Sunday, November 29, 2015

30 to 360

On the day that the Men in Ties removed me from my post as sports writer and moved me to Bitter and Bored Clerk/Receptionist/Crime Reporter at The Times-Picayune, I posted the news on Facebook with a simple: "I am no longer a sports writer."

Word spread quickly.

Soon, dozens upon dozens of my friends, family and peers were there to express their shock and anger, then to offer their love and support. And more than a few told me, "You will always be a sports writer."

I guess they were right.

After the TP unceremoniously dumped me and 199 or so other souls in 2012, I set myself up to be a freelancer -- as in, freelance sports writer. And over the past three years, I have had pretty steady work covering games and writing features for anyone who would ask me, namely The New Orleans Advocate, The St. Charles Herald-Guide,, even The Shreveport Times. I even wrote about black market trees for Louisiana Forestry Magazine. It kept me in the game (so to speak) as I sent out resume after resume and my 401K dwindled to nothing.

Even when the library called, telling me they had checked me out and would I like to come work for them, I kept my night job. After 8-hour shifts at the library, I would make my way to football games on Fridays and, somehow, managed to stay awake and alert enough to write up a story and drive home.

Then I got an email from a guy at a newspaper. He was looking for a new sports editor. Did I want to talk?

What do you think?

And after the conversation was over it came down to this: "I just can't make any less money than I do now working three jobs."

He said, "OK."

So two weeks ago, with half a tear in one eye, I informed the lovely ladies and one gentleman at the library that I was checking out. When I told them why, not one batted an eye. Even in the short time I was there, they knew that, in my heart, I was a sports writer. Always have been. Always will be.

Actually, now I am a SPORTS EDITOR (cool, huh?) On Monday morning I will join the staff of the L'Observateur newspaper in LaPlace as its Sports Editor. I'm back covering sports. Full time. In the same place I spent 21 years covering high school sports -- but only half the teams this time.

And just as it was 15 years ago, the response has been overwhelming. But positive this time. People are happy for me and happy to see me again. And I them.

It has been a long, arduous journey from there to here. From prep writer to perp writer to freelance writer to caretaker for cantankerous old lady to wedding invitation writer to slow public relations writer to library lady.

The last three years have been utter hell -- as these blog posts can attest. The doors and windows everyone said would open, didn't. There wasn't much call for a 53-year-old woman who could write real well and parallel park like a champ but had no retail experience. The World War II Museum, East Jefferson Hospital, Nicholls State University, Nunez College, Loyola University, Barnes and Noble -- all said. no. Or nothing at all. (Loyola did give me a very nice part time temporary freelance job which helped me keep my cars.)

There were times I wanted to just quit, give up and run away. There were times I felt so low I didn't think I'd ever be able to climb up again. Fortunately, I have a husband who kept scraping me up and lifting me up in his belief that, it could only get better. It certainly couldn't get any worse.

So I begin this new adventure with high hopes and the love and support of my friends, family and peers.

And I couldn't be more grateful.

Read the announcement here at the L'Observateur

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Mothering Mama

It's not like I was kidding myself.

I knew my days as a caretaker were not over after my mother-in-law, Hurricane Jane, passed away in February of last year.  And after we all survived my daughter's harrowing spinal fusion surgery. And after The Coach got his knee replaced.

I knew I wasn't done.

I knew I still had Mama.

But Mama is no Jane. While Jane had a long list of medical problems  -- and an even longer list of medications -- when she came to live with us for the last time in 2012, Mama is an 82-year-old spitfire of a woman. Yes, she has high blood pressure. And a bout with Rheumatic Fever while she was pregnant for me in 1961-62 left her with a leaky heart valve. But while Jane rattled when she walked after taking some 20-plus pills every day and night, Mama takes one or two and goes on her merry way to the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Several years ago, my Mama found herself a full time job working as a Tarot card reader at The Bottom of the Cup Tea Room in the French Quarter. (She isn't one of those wacky folks who sets up a table on the sidewalk.) And she has done wonderfully in her fourth or fifth career. She has built a steady following with her talents, and even earned a few TV spots with her eccentricities.

