Zibby Owens: Thank you, Meredith, for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.” I’m sorry for having to reschedule from . I’m really sorry. I’m delighted to be talking to you today about Ask Me What’s for Dinner One More Time: Inappropriate Thoughts on Motherhood, which was basically the bible of my life here, so thank you.

Meredith Masonry: I’m glad you enjoyed it. I love your shelves and how your books are color coded, sort of. I was like, am I seeing something? Then I was like, no, there are definitely colors.

Zibby: They are, yes. I’ve had it like this for a couple years.

Meredith: It looks great. It makes an extremely pleasant viewing experience.

Zibby: I’m so glad. I’m glad I could brighten the day a little bit with that.

Meredith: You did.

Zibby: There’s so much to talk about in your book and your whole journey to becoming a YouTube sensation and all of your success in general. I wanted to start, if you don’t mind, with the worst part, I’m guessing, of your life when you were dealing with your esophageal cancer, it wasn’t cancer, your tumor, and what happened then and how it made you basically have a whole new approach to life.

Meredith: Everybody has an origin story. That would technically be mine because it did, at the time, feel like I was being punished, but it ended up being this gift. I had been sick for a while, and I just ignored it. I think as moms, we have a tendency to do that. We ignore. We say, I’ll get to it later. You end up coming last because you have to take care of everybody else’s needs. Finally after several trips to the doctor and them just upping my heartburn medication, I finally demanded a scope. I said, “I need you to look inside.” I was starting to have a problem where I wasn’t even able to swallow my food. My food was coming up. My pills were coming up. I got him to do the scope. “We noticed something. There’s a lump.” What does that mean? What’s a lump? Why is there a lump there? What do you mean? Next scope, he just handed me off and said, “I can’t even be your doctor. You have an esophageal tumor that has broken through your esophagus which is why you aren’t able to swallow food right now. You have to see an oncologist.”

It went very quickly from there. I was thirty-four, three small children, and basically handed off by a doctor who had ignored me for over a year. I panicked. I started to panic. You start to have all of these thoughts. You’re like, if I die, who’s going to do the laundry? Who’s going to cook for these kids? Who’s going to do all the drop-offs and the pickups? Who’s going to do all the jobs that I do? On top of the relationship that is with your spouse. You panic. I did a lot of closet drinking and crying, if we’re being honest. Then I also realized after I panicked and cried about all of those things, I grieved about a life that I hadn’t lived, which sounds so selfish. Part of it is selfish because you didn’t get to do the things that you wanted to do. Then people will scold you and say, you got to be a wife and a mother. It’s like, yes, but that’s part of what I wanted to do.

There were lots of other things that I wanted to do that I put on the backburner because I assumed I’d have time. Now you’re telling me after I did that part that there’s no time? That became this quiet shame I held because I was mourning a life that I was possibly not going to be able to live and then felt guilt about that because I think as women and wives, we feel guilty about everything. Luckily, the tumor ended up being benign. They were able to remove it. I had to have three reconstructive surgeries. It was this blessing because it opened up my eyes. It made me realize that if you want to do something, do it today. Do not wait for tomorrow because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. Not to sound too dramatic, but you could step off the curb and get hit by a car. There are so many things that could happen that nobody thinks about. It could be it. That could be it. I was given a gift. It completely changed my perspective on being a mom, being a wife, being a woman, eventually becoming an entrepreneur. It changed everything in my world.

Zibby: Wow. I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m happy for all the benefits that it yielded and the way that you’re able to reframe what could be a negative experience and turn it into such a positive. That’s the essential A+ therapy move.

Meredith: The thing is, it’s not like it was positive while I was going through it. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I was like, oh, a tumor, we’ll get through this. No, I cried. I screamed at God. I said, why are you doing this to me? What did I do? What mistakes did I make? I know I was probably awful to my parents. Is this punishment for that? Is this punishment for acting out as a teen? What is this punishment for? You assume, when this happens, I’m being punished for something, as an ex-Catholic. I’m a Catholic light, so to speak. As an ex-Catholic, I assumed this was punishment. God was rendering some justice on my life. It was difficult to wrangle with that and look at these kids and think — when the doctor looked at me and he said, “I have to operate now because if this is cancerous and I go in and I go to remove it and it has spread, you’re not going to be here for Thanksgiving. You don’t have that time to wait,” that was just like, holy crap. What do you mean I don’t have the time? Of course, I’ll be here at Thanksgiving. Why would I not be here at Thanksgiving? It’s August. You don’t know that. It was very trying during the time. From the moment I opened my eyes and my husband looked at me and said, “It wasn’t cancer. You’re going to be okay,” I had just this relief and this feeling of a million pounds being lifted off of my chest. I said, I’ve got to do something. I have so many things I need to do. I want to do everything that I said I was going to do from when I was five years old until now. I’m going to do all of it. I’ve taken lots of risks. I’ve been told no a million times. I have failed. I have also been so blessed to get to do so many of those things that I wanted to do from when I was a little kid. I’ll take it.

