Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Picture of Postal Worker

Below: Lloyd Broussard, Tina Perrin, Mary Alice Couvillon, Kenneth Gove, Paula Hargrave

One of the great things about coming from a large family is that when I need information about almost anything, I can turn to a relative. If I need financial advice, I speak to my brother, Joey, who works at a bank. If I want to know why my ice cream is melting in my freezer, I call my brother, Jude, who owns an appliance store. And if I have a question concerning anything to do with the post office, I dial 1-800-ASK-MARY (Phone number not real. Do not call.).

My sister-in-law, Mary Alice Couvillon, is a rural carrier associate with the United States Postal Service. I call her on a regular basis with questions like the current costs of stamps, different shipping options and why the only mail I ever get are bills. She’s always such a wealth of information that I sometimes worry she’ll start charging me by the minute like a telephone psychic.

“My favorite part of the job is working with the public,” says Mary Alice. “Some people will meet me at their mailboxes and tell me about their families.”

Mary Alice started her career with the USPS thirteen years ago in Rayne, but now works in the Abbeville location. Before she was hired, she was required to take the Postal Exam, which tested her memory, comparison and math skills.

“I have to be focused and well organized when I sort through the mail because some of the names and addresses are very similar,” says Mary Alice. “It’s one of the most important parts of the job.”

I recently visited Mary Alice at the Abbeville post office to find out what it was like to be a rural carrier associate. We met in the back of the building, and she led us inside a warehouse where postal workers pushed around carts filled with sacks of mail. Then we sat down on stools and faced a large case with shelves, each one sectioned off by addresses.

“When the mail comes into the post office, an associate sorts it by routes,” said Mary Alice. “Then I take the mail for my route and put it in order by address in this casing. That way, I avoid mistakes during delivery.”

According to Mary Alice, the most challenging part of her job is delivering the mail during bad weather or the summer months. But the rest of the year, she enjoys driving the different routes in Vermilion Parish, especially the ones in the country.

“I love photographing nature,” said Mary Alice. “If I could photograph anything in the world, though, it would be my late parents. I’d love to take a picture of them alive today.”

Mary Alice gave me a short tour of the front of the post office where customers can find change of address and hold mail forms, as well as purchase stamps, money orders and shipping materials. We spent the final part of our interview outside in the back parking lot trying to get a decent photograph of me pushing a cart towards a mail truck.

“Try to make me look muscular and like I’m twenty-one years old,” I said to Mary Alice when I handed her the camera.

She didn’t respond with a sarcastic remark like others in my family would have. But instead took a more subtle approach and made sure that I stood in a shady spot.

I called Mary Alice a few days later to ask more questions about her job at the post office. We began a discussion about photography, which until the interview I had no idea of my sister-in-law’s interest. She revealed a side of herself I hadn’t known, and in a way made our relationship closer. I will always value her knowledge of the cost of stamps, but now I look forward to rewarding conversations about art and family.

For more information on careers at the United States Postal Service, visit

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Strength to Lead a Family

There are many books written by leaders like Presidents, war generals and captains of industry. Each one has their own approach on how to lead nations, armies and companies. Some of their techniques have been successful for large organizations, but where do we turn for advice when raising a family? Where do we find the strength?

On Thursday, January 28, 2010, Marie Lege Dartez woke up and prepared for a family meal to be held at her Kaplan home that evening. It was a weekly supper that she had been cooking for the last forty years. At first it was for her three children and their spouses. But over time, with the addition of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great, great grandchildren, the guest list increased to sixty.

“She loved to cook and bring joy to others,” says Dartez’s daughter, Betty Girouard. “She’d make tarts and fudge for her whole family, bring flowers to thirteen different graves for All Saints Day, and make coffee every Saturday morning for anyone who wanted a cup.”

Dartez’s generosity and suppers became famous throughout her community, and soon friends began joining in the celebration of her family. The Kaplan Herald even did a story about the Thursday evening feasts back in 2004.

In the article, Dartez said, “Keeping my family together and having them know one another is very important to me.”

No one knows for certain what was going through the 86 year-old’s mind on January 28, 2010 while she prepared for the evening meal. Perhaps it was about which side dishes to serve or what the weather was like or how lucky she was to have most of her family coming over that evening. Regardless, this last supper was her most important, because when she went to bed that night, she continued to sleep forever.

