Report from Louisiana: Canned Curriculum Fatigue

By:  Pat Austin  

SHREVEPORT – I highly recommend retirement.

I retired from the classroom after twenty-five years this past spring and could not be happier about it. Not everyone is cut out for retirement, or so I hear, but so far, I am loving it.

Part of the equation is that it was definitely time for me to leave the classroom; Common Core scripted lesson plans were not for me. My very nature rebelled against the canned slides, the prewritten questions, and the dull activities, the endless annotation of a “text.” I railed against all of this for the last five years of my career. You don’t realize what a burden this sort of thing places on you until you get away from it, until you strip away those bindings.

As younger, newer teachers come into the profession, this method will be the only one they know. They won’t know any other way to design lessons because they’ll never have to actually create a lesson. And the rebels, the old guard, like me, we are leaving in droves.

The result will be students that all learn the same material the same exact way.

That makes me sad, but blissfully happy that I am no longer a part of it.

When school began this fall, I thought I would miss it.  I do not. As much as I loved my students, it was time for me to go. The boring, canned lessons create more classroom disruptions. A bored kid is going to either go to sleep, pull out his phone, or act out. I no longer had the energy to battle this.

I worry a little about what is happening in education today but not so much anymore that I think I can do anything about it. I used to believe I could make a difference, that I could change things. Truth is, I could make a difference in my little room with my own students, but that was it. The future of education is in the hands of the big guys like Pearson, like Bill Gates…people with agendas and companies that write tests and publish books.

It isn’t about what is good for the kid anymore, I don’t believe.

To those teachers still in there fighting the good fight, you have my support and my best wishes.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying retired life. I get up when I want to, I don’t have to wait until a bell rings to go to the restroom or to each lunch. Lunch can be whatever time and last for however long I wish. I can spend my days in a hammock reading a book, at my computer writing a masterpiece, planning delicious meals for my family. I can travel on a whim. I can spend the entire day sitting on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin drinking a beer and watching the boats.

And for me, that’s much better than standing before a classroom of bored students reading a canned slide and having them annotate a dull passage for the third time because some suit in some office thinks that’s how kids learn.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: The Soros District Attorneys are Killing our Cities

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Another violent weekend in Shreveport and our homicide rate continues to climb. The violence is literally out of control on the streets and as of this morning only one elected official has made any kind of statement (a city councilman).

Saturday night, shooting broke out at Tinseltown movie theatre leaving a thirteen-year-old boy dead, two critically injured, and an innocent lady who picked up her kids after a movie traumatized after her Tahoe was riddled with bullets. She was at a stoplight two blocks from the theater. The video she posted immediately after, while waiting for the police, is horrific.

A nearby hospital took at least six bullets through the lobby windows from this incident.

The mayor of Shreveport has made no statement about this violent weekend – possibly because he wasn’t even here. He went to California for the LSU game.

But there is a lot of discussion on local social media pages about this ongoing, and escalating problem. It isn’t just Shreveport where this kind of violence is happening; we realize this. The story is always the same, after every shooting: nobody saw anything. The no-snitch rule is in effect.

We want to blame someone for all of this: the mayor? He’s young, ineffective, a Democrat…whatever your logic. The police chief? The police chief stepped down last week after a vote of no-confidence from the city council although in truth he was doing the best he could with extremely limited resources. He is 100 officers short because the pay is abysmal. A week with an interim chief has made no difference and we are still 100 officers short.

Who else can we blame? Now folks are looking at the District Attorney. Our DA is a Soros boy; every time he runs for re-election, Soros pumps money into his campaign. In 2015, George Soros dropped $406,000 into James E. Stewart’s campaign. He was re-elected in 2020; his opponent in the race, attorney Patricia Gilley, was jailed for contempt of court a month before the election. A mug shot doesn’t do much for your campaign. So, we get Soros boy Stewart for another six years. In the 2015 special election for Caddo Parish District Attorney, James Stewart’s candidate was Dhu Thompson, who had a great chance to win until Soros pumped a fortune into the Stewart campaign.

