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


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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Guest Blogger: Lisa Froman

28 07 2013

Lisa and I have run in the same professional circles since we were new in our careers. But it was only this year through a bit of serendipity that had us both becoming bloggers and discovering a great group of women at Generation Fabulous that caused us to meet in real life. We have been friends and supporters of each other ever since. This spring the Dalai Lama visited New Orleans and we both blogged about it from our different perspectives.  I know you will enjoy my friend and guest blogger’s words as much as I do. —Connie

The Dalai Lama, Non-Violence and Gun Ads

by Lisa Garon Froman

Mardi grasNew Orleans is lovingly called the city that “care forgot.”  And for good reason; its love of revelry, rhythm and blues, and deep-fried everything, is legendary.

Yes, that city. The city that was nearly swallowed up and spit out in pieces by the punishing wind and waters of Hurricane Katrina.

Yes, that city, the one that inspires hope and loss in the same breath; the city that spurs the kind of violence that leaves you heart sick and slack-jawed from the shock and soulless brutality of it all. Like when two young males well-schooled in violence casually open-fired on a Mother’s Day parade wounding 20 people, including several children.

This was the city that the Dalai Lama came to visit recently. A city badly in need of healing.

This was the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans and he came to deliver a commencement speech to Tulane graduates and speak at several other engagements in the city.

Not surprising he spoke of peace in his speeches. To the Tulane graduates he said,   “Please pay attention to securing your own inner peace. Our hopes for the future rest on your shoulders. Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.”  


Speaking at a separate event at the New Orleans Lakefront Arena, he talked about non-violence and peace and compassion.

He said, “It is not our job to disturb the peace and then it’s God’s job to restore it. Violence isn’t created by God or Buddha; it’s created by human beings. So logically, the responsibility to eliminate it belongs to us too. Here in America there’s been a lot of discussion about gun control. But the real source of control is in our hearts.”

Wise words from a wise monk.

Violence and poverty and abuse all stem from a lack of compassion. The need for guns and the need for gun control is all the same to me. It’s all rooted in fear and violence in my book.

Look, I’m from the South. Guns are serious business here. This isn’t a subject that makes friends–unless you’re on the right side of the argument– if you get my drift.  It’s a subject that I usually stay away from because I’m a peacemaker at heart and it almost seems counterintuitive to me to argue about guns.

“…Please think about how to make this a more peaceful, compassionate century.” I think of the Dalai Lama’s words to the graduates about securing peace, and working for a more peaceful world. I wonder what I can contribute to the cause.

I think there are a lot of us who are confused about how to walk in this world more peacefully.

I’m of the opinion that it starts with finding inner peace. Not an easy task. But I believe that meditation is a good start here. Finding compassion for ourselves, for our faults, and loving ourselves so we can better love others, is another strategy.

I think when we’re brave enough to do the inner work, to look at all of the places inside of us where we are at war with ourselves, where we focus on what’s wrong with ourselves, with our lives, is a good place to work on non-violence. Perhaps that’s the foundation of the saying, “Love others as we love ourselves.”

Maybe the idea is that we should love ourselves a little more, so we learn the capacity to be truly compassionate, truly kind to others. So that we can love others.

I think prayer is also a gateway to compassion. Praying to God, Spirit, Buddha or to your higher spirit for guidance is a good way to open up the heart. The older I get, the more I pray.

If we’re honest, we can admit that light and dark both exist in this world. But light, including inner light, can be the beacon that disperses the darkness. Within us and around us.

When we actively focus on non-violence, maybe we will lessen the violence in the outside world. Maybe we won’t have to live forever with the duality of seeing this:

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

His Holiness featured in an article about his visit to New Orleans in The Advocate with a gun ad on the opposite page.

A full page article in the Baton Rouge paper featuring the Dalai Lama’s visit to New Orleans with an ad for a gun shop placed on the opposite page from it. I’d like to think this was an accident. But the truth is, I’m not sure.

Which leads me to the truism that “there are no accidents.” Maybe there’s a message here about our society’s conflict. About how we all wrestle with the light and the dark.

267-2About Lisa: 
Lisa Garon Froman is a writer, poet and an award-winning communications professional. She lives in Baton Rouge, La., and is the mother of one son, Alexander.  
If you’re interested in more thoughts on compassion and grace, particularly at midlife, read her book Tao Flashes.  Visit her blog: Tao Flashes, a woman’s way to navigating the midlife journey with integrity, harmony and grace or follow her at or twitter @taoflashes. 

Lisa and I are both proud to be GenFab bloggers!