A blog by Lori Lyons

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Retired tired

Image result for you're out cartoon

In the spring of 2014, my husband decided not to do the job he loves anymore.

He had spent 25 years coaching high school baseball at five different schools, the last 15 at Destrehan High School.

At the time, I had been laid off from my full time job as a sports writer for the big city daily newspaper and was spending nearly all my time as a caretaker for his elderly mom. If you're a regular reader of this little blog, you know what a full time job that was. He felt a little guilty about putting the lion's share of the work on me but, truthfully, he just wasn't enjoying himself very much. Too many coaches in his dugout, too many runners on the bases of his mind, you know.

But shortly after the Coach made his decision and his announcement, his mom passed away. Well, he couldn't very well go back and say, "Um. Never mind," could he? So he retired. Not from his "other job" of teaching, mind you, just the baseball part.

But for the past five years, everyone I bump into has asked me, "How's Marty enjoying his retirement?"

I patiently explained that he was, in fact, still working for a living, still teaching special education students, just not coaching.

Then he went and got himself a summer job coaching a very good American Legion team and that started a whole new bunch of conversations.

"I see Marty came out of retirement!"

Well, sorta.

Then, over the summer, he finally did retire. For real. As a teacher. He got the jacket and the certificate (but not the money yet) and everything.

So now I'm getting a whole new bunch of conversations beginning with "How's Marty enjoying his retirement?"

To which I reply: "We are going to be divorced any minute."


You see, for the past decade, while you and I were watching all those funny videos on Facebook and You Tube, my husband was teaching students and/or coaching baseball. Up at 5 a.m. (every damn day) and at school for 6:30 a.m. and not home sometimes until 8 or 9 p.m., he didn't have time to check his Twitter or his Instagram and see what was going on in the world.

But boy, he does now.

See, God didn't bless my husband with woodworking skills or car fixing skills or, really, any kind of fixin' skills. He likes his grass green and his pool blue and that's about it. He doesn't have a shop or a garage, just a room with a bunch of his awards.

He does sleep in a little more -- usually until 7 a.m. -- and then he goes downstairs to sit in his cozy chair next to his cozy fire (once he gets the poodle out of it), and he spends the next several hours catching up on all the fun stuff he has missed over the last decade.

Remember the whale that was caught in the fishing nets and the nice guy in the boat used his pocketknife to cut him loose? The goofy kids who turned the airport escalators into a bunch of sporting events? The evolution of dance?

He's just seeing them. And he wants to show me, too.

Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of saying, "I've seen it."

So, while he sits in his chair in the early morning hours, I stay upstairs. I have a nice, warm comfortable bed and a friendly little poodle to keep me company. I also have a little work-at-home office up here, where I can watch the newest viral videos and whatever else I want.

Once I'm done with my "work," I go downstairs to hang out with him for a few hours. Then, when 9 p.m. rolls around and he's ready to call it a night, he goes upstairs and I take over the living room.

Hey. It works.

He does get a little antsy at times, though. He misses the camaraderie of his fellow teachers and some of his students. So, when he's bored he goes out and Uber drives for a couple of hours, giving tips and advice to tourists and locals alike.

As for me, I'm still only partly employed as a freelancer for the newspaper I used to work for and the one that bought it. I also work as a substitute teacher at the local high school, which means I'm the one getting up at 5 a.m. and getting to school at 6:30. And the first thing everyone asks me is, "How is Marty enjoying his retirement?"

Friday, August 9, 2019

Letting her go

When Lora Leigh was about 2 years old, we took her to the local church fair for some fun and games.

When we got to the area folks had set up their lawn chairs to listen to the bands play, I put my little girl down so she could dance to the music.

Well, my little girl turned into a pink Tasmanian Devil.

She took off and never looked back.

My curly haired girl went to the middle of the circle of chairs and danced her little tushy off, turning herself in dizzying circles. She never once turned around to see where her dad and I were -- or if we even were still there.

We never let her out of our sight, mind you, and we moved ourselves to keep up with her. The few times I did try to catch her little arm to pull her back to my safety, she shrugged me off and kept going around in circles. "No, Ma," she seemed to be saying. "I don't need you. Let me go."

And, although she won't say them, those are the words my heart will hear next week when I drop her off at college five hours away.

"Let me go."

I know I have to. It's her time to leave the nest and fly on her own. She's smart, practical, mature, ready.  But that doesn't make it any easier on my heart. I waited so long to get her.

We've both spent the last few months preparing for this moment. She by leaving the house as often as possible or hiding in her room. Me by reminding myself that this is what it's going to be like without her.

