Maximus Decimus Mainiero

So, yeah…it’s true. It happened. After Two. Long. Years.  We all knew it would, right? We finally caved to our fur-loving alter-egos. We welcomed a new little bundle of joy into our homes with wide-open arms and slightly wagging tails… er, tail.

We got a puppy.


See, what ha’ happened was…

Two Fridays ago I picked Victoria up from school and asked if she wanted to go home or ride with me to get Aaron. She opted to ride with me if we could stop for drinks somewhere along the way.  She felt like Starbucks. I, on the other hand, did not feel like dropping Andrew Jackson on our afternoon snacks.

“How about we stop at a gas station and get some ICEEs?” I happily suggested. On a hot, sunny day I can take one for the team, high fructose corn syrup be damned.

“At a gas station?” She wrinkled her nose and gave me that disgusted-teenage-girl glare.

“Where the hell do you think ICEEs come from, missy?” I broke the seal on cussing in front of my kids several years back.  Hey, it happens.

“Gross, Mom. But whatever.”

Oh, please. I can count on one hand the number of times she has turned her daddy down for a ride to the First and Last so she could return with an ICEE big enough to deliver a four-day sugar shock.

“Good. ICEEs, here we come,” I said and pressed the accelerator.

Minutes later we were pulling into a parking spot at a quaint little neighborhood gas station on the way to Aaron’s school. As we approached the door, we saw a handmade paper sign taped to the window: “Free puppies. Husky/Lab. Beautiful pups,” followed by a phone number.

Now, truth be told, even though I am a Lab lover through and through, whenever we first spoke of the potential for another puppy in our home, Dom’s heart was set on a Husky. After some discussion we dismissed the idea, both knowing that our climate is too hot for a Husky’s comfort.  But, I think the thought of getting a Lab was too close to what we had lost and might only serve to enlarge the Mason-sized hole in his heart.  At the end of our conversations, we decided not to think on it anymore and just let whatever would be, well…be.

“Oh, Mama,” Victoria crooned as her eyes grew wide and a smile spread over her entire face. “Daddy wants a Husky; you want a Lab. I think Jesus has the wheel on this one!”

I snickered as I snapped a photo of the sign and prepared to text it to Dom. “Let’s make sure your Daddy wants Jesus taking the wheel on this one,” I said.  With that, we went inside and got our ICEEs.

Ten minutes later we were at the high school waiting for the bell to ring when Dom called my cell phone. Vic had been tirelessly texting him since he got the photo from me. I answered the phone and heard a small chuckle.

“What’s this all about?” he asked.  “Where are they? How many do they have? Do you know how old they are?”

He was giving a considerably better response than the Hell No I was expecting, so I said, “Let me make a phone call and I’ll call you back.”

I called him back minutes later to relay that there were two litters born roughly a month apart, maybe fourteen weeks ago, and brought to Shreveport from Canada as wildfire refugees.  There were only two males still available.  One was black with white speckles and one was solid white.

“Hmm,” Dom replied before a long silence. “Well,” he continued finally, “if you come home with a puppy tonight, make sure it’s the white one.”

I hung up the phone and Vic gave me a high five. When Aaron got in the car I told him we were going to look at puppies. He let loose with a loud groan and the announcement that he didn’t want another dog. What was up with my moody children on such a sunny Friday? I shoved an ICEE at him and told him to buckle up.  We made the six minute drive to the House of Puppies, Victoria chattering and Aaron groaning the whole way.  At a stop sign, I looked at Victoria and said in all seriousness, “Prepare for this to not be the dog for us, okay? We have to have a code phrase, something that means we are going home empty handed and I don’t want to hear crap about it. Understand? If I say, ‘I just don’t know how Mabel will react,’ that’s the code. That means my answer is no and we are going home. Do not fuss, whine or beg if I say I don’t know how Mabel will react. Just get back in the car. Got it?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she said, even though the irises of her eyes had already turned puppy-shaped.

I pulled into a neat driveway and we walked up a manicured side yard to a backyard guest house. On the porch were nearly a dozen rolling, bouncing fur balls. The black and white speckled male jumped up wildly as we were greeted by the man to whom I had spoken on the phone.