At Dartez’s funeral was one of the pots she used for her last supper. Inside was an arrangement of sixty roses to represent each member of her family that she left behind.
On March 15th of this year, what would have been Dartez’s 87th birthday, her family got together and watched a video of her making homemade tarts.

“She used to make tarts for the whole family every year,” said Girouard. “This past summer she said it would be the last time.”

Girouard once interviewed her mother for a paper she had to write for a class. She learned that Dartez grew up on a houseboat and made her own toys when she a little girl.

“I learned so much about my mother’s life from that interview,” said Girouard. “It was a special moment with her that I will treasure forever.”

I first learned of Dartez and her famous suppers the day she died. A friend told me of the tradition, which at the time I found to be very heartwarming. But it never occurred to me to write about it until a month later when I ran into Girouard.

“I get lonesome when I can’t talk to her,” said Girouard. “When I miss her, I think of her alive, or go to her house and sit in her chair with her favorite blanket wrapped around me.”

Girouard invited my mother and me to her home for supper, where I met her husband, Boyd Girouard and one of their two children, Olivia. We spent several hours talking about friends, family and what we’d learned from our parents.

“Ma-mom believed in the value of family,” said Girouard. “She was determined to keep us together.”

Although you will never find a book on leadership written by Marie Lege Dartez, she successfully led her loved ones and taught them about the power and strength of family. But it wasn’t by charging onto a battlefield, or standing on a podium giving speeches. It was from sharing her gift of cooking with her followers, and practicing the art of simple generosity.

“I am so thankful for having her as a mother,” said Girouard. “She gave me the confidence to be who I am, and the strength to hold my head up high.”

The Thursday night my mother and I went to the Girouard’s home, I could tell that Dartez’s influence had been passed on to her daughter. The family prepared a wonderful supper for us, and even wrapped up food for us to take. To them it seemed to be a simple gesture of kindness, but what they might not have realized was that the paper plate carried more than a meal. It held Marie Lege Dartez’s legacy, but most importantly, her strength.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kaplan Telephone Company

I still have the old black rotary telephone my family used when I was a kid. Its almost fifty years old, but still works and is a fine example of quality and craftsmanship. I admire its sturdiness, and would in fact still be using it today if it didn’t give me a blister on my index finger or take twenty-five minutes to dial.

Building something sturdy, while continuing to improve its quality is a principal the late Lytle Turnley practiced in life and in business. In 1952, he began ownership and management of the organization known today as Kaplan Telephone Company Inc. He initially provided phone service to a little over five hundred customers, but through hard work and support from his family, grew the business into a telecommunications powerhouse that connects residents throughout Vermilion Parish.

Turnley’s sons, Tony and Carl are now president and vice president respectively of Kaplan Telephone Company. The business offers cable television, broadband Internet, cellular and home phone services. Their products include cellular communication equipment, security systems, as well as business telephone systems. In 2001, KTC Telecom completed a fiber optic build out to serve the Abbeville business district.

“Lytle Turnley always stressed that if you worked hard, success would follow,” says Turnley’s stepson, Richard Constantin. “He believed in learning as much as you can about your work so you can be the best at it.”

Constantin is the Financial and Regulatory Manager at KTC. His credentials include twenty-five years of experience in the telecommunications industry, a Bachelors degree in Finance and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Louisiana.

“I started climbing and working on telephone poles when I was fifteen,” says Constantin. “In the past twenty-five years, I’ve seen the company grow larger, but because of technology, the equipment has gotten smaller.”

Constantin worked as an outside plant technician while learning the ins and outs of the business. One of his favorite memories during this time was when after repairing an elderly customer’s telephone, she cooked lunch for the two of them.

Constantin recalls, ““The food was great, and the woman told me stories of the past. Then on the way out she handed me a paper bag of cucumbers from her garden. I remember thinking, ‘Where but in South Louisiana do you find such wonderful people?’”

I first learned of Kaplan Telephone Company’s history a few years ago when I visited Le Musee de la Ville on Cushing Avenue. Lytle Turnley donated the building for the museum as well as an exhibit of a lady mannequin named Gladys, who sits in front of an antique telephone switchboard.

When I visited KTC last week, Constantin furthered my knowledge and gave me a tour of the building. Because the structure grew with the organization through the second half of the twentieth century, each hallway and office provided architectural features from decades past. That is until we stepped into the future or as Constantin calls, the Central Office.

