Sunday, October 21, 2012

Class is in session.

It's amazing how natural and comforting it feels to be back in a "classroom" setting. Alex and I have been taking a couple of "classes" over the last few months as we prepare for our marriage. I say "classroom" and "classes" in quotes because the courses are online, and they're definitely non-degree seeking, lol. Nonetheless, the courses do require "class time" and even "homework."

In August, we began a three-part NFP (Natural Family Planning) course online. The class was taught via web-conference, consisting of a teaching couple and two other student-couples. We met on one evening a month from 6:30 pm until about 8:30 pm. Though the course was offered online to meet our needs for being in separate locations, our series was actually taught by a couple in Natchitoches, Louisiana. It was almost as if we were taking the class in person, knowing our teachers really weren't that far away (and cheering on the Saints/Tigers was fun to share). Apparently, though, the other student couples were in several other time zones.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with NFP, essentially it's a course on fertility awareness. The idea is to gain a sense of awareness of one's personal fertility process (cycle) in order to avoid or achieve pregnancy. This means no artificial forms of contraception. On the flipside, it means we are saying YES to our health, yes to giving oneself completely to the other, and yes to living the way we were designed.

I must admit, the NFP course was more complex than I expected it to be. However, we're committing to it and with time (and practice), I have every bit of confidence in the process. By no means am I an expert, but I'd be glad to discuss or clarify what this all means if anyone is particularly interested. I'm sure I'll have another entry on NFP sooner or later. If anyone out there is practicing NFP, we really ought to chat (yes, Jen, I do mean you!). Drop me a line sometime. ;)

Our other course is an online marriage preparation course ( For the same reason that Alex and I are unable to do marriage prep via a weekend retreat or through one-on-one couple mentoring, we felt it was best to sign up for another online course. The program in which we enrolled is approved as a valid form of marriage preparation through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCCSB). I was actually surprised to find out how many dioceses across the nation are using this program with their engaged couples.

I think we've both enjoyed this particular course a bit more than the NFP one, mostly because it's less scientific-based and more reflection-based. Essentially, the course is structured in an independent study format, with a teaching couple that provides feedback on the lessons and assignments as we work through them. There are nine lessons, with a minimum total completion time of one week and a maximum length of three months. While the course does take quite a bit of time (average 4 hours per lesson - 2 hours for the initial session and 2 more for the feedback/review portion), it's mostly interesting and definitely informative. We continuously comment on how much we have enjoyed sharing this "Bible study" experience with one another.

Needless to say, our studies have kept us quite busy over the last couple of months. Finishing up the NFP course earlier this month freed up one evening of commitments that was quickly replaced with study time. It can be difficult to get it all done, since we spend at least 2 (sometimes 3) nights a week working through our lessons, while allowing ourselves to enjoy one "fun" night a week together watching our shows. Even though we're not in the same room (or city, or state for that matter...), it is nice to know that we have "us time" set aside several nights a week. This is especially helpful when we're both busy with other commitments and Alex is traveling 2 nights a week. (When you factor in 2 nights for his travels, and 3 nights for class, that leaves 1 night for "fun" and voila the week is gone!)

In any case, we're still trucking along, making slow yet steady progress toward our big day. We're now past the 10 week mark (69 days to go!), and we're eagerly looking forward to all that is to come. Next weekend, I get to have my first dress fitting (eek!), and we're also scheduled for another meeting with the priest, as well as our engagement photos (finally!). Stay tuned as we inch closer and closer...


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Three Months

Wow! A lot can happen in 3 months. To even *think* about beginning this update makes me tired. In order to get it all in (or at least start that process), making a list seems necessary.

Over the summer:
A. Alex got a new job.
B. Alex moved half-way across the country.
C. I worked 6 days a week.
D. We drove - a lot.
E. We bought a house.
F. And of course...we continue to plan a wedding.

Gosh, looking back, it seems like so much more... I guess all these things simplified seem fine, but when they occurred all at once, the teeter-totter of life sure did get pick up this summer. So without further ado, let's begin.

A. Back in December, Alex applied for a job at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM). He happened to receive his first call about the position on December 29, the day we traveled to New Orleans to visit with my old friends from Nicholls. We joked about how we should get married on December 29th if indeed this job was what ultimately led us to finally being "together-forever." [Now you all know why we chose 12/29/12. :)]

He corresponded back and forth with the people at ULM for a month or two, but things sort of fell off from there, and we decided to accept the notion that this was not the opportunity for which we'd hoped. Fast forward a few months to April 2012. The ULM position was re-posted, so Alex contacted them yet again to inquire about the position. They finally took him seriously, and in fact, called Alex back on the very day that he proposed to me. (Is this fate, or what? Haha.)

A few weeks later, Alex traveled to Monroe for an on-campus interview, and was offered the job that very same day. Needless to say, our world was shaken up pretty quickly. All of a sudden the prospect of seeing each other more regularly and not having to plan visits via airfare was instantly a reality. After much reflection, Alex decided to accept the job. He's now the Director of Media Relations at ULM, serving as the primary contact for football and baseball. WAHOO!

B. With the new job came a big move...half-way across the country, to a whole new time zone and a distinctly different culture. After attending the National Child Life Conference in Washington, DC, I flew down to Spartanburg to help Alex make the 12-hour drive west on Memorial Day. We actually drove to Little Rock, where Alex dropped me off and he continued his drive south the following morning. Continuing the whirlwind that it was, Alex left Little Rock at 5:30 a.m. and rolled into Monroe just in time to begin his new job at 9 a.m. that day.

