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!