Pie – A Flaky Crusted Dessert….

“What are you, a fu*%ing retard!?” ~ My Mother

Nearly every homework assignment I brought home….until I wizened up and quit bringing my homework home….ended with my mother morphing into a crazed lunatic.

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Eyes wild and foaming at the mouth, she would rip the pencil from my hand and violently scribble away any incorrect answers, often ripping holes in the paper in the process.

Then, in a fit of hysteria, she would tear the entire document into smithereens and hurl the pieces about the kitchen while ranting and raving like a mad woman.

Pets would cower, various boyfriends and step-dad’s would go into hiding, neighbor’s wouldn’t call the authorities and my dreams of getting to live with my dad, or becoming a ward of the state, wouldn’t come true.

Eventually, I started to hide my schoolwork from her.  I would claim I didn’t have any homework, or that we had been given time to do it at the end of our class period and she rarely questioned it.

In reality, I would often hurriedly do it in my room when I was supposed to be in bed, or while on the bus on the way to, or from, school.

It wasn’t a bad tactic, except with regards to the subjects I struggled in.  I was never particularly good at anything related to science or math, two topics my mother excelled in and it was infuriating for her that I couldn’t immediately grasp the concepts of long division, algebra, geometry, biology and chemistry.

Without anyone who wasn’t on the verge of going bat-shit crazy to look over my homework assignments, I often ended up with poor markings, which led to failed quizzes and tests.

But, by the time I was in fifth grade, I had mastered my mother’s signature, which was handy for signing off on all my failures.  This way, it wasn’t until report card time that I had to take the beatings for failing grades.  I reasoned this was a much smarter approach.

One bad night of screaming, hair pulling, rampaging, “go get me the belt you God-damn dumb ass,” was statistically much better than enduring the same thing on a per bad grade basis.

Plus, since my brother was typically in the same boat, we split her wrath about fifty-fifty.

Tell me I’m not good at math.

When I was in the sixth grade, my last year of elementary school before heading off to middle school, my math teacher was tasked with presenting her students with the extracurricular activities we could choose from in middle school, like sports, band and choir.

In order to be allowed to participate in our first year however, incoming students had to have at least a C average across all subjects.  I did not.

So when it came time to sign up for the programs we wished to join or try-out for, I selected none and made no mention of it to my mother.

Thanks to an invasive school system however, the same information was mailed to our homes.

Mommy Dearest:  “You signed up to tryout for cheerleading, right?  Why didn’t you mention it?”

Me:  “Mrs. C said I couldn’t sign up.”

Mommy Dearest:  “Why?  

Me:  “I don’t know?”

Mommy Dearest:  “Were other girls allowed to sign up?”

Me:  “Yes.”

Cowardly, I know.  But report cards were right around the corner, and if I could just hold her off for another few weeks or so….we could go right on ahead and kill a few birds with one back-hand….I mean, stone.

It would be important for me to note here, that my mother prized cheerleading as much Wanda Holloway….the woman who plotted to have her daughters cheerleading nemesis offed….it’s probably about the only thing my mother would have killed on my behalf for.

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When she was a teenager, she had been the captain of the cheerleading and gymnastics teams at her high school.  She had been the Homecoming Queen and Prom Queen.  She had been popular and adorable and bubbly and everyone had loved her.

Then, at some point in her adulthood, she’d become a raving lunatic, an abusive alcoholic and then an abusive recovering alcoholic.  But she never forgot those glory days.

So, it should have come as no surprise when my mother gave Mrs. C a little ring on the phone the next day.  I knew about it, because Mrs. C  was hysterically crying to Mrs. K during our lunch recess.

During the meltdown, Mrs. K called me over from where I was attempting to remain oblivious and, while consoling a sobbing Mrs. C asked, “Why did you tell your mother you were specifically excluded from next years extracurricular activities?”

Me:  “I didn’t.”

Cowardly, I know, but I had to be a pathological liar in order to survive my childhood….sue me.

I rode the bus home full of dread.  I knew by the time I walked through the door, she would have flushed out all my carefully constructed lies and it would not be good.

I pondered the durability of my teeth, the thickness of my hair and whether or not I had enough to cover any bald spots that might be created….and then, I took it like a champ.

Now, I have a child of my own.  He’s a first grader and every Monday, he get’s a bit of homework he has to complete and return each Friday.  We practice his spelling words, we read and we I, struggle to understand his math.  WTF common core?

I don’t mean to mom brag or anything, but my boy is wicked smaht.   Academics come easily to him, which I have to assume he’s inherited from his father, though he get’s his good looks and snarky attitude from me.

