Cocktail Napkins Don’t Lie

By 8:15 a.m. this morning, I’d already cried.  Cried and decided that it must be my lot in life to be a failure as a dance team mom. 

Let’s set the stage, shall we?  DD2 is a newly-minted member of the 8th-grade dance squad.  Yes, she’s still in 7th grade, but tryouts were in March, and she’s in.  Just in time for the spring fundraiser–selling bedding plants. “We,” and by that I mean I, dutifully sold 20 flats of flowers.  I even felt pretty good about that right up until I found out about the family that sold 100 flats.  Yes, really.

Today was flower pick up day.  Which I’d known about for around a month.  No problem.  Adventure Guy would simply go by to pick up the flowers after he finished coaching soccer and picking up DD2 from her church confirmation retreat.  He’d be at the school anyway to drop her off at her dance squad choreography session.  Then, he could drop the flowers off at home before driving to a neighboring city where he’s working at the marathon expo, recruiting runners and vendors for our own city’s marathon for which he volunteers.  And, why would Adventure Guy be doing all this?  Because I’d be in class from 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. today–demonstrating my craziness and his eligibility for sainthood.

All was well until Thursday when we got an email from our squad’s fundraisingchair.  All families that sold more than 10 flats of flowers were expected to have a representative at the school from 7:00 a.m. until noon.  Yes, count them, five hours.  With two days’ notice.  I told her I could be there from 7:00 to 8:30 before leaving for class, and that Adventure Guy could be there from 11:00 to noon.  I took the dead silence as an affirmative response to my plan.

So, at exactly 7:00 a.m. I pulled into the school parking lot. And proceededto stand around in the parking lot watching the nursery workers unload the plants for another 40 minutes.  Then we stood and watched while the squad leader counted the flats with the vendor.  Then we stood while she read out individual orders so that we could fetch the flats one at a time.

Finally, at 8:15 we finished sorting DD2’s order.  I asked for our original form so that I could determine which flowers needed to stay for Adventure Guy, who planned to meet some of our customers there and which ones I could take with me to save him from having to make two round trips from school to home.  The squad leader handed it to me, but then said, “Oh, you can’t take those now!” when I picked up the first flat to load in my car.

“Um, why not?” 

“Because we haven’t finished counting out all the orders.”

“Well, you counted all the flats to make sure we had what we ordered before we sorted, and I’ve made sure I have what I ordered.  I need to take these now because I have to leave for class.”

“You were supposed to have someone here the whole time! Everyone was supposed to, and there are a lot of people not here.  You can’t take them, and I don’t have time to talk to you now.”

I wish I could say that my next response was completely cool and controlled, but I’d be lying if I did.  I rarely get angry, but I was so angry at the lack of communication about this whole process and the unreasonable expectations, I could barely give a civil response as I thrust the form back at her.  Then, I started crying as I walked to the car to leave. 

I hate crying in public.  Hate it.  I’m too much of a control freak to show that kind of emotion.  That control compulsion also explains why this hit me so strongly.  I’d managed to work all this stuff out, despite the challenges, and silly things were making it all fall apart.  Silly things meant that Adventure Guy, who already bore much too much of the parenting burden today, was going to have to do more than he should have with this part. Plus, it’s just bad when a day falls apart prior to 9:00 a.m.

So, I regrouped.  I approached the head fundraising lady and plead my case.  Somewhat tearfully, I’m embarrassed to admit.  She informed me that “not even exec is allowed to take their flowers early.”  I explained the two-day notice for work detail and the lack of communication regarding the pickup process (all a result of our being the new kids on the block).  It didn’t matter.

I went and apologized to our squad’s fundraising mom because, ultimately, I understand she was just following the rules.  Then, I went back to the car, called Adventure Guy to leave a “yes, your wife has gone over the edge” message telling him he’d have to pick up all the flowers, and cried all the way to school.

Where I ranted about the events to my class.  Fortunately, it’s a small seminar, and two of my classmates are also colleagues who know how untypical this type of behavior is for me.  I’m going to try to take it as a positive that at the end of the day my professor asked me how I was feeling about the “flower incident.” He did seem to care.

Where I went really wrong, however, was in not sending Adventure Guy to the pickup in the first place.  He arrived right after his soccer game, having gotten the frantic message, and they’d finished sorting.  He called the ladies who were planning to meet us later, sent their flowers on with them, and took the others home.  Then he called to talk me down off the ledge.

Now, I’m just sorry I let such a trivial thing get me that upset.  And, though I felt like everyone was completely staring at me at the time, two of my friends assured me it was not that big of a deal, and that I didn’t really come across as the crazed woman I imagined I did.  We’ll just hope that’s the case.

Because I have to work with these women for the next five years.  Seriously, I’m having a hard time imagining it.  And, one thing I know for sure?  It totally would have been better to just write a check for the $100 we earned in this process. Last year one of my friends gave me cocktail napkins that say, “Stop me before I volunteer again.”

I think I’ll be putting those to good use soon, and not just as a pithy reminder.



Filed under Balance, Kids, Life in General

10 responses to “Cocktail Napkins Don’t Lie

  1. Rachel

    Oh. My. What a nightmare! Our girl scout cookie folks used to be a bit like that — and one of the horrible temptations for me on the volunteer front is to want to be the person who organizes things because inept organization bugs me so much.

  2. Mimi

    Oh my goodness. Those women were completely unreasonable and ridiculous. Two days’ notice is absolutely unacceptable, especially considering you and your husband were both very busy serving your community in other ways. Take the sage advice of the cocktail napkin, or like Rachel said, become the person who organizes things so that they are, well… organized. I like the cocktail napkin idea better. Two years as PTA pres, my job here is DONE, thank you very much, and the extent of my school volunteerism is bringing a baked dish during teacher appreciation week. For what it’s worth, I think you did a great job handling it. I probably would have told them I was sorry for inconveniencing them, but since notice was so short and organization so poor, I was taking the flowers and my husband would see them at 11:00. However, your way didn’t score you any new enemies, and I admire your self-restraint. xo

  3. I do believe I need to pour myself a glass of wine to calm down from reading this, because I would have been right there with you crying in my cocktail napkin reminding me NOT to get myself into these messes 😉

    As Mimi wisely pointed out – I do believe community service is what you DO, like, all the time so do shake off the guilt and just smile and act like nothing at all happened.

    And next time, just write a check.

  4. Virginia

    A required five-hour volunteer stint? At two days’ notice? I don’t know whether I’d have screamed, cried, or both, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have come out looking — or feeling — any better than you did.

    Honestly, I don’t think that kind of thing is trivial. The level of disrespect it shows for the volunteers supporting this organization is breathtaking. I also find that when I’m overcommitted and think I’m holding it all together, and then I screw up something and it all feels like it’s falling apart, my reaction can be a lot more intense then it would have been if I’d been a little less stressed out and made the exact same mistake.

  5. Gag, don’t you feel bad for a second, because those people were completely unreasonable.

    I’m glad my kid’s band director simply passes a hat before attempting actual fund-raising. As he put it; people don’t want the candles, and neither he or the parent volunteers want to deal with the candle company.

  6. Good story. Maybe you should have fundraiser lady read this blog entry.

    Just found your blog and laughing at how much it is similar to my wife and our life. I’ll have her read it too!

    Hang in there. You are not alone out there! haha

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