Thursday January 22. 10:05pm

“Helping your Dad hang the painting of flowers from you Papaw & Mamaw’s house!”

It’s a painting my mom brought home after my Papaw’s funeral. It is a painting of the flower arrangement at my Mamaw and Papaw’s engagement party. Aint’ that nice? Remember when people had those? Me neither. But then again, my Papaw and Mamaw probably didn’t get to experience the joys of viewing their friends, pseudo-friends, people they took an Ethnic Lit class in college, and ex-girlfriends’ engagement photos on the internet, either. So I call it a win for the future. So glad we’re in 2015, amirite?

Seriously, though, where are the hoverboards. I’m not talking about this crap. I’m talking about Mattel. Exhibit A:


Robert Zemeckis promised me a hoverboard and inside-out jeans and a giant hologram shark that pretends to eat you on the street! We had a CLEAR destination, a real goal.

Where have we gone wrong, Obama.

momWHATareyoudoing Funeral Festivus 2k14: The Southern Louisiana Excursion

Dispatches from Overeating and Oversharing

Well, I wasn’t planning on a momWHATareyoudoing Special Edition so soon, but it seems that the best-laid plans may be put asunder by the almighty. Or, much more likely, US Airways customer service representative “Hank”.



“You think you have a dead-end job? I have a masters in mathematics.”

My mom’s dearest father and my grandfather, Papaw Burns, has moved on to that great tennis court in the sky, and so I travelled down to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to pay my respects. My Mamaw had already passed in 2003, so this was the last chance I was going to get to pay homage to some killer Burns history.

Here’s a couple of fun facts about the man of the hour.

1) He was a part of the Baton Rouge integration movement. “Wait, you mean, like integrative technologies?” No, you Silicon Valley Google employee slash app enthusiast…racial integration! Desegregation. In LOUISIANA. And I don’t mean he brought cookies to the protests. Heavy shit. My mom said she was afraid she’d wake up to a burning cross on the front yard. But she gets anxious, so she was probably making too big of a deal out of it, right? Oh she was in the deep south, soo…nope I guess not.

2) He played tennis. A LOT. He also lived to be 94. Coincidence? I think not.

3) A self-proclaimed “Justice Nut” he was also pretty big on LGBT rights. Nice, Papaw.

4) He was a World War II veteran. Now, before you start imagining Saving Private Ryan, let’s take just a liiiitle step back. He was a meteorologist, so the amount of full on “action” that he saw, per se, wasn’t exactly bang bang shoot ‘em up, though I doubt very much that he ever had a problem with that. He was stationed in Southern England and made weather forecasts for air raid strikes. Though he later pursued forestery over meterology because, and I quote “I hate to be wrong, and weathermen are wrong half the time.” Good point, Papaw, good point.

5) He was the head of the Forestry Department at LSU. He was also, apparently, the “Grandfather of the Christmas tree” in Louisiana. Meaning he helped foster the Christmas tree industry in Louisiana because he helped find a suitable tree for growing and harvesting. So I’m assuming everyone called him Papaw all the time.

6) He loved stupid, corny jokes. I know a man with a wooden leg named smith. Well, what’s the name of his other leg?–that kind of stuff.


Choice moments from the excursion: 

I drive down with my wife and my sister eleven hours (or twelve, who’s counting?) on Wednesday. Once we’re about 58 minutes out of town, we get approximately 30 texts from my mom asking about our arrival time. Important clarifying questions like “You all still on the road?”, or “Mary Michael made chicken enchiladas, do you want any?” “What’s your ETA?” or “Do you want salad with your chicken enchiladas?”. My wife is driving, and I’m supplying the Usher/Spice Girls to power us through the last push, so my sister is nominated full-time texter. Despite her millennial prowess, its still a thumb-tastic effort to keep up. We arrive, stuff our faces, eat some Trifle cake, and collapse. Phase one of overeating.

Getting to watch my mom with two her sisters. It’s nice to know that love and impatience serves the test of time.

