About Me

Michelle Blanchard Ardillo: wife, mother, daughter, sister, lifelong Catholic, English teacher, fervent Francophile, drama queen, serious foodie, avid reader, freelance writer

A Cajun girl in a kilt, that’s me. My dad was born and raised in southeast Louisiana, as was I, but my mother was born to immigrants from Glasgow, Scotland, who came to the US for economic and religious freedom. Upon marrying my father, however, she abandoned her Scottish heritage and adopted my father’s culture, cuisine, and customs. For example, although she grew up with oatmeal every morning, she never had it again after she married my father, switching to grits, the hot cereal of Louisiana. It wasn’t until one of my mother’s first cousins starting visiting us (after her retirement and the passing of her own mother) did I come to truly understand my Scottish heritage. My image of myself shifted. Was I just my father’s daughter? Was my mother’s past inside of me as well?

When I first visited Scotland in 2000, I felt like I had “come home”. The highlands and the lowlands; the heather, the thistles, and bluebells; the shortbread and the never-ending cuppa tea; the heavy accents; they all tugged and tugged at my heart. Now, I consider myself a series of contradictions: Community Coffee in the morning and hot tea in the evening, gumbo for lunch and scones in the afternoon, Zydeco to energize me and Mozart to relax me. With my very French maiden name and my fair, freckled complexion, I remain a Cajun girl in a kilt.

After spending twenty years in the legal field, I spent two glorious years as a trailing spouse in the heart of Europe, the lovely country of Belgium. Without the legal documentation to work, I volunteered at the international school my daughters were attending. My assignments were interesting and varied: shelving and cataloging books in the high school library, helping students with research and term papers, working as a teacher’s aide in a critical thinking class, organizing a middle school Renaissance banquet, and conducting cooking demonstrations on the foods of ancient civilizations. My days in that bustling school filled me with energy and awoke in me a burgeoning creativity, something that had been quashed in the well-defined and rule-driven legal field. I met students and their parents from all over the world. I learned from experienced educators as well as young novice teachers just starting out in the education field. I learned so much from that experience, most importantly, that I did not want to return to the legal field when we returned to the States.

After buying a house and getting settled, I began my quest for a new career in education by serving as youth minister for my parish church for three years, doing faith formation for grades 6-12 with service projects, liturgies, and fun social events. Soon I began substitute teaching in the parish school, and then attended a Catholic schools job fair, leaving resumes here and there and setting up interviews for language arts positions.  In 2007 I began teaching language arts full time, at a lovely K-8 Catholic school, where I taught for 10 years before transferring to my own parish Catholic school. I spend my work days with middle schoolers, teaching them literature, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and writing. My weeknights and weekends are spent grading papers, creating lesson plans, and editing essays. Whatever time is left over is used for family time, cooking, reading, and writing.

While reading and writing has always been my vocation, theatre has been my true love outside of work. For five years in the mid-80s, I was very active in a community theatre group where I participated in all aspects of theatre. I’ve been onstage in over forty productions, including a 1987 production of the musical Annie where I met my husband, worked backstage doing tech work in dozens more, and directed many more. For 12 years I moderated an after-school drama club, producing and directing two middle school plays a year. Luckily, my two adult daughters love all aspects of the performing arts as much as my husband and me!

xmas 2015At the heart of everything is my faith. I am a lifelong practicing Catholic, cradle to grave as they say. I’ve been active in all aspects of parish life my whole lifetime, serving on the parish council, teaching CCD, serving as a lector and an extraordinary minster of the Eucharist, being a member of the Sodality. In our travels in the US and in Europe, I’ve attended Mass in each place we’ve visited, and no matter how “foreign” a place seems, the rituals of the Catholic faith remain steadfast and permanent, a strong tie to my childhood, my family, and those I love.

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