Celebrating Our Mothers
I started writing my blog in the fall of 2018. I looked back through the different months of May and the focus of each one. In 2019 I spoke of our fabulous and wonderful teachers as we celebrated teacher appreciation week. I feel like our teachers need a whole month, heck, an entire year of appreciation, along with our nurses who have been our rock in so many ways over the years, especially the last two years of COVID-19. In 2020 I wrote about the Lord’s prayer and being still. It was a difficult and trying time for the people of our state.
In 2021 I brought attention to May being Foster Care Awareness Month. We are so grateful to the many families that step up to be foster parents that love and hold our precious children. We are so blessed to have more and more families saying, “YES, I will raise my hand to be a foster parent.” As Uncle Sam says, WE WANT YOU! See the image below for a reference on this iconic image.
The month of May is filled with appreciation days. May is packed with dance reviews, graduations, the end of school, the beginning of vacations, Memorial Day, MOTHER’S DAY, and a special dedication to Mary, the Mother of our Lord. As we celebrate the month of May this year, I want to bring particular focus to our mothers. Let’s also add that many women in our communities may not be our biological mothers, but they are a mother by all other definitions.
A Mother is a female that gives of herself to others in a nurturing and loving manner.
A Mother is someone we look up to for guidance, support, and encouragement.
A Mother is filled with knowledge and understanding and yet knows when to hold back.
A Mother is not perfect but gives of herself daily to her children, family, work, and community.
A Mother usually wakes before the household to gather her thoughts, find the silence in the morning, pray and prepare for the day ahead.
A Mother often makes hard decisions that are for the good of her children and family.
A Mother gives her time to listen, laugh, hug and love her children.
A Mother is a person that makes time for others even when there never seems to be enough time.
A Mother is not perfect but strives and prays to be her best each and every day.
Thank you to all Mothers, especially my mother, for always giving your very best to those that love you the most.
May is the last month of Spring so enjoy the pleasant mornings and the evenings as we move into the days of the Louisiana heat. Enjoy some resting moments. These resting moments are an opportunity to gather your energy, thoughts, and passions before you RISE to do the day’s hard work. These resting moments are also a time in the evening. A time of reflection, of thanksgiving, and a time to be grateful for the day’s accomplishments. Be grateful for even the small victories. Sometimes these small accomplishments are the building blocks for the bigger achievements ahead. Be easy on yourself; you’re doing your best.
Let us all acknowledge that these moments of rest, I would even call them healing moments, are crucial moments of life. In these resting moments, our spirit is recharged, and we can be more productive and a better version of ourselves when we do RISE.
Love to you all,
Thank you to the women who encourage and love us in our lives.
Help us be gentle with all people and show mercy and love to others.
We are all carrying a load on this journey together,
so let us be gentle and kind to one another.
FEATURE “Faith, Attitude, and Expectations”
Memoir of a “Former” Foster Mom
Many times, when I have reflected on children who struggled with home lives, I have often thought about how I would parent children when given the opportunity to be a mother. I also have thought I had my life all planned out with my teaching degree and a home of my own. I just knew that I would be married, have a two-car garage, two kids, summers off, and a dog, but life sure does not work this way! I got to a point in my life when I was wondering what I wanted more than anything, and I concluded that I wanted to be a mother, in whichever capacity that entailed, whether through birth, private adoption, or foster care. As I searched for answers, I attended an interest meeting about foster care, and that meeting changed my life.
I had always heard the phrase, “When you know something is right, you just know it.” I had never had a more profound experience than when I sat in an interest meeting about Foster Care. I was looking at the response card that I placed one little check on to indicate that I was interested in registering for the training needed to become a foster parent! I felt as though this was my destiny in life! Attending classes sparked so many ideas in my mind that, at times, I felt overwhelmed and unsettled because there is such a need for help with foster care. I was also amazed at the things that “the system” believes parents need to know to raise a child, yet biological parents have zero training! While I am a single mom, I know that many people question if it is too hard to be a single parent by choice, and some people think it is hard to welcome a foster child into a family who already has children. At the same time, most people think it is too hard to love and support a child who may not stay with them. My response is always, “Nothing can be as hard as actually being a child in foster care. There are many ways to help kids. Additionally, no process of parenting is easy!”
The more I learned about foster care, the more that I learned there is such a wide range of ways to help children and young adults. Foster parents need help with babysitting just as biological parents need to have a break or a nice dinner out once and a while. Kids in foster care need supplies for school, extra-curricular activities, Christmas gifts, birthday parties/gifts, tutors, job training, transportation, and everyday things, just like children living with biological parents need to thrive in life. They also need guidance and a listening ear as they grow up in our communities. Becoming a mentor or supporter through church groups or volunteer opportunities is necessary in addition to providing an actual home.