Listening to some awesome guy we were staying with talk about how he didn’t think a “white chili” consisting of chicken and white kidney beans wasn’t really a chili. His main point is that the chili doesn’t have any chili powder in it. Therefore, a soup… I’m inclined to agree.

Getting to speak at my Papaw’s funeral and making people laugh AND cry. Oh, the power…

Po Boys!

Listening to people telling me stories that I had never heard about my Papaw. Also, he made a big point of being called Paul Y. Burns and not just Paul Burns because there was another Paul Burns in Baton Rouge. So all his life, he was Paul Y. Burns—to everybody. I had people come up to me at the funeral reception who said “I’ve always wanted to know…what did the ‘Y’ stand for?” Yep. These people had waited approximately 94 years to ask what his middle name was. It’s Yoder, people.

Driving my Papaw’s car back to North Carolina. He owned Camry’s all his goddamned life, but once he got old, he bought a BUICK. Yes, not only does the grim reaper come for us all in the end, but American cars will come for us one day too. Some of us earlier than others. I will say, though, now that I’m driving it around that shit is a smoooooth ride. It’s like sailing away on an ocean of interstate dreams.

It was definitely the funnest funeral I have ever attended. That sounds weird. It was the most positive funeral I ever—no. It was fun. I had a great time. Its so cool to get to celebrate someone who has lived a full life. We all should be so lucky. The only thing I would have changed is that Papaw could be there. AND DON’T YOU get all “he was there in spirit”. No. What I wish is that my funny, stuffy, occasionally cranky Papaw was there with a Miller Lite and/or tennis racket in hand to see all the hullaballoo.

Hey Gang!

Yes, yes. I know I haven’t posted in a while. I skipped down to Louisiana for my Papaw’s funeral and now I’m back in action. Don’t worry, I’ll give you the full report in my extra special edition “momWHATareyoudoing Funeral Festivus 2015: Jumbo Shrimp, Abita Beer, and Pimento Cheese Sandwiches with the crusts cut off” coming soon–that’s a working title.

…I wouldn’t count on it being, like, crazy special, but it will, at the very least, deviate from the standard format of my mom texting me and me saying “WHAAAAAT!?”

I would pour your spices on my cereal if it weren’t for all these judging eyes

Friday January 2. 10:07pm

“Visiting with our friends Ann & Malcolm, finished eating gumbo & now headed outside to sit around their fire pot!”

‘member how I said the deep south sucks*? Lies, all lies, and this text is the undeniable proof. They just ate gumbo and they are headed outside to hang out by a a fire IN JANUARY. Bam! No wonder Emeril Lagasse is so excited! He’s all up IN the cajun cuisine. Wait, WAT? He’s French-Canadian? Life shattered. Well, in a way, he’s the true spirit of Cajun, because Acadian-Creoles people were originally French-Canadians who migrated all the way to Louisiana. Why did they not stop in ANY of the other states, I don’t know…the museums down there are way less exciting than the shrimp po boys. You know what, screw it. I’m not defending Emeril Lagasse. Never again…damn good spices though.


“Use 20oz per meal. TAKE IT UP A NOTCH, turds!”

Anywho, yes, my Papaw is not doing very well. At all…but ain’t NO reason to not eat gumbo and live it up. Seriously. We could get into New Orleans Jazz funerals, but my Papaw was Presbyterian and white as fuuuck so its a little unnecessary. Either way, the end is about celebrating LIFE and honoring death. Don’t you judge my ma for getting her gumbo on.

*Okay, just to clarify: I said the deep south without bodies of water nearby or close to interstates suck. Baton Rouge, LA is on the Mississippi river AND is only 1.5 hours for New Orleans. So it does not suck.

New Years Greetings!

Thursday January 1, 2015. 10:02pm

“At hotel in Mississippi going to bed soon so we can drive tomorrow to see your Papaw.”