“It’s where all the telephone calls come through,” said Constantin. “It’s also where cable video and broadband internet transmits.”

I had imagined beforehand that the room would be filled with human versions of Gladys connecting calls with use of an antique switchboard. But instead, computers, routers and switches controlled and transmitted thousands of conversations that swam around me.

My tour of KTC continued outside with Turnley’s grandson, Matt Turnley. He gave me a look inside a box, known as a pedestal, at the base of a telephone pole. It was filled with hundreds of multi-colored wires that wrapped around each other to create giant snakes.

“This box is where phone, internet and cable is transmitted to the homes within certain city blocks,” said Turnley. “With fiber optic technology, we’ll be able to use one wire to replace thirty-two of the older ones.”

To give me a better idea of what it’s like to be an outside plant technician, Turnley let me re-program all of the systems so that customers would have the option to hear conversations in any language they’d like. I’m just kidding. All I did was put on a KTC hat and hold a pair of pliers while Constantin took my picture.

I was a little upset that I didn’t get to climb a telephone pole, but other than that, really enjoyed myself at KTC. I am sorry that I never had the opportunity to meet the late Lytle Turnley. His generosity to his community is evident throughout Kaplan.

What is even more obvious though, is that Turnley believed in creating something sturdy while continuing to improve its quality. Like my old black telephone, he built KTC to last. But it was his principals of education and hard work that enables his family to continuously improve communication amongst the residents of Vermilion Parish.

For more information on the services of Kaplan Telephone Company, call 337-643-7171 or visit

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Strength to Break Routines

To break up my routine of staring at the same face in the mirror every day, I sometimes grow beards. Each morning someone different reflects back at me, and for twenty-four hours I become that person.

The first day I’m a late sleeper who forgot to buy razors. The next, I’m on vacation, and the next I’m an international action reporter. Fourthly, I’m a college professor, and after a week, just before I shave my brown and gray beard off, I’m a much more attractive and younger version of Santa Claus.

I usually receive positive responses from friends and family about the change. This often motivates me to try and go past my Claus-in-training face to my ZZ Top. But my goal is suddenly redirected by a painful skin rash and a piercing sound.

“Why don’t you shave that thing off?” my mother will ask. “It makes you look so old and nasty.”

I quickly put the blade of my razor to my face and neck to end my suffering. But also to experience the reward of my clean-shaven skin’s first breath and the image of a man I hadn’t seen in seven days. Then I start all over again, enjoying each new person until day six when the voice and rash return.

But then my strategy to break my routine becomes its own routine and I’m right back where I started; in a routine. We need them to accomplish day-to-day goals and sometimes to build something long-term. But at what point do they stop helping, and instead start controlling? Where can we find the strength to break them?

After I graduated from high school in 1987, I changed addresses every single year until 2008. Sometimes it was just to another floor in the same building or a different part of a city or to an entire other country. My reasons for the moves ranged from necessity to adventure to facing a challenge with which I didn’t want to deal. Part of it all had been a journey, but another part had become a routine.

Because I didn’t move in 2009, my streak is broken. My withdrawal from the race was the result of pure exhaustion, and boredom of only scratching the surface of something instead of digging deeper to find out what was beneath.

As each day of my second year in the same place passes, I realize that my world isn’t ending because I’m breaking a routine. In fact I’ve been rewarded with closer relationships and stories of strength as I build something larger than I could have ever imagined.

Not moving last year was the biggest routine I ever broke. It has given me the strength to make other changes like eating healthier, spending time with family and friends and not immediately becoming angry when something doesn’t go my way.

But being still hasn’t been easy. I had to suddenly stop the routines of the person I was for the past twenty years. My urge for continuous movement, and my fear of responsibility frequently re-emerge, threatening the man I am trying to become.

So I grow beards. With each day’s growth of whiskers, I am reminded that I can be someone else. I can be responsible and passionate and generous and even adventurous. Through each face, I learn and become inspired to be the best I can.

This week I am sending you strength to break a routine. Call an old friend, go for a walk, eat at a new restaurant or take a night class. We all have the power to make positive changes in our lives, but we must take that first step.

