Report from Louisiana: Dystopian Shreveport

By: Pat Austin

Living in Shreveport these days is turning into some kind of twisted, dystopian experience. It feels like those opening pages of Atlas Shrugged, where everything is gray, gloom, dying, oppressed. It is no exaggeration to note that shootings occur every single day in this city, sometimes multiple times, and often with injuries or fatalities. It is tragic anytime a life is lost to this senseless violence, but it seems even more so when an innocent life, or a beautiful child, is lost.

And we accept this.

On March 20, 2021, five-year old Mya Patel was killed when she was hit by a stray bullet.

Wednesday, March 24, social media reflected multiple audio recordings of shots fired early in the evening, shots I heard clearly while reading in my bedroom.

March 30, a woman a few blocks from me was shot in the hip; luckily she is okay.

March 31, Xavier Griffin, 19 years old, shot and killed.

April 2, one was killed and others injured in multiple shootings.

Last night a woman was shot in the chest in the parking lot of the Masonic Lodge.

It is literally every single day or night – doesn’t matter what time — and we are doing nothing about this. You can check the Caddo 911 Active Emergency Events page and almost every single time you’ll see a shots fired or a shootings call, and those don’t include the ones that never make it to the page or are “holding,” waiting for available officers.

We are doing nothing about it.

“But, what can we do?!”  I hear you. I don’t have those answers. My layman’s opinion would be to first work through the local elections process to elect leaders tough on crime, willing to enforce penalties on criminals. From the mayor, to the District Attorney, to the city council and the parish commission, we need support.

We need police officers and the money to pay them. Shreveport ranks woefully low in police pay and our officers do not stay. We need the best and the brightest, willing to work hard for good pay.

We need jobs. We need businesses to come here to grow the tax base and to provide employment. We need all levels of jobs, from the trades to the administrative. We can’t continue to depend simply on service industry jobs as our main employers.

Businesses won’t come without decent infrastructure. Our streets are literally crumbling, our water system is collapsing (not to mention their mismanaged billing practices), and the city is covered in trash, litter, and empty buildings.

We need a vibrant downtown. The downtown area is trying: there are some places to eat, a few renovated buildings for apartments, you can see a movie, look at buildings. Many people avoid downtown due to safety issues. Maybe we need bicycle or mounted units there. Maybe we need more options for our large homeless population on the streets there.

We need so many things. Old time Shreveporters often speak of the “good ol’ days” when we had sports teams like The Shreveport Captains, where families could go enjoy a game on a pretty afternoon or evening. Now, our baseball stadium is empty, crumbling, and filled with bats and toxic guano.

For the most part, unless you want to drink or gamble, there is not much for families to do here. There are a few things…SciPort is downtown, and the Aquarium.

Before anything else happens, safety has got to be addressed. Perhaps I am alone in my concern. Perhaps I am in the minority when I balk at going to Betty Virginia Park to walk or spend an afternoon outside. Maybe I’m the only one who is constantly on guard when I walk my neighborhood.  Maybe nobody else has started taking their dogs out at night earlier, or in the backyard rather than the front yard. Maybe nobody else has installed surveillance cameras around their home. Maybe I’m the only one much more cautious about locking their car at night. Maybe nobody else has had packages stolen off their front porch.

Maybe all this is just my perception.

I long to see a thriving Shreveport with businesses like when we had Western Electric, General Motors, Kast Metals, Libby Glass, Poulan WeedEater, to name a few. The Captains played baseball in their new stadium and people sat in the beer garden eating hot dogs and sipping nickel beer. New malls and shopping centers dotted the city, and parks were growing. People ate at local restaurants, like Sansone’s, Brocato’s, Abe’s, Monsour’s, The Centenary Oyster House, George’s, and Fertitta’s, to name a few. Downtown was bustling with department stores like Selber’s, Hearne’s, Rubensteins, and Palais Royal. You could grab lunch at a nice, fancy place downtown or a quick, inexpensive burger place. You felt safe. You could park in the Selber’s parking garage and not worry about your car or about getting panhandled or mugged. Shreve Square was hopping on weekend nights: great bands in multiple clubs, people walking between them, great restaurants, good times.

