Saturday, November 19, 2011

This and That

The Library's Snapdragons
When I was getting dressed this morning, I heard loud shouting - peppered with a few obscenities. Naturally, I wondered what person in need of anger management was in my front yard. It turned out to be a young fellow walking on the side of the road, shouting into his cell phone, apparently not happy with the person on the other end of the connection. As I was looking out a window on the pasture side of the house, I saw that all three horses had gathered near the fence that borders the road. They were curiously watching the angry young man. I thought he was a little kooky, and I think the horses did, too.

Yesterday, just before we left to run some errands in Baton Rouge, Jerry came in from the barn and said that Rocky was favoring his back left foot. He had already looked at Rocky’s hoof and didn’t see anything wrong. I went back to the barn with Jerry. We gave Rocky a dose of equine pain reliever and went on our way to Baton Rouge. I worried about ol’ Rocky all day and wondered what we would find when we got home. I haven’t forgotten the abscessed hoof Tesoro had last year. It took a lot of back-breaking doctoring to get him over it. If Rocky ever needs this doctoring, I’m not sure he will be as cooperative as Tesoro. Fortunately, Rocky was back to normal by the time we got home yesterday afternoon, and he seems to be fine this morning. But we’ll have to keep an eye on him.

I made up my mind yesterday that today was going to be an escape-from-home day. I packed my rolling red bag this morning with laptop, iPad, headphones, and camera, and headed for the public library in Plaquemine.  When I turned in at the library I couldn't resist stopping to take a picture of the snapdragons.  I love snapdragons! 

I didn’t realize that the meeting room at the library is a polling place. The parking lot was almost full. It’s the run-off election for parish sheriff, and it looks like the voter turn out is pretty good. I voted at our polling place before coming here, so I've done my civic duty.

Libraries used to be full of bookworms sitting around with their noses in books. As I look around, I don’t see anybody reading a book. Everybody here is on a computer - either a library desktop computer or their own laptop. It’s a crying shame! I love books, but here I sit - in a library - on a computer. I’ll go home later and read on my Kindle. I can’t help but think that all these books on all these shelves are on life support and may not be with us much longer. I wonder - when the world switched from scrolls to the codex (book), were there people sitting around in scroll libraries, reading books, and mourning the death of the scroll?

I arrived here at about 10:30. I finished a letter to a pen pal - one that I started two weeks ago - and caught up on my journal.   Then I spent about fifteen minutes searching restaurant web sites to see where I could eat lunch in town and stay within my Weight Watchers points for the day. I settled on Taco Bell where the menu includes "fresco style crunchy tacos" - four Weight Watchers points each - Taco Bell’s contribution to a healthy lifestyle. I figured I could afford to eat three of these goodies, so I packed up and went up the road to the drive-through at Taco Bell.

"Three fresco style crunchy tacos," I said. The reply was total silence. I wondered if the speaker was working. "Do you have fresco style tacos?" I said. The answer was, "Hmm --------- no -------- we don’t have 'em." I scanned the menu board. No fresco style crunchy tacos! So much for eating healthy at Taco Bell in Plaquemine. Since I wasn’t in the mood to do another internet search for healthy food, I went home and had Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and an egg sandwich. Now I’m back at the library.

I recently became a subscriber to, a web site that teaches its subscribers how to use software programs. I’ve been guilty more than once of buying software and expensive books to teach me how to use the software. The software gets installed on my computer, the book sits on a shelf, and I never get around to learning the software. I’ve had to face the fact that I’m a software collector, not a learner of software.  I thought maybe would help me kick the "software buying but not learning" habit. 

"After all," I reasoned, "if I’m paying every month, I will certainly make use of their service and learn something." That was a month ago, and have I applied myself to the lessons that offers? No, I have not - not until just now. I spent about 45 minutes with just before I started this post. Somebody pat me on the back! My goal is to learn how to use Microsoft Publisher. I think I got a pretty good start - but I had to leave home to do it.

The library is about to close so I’ve got to start packing up. There’s an LSU game on TV tonight, and I think I have enough points left for popcorn.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Greek Man's Chicken Soup

Once upon a time on Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge there was a little restaurant in the same building with La Rouge Market.  In fact, you entered the restaurant through the market.  It was a pizza place, but they also served soups and sandwiches. 

