I have been writing this post for three solid weeks.  Its publishing is planned for the exact moment that my employment at the Catholic Center ends, 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 2nd. After two decades of laughter, busyness, craziness and fun this very good and beloved thing is coming to an end. As this post makes its way onto the internet I will leave the Catholic Center as an employee for the very last time.  It is a bittersweet day.

I will have a week of vacation before I embark on a new career in banking.  One week to “move the anchor” from what I knew and loved to what I hope to learn and love.  As I found from leaving one house for another, I desperately need this time to ground myself and set my mind for what lay ahead while at the same time honoring where I’ve come from and what I have experienced so far.  Part of being able to move forward is a healthy identification of what is being left behind – memories, experiences, and the comfort of the job I know so well.

I used to joke that I grew up in an animal hospital, and while that is quite literally pretty true, considering the summers of my formative years that I spent huddled up on top of the filing cabinets or exploring the kennels and treatment rooms of Bossier Animal Hospital, I did my most beneficial growing at the Catholic Center.  It is the place I have called my second home for my entire adult life.  I love the people I have worked with as if they were family.  Who am I kidding?  They are family.   The friendships that I have come to treasure and rely on are what made the memories I’m sharing here, and why I am likely crying my eyes out as I drive away from the building today. (You know I’m a softie.  Don’t judge.)

I remember the day I met Elaine. I witnessed co-workers talking negatively about another co-worker when they turned to Elaine for her agreement. She disappointed them by saying the person in question had always been pleasant to her, so she really had nothing to contribute to their discussion. The gossip came to a sputtering halt, and I knew instantly that I liked Elaine.

I remember standing next to Jill in the Line Avenue kitchen and her straight forward question: “When are you going to come work with us in the Business Office?” It would take another six years, but I would eventually get there.  It is quite possible that I will leave a large piece of my heart in that department.

I remember the Director for Child Nutrition hysterically sharing with me that she had just been chewed out by a parent who was angry over the school lunch menu. “Chicken Tetrazini” had been mis-relayed by a child to her parent, and the mother was livid that the school would dare to serve “Chicken Tits and Weenies.”

I remember the day I turned quickly to enter Gary’s office with my arms full of files, caught my foot on a phone cord and fell flat on the floor in front of him, unable to catch myself or break my fall because I was unwilling to drop the files I was holding. I lay on the floor for only a second with my long skirt splayed about me in a most unladylike fashion, but I recall him looking down at me in surprise and asking, “Are you okay?” before he began to giggle.

I remember the phone ringing off the wall after one particular work day had ended. Wondering why the caller wouldn’t just leave a message and desperate to make the ringing stop, I answered it to learn that our friend and co-worker, Sheila, had died in a car wreck an hour earlier.  Nearly twenty years later, I still tense when I hear the main phone ringing incessantly after 4:30.

I remember Bishop Friend’s jokes.  And Doris’ jokes.  And the jokes they would volley off of each other in the staff kitchen.  They could go for days.  I’m sure they are entertaining the saints together now.

I remember needing information on how to do part of my job, and I asked everyone within earshot for direction. No one in my building could help me, so I called the Vatican.  After two transfers I finally got a kind, English-speaking priest who helped me immensely.  I also remember our Business Administrator closing his eyes and shaking his head when I told him what to expect on the phone bill.

I remember worrying about Doris one morning when she didn’t report to work and none of us knew why. Concerned for her safety, I brought her absence to Sr. Margaret’s attention and asked if one of us should go to Doris’ home to check on her.  Sr. Margaret snapped that Doris was a grown woman and didn’t need us mothering her and, by the way, Doris was at the dentist.

I remember the day my childhood dog died. I left work early that afternoon.  When I came in the next morning, Christine had printed a poem about the love and loyalty of dogs and signed it from her own pups.  I still have it in a scrapbook and I cry every time I read it.

I remember getting quite aggravated at a missing community staple remover and the resulting email I sent to the whole building questioning my fellow employees’ integrity and demanding the stolen item be returned. I also remember Elaine laughing so hard she was crying while she admonished me, “Don’t you ever, ever, EVAH send an email like that without running it by me first!!”

I remember the White Elephant/Dirty Santa gift exchanges at the early staff Christmas parties and how John Mark would encourage everyone to “display their gifts on high” so we could all see them and thus admire (or laugh at) them.  Jim would often model his unwrapped gift ala Vanna White in hopes some other soul would steal it.  I also remember one of the more eye-popping gifts – a metal silhouette lamp of two entwined bodies –  and the laughter that almost threw me out of my chair when I found out my boss had brought it.

I remember moving to the building on Fairfield when I was halfway through my first pregnancy. I would pace the long hall outside my office to settle Aaron down on his especially active days. I also remember the day the air conditioning went out in July and I swore I was either going to die or go into labor.  Neither happened, though it felt like both.

I remember that on the morning of September 11, 2001 we all crowded around the television in the staff lounge to console each other as we watched the horror of the day unfold.

I remember Doris’ strong enunciation when she answered the phones as she boldly proclaimed, “CATH-o-lic CEN-Ter.” She explained to me one day that she emphasized the “t” in Center because she didn’t want her greeting to sound like “Catholic sinner.”

I remember many days of trying to decide where to lunch with Elaine and Patricia.  Elaine always – without fail – wanted Ming Garden.  Most days before Elaine could even cast her vote, Patricia would give her the hand and state firmly, “No Ming!”

I remember an especially difficult day in the Superintendent’s Office when we felt defeated by circumstances beyond our control.  At the end of our depressing conversation, Sr. Carol stood up and said, “Well, let’s get back to work.”  I know there were a million questions written on my face, but she continued gently: “Keep in mind, no matter how bad things seem we still have a job to do.”  I have heard those words echo in my thoughts over the years, and am grateful for the extra wind they always put in my sails.

