Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Lyons DEN


There still are a couple of Barbie houses tucked away in one corner. And a shrine to a wizard named Harry Potter in the other.

Behind the door is a bookcase filled with the leftovers from her obsession with The Wizard of Oz, an assortment of books she may or may not have read and a huge collection of board games thanks to Santa (and mom's idea that we should have Family Game Night like the folks on TV).

And there still are a few teddy bears and Beanie Babies gathering dust.

But the rest of it is mine.

After several weeks of contemplation and two weekends of perspiration, I finally have a room to call my own. Sort of.

"We're sharing it," says my 10-year-old daughter. "It's still mine."

Yeah well kid, it was mine first.

When we first discovered our antique little cottage nearly 17 years ago, this was just a quirky little spare room. Emphasis on the quirky.

There is one door that opens into the hallway and another that opens onto the side porch outside. Windows overlook the driveway.  Then there is my one sheetrocked wall (the rest are plaster), behind which is the steepest, narrowest, scariest set of attic stairs you've ever seen. Guests have taken one look at these things and balked. My own mother hasn't been up them in 10 years.

It took our poor dogs forever to master them. Can't say I blame them. They have to perform a near circus trick to come down, their bodies nearly vertical in the air.


It took us a while to master them as well. Although the quirkiness of our house continues upstairs, where the attic has been converted into two bedrooms, a closet that would make you jealous, and a tiny bathroom with ceilings designed only for short people, Marty and I chose to put our bedroom up there. The bed is in the middle of the room, loft-style. And Marty knows when he needs a haircut when his hair touches the ceiling.

The cool thing is, if you don't know those stairs are there, you'd never know they were there. I count on that anyways in case we ever have a home invasion, imagining the intruders looking around dumbfounded and asking themselves, "Where in the heck did they go?"


The previous owner had set up a huge garment rack in this room and used it as a giant closet. Although necessity is the mother of invention, I say she had no imagination.

When we moved in, I turned it into a study. A home office. I bought white bookcases and filled them with all my books -- my Civil War collection, my genealogy collection, my Stephen King collection. I spent many sleepless nights tracing my family tree and puttering.

And waiting for the day I would finally be able to transform it into a nursery.

That took six years.

But finally the day came. Anxious. Terrified. I deliberately waited until 10 weeks before the date she was due to get started, to repaint the walls, to clear out my books, to set up the crib my sister-in-law had stored away for me, to buy the white wicker rocker just like my grandmother's.

And it was perfect. Airy and light, filled with white eyelet and tulle and carousel horses because Marty had proposed to me on the antique carousel at City Park.

Then, 19 days before she was due, her mother changed her mind.

For the next two months I was forced to walk through this beautiful nursery every day, on my way to my own bedroom and back -- this beautiful empty nursery -- wondering if it ever would be filled.

Of course it was, in January of 2001, with the most perfect angel of a baby in the world, the one I was supposed to have. This is the room where I rocked her to sleep in my white wicker rocker, where we sang along to Linda Ronstadt's lullabies, where I picked her outfit of the day, where we danced to Patsy Cline, where we had our first tea party on a blanket on the floor.

When she grew out of her crib, we decided to move her upstairs with us, painting the walls of the other tiny, tepee shaped bedroom bubble gum pink because that's what she wanted. And the nursery was converted into a toy room, where all the kids could gather and play to their hearts content then leave the mess for me.

Then she got older. And I had one sheetrocked wall to play with.

Lora loved to sing, so one day I decided to turn it into a rock star's room. I hung pink and purple sheers on the wall (stapled them) and some cool star Christmas lights, and her uncle made her a real stage and stained it to look like hardwood. And it was good. We had several karaoke parties on it and some good times belting out Garth Brooks as a family.

Then she moved on to something else.

Just a few months ago I took her to Big Lots and let her pick out this crazy bed-in-a-bag set -- orange and green and purple, of all colors -- and we turned it into a "Tween Cave." She loved it. Spent one or two days in it. Then she moved on to something else, and spent most of her time in the other spare bedroom -- her Dad's Cave -- in the recliner or in the bed. Space was being wasted.


So I staked my claim. I took my room back. And now it is mine again. I raised the stage on top of two sets of plastic drawers to make a desk, repainted the wall a bright white, hung up a shelf, gathered all of my favorite blue beach-colored items, brought that ugly orange and green stuff up to her bedroom and moved in.


And I love it. I spent hours last night just looking at everything, taking it all in, finding my Zen.



"We need a name for my room," I said to Lora. "What are we going to call it?"

"Duh," she said, rolling her eyes at me. "The Lyons Den."

And so it is.

It's a place I can sit, relax, write, sleep (as I did today), watch my TV shows,
dream, love, hope and remember. Even if I do have to share with Harry Potter.





*editor's note... the photos would be much prettier if I had my desktop, but it's in recovery. Sorry.



Monday, September 19, 2011

Coach of the Year

He's known for his withering stare.

Right eye squinted closed, left eye barely open, it is known simply as "The look," to those who have seen it and become well-acquainted with it. It has brought generations of baseball players -- and a few football players -- to their knees.

