10 Ways Southern Women Communicate Without Uttering a Word

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  1. We raise our eyebrows to the heavens. Translation: Seriously? Have you lost your mind? What were you thinking? Have I taught you nothing?
  2. We close our eyes in weary defeat like we’re headed to the Appomattox courthouse. Translation: You have messed things up so badly that we can’t bear to look you in the face anymore. (Sometimes this is accompanied by fingers in our ears and a la-la-la-la-I-don’t-hear-you refrain like we’re monks seeking Nirvana on a mountaintop.)
  3. We cross our legs and swing the top foot in a rapid-fire motion like we’ve been mainlining caffeine since dawn. Translation: We can barely remain seated because a situation close at hand would be much improved if we got up and handled it, which we are sorely tempted to do, even though we know no good will come of it.
  4. We raise a pointer finger imperiously to the sky, a la Miss Clavel speaking to Madeline. Translation: Depends. Several possibilities here. Could mean: “Something is not right” in nun-speak. Can also mean: “I’m about to impart life-altering words of wisdom. Someone should really write this down”. Or it could be an all-the-way-across-the-room, modify-your-behavior-this-instant warning to children we have reared better than that. Rest assured, our children know what the finger means.
  5. We make “pfffing” noises with our lips. Translation: We are actually scoffing at your point of view. This is a more grown-up, sophisticated version of the classic raspberry.
  6. We roll our eyes. Translation: Your suggestion is too ridiculous for words. It is beneath us to discuss this again. We’re already on record—more than once—about this, and you are STILL wrong.
  7. We lean our heads back, close our eyes, and cross our arms. Translation: We Shall Not Be Moved. Think Mount Rushmore. We’ve DECIDED. Learn to live with it if you can’t love it. Whatever it is. Doesn’t matter.
  8. Hand on the hip. Translation: A verbal smack down is nigh. Somebody has it coming, probably had it coming for a while, and is about to get it. Prepare for incoming. Duck and cover, join forces, or get the heck out of the way.
  9. We tilt our head coquettishly to the side. Translation: We might be listening to your point of view. Truly. Or we might be mentally contemplating the many important things your mama apparently failed to teach you.
  10. We open our arms wide to you, extend both hands decidedly in your personal space, or reach up to kiss you on the cheek. Translation: Southern women are very touchy-feely. If you are not, you need to suck it up. You might be rewarded with pound cake. You should hug us back like you mean it. Bonus: If you pick us up off the floor in a bear hug and swing us around like we’re six-year-old girls again, you get homemade whipped cream with that.

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Straight From the Mouths of Teenage Drivers

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I’m teaching my third child to drive. It’s making me crazy. Certifiable. Nuts. I don’t remember it being this hard with the boys. In honor of this special bit of parenting craziness, I’m posting a list from my fourth book, I’ve Had It Up To Here With Teenagers. Feel free to yuk it up at my expense. As usual.

Straight From The Mouths of Teenage Drivers:
1. “I’m not speeding! I’m going exactly the speed limit!”
2. “That dent was already there.”
3. “I’m not too close.”
4. “That car needs to stay out of my lane.”
5. “I know what to do. You told me that a hundred times already.”
6. “I did come to a complete stop.”
7. “This is harder than it looks.”
8. “That was close!”
9. “Merging is hard.”
10. “I forgot about crosswalks.”
11. “I’m never going to parallel park, so I don’t need to practice that.”
12. “You don’t have to yell at me!”
13. “Sorry. Is that going to be expensive?”
14. “I drove well this time. Didn’t I, Mom? You didn’t throw up once.”

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Graduation and Last-Minute Parenting Panic

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*This is a post I wrote two years ago when my oldest son graduated from high school. My middle child graduates in a few weeks. I’m re-posting for all the mamas I’ve loved and commiserated with over the years!

I’m out of time. My son leaves for college soon. He thinks he’s ready, but I find myself lying in bed at 3 AM, staring at the clock on my bedside table, worrying about all the things I have forgotten to tell him, teach him, explain to him, or warn him about. Recently, I’ve jumped out of bed in the middle of the night and flown down the stairs to impart words of wisdom that simply cannot wait until dawn.

