Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sunrise March 19

Within the dark Cow Island morning sky an energy source burned through the fog with a promise of a beautiful day and a brighter tomorrow.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Welcome to Icy Cow Island

Welcome to icy Cow Island. Wait. When did that happen? Oh yeah. Friday, February 4th. A one day only event open to only Cow Island residents and their friends, family and neighbor. Mais, it's good to be from Vermilion parish, yeah.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Sunrise 1/7/11

For those of you who missed the morning sunrise, here it is. Use its power for inspiration and strength.

Much love,


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Strength for a New Mission

The news was a blow from behind, a punch in the stomach, a left hook to the face. Just like that, I was told that my publisher didn’t want another novel from me, that there weren’t enough sales from the first, that my two book contract would be cancelled. Just like that, my mission in life was gone.

That second book had started out as a fresh idea. It was fueled by enthusiasm, creativity and high hopes. But through time it transformed into a monkey on my back that grew into a full fledge monster stomping on my mind, body and spirit.

The pressure was gone, and part of me was greatly relieved. But what the monster left behind was far worse than any condition of its presence. It was the fallout of failure, shame, guilt, confusion and debt.

The morning after my mission in life changed, I lay in bed unsure of what to do. For over three years I’d woken as a sophomore novelist with a goal to write a specific story. For over a thousand days, my mind had been occupied trying to find the perfect balance of plot, voice and characterization. But all of that had changed, and it was time to do something else.

I pulled that second book out anyway. I was determined to write it, to create something so amazing that publishers would be knocking down my door, to take the cancelled contract in stride and come back stronger than ever.

But I was weak. The second book had taken its toll on my confidence and filled me with fear. I needed courage, energy and inspiration. Most importantly, I needed strength.

Last year, shortly after my world changed, I went to the Abbeville Meridional newspaper with an idea for a column that would explore the ins and outs of life. At first I wasn’t sure how to pursue it. But then I saw the general manager, Kathy Cormier, and inspiration filled me.

Cormier was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. She went through chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. The day I went to ask her for a job, she was in remission and looked stronger than ever. The breast cancer survivor gave me the strength to understand that the world does not stop over a cancelled book contract.

For the past year, I’ve explored previous self-experiences and interviewed people who faced goals, challenges and obstacles; an eighty-three year old woman continued dancing after breaking her hip, a teenage girl from Forked Island realized her dream of attending an Ivy League university, a soldier left his family to go overseas and fight for freedom. Hearing and sharing these stories has been my therapy, my medicine and my mission in life. They have guided me to next steps and given me strength.

I often wonder how my life would be different if that second novel had been published as planned. At this moment, I could be a best selling author in the ranks of Jeff Kinney, J.K. Rawling and Stephanie Meyer. The book could have been made into a blockbuster movie starring everyone from George Clooney to Faith Hill to Brangelina. My face could be on lunch boxes, my body in Calvin Klein underwear ads and my feet on the T.V. show, “Dancing with the Stars”. Oprah could have interviewed me, and I could have purchased Michael Jackson’s old house and lived in Never Land until I fulfilled the ultimate dream of winning the Pulitzer and becoming a game show host, preferably the “Price is Right”.

But the second book was never published, so this past year I spent my days digging through garbage with my mom to find aluminum cans to recycle. I shared experiences with my family, learning more about them and allowing them to learn about me. I traveled around Vermilion Parish and met people who amazed me with their stories of hope, passion and strength.

I am grateful that my publisher had the insight to see that a second book with them was not the right project for me at that moment. I am sorry for any trouble I may have caused them, but that was never my intention. My heart was fully invested in writing a great story, but the stars simply weren’t in line.

Through my failure, I learned valuable lessons. I learned that the world doesn’t revolve around me, that other people have problems far worse than my own and that through perseverance, support and love we can all find the strength we need.

