Thursday, January 30, 2014

Thirteen

If you're a regular visitor to The Lyons Din, you'll notice a few changes around here.

I've updated my bio just a bit so you have a little better idea of who I am and what you're dealing with. It's shorter. More to the point. I tried to be brief.

There just isn't room to tell you all that I am a crazy woman who is still dealing with the fact that I got laid off from the job I love last year, who has tried to find something new with her life but keeps getting stuck in quicksand, who now spends her days waiting for her mother-in-law, who still chases high school boys (and girls) with her digital recorder and writes for anyone who will pay me to do so.

Who has a husband who cheats on me with his mistress named Baseball; a kooky mama who, despite being 80 years old, commutes from the suburbs to the French Quarter of New Orleans where she reads Tarot cards and tea leaves for locals and tourists alike (and if you're famous, she probably won't recognize you); a very cranky live-in mother-in-law who requires much care, much patience and many drugs; two grown step children I didn't mess up too badly and who have grown into fine, upstanding (mostly) adults;

And a teenager.

Wait. What?

Yes. A teenager.

On Sunday, January 26th, my baby girl transitioned from the Snarky Tween to, officially, a Snarky Teenager.

Lord help me.

Not that much will change, mind you. Regardless of her biological age, she's had this whole snarky thing down for quite a while. She has perfected the eye roll, the "tsk," the smirk and the foot stomp (she doesn't really slam doors because, well, that's sorta my thing), the staying up 'till dawn and sleeping til 3 in the afternoon thing,  the unmade bed thing and the dirty clothes all over the floor thing, the eating nothing but macaroni and cheese thing.

 But I knew she was getting close to teenagerhood when she started taking showers every day, sometimes twice a day. And leaving the towels on the floor.

To mark the occasion of her 13th birthday, she decided she wanted to have a little party at the house on Saturday. She invited some girls to sleep over, and she wanted a Doctor Who theme. Yes, we've transitioned from Disney princesses to mermaids to Kim Possible to American Idol wannabe to Miley Cyrus (lawd) to Harry Potter to Doctor Who. There were supposed to be some boys there (NOT to sleep over), but there was a Monster Truck rally in New Orleans that night.

Me? I know virtually nothing about The Doctor and the TV show. I think I've watched one episode and her insistence. But I have The Internet and me, being me, I had to do it right.

So, we went down to the local furniture store and asked for a big refrigerator box. I took her to the hardware store where she picked out the perfect shade of Tardis blue. Then we went to work.

Thank you Haydel's Furniture store!
                                               













And, she being my kid, it had to be right. (For the purists, we did add the little ambulance circle later.)

A short time later, she posted these photos on her Instagram account. Shortly after that, a kid replied, "No way! That's yours!" To which she replied, "Heck yeah it's mine."

And this was her cake:
Created by the fabulous Angie Poche Parsons of Luling, LA

We then spent the night eating chips and pizza and watching Sharknado, After Coach and I went to bed, they stayed up all night giggling and writing messages to their past and future selves on the walls of our homemade Tardis.

And as she counted her 13 candles, I counted my blessings: How lucky I am to have found this child, to have been given the opportunity -- no, the privilege -- of being her parent, her mom.  How blessed I am that her first mother chose me,  trusted me, believed in me, gave her to me.  And how thrilled I am to have been able to make her dreams come true for a day.

Because she made mine come true 13 years ago.







Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Class of 80



It has been nearly 34 years since I graduated with the Terrebonne High School Class of 1980 in the then-small town of Houma, Louisiana.

It's a quiet little town where everybody knows lots of people and somebody knows everybody. That usually made it hard to get into too much trouble. Back in our day, we were happy to have a Burger King,a McDonald's and Shakey's Pizza Parlor.  Now it has an Outback, an Applebee's, a Hooter's and a bunch of sushi places. It also has more than a few places to get really good, hot boiled crabs.

Let me say right off that we were nothing like the Swamp People guys you see on TV, although all of us can probably say we did know people like them and maybe some of us have turned into people like them over the years. Yes, I did grow up with alligators in the bayou in my back yard, but I never tried to catch them or play with them or make them into pets. I didn't kill them, either. As long as they didn't mess with me, I didn't mess with them.

