“I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends” (Everything In Life Is Easier If You Have A Tribe…)

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When we moved back to Oklahoma, we were technically still in our 30s. We were 39 – it was the month before we both turned 40.

We had produced all 5 of our kids by then, with quite the age spread- ranging from 16 down to 2.

There was certainly a wide demographic of potential friends to choose from in our area, but for some reason the women I clicked with were the mothers of our youngest kids, so most of our friends were around 5 years our junior.  Not necessarily in chronological years, mostly in “parent-age*

*You can calculate your “Parentage” roughly the same way you calculate your dog’s age.  1:7 ratio –  So oftentimes it seemed like we were 35 years ahead of our peers.

For starters, you and I were the only ones with teenagers – most of our friends’ children were pre-schoolers.  That fact alone created a deep and wide chasm in the vast topography of our child-rearing experience.

But it didn’t prevent us from spending endless hours with those novices-in-training.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, we formed a tribe.

We spent long leisurely afternoons at the park watching the kids play; we were the first families to open the neighborhood pool on Memorial Day Weekend and they had to kick us all out on Labor Day – reluctantly dragging our towels, floaties, ice chests and whiners.

But, we made our worlds a bit brighter every Friday afternoon when we took turns hosting “Happy Hour” on one patio or another.

I remember how mortified we were when our little ones would shout their goodbyes to one another in the Catholic school carpool pick-up line,

Bye!! SEE YOU IN A LITTLE BIT AT HAPPY HOUR!!!”

Their merry salutations often caught the ear of a few of the more conservative parents, the Principal, a couple of teachers and the occasional Priest who happened by.

Most of the time I relished my role as the Senior Mom, but there were times I caught a little flak from our friends when our sassy teens were around, but I didn’t mind too much.  First time mommies are a judgey lot.

It’s okay. I still cringe when I recall some of the ridiculous parenting views I held in my twenties. For example, my opinion on “diaper covers” for baby girls:

I don’t know why people even bother having a baby if they aren’t going to dress it properly.”                        (A very immature ginger snapped, circa 1987)

The grim reality of parenting quickly straightened my priorities out, didn’t it?  14 years later our sons were lucky if they had a diaper on at all   They ran around like MOWGLI in A JUNGLE BOOK, barely wearing a loin cloth.

So, I certainly had it coming back to me in spades. I deserved what I got alł those years later when I was surrounded by my posse of “first-timers.” They had a front row seat to the happenings of Everything-Blanchard and could frequently be heard gasping in horror at all the atrocious things our teenaged daughters dished out.

Do you remember the Friday night I was fussing at one of the girls as she was heading out for the evening and she said, “Hey can you put the rest of that lecture in a text, you’re gonna make me late!”  (Complete with the universal hand signal for texting – wriggling her thumbs in a mock-texting motion.)

The collective intake of air from my friends was so audible I’m surprised no one inhaled a bug.

As you and I attempted to conceal our amusement and just shake our heads at the clever irreverence of the Common American Teen.

We had simply moved on into the ‘choose your battles stage,’ while our friends were still basking in that innocent adoration stage. “You’re the bestest Mommy in the whole wide world!” – those halcyon days of sweetness they mistakenly thought would never end.

But end they did.

Right about the time we experienced our daughters turning into beautiful and accomplished young women, ever-so-kind, intelligent and respectful, everyone else’s kids (including our younger ones) morphed into surly teens…

And there went the neighborhood.

It was an all-out roller coaster ride from then on. The ones that seemed easy to raise turned out to be a tad more difficult than anticipated. The ones that seemed more challenging at first turned out to be easier than expected. But everyone kept right on parenting.

We all slugged it out in the trenches together.

And then, remarkably, all those creatures transformed into tolerable human beings. And, eventually into incredible adults. It’s amazing how that happens.

But, I must admit, we both secretly enjoyed mocking the audible gasp at our friends’ teenagers’ misadventures and antics through the years.

Now you’ve left us all behind to rest on our proverbial laurels and wait on the grandchildren. In our spare time, our friends sit around pondering the next generation and debating whether we want them to be “sweet and adorable” or “naughty as Hell!”

