Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Life is Good Today"

Hi, all. Can't believe I let time get away from me, once again! Let's see if I can compress the last two months into a managable size blog.

In the weeks that followed my good news (passing my Child Life exam), my stress level dropped TREMENDOUSLY. No longer did I need to devote hours each day/week to studying for the exam, and I had also finished my volunteer hours at the library for my volunteer management course. Plus, there was some big agriculture education conference that all of our professors went to, so we somehow ended up with 1 class in 18 days. It was sweet as all get out.

My mom and cousin, Alyssa, came to visit me in Raleigh for the week of Thanksgiving. It was really a nice time with lots of forced relaxation, which I definitely needed. I tried to show them a good time in Raleigh, but I often apologized for leading a boring life, as they sat in front of the tv watching movies while I did some form of schoolwork each day of their visit. :-(

Some of the fun things we did do included touring NC State, watching New Moon, eating a very delicious Cajun Thanksgiving meal, attending the Christmas craftshow at the State Fairgrounds, and checking out a few museums downtown. Of course, I took mom and Alyssa to the Free Expression Tunnel on campus, which they loved (It's a personal favorite of mine!). My mom smuggled some boudain and rice dressing stock on the plane, so we had some legit Cajun food for Thanksgiving. Mmm, it totally made my week! Hehe.

Seriously though, it was just really nice to relax and have my lovely family around. Life in Raleigh has been a real struggle for me, and to have a break from that was wonderful. Realizing now that I won't have this chance again in the spring, I'm wondering how I'm going to make it through another semester without a piece of home. Hmm. I did okay in DC, but my mom and brother came to visit (twice), as well as my little pseudo-Cajun Sunshine, and lots of 4-H family. Plus, I celebrated my birthday and Mardi Gras in DC, with huge care packages, "boxes of love," straight from the heart! I suppose I'm just gonna hope for the best and avoid thinking about what may come. Smile.

Moving on...School ended and I've been home from Raleigh for two weeks now. In my first week at home, I spent a few days tying up loose ends with assignments and work. I'm pretty frustrated with NC State's grading process (actually I think it's ridiculous), but I manged to pull out an A and two A-, so my GPA sits at something like 3.7. Tell me how A;s translate to a 3.7, and I'll give you a cookie. That GPA says to me "a couple of B's," but of course not...at NC State As are not worthy of their full point value. I believe the phrase "FUGS!" is order here, :)

Again, I say the snow gods absolutely hate me. It has snowed in LA twice in the last two years while I have been living out of state. In both places where I was living at the time, it snowed in the days following my departure when I went home for the holidays. Only DC was generous with snow for me. In fact, my little car had half an inch of snow on it in Wake Forest; my dearest Lendy sent me pictures! So not cool man.

While at home, my life hasn't been overly interesting, but I have been up to a few cool things. I went to the first round of bridesmaid dress shopping with Victoria (bride), Anne Catherine, Hilary, and Brandi. A second round is planned with at least Dawn and Lauren D., and maybe Toria R. The happy couple (Victoria and Seth) are having an ornament exchange party this coming Tuesday, the 29th. I'm trying to convince Kyle to come as Dawn and I's date...he's plenty used to pimp status (lol), and we all miss him, plus Dawn and I need dates to the party. Heh. We sure wish he would join us...hint hint, wink wink!

I also helped Ms. Lanette Hebert (Southwest Regional Coordinator) teach a 4-H teen counselor training at the Rice Research Station in Crowley. There were 18 teens signed up for the training, but only 12 showed up. Honestly, this was probably the rowdiest group we've ever had at the training. However, I was very grateful that Ms. Lanette invited me to help, because I love the subject matter and really enjoy the opportunity to volunteer with the 4-H program any chance I get. I really wish I could be around for more state 4-H stuff; I miss being around, seeing everyone, and just generally supporting the program which is so near and dear to my heart.

That night, I went with the Vermilion 4-H Jr. Leader Club to Acadian Village for Noel Acadien au Village. It's in Lafayette, so we took a bus, but a bunch of the kids' families went to the village too. In order to get the group discount, we all had to enter the village together. To get an accurate count, we used Vermilion's tried and true method--TWO BY TWO!! (I bet you remember this well, Co-co?) With a group as large as ours, it was quite entertaining to see the jaws drop (literally!) as other patrons arrived, thinking that our line was the one to enter. It was great. When it was all said and done, we had about a hundred people in our group. Vermilion 4-H sure does it big--it's not uncommon for us to travel in packs of 100! I love my Vermilion 4-H!!

At Acadian Village, I took lots of pictures for my far-away friends. This place is very beautiful year-round, but especially during the Christmas season. If you want to see a true depiction of Cajun culture from the old days, this is the place to go. Words cannot describe it, but a picture is worth a thousand words, they say...so take a look at my Facebook album for a small glipse of the experience! :)

What else? Christmas, I guess. I had a good Christmas with the family. Nothing to exciting or crazy. Lots of little kids, which is one of the best parts, probably. Oh, and amazingggg food. My gosh, the food here is just DIVINE! Riceeeee and gravy, seafood gumbo...all of it! Today I was thinking about how our major commodities are rice, sugar(cane), and seafood...which all translate to heaven on a dish! And people wonder why we've got such terrible health practices here. I'm fully okay with that, the benefits outweigh the consequences, lol.

Gift-wise, I'm still working on getting a new phone. I've got a temporary one right now, but it sucks. Our new phone company may have good service, but everything else about it suckssss. If anyone wants to offer up an unlocked phone or maybe even the opportunity to add me as a line on your AT&T plan (I'll pay my portion!), feel free to let me know. It's just so frustrating that I can't use Twitter or googl (40404), or get photos, or anything cool. Bahhhhh. Hopefully, I'll be able to find a decent phone soon... Erm, other gifts. I got a winter jacket, that I will hopefully be able to use in Raleigh or some cool place. 'Course it's water proof, so bring on the snow??? What am I saying, snow hates me, remember? lol. Random other stuff: cute socks, water bottles, books, etc.

Now, I've got 13 days left in Louisiana. The question is, how am I going to spend them? I'm bound and determined to make a quilt of t-shirts, so I will probably get back to that project tomorrow. Also, I'm hoping for a trip to Luling to see the college folks, and perhaps even one to Arkansas for a mini-camp reunion. However, I really just want to relish in this relaxing time at home, so I don't know. I'm torn about being busy and seeing everyone or just staying home and enjoying my lovely state from the comforts of a blanket curled up on the couch. We'll see what happens, I guess.

In any case, it's going to be hard goodbye, but there are lots of things to look forward to this spring in Raleigh (and across the country, with all my travels, lol). The day after I arrive in Raleigh, I'm going to the NC State campout (more like freeze-out) to earn tickets for the UNC basketball game. Only a few days after that, Jeff will be arriving from Idaho for he, Jess, and my trip to see Chris (and AASU) in Savannah, GA. A few weeks after that, Jess, Elizabeth, Kevin, and I are headed down to Orlando for a conference. So much to do, and the list goes on....

Well, this entry once again turned out longer than I expected, but it also spanned the the time of 2 months, so I guess it's compacted and appropriate. You all should remind me to write more often! Maybe with the encouragement I'll have more incentive to do so. :-p

Off for a while,
-Lauren

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Bacon Lung & Spunky SEAttle

[I'm a month late on this one...]

Some of you may recall that I have been working toward certification as a Child Life Specialist. (See blogs about applying/interviewing for internship in Spring '08, interning at a children's hospital in Idaho in Fall '08, and intense daily studying this semester.) Because of this, I'd spent the first part of the semester acquiring student membership in the Child Life Council, and applying to sit for the national certification exam in Seattle. By the time November rolled around, I had read several complete books in hopes of refreshing my memory and acquiring a much new information as possible.

In the days leading up to my trip to Seattle, I was extremely stressed because I had several major projects due for school and, thus, had not been able to set aside exam studying time for more than a week. As it turns out, God works in mysterious ways. Randomly, I happened to contract the flu (so-says) only two days before I left for the exam in Seattle.

At first, I was really upset and freaked out about it--who wouldn't be--but it also meant that I was able to stay home from work and class for almost an entire week. Tamiflu, The Miracle Drug, helped me to feel better almost instantly, but because of the fever, I was still confined to my apartment right up until leaving for the airport. In my time at home, however, I was able to finish up most of my assignments with enough time to pack and prepare for the exam/trip, as well.

November 6, 2009
Jess, my Yankee friend (heh, she's from Pennsylvania), brought me to the airport for an eeeearly flight. I felt pretty guilty about asking her to do that, but then again, she and her Aunt who had flown in from Montana, were driving up to PA for the weekend, so she would have been up early, anyway. My flights to Minneapolis and Seattle were pretty uneventful; I even got to watch a movie on the long one (though I should have been studying, lol).

Nathan was waiting at the airport when I arrived. We went to his house to drop my stuff off and I met some of his roommates (who are pretty cool, btw). Then, we went out to explore the city. Our first stop was at the Fremont Troll, which is a huge sculpted troll that lives under a major bridge. I heard about the troll through an MSN article that I read on online a few weeks before the trip, so I asked Nathan to bring me. Plus, he hadn't seen it either, so I thought it was a good idea. We also explored Gas Works Park, which was this interesting little area right along the Puget Sound, with paths, a huge hill, and some crazy graffiti artwork. I took lots of fun pictures there. We walked arond in this touristy area, afterwards. There, Nathan took me to Ivar's, a seafood-stand-type food place. We shared some clam chowder, since I had never eaten that before and was still kind of avoiding food, as I hadn't eaten full meals in the previous few days from being sick. The chowder was interesting...not too bad, but I'm not sure that I'd eat it often.

That evening, we watched a movie; it was incredibly difficult for me to make it through the whole thing, with the time change and lingering feeverish feelings. Basically, I ended up falling asleep at 7pm PST and Nathan respectfully entertained himself through movies and online as I passed out like a loser. lol.

November 7, 2009
It was a fairly early morning, since I had to be at the testing center (at Washington State University) by 8 a.m. The test didn't start til 8:30 a.m., but it was good to be there early, as they moved the test location from one building to another. Way to test our flexibility, Child Life Council! lol. Anyway, I met some nice people at the test, one of which was from Idaho, and another who had done her internship at WakeMed here in Raleigh. (It's definitely a small world.) The test was intense, but not nearly as hard as it could have been. ...That, or I knew my stuff? Either way, I felt content with how I had done, so that was good.