“As a candidate and citizen of Caddo Parish, if an outsider was that interested in the race, I wanted to know exactly what he had in mind for the criminal justice system if he were to win,” said Dhu Thompson, a Louisiana attorney who lost a district attorney race to a Soros-backed candidate, James Stewart, in 2015. Soros gave over $930,000 — more than 22 times the local median household income — to the group boosting Stewart.”

Soros funded district attorneys across our nation are all heralding over escalating crime rates in their cities.  Soros has spent a lot of money on district attorney campaigns in Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas. Why?  Because he wants influence over the criminal justice system; the candidates he favors are soft on habitual offenders, favors reduced sentences, plea deals, diversion programs, and aims to combat what he calls “racial disparity.”

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner has an “abysmal” relationship with the police department:

“I would describe it as abysmal,” Jeff Roorda, general manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, said when asked about cops’ relationship with Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner. “It has gone from bad to worse and now there is no cooperation.”

The city has suffered a crime surge since the Soros-backed prosecutor took office. Violent crime rose by 8.8% since 2006. In terms of violent crimes per 100,000 residents, St. Louis has surpassed Detroit as America’s most violent city.

Soros pumped almost $200,000 into Gardner’s campaign.

In Philadelphia:

“…homicides have again shot up, rising by 34% in 2020 and hitting 257 as of Aug. 3, according to police department figures.

District Attorney Larry Krasner won the office in 2017 running on his background as a defense attorney and litigant against the police department. In that campaign, Mr. Soros’ Pennsylvania Justice and Public Safety PAC spent $1.7 million supporting Mr. Krasner’s bid, a figure which startled a state’s political class that had never seen such sums spent in a district attorney race.

In San Francisco, same thing. The district attorney there is Chesa Boudin who was raised by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and according to The Washington Times, “While Mr. Boudin did not receive money directly from one of Mr. Soros’ multiple state PACs, a network of left-wing donors connected to the Hungarian-born billionaire helped Mr. Boudin raise more than $620,000.”

There is no question that this has been the most violent year in recent Shreveport history, and we still have four more months to go. We’ve seen gang violence in the ‘80s, and a terrible riot in 1988, but what is happening on our streets now is the worst we’ve seen in decades.

In response to the violence this weekend, the District Attorney posted on social media: “Unsupervised teenagers driving around with guns shooting at each other is at epidemic level. Parents, if your child is out of control, please go to the Caddo Parish Juvenile Court, 1835 Spring St., and ask for an ungovernable child petition. This will get your child under the supervision of a juvenile court judge and their authority.”

Once in that juvenile system, what happens? A probation worker meets with the kid once every few weeks and asks him questions. “Are you doing your homework? Minding your mother? Staying out of trouble?”  Then the kid goes on about his business.  Stewart’s post was met with ridicule.

Maybe it is time to quit blaming the police chief struggling with minimal resources. Maybe it is time to look at societal factors and why kids with guns are running the streets at all hours. Maybe it’s time to look at the DA who gives them a slap on the wrist, a fine, and sends them back out.

I’m not sure what will be left of this city when Stewart’s term ends in five more years. Perhaps it is time for him to step down.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Hurricane Ida

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Hurricane Ida has finally come and now has left Louisiana, but she is travelling through the eastern states leaving storms and plenty of water in her path.

The predictions for this storm were dire in the days leading up to landfall: “worst storm in Louisiana history!” said one, and “bigger than Katrina!” said others. As landfall was predicted on the sixteen-year anniversary of Katrina, comparisons were inevitable.

As the storm approached the coast, the cone consistently shifted to the east just a little more with every new track. This eventually took my beloved Acadiana region out of danger, and Shreveport, up in the NW corner was never really in danger. We spend a lot of time in Arnaudville and the Acadiana region, and we have a lot of friends there, so we watched the progress with a lot of anxiety.

The storm made landfall as a high-end Cat 4 about noon Sunday; it was hard to concentrate on the sermon in church yesterday. Wind gusts in places were as high as 180 mph when the storm hit Port Fourchon; I read where 28 people chose to ride out the hurricane in Grand Isle. This is akin to suicide in my mind. I don’t know how many of them survived. When the storm made landfall it briefly reversed the direction of the Mississippi River.

