The Fragile Ego

This year, I had 2 articles accepted for publication by Guideposts Magazine. The first one, based on Spooked By An Angel, was published in the March/April 2020 edition of Angels on Earth, a sister publication of Guideposts. My second article, based on Christmas Eve in Jail, is in the editing process. It’s slated to be published in a December issue of Guideposts magazine. This makes me happy.

Last year, I had another article accepted for publication by Upper Room, a devotional magazine. I haven’t heard back from Upper Room editors in over 6 months, so I think I’ll submit that article, The White Flower, to Guideposts. Thus far, I have submitted 4 articles to 2 magazines. Three have been accepted for publication. One was declined.

Writing for the blog was more rewarding when I lived in Honduras. It kept me and my readers entertained, as well as keeping others informed about my life and ministry. Now that I live in the states, I struggle to find purpose for my writing. Not only do I want a larger audience, but I want to find a greater purpose in writing.

Writing about my life in Louisiana can be rewarding at times, but the lack of readership annoys me. I barely reach 50 readers, and that’s a good week. Call it vanity if you will, but I sometimes feel like I am writing in an echo chamber. I feel like I am the only voice that I hear in response to my writing. My fragile ego is in need of a hearty backslap or some sort of affirmation.

I know that perseverance is a key to feeling better about writing, whether or not I am recognized by a greater audience. It hasn’t helped that I have started and stopped writing a few times, changed writing platforms and site names a few times. Also, blogging is not as popular as it was 10 years ago. More and more people like short and quick media posts on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tic Tok.

I appreciate those who take the time to comment here or on Facebook. What can you suggest for writer’s doldrums? How do you, my fellow bloggers, cope with feelings that your writing seems unimportant?

Pray As You Go

When Louisiana was under a stay at home order, as was most of the United States, I found it easier to pray. After all, there was time, lots of it. There were abundant resources, as my church and other organizations were posting daily live-streaming devotional times of prayer, music and encouragement. Now, Louisiana is opening up in stages as the cases of covid-19 are tapering off. My own life is following suit. I am venturing out, returning to some, but not all, activities.

I am volunteering again at the food bank. My church has begun services in the building, but with limited seating and congregants. Last week, I went to a hair salon for a cut and color. Getting my hair done really helped bring a sense of normalcy to me. Gray hair and long locks are not for me.

With new activity, my near monastic life has been upended. Life is slowly inching back towards normal. But with it, I have less desire to pray. I just want to read a bit in the morning, mainly the news, and be on with my day.

How do I keep the sense of spirituality that I was enjoying in the quiet of quarantine? I’ve hit upon a solution. There’s a website and app called Pray As You Go. It’s a guided meditation from the Jesuits of Britain. There’s a spot of music to start, then a scripture reading, a time of reflection, and then the scripture is read again. The duration is about 5 minutes if you don’t stop the app to pray on your own.

I may have written about this site before. At one time, I used this program to wake to on my phone. It was, and still is, a great way to jump-start a prayer life that feels dormant. I recommend it, even more so, in these trying times with the ongoing racial tensions in the US, the news can be quite unsettling. Take time, if you will, each day to quiet your soul with Pray as You Go. You can find it online or download to your phone at Pray as You Go.

Thoughts on White Privilege

I have seldom thought about the incalculable privileges I enjoy as a white American. Yet, as some of our nation’s cities teeter on the edge of anarchy with rioting, burning and looting spurred by racial strife, I am considering the benefit of being white in America. I’m white. I’m educated. I live in a middle class suburb. I don’t think of it as privilege. It’s just normal.

The closest I can come to identifying with minorities is my experiences living in Mexico and Honduras. In both those cultures, I was the random white person in a sea of brown faces. Sometimes it was a disadvantage to be white although most times it was an advantage.

Being white made me a target for police harassment in both countries.  Driving while white made me a target for corrupt cops who wanted bribes. I have been stopped multiple times by traffic cops while in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Not once was I given a ticket or even had the semblance of one being written up. It was all about hassling a “rich” white person for a bribe.

Fortunately most of the time, being white helped me in Mexico and Honduras. Being white meant I had greater status generally speaking, especially among the poor. The vestiges of colonialism live on in subtle ways south of the border. Being white gave me status and privilege in ways I sometimes saw directly and other times, I know were just indirect from being a citizen of the most powerful and richest nation on earth.

Aside from small inconveniences of being hassled while driving, I haven’t thought much about what it means to be a racial minority. At least until I saw a video this week of a white man kneeling on the neck of a black man on a street in Minneapolis as the life drained from the victim’s body. The black man on the ground said, “I can’t breathe.” Yet, the cop appeared completely casual, looking like he was waiting for a lunch order, perfectly at ease as he squeezed the life out of a man as he knelt on his neck until he died.