We could reminisce about the glory days forever, and everybody knows times change and nothing stays the same, but the truth is, other cities adapt better than we have. When you travel, when you leave the city and see other places, even places within say a three hour radius, it is stunning to see the difference.

It’s possible to have a clean city with happy people. But Shreveport feels like a city with a cloud of gloom over it. We can talk it up and pretend to be positive. I know people will jump on me and say that it’s the negative people like me that keeps it down. “If you hate it here so much, why don’t you leave!?” I’ve heard it.

The answer is I’d like to be part of a solution, not stick my head in the sand and pretend like it’s great. It’s not great. Listen to that gunfire every night and tell me how great that is.

So. What’s the solution. What do we do? Is this a nationwide problem or is it unique to Shreveport, to Louisiana, to cities with inept political leaders? The city, like so many others across the nation, is decaying from the inside out. I’ve lived in my home for almost forty years and now I wonder if I’ll even be able to sell it when I finally decide to get out of here. And we live in one of the better neighborhoods; it’s an older neighborhood, but has always been considered a good one.

Now?  I’m ready to pull the plug.

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: Downsizing

By:  Pat Austin   

SHREVEPORT – With my retirement in a couple of months drawing ever closer, and as crime and violence in Shreveport becomes ever more prevalent, we have been giving more and more serious thought to pulling up and moving out of this hellhole  town, and moving to the small community in south Louisiana where we visit five times a year.

No place is perfect, I know this, but some places are more perfect than others.

But this moving thing? It isn’t as easy as it sounds. I have lived in this house since 1978 and my grandparents lived here before me. My mother grew up in this house. It’s not a fine, family home passed down from generation to generation – it’s a comfortable, two-bedroom house in an aging neighborhood.

The problem is that I look around me and I wonder, what am I going to do with ALL THIS STUFF?!  My goodness but I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff.  And I often tell my husband that he is just one paperclip away from being a hoarder.

I want to downsize.

There are days when I look around and think, “Why on earth am I keeping this?” and throw it, whatever it is, into the trashcan. There are other days when I want to list everything I own for sale online. I could pay off a couple of credit cards with the proceeds, I am certain.

I went through a Depression glass phase a few years ago and now I have three china cabinets filled with the stuff. Ok, it’s pretty, but why do I need six lime green salad plates? Or three clear pink coffee cups? An assortment of cut crystal bowls. Vases, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers, and toothpick holders. I have probably fifty of those tiny, individual salt bowls. Several of those have tiny sterling silver spoons with them.

Why do I need to keep all this stuff?!  My children will not want this after I am gone. Of this, I am certain.

I have some 200 DVDs.  In this age of streaming video, why do I still have these? And let’s please not even open the discussion on books. I am literally drowning in books and I can say in all honesty that I do purge these once or twice a year and donate them to the university book bazaar fundraiser. I still have enough books to fill a U-Haul.

Once I actually retire, I will purge a lot of clothes from my closet, but t-shirts, man, I have a lot of those. Way too many.

Dishes. I have several complete sets of dishes – at least two are antiques, wedding china from both sets of grandparents. My mom’s sterling silver flatware. Kitchen Kitsch – vintage canisters, jadeite, vintage ice cream scoops, enamelware bowls of all sizes, and an assortment of drip coffeepots. Now, the coffeepots I can use – when the power is out, a good old-fashioned drip coffeepot can replace the Keurig or the Mr. Coffee in a heartbeat and taste much better. But do I need six of them?!

Old electronics that I don’t know what to do with. We have at least six old computers around here.

This is getting embarrassing now that I’m writing this.

