Monday, September 26, 2016

Spot is Ready to Meet His Forever Human!

Spot is ready for his forever home!

You remember Spot?  So many of you chipped in to give him a chance!

Spot is a German Shorthair/Dalmation mix (or some semblance of that...) and is about 3 years old.  He is simply stunning.  He was owner surrender at Caddo Animal Control and was on the euthanasia list a couple of times -- the volunteers there kept buying more time for him, begging for his life.

No rescue could take him because he had no adopter and was heartworm positive.  That's a huge financial commitment for a rescue, so a bunch of people donated money to cover his medical expenses, a foster stepped up to nurture him, and Rockers Rescue stepped up to pull him from the shelter.

Spot was saved!

But now Spot is ready for his forever home. His foster has to give him up by October 21 because she is moving. She never intended to keep him full time; fosters save lives by adopting out and fostering

Spot is on slow kill heartworm treatment and the rescue is committed financially to seeing that through. That would not be your expense as a foster or adopter.

He's up to date on his shots, he is dewormed, and microchipped. He has also been neutered!

His current foster has taught him manners and given him much love and TLC.  He's a very sweet and loving boy.  He likes car rides, hugs, peanut butter, and playing outside.

Spot is ready for a family to adopt him and love him forever.  He wants a yard to play in, a bed to sleep in, someone to pet his silky gray ears, and a family to love.

Spot has been a single dog and it's not clear how he will do with other dogs yet, but that can easily be determined.  If you'd like to Rockers Rescue.
meet Spot or want to consider adopting him, or even fostering him so he doesn't have to go into boarding, please contact

This baby has been through enough transitional situations; he needs a permanent, loving home.  Please share this with anyone you know who would be a fabulous human for Spot.

There is someone out there who is exactly the right match for this sweet boy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Nova's Heart: Caring for the Pets of Shreveport's Most Vulnerable

I was at an event last weekend and ran into my friend Loraine who was spending her Saturday under a hot tent at the Highland Jazz and Blues Festival as part of her service with Nova's Heart.  I told her about a man I saw under an overpass near the LSU Med Center with his dog, and I worried about them because I had no dog food with me; I told her how I wished I had a Nova's Heart bucket in my car filled with small, manageable bags of dog food to hand to people in need like this man.

Loraine's face lit up, she smiled, and said, "Oh, that's Frank!  He's one of our clients - he has food, I promise you!  We take care of him ...".  I don't think his name was Frank - I can't remember the name she told me, but the point is, she knew the man, knew the dog, and knew where their normal location is.  The dog is micro-chipped, vaccinated, and on heartworm preventative thanks to Nova's Heart.

I've written about Nova's Heart before; the group is a relatively new 501c3 non-profit organization that was formed about two years ago in Shreveport when some people working in local animal rescue realized there was a need for service for the pets of our city's homeless citizens.  The group started small, working out of The Hub in downtown Shreveport with a handful of volunteers coming together several times a week to distribute food, leashes, and harnesses to the large homeless population downtown who had pets in need.

Loraine and her volunteers scratched together food donations, stored it in bins, bagged it in quart and gallon sized Ziplocs for easy transport, and distributed it themselves. Word spread, more people in
Bags of food ready for distribution to those in need.
need came out of the shadows with the knowledge that finally there was a group who would not look through them as if they were invisible, a group that would treat them like human beings, and a group who cared about their animals.

It's a statistical fact that many people that are homeless refuse to give up their pets and will feed their pets before they feed themselves. Their pets don't judge them and offer unconditional love and support.  Sometimes those pets also offer protection.  Living on the streets disrupts whatever your normal life was and caring for a pet lets them retain some sense of control, routine, and normalcy.  Nova's Heart recognized all of that and stepped up to help.

Nobody else in the area is doing this service for the homeless or those in crisis.

Nobody else in this area is doing what Nova's Heart does.

As more and more of the homeless pet owners heard about the help Nova's Heart offered, it soon became clear that this organization was growing faster than Loraine and her friends realized; they needed a bigger space and they needed some help.  They applied for and received their 501c3 charter in February 2015, about a year and a half ago.  Shortly after their application was approved, Nova's Heart was invited by HOPE Connections to partner with them as HOPE worked with the homeless population to provide a one-stop access point to a variety of services for them.

Now, Nova's Heart has a donated building (a former railroad container converted into a building) that sits right next to HOPE Connections on Levy Street.  This provides a place for food storage, a place for pet owners to bathe their dogs, and to obtain services for their pet while they get services for themselves at HOPE.  There was one lovely Saturday when a group of volunteers came together to paint the building "Nova's Heart Red" and install flooring. With the warm, spring sun blazing down, we turned up the radio and painted our hearts out -- volunteers coming together for good.

