A blog by Lori Lyons

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The final hours of the year 2013 are winding down.

I know this because there is college football on my television (even though it's 11 o'clock at night), I have a bottle of champagne chilling in my fridge and my husband and I just purchased our third spiral sliced ham of the month for a party.

I also know this because, across the Internets, people are asking me to take stock of my life: What did you do? What will you do? What would you change? And offering me surefire hangover cures.

I've needed those a few times.

But my Facebook friend WebMD actually asked a pretty good question the other day, one that made me think and made me answer.


Well, I gave the short/Facebook version. And since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. My answer, that is. I mean, 2013 really, REALLY sucked for me. So did most of 2012, as a matter of fact. It's been nearly two years since I found out that I would be losing my job. It's been 15 months since I actually did and became a full-time caretaker for my mother-in-law. Since then I have been turned down for several jobs, not called for a few more, failed the math portion of the Praxis exam -- twice -- done a bunch of freelance work, covered my very first Saints game, cut expenses, walked about 3,000 miles, become a pretty good cook, and sort of become a booking agent for some very talented New Orleans musicians. But mostly I've taken care of and fought with a cantankerous 83-year-old mother-in-law.

I've definitely lost my mojo (but not my Mojo, thank God).

 So here is the Lori-Is-A-Blogger version of my answer. It's a bit longer....

2013 taught me: 

That I am not a nurse. I do not want to be a nurse. I was never meant to be a nurse. I do not like cleaning up puke and shit and washing the private parts of another grown up human being. I do not like administering medications and counting pills. I do not like trying to pick up a 98 pound woman who knows she can't do it herself but insists she if perfectly capable of assisting you. I do not like being at her beck-and-call and being treated like a nurse/waitress/hired hand. And let me state emphatically that doing all of the above for a cantankerous 83-year-old mother-in-law is entirely different from doing it for the child you love to death.

That I hate that fucking beeper we bought her and wish I had never found it, thinking it was a good idea.

That I hate not having my own job, my own money. That I hate being dependent on my husband for my every want and every need. That I feel guilty every time I buy something, whether it's groceries for my family's dinner or a $1.99 book for my Kindle. That I hate waiting for my once-a-month freelancer checks.

That I really, REALLY suck at math.

That I can actually live for several weeks without a single dollar in my pocket.

That I can make a tank of gas last more than two weeks.

That one can live without central heating. In Louisiana, anyway.

That going to lunch and dinner, having my nails done and getting my roots done by a professional are luxuries. So is doing anything as a family.

That I genuinely LOVE to exercise -- well, walk. And I genuinely love to sweat. I never did before. I really do prefer to walk in the cold (anything above 35 degrees or my eyeballs freeze). But over the summer, I came to really LOVE walking in the early morning heat and sweating my ass off. I only had one day where I thought I was going to die.

That even though I lost my job, I did not lose my abilities. I still am damn good at what I did and that I still love to do it -- most of the time. That there are some people who still respect that.

That it's easy to be taken advantage of.

That patience is a virtue. One I do not always have.

That mental health is very fragile. That depression is very real and very dangerous. That sadness and hopelessness can permeate every fiber of your being almost before you realize it. That the darkness surrounds you and sucks you in. That it's very hard to see the light and climb out of it. And that there are very few resources to help you do so. Or people.

That the people who are supposed to love you and believe you and believe in you no matter what don't always.

That my daughter does.

That I did the right thing all those years ago. The young me would not have been able to accept the consequences the old me has been forced to.

That I am a mother first, who will do whatever is necessary to defend and protect my child.

That it is daunting to be responsible for the health and well-being of another human being, to make major decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.

That maybe things really do happen for a reason.

That I have some great friends, including some I didn't know I had.

That I absolutely married the right man, one who loves me and accepts me and believes me and believes in me. One who listens when I need to vent and use swear words -- even when they're aimed at his own mother. One who always -- always -- has my back. Who loves me unconditionally. Who is absolutely nothing like other men I have known. Who still looks at me the way he did on our wedding day.

That 12 months is about the limit for my mother-in-law and me to live together. We can play nice for about that long before the gloves come off and we forget about pretending to be polite. That's where we are now.

I've never really been much of a New Year's resolution-maker. The only one I ever made and kept was the year I decided that, no matter how tired I was (or drunk), I would remove my makeup before going to bed. Silly, huh? But I've done it.

I have already made several lifestyle changes, none of them related to the start of a New Year. Just a new life and a new reality. I try to save money, but don't. Can't. I like to use swear words. Sometimes I just need to. Just like, sometimes, I need to drink.

Another one of my Facebook friend web sites suggested that, instead of making a bunch of resolutions we aren't going to keep, maybe we should just pick a word, one word to ground us in the new year, to live our life around, to define ourselves.

That took some thinking too.

Looking at all I've been through, I guess my word for 2013 would be Persevere. Not too long ago, my 12-year-old daughter put her arms around me and said, "Mom, you're the strongest person I know." That warmed my heart and gave me the strength to carry on.

So, after much thought, I've decided that my word for 2014 will be ...

Resilience. I'm not giving up.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Don't let the parade pass you by

When The Coach and I first spotted our little Norco cottage more than 20 years ago, we fell in love with it pretty much instantly.

First of all, it was unique. Neither of us wanted a cookie-cutter suburban tract house to live in, and this one certainly is not. Built in the early 1930s from a catalog plan, it's either a Tudor cottage or a Cotswold Cottage -- I haven't been able to find the exact architecture style. I know it's kooky and quirky, just like me. There are two downstairs bedrooms. The attic was converted into living space sometime in the 50s and the stairs are in the spare bedroom.  There's now an upstairs half-bath, but you have to sit sideways to use the toilet. All we added was a white picket fence and, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, a swimming pool.

 "It's got character," everyone says.

It was built by Dr. Almerico,  the then-dentist for Shell Oil Company, which developed its refinery in what was then-called Good Hope, Louisiana.  The refinery came to be called the New Orleans Refining Company, which eventually was shortened to NORCO, which eventually became the name of the town. Yes, I live in an acronym. (This is NOT to be confused with Norco, California, which apparently also is an acronym for a railroad company.)

Dr. Almerico's House, as it is still known, was one of the first houses built in the area, one of the first brick houses built in the area. Some called it "The Mansion." Whatever they call it, it's somewhat of a landmark.

There are two others just like ours in our immediate vicinity -- one about seven miles from us in LaPlace, which is an almost exact replica in reverse. Their porch is on the opposite side of the house and glassed in. The brick is different too.

 There is another about 20 miles from us in the town of Garyville. Their porch is also enclosed, but is on the correct side.

But our house has something neither of those has -- a parade!

My house during the parade!

Well, it didn't when we bought it. But for most of the 1970s and since its revival in 2001, the annual Norco Christmas Parade has rolled on the first Sunday in December through the streets of Norco and right up to my house. No, really. It pretty starts and ends at my at my little cottage, bringing half the town of Norco plus untold numbers of family members, friends and, oftentimes, complete strangers to my one and a half bathrooms. And I pretty much feed all of them too.

It starts with Santa, who is one of the first to arrive at my house on the first Sunday in December. Of course, at that point he's just a really cool guy named Joe Shine. And, because we live in Louisiana, he's usually wearing shorts and a t-shirt and flip flops. After making his way through the crowd of family, friends and strangers, he taste tests the ham and other pickings for a while before deftly disappearing into the room that has alternated as my stepson's room, my nephew's room, my in-laws' room and, now, my daughter's room, to transform into the Jolly Old Elf.

