Sunset at Prien Lake Park

Sunset at Prien Lake Park

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?