Monthly Archives

February 2016


I’ll take anxiety for $500, Captain Obvious

February 25, 2016

“Let me ask you a question,” the granola-looking ER doc said. “Do you have a lot of stress in your life?”
I let half of my mouth turn up into a smile as my brain began running through possible replies. “Is the Pope Catholic?” “Does Donald Trump love himself?” “Is tonight’s the most dramatic rose ceremony yet?” “Can Adele carry a tune?” Was this guy serious? I mean, I have dusty fan blades and clothes I’ve fluffed in the dryer 4 times and a smell in my car whose source I can’t identify and goal pants, sir. But instead, I landed on, “Sure, I mean, I have a job and three young kids, so … yeah, there’s some stress there.”


But let me back up. Saturday night, I hosted a handful of gals I used to work with for our monthly get together, a social appointment we refer to as Pretty & Plastered. It’s basically an excuse to do what we do best: eat, gossip and laugh like morons. (Sidenote: I’ve discovered a secret species of great friend – the ex-coworker. You know enough to engage in a convo about work and hate all the same people, but you don’t have the yuckiness over late TPS reports and botched presentations.) Around 1:30 a.m. the last of the girls headed out and I considered finishing the dishes, vetoed that option, ate a caprese kabob and tucked myself in upstairs next to an already-snoozing Hank. Now, you’re reading writing from a woman who’s no stranger to the spins. After a few glasses of wine … you’re feeling a little twirly … you’re having a hard time focusing … you’re toying with the idea of maybe throwing up a little … I’ve been there. I know those negotiations. This was different. My heart was racing, and it seemed to quicken the deeper I fell toward sleep. The rapid pace would jolt me back awake and I was panicked, but eventually I dozed off.

Sunday was a Big Breakfast Sunday and Hank was hunting, so I packed up the chicks and headed to my folks’. I felt a little off but thought the coffee was just strong. There was a frantic fire drill when my brother’s lab ran away, but the canine crisis was averted thanks to a facebook page dedicated to lost and found pups. (Can I get an amen over how amazing it is when technology comes in for the assist and allows people to help other people? Hallelujah!)

By noon my heart was back to the races. I was constantly aware of how uncomfortable it was. I looked down at my fitness tracker; normal pulse. So, I’m crazy. Thus began a control freak’s worst nightmare. It was a frightening personal paradox; the more I tried to gain control, the more control alluded me. I realized that day that control is a truly illusive little shit.

When you recognize that you kinda-sorta might be completely insane, you immediately want to make contact with someone who would understand such a dilemma. So I called my mom. “You’re having a panic attack,” she said. “I have them all the time and mine started at about your age. Breathe into a paper bag, take a hot bath and just try to relax.” I’VE BEEN TRYING TO RELAX, WOMAN! But I followed her prescription like it was the crazy person’s gospel. No change.

Time to call in the big dogs. I sent a text to my friend Jackie, the nurse.

Me: Jac, medical question … my heart is racing, only it’s really not. Can’t catch my breath. Mind is frantic. Anxiety, right? Not heart attack?
Jac: That’s what it sounds like to me. What is your pulse?
Me: Like 64
Jac: Try laying down or do some yoga breathing.
Me: But no need to go in, right? They can last a while?
Jac: It sounds like an anxiety attack. You probably feel dizzy from hyperventilating. With no chest pains and normal vitals. Try to rest. You are not dying. Text me in 15-30 minutes and let me know how you feel. Love you.

[45 minutes later]

Me: My heart feels like it’s racing.
Jac: Do you feel any better?
Me: No. So sorry to text so late.
Jac: Damn, you might want to go in just to put your mind at ease. Maybe they can give you something to relax. I am so sorry Court.

And, as is usually the case, she ended up being right. After 2 hours of fearing that if I fell asleep I would never wake up again, Hank finally called it and we decided to head into the ER. My brother came to sleep on the couch just like he did the night we had Sloppy Joan. It was like deja vu, only I knew I wasn’t coming home with anything cute and snuggly.

