Saturday, February 26, 2011

A different man

A different man came home to me last night than the night before.

Oh, he looked the same as my husband -- same handsome face, same squinty eye, same graying goatee.

But this guy had a little pep in his step. And he was smiling. And he loved me. And he loved our dogs and our daughter and her friend who was spending the night and our house and the world, but not the skim milk in the fridge.

He even tried to watch a few minutes of this week's taped episode of Glee, but quickly lost interest.

What a win will do for a coach.

The Wildcats notched their first win of the season on Friday, beating the team that wears my name -- Live Oak (LO) -- 12-6. The young kittens had to rally after giving up six runs in the fourth inning.

I kept up with the action on my trusty computer. Well, I did until my husband's iPhone battery gave out in the sixth. I was stuck at 11-6 in the sixth.

So when he called me I had to ask if he had held on to win.

Three hours later he came home, starving and tired. But he went to bed happy.


And the coffee was ready this morning.

Now he's off again all day, playing a double-header in Baton Rouge.

I hope that new guy comes back.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Coach came home grumpy

So The Coach came home grumpy.

After all that buildup, all the planning and strategizing and all those sleepless hours the night before, the Destrehan Wildcats opened the 2011 baseball season with a 6-5 loss to Walker in Baton Rouge.

I knew it before he called this time, thanks to this fancy new Internet thing he has called Game Changer. He keeps score on his iPhone in the dugout and I can follow along at home on the computer. It’s really cool for folks like me who can’t get to the game because of work or kids or weather or whatever.

And the butterflies you get as the last batter comes to the plate with two outs feel just the same.

It took a while for him to finally call me to verify the outcome.

“Tell me the computer is wrong,” I said.

“I wish,” he replied.

So I spent the rest of the night waiting for him, for the sound of his car (and the blaring country music) as I kept up with the latest crop of American Idol hopefuls and then the doctors at Seattle Grace.

I was ready to greet, ready to hug, ready to soothe, ready to protect the dogs (Just kidding. He would never kick our dogs).

I even tried to let my daughter stay up a little extra late so she could give him a hug, but he took his sweet time getting home. Can’t say I blame him.

Eight errors take a lot of second-guessing.

But the hour’s drive from Baton Rouge to home give him a lot of extra time for processing.

So he was fine by the time he got home. Disappointed, but fine. The dogs and I went out into the driveway to greet him, and had to wait as he scooped up a day’s worth of life from his car and carried it inside.

He made his way to the washing machine to prep his uniform for the next day’s game, then went right to the computer. He didn’t even ask if the local boy made it to the Idol finals (he did.)

He didn’t come to bed, either. This time it was my turn to head up early (and leave him the dishes). He stayed downstairs to look over the play-by-play, the stats, the trends, to relive the game in his head.

And get ready for today’s.

It was hours before he finally made his way upstairs, but only a few minutes before the thunderstorm hit. So I have no idea how much sleep he managed to get.

But I know he forgot to turn the coffee on this morning.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

There he goes




My husband went to bed hours ago.

It was only about 9:30 when he surprised me by suddenly announcing, "I'm going to bed," and asked me to do the few dishes in the kitchen, which are normally his responsibility.

But if I know him at all -- and I do -- he's upstairs right now, wide awake. He has tossed and turned a million times, studied every flaw in our bedroom ceiling, listened to every tick of the clock on the wall and seen every red number on the one beside the bed. His head is probably under the pillow and the blankets are all tangled.

And when I make my way up there in just a few minutes, I won't be waking him at all.

Tomorrow is Game Day, the first game of the 2011 high school baseball season in Louisiana. And, right now, he's so excited he can't stand it.

There are a lot of people in this world who love what they do. I used to be one of them. But my husband? He lives what he does.

He is about to embark on his 21st year as a high school baseball coach, his tenth at his current school, his 11th since we've been married. And he could not be happier.

The day he went from being a local recreation director to being a coach again after an eight year hiatus, one of the first things he said to me was, "I got my first name back."

"Coach."

And I became a coach's wife.

It wasn't easy because, at the time I was also a sports writer, covering high schools. And there's that whole conflict of interest thing that newspapers frown upon. So I couldn't write about him, couldn't cover his games, couldn't write about his successes and failures. Oftentimes, I couldn't even go to his games.

