A blog by Lori Lyons

Friday, December 28, 2012

Oh Christmas tree -- a poem

It's the third day after Christmas.
Santa came and went.
So has all my money,
Every penny spent.

All the gifts have been given,
Except one or two or three.
If they don't get delivered soon
They will belong to me.

In the dining room is a basket
Filled with home baked treats.
A four-pound tin of cookies,
And assorted jars of sweets.
My village has gone dark.
No one bothers to plug it in.
And all the batteries have run out
And must be replaced again.

And the Christmas tree once green
Is withering as we speak.
 I know it's time to take it down
But the spirit in me is weak.

Everyone loves their Christmas tree
Until they don't no more,
Usually about the time
The needles pile up on the floor.

Some do live, some do fake,
Some do flocked with snow.
Some do tall, some do small,
Some do both for show.

                                                              Then some decorate in color themes
                                                               With ornaments all one hue.
Some do themes they think are cute
And hope that you do too.

Ours was live and once was green
And shined in all it's glory.
And every one of our ornaments
Tells a different story.

 Some tell tales of places we've been,
And people we no longer see.
We have lots of apples red
And plenty of fleur-de-lis.

 There are photos of our little girl
And my stepchildren when they were small
We ooh and ah and laugh a little
As we hang them all.

There are reindeer made of hands and feet
And Santas made of clay
Put together by little hands
And made at school one day.

We commemorate the Saints success
And our love of baseball too.
One shows our love for adoption
 And the birth of our little boo.

We had a few more ornaments
That I loved so dear
They were lost when the tree fell over
A couple of times one year

So now it's time to say goodbye
To this tree once bright
The ornaments are sliding off
And it's no longer standing upright.

These memories I'll tuck away
Until this time next year
But a couple of those pine needles
Probably still will be here.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Husband shopping

Don't ask me what I'm getting for Christmas.

Or, if you do, don't expect me to say, "I dunno."

Because I do know. Everything. All of it. Every last thing. Because I bought it.

Some husbands get hints from their wives. Some get a nice, detailed list.  Some get catalog pages torn out with item numbers circled. In red.

Then they summon up their courage, brave the mall, fight the crowds and spend the time to get their wives exactly what they want. Warriors, they are.

My husband? He just goes shopping with me.

Here's how it works: The two of us (who are pretty much always together), go to a store. I see something I would like/love.

Me: Ooooh. Look hon! You could so buy me this for Christmas.

Him: <Picks it up. Puts it in the cart. Smiles>

No mental notes. No cell phone photo so he can come back later. No Amazon.com search. He just buys it. Right there.

Then he takes it home and hides it in the closet until Christmas Eve, when he takes it out and expects me to help him wrap it.


At least I know I'll be getting what I want. (This year is a very Martini Christmas!)  But while everyone else ooohs and ahhhs over their gifts, I'll open mine and remember where we bought it. And how much we paid for it.

At least I won't have to exchange anything.

Merry Christmas to all! I hope you get what you want too.

Last year I had a BLUE Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012



She would have been one.

Should have been.

My husband's first grandchild. His son's first daughter. More steps for me.

A perfectly beautiful baby girl named Parker, she was born one year ago today. But instead of a joyous celebration of life, this date is one we will never forget.

She was born sleeping.

I saw that in a post by another heart-broken mother somewhere. I liked the way it sounded, though it's no less sad. No less tragic.

She was otherwise perfect in every way.

And this should be her first birthday.

She should be blowing out her first candle, receiving her first birthday presents, mushing cake all over her adorable face.

Born in December, this should be her first magical Christmas. We should be picking out presents and little red velvet outfits with lacy pants and tons of toys. She should have sat on Santa's knee for a picture and screamed for her mommy.

So much we must imagine.

When I lost my beloved cousin this year, the officiant at her funeral talked about her dash, the mark between the date we arrive on this earth and the date we leave. Some people, like my cousin, fill that dash with a full, rich life. Others do not.

Parker didn't even get a dash. She only got one date. This one, for all of us to remember.

So we gathered today as a family. A Louisiana family, of course. There were boiled crabs and beer. And laughter and love, a cute smooshy baby boy and beautiful little girls.

And chips and dips and candy and cookies.

But no cake.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Empty arms

She barely comes out of her room these days, unless it's to feed or to grab another soda from the fridge. Or to let some out.

Sometimes it's to show me some "hilarious" video she has found on Youtube, that isn't really funny at all but I stop what I'm doing to watch anyway.

Or to show me the latest item she needs for her newest "Cosplay" costume, which I totally don't understand but I say yes anyway because I certainly don't want to stifle her creativity. And it's usually pretty cheap -- even the makeup she had shipped from England.

Yes, I pick on her about the acne she's getting on her face and try to explain (gently) that if she would just wash it regularly....

Same with the dandruff....

And I try hard not to roll my eyes at the wrinkled pants she pulled from the bottom of the pile to wear to school today. I have to pick my battles I guess.

I do try hard to hug her more. And harder. And closer. Especially since Friday when a madman with insane weapons went into a quiet little elementary school in a quiet little town and massacred 26 people -- 20 of them first graders as they huddled in their merry classrooms with their teachers. Some in a tiny bathroom.

