It's Fall, Y'all!
The Loving Louisiana Blog is entering into its 4th year this month. We are excited about this upcoming year and the opportunity for more outreach and highlighting even more of our community partners and those making a difference across our state.
Like many of you in the nonprofit world and others in the business community, all of us working with the Louisiana First Foundation (LFF) have also had to find innovative ways to raise money during the Covid-19 pandemic. We spoke with other nonprofits about their strategies and were so inspired by the many ideas they shared, prompting us to think of creative ways to promote and raise funds to support our work helping Louisiana’s children.
So as we begin this new chapter in our story, we are faithful to the work set before us. We trust that given all that we have been able to accomplish together, through the generosity of people like you and many others, we will continue providing valuable resources to those who need them. We are so excited about what the future holds.
As the holiday season approaches, we have come up with a great idea to help make your gift shopping and giving a little easier. We have curated a beautiful but small collection of Louisiana-made items that could be perfect for that special child or loved one in your life. We are thrilled to introduce all of our partners and friends to the Les Fideles Louisiana Collection. Les Fideles is a French phrase that means “the faithful.” Each purchase enables the LFF to continue supporting children across our state. We hope you enjoy the collection and thank you in advance for your thoughtful purchase.
You all have been such wonderful encouragers along this journey, and my team and I are THANKFUL for each of you! We pray your Thanksgiving is filled with joy, gratefulness, LOVE, and FRIENDS and FAMILY. Happy Thanksgiving!
Help us to all be “The Faithful”. Faithful in doing your will and trusting in your loving care. Guide and guard us as we step out in faith believing in your word. Give us a heart of compassion for those around us as we all carry a cross along this journey called life. Amen
FEATURE A Bandit in the Mansion
Hello friends, can you believe Thanksgiving is almost here? We may be near the end of the year, but I’m super excited to finally share some pretty big news about a new beginning of sorts for me. It’s a special project that I’ve been working on for quite some time- a real dream come true. It’s the release of my new children’s book series entitled A Bandit in the Mansion Series, and the first book is called “Bandit Moves to the Mansion”. As a teacher and a mom, I know that reading is such a gift, which unfortunately many take for granted. Reading allows us to escape to a place and time all our own. It encourages our minds to dream and to go where our feet often cannot take us.
In 2016, I found myself in a place of uncertainty. Uncertainty of my new role as the first lady. Uncertainties of being mom to our newly married daughter, a son in his last year of Jr High and a daughter in college were sometimes a challenge. January of that year was filled with the inauguration and lots of stressors. Thirteen tornadoes touched down in February, flooding in March, a shooting, protests and unrest in June and even more shootings in July involving six law enforcement officers, of which three died. Then August came, and we experienced the 100- year flood that destroyed many communities. It seemed everywhere we turned there was tragedy and trauma that was often hard to process much less understand.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized that the numbness I was feeling, the days of walking in a fog-like state was actually my brain in overload. I would go through the days and realize I had accomplished very little. Staring out the window watching law enforcement officers protecting the mansion as protesters yelled from the other side. These were times of high stress, anxiety and uncertainty.
The constant in my life at the time was my husband. John Bel had a source of strength that I often referred to as his “Ranger Mode”. He was focused and solid. His resilience and our strong faith in God gave me strength and calmness as we rode out this storm of uncertainties together.
My sweet dogs were my second source of peace. They brought joy and calmness. Bandit and Molly came to the mansion with us from Roseland. But my little bichon, Lady, was brought to the Mansion in July. A puppy always brings a certain joy that is like none other. Having these fur babies around gave a certain comfort and often laughter.
Only after a few months did the idea of a children’s book about Bandit and his adventures in the Mansion come to my mind. It was this book idea that started bringing a state of clarity to my spirit. I would sit outside rocking in the breeze writing these adventures, pin to paper and remembering the details of each discovery he made. Using my creativity to write what I believed Bandit must have been thinking based on his actions.