“You said they’re from Canada?” I asked, hoping for clarification on how they got to Shreveport, of all places.

“My sister lives in Canada,” he explained. “She owns two huskies that got impregnated by the same male Lab a month apart.  The pups were born and then the wildfires spread closer to them, and they couldn’t deal with all these pups and evacuating themselves too. She called me and said her husband was going to drown them. I told her to get those dogs to me and I would find them good homes. And here they are.”

He pointed out the two males and I said we were interested in the white one, which was actually more ivory than white, and evidently from the younger litter. My heart smiled when he picked up the little pup by the scruff and handed him to Victoria. The puppy licked her face and snuggled contentedly against her neck. I beamed at how much he looked like Mason did at that age. So cute.  Just a ball of buff-colored fluff and ears. Victoria eyed me closely before asking dramatically, “So, Mom, what do you think Mabel will think of him, huhhhhhhh?”

“I think Mabel will like him just fine,” I said through a tight grin.  After thanking the man and promising him that I would continue with puppy shots and deworming, we got in the car and drove home. I called Dom from the car and announced in my best Armageddon movie voice, “Houston, our crew is all present and accounted for.  We’re even heavy one cosmonaut.”


The puppy roamed all over Victoria’s lap as we drove. “Is his name Max?” Vic asked me.

“Of course it is,” I replied.  I mean, duhh. Everyone knows I name my dogs years before they are born. Our Mason was named after a Steven Seagal movie character long before he was even a tiny yellow embryo. Next, we sought a black Lab and named her Mabel for the sole privilege of yelling out the back door, “Hey Mabel, Black Label!”  And, in my days of wanting the Labrador Trifecta I had planned to add a Chocolate Lab to the mix and name him Mocha.  Three M’s, five letters each – hey, I’m nothing if not OCD.  But once Mason was gone, I no longer wanted the Trifecta and, not believing I would have another Lab, my brain rummaged around for a new name.  And that’s when I settled on Maximus. As in, the Gladiator. So, yeah, my pups are named after two movie bad-asses and a 1940’s beer ad.  Priorities, right? Aren’t you glad I used other methods in naming my children? Better yet, aren’t my children glad?

“So, what’s his middle name?” Vic asked a day later.

“Decimus,” I casually replied.

Her face screwed up as she bellowed, “What?!”

“He’s Commander of the Armies of the North,” I continued in a squeaky voice as I scratched Max behind the ears, the voice primarily for his benefit. He gave several enthusiastic licks that said he’d gladly be Commander, as long as the army was made entirely of chew toys.

Victoria stared at me, dumbfounded. “What the heck does that even mean?!!”

That, my dear, means it’s time for you to sit down and watch this movie with me.  Let’s make some popcorn first.


The Flight of Fifteen



When I sat here last December to write the year’s final post, I had such high hopes that 2015 would be better than 2014. In the day-to-day mundane, I recognize that it has been, or at least that it was peaceful and we were happily present in the moments we were given within our own walls. But as for milestones and highlights, well, I have to say that we had more low points than I care for.

Most of our more memorable events of 2015 are, unfortunately, the kind of moments that knocked us to the ground, leaving us dizzy and confused, trying desperately to regain our equilibrium or at the very least, the air in our lungs. 2015 was good at sucker-punching us, if not much else. From the unexpected passing of our favorite priest ten days into the new year, to the loss of our diocese’s first bishop and first chancellor in the spring, to my uncle’s death from colon cancer at the end of the summer and the pancreatic cancer diagnosis my mother-in-law received in October, I was ready to wash my hands of this year before the first leaf hit the ground.

It has been a hard year, but it has also been beautiful. It is only so if we look at it through a lens of faith, which we are called to do in our home. Through that lens we can see peace in death, strength in illness, beauty in aging, and love manifested in the care and concern of family and friends who have come to our side as we mourn, cry and rage against things we cannot see.

These year-end posts are not about the moments that I will never be able to forget, no matter how tightly I shut my eyes. They are instead about the moments that I dare to recall during the tougher times – the simple, the peaceful, the ordinary – the very moments that construct security and belonging within my family, the moments that are so simple in their beauty, so brief in their existence, they threaten to vanish if I blink. So I memorialize the wonky and the haphazard, the simple and the prosaic, so that I may remember that these more modest days of our experience make life profoundly good.

