Monday, April 14, 2014

Girl talk

An original illustration by Lora Leigh.

I was standing in my kitchen the other day working on dinner when my daughter brought a new friend in to say hello.

She isn't one of my daughter's classmates, not one of the kids who rides the same bus. She doesn't even live in our neighborhood. In fact, she doesn't live in our state.

My daughter's new friend Sydney lives somewhere in Ohio and she came into my kitchen last week via Facetime on my daughter's iPhone.

Isn't technology amazing?

Lora and Sydney, who met through a mutual friend, have been talking for weeks (which may explain our many data overages recently). I don't know what all they talk about. I think they mostly watch reruns of "The Office" together, but I know Lora has given Sydney a complete tour of our house and both our front and back yards. And Sydney recently took Lora on a little trip to New York with her choir group.

And let me assure you that I have done my due diligence as a mom. My daughter knows not to give her full name or address to anyone she meets on the Internet. And we are reasonably sure that Sydney is not really some 65-year old pedophile from New Jersey. I did speak to the girl on Facetime and see her actually moving. Still, when Sydney offered to send Lora a souvenir from her trip to New York, we told Lora to have her mail it to her dad's school instead of our house, just because.

Isn't modern technology scary?

But it's also pretty cool. My kid got to have a friend over to watch TV with and I didn't have to feed her.

Actually, this is the thing these days. While Lora has had the obligatory slumber party or two for birthdays and whatnot, most of the time she and her friends just hang out on Skype, or one of the many alternatives now available on their laptops and tablets. Because they all like to draw, they like to use the "Share Screen" feature, which allows them to show each other their creations. They can even watch TV and movies -- together. I often hear them giggling and laughing with each other from my daughter's room.

Now, as a mom, there is much to like about this new fangled trend:
One:  I don't have to feed them.
Two: I don't have to clean up after them.
Three: I don't have to stay up all night with them.
Four: There's much less drama when girls aren't all in the same room. Fewer feelings get hurt.

Give me a few more minutes and I'm sure I could come up with a couple more, but you get the idea.

Isn't technology awesome?

It is! Why, just the other night I realized that I had carried my weary body up the stairs and crawled into my bed without stopping in my daughter's room to say goodnight! So what's a weary mom to do? Why, she Facetimes her teen-with-an-iPhone! That's what she does! I really did. I called her and told her I loved her and wished her good night and made silly faces. I even let her dad say good night.

She was duly mortified. (Winning!)

But wait. She's going to be dating someday, isn't she? Boys have computers and cell phones and Facetime too, don't they? Someday, I'm going to walk in her room and there will be a BOY in there. Won't there? How exactly do you chase a boy out of your daughter's room when he isn't really there? Or, she could bring him to "meet" me when I've just gotten out of the shower or something. That wouldn't be good either.

Isn't technology terrifying?


Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Coach's Wife

I don't often write about my husband.

Oh, if you're a regular follower of this little blog you know that he's a high school teacher/baseball coach and once was a short-lived volleyball coach, that he has a really bad memory, doesn't do birthdays very well, or DIY projects around the house. That he can remember virtually every pitch of that big win against E.D. White 14 years ago, but can't remember to put his cell phone in his pocket before he leaves the house. That he used to get thrown out of baseball games -- a lot.  That he loves baseball, his convertible, me, his children, his new grand baby, his sofa, his pool, his dogs (probably in that order) and that he always took my side when his mother and I would fight.

In large part because of that last phrase is why he and I have been married 20 years come December, and together two more than that. Yes, we did meet at a bar. We DO live in (the suburbs of) New Orleans, you know.

But I don't often get to write about The Coach. For one thing, I am a sports writer, he is a coach. In journalism circles,  it is extremely frowned upon for a journalist spouse to write about a public persona spouse, whether he/she is an athlete, a coach, a politician or a crime victim. It's just not done. So it made some folks nervous when he went from being the local assistant recreation director to my boyfriend, to my fiance, to my husband, to a coach (again) in the area I was assigned to cover for the then-daily newspaper.

In an effort to thwart that -- and my new stepson's senior season as quarterback at one of the schools in my area --  the Men In Ties moved me from my beat in the River Parishes Bureau to downtown New Orleans. Yeah. That was fun. Not.

