Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas

Here are a couple photos from Christmas morning.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

This year is a bit tough for me. My family and I are staying here in Lake Charles. It's the first time in my entire life that I'm away from extended family on Christmas Eve; Mom and Tom, my sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephew. And I'm missing both family and friends. We did go to Houston yesterday and visited with Bob's sister Cathy and her family, and that was nice. This evening we attended a wonderful Christmas Eve service at our church, First Presbyterian Church of Lake Charles. Heavenly music, an inspiring message, communion, candles. It was quite emotional for me. Bob and I made gumbo for dinner. I was able to see my family gathered at Mom's house for a little while with the use of Skype on our computers, and that was great. The four of us watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which was pretty funny. The boys and I had never seen it before. We're trying to make the holiday special, but it's so oddly quiet. I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a blessed joyous New Year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Bells

I heard the bells on . . . okay, not quite Christmas day, but we're getting close. This evening, we saw the Bayou Bell Choir concert at Central School. Nothing rings in Christmas like a bell choir. The music is so peaceful, soothing, relaxing. And who doesn't need a little of that in their life right now. I know I do. I'm amazed at how a dozen performers, each ringing their bells at the appointed times, create such rhythm, melody, and harmony. Ring on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Exercise

In Pittsburgh, I belonged to Bally's for many years. When I moved to Lake Charles, I was disappointed that there was only one Bally's in all of Louisiana . . . in Baton Rouge. Well, that wouldn't work. It was summer time when we first arrived. The kids were home, and I usually went outside early in the morning, before it got too hot, to either walk, roller blade, or bike ride. But once the kids started school, I set out to find a gym. There weren't a lot of options, especially here in Moss Bluff. Curves isn't my scene. LA Fitness was small, lacked energy, and offered no classes. Then a neighbor told me about Dynamic Dimensions. It was perfect. A spacious aerobic and weight room. And lots of classes. In Pa., I didn't focus much on the classes, just went in and did my own thing. But being new to the area, the classes helped me feel like a part of something and I've made friends there. The hour-long classes are fun and challenging. And I do them all; Cycling (spinning, stationary biking), Kick (kickboxing), Power (weightlifting), Centergy ( a combo of yoga, pilates, and tai chi), and Step aerobics. Except Groove. I'm not into dancing. I go most every morning, sometimes taking two classes back to back. Exercise is my sanity. Can't live without it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Snow!


Here's something you don't see often around here. Snow! I'm told it hasn't snowed here in Lake Charles since 1989! Andrew was thrilled, and simultaneously disappointed because school was not cancelled. Not an unreasonable emotion, as several other nearby parishes did cancel or delay school. There's no salt down here, so roads can easily get slick in weather like this. If a certain road is icy, they simply close the road. I took a photo quick this morning because it will likely melt soon after the sun comes up, a high in the 50s is predicted for today. The temperature will be back to 70 by Sunday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Parades

One thing southwest Louisiana and southwest Pennsylvania have in common is their love of parades. Pittsburgh especially loves parades, but I can honestly say, in my 25 years living in Pittsburgh, I never once attended a downtown parade. I didn't want to fight the crowds or fuss with parking. Or stand in the cold. Besides, WPXI aired the Celebrate the Season parade on TV. Here in SWLA, Lake Charles has a parade for every occasion, as does each surrounding smaller town, our own Moss Bluff included. Parades celebrate Christmas, Homecoming, Independence Day, and festivals such as Contraband Days, to name a few. Lake Charles has at least four or five parades for Mardi Gras alone. Even the dogs have their own parade.

We went to the Lake Charles Christmas parade today. (60 degrees and sunny) Andrew and Eric rode on our church's float. This photo of First Presbyterian's float was taken at last year's Christmas parade.

Oh, the pageantry. The parade marshall was followed by the Harley Club. What a lot of bikes. Looked like fun. Soon after came our mayor, Randy Roach. There were high school marching bands, cajun bands, radio station vans. Floats carried a brownie troop, the Little League champs, church groups, daycares, and festival queens. Candy and colorful beads flew from every float. There were a couple pirate ships, practicing for Contraband Days, I guess. And naturally, Santa followed behind in a firetruck. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Number 50

Well, it's official. Big bold headlines in today's American Press front page told me I live in the number one least healthy state in the country. We are so close to the bottom in everything including rates of obesity, smoking, cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, poverty levels, lack of health insurance, high infant mortality rates, and violent crimes, that cumulatively, we're at rock bottom number 50. Sad. From my limited experience here, it's more than grim statistics. It's a pervasive attitude that seems to ignore personal responsibility for one's own health and welfare. Where I come from, it's a law that children under age twelve must wear a bike helmet. And, by and large, kids wear helmets. When we first moved here, we were shocked to see the vast majority of kids not wearing bike helmets when bike riding. Adults often don't wear them either. Bob and I don't care what the neighborhood kids say, our boys wear their helmets. We won't budge on this. Based on the frequent reports of death by motor vehicle accidents, I'd say there's a larger percentage of folks who don't wear seat belts either. Same attitude.