“Sweetie? Are you awake?” I ask, after tiptoeing into my son’s bedroom like a jewelry thief, looming over the side of the bed like a stalker fan, and poking him sharply in the side until he acknowledges my presence.

“Barely. What do you want this time, Mom?” he asks in a resigned voice, peeling back one eyelid, and staring at me bleary-eyed with fatigue.

“Promise me you will not accept any credit card offers, okay? Credit card companies prey on college kids. You could rack up thousands of dollars of debt!” I explain in an urgent tone of voice, gesticulating wildly with my hands to punctuate every word, increasing my volume and becoming more worked up with each second.

“Um. Okay, mom. I’ve got your card for emergencies, so we’re good,” he reassures me, rolling over so I have to move to the other side of the bed to maintain eye contact.

“You could end up with a bad credit score! You wouldn’t be able to buy your own home one day!” I warn, not fully convinced I have his undivided attention.

“Mom, could we worry about buying my first home later? I have a history test in four hours for HIGH SCHOOL. Okay?”

“Sure, sure! Go back to sleep, honey. I just thought since you were awake, we could talk,” I respond, a tad defensively.

A few minutes tick by. I remain frozen by my son’s bed, unable to move, my hands hovering over his body, which is now twice the size of my own, praying silently a sort of desperate litany to God, fate, Mother Nature, the lottery, and anything and anyone else who might listen.

“Are you going to stand there much longer, Mom?” my son asks in a dry voice, without opening his eyes, “’Cause I have to say it:  you’re kind of creeping me out.”

“Nope! On my way upstairs right now!” I reply, a trifle huffily.

“Good deal. See you in the morning, Mom.”

“’Nightloveyousomuch, son.”

“Loveyoutoo,” he mumbles in return.

Lately, every time we’re alone in an enclosed space—the kitchen, an elevator, the car–for more than five minutes, I find myself talking to my child in rapid-fire, staccato syntax as if I’m a drill sergeant, and I’ve been forced to send him to the front lines for hand-to-hand combat. I can’t seem to stop preaching mini-sermons, making dire predictions, or offering dangerous hypothetical scenarios for him to figure out while he’s still geographically close to me so we can talk through the options.

Like the sergeant, I feel it’s my job to keep this boy safe. I know how many dangers and temptations lurk just around the corner for him. Like all eighteen-year-olds, he is oblivious and thinks he is immortal. He’s poised on the starting block, grinning from ear-to-ear, out of his mind with excitement.

My heart races when I think of setting my child free, unchaperoned and curfew-less into the world. I feel like I’m throwing him off a pier into the deep end of the ocean with only his iPhone, a debit card, a high school diploma, and some monogrammed towels to help him on his way.

He’s bound to hit some white water. Everybody does. There are going to be treacherous currents, vicious undertow, barges that appear out of nowhere, hurricanes, whirlpools, sharks, and other predators. And that’s just the college years!

I’m worried about all the pitfalls I haven’t pointed out: pyramid schemes, cheating spouses, door-to-door solicitors, the importance of separating the whites and darks when he does laundry, and remembering to text his younger sister, the sibling who dreads being on the receiving end of my undivided attention.

I’ve covered everything I can think of: good grades, safe sex, binge drinking, illegal drugs, texting and driving, and the importance of choosing friends wisely. He’s going to make some whopping mistakes. I know that. I just don’t want them to be split-second decisions that result in eighteen years of child support payments or an interstate pile-up.

He’s heard it all before. He knows the lectures by heart, and he can repeat them with me in a singsong voice. Wear your seatbelt. Mind your manners. Take your vitamins. Don’t text and drive. Go to class. Do your homework. Write thank-you notes. Call your grandparents. Be a gentleman.

“I know, Mom, You’ve told me a thousand times already,” he says every time I open my mouth.

“Yeah,” I nod, fighting off a panic attack.

Is it enough? Does he hear my voice in his head? Will it cause him to pause, think twice, and reconsider before bungee jumping off a bridge on a college dare or eloping with the first girl he falls in love with?When my teenagers were babies, they were more afraid of me than God Almighty. That was a good thing. Back then, that was enough.

“You have to quit trying to cram everything into my head, Mom!” he begged me this week. “I’m going to college, not outer space. You’re going to see me again. I don’t have any money of my own.”