And that’s how I came to engage in a conversation about stress in the ER in the wee hours of Monday morning, strapped up to a bunch of circle things wearing nothing but my favorite boyfriend sweatpants, running shoes and a gown. My EKG in the triage room looked fine, so there wasn’t a lot of bustling about like on Grey’s (total letdown). They eventually moved us to a room and, i gotta tell you, it was so romantic. Right across the way was a woman, whose face I never saw, who loudly vomited for the entirety of our visit. She only paused long enough to shout, belligerently, “You’re laughing at me! Quit laughing at me!” Judging by the sounds coming from behind her curtain, I’m quite certain that no one was laughing.

My doc was a kind gentleman who looked like a bit of a hiker. He wore field pants and comfortable boots and spoke wisely and calmly. He ran through all of the possibilities and my health history – never proposing what I was beginning to accept as my diagnosis; I was a touch of the crazy. After a chest X-ray, urine sample, blood tests and EKG, it was decided that I was fit to be set free and my ticker was tocking just fine. It was the most expensive checkup I’ll probably ever get. But I’m forgetting the best part … the prize I did get to take home …

As we pinpointed anxiety as the culprit for my spastic heart (that wasn’t really spastic at all in the land of the normal people), the outdoorsy ER doctor made an offering. “Would you like something to help calm you at this point?” “Yes.” I said without consideration. I was going on 26 hours of feeling like I was seconds away from delivering the opening monologue at the Oscars. It was either take the pill or start pulling my hair out. My mistress had a name, and it was Ativan. She came on slowly but once her effects set in it was goodnight, Gracie. We left the hospital in the early morning hours.

I woke up at 3:30 Monday afternoon feeling like Snow White. I hadn’t slept that hard since I occupied the bedroom with no windows in our college house. Were the kids at school? I didn’t know. Did I tell my boss about my absence? Hadn’t the foggiest. But my heart was beating regularly and the sun was shining.


It seems odd, perhaps, to write about experiencing something so wacky, but the truth is, I’ve discovered that once you put your crazy out there, everyone starts to share that they have a little bit in them, too. Turns out that losing control completely is a somewhat popular pastime and I’m not the only working mother of three who feels 2 burritos short of a combo plate sometimes. Will it come back? I freaking hope not, but I’d guess yes. Can I stop it? The doctor said that eating well, avoiding excessive caffeine, exercising and meditating can help, so those should probably bubble up to the top of the ole’ agenda, but largely I think it’s just something that’s bound to pop up with the full moon.

The next day I had an email from my dad saying he liked the blog post about him and Mom from earlier in the week. And then:

Subj: Blog
From: Dad

On your panic attack, your mother and I have both been through that.  We both still fight it.  She does more than I do.  A counselor once told me that “Reality is what you perceive things to be”.  The panic attack is a screwed up sense of reality.  It is like in Divergent when they subject her to facing her fears.  She is in a total panic and then she realizes that it is not real.  Deep breaths and meditation can help.  You’ll figure it out.

Love you!


To which I responded:

Re: Subj: Blog
From: Courtney

Thanks, Dad. I love you! And thanks for the great genes there, bud.



The parent trap

February 22, 2016
I felt the rage bubbling up from my toes, like fiery, spitting lava poised to take over the unsuspecting, sleepy towns below. No one in the meeting saw my point; and my point was more than just valid, it was the resolution. I parted my lips and a harsh bite of passive-aggressive participation lurched out before I could retrieve it. I had to neutralize the situation quickly. “I mean, I guess I don’t know what I’m talking about, really,” I continued without thinking, “They treat me like a mushroom; keep me in the dark and feed me shit all day.” That was the first time I realized I’d grown into, not just my father’s daughter, but my father.
When I discuss my folks with people who’ve never met them, I really try to offer a description that does them justice.  They are the revenue-generating leads in a daily reality show on a station that not enough people get, in my opinion.

Dad is the love child of Frank Barone and David Letterman. He’s that guy who remembers jokes that take 30 minutes to tell and has an analogy for absolutely everything in his back pocket at all times. Some of my favorites include, but are not limited to:

We’re off, like a herd of turtles.
That went over like a pregnant pole vaulter.
I’m finer than frog’s hair.
[When someone toots] Your voice sounds different, but your breath smells the same.
Even a blind hog finds an acorn every once in awhile.
Like a fart in a skillet.
And that’s the name of that tune.