The only way to get any reliable news or information yesterday was via live streams of local channels. The Weather Channel was a joke. There was Jim Cantore standing in the French Quarter, braced against the wind as if he was about to fly off while two guys walked the sidewalk behind him sipping coffee. In another shot, Cantore is again braced in the street and another guy runs into the back of the camera shot and turns a cartwheel.  The only positive about that coverage to me was the humor factor in listening to the broadcasters mispronounce Louisiana place names. Houma, Louisiana (prounounced HOME ah) became HOOOOM ah for example. The news anchor did everything she could to avoid saying Atchafalaya and Tchoupitoulas.

This morning as damage is assessed, the Cajun Navy is busy making rescues. Levees were overtopped in some places and people have flooded. LaPlace, Louisiana is completely underwater and impassable. An Entergy tower fell into the Mississippi River leaving NOLA without power; this is expected to be a problem for weeks. It also means that 911 is down.

Damage assessment is ongoing. While some areas are obviously flooded, luckily we are not seeing the massive flooding that we did with Katrina. The damage is extensive of course and cleanup will take a long time. Lake Charles, over on the Louisiana/Texas border, still has not recovered from the triple shot of storms they endured in the last twelve months, the biggest being Hurricane Laura.  Nobody expects this to be fixed soon.

In our area we have a lot of evacuees in shelters anxious to return home. Officials are asking everyone to be patient. There are no sanitary services in most places, no water, no power. The death toll will certainly climb; it is early yet.

If you’d like to help, Catholic Charities of Acadiana has an Amazon Wish List and is assisting with disaster relief. The Cajun Navy is also requesting help. Prayers are good, too!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Get me Outta Here!

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – So many conflicting emotions and stories on my news feed this morning. It’s enough to make one just pull the plug, put the house up for sale, and move out to the most rural, off the grid place you can find.

On the one hand, JOY! It’s the first day of school! Precious back-to-school pictures fill my social media feed of little children with big backpacks and happy smiles.

On the other hand, I also see one post after another of cancelled festivals and events due to the Covid surge. New Orleans has cancelled JazzFest, again. Everyone worries about Mardi Gras – will it happen or not?  Many other small, local festivals are announcing cancellations: the KBON Music Festival, the Delcambre Shrimp Festival, and Festival Acadiens et Créoles was rescheduled to the spring. The Natchitoches Meat Pie Festival and the Scott Boudin Festival also cancelled. The list continues to grow.

But school is fine, apparently, as is packed arenas for music concerts, and sports events.

It doesn’t add up.

In addition to all of this, on a more local level, we had at least three homicides in Shreveport yesterday several more shootings on top of that, one high-speed chase, and one elderly woman was stabbed sixteen times in the face and neck.

We may have topped 60 homicides for the year here yesterday, and we still have four more months to go. It isn’t getting any better, we had no leadership, and nobody willing to do anything to stop this violence. Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins has posted nothing but Covid vaccination and information on his social media feed for as far back as I can stand to scroll; not a word about the daily shootings and killings.

Silence.

It all just makes you think. You know, last week we were in a small community and nobody got shot, stabbed, or tried to kill a policeman. We could take an evening walk through town, leave our front doors unlocked, and not worry about getting robbed or mugged. People in these smaller communities know each other, they go to church together, the family unit is tight. That’s not to say they don’t have their problems, they do. Many rural communities across our country have terrible drug problems, young people bored with nothing to do, and their own unique issues.

There is no Utopia.

But after yesterday’s bloodbath here, it does make one long for a quieter community.

I don’t know what the answers are, and I know that Shreveport is far from unique in its crime problems. All I know for sure is that an answer must be found. We spend a lot of time throwing blame and not enough time working for solutions, it seems. And maybe that’s all I’m doing here; I just know I no longer wish to live in this city where human life apparently has absolutely no value and our leaders are silent about it.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Fete Dieu du Teche

By:  Pat Austin

ARNAUDVILLE LA – Being retired has its perks, one of which is that you can attend events that you could not when you had to work.

I finally was able to attend the Fete Dieu du Teche this year which takes place on August 15: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My husband and I are both practicing Episcopalians, or as he calls it, “Catholic Lite.” There are enough similarities in our services that I can easily follow along although as non-Catholics we are not allowed to participate in Communion.

