“This is The Dawning of The Age of Aquarius” (No Wait, Make That Capricorn)

when the moon is in the seventh house And Jupiter aligns with Mars Then peace will guide the planets And love will steer the stars!

When the moon is in the seventh house…
And Jupiter aligns with Mars…
Then peace will guide the planets…
And love will steer the stars!

 

Well, I think it goes without saying that NASA has just rocked everyone’s worlds.

But, probably for the better, right? I mean, it’s not like things were really working all that smoothly before. Now maybe everyone can just Google their new astrological sign, take copious notes, tweak out some personality adjustments and get on down the road. Things should just fall nicely into place.

I know that’s what I’m counting on…

It’s pretty liberating to think such a minor astrological glitch was the reason the entire world has been completely off-kilter for thousands of years.   All of humankind was just super confused about who we really are.  Metaphysically speaking, that is.

The first thing that’s going to improve in my life as a result of this new reality shift, is my marriage. All this time — over 30 years — we’ve been under the false impression that my husband and I are BOTH Aries.

How in the world can two people be as different as we are in almost every possible way and yet both be the same astrological sign? (It’s almost enough to make one skeptical of Astrology as a guiding life principle.)

Well…. The answer is simple. We can’t! That’s been the problem all along.

I’m really a Pisces. It makes perfect sense. I’m actually just a confused fish swimming in two different directions. Sensitive, creative and soulful. No wonder I don’t eat seafood and I can’t get out of the bathtub. I’m a fish. And now I’m totally off the hook, no pun intended. To think that I’ve spent over 50 years thinking I was a damn Ram. All because of those stinkin’ Babylonians.

Qualities such as leadership, organization and willful determination are off the table as of today. No more pressure. Being headstrong, open to challenges, and standing firm are a part of my past. Everyone knows fish don’t stand firm. We are floppy.

I’ve been reading all about my new self online and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty stoked. I certainly can’t be expected to lead anyone when I’m swimming in two different directions. I just read that my “intuitiveness ” holds me “in good stead when it comes to prosperity.”  I don’t know what that means exactly, but probably that I would find a good Aries Man to marry.

I actually was so excited about my new sign that I looked up everyone in my family’s new signs. This isn’t just going to benefit humanity and my marriage, it’s going to change the very essence of inter-familial relationships.

Our oldest daughter and son just went from Scorpio to Libra. Our second daughter shifts from Virgo to Leo. Our third daughter from Gemini to Taurus (that figures) and our baby stays right on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer. But wait a minute… according to this chart my husband is actually a Pisces with me now? He’s very close to Aries, but technically a Pisces also?

That can’t be right. My family needs leadership.

I think I’m going to have to put together my own hybrid-style chart. This is serious stuff. They’re messing with people’s marriages and families now.

This could be a marital game-changer.   I’m glad we never got those matching tattoos!

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“Roll With The Changes” (I’m Not Afraid of a Little Change if it Benefits my Family)

 

Cabernet, chocolate and touches of Autumn...what more did we need?

Cabernet, chocolate and touches of Autumn…what more did we need?

 

I’m so busy grousing about my children, that I never noticed until the other day what a bunch of spoiled Prima Donnas my girlfriends are.

I invited a few ladies over on Friday afternoon for some Cab and Gab. I was pretty impressed with myself because I had gone out earlier in the day and bought some giant mums, pumpkins and acorns, so the house was looking rather festive. Another friend brought chocolate – between that, the fall flourishes and the wine we had everything we needed…or so I thought.

Predictably, 20 minutes or 20 sips in, whichever came first, one of the gals needed to potty. We are all old friends, so she just held up her hands in our official “hold the story” hand signal and bolted off for the bathroom.  She was back in a flash.

Are you out of toilet paper again?”

As I said, we are really old friends, so many of the perfunctory steps that one might expect to see in more  fledgling relationships were skipped right over – steps such as:

1. Inquiring where I kept the spare rolls (she knows) and
2. Did I mind if she searched the cabinets? (she already did) or
3. Did I keep back-up supplies elsewhere in the home?  (Snort – she knew better).

Like any excellent hostess I re-directed her to a perfectly good box of Kleenex and sent her tinkling away merrily.

But, OMG, I had to hear about it all afternoon – each and every time one of my friends felt the urge (frequently).

It wasn’t long before this led to a conversation about Walmart’s new grocery purchasing solution for busy, lazy and/or agoraphobic homemakers. This was all news to me. In fact, if I hadn’t initiated this little soirée myself, I would swear it was some type of a planned intervention.