Eventually, they saw the error of their ways and moved me back to where I belonged, with the mandate that I could not cover my husband's baseball team. That was fine by me. And we all got along splendidly until 2010 when I was moved from sports to crime (prep writer to perp writer), then 2012 when I was let go in the then-daily's move to "Digital First."

But now I'm a free lancer and the journalism landscape in New Orleans has changed dramatically. Now, the New Orleans paper I used to work for and the Baton Rouge-based paper I now write a lot for are in an all-out newspaper war over territory. I just happen to live in the suburbs between the two (a.k.a., "No Man's Land"). And, suddenly, some folks think it's OK for reporters to write about their husband's team. And sometimes, it just can't be helped.

Take last year, for instance. Mother Nature, who apparently dislikes the high school baseball playoff season immensely, decided to drop buckets of rain on the New Orleans area last spring. But my husband's team's playoff game had to be played. So it was moved -- from one day to the next, from one time to a later one, then to three different potential sites before it finally began at nearly 9 p.m. on a Thursday at a field no one ever heard of, and finished at nearly midnight. There was no way the Baton Rouge-ish paper would get a reporter there. They knew I was there as The Wife, so they asked me to write it up as The Reporter. And while, normally, I would never interview my husband after the game, the circumstances surrounding it were so unique that I was pretty much obligated to get a comment from The Coach about how his team handled all the adversity.

It was weird. We both hated it. And people took pictures.

So, we both decided it's just best to separate. No, not like that. But we do try to keep The Coach's Wife separate from the The Reporter. That's how we like it. That's how the world likes it.

Then his happened.

My darling husband, The Coach, decided he was going to give up being The Coach. He says he's ready, he's old, he's tired, he needs a new knee (that's true), he's ready to do other things. That all may be true, but I'm sure that does not include building me a gazebo in the backyard. He does want to take me to California and Chicago (why not Hawaii???) and spend some time with our fast-growing daughter and his new grand baby.

Whatever his reasons, the news created a stir in local sports circles. His announcement -- which initially came on his own little blog Coach Speak, became Front Page and 5, 6 and 10 o'clock news. (And the local newspaper is put in the unusual predicament of writing about one of it's former sports writers, married to the headliner. So many blurred lines...)

Then this happened.

On Thursday, my husband's team traveled across the Mississippi River to face its biggest rival, the Hahnville Tigers. They're pretty good, now, and just came off a glorious weekend in which they went 4-0 against some of the top teams in the area. They started it with a HUGE win against the then No. 2 team in the state, Brother Martin, which was then-undefeated. Hahnville scored in extra innings to win. I know, because I was there. I covered it. I wrote about it Here and Here.

And while I was there, The Other Coach, whom I've known for a long time and like very much, told me he had a plan. He decided he was going to give my husband, The (Retiring) Coach, a rocking chair to send him off into the sunset.

"Will he get mad?" he asked me.

"Hell no," I replied.

Now, ever being the journalist, I knew this was news worthy. So, I set about letting my friends in the news media know about this event. It also was coming on the heels of a day organized by my stepson (with my assistance), in which we invited all of The Coach's former players over the past 25 years to come to the game and line up with him for the National Anthem as a surprise. Nearly 30 of them showed up. That also made the news.

So after  I let friends and family and a few news media types know what was going down on Thursday, I set off to take care of me, cashing in the FREE King Cake body scrub I won from the local salon. Yay me!

Just as I was about to strip down to my skivvies, I get a text from The Other Coach:

Him: Can't find rocking chair anywhere.

Me: Want me to help?

Him: Yes. You can get to more places. Just bring me the receipt.

Me: I'm on it. Right after my massage

I then spent the next two hours smelling like a cinnamon bun, getting scrubbed and rubbed, and trying to think of a place in our neck in the woods that has a rocking chair for sale.

Then it hit me.

The local thrift shop! It's just a few doors down from my house, it's rarely if ever open, and it now contains a whole bunch of my belongings which we have put curbside for trash. The owner just picks it up and puts it in his shop to sell when he feels like it. I used to own a Bentwood rocker. I hoped I wasn't about to buy it back from him.

Nope. But I found this beat up old one, loaded it in my car and went back to relaxing.

