Medicare: A Dubious Rite of Passage? Saturday, Apr 29 2017 

18156884_10212498159030385_6277947346653732132_nI led an English I class last week in a thematic unit on rites of passage.  Then yesterday I got the letter in the photo from LSU Human Resources letting me know it’s Medicare time.  That magical 65th birthday is coming up in July.

I confess that explaining rites of passage as represented in a fictive short story plot to ninth graders was so much easier than understanding a true-to-life rite of passage, especially when that rite traditionally signals the advent of old age.

It must be time to look to the hills, from whence cometh my help.

Me? Old?  Never!

Easter 2017: The Great Plains Crawfish Boil Saturday, Apr 22 2017 

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Anyone who didn’t know any better  would assume the scene from this photo unfolded in some place like St. Landry Parish, Louisiana.

But not so.

 

This scene comes from Easter in Kansas a week ago—-a first for me, and also a memorable affair.

Much of the weekend activity was typical, like going to church and sharing a colossal Easter Sunday luncheon spread with family and friends.  But having a traditional outdoor crawfish boil the day before Easter?  That was unique!  And also delectible, thanks to my Kansas-reared son-in-law, who’s likely the most accomplished Cajun boil chef ever produced on the Great Plains.

The 30 pounds of crawfish were shipped from Louisiana in a live shipping box.  The weather was unseasonably warm for Kansas-in-mid-April but perfect by spring patio-dwelling standards for down home.

On passait vraiment un agrément!

 

A Tribute to Ken Cooper, a Man of True Words Wednesday, Apr 19 2017 

18034163_10213046533704313_4185366411248173612_n-1My friends and I bid farewell this week to Ken Cooper, one of the finest guys who has been for years our friend, our peer, our colleague, our brother: to declare that he was a godly prince of a man falls short of our ability to express a fitting estimation of his character.  In fact, our  words are halting, searching, inadequate, heart-broken . . .  as always in  times of untimely loss.

One acquaintance in recent weeks observed, in the manner of a well-intentioned compliment, that Ken was a man of few words.  I won’t take issue with the spirit of that characterization, because Ken wasn’t loud in the company of his friends (except when our men’s Sunday School class had some outrageous joke or wisecrack to laugh about—-Ken could hoot and jibe with the best of us!).

But I really believe we  do better if we remember Ken as a man of true words.

A man of true words, like Ken, is not a quiet man, but rather a man who knows when, what, and how to speak.  His words are edifying, reflective, sage, and judicious.  In Sunday School class, for  example, Ken was not the most talkative member of our particularly noisy group.  But from week to week,  at timely points in bible study and discussion, he offered observations and commentary that made all of us think, to nod in agreement, or even to marvel “Why didn’t I think of that?”  The insight his remarks showed was dependably deep, original, and true.  His friends and I  agree that he was a student of God’s word with a prophetic knack for expressing  spiritual truth with clarity, practicality, and depth.

We always missed his presence and participation in Sunday School when he was away for long periods at his pipeline work, and we always looked forward to his return at the end of those jobs when he would rejoin the class for whatever period of weeks or months that his  schedule afforded.  His presence and participation enriched  our fellowship.

So we are heart-broken now that he’ll never return to participate in our discussions or to laugh at the good-natured banter and wisecracks that characterize our gregarious fellowship.  We will  miss his companionship, his brotherhood, his character, his gift for true words.

But praise God, we will miss Ken for only a season, because we maintain the glorious hope that assures us of his soul’s security.  While we’ll never meet him again in the fleeting years alloted to us on this side of heaven, we will share eternity in the glorious presence of God, angels, and the host of loved ones and friends already departed.

Till that day when eternity in heaven begins for each of us, we ask God to bless Ken’s memory.  May we guard that memory as precious in our midst, and may it inspire and motivate us to be like him,  men of true words who lean on the everlasting arms of faith.

To God be the glory!

 

Country Roads, Americana: The Character of a Nation Friday, Apr 14 2017 

If the “America the Beautiful” lyricist had composed her lyrics in April, the familiar “amber waves of grain” might  have been expressed as “verdant waves of grain.”  The wheat fields of Kansas in April are as green as spring.  And as beautiful.

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The high plains of America: Charming green in spring.

So we observed this mellow spring day as we made our way across the high plains of Oklahoma and Kansas, preferring  the back road byways over the Interstate highways.  Our route choices may have cost us an hour or so in time, but what we saw and felt of rural and small-town Americana on this windy spring drive across the high plains moved us as Americans.

Rural America shows the character of the nation in unique ways that may seem strange to the urbanscape.  True, more Americans  live in metropolitan centers of population, but those population centers’ majority will never outcry  the simple grandeur of  wide open American spaces and the rural folk whose pioneer ancestors’ sturdy backbones settled and developed those spaces.

The heart and spirit of Americana is rural.  I felt that on these backroads today.

Hangin’ out with friends . . . Monday, Apr 10 2017 

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Of course, the commemorative selfie. We didn’t have smart phones in 1975, but we know what to do with them now, our “mature” ages notwithstanding.