It’s time that we, as white Americans, realize the truth that white privilege is real and ingrained in our society. Whites enjoy higher levels of income, higher levels of education, and better heath outcomes. We live longer than our black counterparts. Black people disproportionally fill our prisons and jails. Black persons are less likely to have a high school or college diploma. They disproportionally serve in low wage jobs. They live often in segregated neighborhoods.

When I see on social media the push back from people who resist the slogan, Black Lives Matter by countering with All Lives Matter, I get defensive. Don’t they see that until we can say without objection that Black Lives Matter, we don’t have the privilege of saying All Lives Matter? To me, it’s just another example of asserting white privilege in insisting on saying All Lives Matter rather than Black Lives Matter.

When we say All Lives Matter, aren’t we just affirming the status quo? The status quo is not good enough any longer. First, we must right the wrongs in the black community. Then we can say we are all equal.

The Green Bus

 

green bus
Picture stolen from Phys.org.

When I was a girl, a grocery bus passed in front of our house every Saturday. My memories are somewhat hazy, since the bus stopped its route in the early 70s or late 60s. I would have been maybe five or six when the bus quit coming down Bayou Blue. On Saturday, I remember waiting on the side of the road with my sisters, looking for the green school bus.

My childhood memory was that the bus was outfitted with wooden shelves filled with rows of candy from top to bottom. I remember Sugar Babies, Sweet Tarts, Now and Laters, Lemon Heads, and Hot Tamales. Making a choice of only one candy was a perplexing choice each week.

When I talked to my older sister about the green bus, she gently remonstrated me about the bus’ contents. According to her, and later confirmed by my mother, it was a bus filled with groceries and hardware items, too. Need a potato? Check the produce bins in the front of the bus. Want a step ladder? They were hung on the ceiling, parallel to the floor. Scrub brush? Near the back. Can of soup or bag of sugar? Middle aisles.

Every Saturday, Mr. Boudreaux drove from Thibodaux, Louisiana, down a rural route along Bayou Blue. He sold his wares to housewives and children who waited by the road. I suppose he had other routes on different days. I remember that our day was Saturday. In my mind, Saturday had to be the best day for a green bus full of candy to stop in front of my house.

In those days, home delivery wasn’t a novel concept. The milk came in bottles from a milkman in his truck. Fresh fruit came from Mr. Ledet’s customized pick-up truck. Of course, frozen confections were available from the ice cream truck, sounding its way down the road.

Today, Walmart allows for orders to be made at home, online, and then picked up in the parking lot. Instacart goes a step further, and online orders are delivered to your door. These ideas are not quite new. They are just new twists on an old theme. The green bus of my childhood lives on in new ways all over the place.

Hog’s Head Cheese and Other Cajun Delicacies

I came across an article from Atlas Obscura: Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations that says that hog’s head cheese is becoming rare in South Louisiana. Hog’s head cheese is made from, well, the head of a hog, usually as well as other offal of a pig. There’s no actual cheese. Hog innards are boiled and chilled with vinegar in a jelly roll pan. The fat from the hog’s extras gives the concoction a gelatinous binding.

Hogshead_Nolafoodgoddess
Photo Courtesy of Altas Obscura

I have never tasted it, although my mother is partial to keeping a small loaf wrapped in butcher’s paper in the refrigerator. She eats it sliced with Saltine crackers. It’s part of my heritage that I’d just as soon forget. Hog’s head cheese made with offal (the word sounds like awful!) is not even remotely appetizing to see or imagine eating.

I grew up in bayou country where Cajun culture reigns supreme. Another product that is nearing its demise in these parts are pickled pigs lips. That’s not a joke. The lips of pigs are pickled and preserved in a red, viscous liquid resembling mercurochrome. It was a common barroom treat, or so I’ve heard. Never ate it, either. I can’t do pigs lips or feet, pickled or not.

Yet, I have eaten other foods not eaten by most Americans. I enjoyed fried frog legs as a child. My daddy sometimes went frog hunting along the bayous at night. He’d come home with a burlap sack of bullfrogs and whack off the legs. Then, my mama fried them up the following day after soaking them in buttermilk. There’s nothing quite like eating frog legs that just a day before were appendages to bellowing amphibians.

Sometimes after church, we would head towards Morgan City, Louisiana, and stop at Chester’s, a vintage diner near Morgan City. My family ate mounds of fried frog legs, fried chicken, and fried onion rings at Chester’s. And yes, frog legs do taste like chicken. Chester’s is a just a memory now, and frog legs are hard to find these days.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve eaten and loved turtle soup. Not too many people in my family like it, although my grandpa supposedly liked soup from the snapping turtles he caught in the bayou. It’s a specialty of the house in gourmet restaurants in New Orleans such as Commander’s Palace and Galatoire’s. The best turtle soup usually involves a bit of sherry to the dish. Delicious!

crawfish, corn and corona
My late father enjoying corn, crawfish and a Corona.

Then, of course, there’s crawfish. I can’t recall the first time I ate them. We grew up eating them: boiled, stewed, or in an etouffe. Good Friday in our part of the country is often celebrated with crawfish, boiled, and spread on an outside table. Friends and families are invited to eat crawfish, as well as the potatoes, corn and sausage that are added to the boiling pot.

I’m glad crawfish is still enjoyed here and now in other parts of the country, too. Personally, I don’t mind at all that hogs head cheese, fried frog legs, turtle soup, and pickled pigs lips are scarcer and scarcer in these parts. Some things are better left in the past.

Incidental note: Alligator has never been a cultural food in bayou country. It’s served now in many restaurants in these parts, but I never, ever heard of anyone eating gator when I was growing up. There are beasts. I refuse to eat them, even though they would be happy to eat me. 

 

 

 

 

Yard Art

EgretThe month of May continues with cooler weather than normal. We’ve had continued bouts of mild weather. This week is no exception. It’s warm, but not hot. The humidity is low. The good weather as well as continued caution in getting out very often due to the Quarantine has led me to enjoy working in my yard more than usual.

Today, I spent a few minutes looking for my yard art. I think yard art is a Southern thing. We like to display flags, signs, or metal fashioned into all sorts of creatures to grace our yards. For some reason, I haven’t been particularly generous with displaying my yard art. The only thing that’s planted in my yard that’s not a plant is my blue heron made of metal.

The heron falls a lot. He’s developing bent feathers from falling over. He’s starting to rust. But I like my blue bird. After every thunderstorm or bout of windy weather, I find the rusty bird and stake him out again in the flower bed.

SUNI have a few other items that need to be attached to the fence outside. I need to grab my hammer and some nails, maybe later today, and attach them outside. There is a metal sun to nail to the fence. Somewhere in the shed there is a an old license plate, as well as a sign that spells LOVE in swirly green and blue letters. Then, there’s the old piece of wood with a Bible verse on it. This is, after all, the Bible belt.

Any yard in the South without yard art is just a lawn. A true Southern yard has a collection of  eccentric, whimsical pieces scattered about. Heart signMaybe it’s a wooden, painted sunflower that was a gift from Aunt Edna. Or. maybe, it’s an American flag. There’s a house nearby that has a bathtub in the front yard. It’s not for bathing. It’s for decoration, for planting a few flowers. Those old tubs in yards are not uncommon in these parts. I’ll let you know what things look like after I dig around the shed looking for my yard art, although I’m fairly sure I don’t have anything that needs plumbing to add to my yard.

Good Signs Gone Bad

Living in South Louisiana demands a vigilance in gardening. Without bold and proper action, the sultry climate of this region is dangerously overwhelming. Sign can be engulfed in sundry vines and vegetation in mere days, and just weeks for larger items such as people and houses. They just disappear in the foliage created by our intensely warm and humid climate and fertile river soils.

ABita sign 2
What happened to the Welcome Sign to Abita Springs?

Here are two examples of what happens when violent pruning is not employed in a speedy manner. Both of these examples are within walking distance of my residence. Perchance, I decide to leave my habitation for a long weekend or even more dangerously, an entire week, I could lose sight of my house.

 

Speed limit sign
Is this a sign for 15, 25, or 55 mph? Who knows?

That’s why I weeded my flower beds this morning. I don’t want anything or anyone to be taken away by our vociferous vegetation. Weed eating will be undertaken, too, later this week. I wouldn’t want these creepers to overtake the entrances to my abode, and then, who knows how farther I would be forced to self-isolate in my house. 

Motherhood and More

mom and I
My mom showing off her last and best work. I am the youngest of her three children.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. I will travel to my mom’s home on Sunday.  I sent a dozen roses to her earlier this week. I’m a good kid.

Other than my planned trip to visit my mom, his week has been fairly routine. I did some gardening. I rode my bicycle almost every day. I indulged in a few long phone calls and Zoom meetings for sanity’s sake. One thing I have returned to my Before Corona (BC) life is volunteering at the local food bank. Every Wednesday, I act as receptionist, fielding questions, accepting donations, and doing simple office work.

I also completed the book, Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans which I reviewed in my last post. Immediately upon finishing that volume, I read a second book by Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master.’ I expected a light-hearted, satirical approach to Rachel Evans’ year-long experiment to live out the Biblical tenets of womanhood in modern America. How bad could it be, I thought? Besides, it was only $4.99 to download it to my Kindle.

Was there satire? Was it humorous? Yes and yes. But, Evans is sneaky. She incorporated quite a bit of commentary and exegesis on the topic of Biblical womanhood. She wrote about some of the stranger stuff that is in the Bible as specifically concerns women. For example, the Old Testament has some bizarre guidelines about menstruation. I think the old rabbis were scared of periods. She discusses, too, the New Testament exhortation to follow Sarah’s example of the Old Testament in calling her husband, ‘master.’ For one month, she called her husband, master, as neither she nor her husband could stomach the other word translated for master, ‘lord.’

Evans used her book to show that the sacred texts of Christianity, both Old and New Testament, have startling statements in regard to our culture’s view of women that are sometimes regarded as inflexible and inerrant, and other texts that are considered irrelevant and obsolete in our culture. She had great skill in making it clear how the modern evangelical church uses the Bible to keep women as secondary and servile to men.

In most evangelical and conservative Christian movements, a woman finds her purpose in marriage and childhood. In such churches, there is very little use for a woman in any other role. Therefore, someone like myself, single, a spinster of uncertain years, is considered essentially, purposeless. Of course, I followed traditionally accepted roles for single women in the church. I taught school, and I served abroad.

Evans and I agree that a woman can be much more than a wife and mother. I agree with Evans that Biblical advice in the Old Testament were just that, advice. I don’t think Paul and Peter meant for their letters to the churches to be mindlessly obeyed like Orthodox Jews today obey the Torah.

So this Mother’s Day, I will celebrate my mother as we enjoy a meal together. We will, no doubt, enjoy each other’s company, as we have an immutable bond as mother and daughter. I will also reflect on things I have created with my life through agency other than that is wrought by marriage and childhood.

 

Breathe

The weather turned unexpectedly cool yesterday. March had been very warm in south Louisiana. Much of the month had days reaching the upper 80s, shattering records. It felt more like early summer than early spring. Then, yesterday, I woke to a morning in the 40s here on the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain. I opened up windows, and let the cool breezes blow in. I breathed in the fresh, spring air.

IMG_0266
These clumps of grass have small lavender blooms. Does anyone know what it’s called?

I spent a fair amount of time outdoors enjoying the mild day yesterday. I pulled up clumps of flowering grass that are threatening to overtake portions the flower beds. I don’t know the name of the plant as it was planted by the former owners of my house, but they produce precious little in way of flowers, but rather spread in large grassy clumps, crowding out my spring bulbs and rose bushes.

I wasn’t able to dislodge much of the roots. A shovel and a strong back will be needed to stop the spread. I’m hoping my yard guy is not afraid in this season of social distancing to tackle the aggressive grassy clumps. I texted him earlier this morning.

Sitting outside early this morning, drinking a cup of coffee, I breathed in the cool air once again. There was a sense of peace and calm, as traffic noise on the nearby highway has lessened considerably in the past few weeks. Some of my neighbors are home all day now, so the neighborhood is quiet.

I thought about the words from a Facebook Live message I heard last night. How am I going to use this time of an unexpected sabbatical of sorts? Do I want to fritter it away with anxious thoughts and actions? Can I dig deep and find peace? What about seeking the presence of God in the mundane tasks of the day? What good can come from this unprecedented time in our nation and world? Will I emerge with a stronger sense of purpose? That’s my hope.

I don’t want to spend my days endlessly scrolling on social media, or mindlessly filling up on snack foods or media binging on streaming shows. I want to emerge with something better. Because one day, the pandemic will pass.

I leave you with a song and lyrics. The worship song, Peace by Casey Corum ends with a chorus that enjoins us to breathe in positive attributes and breathe out negative ones.  You can find the song on YouTube.

Breathe in peace, breathe out strife,

Breathe out death, breathe in life,

Breathe in love, Breathe out hate,

Breathe out fear, breathe in faith.

Lead Us Not

One of the hallmarks of the age of the coronavirus is the absence of hair stylists. In Louisiana, hair salons are considered a non-essential business, Non-essential businesses are closed.

I visit my hair salon often for a cut and color. On my own, I can handle coloring my roots. What I can’t do is cut my own hair. I keep my hair short so I get my hair cut often. Things are going to get real around here soon.

Laurie with bad haircut
What’s up with the zigzag on my shirt? One of my mom’s sewing creations perhaps?

 

I remember when my mother used to trim our hair. Most of the time, we went to a local hair dresser for a cut, but occasionally my mom trimmed the bangs of her three girls. I hope I don’t yield to temptation to cut my own locks anytime soon.

I suspect that my mom cut my bangs for this picture for school photos. I was in the third grade. I think this was in 1972.

O Lord, I beseech thee, lead us not into temptation!