After the test, we explored the city a bit more. We had lunch at a little restaurant on the way down a huge hill to Pike's Place, the famous Seattle market. The market was cool to see, but it wasn't any more outstanding than markets I have seen in New Orleans, Little Rock, Raleigh, or other cities I've visted. There were lots of shops in the basement area of the market, and we walked around in the neighborhood a bit too. There, I saw the original Starbucks (reminded me of New Orleans, with people singing outside of it, and lots of tourists...), and we looked out admiring the harbor area. Nathan also took me to a cute, bougie donut shop; it was the fanciest donut shop I've ever seen, lol. The hot chocolate was amazing, and I guess the donuts were okay too. :-p

That evening, I made it through not one, but two movies before passing out fairly early. Seriously, I was still on East coast time, which was fine by me. I never did like Pacific Standard Time, anyway. Hahaha.

November 8, 2009
My flight back East departed at 6 a.m., so it was yet another earlyyyyyyyy morning. Honestly, I didn't mind so much because 6 a.m. was essientially 9 a.m. my body's time, so it didn't bother me to wake up at 4 a.m., haha. Nathan, on the other hand, wasn't thrilled about it...but hey, he had to be at work by 6 anyway, so I don't get what the big deal was. :-p Again, my travels were fairly uneventful, and my wonderful North Carolinian taxi driver, Lendy, was there to greet me when I arrived back in Raleigh.

In the end, my body healed itself quite quickly, and everything worked out for the weekend in Seattle. It was a fun time, and I'm glad I made it out for the test, as well as to explore the city and visit a good friend.

Good times.
-Lauren

PS: I should note that 11 days later, I receieved official notification that I PASSED MY EXAM, which means that I AM officially a CERTIFIED CHILD lIFE SPECIALIST! Yayyy! :-D

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Random Rambles

Still ages behind, I know. However, I'd like to take some time today to blog about an assortment of random things that I should have included in previous entries, but they just didn't seem to fit anywhere at the time. Enjoy.

Text to A. Barbay, August 23, 2009: "It's strange because I really appreciate alone time where I don't have to worry about others, especially this past week, but now I'm starting to really miss the intimacy we all had. It's kinda lonely."
About a week after arriving in Raleigh, I tweeted about how I enjoyed the solitude and lack of responsibility for others, which was a change from the previous 7 months. The transition from tour guide-in-charge-mode to camp counselor was a bit strange, but by the end of the summer, I'd developed a new pattern again. At camp, I was surrounded by people day after day, so it was definitely different to be in charge of myself and myself only.

Tweet, August 25, 2009: "There's just something about getting my *fourth out-of-state library card in six months that makes me chuckle."
Yes, I do think it's funny that I acquired three out of state library cards in six months. That brings my grand total to five...Vermilion Parish (LA), Montgomery County (MD), Library of Congress (DC), Pulaski County (AR), and Wake County (NC). Too bad I didn't get one in Idaho, or that would have been six, lol.

Tweet, August 27, 2009: "Just got letter and string bracelet in the mail from my summer sister. It's in the colors of camp cabins. Me = teary."
Allie, my "Summer Sister," mailed me a short letter and string bracelet with all of the Aldersgate cabin colors (Orange, Lime, Khaki, Yellow, Blue, Moss, and Eggplant). I got the letter just before I went into class and it made me all sad and teary for my camp family. The bracelet was added to my "camp shrine" that has been ressurected in my car. It includes a button from The Purple Cow Restaurant, my archery whistle, an arrow, Bobo's bracelet lei, and probably a few other things I can't remember right now.

Tweet, August 30, 2009: "Two week anniversary in NC. Second fire alarm after sleeping hours."
The very first night in my new apartment, the fire alarm went off just before Midnight, so Dawn and I (practically) rang in her 21st sitting in my car waiting to be allowed back into the building. Exactly a week later, it happened again...but this time Sunshine wasn't there.

Tweet, August 30, 2009: "And yes, the idaho friend vehicle is ironically parked right next to my louisiana one this morning. imma leave a note one day...Hehe."
Tweet, September 2, 2009: "Idaho girl found me! Turns out she lives right across the hall from me! Omg my life is complete...Sorry it sounds cheesy..."
For those of you who don't know, on the very first day I moved into my apartnment, I noticed a vehicle from Idaho parked here. I became sort of stalkerish and left a note for said vehicle owner a few weeks later. She responded to the note, and I then discovered that we live across the hall from each other! Plus, she's from Nampa (near Boise), so that was even cooler. We met each other but haven't really hung out. Maybe one day, since I brought something back from Idaho for her...

Tweet, August 31, 2009: "Note to self. Don't wear flip flops when it rains. Literally just walked all of campus barefoot to avoid slipping on the brick walkways."
Tweet, October 24, 2009: "You would think I'd learned the first time--falling flat on your face when wearing flip flops on campus in rain is inevitable."
The entire campus of NC State is made up of bricks...buildings, sidewalks, everything. Therefore, it didn't take me long to realize that wearing flip flops on rainy days was hazardous to my health. ...Even though I did make the mistake twice.

Tweet, September 1, 2009: "Just found out one of my cancer kids from camp is very ill..."
Though losing members of the camp family is to be expected, five in the last year and a half surely wasn't exactly what I imagined. Between the end of camp in 2008 and the start of it in 2009, 3 campers passed away, one of which had been in my cabin the year before (Muscular Dystrophy Week). Since camp ended in August and the middle of October, we lost two additional campers, both of which were rather unexpected. Also, both of the girls (one from CAK-Cardiac, Arthritis, Kidney Week, and the other from Oncology Week) were in my cabin, so the news hit close to home once again. They will never be forgotten...

Tweet, September 24, 2009: "Early to bed. Shorter the day. Faster I get them out of the way."
Obviously I wasn't very happy with North Carolina or Graduate School at the time. 'Nuff said.

October 1st: Happy October...NIFA Day!
On October 1st, CSREES (Cooperative State Research and Extension Education Service), one branch of the USDA, officially transitioned into the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture. For all the aggies and 4-H kiddos out there, this is kind of a big deal. For all our lives, we have grown up with CSREES, and it seems like only yesterday I finally got that acronym down--then they went and changed it! Booooo. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this change, for the name seems to isolate itself even more than before (come on--food and agriculture?). I am told it is all for the better...increased development and funding for important programs. We shall see.

October 7-11, 2009: Fall Break in Idaho
October 12-13, 2009: 4-H Brand Advisory Meeting at Council
October 15-25,2009: NC State Fair
You've already heard these stories. If not, read my previous two posts.

Tweet, October 15, 2009: "About to take first midterm exam as a graduate student. Have I studied? Nope. FAIL."
Yeah, that's right. I took my first midterm (AEE 501: Foundations of Agricultural and Extension Education) as a graduate student without studying. Well, Lendy helped me review a few things in the hour leading up to the test, but I didn't make any real effort to study. I had been busy in Idaho and DC and really didn't have time or care to study. However, between Lendy's efforts and Dr. Moore's single-pair-group test process, my partner (Jess) and I ended up making 90(A-)s on our test. Pretty good if I do say so myself. (One can only hope finals go the same way, lol.)

Text to D.Leavitt, October 19, 2009: "Well apparently after we left, a friend of our coworker's husband said to her, in the best southern country accent...'If I'd known those two pretty brown haired girls were gonna be here, I'D HAVE PUT MY GOOD JEANS ON.'"
Two of my coworkers and I went to a birthday party for another coworker's daughter. The next day, she relayed this conversation to us. I thought it was funny.

Tweet, October 21, 2009: "What are my options?"
Still, not thrilled with stuff here.

Tweet, October 27, 2009: "Finished my volunteer hours and didn't even realize that time had come!"
I'm sure I mentioned somewhere that I have been volunteering at a local library as part of my Volunteer Mangement Class (AEE 595). On this day, I finished my service requirement without even realizing that I had come to that point. It was an exciting day...as I then had more time in my schedule to do all the things that had piled up. The following few weeks were insane, but more about that in a future post.

Okay okay...now that I've caught up...well, caught up until November (now that it's almost December, fail), I need to stop. I've got papers to write, chapters to read, and laundry to do. I promise to keep working at this whole update thing. However, this may be my last post for the month of November. I've got some major projects coming up, and then finals, and then I get to go hooooome for the holidays! We'll see what happens. Just know, I haven't forgotten about you blogworld! :)

A few days late, Happy Turkey Day!

Gobble, Gobble
-Lauren

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Frolicking at the Fair

Another blog--yay! This one's kinda short...just another event that I wanted to share.

NC State Fair: October 15-25, 2009

On October 16th, I attended my first ever state fair (LA doesn't really have a 'typical' state fair). Seriously, I had been looking forward to this event pretty much since I arrived in Raleigh. The concert lineup was amazing, and I had heard many great, wonderful things about the state fair experience.

One of my co-workers/friends/classmates (they're really all the same people), Lendy, offered to take me to the fair and show me around. However, before I really had any friends here, I signed up to volunteer at a recycling booth as a way of getting a free ticket into the fair. (We all know Lauren is a cheap-o, don't worry.) So, before Lendy could show me the full NC State Fair experience, I had to volunteer with the booth. That was an interesting experience, but I suppose I learned a few things in the process.

Once I was released from my volunteer duties, Lendy and I walked around the fairgrounds, looking at everything, and tasting all of the wonderful (bad-for-our-health) goodies. There, I had my first ever homemade cider and a (crazy) fried snicker bar. In between the two, the chicken pita was incredibly amazing, too. I also got to hold some baby chickies and see lots of "aminals." Heh. The horticulture and garden exhibits were beautiful, too.

Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to attend any of the awesome concerts, but I still had a wonderful time, nonetheless. It's incredible all the hard work, time, and effort that goes into state fairs. I only wish I could have grown up in such surroundings, but I definitely have a strong appreciation for those of you who did. Maybe my own kids will have an opportunity such as this one...?

Note: Thanks, Lendy, for showing me what the NC State Fair is all about!

Aaaand.......That's your story for the day!

Have a good one,
-Lauren

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Jet Setter

Back so soon!? Heck-a-yes-a!

I'm gonna try to work on catching up with all of my adventures...hopefully it won't take two months to do so!