As far as my beards go, my mother will be happy to know that since spring is here, I’ll stop growing them. But I seriously doubt she’s going to like my new routine to cope with the heat and humidity of the weather; shaving my head.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mr. Electric Illuminates the World

I recently visited the store, Abbeville Electric to interview the owner, Rob Roy. When I stepped into the front showroom, I was greeted by a glow of light fixtures hanging from almost every inch of the walls and ceiling. Because of their different shapes and sizes, the room cast shadows and reflections making it feel exotic and magical like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Is Rob Roy a super hero? I thought. Will he be wearing a cape with a picture of a light bulb on it and call himself Mr. Electric?

The man who introduced himself as Roy, was wearing normal clothes, but had the qualifications to be an electric caped crusader if he wished. His credentials include studying electronics at Louisiana Technical College in Abbeville, an apprenticeship as an electrician’s helper, and over twenty years of experience with lighting and electricity.

“I love different challenges such as designing and estimating costs of projects,” says Roy. “I never get bored with my job.”

Abbeville Electric offers consulting on lighting and electrical projects. Their merchandise line includes, (but is not limited to) ceiling fans, cabinet door hardware, landscape lighting, dimmer switches, oilfield related products, light bulbs, generators and receptacles.

“We have a strong relationship with building contractors and the oilfield industry,” says Roy. “But we also have a lot of customers who just need light bulbs.”

According to Roy, the easiest way to save electricity and money is by using Compact Florescent and LED light bulbs. They require less energy to produce more light than many regular bulbs.

Pictured: Me (Jacques Couvillon) replacing a regular bulb with an LED

“You should always use the recommended bulb wattage that is written on the light fixture,” says Roy. “If you use a bulb that is too high, it becomes a fire hazard.”

But Roy and his experienced employees do more than just offer advice on the correct bulbs to use. They can help you choose the right lighting fixture to perfectly illuminate any room in your home or business.

“We consider many factors like the use, size and wall color of the room,” says Roy. “But most importantly, we try to understand the customer’s tastes, wants and needs.”

Abbeville Electric also provides information on current safety guidelines as set by the National Electrical Code. One new requirement for all structures built in 2010 or later is the tamper resistant receptacle, which can be purchased at Abbeville Electric.

Although I learned a tremendous amount about electricity and lighting, the highlight of my interview was the tour Roy gave me of Abbeville Electric. The building was built in 1948 and was originally The Ritz movie theatre. Roy made a few renovations in accordance with the historical society, but did leave a remnant of the structure’s past.

“If you look up at the ceiling, you can see the curtain that dropped over the movie screen,” said Roy. “The old projector lights are still behind it.”

Pictured: Old curtains from The Ritz movie theatre

I have great respect for Roy for honoring the building’s past. But more so for the professionalism he practices when it comes to his job. He is not only there to sell you a light bulb, but to provide information on safety, saving money and illuminating the world. He may not be masked or traveling around on a bolt of light, but in my book, he is an electric super hero.

Abbeville Electric is located at 320 South State Street in Abbeville. For more information on their products and services call 337-898-2922.

Pictured: Steve Hebert and Rob Roy

Strengh to Give Other Strength

My mother has recently decided that the best way to spend her time is by telling me what to write about. She suggests everything from the chaos in other countries to the swine flu to why people don’t pick up the newspapers in their front yard before noon.

I explain to her with each suggestion that there are only certain things I write about. This doesn’t seem to satisfy her though, and she’ll usually push the subject until something new happens, or I threaten not to take her to sell her aluminum cans.

Her most recent writing suggestion is about a black and white photo that she found while cleaning up her office. It’s from a Carnival Ball at E. Broussard High School from 1937, and shows a king and queen surrounded by children, teenagers and adults.

“Write about this,” she commanded me while she shoved the photo in my face.

“I write about careers and strength,” I explained. “Although it’s sort of a miracle that you’re actually cleaning up your office, the photo doesn’t fit into either of my columns.”

My mother continued to strongly suggest (in ways that she seems to have mastered) that I write about the photo. I told her maybe, hoping that either she’d forget about it, or something new happened, like someone else not picking up their newspaper before noon.

But a couple of weeks ago, my mother made me drive her to Piazza Office Supply in Kaplan to make copies of the photo. Her purpose was to give them to different people who were either in, or knew someone from the Carnival Ball court.

Our first stop was at Mike and Ann Langlinais’ house in Cow Island because Mr. Langlinais’ sister, Laura Lee, was one of the children in the photo. She now lives in Lafayette, but she and her sister, Eugenia Mae just happened to be visiting their brother.

