I Moved the Cone

Ice Cream is Life

Taboo

Y’all, I did something taboo at my kids’ school. Don’t worry- I didn’t punch another mom in the face or bump a kid with my car. Not that day, at least. I did something better. Shhh… don’t tell anyone… I moved an orange cone.

The Cone

You know the cone: tall, orange, rubber, yells “stay away!” without saying anything at all. They are inanimate traffic cops, directing people without a voice or whistle or night stick or handcuffs or a taser. I don’t know how these cones achieved the level of respect that they have, such that no one ever challenges their authority. But in my mind, someone was made an example of with the use of magic and explosives and everyone who saw it was scared shatless and then they told everyone they could to do WHATEVER the orange cone wanted them to do.

The Situation

So there I was- sitting in carpool to pick up my babies. It was a very special day. Most days my kids are shuffled from school to aftercare where they do everything but homework until around 5:30 or 6 when either my husband or I are finally able to pick them up. Not this day. On THIS day they were car riders. And we had PLANS. We were going to get the Lord’s ice cream at Chick-Fil-A. But first I had to wait on my kids and get the eff outta Dodge.

I waited for about 5 minutes once I inched my way through the line and finally found myself in front of the school. Finally my precious cargo was loaded up. But there was a problem. The car in front of me wasn’t moving. It had to! I didn’t have any other way out! To my left: a school. To my rear: cars. To my front: the stupid car that wouldn’t move… but… to my riiiight: an orange cone… I had a thought. What if I were to open my car door, step out of said car, and move this cone ever so slightly so that I could get around the car that had now been holding me hostage for 10 minutes? What would happen? Would I get yelled at? Arrested? Would armed guerrillas jump out from the woods behind the school and cart me away? I don’t think anyone really knows what would happen! But I was so tired of waiting. I didn’t take the day off so I could hang with my kids in the carpool lane! It was time to take matters into my own hands.

The Act

I put my car in park. I opened my car door juuuust enough to slip out and I moved the cone ever so slightly. Then I quickly got back in my car and escaped. I felt like I was in the final scene of Texas Chainsaw Massacre where the lone survivor is maniacally laughing in the car while getting away. I fully expected at any moment the road would open up and take us all. It didn’t. Y’all! I MOVED AN ORANGE CONE AND SURVIVED! Not only did I survive, I got away scott-free!

So in Conclusion

You can move the cone! Look, I know that people put cones out for reasons. But sometimes those reasons are stupid and get in my way. I am very grateful for the cones at my kids’ school because they keep kids safe and they keep people straight who make bad decisions with their car. But that day… that day I was desperate and without anyone to tell the driver of the dumb car in front of me to GET OUT THA WAY, I took matters into my own hands. I moved the cone.

Take A Step

Surprise!

When I became a mom I was surprised by quite a few things. For instance, I was surprised that I could still function enough to walk down the aisles of Target on just 30 minutes of sleep. Of course, I didn’t remember why I was there or how I got there, but I was there, nonetheless. Another surprise: how much poop could come out of a tiny, adorable baby body. You know the chocolate fountain at Golden Corral? Yeah… it’s like that. But with poo. Exploding poo. However, nothing surprised me as much as waking up from a years’ long parenting-induced fog, realizing that my whole identity had to be rediscovered and redefined.

My Name Is…

I didn’t lose myself over night. Like the proverbial frog in hot water, my sense of identity died a slow, sneaky death. I used to know exactly who I was and what I wanted out of life. I mean… I was ERICA! Short in stature, tall in sarcasm, with the misplaced attack instincts of a chihuahua. I was the same Erica who did exactly what was expected of me until my first abnormally large tramp stamp tattoo at the age of 21. The same Erica who moved to Italy by myself for the summer after I graduated from college because the idea of going back to my hometown made me feel like I was suffocating. The same Erica wanted nothing more out of life than to make everyone laugh.

Who Am I?

Yet, there I was, holding my new baby boy, my three-year-old little girlie by my side, a supportive husband, and I had no idea who I was anymore. My confidence was gone. I felt like an empty shell. Nothing that I used to enjoy made me happy anymore. One day I stopped singing in the car at the top of my lungs. One day I stopped watching Napoleon Dynamite on loop. Don’t get me wrong: I adored being a mom and still do. But in my mind, I was not good enough at it. Good moms spend every waking moment with their babies. I had to leave my babies every day. I had to pay my bills. I had obligations. I had to go to work. The career I used to be so proud of now made me cringe like the creepy guy in high school who followed me around trying to smell my hair. The career I worked so hard to build was now making me deeply and painfully resentful and I didn’t know how to fix it.

A switch flipped. The demands of my new family construct AND trying to excel in my career were suddenly overwhelming. I was no longer the person who I used to know so assuredly that I was. I couldn’t manage the simplest tasks without crushing exhaustion. I just wanted to close myself in a room with my babies and lock out the world.