As most of you know, I’m a tragically inept grocery shopper. For over 30 years now, I have wandered up and down the aisles list-less and listless seeking inspiration from the shelves. It’s been a source of unresolved marital disharmony for over 3 decades. Jimmy has tried to help by patiently explaining professional restaurant methods such as “build to’s” and “par levels,” but I find his suggestions demeaning and condescending and tend to dig my heels in even harder.

Lo and behold, who would’ve ever believed Walmart would step in with the solution?  Apparently, they’ve come up with one more thing in the world I can do from the bathtub – Grocery shop. That’s right – I just did all of next week’s grocery shopping at Walmart online from the comfort and convenience of my tub.

http://grocery.walmart.com/usd-estore/m/home.jsp

Instead of meandering down the aisles sans list, I scrolled down the columns of pretty pictures of foods that I buy – on my iPad. And no more standing around in the aisles, holding up traffic while I try to remember if I already have an item on hand. At one point I got out of the tub, wrapped a towel around myself and dripped into the utility room to see if we had clothes washing pods (we actually did).

When I was done, I entered my credit card information and selected my pick up time. All I have to do now is show up at the designated time tomorrow and pick up the goods. I selected a time that corresponded with Tommy’s arrival home from school so he can unload everything from my car.

If this all plays out the way it’s supposed to, I may barely be involved at all.

What’s even more exciting – I forgot the toilet paper again and didn’t even realize it until I was writing this piece. Fortunately, they have an editing feature. There’s an allotted amount of time after you place your order to make changes and corrections. You can add anything you forgot or even delete your spontaneous and regrettable impulses.

Do-overs? Edits? Self-censorship? Now it’s just starting to sound like productive and responsible Journalism – that I can definitely get behind. From my bathtub.

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“The Wind Beneath Your Wings” (I’m Still Winging it as a Mom and Hoping For The Best!)

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Proper and effective parenting is sometimes just about ‘winging it‘ and hoping for the best…

Remember when your babies started tentatively trying to walk on their own, and you let them toddle 2 or 3 steps from one parent into the outstretched and waiting arms of the other parent? (Or at the very least, another caring family member.) Gradually, you lengthened the distance your little one had to travel until they were walking independently.

We accomplished the driving version of that this weekend. With our baby. We lengthened the distance between us and the outstretched, loving arms of waiting responsible family members, but only because we sort’ve had to…

The story: We were in possession of 2 highly coveted tickets to Saturday’s football game in College Town, USA,  about 45 minutes down the highway.  A last minute family emergency changed the plan from a Father/Son excursion to our son inviting a friend to accompany him to the game. Transportation immediately became the major issue. We mentally ran through a short list of unsuitable options, when dad suggested we simply let the 16 year old boys drive themselves.

Drive themselves???

I wasn’t one bit in love with that plan. I couldn’t care less about football and failed to realize the overall import and significance of this particular game. But, apparently this game was

H.
U.
G.
E.

While I may not give a rat’s arse about pigskin, college rankings and conference pride, I do have a soft spot for my boy, plus I understood we couldn’t waste these precious tickets. They came with complimentary passes into an elite tailgate party, where fabulous fare was being catered by some of our area’s finest restaurants and caterers.  If I appreciate anything in life, it’s the privilege of hobnobbing around delicious food.

Additional points of persuasion:
1. No one travels over 35 miles per hour on the interstate on College Game Day. In fact, that’s why they named this stretch of road “I 35.”
2. Both boys have responsible on-campus older brothers that would be waiting for them with open arms right there in college town. Metaphorically ready and able to catch them should they fall.
3. If I don’t let them drive, Option B was that I myself would drive them and hang out around the stadium waiting to drive them home. A 7-8 hour Saturday evening proposition.

Thus, I set them free following a stern lecture on responsibility and sound adult decision-making.

The next morning, we really didn’t care to hear all that much about the game, as we’d caught the highlights on the telly, but we clamored for every detail about the tailgate party, foodies that we are.

Not much to tell!” The Boy-Ginger responded in mono-syllabic grunts, deflecting our queries with general teenaged annoyance.

He then went on, much to our disappointment and dismay, to inform us that the only food vendor he sought out at the tailgate was an all-you-can-eat buffet in our area aptly named, The Golden Corral. In fact, he went back, not once, not twice, but thrice for additional helpings of their chicken wings.

And then, worst fears confirmed, the boys proceeded to drink. Wantonly and recklessly. From a chocolate fountain. Provided by, none other than, you guessed it – The Goldenest of Corrals.

Honestly, I’d heard enough. The next thing you know, he’d be telling me they dipped the wings in the chocolate sauce.