4-H Brand Advisory Group: October 12-13, 2009
So, the day after I returned from Boise, I got back on a plane...for DC this time. DC, again? For why, you ask? A few days before I'd left for Idaho, I receieved an e-mail from someone at National 4-H Council; it was an invitation to attend a 4-H Brand Advisory meeting at the National 4-H Conference Center in DC (er, Chevy Chase, MD). Myself and about four other former Collegiate Facilitators had been invited to attend the meeting. Long story short, only three of us (Benjamin-MI/OH, Jennifer-UT, and I) were able to go.

We all flew into DCA on Monday afternoon/evening for a meeting the following morning. While waiting for Benjamin and Jennifer to arrive, I hung out with some of the old (and new) WaHa crew. Amanda (WaHa 2008-2009) rode in from Columbia Heights to hang out with us. She's the only former WaHa'er who's still local. Justin's still there, as is Craig (who moved in after I left in May), and two additional girls moved in recently. Shar (who was supposed to take my place when I left in May, but lived elsewhere instead) and Katie (who worked as a CWF PA in '08, and something in '07) are now living there. Craig's fiance moved in soon after, also. ANYwhoo. It was fun to hang out with all of those folks and be back in my glorious WaHa.

After a while though, I had to say goodbye because I knew Benjamin and Jennifer were hanging out in our (amazing) hotel rooms. The three of us talked forever about our predictions for the meeting the following morning, reminisced about Conference, and watched endless YouTube videos. It really was a grand time; I'm not sure I had laughed that much in a long time.

The meeting was an interesting one. For the most part, I'm pretty sure we all felt like our ideas were valued and considered. We're not totally sure what the result of our discussions will be, but whatever. Less than 24 hours after arriving in DC, my return flight to Raleigh departed. (Despite the fact that we'd been there waiting for almost 2 hours, I was distracted visting with Benjamin and Jennifer, and almost missed my flight as a result. oops.) In any case, we're always up for a trip to DC at someone else's expense, lol.

Alrights. There's another one of my many adventures that have been keeping me busy over the last month or so. I shall hopefully continue the updates again soon.

Ta-ta for now.
-Lauren

PS: My dearest American-English roommate (whom I lived with in Idaho) is returning to England for good (?) tomorrow morning. I wish her all the best and will miss her greatly. One day, I shall visit her homeland. I will hold Tessa and her beautiful, amazing, sweetness in my heart forever.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Off to See the Wizard

[Seriously, this whole blogging thing (or lacktherof, really) is getting kind of ridiculous. I feel like a failure, and almost as though I shouldn't be allowed to continue claiming the title of "blogger," if I'm only going to find time to write once every 6 weeks. Just say it...FAIL.]

Guess I've got lots of catching up to do (story of my life these days). Sigh.

Fall Break: October 7-11, 2009
idaho.idaho.idaho.IDAHO! For the first time since finishing my internship there last December (2008), I finallyyyyyyyyyyyyy returned to Boise for a visit! Seriously, as I sit here, it's hard to take the excitement from my heart and channel it into writing some coherent description of my time there, but I shall try.

Wednesday--> Left Raleigh in the late afternoon; layover (and delay) in Minneapolis, for a (30 minute) late arrival in Boise around 12:45 a.m. There was a whole welcoming committee there to greet me (Kim, Joey, Jason, Jeff, and Derek). I hadn't eaten in many, many hours so after a few failed attempts, we managed to grab some grub at one of the Pie Hole establishments. Afterwards, we all went over to Jeff's to hang out...well into the weeeee hours of the morning.

Thursday--> Pretty much everyone had to work, but Stew agreed to hang out with me for a while. We ate at a cafe downtown and watched a movie (Leatherheads) at the boys' house. Later, Kim came to get me and we went over to she and Tessa's apartment to hang out and get ready for the evening of dinner with friends. The whole boys' house (Joey, Jesse, Stew, Jason, and Brin), as well as Ashley, Jeff, and Derek, came over for dinner, cake, and tv time. It was so fun to be with everyone...it didn't feel like 10 months had passed, minus the whole gap in common experiences thing, lol.

Friday--> Jeff and I walked over to the Depot (he lives right behind it), since it's my second favorite spot in all of Boise. He also drove me up to to see Bogus Basin for the first time. (My professor and I tried to drive up there when she came to observe me last November, but we turned around before we made it to the top.) There was some patchy snow and of course wonderful views, as well. That afternoon, I visited St. Luke's to see the Child Life gang. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see everyone, but I still very much enjoyed the visit. I miss those wonderful ladies so much and will forever be grateful for the experiences I had there. Friday night, some of us (Tessa, Kim, Joey, Jason, and Derek) hung out at Bardnay for a bit; Jeff came to join us after he got off of work, but by then everyone was dispersing...

Saturday-->Sooo...Tessa and I stayed up really late the night before, talking and catching up, finally. But we also woke up early because of the plans that we'd made to go 4-wheeling with Derek, Kim, Joey, and Jason. As it turned out, Joey, Kim, and Jason backed out because Joey and Jason had the flu and weren't feeling well. But, Jeff got out of work, so rather than backing out on Derek, we figured the three of us would show up and get a good laugh out of the circumstance. Yeah well, that backfired. Joey told Derek that the 4-wheeling expedition was off, so when Jeff, Tessa, and I showed up to meet him at his parents' in Melba, he had already gone home to Nampa and gone back to sleep. Hoping he'd return our calls eventually, Jeff showed Tessa and I around Melba. The coolest part was this interesting Native American area called Celebration Park. There, we explored a mini-trail of petroglyphs and threw some archery-type things. Jeff also took us to eat at this hole-in-the-wall restaurant, at which Derek finally returned our calls and showed up to meet us. From there, we ressurected the 4-wheeling idea and ended up riding all the way up to Silver City. Of course, it was nearly dark by the time we got to the top since we left so late, but it was fine. We rode through some snowy parts, saw some great views, and made it back to the truck around 9 pm or so. Back in Melba, we parted ways...Jeff brought Tessa and I back to her apartment, where Joey, Kim, and Jason were waiting with dinner, and the bacon lung (flu--rolls eyes). Stew came over to hang out for a while too.

Sunday--> A bunch of us (Jesse, Kim, Joey, Tessa, Jeff, and I) went to brunch at Rocky's Diner, the cute little 50's restaurant near our old apartment. It was fun to see everyone for one last little outing before I headed out to the airpot to meet my plane. I'm also fairly confident that it was about the first time all weekend that I got to see busy boy Jesse, lol. Anyway, after saying some goodbyes, Tessa, Kim, and I drove downtown to stop in and say bye to Ashley who was working at Anthropologie. Sadly, we didn't get much of a chance to hang out this time around, but we shall do it again someday, definitely. Aaaand finally, the ladies brought me over to the Boise airport, and I bid my adieu to my dearest city...with the full intent of returning again someday.

Of course, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to spend four short days in the place that I love so much. Everyone was so wonderful and absolutely cannot wait to see them all again at Joey and Kim's wedding in New Orleans next summer. Man, I could write forever about my sincere yearning for this place...but I'll go ahead and stop there.

Though I had high hopes for writing about all that has occurred since my last entry, I have written plenty and really ought to pause for a time. With some newly acquired "extra" time (more about that in a future blog), I shall hopefully continue the update again soon. Forgive me.

Until then, I bid thee "adieu."
-Lauren

Saturday, September 26, 2009

It's a Record

It's a record! I absolutely cannot fathom that it has been six and a half weeks since the last time I blogged. If I weren't careful, the whole month of September would have passed without an entry. This really must be a record for my blogging, cuz I'm pretty sure I've done a fairly decent job of writing every few weeks, if not sooner, for the last year and a half. (Has it really been that long? It seems like yesterday that I was applying and interviewing for my Child Life internship. Geez.) Anywhoo, the whole point of writing is to update everyone, not to rant. So here:

Time at Home
I don't remember much about what I did from the time I left Arkansas on August 8th and the time I left home again on the 12th. Since it was only four days, I probably spent most of my time with the family and packing up the last details of my stuff. It wasn't particularly interesting...oh! I do remember something rather exciting that occurred while I was home. To celebrate their recent engagement, my friends Victoria LeBlanc and Seth Richard had a party. Unbeknownst to the attendants of said party, the actual reason behind the party was to invite us to serve in the wedding. Yep, that means I'm going to be a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding for the first time! Woot. Dawn (Jason) surprised me by attending the party without telling me that she was coming to town (she lives an hour and a half away, near Baton Rouge). So, yay. Dawn and I are going to be serving in Victoria's wedding next fall--October 15, 2010!

Road Trip
On the 12th, I drove to Brusly to spend the night at Dawn's house. The next morning, she and I left for our very long road trip to North Carolina. Her house is nearly two hours closer to Raleigh (our destination) so it just made sense for us to start from there. Plus, we planned to make it to the Charlotte area in the first day of traveling, so that we could spend the night at her aunt's house there. 13 hours into our first day, we did in fact make it to Charlotte for the night. The next morning, we departed for the final few hours' drive to Raleigh, just in time to pick up the keys and paperwork for my new apartment. Yay.

Romping Around Raleigh
That weekend, Dawn encouraged me to explore my newest temporary home. She definitely would not have had it if we had just sat in the apartment all weekend. Once we got set up with stocking my pantry, unpacking, and doing some decorating, then it was off to check out the city. I encourage everyone to check out my Facebook photos for pictures of our adventures to two area museums, a park, and NC State's campus. Dawn also celebrated her 21st birthday that weekend, so that was another excuse to do some fun stuff. She wouldn't let me make her an alcoholic beverage, but she did let me take her to a wine tasting, which is as close as I was gonna get, I suppose. Thanks to her Raleigh-friend, Sarah Hardin, we also went to an authentc NC barbecue joint, and amazing comedy show.

Life in NC
I suppose I never did get around to telling anyone the purpose for this road trip and move to North Carolina. For those of you who haven't figured it out by now, I started graduate school at N.C. State in Raleigh. Although I made the decision in May, a few weeks after visiting the school, it just never felt like the right time to share the decision with the rest of the world via this blog. Now that I'm here, however, I guess I'm "a day late and a dollar short" with the news.

