Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Touched

In my former life as a a sports writer, I wrote a lot of stories about winning and losing.

But all of those stories were about winning and losing games.

This story is about a different kind of losing. And a different kind of winning.

Last night I got the opportunity to interview  the most amazing woman  --  perhaps the most amazing woman I've ever met.  And, believe me, she knows all about losing and winning.

She is a local educator, an elementary school principal and a leader in our community. And she is getting married in just a few weeks.

Like every other bride in the world she is fussing over the details -- the dress, the bridesmaids, the guests, the flowers.

Like every other bride she is worried about her hair and her makeup on her special day.

But unlike other brides, she wears her engagement ring on a fake finger. On a fake hand. And she will dance on prosthetic feet.

A little more than a year ago, she lost both of her feet and both of her hands to septic shock after a kidney stone.


A kidney stone.

She nearly died. Several times. But she fought. Hard. And won.

Now here she is living her life, ruling her school. And planning her wedding to the man of her dreams.

And I am amazed by the two of them. Her, for surviving. For winning. For coming out of the other side with her humor and positive attitude intact despite what she lost.

Him, for staying by her side.

And for more than that.

Every morning he must get her ready for her day. He dresses her. Probably bathes her. Carefully applies her makeup. Her eyeliner. Her lipstick. Her mascara. Blow dries, styles and irons her hair. Then he adorns his love with earrings and a necklace. She even lets him choose.

Then he carefully puts his ring on her silicone hand.

I love my husband. Adore him. I believe that he loves and adores me and would do just about anything for me. But I honestly can't imagine him putting on my makeup in the morning.  Certainly not straightening my hair with a white hot flat iron.

But I know he would.

I know that, as I get older, he will have to do more and more things for me. Some probably embarrassing things. Uncomfortable things.

We saw Pappy do them for Jane. Then we saw Jane learn how to do them again for herself after he was gone. It's what you do for those you love.

But still.

I can't imagine my life without my hands. Not being able to type like this, with the words pouring from my brain to my fingers.

Never playing the piano again.

Or digging in the dirt in my garden.

Never feeling my daughter's soft skin or running my fingers through her curls. Or feeling her head for a fever.

Never feeling my dogs' soft fur.

Never peeling another crab.

Being unable to scratch an itch.

Or to hold my husband's big warm hand.

But rather than dwell on all the things that she has lost, Mrs. Adams focuses on all the things she still has. A life. A love. And a second chance to live them.

And a wedding to plan.

And I am amazed.

**You can read the print version of the story here.

**And you can see the story The Today Show did on Tory and Merlyna here.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Skinny mommies are bad?

Had another interesting conversation with my 10-year-old daughter today.

Me, brightly: Hey! Would you like to come to the park with me so I can walk? Or do you want me to wait for Dad to get home?

Her, grumpily: Wait for Dad to get home, please. I'm really tired.

Me, slightly disappointed (the weather today was perfect): Ok. ... I guess you just don't want me to get skinny do you?

Her, kinda whiny: I'm just really tired.... Besides, I like you the way you are. And. I read this book. It was about a boy. His mom was about your size -- and I'm not saying you are big or anything like that. But when he cuddled with her, it felt really nice. But after she went on a diet and lost all kinds of weight, well it just didn't feel the same. His mom's hugs just weren't as good any more. And I don't want that to happen to you and me.

Me: .... (What the heck am I supposed to say to that?)

So I thought about this for a minute. And smiled to myself.

Yes. This IS sort of like my husband telling me a few years ago,  "I don't want a skinny wife. I want YOU!"

But a little nicer. And a little cuter because it's from a 10-year-old and not a grown man who should be able to think faster.

So I asked my oh-so imaginative daughter: What is the name of this book? I'd really like to read it.

Her, thinking fast: I don't remember. Maybe it was a picture book or something.

Or maybe it's a book that needs to be written .....





Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flamingos won't give me pelicans

I knew it was coming.

It always does this time of year.

But I didn't expect it to hit me so hard.

A simple little email in my work inbox somehow managed to punch me in the stomach, suck the wind out of me and reopen a slew of wounds that have only just begun to heal. And ruined my day.

Today came the official rules for the 2011 Louisiana Sports Writers Association's annual writing contest. 

Every year sports writers from across the state are invited to send in their best works from the previous year, to be judged by some other sports writer or sports editor in some other state.

Since sports writers mostly just cover competition but don't get to actually compete themselves, we take the bait. And then we spend a fair amount of time dutifully going through our stuff -- our good, our bad and our ugly.

The game stories written on impossibly tight deadlines, in barely lit press boxes teaming with mosquitoes and impatient janitors waiting to turn the lights out and go home.

The feature stories squeezed out of teenage boys and teenage girls who are still working on their mental filters, and coaches who mostly say the exact opposite of what they really mean because they're afraid their opponent might actually read it.

The columns that we really pour our hearts into because it's the only time we really get to use our voice.