As an elementary teacher with over 25 years of experience, I have taught many children and had relationships with many families! One of the lessons I have learned over the years is that children thrive when adults caring for them have faith in them, have a positive attitude, and have realistic expectations. When I got “the call” asking me to become a foster mother, I was in the middle of teaching a science lesson in a lab, and by the end of the conversation, I said,” Yes!” My personal faith gave me the strength to say yes to a child who was born addicted to drugs, and my education gave me the knowledge and attitude needed to help a child thrive in life regardless of how that life began.
My first task was to READ!!!!!! I read everything I could about children born addicted to drugs, being a single mother, choosing pediatricians and daycares, and navigating the foster care system (since this was my first placement). However, the first thing I truly read that was life-changing was a small board book entitled How Do I Love You?, by P.K. Hallinan, to my new foster daughter while she was still in the NICU. I had no idea what would be in our future, given her birth circumstances, but one thing I knew to be true was that all children need to be read to as much as possible from an early age! This prompted me to bring books to the hospital each day for the month that she had to stay in the NICU in order to be weaned from all substances. All-day, every day, I would sit next to her and read!!!!! I was shocked when a nurse told me that she had never seen anyone read to an infant in the NICU, and this was at a big, well-known hospital. Since then, it has been my hope that one day, families would automatically be given a children’s book when a child is born, along with information about how just reading one book per day to a child makes a tremendous impact on the brain development of that child.
As my foster daughter’s life began in the hospital, I had to meet many new people and be ready to welcome them into my home. Once again, faith, attitude, and expectations played huge roles in our story. Some people are very private, and when helping a foster child, parents must be willing to become part of a new “village” with the common goal of doing what is best for the child. We immediately were blessed with an angel of a caseworker from the Department of Family Services, a social worker, an Early Steps case manager, a physical therapist, a speech therapist, and a teacher to evaluate my foster daughter and provide needed services.
Initially, when I reflected on what I wanted to do for this child, my first thoughts were that I wanted to give her safety, good health, opportunities, and love. Just by being in my care, I felt that safety and love were the easiest things to give her, and with a remarkable doctor and a foster grandmother who devoted her life to health care, I felt keeping her healthy would be manageable. However, providing education and opportunities seemed to be a daunting task at times because I knew what the research says about children born with opiate addictions, as well as other types of addictions. I also knew that many learning differences do not present themselves until a child is well into elementary school. For this reason, I always felt that we had no time to lose and made everything we did a learning experience. There was only proper language spoken to her (no “baby” talk), no electronic devices were used, and plenty of time was given to explore her world. She has also always had books never more than a few feet away from her. She slept with books in her crib (partly because, as a new parent, I knew she could not have too many plush things in her bed for safety reasons, and I just thought she needed to have something to look at!)
Additionally, she played with them in the various baskets around the house, kept some at her foster grandparents’ home, and even kept a basket in the car. Not surprisingly, her first word was “book,” and she said it constantly. I also knew that she would need a peaceful environment, and that was the beginning of playing soft piano music nightly until she fell asleep.
In addition to relying on my faith, as we juggled everything that was part of our journey, I constantly made it a priority to surround my foster daughter with people who were knowledgeable about foster care or who were willing to learn about it while treating her with the love, respect, and dignity that all children deserve in life. For example, when I had to select a pediatrician, my number one consideration was to assess the attitude, as much as the credentials, of the doctor! We were blessed beyond words to meet the man who would care for her with the most gentle spirit and love imaginable! The same could be said about the process of selecting a daycare! I always knew about Head Start, but I had no idea that there was even a thing called Infant Head Start. My foster daughter started SCHOOL, not daycare, at four months old! I was amazed every day at the thorough care given to her and with each objective that she mastered, based on her own individualized lesson plans!
While we began to settle into our life as a small family, we continued to follow all procedures involved with foster care, and we lived the roller coaster that often exists, even in the best of circumstances. There was such a wide range of emotions, and as I grew to love her more, there was always the fear that she would return to her biological family. Some days were full of peace and gratitude for getting to spend even a minute with this child, and other times there would be anger and frustration at the thought of how someone could do horrible things to children, especially infants not even born. As time passed, my faith helped me realize that her biological parents had different lives than I did as a child, and I have no right to judge them. I also figured that this child and I were meant to be together for a higher purpose.