Without further adieu, I give you the more pleasant moments of 2015.  Drumroll, please…

January: Here are my offspring, together and smiling. This was likely taken two seconds before a wrestling match broke out in my kitchen. January

February: Since the rest of the snowday pics already showed up in another post, this is – sadly – the best I have to share from the month of my birthday. This is Mabel’s reindeer, mooning the backyard. Said toy was strategically placed here by Mabel herself, probably for the benefit of the squirrels and cardinals that evade her attacks.

March: Both kids got sick at the same time, so here we sat in the pediatrician’s office. They each offered their middle finger for the blood sample so that they could proudly “show each other their bandaids” for the rest of the afternoon. Ugh.

April: Mabel gets and appreciates a lot of attention nowadays. Here she is in my bed. (Ahem!) On my pillow. And yes, she is just in the process of raising her paw and rolling so her belly can be rubbed. Sheesh!


May: Ahhhh, Mother’s Day breakfast in bed. They only made two pieces of toast, so there was no second “M.” But there was Starbucks, so all was forgiven.


June: Our river trip to Concan, Texas. Victoria has since announced that she plans to attend vet school at A&M, so I figured this was the most appropriate photo.

July: This photo earned Gracie Lou a shaming on Facebook when a search for the missing toaster led us to her bedroom.

August: Aaron and I got an early start making our Halloween decorations. Here is one of the tombstones that eventually graced our front yard.

September: Mabel and her Octopus. I really can’t resist this face.

October: The kids took turns chauffeuring each other around the property during one of our more relaxing evenings.

November: Just us girls with our Mother-In-Law, Charolette, on Thanksgiving Day. As a family, we have so very much to be thankful for.


December: Though we are not really cowboy-hat sorta people, Dom and I have wanted black Stetsons for roughly ten years. Wish fulfilled.

DecemberSo, there is the 2015 that I choose to remember. Bring whatever you’ve got, 2016. My gloves are on.

Chasing Tumbleweeds


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My early childhood was spent in a dustbowl just this side of the Permian Basin, the way-out-west that occupies Texas just before the mountains that edge the Lone Star State. We moved to Louisiana from Sweetwater, Texas when I was eight years old. Aside from one or two childhood vacations to visit family, I would not return until shortly after my wedding, when Dom and I went to Merkel so he could meet my grandpa. My next trip west would be eight years later to attend my grandpa’s funeral.

I think often of my last Texas residence. The memories loom larger than life: the tree in our front yard that I climbed regularly, whether it was a mimosa or just the tree planted next to a mimosa, my goal was always to pick those fluffy pink flowers; the cinder-block fence of our backyard where my dad, grandfather and uncle would stage fireworks displays; the kindergarten classroom with the colorful shapes in the center of each table to match our nametags so we would know where we belonged. I recall with amazing clarity the day I returned from the restroom and insisted I belonged at the blue triangle table. The blonde-haired boy who occupied my seat looked up at me like I’d escaped from an institution. Seconds later, the teacher was placing her hands gently on my shoulders to steer me away as I looked down at my own nametag and saw – to my horror! – an orange triangle. I can see my dad’s eighteen-wheeler parked along the curb in front of our house, the running rabbit plate on the front bumper and his CB handle, “Ramrod,” painted on the side of the blue cab. I remember the sound of him rattling chains and tie downs, and the smell of tar from a load he was hauling. (I also remember how fun it was to peel the dried tar droplets off the street, roll them into balls and manipulate them like modeling clay. Probably explains that twitch I have now. Kidding…) I remember selling painted rocks to all our elderly neighbors, and mom escorting me back up the street an hour later to return everyone’s money. I remember using tumbleweeds as kick-balls and horned-toads as pets-of-the-day. I remember sand storms in the sky and those awful stickers in the yard. Trust me, in West Texas barefoot is not an option.