We did have a boat, but my parents never let me just take it for a spin. My brother did, often, and frequently came back paddling it after breaking a shear pin on the trip. I did know one or two boys who liked to hunt alligators and other things. And some of us do have funny accents. But the only time we wore camouflage was the week we played South Terrebonne in football and we did it to make fun of them. (Sorry, y'all.)

Although we were aware of current events, we were not a political bunch. Back then there was no Left or Right. Women's Rights were still on the table. So were Abortion Rights. Some things were still segregated by habit, if not by law. There was no such thing as Gay Rights. Being Gay was not. It was a joke, a rumor to be spread, an accusation to be hurled.

 Like I said, it was a small town. And it was a different time.  There was no Fox News,  just channels 4, 6, 8 and 12 --  until cable was invented and some of us got HBO.

We grew up on shows like the Brady Bunch and Gilligan's Island and Dark Shadows. We watched cartoons on Saturday mornings and (fake) wrestling on Sundays. We learned our multiplication, our civics and our grammar from School House Rock.

We were a wacky bunch of middle class kids, who grew up with the Vietnam War on our televisions and protests in the streets, back when the Russians were our mortal enemies -- until the Hostage Crisis in Iran. We formed our own chapter of the Southhampton Yacht Club and had regular meetings on the front lawn at school. We wore Hawaiian shirts and brought picnic lunches and lawn chairs. The band combo performed. A guy made a guest appearance dressed as the Ayatollah.

 Back then we could legally drink at the age of 18, and we did, torturing our systems with beer and bourbon and Boone's Farm Tickled Pink in the middle of the cane fields. We didn't have cell phones or text messaging back then, so us girls sat around our houses quite a lot, waiting for the telephone to ring. And when we did leave, pretty much the only place to go was the Mall.

We didn't have GPS either, but no one ever got lost in our hometown. A few did once they left, however.

And we've lost quite a few since 1980. I don't know the exact number. I don't know if we are above or below the average. To us, of course, it's too many. Car accidents. Boating accidents. Cancer. Murder. One died in a horrific disco fire that was deliberately set. One was murdered in his home  -- a crime still unsolved, I believe.

Thanks to my former job at the newspaper, where I read wire copy A LOT, I was able to keep up with some of these happenings. I don't know how the rest did.  Our class officers keep track so that we can have a little memorial to them at our reunions. I guess the rest was just through word of mouth.

But now we have Facebook, where most of us gather to share pictures of our children, our grandchildren, our views on guns and gays, Swamp People, Duck Dynasty and the current president. But we are able to keep up with each other now that time and fate or pure dumb luck has spread us around the world. It also makes our reunions a lot more fun. At our last one, our 30th, I barely had to introduce my husband to anyone. He walked in and was greeted by many as, "Coach!" Then he spent most of the night hanging out in a hallway with a couple of former football players while I tried to recognize the faces inside.

But we also use it keep up with our losses.

I got a message from a longtime classmate the other day, letting me know that we had lost one of our own, a girl I met in the first days of elementary school, who journeyed with me right up until the May day when we all sat -- sweating -- on the football field in our crimson and gold gowns, with bright shiny futures ahead of us. She was a mom, a grandmother, a nurse, a Houma girl who loved to fish.

Throughout the recent Christmas holidays, she had battled pneumonia, then the flu. Sometime Saturday night she simply slipped away. Her name was Julie. She was 51.

So am I.

This one hurts -- not that the others did not. But this one is really the first one I was witness too, in a manner of speaking.  It is anguishing to see her write "I can only think that 2014 is going to be awesome!!" on her timeline, only to see her friends writing "Rest in peace" a few days later. Just days later...

And there are more losses to come. There are others among us waging wars against time, harmful invaders, and their own bodies. Some fight their battles privately while others choose to share their wins and losses so we can cheer them on.

We're not ready for any of them to leave. We are not ready to see the faces of the children we chased on the playground and passed our homework to and danced next to at prom in the obituaries. We are not ready to be among them when there are careers to finish and children to raise and grandchildren to enjoy and destinations to reach and Bucket Lists to finish.