Saturday morning outreach
Every Saturday morning Nova's Heart and other local groups meet to provide outreach, food, and services to the homeless population in downtown Shreveport. Nova's volunteers also have an outreach program during the week where they go to various homeless camps and locations where their clients stay to check on the dogs, their owners, and provide what help is needed.

The success stories are many; just look at the Nova's Heart Facebook page to see one story after another. Click on the pictures tab; it's the pictures that get me. Look into the eyes of a dog that some stranger has helped and you see pure love. Look at the good work they are doing.

The love and compassion spread by Loraine, Bo, Carla, and all of the other volunteers is immeasurable. I have seen this with my own eyes.  I have never been downtown with Bo that he did not walk up to some person living on the streets, reach out and shake his hand, and pet the dog. Bo knows them all by name -- they are people; not "homeless" people.  There is no judgment at Nova's.

Nova's Heart is still a new, growing organization with an unfathomable potential to do good. However, there have been growing pains. These are all volunteers -- uncompensated volunteers -- that run this organization and none have had experience running a non-profit before. There is no high-salaried CEO and there are no plush offices. Nobody gets paid one dime for their work.  They don't want to be paid.  But as a new group they are still learning a few things about running such a 501c3.  Mistakes have been made, learned from, and corrected. Nothing egregious, fortunately, which is remarkable for such a new group.

They set up a Board of Directors, established bylaws, and called in an accountant to help oversee
things.  The need for the organization far outpaced the learning curve and Loraine and her group worked hard to get these positions in place to help manage activities and donations.

In the past year, Nova's Heart has arranged and paid for the spay/neuter of over twenty dogs, provided at least thirty rabies vaccinations, and provided food, kennels, leashes, sweaters, harnesses, water bowls, and blankets for over seventy-five dogs; the number of food packages distributed is countless.

Social media can be a strong and positive tool for good and it can also be the devil. It is never the place to air grievances or personal issues, especially when others could be hurt.  The vicious attacks on Nova's Heart this week on Facebook have hurt my heart.  I know Loraine and I know her love for this organization; I know the deeply personal story that caused her to found this group.

Loraine is a quiet, private woman whose only concern is for the animals in need and she works very hard to do the right thing for them. She's learning on the go with this non-profit and when I say "on the go" I mean that literally.  She volunteers almost 40 hours a week.  Her heart is in absolutely the right place. She is the perfect woman to run this non-profit.

I write this post as a plea for a cease fire to the Facebook trash talk. If you haven't heard any of it -- wonderful.  Don't go looking for it; don't sink to that level. I don't want the work that Nova's Heart does to be damaged by disgruntled people with personal vendettas. Put personal drama aside and do good for our community.

The bottom line is this: there is a need for what Nova's Heart does. This city has a huge animal overpopulation problem and a huge homeless population. There is no other group that does what they do and certainly nobody that does it with the love and compassion and untiring devotion that they do and we are beyond lucky that this group exists.

Nova's Heart and its current Board of Directors has my one-hundred percent faith, trust, and devotion.

Disclaimer:  This post is from my own heart and the people at Nova's Heart had absolutely nothing to do with my writing it.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Can You Help Clio: Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway!

Caddo Parish Confederate Monument
In June of this year, Steve and I went to the Caddo Parish courthouse to take care of some business and as we normally do, we stopped to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of the Confederate monument standing on the north side of the building.

But there was something wrong.

Clio's hand was gone.

Clio is the Muse of History who stands at the base of the monument in all of her classical beauty, holding a scroll in her left hand and with her right she is pointing to a memory book for the war dead.

As it turns out, Clio's arm was broken by a trespassing trumpet player who climbed over the decorative fence that encloses the monument. Mr. Trumpet Player then climbed the base of the monument, scaled his way up, grabbing Clio's outstretched arm for support, and sat on a ridge just above her head to play his instrument. He rested his leg on her arm, and the arm shattered.

Clio's damaged hand

Just a few weeks after that, a vandal armed with paint filled water balloons approached the monument in the dark of night and threw the balloons, thus causing thousands of dollars in damage.  The photos below show some of the paint damage but trust me when I tell you it is much worse in person.

Paint damage

The monument was installed by the Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1905 and is the work of Texas sculptor Frank Teich from Llano County.  Mr. Teich has several other monuments in the city, including work at Greenwood Cemetery. It is a 30-foot tall granite and marble centaph depicting not just Clio, the Muse, but also a lone soldier at the top of the column, and four busts of four Confederate generals. While Confederate monuments are present in many towns across the South, ours is unique in its beauty and composition. There is not another one like it.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.

The Caddo Parish Confederate Monument 1905

The monument needs our help.

The Shreveport Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy has obtained two estimates from reputable restoration experts to repair Clio and to remove the paint. It isn't as easy as going to Home Depot, getting chemical, and a water hose. The estimates are both very close and both very expensive.

