It all started when I found out I was pregnant with the little kid. Somehow I ventured onto my Babycenter Birth Club and my whole world changed.
I have never been a "girl's girl" and Babycenter reminded me of why. The hormones, the whining, the cattiness, the "look at me" drama (all eyes on ME at all times, thanks), the mushy/cheesy/squealing crap over seriously dumb shit. I stuck around for an eye rolling good time and the occasional nugget of wisdom regarding my pregnancy (more nuggets of crap than wisdom, trust me).
But then I noticed that there were some women on there that were also rolling their eyes, who were also outspoken, articulate, and pretty damn funny. We ended up coming together over some drama and starting our own conversation thread. We started talking all day every day and soon decided that we enjoyed cursing, sex toys and drug talk too much to be involved in a wholesome environment like Babycenter, so 15 of us broke apart and started our own group.
And as they say, the rest is history. I think that was April of last year and I can honestly say that these internet friends (I don't even consider them that anymore, these are "Real Life" friends) have changed my life. We exchanged close to 70,000 emails in our first year...among 15 of us. Do the math on that. We were together ALL day EVERY day.
We comforted each other through pregnancy woes and scares and became a real support network when one of our own lost their August baby. We distracted each other from Post Partum Depression and from crying, colicky, screeching infants. We inspired each other in "Clean Sweep" challenges, mocked Flylady together (while aspiring to her organized greatness), and motivated each other to diet. We were each other's lactation consultants, baby gear experts, research panels, fashion stylists and therapists. We have driven each other to laugh until peeing our pants, to cry for each other in sadness and happiness, and to share our most embarrassing moments and biggest fears.
We sent a fridge full of groceries to one member who got in a car accident and a spa basket to another. We sent Wal-mart (yes, we know Walmart is evil) giftcards to two members so they could have amazing Christmases. We remember our lost little one with lit candles, donations to March of Dimes and other memorials and are celebrating his soon-to-arrive little brother with shower plans, advice and giddy excitement. When the Big Kid was being sent to the children's hospital because of a suspected life threatening illness, I found a package on my door with a quilt that had a square for each one of us and a note explaining that it was to bring us comfort while we needed it until it was to be passed on to the next member. I have never felt so lucky (while feeling so unlucky) or so loved. The quilt is in it's 3rd Chaw home right now.(Turns out the Big Kid had just decided to quit pooping.)
We're also ambitious and a little crazy. We've started many projects: finding and planning a commune in Saskatchewa, an alphabet book, a website (we even have a domain), plans to get on Oprah/Ellen/Maury (Maury would have us), a Chaw Greatest Hits CD and a Chawling Lullaby CD, a recipe book, Chaw friendship bracelets, Chawling rock tribute, I can't even list the rest. We even successfully had a small cameo on the show "Shark", our celebrity chaw got the prop guy to put the name "Chawbacon" on some deli bags. So, we're famous too.
We have our own lingo with words like Chawlicious, Yeechaw, Shockachaw, HuDge, Chawbacon Jrs. (big kids), Chawlings (little kids) and there's much, much more but if I told you I'd have to kill you. We also have a mascot, Sidney, who is pictured above. (Okay, so maybe we're a little dorky. Just a little)
We've had individual meet-ups all over the country. A bunch of us decided to meet in San Antonio on the spur of the moment. I couldn't afford it and it was one of the craziest things I've ever done, but also one of my fondest memories. Staying up all night in our suite giggling, letting our kids take over the hotel lobby, cruising around San Antonio on a water taxi. Three other girls got together in Vegas and partied for a weekend. One of the girls is vacationing here for 3 weeks starting Wednesday and I'm so excited!
Don't get me wrong, we are women. We can be bitches. Because we are so personally invested, we occasionally read things wrong and get crappy, or snap at each other. Feelings have been hurt. Debates have gotten heated. But it always works out. We always come back to loving each other.
This is getting long and you're probably wondering why you care. You care because these women helped me find my online voice (and addiction), have reminded me that relationships with women are vital, and have helped me come to the realization that you can be an amazing woman and still feel like a mess. You also care because you are a captive audience and if you want to know about me, this is a big part of it.
The reason this comes up now is because yesterday the Chaws made my day so sunshiney it was blinding. I have been thinking seriously about getting into children's photography but have been unsure of myself due to lack of official experience and no extra money for props or marketing materials. Yesterday I received a package with a feather boa, a tupperware container, and an adorable little pouch with a cupcake on it. Inside the pouch was a beautiful handmade card that said:
We want to wish you the absolute best. We are behind you 100% and totally
believe in your talent, ability and motivation. Break a leg!
We love you,
The Chaws xoxo
In order to demonstrate our support, please accept our gifts. You MUST eat
the cupcake-it contains "Chaw love".
Looking at the cupcake, I was a little skeptical because it hadn't traveled well. However, with the Chaws, there is an excellent chance that it was a "special" cupcake (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and no way was I passing up that opportunity. When I broke it open, a little plastic wrapped capsule fell out and inside the capsule was $200.
(There was also a "Jesus is King" button that the cupcake wallet lady seemed to think we needed, which was appropriate because we are often encouraging each other to "Find Jesus" when things get bad. We range from the absolute devout to the self proclaimed anti-Christ, so this inside joke means different things to each of us but amuses all of us. I think it does anyway, if it bothers anyone she hasn't spoken up and that never happens)
I think this is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me and I will probably never receive a more thought out or prettily presented package. These women have given me more than money to buy some props, they have given me the confidence and support to reach for a dream. The props are like the feather in Dumbo's hat for me. I could probably do this without them, but with them I will go into this feeling like I'm flying instead of jumping.