He usually finds the accommodations accommodating -- except for the year when we had a not-so-Louisiana-like December and had the heater turned on full blast and he sweat his jolly old ass off while getting dressed.  Or the year the local minor league baseball team's nutria mascots locked themselves in there for a while and made Santa wait his turn.

Mrs. Claus makes her appearance a short time later, but smart one that she is, she's already dressed and ready to go.

A short time after noon, a local elf whisks the Clauses away to a local helicopter pad where a local businessman awaits to whisk them off on their pre-parade aerial tour of Norco. They spend several minutes flying over the parade route and stirring up the crowds below.

And one of my absolute favorite parts is when they fly over MY HOUSE, waving TO ME and my family, friends and the complete strangers. The helicopter then lands a short distance from my house, on the Mississippi River levee, where the parade officially begins.

In the meantime, a steady - ahem - parade of people meander through my house, around my buffet table and in and out of my bathrooms. Friends, family, friends of family, family of friends, cheerleaders, dance team members, members of the marching bands, politicians, teachers, bus drivers, baseball players, football players, these Star Wars people, policemen, firemen -- you name it. And more than a few times, the Coach and I have whispered in each other's ear, "Do you know who that is?"

It doesn't matter. We welcome them all. And happily give the Ten Cent Tour to anyone who asks.

At 2 p.m. the parade rolls under the direction of Stephen Weber, who happens to be the principal at The Coach's high school (Yep. The parade master is his boss.) The organized chaos meanders up Good Hope Street then down ours, for about two hours.

And it's run pretty smoothly over these 13 years, too. Well, except for some occasional horse poop... and trains... and  the year Elvis' pink Cadillac blew its radiator right in front of our house... Or the year there was the unfortunate tasering incident that made newspaper headlines ... Or the year Shell nearly exploded right in the middle of everything...

The parade as it reaches my house. This was last year. See the big black cloud in the background? That was extra special effects thanks to Shell/Motiva, which had some sort of "incident" the morning of the parade.

No, this is no Mardi Gras extravaganza, although there is lots of bead, toy and candy throwing. There are floats from the local elementary schools, the Cub Scouts, a group of Kids Kicking Cancer and other community groups. Coach's baseball team collects canned goods, which are distributed to local families over the holidays. The football team collects coats. In between there are marching bands, cheerleading teams, dance teams, a troupe of Star Wars characters, groups of horse riders, antique and specialty cars, lots and lots of pageant queens and lots and lots of local dance and marching groups. Every year it seems we also get inquiries from folks in Norco, California, who want to participate as well.

The World Famous 610 Stompers!
This year's parade was extra special, with the local all-male dance troupe, The 610 Stompers and the famous Marching 100 from St. Augustine High School in New Orleans. We also helped some folks get Santa to help with a marriage proposal along the route.

And of course there is a giant float carrying the famous visitors from the North Pole. Once the Clauses reach our house, the float stops. Folks grab a ladder and let Mr. and Mrs. Claus climb down. Oftentimes, they trot -- OK, sometimes they run - into the house and straight to the bathroom.

A few minutes later they emerge again and merrily  make their way across the street to the community Christmas tree, where they happily pose with children and families for photos and pass out giant candy canes. That's actually one of my favorite parts of the day, watching the little kids get their few minutes with Santa. Sure, some are terrified, but we do our best to help Mom and Dad get that elusive photo.

The Clauses and Us! (no tasering in the background this year. That's another whole story...)

  By the time darkness falls, the community tree is lit, folks are carrying their exhausted children home loaded down with beads and candy, and the exhausted parade folks are strolling through my house scrounging for whatever leftovers we have. This year, we had an entire ham and lots of bread, and way too much pastalaya, which we sent over to the local high school to feed the football team, which was practicing for the state semifinals.

Eventually, Santa sneaks his way back to the magic room in the back, where he makes his transformation back into a regular Joe. I have to say, he has done a great job of guarding his secret identity over the years, especially when my house is full of little children. This year was the first year my 12-year-old daughter kind of confronted him, saying "So. You're the guy that's been coming to my house all this time." And it was just a year or two ago that my mother-in-law piped up and asked, "Who is that guy who shows up at the end of the parade every year and eats all the leftovers?"

This year we pulled up some of the old photos on the computer to show Joe Santa how much our baby girl has grown over the years. The parade was revived in the same year she was born (although with a different Santa and Mrs. Claus that first year.) But we can pretty much document her life on his knee.

The Tweenager and Santa

Meanwhile, the Coach and I get started on cleaning up the mess by letting the dogs back inside to vacuum the floors. We pack away the leftover ham and the punch bowl cake and the Donnie Dip (so-named because it's one of our friend's favorite) and toss out the one remaining olive (WTF is up with that?) and start thinking about next year.

And although it's a lot of work before and after, and I can barely walk for days, I tell my husband every year, "We are never moving from this house." Why on earth would I want to?

For more information on the Norco Christmas Parade, please visit our web site -- norconoel.com (I am also the web master!) You can visit us on Facebook too! 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


As the Thanksgiving holiday approached, a lot of my friends have been using their social media accounts to proclaim that for which they are thankful.

I didn't do that.

Oh, on Sunday I told the world that I was thankful for the man who brought me coffee, the Sports section and breakfast in bed, then went downstairs to take care of his own damn mother.

And today I said I was thankful for my husband's ex-wife because she is cooking Thanksgiving dinner for us and all the kids tomorrow. All we have to do is bring the turkey, because the one thing my husband learned from his father was how to cook a fabulous turkey.

Frankly, there hasn't been a whole lot of stuff to be thankful for this past year or so, since I lost my job, my identity, my livelihood and much of my self esteem.  Since then I've been taking care of my mother-in-law on a daily basis, feeding her and dressing her and arguing with her as I drive her to dialysis three days a week, failing the math portion of the Praxis, trying to do freelance work for anyone who wants me to, waiting for those checks to come in, counting pennies to come up with the monthly car payment, living with broken heaters in my house and in my hot tub, reusing my daily-use contacts, dealing with kids who have gotten themselves in trouble and tried to deal with an estrangement from my own mother.

Basically, the last year has sucked balls. Big ones. And still does sometimes.

And while the rest of America is spending this week gathering around tables with their families and friends, I am not. My family doesn't do that. Not anymore.

But I can still find things for which to be thankful. Like ....

My husband, who loves me, who treats me like a queen, who cheers me on, who encourages me when I'm down, who picks me up when I fall, who always -- and I mean always -- takes my side, who believes me and believes in me, and who tells me, "Yes! I feel that new muscle in your leg." and "Yes! Your knees are getting prettier."

My daughter, the light of my life, who spends too much time in her room and needs to learn how to clean it, who cooks her own macaroni and cheese,  who is smart and funny and talented and sarcastic, who loves real books from Barnes and Noble, and alternative music, who draws kooky pictures, who can sing beautifully (but won't because it makes me cry), who writes beautifully, who gets up a half an hour early every morning so she can come upstairs and cuddle with me, who made my life the other day when she told me "You're the strongest person I know." Who knows I did what I had to do.

My stepchildren, who include me as part of their family, who claim me as their stepmother, who didn't need any therapy because of me, who make me proud to see them all grown up with wonderful careers and full, rich lives and who back me up when they need to. And my new step grandchild, who doesn't cry when she sees me anymore.

I'm thankful for my sisters. I'm thankful that I had a brother once. I'm thankful that I have a bunch of cousins that I've reconnected with on Facebook and some in real life. I'm thankful that I have a whole bunch of nieces and nephews and grand-nieces and nephews.

