered hope that he could turn himself around before he pushed Mary too far.
“Kids caught a flu bug yesterday,” Kristyn said as she set up her laptop. “Both of them sick as a dog last night.”
“That stinks,” Janet offered as she reached for a doughnut.
“Take two,” I whispered, “They’re small. And you look so thin.”
Janet thanked me with her eyes. “Vomit?” she asked Kristyn.
“All over the bathroom floor.” Again, as a group we all sympathized with her particular plight and wished we had a nickel for every time a kid (or in my case, a husband) couldn’t quite make it to the toilet.
“My John is so sweet,” Leigha announced unexpectedly. “Last night he brought me dessert. In bed.”
Everyone stopped talking. Eye rolling is only intended for those who are not present so we all nodded pleasantly and mumbled “that’s nice” while looking away. No one wanted to be the bearer of bad news so we let poor Leigha live in her little fantasy world. It would end soon enough as we all knew – no need to crush her dreams just yet.
“Okay, gals,” I tapped the table with my nail file. “Time to get to work. There’ll be plenty of time to get Rachel’s recipe for goat cheese dip and to discuss the PTA and the crazy new president they just voted in.” I heard the click of the keyboard as the women started making notes. “Kristyn, can you review our strategic business plan for this month and then let’s discuss how to hold on to that 15% increase we saw in revenues last quarter.”
Dawn raised her hand. “Quick question.”
“Shoot,” I said.
“Does anyone know how to remove urine stains from a car seat? Shiloh had an accident on the way to the vet yesterday.”
So our meeting was delayed a few more minutes by a discussion about dog urine and whether or not bleach is the answer. But there comes a time when we know we have to get back to business. It’s tough though, the lines have blurred between family and work, and friends and employees, especially when you work out of your home. But being able to multi-task is essential – if you can brush your teeth while typing an email, you’re good. Throw in waiting on the phone to speak to a teacher and you’re executive material.
What makes it all worth it though, are the relationships we have and we build. I continue to be impressed by the women (and man) that I work with – their integrity, talent and heart continually inspire me.
Life is good.
Okay, I’m on a plane. Again. Why I do this to myself is beyond understanding. I can only blame Kristyn and Dawn for forcing me to go to BookExpo as I would never voluntarily stick needles in my eyes if I didn’t have to.
I’m sick to my stomach. And no one even seems concerned about the grinding noise coming from the belly of this beast as we limp down the runway.
It’s only minutes into the flight and I’ve already had a few “misunderstandings” with my fellow companions. First, the sadist who doubles as a flight attendant informed me I can’t use my ipod during takeoff. Something about the possibility of messing up the flight signals.
This makes no sense to me as every plan crash disaster movie I’ve ever seen has people using their cell phones to make their last call. Didn’t affect that flight, did it? I can’t speak for anyone else, but drugs and loud music help dull the panic and terror that frazzle my brain during take-off and landings. I’m not happy that I can’t lean on the Bee Gees in my time of need.
Second, the check-in dude didn’t buy my argument that I should be moved to first class because, psychologically speaking, I believe I’m safer there. Seriously. So, I’m stuck in the high mortality section of this death trap where if I want a snack I have to sell a kidney to come up with the cash.
Then, the woman in front of me, who is of the French persuasion by the way, (not that there’s anything wrong with that) threw her seat back and forced the tray table into my chest, where it figuratively, knocked the wind out of me.
“Really?” I say loudly enough to cause her to lean around her seat and say, “un petite?” and give the universal hand sign for ‘just a little.’
Well, I held back from giving her another universal hand signal, but that didn’t stop me from groaning loudly, “Whatever,” in my best Valley Girl voice and kicking her chair every time I crossed my legs. The nerve of some people.
The good news is I am sitting next to a very nice woman who has been overly polite and accommodating – as if she’s also afraid of something. I guess I’m not I the only nervous Nelly flyer.
(By the way, when you accidently drop a pen in one of the toilets on the plane, it takes an extra flush to get it to go down. Just a helpful hint.)
It gets worse. When I questioned the sadist, who has continually tried to ignore me, about the noise I heard during take-off, she claimed to have not noticed it. I don’ know how anyone could have missed the sonic boom that rocked the plane and rattled the windows. But what she told me next was so ridiculous I can only imagine it’s true.
“When we land at LaGuardia,” and she looked me straight in the eye as she spoke, “you’re going to hear dogs barking.”
It took me a second to even think about what to say. All I could come up with was, “Are you high?”
“No, seriously. When the landing gear comes down it sounds like dogs barking.” She didn’t smile or follow up with a, “Just kidding, I am high.” She just continued making her coffee. I figured her for the kind of person who makes fun of the handicapped. Not cool.
