A blog by Lori Lyons

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On "three" ...

Summoned, we gathered.

Full timers. Part timers. Long timers.

And all of us now short-timers being scattered to the winds.

Co-workers. Dear friends. Long ago lunch companions. The barely recognized.  Complete strangers. 

Some just a familiar name and a mug shot.

Because we never got together like this before.
But, on this day, we were all the same.

Proud to have been once a part of something grand, something special, something we shall never see again. 

Something we are sad to see dismantled with so little care.

The Times-Picayune

Newsroom staff, July 25, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Oh brother, where art thou?

He was tall. And brave. And sometimes a little mean.

One time he stole all of my dolls and held them for ransom. I had to go make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before he would give them back.

He also was a little weird, as most big brothers are.

He and I would come home from school and go to my grandmother's house, which was next door to our little trailer. We would watch Dark Shadows and The Flintstones and Gilligan's Island,  and raid her always-full refrigerator.

 I would sneak spoons of Grannie's can of condensed milk she hid way in the back. He would put lettuce in a bowl then pour pure white vinegar on top. Then he would eat the lettuce and drink the vinegar. I don't know why he didn't just drink it straight out of the bottle. Sometimes he did.

He also would drink little bottles of Tabasco hot sauce, straight up. And pickle juice out of the jar. And eat spinach straight out of the can, like Popeye.

Sometimes we would hide under Grannie's immense antique dining room table, using her lace table cloths to make a tent, or a fort. Each of us had our own secret hiding spot, a little cubbyhole atop the table's pillars, where we would stash our treasures and promise each other not to look.

Other times we would have belly flop contests off of the foot of the huge antique bed with its neck-high (on us) foot board. How we never knocked the chandelier out of the ceiling I'll never know. Or killed ourselves.

Or we would have great adventures in our back yard, which had a genuine Louisiana bayou -- with genuine Louisiana alligators and snakes -- running through it. He was old enough to motor off in the aluminum Joe boat and leave me behind on the bank. One day he took off with a bunch of his buddies. They returned hours later, paddling because they had broken the shear pin in the outboard, and singing "Row Row Row Your Boat" like a bunch of drunken sailors.

One day when I was about 5 and he was about 12, we stood on the bulkhead, which gave us about a seven or eight foot drop down to the water below, and decided to have a rock-throwing contest.

He, of course, threw his all the way across to the opposite bank about 30 yards away. Then I threw mine and fell right in.

Shocked certainly, scared perhaps, but certainly not willing to pass up an opportunity, my big brother looked down on his little sister who sat, covered in mud and terrified out of her mind and said, "Wait there. I'll go get help... Watch out for the alligators."

He then went to find our mom inside, passing right by our teenaged sister and her boyfriend, who were sitting in the yard.

He found Mom, talking on the phone. So, he waited for her to finish.... And waited.... And waited.

Eventually he interrupted her: "Mom. It's impo-tant," my mom says he said.

Finally in exasperation she demanded, "What, Rhett?"

"Lori fell in the bayou."

I'm told that all hell broke loose after that, with my mother, my grandfather, my sister and her boyfriend all laughing hysterically at me as they tried to pull me out of  the mud and muck of Bayou Terrebonne.

And when they asked me what happened, I told them: "I threw a rock and forgot to let go."

Which, of course, no one has ever let me forget - even though I don't remember much of it. But it's a memory I have of my brother.

The one I lost one year ago today,  in another body of water, next to one of the  narrowest and most unforgiving roads in south Louisiana.  After a full day's work -- and perhaps a Bud or two -- he drove off into a rainy night, missed a curve and hit a culvert in the shallow waters . He wasn't wearing his seat belt, so he cracked his head open on the dash. And there was water in his lungs.

As much as I remember that day I threw myself in the bayou, I remember the day he threw himself into another and didn't come out.  The day I became a sister with nothing but memories of my brother.

How I wish I could write stories about him now, about being a grandfather,about seeing his youngest daughter graduate from high school,about cheering for the new Saints, the Hornets and LSU. About seeing him losing his hair. And looking like Grandpa. And letting him take his turn with mom at the hospital on the hill.

But all I can tell are the stories I remember, while I remember them, of the brother I used to have.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peace, love and aloe

My face hurts. My shoulders hurt. And the tops of my knees.

My back is none too happy either.

But my soul is pretty darned happy because it -- I -- we -- got to spend one whole glorious day at the beach. Pensacola Beach, our favorite.

It was a quick little trip. Just two days. We left Friday evening in the middle of a monsoon that threatened to overflow my swimming pool and returned today.