I’ll never forget the day you and I coined the term, “Revenge Grand-parenting!” We were all for it.  It was no secret what camp we were in.

In a recent fit of maternal frustration, I blurted out to one of our friends,

I hope my grandchildren are the brattiest brats that ever crawl across the face of God’s Green Earth!”

She almost choked to death on a lovely merlot.

MISERY…all she ever wanted was a wee bit of company…

“What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (When You Wear Your Passion For All To See…)

A Ginger Snapped

IMG_3047 Editor’s Note: Re-posting this in honor of my friend who showed up for work today after the 4th of July holiday with a hickey on her neck. God Bless America. Go get those hickeys while you still can ladies.

When people say, “You’ll laugh at this one day!” they’re usually right…

There are many things that I viewed as utter tragedies at the time of occurrence, that I eventually found humorous down the road.

Way down the road.

But, it’s hard to laugh when you are still cringing.  Last Sunday morning, while my husband and I were sipping our coffee, he looked at me quizzically –

What’s that on your neck?”

“What?”  I replied, mildly concerned.

 “Turn your head to the side”

 “What??” I was growing increasingly concerned.

“Whoa…My bad”

“What???” Now full-on frantic.

I got up, looked in the mirror, tilted my head to…

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“We’ll Be Working Our Way Back To You Babe With A Burnin’ Love Inside” (Don’t Worry Wee One, We’ll Be Right Back To Raise You…)

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Tommy – we raised him and we loved him…logically

Whenever motherhood got the best of me and I started to lose my “Mama-Mojo” you’d always build me back up by saying,

“Oh Hell, we’ve forgotten more crap about being parents than most people will ever even know!”

That always brought a smile to my face and I drew a ton of strength through the years from your unwavering certitude.

As soon as you were convinced my confidence was restored, you threw me back  into the lion’s den and left for work. And by “lions,” I mean our very own offspring and by “den,” I mean our very own home.

I don’t know how much actual skill or information we forgot, but we definitely forgot some of the more egregious faux pas we’ve committed in the name of preserving our sanity.  Which, by the way is an excellent argument for keeping old friends around. They have it all archived.

I was reminded of this reality just the other day.

Last week we launched the new book, “Lose The Cape – Ain’t Nothing But A Teen Thang

http://amazon.com/author/agingersnapped

I did quite a few podcast interviews. On one of the last podcasts of the day, I was lying down, holding the camera at an odd angle and not wearing a stitch of make-up. The conversation may have waned…although this is me, talking about my favorite subject – ME, so I doubt the conversation waned too much.

Nonetheless, listeners were encouraged to text in their comments or questions to the interviewer. That’s when my bestie from Arizona chimed in,

Ask her about the time they left Tommy at the hospital!”

Oh my…I had forgotten all about that.

I had to sort’ve remember the entire story onthefly as I was telling it. But, all the deets came flooding back in the telling.

I remembered you coming home from work and handing me an invitation to a restaurant opening. It was to be a chic spin-off bistro-style concept for an enormously successful chain. I definitely thought we should attend. Unfortunately, it was the day after my due date.

Not to worry! No Blanchard Baby had ever once voluntarily shown up on their due date or even remotely close.

Until Tommy.

Right on his stinkin’ due date.

Nailed it.   Mr. Punctual.

Too bad we have to miss that restaurant opening tomorrow,” I sighed later that evening, as we gazed lovingly at our precious new little bundle of red-headed testosterone.

Who says we have to miss it?” You responded, “He’ll never be safer again in his life than he is right here in this hospital. They have doctors, nurses and kick-ass medical equipment. We oughta just discharge you tomorrow, load up the car, go eat lunch at the VIP luncheon, shake a few hands, network a bit and then circle back and fetch the little fella!”

I wish I could go back and see the look on my face as my jaw dropped open. Appalled. Leave my baby at the hospital? After he had literally been a part of my body for 9 months? Why, the mere suggestion just flew in the face of everything instinctual about motherhood and childbirth.