I'm thankful for my friends, who listen to me, who laugh with me, who cry with me, who give me advice, who know my stories, who drink with me, who take me to lunch. Who believe me,  and know I did what I had to do. Who believe in me and give me chances to do new things.

I'm thankful for my husband's ex wife, who agreed from the beginning that we were going to play nice, for being a friend and not an adversary, for sharing her children with me, for accepting mine into her her life, for all the wonderful keepsake gifts she has made me over the years, for going with me to see Donny Osmond, and for cooking Thanksgiving dinner so I didn't have to! And I'm thankful to her husband for being such a cool guy, too. And his kids.

I'm thankful for my dogs, who think I'm just the cat's meow.

I'm thankful for my walking shoes that allow me one hour every morning to dance down the street and clear my head and strengthen my body and give me prettier knees.

I'm thankful for the iPod portion of my iPhone, which holds more than 400 songs for me to dance to.

I'm thankful that, even though the newspaper took away my job, it could not take away my ability to write. And I'm thankful that other newspapers have given me the opportunity to use my talents to continue to tell stories.

I'm thankful for this blog, which allows me to write and tell stories and share our adoption journey with so many people. I'm thankful for each and every person who follows it, who subscribes to it, who has hit upon it accidentally while searching for "Mardi Gras and big tits" and "50" -- thinking it had something to do with "Fifty Shades of Grey."

I'm thankful for my pool. I know it's silly, but I dreamed of having a pool when I was a kid living in a trailer by the bayou in Houma. To me, it was the ultimate luxury. Now, I just love having it, looking at it, listening to it. It soothes my soul in ways I can't even describe.

I'm thankful for Pensacola Beach. And boiled crabs. And rib eye steaks. And chocolate covered cherries. And snowballs in the summer. And peppermint bark at Christmas. For Vodka. And Margarita daiquiris. And my two DVRs. And OnDemand. And my computer. And the Internet. And my cell phone. And SiriusXM radio. Any my piano. And MusicNotes because I can download sheet music anytime I want. And Amazon.com. And my Kindle reader. And my hair straightener. And Facebook and Twitter, because that's where I get my news nowadays. And football. And baseball. But not for soccer.Or mosquitoes. Or train crossings. Or hard freezes.

I have my health. I have all my senses. I have a family to call my own and people who love me.

And that's really all I need.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
My little turkey.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The things you remember

It's strange, the things you remember.

I remember standing in my closet that January day, staring at my clothes and asking myself, "What does one wear to the birth of one's child?"

I remember wearing the same clothes for three days because my silly husband forgot to put my bag in the car. My makeup case, too.

I remember thinking we would be there for a long time, so I remember packing a tote bag with my needlepoint, cards, books, newspapers -- things to wile away the time. I never touched any of it.

I remember the drive from Norco to Houma. Highway 90 was under construction and down to one lane both ways. We were stuck behind a State Trooper the whole way.

I remember trying very hard to read the newspaper on the way, and failing.

I remember sending Marty off to run errands while we waited. We had blown a tire a few days before and he had brought it to Sears to get it fixed. He also needed to go cash his paycheck.

I remember my brother showing up to wait with me. I didn't know then that it would be one of the last times I would ever see him. I remember my niece showing up to wait with me too.

I remember frantically calling Marty to come back to the hospital because he was about to miss it.

I remember standing outside the doors to the maternity ward, waiting, praying, not breathing at all. I remember waiting for Marty to get back, still afraid he would miss it.

I remember the nurse coming out of her room carrying a huge load of linens and signalling me with just her head, "Come on. Go on in." No words were said.

I remember walking into the room and seeing Gail holding this little bundle as a nurse smoothed the new linens on the bed, being so afraid I would hear her say, "Go away. I've changed my mind. I can't give her to you."

Instead, I remember hearing her say, "Are you ready to hold your daughter?"

Then the nurse saying, "Wash your hands first!"

I remember everyone in the room crying. Even me.

I remember handing her back to the nurse, oh so reluctantly, and thinking, "Doesn't she understand how long it took me to get here?"

I remember dying to get to the payphones to call everyone. (We had cell phones, but you weren't allowed to use them in hospitals back then.)

I remember spending the rest of the morning waiting to see her again, hoping the nurses understood who we were and why we were there (they did).

I remember hours later, walking into the little room they found us in the back of the NICU, and seeing our baby in the warmer.  I remember sitting there and sticking our hands in the holes, one of us taking her hand and one of us taking her foot.

I remember the nurse coming in and asking if we had held her yet. When we said no, she scooped her out of the warmer and handed her to me.

I remember Marty having to run to the car to get the camera. And I remember Marty grabbing a nurse to take our picture, and recognizing an old high school friend.

And I remember this joy.

It's been almost 13 years since the day my daughter was born, in the same hospital where I was born, to another woman. It's been 13 years since her birth mother --  her first mother -- put her into my arms and turned me from a heart-broken woman battling six years of infertility into a mom.

And I will never, ever forget it.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

No matter what

One Saturday night a few years ago, my little girl and I snuggled up together to watch the movie, "Despicable Me."

Because of our busy lives and bustling schedules back then (even before the MIL came to stay), we hadn't been able to go to the theater to see it, so we had to wait until it came on On Demand.

Ready with our popcorn and sodas and all the lights turned off to make it look like we were at the movies, Lora Leigh and I were enjoying the movie about an evil genius who plots to steal a giant ray gun to shrink the moon so he can steal it. And to further along his plot, he decides he needs some cute young children to penetrate his adversary's lair. So, he heads on over to the local orphanage to get him some.

Eventually Dr. Evil accomplishes his goal of obtaining the weapon. But then, no longer in need of his adorable little orphans, he takes them back to the orphanage and the mean old woman who runs it.

And at this point, my adorable, impressionable, ultra-sensitive and oh-so-perceptive adopted  daughter became hysterical.

"He's bringing them back?" she screamed. I mean she literally, screamed. "He can't take them back!"

I quickly paused the movie and wrapped her in my arms as she cried -- sobbed -- hysterically, her heart broken for the little characters.  I tried to soothe her as best I could, and assured her that he was likely, probably (hopefully?) going to have a change of heart and keep the girls he "borrowed."

"No. He can't take them back," I told her.

No. You can't.

As much as you might joke about it or think about it or maybe even wish it sometimes in those moments of despair, you can't take them back. Not when they're crying and hungry at 2 a.m. Not when they explode a diaper right after you've handed your cherub to the Sheriff to hold. Not when they draw on your walls with lipstick. Not when they dump a milkshake in your car. Not when they refuse to eat anything but macaroni and cheese. Not when you find a stack of paper plates and empty soda bottles under their bed. Not when they borrow your favorite necklace and break it. Not when they look you in the eye and lie about not having homework. Not when you think they're lying to you. Not when they puke on you or shit on you. Not when they embarrass you in the grocery store. And not when they grow up and do something so stupid you want to strangle them.

In case you don't know, my stepkid is one of the coaches involved in the recent high school football cheating scandal in Louisiana. He admitted his involvement, he told the truth, and he is suffering the consequences. He is embarrassed, mortified and truly apologetic. His parents are duly disappointed and mortified too.

But what are you gonna do?

You can't just give them back. Your kids are your kids, whether they sprung from your loins or from someone else's. Whether they had you in labor for an hour or 26. Whether they came to you or were sent to you. Whether they look like you or your spouse or your mother-in-law or the mailman. Whether they're smart or funny or cranky or mean or not much fun to be around. Whether they talk too much or not at all. Whether they're weak or strong.