For six weeks, I have been an official graduate student in Extension Education here at NC State. Going to a "real" school as I have starting calling it, is very interesting. There are so many more opportunities and events at a school this large. For example, the first Friday after school started, there was a huge event called FridayFest. I guess it was sort of similar to Nicholls' Winterfest or Crawfish Day events. However, there was way more free stuff, and cooler things too, such as a FREE concert with Josh Gracin and some other local bands. Chuck Wicks was supposed to perform too, but he got sick and thus had to back out.

As for the mundane things related to school, I'll go ahead and say a little about my routine here. I'm taking 10 hours of coursework (9 is considered Full Time), and working 20 hours as a Graduate Research Assistant in the AEE Department. Neither are particularly interesting/useful, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. This means that I work in the office for 5 hours a day, Monday through Thursdays, with class for 3 hours on Monday and Thursday nights. I also have a 1-hr. seminar on Wednesdays and an online class, too. On Tuesday nights, I volunteer at a local public library (for my volunteer management class), and on Wednesdays I try to check out the events hosted by Catholic Campus Ministries (but lots of time's I've got too much homework to spare my only free evening). I'm also working towards volunteering with the Child Life Department at WakeMed, a children's hospital in Raleigh...because I'm crazy, yes, I know.

People here are nice, especially the ones who who hang out in the grad ofice at school. There are at least 7 of us who share 4 mini-offices, with a few desks in each little room. We have lots of fun and tend to get minimal tasks done (ie: no one wants to work on Mondays...Wednesdays we have seminar in the middle of the day...Thursdays are our Fridays...). Dawn's friend, Sarah, has also become a good friend of mine, as well as her childhood best friend, Suzanne. I see them a lot at CCM stuff, as it's very nice to have some Catholic friends here. My roommates were randomly assigned, and are seniors at State. They were very welcoming the weekend I moved in; in fact, they made Happy Birthday cupcakes for Dawn on her day. However, it's rare that we're all home at the same time, and for the most part, our lives are very different.

To be honest, I can't believe it's been only 6 weeks since school started. That means there are what--8 more weeks to go? Gahh. It feels like time is moving ever so slowly and it will be the next millinium before I'm home again. For the most part, I pour myself into school as a distraction. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. On the other hand, I have a few really great trips to look forward to this fall, such as...

Weekend in DC
...spending Labor Day weekend in Washington, DC. Of course, I hadn't been back to DC since I left in May, and since there were still a few of my former housemates in town, I figured it was a great excuse to go. (Plus, I'd kind of been planning on going since I left in May, lol.) It was also perfect timing, in a way, because I ended up there the weekend after Ted Kennedy was burried, so I got to be the first person I know to see his gravesite at Arlington Cemetery. Scott (WaHa housemate) and I went there and walked around the mall/monument area during the day on on Saturday. That night, we went to Amanda's (former WaHa'er, too) new apartment in Columbia Heights where we hung out with Brian and Justin, two other WaHa kids. It was a sweet little reunion. Sunday, we went to my first Nationals game and Scott's first time eating at Ben's Chilli Bowl. Monday, I left around mid morning for the 5-hour drive back to NC. Let's just say that even though I was only there for three days, it was amazing to be back in DC and back at WaHa. That place still feels like home and there are still so many pieces of me and everyone else that have been left behind. It's like we left our little marks on WaHa, just like all the generations of WaHa'ers before us. Pretty much amazing.

Fall Break in Boise
In about 10 days, I will be returning to Idaho for the first time since I left last December. I have been waiting for this moment for 10 long months, and I am about to burst out of my skin just thinking about it!! This will be the third year in a row that I am in Boise at this time of year, so it's just perfect. Actually, I wasn't planning on returning this Fall Break, but I came across some really cheap airline tickets toward the end of August, and really could not pass them up. I continue to think about Boise frequently and hope that one day I'll be able to return for an extended period of time. Until then, however I'm going to have to appreciate any time that I can manage to have there. Long story short, get excited--Lauren's coming to Boise!!

Child Life Certification Exam in Seattle
On November 7th, I am taking the Child Life Certification Exam in Seattle. This is the last step in becoming certified to work as a legit Child Life Specialist, a process that began years ago, truly. Aside from taking approved courses in related areas, my internship at the hospital in Boise was the next major step. Now, the remaining component is to take and pass this national certification exam. To be honest, the test is difficult and I believe I'm going to have a tough time passing it, especially since I have to study for it while working as a grad student with all of this other stuff going on. Plus, it's been almost a year since I was in a true hospital setting. However, I've been trying to devote nearly two hours most days to studying, so I'm really hope I can pull it off. In any case, the test is a great excuse to finally get out to Seattle and I am very much looking forward to that exciting aspect of the trip. I'm going to stay with Nathan (former Idaho resident, friend of friends, and now my friend...you know the story), and hopefully I'll be able to see some cool stuff while I'm there, if only for a short time.

Three states in three months? Well, four in four if you count my return home in December. Yep, you got that right. Does it surprise you, really? ...I am the gypsy, aren't I? lol. Needless to say, this entry has been extremely long (record-breaking?), and so I'm going to stop here. I'll do my best to write again in the near-ish(?) future, but feel free to give me a nice nudge if you feel like I'm lagging behind on this thing.

Hope all is well with all of you.
-Lauren

PS: For those of you who know me well and/or have spoken with me recently, I'm sure you realize this entry has been censored in several ways. You understand, I am sure. If you don't, ask. I may, or may not, reveal the truth. ;-)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Place I'd Rather Be

Boy do I have lots to write! It’s been almost a month since my last blog. Camp has come and gone, and it’s just about the same way with my short time at home in between here and my next adventure. I’ll get to all of that eventually, so sit back and enjoy the story.

CAK Week: July 19-24, 2009
My first week back at camp was called “CAK” Week—or camp for kids with Cardiac, Arthritis, and Kidney Disease. Allie and I were most excited about this week because we wanted to experience “heart kids” at another camp. We were slightly disappointed about the small number of campers with heart conditions, but it was fun to learn about other medical conditions such as kidney disease and arthritis. One cool thing about this week was that Allie and I were able to work in a cabin together for the first time ever. We were so pumped about it, and it was totally great that we had the same breaks. This meant that not only did we get to hang out together when we were off, but we also led the cabin together when the other counselors were off. Allie and I have always worked well together and it was such a relief to understand each other’s process so that the cabin ran smoothly during the times that we were in charge.
It was during this week that I was assigned to lead “Devo” one evening. Devo is short for “devotional,” which is very similar to “vespers” for those of you who attended 4-H Camp in Louisiana. Basically, each counselor was assigned a night to give some sort of inspirational story or lesson. For mine, I gave each camper an animal cookie and talked about how they each taste the same, but all look different, which symbolized how people all look different but are the same on the inside. Then, I played the song “Don’t Laugh at Me” by Mark Wills and afterwards gave a little summary to close it out. I think it went really well and I very much enjoyed leading Devo. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Asthma Week: July 26-31, 2009
Asthma Week was a pleasant surprise for me. All summer long, counselors had been making comments about how Asthma Week is affectionately known as “Ghetto Week,” and that I should not bring any valuables to camp. However, I really thought the kids came from a great mix of backgrounds and there wasn’t any huge majority or minority, which was somewhat different from most other weeks. The girls in my cabin were great, really. As for their asthma, it really wasn’t a big deal at all (just like most kids at camp), but I very much enjoyed learning about the disease and how to manage it. It was also fun to work with Holly for her first week as Senior Counselor. I think we all bonded well and worked together to help make things go smoothly. Overall, it was just a really good week.

Cajun Night
On August 1st, Allie and I hosted a “Cajun Night in Little Rock” at Kyle’s apartment. We purchased the makings for jambalaya, red beans/corn bread, boudain, king cake, and beignets. Our original food list was a lot longer but then we realized we didn’t have much time or space to cook and didn’t have a real head count to know how much we should buy. At several points throughout the day, we thought it might only end up being four or five of us eating the food, but in the end, a total of about 12 or so people showed up. Allie and I were very disappointed in how the jambalaya turned out (it tasted so/so but the coloring was off majorly). Everyone was really nice about it and seemed to like it okay, but if we ever do it again, we’ll do a better job of making sure it turns out right. Oh, and we definitely went all out with setting the mood. My mom sent Mardi Gras beads so we decorated Kyle’s apartment with those, and for a while we had some fun music playing (I couldn’t find my Cajun music, but we improvised). Speaking of which, I think I left that CD in the player at Kyle’s…hm. Anyway, we all had a great time, and hopefully our Little Rock friends have a new appreciation for Cajun food. Tehehe.

Oncology Week: August 2-7, 2009
Boo…my final week at camp for the summer. On a happier note, Allie and I were both scheduled as Senior Counselors (for the first time ever) this week. We each had some challenges in different areas, but it was definitely a good learning experience for the both of us. I think we’d both love to have another go round at being SC, which we’ll hopefully get the chance to do if we make it out to camp again next year.
One extra special thing about this week was that the American Camp Association (ACA) finally came for their accreditation visit. Allie and I both have a decent amout of previous experience with ACA, as we’ve been through it at Heart Camp (me once, and Allie more than twice), and I attended one of their regional conferences a few years ago. So basically, we understood a bit about what was coming, which really helped with not stressing out as much as we could’ve. On the other hand, with working at the archery range, I had to be more conscientious than ever before. Morgan (fellow activity leader) and I went over the procedures over and over again to make sure that we were doing everything correctly and in a manner that someone observing us would be able to pick out every aspect of the process. In doing so, we developed a joke (“1 arm, 2 arms, 3 arms, FOREARMS!”) which really helped to lighten the mood and make things fun at the range this week. We definitely had a good time with our new joke, and it seemed to resonate throughout camp, especially when the kids continued the joke while up at Adventure Challenge, lol. Who says AC and the lake are the best activities at camp—not I!! Heheh.

