Sunday, August 29, 2010

Strength For Back to School

Regardless of if you’re a student, parent, teacher or principal, the transition from the leisurely hours of summer to the hectic schedule of a classroom can be a bumpy ride. With so many goals to accomplish, it can often be difficult to focus and manage time.

So where do we get the hours, patience and motivation for tests, homework and having to raise our hands to ask to go to the bathroom? Where do we get the strength?

Loren Meaux is a fifth grader at Mount Carmel Elementary in Abbeville. This summer she took a trip to the mountains in Tennessee and went white water rafting.

“My favorite part was going to Wonder Works,” says Meaux. “It’s an upside down building that’s really cool.”

During the rest of the summer, Loren usually woke around 11 A.M. She’d spend the day with her dad or at a friend’s house. Her favorite things to do were watch television, ride her bike and play outside.

“The best part of school starting is that I get to see my friends and favorite teachers,” says Meaux. “The hardest part is that this year we change classes, so I have to carry around a lot of heavy books.”

According to Meaux, the biggest difference between school and summer is that she now has to wake up early. She also will spend less time playing, and more time studying and doing homework.

“Where do you get the strength to wake up early and go back to school?” I asked.

“I don’t have another choice,” said Meaux. “Everybody has to go to school. It’s the law.”

Corey Bourque, the principal at Delcambre High School, has worked in education for over thirty-five years. He starts his school year two weeks earlier than the students and ends two weeks after they leave for summer.

“My wife and I took a trip to Montgomery this summer,” says Bourque. “We also went camping a lot.”

According to Bourque, the best part of school being back in session is all of the activities like sports, band and cheerleading. He jokes that it is also a sign that duck-hunting season is not far behind.

“We have a lot of exciting things happening this school year,” says Bourque. “The cheerleading squad is going to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, there’s a new concession stand at the football field and we’re getting a new all weather track.”

Bourque says that the biggest challenge of the first day of school is ensuring that everyone has a schedule. He said this year was a little more challenging because of expanded class sizes.

“Where do you get the strength to get through the school year?” I asked.

“We have great faculty, staff, students and parents who help,” says Bourque. “Knowing that we have community involvement gives me strength.”

Tara Frick is a kindergarten teacher at Forked Island Ernest Broussard Elementary. She and her husband, Blaine Frick, are the parents of six children. Their ages are twelve, eleven, ten, nine, seven and three. Five of them are in school and are in grades, seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and second.

“The best part of back to school as a teacher is going through the learning process with new students,” says Frick. “I love seeing where they are, and knowing where I’m going to bring them.”

Frick says the most challenging part of heading back to school is the lack of time. In addition to being a mother and teacher, she is also a student getting her Masters in Education via an online classroom.

“What I’ll miss most about the summer is the time we got to spend together as a family,” says Frick. “Many of my children have extracurricular activities, so during school we aren’t together as much.”

Frick prepared for back to school by changing her children’s summer sleep schedule a few weeks before their first day. She had them go to bed earlier and wake up earlier to get them into a new routine.

“Our children have locker spaces at our house to keep all of the things they need for school,” says Frick. “Organization keeps me sane.”

During the summer, Frick woke up at 6:30 A.M. But now she wakes up at 5:00 A.M. This is her time to pray and prepare for the day ahead.

“Where do you get the strength to teach and be a mother to six kids?” I asked.

“From the grace of God, my husband and my family” said Frick. “They give me strength.”

Back to school is about more than big yellow buses, homework and basketball jamborees. It’s about learning, developing friendships and accomplishing goals.

Although the classroom can be hectic and stressful, it will make us stronger and give us the tools needed to function in today’s world and society. Through organization, support and remembering to enjoy the learning process, we can survive an education. By focusing and enduring the hard work involved in going back to school, we will be rewarded with strength.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Perry Plantation Vines

It’s obvious from the Vermilion Parish landscape that we are in the final days of summer. Golden rice fields are being harvested, wildflowers and annuals are drying up, and snake-like vines are covering any and every thing within their grasp.

