When I first discovered Friday Night Meatballs I was heading back to Oakland from Austin.
I was in-flight, clicking around on spotty wifi, when I stumbled upon Sarah Grey’s article.
My first reaction was: This is brilliant! I am SO doing this when we move back to Texas!
It was August ’14.
I knew we were returning to the ATX.
I wasn’t (yet) allowed to widely share.
As a result, finding the meatballs-article felt like a sign.
I’d decided we’d not move back to our previous Austin neighborhood (I didn’t want the Child to try & recreate old routines).
I was confident she would thrive & make friends.
Not only are 9 year olds far more friendly, at times, than their Mamas —she’d have a vast supply of potential friends in the form of *school.*
I knew it would be harder for me as I’d learned, during my Oaktown transition, the work I did could be isolating.
oh the conundrum. I love my work. My work is so so solo.
The Friday night meatballs article appeared at the perfect time and seemed to be exactly what I’d need post-move.
For those of you who’ve not read it—here’s the short version:
- Parenting can be lonely (in place of parenting I inserted moving. non-parents can insert LIFE).
- We humans are busybusy & have lost our sense of community.
- Answer: Host a weekly dinner, invite friends & strangerfriends, serve simple meal of spaghetti & meatballs.
I visualized reconnecting with old friends over gluten-free pasta. I saw myself using Meatball Dinners to facilitate new neighborhood friendships. I hatched a plan and emailed to my plan to my Austin-based sister.
This was happening.
There are no accidents. I reminded myself. I was meant to discover this article mid-flight. I was excited.
I was totally doing THIS inside my head.
And then we moved.
And then I realized, no matter how much positivity I manufactured for the Child, I was exhausted.
I’d forgotten the car-culture of Texas and how it made for a challenge to organically meet people.
Vanished was the misfit who’d presumed she’d possess the chutzpah to invite strangers in, proffer paper plates & Prego and ask ’em to dine among the boxes.
This avowed non-perfectionist couldn’t get herself out of other people’s heads.
Is this really jarred pasta sauce?! I would have made my own.
Did she really toss those pre-made turkey meatballs in the (gasp) MICROWAVE?!
I gave myself a raging case of paralysis by over-analysis.
I made it as far as clearing space…and stopped.
In a fashion which was entirely unlike me–I decided what I’d do wouldn’t be enough. I decided was too lifetired to put myself & my sauce out there for judgement.
Even though before, on any given day, I’d have yanked you in my home to play and not given a …care what you thought of my offerings.
The Friday Meatballs article was intended to remind women not to care.
To encourage them to say Hey look at me! I’m so laid back! Come over and hang! This is practically spontaneous!
Those words now read to me as far too ‘pressured perfect’ for where I was in my life.
Friday nights came and went. No gatherings. No meatballs.
And then came Crappy Dinners.
And I fell in love.
Even the name felt freeing.
This is why I wanted to have people over!
I’m no foodie. Sure I want people to not feel famished, but what *I* craved was company and camaraderie. I didn’t care if the food was (finger quote) crappy (unFQ).
I’m a believer in managing expectations and what set the food-bar properly on the floor more than inviting new friends over for a Crappy Dinner?
I’ll grill crap. I’ll have crap to drink. If there’s specific crap you WANT—feel free to bring it along!
(the above is my interpretation of the crappy-concept. my apologies to the crappy author if she’s not a fan)
Hell, I was searching for signs, the child had present me with this message on our dry erase board before we moved:
(I love you like crappy. GO MOM.)
And she’d never handed me a missive which read: I love you like meatballs!!
So that’s where we are.
Crappy dinner time.
I’m making myself vulnerable and asking.
I’m #wycwyc’ing dinner like every other damn night. I’m knowing that’s enough.
I’m inviting you to join me. Virtually. Host your own Crappy Dinner and share about it.
Eve saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:32 am
I never entertain because I am afraid people will look at my small home and think it isn’t enough.
I wonder if I could do this?
I don’t think so but perhaps.
Angela @ happy fit mama saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:35 am
I’ve thought of doing the exact same thing but the fear of judgement came in. I want it to be fun but it’s more like a stress fest .but a crappy dinner? Why not?
Runner Girl saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:51 am
I remember the meatballs article too and I wondered if you’d done it.
sarah@creatingbettertomorrow saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:51 am
I am a relatively new fan 🙂 when did you go gluten free? for medical reasons?
