Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Very [Cajun] New Year

Usually, I deliberately stay home on New Year's Eve. I don't want to be on the roads. So, I hadn't made any plans for this year. I mean, I hadn't made any plans other than sleeping for this year. But yesterday, our Maintenance guy and a volunteer invited me to a party they were hosting at a local Cajun restaurant known for its dance floor. "The band is going to be great, you should come!" they said. I agreed.

No regrets here! The "party" was from 7-9, so I felt I could leave before the craziest of crazies were on the road. AS SOON as the Cajun band started rockin' (accordian included), the dance floor was packed. There is no joke that folks of all ages dance here. Couples who can barely hobble to the dance floor cut a rug as soon as the music starts playing. Babies are rocked and bounced along to the music. I bet pregnant moms dance there, too, in order to get that music absorbed into the womb. The dance floor even came with a lady dancing by herself (or possibly with herself; she appeared to be having a conversation with herself, too).

When it comes right down to it, I am a dancing fool. It took a few dances for me to get the feel of it; I am used to more structured ballroom dancing. Whenever I waltzed before, it was a ballroom-style waltz. Here, the waltz steps are the same but tighter and the style is much freer. I was told to "relax" several times. But was also asked to dance several times, many times by repeat partners. I consider that a dancing compliment. There were a few times where I felt like Judy Garland during the Christmas ball scene of "Meet Me in St. Louis," when she has several (mostly awkward) dance partners. I choose to wear dancing heels, which, even at my less than 5'5" stature, had me tower over several of my partners. But I had so much fun.

I left before ten to get back home. I can hear all sorts of fireworks going off to celebrate the new year. But this broad plans on being fast asleep as the midnight hour strikes CST. With a smile on my face and my toes still tapping.

Happy New Year to all my friends and family! Especially to those who follow me via this blog. May your 2012 be filled with countless opportunities to enjoy life's dancefloor.

A Very Merry [Texas] Christmas

Welp. I have made it to Texas and back. And if you have ever driven through the state, you understand that that is a feat (don't mess with Texas). Whenever people ask where is Abilene, I usually respond "where the "E" is when "Texas is spelled out across the map." Sometimes people get it. Usually, I just get funny looks.

I absolutely enjoyed my visit. It was the perfect time for me to take a break from my life and chill with my grandparents. I had fun visiting with them, too. And my heart beats happy in Texas. Always has, always will. I feel I could write many blog posts, each about a different segment of my trip. Titles of those posts would include:

"My Grandparents are Awesomer Than Yours"
"Bibbidy Bobbidy Bacon!"
"A Trip to the Zoo: For Ol' Time's Sake"
"A Trip to the Zoo: A Way to Catch Pnemonia"
"A Trip to the Zoo: Giraffe Tongues Still Freak Me Out"
"Abilene, Abilene, Prettiest Town I've Ever Seen"
"My Hair Cooperates Better Without Humidity"
"I Gots Me Some Biscuits and Gravy, Yum"

I started doing some preliminary family "research," really just listening to stories and making copies of some documents and photos in my grandmother's possession. I also visited the cemetery where many family members are buried. We took trips to the zoo, the National Center of Children's Illustrated Literature, and the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum. It was fun.

On my way back to Louisiana, I took the long way home to stop in Austin overnight to visit a friend. We went to the state capitol building and some other funky Austin sites. On the way down, I visited the National Museum on the Pacific War in Fredicksburg, Texas (talk about a cool town! I will be visiting again). I spent over three hours at the museum, trekked my way over to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Site (gotta get my stamp!), and finally arrived in Austin in time for dinner. I hadn't seen that friend in over four years, so it was good to catch up.

Family cemetery.

Cowboy Christmas.

This sign doesn't have to say it, because everyone knows what it really means is "I'll shoot ya."

Don't mess with Texas.

The inside of the capitol building.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas is Coming (the Goose is Getting Fat)

Yesterday I read a short book about hurricanes. I figured since I now lived in a place where hurricanes were a part of life, I should become a little more familar with the storm. The power of the storm builds as the right combination of moisture and heat contribute to the early storm. Over the ocean, the hurricane grows stronger (sometimes devastatingly so) before it hits land. Land serves as a source of friction, slowing down the hurricane, causing the storm to eventually die.

I was thinking today of my personal Christmas-hurricane. I LOVE Christmas! I make references to the holiday year-round. Today I 1) noticed the countdown 'til Christmas printed onthe front page of the Baton Rouge paper and 2) asked a child today if she knew how many days were left until Christmas and received the answer almost before I was finished asking the question. Those things made me wonder about my own excitement this year. My overall Christmas enthusiasm is not quite as strong this year as in years past.

That caused me to ponder "why?" Where is my Christmas intensity? I believe, like a hurricane, I have sources of power. Rather than heat and moisture, however, I thrive on family and friends and sharing joyous times with those I love. I got that briefly earlier this week when I visited siblings. And I felt a surge yesterday with a call from my parental units. And I am very excited to see my grandparents on Sunday. I feel like my Christmas hurricane is only delayed, as I will be celebrating with family days following the 25th.

I suppose I should give a fair warning. Don't let this lull fool you. I still have got potential for a massive storm. It is just hovering, currently.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011


I decided today (well, this evening) would be a good time for a massive overhaul of my room, a major reorganization in order to finally get myself settled in. I started almost two hours ago and have worn myself out. But I am only halfway done! So I sat down for a moment to rest but feel like I am now planted firmly on my couch. Yep. Not moving any time soon.

There is now currently a bigger mess in my bedroom than when I started. I am sitting in my living room and can't see it from here. So maybe I will pretend it will clean itself. So I can read a little. Maybe it really will clean itself (like in Disney's Sleeping Beauty or Sword in the Stone- I just have to figure out where to get one of those wands).

Sigh. I will finish what I started. Because I have to.

I just don't know when...

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

aye, ye scurvy dog

"So, do you still want to be a pirate?"

The question posed by my brother in law expressed curiosity mixed with a touch of being ornery. I got to visit with my sister, brother, and awesomest-brother-in-law-ever the past few days. I love love love them. All three have seen me at my best, my worst, my lowest, my highest, my meanest, my brightest, my softest, my loudest, and, well if I had a most quiet, they'd have seen that, too. The point is, they love me in my entirety and I can be completely at ease with them. Which is why my brother in law feels he can stir things up sometimes. And I'm okay with that.

Do I still want to be a pirate? Did I ever fully desire that? I read enough about true piracy as a kid to know what they were all about, but still chased after my fascinations of the lore. I think there are elements to the lore that attract attention. Mystery. Exploration. Freedom. Escape. Wonder. Treasure. Ships, seas, ports, goods. Brotherhood (sans any mutinying). Eye patches. Buckles for swashing. Oh, wait...