C. Let's all remember that I work for a camp, which means that summer is the busiest time of the year. And when I say busy, I mean not just "swamped with things to do" busy but also "working weird hours six days a week" busy. I didn't have very much time off; if I was lucky, I might leave work by 1 or 2 p.m. on Friday, and then I'd have to be back by 9 a.m. on Sunday morning. Since Monroe is 3.5 hours away, this made for a tough balancing act with work and all things Alex/wedding-related.

D. In my head, I figured Alex would visit me frequently during the summer because it was his "off-season" with sports. However, that plan fell by the wayside pretty fast. Alex really lucked out to be offered free on-campus housing for his first 30 days in Monroe. Butttt, 30 days isn't a very long time, so figuring out a more permanent form of housing was necessary. For this reason, my dreams of having my sweet fiance there to welcome me after a long week at work (and short weekend ahead) faded fast. He did what he could, but I ended up spending 7 hours on the road most weekends, traveling back and forth on Friday and Saturday so that I could be back in Little Rock before dark and at work on time the following morning. We were forced to maximize our time together and haul "butt" with figuring out housing plans.

E. Thankfully, the staff at ULM were understanding and willingly extended Alex's 30-day housing allotment (which would have ended in late June) to August 6th. In the course of the summer, we looked at many houses...a few that we liked, and even more that we didn't. At one point, I had my heart set on a beautiful house, yet I wasn't "allowed" to have it because it was adjacent to a flood zone (among other reasons). Boo. By early July, we finally found a house we were willing to purchase. However, after a few weeks of negotiations, the owners refused to accept our offer. We were disappointed, but we moved on once again.

At that point, we knew August 6th was quickly approaching and we really needed to make a decision or else Alex would be homeless rather soon. Thinking back to a FSBO (for sale by owner) house we'd visited early in June, we decided to revisit it and see if it had grown on us. Surprisingly enough, it had. Details that had seemed to be "deal breakers" before were no longer that big of a deal. Its status as a FBSO house meant that we had decent bargaining power, and probably a fair shot at getting the paperwork rolling pretty quickly. As luck would have it, we were right!

The owners were very willing to cooperate with us, and they even made arrangements to move their family into an apartment within 3 weeks, just so that we could have the house and Alex would not be "out on the streets." We closed on the house on August 3rd, and got the keys on August 4th! The movers arrived just a few days later with all of Alex's belongings from his house in South Carolina. My parents visited the following weekend and helped us begin unpacking. Of course, this will be an ongoing process as I begin moving my belongings later in the fall, and I'm sure there will be wedding gifts adding to it, as well. Regardless, Alex isn't homeless, and we have a place that will be all our own. :)

F. Speaking of wedding...needless to say, events of the summer weren't super conducive to making process with wedding planning. My mom was off for the summer (she works in an elementary school) and really pressured me to make progress while she had time on her hands to help, but that definitely didn't happen. Balancing everything else (see above!) was enough to keep me plenty busy without thinking about making other decisions.

Now that summer is over and Alex is settling in, the wedding is back on our radar. And in case you were wondering, Alex absolutely loves his job. Last weekend, ULM football "stunned" No. 8 Arkansas, winning 34-31 in overtime. That sent work for Alex into a spin, taking calls for interviews with national media such as The New York Times, Sirus XM, and Sports Illustrated.

Meanwhile, I had a bit of a break at work, but fall weekend camps start next weekend, so things are starting to pick up for me again. As of yesterday, our wedding is just 105 days away. That's 15 weeks (and just a little over 3 months) for those of you who were wondering. ;)

So the moral of this story? A lot can happen in 3 months.
I can't wait to see what the next three have in store!

Until next time,

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

THE Story

Well, it's June now. That means camp has almost begun (staff have arrived; campers get here Sunday), and I know I better finish my story before things get too crazy around here. Hmm...the more I think about it, it's more accurate to say the story isn't actually "finished," but it definitely continues. Anyway.


Alex traveled to Arkansas on April 4th, since we had plans to drive down to Louisiana on the 6th for Easter weekend. I worked all day on the 5th, but he popped in and out of the office several times (bringing me to and from work in the morning and evening, and also for lunch). Nothing seemed out of the ordinary; he was his typical self. Little did I know, there was plenty going on behind the scenes...

After work, Alex picked me up, and with a lunch box in toe, we headed to the lake at my apartment for a picnic dinner, planning to enjoy the nice weather before heading out to the Arkansas Travelers' season opener. We scoped out our picnic spot, choosing the sitting rock right on the edge of the lake. As we began to talk about our day, Alex accidentally kicked the lunchbox off the rock. When he got up, he asked whether I wanted my sandwich or chips first, and started to open the lunch box. I continued on my rambles of the day's events, while overlooking the beautiful scenery of the lake. Mid sentence, Alex (in reference to which item I wanted to eat first) said, "Well, what about this?" I stopped rambling and turned around to see what "this" was. My jaw dropped when I saw him pull out a little box, open it, and say, "Lauren, will you marry me?"

WHAAAAAAT!!??!! Seriously? Yes, seriously. I'm pretty sure I just stared at him blankly for a good ten seconds, completely frozen and unable to move or speak. Something in my brain told me I needed to hurry and say something or else he might freak out, thinking I'd say no or something. So, I climbed to my feet and jumped off the rock, screaming, "YES!" all at once. (Of course, I didn't realize at the time that I screamed a response, but my neighbor told me later the whole neighborhood knew what had happened in those few minutes. lol.)