My parents and I returned to the area I most remember on the way to my uncle’s funeral this past week. Just before Midland we stopped in Sweetwater and revisited our haunts from days gone by.   From the old drive-in to Nine Mile Mountain, I learned more than I knew before about the era in which my parents met. What follows is a pictorial narrative of our trip down Memory Lane.

This first pic does not belong in Memory Lane, necessarily, but all the windmills in west Texas are an intriguing sight. Windmill blades grace the entrances to the town.

File_000 (4)Staton’s Pharmacy, where my dad hoped to grab a familiar bite to eat. Sadly, the pharmacy has closed down.

20150923_174029049_iOSMy great-grandmother’s house. I remember sitting on those steps by the sidewalk during some of our visits. And this particular style of porch column always makes me think of this place.

20150923_174237622_iOSSweetwater High School, Home of the Mustangs, where my parents met during their Senior year, and where my grandmother taught Home Economics.

File_001 (1)The Mustang Bowl – SHS’s football stadium.


The house where my mom grew up. I think this is also where she got in trouble for standing on the curb and talking to my dad as he sat in his idling car.

20150923_175615456_iOSThe movie theater downtown. I used to think it was soooooo cool!

File_003The rock house built by my great-grandfather.

20150923_180715348_iOSOur old street.

File_000My grandparents’ house, where we lived while they were living in Alaska. I was heartbroken to see the once brown house now painted pink and the front porch bricked in. And I would have loved to sneak back toward the garage and snap a photo of our footprints and names in the cement, but I’m not much into trespassing.

File_001My first school: Southeast Elementary. Cue collective Awwwwwwww.

File_002Allen’s Fried Chicken. Supposedly THE place to eat in Sweetwater. We didn’t stop.

20150923_173845448_iOSThe church where my parents got married.

File_004The Brookshire’s used to be The Village grocery store. Or was The Village the entire shopping center? There may have been a Piggly Wiggly somewhere in here too. I just remember the big V in the sky, and caught myself wishing for just a moment that I could bring it home to Victoria.

File_005The old drive-in theater – this is the back of the movie screen. I think I rode with my parents here to watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Being that I was so young and impressionable, they told me all the red stuff in the movie was tomato juice. I still associate the title to that movie with V8.

File_006Nine Mile Mountain is a mountain nine miles out of Sweetwater. Genius. Mom said from the top of the mountain you could see the whole town. Also at the top is the Double Heart Ranch, which my parents seemed to know, um, by heart.

File_000 (2)The old town has certainly changed, and then in some ways it hasn’t. Our reason for traveling west was sad, our visit to a town much smaller than our memories of it was bittersweet. But we did get a chance to visit with some of mom and dad’s friends from high school, and I got treated to all kinds of legendary stories. All in all, it was nice to chase those tumbleweeds for a while.

Growth Spurt

Last night I dreamed that my son was a baby. He toddled up to me at the dinner table and I scooped him into my arms and cradled him while I visited with dinner guests. Then I asked him if he was sleepy and he nodded, so I released him (obviously planning to escort him to a nap) and he disappeared. I found him after several frantic moments – he was toddling around the house with my Aunt Penny. She was showing him different household items and teaching him their purposes. Aaron was absorbing it all, even with that sleepy little smile on his face. The dream was sweet and real and comforting.

And then I woke up. Life has a way of doing that to us, doesn’t it?

The truth of the matter is that I think I am not dealing well with my son growing up. Some co-workers and I chatted about this the other day (they are my built-in, always-on-call therapists). One mentioned that it seems easier watching girls grow up because they mature in small spurts and then plateau for a little while, so you have some time to get used to the growth. It sort of snuggles up to you and butters you up for the next big thing so that whatever lies just ahead isn’t such a mind-blower.

Boys’ growth just bitch-slaps the hell out of you and then moves on.

Aaron got his braces off last week. We’ve had a busy start to the school year, but it has been manageable, expected. Or so I thought. At this particular appointment, one orthodontic assistant came out to talk to me while others were finishing up with Aaron. She gave me a brief rundown on the progress of the treatment and then said, “It’s also time to get his wisdom teeth evaluated for extraction.”

Without thinking I blurted, “NO!”

Her eyes grew wide and she took a step back. “I’m sorry,” she said – it was half statement, half question.