Zibby: What are some examples of those things? What’s something you always wanted to do?

Meredith: I always wanted to be a comedian in some way, shape, or form. I loved Saturday Night Live. I feel like we, people our — I’m not going to speculate on your age. I’m going to say people my age, because I just turned forty, we got a really great crop of SNL actors that ended up going and doing so many things in their careers that are noteworthy and spectacular. I got to watch that growing up. I always said, I want to make people laugh like that. I want to do something that makes people laugh. I also loved writing. I am shameless and I will tell you that I got a five on my state writing assessment when I was in high school. I was like, I’m going to be published someday. I used to write for the local newspaper. I always said, I’m going to write a book. I didn’t know what the hell I was going to write about, but I was going to write a book. I’ve been able to check some of these things off my list. No, I’ve not been on SNL, but I’d like to think that the videos I make and the content that I create is seen — I have videos that have been viewed hundreds of millions of times. I can say, yeah, I didn’t make it to SNL, but I don’t care. I’ve been able to make videos that make people laugh. That makes me happy.

Zibby: It’s amazing. That’s the comedian. I want a few more examples. Anything else? I’m trying to think now that you’re saying this, what would I put on my list if I had two months, for instance? That’s a tough question. Are there things now that you still haven’t done or that maybe have come up since that you’re like, now these are next on my bucket list?

Meredith: What is shameful is my workspace. I can tell you that I’m looking down at my desk right now and I have eight notepads with eight different lists. Every day I decide I’m going to do something else and there’s going to be another project. I already have the idea for book three. Whether or not somebody is going to buy that, I don’t know, but I already have it. It’s ready to go. I’m itching to write it. I also love to make T-shirts. I’m a T-shirt designer. I love to put my sayings and do all of that. I want my T-shirts sold in major retailers. I am pushing and working hard to do that. We also have a podcast, my cohost and I. We’d love to get this podcast out to as many people as we possibly can. It’s called “Take it or Leave it: An Advice-ish Podcast for Parents.” I have all of these things that we’re doing. It’s my goal to — always at the center of every one of my “businesses” is to make sure moms are being heard and seen and feeling less alone because the struggle is real. We do face it each and every day. I think the pandemic magnified that. In no time in history that I can think of have parents and children been locked together for such an extended period of time where they weren’t either going and being social with other kids or going to school or the parents leaving the kids with a sitter or at a daycare or whatever. I don’t think that’s ever happened. Being able to be a voice to say to women out there, hey, totally cool that you lost it today and you’re probably going to lost it tomorrow and you lost it eight times last week, none of this normal, but we’re here together. Let’s talk about it, the disaster that is virtual learning, the disaster that is keeping our kids separated from their friends, celebrating COVID birthdays, which suck, all of those things. I think it’s great that I get to fill a role in helping people feel better through this process.

Zibby: I was trying to think of other times in history. The only time I can think, and this is not to make this time — I feel like this will strike the wrong tone. I feel like in the Holocaust, parents and children were stuck. I actually, during the pandemic, thought about that a lot when I was having the feel-sorry-for-myself days at the beginning. How did people do that with the fear of death if their kids even spoke? It’s not like people were so different. They were just like us, just maybe far less electronics. It’s not like people were built differently or had more patience. They were just moms like us but trapped and hiding. How on earth did people get through that? Then it made this pandemic like, oh, for god’s sakes, so I have to mop my nice house. It’s okay.

Meredith: That’s the thing. We were given a pandemic in a time where we had Netflix and grocery delivery. I did talk about that a ton. Yes, we’re pushed together, but there is an upside to this. We’re being told to sit on our couches and watch TV. Yeah, our kids are driving us nuts, but by gosh, would I take this over other things that happened in history? Of course, every single time. Then it became so political. It became so much about everything other than what it simply was, which is we have to try and contain a virus that is spreading like wildfire across the globe. Even places like social media where we could go to escape, it became a spot where you couldn’t even go to do that because everybody was talking about those things. I don’t talk politics at all, zero. What I can tell you as a person who believes in wearing a mask when they go out in public in order to keep somebody else safe and keep myself safe and paying attention to logically what we’re doing to minimize risk, these things are important. You can’t even talk about it without igniting a massive fire on social media. To me, that’s crazy.