We pick and choose the best of it all, and send it in with a wish and a prayer and a check for $20. Then, every June we get together over a nice brunch while some very funny friends hand out plaques and certificates adorned with a very clever pelican.

And, unlike the Academy Awards or the Emmys, we are genuinely happy for our friends and colleagues as they collect their hardware and take it back to their table and their proud spouses and children.

I've had my share of those moments.

Right out of the box, in my first year on the job, I won a third place for a high school track meet I had covered.

The following year, 1991-1992, I was the Prep Writer of the Year.

And again in 2004.

In between I won eight other awards. Since then I've won seven more.

And I'm not bragging (OK, maybe a little), I'm just saying -- I wasn't bad at what I did. In fact, I was pretty damn good.

Last year I won a first, a second and a third.

Now this is my last year.

Because now I write receipts.

And rewrite police reports.

And scan in obituary photos.

And answer the phone.

And wait for someone to be murdered so I have story to write.

Sad, huh?

Yeah, that's the newspaper business today.

So after I opened that email, the one I knew was coming, I forced myself to go to the paper's electronic library and sift through the last memories of a 24-year sports writing career that I truly loved.

The basketball games won at the buzzer,

The baseball games that went into extra innings,

After it rained for two hours.

The softball tournament that wore me out because I had to cover six teams on three different fields...

All at the same time.

The swimming tournament I covered without ever looking up from my computer because I was typing agate results the whole time.

The wrestling tournament I didn't mind covering except that the Saints were on TV and in the midst of their Super Bowl run at the time.

The bowling tournament I enjoyed in spite of myself.


And the football features I wrote before they told me that this temporary position would be permanent (even though they knew it all along).

And then suddenly my byline is on stories about murders, and attempted suicides, and meth labs, and armed robberies.

And stolen pink flamingos.  OK. That one was actually fun.

But it won't earn me a pelican.  Not ever again.











Sunday, March 20, 2011

Goldfish Love

In my 10 years as a parent (and 16 as a step parent), I have learned that car drives sometimes are the best places for serious conversations with children. With spouses, too.

Not only are they captive audiences in close proximity, there are few distractions and no interruptions.

Despite the gorgeous weather and my poolside hammock calling my name, Lora and I had to spend quite a bit of time in the car today. And we talked about a lot of things.

I told her I really want her to learn to ride the bike we bought her last summer so that we can go riding together. She's really not interested, but I'm trying bribery.

We talked about going fishing. We live right next to the area's greatest recreational fishing spot and we were passing dozens of anglers along the highway at the time. It's on our summer bucket list.

We talked about how leery I am to let her go off to visit the home of the new friend she made at a party last night.

"We barely know those people," I told her. "Suppose they came over and saw Lollee (our dog) and said, 'Hey! That's a great dog! Can we take her home for the weekend?"

"We would say no," she said, outraged at the very idea.

"And yet you expect me to let them take YOU?"

And we talked about love.

Lora has a friend whose parents are divorced. Her mom is dating a very nice man. But, Lora said, obviously repeating what she has heard, he's not her friend's dad.

"She said she will never love him like her dad," Lora said. "He'll never take the place of her dad."

"I understand that," I replied. I had both a stepmother and a stepfather growing up, and now I am a stepmother. I get it.

"It's not that they're taking the place of her dad," I explained. "No one will take the place of her dad. But it's just someone else in her life who cares about her."

"But she won't ever love him like her dad," Lora said.

"Maybe not," I replied. And I thought about my own stepfather. I resented him. He was not my dad.. Never was. And I had a lot of issues with that.

Then I thought about my own two stepchildren, who were 6 and 8 when I met them. I'm sure -- no, I know -- they struggled the same way.

So did I.

It was very difficult at first, as we all tried to figure out our proper places in each other's lives. I know I overstepped at times. I know they resented me for it. Eventually I learned to take a step back and quit trying so hard. I found a way to just be in their lives. And their mother and I found a way to work together (with their dad)  to raise two absolutely wonderful people.

But I am not, and never will be, their mother.

"Look at Daniel and Courtney," I said to Lora. "They probably don't really love me.  They probably like me and care about me, but they don't love me."

"Yes they do," Lora protested. "They love you."

"Do you think they love me like you love me?"

She thought about this for a minute.

"No. They probably don't love you like I love you. But they probably love you like.... like... like a goldfish or something. It's like goldfish love."

And we both broke into a fit of giggles.

Goldfish love.

I'll take that.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Warrior thank you

Feeling a little sad on this beautiful spring day as I headed home from work. Today is the first day I should have been covering baseball -- instead of a child molester.

So I was pretty excited to see the big box sitting on my dining room table when I got home.

The big heavy box.

And perplexed. I haven't ordered anything. OK I did, but it's a dress and not a heavy dress.

So I grabbed a knife and started cutting into the box with no return address.

The well-taped box.

Finally I got inside. To the packing peanuts. And the air bubble wrap.

To a pink gift bag. With a blue card that read, "Many Thanks from all the Houma Warriors."

And my heart leaped. It was from the mud people, my Warrior Dash refugees! The group of adventurers who got stuck in the mud and nearly blown away by a tornado while running in a wacky road race near my house.
(See Lolo to the Rescue).

My very clever Warrior Dash refugees.

Inside the bag were two brand new clean towels...because they used every single clean towel in my house.

...and a bag of Tide stain remover pouches...because every one of them was covered head-to-toe in mud.

...and a bag of Cajun pretzels...because they devoured my entire batch.(

...and a bag of Cajun crackers...because somebody said they made Cajun pretzels too, but with crackers.

...and a bottle of vodka,

... and a bottle of Zing Zang Bloody Mary mix...because it's my favorite and I offered them all Bloody Marys (Hey, we all needed a drink!)

... and a movie gift card...because Lora Leigh and I were going to go to the movies that afternoon.

And my day was absolutely made.

Anytime, my friends. Anytime.




Sunday, March 13, 2011

Serenity and Bliss

 
With clear skies on the horizon and no swamp races planned for anywhere near me, I finally was able to reschedule my girlfriend time for today.

Both my nails and my soul needed it.

I was supposed to go see my friend Daniell last weekend, before the skies opened up and muddy, traumatized Warrior racers started showing up at my house and calling me to come get them. I was in the midst of driving a group of nine muddy refugees back to my house when I got a callback from my friend.

"Um. I think I need to reschedule," I told her.

She didn't get mad. She got an afternoon off. I was the one who had to go through a whole week with chipped nail polish and without a clean towel in my house. Which was probably a good thing since I chipped three nails trying to catch Mardi Gras beads all week.

The towel thing is another story.

She just laughed at me, especially once she read the whole story here on this blog.


"Well,  you had to rescue people," she told me later. "You had no choice. What were you going to say? 'Sorry. No. I can't come rescue you. I have to go get my nails done.' "

She gets me.

I'm not sure how the local nail technician became one of my best friends. Leery of my fellow gender, I don't have many close female friends to begin with. But I'm always open to worthy applicants.

I found Daniell (no e), literally around the corner from me when a local woman revamped an old building into a wonderful little hair salon, aptly named, "Serenity."

Excited to see the new sign one day, I pulled my car up outside the freshly painted shop and dialed the number on my cell phone to make a hair appointment. Not long after opening, they added a nail salon.

I had been looking for a new one. It's not that I didn't like the local Vietnamese group. They are quick, efficient and do a very nice job with the French. I'm not one for claws and fancy stuff, but having a nice manicure, for some reason, does wonders for a girl's self-esteem. It makes even picking your nose look pretty.

But it's a little disconcerting to sit for an hour or more holding hands with a woman who barely speaks to you while watching The Bold and the Beautiful or The Price is Right on the TV.

Daniell is so different.

Her little room in the back of Serenity  is, well, very serene. Very Zen like. There is music playing softly. And no TV.

That's so we can talk. In English. For hours.

My husband used to wave me good-bye when I left and say, "See you in two hours."

Very funny.  Sometimes it's more.

When I walk into the door of Serenity, everyone knows my name. It's like my very own "Cheers."

And over time, my time at this little salon has become my girlfriend time. My "me" time. A much-needed time to sit with a someone I genuinely like and talk and giggle and belly laugh and vent and tell secrets and share stories.

And, over time, we have come to genuinely like each other.

While Daniell polishes ("paint is for walls") my nails in neutral colors with wacky names like "Sand in My Suit" and "Skinny Dipping in Lake Michigan," and chastises me for using my "jewels" as tools, we have shared the days of our lives.

And because we only see each other about every two weeks (with occasional texts in between), we always have lots to talk about.

We talk about our children, our families, our husbands and our mothers. She finally knows all of the characters in my life.


And now that my mother also is one of her clients, I don't have to explain nearly as much.

We talk about American Idol, and how much we're enjoying the new judges this season.


And baseball.

Today we talked about mammograms. And Mardi Gras and my Birth-Di-Gras, which she had to miss.


Daniell likes to call me her "famous" client because I write for the newspaper and, in my old life, my picture used to appear in every Sunday's community section.

And she still likes me now that I'm a receptionist. And even now that her son is on my husband's baseball team. And my husband's ex wife is her daughter's kindergarten teacher.

We still talk about our husbands.  And yes, we complain sometimes.


Like, we can't understand why they won't rub our feet or our necks or our backs because their hands hurt, but they'll sure rub the parts they like with no problem.

Daniell will rub my feet.

It took me the longest time to request a pedicure from her because I felt guilty asking someone I consider to be my friend to rub my feet.

"That's my husband's job," I told her. "Not yours."


But she does it so well.

And I really need her to take care of my feet, now that I can't really get down there as well as I used to. She is a little younger than me.


Daniell is about to expand her business a bit, move into a bigger room connected to Serenity. She plans to call it Bliss.

I think it's a perfect name.

Whenever I leave I'm always relaxed and happy, with a rejuvenated soul.

And if I can get my keys out of my purse without messing them up, perfect nails.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Birth-Di-Gras (or, How New Orleans just threw me the best birthday party EVER!)

I heard on the news the other day that this was the first time the annual Mardi Gras celebration -- Fat Tuesday -- ever fell on the 8th of March.

Thank God.

I was worried I had lived through it and just forgotten it. Which would not have been entirely out of the question.

As a lifelong resident of Louisiana, there have been 49 Mardi Gras celebrations in my life. I don't remember them all. And I only remember some of some.

I don't remember the first ones when I was a little kid.

I do remember the one when I was 7 or 8 and cried because I caught only one lousy bead.

I do remember the ones when my mom and some friends took me to New Orleans to experience a "real" Mardi Gras parade. We found ourselves next to a very large group of very large Hell's Angels. And they were the nicest guys on Earth. Nobody messed with us, that's for sure.

I remember the first one I went to as a teenager -- without my parents. I got drunk on Boone's Farm Tickled Pink and nearly fell in the bayou trying to pee behind a closed downtown business. (Bathrooms can be hard to find during Mardi Gras.)

And I remember the one where some drunk guy handed me a bottle of champagne off of one of the floats. A police officer quickly took it away.

And I remember a few of the ones when I was a college student in New Orleans. But not all of them. And only some of others.

I remember getting mono after one Carnival season in which a sorority sister and I decided we were going to go to every parade that rolled Uptown. And we did.

But I think I would have remembered one that fell on my actual birthday.  That's kind of a big deal around here, and especially for someone who loves birthdays like I do.

So I was glad to know that this was the first. And probably only in my lifetime.

And I was like a kid at Christmas. The entire city of New Orleans was having a party. And I couldn't wait to get to it, to hold up the sign I had made proclaiming it my "Birth-Di-Gras." To see if it would work. Here I was, a 49-year-old woman and I had never done that before.

And I really wanted to.

But the day started out dull and dreary. Rain threatened. Bad storms were on the horizon for later. And my husband's baseball team is struggling, so he called a mandatory practice for 10 a.m.

So I was not a happy camper. There went my breakfast in bed.

And for a while, I thought, there went my Mardi Gras, too.

The parades began at 11 a.m. and The Coach didn't get home until almost noon. There was an on-and-off drizzle. And traffic.

But we made our way to Metairie, a suburb of the city. And lucked into the one parking spot left open in a little strip mall, then fought our way to the front of the crowd with our little wagon and step ladder. Then across the street. Then behind a little family - - that was ready to pack it in for the day.

So me and my sign moved up to the front while Lora Leigh worked the street.

And we had a ball.

Drunk guys, moms, grandmas and even little kids spotted me and my sign and threw me extra beads and trinkets. Some even mouthed the words, "Happy Birthday," as they rolled by.

Some looked at "Birth-Di-Gras" and didn't get it, so I flipped to the other side, which read, "Birth-Day-Gras" to give them a little hint.

One well-oiled gentleman (who must have been a wanna-be quarterback) tried to kill me with several bags of hot pink bags. Thank God The Coach was there to save my life.

Then there was the shower of goodies I received from my stepson, his wife and several other family members on Float 62 - including a stuffed animal I donated when I cleaned my daughter's room a few months ago.


In less than an hour's work of work, we filled our little red wagon to overflowing. And we were ready to go home.


But there was no rest for the weary.

Soon our house was filled with family and friends who came to help me celebrate with my homemade blue birthday cake. And there were the 100-plus Facebook messages I had to answer, many wishing me a Happy Birth-Di-Gras.

They got it.

And so did I. And I won't ever forget it.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

49

I saw this on another blog and thought it was pretty clever. But she was 50. I can't wait that long. I might forget.

So, in honor of my 49th birthday (March 8), here are 49 things you may or may not know -- or may not even care to know -- about me:

1. I am the 20th cousin twice removed from Queen Elizabeth II thanks to my relation to the late Queen Mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. The Lyon/Lyons family has been traced back to 1040. We connect through Robert the Bruce.

2. I am the 15th great-granddaughter (say "great" 15 times) of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, through my paternal grandmother and grandfather. Yes, both of them. We connect to a bastard child of the Duke of Savoy.

3. I also am a little Cajun girl. My paternal grandparents' people were Acadians expelled from Nova Scotia.

4. I became interested in genealogy after my grandmother died. She spent much of her life trying to track down her ancestral lines. Unfortunately, no one ever stopped to ask what she was doing. We never took an interest. When she died, my mom gave me her boxes of notes and asked me to go through it. It did. And I was hooked. I didn't even have to do much work because she had done it for me. I now have more than 9,000 names in my family tree database. I don't know exactly what to do with it all, however.

5. I can play the piano. Not exceptionally well, but OK. But I can't play anything by ear. I must have the music in front of me, but if I do I can play pretty much anything given enough time to figure it out. One of my favorite songs to play is "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." I really get into it, too. And "Three Times A Lady." And "I Swear."

6. When I was about 12, I wrote a couple of my own songs. I came up with a poem, then ran next door to my grandparents' house and knocked out a tune. Then I wrote the music on blank music sheets. They're actually pretty good. I still play them sometimes. I wish Lora Leigh would learn them -- or write new words. Could be her first hit!

7. I think I have been a writer my whole life. I wrote in journals, but my writing assignments for school were always pretty good. One of the first stories I remember writing was about my Grandmother's cookie jar in about the fourth grade. My mother laughed hysterically when she read it. That's when I first knew I had some kind of talent. I also have written about four volumes of poetry, but most of it is pretty sappy teenage junk.

8. I have written a book. "The Diary of a Mom in Waiting" is actually an adaptation of the journal I kept while we were trying to adopt our child. It tells the whole story of our six year odyssey through infertility, the mother who promised us her child then changed her mind 19 days before her due date and, finally, meeting Lora Leigh's birthmother. I have an agent, but so far she has not managed to find a publisher for it.

9. I have written two children's books as well. Unable to think quickly enough when my daughter said, "Tell me a story, Mommy," I sat down and imagined two. Then I got two little scrapbooks and illustrated them with clipart off the Internet and stickers. I think they're pretty good.

10. I am very disappointed that none of the above has managed to find a publisher. That is my current goal in life, to hold MY BOOK in my hands.

11. My favorite places on earth are Pensacola Beach, Florida; the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama; Disney World, and my backyard. I absolutely love being in and/or near my pool. Sometimes I stand in my kitchen and just look at it. I have always wanted a pool

12. I do calligraphy. Actually, it's just my handwriting. I have perfect, textbook handwriting. Now I have nice pens. I'll address your wedding invitations. Cheap.

13. I think it would be cool to turn my house into a bed and breakfast when I get old. I have a pool, a suite upstairs. All I need to add is a shower up there. It would have to be called The Almerico House though, because they built it and that's what everybody in town calls it.

14. I have recurring dreams about my old apartment on Prytania Street in New Orleans. It was one-third of a big pink and white Victorian mansion. I absolutely loved that place and it could have been featured in a magazine spread it was so cool. I dream that I have forgotten something there and I've gone to get it, or I have mail in the mailbox that I must get. I think my psyche misses it too.

15. My favorite color is the color of the ocean in Florida. That is evident by my bedroom and bathroom upstairs.

16. When I retire, I would love to move to the beach. Or at least have a house at the beach. I'd love to go to Hawaii. I can sit and stare at the ocean for hours.

17. It took me seven years to get out of college. I did great for the first two. Then I moved out of the dorm and into an apartment and got a job... and got mono... and quit going to class... and joined a sorority... and discovered beer...and changed my major a couple of times. Then the oil business busted and it got hard to pay Loyola's tuition. I was a junior for four years. But my last year in college was my proudest time. I was 25 years old and moved back into the dorm. But I worked hard and finished.

18. I am a news junkie. Always have been. When big events happen I glue myself to the TV (and now the Internet) trying to find out more details. If there is nothing good on TV, I will turn to CNN.

19. I probably could have been a pretty good athlete if I tried, I just didn't stick it out. I played recreation softball as a kid. Played catcher. Hit at least one home run (that I recall) and I enjoyed playing basketball. I wish I would have played volleyball. But I was a homebody.

20. I rarely made it through the night at sleepovers. My mom had to come get me. I still have trouble sleeping anywhere but my own bed in my own house.

21. I used to get major panic attacks in high school. My heart would race and I wouldn't be able to breathe. My teachers kept paper bags in their desk drawers. I think it all stemmed from this irregular heartbeat I have. Every once in a while my heart skips. It used to freak me out. I take medication now.

22. The greatest disappointment in my life is the fact that I was never able to get pregnant. I still have no idea why. None of the six doctors ever found a definitive answer. It's a subject God and I are doing to discuss but good if I get there.

23. But the greatest joy in my life is my daughter. I absolutely believe that she was the child I was destined to have. And she could not be more my child if she had my DNA.

24. I fully intended to name my child "Elle." Everyone expected me to name my child something with an "L" so I planned to name my daughter Elle Evelyn. But when Kim, the first birthmother, went back to her boyfriend, Marty and I decided we had to let "Elle" go. I wanted to name Lora Leigh "Loralei," but Marty didn't like that. We kind of compromised with Lora Leigh. I figured she can pronounce it and spell it any way she wants.

25. My greatest fear is going into the Airline Canal, the big, deep, scary pit near my house -- or any other body of water -- in my car. I have nightmares about it. And I had them long before my brother died by running his car off the road into a swamp. I have nightmares about that too.

26. When I was about 10 or so -- back when there were only THREE TV stations and ALL of them were showing the political conventions -- I got hooked. I watched one night, then the next. And I was captivated by the roll call. Loved it! I did watch both parties' shows. And I learned that I was a Democrat.

27. I never was particularly religious. Raised an irregular Catholic, I didn't make a formal First Communion and I didn't confirm until was 19 and at Loyola. I don't know what I am now. The Catholic Church severely disappointed me and has rejected me because of my marriage to a divorced man. I do miss the tradition and the sense of community that church gives you. I guess I would be an Episcopalian if there was a church near me.

28. I really did consider being an English teacher -- both when I was in college and, more recently, when the newspaper business began to stumble. I have romantic ideas of teaching grammar and language to high school kids. But I'd have to be at work by 7 a.m., and that ain't happening.

29. I used to work the front desk at the Fairmont Hotel (formerly and presently the Roosevelt Hotel) in downtown New Orleans. I used to check guests in and out and polish and stack the brass keys. I also used to give messages to guests and met Buddy Rich, Joel McCrae and Jerry Cooney. I enjoyed it, but quit to concentrate on school. (ha!)

30. I also worked front desk at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza. I hated it. I knew it was time to quit when I used to hope I'd get into an accident on the way to work.

31. I love to clean my house. No, really. I told my husband when we met that he had to get out of my way on Saturdays. It is my therapy. Some people work out or run. I power clean. I do it all in one day, from top to bottom, with 80s music blaring. Sometimes I can't walk the next day. It is as cathartic to me as a run is to some.

32. I do love to walk and I think the iPod is the greatest invention of the 21st Century. One of the things I miss the most with this new job is not being able to walk in the mornings with my poodles. I am learning to like walking in the evenings.

33. The hair straightener is the second greatest invention of the 21st Century.

34. I have become quite obsessed with writing on this blog. Since my unfortunate job change, it has become my only creative outlet, and it has kept me sane. I enjoy it very much and am overjoyed at the audience it is gathering. I would love to be a professional blogger, but that sounds like a lot of work. I am happy to have a place to write what I want and use my brain since my employer no longer seems to require it. And I'm happy if somebody stops by to read it.

35. I was bullied -- no, tortured -- as a kid. Because I hit puberty long before my peers, girls hated me. I feared going to the bathroom at recess. Mean girls stalked me. Followed me. Wanted to beat me up. Wrote my name on bathroom walls. I actually did get into two fights at school -- both only to defend myself. I lived in terror for many years. Wonder if that had anything to do with those panic attacks.

36. One of the worst ones worked at the hospital when my daughter was born. She was one of the nicest nurses on the floor.

37. Because of the above, I have very few girlfriends. My best friend since eighth grade (we were each other's maids of honor at our weddings), lives in Houston now and we barely see each other. And I have such trouble getting close to women that I really don't have any girlfriends to do girl things with like shopping or going to lunch or drinking. I will accept applications for drinking companions.

38. It was sometime in college that I decided I wanted to be "the girl who knows about sports." There was some character on TV and I always thought she was cool. But I have little for basketball. Never liked to watch it, although I enjoyed participating in the annual office March Madness pool. I love to watch college football on TV and even bought the extra package on cable. I LOVE going to baseball games. But I can live without the rest.

39. March the 9th is like Friday the 13th in my family. People have died on this date. My great-grandmother and HER mother both. Accidents have happened. Heart attacks. Bad things. We all try to be very careful on this day. No long trips. No elective surgery. No operating heavy machinery.

40. I love my birthday!!! I admit it. I believe birthdays are special days. They are days when it's all about you. Not only do you get presents from the people who love you and, usually, a special meal or an outing to your favorite restaurant, but people think of you and remember you and wish you well on that day. Even if you aren't in touch any more, people will stop and say, "Wow. Today is so-and-so's birthday." I do that all the time. I remember people's birthdays from years ago. And thanks to the invention of Facebook, everybody knows it. My parents always made a huge deal about birthdays. We'd have cake and punch and fried chicken. My mom used to give me fabulous parties. And it was about the only day of the year my father would call me. So, forgive me if I get excited about my birthday. I don't even mind getting older.

41. I like to cook, but I love to eat. I'm a carnivore. I love a good ribeye, medium rare, with A1. And I LOVE the filet mignon at Crazy Johnnies. Prime Rib.. Mmmm. But I also love boiled crabs. I am not a fish eater. Maybe fried catfish.

42. I truly believe that I can do anything. I rarely, if ever, say "I can't." I believe I could frame a house if someone would just show me how or give me the instructions and the tools. My only limitation is my physical strength. And it annoys the hell out of me when people refuse to try because they believe they can't.

43. I cry. I cry at movies. I cry at commercials. I cry at any kind of tender moment whether it's happy or sad. I cried so hard at the movie "E.T." that the guy I went with never called me again. I cried throughout dinner after. Then I cried every time I heard the "Heartlight" song for weeks after. The movie "Beaches" left me on the floor, sobbing. I am a wimp.

44. I have a great appreciation for Facebook. OK. I am an addict. I am thrilled that I am able to connect with far-off friends and family members, including the two younger sisters I did not grow up with. But not only that, I love to be on Facebook during big events like the Super Bowl. Many of my friends are in sports media and we make comments through the game. I love that. I am loving Twitter for the same reason.

45. My Twitter value was I think $7.45 last time I checked.

46. I wish I would win the lottery.

47. I would adopt another child in a heartbeat if I could. I would love to raise a baby with Lora Leigh as a big sister. We would have a blast. Actually, I probably would have had a lot of kids if I could have. I used to dream of having my own football team, "The Lori Lions." Perhaps someday I will become a foster mom.

48. I am absolutely terrible in math. I can't add, subtract or multiply double digits in my head at all. I have to write them down. I failed Algebra twice in high school. I scored a 13 in math on the ACT. But I got a 34 in English. I could not care less what X is.

49. I have a blessed life. I am very lucky. And I hope this wasn't too boring.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lolo to the rescue

This was supposed to be just a nice, relaxing Saturday.

In fact, I had an appointment for some girlfriend time with my dear friend, Daniell, who was going to give me a mani-pedi as an early birthday gift. I was even going to paint my nails blue!

(Not)

Then Lora Leigh and I were planning on going to a movie on this expected-to-be rainy afternoon.

But Mother Nature is a bitch.

The morning had been a little bit of an adventure as a couple of friends had asked if they could park at my house for the Warrior Dash, a 5-K extreme race being held nearby. I had done a story on the event this week for the newspaper and knew several people planning on running the 3-mile course beset with man-made obstacles, and including a whole lot of mud. I offered because I figured the parking would be tricky because of the rain.

Several young, beautiful people in much better shape than I had left their cars in front of my house before heading off happy and laughing, determined to be warrior survivors of the 5K race.

I, however, planned on being darned good and lazy as it poured rain outside, and took my sweet time getting dressed.

So I was pretty much naked at about noon when the emergency siren went off, letting me and my fellow citizens of St. Charles Parish know that a tornado had been spotted in my area. I sent Lora downstairs quickly and hurried to put some clothes on.

Then all hell broke loose.

I was just checking the radar on my computer when the phone rang. It was a friend who was running the race and had parked a couple of cars at my house.

"We need help," he said.

They had managed to survive the race through the mud, through the woods, through the old tires, over the cargo nets and under the barbed wire, but nearly died when the tornado headed their way and dropped pea-sized hail on their heads, and arms, and legs. They had managed to find shelter at my daughter's school and were wondering if I could come pick them up.

"I'm on my way," I replied.

I was grabbing towels, garbage bags and an old sheet when there was a knock on my door. It was a friend of my stepdaughter, with two friends of  his and they were wet, covered with mud and shivering. I grabbed more towels for them. Then left my daughter with them as I headed out.

And hit bumper-to-bumper traffic on my little street in my little town.

But I dashed past a few stalled cars and took a shortcut to my daughter's school.

And there I saw them.  About 20 of the saddest, muddiest, messiest people you'd ever want to see, wearing costumes, facepaint, goofy-looking Viking hats and mud. Lots and lots of mud.

And I laughed hysterically. I couldn't help it.   I couldn't even find the guy I know. Anybody could have gotten into my car at that point and I wouldn't have known who they were.

Talk about your huddled masses. They were shivering, scared shitless and ready to get the hell out of there.

And worried about getting my car dirty.

I finally convinced them that I'm a mom. My car hasn't been clean in 10 years.

And, with the heater on full blast, and the windows fogging up continually and feeling terribly sorry for the other lost souls walking up and down streets and drowning in the rain, I drove my friend and his friends to the parking area .

Um, the mud pit. It wasn't designed to be another obstacle course on the race, but it sure was by the time we got to it. 
Hundreds of cars and trucks were parked -- and stuck -- in knee-deep mud with Sheriff's deputies and tow trucks trying to pull them out.

I dropped the boys off on the top of the levee so I would not succumb as well, then David and I headed off to pick up the girls back at the school

A few minutes later, I was driving through Norco with nine cold, wet, muddy and really, really smelly people stuffed into my Dodge Durango, trying to take the railroad tracks easy so as not to hurt them.

And a few minutes after that, I had 13 cold, wet, muddy and really, really smelly people in my living room, huddling around the heating vent and using up every towel in my house. Then they disbursed to every room in my house to change their clothes and clean up.

So glad I made the bed.

And a few minutes later I had 13 warmer, dryer but still kind of smelly people eating anything they could get their hands on in my kitchen.

And I didn't mind one bit.

And I didn't mind a bit when, one-by-one, they wrapped their smelly arms around me and thanked me for saving their lives on this day. I only wish I could have saved more. Or had more towels.

And my nail polish can damn well wait.

Warrior Refugees and one muddy truck

                          

Thursday, March 3, 2011

An elephant never forgets, but husbands sometimes do


For the record, my husband has never forgotten my birthday.

OK. That is partly because I won't let him. I am one of those people who not only counts down the days to my birthday, but circles it in multi-colored ink on the calendar on the refrigerator. I even draw stars.

I love my birthday. I believe in birthdays. I believe it's the one day of the year that is truly yours, when people think of you and wish good things for you and, sometimes, even buy you presents.

And I don't even mind getting older.

