Introducing the Blogroll

There are several things that inspire me: conversations, articles, art, books, observations, music, dreams, happenstance…

What I would like to start sharing with my readers are more localized inspirations. If you look to the right of this entry, you will see “BLOGROLL”. These are sites from people I find interesting. I encourage you to check them out when you get a chance. I am honored to connect you to their worlds. I will now take this opportunity to give you the 411 on each site.

“All Things Kedinger”: Daniel is such a computer whiz, I cannot find words to describe his genius. His blog is quite humorous and informational as well. He and his wife are exploring their new role as parents, so there is a a baby blog chronicling their path. Needless to say, there is something for everyone.

“Corndancer”: I met Eb and Freddie while I was in Santa Fe last summer. They live in the mountains of Arkansas. Their site will keep you intellectually stimulated, as well as updated on educational matters (Freddie is a professor at the University of Arkansas). Plus, Eb will connect you to other intelligent blogs on his blogroll.

“Dragonflies and Goosebumps”: I recently met Mel online through WordPress. She is a thirty-something writer from Puerto Rico. She is an example of my favorite reason to love the Internet-you can connect from anywhere! She writes a bit of fiction and poetry. Very moving!

“Jamie Orillion”: Jamie took senior portraits to another level. I found his style helped redefine people’s idea of photography in our little Acadia Parish. It didn’t take long for his brand to grow (he now shoots around the state and country). Once you click through his archives, you’ll see what I mean.

“Mama Gab”: Gabby was a 9th grade English teacher who transitioned into a stay at home mom and homemaker. She and her husband are raising their children on a one person income. I absolutely enjoy reading her commentary on books and products she uses and the teamwork that is involved in the process. It is refreshing to know that someone puts this much thought into parenting. I feel a lot of people should be aware of this, even if they choose a different route.

“Micah Toub”: As you may be aware, I’m obsessed with thinking. I frequently read Psychology Today. I stumbled across Toub’s blog, “Growing up Jung”. I was instantly hooked, then realized the title is from his upcoming book of the same name. He is the offspring of two shrinks and the memoir discusses how he dealt with this scenario. His web site features the blog and other columns he’s written for various magazines. I look forward to reading his book and giving you a bit of insight on my findings.

Well that’s it for now. I’m sure I will be sharing lots of new information in the coming weeks. As of tomorrow, I am officially turned on to “school mode” and my role as teacher commences with inservices. It’s interesting that I will be a student of teaching, but “in charge” of students. To a parent, that statement could sound intimidating, like I don’t know what I’m doing. But have no fear, I have never been more excited to share knowledge. I just know I am about to learn more that I ever thought possible.

To new beginnings, sharing and caring. Cheers!

Yahoo!

I remember watching the Hurricane Katrina Relief special on TV. So many of us here in South Louisiana were gravely affected by the wrath of Katrina and Rita. We had locals who had lost everything as well as evacuees wining and dining, attempting to delay their grief.

I remember the thumping sound my jaw made as I watched a stuttering Kanye West mutter the words “George Bush hates black people.” I would love to have experienced the feeling that went through Mike Meyers stomach as he realized what his co-presenter just said on LIVE television. Luckily, Meyers, being the man of so many characters, was able to keep his composure as the camera smoothly transitioned to a far away Chris Tucker.

Because I’ve had so much computer time lately, I am able to peruse through Yahoo news every day to keep “informed”. The media really only makes me realize why so many of us are agitated. The 32 stories that rotate throughout the day are mostly about celebrities, credit card debt, mass unemployment, poor housing rates, Obama hate, fast food, celebrities, LeBron James, debt, unemployment…

So why did I start off with Kanye’s Katrina Outburst? Well, I did see something about Kanye on Yahoo! about how he is cleaning up his act and his ego. Gee I feel so much better!