Seriously though, I’m incredibly proud of him.  And also, I’m proud of myself.  I’m raising a kid who is confidant and capable and brave.  Which isn’t the way anyone would have described me at his age.

For a long time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a mother.  Or rather, if I could be a mother.   It seemed impossible that I would know what to do.  I was afraid that I would just fall into the same cycles of abuse I’d known as a kid.  That whatever was wrong with my mother, might be wrong with me too.

A few years before our son was born, my husband and I took a road-trip out west that included several days of hiking in Yellowstone National Park.  At the time, park officials were managing a wildfire that had been started by a lightning strike.  One afternoon, my husband and I hiked up Mount Washburn, which hosts one of the three remaining fire lookout stations in Yellowstone.

At the top, we struck up a conversation about the fires with a park ranger.  I asked if park officials were concerned about the fires destruction and he said, “No.  So long as there is no risk to human life, wildfires are a good thing.”

He explained that wildfires make way for new growth.   They regenerate our forests, renew the soil, and help reset the clock for the ecosystem.

I think the same can be said about life in general.  Life is hard.  Sometimes, it burns in ways that feel as though there can’t possibly be anything left when it’s done.

But in truth, the burning isn’t the end.  It’s just life’s way of giving us a chance to reset.  To reevaluate where we’ve been and where we’re going.  It’s a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth chance, or more.

There is beauty and strength and grace and opportunity to be found in the ashes….if only we are brave enough to put one foot in front of the other and to try.

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I’m Melting….

“Let’s open a store called FOREVER 39.  We can sell wine and yoga pants.”

As often as possible, I attend a yoga class.  Though I never thought of myself as the type of person who could ever achieve a zen-like state….I’m pretty wound….all the time….I have to admit that yoga does wonders for me.

When I really focus in on the practice, I can feel the stress and frustrations of the day, or week, melt away….and I get my best night’s sleep post class.  At least I did until yesterday, when I discovered that my face is falling off my head.

If you’ve ever been to a gym before, you might have noticed that the regulars tend to have a favored spot, or bike, or other piece of equipment they gravitate toward.

My gym is no different, but no one is a bitch about it.  So, when I arrived for yoga last night and found a new person in my typical spot, I just chose another, settled into Lotus pose and waited for class to begin.

My usual spot is near a half wall, that’s kind of like a long, narrow shelf.  I like it there, because I can use the wall to cheat during some of the balance poses.

My new location was directly beside a wall of mirrors that runs the entire length of one side of the gym.  I didn’t think much of it until I found myself in Prasarita Padottansana, which is a wide-legged forward bend.

We can pretend this is me….she’s OK….I guess.

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Typically, I keep my eyes closed during my practice, unless otherwise instructed to open them.  It helps me to block out the activity around me so that I can fully concentrate.

For some reason though, I decided to open them while bent over with the mirror at my back.  The first thing I noticed was that the position made my ass look like a billboard and I wondered for a moment if it would be possible to write supercalifragilisticexpialidocious across my rear.

The second thing I noticed was that my cheeks (face cheeks) appeared to be on my forehead.  It was legit frightening and after I gasped in horror, I did what women have been doing for centuries….I took a look around the room and compared myself to the other women.

This was only moderately helpful, since I was flanked by two, fresh faced twenty-somethings.  But, I did notice that a few other ladies had pools of skin dangling from their hairlines as well, so I was at least relieved to know that the only thing dying was my youth.

Yes, I am aware that things change as we age, it’s just that I would prefer to defy nature….because I like to set goals that are high and largely unattainable.

Having lost all ability to focus on the original intention of my practice that evening, I settled on a new one.  Trying to force my skin back into its original location by making a series of faces.  This did not work.

Then, I was reminded of the Golden Girls and that episode where Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia are discussing how long each woman waited to have sex with someone new, after their husbands were no longer in the picture.

Dorothy says, “You know, when you’re twenty, everything stays where it’s supposed to.  Now, when you lean over, it looks like somebody’s let the air out of your face.”  

#TRUTH

Dorothy then challenges an incredulous Blanche to look over a mirror and see the effect for herself, which she does with comical results.

Anyway, I’m not sure what to do about this.  I’ve seen too many seasons of The Real Housewives of (insert any city) and the evolution of Kim Kardashian’s face, to go anywhere near Botox.

So, is there some kind of fruit, or plant, or cream I can use that will magically turn back time?   I’m looking for a relatively inexpensive, quick fix.  I’ll even accept a potion brewed by the devil, whatever is going to work.

