Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sh*tty City

Excuse my French.  Sorry, but that's how we currently feel about the good 'ole "Monroe Funroe."  Really, it's our frustration coming out after so many months of living here and feeling like the area has little to nothing for a young professional couple such as ourselves. 

As you all know, Alex and I moved to this area without any real connection to it.  For him, it was a step up professionally, and at a good time personally.  For me, it wasn't necessarily a choice, but one that had its promises.  Promises to bring us together forever, and promises to put me closer to home without putting me too far from my "home away from home."  For us, it was an answered prayer. 

However, to grow as a couple and flourish as individuals, we really do need the city we live in to be more than just a place to lay our heads at night.  We need to feel like this house, this neighborhood, and this city is "home," even if just for a season.  There needs to be some sort of tie to the community and it's people.  To put it simply, we need to have a life here. 

For months, we have tried to make Monroe our home.  When I say we have tried, I mean we.have.tried.  We've made efforts to turn acquaintances into friends by asking them over to our home, trying to coordinate outings, and even eluding to interest in their existing plans with others.  When we ran out of options with people we may have known previously, we looked to coworkers, and even tried to find outside groups to join in hopes of finding success there. 

At this point, we feel like we've exhausted our options.  Co-workers, neighbors, church, and community recreation (sports) leagues have not panned out like we hoped they would.  We continue to rack our brains for new and creative ideas in trying to meet people, yet we keep coming up short.  Just today, Alex told me he's ready to give up because people always seem to bail on us or our efforts fall short no matter what we do. 

I'm worried that we'll "check out" eventually and then become more jaded about this area than we already are.  Truthfully, we miss our friends and while it's nice to be in touch with those we love, it's not the same for them to be so far away when all we really want to do is have a (guys) poker night or (girls) sleepover.  In fact, the other day, I inadvertantly found myself in touchy waters when trying to have a nice girl-talk conversation with someone whom I probably haven't earned that level of friendship-status.  (Yeah, it wasn't pretty.  Insert foot in mouth...)

So anyway, instead of a pitty party, I plead for help, blog-readers.  Please offer your suggestions or tips for meeting and making friends in new places.  It might be helpful to note that this city doesn't offer community recreation leagues (can you believe that?!), nor does our church have any sort of group for young adults.  Like I said, we tried.  ...So yeah, what's a girl (and guy) to do? 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to Basics: The Day Without TV

A couple of experiences in my current life led to some ideas swirling around my head for a blog series titled "Back to Basics."  This is the first entry in said series, though you shouldn't expect to see a second or third entry tomorrow, or the day after that, get the idea.  For now, sit back and enjoy!


When I moved to Arkansas in May 2011 with wide eyes and a heart full of excitement about my first real job that had somehow evolved from just a dream into real life, I decided it was time to be a real adult and splurge on some things.  Like cable television.  All my life, I grew up with access to a little more than your standard cable television packages.  We didn't have HBO or millions of movie/sport channels, but we did have your basics like Disney Channel, ABC Family, HGTV, etc.  While at Nicholls for my undergrad, we did have access to most of those same channels in the dorms on-campus.  However, once I left campus for an apartment, then later internships and eventually graduate school, my access to cable television ended there.  Basically, I went three years without this "modern convenience" except for when I visited family and friends.

In some ways, lack of cable television was liberating.  I didn't get caught up in following particular television shows, or spend hours sprawled out on the couch/bed watching a bunch of garbage (ahem, TLC, ahem).  From time to time, living without cable was downright annoying.  I mean, seriously, how else was I supposed to keep up with the ever-expanding Duggar family, or watch Disney Channel's original movie of the month?

Armed with my new big-girl job (on a high school kid's salary), the jump to cable was an exciting one.  For the first time in my life, I embarked on a journey of living alone and boy was that access to cable television enticing.  However, it was all just a joke, really.  Despite picking the "family package," I still didn't have access to any of my favorite TV shows.  I adapted by taking advantage of my new toy, the DVR, and became accustomed to watching all pre-recorded (usually from the middle of the night) shows.

Needless to say, the prospect of moving in with Alex after the wedding became extremely exciting because no American male, much less one whose job revolves around sports, wouldn't have rightful access to ESPN and other sports channel...which meant that I would in turn have full access to all my guilty pleasures once again!!  Now, not only do I have 24/7 access to such channels, but I also get to use our fancy shmancy DVR to keep up with regular television programming!  Wahoo.