I will continue to follow my personal interests of learning more of the lore, talking like a pirate on Internation Talk Like A Pirate Day, watching Muppet Treasure Island, and drinking from my assorted collection of skull-and-crossbone glasses and mugs. Yar. Simultaneously, I am working through the challenge of presenting the truth at work, separating fact from fiction, and figuring a way to negotiate a balance between lore and reality.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

white gravy and gumbo

At first I found it amusing when people were shocked when I have not devoured massive amounts of gumbo over the course of my life time. In fact, I am pretty sure I can count the number of servings of gumbo I have had in my lifetime on one hand. It got old rather quickly, however, and I began finding myself thinking "gumbo is a fairly regional dish, guys! And I've never lived here before!" Doh!

While talking to a coworker today, it came up in conversation (as I was clarifying some facts about gumbo to tentatively include in the Junior Ranger program), and I said out loud, "why is it people are so surprised about my lack of gumbo-eating!? don't the realize the regional ties to the stuff??" We continued discussing regional foods and white gravy came up.

I don't know how you feel about white gravy (another coworker called it "slop,"- obviously she is not a fan), but I LOVE it. If I go through the efforts to make a breakfast, I usually try to include biscuits and gravy (and bacon, but THAT'S a no-brainer). I love white gravy on chicken fried steak. And if at all possible, I love to dip chicken tenders with a side of Texas Toast in white gravy. Mmm mmm mm mmmm, delicious. I know, I know. My arteries hardened just a little reading that, too. Anyways, I come to find out biscuits and gravy are not all that popular around here. In fact, traditionally, cornbread was more likely to be served with meals than biscuits.

WHAT?! No biscuits and gravy?! What is this world coming to?! These poor south Louisianans are clearly missing out! Then it dawned on me. How is my reaction any different than those who are surprised at my gumbo-less lifestyle? Biscuits and gravy are fairly regional in themselves (thank goodness the great state of Tennessee found itself in that region). It was an eye-opener for me. I will try to embrace the shock I recieve when I share my life story via gumbo-eating with locals.

Incidently, I have been craving fluffy biscuits drowning in some gravy all afternoon. With some bacon. Of course.

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Peace, Love, and Soy Nog

I think of my family's Christmas traditions as a blend. Some traditions come from my Mom's side, some from my Dad's. Some we picked up from the different places we lived (ten-plus states and two countries outside the US). Some have faded (we think about warm milk before bed on Christmas Eve, but I don't think anybody in my family drinks it anymore). Some persist (I believe monkey bread was made on two different continents last year). And memories of each tradition bring little swells of joy to me.

So this evening, as I enjoy my Christmas playlist and wrap presents, I think of my family. I could dwell on how much I miss them but I'd rather focus on how thoughts of them bring smiles to my face. I think of Christmas memories (smile). I think of family I will be able to visit in the upcoming days and weeks (smile).

And even if I cannot share this season fully with my family in a traditional sense (I would really like it if I could hear my mom belt out "five gooooold rings!" like Miss Piggy on the John Denver version of The 12 Days of Christmas right now), I can still share a little:

"She's an Artist!!"

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

What's in a name?

I suppose it is time to lay out my struggles with Jean Lafitte. Pirate or Patriot? boldly announces him our exhibits. We hand out a site bulletin (fancy name for brochure) that gives some basic information about the man. Well, the basic information that we know... which is very little. "So why was the park named after him??" I am getting to that.

We know he was a man. We know he was French. We know he was in charge of a group of guys on a boat (well, several boats). We know he stole slaves from Spanish ships and sold them (illegally in the United States at this point) dirt cheap in south Louisiana. We know he was well-known in New Orleans (so well known, in fact, that newspapers at the time do no bother to describe the wanted man, assuming everybody knew who he was). We know he was not a privateer (a "legal" pirate). We have evidence that he fought in the Battle of 1812 (TECHNICALLY the Mr. Lafitte involved could have been his brother, Pierre). We have evidence that he and his men knew the Barataria area so well that they chose it to smuggle their goods (slaves, included) and evade capture. We have evidence that he and his men got what they wanted: they marauded, they stole, they murdered. Murdered. Many stories of the time echo of people disappearing (usually free women of color), with brutal, bloody stories of recovered bodies. We know he was a criminal.

Oh, and the reason the slaves he sold were so popular was because regardless of price, he made a profit. Because he stole them. So he sold them at extremely low prices. That worked well for slave-owners in south Louisiana, because of the types of working conditions here at the turn of the ninteenth century. Slaves died young, in large part because of the types of labor required for the types of crops here (and living conditions were not all that great, either). The average slave died around the age of 30. Jean Lafitte was very popular. To some.

"Wait. You still haven't mentioned why the park is named after him." Well, the park was named in a time of the twentieth century when we as a nation did not pay much mind to these sorts of things. He supposedly fought at Chalmette. He had business in the French Quarter. And he did "business" through the Barataria Preserve (the three cultural sites were added after the original park was established).

Now, I love me some pirate lore (in case you could not tell). I am pretty sure I thought I was a pirate at the age of four (after I got over that whole the-pirates-on-The-Pirates-of-the-Carribean-ride-can't-actually-eat-me thing... a terrifying experience at the age of four). I love pirates in pop culture and in fact, have two pirate costumes- one for parties and one eighteenth century recreation (thanks, Mom!). Heck, I even got a pirate tattoo (ha ha, sike! Tricked ya, Dad!). But when one of my passions collides with one of my loves, it causes an internal storm strong enough to bash a ship against the shore (I couldn't help myself, sorry).

My passion is to inspire interest of history to a broader variety of people groups, especially youth. I also love to connect people to parks (especially kids!). But I do not believe glorifying a slave trader is the answer in this case, regardless of how "cool" pirates are perceived in our culture right now. But I know there is not an easy answer, either. So I will continue to navigate these challenges, gazing into the distant horizon, wondering where the winds will take The Pink Insanity (the name of my imaginary pirate ship... and I apologize about another cheesy metaphor...).

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

blogging thoughts

I have napped on and off all day, but I think I broke the spell. I do not feel my 100% self, but it is all mind over matter (right, Dad?). Napping is NOT a quality way to spend a day off.

Blogging is, however! I can post my incessantly rambling thoughts to the world. I recently found this blog about interpreting the Civil War. And while the topic has provided frustrations in the past, it still provides fascinations (and yes, I miss my old park). I took a long distance class with one of the authors. His note about himself sounds very familiar to me. I am a recovering student, too! I seem to float, too! But I am also starting to perish without a vision. Don't get me wrong, I love my new park and love love love my job, but I was used to constant demands. Now I am feeling a void. I still ponder. I still digest. I still like to think. And I love to spark interest in others.

So I am currently considering how I can reapply myself. I am beginning to volunteer at the American Red Cross, but that won't take up too much time (and doesn't engage my brain the same way). I am making plans to create a video for a friend's historic home (that will be a creative/thoughtful release). But I am contemplating the long-run. I am considering another blog- a visual one- about living here. Not so much just living here (that is what I do now), but interpreting here. Telling the stories and histories of the area, visually. I have to thoughts in my head. They are just swirling around like glitter in a snowglobe. I am going to take some time and make some plans. Wait for it. It's gonna be big.