The funny thing is, even though he’s said each of these (and so many more) one-liners at least a trillion times, my mom still giggles like a smitten girlfriend every single time he says them. It’s one of the reasons they’re so magical together.

While the guy can be endearing and light-hearted, he also has a short little fuse that’s always on the brink of imploding. Don’t get me wrong, my father is a gem. He would give you the shirt off his back, but take our Friday night euchre games, for example. He is always one trumped ace and one ask of who led what away from a controlled cursing fit. His hair gets a little wispy and his eyes get loose and agitated and he lets out an exasperated sigh and JC-bomb in one impressive, labored exhalation. On occasion he throws a little chuckle in with the exasperation to let you know he’s annoyed, truly, but it’s all in good fun. When I would come home from college for holiday break, I would inevitably call Rog at 2 o’clock in the morning to retrieve me from the neighborhood watering hole. The drive home would be a delicate dance of him harnessing his annoyance and me quieting my drunken verbal diarrhea. But always by the next morning he was retelling the early morning events with a forgiving twinkle in his eye. He’s like a giant Sour Patch Kid and I find it best to just bite in and enjoy the sweet rather than dwell on the pesky sour pellets.

He’s a beast of habit and brutally defensive, which is pretty tough when you’re dealing with our immediate family; a cast of unforgiving sarcastic smart asses. He despises being critiqued and that’s pretty much all we do when we get together, laughing hysterically at the expense of each other, one sibling or parent at a time. But above everything and anything else, Dad is a protector. He didn’t get involved often when I did ridiculously stupid things growing up, but when he did it was because I scared him. He loves big. He was a writer. He makes me laugh. He drives me crazy. He doesn’t settle for “good enough”. He is the example I measured every man against in my younger days.


On a 70-something degree day, with the windows down halfway, an unapologetic force much greater than myself entered with the sunshine and filled the car. It overtook my limbs – gaining control first of my left foot, then neck and finally my right hand, which began patting in a rhythmic cadence against my thigh to the 90s pop beat. I was humming and tapping and abandoning any regard for street cred or general stoplight decency. That was the first time I realized I had grown into, not just my mother’s daughter, but my mother.

If you take everything I wrote above and flip it from black to white, you have my mother. Of all the people in this world, I think she gets me the most. To help paint the picture, I’d say she’s a hybrid of Lucille Ball and Nora Griswold (Clark’s mom). She trips over blades of grass and has fits of laughter that literally paralyze her. She likes to snap her fingers, tuck her lips in tight and shake her ass to Cher and Dolly. She’s patient and curious and unbelievably supportive. I often call her the Olivia Pope of mothers because the lady is a fixer. Give her a land line, internet connection and a pair of magnifying glasses and she will doctor up your dilemma in 30 minutes flat.

My mom was never the mom who french braided my hair and threw incredible theme parties. That’s just not her. She’s a buyer, not a crafter. She would never come clean my house but she’d sure as shoot find someone to come do it at a great price. She showed me that it isn’t necessarily selfish or cutting corners to outsource the tasks you don’t enjoy. Sometimes it’s just a prescription for sanity and more quality time with your friends and family, and that’s more important. She makes a mean ass potato salad, never sweats the small stuff and starts at least 2 of her hypochondriac-ridden sentences every time I talk to her with, “I was reading this article, and …”.  I can’t imagine my life without her if for no other reason than she laughs at all my ridiculously dramatic stories. The biggest joy is watching her with my kids. I can’t imagine anyone better suited to be a Grammy and the girls simply worship her.

The stories I could tell you about this gal … like the time she wrote a heated letter to “President Busy” (a type-o meant to be “Bush”) … or when she ran through a field screaming in horror over the snake relentlessly pursuing her (her shoelace) … or the time she attempted to clear a horse jump on foot, hooked her toes and face-planted on the other side … would all make you wet yourself, but it’s all just part of the charming package. No one laughs at her quirks harder than she does and it’s taught me that spending time feeling embarrassed is a tired waste of feelings.

I have her hands. JoJo has her hands. I love that I see part of her with me every day and as I type this post.