And sweet goodness I haven’t even gone to the garage yet, but that’s easier because most things in there can go straight to the trash. That’s sort of a wasteland before the final commitment to throw away. An old twin mattress, a wooden rocking chair nobody had room for, now covered in mold. Countless boxes of Mardi Gras beads. A couple of discarded weedeaters.  A broken table someone thought we might fix but never did. Lawn chairs. A non-working window air conditioner unit.

In a way, I envy people that move often because I am certain they don’t accumulate junk like all this. I look around and some of the things I really treasure and have a sentimental attachment too, but others, not so much. I tried reading that Marie Kondo book once about throwing out things that don’t “spark joy,” but the thought of picking up each item in my house and deliberating on whether or not it sparked joy seemed like such a massive undertaking I just couldn’t do it.

I do think it is time to start asking myself some hard questions about what I need to keep in my life and what needs to find a new home, or the trash bin. And it would be pretty cool if I could sell off some of these things that might have value to someone else now that I’ve enjoyed them for a while. And perhaps if I can downsize significantly, I can actually see my way clear to sell my house and move away to a place where people don’t get shot every single day and where you don’t hear gunfire when sitting inside your own home at night. The lawlessness here is really prompting some serious thoughts of change.

But before I rent the moving truck, I have to go throw out my collection of Southern Living magazines, the tarnished brass candlesticks that have been stuck in a drawer for two decades, the size three jeans that I will never fit into again, the wooden fish I bought at Pier I twenty years ago because I wanted to live at the beach, the Rolling Rock salt and pepper shakers with missing caps, a couple of broken tv trays, and a beat up Easter egg tree with missing ornaments.

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: Biden’s job-killing environmental agenda hits Louisiana hard

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I am just off Spring Break where we spent five days in my beloved south Louisiana; we go to Arnaudville, LA in St. Landry parish five times a year and I really hope to move down there in the next year or two. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sell my house in Shreveport; I’m not the only one who wants out of here.

I find it interesting to note that we paid twenty-cents a gallon more for gasoline coming home than we did going down. I mean, WHAT?! 

You hear some talk and a little anxiety about Biden’s environmental agenda in that part of the state where most are conservative; it’s over in New Orleans where you get the Democrats, but in Acadiana, there are a lot of conservative voters.

As the Biden-Harris oil and gas job killing agenda continues to unfold, there is some anxiety and concern over job loss and rising gas prices. Consider this news out of Lafayette:

 Louisiana officials say the state’s oil and gas industry is in danger.

This comes after President Joe Biden cancelled a March oil lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 80 million acres of available leases would have been sold this week.

The damage to Louisiana’s oil and gas companies started in January when President Biden signed an executive order banning all new oil and gas leases on public land and waters for 60 days.

“Right now I think we’re still pretty much in the holding pattern. It was a 60-day ban, and he was going through relook at it, the president,” Louisiana Oil and Gas Association President Mike Moncla said.

Moncla says their worst fear was that the president would extend that ban past 60 days.

“Since that time, Governor Edwards has sent him a great letter letting him know exactly what that would mean to Louisiana, all of the economic and finances that come from our offshore work,” he said.

He says as the 60-day ban comes closer to its end, President Biden isn’t easing restrictions.

He’s enforcing new ones, cancelling the 80-million-acre Gulf of Mexico oil lease sale that was scheduled for March 17 in New Orleans.

“It would kill our state. It would kill workers,” Moncla added. “It would kill jobs, and it would be a terrible thing.”

Moncla says all they can do now is wait.

We are talking thousands of jobs, y’all:

Leaders in coastal parishes like Lafourche, who would be impacted the most, worry.

“The major sector in Lafourche, 5600 residents who work in exploration, 4100 work in oil service and 4100 and shipbuilding,” said Lafourche parish president Archie Chaisson. He says the oil industry is now producing jobs with an average wage of $82,000 a year, that could be lost if the moratorium remains in place.