The UDC is raising money to restore this monument. The estimates are in stages - one is to repair the hand, another for the paint removal and that includes overall cleaning from the pollutants that are eating away at the stone.

We need to raise $6,000.

That's a lot of money and the UDC does not have it.  The UDC is a non-profit, charitable group that gives its money to charities, so writing a $6,000 check is out of the question. Your help is needed.

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to the repair of the Caddo Parish Confederate Monument. Your support is needed now, more than ever. Your donation can be sent directly to the Shreveport Chapter of the UDC:

United Daughters of the Confederacy
Shreveport Chapter #237
P. O. Box 52083
Shreveport, LA 71135-2083

No amount is too small.  And those end of the year tax deductions are coming up!

Please share this post on Facebook and via email; you never know when some benevolent soul will see it and see a need to help out!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Take a Trip to Tour Oakland Cemetery in Shreveport

Victorian Grave Cover: Oakland Cemetery
Sometimes you have to play tourist in your own city. I've been extremely busy this past year or so with book revisions and teaching school, among other things, and so Steve and I haven't been able to take the usual round of day-trips that we so often do.

This makes Steve bored, and antsy. 

Yesterday, Saturday dawned clear and lovely, low humidity, and the slightest hint of a promise of fall, so we decided to get out of the house. We headed downtown to take a tour of Oakland Cemetery which is something we've been talking about doing for ages but have never accomplished -- until now.

My curiosity about Oakland was piqued when Friday, just by chance, I saw the Shreveport Times article about the McKellar mansion on Oakland Street. 

"That's Mary Belle's house!" and my heart skipped.

Mary Belle McKellar was a journalist and civic worker who wrote articles, often about history, that were published across the United States. I ran across Mary Belle in my research on Cammie Henry because Mary Belle was a friend of Cammie's and spent a great deal of time at Melrose working in one of Cammie's cabins. She lived in her father's home on Oakland Street in Shreveport and from there she wrote long, chatty letters to Cammie in which she updated Mrs. Henry on social events in Shreveport, the activities of common friends, what was growing in her garden, and local politics. Mary Belle was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and it is because of her work that Fort Humbug in Shreveport was designated as a Confederate Memorial Park, or site.

Her father was Reuben McKellar and my favorite story about him can be found in the book Shreveport's Historic Oakland Cemetery: Spirits of Pioneers and Heroes by historians Gary Joiner and Cheryl White.  Reuben McKellar was a former mayor of Shreveport and a judge:

"...he was known to routinely sentence offenders with a fine of $7.50 or 1,000 bricks. McKellar thought the fine of $7.50 sufficient for most misdemeanor offenses, and those offenders unable to pay were sentences to lay one thousand bricks on downtown streets."

Smart man!

Judge McKellar died in 1933 and his daughter Mary Belle died in 1941; both are buried in the family plot in the shadows of their historic home on Oakland Street.

Armed with our restlessness, a new curiosity about the McKellar mansion restoration, and a desire to see Oakland Cemetery again, Steve and I set off to act like tourists in our own city.

Oakland is right across from the truly grand Municipal Auditorium on the west end of downtown. Amazingly, our city leaders wanted to tear this stunning structure down not too many years ago but fortunately, saner heads prevailed and it has undergone a thorough restoration.  

Municipal Auditorium

This building deserves a blog post of its own but for now, suffice to say that it was built in the 1920s, has the most stunning brickwork I've ever seen with nearly every possible brick pattern known to man somewhere in its construction, and has Art Deco elements to die for.

This lamp makes my heart sing:

Art Deco Beauty

Of course everyone knows that the Louisiana Hayride started here and just about everyone you can name has played here from Patsy Cline, Elvis, Jackson Browne, George Carlin, Hank Williams, Johnny's just endless.  Endless.  

Look at this:

and this:

The detail work on this building is just unreal.  And of course there is Elvis...

But, as I said, Municipal deserves its own post some day, so we will move on down the (simulated) trolley tracks to Oakland.

Facing the main entrance to Oakland Cemetery

We paused to admire the Asian Gardens which you can find right behind Municipal Auditorium:

Asian Gardens

It's incredibly peaceful here:

Asian Gardens

But our guide was waiting so we headed to the cemetery.

Oakland Cemetery was founded in 1847 but its oldest monument is 1842; graves were moved from the Fannin Street cemetery to the City Cemetery; the Fannin Street cemetery was then closed.  Years later when the property where the Fannin Street cemetery was graded and leveled for road building, a couple of skeletons were found which had been missed.  

Oakland Cemetery sits on rolling hills between Sprague Street and Milam Street, behind the First United Methodist Church and next to Municipal Auditorium. The last time Steve and I went through there, years ago, it was in terrible disrepair.  Neglect and vandalism had taken its toll.  

That is no longer the case.

We began our tour with Steve Smith of the Oakland Cemetery Preservation Society.  Mr. Smith gives these tours every Saturday at 1:00; just meet him in the parking lot.  But hurry -- he's been doing this for a long time and is scaling back at the end of the year.  

