Saturday, April 30, 2011

I do!

I know my daughter probably was getting pretty annoyed with me.

"Stay with me, baby," I said, over and over again. "Just a few more minutes. Just a few more minutes. You don't want to miss this."

But her eyes were growing heavy. And eventually she stopped hearing me -- or caring -- and dozed off.  But not me.

Despite the late hour, my eyes were glued to the TV screen as Kate Middleton stepped out of that antique car in front of the Westminster Abbey and the whole world.  And, yes, I felt a little lump in my throat when I saw the bride and The Dress. I just wish my daughter had been able to stay awake to see it too.

"You will remember this," I told her, before I lost her.

I do.

I don't know how I did it, but I somehow managed to stay home from school the day Princess Anne married Mark Phillips in 1973. I was 11 years old, a news junkie even then.

To this day, I remember the horse-drawn carriage and the parade of plumed horses taking the bride through the streets.

I don't remember where I was or how I watched (live or tape), but I remember watching Princess Diana's wedding to Prince Charles 30 years ago. I remember holding my breath and waiting to see The Dress. And I remember thinking, "What a mess!"

I'm sure I had a lump in my throat then too, watching the lovely young lady living out the fairy tale -- or so we thought at the time.

What is it about these royal weddings that capture our fancy?

That inspire some to stay up or wake up at 4 a.m. to watch and even host parties complete with tea and crumpets?

That spur networks to devote hours of their programming to wall-to-wall coverage, beginning at 4 a.m.?

That move people to travel across oceans? Just to sleep in the street?

Is it the fact that we've been spoon fed the fairy tale ending, watching Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty all find their prince and live happily ever after?

Or is it just a girl thing?

When I was planning my own wedding 16 years ago, I remember telling my mother that I wanted my three little flower girls -- my niece Lena, my niece Marti (who was a toddler) and my stepdaughter Courtney -- to walk together, "Like the little girls in Diana's wedding."

She knew exactly what I meant.

Like William and Kate's wedding, I had one matron of honor and three little girls --  all dressed in white -- and a whole bunch of groomsmen. (I had a grumpy flower girl, too!)


And maybe some day my daughter will want to borrow some snippet of tradition from this wedding on the day she marries her own prince charming. If she remembers.

It's OK that she fell asleep. I didn't stay up (or get up) to watch it either. I taped it. And we can watch it together again later.

 And again.















Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lights, camera, action!


In my 25-year career as a journalist -- all but the last eight months of it in sports -- I've gotten to do a lot of cool things.

I've been to two Super Bowls. Saw both Brett Favre and Tom Brady showered in confetti. Saw ZZ Top perform a stupendous halftime show.

I've interviewed both Manning quarterbacks, back when both were just babyfaced boys (very polite ones).

I covered the Baltimore Ravens' Ed Reed when he was a quarterback. And a punter. And a track star. And when he single-handedly won his high school team the district championship.


I've hobnobbed with Hall of Famers, been close enough to beach volleyballers to smell their suntan oil and had the wit to ask Shaquille O'Neal to come with me to just one Mardi Gras parade (he politely declined).

So it's easy to understand why I've been nearly suicidal over the last eight months, being relegated to writing receipts and  rewriting crime briefs and updating traffic blockages.

And making sure the office doesn't run out of toilet paper.

But today was pretty damned cool. And today was another day that made me glad I still do what I do.

Today I got to watch movie magic being made.

The television program Memphis Beat on TNT has been using our area as its home base, filming all over the region. We've all grown accustomed to seeing the big white trucks, the tents, the crew parking lots and the neon yellow signs pointing them all in the right directions.

And today I got to follow them.

First we spent a couple of hours at the local airstrip, watching a couple of souped up Dodges and a classic GTO chase a little prop plane filled with pretend bad guys.  I got to meet directors and producers, got to watch cameramen in action (all the while trying to keep my skirt from flying into the air).

Then I got to go watch them all eat lunch (and got to interview the son of Harry Morgan from MASH).

And finally, we were invited onto their permanent sound stage built inside a local civic building.  It's a mammoth production, and one of the producers  took me on the tour -- to the fake kitchen, the fake interrogation room complete with two-way mirror, the fake squad room that is so intricate in detail that it is amazing.