Zibby: I could not agree with you more. I posted about masks and everything myself a couple days ago because I had been sort of hiding out on Long Island this entire time and recently came back to New York City to put my kids back in school. This is where we live. I came back. I was afraid to come back. People were wearing masks, but not all people. I’d say maybe three quarters. It depends on the day, the time of day, where you are.

Meredith: Wow. That’s great, though.

Zibby: I was horrified. I came back. I posted it on Instagram and Facebook expecting everybody to be like, no way, that’s awful. That’s what a lot of people who didn’t live in New York said. A lot of people who did live in New York were like, we’ve been here the whole time and I don’t think you saw that right. That’s not what it’s like in my neighborhood. What are you talking about? I got such pushback. It’s not like I was alone. I was with my husband or I was with my daughter. I was like, am I losing my mind? Then the next time I got in the car, I was like, I just counted twelve people in two blocks who weren’t wearing masks. Did everybody see that? Come on. I am seeing this. Why is this political at all? If somebody were walking off a street corner, I would say, watch out, if a car was coming fast. That’s exactly what I feel like I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to scream it from the rooftops. Yet people are like, no, no, no, it’s all good.

Meredith: It’s been very weird to watch that as a mother too because we want to be like, this is going to help you. This is going to protect you. I need you to do this. I need you to listen. This is what we’re doing. Believe me, I posted one thing once, and it was such a fifty-fifty divide. I was like, whoa, okay. This is political, apparently. I don’t believe it to be political, but we’re not going to fish in those waters because I do believe that I fall underneath the entertainment umbrella. When people come to our page, they want to be entertained. That’s what it is. That’s part of my purpose. I say, okay, not a problem. We can do that. I can do my best to entertain you. It was also hard to be in that headspace when you were freaked out about every decision that you were making as a parent and a human being. We all had decision fatigue about everything. Can we go to the grocery store today? Should we not? I don’t know. I heard on Facebook that three people at the Publix had COVID. Should we even go out? I don’t have any Lysol wipes left. I don’t have spray bleach. What should we do? What should we do? Then other people who were just like, it’s not real. That’s not what’s happening. You just would shake from the panic, the questions.

Zibby: I feel like it hasn’t totally ended. I was outside today and there were kids playing on the playground. I just don’t feel comfortable with that. It’s one of those times where, back to your whole point about parenting and how we each learn how to do it, I feel like this is also magnified, the fact that you just have to go by your own compass. Everyone’s going to have different ways they raise their kids. Everyone’s going to have different ways they approach the pandemic. There’s no right or wrong. If you feel deep in your gut that if I really don’t feel comfortable sending my kids to the playground, I just have to listen to that even if my friends say don’t be silly.

Meredith: That’s the thing. I don’t think there are a lot of situations right now where you can be silly. To you, these decisions, and to 99.9 percent of the people, it matters. I got scolded. We walked past a playground. I didn’t even let my kids on it. I was doing an Instagram story because I took them to the tennis court so they could just hit the ball back and forth. Nobody was there. It was a court with a net. I walk past a playground. “How dare you take those children.” I was like, I didn’t even take them to a playground. It’s just the way people feel. Because they’re feeling this way, they want to then tell you how they feel. Then it just snowballs. We’ve been doing distance learning for several weeks. We’re in Florida which has been a hotbed for this after New York. You guys had it first. Then we had this massive spike. Our schools didn’t shut down. My kids have been begging me from before school started, “Let us go back to school. Let us to go back to school.” We are in a very small county in Florida that isn’t, knock on wood, having a spike. I started to get really torn. I was like, should I just send them back? Virtual schooling isn’t working at all. They’re not doing what they need to do. I am on them screaming constantly, “Get to your Pearson Math.” “I can’t find it.” “Well, I don’t where the hell it is.” I’m in there trying to find the folders that the teacher set up digitally. I can’t understand the apps inside of the program inside of the whatever. I’m looking at this agenda. I don’t know where any of these things are. I finally called her. I said, “I need to schedule a Zoom with you because I don’t know how to find the stuff you’re telling my kid to do. That’s not an excuse because he should probably know where this is because you do Zooms with him, but I can’t even find it to tell him to do it. I don’t know how to do it.” I technically own a tech company, so that’s scary.