Allie saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:58 am
Having anyone (other then lots of small children) over right now seems like a lot to take on! I love the idea, I think others would love it too, but I want someone else to host it 🙂
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home saysJune 22, 2015 at 5:20 am
I’m too nervous to entertain. People are too judgmental. Crappy dinner? That’s for my family…
Tina Muir saysJune 22, 2015 at 5:31 am
Love this idea! Hehe so freeing like you said, and I love the idea of whoever coming…not that steve and I have endless friends here in KY haha, we are working on that, but maybe we should make a sign, see if anyone shows ;P They LOVE yard sales in KY, so maybe they will be tempted thinking its a yard sale. I love your way of thinking, I need to come live with you for a week and learn your ways 🙂
Annmarie saysJune 22, 2015 at 5:38 am
Awww I love this. My in laws “make” us come for Sunday dinner every week (spaghetti and meatballs) and while it can be overwhelming at times, it is nice to have that sense of togetherness even if I’m not craving meatballs OR spaghetti! 🙂
Susie @ SuzLyfe saysJune 22, 2015 at 5:42 am
I love to entertain, but my nervousness with regards to that is not what they will think of the food but rather my own insecurities of our apartment–it never feels clean enough (not that I do too much about that). Also, I have no friends.
Coco saysJune 22, 2015 at 5:59 am
Sounds like we’re all sitting home alone on Friday nights because we think everyone else has their shit together better than we do. What better way to cut through that BS than host a Crappy Dinner?
P.S. Spaghetti with microwave-heated frozen turkey meatballs and jarred sauce is one of my husband’s favorite dinners.
Jennifer F saysJune 22, 2015 at 6:07 am
You crack me up in a good way. Despite the food blog, almost all my dinners are done on the fly, 11th hour, what-can-I-make-with THIS delimma. I don’t usually call my dinners crap however, it’s all about the spin — hubby and hungry kids, I am about to amaze you with defrosted frozen mystery things wrapped in a kale leaf with a side of love and lemons- ENJOY!
cheryl saysJune 22, 2015 at 6:34 am
I host a dinner every month…love to prepare good meals.
If they don’t like the food, they don’t need to come back.
It’s not about the food anyway…
Pamela Hernandez saysJune 22, 2015 at 7:03 am
What about brunch or tea? If I could just get over my fear of others judging my dusty window ledges or messy office.
Valerie saysJune 22, 2015 at 7:15 am
This is how I roll. When I do have people over, which isn’t that often as we are so rarely home, I don’t feel a lot of pressure to impress any more. I used to. But I identify with the “lifetired” feeling. I want company and fun, not status or compliments on my lovely home and perfectly presented caprese. (Though seriously, caprese is so easy I might actually serve it on occasion.) but generally it’s burgers and brats, bring a side dish and a bottle of whatever and be prepared to play silly and potentially inappropriate board games. For reals.
I have yet to invite strangers, though. That is a scary step but you know what? This seems to be the year for scary steps up in here. So maybe…
Linz @ Itz Linz saysJune 22, 2015 at 7:19 am
i love this! the title intrigued me and your post did not disappoint (though it never does!) wise, wise woman!
jill conyers saysJune 22, 2015 at 8:07 am
Love this Carla! So many thoughts running through my head. Paralysis by analysis is getting me less and less often. Boom!
lindsay Cotter saysJune 22, 2015 at 8:15 am
confession, although I love to cook for others, I always feel like my food is crappy. haha. But hey, wycwyc is the way go, i like crappy anything if it’s made with love! <3
Sagan saysJune 22, 2015 at 8:34 am
I don’t feel pressured / judged, exactly, about people coming over for dinner – instead I get EXCITED about what deliciousness I can make (which often ends up being, “here Mr. Science, you cook this recipe while I entertain our guests AKA drink wine with them” :)).
I wonder if it’s in part because I don’t have people over that often. And perhaps because I’m alone all day long without children/animals – I make sure I have so much time for ME that when it comes to spending time with other people, I quite like going all out! For me, that’s part of the fun of it.
But I still like this idea quite a bit.
Jess @hellotofit saysJune 22, 2015 at 8:34 am
One of my personal training clients told me once about how lonely she felt after giving birth to her first son; even into his toddler years. Even though she had the support of her husband!
I enjoy cooking for people but always have that little/big worry that they won’t like it.
katie saysJune 22, 2015 at 8:55 am
Yes to the loss of community in parenting, especially when you work all day. The last thing you want to do is more work. I love the idea of crappy dinners, setting the expectation and just enjoying the time.