She always wears black. Nothing but black. And lots and lots of jewelry.

She also has made a bunch of new friends -- the lady who makes pralines at Laura's Candies, the lady who sells shoes at Feet First and the guys who park her car at Harrah's Casino. They love her. They park her car right out front.

Those who know her are in no way surprised by any of this. Mama has always been able to reinvent herself. She has been a lifeguard, a bookkeeper, an office supervisor, a barmaid, a restaurant hostess, a bar manager, a hotel manager, an artist and an art teacher.  Now she is a New Orleans character.

But over the past few years Mama has started to slow down. That leaky heart valve and the too many packs of cigarettes over the years are starting to take their toll. She's had a few bouts of pneumonia and anemia. With much drama and flair, we make the trip to the little Hospital on the Hill in Kenner (whoever decided to build a hospital on a hill needs to be seriously drugged). With much drama and flair she tries to explain to the doctors and nurses what's bothering her. With much drama and flair -- and a great deal of pride -- she tells them, no, she is not home bound she still drives and works. In the French Quarter. Every day.

Her resilience is extraordinary. It was just a few months ago that her shortness of breath necessitated a trip to the hospital by ambulance. When I arrived a few minutes later, I was informed by a very nice doctor that my mother had stopped breathing on the ride, but that they managed to get her back. I was gently urged to gather the family, those who wanted to see her one more time. One by one, my sister, my nieces and nephews arrived in the middle of the night to see their "Nana" in the emergency room.

The next day she was moved into a regular room.

The day after that, she went home.

A few days after that, she went back to work.

But for the last week Mama has been felled by some mysterious illness. No fever, no aches, no pains, no shortness of breath. She just doesn't feel good.

So she has spent the past week in my spare bedroom, being pampered and primped and waited on hand and foot -- by my husband -- and fighting night and day with me while I try to get her to eat, drink and get out of the bed. I suck at it, though. I'm "mean," she says. He is sweet, she says. I think she's faking, she says. He takes good care of her, she says. And he really does.

It's funny. When Jane was alive, she and Marty fought like crazy. They could hardly stand to be in the same room with each other without screaming and yelling. Neither had the patience for the other.
Now, it's the same with my mother. Rather than get yelled at for doing it wrong, I just let go and let him. It works.

My best Halloween costume ever. Me as Mama. Scary.

I have no idea if this new bout of illness is Mama's last. We don't know what she has or how sick she is. Perhaps she has driven her last drive. Perhaps she has turned her last card.

Probably not.

I know she hasn't fought her last fight.

After a week in our spare bedroom -- Jane's old room -- Mama and I had enough of each other and Marty had enough of us.

So now she is in Baton Rouge, fighting with my sister. But I'm sure she'll be back.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fun at the library... (no really)

Everybody's asking me:

"Well, how is it?"

"How do you like it?"

"How's the new job?"

"Do you like being a librarian?"

"Do you wear those thick, black librarian glasses?"

Miu Miu | Cat eye acetate optical glasses:


But I do really like the job..

It's only been about a month now that I have been working as a part time circulation assistant at our local library (but not the branch closest to me).  In that time I've learned to check books in, check books out, check to see if we have the book you want and where they are located in our massive building. Well, some of them. They do trick me sometimes. But I'm a whiz at issuing library cards.

But I've learned a whole lot more than that, too.

I've learned that print is not dead, despite what I've been told. People do still use the library. A lot. People do still read the printed word on printed paper and not just Smartphones and iPads and Kindles. People do still read books. Lots of them. Some more than others. One of our regular patrons is a rather elderly woman who checks out about two dozen hardbacks and paperbacks about every two weeks. And then she comes back for more.

I've learned that, if our library doesn't have the book you'd like to borrow on our shelves, we can borrow it from somebody else in the state or even elsewhere in the country. In fact, this will be one of my regular duties as I get more acclimated -- borrowing and sending books to libraries both in state and out. It's pretty cool, actually.