Well, kids, I’m not gonna lie, the next several momWHATareyoudoing posts ain’t gonna be pretty. I was going to apologize in my last post for taking longer than new years to start posting again, but I don’t get paid for this shit (still accepting checks by mail) so I figured you people would just wait. Also, I don’t have the best of New Years tidings.

Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is that momWHATareyoudoing carries on into 2015. What began as a month long experiment has turned into too much fun for me to quit. My mom has graciously agreed to keep pressing onward, even after she warned her friends about the swear words and they read the blog anyway.

The bad news is that my papaw is undeniably dying. I was going to use a nicer word, but not until someone has died can you start sugar-coating it by saying “passed away”. He isn’t currently passing, what he’s doing right now is dying. Aren’t we all? Yes, but he’s actually in the last lap whereas the rest of us don’t know what lap we are on. I was also going to play the dumb blogger and pretend like I only knew as much as I knew from these texts, but I’m actually writing this post on the following Monday after a long weekend. THAT’s right, I’m in the FUTURE! And I can safely say, from the future, that Papaw is dying.

So my mom has driven 11 hours down to Louisiana with my dad to be there for her last parent. You only get two, if you’re lucky.

But this bad news is one of the reasons I am also doing this blog. Maybe it will be a really great mix of funny and sad and real. Maybe it will be just whatever it is.

Anyway, I bet that hotel sucks. Not because its a crappy hotel, but because it’s in Mississippi. Have you ever BEEN to Mississippi? I’m sure there are some really great parts of Mississippi, maybe, but they sure as shit aren’t in hotels close to the interstate. I’ve been through both Mississippi and Alabama a good number of times on my way to visit both my Papaw and Mamaw at lots of different times in my life. And it aaaalways sucks. I find nothing romantic about the “deep south” that isn’t close to a large body of water. Teeming with the (hopefully) ever-shrinking ripples of racism? OH yeeaah. But romantic? Nah. Again, there are exceptions, but along the interstates its a fucking wasteland of McDonald’s, Olive Gardens, and sad fat people who are roasting inside their own flesh.

Well, that seems like a good note to end on…

SEE YA NEXT TIME on momWHATareyoudoing!

Saturday November 15

“Just hung up the phone from talking with your Papaw, he is pretty amazed that you are driving the pubcycle in the cold & even when it snows!”

Getting pretty heavy into Papaw around here. Surprised this post hasn’t come up yet because my Papaw calls EVERY Saturday at 10pm. And my parents talk to him for approximately 20 minutes. Every. Saturday.

Friday November 14

“Reading through Papaw’s files; found World War II letters, his Forestry class record books from 1950, travel memoirs, civil rights & church work leadership & a lot of other miscellaneous things!”

Nice use of the semicolon in a text, mom. 90% of American’s don’t even know what one is. I do remember from high school AP English that people talk about using semicolons to “spice up your writing”. Really? Really? A semicolon will “spice up” your writing? If you’re the kind of person who thinks semicolons are spicy, then you’re the kind of person who gets floored by 20% off coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond. EVERYONE gets them. They will even take them after they are expired. Get some adrenalin in your life, for chrissakes, before you watch your next season of Grey’s Anatomy.

On to more important things. History! My Papaw is 94. Yep. That’s right, Ninety sweater-loving Four. And yes, we call him “Papaw”. Suck it. Is he a country-bumpkin distilling moonshine in the backwoods of Louisiana? Nope. A farm-folk? Nooooope. He’s a former professor of forestry at Louisiana State University. And don’t get too psyched about all the records my mom found like they’re ALL so rare. He keeps records of EVERYTHING. Not that they aren’t cool. They are totally cool; buuut to give you an idea of the scope of these so-called “records”, this dude can check a notebook and tell you where he played tennis on the morning of Saturday August 1, 1964. Also, what the score was and who won. Spoiler alert: it was probably him.

If this dude sounds busy, you should have seen his wife. My mom IS my “Mamaw” in 99 of 100 ways. What’s the last way? Mamaw was handy with a wrench, and my mother decided to eschew that particular discipline in favor of child psychology. Fair trade.