Because parenthood is a privilege. Motherhood is a honor. And you are lucky if you get the chance to do it. Not everyone gets to. Believe me. And some have to work harder than others to achieve it. Believe me.

I may not have been lucky enough to conceive my own biological child, but I am lucky enough. Through fate or fortune or God's will,  I was allowed to parent this most extraordinary child who is the light of my life -- a smart, funny, sarcastic, exasperating, annoying, sharp-tongued, brutally honest tweenager who can draw beautiful pictures, sing like an angel (but won't because it makes me cry), write better than me, and devour cases of macaroni and cheese in a week's time.

Through my fortunate marriage, I also inherited two step children. I have had the privilege of watching them grow up into beautiful, fine young adults. My stepson, the jock, followed his father's footsteps and is a wonderful, bright teacher and coach who specializes in special education. He teaches mild-to-moderate challenged children history and horticulture. He and his students have planted and tend to a large vegetable garden on campus where they grow and harvest a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables. He also is a bright young coach whose players look up to him.

I have shared parenting duties with his father and with his mother. I was invited to sit beside her at his wedding. And, at the reception, his mother danced the first half of the Mother-Groom dance, then oh-so-graciously yielded to me so I could have a turn.

And two years ago he faced a darkness harder than this when his baby girl, Parker, was stillborn. Last year he and his wife became parents to another baby girl, Robi, and he is a doting dad.

My stepdaughter is a beautiful, smart, witty young woman. She spent two years working as a photographer at DisneyWorld and now is carving her niche in the hotel and tourism industry in New Orleans. An extremely talented photographer, she and her boyfriend also have formed their own photography business. On the same day her brother made national headlines, she received a fabulous job offer with a huge bump in salary.

But as fabulous as my children are, none of them is perfect.

Neither am I. I'm a human parent. And parenthood is hard. It's messy, it's ugly, it's dirty, it's stressful, it's painful, it's demanding, it's not always fun and we all -- all -- will make mistakes while doing it. It doesn't make us bad people, just imperfect ones. And your kids will be imperfect too. But when you had them -- or in my case, got her -- you are promising to love them no matter what, no matter what mistakes they make. There is a reason adoption folks call it a "Forever Family."

You can't give them back. Ever.

The Lyons Din: No matter what ... Your kids are your kids. No matter what.:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Like mother, like daughter

I have never had a guest blogger here.

Hell, people barely read my musings on these pages -- except for the Russian site scraper people (WTF y'all???!!), and some one or thing in Mountain View, California, who/which reads my posts and then leaves random spam comments like "I read this post completely concerning the comparison of hottest and earlier technologies. Please visit my site -- IwishIhadabigpenis."

So then, why would I invite someone else to write for me when I'm having so much darn fun?

Oh, I have been asked to write for other blogs. I've written about my experiences as an infertile woman who eventually adopted a beautiful baby girl who fulfilled all of my dreams. And I've written for a local moms blog about what it's like to live with that beautiful baby girl now that she is a snarky tween who refuses to come out of her room except for macaroni and cheese. And I get to do another one next month!

I do regularly share excellent blog posts I find on one of the six (yes, six) Facebook pages I manage, including my own and the one for this little blog,  and the one for my little book.  I also manage the one for the Norco Christmas Parade because, well, it ends at my house; and the one for my husband's baseball team because, well, Coach isn't very good at it; and the one for the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, because I can. (But I was not qualified to work for the new digital-first newspaper. Go figure!)  Yes, I digress. A lot.

My husband has his own blog. He writes, I check his grammar.

And I have encouraged my snarky tween to write her own blog. She did for a while, but just doesn't seem to be as focused has her mom. I think she could give the world some fascinating insight on what it's like to be in middle school (hey, James Patterson did it, and so did Jeff Kinney). I also think she could give amazing insight into Dr. Who. After all, she spent the whole summer watching EVERY EPISODE EVER MADE on Netflix while her dad and I were in the pool.

Besides all that, my kid is an excellent -- no, I mean an EXCELLENT writer. She is better than me. Actually, she puts me to shame. Because my kid can write fiction. Really, really good fiction.

A year or so ago she asked if she could read me something she wrote. Like the good mom I am, I said, "Sure." Like the good mom I am, I listened to her read me a story. And I was amazed. In fact, I about fell on the floor. Then, like the good mom I am, I kind of accused her of stealing it.

"Where did you get that from?" I demanded. "I wrote it," she replied. "But where did you get it? Did you see that somewhere? Read it somewhere?" "No," she said. "I just made it up."

And I kind of did it to her again this week when she read me the one she wrote for school.

It's a little Dr. Who inspired story about the angels who turn to stone. If you're a Dr. Who fan, you get it. If you don't (like me), you can Google it (like I did).

Here is a snippet:

The Lonely Assassins

     Stone is just stone, right? Yes, it is. But then you turn around. You blink. Then it's different and you don't have any time to witness just what the stone has become. All of your time has been rewound and you don't know where you are. You don't know when  you are. You have to relive your life over again.
     That's what happened to me.
     I was sent back. Who knows how far?
     It was the angels that sent me here. You know, the stone angel statues that look like they're crying? Yeah, them. One grabbed my arm and now here I am.
     That's what the angels do. They send you through time. They seem harmless, they're anything but harmless. You think statues can't hurt you? You're wrong. It's not like they have anything better to do. I mean, they're statues.
     It all started Monday, September 14th, 2009. Reagen and I were at an old house. We'd never been to the house before -- it just caught Raegen's eye. Not mine. I would've stayed as far as I could from that house if I had the choice. She just happened to be persuasive. 
     There were statues in the garden. I saw them from the window. It seemed like one was looking straight at me, through the spaces in its stone fingers. This seemed like a foolish thought at the time, so I dismissed it just as soon as it'd been thought up. Statues can't look at me, I thought. But boy, was I wrong. They could do much more than that.

I'm pretty darned impressed. It's a pretty good story. Yes, later on she uses some of the catch phrases about not blinking, but I love the way she weaved it all into her own story. 

Well done, my girl.

A few weeks ago, she was assigned to write about "Where I'm From."

This is what she wrote:

(I Am From) Adoption

I am from a familiar place known as Apple Street, but at the same time from high rise houses somewhere else. I am from a woman who is no longer required to look after me and one who always will be. From a writer and a coach. I am from a worker and a runaway. From the place I visit and the one that I live. I am from two places, two families, two homes, two hearts.

(Please note that the "runaway" is in reference to her biological father, with whom we have no contact.)

And again, I was blown away.

I guess every mom has her moment when her kid does something amazing and knocks her socks off. Walking. Talking. Showering without being asked. Cleaning their room. Saying please and thank you. 

Sometimes it's an observation. Sometimes it's with a simple truth. Sometimes it's with a fiction. Sometimes it's the way a kid handles something way beyond their years. 

And sometimes it's when you realize that they just get the things that they're supposed to, and that makes you think that, maybe, just maybe, you're doing your job right.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Bully for you

October is National Bullying Awareness Month.  

I am a grown up survivor of abuse and bullying. I was tormented throughout my elementary school years by bullies, mostly groups of mean girls who delighted in making my life a living hell. It started in about the second grade and continued, pretty much through the early part of junior high school, with occasional flare ups through high school.  It caused me great fear, anxiety and depression for much of my early life. It destroyed my self esteem and scarred me, in some ways, for life. But it also spurred me to be somebody, to get out of the small town I grew up in, to show them that I was better than that. Better than them. 

