Report from Louisiana: On Newspapers

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have not read a single paragraph of anything uninterrupted in ten years. Perhaps I exaggerate, but not by much. I live with a “talker.”

I adore my spouse; we have a wonderful relationship. We are best friends. We travel, we go out with friends, we have a great deal in common. We have never had an argument.

But bless his heart, he is a talker.

Already, in the few seconds I’ve typed these few sentences, he has chirped up about tomorrow being Columbus Day and therefore no mail and offered commentary on the baseball game currently on television.

Sunday afternoons are quiet and lazy around here, usually. I like to get my stack of newspapers, lie about, and read them. Sunday afternoon I began with the New York Times (I know, I know…). I like the books section. I started there and tried to dive into a review of two new books about the Constitution and the American Revolution. No more than a paragraph into it, my focus had been interrupted so many times I finally gave up and turned the page.

I moved on to the Arts section and tried to read about three ballet dancers returning to the stage after the pandemic.  I had no better luck.

I tried several other articles before abandoning my paper altogether. I have the same issue when trying to read books. I work around it, I manage, because I know how blessed I am to have him and I love our life together. But geez, it’s hard to concentrate on anything.

Now perhaps he has actually done me a favor, right? I mean, The New York Times? Never in the history of ever has there been a more biased newspaper and so shameless about it. But I do enjoy a brief visit to the dark side now and then and sometimes it is terribly beneficial to read differing points of view.  I’m going to dive back into the Opinion section at some point; I really want to read Ezra Klein’s article about the peril of the Democrat agenda right now. It sounds promising. There is another article with the headline “Should You Care What Athletes Think?”  Nope. I don’t even have to read that one. Don’t care.

I truly miss the days of good, thick, news filled newspapers written by intrepid reporters scouting out sources and armed with little notebooks in their front pockets. The state of our media today is shameful and I wonder how, and when, we got to this point. I’ve been around a long time and read lots of papers, but I guess I just quit paying attention.

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: Bare Shelves

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — What in the world is going on in the grocery stores? I’ve never seen such shortages in my life!

The first time I noticed this was when the pandemic broke out and shelves were literally stripped of bread, toilet paper, dried beans, rice, and canned goods like a plague of locusts had flown through. Things got better after a while but have never really recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Every time we go to the grocery store together, my husband’s blood pressure jumps up…” This is that ‘Ridin’ with Biden’ working for you!” He rants and rails all up and down the aisles, raging about elevated prices and shortages.

I can’t blame him. It is difficult.

There is no doubt that prices are higher. And the shelves are noticeably bare. When I found blue Powerade on the shelf last week I bought all four six packs because it’s been unavailable for weeks.

There are a number of factors at work here. Rising fuel costs, rising production costs, and a shortage of workers all along the supply line play a factor:

The maker of Cheerios cereal and Betty Crocker cake mix is facing hundreds of disruptions across its operations, ranging from pricier raw ingredients to a shortage of truck drivers, which executives said will push up prices for supermarket customers over the months ahead.

Higher costs and logistical problems are squeezing General Mills and other U.S. food companies, prompting them to cut their own costs and swelling consumers’ shopping bills. Big food makers including Campbell Soup Co. and Conagra Brands Inc. are charging more for their products as the food industry faces the steepest inflation in a decade, while shrinking some grocery-store packages and dialing back discounts.

So, not only is this problem not getting better anytime soon, it’s going to get worse.

In Louisiana, SNAP participants will see an increase in their benefit starting next week. This isn’t necessarily in response to the shortages; apparently the thinking is that families are trying to stretch their food dollars by purchasing unhealthy, but filling, options, and if the government gives them more money, they will magically decide to buy fresh vegetables rather than Hot Pockets.

Benefits had been increased for inflation over the years. But flaws in the Thrifty Food Plan formula meant many families just couldn’t keep up with the costs. Consequently, families bought fewer fresh fruits and vegetables and relied on more convenient and less expensive processed foods to stretch their benefits for an entire month.

I’m not sure I agree with that logic, but…..

As the holidays approach, industry insiders are predicting more shortages. Grocery store chains are ordering earlier, hoping to be able to have what their customers need for the holidays, but many are having trouble getting fresh meat, like turkeys for example, because many production plants are not working at full capacity.

Obviously becoming alarmed and hoarding is the wrong approach here, but planning ahead is going to be a necessity it seems.

Meanwhile, I’m going to start leaving my husband at home when I go shopping. I don’t think his blood pressure can handle 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: Bouncing Back after Ida

Photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I want to share with you this latest article by Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review because it begins to touch the surface of why I love Louisiana and also about how we are recovering from Hurricane Ida.

The southern part of Louisiana, west to east, has dealt with devastating hurricane and storm damage over the past couple of years. It seems that Katrina is the one everyone talks about but that was in 2005. Meanwhile, Hurricane Laura (August 2020) and then Delta (October 2020) followed by historic flooding rains in May 2021, have left Lake Charles, Louisiana literally devastated. Hurricane Ida came along this year and hit the southeastern coast of Louisiana and there are still people without power in some of the more remote areas of SE Louisiana.

Why do we stay? Why don’t we leave and go where we don’t have to worry about such things?