Long Goodbyes
Since the drive home from Little Rock is about 8 hours long, Allie and I didn’t have the energy to leave after camp on Friday. Plus, we were really sad to go, so we decided to draw it out as long as possible. (After much badgering from Allie and friends, I caved in from the original plan to leave Friday morning, lol.) To enjoy our last day/night in LR, we went out with most of the staff to U.S. Pizza Company for lunch on Friday afternoon. There were more than 25 of us there, which is one of the largest, if not the largest, outings we’ve had all summer. In the afternoon, we hung out and rested back at camp with a few fellow counselors. For dinner, Allie, Sydney, Kika, and I went to Sakesui (sp?) for sushi. It was yummmmy and we got a pretty good deal for the price too. Afterwards, we walked around in Best Buy (I wanted to look at computers) and Old Navy (Sydney wanted to browse) before stopping to get Coldstone for ice cream on our way back to camp. Back at camp, we changed over our laundry and then Sydney and Kika left for evening activities. Allie and I hung out with Clair for a bit, but then we had to trek over to Kyle’s apartment to get all our stuff out of there since we were leaving in the morning.
Upon return to camp for the night, we helped one of our dear fellow counselors with picking the nits out of her hair. Yes, you got it, we had a small lice outbreak (kinda, not really) at camp this week, and with no one around to help her, Allie and I stepped in. This counselor felt terrible about asking Allie and I to help her, but we didn’t mind at all. Although we were up until 3 am working on it, it just felt like the natural thing to do. I mean, really. We’re at camp…we wipe 16 year old’s butts, insert catheters, enemas, and suppositories, poke to check blood sugars, give showers, etc, etc. Yanking dead bugs out of someone’s hair really fits the bill, if you ask me. Lol. Plus, we knew this lady would do it for us if we were in her position. It was really no big deal…anddd we had a great bonding experience entertaining ourselves throughout the night. Lol.
Finally, on Saturday morning, we got our things together and said more goodbyes—to Clair, Sydney, Kika, Bobo, and Eckess, this time. We never did get a chance to say bye to Ali Miller, Blain, or Kyle Fulton, which was a huge bummer. Guess that just means they’ll have to come visit us, or we’ll have to make another trip up here before next summer? Hopefully, the former, lol.
Allie and I finally made it back to Cajun Land during the early evening time of Saturday, August 8th. We said our own goodbyes, to another summer together. Without lives changing all the time, we can never predict if there will be future camp summers before the reality that is adult life overcomes our desires to spend forever at camp. All we can do is hope for the best and plan for the unexpected. Thank you, Allie, for another amazing summer; I can’t imagine a season without you.

Random Recap, Fun Memories
-Not sure if I ever told this story, but on our way to Raleigh in May, Nick and I thought we’d made record time by arriving an hour early…then we realized my GPS, Maggie, was still on Central time. Major bummer, but we changed it and went on with our day. Fast forward to June, and Allie and I were a bit confused at the late Arkansas ETA via Maggie. Then, we realized Maggie was still on Eastern time. Guess I’ll have to pay more attention to that on the future…hahahha.
-June 9th Text Message: “We’re in training which is mostly good. It’s so nice to have a week of fun times with old friends without kids. I have missed this place so much. This huge weight is lifted off of me…The one where I finally enjoy doing what I’m doing again. It’s inexplicable.” (For those of you who remember some of the struggles I had during my time in DC, you’ll appreciate that I finally felt “right” to be someplace again. DC was great but it’s not where I thrive, and so finally I was in my element again, and extremely happy to be doing what I do best. So yay.)
-June 16th Text Message: “It’s weird to transfer from tour-guide-leader-in-charge mode to laid-back-camp-follower mode.” (Although it took me ages to feel confident in my role as a tour guide, it was definitely an adjustment to switch back into a follower mode at camp. Granted, I wasn’t ready to be Senior Counselor right at the beginning of the summer, I just had to readjust my workings, I guess. Some of you may find that interesting. Shrug.)
-June 25th message from Christy Clary: “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.” –Lewis Carroll
-June 29, Channeling my inner Child Life Specialist: I provided distraction today by playing hangman with a camper as she received a bowel procedure. Annoying nurses surrounded us and I really wanted to keep her mind off things. It was a special experience.
-July 25th Tweet: “Don’t Stop Believing!” – Journey, Our 2009 camp song. Allie and I put this song on “repeat” in the car for a month. I’ll forever think of my “Home Away from Home” when hearing this song…
-July 29 & 30 Tweets: “Never been more happy for rain; swimming in freezing water at 10 to avoid rain, fml.” (For three weeks straight it rained at camp. It was a nice break from the usual monotony of heat and sweaty outdoor activities. However, swimming seems to be high on the totem pole at camp because one day we swam in the freezing cold water at 10 am just so that they kids would get a chance to swim before it rained. Then we had to get out because it started thundering. FoL.)
-July 31st Tweet: “Camp Aldersgate. There’s no place I’d rather be!” (I really don’t think this needs any further explanation.)

And on that note, I believe this blog is long enough. I had hopes of writing a bit more about what I’ve been up to since arriving home from camp, but I really need to stop here so I can finish packing. (Packing? Oo, for where? Guess that’ll just have to be in my next blog……) Hopefully the next one will come sooner rather than later.

Until then, peace folks!
-Lauren

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Break Week(s)"

*Okay, try number two at this…my computer shut down about two paragraphs into a blog attempt. Go figure. I’m gonna try to keep saving this time. Stupid computer epilepsy.*

It’s 8:23 a.m. on Saturday, July 18, 2009, and I’m once again sitting in the Memphis airport for longer than I’d like. It could be worse, I suppose. And hey, I have Mom’s ipod with me this time around, so yay.

As always, I probably should have written sooner, but since I was home for two weeks, I found it hard to think of something interesting to write about. A few times, I considered writing some thoughtful, inspirational rant, but obviously that didn’t happen. It’s probably better like this, anyway, because it gives me something to do while I sit here waiting for my connection to Little Rock.

Okay, two weeks at home…what about it? I got home on July 3rd and was able to enjoy a fairly relaxing time doing not much of anything productive. I saw my cousins a few times, which may be a record for the year, lol. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see many friends this time around, but I don’t mind too much, I guess. At this point, I’m used to seeing people only a few times a year, so one month really didn’t hurt anything. ‘Course it’ll be much harder to catch up with friends when I’m only home for a few days in August.

My family went to the beach in Perdido Key, Florida, for the weekend of July 9-12. Of the four of us, only my mom is really a beach-goer. The rest of us went along for her benefit, really. Personally, I enjoyed the getaway (when don’t I?), but I thought of it much more as a time to feel perfectly okay with laying around doing nothing but reading. In fact, I read two books in the three days we were there, lol. We also took family pictures on the beach, which was some goal/dream of my mother’s. Granted, I think the setting is really pretty and nice, but I just felt like it was really forced, doing the same thing that every other family from South Louisiana does when they go to the beach. Bah, whatever.

I was very grateful to finally have gotten a chance to visit with one of my college roommates, Annie. She and I have this “it’s really a small world” connection to each other, and have tried to keep in touch since we moved out of our apartment last May. However, it’s been difficult with me living in various parts of the country and she finishing up her nursing clinicals, then starting work as a full time RN with 12-hour schedules. We’ve been hoping to get together for about six months now, and finally it happened.

Actually, our May and first July hang-out fell through, but a day later we were able to meet up and spend the day together in Thibodaux. My has that place changed since I left a year ago. The campus looks so much fresher, welcoming, even. It’s unfortunate that I felt bittersweet about the changes, mostly because of the devastating news I received a few months ago concerning the FACS department. I am, however, still very proud of my little “Harvard on the Bayou,” for its continued improvement process, and by golly, they really are putting themselves on the map. NSU is climbing the charts and will be a pretty popular university for students across the state pretty soon. That makes me smile.

Annie and my adventure in Thibodaux wasn’t much of one at all, really. We had breakfast at a cute little cafĂ©, the Demitasse, and then walked around campus to check out the new features. We stopped in at the publications building and got two of our old yearbooks, and I even purchased one of the new “Harvard on the Bayou” t-shirts from the bookstore. Then, we went to the park to look at the yearbooks and catch up with each other. By lunch time, neither of us were hungry, but it was scorching outside. We decided to compromise with ice cream at Dairy Queen rather than heavy fast food. Afterwards, we stopped in at Walmart so I could purchase the new Brad Paisley cd that I’d been planning to get since it came out more than a week ago, and then went on to Chili’s to enjoy some 2-for-1 margaritas. Heh. Brian met us there and we talked for a bit before Annie brought me back to the park to get my car so I could head home before it got too late. It was really nice to see Annie, and hopefully she’ll get to come visit me sometime in North Carolina. Maybe she’ll even be able to road trip to DC or home with me at some point. We’ll have to work on it.

Waiting for me at home that night, were some very tasty boiled crabs courtesy of my father and brother. They’d gone fishing in Pecan Island early that morning and decided to bring home some crabs for me, as I’d been begging Daddy to get some for me since I was home in May. These must have been some of the tastiest crabs that we’ve ever had and they were even better knowing that I have to savor these moments since they are fewer and farther between these days.

During my last few days at home, I spent some time packing for North Carolina. I realize that I don’t leave for another month, but with such a quick turnaround between there and camp, I thought it would be a decent idea to get as much packed as possible before I go back to Little Rock. As of now, everything is packed except my bedding and the clothes that I have with me and in Little Rock. That should make things much easier when I get back, and allow me to enjoy my few days at home without feeling stressed. That’s the hope anyway.

Today, I’ll be arriving in Little Rock sometime before 11 am (I’ve been up since 3:30 a.m. and on a plane since before 6 a.m.). My two great friends Sydney and Kyle will be picking me up, and I’m very happy to have 24 hours in LR before starting up at camp tomorrow. This week is called “CAK” Week—Cardiac, Arthritis, and Kidney Disease. Allie and I were most excited about this week because we wanted to experience “heart kids” at another camp. Unfortunately, there are only 3 female cardiac campers—each in different cabins—so it won’t be quite what we expected. Maybe we can make it our mission to recruit more kids? …I mean, cardiac conditions are the most common congenital defect—more than all childhood cancers combined, and 1 in 100 kids are born with some type of cardiac condition. There should be more than 3 girls in attendance at Aldersgate!!

Anyway, I wanted to leave you with a few inspirational/funny thoughts. My DC buddies, Scott and Nick have sent me a few quotes/jokes over the last month and I decided that I wanted to keep them. So, I’m going to post them here to share with all of you.

I’ll write again soon.
-LM

-Why don’t cannibals eat comedians? Because they taste funny!
-Why do cows wear bells? Because their horns don’t work!
-Everything happens for a reason.
-“The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it’s open.” – K.S. Bigness
-Happiness is like peeing in your pants. Everyone can see it but only you can feel its warmth.

