Monday, May 28, 2012

The Fickle Finger of Fate

The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate
So, apparently, I have a week.

A week to wait, to worry, to lie awake at night, to hold my breath, to hope for the best, to pray, to be scared to death.

To win the lottery.

A week (give or take) until the men in ties (and let's face it, they're all going to be men in ties and not women in pencil skirts) decide whether or not I am a journalist worth keeping as my employer moves to the digital age, to decide whether or not I have kept up enough.

A week to ask, do I want them to keep me, even though this venture is filled with uncertainty and, some say, doomed to failure? Or do I want them to let me go, so I can try something new, break my mold? Even after 25 years.

This certainly has been an ever-changing job. I went from part time clerk in the sports department, putting together agate pages, answering phones (and really stupid questions) to full time clerk who made all the travel arrangements for the "real" reporters and answered phones(and really stupid questions).

But I got to write a story or two.

Night golf with Morten Anderson (the pins glowed in the dark).

A local softball team that went to Russia to teach them how to play.

How to become an umpire.

Then I went to full time "real" reporter, covering high school sports. Football one day, volleyball the next. Or swimming, golf, tennis,basketball, soccer, track.

Baseball on a gorgeous spring day.

Sending stories from pay phones, borrowed phones, coaches' offices. A Pizza Hut.


I covered some wonderful events -- two Super Bowls, a Final Four, the French Quarter during the Final Four.

I covered a high school game that went through five overtimes (and I STILL got my story in the paper!)

A baseball game where a kid hit four home runs.
 
And some amazing athletes.


Ed Reed.

LaRon and Dawan Landry.

The Mannings.

Ryan Perrilloux.

A whole bunch of former Zephyrs.

The high school kid with a 95 mph fastball and whose teachers encouraged him to quit school and go for the major league baseball draft. He did, and got a $100,000 signing bonus, but didn't make it through training camp.
 
Then a man in a tie decided I was needed elsewhere. I was benched. Turned into a clerk, who answered phones (and really stupid questions), took payments, handed out garage sale kits, ordered the toilet paper, shopped for the annual Christmas party and waited for the Mayhem Guy to strike. At least it gave me time to hone my skills as a social media specialist.

And got to write stories I never would have before.

The inspiring high school principal who danced at her wedding despite losing her feet and her hands to a staph infection.

The high school girl who left her tiny home in Gramercy to travel the country as a red-headed basketball player back in the 1960s. (That one hasn't run yet.)

The woman who had her fund-raising flock of pink flamingos stolen.

The local man I didn't even know about who died in the Pentagon on September 11th.

And some I never wanted to, like the man who murdered his girlfriend, left her body in a car parked at the local hospital, locked himself in a shed and then shot himself.

Or the men who molested children.
 
So now I'm preparing for change again. What shall I do? What can I do? Sell shoes? Clean toilets? Teach children?

I always wanted to live at the beach. I could sell seashells by the seashore.

Or balloons at Disney World.


This is my DREAM job!


But let's face it. All I really want to do is write. That's how this blog was born. Then reborn after my last job change because I needed a place to do it. To tell stories.

And I will continue to do so.

I just don't know where.

That's up to the Fickle Finger of Fate.

To be continued ....
 




Friday, May 25, 2012

Paper cuts



For weeks after I lost my beloved big brother, Rhett, to a dark night, a wet Louisiana road, an unbuckled seat belt and a roadside canal, our entire family walked around in a daze.

Stunned, pained, grieving and unbelieving, we all walked around like zombies,  our shoulders slouched, our eyes unseeing, our jaws slack, our feet shuffling under the weight of it all.

Barely two months later, on a bright fall day, a bunch of maniacs hijacked a bunch of airplanes and flew them into buildings, changing life as we know it forever.

Newspaper reporter that I am, I happened to be in the newsroom of  the venerable New Orleans Times-Picayune that day, trying to work, trying to fathom, trying not to scream my head off as those indelible images were burned into my brain. I sat in the sports department, mesmerized and completely unable to look away from the mounted television high above my head.