Mr. Smith was leaning against a crumbling wall which was buckling under the pressure drift of soil long retained by walls and wrought iron.

Oakland Cemetery

The tour consisted of a long walk through the cemetery with Mr. Smith pointing out graves and markers about which he would tell a story and make the people resting there live again.

At one time this cemetery was filled with wrought iron and cast iron fencing around various plots; Mr. Smith estimates that only about 30% of that fencing remains. Between the scrap iron efforts during the war and the vandals, not much of it remains. Many of the iron gates have been stolen by people who put them in their gardens. They even resorted to stealing bricks before the Preservation Society was able to slow all this down by its efforts at maintenance, upkeep, and security.  Roads have been paved, gates installed, trees trimmed, brush cut out, and now sprinkler systems are coming in and landscaping.  

Ornate fencing: Oakland cemetery

The markers there are unique but the people buried there are legendary.

Bedstead monument: Oakland Cemetery

We heard about a former slave who, after obtaining her freedom, married and opened a store in downtown Shreveport; she made lots of money but died penniless.

The cemetery has black citizens, white ones, a Hebrew section, city founders and bigwigs, an operator of a bordello, and children of Presidents.  There are about three hundred graves of Civil War soldiers.  

Oh, and I found Mary Belle and her dad:

Mary Belle McKellar: Oakland Cemetery

The stunning monument of beloved Shreveport historian Eric Brock is on the back, west end, which is sobering. Mr. Brock died in 2011 at the young age of 45 and, fittingly and he now rests in Oakland Cemetery.  Brock was instrumental in the effort to preserve this landmark. Look closely at his monument if you go visit: the lace pattern from his wife's wedding dress is worked into the detail of the stone. It's lovely.

The tour ends upon the top of the highest hill in the cemetery, overlooking downtown Shreveport. It is the Yellow Fever mound where nearly 1,000 Shreveport citizens are mass buried in trenches. The 1873 Yellow Fever epidemic decimated Shreveport's population.

We spent about two hours on the tour and I can promise you, if we had started right over, Mr. Smith could have done it all over again and we would not have heard the same stories -- there is so much history there and so many colorful characters.  I came right home and ordered the Joiner and White book so I can learn about some of the other people there.

Even better: Mr. Smith does a History Ghost Walk on Saturday nights at 8:00, starting at the Confederate Monument in front of the Caddo Parish Courthouse. He invited us to come along last night, so of course we did.  Another two hours of walking and touring, this time with Mr. Smith in period dress and displaying a iPad with photos of historic Shreveport scenes to augment the tour. I have lived in Shreveport my entire life and learned things from him that I'd never known before.

Did you know Howard Hughes was arrested as a peeping Tom here?  He wasn't the creeper as it turns out, but hey, anything can happen in Shreveport.

Again, if we did the Ghost Walk tour again, I can assure you we would hear completely different stories.  Mr. Smith's vast knowledge of our city is fascinating.

I highly recommend both tours, especially now that fall is in the air, there is no better time!

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The NFL Double Standard is Alive and Well

The National Football League has descended as low into the hypocrisy barrel as it can go if you ask me.

While the internet explodes this morning over Colin Kaepernick's decision to not stand during the National Anthem, I'm more disgusted with the double standard of the NFL, not only in their support for his decision to disrespect the flag, but also with their decision to disallow the Dallas Cowboys to wear stickers showing support for the officers that were murdered in their city in an ambush.

The NFL released this statement with regard to Kaepernick's protest:

The NFL also released a statement, obtained by NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport: "Players are encouraged but not required to stand during the playing of the national anthem."

With regard to the Arm in Arm decal the Cowboys wanted to wear on their helmets, the NFL said that every team "must be uniform," and so the decal was disallowed.

One Dallas Morning News sports columnist agreed, saying that there are "other ways to honor them without opening this political door," however I believe that Colin Kaepernick has opened a much bigger political door.

I'd rather focus on the NFL in this debate than Kaepernick because the NFL has long proven itself to be a disreputable and biased organization.  They allow criminal behavior from their players, they stage raunchy, anti-police half-time shows at the Super Bowl, and they have consistently shown bias against behavior that goes toward Christian morality and positive role models, only reversing themselves on that last issue when called out about it.

When asked about his boycott of the flag, Kaepernick said:

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

If this is "bigger than football," then don't use football to protest it.  Do something where you can make a difference.  Perhaps he should follow the advice of this Army Ranger.

How many inner city, troubled kids does he mentor?  I haven't seen that information yet.

Kaepernick is a spoiled, ungrateful brat who most definitely wants it to be all about him.  As bad as that is, shame on the NFL for allowing him to hijack their platform for this nonsense.