In response to Louisiana being deemed the unhealthiest state in the country, I've tried to come up with a list of reasons why La. could potentially be healthy and beneficial.
  • Despite skin cancer risks, sunshine is good for you, all that vitamin D. Just be sure to wear the sunscreen.
  • Spicy food clears the sinuses. Pass the Tabasco and Tony's!
  • The slower pace of a southern lifestyle means less stress. Is it nap time yet?
  • Warmer weather means longer growing seasons and more locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables. I love farmers' markets.
  • What's not to like about fresh seafood.
Okay, that's all I can think of right now. Please comment if you think of more. Reading today's report convinces me even more to live as healthy as I can.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Cookies

The pumpkin pie is no sooner polished off than I'm thinking about Christmas cookies. You know, holiday baking. It doesn't seem to be too big down here in southwest Louisiana. Last Christmas, I found it odd to go to holiday parties and there would be no cookies. I mention Christmas cookies, and folks look at me quizzically. My apologies to all y'all who enjoy baking Christmas cookies. In Pa., no respectable Christmas party is without the requisite "cookie tray." Pittsburgh women say things like, "Oh, I still have so much baking to do" and "What kind of cookies are you baking this year?" Every year, I'd be in at least one "cookie exchange," sometimes two. They call them cookie swaps here, and my friend Carolyn organized one at our church, bless her heart. And only two other women besides myself signed up. Imagine that! It's way more fun if there are at least ten bakers. In Pa., I never had to make pizzelles because EVERYONE else made them. So I just ate theirs. Besides, I'm not Italian. But I'm really missing them down here. No one here has ever heard of them. And so naturally I can't find a pizzelle iron. They don't sell them here. In case anyone wonders, I've made chocolate chip, peanut butter blossoms, and three kinds of biscotti (my signature Christmas cookie, even though I'm not Italian); cranberry pistachio, anise almond, and chocolate cherry. And I'm done with my baking. And if I can get my hands on a pizzelle iron, I'll be making those next year.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

We had no family to get together with this year for Thanksgiving. So we invited another family here in Moss Bluff, new to the area, to come over and celebrate with us. We spent an enjoyable evening, talking and eating. In addition to the traditional fare, each year we want to include a local dish on our menu. Last year we cooked a turducken. This year we had boudin. Next year . . . I'm thinking gumbo.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Baton Rouge-Part 2

First on our agenda Tuesday was an easy hike on the Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Trail. It was morning and cool, but for some reason, we disappointedly saw very little wildlife. Still a pretty walk though.

Then into the city. Along the river, the HMS Bounty is moored for a short visit in Baton Rouge. This tall ship was created to be a star. Around 1960, MGM built her for the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty." She's also appeared in "Sponge Bob Square Pants" and "Pirates of the Carribean II." Here's a shot of the ship and one of Eric and I with Captain Jack Sparrow.















Right next door is the USS Kidd, a retired naval destroyer from WWII. As if I need a reminder of my clautrophobia, we took the self-guided tour and were amazed at the tight quarters. The boys were really into it, especially Bob. I think he's ready to join the Navy. Especially impressive were the big guns, which Andrew is demonstrating below.

















After a late lunch at an unremarkable but tasty and filling buffet, we looked through the Louisiana Arts and Science Museum. I would rather have seen the LS State Museum, as the boys are currently studying La. history in Social Studies, but LASM was closer. The clock soon gave out, as did my feet. Everything closed, so it was time to go home. There were many attractions we wanted to see and do but didn't have time for. Guess we'll just have to go back again someday.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Baton Rouge-Part 1

Bob and the boys are off this whole week for Thanksgiving. We decided to take advantage of the time off and take a mini-vacation. We'd never been to Baton Rouge, so Sunday afternoon we hopped on I-10 and headed east. By the time we arrived in our state capitol, it was late in the afternoon and not many tourist attractions were open. We strolled the LSU campus, met their mascot Mike the Tiger, then had dinner at Boutin's, a great Cajun restaurant.