The man who ran the restaurant was Greek.  I don't remember his name, but it was a Greek name.  He had a Greek face, and English was obviously his second language.  One of his employees took orders at the counter and the Greek man brought the food out when it was ready.   The kitchen was visible through a pass-through behind the counter, and I could see that it was the Greek man doing the cooking.

La Rouge Market has gas pumps, and one cold winter day I stopped there for gas.  It was lunch time, and I thought this place was probably as good as any other for a quick, lonely lunch.  I was hoping something hot would chase the chill from my bones.  I ordered chicken soup and after the first taste, I was hooked on it.  It was the best chicken soup I had ever tasted.  I like my own homemade chicken soup, but there was something different about this soup - some herb or spice that was unfamiliar to me.  But it was delicious!  It had the usual ingredients - chicken, carrots, celery, onion, etc.  It looked just like my homemade soup, but it tasted so much better.

From then on, when I made my weekly trips to Baton Rouge, I had the Greek man's chicken soup for lunch.  I discovered that there was a drive-through window, so I put the restaurant's phone number in my contacts.  Sometimes I called ahead, ordered my soup, picked it up at the window, and sat in the car to eat.  I don't think there is anything much lonelier than eating in a restaurant by yourself.

For at least two or three years I enjoyed the Greek man's chicken soup for lunch.  It was a hectic time in my life, and there was something emotionally comforting about that chicken soup.  It was good for the soul as well as the body.

Then the fateful day came.  I called to place my order for chicken soup and got a recording saying the number had been disconnected.  I didn't believe it.  It had to be a mistake, so I continued on my way to the Greek man's restaurant.  To my horror, it was closed - and not just closed for the day.  I could see through the window that the tables were gone, and the walls were being repainted.  There was a sign in the window:  "Popeyes Coming Soon."  Popeyes coming soon?!  "The devil take Popeyes!" I thought, "I need my chicken soup!"

I think of the Greek man often.  I even dreamed about him once.  I was walking on a sidewalk with a lot of other people.  I recognized the Greek man among the sea of people walking ahead of me.  I couldn't call to him because I had completely forgotten his name.  I pushed and plowed my way through the crowd, trying desperately to catch up with him and get him to tell me the secret ingredient in his chicken soup.  But alas!  He disappeared in the crowd, and I still don't know the secret ingredient. 

I guess I'm thinking of the Greek man today because I'm suffering with a terrible head cold, it's a chilly day, and the Greek man's soup would be so comforting!  I wish him well, wherever he is.  And I'm sorry I never told him how good his soup was.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Confidence and Humility

It's amazing how much garbage can float around in a person's brain, and they don't even know it's there.  I mean garbage in the form of flawed thinking and erroneous assumptions.  I'm speaking for myself, but I sincerely hope that you, Dear Reader, have at some time discovered that there's garbage floating around in your brain.  After all, misery loves company.

In a recent Bible study class, we were discussing confidence and humility and the importance of having both these qualities.  Immediately, one of those garbage cells in my brain said, "You can't be both confident and humble, you have to be one or the other," implying that that these two things are polar opposites.  "After all," the little garbage cell continued, "confident people aren't humble and humble people are not confident."  At this point I told the little garbage cell to shut up and let me think.

On the drive home I started to wonder if I knew the meaning of either of these words.  When I got home I went to the Merriam-Webster app on my iPad.  (I still have a dictionary, but I'm not sure where it is since I never use it anymore.  All this information is literally at my finger tips on the iPad.) I'll let you go to the dictionary or app of your choice for the full definitions of these two words, but Merriam-Webster gives these as synonyms for confident: trustworthy, dogmatic, contentious, presumptous.  In other words, a mixed bag.

When I looked up humility, Merriam-Webster directed me to humble.  Synonyms for humble include: insignificant, mean, base, unpretentious, meek, modest, lowly.  Wow!  Another mixed bag.

Based on these definitions and synonyms, it appears that our culture is not sure what either of these words mean.  I started to wonder if our ancestors were as confused about these words as we are, so I hauled out the modern reprint of the American Dictionary of the English Language, originally published in 1828.  (Remind me to see if this 6+ pound book is available on the iPad.)