I can picture the tiny bathroom our local elementary school has for the first graders, some of whom have tiny bladders and short attention spans. I don't want to picture her in there with her friends, cowered in fear. Or their teacher, mulling any and all options when there are none.

I can still see the little girl with the beautiful curls, the big brown eyes, the pink sweater and the pink sparkly shoes. The bright-eyed, sharp-minded little girl who loved to entertain herself in her room most of the time, but would come out every once in a while to show me something she had drawn or written or made, or to repeat some hysterical line from her latest favorite TV show. Kim Possible mostly.

Who refused to wear anything but pink -- or a princess costume.

Who lost her two front teeth.

Who sang with no fear on a stage in front of a full crowd of Saturday night fair goers, after which she was asked for her autograph.

Whose daddy would pick her up and put her in my bed in the morning as he left for work so that the two of us could cuddle until our alarm went off.

Of course, now that she is an all-grown-up snarky tween it's harder.

She won't come out of her room enough, or hold still long enough, to let me hug her much. And when I do, she just rolls her eyes. When I try to tell her how much I love her and how happy I am that she is here, she sings that exasperated "Mo-oom" song that really sounds like "let me go."

And her dad and I can no longer pick her up at all (except in the pool).

But he still wakes her up every morning. And every morning she groggily climbs the stairs to crawl into bed with me so we can cuddle until our alarm goes off. Then, and pretty much only then, she is still my little girl. Still my baby.

And I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like if she wasn't. Or what it must be like for those parents who no longer have their babies to cuddle with. Ever again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Calgon, take me away!

So, you may have heard this story about this Pennsylvania mom who went to the grocery store and didn't come back. For two weeks. She was found yesterday.

No, nothing horrible happened to her. She's safe and sound. Right as rain. Hungover maybe?

It seems she just decided "she needed to get away." Her life got to be too much and she decided she needed a little vacation. So, she left the husband, left the house, the kids, the car, the dog (if she has one) and the mother-in-law (maybe) and took her little ol' self to Florida. Alone. Without telling anybody where she was going or when she'd be back. Or if.

She is my hero. Really.

Imagine that.

No, really. Imagine that. 

I am.

I can so picture myself walking out and leaving behind my house with the bad plumbing and the broken heater, my snarky tween who ignores me every chance she gets, my puppy who refuses to pee outside, the neurotic poodle who ate my bowl of tuna yesterday, my mother-in-law who threw a bonafide temper tantrum this morning because she can't have salt with her grits, her helper who is getting more and more exasperated by the moment, my mother who is selling her personal belongings one by one so she can buy an iPad with  built-in WiFi. My resume. And even my cranky husband. He'll be leaving me in a few weeks. A lot. Baseball season is right around the corner.

Come on. We all dream about it, right? Fantasize a little? A lot?

I wonder what made her snap. The thought of having to go home and put away all those groceries? Having to come up with a dinner menu, slave over a hot stove and serve it up, only to have her teenaged daughter ask, "Can I fix macaroni and cheese?"

I wonder if she has her mother-in-law living with her too.

Just imagine... walking out the door. Right now.

 OK. Wait I have to go pack a bag first. Need the contacts. And the glasses for when I need to take the contacts out. And need makeup because, can't go off on some tropical vacation without a little makeup. And need some makeup removers because, can't wear the same makeup for two weeks. And need deodorant, because can't go to the beach without it. And need a bathing suit because, well, I sure as hell ain't going to a nude beach. And some clean underwear because I might get into an accident. And I need my Kindle. And the charger. And the cell phone charger.

OK. Now I'm ready.

Now I've got to stop for gas. .....And some snacks, because it's a four hour drive to the beach from here. Something sweet. Something salty. Something to wash it down with.

Oh! Vodka! Can't leave without the Vodka! And the blue raspberry mixer. And the Mojito stuff I haven't tried yet.

OK. Now I'm really ready!

I'm getting in the car, driving to Florida, plopping myself on a beach somewhere, drinking lots of vodka with blue stuff in it, flirting outrageously with some hairless young bartender until I convince him he should rub my feet, sleeping until noon, staying up until dawn.
Alone. All by myself. No one talking to me. No one needing me. No one snoring next to me or hogging half the bed. No one calling me. No one arguing with me. No one knowing better than me. No tissues in the laundry or chewed up on the floor. No booster seat on the toilet. No goddam beeper.

OK. I'm going. Right. Now.

Aw who am I kidding? The farthest I'll probably get is Walmart. That's where I went the one time my husband and I had a fight. I walked out, slammed the door, peeled out of the driveway like a teenager and drove like a bat out of hell. The problem was, I had no where to go. So I went to Walmart for an hour or so. And didn't answer my phone the entire time.

Take that, world.

I don't think they knew I was even gone.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Her name was Elle

To the rest of the world, it’s just another Facebook photo, of just another kid, posted by just another  proud mom.

It’s not a special photograph. In fact, it’s rather poor quality. Dark and a little blurry.

It's just a cell phone photo of a blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl wearing purple girly pajamas and holding a pair of puppies. 

Probably no one else zoomed in for a better look. And looked really hard at the face, at the hair, at the eyes, at the body, at the setting.  Or searched for signs. Of sorrow, of fear, of overall health and well-being. Of what might have been.