 And whether we see them or not, speak with them or not, we all feel better just knowing that our friends  are somewhere -- anywhere -- in the world, and can always come back home.

We are too young. At least, in our minds we are.





Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy



It took me 51 3/4 years and a little bit of journaling to come to a major realization about myself:

I have spent most of my life trying to make other people happy.

I spent the first 50-something years of my life trying to please my mother, trying earn her approval, her praise, her acceptance. For whatever reasons, I always felt like I failed at that. I felt like I always fell short, did something wrong, never had a good or a clever idea, never lived up to her expectations.

Now for the past year I have tried to please my mother-in-law. I've made her comfortable, given her a room in my house, a comfortable chair, a bed, closet space, a big screen TV, food, table service, health care and transportation, all in an effort to make her happy.

And I have failed miserably. Nothing -- and I do mean nothing -- I do makes her happy. She hates my house (too old), our routines (not set enough), our lifestyles (no routines), my husband's job (gone all the time), my freelancing (you go upstairs to work), my parenting (too much to list), my refrigerator, (can't open it), my cooking (too much to list), the pool (it's outside) and my living room (too bright. She has to wear sunglasses).

She also has pretty much hated every attempt I have made to make her life easier, from the way I arrange her room to the way I try to organize her chair-side table.

Along the way in my life's journey I have to please lots of other people --  other family members, teachers, friends, lovers, coaches, bosses, editors, newspaper readers, blog readers, my few book readers, my neighbors, my fellow citizens, and even complete strangers.

I've probably failed them too.

I shared this new discovery of mine with my snarky soon-to-be-teenager (Wait. WHAT??) this afternoon, and said, "I need to stop worrying about everybody else and just worry about making myself happy."

To which my snarky soon-to-be-teenager replied: "What makes you happy, mom?"

Wait. What??

"What makes you happy?"

Well...

Her. When she sings. When she draws beautiful pictures.  When she writes. When she laughs. When she hugs me. When she kisses me. When she sits in my lap. When she crawls into bed and snuggles with me.

My husband. When he's home. When he's not snoring. When he's curled up next to me in bed. When he's washing the dishes. When he's cleaning the pool. When he remembers. When he goes to the grocery. When he fills my car up with gas. When he's in his uniform and coaching third. When he doesn't lose.

My step kids. When they acknowledge me as one of their parents. When they include me in their lives.

My dogs.  Lola when she's fighting with her toys or the pillows we gave up and let her have. When she's curled up in my lap all warm and adorable. Leigheaux, when he's jumping up and down (literally) because he knows we're going for a walk.

Walking. When it's a gorgeous cold day. When it's a hot, muggy day.  When the iPod gods shuffle my diverse library of music and give me a great playlist that makes me dance. When people wave at me as they go by. When the local cop tells my husband he things I'm hardcore because I do it every day. When people tell me they wish they had my dedication.

My pool. When it's crystal clear and a perfect blue and all the plants are in bloom. When day turns to dusk and all my solar lights start to light up as the sun sets in the back yard.

Then there's:

My hammock ... Naps in my hammock ... Boiled crabs ... Bailey's Irish Cream ... Margarita daiquiris ... Lemon drop martinis ... Pensacola Beach ... The color of the water in Pensacola Beach ... Playing the piano ... Christmas music ... 80s music ... Roses ...  Chocolate covered cherries ... Birthdays ... Birthday cake... A good steak ... A good hamburger ... A good book ...  My DVR ... The Norco Christmas parade ... My home office ... Dragonflies ... A song I haven't heard in forever ... Singing it ... Good hair days ... A clean house ... Cool sheets ... Family dinners ... Having everybody home ... Good friends ... Laughing... Crying ... Writing something really good ... Seeing my book on a shelf ... Having someone tell me they enjoyed it ...

And yes, making other people happy makes me happy.

So does Taco Bell.. But, like Taco Bell,  making other people happy seems to be bad for me. I have to give it up. It simply can't be done. Not anymore.

I now know that I can't make my mom happy. She has to make herself happy.

I can't make my mother-in-law happy. She has to make herself happy..

I can't make my husband happy.  I just seem to do that naturally (and well).

The rest of you are on your own too.

I hope you're happy.