Too many times I've read stories of kids who have been bullied, who have taken drastic measures to end it. Tragic measures. Kids have killed themselves because of bullies, to put an end to the abuse, the pain and the humiliation they have faced every day,

After contemplating it and starting it and deleting it a million times, I have decided to share my (rather long) story to let others know that, even though the scars never go away and the pain is never forgotten, it does get better. You can not only survive, you can win. 

It's long ...

This is EXACTLY what it feels like.

I had boobs in the fourth grade. Rather large ones.

My parents were divorced.

I lived in a trailer, next door to my grandparents, whose once-lovely cottage had become an overgrown jungle that looked like a haunted house.

I was smart. Midway through my fourth grade year, the school system put me into a Gifted and Talented/Accelerated Program with a bunch of other kids from around the parish who also had working brains. So, I was a nerd.

I was pretty.

I had no backbone whatsoever, and no left hook.

And all of the above made me a prime target for bullies -- specifically, a whole bunch of Mean Girls.  And there were many of them. This was long, long ago, before bullying was a thing, before  it was a crime, before there were rules against it, before people talked about it and preached about it, before there were consequences, before all the anti-bullying campaigns our kids are growing up with. This was the late 1960s, the 1970s. There was no Internet, no Facebook or Twitter, no cell phones (thank God!) Back then, it was all face-to-face torment. And a few bathroom walls.

It was ugly. And painful. And I will never forget any of it.

There was the Christmas bracelet that one of the Mean Girls stole from me. Actually, it fell off my wrist during recess. Later, I spotted it on the wrist of one of Them. I asked her to return it. She tormented me. I told a teacher. The Mean Girl claimed it as hers. Then she laughed when I said I had won it in a pageant. The teacher believed her, not me. That was second or third grade.

But it really began in about the fourth grade, about the time my boobs sprouted -- way ahead of everyone else's.  I was a little girl with a little woman's body. The boys took notice. The girls couldn't stand it. Or me. They took to calling me "Stuffy,"accusing me of using toilet paper to stuff my bra every day. I would hear the shouts and the giggles as I walked down the hallways of my little elementary school in Houma, hear them at recess. And I would cower in silence and fear.

I was still a little girl, you know.

It got worse in the fifth grade. My boobs got even bigger and -- as, this was the 1970s -- our blue jeans got lower. Two-button fly bell bottom jeans were all the rage. So was picking on me. I was afraid to go to the bathroom, afraid of what they would do to me and say to me. I tried not to put myself in any danger. Some teachers recognized it and allowed me restroom breaks during class. They didn't know what to do either.

And it started on the bus in the morning. Every damn day. I was the last pick-up on the way to my school, which was only about two miles from my house -- but too far for little kids to walk, back then. I would get on the bus and search for a seat. There was never an empty one. And the bigger kids refused to scoot over to let me sit. If they did (or were forced to if and when the bus driver took notice), it was with some utterance of disgust, like they might catch a disease from sitting next to a little girl on a bus for 10 blocks.

Back in the 70s, all we had for telephones were land lines (and party lines). There was no caller ID, no *69 or *67.  And if someone called you and refused to hang up, there was nothing you could do about it. So Mean Girls used to call my house, say something nasty then put their receiver down -- sometimes for hours. Once for nearly an entire weekend.

And it followed me wherever I went. I joined a little Saturday morning bowling league that my older sister used to run. Bowling was kind of a big thing back then and I used to love it. One day, the Mean Girls decided that bowling was fun too. Rather, picking on Lori while she was bowling was fun. A group of five or six of them showed up at the bowling alley that day and set themselves up at a table at the end of our lanes. They then spent the entire morning heckling me as I bowled. They never picked up a ball themselves.

By sixth grade, things began to get violent. One trip to the bathroom ended up with me being pushed around on the slippery wet floors. One day I was at recess -- truly minding my own business -- when a girl named Darlene Trahan walked over to me. "I heard you called me a bitch," she said. I had not. I hadn't said a word about her. She postured and posed as a large crowd gathered. She pushed me, hoping I would hit back. Then again. I did nothing. She finally started wailing on me. I never touched her. We both got a week's detention, spending all our recesses standing by the principal's wall in the front of the building. And Miss Theriot, my teacher, made me write an essay on why I shouldn't fight -- even though I didn't. Darlene became one of my most frequent torturers for a long time.

One day a group of girls cornered me in the bathroom and threatened violence unless I "proved" that my boobs were real. They made me raise up my shirt and show them. I was 11.

There were ugly rumors spread about me -- that I was having sex (at 12??!!!), that I had gotten pregnant, that I had had a baby, that I was easy.

During one recess, I had a little extra time after lunch so I reached into my classroom window (which was open -- no AC back then) and grabbed my own notebook off of my own desk, which was at the back of the class. I reached it easily. The same girl who took my bracelet told the teacher on duty that I had climbed in the window. I got sent to the principal's office and got a week's detention for that.

Then there was Phoebe.

If an elementary school kid can have a mortal enemy, mine was Phoebe. She hated me. Tortured me. Picked fights with me. Prank called my house. You name it. One day, she approached me at lunch recess -- with her posse.

"You called me a bitch," she said. "I'm going to kick your ass."

I rolled my eyes. This again?

"I'm not fighting you, Phoebe. I'm wearing a dress."

"Well, after school. Go home and change. Come back here to school and I'm going to kick your ass. And if you don't, I'm going to come looking for you."

So, that afternoon, I got on the bus and went home. I changed into blue jeans and told my mother I had to walk back to school because Phoebe was waiting to fight me.

It turns out, half the school was waiting too. The principal was alerted when a bunch of kids refused to get on their buses that afternoon. When he asked why, a little kid told him they were waiting for the fight between Lori and Phoebe. He called the police.

I got about halfway there when a policeman on a motorcycle pulled up to the curb next to me.

"You Lori?" he asked me.

"Yes, Sir," I replied.

"You're going to fight Phoebe?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Well, you can go on home. Phoebe ran home when she saw me coming."

That night my stepfather put me in the car and drove me to Phoebe's house. We got out and he knocked on the door.

"Your daughter wants to beat up my daughter," he told her mother. "Let's go."

Phoebe freaked out.

"No I don't," she squealed. "Lori is one of my best friends!"

I never had another problem with Phoebe until senior year. We went to different high schools, but I showed up at her senior prom with my steady boyfriend who went to her school. Phoebe and I went to the bathroom at the same time. We were wearing the same dress.

And yet, that wasn't even the worst. The worst, the moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life, was this one: One day my beloved grandmother and I were at the Dillard's department store (formerly D.H. Holmes) at the mall in Houma when we went to the ladies room upstairs.As we walked into the outer chamber, where there were a few sofas and chairs, I saw written on the wall in red lipstick letters a foot tall, "Lori Lyons is a bitch." I was mortified. So was my Grannie.

Things calmed a bit by the time I got to junior high -- except for the night my very best friend, Sandra, decided to beat the crap out of me while we were babysitting for my nephew, Lee. Eventually, I found a group of friends to be with, and a few football player boys who were willing to stand up for me. I made the junior high dance team -- even though I was heckled throughout my entire try-out. And people found new targets.

By high school, things had calmed considerably, although I still had major panic attacks where my heart would go off the charts and I couldn't breathe. I finally was put on a medication (that I still take today) and everybody carried brown paper bags for me to breathe into. I never was one of the "cool" kids, but I wasn't picked any more.

And by college, it was over and I forced myself to get over my fear and anxiety of other girls. I lived in an all-girl dorm. I joined a sorority. I was accepted.

A few years ago, the message to kids being bullied was, "It gets better." Hang in there, they said. It'll stop.

And that's true -- to a certain degree.