Libraries have kept up with the times. We know people do like to read on their Smartphones and tablets. So, yes, you can borrow e-books from the library on your device. No, really. After seeing the amount of money I spent on Kindle books last year, I'm very excited about this.

I''ve learned that youngsters still read books. And not just Harry Potter. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books are rather popular, as are graphic novels of all types.  And they, too, check out more than one book at a time.

Parents still believe in starting their children to reading young. I've seen parents check out stacks of our picture books to read to their children.

People do enjoy being read to. Even adults. Folks daily check out our audio books so they can "read" while driving, or vacuuming, or bicycling, or doing whatever. One of our regulars is a local police officer who listens to audio books while cruising around town. I found that fascinating.

I'm also fascinated by the fact that Game of Thrones is 27 discs long. Who in the heck has time for that?

But libraries aren't just about books.

I am learning that not everyone has their own computer. Every day dozens of people come to our library to use one of our 10 available desktop computers. People use them for research, to watch movies, to play games, to do resumes, to apply for jobs, to pay their bills, to make things, or just to print. Plus, not everyone has a heavy-duty color printer that can handle 100 pages or more like we do. We also have two laptops available to borrow -- both of which were checked out this week.

But a lot of those folks need help. Luckily, I have a knack for computer stuff and a nephew who taught me very well.

I am learning that people do still enjoy their library. Teenagers will -- and do -- spent their Saturdays there. Dads with kids, moms with kids, families with several kids, just plain folks -- all still use their library. Even on a Saturday when there's college football being played.

I also am learning that I do still love books. Once upon a time, when I was a single, childless and recently-graduated English Major, I had shelves and shelves of books in my apartments. The movers who moved me from Uptown to LaPlace were amazed -- and a little grumpy that they had to box all of them. Once upon a time, I had a lovely home office with shelves and shelves of books -- the Classics, novels, a Stephen King collection, a wonderful Civil War collection, a HUGE sports collection. Then I turned that room into a nursery and gave away lots and lots of books. Then, years later, my mother-in-law moved in and I gave away seven more boxes of books.

Then I got a Kindle and didn't need so much shelf space.

Now, I work at a library. And don't have to buy so many. But I do still want to take them all home with me. Especially, if a patron checks a book back in that I find interesting,  sometimes I find myself stopping to read the dust jacket (sorry). Later, I'll go read the first few pages. Sometimes I get to Chapter 2. Or 3. (Sorry.) And as much as I might want to take that book home, I must make myself wait until I finish the one I already have. And the two on my Kindle.

It's a good thing I'm not working at the animal shelter.

So, the answer is yes. I do like the job. It is part time, but lots of hours (which is good). So I can still do a lot of my freelance sports stuff. I can still cover games, but I had to give up the weekly volleyball polls (aw).  And I'm still doing my weekly community news column,"River Views," for The New Orleans Advocate.

And yes, I am learning to shush.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Katrina -- +10

Image result for hurricane katrina infrared loop

I remember being in the River Parishes Bureau of The Times-Picayune on Friday afternoon. The TV was on, showing the big red blob out in the Gulf of Mexico.  I glanced at it as I gathered my stat sheets, notebooks and pens to head out to the football game I was set to cover, but didn't pay very much attention. It wasn't coming here, they had said. It was headed to Florida.

So, I went off to my game at Hahnville High School. It was the annual two-night River Parishes Jamboree, the dress rehearsal for the regular season. It was my 14th season covering high school sports for the local newspaper. There had been a first-night series of games across the river at Destrehan the night before. Hahnville hosted the Friday night event.

I delighted in seeing all the old familiar faces, both in the stands and in the press box. The announcers, the statisticians, the coaches, my fellow journalists. One of them was a nerdy computer geek. He had his laptop open. But he wasn't taking stats. He was watching that blob and what he kept calling "the computer models."

"It's coming right for us," he said, more than a little anxiously.

"No," I replied. "They said it's going to  Florida."

"Not any more."

At halftime of the first game of the double header, the announcer, just a few doors down from my booth made an announcement.