This time of writing became my chance to escape into his world. His movements and actions throughout the Mansion property became an opportunity for me to write, to be creative, to heal. Yes, this time of creativity of writing presented a time of stillness, and a time of healing of my mind. My mind now had a focus. This new focus was not of uncertainty or trauma. It was a focus of what I knew, and within this time I found joy and the opportunity to smile.
Music, art and movement are part of my initiative within the Louisiana First Foundation. The arts are important to teaching the whole child. And within the arts many find a peace, a calmness that is therapy and healing to the mind and soul. Therapy for the overworked brain. Therapy for the mind that is needed for healing. So this is where I found my healing, in using my creative mind. I hope you will enjoy reading this book to your children, grandchildren, young family members and students.
I encourage everyone to find something creative to bring into their life. A focus of joy and a gift to your mind. I am truly thankful for the gift of creativeness. And my wish is for you to find that gift too. We all have a creative side so start searching if you don’t know what yours is yet. It may be music, art, movement, acting, writing, dance, sports, etc…. Take a chance on yourself!
And please consider supporting our foundation by selecting a special gift from Les Fideles.
LOUISIANA FIRST FOUNDATION
Louisiana First Foundation’s Teach MAM Ambassadors joined First Lady Donna Edwards to discuss Teach MAM plans for the upcoming year. Be on the lookout for some fun videos from our Ambassadors, and be sure to follow First Lady Edwards on TikTok to participate in the upcoming Christmas Caroling Challenge led by our Music Ambassador, Annelise Casaar Tedesco with surprise guest appearances by our Art Ambassador, Carolyn Scalfano and our Movement Ambassador Key’re Bradford.
On October 28, 2021, Louisiana Superintendents, teachers, school counselors, the Department of Children and Family services, Louisiana Fosters, and partners participated in the 5th Louisiana Fosters Summit. The summit was able to reach all corners of the state through our virtual platform. This year covered all the aspects of trauma in our state and how it affects our children. Below is a recap of what each speaker had to say.
ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Louisiana First Foundation’s (LFF) work on Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness has grown to a national scale. During the Spring of 2022, LFF will host the inaugural event for this heinous plague on our society. First Spouses from all fifty states and territories are invited to join First Lady Donna Edwards in hosting the first National Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign with the intent of eliminating the scourge of human sex trafficking in our states. Working in this area has allowed First Lady Edwards and LFF to collaborate with many outstanding individuals across our country who are working to combat this scourge against humanity.
GOVERNOR'S MANSION The Rose Garden Ornament
The 2021 Louisiana Governor’s Mansion Preservation Foundation ornament pays tribute to the mansion’s beautiful rose garden, a favorite area to visit by both children and adults alike. Under the care of Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards, both avid gardeners, the garden has blossomed to include more than 30 varieties of roses. The rose garden was first established by Gov. and Mrs. Jimmie Davis in 1963.
In 2016, Mrs. Edwards began hosting annual celebrations inviting garden club members from around the state to learn about its history and help sustain its future. She was delighted to welcome Peggy Martin during that inaugural year to plant the Peggy Martin Rose, also known as the Hurricane Katrina Survivor Rose. These climbing roses were placed on the three trellises in the garden. Mrs. Edwards further enhanced the garden by adding a swing and lights to the Dripping Oak Fountain designed by Brenda Wiederkehr.
In 2017, LSU Agriculture Center along with First Lady Donna Edwards and several wives of legislators replaced all of the original rose bushes, which were given to the families of former governors. That same year, the garden was officially named the Rose Long Garden in loving memory of Senator Gerald Long’s wife Rose who generously supported its preservation.
In addition, each parish that has helped with the preservation of the garden has a special plaque placed in front of a rose bush. As you enjoy southern afternoons with family and friends, remember to always take a little time to smell the roses.
These ornaments make lovely Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers. As we prepare for the holidays, which may look quite different this year, we offer a unique gift that will be appreciated by those we love. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to place your order as soon as possible.