But I was there in spirit. And we certainly did rehash every detail when we got home.

And I learned to expect the unexpected.

Like the time he called me shortly after game time from his cell phone. I was at work at another game far away.

"Where are you?" I asked, wondering if the bus had broken down or the game had been rained out on that perfectly blue spring day.

"I'm in an oak tree," he replied, matter-of-factly.

"Why are you in an oak tree?" I asked, just as matter-of-factly.

"Because the umpire asked me to leave."

"Well, try not to fall out OK?"

I learned to sleep through those nights like these -- the ones before the first game, before the next game, and after the last game.

I learned to live with the silent partner hunched in his chair, chewing his nails as he relives every pitch, every call, every errant throw while he pretends to watch TV with me.

I learned to live with the crazy nights when my house is invaded by coaches and other wives, often bearing food and drink, as they celebrate the good days by reliving every pitch, every call and every errant throw.

I learned to live with the absences, the late nights, the early mornings, the forgotten birthdays, and going solo to family gatherings.

I learned to live with the parents and fans who don't care that his wife and child are within earshot when they call him names because he tried something that didn't work or benched a kid who didn't.

I learned to live with the baseballs. Everywhere.

And the smell.

Because I'd rather live with a man who loves what he does than love a man who doesn't.

Just a few days ago he came home smiling ear-to-ear after watching one of his former players flirt with a no-hitter as the took the mound for the first time for one of the top college programs in this country. A few days later he grinned just as broadly to watch another former player on the same team hit a home run and yet another take the mound for the opposing team.

Tonight he spent hours hunting and pecking on the computer as he compiled a list of every one of his former players who is now playing ball somewhere, either at the college or professional level.

"There are 13," he said, as proud as a parent could be. As proud as a coach could be.

And in a few hours, long before the alarm sounds, he will get out of our bed and come downstairs to sit in this very spot, where he will slave over his lineup and play the game in his head a dozen times. Maybe more.

He will pack his bag with the tools of his trade, careful not to overlook any detail. (But he will probably forget his cell phone.)

Then he will return to our room to kiss me gently goodbye.

And I will whisper, "Win."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Adoptive




My 10-year old child has informed me that she does not like it when I call her my adopted daughter.

"I'm just your daughter," she said to me in the car as I drove her home from school.

And she doesn't like it when I refer to myself as an adoptive mom either.

"You're just a regular mom," she said.

And I just don't know how to explain to her that, no. I'm not.

Everyone tells me that it takes a special person to adopt a child. And they are right.

Sometimes it takes a person with an exceptionally big heart, who is willing to open their home and their soul to a child, often one with a lifetime's worth of baggage and heartache sitting on their shoulder.

But sometimes it takes a person like me -- a heartbroken woman with a faulty reproductive system, who is a little bit desperate and a whole lot determined.

For six years we tried to make a baby the old-fashioned way, making our way through six doctors, a few science experiments and a million tears -- not to mention a dozen suggestions from helpful friends and family members who had their own ideas about how this all works.

Finally, convinced there was no other way, we turned to thoughts of adoption. Or should I say, fantasies? Sure, everyone thinks its so easy to adopt a child. "There's plenty of kids out there that need homes," everyone says.

And there are.

And there are plenty of folks out there who would be willing to love them. If it were easy.

But adoption is hard.

Very hard.

First there is the sticker shock. Agencies cost upward of $20,000 or more. Up front. Catholic Charities was $40,000. Up front. Just to get on a list. And, as far as I know, there still is no adoption loan at the local bank.

Then there are the hoops. Paperwork, fingerprints, background checks, home studies, life books, letters of reference -- all must declare that we are, indeed, fit people to take in one of those many parent-less children that are out there waiting.

And then there are the minefields -- hearts ripe for the breaking, hopes ready to be dashed, dreams ready to be blown away. Not to mention state agencies whose first priority is to return children to their natural born parents first, no matter what they did to them.

Or women who aren't absolutely sure about what they are doing, who will wait until you're invested emotionally and financially, wait until your nursery is all ready and piled with baby booties and shower gifts to say, "Um. It was always my intention to keep this baby."

