Friday, July 30, 2010

One Day At A Time

One day at a time –

This is enough.

Do not look back

And grieve over the past

For it is gone;

And do not be troubled

About the future,

For it has not yet come.

Live in the present,

And make it so beautiful

That it will be

Worth remembering

One Year Later

This post is actually a couple weeks late as it was really the first week in July (2009) that I packed up and moved down here to what I lovingly refer to as the greatest little sweatbox in the south. I promised a year ago to give you my uncensored, unbiased, unabridged thoughts on what its like to be here in New Orleans post-Katrina and while I know I've given you little bits and pieces from time to time, I think you really do have to live someplace for awhile, and really immerse yourself in the culture, before you can fully appreciate, understand, or explain it. And yes, I realize that was a run-on sentence...don't judge me.

Any-the-who, lets talk about New Orleans. I think that on the days I don't hate it, I love it as much as any place I've ever been. It's quite the conundrum, but just about everyone who lives here will tell you the same thing; that they have a definite love-hate relationship with this city. Lord knows its the most unique city I've ever been to, and that's saying a lot.

By now you all know my feelings about the climate and the weather here, particularly in the summer. From May to October we have the "gates of Hell" death heat and the humidity is at like 5000% percent or so. It's the opposite of all things good and pleasant, really. And honestly, even though it does cool off and on occasion get downright cold in the winter, there aren't really seasons here like I'm used to, and I miss that.

For me the biggest culture shock was adjusting to the demographics of the city which are so much more diverse than where I grew up. I've never lived in a place where I am a minority, but most of the time here I feel as though that's the case. People here have their own distinct dialect, accents that border on the impossible to understand, and by and large...very poor grammar. That sounds harsh, but what can I say? Facts is facts. I will say though, that New Orleans has maintained the renowned hospitality of the old, deep, south--the people here are as generous and loving and friendly as you could ever hope to meet. Well, when they aren't shooting at or shanking each other anyway. There's very much a mentality of "what's mine is yours," and the generosity most people have, especially when they are hosting you in their home, is endless.

In terms of culture and personality, this place can't be topped I don't think. New Orleans loves a good party and by golly, we'll look for just about any excuse in the world to have one. And if we can't think of an excuse, well, we'll probably just go ahead and have one anyway. When I first moved here I was a bit shocked at how carefree people here were--I've mentioned the liaises faire attitude of the city before. Everything just moves at a slower pace here than it does in the rest of the world and if something doesn't get finished today...well, let's go get a drink and worry about that tomorrow. (And let's be honest, its not going to be just one's going to be cocktails and dinner and wine). Because that's just how things are done here. If there's one thing this city isn't lacking it is alcohol and good food. Wait, I guess that's two things. Whatever.

Speaking of food...good Lord I believe I could do a whole post on the food in this city alone. It's incredible. Gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, po'boys and bread pudding are the staples here; everyone has their own variation and those things are served at quite literally, just about every restaurant in the city. It's a wonder I haven't gained a hundred pounds in the past year given all of the deliciousness I am surrounded by. There's obviously a ton of fresh seafood to be had, but truthfully, you can find just about anything your heart could possibly desire.


Shrimp and grits

At this point other than the weather, I may have lead you to believe that New Orleans is all teddy bears and gumdrops (or sazeracs and po'boys, whichever). For all of the good here though, there are things that I think I'll never really adjust to, no matter how long I stay. Despite everything, New Orleans is still a very broken city in many ways. Katrina is partly to blame for sure (even five years later there are things that have yet to be repaired or replaced. At this point I assume they maybe never will be). But on top of that, there's also a ton of corruption in the local government, a crime rate you wouldn't believe, enough poverty and illiteracy to choke a horse and an overall attitude of ignorance mixed with defiance. It's like the people here realize that their city is broken, but rather than admit to and work to fix it, there is a weird sense of pride that many of them seem to take in it. I feel as though people think New Orleans will lose its charm if they actually repair roads and sidewalks, or clean the trash off the streets, or maintain the infrastructure in general. So good food and music aside, after driving over pot holes big enough to swallow my jeep, waiting for stop lights that have been broken for months, getting lost because many street signs were never replaced after Katrina and twisting my ankles while trying to run down sidewalks that look like they were paved by a jackhammer...there are just some days I think I've had about as much of this place as I can stand.

