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One of my favorite bloggers—actually, sister act/writers Anita Dawes and Jaye Marie— accused me recently of volunteering. Saying “yes”. Sadly, I resemble that remark.

For heaven’s sake… and you actually volunteered for all of this? Seriously, though, nothing good ever comes easy. It’s a rule, okay!—jenanita01

We take you now to the Betty Draper Clinic’s newly completed YILT (Yes-I’d-Love-To) wing for a Volunteers Anonymous therapy session:

BARB: Hello, my name is Barb and I’m a recovering volunteer…”

How often has this happened to you? While every nerve ending in your being is screaming, “No! NO! NO!”, your lips (kidnapped by space aliens who replaced them with cloned Mrs. Brady-Bunch lips) are saying, “Yes, I’d love to…”

My mother will confirm that as a teenager, the word, “NO” constituted 90% of my interaction with the adult world. From there I went on to a human resources career of telling people why they weren’t going to get that interview/job offer/ one last chance to improve their performance/unemployment compensation.

My co-workers said I should have worn a black hood and carried an axe to work. Life was good. Too good.

Then I said, ‘I do’ and forgot how to say, ‘I don’t.’ It was as though labor and delivery of my children moved my control center from my brain to my womb.

BRAIN: “No Candy.” WOMB:”…before breakfast on school days.”

BRAIN: “NO television.” WOMB: “…after midnight on school days.”

BRAIN: No playthings which promote violence or sexist stereotypes.” WOMB: “…except for the Little Miss Americn makeover kit and the crossbow with the exploding grenade-tipped arrows.”

BRAIN: “No getting involved with the PTA, charity fundraisers, schools, or kids’ athletic programs.” WOMB: “Yes, I’d love to.”

My husband suggested I form a self-help group. The members would each take turns refusing to be the host. But it was no use. No only did each member volunteer to host it at her own house, but I volunteered to chair the fundraiser.

Of course, volunteering in your child’s classroom is just the gateway drug for the hard stuff. Before I knew it, I was volunteering for school board elections and tax increase referendums. From there, it was just a short, slippery slope to local politics. [**And yes, GrammarNazi, I know the proper term is ‘referenda’. But that just sounds stupid and you need to get a life. Maybe I could volunteer to organize a bake sale to raise money for your therapy.]

“I can stop any time,” I told my husband. “I’m doing this for you,” I assured my children as I set them down to another dinner of reheated Cheerios and swept off to meetings. “Someday you’ll thank me.”

What could go wrong?

They say you have to hit bottom before you can begin recovery. For me it was volunteering to organize The Mother of All Potlucks.

An end-of-school-year reunion for the preschool’s previous ten years of graduates? A (surprise party) ceremony honoring a beloved teacher’s 20th anniversary at the school? Hundreds of invitations to be mailed? Committees to be organized? A friendship quilt?

No problem.

How about also scheduling a swim party and outdoor potluck dinner during tornado season in the Midwest? And how about having the guest of honor veto the plan because swimming pools are too dangerous and anyway she has a previous engagement?

Still no problem for the hardcore YILTie.

The day of the Mother of All Potlucks dawned sunny, warm, perfect. 10:30, 12:30, 2:30—still perfect. 3:30—an hour before starting time—the heavens opened. Within minutes, a large boat carrying pairs of animals floated down our street.

No problem. We had a rain-date scheduled for the next week.

By next week, we’d achieved record low temperature, rumors of frost warnings, hail, sleet, plagues of locusts, and famine. Standing alone in the Taub backyard, a lone (and quite soggy) YILTie pleaded, “Let my potluck go.”

NOTE: Now that the reunion is over, Barb’s therapy is going well. But can she withstand real world challenges: the bake sale, the Heart fund drive, Pledge Week at PBS?

BARB: Yes, I’d love to.

Believe me, your mom gets it. She knows that giving birth means she can never again refuse a call for volunteers. Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies addresses volunteering and other Things They Lied About such as:

  • There is no historical evidence of any bridesmaid ever cutting off that dress and being able to wear it to parties later.
  • Vertical stripes don’t make you look that much thinner.
  • And Donald Trump was never kidnapped by space aliens who transported him to Mars for a week of extraterrestrial hanky-panky and bizarre brain surgery. “He’s the same man he’s always been,” family sources insist.

MOM NEEDS THIS PRESENT! Nothing says, “I get you Mom” like a book about kids, pets, death, and other (mostly) funny stuff. Please check out Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies [click on image for previews, reviews, and buy links from Amazon]