But people like me are willing to endure it all, jump through every hoop, step over every minefield, overcome every obstacle and endure every heartbreak because, at the end is a child that is destined to be ours.

In the first months after my baby girl was put into my arms, I couldn't help but blurt out "She's adopted!" to every stranger we met. Other family members did it too.

And it wasn't a qualifier. I wasn't telling the world, "This is not my kid."

Rather, I wanted the world to know, "Look what we did! We did it! We stayed the course! We fought the fight! And look at our prize! Yay us!!!!"

We said it with a sense of accomplishment, of pride, of achievement.

"We adopted," to us means, "We did it."

And, "thank God."

But how can I explain all of that to a 10-year old?

I guess I can't.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Out of the blue


I was overjoyed when the name popped up on my phone. And surprised.

It had been a long time since we've spoken.

About a year ago she decided to give up this Louisiana life of covering crime and move back home to where her parents and her boyfriend are. We knew all along that it was just a matter of time. But we were sorry to see her go, too.

I know I was.

When she was here, she was one of my favorite co-workers. The crime reporter who rocked the 6-inch heels. A sweet, young, chipper girl who never seemed to have a bad day or be in a bad mood, not even when the company started teaching us words like "furlough" and "buyout."

Maybe it was the mothering instinct in me, but I kind of took her under my wing. I always feel for the ones who move here for the job, leaving their families behind and striking out on their own.

Despite our separate lives and a nearly 20-year age difference, we formed a bond. Or I did. She came to me for advice on becoming a stepmother, which I did at about her age. I gave her all of my wisdom and all of my books.

She was the one -- the only one -- who came to the parties I used to invite my office mates to, even a few of my daughter's birthdays.

And, she was no spectator. No, she jumped right into the middle of them, singing karaoke on our makeshift stage and sitting on the floor with a bunch of 8-year-olds to play a game or make beauty treatments.

And when she came to my father-in-law's funeral, she charmed the whole family so much they were ready to adopt her too.

She was the one I liked to share exciting news with because, well, she genuinely seemed to get excited.

"Oooooh, niiiiiice," she would say in her sing-song voice.

And she really meant it.

She was one of the first people to read my book, the whole saga of our adoption story. On her Blackberry.

But when the newspaper business started to take a turn for the worse, she figured it was time. Time to go home to the cold and the snow and her family and her boyfriend.

She's still a newspaper reporter -- a darned good one, too -- just somewhere else. Over the last year we've kept in touch through emails and on Facebook. And we've both traveled some rocky roads to stay in the newspaper business, learning to live with those scary words like "furlough" and "buyout" and "layoffs."

So it was great to hear from her again. To tell her how grown up Lora is now. To catch her up on our new, smaller and much quieter office.

But as we made our way through the idle chitchat, I knew something was coming. She had some news to tell. I could feel it. And I was waiting.

I was hoping to hear a word like "engagement" or "wedding," hoping she would ask me to address her wedding invitations.

Instead I heard her say, "I have breast cancer."

Of course she immediately tried to reassure me. "It's very early," she said. "I'll be fine," she said.

Even still, she's the same chipper and upbeat girl, even laughing for God's sakes as she tells me the story of how she found the lump herself after insisting on wearing an itchy sweater she knew was allergic to. About how she went in to get it checked out and almost walked out of the room without having the breast with the lump checked.

And she sounded as if could have been telling me about what she was planning to do this weekend as she talked about choosing to undergo a double mastectomy and reconstruction, laughing as she told me she plans to use her belly fat to create her new boobs.

"I'm finally going to get my muffin top to work for me," she said.

And we laughed.

But when I could no longer hold back my own tears as my heart broke for my young friend, she actually tried to apologize -- apologize! --to me, for making me sad and ruining my evening.

What a silly girl.

But today I'm going to make my own appointment for a mammogram, which I have put off for far too long. And I told her that.

"Everything happens for a reason," she said.

She believes she was destined to wear that sweater that night, that she was destined to stop the technician on her way out the door, destined to have enough belly fat to restore her figure in a few weeks.

And I believe I was destined to have her as a friend.



You can read my friend Vickie's story here.

  She's doing well.






Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lolo's Links of the day

Hello. My name is Lori and I am an Internet junkie.

And since being benched from my former position as a sports writer to my current position as receptionist/bank teller/crime reporter, I have lots of time to pursue my addiction.