So although it isn't funny (and you come here for funny, I know), these women deserve a most public thank you. Since I'm in Florida and have no mountain tops to shout from, this will be my mountain top. THANK YOU CHAWBACONS. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING. THANKS FOR YOUR FRIENDSHIP, SUPPORT AND LOVE. THANKS FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT. THANKS FOR THE "SPECIAL" CUPCAKE. THANKS FOR BEING YOU.
(and to everyone else, we'll get right back to our regularly scheduled programming. I promise I'm not turning all sweet and mushy on you all)
And everyone who wasn't a chaw when it was formed said you all were bitches. BOY WERE THEY WRONG!
The Chawbacons sounds like an amazing group of ladies and I had tears in my eyes reading your tribute blog to them.. (I'm a little hormonal for *other* reasons but this is touching)
I have seen some of your pictures and you should go for it! I am so glad you have a group of ladies to back you up like that, you deserve that and so much more!
Now make me laugh so I can stop crying.. damn hormones.
Salty tears & a heart full of pride and love.
omg - I am absolutely bawling right now. I can't even speak. I'm hiding from my kids.
Ashley - you are more than welcome. You know how I feel.... and I loved every minute of it.
I knew you were waiting for the right moment to introduce the Chaws and knew that you would get that right moment sometime this week. I'm so glad that it meant THIS much to you. You certainly mean THIS much to us (and me!).
I love you!
Break a leg.
I am seriously crying right now, you bitch. You are so welcome. We love and adore you and know that you will be successful in each of your endeavors. Chawbacons or Die!!
Oh Ashleypants. You keep me smiling every day. Thank you for being you.MWAH!! xxoxoxoxox
Love you Ash!!!!!!! Thanks for making me cry, now I need to go reapply my makeup. Damn.
I think I felt tears welling up when I saw the picture with the gifts. That really is a sweet gift and you are lucking to have such great friends...internet or not.
Have a great weekend!
That was beautiful.
I am proud to call you my friend and will be incredibly proud to say..."I knew her before she was famous." You can do it and will do it.
I love you, Ashleypants.
Oh my goodness...this story brought tears to my eyes!! How fortunate you are to have found one another.
I remember watching the Chaws form on the board, but the thread moved WAY TOO FAST for me to keep up.
Also, an article was pub in the NYT in the past two months about moms who start photo businesses. I recall there were some useful websites mentioned in it (websites to facilitate organizing and promoting your business). And, NYT also ran a story in the past month on SLR digital cameras, and Consumer Reports in the past couple of months rated them. Good luck!
I'm so happy for you, your good friends, and your exciting, new endeavor!
Your post today really hit home with me. I too was a part of a BBC birth club and we started our own board two years ago. We all have babies that were born in 2004. There are about 40 of us and we have been together through everything, good and bad. Three year olds, as you know, can be a challenge. We have to support each other or we would go crazy. Internet friendships are real friendships in every sense of the word.
I was introduced to your blog a couple of weeks ago and it has become a part of my daily routine. Thanks for the entertainment! The memorial to "Stripes" had me in tears laughing so hard.
Stay at home mom to MacGregor, 3, and Callahan, 8 months.
PS. I live in San Antonio and I am glad you picked our fine city to have some fun.
What a great group of girls you have on your side! You are really lucky.
Good for you, Ashley. Friends like that are to be treasured no matter how you found each other. All the pics of your kids you've posted on the site have been terrific. You've got the talent and now you've got some fundage, so run with it!! Best of luck!
Jodi -- Chawbacon wannabe
I love seeing everyone else's comments here - like the people that we don't know...
I have been basking in this sweet lovey feeling all day long - well, at least until I realized that the girl that we're caring for this weekend has a head full of freakin' head nits!!! I just had to come back and read your Chaw tribute post again..
what a great circle to friends!
Ashley, I am in tears reading this (for the 3rd time!) You captured our "essence" (whatever the hell that is) so perfectly. So beautifully! We really are blessed to have found eachother, and to know we have lifelong sisters... 15 of them!
You are beautiful, funny and so talented. I am glad you are touched by your cupcake, it was our pleasure! We are proud of your drive and enthusiasm, and you WILL succeed!
MWAH! to you, my Chaw sistah! I really do love you!
First off, I seriously love your blog. I laugh my dang butt off all the freaking time when reading it.
I also belong to the board the Ashleymagnum-pena is speaking of and I've been on the recieving end before. I seriously would be so lost without my internet friends (really, I begin to tweak if I go to long without them). Anyways, I'm glad you have a such an awesome group of friends too.
Erin an occasional BBC poster.
I'm glad you have such an awesome group of friends/support system!
I also belong to the group that Ashleymagnum-pena belongs too and I seriously would be lost without my "internet" family (really, I begin to tweak after so long without them).
It's amazing what you can find on the internet these days, isn't it? You can claim the Chaws are responsible for all the evil in the world, but I always knew better.
P.S. Congrats on the new business!
Wow, what a great story! It's amazing what brings people together.
I know I'm a little late commenting on this, but I just recently discovered your blog and am catching up.
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