Sunday, January 31, 2010

Strength to be a Senior

In a few months, seniors throughout Vermilion parish will receive their high school diplomas. Until their big night, they are still attending classes, participating in extra-curriculum activities and planning their future. But as they take that first step towards the next phase in their lives, where will they find direction? Where will they find the strength?

My niece Taylor Couvillon is a senior at Kaplan High School this year. In addition to being the cheerleading captain, she is class president and student council vice president. I recently had dinner with her to talk about her future, and the pressures of the last few months before she officially becomes a high school graduate.

“I know I want to go to college,” Taylor said “I’m just not sure where, or what I’m going to study.”

Taylor has interests in both law and publishing. As part of a senior project, she recently shadowed an editor with the University of Louisiana Press to learn more about the industry.

“Now I’d like to shadow an attorney,” Taylor said. “Having these opportunities has been very helpful in making a decision.”

For many seniors, deciding what to do after graduation is the biggest choice they’ve ever made. Be it pursuing a higher education, joining the armed forces or entering the workforce, their decision will affect their future.

“I’m going to college because my parents taught me that education gives strength,” says Taylor. “I’m looking forward to the freedom and responsibility it will bring, but sometimes I’m afraid I’ll fall on my face.”

Taylor said that the most challenging part of high school was the class work. She motivated herself by focusing on her goal of graduating, which would allow her to move forward in her life.

“One thing I’m going to do different in college is not get caught up in the little problems,” Taylor said. “My advice to a high school freshman is to do the same, and to stay focused on learning and getting a degree.”

According to Taylor, what she enjoyed most about high school was being exposed to new people. She feels it helped her grow, and made her more tolerant of others. In the future, she would like to travel in order to learn about different cultures and people. She is especially interested in third world countries where she could assist those in need.

“It would help me feel more grateful for everything I’ve been given,” says Taylor. “I’d stop worrying about the little stuff and see things clearer. I’ve come to realize that I am only a small part in the big scheme of the world.”

Even though I graduated over twenty years ago, I can still remember the excitement and anxiety of being in Taylor’s shoes. Like my niece, I had accomplished my goal of completing high school, but was concerned that I wasn’t prepared for what lied ahead. But my desire to move forward into the next phase of my life outweighed my fear (and sometimes common sense). Although I made many mistakes along the way, I learned and grew from the experience.

“How will you take that first step after graduation?” I asked Taylor. “Where will you find the strength?”

“By looking at the past and future,” Taylor said. “I’ll see what I learned, and then use it to move forward.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To Be Inked or Not To Be Inked

One of my favorite pastimes as a child was to apply temporary tattoos to my body, and flex my miniscule muscles to imitate the professional wrestlers on television. I’d dream of the day when I’d be compared to wrestling greats such as Junkyard Dog, and I could get real ink tattoos that didn’t wash off in the shower. But my fantasy of both ended one day when I thought about how painful it would be if someone slammed me against the rink floor and stuck a needle in my body over and over again.

As I grew older though, the art of tattooing re-emerged as one of my interest. I never got one because I didn’t know what I wanted, and because I was still afraid of the pain involved. But the symbolism and design fascinates me, and so this week I found out what it’s like to be a tattoo artist.

Crazy Cajun Tattoos, located at 2154 Charity Street at the Lafitte Mall in Abbeville, has been open since 1995. In addition to their services of tattoo design and body piercing, the business also sells an assortment of graphic t-shirts and novelty items. Zoe Crouch is the owner of the establishment, but her husband, Brian Crouch, is the manager and head tattoo artist.

“I was an apprentice for several years at a parlor in Great Britian,” says Mr. Crouch. “I’d always been interested in art and design, but it was my time there that helped my creativity flourish.”

According to Crouch, people get tattoos for various reasons including rebellion, peer pressure or honoring someone. The most popular designs include tribal symbols, roses, tigers, wizards, dragons and coy fish.

“People can bring in their own artwork or choose from the ones we have here,” says Crouch. “If they ask me to pick a tattoo for them, I tell them to go home and come back when they know what they want. This is going to be on their body forever.”

Crouch has tattooed lawyers, doctors, judges and his seventy-year old grandmother. He says that the best part of his job is working with the customers because they are what make his business successful. But he also loves challenges.