Even the fake jail.


Me, in the Mephis Beat jail.
Then, after what seemed like hours watching people set up cameras and lighting and moving furniture, I got to watch the stand-ins rehearse a scene.

And, a short time later, I got to watch the real actors -- Alfre Woodard, Jason Lee and Sam Hennings -- rehearse the real scene. But I had to get to aftercare to pick up Lora before they filmed the real thing.

No matter.

I had a blast.

A few weekends ago I was reminded why I still love what I do -- because I'm damned good at it. I'm a story-teller. And I got to tell an amazing story about an amazing woman.

Today, I just got to have fun.

I'll order more toilet paper tomorrow.

Here is the link to the newspaper article I wrote.

And the 2nd story I wrote.











Friday, April 22, 2011

A good Friday

It didn't take her long, but then it never does.

Just a few minutes after our arrival, shortly after the exchange of hugs and kisses, the few introductions and the exclamations of "Look how tall she is!" -- along with the obligatory side-by-side comparisons to just about everybody --  she is off and running. And it is almost like she never left.

She fits right in, her dark skin matching theirs. Her brown eyes matching theirs. My blue eyes -- different.


Within minutes she is in her brand new swim suit, jumping into the pool with the cousins she barely knows and can hardly remember. Kids are kids. And family is family.

And this is tradition.

Good Friday is the day we bring Lora Leigh home, to her family, to her people, to her roots.  To her mother and her sister and all the aunts and uncles and cousins who aren't getting to watch her grow up.

But they've seen it.


We've been doing this for 10 years now -- with a few exceptions -- setting aside Good Friday for Lora's family. Every year we make the trip down the bayou to the little blue house where she would be living if her mother had not given her to us.  She gets to see them, they get to see her and we get to eat the best boiled crawfish, crabs and shrimp the Gulf of Mexico has to offer.

Oh, they laugh at my up-the-bayou ways of peeling my crabs, my demand for plain old red ketchup to go with them and my one Coors Light,  while Marty hands me the keys and tries to match them Bud Light-for-Bud Light.

Soon enough my old Cajun accent comes back and I start sounding a little bit like them, while my Chicago and California-raised husband tries to understand us and our Houma jokes.

And they make fun of me for looking up every few seconds to see where she is and what she is doing, checking to make sure she's doing OK and having a good time.

"She's OK, momma," her mother says to me.

I know she is.  And so do they.

And that's the whole point of this open adoption experiment of ours.  To make sure that she is OK and that they know it. They can see that she is healthy and happy. I am sure to tell them that she is smart and talented and oh-so-creative, that she writes wonderful stories and draws beautiful pictures.  That she has made the Honor Roll twice this school year.

But I have to cajole her into showing off her beautiful voice -- maybe a little too hard.  But, just like me, they are brought to tears by the sound.

Hours later, exhausted and full, we start to say our good-byes. There are lots of hugs and kisses and "See you soons."  But, this time, there is an exchange of cell phone digits among the cousins, and promises to call.

Later I ask my sun-kissed child, "Did you have fun?

"Yes, I did," she replies.

"I'm glad we do that," I say.

"So am I," she says.

Lora's sister Ashlee, Lora, me and her birthmother, Gail








Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nights like these

Nights like these are the tough ones.

The nights filled with the interminable hours after one has gotten away, despite every valiant effort not to let that happen. When the number on their side of the scoreboard ends up being bigger than the number on our side. When he loses.

These are the nights he won't want to hug me or his daughters, won't want to take us to dinner. The wrong night to ask him about fixing the air conditioner in my car, or when he's going to move the bed in the guest room.

He might want to kick the dogs, but he won't.
 
And he might physically be sitting in the same room, but he'll really be a million miles away.  Or just back on the field he just left, replaying the game over and over and over again in his head, wondering what in the hell he could have done differently, and what did he do wrong.

It's my job, of course, to say, nothing.

No. "Nothing. You did the best you could."

And wish I could add, "You didn't miss the bunt sign. You didn't pop up to right field. You didn't overthrow the first baseman. It wasn't you who couldn't find the plate."

"They're just high school kids."