Who was I? A mom? A wife? I was a person without a first name. I was no longer Erica. I was Roman’s mom. I was Bella’s mom. I was Rick’s wife. Erica was invisible. If I happened to have five minutes to myself, what would I do? Scrap book? NO! Cry in my closet. That’s what. I had no hobbies. Outside of my daily routine I was lost. How long had I been like this? I felt like I’d been in a time-warping fog and now the fog was lifting and I had to reorient myself to my surroundings like an alien abductee dropped in a crop circle naked and afraid.

Now What?

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was at a crossroads. I could have stayed in my fog, accepted it as my new life, and moved on without my sparkle. I could have wanted to change but done nothing about it and become bitter and mad. Or I could have done what I DID. I took a step. Then another. Over the next seven years I just took steps. From the outside looking in I’m sure I looked like I was grasping at straws. I wasn’t. I was on a quest.

I opened an Etsy shop making jewelry. Had I ever had any jewelry training? NO! Was I terrible at it? YES! But it taught me elementary business ownership skills. It taught me how to market online. It taught me social media networking. It occupied my curiosity for a year or two until I decided one day on a whim to start my first blog.

I knew nothing about blogging. But I knew I had a message and I knew I wanted to give other women a quick escape of funny and happiness. I wanted to give other parents a place to mentally go to for 10 minutes while they’re hiding in the bathroom and laugh and relate and not feel so alone. And I started to learn to write. And writing led to my passion.

After two years of writing and posting and joining groups of other writers I discovered what I should have been doing all along. Comedy. One day I realized that nothing was standing between the dream I’d always had in the back of my mind and my reality. I always idolized comedians. But people didn’t do that in real life! People graduate from high school then go to college then become accountants or engineers or whatever pays the bills. Not COMEDY. But… if my idols could do it, maybe I can, too.

Erica. Erica Benefield.

So, at the age of 36 I started a new career. Me. Erica. Wife, mom, comedian. It’s not easy. I work my day job, take my kids to practice, have dinner with my family, put my kids to bed, kiss my husband and go to my shows. There are a lot of nights when my anxiety sets in and I try to talk myself out of performing because the safe thing to do would be to stay at home with my family and be normal. But when I get out on the stage, I remember why I do it. When I hear my kids tell their friends that their mom is a comedian, I tear up. My kids have no idea what I do for my day job but they know what comedy is! I get to help other grown ups forget the demands of their life for a few minutes a night and it’s the best job in the world.

If you’re still reading this painfully long, rambling post, here’s what I want you to take away: Life has a way of throwing off your plans. It’s ok. It doesn’t mean you’re failing. It could be your greatest success. You don’t have to give up your dreams because you’re a parent. Being a mom or a dad doesn’t mean YOUR life is over. If you feel stuck, do SOMETHING, anything to get “unstuck”. Take a different path home. Go to a new restaurant. Make a bucket list of things you’ve always wanted to explore and cross each one off the list. Kids need to see their parents happy and healthy with their own joys. Just take a step. It’ll lead to another step. And don’t use your family as an excuse. Take them on the journey with you. It’ll make the ride so much more fun.

What’s your step gonna be?

Why We Wine

Adults Know All

When I was a kid dreaming of becoming the famous person that I am, all the grown ups around me seemed to have life figured out. They had it together. Bills paid, scheduled car maintenance, starched clothes that looked professional and well-planned, mortgages, taxes, family organizational skills… all the adults were killin it as far as I could tell. All of them. {Except the guy that owned the store that we all knew was a cover for his weed business. But that guy served a different purpose.} I always assumed that there was some magical age where I would start wearing matching socks and get regular oil changes. I’ve since learned that there is no magical age. Turns out, grown ups in the ‘90’s were just really good at faking it (wink, wink).

Reality Bites

Based on my juvenile observations, adulthood wasn’t supposed to be chaotic and overwhelming. Finding love was never supposed to lead to heartache. Parenthood isn’t supposed to feel impossible. BUT IT IS, IT DID, AND IT DOES! Let me tell you a little secret if you haven’t discovered it for yourself already: the grown up world is rotten with the stench of reality. A reality that would be much more palatable if it weren’t falsely presented as perfection to us as kids through TV and movies, leaving songs such as “Purple Rain”, “You Outta Know”, and “Here I Go Again” my only hint as to the truth of reality. [And, I don’t know about you, but I thought “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers was really a song about a secret Asian man, and that’s just ONE example, so you can understand the messages of song were lost on me.]

For example: Walt Disney is a lying arsehole. I’ve never met a guy who would attempt to slay a dragon for my honor. I HAVE, however, met a few guys who would named their man hose “Dragon”. If Sleeping Beauty (AKA, the princess I most identify with) met a guy that her family warned her against, who lied and manipulated his way into her heart, knocked her up, then left her for someone younger and more ethnically diverse, I’d say he was describing my first marriage. It would be a warning to all little girls to look out for liars. And it would be useful. But that’s not what he did. So I thought all guys were protective and chivalrous… turns out, some of them are… noooooot.