We spent an incomparable Friday night and Saturday morning as guests of our good buddies John and Linda from Sulphur, helping Linda celebrate her birthday at an Olivia Newton John concert in Lake Charles.  Linda and Sarah were BFF’s since fourth grade, and not much has changed in their relationship over the ensuing 50+ years.  We have a blast with them any time we get together.  Tons of laughter, good will abounding. We’ll remember last weekend as long as our memories last.

Humble Rewards of the Profession: Superheroes! Friday, Mar 31 2017 

17498497_10212203369540832_7527698509155723978_nThe teacher-as-grandparent loves this: high school seniors collaborating with second graders to bring fictive super-heroes to life.  We celebrated this project in Fine Arts Survey this morning.  The big kids and the little kids were awesome.

The Generation Before: Living Libraries of Our Lore Friday, Mar 24 2017 

We visited yesterday afternoon with Sarah’s Nonc Roger, who celebrates his 93rd birthday this weekend.  As a repository of tales and family lore, he is the surviving pièce de résistance.  As he spun tale after tale from his rich reserve of memoirs, I thought of an LPB piece last week when a folklorist spoke of the older generation, suggesting that every time one of them passes on, it’s like a library filled with unduplicated records and files burning to the ground.  The contents of that library are lost forever.  What a tragedy!

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Joyeux fêtes, Nonc Roger.

We were fascinated as he spun tale after tale from the bygone generation of his youth.

A highlight was his recount of  having a tooth pulled with NO anesthetic when he was 8 or 9 years old. I realized how many interesting tales our parents’ generation has to share and how much our generation needs to remember.

I only hope that our minds have the capacity to remember so much.  We must be as busy remembering and preserving our  legacies for our children at the same time.

So much to remember, so much to cherish!

Patio Dwelling and the Doctrine of Space Saturday, Mar 18 2017 

A trait of the human condition is to occupy comfortable spaces and, over time, to fill those spaces with  aesthetic appointments that contribute to our comfort: pleasing accoutrements such as accent furniture, frilly decorations, appliances, curios, jingly-jangly hanging things, etc etc.  After a few years, of course, the living space loses its aesthetic charm as accumulation transforms the  space into clutter: all of those charming accoutrements gradually assume the aspect of junk.

So what does man do to get rid of the clutter and junk when the space runs out of space?  Why, of course, he doesn’t get rid of stuff.  He enlarges the space so the stuff can spread out once again into a pleasing array of aesthetic accoutrements.  And to boot, with the enlarged space, he renews his industry of adding and accumulating  accoutrements of comfort, now that he has space.

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Out of space?  No problem: Add a 10’X10′ extension to the slab and cover with aluminum: Instant Space for patio dwelling!

Salisbury Cathedral in Blank Verse Friday, Mar 10 2017 

This morning I observed an English IV class at Notre Dame High School in Crowley.  For their bell work, the students were using Romantic era pieces of art as prompts for writing narrative.  I googled “romantic art”and came up with this early 19th century painting of Salisbury Cathedral in England.  Since I’m doing Shakespeare with my classes at St. Ed’s, blank verse (unrhymed lines of imabic pentameter) was on my mind, so I decided to craft my piece in blank verse.  I finished this piece in about ten minutes and when the teacher asked if anyone wanted to share, I shared, naturally.  (Sometimes I write to show off, I admit).  Here’s the blank verse setting, with the painting of Salisbury Cathedral.

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Morbid, dark and ponderous clouds sail aloft
Over  gaunt Salisbury Cathedral.
Is this dreary structure sanctuary
for holy grace? A balm in Gilead?
Or rather some frightsome dwelling place
For disturbing spirits loosed from Hades?
But hope and praise! Beyond the smokey clouds
In the eastern sky, behold heav’ns rainbow!
God’s bright promise overrules the darkness.
Hie me thence into His marvelous light!

PaPere Tales from L’anse Bourbeuse Sunday, Mar 5 2017 

Our visit with Mark Savoy last Wednesday when I got my new accorion yielded a tale Mark remembered about Sarah’s grandfather, Noé Young, affectionately known by her and her  cousins as PaPère.  The words that follow are Sarah’s, borrowed here with her permission.  The “You” she addresses refers to numerous cousins she shared this tale with a few days ago.  The picture below shows PaPère (in khakis) with Sarah’s Nonc Earl in the early 1940’s.

You may have already heard this one, but, here’s the story Mr. Mark  remembers vividly about PaPère. He said he always remember PaPère wearing his bib overalls and said his dad, Joel, and PaPère and a few others frequently fished together on the bayou.  It was their habit to eat there as well.  PaPère was almost always the designated cook. It was their habit that everyone bring their own plate to eat.  Mark’s dad, Joel, told Mark that PaPère ALWAYS img_9899“forgot” 😉 to bring his plate and would be forced to eat out of the pot he cooked in. Mr.  Joel laughingly told Mark since PaPère liked his own cooking, he left his plate on purpose so no one could see how much he ate!

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