I didn’t get along with this chick from the first day I clocked in over a year ago at the Red Robin in Meridian, Idaho till about the third month I was there. Two alpha females squaring off daily—the winner never quite rising to the top. She is a worthy opponent, I must say.
But I’ve found she’s a much better friend.
I love her. It took me a minute, but I love her. Madly, truly, deeply. Lori Zanoni. She’s the heartbeat of our Red Robin and a beacon of light in my life. She is one of the best mothers that I know, and it is with great admiration and respect that I write this tribute to one of my most beloved heroes.
I’ve always said that the greatest accomplishment of my own life was being a mother. There are wonderful women who have garnered my utmost adoration in the endeavor of motherhood: my Hollie Rae Carroll, who cherishes her children with such breathtaking sacredness; my Donna Wallace, who delights in her children as God delights in His; my Katie Wiese, who treasures the children she now holds tightly with such astonishing gratitude; my Sherry Ganley, who heals her children with such amazing grace and wisdom; my cousin, Cindy Salazar, who has poured her life into her own four children and astonishingly enough, has found time to pour her life into her students as well; my sister-in-law, Mia Ricci, who manages hearth and home and career, yet holds her children soundly above all else and counts them as her greatest success in life; my Paula Paul whose trust and reliance upon God to father her children has made her family whole and her children extraordinary; my Stephanie Sportsman who has blended her family with remarkable honor and compassion and completeness; my Veronica Marshall whose love reaches beyond the world that we know, and my own JoAnne Farless, who has taken in many children, even grown children, who have been abandoned and needed loving arms to make us feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
God gave three precious gifts to Mama “Z”: Stephan, Brock, and Blake.
Stephan , Lori’s eldest son, is nothing short of a grown man with momentary lapses of adolescence. He is an extraordinary young man, a brilliant athlete endowed with an exceptional ability beyond his years to hurl a baseball into his teammate’s mitt across home plate, sending baffled batters back to the dugout disappointed. His priorities are family, school, and sports. He does well in each of these arenas. Sometimes life forces us to step up and take on responsibilities before the proper time. Life has called Stephan to do just that, and he has done superbly, even for a young man of thirteen. And let’s not forget that behind every good man is a good woman.
Brock came a few years later for just seventeen minutes to say hello to his mother and then goodbye. Lori holds him just as dearly, just as closely as the two who were destined to remain with her. We know Brock because Lori has shared him with us. We love that little boy just like we love his mother and his brothers.
And then we have our Blakie. He is precious—the very light his mother is. Because he couldn’t wait to take his place in this world, he came so early that he has shouldered the physical effects for all of his eleven years. Thankfully, he belongs to Miss Lori. Blake’s physical comfort and happiness are reverently preserved in her most capable hands. Lori packs Blakie up and they all go out to the ball field to watch Bubba embarrass the opposing team.
To say that Lori has done right by her children is colossally understated. When Blake gave us a scare a few months ago, I sat with her in the hospital along with several others from Red Robin, whose employees are bonded together like family. We watched in helpless wonder as Lori paced the spectrum between fearing the worst and resting in the peace that passes all understanding. The doctor treating Blake did not want to perform the surgery he needed to live and tried to persuade Lori to allow “nature to take its course”. A mother’s love knew better. The surgery was successful, and Blake continues to light our lives with his sweetness and joy.
Every mom wants to give her children the best hope of having a purpose-filled life. My Lori has given of herself in every possible way so that her boys can capture the very best that life has for them. She would tell you that the love they give in return provides her with all the strength she needs to do what she does every single day without fail--without hesitation.
Lori, my friend, you have discovered the joy that does not come from this world, and you know that this world can never take it away from you. I love you. Thank you for lighting my path and the paths of others with your laughter and strength. You remind us not to sweat the small stuff, but instead to be grateful for every day we are given. Each day is a precious gift. I shudder to think that we almost didn’t connect, for you have been a tremendous blessing to me. I am most grateful to have you in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day to you!