I felt tears stinging the back of my eyes. Get it together, Lori. This lady did not look old enough to have kids at all, let alone a teenager, so the odds of her completely understanding my outburst were slim.

“No, I’m sorry,” I said, softening my voice, but still unable to control its shaking. “This is all too fast. You don’t understand – just two months ago he was four inches shorter. We shopped for clothes in the boys’ section last spring, and we shopped in the men’s section last week. He just turned 15, is about to start driving, and when he speaks, I turn to see what man has just come into my home.” There was no dawning recognition on her face, so I continued to sputter. “Now you want to talk about wisdom teeth, which I didn’t have to think about until I was in college – I can’t – I just can’t go there right now.”

She smiled, but pressed on. “Do you have an oral surgeon that your family uses already?”

My mind was still on my baby, who used to swing his feet from the booster in the backseat, but who now fills the backseat with barely enough room for his legs, another fact that slapped me in the face just the week prior. So I absently said, “No, my oral surgeon died.”

“Well, you don’t want to use him, then,” she retorted, which made me laugh out loud and sort of shook me back to reality. Aaron appeared behind her and we chatted about retainers and such before leaving with a bag full of every type of candy his braces had prevented him from eating in the last two years – and the business card of a local oral surgeon.

Touché, Life. Touché.

One Year Later

As I write this, it has been one year and one hour since our favorite dog of all time breathed his last breath in the back of my van. It hasn’t been an easy year, and the transition to a five-heartbeat household has been most unwelcome, but we are at peace. The gentleness of that spirit who was part dog/part angel stays with us. We have a family mantra that reminds us to be like Mason, to enjoy life and to love without limits, to be happy in all things.

As with so many pivotal moments in our lives, we divide our happenings into two categories: before we said goodbye to Mason, and after. We prefer the Before, thankyouverymuch. But, as an update on the positive side of After, Mabel is entirely different now. She loves affection. Where she couldn’t have cared less before, she now waits patiently for our arrival after work. She snuggles more now, choosing to sleep curled up beside my legs. She demands attention when she feels she has not received enough. And, a change that I know Mason nudged her toward, she finally found joy in dancing with me in the kitchen, just like he used to.

And so we acknowledge the significance of today, of who we are and of where we’ve been, grateful for the companion that shared so many of our days with us.

We love you, Monk. We miss you still.

Mason and Vic, 2011

Mason and Vic, 2011

Dumbledore and McGonagall

When I first stumbled into Harry Potter lore, the characters sprang at me from the pages, just as they did for many of you. After reading Book Five I began identifying pieces of the characters in people that I knew personally. Some pieces larger than others…

He was the tall, strong and gentle headmaster. The professor of professors among our small Hogwarts community. Our leader. Our anchor. He even had a funny hat to wear with his position.

She was the ever-present and ever-protective right-hand professor. She ruled the school with as much tenacity as any Minister of Magic ever could. She didn’t wear a hat. She didn’t need to.

He was the grandfather-type who entertained and educated us with every conversation. She was the no-nonsense matriarch who kept everyone on task, including him.

She stood by his side through the ups and downs of forging a new frontier. She dutifully gathered the brooms and arranged the class schedules. She loved us and mothered us and admonished us when necessary to make sure we could stand on our own someday. She quirked an eyebrow each time he cracked a joke.

Both were icons in my early adult years. They were there when the rest of my life stretched endlessly before me. They carried with them an immense respect for each other’s spirit and space. Always keeping their propriety, they were a dynamic duo, a hardworking team.

I will never forget the first time I heard her address him as anything other than the title by which we all called him. “Bill,” she said simply, as unassuming as the stoic voice that began quiet conversations with, “Albus…”

She retired just before he did. A lady always knows when to leave. Neither has been at our little Hogwarts for close to ten years. Students and professors have come and gone in the years since. Yet we can never deny the lasting impact of these two stately figures on who we were and who we are now.

As they placed his wand in his casket and prepared the White Tomb, we learned that she, too, had slipped quietly through the smoky veil. We mourn all over again the end of an era that was already in the annals of our history. The closing of the coffins echoes the closing of Book Seven. And the rest of us are left to write the next series without them.