Monday morning, our first stop was the Coffee Call for beignet fingers and cafe au lait. The beignets were good but suspiciously similar to funnel cakes. Then we drove up River Road toward St. Francisville. Besides field after swaying field of sugar cane, what struck us immediately were the large numbers of blue-tarped roofs. We knew that Baton Rouge had been hit hard by Hurricane Gustav, that many areas had lost power for up to ten days. But seeing all the blue roofs make the reports real. We crossed the mighty Mississippi river on a ferry boat at St. Francisville. While parked in line, awaiting the ferry, a woman parked in front of us kept throwing small dark objects out of her car. We were baffled as to what she was littering. We guessed she must have been cleaning something out, but what? And why was she tossing them out the window? When we finally moved forward to board the ferry, we looked down out the windows and saw Oreo cookies minus the filling. She'd been sitting there eating the white creamy middles and throwing the chocolate cookie part away. Imagine! Tossing the best part! We got a good laugh out of that.

After the ferry, we found Rosedown Plantation. I told the boys I learn more history in one house tour than I would in a whole semester of a history class or in any book. I imagine it's 1830 and I've just moved into my new mansion, mistress of the manor. What a different lifestyle! Both the beautifully restored mansion and the gardens were lovely.

After Rosedown, we had lunch at a charming little restaurant called Magnolia Cafe. Then on to the Audubon Historical Site and Oakley Plantation. John Audubon had briefly tutored the daughter of the owner of Oakley Plantation, while adding to his bird painting collection, hence the connection. It was interesting to see the contrasts between the two plantations, each unique and different. There's also a wonderful nature trail on the property. On the grounds at Oakley, there's a turkey named Gus who thinks he's a dog. He's friendly and loves to be petted.
As we drove south back to Baton Rouge, evening descended and a thick blanket of fog shrouded the countryside.

That evening, we visited our friends, the Cavells. They adopted our dog Holly (which we owned all of four months) last summer. Holly's thriving there. She's still happy and very excited to see people. We don't know for sure, but we like to think she remembered us.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gumbo

It's gumbo season, so I'm told. And I love it. Lately, I've been ordering gumbo at every restaurant I've patronized. Chicken and sausage is wonderful, as is seafood. There's also wild game gumbo, but I don't go there. Trying to figure out what's in wild game gumbo is akin to determining what's in a hot dog. I'd rather not know. Gumbo is so popular down here. I have a friend who is near thirty years old, and she told me she's only had turkey for Thanksgiving once in her life. Her family serves gumbo. Imagine that! Most folks own big 'ol gumbo pots. I don't have one. I don't know how to make gumbo. Not sure I want to learn. I might be happy just to continue eating other peoples' gumbo. The word gumbo is derived from the Bantu African word nkombo. A gumbo cook starts with a roux. I make roux too when I make my award-winning macaroni and cheese. But gumbo roux is brown. Gumbo's secret ingredient is file (FEE-lay) which is ground sassafras leaves. And, of course, okra. Essentially, it's a spicy warm brown stew poured over a big bowl of rice. I'm meeting some friends tomorrow for lunch. I hope gumbo is on the menu.
photo courtesy of PDPhoto.org

Monday, November 17, 2008

More on "Home"

Here are some photos of my recent trip "home" to Pennsylvania. They are me and all my nieces and nephew, me and my sisters, and me and some dear friends from Pittsburgh. I miss every one of them already.






Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Going Home

Last Thursday I flew home to Pittsburgh. My sister Lisa had a baby recently and I couldn't wait any longer to see my new nephew. On the plane, I had a window seat so I was able to gaze down (over and around the wing. I'm always in a seat by a wing) at the mossy brown landscape. The terrain undulated, rippling for as far as my eyes could see. I miss the hills. I was on the right side of the plane, so was able to see the city, beautiful and glistening in the setting sun, as we neared the the airport.

I rented a car and hurried to meet some friends for dinner. As I drove up 279 into the North Hills, the familiarity of it all sang in my heart, "I'm home!" Such a sense of peace settles over me when I'm "home." I had a blast, visiting with family and friends these past five days.