 The truth is, there always will be bullies, people who are mean and people who will try to manipulate you to do their bidding. Parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, spouses, neighbors, salespeople, fast food workers, coffee servers and the receptionist at your doctor's office -- or your kid's doctor's office -- other mothers and fathers at your kid's school. Some mean girls just grow up to be mean women.

 And I still don't always know how to handle them, except to say, "What the fuck?" I do stand up for myself now, more than I ever did when I was young. And I will stand up for my kid.

Because that old adage about sticks and stones breaking bones and words not hurting is pure bullshit. The words hurt. The taunts sting. And they leave scars.

I had some difficulties as a female sports writer, some coaches who treated me like shit, who spoke ill of me, who tried to embarrass me. The guys who used to rip me on the old newspaper message boards reopened a lot of wounds too. I dreaded seeing my name on them as they questioned my intelligence, my loyalties, my abilities, my sanity. It was the new bathroom wall. They were bullies, too,  just like the ones I faced in childhood. So was the little old lady who heckled me the entire time I interviewed her grandson after a football game.

What I wouldn't give to have the brain I have now, back then at Lisa Park School. To say to the girl who stole my braclet, "Seriously? You're going to steal from a second grader?"

To Darlene, "What the hell are you talking about?" or "Hell yes. You ARE a bitch. Now get out of my face."

To Phoebe: "Kiss my  ass."

To all of them: "Fuck you. I survived. I made something of myself in spite of you. You are nothing to me."


"I forgive you."

If only I could.

Many, many years later, I was at a nightclub in Houma over the Christmas holidays when I saw one of my old tormenters in the ladies room. I knew she couldn't hurt me, probably wouldn't, but my body reacted the way it always had. My pulse raced, my palms sweat. I was frozen in fear as I stood in line to pee. She saw me and approached me.

"Lori," she said. "I owe you such an apology. We were so mean to you when we were little. I don't even know why. So. I'm sorry."

I was stunned.

"Thank you," I said. "That means a lot to me."

Then she left.

Many years after that, on the day my child was being born to another woman in my hometown, that same girl was one of the duty nurses. She was as nice and as pleasant and as helpful as she could be. I had no fear of her, no anger, no hate. It was like we were old friends. She actually went out of her way to help us, the lost and terrified potential adoptive parents. And I was nothing but grateful to her and for her.

And right there, I won.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

In that number

They used to call it "throwing a bone."

Back at the newspaper I used to work for, in the career I used to have. Back in the day when the Men in Ties had money and resources and didn't care how they used them. Back at the old Times-Picayune, when we had a whole lot of sports reporters and everybody had their beats --  Saints. LSU. Tulane. State colleges. Boxing. Baseball. Recreation. Fish. And Preps. (Pretty much in that order, too.)

After I wormed my way from agate clerk to day time clerk, I became the recreation writer. I was the Queen of New Orleans softball for a while. Then I moved to Preps, and to the Arctic Outpost known as the River Parishes Bureau, where I spent 21 years covering high school sports in St. John, St. Charles and St. James parishes -- or, as I like to call them, The Other Saints.

And that's what you did and who you were. The Saints guys went to the Saints games on Sundays. The college guys traveled all over Tarnation covering LSU and Tulane. The Outdoors writer went duck hunting and fishing and got paid for it.

Me? I got to go to tiny burgs like Iota and Famerville and Vacherie, eat all the jambalaya I wanted, freeze my ass off with all species of spiders and bugs, get heckled by disgruntled grandmothers and cover high schools. I also got to interview the likes of Eli and Peyton Manning,  Mike Scifres, Laron and Dawan Landry and Ed Reed before they were millionaires.

But occasionally, one of the six sports editors we had over my 26 years there would "throw a bone" and ask one of the college guys to cover a Saints game, or ask one of us Preps guys to cover a college. Or, the rarity, ask one of the Preps guys to cover the Saints. But never me.

No. Not one of the six Men in Ties who led the Sports Department in my career ever looked past the room and to the Arctic Outpost and said, "Hey Lori! How 'bout you come cover a Saints game on Sunday?"

Super Bowls. New Orleans Bowls, LSU baseball games. Zephyrs baseball games (which I absolutely loved but everybody else kind of hated). Crescent City Classics. The Dick Vitale Sound-Alike Contest. Beach Volleyball. Soccer.  Yes. But never the Saints.

So last week when a sports editor buddy of mine in another city -- and I don't know if he wears a tie or not -- asked me to string for him and go cover last Sunday's season opener, I said --- "Are you kidding me?"

I didn't exactly jump at the chance. It's not that I was afraid of the work. I know I can write a story about anything. On deadline.  Hell, two weeks ago I wrote about wood pellets for the Louisiana Forestry Department. It's not that I've never been to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. I've been there plenty of times and I know my way to the press box.

It was just, well, intimidating. I haven't been to a Saints game since about 1992, back when they weren't very good and tickets were cheap and easy.

But after mulling it over for a few days, I decided -- Oh, why the hell not? I've never done it. I don't know how many chances I'll get. This was the Saints vs. the Falcons, the biggest rivalry in the NFL. The season-opener.

And, well, did I mention that I AM unemployed?

So after swallowing butterflies for days, I was up and early on Sunday morning to await the arrival of a fellow sports writer -- a veteran -- who was bringing me my press pass and agreed to let me ride with him to the Dome. Two hours after his announced arrival time, he did, giving us about an hour to fight New Orleans traffic and get to the Dome before kickoff.

Yeah. We kind of made it.

At one point along the way, my companion handed me my pass and I busied myself  attaching it to my self-made freelancer's ID lanyard and watching outside my window as the sea of black and gold Who Dats made their way to the Dome. And watched the clock.

At about 11:55, we finally got into the parking garage where my companion promptly didn't find his spot but one with some of the numbers on his parking pass. Close enough. So we got out and ran to the media gate, me in heels; him not.  I kept running, even after I hit a hole in the chipped concrete and rolled an ankle. The workers at the gate were very accomodating, recognizing that we were very late. So they wanded us quickly and checked our bags. (Yes, reporters are exempt from that stupid clear plastic baggie rule.)

Then we had to get past the press gate, where they checked our passes. My companion went ahead and breezed through. Me? Not so much. The security guard scanned my pass and said, "It's expired."

"Excuse me?"

Turns out, my companion had handed me a pass from an already-played pre-season game against the Kansas City Chiefs, not today's game against the Atlanta Falcons.


My companion then busied himself taking the blame for the mistake and urging the security folks to replace the old pass with the right one which, he explained, was in his car. (He didn't tell them it was parked in the wrong spot, however.) They did.

Meanwhile, Saints Coach Sean Payton was leading the traditional Who Dat pre-game chant with beloved former Saint Steve Gleason, who is living his life with ALS and teaching us all how to stop bitching about ours. It was very, very loud.

The next few minutes were spent taking the sloooooooow elevator ride up the press box and finding out where I was supposed to sit -- Auxiliary Press Box. I was lucky to be seated next to my sports buddy Chris who works for my hometown paper and is my Facebook and Twitter friend.  Then I tried to catch my breath, stop sweating (I thought everybody said it was cold up there), rolled my ankle to make sure it wasn't broken and get my bearings. Whew. I was there. Here.

If you lean forward, it's just like being there. Really.

I looked around and saw a bunch of folks I knew --  the press box crew I know so well from my 22 years of covering high school championship games in the Dome, local media folks, former co-workers, the PA announcer who tells all the press what's going on because nobody's watching the game, fellow members of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association and a few people that sports diehards would consider famous. I spent most of halftime hugging and kissing old friends, many of whom knew it was my first Saints game as a reporter thanks to a Facebook status that got 94 likes.