Rest in peace, professors. We’ll see you in the portrait frames.

Life and What-Not

“The problem with adulthood,” I began my conversation with Victoria, “is that by the time you realize what you want to do, what you are good at, it’s often too late to go back for a do-over. Take this quantitative management class I’m in right now. I love it. It’s just straightforward mathematical statistics for the purpose of solving business problems, and it energizes me. I really like this stuff.” (Eye roll from the daughter.)

“I knew this, of course, back when I was in college, but I didn’t pursue the field. I met with one tiny obstacle and – meh – I moved on to an easier path. I was young and dumb and though I don’t have many regrets about my past – other than superficially wishing I could go back in time and give the young Lori a few Gibbs’ head-slaps – I regret not pushing through for the degree I wanted and a career that might have provided more material resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do now and I don’t believe material resources would serve me any better than the spiritual resources I have access to, but I often find myself wondering what it would be like if I had been ‘adult-enough’ to insist on more effort from myself at a younger age.

“And so that is what kicks me in the head as an adult – knowing that we cannot change the past, we can only direct the future. We can change what we do today for the benefit of tomorrow, and no more. But when you’re over the proverbial hill, and you see it all this clearly, and you know – absolutely know in your heart – that you could have done better, or more, or whatever with your energy and resources…all you really can do is let your children know the pitfalls. You want to make sure that your kids understand what mistakes not to make, what obstacles to push through.

“And that brings me to the fallacy of youth, in that when I was young and dumb – as so you shall be, too – I was not interested in older people’s advice of the pitfalls. I had my whole life ahead of me, and that’s all that I saw. My future was a blank page, and I was selecting the pen with which to write it. Don’t dare tell me what pen I should use; that’s my decision! And so, when we are young we make the easy choices, the fun choices, the choices that bring us pleasure, even if it is fleeting. It’s only when we are older that we think, what if??? What if I had chased that dream? What if I had studied harder? What if I had actually attended that Business Law class instead of deciding that Dominic might be hanging out in the student center and surely I HAD to be there too? But Business Law, while a really interesting class, at the time paled in comparison to the interest I held for my social life and your father’s whereabouts. (Cue head-slap). Surely I could have pursued your father after my work was done??? But, as I said, I can’t change the past. Our choices, our actions, make us who we are and I do love this life. What I can do now is hand you the information and hope that you choose to make good decisions. That’s the goal of every parent…to make sure our kids don’t have any regrets.”

Victoria seems to consider this for a moment, then says, “I watched this movie last night where this guy walked outside and got struck by lightning. For no reason at all! He just walked out, got struck by lightning, and died right there on the spot.”

Nobody listens to me.

The Most Reverend



Back in the day, at the “old” Catholic Center housed in a square two-story building on Line Avenue, the secretaries of various departments would share what we called “phone duty” in which we were assigned a rotation of days to relieve the receptionist for her lunch hour. This ensured that the phone was always answered by a live person between the working hours of 8:00 to 4:30. On one such day, as I sat at the reception desk during the lunch hour, an elderly gentleman came to the office to pay on his stewardship pledge. While he stood at the reception window handing me his check, Bishop Friend strode casually through the front door. The man before me turned to see who had come in behind him and, upon watching Bishop Friend enter his passcode into the security system which would open the interior suite door, turned back to me, eyes wide.

“That’s the Bishop!” he whispered excitedly to me, as if we’d just seen a mythical being and didn’t want to frighten it away.

“Yes, sir,” I replied.

“I’ve never met him. Do you…do you think…well…” His voice trailed off as the wish formed and vanished like mist before he could finish speaking it.

“Would you like to meet him?” I asked.

“Really? Meet the Bishop?” He could barely contain his awe. His eyes danced with excitement and wonder. “Surely he’s too busy to meet me,” he mused, his doubt lined with a tangible hope.

“Hold on just a moment. Let me see if he has a little time.” I left the gentleman at the front desk and went to Bishop’s office. As I approached his always-open door, Bishop Friend was removing his hat, an ivy cap which he frequently wore. I knocked gently on the door frame and tentatively asked, “Bishop?”