Zibby: It should be intuitive enough that a bright forty-year-old woman could figure it out.

Meredith: I sat there and I was like, I don’t see Pearson Math. I assume there would be an icon that said Pearson. It’s a textbook. I know Pearson textbooks. I couldn’t find it. It was buried inside of each daily folder, not an app on the thing. I’m looking for it. Then I said to him, “I need you to do the last twelve of these.” He goes in and he did them. He’s like, “Can I go outside and play now?” It’s like, I guess. I don’t even know if I should be mad about this. We have been on the fence about sending them back. Of course, masks, hand sanitizer, talking to them about the way they need to act when they’re at school. I even asked, can I go to the school and watch the kids change classes? No. Okay, you don’t want me on campus. I get it. I’ve even thought about sneaking around the school during the day to just peek. I assumed I’ll probably get arrested for that. I think I’m leaning towards sending them back because the environment we have here is not conducive to learning. They’re not learning anything. Then you feel guilty about that.

Zibby: to convince you in any way, it’s been two days of school for my kids. I was scared to send them back. I was like, really, just for socialization? Isn’t survival so much more important than that? Where is the line? How do you balance? My kids’ schools did let me go in and see. Well, one of the schools did. I have a kindergartener, a first grader, and two seventh graders. The little guy’s school, I got to see. They’re doing a really good job. One of the schools, I was more worried about the parents on the street in pickup. They had thought everything through for the kids and not necessarily the parents. I sent an email to the top five administrators being like, here are twelve free and easy things you could do to make this pickup and drop-off better and safer. That night, they sent an email out to the whole school saying, here’s how we’ve changed it. I was like, okay, I made a difference. Good. All the touchpoints have to line up.

Meredith: Exactly, and those aren’t the things that you’re thinking about in a normal world where we’re not freaked out to be within six feet of someone. It’s so weird now. I’ve noticed I’m playing a game of freeze tag in the grocery store. If somebody comes the wrong way down the aisle and going to reach for something, I just immediately stop. I stand frozen until I can see which way they’re going to go. Sometimes people just get right up next to you. Then you’re panicked. You’re trying to walk backwards while you’re frozen. It looks ridiculous. God forbid I’m asymptomatic and you’re eighty and I’m breathing. I have my mask, but I don’t want to give you something. I would feel terrible if I found out in some way, shape, or form that I perpetuated this. I’m doing my best. It’s weird because we don’t even know how to act in public anymore. I think we’ve scared the children enough in the sense of the mask stays on no matter what. You’re not the uncool kid if you keep your mask on at the bus stop. It is totally the cool kid thing to do. Keep the hand sanitizer in your pocket. I’m going to refill those, make sure that they’re full to the brim every day when you go in. Make sure that you’re washing your hands frequently. I know they’re doing that at the schools. I know they’re making the kids wash their hands in between classes or at lunch, at least at the elementary level, because I did get an email about that. The middle and the high school, you got to hope you’ve given them that knowledge. I have a sixth grader who’s a middle schooler. Then I have a high schooler. I just have to cross my fingers and believe that my kids are going to do what we’ve been doing from day one, which is making the best choice we can for keeping ourselves and others safe. They’re kids.

Zibby: My mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law passed away from COVID over the last couple weeks.

Meredith: Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry.

Zibby: We had a whole medical odyssey with my mother-in-law that lasted six weeks, three in the ICU, three in a regular hospital. It was awful and gut-wrenching. My kids were aware of it the whole time. I think we’re particularly sensitive to norms.

Meredith: I would say so.

Zibby: It’s so crazy. I run into people who don’t know. Yes, I posted about it, but not everybody’s on Instagram and not everybody reads everything. I run into people and they’re like, “Aside from the whole COVID thing, how was your summer?” I’m like, “Not good.”

Meredith: Because of the whole COVID thing.

Zibby: The whole COVID thing affects people. It might affect you. If you would just take three steps back, maybe it wouldn’t.

Meredith: To your point, I have seen posts where people said, I don’t even know somebody who’s had it. It’s like, well, you follow me and I have friends who have had it. So you do know somebody, whether it’s just on social media or not. I have several people in the blogging space who have come down with it and have been public about having it. If you want to just talk about the celebrities that have come out, you do know. Saying I don’t know anybody or it’s not affected me is not really a true statement in that sense because we do know people. Three doors down, our neighbor, before we had moved in here — we moved during the pandemic. The whole neighborhood was on lockdown because the neighbor down the street had it. His wife never got it. His kids never got it. He worked at Amazon, and he got it. You know people. Even if you think you don’t, you do.