My own garden is suffering now because of the intimidating heat, insects and weeds. The tomato and bell peppers stopped producing and have grown to the size of oak trees. Vines are smothering my palms and blue flocks.

But in a one-acre garden in Perry, Judy Choate has found peace with the vines. She allows them to flourish and decorate the other survivors of summer like brightly colored Christmas lights.

“I like my garden to be natural and wild,” says Choate. “I don’t plan anything.”

Cypress vines accessorize long thorny stems of roses, Wisteria weaves itself around a Holly tree, and Clematis and Confederate Jasmine create a wall on the back porch of a craft-style house.

“I love going outside every morning and seeing what’s new,” says Choate. “I call it, ‘surveying my plantation.’”

The Perry plantation is rectangular in shape. Its borders are lined with clusters of Crepe Myrtles and Mimosas, a fence covered in morning glory, and a Lantana and black-eye Susan flowerbed framing a wicker swing.

“I used to play in this yard when I was little because my grandmother lived right next door,” says Choate. “I sat in the swing before I ever dreamed of living here.”

The different flowerbeds spread throughout the property contain everything from Boston, Maidenhair and asparagus ferns to Zinnas, four’clocks and butterfly weeds to Mexican petunias, giant red salvia and razzle dazzle roses. Herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, chives, parsley and bay leaf grow in nooks and crannies around Choate’s home.

“My yard is always changing and different every year,” says Choate. “Most of it i from seeds or cuttings.”

According to Choate, the hardest part of gardening is cleaning out the beds every year to start over. Her favorite moments in her garden are created while sitting on her front porch.

“I didn’t have a front porch when I first bought the house,” says Choate. “After several years, I finally built one. It’s been a wonderful gift.”

When I visited Choate, she gave me a tour of the different flowerbeds. There were many plants I’d never seen before like hidden ginger, a ponytail palm and candelabra tree.

“These are Mrs. B.R. Can’t roses,” said Choate. “I planted these by this window to keep my kids from sneaking out the house at night.”

That was the funniest thing said on my interview and I couldn’t stop laughing. I was one of those kids who used his bedroom window as a front door. I am very thankful that my parents hadn’t thought to use rose bushes as a security measure.

“I don’t know if anyone got caught in the bushes sneaking out,” laughed Choate. “But I know somebody got caught in them trying to sneak in.”

Out of all the different vines Choate had growing throughout her garden, my favorite was purple morning glory climbing a pipe on the side of the house. The heart shaped leaves seemed to float in the air while the flowers smiled.

My afternoon at the Perry plantation taught me that even though my summer garden might look hopeless and unattractive, I should still try to get some pleasure out of its wildness. In a few months, most of the trees will be bare, and the weather will become cold. But thanks to a gardener with a good sense of humor, I’ll have the warmth of a memory about security roses and thick, hearty vines.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Double Portion of Blessing-Fleuriet Automotive

There are several milestones for every small business owner. They start with the decision to take a chance on the future, a grand opening and the first dollar ever earned. But if you’re John and Jeanne Fleuriet of Fleuriet Automotive, that would be the first two dollars.

“Our first customer was our Pastor Robert Wells,” says Mr. Fleuriet. “He came in for an oil change and paid with two-dollar bills. He said he was giving us a double portion of blessing.”

Fleuriet Automotive opened its door on September 1, 2000. In a few weeks, they will celebrate another milestone, their ten-year anniversary.

“We want to thank the whole city for its support,” says Mrs. Fleuriet. “We love it here and hope to stay here forever.”

Fleuriet Automotive services automobile brakes, air conditioners, front ends, engines and transmissions. They flush radiators, change oil, replace fans belts and provide tune-ups. They also run computer diagnosis to fully understand what is going on with a vehicle.

