Mirror, Mirror

29 09 2013

Mirror

“I looked in the mirror at work and realized I forgot to put makeup on,” a casual Facebook update that soon lit up my wall with likes and comments. I realized as each friend told me their funny story of forgetfulness, that I had also done nearly every one. My friends comments to my status update wrote this post.

Danielle said she ended up at work with one blue and one black shoe and Lisa wore two different flip-flops. Yeah, been there, done that. My wearing two different kinds of black shoes could be a fashion statement. At least I didn’t look down and realize I had forgotten to put shoes on, as a young sleepy friend did on his first day working for a bank.

Katie said she wore her shirt backwards and wondered why that tag was itching her neck all day. I too kept wondering why my new elastic waist cargo pants weren’t as comfortable as when I bought them. The light bulb finally went off when I went to put my hands in my pockets at the end of the day and finally realized they were on backwards. I really was ass backwards.

That reminds me of the time I slid on the same pair of slacks for church that I had worn the night before. As I walked down the isle that Sunday morning, I felt something slide down my leg and fall out onto the floor. It was my Saturday night panties.

In other goofy things we all do, Robin paid for gas and drove off without putting the gas into the car. I’ve paid for food at a fast food drive-through and got home and realized I’d forgotten the food and I’ve driven off with the vacuum tube cylinder from the bank drive-through. Marie’s story tops those; she filled up her car and drove off with the gas hose still attached. She wondered what that flapping sound was. She said the attendant didn’t find it funny when she returned the broken off gas hose and handle.

Lisa, Kim and Jaynie—I have also locked my keys in a running car. Yeah, I locked mine in my car at work. I was in the hospital cafeteria when they announced over the hospital-wide intercom, “Connie McLeod, please return to you car. The engine is still running.”

And Lisa, I don’t remember if I’ve tried to get out of the car with my seat belt on, but I have been unable to get into my home using the car unlock button. I don’t remember how many times I clicked that button while pointing it at the back door lock, I was too busy digging through my purse looking for my glasses that were on top on my head.

Olivia and Cheryl, I’ve shaved just one leg too. I’ve also gotten out of the shower with soaking wet hair and realized I’d forgotten to actually shampoo it.

Cheryl, I don’t have grandchildren yet, but like you I know I will be grateful when I see their smiling face from my rear view mirror all snug in their car seats and be so grateful that I didn’t leave them sitting in the parking lot or on the hood of the car.

I apparently have inherited my memory from my Mom. She was reminding me about getting a hamburger with the family at that new place Mad Cow. “No Mom,” I told her, “it’s called Fat Cow, not Mad Cow.”

Of course I had to Facebook that quote, to which my daughter commented that even after three years Nana can’t remember the name of the restaurant where she works, Coyote Blue (not Coyote Ugly). “Let’s go see Jade at Blue Crawfish,” she’ll say “or is it Red Coyote?”

My daughter can’t make too much fun of us. It wasn’t that long ago that I got the 2:00 AM phone call from her looking for a spare set of keys. She’d locked hers in the car and the engine was running. I told her to call Pop a Lock; I’d pay for it. I felt a little guilty realizing she’d inherited the gene.

Three generations

Three Generations; my mom, my daughter and me (where’s my glasses…oh, on top of my head)

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When the Levees Broke

22 09 2013

 

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Before and after Katrina is how we mark time down here in Louisiana. We just passed the 8-year anniversary of that milestone hurricane. The lives we knew were washed away when the levees broke. For my high school friend, Karen and I, it marked the washing away of our long-term marriages. My husband moved out the week before the hurricane and Karen moved out of her home, the week after. We found our friendship in the storm’s aftermath and often clung to each other for support.

94992665We both realize the women we were back then wouldn’t recognize the women we are today. Eight years ago newly single with a teenage daughter; I was scared and expecting to be laid off from my job. While that did not happen, it made me question what did I want to do. I tried out a home-based business giving wine tasting parties (a lot of fun, but I drank all my profits). That led me to get over my fear of pubic speaking, which led me to becoming president of my professional club, which led me to giving workshops on creativity, which led me to starting a design business with my sweetie, which led me to discover new talents and strengths. Most importantly I learned to let go of fear and to embrace things outside my comfort zone.

