2017 Favorites

 

I put together just a few of my favorite photographs from 2017. Some are places I visited this year. I have a few from Nicaragua, Honduras, Florida and Mississippi.  Some are from ’round here in Louisiana.

In the spirit of Advent, i.e. waiting for good things to come, I will share good stuff happening here and far.

  1. The political crisis in Honduras is not over, but by and large the country is relatively calm. Protests are centered in the big cities.  A consensus in forming in the national and international arena to hold a new election. A new election without the usual corruption and ballot stuffing would be welcomed by the Hondura people. I applaud them, not for violent demonstrations, but for the will to see a change in the status quo of corrupt elections.
  2. In January I visited Honduras, the first time I went back there since I moved to the US over 3 years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing old friends. My humble little project is prospering and increasing in it scope and effectiveness in helping children in poverty. Soon, they will move into a large new building.
  3. I moved into a smaller and cuter house than I had before. You can view it in the pictures below. I love my little cottage. I have good neighbors, mostly squirrels, rabbits and birds, although my human neighbors are nice, too.
  4. I enjoyed my trip to Nicaragua last month. As we wait during the advent season in anticipation of the birth of Jesus, I am encouraged by the people I met in Nicaragua who are working for a better society there. They are waiting, too, but actively waiting, for good things to come.
  5. My mother finally gave up driving. She’s mostly blind, but she was stubbornly hanging on to the car keys. After an accident (no one hurt thank God!) she was dropped from her insurance company. She conceded. We all are grateful.

What’s happening in your life that’s good? Share if you like.

 

 

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Caution: Be Alert, Shelter in Place

word cloudI confess. Somewhat shamefacedly, I confess to clicking on Facebook quizzes. However, I don’t publish the results. I have my standards. Just look, don’t publish.  This quiz, the word cloud, supposedly captures my most used words on Facebook.

As anyone can see, Honduras is smack dab in the middle. It’s definitely in the middle of my thoughts the past few days. I bought my airline ticket last week for a trip to Honduras to begin in the middle of January and end on Fat Tuesday.

It’s almost certain there will be civil disturbances in Honduras when I travel there. The presidential election results are being disputed by the opposition party. There have been massive protests. The OAS (Organization of American States) has called for a new election due to obvious voting and ballot counting irregularities resulting in the incumbent declaring himself a dubious winner of the vote.

This is the warning from the US State Department affecting the city where I will fly to, although it’s not where I plan on staying. It urges citizens to postpone or cancel unnecessary travel to mainland Honduras. I am going to give this serious thought today.

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: Cortes Department: Shelter in Place

As result of escalating protests and violence relating to an election dispute, the U.S. Embassy has ordered its personnel in the Honduran Department of Cortes (including the city of San Pedro Sula) to shelter in place until further notice. U.S. citizen visitors and residents are encouraged to take similar precautions.

U.S. Citizens who plan to travel to Honduras or are currently in Honduras should review the Honduras Travel Alert, issued on December 6th which urges U.S. Citizens to postpone or cancel unnecessary travel to mainland Honduras.

Dead ducks quack

This tale is part of an occasional series on my father’s family. 

ducks and dadDid you know that you can make a dead duck quack? If you press on the chest, a duck will quack. When I was a little girl, I used to help my father with dressing ducks after he returned from a shoot. My job was simple: pull the feathers off. My dad took care of the heads, feet and splitting of the carcasses. Mama’s job was to make gumbo or jambalaya with the end product.

I don’t recall being disgusted by this process. In fact, it was enjoyable. I remember the beautiful mallards, wood and poule d’eau ducks that daddy brought home in a bulging,  brown sack. I never went on the hunt. I wasn’t disallowed. I never had the desire to shoot ducks. No, my job was to wait for dad to come home with a big sack bulging with freshly killed ducks.

When daddy came home from a hunt, he carefully laid out his kill. He usually wanted a picture of his trophies. Most times, he hunted with his father or an older brother. The men would stand  or kneel with the ducks, posing  for the camera.

Then came the fun part. A few presses to the chest before beginning was the best part. The ducks moved reflexively to the touch, letting out a good quack with a push on the chest. After a few good quacks, I set to work, pulling feathers. We didn’t keep the feathers, although I know some people used them to make bedding. I sometimes kept a few feathers as souvenirs but truth be told, the feathers had sharp ends. After a few days, I generally discarded my trophies.

My father was not a learned man.  He graduated from high school with some difficulty due to an undiagnosed spelling and writing problem that today would be labeled as dyslexia. After high school, he attended  trade school to be a diesel mechanic. Whatever his deficits were in learning and schooling, he was an expert teacher.