Lots.

And my daily web surfing usually produces quite a few interesting links that I like to share.

Among my recent addictions (besides Reese's Minis, that is) is blogs. Love reading them. Love searching for new ones. There is obviously something for everyone out there.

Like this one...where a mother has daily conversations with her young son, who committed suicide last year.

Check out this NOLA.com story on the River Parishes' own (and former Destrehan Wildat) Trey Watkins, now a starting outfielder for the LSU Tigers.

Another story with local links, this is the heartbreaking story of Tripp Roth, the son of former Destrehan QB Randy Roth and his wife Courtney, who is suffering with EB, a terrible and very painful skin disease. WWL-TV featured Courtney and Tripp on Tuesday night's newscast.
... And here is a link to Courtney's blog.

And it was a little old book blogger who led me to this link. It's called Libary Thing, and it's like your own virtual library. Check it out (ha).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bieber Fever

My daughter is in love.

My 10-year-old, pre-pubescent child is head over heels in love with a boy she's never met and, likely, never will.

Oh, I can't say I blame her. Not at all. He's an incredibly handsome, immensely charming, multi-talented, billionaire-to-be with great hair. He has it all -- looks, talent, charisma, money. And a million girls just like mine are crying their eyes out at the mere thought of his ever-so-pretty face.



Sigh.

Good mom that I am, I took my daughter to see the boy's movie today, doling out $27.00 (plus popcorn, drinks and Raisinettes) to see his rise to fame and glory on the big screen in 3D.

For nearly two hours we got to see how cute he was as a baby, how cute he was as a toddler, how cute he was as an adolescent, how well he could play the drums and sing at the age of 3, and how persistent he was in achieving his dream of being a world famous heartthrob. He never said never.

And, yeah. He was pretty darned cute.

Sigh.

And at the end, my lovely and innocent little girl leaned close to me and, with a catch in her voice said, "Now do you see why I love him?"

Yes I do, my darling. Yes I do.

They're calling it "Bieber Fever."

And I understand completely. You see, I have had it before.

Actually, for me, it was John Cowsill Fever.


The youngest member of the singing family group The Cowsills (whom a lot of people have never even heard of), John Cowsill was my first love. Like The Biebs, he had that perfect face, that charming smile, an angelic voice and -- come to think of it -- the same hair!

I swooned over every photo of him in 16 Magazine and Tiger Beat (which are still around, by the way), and left standing instructions for my family to call me from my room whenever their milk commercial came on our (one) TV.

And my parents, good parents that they are, doled out their good, hard earned money to take me -- at the tender age of about 8 -- to their concert at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. And I about died. I cried real tears of love and joy as he performed on the stage before me and I even survived the post-concert crush to get his autograph on my program (which was later destroyed when the hot water heater leaked in my closet).

But even then I was a fickle young lass. It didn't take long before I was so over John and moved on to ...

Donny Osmond...



Oh My God (that's OMG for you youngsters).

That perfect face, that charming smile, that angelic voice and -- come to think of it -- the same hair!!!

Down came John's pictures and up went Donny's, wearing his famous purple shirt, of course.

My parents weren't all that great. They didn't dole out the cash for tickets to his concert in New Orleans sometime in the mid-1970s. (Why not mom?)

I had to wait until the 1990s to see him.

After taking my teenage stepdaughter to see her loves of the day, The Backstreet Boyz and N'Sync (losing about 10 percent of our hearing in the process), her mother and I made a pact. If Donny Osmond ever went on tour, then by God we were going. Together.

And one day my mom, perhaps attempting to make up for not taking me to see him in the 70s, called me up to let me know that my teen dream was, in fact, coming to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi to play the local casino. And, being a Gold Member, she could get tickets.

I immediately called up Cheryl, my husband's first wife, and said, "We're going!"

And we did.

While our husbands had dinner and drinks, Cheryl and I shuffled into the theater at the Casino Magic along with about 1,000 retirees to see the boy we had both loved in our youth.

He still had that perfect face, that charming smile, that angelic voice. But not so much the hair. And he still had the power to make us both swoon. For at least an hour, my love for him was just as strong as it had been 30 years ago.