The Fete Dieu du Teche is a solemn, beautiful event:

The day begins at 8 AM with Sunday Mass in French by Bishop Douglas Deshotel at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Leonville.

Following the Mass there will be a procession with the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of Mary and St. Joseph to the nearby boat landing. Families are encouraged to join the procession as a family and follow to the boat landing for Benediction. At 9:30 AM boats will depart in procession down the Teche toward St. Martinville, retracing the voyage made by the Acadians over 250 years ago.

August 15 is a significant date as it is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of the Acadian people and of Acadiana. It is also a day that marks the 256thanniversary of the arrival of French-Canadian immigrants who brought the Catholic faith to Acadiana after enduring great trials and suffering.

Bishop Deshotel of the Diocese of Lafayette states, “Fete Dieu du Teche has become an annual celebration in commemoration of the arrival of the first Acadians from what is now Nova Scotia.  They were the first examples of ethnic cleansing in the New World when they were forced to leave their homes and go into exile because of their Catholic Faith at the end of the French and Indian War. A large number of them found their homes in South Louisiana which was Catholic and French. Many settlements were established along the Teche river where they built Churches, homes and a new life.

We stay in Arnaudville, Louisiana five weeks of the year, spread throughout the year; our place in Arnaudville is on Bayou Teche and half a block from the church. We watched the French mass via live stream then walked down to the landing site at the church to participate in the ceremony.

It was simply beautiful to see the boats coming around the bend, down the bayou, slowly making their way to the landing site. The boats tied up along the bank, the procession made its way to the top of the hill, and the Rosary began. From The Daily Iberian:

Father Michael Champagne, organizer of the event said, “Having a Eucharistic Procession by boat on the waters of the Teche rather than by foot in the streets makes a lot of sense. Fête-Dieu du Teche on the Feast of the Assumption recalls our rich Acadian history and, in a way, re-enacts the journey made by the Acadians over 250 years ago.”

Champagne said that having a boat procession with the Blessed Sacrament and a statue of the Assumption involving priests, religious and laity is basically what happened in 1765: “In order to serve the Acadian settlers in the Attakapas district, Father Jean-Louis de Civrey accompanied the Acadians on their journey down the Bayou Teche. Father de Civrey became the first resident priest. In his records, he refers to his new home as ‘la nouvelle Acadie’ and his new parish ‘l’Eglise des Attakapas’ and later, l’Eglise St. Martin de Tours. It is believed that St. Martinville is named after the church.”

During Fête-Dieu du Teche, the Blessed Sacrament will be carried on an altar under a canopy on the lead boat. Another boat will carry the statue of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year will feature a St. Joseph boat as well as a boat carrying relics of the saints. The procession will stop and disembark at makeshift altars along the Teche for recitation of the Rosary and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. 

I felt truly blessed to be able to participate in this and I will definitely return next year. If you want to watch any of the live streams, including the French mass or the procession down the Bayou Teche, be sure to check out the Facebook page here. There are also nice, short videos about incense, relics, the monstrance, and other pieces.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: As it turns out, state testing was a bad idea


Photo by Nicola Tolin on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In absolutely shocking news today (insert sarcasm here), the standardized testing scores for Louisiana’s students last year show a significant drop as both teachers and students attempted to conduct classes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, there are now calls to shelve the annual school report card scores:

The letter grades are typically announced in November and are aimed at showing taxpayers how schools are performing.

But scores in math, English, science, and social studies took a nosedive that affected virtually every school system in the state.

Scores on the exams, called LEAP 2025, fell 5 percentage points in meeting state achievement targets after years of inching up a point or two annually.

This is an indicator to why so many people distrust the suits that run public education. Who in the world ever thought this would turn out any differently? Who thought these test scores would resemble anything like a normal year? Who thought it was even a good idea to go ahead with standardized testing in a year when students were dealing with unprecedented stress because of the pandemic?

It doesn’t matter how you feel about the pandemic; that’s not the issue here. Whether you believe it is a political conspiracy or the next bubonic plague – it doesn’t matter here. The events since March 2020 have affected literally everyone in some degree or another, but I’m not sure we are paying enough attention to how it has affected our at risk kids, or even kids in general.