Before long, my mother and I were standing outside on a beautiful day with the three siblings and Mr. Langlinais’ son, Chip. While birds chirped and little dogs played around us like children, Laura Lee stared at the photo and smiled.

“Thank you so much for this picture,” Laura Lee said. “I haven’t thought about it in years.”

I’d spent a lot of time on the Langlinais’ property when I was a kid because of my friendship with their children. Being there a couple of weeks ago brought back many pleasant memories from that time. But the entire moment of catching up with old friends, meeting new people, and Laura Lee’s smile did something to me that I hadn’t expected. It gave me strength.

So here is the photo my mother asked me to be write about. Now everyone has a copy and can take a trip down memory lane. But to be clear, I didn’t write about this because of mother’s strong suggestions, or as some may call, “nagging.”

I wrote about the photo because of the time she took to make copies and share. She didn’t do it for a selfish reason like money or a big bag of aluminum cans. Her act was fueled only by the knowledge that it would bring others happiness, and in turn, give them strength.

Pictured from left to right:

Back Row: Lovelace Hebert, Eula Mae David Phillips, J.N. Greene, Janeverette Mouton Frederick, Raywood Mouton, Wanda Dartez Malden, King Billy Trahan, Queen Lily Mae Greene Morton, Azar David, Zoae Hardy Simon, Earl Dartez, Marie Greene Richard, Earl Couvillon, Rita Richard Mouton

Front Row, Left to Right: Dotsie Langlinais, Raywood Menard, Laura Broussard, Laura Lee Langlinais Pears, Larry Whitmeyer, and Maxie Mae Langlinais Trahan

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

True Calling Found Under the Hood of Truck

I’ve had many different jobs ranging from selling ties to working at a rice mill to serving Crystal Light and lemon meringue pie at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. At the start of each new one, I’d hope that I’d found my true calling in life, but they’d all end with disappointment. It wasn’t until I was thirty years old that I realized I was meant to be a writer.

But some people, like Brady Abshire, find their true calling much earlier. Before he was even a teenager, he realized that he was meant to repair moving vehicles.

“My dad bought old cars from the 1930’s and we’d restore them together,” says the younger Abshire. “When I was twelve, my cousin and I repaired a 1978 Ford pick-up truck. It felt like a huge accomplishment, and made me interested in automobiles.”

Brady Abshire began his training at eight years old when he swept floors at his father’s business, Truman Abshire Body and Wrecker. He eventually moved on to painting bumpers on trucks, and worked his way up until he became the owner in 2003.

Located in Abbeville, the business services almost anything involved in a collision, including cars, trucks, boats, mobile homes, tractors, eighteen-wheelers and stretch limousines. They’ll replace glass, reactivate air bags, repair engines, repaint bodies and even remove coffee stains from the carpets.

“We’ve towed vehicles from Texas to Florida,” says Abshire. “The best part of this job is seeing a smile on a customer’s face when they see the work we’ve done.”

All of Abshire’s auto body technicians are certified mechanics. They undergo routine ICAR training and are tested every five years by ASE, Automotive Service Excellence. Their technology includes computerized frame straightening equipment, and a computer and camera combo, which can identify the formula for any color paint.

“We continue to invest in the company,” says Abshire. “We stress education, safety and protecting the environment. We recycle as much as we can including anti-freeze and Freon.”

In the middle of my interview with Brady Abshire, I heard my name being called over a loud speaker. I ignored it at first because I thought I had misunderstood. But then the woman made the announcement louder and I was positive she was talking to me.

“Jacques. Come to the front and bring a shammy.”

At first I wondered if Abshire expected me to work in exchange for his interview. The only collision repair experience I had was with a dented fender on my car. I beat it out with a hammer and then put Band Aids over the chipped paint.

“Did I hear right?” I asked Abshire. “Did some woman just announce that I should go to the front with a shammy?”

“There’s another Jacques that works here,” Abshire said and laughed. “He’s an Hebert.”

Abshire gave me an extensive tour of the shop, where I learned the ins and outs of a collision repair center. I saw the guts of a door panel, and was even able to meet the other Jacques, who was working his way up to become a certified auto-body technician.

In the end, I was very impressed with the friendliness and qualifications of the people who work at Truman Abshire Body and Wrecker. The responsibility the company takes towards protecting the environment, and the importance its leader places on safety and education tells us more than it’s just a well run organization. It tells us that Brady Abshire found his true calling in life under the hood of that 1978 Ford pick-up truck.