But of course, the NFL likely feels the same way.  Really, the bottom line here is that it is okay to boycott the American flag but not okay to support police officers.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy Spot!

Spot is one happy dog!

I just wanted to share these pictures of Spot that his foster shared with me.

Look how beautiful!

Because of a few very generous donors, Spot was tagged by Rocker's Rescue over the weekend and is now able to begin his heartworm treatment.  I have received the money from the Go Fund Me drive which I have now forwarded directly to Rocker's Rescue.  In addition, he had money from Paws4Life which will also go toward his care.

I'll admit -- that makes me a little nervous, but I have full confidence in the decisions of the veterinarians and know that they are excellent at what they do.

Spot's new foster is teaching him basic commands and spoiling him rotten, which he deserves!

Thank you again for donating to Spot.  I will post updates on his care as I receive them.  I can't wait to see a healthy, thriving Spot!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Stunning Spot Dies Monday Without a Rescue: URGENT!!!

UPDATE 2:  Spot has been tagged by a local rescue!  He is safe!  I can't announce the name until they do, but I will as soon as I get the go-ahead.  I'm very happy with the outcome and have submitted a withdrawal request for the GoFundMe money which will go directly to the rescue as promised.  Anyone wishing to confirm this can check with the rescue once it's been announced.  I want everyone to feel their donations have been honestly and wisely accounted for.  I will be making up the service fee that GoFundMe and WePay keep so that the rescue will get the entire $600, plus a personal donation of my own.  I'm looking forward to seeing spot thrive!  Thank you, again.

UPDATE 1:  The GoFundMe page collected enough money for Spot before midnight last night.  Because of this, the shelter tells me he is now safe and has a pending rescue.  You saved him with your shares and your donations!  Thank you and I will update when he is settled somewhere!  But for now, he is safe!

See end of this post for Spot with his new foster mom!

Spot is going to die Monday unless we can raise up to $400 for his veterinary care.

I posted about Spot last week and have been sharing him excessively on Facebook and social media.  He is at Caddo Animal Control and the Paws4Life group is trying to get a rescue to tag him so that he can go to foster care and get treatment for heartworms, get neutered, and put on some weight.

We need donations.  Fast.  Before Monday.

I met Spot.  He is loving and sweet.  He's energetic -- who wouldn't be after being in a kennel all day -- but he is dog friendly and simply stunning.  Pictures don't do him justice.  When I met him last week he kept nuzzling my leg and hands so I would pet him.  His tail never stopped wagging.

Spot has a foster that will keep him and let him get treatment.

All he needs is a rescue.

And donations.

Please help save him.

He deserves a chance to be a family dog, to play outside, to be loved.

Donate to Paws4Life and designate that it is for Spot.  There is a blue button on their Facebook page.  It is safe.

No amount is too small.

You can also donate on my PayPal link on this page -- it is safe.  The button is in the right sidebar.

It must be done this weekend -- Monday, he will be euthanized.

Share this post -- your share might be the one that saves his life.  And donate!

I've pledged $100 to him and I'm a broke teacher.  Can you match me?

UPDATE:  I have set up a GoFundMe site for donations for Spot.  It's safe.

Photo courtesy of the Paws4Life Facebook page

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Save Spot the Stunning Super Dog

Look at those ears! 
UPDATE:  Spot is safe!  See latest post.

I went to meet a dog yesterday.  Not just any dog -- an absolutely beautiful dog who has less than a week to live unless someone helps him.

I have been following the Paws 4 Life page on Facebook which is a group that is helping save animals at the Caddo Parish animal shelter; they have rescued and transported many dogs from Caddo to other states where they can find safe, happy homes.

One dog that has not been so lucky is Spot.

Spot was abandoned by his owners and is a heartworm positive Lab/German Shorthair mix.

He is a stunning dog.

Spot only has a few more days to live.  As I write this, he has perhaps until the 19th before he will be euthanized -- he is already on borrowed time.  He was on the list for this past Friday, but someone has put up $400 in pledged money for his heartworm treatment.

All he needs is one person to step up and say he can live with them while he receives treatment.  That's all.

I had hoped I could do it; that's why I went to meet him.

Steve and I met the rescue volunteer at Caddo Animal Control on Monty Street.  We brought Jazz with us because if Jazz and Spot got along this would be a done deal.  I was very nervous because I really wanted it to work.  Jazz is a very timid dog, even at home where he is very comfortable -- he's a mama's baby and well, he's just timid.  We have had him since he was six weeks old and was found abandoned by a dumpster; he was riddled with all kinds of worms and very sick and dehydrated, but he survived and thrived.  That was seven years ago.

As we walked to the meet and greet area where Spot was, I saw him standing at the fence watching us - I literally gasped and a tear welled up.  He is so beautiful.  I mean, really.