Every once in a while, a co-worker would  wander over and watch for a while, seemingly frozen in place. Eventually, when they had had enough, they would shuffle off with shoulders slouched, eyes unseeing, jaw slack. Like a zombie.

Sitting in the company cafeteria for lunch that day,  I turned to my co-worker/nephew from the I.T. department.

"Now everybody looks like we've been looking for the past two months," I said.

He simply nodded in agreement.

Today, we were reminded of that look.

Once again my esteemed co-workers, some of the most talented and hard-working people you have never met, looked like zombies, walking through the newsroom with their shoulders slouched, their feet heavy, their jaws slack after word got out (and not by us) that our newspaper, which just -- and  I mean JUST -- celebrated its 175th birthday in print was dropping its print schedule to three days a week instead of seven. And some -- perhaps a lot -- of us would not be moving with it into the future.

And as the long, sad day turned into evening, I happened to be in the vast newsroom following a tense meeting with the editor. And I watched as my colleagues gathered once again around the TVs, this time to watch stories about ourselves and our perceived demise. And, once again, we all looked like we were about to throw up, or like we had just been punched in the gut.  
(Just look at this photo shot by my esteemed colleague Ted Jackson) 

Because we had. By The New York Times, which broke the story late Wednesday night. Me? I found out thanks to Twitter while I cruising for reaction to the latest American Idol winner.

Sure we all knew that the newspaper was in trouble. We have already faced several rounds of buyouts, forced retirements, furlough days, cuts in benefits and, in my own case, job shuffling. In my 23rd year at the paper, a man in a tie broke my heart by forcing me to move from sports reporter to clerk-who-sometimes-covers-crime. Only recently had I made an uneasy peace with it and accepted my fate. Now this.

We still don't know exactly how this whole thing will work. Who will work. Where we will work. If we will work. Or for how much. Or for how long.  And that's the hard part. I won't know until early June if I'll be "invited" to remain with the company (as a clerk or as a sports reporter?) or sent packing with some sort of severance package.

Am I really supposed to peruse the classifieds for the first time since college, as a 50 year-old woman?  Apparently. I need a Plan B.

In the meantime, those of us who work at the paper or who have worked at the paper are reaching out to one another. And the community we all love is reaching out to us.

One local watering hole offered us all free drinks last night. There is a Friends of the Times-Picayune Facebook page, and a Save the Picayune Facebook Page, several Twitter hash tags, and hundreds of comments, tweets and Facebook messages from our readers, our colleagues, our peers and our even our competitors, who are telling us that they are thinking of us, hoping for the best for us and praying for us. And they're also pissed that this is happening to the newspaper we all love.

And we love and appreciate every single one.

Meanwhile, we are at work, doing what we love to do, what we all chose to do. Hoping. Praying. Worrying. And proud to say that we belong to The Times-Picayune.


What the heck is a Picayune anyway? It's a Spanish coin. These are my 10th anniversary earrings. I'm supposed to get a 25th year watch this summer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Missed

We didn't save you a seat.

And we didn't have to wait for you to rush in at the last minute because you couldn't get away from work on time, or because you left the bouquet of roses in the fridge and had to rush back home to get them.

That was at the last graduation ceremony, for your first daughter.

You weren't there being entertained by your grandchildren -- four of them now, each one cuter than the other.

You weren't there to snort with me over the outrageous dresses the girls  are wearing these days, or the shoes, or the guys who showed up wearing shorts and a t-shirt. (Really people?)


You weren't there to cheer with us when she marched into the arena, her head held high under her gold mortar board to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."

You weren't there to hoot and holler and scream her name at the top of your lungs, even though they asked us so many times not to and reminded us several times about the dignity of this occasion. (They obviously forgot to tell the guys wearing the shorts and the t-shirt, however.)