It is now time for me to take the next step in my life. Although I am not exactly sure of what that is, there are several projects that have inspired me. But in order to be able to focus on these ideas, I will have to stop writing for the Abbeville Meridional.

I am very thankful that Kathy Cormier, Chris Rosa and the newspaper gave me an opportunity when I needed it most. Their faith and trust in my ideas allowed me to explore and educate myself on accomplishing goals, overcoming challenges and dusting off after being knocked down to the ground.

But it is you, the people of Vermilion Parish, who made me strong and understand the bigger picture in life. It is your positive encouragement and inspiring moments that motivates me to wake each morning as if it is the first day of my life. It is you who gives me strength.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Campbell Farms


Like many rice farmers in southwest Louisiana, Hampton Campbell of Gueydan wanted to make the most out of his career. After eight years of farming a commodity rice, he decided it was time to look for other opportunities.

“There is too large of an investment involved in farming to just leave it,” says Campbell. “I needed to diversify, so I began looking for a product to satisfy a niche market.”

Campbell planted twenty acres of an aromatic rice called Della, which also has the nickname of “popcorn rice.” It looks and cooks just like regular rice, except for its aromatic scent of popcorn. According to Campbell, it was developed by Louisiana State University in the 1970’s.

“I started selling it at arts and crafts shows,” says Campbell. “Many people aren’t familiar with popcorn rice. But after they taste it, they usually buy some.”

Campbell Farms is owned and operated by Hampton Campbell and his wife, Alison Campbell. In addition to gourmet rice in two and five pound bags, the specialty food company also sells hot sauce and packs of red beans and popcorn rice. Mrs. Campbell has also collaborated with skin care professionals to create a product line consisting of soap, lotion and bath formula made from goat milk and rice.

“I read in a magazine that rice was good for the skin,” says Mrs. Campbell. “So I tried some in my bath water and it made my skin feel so soft. That’s when I decided to produce my line.”

Mrs. Campbell mills her husband’s popcorn rice into flour and sends it to a skin care professional who mixes it with the goat milk soap and lotion. It is unscented, but filled with herbs and vitamins.

“The best part of running this business is that we get to do it as a family,” says Mrs. Campbell. “Our son and daughter work with us at the arts and crafts shows.”

Campbell Farms sells approximately 50,000 pounds of popcorn rice per year. The gourmet food products are sold on their website and in stores throughout the U.S. In Vermilion Parish, the rice is available at Robies in Abbeville, Larry’s in Kaplan, and Marceaux’s and G&H in Gueydan.

I drove out to Campbell Farms last week to find out more about the popcorn rice farm. I didn’t know what to expect, but imagined fields of golden grains slightly blowing in the wind until they burst into white buttered kernels creating a snow-like storm that came from the ground instead of the sky.

You can imagine my shock and disappointment when it wasn’t anything like that; partly because the rice had been cut several months before, and partly because my expectations were insane and probably the result of not sleeping enough and sometimes eating expired dairy products.

But Mr. and Mrs. Campbell were so much more welcoming than a snowstorm of buttered popcorn. They greeted me outside of their newly built office and facility that was beautifully decorated with miniature Christmas trees and a holiday wreath made with bags of rice. Just next to it was a giant bail of hay with the face of Santa Claus painted on it.

After getting a rundown of the business, I sat down with the Campbells for lunch. Mrs. Campbell prepared a pack of the company’s red beans and popcorn rice. The grains were white and tasted similar to regular rice, but were a little bit fluffier, and paired very nicely with the beans.

During lunch, Mrs. Campbell shared the story of a favorite customer, a woman who purchased some of the popcorn rice because her late husband had enjoyed it. The widow was very appreciative to the Campbells and said that when she ate the rice, it brought back pleasant memories with her husband.

“It’s rice that brings the family together,” said Mrs. Campbell. “We serve it for most meals, and we sit around the table to eat it as a family.”