So, why the sap-soaked love letter to my folks? Well, it all started the other day when my brother sent a picture of Mom. She was helping him demo some walls at a building they own and, though he told her not to use the crowbar, she did, got it stuck in the wall and lost her grip as she struggled to remove it, falling to the ground. Typical Marilyn. Instead of helping her up, my brother took a picture of her first to document yet another graceful display from our beloved matriarch. Typical Matt. The image tickled my memory and reminded me of how I misjudged the location of my desk chair just the day before and fell to my knee before rebounding. “You guys,” I’d said, “I’m turning into my mother.” And it occurred to me that we’re all just slowly, day-by-day, trait-by-trait, habit-by-habit, fall-by-fall, becoming our parents. Maybe we always were our folks, but we hadn’t really settled into ourselves enough to see it until now.

Somewhere between my first exasperated rant to my own children about the simple act of turning off a light when they leave a room and the sixteenth time I torched dinner on a busy weeknight, I learned to stop grimacing about the progression, and start giggling. I mean really, there are worse things. Actually the things my mom used to do that mortified me as a cocky teenager are now the most endearing to me as a mother myself. And it’s not like I can deny it. I’m blinder than a bat (Mom), I curse like an old pirate barmaid (Dad) and I have no grace at all (Mom). There has to be some advantage in knowing what all those traits look like 30 years from now thanks to them. I have a crystal-clear view of what’s coming – every stumble, every rant, every handicap.

When I warned my folks this post was coming, their responses were as predictable as a crotch clip on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Mom just laughed and made some comment about falling down all the time and Dad sighed in anticipation of the impending character attack. When I offered more of an explanation of the premise in an effort to calm his concerns, his eyes stabilized. “You’re talking about the parent tape,” he said. “Sure.” I responded. “It’s the idea that you’re exposed to these mannerisms and words in such a constant frequency that eventually they infiltrate your own mannerisms and words.” (He knows a little bit about everything and his mind is a steel trap = another reason I love my dad.) Exactly. So science has beat to the punch here. Those intelligent bastards.

Evidence from the past few years would suggest that my particular parent tape has officially infiltrated my camp. The changing has commenced. From telling the same story 3 times to the same person, always with the same gusto as  if the events just transpired, to demanding to see Jeopardy so I can make fun of the dweeby college kids, I am embracing the transformation to a full-fledged version of the people who raised me.

And it doesn’t stop there. I see winks of my parents in my JoJo. I can actually picture the torch of traits being modified ever so slightly and then passed on to the next klutz in line. Poor girl. Never stood a chance.


Whole30 No. 3

February 17, 2016

This post is just … oh, you know … a few weeks past when I wanted to put it out there. I guess that’s the nice thing about “working” for yourself. I totally flaked on that deadline and, oop! Look at that … still employed.

On February 3, Hank and I called it good on our third Whole30. With bellies full of buttery nuts, toot-triggering vegetables and sticky, dried fruits, we recorded our wins and began our steep descent back to all the decadence we’d gone without for a month. Hank sailed through, about 6 pounds down. I said farewell to 4. We felt good. We felt in control. We felt lighter.


Then came February 4. We’ve discussed this before. Intentions. Specifically, how intentions melt in the presence of a warm homemade chocolate chip cookie. And who can blame those intentions, huh? It’s not just a cookie, it’s kryptonite; with butter and sugar and molten cocoa kisses. The negotiations started early after this round. First, I was going to be compliant during the weekdays and then let myself have treats on the weekends. Then I was going to try to be compliant but also track calories again. Then I was going to eat all of the Girl Scout cookies. And that’s where I’m at today.

Despite the epic fail following our purge, it’s never for nothing. Each time we do it, I think I learn something new about my relationship with food and how my body reacts to it. This January I confirmed my suspicions about sugar and how it pops my pimples, wrecks my dreams and hurts my guts. Knowing is half the battle and ditching dessert is the other.