After she was six months old, parent visits ended due to abandonment, which resulted from the hold that drugs have on addicts. I can say that while we had about three months of weekly visits scheduled with her biological mother, there were many in which nobody attended them. I would get the child dressed and prepared, drive an hour to the visit, and go right back home. Her biological mother spent exactly 8 hours with her over time. This would upset me so much, and I felt that nobody cared about this child, but once I found peace in the fact that I cared, my mental peace increased. I also remember so vividly that one day the biological mother asked if she could take pictures. I knew that she still had parental rights at that point, so I told her, “Sure, as long as I am not in the pictures.” After that visit, the biological mother left crying as I had never seen a person cry before in my life. This was the last time we ever saw her. I believe this was the day she loved her child enough to allow me to give her the safety, health, and opportunities all kids deserve in life. This is why I never doubted if this child was loved. There was just no way for the biological parents to give the care and opportunities that kids need in life.
Then, after another six months, the parental rights were terminated. I remember thinking that it is amazing; with just a couple of clicks of a gavel, a parent’s rights can be taken away. I was also amazed at how many lawyers would be involved in this one case. I wondered about the number of lawyers needed to represent all parties when a case consists of multiple children and multiple parents. I always wonder about the money and resources used to address issues with foster care, and why so much is allocated as reactionary measures. I wish there were more plans and funds in place that could be used for preventive measures.
After my foster daughter was in my care for 14 months, she was legally adopted on my birthday, becoming the best gift of my life! Because of having a strong faith, positive attitude, and reasonable expectations, my DAUGHTER is now 11 years old and is moving mountains in the world. I knew that we were destined to be together for a higher purpose. We have spent ten years sharing our story with other potential foster parents, creating awareness of the needs of foster children in our community, and praying for all children to have safety, good health, opportunities, and love!
LOUISIANA FIRST FOUNDATION
CHILD NUTRITION CONFERENCE
It was an honor for me to attend the 36th National Child Nutrition Conference to support the Teach MAM Ambassadors as they shared how to use music, art, and movement to teach the whole child!
FOSTER PARENT PROCESS
In Louisiana, we have a rapidly growing number of children in foster care and not enough certified foster families. In January 2022, there were approximately 3,400 children served in the foster care system and about 1,500 investigations of child abuse cases (dcfs.la.gov). These children have experienced many adverse experiences such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, etc.
ANTI HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Founder K.C. Kilpatrick began Geaux Bags as an independent, grassroots effort after becoming a foster parent in 2013 and discovering how stressful the initial 24 to 48 hours of receiving children into foster care were. She saw how impossible it was to prepare adequately, so she began purchasing supplies at her own expense and distributing them to the smallest victims of crime out of the trunk of her car. In 2019 Geaux Bags went statewide, and in 2020 expanded to trafficking victims by adding Law Enforcement as distribution partners.
GOVERNOR'S MANSION MANSION SPRING GARDEN
Every year on Good Friday, the Governor and First Lady plant the spring crops in the vegetable garden at the Governor’s Mansion. These vegetables and herbs are used in the kitchen daily for food service. Due to the abundance of crops the garden produces, the First Family also donates these fresh vegetables to local charities to help feed the homeless.
WOMEN'S HEALTH No More Suffering in Silence: Improving Women’s Mental Health Outcomes
by Dr. Tracy L. Reed, Ph.D., LPC-S
Shocked, sad, hurt, heartbroken, devastated. These are all words I’ve heard used in response to the recent tragic death of a young, Black female college freshman in Louisiana this week, a loss that appears to be connected to a history of struggles with serious mental health conditions. As an experienced mental health professional for over 20 years, hearing news like this never gets easier. As I thought about the situation, so many thoughts, feelings, and questions came up. How could this happen? Did she talk to someone? Were others ignoring the signs? How could this have turned out differently? So many unanswered questions left me pondering one lingering thought… Why are so many women suffering in silence with mental health issues? In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to bring specific attention to Women’s Mental Health and offer thoughts and suggestions on what you can do if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health.
Our mental health plays a large part in our overall health and well-being. Unfortunately, due to the nature of life and lived experiences, sometimes we have problems coping with our emotions which can, in turn, impact our mental health. There is no reason to hide it or be ashamed when this happens. Rather, it’s important to recognize these feelings and be honest about them so we can seek help when necessary. According to the U.S. Office of Women’s Health, 1 in 5 American women is experiencing a mental health condition. Although certain mental health conditions affect different populations in different ways, research suggests women are more likely than men to suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders. Yet, despite the prevalence of mental health struggles among women, so many women continue to deal with issues on their own instead of reaching out for help and support. Why is this? What is it that stops women from seeking help?
3 Reasons Why Women Might Suffer in Silence
- They were taught that keeping struggles to themselves and dealing with it on their own is the only way to handle it. (“This is just the way it is.”)