To learn more about the gourmet food products and specialty skin line offered by Campbell Farms, call 337-536-7052 or visit their website at

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Bond of Asphalt and Leadership

Glenn Lege was a farmer for many years before he purchased a bulldozer and began doing land work in his spare time. After a while, the number of land work opportunities increased and he expanded his equipment inventory. Then in 1992, after several years of growing, he opened Glenn Lege Construction Incorporated.

“The people I have behind me is the reason I was able to grow,” says Lege. “My employees are determined to succeed, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

Glenn Lege Construction produces and lays asphalt for everything from driveways to interstates. Their customers are local and state government departments, developers and private citizens.

“The best part of this industry is when a customer calls and tells us that we did a good job,“ says Lege. “The most challenging part is managing all of the logistics and regulations.”

When Lege first opened his company, he relied on other sources for the asphalt he was using on projects. In 2006, he realized a need to have more control, and so he built his own asphalt plant on the outskirts of Abbeville on Sand Pit Road.

“There was a lot of hard work and financial risks involved in building the plant,” says Lege. “But after we made our first batch of asphalt, it felt like I’d been rewarded.”

Additional services of Glenn Lege Construction include developing land by clearing it of trees and shrubs, digging underground drainage, and building sidewalks, curbs and roads. The company also rents equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, graters, tractors, and dumps trucks, and sells dirt, sand and limestone by truckload or for entire jobs.

I recently visited Lege at the asphalt plant. A white ranch-style fence frames the front of the property, and right on the other side is a large pond with a bridge crossing over.

“I didn’t want the plant to be an eyesore,” said Lege. “We try to keep the area near the road mowed and free of trash.”

One of Lege’s associates, Brandon Neuville, gave me a short explanation and history of asphalt. He said the product we most often refer to as, “asphalt,” is a mixture of mineral aggregates like limestone, sandstone and granite, and a sticky, black petroleum based liquid which is also called, “asphalt.”

“Asphalt was used in ancient Egypt,” said Neuville. “They used it to make foot paths.”

According to Neuville, the composition of asphalt depends on its future use. For example, the mixture of minerals for a driveway would not be the same for an interstate.

Neuville and Lege gave me a tour of the plant, most of which is located outside. In addition to machinery and cylinder shaped storage facilities, there were pyramid-sized piles of aggregates.

On average, the plant produces 250 tons of asphalt per year. I was able to watch it being made from start to finish, which takes approximately three minutes. Although there is a tremendous amount of precision involved in the production, the easiest way for me to explain it is to compare it to making Christmas candy.

You start with a cup each of pecans and walnuts or limestone, sandstone and granite. Heat the mixture in an opened flame oven at about three hundred degrees. Then mix in something syrupy like caramel or liquid asphalt, and voila, you have ready to lay asphalt or a batch of holiday snicker doodles.

One part of the plant that is located inside is the control tower. Associates in this room have a good view of the surrounding area and are responsible for monitoring the production process.

I got to go up in the tower and sit in front of the control panel, which was a little larger than a writing desk and filled with brightly colored buttons. I’m like a kid on an elevator when it comes to buttons and it was killing me to not be able to push every last one of them. An associate, Buddy Cruse let me scratch my itch by pushing a yellow one. I’m not sure what it did, but I’d like to think it was something really cool.

I was also able to ride on a bulldozer with Casey Lege while he moved large loads of aggregate to the asphalt-mixing bowl. He told me that he wasn’t related to Glenn Lege, but that he loved his job and working for the company.

“You have to surround yourself with good and knowledgeable people who have determination and heart,” said Lege. “I’ve learned the most about this industry from the people who work for me.”

In less than two hours, the employees at Glenn Lege Construction educated me on the definition of aggregate, and the in-and-outs of the production process for ready to lay asphalt. Lege was right about the value and importance of surrounding yourself with knowledgeable and hardworking people. But what was even more apparent was that Lege’s pride and leadership was the liquid asphalt that bonded his team of aggregates together to produce a ready to work attitude that can be used everywhere from driveways to interstates.

