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I've decided that 34 years of self-image to the contrary, I am not the brightest bulb in the tree. Just so you don't think this was a hasty conclusion on my part, I wanted to share another story with you.

I married a wonderful woman. She's smart, attractive, funny, and an excellent mother. Of course all those advantages come with a hidden price. You see, over the years I've discovered that deep down, my wife is really Martha Stewart. It was a shock to me at first, but I've gotten used to it over time and have even started to enjoy helping her melt down her jewelry to gild pine cones for our christmas tree.

That brings us to why I have concluded I am not the brightest bulb in the tree. You see, I knew that my wife was actually Martha, and yet I still let her handle all the arrangements for my daughters 3rd birthday last year.

Now the first part of 2002 was a tumultuous time for me, career wise. My company was struggling to find every possible penny of revenue, and looking for new ways to cover sales territories that would potentially boost the total revenue generated from each region. For me, that meant going from covering an entire county to handling only about 8 big accounts. That meant I had to work like a fool to try to build up relationships with my new customers in order to get them buying our products. The net result was that I was pretty much consumed with work and didn't have a lot of time to think about other things.

Now my daughter's birthday is in April. Early in January, my wife came to me one night while I was typing away furiously on my laptop.

"Hon", she said, "I need help deciding on a theme for our daighter's birthday"

"uh-huh", I replied, still completely focused on work.

"I was thinking of doing a carnival theme", she said, "What do you think?"

"umm, sure, whatever you want to do", I replied, not looking up from the keyboard.

"Is it okay if I look into arranging a carnival theme?", She asked.

"uhhh, yeah, okay. Go ahead", I replied, still working.

My wife left to make the arrangements.

Now, alarm bells should have been going off. My wife never talks to me when I'm working because she knows that I won't hear what she is saying anyway. The fact that she slipped the "carnival theme" idea by me when I was working should have made me suspicious. Unfortunately, I was very distracted with work and didn't pick up the subtle clues.

A couple days later, my wife brought the party up at dinner.

"So", she said, "I started making arrangements for the party. I called this great place called Parties to Go and they had a lot of good ideas for a carnival theme."

Now, "Carnival theme" can apparently mean different things to different people. See, when I think "Carnival theme", I think of balloons, a clown, possibly a pony, and a couple of fun carnival type games. Simple, straight forward, and reasonable. I didn't know it at the time, but my wife had a completely different interpretation.

"That's great, honey", I replied, "No problems with the date?"

"No, none at all", she said, "Listen, rather than having a party for her friends and a party for the family, I was thinking of just having a combined party. Is that okay?"

"Sure", I replied. Good news for me! I mean 1 party would obviously cost less than 2, right? I was satisfied that she was being reasonable and relatively frugal about the party.

"By the way", she continued, "Parties to Go will handle to food too, so we won't be stuck making a bunch of food and cleaning up"

"Great", I said, remembering a number of family reunions and parties where I spent the entire time either prepping food, cooking food, or cleaning up after other people eating.

With that, the subject dropped. My wife tried to bring the party up to me a couple more times in the weeks that followed, but I was too busy. I told her to do whatever she thought was right. I mean, I had a million things to do at work and if she was going to set up the party all on her own, well that was one less thing for me to worry about.

It seemed like no time had passed and the day of the party was upon us.

My wife came to me two days before the gala event.

"Steve, can you work from home tomorrow?", she asked, "The guys are coming tomorrow to set up the tent."

"Tent? What tent?", I asked.

"Well we have to have a tent, silly, in case it rains.", she replied.

Okay, I thought, that makes sense. I agreed to work from hom the following day.

Now when my wife said a "tent", she really meant it. The tent that was delivered was definitely in keeping with a "carnival theme". It was 40' by 40', completely enclosed, with a 20' ceiling. It took 4 guys 3 hours to set it up.

"hmm", I thought, "I wonder what that is costing."

The guy from the catering company came to the door.

"Where do you want the moonbounce?", he asked.

"Moonbounce?", I replied.

"Yeah, the moonbounce.", he said, looking at me like I wasn't too bright.

"Umm, over there, I guess.", I said, pointing to the left side of my yard."

"Naah, we can't put it there.", he replied, "That's where the merry-go-round has to go."

"Merry-go-round!?!?", I replied. "What are you talking about?"

"The merry-go round. Your wife ordered it along with the kiddy ferris wheel."

"KIDDIE FERRIS WHEEL!?!?!", I replied. What the heck had I gotten myself into? Was this some sort of subtle payback for working too much?

"Yeah", he replied, looking me over sketpically "Listen pal, should I just wait for your wife to come home before we set this stuff up?"

"Umm, no", I replied. "Just set it up however you think it will fit. I'll discuss it with my wife when she get's home."

The phone rang...


"Yes, this is Applegate Belgians. You're scheduled for 2 ponies tomorrow. What time did you want them to come?"

"Ponies? Two ponies? Are you sure?", I asked, hoping she was wrong.

"Yes sir, two ponies for a 3 years old's birthday", she replied, "when do you want them?"

"Call back later. You'll have to ask my wife." I replied, hanging up the phone. Yeah right, I thought, you can talk to my wife if she is still able to speak after I get done with her...

The phone rang again...


"Yes, this is Suzie-Q the clown confirming for the party tomorrow. You have me booked for 2 hours starting at noon, is that correct?"

"JESUS H CHR... Sure, whatever...", I replied. At this point I had become completely numb.

A van pulled into the parking lot, followd by a knock at the door.

"Can I help you?", I asked.

"Yes, I'm Carol. I'm here to deliver your daughter's cake.", she replied.

Funny, the local bakery never delivered a cake before.

They still don't. We didn't use the local bakery. I guess they don't make cakes that have "two man lift" written on them. I looked closer at the van...the sign on the side said "Cakes by Carol, confectionary artist." Confectionary artist? There are actually people who make a living making confectionary art? Learn something new every day.

This cake was certainly a work of art, which is to say I probably could have bought a work of art for what it cost. The cake was 5 inches think, 2 feet wide by 3 feet long and was decorated like a carnival, complete with sugar people standing in line, a sugar ticket booth, and - the coup de grace - a foot high working ferris wheel constructed out of sugar standing in the middle of the cake. Yes, the sugar ferris wheel actually turned and played calliope music when you switched it on. Cake that needs its own power source. What a concept.

I wasn't sure whether to laugh maniacally or collapse on the floor and sob. I decided to go back to work. I figured I was going to need to work a lot harder now...

The doorbell rang... It was the tent guy again.

"Hey pal, do you have any diesel fuel?", he asked.

Do I have any diesel fuel? Do I have any diesel fuel??? Why in the name of all that is holy would I have any diesel fuel!!!

"Why do you need it?", I asked.

"For the tent heaters. Wouldn't want the guests to get cold, would we?"

I pointed him down the road to the local gas station and started trying to figure out a polite way to charge my guests $50 admission to my daughters birthday party.

My wife pulled into the driveway around the same time another truck from Parties to Go pulled onto my lawn. How many Godd***ed trucks was this party going to take to set up?

The guy in the truck yelled "We're here with the grills, the cotton candy machine, and the popcorn machine. Okay to set them up?"

"Sure", my wife yelled, "Just head around back"

I came out of the house under a full head of steam...

"ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!?!?", I asked, as calmly as I could. "WHAT THE HECK DID YOU DO?"

"Honey", she replied, "I told you I was going with a carnival theme."

"Yeah, but I thought you meant a clown, a pony, and some balloons, not that you were bringing Barnum and Bailey to town!"

"Well dear", she replied innocently, "I tried to run this all by you, but you were too busy to get involved, remember? You told me to use my best judgement and I did. It will definitely be a good party."

Well, it was true. She had given me ample opportunity to step in to put a stop to the madness. I guess I just never figured it would get this out of control. I was still seething, but she had a point. I had sidestepped any involvement in the planning of the party. I couldn't really get mad at her for going with her instincts, however overblown her instincts ended up being. There was only one person for me to be mad at and that was me. I mean, knowing as I do that deep down she was Martha Stewart, how could I be so stupid as to give her total creative control over something like a party. It's like putting a hungry doberman in charge of guarding filet mignon. Once the instincts kick in, things start to get expensive.

So there I was, hoist on my own petard with nobody to take it out on but myself. I'll tell you what though, all things considered I was in the mood to give myself a pretty good a$$kicking that day.

The only saving grace was that the party was a complete success. My daughter's friends had a blast... my family had a blast... heck, even the neighbors had a blast. Since the party and the food was already paid for, we ended up inviting every neighbor on our street who had little kids to come to the party.

And so it went. In the end, with the party behind us, I learned two important lessons: First, my wife is tricky and needs to be watched and Second, I am just not the brightest bulb in the tree.

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