We hugged, and I stood flabbergasted...still speechless and unable to fathom what it all meant. So.many.thoughts. I asked some questions (how long has it been planned, who knew, how did he stay calm all day, the list goes on), but my thoughts were racing and I just couldn't keep up!!! As it turns out, Alex had made arrangements with the couple who lives across from me - they used his camera and theirs to capture the proposal from opposite sides of the lake. When we went to meet them back at their apartment (Alex was surprised I didn't notice them hiding, as he saw the guy run across the yard when leaving), they had already taken all of the photos off of the cameras and put it on a flash drive for us to use. How very sweet and thoughtful - in so, so many ways.

Then, of course, we made our obligatory phone calls to the parentals, and finally were able to make it out for a celebratory dinner. Even through the dinner, and probably the whole next day of driving, it all seemed so unreal. I couldn't believe that I was engaged...that we were getting!!


At home that weekend, we were able to celebrate with most of my close/extended family, and a couple of friends. It was so nice that we didn't have to turn around and say goodbye the next day either. We really had a good 3 or 4 days together to let it soak in and celebrate the excitement of our future.

Now, since I know you're all are the details (thus far):

We're getting married on December 29, 2012 in a community church near Lafayette, LA. No, it's not my home church, but it is one that I've attended a few times over the last few months, and Alex and I both feel comfortable there. We'll have the reception at a bed and breakfast in downtown Lafayette, at a home that's formerly known as the "Mouton House" (no, we're not related, but yes, I think it's funny). Our wedding party consists of ten (five each) of our closest family and friends, with my younger brother and his dad included in that bunch. The colors we've chosen are Peacock and Latte (per David's Bridal's color palate), and yes, I've already ordered my dress. We've chosen someone to make our cakes, a menu tasting is in order for the summer, the videographer is in the works, we have an idea for the music/DJ, and the photographer is our next big decision to make. And because it's the part I'm most excited about - we're planning going on a seven-day cruise to Mexico, Belize, and Honduras! If you're the stalker type (aren't we all?!?), feel free to follow our progress on this share site - :)

So there, you're almost caught up! The story of my life does continue (as always), but for now, this will have to do.

Until next time,


Monday, May 21, 2012

Time for an Update has been so long, and there are so many updates to share. Let's see if I can do these last 5 months some justice, and perhaps avoid writing an entire novel this time. :)

In February (2/11/12), I was FINALLY able to see my beloved favorite band of all time in concert for the fifth time in my life!! RF!!! Yeahhhhhhh!! Morgan and Lindsey, two friends I met my very first summer at Aldersgate, joined me for a lovely girls night of sushi, good music, and late night pillow talk. It was much needed and well deserved, to say the least.

The only other real highlight from February was my very long weekend trip to Tennessee. On Wednesday, the 15th, I drove to Memphis after work to spend the night with Lindsey, who was finishing up her last semester at Rhodes College. The following morning, I drove to Nashville to meet Alex who was there with the Upstate men's and women's basketball team as they traveled to take on Belmont College and Lipscomb University. We stayed on the Vanderbilt Campus, so I was able to take in a total of four new universities on the trip. (Super cool.) Alex and I did a lot of walking to explore the area, and we even walked through the snow to Mass on Sunday morning. (That's a new one!) I may have missed a fun Mardi Gras celebration this year, but I suppose the trip to Nashville was a decent alternative. ;-)

And once favorite month of the year was upon us!! During the first full week of March (5th-9th), my boss, Amy, and I drove to Raleigh, NC for the National Inclusion Project Conference. It's a 15 hour drive, so we budgeted two days of driving each way, just for a measly two-day conference. On travel day #1, we spent the night in Knoxville, TN. The following day we made it all the way to Raleigh and met up with Lendy to spend the evening enjoying hummingbird water and having delicious Eastern style barbecue at The Pitt. The second night, I was able to have dinner with Kara at the Village Draft House in Cameron Village (Raleigh); later, Lendy picked me up and I spent another night cuddling with her in The Forest (Wake Forest, NC).

Overall, the conference was pretty lame. Most if the material presented was exactly the same as what had been covered the year before (I also attended in 2011). Amy ended up getting sick on the second day of the conference and so she was out of commission for most of it. So, if nothing else, spending time with my sweet girlfriends made it all worthwhile...

After the conference, I drove Amy and I to Asheville, where Amy stayed for the night, and Alex retrieved me for a weekend in South Carolina. Since it was my birthday weekend, I had the Monday off, and we were able to spend a good, relaxing weekend together. We crossed several things off our bucket list (progressive dinner, eating spaghetti with our hands, and going to an open house) that weekend, as well. And while I managed to avoid it for 24 years, my 25th birthday involved an airplane flight, as I headed back to Little Rock and the grind that is Spring in the camp world.

On April 1st, Camp Aldersgate hosted its annual Volunteer Recognition Ceremony. Since I'm the Volunteer Coordinator, this was really "my deal" as for sending out invitations, securing the guest speaker, planning for food, decorating, arranging the certificates and awards, etc. Needless to say, I was especially nervous about this event, even more so because I'd never actually attended one of these before so I didn't really know what it was "supposed" to look like. Looking back, I'm not sure what bright idea I had to host the event on April Fool's Day, but my co-workers behaved (lol), and everything turned out just fine!