“The most important thing we do is service the customer,” says Mr. Fleuriet. “Our business is based on faith, honesty and integrity.”

Mr. Fleuriet studied automotive repair at the Southwest Louisiana Vocational School in Crowley. Before opening his own business, he worked as a helicopter mechanic in the military for six years, and an as automotive mechanic for over ten years.

“The biggest reason for vehicle breakdowns is heat, age and neglect,” says Mr. Fleuriet. “Any car will last many years if you maintain it.”

According to Mr. Fleuriet, the hardest part of his job is finding intermittent issues with an automobile that might not be detected by a computer diagnosis. The best part is providing a service to his community.

“There’s no bad day at work because I love what I do,” says Mr. Fleuriet. “I wake up wanting to go to work.”

Mr. Fleuriet is certified by Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) as a Master Automobile Technician. He routinely attends vehicle diagnostic classes to keep up with technology.

“My advice to someone interested in becoming a mechanic is to be patient and learn as much as you can,” says Mr. Fleuriet. “Technology is constantly changing so it’s important to know what’s out there.”

I recently visited Fleuriet Automotive, which is located on the corner of West Port Street and Highway 167 in Abbeville. I’d passed by it several times before and always noted how clean it was, but wondered why there never seemed to be any cars in the lot.

“I pride myself in helping customers get their vehicles back in one day,” says Mr. Fleuriet. “I like my parking lot to be empty before I go home at night.”

Mr. Fleuriet lifted his truck up on a hydraulic lift and showed me its skeleton. He described each part and its function, and although I tried to learn and retain as much as possible, I was more awed by the fact that I was actually standing underneath an automobile.

But in the end, I learned a great deal about what it takes to reach milestones in a business. It involves loving your job, taking a leap of faith and providing service fueled by pride. It also doesn’t hurt to have a double portion of blessing.

Fleuriet Automotive is located at 606 West Port Street in Abbeville. For more information on their hours and services call 337-893-1743. For other pictures of my time with them, visit

Vehicle Maintenance 101- Provided by Fleuriet Automotive

Change oil and filter every 3000 miles
Check all fluid levels with every oil change
Change air filter every 15,000 miles and fuel filter every 30,000 miles
Flush radiator and refill once a year
Tune-up every 60,000 to 75,000 miles
Rotate tires every other oil change


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strength to Save for the Future

Washington, Lincoln and especially Benjamin are the life of the party when all dressed up in their green cash suits. They provide the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, and the pillows we lay our heads on at night. Their presence brings us great joy and their absence breaks our heart in times of rainy days, retirement and medical emergencies.

When the Presidents aren’t around, plastic dollar bills can be dream makers and lifesavers. But they can also seduce and drown us with things that are “cool” “a good deal” or “awesome!”

We know that money can’t buy happiness, but it can definitely rent a smile. So where do we find the guidance and self-control to manage our finances before they manage us? Where do we find the strength?

My brother, Joey Couvillon is an Executive Vice President at Vermilion Bank in Kaplan. His financial credentials include twenty-eight years of experience in the lending industry and a degree from the LSU Graduate School of Banking.

“The hardest part of my job is staying up with federal regulations and compliance issues,” says Joey. “The best part is being able to help people buy their first car or home.”

Joey says that the first place to start when managing money is to make a budget and set financial goals. Each year, he and his wife, Rhonda discuss what they want and need, and then save accordingly. They try to avoid the instant gratification of credit.

“One of the easiest ways to save money is to have it automatically transferred from your checking to savings account each month,” says Joey. “I suggest putting aside at least five percent of your salary for retirement or a child’s education. Rhonda and I have two kids in college now, and I’m so thankful that we started planning for it as soon as they were born.”

According to Joey, someone interested in purchasing a home should have at least ten percent of the total price for a down payment. When visiting the bank for the first time, a customer should bring proof of income, and information about the house they are interested in purchasing.