But if there is nothing that can be done that does not involve a scalpel, or a needle….if I am to accept that this is just the natural order of things….then I guess I’ll have to accept it.

But you can bet your ass I’ll bitch slap the new girl at yoga for my spot back.

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10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent….

“I would rather die than let my kid eat Cup-a-Soup.” ~Gwyneth Paltrow

I admit it.

Before I had a kid, I was 100% one of those judgey, know-it-all jerks who made grand proclamations about all the things I’d never do when I became a parent.

Which was pretty bold considering that, for years, I’d known nothing about raising children.  Like, literally nothing. 

Was it acceptable to put Kool-Aid into a baby bottle?

Did you wait to change a child’s diaper until it had reached maximum capacity?  I mean, diapers are expensive and if you can make a 24 pack last 24 days, that’s practicing good economics….no?

And, it’s not that big a deal to leave a toddler in the car if you’re just running into K-Mart for ONE thing, right?  So long as the kid is strapped down somewhere and unable to reach the lit cigarette resting in the cars ashtray?

What can I say?  I didn’t have the best maternal example.

It wasn’t until books and television taught me that I was basically a degenerate, that I began to form loftier opinions about things.

The police never showed up at the Seaver residence because Maggie was in the backyard with an ax hacking up the lawn furniture after a fight with Dr. Seaver.

Mrs. Walsh, of Beverly Hills 90210 never hissed at Brenda, “I am going to kick your ass so far up around your neck, you’ll have to spread your butt cheeks to sneeze!”

And not one of those chick’s from the Babysitter’s Club, had to take their earnings and immediately spend it all on candy at a sports bar/grocery store called Smokies before their mother could steal their wages.

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Smokies #ICan’tMakeThisShitUp

So, it’s really thanks to the likes of the Tanners, the Camden’s, The Huxtables, Mr. Belvedere and Beverly Clearly, that I became self-righteous AF.

10 Things I Swore I Would Never Do When I Became A Parent

1.   Let my kid eat a hot dog

Fast forward six years:

Me:  Hey Snugs, want to have a hot dog and mac & cheese for dinner?

Snugs:  I had that yesterday!

Me:  I know, but it’s your favorite!

2.  Leave the house in my pajama’s

Post Kids:  Ok, I’ll never leave the house in my PJ’s without a bra.

A few more years post kids:  Well, if I’m staying in the car and just going through the teacher assist drop-off line, it’s not like anyone will notice I’m not wearing a bra.

3.  Let my kid buy school lunch

Me….Every Day:  Oooh, buddy!  French toast sticks are on the menu at school today and tomorrow, it’s nachos!

4.  Allow screen time

A hot minute after giving birth:  Get ready!  To Wiggle!  

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5.  Forego my personal hygiene

Post Parenthood Google Search History:

  • How many days in a row can you use dry shampoo?
  • How many days in a row can a person go without showering before the smell is too great to mask.
  • Is Listerine an acceptable alternative to teeth brushing?

6.  Give-up my corporate career for family

My employer (a year ago):  You haven’t made a career move in five years and we’re going to eliminate your current position.  You’ll need to either move up, or move out.

Me:  Cool, should I go ahead and start packing now?

I know I’m supposed to be leaning-in and pulling up a seat the table and bursting through the glass ceiling and blah, blah, blah, but I was over my career.  OVER IT.

I didn’t want to spend my time traveling all the over the place, working insane hours, while someone else raised my kid, all for the privilege of helping to stuff the already bulky pockets of the executives and shareholders of corporate America.

I decided I didn’t want to pull up a seat their table.  I decided to build my own table.  I’m sorry if this isn’t the choice I was supposed to make.

Actually, no.  I’m not sorry.

7.  Participate in the Elf on the Shelf

Before my son was born, I considered the tradition to be an unnecessarily stressful addition to parenting and the holiday season.

Actually, I think I was just really jealous that I hadn’t thought of that bajillion-dollar idea myself.

After my son was born, I jumped right onto the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon and I’m not getting off anytime soon.

Quite frankly, I participate in the tradition for one person and one person only….and that person is me.

My childhood had all the magic of life at Spahn Ranch with the Manson family, so it makes me feel good to sprinkle my son’s youth with wonderment.

Also, that little Sprite gives me a whole month off from parenting….and I’m not going to lie, I can use the break….especially during the holiday season.

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8.  Formula Feed

To be clear, it never crossed my mind to judge another mother for the way she chose to feed her kid.  If it hadn’t been for Hamburger Helper, Chef-Boyardee and Tang, I might not have survived my own infancy.