After the event, I loaded up the car and drove to Memphis for a quick overnight/day trip. My mom was there with the Vermilion 4-H Junior Leaders for their annual community service learning trip, so I drove up to hang out with them for a bit. While there, I was able to enjoy some Tennessee barbecue (meh), and tour both St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. Essentially, it was the same itinerary from the year we did this very same service learning project (2004), but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was really fun to be back in 4-H mode (especially since I missed Conference this year), and spend time with with my Vermilion 4-H family. Sadly, I did not get to see Lindsey while I was in Memphis, but I know we'll be seeing a lot of each other this summer, so we'll make up for it soon!

As for the rest of April and May...these months deserve a blog all their own. So for now, these are your updates! Enjoy.

- Lauren

Sunday, May 6, 2012

100 Favorite Memories and Lessons…

…from my first 100 blogs.

Almost four months later, the blog I have been working on since January is FINALLY here! Just as I went to begin my next blog, I realized I’d hit #99 and it just didn’t seem right to celebrate #100 with just “any old” blog entry. So, in honor of my 100th blog, I decided to reread the previous 99 entries I’ve written over the last 4 years, taking a few moments to reflect on each of them, and share some lessons I learned along the way. I apologize for the length (it’s over 8 pages in MS Word), but hope you’ll spend some time looking at where I’ve come from, and where I’ve been. And with that, I say…read on!

1. May 12, 2008 – It was my first blog, and my first commitment to document that would become an amazing journey through cross-country travel, living in four new states across three time zones, finishing two degrees, and ultimately, finding myself. Lesson 1: “Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” –Confucius

2. May 13, 2008 – Starting the Child Life internship interview process, 10 applications, 4 interviews, and a world of possibility ahead of me. Lesson 2: Keep an open mind.

3. May 15, 2008 – Anxiously progressing through more interviews, articulating clear thoughts, and selling myself as a good choice for internship programs. Lesson 3: Phone interviews aren’t so bad – maybe even…better?

4. May 20, 2008 – Surviving the interviews and transitioning into the period of waiting. Lesson 4: Patience is a virtue, one with which most people struggle.

5. May 22, 2008 – An offer received. I was invited to do my internship in Boise, Idaho…finding out that my first choice was the best all along. Lesson 5: Dream big.

6. May 23, 2008 – The offer accepted. Attention turns toward Benjamin’s upcoming inaugural visit to Cajun Country, and the bittersweet ending to an amazing 3 years with my wonderful roommates. Lesson 6: The world never stops turning, it’s whether we choose to follow that makes the difference.

7. May 30, 2008 – “Living the life” and starting quite possibly the best summer ever. Lesson 7: Tumbleweeds may appear dry and alone, but in fact they’ve acquired miles of memories.

8. June 1, 2008 – First semi-solo road trip to a place that has literally become my “home away from home” (Camp Aldersgate, Little Rock, AR). Lesson 8: Everything comes full circle.

9. June 6, 2008 – Lovin’ life and the new experiences at this “common ground for extraordinary people.” Lesson 9: Cherish the moments; carry them in your heart forever.

10. June 9, 2008 – Appreciating others’ generosity, and singing praises for a home-cooked meal. Lesson 10: Hospitality is important. So is love - love your neighbors, love yourself.

11. June 10, 2008 – Enjoying the current experience yet forced to prepare for the next one. Lesson 11: Time flies.

12. June 12, 2008 – Making progress, looking forward to a short vacation to “The River City” (Memphis, TN). Lesson 12: Take advantage of opportunities; it won’t always be so convenient.

13. June 14, 2008 – Summarizing the first two weeks in Arkansas, “These kids, I tell ya…they will take your heart, run with it, and never give it back.” Lesson 13: I’m the lucky one.

14. June 17, 2008 – Thankful for the boys, and a nice stroll along the river with the other Cajun and a Bost Brother. Lesson 14: “A setting sun still whispers a promise for tomorrow.” - Jeb Dickerson

15. June 20, 2008 – Congratulatory comments to my baby bro for a job well done. Lesson 15: Notice the little things and always take a moment to show you care.

16. June 22, 2008 – Experiencing Little Rock nightlife, camping at the lake house, and snipe hunting adventures. Lesson 16: Something’s definitely “fishy” when a guy tries to leave you out in the middle of the woods with instructions to stand very still and wait for the swarm of birds to cross your path…

17. June 24, 2008 – In regard to Spina Bifida Camp, “This has been the hardest, worst, best, most glorious week of all.” Lesson 17: Accept the challenge, work hard, and celebrate the accomplishment.

18. June 29, 2008 – Nursing would never be my vocation, but I left Little Rock a changed person after that last week. Lesson 18: Seize the moment, step out of your comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to try something new.

19. July 4, 2008 – 18 hours (900 miles) into a cross-country (2,100 mile) road trip. Lesson 19: There is no better way to see the great and majestic United States of America.

20. July 11, 2008 РFour great days exploring Boise, then an accidental meeting with a fellow alumn from the French immersion program I attended in Canada 4 years earlier. Lesson 20: L'amiti̩ n'a pas de fronti̬res.

21. July 14, 2008 – Gearing up and heading out for a third summer at Heart Camp. Lesson 21: Celebrate – “Good Hearts, Good Times, Good Friends.”

22. July 24, 2008 – Camp songs, ‘nuff said. Lesson 22: Living in the “camp bubble” is special, and not to be tampered with.