This is not good, not good at all.

Reportedly, Governor John Bel Edwards has written a letter to Biden asking him to reconsider cancelling these leases, but honestly, who thinks that is going to do one iota of good? I’m not holding my breath.

We are not in a good place right now, and I have grave concerns for the future of my state if this continues. I thought the Obama years were terrible, but I think this might be a worse ride than that was.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and 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: Stubborn People, Spring Break, and Shreveport Violence

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Last week I was unable to post as I had to drive my son to have his wisdom teeth removed and I failed to get a post together ahead of time to schedule. I appreciate Pete’s patience with me when these things happen. But, let me tell you, my son is the epitome of hard-headed and by, oh….say…..noon last Monday I was complete over this wisdom teeth adventure.

The oral surgeon of course told him no eating solid food for three to five days in order to allow healing and so not to disturb the protective blood clots. Literally nothing I could name for a meal was satisfactory. He wouldn’t listen to any directions, and even wanted to go outside and shoot the basketball literally three hours after the procedure. After reminding him that his post-procedure directions said no exercise or strenuous activity (to control bleeding), he went out anyway.

I was so exasperated by then, I reminded myself that he’s an adult, I left the gauze out for him and told him if he starts to bleed out to call 911. Whatever. People have to make their own mistakes. I left and went to the grocery store and pharmacy.

When I came back, he wasn’t feeling so great but now that we are a week out, everything is back to normal.

Stubborn!

It’s been a big week for me on other fronts: I’ve put in retirement papers and will be leaving the classroom after twenty-five years. I received confirmation and “approval” of my papers this week. I’m already clearing things out of my classroom and emptying files. We are on Spring Break and I’m heading back down to south Louisiana for the week. I need to unplug and recharge for the last nine weeks of school.

I am anxious to get out of Shreveport, not just this week, but after retirement. I don’t know if it is the times in which we live, and perhaps it is this way everywhere, but there is not one single day that goes by in this town when there isn’t a murder or at least a shooting. Every.Single.Day. This past week, some poor guy from Texas was just driving through town on I20 when someone pulled up next to him and started shooting, killing him. To be fair, I don’t know if they knew each other, but good grief. I’m tired of the violence.

We don’t live in a bad neighborhood; we live in an older neighborhood, but it’s considered a good part of town, and I often hear gunshots when I take my dog out at night. They’re usually in the distance, not right near me, and sound travels at night, but it’s enough to make you want to get out of town. When we go to our place down south, we are in the country, basically. It’s a small town of about 1,000 people. You can hear some traffic noise, wildlife or fish splashing in the bayou, church bells on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour, but never gunshots.

Our police force tries, but they are woefully underpaid and outnumbered. It appears to be a losing battle, and our novice, young, Democrat mayor who has higher political ambitions, has no idea how to fix things. It’s time to move on.

At any rate, there you have my random musings for the week. Be safe, be kind, and take care.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and 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: Teacheritis

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have about three months left in the classroom until I retire. I hope I can make it. It’s close…so close, yet seems so far away.

I have loved teaching; I’ve loved my kids, but I am so done with administrative decisions that devalue the human being in front of that classroom. I know every single job has its drawbacks and there are those ridiculous things that irritate a person everywhere they go. I’m not alone.

I am sure that part of my current negative attitude is more due to the fact that I’m about to be able to walk away than that my workplace is unbearable, because it is in no way unbearable. I love my admins in my school, my co-workers, my students, and my classroom itself.

And if this was a normal year, without Covid, it would certainly be better. But, y’all. I am exhausted just thinking about these next few weeks. This has been the most difficult year of my career.

Tell me if I’m being petty or ridiculous. It won’t hurt my feelings.

I have to be in my classroom or on duty to supervise kids at 6:55. I have first block planning, so I don’t have a class until 9:05, but that first block planning is often taken over by meetings, trainings, and on rare occasions covering another class. We will give the ACT test in two weeks and I won’t have a planning period then, but, mostly I have first-block planning.