And I find it entertaining that I have friends and sometimes family who encourage me to do something "fun" and that time away from work should be entirely for me. But it isn't that I need to take a break from work- I love what I do. And doing these types of projects that once upon a time would have been submitted as homework assignments are fun, especially since I will be able to do them my own way. Again, these are just thoughts. On my mind. On my quite-possible-fever-addled-mind. But that is what this is for, right?

we took a little bacon and we took a little beans

I am not feeling well and will most likely not fall back to sleep any time soon. What shall I do to pass the time? I know! I'll blog. I wanted to write about Saturday's trip, anyway.

So I drove out to New Orleans, working my way to the Chalmette Battlefield in order to hear a talk about the REAL Jean Lafitte (don't worry, that will be another post later... maybe later this morning if my tummy continues to feel like this). I have driven into New Orleans several times and, in fact, have been to the Chalmette Battlefield once upon a time. I just had napped during that drive. So Saturday was a good experience (since I direct visitors how to get there).

First, I got to ponder the intersections of different transportation routes, as the draw bridge was, well, drawn.

I would have enjoyed sitting and waiting and pondering a little better if nature hadn't been calling so loudly. All I was really thinking was, "I hope that boat hurries up so I can find a restroom soon!"

When the draw bridge finally dropped and we got moving, traffic crossed the street... which delivered us into the Lower Ninth Ward. Doh! No stopping for me! The battlefield was only a few more miles away (yes, close to the Lower Ninth Ward), so I was able to refrain from wetting myself.

Now, for the million-dollar question: what is the Chalmette Battlefield?! Gold star for you if can correctly answer what war it was a part of. Hint: A General Jackson served there. Another Hint: His first name was not Stonewall. That's right! The Battle of New Orleans from the War of 1812!

Do you like how the National Park Service has to specifically say that on their signs? They couldn't fit "no, Stonewall did not fight here... wrong war," on the sign, though that would have alleviated some questions rangers get in the Visitor Center.

The new Visitor Center is quite nice, it tells the story of the Battle of New Orleans. Alright. Another Gold Star if you can list five facts about the War if 1812. Saying that it was fought in 1812 does not count. But you could get some extra credit if you sing that song. Unfortunately, many Americans do not know why the War of 1812 is significant. I have encountered more French folk who have a better understanding of American history than Americans. One of the park rangers told me a quote from a guy in history (of which I will poorly paraphrase): think of the Revolutionary War as this nation's conception and the War of 1812 as this nation's birth. In fact, until the American Civil War, January 8th was the second biggest holiday in this nation after July 4th.

The Battle of New Orleans provides many interesting nuances about American history. One of those nuances was the diverse fighting force under General [Andrew] Jackson. Several languages would have been heard along his lines. Heck. Even the Choctaw served under him (I wonder if they'd been so willing to do so if they knew what his policies on natives would be while he was President).

He acknowledged the diversity, however, and sang its praises. We are America. We are the United States. And the Battle of New Orleans became one event that helped define us as a baby nation. The war is interesting to think of in light of how we try to define ourselves later with the outbreak of the American Civil War (Stonewall fought in THAT one, guys).

I explored the site. Their national cemetery has over 16,000 graves, many from the Civil War (only a handful from the War of 1812).

The landscape prompted thought, for no matter where you go, the view includes refineries and plants in the horizon.

That is why the park service does what it does, protection and perservation of the special places that tell the American story, "for the enjoyment of future generations."

Indeed. After I completed my tour, I got to go on a walk about Jean Lafitte and learned about why the park was named for him. The stories are sometimes chilling but I will have to share another time. He did fight for Jackson (Andrew, not Stonewall), so the question is posed "Pirate or Patriot?" But there is much more to it.

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Saturday, December 3, 2011


I am waiting for my coffee to brew, so I can turn on my brain to start my day. I am excited to start my day! I am working, yes, but on what we will call a "special assignment." Today I get to go to the Chalmette Battlefield site of the park in New Orleans and, wait for it, listen to a talk on PIRATES!

I know. I just heard the cheering in my head, too. The trip is also designed for me to get familiar with the rest of the park. I had been to Chalmette several years ago, but that was after Hurricane Katrina and before the new visitor center opened. I will also re-visit Jazz National Historic Park to see their new exhibits.

I think I can hear the gurgling of the coffee pot, telling me "come and get it!" I will let you know how my trip goes.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

king of the wild frontier

My family will be the first to attest to it: I consider myself an independent soul. I dance to my own drum (who marches??). I color outside of lines. I often think so far outside of the box that I lose the ability to even see said box. And maybe in my independence, I forget to convey that I appreciate those who love and support me. Family especially. Friends are good, too.

My best friend lives in New Orleans. Newly married, she and her husband live in a cute townhouse in a funky neighborhood. I love to visit. In one room, they have a bookshelf that wraps around the entire room, filled with books (history books, because they are nerds like me).

I was waiting in the room yesterday, when I reached up, pulled out a book on Davy Crockett, and asked, "may I please borrow this one?" "Aw, Biz!!," they both exclaimed, "You found your Christmas present!" We all started laughing because they thought the odds of me finding this book amongst all those books were next to none and I was slightly embarrassed (I giggle when embarrassed). But my laughter also served as a way to hide the glistening of tears.

My friends knew me so well that they chose for me the one book I would have chosen for me (out of literally hundreds). They take care of me in ways I don't always realize. It is easy for me to take for granted those in my life that are close to me (even if there are physical distances... you know who you are!). But underneath my independent facade, I appreciate those gestures and cherish being cherished.

Sappy, I know. But I had to share. The end of the story includes me putting the book back and promising to act surprised when I open it. Whenever I open it, my ear-to-ear smile will not be because I am surprised; it will be because I know I am loved. I will also belt out the theme song from Disney's version of Davy Crockett, because that is how I roll.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dulcimer Jam Session

Some people call their job "work." I call my job "awesome." Today the Acadian Cultural Center hosted a dulcimer "jam session," in which volunteers came out to jam on their... dulcimers (listen here):

It was a delightful way to spend my Saturday morning, listening to a variety of songs played. At one point, as the players picked out a Cajun tune, the older (and more experienced) player began to sing the words in Cajun French. It was slow, unusual for Cajun music, but sweet.

I continue to find my new job filled with fascinations and surprises. It is no wonder I have a bounce in my step in the morning as I anticipate what my workday will bring.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two-Tone Drink

When possible, many of my dad's side of the family gather at my grandparents' house in central New York for Thanksgiving. While I was in high school, my dad was stationed at Ft. Drum, a little over an hour's drive from my grandparents' house, so we were fortunate that we could spend holidays with them for a few years. Thanksgiving was usually the most-attended, but Grandma found a place for everybody to stay. Traditions include watching the Macy's parade on TV, playing Monopoly, and popping "poppers" at the end of the meal (and proudly wearing the paper crown, as long as it didn't tear).