So now the pilot tells me we’re only one hundred miles from NYC and the very spot that my personal hero, Sully Sullinberger, took out a gaggle of geese. Although when Matt Damon was a guest-star on Thirty Rock, he said that a really good pilot wouldn’t have hit those birds in the first place. Good point.
I’m being told it’s time to turn off my device and start praying to whatever god will spare us. The sadists don’t use those exact words, but I know that’s what they mean. The craziest of them looks at me and mouths “listen for the dogs” as she cheerfully picks up the paper I have nervously shredded and tossed on the floor. I am certain I am headed for a fiery death.
As we barrel through the clouds I do have a parting thought. If this should be my last blog, let me go on record by saying, “I told you so.”
My first job, when I turned sixteen in 1977, was at Wendy’s. I had waited my whole life to do two things – drive a car and get a job. From my thirteenth birthday on, it was all I could think about. I applied for the position the month before my birthday knowing that the processing, assuming I was offered the job, could take some time.
All my friends worked at Wendy’s including my boyfriend, the head burger flipper, who got me an interview with Cheryl, the manager.
Cheryl was an intimidating figure who carried herself with the self-assurance that came with such a high-ranking position. She was pleasant and friendly, but there was no getting around the fact that she meant business and she made it clear there would be no Tom Foolery on her watch. We snapped to attention whenever she was near, knowing that if she caught you taking an unapproved break she would push a rag in your hand and announce “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”
Tough as Nails
Cheryl was strict, but fair. If she detected someone illegally helping themselves to a single with cheese or failing to punch in on time, she might issue a warning. Next offense could get you sent home. Third time was no charm and we watched more than one embarrassed violator turn in their name badge and kerchief and slink out of the store, tail tucked between their legs.
I worked extra hard to please Cheryl. I wiped the ashtrays in the lobby like no one’s business, practiced my handiwork on the register, and vacuumed the carpets with the gusto my mother never could inspire. I even wiped the urinal in the men’s room – a job most unpopular with the staff and often ignored.
My hard work paid off and I was soon rewarded with a badge that read ‘Crew Leader’ and all the responsibilities that came with it. I walked proudly into “my” restaurant every noon, and to “my” position at the cash register, knowing that I was responsible for getting our customers a hot meal. Cheryl made a game of pitting the front line against the cooks in a race, each trying to leave the other in the dust as we moved through the lunch rush. She kept track of the score, telling each side separately that she thought they were the faster team and she was secretly rooting for them.
When my best friend’s mother got cancer and Kelly and I chose to show our solidarity by wearing a thin gold chain, Cheryl went to bat for us with the Regional Manager to make an exception to the “no jewelry” rule.
She once asked me to drive her new Ford Mustang back to her house when her boyfriend came to pick her up, and to this day I remember how carefully I drove, terrified that I would somehow wrap the sports car around a light pole or pick off an innocent by-stander and wind-up having to deliver the news that would certainly seal my fate as an ex-employee.
Paying my fast food dues
I worked at Wendy’s for almost two years. By the time my eighteenth birthday was in sight I was looking for a higher paying job as a waitress, besides Cheryl had been offered a promotion to Regional Manager and would be leaving. There didn’t seem to be any reason to stay, anymore. There was a new crop of sixteen year-olds and I was over the fast food thing. Besides, with Cheryl gone, work wasn’t fun anymore.
As I moved up the chain in the world of Food and Beverage, I always remembered Cheryl and the work ethic she installed. I adopted her old slogan of “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” More than once, I asked myself in a difficult situation, what would Cheryl do? She was such a great inspiration and example for a young girl and I often think of her and wonder where she ended up.
To have such an impact on someone’s life is powerful. And, when I think of the fact that in 1977, Cheryl was only nineteen years old, it makes it even more amazing.
When I was sixteen, nineteen was a world away. Nineteen was an adult. Nineteen could drink and buy alcohol (that really was back in the day) and nineteen could be a store manager at Wendy’s. Was nineteen in 1977 different than nineteen in 2010?
Somehow, I think it was.
I do not believe in astrology. However, I am a Gemini, the sign of the twins, and I’m only speaking for one twin. The other twin is a believer. I also admit I may be prone to exaggeration, but I promise you the following story is true.
In January, I attended my good friend Lisa Schmagenbuch’s monthly party (remember her birthing experience?). The interesting twist on Lisa’s monthly parties is that you never know why she is throwing one. I have attended jewelry parties, life coaching parties, home good parties, clothes parties, and raising your self-esteem parties. There are always two things in common with her events: 1) plenty o’ food and drink and 2) the need to bring a checkbook.
