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:

EAT THE ICE CREAM FIRST.


*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.

Home.






Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Souvenirs



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.