One tradition that had evidently lapsed with the family was that of the Two-Tone Drink. Two-Tone Drink is grapefruit juice with a twist. Half of the juice has been mixed with lots of sugar and some red dye to make it a little thinker, pinker, an much sweeter than the rest of the juice. To make the two-toned appearance, the regular juice is poured into a glass to fill it up about halfway. Then, with what looks like a ginourmous eye-dropper, the darker pink juice is sucked into the eye-dropper "straw," carefully inserted into the light pink juice glass, and carefully sqeezed underneath the pink juice. The density of the sugar forces the light pink juice to the top, creating layers- a Two-Tone Drink. It looks very pretty, especially when served in crystal-clear goblets (like Grandma had).

I had never seen this drink, but one year Grandma decided it should be served with the Thanksgiving feast. It happened to be the same year that my siblings and cousins seemed to have made themselves disappear while dinner was cooking and the table needed setting, so I was the only "kid" to help (and for this family, the definition of "kid" does not correlate with one's age. You sit at the kid's table until you have kids of your own, I believe...). Grandma assigned me with setting the tables and creating the drinks (they have to be made in place, because if you move them around too much, the layers mix). It was fun, using the skills I learned from Milton Bradley's Operation to create mini beverage masterpieces.

As the family sat down for dinner, my dad and aunts nearly squealed with delight. "Two-Tone Drink!? My favorite!" They remembered the drinks from their own childhood (and knew what was in the drink, though never verbalized it). The drinks are beautiful to look at and my siblings and cousins were carefully analyzing the concoctions. "How are there two layers? What is it? How does it do that?"

Now, if you know me, you know that inside of me there is always a battle. Nice Elizabeth and Naughty Elizabeth are constantly struggling with each other. Nice Elizabeth does not always win. I knew the drinks were actually pink grapefruit juice, a tart (almost sour) taste, and thought about telling the cousins that the pretty pink drinks were actually not sweet (until you got to the dark layer).

"You should tell your cousins, you know."

"Don't do it! They won't drink it! Let them try the drink for themselves."

"That's not fair. The element of surprise in this case could have horrible results. Like, what if one of them is allergic to it?!"

"No, if they volunteered to help, they could have seen what was put in the drinks. Let them find out. It won't be so bad!"

"It is pink grapefruit juice! Of course it is bad!! At least if you are expecting tart, it isn't so bad but they are expecting sweet to match the pink!"

"Ha ha ha ha!!"

Oh, I can remember that internal battle well. It lasted over the entire course of grace and the time it takes for us to go around the table to share what each of us is thankful for. Naughty Elizabeth won. I decided to not speak up and tell my siblings and cousins what the drink was made of.

Of course, everybody drank the Two-Tone Drink simultaneously, and if we were a cartoon, seven little explosions would have left the table saturated in pink grapefruit juice. Instead, polite grimaces and slight groans occured and the reactions to the juice happened around the table.

Maybe I should have told them. But I still laugh when I think about their faces. And am thankful that I have a family willing to forgive when Naughty Elizabeth overcomes Nice Elizabeth.

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

my dream job

Blogging is one of many forms of journaling that I do. Maybe it is the historian in me that feels the need to record my day-to-day. I also find it helpful to record things in order to track progress (I have a journal for work, because heaven knows time flies by so fast that I can never remember when events happen). I also have a fun journal; a "Q&A-a-day" journal that has space for five years-worth of answers. Each day it poses a thought-provoking question and has a few lines for an answer. In theory, you record your answer and a year later answer the same question over the course of five years. I am only in the first year (about six months into it); it will be interesting to see how my life changes over the next five years.

Yesterday's question was, "what is your dream job of the day?" That's easy! Being a park ranger! But the ease of which my answer came to me prompted me to consider the question more thoroughly. Is that really my dream job? I don't have another? Have I seriously hit the jackpot?

I pondered it for a while. Maybe a Ben and Jerry's ice cream taster? A pilot? A photographer for National Geographic? A host for a show on either the History Channel or the Travel Channel? A children's book illustrator? An astronaut? :)

Yes, there are other cool jobs on this planet, but I am seriously living out a dream and fairly regularly am told by visitors that if they could do it over again, they'd consider park rangering. I am very fortunate that I found something I love to do so early in my life. And in this month of thanksgiving, I am thankful for both the employment and the satisfaction I get from my work.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Barataria Preserve

Yesterday, one of my days off, I decided to begin exploring south Louisiana. I started by seeing another part of my own park, the Barataria Preserve. Even though the calendar reads "November," it reached 85 degrees yesterday afternoon. Whew. I stopped at the visitor center, talked to the ranger there for a bit, then decided to take a short hike. I had dinner plans and was on somewhat of a schedule, but even the short time I go to spend exploring the small portion of the park was amazing. I stuck with the Visitor Center Trail (though, walked down the Palmetto Trail a short distance).

The boardwalked trail had minimal signage.

The mystery and lore contained in the idea of a swamp was evident (to me, anyway).

As I reached the end of the boardwalk, I could hear distant rolls of thunder and smell warm, heavy scent of a possible rain.

I decided to start back when the I felt the plops of huge drops.

My pace broke into nearly a run as I realized I would be soaked in a minute's time if the rate of rainfall kept up. Eek! I had to go to dinner and I did not bring another nice oufit! But as quickly as the downpour started, it stopped. And the swamp turned into a warm, sticky sauna. That was my cue to head back to my car and work my way over to New Orleans. Now that I got to spend some time at the Barataria Preserve and know what is available, I know for the next visit what to pack in order to be better prepared for a longer visit.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

boot polish

There are certain smells that I automatically think of as "Army smells." Boot polish reminds me of early mornings when my dad would let myself and brother "help" polish his boots. We probably made more work for him, but time we got to spend with Dad was so much fun! Barbersol shaving cream and starch reminds me of Army hugs and kisses, usually goodbye kisses as we left for school or Dad left for work. A freshly pressed uniform makes a particular sound when giving hugs. Engine oil mixed with dust (and probably sweat) was what Dad's bags smelled like after he returned from time in the field or deployed. But those were good smells because it meant Dad was home.

Army smells were just a part of my life when I grew up. Moving where the Army sent us was a part of life. Making new frriends quickly because we may not stay long was a part of life. Hearing cadence calls from passing troops doing PT in the early hours of the morning was a part of life. Stopping the car and paying respects at 5pm when the post's flag was coming down was a part of life. Acronyms like PCS and TDY were a part of life. Dad being gone for weeks, months, or even a year at a time was a part of life.