But this party was more esoteric than her usual shindigs. For a mere $60 (cash only, please) you could purchase 12-15 minutes of time with Jorianne (aka Sister Christian), The Coffee Psychic. Sister’s claim to fame was her ability to read your future from the cream she poured into an average cup o’ joe. Apparently, the way the Coffeemate settles into the coffee means a lot more than you think it does.
(FYI – in case you’re in need of an exorcism, worry no more. Sister can get rid of that devil once and for all for the bargain rate of $500. Unless you have a particularly stubborn demon - then it’s negotiable.)
A fool and her money
So there we were, all fifteen suburban moms waiting anxiously to hand our money over to the local clairvoyant (yeah, do the math – Sister was netting almost $300/hour).
Things got off to a rocky start though when our telepathic tutor announced that no alcohol was to be consumed until after we had finished our session with her. A hush settled over the room and an awkward silence followed. It was only until Lisa offered to babysit each of our children for a night that the gals even began to come around, but the natives were restless and trouble was a brewin’ (no pun intended).
Sister stood before us – a handsome blond, in her early fifties, with plenty of nice jewelry. She looked sweetly around the room, staring at each of us as though she knew our secrets and announced, “If you see me barking like a dog or baying like a sheep, there’s no cause for concern. I sometimes channel animals.”
But this was cause for concern because I do not channel animals nor do I speak their language. I also am concerned about taking advice from a cow – we usually just eat them.
“Also,” she continued, “If I say something that doesn’t apply now it’s because I might be referring to something that has happened to you in a previous life or something that will happen in your next life.”
Wow, what a disclaimer – when else could something have happened?
“Lastly,” she stated, “I want you to hear something.” She pressed ‘play’ on a small hand-held tape recorder and we listened to Sister Christian and a client talking. All of a sudden, a loud and clear ghostly voice interrupted the session. “Sister,” the spirit continued, “Sister . . . Sister.”
“Did you hear that?” Sister shook her head and held the recorder up to the heavens. “That was the client’s dead grandmother contacting me – right in the middle of our reading! Can you believe it?”
Frankly, no, I couldn’t believe it. Was she kidding me? I’m no techy, but in this day and age I’m going to need to meet that spirit and get something in writing before signing on to that program.
Not as smart as I look
Sister wrapped up her intro and we all chose lots to see who would go first. I, of course, drew #15, so I would get to spend the next 3 1/2 hours eating chips and guacamole and waiting for my turn at bat. The good news – I would have the opportunity to listen to the stories as, one by one, the gals came back from their reading and spilled on what had gone on.
“She told me I would get warts and my husband’s ex-girlfriend was stalking him,” Dawn grabbed her first margarita and chugged it.
“She told me that we would have catastrophic financial troubles this year,” Jenny added as she poured herself a glass of wine.
“Yeah, well, Sister told me . . .” Meagan took a deep breath, “I would have another child.”
“NO!” we all shouted in unison. Who was this woman that was wreaking havoc on the lives of innocent people? I couldn’t wait to get my shot with this poser.
Taking matters into my own hands
Finally, at a time that I normally would have been sleeping for a couple of hours, Sister called me in. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep or the lack of margaritas, but the bravado I had planned on had lost its charm. I knew I would do something, I just didn’t know what. Sister smiled sweetly at me and I offered up a cheery “hello.”
She put her hands to her temples, closed her eyes and asked in a quiet voice, “Is there a ‘Bob’ in your family?”
“That would be my brother,” I answered. But this is not true. My brother’s name is Mike.
“How about a ‘Sue’?”
“My mom,” I lied.
She looked up at me, surprised. “Dave?”
“Oh, my gosh. That’s my uncle!” I exclaimed.
At this point, I wasn’t sure why I was fibbing to this poor woman just trying to make a buck (or three hundred). Maybe I was waiting for her to be psychic and call me out on my obvious falsehoods, but she didn’t. Either I was a really good liar or she was a really bad psychic.
Now this is the crazy part . . .
She was visibly elated and her hands shook as she poured the creamer into the coffee and watched as it sank into the swills. It was a moment before she sat back. “The cream has spoken. You have some kind of a gift.” She rubbed her temples and continued. “But you are afraid to share it. Hmmm . . . what is it? What are you hiding?” She was genuinely curious.
“Well . . .,” I started. I now knew why I was jerking her chain – after three hours and enough artichoke dip to kill a horse, I was enjoying myself.
“Go on – don’t be afraid. You’re in a safe place. Sister is here.”
I took a deep breath before I went on. “The thing is . . . I’m a psychic, too. I see . . .” I almost said dead people, but I didn’t want to push it so I finished with, “the future.”
“I knew it!” She tapped the desk with her palm. “In a previous life you were a witch or a shaman or a mystic. You had psychic powers and they have stayed with you.” She closed her eyes and shook her head. “You need to explore your gift, don’t let it scare you, let it lead you.”