“I’m inspired when someone comes in with a bad tattoo and wants help changing it,” says Crouch. “I like the creativity of taking something the customer doesn’t like and making it into a piece of art.”

Two of Crouch’s regular customers walked into the shop during our interview. One of them, Mike DeBlanc, has been getting tattoos for fifteen years.

“It’s addictive,” says DeBlanc. “Like eating Lay’s potato chips.”

Seth Broussard, another faithful customer, was there to get a new tattoo on his already ornately designed arm. He referred to Crouch as his friend and therapist.

“It’s almost like a beauty parlor at times,” said Crouch. “I’m a marriage counselor, a bartender, and a best friend.”

Crouch allowed me to assist him with the tattoo he gave to Broussard. I got to shave the customer’s arm and then apply a transfer of the artwork, an intricate design resembling a spider’s web.

“My best advice to someone interested in becoming a tattoo artist is to apprentice under someone reputable,” says Crouch. “Also make sure that you’re inspired by their work.”

I knew going into the interview that I could never be a tattoo artist. For one, I can’t draw to save my life, and two, my hands are so shaky that if I were to hold a jar of milk for an hour, it would probably turn into a slab of butter. I couldn’t stand to think of the damage I would cause holding a pulsating needle filled with ink against a person’s skin.

But the knowledge I gained from Crouch was well worth my time at Crazy Cajun Tattoos. We all have creativity inside of us, and it’s our choice how to express it. I left empowered with the message of tolerance and being true to oneself, but also a little embarrassed that a seventy-year-old grandmother faced the pain that scared me away from ever being inked.

For more information on Crazy Cajun Tattoos, call 337-898-0082 or visit their Web site

Strength to Take Life by the Hour

We are often given big challenges in life, which although are attainable over time, feel overwhelming and impossible. It might be getting a college degree, saving up money for a home or beating an addiction. The sheer size of the journey required to accomplish these goals scares many people from ever beginning. That is unless of course, you’re Charlene Beckett, who found the strength to quit smoking by taking life by the hour.

“I never said I was quitting,” says Beckett. “If I would have said I was going to quit and not done it, I would have felt like a failure.”

Beckett started smoking in college and continued for twenty years. She says that cigarettes relaxed her, and made her feel less vulnerable because they created a smoke screen around her.

“In some ways cigarettes were my best friend,” says Beckett. “They kept me occupied, but never argued with me.”

When Beckett reached her mid-thirties, she became concerned about her health. She woke up one morning, and decided to try and not smoke for one hour. When she accomplished that, she faced her next hour. She continued this strategy for ten years.

“The first day was easier than the second,” says Beckett. “I struggled through my addiction one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time. It took ten years before I stopped craving them, but now I can say that I’ve been smoke free for a total of twenty.”

According to Beckett the hardest part was the anger. Cigarettes relaxed her, and without them stress levels were high.

“My family’s happy faces and support were great motivators,” says Beckett. “I wanted to quit smoking for them.”

Beckett says that the benefits of smoking have been tremendous. In addition to saving money, she’s healthier, and her home and clothes are cleaner.

“The freedom of not being chained to cigarettes was a great reward,” says Beckett. “There were times when I’d get stressed out if I thought I might not be able to smoke.”

When I sat down with Beckett to discuss her strength, she was poised, relaxed and portrayed a woman of confidence. There was a time before when cigarettes had controlled her, and made her feel safe. But when she realized that what she’d thought had protected her all those years had become a danger, she took one bold step towards what she knew would be a long and hard journey.

“Hour by hour for ten years is a long time,” I said. “Where did you get the strength to face that first sixty minutes?”

“I can’t tell you what got me through those days,” says Beckett. “It was a gift. An extremely amazing gift.”

For more information on quitting smoking, go to

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Featuring This Family

My favorite house in Cow Island is a little green craftsman style structure, shaded by the limbs of oak and pecan trees. It has been there since before I was born, yet I never really noticed it until a few years ago when I moved back home. At first it was subtle changes, like flags blowing in the wind, and boat paddles mounted on the side of a small red barn that grabbed my attention. But it was on clear summer days, when I’d catch glimpses of a pond, fountain and sailboat that I knew this house was special.

“The red barn is my office and work shop,” says Carol Hebert Harper, design consultant for the businesses, Feature This and Curb Appeal For

Harper runs the two businesses, which opened in 2008, with her daughter, Michelle Molinari. The mission of Feature This is to provide direction to people who would like to redesign their home for living, or would like to sell their house and need help giving it a make over.