You weren't there to wave to her as she took her seat and searched us out way up high in the stands.

You weren't there to hear her name as she walked across the stage to receive her high school diploma.

You weren't there to give her a big bouquet of roses and hugs and kisses and tell her how proud you were that she made it through high school.

You weren't there to see her smiles.

And that broke our hearts.

You should have been there. And but for one rainy night, one dark and lonely road, and one unbuckled seat belt, you might have been. If God could give us a do-over, we might have been a complete family on this night, not a mother without a son, a wife without a husband, a daughter without a father, a sister without her big brother.

 So we did it for you. Screamed, hollered, cheered, clapped and called out her name. And showered her with roses. Because we know you would have.  And because we wished you were there.

But you missed it. And you were missed.












read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Birth Mother's Day


She and I had never met.

One day she just called. Out of the blue. Said her name was Gail. Said she had heard about us from a friend of a friend and that she liked what she heard, had liked what she read about us in the letter I so painstakingly composed and typed all those months ago then mailed, along with a wish and a prayer, to every single person I could think of.

Somehow, she got one. Read it. Liked it. Then she called us.

Then she chose us.

After that, she would call every few weeks or so to keep me up-to-date,  to tell me that she had been to the doctor and that everything was progressing fine. No worries. No problems.

I would ask about her little daughter and the rest of the family, about her job, mundane things. I tried. But the conversations were stilted, forced. As one would expect between total strangers. Then we would hang up and she would go back to her life and I would go back to mine.

Sometimes I would breathe a little easier, slightly reassured that she had taken the time to call at all. Most of the times I would not, knowing that things could change at any second. That one day, she could just not call at all. Or ever again.

Towards the end, we talked a little more. About how things would go. How we wanted them to go. How we hoped it would go. She did her best to reassure me.

She was one of the first people I called after the other woman, the one who had asked for money and food and clothes and time and energy and called all the time, reunited with her shithead of a boyfriend so they could raise their baby girl together.  The state had taken their other three children, after all. This was the only one they had left.

And she was going to be born healthy because I had spent months skipping work and disappearing to take her mother to my own doctor for regular examinations. He had dumped her and left her for six months, so somebody had to do it.

I would have no say so in whether she stayed healthy after her birth, however.

"I'm not changing my mind," she promised. Over and over and over again.

Gail said that too.

Then one Sunday afternoon she called and said she was going to the hospital. She thought her baby was on its way. Her water had broken. 

Holy shit, we said.

Thrilled, terrified, excited, terrified, worried, panicked, terrified, amazed, hopeful, prayerful (and did I mention terrified?) we jumped in the car and drove bat-out-of-hell into the night and into uncertainty. An hour later, we crept around a corner and gently, nervously knocked on a door to meet a stranger for the first time. Gail, a mother and a mother-to-be.

She was sitting up in bed, alone and maybe terrified herself, wondering what was happening and who are these people?

We introduced ourselves. We tried to make chit chat. We tried to act as though the most natural thing for people to do is introduce themselves when they're about to have a baby. Together.

We failed.

And then there was no baby. God, ever the practical joker when it comes to me and my life, wasn't done with me yet. Yes, her water had broken, but she had not gone into labor. We had to wait.

And wait.

And wait. 

For five days.

Gail stayed in the hospital, hooked up to an IV, and waited to see if she would go into labor on her own. If not, they would induce labor on Friday.

So, we went home, then back to the hospital the next day. But there was still no baby. So we went home again, then back to work. Marty went back to school, back to coaching. I went back to interviewing and updating basketball standings. And tried not to worry.

We failed at that too.

On Friday, January 26, 2001, she called us again. She was much louder this time. She was in the throes of labor and wanted to know where in the hell were we. We were on the way, I promised. Don't let anything happen until we get there.

Please God, don't let anything happen until we get there. Or after. Or the next day. Please.