I watched the game, I took some notes, I watched the big screens as the Who Dats danced and acted silly,  I thanked the stats guys as they handed me updates after each quarter, I stood in line at the one ladies room, and I tried to get my stupid iPhone to work, but both my Twitter and Facebook apps were frozen. I did take a few photos and chat with Chris.  We talked about how, the Friday night before, I had covered one football game for three different outlets -- two newspapers and a web site. I do that just about every Friday night.

"You're a beast," he said. And it was a great compliment.

Everybody else had their laptops open. Some of them were working, but from my vantage point on the top row, it looked like most of them were watching their fantasy football teams. I texted my husband, who asked if I was having fun.

"It's just like high school but more of them and they're better dressed," I replied.

Then I realized that half of the people up there probably could not do what guys like Chris and I do on a Friday night -- carry our own equipment up to Row Z in the stadium, fight the spiders and the bugs and the TV and radio people who like to spread out, keep their own stats and play-by-play while live-tweeting, Facebooking and blogging, get their own post-game quotes, add it all up and knock out a story from inside their car on deadline with sweat dripping in your eyes. Some of them just have hair and makeup people.

(I know this is getting long, just bear with me. There's more!)

So, the game winds down and I figure out what my little sidebar story will be (Marques Colston) and I see folks rushing toward the elevator. Unlike on Friday nights, I don't really need to rush. But by the time I get to the elevator, there is a line. A long, long line, of men and women (mostly men), famous people and grunts like me, trying to get down to the bowels of the Dome. They let us in about eight at a time (depending on who's in there), but we do get bumped for the Falcons coaches (who do not look very happy), some NFL officials and other people much more important than us.

Eventually, I do make it down to the bottom, following my old editor Ted and my friend Chris to where, I presume, I'm supposed to go.  At one point, everybody takes a right so I do too -- right into the Saints locker room.

Now, I've been doing this 26 years. I've been in locker rooms, mostly empty ones. Interviews with high school kids are done on the field after the game and in the coach's office or the training room before. College players and coaches are brought to the interview room. The Zephyrs used to let me stand outside the locker room in a little cubbyhole we called my office. Everybody was happier.   I don't even go in my husband's locker room. They smell. Like locker rooms. And there are naked men in there. Yes, there were. I really didn't need to see that. I just wanted a few quotes.

So, I extricate myself as delicately as possible with help from the Saints PR guy, who says, "Since you're new, you might want to go to the interview room down the hall."

Yes. Yes I would, thank you. So I did.

An hour or so later, I head back up to the press box armed with a digital recorder full of quotes. An hour or so after that, I'm done with my little story on Marques Colston becoming the Saints all-time leading passer. An hour after that, I am so hungry I could eat a Superdome hotdog without regret as I wait for my companion to finish his second story of the day.

But I take a moment to appreciate the fact that I got to do this at least once, even if it did take 26 years.

It was worth the wait.

You can read my story here: Marques Colston's record breaking catch gets Saints back in the game

Friday, September 6, 2013

The truth hurts

When I was about 6 years old, my mother entered me in Houma's Little Miss Merry Christmas pageant. Actually, I was in it twice.

 I don't remember much of the first one. I remember the gorgeous dress my mom got me. It was midnight blue velvet with rabbit fur trim on the bottom and had a matching bonnet and a white rabbit fur muff (which I think I still have in my old keepsake trunk).

I didn't win.

The next year, I wore the same dress. Without the bonnet and without the muff. I wore white elbow length gloves instead. I remember a little more about that one. At one point we walked around in a big circle so the judges could see our "poise."  I made the finals. Then we had to stand on the stage, under the hot lights for the longest time, smiling. Just smiling.

Future reporter that I was, I watched the judges very carefully. I watched one man judge and one woman judge actually argue over me. The man wanted me to win. The lady wanted another girl to win. They argued over it for a long time -- it actually got a little heated, in fact. I know I was really starting to get tired. My mouth ached from holding my pageant smile forever.

I was the first runner up.

Later, when I told my parents and my grandmother about what happened, they kind of smiled at me and nodded indulgently.  They didn't believe me. And it broke my little heart

Well, how would they know? They were in the audience. BEHIND the judges. I was in front of them for what seemed like an eternity. And I swear that really happened. I became extremely frustrated that no one believed me. That might have hurt more than the fact that I didn't quite meet someone's standards of beauty and poise.

As my prize that night, I got a nice shiny loving cup and a dozen plastic roses (Yep. Still have both). I also got a lovely little Christmas charm bracelet that I absolutely adored.

Some time later (months? a year or so?) I very proudly decided to wear it to school. But at some point during recess, the clasp came loose and it fell off my wrist. A little while later, I noticed it on the wrist of an older girl. A Mean Girl.

I asked her to give it back. She said it was hers.

Near tears, I went to the teacher on duty, told her what was going on. She went to the girl and asked about the bracelet. The Mean Girl told the teacher that it was hers, that a relative had given it to her. I told her it was mine, that I had won it in a pageant.

The teacher didn't believe me. The Mean Girl actually laughed at me. Like I could ever be in a pageant and almost win. She didn't even know that two judges had nearly come to blows over me.

And it broke my little heart.

I remember both of those incidents as if they had happened yesterday. I can almost still feel the pain  of watching that girl walk away with my bracelet, knowing that I had lost, knowing that an adult had chosen her truth over mine. Once again, I didn't measure up.

 It hurt like hell.

Still kind of does, in fact.

Now, I'm not going to say I've never lied in my life. Sure I have:

I turned in my book report!
I don't know what happened.
Of course I'm old enough to drink.
I was home all night.
The check is in the mail.
I'm a size 10.
Yes, this is my natural color.
I'm busy.
It was great.
Even, "I love you too."

And I was believed.

But more than once, when it really, really mattered, I wasn't.

Just as I was told it would happen.

So I've told these stories to my own daughter, who is still in that "let's see what I can get away with" stage of adolescence. The child has looked me in the eye and said she didn't have homework, she did clean her room and she didn't drink the last soft drink in the fridge. I tell her that one day she's going to be really sick at school and need me to come get her and I won't. I try to tell her that she needs to tell the truth now so I'll believe her later. Trust is hard to gain, easy to lose and even harder to get back.

But the fact is, someday she will tell someone the truth about something that really, really matters,  and they won't believe her.  Someone will choose another truth over hers and break her heart.

I just hope it won't be me.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Her name was Samantha

All I ever wanted was for her to be safe.

From the day I left her mother sitting in an attorney's office and clutching the hand of the man she loved, I never knew if she was. I had no chance.

Just 19 days before she might have become ours to care for, her mother returned to her father, the man who had abandoned her, who left his partner and his unborn child to fend for themselves in a strange town, with strangers. It was left to us to care for them, as best we could, making sure they had a home and food and clothing and proper medical care.

But when he came back with promises of love and forever, we were lost. And so was the baby girl we would have named Elle and had already started to love.

We spent the next 12 years not knowing. Anything. How she was, where she was. Were they taking care of her? Was she safe? Was she happy?

Until one day last year when, on a whim, I typed a name into a search engine and found her mother. And her. Not Elle, but Samantha.  Blonde, blue-eyed, beautiful, about to turn 12 just like our daughter. But most important, safe. And seemingly happy.

My mind and my heart could finally rest. I knew she was well. I could wonder no more.

Until, for some strange reason, this week.

I searched again. And found another photo. This one of the same young girl, Samantha, lying in a hospital bed, her blond hair pulled back behind her on the pillow, her blue eyes closed, a tube in her mouth. And prayers from her family to their angel. In heaven.