23. August 11, 2008 – Reflections on my time as Teambuilding Instructor at Camp Bon Coeur; the kids learned a ton and I had a great time leading. Lesson 23: Kids learn during the summer too.

24. August 22, 2008 – Graduate Day at Nicholls was the last time that I’ve had an authentic chance to visit with some of my all-time favorite roommates, Annie and Jen. Lesson 24: “College friends become a kind of family - eating together, laughing, fighting, crying, and doing absolutely nothing together until you can't seem to remember how you ever lived your life without them in the first place."

25. August 26, 2008 – Excitement and anticipation for my first trip to Ohio, visiting good friends and touring potential graduate schools; little did I know, I wouldn’t return home for 4 months. Lesson 25: Take good-byes seriously, you never know when it’ll be your last.

26. August 26, 2008 – Storms are a brewin’…Hurricane Gustav sets his sight on Louisiana and I start to get just a bit nervous. Lesson 26: Hurricane parties are fun – evacuations are a pain in the @$$.

27. August 28, 2008 – Hurricane Gustav becomes a dirty word, and now I’m more than “a bit” worried about the logistical nightmare that is yet to come. Lesson 27: Someone ought to offer a course in understanding the airline industry.

28. August 31, 2008 - Officially declared: Hurricane Evacuee. Lesson Question 28: Why are airline tickets the only consumer items without built-in return policies?

29. September 15, 2008 – I survived (the wolves of graduate school searching, the wrath of Gustav, and the hospitality of Ohioans). Lesson 29: Decision-making is not my forte.

30. September 17, 2008 – Experiencing mmmmMICHIGAN (movies, Block and Bridle, touring a dairy, Michigan State University, late-night bowling, and a sunrise flight out of Detroit)! Lesson 30: “That state up north” ain’t so bad after all.

31. October 1, 2008 – Bopping around Boise – enjoying the weather, settling in to a routine, and making lots of new friends. Lesson 31: “Naked” mountains are prettiest.

32. October 3, 2008 – Becoming a Child Life Intern at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho. Lesson 32: Internships are incredible life experiences; all academic curricula should require them.

33. October 11, 2008 – Transitioning from my Emergency Department rotation to the out-patient oncology clinic, and seeing SNOW for the first time!! Lesson 33: No matter my age, I’ll always love to play in the snow.

34. October 14, 2008 – A care package arrived filled with Cajun spices and gumbo-ingredients, newspaper clippings (featuring the destruction from Hurricane Gustav), and other Idaho-survival items. Lesson 34: Boxes of love are the quickest way to a girl’s heart (mine especially).

35. October 19, 2008 – Establishing a normal routine and social life in Boise, filled with internship accomplishments, social events, and the development of lasting friendships. Lesson 35: Boise is a cool city, but it is friends that make all the difference.

36. November 4, 2008 – The routine continues, throwing in a couple of internship assignments, Halloween fun, and several bus mishaps. Lesson 36: Never trust public transportation.

37. November 12, 2008 – Not one, but TWO, Cajun visitors (Dr. K & Mom) graced Boise with their presence; it was a great time showing off a city I’d of which I’d grown so fond, and spending time with two lovely ladies. Lesson 37: Being a tourist in “your” own city is a wonderful way to see someplace with new eyes, and of course, to have fun– I highly recommend it!

38. November 29, 2008 – Hosting another southern visitor (Chris from Georgia), and then my first Thanksgiving away from home. Lesson 38: Accept invitations from other families to share in the holiday season, and “do unto to others,” by returning the favor to others someday.

39. December 7, 2008 – Counting down the days, beginning the good-byes, and relishing the memories. Lesson 39: The world is always turning, and even mundane days are to be cherished.

40. December 15, 2008 – Goodbye Idaho, hello college graduate – where to go from here? Lesson 40: The only thing that’s ever constant is change.

41: December 22, 2008 – Randoms, including mom’s great idea for a trip to England; no, it never worked out…someday, maybe? Lesson 41: Carpe Diem…and don’t look back.

42. December 30, 2008 – News of my next great adventure – Washington, DC or BUST! Lesson 42: Let go and let God.
43. January 6, 2009 – Time with my sweet Sunshine, life planning, and new developments. Lesson 43: Write everything down, remember the details, and reminisce over the memories.

44: January 22, 2009 – Touring graduate schools in Little Rock and prepping for my DC adventures. Lesson 44: Traveling makes my heart happy.

45: January 28, 2009 – (Graduate school) applications, applications, applications. Lesson 45: 4-H Record Books are indeed practice for real life requirements.

46: February 2, 2009 – Late night factoid chats and factoid studying, time with family and friends. Lesson 46: Appreciate friendships with insomniacs – your future husband won’t afford such an opportunity. ;)

47. February 6, 2009 – Quick check in before heading off on another exciting adventure, the start of my stent as a tour guide in our nation’s capital. Lesson 47: It gets easier…usually.

48: February 7, 2009 – I have arrived (in DC)!!! Lesson 48: WaHa is a special place.

49: February 15, 2009 – Introductions to the Warren Hall family, and enough inspiration for a lifetime. Lesson 49: Surround yourself with people who DREAM BIG and have the drive to follow those dreams, around the world and back.

50: February 22, 2009 – Job descriptions for life as a WOW Program Assistant. Lesson 50: Contrary to popular belief, interns do NOT have it easy.

51. March 7, 2009 – First (and last “real”) SNOW DAY ever!! Lesson 51: Snow causes immediate regression to childlike ways.