To the rest of the world, she's just another child. But for the better part of the year 2001, she was my child. The child I dreamed of. The child I prayed for. The child I yearned for.

The child I prepared for. The child I built a nursery for. The child I bought that first yellow and blue blanket for. 

The child I named Elle -- because everyone was expecting me to name my child something with an "L."

But I never got to see her. Never got to hold her. Never got to take her home to her white nursery or wrap her in that blanket.

Just 19 days before the date I had circled on the calendar, her mother had a change of mind.  I won’t call it a change of heart. 

Never in the six months I knew her did she say she wanted that child. More often, she said she didn’t. She had already lost custody of three babies, under circumstances never fully explained by her or understood by me. She never expressed much regret over that either.

In her seventh month we sat together in the waiting room at the doctor’s office – my doctor’s office --  watching a toddler, well, toddle.

“That’s exactly what I don’t want,” she said of the adorable straw-haired little boy bouncing from chair to chair in the room.

I looked at her in utter amazement.

“That’s exactly what I do want,” I said.

Just days after that, I got a call from my attorney, who was telling me that the boyfriend who had dumped her all those months ago and set her on the path to me, wanted her and the baby – and any money we were paying her for it. Just days after that, I was driving her to the attorney’s office for a face-to-face meeting with him so she could see if he was telling the truth. She said she had to look him in the eyes. In my heart I knew what was coming.

We left without them both.

And I never saw them again.

Until a few months ago when, on a whim, I typed her name into the Facebook search box. And there she was. Alone. No children. No him. Lots of high scores on Farkle.

I had never stopped wondering where they were. How they were. If they were taking care of the daughter they decided to keep.

So I guess I can forgive myself for checking on her again, on another whim. And I can forgive my heart for squeezing a little bit at the sight of the girl I named Elle and they named Sam. And another child, a boy. 

And I can forgive my mind for trying to imagine what might have been.

If everything had gone as originally planned, after we got that other phone call from that other mother in the fall, today we would have two 11-year-old girls in our family, in our house, in our lives, and in our hearts. One light. One dark. Both tall. Elle and Lora Leigh.

But everything did not go as it was planned. It went as it was meant to be.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adventures in sports writing

Many, many moons ago, one of the five prep sports editors I had at the veritable Times-Picayune newspaper sent me on the road to cover a high school basketball game in the teeny, tiny town of White Castle, Louisiana.

There isn't much in White Castle. There is a lovely Louisiana plantation home named Nottaway, where my BFF spent her wedding night. And there is a high school that is has been both good and not so good in sports over the years.

Not wanting me to be on the road alone in the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter, my husband (or he may have been my boyfriend) elected to accompany me on this trip. My job was to go to the game, take notes during the game, add up stats after the game, get a quote or two then use my trusty computer to send this story back to the newspaper in New Orleans. All by about 10:30 p.m.

The Toshiba 1100 was one of the first laptop computers. All bulky and plastic, it was standard issue for newsroom reporters back in the 1990s. It really was just a word processor, used only to type a story. There was no World Wide Web back then (that we knew of). And it had no games or apps. Not even Solitaire.

 Some of us were lucky and had one with a flip up screen.

Lucky. Until mine was stolen.

Others had to make do with the one with the little window on top of the keyboard that showed a word or two at a time.
Not so lucky

I couldn't tell you today any details about that game. Who won, who lost, who played well or didn't. I just know what happened afterwards, when it came time to send said story. Then, as now, reporters need a way to do this.

Our Toshibas had these fancy, dancy things called couplers:

To send a story using these, you would dial the number with your fancy dancy phone, wait for that screechy fax/dial-up/nails on a chalkboard sound you may remember, then stick the receiver into the couplers.

The problem, often, was finding the phone.

Not, not one of these:

One of these:

Oftentimes, reporters carried one around with us. Really. Because we needed a telephone line. And it couldn't be on those multi-line phones you might have at your office. It had to be one line. One phone. With that kind of receiver.

Good luck finding one of those. In White Castle. In the middle of the night. The coach's office didn't have one. He had one of those multi-line phones. Couldn't use that.

So, while I typed frantically on my Toshiba in the car, the boyfriend/future husband drove up and down the main street in White Castle, searching for a phone -- a payphone, an open business, anything.

Like, the Pizza Hut!

Good boyfriend/future husband that he was, he went inside and found the manager of the Pizza Hut, explained the situation and asked if they had such a phone we could borrow.


So, in we went. And I, professional female improvising sports writer that I used to be, sent my little 12-inch basketball story while sitting on the floor of the kitchen of the White Castle Pizza Hut, being observed by a fascinated group of teenagers flipping pepperoni, and a pizza-eater or two.

Yes, I made deadline.

Then we ordered pizza.

My now-husband and I were reminded of this little long ago adventure Friday night and had a nice little laugh. You see, my new prep sports boss had sent me to the teeny, tiny town of Abbeville, Louisiana, to cover a football game. My husband, not wanting me to be on the road alone in the middle of the winter, in the middle of the night, decided to accompany me on the trip. Plus, now that his mother is living with us full time, we're excited over any opportunity to get out of the house. Together. (Read the mother-in-law stories. You'll understand).

After the game, during which I kept my notes and after which I did  my interviews, we got into his car. And while he drove, I wrote my story on my fancy dancy new laptop computer. And when it came time to send this story story, I simply pulled out my phone.

This one:

Then I hooked a wire to it, hooked the end to my computer and sent my story via gmail.

We never stopped. He never even slowed down. There was no screechy noise. It took less than one minute. I even checked my Facebook page and my Twitter before I disconnected.

God we've come a long way. And he's still a good boyfriend.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Fight

It was only a matter of time.

Everyone knew it. Everyone said it. Everyone was expecting it.

The only question was, how soon would it happen? Or rather, how long would my mother-in-law and  and I play nice before blowing up at each other?

The answer: four weeks. To the day.

We were no strangers to the harsh word from the first time she lived with us. Back then we had fights about my parenting, my housekeeping, my cooking, my shopping. You name it. Some good ones, too.

She: "What'd you do? Buy everything in the store?"

Me: "Yes. Yes I did. There's nothing left. Don't ever go to PayLess again."

This go-round we had been having little snits, minor raising of voices over her incessant demands and her overuse of the beeper we bought her to summon us. We all became increasingly frustrated with one another. Being awakened five or six times a night and summoned 18 times in a day will do that to you.

"You can't wake us up every hour on the hour and expect us to be all happy and in a good mood the next day," I said. More than once.

And she had been making snide little comments about my daughter's hair, which is frizzy,  and her face, which is broken out, and her clothes, which are often wrinkled.

Then the day before, she had raised her voice to my child after asking her to find a bag of chocolates on the dresser.  My daughter couldn't find them quickly enough, apparently. So, they had their own little blow out.

"Just pick your battles," I told my 11-year-old. "Walk away when you can."

But I did not heed my own advice.

It started simply enough. It was shortly after 8 a.m., and I was putting away the $78 worth of liquor I had just bought on my way home from dropping the dogs off at the groomer. Inspired by the bottle of Crystal Skull vodka still on display from our little Halloween party, I decided to turn one shelf of my barrister bookcase into a liquor cabinet. Plus, it made for easy access.

To give her credit, she never ashed me why I bought $78 worth of liquor, and actually complimented me on the new boozy display.

"It looks nice," she said.

But a few minutes later, she made a comment about how all her stuff was missing. All the stuff from her apartment, which was packed in seven big plastic bins and stacked in my garage until the next day, when my stepdaughter planned to come over and go through it all with her.

Frustrated, angry and ready to show her that we had not thrown her things away (as she accused), I stormed out to the garage and took a picture of them all with my cell phone, came back inside and showed it to her.

"Look," I shouted. "It's all there. If you want, I'll go get them all and stack them in your room for you. To the ceiling. Then we can call the TV show 'Hoarders.'"

That set her off:

"YOU'RE the one who needs to go on Hoarders!" she shouted. "Look at all this stuff. Why don't you ever throw anything away?"

Me: "Oh. You mean like the two bookshelves full of books I JUST threw away to make room for you? Or the bookshelf?"

Her: "Yeah. You keep saying you have a little house. It's not a little house. You just have too much stuff in it."

Me: "You're right. I do. I now have two wheelchairs, a toilet seat, a toilet chair, a bath chair and a walker."

And we went from there. About the 18 beeps. About my daughter's rudeness. About the constant wake-ups. About how stupid it is that everyone in my family's name begins with an "L."  She even said the only reason I married my husband is because his last name starts with an 'L."

If I were a lesser person, I might have told her the real reason I married him...

The truth is, she hurt me. I'm sure I hurt her too. Neither of us cared.

But my husband did when he happened to come home for a forgotten briefcase in the middle of this mess.

I wasn't going to let her see me cry, though. I went upstairs, put on my walking shoes, grabbed my iPhone and left, slamming doors in my wake.

I was on my second lap around the park, with tears pouring down my face, when he drove up in his hot little convertible, got out and leaned against the fender to wait for me.  He opened his arms as I approached and pulled me in.

"If you tell me I can't fight with your mother, I'm divorcing you," I said through my tears.

"No. I told her she can't fight with you," he replied.

And THAT's why I married him.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Just beep me

Well, I thought I was doing us a favor.

Just days after my mother-in-law, Hurricane Jane, moved in with us from her assisted living center (she needed too much assistance, they said), The Coach and I discovered that baby monitors are, indeed, meant for babies. They are meant to keep a watchful ear (or eye, if you dole out the extra money) on cute, sweet little babies who make soft, sweet cooing noises at night. NOT 82-year-old grandmothers who moan, and groan, and snore, and fart, and have to get up to pee every hour and a half.

We learned this after about the second night of no sleep. For any of us. And after about the third day of her calling into midair for my husband, "Mawty" or simply, "Help!" and expecting us to come running. Let's just say it got real old, real quick.

So, Internet junkie that I am, I scoured the webs for an alternative. I quickly found one at this web site called Activeforever.com.   Think of it as a BabiesRUs for old people. Seriously. It has everything you could possibly think of to make life a little easier for senior citizens and those who end up taking care of them. Including this handy dandy little gadget.

It's a pager. Grandma wears the button part around her neck. When she needs "Help!" she can just push the button and the pager will beep or buzz. We were so excited.

For about a minute.