"The St. Charles Parish School Board is monitoring the situation in the Gulf and will make a decision soon regarding the cancellation of classes."

That got everyone's attention.

By the time I finished my stats, sent my story and got home, the computer models had changed even more.

I remember the look on my husband's face when I walked in the door. He started talking about leaving. Not about if we were leaving. About when  we were leaving. And where we were going. And I started thinking about what I was taking.

I remember insisting I had to clean my house on Saturday while Marty started picking up stuff in our backyard.

I remember pulling out of our driveway late the next afternoon, after I had forced my husband to go buy plywood to board up our house. After we had picked up all the stuff in our yard. After I had packed my car to the roof with keepsakes and memories, my great-grandparents' silver, my wedding album, my daughter's baby books, photo albums and scrapbooks, my dog, my daughter and some clothes. I remember wondering if I'd see my house again.

I remember arriving in Natchitoches, Louisiana, very late that night, and lugging all our essentials up to the third floor apartment of my stepdaughter, who was a student then at Northwestern State University. We were grateful that they were a roommate short so  that Marty, Lora and I had a bedroom and bathroom to ourselves. There was a communal living room and kitchen. Because no pets were allowed, my dog Lollee was taken off to Courtney's boyfriend's frat house apartment.

I remember spending hours glued to the TV and Courtney's desktop computer, desperately searching for news.

I remember waking up on Monday morning. I remember the look on Marty's face. The storm had passed, but the levees were breaking. The city of New Orleans was flooding.

I remember the pictures on the TV. The endless pictures on the TV, of people waving from their rooftops for help, of people wading through ugly brown waters, of thousands of people -- sweaty, panicked mothers with little babies -- packed into the Superdome and around the Convention Center.

I remember thinking of my newspaper friends and colleagues who had to stay behind. Those who had ridden out the storm in the main building on Howard Avenue in New Orleans eventually did evacuate. My nephew was on one of those trucks.

I remember the too-few mentions of the Gulf Coast, of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, where Marty's parents lived just a short walk from the beach. I remember the pictures on the TV of the vast nothingness that remained there. It was all gone.

I remember hearing that Brett Favre's mother had to swim out of her kitchen window in Kiln, Mississipi, knowing that is where Jane and Pappy had evacuated to.

I remember the feeling of utter dread realizing that they could very well be dead.

I remember spending countless hours on the computer, not just searching for news of my home and community, but also of scouring Red Cross message boards for lists of the dead and the alive. Hoping. I remember deciding to post my own message on a few, giving Jane and Pappy's names and our phone number.

I remember the call in the middle of the night, letting us know they were, indeed, alive.

I remember trying to call Marty, who had decided this one night to go to a local bar with his daughter. I don't remember which friend of hers I called, but I remember telling him, "They're OK." and the joy and relief in his voice.

I remember walking down the aisle of the local supermarket in Natchitoches and instantly recognizing those from home. You could see it in their faces. That look of utter disbelief. I remember hearing one guy talking on his cell phone: "Go home? There ain't no more home to go home to, man."

I remember the call we got from a friend (who also happened to work for the gas company), telling us he had been to our house and it was still there.

I remember the drive home, seeing army vehicle after army vehicle and school bus after school bus, heading south to help evacuate the people who were still at the Superdome and the Convention Center, begging for help.

I remember being so happy to see our house -- even with the big hole in the fence and all the trees branches all over the place. We didn't have electricity, but we had seen the trucks in our neighborhood. After emptying our refrigerator of what little was left in it, we went to a friend's house in St. Rose for a few hours and, every once in a while, I'd call our house to see if the answering machine would answer. If it did, we had electricity and we could go home. A short time later, it did and we did.

I remember the steady stream of people who came to our house over the next few days, folks just trying to get closer to their own homes to assess their damage. There still were curfews and barriers put up at various borders. Our house became a hub where folks could eat, sleep, rest, shower. Cry.

I remember my husband driving off with his friend, Bill, armed with all kinds of supplies to try to get to Marty's parents in Mississippi. I remember a few hours later, them arriving home, followed by my in-laws.