52. March 25, 2009 – A month of madness, per usual. Lesson 52: March has always been, and will always be my favorite month…same goes for the season of Spring.

53. April 13, 2009 – The madness continues, loving DC more than ever. Lesson 53: Springtime in DC is wild!

54. April 19, 2009 – Trapeez school (life balancing act) and a day trip to Baltimore. Lesson 54: There will always be tough times…sandwiched between great ones.

55: April 27, 2009 – Times are a changin’ in DC…successful tour group, roommates moving on, and an upcoming road trip for yet another grad school visit. Lesson 55: Relationship-building is the key that unlocks the doors of life.

56: May 6, 2009 – Road trippppppp!!! Lesson 56: Everyone should rent a car and take an impromptu road trip at some point in their lives – pack peanut butter and bananas, grab your beach towels and a good book, then hit the open road!

57. June 2, 2009 – Closing in on my DC departure, sharing quiet times with close friends, bidding housemates goodbye, welcoming new ones, and crossing things off the DC bucket list. Lesson 57: One can never “do it all;” there is always something new to see and do in the most powerful city in the world!!

58. June 2, 2009 – Concluding my time in DC with last-minute, new, and memorably historic experiences. Lesson 58: Always remember that with everything we do, we’re making history and paving the path for not only our future, but for those to come after us.

59. June 20, 2009 – Ten short days in my home state, with a quick turnaround as I head out to a second summer at Camp Aldersgate. Lesson 59: Louisiana will always be “home,” and I’ll forever miss it if I am not there.

60. June 24, 2009 – Settling in and starting what would become a great summer at my “home away from home.” Lesson 60: It’s always more fun to be the “veteran.”

61. July 6, 2009 – First half of the summer complete, reminiscing of the one and only EggLime Cabin in Camp Aldersgate history. Lesson 61: Roll with the punches, and have fun with it.

62. July 31, 2009 – A little more time at home, beach vacation with the family, and attempts at maintaining long-distance friendships. Lesson 62: “Happiness is like peeing in your pants. Everyone can see it but only you can feel its warmth.” – Author Unknown

63. August 12, 2009 – Summaries from the second half of the summer, more goodbyes…and unknowingly, see-ya-later’s. Lesson 63: “Don’t Stop Believing.”

64. September 26, 2009 – Major updates, including stories of the road trip to NC (and a short visit to DC), beginning yet another chapter of life. Lesson 64: Everything comes full circle.

65. November 8, 2009 – A long-awaited and much needed return visit to Idaho!!!! Lesson 65: Do one thing every day that makes you happy…and when you really need it, take a whole weekend make it happen!!

66. November 12, 2009 – Almost missed the flight back to Raleigh, departing from another free trip to DC. Lesson 66: 4-H is the greatest youth organization in the world.

67. November 19, 2009 – First ever state fair experience! Lesson 67: It’s important for children (and everyone, really) to have basic knowledge and understanding of agriculture.

68. November 28, 2009 – Insider stories reflecting my recent emotions and experiences via text messages and Twitter. Lesson 68: Twitter ought to sell the ability to print in text/book format, one’s postings for a specified time period.

69. December 6, 2009 – Swine flu (“bacon lung”) sickness led straight into a quick weekend in Seattle to take (and pass!) the child life certification exam. Lesson 69: Pacific Standard Time is weird.

70. December 2 6, 2009 – First semester of graduate school completed, rewarded with a delicious and relaxing holiday at home. Lesson 70: Cajun food is second to none.

71. February 19, 2010 – Summing up the first part of spring – snow, campout, and traveling – all with good friends and good times. Lesson 71: All graduate students should be this UNdedicated to their studies.

72. April 20, 2010 – Finally, some semblance of positive thinking, maybe even enjoyment, toward Raleigh and North Carolina as a whole. Lesson 72: Eventually…caterpillars turn into butterflies, and terrible experiences blossom into positive ones.

73. May 25, 2010 – Eternally grateful for all those who stood beside me each step of the very rocky path, navigating my way through year one of graduate school. Lesson 73: Blocking painful memories can be helpful, but revisiting them (two years) later, allows for healthy reflection and pride in perseverance.

74. June 25, 2010 – Sweetness of summer, and a fabulous wedding reunion with the Idaho bunch. Lesson 74: Forget high school reunions – give me internship reunions (and time with REAL friends) any day!

75. July 4, 2010 – A nice relaxing week in Little Rock, living as a local, and not running myself ragged as is typical for a camp counselor. Lesson 75: Stop and smell the roses.

76. July 31, 2010 – Late nights, sleepless slumber, hard work, and good effort…all in a month’s work. Lesson 76: Some of the hardest work makes for the most rewarding of experiences.

77. August 9, 2010 – Funny, sweet, and totally hilarious stories of why camp kiddos are the greatest in the world. Lesson 77: Some say the campers are lucky to be in the care of such great individuals – I say we’re the lucky ones.

78. August 11, 2010 – The summer in tweets – a new format, and excellent in-the-moment summary. Lesson 78: Word vomit can be dangerous, yet insightful.

79. September 4, 2010 – Passionate rants regarding the use of people-first language, protecting the “4 (dash) H,” and expressions of genuine love for those entrusted to my care. Lesson 79: Passion is infectious – show the world your passion, and your neighbors will catch on.