Let me tell you what I saw.

I taught in a Title 1 school for twenty years and that’s where I was when this all rolled out. In our high school we had kids in extreme poverty, terrible home situations, homeless kids, stories that would make you weep. Not every kid was in a dire situation but by far the majority had some level of poverty at the very least. I say this only to indicate the level of stress at which these kids were already functioning.

In March 2020 we closed schools and they did not reopen until August. For at least five months these kids lost the support system of the school including the administrators and educators who look out for them, who look to be sure they have food, a roof over their head, or if abuse is present. In our school we have paid electric bills, bought shoes, found housing, provided meals and clothing when it was needed. Maybe this isn’t the job of a school, but it’s the job of humanity.

When we returned in August, our kids were so damn glad to be back in a social, structured environment, we had zero classroom management issues. But, we had other issues.

We dealt with quarantines and A/B schedules. We struggled with online classes, kids with no technology, kids with no home support, kids that never logged on. Imagine the struggle of a child trying to log onto an online Chemistry class while mom is entertaining all night, your house is filled with people some of whom you don’t know. You aren’t getting proper rest or food. Maybe you don’t have electricity. You don’t know where you are going to be sleeping from one night to another. Any number of heartbreaking situations.

And we expect these kids to learn at the same level as a normal year? And then give them a standardized test?

When our State Dept of Education announced that we would not waive testing as some other states had done, as teachers we had no choice but to do our best to prepare these kids as best we could. So many of them felt unfathomable stress over these tests. It broke my heart.

The State wanted the data. They wanted to see how far students had dropped, what the learning loss was because of the pandemic.

So now they know.

And I could have told them all along that the scores would drop. I had only half my kids in class at any given time. In addition to the quarantines and the illness, as teachers we also dealt with incessant cleaning and sanitizing our rooms and equipment. We had to modify lessons and deal with changing restrictions and guidelines on a weekly basis. Kids weren’t the only ones feeling the stress.

And so now those brilliant Suits in Education think maybe it could be a good idea to waive school report card scores. We spend a bloody fortune on standardized testing which we knew would show a significant drop yet we forked over all that money anyway, and for what?

For what?

What has been gained from all that testing?

Nothing.

And the suits in Education wonder why we rail against public education.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: The Covid Quandry

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Man, people are sick and tired of this Covid thing, hunh?!

I mean, I look back to a year ago: we were preparing to go back to school, many places were still locked down, most places had mask mandates, and here in Louisiana, bars were closed and restaurants operated at 50% capacity. We were still a few months away from a vaccine.

Today, hospitals are once again full, elective surgeries postponed, and case numbers are high and still climbing.

I’m in Louisiana and as of this writing there is no mask mandate. In my part of the state we are about 31% vaccinated. And compared to a year ago, people are living their lives once again: live music is back and concerts are packed with wall to wall people. Baseball is back, no more cardboard cutouts in the stands, and the stands are indeed filled with real people. Restaurants and stores are wide open. School is opening around the country without masks and without social distancing. Barack Obama is even having five hundred people out for his birthday party at Martha’s Vineyard! (Did you get your invite?!) He is, however, having a “Covid coordinator,” whatever that is.

So, what has changed? Our attitudes? Covid fatigue?

I think it is a little bit of all of that. I could be wrong, but I think most of us reject heavy government interference in our daily lives. Isn’t that the very foundation of our country? If I want to get a vaccine, it should be my private personal choice. Same with a mask. But wait, they say, you are endangering others by your personal choices! We have an obligation to public health! I don’t have all those moral answers.

But here is the thing that bothers me about the whole shebang. Covid-19 is caused by a virus. It’s science, basic science, and the whole thing should never have been politicized in the first place. Yes, both sides of the aisle manipulated this event for their own purposes. Everyone is guilty on that one. But for me, it is just science, and we have to deal with that now regardless of whether it is biological warfare, an accidental leak, or a natural evolution of the SARS virus. Whatever it is and wherever it came from, we have to deal with it.

What would we do differently here if this wasn’t so politically charged?