140381196Karen left her affluent life and empty marriage to find meaning in her life after her kids had grown. She moved back to her hometown to family and friends who were critical of her decision. She went from moving in with her mother, to crummy first apartment, to nicer apartment, to buying a house, to renovating that house and making it her oasis. Her small job with an old family friend grew as his company was bought and sold and bought and sold. It is now part of the largest engineering company of its kind in North America. With each evolution of the company, Karen’s job has grown and she’s moved up the corporate ladder. She’s now moving to the center of business for the Eastern region. All of her strengths have come out and are shining brightly.

Karen’s moving up North…to Nashville. Her moving is bittersweet. We recognize that we are closing a chapter in our lives. Her renovated house has a For Sale sign in front and boxes are waiting for the movers. The days of dropping by each other’s home or creating a spontaneous adventure are over as we know it. We know our friendship will shift and change.

I was just in New Orleans for a fun romantic weekend with the man I’ve been in a loving relationship with for 4 years. After the levees broke, I believed that city would never be the same. I was right, but not how I imagined it. I would never have imagined that young people would flood the city post Katrina with their new innovative entrepreneurial spirit. These newcomers wanted to be a part of reinventing their lives while reinventing this old drowned city. They’ve embraced the unique, creative, funky culture and infused it with a new vibe. The dark depressive cloud that hung over the city has blown over. Arts, music, food, business, housing, education are now filled with this new spirit as new ideas and new ways of doing things are happening. And the wonderful, live-and-let-live-with-a-go-cup-in-hand New Orleans spirit is still embraced, it didn’t wash away.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Me and Karen shopping at the Farmer’s Market and cooking up an adventure.

Like the crescent city, Karen and I have reinvented our separate lives. We haven’t ignored our own past, but we’ve grown and built on it. We’ve moved past our after-Katrina chapter. We’ve rebuilt the levees, hopefully strong enough to withstand future storms.

I’ve learned to flow with the current that my life leads me to. It sometimes takes a storm to push us in a new direction. It’s good to occasionally take time to look back at how far we’ve come. I’m grateful for where my journey has taken me. I’m going to miss my friend, but I’m also looking forward to where new travels will take us.

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Maw Maw’s Cocoon Cookies

14 09 2013

Sugar was rationed during World War II. Cookies would have been a rare and special treat. My Grandfather worked for Dr. Pepper and sugar wasn’t rationed to the bottling company. My Paw Paw would bring the large empty sugar sacks home. It was my Mom and her brother’s job to shake and shake those sacks to get the stubborn grains of sugar still clinging to the rough cloth out of the sack. With luck they’d shake out around a cup of sugar. 

My grandmother (in white) was a telephone operator before she got married. Circa 1920; East Texas

My grandmother (in white) was a telephone operator before she got married. Circa 1920; East Texas

This is the only cookie recipe I have from my Grandmother’s hand-written collection. It’s not in her handwriting and it’s titled Susan’s Pecan Fingers. I grew up making these with my mother who knew the recipe by heart from her mom. The slip of paper that the recipe is written on has C. Lehew, my Maw Maw’s name, written on the back. I like to imagine these wartime mom’s Corrine and Susan, sharing recipes and sugar. What a real treat this old fashion cookie would have been back then. It still is a treat today.

I've always called these cookies "Cocoons"

I’ve always called these cookies “Cocoons”

I’ve posted about Maw Maw’s recipes before. This cookie goes by different names, some call them wedding cookies, ladyfingers or sand tarts. My grandmother’s friend Susan called them pecan fingers. Here’s the recipe for what I’ve always called Maw Maw’s cocoons.

 Cocoons

I cup softened butter
4 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 ½ cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups finely chopped pecans
extra powdered sugar to roll cookies in

Cream butter and sugar together. Add vanilla. Mix in sifted flour. Add pecans.

Dough will be stiff. Form dough like small cocoon (or fingers). Place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 275° until slightly brown (about 45 minutes).

Roll in powdered sugar while still warm. (They are a bit fragile when hot, if they break, then eat immediately). After they completely cool, roll in powdered sugar again.

Enjoy.