True. That’s one of my jobs as the mother of teenagers: I am a slightly overweight, farsighted, menopausal ATM machine. I am also a: short order cook, chauffeur, laundress, coach, nurse, tutor, psychiatrist, spiritual advisor, and social secretary. Parenting teenagers requires flexibility. You have to be able to clean up vomit, talk about condoms, cough up a small fortune in acne products, and love unconditionally and with fierce, illogical abandon. It also helps if you have a smart mouth and a sharp pen, in my experience. I have both in spades.

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A Fond Farewell to My Old Suburban

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Farewell to an old friend: After 15 years and 256,000 miles, my faithful Suburban-mama-car just motored off to the big retirement garage in the sky. Lord knows, she deserves the rest, but I’m a little sad.
Sure, one of the turn signals has been randomly blinking since the 90s, and none of the locks work. Climbing in late at night requires a look-see in the back seats to make sure no one is stowing away back there. 

It’s also true that the driver’s side window refuses to roll down upon occasion, and that makes for awkward fast-food-drive-through ordering, bank deposits, and valet parking.
When the leather seats wore out, I repaired them with duct tape. Classy.

But I loved that car.

Family vacations. Beach trips. Disney World. Football games. Baseball games. Basketball tournaments. Summer camp. A carload of giggling cheerleaders . . . Memories.

Did you know you can fit a full-sized mattress in the back on an old Suburban? You can also transport huge buckets of flowers that need to be arranged. Garage sale items. Pine straw. A new washer and dryer. Big antiques? No sweat.

I liked driving my big mama car. I admit it. I felt like my kids were encased in a tank. It felt safe. Solid. It also had a huge gas tank. We could drive through three states in a hurricane evacuation without filling up. That’s handy where I live.

I’ll miss my Suburban. Did you ever fall in love with a car?

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20 Things Students Say That Drive Me To Drink, Make Me Long to Smack Them Over the Head With Heavy Objets d’art, Urge Me to Slide My Feet Off the Proverbial Ledge and Jump, and Cause Me to Regret Sacrificing My Youth and Three Dress Sizes to School Scores of Ungrateful Wretches

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1.–“As long as the grammar is correct, you don’t care what I say, right?”

2.–“I didn’t know you were so serious about deadlines.”

3.–“Sorry I was absent. I’ll come by your office so you can catch me up.”

4.–“I didn’t think anybody used apostrophes anymore.”

5.–“Why can’t my thesis be a fact?”

6.–“How many paragraphs do I need to make an A?”

7.–“All my high school teachers thought my writing was great!”

8.–“Are you telling me I can’t turn in a short story for my essay assignment?”

9.–“What do you mean I will fail with ‘perfectly punctuated nonsense’ as easily as content that is ‘incoherent’ due to a ‘numerous grammatical and mechanical errors’?”

10.—“Were you talking about me when you said: ‘The ability to distinguish run-ons and sentence fragments is a basic test of literacy in our society’?”

11.–“I didn’t think you’d care about punctuation in the rough draft.”

12.–“I was going to add my research to the final draft.”

13.–“Why do you write notes in the margins of my paper like: ‘Good grief!’ ‘Really???’ ‘Lord, help you,’ ‘Oh, please,’ and ‘Have you lost your mind?’ when I make teeny-tiny mistakes with words like:  its/it’s, everyday/every day, and  compliment/complement?”

14.–“Why do you make such a big deal about MLA format?”

15.–“Why are you so obsessed with handbooks?”

16.–“Sorry I missed class. I was busy finishing my essay.”

17.–“Are you saying I can’t turn in a one-paragraph essay?”

18.–“I made an A in creative writing!”

19.–“What do you mean spoken English is different than written English? Texting is writing; isn’t it?”

20.–“Are you this mean to your own kids?”

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Construction-Paper Hearts

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I love Valentine’s Day. I love every single thing about it. I love the romance of it. I love that the holiday excludes extended family members. I love that it doesn’t require decorations. I love that I don’t have to spend big money on my valentine (although if you can do so without eating chicken noodle soup for a month, and you are so inclined, then don’t let me stand in the way of any jewelry purchases.) I love that you never really know who will send you a valentine—the boy you dated in college, your eighty-year-old father, or your five-year-old piano student. Little surprises are my favorite.