What would you do differently?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Turmoil in the Church

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Few things have the potential to divide a church congregation more than a change of leadership. This sort of thing can be so complicated.

Full disclosure – I was born and raised in the Episcopal church, married there, but then life happened and for no single reason I can name, I quit attending. Then it just got easier and easier to sleep in on Sunday and I did not attend for many, many years. Even still, my rector was right there when I needed his services for my mother’s burial. That meant a lot to me.

Just under a year ago my husband and I started attending church once again; he had always been more avid about going than I had been, and he really missed church.

The second Sunday we attended the assistant rector announced he was leaving; he’d been offered a church in another state and he and his family decided to accept the offer. We were crushed: this fellow is young and is smart as a whip. But we wished him well and forged ahead.

The very next Sunday, our rector of many, many years announced his retirement. Vowing not to take this exodus personally, we took the news with some trepidation, knowing how tumultuous a decision on a new spiritual leader can be.

To assist with services, our Rector Emeritus was called back into service. This is a man who served as rector of our church for years before the current rector and the word “beloved” barely describes how much everyone in the church loves him. He is a kind, gentle soul. He has a voice that resonates and absolutely instills joy and comfort. Just hearing his voice restored calm and consistency to our services while the rector search committee does its work.

So, the date came for our current rector to leave. We gave him a lovely sendoff, shed some tears, and wished him well. Though he remains in the area, by the rules of the diocese, he cannot attend services with us for one year. Theoretically this rule aims to give any new guy a fighting chance to build his trust and rapport with his new congregation.

But we don’t have a new guy yet. Priests are in short supply, apparently.

We’ve been working with our beloved Rector Emeritus and a series of fill-in guys – guest preachers from various churches. The first guy who came was very different from what we have been used to and while he is not a candidate for us, we are grateful that he did come to lead our services.

We had yet another guy this past Sunday – one we know and like, but also not a candidate. Just a guy helping out.

Now we have heard from a very credible source that our beloved Rector Emeritus has been asked by the bishop to disappear because he “was trying to run things in the church.”

Devastated is too soft a word for how I took this news.

But, after I calmed down, I have to realize that however credible this source, it is still just a rumor. I don’t know for certain what transpired. But our beloved guy was not there Sunday. The congregation was told “he is taking some time off.”

Maybe.

But to leave us completely without a rector? None? That’s not like him.

Speculation is dangerous and I am working very hard not to do that. We will know more in the coming days.

There has been a great deal of turmoil in the Episcopal church in recent years as liberalism creeps in more and more. When the church codified and approved gay marriage in 2015 many conservative members left. Some were even outraged when women were allowed to become priests. Theological changes and doctrine has changed as well.

And there is still the search for a full-time rector. Inevitably someone will be unhappy with the choice. It’s all very upsetting, especially for someone who doesn’t do change well!

If you’re the praying sort, say a little prayer for our little church in Shreveport as we go through difficult times.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: Inner City Blues

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – There has been a bit of a buzz in my neck of the woods this week about a “scorching” letter written by an Alabama tourist to Mayor Cantrell of New Orleans. This visitor took issue with the homelessness, blight, and open drug use in the city and implored the mayor to “be a leader” and clean up her city.

I can’t speak about NOLA, but I can’t argue with what this guy probably saw because I see the same thing here in Shreveport, and I suspect this is the case in many cities across the nation. In Shreveport, for example, the homeless population downtown can be seen everywhere; on every bench, in doorways of every abandoned building, and posted up in front of the public library. Some ask for money, most stare sullenly into space and avoid eye contact. It is sad to me, and I know that a wide variety of circumstances have brought them here. Some of this may be of their own doing, but not always.

Does this deter tourists? Probably, some.

More puzzling to me is that I don’t see this everywhere. I don’t travel widely, but I do travel. We recently returned from a trip to the Midwest to visit my husband’s family. As is our custom, we spent a day in Des Moines, exploring the vibrant downtown and then attending an iCubs baseball game. Shreveport doesn’t have minor league baseball, so we grab it when we can.