“Ahh, hello, Lori. Do come in! I was just fixing my hair.” (These comments always elicited smiles, as Bishop Friend was “follicly challenged.”)

“Bishop, there is a gentleman at the front desk who just came in to drop off his pledge payment, but he seems very excited just to be standing in the same building as you, and well, I wonder if you might have a minute to say hi to him? I think it would make his day.”

“Oh, Lori,” he replied with that grandfatherly smile. “No good deed shall go unpunished. Please bring him in. It will be my pleasure to meet him.”

And so I did. As I led the man to Bishop’s office, his feet seemed to not touch the ground. I lingered at the doorway just long enough to see the gentleman reach for Bishop Friend’s hand, his head bowed in reverence, as Bishop Friend shook his hand enthusiastically and began conversation with him.

The brief meeting lasted for a few minutes, long enough for me to resume my post at the front desk and field a couple of phone calls. When the gentleman exited through the same door he had seen Bishop enter, he waved happily to me and said, “Thank you! Thank you so much! Oh, my wife will be so happy to hear that I met the Bishop! Thank you!”

I thought it amusing at the time, that this man was so excited to see a figure I had the pleasure of working with every day. I turned my head to see Bishop Friend walking toward the kitchen for a cup of coffee, or perhaps for the purpose of visiting any employees who were lunching in the staff lounge. Bishop Friend looked over at me and winked as he walked by, and I smiled gratefully at him.

That is my favorite personal memory of Bishop Friend. I recall vividly several snapshot moments… the wide grin on his face as he greeted us each day, his head-thrown-back laughter as a large group of us dined together on his return visits after retirement, his smile as he watched a toddler-size Victoria play with the telephone on his desk.


Bishop Friend with our favorite troublemaker.

There is no shortage of Bishop Friend lore. The impact of events in which he participated seems as large as he was tall. My favorite story took place before I ever met him, at a time when Shreveport was rife with gang violence. The Crips and the Bloods held our community in a vice-grip, incinerating the inner-city in turf wars. Bishop Friend called a meeting of the two gang heads. As the story goes, the leaders of the rival gangs came to the Catholic Center to meet with each other and Bishop Friend. On behalf of our Catholic elementary school that served the inner-city, Bishop implored the gang leaders to pledge to keep the violence away from the schools in the war-riddled neighborhoods. Through a long and tense meeting, an agreement was struck and the school children remained out of harm’s way. Few people would have placed themselves in the middle of such a potentially volatile meeting in an effort for peace. But such was the character of our Bishop.

I worked under Bishop Friend for ten years and six months. In all that time, I never saw him in a bad mood. There was but one time that he was noticeably upset, when he pulled us all together to tell us that there was no budgetary way to offer pay increases for one year. Otherwise, he was the same happy man every single time I saw him, every single day. That’s not to say that it was always easy. He was a leader, and leaders can never please all people at the same time. I heard him answer attacks with blessings; I watched him pray for people who cursed him. There were days that surely must have tried his soul, but he did not show it. Each and every one of his decisions was made in prayer with the good of everyone else’s soul in mind. He was the first man I ever knew to be made of this precise fiber.

Pope John Paul II with Bishop Friend

Pope John Paul II with Bishop Friend

When Bishop Friend retired in 2006, I felt the absence of his calm and easy-going nature throughout our building. Since then, we at the Catholic Center have taken many opportunities to regale each other with memories and stories of our beloved first Bishop. But now memories and stories are all we have left of him. Our hearts will forever know the boldness of his laugh, the softness of his voice. Most Reverend William Benedict Friend, Bishop Emeritus of Shreveport, passed away just this morning. Our hearts are heavy, our memories are stirred. But it is fitting, at least to me, that he would leave our earthly realm on Holy Thursday. As he himself died with Christ, he rises again with Christ this Easter. Bishop Friend was a man of great faith, a man who walked the walk, a man who led his assigned flock with humility and gentleness and love. I believe his homecoming is well-timed.

I keep on my desk a card that was given on the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a Bishop. The reverse of the card cites a prayer from St. Augustine, and it summarizes best the man whom I knew:

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may always be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

We pray for the peaceful repose of Bishop Friend’s soul, that he who “Lived in the Spirit” may also rest in the Spirit. And we take comfort in knowing that he will continue to pray for us, as he always promised.