“The bank will get an appraisal on the home and pull a credit report on the customer,” says Joey. “If someone would like to buy a house but is unsure of what they can afford, I can help them figure it out.”

Managing money has never been my forte, so I’ve often turned to Joey for advice. He always explained my options in a way that made my choices and decisions clearer and less intimidating. More importantly, he gained my trust because he really wanted to help me accomplish my financial goals.

“Where do you get the strength to manage your finances so you can plan for the future but still enjoy the present?” I asked Joey on the night I interviewed him.

“Rhonda and I both disciplined ourselves at an early age,” said Joey. “Its something that was instilled in us by our parents. If I can’t afford a big truck, then I get a small truck.”

I’m currently re-evaluating my own financial situation and making adjustments to attain goals. I’ve paid the penalties for instant gratification, but have learned a priceless lesson from my brother.

Being aware of my finances and sticking to a budget is half the battle of keeping the green-suited Presidents by my side. Practicing self-control will ensure that they stay close and provide for me. Once again, Joey’s advice made planning my future clearer. Once again, his genuine desire to help me accomplish my goals, brought me strength.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Golden Fields of Grain and Tradition


A gardener finds inspiration from many different sources. It might be a desire for fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables or the love of creating life from soil and seeds. But for some, a garden is inspired by tradition.

“My father, grandfather and great grandfather were all farmers,” says gardener/farmer Patrick Hebert. “Growing food is a part of my heritage.”

In addition to crawfishing and raising cattle, Hebert also farms rice. This year he is growing approximately 1,000 acres in fields spread throughout Vermilion Parish.

“I used to farm about 1,500 acres,” says Hebert. “But because the recent hurricanes flooded the land with salt water, I had to cut back.”

According to Hebert, rice is usually planted around the end of April, or beginning of May. It can be done by a crop duster that drops seeds in a flooded field, or by a machine that drills seeds into the ground.

“They both have their advantages and disadvantages,” says Hebert. “For example, no till drill planting conserves soil and prevents water pollution.”

After the rice is planted, Hebert cares for his garden by fertilizing, and maintaining proper water levels. He also routinely monitors the crop to control the invasion of weeds, like red or black rice, and insects like army worms, root maggots and stink bugs.

“The growing cycle, from planting to harvest is about sixteen weeks,” says Hebert. “All of the grain has to be gold before the rice is ready to cut.”

Hebert says the biggest challenge of farming is being at the mercy of the weather and the market price of rice. A drought or storm can dramatically affect the profitability of a crop.

“The price of rice depends on what the rest of the world is producing,” says Hebert. “We don’t know what we’re going to get for our crop until the day we sell it.”

Hebert is on the Vermilion Soil and Water Conservation District. It’s made up of five supervisors on the local level who focus on soil and water conservation, and preventing air pollution.

“We promote farming practices that have less of a negative impact on the environment,” says Hebert. “I’m in the process of replacing our farm’s old diesel pumps to electric. They’re much more efficient and don’t pollute the air and water.”

When I visited Hebert, we jumped in his pick-up truck and he drove me along some of his rice fields. To the left were golden fields of grain, and to the right were canals used to water them.

“Your field always needs a water source,” said Hebert. “It’s cheaper to pump it from a canal than from a ground well, but during droughts you run the risk of salt water intrusion.”

Hebert harvested a few acres of his rice the day before my visit, but had to wait a little longer for the rest of his crop to ripen. At least that’s what he told me, but I highly suspect he just said that because he was afraid I’d ask to drive a combine.

During the tour, we visited Hebert’s son, David who was bailing hay. He currently works with his father, and is continuing the tradition of farming in his family.

“I love being outside and working with my dad and grandpa,” said the younger Hebert. “There’s always something different happening on a farm, which is great because I like having flexible days.”

Although I grew up on a farm, I learned a tremendous amount from the Heberts. They enlightened me on new technology as well as the challenges a modern day farmer faces.