I guess if I could summarize this whole rambling post into something more manageable, I will say this. When I moved here a year ago, I had no idea what to expect. I was petrified out of my mind, but excited for an adventure. People warned me when I came that New Orleans would "get into my blood" and that I'd come to love this city like no other. They say that once you live here, you never really leave. You may move away, but New Orleans has a place in your heart forever and for the rest of your life you'll never find a place that quite compares. At this point I can honestly say that this is true for me. Despite all of the bad memories I have of the past year (and God knows there are plenty) I am so thankful for the opportunities I've had here, and the experience of living in this place that I can't even begin to make you understand. I feel that everyone living here is in survival mode to some degree; it's not an easy place to live and every day I get up and have this feeling in the back of my mind that I need to put a suit of armor on because I'm going out to do battle. But that's ok. That's part of what makes this city so great.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colassians 2:6-7

I joined a covenant group at church and as part of that, I'm supposed to read an assigned scripture every day. I suck at doing this. I read the Bible approximately never...mostly because I always come away feeling more confused than I was before. That said, this was today's scripture which my friend Deborah texted and told me I had to read (so I actually googled and read at my desk at work).

And now I feel mildly embarrassed because I know I do not act thankful every day, even when I am. In light of that, she and I began making a list of the things that we are thankful for. Here's mine...

I am thankful for Deborah and Leah, Jonnie and Lindsey and Nicka. I am thankful for my jeep, Rayne United Methodist Church, the amazing Bible study I have become a part of, my parents, shoes, living in America, cheesecake and mint juleps, and good books.

I am thankful for Abby and Dixie and Dexter, roses, chocolate milk, airports and long baths. I am thankful for snow and for sushi, for the days I can be out on the farm with my dad and for the mountains of eastern Kentucky in the Fall.

I am thankful that no matter how badly I screw up, my grandparents think I am perfect. I am thankful for sleepovers with my friends, Keeneland, Kentucky basketball, babies, long runs on nice days and pedicures and massages.

I am thankful for unconditional love, singing old hymns in church, my job, being healthy and safe, front porches and corny jokes. I am thankful for fireplaces, health insurance, wasabi almonds and thunderstorms.

I am thankful for my iPod, being able to travel, the experience of living in New Orleans, good guy friends, air conditioning, unlimited text messages, and my education.

And I am thankful for the grace of God.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor."
--Eleanor Roosevelt

I really like to write, but lately it seems like every time I sit down with the intention of updating this thing I get so caught up in a torrent of thoughts that I don't even know where to begin. What do I say? What don't I say? How do I feel about this, that and the other? I don't even know myself sometimes so forgive the fact that this may be a random, rambling, stream-of-conscious-thought post. I'm just going to take what comes out and run with it.

I like the above quote a lot, because I think it neatly defines the past year of my life. Up until a year ago I had lead one of the cushiest, easiest, more perfect lives ever. Really. Nothing even remotely "bad" had ever happened to me. Which basically means that the past year completely blindsided me. There have been some good times for sure, but this has also easily been the worst year of my life in more ways than one.

That said, in a weird and sick sort of way, I think I will eventually end up looking back and being incredibly thankful for at least some of the events of the past year. Some things I could have happily lived another 80 years without having happen mind you...but I also know that I've learned more about myself and about people and about Jesus in the past twelve-ish months than in the other 23 years of my life combined. It's almost as though I had to fall flat on my face in order to get it through my thick head that unfortunately, the world does not in fact, revolve around me.

I think I am not at all the same person I was a year ago. That Lauren was a little hard, a little cold, a little too close-minded for her own good. She didn't like getting too "emotional" with people and she certainly didn't like hugs. This new Lauren has learned that at some point we are all going to have our struggles, that life is just downright unpredictable and by golly, I'll hug anyone coming or going. And I've realized that we can say whatever we want--but none of us know exactly how we will react to something until it happens to us. I have cried more, cursed more and yelled at God more than I ever have in my life. But on the flip side, I've also prayed more, and loved more and had more compassion for other people than I ever have before either. For all the bad that has happened to me this year, I feel as though I've become more open-minded and tender-hearted towards others than I thought was possible for me. Never again will I judge someone or think harshly of someone for whatever circumstances in life they are going through because my gosh, who am I to judge anyone?

Monday, July 19, 2010


by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are, I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own: if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself, if you can bear the accusations of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy. I want to know if you can see the beauty even if it is not pretty everyday, and if you can source your life from God's presence. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "YES!"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, or how you came to be here, I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in empty moments.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just Some Thoughts

Sometimes I get a little too overwhelmed to say anything origional of my own. On days like this though, I take a lot of comfort in reading inspirational quotes from other people because hey, it means at least someone out there has it together, right? Here are some of my favorites for today.

"A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective when when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all-knowing and therefor all of us need both love and charity."
--Eleanor Roosevelt

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
-- C. S. Lewis

"A ship in the harbor is safe. But that's not what ships are made for."
-- William Shedd

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light."
–- Plato

"It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. So to love a man that you cannot bear to see a stain upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words, that is friendship."
-- Henry Ward Beecher

I love you, and because I love you, I would sooner have you hate me for telling you the truth than adore me for telling you lies.”
-- Peitro Aretino

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Psalm 56:8

You put my tears into your bottle; are they not in your book? When I cry out to you, my enemies turn back. This I know, for God is for me.
Psalms 56:8

When I was little and would cry, my dad used to tell me he was collecting my tears and keeping them in his pockets. Kind of the same thing, no?