Zibby: Now you know me too, and I know people.

Meredith: Right, now you’re listening to this. That’s tragic. This is absolutely tragic. Any way you want to slice that, this is a tragic event that your family endured. It can’t be taken lightly. We have to mitigate risk where we can.

Zibby: I’m glad to find a kindred spirit on the whole thing. I feel like people are so different in different ways. It’s nice to speak to somebody who’s so aligned. That’s great.

Meredith: I feel it.

Zibby: Meanwhile, we’ve barely talked about your book, Ask Me What’s for Dinner One More Time: Inappropriate Thoughts on Motherhood. I feel like we’ve gotten such a sense of you. There’s so much in here like mommy martyrdom and sex and parenting. You have so many funny things and poignant things, raising an autistic child. There is a lot in this book. We obviously don’t have time to talk about it all, but it was really amazing of you to share yourself like that with readers the way you do all the time in your entertainment, so to speak. It was really awesome. I just want to ask at least, would you have any advice for aspiring authors having written this and now onto your third and all the rest?

Meredith: I would definitely say the hardest part, which most people say, is actually just starting the book. I said for a while, I’m going to write another one. I’m going to write another one. It wasn’t until I just committed to saying I’m going to put pen to paper, so to speak — you have to get started. Once you get started, whether you self-publish, because I did self-publish my first, or go with a publishing house, you really need to take whatever you’re — like I said, the idea of this book was to say to moms, you’re not alone. Here are some examples of how we probably share a lot of the same things, how we’ve gone through a lot of the same things. Then you’ve just got to figure out how to chunk that out. I looked at this book, and I think how I’m going to look at future books, as chapter books for moms because moms don’t have a lot of time, especially to read books. The Audible version of this book actually performed very well which I was excited to see. Anybody who picks up this book, you can open it to any section and read a story. This doesn’t have to be a start to finish. This is, pick it up almost like those — do you remember the books as a — I just bought my son these for his birthday. It was Choose Your Own Adventure. You could be, oh, I’ve got to go to page eighty-seven now. We’re going to meet a dragon. When I was writing this book, I thought about that.

I was like, I want a mom to be able to pick this up and say, I’ve got ten minutes. You can go to any chapter in any section and read and have a story. You don’t have to keep reading if you can’t at that moment. Then I have people who have reviewed it and messaged me and said, “I read it in four hours. My husband let me have the whole night off.” I loved how she said that. I giggled because I could feel that one in my bones. She read the book cover to cover. She’s like, “I laughed. I cried. I laughed. I cried. I laughed more. I cried more. I pissed my pants. I laughed.” I was like, okay, great. I did my job. That was my job. I did it. I felt a lot of relief and excitement and kind of a euphoria from that, from reading these reviews. I got some shitty reviews. I’m not going to lie. I don’t know if I can say that, sorry, poopy reviews. One woman told me that I am not funny and I should rethink my entire career, so there’s that. Overall, it was such a wonderful experience to read through those. I would tell any author who’s getting ready, make sure that whatever the core of why you want to write this, get to that and stick with it. Don’t let anybody divert you from that path. At first, it was like, “You definitely need to have around four hundred pages.” I said, “Of what? Nobody needs four hundred pages of this. This is a chapter book for moms.” “Moms don’t read chapter books.” I said, “They will. Every mom wants a chapter book because they don’t have time for this. We’re busy.” I stuck to my guns with that. I think it did what it was supposed to do and hopefully will continue because I really would like to see this as the book that people give at the baby shower, at those types of events. It’s the stuff that people don’t necessarily want to talk about, but we all go through it as moms.

Zibby: It’s so true. Thank you, Meredith. Thanks for sharing all this. Thanks for writing. Thanks for helping so many moms.

Meredith: Thank you. I appreciate it. I was very excited to see you holding the book and talking about it a little bit and have the review for GMA and everything. It was great. I didn’t even know you had a copy of it. Then when they emailed me, I was like, really? I ran and I found you in the feed. I went, yes, this is so exciting. It was great. Then when they told me we’d do the podcast, I thought, this is fantastic. I was so excited.

Zibby: Good. Awesome. Me too.

Meredith: Thank you very much. It was wonderful speaking with you. I appreciate that you read it and enjoyed it. That makes me happy.

Zibby: Good, I’m so glad. Take care, Meredith.

Meredith: Bye.

Zibby: Bye.