The words "Thank You" can not express enough how deeply I feel gratitude for those who serve and have served in the military. But I feel a special "Thank You" is in order for the families of service members. I was a fortunate child, resilient, loved, encouraged. I could not have asked for better parents or a better upbringing. I can't imagine the difficulties that both of my parents experienced, but appreciate their sacrifices more than I can say. That is where my remembrance rests today, on the servicemembers and their families. Where would our nation be without them?

And may I say, I now polish my own boots every morning (albeit park ranger boots) and the polish ALWAYS reminds me of my dad and those mornings spent with him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

young astronaut

In order for my days off to change from Sunday/Monday to Tuesday/Wednesday, I had to work seven days in a row, so I haven't really felt like posting. Then yesterday I spent organizing my last few boxes of paperwork, thesis stuff, bills needed filing, etc. That took forever to accomplish, it felt like! I have caused many trees to die, but now those trees are neatly filed in several filing drawers.

Among my crazy, mixed-up files I found papers from my childhood. Report cards, homework pieces, art projects, and books. My favorite piece might be the Young Astronaut Passport:

At the age of seven years, I was a part of the Young Astronauts Club at my school. As far as I can remember, it was an afterschool, extracurricular club for elementary students to learn about space. I don't know if it were the space exploration part, the fact that I felt like a big kid (because I got to stay after school with the big kids), or the sugar straws that we got at the end of each club meeting, but finding the passport reminded me of a very positive childhood memory.

I now feel that even though I did not grow up to be an astronaut, I continue with exploration in a different sense. I continue learning. And I try to instill the sense of wonder, a sense of exploration in youth that I work with today. So maybe one day they will grow up to be an astronaut. Or a park ranger.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

a girl of many talents

I would say I wear many hats, but in reality, I only wear one hat. One very distinct, recognizable hat. But by wearing that recognizable hat, I am expected to have many skills (or at least be willing to learn many skills). Today I was not just park ranger, but also projector intstaller.

Jean Lafitte NHPP has six sites throughout south Louisiana, each one with a different purpose. The Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice needed a new projector installed, so myself and my partner in crime (the other park guide), trekked off to Eunice to install said projector. The trip also served as a training trip for me, a way for me to continue to learn about the region and the park's resources. This site is set amongst farm fields (rice paddies, sugar cane, and other crops):

The center in Eunice greets you with a maniquin dressed in the traditional Mardi Gras costume found in the more rural/country areas of south Louisiana.

Clowns are scary, everybody knows this. Unfortunately, the traditional costume resembles that of a clown's ensemble. I will have to research where the tradition of the costume comes from (so it becomes less scary to me). I walked through the museum quickly to see what the site had to offer, then got to business.

The other park guide and I had to get on top of a ladder, remove the old mounting system, install the new mounting system, install the projector, and trial and error our way through making the projected films just right (right-side-up and focused). After almost an hour, we got it fixed:

Curtsy! Curtsy! I am a big girl! No need to call in the big guns or make an IT specialist drive in all the way from New Orleans! I call that just another day serving America.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

boat ride on the bayou

I finally did it! I finally got to go on my first boat tour of the bayou! And, yes, it was just as exciting as I had imagined.

For those that don't know, bayou is another term for river (borrowed from the Choctaw word for "slow moving water"). My only exposure to bayous prior to my move here came from the Pirates of the Carribean ride at Disnelyland and the Disney classic, "The Rescuers." Disney's version of the world impacted much of how I am today (to include my desire to spontaeously break into song and dance), but I digress.

The weather could not have been better. It was sunny with a high of 75, with a very light breeze. There was a lot to see.

We got to see some wildlife (mostly birds, to include a blue heron and several kingfishers), but no gators. I am in no rush to see an alligator in the wild. The bayou serves as another form of travel form some (even today, with modern roads established throughout the area) and we passed some residential areas.

This house had a "Keep Out" sign posted in the front. It conjured up images of the Pirates of the Carribean ride (without the singing... or the pirates...). We passed some fishermen, the airport, a country club, and a dead cow. Not all at the same time, however. Evidently, dead cows along the bayou are fairly common. There is a lot of grazing along the bayou and sometimes the cows get stuck in the mud along the banks. The state of Louisiana offers a subsidy for fencing to prevent this, but some have not put up fencing (I was told because it was cheaper for owners to lose a cow every once in a while instead of fencing the cows away from the river and coming up with another way to provide water to the herds). In case you were wondering, dead cows smell about as horrible as you can imagine a dead cow smelling.

We partner with the Bayou Vermilion District's Historic Vermilionville, a site that interprets a recreation of a 19th century Cajun village. Our bout captain, Greg, is from the area (and Cajun) and helps with the tour (and, incidently, as boat captain, drives the boat). I am still in training but will soon enough be leading my own tours along the bayou!

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Look out, Lafayette!

Today is my first day off (and my last Sunday off- at least while I am working here). I have my fair share of chores to complete in my house (finishing unpacking, organizing, and settling in has become practically an obsession of mine). But today's high is supposed to hit the mid-70s with the sun shining almost all day. That type of forecast is inviting- inviting me to explore my new city a little. There is a city park that is supposed to have a running trail. I have to go check that out. I also want to walk around the downtown area. I will try to take some pictures so I can share scenes of my new place.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

protecting and upholding

Today I met my boss officially. She works out of another site (still the same park) about two hours away. I also had to fill out a bunch of paperwork as part of my transfer. One of the pages is an official oath in which I affirm to protect and uphold the US Constitution, so help me God. Why, that is a very serious charge! I felt it serious enough to have my picture taken while signing said oath (disregard my lack of serious expression... I can't not smile when I know I am being photographed):

Still no boat tour today! Looks like I will have to wait until next week. Which means my anticipation will continue to build until I pop. Wait for it.

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Boudin (pronounced boo-dahn)

Growing up all over the United States (and parts of the world), I have had my fair share of cultural exposure. Food, family-style, dancing, traditions, music, holidays, religions (throw all of that into a blender and you get what is called "culture"). South Louisiana has a particularly distinct culture (a culture of which is now my job to interpret). Part of its distinct culture is the food.

I have yet to try local fare (I have been busy settling in). But I have to be familiar with the terms and what they are, because as it turns out, Cajuns not only like to eat good food but they also like to talk about good food. It may have been my mistake to ask "what is boudin?" without trying to google it first (and learn about the proper pronounciation). That question provided a half-hour answer, with four different people contributing. It is a type of spice and rice-filled sausage that you can traditionally purchase from a meat market. I was informed where I should get it, what parts I should eat (there was debate on whether the casing is good or not), and what I can make with it if I decided I did not want to eat it. I think the first place I will try it from is a place called NuNus. Because the place is called NuNus.

Later, I met a guy (about 19 or 20) who found out I was not from here. His comment: "Oh, I heard all the food up north is bland." Is that code for something? Maybe he doesn't realize that Minnesota is really the only place in the US where people eat lutefisk (best served with lots of butter) and indeed, other regions eat spicy food.