Then, just before game time, I drove into the parking lot, texted The Other Coach, who sent two of his players to my car to get the rocking chair for his team to give to my husband as a gag.


And it went off without a hitch. With cameras and reporters from both newspapers there to document it, The Coach was surprised, humbled and honored. And I got a lovely bouquet of red roses -- from The Coach. No, The Other Coach.

I then spent the next two hours munching sunflower seeds and trying not to watch the action on the field in what turned out to be a very tight, nail-biter of a game. I try very hard to maintain my reporter face while watching these games. I don't want to be hollering and cheering against a team one day, then have to interview them the next. So I watch. I don't root. I don't cheer or clap or yell. I watch the crowd, the game, my husband, wonder when he's going to bunt and hope he doesn't try to steal home again.

He didn't. And his team won, 1-0, with the lone run scoring on a bases-loaded balk in the third inning.

After the game, I made a big production of running up to The Other Coach to hug him and thank him for my flowers. After I kissed The Coach, The Other Coach and I filled him in on the rather unusual events of the day. He laughed hysterically.

Then I put my husband's new rocking chair in my car and took it back home.

Later, we laughed about the whole thing. I made sure he wasn't mad, not that The Other Coach had given him a rocking chair, but also my part in in. He wasn't. He took it in the spirit in which it was intended and thought it was great fun.

"I thought it was great," he said. "But my team wanted to know why they got me such an ugly old chair."


Click Here to see a terrific video about The Coach and The Game.

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Just a few days ago, the very nice man to whom I spill my guts once a week or so asked me a rather simple question:

"Where do you see yourself in 10 years?"

That was easy.

"Living at the beach," I replied.

Of course, I had just had the time of my life at the beach and the memories were so fresh I still had sand in my shoes and, very likely, tequila in my bloodstream.

Just days before, I had spent my 52nd birthday in the company of my two best girlfriends, an adorable young airman, two half-naked and half-drunk hotel employees and some really good bartenders in Pensacola Beach, Florida -- my favorite place on earth. It's the place where my husband and I go for our summer vacations and a couple of our winter anniversaries. It's the place where the water is the perfect color of turquoise and the waves actually make a sound. It's the place where my soul seems to be at peace.

It's also the place where they make really, really good Margaritas and Pina Coladas.

So it's the place I decided to go with my girlfriends when I realized that my birthday would be on a Saturday and The Coach would be on a baseball field five hours away. I've spent too many of my birthdays waiting for him to come home to me -- empty damn-handed. So this year, with his encouragement, I decided to run away from home for a weekend. And take accomplices.

Bright and early on my birthday morn, my two young, no-longer-married friends Daniell and Kristal pulled into my driveway. We filled the trunk of Daniell's brand new car with wayyyy to much stuff,  opened the sunroof, hit the road and settled on a music genre. We started with the 80s -- for me.

And we started with a nice, polite selfie pic.

But by the time we got to Biloxi ...

We were rockin' the Top 40, singing the nasty version of "Thrift Shop," Googling the lyrics to Beyonce's "Drunk in Love" and bombarding our friends with pictures on Instagram and Facebook.

And we hadn't even had a drop to drink yet.

By late afternoon, we had listened to the 70s, the 80s and the Top 40 more than a few times, knew all the words to "Drunk in Love," (and what they meant), had stopped for orange juice at the Florida Welcome Center -- and pictures.

Blue Angel and Not Charlie's Angels. 

Orange juice! But, there was no Vodka.

So we hurried to our destination and, by sundown, we were on our first cocktails of the day. I started with a classic Margarita at The Margaritaville Beach Hotel. On the beach, of course.

It was the first of many cocktails. Yes, there were many. And shots. Many of those too. Ones I'd never heard of. And Pina Coladas. And a very tasty drink called a Junebug. And something called Rumplemintz. And drunken texts to my husband, who was on a bus on his way home to an empty house.

(Heh heh. Serves you right.)

And the next day we headed home only slightly hungover with wonderful memories, a new friend and plans to return next year for some reason. Any reason.

And I made the resolution that, someday, I would live at a beach. Any beach. Hopefully, Pensacola Beach, but I'm not all that picky.