And yet, it was hard to argue with the logic.

So that’s exactly what we did. We discharged me, asked the head RN of the nursery what time “late check-out” was for the little guy, went and had lunch and then came back to fetch him posthaste.

He was our 5th child. It was definitely not our first rodeo.

When we arrived back at Chandler Regional, they matched up the plastic identification bracelet I still had attached to my wrist with the plastic identification  bracelet attached to his tiny ankle and pronounced us “mother and son.” (Another friend suggested that they could have, alternatively, confirmed maternity by matching hair swatch samples.)

We were free to take the boy home and raise him as our own.

Which we did. Of course you were right, he was truly safer and in much better hands at the hospital.  But, as my mom always drawled, “We just loved the dickens out of that boy ever since!”

I know a lot of people have read a lot of books on parenting and attended many workshops on the topic, I think one of them might have even been called “Love and Logic.”  We never seemed to need those with you around.

It just always felt like, together, we were our own quirky version of Love and Logic.

 

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“I Found Her Diary Underneath A Tree” (When Your Mom’s A Writer…)

 

I’m tremendously excited to announce that was able to I team up with a talented group of authors from one end of the country to the other, to write an anthology for parents about to embark on the challenge of raising teenagers. It will also inspire those who are already deep in the trenches of this lofty endeavor.

The book was written by many experts and real-life mom’s who will guide you with humor and wisdom through this often tumultuous period of family life.

You’ll appreciate the collective wisdom in this anthology. And you’ll laugh.

As most of you know, Jimmy and I raised 3 daughters and had our sons almost entirely raised before he was recently kilłed. He would be the first to say that we’re never really “done” raising our children, so he knows he unintentionally left me with a chore…but he saw them through most of the hurdles of the teen years and that was huge.

I hope you’ll buy our book. My goal was to get my feet wet in the world of book publishing and try to learn, so that one day I can write my “passion project,” my very own book to honor Jimmy’s life.

If you’d like to purchase, just click on the link on the left side of my home page under MENU that says “BOOKS TO SNAP ABOUT.”   It will take you straight to Amazon.

I know he’s smiling down on me from heaven.  All the proceeds from my sales will go to THE JIM BLANCHARD SCHOLARSHIP FUND.

But, mostly, he just has to be tickled that I might actualły earn a dollar or two after all these years on the dole

 

“I’m Gonna Love You Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Our Old Texts Say A Lot About Us…)

Re-posting so I can add to my Amazon Author page!

A Ginger Snapped

Like every married couple, it’s no secret that Jimmy and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on everysinglething.

One thing we agreed to disagree on was the best way to die. He considered the way my Dad died the “better way” and thought the way his Dad died sucked.

It goes without saying that all dying sucks no matter the circumstances, but there was always this ongoing debate as to whether it was preferable to know inadvance that you were going to die, so that you could bid proper farewells to your loved ones or just “peace-out on-the-fly” as Jimmy put it in his hippie vernacular.

I would often get irritated with Jimmy after my Dad died because he would say,

Oh Man! Your Dad would’ve loved the way he died! He really went out in style!

My Dad died from a massive coronary at the…

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“Stairway To Heaven” (When There’s No Room For Doubt…)

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Remember my mom’s friend, Stacy?

She spoke of her often. They were across-the-street neighbors, who coincidentally shared the same Oncologist. It’s great to share things with your neighbors – mutual friends, rakes, cobbler recipes…

But sharing the same Oncologist – it just rarely ends the way we want it to.

The first time I ever heard of Stacy was when mom told me about her sweet, pretty, young neighbor who had a very similar blood disease to hers. It was, “Stacy this and Stacy that” for many years before I ever had occasion to meet her.

(You know I was always burning up I35 – rushing in and out of Dallas trying to be a dutiful daughter, but trying to get back home to you and the kids as fast as possible.)

Remember another time Stacy’s name came up was when my mom was coordinating an outing with Stacy’s junior high son. She wanted to “do something special” for “this nice young man,” since his mom had been in the hospital so much.