Last week, during one of my daily thinking/planning/reflecting sessions in the car (I drive 30 minutes one-way to work/home each day), I really started to think about the routine that had become so comfortable lately.  Wake up, get ready, make lunch/feed kittens, watch a few minutes of GMA while discussing an overview of my day with Alex, go to work, come home, shower, eat, watch hours of television, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day.

Over the summer, Alex and I had a great deal of time to spend together (when I wasn't away for work), and we really did fall into the pit of spending most of that time laying around watching television.  Don't get me wrong, we still enjoyed being with each other just as we always have, but the quality of our interactions had faded.  Our need for creativity, fun, and games had lessened in just a few short months of being together.  Again, to the average viewer (even ourselves, really), nothing had changed - we were still happy-go-lucky newlyweds enjoying the process of building a life together.  But, it had become too easy.  We didn't have to work for things as much as we did while in our long distance relationship.  To put it bluntly, we became lazy.

After work on Friday, I brought Alex a snowcone as a treat for being out in the exhausting heat at football practice all afternoon.  We decided to be spontaneous by going out to dinner that evening, so I hung around doing some work while I waited for him to finish.  At dinner, I threw out the idea of a "Day Without TV."  Alex listened, thought for a moment, and then agreed without hesitation.  We decided to designate the following day (Saturday) as a "Day Without TV."

Saturday morning, we slept in until 8:45 a.m., which is so unusual for us these days.  Usually, Alex is trying to sneak out of bed by 7:30 a.m.  (He's such a grandpa.)  But not that day.  We started the day off with a string of productivity, including walking the dog, mowing the grass (him), washing the car (me), and doing laundry.  After lunch, we attended to some "homework" we'd been putting off - paying bills and picking out wedding photos/albums.  Alex had to head to football practice at 4 p.m., but for the few hours we shared that afternoon, we took the time to assemble our engagement photo puzzle/wedding guestbook.  It took a while, and some grumbling, but we finally did it!  While Alex was working, of course I "couldn't" indulge in TV as I usually would, so I spent time uploading photos online and even talked to a friend on the phone (!!!) for nearly an hour.  By the time Alex returned around 10 p.m. that evening, I decided it was okay for our 24-hour respite to end.  We pressed that good ole red power button and enjoyed a little late night TV before turning in for the night.

I know I've written a lot about this today, but I thought the background information and evolution as to how or why we chose to do this was important.  Ultimately, taking one day off from TV doesn't make a huge impact in our lives, but I will say that I did enjoy the peace and quiet that went along with it.  It was fun to reconnect with each other and be creative with our time along the way.  I see "The Day Without TV" resurrecting itself periodically, especially if there comes a season when there are children running around our house.

In future installments of this series, you can look forward to pieces such as "Two Weeks Without a Kitchen Sink" and "Dinner Without Gadgets."  What about you?  What other "Back to Basics" practices have you chosen (or "lucked into") to try?  Let's hear 'em.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Our Little Garden

With summer coming to a close here soon (no, I haven't forgotten the promise of stories from our NC trip), I figure it's about time I write about our backyard garden.  Gardening isn't my "thing," just in case you were wondering...or thinking perhaps that it's some daunting task that I have a special knack at.  In fact, aside from picking a few cucumbers and tomatoes during those few summers my daddy maintained a backyard garden, I have zero experience growing things.  Zilch, people!

What I do have is a taste for homegrown vegetables, especially cucumbers and tomatoes.  You know it's true - nothing, I mean nothing beats a home grown tomato!  I also happen to be on the frugal *ahem, cheap, ahem* side.  Bell peppers are also a weakness for me; I love them all - red, orange, yellow, even the traditional green - I'll eat them any way you have 'em, even fresh off the vine.  I say it's the Cajun in me.  However, those durn things cost an arm and a leg at the grocery store!  I'm talking $1.79 for ONE pepper!  What the heck is up with that?!

So take my love for vegetables and my loathe for high grocery bills, put them together, and voila - a backyard garden!  To be fair, Alex built the plot for me - an 8 x 8 raised bed in a corner of our backyard.  We also killed a second bird with that stone, if you will, when we hoped the garden would serve as a solution to our flooding problem.  Fast forward to the earliest warm day after February 14th, and off we went with our garden venture!

