Last Night, I Ate an Old Cadbury Cream Egg For Dinner & Nope….I Don’t Feel Guilty….I Don’t Feel Guilty At All

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” ~Julia Child

About a month ago, I got an email from Meetup.com letting me know about a new book club for women that was forming in my area.

If you’ve never heard of it, Meetup.com is a networking site that allows users to create and join interest groups in their local communities.  There are thousands of groups to choose from.  Everything from outdoor sports groups, to book clubs, parenting groups, exercise, volunteering, artists, dating, business related groups and so on.

I created an account about ten years ago when I moved to the Boston area from a small town in the mid-west.  It seemed like a good resource for making a few friends in my new home state.

Only….I’m a complicated person.  I think my personality falls somewhere between hermit-like and introverted.  I am also very socially awkward.  I don’t know if I have some form of social anxiety, or, chronic verbal diarrhea, or what.  All I know is that I’m more of a wall-flower than a social butterfly.

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I’m the kind of friend who will almost always return your call with a text message without having:

1. listened to your voicemail; they give me anxiety and so I delete them immediately

2. sent the text before you’ve even finished leaving your voicemail

I will decline every invitation to a Pampered Chef, or Scentsy party.  Because I will always have plans to do something like, make my own laundry detergent, or de-pill my sweaters while listening to NPR or Relaxation Radio on Pandora. But, I will absolutely buy something if I can do so via a link that doesn’t require any human interaction.

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I will call you 47 times in a row, not because it’s an emergency, or because I’m trying to be a creep.  But because I can’t leave a proper voicemail message and so I will hang-up and try again, many, many, many times….before eventually giving up and sending a text instead.

So yeah, it’s not easy being my friend.  Which is probably why I have so few of them.  But, for all my faults, I’m a ride or die chick.  The women I count among my besties, I love so much, that I would 100% help them hide a body and my only question would be, “How deep do you think we need to dig this grave?”

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Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Way back when I first signed up for Meet-up, I joined a book club for women.  They were a lovely group of ladies, but it just didn’t work out.  It wasn’t them, it was me, so I did what I always do and just stopped attending.

They were concerned for a while.  Was I sick?  Was I dead?  Eventually they realized I was just an asshole and they unfriended me on Facebook and we all went our separate ways.

But, it’s been 10 years now, so when I got the notice of a new book club Meet-up, I thought….maybe I might suddenly be the type of gal who enjoys socializing with a large group of women I don’t know….this, by the way, after declining an invitation to a family members Sprinkle.  Actually, I haven’t officially declined yet.  I’m just going to wait until the last minute and then say I’m sick.

I know, I suck.

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The details for the Meet-up said the inaugural gathering would be held at a local Mexican restaurant.  I’ve eaten there on a number of occasions and they have some seriously good street taco’s….and I’ll pretty much do anything for a street taco.  And I mean, anything.  So, you could probably argue that a taco was the reason I signed up and confirmed my attendance.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I found the groups organizer, introduced myself, made some comment about the weather, because that’s my go to small talk tactic and then I found a seat where I awkwardly smiled and said, to all I met, “Can you believe this weather?” even though there was nothing remarkable about the weather.

When it came time to order, I picked one of the street taco selections, obviously, while the rest of the ladies ordered some kind of salad with a “hold all the good shit and can you put everything but the lettuce on the side?”

When our food arrived, I wasted no time digging in.  As I was hoisting one of the taco’s to my mouth, one of the women said, “I wish I could eat like that.  You’re so brave.”

 

Um….brave?  I’m taking down a taco, not a terrorist.

I took an enormous bite, using the side of my hand to shovel in the parts that were trying to escape and looked up.  My eyes clearly said, “Bitch, please,” as I slowly chewed, before swallowing and then saying, “Street taco.”

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Which, to anyone with an ounce of sense, would have been a reasonable explanation, correct?

But she kept going….“I do, I envy you.  I would feel so guilty.”

Me:  I guess I just prefer to eat my calories, rather than drink them.  (I’d seen how many margaritas she’d taken down and I can be a passive aggressive douche canoe too).

Her eyes said, “Bitch, I will have you black-balled from this book club.” 

But I wasn’t scared.  One of the benefits of having been raised in a largely dysfunctional and abusive household, is that I don’t really have any feelings.

