About Me

Woman, reader, writer, wife, mother of two sons, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, state university professor, historian, Midwesterner by birth but marooned in the South, Chicago Cubs fan, Anglophile, devotee of Bruce Springsteen and the 10th Doctor Who, lover of chocolate and marzipan, registered Democrat, practicing Christian (must practice--can't quite get the hang of it)--and menopausal.
Names have been changed to protect the teenagers. As if.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I am so happy to learn there is a Facebook page called "Intelligent, Classy, Well-Educated Women Who Say Fuck A Lot."

It is nice to have company.

I never used to say "fuck." Never. I am of Dutch Reformed stock. We are a reserved people. We don't even say "golly" or "heck" very often.

But then I had children. And you know, there are just so many maternal moments when only a good curse word or a string of profanity will do.

But even so, I held the fucking in check. (I mean, the saying, not the doing, not that there was a whole helluva lot of doing either, once the kids came along.)

Until menopause. Motherhood may have breached the levees but menopause swept them away entirely. These days, profanity and curse words gush forth from my lips without plan or permission. I don't think this development is good or admirable but it's rather like the sagging of my boobs or the thinning of my hair--I hate it but it just keeps happening.

So, it's nice to know there's a Facebook group that I can join. And I may be way off-base here, but I'll bet that many in the sisterhood of intelligent, classy, well-educated women who say fuck a lot also find that their boobs have lost their bounce and their hair suffers from anorexia.

Just a hunch.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Parade

So, this weekend brought another in what I think of as my own personal series of Really Lousy Parenting Moments.

Yesterday was the Baton Rouge St. Patrick's Day Parade. Baton Rouge doesn't really have much of an Irish community or any kind of Irish heritage. But we have a tv weatherman who's been broadcasting forever; I guess you'd call him a "television personality" round here. And he has some Irish roots, I gather, tho' not an Irish last name. He does have an Irish first name: Pat. Ol' Pat is a canny character. He's the one who started the St. Patrick's Day Parade more than two decades ago--and it just so happens that the parade ends right at the front door of a bar that he owns. Anyway, it doesn't matter that few folks are Irish. What matters is that this is south Louisiana, where every parade, be it Christmas or Halloween or Memorial Day or 4th of July or St. Pat's Day, resembles Mardi Gras. First, there are floats, and the float riders throw stuff--beads, mostly, but also stuffed animals, candy, plastic cups, toys, flowers, panties, condoms, and (only on St. Pat's) cabbages. Second, there are parties--everyone on or near the parade route throws a party. And third, there is alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol, even tho' the parade rolls at 10 am. The drinking begins on Friday night and doesn't let up in some areas--e.g. around LSU--til the wee hours of Monday morning.

As it happens, we live right on the parade route. So, as required, we have a party every year. It's not hard--I make Bailey's Irish Crème brownies and Keith makes an eggy, cheesy casseroley thing and Irish soda bread; we make coffee; we fill up coolers with ice, orange juice, and champagne; we line up patio and lawn chairs, and voila', a party.

Except it gets harder when you have teenagers. Because teenagers have friends. Who are also teenagers. And these friends have friends. Who are also teenagers. And before you know it, hordes of drunken teenagers have descended on your house and infested your attic and overrun your back yard. But that, dear reader, was last year. This year, I was vigilant. I was prepared.

And I was also pissed off. Really, really pissed off. We have had a hard week with Hugh. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. I am angry, so angry that when he walks into the room I want to spit on him. Truly. But beneath the raging, pulsing, shrieking anger is fear, fear and sorrow and guilt beyond measure. All these emotions burning their way through my very core, eating and corroding my soul. It's like I've swallowed Voldemort.

Perhaps it wasn't the best of times to host a parade party.

But St. Patrick's Day waits for no woman.

It was a beautiful day, as early spring so often is in Baton Rouge. Friends gathered; the brownies beckoned; the mimosas sparkled. The teenagers came. I sternly sent them on their way. All was well.

Then, it happened. I was standing at the kitchen sink, grabbing a quick glass of water. I looked out through the window to the deck that sits on our side yard along the street that runs perpendicular to the parade street. (This is a significant detail. On this side street the cops assigned to parade duty tend to gather.) I looked out the window and saw, on the deck, a group of Hugh's friends laughing and talking. . . and passing a joint around. (Hugh was not with them. Minor detail, but I thought I'd point it out.)