It’s the way I would and will do it!
pia saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:08 am
In NY it was so easy
Here sometimes I feel that I do cartwheels, do anything, and am still so out of place. Of course a week ago I felt great about my friendships here but sometimes I can’t leave my principles out of it.
I’m going to spend the summer writing and go somewhere I don’t have to hide my beliefs until I burst….
Lisa @ RunWiki saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:11 am
I love idea. I have a strong desire to show up to one of your crappy dinners and we can eat crappy food and have five star conversation. Whenever I go to a party or have friends over we bring a plate of pre-made food from Costco or the grocery store. None of us need or want to impress each other ( guess that’s why they’re my friends) I have cut out the people that have the need to out do each other, and it’s the most freeing wonderful thing when you do that (let go of people who drag you down).
Rena McDaniel saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:11 am
I’ve been wanting to have a dinner party and invite the neighbors since I only know 2 of them over the last two years…maybe this is a great chance to try it out!
TriGirl saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:34 am
I love the “Crappy” meal. Bring your crap! Eat some crap! Let’s talk about some crap!
My problem is that the neighbours to the right of me have an HOA, my neighbours across the street have a gardener, and the neighbour to my left spends all day perfecting her garden. And I mean, perfecting it.
Dr. J saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:40 am
Some of my fondest memories are of dinners that a large group of us had when I first came to my city. There were always new people and others moved, but we kept it going for a while.
Elle saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:47 am
I would so COME to your crappy dinner and it woudl be fun I am sure… but I couldn’t do this. Not sure why… I am too shy, I think now that we are in a small apartment.
When we lived on the sailboat, these impromptu ‘come, bring whatever you can if you can’ dinnners happened ALL the time – in the marina and out at anchor. It was amazing and so free and non-judgmental.
Geosomin saysJune 22, 2015 at 9:52 am
I love that. I grew up in small town Saskatchewan…and yes, people just do show up and people will call up to invite you over for supper and it’s just whatever they’re having in their house as it is and maybe a game of cards or dominoes afterwards. It’s very freeing. I’m not for the people randomly showing up (what if I have no pants on! lol) but I like the casualness of it all. No trying to impress with your best foods – just a welcome of company. My brother and I do this every few weeks at his place and it’s good to visit and just eat whatever and not worry about the event itself.
I’m a hermit so it’s hard to do, but we do love the times when we have a potluck with friends and just hang out. I like this idea…I’d like to start doing it and see who shows up 🙂
Jody - Fit at 57 saysJune 22, 2015 at 10:06 am
Well you have seen my posts on my eats – I am so simple I am [practically backwards! 🙂
Renny saysJune 22, 2015 at 10:30 am
i love the comments of fear of small (poorly decorated -me) house judgment. Even without inviting others into my home, I feel a sense of community and comraderie with those who shudder at this idea. BTW, I would totally sit in your floor and eat jarred sauce with you!
Fancy Nancy saysJune 22, 2015 at 11:06 am
Absolutely love the idea…My Type-A self is getting hives! Heck I think I could do it!!!
Lisa saysJune 22, 2015 at 1:32 pm
It’s never easy to make new friends…I was just talking about this very thing with a friend. It seems like all my friendships were made in my teens and twenties. And many of them were coworkers. They are still good friends but now? I my mid-30’s as a married, without kids, it’s really hard to meet new people. People are to busybusybusy and friends who have kids seem to migrate to that world where all their friends have kids their ages so it seems more conducive to friendship. It’s kind of a weird limbo area where I am at now!
Marste saysJune 22, 2015 at 2:56 pm
I swear sometimes it’s like you write the words right out of my head. I remember when you posted the Friday Night Meatballs, and I was also SO EXCITED about that idea! And I’ve done it exactly ZERO times. For me, it’s because some of the house isn’t “perfect,” and the yard isn’t finished, and, and, and. Basically, I’m still moving in (6 months later). And the really ridiculous thing is that I have friends in this area from 10 years ago and I haven’t gotten together with many of them! I could totally do crappy dinners, though. LOVE this idea.
Bonnie saysJune 22, 2015 at 2:59 pm
This is so great!! First of all, I totally understand “paralysis by over-analysis…” Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed with our own thoughts that we become paralyzed to inaction!