I remember making Elaine go with me on an errand to Fairview House, the priest residences at the other end of our office building. Walking over there always creeped me out since I had heard of certain hauntings that I had no desire to verify personally.  On the second floor of Fairview House, Elaine and I heard a definite sound behind us and we almost broke our own legs trying to scurry over each other to get the hell out of Dodge.

I remember how my toddler Victoria loved John Mark’s voice.  She would hear him from across a room and seek him out.  She did so at a staff Christmas party and spent the rest of the afternoon in his arms.

Victoria and JM

I remember meeting Jill at Schlotzky’s to discuss my move to the Business Office.  I was almost too nervous to eat, but I learned on that day that Jill has a way of putting my fears at ease with her confident and honest nature.  (Side note: I haven’t thought about Schlotzky’s in years.  Now I’m hungry.)

I remember the eccentric phone calls we would get from the general public.  Sometimes people just need someone to listen to them, but we began to notice that the more bizarre conversations were always in sync with the lunar cycle. My favorite was the repeated request from an elderly lady who wanted us to fly the Pope to her house for a private audience.  Elaine and I would patiently listen to the various callers before hanging up and asking each other to look at a calendar.  “Yep,” came the oft-heard reply. “It’s a full moon.”

I remember Jill pulling me and Elaine into her office, closing the door, and sitting down to retrieve something from her wallet.  She smoothed a piece of paper and showed us the ultrasound picture. We were so happy, I think we all cried.

I remember an email Elaine sent to me and Patricia which accidentally got sent to Father Dave too.  When I saw his name on the list, I panicked and raced to Patricia’s office to see if she could use her IT skills to stop the email from reaching him and save Elaine from eternal mortification.  Sadly, it was too late, and mere mention of that email now can send us howling. Patricia later told Elaine, “Lori is white anyway, but she was REALLY white when she came running into my office!!” Needless to say, we don’t share embarrassing things in emails anymore.

I remember my 18-month stint out of the Business Office in another department and the day I learned that my old job in Business was open again.  I called Jill from Bishop’s reception room.  Her first words: “I hope you’re calling for the reason I think you’re calling.”  My reply: “Can I come home?”

I remember planning Jessica’s first baby shower – Beatles themed – and all the intricate details I crafted that I wanted to be so perfect. I worked a literal hard day’s night making a cake decorated like a vinyl record, then I got sick and missed the whole darn party.

I remember – heck, I will ALWAYS remember – the Harry Potter Halloween.  And I remember that afterward, as we tossed out ideas for the following year’s celebration, Father Dave’s eyes lit up at the mention of Lord of the Rings.

Staff and students of Hogwarts with Bishop Duca

I remember Margie’s holiday headbands: glittery shamrock antennae, reindeer antlers, bunny ears…  I also remember realizing that Margie has more Christmas decorations than the North Pole.

I remember Mickey’s sage advice about raising teenagers and the three things she could promise me: 1) all teenagers lie; 2) they really can’t help being stupid; and 3) you will like them again.

I remember that Msgr. Moore would call me on June 28th every year to remind me that his auto insurance was expiring in two days and he needed a new ID card from me.  And every year I would sweetly assure him that I would get it to him in time, come hell or high water.

I remember decking our hallway each year for Christmas right after Thanksgiving, which infuriated the Advent purists at the other end of the building. I hung the stockings while Mike supplied the tree and décor. Blanca, Jessica and Mickey could always be counted on to help string lights and hang ornaments.  Sometimes we’d hook up someone’s phone to speakers and play Christmas tunes while we decorated.

I remember trying to sneak into the building with a box of t-shirts we would all wear as a birthday surprise for Bishop Duca.  My foot caught on the door facing and I was down for the count, certain I had just broken my arm. (Because once again, I didn’t want to let go of what I was carrying.) I lay on my back on the cement floor mentally assessing my damage as Mickey, who had been holding the door open for me, looked down in surprise at my prone form.  She later commented that I fall very quietly.  Dominic just happened to stop by my office that day. He saw me with an ice pack on my elbow and he and Jill together decided that my clumsy butt was going to the doctor. It was the only time my name was ever attached to a work comp injury, and I could not wait for that claim to roll off the insurance reports I had to download each month.

I remember Starbucks Fridays, where I would brave the morning crowd with a handful of co-workers’ gift cards so I could order each person’s favorite beverage. I can still name each of their go-to drinks.

I remember 8:00 a.m. Mass in the Catholic Center chapel before the seven stained glass windows were installed on the east wall. The morning sun would stream into the chapel though the clear glass panes, illuminating the pews in picturesque, if not blinding, rays of gold.  If there’s a chapel in Heaven I believe it will look just like that.

I remember taking departmental pictures for staff features in The Catholic Connection.  The Business Office did pose for one dignified, professional looking photo which was used in the publication, but we thought this picture suited us much better. It is still one of my all-time favorites.

Mickey, Guy, Jill, Margie and me

I remember John Mark chastising me over my failure to keep my car washed.  Hey, it’s clean on the inside.

I remember seeing Mike with a diet soda after I had spent several years sharing my ingredient research and enlightenment with those closest to me. I nearly yanked the bottle out of his hand before checking myself and admitting to him that true, it was none of my business what he drank, but I rather cared for his health and it would be great if he wouldn’t poison himself.

I remember a myriad of conversations with Jessica as we geeked out over books, characters and storylines. I’ll be forever grateful for her bringing me into the worlds of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare and Deborah Harkness.

I remember coming back to the office from countless doctors’ appointments while Charolette was being treated for cancer. Mickey and Jill had declared our work area to be my safe space and they allowed me to cry and be comforted there each and every week.

I remember when Emily sent me this clipart picture.  She said it made her think of me. I’m pretty sure everyone who knows me will agree.

I remember telling Jill that I was going to send my resume out. She reacted just as I knew and hoped she would – with love and support for my development and little regard for her own inconvenience.

I remember the day of my first job interview in 21 years. I came back to my office that afternoon to the news that Pop had a tumor that would later be diagnosed as cancer.  Mickey, Margie and Jill rallied around me and let me sob all over again.