We walked into the gated play area and Spot loved Jazz.  He was all wiggles and tail wagging.  Jazz
was terrified.  It was nothing Spot did -- Spot just wanted to play!  But Jazz just isn't accustomed to other dogs much and was nervous.  We stayed in the play area and we all tried really hard to make this friendship happen, but in the end, we decided we couldn't bring a dog home and put Jazz in a situation that would make him nervous.

Perhaps in time or in a different meeting situation they would have hit it off.  But we had no way to know for sure.  As much as it broke my heart, we had to leave Spot there.

So look:  all he needs is a roof -- someone to take him in.  The rescue has the money for his medical treatment.  There are no expenses to you.  NO EXPENSES.  This dog needs a quiet home where he can rest while he is treated.  In all likelihood, he will have to stay at the vets office for a few days for treatment for his heartworms.  But then he needs a quiet place to come recover.

When his treatment is done, he can easily be adopted out.  You don't have to keep him.

He just needs someone to give him a chance.  To give him shelter.

If you can help Spot, contact the Paws 4 Life page via Facebook.  Message them.  Or call Caddo Animal Control at 318-226-6224 and tell them you want to help.  They can put you in touch with the right people.

If you can't foster Spot, please share this post on Facebook and with everyone you can -- the more people that see it, the better the likelihood that someone who can help will see it.

This dog has so much potential and will make someone a lifelong loyal friend if only given a chance.

Update:  88 shares in just a few hours!  Thank you!  Keep it going!  #savespot

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Asking for a Little Help

I can hardly believe it's time to head back to school.  Where did the summer go?

I went to the school yesterday to get my classroom ready; got all the computers and projector plugged back in and checked out to be sure everything works properly.  The waxing crew had come in and the parquet floors are gleaming!  We are polished up and ready to go!

Three years ago I used my blog to appeal for help for some supplies; I teach in a high poverty school and my kids seldom have the supplies they need.  I like for my classroom to be a comfortable, welcoming place where students feel like something good can happen at any moment.  I don't ever want them to dread coming to class or to feel unprepared because they don't have what they need.

I have already spent close to $100 of my own money on supplies: yesterday I went to WalMart and bought hand sanitizer, notebook paper, pencils, colored pencils, rubber bands, staples, paper clips, basic things that run a classroom.  I do this every single year.

When I asked for help on this blog three years ago, the response was stunning.  For almost two months the school secretary would call my room to tell me I had "another" package from Amazon.  I always sent a different student to the office to pick up our new package. The supplies from that appeal lasted three years!  We received reams of notebook paper, boxes of tissue, boxes of spiral notebooks and even class sets of novels that we still read.

I need help again.

I'm so excited to begin this year - year number twenty for me.  I'm teaching a new course this year (English III) along with my regular English II classes and I have some really wonderful things planned for my students to keep them engaged and enthusiastic about learning.

If you can help us, please look at the links below I've posted from Amazon of the things we need.  Every pencil, every book, every package of paper helps - nothing is too small.  You can order direct from Amazon and have your purchase shipped directly to the school: it should be addressed:

Bossier High School
Attn: Pat Becker
777 Bearkat Drive
Bossier City, LA 71111

If you'd rather make a cash contribution, you can use the PayPal link in the upper right sidebar.

As needs are filled I will update this post so you know you aren't ordering something that we've already received.

My students are really good kids and they are grateful for everything anyone does for them.  We take advantage of "Stuff the Bus" campaigns and I've used Donors Choose and other similar sites.  This direct appeal is what has worked best for us - I mean, last time I appealed to my readers I got enough supplies for three years!

We all appreciate your help!  Truly!

Added:  Huge thanks to Political Clown Parade for the generous cash donation!  Thank you so much!

Added:  I had a box of the spiral notebooks from Amazon in my teacher box today!  There was no name, so whoever you are, thank you so much!  Very grateful!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Gypsy is a Hit at Shreveport Little Theatre

The Shreveport Little Theatre has a huge hit with its summer musical, Gypsy, based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee.

We took in the Sunday matinee yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as did the rest of the packed house.

The story follows Mama Rose, played by Linnea Fayard Allen, as she raises her two daughters in show business.  Working the vaudeville circuit is tough and Rose is a tough stage mother.  The dreams of being on stage seem to be Rose's of course, but eventually daughter June runs off to be an actress and daughter Louise becomes the famous Gypsy Rose Lee.

The musical is huge - it's long and the cast is large, and SLT handles this beautifully; I was amazed at the numerous set changes that the crew had to navigate, but it all flowed seamlessly.

The music was of course wonderful; the orchestra sounded great and there are many familiar tunes in this play such as Gypsy's signature "Let Me Entertain You," "Everything's Coming up Roses," and "Together," to name but a few.