One day I had a brief conversation with her through her bedroom door. At the end I palmed the wood with love and said, "I'm sure going to miss talking to this door."

And I'm going to miss the little trail of personal items she leaves from the front door to the door of her room -- keys, shoes, purse, headphones, whatever she just bought at the store.

And the products all over the counter in the bathroom because 1) she is a product junkie and 2) everything MUST be within reach and not hidden away in some cabinet.

And the five different shampoos and conditioners in the shower.

And the wet towels on my bedroom chair.

And her dishes in the sink.

And the sound of her beautiful voice singing in the shower.

And her asking "Mom, will you straighten my hair?"

But I also miss the little girl who wore nothing but pink, who lived in a pink room and drank pink milk out of her bottle. Cold.

I miss the pink ball of energy and excitement who explored the world with such enthusiasm. I used to love to take her to the mall. She never was a "I want that" kind of kid, but she would shout to the world "Look at the pink shoes!" And everybody did.

I miss the little girl who had her dad trained to go get a damn balloon first thing when we walked in the doors at Walmart. Then we could shop in peace.

I miss the little girl who made us laugh so often, with quips like, "Mom, I have a memory like a hippopotamus."

I miss the little girl who went to baseball games from the time she was two weeks old but couldn't tell you the first thing about the game until last summer when she discovered that boys played it.

I miss her curls.

I miss the silly songs.

The many, many costumes.

I miss watching The Wizard of Oz over and over and over and over.

And Pocahontas

The little girl who wanted to be a mermaid.

I miss the bedtime stories.

I miss the cuddles in the morning.

I can only wonder what things she will miss about me and her dad and home. Me straightening her hair, for sure. And Sunday roast.

Someone with much better math skills than I and much more time on their hands figured out that, from the time we have a child to the time they leave for college, we only have 940 Saturdays to spend with our children.

All I did was blink and I have one left.

Then I will pack up my car and hers with a whole bunch of stuff she needs and a whole bunch more that she doesn't and take her someplace else to live. Without me.

I will try to just watch as she unpacks it all and decorates her room. I will take her to Walmart for one more run for last minute things.

Then I will let her go.

And try not look back.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Lessons learned

Throughout the country, tired, overworked and underpaid school teachers are going through an annual rite of passage they all hate -- packing up their classrooms.

Some do it because they're moving from one class to another or even to another school. Some are forced to because some underpaid custodian is going to come wax the floors this summer. And some are just giving up and moving out.

I'm kind of in that last category.

Two weeks ago, I packed up my brand new "World's Best Teacher" mug, my personalized pencil holder, my picture of my mama, my $40 pencil sharpener (I paid for) and my stacks and stacks of printed lesson plans because, well, I sort of got fired.

A few days before the end of the term I was called into the principal's office and told that, as of now, they did not have a spot for me for next year. The school, already rather small, will have fewer students in the fall, requiring fewer teachers. Also because I was one of the last to be hired, I'm one of the first to be let go. Then, I'm not a completely certified teacher -- yet -- because of my horrendous skills in math.

But that didn't matter much last August when the were kind of desperate for teachers. At the urging of the school superintendent, whom I had interviewed many many times, I filled out an application to teach English in our neighboring district. Days later I got a call, then an interview and then, a job offer. I was a little stunned.

So I spent the last 10 months teaching -- or trying to teach -- a bunch of unruly middle schoolers how to read and write. I have no idea if they learned anything except how to make my face turn various shades of crimson.

I, on the other hand, learned lots of things.

Reading a chapter a day from two different books to four different classes takes a toll on the human voice.

St. John the Baptist Parish uses the controversial new scripted learning curriculum for English Language Arts. Daily lessons are pre-packaged scripts which must be printed out, annotated, then read aloud. (They also require at least six hours to be spent at the one and only very finicky copy machine in the building.) The pre-selected books --  in my case, A Christmas Carol for seventh grade and Call of the Wild for eighth grade -- also are read aloud to the students. The theory is that students will learn better from the repetition. And I am actually pretty good at dramatic reading. Or so I think.

But, just two weeks in, my voice had enough. I developed complete and total laryngitis. I mean nothing, no sound at all, came out of my open mouth, including the day my friend, the Superintendent, came to observe my class.

I borrowed a bell for a little while and used audio versions of the books until my voice returned, but the students fell asleep more during those readings than they did during mine.

Whispering works.

Want to get students' attention? Whisper to them. They also feel kind of sorry for you because you can't talk. But as soon as my voice returned to normal, all hell broke loose.

Middle schoolers have no filters.

"Mrs. Lyons, is your hair supposed to look like that?"

"Whatchu wearin' Mrs. Lyons?"