After insisting, "I'm not using that," Grandma got the hang of the button really quickly. And it was cute. We turned the monitors off and got a GREAT night's sleep on Friday.

Then came the weekend. While I was off covering volleyball, and the person we hired to help us during the week had the weekend off, The Coach was on Grandma Duty.

He spent the day Saturday answering her every "Beep."

"I want ice cream."

"I'm finished with my ice cream."

"I have to go to the bathroom."

"I'm hot."

"I'm cold."

"My butt hurts."

At one point, she beeped him from across the room.

"I didn't think you'd hear me," she said.

By the time I got home Saturday evening, half the Bourbon in the house was gone and The Coach was ready to smash that pager to smithereens.

Then came Sunday.

While The Coach and I sat in our living room watching the New Orleans Saints destroy the Atlanta Falcons (WHO DAT!) and my fantasy football team, The Lyons Lions, score mucho points, Grandma sat in her room with her button.

Which she pressed 18 times. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11 p.m.

18 times.

I know because he kept track. He kept score is more like it.

She wanted toast.

She wanted in her chair.

She wanted out of the chair.

She wanted to go to the bathroom.

She wanted bologna.

She was done with the bologna.

She wanted socks.

She wanted back in the chair.

She needed to go to the bathroom.

18 times.

By the end of the day, The Coach was ready to stick that button where the sun never shines and I think he was ready to kill me for finding it in the first place.

"I thought I had done good," I said.

He just shook his head in wonder.

At least we slept good. But we need more Bourbon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Wake up calls

So it's now been a little more than a week since my mother-in-law, heretofore known as Hurricane Jane, moved in with us after being essentially kicked out of her assisted living apartment north of the lake for needing too much assistance.

Really? Has it only been a week? Gosh, I thought it was at least a month. Or more.

I guess it just feels that way because of the time change and all. We gained back a whole hour of our lives, right? (Or did we lose one? I forget.)

I know this: I have lost a copious amount of sleep over the past week.

Seriously. Sleep is seriously underrated.

We have moved Hurricane Jane into the room at the foot of the attic stairs in our quirky old house, andwe had a wall built to close them off. We used to have to go through this room to go up the stairs. Now, when we want to go upstairs to our bedroom or to my new home office, we have to go outside  through the side porch door then in through another door to the stairs. Weird. I know.

I did this yesterday wearing nothing but a towel after my shower.

That kooky room has had many incarnations. It once was my office, then my daughter's beautiful white nursery, then her disaster of a toy room, then her really cool stage room (Yes, we put up a stage with lights), then her cool tween hang out, then my beachy-themed mom cave (for about a month), then my daughter's beachy-themed cave, then dad's baseball themed cave. Now it's Jane's cave.

Lora's stage! The stairs are behind that wall.

And it is a cave. She's not a vampire, really, but she doesn't like light. Any. So I had to put up curtains to block out the sun for her.

And unlike the first time she moved in, with everything she owned in a small plastic grocery bag after Hurricane Katrina took everything else, this time she showed up with a wheelchair and a walker and a contraption for the toilet and a contraption to take a bath and a bed and a dresser and a chest of drawers and an electric recliner chair and a BIG 52-inch television. And I was supposed to figure out how to put all that stuff on ONE ROOM.

I did.  (But the BIG 52 is about to go.)

The first night was miserable. 

My husband went out and purchased a brand new baby monitor for her room. One receiver is in the living room and the other is upstairs in our bedroom. The first night, we lay awake all night, listening to her breathe, and snore, and moan, and groan, and talk in her sleep. We both were reminded of the first time we used a baby monitor, when our baby girl was but a baby and we used to listen to make sure she was, indeed, breathing.

We were reassured often, however, because about every other hour, she calls out to her son to come help her go to the bathroom. (She can't go by herself. We have to get her out of bed, take her to the bathroom, put her back in the chair, and put her back to bed.)


Of course, just as he did when our daughter was but a baby, he sleeps right through it. I hear it, however, and get to nudge him to get up.

But after about the fourth time, I start to feel really sorry for him. And her.

It was a rough night, that first one. I could not sleep at all, thanks to her breathing and moaning and groaning and snoring on the baby monitor and The Coach snoring beside me. I got snoring in stereo.

And I was a wreck the next day..

The second night was a little better. But still she would wake up about every hour, complaining that she wasn't comfortable and/or she had to go to the bathroom. A few times she just said, "I have to get up."

Where she was going, we don't know.

By the end of the week we realized that she was the princess, and there was a pea under her mattress somewhere. The bed was too soft. Too lumpy. And every time she woke up, she figured she'd just go pee.

So bright and early one morning we went down the street to the local furniture store and bought her a new extra firm mattress. We asked if we could take naps on it first, but they said no. And we did try out a few sofas to see if we could find one for the naps it appears we will be taking. Often.

I also hugged the lady when she promised the new mattress would be delivered later that afternoon. And that night was better.

Then on Wednesday we hired a sitter named Freda, someone to come during the day and tend to her needs so I can go up to my new home office and do what I need to do. And take a nap.

But the nights are hard. Last night she called him five or six times. Unable to hear us say, "Coming!" she yells over and over again until one of us gets there. Sometimes she just yells, "Help!"

I have taken to wearing earplugs again, to try to drown out the sounds of breathing and snoring and moaning  -- both of theirs. It only works sometimes. I rolled on about 90 minutes of sleep on Thursday, fueling myself with leftover candy and cakes from our Halloween party the night before.

I can't even fathom how the Coach gets through a school day.

Just like when the baby was a baby, we are learning to sleep when she does. And nap when and where we can.  Sometimes at inopportune times and places -- like the furniture store.

So don't be offended if we nod off at hour house. On your sofa. Or at the red light down the street. Just tiptoe around us. Even if we're awake.

Right after Lora was born, my old boss said to me, "Don't worry. You can sleep when you're dead."

We will have some serious catching up to do.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Print is dead

He's The Internet.
What else would a laid-off newspaper reporter be for Halloween but a dead newspaper?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I Love Halloween!

Being the last house on a very busy street, I have no Trick-or-Treaters. That makes me sad.

So I lure people to my house with an annual BOOfet.

I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. Maybe because it's the least work. Unless you have a big party, of course.

If I had more time and energy (and money), I'd have dry ice in the pool and stuff. I'd hire Zombies. And a bartender.

Happy Halloween!

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Storm of the Century

So, I've spent the day with one eye on the local volleyball brackets and one eye on this alleged STORM OF THE CENTURY, Hurricane Sandy.

Apparently global warming, Mother Nature, God, Allah, Buddah and the Wicked Witch of the West have all conspired against the United States, the East Coast, the gays, the candidates for president and New York City with this STORM OF THE CENTURY, which is really two storms that are expected to converge somewhere over the east coast.

 And it's the end of the world as we know it.

All day long there have been these stories in my Facebook and Twitter feeds to help these hapless New Englanders prepare, both mentally and physically, for this STORM OF THE CENTURY.

"How to prepare for Sandy"

"How to help your child prepare for Sandy"

"How to entertain your children when the power goes out"

"What to expect when you're expecting the power to go out"

And such.

And I'm thinking, Where in the hell was all this crap two months ago when Hurricane Isaac was bearing down on the Louisiana coastline (where I happen to live)?

We got stories like, "Why do stupid people in Louisiana insist on living in Louisiana when they know a hurricane will flood their homes and kill them all eventually?" and "Send money to Louisiana? Again? Didn't we just send them some money last year?"

We didn't get any helpful hints from Good Morning America ("Turn your freezer to the coldest setting." "Have plenty of board games handy.")

We already know all that shit. WE, the good, brave, strong, resilient people of Louisiana already know what to do:
 We know to go to Winn Dixie early and fill up our cars with gas early. Then fill them up again after we've driven all across town to try to find "C" batteries for that old boom box in the back of the closet so we can listen to the local weather man tell us when to HUNKER DOWN  (and drink!).

We know that we need water and ice and bleach (but nobody knows what it's for) and batteries (see above) and non-perishables like bread and peanut butter and Deviled Ham and Oreos and Chitos and Doritos and Tostitos and Reese's peanut butter cups, because we all know that when hurricanes blow, so do our diets.

We know that we need to board up the windows because we learned in Hurricane Andrew that tape does absolutely no good, but you should leave a peep hole somewhere so you'll know when the neighbor's roof blows off and onto your house. And you'll know which neighbor.

We know that our kids will be a little scared, but mostly they'll be bored out of their minds without cable TV and Wifi and once their smart phones die, but absolutely thrilled that there's no school for a week. That's why we buy beer and wine (for us, not for them).

And we all know what to do when the power goes out. Find the flashlight. Find the "D" batteries for the flashlight. Discover that the flashlight needs "C" batteries. Remember that you couldn't find any "C" batteries, even though you used up a tank of gas trying to. Say 'Shit" a few times. Light some candles. Move them away from the curtains. Pop the wine. Pull out the Pictionary. Play Charades. Play Bourre. Eat the Little Debbies. Eat the Tostitos. Eat the Chitos. Eat the Oreos. Drink more wine.

... You get the picture...

And, we all know the first rule of hurricane survival if the power stays out for longer than an hour:


*Honestly. Having lived through the aftermath of Katrina, having ridden out Rita and Isaac, having evacuated for Gustave and Ike, I don't wish this on my worst enemy.It's not fun. And people's lives will never be the same.  It's just somebody else's turn. May God bless you all. -- LL

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Hurricane Jane

The first time she came to live with me she was heartbroken.

She showed up at my doorstep on a Saturday afternoon after a long week and a long ride, with everything she owned in this world stuffed in a plastic grocery bag.

Just days earlier, Hurricane Katrina had made its way pretty much right up Lafitte Street in Waveland, Mississippi. When it left, it washed out to sea the entire town, including my in-laws' house and virtually everything they owned.

All of her blue country furniture. The antique dining room set. The hutch that held her wedding china. And her mother's. The soft, plush carpet where my husband loved to take his post-turkey nap on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nearly every photo of their family and children. The Christmas village she would set up under the tree. All the decorations she had hand-painted. The Irish Santa I told my nephew to buy her one Christmas.

We actually feared they had been lost as well. Knowing their area had been so hard hit, and knowing that they had only evacuated a few miles inland -- with just a few days' worth of clothing - we feared the worst. I spent days hunched over a computer in our own safe haven from the storm searching Red Cross message boards hoping to see their names listed as survivors, expecting to see them on the list of deceased.  Eventually I got a late-night phone call telling me they were, indeed, OK, just battered and bruised.

Days later my husband and his best bud went to "rescue" them, only to find them sitting beside a stagnating swimming pool, drinking beer without a care in the world.

That afternoon I opened my door, gave them hugs and, without a question, welcomed them home to our 1930s-built Tudor cottage.  I gave them our spare room. Made space in the one bathroom.  Got rid of my stuff, my books, some of my keepsakes, and put away others so they would have the space. I hung curtains, bought bed linens, apologized for the lack of closet space.

But she was still full of fire back then, living up to her longtime nickname, "Hurricane Jane."
And despite her broken heart and homeless state, she didn't remain a guest for long.

The curtains needed ironing. Soon my kitchen was rearranged to her liking. My butter was switched to their preference. We ate starch with every meal and seldom anything green. My TV was quickly replaced by a newer, bigger one (because they couldn't read the baseball scores on the bottom of the screen). My living room became theirs. But she wore sunglasses during the day because my house was too bright and she complained about my leaving too many lights on at night. (Her three boys were never afraid of the dark).

Soon there seemed to be no place for me to sit. To breathe.To escape.

For a year and a week she questioned my judgement, my cooking skills, my parenting skills, my work habits, my sleeping habits, my spending habits, and my weight on the scale. My house became ever-more crowded, our tempers ever more short. I went for a lot of long walks.

Eventually, my father-in-law decided enough was enough. He moved them out, first to an apartment, then to her brother's house in a nearby town. They needed a U-Haul to do it.

Then, one day, she woke up alone.

On the weekend after Thanksgiving, 2008, my mother-in-law called to say something was wrong with Pappy. My husband drove to pick him up and took him to the hospital, where they determined he was having a heart attack. He died six days later.

For the last few years, she has lived in a posh assisted living center nearly an hour's drive away. Safe, secure and unrestrained, she has been The Queen of The Windsor, ruling the roost and whiling away hours playing penny poker with her fellow hens. It's like the high school clique all over again. There's a fella or two there, but they don't seem to last very long.

But the phone calls from the staff have been coming more frequent, often in the middle of the night. The trips to the emergency room. The falls. The aches. The pains. The complaints.  And the simple things have become harder for her to do on her own. It was time, they said, for her to move on.

This time when she came to live with me, she is simply broken.

This time she arrived in a chair with wheels, a contraption to fit over the toilet, a shitload of pills and a dialysis schedule. A few of her belongings were carried by my husband, with the rest to come later. Most will go into storage.

We're moving her into a different room this time. Smaller. Closer so we can hear her when she calls for help and get to her quicker. We're building walls, closing in a porch, remodeling the bathroom to accommodate her.  But she still won't have enough closet space for her shoes and her winter coats (we live in Louisiana for God's sake!)

And there is no fire.

She is but a whisper of the mother-in-law I met nearly 20 years ago and promised that I truly loved her son. The woman with the perfectly manicured nails. The woman who cooked fabulous meals and baked wonderful cakes. Who painted wonderful wooden toll art for her house and mine. Who wore green and drank beer like the true Irish woman she is.

Who adored the baby girl we adopted and put into her arms every Friday night so we could go to football games, the first grandchild she really got to watch grow up.

Now she needs help to stand, to sit, to eat, to drink, to pee, to wipe herself. And sometimes she doesn't make it.

She now needs her own baby sitter.

On her last visit during Hurricane Isaac,  my husband was helping his mother shuffle across the floor, from one chair to the next.

"Here comes Hurricane Jane," he announced, trying to be funny.

To which my 11-year-old responded, "She's now a Tropical Depression."

She's been downgraded. Funny. And not.

My mother-in-law Jane will live out her final days, however many there may be, here. With her youngest son, whose own heart is breaking as we bears witness to this tragic transformation. I can see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. 

And with me.

I've been told that I'm special for doing this, for "allowing" this. Inspirational even. That I am  earning my wings in heaven.

No. I'm not. I'm no saint. I'm not happy about this. I'm freaking out just a little. OK, a lot. My house is a disaster and will be for a long time to come. It's small. We have a lot of stuff. Too much stuff. There's not enough room for all of us.

But we'll make it. We'll do the best we can. Sometimes, there are no choices. You just do what you have to do. 

Because, this is where she needs to be.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My souvenirs.

There are the thank you cards and letters.

There are dozens of them, from a wide array of people. Coaches, parents, administrators, fans. People who  read what I wrote then took a few minutes to thank me. And I didn't even have to write them back to say, "I was just doing my job." I had forgotten how many.

One from the coach who said he was blessed to know me.

One from the kid who thanked me for her very first interview.

Many from the parents.

Then there are the not-so-nice notes:

The mom who couldn't believe I called a baseball error an error in the paper.

The grandpa who said that writing "stealing bases" promoted stealing.

The several who demanded to know why I didn't write more about their team. Or their kid.

And there are are the ones in between:

"You do a great job."

"You are truly dedicated to what you do."

"I am a fan."

And one of my favorites:

"That story you did on the Carver basketball team was just the shit!" I had to ask someone if that was good or bad. I was assured it was good.

There is my garland of press passes accumulated  over the years, from all the events I covered. Super Bowls, LSU baseball games, The New Orleans Zephyrs, The Olympic Track and Field Trials. And the one from a high school baseball tournament in Denham Springs, Louisiana. Caught unprepared that day, they simply wrote "PRESS" on a luggage tag and pinned it to my chest. I spent the whole day hoping no one took it literally.

26 years of press passes
There are the mementos that bring back such memories. The paper plates used to mark my reserved spot in an on-the-road press box after I called to make sure there would be room for me.

My reserved spots in the press box

There is the memorial program and card from the coach I loved who died driving home to his family after his exhausting day. At his funeral, his widow set up a long table covered with his own mementos, including every story I had written about him, framed.

And the two big black scrapbooks filled with my first stories, purchased long before I knew there would be so many. It contains a copy of my very first byline on a story about a night charity golf tournament hosted by the former place kicker for the New Orleans Saints. And now my last, about a high school teacher and athletic trainer who lost one home to Hurricane Katrina and most of a second to Hurricane Isaac.

My first byline (left), and my last.

Then there are my favorite stories:

 The local kid who lost his Bo Jackson baseball card in a tornado and, a few days later received a box from the star filled with goodies.

The 19-year-old with a 95 mph fastball who was being encouraged to give up high school to pursue a minor league baseball career.  And the follow-up a few months later when he returned home broke and disillusioned.

The ones touting the awards I won for writing those stories. My certificates. The plaques hanging on my walls.

Two-time LSWA Prep Writer of the Year.

Graduation pictures and announcements from dozens of kids from over the years. My kids. All grown up now and sending their own kids onto the playing field. 

All of my anniversary letters.

My farewell letter to the newspaper that laid me off in June. The too few replies.

I spent a day going through it all. Remembering. Smiling. Crying. Laughing. Shaking my head. My memories of  a life, a job, a career I loved.

My souvenirs.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Doing nothing well

The sun did indeed come up Monday morning.

The day was rather dark and cold and dreary, but somewhere underneath the clouds there was a sun.

The Coach took the day off with me, stayed by my side all day, intending to keep me occupied and, if necessary, from falling apart.  Or, if I did, to be there when I fell.

But I had a house guest, a holdover from the weekend of Times-Picayune good byes. A co-worker I barely knew at the company we both worked for. She worked at the Mother Ship; I worked in the Arctic Outpost. We only became friends through Facebook, when we both realized we shared the same sick humor. Eventually she became a confidante and my cover letter editor.

Plus I had a house to clean after a Sunday send-off of my own making. Luau themed plates and napkins, leis and party dishes had to be packed away for next time (and there will be a next time) in a  china hutch that has to be reorganized after every event to fit them all. There were garlands to remove, crushed fruit and crackers to sweep off the floor. Empty Blue Hawaiian bottles to throw away.

And, honestly, I wasn't as sad as I thought I would be back when they first gave me the news and the end date. It wasn't as traumatic as I imagined. A few tears stung the backs of my eyes, but refused to fall. Mostly it was sadness over what has been lost, what has been taken away, and over those who have not bothered to say good bye. Even now.

I didn't really feel that much different, thanks to Isaac, the pre-Labor Day hurricane that blew water and mold into our building and shut down our office a month earlier than anticipated. My final three weeks of the four month you've-been-fired-but-we-need-you-to-stay were spent working at home, doing what I did for the last two years at the office formerly known as the River Parishes Bureau -- surfing the Internet, keeping abreast of current events on Facebook and Twitter, and waiting for the Mayhem Guy to strike.

So Monday wasn't all that different from the previous days, except that I spent a lot less time on the computer. And I had company.

Tuesday was a different story.

Maybe it was the hangover everyone expected me to have from the weekend. Maybe it was the inevitable emotional crash. Maybe it was just a long time coming.

Tuesday I was lost. Tuesday I was alone. Tuesday I had no purpose. Tuesday I had no motivation. Tuesday, all I wanted to do was sleep.

I didn't know what to do what to do with myself. I didn't even know how to dress. Where was I going to go? And worst of all, perhaps, I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing instead of the nothing I was doing.

I don't do nothing well.

That isn't a grammatical error. I just don't know how to do nothing. I know how to goof off. I know how to procrastinate. In fact, I am the champion of procrastinators. The Coach says it's because of my years as a sports writer on insane deadlines. I do my best work when I'm about to blow my deadline. I seem to thrive under the pressure. So I hold on to it.

Give me a week to do something and I'll take it. All of it. But there is always a mental list in my head of the things I should be doing -- stats, standings, interviews, laundry, cleaning out my closet, weeding the flower beds, house-breaking this damn puppy, teaching myself not to care who's covering (or not covering) what anymore.

Which is why I was a terrible bureau clerk (besides the math and the cash drawer). And a terrible sick person (don't wait on me!). And a terrible vacation person (it's almost over?). I always knew there was something else, somewhere I should be doing.

 And now I am a terrible laid-off person. I can't just lie around on the sofa watching soap operas.

Well, I can. And I did. But I usually feel terrible guilt when I do it.

Now, I have no reason to.

And there's nothing I can do about it.