Monday, July 6, 2009

First 1/2 Camp = Done

It’s 5:24 p.m. on Friday, July 3, 2009 and I am sitting in the Memphis International Airport waiting for my 7:45 p.m. flight home to Lafayette. My first flight of the day left Little Rock at 4 p.m. and consisted of less than 30 minutes of in-air flight time. With nearly 3 hours to wait, I decided to spend some time attempting to blog about my previous two weeks at camp.

Hopefully I’m not out of my mind when I think back to my last blog and remember that I didn’t put much effort into writing about camp week two. Following MD Week, a group of children attended “Kota I” Camp. “Kota” is the Quapaw (Arkansas Native American tribe) word for “friend,” which is quite fitting for this week’s group of campers. Some campers had diagnoses ranging from Autism, Asperger’s, and Down Syndrome, to Cerebral Palsy, and various behavior disorders. In addition to those with diagnoses, some bring along siblings, cousins, or friends, which means that there are many “typical” campers, or those without diagnoses. I am sure you can imagine what sort of environment this can make for…lol.

Basically, Kota Camp is nutssssss. Kids are everywhere, activities are chaotic, and counselors just take it all in stride. That is what we’re there for, afterall. Last year, I worked with boys for both MD and Kota I Camp, so having the opportunity to work with girls for both of these weeks this year was pretty special. Even though I’m a little biased, I’m pretty sure that we had the absolute best cabin of all during Kota I. Only two of our seven campers had diagnoses and the girls were just really great overall. Everyone was friendly with each other, and we were always on time for activities—those of you who work at camp know that this is incredibly rare. (I’m pretty sure this had a lot to do with my wonderful Senior Counselor, Miss Amber Malik, hehehe. Love you, AHM-bUh!)

As for Spina Bifida Week (this past week), once again it was my favorite, though I knowww that most of it has to do with the fact that I absolutelyyy love my Spina girls. Four of my seven campers were in my cabin last year and it was great to already know their needs, personalities, and interests. It was a huge bummer that I was the only one of our five counselors from last year to be able to work with the girls again this year, but thankfully the wonderful Ashley Malik and Ali Miller (who are now supervisors) were able to at least be at camp with us and hang out from time to time. We love those girls with our whole entire hearts and were very sad to see them go. If I come back to Aldersgate in future summers, it’ll be for those girls, no doubt.

(Thank you Ashley and Ali for being so amazing. We missed you this week but know you were there with us in spirit and our bonds will never be broken! To all the 2009 Spina co-counselors, I had a great time working with you all for the first time, and Amber—it was especially fun to have you as my SC two weeks in a row. Thanks for everything!)

I must also note that we had an especially unique cabin this week, as we were the EggLime Cabin! EggLime, you say? Isn’t there an Eggplant Cabin and a Lime Cabin, but, EggLime? Why yes, yes you are correct…lol. On Saturday night, I received a call from Amber saying that she’d gone to move into the Lime Cabin and that it was especially hot; it appeared as though the air conditioner was turned off or broken. She decided to sleep in the Khaki Cabin with a few other counselors, and I chose to stay in Orange with Morgan, since we’d both lived there the previous week and were planning to move to Lime together the following morning. On Sunday, we reported the problem and steps were taken to fix the A/C. Unfortunately, something was wrong with the unit’s installation, and it couldn’t be fixed in time for check-in, so we were relocated to the Eggplant cabin, as it was set to be used as an overflow cabin for those who couldn’t fit into their assigned cabins (a counselor and a few volunteers). Thus, those who were assigned to Eggplant were relocated to the McOffice (supervisors’ living quarters) and extra rooms in the Health Care Center.

When campers began to arrive, it was a bit confusing because all paperwork, schedules, and luggage labels listed our cabin as “Lime” even though we’d been relocated to Eggplant. That evening, someone in the cabin suggested that we rename ourselves as the “EggLime Cabin,” and from that point on, insisted that we be referred to with that name. We were very pleased to find that everyone respected our request and it became our name for the week. Even the slideshow and future schedules/paperwork was labeled with the “EggLime” name. It sucked to walk all the way to the end of cabin row every day, but it’s also super cool that we were and will be (hopefully) the only EggLime Cabin in the history of Camp Aldersgate. Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

When it all boils down, each camp week has its own personality, just as each cabin within those weeks is uniquely different. Some weeks are more physically exhausting (such as MD and Spina weeks), while others are more mentally challenging (Kotas). I’m sure that as the summer goes on, I’ll develop more categories of camp weeks such as emotionally-challenging and sleep-deprived ones. This is why I love Camp Aldersgate…er, one of the many, many reasons.

Now, I’m going home tonight for a two-week break from camp. Aldersgate is closed for “break week” until next Saturday, July 11th, when it will reopen for Diabetes Staff Training and Camp. Unfortunately, neither Allie nor I were hired to work Diabetes, so we get an extra week off. Allie will be finishing up at Camp Bon Coeur and then going on vacation to Branson, MO, with her family. I was invited along but decided to stay home and spend time with my family instead. In my time at home, I’ve got lots to accomplish and hope to spend quite a bit of time relaxing too. My family even has plans to spend a few days at the beach in Perdido Key, FL. As much as I love “my home away from home,” I am very much looking forward to this break. On the other hand, I’m sure I’ll be super excited about my return flight to Little Rock on the 18th. I’ll try my best to continue updating, but be patient with me. My next priority is photo-positing on Facebook, as I am more than a month behind on that task.

Hope you are all having a wonderful summer!!
-Lauren

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summertime, Finally!

06.22.09
All I have to say is thank goodness for 5-hour breaks! Tonight has been sooo wonderful; I had a sandwich for dinner at Kyle’s apt, bought my airline ticket (for break in July) at the public library, had ice cream from Maggie Moo’s, talked to various family members and friends, and even got to watch a few episodes of Jon and Kate Plus 8. I love love loveeeeeeeee 5-hours! (It’s only too bad that this week’s long break is on Monday night, but oh well.)

As promised, I want to attempt an entry about my first two and a half (three by the time this is done?) weeks here in Little Rock. Oh, before I get started, I must give a shout-out to My Favorite Arkansan Red Head, Miss Claire Antoon and her crazy antics with my beloved meugle (stuffed cow—as named by Vicki Sanders, l’ete 2004). There, Clair, are you happy??? Sorry it’s not the quality story you hoped for, but at least it’s there, lol.

Alrighty, here goes. Just like last year, I am spending the summer working at a camp for children with special needs in Little Rock, Arkansas. The camp serves children ages 6-18 with various disabilities, including: Muscular Dystrophy, Autism, Asperger’s, Cerebral Palsy, assorted behavior disorders, Spina Bifida, cardiac conditions, arthritis, kidney disease, asthma, and cancer, as well as “typical” kids. Last summer, Allie and I (affectionately known as The Cajun Girls) worked for the first three weeks of camp, and this year we managed to grasp a few more (or different ones, in Allie’s case).

Staff Training
As much as I never dreamed it would happen, Camp Aldersgate has truly become “my home away from home.” Allie (my Summer Sister!) and I were so very excited to drive up to camp on June 6th. We arrived a day early since it takes us so long (8 hours) to drive up to Little Rock, so we made arrangements ahead of time to stay at camp that night. However, we later heard that one of our good friends had recently secured an apartment in Little Rock and we were invited to a get-together at his house that evening. Upon arrival in LR, we hurried to find a church (with help from KF), went to 5 pm mass, and then headed over to Kyle’s apartment for a bit. We didn’t stay out too late because we wanted to get back to camp before the gates closed at 10 pm.

The week of staff training was super fun, as expected. It’s always fun to hang out with old friends and meet new ones. Plus, spending a week at camp without real responsibilities was pretty nice. It’s like camp for us, the big kids, lol. It was also very exciting to find out that we’d be working with some people who we’d made friends with last year but were scheduled to work different camp weeks than we were. On the other hand, we were bummed to find out that some of our best friends would not be working very many weeks this time around. Boo. We decided we’d have to cherish the few good times with everyone while we have them.
For our first full weekend in Little Rock, we stayed at camp with Clair, since she’s staying in LR for the month of June and didn’t have anyplace else to stay. We didn’t want to leave her alone at camp because that is just plain creepy. (Believe me, you do NOT want to stay at camp alone…eeek.) Since we were staying at camp already, we offered to help with the volunteer training that Saturday. A few other people came to help out too, and it was kinda cool to be there as resources during the beginning and end of the day. I think/hope the volunteers appreciated getting the chance to meet a few faces that would later be familiar ones when they came to work. Aside from training, we also hung out at Kyle’s once again. (This will soon become a regular occurrence, you just wait.)

06.24.09
Week One: Muscular Dystrophy
Each week at camp, kids come with a variety of disabilities or medical conditions. For the first week in 2009, most of the campers had Muscular Dystrophy. I worked with a great group of counselors, and really enjoyed getting to know some people who were new to camp or that I didn’t get a chance to know last year. We had the oldest girls—five girls ranging in age from 12 to 17. There were four counselors and four volunteers in our cabin, which may seem like a lot of staff, but it’s definitely necessary. All of the counselors are assigned to work at specific activities, and we each have 2 – or 4-hour breaks each day, so it’s very important to have extra hands available. In fact, I worked at the archery range this week, and found out that I will be working there for most (if not all?) of the summer. It’s super exciting because that was my first choice assignment and I didn’t expect to actually get it. Oh, Allie and I had the same breaks for the first time ever, so that was pretty sweet too.

At the end of camp on Friday, K. Bost and I brought Allie to the airport for her 4 p.m. flight. She decided to leave two weeks earlier than I so that she could work at heart camp in Louisiana. Unfortunately, she’s going to miss Kota I and Diabetes weeks here at Aldersgate. It’s also going to be the first time that she or I have ever worked at either camp without the other person. It’s quite odd, to be honest. Hopefully we’ll be able to do a good job of keeping each other abreast of events at either camp. It’s going to be difficult to be apart but we’ll do our best to channel each others’ Summer Sister vibes across the miles. Heh.

As for Week Two at camp, we’re past the half-way mark, but I’m going to wait for another blog to write about that. Instead, I feel the need to speak about a few random things that I keep forgetting to mention. First, I never mentioned that I have, in fact, chosen a school for the fall. I’m not going to discuss it in this blog, but if I forget to write more in the coming weeks, someone should remind me so I can blog about it as promised. Second, the heat here has been sooooooooo unbearable since the very beginning of camp. Temperatures are in the upper 90s with heat indices in the upper 100s. It’s absolutely ridiculous and I am literally scared to see what July and August has in store for us. Also, my thoughts go out to everyone who was involved with the recent shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and victims of the DC metro crash. I will always have a piece of my heart in DC, and still have many friends who live in the area. Thankfully, everyone is okay, as far as I know, anyway.