I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

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Honoring Nine-Eleven

11 09 2013

It’s been a dozen years since the 9-11 attacks.  In today’s contentious political environment, it’s hard to remember how united we were then as Americans. I don’t remember right wing or left wing factions yelling at each other. I remember intense patriotism and people proudly flying flags. I remember that saying the pledge of allegiance and singing the national anthem would bring tears to my eyes. I remember how important it was to go to church because we needed to pray together.

I’ve written in previous posts about being a Girl Scout Leader. I wrote the following story twelve years ago, not long after the attacks. When I look back on my life at moments that stand out, this remains an intensely loved memory. The 6th grade girls in the story have doubled in age and are now amazing young women, fresh in adulthood. The years have not dulled my pride in them.

In honoring this memory, may we all stand tall and be united once again.

Written 12 Years Ago

A Perfect Moment

I experienced a moment that was not only a great Girl Scout experience; it was one of those moments that you savor because you know it is special and fleeting. My 6th grade troop was on a 2-night campout at Camp Marydale in beautiful W. Feliciana Parish.

We were now among the big girls. We were sleeping in tents for the first time. These were permanent canvas tents with a platform wooden floor and cots with mattresses, which is not really roughing it. But, it had gotten down to the low 40’s that November night, which is very cold to all of us southern girls. We had signed up to lead the 7:15 flag-raising ceremony on Saturday morning. Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks, these ceremonies have taken on a deeper meaning and we really felt it was an honor to perform this ceremony. The girls organized themselves and had practiced late Friday night. Not only were we going to raise the flag, but also several girls who are in band had brought their instruments and they were going to play.

We got up at 6:30 a.m. and were ready despite being cold and still sleepy. It was a beautiful, cool, crisp morning without a cloud in the blue sky. Our breath left its presence in the air. Other troops slowly wandered up and we all formed a horseshoe around the flagpole. My girls marched in with the flag and a Scout gave the flag commands in a strong, clear voice and the flag was raised. After everyone said the pledge of allegiance, the band played the Star Spangled Banner. I was thinking of how proud I was of all these girls, many of whom I’ve known since they were Daisy Scouts in kindergarten. And I was so glad that I could have this experience with my flute-playing daughter. Just then, silently, as if not to disturb us, a flock of geese in a V formation, flew low over us, just above the flagpole. It was as if someone said “Cue the Flyby”. And it really sent chills down my spine.

It was a moment that transcended the ordinary. I have rarely seen so clearly the interconnected web of life as I saw that early morning. The patriotism, the mother/daughter bond, my role in the lives of these girls, and this fabulous display of nature were all so clearly on display. I was truly blessed with this awareness-raising ceremony.

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Driver’s Ed by Guest Blogger: Jade Th’ng

8 09 2013

I am honored to have my daughter, Jade Th’ng as a guest blogger. She recently finished up her degree from LSU. She’s waitressing, bartending, picking up behind-the-scenes production work on commercials/videos/films, making jewelry, writing, traveling, making music and living her life. I am very proud of her. She tells a story that I have thought to write about, but this story is better from her perspective. 

My baby girl and me

My baby girl and me

DRIVER’S EDUCATION

ALONG WITH THE MAJORITY OF 15-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN YOUTHS, I only had one thing on my mind: driving. Well, boys too, but mostly driving. I had a romanticized idea of what it would be like to receive my license. I would see all of my friends everyday, decide when I saw my parents, and take impromptu road trips whenever I pleased. This, of course, was nothing like what the reality turned out to be, but young Jade didn’t know that yet.

Only one small thing stood in my way: driver’s ed. This was no huge deal to me because I was taking the class with my buddies: Kelly, Laura, and Anna. I wasn’t intimidated by something that everyone in America is required to do, I mean, it seemed that the success rate is pretty freakin’ high. I knew I was a good student, and I did an awesome job driving in circles (for five minutes that one time) in an abandoned Kmart parking lot with my mom. I was ready to make driver’s ed my bitch.

The class was uneventful, predictable even. I only fell asleep five times (and only fell over in my seat once).

One thing I will never understand is how the American Driving Academy handled lunchtime. It was completely unsupervised, and the 35-or-so teenagers were allowed to go anywhere that they could walk to. I must note that the building was located on the extremely busy, four-lane Siegen Lane, which was not exactly pedestrian friendly. In hindsight it was extremely dangerous, but guess that the American Driving Academy was so loaded on insurance that they just didn’t give a fuck. I don’t know, it makes no sense to me, someone could get kidnapped.