I remember my mother-in-law walking in with a small plastic grocery bag in her hands. It was all she had left in the world.
What was left of Jane and Pappy Luquet's house in Waveland after Hurricane Katrina.

I remember my then 4-year-old daughter being haunted by "The Big Red Storm," she had been watching on our TVs for so long. When she finally did begin pre-school a month late, she and her friends used the little playhouse in the classroom to play "evacuation."

I remember the first time I drove into New Orleans and saw for myself the destruction.

I remember the feeling of relief to have work to do. Our area, being one of the least hardest hit, was back up and running rather quickly. Our stores opened, albeit with limited supplies. Our schools reopened and, believe it or not, our football teams were soon back in action.

I remember no bread or milk or water at the grocery store.

I remember having to wait in line to get inside the Walmart, then hours-long waits to get back out.

I remember hearing the stories of my friends and colleagues who rode out the storm at the paper's main office in New Orleans, then had to evacuate in the back of the big delivery trucks. My nephew was on one of them. We didn't see each other for six weeks. I remember falling into his arms and sobbing when I finally did at a mandatory meeting at the paper. And not one person questioned it or wondered why.

I remember driving the highways in Mississippi and seeing none of the landmarks we knew so well. I remember the feeling of deja vu -- it was just like it was after Camille.

I remember being so grateful that our area was spared so much. I also remember the guilt.

I remember the haunted looks and the tears in my father-in-law's eyes, especially as he tried, desperately, to list every single item he owned for the insurance company. I remember my mother-in-law, never crying but often reminding us that she "once had pots like that."

Yes, it was a decade ago. But not so long that we don't remember every detail, not so long ago that it doesn't still sting to retell it. My in-laws have since passed away, leaving behind little but an overgrown lot in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, that no one wants to buy, sell or build upon. We paid the taxes on it -- for a while. I believe there are two houses rebuilt on their street, one of them vacant.

Fortunately, my daughter, who is now 14, does not remember much about Katrina. She remembers going to Sissy's house, but she didn't remember her reference to "The Big Red Storm," She just remembers sleeping on an air mattress and the fun picnic we all had in the living room one night.

And even though we didn't lose our house and our possessions -- just a few trees -- Katrina still changed us. It changed the way we think about things -- material things. For a time, I had everything I thought was too special to lose stacked in one spot, ready to grab at a moment's notice. I've uploaded all of our photos to clouds and online storage bins so they don't get lost forever. My husband has not one single baby picture left.

And we didn't buy the "Hurricane Policy" our insurance company offered. We know it will do no good. It did my in-laws no good, anyway. Despite homeowners insurance and hurricane insurance, they got paid for their lost roof and their contents. That's it.

That doesn't help with our insecurity. Because we know that it all can be taken away in a flash. And no amount of money can replace what we remember.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Turning the page

It was about this time in 2010 when a couple of  men in ties drove out from the Big City to the Arctic Outpost and offered to buy me a cup of coffee.

I politely declined the beverage, but was kind of forced to tag along to the one and only coffee chain in our surburbia.

A few minutes in they told me that my career as a sports writer was officially over. A few weeks later, I was moved from my high school sports beat to the receptionist's desk to greet customers and answer phones. I also would have to cover local crime. After 24 years as a prep writer, I became a perp writer.

What many of my fellow journalists suspected but didn't quite know for sure then, was that I was merely a shuffled chair on the deck of the Titanic. A mere two years later, the veritable Times-Picayune cut loose 200 of its employees and cut its publication from seven days to three.  Rumor has it that another major blood-letting of staff is soon forthcoming. 

After I was officially dumped into the sea in September of 2012, I tried to reinvent myself.  First I became a full-time caretaker to a cantankerous mother-in-law who was forced to move in with us just days into my forced "retirement." But I also continued to be a writer. I fired up this blog with stories and anecdotes as a Mom Blogger. And I offered my services to all comers as a freelance sports writer.

And it's been pretty cool. Being a freelancer gives me the freedom to say, "No." Then again, sometimes being a freelancer is free -- as in no paychecks. 

But as of tomorrow, I'll be something else too. I start a new job at the local library as a circulation assistant, where I'll be checking out books and helping customersGoogle and shushing those who get too excited. And I'm very excited about the new opportunity.

But I also feel a little twinge in my heart. Does this mean that today is my last day as a sports writer?

I have to admit, I am imagining a life away from un-air conditioned press boxes and stadium stairs and coaches who don't return phone calls and smelly football players. It's rather nice to picture a nice, cool, quiet library with endless books at my fingertips.  

But when I do, I feel a hole in my stomach -- and in my heart.  Because, that's who I am. That's what I am. A writer. A sports writer. That's what I'm good at -- well, besides parallel parking. It's all I've ever wanted to do. It's pretty much all I've done for nearly three decades.

I posted the question earlier today on my Facebook page -- "Is this my last day as a sports writer?"

Many of my friends and followers answered, "No," along with offering some nice pats on my hiney.

"You'll always be a sports writer," they told me. "You'll just be doing something else."

Maybe I can call myself a "Sportsbrarian." That has a certain ring to it. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

One year later

The year leading up to the date of her surgery seemed to take forever.

The year since has passed by in a flash. Or so it seems.

On Friday, July 3, we marked the one-year anniversary of my daughter's 7 1/2 hour spinal fusion surgery to correct her scoliosis. Her curve was 48 degrees on that day. Today it's, maybe, 10. Maybe less.

I know when I look at her, I see her tall and straight and beautiful. We kind of tease her about not being able to pick up her socks from the floor. It's a thing she never did, even as a small child. Her socks are always everywhere. She can't paint her toenails. Or do Yoga.

I know when I look at her, I no longer see the crooked hips or shoulders. I no longer see the imagined images of her back being sliced open. I no longer imagine her face as she wakes up from that surgery in excruciating pain, demanding, "What did you do to me?"

 I do see a scar -- one that is really nice and straight thanks to her rockin' surgeon. She refuses to let me treat it with anything, though, because she "wants" her scar. She's proud of it.

All of my nightmares were so much worse than the reality. That's what I tell the other moms I meet or talk to whose child still faces this journey. "Your nightmares are worse than the reality."

That's not to say it was a piece of cake. It wasn't. It was hard. She was miserable for a while. She made me miserable for a while.

But now, it's all over.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Now what?

Here it is, Sunday evening.

I'm bored and flipping channels on the TV, trying to keep up with the college baseball regionals and the Softball World Series. Meanwhile, part of me is still traumatized by last night's Outlander and  anticipating more trauma from tonight's Game of Thrones. Why do I do this to myself?

But, another part of me is happy and relaxed because, for the first time in quite some time, I have a Monday off. And a Tuesday. And Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I can sleep late and enjoy some quality time with The Coach and The Teen in The Pool. 

My nice little part time temporary gig at Loyola University has come to an end. That's both good and bad.

Good: freedom! Bad: I'm unemployed. Again.

It was a nice little gig in the Office of Public Affairs, where I made some new friends and learned some new skills. I learned that PR and journalism are two completely different worlds. I leaned that the first time I had to send a press release I had written to the source of the story, to allow him to make any necessary changes -- including to his quotes. Then again when I was told that we didn't bother some folks for quotes, we just made them up. The journalist in me had a hard time with that. Fortunately, I never had to.

But I did do some good work, wrote some good stories, helped publicize some news-worthy events at my alma mater, and made a few extra bucks.

And learned that college professors aren't much better than high school coaches when it comes to returning phone calls. "I'm sorry I didn't call you back, Lori," said one. "I just didn't."

OK then.

No, I won't miss that. 

Or this:

Or these:

But I will miss this:

I have no idea what's next. I have some freelance gigs working. I have a few more possibilities. And some folks have called to ask if I'd be interested in some things if they just happen to come to be. Always.

In the meantime, if you're looking for me, you can probably find me here: