Windy City Publishers
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.
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 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).
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?”
“I give her lunch.”
“What’s this?” Doris pointed to a line item labeled “Swiss Bank Account.”
“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.
“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.
It always surprises people when I tell them that I have an accounting degree. I’m sure this is because I don’t act like an accountant or dress like one or talk like one. I’m not like all, you know, um . . . put your net worth income in hedge funds. Oh wait, I think that’s finance – but you get the drift.
When I first mentioned to my partners, Dawn and Kristyn, that my background was accounting, they were suspect then curious.
“Really? asked Dawn. “Did you graduate?”
“I sure did. When I was thirty-two,” I told her proudly.
“From an accredited school?” Kristyn pressed.
“And you have a diploma?”
“Somewhere,” I replied.
Honesty is my best policy
But in all honesty (and I pride myself in being honest – to a fault), I’m not really a good accountant. If I were to interview myself, I would find me charming and witty and a good cook, but when it comes to the numbers, there are issues. This dates back to my diagnosis of having contracted a viral infection called Fibrosis in Bottom Brain Involving Numbers & Graphs (F.I.B.B.I.N.G.) when I was a small child.
Because my parents were never interested in my well-being they did nothing to treat it and it has affected my ability to, well basically, count. And tell time and a number of other digit issues that I share only with my therapists.
I don’t want to jump back on the “blame your parents” bandwagon - again! I am an adult now have accepted and embraced the fact that they were to blame but there’s nothing I can do about it. Sure, I can tease them with not caring for them when they are old and kid them about leaving them in dirty diapers for days, but I digress, I was talking about how they royally screwed me with the whole disease thing.
So, needless to say, I did graduate, (no thanks to them) but I limped across the finish line. The horror story that I will share with you haunts me to this day and I have many a reoccurring dream that puts me right back in the situation – with the exception that I am only wearing a towel.
Marketing, shmarketing . . booring!
Marketing classes always threw me for a loop. The vague terms for the airy-fairy concepts were so different than the vague terms for the accounting concepts and I found the subject tested my patience and understanding. I studied many hours, often late into the night with my good friend, Karen, trying to master the ambiguous ideas.
The last final of my college career was my Marketing one. It was also on Friday, the last day of finals and at 3:00, the last time-slot for a final – the last of the last of the last. Karen had been over the night before until the wee hours and when she left, we were exhausted but confident we could hold on to the “A’s” we currently had going into the test. (At this point I should explain that I what I lack in certain areas, I make up for with enthusiasm and many many hours of rote learning)
What’s that about the early bird and the worm?
I decided to show up an hour early to the test and sit outside the auditorium where the exam was being administered. I didn’t want anything goofy to happen and I sat, fully prepared, on the bench beside the exit doors and waited patiently for the current exam to finish.
Eventually, students began filtering out; their faces flush with excitement at having the last of their tests behind them. I recognized many of them from the business school and from possibly other classes we shared, but when a girl that I had actually done a marketing project with walked out of the doors and gave me a funny look, a feeling of panic hit me like a ton of bricks.
I raced into the auditorium and flew down the aisles, past Karen, who called out in a loud whisper “Are you finished?” and over to the teaching assistants at the base of the stage. I breathlessly explained my situation, stating I had actually been in the building, right outside the doors for almost an hour. I told them I thought the exam started at 3:00, when it fact it was apparent it had started at 1:00.
They looked at me like I had two heads and one cigarette. There was nothing they could do they said, and I saw them sneak a glance at each other with raised eyes. They certainly weren’t going to wait another two hours while I took the exam, especially when other students had finished and could have shared questions from the test.
The best they could do was had me an empty answer sheet and say good-luck. I had fifteen minutes, which was just enough time to color in every ‘c’ answer throughout the entire exam.
Do not believe this! (I know from experience)
The rumor that “c” answers are correct more often than not, is simply not true. I failed the test and squeeked by my marketing class with a C-. I did not graduate with high honors as I expected I would but, I did still manage to graduate and that’s a good thing.
Now, of course, it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t miss out on any jobs because of that marketing grade that I know of. And actually, the first job I was hired for as an accountant, was by an ex-football player who liked the fact that I had worked food service at a previous Super Bowl.
I was totally devastated when I missed that final. I had restarted my college career as a mother and a “non-traditional student”, paying for the whole thing myself and working two jobs. At the time, it seemed like an unjust ending to a Cinderella story and it put a damper on the graduation party, though the midget stripper did cheer me up. (Yes, you read that right)
I feel differently now – actually, just the opposite. Matter of fact, it makes for a great story.
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 . . .