My first class is at 9:05 and runs until 10:40. Next class, 10:45 – 12:15. At 12:15 students have lunch and beginning this week they will eat in my classroom as we attempt to make-up those snow days. I am required to have some instructional video or activity for them during this lunch period. And I must, of course, be in the room to supervise. Then my last class comes in at 12:40 – 2:15.

I have to go from 9:05-2:15 without a restroom break, unless I call someone, anyone, to come relieve me for a minute.

Not so bad, you think? Right? Hey, at least your day ends at 2:15, right?  No, not right.

Papers must be graded, lessons prepared, presentations done, copies made for the next day. Grades must be entered into the online gradebook, and then you have parent conferences or calls to make. There are the Behavior Tracking Forms to be filled out, emails to be read and responded to, and other random paperwork that comes across my desk. Time must be made to meet with or check on my mentor students. And don’t forget the cleaning and sanitizing because of Covid that needs to be done to the computers and desks.

Truly, I’m exhausted.

I honestly know on some level that it’s because I know the end is nigh, but really, it’s so easy to feel like the tasks just keep piling on. Nothing is ever taken away, just more piled on.

Okay, so I’m venting. 

I think it’s really best that I retire now, at 25 years, rather than go to 30 years for a little more money. I don’t think I have the tolerance or the energy to do all of this. I’m not sure I’m giving my students my very best anymore.

And that breaks my heart.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and 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: How the South was Crippled by a Snow Storm

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As you are probably aware, the South was hit with a crippling snowstorm last week, something for which we are woefully unprepared.

In Shreveport it has been a “perfect storm” of catastrophe, and while I realize it could be so much worse (see: Lake Charles, LA where many still live in tents or gutted homes due to hurricanes), it has been mind boggling how less than a foot of snow can cripple a city for over a week.

Is it any coincidence that Shreveport’s infrastructure is crumbling, literally, and we have had three mayors since 2006, all Democrats?

Our water system is literally crumbling under the pothole ridden city streets. During this snow and ice event last week at least eight major water mains have broken and countless other leaks and breaks across Shreveport. As a result, some 10,000 people in town still do not have water, now into Day Seven. Most other water customers have very low water pressure. We have been under a boil advisory for a week and will be for at least five more days, minimum.

Other cities around us, I know, are also under boil advisories; we are not the only ones, to be fair.

But our Shreveport leadership had virtually no plan to address the aftermath of this storm. We do not have snowplows down here or stockpiles of salt for the roads. We don’t get this kind of thing very often, but when you have at least a week’s notice that a storm is coming, wouldn’t you expect leadership to have a plan for recovery?

Local volunteers are the ones who got out with tractors and other construction vehicles and on their own dime cleared the roads in the city.

Neighborhoods pulled together: those with water shared it with those who did not. No water distribution sites were set up by the City until seven days after the storm hit. Neighbors took care of each other.

If your water needed to be cut off at the meter because of a break, a neighbor was there to help you; if you called the City for help you either got a busy signal or a promise to come out in a day or two.

When the grocery stores were literally bare because trucks were stranded on the interstate for miles in both directions, neighbors shared their food and set up sites at local churches. The community donated meals to the veteran’s home who had no water and no food to feed the men.

On Saturday, six days after the storm and two days after the volunteer network cleared the roads, Mayor Adrian Perkins showed up for a photo op on social media praising the National Guard who just rolled into town to clear roads. I’m not throwing shade on the National Guard, but I have to wonder why a photo op is more important to Adrian Perkins than actually taking care of his people.

Three days ago, our City Council had “an emergency” meeting on Zoom to address overtime pay for city workers in this crisis and other issues. There were representatives from the water department and homeland security there as well. Shreveport’s Chief Administrative Officer, Henry Whitehorn (appointed by Mayor Perkins last year), told residents without water that they could call 211 and the city would pick them up and take them to a safe shelter until the crisis was over. People began calling 211 and nobody there knew anything about that, but they could provide the phone number to the food pantry.