“We make sure that a house doesn’t say, ‘Time and money,’” says Molinari. “We offer staging techniques that make it say, ‘I’m worth my price.’”

Curb Appeal for is tailored to help clients who want to make the outside of their house more attractive to potential buyers. Molinari and Harper design a strategy package of simple ways to increase the selling price. It may suggest a paint job, adding more plants or small renovations.

“We super-impose the suggestions on a digital photograph that the client emails to us,” says Harper. “Our customers are from throughout the U.S.”

Harper studied design in California, and has consulted on both commercial and residential spaces in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Houston. Molinari is a painter, who commissions her work. She trained with Certified Staging Professionals, where she is now an instructor.

“I train brokers and real estate agents how to use staging efficiently and effectively,” says Molinari. “This helps sellers receive a greater return on investment.”

Harper’s mother, Audrey Jerome, inherited the little green house from her parents. It remained unoccupied for several years until 2000 when Harper and her husband moved to Cow Island.

“The house has to be over a hundred years old,” says Jerome. “It was originally a lot smaller, but my dad added on pieces as time passed.”

Molinari moved to Vermilion Parish in 2006 after her home in Texas was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. She wanted to learn more about her Cajun roots and to be closer to her mother.

“We motivate and feed off of each other,” says Molinari. “It helps make us a great team.”

Jerome recently moved back to Cow Island after Hurricane Ike destroyed her home in Bridge City. Harper and Molinari renovated the front part of the little green house and made a small apartment for Jerome.





My mother and I visited the house recently, and while she talked with Jerome in her living room, I interviewed Molinari and Harper in the back of the house. I was inspired by their design choices like bamboo ceilings, cabinet doors made from old shutters, and framed paint by number scenes of New Orleans, all lit by antique kerosene lanterns.

“It’s kind of funny because you don’t hear of many people who move to Vermilion Parish to get away from hurricanes,” I said. “In a way, this house and two of the Gulf Coast’s biggest storms brought your family together.”

“I’m very grateful to live here,” says Harper. “I love having parties, and especially putting on little parades.”

I was fortunate enough to be invited to a Fourth of July party at the property one summer, and knew of the parades. Both children and adults dressed in red, white and blue marched around the pond while their families cheered them on.

“This is my favorite house in Cow Island,” I said to Harper. “Even though this is my first time inside, it feels familiar.”

The little green house provided both a space for a mother and daughter to run a business, and a refuge for families to reconnect. Harper and Molinari are definitely talented artists who can make a property more beautiful on the outside. But their best work is the home they’ve created within.

For more information on the services of Harper and Molinari, call 337-652-3983 or visit their Web site at

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Strength for 2010

For over fifteen Januaries, I’ve made resolutions for a better life in the year facing me. Sometimes I accomplished six or seven out of ten, and other times zero out of five. I’m determined to achieve all of my goals in 2010, but am sometimes overwhelmed and uncertain if I’ll have the strength.

There are some days when I only have time to live, and can’t worry about altering my routine to pursue a challenge for which no one will hold me accountable. So I’ve created a game plan to keep me on track, and remind me of where I’m headed. This week, I’d like to share my strategy in hopes that it will help you while making your resolutions.

1. Spend time to decide what you want.

You’ll never be motivated to accomplish a goal unless it’s one you set for yourself.

2. Write your resolutions down everywhere.

The years that I didn’t accomplish my goals are the ones when I forgot what they were. It is easy to get distracted by every day life. Write your resolutions down on paper. Make copies and put them in frequently seen places like a bathroom mirror, microwave door, or entertainment center holding the television. I wrote my list on the first of every month of my calendar to remind me that a deadline is approaching.

3. Be realistic

Being ambitious can be rewarding, but also discouraging if your goals seem impossible to achieve. Make resolutions that are attainable within a certain time frame, and are a step towards something bigger.

4. Be specific

Instead of writing, ‘Be healthier,’ write, ‘Be able to walk two miles three days a week by March.’ One year I wrote, ‘Save money.’ Twelve months later on New Years Eve, I had fifty cents in my pocket. I’d technically accomplished my resolution, but didn’t feel richer.