But this was more than just a Girls Weekend or a birthday weekend or even a beach weekend. This was my Get Out of Jail Free weekend. I've just spent a long, hard 16 months of being trapped in my own home or close to it as I took care of my mother-in-law Jane and gave up my life and my identity to do it. I've been hiding away from the world in a darkness of sadness and depression. The one day I did run away from home in frustration, I went to Big Lot's.

Now I'm free. This weekend was me asserting my independence once more. It was me finding myself and my soul, reconnecting with my friends. And fun. It was the first time I've gone off with friends since my college days. It certainly was the most alcohol I've consumed since then. And the most fun I've had in a long, long time. It was me, being reborn.

So Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy to Me!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Hurricane Jane

When I first met my mother-in-law Jane, I was told that one of her nicknames was "Hurricane Jane."

It wasn't difficult to understand why.

Jane was a whirlwind of energy back in the day, a head-strong, vocal, opinionated woman who had no compunctions about sharing them. She told you like it was -- or like she saw it. Sometimes, that rubbed folks the wrong way.

But hurricanes eventually lose their strength. Shortly after Jane moved in with my husband, my daughter and me for the last time, he was aiding his mother to the dinner table one evening.

"Come on Jane," Marty said, urging her along. "Hurricane Jane, I think you've been downgraded to a Tropical Depression."

But even to the end she was the same old Jane. Even as she battled time and whatever ailment that was attacking her frail little body in her final hours, she put up the good fight, refusing to let go.  Even to the end she proved to be contrary. And even as her mind began to wander, her thoughts began to ramble, and her eyes became unseeing to what was happening around her, her voice never gave up.

In other words, she never stopped telling it like it is -- or how she saw it.

Her bed was uncomfortable: "What? You can afford a pool but not a comfortable cot?

She was ever the Baseball Mom: "This team didn't even show up today."

And a critic: "These umpires are terrible."

And, maybe, a little scared: "If I don't pray, I'm going to hell."

She had spent only one week in the nearby nursing home The Coach and I had moved her to after her needs exceeded our capabilities. She didn't want to go, but after only a day or so of digging in her heels, even she knew that she needed more care than we could give her. On my last day as her full time caretaker, I was practically carrying her to the bathroom. The next day, she could no longer walk.

So the paperwork was quickly done and I began packing for her move. But I never even got to finish moving her in. Half her closet was empty. We never got to hang pictures on her wall.

After just seven days, she became ill. The staff called us in the middle of the night to tell us they were taking her to the hospital. The next night they called to ask Marty if she had a DNR in place, and the doctor wanted to meet with him in the morning.

So on Saturday morning, The Coach left the house in full baseball uniform, but instead of heading to the ballpark, he went to the hospital. He met with the doctor on duty,who explained that Jane's body was shutting down, her end was near, that it was time to begin our goodbyes.

In tears, Marty started calling and messaging the rest of us. Soon enough, her grandchildren, her former daughter-in-law and her present one gathered around Jane's bed and tried to make sense of what she was saying.

"11:30," she kept saying. When my husband's first wife asked what that meant, she replied, "Happy Hour."

That surprised none of us.

We were surprised an hour or so later when her regular doctor came in, took a look around and wondered what the heck we were all doing there.

"It's not time for this," he said. "She has an infection. We're giving her antibiotics. She's OK."

So I took my Teen home to go back to bed. And the Coach left to go to the baseball field. His departure may have been her last moment of clarity.

"Bye, Mom. I'm going to the ballpark for a while," he said, leaning over to kiss her forehead.

"Me too," she replied.

My stepdaughter stayed a while and listened to her grandmother ramble on about the election of 1915, which, Jane said, was won by the Priest's son. So was the World Series. (Jane was born in 1930.) She also was presented with a nurse's challenge to feed her nearly comatose grandmother baked chicken and corn for lunch.

After securing the pre-season victory, The Coach returned to the hospital. Now his mother seemed to be in pain. A nurse offered a shot of morphine -- to her, not to him.

And a few minutes later, she simply slipped away, doing it her way to the very end.

Stunned, mystified, Marty sent the family a text. "It's Pappy's turn now. Jane has passed."

On February 25th, we gathered to say our last goodbye to my mother-in-law, Jane. It was left to me to select a sampling of our favorite photos, so I picked the ones I thought best represented the woman we all knew. Most of them involved some kind of costume -- "Old Ariel" is legendary. But there also was one of her dancing with her grandson at his wedding, holding her great-granddaughter, in front of what was once her home after the real hurricane destroyed it.