However, I somewhat had to agree with parts of his ego’s ramble. Not that George Bush hates black people (but one day soon I would love to talk about some great Bushisms!) but that the media can spin any story in order to sell it to the public. We’re more likely to find out the truth from a stranger rather than the news, which is why it’s probably a great idea to advocate common sense and meeting your neighbors.

Just think about this for a minute.

We pay attention to people in a box that we have never personally met. We listen and trust their facts and opinions. Yet, how many of us know the person who lives next door? The real people we see get into their vehicles and go to work, or cut their grass, or bring out the trash?

It’s something to ponder. There’s a lot more that goes into our subconscious reality than we realize. If you constantly see negative stories (unemployment, credit card scams, identity theft) right next to tales of lavish lifestyles and celebrity weddings, it will inadvertently cause you to feel slightly depressed. Coincidentally (?) there is an advertisement right next to the story with some product that will make you feel great/happy/satisfied.

My point, you now wonder. Read stories with little advertisement. Watch less television. Interact with real people. Get involved in your neighborhood/town so you personally know what’s going on. Teach these things to your children.

You know, I tried to make this a lighter entry. I was going to poke fun at Kanye and try to be funny. Maybe make you laugh out loud. But no, I had to go and get serious. And instead of going back to edit what I wrote so you would never know of this ramble, I will leave it. It’s real and it wanted to come out for some reason.

But on the lighter note, I leave you with Kanye. Because damn this clip makes me gawk every single time I see it. I really can’t believe he said this to an unsuspecting nation. It’s priceless. LOL.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pVTrnxCZaQ

(Wish I could just insert the video, but for some reason, the blog won’t let me)

Epic in Eugene

We arrived in Eugene at 3 p.m. I knew we had a few hours to spare before Rick was through with his final. Our first stop was at a Jiffy Lube for an oil change. This was the most superior service I had ever received: the staff was friendly, the work was reliable and quick, and the waiting area was immaculate.

There was a young early-college-aged girl there who had gone over 9,000 miles since her last oil change. She said her grandfather normally took care of everything for her. I guess it made me feel a little more responsible.

Louis got a free car wash and we set out in the pollen-filled Eugene. One of the things I love about the Oregon scenery is the fir and pine tree-lined cities and roads. Everywhere is green. The trees are tall, too, unlike the short, grand oaks I am used to in South Louisiana. Unless you want a tour of the swamp for the gigantic Cypress trees, short and stout trees are what you get on a daily basis.

We drove near the University of Oregon campus and watched as students unpacked their dorm rooms. We decided to grab some grub and beer at McMenamins, a northwest brewpub, while we waited.

I felt like the atmosphere was authentically original, however when Rick called to see where we were, he relayed the info that it was a chain. This reminded me of “Mellow Mushroom” chains. Rick told us he and a few classmates were at a beer shop not too far away. Nick and I finished a game of pool and headed that way.

While we were on the road, we contacted Sal, a colleague from Baton Rouge who worked for the same company we did many years ago. He had just graduated from LSU and was on a solo road trip through the west as well. Turns out, he was near Eugene and wanted to partake in the festivities.

Beer Stein, a former fresh pasta shop, has the most extensive bottled beer selection I have yet to see. I was weeks away from home, so I chose an Abita Amber to cure what little homesickness I possessed. I walked up to a table of men from around the world and knew it was going to be an interesting night.

The gentleman asked how Rick and I knew one another and we kind of looked at one another like, “We don’t really know, yet we trust one another enough to ride half-way across the country together.” We all shook hands as Sal arrived, sporting an LSU visor and polo shirt.

The crew decided it was time to move to the party house, which was to be held at a pair of co-ed’s apartment.

The night started slowly,  mixing intelligent conversation with stout beer and wine. I’ve never felt more sophisticated in a tiny apartment. I exchanged tales from the road while they exchanged knowledge of physics.