I remember telling Elaine that I had gotten the job I applied for.  She was on vacation at the time.  When she returned on Monday she called me and said, “I’m back, but I can’t look at you yet.”

Today is indeed bittersweet.  Keeping these memories and friends close in my heart will help ease the bitter part of leaving.  I thank my dear co-workers – each and every one – for sharing their lives with me and being not only good and decent friends but the sweetest part of my life at the Catholic Center.  I love you all.


Elaine and Me – June 1, 2017

Learning to Wait

I’m not very good at waiting.  An incredibly patient person I am not.  My mom frequently reminds me that “Good things come to those who wait,” but the reminder doesn’t make me any more patient. I like quick. I like easy. I like convenient and tidy.  I appreciate suspense, but not too much of it.  Let’s learn the lesson and move on quickly, please.  Let’s see how everything works out.  Um, now.

Some things in life force us to wait:  Decisions involving more than ourselves. Circumstances beyond our control.  Meetings. Questions.  Answers. Appointments.  Tests.  Diagnoses. Treatments.

I sat waiting in a too familiar doctor’s office, this time to stand beside my father-in-law who must now follow the path my mother-in-law took over the last two years.  The news is only a month old in our midst.  The hashtag is right, folks.  Cancer sucks.

Dare we ask for another miracle?  Dare we pray for this cup to pass us by? I dared.  I did more than dare – I all out begged.  Again.

The answers don’t come swiftly and I am reminded of the torturous months before Charolette’s uplifting news that no cancer was detected after treatments and surgery.  We had sunk so low, and then we soared.  Can we hope to soar again for Pop? Sometimes hope is all we have.

I bemoaned the situation Pop faces as we waited for the days to pass so we could talk to the doctor again.  “I hate waiting,” I said out loud to no one.  And then a verse lodged in my brain and wouldn’t come loose.  “Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”  How does the whole verse go? Something about wings of eagles and running and not getting tired? I mulled it over for a few days. It seemed that every time my mind started to rest it latched onto Pop. Wait upon the Lord, I’d hear in my head. Your strength will renew.

I’ll be honest, I could certainly use some renewed strength these days.  I decided to look up the verse so that at least when it rolled through my head, it could roll correctly.  It’s Isaiah 40:31: “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up as on wings of eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.” I must have heard that verse a hundred times growing up, but I never really thought about it.  I pretty much assumed waiting was like serving, as a waiter or waitress would do.  Bringing things to God, things he wants.  But what does he want, and what do we bring to him?  He wants us.  He wants our problems and our worries and our concerns.  He wants to share our joys and our successes. He wants our love and our offerings of self.  When we wait on him we bring those things to him, we give them in service to him.  That makes him happy.  And he tips big.

But waiting on the Lord also means just that.  Waiting. Pausing. We come to understand that our timeline and his are not in sync.  And so, more often than not, we have to wait.  A day to God might last months or even years to us.  God doesn’t talk to us about tomorrow, not in the literal or figurative sense.  He sometimes talks about “soon,” though, if you are a parent you know that “soon” is sometimes the most realistic answer you can give.  And it does not always satisfy your children, primarily because you don’t quantify “soon.” No, God talks to us about today, because He does not want us to be consumed with future events.  He wants us present in the Now.  He only gives us one day at a time, and that’s all we should concern ourselves with.  He wants us to wait on him. Literally. Like, pull up a bench, sit down and chill for a while.  Wait upon the Lord.  In his time he will answer us.  In the meantime he will give us what we need.  He will renew our strength so that we can wait a little longer.  He will fortify us for the race so that running from one meeting to the next, from one appointment to the next, from one treatment to the next, will not tire us out.  It will not zap us of our will to keep running. We will run and not grow weary.  We will walk and not be faint.

In mentally hashing this out and learning to wait, I have found peace.  I still catch myself worrying, but for shorter bouts of time.  Now, when I become aware of the subconscious upset, I still my mind and focus on waiting.  My breath slows and my jaw relaxes.  I hear the words of Isaiah as if they are whispered on a wind. “Wait upon the Lord.” And instantly I know that I can wait.  I can be still and know that He is God.  He’s got this.

Holy Finds in Holy Week

On this night, on this night, on this Holy Thursday night…

Yeah, I just hijacked TSO’s Christmas Canon and turned it toward Holy Week.  You’re going to be humming that for the rest of the night.  You’re welcome.

I played around on YouTube during lunch today. I was actually looking for an old gospel song that I remembered from the 80’s because, well, frankly I was in a really low spot today about a family member’s health. I needed to deal with it emotionally, but first I needed to cry.  And pray.  And so I hit up YouTube and found the song. That led me to other sadder songs and the next thing I knew I was bouncing through a playlist of tear-jerkers, blowing my nose into my napkin and ignoring the leftover chicken on the plate in front of me.  YouTube is kind enough to offer a list of videos similar to whatever it is you’re presently watching, and so you can ride a spiral of despair right into a box of Kleenex if you are so inclined.

It just so happens, I was inclined.

The list of suggested videos finally took an upswing, and the last one I watched was one of the best I’ve ever seen, not for any super videography or anything, but for the message.

It is at this point that, if I were telling this story to my parents, my dad would interrupt to ask if this is going to be a long story. Yes. Yes, it is. (Do I really know any other kind?)

The video was of an interview with actor Jim Caviezel, who, as you may know, portrayed Jesus in The Passion of The Christ.  I love that movie, but I can only watch it if I’m in the right frame of mind, such as I try to be in the days leading up to Easter.  It’s perfect for tonight. Anyhoo, in the interview Jim talks about his spiritual commitment to the movie and the physical trials of portraying Jesus in his final days.  It is a moving talk. But he takes it farther than just his role in the film.  He takes it to our role as Christians.  He is frank, forthright and challenging.  I loved every word.