So, fed is best, as far as I’m concerned.

But I had a lot of guilt about being diagnosed with cancer while I was pregnant and so I felt like if I couldn’t breastfeed, I would essentially be a worse mother than Susan Smith.

Mom guilt.  Am I right?

I wanted to breastfeed, but I couldn’t.

To make a long story short, my son was born premature, I had to finish chemotherapy and it wasn’t safe for my son to breastfeed while I was pumped full of R-CHOP.

I tried to “pump and dump,” but my body was all, “F-You.  I’m not cooperating.” 

Since starvation is, in fact, the worst of all options, I decided that what was best for my son, was formula.  And what was best for me, was to stop torturing myself.

PS….to that lady from the online La Leche support group I reached out to for advice on stimulating my milk supply, the lady who told me I should really consider stopping cancer treatment because, Breast is Best!

I still know who you are.  My social media stalking skills are on point and oh honey….time has not been good to you.

 

9.  Subscribe to a parenting philosophy

Me, today:  I’m the I Don’t Give a F*ck Mom.

The IDGAF mom is the one who can’t even commit to the long term implications of a bumper sticker, let alone a parenting philosophy.

She’s the one who sometimes feels like she’s got her shit together and other times, get’s stuck in her sports bra.

The mom who roots for other mom’s, (except that bitch from the La Leche support group….I never let go of a valid grudge), because she knows that parenting isn’t actually a competition.

We’re all just doing the best we can to roll with the punches of parenting and life and in the end, we all want the same thing.  Nice kids who are healthy and happy and who go on to be productive and kind members of society.  That’s the only trophy we’re going to get.

10.  Allow my kid to throw a tantrum in public

I really thought I would have this one down.  I assumed that I was the adult, the one in charge.  I thought my firm, but loving approach to child rearing would be thing that would separate me from the mom with the toddler sprawled out and screaming on the floor at Target.

I thought that right up until the time my son was about three and I told him it was time to leave Chuck E. Cheese and he looked at me and said, “Over my dead body.”

Ok, so he didn’t actually say that, but trust me, his wails and feet stamping and fist pounding on the Skee Ball machine made it clear that I could suck it.

So, now I just like to tell myself that he’s strong willed and that strong willed children become adults who change the world.  I high five myself and hope that he’s at least a good dictator someday.

Then, I take another helping of humble pie with a side of crow, pull up my yoga pants and tell myself that, at the very least, I’m still way better than that La Leche lady.

 

The Gazelle….

“Running is fun!” ~Psychopaths

About three years ago, I joined a women’s only fitness studio and truly, it changed my life.  I have always enjoyed physical activity, but in the past, I had a habit of joining big gyms, for like five minutes.

Then, I would get super bored, because I didn’t know what I was doing, and then I would quit….four years later….because canceling a gym membership is the tenth circle of hell.

But after I had my son and completed my cancer treatments, my body felt like it had been run over by a truck.  In addition, my anxiety, which had been a minor issue for me all of my life, suddenly started to attack more often and more viciously than it ever had before.

quote-anxietyI talked about it with my doctors and also a therapist I had been seeing for a while.  It was normal and typical for cancer survivors to experience symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.  Medication was an option, but I didn’t feel like it was a good option for me.

I just needed some way to release that energy from my body.  I began to recognize its build up.  I could feel that it was trapped, but I didn’t know how to go about getting it out and it made me feel manic.

On the advice of my Oncologist and my Cardiologist, I decided to start working out again.  Their suggestion was based more on the physical benefits I would get from regular exercise, but I thought maybe it might be a good way to exorcise some crazy while I was at it.

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At first, I bought the book, Fitness for Dummies, thinking it would help me understand how to properly use the equipment at the gym and create a worthwhile routine for myself.  And yes, I could have just asked someone, but no I could not.  (See post, I’m Known as the Death of the Party).

Anyway, I quickly realized that I was just on my way to falling into the same old failed routine I had gotten myself into so many times before.  So, instead, I turned to my community Facebook page for local moms….because if you want to know anything from where to get a good bikini wax, to what that noise was over on Main Street at 4:37am, that’s where you go….and I posted something like the following:

“Hey ladies.  I’m looking to join a new gym.  Somewhere with maybe small group classes and trainers who tell me what to do.  And if they are mean, even better.  I need someone to shout my ass back into shape.  Thanks!”

Within minutes, I began to receive a flood of responses. Eventually, I chose a new, women’s only fitness studio that had been open for just a few months.  I chose them, because I loved their body positive message.