For more information on the products and services of Glenn Lege Construction Incorporated, call 337-893-7398.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Strength to Lead a Journey

One of my favorite past times in the world is traveling. I love eating foods from different regions, hearing interesting accents and getting my passport stamped at border control. My dream in life is to die while speaking a foreign language, preferably while ordering food or asking for the bathroom.

But I’ve been grounded the last few years due to low funds and a growing concern that I might step onto the wrong plane. Sometimes I feel like a part of me is missing, but where do I find the time, money and courage to pack my bags and head out on an adventure? Where does one find the strength?

The first trip I ever took out of the United States was to Italy. Stepping off of the plane onto foreign soil where they spoke a different language felt like a dream. It was neither good nor bad, just a feeling that I wasn’t really there.

My friend, Jay, met me at the airport in Rome, and for the next week and a half, he was my tour guide through Italy. We traveled by train throughout the country, and slept in hostels, sharing rooms with people from all over the world. We rode gondolas in Venice, ate pizza in Naples and learned Italian words and phrases as we walked on top of a stone wall only a few feet away from the leaning tower of Pisa. This was in 1994 before the book, “Eat, Pray, Love,” so our trip was NOT inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert or Julia Roberts.

The day we parted ways, Jay headed to Sicily, and I took the train back to Rome. I had a night in the city before I went back to the United States the next day, and planned to stay at a hostel that Jay and I slept at on the beginning of our trip.

But when I stepped out of the train station onto the street, I was lost. I had followed Jay around and relied on him to get us to our destinations. I hadn’t bothered to look at a map or even pay attention to street signs. The once warm and magical Rome where I’d feasted on pasta, cappuccinos and gelato, suddenly made me feel cold, hungry and vulnerable.

For three hours, I walked around looking for the hostel. For three hours, I cursed myself for being stupid enough to go to a country where I didn’t know the language. When I finally stumbled upon the hostel and my bed for the night, I collapsed exhausted from the ordeal. The week and a half of great memories was destroyed within only a few hours of fear and weakness.

However, after I returned back to the U.S. and told stories of my trip, my enthusiasm for adventure returned. Before Italy, I had a crush on traveling, but afterwards, the attraction turned into head over heels in love. Anytime I was able, I packed my bags and set off on excursions with high hopes of creating memories.

But the photographs, postcards and passport stamps weren’t the most valuable possessions I collected on my travels. It was the education I received.

Did you know that some people in The Netherlands believe that their Santa Claus lives in Spain and delivers gifts on a boat? Can you believe that in Connecticut they call a, “poboy,” a “grinder,” or that it’s almost impossible to find a homemade chocolate chip cookie in Switzerland? Learning this first hand, my friends, is way more interesting than sitting in an elementary school social studies class. (Unless, of course, my sister-in-law Rhonda is teaching it.)

My travels have led to job offers, better communication skills and lifelong friendships throughout the world. As a writer, I consider all of my excursions an investment well worth spent and more valuable than anything I’ve ever owned. I hope to have many more trips ahead of me and encourage each and every one to travel as often as they can.

But I also understand the roadblocks in traveling. There are commitments, and time and financial restrictions. These are all issues that I experienced myself. I was only able to overcome them by making travel a priority, and doing my research.

I subscribed to travel magazines, read guidebooks and regularly checked websites for airfare and hotel deals. I re-organized my budget so less was spent on clothing and movies, and more on trips. Most importantly, as learned from my trip to Italy, I always carried a map and was prepared with information to take charge of my journey.

There are thousands of books and websites on traveling for adventurers with only a dime and a dream. There are volunteer opportunities, educational courses and surprisingly affordable excursions.

For many, now might not be the right time to travel. myself included. However, in order to continue my education on what makes the earth tick, I have future plans of adventure. Preparing and taking charge of the trip will alleviate most fears and concerns. Leading our own journey while we learn about the world will help us understand it better and give us strength.