I can’t tell you how disgusted I feel when I hear a man say he can’t think of anything to do for his one, true love on Valentine’s Day. Baloney. Can’t be bothered is more like it. I can think of dozens of things ANYONE can do. For example, if you want to steer around crowded restaurants filled with smooching couples, or you wisely wish to avoid another charge on your credit card, pick up an inexpensive bottle of wine and a take-away appetizer on your way home from work. I think there is something particularly festive about Chinese food, something to do with the boxes, maybe, but it could also be the chopsticks or the fortune cookies. However, since I won’t be there, get whatever works for the two of you. Set the stage for a romantic picnic in your own home—NOT the kitchen table or anywhere else you normally eat. Spread a tablecloth or blanket on the floor. Avoid the kids’ sheets with Disney characters splashed across them. Buzz Lightyear is not going to set the mood you are looking for. Light a candle. (Men: Look in the drawer with the flashlight, batteries, and matches. Find the candles without asking your wife where she keeps them, which is a real buzz-kill.) Use a piece of your wedding china to plate the appetizer and two crystal goblets. (They’re in the china cabinet in the dining room, not in the kitchen with the coffee mugs.) Blindfold your wife. Lead her to your romantic nook. She’ll be impressed. I promise. Total financial outlay: less than twenty bucks if you don’t get carried away in the wine store.

You could also ask your wife to meet you for lunch at a favorite spot or somewhere new and exotic. Stop along the way to buy flowers from a street vendor like you are a character in a romantic comedy. Fill up her arms with blossoms. Every time you hand her a flower, pay her a compliment to go with it. You might say, “Lilies—the first flowers I ever sent you,” or “Red roses—remember the ones on our honeymoon?” A girl can get drunk on compliments. If you can’t think of any compliments, make some up. This is as good a time to use your imagination for something more than the possibilities for the final-four bracket in college basketball.

If you are on a budget, stop by the library, and check out your wife’s favorite romantic movie. Watch it with her. Pretend that you like it, too. You could also write a poem for your wife. WAIT! COME BACK! It doesn’t have to be original. You can check out a volume of poetry at the same library where you got the movie. (Yes, your library card can actually be used for books as well as movies.) A little too uptown for your taste? Think about song lyrics if that makes it easier for you. I never met a man in my life who didn’t think he could write a great song. It doesn’t have to rhyme. You could write a haiku. Short and sweet. Heck, you could write a funny limerick. Give yourself extra points for dirty words. It is Valentine’s Day, after all. Lighten up. Have some fun with it. Write your poem on a paper heart you cut out yourself. Sign it. Put it in an envelope with your valentine’s name on it. I guarantee you that extra points will be awarded for effort.

I especially love that Valentine’s Day is the one day in the entire year when everybody else seems inclined to eat as much chocolate as I do on a regular basis. This holiday is a guilt-free, chocolate-eating-free-for-all, and that is absolution bound to make me sweetly disposed toward others. If you can afford it, go for elaborately wrapped, expensive chocolate, but remember that you can get the same result if you go to the drugstore and load up a bag with every candy bar your wife enjoys most. Show you’ve been paying attention to her candy preferences over the years, and she will remember why she fell in love with you. For example, if you know your wife is partial to Almond Joy candy bars even though she hates almonds, have a bag of Almond Joys all ready for her with the almonds already sucked off. She will know you are, indeed, her soul mate.

Homemade valentine cards are the best thing about Valentine’s Day. I keep the valentines my children made for me when they were preschoolers in a box under my bed, and when I get the urge to have DNA tests performed on them to see if they are, indeed, the same children I gave birth to years ago, the squiggly writing and shakily drawn hearts remind me of the years when my children thought I was the most extraordinary human on the planet. Now, of course, they look at me like I have three heads, leprosy, or like a guest who accidentally burps in the middle of a wedding.

Best of all, I love that on Valentine’s Day, my husband always gives me a romantic card that makes me feel loved—even if I was cheerfully thinking of divorcing him a scant twenty-fours hours before. He has never forgotten Valentine’s Day. That might be the reason we’ve been married for so many of them. Sometimes we were broke on Valentine’s Day, sometimes not. It never mattered. As I tell my sons, a single flower or one beautifully wrapped chocolate says the same thing as a dozen.