I learned a lot from my dad. Even something as trivial as cleaning ducks, my father turned it into a learning experience. I learned about the different types of feathers on the body of a duck, the differing types of ducks, which ducks were prized and which were not. I learned what the limits were as set by the state of Louisiana.

My dad made a simple task like this quite fun. Instead of being repulsed by the dead animals or being put out since he often needed help during Saturday morning cartoon time, I enjoyed helping him. I probably did a terrible job when I was very young, but I cannot recall one time being corrected severely or made to feel inferior. However badly I did the job, my dad found room to coach me how to do it a little better next time. Except for an occasional reprimand when I became distracted by making the ducks quack, I can’t recall any negativity.

If my dad were alive, he would be 85 this month on Christmas Eve. He would be greatly surprised that I consider him to be a good teacher, given his lack of credentials. Yet, I do. He taught me quite a bit about any number of subjects, whether it was dressing ducks, motor repairs, or getting along with people. That’s not something to quack about.

Thanks Dad.

 

Free, Free At Last

eye drops glaucoma
Free, Free At Last, Thank God Almighty

Yesterday, I saw my eye doctor. He told me I can stop using eye drops for glaucoma. The pressure in both eyes are normal  I had two surgeries in the fall to relieve the eye pressure as well as correct a blockage in the right eye.

Surgery is such a loaded word. Laser surgery on the eyes is quick and almost pain-free. The entire process takes less than thirty minutes. I had two procedures, one on each eye in separate visits.

This fall, I felt trapped as I needed to schedule surgeries. My eye pressure was sky-high, I had a blockage in one eye, and the beginning of damage to eyesight in the right eye. It wasn’t a good time to stray far from a good eye doctor.

Now I am free to move about the country or even beyond my country. Currently I have no set job. I am  tutoring students privately. Mostly foreigners seeking to improve their English, or conversely, English speakers seeking to improve their Spanish.

In  January 2018 I will be in one of two places. Will I go to Siguatepeque, Honduras? Or San Jose, Costa Rica? Both offer schools to improve my rudimentary Spanish skills.

Siguatepeque is a charming village in the heart of Honduras, at a comfortable altitude and a comfortable distance from the violence and political unrest of the major cities. The school is not as good as most but I know the people to be good and honest.

The school in San Jose has an old and solid reputation for helping gringos (and gringas) speak the language. The school in Costa Rica needs an answer this week.. They have schedules and rules. And, they want more money than the school in Honduras.

Why do I want to learn more Spanish?  I want to start a new mission somewhere. Probably, it will be in Siguatepeque, Honduras, or Managua, Nicaragua. Wherever I go next, I need to be in a place where I have a sense of community. In a word, friends.

Okay. It’s your turn, you dozen or so readers out there. Comments appreciated on where I should go. After all, I am free, free at last. Thank God Almighty.

Love is Funny, Slick, and Shrewd

 

Love is funny, slick, and shrewd.

robert martinI found this phrase in a document written by my great-grandfather. My great-grandfather, Robert Martin, was a pastor. He founded a Methodist church in the late 1800s in south Louisiana. Preachers aren’t known for writing about romantic love.

Robert wrote up an account of his uncle’s life. The uncle’s life was tragic, full of failed romance, messed-up married life, and not a few illegitimate offspring.

He ends the sad story by stating that one should only marry “for true love.” Somehow it doesn’t fit the image of a circuit-riding Methodist preacher to end a story with that phrase. He doesn’t look the romantic type, either. But, what do I know?

 

It Snowed Last Night

20217 snowIt snowed last night. In southern Louisiana, Snow is A Weather Event. Schools close. Children run outside. It’s strange and wonderful because it only happens every 10 years or so. If you don’t live in lands where snow is common, it’s A Big Deal.

There’s not a lot of snow. Just enough to cover the yard, the roof tops and cars in the neighborhood. I wrote a message on the back of my car this morning.

miniatures (1)
A small, humble thing started 2000 years ago. Come, Lord Jesus!

The morning flurries made me think of something else that brings out the inner child. Christmas. I apologize if the sentiment is just too much for you, but I confess I love setting out the Nativity set each year. I like decorating the house and tree, too.

For everyone, there’s a gift. The gift of A Son is Born. I love all of that stuff from Isaiah and Handel:  Unto us a Son is Born . . . I love it!

Yet, at the same time, I’m old enough to know snow melts and turns to mud. The government isn’t on His Shoulders. I don’t care what Isaiah says. The Son doesn’t rule the World yet.

The advent of something wondrous started with the baby in the manger. It also means to look to the next Advent. Soon there will be a Second Advent when Jesus will reign. The government really will be on his shoulders. There will be peace on earth.