On a side, I did not go on a boat tour of the bayou but MAYBE will get to do so today!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Day

Today was my first day of work at Jean Lafitte NHPP. I think I am going to fit right in. The staff is friendly and the history and geography are fascinating (and I have only scratched the surface). Tomorrow I will go on my first boat tour of the bayou, soon enough I will be giving them.

I am also in the process of settling into my new apartment. This is my very first apartment that is totally my own, sans roommates. I lived a few short stints at the park without roommates, but it was still technically a dorm-style layout (and most of my stuff was in boxes). I am having fun making this place mine, but unpacking and organizing is exhausting. See what I have to work with?

Yikes!! Actually, I took that picture yesterday. It is looking better. Before long, everything will be unpacked and put in its place. Then I can begin exploring my new backyard. It looks like I won't have time to be bored here with all the festivals, cook-offs, and other assorted gatherings. Laissez les bon temps roulers! (After I finish unpacking, of course).

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

goodbye, pile of broken wood!

I left Murfreesboro this morning and am currently hanging out with my sister and awesomest-brother-in-law-ever in West Tennessee. I had planned on leaving about 9AM this morning, finally hitting the open road at 10:24AM (it runs in the family). Before leaving, I had to turn in my badge and keys and say my final farewells at the park. I did not like to give up my shiny (gold) badge, but I will get another issued to me at my new park.
If my car has a nook or cranny, that nook and/or cranny is currently jamb-packed with the rest of my earthly possessions that did not make the trip to Louisiana last week. As I left my driveway this morning, I felt like this (about second 0:39): With the exception of my driver-side door, stuff has to fall out in order for me to open a door. I will leave early tomorrow morning and have another seven and a half or eight hours in the car before I arrive in my new hometown. If you continue to watch the movie clip to approximately 5:40, you can have a preview of how my ride will look tomorrow (song and all). "Oh, every day another new adventure! Every mile another new zip code... I got no strings on me, I'm feeling fancy free, how wonderful to be on the open roh-ooohohhooooh-ooohoohhoooh-ooohooohoooooh-ad!"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

keep on truckin'

Welp. Today was my last day at work at Stones River National Battlefield. Tomorrow I officially am an employee at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve (a mouthful of a park!). I begin working at the Acadian Cultural Center on Tuesday. I will be a'mosey-ing my way down to Lafayette starting tomorrow, with an overnight stop at my sister's and awesomest brother-in-law's house.

These past few days have been bittersweet. I loved my park. I love the people I work with. I am thankful for all of the opportunities I have been provided between my job and my education. In the words of Pinocchio: I'm a real boy! Tomorrow I am officially a permanent employee of the National Park Service! This is the start of my career! But I continue saying my farewells to different people and experiences (I don't like "goodbye" so I say "see you later." Soon I will have to say "au revoir.").

Tomorrow morning's agenda includes a final packing of my car, a swift cleaning of my house, turning in my badges and keys, a few more farewells, and then a rowdy rendition of "On the Road Again" as I roll out of town. And I plan on singing loud.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

thumbs up

Have you ever considered the extent that your thumbs help make life easier? Yes, your thumbs. Those little opposable appendages that I take for granted. I take for granted until, say, I strain a muscle in one. Yes, my thumb. I don't know how, but I have thought of my right thumb all day. Especially when I turned off the alarm of my phone, flipped the cap of my shampoo, washed my hair, braided my hair, twisted off the top to my mascara, turned a key to lock or unlock anything, poured a cup of coffee, opened my creamer, buttoned my shirt, zipped my pants, tied my shoes, typed on a keyboard, typed on my phone, gripped a steering wheel, picked up a box, picked up eleven more boxes, signed my name, signed anything, and that was all before noon. So thank a thumb (yes, a thumb) a seemingly small and possibly insignificant part of the human body, but really a huge help in everyday tasks.

My left thumb is hoping my right thumb gets better soon. All this extra work is wearing it out.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Way Down Yonder in New Orleans

This morning, I woke up with swollen feet, fished out two lingering bobby pins in my hair, and had to peel of the rest of the glue stuck in my eyelashes. I was held together with hairspray, duct tape, and pins. Duct tape? Did she say duct tape? Yes. Duct tape. Don't ask.

Yesterday, I was a bridesmaid in one of my very bestest friend's wedding and was fortunate enough to be able to see her marry her best friend. The bride was stunning, the wedding was beautiful, the reception was fun, and I still have a slight smile curling at the edge of my mouth, thinking of the event. It was a wonderful day.

In all honesty, I had been dreading going. I am not the biggest fans of weddings (or the wedding industry in this country...). And especially knowing it was during the time of my big move, I was mentally resisting jumping in and enjoying myself. I have too much to do! I need to just get through this! But the wedding was in New Orleans and it is hard to not have a hard time in New Orleans (and no, I was not intoxicated for most of the time, contrary to the steroetype).

Besides just being able to share a special time with close friends and family, I especially appreciate that I was privy to an event (well, a series of events) that demonstrated the uniqueness of NOLA and Louisiana. Being the dork that I am, I am aware of where some of these traditions historically, culturally, and geographically come from. But to participate in these events, things like a cake pull or second line, is different than reading about them in a book. I am excited to move to Louisiana and be a part of this place. I have one week left in Tennessee. I have every intention of enjoying my last few days in The Volunteer State before I head back down south.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Love from Brandon, Mississippi

This morning I am feeling refreshed and loved. It is a good feeling. I am currently at a family friend's house in Brandon, Mississippi, getting ready to continue to Lafayette to drop off my stuff at my new apartment. Our visit here has been short but good. My sister and brother-in-law are helping me drive and unload (two shout outs in one week, Will!!). I could not have done this move without my family and friends (and friends who are practically family!). Feeling the support from others has lessened the burdens I created for myself in many ways.

This evening, we will continue on to New Orleans. My best friend is getting married on Saturday and I am in the wedding, weird. We should be back in Tennessee on Sunday, I will work one last week, and will make my first permanent move official the Sunday after next.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

midnight haunts

Have you ever been so engulfed in a moment's brilliance that you had no idea of its actual expanse of time? Einstein called this the theory of relativity. I can't tell you what I call it.

The moonlight caught my eye this evening, so I decided to step outside. The dampness of the air called for me to put on a shirt over my tanktop and beckoned me to stay outside. I currently live in the national cemetery and decided to take a walk. Through the cemetery. A misty haze hung through the trees and over the headstones. The moonlight illuminated the haze, creating an atmosphere that some might even call "haunting."

First, I stopped at the rostrum, a brick structure originally designed as a site for contemplation, reunions, and ceremony. The surrounding cedar tree branches framed the almost-full moon perfectly. From the rostrum I could see row upon row of limestone headstones reflecting the moon's beams. I decided to continue closer to the heart of the cemetery.