In between we got our tweenage daughter out of her room, drank some beers, ate a good and greasy burger with fries, listened to a live band in the sand, slept on the world's most uncomfortable mattress in the world's tiniest hotel room with the tiniest bathroom, spent five glorious hours on the beach, reconnected with an old high school friend and her ornery parrot Peety, 

surfed the waves, increased our chances of skin cancer, transformed ourselves from regular people to boiled crawfish, checked out the island view from an eighth floor condo,
cooled off in a pool, took a nap, drank the world's best Pina Colada, ate the best spinach and artichoke dip ever, then ribs and steak, shopped in the tacky touristy shops, spent another miserable night on the world's most uncomfortable mattress, packed up the wet bathing suits and towels, shopped and ate at Cracker Barrel and headed home.

Call it a quicky.

A weekend away from not knowing what's going on at my own place of employment, from having to read about it in the pages of our rival, from reading the employment ads, from perfecting my resume and writing cover letters, from competing with my own office mates for the too-few jobs out there, from worrying about my future.

A whole day.

One perfect, glorious day of salt and sea and seaweed and sand and not enough sunscreen.

And love and togetherness and peace and quiet and calm.

And aloe vera.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Only in New Orleans?

 There is a cemetery in my home town where one tomb rises tall above the rest. My grandfather used to tell me it's because the deceased man demanded to be buried standing up so that on Judgement Day he could walk right up to Jesus.

Who am I to argue with that?

This is a little different.

There are some who will say this is fitting for this jazz legend.

And some who will say it's just a little creepy. 
And some who will say it's just a New Orleans thing.

Read the whole story here at Nola.com... "Uncle" Lionel Batiste gets sendoff as unique as the man himself

Yes indeed they do!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What am I?

I decided this week that I needed to make myself some new business cards.

The ones the venerable newspaper gave me many moons ago are completely out of date. They didn't get me new ones when they moved me from Prep Writer to Perp Writer two years ago. Rather, they told me to just white out the old number and write in the new one. Maybe I should have seen the print on the wall then, huh?

Come October, they'll be complete useless. And I have to spend the time in between letting anyone who wants to know how to get in touch with me.

So I went to this cool web site where you can design and order your own business cards, with the correct numbers on them. With the help of my 11-year-old, who told me that I needed to choose a design that reflected my personality, I chose one that, I thought, was elegant and professional to help in my future pursuits.

Then I set about adding the correct info.

I started with the front:

Nice! Easy.

Then I turned to the back, where you are supposed to add your information, beginning with title. And I stopped.

What am I?

A sports writer? A crime reporter? A clerk? A journalist? A story teller? A social media specialist?  An Internet junkie? A news junkie? A job-seeker?

For more than 20 years I was able to answer that question without hesitation. I was a sports writer. A pretty damned good one. I covered mostly high school games, an occasional minor league baseball team, some LSU baseball. Wrote interesting little feature stories on local athletes. Broke breaking news.  Drove around the state, seeing tiny towns I had never even heard of. Won awards. Made tons of friends and contacts across the state. Earned their respect. Loved my life.

Then the men in ties who only saw me at the annual Christmas party told me I that was no longer to do that. I was to be the office-clerk-who-covers-crime. They sat me at a desk and made me watch a clock. Instead of athletes scoring touchdowns, I wrote about men murdering their wives and molesting their children. And people who just don't know how to drive. 

And the hardest part of that whole thing was, they didn't just take away what I did. They took away who I was. 

And now it's happening again.

What am I? Besides coach's wife, mother, step mother and World's Best Luau Thrower?

And what will I be? 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hope and Despair

It's a fine line between Hope and Despair.

I know because I've been walking it for the past month, since the day I was told in a 3-minute meeting that my job, my career, my life as I know it was over.

Since then I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. Some days I'm up, exhilarated even. Thrilled at the prospects before me.

Some days I'm down, feeling the after-the-drop pit in my stomach acutely and wanting nothing more than to throw up on somebody's shoes.

Mostly, I just wonder, "What in the hell am I going to do now?"

On the "Up" days, I imagine myself doing all sorts of things we all imagine doing if we ever get around to it --  develop killer abs, become a gourmet cook, craft like Martha Stewart.

Some days I'm thrilled at the prospects of a life of freedom, with no clock to punch, and imagine how productive I might be able to be. I can be a blogger, launch my genealogy page, find a publisher for  my two children's books, write the book on how to  have a great relationship with your husband's ex wife. No, really.

Or, I could just move to the beach. 

Perhaps even write my own 50 Shades of something.

Or just paint my house.

That's all fine and good, but I also have to earn a living. So, I imagine myself as a freelancer, writing wonderful feature stories on fabulous people from all walks of life; blogging here daily on life and family and love and adoption and baseball (but not necessarily in that order) and having people flock to it to read my words.

But mostly I imagine doing what I really love to do -- spending Friday nights in the press box, even ones with mosquitoes and wasps and banana spiders, writing gripping accounts of thrilling games (and boring ones) like I did for more than 20 years. And I will.

But then there are the "down" days, when I remember that I have a hefty mortgage and a car note and bills to pay and no job come October, and no severance after about May. And that I have to find a "real" job that will pay that mortgage and car note and those bills. And I try to figure out how to write a resume that will catch the attention of an employer who is looking for some 20-something kid right out of college who doesn't need a big salary because they don't have a mortgage yet, and not some 50-year old woman with a husband and a kid and a mortgage and a car note, who has worked only one job in the last 26 years. Me.