Also, whoever wrote the Brady Bunch is a lying arsehole. Families don’t resolve their differences in 30 minutes or less. I didn’t know that and didn’t understand why my sister and I were still arguing after 31 minutes. I have one family member who has been holding a grudge against me for YEARS. But, then again, we don’t have Alice with her quick quips to help us see the light of reason.

Additionally, the guy who started Pinterest: AN ABSOLUTE ARSEHOLE. Pinterest is the sole reason women everywhere feel inadequate upon seeing our results after trying to bake from scratch the impossible candy-filled unicorn mirror glazed cake. And don’t get me started on the homemade charcoal mask that takes the top 6 layers of your face off. Could we get a social media platform that bakes the cake for us? Cuz that would be great. Oh, wait. Hey, Uber Eats! How you doin’?

The last example provided in this super-impactful, news-worthy, and vividly-made point: the male creator of Wonder Woman is a lying arsehole. When I run around in the same outfit as Wonder Woman, no cool music plays, I don’t gain any super human fighting skills, and people threaten to call the police. Also, I’m still waiting on my magic lasso, which, by the way, has yet to even SHIP! I bet it doesn’t even work.

All these realizations have culminated into a big let down. You know how you felt when you learned that Santa, the Easter Bunny, AND the Tooth Fairy were all made up? Yeah, like that. I feel like that every. single. day.

It’s Fine

Because reality has been a bit different than I imagined, I’ve found ways to cope with the misalignment of expectations. For example: “It’s fine.” I say that a lot. It’s such a versatile phrase! Shat goes south but I’m trying to convince myself that it’s survivable- “it’s fine”. My husband picks a restaurant I don’t really want to go to because he’s super healthy and I just want fried chicken bathed in honey mustard and chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert but I don’t want to disagree because I’m a hopeless co-dependent AND I want to pretend like PMS isn’t ruling my life right now- “it’s fine”. My son strings gum out of his mouth and then wraps it around his neck before I can stop him- “it’s fine”. My daughter makes muffins and dumps half of the batter on the floor and now the dogs are “cleaning up the chocolate chips”- “it’s fine”. My dog gets scared by a passing dump truck and poo’s on the floor minutes before our house warming party… you guessed it! But sometimes “it’s fine” doesn’t work.

Now What?

We don’t have to go very far to hear what we’re doing wrong. We don’t exercise enough. We exercise too much. We shouldn’t dress like a school marm. We should really dress more conservatively. Have a career. Don’t work so much. Let your kids sleep in your bed. Don’t. You’ll kill them with your fat rolls. Don’t hug your kids too much… they’ll spoil. Discipline your kids, but not THAT way. Count calories, count fat grams, count carbs, eat carbs, don’t eat carbs, kale is all you should eat, and cauliflower is pizza now. Take meds to manage the stress, don’t take meds to manage the stress. I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ANYMORE! Who does? Who can tell me what to do cuz I have no fuq’n clue.

We are doing our best some days just to keep everything going. Relationships, careers, parenthood, expectations pile up like the unfolded laundry mountain and it’s easy to find yourself crying in a closet firmly grasping a bottle of champagne (hey, at least I keep it classy). But what if we were all more honest and forgiving with each other? What if we stopped hiding behind the fake perfection of staged social media pictures and smiles and showed what it’s REALLY like to be a grownup so that maybe it’ll be a little easier for those who will go through this stage of life after us? What if by sharing the hardships we all learn how normal it is to cry in the closet, go on mini-vacations to Target, or hide from our kids in the bathroom for just one moment of peace so that the next new mommy who comes along doesn’t think she’s doing EVERYTHING wrong?

You’re Enough

What’s rare to hear is what we’re doing RIGHT. Have you ever received a genuine and sincere compliment that has stuck with you all day, maybe for years? How great is that feeling?! What if we did more of that instead of breaking each other down so that we could feel superior for one second? We are more prepared for any journey when someone who’s already traveled that path tells us what to look out for. What if we did that for each other more often?

Yes, life is hard. Some good, some bad, some stupid… But there’s so much humor and beauty and good in the imperfect. If you ask me, that’s where the stories are. So, grab a glass of wine and accept the chaos. And maybe snap of picture of it. #whywomenwine We’ll swap war stories.

At Least I’m Pretty Podcast Episode 1

Kristen joins me for the inaugural episode to discuss all the domestic activities that I needs to work on.  Can I successfully follow directions on Pinterest?  No.  But I’m pretty, so there’s that.  Also, Kristen explains how to properly cook lasagna in a crockpot!  Apparently, it IS possible to not burn food in a crockpot?!

If you have a mom friend who needs some help, share!  Or if you have a mom friend who needs to feel better about her own abilities, share!  Or if you wanna laugh, share!  Just SHARE!