In the end of the video, Jim talks about a project he’s involved with – a full cast audio production of the New King James Version of The Bible.

Let me just say that I am an audiobook freak already, but I am an all-out sucker for full cast productions. I fall head over heels for narrators who can distinguish different voices for each character (like the incomparable Jim Dale), but I am swept away in full cast audiobooks.  I hopped over to and looked up the Word of Promise Bible.  90 hours of audio, over 600 actors and actresses, and a boatload of omigosh WOW! I bought it right then and there.  To tell you what kind of talent is involved in this production:

Jim Caviezel reads the part of Jesus.

Jon Voight reads Abraham.

Richard Dreyfuss is Moses.

Gary Sinise is David.

Lou Diamond Phillips is Mark.

And the list goes on.  Marisa Tomei, Stacy Keach, Louis Gossett Jr., Jason Alexander, Michael York, John Schneider, Luke Perry. The audio is amazing.  I spent time with it this evening while I pulled weeds from the flower bed. I might actually get through the whole Bible now.

(Side note to Jessica, my audiobook muse: After you left my office this morning I went back to The Bone Season, but now it’s been sidelined again. I know you understand.  😊)

As I bring this post to a close, I’m pretty sure I hear Dom watching The Ten Commandments in the living room. Looks like we each have our Lenten/Easter movies.

If you are inclined to watch Jim Caviezel’s interview, I think you’ll find it 40 minutes well spent. I for one am grateful for fellow Christians who remind me who I’m meant to be, and that because of that empty tomb, no tomb is an end.


Midnight 2017

So, yeah, I’m going to post this without a million necessary edits. It’s 11:47 p.m. as I start writing this on December 31, 2016. Thirteen more minutes and the new year rings in for the Central Time Zone, as the television keeps promising.  We got home from a New Year’s party 30 minutes ago – a party where there was not nearly as much food as last year’s party, so the two tiny glasses of wine I had have kind of zonked me.  (Translation: If you have a few leading lines into this post, and have to click to read more but find that there is no more to read…that means that I’ve woken up on January 1st and realized that I drunk-blogged and promptly deleted it to prevent further embarrassment.  Ahem.Note that I am not too zonked to delete comma splices, thankyouverymuch.)  Max and Mabel have been outside once since we arrived home, and they are now in separate rooms – Mabel stayed with us in the living room, and Max abandoned us for the bedroom.  As in, “Forget you, idiots.  Do you even KNOW what time it is?!!”  His tall ears sort of fall flat to the sides when he’s tired, so he gave us that cute little flop-eared look and then turned and gave us the tail as he sauntered to the bedroom.  We usually are in bed before 9 pm, so the fact that it is nearly midnight has pushed the boundaries of acceptable in our household.

If I think too long on what it means to be entering 2017 with all of our children and parents alive and well, I will start to bawl and it will get really ugly really fast, so I will just wish each of you reading this a very happy, safe and wonderful 2017.  Happy New Year!!!!

2016 in the Rear View: At Least We Can Laugh About It

Looking back on the year that will close its eyes in a few days, I am pleased to say it was eventful and uneventful in all the good ways a year should be. Charolette had a successful surgery in March and even though we have held our breath and kept our eyes peeled for any change, the cancer remains absent from her after a year of treatment. Victoria started high school, Aaron started driving, and they each grew at least five inches. We bought Aaron’s senior ring in November, after which I hid in the bathroom and cried like a baby.  What is it about that boy growing up that turns me into such a puddle?

Mid-year, a new heartbeat entered our home in the form of a husky/lab mix, and Mabel was so insulted she almost renounced us all.  Max has gone from being the “narcoleptic puppy” (as the vet called him) to being the in-your-face-all-the-time puppy.  He talks. Like, a lot. (My mom told us Huskies are like that.  Can’t say we weren’t warned.) And he uses his front paws for everything from holding down his own tail to slapping us in the face if breakfast is late. (Jerk.)  With his heavy-eyeliner Alice Cooper look, his my-way-or-the-highway attitude and his fuhget-about-it expressions we decided he must be a member of the mob.  Two seconds after that announcement, he grabbed his tail in his teeth and nearly fell on his head trying to tug it away from his body. We decided then that he could still be a wiseguy, but he’d have to be Luca Brasi.

OK, enough with the intro. In our customary DomAndLori fashion, I now present the 2016 pictorial year in review:


One of my favorite Christmas icons is the Old World Santa.  From the bygone days of her ceramic painting business, Charolette’s garage had a plethora of fired but unpainted Santas, and I set my sights on collecting and painting them in the late ‘90s.  Then I took a sixteen year break from all relaxing hobbies before finally returning to this pastime last year.  My favorite is the jovial Mardi Gras Santa who gets to hang out on the shelf until Lent.  As I packed up the decorations after Christmas, I felt compelled to line the finished ones up for a picture. I just realized they are posed so that it looks like one Santa’s hat is picking another one’s nose. I think it’s safe to say I will never be hired as a photographer.  There are twelve more unpainted Santas waiting patiently in the room upstairs. This is one of very few photos taken in January, so it kicks off the show:



On my way to work one morning, I sat at a stoplight and pondered the bleakness of me and everything around me.  Admittedly I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself.  We’d had a rough couple of weeks and Charolette was back in the hospital on the day before her birthday.  My spirit felt drained and I really just wanted to pull into a parking lot and cry. I stared at this tree for what seemed like an eternity, comparing myself to its barren branches, pitying our shared emptiness.  Out of the corner of my eye the light turned green, but my attention stayed on the tree because it was at that moment I recognized the sun sparkling behind the branches. I made the turn and pulled over for a photo.  I spent the next week writing about the feelings I had that morning and how the realization that the sun was shining through such a cold and prickly image reminded me that there is always hope.  I wrote it all out, read it and re-read it, then re-read it again before gagging on the Pollyanna sentiment of woe-turned-to-hope and silver-linings and promptly deleted the spewed words.  I sort of wish I had kept it because even though it was corny and ridiculously hopeful in the face of all hopelessness, well…that’s me. The words are gone, but I remember with absolute clarity the empty feeling suddenly replaced with swelling comfort, and the tears that stung my cheeks on that February morning as I conceded that there are a million things in this world that I will never understand.  And that’s okay, ‘cause look…sunshine!