And now I'm at the airport, waiting to "go home." I miss Bob and the kids. And the warm weather! It's been freezing up here. I'm excited to get back to my family, my house, the gym, church, the conference committee, and the usual routine. So I guess it's possible to have more than one "home." And it's always good to go back.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Trunk or Treat

Happy (belated) Halloween! This year, my family helped at our church, First Presbyterian Church of Lake Charles, with its annual Trunk or Treat event. I had never heard of this before moving, so if they do this in Pittsburgh, I was never aware of it. But it's huge down here. Many area churches host Truck or Treat to give neighborhood families a safe alternative to traditional trick or treating. Folks decorate their cars, open their trunks, which spill over with candy. And then they come, costumed kids from all over the neighborhood. When the church folk told me they had made 600 hot dogs, I thought they were nuts. But we gave away almost all of them! Obviously, no one has more fun than Pastor Fred.







Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good Eatin'

Eating is Louisiana is a culinary adventure. The food here is like none I've had before. Gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya, dirty rice (yeah, that sounds appetizing) muffaletta, po' boys. It's all wonderfully spicy. I've actually started putting Tabasco sauce on scrambled eggs. Rice abounds, as well as gravy. I've learned how to open and efficiently eat crawfish. (messy) What the heck are cracklins and boudin (boo-dan) anyway? (You don't want to know.) And more importantly, why would I want to eat them? How about a turducken for Thanksgiving? We had one for our first holiday last November. Once was enough. A King Cake for Mardi Gras? By February, you could care less who finds the baby. What's a satsuma? (a Louisiana tangerine) A mayhaw? Something they make jelly out of, that's all I know. How do they eat grits without milk and sugar? It looks like cream of wheat to me. Hunters around here will shoot, cook and eat anything and everything. And they waste nothing. Every part is used for something. It would seem there's a mom and pop donut shop on every corner. So what's a kolache? I've had to learn a whole new vocabulary of cuisine. It's been a lot of fun. It's all good. And I've enjoyed introducing these Louisianians to pierogies.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pumpkins

From the time our boys were babies, each fall we'd take them to Reilly's Summer Seat Farm, let them pick out pumpkins, and snap their photo. Last fall, we were delighted to see that Moss Bluff United Methodist Church hosts an annual pumpkin patch to raise funds for local charities. Here are the boys then, at age one, and now, age fourteen. In the top photo, Eric is on the left, Andrew on the right. In the bottom photo, they are reversed.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Autumn

I heard on The Today Show last week that Pennsylvania is at it's peak for the colored leaves of autumn. I miss the fall colors of the northeast. Red, yellow and orange leaves against a backdrop of deep blue sky, accompanied by the crisp bitey scent of decay and woodsmoke. I miss hearing the leaves crunch under my sneakers as I hike through the woods. Here's a shot Mom and Tom just sent, taken near our cottage in Friendsville, Md.


I've discovered Louisiana has her own brand of beautiful autumn colors. Here's a photo of my favorite fall wildflowers.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indian Bayou


In exchange for a writing critique and a few peanut butter cookies, my good friend Rodney Hennigan offered to take Bob and I on a little cruise. We met at the Parkside Marina just a few miles from our home. Then boarded Captain Rodney's 20-foot homemade canoe. She's a beauty of a boat. We motored up Indian Bayou on a cool overcast evening. Earlier showers had chased all the mosquitoes away. Lush palmettos lined the bayou banks. Invasive salvia and water hyacinth floated innocently atop the brown black water. Cascades of spanish moss dripped from tupelo gum and bald cypress. Blue heron and osprey guided us along, leading the way. Rodney swears there are 'gators in these waters, but we didn't see any. From Indian Bayou we entered the West Fork of the Calcasieu River, cruising northwest toward Sam Houston Jones State Park. We turned around by the park pavillion, a memorable site. Thanks, Rodney, for an enjoyable evening.




Monday, October 13, 2008

Free Parking

I've heard there's no such thing as a free lunch. But I have discovered, here in Lake Charles, that there is such a thing as free parking. Which, coming from Pittsburgh, was quite a revelation. I thought it pretty nifty that one can simply park along the streets in downtown LC without needless wandering, in search of a space with an open parking meter. And in retail shopping areas, such as the mall (yes, that's singular) and grocery stores, it's relatively easy to find a parking spot near the store entrance without walking half a mile. But when it stuck me the most was the first time I parked in a hospital parking garage. (For my Pgh readers, imagine any parking garage in Oakland. I can hear you moaning already.) I thought it rather odd that no ticket machine stood guard at the entrance. I nervously entered, thinking that perhaps I'd missed something, or maybe entered at the wrong place. In any case, I pulled into a spot and went to my appointment. When I left the garage, and there was no parking attendant booth, no person to collect my money, no gate across the exit, WOW, it was a freedom like I'd never experienced before. Just one of the perks of living in a small town, I guess.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friends

Certainly for me, one of the most difficult aspects of moving to a new town has been leaving behind friendships forged over a quarter century and trying to make new friends. I miss my friends from Pittsburgh. I miss the comfort of familiarity, the easiness of unconditional acceptance, and the sheer number of folks who I shared this with. I didn't just have a group of friends. I had groups of friends; church friends, writer friends, work friends, gym friends, neighbor friends, miscellaneous friends and one college friend. It was sad, moving, leaving them all behind, starting over with a blank slate of friendships.