WOMEN'S HEALTH A Woman’s Breastplate of Prevention and Protection This Winter
With winter approaching, as an emergency physician and pediatrician, I am bracing for the onset of the 2021-2022 flu season. I am more concerned this year than other years. It turns out that masking and social distancing was effective against COVID 19, but surprisingly even more effective against influenza. Less than 0.2% of samples globally tested positive for influenza between September 2020 and January 2021 according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Between 2017-2020, the rate was 17%. The near complete suppression of influenza worldwide from 2020-2021 likely worsens the outlook for the 2021-2022 flu season: we could face an outbreak that occurs earlier, is more widespread, or of longer duration for several reasons.
The first concern is that immunity from influenza only lasts a year or two. If far fewer people were exposed to the circulating influenza viruses in the past year, then the level of natural immunity in the population will be low. Will this be like forest fires where if you suppress all the little fires when you finally get a forest fire it’s a monster? We just don’t know. It is unclear how people’s immune systems will respond when re-exposed to influenza.
Secondly, the near absence of influenza is 2020-2021 impacted vaccine production for this season. The Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) is a group of laboratories and public-health institutions in 123 countries that collect respiratory samples throughout the year. They do gene sequencing of the influenza viruses to determine which ones are most prevalent. In February, the WHO united experts to recommend which strains of flu should be targeted by the next influenza vaccine for the Northern hemisphere. In February of 2021, these experts selected four viruses for this year’s vaccines. Given that they had less information, it’s uncertain if they targeted the right viral strains.
The third area of concern is the possibility of managing both a bad influenza outbreak and a COVID resurgence this winter. This has produced a new term in medicine. Instead of a pandemic we would have a “twin-demic.” The Academy of Medical Sciences in Britain report that being infected with influenza A makes people more susceptible to COVID-19. There is increasing evidence that influenza and COVID-19 can coexist and that if you have both infections simultaneously COVID 19 is worse. Also, anyone with even mild influenza will seek medical attention to get a COVID 19 test and this will tax the medical system.
As a result of all these factors, this will be a unique winter of unknowns. The best strategy of protection and prevention is simply to get vaccinated for both infections if approved by your healthcare provider. Also, although social distancing rules are being loosened, you should continue to wash your hands, wear masks in public indoor spaces and socialize outdoors.
- Northern Exposure. The Economist. September 25, 2021.
- Seasonal Influenza in adults: Transmission, clinical, manifestations, and complications. Raphael Dolin, MD. UpToDate. Nov.18,2020.
–Dr. Laura Mutter
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 1. Community
The United Way of Southeast Louisiana has compiled a list of volunteer opportunities available during the holidays through their United Way HandsOn Entergy Volunteer Center. The list can be found on their website and below:
- Covenant House: Sleep Out Helpers
- High Voltage: Tribute to Santa Claus Holiday Toy Drive
- Broadmoor Improvement Association: Food Pantry Volunteering
- LowerNine.Org: Holiday Campaign
- LowerNine.Org: Virtual Volunteering
- Grace at the Green Light: Water Bottle Distribution
- Grace at the Green Light: Meals with Love Breakfast
- Second Harvest: Food Packing & Sorting
- Sankofa: Food Pantry Truck Unloading
- Sankofa: Food Pantry Assistance
- Sankofa: Food Pantry Delivery Driver
- Crown Community Garden: Grow the Garden
- People’s Next Chapter Community Center: Amanzi Women’s Ministry
- Hagar’s House: Farmers Market – sell candles
- HandsOn: Serve Our Seniors Meal Loading
- Anna’s Place NOLA: Assist with Youth Education
- CCANO: Holiday Food Basket and Gift Drive
- The Acorn Farm: A Community Voice
- SBP: Opportunity Housing in the Lower Ninth Ward
- Veterans Housing Outreach: Debris Removal
- Recirculating Farms Coalition: Gardening
- Habitat for Humanity St. Tammeny West: Help with Donations
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 2. Schools
Sometimes life presents us with challenging situations. In these instances, we often find ourselves searching for sunshine during the rain and calmness during the storm. In these times, it can be hard to move beyond the dark clouds in search of clarity. In Louisiana, the weather occasionally beats us down by the roar of thunder, the blowing of the wind, and the flooding of streets and homes. However, even in the lightning strike of adversity, Louisiana has proven to be a place of resilience where we remain believers, that all storms will pass. Over the last two years, Louisiana has endured multiple hurricanes and weather that affected daily operations. Still, we have and must continue to keep moving forward, onward, and upward through it all.