As the days began to warm up we found reasons to be outside.  Here are the kiddos on the four-wheelers, roughly ten minutes before Victoria accidentally plowed into the back of Aaron’s vehicle, sending his four-wheeler into a ditch where it overturned.  It’s a slow-motion, heart-stopping story that aged me about five years in two minutes, but all ended well with Aaron dusty and shaken but otherwise unharmed. I notice they haven’t ridden much since then, however.



Aaron and I spent the better part of one morning coming up with rap names for Victoria, much to her chagrin.  “Tupac Sha-Vic” and “Snoop Vickie G” had us rolling. I continued the hazing well into the school day.  Hey – what are moms for?



For the second time, a yellow-tailed furball padded his way into our hearts.  At first, I thought he was a replica of Mason’s spirit because he was so sweet and snuggly, but that turned out to be a case of intestinal worms. Once cured, his independent and demanding personality emerged. Er-ma-ger, he was so stinkin’ cuuuute!



Of course, he grew…



And grew. (Although, he still hasn’t grown into those satellite dish ears.)



Just when I wonder if I will ever do anything right in this life, my children redeem me. Aaron announced that he wanted to join me in donating at our church’s blood drive. Watching him give blood for the first time I was the proudest mama on the planet, and I told him so on the way home. “There are a lot of things that define ‘adults,’” I said, “but giving part of yourself to save someone else, in my opinion, that’s what makes you a man.”



How could we possibly have a 2016 post without Eddie?! It’s not every day (thankfully!) that a pig wanders onto our property and mates with our electrical box.  The sight, the videos we took and the twenty minutes I spent doubled over in my driveway howling at the absurdity of it all will never be forgotten.  Eddie (short for Edison…get it?) made numerous trips to our yard over the next several days before the Sheriff’s office determined where Eddie lived and returned him to his home two streets behind us.  Eddie’s owners must have fixed whatever passage he was using to escape, because we haven’t seen him since mid-September. I thought I smelled him the other day, but no. It’s just as well…every time Eddie visited, Pop started talking about bacon.



As we entered the month that kicks off the snowball of holiday celebrations of which I am SO fond, my body orchestrated its own small-scale revolution.  I had just completed my Master’s degree, Charolette was holding her own, and my body said, “Ok, school is over and things have settled down for the moment.  You need to rest.”

“Sure, I’ll take it easy now,” I promised with my fingers crossed behind my back.

My body apparently doesn’t like me lying to placate it, because lightning struck somewhere nearby, polar ice caps instantly disintegrated and Gotham City went dark. So, by “rest” what my body really meant was, “go to the ER and get admitted to the hospital for four days.” I complained that really, it didn’t need to be so pushy.  But those who know me best gave each other sideways looks that said, “Uhh, yeah, it did.”  And that was that.

Hospitals suck, but my family makes it as fun as possible.  My Dad would determine my pain level and then draw it in on the nurse’s board each day.  Three days and several rounds of pain meds later, I was apparently doing much better.


October ranks two photos, mostly because I feel cheated by the month in which I had planned to party-hardy-marty. At the end of the month while Dom and I were flying to DC to attend a conference, our babies (ahem!) were getting ready for Homecoming.  We hated to miss it, but our moms made sure we had plenty of pics. I do believe this is my favorite.



Here are all the Louisiana Mainieros in a family pic after Thanksgiving lunch.  Who could ask for a better day? And why am I the only one who brings wine to photo ops?



You know this one had to end on a Max note.  Here he is on Christmas morning, having just opened his presents.  He was fascinated with the unwrapping of everything, but more fascinated with this super-cool chew toy!


Of course, Mabel appreciates her gifts, too.  Can’t leave out our sweet girl, so December also gets two photos…


So long, Sixteen.  It’s been lovely having you here.  May 2017 follow your lead. (Well, except for the hospitals…)

The “C” Word


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Update/Prelude/Whatever: A month after I wrote this, Mom’s tumor markers unexpectedly shot up. When I said in the post below that she had other issues, I was saying – without really saying – that things were still wrong and we just couldn’t get them identified.  It may be that we will soon have a resolute cause for the issues that still plague her. It may be that the post below is rendered incorrect, if not completely obsolete. It may be that we continue to swim upstream against a relentless current of cancer.  The only thing that keeps me from now deleting this post altogether is that for a few brief days – long before the conversations detailed here, before I dared believe in the word “cured” – we had hope.  We still have hope.  It may very well be all we have, so we cling to it with all our might.

I have not previously blogged details of my mother-in-law’s cancer.  I have written about it, of course, and maybe someday my words will be suitable for public consumption. I don’t quite know why I have hoarded the experience of her cancer, while I shamelessly share here all the other events of my life. I think perhaps the difficulty of what we have witnessed as a family, the magnitude of the diagnosis, or even the need to focus on Charolette’s health instead of my own experience of it prevented me from sharing in this outlet.

I suppose there is also the reality that the journey is not over. We have not yet been sent out through any physician’s office door with well wishes for a long and healthy life, call-us-if-you-need-us, it’s-been-great-knowing-you-now-go-forth-and-prosper.  She has not yet been dismissed from their care. Her case is not yet closed. And, since my preference is that stories have a definitive outcome before I share them, so we can all enjoy the neat and tidy ending – or at the very least laugh at the crappy and chaotic aftermath – at this point Mom’s story doesn’t fit the mold.

Then, of course, there is the fact that it’s her cancer and her story – not my own. I have felt an intense need to respect her privacy in my writings.  But in a way, the cancer happened to us too.  Its impact has not been limited to the confines of Mom’s body.  Cancer, as you know, weaves its cellular tentacles through and around healthy tissue, invasive and uninvited. I only now see how its emotional tentacles sprawled to weave themselves in and among our family members, making it our story and our experience as well.