The stillness of the cemetery was broken by the few crickets' songs that struck the air. Each beam of light, from the moon, to the businesses along the backside of the cemetery, to the passing traffic along Old Nashville Highway, pierced the haze deliberately, peacefully. I could feel the evening dew dampen my sandaled feet but did not stop walking further into the cemetery. The cemetery. A place where fallen soldiers have been buried for our concept of eternity. A place of which I may never fully grasp its meaning.

The moon was mine. I did not have to share. It was given to me as a gift. A gift to remind me that some things never change, that regardless of how I feel my life is happening, there are always constants: moon rising, stars sparkling, nighttime solitude. I don't know how long I stood out there. And I probably need to wash my feet from the abundance of grass clippings. But this evening has become one of many in which I will tuck away into my pocket and pull out in my future. A moment to remember for my lifetime. A treasure. And nobody can ever take that away from me.

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Yesterday's Successes (Pt. II)

I was so caught up on moving, I forgot to mention a major event that happened at work yesterday. I have been the coordinator for a project in which local high school students produce short films for our park to put on its website. Last year was its first year, a trial run. This year we shifted some things, worked with more teachers, expanded the project, and hoped for the best. Yesterday was the big "on-site video shoot" for the biggest high school related to this project.

May I say I was so proud of these students?

Initially, some of the early ideas and scripts made me a little nervous. "Ack! They don't get it!!" But they have excellent teachers and the passion that their Broadcasting teacher consistantly puts forth helped move the students in the directions they needed to go. I plan on stopping by the class tomorrow, just to say "hey, hi, and bye" and will miss these kids. I am excited to see how the videos turn out, though. And am so happy the day went so smoothly. It was another positive "my last." My last cooridinated event at the park.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

I-Haul, I-Pack, I-Tired

I picked up my Uhaul truck today (ka-ching... tax and insurance and the rental... eesh). I didn't want to save all the loading fun for one night, so I decided to get started tonight. The light inside the truck automatically shuts off after 30 minutes. According to that light's timer, I spent about two and a half hours loading the truck and it is only half full. If I had the physical ability, I would have loaded my coaches and desks by myself. Alas. My supergirl powers only allow me to do so much.

Over the course of the time I spent loading the truck, I had lots of time to think. A sampling of my thoughts include:

-How can one girl have so much stuff?
-Who designed these patented boxes?
-Does one get a certificate for a patent?
-Is the certificate embossed? Or signed?
-How many books can one girl possibly need?
-I am never moving again.
-How did Madonna get on my Jimmy Eat World playlist??
-I hope this truck is big enough.
-How many hours are left before I leave?
-Why did I not tape this box up?
-How many presidents can I name (originally in order, but that list was not very long...). I lost track of who I remembered after President name #34.
-What is it about food names that end with "o?" Cherrios, Cheetos, HoHos...
-How much time would a dolly have saved haf I rented one?
-What's in this box? (That thought prompted me to open it. I found some more books and towels).
-What is it about the color pink that makes me so happy?
-And red, and purple, too?
-How did Leslie Gore get on my Jimmy Eat World playlist???
-It looks like I will be relocating to Lafayette and never leaving after I empty this truck.

Then, I just hit my wall and stopped. I am tired. Today was an extremely productive day, at work and after, but after I hit my imaginary wall, I could not keep going. Bedtime!! My pillow calls my name. Tomorrow is another day to work and finish loading that truck.

And I still haven't figured out how Madonna and Leslie Gore escaped onto my Jimmy Eat World playlist. Hmm.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

she's crazy

I know, I know. I have been really busy and have a ton of stuff to do. But in my spare moments while teetering on the edge of insanity, I chose to paint. I had found a painting I wanted to recreate almost two years ago but thesising interfered with all-things-fun. A few weeks ago, I decided to just do it. I had hoped to complete the piece before I moved so that it could be the first thing I hung on my wall in my new apartment (it won't be as cool as a print of a dancing unicorn on a disco floor, but it is something). I put the finishing touches on it last night before bed:

This is the up close shot, but I cannot figure out how to landscape the image on my phone, so you'll have to crook your neck:

"hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the souls and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all." (emily dickinson)

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a series of my lasts

On Friday, I stopped by our Resource Management office to let a coworker know that it would be our last work day together (because of our work schedules the next two weeks). "This is the end of an era" was his response. Yeah. I guess it kinda is.

All week I have been completing a series of "my lasts." Yesterday, I gave my last bike tour (dorky ensemble included). My last time closing the park happened on Tuesday. I led my last caravan tour a week ago, but had not realized it was my last. I spent my last Saturday in the visitor center, for next week I will be in a wedding and my last Saturday here, I will present workshops at a conference for middle- and high-school girls in science.

So my colleague's mention of "the end of an era" served as my mental box to tuck away all of my memories. It was era. I worked with some amazing people, have countless memories, made my imprint on this park, and know one day I will tell stories that begin with, "when I was at Stones River..." I sometimes get stuck in my I-am-sad-and-am-going-to-miss-this-place mode. Why!? That is not very characteristic of me. This place was awesome! I get to carry these experiences with me! I will continue to rock the brown, wool socks off my future parks. It's what I do.

I will rock and roll outta here in 336 hours. I still have got plenty to do and many more "my lasts" to treasure in that time. Bring it.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

now you have "the final countdown" stuck in your head

I pack a box, pat myself on the back, then sit a minute to contemplate my life. Then I pack another box, pat myself on the back again, then sit another minute to contemplate my life. This may not be the quickest way to move, but it seems to be working for me. We calculated my time at work today: I have 72 hours left of work at Stones River National Battlefield. Don't cry for me, Argentina (The truth is I never left you). I am balancing the two thoughts of not having enough time and The Final Countdown. I still have an incredibly long list of things-I-need-to-complete-before-I-leave (at work alone... my list for everything else I need to do before I leave fills up a small notebook). And this is why I take a moment between each box to contemplate my life. It is my form of maintaining my illusion that I have control in my life.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

why i do what i do

There are days that seem too long, too hectic, too busy, too crazy, too much. My to-do list seems to grow faster than I can conquer it. The piles on my desk stack up. My inbox has line after line of emails that need response. Ack!

But then kids like Matthew wander into the Visitor Center. Matthew visited the park three times this week. Sweet, quiet, eight-year old with blonde curls, blue eyes, and an inquisitive nature. On his first visit with his grandad, I offered the Junior Ranger program to him (as I do with all kids). It was too late in the day to finish, but I told him he could earn the badge and patch if he did the work and came back mailed the book to us. A pretty standard issue, I did not think anything of it. The next day, he visited with his dad, book completed. Good job, Matthew! I love to see Junior Rangers excited to earn their shiny badges.

Today, Matthew visited with his grandmother. He wanted to show her the park and the cemetery. They had lunch here, enjoyed the beautiful day at the park. While Matthew was browsing through the bookstore, I started talking to Matthew's grandmother. Matthew and his family have been in Murfreesboro these past few days because his teenage sister has cancer. She had been treated and had to come back for some more tests; as it turned out, the cancer came back.