It's not my nature to be outgoing. I don't make friends easily. My need to meet people and make friends has been in constant battle with my desire to hole up and hide at home, happy to be my own best friend. But I'm working at making friends. My first priorities upon moving, after settling in, were to find a church and a writers' group. (More on these in upcoming blogs.) After the kids started school, I joined a gym. I'm freelancing from home, so that eliminates "work friends." Unless you count our two cats, Domino and Snowflake. And our ball python Slither.
Here's a shot of a few of my new friends, the Bayou Writer's Group conference committee, minus Bev, who took the photo. They are (l to r) Nona Cross, me, Walt Dutton, and Jess Ferguson.



For the most part, people here, as in Pittsburgh, are quite friendly. But I struggle to move past the "acquaintance" phase. What makes establishing friendships difficult here is that Lake Charles is somewhat like Pittsburgh in that, often, people are born here, live here, and die here. Relatives reside around the corner and childhood friends live down the street or across the river. (Or the bayou, as the case may be.). So most people here simply don't need anyone else. They don't need any new friends. It's tough to break into that. I've found the majority of friends I have made so far are transplants like myself, with a few exceptions.

I do my best to keep in touch with friends back home, and I'm also enjoying getting to know new friends. It's part of the adventure.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Bugs

Before we moved, I'd heard legends about insects in southwest Louisiana. That they're a different species, bigger, aggressive, ruthless. And it's all true. Unlike the polite mosquitos in the northeast, who apologize before sucking your blood, (Sorry, I need this to live. Hope I don't hurt you too much) the 'skeeters down here hunt you down like hit men, zero in on your most sensitive spots, and while guzzling your RBCs, they surely inject some type of poison that guarantees you'll be furiously scratching a dime-sized welt for at least two weeks.

Last summer, we caught three black widow spiders on our back porch in three months. One had a sac full of baby black widows high in the corner of the porch ceiling. This summer, they must have gotten the message that they aren't welcome here. We didn't see any. But we do frequently find wolf spiders in the house. Due to their somewhat large size, we escort them out. I simply ignore the tiny nuisance spiders who create dust catchers under the furniture.

And then there's something we'd never seen in the north--love bugs. Twice a year, spring and late summer, the love bugs come out of, seemingly, nowhere, and fill the air, everywhere. They're completely harmless, but totally annoying. Cars really despise them. But the love bugs seems to love cars more than anything else in the world.

And don't even get me started on fire ants, another uniquely southern tradition. As much fun as it might be to disturb a fire ant mound, I don't recommend it. They're an angry lot, full of spite and vengeance. And fire ant bites, well, burn.

Now there is one insect, common in the northeast but even more prevalent in the deep south, that I truly love. The dragonfly. Or as we've oddly heard it called down here, "mosquito hawk." Dragonflies . . .their name alone invokes fantasy, knights and damsels, other-worldly times. Their irridescent wings catch the sunlight and sparkle, as they hum through the air. Dragonflies ignore us admiring humans, except for rare occasions. If you are very lucky, and are gifted by one landing on your shoulder, stopping by to say Hi, if only for a brief visit, then you are truly blessed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Go Steelers!

There are many things I miss about Pittsburgh. One is my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. I miss being able to watch all the games on TV (only a few Sunday games are aired here locally.) And being amidst the fan-filled energy and hoopla during football season. But thanks to our dear friends, the Duttons, who know we don't have cable and thus don't get ESPN, and invited us over to their house to watch the game, Bob and I were able to see the team last night on Monday Night Football. And what an awesome game it was; Steelers won 23-20 in overtime.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Summer of Immersion

There's always a party down here. We'll celebrate anything! Lake Charles is known as the Festival Capital of Louisiana. Supposedly there are at least 75 different festivals throughout the year. It seems there is a festival somewhere for something most every weekend. Most festivals center around either food, music, some obscure animal, or a combination of the above. You name it and we'll create a festival for it. Zydeco, swamp pop, alligators, crawfish, ducks, pirates, gumbo, rice, holidays (especially Mardi Gras,) french anything and cajun everything. We've got it all. My family and I called last summer our summer of immersion. We attended as many festivals as we could in order to absorb and learn about this completely new and different culture. We sampled new cuisine, all of it spicy, perused countless craft tables, coveted lots of classic cars, and rode lots of carnival rides (the kids did, anyway.) The festivals all start to look the same after awhile. Even the music quickly begins to sound the same. Don't get me wrong. I like it. It's fun and entertaining, as are the dancers. And the food is excellent.