I have wrestled a host of demons these past nine months. In October I cried and prayed and begged that our feet would not have to walk the path that lay hauntingly before us. In January I feared we were losing her altogether. In April I struggled unimaginably with doubt before “putting my hands in His side,” and relaxing into the knowledge that – whether we chose to call it miracle, successful medicine, or outright anomaly – Charolette’s cancer was gone.

Feeling like a traitor to my faith and a modern-day Doubting Thomas, I insisted on getting the pathology results before completely succumbing to tears of joy and thanksgiving.  The following week, with a dread borne of experience, I became the World’s Biggest Hypocrite in the face of more chemo as I silently chastised doctors for not “believing the miracle” and releasing Mom from the grip of torturous cancer treatments. Even though I had (finally) settled into the knowledge and faith that she was cured, no doctor would use those words. That’s okay, I told myself. I know what I know. And if you think I’m stubborn, you’re right.

For any person with pancreatic cancer, the treatment plan is: 1) radiation supplemented by chemotherapy, then 2) surgery, then 3) more chemo. We knew this from the beginning. We also knew that without treatment, a person might expect to live 3 or 4 months. With treatment and surgical removal of the tumor, there is a 25% chance that the patient will be alive in five years.

That’s the gist. Now here’s the rewind: We first heard these statistics in November, three weeks following Mom’s first surgery, which was unsuccessful because her tumor turned out to be larger than expected, too intricately involved with three major arteries, and therefore deemed “massive and inoperable.” Our only hope at Charolette seeing her next birthday was tied precariously to chemo and radiation shrinking the tumor to an operable state.

Surprisingly and against many odds, it did.

Mom’s second surgery on March 17 was successful.  There was no longer any tumor to speak of, much less remove. Doctors took over half of her radiated pancreas, her spleen and an adrenal gland. The pathology report on the excised tissue was perfectly clean.

Our follow-up visit with the chemo doc prepared us for six more months of chemotherapy treatments.  Several people, on hearing the news of Charolette’s surgery and the clean pathology report that followed, have asked why she still has to have six more months of chemo. Believe me, I asked the same thing.

Essentially, Mom had completed two of the three steps in the treatment plan.  There is not enough documented precedence – so few people whose pancreatic cancer is obliterated to this degree – for the doctors to recommend anything other than proceeding with the original plan.

I get it, really I do. I understand that they just aren’t quite sure what to do with her, since she pulled a mind-scrambler on them and came up cancer-free before the end of the prescribed regimen of treatment. And without precedence, without cases upon cases of successful mid-treatment cures before hers, they are unwilling to release her without following the plan to the end.

This is where my will conflicts so heavily with that of modern medicine and the cosmic forces that are more complex than my little mind can fathom. But such is life. So I give myself an attitude adjustment, focus on what is right for Mom and what she wants, and move forward.  She is alive today and I can do nothing but support her desire to stay the course. And so I do just that.

Even though the cancer is gone, Mom has struggled with other issues as her body adjusts to functioning with only a portion of her pancreas. As we visited with Mom’s GI doctor last week, I shared with him what I understood of her treatment and recovery. He asked me what her CA19-9 levels were prior to surgery and now.

“I have no idea,” I confessed. “You just started speaking another language.”

The CA19-9 marker, which indicates tumor growth in the pancreas, had not been discussed in any memorable way by any other doctors. The GI doc told me to ask the chemo doc about it, just out of curiosity.

And so, at Monday’s appointment with Dr. V. I brought up the subject of Mom’s CA19-9 levels.  “Do you monitor those?” I asked.

“Yes, we look at those once a month,” he said as he flipped a page in Mom’s chart and paused. “Oh, wait. No, not yours,” he said directly to Mom. “We don’t monitor them as closely once you’re cured.”

There it was.  He said the C-word.  “Cured.” I chomped down on that word like a Rottweiler on the mailman’s leg.  Cured. No doctor has wanted to say that to us yet. Even if he slipped, he said it.  He said it and I believe it and I’m going to hold onto that spark of reassurance for the rest of my days.

“Since you brought it up, we will check them for you next week, okay?” Dr. V. looked at me with raised eyebrows and I realized that a manic smile must be stretching across my face.

“That’d be great,” I said, hoping I wasn’t scaring him. I really do like Dr. V., despite my inherent distrust of conventional medicine and my decade-old belief that chemotherapy is Lucifer in liquid form. All of the physicians who have guided us along this journey have been compassionate, caring and sincere individuals whom I have grown to respect immensely. Their hearts are true and their priority, like mine, is taking care of Mom.

So we continue with the care and the treatment and – if we may be so bold – the cure. We ask that our friends continue with the prayers. And we wait to see where this journey will lead us.  After all, we walk by faith and not by sight. Well, most people walk; I seem to stumble along.

Parting Words

I read a blog post today that really struck home, in both a good and bad way. A fellow Mom let off some steam about all the “rules” of parenting and how absolutely tiresome they are.  The rant got my attention because the title referenced slathering toxic cream (sunscreen) onto her children. I actually thought it was going to be a post about the dangers of the toxic creams and how regular joes can avoid them, which – as you know – I support. But she went in a completely different direction, humorously focusing instead on how following the do’s and don’ts often prevents us from living the very life we seek.

She’s right. I mean, she’s dead-on, nail-on-the-head, face-palm right.

Why did this resonate with me so? I’m glad you asked.  If you’ve read my blog before, you might have noticed that I only posted twice in 2015. There are two reasons for this: 1) I was actually busier living life than writing about it and 2) I found that the thoughts I was trying to formulate into an educational blog post were often this-is-how-you-should-do-it thoughts which would serve to benefit no one other than me. I don’t EVER want someone to read my blog or anything I’ve written and feel like they are being judged or criticized for the choices they have made. Remember that saying our mothers taught us, “If you can’t say anything nice…”? I’m proud to say that I actually listened. When I read what Sarah wrote in her post, it reinforced my belief that no one should feel like the job they are doing as a parent is not good enough. Ever. And I thought, Amen, sister! To hell with the parenthood rules.