"Mrs. Lyons you got somethin' on your butt."

"Mrs. Lyons, your husband looks like Santa Claus."

They also forgot my name frequently. "Miss Thing" was a thing.

Middle schoolers will eat anything. 

Chips, candy, gum, antacids, cough drops....I am convinced that if I sat at my desk eating poison, they would ask, "Can I have some?"

One day I had a small bottle of Tums on my desk (can you guess why?). I had several students ask if they could have one. It drove them nuts that I could eat cough drops during my bout with laryngitis but could not give them any. They also were strangely fixated on the box of cereal I kept in my room to eat for lunch.

Middle schoolers don't really want to be better writers.

My students did do a lot of writing. A lot of it was illegible. A lot of it made no sense. So I would spend hours writing meticulous notes, correcting their grammar and spelling mistakes, trying to make them better writers. I would hand their papers back expecting some "ah ha" moments. But all they did was crumble it up and turn it into a 3-point shot into the trash can. A lot of times they missed. A lot of times they left it there, on the floor.

Planning periods aren't for planning.

Planning periods are for straightening up the room after the first period class leaves all their trash on the floors. And for meetings. And for bringing work to students in detention. And for standing in line at the one and only very finicky copy machine. And for peeing. And sometimes for really fabulous pot luck lunches.

Lunches are for planning.

The reason I kept a box of cereal in my room was because, often, it was all I had time to eat.

Disciplining other people's children is hard.

I never screamed at a child in my life before this. I barely yelled at my own child. I did yell at my mother a lot, but that's another blog post. But over the last year I yelled at a lot of children a lot of times. Why? Because they don't listen. You really do have to tell them five, six or 11 times to sit down, to stop talking, to pick up their trash, to keep their hands to themselves, to stop interrupting you. And that's how you get total laryngitis.

And there's no sure fire way to do it. I read the Wong books. All the experts say the best way to reach students is to forge relationships with them. Then somebody comes in and says you can't be their friends. You try not to scream and yell, but then somebody says you're too nice. So you yell and scream, but your admin tells you you're yelling too much. It's hard. I tried every single piece of advice I was given, but nothing worked all the time. A lot of it worked none of the time.

You have never sweat like you sweat when your principal, assistant principal, superintendent and several people you don't know walk into your room unannounced to watch you work.

This one is rather self-explanatory. I learned that it happens frequently, though.

Middle school is hard.

Middle school was hard the first time I went through it. It was harder this time. No one should have to go through it twice.

Childhood is hard.

Middle schoolers are silly. They are hilarious. They are stubborn. They are smart. They can be sweet. They can be mean as hell. They smell bad. They sleep a lot. They are going through some of the toughest years of their lives. They don't understand what's happening to their bodies. They haven't been on this earth for a very long time and can't be expected to know much of anything. Some of them need medication just to get through the day. Some don't have that medication. Some need more than just a pill. Some of them have nice, warm/air conditioned, comfortable homes with a mom, a dad, a brother, a sister, a dog, a bed to sleep in and food on the table  A lot of them don't. And we don't always know which ones are which.

This was my first class of students. I will remember them forever -- some more than others and for different reasons.

And I made some good friends.

I had good days and bad days. I had awful days and wonderful days. There were days I was an awesome teacher and there were days when I just sucked at it. Ultimately, how I did will be determined by a set of test scores achieved  by a bunch of teens and pre-teens who may or may not have eaten that day and who may or may not have slept the night before.

I don't know if my teaching career is over forever or just for the summer. I know teachers are leaving the profession in droves. My husband, who retired as The Coach a few years ago, retired as The Teacher last month. He taught for 30 years.

I can't imagine teaching for 30 years.

I may or may not get asked back. I may or may not get asked to teach at another school. Maybe I'll get to teach a writing class to students who actually want to write. I may go back to being a substitute teacher so those hard-working men and women can take their much-needed day off. (Subs are in very short supply too.) I may just go work for Uber.

Teachers are heroes.

They work hard. They walk more steps than you. They stand longer than you. They think about tomorrow more than you. They are prepared for the unexpected more than you. They are expected to handle the unexpected more than you. They worry about people with guns more than you and they have to practice for it. They put up with more crap than you. They can multitask better than you. They deserve a raise more than you. They probably know more about your kid than you. They need a vacation more than you. They deserve one more than you.

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Saturday, February 9, 2019


A few weeks before the end of 2018, I got a message from my daughter's doctor.

Figuring it was just a reminder that she had another birthday coming up, and thus another annual checkup, I didn't think much of it --- until I opened it and got a shock.