One of the first festivals we went to was the DeRidder Watermelon Festival. Being at a festival celebrating watermelon, we naturally wanted to eat some. So we sidled up to a booth selling it. We were a bit surprised that a "slice" of melon was $4.00, but what the heck, maybe it was a fund raiser. And then the kind lady handed us our plates. Each styrofoam plate nearly buckled under the weight of a humongous wedge of watermelon. We grabbed our plastic forks and dug in.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Settling In

The first thing a Yankee in the South notices, especially if it's June, is the heat. Or is it the humidity? Yes, decidedly, it's a combination of the two. The air weighs heavy, hot and moist. Merely breathing outdoors in the summer is different down here. I'm accustomed to the sensation now, but at first, I thought I might drown by simply inhaling.

Moving requires tons of work. And patience. We felt overwhelmed with boxes for weeks. It took months to clear all the boxes out of our garage. We came from a house with a full basement and 4th floor attic to a home with no basement and an oven-of-an-attic accessible only from a rickety ladder in the garage. Where do we put everything? Over a year later, I'm still discovering misplaced items and wondering where to put stuff.

There's a lot to do to get the house the way we want it, but it's all, slowly, coming together. Now where's that box with the . . .

Friday, September 26, 2008

On Our Way

June 2007-We left Pittsburgh on a Saturday. Our moving van wasn't scheduled to arrive at our new home until Wednesday, so we decided to take our time. Four days, 1,200 miles, two bored boys, two cranky cats. Enough said.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

First Impressions

Fortunately, I've discovered Lake Charles boasts more than just smelly unsightly industrial plants. The lake itself is lovely. The cypress swamps are dark and mysterious, carpeted with pine needles and dripping with spanish moss. Head south and see mile after mile of marsh grass and water. Truly a bird-lovers' paradise.

Finding a house in one week over the kids' Easter break proved to be a frustrating task. We exhausted and exasperated our real estate agent, dear Mary Ann Booth, but finally had an offer accepted on a new home in Moss Bluff, ten miles north of Lake Charles. We had prayed that God would lead us to where He wanted us to be. And the decision has proven to be a good choice in many ways.

One day during that stressful week, we diverted our attention and did some sightseeing. We drove down the Creole Nature Trail, which is LA-27 south to Holly Beach, across the Cameron Ferry, and returning north on LA-14. We oohed and aahed over alligators lounging roadside. And our hearts broke to discover there were still so many signs, even (then) two years later, of the devastation after hurricane Rita; blue-tarped roofs, blown-out business signs, vehicles and even houses tilted askew in the middle of marsh grass. Cameron Parish lies south of Calcasieu (Lake Charles) Parish along the coast. Many of its residents only recently completed their recovery efforts when, a week and a half ago, Hurricane Ike roared and rolled ashore, flooding the low-lying wetlands once more.

So, knowing that we'd found a new home, the boys and I left Bob and returned to Pittsburgh so they could finish 6th grade with their friends at Ross Elementary. And say goodbye.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Getting Started

It's been a year and three months since my family and I moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Lake Charles, Louisiana. It only recently occured to me that it might be interesting, and maybe even therapeutic, to blog about the challenging transition. So my first several posts will be memoir in nature, catching you up to the present.

My husband Bob's job with PPG brought us to Lake Charles. I grew up in southwest Pa. All my family and friends are there. I knew leaving would be difficult. I looked at the move as only an optimist could, as a grand adventure. In April 2007, two months prior to the move, my sons (thirteen year old twins Eric and Andrew) and I joined Bob, who had already moved and started his new job in February, for the purpose of finding a house. He picked us up at the Houston airport and we headed east. I'd only been in Louisiana twice prior, both times years ago to New Orleans, pre-Katrina. The first thing that struck me was the landscape; it's flat. Completely flat. As anyone familiar with Pittsburgh knows, I was accustomed to hills, and lots of them. When we arrived in Lake Charles, the first sight I saw was industry. Massive tracts of gray and smoke. My heart sank. Was this Lake Charles?