And because I love nothing more than a super awkward silence, I decided not to say anything else and instead, I just sat there and exaggeratedly ate the shit out of every last taco.

No way was I going to be shamed out of the pleasure of perfectly seasoned steak, tucked into a double layer of soft, warm, corn taco shells, because Karen wanted to do that whole “Oh, I ate 150 calories today, I’m going to have to work extra hard at Globo Gym tomorrow morning,” dance that some women seem to enjoy.

Because, I feel guilty about a lot of things….

The time I filled my 6th grade math teacher’s water cup in the toilet.  In my defense, she was really mean to me though and I was basically raised by wolves.

The time in elementary school when a friend dared me to call the number on a poster about a lost dog to tell the family I’d found him.  And when the woman answered and I told her I had her dog at the public pool, she immediately began screaming and crying with joy and then I hung-up.   Side note:  I feel like maybe this was the reason God gave me cancer and I can’t say I blame him.

All the times I said my grandma died, because I wanted to take advantage of my employers bereavement leave policy.

That time in high school when I hit my friend Patrick with my mom’s minivan….and while he clung to the hood, I accelerated and then quickly hit the break, sending him flying through the air and into a concussion.

All the times I use the handicap stall in a public restroom, because I like the extra space.

All those times in my twenties I left a first date, in the middle of the first date, without saying goodbye.

But food?  Eating?  No.

I love food.  All the food.  I’m just as happy tucking into a boiled hot dog at a baseball game….with a soft pretzel covered in so much salt that I instantly swell up and don’t pee for a week….as I am a gourmet meal, at a fancy restaurant, with fancy drinks with my BFF Marie, while we catch up on life.

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I grew-up believing there were only three food groups:  Chef Boyardee, Betty Crocker Meal-in-a-Box and Hamburger Helper, so when I discovered the world was a literal oyster, I made it my mission to enjoy every bite.  For me, food is fun.  It’s a simple pleasure that is meant to be enjoyed.

Never will I ever buy into that line of thinking that a woman should only eat a thimble full of food in public.

If you want to eat lettuce and air, that’s your business, but I’m ordering something I can’t buy in a bag from the grocery store….and my own desert (I don’t like to share)….also, I’ll totally take your leftovers if you don’t want them.

Needless to say, I’m dropping out of book club.  I don’t think I can mesh with the type of women who lure you into a club with the prospect of street taco’s, only to make you wonder why they didn’t just hold the meeting around the salad bar at Whole Foods.

Oh well, there’s always next decade.

Adventures in Room Parenting….

“I’m sorry. I can’t hear you. I’ve been physically abused in the ear!” ~Billy Madison

Last school year, I volunteered to be a room parent in my son’s classroom.  For anyone who knows me, this is a rather large departure from type.

I’m the kind of mom who will donate money and supplies and muffins from a fancy bakery and tell everyone I made them, but I’m not the room-mom type; the type who can fundraise like nobody’s business and who can devise an art museum quality craft using nothing but a pipe cleaner, multi-colored pom-pom’s and a used tissue.

But, I had decided that I wanted to start coming from a place of saying YES to things I would have normally said, “No f’ing way.”  Just like Shonda Rimes.

Actually, no.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Sometimes my mouth just writes checks my ass can’t cash.  I have no idea why.

All I know, is that I found myself writing my name on the sign-up sheet outside the classroom on Back to School night, while the other, apparently wiser, moms pretended they didn’t see it.

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For the most part, I enjoyed my role as a room parent.  The job gave me the inside scoop about events and activities occurring both in the classroom and at the school in general.

I got some extra face time with my son’s teachers, who I came to truly adore and admire and we’ve developed a nice friendship.

I also made a mom friend in my co-room-parent, Martha Stewart, who is definitely a room-mom type.  If it weren’t for Martha, I might have, most definitely would have, lost my shit after the first classroom holiday party.

I also liked getting to know the kids.  They were a lot of fun….when they weren’t picking their noses and then asking to holding my hand….or, telling me all about how they had pooped “something green and frowed-up” that very morning, right before sneezing in my face.

What I did not enjoy, were most of their parents, who whined and complained and made shit hard….

All

Year

Long

Like:

  1.  The parent who said, “Can you send out a detailed accounting of what you spent our $1.00 donation on.  You know, just want to make sure you didn’t use it pay your mortgage.  LOL”

I’m not sure if the LOL was meant to make this person sound more or less like an asshole, but either way….

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It’s not that I had a problem sharing information about what was purchased with donated money.  In fact, Martha and I sent out an update after every event that generally went something like: “Thank you parents for your donations!  The money was used to make this thing out of popsicle sticks and bandaids and look how much fun the kids had!  See the attached 427 pictures we took!”

But a detailed Excel spreadsheet?  After we’d spent literally hours organizing and preparing and then helping to facilitate these activities?

Which by the way, almost always cost substantially more than the total requested?

No.  Not going to happen.

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Also, if I was devising a plan to embezzle money from other parents, I’d be asking for a lot more than $1 per kid.

With 22 kids in the class and a co-conspirator to pay off, $11 isn’t even enough to buy breakfast at Starbucks.

If I’m going to become embroiled in scandal, it’s going to be for something huge.  Like, perhaps, smacking a certain parent with a sack full of $22 in quarters.


2.  The “shouldn’t my tax dollars be paying for this?” parents. 

Honestly, these people irritate the hell out of me.  They are always the folks who take to the community Facebook page to post things like, “There is a dusting of snow on the road and I haven’t seen a plow truck yet this morning.  Aren’t our tax dollars paying for this?”

“It’s January 2nd and the Christmas lights and wreaths are still up in town square, don’t our tax dollars pay for someone to remove them?”  (True story….someone actually posted this last winter.)  #FirstWorldProblemsMuch

SHUT UP!

If you believe that our tax dollars aren’t being managed appropriately, go to a town budget meeting, or a school board budget meeting.  Or, better yet, run for a town political position.  DO SOMETHING, other than bitch about it.

Because, I don’t want to hear it.

I’m just a volunteer trying to gather enough beaded necklaces and plastic maracas from the dollar store to stuff into a taco shaped piñata I spent thirty dollars on….out of my own pocket….because apparently no one thought to add a line item for a Cinco de Mayo party to the school budget.

I guess they were just too focused on funding those three brand new schools with state of the art technology centers and athletic facilities….along with the gazillion enrichment programs our kids have access to, like foreign language classes beginning in Kindergarten and fully funded field trips.

We’re soooo unfortunate.

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3.  The, “I’d love to help out, but I have a job” parents.

Really?  Is this still a thing?  This whole, parent vs. parent battle where we attempt to one-up and out-martyr each other in the ultimate contest of who is the better parent?

I have been a full time, big corporate job having mom, a stay-at-home mom and a combination of the two.  And you know what?  It’s all hard AF.  For different reasons and similar reasons that are big and little and complicated and full of conflicted and messy feelings.

But, thank you.  Thank you for the unnecessary reminder that you are employed.

You are better than me.  You’re more important than me.  You win.

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4.  The “We’re saving for our next trip to Disney and trying to curb unnecessary spending” parents.

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So….was I to assume that these children would not be participating in the Valentine’s Day party?

Or….that I was expected to pay their share?

I’ll let you guess.


5.  The “Oops, I know it’s the morning of and I signed up to send in (insert everything from all the paper products and cutlery, to half the supplies needed for a project) but I forgot” parents.

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Want to know how easy it is to find Halloween decorations and jingle bells and yarn and sand castle picture frame kits at 6:00am?

Zero easy.


So, when I ran into the PTO Room Parent Coordinator at Target the other day, because of course I did, and she asked, “So, are you ready to be a first grade room parent?”

I didn’t hesitate a bit when I said, “Fuck no.”   (Ok, I didn’t actually say fuck, but it was implied).

Her:  Surely you can’t be serious?

Me:  I am serious and don’t call me Shirley.  (This didn’t happen either, I just wish it had)  #Airplane

But I did say no.

It’s a hard pass for me Karen, but let me know if you need any muffins, or money.

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Lay’d Off….

“I don’t know where I’m going, but I sure know where I’ve been.” ~White Snake

In November 2017, I was Lay’d off from my corporate job.  It was a moment I had been eagerly waiting for.  I know how that sounds, but allow me to explain.

Simply put, I was over it.

Over the grind, over the politics, over the mission statements and the core values and the pressure to “lean-in” and “have it all” and “explode through the glass ceiling” and blah, blah, blah.