For the first time in weeks I found myself actually cheered by the fact that our other offspring are up and out of the house, so we can focus what’s left of our joint parenting energies undistracted on this last remaining child, who obviously still needs so much from us before he’s ready to fly off.

I no longer suffer from the malaise of “Almost-Empty Nest Syndrome!”  Wings or no wings, I’ve still got plenty of work to do around here.

I knew we should’ve signed him up for Cotillion when we had the chance.

“I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” (How I Alternately and Unofficially Became The Perfect Mother)

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People always say that when you go back to your high school reunion, you’ll find that the kids who were “all that,” have plummeted in a downward spiral – unable to maintain their superior elevated status throughout adulthood.

So, naturally, I spent the lion-share of my 20s worried about my high school’s Homecoming Queen, Kay-Kay.

I’m just kind’ve sweet that way.

Imagine my relief when I arrived at my 10 year reunion to find her looking fabulous. She had not gained the weight, as promised. Her long blonde tresses were as thick and lustrous as ever. She had married an architect, had 2 kids, and was literally living in Florida.

Florida? Who lives in Florida? Florida is for rich people and also older folks, who’ve earned the right to live there. And Disney Princesses, I guess – which is probably how Kay-Kay landed there.

But, she couldn’t possibly be happy and there’s no way, after that fairy-tale high school existence, that she’s got what it takes to be a good mother.

Honestly, I really feel bad for these people who never experienced despair and disappointment in childhood. I don’t know how they even get through life, much less parenting.

Fortunately, I never had to worry about any of that. My teen years imbued me with character and resilience. The kind that formally prepares you for Real Life. Life as a mother in the other 49 states.

When I was 13, I tried out for cheerleader. I started practicing months in advance. I learned the routine backwards and forwards. I perfected my herkies in the yard every day until it got dark. Then I came in and stretched into my splits every night, limbering up while I watched tv, inching a little closer to the ground with each passing week. I wrote the book on work ethic and advance preparation.

The day of the tryouts finally arrived. Back then there was no such thing as Helicopter Parenting, so my mom seemed only vaguely aware that it was the most important, transforming day of my life thus far; a day that would haunt me well into my 50s. She wished me “good luck!” 1970s-style and off I went…

To not make it.

Remember, it was 1976; back before anyone realized that they needed a Redhead to round out the squad.

The Vice-Principal called out the names of the 8 girls who made it over the loud speaker in 4th hour. Later that day, Mrs, Dickerson, the Home-Ec teacher/Cheer Sponsor, called me into her classroom to reassure me that I had “the most spirit she’d ever seen,” and confide that I made “Alternate.” She smiled indulgently when I requested the administration might consider including that tidbit of information in the next morning’s PA announcements. I wasn’t kidding.

It was challenging to weave the fact that I was unofficially the “The Alternate Cheerleader” casually into conversations with my peers. In case your wondering, “The Alternate” doesn’t get to wear the uniform on game days or appear in the yearbook photo. She just sits with the other girls at lunch hoping a friend will die in a sentimental “Brian’s Song” kind’ve way, so she can step into her pleated skirt.

No one died. As you can tell from reading this, the whole ordeal just served to build my outstanding and impeccable character, as I sat around the lunch table everyday eyeing a suspicious mole on Diane or wondering if Sherry had a lingering cough.

Alas, my life as a cheerleader was postponed until after high school, when I became a wife and mother. I’ve cheered now for 33 years. Until I am hoarse. I have exhorted, encouraged and sung my team’s praises until I’m blue in the face. It’s been so great. In the breathy words of Cinderella, it’s been “more than I could’ve ever hoped for…”

Nonetheless, I think I might attend my next high school reunion.  Just to see if Kay-Kay’s architect has gone a little paunchy and balding, if she can still wriggle into that polyester skirt, but most importantly – if her kids turned out okay.

I’m just kind’ve sweet that way.

 

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“They Can’t Take That Away From Me…” (A Tribute To Perseverance)

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They say, “Into every life, a little rain must fall…”

Rain” being metaphorical for “life’s troubles,” except in Louisiana, where rain means…well, water.

More than 31″ in 15 hours.

6,900,000,000,000 gallons of rain in one week.

Enough to wash your life away right before your very eyes.

When my mother-in-law drove home last Friday evening, from the local art gallery, where she happily whiles away her retirement years painting with her varied assortment of colorful artist friends, it was indeed raining heavily outside. But, not enough to alarm or concern this 80 year old native of The Bayou State, whose extended family survived Hurricane Katrina almost 11 years ago.