No Surprise

I've practiced this for hours, gone round and round
And now I think that I've got it all down
And as I say it louder I love how it sounds
'Cause I'm not taking the easy way out

Not wrapping this in ribbons
Shouldn't have to give a reason why

It's no surprise I won't be here tomorrow
I can't believe that I stayed till today
Yeah you and I will be a tough act to follow
But I know in time we'll find this was no surprise

It came out like a river once I let it out
When I thought that I wouldn't know how
Held onto it forever just pushing it down
Felt so good to let go of it now

Not wrapping this in ribbons
Shouldn't have to give a reason why

It's no surprise I won't be here tomorrow
I can't believe that I stayed till today
There's nothing here in this heart left to borrow
There's nothing here in this soul left to say
Don't be surprised when we hate this tomorrow
God knows we tried to find an easier way
Yeah you and I will be a tough act to follow
But I know in time we'll find this was no surprise

Our favorite place we used to go
The warm embrace that no one knows
The loving look that's left your eyes
That's why this comes as no, as no surprise

If I could see the future and how this plays out
I bet it's better than where we are now...
But after going through this, it's easier to see the reason why

It's no surprise I won't be here tomorrow
I can't believe that I stayed till today
Yeah you and I will be a tough act to follow
But I know in time we'll find this was no surprise

The kiss goodnight--it comes with me
Both wrong and right, our memories
The whispering before we sleep
just one more thing that you can't keep

Our favorite place we used to go
The warm embrace that no one knows
The loving look that's left your eyes
That's why this comes as no, as no surprise.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Read This

If you're looking for a good summer read, or really, a good read in general, I highly recommend this one. It's sad, but the fact that it's a true story makes it really beautiful as well.

Slacker McGee

That's me.

The one who has gotten horribly lazy about updating this thing as of late. My bad.

Anywho, since you asked, I will tell you what's new with me. The short answer is, "Not a whole lot," to be honest. After the most tumultuous year EVER I think I can finally say that my life has taken a turn for the normal. At least for the time being it is starting to feel that way. Things are finally starting to calm down and feel good and comfortable and happy again...can I get a Hallelujah Amen on that?

Work is, for the most part, going well. Admittedly, I use the term "well" pretty loosely here though. There's nothing wrong, I'm just quickly coming to the end of my initial one-year agreement and am going to have to make some decisions soon. I know I don't want/can't afford/won't stay in my current position once I reach the 12-month mark--it's been fun, but its time for me to peace out and move on down the road, yo. I really like the company though, and the hospital where I work, and am now good friends with so many people here...I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll find another position for me here. That's what will happen in a perfect world anyway. Given my massive failures at achieivng anything close to perfection within the past year though, I'm not holding out just a ton of hope at the moment.

Ooooh! Wanna hear a funny story? Yeah, I thought so. (Actually, that may be too much of a build-up; this really isn't all that funny at all, come to think of it. If anything its just ironic because if you know me and my history with vehicles you'll realize that I was long overdue for some vehicular mishap). Ok so, back it up to this past Tuesday night. I leave the grocery store, get in my jeep annnnnnnd nothing. I got nothin.' No lights, no power locks, no radio, and the engine won't even pretend to turn over. That thing was deader than a doornail. Long story short, two hours later I'm back in the parking lot with a couple of friends, putting a new battery in the jeep. At this point I wasn't even positive the battery was the problem...but based on the layer of corosion we had to scape off to get the old one out, I figured it was a solid investment either way. Lucky for me, we popped the new battery in and the old jeep started right up, good as new!

I went on my merry way, thinking that I was maybe the most brilliant mechanical mind to ever walk God's green earth until I went to leave work yesterday afternoon and my jeep was, once again, deader than a doornail. Seriously?!? I called my Dad and AAA and the repair shop and while I was waiting for a tow truck, all the possible scenarios started running through my mind. Dad thought it was the alternator. Another friend thought it was the starter. "Maybe the old jeep has just finally given up and died and I'm going to have to buy a new vehicle," (which I don't want and can't particurally afford right now). That would suck to the 10th degree. Well, the AAA guy showed up and low and behold, he started digging around under the hood and discovered that I just had a loose connection on one of the battery terminals and that's why I had no power! He tightened it up for me and I was once again, back on my merry way. Apparently the streets in this city are in such craptastic shape that driving over all the potholes had literally jarred my battery loose. Blah! Get your act together, New Orleans. You're killin' me here.