Even the history of St. Valentine is romantic. Theological scholars don’t know that much about him, but I like the theory that he helped persecuted Christians wed in secret. Maybe if he’d done a little matchmaking for the emperor, he could have kept his head. Of course, then he wouldn’t have been a saint. The suffering and traumatic denouement are requirements for sainthood. My family will tell you that I have a “thing” for saints. If you don’t know your saints, I urge you to do some reading in this area. Saints’ lives are colorful, to say the least. You don’t make it to sainthood by living a boring life. Passion. Dedication. Romance. The saints have all that in spades. Little warning: It never ends well.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes. There’s nothing you can say about Valentine’s Day that will make me change my mind. Of course, I realize it’s a made-up holiday. I know it’s a rainmaker for florists and greeting-card vendors. The thing is: I don’t care. I understand that many people see Valentine’s Day as the cliché of all clichés. I just don’t think a cliché is anything to be ashamed of.

I promise you that a construction-paper valentine, cut out with kitchen scissors, with a romantic sentiment scrawled across it in a man’s own handwriting, is one of the most romantic gestures I know. Even now, a homemade valentine makes me wish I carried cloth hankies in my handbag every day instead of just for funerals. I hate having to wipe away sentimental tears with paper napkins that say Pizza Hut on them. It cheapens the moment.

The thing about clichés is that they got to be clichés by appealing to a large demographic. I’m not one bit embarrassed about being a member of the Valentine’s Day fan club. I say we women should stop apologizing for having a soft spot for this holiday. While I’m confessing, let me just go ahead and say that I also love bubble baths, milk chocolate, the occasional trashy novel, and shopping for fun. Is that so wrong? Why are simple pleasures the subject of such ridicule? Pure snobbery, I think.

Every woman in the world, from age twelve or so until senility, is looking for romance, yearning for it, actually, in everyday life. Sadly, it is very rare. It takes so little effort, time, or money, really, for men to be romantic. Sure, Valentine’s Day puts the pressure on publicly, but we all know a few men out there who need a jumpstart, men who say, “What? Is it Valentine’s Day already? Didn’t I just buy you a Christmas present?” A man who says that is not, I repeat not, what we are looking for in any way, shape, or form.

What we want is the Cinderella ending. It’s a long shot. Real life interrupts good intentions, lifelong promises, and heartfelt pledges of eternal love. Every grown-up woman knows that. To all you men out there, I say: If you’ve never made a big romantic gesture in your life, this is the one day of the year when it would not seem corny. On February 14th, every woman you know—old, young, fat, skinny, married, single, divorced, sweet, or mean as a cottonmouth—EVERY woman checks the mail carefully for a valentine with her name on the envelope. She answers the door with a fast-beating heart, hoping for a blossom or two, and she checks under her pillow, on the kitchen table, in her car, and in your coat pocket to see if there is a small surprise there for her from you.

*Want more? This is an excerpt from my third book, I Love You–Now Hush. Check it out! 

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10 Ways To Use Chocolate For Good

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1. You can combine chocolate consumption with other pleasures. For example, you can eat chocolate while shopping for shoes. Life does not get any better than that.

2. You can eat chocolate while you are waiting for a handsome man to send you a text message, email, voice mail, or shares in his stock portfolio–whatever.

3. You can eat chocolate while you peruse your divorce papers. It won’t change anything, of course, but it can’t hurt anything either.

4. You can eat chocolate while waiting for the timer to go off when you are coloring your hair. Usually, those minutes are just wasted.

5. You can reward yourself with chocolate for exercising when you felt like doing something (anything) else instead.

6. You can eat chocolate as a substitute for dinner. It’s a proven fact that chocolate will make you much happier than lima beans.

7. You can use chocolate to bribe children to practice their math facts, write their thank-you notes, finish their music theory, or to perform other odious tasks.

8. You can eat chocolate as a form of social protest against the media’s love affair with anorexic-looking models.

9. You can purchase gourmet chocolate as a luxury item to help stimulate the economy. It’s practically patriotic.

10. You can use chocolate to sooth the savage beast within you and prevent you from causing bodily harm to the tiny humans you gave birth to.

Laughing yet? Want more? This list is an excerpt from my 3rd book, I Love You–Now Hush. Visit a bookstore near you, order online, or download it today!

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