Tough Broads

11 10 2015

Ever since my daughter, Jade, was a little girl and we both had to use a squat potty on a trip to visit her dad’s family in Malaysia, we’ve jokingly called each other tough broads.

It expanded during her Girl Scout years when we named a rainy weekend camping trip, the Tough Broad Campout. Whenever we said this, it was followed by pounding on our chest, then a thumbs up saying, YOU ROCK.

This past summer, my baby girl moved to Chicago to follow her dreams of maybe, someday, becoming a comedy writer. My sweetie and I u-hauled her stuff up North (meaning Steve did all the driving and heavy lifting). We spent a few days visiting my only child in the windy city, 1000 miles away. I have always supported her move, but have had my motherly concerns.

Me and my millennial at Chicago's Millennium Park

Me and my millennial at Chicago’s Millennium Park

I was concerned about where she lived. She has a teeny, tiny, expensive bedroom with a “kitchen” which is called a studio apartment in the big city. But she did her research and she was right. Lakeview is a great neighborhood; full of people her age, full of beautiful homes and full-sized apartments. While rent may be high by Baton Rouge standards, it’s good for the area she’s living in. I’m relieved she’s not in a bigger, cheaper place in an edgier part of town.

I was concerned about comedy being a pipe dream. Part of me wants her to get a “real” job with real benefits. But again she’s done her research and is well into classes with The IO Theater, a comedy company with a serious lineage. This is her graduate school and it took this trip for me to see it that way. No matter what her career eventually evolves into, she’ll be able to use what she’s learning.

I was concerned about her getting stuck waiting tables. She’s working at an upscale Irish pub, Wilde, a short walking distance from her place. She was right when she said it was a good place to work. The food and drink are great. But more importantly it’s well run and the staff is warm and welcoming. This job allows her to pursue her passion, to pay all her bills and even have a bit extra at the end of the month.

I was concerned about her being so far from family and friends. On my last night in the city, I went with her to see one of her friend’s perform on a small stage in a basement venue. The crowd was small, but Jade’s new friends were all cheering for their friend on stage. Most of these new friends were from Baton Rouge, connected by old friendships. I realize while Jade is embracing all things new and different, she has found a supportive, understanding family with her new tribe. A tribe who understands the importance of Mardi Gras and following your dreams.

Winter is coming

Winter is coming

I was concerned about the upcoming winter. The Chicago winter continues to be the main subject that everyone from Baton Rouge friends to Chicago Uber drivers issue dire warnings about. It is something we talked about when she began to consider moving. I agreed with Jade when she said, if she hated it or couldn’t take the cold, then she could move somewhere warmer. But the real tragedy would be to not go out of fear of really cold weather.

I was concerned about a lot of things. However reconnecting with my daughter after five months apart wasn’t one of them. We both find the name of a main Chicago thoroughfare, Wacker, hilarious. And the possibility of her working through the holidays makes us both weepy. We both loved walking the Chicago tree-lined streets; people watching, being a tourist in a great city and meeting new people. We loved telling our stories to others and making my sweetie listen to them over and over.

My baby girl is a tough broad. And I guess I am too, because I let her go. I’m beating my chest and giving her a thumbs up ’cause YOU ROCK.


SteveAnother huge YOU ROCK to my sweetie, he made the trip possible for these two tough broads.

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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


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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Going Blond

26 03 2013


My mother advised me years ago “don’t go grey, go blond.” So when those grey beacons starting lighting up my dark hair, I remembered my Mom’s sage advice.


At 84, Mom is frail and in a nursing home. She is living with her 89-year-old boyfriend. She says she has no intension of getting married, but she did make him buy her an engagement ring. She speaks her mind and can play an audience like a fine instrument with well-timed comments. She knows that if she talks about sex, drops the f-bomb or gives someone the middle finger that she’ll get a reaction. No one expects this from a sweet little old Southern Baptist lady with a walker. She’ll tell you she doesn’t smoke or drink, but she’ll tell you with a twinkle in her eye, “So I lie”.

Despite her occasional lie, she is my model on how to age. Whoever said, “Getting old is not for sissies,” was correct. I’ve learned by watching my mom how to pick yourself up when life knocks you down and to stand tall with grace and humor.

I was catching her up on her 22-year–old granddaughter. She asked me if she had a boyfriend. When I said no, she responded that maybe she should get a girlfriend. Apparently Dr. Phil has said this is perfectly okay. While it doesn’t matter to me if my daughter prefers men or women, the fact that it doesn’t matter to my mom either is something I take real pride in. I hope that as the decades pass and I get older that I stay as open to the changing world around me.

Not only have I inherited my mom’s sense of humor, I’ve also inherited her klutziness. My mom and I, as well as my daughter, all have issues with the ability to stay upright. My friends know I’m not known for my grace and my dancing has even been compared to Elaine’s from Seinfeld. Not that it has ever stopped me from dancing to my own beat.

From my female lineage, age is clearly showcased in heel height. Mom, much to her chagrin, is in orthopedic shoes these days. After a recent tumble, she cut her hand bad enough to get it sutured. She had the ER staff in stitches as she regaled them with stories of her love life in the nursing home. “Yes, those nursing aides come in all during the day and night trying to catch me and my fiancé doing it!”

My own acknowledgement of age also has to do with the lowering of my heel height. I gave away my high heels for my fortieth birthday, but by my fiftieth I was divorced and feeling sexy again, so I was back in shoes that made me about 4 inches taller. However, now that I’m half way through my fifties, I must recognize that I have a tendency to fall off those beautiful, sexy high heels. I was warned with my last purchase of an adorable pair of towering platforms that I was likely to take a fall. Sure enough, on my second outing, I found myself face down, spread eagle in a hot parking lot. And unlike a toddler with skinned knees, my knees and bones no longer heal fast. So along with going blond, I’ve now gone to flats.

As I grow older, I’ve stumbled upon a few things. I no longer care if people see me fall down, literally or symbolically. Most of my stumbles are funny and I’m the first to laugh at myself. And if I tumble too hard, I welcome the hands that pick me up again.

Neither my mom or I will ever be described as graceful, but I’ve learned from her to accept aging graciously with a wicked twinkle in my eye. I think I’ll keep those cute tall Spring shoes. My mom and I also like to repurpose things. I should be able to turn them into a flowerpot.