But I'm not supposed to say those things.

Because I'm just a coach's wife. The cheerleader. The hiney-patter.  And these are the nights coaches wives aren't supposed to talk about -- the nights we wished we had married a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant.  Anyone but a coach.

It's my job to pick him up -- along with the empty beer bottles on my dining room table -- dust him off and send him back out there tomorrow to do it all over again. 

And be here when he comes home.


Monday, April 18, 2011

You're supposed to be sick, kid

"Look inside my throat and tell me what you see," my 10-year-old daughter said to me this morning, just as I finished making her turkey sandwich for lunch.  She opened her mouth wide.

"It hurts when I talk," she whined. "And when I swallow."

I looked. Saw nothing but a black hole. Found the flashlight. Looked again. Saw the back of her throat. It was red.


"Go back to bed," I told her.

"Really?"


Really. And hello, Monday! Good morning to you too!

She plopped her self on the sofa instead, working on perfecting her I'm-sick whine,  grabbed the remote and started flipping while I made a mental checklist of things I had to do.  Notify the office.  Notify the boss. Notify the husband (who still has not acknowledged that he has received ANY of my messages), notify the singing teacher that we'll have to cancel this afternoon (unfortunately, I forgot that one later) and call the doctor.

Yes, I'm one of those moms. I call the doctor. When it's me, when I'm sick, I'll over-the-counter myself to death (a  couple of times, almost literally). But when it comes to my kid, a little person who can't tell me how it hurts or where it hurts or even how much it hurts, I leave it to the professionals. Besides, it might be some horrendous tropical disease or something. And, if it is, I want them tell me what I'm supposed to do. That's their job.

And if you call early enough, you can get an appointment.

"How soon can you get here?" the receptionist asked.

"As soon as I can change out of my pajamas," I reply.

So, I drag my sick kid , still wearing her pajamas, off to the doctor, who looks in her throat, looks in her ear and looks back in her throat again -- as if she didn't see anything the first time. All of a sudden, I feel really stupid. I feel like one of those moms who drags her kid off to the doctor for every little thing.

And this is the kid who is never sick. She's had strep maybe once. A cold, maybe thrice. But never an ear ache. She didn't even throw up until she was four or five. Seriously.

"It's not strep," she says. And I am relieved. "It might just be a virus. Take some Tylenol and eat some popsicles. That should help."

Popsicles. The doctor prescribed popsicles.

So I stop at the grocery on the way home to let her pick out her favorite frozen treats and pick up some children's Tylenol. Then I get her nice and settled back on the sofa while I go back upstairs to take a nap. (Hey. I'm not one to look a gift day off in the mouth).

And while I'm up there she eats two bowls of hot chicken noodle soup, a bacon sandwich, two sprites and one popsicle.  And now she wants to play Wii.

"You're supposed to be sick," I tell her. And she immediately sticks out her lower lip and squints her eyes a little bit and slouches just a bit.

"I am sick," she whines. "I feel really yukky. Can I rent a movie?"

Sure. I'm going back to bed.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday, Page one

If you read the blog post Touched, about the woman who lost her hands and her feet to septic shock and was planning her wedding, I thank you. And, as of today,  you can read the print version of the story here.  It's on Page One of today's Times-Picayune.

And do not miss the wonderful photo gallery by photographer Brett Duke.  His photos truly tell the story.

I have to admit, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve last night, waiting to see it, hoping I wouldn't get bumped off of page one by the arrest of Nicholas Cage and a plane crash in Lakeview.


Not just for me. For them.

This is one I will remember. And this is one that makes me glad I still do what I do. I just don't get to do it enough.

Postscript: Click here to see the story The Today Show aired on Tory and Merlyna. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Lora Day!

April 15, 2002. Finalization Day.
I tell my husband, he is the luckiest man in the world.

I might have had 10 if I could have.  If it would have been easier. If I would have been a normal woman, who was able to have children the normal way. 

But I wasn't.  I couldn't. So having a baby was hard. It was expensive. It was painful. And frustrating. It took six years of my life. And more tears than I care to count.

So that's why today is such a special day to our family. This is the day it was all said and all done.  A man with a gavel -- and a pen -- said, "Yes. You may have this child to raise. To love. To spoil rotten. Forever." On this date nine years ago.