80. September 26, 2010 – WaHa reunion in all its much-anticipated glory. Lesson 80: WaHa isn’t a time or a’s a way of life.

81. October 14, 2010 – Much needed time at home celebrating my wonderful friends’ wedding, and the start of thesis hell season. Lesson 81: If I knew then what I know now…

82. October 25, 2010 – Songs of the heart. Lesson 82: “Down the road the sun is shining, in every cloud there’s a silver lining.”

83. November 7, 2010 – Daycations…all in a day’s drive. Lesson 83: Learn to be spontaneous.

84. November 22, 2010 – Progressing through the “feces,” and starting to look ahead toward the future. Lesson 84: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

85. December 4, 2010 – Surprisingly positive progress with all things academia. Lesson 85: Good things come to those who wait…temporarily, at least.

86. December 31, 2010 – Bland rambles of holiday time at home writing…writing…writing ‘til the end of time. Lesson 86: It’s a wonder I’m 84 entries in and still…writing.

87. January 8, 2011 – Poetic words pouring out love for my sweet homeland. Lesson 87: "Louisiana: It's not just a state, it's a state of mind." (LYJ)

88. January 31, 2011 – And the pressure to become a real adult begins. Lesson 88: Sometimes, peer pressure can have positive results.

89. February 12, 2011 – Reflections on networking experiences as resulted in long-time, far away friendships and amazing opportunities. Lesson 89: It really is a small world out there.

90. February 20, 2011 – A letter in support of Camp, written on behalf of all those lucky enough to call Aldersgate “home.” Lesson 90: “The best way to predict future behavior is to look at past behavior.”- Dr. Phillip McGraw

91. April 17, 2011 – Stories of surviving the swamp via a weekend at home and a NOLA Mardi Gras “first” with my lovely Lendylou. Lesson 91: Spiders are stealthy.

92. May 2, 2011 – Ridding myself of all things thesis (ahem, FECES). Lesson 92: “…You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh

93. May 30/June 17, 2011 – All “gradmated” and moving on to big girl life in The Natural State. Lesson 93: “Every great accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” – Author Unknown

94. July 20, 2011 – Play-by-play commentary of my summertime responsibilities as Volunteer Coordinator at Camp. Lesson 94: Busy doesn’t end with graduation…and neither does hard work, for that matter.

95. August 27, 2011 – Albeit 8 months late, finally an introduction to Alex. Lesson 95: Second chances are worth considering…and any boy who will drive 8 hours to see you is DEFINITELY worth considering.

96. October 8, 2011 – Five months later, life in Little Rock slowly becomes routine. Lesson 96: Always calculate time for transitions.

97. November 19, 2011 – Racking up the frequent flyer miles and traveling to my heart’s content. Lesson 97: “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.” –Robert Louis Stevenson

98. January 16, 2012 – Celebrating one year with Alex – together, and apart. Lesson 98: Always cherish the little moments, magic, and memories we have with one another.

99. January 22, 2012 – Disrupted routine and the chaos of an office remodel, house sitting, and the start of busy season. Lesson 99: “The time to relax is when you don't have time for it.” –Attributed to both Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris

…and finally, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…

100. May 6, 2012 – Honoring my first 99 blog entries, and the last 4 years of my life – through heartache, happiness, celebrations, defeat, and success – all which has made me into who I am today, and who I’ll be tomorrow. Lesson 100: “We must be our own before we can be another's.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

And so Emerson hit the nail on the head with that one – I could never be something to someone else without really knowing who I am. Lots of updates to share in upcoming blogs, but this quote truly said it all. I am who I am because of all of the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve encountered, and the circumstances I’ve endured. These 99 (and now 100) blogs are glimpse into all that has molded me into the Lauren Nicole Mouton that exists as of May 6, 2012.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I have no doubt tomorrow, the next day, the one after that, etc., will continue to shape me into the one I will become. For now though, this is who I am, and I can’t wait to see who I’ll be. And with that I always say… I'm moving on to new and exciting adventures. Stay tuned!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Unsettled and Off My Rocker

"Unsettled" seems to be the most fitting way to describe the last month or so. I've been incredibly nomadic and my schedule has been unpredictable to say the least. January and I have had our battles, now it's time for a new month.


Camp closed its doors for two weeks in honor of the Christmas and New Year holidays. I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends during the break. In fact, Alex and I were able to spend nearly 10 days together, as we each took a turn celebrating Christmas with our families. I was in the Carolinas December 20-24, and he came to Louisiana the 26th through the 30th. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to treat Alex to his first visit to New Orleans, a trip that coincided with a Nicholls roommate reunion (plus Joey & Kim who were in from Idaho)! It was great.

On January 2nd, I drove back to Little Rock, anticipating a return to work on the 4th. However, on the 3rd, a coworker and I went to the office to check out the progress on our rennovations, only to find out the administration had decided to keep the office closed until the following Monday (Jan. 9th). Megan and I were really frustrated because we could have used this time to visit our boys (her husband's spending the month in Boston for a Med School rotation), instead of being stuck in LR for the week. Thankfully, Megan and I had each other to stay entertained, since she'd asked me to be her roommate for the month while Richie is out of town.