For more information on the services offered by Truman Abshire Body and Wrecker, call 337-893-8400. For 24 hour towing, call 337-893-1608.

Pictured Left to Right: Christy Brigola, Phyllis Hebert, Brady Abshire, Melinda Abshire

Strength to Move Forward

One of the most common struggles people face today is maintaining a proper weight. The danger in a few extra pounds here and there is that they begin to add up, and before long can drastically change a person’s life. But it is sometimes easier to accept and accommodate a new body, rather than face the challenge of altering routine and working towards a healthier lifestyle.

So when I heard that Jackie Hebert of Abbeville lost seventy-five pounds in two years, I knew I had to interview her. I wanted to know what triggered her decision to take the long journey involved in changing her life. I needed to hear where she found her strength.

“So many different factors led to my decision to lose the weight,” says Hebert. “But the biggest was that it was my time.”

A couple of years ago, when Hebert was about to turn fifty, her health became a concern. Her father passed away at fifty-three years old from a heart attack, and she knew that her weight put her at risk as well.

“I wanted to be around for my three daughters and the rest of my family,” says Hebert. “I needed more energy to spend time with my grandkids.”

Hebert was given a gym membership for Christmas of 2007, and around the same time her company started hosting Weight Watchers’ meetings. She was also motivated by the fact that her middle daughter promised a cruise for the two of them as a reward for losing fifty pounds.

“The economy also played a role,” says Hebert. “I was afraid I might have to find a new job, and I know that appearance is important.”

In January of 2008, Hebert began going to Health Works in Abbeville twice a day, six days a week. She says that the pounds began to immediately melt away, which motivated her to keep up with her workouts.

“I was an athlete in high school and knew that exercise was the best way to lose the weight,” says Hebert. “I’m a routine person and knew I had to fit health into my schedule if I was going to be committed.”

According to Hebert, the hardest part about starting her exercise program was the muscle soreness. But she soon discovered the swimming pool, which helped relax both her mind and body.

“The gym has become a second home to me,” says Hebert. “The people at Health Works have been very supportive and are now a part of my life.”

The benefits for Hebert have been more energy, new friends and positive feedback from her family. Her advice to someone who wants to get in shape is to do it for them self, and to find an outlet they enjoy.

“I love swimming,” says Hebert. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t continue with my exercise program.”

One of the obstacles that Hebert faced in her journey towards a healthier lifestyle is eating properly. Since Weight Watchers no longer hosts meetings at her office, she lost the support of a diet consultant. She has, however, made a new goal to get into the mindset of planning her meals, and to lose another forty pounds.

“Where will you get the strength to change your life once again?” I asked Hebert when I interviewed her.

“By remembering where I was, and reminding myself of where I am now,” says Hebert. “This will give me the strength to move forward.”

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

My Mother's Make Over

One of the best parts about writing this column is that I get to have new and unusual experiences. I learned how to shuck an oyster, avoided getting a job on an alligator farm and gave my mother an inside look at the cutthroat business of recycling aluminum cans. This week I tried my hand at being a make-up artist.

It was a cold and cloudy morning when my mother and I drove to Abbeville for our latest job interview. We’d normally be drinking coffee at that time, but because of a busy week, I’d had to make an early appointment. It was evident that we hadn’t had time to fully wake up yet, because sleep filled the corners of my eyes, and there was a faint mark of a pillowcase zipper on the side of my mother’s cheek.

“Why are you interviewing Merle Norman?” my mother asked.

“I’m interviewing Anne Eleazar,” I answered. “She’s the owner of the store that sells Merle Norman cosmetics.”

Originally opened in 1988 by Eleazar’s mother, the little green store sits on the corner of the historic streets of North Jefferson and West St. Victor Street in Abbeville. In addition to makeovers and free make-up lessons, Merle Norman’s product line includes twenty-six blushes in three forms, over seventy-five different foundation choices and approximately thirty shades of lipstick.

“I came to work for my mom after I graduated from college,” says Eleazar. “I loved it so much that I’m still here after twenty years.”

According to Eleazar, skin care plays an important part in how good your make-up is going to look. She suggests washing your face every morning and evening, using sunscreen and moisturizer daily, and exfoliating weekly.