So we declared that day -- and this -- to be Lora Day. And after we cut the cake and read our messages to that precocious 18-month old child and planted the pink magnolia in our yard, we promised that we would celebrate this day, every year. So we would never forget how blessed we were -- ARE.

She gets to choose now. Dinner out? Dinner in? Just family or family and a few friends? (This year it's pizza in and a cake). Because this is the day that changed all of our lives forever. And we never want to forget it.

And all the pain, all the tears, all the waiting was so worth it in the end.

Happy Lora Day! Hug your children. Appreciate them, and the ease with which you were able to have them. And say a little prayer for all the moms whose arms are still empty, who are still waiting for their miracle. And hope their day comes soon.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Child of Mine



A woman I know paid me the highest compliment of my life last week, and she probably doesn't even know it.

It had nothing to do with my writing, or my blooming spring garden -- both things I take great pride in. It actually was something I had absolutely nothing to do with.

"Every time I see your daughter, I am amazed at how much she looks just like you," she said.

"Really?" said I.

"Exactly like you," she replied.

And I am amazed.

I am amazed that people think my brown (almost black)-eyed daughter looks like blue (almost gray)-eyed me.  Sure we have similar colored hair, but hers is natural and mine comes from a bottle every four to six weeks.  And she has this gorgeous, dark, olive skin while mine is kind of pasty and blotchy, especially when it's hot outside.

But a lot of people do.

And that touches my heart.

There is not a drop of my blood in hers, not a smidgen of DNA. She doesn't have my blue eyes or my mother's ears or my father's smirk.  She actually looks most like my mother's mother, who was the only brown-eyed child in our clan.

But this child could not be more mine if I had given birth to her instead of a wonderful, selfless woman with a strong Native American heritage.

She and I, my child and me, we have the same brain. We have the same heart. We have the same vision. We have the same imaginary friends.

She and I will spend hours lying in the hammock or floating on a raft in the pool, searching for rabbits and dragons and alligators among the clouds in the sky. My husband? He's looking for rain.

She and I will giggle over some silly joke only the two of us get while my husband scratches his head, befuddled.

She and I, we speak the same language. And we both use it to tell stories.

Does that mean we "look" alike?  Does it matter?

The infertile woman that lives inside of me spends probably an inappropriate amount of time scanning the faces of my young nieces and grand-nieces and grand-nephews, looking for the telltale signs of family ties and DNA. I look at my sister's young babies and wonder if my child would have looked anything like them. I see so much of my brother in his daughters and his new granddaughter and grandson. I look at my older sister's new grand baby and see nothing but my sister.

I can't help but wonder what "my" child would have looked like.

Maybe I don't have to. Maybe I need to stop looking.

In just a few days, our family will celebrate the anniversary of the day she truly became ours, the day we went before a judge who signed his name to a bunch of papers that made this child my daughter forever.  After days of going back and forth over how to celebrate this monumental occasion, which we call "Lora Day" in our family, she has decided she wants a party. She wants to stay home, surrounded by friends and family, to celebrate with pizza and cake.

Yes. She is my child.




Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Great Outdoors is outside, you know.

She doesn't even like to go outside.

My 10-year-old daughter, the one born to be a computer whiz, a writer, a poet, a singer, a TV critic, a lawyer and/or a Drama Queen? She doesn't go out to play.  Ever.

When she comes home from school she doesn't rush inside, throw down the school bag then run back out to find friends up or down the street. That's what we did back when there were only three TV stations, computers filled an entire room and there was only one video game called "Pong."

She doesn't ride a bike. Has no desire to learn.  I'm the one who has fantasies of the two of us together, cruising the neighborhood on our bikes with cute little baskets on the front. I have resorted to putting the word out. There is a $50 reward to anyone who teaches my daughter to ride a bike before the start of summer.

She doesn't spend endless hours in the pool we built for her.   OK, for us.  (We were too old for a Jungle Gym.)  Most often, her dad and I are out in the pool, floating on a raft and getting in some oh-so-rare together time,  while she's inside designing fashions on the computer.  She comes out to check on us every once in a while.... Or she did back when she fancied being a waitress.