The girl who would have been Elle died on June 12 in a hospital in Alabama. She had been riding a bicycle when she lost control. She received internal injuries, which led to sepsis, which led to her death one week after her accident. She was still 12 years old.

And my heart broke a little.

It broke for the young girl, just one month older than my daughter, who left this earth much, much too soon, who had so much of a life left to live. It broke for all the pain and suffering she had to endure. It broke for all the promises that were broken.

And it broke for her mother, the woman who almost gave her baby to me, who said time and again that she didn't want that baby, didn't need that baby, couldn't care for that baby.

But things happen.  Some say they happen for a reason. Maybe it was meant to be. Maybe I wasn't supposed to have Kim's baby. I was supposed to have the one I have. Maybe Kim was supposed to have hers, keep hers, love hers because it only would be for a little while. 

All along, as we danced around the potential adoption, all we both ever wanted was for that baby  to be safe.

That's the one thing we didn't get.

Click to read the blog post: Her name was Elle

Thursday, July 25, 2013


 My friend Daniell is counting days.

In just a few short weeks, she and her family and wealth of friends will mark the one year anniversary of the death of her husband, Brandon. He was one of two St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff's deputies killed in the line of duty last August, murdered by madmen with machine guns for no apparent reason.

Although she needed no reminder of the date, the last time I saw my friend I tried -- gently -- to get her to prepare herself for the inevitable onslaught-to-come of anniversary stories on the news and in the newspapers. And, because I know how we work, the slew of media interview requests sure to come as the date approaches.

"I can't believe it's been a year already," she said.

Me neither.

But a year has indeed gone by. A year of birthdays, holidays, and just plain old Mondays. And they have flown by, seemingly in an instant. But not the grief. The grief goes slowly.

I have been amazed by her grace every day of the last year, including that one. I imagine myself in that situation. On the floor. Screaming. Never wanting to get up. I feel that way sometimes now and all I lost was my job.

But she got up that day and every day since. She goes to work. She smiles at strangers. She holds their hands and makes their nails look pretty. She rubs my feet (when I let her). She runs (a lot). And she helps the world remember her husband. 

But the grief never leaves.

It was 12 years ago today that I got that dreaded phone call in the middle of the night, telling me that my big brother had driven off a lonely highway and into a bayou down in the toes of Louisiana's boot. He had been on his way to the annual Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo for a weekend of fun and fishing. Then he took his eyes off the road for just a second. And he wasn't wearing his seat belt.

I have spent the last 12 years trying to remind the world - or at least my blog followers and Facebook friends -- that I did, indeed, once have a big brother named Rhett, who picked on me and teased me and made me believe in the Boogie Man. That there once was a man who loved rock and roll and played mean drums on his dashboard. And fishing. And his wife and kids. I never want him to be forgotten.

Some may get tired of the annual ode to my brother and my memories of him. If so, feel free to move along. It's how I remember him. And it's how I grieve. And I still do.

He was my brother. The man who walked me down the aisle at my wedding, who stood there and said (enthusiastically) "I Do," when asked "Who gives this woman?" Who got sick later that night (heh heh). Who held my head the first time I threw up after drinking too much. Who drank vinegar and pickle juice. Who laughed when I fell in the bayou and told me the alligators were going to eat me. Who made my uncle let him jump ship the night we said farewell to our father, so he could be by my side.  Who showed me the shooting star across the sky. Who dropped everything to come to the hospital to wait with me as another woman gave birth to my child.

And he was gone much, much too soon.

So we have a date on the calendar, circled. Marked forever. And this weekend is the annual Tarpon Rodeo in Grand Isle, forever reminding us of where he was going, what he should have been doing.

But we need no reminders. It's only been 12 years. Already.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Solve for x


Since being laid off from my job as an erstwhile news and sports reporter/overqualified clerk for The (some) Times-Picayune roughly eight months ago, I have pondered my future.

According to those who employed me for 26 years, it isn't very bright. The newspaper business is dying, they said. The digital age is destroying it, they said. And I can't keep up, they said.

Or else I'm too old.

And there aren't very many other games in town.

So I've had to take stock. Consider my options. It may be time to change professions.  There is a Dollar General across the street from my house. A deli next door. A Subway around the corner.  I did consider going into the funeral business. I mean, they'll never be put out of business. Right?

The truth is, a part of my heart has always wanted to teach. From the time I was a little girl who played school with my grandparents in their kitchen, I was drawn to teaching.  I pretended to be my own elementary school teachers -- well, some of them.  I imagined my classroom with bright bulletin boards. I imagined the bright faces of my students. Later I imagined a book-lined office in a college hall.

Although I always wanted to be a writer  -- a journalist -- in the back of my mind I also wanted to teach. So, after switching my major from Communications to English, I minored in Secondary Education.  The only thing I didn't do was student teach and take the old NTE exam.

I should have.

Because now, if I want to teach (and I really, really do), I have to pass the Praxis exam.

And I can't.

No. Seriously. I mean I really can't.

Oh. I breezed through the English and writing portions with no problems, getting my required 175 (plus) on the first try. But the math is another story entirely.

On my first try, I got a 173 -- just two points shy of the requirement. One more good guess and I might have made it. I actually felt pretty good about it. I mean, I knew there were some that I got right. I'm not a total idiot. But some of the questions were completely foreign to me.

 I had to wait 30 days to try again. In the mean time, my husband, The Coach, The Special Education Teacher/Coach, and my 12-year-old daughter tutored me. Mostly, they just laughed at me and my inability to solve for x. Or y. Or z. Or just about anything else for that matter.                                                                                                       \
 I just can't do it. I look at the graphs, the charts, the x's and the y's, and it might as well be written in Russian. (I didn't say Greek because I actually took two semesters of Greek and can read it a little.)  I just can't wrap my brain around math. It makes no sense.

I mean I can add (a little). And substract (some). I can even multiply and divide.  I have been figuring out yards per carry, batting averages and time of possession for two decades. But when somebody asks me what time Train A traveling at 50 miles per hour and Train B traveling at 70 miles per hour are going to meet, I ask, "What time is deadline?"

And ask for Cool Whip if you offer me "pi."

And yet, the Powers That Be at The Times-Picayune put me in charge of the cash drawer in the River Parishes Bureau. Sort of explains why now they are The Sometimes Picayune. But I digress.

This is nothing new.   I started to struggle in math in elementary school. My mom got me a tutor in junior high.  I still failed Algebra I. And II.  Thank God there were no LEAP tests in my day or I might still be in the sixth grade.  I did have to take the ACT, of course. I scored a 34 in English! And a 13 in Math. Thankfully,  I only had to take one college math course, and I think the professor gave me the D I got.

I had told my husband these stories, and he certainly knew I was mathematically challenged. It's why he took over the checkbook long ago. But he really had no idea of the depth and breadth of my problem until we sat together at our dining room table with the Praxis book and the practice tests. I won't try to recreate the conversations here. I'll just tell you that, on more than one occasion, he gave me that look that says, "Seriously?"


And on my second attempt, I got a 169. Yes, I went backwards. And I knew it even before I hit the "report scores" button.

But, apparently, there are Powers That Be who think I can't teach young children how to punctuate and capitalize their sentences unless I can find x and y. So I must try again for that elusive 175. And again. And perhaps again.

But there is hope. Today my husband came home and told me that he has found me a tutor, one who (I hope) will not give me "that look" or laugh at me when I can't find the x. That's probably a good thing, otherwise the Coach might become one.