Yesterday, seven days after the storm, the city set up a handful of water distribution sites that would open at noon. By 12:01 the site nearest to me was out of water (they started early) with lines of cars backed up for miles, waiting. There is no water in the stores to buy. The National Guard brought in water and people sat in these lines all day and got a case of water. The effort continues today, primarily by local volunteers and nonprofits.

All in all, this has been a mess and an utter failure of City leadership. From the power grid failures, to water failures, to leadership and communication failures, what has kept people going has been each other. Neighbors helping neighbors.

If this event has taught me anything, it is perhaps that sometimes we need to slow down, quit staring at screens, and become more involved in our communities. Appreciate the little things, like a toilet flushing without having to manually fill up the tank because there is no water pressure. Don’t take things for granted, like clean water coming out of your faucet. Help those among us that might need lifting up.

And hey, I’m ready for spring, y’all. Snow is pretty for a minute, but this girl is ready for spring.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and 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: Snowpacolypse 2021

One of the most attractive reasons to live in the Deep South is the winter. Seldom do we suffer the frigid, biting cold that the more northern states endure. In Louisiana, if we have three or four days below freezing, that is considered winter. Those subzero days need not be consecutive.

This week our weather forecasters have been alternately giddy and panic-stricken at the prospect of an incoming “polar vortex” that is expected to bring single-digit temperatures for most of next week. Even better, we also anticipate snow and ice, they tell us.

This means almost certain power outages.

As you can imagine, this has caused a flurry of activity as people rush to the grocery store for bread, milk, bottled water, and batteries. Not many of us in northern Louisiana have a generator; those are more common in southern Louisiana where hurricanes cause power outages for extended periods of time. My neighbor does have a portable generator which he cranks up the moment the power goes out, however.

Some of us old-timers remember when the Red River froze back in 1983 after a week of subfreezing temperatures. It hasn’t been that cold for that long since but people still talk about the river freezing as a benchmark of record-setting cold weather.

People in different parts of the country tend to scoff at our inability to deal with cold weather. I have a niece in Iowa who howls with laughter when we close the schools for less than an inch of snow or ice, but as I said, we aren’t accustomed to this phenomenon and we don’t know how to drive in it. We don’t have salt trucks or snowplows.

So, instead, we go to the grocery store and buy bread.

The weather forecasters have been telling everyone for several days to wrap pipes and cover plants. I have a friend who has directed her husband to cover each of their sixteen peach trees in an attempt to protect the fragile blooms and the peach crop.

Soon the three local television stations will dispatch their intrepid reporters out to stand along the interstate to report on live local road conditions. They will breathlessly interview local officials about running sand trucks along overpasses and news websites will post a running list of Weather-Related Closures long before anything actually closes. Every school kid in town will religiously monitor this list. So will their teachers.

What does it say about us that we react this way to extreme weather? Is it the change that draws us in? Do we feed off misery and suffering? Whether it is a hurricane or a polar vortex, the weather forecasters give us days and days of this advanced information and ever-changing, uncertain news. Sometimes the storm materializes and sometimes it doesn’t, but we are always prepared, I suppose.

At least we always have bread and milk.

Report from Louisiana: Loose Thoughts

By: Pat Austin

Some loose, random thoughts this week:

Books: Finally, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles comes out this week!  I had the privilege of receiving an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) las year and I just loved this book. If you enjoy historical fiction at all, put this one on your list.

Navigating dual timelines, Miss Charles weaves an engaging plot between two characters, Odile and Lily. Set in both WWII Paris and 1980s Froid, Montana, we are drawn into both their stories knowing they will soon combine, and they do in a beautiful way.