And then there is that voice. It's a coach's voice. A teacher's voice. Loud. Harsh. Grumbling. More than a little scary at times. It can boom across a playing field, freezing players in their tracks, making umpires think twice before making their calls, letting them -- along with parents and fans -- know when he is not happy with the way things are going.

But neither of those seem to bother his latest team.

If he gave them "The Look," they didn't seem to notice.

He definitely didn't use "The Voice." Not yet, anyway.

Not on a bunch of 9 and 10-year-old girls who make up our daughter's volleyball team -- The Shockers.

This is Lora's third year of playing volleyball. One of the tallest kids in her class, and the daughter of the former organizer of the major metropolitan daily's high school volleyball coverage, it's no wonder she was drawn to it. So we signed her up.

And The Coach, who has spent more time than he probably ever cared to in bleachers watching volleyball thanks to me and my former job, volunteered to be the coach of a bunch of 8-year-old girls who had never played the game before.

It certainly was an experience.

They played bounce ball the first year; real volleyball the second. In either game, it's really all about the serve. Serve it over the net and you're likely to score because teams rarely, if ever, hit it back.

But they certainly did get better throughout the course of that first season. By the end of the season they were almost playing volleyball. At least they were volleying.

We even made it to the championship, losing a hard-fought Saturday morning match to Destrehan. The girls were sad. Really sad -- until they saw the trophy. The really big trophy.  They all ran and gathered around it, each grabbing hold.

"Take it to show your parents," The Coach told them.

And they did. As a group. With grins miles wide. Not a one of them ever letting go as they carefully walked their trophy over to where us parents waited with camera and hugs.
 

"I'm The Coach's Daughter," took it home.

Last year didn't go as well. Our trip to the everybody-makes-the-playoffs was brief. But the volleyball got a little better.

When we signed up this year, The Coach once again volunteered to help. And when last year's coach's daughter got moved up to the higher age group, he got the call.

His first game was three days later. After one too-brief practice.

So Thursday night of last week, while the rest of south Louisiana was wearing purple and gold and watching LSU and Mississippi State on ESPN, The Coach was running around a gymnasium trying to get a group of little girls to listen to him, to follow his directions to hit a big white ball over a net. With their eyes open.

It wasn't too bad. We lost both games, but we scored twice as many points in the second game as we did in the first. And more than once they played actual volleyball. With volleys.


And he never used The Look, or The Voice.

And his little girl was very happy.




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Friday, September 9, 2011

A 9/11 story

And then there are the days I get to tell stories like this one:

9/11 victim hailed as a hero.


I'm proud of this one. I hope I did it justice.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Back on the horse -- sorta



I actually sent this IM to my ex-, well, still-sorta boss the other day:

"If I were sitting next to you, I might hug you."

And he didn't take offense.

For the first time in a year, the man at the desk in New Orleans was my boss again.  And, a day later, for the first time in a year my name was back on the sports page again.

It's been a very long 12 months since two men in ties sat me down in a coffee shop (without even offering to buy me a cup) and broke my heart by telling me that I was no longer what I was, no longer who I was, and would no longer be doing what I had been doing for the last 24 years.

No longer a sports writer, covering the games young people play --  yes, even soccer. Now I would be a receptionist, answering phones, writing receipts, trying like hell to make correct change for a 20 and ordering toilet paper.

And instead of  writing wonderful features on the stars of tomorrow, I would be covering crime -- murders and armed robbery and battery and rape. The things nightmares are made of.

It's the new reality for journalists these days.  We learn new words, like "buyout" and "furlough." We recalculate our insurance premiums. We spend hours of company time filling out health questionnaires and reaffirming that we are contemplating starting a diet and exercise program.

And female sports writers get turned into receptionist/crime reporters. 


My first week on the new job I spent hours with a bunch of Sheriff's deputies waiting out a man who had shot his girlfriend in the head, left her body in a car in a hospital parking lot and then barricaded himself in his shed-turned-house.  He came out with a self-inflicted bullet in his head. Last I heard, he was still on life-support.

Since last summer I've covered a teenager who was brutally murdered in her home, an elderly double-amputee who died in a fire that was deliberately set in her home, two more murder-suicides, a string of drug-related murders in one tiny neighborhood and countless robberies and assaults.

Yes, the stuff nightmares are made of.

But my name still appeared on every sports writing award last year. As the current president of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, my name appears on every certificate handed out this year and next.

But then a dream came true.  Someone, somehow, for some reason decided I was missed.  Or needed.  Or both.  Or something.   They opened the door to the sports section and let me walk in.

Or at least put a toe.

I'm allowed to write features and game advances.  No games. No stats. No capsules. Just stories. (Not a bad gig, actually!)

And it was good.

So last week, for the first time in a year, I got to go talk to a coach.   About a game plan.  About offense, not offenses.  About defense and not defensive wounds.  About football.

And I got to interview a hard-working, well-spoken quarterback determined to bring his team back to glory and write a fine story about him.  (You can read it here).

Strangely enough, my byline also appeared on the front page of the paper that day, on a story about the recovery of the body of a murder suspect who leaped to his death from atop a Mississippi River bridge the week before.

Still ... 


"You're back in the saddle," said one of the coaches I used to call on a regular basis.

"Well, sort of," I replied. "I'm kind of side saddle."

"Hey. It's better than nothing," he replied.

Yes indeed.



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