My parents did this to me in my youth by putting together these wonderful parties for me and my family and friends. They weren't MTV-worthy, mind you, but they were pretty elaborate little parties for an elementary school kid.

One year my mom rented a little kids' carnival with a ferris wheel and a carousel. And there was always plenty of food, a big colorful cake and punch. One year a classmate gave a report the following day entitled, "Everything I Ate at Lori's Birthday Party."

This year's circles around the date are in purple, green and gold because, well, this year I share MY day with Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. In New Orleans.

Let's Party!

So my husband would really have to be a dolt to forget my birthday.

But one year, he did forget what birthday I was celebrating. And I have never let him forget that either.

When my husband turned 40, I pulled out all the stops. Not only did I throw him a big birthday party proclaiming, "Lawdy, Lawdy Mawty's Fawty!" I also put an ad in the newspaper. I had a friend put signs up on the roadway leading to his work. I even had his name put on the signs at the local baseball parks.

But when I turned 40? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Well, I did get a nice dinner at my favorite restaurant in a driving rain storm. But no party. Not even a cake.

Oh, he remembered the day and the date just fine. But my age? Completely slipped his mind.

And I knew it that week when I mentioned in passing that it was my 40th birthday and I saw his eyes get big. Real big.

Now he will tell you that it's all my own damn fault. I shouldn't have been born in March, right in the middle of baseball season. How is he supposed to be expected to remember his baseball schedule, his team's batting average, fielding percentage and ERA as well as how old his wife is? Something's got to give, right?

Of course, now he has a 10-year-old daughter who helps him to remember.

"How old am I going to be," I asked her tonight at dinner as we discussed how we planned to celebrate my big day next week.

"49," she declared, without even having to think about it.

And his eyes got big again.

Then I gave him his notice.

"That means you have a year and a week to plan," I told him.

"For what?" he replied.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Keeping the home fires burning



My husband just walked into the dining room with a filled plastic grocery bag. He plopped it on the chair with a smack.

"What is that," I asked.

"My snacks," he replied. "For the trip."

My husband, The Coach, is leaving me tomorrow. For real.

He and his team are heading up north -- north Louisiana, that is -- for their first business trip of the season. It's the first big baseball tournament of the season and an annual event. It's good competition, a well-run tournament and, he says, a nice bonding experience for the boys.

They have a nice 5-hour bus ride ahead of them, starting in the morning, then games Thursday night, Friday night and all day Saturday before another 5-hour bus ride home. If it doesn't rain. But it's supposed to. Then get cold on Sunday (if they have to postpone things a day).

So I'm sitting here watching out of the corner of my eye as he packs his bag. His uniforms. His socks. His underwear. His hats. His rain gear and his big jacket.

And his snacks.

His daughter and I are staying home. It is Mardi Gras weekend, after all.

So he will ride off tomorrow and I will stay here. And worry.

Is that bus road ready? Are all the tires properly inflated?

Is that driver drug tested? Is he getting enough sleep tonight? Or is he out on a Mardi Gras bender before he leaves town for the weekend?

And how is his driving record?

Now, I consider myself a modern woman of the 21st Century. I am very self-sufficient -- which you have to be in order to be a coach's wife. I can fix things, move things, take care of things. I have my own hobbies and interests. I don't need a man to get by.

And I have big plans for this weekend.

But I worry about me too. About us. About things going wrong while he's far away. What if the washing machine explodes or the toilet backs up? What if my car won't start or I get a flat tire?

What if I fall down the stairs and break my leg?

Not that he would know what to do if any of these situations arose. But it is rather comforting to know that your life partner is right there with you saying, "WTF?"

He certainly does what he can to make sure I'm taken care of before he goes. He rushed to the store this evening to make sure I had enough coffee and dog food for the weekend.

But he's taking all the snacks with him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Game Day. Again...

Think being a high school coach isn't stressful? Try this.

My husband's current baseball team consists of his best friend's son, his principal's son, his principal's nephew, his assistant principal's son, two local politicians' sons and one of my best friend's sons.

And collectively they have committed 24 errors in four games.

No wonder the poor man is pulling his hair out.

Today it's the first home game of the season. A little less stress, but not much. As long as the concession stand is stocked with peanuts and pickles.

The Wildcats will host Central of Baton Rouge. Well, they used to be of Baton Rouge, now they're just of Central.

And the coach is a good friend. Actually, he is a Destrehan alum and used to be one of The Coach's assistants. Now he's got his own team -- a darned good one. And they even wear the same colors.

But, I have to say that we both slept rather soundly last night. There was little tossing or turning. He was up and out a little early, however. He even had time to do a little laundry.

And there was coffee this morning.

When he leaned in to kiss me goodbye this morning, I whispered, "Good luck" instead of "Win."

I felt like I should have said something more profound, given him a little pep talk or something. But my brain doesn't work that well at 6:30 in the morning.

I just hope "good luck" isn't a jinx like it is in the theater.

But I just can't imagine telling a baseball coach to "break a leg." Because he just might.

It's that kind of year.