I could tell Nick and Sal were bringing the Louisiana out of one another, especially when they disappeared giggling. I was mid-conversation with Erik, a student from Connecticut, when the duo arrived with Nattie-lite proclaiming it was time for beer pong.

They were a little too tipsy to notice the looks of disdain, but regardless they edged their way into the seemingly microscopic kitchen. The kitchen table was brought to center, cups were set up, and then the geniuses discovered they had no pong for the beer. Undiscouraged, they huddled for a quick game-time decision and voted on the use of a quarter due to the lack of a ball.

Rick and a buddy reluctantly played the first round. However, it wasn’t too long before Nick and Sal’s contagious energy spread to a few party-seekers. Once a few girls challenged the testosterone in the room, the hype of the game soared.

I stood in the hallway and held random conversations with strangers, while the sounds of fraternity hoo-rahs filled my background soundtrack.

At one point I counted and there were 12 different countries represented in the apartment: India, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, USA, etc. I felt like I was drinking with some of the smartest kids in the world. I literally could have toasted with someone who will make a remarkable scientific discovery. The moment still gives me chills.

As the party escalated to rambunctious, there was a phone call made to the hostesses from upset neighbors. We needed to move to a new location.

At this point, I could’ve gone to sleep– and it was not even midnight. The girls allowed Nick and Sal to pass out there, but I decided to push forward and walk to a bar with the physics crew.

I just kind of hung back and watched the rest of the evening progress. Erik was now talking to a girl from class. Rick was talking to….well everyone because that’s what Rick does.

Rick flirts with anyone. He isn’t gender specific either, although he is straight as a nail. He just likes for people to like him. He’ll tell you that directly if asked.

Anyways, the goal was an 80’s theme party, but that bar was too packed, so we stopped at an uppity type place. I felt sorry for the only couple in the bar that seemed to long for a romantic outing together. We were loud.

People were pulling cans of Schlitz from their jacket pockets, while others were crying. The night took a very emotional turn once we started walking through the streets of Eugene. For some, it was the last time they were going to see one another. Many of the International students were going home for good. Some of the American students were choosing not to return to the program.

People were saying their good-byes.

It was now around 3 a.m. Not counting the one hour nap, I had been awake for 18 hours straight….only on three hours of sleep. I was entering the delirious state.

The bar closed and we decided to walk to Hilary’s. I would label Rick and Hilary the co-leaders of this pack. They both exude strong male presences that cause people to gravitate toward their auras. This was proven correct when the hordes of after-party-seekers showed up at the apartment for hookah and beer.

For the first time ever, I just sat in the corner and watched the party ensue. I didn’t tell stories. I didn’t try to meet anyone. I didn’t become a part of the entertainment. I just watched.

I watched friends exchange stories. I watched them hug their possible last physical meeting. I watched first kisses that had obviously been desired for quite sometime, but the courage wasn’t mustered at previous occasions.

It was beautiful.

The clock was creeping to 5 a.m. and the crowd started to dwindle. I finally struck up a conversation once my fourth wind emerged. There were a group of Germans who had just made it in town to meet one of their comrades in the program. Their plan was to set out through the west on a road trip to see the Grand Canyon.

One of the guys, Karl, lived in New York City. I started to tell him about this quirky little Polish neighborhood in Brooklyn that was my favorite place because of the authentic eateries and people. He stared at me in disbelief and said that was where he lived with his grandmother.

As we chatted about some of our favorite Polish food (the burgers!), his friend Pascale passed out on me. We all laughed and they agreed it was time for them to head out.

It was now almost 6 a.m. and Erik and I decided to walk back to the original party house to get our vehicles. Our hope was to see the sun rise, but as we walked, we realized the overcast wouldn’t allow our dream to come to fruition.

My sinuses were starting to act up due to the allergens in the Eugene air. My immunity system was probably just reminding me that I had abused it with lack of sleep and excess beer.