No. My 10-year-old daughter who is some part Native American, has no love for the Great Outdoors.

So you will understand why I was taken aback tonight when she informed us -- very excitedly -- that she wants to go to 4-H camp this summer.

For a week.

"It's four hours away," she said, actually thrilled at the prospect.

And yes, it was like a knife in this mother's heart.

Not ready, I thought to myself.  She's not ready.

I'm not ready.

One of us is not ready.

It's not that I don't want my daughter to go to camp.  I'm sure it would be a wonderful learning experience for her. The web site says it stresses teaching kids how to be self-sufficient, how to work as a team, how to be independent. Those are all skills she could definitely benefit from.

I went to Girl Scout camp when I was about her age. I still remember the Indian prayer they taught us -- complete with hand signals -- and can probably still make a Banana Boat over an open flame if I really wanted to. But that was a day camp. I got to go home to my mom at the end of the day.

This is a kid who rarely sleeps away from home, preferring her friends to come to our house instead (as do I).

And a kid who hardly ever goes outside to play, preferring to chat with friends on the computer or build a web site (No. I'm not kidding), or blog, or write an incredible fiction story that will simply knock my socks off, or draw an amazing picture of one of her friends or use her amazing voice to sing along with her iPod.

A kid who likes to stay up til 2 a.m. and sleep 'til noon.

A kid who has to have the TV on in whatever room she's in to chase the monsters away.

What would she possibly do at a camp that stresses the discovery of nature? That asks parents not to call for the entire week? That isn't stocked with Chitos? That has no refrigerator?

"It has air conditioning," she added. "No, really! Air conditioning! And plugs for my iPod. I asked. And I really want to go."

One of us isn't ready.




Sunday, April 3, 2011

And so it begins ...



And so it begins...


A boy called my daughter today.

My 10-year-old daughter. A 10-year-old boy.

I didn't realize it at first, of course. At this age, he didn't sound like a boy. He sounded just like one of her other friends. One of her girl friends.

But then I heard her talking. And saw the roses rise to her cheeks. And heard her say his name.

She had mentioned him earlier this week. Said a boy told her she was pretty. The next day she told me he said he liked her.

"I made him," she said. And I don't even know what that means.

Then, as we were leaving aftercare one day, she told him good-bye. And I put 2 and 2 together.

"I don't like him," she protested.

And he doesn't like her, apparently. That's why he called her. Three times.

The first time I answered the unfamiliar name on caller I.D., I just assumed it was a girl.

"Lora's outside right now," I said. An extreme rarity, I did not add. "Can I take a message?"

"No. That's all right. I'll call back later," she said. Er, he said.

The next time the unfamiliar name came up, I told Lora: "That's for you. Some little girl called you earlier."

Wrong.

Then, later this evening he called again.

"That's him?" Marty mouthed to me as we sat in the kitchen.

I nodded.

It was a much more muted reaction than mine earlier in the day.

I did a little happy dance. No. Really. Literally. I even high-fived her friend, P.J., who was in the living room at the time.

A boy called my daughter. Yay! At least now we won't go through life waiting for a boy to call, wondering why they never do.

Of course, quickly my brain went to her first date, her first boyfriend and prom. This just happens to be prom night in our area, and I thought of all the girls all over town primping and getting ready for this special night. I imagined my baby girl being one of those girls.

I texted my friend Daniell.

"A boy just called my baby."

"OMG," she wrote.

"Yeah."

I think the whole thing freaked Lora out a little too. Instead of being happy and excited, she was a little nervous. Worried.

Later, she gave me these little puppy dog eyes.

"I don't like him," she said. Again.

"OK," I replied. "You don't have to like him like him. But look at it this way. Now you can't ever say, 'I've never had a boy call me.'"

"OK," she said. Then the lawyer Lora came out.

"But I really think I'm too young to date," she said. Seriously.

"And I don't think boys should be calling me all the time."

My milk came out of my nose on that one.

Honey, I thought. Your dad is the local high school baseball coach. Your brother is a football coach. Your sister-in-law is a teacher at the school. And every teacher and coach at that school has watched you grow up. Believe me. They won't.