But most importantly, I learned that there are different types of gardens. They are all used to grow something, but need not be limited to only fruits, vegetables and flowers. Whatever is produced is up to the gardener, who may choose to use a plot of land to carry on a family tradition and create golden fields of pride, love and grain.

Strength to Unpack the Boxes

It is much easier to step over a pair of dirty jeans than to pick it up and put it in a hamper. As the pile of laundry grows, however, the opposite becomes true. Not washing the clothes will only make life more difficult in the future, but with a jammed packed schedule there’s no room to pencil in, “Wash out ring around the collar.”

So how do we quit procrastinating and find the time to remove the clutter before it becomes a problem? Where do we find the strength?

Several years ago when I moved out of New York City, my life was packed away in boxes. Big ones, small ones, rectangular ones, square ones, even round ones, filled with books, pictures, t-shirts, socks, fear and confusion.

Many of the boxes had been in storage for some time, because although my possessions and insecurities had grown larger over the years, my apartments had become smaller. The city was a great place to live while chasing the dream of becoming a writer, but once I caught it, goals, paths and situations changed. I would no longer be able to afford the luxury of a full time job while writing, because writing became my full time job.

The boxes and I found refuge in my childhood bedroom in my mom’s Cow Island farmhouse. I stacked my past in every corner to keep it from getting in the way of my future.

My plate was full. Pages to write, decisions to make, commitments to fulfill. It seemed that no matter how hard and long I worked, there was never enough time to accomplish everything. Smaller tasks would have to wait.

I built walls with the boxes, and used them as stepladders, end tables and shelves. I constantly moved them to get to other things, but there was no time to simply unpack them.

Then my schedule began to take its toll on me in other ways. My body was exhausted during the daylight hours, but couldn’t rest during the evening. I’d toss and turn throughout the night, until the alarm clock sitting on a stack of manuscripts would yell at me to get up and capture every second of the day.

One night I laid wide awake as my body and mind fought over the control of my eyelids. Everything had become too; too exhausting, too overwhelming, too cluttered. I felt tempted to jump in my truck and drive away, leaving the boxes and commitments behind. But there was too much writing, too little time.

I stood and moved towards my desk to turn on a lamp. My goal was to get a little work done, but my body ran into a stack of boxes. One of them fell over onto the floor with a thud, and then the sound of paper sliding across the hardwood floors whispered around me.

After turning on a lamp, my eyes focused in on the damage. An opened box laid on its side in the middle of the room. Journals, tablets and sheets of paper spilled out onto the floor, while pencils rolled under my bed.

I knelt down and picked up the pages and saw that they were old writing exercises and short stories from years before. Many of them had taught me tremendously and others had made me proud. They were scattered all over the floor and there was no way to step over or around them.

The unpacking began. Clothes were organized into closet and charity piles. Dried up ink pens and markers were thrown into the trash with confusion and ten year old packs of gum. Letters from friends, past writing exercises and important financial statements were filed accordingly. Language books, travel guides and writing manuals moved onto shelves with souvenirs like ashtrays and old coffee cans filled with coins.

After that night, I moved freely around my room and accomplished tasks quicker than before. My mind and body were clear and energetic during the day and ready to rest in the evening. My past was all unpacked and organized, and it was only then that I was able to enjoy my present, and see my future.

It seems like it’s a constant battle to find the time to do the laundry, clean the closets, and remove the clutter. But making it a priority can bring peace to our lives and create more efficient paths to our future. Unpacking the boxes will bring us strength.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Story of a Pen at Piazza Office Supply


I’ve always had a strong, but strange relationship with the ink pen. Its color and design, feel of the stem in my hands and smoothness of the ink as it paints words on the page all affect my writing. Sadly, there is nothing that excites me more than unopened box of ballpoints.

“Every pen has its own story,” says Ed Piazza, co-owner and manager of Piazza Office Supply in Abbeville. “The Frixion is an erasable pen that uses friction to erase instead of an eraser.”