Erik and I hugged before we got to our vehicles. It was then I noticed his face resembled that of Elijah Wood, or the kid from Harry Potter. At this state of delirium, the night felt like a magic spell had been cast over the snow globe-dom of downtown Eugene.

I drove back to Hilary’s and fell onto the couch that had been made up for me with blankets and pillows.

Sleep.

Claremont, California

We had made plans to get up early and run, but that plan ended before it started.

Instead, I struggled to the coffee pot, showered and then we headed to Claremont with Aunt Linda and Uncle Steve.

There’s a spot called The Village where four colleges meet that is absolutely gorgeous. It is filled with lush greenery and landscape that is almost stereotypical California.

We went to Rhino records, a used vinyl shop. We scrolled through used and new CDs and books for over an hour. I bought The Ultimate Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a collection of five novels), a book of new poems by Charles Bukowski, a Coldwar Kids album, and a happy little Buddha hood ornament that Nick and I now call Sid (short for Siddhartha).

The guy behind the register turned out to be originally from Texas. We made the association after he checked my id. Reference: businesses have checked my id almost every time I have used my credit card. It’s kind of reassuring to know they take this identity theft thing kind of seriously.

Back to the guy. He asked how long it had been since I left Louisiana, because he didn’t find I had an accent. I have gotten this quite a few times on this trip from people who have checked my id. To which I normally reply, “You haven’t heard me once I’ve had a few drinks.” But seriously, I know my accent comes out every time I cross the Acadia Parish border to go home or when I’m on the phone with my Mom.

We then walked a few doors over to Legend’s American Grill. The food was great, but the portions were epicly unnecessary. I guess if we were to stereotype the cause of American obesity, this place puts Supersize Me to shame. I think all four of us could have split one burger and the gigantic potato-fries and been just fine. I’m glad I stuck with a Caesar salad, which could have fed Shrek.

We walked through a few more shops: a Tibetan import store where we got incense and a Folk music store where we almost bought djembes.

I realized while we walked past these adorable boutiques that I have never really window shopped, where you walk on sidewalks and looked at store displays. We don’t really have that at home in Lafayette or Rayne. We were mall shoppers. You drive your car to a place and then go into a store. If there was nothing at the mall, you got back in your car and drove to another store.

I like walking outside. You get to breathe fresh air.

We did end up getting back into the car to go to a strip mall. But this was a mall that was built for you to stroll outside instead of inside. Like an inside out mall.

We went to the Bass Pro Shop first and I bought my very first tent. It was on sale for $30, so I couldn’t pass it up. I bought a$25 pair of jeans and a Northface fleece too. I didn’t realize how chilly it was this time of year in the Northwest. (Yet again, should have done more research).

We had another relaxing night of dinner and a movie–Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The next day were to wake and drive to Yosemite. Or at least that’s what we thought before we went to sleep.

Vegas. Day 2

SO I woke up and tried to remove the stick from my derriere and thought to myself, “I’m in Vegas, let’s have some fun.”

Fun turned into us eating breakfast at McDonald’s because that was the cheapest place in our hotel. For $3 I got coffee, a parfait and apples. Not too bad.

We didn’t wake until after noon, so we showered and decided to go meet Nick’s uncle Edgar at the Gold Coast. Casinos really do crack me up. These people just sit there and pull handles or poke at buttons while these multi-colored bright lights shine on their faces and all you hear are clanks and bells and bad karaoke. You smell stale cigarettes, desperation and bulky buffets.

Oh yeah, didn’t I say I was supposed to remove the stick?

Well, we walked through the casino to one of the little bars where this jazz band was playing. They were actually pretty good. Of course there were Sinatra covers followed by salsa music. Uncle Edgar stuck out from the crowd, his white hair and regal demeanor commanding attention.

Nick and I watched him guide his dance partner–we assumed it to be Clara–around the wood-grain floor. He looked so happy. They all did.

