The joyful simplicity of Americana at its finest.

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What is better than the Midwest during the Fourth of July?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

It is that time of year again when we make plans for Independence Day; as it happens, this usually coincides with our annual trip to the Midwest to visit my husband’s family. We have always traveled there during the summer because as a schoolteacher, this was the best time for me to take an extended trip.

Now, newly retired, I can go whenever I want to! But I still want to go on the Fourth of July.


Find your passion and follow where it leads you

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I can’t count the hours I have spent staring at a blank Word document wondering “What am I going to write about today?” It’s embarrassing that I continue to do this because I know it isn’t productive.

Here’s the thing I have learned about creativity and about writing: you can’t force it. You can spark it, but you can not force the ideas to flow. In fact, in my experience, the best writing finds you. The best writing is true and honest. It comes from the heart.

Personal Experience

Several years…

Eight days living, rather than reading about, life.

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About five times a year my husband and I leave our home in northwest Louisiana and travel about three hours south, to the Acadiana region of our state. Cajun country. We live in a fairly large city, large enough that crime, urban decay, and blight are real problems. It is good to get away from this from time to time and readjust one’s perspective.

When I travel, whether it is south, or up to the Midwest where my husband’s family lives, it always seems to me that people are happier than they…

Incentives are encouraging people to get vaccines.

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In Louisiana, we are about 32% vaccinated for Covid, and while I in no way want to get into a debate about the pros, cons, and conspiracy theories about the vaccination, I am certainly ready for life to resume its normal flow.

I got the vaccine. I also had Covid back in January, so maybe I still have antibodies, too.

So, where are my incentives?

I mean, states all across the nation are now offering incentives for people to go get this vaccination. I want to be rewarded!

I didn’t get any free…

Live, observe, write

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I have a friend who said, “I used to believe Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner were brilliant. Now I believe they were excellent stenographers: that when you live in the deep South, the stories and characters write themselves.”

With apologies to Williams and Faulkner, who were both indeed brilliant, there is no question this is true.

I’ve seen so many articles on this platform about how to find inspiration for writing, how to make money writing, do these five things, don’t do these ten things, write for a publication, don’t write for a publication, everything contradicts itself.

Summer forever.

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If you Google “What to do when I retire,” you’ll get lots of lists that include things like teach, garden, visit family, spend time with friends, mentor, buy a motorhome, and join a fitness group.

Excuse me, but I’m retiring, not moving into an assisted living facility.

My list looks a little different.

When my retirement from the classroom begins next week, literally the first thing I’m going to do is drive three hours to south Louisiana and sit in an historically restored Cajun cottage along Bayou Teche. My husband and I go there five times a year…

What do you do when finals are five weeks before the end of the calendar year?

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This school year is like that movie “Groundhog Day;” it will never end.

As I write this, we still have seven days left in our school calendar. Seven!

We took our End of Course tests four weeks ago. This early date for testing was mandated because of Covid-19; those decision makers thought there may be quarantines and kids would have to make up tests, thus, if you test early this problem is solved.

So many problems with this thinking.

  • Number 1: testing five weeks before the end of the semester cuts off five weeks of learning. If you are telling…

What’s on your shelf?

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My stack of “to be read” books is absurd.

It isn’t really “a stack” at all; it is piles. Multiple piles, multiple stacks, towers, in several rooms. A few of these are books I have already read but want to read again, like Eudora Welty’s Curtain of Green and The Letters of E.B. White. Things like that — things I have read cover to cover but like to dip into every now and then and could never discard.

Some of the books in my stack include research material for my second book, like Writers of the…

Loose livestock, the anniversary shoutout, and happy birthday to you!

Photo by the author

I could easily live in a home with no television. But radio? That is a different story. I love a good, local radio station.

It is not just for the music. If all I wanted was music, I can make a playlist on Spotify or I can stream my favorite station on satellite radio. I love the human element: the real deejay in real time talking to me through the airwaves.

Years ago, we used to go camping in Arkansas and the only station we could get on the transistor…

The lessons she taught me in the endless polishing

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In a safe deposit box in a bank near my home is my mother’s silver. An entire set of sterling silver flatware: knives, forks, salad forks, dessert forks, teaspoons, soup spoons…all of it. It is wrapped in a special blue silver cloth to minimize tarnishing, and it rests in the box, not quite forgotten but certainly neglected.

It is beautiful and I have memories of many occasions when it was my job as a child to polish the silver for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner which is about the only time we…

Pat Austin Becker

Consumer of life, ELA teacher, Louisiana ambassador, avid reader. Author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press).

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