I still enjoy Donny. He's put out a couple of nice recordings in recent years. He's still not bad to look at and he still can dance. I even voted for him on Dancing With the Stars.

So, my dear child I get it. I really do.

Justin Bieber is lovely to look at, very charming and extremely talented from what I saw tonight. And he has very nice hair.

In fact, can I have one of your posters to put on my wall?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Words

A woman I know has just learned the she is unexpectedly expecting a little late life surprise. After 10 years with her man, she thought such a thing was impossible.

I heard her tell all this to another woman today. A woman I don't know.

"It happens when it's supposed to," the stranger said. "When the time is right."

Then she recounted how, after years of trying she "quit" trying. That's when she got pregnant.

I listened to the conversation and bit my tongue.

And that hurt just as much as the words.

Does this mean that I was never meant to be a mother? Because I never was able to get pregnant, despite years of trying, was the Universe or God trying to tell me I didn't deserve to be a mom? Did I then thwart the universe by finding the child I do have?

That's what I wanted to say. "Is that what you mean?"

And how, exactly, does one quit trying? Last I heard, when you stop having sex you stop having babies.

I'm just sayin'......

Flying colors


I had a very interesting conversation with my child last evening.

She has a friend at school, she's telling me. One I had not heard her talk about before. A boy. And she seemed quite enamored of him as she talked about how funny he is and how cute he is and much he makes her laugh and how much she likes him.

"Oh?" I said, half teasing as I chopped vegetables for dinner. "Is this a new crush?"

"No," she said. Quickly. Too quickly.

Then there was a pause.

"I know this might sound offensive," my 10-year-old child said, her voice rising an octave with worry and a little bit of fear. "But I would rather date somebody who is the same race as I am."

"Oh!" I said, slightly caught off guard. "He's bla.."

"He's brown," she cut me off. "I don't like to say black. He's not. He's brown."

Even as a pre-schooler she would refer to her African American classmates and anyone else she knew as "brown." "That brown man," she would say. Or, "The brown boy in my class."

I always thought of it as childhood pure. She didn't see their race, she just saw a distinguishing characteristic, like the blond, the brunet or the redhead. The brown kid.

"Well," I corrected gently. "They prefer to use 'black.' Or African American."

"I like brown," she said. My stubborn child. Then her 10-year-old brain -- and heart -- went a step further.

"He's colored," she said.

"No," I said sternly -- but gently. "People don't really say that word. It's not nice."

"Why not?"

Then I tried to give a brief summary of overt racism in America, how that used to be "the adjective," but now it's insulting. And, for good measure, I figured I'd give her a life lesson.

"And we never, ever say the N word," I said.

"What's that?"

And I paused.

Do I say it? Do I teach it to her, even in a teaching moment? Do I utter the word myself, even in a teaching moment? I'd rather say the F word out loud in front of my child than that one.

"Say it once so I know what it is," my future lawyer-child said.

I didn't want to. But I did.

And I wanted to wash my own mouth out with soap.

She had never heard the word before. And I introduced it to her. I guess I had to. Maybe not. Maybe I could have, should have said no. Then again, I'd rather her hear it from me than someone else.

And she would have heard it -- eventually.

There are people in my family who still use it on a regular basis -- and not necessarily accidentally. It's a word I grew up hearing, in different times with different mores.

Then again, she could hear it on the radio or on TV and not know that it's a word she's not supposed to say. It's my job to teach her.

"Is it a nasty word?" my child asked me.

"It is now," I answered. "It's a word people used to use a lot, but now nobody says it. It's bad. Very bad."

"Oh," she said, before getting to the real heart of the matter.

"Well, I really like K. He's really funny."

And the moment was gone. I can only hope I taught her well.

I was reminded of my junior year in high school when the our student body overwhelmingly elected a hilariously funny African American girl, who also happened to be the head cheerleader, as the homecoming queen.

After the game, my friends and I were heading to the big party at a classmate's house. She wanted to go to, but had no ride.

"Come with us," I said.

She quickly agreed and I was thrilled. The most popular girl, the head cheerleader, the homecoming queen for God's sakes, was going to be riding in my car. It was a pure John Hughes moment.

But when we stopped at my house so I could change, my parents nearly died. They weren't impressed with her credentials, the sash over her shoulder nor the gleaming crown on her head. They just thought I had lost my mind.

"It's just not done," they said.

And when I got to Loyola, one of the first people I looked up was another former school mate, who had gone on to Tulane as a pitcher. Nice guy. Funny guy. But the kind of guy my parents would never let me date because he also was a Houma Indian. And we had a not-so-nice slang word for that, too.

Now I'm standing in my kitchen with one, a Houma Indian, adopted as a baby from my own home town and now asking me questions about race and color.

We both have a lot to learn.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Newspaper Business

Here is a sampling of my newspaper work..

I have covered these girls since they were in the eighth grade. Both were outstanding high school players. Both went on to stellar college careers at my alma mater, Loyola in New Orleans. Now they're learning how hard it is to deal with high school girls like they used to be...

It was good to see them again...

I miss writing about sports. OK, I don't miss soccer. Yes, we play soccer in the winter in Louisiana. Apparently, no one else does. And there were playoffs yesterday in 40 degree temperatures and rain.

No thank you.

I enjoyed writing this one, even though I procrastinated mightily to sit down to write it. Another journalist pal of mine (a famous one at ESPN) said he procrastinates because he works so much better on a deadline. Must be a journalist thing.

I get it. Me too.

I used to just crank out stories like these -- sometimes three or four a week plus two live games and sometimes an extra Sunday feature or weekend advance. Those were the days.

But since moving to news/a life of crime, I've slowed to a crawl. These days I might write 100 words per day.

Or less.

And few of them even add up to sentences.

This is the fifth feature story I've written since August.

You read that right. Five in six months.

I fear my brain is turning to mush.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Girls will be girls

Got my dog Lollee Sue a hot new pink and purple polka dotted collar today.

I wonder if, in girl dog, that's like getting a new pair of shoes.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Harry Potter Palooza

She is obsessed a little bit, this child of mine.

And I'm very proud.

She currently is on the fourth book of the series and has become quite the expert on everything Harry Potter.

When she finishes this book, we can watch the movie together. I hope I don't forget all of my Hogwarts knowledge in the meantime.

And during our recent trip to Orlando, we spent a small fortune on a little side trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Parking $15, Entrance fee $150, Wand $30, t-shirt $20, Cloak $99 + tax, not to mention the frozen Butterbeer, bag of Bertie Botts beans and a chocolate frog.

Believe it or not, it was well worth the visit --even though she didn't make the ride (please remove any artificial limbs.)

So she decided her 10th birthday party simply HAD to be a Harry Potter epic.

Epic.

I think it was. I'm usually pretty good at this stuff, finding and making props. Should have been a party planner. Party City was NO help. But I had a good assistant!

After being the laughingstock of the neighborhood for three weeks, we finally look the icicle lights off of the house and hung them in the dining room. We were trying to make it look like the Great Hall.

My husband asked if we could leave them up.

Then there were Harry Potter glasses and lightning bolt tattoos for everyone, light-up wands and small Magic 8-Balls. We served Dragon Snot punch (green sherbet and Sprite) and Butterbeer (bottles of Cream Soda with labels I downloaded off of the Internet).

And she downloaded the theme song.

Yes. It was epic.



Click the bucket to view photos...

Ten

My dearest little Lora Leigh,

I simply cannot believe you are 10. Where in the world did the time go? Wasn't it just yesterday that Gail put your tiny little self in my arms? Wasn't it?

Sometimes it feels like it. And sometimes it feels like a million years ago. But I still remember every detail of that day you were born...
... and the day you became ours.

So now you are 10. And nearly as tall as me. And wearing my shoes. And some of my clothes.

And leaving them on the floor.

I finally gave in and let you have a Facebook so you could keep up with your sister in Houma and your sister in Florida, and you promptly signed up to play a dozen silly games and changed your last name.

Sometimes I just shake my head.

What an adventure you have been. Still are.

If not for you I would not know what a Muggle is or a Slytherin or a Golden Snitch. And I wouldn't still have icicle lights hanging in my dining room and puke-flavored jelly beans left over from your party. (And I wouldn't have gotten to see Aunt Jo eat one flavored like pizza!)

If not for you I wouldn't know who all those kids are on the Disney Channel. Or Justin Bieber, or the Jonas Brothers, or Hannah Montana or, heck, half of the artists on the radio.

And I might be shocked that the Naked Brothers Band played at the House of Blues.

If not for you I wouldn't have seen Miley Cyrus live in concert. Or the Jonas Brothers. Or the Naked Brothers.

If not for you I would be up and walking with my dogs at 6 a.m. instead of snuggled deep under the covers with you.

(It's a ritual we've kept since you were born. Every morning your dad would scoop you out of your crib and put you in my arms so we could snuggle. Now you come to me on your own, even setting your alarm clock a half an hour early to do so.)

If not for you I wouldn't have an entire collection of Disney Princess dolls gathering dust.

Or crayons on my floors.

Or a Pepto Bismol pink room in my house.

Without you, my world would not be in color.

Without you I wouldn't have gotten to experience the greatest love of my life, the greatest thrill, the greatest joy, the greatest fears.

Without you, I'd be so bored. And a little less loved. And a lot less happy.

Happy birthday, my little love. I hope all of your birthday wishes come true.

Love,

Mom


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A death in the family

There was a death in our family last week.

Paw Paw Ed, a kind, gentle, sweet old man departed this life for the next and went to meet his maker.

It was not unexpected. He had been in declining health for several years, suffering from a myriad of illnesses and ailments that come from old age and years of hard work and hard living on the Louisiana bayous. Nearly a day after doctors removed the tubes that were breathing for him, he breathed his last.

And one sunny afternoon my nearly 9-year-old daughter got off her school bus with a happy smile and I had to sit her down and tell her that her grandfather had died. She got very serious.

"He did?" she said. "What time?"

I told her.

Then she put her head on my shoulder.

"That's sad," she said finally.

Paw Paw Ed was not my father. Nor was he my husband's.

Joseph Edward Lodrigue was was the father of my daughter's birthmother. Her grandfather. And she knew him well.

Well, perhaps not well. We have visited with him several times over Lora Leigh's decade of life, traveling to their little house on the bayou in Dulac for Good Friday seafood boils. He never talked much, but sat in a corner in his rocking chair observing our little reunions that took place in his kitchen. Sometimes he would reach into his pocket to give Lora a dollar bill, a south Louisiana tradition I had to explain to my husband.

With a twinkle in his eye, Paw Paw would observe this mysterious little child, this flesh of his flesh who looked like them but did not live with them because she was given to us at birth. It took him a full year to even look at a photo of her, his ache was too great. But by the time he died, she was just another one of his grandchildren.

So much so that, when the family began putting together a list of survivors for the newspaper death notice, they included her name among the list of grandchildren.

That made me smile. And cry.

On Sunday evening, the three of us battled cold and rain to drive to an all-too-familiar funeral home in my hometown. Hand-in-hand, we made our way through friends and family we did not know to find the few we do.

Aunt Shirley. Uncle June. Ashlee, Lora's sister by birth. A couple of cousins we've met over the years. And Gail, the woman who allowed me to have her child.

We hugged. We cried. They thanked us for coming, as if we had done something extraordinary by showing up. And they marveled at how tall Lora has grown to be (she is nearly as tall as I am.)

Some others just stared.

I caught a few whispers and meaningful looks from throughout the room as Lora's relatives pointed her out to one another.

"That's Gail's baby," I heard.

And that was a little weird.

I wondered what they were thinking. Were they checking us out, making sure we were worthy of their kin? Were they checking my child for signs of neglect or abuse? Were they merely debating whether she looked like Gail or her mother? Or me?

Lora, meanwhile, tried not to look at the man she knew lying in his silver casket, holding a winning hand of 31 and a dollar bill to ante up.

At one point I did take her to a set of framed photographs next to the casket. We saw Paw Paw Ed as a young boy, as a handsome young man and even as and older gentleman before his illnesses began to bend him.

We saw photos of Gail as a young woman with her brother June and sister Shirley. And we saw photos of their mother, Rose, who died well before Lora was born -- otherwise we probably would not have her.

I pointed each one out to Lora, making sure she saw them.

And I made sure she saw the photos of her in the frame, one as a little baby with impossibly beautiful curls and a few with Ashlee and Gail.

And that made us both smile.

It was perfectly natural and normal that they should be there.

This is her family. And now it is ours.