And what in the hell else do I want to do, anyway?

And those are the days I think I'll just go jump off the Hale Boggs Bridge come October 1st. But then I remember that the newspaper has just laid off 201 of us -- including ME, the crime writer -- and some cub reporter from NOLA will have to fight all that traffic to get all the way out here to the burbs  to cover it and, why should I ruin their day? And they'll probably just misspell my name or something. And, well, that's just messed up.

So then I just pretend I'm Scarlett O'Hara and don't think about it. I'll think about it tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Matters of the heart

This is an angry mommy bee!

When I finally became a mom after so many years of trying, my own mother said to me, "When you have a child, it's like your heart is walking around outside of your body."

I didn't understand at the time.

Now, 11 years into this motherhood thing, I know what she was trying to say. Your child is your heart and everything that happens to it happens to you. When your child hurts, you hurt. When someone hurts your child, you want to hurt them. Sometimes you want to punch them in the throat.

And sometimes, even when your child doesn't hurt, you hurt.

I have been trying for a few years to get my daughter into this local camp called "Beecuz You Matter." Thanks to word of mouth and rave reviews, spots are hard to come by and it fills up fast.  This year I got one, even after missing the deadline. I had to drop a check off in a stranger's mailbox to get it, but got it I did.

Then I had to convince my daughter that it would be fun.This was her third camp in as many weeks, and my little night owl would rather stay up all night and sleep all day than go to DisneyWorld. She pouted. And protested. And whined.

But, after some figurative arm twisting, a little bit of threatening and a stern, "You're going so stop whining!" she stomped off into the night. Then she came home the first night and didn't stop talking about it.

"I had so much fun."

This isn't just a let's-do-crafts camp. It teaches life lessons. There were discussions of money, bullying, self-esteem, in addition to crafts and fun and games. One day she came home with a sheet she had to fill to show her perception of money.

How much is rent? $100, she wrote.

How much does a car cost? $9,000

How much does a policeman make per year? $100

"Not far off," said my friend, the wife of policeman.

And we had to bend over backwards just to get her there. With my mother-in-law in the hospital with a burst artery in her arm, my mother still hobbled by a bad knee and my husband undergoing knee surgery, we've had to shuffle and piecemeal transportation. I even had to let her sleep away from home one night to get her there.

But it was all worth it.

Until the last day.

The highlight of the camp -- and most camps -- is the end of week photo slideshow. The parents get to see what their child did all week and the kids gather with their friends and laugh and giggle at the goofy expressions they were caught making.

I took a late, long lunch Friday so I could be there for my girl. She sat on the floor with her friends, I sat with the parents. And we both waited, excited to see her in the montage. The program opened with each girl's smiling face and her name up on the big screen.

Alli... Casey.... Maria ... Claire ... Lexie.... Alexis .. Gabby... Jordan..48 in all, they said.

But no Lora. Never a Lora.

And my heart just broke. For her. For me.

Why was she left out?

Oh she was in the group shots, and there was a photo of her painting her little blue piggy bank and even a snippet of video as she hopped in a potato sack. And she sought my reaction as each one flashed. But there was no photo of her face and her name.

Yes, she did miss one day because she had a sore throat and fever, but it was clear that the photos were not all taken in one day. And she missed on Wednesday.  There were plenty of opportunities to take her picture on the four other days.

And as I sat in the dark watching the remainder of the show, I felt the anger rise and the tears burn my eyes. My heart felt her pain as she watched and waited for her face on the screen ... and waited ... and waited.

When it was over I asked her, hoping maybe I had just missed it.

"Did they show your picture with your name?"


She immediately begged me not to "freak out."

"It's OK, Mom. It's not a big deal. It doesn't matter."

But at a camp called, "BeeCuz you Matter," yes. It does.

I didn't make a scene, as much as I wanted to. We left quickly. I didn't thank the campers or the directors, didn't tell anyone goodbye. But as soon as I got back to work, I fired off an email.


 I am very glad that my daughter was able to attend this year's camp -- even with all that is going on in our crazy lives right now -- and I am glad that she had a good time and wants to go back next year.

However, I am deeply disappointed that her photo with her name was not included in the slide show. She says it does matter, but I watched her as she waited ... and waited ... and waited... And it did. And it does matter to me.

I have yet to receive a reply.

I know they'll say they are sorry. That it was an honest mistake. And it probably was. I'm sure they didn't do it on purpose. And maybe she wasn't the only one left out. But that doesn't make it hurt any less -- her or me.

Because my child matters. Her feelings matter. MY feelings matter. And for her to say it didn't just infuriated me more. She does matter. She was a part of that camp. She was one of the girls. And she was overlooked. Then she begged me not to make a big deal out of it.

And that may be the worst part.

What would you have done? How would you have felt?

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