I’ve got to quit writing for now, though. My 2 hour “paperwork” (break) will be coming to an end soon so I’ve got to get on the road and head back to camp. (I’m writing from Kyle’s apt.) Now that I’ve found access to the internet (when I’m not completely exhausted), look forward to more frequent updates. …Or so I hope.

-Lauren

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Home Sweet Home

06/11/09
Well, I did it again. I started a blog before leaving to camp, hoping to catch up, but obviously, that didn’t happen. Wanna know how far I got? …not even two whole sentences into it before I had to quit. Yup, this is all: “I WILL be up to date with blogging before I leave for camp, I will! Starting. Right. Now.” We all see how well that turned out.

Now, I sit here in the Khaki Cabin at Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock, Arkansas, relishing the last 15 minutes of our 5+ hour night off during Training Week. Allie (my Cajun counterpart) is in the shower, and the very beginnings of our 40-person counselor crew are starting to stroll in as the clock ticks closer to 10 p.m. (the dreaded time of camp gate closure). Let’s see how far I can get into catching up on writing about my 10 days at home in Louisiana, before I give up and decide to retire (or relocate—outside to visit with friends) for the night.

Back tracking a bit, on the morning of Tuesday, May 26th, I packed up my bags and bid adieu to my Warren Hall family. Saying goodbye was hard, but not as hard as the realization would hit once I touched ground in Cajun Country. Colin generously drove me to the airport so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the whole SuperShuttle ordeal. I was a bit early arriving, but better early than late, that’s for sure. My first flight was pretty rough, and the restless weather prevented me from getting a good departing view of DC (boo). Memphis is surely not my favorite airport, but I did very much enjoy lunch from Popeyes, in preparation for my return home. (Totally not what I usually eat, but a yummy pre-Louisiana idea.)

Upon arrival in “God’s Country” (lol), I headed straight for the luggage claim area in hopes of quickly gathering my belongings and meeting my mother outside. Fortunately, my luggage appeared fairly soon, but when I got it, I realized that two of my three pieces were damaged. Then, I went outside to greet my mom, and showed her the damage. She insisted that I go back inside and talk to the airline representatives. Long story short, after a half an hour of waiting by the empty desk, calling two hotlines, and asking several airport staff members, I was finally able to talk to an airline representative. It was a really ridiculous conversation and process, I settled with a $250 (or 25,000 SkyMiles) voucher for a future trip.

06/13/09
By the time we made it home, it was time to change, and rush over to EHS for Austin’s senior ring ceremony. I’d recently begun to feel really bad about missing out on big things in Austin’s life, so my mom invited me to present Austin with his ring as a means of being a part of something big; I felt incredibly honored and excited to do this. After the ceremony, we went to Nanna’s for dinner, yay!!! Nannie Lois, Uncle Ray, and one of their son’s family was there too. I was sooo happy to finally see them, and eat some of Nanna’s tasty food. Woot Woot.

06/17/09
I will say that I was thoroughly surprised to have been able to see so many people during my 10 days at home. The day after I arrived, I went to a 4-H U (Short Course) meeting; it was nice to visit with a bunch of the kids who went on the WOW trip to DC. One afternoon, I met Kyle, Kayla, and Jodie for Sonic lunch at the park in town. It was fun to see those ladies, and I very much enjoyed FINALLY seeing Kyle, for the first time in six months. He’s a graduate now! Heh. On another day, I visited with Victoria and younger siblings for a bit as we sat out and played Blockus by her backyard pool. My family even went out to dinner together one night in hopes of planning a vacation for the summer (we weren’t very successful). I also had plans to see my former roommates Annie and Jen, but it didn’t end up working out. The hope is to see them later this summer when I go home from camp for a break.

The Sunday after I got home, my family, plus Nanna and Poppa went to Loreauville for the day. My Nannie, uncle, and cousins decided to have a crawfish boil for me (kinda). Basically, it was their bribe to get me to go visit during my few days at home, lol. The crawfish was yummy (of course) and it was fun to spend the afternoon hanging out by the pool and playing with my cousins. Noah, the littlest one just turned two (June 8), and is growing up so fast. I haven’t been around since he was born, which makes me sad. Boo.

So besides seeing friends and family during my short ten day stent at home, I also had to take care of some business, such as doctor appointments and tetanus shots for camp, as well as signing a lease to secure my new apartment in Raleigh. In addition, I spent two days driving to and from Baton Rouge, as Austin had dinner at the Governor’s Mansion and 4-H Day at the Capitol on June 2nd and 3rd. I really enjoyed that whole outing though, because I got to spend some time with my dearest Sunshine (Dawn), for the first time in Louisiana in a year (the other few times I saw her was in DC--sad, lol), and my Summer Sister, Miss Allie Barbay. Allie’s dad even did a nice tune-up on my car in preparation for all the driving it would be doing in the upcoming months. Another cool thing about the visit to BTR was seeing all of my state 4-H people (who were sad that I wouldn’t be going to LSU in the fall) and… drum roll… meeting Governor Bobby Jindal!! Bobby Jindal is seriously the coolest dude ever and I can’t wait for him to be our president. He’s sooo genuine, and pretty much amazing in general! Plus, the crew from Vermilion (and Dawn) were the only ones who got to meet him that day. It was super cool!

A few days later, it was time to pack up once again and head up to Little Rock for camp, which is where I am now. I realize this blog is probably very confusing and quite a bit disjointed, but that’s because it’s taken me several different writing sessions to get it all out. My internet access is also nonexistent, so who knows when I’ll get to post this. I’m also hoping to get another blog out sometime soon, featuring my first two weeks of Summer 2009 in Arkansas. Just be patient, excuse the lengthy posts, and look forward to more updates from my gypsy life.

Stay cool (literally).
-Lauren

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Departing Days (Pt. 2)

Picking up from where I left off...

Dinner with HR (May 19, 2009)
As is tradition, one of the ladies in Human Resources takes each group of PAs out to dinner at some point during their stent at Council. Because of the craziness that is work with weird schedules, our group didn't find time for the outing until the very end of the Spring. It was mine and a few others' first time at Mongolian Barbecue, which happens to be a very cool experience. It's kind of hard to explain the process, but each person is allowed to pile whatever raw vegetables, meat, sauces, and spices into one bowl, and then the chefs cook it on a hibachi grill right in front if your eyes. It's the coolest thing ever; being creative with designing your own dish, but be careful not to be tooooo creative or you'll end up with a spicy mess that's too flavorful to consume! ...hehe.

My LAST group! (May 20-22, 2009)
Finally, finally, finally, I made it through my last group as a Wonders of Washington Program Assistant. I do have to say that it is much easier working with one bus versus two, three, five, or more. For the first (and last) time, I finally had a bus driver who actually knew their way around the city. By this point, though, so did I. lol. At least it was one less stressor on the job that week. For the most part, everything went according to planned. There are always minor tweaks in the schedule, but the kids saw everything except for one monument, so that was good. I will say that this group of kids was very critical of everything they saw in DC...not necessarily in a negative way, but rather they used critical thinking skills to really analyze what they were seeing and how they thought/felt about it. Sometimes their comments gave off negativity, but I really feel like it was more of an analytical thought than expression of a poor experience. In the end, I think the experience was still a good one, so that's what's important.