- Cultural and societal norms perpetuate the false belief that struggles with mental health equal weakness. (“Others will think I’m not strong enough to cope.”)
- Difficulty accessing quality, culturally affirming, relatable care and resources. (“Nobody else understands how I feel.”)
These reasons for staying silent while going through mental health issues alone are detrimental to women’s overall health and well-being. If any of these reasons resonate with you, you may be suffering in silence and not even realize it. Don’t stay silent! SPEAK UP and GET HELP!
If you or someone you know is feeling physically and mentally stressed and overwhelmed, frustrated and confused, or lost and hopeless, please know that help is available, and you do not have to suffer in silence.
- KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Millions of people around the globe experience mental health conditions and still live healthy, fulfilling lives daily.
- BELIEVE THINGS CAN GET BETTER EVENTUALLY. It might feel like things will never get better, but with time, ANYTHING can improve. Allow this belief to be the anchor that keeps you from drifting deeper into despair and hopelessness.
- SEEK OUT COMPASSIONATE HELP AND GENUINE SUPPORT. There are many options for treating mental health disorders, including therapy/life coaching, medication management, support groups, and mindfulness-based techniques. It may take some time to discover which treatments you prefer, but the most important step is to REACH OUT and STOP SUFFERING IN SILENCE.
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 1. Community
2022 Central Louisiana Champion of Service
Meet our 2022 Central Louisiana Champion of Service, Prentiss Powell. Prentiss is a retired teacher with a passion for inspiring young minds. He is a year-round volunteer at the Centennial Cultural Center, where he plans and conducts STEM education camps for children ages 5 to 15. The annual camps are free for the children to attend and are focused on exposing young people to science and new technology in a fun and relaxed setting. Prentiss uses his service to create a unique educational opportunity for children in the rural community. Congratulations Prentiss!
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 2. Schools
Turning Summer Vacations into an
Educational Life-Long Memory
by Laura Laiche
With summer quickly approaching us, most families will be heading out on some type of adventure. Since the pandemic, it has been the first school year where kids have been to school the entire year! So much learning has happened in schools across Louisiana this year, so how do parents keep the learning alive during June and July so the dreaded “summer slide” doesn’t happen?
When I think back to my childhood, this idea comes naturally for me. My family and I constantly took road trips to the Florida beaches. Once we hit the road, my job immediately became the “speed limit, sign reader”. Through math skills, I was able to determine whether we were traveling greater or less than the current speed limit… and I was sure to let my parents know. We also played the ‘alphabet game’; you know, the one where you have a letter and must find a billboard or sign that starts with that letter? When I think back to these times, the memories are ingrained into my brain. Not because I was “learning” on vacation, but my mom made it fun!
As a teacher and a lover of traveling, I have realized that travel is the best education anyone can have. Combining family time, life experiences, and adventure into one beautiful package will make lasting memories for kids and parents alike.
So how do you make this happen? How do you stop the summer slide and not overwhelm yourself or your kids on a summer vacation? Let’s start from the beginning of the trip:
THE PLANNING: You know where you want to go; a map app will likely tell you the quickest way to get there. But I am here to challenge you to buy a paper map! Yes, a paper map! Sit down with your kids and show them where you are leaving from and going to. Point out the major interstates, significant cities, National Parks, etc. Have them look at the map to determine if you are headed north, south, east, or west. As a family, work together to determine what YOU think the best route is!
ON THE ROAD: Stop at ALL the state rest areas. Yes, every single one of them! They are full of informational brochures! Let your kids pick out a handful to look at in the car. They can read aloud facts about the places they’ve picked up in their brochures. This can spark lots of conversations. Is it a place you want to go to in the future? One you can stop at and make memories this time? Did you learn a new fact?
Hit all the National Parks, National Monuments, etc., on the way to your vacation. There are 423 national sites throughout the United States you can visit as a family. The excitement I get when I pass through the gates of one of these sites is astounding! If your family loves history, geography, or animals, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time full of learning! They can even earn their Junior Ranger badge!
ON VACATION: If you are hitting the beach like we used to do, there’s so much sea-life kids can explore. Maybe there is a future marine biologist in your family? If you are hitting a theme park, there could be a future engineer in your family! Those roller coasters sure are steep! But what if you are staying home? Make an educational vacation out of that! Help your child learn about the flowers in your flower beds, the different birds that come to the bird feeders, and paying the summer bills.
ON THE WAY HOME: Here’s the best part! I bet I know how you’re feeling… exhausted! You’re ready to get back home, wash the clothes, and unpack. Of course, everyone is tired, but it’s also the perfect time to hone in on those writing skills. Let your child write a reflection on their vacation. What did they like? What do they wish didn’t happen? What are the cool places they got to see? This quiet time will help your child get their thoughts down AND give them a memory journal for years to come!