Piazza is well familiar with the evolution of pens because he grew up in the office supply industry. His father, Paul Piazza, opened the first Piazza Office Supply store in 1949. There are now branches in Kaplan, Rayne, and Abbeville, where the family also owns a Radio Shack.

“I started pushing a broom around the store when I was ten,” says Ed Piazza. “So many things have changed over the years. We don’t sell little bottles of ink anymore because people stopped writing with quills.”

Piazza Office Supply sells office machinery like photocopiers, fax machines and printers, furniture like chairs, desks, bookcases and coffee tables, and office and school supplies like paper, pens, pencils, stencils, staplers, scissors, and everything else needed in an office or classroom.

“The hardest part of managing a business is maintaining your presence,” says
Piazza. “The best part is getting out and meeting people. I love visiting my customers.”

Services of Piazza Office Supply include bulk copying, and shipping via U.P.S. On-staff repairmen service photocopiers, fax machines and printers. Full-time sales representatives consult on the proper equipment and furniture needed to set up a new office.

“My advice to someone who wants to start their own business is to take it slow,” says Piazza. “You have to constantly juggle all aspects of the organization. You can’t let it overwhelm you.”

I visited Piazza Office Supply in Abbeville recently to find out about the industry. It was my first time meeting Ed Piazza, but it only took a few minutes for me to realize that he was a shrewd businessman. When I couldn’t find my mechanical pencil for the interview, the salesman generously offered to sell me a new one.

I have been in this branch many times and enjoy shopping there for several reasons. One is that there is usually a parking spot right out front. Two, they sell individual envelopes as well as boxed ones. Three, their photocopies are only five cents for single and small print runs.

Since my time was limited when previously visiting Piazza Office Supply, I never had a chance to look through their product line. They have many of the items you’d expect to find like office machines, furniture and supplies, but also carry gifts like cookbooks, paperweights, umbrellas and picture frames.

The section that fascinated me the most was the pen aisle. There are ballpoints, felt tips, gels, needle-points and calligraphy utensils. Dr. Grip describes itself as the prescription for writing fatigue, and The Uniball Gel Signa is considered the pen of bankers because its non-transferable ink helps prevent check fraud.

“The Bottle 2 Pen is made from recycled plastic bottles,” said Piazza. “Our best selling pen is the Pilot G2. It’s hard to keep it on the shelf.”

Piazza stood with me in the pen aisle as I gave many of them a test drive. He showed me the latest advancements in ballpoint technology, and even gave me a Jetstream pen. Black and silver in color, and not too thin or thick, it wrote smoothly and effortlessly.

The fourth and foremost reason that I often shop at Piazza Office Supply is because of their customer service. Whenever my body enters the store, someone always offers to help. The salesperson knows the product and spends time with me. Even if only to sell me a mechanical pencil, or share the story of a pen.

For more information on the products and services offered by Piazza Office Supply, call 337-893-0807.


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Strength to be Like Drew Brees

We’ve all had our heroes or someone we looked up to in life. We’ve admired their actions and felt awed by their presence. They are our leaders who we cheer for and sometimes aspire to be. But when they seem so perfect, powerful and different from us, where do we get the nerve to try to be like one of them? Where do we get the strength?

Last week, on an extremely hot and humid day, I stood in line for an hour and a half at Octavia Books in New Orleans to buy a signed copy of Drew Brees’ memoir, “Coming Back Stronger”. The line was around two city blocks and included a diverse group of people ranging from lawyers to nurses to college students to a columnist for the Abbeville Meridional.

I had had my own book signing at Octavia Books in 2007 when my novel, “The Chicken Dance” was released. Everyone was welcomed, but the store only sold twelve copies. For Drew Brees’ signing, we had to pre-purchase tickets, and the store sold twelve hundred copies.

As I stood in line waiting to see the famous Saint’s quarterback, I couldn’t help but wonder why his book signing was so much more successful than mine. Granted, he led a team to a Super Bowl victory. But I wrote a book about a little boy whose life changed after winning a poultry-judging contest. Wasn’t that just as marketable, if not more so?

There is no argument that Drew Brees and I are very different people. But we also have many similarities.

We are both men. We’ve both written books and had signings at the same store, and although I have never dated or married a girl named, Brittany, I have most definitely danced to one’s music.

Drew Brees and I have even both torn our rotator cuff during a football game. His accident was from an attempt to save a fumbled ball during a game with the Denver Broncos. Mine was because I’d mistakenly gotten a massage right before playing flag football and the coco butter all over my body made me skid across the ground into a sideline post.

As the line moved up closer to Drew Brees and his memoir, I questioned why I was there. I rarely read autobiographies, let alone ones by athletes. I hadn’t even heard of this man until 2008 when my sister brought me to my first Saints’ game.

Was I buying the memoir to put on my coffee table to showcase to visitors? Was my intention to give the signed book as a gift? Would I even read it?

As my section of the crowded line made its way out of the heat into the same building as Drew Brees, we all nervously fidgeted like a child needing a bathroom or about to sit on Santa Claus’ lap. A lawyer hung up his cell phone in the middle of contract negotiations, a nurse put on lipstick and eyeliner, and the Abbeville Meridional columnist got his camera ready.

The man we were all there to see was sitting at a table quickly signing book after book. To his left were stacks of his memoir that store workers handed to customers as they redeemed their pre-purchased tickets.

I turned around to the lawyer behind me and asked if he could get a picture of me picking up my books. I stopped to hand him my camera, and a woman who worked at the store told us to keep the line moving.

When I reached the table, I faced the lawyer so he could photograph this split second moment for which I’d waited an hour and a half. The bookstore worker instructed me again to keep moving, and then made a face that couldn’t be described as friendly. So I moon walked as I handed in my ticket, grabbed my book and posed for the picture.

When the flash went off, the bookstore line cop rolled her eyes and said, “Men.”

The ruckus made Drew Brees pick his head up from the book he was signing. He looked around quickly and blinked his eyes. Then as if he had been caught doing something bad, he whispered, “I’m sorry.”

With my prized book in my hand, I stepped outside and reviewed my photograph on my digital camera. I planned to put it on my web site and email it to my sister to make her jealous. But the joke was on me because the lawyer had only captured an image of my shoes.

I didn’t dare go and ask the line cop to take another picture, and instead opened my book to look at Drew Brees’ signature. It was big and bold and unreadable like a doctor’s or kindergartener. But it was art to me, and it was mine.

When I got home, I immediately started reading, “Coming Back Stronger.”

The quarterback talks about his childhood, relationships and pivotal moments in his life. In many of the stories, he expresses how he felt beaten down and lost. But in each of them, he brushed himself off and stood back up stronger than ever.

In his most powerful recollection, Drew Brees tells about his last game with the San Diego Chargers when he dislocated his shoulder and tore his rotator cuff. His career in the NFL was at risk and his confidence was tested. When I tore my rotator cuff, my biggest concern was that I’d still be able to pop and lock on the dance floor.

Yet, there have been many times when I felt beaten. Like it was me against the world, and that I didn’t have the strength for the battle. From, “Coming Back Stronger,” I learned that even heroes face challenges and defeat, but it’s their choice to never quit which gives them the power to rise to the top.

Drew Brees did more for the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana than lead the Saints to a Super Bowl victory. He related to us at a time when we needed someone who understood what it felt like to be overwhelmed, scared and beaten down. That is why I stood in line for an hour and a half to get his memoir and signature, and why I’d do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next.

My black and gold hero and I probably have more differences than similarities, and chances are I’ll never lead a football team to a Super Bowl victory. But I still aspire to have the confidence and determination of this man who faced adversity and came back stronger. I still aspire to have his strength.