In Des Moines we did not see blight, homelessness, drug use, abandonment; I’m sure some of that is there, we just didn’t see it downtown. We walked blocks, inside the skywalks and outside on the street. Granted, a lot of the shops in the skywalks that we had seen before are gone. A lot of people are still working from home. But the majority of businesses there are booming and there are people living, working, and playing downtown.

It makes coming home to a dirty, crumbling city somewhat depressing.

I am not sure what the answer is. My husband would say it is the Democrats we seem to put into office. “Look at every city that ever had a Democrat mayor!” he screams. “It goes to hell!”

He’s not wrong.

Except the mayor of Des Moines is a Democrat.

Obviously, the blight and decay of our cities is the result of a combination of factors. For example, Louisiana only has two Fortune 500 companies, the highest of which ranks only 143 (CenturyLink). We are not a business friendly state with a rank of 49 on that list. I love my state for its natural beauty, but we have a lot of problems.

At the very least, we have got to get people back to work across this country. Everywhere we went on our travels we saw help wanted signs and places understaffed. Product shortages are evident. From the lowest to the highest, we have got to get this economy going and these jobs filled. The unemployment subsidies need to stop. ANYone who wants a job should be able to find one right now.

And while the tourist who wrote the letter to Mayor Cantrell will likely find his pleas falling of deaf ears in the mayor’s office, I hope he knows that a lot of other people see and agree with his words. We need to elect leaders who will step up and lead, who will do the right thing and not necessarily the popular thing, and who will get this country back on its feet.

It is overdue.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: On Blogging and new platforms

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — As usual, I am a little late to the party, but in January I decided to start writing on Medium in addition to keeping my own blog, as well as keeping my Monday slot here.

Medium is basically a blogging platform, but it seems to be a decent place to post from time to time because of the built-in audience.  Launched in August 2012 by Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, Medium has a pretty solid, worldwide following. You can read three free articles a month before you hit the paywall. It’s not clear how many subscribers have signed up for the $5 monthly subscription fee but estimates range from 200,000 to 400,000. 

I kind of stumbled on Medium this spring when this article by Tomas Pueyo went viral and was showing up all over my social media. I thought the article was really well done and if that was any indicator of what kind of work was on Medium, I wanted to know more. I’ve been reading there ever since, and at some point I subscribed. 

On Medium you can tailor your home screen to the types of articles you want to see by simply following  specific categories. In the beginning I set mine to coronavirus articles, culture, history, humor, environment…that kind of thing. I have tweaked it a bit since then; you can also follow tags.  I like a mix of things to appear on my home screen. There is a category for writing, but I’m getting too many articles about how to write on Medium that are weighing my feed down. I am going to take that one off. I took the coronavirus category off as well; I’m tired of reading about that.

The site hosts professional and amateur writers and so again, pick and choose. Famous names include Susan Orlean (a favorite of mine – I loved The Library Book), Nikki Haley, Senator Marco Rubio, and many others. Authors are paid by internal views and engagement: how long someone spends on your article, claps (which is similar to the “like” button), and shares. A writer on Medium earns zero revenue from readers outside the Medium subscription base; external views do not earn money, but in theory they can lead to more Medium subscribers.  It is all about exposure and building a following. 

I have concerns about spreading myself too thin but I am curious to see if I can spark up a following on Medium which would then develop into a little extra cash in my pocket, which is always a good thing. Now that I am finally retired, I know that I will have more free time for writing, and so for the moment, I think I can handle three blogging platforms. My posts at each will be quite different because the audience for each is different.

To earn money on the platform, you have to sign up for a Strip account; it is very simple and safe. Once a month your earnings are transferred into your account.

So, how much have I earned in my six months there? About enough to buy a hamburger and beer for lunch. Not a lot. You’re probably not going to make enough to quit your day job. But my revenue is growing each month, so at least it’s going in the right direction, and I’m gaining followers. Articles on Medium have “a long tail”; that is, they earn money weeks after they’ve been published because the Medium algorithm filters them back around to land on someone’s homepage depending on their interests. For example, logging on to Medium right now, I have a selection of articles from today on back about four weeks.

I’m curious if any of you are Medium readers? If not, check the site out and let me know honestly what you think about it. Like I said, you get three free articles per month.