During our run, I started a list. You know you’re Whole30 when …

  • A dried apricot tastes like a freaking elephant ear from the county fair
  • You know all the compliant Larabar flavors by heart
  • Said Larabar becomes a 3 o’clock ritual not to be tampered with
  • You combine almond butter, bananas and eggs 50+ ways, always expecting it to taste like a cookie. Never does
  • You have to go to the ladies room … no, like right now
  • Macadamia nuts become “worth the financial splurge”
  • You go through 2 cartons of Costco eggs in 6 days
  • You manipulate plantains into chips, cakes, tortillas and airplanes
  • You feel compelled to smash that cupcake in your friend’s face
  • You use “wine is just made of grapes” as a bargaining chip
  • The words “reset” “detox” and “clean” find their way into most conversations
  • Your abdomen feels like you put a gas hose in your mouth
  • You spend enormous amount of energy analyzing whether you have tiger blood
  • You’re really into Sex With Your Pants On
    You know what Sex With Your Pants On means
And I discovered some new recipes that made this the easiest – dare I say most enjoyable – Whole30 yet.

Whole30 Happy Muffins from Sole Searching Mama


Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin from Taste and Tell


Plantain Tortillas from eat your beets (Served iwth carnita meat)


Chicken Parma-Paleo from Predominantly Paleo

I could have had more success, sure. I hit the dried fruit pretty hard. I drank a lot of fruit juice and made a lot of smoothies. I discovered the beauty of banana waffles with coconut butter on top. But you know, it’s all a lesson learned and another step on a journey to dietary peace.

*Shout out to our Whole30 facebook group and the awesome support and recipes. You gals are so strong and inspirational.


Pass the bottles

February 10, 2016

“What are we going to do with this extra cabinet space?”
[sniff] “I don’t know.”
“Dude, seriously … that’s like a whole shelf!”
[sniff] “Yeah”

I pulled them down, one after another; Dr. Brown’s, Born Frees, Playtex Drop Ins. I placed them in a bag and told myself it was just for safekeeping. I was just passing them over to another mommy for a few months. But the truth is, they aren’t coming back. I am bottle-free and that’s hard to swallow.

The semi-sane side of me realizes that I’m experiencing a dark hole of emotion based on a cylinder of plastic with a fake nipple on top. I think of the 12 gazillion pieces I had to take apart, put in dishwasher cages, wash and then air dry, and how much I detested those freaking things at 3 in the morning. But then I think about 3 in the morning. I think about those dark, quiet moments when the only sound was a tiny little face, slurping down a few ounces in the still of our family room. The little piggy noises and the curl of those precious little fingers around mine. The post-bottle burping snuggles. Hearing those sleepy, drunken slobbers in your ear and feeling cold chunky cheeks against my shoulder.


When you feel pretty confident that you’re family is complete, everything has the potential to feel like an ending. The baby looks like a mama orangutan in her swing. Ending. She bellies up to the family table in a booster and the high chair has to go away. Ending. She starts wearing clothes with a “T” on the tag. Ending. She demands condiments for her chicky and hot dogs. Ending. Her outfits stop coming with bloomers. Ending. It’s depressing. I’m human. It stings.

But the bottles got me deep. Deeper than the bloomers. Maybe it’s the fact that it feels like, yet another, string cut from their dependency on me. I’m pretty sure Sloppy Joan could muster up a GoGoSqueez or granola bar if I were incapacitated for any reason. She doesn’t need me to snuggle her in the crook of my arm and look down lovingly as she sucks down her supper. She much prefers stuffing her face until she’s had her fill and then throwing the plate onto the floor.


I recognize the crazy in my tears. I realize where I see the end of a journey, many moms would argue there’s cause for joy. “We’re so close to being out of diapers,” Hank says. “It’s just about to get easy.” But easy is so overrated, right?


Sisters say what? (Vol. 2)

February 3, 2016

“Only dads and people who play basketball can ride motorcycles.” – Spike

“We went through a plant that tickles and bickles you. And then we came back to nothing but monkeys.” – Spike

“I’m gonna have to make underwear out of toilet paper like they did in ’99.” – JoJo

“You can’t run cuz you’re wearing wedding shoes or .. I guess they call them boots.” – Spike

“I try to think about happy things like looking in mirrors when I’m all pretty with makeup. Or good things. But it always turns out into bad dreams, like Cookie Monster is eating me.” …[5 minutes and still going]…“OK, this is how it works, I’m awake and playing, then I throw my toy on the floor, then I fall asleep to a dream about Grover or Cookie Monster and then it’s scary and then I wake up and I still know I had that scary dream.” … [10 minutes and still going] … “So I hold my bottom and come into your room fast like this [demonstrates tiptoeing while holding bottom]. Then I’m fully charged. Then I set up my bed, lay down, go to sleep, close my eyes.” – Spike
Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 9.44.37 PM

