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.
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.
It has come to my attention that certain people think I whine and complain too much. Well, if my voice sometimes sounds like nails on a chalkboard it’s actually because I have a physical condition, Lateral Inverted Epiglottis (L.I.E.) that tricks people into thinking I may be complaining, because it sounds like I’m complaining. But really, I’m not.
It’s just a misconception that everybody and their brother have about me and I’d like to set the record straight. There’s a big difference (Craig) between asking for a reasonable explanation and going on about the crummy weather or the incompetence of wait staff at a certain restaurant. Anyone can complain (Mother), but it takes a special someone with advanced verbal skills to be able to get the bottom of a problematic issue in a way that is articulate and productive.
I, of course, will explain.
I have to do all the dirty work
Last week I called a certain company called Sallie Mae (smelling trouble already?) to discuss an ongoing issue that we have. Because my husband’s name is on the account and mine is not, Brett would not divulge any information.
“But, Brett,” I said very diplomatically, “I have all of my husband’s information.”
“Yeah, but I need to get his permission.”
“You need his permission for me to give Sallie Mae some money? Even at Chase Bank you can deposit money into someone’s account without their permission.” I banged my head repeatedly on the desk. “I can get him on the phone in a flash, but how do you know it’s my husband?”
“Well, he’ll have to give me his social security number.”
“I have that.”
“Yeah, but I need it from him.”
Am I crazy?
At this point my voice gets a little agitated. “Brett, would you agree that anyone with a deep voice that identified himself as Craig and had his information could access his files. I could grab my mailman and he could read off his social security number. How would you know it’s Craig?”
“Well that’s fraud.”
And Sallie Mae shies away from that, I know. “I’m just saying, Brett, that as a security measure, it seems weak. What if my husband’s name was Pat or Terry and I had the correct information? Would you talk to me then? How would you know it wasn’t him? ”
I heard Brett mutter quietly, “Jesus, lady.” Then louder he said. “Do you want to file a complaint?”
“I’m not complaining!” I said exhaustedly. I wondered briefly if Ashton Kutcher was punking me. “I’m pointing out the ridiculousness of your ‘security’ policy. It makes no sense at all. Any ‘man’ could theoretically give you our information. Your security is a ‘deep voice’.”
Throw me a bone, Brett!
I just wanted to hear from him that he understood my point. It wasn’t a complaint, it was a . . . a something, but not a complaint.
“Well, irregardless, I can’t give you any information without your husband’s consent,” Brett said with authority.
The fact that he used the non-word irregardless burst my bubble and I knew I’d lost. “Hold on, I’ll get him on a three-way,” I said as I surrendered and put a call through to Craig.
Craig verified to Brett that I was allowed to write Sallie Mae a check towards his account and that was a small victory, but although I’d won the battle, I’d lost the war.
“Brett,” I said sweetly, “the next time you have a staff meeting, would you at least bring up the lack of security with your security policy?”
I swear I could hear him snort. “Sure. I’m writing it down in my notes right now. Is there anything else I can do for you Mrs. Arnson?”
“Uh, no, and actually, it’s Marinelli not Arnson. My husband and I have different last names.”
“I’m sure you do,” he said and this time there was no mistaking the sarcasm in his voice. “Anything else, Mrs. Marinelli?”
I knew he wouldn’t appreciate me pointing out it was Ms. not Mrs. so I bit my tongue. “No thank you, Brett. I think I’m all set.”
As I hung up, I’m pretty sure I heard a derogatory comment from the other end, but I couldn’t be sure it was directed at me. After all, Sallie Mae probably gets a lot of complaints.
The following is a true story. And the kind of incident that occurs frequently enough so as to prompt my sister, Becky, to say, “Why do those kinds of things always happen to you?” I’m not sure, but as a writer, I’ve been blessed with a fate that has been sprinkled with unusual and tempered with bizarre. I’m also lucky to be alive (as I’ve been told).
So I’m on my way to visit my mother and Pete in northern Michigan, my boys buckled in the minivan and deeply engrossed in a highly educational DVD. I was bored. We were in no-man’s land – my cell couldn’t get any reception, the boys weren’t fighting and even the satellite radio keep going in and out.