Once the plot was ready, Alex took me to Lowe's and let me pick out anything I wanted.  We ended up with an assortment of seeds and little plants of every vegetable I would consider eating or cooking with.  The bounty included corn, carrots, green/orange/red/yellow bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, banana peppers, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, and green onions.  If the list sounds excessive, believe me it was.  A few weeks in, our plant babies looked like this:

Okay so...yeah, maybe we went a little overboard on this garden idea...let's go with over-ambitious.

As the weeks went by, our plant babies began to produce vegetable babies.  It was the coolest, most exciting thing to observe.  We couldn't wait to taste all the goodies!

Eventually, we did begin to enjoy our vegetables.  First came the green onions, then the zucchini, and eventually our tomato crop exploded.  Every now and again, the pepper plants produced, though I'm hoping those last into the winter.  (I remember a friend of mine picked his last batch of peppers in December!)

Not everything produced, though.  Our corn seemed overrun with some type of disease, insect, or just didn't make it due to tight quarters in the plot area.  Neither did the cucumbers (though they looked promising at one point) or the squash.  The green onions were eventually overpowered by neighboring tomato, squash, and zucchini plants, though I am still picking out rooted onions on occasion.  As for the carrots, they looked pitiful for ages, but I'm starting to think they may turn out okay in due time.  I think those are fall/winter plants and we began with those as seeds anyway, so I'm going to hold out hope on those.

Thankfully, the garden did help with our drainage issue, and I think expanding the area next year will do even more toward solving that problem.  Yes, I did say next year.  Next year, I'd like to double the area yet try the same plants over again.  Hopefully that will give more space for the plants to grow and for me to care for them a little better.  We'll also need to figure out a way to keep the dog out of the garden.  Our decorative
(short) partitions didn't work as well as we thought they would, and CJ seems to have taken over, looking for cool areas to rest in this intense summer heat.  Looking on the bright side, our soon-to-be-outdoor kittens may contribute to fertilizing the area for us throughout the "off" months.  Hehe.

As this adventure goes, you win some and you lose some...or is it live and learn?  I've definitely learned a bit, but my thumb is not quite green and we still have a ways to go with becoming successful gardeners.  Working for the AgCenter means there are an unlimited number of resources at my disposal, if only I take the time to read or consult those around's always that easy, isn't it?  ;)


Monday, August 5, 2013

The Foliday

Fol-i-day.  noun. Fake-holiday.  A day on which one is supposed to be exempt from work; specifically : a day marked by the desire for a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.  July 5 is a state foliday in Louisiana.

Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal, may have declared July 5th a state holiday, but apparently the state's flagship university did not.  Since I had to work on Friday, Alex and I convinced my parents to visit us in Monroe for the holiday weekend instead.  Side note:  Really, I could have taken off, but I'd just taken off the week before for our weekend in Dallas, and plus, asking someone to care for our animals two weekends in a row was a bit much.  Once Alex tossed out the idea of fishing with my father, it didn't take much convincing in our part anyway.  ;-)

So yeah, my parents visited us for the July 4th weekend.  Because they spent the first part of the week down at Grand Isle (basically the end of the earth as far as south Louisiana goes), they decided to drive up to Monroe on the morning of the 4th.  Our morning was pretty chill, as Alex and I relaxed a bit, caught up on some DVR, and prepared the grill for their afternoon arrival.  For dinner, my parents brought steaks from Hebert's Specialty Meats so we fired up the grill and enjoyed a finger-lickin-good meal that evening.

Friday, the boys made the trek out to Lake D'arbonne for a day of fishing.  Thanks to a coworker, they were armed with excellent directions to a new locale for my daddy to test the waters.  The fruits of their labor were few, but I think they enjoyed themselves nonetheless.  While I worked, my mom slept in and later ran a few errands for us.  For dinner, we tried out the new fish fry kit my mom got for us a while back.  In true Cajun form, we once again stuffed ourselves with the fresh fish from the day's adventures.

My daddy enjoyed a piece of Heaven on Saturday when we took him to visit the motherland, aka Duck Commander.  Wide eyes and a bright smile were permanent fixtures on his face that day.  By now, Alex and I have been there a few times, so the magic has worn on us a bit, but it is always fun to visit with a newbie.  I've included a few pictures for you below.

THE Camper, featured in several episodes.
If you can believe it, this was the line to take a picture with the Duck Commander/Buck Commander sign.
Mom and I came out of the gift shop to find the boys near the front of the line;  pictures resulted.

Alright ya'll, come visit us.  We'll even take you to visit some of the many attractions, restaurants, or events voted "Best of the Delta 2013."  Come on, you know you want to...