Jane and Pappy survey what was left after Hurricane Katrina

Jane meets her great-granddaughter

Jane, "Mary Poppins"

Luau Jane

Irish Jane

Mardi Gras Jane

 And the one we selected for her obituary. It was left to me to write that too.

Jane Mae Rafferty Luquet, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and Baseball Mom, died on Saturday, February 15, 2014, at St. Charles Parish Hospital in Luling. She was 83. Born on November 24, 1930, in New Orleans, Jane was the youngest child of George "Red" Rafferty and Martina Daly, and joined a host of Irish Channel cousins. In 1951, she married Valsin "Pappy" Luquet and soon became the mother of three boys, all of whom would grow up to be baseball players and coaches. Married to Pappy for 57 years, his work moved them from New Orleans to Anaheim, CA, to Concord, CA, to Chicago, ILL, to Charlotte, NC. Eventually, they would retire and settle in Waveland, Mississippi, where they lived happily until Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home. They lived in Norco and Kenner before Pappy died in 2008, then Jane moved to The Windsor Senior Living Center in Mandeville. For the past year Jane lived in Norco. She is survived by sons Valsin Luquet Jr. (Deidre Digel) of Montgomery, Texas; Dennis Luquet (Marianne Carroll) of Walnut Creek, California; and Marty Luquet (Lori Lyons) of Norco; grandchildren Daniel Luquet (Cori Southard), Courtney Luquet, Lora Leigh Luquet, Gared Luquet and Caitlin Luquet; great-granddaughter Robi Drew Luquet; brother Steve Rafferty of Kenner; sister Alice Rafferty Brechtel of Metairie; and a host of nieces, nephews and cousins. She is preceded in death by her husband Valsin Paul Luquet Sr., her parents George and Martina (Daly) Rafferty, and her great-grandchild Parker Luquet. A fiery, fun-loving Irish woman, Jane loved parties, baseball, card games, Happy Hour and her family's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration. A Funeral Mass will be held at noon on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Norco. Visitation will be held at the church from 10 a.m. to funeral time. Arrangements by H.C. Alexander Funeral Home in Norco.

As Louisiana'ans, we are accustomed to hurricanes. We know how to prepare for them, we know how to anticipate them, we know how to weather them. 

We hunker down.

That's what my family and I have been doing for the last 16 months - hunkering down as we weathered the storm that was Hurricane Jane. Our forays out of our compound were brief and near -- occasional sandwiches at the local Pub for the most part. Longer trips required getting a sitter -- hard to come by for the elderly. Only one relative ever offered to come stay with her to give us a break.

A few times she went to visit her sister and niece for a weekend to give us respite. Marty's brother, Dennis, came during the summer to let take a quick trip to the beach. I cannot remember the last movie Marty and I went to together ("Silver Linings Playbook" maybe?). I absolutely cannot remember the last movie the three of us went to. 

But now the storm has passed, and Marty, Lora and I are clearing the debris and making necessary repairs and trying to move on. It's an adjustment, of course.

Hurricane Jane certainly left her mark.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's time

The first time she came to live with me, she held every single possession she owned in a small plastic grocery bag in one hand.

A couple of pills, her jewelry, a few changes of underwear, a change of clothes, her toothbrush and a few items for her face. And a broken heart.

Hurricane Katrina had taken everything else, washing onto the shores of Waveland, Mississippi, that summer of 2005 and wiping away virtually every home, including that of my in-laws, Jane and Pappy.

A year and a week later, they rented a U-Haul truck and moved into a nearby apartment complex. Jane and I, who were friendly but never close, had begun to butt heads a little too much for our menfolk's liking. The walls crowed all of us. It became harder and harder for us to get along.

 It was time, my father-in-law Pappy said.

The second time she came to live with me, she was but a whisper of herself. Old, frail, weak, this time she showed up alone, a widow with a walker, a boat-load of prescription medications and a dialysis schedule. The very nice assisted living center she had lived in and loved had determined that she needed more care than they could give her.

It was time, they said.