Finally, shortly after 10 a.m., a little baby girl the color of boiled shrimp was born, hand first, with a hair full of black curls and a temper. Marty and I were waiting  in the hallway, clutching each other.  Waiting to breathe. Waiting to be told. Waiting to be called into the room. And praying that we would.

We were. And then we were nervously knocking on a door and creeping around a corner, hoping we would not be told to go away.

And there was Gail, now a mother of two.

"Are you ready to meet your daughter?" she asked.

Oh how I was.

And before I knew it, Gail was filling the hole in my heart and making my every dream come true,  just by handing me this tiny little shrimp-colored bundle wrapped in a blanket and letting me keep her. Forever.

And just like that, we were all a family.

Forever.



Lora's sister Ashlee, Lora, me and Gail



*The day before Mother's Day is traditionally Birth Mother's Day! We send our love and our blessings to our daughter's First Mother, her birth mother, Gail.








read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lollee Sue

Lollee Sue, 2002-2012


Lollee Sue Lyons-Luquet, the Best Standard Poodle in the World, went gently and quietly to the Rainbow Bridge on Friday, May 4, 2012 at 9:50 a.m. She was almost 10 years old.

Born  June 24, 2002 in Metairie, Louisiana,  Lollee was the daughter of Ali Bali and Breheney's Sam. She was adopted by the Lyons-Luquet family on August 17, 2002, as a gift from Sam's family, Tom and Sue Brahney, who were sad that the Luquets had to put down both of their dogs in the same week. They offered the Luquets the "pick of the litter."

And she certainly was.

Lollee spent her life guarding the living room sofa, cuddling on mom's feet, begging for bread (her favorite treat), enjoying the occasional Skittle, and licking the ice cream bowls when mom and dad were done. She loved long walks, lying in the sun, chasing the stupid squirrels in the back yard, and the cat, and looking out the living room window.

 Her job was to scoop up whatever crumbs fell under the table and whatever the party people left behind, to eat the bread crusts on mom's sandwiches, and whatever Lora Leigh could not (or did not want to) finish. And to wait for the bus.

A natural born singer, Lollee often sang for her treats  but not always on command (much to mom's dismay). She could say mom's nickname, "Lolo" and occasionally tell you what was on top of the house ("Roof").  But she only danced when anyone touched her hot pink leash or when mom put on her sneakers, as that meant she was going for a walk to the park. Or so she thought.


 Lollee's sweet temperament and calm nature made her a perfect candidate to become a member of the New Orleans Visiting Pet Program, and she breezed through the training. For two years, Lollee and Lori made monthly visits to area nursing homes and hospitals to bring a little love and a few smiles to those who were ailing.  Her patience was endless and she would enjoy being pet and loved and fussed over for as long as anyone wanted to. Lollee was a regular at the Waldon Center in Kenner, where she thrilled the residents  with her hot pink toenails.

Lollee leaves to mourn her loss a grieving family, an adopted brother Leigheaux (the world's dumbest standard poodle), a couple of squirrels, and a host of friends and family members who loved her and will miss her dearly. We will miss her songs, miss her smiles and miss her love.

She will be cremated and her ashes interred in mom's rose garden in the front yard. Or, she might just hang out with Pappy on the bookshelf for a while.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

It's time

After a long talk -- well, listen -- with the vet, we have decided that it is time. Time to let Lollee Sue go and be with Pappy.  And Parker. And God.

Tomorrow. When I can be there to see her through to the end and then bring her home to my little rose garden in the front where we put Laycee, and Lucy, and Lyon, and Shelley, the kids' cocker spaniel.

We still don't know exactly what happened. She still can't walk.  Perhaps it was the rabies shot. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that she had her first seizure on the day she got it. Maybe it's meningitis. Now they're thinking tumor. Somewhere. But we can't afford to find it.

And what if we do?

I am sad. I love this dog so much. I love the how smart she is. I love how gentle she is. I love that she sings for her bones. And that she says Lolo.