In case you don't have a large, hefty 1828 dictionary, here's what it has to say:

1.  Having full belief; trusting; relying; fully assured
"It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man."  Psalms 118
2.  Positive, dogmatical; as a confident talker
3.  Trusting; without suspicion
4.  Bold to a vice; having an excess of assurance

1.  In ethics, freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one's own worth.  In theology, a deep sense of one's unworthiness in the sight of God, self-abasement, penitence for sin, and submission to the Divine will. 
"Before honor is humility." Proverbs 15
2.  An act of submission

Are things clearer now?  I don't know.  I think our ancestors would agree with Merriam-Webster that confidence can be positive or negative.  But I think it's safe to say that our ancestors had a higher opinion of humility than Merriam-Webster does.  They didn't equate humility with mean, insignificant, and base.  By the way, our ancestors were such believers in God that they peppered their dictionary with excerpts from the Bible.  God bless them!

So.  How does one go about being both confident and humble?  This is a tall order.  If you are confident, it's hard to be humble when other people question what you're confident about.  Your ego kicks in and, if you're not careful, you end up going over to the dark side of confident.  In other words, you become contentious and presumptious.    But if you're too humble, the ungodly confident people are apt to run over you with a steam roller. 

I have a terrible cold.  As I hundled under the covers in my bed this morning, barely able to breathe, I had a long conversation with God about this dilemma.  How, Lord, can I be both confident and humble?  I don't claim to hear voices, but sometimes things are so strongly impressed on my mind that I have no choice but to think God is doing the impressing.  

My first impression was that God doesn't want me to expend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to do this.  He gave me the same answer he often gave the disciples when they asked him how something difficult could be possible.  He said, "With man it is impossible, but not with God.  For all things are possible with God."  (Mark 10:27)  In other words, I think God was saying, "Stop worrying about it.  I'm going to help you."

The second impression had to do with my struggle to define humility.  And here's the definition that was impressed on my mind - "To be humble is to see and acknowledge the truth even when the truth does not favor you.  To be humble is to be teachable.  Without humility, learning is not possible." 

So - what can I say?  There it is.  I know this definition is not in the modern Merriam-Webster or in the 1828 dictionary of our ancestors, but I think it's a pretty good definition of humility. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Coffee Shoppe vs. The Public Library

Like a lot of other people who like to write, I can't seem to write at home.  There's too much to distract me - dishes to wash, beds to make, bills to pay.  In other words - everyday life.  The solution seems simple - get all these things done before you begin to write.  But the trouble is that there's no end to these things.  The more you do, the more you see to do.  My only option is to leave home.

Our little town doesn't have a coffee shoppe.  I wish it did.  The nearest coffee shoppe is in Baton Rouge.  I wouldn't mind making the drive if I knew coffee shoppe conditions would be conducive to writing.  But I can't count on that being the case.  Sometimes the music is too loud.  Sometimes the music is of a genre that I can't stand, and it numbs my brain.  But then if the music is the kind I really like, it distracts me too much.  I want to sing along instead of write.

Coffee shoppes are social places, and I don't mind that.  In fact, taking a break from writing to eavesdrop on the nearest conversation is a pleasant diversion.    But occasionally, there are loud people.  Most of the time I think they're just having so much fun with their friends that they don't realize how loud they are; but occasionally there's a pompous jerk who really believes everybody present wants to hear his opinions.  I have to stifle the urge to tell him he's mistaken.

In spite of these potential problems, it is possible to have the perfect coffee shoppe experience - not too many people, but enough people to keep loneliness at bay - low volume music that's good, but not too good.  And of course, your choice of a variety of coffee, tea, and pastries.  But twenty-five miles is a long drive when you have no guarantee that the experience will be perfect or even acceptable.
The alternative is the local public library.  That's where I am today.  Our town is blessed with a very good library.  I'm sitting at a round oak table in a comfortable chair, connected to the library's free wireless internet.  It's quiet.  If you speak at all here, it's in hushed tones.  It's not a social place.  There is no music.  It's a serious get-down-to-business kind of place.  And there's a lot to be said for this atmosphere.  I can usually get quite a bit accomplished here in an hour or two.  But there's one big drawback - no food or drink is allowed.  Oh, what I'd give right about now for my favorite hot drink!  A skinny peppermint mocha latte with half the chocolate syrup and no whipped cream - and biscotti to go with it!