I had just been laid off from my job, so I had the time. We had the space. And, well, no choice really. So she moved into our spare bedroom and made it her own. We got her a smaller bed and a big screen TV. We put rails on our toilet, handles on the wall, pillows for all of her chairs. And a beeper so she could summon us when she needed us.

Define, "need."

So for the past 16 months I have been an occasional journalist and a full-time mother-in-law keeper. I have gotten her up, gotten her dressed, gotten her fed, given her medications and pretty much catered to her every want and need. Except for holidays and non-baseball days, I have gotten her in the car and driven her to her dialysis treatments across the river. Then two hours later, I went back and picked her up.

And I have put my life on hold. Our family on hold. We scheduled ourselves around her and her needs and wants. And that damn beeper.

And we did OK. We developed a routine. Although it's not what we would have chosen, not what we wanted to do, Marty and I accepted our lot in this life and did the best we could with it. I did the best I could.

But over the past few weeks everything got harder. Simple tasks, things she was able to do just weeks ago, became difficult, then impossible. She was no longer mobile, no longer able to assist in her own care. And I couldn't do any more than I already was.

It was time, her doctor said.

It's time, I said.

It's time, said her son.

Jane, however, disagreed. A quick little visit in December did nothing to warm her heart toward the place.

"They're a bunch of old people," she said. "I won't go. I'll just stop going to dialysis and die."

But as she saw herself become less and less able, she became more and more resigned. Still sad, still scared and nervous, she grew accustomed to the idea, then optimistic.

"I think I'm getting excited," she told Coach last night. "Maybe I'll make some friends."

So today we packed up a few of her things, and her, and drove her to a very nearby nursing home. She was greeted there by a lovely lady we have watched grow up, who did her best to make a nervous and scared Jane feel comfortable and a guilty Lori and Marty feel better.

I was comforted immediately. I am no stranger to nursing homes. For virtually my whole life, my grandparents took me to the nursing homes in Houma where they would entertain the "old folks." Grannie would play the ukulele and Grampa would play his banjo and they would sing these kooky old songs from the 20s and 30s. I would dance and try to sing. Sometimes I would play the piano or the organ. And I would try not to look at the sad faces.  Both of them died in a nursing home, years apart.

Several years ago when luck gifted me with the greatest, sweetest dog in the world, I signed her (and me) up for the Visiting Pet Program. For two years Lollee and I would visit local nursing homes and hospitals where she would allow herself to be pet and loved for as long as anyone wanted. I, however, often wanted to run from the halls screaming. I had to quit long before Lollee would have.

This place, however, is warm and inviting and doesn't smell. The faces are friendly. And her room is nice. Enough.

I spent the time putting her clothes away, lining up her signature stuffed monkeys above her bed, adding personal touches. There isn't enough room for ALL of her clothes. The woman has 14 pairs of white pants and nearly a dozen pairs of blue jeans for Godssakes. But we'll bring some more of her pictures over the next few days.

Meanwhile, she joined a few ladies for lunch. As I approached, I noticed that her chair was a little too far from the table. She had too far to go with her fork from her plate to her mouth. Her drink cup was too full. She can't pick it up when it's heavy like that. They had cut up her beef, but there was no way she would be able to eat that rice. I helped her eat a few bites of the roast beef.

"It's not better than mine, is it?" I kidded her.

"It has more flavor," she replied.

Of course it does.

After a quick trip home to get a few things, we found her in the cafeteria drinking coffee. Except, they put it in a plastic cup, filled to the brim. There was no way her shaky hands would be able to drink that. I went back to her room for the straw cup they gifted her with and asked someone to put some fresh, hot coffee in it.

OK. I hovered. I did. Like a mother hovering over her child when they go off to college.

It was hard to let go. As much as I'm ready to, as much as I want to -- NEED TO -- it was hard to. She's been my charge for so long, though, I didn't quite know how.

But I have to. It's time.

And now Marty and I can go back to being us, to living our lives without railings on the toilet. We no longer have to go outside to the side door to go to bed at night. We can go to dinner as a family. We can go to a movie together. We can go away for a weekend. We no longer have to live with the fear of a poorly-timed beep in our lives. And Lora can go back to just being a kid who doesn't have to take care of and worry about Grandma in the other room all the time.

We have our lives back.

We left Jane sitting in the cafeteria with a few other ladies, drinking coffee and preparing to play Pokeno. I searched her face for sadness or fear or anxiety. I saw none. And I looked back several times to make sure. She was at peace. So were we.