Now, personally, I think marijuana should be legal. But it is not. And there were those kids and there was my deck and there were the cops. Now, of course, a good parent would have walked out and pointed out the problems with their actions to the kids. Perhaps a good parent would have engaged them in a discussion of the possible consequences of their actions, maybe turned that situation into one of those learning/bonding moments that later, as adults, the kids would have looked back upon as a transformative time.

But I'm too goddamned angry and afraid and sad and guilty to be that good parent. Nope. It took less than a second to transform me from Cheery Parade Party Hostess to the Incredible Crazy Woman. I ran out, stormed onto the deck, thrust my finger in their faces, and screamed (sadly, this is an exact quotation): "GET OUT! Holy fuck! What the hell do you think you are doing?!"

They left. Looking back, I realize I should have confiscated the weed and smoked it.

I always thought I'd be a Cool Mom. The mom my boys' friends would confide in. Instead I'm That Mom. The insane one.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Red Prada Shoes

Did you know the pope wears red Prada shoes? The things I learn from The Daily Show.

Except I just googled it, and according to the New York Daily News, the Prada part is incorrect. And it turns out the red shoes are traditional and even liturgical. Damn. Just hate facts. It also turns out that the pope's red Prada shoes have been the subject of much comment, controversy, and internet buzz. And I had no idea. I hate that even more than I hate facts. I don't want to be an Out-Of-Touch Person. I don't want to be my mother, refusing to consider a computer, furious that her grandchildren post photos on Facebook rather than presenting them, framed, at her door. I don't want to be my colleague who hauls gigantic maps into the classroom and then gets all pissed off when he discovers that the metal map clips that used to be on the top of the chalkboard have been removed. "Jim," I say, "I can show you how to get those maps online. You can project them--" He waves his arm and walks away. I really don't want to be that guy.

I do, however, have a stack of books that I really want to read. And movies I want to watch. And I'd like to learn Polish and figure out pot gardening. (Wait. That sounds strange. I mean growing herbs and flowers in pots, not cultivating marijuana. At least, not yet.) Anyway, the point is, there's so little time. Must I spend it mastering the latest technological manual, when I know very well that that technology will be out of date in a year or two? I feel proud, in fact, that I never learned how to set the time on my VCR. What would be the point, now?

But how do you figure out which things have a point and which do not? I thought the Nook had a point but now there are tablets and there's no point, is there? I spent time figuring out the Nook, time that could have been spent learning Polish. Or reading Booker Prize novels. Or growing pot. Or, I dunno, doing great good things. Or at least good things. Instead I mastered the Nook and now there's no point. And the tablet awaits. And I find myself exhausted. Scared. Resentful, really.

My mother. She's there. I have seen the Future and it is She.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Crazy Cat Lady

I love my cats.

That scares the shit out of me. I'm not a totally stable person; I fear becoming a Crazy Cat Lady. But I imagine that by the time one is a fully fledged Crazy Cat Lady, one would not be aware of that fact. That's comforting, really. (And why, pray tell, do people not talk about Crazy Dog Ladies? Or Crazy Cat Guys? Definitely some specie-ism and sexism at play here.)

Still, there's something about craziness and cats. Maybe it's that oh-so-old connection between cats and witchcraft. Or maybe it's the weird eyes. Or the whole pouncing thing. I dunno. But I do fear for my sanity when I find myself engaging my cats in conversation and occasionally--just occasionally, mind you--listening to their replies.

Not that I believe a word they say. I'm not crazy, you know.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Doctor Who Goes to the Oscars

It's Oscar night. All America is watching the Oscars. I am watching Doctor Who Revisited on BBC-America. Dear God, thank you for the BBC.

I'm supposed to be at an Oscars-viewing party but I am home nursing two sick cats and an incipient case of massive depression.  I'm the depressed one; the kitties just have a rather disgusting pooping problem.

I'd rather have a pooping problem. Tho' actually, to be perfectly honest, pooping problems are somewhat intrinsic to depression. You get depressed; your tummy gets its own version; you have pooping problems. But I am totally not blogging about that.