Linnea Fayard Allen was stunning as Mama Rose; everyone around here knows she's a fantastic singer, but as Mama Rose she belted out these sometimes challenging tunes with the flair of the true professional that she is.  Her facial expressions and movements were adorable and she was able to make Mama Rose such a sympathetic character.  I'm not a theater critic so forgive my ignorance, but it seems to me that in the wrong hands, Mama June could be seen as an overbearing and unlikable figure, but of course she is not.  Ms. Allen's performance of "Rose's Turn" was outstanding and emotional.

Tessa Anderson as Louise was wonderful and she has a lovely voice.  She makes the transition from innocent Louise to sultry Gypsy both heartbreaking and exciting.  Giddy about her mother's imminent marriage to Herbie, Louise's heartbreak is palpable as all of her dreams of a normal family and a settled home are shattered.  She takes the satin gloves from Rose and the transformation is done, her confidence as a burlesque performer increasing with each performance.

Speaking of Herbie, Pat Maxie did a fine job as the candy salesman/agent who fell in love with Mama Rose.  His own heartbreak was tragic when he finally realizes she will never marry him, she will never change, and she will never stop micro-managing her daughter's life.

A wonderful surprise for me was the performance of Dwayne Durham, Jr. as Tulsa.  His big scene when he tells Louise of his dreams was just stunning.  He's a young man with a lot of talent that I hope to see more of in future productions.

Truly this is a huge cast and there are so many great performances.  Just treat yourself and try to catch one of the remaining performances - you won't be sorry.

Call the SLT office for tickets at 318-424-4439, or go online to order.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Confession: How I Got Addicted to Pokemon Go

Duck Pond: Kings Highway 
I caved.

I downloaded Pokemon Go.

I didn't mean to do it, but I did.

Yesterday afternoon my 24-year old son and I had some errands to run and we started talking about the game while driving out to BPCC to get him registered for his last semester there.  He collected the cards when he was a little kid although I don't think he ever really played the game.  We just liked collecting them and looking at the pictures...finding "rare" cards, that kind of thing.

The phenomenon of this game has just been amazing and so he went ahead and downloaded it while we talked.  Once on campus, he engaged the game and caught a couple of Pokemon.

Our next stop was the dentist and while he was with the doctor I downloaded the game...I was just sitting in the waiting room and thought, "Well, why not.  Let's see what all the fuss is about...".

And there you have it.

The game, as you know by now, is designed to get pasty, puffy kids off the couch and out into the sunshine.  They have to walk to play the game -- you can't do it while driving.  You can get from one Pokestop to another while driving, but just collecting Pokemon, or hatching eggs, you have to walk.

Pokestops are GPS landmarks or sites in your city or neighborhood.  From the dentist office yesterday, for example, the game identified several nearby Pokestops, like the giant strawberry on the back of Strawns Eat Shop, the Dental Arts building by George's, the Centenary gold dome and soccer field, and several on Centenary campus.

The lure is this: once you're at the Gold Dome for example, well the soccer field is right there, just a few yards away, and Strawn's is right there, across the street, and Centenary, is right there, right across the street!

It's easy to find yourself a fair distance from where you began.
Photo courtesy of KSLA

We walked the Centenary campus -- first time my son had ever been on campus -- and looked at the Jack London bust, the band shell, the memorial garden and other various sites.  It was beautiful and interesting.  While walking down a shaded asphalt drive, the boys' soccer team returning from practice came up the hill, red-faced, hot, laughing, with gear strung over their shoulders.

"Y'all looking for Pokemon?!"  one boy asked.  We exchanged pleasantries with them then went on our way.  It was nice.

Okay so it's a dumb game.

But look, after a week of watching BLM protests and listening to hate filled rhetoric all over the news and social media, I kind of needed a dumb game yesterday.

We went to the duck pond on Kings Highway and it was there that I saw the social impact of this dumb game.  There were dozens, maybe a hundred, people there.  The usual moms with little kids were there, but now I saw clusters of teenagers and college kids, adults in their twenties, thirties, staring at phone screens but also talking to each other.  One cluster would join another cluster and off they would go.

We sat under the pavilion with our phones and just listened to the conversations around us.  Everyone was talking about the game: where they found certain Pokemon, something funny that happened while searching, some cool landmark they had seen, different game strategies.  More adept players were explaining strategies to newbies.  People were interacting.

That should not seem like such a weird phenomena but in today's world, it sort of was.

I could hear one guy talking about all the people around and how cool it was; "The only way the duck pond could get better today is if they had a power source out here -- my battery is dying!"  His friends laughed and they all looked around at all the people in amazement.

Couples walked by staring at phones.  Small groups.  Individuals. Some people looked very serious, others sheepish.  Everyone was having fun.

One twenty-something guy sitting on a plastic whale looked up and said, "This game is bringing world peace!"  I'm not sure about that, but I knew what he meant.  There was a cool, fun, vibe there.  People were meeting each other, bonded through a common thing, talking to each other, walking around in the fresh air, enjoying life.