“What the hell?!” –JoJo

“And then she said, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” – Spike

“Is that the board JoJo bizzeled all over?” – Spike

[doing my hair]
“OK … it’s all nice and hairy for you. Do you want it like just hairy or like blob hairy? It’s kind of already blob hairy.” – Spike

“Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy … Do you hear what I hear?”– JoJo
“It’s a Jesus, when he died on the car.” – Spike

“Dad, do you know Jesus Cross?” – Spike

“Mom, you know I call Aunt Diana, Indiana.” –Spike

“I like Christmas for the joyful love.” – Spike
“And our freedom!” – JoJo

“I just went poop and pee. But I don’t wanna talk about it.” – Spike

“She wouldn’t stop crying. So we decided to torture each other.” – JoJo

“I wear these underwears on Tuesday because they’re as warm as your covers.” – Spike

“When I blew my snuffy nose, I had splatters all over my face.” – Spike

“Sometimes when I sit down too long my underwear gets tricky on my butt. I don’t want to say butt.” –Spike

“What’s so sugary is the charms in the … in the luck.” – Spike

“I’m just doin’ my thing.” – Spike

Spike: You know what the man on the moon is?
Me: No.
Spike: Critters.
JoJo: You mean craters!

“I like it so much I’m never gonna untry it.” – Spike

“Thusie Adam” [= enthusiasm] – JoJo

“You know why it smells like a fart in here? It’s because I put vaseline on my lips.” – Spike

“We need a mini van. The doors open automagically.” – JoJo

[Gasp] I swallowed my gum. [Sobs] I don’t wanna fart bubbles!!” –– Spike

“You know who sings this? Barack Obama.” – Spike

“The pond is really sold in ice.” – Spike

“Have you felt sick all day? I felt sick for tons of years.” – Spike

“Dad!!! I need you to get in here and push on my belly so the poop will come out!” – Spike


How to throw a dinner party (the way grownups do)

February 1, 2016

On the last Saturday evening of January, on an unseasonably mild Midwestern winter night, 10 30-somethings gathered together for one super-fancy dinner party. It began at a fund-raising auction. My brother raised his paddle and clenched an in-home dinner with an accomplished local chef. He kindly invited several of our friends, who were at the fundraiser that evening, to join him for what was eventually named Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party. This entire post would be just about the food – which was practically indescribable – except that the behavior of the guests – who have known each other for nearly 20 years – was just as entertaining. I think we can all use this experience as a learning opportunity.

5 Keys to Throwing an Elegant Dinner Party in Your 30s

1. Set an attractive table.
One might give a great deal of thought to the presentation of the tablescape; Perhaps selecting elegant linens, coordinated chargers and china, and dynamic flatware. There are artists who get paid to craft striking centerpieces. Many hosts will consider contacting one of these artisans or, at the very least, consult Pinterest.

With Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party, I received a text from my brother the Friday before, that read: “Can you be at my house at 9:30 tomorrow morning? They’re dropping off a table.” See, Matt didn’t realize this would be a “sit-down dinner”. I guess he kind of figured the chef would just throw the food up on the bar and we would pick at it like a football party. While he was out, and with the delivered table set up in the basement, I scoured his bachelor pad for something to put in the center of the black tablecloth. A poinsettia from the holidays with 4 petals left? A Glade scented candle? I left it bare and sent him a text on my way out the door: “Consider stopping for flowers or something. Think black and gold.” He didn’t stop. There were no flowers. It didn’t matter.

The table

2. Attention to ambiance.
Upon entering your home, you want your guests to feel like they are part of something special. This can be achieved with a signature cocktail, warm embrace, prompt removal of their jacket, soft lighting and elegant background music.

At Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party, we all spent a handful of minutes mingling around the kitchen before eventually shuffling down to the basement for vodka cocktails (cranberry and Red Bull, respectfully) and a pre-dinner screening of Straight Outta Compton. Once they announced the first course was en route, Matt made the decision, as any seasoned host would, to pause the movie and turn up the 90s rap playlist already in rotation for the service staff upstairs.