Trust me, people in Louisiana are not skittish about a little moisture.

Yet, by the time she awoke early Saturday morning, a nearby river (a lazy young tributary that ordinarily meanders it’s way peacefully down to the Gulf of Mexico, many miles downstream) had overrun it’s banks and rudely entered her home without so much as an invite or an RSVP.

Like a gang of unruly juvenile delinquents, it vandalized her entire life – snatching up framed family photographs and violently smashing them against walls, rearranging her decor by hurling large pieces of furniture into different rooms and toppling her refrigerator as though it were made of cardboard.

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Ironically, many of these homes, including my mother-in-law’s, provided haven for refugees of the disastrous Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans in 2005. These very walls that offered succor to displaced friends, neighbors and relatives (in many cases outright strangers) were washed away in a matter of hours.

The true extent of the damage wasn’t realized by our family until several days later when “Mimi’s” children and grandchildren were able to get back into the home to survey the chaotic remnants of their collective childhoods.

The more immediate and pressing problem on Saturday morning was getting their mother safely out of the house and into a boat – Mimi and 30,000 of her closest friends and neighbors.  (20/20 Hindsight: don’t forget Papa Joe – he’s in the urn!)

Initially, residents unaffected by the flood were urged by authorities to stay in their homes, but it wasn’t long before the scope and magnitude of the situation became evident and every “Thibodeaux with a pirogue” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirogue) was out rescuing distressed flood victims – many of whom were texting their addresses on Facebook and other social media channels to any available Good Samaritan in the area. (Shameless plug for social media.)

http://www.theadvocate.com/louisiana_flood_2016/article_bbf5263e-6646-11e6-a775-ebda9d5c17ae.html

After several panicked hours of watching floodwaters rise around her, Mimi was rescued by a boat that, for better or worse, was able to glide right up to her doorstep. She was eventually taken to a shelter, where she says she has never been more touched by the depths of humanity and human compassion, as volunteers responded to and anticipated her every need.

With the grace of God and a large dose of “can-do Cajun spirit,” almost everyone was saved over the course of the next two days, although 40,000 homes were destroyed in Livingston Parish alone.

On Monday morning as the water went down and the sun came up, the journey to reclaim and re-tame Louisiana began. Local residents feel optimistic that, just as in post-Katrina, the fierce Acadian determination, combined with sheer American grit will prevail and South Louisiana will flourish once again.

As for our Steel Magnolia, she’s grateful her children were able to salvage a few tangible memories of her past. She will start her new life with a few cherished photographs and her indomitable spirit intact. She has a long road ahead, but we know this thing hasn’t beaten her.

In the words of the nationally acclaimed Cajun Chef and Louisiana Humorist, Justin Wilson,
“I Gay-Ron-tee!”

"Suds!"

“There Must Be 50 Ways To Leave Your Mother” (3 Last Minute Things I Need To Teach My Son Before He Leaves For College This Week)

"Suds!"

“Suds for Everyone!”

We are packing to take our 18 year old son off to college at the end of this week. A small pile of sundry ‘Do Not Forget!’ items accumulating by the door serves as a startling reminder that I have less than a week to tie up a few loose parenting ends before I send him out into that wide blue yonder we call the Real World...

1. After We Pay Your Tuition, You Will Have More Money Than We Do

I’m so glad we had the “money talk” today. When you asked me how you would be obtaining cash flow while you were away at school and I explained, you seemed somewhat taken aback.

Son, we are providing for your tuition, books, lodging and we generously upgraded your meal plan to include more caloric energy per day than the rest of our family consumed the entire month you were born. I can’t imagine what else you think you’re going to need,  but I saw all those graduation checks that came rolling in last May. I happen to know you have more money in your bank account than I do.  Use it.

When you complained that you didn’t want to use your “precious money” to buy “things like shampoo,” I saw the likes of your Dad in you. He feels the same way. That’s why he takes all those business trips. It’s solely to obtain those tiny little bottles of free hotel shampoo. Got any business trips on your calendar? I didn’t think so. Just buy yourself some shampoo, okay?

And, look at it this way – when your Grandmothers ask you what you spent all your graduation money on, and you answer, “Suds,” you won’t really be lying.

2. Any Moron Can Do Laundry

People have been telling me forever that I was doing you a genuine disservice by doing your laundry all these years.  But, I didn’t mind doing your laundry while you played sports and made those stellar grades. When my concerned friends worried aloud in my presence that you “wouldn’t know how to do laundry when you left for college,” I assured them I could “teach any Moron to do laundry in 5 minutes!” and “planned to do so right before we left for College Town, USA!”  And, no, I did not just call you a moron. I’m your mother, I love you.