It made me wonder about retirement. So many of the couples here seemed to be celebrating the end of their life in style. Edgar had told us about how the majority of them meet once a week for dancing and most of them frequent the shows and casinos around town. I’m used to elderly people in South Louisiana who retire with their grandkids. It was refreshing to see older people push it until the end.

Me, Nick, Edgar and his partner, who did in fact turn out to be Clara, went to the Cortez Room for dinner right at 5 p.m. I thought it was going to be one of those buffet lines, but it turned out to be a very hoity-toity spot.

We started with wine and bread. Nick ordered a 22 oz. Prime Rib and I the pistachio-crusted salmon. The food was exquisite but the company was better.

IMG_0064

IMG_0065

Clara and I talked about her time when she was younger and she lived in Germany for two months. She was originally from Tyler, Texas, but had moved to California. She had been all over the world. We talked about hopes and dreams and the future. For some reason, I was spot-on with my jokes and quick wit. We couldn’t stop laughing. She ended up introducing me to her friends and I took her number down so I could call her if I was ever in Vegas again.

IMG_0066

We all hugged at the end of the meal and sadly parted ways. Nick and I headed back to the Excalibur to wait for Derek to get in. I played video poker while Nick watched a soccer game in one of the bars. There were actually very talented singers performing classic karaoke favorites as the background music.

IMG_0079

Finally Derek arrived. We hugged and he looked around with a hint of disdain on his face. I empathized his expression and we laughed about the irony of us both being there. The three of us decided to stroll through the Strip, but not before getting those annoyingly big daquiris from Dick’s.

So for anyone who has never been to a Dick’s Last Resort, it’s a restaurant where the servers get paid to be complete assholes. The guy who checked our id’s made a comment about Louisiana being white trash. We laughed about it, but thought of how many people from home would have probably hit him, which made it even funnier.

We wandered around looking for something to do. Nick’s goal was to see the dealertainers at the Emperial Palace. The blackjack dealers are impersonators and transition from singing to dealing.

We found our way there, paid $11 for a pack of Camel lights and watched Nick lose $40 to Toby Keith. The Tina Turner-a-like was actually damn good. It was pretty dealertaining.

IMG_0068

We then walked to this other Irish casino where more karaoke prevailed. The first girl we hear was from Louisiana and singing my anthem, “Bobby Mcgee”. She turned out to be from Marksville but now lives in Vegas.

We then walked to the Bellagio to wait for the fountain display. This was by far the nicest casino we went to. The colors were soothing and it seemed so classy. I tried to put $10 in a machine that I thought was the one that was going to help me make it rich, but it turned out to be broken and I had to get a clerk to give me my $10 back. We walked through the lobby that had the most amazing glass artwork, and then made it outside for the infamous fountain show.

IMG_0073

IMG_0075

IMG_0078

My stomach started to hurt, probably from the mixture of salmon, Jack Daniels, and 190. Derek wasn’t feeling the Strip either, so we got some water and cheez its from Walgreens and went back to hotel room.

I really can’t capture the essence of the conversation that took place between the three of us, but I will say the discussion was our whole purpose of going to Vegas.

Derek and I have devised a plan to put together a documentary geared towards third graders through middle schoolers that presents both the history of Cajun culture and current day youth who still live it. When kids think of history, they think of really old people who dance at Randoll’s (a local Cajun restaurant in Lafayette). But there is a whole generation of young Cajuns who live out the culture everyday.

We are now working on a proposal to find funds to go to Canada to do some research and also document some of these college students who are participating in pertinent events to Cajun culture, such as the Festival d’été de Val-d’Or in Quebec City and Congres Mondial Acadien in New Brunswick.

We will have to work fast, but I haven’t been so motivated in quite some time. This is the perfect project for both of us and we are both needing something of this caliber in our lives…appropriately devised at the Excalibur.