“Mom, I Can’t Feel My Toes.”

On this, the third snow day of the school year, we finally got actual snow. Admittedly, I never expected it to snow. 1-2 inches in north Louisiana? Puh-leeze, weatherdude! What are you smoking???? We may get ice and sludge and generally terrible driving conditions, but real-deal snow tends to pass us by. We Shreveporters live in what I call “the weather bubble.” Weather aims right for us, turning at the last minute to soar above us or below us, rarely coasting directly through our lovely city. We are grateful that most of the bad stuff passes us by. Unfortunately, so does much of the fun stuff.

Until today.

That heavenly snowfall began around 9:00 a.m. and continued its White Christmas cascade all morning long. But as I look out the window while writing this, the snow seems to have finally stopped falling. 12:21 pm. The driveway is mushy and the street is beginning to regain its grey asphalt hue, no longer smooth and white…which tells me it is melting… just like weatherdude said it would.
(Which also tells me the roads may not be as treacherous as they were two hours ago. I may try again to haul my butt into the office. Y’all don’t lock me out just yet!)

I love the color of our world when it is illuminated by sunshine. But if it can’t be gloriously bathed in bright yellow, then I prefer it to be white. This white…

DSC_0645My photography skills leave a lot to be desired, but my desire overwhelms my pathetic lack of skill to bring you this…

DSC_0624And this…

DSC_0729And this…


My poor, poor confused spring bulbs. 😦

And finally, yes, the kiddos took to the great outdoors, shunning their screen devices for a sacred morning of pelting each other with snowballs…

Aaron with a snowball earbud.

Aaron with a snowball earbud.

Look!  They're touching!  And smiling!!

Look! They’re touching! And smiling!!

…and competing in a snowman building contest.   Here are Misty with her creepy penny eyes…

DSC_0015 … and Frosty McTaxFraud, each sporting their very own coffee mug. DSC_0017Does anyone else agree with me that Frosty has a quirky Al Capone look going on? Nice bat.

So, while the kids toast their tootsies in front of the fireplace, I’ll leave you with a few more snaps of my favorite place on earth…


the garden in winter…


St. Francis near Mason’s grave


The Mabelline!

DSC_0606 DSC_0595 DSC_0579 DSC_0599 DSC_0722DSC_0627Mabel’s favorite part of any snow day is coming in and getting dried off.

I’m gonna need more towels.

List Therapy: Things I Like

Here I am, head spinning from a stressful busy week, finding something to be  peeved about at every turn. In fact, this started out as a list of pet peeves (admittedly, some stupid, some funny, and some universal). As I mentally ticked off the things that tick me off, a still tiny voice in the back of my head said, “Way to focus on the positive, Lori.”


So I backed up a bit and decided to make my list about things that make me happy rather than the things that annoy me. Here goes.

  1. Sunshine. The brighter, the better.
  2. 70 degree weather (Can I get an amen?!)
  3. Babies cooing (even if they are so far in my past that I’ve almost forgotten them…almost…my memory was stirred by the family who sat behind us in church on Saturday.)
  4. Mabel in her role as “the Christmas Puppy.”
  5. Sunshine.
  6. Coffee with a just-right proportion of milk. It never lasts long enough. Good thing there are refills.
  7. A clean kitchen.
  8. Glimpses of summer at the end of January.
  9. Seeing Dom and Vic playing basketball when I pull into the driveway.
  10. Planning this year’s vegetable garden.
  11. Our freezer full of deer meat, which means I don’t have to buy hamburger meat at the store for almost the rest of 2015.
  12. Gospel songs, Statler-Brothers style.  “Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?…”
  13. Stove-top popcorn drizzled in Kerrygold butter– better than the movies!!
  14. A new bottle of nail polish.
  15. Sunshine.  (Can you tell I wanted to spend the whole day outside?)
  16. Realizing in the midst of stress just how blessed I really am when Aaron asks me, “Mom, do you need a hug?”
  17. Mommy-daughter time.
  18. Mom-son time.
  19. Dom time.
  20. Sunshine.

What was I stressed about, again?