It was a notice telling me that, as of Jan. 25, 2019, I would no longer have access to my daughter's medical records. That's because, on Jan. 26, she would turn 18.



Legal. A legal adult. One who didn't need her mama looking at her medical records anymore, apparently.


Yes, my cute, sweet baby girl I prayed for and cried for and died a little for is all grown up. She is putting her finishing touches on her final year of high school.  She is writing essays and filling out college applications, mulling her options and figuring out how much scholarship money she can get and how much more green she will need. 

She pretty much has decided where she wants to go (and it's not too far away!), but she's keeping options open. She wants to study music, but wants to go into the business part of it (even though you all know she has a beautiful singing voice she chooses to keep to herself). 

She is a busy, active teen with many friends, an after school job taking care of a little boy for a local couple. 

She has no residual effects from her scoliosis surgery -- except that she can't pick her socks up off the floor. She still has an aversion to putting her laundry away too, but at least she does it herself. 

She is strong, independent, stubborn, wickedly funny and willing to fight for what she believes in. She already registered to vote, too.

How could I not be proud?

I have no doubts that she will go out into the world and find her way. I don't think I  have to worry about her making poor choices. She seems to have chosen her friends wisely and has never been much of a "follower." 


But I'm a mom. And I'm doing my best to try to slow down time right now, to not think about that moment in a few months when she will back out of my driveway with a car full of stuff to move to a new place. Without me. 

I'm not ready.

From the moment Gail put her into my arms I have been determined to savor every second I had with this child. I held her when I could (even when the mother-in-law said I was spoiling her). I didn't want to miss a thing. I let her sleep in my bed. I cuddled, rocked, coddled, held hands, hugged, kissed, sang, played, dressed up, read stories every second I could and brought her late to daycare just about every day (sorry Sue!). I Spent every extra minute I could with her..

And it still won't be enough. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Waiting for the bus

It was a typical Friday morning.

I pulled out of my driveway a little later than usual -- as usual -- and headed up the street toward my still sorta new job as a middle school English teacher.

It was a lovely day. No rain, no fog, no trains blocking my path. So why did I nearly lose it in a heap of tears just two blocks down?

Because I'm a mom, that's why. And I'm the mom of a kid who is about to graduate from high school. And I never really know what's going to set me off. Last week it was the last back-to-school night. Ever.

On this day, it was all the kids -- and their parents -- waiting for the bus.

They were in front of just about every other house, waiting for the big yellow school bus to stop. And, somewhere in the background, there was a parent  -- a mom in pajamas or a dad in shorts, cup of coffee in hand.

And yes it made me cry.

You see, it wasn't that long ago that I was that parent who had just dragged herself out of bed and thrown on the first clothes I could find to go stand out by the side of the road to wait for the school bus with my kid.

It was 10, 15 or sometimes 45 of the most special of our moments together. Uninterrupted.  Even the mother-in-law, when she lived with us, knew that she could not have my attention until after the bus came. This was our time.

While we waited for the ever-punctual Miss Mamie and the not-so-reliable other driver, Lora and I got in some quality time. We talked about school, her friends, her teachers, how our days would be. Sometimes we shivered in the cold and the rain. Sometimes we hid in the fog. Once or twice we got to crack thin sheets of ice in the driveway puddles and watched our breath float in the air.  We often used the morning sun and our shadows to make funny shapes.

Usually, this was the time when she remembered that she needed 13 things for a science project. Or it was my day to bring treats for the whole class. Or that she had to have her permission slip signed TODAY. Or that her throat REALLY hurt.

A couple of times we forgot it was a late take-in day.

We always made the most out of our time together, though.   

We would sing, dance, play games. I made up silly songs for her:

"Waitin' for the bus,
Just the two of us.
She's gonna get inside,
And then she'll take a ride.
Miss Mamie's gonna stop
and on the bus she'll hop.
And then she'll get to school
And it's gonna be cool."

OK. I'm no rapper but I can entertain a first grader.

There were a couple of times I didn't want to put her on that bus. I just wanted to grab her and squeeze her and make her spend the day with me. The day after Sandy Hook, was one.

One day as the bus came, she ran back to give me one more hug and kiss.

But then one day she rolled her eyes and said, "STOP IT!" Then crossed her arms and stormed off.

Then one day she said, "You can stay on the porch, mom."

Then one day she said, "You don't have to get up."

Then she started riding with her dad to high school.

And now, she drives herself.

So, yeah. I wanted to pull over that morning to pull those moms and dads aside to tell them to cherish these moments with their babies. Have fun. Play games. Tell stories. Sing songs.

Because one day before you know it, she's going to tell you to wait on the porch and the bus is going to pass you right by.