We finally all feel asleep after 3a.m. and Derek was headed to Yosemite by 7a.m. Nick and I were going to get massages before we left, but opted to head straight to California. Our time was up in Vegas. We didn’t win money to cover the trip like we had hoped, but the information exchanged at this site will bring us the ingenuity to fund our lives. Or so I hope.

Vegas wasn’t what I expected, but it was what I needed. And so it follows the theme of the trip.

Elise: Graduation

Everything is not as it seems. I had all of these expectations about what would happen at graduation.

The graduation ceremony was classic. All 142 graduates of the college of General Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette seemed to be on the professional student / Van Wilder track. As soon as we marched through the curtains to “Pomp and Circumstance” the jeers started. “It’s about time!” was the common slogan yelled by Cajun grandpas and fathers with complete flaaaat accents.

It felt nice to know that I am not the only person to be constantly heckled by their family.

My favorite lagniappe sound to really capture a South Louisiana institute of higher learning commencement was the duck call. Nothing says high class like hunting sounds at a ceremony.

I hear the other commencements weren’t as laid back, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Another superb moment was when they were announcing me as Outstanding Graduate of my college. I was sitting among my colleagues and no one really knew who I was. The girl in front of me was completely mocking me as they listed my accomplishments and activities. I overheard her ask, “I  mean who is this girl?” I was giggling as they called my name to stand up.

The look on this chick’s face when she realized I was sitting behind her was absolutely priceless. Her eyes leapt from her skull and twisted with her jaw that had hit her knee. I just leaned over and said after a laugh, “Yeah, I’m obnoxious,” then walked up on stage to accept my red rope to wear when I would accept my diploma.

Oh yeah, they made the mistake of calling my Mom Susan, instead of Sylvia. It’s always great to have a lifetime inside joke. It’s now my mother’s alter-ego pseudonym. For a split second while I was on stage with the dean and president of the Alumni Association, I thought about grabbing the mic and correcting the error, but opted not to. My father later told me he thought for sure I was going to scream “Woo-Hoo!” on stage (Hate to admit that I had also thought about doing that, but wanted to feel a little more prestigious).

The second ceremony I had to attend that day was the Honors and Graduate School commencement in order to be recognized with the other Outstanding Graduates. I will spare you the agony of waiting to find out if I was actually chosen as the Overall Outstanding Graduate of my university…it went to Lan Pham of the College of Sciences.

However, as I sat through the ceremony I realized how epic it was to be a part of this particular program. There were three things that occurred that evening which I am so proud to know I was a part of.

First: George Rodrigue was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the university. He is a world-reknown artist that brought recognition to the Cajun lifestyle. He has humble origins and painted what he knew: culture and tradition under Oak trees. His version of the “Blue Dog” has become an international success. As someone who wants to write about my upbringing, I thought it was inspiring to be connected to this man in a ceremonial event.

Second: For the first time in UL history, all of the Outstanding Graduates were female. This, to me, shows the shift in the role of females in South Louisiana. Women are no longer just going to school to get their “MRS.’s”. The goal is no longer to just get married and start procreating. Women are taking their roles as educated citizens more seriously and raising the standards.

Third: Lan Pham, the Overall Outstanding Graduate has lived in America with her family for only 13 years. They moved from Vietnam to the small town of Abbeville, Louisiana in order to pursue the original American dream. During these cynical years of pessimistic American representation, it was so refreshing to be reminded of how our country started. There are people across the world who still understand what America was supposed to be founded upon. We sit back in our convenience and take for granted how fortunate we really are. Pham’s family told her as she grew up that she could do anything she wanted to do; and if you hear her list of accomplishments and contributions, it will humble you to the core.

As I left the Cajundome that evening as an alumnae of a university I was a part of for nine years, I realized I had absolutely no clue what was to take place next. I’m normally an emotional basket case for such monumental life events, but I didn’t shed a tear. When I graduated high school, I felt how over it was. I knew things were never going to be the same. However, I don’t feel like anything is really over. It’s just beginning…on a path unknown.