Being the mother of two male teens, I was immediately concerned.  I confessed to you I wasn’t sure if I was feeling concern for my mom or concern for the boy, but I was pretty certain this “date-night” might not go the way my mom was envisioning.

Mom wasn’t one bit worried.

I told him I was taking him on an outing,” she boasted, clearly tickled with herself.  “Dinner and a movie!  He can pick any movie and restaurant he wants to go to. I’m not going to influence him one bit.  But, we just got a brand new Olive Garden!”

Oh Lord!” I complained to you behind mom’s back, “There’s no way this kid really wants to hop in a Buick with a 78 year old woman for dinner and a show.”

I was so wrong. But I didn’t figure that out until later.

Toward the end, when my mom got really sick and I was required to be down at her house in Dallas most of August and September, I had a chance to finally meet Stacy, her husband Cory and their son, Parker.

Parker was anxious to breeze through the compulsory introductions so he could go back to the bedroom to spend time with “Miss Doris.”

That’s how sweet he was and how wrong I was.

There’s so much more to this story. This family turned out to be a saving grace as mom passed away. They simply couldn’t do enough for us. From grilling burgers, to setting up medical equipment, to coordinating a garage sale – they were omnipresent.

One day Stacy informed me her husband, a Realtor, would sell my mother’s house for us (when the time came) for practically no commission. My first thought, as a seasoned wife of 33 years, was, “Oh my sweet girl! He’s gonna get on to you later for saying that!” But Cory just nodded his head in genuine accord.

They both continued to say how their only desire was that they wished there was more they could do to help Sweet Miss Doris.

What baffled us on every occasion we dealt with this family was how in the world all 3 of them could be so loving, so Godly and so authentically kind.

At the same time.

We certainly liked to think of ourselves as a good family, but we definitely took turns doling out the kindness. And I let you take the reins entirely in the generosity department.  That was always your thing.

But my point is, we spaced out our reservoir of goodness.

You and I talked about them at length as we rode back to Oklahoma the evening after we closed with the new buyers on Mom’s house. Mainly because Stacy insisted on riding all the way across town to the closing with Cory, so she could “hold my hand” through what she knew would be “a difficult time” for me.

She also added, in a very Texasy way, that what she really wanted was to just “hug my neck!”  We chuckled at that expression.  I told you I thought it was sort’ve a nostalgic Country-thing…the proverbial neck hug.

Like the song my mom always sang to us, and then we, in turn, sang to our kids:

I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck, a hug around the neck and a barrel and a heap, a barrel and a heap and I’m talking in my sleep about you – about you.”

So she hugged my neck and sat there and dried my foolish tears, as I remembered all the happy times in my mother’s home. Neither of us suspecting a thing…

…As you and Cory signed paperwork, she and I played out in the waiting room like little girls with the title company’s Keurig machine, sipping their free hot cocoa. We had no idea that in about one half of a year, both she and you would depart from this Earth, leaving me and Cory to pick up the pieces of our and our children’s broken hearts.

When I passed through Dallas on Father’s Day, I was blessed with the opportunity to go say goodbye to my mother’s-friend-who-incidentally-became-my-friend. Reaching for my hand, she asked me if I wanted her to deliver any messages to you and my mom. I said,

Yes, tell them both I love them and then you fuss hard at Jimmy for buying that motorcycle!”

She giggled weakly as her eyes fluttered shut, promising she would.

And then it was my turn.

I promised her that her guys would be okay. I assured her that, just like you, she laid a perfect foundation of strength, resiliency and an enduring legacy of love to carry her family through.

Our job is to simply stay the course. Keep the rudder straight. And we will. I know somehow we will.

I hope she’s up there giving you the business about that bike right now.  That’s from me.  And also hugging your neck. 

Thats from me too.

 

“What’s Your Name Little Girl?” (I Didn’t Embrace My ‘True Self’ Until You Came Along…)

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I guess I can finally admit there was actualły one thing that could be considered a positive aspect of being an Army Brat forced to move every 2 or 3 years – the constant process of relocation provided me with the opportunity to reinvent myself frequently.