I became obsessed with mastering the cruise control. Keep in mind that in the ten years we have owned a Honda, I had never used this feature, located right in front of me on the steering wheel. But as you may have guessed, I am also blessed with the ability to multi-task. So, not only was I driving a 3000 lb vehicle at 70 mph with my young children and a dog in the back, I was also trying to figure out the mystery of the confusing cruise control.
It was NOT my fault, I repeat, NOT my fault
Here is my disclaimer: Even if I had seen the bale of straw sitting in the middle of the road at the crest of a small hill, it would have been too late to do anything. I hit the bale bomb with a resounding “thud”, and though it’s half the size of a bale of hay, it still packed quite a punch. The car shuddered, the boys threw off their head sets and began screaming, the dog started barking and thick smoke obscured all the windows except the windshield.
So you completely understand the decision I made, I will outline the facts.
1. I was in shock! This is important to keep in mind.
2. We were in the middle of nowhere.
3. My phone didn’t work.
I couldn’t figure out the smoke thing. My car was still running and I didn’t detect any funny sounds, but the heavy dark smoke had enveloped us. I could hear other cars honking (as if I were unaware!), but I was afraid if I pulled over, I would be stuck. I thought I should try to make the Big Rapids exit, two miles up the road.
Suddenly, as I neared the exit, the smoke instantly disappeared. I looked out my rear view mirror and saw a small fireball rolling back down the highway. It came to rest at the side of the road where it promptly burst into a large fireball.
This is where I had my ah hah moment. I had been dragging the bale of straw under my car and the friction had caused it to ignite (the smoke!) and when it burned down enough, I had shaken it loose. I was instantly relieved that we weren’t dead, but I was still visibly upset and I needed to see what kind of damage I had inflicted on my beloved minivan. I pulled off at the intended exit and headed for the only gas station, a mile down the road.
Rule of thumb – Know your Audience
I got out to inspect my beat-up car and immediately started recounting my situation to the large tattooed fellow on the Harley Davidson, getting gas next to me. Remember, I was still in shock. As I was explaining my story, I noticed a smell, a funny smell, one that I recognized from back in the day – the guy reeked of marijuana!
It was just my luck that the biker dude was stoned to the beejezus! The whole area was filled with the stench of pot but I had already engaged him and I didn’t want to appear rude or insult the dope-fiend, so I finished my story.
“Well, that explains it,” he drawled.
“What?” I asked.
“Why you smell like Cheech and Chong.” He nodded towards the van where my two boys’ faces were pressed against the window.
“Me? What do you mean?” I turned around and smoke was still pouring out from every crevice of my van. Smoldering pieces of straw stuck out from the door jams, the windows and even the gas cap. It then came to my attention that the smell of burning straw smells suspiciously like you-know-what. He wasn’t the pot-head - I was!
“I’m a responsible mother! I only did that once,” I gulped, “back in college.”
“I bet you didn’t inhale, either,” he chuckled.
Just then, a small group of fire trucks and police vehicles, their sirens blaring, passed the station, racing out towards the highway.
“Looks like you have some ‘splaining to do, Lucy.” The biker/comedian pulled his helmet on. “Good luck,” he said sincerely as he roared off.
The Walk of Shame
I slowly walked in to the gas station and announced to the two gals listening to the police radio that I thought I might be the one who started the brush fire out by the highway. They looked at each other as if they had never started a fire and handed me the phone.
Later, as the police were taking my report, the officer mentioned, more than once, just how lucky we were to be alive.
“You know,” he said as he took my registration, “those gas tanks are made outta plastic. If you’da pulled over with the bale still stuck, the car probably woulda exploded. You’re lucky you hit it straight on,” he added, “most folks would have jerked the steering wheel one way or another, coulda hit a car or veered off the road.”
So, it was a good thing that I didn’t do as common sense would have dictated. By not seeing the straw bale in time and not pulling over immediately, I may have inadvertently done something right. . . by following some crazy, shock induced logic; I may have saved my family from, well, something not good.
“I could have been planning three funerals right now,” my mother commented when we arrived safely in Frankfort. “Four, if you count the dog . . . and this is a busy weekend.”
I do hate to put people out.