Odile begins a new job as a librarian at The American Library in Paris at the onset of WWII, and her narrative is peppered with Dewey Decimal references which could have been very odd and distracting but is in fact absolutely charming. As the employees of the library work to protect their books, and themselves, during the Nazi occupation of Paris, it is interesting to note that many of the characters in this novel are real people and many of the events also all to real.

This is a novel for all book lovers, library lovers, history lovers, and anyone who wants to get lost between the pages of an interesting story for a few hours.

Also out this month, but I have not yet read, is Kristen Hannah’s The Four Winds, set in the dustbowl. I have it on hold at the library.

Covid Recovery: I’ve done a lot of reading over the past ten days because I’m too fatigued to do anything else. Steve and I are both moving past our Covid symptoms but the ongoing fatigue is staggering. I feel lucky and grateful that neither of us has the terrible congestion and lung symptoms, no high fever either, but man this fatigue….I can’t get past it. I’m still off work; planning to return to the classroom on Wednesday, but it will be very low energy for the time being.

Mardi Gras:  As you probably know, there are no parades or big celebrations for Mardi Gras this year which is really strange. But, have you seen the float houses in New Orleans!? They are so cool…people are putting the floats artists to work making props and decorations for their homes, dressing their houses up like giant floats! Some of them even play music like the real floats. Go online and check those out if you get a chance!

In New Orleans, Mayor LaToya Cantrell is doubling down on the Covid restrictions in these last two weeks of Mardi Gras season. She’s closing all bars and certain streets. Large gatherings are strictly forbidden. Tourists are discouraged.

Strange times.

Super Bowl: did you watch? We just had it on for background noise. I watched the Puppy Bowl. I’m just ready for baseball season.

Y’all have a good week!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and 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: Our turn with Covid

By: Pat Austin

Well, it was really just a matter of time, but here we are with Covid.

Last week my husband felt really fatigued and felt “sinusy.” It didn’t get any better so he went down for a Covid test; in twenty-four hours his negative results came back. Thinking he just had a cold, and that the incessant rain and damp weather might be part of the problem, he went on about his routine.

This past Tuesday, I was at school when I noticed a dry, non-productive cough come up. I was tired. No fever. I decided to take Wednesday off and rest; but then fever started. I went to Urgent Care and got a rapid test. 

Positive.

I’ve got to say, the fella at Oschner Urgent Care was wonderful; his enthusiasm for his job was great! He was so pleasant and he asked if it was my first Covid test. 

“Yes…” I said. He could sense my panic as he held this very long swab in his gloved hand.

He explained exactly what would happen; I said okay and he did the test. 

He sent me back out to my car and said he’d call in ten minutes.

In five he called.  “You are POSITIVE for Covid-19!” like I’d won the lottery. 

“You’re kidding…” I said.

“I would NOT kid about something like that!” He gave me the stay at home directions, told me Oschner would be reaching out to check on me, and that was it.

Once my positive results came back, my husband went to Urgent Care and did a rapid test; Positive.

My son is also positive. So, here we are.

I feel like he should be on the tail end of his Covid because we both feel like he was positive last week but just tested too soon. An article in the Washington Post explains:

Early in an infection, the virus may not have reproduced enough to be detectable. The false negative rate of PCR tests on the day of exposure is 100 percent, but falls to about 38 percent five days later as symptoms usually set in, according to an analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The rate decreases further, to about 20 percent, after three more days.


My husband’s PCR test last week may have been too soon.

Our symptoms have been manageable, if certainly uncomfortable. Initially, I felt like I had a mild cold although there is a tightness or light pressure in my chest, and behind my ribs in the back. It’s weird. We are both very fatigued. I have low fever in the evening, around 99. No cough right now. I have headache but that’s not all that uncommon for me. I have unbreakable chills every night.

This is not like any flu I ever had. It is weird in that there is some odd new symptom every day. You feel okay one day and the next like a bus hit you. We lost two more people we know to Covid this week. They were otherwise both perfectly healthy. Not. The. Flu.

Neither one of us knows where we got this. I assume I got it from my husband which is crazy because I was always so certain I would get it from my classroom. There is certainly Covid in the schools. My classes are full and we are only two feet apart. I am very grateful that my students were probably not exposed. Monday and Tuesday they were working on Chromebooks writing narratives and I was able to monitor and assist from my own computer through Google classroom. I was not within six feet of any of them and I stay masked all the time.


Going forward in our quarantine, I’m trying to take it easy and let my body fight the virus. It is so hard for me to sit still, so I have to make myself leave the laundry alone, not clean out a closet or drawer, not do yardwork. I’m trying to stay in touch with my students through Google Classroom.


If you’re a praying sort, we will certainly be grateful for your prayers for a mild bout and a quick return to good health! 

Stay safe and wash your hands!

Report from Louisiana: In-Person School is Better

By: Pat Austin

As hard as it is to admit this, I might have been wrong.

While some school districts across the country have remained closed, and while they attempt to reopen in coming weeks, I have come to the decision that having kids in the classroom, in person, is better for them.

In August, I was terrified of returning to school in this pandemic — and the numbers then were so much lower then than they are right now. I was certain we were all going to get Covid-19, that classes would be hopeless because of high absenteeism, and that schools would shut back down two weeks after opening. I was scared I’d be constantly battling kids who didn’t want to wear a mask. Everyone would see that this was a failed experiment to reopen during a pandemic and we would be sent back home for virtual learning.

“We should stay virtual!” I screamed into the void, terrified.

I was so wrong.

Is it a different kind of school year? Yes.

Have we seen cases of Covid? Absolutely.

Have we had multiple students and teachers in quarantine? Sure, we have.

Have staff members become gravely ill? Several, yes. Others, not so much.

Should we shut down again? No way.

Education has never been a one-size-fits-all endeavor and for many students, virtual classes do not work. I teach ELA in a Title 1 high school and many of my students do not have internet access or computers at home. When we shut down in spring 2020, so many kids slipped through the cracks and never logged into their lessons. Many had little to no support at home.

I know now that these kids need to be in school. I see the benefit every single day. They need the support and the relationships that we give them. They need the structure. They need the socialization. They need so much more than we are able to give, even outside of a pandemic.

It’s true that I spend most of the day cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, computers, desks, you name it (despite research that says Covid-19 is probably not spread that way.) And it is true that my classroom is crowded; we truly cannot social distance in the room; my student desks are about two feet apart. We wear masks and to be honest, the students comply better than some of the adults. Because my classroom windows do not open and there is no ventilation, I bought an air purifier. Maybe it helps.

Even though my students seem truly glad to be in school right now, I do worry about the toll all this might take on their mental health. So many people are without jobs right now and so many of them were in deep poverty even before the pandemic. Add that to the daily stress of sick family members, concern about becoming ill themselves, and worry about what the future holds, well, these kids are juggling a lot right now, just like their teachers and their parents.

Much of this is out of my control and I’ve had to accept that.

But, honestly, as far as classwork goes, not much has been different. In my tenth grade English classroom, we’ve read books, done gallery walks, written essays, analyzed literature, written narratives, basically all of the same things we would normally do. There has been less group work, but we have adjusted.

The bottom line is that kids are resilient. They adjust so much more easily than adults do.

There is growing concern that the new coronavirus variants, which are so much more contagious, will raise the number of cases in schools. This may be true, but it just means that we will increase our vigilance, keep our masks up, and distance as much as we can. We will be fine. Eventually, teachers in Louisiana will get vaccines.

In our district we still have a lot of parents opting for 100% virtual education for their children and I respect that choice. I will never vilify or criticize anyone for doing what they believe is best for their family and for their own health. If this pandemic has taught us nothing else, it should be that we ought to be civil and respectful to each other. But I would tell those parents that as teachers we are doing everything in our power to keep these kids safe.

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