Like a pair of work boots, made to last, protect, and suited for the environment, our boot-shaped state- inclusive of our rich culture and deep heritage, is a perfect example and picture of resilience, strong.
Storms, natural disasters, or anxiety-causing terrors by the names of Laura, Delta, and Ida have become a part of our environmental landscape, leaving us feeling unsafe, unprotected, and unsure. These hurricanes, along with their counterpart, global storm/pandemic Covid-19, have changed our lives as we know them. They have affected our homes, jobs, health, mental well-being, and education systems.
The storms have come, but as leaders of schools and communities, we are protectors. People look up to us and depend on us even when we are in search of the same. As educators, we are expected to be strong; deal with the blows, and take it as it comes. Sometimes that is hard. As we deal with our own “stuff” and our family’s “stuff,” we must come to work and deal with what? Yes! Our children’s “stuff” and other people’s “stuff,” yet we propel as protectors. Our way of protection comes as a natural occurrence; it is what we do, and our strength is that we do not think about it other than in reflection. We turn it on. We make it happen for our students. There are no available survival kits that can prepare us for the unpredictability of the storms we deal with, so our mindset is everything. We must continue to wake up determined to make it and go to bed every night satisfied, knowing that we did our best. Whether it is the storms of life, storms of health, storms of being an educator, or natural storms, keep in mind that it is temporary “stuff,” and we can push through it all. Though challenging, we must stay the course because the storm is only passing over. It will not last forever.
In the heart of Calcasieu Parish lies a principal who, like many other principals in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and surrounding areas, is dealing with the woes of the pandemic and some of our toughest challenges, the challenges of others. With these challenges in mind, we help educators see that their undying efforts will improve the lives of the students we serve. Similarly, as leaders, we must help parents and students find new hope during and after the storm. The absence of homes now compounds the absence of hope due to hurricane damage, the absence of loved ones, and a new hopelessness in the environment in which they live. These storms have left many of the students we serve with that feeling of hopelessness that resonates tenfold with the additional challenges they face daily. How do we now sustain a quality life and quality education? We have had to have many collaborative “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” collective moments to help one another. Today, I grab your bootstraps, and tomorrow you grab mine. That is how we survive, sustain, grow, adjust, and balance.
Balance is a word that we all talk about, and it looks different from many lenses. As principals, we must plan for balance because the job comes with weighty responsibilities. Below are five tools that I have used when I have felt hopeless and overwhelmed by the storms in my life. These tools have helped me press the “reset” button and get that balance needed to move forward, onward, and upward. I hope these tools will be helpful to you too
Five tools to keep in your “surviving the storm” kit:
Get back to the basics as soon as possible. When I feel the weight of too many problems and responsibilities, I get up, walk down the hall, find a classroom, and immediately begin to work with the teacher and students. Often sliding into a seat in a classroom taught by an inspired and inspiring teacher, immersing myself back into the world of students brings me immediate happiness. These visits remind me of my WHY and not the storm!
Have a hard conversation with yourself. Often, we focus on the “Mirror Me and not the Inner Me.” When I am frustrated, overwhelmed, or feel underappreciated, I stop and look in the mirror, then often look beyond. Mindset matters, and sometimes we focus on what everyone sees versus how we see it. In these times, I take a moment to gather perspective by reminding myself of the gift I possess as a person, not only as a principal. Every day I am blessed with the opportunity to walk into a building filled with people who expect me to lead in all capacities. I have a first-row seat in witnessing the making of our future. No other job on earth would make me feel this worthy, grateful, and proud! This job reminds me of my WHY and not the storm!