I hope I could inspire even just one parent to realize that travel really is the best education anyone can have. It’s so easy to stop the summer slide with just a few new ‘games’ on your vacation! It’s also a win-win for you too. Everyone leaves with memories that will last them a lifetime!
2021-22 Milken Educator Award recipient
East Feliciana Public Schools
Slaughter Elementary School
English Language Arts
3rd Grade Teacher
PEOPLE OF LOUISIANA 3. Military
Be a Campus Navigator!
Are you a student veteran, military retiree, or military spouse?
You could be a campus Navigator serving Louisiana’s student veterans through the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs’ LaVetCorps program!
We are currently recruiting for Navigators at River Parishes Community College, McNeese State University, Sowela Technical Community College, Delgado Community College (West Bank), Southern University New Orleans, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Xavier University, and Bossier Parish Community College.
Navigators earn a $10,500 stipend for their service during the 2022-23 academic year.
RESTAURANT HIGHLIGHT Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant
A TRADITION SINCE 1967
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant – A TRADITION SINCE 1967
Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant is an authentic, soulful Creole Cuisine experience. Their recipes are handed down from their family and always prepared with love from the soul of their deep southern roots. Famous for their meat pies, this family-owned and operated restaurant boasts many unique dishes you will always enjoy. Lasyone’s is recognized nationally by restaurant industry leaders, travelers from around the world, and in Natchitoches, La. as a local favorite. Once you experience the Lasyone’s Louisiana Creole tradition, we know you’ll be back!
History of the Restaurant:
Mr. James Lasyone was a butcher at Live Oak Grocery for 25 years. He first started working on his meat pie recipe in the 1950s. After grinding the meat for the ladies who made them in their homes for many years, James Lasyone started experimenting with a recipe of his own. In 1967, Mr. Lasyone rented the bottom half of a building that once was the home of the Phoenix Lodge #38, built in 1859. While the Masons still occupied the top portion of the building, James Lasyone started his Meat Pie Kitchen.
James got his first national break when the editor of “House Beautiful” magazine dropped in for a couple of meat pies in the early 1970s. After that, people from all over the world stopped in to try Lasyone’s meat pies, from local townsfolk to Charles Kuralt, Lorne Greene, Vanna White, Daryl Hannah, and a host of others. Lasyone’s Meat Pie has been recognized and raved about by a score of magazines, including Southern Living, Cooking with Paula Deen, The New Yorker, Glamour Magazine, and Gourmet Magazine. Reviews have also included articles in books such as Jane & Michael Stern’s Good Food, Jane & Michael Stern’s Road Food, and Calvin Trillin’s Third Helpings. In addition, major newspapers such as The Houston Chronicle, Times Picayune New Orleans, The Dallas Morning News, Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times have found their way to Lasyone’s Meat Pie Restaurant. It has also been featured in many other national newspapers as well as international papers from France, Italy, and Spain. It has also made its way on the national airwaves, having been featured by On the Road with Charles Kuralt and Good Morning America with Bryant Gumble, and many other statewide and Texas news broadcasts.
Although famous and the most popular item on the menu, the meat pie is not the only thing that makes this restaurant a proud favorite. The Crawfish Pie was introduced in 2008 and quickly became the new item to try. Adding to those already highly recommended fares are the restaurant favorites such as Red Beans and Sausage, Dirty Rice, Southern Fried Catfish, Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce, and don’t forget the chicken and dumplings on Thursday as well. Chef Angela Lasyone and Tina Lasyone Smith run the kitchen and restaurant just as it has been run for over 40 years, so you know that all the food is prepared the old-fashioned way-homemade with lots of soul and love! Our down-home atmosphere and old family recipes will make you feel like you’ve come home for that special meal.
Information and pictures gathered from http://lasyones.com
622 Second St.
MEMORABLE VERSE May 2022
THE FIRST DOGS Sliding from Spring to Summer!
MEET OUR EDITORS Delery Rice & Katie McElveen
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 Public Policy. 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.
A native of Kentwood, Louisiana, Katie is a wife of over 10 years and mother to three children ages 8, 6 , 2, whom she homeschools. She earned her BA in Organizational Communication from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2010, and her M.Ed. in Mental Health from Southeastern in 2013. She was a school counselor for five years and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She completed training in trust-based relational interventions (TBRI) as a practitioner in 2016. She joined Louisiana First Foundation as the Louisiana Fosters Director in 2019 and in 2022 became the Program Director.