My buddies and I decided to take a trip down to Blockbuster because we decided the was just had to have some candy (a decision I still stand by). On our return journey to the ADA, giggling like the fifteen-year-old girls that we were, cars flew by us as we walked up the road. Suddenly, Laura screams, I hear a man’s voice, and see arms reaching out of a truck. We all scream and run (for a short time, but once we were out of immediate danger, we returned focus to our candy). We had literally almost been kidnapped. I’m not sure why that didn’t scare us more now that I’m looking back on it.

drivingI PASSED THE CLASS WITH HONORS (that’s how I’m choosing to remember it). Now it was time for the driving portion of the course. Mr. Shoemaker, a nice, boisterous, soon-to-be-retired man was my driving instructor.  He picked me up at my house for day one of driving lessons in a sexy, tan Ford Focus. He explained  how he divided up his three days of instruction: day one was country driving, day two was city driving, and day three was highways and interstates. So we set out to the country, driving down Greenwell Springs Road.

There was not much to see and not many people around, which is good because, as it turns out,  five minutes in an empty Kmart parking lot does not make you an experienced driver (which was a surprise to me). One thing that I found exceptionally hard on that first day (but have since mastered) was watching the road while also checking the speedometer. I don’t know why this was so hard, but the second my eyes went to the speedometer, I just could not stay on the road. It’s not as bad is it sounds, just a little bit outside the the line. I was getting better minute by minute, I swear.

I even survived the frustrated eighteen wheeler that tailed me for a few minutes before passing me. Did I mention that it had teeth with fangs on the front of it? It was scary as hell, but I emerged a stronger person. I think maybe I got too comfortable after overcoming that terrifying ordeal.

About an hour into the lesson, that pesky speedometer-eyes-on-the-road thing happened. No biggie. Except, I guess this time it seemed a little worse to Mr. Shoemaker because he reached over to help me get back on the road. One little thing, though. I also turned the wheel to get back in the lane. Our combined steering wheel turning caused the poor Ford Focus to overcorrect.

Suddenly, we were flying across the next lane and all control was lost. We rattled around until we landed upside down in a ditch on the opposite side of the street. Unfortunately, Greenwell Springs Road has no shoulder to aid reckless driver’s ed students. Fortunately, it had rained the day before, so the earth was soft, and our flip into the ditch was as gentle as a flip into a ditch can be.

It took me a few moments to register what had truly happened. I was hanging by my seatbelt, staring at a cracked windshield that had grass peeking through it. My purse was on the roof of the car by my head.

I don’t know why I felt the pressure to be the first one to break the silence, but I said a line that I believe will forever make me qualified to be a sitcom star: I guess this means I don’t pass. Cue audience laughter. Then, cue my tears.

Now with me uncontrollably crying, he instructed me to unbuckle my seatbelt and crawl out the back door (which was less crunched than the front).

An officer arrived promptly, no one was hurt, and we managed to calm down. Although Mr. Shoemaker kept pacing and saying things like: “Thirty years teaching and I’ve never once been in a wreck”, “I can’t believe this happened”, “I’m about to retire, how could this happen to me?” I didn’t say anything, but come on. Rude.

After a couple months of mental recovery, I retook the driving portion. (Mr. Shoemaker insisted on being my instructor again. God knows why.) I passed obviously. I swear I am a GREAT driver (I knocked on wood as I wrote that). Turns out that they now use my story as an urban lengendesque teaching technique, and apparently my story has reached all corners of the country. I don’t know if people believe it or not, but trust me, it’s true.

Jade and I on a road trip after she got her license.

Jade and I on a road trip after she got her license.

A Mom’s Perspective: You can trust her, it is all true. My sweet baby girl flipped and totaled the Driver’s Ed car her first hour behind the wheel. It was the best worst accident she could have, no one was hurt, it didn’t go on her record, everything was covered by the Driver’s Ed insurance, and it made her a better driver because she knows how quickly a bad accident can happen.  And Jade’s story is so unbelievable, she’s considered an urban legend. Maybe I should rename this story, “my daughter…the legend.”

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