Opening the invitation, I’ll admit my response: “Oh no. Not one of “those” events. You know….events where pretentious people gather and pretend to care, all the while making clear how important they are by name dropping, house dropping (not as exciting as when it involves witches with stripey hose and flashy shoes. This type of house dropping is mentioning aspects of your home (s) that make your affluent status apparent.) And Pedigree dropping.(In which you introduce yourself as if you are your professional accomplishments. In my world- Pedigree is a dog food that produces digestive “issues” in my Shorkie. )

My husband is a successful sales exec. Sometimes we attend “those” events. Occasionally, I’m surprised to find someone equally not all about impressing but about connecting….often times- not. These events involve gowns and layered spanx induced and lack of oxygen. I think I have PTED- post traumatic event disorder. Between pretense and my own insecurity- (hello- my house is a blessing- and messy. The most “droppable” part is a giant master bath….. and bathroom talk is one of those things you are supposed to avoid in “polite” society. Or, so I hear. When it comes to that moment in introducing yourself and pedigrees start flying? I duck them like flying monkeys.”I’m a mom. ” Just doesn’t feel like it compares to the doctor princess barbie rocket scientist I’m usually seated next to. Yup. “those” events? The 6th circle of hell.

I thought of a thousand reasons to bow out. (I am a justification ninja. Just sayin. I have skills. I have responsibilities. Not to mention: I have: excuses.)

But…. There was something about the invite that held potential as being different. This was a donor event. For an organization I’ve loved for 23 years. An organization that had helped me learn to parent, to lead and to trust…..(if you haven’t guessed by now- yes- it was a MOPS International donor event- held during convention. Several years ago.)

Part of me wondered if it would be a high pressured sales pitch. The truth is- what we’d already given was a stretch….. I didn’t want to feel like I hadn’t/couldn’t do enough. I didn’t want to feel intimidated or “less than” in what had become a safe place for me to be: enough. Valued. Respected. The other part of me wondered if maybe…. Just maybe- it was a gathering of people who also loved MOPS…. How bad could that be?

I (mostly !decided to go. (Mostly because it made me feel special to be invited. A little like an invitation to sit at the cool kids table in junior high. Yes. I felt guilty and stupid about that, of course.) I rsvp’d. But- honestly? I wasn’t positive I’d go or not. I figured they’d never notice if I didn’t show up. I did pack an outfit I thought would work. Just in case.

The day of the event- I was nervous. I was also: busy. (I hold a MOPS Volunteer Staff position- convention – now called MomCon-During which is  MVS work in hyperdive.) During an hour break in my schedule, I walked into a shop. That’s when I saw it: a satin leopard fit and flare trench coat. I tried it on. Suddenly, I felt like I ruled the world. “Okay… In this jacket- I can attend that event.”

I checked the price. Oy.  I should have known. It was at a swanky hotel shop….. Way over priced, even if it fit perfectly and was fabulous. I bought it anyway. I felt like it was my golden ticket to acceptance. (I’m emotionally a perpetual 15 yr old. I know this.) To this day it’s the most expensive item of clothing I’ve ever bought.

I know…… Some people go into these situations wanting to blend in…. Well… I want to shine. The more nervous I am- the more animated. The more plumage I apply…. (This was a leopard print peacock of a jacket- trust me. Total plumage.)

I climbed aboard the bus to the destination feeling a bit overdressed. (It was a bit more conservative than flashy crowd. Oops.) But- my rule of insecurity: when in doubt-better to be over than under- dressed. I put on my chatty if you’re not the most important person be the most charming funny, witty- persona (thats what it was in my head, trust me.) and wore it like armor.

By the time we arrived. I was really wound up. Introductions were made. Without realizing it- I was suddenly THAT chick. The one swinging her arms and talking with her hands as loudly as her voice,
(Which is always the loudest. Thank you Italian genes.)

Which was fine. Except – the event was on a small river boat.

And as we were standing- chatting. Servers were weaving their way through the crowd to serve beverages and hors-devours (which auto correct wont correct. But, you know what I mean.) which is when I swung my arm as I turned in my satin leopard jacket and suddenly felt what could only be a handful of um…… Butt. Out of the corer of my eye- I saw a server. A male server. I jerked my hand away and tried shove it in the pocketless jacket. I wished I’d worn something ummm. Less memorable. I walked to the other side of the boat hoping to blend in or fall overboard. (We were below deck….but there was a slim chance I could be sucked out a porthole if a tornado suddenly blew in…. No such luck.)

I felt heat rise from my feet to my head. Italians don’t really visibly blush…. But I think I did. That, or I was smoldering.

The only thing I could think to do, was pretend it didn’t happen.

And sit down and shut up. Or at least, sit on my hands. Which is what I did. No one knew I was dying of horror inside.

I carried on. (waiting to see if the police were about to swarm the boar and arrest me for groping some server…) But slowly i realized that no one appeared to be either impressed by, or afraid of me. They also weren’t into “dropping” anything. They were just… There. Because they love MOPS.

I heard stories of how they each got involved and why they stay involved. I met people I’d only known as “celebrities” “Board Members” and staff…who turned out to be: people.

There was no guilt laden sales pitch – it was a thank you and here’s what you’ve helped accomplish thing. One of my favorite preachers shared a message that resonated so much that it still affects my daily life. (Thank. you, Pastor Gelinas- your message on call and respond gave me permission to share my walk with god exactly as I live it…. Call and response that’s what I share here…..his message that night was from his book- “Finding the Groove- Composing a Jazz Shaped Faith-if you haven’t- you should read it. Just sayin.)

There was no swat team when we docked. (Ha! Get it? Swat?) Honestly, the “goosing” may not have been noticed by anyone but me. The servers’ face never changed.

I still have the jacket. I think I’ve worn it one other time – for a speaking engagement- you know- when you want to be the center of attention- because its your job…..vs when you want to get away with goosing some college kid at a donor dinner.

Best part? Not long after that awful wonderful night….. was asked to become a member of that board of directors. I thought it was a joke.

It wasn’t.

I love it.

At all MOPS events- i have a personal mission-to make every mom ( person, really) feel accepted and welcomed like I was, at that donor dinner. I know what insecurity feels like. I know it wears both hidden faces trying to blend in and not be noticed or embarrass themselves so they can be accepted….and rambunctious faces who goose servers in their attempt to be noticed and accepted. And then there are people who are comfortable in their skin and want to connect with others who are equally passionate about family and mothers. I want every mom to feel like a rockstar.

Because she is.

MomCon is coming up in October. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to meet: YOU. I can’t wait to hear YOUR MOPS story. Look for me. Say hi. I’ll be watching for you, too.

But I promise to keep my hands to myself. I’m a little more comfortable in my skin than that now…. Mostly. But I usually do have some form of leopard print on…. A scarf. Bag… Shoes….something. It’s my little reminder now…. To chill out. All “events” aren’t circles of hell….. Some? Are little tastes of heaven;)

If I’m going to see you in Kansas City- speak up! I want to know!

So…..what’s the craziest thing you’ve done as an adult to try and “fit in” with a certain crowd? Satin leopard overpriced jacket? Nervous goosing? Please tell me I’m not the only one…..

Dear lord- women (and a few men) from all over, are getting ready for MomCon. I pray that anyone who’s afraid or nervous would hear my experience had know that we’re all in this together- on a common mission,. This (and all MOPS events) are not “that” kind of thing…. They aren’t about dropping things…they’re about picking up things…. Lifting up people… Truths, encouragement. Prepare us now, and help us to reach out and connect then. In Jesus name amen. Ps lord? I still feel bad about goosing that kid….. It was an accident, I swear!