And it was time to go.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


If you're a regular visitor to The Lyons Din, you'll notice a few changes around here.

I've updated my bio just a bit so you have a little better idea of who I am and what you're dealing with. It's shorter. More to the point. I tried to be brief.

There just isn't room to tell you all that I am a crazy woman who is still dealing with the fact that I got laid off from the job I love last year, who has tried to find something new with her life but keeps getting stuck in quicksand, who now spends her days waiting for her mother-in-law, who still chases high school boys (and girls) with her digital recorder and writes for anyone who will pay me to do so.

Who has a husband who cheats on me with his mistress named Baseball; a kooky mama who, despite being 80 years old, commutes from the suburbs to the French Quarter of New Orleans where she reads Tarot cards and tea leaves for locals and tourists alike (and if you're famous, she probably won't recognize you); a very cranky live-in mother-in-law who requires much care, much patience and many drugs; two grown step children I didn't mess up too badly and who have grown into fine, upstanding (mostly) adults;

And a teenager.

Wait. What?

Yes. A teenager.

On Sunday, January 26th, my baby girl transitioned from the Snarky Tween to, officially, a Snarky Teenager.

Lord help me.

Not that much will change, mind you. Regardless of her biological age, she's had this whole snarky thing down for quite a while. She has perfected the eye roll, the "tsk," the smirk and the foot stomp (she doesn't really slam doors because, well, that's sorta my thing), the staying up 'till dawn and sleeping til 3 in the afternoon thing,  the unmade bed thing and the dirty clothes all over the floor thing, the eating nothing but macaroni and cheese thing.

 But I knew she was getting close to teenagerhood when she started taking showers every day, sometimes twice a day. And leaving the towels on the floor.

To mark the occasion of her 13th birthday, she decided she wanted to have a little party at the house on Saturday. She invited some girls to sleep over, and she wanted a Doctor Who theme. Yes, we've transitioned from Disney princesses to mermaids to Kim Possible to American Idol wannabe to Miley Cyrus (lawd) to Harry Potter to Doctor Who. There were supposed to be some boys there (NOT to sleep over), but there was a Monster Truck rally in New Orleans that night.

Me? I know virtually nothing about The Doctor and the TV show. I think I've watched one episode and her insistence. But I have The Internet and me, being me, I had to do it right.

So, we went down to the local furniture store and asked for a big refrigerator box. I took her to the hardware store where she picked out the perfect shade of Tardis blue. Then we went to work.

Thank you Haydel's Furniture store!

And, she being my kid, it had to be right. (For the purists, we did add the little ambulance circle later.)

A short time later, she posted these photos on her Instagram account. Shortly after that, a kid replied, "No way! That's yours!" To which she replied, "Heck yeah it's mine."

And this was her cake:
Created by the fabulous Angie Poche Parsons of Luling, LA

We then spent the night eating chips and pizza and watching Sharknado, After Coach and I went to bed, they stayed up all night giggling and writing messages to their past and future selves on the walls of our homemade Tardis.

And as she counted her 13 candles, I counted my blessings: How lucky I am to have found this child, to have been given the opportunity -- no, the privilege -- of being her parent, her mom.  How blessed I am that her first mother chose me,  trusted me, believed in me, gave her to me.  And how thrilled I am to have been able to make her dreams come true for a day.

Because she made mine come true 13 years ago.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Class of 80

It has been nearly 34 years since I graduated with the Terrebonne High School Class of 1980 in the then-small town of Houma, Louisiana.

It's a quiet little town where everybody knows lots of people and somebody knows everybody. That usually made it hard to get into too much trouble. Back in our day, we were happy to have a Burger King,a McDonald's and Shakey's Pizza Parlor.  Now it has an Outback, an Applebee's, a Hooter's and a bunch of sushi places. It also has more than a few places to get really good, hot boiled crabs.

Let me say right off that we were nothing like the Swamp People guys you see on TV, although all of us can probably say we did know people like them and maybe some of us have turned into people like them over the years. Yes, I did grow up with alligators in the bayou in my back yard, but I never tried to catch them or play with them or make them into pets. I didn't kill them, either. As long as they didn't mess with me, I didn't mess with them.