I think my heart broke into about thirteen hundred different pieces, hearing that, thinking of the family. The grandmother explained to me that the park had become a form of refuge for Matthew, a peaceful place. She remarked that obviously cancer for the girl was hard for the whole family, but Matthew had a particularly hard time. I had to fight back tears. My petty perceptions of overwhelming days quickly get thrust into perspective when I hear about burdens others have to bear.

Before Matthew left, I gave him a "special" Junior Ranger badge, citing the reason that he came three days in a row. That little piece of plastic made the kid grin ear to ear and melt my heart. These are my reasons that I need to remember when I want to shake my fist at the sky in frustration. It is all a matter of perspective.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

who moved my packing tape?

I know for many, certain sights or sounds or smells mean "home." Maybe it is the vista with a particular set of mountains, maybe it is rows of cotton or corn that stretch as far as the eye can see, maybe it is the delicious smells wafting from the oven that greet you as you cross the threshhold. This sight is "home" to me:

True sign of Army Brat. My earliest memory of packing my own stuff comes from the age of nine, a move my family made from Texas to Colorado (with very little notice). In an attempt to help my mom, I loaded every book I owned into the biggest box I could find. It made sense to me, fitting as much stuff into one box. My dad had to come in and gently correct me that books had to be spread out amongst many small boxes (sure, Dad, whatever you say). Turns out, he was correct. Like always.

The other task of that move I remember being assigned was picking out the essential stuff I would need for the next two weeks so everything could be packed up and loaded onto a truck. My Barbies, duh.

So now here I am, all-growed-up, moving all by myself. I am driving all my stuff to Louisiana a week from tomorrow. Noooooooo! I am not ready!!!! But I have no choice. I only have one day off between now and then so I am trying to spend my spare time packing my non-essential stuff, getting ready for that truck that will be ready for loading on Monday. I have learned that Barbies are not really essential items (and books should be spread throughout countless boxes in order to save your back). And procrastination does not actually stop the clock from ticking. This is happening. I am moving. I am starting a whole new life, a career, an adventure! I just sometimes wish time would slow down just a little so I could keep up.

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Monday, October 3, 2011


Have you ever noticed how the word "severe" is tucked into the word "persevere?" I am sure there is an etymological explanation about it, but it definitely feels that if you have to persevere, it is not through some easy, light, or fun. You persevere through severe, surviving with a new story to tell, or heck, a new scar to show.

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nighttime nashville

Last night I went to dinner with a good friend of mine and she surprised me with a "field trip" of nighttime Nashville. We visited several non-traditional tourist places (of which I had never been to) for nighttime photography's sake. I had a blast.

I think the last one is my favorite. It is very colorful, just like the NashVegas. The cool air and distant strains of music complemented the atmosphere beautifully. I could not have asked for a better night.

I am glad I got the opportunity to explore this place a little more. And my "adventure" last night helps me think about exploring the new city I am moving to (and capturing it in photographs). Watch out world! I am not done, yet.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

why, hello, old friend!

I thought I noticed you pass through a few weeks ago. The temperatures dropped, but that had fooled me. There was no crispness in the air, no chill that stayed overnight. Then last week, I thought I caught a glimpse of you through the trees. The calendar announced your arrival on the 23rd of September! I am a week late, but I recognized your appearance fully this morning! Your brilliance is starting to peek through the tips of branches.

There are sprinklings of you scattered all over the ground.

I love to see your colors! I love you giving me an excuse to wear my sweatshirts! I love your reminder that change is constant, but not neccessarily a bad thing. And I love that without fail, you make an appearance every year. Happy fall!

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

crazy ride

Watch this crazy manuever: I am waiting at a local restaurant for a friend, posting my thoughts to the world. I know! It just broke my brain, too! I have some saved posts that I want to review and edit but I will make an effort to be more consistant about posting! (I said I would, Goma!) I will say that if I were eating Chinese food tonight, my fortune cookie fortune will most likely read "your next three weeks will be insane, but you will survive." I also know that writing about a new place will be fun and I look forward to that. But first I have hang on tight to this wild ride called "ekg's life."

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A Morning Run

I currently live at the battlefield in seasonal housing, a temporary living situation until I move to Louisiana (in 27 days!). I love where I live for many reasons, but I especially love the proximity to my favorite running trails. I just have to tie up my laces and walk out my door. This morning I ran and I could not have asked for a prettier greeting from the day. The temperature was in the low 60s and fog hung in the open fields. I love to see fog on the battlefield during the autumn months. The fog contributes to the hauntedness of the place. Fall mornings also provide sunrises that sear the sky with brilliant pinks and oranges. The breathtaking sights almost interfere with my run as I get distracted from focusing on my pace and heartrate. I try not to think about how much I will miss this place.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

all to' up

I have been working at making my move from my current park to my new park as easy as possible by making lists, documenting work, writing reports, and copying colleagues on emails. I don't mind the extra work but it makes me a little sad. I don't like thinking about leaving. Today I poured through (again) the National Park Service's Call to Action, a document launched five years short of the centennial of the NPS in order to address different issues within the park service. When I read through planning or management documents before, I thought of how it would impact my park. I was reading through the document today thinking of how it would impact this park (and how the park is already addressing some of these action plans), when it struck me that I need to start shifting my mindset. I have to start thinking of my new park. Eek! Change! The way I think will have to shift from making history relevant to making culture (and history and geography) relevant. I am also going to have to pull myself from all-things-Civil-War and that tears me up a little. I like history! I like talking about it! I like engaging about difficult issues, especially those stemming from American history (especially Civil War and Reconstruction!)! I like sparking interest about this topic, especially in kids! It doesn't really help that I have many personal investments tied to this place (I have one word for you: THESIS). I know I will make my way back. I already have plans to visit for the sesquicentennial symposium AND anniversary events. And I am usually one to look forward (because if you look behind you, you might trip on what lays before you). But grappling with this move is difficult for me.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chinese Privet's Worst Nightmare

Now that the summer season has calmed down and we haven't quite reached the peak of our education programming, I am back to my parttime resource management work at the park. I cut down and chemically treat exotic, invasive plants at the battlefield. I worked in resources twice this week tearing it up.

Before my handywork:

After my handywork:

One both days, I had help from a volunteer (though on Saturday morning, I was working solo). We are trying to restore the battlefield's native ecosystem and the most active part of that is removing the exotic, invasive species. The two biggest culprits? Chinese Privet and Bush Honeysuckle. I step out with my work uniform, plastic goggles, rubber gloves, loppers, and spray bottle of herbicide, and those plants start a'shakin' in their roots. "Alright, pardners. There's a new sheriff in town."

Do you sense the fear in this Chinese Privet?

I have to work extra tomorrow in order to treat plants during some of our new tour road construction. Rest easy tonight, invasives, for it will be your last.

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