I’d become disgruntled, dissatisfied, dis-enchanted, disengaged, dismayed….dis-everything.  And life is too short to be dis-everything.

It hadn’t always been that way though.  When I started my career, I had big goals for myself in corporate America and I sacrificed much of my twenties toward achieving them.

I regularly worked 80 hours a week and for the first five years of my career, I didn’t take a single vacation day, or sick day; time I wasn’t paid out for.  In other words, over a five year period, I worked an extra 15 weeks….for free.

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Of course, nobody made me do it, but I reasoned that corner offices and fancy titles don’t come cheap….and if I didn’t have both by the time I was in my thirties, well, life probably wasn’t worth living.

I had balls to bust and power suits to purchase and if it meant I had no social life, hobbies, or the time to eat more than twenty cups of coffee in the course of a day, so be it.  I’d have a life when I retired….assuming I didn’t stroke out first.

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But the universe had other plans for me and it would take a sucker punch to the gut before I realized it.

The lead up included meeting my husband, Clark Griswold, moving to a new state and taking a new job with Dunder Mifflin’s biggest competitor.

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Then Clark and I got married and I became a step-mom.

Right before our wedding, I took another new role at a Fortune 500 business captained by a female CEO ranked among the world’s most powerful women.

After a difficult upbringing, during which I’d been voted most likely to end up on an episode of Cops, I’d gotten a college degree (the first in my family), I was happily married with plans to add to our family and I was building a successful career.  What more could I want?

Then, in November, 2011, when I was twenty-two weeks pregnant with my son, I was diagnosed with stage 2, primary mediastinal large b-cell lymphoma.  A rare and sneaky form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Cancer.

Everything changed.

But it didn’t change all at once.  Instead, it was like a slow burn of all the things I’d thought were important to me.

Then, I picked up the pieces of what was left and started to put my life back together.

I realized that when it came to my career, I had been sprinting toward something I had wanted….because I thought it was what I was supposed to want.

So instead, I leaned into my health, my marriage, my faith, my family, my friends and motherhood.  I found that when I was doing all of the things that were supposed to leave me feeling trapped, unappreciated and uninspired, I didn’t.

I started saying no when I was supposed to be saying yes.  I made time for books and nature and exercise and other abandoned hobbies.  I was still.

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I stepped off the corporate ladder and watched my peers pass me by.  I knew it meant my career was dying, but I also knew that I would never come to regret it.

Because when I was diagnosed, and the possibility that my child and I would not survive the disease was discussed, I didn’t cry for the career goals I might never achieve.  I cried for the extended hours I spent in the office when I could have been at home having dinner with my family, or enjoying an uninterrupted vacation.

I cried for the books I hadn’t had a chance to read, hikes I never got a chance to take, places I never got a chance to see.

I cried for the baby I might never get a chance to meet and the little boy and the man he might never get a chance to become.

And I cried for all of the little things I had taken for granted; the millions of simple moments I’d let slip by, always believing there would be more.  That someday I would stop and smell the roses.  Someday, someday, someday….

It was in the midst of that grief, which was so raw and so painful I thought I might actually break into pieces, that I felt my son move for the first time.  It was a tiny flutter of life followed by a feeling of peace and calm that abruptly stopped my sobs.

I knew we would be OK.  And I knew that I would never be the same.

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Shortly after I completed my cancer treatment, I read an article about a book the New York Times had published called, “Picture Your Life After Cancer.”  

The book was a compilation of photos and stories submitted by cancer survivors in response to the question, “How is your life different after cancer?”  

A number of inspirational quotes and insights were used in the article, but one in particular resonated most with me:

“Scars may heal, blood counts may normalize, years may pass. But never again will the simple act of waking up to a normal, boring day as a healthy individual be taken for granted, nor go unappreciated.” – Allison A., Cairo, Egypt

So, very, true.

I don’t love every moment, but I try, every day, to say a prayer of gratitude for all of it.

I am keenly aware, always, of how fortunate I was to survive cancer and to come out the other side with a beautiful and healthy little boy.

I don’t have it all figured out though.  When the cloud lifted and there was nothing more to do than carry on, I knew only that I wanted my survival to matter.  That I wanted to do my best to live a life that felt good.  A life that, when it inevitably ends, I can look back on and say, “I made the most of this one wild and precious life.”  (nod to Mary Oliver)