5. Make time

Because there are always so many things to do, I sometimes neglect my resolutions. So I’ve set up an appointment with myself every week to focus and work on making my life more fulfilling. Sometimes it’s at a library, coffee shop or park, but I always have something to write with, and my cell phone is turned off.

Every person is different and accomplishes goals in various ways. The pointers listed above are what have worked for me personally, but might not be beneficial to everyone. I’ve shared them with you in hopes that they will not only guide you in your quest for a more enriching life, but to also help me accomplish my number one resolution for 2010; to promote strength in the world, and help people reach their full potential.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Visage Thirty-Nine

Freckles cover my upper back and shoulders due to the many shirtless hours I spent outside as a child. I am now more attentive to protecting my skin, and recently encouraged my mother to do the same. But when I asked her to wear a moisturizer with sunscreen, she frowned at me like I had suggested that she take me out to lunch.

“I’m trying to keep you from getting skin cancer,” I said.

“I’m not outside long enough to worry about it,” she argued. “And since when did you become a doctor?”

I knew that unless I graduated from medical school, worked several years at Abbeville General Hospital, and cured cancer, my mother wouldn’t listen to me. Since I didn’t have that much time to invest to make my point, I decided to seek the assistance of someone in the skin care profession.

Visage Joli’ Spa and Salon, located at 2403 Charity Street in Abbeville, is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Daren and Tiffany Roy. The couple opened their doors in March 2009, and offer services ranging from ion cleanse detox to firming seaweed facials to haircuts, coloring and styling. Their merchandise mix includes vegan cosmetics, handmade baby clothes and candles that can be used as a moisturizer.

“I became interested in the skin care industry after working in the medical field,” says Mrs. Roy. “I love working with people and helping them look and feel their best.”

Mrs. Roy is a licensed esthetician and a graduate of the Aveda Institute in Lafayette. She has received training in various treatments including spider vein reduction, radio frequency skin tightening and laser collagen synthesis.

“The hardest part of owning our own business is the financial stress,” said Mrs. Roy. “My dream is to become profitable enough to expand Visage Joli’ to include nail care and massages.”

Hairstylists Alisha Trahan and Amber Vice operate the salon part of the business. Although it is located in the same building, it is nestled off to the side of the spa, creating a separate environment.

“A woman’s beauty secrets are her own,” says Mrs. Roy. “I wanted to create a place that felt cozy, private and discreet.”

Glenda Abate, Mrs. Roy’s mother, is the receptionist and assistant manager of Visage Joli (Beautiful Face). She suggested that while I interviewed her daughter, I enjoy an ion cleanse detox. I had imagined it to be some sort of drink that would ensure I visited the bathroom regularly. Since I’d already eaten two bowls of raisin brand that morning, I didn’t think it would be wise.

“No thank you,” I said while rubbing my stomach.

“You should try it,” Mr. Roy said. “I do it all the time, and feel a lot better afterwards.”

I didn’t want to be rude, so I said okay, but made a special note of where the bathroom was located just in case there was a problem. But instead of giving me a drink, Mrs. Roy made me put my bare feet in a tub of water. She placed something round like an electric pencil sharper inside, and then plugged it in.

“Is this going to shock me?” I asked.

“The electricity helps extract the toxins from your body,” Abate said. “The water will change color depending on what’s removed.”

While I sat there, Mrs. Roy exfoliated my mother’s face with a diamond chipped laser. According to the Visage Joli service menu, the treatment called diamond microdermabrasion helps rejuvenate the skin and remove fine lines.

“Your skin is dry, Mrs. Couvillon,” Mrs. Roy said. “You should use a moisturizer with sunscreen every day. It will help you look younger.”

“Younger than thirty-nine?” my mother asked. “That’s a good idea. Can you suggest one?”

The water around my bare feet had become yellow. I wasn’t sure it if it was from the toxins in my body, or from the surprise that my mother had accepted Mrs. Roy’s suggestion so easily. For a few seconds I felt hurt, but then realized it didn’t matter because I had achieved my goal.

I enjoyed our time at Visage Joli’. Not only because of their remarkable hospitality and knowledge, but because they had reinforced my belief in the importance of maintaining and protecting our skin.

But later as my mother and I drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder why she’d had a change of heart concerning moisturizer and sunscreen. She’d always insisted that my siblings and I used it when were growing up, but didn’t feel it was necessary for herself.