Everyone, Christian or agnostic, knows deep inside that something isn’t right. Whether it’s the weird weather, the even weirder politics, or the deep injustice we see, Some Thing Is Not Right. That’s why we hope for the next Advent.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Red, White, and Black

oak tree and houseI have been digging around in the scrubby underbrush of my family tree. I am hoping to squeeze a book about my family out of a few stories I have heard as well as a few details that I can glean from my research. Now, there’s all kinds of things I already know about my ancestors, such as I know there were quite a bit of cousins marrying cousins in the not-so-distance past. I know that my forebears were participants in the Civil War, on the Confederate side. I know some of them were church founders and circuit-riding preachers.

Last week, I  bumped into  something that I had overlooked years ago when I started researching my family tree. The first Matherne in North America in the early 1700s had 3 slaves. From what the slim evidence I can find, it’s possible Johann Matern (spelling changed through the years)  received slaves as a gift from the same company that sponsored his passage to Louisiana from Europe. The negroes may have been just a loan. His trip, you see was financed by a banker who supposedly received early profits rendered by the German pioneers. However the company went bankrupt in a few short years in a rather significant historical and spectacular way.*

I don’t know if Johann’s slaves were his own property, or they were supplied, much like my father had a “company car” in the 1960s.  They may have come with the job. All I know is a census in 1728 said he had 3 slaves and 3 sons, and a few cows and pigs, too.

The next mention of slaves in my family tree was in regard to  Johann’s grandson, Jacques. Jacques bought a Negro boy, aged 11,  named Theodore in 1771. The purchase price was  200 dollars.  That would be about 5,000 dollars in today’s currency. I don’t see any more records of sales or purchases of slaves in my background while poking about the website, Ancestry. However I am impatient. I am not searching slave records myself. I just borrowed from other family’s records about the slaves.

I know that my ancestors, from my dad and mom’s side of the family, fought for the Confederacy. No slave or servants are listed as attendants on either side. Then, after the Civil War, my ancestor Ursin Matherne, told my mother’s family’s people that he was a descendant of a family of hunters. Somewhere along the way,  slaves and farming seemed to have disappeared from the family lineage.

Ursin Napolean Matherne was friendly with the native American population in the South Louisiana.  Friendly is just one way to describe Ursin’s relationships with American Indians.  More on Ursin’s relationships with the natives in another post.

For today, I just want to think about what it meant to own other human beings. My family owned slaves. They fought for the Confederacy. Somehow, I pictured them as pure and poor, and of course, being too morally upright to own slaves.

Until a few years ago, I would have considered these actions as not relevant to me or current events today. Yet, it’s not ancient history. These people, my ancestors, lived only a few hundred years ago. To my dismay, white superiority is an idea that has not been relegated to the dust bin of history as it should be.

Whether it’s marching in Charlottesville or trolls on the internet surmising that our past president, a black man, embodies the spirit of the AntiChrist, my contemporaries are bringing back old stereotypes and myths based on skin color. I am ashamed of that kind of southern culture. It has no place in my heart or in my thinking.

Slavery didn’t help my ancestors in the long run to have better lives. The early experiments with slavery by my family didn’t last. I can’t see how human bondage could lead to happiness or lasting contentment, no matter the short term goal in finances or farming. Nor do I see the value in worthless arguments about skin color today.

*Story of John Law and the Mississippi Bubble

Serene

IMG_E1246
Scenic View Near Managua, Nicaragua

My week in Nicaragua was almost surreal. Although I hated the weather (hot), I enjoyed the lush scenes as well as the sense of security. In comparison, Honduras this week is under martial law, along with a night-time curfew. One person died, and many have been injured as heightened tensions over elections persist for several days. Just a few hundred miles away in Nicaragua, things are quite peaceful. Of course, the Sandinistas have a tight rein on the little country of Nicaragua, so peace comes with a price, I suppose.

 Serene

A Good Worker Who Deserves Some Negroes

1728 Johann Adam Matern, of Rosenheim, Upper Alsace. 26 years old. Weaver. A good worker who deserves some negroes. Three pigs.

Thus reads the roll in or around 1728, describing my forebear, the first Matern/Matherne who came to the New World with several hundred Germans as pioneers.

I don’t know why he was considered worthy of owning other human beings. Yet so the record reads.* A few years later, in 1731, Johann has increased his holdings. By then, he acquired 3 sons, 3 negroes and 7 cows.

He got his Negroes. I suppose that’s a sign of success. Just like you and I might be proud to have a new car or a house with no mortgage, Johann was the proud owner of 3 negroes. I hope my readers are not incensed beyond reason. It was a sign of the times.

I am rather proud that he’s described as being a good worker, not so much as a man who owned other people

*THE SETTLEMENT OF THE GERMAN COAST OF LOUISIANA AND THE CREOLES OF GERMAN DESCENT. John Henno Deilor