But I know I did everything I could within my means. I don't want her to suffer.

But I will.





Guest blogging at America Adopts!

I was asked to write a guest blog post by the fine folks at America Adopts! for Mother's Day.

After much contemplation, what came out was a post about what it's like to be a  Mother in Waiting on Mother's Day, or  a mother who has lost.  We tend to forget about them. Or ignore them completely.

They don't get the breakfast in bed, the carnations in church, and Hallmark definitely doesn't have a card for them.

And all they really want to do is stay in bed with the covers pulled up over their head anyway. But sometimes they can't. They have to spend the day with "real" mothers or their mothers-in-law.

But I hope you will take a moment to remember them. At least in your prayers.

Happy Mother's Day to ALL mothers -- even the ones in waiting.

Click below to read:

Honoring What We Have -- and What We've Lost -- on Mother's Day


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On miracles ... and dogs

When my dog Lollee walked out of the vet's office on April 23, we thought we had gotten our miracle.

Only three days before, my husband had carried the poor half-unconscious creature to the car, then to the vet's office. Then they had to wheel her into the exam room. She was totally out of it, could barely stand, was walking into walls and chairs. And had no idea where she was relieving herself.

For three days they pumped her up with fluids and antibiotics and a few steroids, ran tests, took X-rays and shrugged their shoulders. Could be this, they said. Could be that.

Could get expensive.

Or, I thought, this could be it. I prepared myself as best I could. Consoled myself that she had had a wonderful life guarding our sofa, snitching sandwiches whenever she could, cuddling on my feet, eating the occasional Skittle, and licking the ice cream bowl when I was done. 

But all that was forgotten when I held the end of her leash and led her out of the clinic, lifted her into the car and drove her home. All but the two $300 checks, that is. And the three bottles of pills they sent me home with.

We had our miracle. Lollee was better. We had more time. She was back to normal, with just a slight limp in her right shoulder that she had before this whole nightmare started. She ate a loaf of bread (we used it to hide her pills), gobbled some Milk Bones and licked a few ice cream bowls.

We thanked God.

But over the week, that limp got worse. And worse. She hobbled. She crept. She barely got up at all, having a harder and harder time navigating our hardwood floors. She seemed to be in so much pain.

By Monday of this week, she could barely move. When Lora came home from school on Tuesday, Lollee was splayed out on the floor like "a dead frog," she said. And no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't get her to stand up. Her hind legs were just gone. All she did was lie there, with eyes that seem to say, "Help me, Mom. Fix this."

We called our vet's office but he is out of town until Thursday. We took her to another local vet. They examined her and sent us to another. And they have had her since last night, drawing blood, taking X-rays, trying this, trying that. And keeping track of it all.

Today they say there is no obvious reason. Her spine is fine. Her neck is fine. She has a little arthritis, but not enough to cause this.

So they're diagnosing her through treatment. Basically, that means that if she responds to treatment for a disease, then that's what she had. They're saying maybe meningitis. They're categorically denying that any of this could be a side effect of the routine rabies shot she had on April 7. They have not completely ruled out some undetected cancer that can only be found by a very expensive MRI.

And I'm left to pray for yet another miracle.

I've said goodbye to this dog so many times in the last month, prepared myself so many times, steeled myself, that my heart is in pieces. I don't know what I'm supposed to do.She can't tell me. It's all up to me.


I feel terrible for Lollee, who is once again left in a clinic with strangers, wondering what's going on and why I'm leaving her there. She's perfectly alert and aware now.

I feel terrible for my daughter who is experiencing her first pet loss -- and taking it surprisingly well -- and terrible for my husband, who is not taking it so well (and is trying to be there for me while attempting to win a playoff baseball game.)

And I feel terrible for me, the one who is left to ask when it's time to say "Enough." Is it when the vet says so?  Is it when my head says so? When my heart says so? Or when my bank account says so?

She can't tell me. It's all up to me.




Lollee Sue