Memorial Day Weekend (May 22-25, 2009)
I was a little bummed about missing out on a weekend of camping with my family, but I had purposely purchased my ticket home for after the Memorial Day Weekend. From friends who previously lived at the Center during this time of the year, I knew there were many exciting events in DC that weekend, and I wanted to be a part of it all. I mean, really, when else would I have the chance to experience something so powerful as a local...and the reality of it, was that I truly was a local. (For the time being, anyway.)
  • Friday --> Thankfully, I finished working with my group early enough that I had time to say goodbye to the boss and then cherish a few hours of solitude in WaHa by taking an afternoon nap. Our dearest former housemate, Miss Amanda Hale, came for a visit, as she'd moved out to the Columbia Heights neighborhood in DC two weeks before. To celebrate, the WOW kids, Amanda, and one of our new housemates, Zach, walked to Bethesda for the evening. It was definitely an interesting adventure, but I'll spare you all the details. lol. Thanks for visiting, Auntie Amanda; we truly enjoyed seeing you!
  • Saturday --> It was a much appreciated lazy day. I started packing and getting things together for my departure on Tuesday. Also, I accompanied Scott to Friendship Heights as he purchased some food items (stupid Clover Cafe has been closed a lot lately). That night, five of us went out to Comet, a pizza restaurant/bar/ping pong place down on Connecticut in DC. Amber, Rachel, Jake, Scott, and I really enjoyed the evening out. Ping Pong tables at a restaurant/bar is pretty much a genius idea, if you ask me. It makes for cheap entertainment, and good times--much more interesting than sitting around a table looking at each other, lol. We even hung out chatting late into the wee morning hours once we got back to the Center. It's too bad that I would be leaving so soon, or I would have thoroughtly enjoyed many more nights at Comet. booo.
  • Sunday --> Colin and I went to mass (for the last time) at St. Bartholomew's in Bethesda. When we got back to the Center, we realized the Cafe was closed for lunch, so we invited Nekeisha and Scott to lunch with us at the Karma Kitchen in Dupont Circle. Scott had just eaten, so he declined, but Nekeisha agreed to come along. :) The Karma Kitchen is an restaurant that goes by a different name during the week, serving traditional Indian food to its patrons. However, on Sundays, the restaurant is transformed into the "Karma Kitchen," a generous restaurant working off of the "pay it forward" idea. Everyone is served family-style, sometimes patrons make friends by sitting with strangers, and all of the staff are volunteers. The meal is free, with the idea that patrons will make individual donations as they feel appropriate, as well as commit to performing an good deed within the community. The food was very tasty, and I very much enjoyed the mission of the Karma Kitchen. Again, it's too bad that I wasn't able to experience this earlier during my time in DC, as it's something I would have enjoyed doing frequently.
  • That night, five of the housemates went out to the PBS Memorial Day Concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Angela, Jordan, Zach, Scott, and I metroed out there for the event, and I'm pretty sure we all thoroughly enjoyed the show (especially Angela, lol). I'd never seen the concert before (it's broadcasted annually on PBS), so I was kind of surprised at the variety--speakers, musicians, etc. I definitely sat in awe, realizing how special and lucky I was to be in our nation's capitol on such an important day. Surrounded by monuments, memorials, and endless locations of historical importance, I felt like the luckiest girl alive. Living in DC definitely has its moments, that's for sure. :)
  • Monday --> Continuing the celebration of Memorial Day/once-in-a-lifetime events, 9 of us from the house woke up earlyyyyyyyyyyy (5:45 a.m.) in the morning to catch the first bus of the day, in hopes of making it out to Arlington National Cemetary in time to get a seat at the annual Presidential Wreath Laying Ceremony. Nekeisha, Angela, Darielle, Megan, Jake, Jordan, Zach, Scott, and I got on the 6:30 a.m. bus toward Friendship Heights, but upon arrival, we realized that the metro had not opened yet for the day. Instead, we had to hang around and occupy ourselves for about 15 minutes before it opened, and another 20 minutes once we got inside and realized the first train wasn't set to arrive for a while. Once we finally made it out to Arlington, we immediately got in line for the Tourmobile ride to the ampitheatre. The line was long, but not nearly as long as it became as time went by. Thankfully, all nine of us were able to sit together, only twelve rows from where the President was set to speak. Sure, 12 rows may seem like a lot, but the ampitheatre is small, and so we truly had a great view of the speaking area. Ironically enough, we also made friends with a family sitting in front of us--their daughter is set to start graduate school at American University in the fall, and they'd traveled down to DC for the weekend to look for housing. Of course, we recommended life in Warren Hall. hehe. And, without going into too much, I just have to say that it was a great to put aside all opinions about the leaders of our country and just appreciate the experience of this historical event. It's just another once-in-a-lifetime event that I could not pass up, though I'm still waiting on the pictures from those lovely housemates of mine. ;-)
  • I spent the afternoon packing up all of my stuff, as I was set to leave DC the following morning. In the evening time though, I took a break from it all to enjoy dinner with our entire WaHa family, all 17 of us (er, minus a few who hadn't returned from their long weekends away). We'd somehow magically convinced Chef Z to give us some yummy food from the Cafe for preparation on our very own barbecue pit. Together, we all sat around the commons room eating and talking like old friends. Also, Darielle headed up a game where all of us submitted questions into a hat and then we passed the hat around the room, so everyone could take a question and answer it. Once everyone answered their question, we did another round. It was a fun bonding experience, and very interesting too. Later, after I'd finished packing completely, a bunch of us played Apples to Apples in the boys' room (Nick & Colin's). I think their ended up being 9 or so people who played by the end of it--Nick, Colin, Christy, Megan, Rachel, Darielle, Scott, me, and someone else... We all had a good time; it was definitely a good way to spend my last night in DC.
Looking back, though some times in DC were very tough, I learned a lot, and definitely developed a deeper understanding, appreciation, and love for the city. My WaHa kids will always hold a special place in my heart, as we have developed bonds that will exist forever. LoL, WaHa...that place has got some character. To think about all the talented and amazing people who have walked through those doors, and the great things that have emerged as a result, I can only say it is an honor for me to have been a part of that. We mourned the loss of our alumni board, replacing the tangible item with memories that can never be destroyed. All of us have been a part of something very special, and it is my hope that generations to come will understand just what that means. Who knows, maybe I'll even be a part of the Warren Hall family again someday. Until then, I'm going to appreciate the experiences I've had and look forward to the future, as more doors continue to open for me. I hope that life altering opportunities are ever-evolving, and who knows where I'll end up next.
For that, you'll all just have to stay tuned!
:) Lauren, the gypsy

Departing Days (Pt. 1)

It's official...I fail as a blogger. Okay, I really hope that's not the case, but I am pretty mad at myself for not making the time to blog in a month's time. Maybe after I finish catching up on all the busy-ness that was/is life, you will all understand why I never found time to write. This whole catch-up thing may take more than one blog; we shall see.

WOW PA Adventure Day (May 4, 2009)
For some reason, I forgot to mention our WOW PA Adventure Day in my last blog. With every set of Program Assistants, our bosses like to treat the group to a fun day of their choice. Previous fun days have included a day at the local water park (boringgg) or lunch at Hard Rock Cafe (even more boringgg...zzz.). Our PA group decided to be creative, so we threw out a bunch of ideas, some of which were feasible, others, not so much. In the end, we ended up having lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl (a Washington, DC staple), touring a real row house on the Hill, and finally visiting the top of the Washington Monument. I'm sure our choices appear somewhat boring to others--and cheap, comparably--but who cares. We wanted to be creative, and I think it showed. Thank you, M & F, for making our PA Adventure Day a great success. :)

WMZQ Fest (May 9, 2009)
As previously introduced in my last blog, Christy and I attended a huge concert in Bristow, VA. We bought the tickets months ago and were so pumped for the big day to finally arrive. The traffic was horrible to get into the Nissan Pavilion, but once we finally made it in, all was well. The three side stage musicians (Kate & Kacey, Catilin & Will, and Justin Moore) were better than I expected, and we even got autographs from two of them (Kate & Kasey, and Caitlin & Will)! Woot. For the main stage, we had awesome seats. It was so fun to watch Keith Anderson, Jason Michael Carroll, Joe Nichols, Little Big Town, and Rodney Atkins perform! I was somewhat disappointed in two of the performers' performances (yes, I said that), as they were not very dynamic or entertaining. However, I did develop a bit of a crush on Mister Jason Michael Carroll, lol. (Ask Christy about that one, heh.) In the end, I'd say $65 dollars for an 8-band performance and all day concert event (3-11p), was totally worth the drive. It was also nice to have a last outing before the arrival of a whole slew of new housemates.

New Housemates
Housemates, housemates, everywhere...new housemates! As of May 9 (same day as concert, yes), we'd lost 4 of our original housemates, and gained 2 more. Matt, Marcie, Brian, and Amanda had moved out, and Amber and Angela had moved in. On May 10, we lost another original housemate, and gained 7 more. Justin moved out, and Rachel, Nekeisha, Lauren, Darielle, Katie, Jake, and Jordan moved in. Finally, all the CWF PAs had arrived. However, we weren't done there...within the remaining 2 weeks of my time at WaHa (Warren Hall), 4 more housemates arrived. Those were Zach, Megan, Scott, and Jessica. All along, the WOW PAs (Christy, Colin, Nick, and I) remained in the house. Yep, you counted right--that brought the grand total to 17 people living in Warren Hall!!
For clarity's sake, I'll try to break it down a little better, into who's living there and why. Just bear with me. Rachel (MN), Nekeisha (GA), Angela (IA), Lauren (NJ), Darielle (MN), Amber (MN), Katie (NY), Jordan (AR), and Jake (WI), (9 people) are all working with the Citizenship Washington Focus program this summer. Basically, their job is very similar to that of the WOW PAs, except that they work with only high school 4-H kids, and their schedule is exactly the same each and every week (jealous? just a bit.). They're also working for a few weeks less than we did. Zach, Megan (GA), and Jessica are all "outside interns," which means they're working off-site at various places in Downtown DC. Scott (IN), on the other hand, is interning with the Resource Development team at Council, and also serving as the RA of Warren Hall.

High School Musical (May 12, 2009)
A few months ago, Christy won 2 free tickets to see High School Musical at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia. She knew how much I wanted to go (I entered the contest too), and so she graciously invited me to go along with her to the show. Though the show wasn't exaaactly like the original, and the harmonies were a bit off, we very much enjoyed ourselves. It was definitely nice to get away from the Center for an evening. :)

Second to Last Group (May 13-15, 2009)
Christy, Nick, and I worked together on a 2-night WOW group during the second week in May. The group had 3 buses following 2 schedules. At times, it was an organizational nightmare, but for only the secondish time this Spring, I felt competent at my job. I think I lucked out, having only one bus to deal with (I was the odd bus out.) for most of the time. It was cool, too because I got to visit the Newseum again (3rd time, my favorite!) and a minor league baseball game where the group had a private suite all to themselves. We also enjoyed the rare moments of "PA time" to ourselves, as it's always fun to hang out with good friends in DC.

CWF PAs' First Weekend in DC (May 15-17)
On Friday night, some of the WaHa kids went out to explore the city a bit, but I decided to stay in since I was pretty exhausted from our group. On Saturday, 8 of us metroed into the city to do some fun things; three went to some of the Smithsonians, and 5 of us went paddle boating on the Tidal Basin. Paddle boating on the Tidal Basin is something I've wanted to do ever since I arrived (and probably even since Dawn did it last year), so I was very happy to finally cross it off of my "To Do in DC" list, only 2 weeks before leaving. Nick, Christy, Jordan, Angela and I had a a great time hanging out in the boats, though it's definitely tough work. Heh. Afterwards, we split up into even smaller groups to visit the Holocaust Museum, Smithsonians, and mall area. Along the way, we met up with some of the other WaHa kids, at various points. That evening, Nick and I ate at ESPN Zone so that we could watch the Preakness race on their huge tv screen. Nick is going to the Belmont Stakes race in June so he really wanted to make a point of watching the two preceeding races. (We watched the first one in Virginia Beach, if you rember.) I also decided that I'm going to make a point of watching the final race in Little Rock, as it's the day Allie and I are driving up to camp. I'll have seen all three races in very different locations. How exciting!
On Sunday, I helped to coordinate a church outing to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Angela and Jordan have a goal of visiting all the historic churches in the DC area, and Rachel and I just wanted to go to mass. Plus, Colin, my typical mass chauffeur, was out of town, so I was going to have to metro to church anyway. The church was just as beautiful as always, and I was glad that the gift shop was finally open (I've been there like 4 times before and it's never been open), so I was able to purchase Confirmation gifts for my brother and a graduation gift for Kyle (who just graduated from the seminary in Covington). All in all, it was a successful experience.

As for all of my adventures from May 18-26th (my departure date), those will have to wait for another blog. This one is long enough already and I really need to get going on preparing for tonight's trip to Baton Rouge. I'm hoping to catch up on blogging before Saturday, as that's when Allie and I depart for our summer at Camp Aldersgate in Little Rock. I never stop, do I?

Tune in soon.
Lauren