Out of sight, out of mind. Now and then, I will end a day feeling like I will never get ahead or dug out from under all the things I must get done. Ironically, the best thing I can do for myself at that moment is go home. I remind myself that the work will get done in due time. It always does. So, I will take a long walk, have a meal with my family, enjoy some extra time tucking the kids into bed, and refuse to worry about school. It is incredible how taking some time away from the to-do list can flip the switch from “impossible” to “completely do-able.” These breaks remind me of my WHY and not the storm!
Find an accountability partner. I have a group of colleagues on speed-dial. On difficult days, I pick up the phone and ask, “Can you just…listen for a moment?” They allow me to vent some of my anxiety or frustrations and respond in kind. Before I know it, we are making fun of ourselves for some aspect of our jobs, and then we are laughing, and I am back to feeling inspired. Just remembering that I am not alone can fix me right up. These friends remind me of my WHY and not the storm!
Adjust your mindset when needed. Remember that it does not matter with which type of storm you are dealing. You will survive! Keep in mind that with the right attitude, all things are possible, and you will move forward, onward, and upward!
Facebook: @Ronnie W Harvey, Jr.
Linkedin: Principal Coach Harvey
Instagram: @ principalcoachharvey
Twitter: @ princoachharvey
School System: Calcasieu Parish
School: Washington Marion Magnet High School
2022 Louisiana High School State Principal of the Year
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 3. Military
LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS DEDICATES “NEVER FORGET” GARDEN ON VETERANS DAY
The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA) dedicated the “Never Forget” Garden in the Louisiana Veterans Memorial Park adjacent to the State Capitol on Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. Gov. John Bel Edwards and First Lady Donna Edwards joined LDVA Secretary Joey Strickland, COL (USA Retired) for the dedication.
“The dedication of the Never Forget Garden in our Veterans Park is important because it coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” said LDVA Secretary Joey Strickland, COL (USA Retired). “These gardens are being put in around the country as a constant reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by our service men and women who died with their remains unidentified.”
The National Society of the Honor Guard, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier enlisted the American Rose Society to encourage the creation of Never Forget Gardens to ensure the millions of American service members are forever honored and remembered. The garden in the Louisiana Veterans Memorial Park is a statewide volunteer project by Louisiana members of the American Rose Society, the Louisiana Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Louisiana Garden Club Federation.
You can see a recording of the day’s events on LDVA’s Facebook page and via this link: https://fb.watch/9d8yDRtP_u/.
Connect with LDVA:
FEATURED RECIPE Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
It’s Gumbo season in Louisiana! Don’t forget to save the turkey carcass for your roux. One of our favorite holiday traditions in Louisiana is taking the time to make homemade Gumbo with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. It fills the house with amazing smells! Enjoy this traditional recipe, or one from your own family. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
Creole seasoning to taste
5 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup of leftover Thanksgiving turkey
Optional: Tabasco Sauce to taste
Step 1 – Make the Roux
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil gets hot, whisk in flour. Continue whisking until the roux has cooked to the color of dark chocolate, 10 to 12 minutes. You must stir constantly. Be careful not to burn the roux! You will have to start over if you see black specks in the mixture!
Stir the onion, bell pepper, celery, and sausage into the roux and cook down for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetable are clear and soft. Stir in the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning; blend thoroughly. Pour in the chicken broth and add the bay leaf. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in the chicken, and simmer 2-3 hours. Skim foam that floats to the top during the last hour.
MEMORABLE VERSE November 2021
THE FIRST DOGS Happy Thanksgiving!
MEET OUR EDITOR Delery Rice
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Delery has lived there all of her life except during undergraduate school and a brief stint in Seattle, WA. She is a mother to four boys, ranging in ages from 21 to 16, and they are the heart and soul of her life.
Delery earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and Master’s Degree from Louisiana State University. She completed a fellowship at Loyola University, New Orleans Institute of Politics, and currently attends Harvard Kennedy School of Politics. Her volunteer work has mostly evolved from issues that have affected her personally. Actively engaged in disability rights advocacy, Delery has testified numerous times in the Louisiana Legislature regarding issues that affect persons with developmental disabilities. She served as the chair of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, worked for seven years directing regional advocacy efforts and is a graduate of Louisiana’s Partners In Policymaking.