Kathryn Lopez’s piece helps put that in perspective a bit:

In storm-damaged Louisiana, there is not victimhood, but resilience and gratitude. I asked an Uber driver — a single mom of two who had to quit her job as a schoolteacher during the height of COVID to help her children with their at-home school — whether it’s hard living in Louisiana. “Not at all,” she said. “Life always has its challenges, but God is good, and our lives are gifts, and we must live them in love of and trust in Him.” That witness of the people I meet in Louisiana [ … ] is a challenge to the rest of us, who can get caught up in so many things that we don’t have all that much control over.

So true.

Don’t get me wrong: people down there need help. They need those donations of tarps and water that are pouring in. Those huge pots of jambalaya and gumbo that are feeding families, linemen, clean-up volunteers, all of that is appreciated.

But the only thing to do is to clean up and rebuild. I had an aunt that lived in Lake Charles when I was a child; they rebuilt their home several times and never left.

 The Cajun people are some of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Survival is in their DNA. So is joie de vivre, hospitality, and warmth.

I think about these values often when we travel to that part of the state; we stay five weeks of the year in south Louisiana and I am always impressed by the strong communities, the strong family unit, and the pure faith that these people have. Yes, there are problems, but as Lopez says, we learn to trust in God, to see what tomorrow brings.

Lopez is correct. I don’t think anybody down there feels like a victim. These storms may dampen spirits and slow us down for a minute but pack your suitcase and come on down: the hotels are open, the boudin is hot, and the music is floating up through the trees. You might see more blue tarps on roofs and hear more chainsaws and pounding hammers, but Louisiana is bouncing back better than ever.

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: Podcasts

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Y’all…I’m so late to this party it is just embarrassing. I am going to need a little help from those of you that listen to podcasts, but first, let me explain.

I am hard-pressed to think of a term that better illustrates the rapid advancement in personal technology in the past two decades than “podcast.”

Perspective: my generation grew up with rotary phones attached to walls by cords. In my lifetime I witnessed the invention of the push-button phone, the satellite phone, the cordless phone, and eventually the mobile cellular phone. It has been a steep learning curve for some of us that are of a certain age. I did not own a cellphone until I was 42 years old; it was a red Nokia flip phone.

Now I own a very expensive iPhone that will probably do a great many more things than what I actually use it for. Back in the flip phone days, I also had a click wheel iPod which was just revolutionary. I actually still have it and still listen to it sometimes.

Technology started pulling away from me when we no longer bought music on iTunes and made playlists. I think now people just stream everything. I’m not really sure. I subscribe to Apple music and Pandora but don’t really use them. I know there is something called Spotify and I don’t know how to use it.

You see my problem?

Back to podcasts. As a high school educator, my students tried to keep me in the technological loop and so I learned about things like Instagram and TikTok. (I have an Insta but won’t fall into TikTok. Refuse.) But podcasts? I didn’t have time to learn anything else! I was barely keeping up already!

The word “podcast” originated in 2004 and in 2005 it was the Word of the Year for the New Oxford American Dictionary. Apparently, podcasting is now a billion-dollar industry. The 18–34 age group seems to be the primary listening audience and by the time you get to my age group listeners drop significantly.

I dipped my toes into the podcast waters a couple of years ago when a friend insisted that I listen to S-Town, the popular true-crime serial. I dutifully pulled out my earbuds and started listening and I loved it! It was hosted by Brian Reed and the story centered around John McLemore, a larger-than-life, colorful character in Woodstock, Alabama. Mr. Reed’s recordings of his conversations with McLemore were fascinating and my friends and I spent hours talking about this story.

But since then? Nothing. I haven’t listened to another podcast. Why?

Right about that time was when I began a big research project and so there was really no time or opportunity to find a new podcast. When I was writing my book (the result of that research), I listened to a playlist on my iPod (not the click wheel one!). Honestly, there’s no good excuse. I just didn’t look for a new podcast.

Last week, someone suggested I try the Old Gods of Appalachia podcast. I’m not much into the horror genre, which is how this was described to me, but I do love anything Southern Gothic and so maybe this would be okay. The episodes aren’t overly long (in fact, they’re a little too short), and I do like the serialized format. I’ve listened to four or five episodes now and while I don’t yet love it the way I did S-Town, I am going to stay with it a while longer.

I would love to find some good podcasts to listen to. Now that I am retired, I think I can put on a podcast and do this godforsaken walking thing that my doctor wants me to do each day. While I like listening to music, or even birds and barking dogs in the neighborhood, I can see myself listening to a podcast while I walk.

But I have so many questions. How do you find a podcast you want to listen to? When do you listen? Why are so many podcasts in the true crime genre? I don’t even know what genre I want to focus on which is the first question everyone asks me. I want a podcast like S-Town. Colorful characters. I don’t want irritating voices or giggling hosts. I don’t want to listen to anything political — I was a political blogger for ten years and I’m tired of that fight. I want a good mystery, or to learn something. Escapism.

Since podcasts are basically today’s version of radio programs from back in the day, obviously I want to be entertained.

So, tell me. What are you listening to? What are your favorite podcasts and why? Help a girl out!

(This article was previously published on Medium; I am reprinting here because I really want your suggestions!)

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: 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.