3. The menu is everything.
For a true culinary journey, pick a theme for your event menu. Tell a story from salad to the sweet ending with thoughtful fare and exciting, innovative offerings.

For Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party, several suggestions were thrown out (the advantage of having an exceptional chef on your guest list who can offer such ideas). After nothing registered on my brother’s face when I mentioned, “An evening in Paris,” “Seafood Reimagined” or “Molecular Gastronomy,” our friend the chef dreamed up the concept of pub fare. The children of this vision arrived in front of us, one after the other, as 5 plates of the most palate-pleasing food I’ve ever had in my life. People always say that after a good meal. But this was it for me. Like, you know when you’re so full you fear you’ll vomit but, given the choice between puking or missing one more bite, you go for the bite? This was that. Not to mention Hank and I have been living in Whole30 land and, even though we had 3 days left, we decided to indulge. You guys, I would compare this cheat to fulfilling your one celebrity gimme. It was the Ryan Reynolds of cheats. The specifics are a haze of duck fats and sou vides, but we’re talking about chicken wings drenched in bacon marmalade, flavor-rich pork jowls in a tender red pepper and chive crepe, a Wagyu beef burger with a fried pickle, red onion jam and life-changing ale cheese, a delicate crab cake atop a honey-jalapeno mousse and, the grand finale, freshly fried donuts with espresso gelato and a chocolate spoon. It was a filthy food porn movie, with more moaning and “mouthgasms” than any one wooden table should be subjected to. I think we were all changed a little bit that night.


4. Engage in polite conversation.
Before the event, it can be helpful to consider a list of topics to keep the chatter going at the table. Make connections between your guests and use this as an opportunity to catch up with your friends.

The problem with Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party was that we brought together a group of friends who enjoy each other’s company just a little too much, and each other’s company is typically accompanied by a healthy amount of cocktails. It’s easy to take your buds out of the bar, but not so easy to take the bar out of your buds. My brother was raised by the same man as me, and that man makes quick work of dirty words. We spent our childhood stepping around F bombs, and tiptoeing past JC land minds, until we eventually learned the value of just using the colorful vocabulary ourselves. Matt and I have never found a curse word we didn’t like and, once the wine and laughter started flowing, so did our swearing, and so did the guests’. When I think of those poor, helpless servers just trying to put the plates of food down in a sophisticated, synchronized fashion as Matt pumped his fist and chanted, “1-2-3 … hell yeah!” Or how the peanut gallery let the “holy shits” justifiably roll off their satisfied tongues upon their first bites … Without any verbal confirmation, we collectively abandoned any attempts at being classy somewhere around the start of the first course. It was a dangerous combination of comfortable company, glasses of drunken grapes and happy bellies.

The ladies


5. End the evening with a nightcap.
Offer your guests a warm coffee with a hint of Bailey’s, finger of aged scotch or bold brandy as a delightful way to cap off an enjoyable evening.

You know in a movie, when they use a montage or flashbacks to reveal a vital element of the plot? Well, that’s kind of what the day after Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party was for me. One long, weird montage. At some point, a giant teddy bear was brought out of the toy room and I remember people in various states of cuddles with him at different times. I remember my husband demonstrating he could french braid on my friend Jenn’s hair. I remember much talk about ubers and really bad dancing. You know, the kind where it feels like you’re Channing Tatum’s wife in Step Up, but you’re really just shuffling side to side? I remember combining beautiful wines in one glass, with no regard for the integrity of their bouquet or Wine Spectator score. We all know how evenings like that can be; once the train picks up enough momentum, it’s really hard to stop it.


As I take my second round of Tylenol and reflect on my behavior at Matt’s Fancy Fat Kid Party, do I feel embarrassed? I mean … I’m gonna go with no. Sure, there is a time and a place to button your top button and play the game, and that can be enjoyable in its own way. But what fun is life if you don’t give yourself permission to snuggle with the giant teddy bear while watching Straight Outta Compton once in a while, too? You can’t take yourself so seriously. After all, what’s the saying … “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” It was a merry time indeed.

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