As usual, I was right. We knocked that task out today in no time flat. All in all, you did well. I’m sorry your clothes came out wrinkled and you’re concerned about having to iron them. When I told you the solution was simply to do “smaller loads,” so your clothes could fluff out more freely, and you responded that “would take too long” and you, “didn’t want to spend all your free time doing laundry,” I was kind’ve stung. Did you realize when you spoke those words, that you were taking a personal swipe at my entire existence? I do laundry for a living, so ouch.

One more thing: as you get older, you’ll realize there is no such thing as “free time.” Any moron knows that. Okay, I think now I just called you a moron.

3. I Am Always Going To Parent You

By no means should you ever feel that I’m done parenting you. Last night you hung out at your friend’s house awfully late. I texted you when I was ready to go to bed to see what your plans were and you came across a wee bit CAVALIER. I know that this time next week you will be on your own and I won’t have “the luxury” of knowing right where you are, but I plan to parent you right up to the very last possible second – Up the dormitory staircase, down the dormitory hallway, right into the dorm room.

And, Spoiler Alert – when you come home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, I’m going to pick up right where I left off. If you don’t like the sound of that, you should plan some type of a business trip for those weeks. You can pick up some shampoo while you’re there.  That’s just a suggestion. It’s whatever you think. I’m not going to tell you what to do.

Wait- scratch that last part- actually,  I am.

 

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“Lord I Was Born a Ramblin’ Man” (Helping Your Older Kids Grasp Your Double-Standard…)

Back-to-School shopping from home this year!

(Back-to-School shopping from home this year!)

 

Approximately 87,600…

Admittedly, this is a bit of a rough estimate and I took the liberty of rounding the number off, but I am trying to figure out how many times I have driven my 5 kids places over the past 30 years, since my oldest child was born.

From the day after we brought Emilie home, when I strapped her into her car seat for her first Baby Well-Check, until I ran Tommy to soccer practice a few nights ago, I arrived at roughly 87,600 car rides – give or take the 7 or 8 times their dad actually shuttled them anywhere.

Which might explain the rather unorthodox reaction I am having to Tommy getting his driver’s license.

I am letting him drive.

Yesterday, when two of my daughters happened to be home, chatting in the kitchen, one of them looked up and asked,

Where’s Tommy?”

When I answered, “He’s at soccer practice!” they kindly offered to pick him up later, on their way back home from running an errand. This left me no option but to ‘fess up-

He drove himself there!

He drove?” They exclaimed, in unison and surprise. Apparently, according to the girls, getting one’s license around here was certainly a laudable milestone, but it didn’t translate into the level of personal freedom and autonomy their younger brothers enjoy.

Okay, I admit I might’ve put some rather stringent restrictions on my daughters when they were new drivers, freshly sprung from the loins of the DMV,  with their little plastic cards in their little plastic hands, but things were different then.

We had more rules and standards.   In fact, we may have had so many standards there appears to be a double-standard.

No listening to the radio while driving….No Backstreet Boys, No N’Sync, No Brittany Spears or Destiny’s Child. The boys, however, managed to convince us that they would drive better with the steady thrum of a savage rap beat.

No interstate driving. I mapped out elaborately circuitous routes for the girls in order to keep them off the interstate. This, apparently, took them through some sketchy parts of town. At one point, Mollie complained  that she thinks a stray bullet grazed her car. So, we allowed the boys to take more direct routes via the highways and byways of this great land.

No leopard print plushy steering wheel cover or pink rabbit’s foot rearview-mirror decor. Sorry, I know teenaged girls love to prettify their rides, but this is all just too distracting. I needed their hands on the actual steering wheel at 10 and 2, with nothing dangling and obstructing their view. Fortunately, the boys never wanted to trick out their vehicles with crap from Claire’s or Limited Too. Fast-food bags clutter the floorboards posing no safety threat.

The older kids can criticize me all they want.  They can call it a double-standard if they must, but I prefer to think of it as ‘evolving as a parent.’

Don’t get me wrong, I still worry up a blue streak.  It’s not as though utter lawlessness abounds;  we still have a few rules.  Tommy is required to text me when he arrives at his destination and when he leaves to return home, etc.  We haven’t gone so far as to embed a chip in him, but we do track his movements…

That’s how I came to notice, that as the 5th child of burned-out  parents, he’s kind’ve like your Visa Card – he’s everywhere he wants to be.

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(metaphorically, Mom points her camera down at the ground in despair…)