At one point the game prompted me to choose a "team" - I said to my son, "It's asking me what team to join - what do I do?!" Some guy walking past me said, "Team blue - choose team blue." So I did.  He gave me a high five.

There are a lot of stories out there about how dangerous and stupid this game is, and it may be.  But for that moment, it was really cool.  It's going to be important for people not to mess it up, though; stay off of private property -- you don't have to do that to play.  Don't try to play while driving -- there's no point.  Pay attention to your surroundings all the time -- don't walk across parking lots staring at your phone (whether you're playing Pokemon or not, ever!) and don't go into dark places at night.  No need to.  As with anything in the world, ever, use common sense; I know that's in short supply lately, but use common sense.

Is it going to bring world peace?  Nah.  Will it get kids outside?  Yep.  The novelty will fade and in a few weeks it will probably not be such a thing, but for now, it's pretty cool to see people doing this.

Before you denounce it as stupid, give it a try.  You might find yourself having fun!

If you like this post, please share it!  If you love this post, please hit the tip jar on the right sidebar!  Thanks for reading.

Pokemon for Progress (KSLA)
What is Pokemon Go and Why is Everyone Playing It? (Slate)
Pokemon Go Tips and Tricks (TechInsider)
Everything You Wanted to Know About Pokemon Go but were Afraid to Ask (CNN)
Pokemon Go App Sends ArkLaTex into a Frenzy (KSLA)
34 Essential Tips for Pokemon Go

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Tour the H.A. Cook Guesthouse

With the world unraveling this past week, and dreadful news at every turn, I needed a little mental break yesterday and so Steve and I hit the road and drove down to Natchitoches for the afternoon.

From Shreveport, Natchitoches is seventy minutes away on I49 and we make fairly frequent day trips there because it's a lovely little escape.  There is so much history there and much to see.

You can check the links at the end of this post for previous trips; I don't want to be overly redundant and post the same old pictures here.

We arrived around noon and lunch was in order.

We started out with lunch at Lasyone's; in my opinion, it's the best meat pie there is.

There are many imitations, but Lasyone's is my favorite.

I had my usual meat pie with a side of red beans and rice while Steve did the platter with salad bar, dirty rice, and vegetable.

We like to walk along Front Street and window shop; we have a few shops we always go to on each trip though.  We never miss Kaffie-Frederick.

Where else can you get a key made, a cast iron skillet, rubber rain boots, copper weather vanes...

...tiny terrarium plants and cypress Santas, all under one roof?

We also like to visit Tres Bien Antiques on St. Denis.  At present, I believe it's the only antique store in the Historic District; the one on Front Street (where The Book Merchant used to be) is closed. The fellow that runs Tres Bien has recently opened the H.A. Cook Guesthouse right next door.  He graciously gave us a tour and all I could say as we went through it was "oh my gosh..."  Simply gorgeous.

The guesthouse is available to rent and would be perfect for a group because there are three large bedrooms.  Family reunions, wedding parties, or just a group visiting the Christmas festival would be perfectly comfortable here.

The website has many more pictures but here are a few that I took yesterday:

This is the living area:

And another view:

One bedroom:

And another:

Both of those bedrooms have a little alcove with a child's bed (and their own wall-mounted tv) and bath.  The bedrooms all open onto a balcony overlooking St. Denis.  The balcony has tables and chairs where you can sit and have coffee in the morning and watch the town wake up.

This is the third bedroom, also with a full bath.

The lovely, spacious kitchen:

And bar area which adjoins the living area - all very open.

The dining room:

There's even a huge laundry room:

The back balcony:

There's a downstairs courtyard with full kitchen as well.  The condo is completely handicapped accessible; there is also off-street parking and you're within walking distance of everything you might want to do in historic downtown Natchitoches.

I could totally live there.  Forever.  It's beautiful.

It was too early for dinner so we headed down to Melrose to visit; I'd heard they had some storm damage recently was curious to see how things looked.  The barn is still roped off and repairs upcoming but the Clementine murals in the Africa House look beautiful and I was glad to see them. My creative spirit is always infused after a trip to Melrose and to my mind there is no more beautiful spot along the Cane than Miss Cammie's plantation.

We returned to Front Street and hit the Pioneer Pub for a cold beverage (that's a Hay Ryed from Red River Brewing) and some fried alligator (my favorite!).

We always meet the nicest people there - either locals, employees, or tourists, and it's easy to spend the afternoon there.

Before we left, I had to stick my toes in the Cane River because you know the legend: once you dip your toes in the Cane you can never leave it.  And I never want to.

There's just something about Natchitoches and the Cane that brings peace to my soul.

(If you want to see more of Natchitoches and of Melrose, there are several links below, as well as a post on Oakland Plantation.)

If you like this post, please share it!  If you love this post, please hit the tip jar on the right sidebar!  Thanks for reading.

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation