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!

 

 

One Day at a Time

This morning I began my day as most days since the stay at home order for Louisiana started. I rise at 5:30, get the coffee brewing, take the dog out for a short walk, and then settle down at 6 am for a 30 minutes session with Facebook live streaming. The broadcast from my church features worship songs, a short devotional, and a group prayer time.

Then, I check the news online as well as skim Facebook for a short time. After that it’s time to take the dog out again, since she’s generally refuses to do her business outside without repeated coaxing on my part. When I get back inside, I drink the rest of my coffee and eat a bowl of oatmeal.

Everything I had been doing before this crisis has been cancelled, so I need a new routine. No more tutoring, ESL classes, nor food bank. There’s more time for reading, blogging, and cooking.

I confess that through the years since I returned from Honduras, my cooking skills have atrophied. When I lived there, I cooked occasionally for our kids’ project as well as doing most of my own cooking at home. There were few places in Honduras that had high hygiene practices in Honduras, and I seldom had a dining partner for the few nicer restaurants in town that earned my confidence.

I am doing basic cooking here now in the age of Covid-19. I have prepared, among other things, jambalaya, grilled chicken, saffron rice and steamed veggies. Thus far, I haven’t fixed a gumbo, but my mother has prepared gumbo twice in recent weeks; a seafood and okra gumbo and a chicken and sausage gumbo. I ate some of the seafood gumbo at her house.

I have mixed feelings about visiting with my mother. She is almost 87 years old. She lives alone. She doesn’t drive. I have picked up groceries for her last week, and we visited most of the day. However, I found it really tough to keep social distancing in the house. I totally failed at it actually. I suppose I will head to her house later this week, despite my misgivings.

I am debating whether to keep the foster dog at my house. Today is day eight for Daisy. She’s not responding well to my attempts to housebreak her. Most days she has at least one accident in the house. I don’t think accident is the right word, since it all seems quite natural for her to do her business on my wood floors. We’ll see how the day progresses today. I’ll make a decision soon if she can stay or not. I didn’t want this to be a forever dog, anyway. She’s too big to stay with me forever, since I don’t have a fenced yard. I can’t imagine walking her as often as she needs walking each day.

This afternoon I will take the dog out again a few times to encourage bathroom breaks. I will read a bit more on my Kindle. Right now I am reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Greatest Pandemic in History.  The choice was quite incidental, as I had already started the book before the present pandemic became the big news story. One thing I should do is do some gardening. Spring came early to Louisiana, and the weather is now almost summer like. That means the glower beds need constant attention.

How has your life changed with the coronavirus changes? How has your life routine changed? What are you cooking in the kitchen?

 

Ups and Downs

The U.S. attained the #1 spot in the number of reported corona virus infections. We’ve jumped ahead of China and Italy. We’re up to more than 82,000 infections as of last night.

As everyone knows, the stock market has been mostly down. I have some retirement accounts that I haven’t given much attention because I don’t want to see the downward slide. I just have a bit in stocks, but still, who wants to see even a modest dip?

Louisiana now has over 2,700 infections, mostly in the New Orleans which is just a hop and skip from where I live. Again, another statistic I would prefer to be down, not up. New Orleans is in the higher category of infections nationwide.

Personally, I am doing well. My general mood has been up, not down. Aside from a slight obsession with paper towels, which are in chronic short supply in the stores, I am doing fine. I don’t feel the same obsession with the other paper product, toilet paper, which seems to occupy the minds of many Americans. There’s enough toilet paper in my cupboards to last a month or two.

In fact, during this present crisis, I have been mostly upbeat. Facts have not been my enemy, although perhaps, I am just a little over informed. However, I haven’t had a turn downward toward fear or panic.

My state of mind hasn’t always been upbeat. In fact I have experienced a lifetime of ups and downs, highs and lows, upper swings and lowest lows. My doctor calls the condition bipolar disorder. I often don’t see myself as bipolar, but I have to admit, something in my wiring is not quite right. I think, though, my case is somewhat mild.

My highs are rare, but not very much out of the ordinary. Just fleeting times of rapid thoughts and speech. When under pressure, sometimes my thoughts are illogical, even a tad grandiose.

More frequently are the black dog days. I have weeks and months when everything seems dull and moribund. Sometimes, I feel like death would be preferable to living. My lows can be quite low.

So there. The cat is out of the bag. Since my diagnosis 30 years ago, I have been rather private about my condition. It didn’t seem to warrant much discussion. I accepted it. I have lived my life as well as I could.

Now, the news is out for anyone who care to read and comment. I’m not publishing this post on Facebook, where I have a different set of friends than here on the blog platform. I’ll pause a bit before writing that post.

It Will Be Alright

Several years ago, I downloaded and read A Journal of The Plague Year by Daniel Defoe. Defoe wrote a fictionalized account based on his early childhood memories of the plague that swept London in 1665, claiming over 67,000 lives. It was a memorable read. I never expected to write, or contemplate, even facetiously, about a plague in modern times.

Of course, our plague year cannot compare, even in a joking manner, to the Black Death. Mainly, it’s just quiet around here as the schools and most businesses are closed. The nearby city of New Orleans is emerging as the epicenter of the Louisiana outbreak. It seems like Mardi Gras was our undoing, causing the city and surrounding parishes to give rise to a troubling number of afflicted residents. Currently the state has over 1,700 reported cases and 65 dead. In the city of New Orleans, 827 cases are reported, and thirty-seven have died from the virus.

I’m introverted by nature, so solitude hasn’t been a hardship although I haven’t taken the warnings to stay home that seriously anyway. I find reasons daily to get out and about, whether it be to our local small market, the drugstore, or the post office in my small town. While I am not hoarding food or supplies, I do tend to buy stuff almost every time I venture out. My cupboards are overflowing with soup cans, pasta and lots of dairy creamer among other things.

Last night, I participated in a Zoom telecast with a group, Seeds and Souls, for an Ignatian Meditation. The idea is to listen as a moderator reads a passage of Scripture repeatedly and slowly. After the readings with pauses to reflect, participants reflect on what stood out from the reading.

Last night, the leader, Brian, chose verses from Matthew 6. The theme was not to worry about tomorrow. What stood out to me as he read from the Message translation of the Bible was the phrase, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax.” In my mind, I pictured Jesus gently chiding me and offering me the chance to relax. I don’t need any more soup cans, nor do I need to worry about getting paper towels. I am worried, you see, about paper towels as I only have one extra roll in reserve. The local market doesn’t have any in stock. Neither does Walmart or Costco, at least according to their online sites.

Where will I get paper towels? I don’t know. When the time comes the store may have some or not have some. I can always clean spills with a towel I suppose if none are available. Funny thing is, I don’t use paper towels very often. That’s why I have only one extra roll in the house. I prefer to mop up spills with rags or a mop. So why worry about it? As Jesus’ words say in the extraordinary Message translation by Eugene Peterson, “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax.”

Early this morning, after my 5:30 am coffee and 6:00 prayer service online, I took Daisy, my foster dog, for a walk. We took it slow, as she is recovering from a hip injury. I gave her ample time to put her nose to weeds and flowers growing along the ditches that line our streets. I gave myself time to notice the beauty of the wildflowers, some white, some yellow, and some a beautiful shade of lavender.

In the same batch of verses that Brian read repeatedly last night, he said, “walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp nor shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? . . . If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers . . . don’t you think he’ll attend to you . . . do his best for you?” 

I am going to do my best to avoid looking for paper towels today.