Depression. I am blogging about depression. (You thought it was the Oscars, didn't you? Bwah hah hah!) Here's the thing: I fight constantly against depression. Tonight, tho', depression gets a victory. Just a minor one, mind you [she types confidently]. I am staging a tactical retreat. My reserves are exhausted; I await reinforcements; I flee back to the ramparts.

In other words, I empty the house (sick kitties don't count) and I watch Doctor Who. Tomorrow I resume the fight. I will claim happiness. I will be fun and funny; I will have the energy for my fellow human beings. Tonight. . . tonight,  I need Time Lords and aliens.

Is it bad to prefer the company of Daleks and Cybermen to actual friends and family members? Perhaps a wee bit insane? OK, yes, I do realize the correct answer is "yes." Choosing fantasy aliens is probably not high on the list of acceptable responses to depression. But you know, this is the great thing about facing down 50: The boundaries of "acceptable" prove to be more and more elastic.

At this rate, by the time I hit 60 I'll no longer leave the house and I'll talk only to my cats. Still, cats are Doctor Who fans (I mean, it's obvious). So, all will be well. Maybe in a bizarre, slightly twisted, not exactly normal way, but I no longer aspire toward normalcy. Just being well. And if wellness involves time travel and incredibly sexy aliens and huge doses of fantasy (as well as incontinent kitties), so what?

Geez louise. Go see Silver Linings Playbook (it's up for the Oscar for Best Picture). Then explain to me how to define "normal."

Friday, February 22, 2013


Home from work on a Friday. I kick off my boots, take off my belt, pour a glass of wine. It's chilly in the house so I reach up in my closet for my 15-year-old shabby sweatshirt. . . but then I pause; my hand hovers--and I pull down my cashmere shawl. Or scarf. It works both ways. It's richly colored and feather-light and miraculously warm and threaded with the love of the friend who carried it all the way from India to England and across the Atlantic to me.

In the sweatshirt, I schlepp. In the shawl, I swan.

In the sweatshirt, I collapse on the couch in a heap, suck down my wine, and look around wildly for potato chips. In the shawl, I lounge elegantly on the sofa. I sip. I bite delicately into the occasional stuffed olive.

But then, swanning from living room back to kitchen (need more olives), I am suddenly overcome with ambition. I aspire not simply to swan  but to float regally and beneficently, to. . . to. . .to waft, dammit! I want to be one of those wafting women whose shoes always finish off their outfits, who remember everyone's names, who never burst out into shrieking laughter at inappropriate moments.

Oh hell.

I will never waft.

I see that. I accept that.

But for far too long I have squandered my days in schlepping. And I now possess a kick-ass, genuine-article, love-laden cashmere scarf. With said scarf artfully draped about me,  I will swan through my second half-century. It's a promise.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Zoe smiled at me!

Over two decades ago, shortly after I gave birth to Owen, a friend sent us a marvelous baby gift--what must have been the first book of collected Baby Blues comic strips (I believe there are dozens now). Nothing else quite captured the confusion, exhaustion, bewilderment, the sheer "what-the-fuck-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into" of those initial weeks of parenthood. In the strip, Darryl and Wanda's first month with colicky baby Zoe are just hellish (but hilarious), and then comes The Day: The first three frames show Darryl going through his normal routine but he's walking on air, he's floating, and he has this permanent goofy grin.The final frame includes the text balloon: "Zoe smiled at me!" 

I thought of that comic strip yesterday. I got my haircut in the morning and then had a hectic but totally unproductive and unsatisfying day. I came home feeling cranky and stupid, and then I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror with my short, short hair, and I thought, "Oh god, I've turned into one of those haggard academics with the what-the-hell hair." I turned around and there was Hugh. I'll be honest: despite my cheery "Hi honey! How are you?", inside I was cringing. Hugh is 17 and therefore brutal. "You're not wearing that, are you?" "Don't you think it's time you updated your shoes to at least the 1990s?" "No offense, but you look really fat in that." "No offense, but your gray roots are totally showing." "No offense, but those leggings are for someone wayyyyy younger, you know."

I waited for the put-down.

But then, well, Zoe smiled at me:

Hugh: "You got your hair cut!"
Me: "Ye-e-e-s."
Hugh: "You look really good!"
Stunned silence.
Hugh: "You look just like Anne!"

Anne. My fiercely fit, uber-urban, totally trendy, gobsmackingly gorgeous 30-something niece.

I walked on air, I floated, all evening long.