“Why are you going to listen to Mrs. Roy, but not me?” I asked. “Was that diamond- chipped laser really a mind control device? Can it make you stop asking me when I’m going to get a job?”

“You’re not that lucky or funny,” she answered. “I listened to Mrs. Roy because she said the moisturizer with sunscreen would help me look younger. I’m only thirty-nine, but one day soon I might be able to pass for thirty-eight.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Strength to Cheer

The ‘Who Dat’ fever has swept across America, and the people of Louisiana couldn’t be prouder of its Saints. Dreams of a Super Bowl hang in the air, and everyone from children to grandmothers are dressing in black and gold to show support.

But there was a time when both the Saints’ playing record and popularity weren’t as bright. The team’s somewhat famous losses sparked jokes and rumors that they had been jinxed or had the voodoo on them. Although fans popped up here and there to support our boys during winning seasons, only a few die-hard cheerleaders had the strength to raise their poms-poms during the good times and the bad.

“I’ve been in the Super Dome when it’s at its fullest capacity,” says Saints’ fan (and my sister), Sandy Richard. “And I’ve been in it when it was almost empty.”

Sandy is a thirty-five year Saints’ fan veteran who believes it is her duty to support this Louisiana team. It was during a recent game we attended together that I realized just how serious and devoted she was to her calling. In addition to wearing an authentic black and gold jersey with Brees written across the back, she purchased a football program and a giant fountain drink to get a souvenir cup.

“My most memorable moment was when I came to a play-off game here at the Super Dome in 2006,” Sandy said. “The energy of the fans was overwhelming. I felt unified with the crowd because we all wanted a victory.”

A couple of women dressed from head to toe in fleur de lis prints danced around my sister and me like they were at the greatest party on earth. Although I’ve never followed sports closely, I was somewhat drawn into the excitement of the event.

“It’s like a family,” Sandy said. “Over the years, you learn so much about the coaches and the players, you feel like you know them.”

I borrowed Sandy’s football program to brush up on my Saints’ knowledge. At a game the year before, I made the mistake of asking the name of the quarterback. Sandy told me that I embarrassed her, and to not ask any more questions until we left the Super Dome.

“Football is something I’ve always shared with my friends and family,” said Sandy. “Especially dad, because he’s the one who got me to start watching.”

The Saints won that night, and as I cheered with millions of fans across America, I felt the unity of which Sandy had spoken. It filled me with energy, and gave me the sense we’d all accomplished something great.

“It’s fun when they win,” I said. “But what gives you the strength to follow the team during their tough times?”

“Pride and dreams,” Sandy responded. “I’m proud to be from Louisiana, and it’s a dream of mine that the Saints go to the Super Bowl. When they do, it will mean that other dreams can come true as well.”

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Turn Your Trash into Cash

Ever since I was a child, my mother and I have recycled aluminum cans together. I was responsible for smashing and bagging them, and in return she would drive me to the recycling center and let me keep the money. It was an easy job at the time, because in a family of ten, there were always empty soda cans somewhere around the house.

Since I’ve returned home after being gone for twenty years, my mother and I have started up our business again. But this time, things have changed. I still have to bag the cans, but now I’m driving her to the recycling center, and she keeps the money.

Another change is that my mother has become more aggressive in how she collects her inventory of merchandise. Anytime we drive somewhere, she searches the road and ditches, and points out any aluminum cans she sees. If there are three or more within a few feet, she insists that I stop the car and pick them up. She makes me routinely call my siblings to ensure they are saving their cans for her, and has ordered me to dig through trashcans filled with dirty diapers and bees.

“It’s cash money,” my momma said. “And I have some tweezers to get the bee stinger out of your arm.”

Although I can’t say I enjoy walking in muddy ditches and searching through garbage in the parking lot of Tiffany Plaza, I support my mother’s entrepreneurship 100 percent. Since she taught me that education is the key to success, this week we went and found out what it’s like to be the man who buys the aluminum cans from us.

Located at 723 AA Comeaux Memorial Drive, (Just past the ball park) Abbeville Scrap and Recycling is owned and operated by Earl James Fritz and his wife, Lisa. The company has been open for over three years, and purchases a variety of merchandise including aluminum, brass, copper and automotive batteries and radiators.

“Turn your trash into cash,” says Fritz. “That’s our motto.”