“The biggest mistake women make is choosing the wrong make-up,” says Eleazar. “Everyone is an individual, so they should test their cosmetics before they buy them.”

Eleazar’s favorite part of her job is the interaction she has with the customers. She enjoys helping them look their best because it seems to improve their mood.

“My most memorable customer was a little girl with cancer who needed some make-up for her dance recital,” says Eleazar. “She looked so sad at first, but after I gave her a make-over, she couldn’t stop smiling.”

After I asked my last question, I looked around the shop for a job I could work. The walls surrounding me had pictures of giant lipsticks, compacts and women looking down and laughing. It made me feel ashamed as if I’d accidentally stepped into the ladies bra and underwear section at a department store.

“Most men are afraid to come in here,” Eleazar said. “Are you okay? You look uncomfortable.”

“I’m fine,” I said. “It’s just a little early.”

I lied. It was time to do a job and the only one I could think of was to put make up on my mother. I began to wish I’d taken the job on the alligator farm.

But a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. So with a little foam pad, I applied blush to my mother’s cheeks, covering the faint mark of the pillowcase zipper.

“You put too much,” my mother told me as we drove away from Merle Norman. “I look like a clown.”

The sun started shining and I got a better look at the makeover I’d given to my mother. She had two red cheeks like a Raggedy Ann doll, or Mrs. Claus.

“Ms. Eleazar was right,” I said and laughed out loud. “Going to Merle Norman does put a person in a better mood.”

For more information on the services and products offered by Anne Eleazar at Merle Norman call 337-893-8463.

Strength for a Healthy Mind and Body

There are many mornings when my body wakes up before my mind. Sometimes a cup of coffee or a shower will make me more alert, but physical exercise usually works best. Even though I know this, I can’t always find the strength to break a sweat.

Something else I know is the importance of making the right food choices. My favorite meal in the world is fried chicken, but after I eat it, my body feels drained and exhausted. Yet I’ll get a six-piece dinner with a biscuit and battered fries and feast on it as if competing in a Popeye’s eating contest at a parish fair.

Everyone is entitled to a little gluttony, and rest and relaxation now and then. But how do we ensure that we don’t enjoy the world’s pleasures too much? Where do we find the strength to stay on track towards a healthy mind and body?

Vermilion Parish resident, Carl Hollier is a living example of the power of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. He started his business, Olympus Wellness and Fitness, with his wife Julie, back in 1981 when he was only eighteen years old.

“At that age, you have no fears,” says Hollier. “I felt invincible because I had no huge responsibilities except for the business.”

Hollier always had an interest in fitness, so when he graduated from high school, he pursued his dream. But as he built his business, he also grew in other areas. In addition to raising two children with his wife, Julie, he also received an undergraduate degree in Pre-law, and a Masters degree in exercise physiology. He currently teaches special education at Gueydan High School.

“My family is my number one priority,” says Hollier. “My responsibility to them kept me focused on staying healthy and accomplishing my career goals.”

According to Hollier, there is nothing closer to the fountain of youth than exercise. Strength training prevents bone loss and can also aid in lowering fever due to illness.

“The right exercise program can reduce injuries and keep people healthy,” says Hollier. “But nutrition is equally important.”

Hollier suggests a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, proteins and unsaturated fats. These can be found in brown rice and beans, chicken and fish, and a variety of nuts like almonds and walnuts.

“A whole grain cereal with low fat milk is a great way to start your day,” says Hollier. “The complex carbohydrates will give you the energy to get through your morning.”

Hollier says that a reputable fitness trainer will listen to the customer’s goals and chart their progress. He/she should teach how to eat healthy rather than sell, “get fit quick,” products.

“Make sure your exercise program is designed to reduce injuries,” says Hollier. “Nothing is overnight. You’re not going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in thirty days.”

Hollier says the best part about working at Olympus Wellness and Fitness are the clients. His most memorable one was a man named Mr. Montgomery who exercised until the day he died.

“You’ve run a successful company for almost thirty years while raising children, getting your masters degree and teaching school,” I said to Hollier when I interviewed him. “Where did you get your strength?”

“Knowledge,” he said. “I learned as much as I could about health and fitness. This and my wonderful family gave me strength.”

I am a firm believer that physical exercise is a major component of being mentally healthy. Use your newfound knowledge and find your strength today.

For more information on the services offered by Olympus Wellness and Fitness call 337-643-6069.