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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