This could be really helpful for a kid like me…

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Reliably, within a year or two, a Social Bail-Out would arrive in the form of my dad’s latest military orders – you could depend on the fact that our family would soon be off to parts unknown.

This could not have happened at a more opportune time for me, in terms of my social aspirations, than 1973 – the year my family landed in San Antonio.

For whatever reason, my parents decided to put us into the local Catholic school, Holy Spirit. We spent the next 3 years under the strict tutelage of a Benedictine Order called The Rainbow Sisters. They fully immersed me and my sibs in The Holy Spirit Catholic Community.

Self-actualized, even at a tender age, I decided before the pending move, I needed to make some serious changes. I made a list of all the personal improvements I thought would help towards making me a better version of my 10 year old self, thereby gaining purchase on a slightly higher rung of the elementary school social ladder.

The first few things that had to be dealt with were so painfully obvious they defied listing:

1. A disastrous combination of frizzy + red hair.

2. Freckles covering every square inch of my tiny body.

 

Prior to our big move to Texas, I tried everything imaginable to alter my appearance.

To no avail.

One such attempt involved getting my hair completely wet before bed, then combing it straight down my scalp and sleeping with a ski cap on. My plan was that my hair would be forced to dry straight and the only part that would curl is the section that stuck out past the knit cap. Those sections I flipped up with a comb, hoping they too would dry that way overnight.

The first morning I attempted this technique, I couldn’t wait to see the new me. The look I was going for was an adaptation of the hairstyle of Toni Tenille, of “The Captain and Tenille.” She was so cute and the entire world adored her.

Especially The Captain.

Needless to say, when I woke up and removed the cap, the results were not as anticipated. I didn’t look a thing like Toni. My hair dried plastered to my head and as soon as it was released from confinement in a ski cap, it sprang back into the afro it’s genetically determined to be.

I continued to tweak this hairstyle for months, but also decided a more immediate change I could make was to change my name. So my first day at Holy Spirit, when the Principal, Sister Mary Martin, ushered me into my new classroom, before she had a chance to introduce me as Leslie, I pre-empted her, “My name is Cissie. Everyone calls me Cissie!”

And so they did.

And it’s not like I was living a lie or anything. My family had always called me “Sissy.”

A few years later, when the fam moved up I-35 to Dallas, I was in the 7th grade and ready to shed my “Cissie Persona.” I don’t know if it wasn’t working for me or I just wanted to RE-reinvent myself. I decided to drop the nickname-name and embrace my “Inner Leslie.”

I didn’t change my name again until I changed my last name to match yours in 1984. And then again, in 1986, when I changed my first name to “Mom.”

Recently the kids and I were alł conversing about how people behaved toward us for the first few months after you died. We discussed how very humbled and grateful we were by the overwhelming outpouring of love and generosity.

We all agreed there were a few odd ducks though.

That set me off on a mini-rant about all the strangers who contacted me requesting to meet personally so they could share ‘what the Holy Spirit had laid upon their heart’ concerning your death.

We were floating lazily in the pool during our vacation in Florida, when I started carrying-on something fierce,

I know the Holy Spirit personally too… What’s more, I’m home all day. If the Holy Spirit has something to say to me, why can’t he just say it to me directly? Why is He dispatching strangers over to my house, requiring me to put on a bra, just so I can hear him out. Especially when I’m exhausted and clearly mired in grief!”

Ironically, I had entertained the gang just hours earlier with the story of how their mother had once gone by an entirely different name.

It was about that time that Mollie, our quiet, yet clever one, decided to pipe up…

Mom, when you were a part of The Holy Spirit Community, you told us you went by the alias “Cissie Bodden.” When Dad died, the Holy Spirit was probably scouting around for HER, not Leslie Blanchard. No wonder he had to send out emissaries. Did you ever think maybe He honest-to-God could not find you?”

Okay, maybe.

There’s nothing in the world our kids enjoy more than making fun of me.

They totally got that from you.

 

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Me, embracing you, embracing me…My Captain