Also, I LOVE the concept of crappy dinners…I am not a good cook. Breakfasts? Oh yeah. Those I can do, but that’s about it. I’m also not a great host, and I can relate to wondering what people are thinking about what I’ve made/the way I’ve made it (yet somehow that pressure seems more/worse in TX? I don’t know why – maybe because my friends know I’m not a good cook, but if I reached out to strangers it might worry me more?). But crappy dinners? Who doesn’t love those?
GREAT concept. We are gone pretty much the entire summer, but I’d like to try to host one of these before we leave in the next week or two! Hope it goes well (do keep us updated on finding your tribe and getting involved in a community!). <3
Christine @ Love, Life, Surf saysJune 22, 2015 at 3:26 pm
ohmygosh yes!! I had the same thought – what an amazing idea! I’m totally doing it and then was overwhelmed with the thought of actually doing it and putting on a good “event” for people. I love crappy dinners because that’s what they are in our house for the most part! I’m inviting myself over the next time I’m in town hehe 🙂
Farrah saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:49 pm
hahaha, I love this. My friends and I have apparently been having Crappy Dinners ever since the start of college! 😛 School makes it so none of us can be bothered to look nice/clean everything til it’s all sparkly and all that nonsense. What matters most is the awesome company anyway! <3
MCM Mama Runs saysJune 22, 2015 at 4:53 pm
I’m all about the crappy dinner! And the messy house. Because we always have excellent beer. #beermakeseverythinggood
Ashley @ A Lady Goes West saysJune 22, 2015 at 6:54 pm
Hi Carla! I LOVE the Crappy Dinners idea and just went back to read her post. What a fun concept. I agree that I stress before having people over and this whole “don’t plan” plan, is so fun. I may have to share this with my group of friends and see who does the first drop-in! 🙂 Oh and it’s HOT in the East Bay right now. Ugh!
Abby @ BackAtSquareZero saysJune 22, 2015 at 6:59 pm
I am all about crappy dinners.
Lots of times when my friends and I hang out we all just bring random junk and laugh about it because non of us are really chefs.
Michelle @ Running with Attitude saysJune 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm
I remember reading the Friday Night Meatball article and thinking I must do this – only to be trapped by own fear of being judged. Paralysis by over-analysis is a great way to put it – I so want to get past it…going to take some work.
Kim Bouchard saysJune 23, 2015 at 7:25 am
The fear of entertaining is top of mind for me. I promised my daughter she could have a few friends over to my parents’ pool after graduation. Then, I won a dj at a fundraiser and decided to start throwing invitations out to all the people I owe invitations to since I haven’t entertained in ten years. Now, I’ve got 50 – 60 people coming. (I think…I’ve lost count). I’m stressing! Wish I called it the crappy graduation pool party!
karen saysJune 23, 2015 at 10:29 am
I love this idea, but the introvert in me is still is hesitant lol
I will say, some of my best times were impromptu get togethers at friend houses though 🙂
Barbara saysJune 23, 2015 at 3:47 pm
so sad that the common theme here is not feeling good enough to host people, feeling judged.
I feel that way when ones are coming to my house but oddly enough I feel nothing like that when ever I am lucky enough to have someone host me at their home. I am just so grateful for the interaction. Why cant I realize that more of us feel this way then don’t? I think I will make an effort to host some NEW friends before this month is out. All about outside the comfort zone to create growth, right? Thank you all commenters for really opening my eyes.
mimi saysJune 23, 2015 at 6:26 pm
This is what we do with all the kids who are around. Maybe someday, we invite some of our friends — when they won’t have to compete with late teen – early 20’s appetites!
Lea saysJune 25, 2015 at 9:41 pm
The introvert in me would worry about the awkward-ness of stranger-ish folks in my home. But for friends I don’t see enough??? I love the idea of a crappy dinner!!!
Leska saysJune 26, 2015 at 12:30 am
I bookmarked that article the day it ran, and had many of the same thoughts! I love to have people over! And I’m sooooo over the perfection thing, but DAMN. To find a night that isn’t already booked for my own occupants (who don’t drive) AND. One where I’m not COMPLETELY exhausted-drained from all the other nights of …..whatever?!? Well…. It hasn’t happened yet…but is still a tiny flame in the back of my brain….and ours will be “Sucky Sunday Suppers” fyi ????
Abby saysJune 26, 2015 at 11:35 pm
I love what your daughter wrote on the board. So cute.
Herbal Medicated Oils saysJuly 4, 2015 at 1:20 am
Sarah Grey saysJuly 10, 2015 at 10:16 am
What a fun post– thanks for the link! I promise you, though, I 100% do NOT have my shit together. 😉