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.
There’s an obvious problem with idle threats and that is – they don’t work. The threatenee (Craig) soon realizes you’re spitting in the wind and the threatenor (me) just gets increasingly frustrated. Yes, I’m talking about the “divorce” threat and it has long lost its ability to shock and awe.
“If you don’t take out the garbage you can look for a letter from my attorney,” I have been known to say.
“I am your attorney,” Craig has been known to answer. Boom! Not a threat.
Or, I could mention that if he doesn’t clean up the garage, run a bubble bath for me or pick up the pile of dog poop in the yard, he might find me heading out the door to singlehood.
“Don’t forget the kids,” he’d call out, “and take that crazy dog, too.” Snap! Not a threat.
I can hear many of you armchair psychologists calling plays from the bench. “If you have to threaten you have bigger fish to fry than the garbage” could be one of them. Well, don’t think for one minute you have me fooled. Anyone who says they haven’t used threats or bribes or blackmail or any form of coercion with their husband or children is still listing their weight as 125 pounds on their driver’s license. As they say, denial ain’t just a river in Africa.
If I had a nickel for every complaint . . .
So anyway, back to my complaining and my threats to Craig. If you don’t already know, I wrote a book last year called “Falling from the Moon”. I could go on and on and on about how hard I worked and the hours sacrificed late at night writing or the TV shows I gave up to spend the time toiling in front of my computer, but I won’t. I’m just not that kind of a person.
What I will tell you is that I read only that one book in two years and I read it about a hundred times! I still did a crappy job at self-editing, but that is not my area of expertise. It is actually something my husband is very good at. I had hoped he might take one tinsy iota of interest in my accomplishment and do me a solid by reading through it and pointing out any typos or grammatical errors that I had overlooked.
Can’t pull the wool over my eyes
But I’m sure you can already read the writing on the wall. He protested that he had already put in eighty hours at work or that he read contracts all day or blah blah blah. He falsely promised that as soon as he could catch his breath he would, that he was interested. He just had a regular job, that by the way, paid the bills. The excuses were staggering and it wasn’t long before I went from “when you get time” to “I’ll divorce you so fast it will make your head spin!” One can only take so much heartache and abuse.
I think it was when two of his best friends found themselves in divorce court that he saw the light and did what was in his best interest. Almost one year to the day that I finished the novel, he proudly announced to me that he had read “Falling” and proclaimed that “it was just like a real book”.
At this point, I had a choice. I could hold out and pout for a while (which has its advantages) or I could cave and discuss it with him. My excitement at having a conversation about something other than American Idol or the upcoming Cleveland Brown’s football season won out and my heart raced as I blubbered, “Really? What did you think?”
“It’s not funny,” he replied.
“It’s not supposed to be. It’s historical fiction.”
“Well, then it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.”
My heart sank a little knowing that the last book he probably read was “Where the Wild Things Are” . . . to the children a few years ago.
“No really, Honey, it was great.” He gave me a little hug and continued, “I couldn’t put it down and even got teary-eyed in a few places. And the story was very engaging and I found myself caring about the characters and you didn’t leave any loose ends. “Actually,” he looked at me with a renewed respect, “I’m impressed. It was a really good book.”
“You think?” I asked. The image I had of me sitting on some barstool, vodka in one hand, cigarette in the other, faded away. I wouldn’t have to go back to serial dating!
“Yeah, I really mean it.” I know him well enough that he is honest to the point of obnoxiousness. He really did mean it. “It would be a great movie,” he added.
All my dreams were coming true. I would be the next Margaret Mitchell and “Falling” would be my “Gone with the Wind”. It would be made into a blockbuster movie and I would buy a small island in the Caribbean, next to Johnny Depp. Life was good.
“Have you sold any?” Craig had the nerve to ask, always the kill-joy.
“Not yet.” I stated indignantly. “But no one knows that the book’s for sale. I haven’t announced it.” My words own words rang out loud and clear as my island get-away slowly slipped into the sea. It was apparent I needed a way to let a large number of people know that they could buy my book on Amazon or through our website bookstore. I’m not the brightest knife in the drawer, but I’m sure something will come to me.
Hmmm . . .
“That’s a horrible picture of you.” The woman with the frizzy hair pointed up to the large banner with the caricature of me sitting in my Coffee Blog cup. “It’s really bad.”
“Do you think so?” I replied, taken aback. Not only was her manner brusque, but I actually thought the picture was somewhat flattering and I’ve had worse. (First photo after giving birth – not good)
“Terrible. Not good at all. Your hair looks like a wig and your face looks fat.” She looked around. “Are you giving anything away for free?”
I handed her a pair of cotton gardening gloves with the word “MOM” stenciled on them. “Thanks for stopping by.” I smiled sweetly. “It has been a pleasure.”
She looked disappointedly at the gloves as she dropped them in her bag. “My advice – get a new photographer.”
“A real pleasure,” I repeated as I glanced over at Dawn, who was gently peeling a man’s very hairy hand from her arm. “Dawn,” I called out, “can I talk to you?” She looked at me gratefully as she made her way out of the corner in which she had been backed in to. We needed a code word.
Here’s the dealio . . .
Situation analysis . . . BEA – BookExpo America, the largest publishing conference in the U.S., New York City, May 2009. Windy City Publishers was making its debut and I, along with partners Dawn and Kristyn, was manning our booth on the convention floor. The lines to get in were long and we were crazy busy from the moment the doors opened and a brave librarian threw herself across the entrance threshold, determined to be the first to get Fabio’s autograph. No one had the heart to tell her the Harlequin icon hadn’t been there since 1995.
My friend, Debbie, who helps run the show, was kind enough to garner us a booth in the middle of the action, a stone’s throw from Random House and Simon and Schuster. This gesture was testament to her willingness to let bygones be bygones as earlier this year my husband had gotten into a heated discussion with her. The debate had concerned some ridiculous provision in the contract for the booth space, and we almost didn’t go as he told me, “You can’t sign this, it’s too one-sided.” But the threat of divorce can be a serious one and he quickly changed his tune and made nice with Debbie. “I understand,” she told me apologetically, “he’s a lawyer.”
Don’t judge us by our junk!
Authors, publishers, book sellers, book buyers, librarians and anyone who was willing to pay the piper roamed the two floors of the large convention center. Our goal: to get as many of these fine folk to stop by our small 10 x 10 booth and listen to our pitch. The hook? Junk.
Last January a local warehouse outlet store was going out of business and I struck a deal with the manager to take cases of the cheesy merchandise off her hands for, literally, pennies. The thought at the time was to hand out the Speed Racer tire gauges, rulers that said “girls rule”, gardening gloves (see above), Rubik’s cube erasers and a number of other “gifts” as bait to lure the folks hustling by into the WCP booth.
But Dawn and Kristyn did not share in my excitement. They didn’t find the charm in the golf balls that said “dear dad” or the lighted magnifying glass shaped like a dog. “I’m not sure how to tie that in with publishing.” Kristyn, ever the marketer, told me diplomatically. “They don’t even say Windy City Publishers.”
“It’s just the fact that they’re free,” I said. Thoughts of my cheap relatives passed quickly through my head – had I unknowingly become my father? “Everyone likes something for free.”
My argument did not convince them and we struck a deal. I had one hour after the show opened to make my case. If the gifts did not perform as I expected, the Ice Age II bouncy balls and Harry Potter stickers, along with the other treasures, would be pulled and stored behind closed doors. We could then join the ranks of the sophisticated other vendors who were above such nonsense and hopefully Windy City Publishers would have enough time to earn back the respectability that such a stunt might damage.
The Big Bet
Dawn was so confident they were right, she offered to kiss a certain large part of my anatomy for a year if I was proved wrong, and Kristyn joined in the bet, both women convinced that I had relapsed and the bizarre voices in my head had returned.
It could have been the fact that I stood in the aisles shouting “free stuff” or that I practically stalked the patrons walking by, but within minutes it became obvious that the pink lava pens were a hit. Say it with me, friends . . . we like free junk! I know I’ll take anything (two if it’s small) of whatever you want to give me, even if I have no need for it, no place to store it or don’t even know what it is. I actually bought 1500 of the Rubik’s erasers, knowing that I would have at least one item for birthday gift bags for all the foreseeable future.
But people pushed into our booth, jockeying for position. We overheard librarians claiming that we gave out the best chotchkies and they would pass on our location to their friends. The booth was busting at the seams, folks spilled out into the asles and we couldn’t keep up with the crowds. We did manage to spread the good word of our company and collected hundreds of business cards in addition to talking non-stop for three days. We met some really great people (hi to Ray, Barbara and Peter) and some really interesting people (translation: strange).
I’m not one to rub it in, but WCP was the buzz of BEA, partially because of our swag, partially because of the scantily dressed models we had hanging out (I’m just pulling your leg – Kelly and Leslie aren’t models). I may slightly exaggerate, but we were very popular. The “gifts” proved to be excellent bait, and I’m happy to report I have a year of special lovin’ coming my way from two of my very favorite people (That would be you, Dawn and Kristyn).
Now if anyone is interested in a Rubik’s cube eraser – have I got a deal for you!
A special thanks to our good friend and design expert, Jeff Comeau, (IntuitDesign) for all his hard work, on both his design work and his manual labor at the show. P.S. Jeff, my leg is fine, the bruises have healed nicely!
I really don’t hate my husband. As a matter of fact, he’s my favorite spouse so far. But, and this is a big but, he’s a sports freak, and a football maniac. He’s what we in the business call a whack-job.
If I would have known this on our first date I may not have gotten so drunk with him. I might possibly, still, be happily employed in some hell-hole job, miserably trying to balance a corporate checkbook, driving a Saturn and sharing some dumpy apartment with a great guy who I would later find out was gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
But, he worked his black magic and instead, I was hoodwinked, tricked, and bamboozled. When he noticed that I sported a nineteen incher that didn’t even have basic cable, he offered up that he too, didn’t watch much TV. Sure, he held a mild interest in his hometown Cleveland Browns, but the real joys in his life were long walks on the beach - pina colada in hand, and marathon late-night chats of damaged old-flames.
Admitting it is the first step
I admit I’m not the sharpest knife in the deck and in time I figured out this was his ploy to get into me into something more comfortable. But what’s a girl to do when a fella offers to lunch for hours and shop for days at a time? You can understand my dilemma when I found out that, not only was he a football fan, but he was a fan of any ball or racquet or club or stick. He was drawn to ESPN like Michael Phelps was to a bong and I soon discovered just how serious his obsession was.
Sunday morning, during football season, the TV would go on at 9:00 am and four meal deliveries and fifteen hours later, he would finally get up to relieve himself. I once caught him watching “classic” ESPN (which I totally don’t get – you already know who won) and not only had he seen the game a number of times, he was there…at the game…when it was played in 1976! He has a pornographic memory for useless trivia and he can recite any sport statistic you’d care to challenge him on from golf to poker to women’s badminton.
Agreeing to disagree
Over the years we have come to an understanding concerning his proclivities. I enjoy solitary beach walks with my pina coladas and he has agreed to only watch the championship of any sport. But as many of you are aware, there are championships just about every hour on the hour for any sport you can imagine. It has since come to my attention that I negotiated a bad deal but I am not the lawyer in the family. The good news is that, since I have found my higher calling, it doesn’t bother me so much and only when it puts my children’s lives in danger do I even say anything.
Case in point. Because of some minor issues I have, we enjoy driving the twenty hours from Chicago to Florida for family vacations. We have never encountered any substantial obstructions before, but this year was different. Hurricane force winds escorted us out of Florida, torrential rains in Georgia kept us company for most of the eight hour drive through the state, and numerous hail, thunder and snow storms followed us for the rest of the way. We were fortunate enough to be traveling during the college playoffs for basketball so I thought we could take a break from the excitement of listening to comments about sweaty teenage boys (see previous “Tale of Two Loser’s” blog!) but that was not the case.
Now, before I rip my husband a new alligator hole, I will confess I sometimes drive with one hand and occasionally take my eyes off the road. Not at the same time, of course, (the only exception was when I did and hit a bale of straw that rolled off the road and started a small brush fire – that’s a blog for another time). But during that perilous drive through the horrible weather, Craig was continually and frantically searching for any AM radio station that carried the games. He had leaned over to the center of the mini-van, practically in my lap, and must have been steering by some form of sixth sense because I swear, his eyes were glued to the radio pursuing the holy grail of sports stations.
Who’s the idiot now?
There are a few metropolitan areas between Chicago and Naples that broadcast the games but most of the time all the blurted out from the radio was obnoxious white noise with an occasional whisper of an announcer. I couldn’t make out one word but Craig swore he heard scores through the blaring garbage spewing from the dashboard and I was too paralyzed with fear at that point to even argue. As we careened through the mountains during a storm that only Noah could appreciate, my husband was more focused on “his” team making the final four than on making sure I would live to see my tropical drink.
Only once, did I see him revert to the ten-two position on the steering wheel and that was when we were hydro-planing across a small lake that had collected on the highway in Tennessee. As we fish-tailed about the road, barely missing the cement barriers of the construction zone, he reluctantly pulled his hand off the radio and guided us back to safety. If I hadn’t been frozen in terror, the scream still caught in my throat, I surely would have burst into tears or at least stuck him with the plastic knife I had hidden in the folds of my jacket.
So ladies, when your special friend leans over and whispers in your ear, not sweet nothings, but the desire to see “his ” team go to the Super Bowl, or he spends hours hitting redial on his cell, hoping for the opportunity to talk to “Mike and Mike” on sports radio, or even just gazes longingly at girl’s beach volleyball, beware! Red flag alert! Think twice before you take your hand off your pina colada.