We returned to work on Monday (Jan. 9th), with high hopes for settling into our new offices and getting back into the swing of things. Lo and behold, that morning we were informed the construction schedule would require the office to be closed once again, on Thursday and Friday. Later that afternoon, the closure was expanded to include Wednesday, which meant Monday and Tuesday were the only days were open for business that week. Oh, and, we didn't return to work until the following Tuesday (Jan. 17th) because Monday was a holiday (MLK). *angry face*

Ironically enough, I made several comments back in December about how I was jealous of college students' holidays, as my first year in the big kid world. While an unexpected four-week holiday from work definitely had it's perks, it happened to be one of the worst times of the year for this to happen. January 6th was the deadline for applications for spring weekend camp volunteers. Somehow...somewhow... the typical applicant pool for this time of year more than doubled from 20 to 45! I have no idea how this happened, but trying to process applications, schedule interviews, place volunteers, prepare for and host a large training all in one week was incredibly overwhelming, and definitely not something I'd like to ever do again.

No matter how hard I tried, I just could not keep up! There were so many e-mails that it took me til Friday to even LOOK at messages that had arrived the previous Sunday. The phone rang off the hook, with sometimes two or three messages left via voicemail while I answered a call that came in just before. Oh oh - I forgot to mention that we hosted our first weekend camp of the year this weekend, so Tommy (Weekend Camp Coordinator) and I were both scrambling to prepare evaluations, check-in forms, and cabin lists for Disney Weekend, all at the same time everything else was going on! It was nuts, I tell you...nuts!

At this point, I've survived the weekend, but there is no rest for the weary. It's a "work week" at Camp this week, so we'll have volunteer groups coming out to rake leaves from 9-3 for the better part of the week. This doesn't leave me much time to continue the interview and placement process with new volunteers, nor to prepare for next weekend's SCUBA Camp. ...Not to mention all the parents who are calling about summer camp applications (that I haven't even BEGUN to prepare). AHHH!!

All of this stress would have been a lot to take in a normal month, but adding a new roommate to the mix, while not being in my own space is quite a transition, as well. We're also right in the middle of processing applications for the 2012 National 4-H Conference Collegiate Facilitator group, and I'm doing my best to give that project all the attention it deserves. And, one can't forget the sneaky stressors in life such as hormonal changes or supporting and serving others. ...Those little boogers.

Needless to say...I'M READY FOR FEBRUARY!


Monday, January 16, 2012

A Set of 1's.

Fair warning, this post is going to be mushy gushy, so if you just had lunch, you may want to pick someone else's life to stalk for a while. I've tried to avoid the lovey dovey stuff on my blog, but today I'm going to combine it all into one post and get it out of the way for a while. So again, bear with me, or "change the channel," if you will. :)

I'm a firm believer that couples should date for at least a full year before making any real decisions or new steps in the relationship. There's just something to be said for experiencing each of the four seasons together - celebrating holidays, taking vacations, dealing with oppressive heat and the blustery cold. Plus, I'm not sure if any of you are in-tuned to your own lives as well as I might claim to be, but different seasons "work" for different people, and some seasons are just depressing.

For example, spring is a happenin' time of the year for me - I absolutely love spring time. The weather is beautiful, there's lots to do, it's my birthday, and spring is just plain FUN! On the other hand, I loathe fall - there's nothing to celebrate, the days are short, everyone's coming off of a lazy summer, and work is just sooo slowwww. Overall, I find Fall to be incredibly boring and seemingly drags on forever. For others, sentiments may be quite the opposite.

In a long distance relationship, every moment, every season is something to celebrate - as another milestone of accomplishment, and another day closer to "together forever." Developing the habit of recognizing each milestone can lend itself to exercises in creativity, especially when time together can be unpredictible from month to month or season to season.

Alex and I have developed several creative ways to spend time together, even when we are apart. Someone on the outside looking in may see our time "together" as lame, or even cheesy, but it works for us and that's what matters. The purpose of this post isn't to provide others in similar situations with ideas or suggestions for staying in touch, so I won't describe our tricks of the trade. What I will say is that everyone has to find something that works for them - try it once and if it works it works, and if it doesn't, try something else. Half the fun is in the trying. ;-)

Over the course of the last year, Alex and I have made many memories together. We never imagined the failed first blind "date" on December 10, 2010 would have turned into the longest and greatest relationship either of us have ever experienced. One day I'll have to tell all of you that story. Looking back, we laugh, but at the time it all seemed really awkward and miserable. Many thanks to K.M. and C.B. for your attempts at ... well I'm not sure what exactly you were attempting there, but thanks. Haha.

On December 24, 2010, Alex bravely asked me out on a "real" first date and we each decided to start with a clean slate and give it another try. On January 9, 2011 Alex drove 4 hours each way (8 hours total) to spend an afternoon with me...despite the impending snow storm headed our way. Something told me that any guy who offered to drive 8 hours to spend a day with me HAD to be worth a shot. Today, something tells me I was right. :-D

And today, January 16, 2012, marks one year from the date Alex asked me to be his girlfriend. A year ago, we thought 240 miles, 4 hours, and 2 states away was a "long distance" relationship. Yet, today, we're celebrating from 825 miles, 14 hours, and 5 states apart. Talk about creativity, haha.

It's not always easy, but we do our best to spend as much quality time together as we can. While our definition of together may be different than most, we like to think it's even more special because we don't take anything for granted. As we look ahead toward more "1's," and then "2's, 3's, 5's, 10's, 100's..." I pray that we always remember the little moments, memories, and magic we have together.

Thank you, Alex, for an amazing year. As you're well aware, 12 is my favorite number and I have a hunch that 2012 is going to be a great year. I love you!

<3 br="">Lauren

[See folks, I warned you it was mushy...tehe.]