We did have a boat, but my parents never let me just take it for a spin. My brother did, often, and frequently came back paddling it after breaking a shear pin on the trip. I did know one or two boys who liked to hunt alligators and other things. And some of us do have funny accents. But the only time we wore camouflage was the week we played South Terrebonne in football and we did it to make fun of them. (Sorry, y'all.)

Although we were aware of current events, we were not a political bunch. Back then there was no Left or Right. Women's Rights were still on the table. So were Abortion Rights. Some things were still segregated by habit, if not by law. There was no such thing as Gay Rights. Being Gay was not. It was a joke, a rumor to be spread, an accusation to be hurled.

 Like I said, it was a small town. And it was a different time.  There was no Fox News,  just channels 4, 6, 8 and 12 --  until cable was invented and some of us got HBO.

We grew up on shows like the Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island and Dark Shadows. We watched cartoons on Saturday mornings and (fake) wrestling on Sundays. We learned our multiplication, our civics and our grammar from School House Rock.

We were a wacky bunch of middle class kids, who grew up with the Vietnam War on our televisions and protests in the streets, back when the Russians were our mortal enemies -- until the Hostage Crisis in Iran. We formed our own chapter of the Southhampton Yacht Club and had regular meetings on the front lawn at school. We wore Hawaiian shirts and brought picnic lunches and lawn chairs. The band combo performed. A guy made a guest appearance dressed as the Ayatollah.

 Back then we could legally drink at the age of 18, and we did, torturing our systems with beer and bourbon and Boone's Farm Tickled Pink in the middle of the cane fields. We didn't have cell phones or text messaging back then, so us girls sat around our houses quite a lot, waiting for the telephone to ring. And when we did leave, pretty much the only place to go was the Mall.

We didn't have GPS either, but no one ever got lost in our hometown. A few did once they left, however.

And we've lost quite a few since 1980. I don't know the exact number. I don't know if we are above or below the average. To us, of course, it's too many. Car accidents. Boating accidents. Cancer. Murder. One died in a horrific disco fire that was deliberately set. One was murdered in his home  -- a crime still unsolved, I believe.

Thanks to my former job at the newspaper, where I read wire copy A LOT, I was able to keep up with some of these happenings. I don't know how the rest did.  Our class officers keep track so that we can have a little memorial to them at our reunions. I guess the rest was just through word of mouth.

But now we have Facebook, where most of us gather to share pictures of our children, our grandchildren, our views on guns and gays, Swamp People, Duck Dynasty and the current president. But we are able to keep up with each other now that time and fate or pure dumb luck has spread us around the world. It also makes our reunions a lot more fun. At our last one, our 30th, I barely had to introduce my husband to anyone. He walked in and was greeted by many as, "Coach!" Then he spent most of the night hanging out in a hallway with a couple of former football players while I tried to recognize the faces inside.

But we also use it keep up with our losses.

I got a message from a longtime classmate the other day, letting me know that we had lost one of our own, a girl I met in the first days of elementary school, who journeyed with me right up until the May day when we all sat -- sweating -- on the football field in our crimson and gold gowns, with bright shiny futures ahead of us. She was a mom, a grandmother, a nurse, a Houma girl who loved to fish.

Throughout the recent Christmas holidays, she had battled pneumonia, then the flu. Sometime Saturday night she simply slipped away. Her name was Julie. She was 51.

So am I.

This one hurts -- not that the others did not. But this one is really the first one I was witness too, in a manner of speaking.  It is anguishing to see her write "I can only think that 2014 is going to be awesome!!" on her timeline, only to see her friends writing "Rest in peace" a few days later. Just days later...

And there are more losses to come. There are others among us waging wars against time, harmful invaders, and their own bodies. Some fight their battles privately while others choose to share their wins and losses so we can cheer them on.

We're not ready for any of them to leave. We are not ready to see the faces of the children we chased on the playground and passed our homework to and danced next to at prom in the obituaries. We are not ready to be among them when there are careers to finish and children to raise and grandchildren to enjoy and destinations to reach and Bucket Lists to finish.

 And whether we see them or not, speak with them or not, we all feel better just knowing that our friends  are somewhere -- anywhere -- in the world, and can always come back home.

We are too young. At least, in our minds we are.