I admit that when this blog started I found a ton of mommy-bloggers who seemed to have their lives tidy and packaged and wrapped in a shiny bow. I had already stepped quite a way outside of my comfort zone to share with the web my successes and my failures at a year of changes toward natural living.  I used the blog as my scrapbook, and then I found the entire mommy-blogging community. I thought they were geniuses, and I envied the amount of readers they had. I bought a domain and linked it to all the stellar blogs I followed. I signed up for Twitter.  I created a Facebook page and invited friends to like it.

To date, my FB page is a dead horse and if I may be honest here, I hate Twitter.  Hate it.

The effort of keeping up with all the e-social requirements was exhausting. I mean, really. How in the hell are we supposed to experience life if we’re sitting in front of a screen watching stats and comments all day long? Seriously? If I do that, then eventually I’m not going to know the kids I’m writing about.

It took me about a year to realize I had better things to do with my life. I ditched my efforts at gaining followers and my readership remained in the single digits.  I could live with that.

So basically, I have two reasons for writing today.  First, I’m thinking that I will not renew this domain when it expires.  I will move all the posts over to my primary blog,, just to keep my ADHD and parenting advice available – you know, on the off chance that a reader needs my words to tell him or her that it’s okay to call the shots. (As if.) Essentially, I believe the shelf-life of The Purpose Driven Mom is nearing its end.  It’s cool.  Because honestly, every time Facebook tells me someone looked at my page, I feel this overwhelming responsibility to go write a new post or update the site. But at the same time, I’m not feeling the “purpose,” so the responsibility is mildly aggravating at best. Besides, notifications from all these damn apps are on my last nerve. Example: Pinterest tells me today that I have 25 pins waiting for me.  Um, no, I don’t.  My friends saved 25 pins and Pinterest thinks I care.  Kiss off, already, Pinterest. It’s not like I’m going to suddenly want a knitting pattern and forget you exist.  Give me some dang breathing room. (And yes, for all you techies with the knowledge knots, I have already turned off the notifications.  And I’m still getting them. Figure that one.)

Second, I have some parting words for anyone who reads this post, whether you’re here because you followed the mission from the beginning or because you just stumbled upon the page and felt like spending some time with me. (Thank you for that, by the way.)  I have spent a full six years changing my lifestyle, helping friends with food advice and recipes, and attempting to make my corner of the world a little more natural, if not altogether better. Sometimes I have succeeded and other times I have fallen flat on my face.  But I have learned in these six years that the journey is entirely mine and that my mission includes not judging people who do not walk the same path.  To that end, I feel I have achieved my mission.  But I want you all to know a few things before I bid you adieu, some things I hope will help you on your own journey:

  • Please, for the love of everything holy, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you are less of a person or less of a parent because of your choices. If you love your children and let them know it, then you are a good parent in my book. When you read an internet post or email that says you HAVE to do this or do that, unless it seems like something you have the desire, the time and the energy to try, IGNORE it. If you wanna give it a shake, do so. But if you try it and find that it doesn’t make your life better, then allow yourself to Let. It. Go.  And show the haters your middle finger.
  • There is a ton of electronic information on recipes, tips and tricks to make natural living easy. Spoiler alert: 99% of them do not work for the long haul. Trust me.  I have made every recipe for natural cleaner on the internet. I have tried many of the home remedies suggested by mostly-trustworthy writers, and I have found very few things that actually live up to their claims. (Six years, people.  Six long years.) I have found many things that I have no desire to even try. I love coffee, but putting butter in it, despite the claims, does not make it or me bulletproof. And the idea of a coffee enema is a straight-up Hell No.  After six years of research, of all the “natural” cures on the internet I can vouch for three.  Get that? Three. They are:
    • Lavender essential oil works for minor burns. It immediately takes the pain out of burns from bacon grease splatters, and it even worked when I hit my knuckle on the oven element last week.  I will always have a bottle in the kitchen cabinet.  Take that for what it’s worth.
    • Heartburn cure: 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 teaspoon honey diluted with about half a cup of water. Chug it, shoot it, whatever you wanna call getting it down the guzzler. It is the only thing that has ever worked on me, and it cures in less than ten minutes.  Granted, I’ve only had heartburn four times in my life, but OHMYGOSH I would cut out my esophagus to alleviate that pain!  This worked every time, and it will forever be my remedy.
    • Allergy cure: take the heartburn remedy and add ¼ teaspoon cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon turmeric. I usually hit this three times a day when I’m sniffling. This works on me, my husband and my son when the seasonal pollen count threatens to take us down.  My daughter won’t go near it, so we may never know if it works on her.  She’s good with a box of Kleenex, so we shrug and move on.
    • BONUS cure: I don’t think this one is on the internet, maybe it is…I’ve never looked. My grandmother taught us this treatment for ant bites.  If you get attacked by ants, immediately grab handfuls of leaves from two totally different plants or trees (soft leaves work best) and pulverize them together in your hands. Rub – no, smear – them all over the ant bites until your skin is green from the chlorophyll.  This seems to take the sting out right away and keeps the pustules from forming. I’ve used this remedy for years.

So there they are, folks – the four natural, everyday remedies I am willing to vouch for after six years of research and practice. As far as food goes, I will always endorse clean eating as a means of staying well and being good to your body. You want to use whatever diet/method/lifestyle supports your best health, no matter what anyone else thinks of it. If there is anything I have learned in these six years, it is that change is hard, and each person has to decide for himself or herself how much change is worth it. My personal food choices are wildly unpopular, but they work for me and I feel good physically when I stick to those choices.