Before starting his business, Fritz worked construction in the oil field. His job sometimes required him to spend extended periods of time away. But now, he runs a business out of his home and yard, and receives help from family members including his dad, brother, cousins and children.

“I started this recycling business to help my community and the earth,” says Fritz. “But most importantly, to spend more time with my family.”

According to Fritz, the most difficult part of running his own business is the financial insecurity. Since so much of his income depends on his inventory, he relies heavily on the public.

“I’m never sure if someone is going to turn into our driveway,” says Fritz. “I once had a customer tell me that the community was lucky to have a place they could sell things to get money. But the truth is, I’m lucky to have them. Without the support of the people, my business couldn’t survive.”

In addition to the items Fritz recycles for his business, he also recycles the paper and plastic his family uses in their home. Although it provides no income, it is something he has done for years in order to do his part for the environment.

“I want to lead by example,” says Fritz. “If my kids see me doing something positive, they’ll follow in my footsteps.”

Fritz welcomed my mother and I into his home like we were long lost family. He gave us a tour of his business, and showed me how to operate the scale on which he weighs aluminum cans. Once I understood the process, I grabbed my mother’s large plastic bag of what she calls her retirement check, and weighed it.

“Ten pounds,” I said. “At thirty cents a pound, that’s three dollars.”

“Weigh it again,” my mother told me. “You’re trying to jip me.”

Fritz checked my work and assured my mother that ten pounds was correct. She accepted his decision, but looked at the sack of cans with a sad face as if they’d disappointed her.

“Did you learn anything that will help your can recycling enterprise?” I asked my mother as we drove away.

I had hoped she’d tell me that she learned the importance of family support when operating a business. Or that in addition to the income recycling brings, it prevents littering and is good for the environment. Or even the importance of an adult leading by example to send a positive message to his community and children.

But instead, she stared out at a crushed soda can in the middle of the road and said, “Yes. I learned that if I want to get more money for my cans, my son will have to put his foot on the scale.”

For more information on the items Abbeville Scrap and Recycling purchases, call 337-523-9322. To learn where you can recycle plastic and paper throughout the parish, call Solid Waste at 337-898-4338.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Strength to be a Soldier

In a few days, on January 8th, 2010, Jonathan Deshotels will report for his call of duty with the National Guard. After a couple of months in Mississippi, he will head off to fight the war in Iraq for his second time. He was a single man his first term overseas, but now he will have to find the strength to leave behind his wife and two children.

“I never thought we’d still be fighting this war,” says Deshotels. “But I’m a soldier. It requires that when you get a mission, you accomplish your task.”

Once in Iraq, Deshotels will be a platoon sergeant for 25 to 30 soldiers. In order to effectively do his job, he searches for inspiration by reading leadership books about coaches, organizational leaders and our founding fathers.

“The secret to being a great leader is to know what your job is, and care about the people you are leading,” says Deshotels. “You can’t fake it or they’ll know. Soldiers become stronger from the strength their leader portrays.”

According to Deshotels, leadership requires constantly ensuring everyone’s well being because their personal life can affect their performance on the mission. He is not only the soldiers’ platoon sergeant, but he his also their friend and family.

It was a week before Christmas when I sat down with Deshotels and his family in their Abbeville home. I was there to find out where a man and his wife would find the strength to be separate for a year.

“It’s important to have the support of your friends and family,” says Deshotels. “Mine sent me two and three packages a day during the holidays when I was away the first time. I started passing them out to soldiers who weren’t receiving anything from home. It gave them strength to get through their day.”

Deshotels and his wife, Valerie have a three year old daughter named Lydia and a seven-month old son, Jules. The family plans to stay in touch via email and a Web camera a few days each week.

“I’m not looking forward to Jonathan leaving,” said Mrs. Deshotels. “But he’s been open and honest about what’s going to happen. Because of him and my family, I’ll have the strength to raise my children.”

While Mrs. Deshotels bounced their son, Julies on her knee, their daughter, Lydia danced around the living room with the innocence and energy only a child has the pleasure of knowing. The Christmas tree lit the room with a glow, and although it had been raining outside all day long, the air felt warm and secure.

I found the answer I’d gone searching for at the Deshotels home. The couple became stronger through open communication, honesty, education and the support of friends and family. As we all face the challenges and resolutions of 2010, I hope that many of you will think of the Deshotels family, and find the strength you need.