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After my first class, I knew this time would be different.  Exercise has been a game changer for me, both physically and mentally and it’s a literal lifeline I can’t do without. And it was thanks to joining my gym, that I came to know my friend Gazelle.  (I call her this, because she has the body of Gisele, minus the height, and she runs like some kind of prancing, dainty, woodland creature).

Gazelle doesn’t teach at my studio. I know her through a game of six degrees of separation that includes both a personal and exercise related connection.  It was through that combination that I came to attend a cardio-kickboxing class she was hosting to raise money for charity.

The class kicked my ass.  In a good way.   So I began following her around to other gyms, where I take her class as a drop-in whenever possible.  She’s amazing.

Fitness is her full time job.  She has a degree in Exercise Physiology, but instead of working in a clinical setting, she likes to teach.  She gets up most mornings around 4:00am to begin her day, which includes a variety of classes taught at several different gyms.  I’ve seen here around noon-time when she’s already five classes into her day and you’d never know it.

In addition to her workload, she’s an avid runner and she’s constantly trying to get me to take it up.

“Hey, want to go for a run today?  It’s going to be so nice out!”  she texts.

“No.  Running is dangerous.”  I say.

“Running isn’t dangerous! What are you talking about?” 

“Um, have you never seen Dateline?  Or 48 Hours Investigates? There’s like a 90% chance I’ll be murdered.”  I tell her.

“We’ll be together though.”  She says.

“No, we won’t. I’ll quit after three minutes and tell you I’ll catch up. And by the time I’m attacked, you’ll be too far away for me to trip you as a sacrifice to save myself.”  


“Want to go for a run?  The foliage is beautiful!”  She tries again.

“Imagine how much better I’ll be able to see it while walking.”  I say.


“Let’s go for a run today!  Just a short one!”  She begs.

“I’d love to but I can’t.  Oh wait.  No, I wouldn’t love to.”


“Ok, I know you’ll probably say no, but how about you give running a chance today?”

“No.”


“Run?”

“I can’t, I hate it.”  

“Have you ever tried it?  Like REALLY tried it?”  

“Yes, that’s how I know that with every stride, a part of my soul dies.”

“You are so dramatic.”

“I know.”  


“Hey friend, great day for a run!”

“Evolution.”

“What?”

“If God wanted us to run, he would not have killed off the Dinosaurs.”

“That makes zero sense.”

“It makes perfect sense.  Think about it while you’re running today.  Alone.”


I’m just not a runner.

There have been many times I’ve gone out and invested in expensive, top of the line running shoes, devised a training plan and envisioned myself crossing the finish line of the Boston marathon.  But then, I just end up gardening in my expensive, top of the line running shoes and watching the marathon from a bar on Beacon Street.

And I can always tell who the real runners are vs. the people like me who go out thinking, I’m going to pound out some miles and then end up walking three minutes in, because running is stupid.

Real runners seem to glide, their strides steady and light, their facial expressions stoic, their breathing, steady.

When I run, I look like a sack full of rocks being dragged across a bumpy road as I desperately suck wind.  My facial expression says, “This sucks, I’m bored, I hate every minute of this and it’s only been half a block.”

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I will hike for dozens/hundreds of miles carrying a 20 pound backpack up and down mountains for days and I won’t complain, even once.  I will bike ride for hours.  I will Spin and Barre and Booty Build and Muscle Pump and Namaste every day of the week….but I cannot bring myself to jog a lap, let alone a mile.

So I will keep on telling my friend no.  And she will continue to ask.

I will offer to drive alongside her in my car, while she runs.  Promising to shout out inspirational quotes, throw paper cups of water at her and play Eye of the Tiger at the highest volume setting for as long as her little legs will go.

And she will attempt to trick me into running by using words like “fun run” and promising a “yummy lunch” afterward.  And I will tell her that her idea of “yummy” includes a plate of twigs and crab grass and my idea of “yummy” includes cheesecake.

3Ps

Though it probably doesn’t sound like it, I do appreciate her persistence.  I know that it comes from a good place.  She’s rooting me on, because she thinks I can do it.  She has faith in me and my abilities.  Running is a passion of hers and she wants to share it with me.  Motivation is part of her job and she is really good at it.

It’s just that in my case, there is no will to find the way.  But her constant nagging has encouraged me.  I work out harder, because of her.  I push myself every workout and when I think I’m at my max, I push just a little bit more.

But if you ever see me running, you should probably start running too….because chances are, a zombie, or a serial killer is gaining on me.
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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)