“Praise Jesus,” I said, caught up in the moment. But she was so excited about my supernatural abilities that I was beginning to feel sorry I had lead her on. And oddly enough, I do feel like sometimes I know the future – like when the boys get home from school, I always know there will be a fight.
She pulled out her business card and pushed it across the table. “I want to show you how to use your gift. I want to teach you how to explore all the universe has to offer. I can help you.” She reached out and touched my hand. ”And I’m running a special this month for a price you can’t beat.”
Only if she teaches me how to communicate with my dog. I’d like to know why he bites people and poops everywhere but in the yard.
I am a bad mother. Ask anyone. I continually favor one kid over another, I never let any of them do anything fun, I don’t know anything, and I am mean and grossly unfair – always.
At least, this is what my children tell me.
They have mentioned, more than once, that, if I could go away their lives would be perfect (I wish), that they would live happily ever after (works for me), and that the adult therapy I have assured them they will need, will not be necessary (doubtful).
Like most bad mothers, I take their insults with a grain of salt. I can even go toe to toe with them on the mouthy thing. When told they can’t wait until they’re eighteen, I tell them I can’t wait even more. When one of them mentions I favor the other, I say you’re absolutely right – he’s always been my favorite. It just rolls off my tongue.
Sad, but true
A quick insight: I have been a mother for almost 30 years – and I still have 10 left to go. If and when Sam ever leaves, I will have had children in my house for 40 years and will have gone from being a teenager to, basically, retirement. Yeah, that hurts alright.
So, I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the field of parenthood. Maybe not a good expert, but at least an experienced one.
Here are a couple examples of my parenting skills. Feel free to use at anytime. (Disclaimer – I cannot guarantee that children will not be mentally harmed by my advice – use at your own risk).
Kid: Sarah always gets candy in her lunch.
Me: That’s because Sarah’s mother still thinks cigarettes can’t hurt you.
Kid: Joe got a car on his 16th birthday.
Me: Joe’s parents must really love him.
Kid: Bill’s mom always lets him do whatever he wants.
Me: Bill’s mom is in rehab.
They’ll get you every time
Now, every once in a while things can backfire. When 11 year-old Gracie told me she was tired of playing the flute and I told her she had to finish her commitment, she accidentally beat the $300 instrument against a cement block until it was mangled and then explained to me that it fell.
When 5 year-old Marcus decided being grounded in his room constituted an emergency and called 911, it took some explaining before the police realized he had not been locked in his room forever and needed food and water.
When 6 year-old Sam wanted to run away and I helped him pack his bags, I thought I was using reverse psychology. But when I got a call from a store 2 miles away (they had caught him shoplifting a candy bar) and they asked me to please pick up my young son, I had egg on my face.
You just can’t win
It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Frankly, I feel somewhat put out that spanking went out of style just when I became a mother. It was a lot easier for my parents, they didn’t need anything more than a “Because I said so and if you ask me again I’ll tan your hide.” It obviously worked – I saved all my insults and tough talk for when they left the room and did whatever they told me not to, anyway. I just did it behind their back.
My generation has been forced to resort to explanations and understanding. This works fine for the first 100 times you say, “But I am not Susie’s mother. If I was, she wouldn’t get a cell phone for her eighth birthday.” And then you explain, again, how important it is for her to grow up slowly, that there will be plenty of time in the future for her to spend $400 on a monthly cell phone bill.
How much can I take?
But throw me a bone here – we’re only human, right? You can’t keep up that pace. How many times can you hear “That’s not fair!” before you answer, “Well, guess what? Life’s not fair. Get used to it.” And you leave it at that.
And now, they’re getting even younger. I swear I saw a two-year old scolding his mother for not letting him get a cookie. “Bad mommy,” he screamed as he stomped his feet. When the harried mother glared at me as I pushed my cart past, I had to remind her that I was on her side. She needed to focus her rage where it was intended – at the toddler, not at me. I actually enjoy watching other people’s children being punished. It makes me feel like I’m part of the club . . . The Bad Mother’s Club.
I like the sound of that. It sounds edgy and dangerous. Mutha . . .yeah, I’m one bad mutha. Don’t mess with me, I’ll ground you so fast it’ll make your head spin. Hah!
When I mentioned to my husband, Craig, that I was starting a Bad Mutha Club he asked why it couldn’t be a Bad Parent’s Club and be open to all parents, no matter their gender.
Well, for one thing, “Bad Parent’s Club” doesn’t have the same vibe to it as “Bad Mutha Club” and secondly, I can’t always do everything for him. If he wants a club, he’s free to start one – but, this was my idea and I can’t have him always latching on to my coattails. He has to grow up sometime.