  • While my best health is promoted by a grain-free lifestyle, my home is not grain-free. It’s not even totally organic.  My dogs eat grain-free.  My kids do not.
  • My kids eat Reese’s Puffs. Yes, you read that right. I actually put in my grocery cart multiple boxes of full-on General Mills, GMO, gag-me-with-a-cereal-spoon Reese’s Freakin’ Puffs. Why? Because it makes them happy. They know my opinions and ideals, and they share some but not all of them.  Once they became teenagers, I felt like they had the right to make that choice. So if they want canned ravioli or Pizza Rolls or Kraft Mac & Cheese, by George, they’re gonna have it.  I pick my battles.
  • I love to be in the sun, but I don’t use sunscreen unless I’m swimming. Judge away, just don’t tell me about it. I have my reasons for not listening.
  • I have loved my readers’ comments, especially when they tell me that I helped them consider a new view or that they found parental support on my blog. I felt like my presence here was helping someone, and that made me feel good. I owe gratitude to everyone who ever bothered to read my words and write me back.
  • I have considered ditching my Facebook account altogether because my newsfeed is full of aggravating articles from activist organizations that I once “liked.” I need to take my own advice and just flip those organizations the bird, but even that task seems like an energy drain.
  • I texted my husband yesterday before I left work and told him that I wanted chocolate and wine. Like, for dinner. I was serious.  And I got them.

It’s been a pleasure to share this journey with you, my friends, but it’s time to close this chapter of my internet life.  I wish you health and peace, always.

Love, Lori

Mabel and Maximus

When we brought Max home, Mabel did not like him.  Let me rephrase for clarity: Mabel despised him.

I think it was Max’s quick, jumpy movements that made Mabel think he was perhaps little more than a funny-looking squirrel. I could almost read in her eyes the desire to chase him and the sure knowledge that, unlike all the others, she could catch this one.

Max knew immediately that Mabel was one of his kind. She, on the other hand, would not lower herself to believe such nonsense.

Mabel was curious about Max, but did not want him looking at her.  She would approach him when he wasn’t paying attention, sniff his fur, and then quickly look away the instant he turned his head toward her, as if to say, “It wasn’t me!” I swear, she’d whistle at the ceiling if she could.

All Max really wanted to do was snuggle with her.  All Mabel really wanted to do was serve him with breakfast.

When he sought her out, inching close enough to touch her foot or sniff her leg, Mabel would jump in the air, execute a ballerina-football-player move and land three feet away, wide eyed and panting. Sometimes, the hair along her spine would raise as she glared at him for daring to touch her. Other times she would just look at me as if to beg, “Control that beast!!”

We brought Max home on a Friday night. On Saturday morning Mabel watched as Max tried in vain to haul off with one of her bone-shaped chew toys.  When he finally gave in to the fact that the weight of the bone was more than he could lift, he abandoned the project in favor of chasing Victoria’s painted toenails. Seeing that her toy was no longer being violated, Mabel whisked it away to my flowerbed, where for the first time ever we watched her bury it so no one could find it.  Never mind that she left it half sticking out of the ground like a waving flag. Her instincts were on and she was protecting what was hers.

That Sunday morning Mabel lay sunning herself in the grass beside my flower bed, likely as a means to guard what she had buried the day before.  Max minded his own business on the patio until their eyes met. Then he began to slowly move toward her. Like a lion stalking prey in the outback, Max crouched to the ground and steadily put one foot in front of the other. Mabel’s eyebrow quirked upward. Her ears perked up and she watched him intently, not maliciously, for the first time.  I thought I saw a flash of recognition in her eyes.  “Hey, that thing might be a dog after all. Interesting.”

I took it as a good sign that Mabel might stop thinking of him as a walking hors d’oeuvre, and that hopefully soon we could let them play unsupervised. As it was, we monitored every single interaction. Because of Mabel’s fierce rejection of him initially, I feared any interest from her was self-serving and possibly detrimental to Max’s well-being, especially since she still gave him the “crazy eye” every time he came near her.


On the eighth day of Max’s life in our household, Mabel pawed at him before placing her mouth around his neck and giving him a quick spin across the patio. He righted himself, turned and lunged at her face. She ran far and fast to the end of the yard, leaving Max standing alone in her dust. She returned quickly and they faced off once again.  She pawed at him again, but this time he was ready. He ducked, evaded her jaws, and displayed toes and teeth as he sprang at her face. She ran away, only to return again with a playful look in her eyes.  Finally, I mused and let out a long held breath.

“So, Mabel,” I drawled as I scooped Max up and plopped him in my lap. “You think you can get by without eating him now?”

Mabel approached and ducked her head for me to scratch behind her ears. I held Max away from her so he would not run her off with the continued snapping of his little puppy jaws.  His squirming calmed as he saw Mabel relax under my hand, and he watched as she moved herself along my chair so that eventually my hand was positioned at the base of her spine, her favorite spot to be scratched. Max inched across my lap and stood on the arm of the lawn chair before gently placing his tiny paws on Mabel’s rump. She didn’t seem to mind that, so he decided to take it a step further. He slowly leaned his head down…and bit her tail.

Mabel’s head turned quickly to look over her back and her eyes narrowed on the ball of ivory fluff partially balanced on her hind end.  Then, with two quick swipes of her tail, she reprimanded him firmly and unmistakably. Wha-BAM! Max recoiled in my lap. And that was the official beginning to peace among pups in my home.


Now, they play together with reckless abandon, Max jumping to bite at her face, narrowly missing her jawline and landing his teeth sometimes around her collar. If he hangs on tightly enough, he gets worn like a new and cumbersome dog tag.  She may not trust him implicitly yet, but Mabel is finally beginning to appreciate this new little furball in her life.

I compiled a little video of the past three weeks for your viewing pleasure.  it is no great work of video skill, but it’s stuffed to the brim with cute. Ladies and gentlemen, I present Mabel and Max, wonderpups extraordinaire:

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.